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There is Still Fire in Your Tombs

Chapter Text

How terrible and brief was my desire of you!
How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.

Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs,
still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.

– A Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

It was not supposed to happen this way.

 He hadn’t wanted this. How could he have? There is a tear in the very fabric of the world (green and glittering, like shards of emeralds suspended in the heavens, swirling in a maelstrom above their heads) from which hordes of creatures pour forth, their sole purpose to wipe out all life.

He did this. He did this, he did this, he did this. (It hadn’t been by his hands, but he is still to blame.) In his mind’s eye, he’s watching Elvhenan fall again; the People crying out in agony as magic was torn from their bones, and a once great empire falling into ruin before his very eyes. (Sylaise, her long golden hair stained by the blood of those she had tried to save still looks up at him in his memory, blue eyes wide: How could you have done this? To us? [The answer wasn’t simple, and they didn’t have the time for him to give it to her. I am sorry, he had said instead, but three words wasn’t enough to explain away what he had done.])

It was not supposed to happen this way, but it had, and now that foul, corrupted creature has his orb, and he has… He has a girl (a woman? She is still young, but not young enough to be called a child) lying limp before him. A trade, but not a fair one. Her skin is marked with fine, delicate lines just a shade lighter than her skin (an impossible colour to achieve without magic, he notes). He recognises them as once belonging to Dirthamen (but Dirthamen is gone, and he cannot own this living girl [does she even know that that’s what the lines signify?])

There is magic in her. He can feel it (distant, separate from the magic pouring from her hand, like comparing the cool, crisp taste of winter to the earthiness of spring) and when his hand comes in contact with her, she stirs, but still does not wake.

His eyes close—

The air tastes of smoke, and his ears (pointed, sharp, [he doesn’t expect the jeers of “knife-ear” to hurt when he hears them from the soldiers behind them, but they do, as unfamiliar as the insult is]) ring with the red lyrium’s quiet song which has grown almost deafening. The Breach (a reminder of his failure) hangs above, cracking and sparking like the mark on her hand.

She is uneasy, uncertain. She looks to him for reassurance (but he does not know that this will work even if he says that it will) before raising her hand to the sky as though to tear it down.

He almost laughs in hindsight, looking back at the memory with bitter, wry amusement. She had pulled a pride demon, of all things, out from that rift with little more than a gesture. (A painful reminder of how he’d failed before, and how his namesake is now a burden that he must carry to remind himself to not forget what he had sacrificed to come this far.)

The demon had struck him first, lightning lashing at his skin, leaving behind black marks that would still ache even after he had healed them. And she had gasped (like she cared about him, like he wasn’t a complete stranger) before casting a barrier over him with a remarkable degree of efficiency for a mage in a world where he had done what he had. His name tore from her lips like a cry—

“Solas.”

He snaps out of his memories with little more than a furrowed brow and a wary glance in Cassandra’s direction. “Yes, Seeker?” Solas says, polite. (Too polite.) He would not have given someone like her (a human woman) the amount of respect that he’d just given her if he hadn’t been maintaining this façade of his. (But even then, she is still worthy of respect, and he must remember that he is not who he once was, and this world is not as he had left it.)

(She doesn’t notice.) “How is she?” she asks, looking down at the elven mage lying in a cot before him.

“Still weak, but there remains fight in her yet.” He barely casts a glance at her, but as she stirs with a muffled whimper, his magic seeks her out to still her. (His fire meeting her ice, even if she calls upon the storm with her spells and he upon winter. [But the taste of magic is not an indication of who they are.]) “Have you returned to question me once more, Seeker?”

(Cassandra had left and returned many times when the woman had fallen unconscious last time. [Duplicity, she had said, as though he couldn’t be trusted. She hadn’t known that her suspicions were correct. She shouldn’t have trusted him] but last time, she had been muttering about too many eyes and the grey, and other things neither of them could make sense of, and they had trusted her less than. [They hadn’t known what had happened. He did.])

The Seeker hesitates. “No.” (She is uncertain in her answer, he can sense it.) “You have proven you can be trusted.”

“A dangerous assumption to make of one you met not long ago,” he returns. (It’s a warning, but one she does not heed.)

“If you cannot not be trusted, why would you have stayed to help?”

Solas does not answer her question. He has nothing he could say that she would wish to hear. “With all due respect, Seeker, this spellwork is quite precarious…” He does not need to finish for her to leave. She excuses herself with a nod (still tentative, still wary, still not quite trusting him even if she says otherwise) and exits without another word.

And he turns his gaze back to her, the one whose life he knows will be irrevocably changed (more so than the rest of theirs will be) by his failure. Carefully, silently, gingerly, (reverently) he traces Dirthamen’s markings, the lines curling around her shut eyes, and outlining the sharp angles of her cheekbones. So foolish are her people to have forgotten the true meanings of the markings that only he has the power to take away.

Her name—

“Elgara,” he whispers, and she stirs at the sound of her name before his magic lulls her back to sleep. Her name (spirit, for both her spirit, and an attempt to honour Elgar’nan even if he is long gone) sounds strange on his lips, like a song when all his cruel lips have uttered are broken promises and things to bring down empires.

And yet… (And yet, and yet, and yet.) There is something to her that he cannot describe. Not the so called Mark which flickers and burns on her hand. Not the sharpness of her magic which stings every time he reaches out for it. Not her Dalishness which she makes no attempt to hide, with bare feet even in the coldness of the Frostback Mountains. (If anything, her almost proud display of her Dalish heritage made him like her less.) But something else, something in all his years, he’d never learned the words for.

 If there is a Maker (and Solas is uncertain that such a thing is true), he prays, and he hopes that she will wake. For even if he had reassured Cassandra, a part of him still doubts, but if she dies…

If she dies, then they’re all damned.

 

Chapter Text

As rich as the colour of her skin is (like honey and the last light of the sun as it had set over Arlathan) she is still ashen days later even as she insists that she’s well. (The slight sway to her step says otherwise.) She looks even more ill in Breach’s distant emerald glow. But when their eyes meet across the courtyard (their current conversations are ignored, everything else in the world fading away [only Mythal ever had the ability to silence him with nothing but a look, and the Dread Wolf is not easily silenced]) Elgara waves off the alchemist she’d been speaking with, and with a glance at Josephine, she too ducks out of her conversation with Solas, sensing that she is not welcome.

Solas does not know whether or not he is meant to smile. It is strange to pass as an unknown stranger, seen as a low-born elven apostate rather than the rightful god that he is (he had never wanted to be a god, but how could they have forgotten what he had done for the People? How can all of his efforts be for naught? [He had planted the seeds, let time pass, and now they mutter knife-ear behind the Herald’s back.] The freedom he had created is gone, nowhere to be seen.)

“The Chosen of Andraste,” he says, so quiet he does not know if she hears him. (But she grimaces when she hears the Prophet’s name, and she isn’t subtle about it.) “A blessed hero sent to save us all.”

He can tell that she wants to say something. (The words are on her lips, he can see them, but they never fall, never escape. She keeps them locked tight behind gritted teeth and a forced smile.) “Sounds dashing,” she says. “Am I riding in on a shining steed?”

(Bitter, angry, hating the title they had unwittingly thrust upon her—an elven mage who recognises no Maker, and who sees Andraste not as His bride, but as a woman whose glory had been romanticised after her death—but she still smiles. She still jests.)

He fights a smile, thumbing the wolf jawbone hanging from a cord around his neck. “I would have suggested a griffon, but sadly, they’re extinct.”

“A dragon, perhaps, then?”

“Joke as you will, posturing is necessary.” He looks out over the Chantry clergymen assisting the native villagers of Haven as they both work alongside the Inquisition’s forces. “Already, they look to you for guidance.”

She laughs, quietly, nervously. “I confess I’m making this all up as I go along. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

He inclines his head thoughtfully, thinking for a long moment. Humility, he thinks, such a rare trait, and one often considered commendable, but there is nothing commendable about underestimating one’s own abilities. (Since when had he cared? He’d not had faith in another in a millennium. He’d trusted his brothers and sisters, and look what they had done. [Blood on golden tiles, blood on his hands as he called upon the spirits to help her but not even they could bring back the recent dead for more than a moment, and she had died long before he’d got there.])

In the right light, she almost looks like her.

“I’ve journeyed deep into the Fade in ancient ruins and battlefields to see the dreams of lost civilizations.” He senses her come up behind him. “I’ve watched as hosts of spirits clash to re-enact the bloody past in ancient wars both famous and forgotten.” He glances at her out of the corner of his eye. “Every great war has its heroes. I’m just curious what kind you’ll be.”

She takes no time to reaffirm that she is a hero. Instead, she asks him to tell her of his journeys. (It’s not quite a lie. [He’s always been a bad liar, and he won’t lie to her. She already knows so little.] He had journeyed in the Fade, but he had witnessed much of what she asks about with his own two eyes.)

Her grey eyes are wide with wonder, incredulous and full of awe. “I’ve never heard anyone going so far into the Fade,” she says after he’s finished. “That’s extraordinary.”

“Thank you.” He almost has to fight the urge to flush. It has been a long time since anyone has indulged him. (And longer even yet since someone has understood his fascination, much less shared it.) “It’s not a common field of study, for obvious reasons. Not so flashy as throwing fire or lightning. The thrill of finding remnants of a thousand-year-old dream? I would not trade it for anything.”

She smiles, and it isn’t in an attempt to indulge him.

“I will stay then,” Solas says after a moment’s pause. “At least until the Breach has been closed.”

“Was that in doubt?” she asks, looking him in the eyes. Her vallaslin draws much attention, but this close, it’s hard to ignore the scattered freckles across which her skin is so carelessly marked. (He had fought so hard and for so long to free the People, and now they willingly take these marks upon themselves in an attempt to reconnect with something they’ll never understand.)

Under his breath, Solas chuckles with bitter, wry amusement. “I am an apostate mage surrounded by Chantry forces, and unlike you, I do not have a divine mark protecting me. Cassandra has been… accommodating, but you understand my caution.”

“If it’s any consolation, if they tried to lay a finger on you, they’d have to go through me first, ha’hren.” The People are nothing more than a facsimile, a ghost, of what they once were, but she speaks the tongue of his people (his people, not hers) with remarkable clarity. “You came here to help, Solas. I won’t let them use that against you.”

Strange.

His old name is a reminder of all that he has to be shameful for, but upon her lips, he can almost stand the sound of it.

He raises a brow. “How would you stop them?”

She only laughs. “You haven’t seen me when I’m angered. I daresay I’d have a hard time not stopping them.”

A beat, and then— “Thank you.” (She’s a curious little thing, and one he does not understand. [And it makes him question. They aren’t what they used to be. They are children, by comparison, and yet… And yet, this one gives him pause.])

Elgara smiles, more to herself than to him, and looks down at her hands. “I must go,” she says. (Murmurs? It’s as though she’s trying not to offend him. She is loud in her opinions, and makes them known when Cassandra or Cullen even so much as mention her name, but she is so quiet with him.) “Adan is missing some papers. I swore to help him find them.”

Dar’eth shiral, da’len,” he says, inclining his head. Simple words a child of his time would have understood with ease, but he still does not expect her to understand them.

And yet…

And yet she does.

And he cannot help but think that perhaps he should withhold judgement (he can almost hear Mythal laughing), for every time he thinks something of her, there comes another and yet. She should not have survived the explosion at the Conclave. She should not have come away with a poorly contained rift on her hand. She should not have survived the Pride demon’s attack. She should not make him hesitate when he thinks of what will happen to her when he can continue with his original plan.

And yet…

She smiles in farewell before ducking away, pushing her hair back behind her pointed ears.

Chapter Text

There’s no way she can be here.

He had watched her disappear, had been too powerless to do anything. Still is too powerless to do anything. Instead, he had watched the world crumble to ash and dust, everything he had worked for falling apart before his very eyes. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen either, but even his best laid plans had been laid to waste by the Elder One.

And Elgara Lavellan had died a year ago.

But when she says his name (“Solas. Look at me.”) It’s like nothing has changed. It’s like they’re back in the Hinterlands again, on their way to Redcliffe to meet with Alexius (drunken nights listening to Cassandra argue with Varric, batting away the wisps Elgara had conjured to cast light on Solas as he tried [and failed] to start a fire), all those months ago. She’s wearing the same thing she had then, in her robes of lambswool and trimmed with silk.

She hasn’t aged a day. (He has. They all have, faster than they should have, bodies corrupted by the lyrium that surrounds them day and night, driving them mad with its song.)

“Solas,” she repeats, stronger this time, reaching through the bars for his hand even as her Tevinter companion fiddles with the lock on his door. “Look at me.”

He does. She seems realer than the images of her his lyrium addled brain had conjured before, grounded, with a weight to her steps. He’s afraid of touching her, of taking her hand. She had been their sole hope, their beacon, their lighthouse in the storm, and he can’t lose her again.

But she’s real.

Her hand is warm, stained with blood (hers? Another’s?) but he doesn’t care (doesn’t notice?) as the door swings open and she’s immediately fretting over him, running her real hands over him, checking for injuries. She’s no healer (none of them are, really) but she’s on the verge of tears as it is, and he daren’t stop her.

“You’re bleeding,” Solas says, throat dry and parched, voice cracking from disuse. The intricate, knotted fabric she wears around her belt is wet with blood. He reaches for his magic before she can stop him, urging the wound to heal faster. The spell takes the last of his energy out of him, and he soon collapses into her, forcing her to carry his weight. Her wound still isn’t quite healed, still seeping blood, but he has little magic he can call upon without exerting himself further. “Elgara—”

 “Up to your feet now,” tuts her companion, helping him stand.

He hardly pays the other mage any attention. “You’re alive?” he says, half in disbelief, half in relief. “We saw you die.”

She opens her mouth to speak but the Tevinter—Dorian, he recallsbeats her to the punch. “The spell Alexius cast displaced us in time. We just got here, so to speak.”

“Can you reverse the process? You could return and obviate the events of the last year. It may not be too late…”

Elgara’s ears twitch, the only sign that she hears any of what they’re saying. “Are you in pain? You look…” (Still bleeding, still injured, but she doesn’t care, so long as he’s not suffering too. [He’s in agony, has been for almost a year, but she doesn’t need to know, there’s nothing she can do.] He hadn’t remembered her being this kind, but then again, they had spoken little during their time at Haven, their conversations restricted to curious inquiries about their situation and not much else.)

“Terrible,” finishes Dorian.

“I’ll manage,” says Solas. He’d been managing for almost a year already. He could survive another day if it only meant that none of this would ever come to pass. She doesn’t look like she will manage. There’s a wrinkle between furrowed brows and she can barely manage to look him in the eyes without having to blink back tears. (It isn’t her fault, what happened to him, but she blames herself regardless. She will still blame herself once she returns, even if this future will never come to pass.)

“You shouldn’t have to,” is all Elgara says, and she still cannot look at him. “This is my fault.”

He places two fingers beneath her chin, forcing her to look at him. (Touch feather light, cautious, wary. He has longed to touch her, to hear her voice, to see her for a year, but for her, it’s been mere hours. She doesn’t won’t understand.) “Da’len,” he says in a voice barely above a whisper. “Tel’dan’lathem.”

Do not cry, he says, as though she would listen to him. To his surprise, she hesitates, muttering under her breath, “I’m not crying.”

Despite the situation, he almost wants to laugh. “Much has changed since you have been gone,” he says, looking to Dorian if only to avoid meeting Elgara’s eyes. “It is far worse than you understand. Alexius served a master. The Elder One. He reigns now, unchallenged. His minions assassinated Empress Celene and used the chaos to invade the South. This Elder One commands an army of demons. After you stop Alexius, you must be prepared.”

“I can’t do this alone, Solas.” Her voice breaks on his name. She still cannot see that this is not her fault. She had not been here to stop it, but she had not done it to them. To any of them. (And even if she had, he’d still have forgiven her.)

“If there is any hope, any way to save them…” His blue eyes meet her own grey ones. (The colour of storm clouds on the horizon just before the rain begins, and wet cobblestones hewn of granite.) “My life is yours.”

Her expression twists into something unreadable, but if she objects, she voices nothing aloud. Instead, she nods and steels herself. (But her hand wraps tighter around her staff, knuckles white, as she turns to leave, and he knows that there are many words on the tip of her tongue that she cannot bring herself to say.)

And later, the pounding of the demons against the door to the throne room matches the pounding of his heart in his ears. He had never made peace with the fact that he would one day die, (he watches the world fall to ash and dust around him, wishing that he could join them, and finally rest. There is still work yet to be done, and heavy is the head that wears the crown) but as he looks back at Elgara and Dorian scrambling to make sense of Alexius’ amulet, he can’t help but think that this is the only way.

If he is to die, at least he will do so in her name

He can feel the Elder One’s magic on the horizon, dark, and foul, and corrupt. He can’t let Him have her. “You cannot stay here,” Solas hisses as flames begin to dance at Elgara’s fingertips, the mage preparing to fight and die alongside her friends. His tight grip on her wrist breaks her focus, her magic fading out. “You have to go.”

“I’m not leaving you behind!” she snaps at him, furious that he’d even think that she would do such a thing. “Have you not suffered enough for my mistakes already?”

“Our suffering means nothing if you die here.” Leliana is sharper than he is. His magic can cut, but it is no blade, and her words are as pointed as her arrows. “Live, and make certain that this never comes to pass.”

“And I am to, what? Watch you die?”

Solas meets Cassandra’s eyes. The Seeker inclines her head, knowing what he wishes to say without him needing to speak a word. He looks back to Elgara. “Yes,” he says. “We’ll hold the outer door. When they get past, it will be your turn.”

“I’m not letting you commit suicide!”

Fenedhis,” he snarls. He had (almost) forgotten how stubborn she could be. “Vyn esaya gera assan i’mar’av’ingala.

“You mock me for not wanting to watch you die,” she says through gritted teeth.

“You are the Herald,” Cassandra says simply. (She still does not yet know that her mark is not Divine, even if she suspects it.) “You must do what needs to be done, no matter the cost.”

She has a duty, and she cannot forsake it. Not now. Not ever.

“Look at us,” Leliana says, and though her voice is raspy from long months of torture, she sounds as sweet as a nightingale. “We’re already dead. The only way we live is if this day never comes. Cast your spell. You have as much time as I have arrows.”

Cassandra draws her sword, an almost imperceptible tremor afflicting her hand. “It was an honour, Herald.”

“Mine too,” she returns as the Seeker nods, taking up position just outside the door, shield raised. He turns to leave, unable to look at her for a moment longer. (He’s had a year to wonder what if and she had been at the centre of all the dreams that he would never get to see come true. [He had always been told to trust nobody but himself, and he cannot even do that. Not around her.]) “Solas?”

He stops in his tracks, her soft footsteps coming closer as she moves to stand beside him, hand on his shoulder. “Let your last memory of me not be one of you cursing my stubbornness,” she says, voice hoarse, and seconds away from breaking.

Despite it all, he laughs. “Sule tael tasalal, lethal’lan,” he says instead, wanting nothing more than to take her hand and never let it go.

She raises her brows, looking down at her feet. Bare, but wrapped in leathers, like many of the Dalish. It’s cold in Ferelden, and he cannot imagine that the stones are not like slabs of ice. “I confess I only understood part of that.”

“Until we meet again,” he says, in Common this time.

“No, not that. The last part.”

Lethal’lan,” he repeats. “Blood of my blood.”

He has to force his feet to move away from her, her hand sliding from his shoulder as he parts. (He can still feel the heat of her hand on him even as he lays on the stones that are wet with his own blood.) And he remembers the slow arrow, and his heart breaking as bones that were not his broke too, the body of a friend lying on the ground, reminding him of yet another failure. (But now it’s his body on the floor, and he can see—barely—through the door, a flash of green light as she disappears, and he thinks that is has been too long since he had been at peace.)

Chapter Text

She tells them of what had happened in the future-would-never-be. She spares no expense, even when she’s practically choking on the words she feels the need to share. She has her staff lying across her lap, tracing the leather that criss-crosses the hilt every time he asks a question, unable to look him in the eyes. (She looks at everyone else, but not him. Not if she can avoid it.) Questions receive one word answers, and no amount of prompting can get her to elaborate.

He has lost many. She has lost few. She does not yet know how to make sense of her grief. (But she hadn’t lost him, not really, and even if she had watched him die, he is still here, and his heart still beats in his chest.)

She slips into his tent that night, after everyone else has fallen asleep. She taps thrice on the pole supporting the fabric, and only when he responds, does she step in. A magelight hovers by her shoulder, washing them both in a pale, blue light. (She glows from within with her power, and she needs no crown to have the world at her feet. They flock to her like moths to a flame, even if they know that they might not walk away unscathed, but she is the mother of them all, and she will protect them until her dying breath. [And protect them until her dying breath she had.])

He understands how hard it is for her to look at him right now, unable to see anything but the Solas that had died to save her. (He can barely look at her without seeing the only thing that had ever been good in his life dying because he’d been unable to save her.) “Herald,” he says, shutting his journal (damn the ink if it smears) before she can read the words contained within. He gestures for her to take a seat alongside him. There isn’t much space in his tent, but he’d rather have his own space than have to share with another. “How may I help you?”

“Can we drop the formalities, if only for tonight?” she asks, and she looks far more tired than he has ever seen her. For weeks now, they have travelled alongside each other. To the Hinterlands and then back to Haven. To Val Royeaux, and then back home again. And then to Redcliffe Village before slowly making their way back to Haven once again. Her normally intricately braided hair—she even braids it before she retires, in an attempt to contain her messy waves—is loose, tumbling over her shoulders.

He understands why she ties it back. It’s a mess, and she’ll likely have to spend much of the morning combing it through. She had inherited it from her mother, apparently, though when he’d asked her about her mother, she’d fallen silent. “Of course,” Solas says, inclining his head.

They sit in silence for a long moment—her, struggling to find the words she wants to say, and him, knowing better than to press her. “I watched you die,” she says, finally breaking the quiet. “You insisted that it was what had to be done, and when I refused you said that I would try to catch an arrow with my teeth.” She almost smiles. Almost. “And then you died, and…” She trails off, picking at stray string on the cuff of her simple, linen tunic.

“I do hope that those were not my last words,” he mutters, expression souring.

This time, she smiles. “No. They were not. You were teaching me until the very end.” His confusion must be evident for she continues, unprompted. “Sule tael tasalal, lethal’lan.

The magelight helps illuminate his space more than his dying-out lantern had, but it isn’t so bright that she can tell that the tips of his ears have flushed red. Their elven night vision is limited to shapes and outlines, not colours. “An uncommon endearment in this region,” he says, trying to keep his voice neutral.

“Endearments alone are uncommon nowadays,” she says, still toying with her hem. “Those in my clan did not have the luxury of being with someone because they wanted to be. Marriages were meant to bear children, and friendships to help strengthen the clan. Nothing was done without purpose.”

“And does our relationship have no purpose?” Solas arches a brow. “I require you to close the Breach, and you require me to…”

“To help me make sense of all this nonsense,” she finishes before he can. “There are so few of us left, and most are like Sera—neglecting our past, not caring if we are doomed to repeat it. She is so focused on moving on that she does not know what to move on from. You… You seem to understand.”

That’s because I do, he thinks. To me, the fall of Arlathan was as recent as the day you left your clan to attend the Conclave is to you. Her blood still is hot on my hands, and I can scarcely close my eyes without hearing her last, shuddering breath.

He says nothing.

 “I hated my clan,” she admits after a long, pregnant pause. “Surrounded by the same people I had known all my life. We traded with the humans, yes, but that does not mean we cared for them. We were secluded, closed off from the world. I criticise Sera for never trying to understand the Dalish, but have I not done the same?”

“Did you ever tell them?”

“Who should I have told? The Keeper? How could I tell her that I despised the title she had thrust upon me, even if she had saved me from a life of aimless meandering from clan to clan, never able to find a home? The Dalish may be nomads, but our homes are within each other, shared between those with our blood in their veins. And I never had that. Never shared what they all did.” She reaches up to trace her vallaslin with a feather-light touch. “I would never be the Keeper they wanted me to be, but I would do what they required. If only to ensure our survival. Such is the sacrifice of duty. We must give even what they cannot have.”

 (They lie sleeping, locked away for eternity, leaving only him, and they cannot return so long as this world remains. [He must end one world to ensure the rebirth of another.])

“I digress,” she says, looking down at her hands. “This is not what I came here to discuss.”

“What was it that you came here for?”

“I need you to make me a promise.”

He raises a brow.

“Promise me that you will never die in my name. Not ever. No matter the situation.”

No. Even if he has a duty, he cannot save his people if the world is torn apart by the Breach. Losing her would mean losing both worlds. “I can do no such thing.”

“I cannot watch you die. Not again.”

“And I would do it again.” Sharp, and biting are his words, like the teeth of a wolf. “This world will not survive without you.”

“I will not lose anyone else!” She’s close to tears—they prick at her large, silver eyes, like a dam just about to overflow—and he has but one question.

“Else?” One word, one question, and it is enough for her to fall silent, pressing her lips together as though she is capable of restraining herself, as though he hadn’t already learned that she could bite her tongue, for a time, but her silence was never permanent.

She is less angry now, grief passing over her features. “I left my clan to attend the Conclave because if something had happened, which it had, there would be few to mourn my passing. The Keeper, perhaps, but I cannot recall a time when she had seen me as anything but her successor. We were… outside of Kirkwall when the war began. My parents were killed in the chaos. My brother… My brother used to be First, and I Second, but some noble was determined to end the war himself, and rounded up all the mages he could find, and slit their throats in his courtyard. My brother was among them. I found him, weeks later, his body half picked at by birds. I had another brother, younger than I. A hunter. His name was Mihren. He was with me at the Conclave.” He had not come out alive, she says, the words unspoken. (He died because of your mistakes. I’d have had a family if it weren’t for you.) And then you… In the future I pray will never come to pass…”

She had described it to Cassandra, her hands curled into fists the entire time. Blood on stone tiles, the green glint of their armour as it shines in the light of the Breach, and their empty, glassy eyes on her as she steps back into her own time, choking on the air in her throat.

(Blood on golden mosaics, emerald fabric stained crimson, and her last, shuddering breath as she had slipped away in Solas’ arms. He could have saved her. He does not know if he could have saved her, or if he’d always be too late, just one second too late, doomed to arrive just as she faded from this world.)

The image is still seared into the back of his eyes.

“I take too much of your time. It is late, and I am certain that you have much yet to do. Get some rest while I take first watch. Excuse me.” She does not stop long enough to hear him bid her a good night—he doesn’t even have time to bid her a good night, really—slipping out of his tent without so much as a glance back in his direction.

Solas tries to take her advice. Tries to take some rest. But sleep eludes him, and he cannot begin to organise his thoughts into coherent words he can put down in ink. He does not sleep that night, and for the rest of their journey, the Herald does not speak with him once.

Chapter Text

The village is on fire, and he cannot help but think that Haven is a haven no more. He cannot even begin to count the dead. (They are dead because of him. Because of his mistake. He may not have killed them, but their blood is on his hands.) The Chantry is not in much better shape, its halls filled with the scattered few who had survived the assault. Not an hour ago, they had been celebrating the Herald’s successful attempt at closing the Breach, and now, they are holed up, waiting to die.

He watches from the corner of the room, eyes following the Herald as she converses with the spirit of Compassion—though she does not yet know what he is—and Commander Cullen. She has blood (her own, or another’s?) smeared across her forehead, and there is a limp in her step that had not been there earlier. Even he is sore, ribs creaking every time he takes a breath. Still, he has endured worse. He does not know if she has.

Compassion has taken on the form of a man—a boy really. Wisps of blonde hair escape from beneath a large wide-brimmed hat, and pale blue eyes flit up to settle on the Herald. “I’ve seen an Archdemon,” Compassion says, almost to no one but himself. “I was in the Fade, but it looked like that.”

Solas does not know if the roaring creature that soars above their heads is an Archdemon, but Compassion’s guess is as good as his own.

“I don’t care what it looks like.” Commander Cullen has no time for niceties, not when their situation is so dire. He is trying his best to maintain control of the situation. (He is failing.) “It has cut a path for that army. They’ll kill everyone in Haven!”

Compassion shakes his head. “The Elder One doesn’t care about the village. He only wants the Herald.”

No. Haven’t his mistakes caused her enough suffering already? Already he has bound her to a cause she does not believe in, forcing her to take up a title that no matter how much she denounces, they still call her by. She cannot return to the life she had once known. Not until the world is safe, and even then, will she be the same person she once was? How can she return to her clan saying that the Thedosians believe her to be blessed by Andraste?

But Elgara does not care. She has lost too much for one more loss to affect her. She will give everything she has to save them, even if she dreads the position they have put her in. “Then let him have me,” she says, so quiet he can barely hear her over the din. “No one else need die. If it will save everyone else, I would give my life without hesitation.”

Compassion tilts his head to the side, and for a brief moment, he glances over at Solas. The memories come rushing back all at once.

(His grip is tight on his staff, knuckles white as his eyes lock with Dirthamen’s. He is as dark as his twin is fair, each opposite sides of the same coin. He had not expected the master of secrets to have been behind this. His own mother? But the bloodied blades Dirthamen carries only confirm that he had been behind it all.

“What have you done?” Horrified words uttered in a whisper, unable to comprehend the actions of a man he had once called friend. There are screams all around them as Dirthamen’s forces lay Mythal’s temple to waste.

“What needed to be done,” he says. He almost sounds regretful. Almost. “What you were too much of a coward to do, ‘Dread Wolf.’ We do what we must to survive.”

Every second he spends here is a second she is alone. Another second that her life slips through her fingers. “If this is how we survive, then we do not deserve to live,” he snarls, taking a step towards him. “She was the best of us. How could you!” It isn’t so much a question as it is an accusation, reminding him of what he had done, as though he could forget when his mother's body lays beyond the last door behind him, her life on his hands.

But Dirthamen’s gaze is cool, heavy lids hanging over golden eyes, so like his mother’s, so like the ones he had fallen in love with. “She got in my way,” he says simply, as though he speaks of the weather, and not of how he had cut down the only person keeping them all standing. Soon, they would all fall too. “I suggest you do not make the same mistake.”)

He knew it was wrong, Compassion says, his lips not moving but Solas hears the words in his ears all the same. He didn’t think he had any other choice. He looks back to Elgara. “It won’t,” he says after a long pause. “He wants to kill you. No one else matters, but he’ll crush them, kill them anyway. I don’t like him.”

Compassion’s quiet, timid innocence frustrates the Commander, and soon he and Elgara begin to argue over what their next move should be. He sees no sense in fleeing, thinking that they will all die the instant they step out the door, but she insists that they will all die if they remain here, and if even one person manages to live, then that is all they can hope for. Compassion does not listen to their bickering, his attention focused elsewhere.

She reminds you of Her, he says, wordless once again.

Solas looks over at Elgara, and the way she stands tall and proud, even if she carries Dirthamen’s brand on her skin. Yes, he returns.

Bright, continues Compassion, like counting birds against the sun. Burning too, so hot that she will burn the world to ash if she does not control the fire that burns in her heart. She is pulled, blood that is not blood, a tiny trace of time. Lips struggling to shape language her parents lived, longing for the days when her people were the People, as solid as the trees, but it is within the trees that the Wolf hides, and she flees from an enemy that is not an enemy. Scared, frightened, of herself, and of what could be.

Solas – You cannot tell her.

Compassion, again, and with a lilting hum in his youthful voice – Not my secret to tell. I give comfort, not secrets. Secrets belonged to Him, and now she wears them too, even if she reminds you of Her. Mother and child, written on her skin in blood.

“Solas.” The light touch of Elgara’s hand on his forearm snaps him out of his conversation with Compassion. She is going to destroy Haven, she tells him, and take the Elder One along with it. Along with her. She won’t take no for an answer. Her mind is already made up, and she is as stubborn as the mountains themselves. “You have to go.”

There is a lump in his throat, one that he forces himself to swallow. “Herald—”

“There is no other choice,” she says, cutting him off before he can finish. “This is the only way.”

Golden flames wrapping around slender fingers, as bright as the colour of her eyes. She looks back at him over her shoulder, teeth bared in a delighted smile. “Vhenan,” she says, fire disappearing as she places one hand up against his cheek, but her hand passes straight through him. She falters.

“I’m sorry,” he says, tears in his voice, trapped, and begging to be shed, but he will not let her see him like this. The spell is delicate, fragile, and he must remain composed if he is to make use of the few precious seconds they have left.

“We both knew it would come to this,” she sighs, tracing the outline of his lips with a ghostly touch. “From the start, this was the only way it could have ended.”

“It should not have come to this.”

“And yet it did.” She closes her eyes. “I can feel myself fading already.” He cannot bear to think of a world without her in it. “Goodbye, my heart. And I am sorry, that this fight is yours to continue alone.”

He was sorry too. He still is sorry. This struggle, once shared, is now his own, and now she is walking away too, but this time, she walks towards the end rather than let it come to her. She raises her hand to brush his cheek too, but unlike Her hand, she is real, solid. Firm. Fingertips brush over sharp cheekbones. “Sule tael tasalal, letha’lin,” she says before she slips away, off to face the evil by herself.

Chapter Text

She is as weak and as unmoving as she had been the day they had found her lying in the ruins of the Temple. If it weren’t for the crimson bubbles forming on frostbitten lips with every ragged breath she takes, he’d have said that she looks peaceful. At rest, for the first time since the Temple. Since that fateful day, she has kept her feet moving forward, one after the other, without a single moment to catch her breath.

Clerics try to tend to her as she sleeps, muttering prayers over her unconscious form. The instant he discovers their actions, something within him snaps, and the wolf after which he had been named bares its teeth at the foolish shemlen, bestowing the blessings of a god whose name she cannot even bring herself to say. He is not a healer, by any means, and years ago, he’d have called upon the spirits to aid him, but he does what he can with his limited power, coaxing her wounds to knit themselves back together.

Quickly, the Inquisition learns to stay away from the elven mage as he watches over their Herald’s form. They only visit to offer him food, and fresh bowls of water and clean cloths to clear the blood from her wounds. Compassion sits in sometimes, hands clasped together as he watches in silence. Sometimes, he hums songs that he should not know, songs from a time before this one.

Lethal’lan,” he whispers, brushing his thumb across her soft, full lips. Like last time, she stirs at his touch, her magic, cold but burning like fire reacting to his own.

Compassion fades into existence, his guilt summoning him, drawing him like a moth to a flame. “Another mistake, another error, but you didn’t do this. You did not put the Mark on her hand. You were not the reason Haven fell.”

Solas doesn’t answer his unasked question. Instead, his gaze fall upon the Herald as she tosses and turns. He cannot help her any more than he already has. The hurt she has now is one nothing but time can heal. Perhaps Compassion could, but he had never been good at compassion.

“You don’t need to envy me, Solas,” says Compassion, hearing his thoughts. “You can find happiness in your own way. You can give her what she needs too.”

Immediately, the walls behind which he had hidden when spirits had walked freely among them fall back into place. “I apologise for disturbing you, Cole.” (He still thinks that Compassion does not need a human name, but he knows that the others will use it even if he does not.) “I am not a spirit, and sometimes it is hard to remember such simple truths.”

Compassion hums a tune he had heard a millennia ago, in distant ballroom full of swirling gowns and once-familiar faces. “They are not gone so long as you remember them.”

“I know.”

“But you could let them go.”

“I know that as well.” He does. He really does, but how can he?  He is the last of the Elvhen, the last remnant of an age long since passed. If he lets them go, if he forgets their name, then they will truly be gone. If he does not remember them, who will? And how can he forget their mistake? How can he forget what they had done?

“You didn’t do it to be right,” says Compassion, undeterred by his silence. “You did it to save them. She would not be here now without you. Fire, all around; begging, crying, screaming. We are the last Elvhen, never again shall we submit. Fighting, always fighting, a war that will never be won, but you gave them a chance. You made certain that they could fight, bound only to themselves, and not to another. Not enough, not enough. Will it ever be enough? What have you done? she asks, repeating your words, and you repeat his too. What needed to be done. You weren’t wrong.”

“I know,” he says again, pushing himself to his feet as Mother Giselle—the one person who had not been frightened away by the wolf’s snapping teeth—comes in to relieve him, granting him a chance to get some rest. “And that is why it hurts.”

“I’m sorry?” she says, unable to see the spirit of Compassion by her side.

“Ah, nothing,” Solas says dismissively before turning in for the night.

He is not there when she wakes, early in the morning, just before the sun rises between the peaks of the Frostbacks. He senses her though, her burning magic sparking with renewed vigour as she wakes, and he can taste it on his tongue; sharp yet sweet at the same time, like lemon candy, and behind that, the bitterness of Felandris—the bitter taste of him.

Solas wakes to hear Mother Giselle urging her to return to bed, but she does not listen, does not care enough to. Instead, she bursts from her tent, leaning against her staff for support, and as the Inquisition’s eyes fall upon her, their voices begin to rise in song—a prayer to a god she does not believe in, but also a prayer to her.

He shakes the last of sleep from his groggy mind before stepping out from his tent, the snow painfully cold on his bare toes before he wraps a magical barrier around them. He watches from a distant, not apart of the Inquisition which she informally leads, but not so distant that he does not follow her too. They look at her in reverence, and to such a degree he has only seen once before.

Elves, falling at her feet, hands clasped in prayer, begging for her to save them. And she does, but her fairness is not always kind. Even then, they still pray to her, the Mother of All, as though she is a god, as though she has not committed sins of her own.

Sins like her lips against his own, even while her soul has been sworn to another. She was the best of them, but even gods make mistakes.

Across the crowd, their eyes meet, stone grey on stormy blue. He inclines his head away from the people they are both surrounded by, beckoning her. She mutters something to Mother Giselle before cutting a path to him, brow raised.

“Solas.” It isn’t a greeting, but it isn’t a question either.

“A word?” he says, half expecting her to refuse, but she does not. She follows, silent, watching, waiting, even as he lights a rusted torch that had been standing in snow for a thousand years with nothing but a snap of his fingers. This is familiar ground, even if he does not want it to be. “The humans have not raised one of our—” Our, he says, as to not tip her off, but a part of him can no longer sense the difference between her and him, “—people so high for ages beyond counting.”

“Mother Giselle thinks I am sent by Andraste,” Elgara murmurs, her tone indicating that she believes no such thing.

“Her faith is hard-won, lethal’lan, worthy of pride.” Worthy of even Pride’s pride. “Save one detail.”

Her brow arches.

“The threat Corypheus wields? The orb he carried? It is ours.” (His.) “Corypheus used the orb to open the Breach. Unlocking it must have caused the explosion that destroyed the Conclave. We must find out how he survived… and we must prepare for their reaction, when they learn the orb is of our people.”

If she questions how he knows such thing from their limited interactions with the Elder One, she says nothing. Instead, she looks to the blue flame he’d summoned. It offers little in the way of warmth, but its cool light almost makes her glow, illuminating her whiskey coloured skin from within. “What is it, exactly?” she asks instead, ears twitching with unrestrained curiosity.

He has to fight the urge to smile. She has the wonder of a small child, entranced by everything he tells her, and yet she cannot bring herself to look him in the eyes.

Compassion’s words ring in his mind. Longing for the days when her people were the People, as solid as the trees, but it is within the trees that the Wolf hides, and she flees from an enemy that is not an enemy. Scared, frightened, of herself, and of what could be.

What could be? What can they be? He is the Dread Wolf, and she is a means to an end.

“Such things were foci, said to channel power from our gods,” he answers her question, careful to speak as a teacher who’d spent years studying the Fade, and not as one who had lived the tales she had grown up on. “Some where dedicated to specific members of our pantheon. All that remains are references in ruins, and faint visions of memory in the Fade, echoes of a dead empire. But however Corypheus came to it, the orb is elven, and with it, he threatens the heart of human faith.”

“And to whom was this orb dedicated?”

It is a question he cannot easily answer. “The Dread Wolf, Fen’Harel.”

A muscle twitches in her jaw as she grits her teeth. “Fen’Harel ver em,” she hisses, so quiet he can barely hear her, but the words stir something deep within him—a hunger nothing can satisfy. Soft skin beneath his calloused fingers as he traces the marks of the Betrayer on her skin, the clash of her magic against his own. “Just my luck.”

Solas merely purses his lips, and keeps his gaze on the fire between them.

“They will always blame us,” she says quietly. “No matter what, but their blame won’t matter if we can’t get out of this wilderness.”

He’d had a foolish, foolish, foolish idea as she had slept. One that he knew he would regret in the coming days, but there is no other choice. His hand has been forced, and the cards he had been dealt are not ones he can win with. “That is the immediate problem, true, and it offers a solution that may secure you a place in their hearts. You saved them at Haven.” You saved me at Haven. “Perhaps you can again.”

“What do you mean?”

He smiles, but it is wolfish, teeth bared as he flaunts information he has kept with him throughout the ages. “By attacking the Inquisition, Corypheus has changed it. Changed you. Scout to the north. Be their guide.”

“The north? There is nothing there but the Frostbacks.” She turns to look at him (in the eyes, finally) and she’s so close to him now that he can feel her breath, hot on his chin. She hesitates, tongue brushing over her lower lip (it glistens in the light of the magefire, pale and pink, and he has a foolish notion he has to force himself to ignore.)

“No. There is a place that lies forgotten. A place that waits for a force to hold it. There is a place where the Inquisition can build… grow…”

Stone walls on all sides, and mountains surrounding them. He sits alone on a throne hewn of stone, staring at the empty hall that had once been full of a thousand faces, both spirit and elven. He is alone, and he can feel the memory of her hand on his shoulder, but when he opens his eyes, she isn’t there.

Tarasyl’an Te’las,” he says, noting the way she swallows when he speaks Elvhen to her, even if she cannot understand what he says. “Skyhold.”

Chapter Text

Skyhold is almost as he remembers it. It has fallen into disrepair over the years, and all the images of wolves have been removed from the keep’s grounds, masons having gone as far to chip even engravings of the Dread Wolf from the stone walls. Walls have collapsed, and there are entire sections that will need to be torn down before they can be repaired, but in his mind’s eye, he can still see how it had been a thousand years ago.

He casts a pained, longing glance at the balcony overlooking the courtyard, protruding from what had once been his quarters.

She laughs, delighted, and the sound is like a song, meant and written only for him. Here, they do not have to pretend, deep in the heart of his empire, surrounded by people who would not dare speak ill of the Dread Wolf. They both know that what they are doing is wrong, but this betrayal is not as large as the one that is soon to come.

And, quite frankly, neither of them cared.

Elgara stands above them all, just beneath the balcony upon which he had shared a kiss which is seared into his memories. People are gathered around him, looking up to their Herald—the woman who had saved them all, and who will save them yet.

She carries a blade in her hand, hefty, and heavy—too inelegant for a mage such as her, too brutish. A dragon curls around the hilt, emerald eyes glinting in the light of the sun. Up in the Frostbacks, the cold should be gnawing at their bones, but the spells he had cast over a thousand years ago are still in place, and his bare feet do not sting as he stands on the stone grounds. The people, her people, wait, expecting her answer to the question he knows Cassandra has phrased as a commander.

You will be our Inquisitor. All that is left is to decide how you will lead us.

They hadn’t asked her if she had wanted the title. (But she has been leading them already, and the only thing that will change is that the Inquisition will be in her name, not Andraste’s.) They hadn’t asked him either, if he had wanted the title of Dread Wolf. But for people like them, duty came before all else.

Elgara looks down at the blade in her hand, watching as it shifts in the light as she turns it from side to side. She is not loud, not like Sera, but her voice carries over the crowd which lapses into silence as she speaks, eager to hear the words that come from her mouth. “We have an enemy,” she says, raising her chin, “and we have to stand together. Alone, we will fall, but should we fight together, we stand a chance against this foe. We’ll do what is right. The Inquisition will fight for all of us. Be you rich or poor, be you human, elf, Qunari, or dwarf, the Inquisition will fight for all of us. Our concern must the order and safety of this world, not the next. I am not ‘chosen.’ I have chosen, and I will lead us to victory.”

“I am no god,” she says, running her hand over her face as she paces the length of the room. “And yet they worship me.”

“It matters not if you are a god,” he says. “What matters is that you are prepared to do what a god has not done for them. You will deliver them. Guide them. Protect them.”

“They wish for me to marry! They call me a god, yet they reduce me to nothing but a woman whose womb is bereft of a child! How can I? He does not care for me, nor I him.”

“He is kind. You could learn to love him.”

“He is quick to anger,” she returns. “And I do not have room in my heart to love another.”

“I know,” he says, “but we make sacrifices for the good of the People, and this, my heart, is one that you must make. A union will strengthen the Evanuris. It would give the People hope after this war. Something to look up to. A reminder that all hope is not lost.”

“Perhaps,” she concedes, voice full of tears, “but why can it not be with you?”

Solas’ stomach twists even as the people around him erupt into cheers as they celebrate their new Inquisitor. He cannot join them. He has seen this all before. He has seen people be elevated, their images warped until they were no longer ordinary but divine. Even if she has renounced the faith that had brought her this far, she will still go down in history as Andraste’s chosen. Perhaps in a thousand years’ time, they would worship her name too.

And he is helpless, watching history repeat itself all over again.

He escapes the crowd before it can disperse, flooding Skyhold with the chatter of a thousand excited souls. He wanders the halls of his abandoned home, brushing his fingers over the once-familiar walls, and fighting back the memories that arise, unbidden and unwanted. Sometimes, he can see her standing there, just out of the corner of his eye, her dark hair loose and flowing, and golden eyes glinting in the light of the magefire braziers.

He keeps to himself as the Inquisition settles into its new home, claiming the lowest level of the rotunda that had once been his study. Josephine gives him whatever furniture she cannot fit elsewhere—an unnecessarily Orlesian nightstand he uses to hold his paints, a Ferelden desk that had been gifted to them by the King and for which Josephine could not find a place for, along with several, mismatched sofas, and chairs.

He remembers a time when the walls of the rotunda had been adorned with brilliant murals that had been painted with the Fade’s magic, forcing the images to shift as time passed, but the paint has long since been chipped away, leaving behind nothing but a plain, uneven surface. He takes it upon himself to paint the walls once more, commemorating their journey, and it is this task that takes up the majority of his time.

The Herald—Inquisitor, he reminds himself—has not called upon him since they had spoken last in the Frostbacks. He does not know if it is because they have kept her busy, or if she is avoiding him. He doubts that it’s the latter. She is wise, but she is not subtle.

“Josephine said I would find you here.”

It’s like every time he thinks of her, she appears just as he begins to long for her company. For her dry humour, and her constant questions that would have been incessant to anyone but him. “Inquisitor,” he says, setting down his brush. “How may I help you?”

Her expression sours. “Don’t call me that. Please. It’s almost as bad as Herald, and I’d like to think that we’re familiar enough to use each other’s names. As demeaning as it is, I’d  rather be called da’len than by a title I do not want.”

He laughs to himself, amused by her rush of words, like they had all been bottled up inside her in the week they had been apart. “Elgara,” he tries again, “how may I help you?”

She doesn’t answer his question, looking past him to the first part of the mural he had completed. “Is that…?” She reaches up to trace the faceless woman on the wall, fingers hovering over the pale lines on golden skin, not touching the paint for fear that it is still wet.

The image of her on the wall is large, towering over them both, and though he has not yet defined much of her features, her vallaslin and the green light emanating from her hand is enough to confirm her identity. She looks regal, divine, like a goddess who is meant to be worshipped.

And, for a second, Solas wonders if that is what he is meant to do.

(He had never understood the People’s want to prostrate themselves before leaders who were as mortal as they were, but now he understands the desire, the need to believe in something greater than oneself. [She deserves to be worshipped. If not for her actions, then for her cruel, angular beauty that the people of Thedas do not appreciate, even if she’d have been heralded as the most beautiful of them all by his people. He sees the ancient Elvhen in her, like she had been plucked from his time, and had remained untouched by the passing ages.])

“If you have time, I’d like to talk,” she says, snapping her attention away from the mural and back to him. There is something behind her eyes when she looks at him. A fire, that had not been there a week earlier. A burning fire of anger that swears to protect the people that follow her even if it is the death of her.

It is a fire he has only seen once before.

Solas cracks a small smile. “You continue to surprise me. Alright, let us talk… Preferably somewhere more interesting than here.”

She quirks a brow at that, but says nothing as he guides her to a sofa, urging her to lie down. She complies, albeit hesitantly, and when he orders her to shut her eyes, she does so without hesitation. Wary at first, but growing more trusting as time passes and he has still not harmed her.

He can never remember falling asleep, no matter how hard he tries. He always remembers the moment he steps into the Fade, and the moment just before sleep overcomes him, but he never recalls passing between the two worlds.

Haven is cold in comparison to Skyhold, lacking the protective spells to keep them both warm. The small, Ferelden village is as it had been before Corypheus had attacked, but it lacks the bustling business of the Inquisition. It is quiet, still, and they are alone.

She blinks, confused but still not yet realising why as she looks to him. “Why here?”

 Solas runs his hand over the wall by which Varric used to camp. “Haven is familiar. It will always be important to you.” As Skyhold is to me. “Come with me.”

“Where are we going, Solas?” she says, unable to keep the petulant whine out of her voice. She despises not understanding almost as much as he does. And yet, she still follows, disgruntled but compliant.

They come to a stop in the dungeons beneath the Chantry. The iron brace in which she had been chained still lies on the mosaiced Chantry sun on the floor. He grits his teeth, and swallows. It is hard to speak around her, and he does not understand why. “I sat beside you while you slept, studying the Anchor. First, when you fell from the Fade. Again after the Pride demon, and once more after Haven.”

 “How long can it take to look at a mark on my hand?” she teases, a smile upon her lips. “Surely by the second time, you’d have understood it.”

He still does not. He understands what it is, how it came to be there, but he does not understand why her. Corypheus should have died unlocking the orb, its power too great for even him, and she should not be able to bear even a fraction of the orb’s power. Despite himself, a smile tugs at his lips. “A magical mark of unknown origin, tied to a unique breach in the Vein? Longer than you might think. I ran every test I could imagine.” I tried as hard as I could to remove it from your skin. “Searched the Fade, yet found nothing. Cassandra suspected duplicity. She threatened to have me executed as an apostate if I didn’t produce results.”

Elgara laughs. “Cassandra’s like that with everyone.”

He doesn’t argue. Instead, he turns on his heel, and leads her back outside the Chantry, his hands knotting and unknotting as he struggles to find the words that usually come so easily to him. “You were never going to wake up,” he says. “How could you, a mortal sent physically through the Fade? I was frustrated, frightened. The spirits I might have consulted had been driven away by the Breach. Although I wished to help, I had no faith in Cassandra… or she in me. I was ready to flee.”

“Where could you have gone?” she asks, solemn, almost silent. “The Breach threatened the whole world. How far would running have got you?”

“Someplace far,” he answers, honestly. (Honesty. Such a rare thing from him.) “Somewhere I might research a way to repair the Breach before its effects reached me. I… never said it was a good plan.”

“What stopped you?”

He looks up at the Breach still hanging in the sky even if she had closed it in the waking world. Then, simply: “You.” Her honeyed skin flushes darker. “I told myself: one more attempt to seal the rifts. I tried, and failed. No ordinary magic would affect them. I watched the rifts expand and grow, resigned myself to flee, and then—”

Her hand, slender in his own, crackling with his magic but she is not attuned enough to the Fade to tell that it belongs to him. Brilliant, green light sparks and pours from the tear in her hand, and she’s crying out, and the world is still ending around them (but as it is always is with her, there is still an “and yet.”)

And yet, the rift snaps closed with an angry snarl, and she’s looking at him with wide, incredulous eyes whose depths he could lose himself in.

She is sheepish, embarrassed by his recount of their first meeting. She does not like to be reminded of her victories, especially not by him. He is, as she had said, the one to keep her humble. The one to remind her that even if they worship her, she still bleeds. “It seems you hold the key to our salvation, lethal’lan. You had sealed it with a gesture… and right then, I felt the whole world change.”

Head spinning, her dizzying scent filling his nose even from this distant as their eyes met across the crowded battlefield. She has her dark hair tied up and away from the face as she orders the soldiers under her command. She is powerful, and in control, and even if his seneschal is prattling on, he can hear nothing but his heart beating in his ears.

He does not even know her name.

He doesn’t care.

“Felt the whole world change?” Elgara repeats, tearing her gaze away from the Breach, eyes settling upon him.

“A figure of speech. Of course.”

“I’m aware of the metaphor,” she says, stepping towards him. “I’m more interested in ‘felt.’”

His stomach twists, and he recognises it for what it is. (At last.) Nerves. He is the Dread Wolf. He is not afraid of anything. At least, he shouldn’t be afraid of anything. And yet, he is. And yet, meeting her gaze makes his heart skip a beat in a way that it only had for one other. “You change…” He chokes on his words. “Everything.”

 She ducks her head, smiling. “Sweet talker.”

He cannot bring himself to look at her without wanting to do something foolish. She isn’t Mythal, and he knows that, even if she reminds him of her. He tries to convince himself that that’s the only reason why he cares for her the way he does, but he knows it isn’t true. There’s something more, something deeper. He is not young. He isn’t as susceptible to his base desires as he had once been, but she tests his self-restraint. He wants her to wear his marks on her skin in the form of painted blooms of purple and red, not the symmetrical lines of the Betrayer.

(And yet, it matters not what he makes himself do.)

Her hands are soft, even after years spent wielding a staff that has surely rubbed her skin raw, and she hooks a finger behind his jaw, forcing him to look her in the eyes. Before he understands her intent, her lips are on his. (She tastes of winter mornings and cinnamon, sharp and bitter all at the same time.) She breaks away, realising what she had just done before he can sink into her, starting back towards the Chantry.

But he is a wolf, and she is prey that he will not let escape. He grabs her by the shoulder just as she goes to leave, pulling her hard into his chest, lips crashing against hers. His teeth catch her lower lip, and he can taste the blood that begins to bead, all copper and iron, but neither of them takes a moment to stop, a moment to breathe. Her hand wraps around his waist, her breasts pressed flat against him, and he wants to take her right there, on the ground, in a memory he’d recreated just for her. He wants her to wake, feeling his fingers on her, remembering how he’d been inside of her, and looking for the bruises that he had made in the dreaming world.

A fierce, hot hunger starts to burn in the pit of his belly, and suddenly his breeches seem far too tight, far too constraining, and she bares her neck for him as his kisses trail lower, presenting herself as she might have in the days of Elvhenan, an offering to appease the Dread Wolf—

No .

He can’t. He shouldn’t. He has strayed from his path, strayed from his original purpose. He had let her guide him away. He had let her take him by the hand, away from the one thing he had set out to do.

But he can’t bring himself to stop as she clutches the nape of his neck, pulling him even closer than he already is as though she intends on melting into him until they become one.

“We shouldn’t,” he manages to get out as they part for air. “It isn’t right.”

“It’s the only thing that’s right.”

“Elgara.” Her name sounds like a prayer on his lips. “We can’t. Not even here.”

“Even here?” She has little experience with his Fade magic, and still does not understand that this is all an illusion he had created just to make her feel at home.

“Where did you think we were?”

“This… This isn’t real.”

“That’s a matter of debate,” he says. “Probably best discussed after you wake up.”

She comes to quickly, abruptly, and her head almost collides with his as she sits up, trying to make sense of her surroundings. Solas leans back, taking a seat against the opposite side of the sofa with a wry smile to hide the unease he feels.

He can still taste her.

“Sleep well?”

“I’ve…” She places a knuckle on her lips, and he knows that she can still taste him too. “I’ve never done anything like that before. On a number of levels.”

“I apologise. The kiss was impulsive and ill considered, and I should not have encouraged it.” (In reality, he does not want to apologise at all. He isn’t sorry. He is mournful of what must come next, but he isn’t sorry.)

“It was my fault,” she says, quick to blame herself. “I thought you were interested. If I misread you, I apologise.”

She didn’t. It is precisely because he is interested that this cannot go any further. The only reason he can do what he needs to do next is because he has always thought himself as different. She makes it hard to remember that she is not one of his own. She’s real and it means everyone else could be real too. They aren’t half of what they once were, even if they do not know the Dreaming as his people had. They are real, they are alive, and he will be no better than Corypheus if he wipes them from the face of Thedas.

“No.” The word comes out too quickly, too angrily, but he isn’t angry. It isn’t her fault, even if she had kissed him first. “You have no need to apologise. I… I’m sorry.”

He turns sharply on his heel, abandoning her in his study as he rushes off, searching for the secret places of Skyhold where she will not be able to find him.

Chapter Text

She leaves for the Storm Coast at the crack of dawn. She doesn’t so much as say a good bye, but her eyes glance up at the entrance of the keep where he lingers along with the rest of those she had chosen not to bring along. Elgara had passed it off as trying to make certain that her closest allies had the energy to venture all the way to Crestwood as soon as she returns, but it’s an excuse few of them cannot see through.

(It’s hard not to, when she lets everyone save for Solas embrace her, and wish her luck on her journey.)

A week passes, then two, then three, and not even Leliana with her ravens has heard from her. Still, her spies report that the Inquisitor is still alive, if not throwing herself entirely into her work, refusing to even linger to help out the requisition officers who desperately need her aid. Solas can’t help but feel like it’s his fault. She is like him, in that sense, focusing on her goals in a poor attempt to ignore the judgement-clouding fear in her heart.

Without purpose, his hands and head too heavy to paint, Solas wanders the ground of what had once been his keep while the others sleep. Elgara has already begun to make it her own with Josephine’s assistance. The drapery is a deep, forest green, embroidered in golden Orlesian thread, but the patterns are distinctly elven, reminiscent of the art his people had left behind in crumbling ruins.

There are touches of her Dalish heritage around Skyhold, parts of it similar to the styles he had favoured a thousand years ago, but it is quiet, hidden. It is almost outshone by the glittering golden décor Josephine had brought in, the many carvings of Andraste nothing but sacrilegious. Still, Elgara had not stopped her. Even her throne is hewn of gold and white stone, depicting Andraste burning in flames. Is it meant to be irony? To have a Dalish elf sitting in the fires in which the Maker’s bride had died? Or is it a reminder, that the Inquisition is for all, as she had declared in the courtyard what feels like an age ago?

He finds himself in the Inquisitor’s quarters, his feet remembering the way without him having to think of where he intended to go. The room is silent, not even a fire in the mantle to keep the place warm while she is away. It’s not particularly clean he notes, but he hadn’t expected it to be. Her Orlesian bed frame lacks a traditional Orlesian duvet, and instead has several assorted furs—bears, druffalo, and wolves alike. They are draped over the oak wood frame, careless and unfolded. The surface of her desk, much like his own, is littered with many papers, notes scribbled in the margins. Several letters await her, dated just after she had left.

In his time, the space had been adorned with sheer, gossamer curtains as light as a butterfly’s wings. Magelights constantly flickered about, casting the entire room in a serene, pale blue hue. Everything that could have been decorated gold was, displaying his wealth and splendour to all.

Fen’Harel ver em!” Something breaks as it falls, glass shattering, and he turns back to see Elgara, what remains of her plated food lying at her feet. “What are you doing here?”

“You’ve returned.” He hadn’t expected her back for another week, at least. He had hoped to wander the halls of his old home, uninterrupted, but now he is nothing but an intruder. “Forgive me. I was searching for something.”

He starts to leave, but she catches him by the arm just as he passes by her. Elgara meets his gaze. “We need to talk. Stay.”

His stomach twists and turns. Yes, he supposes, they do, but he’d rather they didn’t. Do they not have greater concerns? Corypheus? His archdemon? (The fact that she will have to die by his hands and that already he begins to wonder if he can do such a thing?)

But then— “Please.”

It’s enough. Just one word, and it’s enough. He is the Dread Wolf that her people fear so greatly, his name muttered in hushed whispers for fear of waking the wrath of a trickster god, but he is tamed with nothing but one word from a girl several thousand years younger than him who carries his mark on her hand, and the Betrayer’s on her skin. He is torn between wanting her on her knees for him, the Anchor shining in a dark room as she takes him in her mouth, and wanting to kneel before her himself, worshipping her as she deserves to be worshipped.

He says nothing, resenting how easily she sways him to her side, as though he had not led an entire army once as she does now, as though he hadn’t been an equal to the best of them all.

And he stays.

He follows her out onto the balcony, taking care to avoid the glass by their bare feet. Above them, the stars glitter like a thousand diamonds against a midnight expanse.

Stolen kisses beneath the moonlight, even if she is promised to another. He does not care if she is to wed on the morn. Tonight… Tonight she is his.

“I overstepped my bounds,” she says after a long silence. “I misread your desires, and I made a mistake.”

“You did not misread my desires.” As old as he is, he cannot stop the words from escaping him, and he knows that it’s too late to take the words back now. She will expect an explanation, as she always does, and she will not rest until she understands. (He likes that about her, and hates it at the same time. It would be too easy to tell her things she cannot know.)

Solas breaks eye contact, focusing on the stone railing before him. They’ve aged in the millennia he had been asleep, but they are still the same stones. Even after the fall of Elvhenan, they had survived. Battered, worn down, but they still remain, enduring the test of time. He is the last of his people, a relic of a forgotten time. Somehow, she makes it better. She doesn’t make him forget—he can never forget what he had done, no matter how many years may pass—but somehow, he can live with the mistakes he has made when she’s with him. She understands what it’s like to have the weight of an entire world on her shoulders.

She wets her lower lip, quiet and as still as the night. “I still made a mistake. I never asked you what you wanted.”

Good, he thinks to himself. Because then I’d have told you the truth, and I do not think I could live with myself if had.

“I kissed you,” she continues. “And I am sorry.”

“Might I ask why?”

She is not taken by surprise easily, but he wouldn’t expect her to be. Her life seems to be one misfortune after another, each one more unbelievable than the one that had come before it. (Like the way she should not have survived the Conclave, let alone how she bears the mark of an ancient god on her skin that has the power to save them all.)

Still, his four words make her hesitate, as though they had come out of nowhere; unfounded and unsubstantiated. Has she not noticed the way he looks at her? It’s like the wolf inside of him comes out, hungry only for the taste of her skin, and the feeling of her beneath his calloused fingers. Had she not felt him, hard and aching against her stomach, far too many layers separating her from him? He wonders, if only for a brief moment, if he’d find more marks in honour of the Betrayer beneath her tunic, wrapping around her ribcage, and trailing ever downwards.

He wants to find out.

Solas takes a slow, careful step towards her, Elgara backing up until she is pressed up against the stones that had been there longer than she has been alive. The answer to his questions is caught in her throat, trapped like flies in a jar, uselessly slamming themselves against the glass over and over again, never to succeed. The wolf within him surges as he sees her standing there under the dappled starlight, eyes as silver as the twin moons.

He has not longed for another in many years. Not since Her. By comparison, everyone else had seemed pale. They never could have stood a chance against her, and he had thought that he would never care for another as he had cared for her. How could he? They couldn’t compare to her fire, to her grace, to her beauty, and to her power. But Elgara…

She is nothing but a mortal. One with pointed ears, yes, but the stains on her skin are a permanent reminder that she is not one of his. She shouldn’t be able to do this. She shouldn’t make him reconsider everything he had ever known to be true.

“I regret many things,” he says, the words not quite a lie, even if he does not tell her what it is that he mourns for, “but the kiss is not one of them.”

 She stares up at him with those wide, hazy eyes nearly clouded over with the same hunger stirring within him. “No?” Her voice is weak, hoarse, unable to conjure up more than a single word, but she still asks him to explain himself, as she always does.

As she always will.

He smiles, and it’s all teeth, like the grin of a wolf moments before it catches its prey.

“No, da’len,” he says, leaning down to murmur in her ear. Her eyelids flutter shut, trying to maintain her composure, but she cannot hide the flush that creeps up her neck, or the way she leans in closer to him, begging him to touch her anywhere and everywhere. “Were we anyone but that which we are, I’d have taken you then, in the impression your memories of Haven had left in the Fade. I would have gotten drunk on the taste of you alone, and I’d have fucked you until you woke, feeling empty, and with no one else knowing what we had done.”

Crude, vulgar words, but he wants to touch her, memorise every part of her so that when the time comes, he will have to say goodbye, but the memory of her alone will sustain him through what must come next.

“Then let us pretend,” she says, her usual self-assured confidence returning to her bit by bit as she looks him in the eyes. “Let us pretend, for tonight at least, that we are not who we are.”

Who, she says, while he had said what; a fundamental difference that divides them both. She thinks it is because she is the Inquisitor, and he a lowly apostate, but she doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand that he is a wolf, and she alone has the power to tame him, and she can’t. She is Elgara, sun and spirit, Vengeance and Mercy, and she has the power to take a god, but she can’t. He walks the dinan’shiral, and he cannot stray. Not even for her.

But for a night… If only for a night, he can’t bring himself to refuse her.

His hands find her waist, gripping her so tight that she will surely wake with bruises in the shape of his fingertips in the morn. Awkwardly, ungracefully, desperately, he lifts her up onto the railing, leaving her now at his height. Her hands clasp the stone beneath her, and her cannot help but think that one wrong move would lead to her death.

He is the Dread Wolf, however, and he is stronger than he appears. She will not fall, not so long as he has a hold on her. He places one hand on the inside of her thigh, silently forcing her to straddle him, her legs wrapped around his waist. He can feel the heat of her even through the clothes that separate him, and he wonders just how wet she is for him.

(And he also wonders how much she’d hate him if she knew who he truly is.)

“Solas…” His name comes out in a keen, quiet and begging, but to his ears, it sounds like a prayer. He has none of the riches, none of the power that he’d had then, but she still reveres him, not knowing that he is the Dread Wolf her Keeper had warned her of so many times.

May the Dread Wolf never catch your scent, the Dalish say, but it’s too late for her now.

Every time his skin brushes hers, her magic lights, burning cold fire that intermingles with his own. He wants to have for weeks on end, without pause, as though they had all the time the world could give them. But she is not immortal, and without her, there would be no world in which he could bring his people back.

One night, he says. He will make do with one night.

And then never again.

He is half hard for her already, straining against his tight leather breeches, and it takes all the self-control he has to not bend her over the railing and take her from behind as the wolf inside of him would have him do.

Ma’lath,” he whispers before catching her lips in his own, the endearment slipping from his tongue unbidden and he can only hope that she does not know what he says. She still tastes like winter mornings, but also of rain and earth—she has the taste of the Storm Coast on her tongue, and it is like he has been there himself, even while he’d remained behind. Her hair comes tumbling down from its haphazard knots as he knots his hand through dark auburn locks, pins scattering over the stone tiles by their feet.

It’s as if he hadn’t been breathing the entire time she’d been gone. Suddenly, a weight is lifted from his chest, desperation and desire fighting a bloody war inside of him, fighting for control. He wants to worship her, wants to love her as she should be loved (as she deserves to be loved but it is not within him. He cannot give her what she deserves, for what she deserves is the world, and it is his duty to destroy it), and he wants her to worship him all at the same time.

She is pliant beneath his rough touch. Out there, she is the Inquisitor, whose power is absolute even as she uses it to be kind. Here, she is nothing more than a Dalish mage who had been at the wrong place, at the wrong time, succumbing to the hunger of the Dread Wolf.

Fen’Harel ver em,” she hisses again, this time as his fingers intertwine with the hair as the nape of her neck, pulling her head back to expose the bare column of her throat. He drags his teeth down the soft, thin skin.

Does she even understand what it is that she says? Who he is? Dread Wolf take me, she says, and he intends to.

She gasps then, and the sound is sweeter than honey to his ears, as cups the outside of her mound, brushing his thumb over the small pearl of pleasure that will soon have her screaming his name for all of Skyhold to hear.

Elgara falls into him as he pulls her down from the railing, legs wrapped around his waist, and every shifting movement brushing her against his aching member. He sets her down on the bed, sprawling her out over the furs that drape across the Orlesian frame. There, among the pelts, he can almost pretend that she is nothing more than a refugee he had sworn to help before becoming enamoured with the taste of her.

Solas stands at the foot of the bed, watching with a clenched jaw. She looks like she had stepped out of a painting, her cotton blouse half falling off of her, and exposing one shoulder. Her breeches have been kicked to the side already, the only modesty she has offered by the few inches of her blouse that fall past her waist. Her hair falls in loose waves around her face, and her kiss-stung lips are already beginning to bruise with the mark of his affections. With nothing more than a gesture towards the fireplace, a roaring fire begins to blaze, casting them both in a warm, golden light.

She smiles, glancing down at the tent in his breeches before meeting his eyes once again. “See something you like?”

He silences her with nothing more than a look, cruel and commanding. She hesitates, if only for a brief moment, but still she reaches up to the ties of her tunic, loosening them just enough for the fabric to slip over her shoulders entirely, clinging onto her only by the tight cuffs around her wrists. His heart skips a beat before resuming its hammering pace in his chest as he rounds the bed, eyes still on her.

She leans into the palm of his touch as he traces the ink marking the curves of her cheek, a strangled noise escaping his lips as his hand continues further downward. Her bare breasts almost seem to glow in the light of the fire, as though she has a fire burning within her chest, her nipples as hard as pebbles from the cool night’s air. Her breasts almost spill out of his hand as he experimentally twists one, hardened nipple.

This time, she cries out rather than holding it behind clenched teeth, her head thrown back as she tries to pull him closer into her. “You’re wearing too many clothes,” she almost snarls, digging her nails into the fabric of his tunic.

He raises a brow. “Then remove them,” he says simply.

She freezes, uncertain of whether or not he is seriously before reaching up to help him slip the tunic over his head. The planes of his chest are not as chiselled as Cullen’s or Blackwall’s, his strength not coming from pure muscle, but he is wrought, and lean, and she wonders over this for a moment before reaching for the ties of his breeches. His cock is almost purple, moisture already beading at the head as she pulls his breeches down to his ankles.

One night, he tells himself again. One night, and that is all.

Elgara looks up at him from under long lashes, cheeks flushed half a shade darker than her honey coloured skin. “Fuck me.” It’s an order, not a request, and one he will fulfil gladly. In time.

He hooks a finger beneath her chin, keeping her from looking anywhere but his eyes. He doesn’t need to say a word. She already knows.

“Solas,” she says, and he is reminded that as much as he hates his name, he wants to hear her say it for the rest of eternity—breathless, gasping, needing, and wanting for something only he can provide. “Please.”

The last of his self-restraint, in that instant, snaps. He has many regrets, and he knows that this will be one of them, but he does not care. “How wet are you for me, ma’lath?” he croons in her ear, almost pinning her to the bed beneath him, the wood creaking with the weight of them both. Let it break, he thinks with wry amusement.

She doesn’t get an opportunity to answer, one hand delving beneath the sliver of fabric that had been protecting her modesty to find her dripping, soaked only for him, from his words and his few touches. Elgara cries out as he presses a finger against her swollen pearl, grasping at the sheets as though they would provide her mercy from the Dread Wolf.

Solas.”

Her quiet gasps fall on deaf ears as he traces patterns over her inner thighs, dragging his teeth down the valley between her breasts all the while. “Imagine what Josephine would say if word got out,” he says, delighting in the blush that immediately washes over her. “The Inquisitor, and her apostate.”

“You mean more to me than that.”

(He knows, and that is why this cannot last any longer than tonight.)

Solas ignores her. He wishes they had more time, but dawn is soon approaching, and come morning, they will have to pretend like none of this had ever happened. He has not played nearly enough games with her as he’d have liked, but this will have to do.

Fenedhis,” she snarls as he takes one hardened nipple between his lips, applying just enough pressure with his teeth to leave it swollen. “Solas, please.”

“If you wish for something, then you must ask,” he reprimands, removing himself from her entirely, and delighting in the way she cries out.

“I…” She is normally a clever, quick-witted woman, but he renders her mute with nothing but his fingertips tracing swirls across her tights. “I need you.”

“You have me.”

“Fuck, Solas, please. I need… I need…”

Solas arches a brow. Again.

Hahren, please, I need you inside of me, now, I beg of you.” She’s almost sobbing in her frustration, cursing the way he shifts just out of reach every time she goes to touch him.

He doesn’t reply, doesn’t need to. Instead, he grabs her wrists, pinning them with an iron grip against the headboard. She goes to protests, but falls silent as he sheathes himself inside of her before she’s even had the time to process what had just happened. If there is a Maker, Solas thanks Him for this one moment. It has been far too long since he’s lain with a woman, and if it weren’t for the woman beneath him, he’d have let out a relieved sob.

Her tight, wet heat is almost too much to bear, and though he has her hands out of the way, she still wriggles and writhes beneath him, meeting every one of his thrusts with one of her own. Senseless strings of words escape her lips, mostly consisting of his names and other pleas he cannot understand.

He doesn’t care. In here, he is her god. He marks her with his teeth, with his hands, leaving behind bruises that will take some days yet to fade; a reminder of what they had done, even if they pretend this hadn’t happened tomorrow. If only they had met a thousand years ago, he thinks, with no small amount of bitterness.

“Solas—” she starts, tightening the grip she has around his waist, refusing to let him go. “Rosa’da’din in’emma’av’in.”

It is not a phrase he’d have expected to know, but her Dalish-accented Elvhen is enough to push him over the edge, and he does as she requests, spilling deep inside of her with little thought in regard to what might happen should he sire her child. She follows soon after, crying his name so loud that he has no doubt that all of Skyhold will be speaking of this for weeks to come. Her back arches off the bed as her orgasm over takes her, chest heaving as she tries to catch her breath, and red all over save for the purple bruises already starting to blossom across her skin.

She looks at him through half-lidded eyes, gaze bleary and unfocused as she watches him quickly gather his things, haphazardly throwing on his clothes. “Are you leaving?”

Solas doesn’t answer her. Not directly. “This… This cannot happen again.”

She cannot hide the pain that flashes across her face. “I know.”

He still does not know the taste of arousal. Does not know how his cock would feel on her tongue. He does not know what it would be like for her to ride him, hair all wild as he coaxed her into rocking against him. There is so much of her that he wishes to explore, but the sun is on the horizon, and they are almost out of time.

“Elgara,” he says, hand on the door, and when she looks over, he realises he cannot say the words caught in his throat. Thank you. “Try to get some rest,” he says instead, and she just nods, unable to look at him even as the door closes.

Chapter Text

True to her word, the Inquisitor makes no mention of what had transpired the night before when he greets her the next morning. She’s as polite as ever, if not a little too formal. (“Solas,” she says with a nod. He meets her gaze, flashing a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes before continuing on past her.) Still, he catches her eyes on him across a crowded room when she thinks he isn’t looking, watching, waiting, wanting.

He watches her too as she sits in her Andrastian throne. (Pointed ears and holy fire, a combination that the Chantry would have called sacrilegious, but she is what she is, and the Maker’s bride weeps behind her, surrounded by golden flames.) The Tevinter mage from Redcliffe, Alexius, is dragged before her, hands and feet bound in chains.

(He is the only one to notice the way her hands grip the arms of her throne, digging her nails into the stone as she had dug her nails into his back the night before.)

She raises her chin, putting on a brave face for all those that follow her, but he sees past she wears. Beneath, she is angry, burning with hatred for a man who has yet to commit the crimes she had seen in the future she will not let come to pass. (Her blood on golden tiles, his on cold stone.) He does not care for senseless slaughter, does not care for needless bloodshed, but he knows that were he in her place, he would make Alexius suffer. He does not deserve Elgara’s mercy. He deserves her vengeance.

But she does not let her personal feelings get in the way of her duty. (He admires her for it. He wishes it was as easy for him to separate Fen’Harel from Solas as separating the Inquisitor from Elgara is for her.) Instead, she turns him over to the rebel mages she had recruited. (“You swore to serve them, and you will uphold that oath, Alexius. And you will help them. If not, there are many things I can do to you that are far worse than death.”)

Help them, or be made Tranquil, she threatens. Forget your past allegiances, or you will lose everything that you are.

She leaves no room for her decision to be questioned, pushing herself out of her throne before the crowd begins to animatedly discuss her decision as though she will change her mind once it has already been made. She stops, finally noticing the way he watches her the entire time. “Do you wish to question my decision too, Solas?” She is angry, bitter, unable to forgive Alexius for the crimes she had seen him commit, and the hushed whispers as her people debate whether or not she had done the right them affect her more than she lets on.

“No.” He says nothing else, hands clasped behind his back as he holds her gaze as though daring her to say that he is lying. But he isn’t. He does not wish to question her decisions. It isn’t his place to do so. He is not the Inquisitor, and strangely, he finds himself trusting her judgement.

Still, his deference takes her by surprise. She blinks, once, twice, teeth catching her lower lip as she thinks. (Biting her lower lip as she tries to hold back the cries he eagerly tries to elicit, silent but still loud all the same.) “We leave for Crestwood in the morning. I want you to accompany me.”

He inclines his head. “Very well, Inquisitor.”

Something strange and unfamiliar passes over her delicate features, something bitter and regretful. (Is she remembering last night too?) “I’ll see you in the morning.”

They leave at the crack of dawn, choosing to go on foot rather than on horseback. There’s no use in bringing their mounts, the perpetual wet of Crestwood ensuring that they’d only struggle to get through the muck. Not that Elgara doesn’t fuss over her hart before they leave regardless.

They walk in relative silence, Blackwall too unnerved by Compassion’s presence to say a word, and Compassion is too busy singing strange children’s songs and reciting nursery rhymes that make Blackwall break his quiet only to tell him to shut up. (“Mockingbird, mockingbird, quiet and still, what do you see from the top of that hill? Can you see up? Can you see down? Can you see all the dead things about town?”) Solas and Elgara say nothing to each other, though they both indulge Compassion’s childlike curiosity about the waking world, and so they walk until night is about to fall and until their feet are numb.

They make camp not too far from the ruins of Haven, at the foot of the Frostbacks. It’d only taken them a couple of hours to make their way to the former centre of the Inquisition. None of them want to go, though Compassion makes an offhanded comment about the bodies in the snow the Inquisition has yet to find. (“Their bones mark the beginning of the end. They died, afraid, but they saw you, bright and blinding like counting birds against the sun, and they were no longer afraid to go to the Maker’s side.”)

Elgara makes herself scarce after that, retiring long before anyone else does.

Blackwall takes first watch, offering Solas a chance to catch a few hours of sleep before he has to take over for the Warden warrior. (Compassion needs no sleep, but none of them trust the trusting, empathetic spirit to keep intruders away rather than trying to solve all their problems.)  The elven mage lies on his bedroll, staring up at the cloth tent above his head.

It’s calmer out here, easier for him to ignore the growing tenderness he holds for the members of the Inquisition. He can listen to the quiet rustling of animals in the distant woods, and the wind brushing through the tall grass, drowning out his thoughts. He has always felt more at peace out in the wilds than he has surrounded by stone walls on all sides, but this time…

This time it’s different.

Perhaps it’s because he’s acutely aware that the Inquisitor is nought but a few metres away, fast asleep in her own tent, unaware that he is struggling to forget how her lips had felt against his own even if he had promised to put it out of mind come dawn’s first light. But he can’t forget. He wants to, and yet he can’t. (He cannot forget about her, no matter how hard he tries.)

He remembers her golden skin dotted with freckles across her nose and shoulders. He remembers winter mornings, honeysuckle, and cinnamon. Remembers her long, loose curls falling over her shoulders, and nipples the colour of Dragonthorn berries. Remembers her Elvhen words whispered in a hoarse voice, begging him to spill himself within her. (And he had, unable to restrain himself. He is a god, but he is at her mercy.)

He can picture in his mind’s eye, entering his tent as she had all those weeks ago in the Hinterlands, dressed in another of her simple white-cotton tunics, and her leather breeches. “Am I interrupting?” she’d ask. “I can come back later, if you wish. I thought we should talk.”

And he’d let her in, because of course he would. He has known her for but a few months, but he cannot resist her quiet wisdom, cannot resist her curiosity and her desire to be fair. He cannot resist her honeyed words that wrap around him like vines, digging their thorns into his heart.

“Ir abelas. I could not pretend that nothing had happened,” she’d say, her eyes meeting his, pupils blown so wide that her grey eyes are almost black.

“Neither could I,” he’d reply, succumbing to her touch as she fell upon him, hands on either side of his face as she pulled him into a fierce, desperate kiss as though is dying of thirst, and he an oasis.

Her weight would press him into the thin bedroll, legs on either side of him, her entrance a mere breadth’s away. But she wouldn’t let him touch her, wouldn’t let him gain an ounce of control. Instead, she’d undo the ties of his breeches with her teeth, eyes on him the entire time. He’d go to touch her, and she’d slap his hands away.

“Lasa ma elana leanatha,” she’d whisper. Grant me permission to worship you.

And he’d give it to her, because of course he would. He’d be unable to do anything else, leaning back on his elbows, watching with hungry eyes as she peeled the fabric away from his body, shaking with the display of her self-restraint, all in an attempt to please him.

Solas wraps his hand around his stiffening cock, closing his eyes. He can almost pretend that it’s her hand around his member, her hands just as calloused as his from the many years she has spent with her staff in hand. He can almost pretend that his thumb is her tongue, sweeping from the base of his cock to the tip before taking the entirety of him in her mouth.

And he’d wouldn’t stop her, because of course he wouldn’t. He’d survive on this sole memory for a thousand years after she is gone, and no one would be able to compare. The wet warmth of her mouth, and the slight press of her teeth against his thin skin every time he jerks his hips a little too sharply is so real he can almost forget that she isn’t really here, ignoring her own pleasure for the sake of satisfying him.

He chokes on the groan in his throat, desperate to not let anyone else know of how he has his hand wrapped around himself, pretending that the Inquisitor is on her knees for him. Every drag of his hand is exquisitely torturous, caught somewhere between pleasure and pain as his reality and his dreams conflict. Her mouth is on his cock, but so is his hand, and he can feel the knots in her hair as he pulls it loose from its braid, but he can also feel the rough druffalo fur too.

 “Isalan dava ma, Solas,” she’d say. I want to taste you, Solas.

And he’d let her, because of course he would. He cannot resist her, (and he’ll never be able to either, but he doesn’t know that yet) and his name sounds like a prayer on her lips. Proud, but she is proud of him too in a way she has yet to understand fully. She is reverent, worshipping him with her hands and tongue, unaware of what he will do to the world she is trying to save. But this isn’t real, this doesn’t change anything. He is haunted by the memory of two nights ago, that is all.

And when he spills his seed over his hand, he pretends it is Mythal he sees on her knees before him, not Inquisitor. Not Elgara.

But even he knows that there’s no use in lying to himself.

Chapter Text

Solas is as his namesake implies: proud.

The Inquisitor keeps busy with duties Josephine hands to her, attempting to accumulate more influence in an attempt to receive an invitation to Empress Celene’s ball at Halamshiral. She flits from town to town, helping all those she can, and ensuring that they know her name so that whispers will make their way back to Val Royeaux, as though Celene isn’t already aware of the elven apostate leading a sizable army just outside her front door.

He says that this is the reason he does not ask her for help as soon as he knows he will need to, attempting to put off the inevitable. She has things that are surely more important than this, he tells himself, even if this is the only thing he can think about right now. His dreams are fitful, full of repeated nightmares of his friend begging for his aid, and he is trapped within the walls of Skyhold, too proud to ask the dread Inquisitor for her assistance.

But soon, he realises he has no other choice.

“I need a favour.” The words pain him to say, twisting his stomach with every syllable he utters, but they do not affect her half as much as they affect him.

She looks up from her papers as he lingers in the doorway, wringing his twisting hands. “Are you going to be making a habit of coming into my room, uninvited?”

“I cannot remember a time when I have done such a thing, Inquisitor,” he says, maintaining their little façade, pretending that he is not intimately aware of her quarters in more ways than one.

She purses her lips together, setting down the unnecessarily lavish Antivan pen Josephine had procured for her as a gift. “What troubles you, lethal’lin? If you require aid, then you need only ask.”

(He knows, and that’s why it’s so hard to ask for something she gives so freely. He feels as though he is taking advantage of her generosity. [As though he hadn’t taken advantage of her already. How many times since that night has he come with just his hand, and the memory of her alone?])

“It’s not that simple.”

She raises a brow, pushing herself away from her desk, stepping towards him. “Nothing,” she says, leaning against her bedframe, arms over her chest, “with us is ever simple.”

He knows she means in regard to the misfortunes that have befallen the Inquisition, but her words apply to their relationship too. He grinds his teeth, toying with the fossilized jawbone hanging from a cord around his neck, running his fingers over the wolf’s teeth, blunted by time but still sharp enough to harm. “One of my oldest friends has been captured by mages, forced into slavery. I heard the cry for help as I slept.”

“As you… slept?” She frowns, brows knitting. She is aware that he is a dreamer, but such skills are still beyond her comprehension. He had tried to teach her once, several weeks ago, but Vivienne had snapped at him for trying to teach the newly appointed Knight-Enchanter things that were not relevant to her discipline.

But now, the hard part: “My friend is a spirit of wisdom.”

She has shown to be compassionate towards spirits, judging them as fairly as she’d have judged any creature of the waking world, but he does not know how she will receive this information. Still— “Why do you speak as though that would make me upset, Solas?”

She is offended, clearly, that he thinks so little of her that she’d judge him for befriending a spirit. As though she hasn’t already begun to view Cole as a son.

“If I caused offence, lethal’lan, I apologise,” he mutters. “It has been… a long time since anyone understood.” Solas meets her eyes, less wary now. “They were summoned against their will… and they want my help to gain their freedom, and return to the Fade.”

“Why would mages want your friend? Do you know?”

“No. Perhaps for the knowledge they possess, but I cannot be certain. It is possible that they seek information they do not wish to give, and intend to torture them.”

She breaks eye contact, closing her eyes. “Fenedhis.” She pauses, quiet for a long moment, then— “I will help, Solas. If I can. Where do we need to go?”

Elgara drops everything at the drop of a hat, gathering everything for the trip to the Exalted Plains without hesitation. She invites no one else along save for Cole, insisting that they’d only slow them down. It’d take a full party nearly six days to make their way to the Exalted Plains. They make it in three, stopping only to sleep, and to retrieve new horses from Inquisition outposts across the path. There is a fierce, angry determination in her as well as a need to help him with anything that she can help with.

He hears his friend before he sees them, and his heart falls before they’ve even rounded the corner. They had ridden day and night, and for what? Nothing. It had all been for nothing. In his friend’s place, where his friend ought to be, is a pride demon, lighting arcing across the demon’s scaled skin. His friend is doubled over, purple-black blood seeping from magic induced wounds.

“My friend.” Solas wants to scream. He wants to tear the mages that had done this to his friend apart with his bare hands. They ruin everything. Have they no understanding of this world? Have they no compassion? The people of this world are cruel, and they do not understand because they do not want to understand.

Elgara stops in her tracks, still as the rocks that surrounded them on either side, but he can sense her magic stirring in her chest, all burning cold, and angry. “They didn’t— How could they? They corrupted it. I do not even understand how.”

It hurts,” Cole says, arms wrapped around himself, hiding his face under his hat. “Everything hurts. This isn’t what I wanted. Blood everywhere. On the ground, on me. But they’re happy, and I am not.

Solas looks down at his calloused hands as they curl into fists, nails digging into his skin. He laughs bitterly. “A spirit becomes a demon when denied its original purpose,” he says.

“They made them fight,” she realises in a hoarse whisper. “They must have.”

“Let us ask them,” Solas snarls as a mage tentatively steps out from behind a boulder, eyeing their staves. His eyes pass right over Cole who reaches for his daggers until Elgara gestures for him to wait.

“Mages!” the mage gasps in soon-to-be short lived relief. “You’re not with the bandits? Do you have any lyrium potions? Most of us are exhausted.”

“No,” Elgara says, though a bottle clearly hangs from her waist. “We have nothing.”

The mage notices, casting a quick glance down at the bottle. “We’re exhausted, you see."

"And?" says Elgara, raising a brow.

Still, the mage persists. "We’ve been fighting that demon—”

“You summoned that demon!” Solas retorts, cutting him off. “Except it was a spirit of wisdom at the time! You made it kill. You twisted it against its purpose.”

(“He has no excuses. He thought he was doing what needed to be done. ‘Damn them all. As long as I survive, it will have been worth it,’” Cole says from behind.)

It wasn’t worth it.

“I-I-I understand h-how it might be… confusing t-to someone who has not studied demons,” stammers the mage, “but after you help us, I can—”

“We are not here to help you.”

Realisation passes over the mage’s face as Elgara presses the tip of her staff beneath his jaw. “Seeing as you’ve dug yourself into a hole, shem, let me offer you a piece of advice. Stop digging yourself even deeper. I’d hold off on explaining how demons work to my friend here unless you’d rather get buried alive.”

“You can’t talk to me like that! I was one of the foremost experts in the Kirkwall Circle, not that that means anything to you, knife-ear—”

He has never seen Elgara angry. Every time she fights, it is out of self-defence. Not because of any want to spill blood, but she has one of Cole’s daggers in her hand before anyone can stop her, lowering her staff only so she can press the blade right to his jugular. Blood beads in fine droplets where the metal touches his skin.

“Do you understand what you have done?” Venom drips from her words, the tension between her and the mage almost palpable. He had hurt his friend, and he had wounded her honour. He is past the point of earning her mercy. “You will sit down, and shut up while we try to fix the mess you’ve made of this all because despite being an apparently impressive mage, you lack the ability to defend yourself from simple bandits.

(Vengeance and fury and fire, all in one, burning within her soul as she walks among the People, her judgement fair, but not kind.)

“Cole,” she barks, handing the spirit’s dagger back to him as the boy manifests into something the mage can see. “Watch him. If he moves, kill him.”

Cole smiles in an attempt to be friendly, but all it does is come across as threatening. “Hello!” he says, a little too cheerily, make the mage yelp in terror, and fall to the ground.

Solas looks to Elgara, wondering where this woman has been the entire time. (He is used to her quiet judgement, not brazen displays such as this one. [But he had hurt his friend, and by extension hurt him, and she can forgive many things, but she cannot forgive this. He had hurt someone she cares about, and that sin is unforgivable even in her eyes.]) “The summoning circle,” he croaks. “We break it, we break the binding. No orders to kill, no conflict with its nature, no demon.”

“What?” the mage says, horrified. “The binding is the only thing keeping the demon from killing us! Whatever it was before, it is a monster now!”

Cole places a foot on the mage’s chest, looking to Elgara. “His lips were moving, so was his tongue.”

“If he speaks again, cut his tongue out,” she mutters, making the mage go pale. She takes a long look at the summoning circle, brows knitted in concentration. “I’ve seen something like this before. Clan Virnehn had bound a demon in a similar fashion. I think I can break it.”

He looks over at his friend as they roar, bellowing in agony. “We must hurry!”

The summoning stones are complicated magic Solas even has a hard time trying to understand. They consist of many layers of redundancies and protective layers, ensuring that the spirit—demon? What is he meant to say? What they were, or what they are now? (There isn’t a straight answer. He had been asking himself the same question since he’d awoken. Is he Solas or is he Fen’Harel?)—could never break free.

But they cannot stop her.

The Knight-Enchanter stands tall and proud, her brows furrowed in concentration as she peels back the magical layers one by one. Sweat beads on her brow, her concentration so fierce that nothing can break her gaze away from the stones. His friend lashes out in blind confusion, electricity arcing from the horns protruding from their arms. Solas throws up a hastily constructed barrier at the last minute, keeping Elgara safe from harm, but the barrier over him only absorbs half the impact. Every nerve ending is on fire with blinding pain, but he knows it isn’t half as bad as what his friend is enduring.

He stifles his cries behind gritted teeth, continuing to shield them both as the Knight-Enchanter furiously deconstructs the mages’ hard work, and then suddenly, like tugging on a loose thread, everything unravels and falls apart. The summoning stones collapse in on themselves, reduced to nothing but a pile of chalky dust.

Elgara steps back, nearly collapsing with exhaustion. He catches her at the last second, unhooking the lyrium potion from her belt, and forcing it past her lips. “Tel’dina,” he says quietly, brushing the damp hair away from her face as she struggles to keep the vile potion down.

She waves him off with a weak groan. “Go,” she croaks. “See to your friend.”

With a heavy heart, he does, lingering only to help the Inquisitor up to her feet. They are weak, struggling to maintain a corporeal form. They flicker in and out of existence, shifting their shape with every gust of wind. He can sense their pain, sense their fear. The transformation had torn them into a thousand pieces, and though Elgara had done the best she could, no matter how hard they try to stich his friend back together, it will be for nothing. They have minutes, perhaps even just a few seconds to say goodbye.

(How could they? Those fools! Is everyone in this world so blind to things beyond their comprehension? This is why this world must end. They are only half-alive, ignorant to anything outside their small circle.)

Lethal’lin,” Solas whispers, reaching for his friend’s incorporeal hand, but he passes straight through them, their hand dissolving into wisps of smoke. “I’m sorry.

Do not be,” they say, shaking their head even as more and more of them slips away into the Void. “I am happy. I am me once more.

Does that matter? When you are to fade away, and I will not see you again?

If I am to die, my friend, I will die as myself, not a creature warped by the shemlen’s cruelty.

They will pay for this. I swear it.

Always so vengeful,” they say wistfully, closing their eyes as they fight to remain for one moment longer. “Let what may be, be.

How can I?

They laugh, weak and soft. “You helped me, my friend, but now… Now you must endure. Help me once more. Guide me into death. Please. But remember: you cannot change the entire world with fury alone.

Solas cannot look them in the eyes. Is there not enough blood on his hands already? When will it be enough? (Will it ever be enough?) But he can help them. He can end their suffering now rather than watch as they crumble away, bit by bit, even if it means that he will have to wear their death on his conscience forever. “As you say.” He reaches for the last, magical ties binding them to this world, and undoes them. His friend smiles as they fully slip away into the ether, finally at rest. “Farewell.

He flinches as Elgara’s light hand settles on his shoulder. There is a slight tremor to her touch, still weakened from exhaustion but she is real, she is here, and she understands. (Unlike the shems behind her. She is everything that they are not. Kind, compassionate, just, real.) “I heard what they said,” she murmurs. “They were right. You did help them, and you did all that you could.”

Solas swallows, mouth as dry as the Western Approach. “Now I must endure,” he says, repeating his friend’s words.

And even though she has done so much already, she is still prepared to aid him in any way she can, ever-selfless. “Let me know if I can help.”

He reaches up to touch her hand on his shoulder, eyes closed. (Him – “The Inquisitor and her apostate.” Then her – “You mean more to me than that.”)

“You already have,” he says, getting to his feet. He looks to the terrified shems, even the one Cole still has pinned to the ground. “All that remains now is them.”

With one look from the Inquisitor, Cole lets go of the mage beneath him, sending him scampering off towards Solas and Elgara. “Thank you,” he says, prostrating himself between the two elven mages. “We would have not risked a summoning, but the roads are too dangerous to travel unprotected.” He drops to Solas’ feet, as though to worship him as a shem might have a thousand years ago.

But it isn’t a thousand years ago, and Solas is not known for bestowing mercy upon those who beg for it.

“You tortured and killed my friend,” Solas snarls, more wolf than man.

“We didn’t know it was just a spirit! The book said it could help us!”

And they might have, if they hadn’t been so blind. If they had only opened their eyes, none of this would have happened. He expects to be pulled back at any moment, for Elgara to tell him that it is not either of their places to judge these mages, no matter how foolish they might be. But she never approaches him. She stands from afar, watching as Solas summons a maelstrom of fire before the mages can even lift their staves to defend themselves.

The sharp, acrid scent of burning flesh and hair fills the Plains, and there is nothing here now but the smoking bodies of the mages he had senselessly slaughtered. You cannot change the world with fury alone, his friend had warned him, but he will. He must. He has no other choice.

 Solas’s hands curl into fists as he watches the bodies burn. “Damn them all,” he hisses under his breath. “I need some time alone. I will meet you back at Skyhold.”

Elgara says nothing even as he starts towards Var Bellanaris where the Veil had been weakened by the rift they’d closed the last time they had visited the Exalted Plains. There, he will sleep, and search for the fragments of his friend in the Fade.

But when he does return to the place where his friend ought to be, he finds nothing but a few cheerful wisps who dart about his head, and nothing but the memory of his friend’s last words:

You cannot change the world with fury alone.

Chapter Text

When he stumbles through the gates of Skyhold, looking worse for wear, and as though he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in a long time, Elgara is the first to greet him. She approaches him warily, tentatively, (as though she is scared not of him, but for him, and it’s a difference he has not seen many times before) her head inclined to the side as she presses a glass of water into his hands.

“My scouts said you were returning,” she murmurs in a voice scarcely above a whisper, watching as he takes a drink. “I did not know if you would.”

How could I not have? he thinks. I am drawn to you, helpless, like a moth to a flame, but you are no candle. You are the sun itself, and would rather burn up over and over again than part from you which does not make what must come next any easier.

“How are you?” It’s a foolish question, one they both know the answer to, but she is concerned, and grasping for straws, and he indulges her.

“It hurts,” he answers, honestly. (One of the rare times he does answer her honestly, rather than concocting an answer of half-truths, as though lying would be any better.) “It always does, but I will survive. You did everything you could to help. I must give you credit. I could hardly abandon you now.”

“The next time you have to mourn, you don’t need to be alone.” Her hand instinctively reaches out for him, settling on his forearm. Her touch is warm, comforting, like a bath on a long winter’s night. He hates how easy it is to be with her. He is meant to carry this burden alone, but when she volunteers so readily, how can he not want to share the truth with her?

He doesn’t deserve her.

“It’s been so long since I could trust someone.” A thousand years, perhaps even more. There was one, before you, with eyes as gold as yours are silver, but she was the last, and I no longer know how to trust.

(I no longer know how to love.)

But her answer is simple, forgiving. She understands, and she doesn’t need him to explain himself: “I know.”

And she does. She has friends in the Inquisition, but how many of them are here because they need her power? Her alliances? How many of them know Elgara, and not the Inquisitor? A handful he’d say. Dorian, Cole, Cassandra, perhaps Varric. Sera and Blackwall are here because they feel obligated to be, not because they want to be. The Iron Bull… He doesn’t quite understand her relationship with Bull, but his closeness with Dorian is perhaps the reason he is around so often. They aren't really friends, he and Elgara, but he wouldn't say that they aren't familiar. It's peculiar. She walks in shade sof grey while Solas has only ever seen the world as black and white.

What if he's been wrong this whole time?

“Thank you,” he says, looking down at the ground. “It is something I must work on.”

“There is still more you want to say, isn’t there?” She looks at him, with those large doe eyes as silver as the moon. “Do you want to talk somewhere more private, Solas?”

He should say no. He should refuse her. He should maintain the boundaries they had clearly set up. All these things he should do, and he does none of them. Instead, he agrees, and he follows her, like a child who had lost their way up to her quarters. He can still see her on the balcony, golden skin washed in pale blue light, but it’s day now, and there are people down below when there hadn’t been any that night.

She doesn’t urge him to speak, instead leaning over the side of the railing, hands clasped as she watches the people in the garden below.

“What were you like before the Anchor?”

The blurted question makes her frown, puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“Has it affected you?” He needs to know, needs to understand. She has to be an outlier. A rare, single case of someone of her kind being something more. She is elven, not Elvhen, but with her, it’s like the lines start to blur, and sometimes he has to remind himself that she is not one of his people. (But with her, it’s easy to forget. With her, it’s easier to breathe.) “Changed you in any way? Your mind, your morals, your… spirit?”

She smiles at the implication of the last word, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. “If it had, do you really think I’d have noticed?” She sounds tired, exasperated, even if her words are humorous. She is tired of this, of their dance, but he needs to know.

He needs to know so he can walk away before he is too far gone.

It has to be the Anchor, he tells himself. He has walked among her people for the past year, and they have all been so blind to the world around them. To the Fade, to each other… They walk as though they are in a dream, as though they are Tranquil, and she… She changes everything. Her eyes are open, and she sees the world for what it is—shades of grey, neither white nor black, neither good nor bad, and even if she hates, she still knows how to love.

(Something he cannot say of himself. He has forgotten how to love, and he tries to change the world with fury alone.)

“Why do you ask?” she asks, curiosity taking the better of her.

He presses his lips together, saying nothing.

“Solas,” she says, stronger this time. “You can’t bring that up, and expect me not to ask questions. You owe me an explanation.”

He knows. “You show a wisdom I have not seen since…” Since another, with eyes as golden as your skin, her vengeance just as cruel as her kindness. She did what was right, not what was good, not what was kind, and she died because I was foolish enough to think that others would do what was right too. “Since my deepest journeys into the ancient memories of the Fade.”

A lie. Yet another lie.

(How can they grow to be anything more than this if he has been lying to her from the start?)

Solas breaks her gaze, wrapping the cord of his necklace around his finger. The wolf bone is cold as it always is, dead and ancient. “You are not what I expected.”

“What have I done that’s so surprising?”

“You have—” reminded me that, perhaps, your people deserve to live yet, “—shown subtlety in your actions, a wisdom that goes against everything I expected. If the Dalish could raise someone with a spirit like yours… have I misjudged them?”

Her expression sours as it always does when her clan is brought up in conversation. She may not love them, may not like them, but she is still proud of who she is, and whenever her family is mentioned, she has a fifty-fifty chance of them being insulted. It had taken time for him to learn that. To respect that. To respect her. “My actions are my own,” she says. “Not theirs. What spurred this, may I ask? What have I done to surprise you?”

“It is not so much what you have done to surprise me so much as knowing that you will continue to do so in the days to come,” Solas murmurs, letting out a heavy breath. “Most people act with so little understanding of the world.”

“But not me?”

A small, pained smile forces its way onto his lips as he forces himself to look at her. “But not you.”

She grits her teeth, eyes still down upon the garden. Something pained lurks behind her silver irises; a war within herself that she cannot fight alone. “So what does this mean? Is this your explanation why what happened that night happened?” Ah, so she has not forgotten it either. “Or is this you telling me that I am a better Inquisitor than you expected me to be? Because if it is the latter, you are not the only one taken by surprise.”

“The former.”

She still does not look at him. “How am I meant to make sense of this, then? That you were afraid of… of tainting me, somehow? Because I am unlike others you have known?”

“No.” He will taint her regardless, poisoning her as he had poisoned Mythal. He was her doom, her undoing, and he knows he will be hers too. “It means I have not forgotten that night.”

Ice so cold it burns, contradictory to the flames she so prefers. But then he has always favoured ice, and his magic is as hot as fire and as numbing as ice. She tastes of cinnamon, and pine, and winter mornings.

“Neither have I,” she says quietly, taking a careful step toward shim.

One last chance, you fool, he says to himself. This is your last chance. You leave now, or you will forever be stuck in the grasps of a woman twice your better. You know how this story ends. You’ve lived it before. You have suffered it before. Would you be such a fool to willingly do it all again?

He goes to leave, but she catches him by the arm, refusing to let him go so easily. “Don’t go,” she whispers, but she might as well have been shouting, the words stopping him in his tracks.

He cannot bring himself to look at her. “It would be kinder in the long run, but losing you would…”

Losing you would hurt just as much.

Solas turns to look back at her, and just like that, he’s caught, hook, line, and sinker. He wants to burn in her fire, wants to drown in the sea that is her eyes. This will never end happily. Even if she survived the end that he has planned for them all, how long will she live? If the Anchor doesn’t kill her, age will. She is not Elvhen, no matter how easy it is to forget that. In time, he will lose her. (But losing things he cares about is something he is intimately familiar with, and he’d rather steal what little happiness he can rather than suffer alone for all eternity.)

His lips find hers, his hands wrapped around her waist as though to keep her from fleeing. (As though she, not him, would be the one to flee now.) There is wine on her breath, cloying and sharp, cutting through the spices and coldness he has come to expect from her. (He hates how easy it is to lose himself within her. He wants to kiss her, and he never wants to let her go.)

She lets out a surprised protest against his lips, but soon melts into his touch, her hand knotted through the cords of his jawbone necklace while the other hands grips at the fabric of his tunic, desperate, hungry, dying for his touch.

All thoughts of wanting her to bend her knee for him disappear in that moment. She would never kneel for him, and he’d never ask her to. She belongs on a throne with the world at her feet. She shouldn’t have to kneel at the feet of an ancient god whose very name is a curse her people say in hushed whispers. He wants to worship her. He wants to steal her away from the Inquisition and walk the Dreaming with her by his side, the two of them against the world until the end of her days.

“Are you going to regret this in the morning?” she asks, quiet, hesitant, fearful as they break for air, steeling her soul if he dares to say yes.

But he doesn’t. “No,” he says. “I could not regret you.”

He never will either. This might be a mistake, but he’ll never regret making it.

“Good,” she says then, pushing him back against the glass windowed door of her balcony, bare column of her throat exposed for him to lavish with his teeth and tongue.

She will never forgive him once she learns the truth, that much he knows. Her forgiveness is not something he deserves, and when this is all over, she will not be able to look him in the eyes. She will swear to stop him. She will swear to make him understand. She will try. She will not succeed. They will be torn apart by it, lovers caught on opposite sides of a war that encompasses all of Thedas.

But if he is to die, he will die by the hands of a woman who is no god but whose name fall from his lips more often than prayers do.

The sharp prick of her nails against his scalp bring him back to reality as she hooks a finger beneath his chin with her free hand, thumb brushing across his lower lip. “Touch me,” she orders, and all other thoughts slip from his mind like sand escaping through an open hand.

And touch her he does. In daylight, it is easier to see the curves of her form beneath the loose, cotton blouse she had worn last time. Her nipples strain against the thin fabric, begging to be touched. Elgara’s skin is as soft as the finest silk as he slips his hand beneath the fabric, kneading her breast with the palm of his hand. He is in no rush this time. They do not have dawn on the horizon, even if her lifespan is not long enough for him to lavish her as long as he wants to.

Her blouse slips from her shoulder as it had last night, and finally notices the thin lines no wider than a blade of grass that trace the outline of her collarbones. They had been hidden by her hair that night, and he wonders just what else he would find now that he’s—finally—paying attention.

A gasp tears from her, ragged and rough, followed by a muttered curse as she drags him further into her quarters, away from the balcony where people might see them. (Let them see, he thinks. Let them see what I have done. [But a part of him knows that when he ends this, as he must end this, it will hurt that much more if others know. Let this be theirs, and theirs alone.])

She almost throws him down onto the bed, her hips settling down atop his. Her weight is familiar, and despite all of his pride, he finds himself jerking up into her touch when she slowly peels his tunic away from his body. He should feel shame—a god, beneath a mortal woman whose power barely stands up to his own?—but he doesn’t. His ears do not flush red as they are wont to do. Instead he lies back on her furs, watching with wide, hungry eyes as she throws her blouse into the corner of her room along with his own.

Her bare breasts hang heavy, modest still for a human woman, but to him, they are all he could ever want. She doesn’t quite look as his people had—a sharper nose with a pronounced bridge, her ears a little shorter, and a woman of her standing would never have dared to wear vallaslin—but sitting there, atop him, chest bare, he can’t picture anyone else he’d long to touch more than he longs to touch her.

Reaching up behind her head, she removes the pins from her hair, sending messy waves tumbling down her back. This is a side to her many do not have the chance to see. The Inquisitor, messy and unkempt, caring more about her own personal satisfaction than the desires of Thedas.

“Tell me you how much you want me,” she says, tracing the planes of his chest with the tip of her finger, eliciting shivers that only make her smile.

He groans at her instructions, dreading every moment that he isn’t inside of her. He daren’t raises his hands from the furs, aware that she’d accept no questioning of her control, even if she hadn’t outrighted forbid him from touching her. “From the day you fell out of the Fade, I longed to touch you,” he admits, the words flowing far more freely than he had expected them to. She listens, silently, working on the laces of his breeches. “I didn’t know who you were, but I didn’t care. And day by day, as I got to know you, I knew I was right. I cannot count the nights since we lay together that I have spent myself to the touch of my hand, and the memory of you.”

A part of that—and he doesn’t know which part—pleases her. She smiles, looking genuinely pleased for the first time in many weeks.

“Good,” is all she says before tugging his breeches down to his ankles, exposing his cock, hard and aching only for her, head weeping with pent up arousal. She wraps his length in her smaller hand, and he almost hisses in pleasure-pain, jerking up into her touch.

He has thought about this, has imagined how it would feel for her to touch him like this on countless occasions, once even as she had lain, sleeping, alongside him when her tent had torn, and when she takes him into her mouth, he sees stars behind his eyelids. He could imagine much, and his own hand could help, but he never could have imagined this. Her mouth is hot and wet, and when he presses himself further into her, she scrapes her teeth against his skin in a silent warning to behave.

Somehow, she has done what no one else could before: she has tamed the Dread Wolf, and lived to tell the tale.

Vhen’an,” he whines, the word tearing from his lips. “Please.”

She smiles around his cock at the endearment, the image before him almost enough to make him spill right then and there. Still, she sits back on her ankles, her mouth smeared with her saliva and traces of his arousal. “If you’ve a request, Solas, then do you use the words you have so many of.”

She sounds like Vivienne, self-assured and confident. He isn’t all that surprised. They hardly like each other, but Madame de Fer has been aiding her in her attempt to have a “proper” specialization in her magical abilities, as though Elgara isn’t capable of burning down the entire world should she wish to. (“It is a matter of respect,” Josephine had said. “The mages must respect her, and she learns quickly. It will take but a few weeks before she knows enough.”)

He snarls, the wolf inside him who is so used to getting his way angered by her careful teasing. “Ma’lath,” he starts, the endearment far too gentle for the frustration in his voice, “let me touch you. I need to be within you soon, lest I spill myself in your hand.”

She smiles then, all teeth, just as much a fox as he is a wolf. (Dorian had joked once, thinking Solas couldn’t hear about him being a wolf, and she a halla, but she is just as much a predator as he is, and twice as sly. [The Dread Wolf, and the Sly Fox—who are they really, behind their names? He knows her, but Elgara is still a stranger to him as Solas is to her. She has her secrets, and he is in no place to judge.])

“I like hearing you beg,” she says, finger hooked beneath his chin as she presses her lips to his. He can taste himself on her tongue, sharp and salty, and behind that, the taste of her. She sinks down onto his length with a slow restraint he does not have himself, pausing only as she accustoms herself to the stretch of him inside of her.

Her tight, wet heat is almost enough for him to spill right there, but by some small miracle he does not, even as she begins to rock against him, rolling her hips against hers with careful precision. You are mine now, she seems to say. I have bewitched you, mind, body, and soul.

Solas keeps his hands fisted in the furs, watching from beneath heavy lids as she desperately grinds against him, her head thrown back, and her chest heaving with every ragged breath she takes. She has one hand placed on the centre of her chest to keep herself steady, nails digging into his skin with enough pressure to leave behind crescent shaped bruises in the shape of her touch.

He is a god, he tells himself. He is the Dread Wolf that her people fear, and here he is, beneath her, and not wanting to be anywhere else.

There is no coming back from this path you have chosen to walk, he says to himself. She will never let you go, and you will never want her to.

Solas eyes settle on her hand between her legs, furiously rubbing at her swollen clit, visible just between her folds. Each of her thrusts against him quickly become more erratic even as he meets them with his own. He has to hold back his own release, uncertain of what she might do should he spill himself within her without her permission. He may be a god, but she is the one in control, and he cannot say that she does not deserve to be.

She leans down then, ends of her hair brushing against his bare chest. “Let go,” she croons in his pointed ear, teeth scraping along one sensitive lobe. “I want to see you come undone, da’fen.

And he does. He comes so hard that white spots dance across his vision, and he’s distantly aware that—for the second time, now—he has come inside of her, uncaring of the risk that might pose. A part of him, the foolish part that cares little for anything beyond his base desires, wants to see her grow fat with his child; the child of the Chosen of Andraste and the Dread Wolf.

But people such as them do not get children with their mother’s golden skin and their father’s aquiline nose. They do not get to retire into a life of peace and solitude. They do not get happy endings.

Elgara’s release follows shortly after his own, breathless, nonsensical cries escaping from her lips—Solas, Mythal’enaste, Solas, Solas, Solas, Solasas she collapses against his chest, face buried against his sweat-damp skin. She struggles to catch her breath, eyes scrunched shut as her heart pounds hard in her chest, so loud he can almost hear it. She almost glows with her orgasm, messy hair, and all.

It isn’t the last time he beds her that night, but it’s the first time since he has met her that he looks at her, vallaslin and all, and feels something stirring in the pit of his stomach: dread.

Oh, you fool, he thinks then. What have you done?

Chapter Text

The Inquisitor’s quarters are illuminated in a soft, hazy golden glow as the morning sun streams through the drawn curtains. The stained glass glitters in the light, unblocked by swaths of crimson fabric, sending prismatic rays in green and gold across the floor, not unlike the faint shine of the Anchor beneath the furs. Elgara is still asleep, face half buried in her pillow, one arm draped across her eyes. He catches himself glancing at her bare breasts as they rise and fall with every breath she takes, nipples as red as Prophet Laurel berries. Her hair is as much of a mess as it always is, frizzy waves falling across her face, and splaying out across the pillow.

Solas brushes the unruly locks away from her face with the knuckle of his forefinger, tucking them behind one pointed ear. She shivers as he comes in contact with her sensitive lobe, subconsciously pressing herself into his touch even as she wanders the Dreaming. There are marks of him across her golden skin—small bruises in the shape of his fingertips where he had desperately held onto her for fear of losing her forever—and he knows that he carries the reminder of her on him too, his paler complexion acting as a blank canvas to the blooms of purple and yellow that had been left on his skin when she’d buried a cry by biting his shoulder.

He cannot remember the last time he had felt this vulnerable, this open. She doesn’t know the truth (doesn’t even know half of it), but he feels like she has peeled back as many layers as she can without him telling her everything he knows he eventually must. If they survive Corypheus, then this can only end one way: with her at the end of his blade, or him at the end of hers. He wishes—desperately—that it weren’t so, but like her, he has a duty he must fulfil even if he doesn’t know if he can live with the guilt that will plague him after.

But right now, she seems like the muse for the Muses themselves. She is the one all poems and songs are written about, the one all master painters dream to one day paint. She is perfect, pure, too good for him, and he will relish what few moments they can steal.

He runs his thumb across her lips before tracing the lines that branch out across her face. She stirs beneath his touch, groaning as she tries to get one more hour of rest even if she does not have the time in her day to do so. “Vhenan,” he says, hating himself for how much affection is in his voice. (You were never meant to fall in love with her, you fool. [And yet, here I am.]) “If you do not wake soon, Josephine will have our heads.”

Her groans only grow louder as she hides her head beneath her pillow. “Can I not have one day to myself? Please?”

“We cannot afford such luxuries,” Solas coaxes her as she, rather reluctantly, sits up, rubbing at her bleary eyes. “I can send for food, if you like.”

From beneath heavy lidded eyes, she looks at him, still caught somewhere between the Dreaming and this world. “What have I done to deserve you?”

You deserve more than anything I could offer you, he thinks but does not voice aloud. Instead, he forces a smile to his lips, and prays that she cannot see the anguish that lays beneath. “Ar lath ma, vhenan,” he says, ignoring the doubts that plague him, contenting himself with this indulgence, even if it cannot continue forever.

“Sweet talker,” she says, leaning back against the headboard, her eyes closed. Then, back to the matter at hand: “Could you not tell Josephine that I have fallen ill? I could stay here then.”

He smiles. It’s bittersweet but it’s genuine. He will miss her when she’s gone. (And he knows it will hurt more than anything else he’s ever endured.) “No,” he says, swinging his legs out of the bed in order to go find his tunic which Elgara had so carelessly thrown across the room last night.

She catches him by the wrist as he passes her, bringing him down into a kiss that leaves his head spinning, as though she had sucked the air out of his lungs. “Tell Josie you’re taking care of me, and we could both stay here.”

“And what, vhenan, am I meant to tell her when she asks for specifics?”

“Tell her you don’t know. Tell her…” The mischievous glint with which he has become so familiar returns to her silver eyes. “Tell her you’re conducting a thorough investigation in an attempt to figure it out.”

The thought is appealing, he will give her that much. “No,” he repeats, grabbing one of her spare coats from the back of her chair and tossing it her way. “We have duties.”

“You’re no fun,” she sighs, but they both know she doesn’t mean it. “One of these days, we will have to go somewhere. By ourselves. Let the Inquisition run itself for a day or two. It will hardly fall apart in my absence, and I think we both deserve a day off by now, don’t you think?”

Solas pulls his tunic down over his head, fiddling with the previously-worn garment. It fits a little strangely the second day, with more space around his arms and chest. He catches his jawbone necklace as Elgara tosses it his way. “You are the Inquisitor,” he reminds her, as though she needs reminding. “All you’d have to do is make it an order, and it would have to be followed, but there is work yet that must be done while we wasted the night away.”

“Wasted the night away? I hardly thought it a waste.”

He cannot hide his laughter. “Nor did I, but the matter still stands. The Empress’ ball is not far away, and as I am frequently being reminded, I have no less than three fittings to attend to today alone, and I am little more than a—” (A what?) “Little more than an elven apostate accompanying you. You are the Inquisitor, and you are walking into the heart of the Empire. You must be prepared.”

Elgara reluctantly gets out of bed, wearing nothing but the coat he had tossed her way. The leather is only a few shades darker than her skin, and while it hides much, the open front gives away all that he longs to touch, to taste, to worship. He almost regrets telling her no.

“I dislike it when you’re right,” she says, knotting her hand through his necklace to pull him into another kiss. He leans into it this time, taking a step towards her as she inches backwards before he realises what her plan is.

“Getting me into bed will not negate your duties.”

She cracks a grin. “It was worth a shot,” she says, quickly pressing her lips to his once more as she darts towards her dresser, rummaging through the many vestments Josephine had procured for her before pulling out another simple blouse in an off-white linen, and a pair of brown breeches to match. She shrugs her coat on over her blouse, the silver buttons engraved with the Inquisition’s eye glittering in the light. “When is your first fitting?”

“Later,” he says. “After yours and your advisors’, I suspect.”

“And if Josephine has her way, I’ll be at this fitting until next week,” she mumbles. “I will try to stop by, if only to keep you from dying of boredom.”

“Inquisitor Lavellan,” he murmurs, hand wrapping around her to rest on the small of her back as he pulls her in close. “Always so considerate.”

“Considerate? No. I’ve always had a thing for men in uniforms,” she says. “This is all for selfish, self-indulgent reasons, I assure you.”

He almost wants to give, almost wants to go with her plan of lying to Josephine if only so the both of them can take the day off, but he’s better than that. He has to be. “Go,” he says, pushing her towards the door. “Or you’ll be late.”

“Kicking me out of my own quarters? How rude. Are you meaning to explore my personal effects while I am gone, as you had that night?”

“It was not my intention to come up there that night,” he says, meeting her eyes. “I had thought you still gone.”

She hesitates on the first step, hand resting on the railing. “Either way,” she says, “I am glad things turned out the way they did.”

A smile stretches across his lips, and for one, brief moment, he forgets that they do not have eternity. In that moment, it feels as though they do, like this one minute will stretch out until time has lost all meaning. “As am I.”

And his words aren’t quite a lie either.

Chapter Text

Solas winces as the pin prods him in the side of his chest, biting down on his tongue. The swaths of crimson fabric are draped over his form rather haphazardly, the measurements Josephine had given the tailor nowhere near his actual size. He’s almost drowning in the silk, suffocating beneath a mountain of fabric. The design of the uniform is nothing spectacular, and hardly fits his elven form, but if the Inquisition is to appear at the Empress’ ball, there are certain things they must do, and unfortunately, this is one of them.

“We should bring it in more around the waist, I think,” Josephine says to the tailor, eyeing the way the uniform bunches up around his smaller-than-a-human’s stature. “The Orlesians will pick apart every flaw, including an ill-fitting garment. Even if Solas still intends on going as the Inquisitor’s servant.”

“Would you rather I not?” Solas inquires, glancing at Josephine out of the corner of his eye for fear of her hitting him with her pen for moving as she had several minutes ago. “It is what they would expect. You will face enough judgement as it is for having a Dalish Inquisitor whose closest friend is a Tevinter mage. I would not add to it if I did not have to.”

“You are more considerate than most, Solas,” Josephine says with a weary smile. “Where were you when I was trying to convince Sera to wear the uniform?”

He laughs under his breath. “Sera in a uniform? A foolish notion. Unless it is as bright and patterned, you know she won’t even consider it, but there is no harm done in trying.”

Josephine titters, acknowledging his point, but just as she goes to open her mouth, there’s a knock at the door. Elgara pokes her head around the corner, eyes sparkling in the light as her gaze falls upon Solas all dressed up in crimson and gold. “I do hope I’m not intruding.”

“Hardly,” Solas says with pursed lips as to contain the relieved smile that threatens to make its way onto his face. “Your presence is always welcome, dear Inquisitor.”

It’s so slight he doubts anyone else notices it, but the tips of her pointed ears flush half a shade darker than her golden skin. He doubts anyone notices the ways her gaze lingers on him for a moment too long. He doubts anyone notices the softness in her eyes that isn’t there for anyone else. He doubts anyone notices his heart has stopped beating in his chest.

(And he knows for certain that no one notices the ways he hates himself for knowing how this story will end.)

“If it is no trouble, I’d like to speak with Solas alone,” Elgara says, gaze settling on Josephine. “We still must discuss how we will uncover the Venatori plot, and I doubt I have much time to spare later this week.”

“Of course, Your Worship,” Josephine says, ducking into a curtsey, and gesturing for the timid tailor to follow her out of the war room where they are doing the fittings.

The Inquisitor dawdles about as she makes her way towards him, toying with the fabric samples that had been there since he’d been called in several hours ago. Taffeta in a rich, emerald green, embroidered leaves in golden thread on a fabric so thin it’s almost see-through… She had refused to let him see her gown, and the mess left behind had done nothing but pique his curiosity.

“Red looks good on you,” she murmurs, adjusting the position of his collar, her hand brushing his jaw. His breath catches in his throat at her touch. (A part of him hates how she can undo him with just one touch, while another part of him knows he’d never be able to resist her.) “But it’s missing something.”

He damn near chokes as she reaches behind him, breasts pressed flush against his chest, before she pulls a silver helm from the table. She steps back—already, he misses her touch—and places it on his head. The sharp, silver dome is ridiculous, the pointed tip even more so, but she seems pleased.

“There,” she says, adjusting its fit. “You look like my personal guard now. Better than my servant.”

He lets out a sigh at her sharp tone. “Josephine told you.”

“Why do you hide want to hide what we are, Solas? Being an elf is just as much a part of me as the Anchor is. They mustn’t be allowed to forget that.”

But the Anchor was never meant to be a part of you, he wants to say. It’s only there because I underestimated Corypheus’ strength, and I was too much of a coward to risk dying trying to unlock the orb myself. “We will not be at Skyhold,” he says instead. “We must play by their rules.”

“Damn their rules,” she snaps. “They have tried to wipe as from history enough times as it is. I refuse to be forgotten when I die.”

Trust me, vhenan, it would be impossible to forget about you, he thinks, biting back his words.

You cannot change the world with fury alone, Wisdom had told him, their eyes fixed somewhere over his shoulder as they had faded into nothingness. Had they been talking to him, he wonders, or to her?

Solas, naturally, had never been one to follow the Chant as the humans are wont to do. He cares not for the Maker, nor for his Bride. It is not within a god’s soul to worship another with his entire being, but with Elgara… With Elgara, it’s different. He’d follow to the ends of the world if she asked him to (and she would), but how could he not? She is fuelled by her determination, burning white hot with the anger that refuses to let her stand by as the world threatens to crumble to dust around her. It’s a determination he shares, but he is not as noble as she is, and he never will be.

He fights because he feels he owes it to the People after all the suffering he had caused them.

She fights because it’s right.

The only selfish thing she has ever wanted for is him. Everything else is for the Inquisition, for Thedas, and for the umpteenth time, he thinks that she deserves more than that which he can give her.

“If I’ve caused offence, vhenan, it was not my intent.”

Her steely gaze softens. “I know,” she says quietly.

Elgara is a dual-edged sword, with one side only being just blunter than the other, but even then, that side is still sharp enough to cut. He has to be careful not to grab her by the blade lest he get cut. She may not know it yet, but she’s strong enough to kill a god. She can make him come undone.

“Solas,” she says, bringing him back to the present. “You needn’t blame yourself that much. Do you think me incapable of forgiving for such a small slight?”

“I… No,” he says. “I was merely thinking.”

“Of?”

“Of…” Of how you’ll be the death of me, or I the death of you. “Of nothing you need to worry yourself with, ma’lath. As Inquisitor, I’m certain you have more troubling matters than the concerns of an old fool such as myself.”

“You’re not that old.”

“I am older than you.”

A smile twitches at her lips as she fiddles with the golden buttons of his uniform. “That’s hardly saying much.”

She’s barely seen her thirtieth winter, and to have such a burden already? She carries the lives of all those in Thedas on her shoulders. He remembers what those days were like. The chosen of Mythal, her champion, then a general, and then finally… a god.

(He cannot help but think as he looks at the General that she is young. As old as he is, perhaps, if not younger. The Elvhen do not age as beasts do—they do not grey, do not get wrinkles, but maturity is not hard to gauge, and she still has the hope that only comes with youth in her heart. She stands above them all on a dais, looking down upon her followers, and though he knows he is but once face in the crowd, he swears her golden eyes meet his own.)

Her hand traces the planes of his chest, fingers slipping beneath the fabric. Her hand is hot against his cool skin, even as an icy breeze slips in through the closed windows. The candles of the chandelier above their head flicker, wax dripping onto wood of the chandelier.

“I wasn’t expecting to,” she says after a moment’s pause, “but I’m starting to look forward to the Winter Palace, the history of Halamshiral aside. Imagine if my ancestors could see me now. A Dalish mage, leading an Andrastian force, and walking into the Empress’ ball not as her subject, but as her equal. Do you think they would be proud?”

“Elgara, I doubt anyone would be able to be anything but proud in the face of all your successes.”

“It’s not going to be like this for forever though, is it? One day, my luck is going to run out. It is just how it is, no? If I win this often, then one day, I will lose, and that loss will seem ten times worse compared to all my successes.”

“There’s no sense in thinking like that,” Solas says. “You must take your victories as they come.” She gives him a long look, brows furrowed. “What troubles you?”

“Hm? Oh. Nothing. It’s just… You looked like such a warrior then, like a general of an army, not an apostate who felt obligated to stay because none of the shems knew anything about the Fade.” If only you knew the truth, my love. If only you knew that we are more alike than you think. “Perhaps it’s the uniform.”

“Perhaps,” he says, trying to hide his relief, but his relief soon turns to surprised fear as she slides her hand further beneath the fabric of uniform jacket, fingers curling around the waistband of his breeches. Fenedhis, the slight brush of her lips against his bare skin is almost enough to make him come right there. “Vhenan…” he groans. “Josephine’s office is just down the hall.”

“So?” she says, a wicked smirk upon her lips. “If you’re worried about her hearing, then perhaps you should keep quiet.”

He has to bite back the ragged moan she tears from his throat as she pushes him up against the war table, sending pieces that surely mark important places scattering across the hand-drawn map. She tugs his breeches down around his ankles, the smalls he had rather foolishly decided to wear today soon following. He’s hard from the thought of her alone, coaxed by her gentle ministrations.

How many times had he pictured this? How many times had he wiped his seed from his hand, shame overcoming him as he remembered that she was sleeping not far away, entirely unaware of his actions?

Solas’ hand fists in her hair as she drags her tongue from the base of his aching cock all the way to the head. The noises she makes are obscene; wet and hungry, and it’s almost difficult for him to get his mind around the fact that she lusts for him. He has longed for her for an age now, but it’s strange to feel desired. To feel wanted.

Elgara—” he groans, choking on the air on his throat as she takes him into her mouth, hand wrapping around what cannot fit. The press of her tongue on the underside of him makes him see stars behind his closed eyelids, and if she hadn’t had a hand on his hip to keep him pressed against the table, he’s certain he’d have fallen to his knees right then.

Ha’mi’in,” she chastises as he reaches for her, murmuring the words against his bare stomach, silver eyes flashing. “Relax. Stop moving.”

Stop moving?” he hisses back at her. “You have my cock halfway down your throat, you wicked woman, and you—” He doesn’t get the chance to finish his sentence, Elgara swirling her tongue around the head of his swollen member.

“You talk too much,” is all she says a moment later when she goes to catch her breath. “If you don’t stop moving, if you don’t stop talking, I’ll stop, and that’s that.”

The thought of her stopping almost makes him want to weep, and despite his urges to fuck her mouth until all she can taste is the salty bitterness of his come, he remains still. He digs his hands into the war table’s polished surface, nails leaving small indentations that Leliana will surely notice during the Inquisitor’s next meeting.

He bites back curses as she begins to bob her head up and down, her hand twisting in tandem with her motions. His skin glistens with his own sweat, shining the flickering candlelight. He forces his eyes open, if only to look the elven woman on her knees before him in the eyes. “Vhenan,” he says, choked, “I’m going to—”

“Come,” she finishes. “I want to taste you. Let me see you come undone.”

Her words send a shudder down his spine, pushing him over the final precipice, and he soon finds himself spilling in her mouth. She can’t quite swallow it all, his seed spilling out of his mouth, but she just wipes it on the back of her hand.

She ties his breeches back up as she had never untied them, patting down her simple tunic. Her nipples strain through the fabric of her breast band, so prominent that he cannot keep himself from glancing down at them despite himself. A smile tugs at her lips before she presses them to his. He can still taste himself on her tongue, sharp and bitter yet sweet at the same time.

“Enjoy your fitting,” she says, tucking the hem of her blouse back beneath the waistband of her breeches. “You know where to find me.”

Josephine is sent in shortly after she leaves, none the wiser. She and the Orlesian tailor merely resume their measurements, and their finicky prodding as they try to wrangle a pattern not meant for elves into something that will make sense on his form, and  Solas grits his teeth and bears through it, knowing that he will be forced to endure it one way or another.

Chapter Text

The collar of the uniform, despite being tailored to his exact measurements, feels like it’s choking him. He can feel the weight of the Orlesian nobles’ eyes on him, his pointed ears making him stand out more than the bright red fabric of his uniform can. He is used to being watched. Being the Inquisitor’s closest companion has earned him the attention of the many dignitaries who frequent Skyhold, and though they try to speak in hushed whispers, their muttered insults do not escape his attention.

But here, in the heart of the Orlesian empire, their distaste for an elven apostate such as himself is far more outspoken.

Would it be different if they knew who he was, he wonders, or would they dislike him even more?

“Solas!” Josephine weaves her way through the crowd with the expertise of someone who has attended many of these events in her lifetime, apologising to the nobles who walk into her as though she is the one at fault. “There you are.”

He arches a brow, adjusting his collar before he ceases breathing entirely. “Were you looking for me, Lady Montilyet?”

“The Lady Inquisitor wishes for you to be announced with the rest of the Inquisition,” she says, taking his elbow and guiding him towards the gates of the Winter Palace, and away from the entrance to the servants’ quarters.

“Seeing as I am here as her serving man—” he starts.

“You are here as Her Worship’s personal guard and escort,” Josephine corrects, wrinkling her nose. “As of a minute ago, anyhow. I have informed her of your intentions, but she is very insistent about the matter, and would like to remind you that she ‘did not lend you her helm for no reason.’”

Solas reaches up to touch the silver helm. He wants to refuse Elgara. He will pass easier if the Orlesians see him as just another knife-ear, but if they see him standing next to the Inquisitor, he knows what they will say. (“Another rabbit trying to climb above his station. Wasn’t one enough?”) If their stares turn his stomach now, what will it be like when he’s standing before the Empress herself, pointed ears and all?

But he doesn’t dare refuse. The Inquisitor cannot afford to appear weak, cannot afford to have her decisions questioned, not when she’s surrounded by vipers on all sides. Instead, he pushes his shoulders back, and lifts his chin.

“Lead the way, Lady Montilyet.”

The interior of the Winter Palace is dripping in swaths of blue silk and every surface is inlaid with gold and marble. Gilded lion heads are mounted on the wall, metal teeth bared in a silent roar. At face value, everything appears perfect, but he knows that there are cracks beneath the surface that the Orlesians are desperate to hide. Like everything else, it’s just another mask the Orlesians wear. There may be gold leaf laid atop the wood, but it doesn’t change the fact that beneath it all the wood is rotten to its core.

Nobles are crowded around the edge of the grand ballroom, faces hidden carefully behind silver masks, but their masks hide little. They speak amongst themselves, but their eyes follow Solas and Josephine as she cuts her way through the crowd with him in tow. The ballroom is twice as opulent as the main hall had been, curtains of blue silk hang on either side of the room, framing statues of winged, golden woman with features as delicate as porcelain.

Commander Cullen is standing there, as regal as ever, hair as gold as the banisters. “You found him,” he says, sounding relieved. “The Inquisitor was getting worried.”

The Marshal of the Court announces someone, but his words fall on Solas’ deaf ears.

What do you know of the Inquisitor? he wants to say. You don’t know her, and you never will. Do you even understand her? Do you know that she hates you all because she knows, that no matter what you say, she will never be your equal? You do not know it yet, Commander Cullen, but she is better than us all.

Solas goes to say something, but a hush falls over the crowd as they turn to look at something he cannot see. He forces his way to the front of the crowd, nobles hissing in indignation as they are pushed aside by a rabbit. Quickly, he understands why they had fallen silent.

“And accompanying him,” the Marshal says, voice ringing clear across the silent crowd, “Her Worship, Elgara Fen’ghil’lan Mythalen of Clan Lavellan.”

Elgara almost glitters in the candlelight, the golden thread interwoven in the emerald fabric of her gown catching the light with every movement she makes. The hem of her dress trails behind her, the long slit in the front exposing her bare feet, bound only in traditional elven leather wraps. The plunging neckline exposes the swell of her breasts, framed by golden embroidery that hugs her every curve. Her hair is its usual braided bun, but loose curls frame either side of her face, and there are thin, golden chains adorning her head like an imitation of a crown that is far more resplendent than anything the Orlesian nobility are wearing.

She stands tall, head held high, but her gaze flits to him in a moment of weakness, and he can’t help but think that were her eyes gold rather than silver, and were her skin not still stained with the marks of the Betrayer, she’d have been a spitting image for Mythal.

Solas can’t decide if he can’t take her eyes off of her, or if he can’t bear to look at her for another minute lest his heart be torn in two.

Elgara Fen’ghil’lan Mythalen, Solas thinks to himself. Spirit of sun, guider of the wolf, child of Mythal.

Had her clan known when they had named her? From the moment she was born, she had been destined to guide him astray. His heart stops in his chest. He had thought it the way he had been drawn to her—like a moth to a flame—was the result of nothing but a moment of weakness, but he knows now that the strings of fate have tied them together in ways he cannot hope to understand. She carries her name for a reason, she wears the face of his former love for a reason.

(“Don’t go.” “It would be kinder in the longer run, but losing you would—”)

And yet, he cannot help himself. Like the Orlesians, he is enraptured. She has him wrapped around her finger, and she doesn’t even know. She doesn’t know what she does to him, doesn’t know that just one look from her sends his heart hammering like a bird in flight.

The silence that had fallen over the crowd breaks then, and that silence turns to hushed, venomous whispers. They talk about how her feet are bare against the marble tile rather than clad in the heels that had come into fashion, and how her ears are pointed like knives, and how she wears no mask like the rest of them, choosing instead to bare the vallaslin they’d rather have her hide, and how the ink stains on her face that mark her as an outsider that they’ll never understand. The whispers grow louder, so loud that he’s certain Elgara can hear, but she raises her head higher still, and her eyes fall upon Empress Celene who awaits her on the other side of the ballroom. The Empress stands above them all, quite literally, but it is Elgara who commands the room. All eyes are on her, and if they speak, they speak of her. Even if their words are not kind, they will not be leaving Halamshiral tonight without knowing her name.

Elgara glides down the stairs with the grace of only one who had grown up in the wilderness, walking terrain far more uneven than the marble tiles of the Winter Palace. What would her ancestors think if they saw her now? She is a queen in her own right, standing in the palace that had been built on a mass grave of her people. He is distantly aware of being announced himself, but he stays where he is on the opposite side of the ballroom from Celene, watching as Elgara strides towards her.

She curtsies before the Empress, but it’s forced and clearly strained.

“Lady Inquisitor,” Celene says through a smile that is all too forced, her silver mask—which had so clearly inspired the rest of the nobility—doing little to hide her displeasure. Her voice is soft, like chimes, but beneath it all a sharpness he can only compare to grating ice. Her azure gown is the same shade as the swaths of fabric adorning the windows, trimmed with glittering gold. She presents herself as proudly Orlesian just as much as Elgara presents herself as proudly Dalish. Just fifty years ago, a meeting like this would have been unthinkable. Orlais would never dare to let a Dalish elf step into the heart of their empire, but now they have no choice. Elgara is one of the most powerful women in all of Thedas, and like it or not, they will have to respect her.

“We welcome you to the Winter Palace. Allows us to present our cousin,” Celene continues after a moment, gesturing to the woman standing beside her, “the Grand Duchess of Lydes, without whom this gathering would never have been possible.”

Grand Duchess Florianne is much less adept at hiding her true thoughts as her cousin. Her eyes glitter with untold danger, and when she smiles, it’s just as friendly as the baring of an animal’s teeth. “What an… unexpected pleasure,” she says through a tight-lipped smile. “I was not aware the Inquisition would be a part of our festivities. We will… certainly speak later, Inquisitor.”

Celene pays Florianne no mind. “Your arrival at court is like a cool wind on a summer’s day,” she says to Elgara.

“I am delighted to be here, Your Majesty.” Elgara sounds as though she speaks the truth, but he knows otherwise. He sees the slight, indignant twitch of her ears, senses the swell of magic beneath the surface of her skin that she can barely keep contain.

“We have heard much of your exploits, Inquisitor. They have made grand tales for long evenings.” And then, a question so pointed, it could almost cut— “How do you find Halamshiral?”

If Celene hadn’t earned Elgara’s ire already, she would have done so then and there. What do you think of the empire I built on the bones of your ancestors? Celene asks her. Do you know that you do not belong here, in the heart of the human empire, surrounded by those who want nothing to do with a knife-ear like you?

“I have no words to do it justice,” Elgara says, as guarded as those that surround her. I cannot begin to express how much I want to burn this place to the ground, with you in it.

Her subtlety escapes Celene. “Your modesty does you credit, and speak well for the Inquisition. Feel free to enjoy the pleasures of the ballroom, Inquisitor. We look forward to watching you dance.”

Elgara dips into another curtsey, sinking into the fabric of her gown before turning her heel to leave. She finds her way to him eventually, looking a little worse for wear. Her hair is starting to fall out of its braids, and she’s flushed from the champagne, but she still somehow manages to take his breath away. “You’re not much use as a personal guard if you’re running off, hm?”

“You were serious,” he says, almost surprised.

“The helm wasn’t for nothing,” she teases, echoing the words Josephine had passed onto him. “How do you find Halamshiral, Solas?”

She throws Celene’s words back at him without batting an eyelash. He doesn’t comment on it. “It is what I expected it to be, but I do so adore the heady blend of power, intrigue, danger, and sex that permeates these events.”

She cannot hide the way she swallows at his words, but it’s almost imperceptible. “You seem far more comfortable than I’d thought you’d be.”

Fenedhis, he can’t help but think that she knows, even if she doesn’t. How many times has she come so close to the truth, only to miss it by a hair’s breadth?

(Music so soft he can barely hear it, though he can feel the thrum of the strings in his chest, but the she speaks, and it’s like the entire world comes to a standstill. Her golden eyes shine in the magelights, and with a whisper of fabric she’s gone, nothing but the smell of vandal aria that she leaves behind as a trail for him to follow.)

“I have seen countless such displays in my journeys in the Fade. The powerful have always been the same. Only the costumes change.” He starting to hate lying to her. A part of him winces every time another lie leaves his mouth, but he has no choice. He can’t have her knowing that he’s the Dread Wolf her Keeper used to warn her about.

She hums more to herself than to him. “You never cease to amaze me, Solas,” she says. “Is this where I ask you to dance with me?”

“Perhaps,” he says with a sly smile.

“And would you have any interest in such a thing?”

“A great deal,” he says just as a nobleman passes by them. Though he wears a mask, he cannot hide the way his gaze darts to their pointed ears, and then to the Inquisitor’s Dalish gown, lip curling in irritation. “Although… Dancing with an elven apostate would win you few favours with the court. Perhaps once our business here is done.”

“I hardly want their approval anyhow,” she mutters, so quiet only he can hear her.

He hums in acknowledgement, inkling his head. “You never told me your true name, Elgara Fen’ghil’lan Mythalen.”

“For good reason,” she says. “It’s quite the mouthful. I have always preferred Elgara. It was my name before I became First, but when I took my vows… It is a tradition in my clan to take on a name that symbolises the kind of Keeper we intend to be, and then have the clan grant us another name that symbolises the kind of person they believe us to be.”

“They believed you to be the child of Mythal?”

“No, not quite. It is far more literal than that.” She reaches up to her face, touching Dirthamen’s marks written across her skin. “They didn’t do subtlety.”

He almost has the urge to laugh, but he does not. “And Fen’ghilan?”

“After my older brother,” she says after a moment’s pause, looking down at the glittering Anchor, as green as her gown. “Ever violent, and always favouring violence over peace, he chose the name Fen’ghi’myelan, as though he’d be the one to slay the Dread Wolf. He always was arrogant.”

“It is the Keeper’s duty to protect the clan from the Dread Wolf’s clutches,” says Solas, quiet and afraid.

“If I am to protect my people, I will not do so by spilling blood all because I am afraid of the creature that lurks in the dark,” she almost snaps at him, insulted that he still thinks so low of her. (But it’s not that he thinks she’d resort to such means. It’s that he knows if there is a single soul in all of Thedas who could slay him, it would be her.) Still, she sticks her elbow out for him to take, and he does, standing by her side as the guard he is pretending to be.

And he stays there, even when the Venatori plot threatens to get them between them. His skills are not as suited to close quarters combat as hers are, her spectral blade able to cut through even their steel plated foes. It’s not hard for him to understand why people fear her. She is a force to be reckoned with, flames wrapped around her in an impenetrable shield, so hot that she leaves scorch marks on Empress Celene’s precious marble tiles. She’s even frightening when she speaks to the nobility, playing their game better than even they do.

At the end of the night, with the Venatori plot foiled, and the Empire’s secrets uncovered, he watches her step into the ballroom, demon blood smeared across her face. Her hair has fallen out of her braids entirely, her loose waves tumbling down her back, decorated still by her chain crown. She looks Elvhen, like a picture perfect goddess of war, bloodstained and proud.

A wave of shocked whispers ripples across the crowd at the sight of her, the clicking of her staff on the stone tiles announcing her louder than any Marshal of the Court ever could. She uses it to support her weight as she looks up at Florianne, Gaspard, Briala, and Celene with the ease of someone who already knows that they’ve won. This Grand Game is nothing compared to her wrath, and they are fools for expecting her to be anything but angry here, standing on the bones of her ancestors.

“I do believe you owe me a dance, Your Grace.” Even if Elgara’s accented voice didn’t stand out among the crowd of Orlesians, he’d be able to pick her voice from even the largest crowd. She speaks clear enough that she has no need to shout. The child of Mythal, the Chosen of Andraste, standing at the feet of the Empress of Orlais, and demanding the attention of the entire court.

Florianne freezes, stiffening as she registers Elgara’s words. She turns, and even behind her mask, Solas can tell that she does not know how Elgara had managed to survive Florianne’s attempt on her life. Does she not know that the Elvhen have bowed to the shemlen for too long? She will not bow, will not yield, not to someone like her.

(“Why do you want to hide what we are, Solas? Being an elf is just as much a part of me as the Anchor is. They mustn’t be allowed to forget that.” “We will not be at Skyhold. We must play by their rules.” “Damn their rules. They have tried to wipe us from history enough times as it is. I refuse to be forgotten when I die.” Trust me, vhenan, it would be impossible to forget about you.)

(“You cannot change the world with fury alone.”)

“Inquisitor,” Florianne says through gritted teeth.

“Smile,” she says. “We have an audience. You wouldn’t want them to think you had lost control.”

Florianne backs up against the wall as Elgara takes careful, precise steps towards her, her staff clicking against the tiles. “Who would not be delighted to speak with you, Inquisitor?”

“The person who tried to have me killed not moments ago, I imagine,” she says, somehow managing to smile. “The person who wanted me out of the way so I’d be unable to stop you when you put a blade between your cousin’s ribs. Unfortunately, you can see you failed, so might I suggest something?” Florianne desperately searches for a way out, but just before she can slip away, Elgara’s spirit blade shimmers into existence, raw magic solidified and formed into the shape of a sword sharp enough to cut. She has it pressed against Florianne’s throat before anyone can stop her. “Next time you try to kill me, stick around long enough to make certain I’m really dead.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Florianne says, voice shaking.

“So you framed your brother for the murder of a council emissary by accident, then?” Elgara says, her blade drawing a thin line of blood as she presses it harder against Florianne’s throat. “I have to say, it was an ambitious plan. Celene, Gaspard, the entire Council of Heralds… all your enemies under one roof.”

“Unhand me, rabbit!” snarls Florianne. “You do not imagine anyone believes your wild stories?”

Celene casts a wary glance at her. “That will be a matter for a judge to decide, cousin.”

“Gaspard?” Florianne says desperately, turning to her brother. “You cannot believe this! You know I would never—”

But Gaspard does not want to hear her finish. He takes on long look at his sister, holding up a hand to silence her.

“Arrest her,” Elgara says to Cullen, dispelling her spirit blade as Florianne is dragged away in tears. “Your Imperial Majesty, Duke Gaspard, Briala, I believe we have much to discuss.”

They disappear after that, and when they come back out, everyone looks considerably worse for wear. Sheer exhaustion paints the faces of Briala, Gaspard, and Celene, and when they announced that they have decided to combine forces, and that they are in the process of forming a treaty, he knows that Elgara must have been behind it all. She stands behind them as they make their speeches, blood still smeared across her face, and staff still in hand. They’ve made history tonight, but Elgara represents the change of the heart of this entire thing. Tonight, a Dalish mage made everyone bow at her feet.

“Elgara,” Solas says quietly, finding her on the balcony, quiet, and away from the crowds.

She barely looks back at him, her overwhelming silence saying more than words could.

“I’m not surprised to find you out here,” he continues, leaning against the balcony railing alongside her. “You have a habit of slipping away unnoticed. A useful talent, I imagine.”

“It certainly helps,” she mutters, quietly, and more to herself than to him. “I couldn’t stay in there for a moment longer. They don’t understand that twenty five, fifty years ago they’d have beat me until I learnt my place. And what was it all for anyhow? I have a feeling that this is only a temporary victory. They’ll resume fighting amongst themselves once Corypheus is dead.”

“There’s much, much more trouble ahead. For now, focus on what’s in front of you,” he says, hand on her shoulder. Impulse strikes him as music drifts in through the open door. “Dance with me.”

“What?”

“Dance with me,” he says, bending at the waist, and offering his hand. “Our business here is done, no?”

“Solas—”

“Come,” he says with a smile. “Before the band stops playing.”

She lets out a delighted, pealing laugh as he takes her hand, pulling her close to him so that they’re almost touching, her lips just a hair’s breadth away from his own. She moves with a surprising grace even as he leads her in an Elvhen dance she has no experience with, bare feet gliding across the stones. Still, she slips, and he catches her before she can fall, hand cradling the back of her neck.

Her eyes glitter with a happiness that had not been there mere moments ago, and she pulls him down to her level, lips pressed to his. “I’d be lost without you,” she murmurs as they part.

He smiles, but it’s poisoned by the knowledge that this will never last, as much as he wants it to. “Ar lath ma, vhenan,” he says, and he knows that he was right. He should have left that day.

It would have been kinder in the long run, but it’s too late to turn back now.

Chapter Text

Solas hears her enter the rotunda before he sees her; even without the echo of the cavernous space, the slam of the door’s iron handle against the stone walls is loud enough to make his ears twitch. Above him, he hears glass shatter, and swiftly followed by a string of curses in Tevene as Dorian drops what Solas knows to be a glass of wine. Even Leliana’s ravens are sent into an uproar, their agitated caws nearly deafening.

Cullen follows not far behind, barely able to contain his frustration as he chases after the Inquisitor, his voice growing louder with urgency. “Inquisitor,” he hisses as she passes through the rotunda, heading towards the stairs, her face set in a scowl. “You cannot—”

“Cannot what?” she snarls back at him, as fierce as a cornered wolf, her hackles practically raised. “Do not tell me you thought it was funny because in my eyes, it was nothing but immature and childish, and if I’d have had my way, she’d have long since been sent away from here, never to return.”

“Sera hardly means anything by her pranks. I’m certain she did not know it would affect you—”

“She’s an adult, and I damn well expect her to act like one, instead of running around playing these stupid, ridiculous pranks, and making me look like a Creators-damned fool in front of the very people I am meant to be impressing.” Elgara is on the brink of tears, her voice cracking with every word she utters. “These people, these nobles will never take me seriously, do you not understand that? To them I’ll always be some knife-eared bitch who will never be worthy of their respect, and she is just making it worse. If you do not confront her, I will. Do I make myself clear?”

Cullen grinds his teeth. “Perhaps if you simply spoke to her—”

“Do,” she says slowly, “I make myself clear?”

The Commander stiffens, clasping his hands behind his back. “Yes, Inquisitor.”

“Good,” she says, her eyes meeting Solas’ over Cullen’s shoulder. He has managed to piece together parts of what he had missed, but even then, it’s not enough. (He has never seen her this close to breaking, holding on by one single thread that’s starting to fray. She is at her wit’s end, pulled in every direction, and he does not know how much longer she will last.) Elgara looks back to Cullen, swallowing. “Dismissed.”

He is anything but pleased, but he is a templar through and through, and his training will not permit him to defy her, but there is a certain anger to the way he marches out the door of the rotunda, the heels of his boots clicking against the stone tiles. It is only once he is gone, and the upper levels of the rotunda have settled that Elgara’s shoulders sag.

She is different around him. With him, she isn’t the People’s general. She’s realer somehow, made of flesh and blood rather than untouchable legend that the stories make her out to be. With him, the woman she is in front of the eyes of the court is all but a stranger. He sees nothing of Elgar’nan’s wife in her eyes when she looks at him. But Void take him, she looks tired, like every passing minute drains her a little bit more, until she’ll be nothing but a shell of who she once was.

In silence, Elgara lets him guide her to her quarters, his hand on the small of her back, and shooting fierce glares at anyone who dares to approach her in a silent warning. Solas latches the door, sliding the bolt across to lock it shut.

Vhenan,” he murmurs, watching as she stands before the roaring fire in the fireplace, her arms wrapped around herself. She doesn’t turn to look at him, her eyes scrunched shut. “Speak to me.”

“I do not know where to begin,” she admits after a long pause, pressing herself into his touch as he hooks his thumb beneath her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes. “We were… speaking with some dignitaries from Jader the siege equipment for when we march on Adamant.”

Adamant. The mere thought of the Warden fortress makes his stomach turn and his blood boil. The Grey Wardens have a long standing history of meddling in affairs they do not understand. He cares little if they are being manipulated by a Venatori magister. They are a threat, and one that needs to be stopped. (And not only because they, of all enemy forces in Thedas, might very well stand a chance against him.)

Elgara had almost torn Skyhold apart the other day, trying to make preparations for the arduous journey. Half of the Inquisition’s forces are in the Western Approach already, awaiting the arrival of the Inquisitor and the delivery of Lady Syril of Jade’s siege equipment.

Solas hums, prompting her to continue as he toys with a stray lock of hair that had escaped her braids, curling it around one, slender finger.

“Sera…” Her expression twists into something sour. “Sera interrupted the meeting. Knocked twice, and then entered before anyone could let her in. She took one look at the dignitaries, and… Fen’Harel take that damned fool, emptied an entire box of roaches at their feet. I-I struggle enough to earn their favour, all for reasons beyond my control, and how am I meant to look them in the eye now, knowing that I have a psychotic, childish, immature—”

Ma’lath,” he says, almost warningly.

A heavy sigh escapes her as she falls into him, head pressed up beneath the crook of his chin. “They will never respect me,” she whispers into his chest. “In their eyes, I will always be a knife-eared mage who should have never survived the Conclave. The Herald who believes in no Maker. I am everything they despise, and serve as a reminder for all the mistakes they have made, even if I do not permit them to treat me as they treat all those like me without the cursed blessing that is my title. No matter what I do, I will never be good enough for them. I will never be their equal.”

“You will never be their equal,” Solas echoes, earning himself a glare, “because you are their better in every way. The humans have not raised one of our own so high in centuries. You have made great strides in the name of our people.”

Our people, he says for the first time. Not mine. Ours. You are too much like me now; bitter and angry, with a fire burning in your heart that threatens to eclipse everything else.

(Oh, my love, what have I done to you?)

“Is that enough?” she asks. “Am I enough?”

You are, and the day I lose you, my heart will cease beating with the pain of losing you to the consequences of my own actions, but this is how it must be, and come what may, I will never forget you.

And yet, despite the thoughts in his head, he says nothing.

Chapter Text

He’d had few dealings with the Dalish since he had woken nearly two years past, seeing them as nothing but a group of misguided fools attempting to imitate something they can never understand. He remembers Elgara’s irritation when he’d expressed his distaste for her people when they’d first met. (“Don’t you mean our people? You are just as elven as I.” No, your people are not mine, and you are not Elvhen.) Still, there is something oddly familiar about the bustle of Clan Lavellan. Perhaps it is because, for the first time in a long time, he is less than a complete outsider. Still an outsider, but not for the reasons he has become accustomed to.

Elgara’s deep in conversation with the head of the clan’s guard, intently listening to the ranger’s detailing of the bandit attacks that have been plaguing them for weeks now. Behind her, Inquisition forces hand out supplies to civilians, attempting to replace what had been lost in the attacks. Josephine, he remembers, had wanted to call in a few favours and get the situation dealt with, allowing the Herald to stay behind and tend to all they still had to do, but it had been a foolish notion. Elgara is not wont to let someone else do her dirty work for her, especially not when her clan’s safety is at stake.

“Have you eaten?” Keeper Deshanna Istimaethoriel is an older woman whose fingertips are stained with green from the herbs she spends much of her day working with. She holds a bowl of a simple stew in one withered hand, the other clutching a carved wooden staff, the crystal mounted at the tip glittering in the light that streams in through the trees. She’s fairer than the rest of her clan as though she has spent many months indoors, away from the sun. The branches of Mythal outline her sharp features, adorning her forehead and cheeks in dark lines. Her dark auburn hair is almost entirely grey.

Solas meets her age-weary brown eyes. “Thank you,” he says, taking the bowl from her grasp. It’s a little thin, and the venison is far too tough for his tastes but its enough to sate the hunger that has begun to gnaw at his stomach.

“We would be poor hosts if we let our guests go hungry,” Deshanna says, taking a seat alongside him on the fallen log he’d found, “and we would be fools to insult you.”

His hand freezes, bowl still half lifted to his lips. “I’m sorry?”

“Do not play me for a fool. I know what you are.” She still has her eyes on Elgara, and her tone is nothing but nonchalant, but panic starts to rise in his chest, coming to a climax as she continues, “Dread Wolf.”

“I do not know of what you speak,” Solas lies through his teeth, setting the bowl down on the log where he’d been sitting not moments ago. He goes to leave, desperate to get away before she can pick him apart any further than she already has, but she catches his wrist at the last minute, her grip surprisingly strong for a woman her age. “Unhand me.”

“I know the stories. I have seen the paintings. You hide your face beneath a cowl of a wolf’s head in all of them, but you cannot hide your magic. I have felt it only once before, when I stood in the ruins of a temple erected in your name.”

“You must have me mistaken.”

“You can run, Dread Wolf, but you cannot hide,” Deshanna says, voice turning dark. There is something malicious in her warm eyes. “She was meant to guide the wolf, and she has. She has been led to you, and you to her, like a moth drawn to a fire. Have you not betrayed our people enough already?”

“You are not my people,” he snarls then, teeth bared in an anger she cannot comprehend. “And what do you know of betrayal? You speak tales long since corrupted and warped by the passing of time without any understanding of the truth.”

Deshanna drops his wrist, and leans back, a faint smile upon her lips. “Struck a nerve, did I, Dread Wolf?”

“I am not the Dread Wolf.”

“Would you prefer He Who Hunts Alone? Lord of Tricksters? Or Pride? Names do not change who, or what, you are. The Betrayer. Tell me once again that I’m lying, and perhaps this time I will believe you.” She laughs under her breath. “You have no need to fear me. Who would listen to the ramblings of a senile old woman?”

Solas casts a look at Elgara who hasn’t even noticed that he had slipped away, too preoccupied with her work to focus on anything else. Part of the reason they had wanted to come was so that they could slip away to somewhere she wouldn’t have to be the Inquisitor, but she can’t help her desire to help everyone in need.

She’s so selfless it makes his chest ache. She cares not for her own needs. She could be dying, and she would still spend the last of her magic to heal another. He fears that, sometimes. He fears that one day, she will die in the name of the greater good, even if the world still needs her. They don’t deserve her. He doesn’t deserve her.

Still, behind that all, he can see the bitterness, the anger. He can see how tired she is, and how desperately she wants to just… lie down, and to never get up again.

“You can’t tell her,” he says, quietly, afraid that Elgara will hear him even over the noise. He glances back over his shoulder at Deshanna, the wolf’s eyes meeting the Dalish keeper’s. “She cannot know.”

“I doubt she would even listen to me,” she says, “and if she did, what could she do? She does not fear the wolf that stalks in the night, but you? I have seen the way she looks at you. Should anything happen to you, it would break her. Is that why she cannot know? Because you fear she could come to view you as a monster?”

“If she saw me as a monster, then she would only be seeing the truth, and it is the truth that I must keep her from. There is still so much still she has yet to face, and this would only add to her troubles. I could not ask it of her.”

“She is not the reason you have returned, is she?” Deshanna is a curious woman. He had come to expect the Dalish to be fools who would never understand all that the People had lost when Arlathan fell, all that they had lost when he, in a desperate attempt to save them from themselves, had mistakenly ruined all that they had been. Still, Deshanna is set in her Dalish ways, old habits refusing to do anything but die hard when she is so old that her hair is as grey as ash, but there is a wisdom in her clouded eyes that seems to stare right through his soul.

“No,” says Solas. “I have a purpose. One I will not burden her with. One I cannot burden her with. I have sacrificed so much the People already. There is nothing else the world can take away from me.”

“Nothing,” Deshanna says, “except for her.”

He swallows. “Yes.”

“And so it seems that the Dread Wolf has a heart. After all you have done, and she is what would break you?”

You do not know the half of what I have done. You do not know why it was the only way it could have ended.

 (“You’re a fool, Dread Wolf, if you think this will change anything.” Dirthamen’s blood coats his hands as the Betrayer lies on the same tiles upon which he had killed his mother. He laughs weakly, crimson bubbles forming on his lips. “The wheel keeps turning, and there are always those who will seek things you do not want them to have. If you seek to stop them, you will be alone. Always.”

“Then such is the price I must pay. I had to stop you.”

“There will be others. There will be more. I was not alone in this, and with her gone, they will rebel, not fearing her wrath.”

“Then I will stop them too,” he says. “I will stop them all if I have to.:

“Look at yourself,” says Dirthamen, struggling to raise his head. “Can you not see already what you will become?”

His own voice drips with venom as he speaks, but his chest aches for the man he had once called a friend. “Can you not see what you already are?”)

“I did what had to be done,” Solas says after a moment’s pause. It’s an excuse he’s used to justify what he has done before. To Sylaise, to all of the Evanuris when he had locked them away. To Elvhenan, when he had unknowingly destroyed their empire, condemning them to a life of being treated as lesser beings by the shemlen. But every alternative would have been worse. The People still yet live, even if he is not one of them. Had he stood by, Elvhenan would have drowned in a sea of blood.

“Did you?” Deshanna raises a brow. “We cannot claim to know what may come of our actions, Dread Wolf. Not even you can say such things and have them be true.”

“I never claimed to be able to see the future.”

“Precisely,” she says. “You cannot claim to know what would have happened. You cannot claim that there was no other option. There are always choices, da’len. Some of them are simply clearer to us than other. This choice, for example: what will you do when she inevitably finds out?”

“She will not find out. I will not let her,” he insists like the fool that he is, trying to delay what he knows to be inevitable.

“You underestimate her, child.” She speaks as though he is not older than she is, as though he has not seen things she can only dream of. “She will find out, and when she does…” Deshanna pushes herself to her feet, bracing herself against her staff. “When she does, you must be prepared to face the consequences.”

She dips her head into an acute bow, still recognising him for who and what he is, even if she knows that the Dread Wolf has already caught Elgara’s scent, and it’s too late for her to turn back now.

And Solas still does not have an answer to her question.

 

Chapter Text

Elgara stumbles away from the campfire, laughing at something one of her clanmates yells after her. She leans against a nearby tree for support as she tries to make her way to Solas, coming up behind him to wrap her arms around his neck, lips pressed to his neck. “There you are!”

“Were you looking for me?” he says with a chuckle, the scent of wine heavy on her breath.

“Mm,” she hums against his skin. “Why are you out here alone? There are dangerous things in these woods, you know. Like wolves.”

He fights the urge to smile. “I’m not afraid of wolves, vhenan. And you can see the stars clearer out here than you can at Skyhold.”

“My clan has visited this spot before,” Elgara says. “I used to lie here at night and trace the constellations. Look—Fenrir shines brightly tonight.”

He doesn’t look, his eyes on her as she tells him about the White Wolf, the alcohol not affecting her love for the stories of her people. In another lifetime, she would have made a good Keeper. He knows that she doubts herself, knows that she is plagued by her own lack of self-worth, and the bitter anger that burns in her heart, stirred by her the fear of her desire to watch the world burn. She almost reminds him of himself sometimes, in ways that he rather wishes that she wouldn’t. They are opposite sides of the same coin; her fury is louder than his own, but she will never act on it while he will.

“You have that look again,” she says, trailing off as he realises that he hasn’t been listening to her story.

He blinks. “What look?”

“The one you get when you go all quiet and still, like you’re mourning for something you’ve yet to lose.”

Ma’lath, if only you knew. Solas feigns ignorance. “I was thinking.”

“Hm.” She doesn’t sound like she quite believes him. “About?”

 Perhaps he should have come up with a better lie. He had known that she would ask him to elaborate, as she always does, and now he’s grasping for something believable. “You are… comfortable here,” he says. “Calmer.”

“I am here on Inquisition business, but I am not here as the Inquisitor. Leliana has her men investigating the situation while we bolster the clan’s defences, and…” She pauses, leaning her head against his shoulder. “They do not judge me as the Inquisition does. I have always held an uneasy relationship with my clan, but it is not their place to pass judgement on my actions even if they think I have made a mistake. There are few in the Inquisition who are considerate enough to do the same.”

“You are the Inquisitor,” he says quietly. “They cannot see that there is anyone beyond the title.”

“But you can,” she says. “You do. You understand when few others do. Have you heard the criticisms I have received for allying with the mages rather than conscripting them? I nearly thought that Vivienne would walk out. Or after Halamshiral? My solution isn’t a permanent one, I know that, but Orlais is stronger with Celene on the throne, and with Briala to speak for the elves, and Gaspard to speak for the civilians.” She leans away from him, cheeks flushed from the alcohol, and silver eyes glittering in the light of the moons. “How do you do it? You make it seem so easy, and yet so many have failed.”

“I once stood where you stand now,” he says, the words escaping him before realising that she does not understand what he speaks of. He cannot tell her the truth, (he wants to) but he can give her what little information she can have. “There was… a war, in a land so far away its name has long since been forgotten.” His words are half truth, half lies. Elvhenan has not been forgotten, but what these shadows of Elvhen know cannot compare to the glory of the fallen empire.

If she has questions, she does not voice them. She sits, silent, listening, letting him take his time.

“It did not start with one, but she was always…” His eyes close. “I met her before the war, when she was… She was… always a leader of my people, but she was not important. Not at first. She was simply a woman who saw injustice in the world and dared to raise her voice loud enough to be heard. There is a fire that burns in your soul, vhenan, that reminds me of her. I…”

He is the Dread Wolf of legend. He is the one who had, intentionally or not, felled all of Elvhenan. He is older than even she can comprehend. He has walked all of Thedas thrice over, and yet…

The words catch on the tip of his tongue like flies caught in honey, desperately fighting to get free.

“You fell in love with her.” Elgara does not know even her name, does not know who and what she had been—I wish I could tell you, my love—but she knows him far better than he had ever thought she would, and he cannot hide such a truth from her.

“I did,” he says after a long silence. Had he ever told her that he had loved her? He cannot remember. The memories slip from him like sand escaping through his fingers. “It was impossible not to. She was… everything. But it was not meant to be. The leaders of my people began to fight amongst themselves, and she… She found herself fighting alongside them, and I was her commander. We both knew it wouldn’t last.”

She sits further back, knees pulled into her chest.

“We emerged victorious,” he says, skipping over the centuries of war that had almost torn Elvhenan apart. “But our side was left as weak as the other.”

She steps over the bodies, her hand clutching her staff so hard that her knuckles have turned white. The hem of her gown had been dyed a deep crimson, fresh blood darkening the stains that have long since dried. Birds pick at the corpses, spirits of grief and wrath flitting amongst the fallen soldiers. Save for the whisper of the wind and the flapping of wings, all is quiet, all is still.

“Mythal.” His hand comes to rest on her shoulder, the great General stilling beneath his touch. “My love.”

“Was it worth it?” she asks, voice hoarse, as she stares out across the endless expanse of fallen friends and foes. “Was this worth it?”

“I cannot answer such a question.”

“I know.” She does not turn to look at him. “I fear every other ending though. Bloodshed, or our end. But what was it for? A few centuries of peace that will not last?”

“It will last.”

“It will not.” She leaves no room for argument. “They want the blood of the Titans because it gives them power.”

“The mines have closed.”

“You think that will stop them?” She laughs, bitter, and angry. “No. We will war again, and this time it will not end in peace.”

“After the war, things changed.” Solas rips at the grass beneath them, uncaring of the damage he causes. “She was their triumphant leader. They had her wed.”

“To whom? To you?”

“No. The leader of the opposition.” He looks down at his hands, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice no matter how hard he tries. “I… I stood by. Watched as she raised children with him. I continued fighting for my people. There were rebellions, ones that could be easily frightened back into submission. Eventually, I came to be her equal, and I watched through the years as she fell in love with the man she once despised, but there was peace, and my suffering did not compare to the devastation that would have unleashed if she had not done her duty.”

 Out of the corner of his eye, she sees her stare off into the distance. She knows the sacrifices those with the same power as her must make, and she understands the suffering of a woman now centuries dead all too well.

“Her eldest son grew up surrounded by his father’s allies,” Solas continues. “Years passed, and their poison took root in his heart. He turned bitter, his fury at his mother knowing no bounds, and one day…”

Crimson on golden tiles as he rushes back to her side, desperate and praying that she still somehow lives, but in the seconds he had been gone, she had slipped away. Dirthamen stands on the other end of the hall, golden eyes cool and uncaring as though his blades are not wet with his mother’s blood.

“You do not have to continue, Solas.”

He does. (He has kept enough from her that she deserves to know this, even if it’s far from the whole truth.) “Another war broke out in her absence. Her husband’s and her own allies had conspired against her in a desperate attempt to secure more power. I led the charge against them.”

“Solas…”

“In the end, all that was left was ash and ruin, and the memory of a time long since passed. I stood in the shell of the only home I had ever known, and I left, unable to face the destruction my fury had caused. She had warned me that the second time would not end in peace, and I had not believed her. It was greatest mistake.”

“You fought to avenge the woman you loved. How is that a mistake?”

“I have no clan, Elgara.” His voice comes out angrier than he intends it to. “I do not have this. You do not have a family, but I have… nothing.”

She goes quiet, jaw clenched. “You have me.”

Solas’ heart stops, the tips of his ears flushing red with guilt. “I only meant—”

“I know,” she says, cupping the side of his face with an all-too-delicate hand.

Her lips still taste of the clan’s sharp, bitter wine, and her hair smells of wood smoke, but he doesn’t care. The world around them seems to fade away, and the long, sharp blades of grass beneath them are as soft as silk. Even the rocks that dig into his palms as he pins her beneath him fail to bother him. Her clan is not far off, still celebrating the return of their most famed clanmate long after she has slipped away, but the roaring fire and their raucous laughter drown the quiet ministrations of the Inquisitor and her apostate.

He pulls the pins from Elgara’s hair, tucking them into her pocket before she can hound him for losing them. Her messy curls come tumbling down her back, sprawling across the grass as she reclines, her nails digging into the nape of his neck. He will have marks in the morning; thin, jagged lines of dried blood crudely drawn by her touch.

Years from now, when she is dead from the actions he has no choice but to make, he will still feel the ghost of her fingers running down his back.

She grips the back of his head as he pushes her shirt upwards, leaving a trail of kisses down the golden expanse of her stomach while his fingers work to undo the laces of her breeches, tugging them down around her ankles. She lets out a gasp that’s practically music to his ears as he presses a cautious, solitary finger into her to find her wet and wanting, needing him to touch her like she needs air to breathe.

“Solas, ma’lath, please,” manages to tears from her lips in a ragged cry as he removes his finger, ever desperate and needy.

“Patience,” he admonishes, unable to keep himself from smiling as she lets out a frustrated groan, slamming her head back down into the grass. She opens her mouth to complain again, but before he has two fingers inside of her again, curling to brush up against the spot inside of her that makes her breathlessly gasp his name, back arching off the ground as she presses himself further into his touch.

Fenedhis, Solas—” she says through broken gasps. “Please. I need you.”

“You have me, vhenan,” he murmurs, letting his thumb brush over her clit.

She almost lets out a cry of frustration, caught somewhere between pleasure and desperation to have him inside of her. His cock is hard and aching for her, tenting the front of his breeches, but tonight isn’t about him.

“Not tonight,” he says.

“Tomorrow?”

He smiles. “Perhaps,” is all he says, slipping in another finger alongside his other two, feeling the warm, tight stretch of her around his fingers. It’s almost enough to make come right then, untouched, and in his breeches, and had he been a few centuries younger, he’s certain he might very well have.

As it stands, he’s watching from beneath heavy lidded eyes as a perfect dream of woman (who he absolutely does not deserve) is sprawled out in the grass before him, tunic pushed up above her breasts, and chest heaving with every ragged breath she takes. Her loose hair is intertwined with the grass, coils of brown curling around blades of green, and her golden skin shining in the light of the moons.

Her orgasm crashes over her like waves dying against the rocks below a cliff, starting slow until it washes over her entirely, consuming every part of her. Her toes curl in the grass, and her nails dig into his skin as she comes undone beneath his touch, his name escaping from her lips like it’s the only thing she can say. She flutters around his fingers as he coaxes her through her orgasm, murmuring Elvhen words she does not understand, teeth scraping the lobe of her ear and sending a shiver rippling down her spine.

Eventually, she calms, turning into a boneless pile that’s red from head to toe, her hair full of twigs and other debris. She lays there catching her breath even as he plays with her hair, curling it around his finger, and attempting to pick it clean as best as he can.

And in the light of the moon and stars, listening as her clan celebrates around the campfire late into the night, he can almost pretend that they’re somewhere else.

He can almost say that he’s happy.

Chapter Text

He shouldn’t be here.

The thought strikes him, quick, and sudden, like air being knocked from his lungs before he can even comprehend what had happened. They aren’t quite in the Fade, he can sense that much, even if the magic he’d possessed in his younger years comes flooding back all at once, like the rush of a river as a dam broke.

Everything is in a green haze, clouded and hazy, and the air carries the heavy scent of an age long since passed. (If he closes his eyes, he can almost pretend like nothing had changed, and he’d open his eyes to find her standing there, as resplendent as ever, a smile upon her lips as she holds out her hand for him to take. [But she isn’t standing there. Her bones have long since turned to dust, in a grave none but he knows the location of, and there’s another standing in her stead. Another who he might care for more than he had ever cared for her.])

“Is this… Are we dead?” Hawke is the first to speak, her dark brows knitted as she looks around them.

Solas thumbs the grip of his staff, trying to conceal the way that every breath he takes feels like inhaling air as cold as ice, tiny daggers pricking at his lungs as his magic comes back to him with every passing second. He had almost forgotten the Dreaming, had almost forgotten how magic felt curling around his fingertips, ready to be called upon at a moment’s notice. If they others feel it too, they say nothing, and a part of him knows that this is limited to him, and to only him.

“No.” Solas swallows, glancing to the Champion of Kirkwall out of the corner of his eye. “This is the Fade.”

If they escape from here, he knows that the magic will be ripped from him once again, and it will hurt twice as much as it had the first time.

He can see the Black City in the distance, almost close enough to touch. He could abandon his plans. From here, he could tear down the Veil, without need for the power of his orb, but all that would do is serve Corypheus, and his foolish attempt to conquer the waking world. He would see them suffer, and without his orb, he is not powerful enough to face him alone.

No, he will have to wait.

“We were… falling.” Elgara props herself up against a nearby pillar of stone, staff held tight in her hand. “We came through a rift, and…” She cuts herself off suddenly as Cole whimpers behind her, his arms wrapped around his shoulders. The outline of him almost flickers as he struggles to maintain his physical form, fighting the desperate urge to slip back into the spirit he is at heart. “Cole…?”

“I-I can’t be here,” the young boy stammers, eyes darting around wildly beneath the brim of his hat. “Not like this, not like me!”

Elgara is green, even without the Fade’s light, a moment’s away from being sick, but still, she flits to Cole’s side, peering beneath his hat to meet his eyes. “It’s all right, it’s all right,” she assures in a low voice. He hates that about her—he hates that even when she’s on the brink of collapsing, she still cares more about others than for herself. It will be her undoing. (It will be his too, for he has started to care more about her than about himself.) “We’ll get out of here. I just need you to hold on.”

Cole shakes his head, frantic, and on the verge of tears. “This place is wrong. I made myself forget when I made myself real, but I know it wasn’t like this. He knows too—this isn’t what was made by my hands, but even still, they are close enough to touch, laying in a dark and dreaming sleep as countless wars and ages passed.

His stomach twists, but neither Hawke nor Stroud know Cole well enough to make sense of his ramblings, while Elgara has long since become used to the boy’s cryptic words to pay him any mind.

 It is ultimately Cassandra who suggest escaping through the rift the Wardens were attempting to summon the Fear demon through, and so they set off towards the horizon, Cole disappearing and reappearing every few seconds, hesitating only when Elgara murmurs hushes reassurances.

“Elgara.” Solas pulls her aside, placing one hand on her forearm, Cassandra and Hawke continuing to lead the group, the Seeker animatedly discussing Hawke’s years in Kirkwall while the Champion clearly tries to avoid the subject. The Inquisitor looks tired, blood and mud staining her face.

“Is something wrong?”

“I could ask the same of you,” he says, looking to the crackling green mark on her hand. “The Anchor…”

As if on cue, the Anchor sparks, hissing as it comes in contact with the magic hanging in the Fade’s air. She grimaces, pain shooting up her arm. “I’ll be fine.”

“Elgara—”

“I’ll be fine,” she repeats. (He knows she’s lying, but what is he meant to do? He did this to her. [He is the reason her brother is dead, he is the reason she carries a title she had never wanted.]) She pulls her arm out of his grasp before he can stop her, knuckles straining against the leather of her gloves as she hurries to catch up with the others.

The encounter few obstacles on their journey towards the rift, and the rare demons that they come across are dispatched quickly. Solas can almost feel the fear demon speak more than he can hear it. Its grating voice sends shivers down his spine as though someone is standing just a hair’s breadth behind him, crooning in his ear.

I was wondering when you’d come, Dread Wolf, it whispers in his mind. But I had expected you to come alone. Shall we see what it is that you fear? I am quite certain that it carries her name.

Solas’ hands curl into fists. She is not yours.

And nor, trickster, is she yours.

The demon pulls from his mind then, but Solas has no doubts that it is still there, in the shadows waiting, watching, wanting. (You cannot have her. She belongs to neither of us. She is something that is beyond us both, and not even you could turn her against me. She will only be broken by what I will do.)

Solas’ heart drops when they round the corner, his mouth going as dry as the Western Approach. He had never met Divine Justinia, but he has seen the official portraits, seen the small scribbles Leliana discards without a second thought. A part of him knows that this isn’t her, that the woman standing before him is a spirit wearing the face of another, not unlike Cole. Yet, none of that matters, not to Cassandra who all but falls at the feet of the spirit with the face of her most treasured friend.

And it matters not to Elgara who stands there, back straight as an arrow, and her brows set in a line. “Justinia.” Her voice is colder than it has ever been, sharp and grating like ice.

The spirit’s eyes flick to meet hers. “Inquisitor Lavellan,” it says, Orlesian accent heavy.

“Stop this,” Elgara says tightly. “You’re not her. She died long before I was made Inquisitor, and you play a game that does little but hurt those around you.”

“Perhaps it is not that simple.”

“I know spirits. I have seen the things they have tried to tempt me with, and still I have walked away. You will not change that.” (He had not known that. He had not known that she had almost succumbed to the very affliction which the Chantry touts as the reason they lock mages in guarded prisons in a misguided attempt to protect them.)

“And yet, you now face a foe which you cannot possibly understand. You lash out in anger because you think you understand things that are beyond your comprehension, child. It is the Nightmare you forget upon waking. It is what created the false Calling, and now you have found yourself in its realm of darkness and fear where it has fed off of the memories when you were last in the Fade. Take them back.” The spirit approaches Elgara slowly before reaching forward and pressing its hand against her forehead with enough force to send her stumbling back.

She collapses in an instant, slumping over like a child’s doll. He moves at the last second, catching her before her head can slam against the rocky ground. She doesn’t respond, but her eyes darting about beneath their lids. All of a sudden, she wakes with a great inhale, scrambling to get away from Solas before she realises that it’s only him, and even if they’re in the Fade, she’s safe.

(She’s in his arms, and she’s safe. He won’t let the Nightmare hurt her as long as he lives. The only thing that can break her is him.)

“Solas,” she whispers, relaxing into his arms.

Vhenan.” He can feel her shaking like a leaf, mere moments away from being swept away by a gust of wind. He tries—in vain—to wipe some of the demon ichor from her face, serving only instead to smear it across her golden skin and stain his cotton sleeves. “What did you see?”

“She saw the truth.” If they hadn’t already been aware of the fact that the figure standing before them is nothing more than a spirit, they’d have realised it simply from the condescension and derision that drips from her voice. “Corypheus intended to rip open the Veil, and use the Anchor to enter the fade to throw open the doors of the Black City. Not for the Old Gods, but for himself. When she disrupted his plan, the Anchor was bestowed upon her, an intruder, rather than its rightful owner.”

I am its rightful owner, Solas almost wants to say as he helps Elgara to her feet. The suffering she endures now should be my own.

No. Compassion’s voice enters his mind with none of the unease that had followed the Nightmare’s message. She wanders trapped and afraid in the forest, alone but for the wolf that guides her. Her suffering has made her stronger, and now she stands, tall and proud for her people, and for you.

“Is that all?” Elgara’s jaw is clenched tight even as she still shakes.

“Yes. Did you wish there for to be more? Do you find yourself disappointed, child of the People?”

“I have learned nothing from this foolish display of yours. All you have done is reiterated information which I already know, and advised that we leave as soon as possible without providing a method to do so. The sole piece of advice you have given me is that I should break his damned orb next time it starts glowing!”

“Yet even that information may one day help you.” The spirit is calm in the face of her anger, lids languidly shutting over its cool gaze. “Come. We must make haste. You do not have time to waste, and there is still much you have yet to learn.” It turns, gaze focused elsewhere, and disappears into thin air.

Her anger is new, the Nightmare whispers in his ear. She used to hate, but never like this. It gnaws at her heart; poison spreading through her with your touch as its source.

Get out of my head, he growls, mental barriers slamming into place and forcing it out.

And it does, but what it does next is not much better. The Nightmare’s voice is a whisper, low and quiet but it might as well be shouting. “I was wondering when you’d return for what had been stolen from you, child of Mythal.” He can almost feel it laughing, a dark, mirthless chuckle that reverberates around them. Its voice almost sounds like the Betrayer’s as it had in his last moments, proud and arrogant. “You should be thanking me, girl. It would have weakened you. You are not as brave as your brothers, and still, look what became of them. You alone stand where they have fallen, but they were born for this role while you were not. Elgara Fen’ghil’lan Mythalen Lavellan—you will never live up to your name. You will never be enough.”

Elgara pushes her shoulders back, raising her chin. She can hide her fear from the others, but she can’t hide it from him. Tears prick at her eyes that she desperately fights back, her silver eyes glittering in the Fade’s emerald light. “We should get moving,” she says, shaking her head as she forces herself to snap out of the daze she’d found herself in. “We have little time as it is without us dawdling about.”

But Hawke doesn’t move. “What happened to your brothers, Inquisitor?”

She visibly swallows, unable to meet the Champion’s gaze. “They died. Seldras was… murdered by a noble from Kirkwall when the war began who saw just another ‘knife-eared mage’ who needed to put down. Mihren… Mihren was at the Conclave.” The death of her younger brother is still fresh in her mind, that much he can tell. It’s not even been a year, and the mark on her hand is proof that she’d simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it is by pure luck that she had survived when her brother had not.

Cassandra knows this. She’d been the one to tell her that she’d been the only one to surviving the explosion. Even then, the Seeker looks away, the proud warrior shrinking in on herself. “The Inquisitor is right. We should keep moving.”

“Running won’t make it any less true,” the Nightmare sings. “Although… Perhaps I should be afraid, facing the most powerful members of the Inquisition. Are you afraid, Cole? I can help you forget. Just like you help other people. We’re so much alike, you and I.”

Compassion is still flickering between his two forms, a green haze outlining his body. “No.” He says little else, barely able to stay solid let alone reply to the Nightmare’s childish taunts.

Solas almost reaches for him, and in the moment of weakness, the Nightmare slips back in through the cracks of his barriers, whispering in his ear. You do not deserve her. Do you truly think she will love you when she learns who you truly are? You will lose her, it says. When she finds out what you are, what you intend to do, you will lose her. She carries the soul of the woman you’ve already failed once before, and you will fail her once again.

Still, he ignores the Nightmare’s antagonising, keeping his feet moving one after the other.

Have you nothing to say in your defence? the Nightmare asks, unable to keep its laughter out of its voice. Does nothing matter to you but your own victory? This is why you will fail. This is why she will be the one who sees you fall. You know what you must do to succeed, but have you the strength to do it? There is blood on your hands that will never be able to wash off.

Solas hesitates, lingering behind the group a moment longer. Nothing is inevitable. What will come to pass will come to pass with or without me. I have a duty to the People, and I must see it through.

What of her? You have started to fall in love with her, have you not? You have begun to care for her more than you care about your cause.

And Solas doesn’t have an answer to that question.

Chapter Text

The first time he sees it, his heart seems to find its way into his throat. Everything about the Nightmare’s realm is meant to illicit fear, but even if he knows this, it doesn’t change a thing. He feels more powerful than he has in almost two years, and yet it changes nothing. In the face of everything that the Nightmare has to throw at him, he finds himself weaker than ever; his hands are shaking, and every time he tries to take a breath, the air seems to catch in his throat before it can reach his lungs.

He tries telling himself that it’s just an illusion, that the Nightmare has dug through his mind, and had plucked out the memories it had known would cut the deepest, and he finds his footsteps faltering, coming to a standstill as he is helpless, unable to do anything but watch.

It looks like her, down the sloping line of her vallaslin that curve around her cheekbones, and the lines the slant of her nose. Her hair tumbles in a combination of curls and braids down her back, a style not uncommon during the last days of Elvhenan, the ends fluttering even as she stands still as still can be, like a painting made manifest. But her eyes are not silver, like the sky just moments before dawn. They are gold now, bright and glittering, but behind them is a coldness not present in her own, actual eyes.

“It is happening again. The players have changed, and the pieces are different, but is still the same game. The wheel keeps turning, and now it has turned upon you.” It even sounds like her, down to the soft cadence of her speech, unable to keep the lilt of her Elvhen out of her Common. If he closes his eyes, he knows that he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them were it not for the stiff formality of its words compared to her familiarity. Its golden eyes settle upon him.

He tries to pay it no heed, tries to make his feet move again in a desperate attempt to catch up with the others who have yet to notice his absence as they climb the next hill, but his feet stay where they are, toes half buried in the ashy rubble.

“When will you admit to yourself that you know the truth? You know what she is. You know what you must do.” The Nightmare’s illusion tilts its head to the side, golden eyes watching him. “It is clear as day, even to me. There is a reason she burns so bright even if her heart is as cold as ice. She even wears the face of your once-love, and still you think this a coincidence—”

“You speak of things you know nothing about.” As soon as Solas looks up from the ground to address the illusion, it disappears, reappearing behind him without so much as a whisper of noise. He grinds his teeth, his patience wearing thin. “You treat the scribbled writings of a mad man as truth.”

“And you dismiss them entirely,” it says. “There is always truth in conjecture.” It runs its fingers across his shoulders, but he cannot feel its touch. “You still remember the last time you watched the world burn, don’t you, Wolf?”

He snarls, turning around to face its sneering visage. “You ask questions you know the answer to.”

“Hmph.” It turns his nose up at him, irritated that he has refused to play along with. “You know how this will end.”

“Solas?” Elgara stands at the top of the hill, brows fraught with concern, and silver eyes falling upon him. “Is something wrong?”

“Look at her,” the Nightmare’s illusion croons. “So perfect standing there, watching, waiting, wanting.  He wasn’t the only one who deserved her vengeance, not her mercy. Does she know the truths that lie in your hearts? Does she know that the teeth you have are a sharp as knives, and cut twice as deep? How will her blood feel on your hands? Or would you rather prefer to destroy everything that she is by having to carry the weight of your loss?”

“Elgara.” His voice cracks on her name, each syllable fractured and pronounced. Without hesitation, she flits to his side, dropping her staff by her feet just as he falls to his knees. Her hands are not like his own which are weathered and rough, calloused from gripping his staff a little too tightly for far too long. They, like the rest of her are soft, gentle. She is everything that she isn’t, everything he doesn’t deserve to have. The Nightmare is toying with him, but everything it’s saying is true.

He knows what she is.

And he knows what he will have to do.

Ma sa’lath,” she breathes out. “What’s wrong? Is it in your head? The Nightmare?”

“It was in yours?” he manages to get out through his teeth as it keeps crooning things in his ear.

Her eyes go glassy, gaze distant and far away. “It was in all of ours, I think. Cassandra saw her brother. Hawke saw Anders, and I… I saw Mihren, dying in front of my eyes in a blaze, alone and afraid, time and time again.”

And I see you. I see you becoming me.

“None of it’s real, Solas.”

It snarls angrily at her words. “Don’t listen to her. I’m as real as anything else in this damned world. You think I would exist if not for the thoughts in your head?” Alongside it, another figure forms out of a swirling mass of ash-grey smoke. First feet, and then legs, before it slowly creates an entire body with blue-grey eyes he recognises all too well.

The illusion of Solas turns to him, pointed ears twitching. It bares its teeth in a mockery of his smile, and that’s when he sees the silver glinting in its hand.

NO!” He knows that the other Elgara isn’t real, knows it’s just a poor imitation of the real thing, but his feet drive him of their own accord, and he’s diving towards it just to watch himself drive a knife through its chest, crimson blood staining the ashy ground and coating his hands.

(“We both knew it would come to this.” Fingers trace the outline of his lips, the shape of her flickering in and out. “From this start, this was the only way it could have ended.” [And it’s like he’s losing her all over again, but this time, he’s losing her to himself.])

The illusion crumples, but it fades away into smoke just before it hits the ground, and the image of him soon follows, its mimicry of his laughter ringing in his ears.

“Solas.” Elgara approaches him from behind, cautious, and wary. Her hand settles on his shoulder, but he recoils from her touch, images of her lying on the ground, eyes wide and lifeless, dead by his hands.

“Don’t touch me,” he manages to get out, scrambling away from her.

Her eyes are different, silver not gold, but still it changes nothing. It hadn’t been her, but it had. He’d watched her die—and watching her die all over again—and he can’t, he can’t, he can’t, he can’t. It’s different but it’s the same, even if a thousand years have passed, the wheel keeps turning, and it’s happening all over again.

(“You know what she is. You know what you must do.”

But I do not know if I have the strength to do it. I want more. I want this to be more. I want her, and I want for all the things I cannot have.)

Elgara, my love, I’m so sorry.

She pulls her hands back, cradling them against her chest. “It isn’t real.” She doesn’t know anything, not about him, not about what will come. He’s kept it all from her, and it’s not her fault for any of it. He has no one to blame for any of this but himself. “It might feel like it, but it’s not real, Solas.”

But it might be. Neither you nor I know what will come to pass.

Elgara has almost sunken in on herself, and for a second, he sees beneath that mask of perfection she has so carefully constructed for failing her followers. She’s exhausted, barely managing to carry on, but she has no choice but to. If she stops now, if she lets them know that she’s weak, she’ll fail herself just as much as she will fail those she leads. They are not in the heart of the Orlesian empire, but she’s still playing the Game even if they’re further from Orlais than they’ve ever been. She’s still pretending be someone she isn’t, and for a moment, betrayal flares in his chest. But then, hasn’t he been doing the same?

He doesn’t know her (not completely. He’s only seen her truth when they’re alone, kissing under the stars, and when she begs him to stay by her side, and like a fool, he always agrees), but she doesn’t know him either.

“What are you seeing?” she asks, the question posed so innocuously when its meaning is far more complex.

What are you scared of most?

He has lied to her enough, but this is not something he will mask in half-truths. (That is how it began last time: people in power lying to protect themselves rather than protecting those they had sworn to protect.)

“You.”

She does not need to know the whole truth, does not need to know that he fears that history will repeat itself as it always does, and he will be helpless once again. (A god, helpless, not once but twice. All the power in the world, and he still cannot save one, single life.) Or worse: becoming everything he had fought against for so long.

Elgara turns, and says nothing. “We should catch up with the others,” she says after a long silence, her tone cool and collected, but he knows her well enough that it is rarely her voice that give her away. Instead, it’s the way her ears twitch in poorly contained anger, or the way her grip tightens around the shaft of her staff as her pride struggles against the impulsive, rash decisions every part of her wants to make.

“Elgara,” he starts, but she does not stop to hear him out, leaving him behind to pick up the shattered fragments of his composure, and to follow after her.

Perhaps, just this once, you should have lied, Dread Wolf, the Nightmare croons in his ear in her voice.

Chapter Text

“Just go!” Elgara yells, staff in hand as she faces the Nightmare head-on. Her skin shimmers green-gold as her barrier flickers, the same colour as the spirit blade in her other hand. Her skin is dotted with flecks of demon ichor, black blood standing out against her golden complexion. The rift isn’t far now, but the Nightmare is slowly getting back to its many, spindly feet before letting out an enraged roar, baring sharp, rotten teeth.

“Inquisitor!” Cassandra shouts as the Nightmare comes up to the elven mage, evading her desperate swings, its claws sinking into her shoulder as it lifts her off the ground. Her feet dangle in the air, and her staff falls from her grip, its crystal focus shattering as it lands on the stone ground.

Before Solas can even react, Hawke dives towards the Nightmare with an anger the likes of which he has never seen. “Get away from her, you mangy piece of Fade shit,” she snarls, running the blade of her staff through the Nightmare’s stomach. It lets go of Elgara, casting her aside as though she weighs as little as a doll, and she lies slumped several feet away, unmoving save for the ragged rise and fall of her chest.

Solas doesn’t know what comes over him. Since they’d stepped foot in the Fade, his magic had been returning to him moment by moment, building up inside of him, and suddenly, the dam that had been holding it all back breaks. It rushes out of him all at once, ice flying from the tips of his fingers before he can stop it. Hawke skitters back just in time to avoid the worst of it, but the Nightmare doesn’t move, and soon, he has it encased from the neck down in a sheet of ice half a metre thick.

Elgara’s soul is ice, but fire flies from her fingertips freely, but his heart burns hotter than dragon fire, but his magic is as cold as the snow in the Frostbacks. Trapped by his magic, the Nightmare lets out another fierce, deafening roar, its void-black eyes settling on him. Then, with little more than a flick of his wrist, it is thrown against the opposite wall with enough force to make shards of stone tumble down to the ground.

He doesn’t give it a second glance as he all but runs to Elgara’s side. Blood stains her Dalish robes, dyeing green fabric crimson. She doesn’t stir beneath his touch, and for one, heart-breaking second, he fears that he has lost her, but then, he feels the flicker of her magic, as sharp as pine and as crisp as winter—and he doubles over her, her face cradled to his chest.

“Solas.” Cassandra is quiet, polite, as she approaches him. “We need to leave. Let me carry her.” If she has questions about his outburst of magic, she does not pose them. She bites her tongue as she hauls Elgara to her feet, carrying the slight mage in her arms as though she weighs nothing.

They scramble towards the rift, Cole, Cassandra, and Elgara disappearing in a flash of emerald light but Stroud stubbornly holds his ground, his sword drawn and held out in front of him.

“What are you doing?” Hawke says to him. “We don’t have much time!”

“Go,” says the senior Warden. “Someone must stay behind to keep it off of the others until the Inquisitor can close the rift.”

“That doesn’t have to be you.”

“Who else would it be? You?” Stroud grits his teeth, shaking his head. “No. Wardens started this, and a Warden must—”

“Help them rebuild!”

Solas has never been one to hide his distaste for the Grey Wardens. While their cause is noble, the means by which they achieve their ends have been shrouded in mystery for a good reason. They carry the Taint in their blood, and their Joining is little more than a glorified death sentence. He knows it is not his place to speak, but still, he looks over to Hawke. “And who would tell Varric that you had stayed behind?”

The Champion of the Kirkwall is a strong, proud woman but her composure still wavers at that. “He knows I have a duty. He’d understand.”

“Would he?”

“And what of Anders?” Stroud says just as the Nightmare begins to shake off the ice Solas had entombed it in. “Would you leave him so easily?”

His words push her over the edge. “Damn you, Stroud,” she says through angry tears.

But the Warden just smiles, even if he cannot hide the pain behind his eyes. “Go. Tell them I died a hero,” he says just before pushing them both through the rift.

Adamant Fortress is quieter than it had been when they had left. The fighting has long since stopped, and the Grey Wardens mill about in the courtyard, surrounded by Inquisition forces on all sides. Elgara stands in the centre of it all, leaning against Cassandra for support as healers flit about, knitting her shoulder back together. She casts one long look at him as he and Hawke both get to their feet, asking the silent question he knows she cannot voice aloud.

Stroud?

Solas shakes his head.

He sees her lips move, muttering a curse under her breath, before raised her marked hand. The rift snaps shut with little more than a green haze in the air left behind where it had once been. Wardens and Inquisition soldiers both erupt into cheers, unaware of the toll the experience had taken on them all, unaware of all the horrors they had seen. But then, one lone Warden—

“Where is Ser Stroud?”

Elgara waves off the healers even as they continue checking her for other, less obvious wounds, ignoring Cassandra protests. “Warden Stroud is dead,” she says, voice quiet but her words still carrying across the crowd. Still, beneath it all, he can hear her barely contained anger. “He died for your idiocy, trying to fix the mistake you made. You blindly followed a woman you knew was corrupt, and you did so without question, and now, an innocent man is dead.”

“Inquisitor—”

“Whatever you have to say, I do not wish to hear it. You have done enough harm. You will all leave Orlais, and you will not return until I say otherwise, is that clear?” she snaps at the Warden. Protests erupt around her. “You have done enough damage trying to ‘fix wrongs.’ If this is what your help looks like, the Inquisition will have no part in it.”

It is Blackwall’s protests that are the loudest of them all. “And what would you have me do, Inquisitor?”

“I’d prefer if you stayed, Ser Blackwall, but if you feel your duty to the Wardens is more important the immediate threat to the lives of all Thedosians, then you are free to leave,” she says, pushing them away as once again try to fret over her, and disappearing into the crowd, leaving Cassandra to address the consequences of the decision she’d made without consulting anyone else.

He finds her, almost a half hour later, hiding in a tucked away corner of the upper ramparts, her knees pulled into her chest as she looks down at the devastation surrounding Adamant. The dead are near countless, bodies of demons, Wardens, and Inquisition soldiers blanketing the golden sands in a large swath of dark fabric and even darker blood. Silently, he takes a seat beside her.

“Do you think I made the right choice?” The words are the first thing she has said to him since he’d told her what the Nightmare had shown him. He knows she doubts herself at every turn, always fearing that she will never live up the standards that had been imposed onto her. It had not been her destiny to lead a force of this size. That, he had forced upon her unknowingly when he’d given his orb to Corypheus.

Solas almost laughs despite the graveness of her question. “I did not think I had hidden my distaste for the Wardens.”

A pained smile flits across her lips. “You haven’t, and I cannot say that I do not understand them, but this is… larger than merely our own opinions.”

“Do you speak of your decision, or of something greater than either of us?”

Elgara sighs, looking down at her blood stained hands. “I can’t hide anything from you, can I?” No, my love, you cannot, but I cannot count the things I have hidden from you. “Regardless. We will be fighting Corypheus without the Wardens’ aid, but I did not want to risk a repeat of what has occurred once already.”

Vhenan,” he says. “You are the Inquisitor, and I will stand by your decisions whether I believe them to be right or not. I am not… a spiritual person, but I have faith that you will do great things. I have faith in you, ma sa’lath.

(The gods you worship I know to have been little more than fools playing a game they’d never understood, but if I am to follow, it is you I would follow into the dark.)

“You give me more credit than I am due, Solas.”

“What you are due, what you deserve, is subjective, but I know that it is so much more than what you currently have.”

She lets out a small, breathy laugh. “I have you, now don’t I?” she says, the words he’d spoken to her in the Fade all but forgotten.

“You do,” he agrees, forehead pressed against hers as she traces the outline of his jaw with a gentle touch. “I am yours, vhenan, and I always will be.”

She does not know how much longer “always” is for him than it is for her.

Chapter Text

“No one else can know of this,” she says to the scout before her, the poor elven girl’s hands gripping the parchment so tight that it had crumpled. On the surface, Leliana is as cool and as collected as ever, refusing to let anyone see even a flicker of weakness, but there is something behind her pale eyes that darker somehow. It passes before he can name it, her gaze hardening as it falls upon him. “Ah. Solas. You came.”

He waits for the scout to pass by him, scurrying off her with her head tucked down low, before turning his attention to the Inquisition’s spymaster. “You asked to see me, Lady Nightingale?”

“I did,” Leliana says, voice so low he can barely hear her over the cawing of her many ravens. “Come with me.”

She leads him out through a small door that is almost hidden in the stone wall, stepping out onto a balcony that overlooks the bailey, wringing her gloved hands before her. He has never seen her so anxious, preferring to leave the worrying to people like Josephine.

He doesn’t know her that well, not enough to approach her with any degree of familiarity. Solas frowns. “What is on your mind?”

“Before I tell you, you must swear to me that you will tell no one. By all means, I should not be telling you, but it is clear that the Inquisitor cares for you more than she does for anyone else.” She trails off then, waiting for him to confirm that he’ll bite his tongue.

He inclines his head in a nod.

“I have received a report from Wycome,” Leliana says, looking down over the people milling about below them, on the way elsewhere or simply enjoying the calm afternoon. “I have been investigating the situation for some time now, and all was quiet, but then…” She glances at him out of the corner of her eye. “I thought them to be little more than rumours, but according to what I heard today…”

Dread gnaws at his stomach. “Thought what to be little more than rumours?”

Leliana clenches her jaw. “Solas—”

“What are you hiding from Elgara, Leliana?” Solas growls, taking a step towards her. The Nightingale is not an entirely unthreatening person, but still, she recoils away from him, pressing herself against the low, stone wall. “You are her spymaster. She trusts you.”

“Duke Antoine is the one who set the ‘bandits’ upon her clan,” Leliana blurts out, eyes flashing with anger. “How would you have me break that to her?”

Solas freezes, her words feeling like a punch to the stomach. “Her clan—”

“Is currently living just outside of Wycome, yes,” she says. “And I do not believe he will let this rest until they are all dead, simply because he does not believe an elven woman should be the Herald of Andraste.”

“Elgara has made no claims to holiness.”

“But outside of the Inquisition, has she made that clear? They do not know her beyond the image Josephine has so carefully constructed for her. They do not know that she, like us all, has her own wants and desires.” Leliana’s gaze softens then, no doubt aware of the relationship the two of them share even if they had withheld it from the others. “He will surely strike against them once more.”

“Then why is he not yet dead?” The wolf with him bites and snaps at its restraints, fighting the urge to do something he knows he will later regret, but for reasons he has yet to fully understand (and reasons he will look back on years from now and know that there was no other way their story could have gone) he has come to think of Elgara as his. Not anyone else’s. His.

And in an attempt to protect Elgara from the truth, all Leliana had done is betray her.

“He is the duke of Wycome,” Leliana says, a frown crossing her delicate features. “Josephine can only justify the Inquisition’s actions to a point, and I can only cover up so much.”

“And so you kept this information from her.”

“The Inquisitor has enough to deal with without adding to her problems, but this is still something that affects her. She trusts you more than she trusts anyone else.”

 His eyes narrow. “Would you have me tell her on your behalf? Is this what this is about?” his question is met with silence. “And so the humans show that as much as they advocate for the Elvhen, they still turn away when they have a chance to truly changes things.”

“That is not what this is about.” The Lady Nightingale is frightening woman who has the blood of countless on her hands, but he had felled an entire empire, and he will not bow to her. “She trusts you more than she trusts me.”

“And why do you think that is?”

Leliana flinches away from him as he leans in towards her. “Solas—”

He doesn’t stay to hear the rest of it, blood pounding in his ears for reasons he can’t quite understand. He has seen this before, seen the humans claim to see the elves as their equals but still treat them as lesser beings without a second thought. Solas does not want to say that has as much of a dislike for humans as Elgara does (for twenty seven winters, she has faced their distaste for her people. If it weren’t for people like Duke Antoine, her eldest brother would still be alive.)

Elgara starts as he enters her quarters, almost knocking her bottle of ink over as she pushes herself away from her desk, work discarded. “Solas…?”

“Duke Antoine is the one that set the bandits upon your clan.” The words come rushing out of him all at once. He has kept enough secrets from her, and this truth is the only consolation he can offer, even if it is not something she wishes to hear.

A muscle twitches in Elgara’s jaw. “I see,” she says tightly, pushing her shoulders back as she rounds her desk. She can’t quite meet his gaze, and even if her hands are clasped behind her back, he can see the slight tremor that she’s trying so hard to hide. “How do you know this?”

“Leliana informed me.”

She lets out a shaking breath. “How long has she known?”

“She did not say.”

“And why did she tell you, and not me?” Elgara has made her distaste for her position clear, but she had begrudgingly accepted it a long time ago, and she cannot see this as anything but a betrayal. “She is my spymaster—”

“Because she’d received word that Antoine intends on sending bandits until they’re all dead for the apparent ‘disrespect’ that comes with having an elf as the Herald of Andraste.”

“Has anyone informed him that I renounced that title many months ago?” she growls, barely managing to contain her frustration as she picks up her satchel from the ground, throwing in a spare change of clothes.

“Where are you going?”

“Where do you think?” she snaps at him, turning her anger onto him. “To Wycome! Do you truly know so little of me that you think I’d sit complacently while that shem slaughters my entire family?”

“That’s hardly what I meant, and you know it,” he says with a sigh. “Elgara, you cannot go to Wycome alone—”

“I have no other choice, Solas!” She’s on the verge of tears, barely holding them back. “The shemlen have taken enough from the People—from me as it is. I hold little affection for my clan, but does that mean they deserve to die, and why are they to be punished for my crimes? They are not guilty. You’ve met them. They are innocent in this, and you would have me sit by and watch them die? I am the Inquisitor, but I am the First of my clan before anything else.”

Her elder brother—killed by human nobles all for possessing pointed ears and having magic in his blood. Her younger brother—burning to death in magefire, crying out for his sister as the emerald flames enveloped his entire world, his last thoughts of her.

The shems have taken enough from her as it is.

They will not be allowed to take anyone else.

“If you are going, then I am going with you.”

She has a way of making him say things he had never expected to ever say. He would give her the entire world if he could, and if there is a Maker, if there is a god, he can only pray that He grants her everything she has ever wanted for. She is better than them all, better than what they deserve, and still, she suffers more than the worst of them.

She makes him want to be better than he is, makes him want to stray from his path just to please her even if he knows that his feet will eventually lead him down this road, one way or another.

“They’re not your people,” she says, quiet and hoarse, voice on the verge of breaking. “I do not expect you to care.”

“But they are yours.”

And I care more about you than I do about even myself. I am a selfish creature, my love, but for you, I’d give up everything.

She chokes back tears. “Thank you.”

Chapter Text

He sees the smoke long before he sees the fire. It billows up in plumes high above the trees, roiling grey clouds against the midnight sky. Beneath the hood of her emerald cloak, Elgara’s expression darkens, gritting her teeth.

Solas looks her way, but there’s no point. She’s retreated into herself as she had in Halamshiral, all cold and calculating, head held high. Her grip tightens on the hilt of her staff, refusing to even consider what they both know to be true. She picks up her pace, her hood falling back as she fights the urge to run as fast as she can. Still, she almost trips over her own feet in her rush.

When they had visited her clan last, the clearing had been full of aravels with bright crimson sails, their wooden frames engraved with intricate swirls, and other Dalish imagery. Children had been running around, their feet bare, and chasing after each other while their parents looked on in amusement. Last time, Deshanna had pulled him aside, her thin lips pursed, and had told him that she knew his secret, that she knew what he was.

This time, however, there is nothing but fire, ruin, and rubble.

Flames lick uselessly at the barrier he summons around them both, fire dying as his magical shield absorbs the heat. There is nothing left of the clearing her clan had once inhibited but skeletal trees, their charred, empty branches reaching out towards the night sky. Overturned aravels are just visible through the smoke, their once vibrant coverings lying in the dirt, riddled with blackened holes.

She moves slowly until she stands in the centre of it all, his barrier protecting her bare feet from the embers she crushes underfoot. She grips her staff so hard that he thinks that the wrought metal might shatter beneath her fist, its silver surface glittering in the firelight. The bodies of her fallen brothers and sisters scattered the earth, their features long since burned away, leaving behind nothing but dark, charred husks that barely resembles living beings.

Elgara does not weep, her heart as cold as ice, and her grey eyes like steel as she looks out over what is left of her people.

There is nothing he can say that will ease her suffering. She had put the Inquisition first, had begrudgingly accepted the title they had forced onto her, and in doing so, she had lost everything. She is the last of her people now, just as he is the last of his.

Delicately stepping over the bodies that litter the ground around her, bodies as far as his eyes can see. “Was it worth it? Was this worth it?” she asks him, and he does not know. How many of the people around them were friends? How many were foes? How many, few as they might be, were friends caught up on the wrong side of this war they had never wanted to be a part of?

 “I cannot answer such a question,” he says. He’d sworn not to lie to her. There are things he will change about himself, only for her. She deserves better than him as it is, and he will do his utmost to be worthy of her.

“I know. I feared every other ending though. Bloodshed, or our end. But what was it for?”

“Elgara.” She doesn’t turn at the sound of her name, still scanning the clearing as though someone—anyone—will come stumbling out of the smoke. No one does. “Vhenan.”

“It’s gone.” Her voice is hoarse, from the smoke or from unshed tears, he doesn’t know. “Everything’s gone. Everyone’s gone.” Her toes curl in the ash and dirt as she slowly makes her way through all that’s left of her people. “This is how it will always end. In flames, and with spilled blood that need not have been spilled. They will never let us live. In the end, they will always hunt down like sport, like the rabbits they call us.” She closes her eyes, fighting back tears, but still, does not lower her head from where she holds it, tall and proud. “They will pay for this. I will make them pay. I will burn all of Wycome to the ground, if I have to.”

She wears the face of Mythal, but she is named after Elgar’nan, and he cannot forget that. She is justice, but she is also vengeance. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

A life for a life.

“Not all in Wycome are guilty.” He does not know why he warns her against this path she has chosen to walk. The one he has chosen to walk is darker, full of even more suffering, of even more death, but she is better than this. Better than him. Though he has yet to commit the crimes he knows he must, the lives that rest on his shoulders already weigh him down. They will all die in the end, but not at her hands. This is her burden to carry, not hers. The guilt that has haunted him since he’d locked the Evanuris away had become a familiar friend. She deserves better, deserves more.

(She deserves everything he knows she cannot have so long as she loves him.)

“They are all guilty.” Her silver eyes are amber in the light of the flames, her fury burning from within, and the fire burning from without. (She is too similar to the one with golden eyes and golden skin, as proud and as fierce as she had been, but her anger is beyond compare.) “They built their empires on the bones of my people. They crush us beneath the heels of their boots as though we are nothing more than insects who only exist to irritate them. Even if there are those whose hands are clean of the blood of my people, they only live because the very ground upon which they walk is seeped with it.”

“Elgara.”

Solas knows regrets. Were the spirts not trapped in the Dreaming, he knows he’d be followed by a spirit of regret every waking moment. He cannot count the amount of lives he carries on his conscience, and he will never be allowed to forget that there is a reason the Dalish curse his name. Even if he had not betrayed them as their tales say he had, he is still the reason Elvhenan had fallen. They hate him for the wrong reasons, but the reasons hardly matter.

He cannot let her do this. She does not deserve to suffer as he had—as he does.

“This is not what you want.”

“You know not of what I want,” she says, fierce, angry tears pricking at her eyes. “Do you know what it is like to have lost everything?”

I know more than you know, my heart. Solas looks away, unable to meet her gaze. “Making the shemlen suffer will not bring them back.”

She doesn’t acknowledge his words, eyes flitting to focus on movement on the horizon. He follows after her, helpless and silent. Two of the Duke’s men have lingered behind, carrying lit torches in their hands that they use in an attempt to reduce an aravel to ash. They laugh and joke, uncaring of how many lives have been lost here, uncaring of how much thinner the Veil already is, uncaring of how the earth beneath their feet is stained with blood. Instead, they swat each other’s shoulders as they shatter fallen pots with the toe of their boots, laughing all the while.Elgara’s bared teeth flash in the light as she raises her fist, large shards of ice erupting from the ground, unaffected by the heat of the fires. It entombs the feet of the human soldiers, freezing them where they stand.

You,” she snarls, their eyes widening as their gazes fall upon the Dalish mage. “You will pay for this.”

“Get away from us!” the larger of the two soldiers cries. “Knife-eared wench! You should have burned with the rest of them!” She clenches her fist tighter, magical ice crackling as it grows up the man’s body, his tone suddenly changing as he stammers out an apology that falls on deaf ears. “P-please don’t kill us! We were— We were o-only following orders! You s-should blame the D-Duke!”

“Trust me,” she says in a low voice, ice seeping into the man’s veins, slowly freezing him from the inside out. “Antoine will pay for this too.” She closes her fist entirely, and he shatters into a hundred small pieces of frozen flesh that thaws as soon as they land near the burning fires. The mage turns her gaze to the second soldier. “Tell Antoine I’m coming for him.”

With a dismissive wave, the ice encasing his lower half disappears, and she watches with gritted teeth as he scampers off into the distance.

As soon as he is out of sight, Elgara falls to her knees, dropping her staff by her side as she buries her face in her hands, choking on the sob in her throat. She is wordless, on her knees in the ashes, surrounded on all sides by flames almost as tall as him, desperately praying to gods that will never hear her.

“Dread Wolf take them all,” she mutters, so quiet he can barely hear her. “They will burn for this. They have taken everything for the last time. The Elvhen will bow to them no longer.”

“Getting revenge will not bring them back,” he says.

“And you cannot change the world with fury alone,” she shoots back, throwing back the words his friend had spoken to him all those months ago. “You are not one to judge me for actions.”

“I know,” he says, “but you will not be able to walk away from this.”

She still does not look up at him, but she has stilled somewhat, even if her breath still hitches in her throat. “And if I do not want to?”

“Then, my love,” he says, hand resting on her shoulder, “that is a price you must be prepared to pay.”

Chapter Text

The great wooden doors of Wycome’s palace slam against stone walls, violently pushed open as though they aren’t tall enough for a giant to pass through, and made of solid oak plated with sheets of steel. There, in the doorway, backlit by the amber sky as roaring fires ignite the dark, she stands, chest heaving as she tries to catch her breath, and blood splattered across her face. Her silver eyes are dark, stormy, and they fill with rage as they settle upon Duke Antoine of Wycome, lazily sprawled across his carved wooden throne, iron crown encircling his balding head.

And Solas… Solas watches, silent and still. He is the Dread Wolf, but this story is hers, and the revenge she takes tonight, it is not for him. Tonight is hers and hers alone.

“Inquisitor Lavellan.” A sneer stretches across the man’s weather visage, black eyes glinting in the light. He flexes his hand, examining his nails. “I was wondering when you would deign to grace my court with your presence.”

“How dare you jest.” Her voice is on the verge of breaking, trembling with uncontrollable anger. Guards start towards her, swords drawn, as she approaches Antoine on his raised dais, but she barely glances their way, gritting her teeth to keep from shedding tears. “People are dead. Innocent people. Children.”

“And how many people did you kill on your way to exact revenge?” Antoine hisses, pushing himself to his feet. He towers over the slight mage, matching her pride with her own. “You elves do not know your place. ‘The Herald of Andraste.’ Is there nothing you elves will not take from us?”

“I have never once claimed that the title unwillingly thrust upon me was true!” She’s holding on by a single thread that’s close to snapping. He doesn’t know how she’s held on as long as she has. “You would kill my people for an imagined slight?”

“Your kind were a mistake. Even if you do not claim to be holy, you would be a fool to think that that means your people deserve to live. I am doing the world a favour by ridding of you knife-ears.”

This is her fight, but Solas wants to step in. He wants to make the shem bow before her, wants to make him see that even if she is not Elvhen, she is closer to being of the People than any other elf is, and he is a fool for disrespecting the sole thing that redeems this world. She is the only thing in this world that is worth saving.

But as he said: this is not his fight.

“You will pay for your crimes, Antoine.” Elgara says, looking down at the Anchor. “They died scared and screaming, and so too shall you.”

The room is taciturn, until suddenly—

The guards’ feet are frozen to the floor, ice encasing their lower half, rooting them to where they stand, no matter how much they curse. Antoine reaches behind him, no doubt attempt to pull out the dagger his guard captain had forced him to carry on him at all times, but even that is rendered useless with nought more than a simple gesture. Elgara has him pressed up against the wall behind him, dagger falling out of his grip and clattering on the ground.

“You think you can stop me?” she says, a bitter laugh escaping her. “No. No, you made a decision, you face the consequences.”

“You will burn for this, knife-ear,” he snarls as she steps closer, the blade of her staff clicking against the floor. “You will burn as Andraste did, but the Maker will not save one as forsaken as you.”

A smile stretches across her lips, all teeth, and no humour. She does this not for her, but for her people, for the last few members of her family who’d died because they’d been caught up in something she’d never wanted to be a part of. The Inquisition had taken everything from her. Everything she had done in the past few months, she had done in the name of others. Even this is for her family.

Still, a part of it, he knows, is also for her.

She could let him walk out of here. She could show him kindness. Mercy. But she is not kind, and he does not deserve her mercy.

“Let me burn,” she says, voice as cold as ice, “so long as the rest of world burns with me.”

With one fell swoop, she brings up the blade of her staff, silver metal glinting in the light just as she drags it across his throat. His body collapses as she dissipates her magic, falling to the ground and a pool of crimson forming beneath his twitching body. His dark eyes still stare up at the ceiling, glassy and wide. She waves her hand and frees the guardsmen too, but they stand still where they’d been frozen, paralyzed by fear. Elgara pays them no heed, stepping over Antoine’s body, just managing to avoid the blood that runs through the gaps between the stone tiles.

She doesn’t speak a word even as they leave Wycome, leaving all the Duke’s properties in flames. Her hands grip the reins of her horse, and her head is held high, but as soon as they are outside the city walls, far away from the shemlen, she dismounts her horse, falling to her knees in the grass, face buried in her hands.

And he swears that when she looks up, her eyes are gold.

Chapter Text

Solas can hear them fighting, the thick wooden doors separating him from the others doing nothing to muffle Cassandra’s shouting. Elgara voice is quieter, calmer, but even that echoes down the long corrido, the venom in her words louder than the warrior’s yelling.

He waits just outside, hands clasped behind his back as he looks out of the yet-to-repaired walls of the hallway, the ancient Elvhen enchantments keeping the biting cold of the Frostbacks at bay. Solas and Elgara had not been in Skyhold for more than twenty minutes before the two of them had been summoned to the war room, though Cassandra had immediately dragged Elgara into the room, leaving Solas outside to wait. They’d been in there for the better part of an hour now, and still they argue as though they can change what has already happened. Duke Antoine is dead, his estates razed to the ground, and the entirety of Wycome had watched the Inquisitor do it. Little can be changed about that now.

The door creaks as it swings open, Cassandra waiting in the doorway with her arms crossed. Her lips are set in a scowl, her eyes stormy. “Solas,” she growls.

“Oh, leave him out of this.” Elgara’s lost what little patience she normally possesses, the past few weeks more trying than ever. They have not had one moment to breathe since leaving for Adamant, and she is at her wit’s end.

Cullen looks more exhausted than ever, the normally faint bags under his eyes as dark as ink, and his curly hair is a mess, unruly curls falling over bloodshot eyes. He pinches the bridge of his nose with two fingers, letting out a sigh.

“You understand that your actions have consequences, I hope?” he says, bracing himself against the war table and eyeing Solas. “What you allowed her to do cannot simply be swept under a rug.”

“I think you will find, Commander, that I, like you, have little say in what the Inquisitor chooses to do.” Solas presses his lips together, his gaze cold and calculating. “Not that she made the decision she did without reason.”

“Don’t tell me you support her!” Cassandra snaps, Nevarran accent growing thicker in her anger.

“Do you take me for someone who would condone such needless acts of violence, Seeker?” Solas asks, one coppery brow raised as he glances over at her. Instantly, a flush washes over her cheeks and she breaks his gaze, ducking her head in shame.

It had been an honest question, not an accusation. Despite already regretting what he knows must come to pass, he has little choice but to condone what Elgara had done. It had been within her right, and the men have done enough to those of elven blood as it is. They are not his people, but the blood of the People still run through their veins, and they will pay for their crimes.

Or perhaps it hadn’t been a question at all.

(Perhaps he’d just become tired of lying.)

“The matter still stands that the Duke Antoine is dead, and Wycome is on the brink of declaring war with the Inquisition,” Josephine says quietly, her melodic lilt shy and timid as she interjects, trying to bring the chaos under control. “They demand an explanation.”

“Is the death of the Inquisitor’s clan not enough of a reason?” Solas asks the advisor, only aware of how loud the room had been when everyone goes silent.

“The death of the Inquisitor’s…” Cassandra starts, her anger dissipating. Only Leliana does not seem shocked by this revelation, though her blue eyes quickly turn dark, and she cannot hide the way she stands a light straighter, a little stiffer, as though fighting to hide her own fury. The Nevarran warrior turns to look at Elgara, even as the Inquisitor shrinks in on herself, hands clenched in fists by her side. “Inquisitor, you did not say—”

“I do not wish to speak of it,” she says tightly. “I told you that Duke Antoine committed a crime against me and mine, and as your Inquisitor, you ought to have accepted that as reason enough.”

“But your clan—”

“I know,” she snaps at her, eyes flashing with anger. “I stood in the same fires that reduced my people to ash. I stepped over their charred corpses, little more than unrecognisable messes of blackened skin and bone. I found Antoine’s men, laughing and joking as they lit fire to my people. There is nothing left of my clan. Not one mother, not one child. Not a single soul was spared from Antoine’s rage except mine.” Her voice wobbles, on the verge of breaking, but still, she raises her head ever-higher. “Now tell me: why did I learn this information from Solas rather than the people meant to inform of things such as this?”

“That… I will take responsibility for, Inquisitor,” Leliana says quietly, hands clasped behind her back. “We thought it best if you were focused on the task at hand. Morrigan recently approached us—”

“Focused on the task at hand?” Elgara repeats. “You would have had me stand by while my whole clan was murdered?”

“The plan was to address it before you found out,” says Cullen. “It seems as though not everyone agreed with that plan, but the fact still stands that you ought to have consulted us before deciding that the Duke’s head needed to be separated from his shoulders.”

“Consulted you?” Solas snarls, baring his teeth. “As you consulted the Inquisitor?”

“I remind you, Solas, that you are here because you were the only one in a position to stop her, and yet you did nothing.”

The apostate inhales through his nose. “You speak as though her desire was not reasonable.”

Josephine presses her lips together, interrupting before another argument can break out. “Perhaps this can still be salvaged. The Inquisition’s forces are too large for Wycome to reasonably declare war.”

“You think they’re bluffing?” Cullen asks.

“Please,” the Spymaster scoffs. “Declaring war against the Inquisition is all but suicide.”

“Do whatever you wish. It’s clear that my opinion matters little to you,” Elgara says, standing tall and proud but he knows beneath the mask she wears, her heart is fractured, like a frozen lake on the first day of spring. She has always been careful, cautious, ready to explore her options before doing anything she might regret, but he knows that she has changed. The rules no longer apply, and she would sooner watch the world burn than put anyone before herself again.

Solas does not scare easily. He is not a child. He is the Dread Wolf, and he has lived longer than anyone can ever imagine. He has seen things that would have broken anyone else. Still, a part of him shirks, recoiling inwards.

And he’s scared. Both of her, and for her.

Cassandra catches her by her arm as she passes by, ready to storm out of the war room and up to her quarters where she can fall apart without letting anyone else see. The Nevarran’s anger had subsided when she’d learnt Elgara’s reason for her actions. “Inquisitor, please—”

Elgara pulls herself out of the warrior’s grip, shaking her head. “I was a fool to trust any of you,” she says, slamming the great wooden door behind her. No one dares to utter a word; no one dares to move.  He can sense their regret, their quiet shame, as they’re left to live with what they’ve done.

Solas is the first to break the silence, even as Josephine chokes on the tears she angrily fights back. “How long have you known?” he asks, turning his attention to Leliana and Josephine.

“Not long enough that we could have stopped it,” Leliana says in a quiet voice. “By the time we knew, his men were already marching, and that was when I told you. But… Perhaps if we had acted sooner… we could have saved some of them. Their lives are on our head.”

“Tell her…” Cullen starts, unable to raise his head as Solas starts to leave. “Tell her we’re sorry.”

“Apologies, Commander,” Solas says, lingering in the doorway, “will not fix this.”

Chapter Text

 He has been here before.

This ground, he has walked once already, even if the trees that now tower over their heads had yet to even been planted last time. Still, it’s all familiar. The earth beneath his feet carries magic he has not felt in a long time. On the surface, it has changed, but beneath—like him—it is what is has always been, and now she’s taking him back to where it had all begun.

(“This fight was never yours, but it seems now that you must continue alone. I’m sorry.” As am I, my love.)

Does she know, he wonders, that this is where it all began? Does she know that she walks where she was made?

No. Of course she doesn’t. She doesn’t know what she is, does not know what she is destined to become. It’s not her fault. She has almost no reason to know. Her people had struck anything to do with the Dread Wolf from their histories, and what little had remained did anything but paint him in a favourable light. She doesn’t know, and if he has any say in the matter, she’ll never find out either.

Elgara had grown distant since the loss of her clan, spending most of her days in her quarters, or speaking with Compassion. He had almost invited himself to her quarters on several occasions, if only to make certain that she wasn’t dead, but he’d abandoned the idea each time. What was he even meant to do if she let him talk to her?

(Ask her if she was all right? He knows that she isn’t. She couldn’t possibly be. Not after everything.)

She stands now in the centre of the chaos, head held high as she speaks with Empress Celene, refusing to show even an ounce of weakness before the human woman. The Empress appears wildly out of her comfort zone, the hem of her pale pink dress stained with mud, irreparably damaging the silk. Her white-blonde hair which had been oh-so-elegantly tied up when she’d arrived is now plastered to the nape of her neck with sweat, braids coming undone.

Elgara seems more in control than she has in a long time, confident and self-assured, even if it’s only a mask she’s putting on for the Empress’ sake. (“Why do you hide want to hide what we are, Solas? Being an elf is just as much a part of me as the Anchor is. They mustn’t be allowed to forget that.”) One hand is curled loosely around the shaft of her staff, the silver metal glinting in the dappled sunlight. Her conversation falters, and she mutters something to Celene before excusing herself.

“You’re looking…” Solas doesn’t have the right words. “Better.”

Her skin is still ashy, and there are fine wrinkles where there weren’t any before. She still does not look well, and it clear she has spent more nights awake than she has asleep. She seems to nose this, a small laugh escaping her. “I don’t know if I could look worse.”

He can’t bring himself to meet her eyes. She’s always had an intense gaze, one that could stare through his soul, and see the walls of lies the Dread Wolf hides behind. She knows that he isn’t who he says is, of that much he is certain, and still she says nothing.

“The battle’s been raging for hours now,” she continues after a long pause. “We are to make our final push soon. I want you with me. We do not know for certain what Corypheus wants this deep in the Arbor Wilds, but we must get to it before he does.”

“For certain?” he repeats. “Then you have a clue?”

“I did not wish to share with everyone else, as Morrigan’s word is unreliable, at best, but she suspects that he is after an ancient Elvhen artefact. It would allow him, Morrigan believes, to travel to the Fade without the Anchor.”

Solas’ heart skips a beat. He’d thought he’d had most of those hidden away, but it couldn’t possibly be active, could it? He grinds his teeth, trying to hide the way his stomach twists at her words. “An Eluvian.”

“You know of them?”

“In the days of Elvhenan, they were used to travel great distances in a single breath. They are imbued with old, ancient magic. Were Corypheus to get his hands on one… He would be…”

“Unstoppable,” she finishes, cursing beneath her breath. “All the more reason I would be glad to have you by my side, Solas.”

“You would not prefer another in my stead? Perhaps someone who can I protect you than I?”

“I trust you, Solas.”

Perhaps you shouldn’t, he thinks even as he nods. “As you wish, Inquisitor.”

She opens her mouth as if to say something, before shutting her mouth, shaking her head. “Be ready. We march soon.” Just as she finishes speaking, a scout pulls her aside, out of breath and panting. “Yes?”

“Inquisitor, the Lady Nightingale is searching for you. She says it’s urgent.”

“I…” She looks to Solas. “I’ll send for you as soon as I’m done. Be ready.”

“Of course,” Solas says, inclining his head as she’s dragged away by the scout, her lips tightly pursed as she listens to the young man fill her in on the way to Leliana. He can hear the fighting from here, far from the front lines. Each clang of steel against steel is clearly audible, and he can hear both the Inquisition’s and Corypheus’ men dying. Still, above even all that, he can hear the slow, careful footsteps approaching him from behind. He does not need to turn to know who’s behind him. “What I can I assist you with, Lady Morrigan?”

“You do not strike me a particularly religious sort.” The black haired apostate meets his gaze, and he’s suddenly reminded why he has spent the past few months avoiding her. Her eyes are pure liquid gold. He knows who her mother is. He knows why. “And yet… you worship the very ground upon which the Inquisitor walks.”

He gives her a long look, unamused. “Do you have a point?”

She doesn’t answer him, eyes on Elgara’s back just as she disappears into a tent. “I wonder: is it Andraste that her soldiers invoke in battle, or does a more immediate name come to their lips?”

She does not speak of him, and yet anger flares in his chest. “She is not a god,” Solas bites at her. Not yet. “And she is not blessed.”

“And yet, somehow, that changes little. She has denounced her title many times, and yet they revere her.” A smile stretches across her plum coloured lips. “As do you.”

Solas bristles, raising his chin. “You are quite prone to speaking of matters you do not understand, Lady Morrigan,” he says, irritation flashing across her features. Behind her, Elgara emerges from Leliana’s tent, her lips pressed together. Her gaze meets his across the crowd, eyes dark and stormy. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

Morrigan’s smile only grows larger as she inclines her head, her golden eyes flashing with something he cannot possibly read.

Chapter Text

Solas stomach twists with dread as he looks up at the towering ruins that stand before him; crumbling marble spires, held together by only the snaking coils of vines that have found roots in every small crevice.  The arched entryway is guarded by two towering carved wolves, their backs arched as they howl at the sky. Their feet are covered in moss, and they’ve slowly started to become absorbed into the wilds, but it’s still clear that they’re newer than the temple which they protect. He knows why. He knows that they were built after she’d passed, back when they’d viewed him as the man who’d go to the ends of world to get justice for the woman he’d loved. Back before they had viewed him as the feared Dread Wolf.

Corypheus had stood tall and proud at the gilded gates, his Blighted features twisted in a snarl as he stares down the few that remains of the Temple’s guardians. Solas heart had ached seeing all that is left of the Elvhen, waking from slumber only to defend these holy grounds from intruders, and living for no other purpose than the promise they’d made in an age long since passed.

“They will not keep us from the Well of Sorrows,” said the ancient Tevinter Magister.

Solas’ stomach drops, twisting with dread. No. No, no, no—it is all I have left of her, they can’t have it.

The Temple of Mythal had lain forgotten for a millennium for a reason. Solas had done all that he’d could to lock away all that had remained of Mythal, had done his best to ensure that no shem would ever desecrate the last place Mythal blessed with her presence. Now, a thousand years after he’d sworn to defend her memory until his last breath, and it turns out that it had all been for nought.

The halls of the Temple have been claimed by the wilds, the golden tiles that had once been stained by the blood of his people now covered over by moss, and a thousand years’ worth of dirt. He can almost see her standing here, golden skin dappled in the light streaming through the trees. In his mind, these crumbling walls are a polished white; narrow hallways with their walls adorned in emerald mosaics glittering beneath the magelights.

(Stolen kisses in dark corners, and whispered promises that neither of them have the power to keep.)

The memory of her haunts this place, haunts the very ground upon which they walk.

Upon which she had been slain by the one she had called a son.

It’s been an eternity since he has been here, but it feels like it was only yesterday, and now she’s returned in a way.

Elgara, my love, I truly am sorry.

“Solas?” The Inquisitor’s hand settles on his arm, silver eyes wide and concerned as he hesitates in the centre of the courtyard, heart aching for all he had lost. Elgara is as tired as he is, but she refuses to let it show, even if he’s certain that her feet are covered in blisters and every bone in her body is aching. “Are you…?”

“I am fine, Inquisitor,” he lies through his teeth, as though her mere presence doesn’t hurt. She shouldn’t be here. She is walking a path she has walked before—deep down, she is still the same, even if on the surface she has changed.

She doesn’t seem to believe him, and yet to inclines her head, dropping the matter. Behind her, Varric and Cassandra attempt to find a way to open the great carved doors, unable to find a handle or a latch. Elgara turns her gaze to the crumbled stone pillars in the centre of the courtyard. Entire sections have fallen away, held together only by the vines that seem to be keeping this entire place together. Gently, she pulls the vines back, uncovering the worn elven runes that have yet to be worn away by the passage of time.

She traces the runes with her finger, as though connecting herself with a part of the past will allow her to comprehend something she can never hope to fully understand. “Mythal, sul’emalan or tunan, amelan or vun i alas aron; ghi’lal ma’shosaan ma’nas i ma’vhenan las’var vena min banal’viru. Ar eolasal ar ju’tel’vegara lar’var ehn aronem.

Mythal, deliverer of justice, protector of sun and earth alike; guide my feet, my soul, and my heart while I walk this dark, lonely path. I know I will not return as I once was.

“I did not realise you still prayed,” he says.

“I do not think it will do us any harm to have the Creators on our side for once,” she replies, eyes still on the runes beneath her fingers. “We have lost so much. Even so much of our tongue is lost. If I can memorise a prayer, then perhaps I can keep a part of it alive.”

Atish’all Vir Abelasan,” Solas murmurs. He does not need to look at the stones to know which words she traces. They are the only ones that have withstood the centuries. “Enter the path of the Well of Sorrows.”

“You seem to know a lot of the ancient elves, Solas,” Morrigan says, voice dripping with derision as she sidles up alongside him, her staff clinking against the tiles with every step she takes. She shouldn’t be here. These holy grounds belong to the Elvhen, and this place is not meant for her.

“Is that accusation, Lady Morrigan?” he asks, turning to her.

“An observation,” she corrects. “I simply find it curious that you know so much when, if I recall you had no form of education. Self-taught, were you? You seem it.”

“That is enough, Morrigan,” Elgara says just as his hands curl into fists. Solas can almost taste the magic brewing beneath her skin, all ice and winter, her distaste for the Korcari witch evident. “You will bite your tongue if you have nothing to say that is worth hearing, and I remind you that you are not part of the Inquisition.”

“Now, now, Inquisitor, no need to be quite so angry,” says Morrigan. “Of all the people you surround yourself with, I am the only one who has made my desires clear. I have never pretended to owe you any allegiance. For that reason, you can trust me, even if I have not sworn myself to you and your cause.”

“Are you accusing someone of duplicity, Morrigan?” she asks.

Her golden eyes settle on Solas. “Not yet.”

Elgara purses her lips, dismissing Morrigan’s words without a second thought. “Enough of this. We have little time as it is, and we do not have the luxury of wasting. Whatever this Well is, we must find it before Corypheus does.”

“The Well will ask a price, Inquisitor,” Morrigan murmurs. “Are you prepared to pay it?”

“These sorts of things always ask a price, Morrigan. I did not expect that I would leave this place whole.”

That does not mean that this is a price you should need to pay, Solas thinks. Please, my love. I know you well enough to know that you would you give all you have to see all the wrongs in this world righted.

But Solas does as he always does, and he bites his tongue, and says none of the words he wants to say. “We should keep moving,” he says instead, swallowing the lump in his throat, and pretending that—somehow—this will not end as he knows it will.

Varric and Cassandra step aside as Elgara approaches the towering doors, wrought iron arching across the stained glass. It still glitters with ancient magic that had somehow managed to remain despite the Veil. The doors to the last great sanctuary of Elvhenan—of her—meant to stay forever shut, stand unyielding before them. They are a remnant of a time long since passed—all that’s left of a once great empire that had been reduced to legends and fantastical stories the Dalish tell their children about at night.

Elgara traces the wrought iron with the tip of her finger, before firmly placing her marked hand on the door’s surface. The glass illuminates from within, glowing a brilliant gold, before slowly opening inward, welcoming their long lost mistress back home.

It’s all starting to fall into place, thinks Solas.

The wheel turns as it always has, and they are caught in a cycle from which they can never hope to escape.

Chapter Text

The interior of the Temple is almost perfectly preserved. The emerald tiled walls still glitter with a thin sheen of gold inlay, and limestone statues stand in their alcoves, untouched by the weather that had ruined the exterior walls of the Temple. Their stone faces are how he remembers them, so lifelike that he wouldn’t be surprised if they had once been made of flesh and blood. A mural still adorns one large wall; its ancient paint had yet to crack and peel away from the plaster, ink as vibrant as the day he’d first picked up his brush to immortalize her on the walls of her sanctuary.

She stands in the centre of it all, head held high, and adorned with her crown, horned like the dragons that had once knelt before her. Painted eyes glitter beneath the magelights that still float above their heads, the gold he’d so carefully mixed into the paint somehow managing to capture the spark in her gaze. (As though the fire that had been her soul could be depicted in something as simple as pigment and plaster.)

If only she could step out from the image, and take his hand.

“It’s not just me who’s seeing this, right?” Varric says, voice light even if there’s an unsteady tremor beneath. “I might be wrong, but doesn’t that look like the—”

“Inquisitor?” Cassandra looks to elven mage as she tentatively approaches the mural, her fingertips hovering over the ancient paint.

“I don’t understand,” she whispers. “What is this?”

Then, just as her fingertips touch the paint—

Venavis.” Solas recognises the Elvhen standing at the top of the landing, gloved hand resting on the banister. He hasn’t aged a day in the thousands of years that have passed. He looks exactly as he had the last time Solas had seen him—emerald inked branches still frame his eyes, and he still wears the same extravagant armour he’d always worn.

It’s happening all over again.

Behind him, archers emerge from the shadows, bows drawn and aimed at their small group. His yellow-green eyes settle on Solas, and for a second, he almost thinks that he hasn’t remembered him, but then a muscle twitches in the Elvhen Sentinel’s jaw, and he knows that he hasn’t escaped his notice.

“Enough,” he says, in Common this time, though his accent is rough and unsteady. “You are intruders. Defilers of this sacred place. You have damaged these walls which have stood longer than you could even imagine. If there is a reason I should not strike you down where you stand, pray tell, say it now.”

Slowly, the Inquisitor turns away from the mural, meeting his cold gaze, and Solas knows that he knows too. He was almost as close to her as he was—the Captain of her Guard, the man she’d trusted with her life—and he cannot ignore the truth that standing before him.

The truth he is still not ready to admit they cannot escape.

“We are not the ones who laid siege to this place,” Elgara says, voice shaking even as it echoes in the great chamber. “We have come to stop them, by any means necessary. Whatever it is you protect, they cannot be allowed to attain it. We have not shed a drop of your soldiers’ blood, and we do not intend to. We are intruders, but not defilers.”

The Elvhen Sentinel hesitates, unable to hold her gaze for too long. (He knows how he feels. They’re the same in every way, if not for their eyes. Silver, not gold, but still burning with a fire that had lasted even through death.) His lips press together. “You are unlike the others. You have the features of those who call themselves Elvhen, but your skin is marked with vallaslin I do not think you fully understand. Each time we wake, so much more is lost. We fought so hard to protect the Elvhen, and look at what has happened. We have lost our empire, and we have lost ourselves.”

“I do not understand.”

I do.

I see his eyes upon my face; the words he speaks with concealed distaste.

Not all he says is meant for you.

“No, you do not, and your life is not long enough for me to explain,” he whispers, composure fracturing for the briefest of moments to reveal the anguish beneath. “But you are marked by magic which is… familiar. Is this why we were woken from slumber?”

“I—” starts Elgara, stumbling over her own words. “I do not know. I barely understand what is happening myself. Who are you? You wear Mythal’s vallaslin, but you are clearly not Dalish.”

“So many questions, and so few answers,” he says in a low voice. “I am called Abelas. We are Sentinels, tasked with standing against those who trespass on these sacred grounds by the All-Mother herself. This is our duty, as it has been for a thousand years. We wake only to fight, to preserve this place. Our numbers diminish with each invasion. We are the last of the true Elvhen. Now, if I might inquire who you are?”

“They call me the Inquisitor, but my name is Elgara of…” Her voice hitches. “Of Clan Lavellan.”

Abelas inclines his head, eyes narrowing. “The name brings you pain.”

“My clan was slain by shemlen not two moons past. The wound is still… raw.”

“Then I offer my condolences,” Abelas says, so quick to trust and respect her even if all that he had said is true, and they are intruders who should never have stepped foot in this place. In his own way, Solas understands. They’d sworn loyalty to her, and then they had watched her die, and now she stands before them again, skin marked with the ink of the man who’d killed her in cold blood, and eyes of steel. “You say you are here to stop those who have so carelessly slaughtered my kind. ‘By any means necessary.’”

“Yes.”

“Then you wish to drink from the vir’abelasan. It… was never meant for you.”

“It was meant for our people.”

Our people?” Abelas laughs bitterly. “The ones we see in the forest, shadows wearing vallaslin? No. Your people are not mine, and I am afraid the truth is beyond your comprehension.”

“Then explain it to me.”

He shakes his head. “No. This is something you must discover for yourself, but… you… I swore an oath an eternity ago, and were you not what you are, then perhaps I could justify breaking it. Alas, that is not how things are. If these others are enemies of yours, we will aid you in destroying them, but when this is done, you shall be permitted to depart, and never return. You, of all souls, are not meant to be here.”

“Of all souls?” she repeats, confused, only to be met with silence. She turns back to look at him. “Solas, do you—?”

“If you have questions, Inquisitor, now is not the time,” he murmurs. Will it ever be the time? He cannot run from the truth forever. (But he can try.)

“The decision you have before you, Elgara Lavellan, is simple,” Abelas says after a moment’s pause. “We will fight alongside you, if you wish, and if you do not, then we will step aside to let you do what must be done, but the vir’abelasan… No. I do not know what should happen if you were to drink from it, and it is a risk I will not allow you to take.”

“But, Inquisitor, the Well—” starts Morrigan, seething as she’s cut off when Elgara holds up her hand to silence her.

“I accept.”

“Then it will be an honour to fight for you once again,” Abelas says, confusion flitting across Elgara’s features as the Sentinel gestures behind him. “Come. I will guide you to those you seek.”

Morrigan makes her displeasure loud and clear, hissing her complaints under her breath at Elgara who cares not for the Chasind mage’s words, and simply continues down the long hallways of the Temple. Abelas, however, refuses to accept Solas’ silence. Just as soon as Elgara and the others are out of earshot, the Sentinel grabs him by his shoulder, all but slamming him against a nearby wall.

“What are you doing here?” he hisses. “Have you not done enough? Must you shed more blood on this ground? Is it not red enough for your liking?”

“If I’d had a choice, I assure you, old friend—” he almost spits the endearment at him, “—I would not be here.”

“And yet you are.”

“There is only one reason I am here, and I suspect you know it.”

Abelas’ grip loosens as he steps away, releasing Solas. “Does she know?”

“No,” Solas says after a long pause, gaze flitting to further down the hall where Elgara still walks, ignoring Morrigan’s complaints. He looks back to Abelas. “She cannot know. If she becomes what she is destined to be, then her fate will be the same.”

He hesitates, vallaslin contorting as he furrows his brow. “What is it that you’ve seen?”

(“When will you admit to yourself that you know the truth?” asks the Nightmare. “You know what she is. You know what you must do.” Silver blade glittering green, moving so fast that nothing can stop it, and there’s blood on golden tiles all over again.)

Solas does not answer him. Not directly. “We cannot lose her. Not again.”

“You would not lose her if she accepted her role. This is beyond that. You are hiding something from me, Dread Wolf. What is it?”

Once again, he does not answer him. “I know not what will happen if she drinks from the Well. There is a part of her imbued in its waters, and should it return to her… If you must destroy it to keep it from her, then destroy it.”

“Do you know what you ask of me?” snaps Abelas. “You would have me destroy the very thing I swore I would protect? I made an oath, Dread Wolf. I know honour means little to you, but I knelt before her, and I made a promise. You would have me disregard that for you?”

“No,” he says. “I would have you do it for her.”

“Which one?”

“Does it matter when we both know what will come to pass?”

He almost laughs, but the sound is bitter and angry. “No.” A pause, then— “I will not stop her if she tries, but I will not advise this path for her. It is the best I can do.”

“Perhaps,” Solas says, “that will be enough.”

Chapter Text

She seems too at home here, or perhaps the past he shares with this place has warped his views. All she requires is a helm, and those damn golden eyes which still haunt him.

He claims to know her best, but does he really? The face she wears is a wall he cannot see over.

Even the way Abelas looks at her is familiar; watching her every move, enraptured, like a moth drawn to a flame. She holds a fondness for him too, that much is already clear. Elgara glances at him far too often for it to be out of curiosity. She has become distant, as of late, retreating further and further away into herself since they day she’d lost her clan, and yet… She opens herself to this stranger she barely knows.

 (My love, you are so far away; you are hidden inside a secret cage, and I am the one who did this to you. Is this what it was all for? The countless battles and bloody wars, all to bring me back here to you. We are connected in ways I don’t understand, and still yet I must do my duty.)

She knew what duty meant, but they are not the same people, and he cannot tell if she knows what it means to make a sacrifice.

A Red Templar falls to Elgara’s spirit blade, spilling their tainted black ichor across the tiles. The Inquisitor wipes a few drops of blood that had come near her mouth on the back of her hand, looking disgusted.

“You practice the ways of the ena’sal’in’amelan,” Abelas says, his armour still shimmering with a thin sheen of magic. The Veil has done little to affect his magical abilities, and jealousy gnaws at the pit of Solas’ stomach.

Ena’sal’in’amelan?” she asks.

“One who protects victory,” he translates, struggling to find the words in Common. “Soldiers who fight with magic, and lead their men.”

“An arcane warrior,” Solas murmurs. Over Elgara’s shoulder, Morrigan gives him another strange look. Even if she does not know what he is hiding, he is certain that she knows that he has a secret. (He does not care if she knows, but the truth must be kept from Elgara at all costs.) “They were the leaders of the Elvhen army, revered by their people.”

“And not without good reason,” says Abelas. “Noble warriors, and the best of them were all but unstoppable. They deserved the recognition they received. There is a reason so many follow you, Inquisitor. That is clear even to me.”

It’s not clear with her golden skin, but a distinct flush finds its way onto Elgara’s cheeks, which even she cannot hide. “We do not have time to stand around talking. We must stop Samson and his men from reaching the Well.”

Abelas says nothing, but the smirk tugging at his lips says all the words he bites back. He glances at Solas out of the corner of his yellow-golden eyes. “She would have been fond of you. You are alike in many similar ways.”

“Who would have been fond of me?” she asks, but she gets no answer.

The Sentinel’s words are not meant for her.

(A gentle smile crosses her lips as her fingertips trace the outline of his jaw. Her golden eyes glitter as they always do, but there’s a certain sadness in them that she cannot hide.

“You know something,” he says, and he gets no response. “Mythal—”

“Hush,” she says with a slight shake of her head. “We have tonight, and that is what matters.”

[She had announced the truth before a crowd in the morn, unable to say it to him and him alone. She’d have to look him in the eyes and face all that she was saying goodbye to. He knows she would have stayed if she’d would have faced him, but would that have saved her?])

The Well of Sorrows is as he remembers it; a tranquil pool of knee-deep water surrounded by golden tiles on all sides. The delicate arches that had once stood encircling the waters have long since crumbled away, but there is still a certain serenity that does not belong here where so many had died. The entire Temple still thrums with her magic—all summer heat and fire, licking at his skin and making his heart burn—but this close to the Well, it’s stronger.

He can almost feel her here.

(And if he closes his eyes, he knows he’d feel her hand on her shoulder, and her voice whispering in his ear: “My love, I’ve missed you so.” And he keeps his eyes wide open.)

“Inquisitor.”

The Sentinels have done much to hold Samson and his men back. The former Templar has a long cut stretching across his left cheek, seeping crimson blood that glows from within, tainted by red lyrium. His eyes are almost as black as his hair, and the pride with which he holds himself borders on arrogance as he adjusts his grip on his sword, teeth gritted.

“You don’t deserve to be the Inquisitor,” he sneers.

Six months ago, those words would have elicited a response from her. She’d have cut him down where he stands without hesitation, but now… She has lost too much for the words of one foolish shem to matter to her. She knows now that it doesn’t matter that she isn’t deserving of the position she has found herself in. What matters is that she stayed when so many others would not have. She fought for the lives of people who shunned her for things beyond her control when she could have simply walked away. The Anchor marks her, but it anchors her to the Fade, not to the Inquisition.

Perhaps Samson is right. She should have died at the Conclave—it is a miracle that she had survived something so devastating—but she had not, and now she stands, tall and proud.

She stands ready to fight, even if she’s one step away from being six feet under, bound to something older than time itself.

“Samson, you defile sacred ground.” She doesn’t even sound angry. Just… tired. “Leave. This place was not meant for you.”

Nothing was meant for me, don’t you understand?” he says. “All I have, I took. I fought for all I have now with my bare hands, scrabbling at scraps until my fingers bled. You are not a holy woman, Inquisitor, but the very Chantry for which you fight is the same Chantry that threw me out on the streets the instant I was no longer useful. Do you know what it is like to want for the world when you have nothing? You cannot hope to understand what I have been through to stand before you now, and you ask me to walk away? I was chosen, Inquisitor. All my life I have wanted, and now I am wanted.”

“Corypheus does not care for you.”

“Does that matter?”

“What is being wanted when you are only a means to an end?” she asks. “You were noble, once, long ago. I’ve heard the stories.”

“I’m not that man anymore, girl.”

“And I am not the same person who watched her brother erupt in emerald flames. We’ve each chosen our paths. I ask that you choose again.”

A smile stretches across his lips. “Why? Because we stand on grounds that were sacred to a race of elves who were wiped from this earth for a reason?”

“Yes.” Her hand curls a little tighter around her staff. “That is why.”

 He huffs, letting out a bitter, angry laugh. “Even if I walk away, Inquisitor, that will not save you. You cannot hope to defeat him without the knowledge contained within the Well.”

“I never asked to be saved.”

“No,” he says, holding his sword at the ready. “You didn’t.”

Chapter Text

Solas had heard tales of Samson from the Commander, had heard of he’d been one of Kirkwall’s best templars, but nothing Cullen had said could have prepared him for this. The red templars who fight alongside Samson are nothing but predictable beside him, Corypheus’ general moving at a speed he can barely keep up with, red lyrium flowing through his very veins. He fights like a madman, his steel sword clashing against Elgara’s spirit blade as they fight. Solas’ spells bounce off of his armour with little effect as the man absorbs his mana and uses it to fuel his strikes.

Nothing Elgara does hurts him. Every time she goes to strike him, he meets her blow with his own, locked in a battle of equal skills and equal wits. Every time she pushes him back, he turns around and pushes her forwards.

But then—

“You should have died at the Conclave alongside your brother,” snarls Samson, blade locked with Elgara’s, and it is the final straw that breaks her.

She lets out an angry cry as she lashes out, and with a great blast of pure ice, she throws him back several feet, sword skittering out of his grasp. He goes to reach for it, but she kicks it further away, spirit blade held to his throat. Her chest heaves as she struggles to catch her breath, golden skin shining with a thin sheen of sweat.

“You do not have the right to speak of my brother,” she says right as the last red templar falls to Cassandra’s blade. She steps away only when the Nevarran picks up his sword, holding her own blade at the former templar’s neck. “See that he’s taken away. I’m certain Cullen will have much to ask.”

Samson spits blood at Elgara’s feet as Cassandra gestures for him to stand, blade still at the ready. “You will never understand, you wretch. There is still so much you do not know,” he hisses, laughing bitterly as Cassandra and Varric drag him off.

NO!” comes from behind them, and Solas whirls around at just the right moment to see Morrigan sprinting the last few metres towards the Well of Sorrows, staff carelessly discarded behind her. Abelas is but a few steps behind her, desperately trying to catch up with the apostate before she can make it to the Well.

He throws her against the wall with a wave of wild, untamed magic, uncaring of how she groans upon the impact, pinning her to the crumbling stone ruins in a desperate attempt to keep her from the Well. Even then, his brow is furrowed in concentration—the first sign of the Veil affecting his magic that Solas has seen.

“Abelas!” snaps Elgara, tired and exhausted, but her spirit blade still glitters in her left hand. “Let her go.”

“She intends to drink from the vir’abelasan,” he hisses, green-gold eyes flashing in unbridled rage. “It is not hers to have.”

“I don’t care what Morrigan intends to do, you will let her go. Her life is not yours to take. She has sworn an oath to the Inquisition—to me.”

“And you would seek to have it destroyed!” Morrigan retorts, struggling against the magical bindings holding her back.

“Unhand her, Abelas,” Elgara says coolly. “I will not ask a third time.”

With a frustrated yell, Abelas lets her go, magic dissipating in a pale green mist. Morrigan darts for her staff, her magical aura crackling as she prepares to defend herself from Abelas’ next attack. But his next attack… It never comes. Instead, his shoulders sag in resignation as he casts a look at the Well out of the corner of his eye.

“So the sanctum is despoiled at last,” he says in a voice barely above a whisper. “A thousand years I have done my duty. A thousand years I have upheld my promise.”

“Despoiled?” Morrigan repeats. “You would have destroyed the Well if only to keep me from it.”

“It was never meant for you.”

“T’was not meant for her either, if your words are true, and yet you seem less inclined to stop her than you are to stop me!”

“Why the vir’abelasan was not meant for her is not information you deserve to have. She is something you cannot hope to understand, shemlen.” The word wasn’t an insult in his time, meant for those with a lifespan shorter than the lifespan of the Elvhen, but even then, he spits it out with such vitriol even Solas grimaces. “Better it be lost than bestowed upon the undeserving.”

The Inquisitor’s spirit blade disappears, and she holds up her marked hand to silence Morrigan. “What am I, Abelas?” Elgara asks, quiet, timid, like she almost doesn’t want to know the answer. “You said it earlier too. That I, of all souls, was not meant to be here. What does that mean?”

Abelas’ visage softens. “If only it were my truth to tell… I swore an oath a long time ago. I will not break it now. You will find out, in time, but it is not my place to tell you.”

“Tell us, or I’ll kill you where you stand,” Morrigan threatens. “You have no right to deny us this—”

“Morrigan, that is enough.”

“Inquisitor—”

“I said enough. I have reminded you once about biting your tongue.”

“I merely wish to say that the Well offers a power that you cannot afford to not use,” she says through gritted teeth. “Samson warned you that you could not hope to defeat Corypheus without the Well’s powers.”

A soft, breathy laugh of disbelief escapes Abelas. “Do you even know what you ask? The vir’abelasan… It is more than simply a source of knowledge. As each servant of Mythal reached the end of their years, they would pass their knowledge on… through this. It is… all we have left of Elvhenan. All that we were. All that we knew… Bound here, forever, in one desperate attempt to save the People from themselves.”

“It is lost already, falon,” says Elgara, remorseful and quiet. “The shemlen kill elves without thought, hesitation, or reason. Elvhenan has been reduced to little more than stories the Dalish tell their children about, and with each passing year, we lose more and more of those tales. The elves have already lost themselves.”

A moment passes. Then two. “Is that why you are here?” he says finally. “Why you stand where she once stood, promising to endure when the rest of the world would fall?”

“I don’t know,” says Elgara, “but if you told me the truth, perhaps I could—”

“No, I have said too much already,” Abelas says, shaking his head.

“Your people yet linger,” Solas says softly, head inclined. “You have not yet lost everything.”

“Elvhen such as you?”

He knows the question Abelas means to ask. The People? They yet live? You, Dread Wolf, who destroyed our world in revenge—what did you do to those of us I know you did not have the power to kill?

“Yes,” he says. “Such as I.”

Another laugh, but this time it is incredulous, disbelieved. “The Well…” Abelas lets out a long breath. “The Well is not mine to give or to take. Nor is it mine to destroy. I swore an oath to protect it, and should you walk away, I shall continue to do so.”

“I am sorry, but we can do no such thing,” says Elgara.

“I know.” A thousand years of doing his duty, and now he stands before the one woman who could set him free. “Perhaps she meant it for you. To save the People when she could not. To walk the path she had tried to a thousand years ago, only to be betrayed by someone she had dared to trust.”

Yes, Solas thinks, closing his eyes for the first time since he’d stepped foot into the Temple, and breathing in the traces of her magic that still run through this sacred ground. She did. She knew that this day would come, and she did all that she could to ensure that another would succeed where she had failed.

Yes, he can almost hear her say, melodic voice low and soft like the memory of her sings the words to him in a lullaby. Protect her. Guard her. The People are hers now, you included. I am sorry, my love, that she stands with you now, but perhaps she can do what I could not.

What is that? What could you not do?

Love you with all my heart. I chose the People over you, and she will have to choose too.

I could keep her from it.

No. Perhaps you once could have, but it is already too late for her. She has chosen the path she intends to walk already. You must let her find her own way. When the time comes. When the time is right. She will know when, and she will choose.

Solas opens his eyes to see Elgara, bathed in the golden light streaming in through the cracks in the Temple ceiling above. He does not want to say goodbye. Not again. (But he knows her destiny, and knows what she is, and people like her do not get to be with people like him.) Her silver eyes settle on Abelas as the Elvhen Sentinel pushes his hood back to reveal his long, braided hair, so fair it is almost white.

“If you partake of the vir’abelasan, will you fight for all that we once were? Or will you forget those that died to ensure you could walk away with the knowledge to defeat your foe?” he asks softly.

“I will never forget their sacrifice,” she answers. “If I had any other choice, I would not be here now, Abelas, but even then I will not drink without your permission.”

“My permission?” He almost sounds amused. “You do not need my permission, Elgara Fen’ghil’lan Mythalen. The Well was always yours. I’d only hoped you could walk away with your soul belonging to yourself and to yourself alone.”

“How… How do you know my name?”

“Your arrival was long foretold, and again… Not my secret to tell.” Abelas swallows and looks down at his feet. “Do what you must. I shall not stop you, but you will be bound to Mythal forevermore.”

“Bound?” repeats Morrigan. “To a goddess who no longer exists, if she ever did?”

She existed. It is not anyone’s fault but your own that you think legends have no grain of truth in them.

“What do you know of Mythal?”

“I know that if she existed she was banished to the Beyond by Fen’Harel.”

“Is that what they say? Hah. The Dread Wolf had nothing to do with her murder, even if he was blamed by all. Including himself.”

“Murder? I never said—”

“There is much, shemlen, that you do not know. She was slain. Not far from where you stand now, betrayed by those who sought to destroy this very temple. There is much your legends do not speak of.”

“Come with us,” says Elgara. “We could use someone like you on our side, and I drink from the Well… Your duty will be done. You would be free. Corypheus killed your people, do you not want revenge?”

“We killed ourselves long ago, lethallan, but perhaps.. Perhaps I will. In time.”

“In time?”

“You will need me one day,” Abelas says, gaze distant and far off. “Your journey will take you longer and further than you can even imagine, and when you have need of me, I will be there, but for now… dar’eth shiral, ma’aene. We will meet again in circumstances even less kind than this.”

Not even Solas knows of what Abelas means; the Sentinel knows something he does not. There is something in the way he looks at him when he goes to leave that speaks of something more, of words on the tip of his tongue he wishes to share, but that his pride forces him to withhold.

Morrigan turns her gaze towards the eluvian propped up against the opposite wall, magical glass long since clouded over with age. “You’ll note the intact eluvian. I was correct on that count, at least.”

 Elgara hums, paying her no mind as she looks down at the stretch of glittering water before her. “We know now that that is not what he came for.”

“Very true.” She lets out a heavy breath, lifting her chin. “I am willing to pay the price the Well demands if you would let me. I am the best suited to use its knowledge in the Inquisition’s service.”

“No.” She is firm, convicted, refusing to bow to Morrigan desperate pleas. “This belonged to my people, not to you. Your kind has taken enough from the People already. You have demonstrated during your time with us today that you do not know how to accept my judgement for things as simple as being asked to bite your tongue. You will not have this.”

“I alone have the training—”

“The training?” Elgara lets out a loud, barking laugh. “I was the First of my clan, Morrigan. I am the leader of the Inquisition. There has never been an elven mage held in higher regard than I. Teldirtharen. This is my heritage.”

“I have studied the oldest lore—”

“Look me in my eyes and ask me if I care what you have or have not studied.”

“You are the Inquisitor. If this will bind you to something that fool thinks is Mythal, can you afford to take that risk?”

She is silent for a long moment. “Perhaps we should destroy it, then.”

“I’m afraid, vhenan, we no longer have such a luxury,” he says softly. “If what Samson says is true, then the Inquisition needs its power.”

“What would you have me do, Solas? If I drink, I risk everything. If I let her drink, I lose the last of the Elvhen to a shemlen.”

Why did we ever come here? I should have taken you far away when we had the chance. Perhaps to a small cottage in the forest somewhere, far from everyone else who dare to guide you down this path that I cannot follow.

“This is not my decision to make,” he says, even if he wants to say otherwise.

(“Where could you have gone?” she asks, solemn, quiet; always curious and always respectful of the answer she receives. “The Breach threatened the whole world. How far would running have got you?”

His answer is honest—offering a truth for once, when he has kept so much from her already. “Someplace far. Somewhere I might research a way to repair the Breach before its effects reached me. I… never said it was a good plan.”

“What stopped you?”

“You.”)

If he had walked away sooner, could he have stopped what was to come? Is this when he’d truly lost her?

“The Well…” Elgara says after a moment’s pause. “I will drink from it.”

No. Please, my love. Stay. We have so little time, and if you drink, I will lose you—

She steps into the Well carefully, as though the water will burn her. Were she anyone else, it might, ancient magics recoiling at an intruder, but she is not an intruder. The blood that runs through her veins is the same blood that had run through the veins of the woman who’d created the Well, and the waters recognise her as a part of them. (Abelas was right. The Well was designed with her in mind, preparing for a future they hadn’t even known would come to pass.)

Elgara wades in deeper, fingertips skimming the surface as the magics of the Well respond to her presence, blue lights shimmering around her form. She closes her eyes, hands cupped as she raises the water to her lips, and then—

She collapses, submerged beneath the surface, completely still just as the water glows a blinding white-blue. He grimaces at the light, recoiling away as he shields his eyes, and when the light has disappeared, she lays there, on golden tiles, still as a corpse.

He wastes no time in rushing to her side, cradling her head in his lap. She yet breathes, even if she is weak, and a ragged sigh of relief escapes him. He cannot hear the fighting any longer; with the aid of the Sentinels, the Inquisition seems to have secured the Temple. They are safe, for now, and all they must do is wait to see if she will wake.

He is right. This is the moment where he lost her. He can ask him a thousand times where it all went wrong, and it will always be here. Now. Her fate is sealed, and there is no turning back.

Chapter Text

It’s peculiar, but Skyhold is… quiet, after they return from the Arbor Wilds. The Inquisitor had made herself scarce, and if the servants are to be believed, she leaves her quarters only to wander the grounds at night, wrapped in little more than a thin robe even though winter had begun to set in nought two weeks ago and had brought biting winds with it. She doesn’t eat, they say, barely picking at the food they leave on a tray by her door.

The more reasonable part of him knows what afflicts her, knows that she hasn’t retreated back into herself after she’d just begun to move on from the loss of her clan. (She hasn’t forgotten them, not yet, but the memory of them hurts a little less and less with every passing day.) The other part of him (the other more desperate part of him that longs for all this to end right now, when he can still pretend that he’s happy.)

He should tell her.

No, he absolutely shouldn’t.

Solas, without much else to do, spends his days painting. The walls of Skyhold were once covered in glorious murals and mosaics that had marked these grounds as his own, but there is nothing there now besides blank walls where the remnants of his people had been violently torn down. He had started off trying to paint them, in some desperate attempt to keep their memory alive, but somewhere along the way, that had changed. He sees the shape of it now, the final pieces falling together, making up one grand design that will hopefully last longer than their predecessors.

He is a madman. He cannot see anything but her—not anymore. Even his paint stained fingertips remind him of her ink stained skin; pale lines swirling across her golden skin, far too delicate to be in honour of the man who’d almost destroyed the Elvhen.

There is vallaslin in his name too, and it is a small miracle that she wears the marks of the Betrayer instead of the marks of the Wolf. It’s a means of worship, he knows, but do they know he is no god? Do they know he fought to free them from this very sort of veneration?

The air in the room shifts imperceptibly, but he notices even then, and he does not need to turn to see who it is that stands behind him.

“You should be in bed.” Elgara’s voice is quiet but it is hoarse from disuse, as though she has not spoken to a single soul since she’d awoken. “It’s late.”

Solas sets down his brush in chipped mug full of water. The kitchen had wanted to dispose of it, along with all their other glassware they deemed “unsuitable for the Inquisitor.” It’s little more than another reminder that there are few in Skyhold who know Elgara on a more personal relationship.

“As should you,” he says softly. “The Inquisition needs its Inquisitor now more than ever, and your guidance has a value I suspect you do not know.”

“I’ve tried,” she says, taking a few tentative steps into the room. She doesn’t look well. He’d thought she’d looked ill after the loss of her clan but this, somehow, is worse. Her curly hair is matted; there are more knots than there are clear coils. Her golden skin is ashen, like the fire that is her soul has gone out. “But my dreams are… fitful, at best. At worst, they’re…”

She does not finish her sentence.

“Perhaps I ought to have let Morrigan drink from the Well,” she says with a shaky, bitter laugh.

We both know that you’d have never let her. Solas bites his tongue, and says nothing. “I might have some valerian tea, if you would like it, Inquisitor. Perhaps it will keep your dreams at bay, should you wish for dreamless sleep.”

Elgara holds his gaze for a long moment before looking away, eyes downcast as she picks at her calloused hands. Once, long ago, her hands were soft, her skin smooth and unscarred. Now, that’s changed. She carries the marks of her journey—on the surface, and deep beneath in the corners of her soul that not even he knows. She has held her head high since Ostwick, but it’s clear even to him that all her assurances that all is fine aren’t true.

She’d lost her family, and now she’s losing herself. Does she know? Does she know that her soul is no longer hers?

“When did you start calling me Inquisitor?”

She speaks quietly, voice barely above a whisper; her words are so soft, and yet they still cut. It is a simple question, but it means so much more.

When did you start calling me Inquisitor? she asks, but her heart whispers the question she cannot bring herself to say aloud.

(When did you stop thinking of me as yours? When did you lose sight of where the Inquisitor ends, and I begin?)

He doesn’t answer her question. He can’t without sharing secrets she cannot yet know. (The time will come, but not yet, not now. But he is only delaying the inevitable.) He wants to ask what has happened to them, wants to ask where it all went wrong, but he has the answers to his own questions.

You know how this story ends, he’d told himself long ago. You’ve lived it before. You have suffered it before. Would you be such a fool to willingly do it all again?

He knows the answer now.

Yes. Yes, I’d be such a fool.

Elgara takes a few step forwards, fingertips grazing the surface of his desk. The wood is stained with ink, and the papers scattered about are all but illegible. “Solas…” she starts softly, looking down at her feet. “I… apologise. I did not mean to push you away. I realise that I have regardless, but…”

“You have no need to apologise,” he says, cutting her off before she continues. “You’ve been through… much in a very short period of time.”

“Regardless.”

It’s not your fault, he wants to say. The cards were dealt a long time ago. You have done your best with the hand you have been given.

But as always, he does not say what he wants to say. “Perhaps a change of pace would do you well, vhenan.” As far as advice goes, it is not particularly creative. He simply regurgitates what has been said by so many others before him, as though it would provide her any guidance. He is not, nor has he ever been, a guide for others; he is not the lantern in the dark, taking the hand of lost souls. (It is not his name the Dalish whisper in reverence when they are lost. His name is set aside for moments of terror and desperate pleas of protection. They don’t know that their freedom is his doing.)

“I leave for Crestwood at week’s end,” she says after a long moment’s pause. His confusion must be evident, and she continues on in the same breath, “There’s been reports of Red Templars around Caer Bronach. After the loss that was the Well, Corypheus will be looking to strike where he can. Given the history Caer Bronach has, most notably that spider we found beneath in the caves, I thought it’d be best if I went myself rather than send someone in my stead.”

“Be careful of not overexerting yourself.”

“I know what I am capable of, Solas.” Her tone is sharp, biting, like the winds of winter. As soon as the words leave her mouth, her countenance softens. “That was… unworthy of me. I apologise. I only meant that this is not something that can realistically be done by someone else.”

“Do you ever stop working?”

He hadn’t meant to sound so antagonistic, but unlike her, he does not apologise for it. There is a part of him, however small, that enjoys the way she grimaces. (There is still a part of him that feels guilty. She deserves so much more than him, and she always has.)

She doesn’t give him an answer, and nor does he expect her to. She’d never asked to carry the mark of his orb. She had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and fate had taken everything from her as payment for her survival. “You are welcome to come with me to Crestwood, Solas,” she says, somehow managing to appear regal even when she looks as though she’s risen from the dead. “Leliana will make the arrangements, if you’re interested.”

She turns on her heel and goes to leave, when—

“Elgara.”

She hesitates in the doorway of the rotunda, glancing back at him. He steps away from the painting, pulling out a velvet satchel from a small drawer in his desk. She watches, silent and still, as he approaches, looking up at him from beneath her lashes. He hasn’t been this close to her in weeks. He’d almost forgotten the taste of her magic—bright, sharp cold that burns.

Her dark brows furrow in confusion. “Solas?”

He takes her hands in his own, a million things he wants to say dancing on the tip of his tongue.

(Not yet, not yet, not yet. The time will come, Dread Wolf, and you will know when that time is. She will look at you with those eyes that were once silver—doesn’t that feel like an age ago? Was this the last time you saw her as she would have been before you came into her life?—and you will know then that the time has come.)

He just presses the velvet pouch into her hands. “It’s valerian. I hope it helps.”

“Ah.” She goes quiet, looking down at their joined hands before slowly pulling back. Her silver eyes flash with something he can’t read. “Thank you,” she says softly, but she doesn’t sound thankful. She sounds…

Remorseful.

Chapter Text

After the Inquisitor had shut the rift in the centre of the lake, Crestwood had finally begun to recover from all that had afflicted the small region. He can see it just in Caer Bronach’s courtyard. The Ferelden villagers have smiles on their faces as they trade and speak amongst themselves. It’s as though the lifting of the rain had taken with it their dour demeanours. It’s idyllic, in a way. Despite all the hardships that had affected them in the past decade alone, they’ve still found a way to keeping looking forwards.

They have the Inquisition to thank for that, and moreover, they have the Inquisitor to thank. She had been their shining beacon of light when all had seemed lost. She had saved them when the rest of the world had turned away from them. That, however, is all in the past.

The Inquisitor stands in the middle of the courtyard now, but she is the saviour they look to no more. The radiance he had come to associate her with is missing, like the fire in her soul had gone out. She’s still resplendent (he doubts that will ever change), but there’s something… missing. He can see it in her eyes even as she speaks with Charter; the redheaded elf is animated as she discusses the Red Templar problem, her anger at the corrupted beings for putting her people in danger clear, but Elgara is still, solemn, stern. She does not meet Charter’s eyes, nor does she do much more than nod in response to Charter’s words. It’s as though she’s been replaced by someone else.

Someone he does not recognise.

He knows why she’s like this. He sees the way her hands shake, even as she tries to hide it, and the way her expression twists to mask the toll the sleepless nights have had on her body.

(You’re running out to time to stop it.)

“I will look into it in the morning, thank you, Charter,” she says, voice hollow and empty as she dismisses the young elven woman. Elgara turns her gaze towards the papers strewn across the table that Charter had set up in the middle of the courtyard. She doesn’t turn to look at him even as he approaches.

“Overwhelmed?” Vhenan catches on the tip of his tongue, the endearment threatening to slip out, but he bites it back, even as his own heart twists in pain.

She glances at him out of the corner of her eye then, but immediately turns her attention back to the papers before her. They mark every sighting of Red Templars in the area for the last five weeks. “To say the least,” she murmurs, sighing.

She isn’t Mythal, that he has learned time and time again over the past few months, but there are similarities, coincidental that they might be, they still share. He had made a mistake (made many mistakes) last time that he will not repeat. He had seen the darkness in her heart, and he had wilfully ignored it, all in hopes that he’d be able to keep her in his arms for just a moment longer. That hadn’t happened, and all he’d done is guaranteed that he’d lost her.

(And lost her, he had.)

With each passing second, you lose a little more of her.

She deserves so much better than what this world has to offer. She walks, an empty shell of herself, because of what he did as much as what others had done to her. He could help. He could tell her the truth, and she would understand. (She is too clever not to. [She suspects the truth already, but she does not yet know.] She knows what it is like to do what is necessary to protect the ones they love.)

You have been waiting for the right time. This is it. Stop this before it begins. This is not something either of you will walk away from with your hearts whole and unbroken.

Slowly, his hand settles over the one she has braced against the desk, her blunt nails digging into the soft wood. “Come with me,” he says. “We will not be gone long.”

He doesn’t want to tell her, but he has to. The Well had only secured her fate, and it is better that she hears the truth from him now than discover it later. (Later, she will find the truth, and it is him that she will blame for keeping this from her when this could have changed everything. [This could have saved her people.])

Solas half expects her to refuse. She has pushed him away many times (not without reason), and this too, he expects her to shake her head and make a poor excuse as to why she cannot steal a moment away. And yet…

 “Where are we going?”

The grotto is small and secluded, tucked away in a lost corner of Crestwood that had long since been forgotten by the rest of the world. While the elements have claimed the space as their own, it remains untouched by mortal hands, and if he ignores the moss and the weathering that has afflicted the ruins, he can almost pretend like a day hasn’t passed since he was here last.

The marble halla statues stand tall and proud, carved antlers reaching towards the sky. He can almost see Ghilan’nain standing there, her hair and skin as fair as the snowy fleece of her beloved creatures, but her image slowly fades away, and he’s left with nothing but a shadow of the world he used to know.

She makes it all a little bit brighter.

Even if the fire within her has dimmed, she still lights up the place. There’s a shine in her silver eyes that hasn’t been there in a long time. Her fingertips trail over the halla statues, marvelling at the last remainder of the people who’d come before her. It’s during moments like these when he sees her, not just the face she wears.

She looks back at him then, a smile dancing upon her lips. It’s the happiest he’s seen her in a long time, and he wish (selfishly) that they could stay like this forever. It almost doesn’t matter that she is the only one capable of saving them Corypheus.

Is it wrong? Is it wrong to want her to be happy, even if it comes at the cost of the rest of the world?

“It’s strange.”

Solas’ ears twitch, her soft voice deafeningly loud in the silence. “What is?”

“To see just how much we lost,” she answers. “It is easy to hear the tales of Arlathan and mourn, but seeing the ruins… It’s realer, somehow. It’s easier to remember that lives were lost. They are not simply characters in a story.”

“Even fiction holds some grain of truth,” he murmurs, grazing a marble pedestal with his fingertips. “Even if it is hidden somewhere deep down.”

“Is that why you were afraid of the Well?” Somewhere along the way, she had stopped being tactful. She had stopped caring about how blunt her words are, forgoing politeness for honesty. It’s as though she can’t be bothered anymore. (She knows now that she will never have enough time, and she will not waste what little time she has on pleasantries.) “You could barely look at it.”

“You gave yourself into the service of an ancient elven god.” His hands, not of his own control, curl into fists by his side. You bound yourself to the very fate I have tried so hard to keep you from.

The peace of this place washes away, and a flicker of anger passes over her features. “What does that mean, Solas?” Even angered, she still tries to understand, in some desperate, futile attempt at furthering her own knowledge when she knows it is lacking.

(He’d always liked that about her.)

He casts his gaze downward, voice barely above a whisper. “You are Mythal’s creature now. In more ways than you can possibly hope to understand.”

“Solas…” she sighs, stepping towards him. Fingers press beneath his chin, lifting his head enough so that she can look him in the eyes. “I am what I have always been. That has not changed. If it had, surely I would know.”

“There is a danger if you remove the layer of nostalgia from the stores of the elven gods, ma’sa’lath.” He hates how wide her eyes are in concern, not caring how she had unknowingly sacrificed everything that she is, all in an attempt to do the right thing. She is too noble, too just, for someone such as him. “However, I will concede that it is better you have the power than Corypheus.”

A small laugh escapes her dark, rosy lips. “Yes, I suppose so. I still cannot fully understand the Well’s knowledge, but… Already, I am certain that it would be dangerous in his hands.”

“What do you intend to do with its power?” he asks.

“I’m not yet certain,” she says. “Perhaps I will take suggestions.”

“That is unwise,” he mutters before he can stop himself.

“Why?” Irritation leaks into her voice, fierce and bitter.

“While one selfless woman may walk away from the lure of power’s corruption…”

She places a finger on his lips before he can continue. “I trust your judgement, Solas, and I trust that you would not lead me astray.”

Perhaps you are wrong to do so, my love.

“False modesty—”

“It is not false,” she says.

“There are few regrets sharper than watching fools squander what you sacrificed to achieve.”

“And what have you sacrificed, Solas?” He goes to turn his head away from her, but her fingertips press into his jaw. “You have told me so little about who you were before you joined the Inquisition.”

“I know.”

She pulls her hand back then, holding it close to her chest as she turns away from him. She looks to the halla statues, pretending that they’ve caught her interest once again, but he knows her too well. Her face has haunted him for a thousand years, and he can read every single one of her tells. She is aware of the secrecy, and despises that she can do nothing to change it.

“Hm.” A muscle twitches in her jaw. Anger? Or is she biting back tears? “What must come first is a restoration of balance. This war with Corypheus, and the war with the templars has… torn Thedas apart. Whether I like it or not, I’m in a position now to help others. What happened to Seldras… My clan… It can never happen again.”

“You would change things?”

“Is that a problem?”

“What if you wake up to find that the future you shaped is worse than what was?”

“Yes!” she says, whirling around to face him. “Is that wrong? I’m trying, Solas. Is that not better than what the shems have been doing since Arlathan fell? I would gladly take a future that is worse than what was because it will only give me an opportunity to try again.”

“I did not mean to offend, Inquisitor.” She grimaces at the sound of her title, recoiling into herself. “You have offered hope that if one keeps trying, even if the consequences are grave, things eventually may get better.”

(She doesn’t yet know that she is reassuring him. She doesn’t yet know that those words he will carry with him when the path ahead seems too dark.)

“You’re talking like you’re going to die,” she says, anger quickly dissipating as her concern for him overtakes her. She has always put him before herself, even when she shouldn’t. “I won’t let that happen. I won’t let anything hurt you.”

“Nor I you.”

That isn’t true. There is only one thing that will hurt her, and not even he can protect her from it.

(How can he protect her from himself?)

Chapter Text

Solas swallows as he takes a tentative step towards her, mind spinning with all the things she has said in the past few minutes alone. He reaches out to hold her slender hand in his own. “I was trying to determine some way to show you what you mean to me. That is why I brought you here. I apologise for the questions.”

“You’ve always been curious about my motivations,” she says with a small laugh, watching as he traces the ridge of her knuckles, and every bend of her fingers. “It’s hardly necessary, Solas. We mean to each other what we mean to each other.”

“Perhaps,” he says, “but you deserve to know the truth.”

“The truth? Of your affections for me?”

“That among many other things.”

You are more important than you know. You are the child of Mythal not only in name, but in blood, and you will be the Deliverer for your people as she was for hers. I loved her, just as I love you.

And yet… I lost her. Her duty to the People came before all else, and I, fool that I was and still am, was not enough to save her. I refuse to lose you too. You deserve more than to be bound to her fate, and if I must die to save you, then so be it. Let the People lay forgotten. Let them dream for another thousand years. None of it matters. Not when I have you.

“You are unique,” he continues, delaying what he needs to say. “In all Thedas, I never expected to find someone who could draw my attention from my duty.” It is my duty to save the People from the harm I caused them, but for you… For you, I would give that all up, and walk away if it meant that I would have you by my side. “You have… become important to me.”

He has said ar lath ma to her before, but this is different. This means more. These words have been shared by no other two people, this moment experienced by only them. That had been easy to say. This… This is harder.

 “I must tell you the truth. Your vallaslin…”

“What of it?” Self-consciously, she raises her hand to trace the pale marking of Dirthamen that branch out across her skin. “They honour the gods. Dirthamen, keeper of knowledge and secrets.”

“They were slave markings, binding slaves to their masters so that they could never be free. If they fled, the world would know to whom they belonged. Many times there was a magical geas weaved into them, causing immeasurable pain if the slave disobeyed. After Arlathan fell…” After I destroyed the Elvhen, “the Dalish forgot.”

Her face twists as she fights back tears. She has shed enough of those to last a lifetime. She will not shed anymore. Instead, she’s just… angry. “So… What? This is just more thing the Dalish got wrong? Fenedhis. What is the point of Dalish, anymore? Every attempt we make to preserve what little we have let of our culture means nothing. We are shunned, beaten, killed without punishment for those who hurt us, and even the history we keep for ourselves is twisted, and tainted, and marred.”

“For all they got wrong, the Dalish did one thing right.”

“What? They raised me?” She laughs bitterly. “Look what got them. Their charred bones crumble to dust in a field that will be infertile for a century to come. Their names are remembered by none but me, and there is but one member of my family that yet lives, and even she might be dead, for all I know.” She pulls away from him, teeth gritted, but he catches her by her wrist, refusing to let her pull away and loathe everything that her people are.

“I didn’t tell you this to hurt you.”

“Why did you tell me, then?” she spits. “So that I would have to live with the knowledge that I proudly wear the markings of a slave when I’ve spent my entire life fighting for freedom for my people?”

“I know a spell,” he says. This isn’t what he wanted to discuss, but she needs to let go of her past before she can truly understand the future that is laid out before her. “I can remove the vallaslin, but it is your choice. I look at you, and I see what you truly are…” The Deliverer. Justice, and hope. A shining beacon of light for your people in these dark days. “You deserve better than what those cruel marks represent.”

He has removed vallaslin from so many before her. Slaves, desperately fleeing to him, some in agony as the magical geas lights every single nerve on fire, collapsing at his feet, and begging him to free them from this binding. He remembers nobles storming in after them, even as they cower behind the proud Dread Wolf who vowed to free each and every single one of them from slavery to would-be gods.

What was it all for?

A thousand years later, and he has been all but forgotten. They remember him as a little more than a rebel who had fought for the impossible, and who cursed them all. (Perhaps there is truth in the legends. He had, after all, taken everything from the elves. Even themselves.)

 “We are the last Elvhen. Never again shall we submit,” she murmurs. “My vallaslin and my staff are all I have left of my clan, but I will not the first to break the oath we swore so long ago.”

He inclines his head, gesturing to a boulder that sticks up out of the mud, just large enough for her to perch on. “Sit,” he says, kneeling before her, not caring that he muddies his breeches. Sit she does, even as her breath hitches in fear.

Magic flickers at the tip of his fingers, all bright emerald green (not unlike the mark on her hand). Her eyes flutter shut, head raised high as his hands pass over the pale, delicate swirls that outline the curves of her cheeks, barely touching her skin as his hands go lower, hovering just above the lines that stretch down her throat and branch across her chest and shoulders. Slowly, they lift off her skin, peeling away in flakes of solid magic before disappearing into nothing.

Ar lasa mala revas,” he whispers as he leans forward, her eyes still shut. Then, against her lips: “You are so beautiful.”

It is the first time they’ve touched in months, and it shows. The kiss is tentative, slow, as though they’re both afraid that the other will pull away. But they are not strangers. They are the only people who truly know each other in this world. She is Elvhen in a way he cannot fully understand, and he is the sole person who would stand beside her, no matter what path she chooses to walk.

(Will she choose to walk the dinan’shiral alongside me? he asks himself. Whatever holy being that there may be in this cruel world, save her from her own fate. Let her walk away from this with me, whole and safe and loved as she deserves. She is better than I will ever be, but I will do my best to deserve her.)

But then she pulls away, her eyes wide and open, and everything that he had told himself, every promise that he had made to tell her the truth is all rendered irrelevant. All he wants is to save her from herself. All he wants is to ensure that what happened will never happen again. She is Mythal in her own way, but she is little kinder, a little more merciful. She has the same anger, the same violent, fierce fury, but she has lost too much to not sympathise with those who have suffered the same. The mages who had bound his friend… Mythal would have struck them down where they’d stood, exacting justice on her own terms. Elgara… Elgara had recognised his loss, and had stood aside to let them die by his hands.

Still just, still vengeful, but it’s… softer, somehow.

None of it matters.

Her silver eyes, the ones as bright the twin moons and sparkling like the all the stars in the night sky were trapped within them, are still as silver as they’ve always been, but this close, he can see it.

The single, thin fleck of gold that had not been there before.

No. No. Where did it—? When? How?

It’s too late. You’re out of time. (It’s begun.)

The only thing you can do to save her is to keep her away from you. You are the one who started this. The one who caused this. You have doomed her to the very fate you tried so hard to protect her from.

He wants to scream. He wants to yell. He wants to do something, even if it’s tearing the entire damn world apart. This isn’t fair. He deserves better. She deserves better. Why does it have to be like this? He knows the only way to save her is to keep her as far away from possible from the Elvhen.

From him.

I can’t do this, he says to himself. I cannot let her go.

You must, says Mythal’s voice in his ear. It’s the only way you can save her.

You cannot ask this of me.

I ask nothing of you, Dread Wolf, she says. But you know what you must do.

Everything hurts. This isn’t fair. Has he not done enough to try to keep her from her fate? Has he not sacrificed enough already? (I would give up the People for her. Just… Please. If there is any kindness in this world, let her live. I care not if the blood of justice will fight until there is peace. Damn the prophecy. Damn it all. If I make peace for the Elvhen, will that save her? If I take on this task alone?)

 You will understand one day, my love. When I have saved us both, you will understand that what I did, I did for you. You are the only one that’s ever mattered.

(He took the markings of knowledge and secrets from her, freeing from their bindings, even as he’s bound by both himself. There are chains wrapped around his heart, and he makes this sacrifice for them both.)

She will hate him for this, but he’d rather have her hate him than to lose her completely.

“I am sorry.” It’s the first proper truth he has uttered tonight. There are no secrets in those three words, nothing hidden or kept from her. He is sorry, but he has always made sacrifices to protect the Elvhen. Whether he likes it or not, she too is Elvhen now, Mythal’s blood in her veins, and Mythal’s soul in her heart.

“This… This should never have happened.”

(“Are you going to regret this in the morning?” She is so afraid, so hesitant. She only wants to hear one answer, and she does not know if it is the one he will give to her.

He says the truth. He says what she wants to hear. Even then, he had known that things would never end well for them, but he’d been a fool who’d thought he could defy fate. “No,” he says. “I could not regret you.”)

“From the start, this was the only way it could have ended.”

“Don’t you dare do this to me right now, Solas,” she says, voice shaking and trembling with every syllable she utters. Tears well in her silver eyes, but all he sees is the single spot of gold that will soon overtake the silver. “I have lost everything. I can’t lose you too.”

“Please.” He can barely manage to meet her gaze for reasons beyond the gold he can see but she cannot. (This hurts him just as much as it hurts too, but he will do what has to be done, if it will save her.) “Do not make this harder than it has to be.”

“No.” She doesn’t beg. She doesn’t fall at his feet weeping. She is angry, and she has every right to be. “How dare you?”

“Elgara—”

“You are the only thing I have left,” she spits at him. “And now you just… walk away. Like none of this ever mattered to you.”

“It’s more complicated than you know.”

“It’s always more complicated than I know, isn’t it?”

He has never been afraid of her. He had been assured by the fact that she would never hurt him, even as so many of their enemies cowered before her. Now… Now it is different. She would hurt him. And he wouldn’t blame her.

“You always know something I do not. There is always something that you keep secret and refuse to tell me.”

“Telling you would hurt more than this.”

“That is not for you to decide!” Her voice grows to a yell, but still not a single tear falls. “You keep everything hidden, and you lie through your damn teeth about it. Don’t act like you don’t know that I’ve noticed.”

He flinches as she steps closer. “You will understand one day.”

“Why not today?” He doesn’t have an answer for her. “I thought… I thought you were different. I thought that you understood. I have been surrounded by shems for months and I thought you were the only one who understood what I was trying to do. The only one who truly knew what it was like to fight for the People when everyone else would rather see your kind burn.”

“I do—”

“Clearly you don’t.” Her words cut like a knife, slicing through to the deepest parts of him, and leaving behind wounds that will never heal.

“Tell me you don’t care. Give me a reason to hate you. It doesn’t matter if it is a lie. You’ve told enough of those, haven’t you? What’s one more?”

“I… I can’t do that.” She is right. He has told enough lies, and one more hardly matters when compared to hundreds, but this is not a lie he can say. If he does, he knows he will tell her everything then and there, and she will abandon everything to fight alongside him. It would only put her in danger.

(Blood of her blood she will return, and the fires of vengeance will burn, to live only to fight to only die to be reborn, ‘til death and war be no concern, the wheel shall turn.)

“You’re a coward, and for that, you will always be alone.” She doesn’t give him a second glance as she turns away from him, and somehow, that hurts more than her anger.

Chapter Text

They do not speak much after what he did. His words cut deep, leaving behind wounds that will never heal. He doesn’t blame her for her silence. She is innocent; the choices that were made were made by him alone. She is simply bound to a destiny she has yet to understand.

But he still has time to save her.

They had spent little time together since she’d lost her clan, but now… He feels her absence more than he ever had. Before, she’d been just out of reach; still his, but not close enough to touch.

Now… Now she’s just gone.

If she tells the others, he does not know. (Though Dorian is colder towards him than he usually is.) Solas spends his days and nights working, frantically going through every book in the Inquisition’s library in a desperate attempt to find a way to save them all.

(It isn’t possible. What he intends to do will tear Thedas in two, and there will be causalities.)

That doesn’t keep him from searching. He owes that much to her, at least.

He works until words swim before his eyes, devouring every piece of writing he can get his hands on, all while Elgara’s painted eyes watch him from where he had depicted her on the wall. (Late one night, he takes out his pigments, and carefully paints over the pale lines that had once adorned her features.)

It’s for her own good, he can almost hear Mythal say in his ear. You’re doing this to save her.

Does that make it right? he wants to say back, but there is no one with whom to argue. He is alone, as he has always been, haunted by the ghosts of his past. A part of him wonders (and will always wonder) how things might have changed between them if he’d simply told her.

Perhaps it could have saved her from what was to come.

And Solas watches as the Inquisitor slowly falls apart.

Her anger had always burned hot within her, as bright as her soul, but those fires had long since been doused. She’s nothing but ice and cold, her quiet resignation louder than anything she is capable of saying. There are no words left to exchange between them. He cannot tell her what she needs to know, and she is just one woman, standing alone against the rest of the world.

One day, he tells himself. One day, he will tell her.

But he’s been saying that every day since he’d met her, and she still does not know the blood of Mythal runs her veins. She does not know that she’s never had a choice in any of this. Fate drew her to Corypheus, and it drew her to him. They’ve been stuck on this wheel for a thousand years, caught repeating actions they make not of their own volition.

He has to stop it. He can’t lose her. (Not again, he wants to say, but even if her blood is Mythal’s, she is someone [something?] else entirely.)

He is torn; her eyes are starting to turn gold, and she should be the same as she once was, but she’s always been more than Mythal, and that will change everything.

He hears her, sometimes, late at night when they should both be sleeping. Her footsteps are familiar to him—as is everything else about her—and he recognises the sound of them approaching the rotunda where he works day and night, only to turn away at the last second and fade away.

Solas tries to pretend he doesn’t care, but still his heart leaps every time, only to ache every time she cannot summon up the will to speak to him. What is there even to say? he asks himself. What can she ask me that I will answer? There is only one question she needs the answer to, and she is too afraid to ask it.

Elgara is afraid of few things, of that he knows. He remembers their time in the Fade, he remembers what she said she had seen. Her fear of inadequacy plagues her, even if she’s only ever been enough (more than enough) but she fears the answer to the question that she bites back.

Why?

Because, he’d say. Because the day you drank from the Well, you took in a part of Mythal, and now your soul is equal parts yours and hers. You share one heart now, and the day your soul fully belongs to her, I will lose you. Every decision I have made, I have made before. Kisses under the moonlight, quiet longing glances shared across crowded ballrooms. If making different choices will allow us to escape this cycle, then I will make this sacrifice for the both of us, and if I had stayed away from Mythal in the first place, you would be safe now. We are connected, vhenan. If this will save you, then I will suffer your absence.

He remembers Abelas, and the reverence with which he had viewed the second coming of the one they had all loved (but then they’d both loved their queen in a way that Elgar’nan had not.) That is why, he tells himself. That is why he does this. She is not Mythal—not really—but she still has a capacity to capture the hearts and souls of all who view her. She is the hope for her people, the same Mythal was for hers. They need her. They cannot lose her as his people lost Mythal.

It benefits them all, as much as it benefits him. He tells himself this, if only to claim an attempt at selflessness, but it’s just as much of a lie as every other lie he has said about (to?) her. In reality, he is nothing but a selfish fool who is desperately clinging onto the last hope he has left. Her absence hurts, but losing her would hurt more, and that is something that somehow allows him to suffer through the long days that feel even longer without her.

Weeks pass, and then, late one night, he hears footsteps pattering across the cold stone tiles. He knows it’s her without needing to look up from his texts. She will not come in, he knows that, but even then his heart leaps with hope. But then—

“Solas.” Her voice is achingly familiar, even if it’s hoarser than he remembers. He has spent weeks telling himself that he needs to move on, if only to save her, but then he hears her speak his name, and it’s like nothing had changed. “We need to talk.”

Chapter Text

“Inquisitor.”

He’s reminded of her question from all those weeks ago. When did he start calling her Inquisitor? It’s the only one name he has for her that fits. Everything else is too familiar, belonging to a different time when things between them were not as they are now. Few people call her by her name, and if he’d once had the privilege of calling her by it, he certainly doesn’t now.

Elgara is looking better, though that’s not saying too much. She’d looked close to death all those weeks ago, and she’s doing better, if only marginally. She’s not as sickly pale as she used to be, colour returning to her golden eyes, and her long, curly hair is not tied up and braided as it usually is, and falls in elegant curls down her back.

And when the light shifts just right, the gold in her silver eyes shine, and he’s reminded why they were torn apart in the first place.

A part of him wants for things to go back to the way they were, even if he knows it isn’t possible. They aren’t the same as they once were, so how can they go back?

She approaches him slowly, like he’s a stranger to her, rather than someone she had once trusted. Like he’s not someone she’d once loved. (A part of her still loves him. It’s not been long enough for her to forget how she’d once cared for him, but if there’s one thing they have to spare, it’s time. If he can save her, that is.)

“Solas.” He almost grimaces at the way she says his name—the way her tongue curls around the soft syllables like one of her whispered prayers that have become so few and far between as of late, and the reverence that still makes its way into her voice even if she should be as angry as she was that day in Crestwood.

She has the right to hate him, and yet… And yet, she is calm, still, like the eye of a storm; chaos rages all around her while she stands there, as untouched as ever. (He can see it in her eyes, though. He can see that she is not untouched, and she had lost much of herself since she’d first stumbled out of the Fade.)

“Can I… Are you…?” She never used to struggle for words around him. Neither of them are particularly romantic—not that they ever could be, what with the entire world watching her every move—and he has never seen her so flustered by his presence. “Am I interrupting something?”

“I always have time for you, Inquisitor.” There’s a deeper meaning behind his words. For her, he’d give up anything, but even then, the words come out stilted, far too formal for all that they had shared. “What can I help you with?”

“I…” She grimaces, making a face. “The voices of the Well speak of an altar, hidden deep within the Arbour Wilds. They say there we will find what we need to defeat Corypheus once and for all. Would you… Would you accompany me? We do not leave for several days yet, but—”

“You would have me accompany you, even after…?” He doesn’t need to finish his sentence.

“You were with me from the start,” she says. “I would have you with me to see its end.”

He has no words to say. His heart simply aches in his chest, longing for a future that will never come to pass.

“And besides,” she continues after a moment’s pause. “You owe me answers.”’

Solas’ eyes close, unable to bear the sight of her. Yes, he says to himself. Yes I do. It is the least you deserve. “We have to focus on what matters.”

“I used to matter.” You still do. “What of when we are finished with this? With Corypheus? Will you tell me then?”

“If we are both still alive afterward,” if you survive the fate you have been destined for, “then I promise you, everything will be made clear.” He shouldn’t be making promises. He has done nothing but lie to her time and time again, and there are so many factors beyond just their survival at play here. “Will that suffice, Inquisitor?”

Fenedhis, Soals,” she bites at him, sounding more exasperated than angry as she runs her hand over her face. “You really don’t let anybody see under that polite mask you wear, do you?”

You saw more than most.

But those words, like so many others, go unsaid. “Let me know if I can be of any further help, Inquisitor,” he says, hating how cold he sounds. Does she know that he still cares for her? (No, of course she doesn’t. He had done his best to ensure that she would not discover why he had made the choices he had.

Better off with her not knowing. She does not need to fear a future that may never come to pass. She has enough to worry about without you adding to her problems. Would you rather not lose her like this than lose her forever?

Yes, he says. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less.

Chapter Text

Little remains of the Altar of Mythal. Unlike the temple that had housed the Well, these walls have not gone untouched by time. They’ve become a part of the wilds around them, little more than a shadow of Elvhenan’s legacy. Birds had tittered overhead, flying about in the canopy as they’d approached but now that they stand in the centre of the clearing, crumbled walls encircling them, the birds have gone silent. Even the wind seems to have stilled.

There stands a statue on the opposite side of the clearing, half obscured by vines and moss. Many of the finer details have been lost over the centuries, but its shape is far too familiar for him to not recognise it. He can barely make out her stone features, little left of the statue’s face, but atop its head sits a familiar crown, and in place of arms, the statue has large dragon wings that are far too delicate to have been made without magic.

Elgara approaches slowly, fingers outstretched as she pulls back the vines away from the stone. She is slow, careful, as though it might crumble to dust beneath her fingertips. Her brows furrow as her attention is drawn the runes still engraved into the stone, hidden beneath the vines she’d just removed.

“We few who travel far, call to me, and I will come. Without mercy, without fear.”

He knows the line that follows without having to take a single look at the runes. Cry havoc in the moonlight, let the fire of vengeance burn, the cause is clear.

They both have a fire in their souls, he has noticed. He needs to keep reminding himself that they are different, that they are not the same people, but there are too many similarities between her and Mythal for him to ignore. Both of them fight for justice, even if they do it in their own ways. Mythal had always been just, regardless of whether or not it was kind. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. She was not merciful. Many times, Elgara shows no mercy either. She had made the Duke pay for what he did to her clan without a second thought, but then other times…

She cares, he thinks to himself. She cares for strangers, even if she hides it. She is too proud to admit that she empathises.

But he had seen her cry, and he knows that she is not as untouchable as she claims to be.

“Are you sure you know what you are doing, Inquisitor?” He had remained quiet throughout much of the trip through the Arbor Wilds, but he cannot bite her tongue now.

“Are you doubting me?” Elgara doesn’t even sound angry anymore. Just… tired. This crusade of theirs has been going on for what feels like an age. It has almost been two full years, and only now, they’re getting close to being able to stop Corypheus once and for all.

And who knows what will happen to them after?

“No,” he says. “I am merely… concerned.”

“Then I ask that you remain quiet while I do this,” she murmurs, inclining her head, brows furrowing as she listens to what the Voices of the Well have to say to her. He pulls away as Elgara steps closer to the statue, pulling a small hunting knife from her waistband.

Elgara grits her teeth, and pulls the blade across her palm. She waits just long enough for a substantial amount of blood to pool before dragging her hand across the runes, filling the shallow engravings with crimson.

Bright, cerulean begins to swirl around them before finally materialising in the shape of a woman, her head held high. Her white hair is pulled back sharply away from her face, and almost seems to float in the air, as though suspended by a non-existent breeze. Her brow is adorned by a sharp, angular crown that serves to frame her bright, golden eyes.

She glances at Solas, if only for the briefest of moments, but the look she gives him says more than she has time to say. My old friend. It’s been so long.

Looking at her hurts. She isn’t Mythal. She simply carries what’s left of her spirit that Dirthamen had been unable to destroy, but enough of the woman he had loved shines through, and his heart aches just the same.

“Elgara Lavellan,” she says softly, turning her attention to the Inquisitor. “I was wondering when at last we would meet.” The Inquisitor is still, silent, even as she approaches the young elf. “Well? Do you not wish to ask who I am? Do you not wish to ask how I know your name?”

“I don’t… I don’t understand,” she says. “I summoned Mythal—”

“And she answered,” she finishes. “What is left of her, at least. I am but an avatar of her will. I am all that is left of the woman you summoned.”

“How? Why?”

She laughs under her breath, almost bitter. “Once I was but a woman, crying out in the lonely darkness for justice. And she answered, just as she answered to you. She was nothing more than the memory of an ancient being, but… She asked a price for her aid—that I would protect what little remained of who she was until the time was right and I would be allowed to let her go.”

“Who are you?”

“Isn’t that the question? I have lived a long time, child. I have many names, but you… You may call me Flemeth.” The Witch of the Wilds inclines her head, studying the slight mage standing before her. “You carry a part of her too. You are connected to her in ways you likely do not understand.”

“So everyone keeps telling me!” snaps Elgara, fierce on the outside, but he can hear the waver in her voice, he can hear how she’s on the brink of tears. “And no one will explain why!”

Flemeth hushes her gently, like a mother trying to comfort a child. In reality, they’re two parts of one whole, each of them carrying a different part of Mythal in their hearts. She pulls the younger girl into an embrace, and over Elgara’s shoulder, her eyes meet his once again.

You have not told her, says Flemeth’s voice within his mind.

No, he answers.

She will find out eventually, she says. Why haven’t you told her? Do you fear that she will not trust you after? You two have been drawn to each other time and time again, like a moth drawn to a flame. There is little you can do or say that would tear you two apart. Mythal should be dead and yet—

My kind does not die so easily, he says. In the face of every adversary, we have always found a way to endure. Mythal simply found a way to do the same.

You and I both know that this is more than that, Solas. She has her face, her mannerisms, and now, thanks to the Well, she carries a part of her soul too. This is beyond survival. This is something more.

 I know, he says. I wish it wasn’t, but I know.

You have a duty, Dread Wolf. Would you let her keep you from it?

Elgara steps away from Flemeth, still fighting back bitter, angry tears. It’s easy to forget that, in the grand scheme of things, she is still quite young. She has not lived an eternity, as he had, and she has lost so much in the past few months alone.

“So young,” Flemeth says, brushing a stray curl away from Elgara’s visage. “And so vibrant. You do the People proud, child of Mythal, but being the pride of the People will not stop Corypheus, and that is why you summoned me, is it not?”

She swallows. “It is.”

“My daughter,” says Flemeth. “Morrigan.”

“Morrigan?” Elgara blinks. “What of her?”

“She is quite the adept shapeshifter, you know,” Flemeth says, inspecting her nails. “She has the strength of a hundred men when she changes, should she wish it. Perhaps she might even be able to take on a dragon, and if Corypheus’ immortality is linked to a very mortal dragon…”

Elgara straightens, understanding passing over her features. “And as for Corypheus?”

“You are stronger than you know, child,” she says. “I have faith in you.”

“Thank you,” she says softly. “You might very well have saved us.”

Chapter Text

Even the seediest of Orlais’ taverns are opulent beyond belief, gold décor hanging from painted plaster walls, and lit up by glass chandeliers, the flickering candlelight casting a warm orange light over the small, crowded room. The tavern’s patrons are loud and bawdy, most of them drunk or about to be, and the space reeks of sweat and stale alcohol. Solas shifts on the rickety wooden bench, pulling his hood further over his head in a poor attempt to hide his pointed ears. Even if the entirety of the tavern’s patrons could not stand up to both him and Elgara, this is still Orlais, and he has heard the vitriol the Orlesians spit at their kind.

Her kind, his mind corrects. The elven are not your people. You are Elvhen, and these people are not your own. When did you start thinking yourself as part of them?

You know when, he thinks to himself, watching as the crowd almost seems to part for Elgara as she makes her way back towards him. You know why.

He says nothing as she takes a seat across from him, a mug of ale in hand. “I have good news,” she says, “and bad news.”

He remains silent, arching a brow. She’s three drinks in already, and he hates how it’s begun to melt away her quiet anger. It’s too easy to pretend that nothing had ever happened between them when she’s like this—all smiles, and long looks from beneath her lashes when she thinks he isn’t looking.

(For both of their sakes, he pretends to be oblivious to it all.)

“The nearest village is but a ten minute ride away, and we’ll be able to get supplies there before returning to Skyhold in the morning when the shops open,” she says. She pauses, taking a swig from her ale. And then another. And then one more.

“Inquisitor?” His voice almost comes out strangled as he watches her. It’s odd to see her without Dirthamen’s markings staining her skin, but it only brings attention to the dark blush creeping her way up her neck. He doesn’t know if it’s from the alcohol, or something else. The table is so narrow that his knees brush hers every time he shifts position, and he’s painfully aware of how warm her skin is, even under all her layers of armour.

(A kiss shared under the moonlight. Golden skin washed in the pale light of the moons. “I regret many things, da’len, but the kiss—” The kiss should have been one of them.)

“There is only one available room left,” she mumbles into the lip of her metal tankard. “Though they offered to set up a cot in the stable should we need it. I don’t think they’ve realised it’s raining.”

“Then let them set a cot up,” he says, his stomach twisting for reasons he doesn’t even want to think about. (He can almost smell the perfumed oils she runs through her hair every morning, all jasmine and citrus. Can almost taste her sweet lips. Can almost hear her cry his name as she came undone beneath him— No. Stop this, you fool.)

“No.” She almost sounds angry. “Absolutely not. I’m not letting you sleep in a stable.”

“After spending weeks in a tent, a cot in a stable would be a luxury, Inquisitor.”

“We’ve shared a room before, Solas.”

He can’t bear to look her in the eyes. “Things are different now.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he catches her countenance twist in grief. A long moment passes, both of them completely silent before she finally manages to respond to his words. “At least sleep on the floor,” she murmurs, barely audible over the raucous crowd. “I can’t bear to think of you alone, out there in the cold.”

The part of him that knows better says he should insist otherwise, but another part of him… Another part of him hates what he has done to them, and longs to be near her, even if he has to remain at arm’s length. It’s the only reason he’d agreed to accompany her to the Arbor Wilds. He can’t get her out of his mind, no matter how he hard he tries.

You fool, the rational part of his mind says. You weren’t supposed to fall in love with her.

Instead, he inclines his head in a shallow nod, unable to refuse her. “As you wish, Inquisitor.”

Her countenance twists again, pain flashing behind her silver eyes. “Excuse me as I go get another drink. Our room is on the second floor, third door to your left,” is all she says as she gets back to her feet, taking her empty tankard with her. Already, there is a slight sway to her step, and she shoots an angry glare as she stumbles into someone, their drink spilling over her bare feet.

The small bedroom isn’t anything special, containing little more than a bed with a straw mattress on a carved wooden frame, and a single, solitary wash basin full of lemon-scented water on a wooden stand. The floorboards creak beneath his weight, and the walls are too thin to block out any of the noises coming from downstairs. The entire space is lit up by one solitary candlestick resting on a nightstand alongside the bed.

Solas sets his pack down on the bed alongside Elgara’s, unable to get Flemeth’s words out of his mind.

This is beyond survival.

He knows it’s something more. It has always been something more. He thought he had recognised Corypheus’ peculiar form of immortality when the Inquisitor had first brought it up to his attention. Corypheus can be killed, but his spirit simply moves onto another host, and thus he is born again. Mythal… Mythal had done the same. She hadn’t made use of a dragon, or gone through any complex loopholes, she had simply… passed her spirit on throughout the ages, leaving it to search until it found a suitable host.

A host who shared her blood.

A host who was like her in every single way.

He curses, bracing himself against the washbasin, and staring into the clouded, aged mirror. The Elvhen take centuries to even show the slightest signs of age, but he feels older, like the past few months have taken more of a toll on him than he had thought.

This is something more.

He steps away from the mirror, unable to look at his own reflection for a moment longer. Flemeth is right. This is something more. Has he ever told her that he loved her? In her tongue and not his own? He doesn’t think so. It would have been so easy. Three small little words. He knows they’re true, but why do they catch in his throat?

He loves her, but why can’t he say it out loud? If she knew… If she knew, maybe she could forgive him for pushing her away. The truth of his affections, like all other truths, he has kept hidden from her.

“Lost in your thoughts, are you?” There’s a slight slur to Elgara’s words as she steps into room. She’s several steps away, but he can smell the alcohol on her breath regardless. Its scent thick and heavy, far too crude for someone as delicate as her.

(No. Delicate isn’t the right word. She is delicate like thin vines of wrought iron is delicate—elegant but still unbending, unyielding. And like wrought iron, if pushed too hard, she might break, shatter into a thousand razor-sharp pieces.)

But still, some part of him longs for her. She is bare faced, free of the pale lines of ink that had once stained her golden skin, and yet it doesn’t matter. It used to. He used to despise how she was bound to the Betrayer, proudly wearing the markings of the man who had killed her in her past life. How many times had he traced her vallaslin with his lips, as though a kiss could free her?

“You are Dalish,” he says, unable to keep himself from staring at the vallaslin she wears so proudly. She doesn’t even know what they mean. She doesn’t know that she is Mythal reborn, and she is marked by the symbols of her once-son who had cut her down in cold blood.

Her ears twitch, the only signifier that she’d heard his words until— “Yes. Proudly.”

“Proudly,” he repeats, having to bite back a scoff. He has known her all of ten minutes and already he knows that she is not the woman she used to be, even if the similarity of her features to Mythal’s begs him to say otherwise.

“I can sense your derision.” She sounds anything but pleased even as she refuses to look back at him. “We are the last of the free elves, and we uphold the oath we swore so long ago.”

“Which is?”

She pauses in her tracks then, bared toes still half curled in the snow. A barrier shimmers around them, protecting them from the cold, but even then, he’s certain that she is anything but comfortable. It doesn’t matter. She could have picked up a pair of boots from any fallen soldier, but no. She wears her Dalish leg wraps for a reason, and she does so with pride. Then, she looks back, and—

“Never again shall we submit.”

“I changed my mind,” Elgara says, and he half expects her to kick him back out to the stables, but she never does. “I can sleep on the floor. Take the bed.”

Solas turns to look back out the window. In the distance, Lac D’Argent glitters in the night, the flickering candles in the windows of the town’s inhabits visible even from here. Above, a sky full of stars peeks through the rainclouds. He watches as droplets of water race each other down the glass. “The Well of Sorrows took its toll on you, Inquisitor. You require your rest.”

He can see her reflection in the window pane. She’s resting against the door frame, long curly hair not pinned up as it usually is, but braided and brought forward over her shoulder. (She’s been wearing it like that a lot lately, and he can’t say that he hasn’t noticed the change. He notices everything about her.) Her reflection isn’t as clear as it would be in a looking glass, but it’s clear enough that he can tell she’s flushed, golden skin warmer than it usually is. Her lips, normally a pale pink, are flushed cherry-red.

Inquisitor, he calls her. Formal, polite, distant.

But right now, all she is Elgara.

“I’ll rest when Corypheus is dead and not a moment before,” she says, and he watches her reflection in the window as she steps further into the room. “There’s too much at stake.”

“You truly have become invested in this, Inquisitor,” he says. “Months ago, you shirked your duty at every turn.”

“If you intend to say that I’ve changed, then yes, I have, and you’ll hear no disagreements from me, but I do not like this anymore than I did before. Things have… changed, that’s all. Before, I had a reason to want to leave the Inquisition and return home. I do not have that any longer, but if I do not succeed at this, none of us will have a family to return to. Not just me.”

“That’s very noble of you.”

“It’s not noble, Solas,” she mutters. “I just… grew up.”

And so she has. He can see it in her silver gold eyes. “Loss can change person,” he says softly.

“What do you know of loss?” Her tone is sharp, biting, like the first cold winds of winter. A moment of silence, then— “That was unworthy of me. I apologise. I know you… lost the woman you loved.”

Which time?

Solas says nothing, and prays she doesn’t notice how his fingertips are digging into the soft wood of the window frame, nails leaving small crescent idents.

“We can share the bed.” She doesn’t phrase it as a question. Already, she’s shedding her travel cloak, and hanging it from the end of the bed. She stops at the washbasin for a second, furrowing her brows at something in the mirror before cupping some of the lemon-scented water in her hands and scrubbing the dirt from her face. He catches her sneak a glimpse at him out of the corner of her eye before pretending as though nothing had happened.

A shaky sigh escapes her, then—

“You can’t even look at me, can you?”

“Inquisitor—”

“Don’t call me that,” she says. She doesn’t even sound angry. Just… desperate. Tired. Confused. “I’ve never been the Inquisitor to you. Why does that have to change now? You volunteered to come with me to speak with Myth… Flem… Whatever she was. If the sight me hurts so much you can’t even use my name, you needn’t have come.”

“Regardless of our history,” he almost calls her Inquisitor, “I would still like us to be friends.”

“You can’t even look at me Solas!” Her voice grows louder, and she’s on the verge of tears now. “Face me, you coward!”

 It’s like he’s moving through molasses when he turns, the air thick and heavy, every movement slow and sluggish. Slowly, his eyes meet hers, but as soon as they do, he wants to turn away again. She’s right—he can’t face her, not truly. When he sees her, he just sees all the broken promises, all the lies he had to tell her just to keep her safe.

He sees everything he made her into.

She takes a few careful steps towards him, looking up at him from beneath her furrowed brows. The candlelight almost halos her, illuminating her from behind in a pure, golden haze. His breath catches in his throat at her closeness to him, a million thoughts racing through his head.

“Elgara.” It’s the first time he’s used her name in a long time. “We shouldn’t.”

“Does that matter?”

It doesn’t, but it should. They have gone their separate ways, but he is drawn to her regardless, craving her as the Commander craves the lyrium that had once controlled him. (That’s what she is to him; an addiction he cannot break, the craving for her gnawing at his insides until he can scarcely breathe for want of her.)

But then a hand wraps around the base of his neck, pulling him in close and he cannot bring himself to deny the one pleasure he can afford to indulge inn. This—she will make this harder. They weren’t supposed to be people. They were meant to be as the Tranquil are—heartless, cold, disconnected from the world around them. But she is real. She is so real, more so than anyone or anything else.

Losing her will break him.

Already, he does not know how he will say goodbye, but then her lips meet his and his fear of the future slips away. She tastes of ale and honey, sweet and sour all at once. He remembers their first kiss in the Fade—remembers how she stole a kiss, and then soon after stole his heart. She is a temptation he cannot resist.

But he’d never been able to resist her, now had he?

Nails dig into his skin even through the cloth of his tunic, desperately holding onto him as though he’ll slip away like smoke if she dares to let him go. Her teeth catch on his lower lip, and he tastes the iron of his own blood on his tongue. It hardly matters. He deserves a little pain, and she deserves to take anything he has to give.

The neck of her white muslin blouse falls over one shoulder, and her leather trousers peel away like a second skin, just a shade darker than her, and he gently discards them. She is to be revered, and he prostrates himself before her, looking up at her with wide lavender-grey eyes, pupils blown wide with want.

She is slick with her desire, folds glistening with her wetness, and she groans as he lowers his mouth, tasting her salty sweet arousal on his tongue. Blunt nails dig into his scalp as she desperately keeps him close. She tries desperately to bite them back, but still her needy groans come tumbling out from her lips.

Solas…” she breathes out, eyes scrunched tight as she struggles to get his name out. He casts a glance up at her, watching her chest heave beneath the white muslin, nipples standing out from beneath her breast band. Her bare skin shines with a thin sheen of sweat; the dappled light of the flickering candle almost makes her golden skin glow from the inside out.

And for a moment, he can pretend that nothing has changed.

He had never told her he loved her. Not in the language she favours, at least.

He had intended to, that fateful day back in Crestwood when he’d walked away. Instead, he’d unbound her from shackles she hadn’t known she had been wearing, and sacrificed the only thing in his long life that could have ever made him happy.

He had never told her he loved her, but he breathes the words out against her skin as she comes undone.

And she doesn't hear.

She lets out a choked moan as she comes on his tongue, flooding his mouth with her taste. Elgara goes lax in her pleasure, enjoy the brief moment’s reprieve. Her head lolls back on the pillow, a rare smile gracing her lips. She is at peace; not quite sober, and high off of her orgasm, but all he feels is shame.

He shouldn’t have encouraged this. She isn’t in the right state of mind, and he’d taken advantage of it, desperate to fill the void in his heart. In the back of his mind, his tongue is still coated in her salty sweetness.

But when he swallows, all he tastes is remorse and the bitterness of pride.

Chapter Text

From his rotunda in the heart of Skyhold, Solas feels the Breach reopen more than he sees it. Familiar Elvhen magic washes over all of Thedas, and the ground shakes as the heavens are ripped open once again. Something within his stomach drops as he emerges from the rotunda out onto the battlements, his expression twisting as he lies his eyes on Corypheus’ twisted form of destruction. Even if the ancient Magister’s goals are close to his own, this is not how Solas would see his plans come to fruition.

He would spare them their suffering, if he could.

And Corypheus simply wants to watch the world burn.

They don’t have much time. The Breach will consume all of Thedas by nightfall if they do not stop him, and there will be nothing left but ash and ruin. He does not know if it was Corypheus’ intention to force their hand, but that is all he has succeeded in doing.

This ends tonight.

You do not know if she will emerge the victor, a small voice inside of him whispers. This might be the last time you ever see her. You should tell her.

Tell her what? another part of him asks. The truth? That I am what brought about our people’s ruin? That I love her, and I always have?

Since when did you start referring to her people as your own too, Dread Wolf?

All of it, the voice answers.

If she does not die to the magister’s hand, she will die to yours.

She deserves better.

She always has.

He watches with pursed lips as the Breach’s emerald glow stretches across the sky, spreading as the Taint does through the Blighted. It was never supposed to happen this way. He never meant for it to go this far. Had he succeeded, the Inquisition wouldn’t be here now, residing within the fallen ruins of the Wolf’s den. Instead, he’d be standing amidst his people as their saviour.

He wants to see this through. This all happened because of his mistake. It is his duty to set things right.

“Solas.”

His name on her lips sounds sweeter than anything Desire had ever whispered in his ear during his walks in the Fade. His mistake had led him to her. So if this is a mistake, so be itNo! As soon as this is over, you will have to walk away! You walk the dinan’shiral, Dread Wolf, and there is no room on your path for her—

It doesn’t matter.

It never did.

Let me be selfish, he thinks to himself. Let me relish this peace for one more minute.

“Inquisitor,” he says, turning to face her. Her golden eyes aren’t on him, but on the Breach. (Green on gold, like crimson on glittering mosaics.) The title suits her now. It didn’t use to. She stands tall and proud, every ounce the leader as her predecessor. With every passing day, she steps into her role more.

And he will not get to see her become what she was always meant to be.

“I want you with me,” she says. It isn’t phrased as a question.

They haven’t talked about that night in Orlais. He doesn’t even know if she remembers it. (She does, the memory will keep her company long after he is gone, and she is left alone.) It isn’t the only thing that hangs heavy and unaddressed between them. “Elgara…” he starts.

“I know what you’re going to say.” Still, she doesn’t look at him. “Even after everything? Yes. Even after everything. I will not lie—a part of me cares for you still, and that will never change, but you… You were with me when this began. It is only fitting that you would see its end.”

It's a sentiment she has shared before. They had started this together. They will end this together. Solas inclines his head. “If that is what you would command of me—”

“No.” Her voice is clipped, sharp, as her eyes meet his. “We may not return from this. I do not want you to accompany me because you are commanded to. I need to know that you are prepared to leave, and to possibly not return, and that is not something I can command you to do.”

“You are the General of your forces,” he says. “It is within your right to command me to die for you.”

“And do you think I could live with myself, knowing you had died for me?” she returns.

He can’t bring himself to keep her gaze. “It would be my honour to fight alongside you one last time, lethal’lan.”

“Meet me in the courtyard when you are ready. I intend to leave as soon as we are ready. This has gone on for too long.”

“Of course, Inquisitor.”

Pain, or something similar, flashes across her fine, angular features as she turns on her heel to leave. She hesitates at the last second, hand resting on the wooden door separating them from the rotunda. “You promised me,” she murmurs, “that if we both survive this, you would tell me the truth.”

The truth. You do not know what you ask of me, my love.

“Do you intend to uphold that promise?”

He knows the question she truly means to ask: You have broken so many promises to me, Solas. Will this be another?

“After this…” he says, choking on the words in his throat. His gaze is drawn back to hers, eyes all glittering gold, reminding him of everything he'd failed to do. “After this, I will tell you everything, I swear.”

(She doesn’t yet know that he will not be returning from this with her, even if they emerge triumphant. He will not break another promise, but he will not be upholding his end of his oath. [Not now. When they meet again, he will tell her, but he does not know how far away that day is.])

He does not take much, only what he can fit in his leather knapsack, and even then, only the things he cannot live without. His notebook, full of his secret plans written Elvhen so archaic not even Elgara could understand it. A little food, some water in a skin, and his staff. He will recover what was lost in time, replacing the things Elgara had given him as a gesture of her favour with what he can find.

Solas takes one long last look at the walls of the rotunda. Once, the plaster had been painted with images of his likeness, telling the tale of the Dread Wolf. Now, they are adorned with his depictions of Elgara’s tale, from the beginning at Haven all the way to now. She is painted in all her glory for the world to remember her by.

One day, he says to himself. One day, I will tell you the truth, my love, but the path you walk is long and dark, and you must walk it alone, just as I must. I swear to you, I will meet you at the start of the end, and then… I will tell you everything.

He leaves a slip of paper on his desk as he leaves the room.

The Temple of Sacred Ashes is in ruins, little left of the holy grounds but rubble and twisted veins of red lyrium protruding from the ground like knives. Corypheus stands in the centre of it all, his corrupted orb hanging in the air above his head as it feeds the Breach with its power. Its veined surface is fractured and cracked, his Elvhen magics slowly sapped away by the blighted lyrium Corypheus had used to wreak havoc across all of Thedas. The magister’s flesh seems to be hanging onto his bones by sheer force of will alone, decayed and rotting as he turns his gaze upon the Inquisitor and her company.

Once, Varric and Cassandra had both balked in the face of Corypheus, neither of them a match for the godlike being. Now, they stand proud and unafraid next to the Inquisitor’s side. While the rest of the Inquisition with Morrigan’s aid attempts to slay Corypheus’ dragon, they four stand, alone, against Corypheus.

They started this together.

They will end this together.

“I knew you would come, Inquisitor.” A smile stretches across Corypheus’ rotten lips as his gaze settles upon the Inquisitor, the Anchor crackling with uncontrollable energy this close to the Breach. They stand just beneath it now; Solas can almost taste the Fade’s ancient air. “You think your Inquisition changes anything? Your world will be destroyed. You are, and always were, small. You are not enough to stop me.”

“I was always enough,” says Elgara.

“You are nothing but a thief,” snarls Corypheus, “in the wrong place at the wrong time. An interloper. A gnat.”

“No,” she says. “My soul is Mythal’s. I am more of a god than you ever will be.”

“So then prove to me, Inquisitor,” he growls, “that you are worthy of the godhood to which you claim!”

Demons erupt from the earth upon which they stand. A terror demon lunges towards Elgara but falls before it can lay a single claw on her, a crossbow bolt jutting out from its jugular, and everything, all at once, erupts into chaos. Elgara’s blade materialises in her hand, cutting cleanly through any foe that dares to stand in her way as she pulls fire from the air, clearing the field for her allies.

Solas’ blood pounds in his ears as a blizzard manifests around him, freezing their foes solid as Cassandra shatters them into a thousand pieces with nought but a swing of her sword. Their foes seem endless, and once, he might have bowed beneath them, but he stands alongside those he has stood with for what feels like an age, and if they fail…

If they fail, all will be lost.

He weaves a barrier around them all, magic shining over their skin in a glittering sheen. He can taste demon ichor on his tongue, bitter and vile, but slowly, they cut through the seemingly endless waves of demons towards Corypheus. The magister stands his ground, red lyrium flying from his fingertips, hurling towards where they make their stand but there is nothing he can do to stop them now.

They will kill him, or they will die trying.

“You cannot slay me!” shouts Corypheus over the cacophony of a hundred demons being slain. “I am immortal!”

His dragon roars overhead, triumphant as it comes to land on a crumbling pillar of the Temple, but as it bellows in pride, a large amaranthine dragon swoops out of the air, jaws clamping down the lyrium dragons bared neck. Black ichor drips from its wounds, and it howls one final, last time before it falls limp.

“You were,” corrects Elgara with a smile that’s all teeth as she charges straight towards him, her golden spirit blade bared.

He swings towards her with his gnarled, clawed hands, but she is too quick for him and easily dodges beneath him, still smiling. Corypheus swirls to attack her again but she simply side-steps, and the force of his attack almost sends him tumbling to the ground. She is all fire and fury, a force that can no longer be contained. He snarls in frustration, unable to land a single blow on Elgara.

She makes to swing for his throat, and he raises his hand to block her she feints at the last second, and the next thing Solas knows, her golden spirit blade is buried in Corypheus’ chest. Elgara pulls it out slowly, blade dripping with his corrupted black blood as the false god falls to his knees before her.

The orb still hangs in the air, crackling with wicked energy and Corypheus reaches for it in a last ditch attempt to take her down with him. He struggles to keep it in his grasp, trying to pry even a single drop of magic from its core. It is all for nought. The magics of the orb are Elvhen and do not belong to him.

Elgara outstretches her marked hand, her skin shimmering with Solas’ emerald magic, and the orb comes flying towards her, recognising her for who and what she is. The corruption of the lyrium fades as soon as it comes into her possession, turning as green as the Breach overhead.

She tests it in her hand for the briefest of moments before it slowly starts to hover in the air once again, its magic connecting to her Anchor. The air seems to slowly be sucked out of the Temple of Sacred Ashes, and his skin crawls with the magic that washes over everything. (He has only seen this kind of magical strength in one other.) Then—

The Breach expands, blooming outwards in a flash of blinding green light before collapsing in on itself.

“You underestimated me, Corypheus,” she says slowly, turning her golden-eyed gaze towards the fallen magister. The orb hovers just over her marked hand as she takes several close steps towards him. “I am not, nor have I ever been, nothing. Look at you, the god on his knees before me.”

Elgara lifts her head, baring her teeth in a cruel facsimile of a smile. “You wanted to into the Fade? Let me grant you your wish.” The Anchor flares, the orb lighting up with it, as a rift opens in the centre of Corypheus’ chest, devouring him from the inside out before it collapses in on itself.

The sky where the Breach had been shudders, and what little remains of the Temple of Sacred Ashes begins to collapse around them. Elgara does not hesitate. She stands in the centre of her chosen allies, thrusting her hand up into the sky, a large dome of protective magic solidifying around them as everything collapses around them, and they are thrust into darkness.

Solas can barely hear anything over the pounding of his own heart as the dust settles, the air lightening little by little. There is nothing left of the Breach but a thin, glittering manifestation of the Veil where it had been irreparably damaged, as though it had been scarred.

They did it.

She did it.

But—

Already Cassandra and Varric are celebrating their victory. They do not notice him slip away, searching amidst the rubble for…

For…

The orb lies in pieces amidst the rubble, the power he’d needed to bring his people back destroyed. He falls to his knees, picking up the shards of onyx, but the stone is cold. There isn’t even the quietest hum of magic within what’s left.

Cassandra and Varric hadn’t noticed his disappearance, but Elgara…

Elgara finds him easily.

“Solas?” She approaches him tentatively, her voice weak and weary. She stops just behind him, her gaze settling on the shards of the orb that he cradles in his hands.

He doesn’t know what to do. He has always prided himself on his knowledge, and now… Now he knows what he must do but he does not know how it can be done. “The orb…” is all he manages to get out.

“I’m sorry,” she murmurs. “I know you wanted the orb saved. Is there any way we can…” She doesn’t finish her own question. She had touched the orb. She’d tasted its power, and she can undoubtedly sense its cold emptiness now.

Even now, she’s apologising to him.

“It is not your fault,” he says, heart breaking all over again as he discards the orb, getting to his feet. He can’t meet her eyes. “It was not supposed to happen this way. You were, as always, right. You anger was… justified. I hope, in time, you will understand. I hope that you can forgive me for what must come next.”

“Forgive you? Solas, what are you talking about?”

“I am so sorry, my love,” he says, managing to meet her gaze. It is a mistake. She looks so beautiful standing there, even now. “And know that I have always loved you. I promise, in time, I will tell you everything.”

“Solas—” she starts but he closes the distance between them in a few strides, and as soon as his fingers come in contact with her forehead, she falls limp in his arms, knocked unconscious by his spell.

He sets her down on the ground gently, brushing her hair away from her face. He has seen it so many times before. It has haunted his dreams since he’d lost her the first time, but looking at it now… He doesn’t want to walk away for fear of forgetting her.

You have a duty, Dread Wolf, Flemeth had said. Would you let her keep you from it?

Solas casts one long pained look at Elgara’s sleeping visage. “Forgive me,” he says under his breath before clamouring down the rubble and ruins of the Temple down into the depths of the valley towards a hidden path.

The glamour disguising the path disappears as he approaches, shedding away as a snake moults its skin. He casts a glance back over his shoulder, his pack heavy on his back. From here, he can barely see the Temple, but he knows that his sleeping spell must already be fading. He can only hope she will be able to forgive him.

With a heavy heart he starts down the path, following it until it leads him to a cave. There, propped against the wall, stands the glittering mirror, its surface dappled in magic, shifting as he looks at it. He’d been surprised to find an Eluvian within the depths of the Temple, and by some small miracle, it had survived the initial explosion. He’d dragged it here, hiding it away, while they’d still been at Haven.

Solas shifts the position of his pack on his back, gripping his staff tight, and steps through into the dark unknown.

She stands, facing away from him as he approaches, her hand pressed up against the surface of the Eluvian, bathed in sapphire light. Slowly, she stills, pulling her hand back, magic dissipating in blue fog. She doesn’t look back at him, but she doesn’t need to. She has known him for an eternity—knows him almost as well as she knows herself.

They are kindred spirits, in a sense, bound together the same way he had been bound to Her.

But then again, they both have a part of Mythal’s soul inside of them.

“I knew you would come.” Flemeth speaks slowly, aware of why he is here. He could never keep anything from her, no matter what form she is in. They have known each other for far too long for either of them to be able to keep secrets. “You should not have given your orb to Corypheus, Dread Wolf.”

Her gaze is kind, gentle, as she turns to look at him. He doesn’t know how she can have any sympathy for him. Not when she knows why he’s here.

“I was too weak to unlock it after my slumber. He was not meant to survive,” he says, heart twisting in pain. Has he not sacrificed enough for this cause already? Must he lose this too? “The failure… The failure was mine, but the People, they need me.”

“I know.”

She does. She knows more than anyone else does, or possibly can.

“Have you told her?” Flemeth’s eyes are as gold as hers, and he can barely look her in them without a gut-wrenching pain searing through him. His silence is the only answer she needs. “She will find out eventually.”

“I know.” Slowly, he closes his eyes. “But she deserves to have peace while she can. I owe her that much, at least.” Flemeth reaches up to cup the side of his face, and he absentmindedly places his hand over her own, relishing her touch for one last time. “I am so sorry.”

“I am sorry as well, old friend,” she whispers.

He opens his eyes just as she collapses in his arms, blue magic escaping her and slowly sinking into the centre of his chest. It courses through his veins like white-hot fire, eating at him from the inside out, and he has to choke back a sob as she goes lifeless in his grasp, the colour drained from her skin. Her head lolls back with her final breath, lids shutting over dull, slate grey eyes.

And gently, he sets her cold body down on the cracked golden tiles, setting her to rest amidst the blooming flowers.

Chapter Text

He is used to being alone, but this time, solitude comes with a weight so crushing he fears he might buckle beneath it. By now, solitude should be an old friend, but he feels her absence more than he has ever felt the absence of any other. He has no one to blame but himself for the distance between them, he knows that, but somehow that knowledge almost makes it worse. All of this could have been avoided.

No, it couldn’t have. No matter what decisions they could have made, this is always how it would end.

And he doesn’t even know what else he’ll lose before this is over.

Solas works in the shadows, slowly accumulating forces, and avoiding the spies the Inquisition sends after him. But slowly, as days turn to weeks, then to months, the spies stop coming as the Inquisitor loses faith in him ever returning, turning her attention back to the monumental task she has laid before her. Even with the Breach now closed, Thedas is still not at peace; Corypheus’ reign of terror had decimated the land, leaving the people who’d only just recovered from the last Blight in complete disarray. They need her guidance now more than ever.

He has spies of his own, and they report back to him with tales of her—how she’s changed, how she’s grown. His absence, their victory over Corypheus… all of it has shaped her, turning her into the staunch, confident leader that Thedas needs in the wake of the Breach.

Sometimes, he dons a glamour, disguising himself completely, and slips into towns he knows the Inquisitor will be visiting, all so he can catch a glimpse of her. One time, she locks eyes with him as he’d hidden amongst the crowd that had gathered to see her, and his heart stops, fearing that she can see through the magic he had weaved around himself, but then she passes with nothing more than a slight frown gracing her lips.

A part of him had wanted to shed his glamour then and there and beg her to take him back.

He’d step out from the crowd, lavender eyes meeting her gold, and then…

He doesn’t know what would come after. He doesn’t know if she’ll be able to forgive him for what he’s already done, and he’s certain she won’t be able to forgive him for what’s to come.

(He wishes he could be there by her side, but they each have their own paths to walk.)

Late at night, when he dreams, he dreams of her. Eyes as silver as the twin moons (never gold, he never sees them as gold when he pictures her), and loose curls draped across an expanse of golden skin dotted with moles that take the shape of the stars above. Desire always takes her shape in the Dreaming, but it’s never quite right. Never quite her.

But then the first light of dawn breaks the horizon, and he wakes in a cold bed, alone.

A year passes, then two, and his forces steadily grow in size. Elves of all backgrounds flock to him, like sheep to a shepherd, desperate for salvation. They know that they will not live to see the world he intends to create, but the dream of a world where elves rule over men means more to them than their own lives. They care not if they fight for a future they will never get to see, so long as the suffering their kind have endured for a millennia was worth it.

Their kind?

They are elven but they are not Elvhen, and yet, that doesn’t matter to him as much as it used to. When he’d first awoken, he had seen them as nothing but shadows of his kind. Somewhere along the line, that had changed.

(She had changed everything. The lines had blurred with her. Elven, Elvhen, he doesn’t know which she is, but it doesn’t matter. She’s everything. She’s home.)

And he is lost without her.

Solas curses as azure magic explodes from the palm of his hand, uncontrolled and dangerous, colliding with the wall of the Elvhen ruins he had taken up sanctuary in. (In the shadows of the Elvhen empire, he hides, swearing to bring back all that he’d force the People to lose, and wake them from their dreaming sleep.) The magic leaves behind soot on the pale stone, scorching the surface that had remained untouched for so long.

This magic he wields is not his own, and he struggles to remember that. With Flemeth’s dying breath, she’d passed on her magic unto him. Still, he is not as powerful as he once was, even with her magic combined with his, but it will have to do.

He has always made do with what the world had given him. That won’t change now.

With a shaky breath, he reins himself back in. His magic hums just beneath the surface of his skin as he pulls it back into himself, angry and sharp, and demanding to be let loose.

You are no child, he tells himself. Contain yourself, Dread Wolf.

You are better than this.

I am not, he counters. I have destroyed all that made me good.

Solas flexes his hand, examining the veins that pulse with blue light with every breath he takes. The path he walks is long and dark, and he must travel far before he can rest. There is much still he needs to do.

There is a knock at the door, and one of his spies scurries in, carrying the reports for the day. They drop to their knees, head bowed as they present him with the papers. “Ma’ha’raj Fen’Harel,” they say in a voice barely above a whisper. They cannot bring themselves to look him in the eyes.

Solas slowly curls his hand into a fist, ignoring the throbbing burning of Flemeth’s magic in his blood.

He takes a breath.

And Fen’Harel takes the papers from the spy’s grip.

Chapter Text

The Qunari are not a subtle people, and Fen’Harel has many, many spies. He does not know how they expected no one to uncover their plot. They had been careless, leaving countless trails, not bothering to disguise the paths they’d taken.

He can feel their presence, their intrusion, in the Vir Shiraan, crossing roads that were not meant for their kind. At first, he dismisses them. The Qun is no match for Fen’Harel, and so he does not fear them, but then—

The Dread Wolf’s stomach turns as his sul’anasha slips from his quarters, but as soon as the door closes, he lets out a feral snarl, pushing all papers and books off of the surface of his desk. An inkwell shatters on the tiles, black spreading across the fallen papers, consuming the words his spies had so painstakingly written out for him.

He hardly cares.

There is only one thing on his mind.

He had never particularly thought of the Qunari as a beastly race, even if they are the descendants of the twisted experiments Andruil had conducted on her slaves, but this…

They have gone too far.

Dragon’s Breath, they call it. An elegant name for an inelegant plan. They mean to tear Thedas asunder, all in fear of magic. Not all are blind, but still, many are, and that sole thought is his comfort as he prepares to do what he must.

But what he intends to do… However cruel it is, he will do his best to be kind. There is no need for suffering, not after the people of this world had already endured so much. Those that still yet lived had suffered a Blight, a war, and then the chaos Corypheus had created. If they are to see their end at his hands, he will ensure that they go peacefully into that good night. Elvhenan will not be reborn upon the blood and ashes of this world.

His breath comes in shaky gasps as he barely manages to control the magic surging inside of him. It has been two years since he’d taken it from Flemeth, and it is as volatile as it has ever been. It still surges from time to time, for reasons unbeknownst to him.

Calm yourself.

His hands splay across the surface of his desk, his heartbeat slowly resuming its normal pace. He has faced worse than this before. He can handle the Qunari attempting to break the delicate peace the Inquisitor had brought about after the fall of Corypheus.

The Inquisitor.

He hadn’t thought about her in some time. Desire used to frequent his dreams, taking on her shape each time, but it had never been quite right. Something had always been off. Discontent with his displeasure, Desire no longer visited, and he’d lost his only means of ever seeing her.

Sometimes, he senses her presence in the Dreaming. She’d never had the patience to be a somniari, but her magic is stronger than even she knows, and her very presence in the Fade sends out ripples. Even if she were weaker, he suspects he’d still recognise her presence by her magic alone. Ice so cold it burns his lungs as he inhales, and the taste of cold winter mornings, and of spiced honey.

He always slips away into the shadows before she can find him.

You still love her.

He doesn’t try to argue with the whispered thought that sneaks into his mind. He does, and he suspects he always will. He had long since given up on trying to deny that truth.

The Qunari will have to kill her if they are to see their plan through.

She had brought about peace after Corypheus, certainly, but it is delicate, fragile. Orlais follows her only because of the debt Celene owes, and King Alistair bends the knee simply because the Inquisition had spent much time in Ferelden, rebuilding all that the Breach had destroyed. Rivain, Nevarra, and Antiva have only pledged their allegiance in fear of what the Inquisition could accomplish with Orlais and Ferelden supporting it. Without her, everything would fall apart, and the south would be ripe for the taking.

He is under no obligation to protect her, but a part of him breaks at the thought of losing her before he has to. He still has time. He could still save her, could make her see that there is a place in the future he intends to create for her. He will not lose her to the Qunari.

He has to save her.

He is Fen’Harel, the Dread Wolf, commander of an army that, under his command, will take back Thedas for his people.

But to her, he’d only ever been Solas.

Fen’Harel (or is it Solas?) closes his eyes, steeling his heart. He should stay away from her. Walking away from her once had been difficult enough, but to do it again? He does not know if he has the strength to endure it once more.

(But he must.)

(For her.)

(Everything for her, always.)

She had asked, once, if she was enough. She was. She always would be.

And this, he owes to her. After everything, after all the suffering he had caused her (and of all the suffering she will still have to endure because of him), this is the least he can do.

One last time, he says to himself. One last time. For her.

Chapter Text

The paths of the Vir Shiraan had not always been this whole. They are still fragmented, the paths between eluvians disjointed and often simply leading to nothing, but in an attempt to help it heal, he had poured much magic into this hallowed space between worlds.

A space that the Qunari had dared to step into.

This place was never meant for them, and he does not know how they had endured the ancient protective magics which hang heavy in the air, but that is not his concern. Distantly, he is aware of the presence of the Viddasala, but she is to be dealt with later. The only thing on his mind is warning the Inquisitor of the Qunari’s plot against her.

It’s almost too easy.

The Vir Shiraan is difficult to navigate even for him, an Elvhen for whom these paths were designed, and the Qunari have struggled to explore the many branching roads of the Vir Shiraan with success. They fight him along the way, of course, with great swords sharp enough to cut through stone, but it isn’t enough. They aren’t enough.

Not when their foe is Fen’Harel.

Blows deflect off of a carefully weaved barrier that surrounds him, and they burn from the inside out as his indigo magic consumes them, leaving little more than an empty, lifeless husk behind. He wraps a hand around the karasten’s throat, his eyes flashing blue as the karasten suddenly erupts in flames that lick at his body until there is nothing left but a solid figure made of stone, mouth wide open in a silent scream.

A karashok scrambles away as he approaches, Fen’Harel’s attention turning upon the frightened Qunari. His grey skin is ashy, and crimson blood weeps from a wound in the soldier’s side. He does not make it far before he collapses, legs giving out beneath him.

Fen’Harel casts his cool gaze upon the karashok, the blade of his staff resting over his throat as the Qunari struggles to reach for the sword in of one of his fallen allies’ hands.

“Tell me about what the Viddasala intends to do to the Inquisitor,” he says, the karashok going still beneath the pointed end of his staff.

The karashok simply spits at him, though it deflects off of the barrier still shimmering around the Dread Wolf. “Vashedan, basra,” he hisses. Then, in heavily accented Common, “I will not answer to you. My heart lies with the Qun.”

The tip of his blade pricks at the karashok’s throat, drawing a drop of blood. “I will be kinder if you tell me. You will not have to suffer as your friends did.”

The Qunari laughs. “I will suffer a thousand times over to see the south purged of vermin like you.”

Fen’Harel’s lips twitch in a scowl. “Very well,” he mutters, plunging the blade of his staff into the Qunari foot soldier’s neck. Blood splatters across the stones, and he wrinkles his nose in distaste as he removes his staff from the fallen soldier’s throat.

“A pity. If only they’d been faster, they might have fled through the eluvian,” Neria says as she steps through the eluvian nought but a few steps behind him. “Not that they would have lived much longer.”

He hardly pays attention to the elven mage, blue fire shimmering over his blade, and melting away the bloodstains. “See to it that the Inquisition finds his body,” he orders her. She had followed him from the beginning, way back when he was a part of the Inquisition. He trusts her with this. She understands what needs to be done. “Leave a blood trail if you can. She must pass through here.”

“Of course, my lord,” Neria says, grabbing the fallen karashok by the arm, and dragging him back through the eluvian with her.

Fen’Harel turns his gaze back to the Vir Shiraan. He hopes this will be enough. The Inquisitor had always been clever (and he had always admired that about her.) The trails of blood should be more than enough for her to follow, for her to uncover the Dragon’s Breath.

He can almost sense her.

There is a path here, through to Winter Palace. She’s there, right now, conversing with diplomats from both Orlais and Ferelden about the future of the Inquisition. She had never been one for politics, but perhaps that has changed. It’s been two years. To him, nothing, but to her…

(He doesn’t know how much time she has left.)

“It is done.” Neria’s pale visage is absent of the markings of Dirthamen she’d once adorned in ink that matched her burnt umber locks. He remembers the day she’d first found him, when he’d first begun to amass his forces. She had always been drawn to him, even when he’d just been Solas, desperate to hear the tales of Elvhenan. “Leliana’s spies should find the body soon, and Leliana will undoubtedly alert the Inquisitor.”

He needs the talks to succeed. He needs the Inquisition, if only because his spies have all but infiltrated every corner of the organisation. He needs to know that she’s safe, up until the very end, protected by friends and allies both. This will be a distraction, he knows that. He can only pray the Inquisitor is as strong as he remembers her being.

Fen’Harel doesn’t thank Neria, but she is no doubt aware of his gratitude as she slips back through the eluvian in silence.

He had burned the Qunari from the inside out, hardening their skin to stone, freezing them in their last moments of agony. Still, he almost feels like even that fate had been too kind. The Inquisitor is no longer his, but she is still under his protection.

Anyone who hurts her will pay.

Fen’Harel curls his hand into a fist, grimacing as magic surges through him, wild and uncontrollable as ever. Unlocking the orb should have been easy. He could have spared them all from this fate, and yet… How many more times is he going to fail to save the People? What else will he have to lose in order to undo the mistakes that were made?

Fen’Harel… comes a whisper. He turns around, heart dropping as he sees the Inquisitor standing there, but then her image flickers, and he realises that it’s nothing more than a spirit of Longing taking her shape. He’d almost been hopeful that she’d already found the body Neria had deposited and had followed the trail here.

His face crumples as he sees through the spirit’s illusion, watching as it fades away like smoke, discontent with his dissatisfaction. He will always be dissatisfied. No matter how hard the spirits of the Fade try, they will never come close to granting him that which he desires. Not when what he desires is her. Even now, years later, he still does not have the words to describe her. She is… something else altogether, and not simply because the blood of a god runs through her veins.

She is more than Mythal ever was.

Silently, he curses. He had sworn not to think of her. There is too much at stake for him to allow himself a weakness, and that’s what she is. She’s his weakness, and there are those who would exploit that truth. He walks the dinan’shiral, and he had committed himself to this path the day he had walked away from the Inquisition (from her), and yet, he had strayed.

For her.

Anything and everything for her.

“She was meant to guide the wolf, and she has. She has been led to you,” Keeper Deshanna had said to him, seeing straight through his disguise, “and you to her, like a moth drawn to a fire.

This cannot happen again. This is the last time he will allow himself to stray so close to her. Even just the distant taste of her magic seeping through the roads of the Vir Shiraan is enough to make him regret the decisions he had made.

He cannot let her see what he will become. Yet, deep down, he knows that she will regardless. Fate has never cared for his desires, and it never will. He is but a single thread in a tapestry far more complicated and far grander than even he knows.

But still, some small, foolish part of him dares to hope for a future where they both walk away from this.

Chapter Text

Air hisses through Fen’Harel’s gritted teeth as he inhales, his magic surging in his chest as somewhere, far off in the distance, the volatile magic that taints the Inquisitor’s arm lashes out uncontrollably. He can feel the mark sapping her life force away; the very thing that had once saved her life now poisoning her.

Fen’Harel pushes the pain aside, turning his gaze to the frightened human, cowering amidst the corpses of his fallen Qunari brothers. “Stand,” he says, voice as sharp as the blade of his staff. In a frenzied panic, the human scrabbles to his feet, though he presses his back against the cold, stone wall, as though it offers him protection. “What is your name?”

“J-Jerran,” stammers the human. “I don’t need to ask who you are. Y-you’re him. The agent of Fen’Harel.”

He bares his teeth in a cruel facsimile of a smile. It isn’t quite true, what the warrior says, but it will suffice. “You know what I am capable of. You will do what I ask of you.”

“But the Viddasala!” he protests. “She’ll kill me if she finds out that I’ve aided you!”

“Any cruelty she can think of is far kinder than anything I can do to you,” he says. “It is your choice. Choose how you die.”

Fear passes through Jerran’s eyes, but then, it fades away to quite resignation. “What would you have me do?” he whispers.

“The Inquisitor will pass through here,” he says, ears twitching as he hears the distant footsteps of a dozen approaching karashok. They will not get here before he is long go. “You will tell her what this place is. What the Qunari intend to use the lyrium for. I have ensured that there are barrels of gaatlock near places of structural importance. Show her how to ignite them. Is that understood?”

Jerran nods.

Fen’Harel turns his nose up at the human warrior. “Hide. The Qunari will think it is you who fell your brothers. Do not allow them to find you before she does.” The human had already started clamouring away when Fen’Harel calls after him. “Jerran?”

He looks back, fear painted across his visage.

“If you fail,” says the Elvhen, “I will make you long for something as kind as death.”

With a whirl of his cloak, Fen’Harel disappears further into the depths of the abandoned Deep Roads. This place had been forgotten for a reason. A part of him had hoped it would remain that way, but he ought to have known it wouldn’t be so. The blood of the Titans is still fresh here, veins still pumping with their blood snaking through solid stone, singing its wicked song. Mythal had done all she’d could to ensure that this much lyrium would never fall into the hands of those who craved for nothing but power.

It hadn’t stopped her own son from rising against her, and trying to claim the power of the Titans for himself.

“Dread Wolf.”

Fen’Harel stops in his tracks, an almost wry smile gracing his lips as he looks back over his shoulder. There, half hidden in shadow, stands Abelas, still wearing the armour that marked him as the Captain of Mythal’s guard. His pale, yellow-green eyes flicker in the faint light of the solitary torch.

He looks…

Tired.

He had walked away from the Well of Sorrows nought but two and a half years earlier, but in that time, he looks to have aged a century. They are no longer immortal, but they are still Elvhen, and time should still be kinder to them than it appears to have been to him.

Slowly, Fen’Harel clasps his hands behind his back. “An’daran atish’an,” he says. “What brings you here, Sentinel?”

Abelas’s gloved hand curls into a fist as he casts his gaze over Fen’Harel’s shoulder. “There are Qunari here,” is all he says.

“Your queen made you swear to never let a soul walk these halls,” he says. “You have failed to uphold your oath, panelan.”

“For a thousand years, we have guarded what remains of Elvhenan, and each time we woke from our slumber, our numbers dwindled in our attempts to protect what little we had to lose. Where were you, Dread Wolf? Slumbering, content in the knowledge that you had taken everything from the elves, even themselves?”

“I did what had to be done.”

“You did what you thought had to be done.” Abelas is not scared of him. He never had been. The Sentinel had seen far too much to be afraid of a lone man, even if he was a god. Even gods could die. “What are you doing, Dread Wolf? There is nothing for you down this path but death and bloodshed. Our people are gone. You ensured that. This will not bring them back. This will not undo what you did.”

“I owe it to them to try.”

Abelas goes silent for a long moment. “The last time I saw that look in someone’s eyes, my queen died.”

“I am not Dirthamen,” snarls the Dread Wolf. “He longed for power, and he did not care who he hurt in his attempt to achieve it.”

“And you long for days long since passed. You slept through the centuries, falon. You did not wake to see how much the world had changed around you. You did not see the shemlen fail time, and time again, and yet still somehow manage to survive. They are blind to the Dreaming, but they are what the Elvhen could never be. We failed, and we never tried again. They fight and war amongst each other, and yet, they still manage to survive. Can the same be said about the Elvhen?”

“Watch your words,” Fen’Harel bites at him. “Were we back in the days of Arlathan, those words would have been considered treason.”

“Remind me, old friend, why we are not in the days of Arlathan?”

The Dread Wolf roars, slamming the Sentinel against the wall behind him by his throat. “I do not want to have to hurt you, Abelas,” he says in a low voice. “You are one of very few souls who know what I know, but if you stand in my way, I will kill you.”

“I will not stand in your way, Solas.”

The sound of his name—his true name—hurts. The last time he’d heard it had been the day of Corypheus’ defeat, when it had slipped from the Inquisitor’s lips just as she’d fallen under his spell and he’d slipped away into the dark. It serves as a cruel reminder that Abelas had always known him as a force to be reckoned with, and yet, the Sentinel still saw him as nothing more than a lone mage who sought to change the world.

“I will not have to,” Abelas continues. “Once she finds out what you intend to do, she will stop you.”

His stomach twists at the mention of the Inquisitor. “She will understand.”

“And if she doesn’t?”

“I will make her.”

“There is nothing that can be done to force her to do something she does not wish to do. She is not Mythal, but she is still like her in many ways, and what will you do then? When she refuses to bend her knee to you, and watch as you take all that she has left from her?”

“These are not her people.”

“They are to her. She lost her clan. She lost you. She has no one else but the Inquisition and those she swore to protect.”

Fen’Harel meets Abelas’ cool, pale gaze just as realisation strikes him. “You knew her for all of one day,” he whispers. “How do you know this?”

And Abelas—the one person who’d never been afraid of him—looks away.

He steps back, the world whirling around him. “You went to her. You couldn’t stay away.”

“I swore an oath to protect her.”

“She is not Mythal!” Fen’Harel yells. “She is not yours!”

“Nor is she yours, Dread Wolf. She is not something to be owned, and even if she were, you walked away. Any claim you might have had to her heart is now irrelevant.”

He’s right. Fen’Harel doesn’t want to admit that Abelas is right, but the part of him that is Solas (the part of him that still loves her) knows that the Sentinel speaks the truth. She had lost her family to humans who sought to punish her for claiming at divinity, even if she had done nothing but renounce her connection to Andraste.

And then, she had lost him.

“If she hates me for this,” he whispers, heart breaking all over again, “then so be it.”

“She could never bring herself to hate you. I do not expect that will change, but she will try to stop you, and if I must choose between a man I once called brother, and her… I will choose her.”

“Then I pray it will never come to that.” He wants to hate Abelas, wants to despise him for the way his stomach twists and turns when thinks of them together. Have they lain together? Has he touched her where he once did? Does she turn to him, as she once turned to him, when she is desperate and alone? But then… He had broken her heart. He had hurt her more than any blade ever could.

A part of him almost envies her for finding happiness in another when can’t look at anybody else without thinking of her.

“It will come to that, of that much I am certain.” Something akin to remorse passes through Abelas’ pale eyes. “I do not know if it is a fate we can avoid. You have been leaving trails for her to find, and while they lead to the Qunari, they lead to you too.”

“Is that how you found me?”

“Partially,” he admits. “I sensed the activation of an eluvian within the Winter Palace. I assumed it was your work. I was proven correct.” The Sentinel takes a few tentative steps towards him, hand resting on the pommel of his blade. For a moment, Fen’Harel fears that he intends to draw his sword, and end his quest to rebuild Elvhenan then and there, but then…

Abelas walks right on past him, gaze downcast. “If it is any consolation, Dread Wolf,” he says softly, “she does not love me. There is no room in her heart that I can claim that does not already belong to another. Go safely, old friend, but I pray we do not meet again.”

Fen’Harel lets him slip by in silence, the Sentinel disappearing into the depths of the Deep Roads back to an eluvian through which he could escape. He does not know where the Vir Shiraan will take the Sentinel, but he knows that he will end up by the Inquisitor’s side.

As soon as the Sentinel is well out of sight, Solas press his forehead against the cool stone wall, eyes screwed tight.

But when he opens his eyes, Solas is gone, and Fen’Harel leaves the Deep Roads in silence.

Chapter Text

He had taken no more than three steps into what remains of Arlathan when phantom pain shoots up his left arm, and a painfully familiar voice speaks in his mind.

We must hurry. I do not know if I will live to see the dawn.

Desire and Longing had never captured her in her essence, never able to perfectly replicate her visage nor mimic her voice. For a moment, he suspects that a stray spirit lingers behind him, just out of eyesight, but he knows better.

It’s her voice that he hears.

She isn’t standing there when he looks behind him, but then his arm seems to ignite with invisible flames, and he has to grind his teeth to keep the tears from pricking at his eyes. The Anchor is poisoning her, consuming her flesh, and its taint on her body becoming amplified whenever she strays too close to the echoes of his magic that he had left in his wake. Keeping the mark from killing her when it was still fresh had been a challenge of its own, and it has gone untended to for two years.

She is right.

She may very well not live to see the dawn.

You could let it consume her, some part of him says. Abelas is right. You do not have it in you to kill her. This would spare you.

But do I have it in me to watch her die?

He is not a monster. He is a cruel man, and he has done unspeakable things, but a monster? No. He won’t let himself become Dirthamen.

My love… he thinks to himself, but his thoughts are met with silence, whatever connection they had shared in that brief moment, severed.

He has to work quickly.

He does not stop even as Qunari attempt to stop him. He had long since discarded his staff, allowing Flemeth’s pure, volatile magic to flow freely from his hands and fell the Qunari before they have a chance to raise their blades against him. Fen’Harel leaves the bodies for her to find. By now, she should be deep within the Darvaarad, coming face to face with the dragon the Qunari had leashed up for their cruel experiments.

She’ll be coming here next, if she’s followed the scribbled notes he’d left behind.

The Qunari, he can’t help but think as he moves onward through the ruins of Arlathan, are like pests, infiltrating their way into every nook and cranny of what remains of the Elvhen empire. They fall as easily as pests do too, most unable to land a single blow against his carefully woven barrier before turning to stone beneath his touch.

They forget that these ruins were once a city twice as large as Val Royeux, and thrice as magnificent. These roads are fractured, overgrown, but his feet still know the way through the winding alleys and paths between collapsed buildings. They are but on the outskirts of the heart of the Elvhen empire, but here…

Here is where it had all begun.

He can still see the stone statues of wolves and dragons from the days of the first war, older than anything else surrounding them.

He is just about to slip through another eluvian, prepared to delve further into the wilderness, when…

“Solas.” The Viddasala’s voice drips with vitriol, her disdain for him clear.

Slowly, he turns to look at her, almost amused by her anger. “Viddasala,” he returns.

She is an intimidating figure, of typical Qunari stature, and large, curled horns that angle away from her head. She grips a spear tightly, grey knuckles now white. Her brows are set over her blue eyes as though she is one moment from throwing her spear at him. Behind her stands a contingent of Qunari soldiers, each armed to the teeth, and undoubtedly prepared to die for their cause.

To her side looms the saarebas, muzzled and chained, his lips stitched together. He can sense the Qunari mage’s barely-controlled magic from here, and knows that it might be the only thing at the Qunari’s disposal that could breach his defences, and he yet feels nothing but despair. They will all die in his attempt to bring back his people, but no matter how kind he tries to be, there will be those who will die in chains.

He vows that he will allow no such thing in his new world.

Chapter Text

“You have killed a lot of my men, Solas,” the Viddasala says, a muscle twitching in her jaw as she approaches him. “Do you take pleasure in wasting life?”

“I take no pleasure in needless bloodshed,” he says simply. “But a war would kill thousands, if not millions. If dozens must die to prevent countless more deaths, then so be it. I will do what is necessary.”

“And you do this for what?” sneers the Viddasala. “The Dread Wolf? A figure of myth and legend?”

He fights the urge to smile. Even in all her wisdom, she does not know who he truly is. “My reasons,” he says, “are my own. And should I not ask the same of you?”

“The south has run rampant for far too long,” the Viddasala says. “This is what happens when you let mages be free. The Circles were not enough, but the Inquisition ensured that there would be no containing of these bas. The Qun will purge the south of this disease once and for all.”

“You curse the blood I have spilled, and yet you intend to spill blood yourself,” Fen’Harel says, stepping away from the eluvian, He casts a wary glance at the saarebas who growls as he approaches the Viddasala. “Regrettable actions must be taken to achieve the world one desires, and I will do what is necessary to ensure that your Dragon’s Breath does come to fruition. Already the Inquisitor has begun to uncover your plan. She has killed as many of your men as I have, has she not?”

“The Inquisitor will be dealt with,” she spits through gritted teeth.

“You are afraid of her,” he says. “That is why you chase after me, rather than her. And you should be afraid. The Qunari were not subtle in their planning. You left a trail, and I followed. Had you not put her at risk, perhaps you might even have succeeded, but she is under my protection, and you will not lay your hand on her without facing punishment.”

“You speak as though Fen’Harel does not plans of his own. My spies have reported as much.”

“Those plans are kinder than the plans of the Qun,” he says. “The people here have choice. You will not take that away from them. The Qunari are nothing but drones, mindless, obedient slaves to the Qun. This is not peace that you share. It is slavery. You are nothing but beasts who cannot make decisions for themselves.”

“The Qun provides,” she spits through gritted teeth.

“All it provides is a lie,” he replies. “A false hope that there is purpose to one’s actions. That there is a meaning to life. Even you are blinded by the lies you worship.”

“Enough,” she snaps. “You will not walk away from here alive, Solas, and nor will your precious Inquisitor. The Anchor is killing her. And when you are both dead, the South will follow. The Dragon’s Breath was designed as a contingency, should we have failed to convert the South peacefully. Thanks to your efforts, we were forced to take the way of blades. This need not have ended this way.”

“It will not end this way,” he says. “I did not make a mistake in exposing the Qunari’s plan. You would have killed thousands even in your attempt at peace.” Magic begins to crackle at his fingertips, all blue lightning, ready to lash out at the Qunari standing across the clearing from him. “But I cannot let you walk away from here alive.”

He fights like his life depends on it, and perhaps it does. The Qunari’s forces seem almost endless, and his barrier wavers beneath their many blades, supported by the saarebas’ whirlwind of chaotic spells. For every one of them he fells, two more seem to take their place, and his magic burns in his chest every time he casts a spell.

Fen’Harel hisses as a sword manages to break through his barrier, nicking his cheek and drawing blood. He grabs the offending Qunari by the wrist, watching as they turn to stone beneath his touch all while maintaining a flurry of spells to keep the others at bay. The fire spells he casts are as hot as dragon fire, and leave countless writhing in agony on the ground.

The Viddasala stands in the centre of her men, her spear brandished. She pushes forward alongside them, her gaze focused on him, and only him. But then—

There’s a break in the unending waves of Qunari foot soldiers, and more than half of the Qunari break away along with the saarebas, leaving Solas alone with a small squadron of armed soldiers, and the Viddasala.

He is confused, for a moment, but then white-hot agony shoots up his arm, his mouth flooding with the taste of winter and of sharp, cloying spices, and he understands where the Qunari had disappeared to. He can’t let himself think about her, can’t let himself be distracted by the thought of her being the closest to him she’s been in years.

Something reignites within him, and his magic flares in his chest, lashing out all those near him. They crumple beneath his spells, bodies turning to stone, persevering them evermore in their final moments. The Viddasala is undeterred by the ease with which he deposes of her men, now that he knows he must live long enough to grant her the answers he’d promised her those years ago.

She charges after him, roaring his name in a battle cry.

Solas doesn’t have the strength to face her with the violent anger with which he’d fought her comrades. There isn’t a bone in his body that doesn’t ache, and this is the most magic he has used in such a short period of time since before he’d created the Veil. Instead, he meets her eyes with a quiet solemnity.

“It is over, Viddasala,” he says softly. “You’ve lost. Whatever men you have left are surely dead by the Inquisitor’s hand. Return to Seheron. Inform your kin of your failure. Tell them that these lands are under my protection.”

“No,” she growls. She is bleeding, he notices. One of his fire spells had clipped her abdomen, leaving behind a raw, red wound of peeling, blistered skin. She can barely take a step towards him without her entire visage contorting in agony. “I will not go back a failure.”

“Then you will not be leaving here alive,” he says. “You do not need to suffer the same fate as your men.”

The Viddasala says nothing, instead lifting her spear high up in the sky with a feral scream in an attempt to throw it at him, and with a heavy heart, he unleashes his magic, and she is frozen, like all the others, forever trapped in stone.

And in the silence, he hears footsteps. It’s peculiar, but he would recognise that gait anywhere. He would recognise her anywhere, even from the smallest detail. It was why the spirits had always failed to recreate her. He had memorised her in her entirety, and they could never quite get everything right.

He almost doesn’t want to turn around.

He knows that if he meets those eyes (gold, not silver, like he dreams of them being [in his mind’s eye, she is untouched by his actions, down to the stain of Dirthamen’s ink on her skin]), he will want to abandon everything he had sworn to do. It had taken him two years to get her off of his mind enough for him to do what needed to be done, and now she’s so close he tastes her magic on his tongue, and…

And he’s torn.

But then—

“Solas,” she says, and it’s like it was only yesterday he’d walked away from her. She is so painfully familiar, every part of her exactly as he remembers, down to the position of every mole and every freckle across the golden expanse of her skin.

He knows better, but he can’t help himself. He is addicted to her, just as Templars are to the lyrium that fuels their abilities. He can’t help but be drawn back in time and time again, unable to ever truly break free of her grip before being pulled back in again.

He meets her golden eyes, his heart longing for all that they had shared. “Elgara.”

Chapter Text

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.”

“Why?”

“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.

Chapter Text

The silence of his refuge is deafening. He can still hear her voice ringing in his ears, her last words a promise he will not soon forget. He can’t fail the People again. He had failed them time and time again, and he cannot allow himself to be swayed. Not even by her.

He stumbles over to his desk to where a single piece of parchment sits in a frame, Elgara’s visage painstakingly drawn out in ink by his own hand. He reaches out to touch her drawn cheek, his heart still thumping in his chest.

She will try to stop him, that much he knows. She will refuse to live in the future he intends to create, even if there is a place for her by his side. If it comes to it, though… He does not know if he can kill her. He would not be able to live with himself knowing he had become all that he had once despised. He had sworn his life to fight against tyrants who cared for power more than justice, and killing her… Killing her would make him into the very monster he’d sworn to never become.

He is doing what must be done, and he knows such actions are never easy, but he must undo what has been done. He must. He hasn’t a choice. This is his path, and protecting the people of Thedas is hers. It would have been much easier had he succeeded in his attempts with the orb. This was never how it was meant to have happened, but this had led him to her. This had given him hope that, perhaps, she is right, and there is another way.

Perhaps, some hope remains.