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Vhenan’ara

Chapter Text

 

Time.

 

It passed by all at once or seemingly not at all.

 

Sarya felt trapped in an hourglass of her own making as she stared up at the ceiling, hand lying limply across her chest. The light, like fragments of sand poured down on her through the window. Smothering. Her skin itched and the sheets felt too hot. Buried there, under the covers, she was unsure how to find the motivation to get out. Somewhere she’d lost herself. Was she really trapped or was it a fabrication she’d made up to make herself feel anything but numb? She shut her thoughts down with a slow steady breath. Inhale. Exhale. She wanted something different in her mind. What would today bring that any other day hadn’t?

 

Inhale. Exhale.

 

She turned to her lover.

 

The light hit him too, accenting a beautiful sculpted jawline, one belonging to the gods carved out of stone. Only he was flesh and pale with freckles dotting his skin, his eyes closed in peaceful sleep. She guessed he was probably in the fade having the most pleasant of dreams as she watched his eyelids flutter. Beneath those eyelids she knew there were eyes reflecting a mountain pass. Big and tall and wide, shrouded in foggy untold mystery. Eyes so beautiful it could make you weep. She used to–weep for him and because of him. She used to stare at him in wonder but somewhere along the way her senses involving him had dulled. She felt like she’d misplaced her heart and didn’t know how to trace the steps back to it.

 

Emptiness enveloped her like the vase that sat on the dresser. Flowers were long dried up and the water had left a permanent stain on the glass. She wasn’t quite sure it could be cleaned anymore. Reality stated it could be. It’d just take effort. Effort she felt no desire to put forth after it had been neglected for so long. She blinked and turned away, then sighed heavily before rolling back the sheets and slipping out of bed.

 

Her feet hit the cold timber and she shivered slightly. She snatched up her robe, a soft pink silken thing that surprisingly suppressed the early autumn chill, and stuffed her arms through the sleeves. She tied it tight against her body. She looked at herself in the mirror and realized she hadn’t done anything with her hair in weeks. So she brushed it out, turning it into a fluff of orange frizzy curls and then tried to tie it up with ribbon. She had yet to master the one handed hair thing even though it’d been ten  years since she lost her left arm. When it happened, she had shorter hair and it didn’t need managed. As it grew out after a year she had Blackwall to help her as he’d stuck by her side those three years before Solas came back to her.

 

Over her shoulder she saw his reflection. A picturesque scene that belonged in one of Varric’s books. He was still snoozing and for a moment she remembered a time before now. A time when she craved his touch. They used to lay there together, all tangled, drinking in the love of a mornings wake. They’d make love and when satisfied she’d get out of bed and he’d run his hands down her shoulders, kiss her neck and braid her hair for her. He had taken care of her. That was then. She closed her eyes and the brush clattered on top of the dresser. It sounded deafening against the soft trill of the birds outside. Her eyes flew open, hand reaching out to still the brush as Solas stirred but didn’t wake. Her breath let out in a whoosh. Then she left the room and it’s dusty memories where they lay.

 

She went about her daily routine of making breakfast and her cup of tea and sitting down at the table to read the local newsletter. Orlais had the most ostentatious news that she was certain had very little factual information. Still it entertained her to no end. She had begun reading a bit about Marquis DeVeaux’s estate mishap. A sinkhole had developed on his property that overlapped with the neighboring Marquis and they were attending court to see who had to take care of the hole. As if it would hurt either pocket. It made Sarya laugh. Petty. So Orlesian.

 

There was a scratching at the side door and Sarya set down her newsletter to spoon some scrambled eggs on a plate. She opened the door and her small red wolf was sitting, begging.

 

“Hey Red, I didn’t forget about you.”  She bent down to give her the plate of eggs and scratch her behind the ear. The wolf gobbled it down in half a minute just to look back up in askance. “Sorry girl, that’s all I’ve got. We’re low on supplies too. I've got to make a run into town.”

 

The wolf tilted its head and whined.

 

“I know. Did you check the traps this morning?”

 

Another whine.

 

“I’m sure they’ll catch something soon. It just takes patience.”

 

Red lay down and rubbed her front paw over her face.

 

“Yeah, I don’t like waiting much either but patience is always rewarded.”

 

She patted the wolf’s head and then wrapped her arm around it for a hug. She stood and studied the outdoors. The leaves were finally beginning to change with pockets of red and yellow appearing amidst all the green. A small weight was lifted as she realized change was coming, even if it was just in the season. She left the door open to let in the breeze and went back to her morning routine. More tea and more news.

 

Sarya heard him come down the stairs but pretended not to notice him as he walked right past her towards the counter. She’d been feeling kinder than usual so she’d left him a few flapjacks albeit cold ones. Still, she was trying at least. He fiddled with the dishes and she watched him out of the corner of her eye. Each move he made seemed to agitate her. He was like dirt under her fingernails, a ceaseless annoyance. But why she felt this way, she couldn’t place.

 

“Good morning,” he said. His voice was soft but bright.

 

She gave a terse nod. He sat down and took a bite into his food. A piece dropped onto his shirt and she sighed heavily.

 

He brushed the food off his tunic. “Is something the matter, Vhenan?”

 

“No,” she said. She went back to staring at her newsletter, the words a blur on the page. His chewing was loud in her ears. She set the paper down brusquely. “Why do you always have to wear that? Don’t you have anything nicer to wear?”

 

Solas stopped chewing and looked down at his tunic. He grazed the edge of it between thumb and forefinger.

 

“Sarya…” his voice came out low, gentle even. It pissed her off more. “What’s going on?” He pried, reaching out to grab her hand across the table. She withdrew it sharply, balling it into a fist in her lap.

 

“It’s just that you used to dress nice. Now you don’t. I don’t get it. We have money, you could get something tailored that looks nice on you.”

 

“But this is more me . You know this.”

 

“Well perhaps you should dress more like him,” she snapped. She was referring to Fen Harel, the Dread Wolf, the side of Solas she had stamped out. Yet she found herself wanting his return. She hated herself for the conflicting thoughts.

 

She could tell the words stung as he hung his head. Her face flushed red. She didn’t know why she was being such an ass.

 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered as her cheeks warmed, “forgive me. I shouldn’t say such things.” She pushed back her chair. The grating of the legs was deafening in the wake of her words. Taking her cup with her, she went to the counter and wiped a tear as she set the empty cup on the counter. A silence washed over them as she stood staring at nothing.

 

“Sarya?” Solas asked.

 

“Yes?” She replied.

 

“Are you pregnant?”

 

Seriously. She inhaled deeply, rage bubbling in her gut like a pot about to boil over. A release of breath and...

 

“I can’t have any children!” She cried out. She didn’t know this with positivity but they had never used anything to prevent pregnancy and now she was forty two and still with no child. Soon it would be a biological impossibility that nature bestowed on her. Her fist slammed on the counter, rattling the tea cup and angry tears ran down her cheeks.

 

“Sarya….I…” his voice was so filled with sorrow that it could make the hardest heart soft. But she didn’t care.

 

“It was the mark! Your fucking magical mark!” She accused, needing something to hold on to. It wasn’t necessarily true. But she needed something, anything to blame. Even Solas wasn’t free from her anger at the universe. Blaming him seemed justified. It made the most sense. “I just know it! It’s left me barren.” It seemed easier to blame the magic that had become a part of her when she was dubbed Herald of Andraste and tasked with closing up rifts in the sky that poured out demons and terrorized the world than to believe that life had just chosen not to let her have children.

 

He was stumbling over his seat now, rushing to her side. So much regret washed over her in that instant. Here she was throwing accusations like daggers at his heart yet he kept coming. Somehow she knew he would. This voice inside of her begged her to make him feel the pain. The pain that she couldn’t bear alone. But she wouldn’t have it. It wasn’t fair to him. He tried wrapping his arms around her but she pushed him away.

 

“No!” Her voice went down to a soft intonation. “No. Don’t comfort me. I...I just…” She closed her mouth and wiped her face. “I need some time alone. Excuse me,” she said and rushed out the door.

 

The wind had picked up outside. Wisps of hair whipped across her face. It was as if nature was giving her a lashing. She hurried to the overgrown garden in the back of the house. Weeds had grown up, tall and free. She kneeled before them. Then she began ripping out weeds while weeping, sowing seeds of regret and watering them with tears of bitterness.

 

                 

 

Chapter Text

The next three days had been nothing but awkwardness between them. A quick glance here and there and a muttered “sorry” when they accidentally brushed against each other in the kitchen or in the bedroom. Solas was afraid to speak and Sarya, well, he assumed she was too embarrassed to speak. And much like him, her pride stood in the way of reconciliation. Each night as they lay next to each other, there stood a thicket between them and he was the snared rabbit ever searching for an escape. That is until he realized he had ensnared himself and he could chew his way out. That fourth evening he discarded his inhibitions and went to her.

 

“Sarya, this silence between us can’t go on,” he said to her while she sat rocking on the front porch. She was trying to sketch something. Hard charcoal lines outlined a silhouette on the page but he couldn’t quite place what it was yet. She set the journal aside.

 

“I know Solas.” Her face flushed pink. “I-I need to apologize...the things I said to you.” She closed her eyes. A long, deep sigh. “The things I said were said in the worst way possible. It was unfair of me to throw all of that on you out of anger.”

 

Solas sat down in the chair next to her. But why did you say them? What’s going on? The thoughts continued to scramble in his mind. There was so much to ask but he wasn’t sure now was the time to ask. But when would it be the time? How would he know?

 

“And I must apologize for jumping to conclusions,” he replied.

 

She stared into her lap and he averted his eyes and did the same. Solas fiddled with the edges of his shirt. He could hear her picking at her nails. They sat still and quiet but nature remained moving and unyielding all the while spying on their somber scene. Red padded up to them, laying herself between their chairs, head on her paws while her eyes glanced back and forth between them. Almost as if daring one of them to say something. A spritely firefly lit up between them and Red snapped at it. It flitted then fluttered away.

 

“Will you forgive me,” Sarya asked.

 

“It’s already been forgiven,” he replied.

 

Red nudged herself on Solas’ leg and he started to pet her. It made him smile. A small comfort.

 

“I was thinking,” Sarya continued, “Can we move to the city? Maybe back to Skyhold?”

Solas paused, brief. He liked their home here but it didn’t have to be permanent. At this point he’d do anything if it made her happy. She’d been so off as of late. Months on end she’d found fault with him and they’d been arguing at least once a day when she wasn’t icing him out. And the things she said out of anger—it was bittersweet to rule out a child. He had hoped that maybe one day...

 

“Of course, Vhenan. Whatever you need.”

 

As soon as he spoke the words he saw her face deflate and he just knew he said it wrong. He didn’t grow angry but his jaw clenched tight with impatience.


“That’s the thing Solas—you always say whatever I need but what about you? You’re allowed to want things and need things and feel things Solas.” She sighed, frustrated. “You don’t have anything to make up for. You don’t have to sacrifice your wants to make sure I’m happy. I want you to be happy. I want you to let go of the past.”

 

She shook her head and reached out for his hand. Her eyes were bright like two stars in the sky peeking out before the moon. Solas nearly flinched and withdrew, so surprised by her deliberate contact.

 

“I don’t want you feeling like you owe me for the time we lost,” she went on, “I want you to want things too. I need you to want things with me. I need for us to see what lies ahead. I want to be alive with you. I know that much even if it’s very little.” She squeezed then let go of his hand.

Solas went quiet. Contemplative. It didn’t feel like she wanted those things. But was it her expectation he felt the weight of or was it his own? Was there a line between the two or had the expectation blurred into one massive black line?Another silhouette he had yet to figure out? He shook his head. Regardless, there was some truth to what she said.

 

So, softly he told her, “I don’t know how.”

“You don’t know how? How to what?”

 

“How to want things with you.” He swallowed the lump in his throat. He knew his words were biting. The truth always was. That’s why it was better to omit some things. The truth was simpler that way.

 

She said nothing and he glanced over at her to see her crying.

 

Or maybe it wasn’t.


But then it hit him. She was always trying to use him to fill the void that was bottomless and he was using her to pay penance for sins he couldn’t forgive himself for. Solas felt his heart tremble as he stared at her. She was trying to hide herself in her hand. So much shame. So much hurt. She didn’t want him to see her. But he did. Maybe for the first time in their seven years of marriage he stopped seeing himself or his end goal and truly saw her. He saw her, bright and bronze and glowing orange. Broken and bruised and barely standing.


Solas went to her and wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight to his chest where it heaved in grief with her. “But I know that I want to try,” he whispered.

 

He wanted to try. Badly. That had to count for something.

 

A lingering look passed between them when they parted, each one wiping the others tears away. Solas brushed his thumb across her face and she closed her eyes, leaning into his touch. She gently grasped his wrist, guiding his hand to her lips. She planted kisses on his thumb.

 

“Dear Solas,” she said. Solas’ heart began to beat faster with the kiss. “I want you.” She kissed the inside of his wrist. Then looked up at him.

 

He cupped her cheek in his hand and kissed her on the lips. She still tasted of tears, salt on his tongue. But she also tasted of honey and of far away memories painted of vintage hues. He pulled away and stood, taking her hand in his. She stood with him, shifting on her feet, eyes going from his face to the ground and back again. “I want you too.” He always wanted her in this way but when she said she wanted him...

 

“It’s been so long,” she said.

 

“I know,” he said. He tugged on her hand a little, pulling her to him.

 

 

**************

But just like all things familiar, once you begin something that’s engraved in memory, it comes back, Solas thought. He could see past the passivity, the anger, the unspoken words he had to say but never did and see the woman he loved. The woman he’d promised himself to. The words, I love you, hung on the tip of his tongue but he never said them as she moved into him. Her fingers loosened from his own to skim up his tunic, tickling hot against his skin. What seemed like important thought withered away as heat replaced the worry in his gut.

 

His hands found her shoulder and he kissed her again. This time it was deeper, clinging to every touch, every taste, as if it were the last. An hour later and they found themselves in bed, sheets in a pile on the floor. A chill hung in the air which made Solas’ longing to cling to her appear as desperation. Her hands traced patterns into his skin that were familiar and comforting and his lips kissed all the places he possibly could.

 

He rolled onto his back and she straddled him. She locked her hand in his and he watched her study him but soon was lost in her. All he could see was her. Her body was made of ivory and silk, a canvas painted in bronzed freckles and etched with scars. She was a masterpiece to be admired. A creation to be worshipped. He hesitated to touch. But she came alive as her fingers squeezed his before releasing and she began brushing kisses from his chest, down the length of his torso. She hovered at his hip bone and he drew in his breath. Only to let it out with a shudder.

 

“Please...I…” He managed to say as she trailed another path of kisses back up to his chest. She lingered just under his chin. A kiss here. A kiss there. A small bite on the shoulder. Solas hummed. Then she kissed the bite mark and Solas sighed.

 

“You what?” She sat up, locking her fingers in his again, pressing them against the pillow near his head. She tilted her head to the right and he watched her hair cascade over her shoulder. “You want me fuck you?”

 

There was a hint of a smile on her lips. Playful. He felt himself smiling in turn, his heart nearly leaping from his chest. A fruit ripe and bursting with fullness. For her and because of her. He pulled himself up with his other arm into a sitting position and wrapped is free hand around her.

 

“What I want…”

 

He dipped his head and slowly kissed her neck.

 

“...is to…”

 

His kisses went up to the end of her jawline as his hand slid around from her back and across her waist.

 

“...make you…”

 

His fingers grazed her inner thigh and she twitched then giggled slightly as he nibbled her ear.

 

“...see stars…” He whispered into her ear.

 

His thumb found her clit, pressing gently with the words. He pulled away from her neck to study her. Her eyes were closed and lips parted. He bent forward, kissing her eyelids. He kissed her cheek and lingered before her lips, breathing in her steady breaths as he continued to rub her, please her. She let out a low moan and his tongue went into her mouth, covering it with a deep kiss so he could claim her groanings for himself. She tasted so sweet on his tongue and finding himself in her whispered worship released the tensions of the week.

 

“Solas. Ah. Yesss.” The delightful sounds coming off her lips unraveled him even as he simply focused on her. He stroked her gently, his pace quickening ever so slightly until she was writhing under his touch. He could feel her wetness just above his cock and all he had to do was…

 

She jerked away from his hand, eyes fluttering open as she inched back, hips raised so she could fit herself onto his cock. She gripped him in her hand and his tip touched her heat. His core rippled as she ever so slowly lowered herself down. Her head rolled forward as she let out a breath and he nearly lost his focus on her. But he was determined to watch her, to see every ounce of pleasure she would indulge in.

 

She was warm and the draft in the room was chilly. There was gooseflesh on his arms. He didn’t know if the fault belonged to the draft or the sensations tingling from his fingers to his toes. Hope for future possibilities spurred him alive as she rode him. His hands gripped her hips as she worked him at a slow and steady pace. They fell into a repetition of undiluted ecstasy.

 

She sped up the pace just barely but enough that he felt his cock thrust upward, filling all of her, feeling the depths of her.

 

“Oh. Fffffff...Solas.” — “Sarya.”

 

His nails dug into her skin as she quickened her pace again, her head falling forward against his chest while her hand dug into his shoulder. Pressure without accompanied pressure within. Her hips rose and fell with her breath and he matched her pace, trying his damndest to hold out a little longer. He thrust upward again. Hard. Offsetting her pace just enough to hear her cry out again.

 

“Oh!”

 

And again. And again. And again.

 

Fuck. He was losing it. Every last bit of composure. But he held on a little longer. He let go with one hand to push back her curtain of hair. He wanted to see her. She tilted her head back then and he was enthralled by the way her breasts moved before him, the way her neck stretched back revealing her muscles and a million freckles. Those lips, parted in sweet release, lower lip quivering, the picture of infinite beauty.

 

He thrust again and she began to ride him hard. Solas cried out and his eyes closed but he still saw her behind his eyelids. The woman he loved. The woman he adored. Ar lath ma, he thought but something more guttural escaped his lips. Something that sounded nothing like him and faraway. He felt her sex grip his cock tight as she called out his name. She had come to a near stop and he took over, holding her in place while he finished out her climax, bringing her down softly on himself. It was in this moment that he came. He saw brilliant flashes of white light in his mind and felt magic tear through his body. Demons and spirits alike pressed their faces against the veil and he felt their presence. He thanked the wards briefly before his thoughts went back to her. All consuming. His cock twitched a few more times inside of her as he held her close to his chest. Her knees pressed up against his hips, chest against chest, cheek against cheek yet it still didn’t feel like enough. He still wanted her closer and that worry in his gut came back in a rush as she gave him a quick kiss and removed herself from his arms. Everything that was warm and good and perfect swirled away like dust swept from a table.

 

Stay. Please stay.

 

She quickly got dressed and he watched her, trying to guess what she was thinking. She seemed satisfied but there was still this sadness hovering over her. He ignored these observations though as she sat next to him on the bed. She had a handkerchief in hand and she began to clean him up. She gave him a soft smile when he took the kerchief from her and laid it aside then kissed her. She pulled away. Again more quickly than he would have preferred.

***************************

 

 

“I’m tired,” she told him.

 

“Good. I’m glad,” he replied.

 

She lay down and rolled away from him. She pulled the coverlet over herself and hugged it tight. Solas lay down next to her and put an arm around her. He didn’t care that his nose was buried in her hair and that it clung to his lips. He just wanted to be close. To touch her and be touched by her.

 

“Sarya…I,” he started.

 

“I’m feeling hot,” she told him as she removed his arm. “Let’s just sleep, ok?”

 

She didn’t remove the covers though and he tried not to feel hurt.

 

“Ok. Sleep well, da’assan. Ar lath ma,” he whispered as he kissed her cheek.

 

“I know,” she murmured.

 

He had hoped she’d return the words. He had hoped for more than what he was getting. What had went wrong? To him it was as if nothing had just passed between them and if the scent of their lovemaking wasn’t still lingering in the air, he would’ve guessed it was all a dream. He clung to his pillow and she never saw the tear that spilled down his cheek. That night sleep came to him as an old reluctant friend.

 

                     


 

 

Solas reached for his lover as slumber began to elude him and light kissed his eyelids. Instead of her warm body he found an empty bed and the sensation of paper on his skin. He shot up. His heart was racing as he snatched up the letter left behind.

 

Solas,

 

I’ve gone to town for some shopping. I’ll be back some time today but then I think we should talk further.

 

Sarya


He stared at the paper reading and rereading, I think we should talk further, until his eyes were red.

 

Stay. Please stay.

 

Chapter Text

 

Val Royeaux smelled like dead fish buried in decaying flowers. The Orlesians never seemed to notice but Sarya’s head was swimming. After an hour she knew she’d probably get used to it. She tried not to breathe too deeply as she meandered through the marketplace, eyeing fruit while glancing over her shoulder in hopes that Briala would show soon.

 

“May I help you, Inquisitor?” The merchant at the stall in front of her asked. He was a short man in a silver mask with ram horns.

 

Didn’t he know that silver was so last year? Then again he was a simple merchant.

 

She plastered a smile on her face. Then picked up a plum shaped like an asymmetrical ass. “No. I’m good. How much?”

 

“Please, it’s on the house. The Herald of Andraste should never have to pay.” His accent was like thick greasy meat that sat in the bottom of the belly. She swallowed.

 

Sarya was skeptical of anything free. And the title “Herald of Andraste” . Fuck Andraste. But neither would she protest his statement if she got free food out of it. She bit into the plump fruit.

 

“Thank you,” she murmured between chewing.

 

She left the stall. Sweet juice dribbled down her chin. It reminded her of Solas and of last night. It made her heart ache as she went through the market, stocking up on fresh produce and simple treats. He had tried and it was nice but not enough. Or maybe he was…

 

Perhaps it was her. She wasn’t enough anymore. She had thought after these seven years that she wouldn’t feel the anger and displacement about herself-her arm. And most days she didn’t but sometimes she just wanted to cup Solas’ face in both her hands. She wanted to braid her hair. She wanted it all. Damn it! It wasn’t too much to ask yet it was. It was even more to try and explain it all to Solas. She wiped a sneaky tear away and sniffed. She sighed as she went inside the bakery, generous smells making her feel less crisp around the edges. She ordered a dozen pastries, six for her and six for Solas. The baker tossed one extra in for good measure. She tried to tip him but he refused, blabbering about how she was already paying too much. Fucking useful title. Sarya was blushing as she took the bag and nearly dropped it as she was startled by a familiar voice.

 

“Well if it isn’t my favorite Inquisitor.” She could hear the smile in Briala’s voice before she turned.

 

Her friend leaned up against the doorway. Her mask was off, hair long, flying loose and curly.

 

“Ha! I’m not anymore,” Sarya said. Still she preferred that to “Herald of Andraste.” She pulled her friend into a hug and they kissed each other’s cheeks.

 

“Hush, you’re always my favorite.”

 

“You know what I meant.”

 

“You couldn’t discard the title anymore than you could discard your own face. You can cover it up, change it, deny it, but it will always be there.”

 

Sarya rolled her eyes. “You always make everything sound like some secret piece of knowledge to be grasped, some rare and exclusive morsel of wisdom.”

 

“But isn’t that how everything is?”

 

“No.”

 

“Ah yes. Not to the great Inquisitor. Your philosophy is more along the lines of ‘Nothing is true; everything is permitted,’correct?”

 

“As it should be for anyone that calls themselves an assassin.” They quipped words with straight faces until Sarya’s lip was the first to twitch and spread into a smile. They broke into laughter together.

 

Then they pulled out a large cinnamon roll drizzled in icing and wandered out into the marketplace. Briala tore off a piece and savored it. Sarya liked this. She linked her arm in Briala’s and couldn’t keep herself from smiling. It was good like this. Just being and doing and living with a true companion. But she was also wary of this idea, this simplicity. It seemed off, like an illusion.

 

“I think it’s strange that I’ve been living in peace for so long,” Sarya blurted. Her smile faded.

 

“I can tell. It’s making you antsy.”

 

Antsy. Yes. She definitely felt the truth in that. She was grateful, as always, that Briala could see her beneath all the haze of fancy words.

 

You’re right. I think that’s my biggest problem. Before the Inquistion I just wanted a simple life. Plant my garden and care for it with Solas in my nice little cabin in the woods. Chase some squirrels, laugh a lot—you know. But I’m not that Sarya anymore, am I?”

 

Briala shrugged. “I think you’re still her but you’re more than that now too. You’ve got a title in front and behind you that will never go away. That’s more than enough to weigh on anyone.” She grabbed an apple from the market in exchange for some coin and took a bite.

 

“Varric used to tell me that.” She changed her voice, making it deeper, trying to impersonate him. “‘You just don't know what you are to the people out there. The Herald of Andraste is a symbol bigger than any of us.’” Briala laughed a little. “I remember telling him it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me. That I am just me.”

 

“You were wrong,” Briala said flatly, still chewing. She led her down the street towards the docks. Eyes, gleaming and full of colors followed them wherever they went.

 

“I suppose. Still doesn’t quite make sense though.”

 

“You spend far too much time in your head these days, Sarya. You need to let go a little. You need to act. And not be afraid of the action.” She turned to the right and knocked lightly on a door.

 

“But you’ve told me before that every action must be thought out, that you must predict which cards your opponents are going to play and that there is no room for mistakes.”

 

Briala sighed. “You’re not playing The Game Sarya. And you just said a moment ago that you don’t believe in my philosophy. Besides, Solas isn’t your opponent. You’re married for fuck’s sake. The rules are different there. You know that.”

 

“I’m starting to think I don’t know shit.”

 

Briala shrugged while taking one last bite and tossed her apple. Sarya watched as a rat scampered out from behind a pile of trash to grab it for itself. She shuddered. Even the more decent sections of Val Royeaux weren’t safe from the rats. There was some rustling behind the door and her attention was drawn back to Briala.

 

“We’re not killing anyone are we?” She eyed Briala, shifting from foot to foot, hand stuffed into her pants pocket. She hadn’t fought in an age. She preferred it that way. An image flashed in her mind, fleeting. Blood like rust seeping into earth and bodies strewn about like splattered paint and...she blinked the image away.

 

Inhale.

Exhale.

 

Briala’s words brought her back. “You speak as if I’m a wild animal. You know me better than that. I’m not Celene’s lackey.”

 

Sarya clamped her mouth shut and internally chastised herself. She hadn’t meant to touch that bruise.

 

The door opened and a short and stout dwarf with a pixie cut stood before them. They handed Briala a case. Sarya shook her head in disbelief.

 

“Thanks Madra,” Briala said and the dwarf held out her hand. Briala deposited a bag of coin and the door was promptly shut in their face. “It’s not what you think,” Briala told Sarya.

 

“Then what is it?” She asked.

 

“You’ll see soon enough. Come along.”

 

Briala led her to the docks where there wasn’t a crowd of people. She smiled and opened the box, inside was something hidden in silk. She parted the fabric to reveal a set of throwing knives and a small set of jars filled with luminescent colors swirling of their own volition. She knew if she accidentally dropped one, those swirling tendrils would claim her life and anyone within a ten foot radius.

 

“You’re right. I would’ve never guessed what was in that box.” Sarya rolled her eyes.

 

“It’s a gift,” Briala offered it to her. “You need to take a weight off your chest and I know how you love to move your body. It won’t change what you’re going through but it’s fun.”

 

Sarya couldn’t deny that.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Briala smirked. “Want to try it out?”

 

“Here? Now?”

 

“Why not?”

 

What harm could they do? A lot, she chuckled internally. She set the jars of liquid aside, knowing they weren’t for now. Other than that, a little training wouldn’t hurt a soul.

 

“Sure,” she said.

 

“First one to draw blood wins,” Briala said.

 

Sarya barely saw the foot that kicked her. Sarya huffed, her knives went flying in all directions. She landed on her back, a cloud of dust encapsulating her. Briala was on her before she could blink. Hips locked, she straddled her, her blade just inches from her throat.

 

“That was unexpected.”

Sarya smiled through her uneven breaths.

 

“That’s the point.” Briala smirked as well.

 

“Here I thought it would be a fair fight.”

 

“That would be your mistake. Besides, you didn’t think I’d go easy on you, did you?”

 

“I was counting on it actually.”

 

Briala’s laugh was a firework in her heart.

 

Sarya could feel the breath in her lungs and it felt freeing. Her mind cycled through a million ways to get out of her current predicament. She reached beside her and scooped up as much dirt as she possibly could. She flung it into Briala’s face. Briala coughed and dropped her blade. Sarya thrust up with her hips, tipping her off her body and rolled away. It stung, the way her body dug into the ground.  Like it wanted to suck her into itself. She ached. But she didn’t care. She managed to pull up and shifted into a fighters stance.

 

“I should have seen that coming,” Briala said. “That’s an old trick.”

 

Sarya laughed. “Well you can’t see when you’ve been blinded.”

 

“Really? That’s the best you can come up with?”

 

Briala was facing her again, eyes locked on her and all business now. She lunged and Sarya dodged to the left. Sarya was still without her knives. But the game only lasted until blood was drawn. Briala came for her again but she dipped down and threw out her leg. Briala stumbled, catching herself last minute.

 

“Come on Sarya, you can do better,” Briala taunted.

 

They were circling each other now. Sarya was becoming tired. She should be training more often, she thought to herself. She threw a fist. Briala easily deflected it. Briala spun away. Sarya took that opportunity to look for one of the knives. But just as she spotted one just an inch away...

 

“Ugh!”

 

Sarya felt the breath whoosh out of her lungs as she took an elbow straight to the gut. Her hand flew to her stomach instinctively, only to catch a boot to the jaw. She could taste the blood in her mouth as she crumpled to her knees. She took deep breaths then wiped her mouth. She’d lost. But she smiled like she’d won.

 

Briala was standing over her, hand held out. She took it and was pulled up into a hug.

 

“You’re ruthless,” she murmured into her friend’s ear.

 

“Only when it’s needed,” Briala whispered.

 

They stayed there in an embrace and Sarya felt the tears bubble over. Briala held her tighter, rubbing circles on her back. She needed this. The fight, the comfort, the reassurance that she could still be herself. Be outside of herself. Sarya was the first to break away. Briala helped her find her knives and Sarya put them back in the box.

 

They sat down at the café and Sarya ordered tea. Briala ordered coffee with a splash of cream and it smelled divine.

 

“Thank you for taking time away from your duties to spend it with me,” Sarya said as she finished sipping. It burned her tongue and throat.

 

“Honestly, I needed the break. I’ve been fighting with the Empress to restore the elves to the Dales which she agreed upon but has done nothing yet.”

 

“Can you force her hand?”

 

“I could when the Inquisition backed me. But at the time I was working hard to break down the alienage walls and integrate the elves into society. That was my window to give them their land back. But now…” -her shoulders slumped just a hint- “I’m afraid it will never happen.”

 

“I’d be happy to speak with her,” Sarya said. Though she doubted her voice would have any weight. She was still an elf after all.

 

“I doubt she’d listen.”

 

They both sighed and sipped some more.

 

“So what are you going to do?” Sarya asked.

 

Briala leaned forward, her voice barely above a whisper, “I’m going to have to lead a revolution.”

 

“No,” Sarya hissed, “You’ll be killed.”

 

“What is the sacrifice of one soul for the many? My mentor once told me a story about a flower that grows in the forest and that if ‘left to bloom and die on its own, it stays small and inconsequential, but if it is uprooted, a whole host of flowers will sprout from the area where it was torn.’ I, like him, have an appreciation for life that grows from violence.”

 

Sarya looked away, then back at her friend.

 

“But isn’t that–oh never mind. You’re serious about this aren’t you?”

 

“Of course I am.”

 

Sarya mulled this idea over in her mind. She couldn’t persuade an Orlesian Empress of anything if she were being honest. But helping with a revolution. That was something she could get on board with. Besides, she was convinced if she invested herself in such a thing, she could gain a part of her old self back and better sort out her shit. She’d have more time to figure out Solas and whatever it was that she felt about him.

 

“Well then, let me at least join you.”

 

Briala smiled. “And have the Dread Wolf on my bad side? No thank you.”

 

“Solas wouldn’t even care. He’s got his own shit to worry about.”

 

“Yeah and your his shit.”

 

Sarya feigned offense.

 

“You know what I meant. If something happened to you, you know he wouldn’t hesitate to turn me to stone like all those qunari in the crossroads,” Briala said.

 

“He would not. Stop being over dramatic and just let me join the cause. I can do errand work or something. Deliver notes, I don’t know.”

 

Briala laughed loudly, earning a few looks. She quickly reigned it back in. “That’s not how this works. Nothing will be quiet about this once it starts. And don’t forget that you have a title.”

 

Sarya made a gesture in the air like she was spreading an invisible banner. “Ex-Inquisitor plays minuscule role in elven revolution.” She chuckled.

 

Briala did not. Her voice grew low and urgent. “Listen, this isn’t some joke. This is The Game. If you want in, you’ll have to do exactly as I say and when I say it.”

 

Sarya nodded. “Fine.”

 

“Very well.” She glanced over Sarya’s shoulder and cursed under her breath. “I must go but I will send you word of when I will need you again. Goodbye friend.”

 

Before Sarya could even respond, Briala had disappeared into the market crowds. She sipped on the remainder of her tea until the cup was emptied.

 



 


Later on, Sarya went down to the fish market on the opposite end of town, passing through the slums on her way. What once was great walls filled with poverty and despair was now the same thing only without the walls. In their place were essentially wooden boxes stacked on top of each other like coffins. Many still slept on rugs in the street. Rats skittered everywhere, feasting on street debris. It was a disturbing site.

 

Sarya knew about the donations that were made yearly but clearly there was no actual effort by the Orlesians to better the lives of elves. The elves were still responsible for themselves. Which they did a fair enough job making use of a bartering and trade system to keep themselves alive and functioning. But in Sarya’s eyes it was still no way to live. They should have better.

 

“It’s the Inquisitor,” she heard many whisper as eyes followed her figure through the streets. She waved and tried to smile. They did not look happy to see her though. She suddenly wished she had a hood or even Briala with her. Anything to hide herself from their hard glances. Someone spat at her feet. She looked up into haggard eyes and a sneer.

 

“Move along bitch .”

 

Bitch? She wasn’t sure what had warranted that name but she wasn’t about to stay to find out. She glanced away and scurried down the streets, trying not to step on rats along the way. The alley she went down spat her out into a large opening that seemed to be the center of the elves living quarters.

 

The elder of their group (or so she assumed) was sitting cross legged in the midst of their home tracing patterns into the dirt with a stick. The giant tree that loomed over him seemed as if it held the alienage in its crooked but loving embrace. The leaves were dying, fading in much the same way as the people before her. She went to the elder, drawn in by the tree’s magnitude.

 

“Inquisitor,” he said softly as she approached.

 

“Please, call me Sarya,” she said.

 

“What brings you here? Have you come to rain down blessings onto us poor folk? Have you come with pity? Or is it mere curiosity that brings you to our doorstep.” He was staring at her as if he could search her soul.

 

“I don’t know what has brought me here, to this exact spot honestly.”

 

He smiled, half the teeth in his mouth missing. Still it was a smile she’d take over any of the Orlesians any day.

 

“Good. To be led without purpose leads you to purpose.”

 

Sarya didn’t understand this at all. Perhaps it was some kind of wisdom. “What does that mean?”

 

“You will discover that in time.” Then he laughed. Other elves had begun to stop their work. More whispers about her floated to her ears and she grew more and more uncomfortable the longer she remained. She may have been an elf, but she was not one of them. Not to them. That much was clear in her eyes.

 

“The fish market is straight ahead and to the left,” the elder told her.

 

“But how did you…”

 

“You are not the first lost soul to end up here. Now go, before someone throws a stone,” the elder said.

 

Sarya did not hesitate. She walked as quickly as her feet would take her, chest heaving, straight to the fish market.

 

 


 


When Sarya arrived home Solas was nowhere to be found. It was a relief to not have to speak with him immediately. She had mostly pushed aside all thoughts of him for the day and it had been nice to consider other problems that weren’t wholly her own. She began to put away all the groceries from the day in all their proper places, humming an old lullaby her Keeper used to sing to her. Hardly any time passed as she set the last bag, full of pastries, on the table.

 

She settled in on the sofa, after kicking her boots off at the door. Then picked up the nearest book and began reading where the bookmark was only to realize it was something Solas had been reading and not her own. It was on magic theory and made absolutely no sense. She closed it as quickly as she had opened it and went in search for her sketch journal instead. As she was eyeballing the nearest bookshelf, she heard the creak of the door on its hinges.

 

“Sarya?” His voice was soft and gentle. A light lilt carrying the end of her name.

 

“I’m here,” she called back. She straightened herself, smoothing down her clothes and hair. Her heart began to beat faster as he came around the corner.

 

“You wanted to speak with me about something?” He leaned up against the wall and it took her back to Halamshiral. Only his lip twitched in worry.

 

She sighed. He was going to get right to it then, no “how was your day?” or a simple “hello.”

 

“I think it might be best if we sat down.” She went to the sofa first. Solas followed. He was fiddling with the edge of his tunic again and she reached over to still his nervous fingers.

 

There was impatience lingering in his eyes as she stared into them.

 

She had decided that they needed a break, well she did anyway, but at this moment, it felt impossible to tell him that. So she improvised.

 

“I’m going to be helping Briala with something important. I might be gone awhile.”

 

He looked shocked but then gathered his composure.

 

“Alright. Would you still like for us to move back to Skyhold? I could get our things settled in while you’re away,” he said.

 

She studied him. He looked too rigid. Still too nervous. He knew there was something amiss but she just couldn’t break it to him. Not yet. Maybe if she took some time away to clear her head she would feel better about everything and be able to be happy with him again. Yes, she would take this break and it would be good. She forced a smile. He squeezed her hand.

 

“Sure,” she said. “That would be good.”

 

“I have one other question. Can I come visit you sometimes?”

 

Her thoughts came to a halt and she went silent. It must have been longer than she thought because he took his hand away from hers and quietly said, “I will be sure to keep my distance. I understand.”

 

“No, Solas. I didn’t mean...It’s just that—“ She sighed, defeated. He turned away.

 

There was a sniffle or so she thought and then he turned to face her again.

 

“It’s fine, vhenan. Just, when will you be leaving?”

 

“At dawn tomorrow. I want to do a few things before going to Halamshiral. You don’t need to worry about me Solas.”

 

“I know,” he told her. The corner of his lip twitched, a tiny smile. “Shall I give you some space now?”

 

“If that’s what you want,” she replied.

 

“Is that what you prefer, in this moment?”

 

“I—I would prefer to sit here with you, yes, if that’s alright.”

 

One last time.

 

He did.






Chapter Text

Thom “Blackwall” Rainier had been trudging through rocks and snow for a week now. Alistair and the Hero of Ferelden were his constant companions these days. Mina Tabris, famed hero who had slain the Archdemon, was more impressive than any tale he had read or been told about her. She was tall for an elf, especially one from the city, and held herself like a mountain. Strong, big and nearly impassable. But Alistair could make her laugh in ways that reminded him of his days in the Inquisition. It was nice when she laughed. Sometimes her laugh reminded him of Sera and Sarya and the way they used to laugh at his jokes. He missed those days sometimes. Well, he missed the people aspect, missed fighting ancient Magisters far less. He smiled to himself at the thought.

But that was all long ago now. After years of trying to do good and right his wrongs, he had owned up to the Inquisitor’s command of him. He had taken a new role, one that would hopefully be honorable. He’d been traversing all Thedas with Alistair and Mina, foregoing Weisshaupt and its mysterious silence. They seemed to want nothing to do with it and Thom wondered why, but it wasn’t his place to question them. After all, they had agreed to help him with his joining.

He had suggested to stop at Skyhold along the way to replenish supplies, give the horses a few days rest and let themselves recover as well. He wouldn’t admit it aloud, but he was delaying the travel just a little longer. Deep down it felt right to be doing this—becoming a Grey Warden–but he was frightened too. The Deep Roads were filled with unmentionable things and he’d never forget the time he’d gone with Sarya to investigate a Titan. The shit he’d seen–Thom shuddered.

“Not much further,” Alistair said to his companions breaking the fragments of Thom’s thought.

Mina shifted uncomfortably in her saddle as she looked to where Alistair was pointing. The gates of the small town at the base of Skyhold was within sight and they could see a billowing smoke cloud of comfort swirling into the sky. Their blanket of warmth was so close now.

“The great Skyhold,” she said with a grand gesture.

Thom couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not. He couldn’t tell if she was that way with a lot of things though. He wished he had talked to her when she briefly stayed at Skyhold back in the days of Corypheus. But when he was anywhere near her, his palms became clammy and his throat felt constricted. She would’ve known he was a fraud from the beginning. So, here he was now, trying his best. He hadn’t quite decided what to make of her in their travels.

They drug themselves further up the mountainside. Snow clung to their eyelashes and Thom’s socks were wet. He hated wet socks.

They meandered through the local town. The townspeople pressed their noses up against their windows, eyes like a million curious cats peering at them. It seemed that no matter where you went, people had a hard time minding their own business. Finally, they reached the gates of Skyhold itself. Tall and looming and grayer than the clouds above them. The guards at the gate gave them a nod as they went through, but they were being watched closely. Thom was glad that enough years had passed that he wasn’t instantly recognized in the Frostbacks anymore. But also annoyed by the watchful gazes of the guards.

The temperature shifted once they were inside. They all welcomed the change. Mina pulled her horse to the front making a beeline to the tavern. Alistair and Thom picked up the pace to keep up. Once there, Thom said he’d join them at The Herald’s Rest after taking care of the horses.

“Blackwall.” Dennet grinned as he saw his old friend and clapped him on the shoulder. “What a pleasure to see you. You’re the last person I’d have expected to see.”

“It’s good to see you too,” Thom said.

“Would you like me to stable them for the night?” Dennet asked.

“Yeah, for a couple days actually. They’ve been traveling awhile. Could use some decent care.” He handed Dennet some coin.

Dennet refused. “Members of the Inquisition don’t give me coin. I’ve got a steady flow of income thanks to all of you.”

“I’m not part of the Inquistion anymore.”

Dennet smiled. “If you say so.”

Thom was in no mood to argue. He sighed, giving in to the aged man.

“I’m surprised you’re still here,” Thom said then.

“Yeah I like it here. My wife moved up here about a year ago. Bron got married and inherited the farm and Seanna joined up with the Red Jenny’s.” He laughed. “Guess Sera got to her in the end.”

Thom chuckled. “Sera is good with that sort of thing. But it sounds like you’re all doing well then.”

“Yeah, yeah. Real well. It’s a welcome change.”

“Good. That’s good to hear,” Thom smiled. “Listen, I’ve got business over at the Herald’s Rest, so I’ll see you around. Thank you for taking care of the mounts.”

“Yeah of course! Take care Blackwall!”

Thom pulled at his beard in thought as he made his way to the Herald's Rest. He stopped just outside the tavern door and dusted the snow out of his beard. Catching a whiff of strong alcohol and warm food, his stomach grumbled, and he pushed opened the door. Laughter and merriment greeted him. How he missed it all! His eyes fell on his two companions at the bar. Mina was throwing back a shot with one hand and smoking a joint with the other.

Thom sat down next to Alistair, who looked like he was weighed down by the entire world’s problems.

“I’ll have another please,” Mina said right after she emptied her shot glass. She took a long draw on the joint and let the smoke swirl around her face. The bartender obliged and poured another fire whiskey.

“Where’s Cabot?” Thom asked the barkeep. This barkeep was a dwarf too. Young and fresh faced with a light in their eye. They looked like Cabot but jollier.

“Pa? He retired a few years back. I’m running the family business these days.”

“Makes sense,” Thom said. “I’ll have a warm spiced wine, if you don’t mind.”

“You got it,” the barkeep said.

Thom nodded a thanks. Along with his drink, he ordered simple shepherd’s pie. The meat was stringy and the root vegetables still a tad tough, but it warmed the bones and satisfied, so he couldn’t complain. Next to Alistair, he noticed Mina hadn’t stopped drinking and he could see the concern that Alistair tried to hide behind his own tankard.

Thom leaned in and whispered, “does she normally drink like this?”

“On a good day...no,” Alistair said.

“Good day?”

“Yeah—this would not be one of those days.”

“Would you two stop yappin’ ‘bout me.” Mina turned to look at them and pointed at her ears. “I’m an elf, I could hear you talkin’ ‘bout me from upstairs. I’m fine. Just cold is all. Can’t a lady have a drink?” She muttered some more under her breath that Thom couldn’t quite catch. His hearing was getting worse as he aged. It was a minor irritation.

He and Alistair exchanged worrisome looks.

“Do you want to talk about it,” Alistair offered as she tipped back another drink. She looked at him with a smirk, burped, and wiped her mouth.

“What’s there to talk about? The fact that every fuckin’ cure I’ve tried has failed and this shit is spreading and the fucking calling–gah–the thrumming is so loud. So fucking loud,” she hissed. Then she slammed her fist against the table, crushing the shot glass. Shards sparkling in candlelight flew everywhere. “Just fucking STOP!” she screamed.

The entire tavern went silent.

Alistair said,” not you. Don’t mind her. She needs some rest is all,” he reassured. Not a single soul looked consoled.

“Mina.” He rubbed her back. “Let’s get you up to a room and turn off the lights. I can sing you a different song and it will help.”

She just nodded somberly while Alistair wrapped her hand with a kerchief and helped her out of her stool. Thom felt confounded. He stood to assist but Alistair waved him off and he turned back to his tankard after watching them go. The joint remained burning on the counter.

Thom picked up the joint and took a few puffs, blinking a few times as he finished his own glass. The minstrel struck up her song again and Thom hummed the lyrics. As he surveyed the room, he spotted a familiar face. Solas was sitting in a corner by himself, in a posture of effortless elegance, which did not come as a surprise at all. Thom ordered two more glasses of spiced wine from the bar and strode over to his ancient friend.

“You here alone?” Thom took a sip from his drink as he slid the other one over.

Solas eyed the drink distastefully. “I am indeed.”

“You don’t look happy to see me.” Thom chuckled a little.

“I’m sorry, my friend.”

Thom’s smile faded. “Are you alright Solas?”

“I am unsure. I have not had such conflicting feelings in some time.”

“Do you need to talk about it?”

“Most likely.”

“Well I’m more than happy to listen. Where’s Sarya?”

“That would be the subject matter that I am conflicted about.”

Thom’s face fell. He was not the best with matters of the heart. “Oh?”

“She asked if I wanted to move back here. I said I’d do whatever she wanted. Then she got mad at me. We made up, made love and now she is gone. We have been unraveling Thom, and I can't figure out where it began.”

As awful as it was that Solas had revealed himself to be the Dread Wolf, Thom rather enjoyed the honesty that came with it. His words were no longer carefully crafted and rehearsed. He was free to be him. Thom felt that on a deep and personal level. He felt for his friend.

“Well I—“

“She accused me for our troubles having children. The mark is certainly powerful-it could have-ugh.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, took a deep breath and… “I do wonder if it’s all my fault. I’m fairly certain that my failings have doomed us from the start.”

“I don’t think that—“

“And she constantly evades my questions.” He was no longer looking at Thom but at the table. “I’ve been trying so hard to be the man she wants me to be that I don’t think I’m me at all.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t know what to do other than to let her go. Of course, selfishly, I want her to stay. But more importantly, I just want her to be happy.”

Thom waited for him to get everything off his chest that he needed to.

Then, “you’re talking straight out of your arse, Solas.”

Solas appeared to be stunned by his brusqueness.

“You two have spent all this time trying to get together. You already let her go twice yet you keep coming back to each other. You must talk to her and you must actually try to love her. Really try, Solas. And I mean love her, not the idea of her.”

Solas stared into his glass as if it could divinate his future.

“I—you’re right. But I do not know where to begin.”

Thom took a swig from his drink. “You once told me that you cannot treat a wound without knowing how deep it goes. Though I am not the best with relationship advice, I do believe the same logic can apply.”

Solas nodded. “Yes-I think so. Thank you.” He managed a small smile as he stood up from the table. “Excuse me. I have some things to…consider.”

“Of course,” Blackwall nodded. He finished his glass of wine and the joint.

 

 


 

 

Mina stumbled into her room and Alistair supported her on his shoulder, dropping her gently onto the bed. She murmured a thanks. She began to undress, and he turned away. He could feel the heat on his cheeks. Focusing on the snow falling outside, he let the chilly draft quench any remaining desire he might have for Tabris. He watched the snow drift down lazily, laying the earth to rest in a soft white blanket. The sky felt closer to him here, like he could reach up, grab it and wrap it around himself like a cloak.

“I’m sorry.”

He turned to face Mina who was wrapping herself up in her coverlet.

“For what?” Alistair asked.

“Embarrassin’ you in front of all those–all those people,” She stammered.

“You didn’t embarrass me.” He moved and sat on the edge of the bed, resting a hand on her feet. He began rubbing the tension and soreness out of them. “Is it getting worse?”

“Not in general, I think. It’s just the mountains–getting so close…”

“Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

She stared straight ahead, eyes glazed over. She licked her dry lips repeatedly before she answered.

“No. But I’ve run away from death all my life. It’s time I pay my dues.”

Alistair shook his head. He couldn’t accept her surrender. Wouldn’t accept it. “We’re not going to stay. I’m not leaving you behind!”

“Ow!” She cried, and he let go of her foot.

“I’m so sorry,” he said feeling instant regret for getting carried away.

“It’s fine. I’m fine. And you need to leave me there after it’s over with.” She tucked her feet up underneath her and offered him a sad smile. “I can’t keep runnin’ away. Besides I’m leaving you with a new friend. You won’t be alone.”

“We could keep searching for a cure after the conscription. It doesn’t make sense to give up now.”

“I’m not saying that you should. I’m saying that I am.”

“You’ve never given up in your whole life. Why start now?”

“It’s not my life anymore.” Her hand subconsciously went to her neck where the taint in all its blackness had started to show through her veins. She couldn’t look him in the eyes again. “But no more of this talk Alistair. Not right now. Sleep. Rest. Maker knows we’ll need it.”

Alistair wanted to argue but she looked so exhausted he wasn’t going to keep pushing. He watched as she tucked herself in, curled up in the fetal position. He went to her and lay down next to her, the blanket creating space between them. He put his arm around her and she clung to it. As he lay there listening to her heartbeat, he knew that he was not giving up. He would face off with death time and time again and win the fight for her life even if it were to cost his own.

Chapter Text

Solas stood on the balcony like the tower of solemnity he was. He loved being up here. Where his memories were colored in greens and whites; rich, bright and filled with life. He studied the courtyard below. Many were shuffling their drunken asses back to bed while others lingered, longing for the affections of their lovers. He grouped himself in with the latter and turned away. A dull ache throbbed in his chest and he needed it to dissipate with a wish. But wishes were for stories that deserved happy endings, he thought.

The room gaped at him. Its emptiness was a mouth swallowing him whole. His fingertips brushed  along the packed up belongings, chests of clothes and collections they had both gathered over the years. He hovered over one chest in particular but then left it as it were. His eyes went from desk, to mantle, to nightstand, to bed.

The bed, freshly made, called to his wandering mind and he succumbed to its beckoning. He smoothed his hand along the sheet and lifted it back, sliding underneath. Its silken softness nestled him in safety. He closed his eyes and thought of his life before. His relationship with Sarya had always been a great current, sweeping them along in waves. He knew it was his own hesitancy that struck them against the first rock. He knew that he only had himself to blame. He was the constant denominator in this sea of pain, drifting away. But he had his reasons. He had been afraid then. He was afraid of what being with her could mean. He had believed that allowing room for happiness, relinquished him from his duty to right his wrongs. To abandon his people for her felt selfish and shallow. But then he did. When he left his plans behind and rejoined his love, the ache in his bones lessened and the lines of his laughs increased. Which brought him to the here and now, where once again he was drifting and he knew that he was the one who had caused it. But he wasn’t convinced the blame was all on him. She was drifting too and at times, he felt she was purposely pushing him away. He rolled over in frustration and emptied himself of thought.

Solas fell asleep and dreamt.

The fade glowed in gentle cerulean and waves lapped at his bare toes. It tickled, and he banished the feeling. The moonlight, shimmering in silver, illuminated orange ribbons over freckled shoulders. She was there, in the sand. His heart skipped a beat and then regulated as he realized it was from his own mind. He had conjured her.  

“Please, take another form Love,” he pleaded desperately.

The figure shifted and blurred like a lens out of focus. Love took on their natural shape as a wisp-like figure, ghosting in a gown made of magical gossamer. It hovered near him, but he paid it no mind as he dug his feet into the sand on the shore. He picked up rocks and skipped them across the water. They did not skip naturally but floated and danced on the water’s edge before disintegrating into specks of dust. The dust came back and hit his face, burning his eyes. Tears washed away what he couldn’t wipe. He sat down on a lonesome rock and the water shifted into an endless desert.

Love floated  away and Solas welcomed the chilled hand that touched his shoulder.

“Cole,” Solas whispered.

“Where she once walked you wish to wander. It doesn’t have to hurt.”

“No but it is good to feel the hurt and sadness to find the root from which it grew.”

“Your hurts are louder now. A rising song on sifting sands. It was real-it is real.”

“You don’t need to do that Cole.”

“But I wish to help you.”

“I must help myself in this. But-thank you Cole.”

Cole sighed and folded himself up like a pretzel. Solas wanted to allow his thoughts to flow freely. If he let Cole in, then perhaps he could find the easy answer.  But he did not warrant the easy answer.

“How are you faring Cole?”

“I like it here. It’s quiet and I am me. It feels good to be me and whole.”

“I can imagine so. It must be freeing to not have to help all the time as well.”

“I like helping. And people like to be helped and there is still so much hurting. The hurts are quieter now though. Sometimes I have to strain to hear them.”

“I“-Solas shook his head-“I suppose there is never a time without hurting.”

“There is,” Cole replied, “but only in the release of death.”

Solas gave him a sidelong glance but Cole was playing with a nug that was nuzzling his hand. The idea of hurt completely ending being in death troubled him. Is that truly the only way? His mind went back to Sarya. He stood and waved his hand and the desert shifted and the sand all blew away. In its place was his home in the Emerald Graves and a single chest. Solas went to the chest and opened it. Letters upon letters flew out, each flittering about on invisible wings, hovering around his head like birds.  One seemed to have a broken wing, lagging behind the others and dipping as if about to crash before flapping up again. He reached up and plucked it from the others. The envelope opened to his touch and a letter unfolded before him. His fingers smoothed along Sarya’s familiar handwriting as he began to read.

Solas,

Blackwall (he is so dear and thoughtful) suggested I write you a letter to read for our wedding day. After all, I have written you a great many letters now, that I don’t think one more would hurt. I have sat on this (literally…I apologize in advance if this is a little smooshed and has a strange smell) for weeks now, trying to describe in words how much you mean to me. It is agonizing, you know, trying to stuff all these magnificent and indescribable feelings I have for you onto some scraps of paper. I want this letter to be perfect, but it shall never be so because perfection is the opposite of what I want in this marriage. You see, Solas, I love you not because of that fantastic ass you have (it really is the closest I’ve ever gotten to perfection and I truly am enraptured by it) and it is not for your body that was literally sculpted by The Creators. I don’t love you for the way you smile or touch me or hold me (though all those things are a bonus that I certainly take advantage of). No. No. My Moon, my heart, I love you for the ways that you have stumbled and fell and got back up. I love you for your passion not only for me but for your people.  I love you for the ways that you have shared with me in my joy, shared with me in my sorrow, bared yourself to me and trusted me. I love you even for your pride and I hope to have the chance to continue loving you through it. You have allowed me to care for the depths of your soul and that is an honor and a privilege, and I love you because you have loved me. We are better in this marriage when we are together, and I want you to remember this always. I promise I will do my best to remind you that I love you everyday and always.

With all my heart,
Sarya

Solas folded the letter and as he placed it in the envelope the edges began to fray and tear. He gasped and released it, afraid he’d damage it further. It tried to flap away, to join the other winged letters but its broken wings could not carry it, so it crumpled up on the ground. Solas fell to his knees, trying to use his magic to repair it and make it new. His fingertips glowed in a a gentle green, radiating waves into the page but with each pulse of magic, chunks of the parchment fell to the ground and shriveled up into stones.

“No, no, no…” Solas whispered as he collected the pebbles. He tried a different spell, desiring to turn the pebbles back into parchment. They glowed with magic and then burst into dust that fell through his grasp.  He pinched the bridge of his nose and thought of another spell, determined to return the letter to its original state. Just as his fingers glowed with magic once more, a voice, meek in nature, diverted his attention.

“The letter cannot be remade.” He looked up from his prostrate position to the spirit before him.  The spirit had taken the form of an elven child in a drab gown of gray. Their hair was a deep auburn and so long that it curled like satin around the child’s bare feet. Freckles dotted the nose and under the eyes and the eyes were a hazy blue-gray. This child was familiar, a mirror image of someone lost long ago.

His guard went up immediately, never having encountered such a spirit before. He was suspicious of it, wondering if his desire for a family had warped a spirit of purpose into a demon of desire. He locked eyes with it and tilted his head.

“What do you want spirit?” he asked.

The spirit stood still, brows furrowing in compassion and kindness. But Solas knew better than to be fooled by a kindly expression.

“Nothing. You summoned me here. I think you did it by accident, but here I am.” The spirit replied in ancient elvhen, “I am Hope. I am what you once were.”

Solas took in a deep breath. He had to keep himself from laughing. He felt furthest from hope in his state. But to be able to meet with a spirit so rare and so pure was an honor. He dipped his head in greeting. “I am sorry to have disturbed you.”

The spirit smiled and began to walk towards him. “Don’t be.”

“Can you fix the letter?” He knew it was a foolish question as soon as the words left his mouth.

“Maybe. But this isn’t about the letter.”

“Then what is it about?”

“It is about your future and what you see and make of it. It is about taking what you can and grasping it tight into your own hands, and then taking what you can’t control and letting it carry you. It is about not giving up.” The spirit picked up the dust of the letter and as they held it in the palms of their hands, it returned to its original shape. The letter rose up, one wing still a little broken and flapped away to rejoin the other letters in the chest.” Or maybe…” The spirit smiled. “…it isn’t about any of those things.” The child-like spirit shrugged. “I am only hope after all. I am not wisdom.”

Solas stared at the curious spirit in awe as it took its exit. He called out, “will I see you again?”

The spirit glanced over its shoulder and it’s expression was as if looking in a mirror of his younger self. He inhaled sharply as the spirit said, “Oh I do hope so. Dareth shiral, falon.” And then it was gone.

The fade warped and grew dimmer, and he felt himself being pulled from it.

Solas awoke, wiping the cold sweat from his forehead. A single tear slid down his cheek.





Solas had spent his morning busying himself with rearranging furniture, unpacking and creating a bouquet of flowers to sit in a vase on Sarya’s side of the bed. They were teal and iridescent-the same shade of her eyes-shimmering like ocean waves. Beautiful but not real. His eyes glowed and they wilted. He gripped them by the stems and tossed them over the balcony. They blew away in the breeze before hitting the ground. He sighed and went in search of Blackwall, hoping that a bit of socializing would do some good.

Blackwall was in the barn where Solas would have guessed but he was accompanied by the two Wardens and Lace Harding. They were sat around the table, Alistair dealing out cards.

“Good afternoon,” he said as Solas took a seat. He was dealt in and eyed his cards briefly. It was a shit hand, but he was good at bluffing.

“Good thing you joined us. Makes for a better game the more players there are,” said the other Warden. He had met her, briefly, many years ago and was having a hard time placing her name. Hero of Ferelden was all he could come up with and with the hard edges she seemed to have, Solas doubted she liked being called such.

“I wouldn’t say that Mina. It’s the drinks and stories that make the game,” Blackwall said.

Mina snorted. “If that’s the case, where the fuck is our drinks?”

“I’d be happy to get us some.” Lace was out of her seat before any could reply.

“Whiskey please!” Mina shouted after her.

“Do you really think that’s a good idea,” Alistair asked.

“Well it certainly isn’t a bad idea.” She fiddled with the cards in her hand then tried sneaking a peek at Alistair’s cards. Solas smirked.

Alistair cried, “Hey! No cheating!”

“Cheating’s allowed, just you’re not supposed to get caught.” Blackwall chuckled.

Solas finished organizing his cards how he was going to play them, and Lace returned with a tray of drinks. Beer sloshed onto the table as she passed the drinks around.
“You know, I’m thinking it would have been smarter if we played at the tavern,” she said.

Mina placed a hand on her forehead and rubbed. “Yeah, I was trying to avoid the place after what happened last night.”

Lace took her seat and gathered her cards. “Oh-right. So, left of dealer goes first. That’s you Solas.”

Solas nodded and drew from the pile and discarded a card.

“You know, I have encountered spirits who retell the battle of Ostagar but they are memories replayed by those who died and the stories told do not line up in agreement.” Solas picked up a card from the middle and threw one down. “I wondered what the truth is?” He knew that the truth wasn’t absolute. There were always two sides to a story. And the sides of a story were always colored by perception and details misremembered. Still, he cared to know the Wardens thoughts on the matter. He’d never had the chance to ask in the short time they were at Skyhold before.

Mina peeked at him over her cards. “It was simple. We were swarmed by Darkspawn and the Shem asshole retreated the troops, leaving the King and the Wardens to be picked off by darkspawn.” She picked a card from the draw pile and placed a card in the discard.

“I wouldn’t say it was that simple,” Alistair cut in.

“Does it matter now?” Mina asked. “It was ages ago. I’m far more interested in what the spirits have to say about the qunari invasion at Halamshiral or the Inquisitor’s betrayal by none other than their own god Fen Harel.” She was smirking at Solas now.

He didn’t even blink, maintaining his showmanship. “That is a story that is…complicated.”

“Convenient.” Mina set down her cards and lit up a joint, puffed on it.

Blackwall cleared his throat after he played his hand. “Could we speak of something else? Perhaps a lighthearted story? Surely as Wardens you have encountered some comedic situations?”


“Yes,” Solas agreed, “surely the Hero of Ferelden has grand tales of adventure to share.”

She shot him a hard look. He smirked a little knowing he was right.
“Hmm, comedy or adventure…” Her fingers thrummed on the table. “Well, I did know a golem who hated pigeons. We also met a little girl who was friends with a demon cat in that same village…”

“Demon possessed cat? I have heard of such things happening but never experienced it for myself,” Solas said as he took another turn.

Lace shuddered.

“Trust me, you don’t want to experience it,” Alistair said.

Solas replied, “I’m sure it was a fascinating experience.”

“Are you two going to let me tell the story or what?” Mina blew a ring of smoke around her face while the rest of the table went silent. “Amalia was the girl’s name and Kitty, as she called the cat, was actually a desire demon posing as said cat. Which in theory makes a shit ton of sense because I doubt a child would take kindly to the true form of a desire demon, what with its female presenting nipples adorned with dangling jewelry. Oh, and the horns and glowing eyes and all that shit.”  She threw back her whiskey.

“So, does the demon cat and golem correlate somehow?” Lace asked. She looked troubled. And baffled.

Mina smacked the table. “Yeah, ha! I guess I should’ve started there.” She went on to tell the tale about how she obtained a control rod for a golem and how it sounded like a brilliant idea to have a golem since she needed help defeating the archdemon. She mentioned how the activation password she was given turned out to be the wrong one and so she investigated and found the control rod owner’s son. But the son would only give the password if she helped him find his daughter. “Anyway, we saved the girl from the demon, killed it and moved on with our lives. Shale was not so happy to meet me at first though.”

“Shale,” Blackwall said, passing on his play, “is the golem right?”

“Yeah.” Alistair laughed. “It wanted to crush you like it had done to all those pigeons.” Lace and Blackwall laughed too.

“Hmm…fascinating,” Solas said, “and are you still in touch with this golem friend of yours?”

“On occasion,” Mina replied. She passed on her turn too when it came around. “But Shale doesn’t make house calls. You know, Solas,” Mina continued, “you remind me of someone I met on my travels.”

“Hmm, is that so?” he played his cards and what was once a shit hand had become something he could win with.

Alistair chuckled. “That’s right! You do sort of look like him. You even have the wolf thing in common.”


“Maker’s balls! I didn’t even put two and two together before Alistair, but you’re right. However, Solas has been far better company than that old Keeper could ever dream to be,” Mina said. “Oh, and I fold. I can’t win with this shit.” She threw her cards down and continued smoking.

“I thank you for the compliment,” Solas smiled even though he had no idea who they were talking about. It was probably better that way anyhow. He looked around and noticed everyone else had folded. “I suppose it’s just you and me Lace,” he said.

“I guess so,” she replied.

They played for a while and Solas took the game. The crowd dispersed while Solas and Blackwall exchanged some more stories, reminiscing on Inquisition days. Solas forgot why he had come here in the first place and time passed with laughter and comfortable silence.




Solas remembered almost too late that it was Friday. He always had dinner with Merrill and Abelas on Fridays. He was thankful for eluvians in this instance where he could arrive at their home in Denerim in just a few short hours. He had no time to bake dessert-the food item he and Sarya had been assigned to bring-so he grabbed the bag of pastries from Sarya’s shopping trip and stuffed them into a basket to at least make them appear homemade. Solas knocked on their door. It was a quaint home tucked in the outskirts of Denerim. He clung tightly to the basket of pastries in his hand and tried not to feel foolish for bringing something he hadn’t made himself. The door flew open before he had the chance to think twice about it.

Merrill stood before him, all smiles and rosy cheeks.

“Oh! By the Dread Wolf! You’re early!” She clamped her hand over her mouth, realizing what she had just said. Solas didn’t even flinch. He was used to this by now. “Sorry. I meant come in, come in. Don’t mind the house with all the dust bunnies lying about,” she said while leading him to the kitchen.

The table was set for four which nipped at his insides like winter’s wind.  But Abelas must have read the situation, not seeing Sarya in tow, because he took one place setting away immediately.

“Go ahead and wash up and I’ll have the food on the table,” Abelas told him gesturing to the washbasin.

Solas picked up their bar of lavender soap and scrubbed his hands until they felt clean. Then he rinsed and dried.  He moisturized his hands and sat down. Merrill passed around a loaf of bread and Solas tore off a piece. It was perfectly crisp around the edges and soft on the inside. It was still warm too and he sighed as he chewed.

“Sarya won’t be joining us tonight?” Merrill asked.

Abelas cleared his throat. “She may not be joining us again for a while, I presume.”

Solas nodded a thanks. Abelas was so keen on things. Solas appreciated that in him.

Merrill said, “Oh that is unfortunate. I do love when she tells us stories and she creates the best desserts.”

Solas looked down at his bowl and his hand grasped his cup of water. He took a sip.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with yours, Solas,” she said.

He cleared his throat. “Sarya is planning on taking a vacation with Briala for some time,” Solas said.

“Oh, I find it interesting she’s staying with Briala.” Abelas dipped his bread in his bowl of stew then took a bite.

“Is she going to help with the revolution?” Merrill asked.

“Revolution?” Solas did not recall any mention of a revolution.

“You haven’t heard about it?” Abelas said through stuffed cheeks.

“Briala plans on leading a revolt against Celene, to take her down by an elven rebellion. They still haven’t been granted any property rights and elves are still dying and starving in the streets. It’s horrible,” Merrill said. She spooned some stew into her mouth.

Solas’ stomach felt like bramble, each word sinking into him like thorns. He did not like the sound of this revolution. Not because it was a revolution but because his wife did not think it necessary to mention she was throwing herself into danger. Though if he were honest with himself, it did not come as a surprise. Sarya often claimed she liked peace and quiet but after the Inquisition, she had grown increasingly restless with herself. She needed purpose and she’d found her calling.

“We are going to offer our assistance along with all the elves here,” Abelas said after he swallowed.

“What do you mean?” Solas asked.

“We will provide her with resources and forces that she needs. We have plenty here willing to fight by her side.”


They kept telling him more details about the revolution in Orlais but all he could think about was his feelings. Betrayal? Disappointment? Worry? All of it flooded him and again he was drifting far out to sea. Why hadn’t Sarya been honest about what she was doing? Why wasn’t she being honest with him about anything? Why did Abelas and Merrill know more about his wife than he did? When had he become so blind to her needs? He was screaming internally while he nodded along to their conversation.

They ate and his friends moved the conversation onto the next thing. Solas breathed in relief.
Merrill excused herself from the table to attend to the two children who showed up last minute for some food and warmth.

Solas and Abelas cleared the table in quiet unison. Abelas went to washing immediately.
Solas picked up the dish towel nearby and began drying the dishes. He set them in a pile, gently, like they were made of glass instead of stone.

“You were more quiet than usual at the table Solas,” Abelas remarked in his flat way.
The suds came up to his elbows. Both their hands moved intuitively through the motions of quaint domesticity.

“I was merely pondering was all.”

“It seemed like more than pondering. But I will not push you. How are things coming along with the other elvhen?”

It had been some time since Solas had thought of the others. But it was rewarding to think on them now.

“For the most part they have acclimated to our world in surprising ways. They do not seem troubled and though their power is not as great as it once was, they do enjoy the peace of this time.”

Abelas smiled. “Ah, that is good news.”

“You should come see them sometime.”

“Maybe,” Abelas said. His eyes fell away from the dishes and went to Merrill. There was a yearning in his gaze that expressed adoration and admiration both. “Merrill and I have built a life you know, old and new mixed together. This life, it’s changed me, and I don’t know if I want any part of what I had. But it is hard to say what the future holds so I thank you for the offer. I will bear it in mind.”

Solas nodded and they finished the dishes together in comfortable silence. Solas hung up his towel and joined his friends in the other part of the room, where Abelas began telling the children stories by the fireplace. He fit so well in the setting, his long white braid thrown over his shoulder as a little boy with fuzzy red hair played with the ribbon that held it together. And Abelas was all smiles and animations, stealing glances with Merrill who hovered nearby, a pile of children in her lap as well. She was as engaged in his stories as the children. Solas leaned up against the door frame, observing, dreaming, hoping for something this nice for himself.

A knock at the door startled him and the room grew quiet.

“You mind getting that?” Abelas asked. Solas nodded and the story continued.

He opened the door and candlelight flooded the face of a messenger.

“Excuse me sir, I’ve a message for a Solas?” The young girl, face smudged with dirt, handed him a letter. He stepped outside and made sure the girl made it back to her horse safely then tore into it.


Solas,
I am sorry to bother you, but my family wishes for you to join us in the Feast of the Harvest. I know it is selfish of me to ask you to come after my abrupt departure. So if you decide not to come, I would understand. I hope you are doing well and that you are enjoying your time with Abelas and Merrill. Please send them my regards.

Sarya.

Solas went back inside and said goodbye to his friends. Unfortunately, there was no eluvian to get him to Wycome quickly, so Solas found his way through the Denerim Market and bought a horse from the stables. She was a chestnut colored Forder, reliable and sturdy. She’d get him where he needed to go, especially with some magical enchantment. He flicked the reins and he was off.

Chapter Text

Sarya stepped onto the docks of Wycome and stopped to steady herself on the railing. She closed her eyes, breathed deep, letting her lungs fill with warm sea air. Her eyes opened. Salt on her tongue and stinging her eyes, the air permeated her soul. She had missed her first home more than she realized. Everything sparkled, touched by light and she wanted it to reach inside of her and touch all the empty parts of herself. Maybe even heal all the cracked pieces within her. She allowed herself to bask in the hot kisses of the sun. Her chest moved with the wind and waves, each breath filling her lungs like a first breath. It painted her blue, made her want to burst into tears.

 

“If it isn’t the prodigal daughter!”

 

Sarya startled, hand wildly tucking strands of hair behind her ears as she smiled. “Han!”

The wind undid what she had accomplished.

 

Her brother covered the distance between them in two long steps and wrapped her in an embrace that squeezed all the air right out of her lungs. But she didn’t want to let him go. He smelled like seawater and sand mixed with notes of herbaceous musk. He smelled like Han, peculiarly pleasant. When he let her go, he gripped her shoulders, studying her face like she was something new to discover.

 

“How are you, my long-lost sister?”

 

Sarya awkwardly shrugged out from under his grip, self-conscious. “I’m fine.”

 

She ignored the disapproving click of his tongue. “Lying again. Did you really think that I…” He shook his head. “Oh never mind. You have issues, you know that?” he asked with his lopsided smile.

She sighed. She hated the way he could see right through her like she was glass. But he was a listener, an observer and he had all the patience in the world while most people were content to ask and move the conversation to themselves. But not Han. He was the roots of their people, always digging deeper, always nourishing, always pruning.

 

“We all have issues. And I’m not lying.” Well, not directly. She kicked at the sand that had gathered in piles on the docks from the wind. “I am somewhere between absolutely fucked and soaring on cloud nine. And that’s what I call fine.”

 

Han’s laughter carried across the docks, it was irresistible. She felt less stained inside. “Sounds poetic. I will have to remember that.”

He draped his arm around her shoulder and began to walk down the cobblestone streets toward the shops. Not much had changed since she’d gone except for a few new shops that weren’t there prior. But everything still moved at that easygoing pace that came with living next to the sea. People out on the streets smiled and waved as if there were no cares in the world. Sarya waved back, smiled too and pretended that she was the same.

“So what have you been up to, brother?”

 

“Oh you know, running the family business, being the wayward son and the fun uncle.” He tucked his free hand into his pocket and slowed his pace for Sarya.

 

“I doubt you’re as wayward as me. At least you still have your vallaslin. Besides, Papae adores you.”

 

“We’re big in the city now. Much has changed while you’ve been traipsing around with the Dread Dog.”

 

Sarya gasped and playfully smacked him on the stomach. “Han! Don’t call him that!”

 

Han snorted. “Why not? We all know it, even you. I bet he comes when you call his name, loves it when you put him on a leash.”

 

Sarya’s face was hot. Maybe it was the sunburn and maybe it wasn’t.

 

“He might,” she whispered, and Han broke out into laughter again.

 

“I’m only kidding! Creators! You should see your face!”

 

“There’s no need. I can feel it.” She stared at her feet until the heat passed. “So, what exactly has changed with you since I’ve been gone? Your underwear, I hope?”

 

“No need to change it if you don’t wear it!” He was laughing again.

 

“Sometimes I wonder if you’re still a boy.”

 

“At heart...always. It’s why I’m beloved. Besides if that’s the worst I can be, I’m content to own the title.”

 

“You keep telling yourself that. But seriously, what have you been up to? Don’t make me pry.”

 

He chuckled as he led her along the docks and down an alleyway that petered out into a circle of homes and shops with an altar to Mythal, decorated with crystal grace and grain offerings in the middle. She wondered if her clan had made it, perhaps even Han specifically and why it was there even after they knew the truth. Maybe they still had faith, more faith than she had ever mustered. Or maybe they didn’t care about the truths she had revealed. Their beliefs were their own now and she wouldn’t take that from them. She knew it was arrogant to think she or anyone could take it from them.

She looked away from the altar to stare at the brightly colored homes that resembled the shape of their aravels. Each home was decorated with burnt orange banners of Dalish heraldry, making the district distinctive. They weren’t like the dilapidated homes of the alienage, but they weren’t noble estates by any means. Humble homes for proud folk.

Han turned to the right and she followed, stopping at a shop with the sign etched with a fallen tree, the Dalish’s universal symbol for ironbark. Han unlocked the door and pushed it open. A bell jingled above Sarya’s head as she stepped inside, magelight flickering on as she passed by. It glowed in soft blue and she ran her finger along the rune etched into its post. The rune was Han’s making and set to identify him when he entered. Again, magic amazed her. She eyed the room with awe and beamed at her brother when he slid behind the counter, placing some forlorn tools back in their spaces.

“I really haven’t changed much,” he said, continuing their conversation from earlier. “I did meet someone that I exchange letters with nowadays.”

“Oh?” Sarya leaned on the counter placing her chin in her hand.

“Yeah, it’s not a big deal. We’ve only been talking a few months. I wouldn’t think anything of it, but he has been visiting more frequently as of late. In fact, he said he’d be willing to be my plus one for the Harvest Feast. I’m hoping he’ll come for at least part of the festival. The street food is the best.”

“That is great to hear Han! I’m happy for you.”

“Yeah well…” he shrugged.

“May I know the name of the man who has stolen my brother’s heart?”

Han chuckled. “If I tell you, he’ll have to kill you.”

“You can’t be serious.”

More laughter. “No, of course not. You might actually know him. He is good friends with The Divine. Zevran…”

“Arainai,” Sarya said all starry eyed and a little breathless. Who hadn’t heard of Zevran? He was a mountain spring that everyone longed to sip from. His name alone was like an enchantment that could awaken desires deep in the soul.

Han smiled, a bit too self satisfied. “I can see that you know him then.”

“Not well. But I had the pleasure of meeting him. He’s a real charmer.”

“Yes, almost as charming as myself.”

Sarya laughed. “He makes you happy?”

“Yeah…yeah, I would say so.”

“Good. I’m glad to hear that.”

“What about you? You happy, Sarya?”

Her smile faded and she stared at her hand that she kept flexing and unflexing. She looked back up at him after a pause. “I am now.”

Han didn’t smile back, but studied her with a curious tilt of his head. He sighed then snatched up his hammer.

“There have been rumors that Mamae is going to retire from her city council position,” he told her as he hung it up behind him.

 

Thankful for the change of subject, she said, “Why? Is she sick?”

 

“No. No, nothing like that. She’s just tired of it, thinks they need a new and younger mind to weigh in on things. She feels out of touch.” Han shrugged and leaned on the counter. He took out a wrapper and a pouch. He dumped some of the contents—fragrant dried elfroot—onto the wrapper and methodically rolled it up to his personal standards.

 

“Oh? And who is going to be her replacement?”

 

“Well if you’d stay here, you’d be the best choice. What with your experience and title weighing in for you.”

 

“Han, you know that’s not going to happen...”

 

“Yeah, but I’ve got to try.” He lit up the joint and just watched it burn for a minute before he took a puff. “It’s not the same here without you.” She watched him blow smoke out of the ‘O’ he made with his lips.

 

“I know.” Sarya sighed. “But it’s good this way. You know Ellana and I would just fight over everything—and you know she’d be bitter if I moved back and instantly took up mamae’s mantle.”

“You’re wrong. El misses you too.”

Sarya snorted. “You must be high already.”

“No. I’m being serious. She misses the competition. You were a real challenge for her.”

“Still. Can you imagine? Me as the Dalish council representative? El would flip”

 

“She’d still be in line as Keeper. She’d have what she wanted.”

 

“That is true but for some reason, I don’t think that’d satisfy her.”

 

Han handed her the joint. She hadn’t smoked in years, but she always loved the way elfroot smelled when it burned. That earthy smell with sweet notes and a subtle tang, clinging to everything. She probably only loved it because it was Han’s smell.

 

Smirking he said, “Yeah. I think you’re right.”

 

Sarya let the smoke fill her lungs and she breathed it out, coughing. “Shit.” She cleared her throat, handing it back.

 

“Been awhile for you I take it?”

She gave him a deprecating look and he laughed at her. “Would you take up mamae’s mantle?”

 

“You’re not fucking serious, are you?”

 

“Yeah. I am fucking serious.”

 

He shook his head. Paused. Took a long drag on the joint as he stared over Sarya’s shoulder at the wood slats of the wall. “Maybe.” He pushed off the counter, started pacing with the joint pinched between his lips. He took it out, held it. “You know what! Yeah! I could take up her mantle couldn’t I!?”

 

“I think you’re more than capable…”

 

“I know everyone here well, and they all know me, and I could help get what they need. More rights for elves, more stability, better jobs…” He stopped pacing and turned to her, his face falling. “But I don’t think I’d actually be considered for the role.”

 

“Well I’ll make sure you are.” Sarya squeezed his hand and let it go, smiling.

She wasn’t sure how she was going to do it, but she would find a way, she always did.

 

He passed the joint to her again. “Thanks.”

“Anything for you brother.”

When she took her second, long drag, she didn’t cough.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Sarya felt like a cloud. Her thoughts were only weighing her down and she wanted to just drift. She chose to busy herself with menial tasks like helping Aunt Ren with hanging her laundry and catching up on clan happenings. She could just listen then, knowing her aunt would be more than happy with her nodding and minimal interjections. But chores became boring after a few hours and Sarya said her goodbyes and went wandering outside of Wycome. She ran her fingers through the olive tree leaves, earning a glare from an elven woman collecting olives.

“You’ll make the good ones spoil,” she scolded.

“But nothing dropped,” Sarya said in her defense.

“That you know of.”

Sarya rolled her eyes but kept her hand to herself until she reached the edge of the farms and entered the fig tree grove. It was only a short distance from their old Dalish encampment where she grew up so she began the trek back.

“Sarya?”

She nearly jumped right out of her pants, startled by the voice. Rhaella Lavellan was sitting in the shade near the trunk of a fig tree nearby.

“Rhaella!” Sarya took off in a sprint, wrapping her friend up in a hug.

“Umph, you’re squeezing the air out of me.”

“Oh, sorry,” Sarya said as she let go.

Rhaella smoothed her robes.

“It is good to see you.”

“It is better to see you,” Sarya said, clasping her friend’s hands in her own. “And I swear you’ve gotten even taller since I was here last.”

“Perhaps it is you who has gotten shorter.”

“Quite possible. I am getting old and my posture is terrible.”

“I suppose we will have to remedy that.”

“Why? It’s not worth it.”

“Oh come now. Isn’t it though? You wouldn’t want chronic back pain, would you?”

“Meh, I can just add it to the list of other pains I have.”

Rhaella laughed. “That is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard. Come, walk with me.”

Sarya linked arms with her friend and together they traveled along the path that had become overgrown with wild berry bushes and ferns. Two small birds chirped at each other above them before one swooped down, plucked off a berry and flitted back up into the foliage above them. Rhaella bent down and picked a small yellow wildflower and then tucked it away behind sarya’s hair amidst all her wild curls.

“There,” she said, “that looks so lovely.”

“I thought for sure you were picking that for one of your elixirs or something.”

Rhaella smiled. “Some things are only useful for accessorizing I’m afraid.”

“Thank you...you know, for the accessory and accompanying me on this walk.”

“You are welcome though it’s silly to thank me at all. I enjoy the peace here as much as you.”

 

And it was serene. Nature had embraced the remnants and memory of the Dalish that had once walked there, preserving their presence rather than erasing them. It was a beautiful and welcome change for the both of them. Eventually the path widened and they entered the edge of the clearing that they had called home for a good portion of their life. On the outskirts, sarya pointed out a tortoise crawling along the outer edges, stopping on occasion to munch on grass.

“In all our time with the clan out here, I never saw a tortoise,” Sarya said.

“That is probably because we were so loud.”

“You’re right I’d say.” Sarya stepped carefully out into the clearing.

Somewhere far above them a bird of prey screeched then silence except for the soft thud of Sarya’s boots on the ground followed. She led Rhaella to opposite side of the cleasring where another path began. A few feet in and they were standing at the trunk of a huge, gnarled tree with low hanging branches.

“I used to love climbing this tree,” Sarya said.

“It is an excellent tree to sit in,” Rhaella said.

“It was good for hunting too and scaring the shit out of unwelcome guests.” She laughed. “There are so many good memories from this place yet they seem so long ago.”

Rhaella nodded. “Remember when you used to have me shoot wooden targets you hung from the branches?”

“Of course, I could never forget. You were so dedicated to your training even after…” Sarya’s voice caught in her throat. Speaking of Rhaella’s late father was always difficult. He was an honorable man.

“Yes… It helped to train. It kept me occupied and distracted.”

Sarya pulled her into a hug, held her then let go. “Would you want to go visit his tree? Or would it be too much?”

“I’d love to go. It has been… some time since I have seen him.”

Rhaella took the lead then and they walked for another half hour. It was another grove, smaller and filled with quiet birdsong and butterflies flitting about. In the midst was a singular tree with a wolf carved into it. Sarya swallowed, the image reminding her of Solas. But then she watched as Rhaella stepped up to the tree, tracing the image with her fingers, tears streaking down her cheeks. Sarya kneeled nearby, plucking a handful of wildflowers to spread at the bottom of the trunk.

“I miss you papae,” Rhaella said as Sarya stood and put her arm around her. Rhaella’s head fell onto her shoulder as she wiped the tears away.

“Ir abelas, falon,” Sarya whispered. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d spoken in elven but here, nothing else seemed appropriate. The two women paid their respects and walked back to the city in reverence.

 

“I want you to have my bow,” Sarya said once they arrived back in the city. “Will you do me the honor?”

Rhaella gasped. “I would love to have your bow. Thank you.”

She placed a hand on her shoulder. “Thank you. I’m glad I can give her away to someone that will care for her better than I. I will send for it and bring it to your home when it arrives.”

Rhaella gave her a sad smile.”Very well. I should go now. It was wonderful to see you again sarya.”

“You as well. Goodbye.” She gave Rhaella one last hug.

“Dareth shiral, falon,” Rhaella said as she turned to go.

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Evening came and Sarya was back at the docks, kicking her feet back and forth over the edge. Deshanna shuffled up beside her, lowering herself delicately beside Sarya.

“Is Solas going to be joining us?”

“I’m not sure.” Sarya met Deshanna’s gaze but there was no scolding in her eyes, only compassion. She kissed Sarya's forehead then wrapped her arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close. “I asked him to come, but mamae...” Her words broke off as tears started to gather in her eyes.

“Shhh, shhh.” Deshanna pulled her into her chest, let her cry, while she stroked her hair. “Let it out, da’vhenan.”

“I feel like a child.”

“In some ways, you are.”

Sarya wiped her eyes and sniffed, trying her hardest not to be offended.

“Sometimes, I think it would do you good to be more so.”

“What do you mean?”

“Children forgive and forget easily.”

“But that also sets them up to be naïve and easily taken advantage of.”

“It could, yes.” She nodded. “You have never been good with trusting anyone with your feelings. Not wholly, especially if they’ve ever wounded you.”

“And that’s what’s kept me strong…”

“And has kept you hard. You are so desperate to keep yourself from hurting that you’ll empty yourself of everything so that you can flee your problems quicker. You need to face them head on because they will not resolve themselves..”

“You don’t understand, mamae…”

“Then explain it to me.”

“It’s not that simple. It’s not easy for me…” Sarya let out a heavy sigh.

“You’ve always been a bending willow, dear girl. Right now, you’re just weighed down by the ice of your heart. Talk to him, really talk about what’s going on in there.” She laid a hand over Sarya’s heart. “And sooner than you think, winter will give way to spring. You’ll breathe fresh air again.”

A voice behind them made them both turn and look. “Good evening.”

“Solas,” Sarya breathed.

“Sarya.”

Deshanna gathered herself and stood. She squeezed Sarya’s shoulder before greeting Solas with a hug.

“Well, I better get back or Ashanan will be worried.” She released Solas and started back for her home.

“Bye mamae,” Sarya said.

“I’ll see you both when you return.”

“Of course,” Solas replied before he took her place next to Sarya on the docks.

“Hello,” he said, keeping space between them.

“Hi,” Sarya said. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course. You should know I would always come if you asked.”

Sarya swallowed the lump in her throat. She did know that. “How was your trip?”

“Fine.”

“That’s good.”

Silence spilled between them, a puddle that neither wanted to dirty themselves with. They both watched the waves smack up against the boats swaying like dancers in moonlight. Sarya stretched out her hands, fanning them wide just as Solas did the same. Their fingers touched. Sarya thought about pulling away but his touch was so familiar, so steadying and she wasn’t ready to let go. If she just left things the way they were, everything seemed okay. They didn’t really need to talk. They just needed to be.