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It started, as things often do, with a bit of pain. A stretching, aching pain that pulled at her from the tiniest hair on the top of her head to the dry skin peeling off the nail beds of her little toes. She writhed, trying to find purchase in the ground beneath her. A soft, cackling voice whispered in her ear.

“Of course, she made you an elf. She can be quite obvious sometimes.”

The crackling sound of a campfire echoed from somewhere around her – close by? Maybe. She felt no heat, only the dull cold from slightly damp dirt.

Movement. Gentle swishing from fabric. The clinking of jewelry. A cool, calloused hand resting on her forehead.

“You've got to wake up, da'len. We've got much to discuss.”

*

She sat with a bowl of some kind of stew in her hand. It was hot, ambiguously chunky, and smelled not too unlike dog food. The older woman who woke her up still fluttered around, a restless energy pouring off of her. The many bracelets around her wrists tinkle with each step. It was oddly cheerful.

“She really gave me no timeline for this, but I'm going to assume we have about a year. That's really the shortest time I could teach you all you need to know.”

The old woman – ah, what was her name? It had too many vowels. Amelablahblah. Something like that.

Amelanen'u'vunen! I told you!”

The old woman threw a potato at her head. She missed. It lands with a thud somewhere beyond the glow of the fire, off in the darkness.

“But, you may call me Tía. The shem from the dryland call me Amelanen'u'vunen. It's too long! I told them! No one has time for such a long name.” She chuckles, “Especially those quicklings. Blink of an eye and they're gone.” When she talks, her hands fly around her face like she's swatting at imaginary flies. She nearly hits herself in the face a few times. The girl watches her, eyes peeking from beneath her lashes.

The old woman. Amelan– ugh. Tía. Dark hair streaked with white bound in a large bun on the top of her head. It shakes when she talks. Skin the color of rich earth, lined with age. Eyes large, rounded. The color of copper. Sharp teeth. Sharper ears. They poke out from her thick hair like antenna, long fleshy pointed things that droop heavy at the tips. She wears a mishmash of fabrics – knits, silk, cotton, lace. All varying shades of brown and cream. A red silk scarf tied around her neck. The fabrics cocoon her small form. Jewelry hangs from every possible limb. It glimmers and dances in the dark.

Tía stops. She tilts her head like a curious animal, “How much do you remember? She said she'd leave you a little.”

The girl chews on something from the stew. A carrot? Do they have carrots here?

She swallows and hesitates, “Uh, not much. I know I'm not from around here.”

Tía taps a gnarled finger to her chin, chewing on a piece of dark grass, “Hmm. I see. No name?” She plucks the grass from her mouth and examines it with disgust. Flicks her tongue over her teeth and smacks it around her mouth. She pops the grass back between her teeth and curls her lips, “I gathered that much. I have no energy to go around naming full grown women. I'll just call you-”

Tía looks up at the sky. The smoke from the fire curls and twists upwards. They're seated in a clearing, surrounded by trees and wet ground. A small cottage plopped down on the only dry land she could see. The girl can't decide if this what they would call a marsh or a swamp. Are they the same? She frowns and puts another spoonful of stew in her mouth. It burns the roof of her palate.

Tía smiles. It's too large and too sharp. 

“Girl.”

Girl chokes.

 

Chapter Text

In the morning, the land around them is much clearer. Girl decides that this most definitely a marsh, much wetter than a swamp, and what she had mistaken for trees were really just overgrown leafy plants. Really, really overgrown. The cottage was nothing more than a ramshackle hut made of peeling gray wood and overstuffed with creaky furniture. A screaming black bird lives on the roof. It makes holes in the ceiling and plucks ripe tomatoes off of the vine, shrieking at the sky. Tía threatens to bake it into a pie.

Inside, Tía fusses with glasses bottles filled with various colorful liquids. She grabs one, bottom heavy and occupied by a silver fluid. There wasn't much light in the hut but the potion in the glass shone bright, hurting Girl's eyes.

“This! This one is most important. You will drink.” Tía shoves the bottle in Girl's hands. Girl stares at her own distorted reflection. It's a poor mirror – big dark eyes staring from the depths of quicksilver. Bug eyes. Ink around pale skin. She wonders if Tía has a mirror, a looking glass, something she could use to get an idea of what she looked like. This body feels...foreign. Everything felt too big and too small. Her bones ache. Was this always her?

Her skin itches.

Tía herds her to a small bed shoved up against the wall. The mattress is thin and stuffed with hay; sitting down on it releases a cloud of dust that smells not too unlike a barn. Girl wrinkles her nose and tries not to take deep breaths.

“I will let her explain it to you. I cannot. My grasp of this -” Hands circle her head, sending more dust flying in the air, “- is rudimentary. It's her plan. Let her tell you!”

The liquid in the bottle swirls languidly as she rotates it in her hand, catching the light and painting fractured rainbows on the walls. Girl sighs and uncorks the glass, “Alright. Bottoms up.”

Tía smiles. Girl doesn't like it when she smiles.

*

Girl opens her eyes. The marsh is gone, replaced with lush greenery and real trees. Thick limbs spread across a clear sky. The ground beneath her is mossy and soft. She pushes her hands flat to the ground and lifts herself to a sitting position. A bone in her neck cracks.

A figure – a woman, she decides – is standing by a tall mirror and facing away from her. Snowy white hair styled high on her head like horns, twisted leather cords wrapped around each one. Body clad in dark pebbled leather and feathers. Girl, for the first time since she awoke in the marsh, feels afraid.

“You -” Husky. A voice that is both infinitely old and strangely new, “- have nothing to be afraid of, child.”

The breeze carries the scent of sweet grass.

The woman turns. Girl, despite all her fear, gapes. The woman is older, older than the uniform of form fitted leather initially suggested, and a heavy silver crown sits on her forehead, curling around her high cheekbones. The sharp spikes cast long, harsh shadows down her cheeks.

Dark painted lips. They move, forming each word with tight precision, “Introductions are in order, yes? I have many names, but you may call me Flemeth.” Yellow eyes rimmed in kohl glint with – what, kindness? No, Girl thinks, knowledge. And a twisted sense of humor. Flemeth laughs. It echoes in the trees. She nods, “I guess you're right. I would have to have an odd sense of humor to have sent you to Amelanen. Tell me, is she still incapable of sitting still?”

Girl bows her head, slowly. Another laugh from Flemeth, more subdued this time, “I have a soft spot for that old bat. Not many elven mages from Antiva settle in Orlesian swamps. I enjoy her...eccentricities.”

The older woman turns back, facing the mirror again. She touches the surface and for the briefest of moments, it ripples like water. She shifts back to look at Girl, “Tell me, what do you remember of your life before?”

Girl chews on her bottom lip, “Not much. I remember...small things. The names of things. What a carrot tastes like. But I don't remember my name. I don't remember where I was before...”

Flemeth sighs. She steps away from the mirror. “I brought you here to be my eyes and ears. I need you to watch a friend of mine. Well,” she stops and curls her right hand until only two long fingers remain standing, “Two friends.” A smile spreads across her face. It doesn't reach her eyes.

“Why me?”

“Because you have no ties to this world. Nor to your own. Not anymore. I need an unsullied mind.”

Girl frowns. She feels like she should be offended but acknowledges the truth in the old woman's statement. The only people she knows here are two strange old women. But, she thought, what about before? Her mind reels. No. No family, no friends. Not even a lover. No one comes to mind. I lived, I ate, I slept. But nothing. Nothing is worth remembering.

Flemeth eyes the sitting girl. Her smile turns genuine. The yellow eyes bracketed by deep, fleshy wrinkles. She lifts a hand and motions towards the tall mirror,  “Would you like to see who you are here? I tried to be generous with your appearance.” She crosses the space between them and extends a hand to Girl. Girl takes her hand and lifts herself off of the moss. Flemeth's hand is warm, warmer than she thought it would be.

A low voice, “I might be frightening, girl, but I live and breathe just like you. Blood flows in my veins as readily as it does in yours.”

“Can everyone here read minds or is it just strange old women?”

A laugh. Girl decides she likes it when Flemeth laughs. It makes her feel more real. Flemeth guides her to the mirror, angling Girl right in front of her reflection. “I must say, I think this is some of my best work. Not too much, but just enough.”

Girl peers in the mirror, nervous, and takes inventory of the face in front of her. She is thin, almost scrawny. Long, pale limbs peek out from a pair of short, ankle length beige trousers and a brown sweater that appears to have shrunk. A soft pointed chin, pink cheeks. A sharp, pointed nose. Round, dark brown eyes flanked by black eyelashes. Above that, thick black eyebrows, straight like an artist's hurried signature. Inky hair that curled over her shoulders, flattened slightly on one side from sleep.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary. Pretty, but not too pretty. 

Then she spots them. Pale, fleshy daggers that jut out from her hair. They're not as comically large as Tía's, but they still stick out more than she'd like. She murmurs to her reflection, “Oh. That's what she meant by 'she made you an elf'.”

“A little indulgence. I figured he would be more trusting of a fellow elf.” 

Girl quirks an eyebrow, “He?”

Flemeth mirrors her expression with a similarly raised brow, “Yes, he.”

Girl's eyes returns to the mirror. Grimacing, smiling, opening her mouth wide to examine her new teeth. She sticks out her tongue. The air tastes sweet, sticky.

Flemeth continues, “He denies it but I know he has a soft spot for pretty little elves, so I thought, why not? Perhaps he'll be a little less lonely.” A mischievous twinkle plays across her unnerving yellow eyes.

Girl frowns for real this time, “Am I spying or am I seducing? Because I don't think I'll be that great at either.”

Flemeth waves her hand dismissively, “Don't underestimate yourself. I made you. And I know him. I'm not asking you to throw yourself at him.” 

Girl chews on a nail, “There's another thing. You made me? What am I here?”

“By all appearances, you are a normal elf. But, truthfully, you are nothing more than a spirit given form. Whatever physical form you had before is long gone.”

Girl continues to watch the face in the mirror. She opens her mouth, “I-I see. So I am dead, then? Essentially.” The surface of the glass quivers but the reflection's mouth doesn't move.

“If you want to call it that. Yes. You are dead. You were dead. Death is never as finite as one thinks." Flemeth angles her head curiously, as if listening to a sound far off in the distance. “You're waking up, our time is short. Amelanen will tell you how to stay in contact with me.”

“Wait!”

The trees grow hazy. The ground feels less solid beneath her feet.

“Yes, child?”

White crowds the edges of the forest. Girl can no longer feel the wind, the scent of sweet grass evaporates.

“My name! Do you know it? I don't...I don't remember.”

Flemeth laughs. She's always laughing at her, like she just told a wonderful joke. But this time she sounds as if she is impossibly close and infinitely far away.

Girl wakes up.

 

 

Chapter Text

Tía is waiting, looming over her with rounded copper eyes. Ink stains on her steepled fingers, the smell of herbs and smoke rolls out of her mouth. Girl instinctively shirks her head back, putting distance between their faces. “How was it? Was she-” A hand taps on her cheek with impatience, “Did she explain? She told all?”

Girl pushes Tía's stained hand away. She rubs her eyes and shifts in the small and, frankly, uncomfortable bed Tía had placed her in. “No, not all. Just the basics – I'm supposed to spy for her. On a friend. Two friends.” Girl tries to push away the fog from her sleepy mind, “One is a man. S-she didn't even tell me his name! How am I-”

“Ah! I see! I see!” Tía rushes to a tall, tilted cabinet pushed in the corner of the cottage. Crammed between a small, sooty stove and a three legged table that shakes with every footstep. Glass bottles and jars trill as the table quakes. The bird on the roof warbles a lazy warning.

“I know who she speaks of. Her little wolfling. Well-”, she digs around the cabinet. She stops and grins. “Not little. Oh ho, not little by any means.” She pulls a large book out of a drawer that it couldn't have possibly fit in. A quill and inkwell appear out of thin air. Girl blinks slowly. Then again, hoping the second time would clarify what she was seeing.

“I have made a list. A syllabus! What you're to learn. Myth- excuse me. Flemeth. The old hag. Gave me the basics. She made you a mage, no? It would be most obvious of her. Let us see.” Tía abandons the book and writing utensils as quickly as she had grabbed them. She grabs a long staff that had been resting against the stove, stained with soot and something Girl couldn't identify. With no small amount of effort and very little warning, Tía whips it towards Girl.

A noise between a shriek and gasp escapes her mouth. The staff does not land in her grasp with any semblance of grace, but she does manage to catch it with two clumsy hands. It is taller than her, dark wood oiled and heavily scented, topped by a milky white moonstone entwined in twisted wooden fingers. She turns it in her hands and traces her eyes along the carved, warped lines that curl around its form. It hums, low and quiet. Girl feels it in the very tips of her fingers, a warm solid song that teases and plucks at her brain.

It feels right. It feels like home.

How do you know what home feels like? You don't remember shit. Home is nowhere.

She pushes the rude thought out of her mind. For once, Tía is still. She has perched herself on a low stool by the stove. A small smile shadows over her face, “Try it.”

“Try what?”

"What? Whatever! Blow up this house! Summon me a handsome dwarf with eyes like cinnamon! Pluck the feathers off that damnable bird! No, no, here.” She points to the stove. “Light the fire.”

“From here?!”

The smile cracks her face in half, “Da'len. You will light many fires before we are done. This is merely the first.”

Girl is starting to like Tía's smile.

*

Girl's days are full. Too full. Tía teaches her magic, small at first but then progresses to bigger and more complicated spells. When she is tired, which at this point is all of the time but that's neither here nor there, Tía has her read aloud from thick tomes while she peels potatoes. History, magic theory, linguistics. Girl struggles with the words but commits them to memory. Tía especially wants her to learn something called Elvhen but Girl finds it as boring as anything else. She idly braids her hair into two long plaits as she reads. “The sentence structure doesn't make sense.”

“Nothing in language makes sense! I speak a crumbled mess but you understand, yes? I make sense!”

Girl bites her tongue. Tía tosses a potato at her head. She misses.

“I make sense!”, she grumbles to the pot, to the bird on the roof. To no one in particular.

*

Once a month a man comes, a merchant who wears fine furs and silks. A placid gold mask sits on his face, cut to just below his nose, showing only a wide red mouth. Tía argues with him as Girl sits by the window in the cottage, too shy to speak to the stranger. They bicker in a thick, quick tongue that Girl faintly recognizes as Orlesian. Tía throws her hands around, holding a small coin purse in one and a bottle of purple liquid in the other.

The man sighs and returns to his cart. He pulls something large from underneath the canvas that covers his wares. Tía crows in victory as she hands him a few coins and the bottle. He mutters something and waves to Girl, who suddenly pretends to be utterly enraptured by the herbs she's drying. The merchant laughs, low and deep. “Au revoir, pretty elf! I will return next month. Keep an eye on this old hag for me.”

The sun is setting, fat and orange as the sky lazily shifts to a deep blue.

“Old hag! Ha! I am your best customer!”

The man rolls his eyes and plants a polite kiss on Tía's outstretched hand, her other one tightly holding onto her new purchase. Girl cannot make out the shape in the dim light but it is large and Tía's grip on it is awkward.

The elfroot on the table curls in on itself as it dries.

Tía throws the door open, her gleeful swagger making the house groan and creak. “Here! For you!” With both hands, she holds out the item and Girl can finally see what it is in the glow of the stove fire.

It's guitar, honey brown wood and a long neck that swells to a deliciously curved body. The strings are tuned too tight, Girl notes. How did I know that? Do I know how to play this? Her fingers long to hold it. She can feel the emptiness in her hands. The herbs lie forgotten on the table.

Tía smiles, “Antivan guitar. Guitarra. Not cheap. But I bought it, for you.”

Girl can't help it but her eyes well up. This. This she remembers. She gingerly takes it from Tía and turns the guitar in her hands. Her heart swells.

“Thank-”

“No thanks! Part of the plan. You'll see.”

*

Six months. Girl's mind is nothing but magic and history and herbs and...music.

Tía loves it when she plays guitar. She plays songs from a place she can no longer remember. They fill her lungs and pour out in a voice that is high and clear.

Tía likes songs about love and vengeance. The black bird on the roof likes it when she sings sad songs. The Orlesian merchant, Dupont, likes anything she sings, just as long as she looks at him while she sings.

And Girl? She just likes to sing. It feels the same way as her magic does. It creeps from her fingers and her mouth. Her mana vibrates and chirps, happy. Tía calls her a weaver. Twisting her magic with her songs until her body shakes with exhaustion.

Girl sleeps deeply every night. She dreams of a forest, of a man, and eyes that are neither gray nor blue but somehow both.

*

Ten months. Tía buckles down and doubles her lessons. Girl learns about potions and healing spells. How to cloak her mana from other mages.

“Your average Chantry mage can't tell their ass from their head, but the ones who matter? Can tell. Can smell your magic. Hide from them. Don't let them catch your scent.”

Tía rolls a piece of sweet grass between her lips. Girl is still using Tía's old staff, it's weight becoming more and more familiar in her hands. Despite her generous gift of the guitar, Tía is oddly tight fisted when it comes to buying Girl her own staff. Dupont, fatigued from arguing with her, even offers to give Girl a simple staff he has tucked away in his cart. Tía shakes her head, refusing.

Girl sighs and casts another barrier. The sun had long since set and the marsh around them slowly grew louder with animal sounds.

Tía echos her sigh and hangs her head back, resting her back against the side of the hut. The stars above reflected in her eyes. “Sing for me, Girl," she asks softly. Then, swiftly adding under her breath, “Please.”

Girl clears her throat, forming the words of a song Tía has grown to love,

“Now here we go again, you say you want your freedom...”

*

Twelve months. Tía grows tired, something Girl didn't think was possible. She always seemed to be in perpetual motion, a force of nature that never slowed down, never truly stopped. But now, she rubbed her joints, muttered under her breath about the cold mornings. The bundle of hair plopped on her head grew whiter. “You're stealing my youth, Girl!”

“I didn't know there was much left to steal.”

Tía chuckles and returns to poking at the fire. Girl knows what she's going to say, feels it in her bones. Her back aches.

“It's almost time. Are you ready?”

Girl looks at the bowl in her lap, stew long grown cold and congealed. She pushes a lump around with her spoon. Tía stares at her, her eyes not glaring but not exactly resting gently on her either. “I suppose I have to be. You said I had a year.”

Tía hums. The fire crackles and pops. She idly pokes a mound of moss with her withered finger. “One last thing to teach you. I'll do it tomorrow morning, before you leave.”

Girl's eyebrows jump up in shock. She tightly grips her bowl, knuckles white and tense. That's...so soon. I don't think...

“You don't think at all. I gave you a year. Flemeth gave us a year. It is time. No arguments.”

Girl tries to calm the storm in her stomach. Anger buzzes in her head and rips at her throat, “You know I don't like it when you do that! Stay out of my head!” She tosses the bowl and its contents into the fire.

Tía frowns, her bun shaking, “That was good soup. Wasteful.”

Girl doesn't reply. She walks into the cottage and slams the door. The whole house sighs and shakes. The bird on the roof stirs from its sleep.

*

“You have your pack?”

“Yes, Tía.”

“Guitar? Potions?”

“Yes.”

Dupont waited by the edge of the marsh with his cart. He stood by casually, eyeing the two elven women while speaking softly in the ear of his horse. The horse shook its ears and huffed a large, earthy breath in reply.

Tía adjusts the cloak around Girl's shoulders. "You'll be joining the Inquisition, in Haven." Then she lowered her voice so Dupont could not overhear, “Ok, you know how to contact our...mutual friend?”

Girl fingered the amulet that weighed heavily on her neck. It wasn't that it was large or even particularly heavy, it was barely the size of a small crabapple. The magic that was embedded in it hummed against her skin. It was gold, barely tarnished, and circular. The etched figure of a wolf in profile prowled the front, it's snout long and pointed. At least, that's what Tía said it was. Girl thought it looked more like a lumpy, fat fox but kept her mouth shut. She repeats what Tía told her: “Throw the amulet in a fire and speak quietly but clearly. She'll get the message.”

Tía smiled and patted her gently on the back. With her other arm, she leaned heavily on her staff. Girl felt a gnawing in her stomach and pulls nervously at one of her plaits. This...this is the wrong time to leave. Tía grew weaker everyday. At this point, her body groaned louder than the cottage. She moved her arm from Girl's back to her arm, then swiftly grasped her hand in her own.

“One last thing. Wait, no. Two. No! One more. So,” Tía wriggled her fingers playfully against Girl's hand, “Three things.”

Girl chewed on her bottom lip and nodded. Tía took her hand from hers and held up one wrinkled finger. “One! This-” she inclined her head to the staff supporting her, “Is now yours. Take it.”

Girl opens her mouth to protest, “Tía! No-”

“No thanks! No complaints! Take!” She shoved it towards Girl and steadied herself against its absence. Her bun wobbled precariously atop her head. Girl gripped the staff like her lift depended on it.

Tía holds up two fingers: “Two! You cannot go around with a name like Girl. It's a poor name.”

“But you gave it to me...”

“I know! Too obvious of me. Your name is now, hmm.” Tía rolled a dry tongue across her lips, smacking them obnoxiously while she thought. A toothy grin exploded across her face like she just told the most amazing joke. “Mirae.”

Girl tilted her head and parroted back, “Mirae?”

“Yes! It fits! You know what it means?", she shakes her hand to banish the question, "No time. Think about it.”

Girl sighed and shifted the staff in her hands. It felt heavy, like the pendant around her neck. Her whole body felt weighted down, like she would sink into to the wet earth and leave no trace behind.

Tía puffs out her chest and holds up three fingers this time: “Three! Come here!”

Tía did something she had never done before. At least, not in this lifetime. Not with anyone still living. Not once in the twelve months she had known Girl – no, Mirae – and not anytime before that. She reached her thin arms around the confused young woman and tightened her grip. She held her thin, worn body against the warmth of the younger woman and simply...held her. Mirae stiffened. The staff in her hands threatened to snap in two from her white knuckled grip.

Mirae softened and returned the hug.

Then, it started. A low, pooling warmth from Tía's hands. It spread from their place on Mirae's back and danced along her spine in both directions. It vibrated, trilled, and shook the bones in her body. Her mana sighed and drank deeply from the out pour of magic. She felt Tía's mana surround her, it poked and prodded her own. Take, it said. Take! Take!

Mirae felt Tía's body slump against her own and held her up, balancing the staff in one hand and Tía's frail form in the other. Tía's eyes blearily blinked and looked up at Mirae's own, a secret joy skipping in their coppery depths. “Tía, what have you done?!”

“Gave what I promised. Please, do not worry. It was mine to give. And I gave it freely," she replied as she stroked Mirae's arm tenderly. She righted herself and let out a watery cough, “It's time to go, da'len.”

Mirae could not even begin to sort through what she was feeling. Shame, joy, confusion. It all boiled and rumbled in her head. It whispered and complained in her ears. Dupont shifted away from his horse and tossed the last of Mirae's belongings in his cart, “This is all very touching but night will fall fast! We must leave.”

Mirae stepped away and took one last look at Tía. She knew she would not be coming back here, even if she wanted to. Even if she needed to. With a wave, Mirae walked towards Dupont and took her place beside him in the front seat of the cart. Tía returned her wave with a tricky smile. The older elf began to laugh, softly at first, before finally erupting in a belly shaking guffaw, “Goodbye, my little Mirae! My little thief! Take what I have given you and use it well!”

The cart lurched as Dupont guided the reins and his horse turned to leave the boundary of the marsh. Through her tears, Mirae could only watch as Tía slowly faded from view.

The bird who lived on the roof spread it wings and flew.

 

 

Chapter Text

They stopped. A lot.

Mirae knew that Dupont was doing her a favor by escorting her to Haven, knew it down to soles of her brand-new Orlesian boots, but that didn't mean she enjoyed it.

They stopped at each little town and camp, dealing wares and palming coins. Not staying too long, but long enough. Dupont never says why, but his eyes dart from side to side, his movements antsy. He doesn't stay anywhere for too long, he reminds her as they pack up the cart. He cheerfully introduces her as his daughter, laughing at the confused looks of human, dwarf, and elf alike. Mirae takes in all of their interactions with others, filing them away for another time. She knew human men liked it when she smiled at them. Dwarves liked to haggle and shiny bits of metal. Elves were more difficult to figure out. The ones with tattooed faces eyed her suspiciously and never lingered long after their purchase. The other elves, bare faced, always looked tired, stretched too thin. They didn't have much to spend but were friendly enough.

Dupont was older behind the mask than he seemed. She had only seen his bare face a few times and couldn't help scrutinizing each facial feature he hid. Beneath the golden mask was a man of his late forties, carefully slicked back blond hair, his eyes bright blue and subtly enclosed by wrinkles. He was clean shaven but for a dusting of golden stubble along his jaw. His mouth was a generous gash of red, quick to smile and offer a joke. He is thin and tall, but not overly so that it drew attention to him. In the evenings whenever they prepared their bedrolls, he placed his mask to the side and she watched as a tight sadness overtake his face just before he fell asleep. Mirae knew not to ask him his troubles and he knew not to offer them.

As she sat in the front of the cart, Mirae absentmindedly wiggled her toes in her boots. They were shiny and brown, laced tightly against her ankles and calves. Dupont traded some of her potions to another merchant for them. Her socks were thin and she could feel the cool leather against her toes. Mirae watched Dupont as he chatted with some villagers, showing his goods with a friendly smile. They had stopped at large camp where people listlessly mingled around and spoke with harsh whispers. Earlier, she overheard someone calling it the Crossroads.

Two human men stood by a crooked fence, both of them casually browsing the wares of another merchant.  “They said Haven is completely gone.”

“I believe it. Heard a dragon completely wiped them out," replied the other man. "Has the Inquisition found a new home yet?”

Mirae stopped fidgeting. She reclined back in the seat of the cart, trying to slyly eavesdrop on their conversation.

The first man exclaimed to his companion, voice rising, “You won't believe me but they found an abandoned fortress in the mountains! A whole fortress!”

“And I'm Andraste's uncle. You're having me on. A fortress? Someone just left a fortress lying around?”

“You don't have to believe me but it's true. Sky something. Ask Corporal Vale, he's leaving soon to join them.”

Mirae leapt up from her seat, not caring that she just revealed her eavesdropping. She raced to Dupont, interrupting his discussion with an elderly elven man. His unmarked face labeled him a City Elf, only the lines of age gracing his features.

She inhaled and rushed out in one frantic gasp: “Havenisgone!”

Dupont and the elven man looked at her with wide eyes. Deep breath. She tried to steady her voice, but the words still came out quick and jumbled. “Sorry. I just heard that Haven is gone. The Inquisition is somewhere else. I have to find-”

The elven man held up a hand and stopped her, “Breathe, young one. I know of what you speak. Some of us are leaving tomorrow for Skyhold.” He paused and looked at Dupont pointedly, “If your, uh, father does not mind, I'm sure we could fit another cart in our caravan.” Mirae looked to Dupont, hope brimming in her eyes. He gave a noncommittal shrug. She let out a yelp of joy and threw her arms around the Orlesian, hugging him tightly until he squeaked.

*

She did not like travel in this land. Wherever she was from before, Mirae knew that travel there was much easier than this. The rollicking of carts shook her stomach. The smell of horses and their waste burned the tiny hairs in her nose. The aches that inflamed her body as she spent most of the day sitting or walking alongside the cart. Every passing cart and horse left an unpleasant musk in their wake. She crinkles her nose.

She found small moments of respite. In the evenings, when everyone else was sleep, she would sneak away and whisper to the amulet. Instead of dropping the necklace into the large communal campfires, Mirae would spark a fire spell in her hand and hold it close to her chest. Dupont had warned her that people outside of the marsh would not be as open to mages as Tía and he were, so she kept her staff tucked way in his cart, beneath the bundles of fur, costume jewelry, and chipped pots. Her guitar laid beside it, wrapped like a precious gem in its case. She wasn't ready to sing again.

“We're heading to Skyhold. That's where he is. I wish you had told me his name, you never did. Or the other one. The woman. How am I to spy-”, she rambled on to the amulet.

A shrub rustled in the distance. Mirae waited. She held her inhale. A small brown fox emerged from the dark and raced to the other side of the camp, stopping to sniff any curious smells.

Mirae released her breath and continued: “How am I to spy without knowing who I'm spying on? This plan of yours is...confusing. Tía said he is an elf, like me. Sometimes...” She paused. She was treating the amulet more like a diary than a communication device, but her heart felt tight and empty since she left Tía. She found it comforting, just like the dreams had every night. Her fingers trembled as they traced the etched figure of the wolf, “Most nights I dream of an elf. A man. Is it him? He's tall a-and I can never see his face but I know his eyes. Is that your doing? Will I know when I see him?”

She sighed and her voice lowered so soft, she barely moved her mouth as she spoke, “When will I know anything?”

*

As they neared Skyhold, Dupont grew restless. He pulls their cart off the road, away from the caravan, and stops. Other carts carefully maneuver around, the riders eyeing them curiously. Mirae watches him as he fusses with the reins. Without a word he drops the them and places his hands on his mask. Slowly removing his mask, Dupont looks down and turns the golden face around in his hands. He still would not look at her. “Mirae, little one, I cannot go to Skyhold with you.” He takes a deep breath before continuing, “I spoke with Elias, the elven man from before. He will watch over you until you arrive. I have placed your belongings in his cart.”

Placing the mask down beside him, he takes one of her hands in his own. His hands were large but graceful. Long pointed fingers with just the slightest hint of callouses from the reins. Not rough like the hands of a manual laborer but not the soft, pliable hands of an idle noble. “I am sorry. I just cannot.”

Mirae smiles and places her free hand on top of his. She squeezes. “It's okay. You got me far enough. Tía would find that acceptable. She won't turn you into a toad or anything.”

He laughs. He puts his mask back on. His smile returns, peeking out from under his mask. Mirae waves as he turns his cart away from the caravan. She climbs into Elias's cart and rides silently alongside him until they reach their destination.

Her heart grows tighter.

*

When they arrive, Mirae finds that her eyes are simply not large enough to take in Skyhold all at once. Stone upon stone, rising into the sky. There are holes pockmarking the walls, but it is still a formidable sight. The air is cold and she can see her breathe lazily drift from her mouth as she exhales. Elias lets out a low, long whistle, “I had heard that it was big but this is truly impressive.”

He's nice enough, she thinks, and maybe with time she would enjoy his company. Maybe consider him a friend. But for now, her heart is still aching from the absence of Tía and Dupont. She even misses that dumb shrill bird. For now, she listened politely as he chattered on about whatever popped in his head.

Elias guides the horse and cart onto a stone bridge, waiting in line behind the other – what? Pilgrims? Mirae wonders. All of these people are here to join the Inquisition, but surely they couldn't find a place for all of them.

At camp the previous evening, Elias gave her a brief autobiography. She didn't ask for one, but he went ahead anyway. He had spent most of his life in the alienage in Denerim until his wife died during the Fifth Blight. They had no children, he noted wistfully. He told her that he was a tailor, trained in the trade by his father, his fingers long since dulled to the pain of a sharp needle. With a proud smile, he told her that he had personally worked on the smallclothes King Alistair wore on his coronation day. Mirae cast him a doubtful look but his insistence makes her bite her tongue. Elias told her in a dejected voice of the state of the Denerim alienage and why he left.

As they grew closer to Skyhold, Mirae had taken her staff out of the cart and placed it against her back, resting it in a loop attached to her cloak. Elias watched her carefully, his eyes never leaving the long staff. Eventually, he relaxed. She kept the guitar close, her fingers not truly touching the strings, playing the ghost of a song. Tia had made her a carrying bag of thick leather but ever since she finally removed it from its case, Mirae found it hard to put it back. It reminded her of dark, warm nights in the humid marsh. Of bird calls, bright stars, and Tía's laugh. The stars didn't shine as bright here, she noted bitterly.

 

Elias asked her if she was a bard, but Mirae shook her head no. Dupont had taught her about bards, or at least Orlesian bards, and she knew better to claim that title. She knew enough of healing spells and potions to feel comfortable listing her occupation as healer. Perhaps that would find her a decent job at Skyhold.

On the bridge to Skyhold, a hooded scout stopped each cart and wrote down the occupants information in a thin leather bound notebook. He spoke in a clipped, professional tone, “Relationship?”

Elias shook his head, “Ah, not related. I am watching over her for her guardian. He left us earlier in the trip.”

The scout raised his gaze to examine the cart and its riders. Mirae noted that he was an elf, but his eyes were green. Not gray. Not blue. Not both.

He dropped his head back down to the open book in his hand, quill ready. “Age?”

Elias chuckled and responded with a conspiratorial whisper, one that wasn't loud enough for her to hear. The scout looked to Mirae, quill waiting. She hadn't thought of that. No one told her how old she was. She looked at the crowd around them, comparing her appearance to the women around her. A number popped in her head. It felt close enough, not too old or too young. She lifted her chin and replied brightly, “Twenty-eight.” The scout and Elias gaped at her. Doubt rose in the back of her throat. Wrong answer?

Elias whistled again, “I took you for being barely out of your teens. I think it's the braids.” Mirae blushed and ducked her head down, dropping her eyes to her guitar. She had continued to plait her hair ever since she left the marsh. The act of braiding became a ritual she did diligently after every rare chance she had to bathe and wash her hair. It kept it out of her face and was easy enough to take care of. She suddenly felt embarrassed, childish.

The scout and Elias continued to chat amicably before he waved their cart forward. He shouted at their departing cart, “Tailor! Head to the main hall and ask to speak with the Ambassador. Healer, the mages and Infirmary are close to the entrance. You'll find it easily enough.”

*

Mirae parted from Elias with easy words, his smile warm and his eyes kind. A gust of wind sent his fluffy white hair dancing around his head like dandelion seeds. Their cart was parked by the stables, quickly abandoned as soon as they were allowed in. Elias waved a dusky skinned boy closer, “Take it, I have no use for it now.” The boy nodded and called for someone, a Master Dennet.

“Take care, young one. Don't be a stranger now!” Elias clutched her hands in his own and gave them a friendly shake up and down. Satisfied she would be alright he released her and walked towards a set of large stone stairs that led to a towering wooden door. Crimson Inquisition banners adorning ivy encrusted walls gently swayed in the brisk air. A chill tickling the back of her neck, Mirae begun to feel a little lost with all the belongings she owned lying at her feet: an old guitar, an even older staff, and bag of clothes Dupont had acquired for her. Not much but it was hers.

She gazes out at the courtyard laid out before her. People of all races milled about, working, chatting. The air was a lot less tense than it had been at the Crossroads and other towns she had seen. The people here working for a common cause. Maybe it gives them a sense of purpose. No time to fight amongst yourselves when you've got the sky ripping apart.

She watched a small group of people that she assumed were mages cross the courtyard, walking towards an even larger group of similarly berobed people. Commanding voices were indistinguishable from the chatter of the crowd, but she knew enough to try and listen. Guess that's where the mages go. Mirae gathered her bag in one hand and her guitar case in the other. She joined a group heading in that direction, listening halfheartedly to their conversation. Something about an introduction to the Inquisition's head mages.

Across the courtyard, the mages gathered in a circle around three figures. Standing in the center, beside a man with an improbable mustache and an imposing woman wearing a strange horned hat, was an bald elf. His bare head and pointed ears stuck out like a sore thumb in a crowd of mostly humans. 

But that's not what drew her eye to him. Not really. Her breath slowed and she found herself searching his face. The amulet around her neck began to pulsate against her breast. A breathy voice curled around her ears: "Do you see? Do you see?" 

Mirae flashed back to her reoccurring dreams, the ones she started having back in the marsh. A forest. An elf. 

And most importantly, the voice purred, eyes that were neither gray nor blue, but somehow both.

 

Chapter Text

“Is that him? Was I right?”

When she finally falls asleep, Mirae finds herself in the same isolated grove as before, this time a table and two chairs sit in the clearing waiting for her. One is occupied.

Flemeth blinks and tilts her head towards her guest, “Ah. So you made it to Skyhold.”

Mirae fights a flush that erupts over her face. She hadn't expected to see Flemeth face to face again; her long, rambling reports echo in her head. The amulet suddenly feels very heavy around her neck.

Flemeth smiles and toys with a porcelain tea cup. Either it Mirae didn't notice it before or it appeared out of nowhere. She doesn't question it. “Let me guess. Tall, bald, and devastatingly handsome. Pointy ears, too.”

“Oh. Well, I haven't gotten that close, but, yes to everything else.”

“That would be him. Solas. Or Fen'harel. I do not believe he would enjoy being called by that last one,” she twists the tea cup around her fingers, “So stick with Solas for now.” The tea cup shakes and turns into a leaf. Flemeth crushes it between her fingers, sharp fingernails digging into the veins of the leaf.

Mirae gulps, “The same Fen'harel Tía had me read about?”

“Don't believe everything you read, child. History belongs to the victors and those too stubborn to admit they're wrong.” She eyeballs the broken leaf in her hand, "Sometimes they're one and the same."

“She made me write an essay,” Mirae grumbles as she lowers herself into the chair across from Flemeth.

The older woman chuckles and releases the crumbled leaf. It turns back into a cup. “She is well, by the way. Misses you, of course. You wormed your way into that cold dead heart.” Flemeth slides a finger through the handle of the tea cup and flips it into the air. It shifts once, twice, to a leaf and back to a cup before it lands back on the table, “The Orlesian too. Expect a letter soon. Be kind. He misspells a lot of words. Common is not his native tongue.”

Mirae pauses. Her heart thinks, purses its lips stubbornly. A tiny spark of joy wrestles it way into her chest.

Flemeth looks at her with surprisingly gentle eyes. Well, as gentle as golden yellow eyes could ever be. The corners of her lips curl. “Little thief, your bag of hearts grows. I'll have you steal one more.”

“You've decided? You want me to spy and seduce him?” Mirae pokes the tea cup with a hesitant finger. It remains unchanged.

“Why not? Let him have some fun,” Flemeth removes her eyes from Mirae's face and looks at the mirror. The silver surface trembles, then stills. “It'll make the spying easier.”

Mirae pokes the tea cup again, urging it to turn into a leaf. It stubbornly stayed in cup-form. “You never told me what I'm supposed to listening out for. Am I to continue telling you, well, everything?”

“Yes. I do so enjoy those long winded confessionals you leave me. They're my evening entertainment.” Flemeth chuckles quietly to herself.

Mirae flushes. She takes her hands away from the table and wrings them nervously in her lap, “The Inquisitor is a female elf. Pretty too. I've, uh, heard.”

Flemeth snorts, “And Dalish. Proudly.” The teacup trembles.

The trees stir in the wind. Mirae feels herself waking up. Flemeth walks towards the mirror and places a hand through the surface.

“Like I told you before, child. Don't underestimate yourself. He's stronger than he looks, but still weak in the way men have always been. Trust me.”

When she wakes, Mirae finds herself clasping the small porcelain teacup. She throws it against the wall of her shared room, shattering it into tiny impossible pieces. 

*

Work comes easily. In the morning she makes potions for the Infirmary, grinding bitter scented herbs into each other. Working them with the pestle to a grassy pulp against the stone mortar. The scent stains her fingers.

In the afternoons she runs drills with other mages, watching them twist and turn their staves like extensions of their bodies. Mirae is little embarrassed that she isn't as fluid as they are, her movement rougher. More wild. They notice and whisper.

“You're an apostate, right?”

She gulps and rests her staff against her shoulder, “What?”

The pale skinned young man stands with another mage, a dark skinned young woman with a shaved head. Their robes match, as do their casting, mirroring spell for spell. Mirae never sees them apart. Envy whispers listlessly in her ear. “Never been in a circle?”, he asks.

“Ah, no.” She digs the toe of her boot into the bare dirt.

The young man's eyes darken, his hands tighten their grip on his staff. The tops of his hands are scarred, white lines flickering across like lightning. He's missing a finger on his left hand. The ring finger. The woman is his shadow, his other, Mirae thinks – her hand is hidden in the pocket of her robe but Mirae knows it too is missing the same finger.

He looks away. The woman watches him, eyes soft.

“Lucky girl.”

*

Getting close to her mark was easier said than done, Mirae noted. Sure, they were both mages and elves but that's where their similarities ended.

Solas, she learned, was a part of “The Inner Circle”, Inquisitor Lavellan's most trusted friends and advisors. She also discovered, quite perplexed, that the loud, brash female elf who lived in the tavern was also included in this group. The bearded human who lived in the barn was too. As was the Qunari who seemed to spend his entire days solely in the tavern. She almost never saw him anywhere else, except for the rare occasion he was in the sparring grounds, accompanied by a small human man. 

Mirae felt the more she learned, the less she understood.

The mustached man she saw on the first day was Dorian Pavus, a Tevinter mage, and the imposing woman was Vivienne, an Orlesian mage. Mirae wrote their names down in her journal, scribbling everything she knew so she could give a complete report to Flemeth.

Names. So many names. Quick descriptions. Histories. What she knew, Flemeth needed to know, too, right?

Right.

Mirae scribbles roughly, almost tearing the paper. The table she's sitting at shakes with the movement of her quill. The tavern is nearly empty, but voices still echo around the building.

“She asks for too much and not enough. Your brain and heart are full. You pour it out to her in the dark.”

The voice makes her stop writing. I was stupid to do this in the tavern, in broad daylight! She shifts, clutching her journal tightly to her chest, to look at the young man who spoke to her.

Tall, thin. Pale. Blond hair covering his eyes. Strange hat. Oh, she thinks to her notes. Cole. Another one.

“Hello. Ah. Who are you talking about?”

He blinks, “You see me?”

She returns his blink, “Yes?”

He bends at the waist and very nearly crashes his face into hers. The table between them shifts, its legs uneven. “Are we...are you like me?”, his eyes are large, questioning.

“Personal space, Kid! Girls don't like it when you get up in their face like that.”

Another one. Varric. Dwarf. Rich, but rich in a way she can't comprehend. He talks a lot but doesn't reveal much. Chest hair. A lot of it. He writes literature. Smutty literature. The warrior woman sighs and blushes when she reads it, but only when she thinks no one else is looking.

“Sorry.” Cole fusses with the edge of his hat, “I was only talking.”

“Nothing wrong with talking, Kid. But pretty girls-”, he adds a playful wink to Mirae, “Like a softer touch. Tell her your name first.”

Mirae shifts her journal to her lap, hiding it from view, “He's Cole. And you're Varric. I, uh, I know who you both are. I'm Mirae.” She shifts her gaze down to her lap, playing coy and innocent. Don't let them know what you know. Be a good spy.

Varric lets out a soft laugh and seats himself across from her, resting his drink on the table. Cole still stands, awkwardly. He whispers her name to himself. “My reputation precedes me.” He takes a sip, “Tell me, Birdy, what are you writing in that book? The one you think you're hiding under the table.”

She chokes, “Birdy?”

“Just trying it out. You look kind of like a little bird, anyone ever tell you that?”

Mirae thinks of the bird who lives on the roof. She sighs. “No. Never.”

He shrugs and takes another deep sip. He swallows with an exaggerated gulp.  “So. Writing, then? Stories? I'm well acquainted with stories.”

Mirae shake her head and clutches her journal tighter. Think. Think. Ah. She smiles tentatively, “No, not stories. Songs.”

Varric raises an eyebrow. Cole has long since drifted away. He whispers in the ear of a man at another table. The man looks out the window sadly, holding a sandwich paused halfway to his mouth. A piece of meat falls out and lands on the floor.

Varric slams a hand down on table. It shakes in protest, wobbling on its unsteady legs. “Wait! Did you come here with a guitar? Maryden said she saw an elf walking around with one. She's jealous, you know. Never met anyone in Ferelden who could play an Antivan guitar.”

“Oh. Um. Yes. Maryden? The singer downstairs?”, she twists her hands in her tunic. Where is he going with this?

Varric suddenly stands, steps away to the banister, shouting to the empty bar below, “Maryden! I found her!”

Mirae panics and rushes to pull him away, “Found what?! You found nothing! Varric, please!”

Varric smiles, it's too wide and too knowing. Mirae's stomach twists. “Maryden, write to that friend of yours and tell 'em you're coming for a visit. I found your replacement.”

 

Chapter Text

I am not a good spy, Mirae declares to no one in particular.

Maryden is excited, pacing around the ground floor of the tavern. Her hands clasped in front of her chest, eyes wide and bright, as she babbles endlessly about her plans. Varric chats with her and laughs at her good fortune, his chest rising and falling with each bark of laughter.

Surrounded by all of this happiness, Mirae only feels worse. Her journal hangs limply in her hands. Her fingers dig into the leather cover.

“I can go visit my friend in Redcliffe! He's been writing me to visit ever since that whole thing with Alexius. It shook him up something bad.” Maryden turns to Mirae, grabbing her hands in her own and holding them between their bodies. She smells like ale and smoke. Mirae tries not to grimace. “Thank you! It won't be for long, I promise. A week? Maybe two if John decides to invite the others too. Oh, thank you – Mirae, was it? I haven't seen these people in years!” She drops Mirae's hands and turns to the sour faced man behind the bar, “Cabot! I'm leaving, you son-of-a-bitch! Be nice to the new girl.”

Mirae feels like shit.

Varric and Maryden are all smiles. Cabot never smiles. Cole has long since disappeared to his little alcove in the attic but she's sure he would be smiling too.

Mirae feels like complete and utter shit.

*

Maybe, if I pray hard enough, I'll leave this body and become a spirit again. Flemeth can just make me a new one. Maybe a taller body. With bigger breasts. And blonde. And...

Mirae shifts in her bed. Her roommate, a foul-mouthed Orlesian mage from the White Spire, snores softly in her own bed. A tuft of bright red hair pokes out from beneath her pile of blankets. Colette is nice, not rude to her like some of the other humans. She's even teaching Mirae swears in Orlesian. Colette prefers the ones that insults other people's mothers but Mirae likes keeping it simple. Bodily functions. The classics.

Merde. Mirae rolls the word around in her brain.

Merde. Putain. Merde. Putain. It follows her to sleep.

Her dreams have gotten stranger since she left the marsh. Before, they were simple: Forests. Ruins. The elf – Solas. They never interacted in these dreams. She simply followed him from a distance as he walked through trees and dilapidated temples. She liked it like that. He was so absorbed in exploring that he didn't even seem to notice her. Mirae found it peaceful and she eagerly awaited another dream.

But they changed once she arrived at Skyhold. When she realized she was in the Fade, Mirae noticed that she was no longer far away from him. Her starting position placed her closer, close enough that she could reach out and touch him if she wanted to. Panic gripped her as she hid behind a tree, grasping the trunk with sweaty hands. His back was still towards her as he wandered between the trees, looking for something she could not even begin to imagine.

He stopped, raising his eyes to the hazy sky. A fine mist fell, cool on her skin. The trees stood still. “Little bird, why do you follow me?” His voice is much better than she could have ever imagined. It licks at her ears and – wait.

Bird?

Mirae blinks slowly and looks down at her body. Not her body. Not the one she has come to know. She's suddenly much smaller. Inky black feathers, twiggy legs, and sharp talons greet her. The bird who lives on the roof.

She stretches her wings and hops out from behind the tree. The mist coats her little face and she shakes the cold from her bones. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to disturb your dream.” The voice comes from the body of the bird. It sounds like her, in a way. It's sharper, calmer than the voice she normally speaks with. She likes it. It's nothing like the warbling chirps and shrieks of the marsh bird.

He angles himself to face her, eyes lowered to observe her diminutive form, “A spirit, then? What is your name?”

Mirae looks him in the eyes for the first time, her little bird heart beating wildly in her chest. She contorts her head to an impossible angle, or least one impossible for her waking form, contemplating a response. She fluffs her feathers, puffing herself up, “I don't know. I have many names.”

Da'len. Girl. Little one. Mirae. Birdy. Spy. Little thief. Flemeth's snot-nosed errand girl. Nothing. Nothing at all. Call me what you want.

The elf looks away for a short while. He clasps his hands behind his back as he scrutinizes the forest around them. The mellow rain continues to fall but he remains dry as a bone. Mirae's feathers are heavy with moisture.

He turns back to face her and holds out an open hand, “I have the whole night to learn them all. Walk with me?”

*

In the end, she gave him no name. Not a single one. So he gave her one.

“Inaean. I think it fits you well.”

In dreams he smiles easily. She tries to return his smile but remembers that birds cannot smile. She gives him a pleasant chirp instead. He laughs.

Mirae collects another name and adds it to the pile. None of them quite fit, but she holds each one greedily to her heart. It thumps, pleased, in response.

*

The mornings are for herbs, burning in her nose as she grinds them to a pulp. The afternoons for spellcasting, for stretching her body and mind. Colette tried to teach her the methods she learned from the Circle but Mirae waves her off. The other mages politely ignore her and her amateur casting now. She prefers it.

And now, her evenings are for song.

Mirae's hands are clammy as she grasps her guitar. Maryden left the day before, assuring her that despite the drunken crowd, it was an easy gig. Sing a few rousing songs, collect a sovereign or two, and don't let Krem burn a hole in your bodice as he intensely stares at it from his front row seat. Mirae doubted that last one would be an issue, eyeballing the difference in bodice sizes between her and Maryden. Krem would just have to be disappointed.

Varric sits at a large table by the door, surrounded by some of the Inner Circle. He holds his full drink up with a grin and shakes it towards her as she walks to the center of the room. It splashes around and some of it lands on the table with a plop. The rest of them (Mirae mentally scribbles her notes: Blackwall, Sera, Iron Bull. Dorian, at the bar with a glass of wine) look at him quizzically.

“I discovered her,” he grins.

She sighs. Now or never. Pulling the guitar close, a shield protecting her body, Mirae looks calmly down at her feet. If I look at my feet, I can ignore the people around me. She curls her fingers around the fretboard.

A forced cough from the large table in front of her pushes her head up. Varric is waving her on, silently cheering her forward. The rest of the room, soldiers, healers, scouts, all look at her with disinterest.

Mirae presses her fingers on the strings and lets the words fill her lungs, pushing the lonely ache to the side. The guitar trills and relaxes in her hands as she plucks the opening notes.

I've been the wild one, I've run through the streets and I've suffered,”  Her voice sounds so, so far away. She pulls it closer, lets it bask in the warmth of her still beating heart.

I've been the quiet one, sequestered and smothered.” Closer now, almost as clear as it was in the marsh, “But I won't mind no time spent to save me, just trying to be good to the people who raised me.”

She feels the mana return to her fingertips. She welcomes it, twists it into her words. It spills, easing along the floorboards. Timid at first, then a little braver, it curls around the feet of the crowd, tender and purring along their skin.

It's been a strong year, with a bright, bright sun. And from here, the past looks bright,”  Warmer, warm enough now. Black feathers lift against the wind, “And the future seems a promising one.”

They're quiet, drinks in hand, watching her. Afraid she'll break. Mirae thinks of herself in the Fade, wings wide and strong. Strong enough to beat a hole in the sky.

The guitar is her shield. She sings on: “But I won't mind no time spent to save me, just trying to be good to the people who raised me, and glide through life without a meaning. On trails torn up between clouds and turf,” Brighter. Clearer.

“I wish for you, for what it's worth. And I want to visit on the wind, and I want to visit on the wind.”

Maybe the stars can shine here like they do in the marsh.

She sings another and another, until they clap harder and harder and their hands are red and sore. Her smile is so large it threatens to split her face in two.

*

Mirae sleeps and dreams of flying above Solas, dropping her feathers as little tokens. He collects each one, gathering them in his hands like precious gems.

He throws his head back with a laugh, his voice exasperated. “Inaean! Enough of these and I'll be able to make my own wings.”

She drops a few more.

*

The mornings are for herbs. The afternoons are for magic. The evenings are for song. Sleep is for flying.

Mirae feels her chest grow and swell.

Doubt pricks her with sharp pins, deflating her joy.

You're not here for fun. You're here to watch him, in real life. Not in the Fade. Fly closer, little bird.

She plucks the herbs from the stems roughly, bruising the delicate leaves. The broken stem weeps.

*

The fourth evening she sings, Varric has invited more of the Inner Circle to watch her sing. For all his sarcastic jokes, Mirae soon discovered that Varric had a tender heart for fellow artists. Mirae watches, amused, as he assigns seats and adds more chairs to the closest table. She recognizes the ones from before: Sera has her arm thrown around Blackwall's shoulder as he takes a deep drink from his mug. Iron Bull is sitting next to Dorian at the bar, the mage clutching his wine glass with two hands, an exhausted look on his face. The Qunari is talking low and close to him, his eyes hooded and dark.

Varric sits Cassandra next to him, the shiny gold Ambassador next to her, and a small elven woman at the end. Mirae pauses from tuning her guitar. The Inquisitor. Just as pretty as she had heard. White blonde hair swept to one side in a perfect twisted braid. Mirae touches her own messy plaits, frowning. Bright, almond shaped green eyes. Pointed ears, yes, but smaller than mine, Mirae noted bitterly. Curling pale green vallaslin delicately tracing around the borders of her golden skin, painting her forehead and cheeks. Mythal, Mirae adds to the report she kept in her head.

She had a lot more to tell Flemeth these days. She wondered if the woman even bothered to listen to her long winded reports that she dutifully sent nearly everyday. Probably not.

The Inquisitor laughs at something the Ambassador says when the main door opens and, from the corner of her eye, Mirae spots two more men entering. Lavellan's mouth slams closed and a blush dances across her cheeks. Her ears even turn pink. Mirae turns to look, curious at who could have made the Inquisitor blush like a schoolgirl.

Standing by the open door were, indeed, two men. One she recognized, the other she didn't. To the left stood a tall man who looked very much like the shining knights from the campfire stories Mirae heard the older women tell the young children. A deep red fur draped on his shoulder and he wore armor despite being far away from the battlefield. A gentle handsome face, with tired eyes the color of whiskey, and his blond hair carefully styled. A scar, delicately pink, on his upper lip. 

Mirae looked away, a small blush heating her face.

The man on the right, well, she knew his face like the back of her hand.

Solas and the other man spotted Varric's table and walked together, no, not together. Just heading in the same direction. The men barely acknowledged each other. It wasn't a cold lack of interest, born out of hatred, but a lack of interest nevertheless.

The blond man grabbed an empty seat next to the Inquisitor, intensifying her blush. Mirae raised an eyebrow, a small smile quirked her lips. Ah, I see. A human, then? Interesting. More notes for Flemeth.

Solas sits next to Varric, the dwarf clapping him roughly on the back. “Chuckles! Curly! Glad to see you tear yourself away from work long enough for a night of entertainment.”

The blond – CURLY?! she scribbles – sighs and tears his eyes away from the still blushing Inquisitor. “I don't work that much,” he mumbles into the mug of ale Blackwall places in front of him.

Varric rolls his eyes at the blond man and turns to Solas, “Chuckles, you'll love it. Birdy here has a lovely voice. She doesn't sing in elvhen or whatever, but I'm sure you'll enjoy it just the same.” Sera snorts and wiggles her hands around mystically, “Elvhen, oooh. Piss shit. Songs are songs.”

“Master Tethras, I have heard plenty about our new minstrel from others. I have no doubt of her abilities.” His voice is cool and washes over her like mist. She sighs and tunes her guitar, even though it's already well tuned. She reaches up and straightens her plaits over her shoulders. Her hair is longer now, reaching mid-back and the ends curling wildly, reaching to the sky when she undos her braids before bed. With a heavy breath, she steadies her fluttering heart. Her mana gathers in her fingers, ready to ease her aches. She weaves it into the song.

The first time, I ever saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes...”

*

A letter from the Orlesian, hastily written on a scrap of paper:

Little one. I hope you are well. I saw  Tía and she is well. I am well as well. I do don't know what to right. Do you still sing? Pleas think of me when you do. I miss youre songs. I will visit soon 

when I

when I can.

Blessed be.

Dupont

*

She sings in the evenings. She still hasn't talked to him. Not in waking, at least.

It has been a month and a half since she came to Skyhold. She sends her reports to Flemeth but hasn't seen her since that first night. Mirae wonders what she does as she listens. Drink tea and cackle, probably.

Maryden extends her trip, writing platitudes in letters stained with ale. One more week, she begs.

In dreams, Solas talks about everything and nothing. He touches her wings and she feels heat rise in her little body. 

You barely know him. He doesn't know you. Why are you acting like a punch-drunk romantic?

He doesn't know. He still thinks she's a spirit. He doesn't know about her other dreams. The ones where he holds her true form in his arms as he whispers in her ears. He doesn't know about the coiled desire that is waiting in her lower belly. The one she gnashes her teeth at in the morning, her hands aching as they work to bring relief.

He admires her feathers and calls her by the name only he knows.

She cries but it only comes out as birdsong.

*

Mirae's first opportunity to speak with him in person comes, unexpectedly, because Lavellan cannot dance.

She's been invited to the Winter Palace, the Inquisitor. She wrings her hands, gnawing at her bottom lip anxiously as her Ambassador lists out everything they need to prepare.

“There's your dress fittings and fittings for the rest of the Inner Circle. I'll have Elias stop by in the afternoon. There's the matter of who you're going to bring. Oh, and their introductions! Inquisitor, please, give me your first draft soon!” Josephine continues down the list. Lavellan feels like she's seeing stars and it's making her nauseous. Her grip on the Josephine's desk tightens. 

Josephine gasps and exclaims with girlish glee, “Dancing! Oh, Inquisitor, can you dance?”

“Dance?!”

*

They call Mirae in as soon as they can find her. They drag her away from the Infirmary, leaving her potion making for another day. Carrying her guitar defensively in front of her body, she stares at the group waiting for her in the Ambassador's office.

Vivienne sits casually on the settee, long legs gracefully tucked beneath her body. A long, manicured hand curled around a tea cup. Josephine sits next to her, writing quickly on a piece of parchment. Vivienne lifts the tea cup to her lips, “Ideally, we'd have a piano or violin but, unfortunately, we do not have either on the grounds. So, my dear, you'll have to do.”

Mirae doesn't know if she's being insulted but keeps her face as blank as possible. She's grateful when Lavellan returns, Solas and Cullen (not Curly, just a nickname, she notes) in tow.

Lavellan, with a flourish, holds her arms out to the two men.  “These are the only two who agreed to help. Well, I say agreed but I didn't leave them much of a choice.”

“She threatened to make me do another mission in the Fallow Mire,” Solas responds flatly.

“And you, Commander?”, Vivienne raises an eyebrow. Cullen scratches the back of his neck, not meeting her eyes, “I agreed to help.”

She smiles and murmurs into her teacup, “I see.” He drops his hand limply and pointedly does not look at the Inquisitor, resting his gaze on the incomplete copper mosaic hanging on the wall.

Mirae, desperate to break the tension, holds up her guitar helpfully, “What should I play?”

Vivienne sets down the tea cup and looks up thoughtfully. She presses a sharp nail to her chin. “Start with something slow. A basic waltz, 1-2-3 rhythm, please. We don't want to overwhelm the poor girl.”

Lavellan takes turns dancing with Cullen, Solas, and Josephine. Vivienne directs, straightening their backs and issuing clipped demands. The couples dance around and around, never quite reaching the perfection Vivienne was wanting. Levellan steps on many toes, apologizing each time. When she dances with Cullen, their progress recedes and they hold each other like they're made of glass. "No! The Inquisitor will not break if you hold her by the waist, Commander," Vivienne barks at them. He places his hand flat against the side of her waist. Mirae thinks that she's never seen two people turns so red, so quickly. It makes her sigh, thinking with self pity about her pathetic, lonely dreams.

Her fingers begin to ache and she stops playing momentarily to shake some feeling back into her fingertips, “Sorry, just a moment. My hands...” She waves a calloused hand cheerfully, hiding the grimace on her face.

Solas rises from his seat, ending his brief rest while Josephine teaches Lavellan how to lead, and takes her free hand in his own. Warmth pools from his fingers into her own sore ones as he casts a healing spell. “If you need to take a break, please don't hesitate to ask for one.”

“I know, I'm sorry -”

His eyebrows straighten as he frowns, “There's no need to apologize.” He is still holding her hand, “You should probably not perform tonight. You...” His voice lowers, “You pour mana into your songs, do you not? Is it not exhausting?”

Mirae is fighting the blush working its way across her face, but losing badly. She can even feel her ears begin to burn. “It's fine. I-I don't mean to. It just...comes out. It makes everyone feel good.”

Lavellan dips Josephine, continuing to dance even without the music. Josephine giggles, high and tinkling. Solas sighs and gently drops her hand, “But does it make you feel good? You must be exhausted after every performance. Mana is not infinite, Mirae. It takes time to regenerate.”

She looks at him, shocked, “You know my name?”

The smallest, tiniest of smiles. Barely even noticeable, really. But she's staring so hard at him that she can count every freckle on his face.

“You're making quite the name for yourself. What is it that Varric calls you?”

She glowers at the mention of Varric and plucks a sour note, “Birdy.”

“What's wrong with that? Is it not better than being called 'little thief'?”

“It doesn't matter. Neither one is my name, not really anyway.”

Josephine dances with Cullen now as the Inquisitor flops down onto the settee, propping her feet on the coffee table. Vivienne glares, but Lavellan either doesn't notice or care. She plucks a frilly cake from the shining silver platter and pops it into her mouth. Cullen spins Josephine, the two of them laughing quietly as they dance. Lavellan watches the dancers, face passive.

Sola keeps his eyes on Mirae, his face betraying nothing about his thoughts, “What is your name, then?”

Mirae lowers the guitar and looks out the window, carefully keeping her voice steady. She sighs, “I don't know.”

“I have many names," she adds, so soft, so quiet that only he can hear.

*

Her feathers ruffle. Black, like her hair. Like her eyes in low light. She blinks, watery eyes watching him as he walks through the grass.

He stops, hesitant. It hangs in the air. The question he hasn't asked yet and the response she hasn't yet given. “Mirae?”

She spreads her wings, black turning blue in the sunlight. She smiles, knowing it's visible on her face, her real face. The one he knows from waking. It's not that familiar to him yet, but she will remedy that soon. She will be a good little spy, a good little thief.

Mirae wiggles her toes against the grassy floor.

“Hello, Solas.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“You have sparked his interest, my little thief. Excellent work.”

The third time she meets with Flemeth, they're no longer in the grove. The greenery traded in for a fine ornate house and plush furniture. Heavy wooden bookcases loom from the ceiling, each shelf sagging under the weight of too many books. The fireplace simmers with an eerie green flame. Empty paintings hang on the walls, their subjects long since left for greener pastures.

“Really? I was worried I revealed myself too soon.” Mirae ambles around a small side table and fingers the spine of a book, the title long worn off. She removes her hand and looks toward her patron. Sitting in an overstuffed wingback chair facing the fireplace, Flemeth looks like she always does: Intimidating.

The book floats off of the table with a chirp.

“No, I think if you had dragged this game along, he would suspect you were hiding something.”

“I see. But now I don't know what to do.”

Flemeth glances at the floating book, it whimpers and joins a small flock of similarly bewitched tomes. “Do what every woman in history has had to do to capture a man's interest.”

Mirae gulps. Flemeth chuckles, “Not that. Not now, at least. No, speak with him. Stroke his...ego a bit. He likes it when you ask questions. He tends to lecture, so at least have the courtesy to pretend you're interested.”

She continues, “Don't fawn over him. Challenge him but in a respectful way. A man with bruised pride makes for a terrible lover.” The flock of books perch on the mantle of the fireplace. They flap their pages like wings and shudder.

“I've been thinking about something.”

“Yes?”

“What if I had said no. What if I refused to spy for you?”

Flemeth raises her hand, finger splayed and palm flat. The books shake and explode in a flurry of paper and cardboard. Shrill screams echoes in the room, slowly fading out until only the sound of the fire remains. Bits of paper falls like snow. Mirae feels her toes curl in her shoes. Flemeth lowers her head and resumes gazing at the fireplace. “It would not have been in your best interest.”

The books on the shelves tremble. The strange woman looks around the room, “I must say, your dreams have gotten interesting. Amelanen didn't have to give you such a gift, but she did. Curious.”

Mirae uncurls her toes, “Gift?”

“Quite clever of her. He'll take to this development like a fish to water. Speak with Solas. He'll know all about it.”

*

Maryden returns, reluctantly.

Cabot works out a schedule where Maryden sings a majority of the time and Mirae just two nights a week.

She takes it and clings to those nights like a lifeline.

"Another winter, another spring. Another old and restless thing..."

*

Deep breaths. People go to the library all of the time. She's mage, it's almost expected. And, if, perhaps she were to take the rotunda, she would maybe even run into a certain someone. A certain elfy someone who just so happens to have a chin dimple she wants to lick. She also has to spy on him for some eldritch hag who could destroy her with a flick of the wrist.

Mirae musses with a loose lock of hair, twirling it around her fingers. Her braids were longer now, bouncing against her back with every hesitant step she took. She should have never left the marsh.

Deep breaths. Head held high, she enters the main hall of Skyhold and tries to control her squirming nerves.

The hall was unusually empty. A few servants meander around the empty hall, chatting to each other in quiet voices. Distant conversations in other rooms seep from beneath closed doors. She raises her head and watches the banners hanging from the ceiling. They move, gently, to a breeze she can't quite locate the direction of. They look plush and brand new, a Dalish tree insignia stamped in gold on green velvet. Mirae sighs, thinking to what Flemeth had said about the Inquisitor: she was Dalish and proud of it.

To the right of the entrance, a fireplace churns with a nearly silent fire. Mirae bites her tongue as she notices the dwarf sitting by the fire.

“Birdy, what a pleasure to see you in my neck of the woods for once.” He looks up from the pile of letters he's reading, a harried but friendly smile on his face.

“Varric, good to see you.”, her voice shakes and she mentally chides herself for being so easy to read.

“Here to see Chuckles?”

Casual. Act. Casual.

Her face is the very picture of impassive, “What makes you say that? I'm here to visit the library. Heard there are some good potion making books that just arrived.”

“Right. And I've got a bridge in Kirkwall to sell you. I heard about your little chat during the dancing lessons.” He tosses a letter into the fire. It jumps and greedily gnaws on the paper.

Now she's confused. She looks at him, tilting her head slowly like a perplexed dog. “Chat? I don't-”

“The Inquisitor said the two of you were having a nice, intimate chat during her lesson. You two looked downright chummy.”

Mirae shakes her head, trying to clear her ears. Varric leans in close, conspiratorial whisper on his lips, “She said you even made Chuckles blush.

She can't help it. She chokes back a laugh in disbelief. “I'm sorry, but what? That never happened. I don't know what the Inquisitor thought she saw, but I- he did not blush!”

Varric waves a letter in his hand around in a lazy loop, “Look. Birdy, just repeating what I was told.” He looks down at the letter, a wry look on his face, “I'd pay to see Chuckles blush. I bet it goes all the way to his ears.”

Mirae bristles and stomps her foot, trying to think of a valid defense. But all she can muster is to mutter under her breath as she makes her way to the rotunda.

*

He's there, to both her joy and disappointment. A part of her had wished that she would find the rotunda empty. But he's there, engaging in a rather heated discussion with the Inquisitor.

“You...you're so arrogant! You think you know everything about the Dalish, about me! You're wrong!” Lavellan slams her fists on his desk, shaking the inkwell and various objects across the wooden surface. A sickening green light flickers in her left hand.

Solas, despite being the target of the elven woman's fury, appears nonplussed. He holds a quill loosely in one hand, a small round stone artifact in the other. “I never claimed to be an expert, Inquisitor, I am only sharing what I have seen in the Fade.”

This was the wrong answer. She smacks the artifact out of his hand, sending it rolling to the floor. Her face is red, the vallaslin pale and angry on her cheeks, “Fuck the Fade!” And with that, she stomps out, furiously chewing on the inside of her cheek. She doesn't even notice Mirae, who presses herself against the door frame in order to spare herself from the rampaging woman. An awkward, pointed cough comes from the floors above.

Solas sighs and leaves his chair to retrieve the abused item. He inspects it for any damage and, satisfied that it survived unscathed, places it back on his desk.

Mirae intertwines her fingers nervously, “Did I interrupt something?”

He lowers himself back into his chair with a groan, “No. That conversation ended ages ago. What you interrupted was just the Inquisitor expressing her opinion. It was a rather aggressive opinion.” Solas straightens out the items on his desk, long fingers pushing the objects with purpose. Mirae watches, silently, her eyes drinking in the sight of his elegant hands.

He looks up and she looks away, suddenly finding the scaffolding very interesting. “The Inquisitor is a good leader. Her people admire her,” he places his hands flat on the desk, “But she is proud. That pride clouds her judgment. I fear that for all the good she can, and will, do, her pride will be her downfall.”

Mirae breathes in deeply. Speaking from experience there, Fen'harel? She looks back at him, a tight smile on her face, “I came to apologize.” No response. She continues and looks down at her hands, still twisting her fingers anxiously, “I should have told you that I- the bird...”

“That you and Inaean are one and the same?” He steeples his hands, delicately pointed fingertips brushing against each other. 

She nods. She presses her hands tight against her stomach.

“I understand. People misunderstand the Fade and its inhabitants. You feared I would respond negatively.”

Mirae releases a shaky breath, her heart thumping in her chest. He understands. He understands.

“I must admit, I did not expect to meet another who explores the Fade as I do,” he leans back in his chair, “Have you seen much of the Fade? Or are you only beginning your journey?”

Mirae shakes her head, “No. I only realized that I could, uh, could do that recently. The first time you spoke to me, I didn't even know that I had changed into a bird.”

“I see. I had thought you a shy spirit. Perhaps one of curiosity. Instead, you were only a shy young girl.” A chuckle. Mirae's face begins to burn. She folds her head and mumbles under her breath. Solas leans forward in his chair, eyes resting on the top of her bowed head, “Excuse me?”

She repeats herself, louder now. “I said, I'm not a young girl.”

He waves a hand dismissively, Mirae clenches her hands into fists. “Oh? My apologizes, da'len. I meant no offense.”

She looks up and he's thrown, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. A spark of something – defiance? - has replaced the unease in her eyes. A thin, teasing glare, “No offense taken, ha'hren.” Mirae turns swiftly, black plaits whipping against her back violently, “I'm heading to the library now. I suppose I will see you in the Fade later?”

She's already halfway up the stairs when she catches his reply, a ghost following her in the stairwell, “Yes, I suppose you will.”

*

"You've talked to women before, right, Chuckles?"

"I am no stranger to women, Master Tethras."

"Could've fooled me."

*

If my face burns any hotter and my heart beats any faster, I'm going to die.

She presses her cheek against a cold library window, an open book on the many uses of elfroot pressed tightly against her chest.

Thump. Thump. 'Elfroot was first used by the elves of Arlathan...'

Dorian sleeps in a nearby chair, drool pooling in a corner of his lips. He snores softly.

Thump. Thump. 'Rubbing some of the juice on a wound, for example, will speed up healing and numb pain.'

*

"She's not angry. Not really."

"Cole."

"She's frustrated. It's hard for her to talk with you."

"I didn't intend for it to be."

Silence. A beat. For a moment, Solas is unsure of who Cole is speaking about.

"She wishes she was still a bird. It was easier then."

He doesn't respond, just turns the quill in his hand, mouth tight. The feather is white. He wishes it was black.

Cole looks up at the rookery, eyes bright. He holds a hand up, stretching his fingers to split the light between them.

"She liked it when you complimented her feathers."

*

“The Nightingale wishes to speak with you.”

She's dividing up a potion to pour into glass flasks. The scout standing by her work table doesn't wait for a response, “Now. I will take you to her.”

Mirae sighs, sliding the still boiling pot of completed potion to another healer, and follows the hooded scout.

Her eyes water and flutter at the sudden bright outdoor sun.

*

The rookery is never completely silent. There is always the scratch of a pen, the folding of parchment, and the movement of birds. An omnipresent drone that hides in the background throughout the tower.

The Nightingale (Leliana, Orlesian, 5th blight, Mirae pulls from her notes) sits at a table, a map and papers spread out before her. She waves the scout away as he guides Mirae to her seat.

“Please, sit.”

Soft, softer than she'd expected. Orlesian, yes, but not the casual, masculine Orlesian accent of Dupont nor the crass twang of Colette's lower class slang.

Shifting of the papers on the table, until she finds the one she's looking for, Leliana reclines in her seat and catches Mirae's eyes in her own. “You came here with the tailor, Elias, but you have no relation to him.”

Mirae nods. Too nervous to respond verbally.

“He says you were entrusted to him by a merchant, an Orlesian by the name of Dupont. A human who claimed he was your father?”

Mirae lets out a weak laugh, “It was a joke he liked to tell. Showing off his 'pretty elven daughter'.”

The Nightingale nods, at what Mirae's not sure, but her eyes never leave her face, “But you were not raised by him. I have reports-” she waves her hand over some papers, “- of the same Dupont going back several years. No mention of family, least of all a pretty elven daughter.” She enunciates each of those last three words. Pretty. Elven. Daughter. “An apostate daughter who has never stepped foot in a circle of magi.”

Thump thump. Her heart protests, clawing at her chest with tiny desperate fingers. Fly away, little bird. Mirae stills her body, straightening her back. The chair is uncomfortable, digging into her spine.

“You are good with potions. I haven't heard anything about your healing spell skills, but I am sure they are adequate or you would have been reassigned from the Infirmary.” Leliana leans forward, hands moving from the table to rest on her lap, “How are your combat spells?”

Mirae frowns, confused. The red-headed woman in front of her continues, “We're planning an expedition to the Western Approach to deal with the Grey Wardens. The region is home to highly poisonous wildlife. We are in need of capable healers who know their way around an antidote and can defend themselves.” A quirk of the lips, “You are not unaccustomed to inhospitable land. You will be fine.”

Mirae opens her mouth, despite her best instincts, “What do you-”

The Nightingale looks at her, amused, “I have met a Witch of the Wilds before. What one is doing here, I don't know, but I will find out. Until then, the Inquisition welcomes your...unique perspective and abilities.” She stands, holding a hand up to signal the end of their conversation. As Mirae walks past her to leave, the Nightingale speaks softly, eyes hovering tightly on the stack of papers in front of her: “I have known the loyalty of a Witch. Do not dismantle the good will she worked so hard for.”

*

She dreams. Fitful and restless, but a dream nonetheless.

Solas is waiting, a wolf pelt draped over his shoulder and tucked into his belt. Mirae lets out a snort, “Trying to impress me, ha'hren? Nice wolf pelt.”

He runs a hand through it, fingertips grazing the thick fur, “Do you share the superstitions of the Dalish?”

“I'm no Dalish,” she replies as she eyes him warily. The amulet rests heavy against her chest. The wolf prowling around her neck.

He clutches his hands in front of his waist, “I can see that.”

“I'm not a city elf either.”

He turns his gaze to the sun bleached ruins that surround them. Crooked stones lying haphazardly on top of one another. Mice scurry from broken pot to broken pot. “You are not Dalish. You are not a city elf. And,” he holds up a hand to his chin, cupping it, “You are not a spirit.”

Mirea nods, humming. She climbs on to a pile of fallen stones. They shift, objecting to her waking them from their sleep. He continues, “I know you have three names but there are more that still remain a mystery to me. None of these names seem to be your real name.”

“Everyone likes a good mystery, ha'hren.”, she teases.

He laughs. It bounces off of the stones. It bounces around her ribcage, bruising her lungs. “Indeed. You are also not a young girl,” it rolls off his tongue, teasing.

Mirae stand straight and imitates him, cupping her own chin with a pretentious hand wave, “Indeed.”

Sola shoots her an irritated look. Mirae lets out a bark of laughter. “Here's what you know, ha'hren. I am grown elven woman who sometimes looks like a bird. I am a mage with some control of my dreams. I sing, not too shabbily I might add. And,” she jumps off the pile of stones, sending pebbles skittering down to the floor, “Until you solve this mystery, you're going to bug me until I crack.”

Placing her hands on hips, she puffs her chest out. She misses her feathers, her wings. She misses how she could hide what she was feeling behind watery button eyes.

He looks at her, his face impassive.

“You've got your work cut out for you, ha'hren.”

She laughs and runs through the ruins, the echoes of her footsteps and laughter surrounding him like a woolly blanket.

He watches her disappearing form, black hair swinging loosely against her back. He thinks of feathers and long wings that stretch so wide they could block out the sun.

 

 

Chapter Text

If, at any point, Mirae is mentioned in a written history of the Inquisition, she wants it to be known that she hated the Western Approach and every bastard who decided to build a fortress there.

The marsh may not have been a dazzling holiday destination spot, but at least it lacked sand and an unwavering, unrelenting sun. Not to mention the hostile wildlife; ugly, spiky things that hissed and snapped their sharp teeth at you just for daring to exist.

They left for the Western Approach in staggered waves, aiming to meet the already establish troops within a few days. The first was led by Scout Harding's group, accompanied by Commander Cullen and Warden Blackwall. The second, the Inquisitor and her chosen group to support her at Adamant: Solas, Cassandra, and Varric. Two people Mirae had never heard of joined them, a Warden Stroud and mage named Hawke.

Varric had been overjoyed to have Hawke by his side, chatting and drinking in the tavern with the woman at every possible moment.  

She only knew two things about Stroud: he was a Grey Warden and his mustache was a work of art.

Mirae's group brought up the rear, cleaning up any remaining refuse left by the first two groups. A small patchwork group of warriors, rogues, and mages; all of varying experience and tolerance for the desert. She couldn't help but feel a sense of relief when she discovered that Colette had been assigned to her group as a support mage. Friendly faces were in short supply and it brought her a small comfort that she clung to with greedy hands.

Colette, in colorful language that segued from Common to Orlesian in the blink of an eye, also let it be known that she did not appreciate the climate. Her pale skin soon was indistinct from her red hair, blending in one solid shade of crimson fury. “This land,” she said in between roughly chewing her stew, “Is shit, non?

The others in their group sat silently around the campfire, eating and preparing for the day ahead. Mirae looked up at the dark sky, millions of stars above them. Brighter than at Skyhold, not as bright as the marsh. That's just nostalgia talking. “It's not so bad.”

Colette snorted and cursed under her breath, “Not so bad? There's no grass, no trees! Nothing good grows here! The sun burns everything! Look at my face!”

A laugh sneaks past her lips. Colette throws her a withering look, “Fuck off, Mirae. My skin hurts.”

Wordlessly, Mirae holds up a hand and casts a cool healing spell over the other woman's face. Colette murmurs a thanks, her face still pink around the edges.

*

A soldier calls Mirae a “stupid fucking knife-ear” when she drops a full bottle of healing potion and it breaks. Glass and liquid spills all over her boots, seeping into the stitching. Her toes tingle.

Colette wrestles him to the ground and holds him in a headlock until he apologizes.

*

The main camp is like a living, breathing entity and each person a vital drop of blood. Everyone knows their place, their job, and they do it, no questions asked. Mirae feels impossibly small and insignificant.

“You! You're the last group?”, a barrel chested woman in blood stained armor shouts at them from above the din of the crowd. Soldiers move to and fro, the metal plates of armor tied to their bodies, clanking with each step. “Report to the Commander for your assignments. He's by the battlements,” she barks as she wipes a hand across her face, sweat smearing dirt over her brow.

The Commander stands in front of large tent alongside the Inquisitor and Cassandra, pouring over maps on a crooked table. All three look tired, stretched thin and laid out to dry in the sun. Colette sneaks her small hand into Mirae's and gives it a reassuring squeeze. The warrior standing behind her sneezes into her hair and mumbles an apology. Colette narrows her eyes and steps on his foot softly, a warning. He sneezes again. Colette looks like she's going to punch him.

The warrior who led their group puffs his chest out, “We're the last group, Commander.”

He straightens but doesn't take his eyes off of the map, “Good. I take it you did not have too much trouble on the journey?”

The warrior shakes his head stiffly, “No, ser, just ran into some bandits and a phoenix nest. Took care of it though.”

Cullen's mouth forms a tight smile of approval. It doesn't reach his eyes.

Cassandra casts a wary look at the small group, sizing them up. Two warriors, two mages, an archer with a bum knee, and a scout recovering from food poisoning. She clicks her tongue, “The warriors will join us in the siege. We'll need one more mage. The others will stay here and defend the camp.”

Colette squeezes tighter.

The Inquisitor joins in, “A support mage. One that can heal and fight, if necessary.”

Mirae squeezes back.

“That would be me. The other mage would be best tending to the injured at camp,” Colette replies. Their intertwined hands grow clammy.

Dread curls around Mirae's neck, weighing down her slumped shoulders. Sweat drips down, circling her throat and pooling in her belly button. It whispers tonelessly in her ear. Nothing good grows here.

*

The night before the siege, everyone sits around the fires, listless. Some opt to drink, others leave the main area to search for company to share their bedrolls. The Inquisitor disappeared into her own tent hours ago. Colette sneaks off with some blue-eyed rogue from Starkhaven, giggling into his neck as he whispers in her ear.

Mirae stares at the flames, watching it lick and claw at the logs.

Someone sits next to her, long legs clad in brown leggings. Solas rests his staff between his knees, one hand wrapped around a bowl of steaming food. His leg barely touches her own but the sudden contact causes Mirae sits up straight. Her pulse quickens. “May I sit here?”

Mirae squints, slowing her speech deliberately to hide her jitters, “Bit late for that, isn't it?” He watches her, passive. She shrugs, “I don't own this bench. Have at it.”

He stirs his food and takes a bite. Mirae observes the spoon slowly slip into his mouth. Her lips suddenly feel unbearably dry.

Chewing thoughtfully, Solas gazes at the fire. He swallows. “I was surprised to hear you were assigned to this mission,” he says, slowly. Tongue carefully forming each word.

Mirae looks back at the fire. A breeze blows the smoke in her direction, stinging her eyes. She blinks the tears back, “I'm a decent healer.” Solas takes another bite. Chews. Swallows. She rubs her eyes. They still sting.

He places the bowl on the bench beside him and holds his hand out, “I just realized that I have never seen your staff before. May I?”

Mirae removes the staff from her back and, with both hands, holds it out for him to take. His fingers brush the back of her hand as he takes hold of her stave. She looks away, down at her feet. Taps the toes of her boots on the stone absentmindedly.

Solas rotates the staff in his hands, carefully, fingers probing the oiled wood. The moonstone flickers to life in the dim light, illuminating his face.

“It is an impressive piece. Old,” he notes as he looks closely at the carved wooden tendrils that held the stone, “Where did you get it?”

She thinks. It's better to lie“It was gift from, ah, from my grandmother.”

He shifts his eyes to her, “Your grandmother was a mage as well?”

Mirae shrinks from his gaze, “Is. And, yes. She also gave me my guitar. She's Antivan, she...” But she drifts off before finishing. Half-truth, half-lie. She glances over at his staff, still cradled between his legs. He looks at her, puzzled, “You are Antivan?”

She stutters. Struggling to straighten the lies on her lips. “What? No. I said she's Antivan. Or she was. She's lived in Orlais for some time, I think.”

Solas opens his mouth, then closes it. His question trapped in his throat. He returns her staff without a word and she slips it back in its holster. Her heart pokes at her brain, Ask him questions, idiot. Solas looks over at his half-empty bowl, considering it with a blank look. Mirae bites her bottom lip. Let's give this seduction thing a go. Her voice is tender, almost pleading, “Show me yours?”

Solas lurches, startled, and the staff between his legs slips; it falls to the floor with a loud, clattering thunk. People on the other side of the fire flinch at the sudden sound. She groans and rubs her face, “I meant show me your stave.”

Long shadows dance around the fire as it wanes. She can't tell if he's blushing or not. Did that work?

“A-ah, ha, yes," he stammers a bit. Mirae bites the inside of her cheek, holding back a laugh. It worked.

"The Inquisitor gave it to me. The new Arcanist likes to experiment with enchanted weaponry. This,” Solas pauses as he picks up the fallen staff and twists his torso to present it to Mirae, “Is her latest piece. It has served me well so far.”

Two pieces of metal plated wood twist into each other, the ends carved into twin dragons biting down on an opaque ochre stone. Two weakly glowing runes stud the handle, each one faintly emanating power. Her fingers start to tingle. Mirae touches the head of a dragon tentatively, “It's lovely.”

He nods, “Dagna takes pride in her work.”

Mirae hums in response, observing the seats around the fire growing less occupied. Soldiers retreat to their tents, bleary eyed and bellies full. Solas studies the sky above. They watch the fire until it weakens and is more smoke than light, no more questions passing between them. The smoke curls into the dark, starless sky.

Mirae drifts closer to him, eyes firmly on his face. Now or never. Swiftly, before he can even react, her mouth so close to his ear he can feel the heat from her lips. She whispers into the hard shell of his ear, “Come back in one piece, Solas. I don't like dreaming alone.” Deciding that this was the perfect time to make her exit, Mirae rises and leaves for her tent. She steps quickly into the dark, disappearing into the shadows.

Solas gapes at the dying fire, his ears burning.

*

Mirae watches them leave for Adamant, her eyes straining to keep a visual on the little red haired mage drifting in a sea of bodies. When she can no longer see Colette, she tries to find Solas. Failing that, she looks for any familiar face in the people passing her by. They blur together, melding into one amorphous face.

*

Her hands shake as she pours an elfroot potion down the throat of a feverish soldier. He stills, a sigh of relief passing through his lips. She wipes the sweat off of his forehead.

Even from the relatively safe distance of the camp, she can hear the roars of battle from the looming fortress. Mirae tries to drown it out with a song in her head. It doesn't help.

So, she focuses on the task before her. Soldiers carried in on stretchers, wailing and bleeding. They cry out for their mothers and mercy.

The ones that disturb her the most are the silent ones. Dull black eyes rolling in their heads as she pokes and prods them, pouring her mana into their torn flesh. She knits their bones together. Sews their skin back into one piece with magic. They lay there, quietly. Blind and deaf to the chaos around them. Mouths tight and dry.

*

The battle lasts for hours, but it felt like days. The patients coming and going. A broken arm here, a bloody face there. Mirae keeps her eyes peeled for red hair. A bald head and pointy ears. At this point, she'd even praise Andraste just to see Varric's chest hair again.

She feels like she's starving, hungrily combing through the crowds for anything familiar.

*

The soldiers return, slowly, pouring in on limping legs. Their bodies broken and bruised. Armor dented and shields busted.

Mirae spots the two warriors she arrived with. They are battered but no worse for wear. The one who called her 'knife-ear' tells her that he hadn't seen Colette since they left camp. The other man looks at her sorrowfully, his eyes not quite meeting her own.

They tell her of the battle in low, shaky voices.

They whisper of demons. Grey Wardens driven mad by a voice in their heads. Blood running like water along the stones of the fortress.

What they discuss the most fervently, though, is the Inquisitor and her party disappearing off of a falling walkway. Gone in a flash of sickly green light.

*

They're last to arrive but the fact that they came back at all is welcomed with rousing cheers. Swords, staves, and bows held high, shaking in reverence. Even the injured confined to sickbeds try to rise and greet the Inquisitor. She waves them off, her face grim. 

Mirae smiles weakly as she matches the faces to the names that fill her reports. Cassandra. Varric. Stroud and his mustache. Solas, her heart cheers.

She frowns. No sign of the one they called Hawke. Perhaps she arrived in an earlier group?

And still no sign of Colette.

Mirae shoves down a bitter thought. It sits in her stomach like a rock.

Chapter Text

When they return to Skyhold, Varric disappears to his quarters and hides himself away for several days. He writes a fat stack of letters, each one addressed in a tight, shaky hand to a friend of Hawke. They're sent away on horseback, disappearing to the far corners of Thedas.

When he finally emerges, his eyes are rimmed in red with deep purple bags beneath them. Varric carefully straightens his clothing and paints a smile on his face. He pretends everything is as it was before they left for the Western Approach.

Mirae doesn't blame him.

*

She gathers what little Colette had in the room: a tattered romance novel ('The Busty Mage and the Spellbound Templar', Really, Colette?!), some robes, and a stack of letters addressed from Velun. Mirae puts the items in a box (well, except for the novel) and gives it to one of Leliana's scouts. He assures her that it will be sent to Colette's family alongside a letter detailing her heroics at Adamant and a small pension. The scout murmurs swift condolences before departing.

You have no right to mourn her. You barely knew her.

She flops down on her bed and flips through the yellowed pages of 'The Busty Mage'. There's a lot of heaving and throbbing going on.

Don't act like you belong here. You're just a spy. A wolf among the sheep.

Mirae closes the book with a huff and places it on the table beside the bed. She looks across the small room at the empty half that Colette had claimed for her own.

The room is simultaneously too large and too small. She can't stand it. Each and every stone brick stares at her. The splinters in the furniture whisper, Traitor. Should've been you.

She goes to the infirmary and buries her head in herbs.

*

Y-you are an abomination! A demon!”, cried the Templar, “You never loved me, betrayer! You only used me for your own ends!” His throbbing sword, hand sweaty on the grip, is pressed against her milky throat.

The busty mage chuckles, her bosom heaving with each breath. She lifts her robes a little higher, exposing her creamy legs to the chill of the tower air. “Yes, yes, call me what you want. But don't pretend for a minute you didn't enjoy me using you.”

*

“So, is this my dream, or yours?”

Mirae sits in a rickety boat on a rocky beach, wind whipping sea mist against her face. The ocean churns and crashes into itself with a low rumble. Seabirds chatter and shriek at each other. Her hair clings to the back of her neck, thick with salt and sand.

Solas looks out at the water, his hands clasped loosely behind his back, “I believe this one is yours.”

She lifts her gaze to the nearly white sky, “Makes sense.” She can't see the birds, but she can hear them. Greedy, shrill calls dart past her ears.

“I heard about your friend. I am sorry for your loss,” his voice is gentle, kind. 

Mirae stands up and stretches her legs, “We weren't friends. Just roommates.”

Solas turns his back to the ocean and watches her, face guarded, “Does it matter? You mourn her just the same.”

“It does matter. It's not my place to mourn her,” her voice rises, angry although she doesn't truly feel it, “She has – sorry, had – family who loved her. I don't deserve any pity.”

He steps towards to the boat she's sitting in, “I lost a friend not too long ago. Know this, da'len: sorrow is not a competition. No one deserves to feel it any more than another. She was a part of your life and now she is gone. You are allowed to feel pain over her death.”

“Thanks for giving me permission to grieve, ha'hren,” Mirae spits as she pulls her foot up and drops it to kick the front of the boat. It creaks in protest. She kicks again, her vision blurring. She slams the heel of her foot against the already splintered wood. Once. Twice. The bow of the boat collapses in on itself.

Solas sighs and shakes his head, “You know that's not what I meant.” He moves his hands to his sides, palms flat against his upper thighs.

She looks at the broken boat, regret bubbling in her chest, “I...know. I'm sorry.” Mirae steps out onto the rocks and looks past Solas to the distant horizon. The waves are calmer now, no longer beating themselves raw. The call of the seabirds fade into the lull of the ocean.

A little twinkle sparks in her eye. She feels better, just a little bit, but it's enough to put a small smile on her face. Mirae crinkles her nose, “I am glad you returned in one piece, Solas.”

He returns her smile, “Of course I did. I would never betray your trust like that.”

Her expression falters but she catches it, slipping her mask back into place.

*

In the darkest hours, when people begin to stagger out of the Herald's Rest to their warm beds, Varric drinks until he's no longer speaking. He rests his brow on the table, arms wrapped around his head and his hands still gripping a mug of ale. Iron Bull tries to carry him out but Blackwall waves him off, shaking his head and silently telling him to let him be.

Mirae sits with her guitar on her lap, plucking notes to no particular song. In the corner, Krem stirs with a jump as Iron Bull places his hand on his shoulder to shake him awake. They leave, their gaze carefully turned away from the inebriated dwarf.

“Birdy,” he moans against the wood, “Play me something sad.”

She chews on the inside of her cheek, thinking. She clears her throat, stretching her fingers across the strings.

Try not to get so righteous, about what's fair for everyone,” she croons, “Find what's left in you.”

Mirae closes her eyes, “Channel something good.”

Varric rolls his head to the side to watch her. Cabot walks from table to table, gathering discarded mugs and empty plates. Sera snores from beneath a table, body curled in a cat-like ball.

Try your best to slowly withdraw, from the darkest impulses of your heart,

Try your best to feel and receive. Your body is a blade that cuts a path from day to day.

Calling it off, our hoax of trying. What's this place if you're not here?”

Mirae keeps her head down, watching her fingers press the strings. His heart listens carefully as her mouth moves. Words flow out and float in the air, desperately trying to reach him. Her mana wraps itself around Varric, holding him close. It pulses, “Your body is a blade that moves while your brain is writhing. Knuckled under pain, you mourn but your blood is flowing.”

She strums the final notes, eyes still closed. He sighs and buries his head back in his arms, “Thank you, Birdy. That'll do.”

*

“You helped. His hurt is still there, but it doesn't sing as loud.”

She slides her guitar back into its case. The moons hang low in the sky as they trade places with the awakening sun.

Cole smiles and it's bright, brighter than the arriving dawn, “He is grateful your song sings louder.”

*

“No, no Inquisitor! If I wanted to watch graceless fumbling, I would put Sera in a dress!”

Vivienne thwacks her open palm against Lavellan's upper back, forcing her shoulders back, “Hold your stomach in. You can swing daggers around with no effort, but a waltz gives you two left feet?” She waves a dismissive hand at Mirae and Maryden, “You two. Again, from the top.”

Cullen sighs and readjusts his grip on the Inquisitor's waist. They no longer turn red at the most innocent of touches but their dancing still progressed slowly. The Inquisitor just couldn't get the hang of not stepping on her partner's toes. Josephine sat on the settee, rubbing her feet through her slippers, “Perhaps she needs to watch someone else, not me please, dance. As an example.”

Vivienne places one hip on her hand and the other on her chin, “That might work. Let her see the proper footing from an outside view.” Lavellan, eager to sit, clapped her hands together excitedly, “Yes! Someone else dance!”

Cullen drops his now empty hands to his sides, gawking at Vivienne, “But who? I'm afraid Solas and I would make for a poor couple.”

Solas carefully places his plate of half-eaten frilly cakes down on the coffee table and replies coolly, “Speak for yourself, Commander. I'm sure we would make a handsome pair.”

Cullen, flushed pink, rubs the back of his neck with one hand and mumbles, “Yes. I'm sure.”

Vivienne perches herself on the arm of a wingback chair, “Not I, sadly. I am the instructor here and I will be pointing out what the Inquisitor needs to be observing.” She swings a calculating eye at the two musicians awkwardly standing by and raises a manicured finger, “You.”

Mirae and Maryden gape, unsure of who she is addressing. Vivienne rises and sashays to the window, looking out the glass and releasing a dramatic sigh, “The, what do they call you, little bird. You're the same height as the Inquisitor. You'll do.”

You'll do. You'll DO?! Mirae holds her guitar against her body, trying to hide herself, “Oh, oh no. I. I'm a terrible dancer. Way worse than the Inquisitor. No offense.”

“None taken,” the Inquisitor replies, throwing herself into the winged chair, her mouth already full of sweets. The Enchanter turns away from the window, mouth firm. She crosses her arms and taps her foot impatiently. Mirae shrinks back, placing Maryden between her and the powerful mage.

“Nonsense. You won't be doing a full dance, I just want to show her where her feet and arms should be,” Vivienne proclaims, “Solas, if you will, it's your turn.”

Solas pops a frilly cake into his mouth, his lips closing around long fingers covered in frosting. He stands and dips into an elegant half bow, “My pleasure.”

*

One. Two. Three.

One hand at my waist, the other holding my own. They are large and warm. I can feel his fingertips through the fabric of my tunic. The hand I have placed on his shoulder is trembling.

One.

He guides me around the room, despite Vivienne saying a full waltz wasn't needed. I look down at my feet. I can't bear to look at him.

Maryden plays a disgustingly romantic tune. I going to smash that lute over her head.

Two.

We turn. I look up, briefly. His eyes are kind, his mouth...oh. Gods. His mouth. His hands tighten their grip.

Three.

They're watching us, how closely, I don't know. My ears burn. Everything burns. I stumble but he doesn't seem to notice. Does he notice that I can't seem to catch my breath?

He dips me, bending my back to an angle I didn't know it could make. Josephine giggles and claps her hands.

One. Two. Three.

We finish. We part. Our audience claps. Vivienne beams, “See, Inquisitor. It's not that difficult. You just need...”

I don't hear the rest of it. I walk as far away as my feet can take me.

*

She ends up on one of the many balconies Skyhold, crouched down below the stone half wall to shield her body from the cold wind. Mirae grasps Flemeth's amulet in her burning palm, shakily confessing to the object: “I can't do this. I can't do this. Just blow me up like you did those books.”

Footsteps, quickly growing closer behind her. She extinguishes the fire and drops the necklace back to its hiding place under her tunic. Mirae stands, steadying herself on the low wall. Solas coughs, his face uneasily, “Mirae? Are you unwell?”

She contorts around, plastering a cheerful grin on her face. “I'm fine! Just needed some air.” She waves her hand in the air, taking theatrically deep breaths.

He studies her face, disbelief on the tip of his tongue. He moves closer, one hand outstretched to grab her own, “I'm sorry if that was...I didn't overstep, did I?”

Mirae steps back, widening the space between them. “No, you never once stepped on my toes,” she chirps lamely.

“That is,” Solas pinches the bridge of his nose with his other hand, “Not what I meant.”

Mirae waves her hands in front of her face in short, quick motions, “It's okay, ha'hren. I'm just a little embarrassed. I've never danced with, well, anyone, like that. Before.”

A quirk of a brow, slightly raising one corner of his mouth. He finds this amusing. “I see.”

She frowns, bristling at his tone. Despite all the many pleasant conversations they've had, something about the way he talks like this to her sets her on edge. Like he sees her as a naive child. He underestimates her. Mirae narrows her eyes at him, “Do you? Because you say that you 'see' a lot and I'm starting to think that's it's just a reflex for you.”

“Meaning?” A tilt of the head. His expression unreadable. He's waiting, calculating her responses.

She fixes her gaze at the battlements on the other side of Skyhold. A huge chunk is missing, like a bite was taken out of the wall. The words stumble out, “I. Well. I like you, Solas. I like spending time with you, not just in the Fade.”

“I se-,” he pauses and clears his throat, “That's understandable. I enjoy your company as well.”

“Is it? I don't think you're fully grasping what I'm saying here.” I can do this. I can do this. Maybe I don't want Flemeth exploding me into little bits of paper. I can seduce this frustrating, pretentious git. Mirae closes the gap between them, “I. Like. You.” She places careful emphasis on each individual word.

He's taller than her, her head barely reaching his collarbone. She raises to tips of her toes and plants a small kiss on the corner of his mouth. The hand he extended to her earlier grazes her hip. She pulls away, trying to hide the pink invading her cheeks, “Okay. That's all I wanted to say. Uh. Bye.”

Mirae steps to the side to walk past him but Solas mirrors her move and blocks her path. She frowns and goes in the opposite direction. He follows, eyes gazing at her darkly. She looks at him confused, opening her mouth to protest when he pushes forward, effectively trapping her against the interior wall of the balcony. The hand on her hip tightens its grip. Solas moves his other hand to her face, cupping her chin and tilting her head upwards to face him.

“What game are you playing at, Mirae?”

“N-no game.”

“Is that so? Hm. I don't know if I should believe you.”

He kisses her, then; bowing his head, he captures her mouth in his own and sends her reeling. Pressing her against the cold stone, Solas releases his hand on her hip to splay his fingers across her lower back. Every little pore of her body drinking him in, breathing in the taste of him. Mirae reaches out with trembling hands, pulling at the leather string of the jawbone he wears around his neck, using it to draw him closer to her. A soft, pleading moan escapes her lips. He deepens the kiss, pushing her lips apart with his tongue. The hand on her chin slips to her hair, his fingers gently pulling at her locks. Solas gathers the hair at the base of her neck in a fist and uses it to slant her head back so he can drive his tongue deeper into her mouth. Mirae presses herself against him harder, the jawbone cutting into her chest.

The doorway leading to the stairwell swings open, Josephine on the other side, “Solas! Did you find her- OH my. I'm so sorry!” The two pull away from each other, Mirae yelping like she just touched a hot stove. Her eyes impossibly wide, Josephine grabs the door with both hands and backs away, utterly mortified, “I saw nothing!” It slams shut and departing footsteps echo down the stairs as she runs away.

Solas cradles his face in his empty hands. “I am sorry,” he groans.

“No need to apologize. She didn't know,” she laughs and pats him on the shoulder. He flinches and moves farther away.

Solas smooths his hands down the front of his sweater, his voice carefully concealed behind a curtain of propriety, “No, I meant for the kiss. It was inappropriate of me.”

Her mouth feels bruised, red, and close to bursting. The blowing wind stings. She steadies herself, “What do you mean, I started it. There's nothing to be ashamed about, Solas."

“I,” he sighs and heads to the door, “Please, excuse me, da'len.”

Mirae stares at his back as he leaves, suddenly feeling like she doesn't need to fear Flemeth exploding her body into tiny pieces. Solas seems to be quite capable of doing that all on his own.

*

“Good work.”

Mirae finds herself on the same beach as before. There is no breeze, no waves. The whole thing gives her the impression of a still life painting. Pretty to look at, but frozen. Flemeth stands by the boat Mirae had previously taken her anger out on. The crushed bow stares at her accusingly.

Mirae kicks a stone in frustration. “Ugh.”

The strange woman chuckles, it resonates low in her throat, “Now, now. Did you think it would be easy? You've found the chinks in his armor. Keep hammering at them and it will all fall apart.”

Mirae squats down and picks up a smooth, black stone. She rolls it around in her fingers and frowns deeply, “Ughhh.”

Flemeth ignores her grumbling and holds her chin high. Yellow eyes planted firmly on the horizon. “You will be meeting my second friend soon. I don't predict much from her. Just keep an eye on her and the boy,” she warns.

Mirae squeezes the stone. It hums against her skin. “Boy? You never mentioned a boy.”

“I don't mention a lot of things, child, but I expect them from you just the same. All you need to do is make sure that once she arrives, she remains at Skyhold.”

She squeezes the stone harder and releases it, “Sounds easy enough.” The stone falls and disappears, invisible against a pile of identical rocks. Mirae wishes there was a breeze. It's too quiet here. She wobbles on the balls of her feet.

Flemeth glances down at her, unblinking. “Nothing is easy when it comes to Morrigan.” Her voice is distant now.

Mirae presses her heels to the ground and falls out of the squat, “Am I doing the right thing? In regards to Solas? I still don't understand why you're having me spy on him for you anyway. You say he's your friend.” The ocean is still, not even a ripple. Mirae picks up a random stone, throwing it at the water. It bounces and flips across the surface but doesn't sink.

Flemeth steps away from the boat, heading in the direction opposite of the beach, “He is. He is one of my oldest friends. But he is not an open book. I know there is a part of himself he hides away, even from me.”

Mirae stands up and eases her way to the water. She places a tentative foot on the surface. Solid. She walks, cautiously, to the stone she threw. She picks it up and examines it. “Maybe he has good reason to.”

Still holding the stone, Mirae looks at the ocean beneath her feet. Black as far as she can see. She taps the toe of her boot on the glass-like surface. A crack appears, small at first, but then splintering the calm from under her. It spreads quickly, shattering the still water with sharp fingers. Mirae gasps as she slips beneath the dark water. A deafening roar filling her ears as water black as night rushes into her lungs.

*

She wakes, alone in her bedroom, soaked to the bone. She mutters every curse word she knows, throwing the wet blankets off of the bed and running a hand through her limp hair. Mirae grabs the amulet from around her neck and casts a furious flame in her hand. She hisses to the ugly, fat wolf staring at her from the pendant: “I. Hate. You.”

Somewhere, Flemeth laughs.

 

 

Chapter Text

“I'm sorry, come again?”

Mirae nearly dropped her guitar. The tavern was bustling, drinks flowing freely and conversations bleeding into one another. Varric raised his mug to his mouth for another sip, pausing briefly to repeat himself, “I said, you've been invited to go with us to the Winter Palace.”

Mirae shook her head, trying to clear her confusion. Sera chewed on the end of a turkey leg bone, sucking out the marrow, “Why, though? Ain't enough of us going to this fop snobfest?” Dorian sat at the end of the table, watching the conversation from behind the rim of his wine glass.

Varric lowered his mug and casually panned his eyes around the room, “Beats me. Some traveling dignitaries from Val Royeaux must've seen you perform one night and were bewitched enough to spread the word of the Inquisition's new minstrel.” A bark of laughter erupts from the other side of the table.

“What most likely happened was someone wrote a little story about the Inquisitor's Songbird, an elven maiden with, what was it?” Dorian posited. He drums his fingers on the table before holding his hands up with a flourish. He opens his mouth with a wide, growing grin, “Ah, yes! Flowers in her hair and love in her eyes.” Sera nearly chokes on the turkey bone at his outburst. She rolls her eyes and shakes her head at Varric, laughing, “You didn't!”

Mirae grips her guitar tightly, glaring furiously at Varric, “Was that someone a dwarf who's about to have his chest hair set on fire?”

Varric shrugs but still holds a hand protectively over his chest, “Who knows how these rumors start. All I'm saying is that you'd better pack a bag, we're leaving for Halamshiral soon.”

*

“Your invitation arrived too late for us to have Elias make you a matching outfit, but Varric was kind enough to purchase you a gown to wear for the evening.”

Mirae can feel the dread settling in the pit of her stomach, “A-a gown?”

“Yes! Oh, you should see it. I'm so jealous. He even suggested you wear flowers in your hair! You're going to look so gorgeous,” Josephine talks so quickly that Mirae can barely get a word in. She writes something down on a piece of parchment before grabbing another clean sheet from the pile. A towering pile of books with names like 'Orlesian Etiquette for Fereldens' and 'How to Play the Game Before the Game Plays You' lay next to an empty teacup. It's only a few days before the ball and it seems her to-do list grew longer with each passing hour.

Josephine nearly falls out of her chair when Mirae slams her fist onto the desk, her anger reverberating throughout the office, “I am going to kill that dwarf.”

*

Sera sees her first and nearly pisses herself laughing.

The rest of the Inquisition wore red military style jackets made of thick velvet, a rich blue silk sash draping from shoulder to waist, comfortable black tailored pants, and shiny new boots. Gold accents shone under the light, ostentatious but fitting for ambassadors of a growing military power.

Mirae, to her horror and Sera's delight, looked very much like the ridiculous 'elven maiden' Varric described her as. Josephine had arranged for Mirae to wear her hair loose with little white flowers braided in a halo around her head and her feet bound in silky traditional Dalish footwraps. Mirae wiggled her loose toes, feeling the cold air prick at her skin.

The dress. Oh, gods, the dress. Layered light gray tulle held up by the thinnest of straps, cut low between her breasts, silver beading and pale orange flowers adorning her waist. The whole thing floated around her body, yards of fabric and yet she still felt naked. Her long hair tickled her bare back and goosebumps raced down her spine.

The Inquisitor, at least, kept her company in her mutual misery. Leliana and Josephine surprised her with an equally unasked for gown: a long sleeve lace dress in a deep blood red, a fashionable bateau neck, and slim cut through the hips. The Inquisitor pouted, pulling at the neckline with a grimace. Mirae leaned over, voice low, “At least you got sleeves. I am freezing!”

Lavellan points at Mirae's footwraps, eyebrows raised, “I will trade you those wraps for these demonic shoes they put me in.” She lifts the long skirt of her dress to show off a pair of deadly looking high heeled boots, so black and polished the whole room reflected in them. Mirae shakes her head swiftly and backs away, hands raised.

The rest of the party appeared to be feeling a shared sense of impending doom. Their weapons and armor had been discreetly hidden away in secret caches around the palace, courtesy of Leliana's best scouts. They mingled amongst themselves, voices casual but eyes watching the room with ill ease. The Inquisitor had initially only received enough invitations to invite herself, her advisers, and three members of her Inner Circle. Through careful negotiations, which mainly consisted of her writing letters that declared “all or none!” , enough invites were soon granted so that all could come.

Spotting Varric chatting with Cassandra, Mirae strolls over to his side with a pleasant smile on her face and murder in her eyes. Leaning down, she squeezes a hand on his shoulder and whispers breathily in his ear, “You may have won tonight, Varric Tethras, but know this: I will have my revenge on you. Someday soon, you will know my wrath.”

He lifts his glass of wine to his mouth, eyes twinkling with mischief, “Cheer up, Birdy, you and the Inquisitor will be the Belles of the ball. I guarantee it.”

*

Iron Bull, Sera, and Cole stand around the food table. It's covered in clean, white plates stacked with a wide assortment of tiny foods, each more complicated and architectural than the last.

Sera watches Iron Bull pop a cracker topped with a whipped pink paste and silver sprinkles into his mouth, “What's that one?”

He chews thoughtfully, “I think it's fish.”

Sera wrinkles her nose in disgust. Cole picks up something and crams it mouth briefly before spitting it out onto his hand. Iron Bull swallows and looks at him quizzically, “What was that one?”

Cole stares at his hand, then holds it out to him, “A napkin.”

*

Just go over there, all casual like. Who cares if he hasn't spoken to you since he crammed his tongue down your throat? It's cool. You're cool. Got this neat dress on and stuff.

Mirae spies on Solas from behind a door frame. She idly fidgets with one of the beaded flowers on her dress, chewing on her lip while planning her next step. Behind her, a hand taps on her bare shoulder, causing her to jump back with a gasp and press her back against the wall. A thin man with a hat that had one very large feather and a white mask covering his face looms at her with his hand extended, “Oh, please pardon my interruption of whatever it is you are doing, but are you the Songbird of the Inquisition?”

Mirae bristles at the title. She nervously smooths her hands over her dress, quickly peeking over her shoulder to ensure Solas hadn't noticed the commotion before stumbling out a response, “...yes?” He's still standing in the same spot, hand loosely holding an empty glass of wine. That stupid shiny hat still on his head.

The man claps his hands rapturously and steps closer to her, “Oh! How exciting! I have read all about you. The tales of your performances are just...enthralling.” Mirae curses Varric under her breath and smiles thinly at the masked man, “Are they, now?”

He moves even closer, now, leaving her with no escape route. He leans in, the voice behind his mask low and sultry, “Very much so. Is it true that you occasionally sing wearing nothing but your hair to cover you?” Her eyebrows shoot up her forehead and she slams a hand against the door frame, gripping it with white knuckles. Varric is a dead man walking. She stutters and looks around the room with wild eyes, “Uhhh...”

A gloved hand gently rests on her shoulder and a familiar voice breathes into her ear, “Excuse me, Songbird, but I believe the Inquisitor is looking for you. She wishes to introduce you to Grand Duke Gaspard.” Mirae looks up, her eyes resting on her savior. Solas glances down at her, deadpan expression, and slides his hand down from her shoulder to her lower back, pressing softly to guide her away from the awkward conversation. She shivers from the contact, a part of her wishing that he didn't have that damn glove on so she could feel his bare skin on hers.

She bares her teeth to the masked man in a pained smile, “Ah, ha, yes. It was...very...we met. Please excuse me.”

*

Josephine stands by her sister Yvette and halfheartedly listens to her prattle on about the latest gossip out of Val Royeaux. She takes a sip of her wine, wincing at the bitter taste coating her mouth.

“Marie Elizabeth swears that glitter will be all the rage in the Spring but I doubt it. I remember the last time glitter was popular and it was such a mess.”

Josephine nods, holding her glass to her lips and gazes out into the crowd for a reason, any reason, to excuse herself. Her eyes land on Solas and Mirae just as they disappear behind a closed door. She inhales a gasp and chokes on her wine, her face turning red as Yvette pats her on the back, “Oh! Really, Josephine! Pace yourself!”

*

Solas led her to a room off of the main hall, closing the door behind him with a soft click. The room, much like every other room in the palace, was decorated with plush, garish fabrics and tacky gold accents. The portrait of a withered bald man glowers at them from the wall.

Mirae breathes a sigh of relief and drops to sit in an overstuffed velvet couch, “Thank you. He trapped me and started asking if I sang nude. I am definitely going to give Varric a talking to when we get back to Skyhold. Those stories of his are just...” She drifted off. Solas remained by the door, his hand clenching the doorknob so hard it looked as if it might snap off.

She straightens, sitting forward on the cushion, “Solas?”

He tosses off his ridiculous hat and it lands across the room, clattering to the floor. He releases a long, ragged breath, “Did he touch you?”

Music from the main hall seeps underneath the door, tinny and distant. Mirae relaxes and slumps down in her seat, “What? No. No. Just breathed all over me.” She rests her hands on her lap, interlacing her fingers. Solas releases the doorknob from his death grip. He runs his now free hand over his face, across his head and down the back of his neck.

“Ah. Good. I am,” he starts as he crosses the room, “I am sorry I didn't go over there sooner. I saw him approach you but was not sure...” He sits in a high backed chair adjacent to the couch she's sitting on.

Mirae reaches over and pats her hand on his knee, reassuring him, “I'm fine. Thank you, you know, for rescuing me.” When he flinches at her touch, she draws her hand away. She looks down at her fingers, her voice small, “Solas. We have to talk. About what happened.”

He leans back in his chair, eyes glued to the portrait of the ugly man. “It won't happen again. It was a momentary lapse of judgment.” Mirae gathers layers of her dress covering her lap in her fists, clenching her jaw, “Do you find me so repulsive? Are you that embarrassed to have been caught kissing me?”

Solas winces as if she slapped him, “What? No. No!” He grips the arms of the chair, pushing himself forward in his seat. She keeps her eyes firmly on her lap, afraid to look at him, “Then, what? You've been ignoring me for weeks.”

He exhales, “I am much older than you, da'len.” Mirae snaps her head up. She lets out a short, clipped laugh, “Is – is that it? The age difference?” She releases her dress and puts a hand to her face, concealing her spreading grin.

Solas shifts uncomfortably in his seat, “Is this somehow amusing to you?”

“Yes! Did you think I didn't notice? I know you're older than me, ha'hren. I also know you're taller than me.” She points to his head, “Got a lot less hair too.”

He shoots her a warning look, “Where are you going with this?”

Mirae lowers her hand and tentatively reaches out for his, “I know and I don't care. You are...Look. I don't enjoy being around people. They wear me out. But, when I'm with you, I don't feel worn out. I'm happy. I haven't been happy in a very long time, Solas.”

Look at what good little spy. Good little thief. Slipping that hand right around his heart.

He watches as she takes his hand in his and slips her fingers against his palm. Solas gives her a gentle squeeze, “Mirae.” She places her other hand on top of their already entwined ones, “I was...I had only hoped that I could make you as happy as you've made me. If it bothers you so much, then just ignore everything I've said. We can go back to being Fade buddies.”

Liar. Liar. Heart's on fire.

Solas shakes his head slowly, “I cannot do that, Mirae.”

She takes her hands back to her lap and looks away from him, swallowing roughly, “Well, then, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I made our friendship weird.”

“You didn't.”

“What?”

He leans forward, brushing his lips against her cheek, “I said, you didn't.” Solas presses them to the base of her ear, causing her to close her eyes in response. Mirae savors the feeling of him touching her, his warm breath curling into the folds of her ear. She opens her eyes to the sound of him removing and tossing his leather gloves to the floor. He touches one of the thin straps of her dress, fingertips burning against her bare skin. Solas presses another kiss to the junction of her jaw, murmuring against her neck, “You look so beautiful.”

A little more can't hurt. This won't go too far. I promise. Please.

Mirae curves her hands around the back of his neck, pulling him closer. He pushes a strap down her shoulder with his mouth, trailing a path of wet kisses across her collarbone. She sighs and places a tender kiss on the top of his head as he lowers himself to her exposed breast. Slipping his mouth around the soft mound, he rolls his tongue around her nipple; a little gasp escapes between her lips. He replaces his mouth with his hand, massaging her flesh with his fingers. Taking his free hand, Solas slips the other strap down, exposing her breasts to him fully. Mirae shivers from the sudden air on her sensitive skin, pulling herself forward to press against his chest. Solas takes her in his arms and holds her close, moving his hands up and down her bare back. Mirae buries her face in his neck, pecking small, fluttering kisses against his throat.

Just little bit longer like this. Please. Please.

There's a shout of voices and a flurry of movement on the other side of the door, snapping them out of the moment. Exhaling a short puff of air out of his nose, Solas pulls her dress back up, covering her again, “Everyone will be wondering where we ran off to.” He moves away, slowly, and cups her cheek in his hand. As he strokes her cheek, his gray eyes glaze over hungrily. She watches him, still trembling from cold, and nods silently. They rise and, still holding each other, make their way to the closed door. Solas picks up his discarded gloves and slips them back on. Mirae adjusts her dress and runs a hand through her hair; a few flowers fall out the braid and onto the carpet. She crushes them into the rug with her bare toes, feeling frustrated with the sudden interruption.

Solas takes a deep breath and reaches for the doorknob. Sensing the opportunity do something she had fantasized about many times before, Mirae holds her arm out, “Wait! I've always wanted to do this.”

“Do what -”

Mirae rises to the balls of her feet and places a hand on the back of his neck. Pulling him down slightly, she opens her mouth and, before he even realizes what she's doing, slides her tongue from the crux of his ear to the hard pointed tip.

*

“Where have you been?”

Sera tosses back the remains of her champagne and chucks the empty flute into a nearby potted plant. She leans over the banister and, inhaling loudly, hocks a spitball. It lands, wetly, on the feathered hat of a masked man. “Shit, I was aiming for Viv,” she pouts.

Vivienne stands to the side, not far from the man who just got spit on, chatting with Leliana and Cullen. She looks up and catches Mirae's eye. Vivienne carefully raises one eyebrow and tilts her head as if to ask the same thing: Where have you been?

“Inquisitor killed Duchess Whatsherface.” Sera mimics stabbing an invisible person with a dagger, “Bam! Right on the dance floor.” Mirae winces.

“It was quite the show,” Blackwall snorts. He drains his own drink and sets it down on the banister. He looks over at Mirae, eyes gradually narrowing.

She squirms and tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, “What?” He coughs and points to his neck. He can be so weird sometimes. She shrugs and looks down at the dance floor below, watching the few remaining couples dance. A patch of blood pools by the stairwell. The dancers step in it as they spin, smearing it across the floor.

He coughs again. “You got a little something on your neck there, Lady Mirae.”

*

Iron Bull keeps his post by the food table. Dorian watches in disgust as he throws back a handful of spiced nuts. He chuckles, chewed food falling out of his mouth, “Ha, had too much to drink there, Solas?”

Solas stops in his path, confused, “I'm not sure I know what you mean.”

Dorian groans, “Your face! You're redder than the dreadful wine they've been serving all night.”

Solas stiffens and then quickly walks off without responding. Dorian huffs. Iron Bull eats another handful of nuts.

*

The Inquisitor holds her boots in one hand and a plate full of food in the other. She talks with her mouth full. “We've got two more coming to Skyhold soon. Celene's lending us her 'arcane adviser' and she's bringing her kid with her.”

Leliana, a little secretive smile spreading on her face, nods her head. “Yes. I know all about Morrigan.”

 

Chapter Text

Occasionally Varric was able to convince Cabot to close the Herald's Rest to the general public for a private evening of Wicked Grace. They pushed together several separate tables to form one long enough to accommodate their large party, chairs crowded around to fit everyone. Invitations to the game were sent to every member of the Inner Circle. Vivienne declining due to a “previous engagement of the utmost importance” that no one really believed existed. Leliana also sent her regrets, claiming to be too busy preparing for Morrigan's arrival. To everyone's surprise, Solas finally agreed to attend, having rejected all previous invitations bestowed on him. 

Varric caught Mirae as she exited the infirmary, extending an invite to her as well. She waffled, finally accepting when Varric casually mentioned Solas would be attending as well. 

One game can't hurt, she thought innocently.

*

Sera laid sprawled out beneath the table, already drunk and slurring her words. She wraps a hand around Mirae's ankle and pulls on the leg of her trousers. “B-birdy. Do me a favor?”

Mirae removes Sera's sticky hand off her leg and looks down at the drunken elf. “What is it, Sera?” Sera creeps forward and nearly shoves her head in Mirae's lap, eyes wide and watery, “You gotta make him blush.”

She frowns, creasing her forehead, “I'm sorry, who?”

Varric folds his cards and places them face down on the table. Pushing his seat back from the table, he calls out to Sera, “What are you doing down there, Buttercup?”

Sera spoke faster, failing to lower her voice so Varric couldn't hear, “Do it. I've got five silver that-” He interrupts her in a low, warning voice, “You wouldn't be discussing the thing we talked about earlier, the very private thing?”

Sera pokes her head out from under the table and starts to crawl out. She wobbles on her feet and slurs, “I didn't mention the bet!” Mirae squints at Varric, suspicious of what the dwarf and blond elf had planned. “What bet?”

Varric brought his mug to his mouth and sighs into it. “Oh, Buttercup.” He sips, looking disappointed yet amused at Sera's outburst.

Josephine perks up, looking over the cards in her hands, “There is a bet?” The other people at the table began to listen in, expressions curious.

“Shit,” Sera mutters before plopping down in a seat beside Blackwall. He glances over at her before carefully fixing his gaze on his own hand of cards.

Dorian pushes away from the table and kicks his feet back, resting them on the edge of the table. With a sigh, he closes his eyes and announces to the group, “She bet Varric five silver that you could make Solas turn as red as a Chantry sister looking for converts at The Pearl.”

Iron Bull laughs into his drink, Blackwall chuckles to his cards. Solas lifts his head up at the sound of his own name. Cassandra smacks a hand to the table and gasps indignantly, “Dorian!”

Cole, a confused smile on his face, announces to no one in particular, “I like pearls. They shine like stars.” Varric pats a friendly hand on Cole's back, barely concealing his own laugh, “Not that kind of pearl, Kid.” He grins to the entire table, “Well, it's all out in the open now, isn't it.”

Solas frowns, “I'm sorry, how did I get involved in this?”

“Don't act so innocent, Chuckles. The two of you have been inseparable since the Winter Palace,” Varric states in a matter-of-fact manner. Several other people nod in agreement. Solas's frown deepens as he fixes his hands flat on the table, his cards crushed beneath them.

The Inquisitor raises an eyebrow in surprise, “Have they now? Interesting.” Mirae stumbles words of denial, trying to protest but fails to dissuade anyone.

Varric trains his gaze on Solas, a friendly challenge on his face. “But I'm starting to think that you're immune to the fairer sex.” The dwarf and the elf stare at each other for a moment, a silent battle raging between them. With a quick exhale, Solas narrows his eyes and murmurs, “I have my weaknesses, just like any other man.”

Dorian tosses his cards behind him with a flourish, “I'm in for two silver that she can do it.” Mirae throws him a dirty look then switches to baleful at his betrayal. He rolls his eyes at her, “What? I have to listen to the two of you playing coy in the rotunda. It sickens me. I might as well make some coin.”

“I'm in for two as well,” Josephine adds from her side of the table. She tries to keep a careful, trained expression on her face but a secret knowing gleams in her eye; a tiny smile threatens to crack her cool exterior.

Blackwell abandons his cards by his drink. “I'm dead broke from this last round but I'm interested to see how this turns out.” He takes the mug and throws it back to take a large gulp.

Cassandra looks around the table with an exasperated scowl, “This is highly improper.” She turns to Cullen to see if he agrees with her but he only shrugs in response.

Lavellan joins in, chirping cheerfully, “Put me in for a sovereign that she can't do it.”

Solas leans back in his chair, a weary expression growing on his face. He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Your faith in me, Inquisitor, does little to reassure me. This whole bet is childish nonsense.”

Mirae swallows and looks around the table. They're all looking at her, bemused at her situation. She feels her hackles raise, “You don't think I can?”

Solas switches to an obnoxiously neutral expression as if he had never shoved his tongue down her throat. Like he didn't nearly ravished her at the Winter Palace. She wants to smack that look off of his face. “I never said that.”

“You implied it,” she spat.

Sera nearly crawls onto the tabletop, glassy-eyed and eager to win. “Do it. Do it!” She leans so far onto the surface of the table that she's halfway lying on it and her rear crowds Blackwall's face. He grimaces and pulls her back down by her waist, Sera flounders and lands in her chair with a yelp.

Mirae stares at Solas. “Fine,” she announces. She turns to Varric, “Put me down for a sovereign as well.”

A low chuckle, his chest shaking with mirth. “Well, would you look at that. Birdy, you surprise me. Let's lay some ground rules.” He holds up two fingers, "No touching, no removal of clothing.”

Eyes steely, Mirae continues to glare daggers at Solas. He remains as aloof as ever. “Agreed.”

At this point, everyone had accepted the game was long over; cards laid abandoned on the table in messy piles and drinks nearly empty. Iron Bull pulls himself forward in his seat, gleefully, “I gotta see this.”

Mirae thinks, trying to mentally recall every vulgar thing she's ever heard. She tries to put a sultry look on her face but ends up somewhere between perturbed and mildly gassy. “You know, ha'hren. Your ears are quite large.” She swallows, gathering her courage to continue.

Cullen buries his face in his hands, moaning, “I don't like where this is going.”

She lifts her hands and gives a small cheerful wave. “Oh no, I like them! They'll give me something, uh something," She grins weakly, her voice hesitating at the end of her statement, "To hold on to while I ride your face.” That was awful.

The room explodes in a cacophony of groans, hands and heads thrown back in pain at the vulgar come on. Sera cackles and bounces in delight. Cassandra wrinkles her nose in disgust. Solas raises an eyebrow and quirks his lips. “That certainly was...a choice. But, as you can see, my complexion remains unchanged.” He sits back, calmly crossing one leg and resting the ankle on the bent knee of his other leg.

Cole looks to Iron Bull, confused, “I don't understand. Is his face a horse?”

Iron Bull guffaws, his chest shaking, and opens his mouth to speak before Varric stops him with a raised hand: “No one explain that to him.” He then grins and chuckles, “Okay, everyone pay up.”

Mirae slams her hands on the table and leans forward, pressing against the table with her full weight. She searches her memory for anything, anything at all, that she could say that wouldn't reveal their past...activities. She thinks about the dog-eared copy of 'The Busty Mage and the Spellbound Templar' in her room. No. Despite the title, it's not that explicit. Lots of innuendoes though.

Mirae thinks back to the marsh and her Elvhen lessons. She suddenly remembers a book she found hidden in the bottom shelf of Tia's bookcase. A thin paperback with yellow pages and a worn spine, 'The Maiden of Arlathan' written in flowing script. She recalled that the maiden only remained a maiden for about thirty pages in; then the Elvhen Maiden found herself in all kinds of situations that revolved around her dress being torn off by a lusty Rebel God. Mirae smiles mischievously, “One more try.”

Varric concedes and shuts everyone up. They watch silently, eyes still brimming with tears from laughing at her last poor attempt.

Mirae lowers her gaze and speaks softly, “Savhalla, ha'hren. Thu ea?”

If he's thrown by her use of Elvhen, Solas doesn't show it. “Ame son, emma serannas,” he replies coolly.

Mirae sighs and glances from beneath her eyelashes, trying to look shy. “You know, sometimes, ah,” she pauses and raises her eyes to meet his, “Silal or ma tu ara'len'palan.”

Solas coughs and uncrosses his leg. He sits forward, placing his hands on the table and glancing at her expectantly. Still no blush. She tries to recall the more juicy scenes from 'The Maiden'. Mirae continues, “Nuvenan avan ma'edhis sule bre'garas in br'av.”

His face turns a little pink but it's not enough for her. Mirae wants his whole face to burn crimson.

Sera pounds a fist into Blackwall's shoulders, “No fair! It's all elfy! Talk normal!” Blackwall shoves her hand away. Dorian watches the two elves with a calculating gaze.

The Iron Bull looks to the Inquisitor, confused, “Care to translate, boss?”

Lavellan shakes her head, “I, uh, I don't know these words.” She's mouthing the words to herself, trying to decipher their conversation.

Emboldened by her small success, Mirae remembers the scene of the Elvhen Maiden and the Rebel God as they strolled along a babbling brook. It was probably the dirtiest scene in the whole book, bringing a little flush to her cheek as she remembered the words the Maiden said: “Jutuan ma ir rosas'da'din, ma tel'aman melin.”

That did it. Solas broke, coughing sharply as his face and the tips of his ears turned a bright red. Sera crows in victory and claps Blackwall's back with an open palm. He chokes on his drink, sputtering ale into his beard. Cullen raises his mug of ale in celebration, “I'm no expert, but I think she's done it.”

Sera points to Varric, “Pay up, short stack!” He shrugs and sits back with a strangely satisfied look on his face.

Cassandra frowns, yet looking a bit flustered, picks up her own mug. “That was ridiculous.” Josephine looks lost but smiles all the same.

Dorian fans himself with one hand, the other resting on his heart. “My Elvhen is the very definition of rudimentary but I could feel that.” The Iron Bull grins and raises an eyebrow suggestively, “Is that so?"

Dorian waves him off, “Down, boy.”

Blackwall wipes the ale from his beard and snorts, “And what exactly is it that made you turn so red, Solas?”

Everyone glances over at the elven man, his face still a notable shade of pink. “Nothing,” he mutters.

Cole, who at this point had stuck nearly half of the deck of cards into the brim of his hat, asks innocently, “Solas, why would she put that in her mouth?”

Just when Mirae thinks she can't be embarrassed any further, half of the table bursts into breathless laughter. Cullen gasps a weary “Maker's breath” over the explosion of sound. Cassandra rolls her head back and groans. Mirae slams her head to the table to hide her face and moans.

In between gasping breaths, Dorian slams his hand on the table and cackles, “Let the boy continue!”

Solas pushes his chair back with a loud scrape and throws his hands up in exasperation, “I have had enough excitement for one evening. Good night everyone.”

Blackwall, his eyes full of tears and his cheeks ruddy with mirth, chuckles, “Have you now?” Sera collapses into a puddle of laughter, her face contorted with glee.

“Good. Night.” Solas replies firmly with his hands tightly clenched.

Varric, wiping his own eyes with the back of his hand, expresses in disbelief, “Would you look at that. It does go up to his ears.”

*

When it was mutually agreed upon that the night was over, the party drifted away from the tavern to their own beds. Their stomachs aching from laughing and too much ale, their coin purses all a little lighter.

Varric stopped Mirae, a tricky little smile on his face, “I told you I'd pay to see Chuckles blush, Birdy.”

She gaped as she watched him disappear into the dark.

 

Chapter Text

Morrigan adjusted quickly to life at Skyhold, enjoying the gardens and the well-stocked library. Kieran played with some of the other kids he found living there but for the most part he kept to himself, spending his days wandering around the fortress. She did not miss the courtly intrigue of Celene's palace and found herself beginning to relax. Well, except for one, little thing.

What Morrigan could not adjust to was the little dark-haired elf who kept staring at her.

Mirae twisted one of her braids nervously around her finger, peering around the column she hid behind. Morrigan sat in the gazebo, reading a thick leather-bound book. She appeared to be seriously contemplating whatever it was she read, but truthfully she wasn't able to relax, completely aware of her inauspicious guest. “Can I help you with something or are you just going to continue stalking me?”, she announced to the column.

Mirae struggled to put a placid smile on her face and stepped out from her hiding place. Waving one hand in a contrived attempt to appear non-threatening, she stuttered, “I'm sorry. I just...you're Morrigan, right?”

She closes the book with a soft thud. She glared at the elf before her, “That is what I am called, yes.”

“Oh. Leliana mentioned you to me once.” Mirae tried but couldn't ease her anxiety. Leliana had both brought up Morrigan, that was correct. What she failed to mention was how intimidating the woman was. She possessed a beautiful face, yes, but one that gave the distinct impression of finding Mirae to be lesser than the dirt beneath her feet.

“Why, pray tell, would she do that?” Morrigan placed the book beside her in her seat. She crossed her legs at the knee and tilted her head, lips pursed in irritation.

“I guess she thinks we have a few things in common.” Mirae pulled the braid tighter around her fingers.

Morrigan stared Mirae down, casting her gaze down to her feet and slowly working her way up to her face. She raised one eyebrow in suspicion. “I doubt it. You can continue your little staring game but please do not interrupt me further.” She twists to grab her book before adding, admonishing Mirae under her breath, “And leave my son alone.”

Mirae shook her head in swift agreement and scurried away, disappearing into a nearby doorway.

*

Dorian spots her hiding among a stack of books. He holds a thin volume in his hand, a barely concealed smile on his face. “You know, we just got a new shipment of books in. A donation from some doddering Orlesian dowager.”

Mirae looks at him, confused. She holds her journal in hands, tilting it towards her chest to hide her writing. More notes for Flemeth.

“One interesting novella in particular.” He lifts the book up to show off its cover, “A translated copy of saucy little romp known as 'The Maiden of Arlathan'. Original text included.” Mirae's eyes widen. Dorian flips the book open, perusing the pages, “Don't worry, I won't tell Solas.” He leans in close, eyes gleaming with glee, “It's good to see the ancient Elvhen enjoyed trashy pulp like the rest of us.”

*

“So you've met Morrigan. Darling girl, isn't she?”

Flemeth sat on a bench built into a stone wall, a tall gleaming mosaic glowing faintly behind her. Mirae coughed, “She's downright precocious.”

The older woman cackled at her dig at Morrigan. She then examined the walls around her, her voice softening. “Curious choice of location, this. What made you think of it?” She sat back and rest her head against the tiles of the mosaic.

Mirae looked around, absorbing the temple to her memory. The walls were made of a beautifully carved stone and the magic seemed to seep from every pore. Trees grew tall and shaded them from the sun. Pools of water rippled as brightly colored birds dipped their beaks to drink. She reached out and touched a nearby wall, feeling the stone beneath her fingertips. “I don't know. I wanted somewhere peaceful.”

Flemeth nodded and ran a hand over the bench beneath her, “This was a sacred place once.” She dug her fingernails into the ivy that crawled across the stone.

Mirae watched the birds play in the water. “Is it not anymore?”, she asked.

She didn't respond but the corners of her mouth fell to a slight frown. For once, Flemeth looked wistful and a little lost. The colorful birds shook the water from their feathers and called out in vain to the sky. Their cries tangled up in the canopy of the trees above them.

*

Mirae hadn't set foot in the Herald's Rest since her embarrassing victory over Solas. Her ears twinged at the memory and the guitar in its case suddenly felt much too heavy for her to bare. Patrons entered the tavern, eager to hear the night's performance. Some of them greeted her as they entered, addressing her as 'Songbird' in friendly voices. She groaned internally, cursing Varric and his outlandish stories.

Varric was unusually absent this night, she noted. She shifted the guitar to her lap, eyes wandering around the room. At a table close to the bar sat a group of masked Orlesians chattering excitedly in their native tongue. They motioned towards her several times, voices carrying over the crowd. Mirae bit her bottom lip, a song popping into her head. Her fingers itched.

Whenever someone asked what inspired her songwriting, Mirae could only shrug and dismiss it away as an artistic gift. What she really knew was these were holdovers from her old life, ones the clung to and played themselves over and over again in her brain. They tickled in her throat, looking for an escape. Of all the things Flemeth let her keep, the songs perplexed her the most.

She cleared her throat, indicating to the audience she was ready to begin. Fingers poised on the strings, she noticed a new figure sneaking along the back wall of the tavern. She frowned as she watched Solas edge his way to a dark corner, seating himself at an empty table.

What. In the. What is he doing?

She chose to ignore him. She plucked a swirling tune, notes drifting up languidly to the rafters. “Je te laisserai des mots,” she sang in a breathy voice. The Orlesians near the bar sat up straight, shutting their mouths at the sound of her speaking their language. “En sous de ta porte, en sous de la lune qui chante.”

Tout prés de la place où tes pieds passent.” She tried not to look at him, sitting in his little corner. Instead, she watched the faces of the audience; they surprisingly seemed to enjoy the random Orlesian, she noted. From their posture, she could tell the Orlesians were enraptured. As the words formed in her mouth, she struggled to remember how she knew these words. They weren't called Orlesian where she was from. “Caché dans les trous de temp d'hiver,” she sang. Her mana danced around her feet, swaying to the music. It hopped, skipped, and wrapped its many little fingers around the hearts of the audience.

Quand tu es seule pendant un instant, embrasse moi quand tu voudras.” The Orlesians tittered at the last line. Mirae rolled her eyes, “Embrasse moi. Quand tu voudras.” She dared to look over at Solas. She couldn't make out his expression from his dim corner. She repeated, louder and more demanding, “Embrasse moi quand tu voudras.”

She ended the song, her heart trembling in her chest. The tavern politely clapped and returned to their interrupted conversations. The table of Orlesians erupted in euphoric applause, their masks shaking as they hammered their hands together.

It was only later that Mirae noticed that at some point during her performance, Solas had left, leaving behind his empty chair and taking her wandering mind with him.

*

“I didn't know you knew Orlesian.” Solas strolled along the halls of a dark and empty temple. Ivy grew wild on the walls, choking the sacred bricks in its green hands. Mirae shrugged, “Just that one song. Oh, Colette taught me some curse words too.”

He ran his hands over a mosaic, fingertips gently caressing the tiles. From what Mirae could see, the mosaic depicted a wolf with flowing fur. She thought of the wolf etched into the amulet she wore. “Fen'harel,” she murmured. Solas spun around at her utterance, an unreadable look in his eye. “Ah, merde,” she muttered down to her feet.

“Don't think I have forgotten.” He stood tall, stretched to full height. In their dreams, he always dressed nicer than he did in waking. The wolf pelt remained draped over his shoulder and another larger, darker pelt soon joined sprawled over his other shoulder. He wore a finely woven tunic of dark green that reached mid-thigh and dark brown leather breeches. His feet were nearly bare, wrapped in silken footwraps that climbed up his calves.

Mirae, for all her artistic merits in waking, was less creative. She wore what she always wore for their Fade journeys: an oversize dark brown sweater that fell to her knees and tan leather leggings that cut off at her ankles. She wore footwraps like Solas, only hers were decidedly a less fancy variety. Sometimes she wore her hair loose but for the most part kept them in her usual twin plaits.

“Excuse moi? Forgotten what?”, she chirped. Playing dumb. He continued to watch her with guarded eyes. Mirae chuckled and tried to bring the conversation back to a lighter place. “Whose temple is this? Must've been somebody important. Lots of -” She stops, her words fading away. Without warning Solas walks towards her, face suddenly serious and determined.

He wraps one hand on her waist and pulls her forward, holding her close to his chest. She exhales and keeps her gaze on the jawbone he wore around his neck. He cups her chin with his other hand. His voice is low and husky in his throat.  “Where did you ever learn such vulgar words?”

Mirae squirms. “Oh, you know, around.”

He pulls her against him tighter, the hand on her waist digging into her skin. “That doesn't answer my question.” She flicks a glance up through her eyelashes and then returns back to his chest. He's still loosely holding on to her chin, eyes fixed on the top of her bowed head. She grasps the jawbone pendant in her hand, fingers running over the few teeth that remained. Solas lowers his lips to her ear, “I should clean out your mouth for saying such filthy things.”

Solas moves away from her ear and slides his lips around the side of her face. He tilts her chin up, angling her mouth for him to take in his own. She lets him, swallowing the moan that is building in her chest. His tongue probes her mouth, looking for hers and swirling against it once he finds it. Mirae stretches herself taller, eagerly taking in the taste of him. She presses her hands against his chest, twisting the fabric of his tunic beneath her fingers.

He pulls away, his mouth swollen and bruised. Solas looks at her, eyes hazy and uncertain. “This is...there is so much I haven't told you.”

She holds his gaze, unsure of what to say; she touches a finger to her similarly swollen mouth. “You're not the only one with secrets, Solas,” she confides.

His mouth tightens to a thin line. Mirae smooths a hand over the wolf pelt. It's soft, softer than she thought it would be. “Why can't we just enjoy what we have for now? Questions and answers can come later.” She pulls him back to her, her mouth still aching from his absence. “Embrasse moi quand tu voudras, Solas.” Mirae presses her lips to his, savoring their warmth. He softens and wraps his arms around her to deepen the kiss.

He murmurs against her lips, “What does that mean?”

She coaxes another little kiss from him. “It means,” she breathes against his mouth, “Kiss me whenever you want.”

*

To Mirae's surprise, Morrigan came to visit her at end of her shift in the infirmary. Mirae crossed her arms and leaned against the exterior wall, a cold wind battering the stones. “So, it seems we do have something in common,” Morrigan reluctantly admitted to her. Mirae narrowed her eyes, still guarding herself against the witch.

Morrigan sighed, “You're a Witch of the Wilds?”

Mirae dropped her arms to her side and slumped. “Leliana told you?” Somehow Morrigan seemed immune to the near permanent chill around Skyhold despite her skimpy attire. Mirae felt a little jealous as she shivered in her thin tunic.

Morrigan crossed her own arms now, bemused. “It might have come up. You know how we old girls gossip at teatime.” She then lowered her voice, serious, “Where? I don't seem to recall an elven girl of your description living in the Korcari wilds.”

Mirae stiffened and tried to sort the facts in her mind. She carefully formed her next thoughts, keeping her answers brief and to the point, “Orlais. The Nahashin Marsh.”

For once, Morrigan expressed something that wasn't barely concealed disgust. Her eyebrows disappeared beneath her long bangs. “I didn't know Amelanen'u'vunen had a girl.”

Mirae had to fight to keep her eyes from rolling to the back of her head at Morrigan pretentiously using Tia's full name. “I'm adopted,” she replied flatly. Morrigan, to her credit, decided to accept this as a valid excuse. The witch sized her up, warily, and pursed her lips. Mirae began to wonder what it was like to always look like you've just realized that you stepped in dog poop.

Morrigan glanced around them, still not relaxing her posture. She, Mirae noticed, kept a distinct invisible wall around herself that held outsiders at arm's length. “Amelanen was, is, friends with my mother, Flemeth. If you could even call what they had friendship. She's more of a minion, really.”  She flicked her eyes briefly over the chain that draped around Mirae's neck and disappeared beneath her tunic. Something passed over her face then, so quick that Mirae barely caught it.

Mirae tried to stifle a choked gasp at the mention of Flemeth. She gaped at Morrigan, searching the other woman's face for features that connected to her to Flemeth. She had to admit there were quite a few similarities. In fact, there were so many she wondered why she hadn't noticed earlier. Mirae fought to hide her shock and nodded cautiously.

Morrigan appeared to be thinking deeply about something, her eyes fixed on Mirae's chest. Before she could even react, Morrigan reached out to her neck and pulled on the chain that held her amulet. Morrigan slid her hand down to the pendant and held it tightly in her grip. “This! I knew it!”, she hissed. She pulled Mirae close as anger filled her face, “You! Flemeth has you doing her dirty business, doesn't she? Spying on me? Spying on the Inquisition?”

Mirae shook her head desperately, clawing roughly at Morrigan's bare shoulders. She dug her fingers into the woman's flesh, trying to separate herself from the furious witch. “No! Just one person! Not you. No one important!” She mixed truth with lies even as her life was in danger. Mirae was shaping up to be a pretty decent spy, this little development notwithstanding.

Morrigan's eyes grew dark and dangerous. “Mother can never keep her nose out of things that don't concern her. Tell her this, the next time you report to her: stay away from me and Kieran. If she agrees, I won't reveal her little rat to the Nightingale.” She released Mirae and stepped back, her shoulders shaking in barely repressed rage. "I'm sure Leliana would love to deal with a spy in her midst. Especially one that has wormed her way into the Inquisitor's good graces."

Her heart pounded in her chest as she shook her head in agreement. Mirae felt her whole body tremble, her face pale, and her mouth painfully dry. Morrigan spat on the ground near Mirae's feet, a wordless curse. She turned on her heel and left, disappearing into a shadowed doorway.

Mirae felt sweat dripping down her neck. The amulet hung outside of her wrinkled tunic, golden and gleaming in the sun.

 

Chapter Text

Mirae stood at the door of the small locked room off of the courtyard. She had seen Morrigan enter and leave the room over the course of the past few days. This time she took better care to hide from the witch, her warnings still echoing in her head. Hands trembling, Mirae slipped a note under the door.

Morrigan

A word from our mutual acquaintance, written as dictated: Stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours. The rat infestation is no cause for concern. Keep yourself clean and the vermin will leave you alone.

Sincerely, The Elf With The Staring Problem

*

In the rotunda Mirae stretched out on her back on the tan couch, bare feet dangling over the arms. She held her guitar across her chest and lazily plucked random notes as she stared up at the sunlight pouring from the open roof. She watches as the birds fly in and out of the rookery, their wings beating dust into the air. A question had been buzzing in her head all day: “Solas, where do you sleep? At night, I mean.”

“I do not sleep in here in the rotunda if that's what you're asking.” Solas stood on the wooden scaffolding mixing paints on a palette, carefully kneading the thick paints into one another with a palette knife. He paused to consider the consistency before adding a touch of amber colored oil to thin it out. Placing the knife to the side, he picks up a brush and loads it with paint, “Are you asking this out of innocent curiosity or do you have something else planned?”

Mirae releases a string and it reverberates with a low hum. “Just wondering what your quarters looked like,” she replied, trying to sound casual. Solas, for his part, remained politely engrossed in his painting. Mirae turns her head to the side to take in the murals that encircle the room. The first time she saw them she couldn't help but gape at them, at their sheer size and the artistic skill they displayed. For reasons she barely understood herself, she wasn't surprised to discover that Solas had painted them.

Solas began work on a new one as soon as they returned from Halamshiral. “It is nothing special. A bed, a wardrobe, a desk, and a few books," he responds nonchalantly. His painting was methodical, planned out to the very last detail. His brush strokes slowly reveal the delicate blue form of Empress Celene.

Mirae watches his hand as it held the long, thin brush, his tapered fingers wrapped around the smooth wood handle. She presses her fingers down on the strings, gingerly keeping her voice light, “Then let me see it.”

Solas froze, the brush stopped on the skirt of Celene's dress. He spins around, his face a mask of cautious neutrality, “Why?” As she opened her mouth to form a coy reply, Mirae was interrupted by the fluttering of a falling book.

From the upstairs library, a book flew over the banister and landed on the floor in front of Solas's desk with a loud thump. The two occupants of the rotunda jumped back in alarm, Solas nearly dropping his loaded paint palette. Looking at the book and then to the floor above, they saw Dorian's head poking over the railing with a look of wild frustration. His mustache twitched as he frowned so deeply Mirae could make out each wrinkle on his forehead from the bottom floor.

“That is enough! His room is off of the staircase by Josephine's office. Second floor. Third door on the left. You,” he points down to Mirae, “Will meet him after the evening meal, before dark. And you!” He refocused his ire and accusing finger to Solas, “Clean up before she comes over! Put on something that doesn't scream 'I've lived in the woods for the last 15 years!'” Dorian drapes himself over the banister, face contorted in dramatic agony, “Now please, please, stop flirting and let the rest of us get some reading done!”

*

Mirae cracked the knuckles of both hands and pulled her neck from side to side, stretching the long stiff muscles taunt before releasing them with a sigh. She didn't mind working as a potion maker in the infirmary, she just didn't like how sore it made her whole body. Bending her head over a small desk and grinding herbs all day somehow was rougher on her than she'd thought it be. Taking a deep inhale, she bent to touch her toes, her hamstrings and lower back tight from sitting all day.

As she wiggled her toes in relief at how good the stretch felt, a hand came down and smacked her right on her exposed back. A cheerful female voice addressed her, “Careful. If you don't watch your back, Sera'll sneak up and bam! Get you right in the ass with a mud pie.” Mirae shot up and came face to face with the Inquisitor, standing there with a crooked smile spread across her face. “I speak from experience. She got me once. Called me 'Lady Mudbutt' for weeks.” She frowned at the memory before shaking her head with a small laugh.

“I'll keep that in mind,” Mirae replied, amused at the thought of the great Herald of Andraste with muddy trousers. She regarded the other elf warily, still unsure of how to speak to her. Lavellan was known for her prowess on the battlefield, her skill with daggers was second to none, but she was also well regarded for her friendliness. She always had a moment to spare for someone in need, be they a commoner or nobleman. Mirae had to admit she admired her for her ability to be so open to so many people. Yet she still couldn't fully relax in her presence. Maybe it was the magic oozing out of her left hand.

Lavellan pulled one of her daggers from its sheath and used it to dig out dirt from beneath her nails, her left hand glowing faintly as it gripped the handle of the dagger. “So, you're heading with us to the Arbor Wilds, right? Always need another good healer.” She looked away from her hands and eyed the healer with curiosity. “Solas is coming,” she added with a knowing grin.

“Why the Arbor Wilds?”, Mirae groaned, steering the conversation away from Solas.

Lavellan scratched the back of her neck with her free hand, “Corypheus has been sending his little minions to the area, looking for something we guess. We're kicking them out.” She motioned with the hand holding the dagger, waggling the blade like a finger, “So, what's the deal with you and Ser Lectures-a-lot? I mean, I get it. Sort of.”

Mirae bristled and shot back, “I could ask you the same thing with about the Commander.”

Lavellan instantly blushed at the mention of Cullen, the dagger in her hand sagged as she sputtered, “Nothing! Why would I – he's a shem.” Mirae shrugged and continued to stretch, pulling the heel of her foot to meet the back of her knee. The Inquisitor dropped her hands limply by her sides. She glanced around, eyes lowered, “He kissed me, you know. On the battlements. And at the Winter Palace. And, well, other things...” She trailed off and the blush on her cheeks intensified. Mirae's eyebrows shot up and her mouth formed a perfect O. Is everyone shacking up here?! I've heard rumors about Dorian and the Iron Bull but wow.

The Inquisitor straightened up and returned her dagger to its sheath, “Anyway! Back on topic. You're coming with us to the Arbor Wilds. Cul – The Commander will send you your orders soon.” She turned and stomped off towards the sparring fields, her face still burning red.

*

Mirae suddenly wished she had a bit more color in her life. In her wardrobe, more specifically. Digging through a meager pile of clothing, she began to notice a pattern made up entirely of brown, beige, tan, and black. Her hand lands on a frilly white blouse that she's pretty sure belonged to Colette. She put it to the side, surveying the options around her. The gown she had worn to the Winter Palace was bundled way in Josephine's closet, Mirae shoving it into the excited Antivan woman's hands as soon as she possibly could. She picked up a black sweater, the one with that smelled the least of spindleweed, and brown leather leggings. For a second, she thought about wearing a breast-band but, looking down at her very modest bust, dismissed the idea. No need to start now, I guess.

She washed her hair and wore it loose, the still damp tendrils plastering themselves to the back of her neck. Mirae carefully hid the amulet under the pillow on her bed, deciding to avoid another situation like the one she had with Morrigan. The now well-worn boots Dupont her gave sat in an assigned spot beside the closed door and as she pulled them on, she tried to remember the way he grinned proudly when he presented her with them. She smiled at the memory and tied them with a flourish.

She had made the walk to the main hall of Skyhold enough times that she could do it blindfolded, but this time, Mirae felt her steps hesitate as she reached the stairs. A guard stood by the door looking sleepy and bored. Second floor, third door on the left. 

A harsh voice echoed in her head: People do this all the time. People lie to get each other into bed like it's their job. This time, it just so happens that it IS your job.

Mirae played with a loose string on the sleeve of her sweater, pretending that she wasn't about to commit an act of intimate betrayal towards the only person in the entire world she could reliably call a true friend. The bitter voice continued, What do you want? Poetry and candles? You're dead. This body is just a husk and you're a little spirit along for the ride.

A smaller voice, whispering from the back of her head poked her, softly: You love him. You love him and you don't want to hurt him.

He's lying too, shot back the other voice, It's his fault the world is like this. Flemeth told you all about him. What he did. He created the Veil and how he wants to tear it down because, what, things didn't go the way he wanted it to?

Mirae dug her fingernails into the palms of her clenched hands. The voices bickered, each one trying to pull her to their side. Having had enough, Mirae shouted, “Stop telling me what to do!”. The guard standing woke from his daze and gawked at her, his eyes wide. Mirae gave him a weak smile and hastily headed through the doorway, hiding her face behind her swinging hair.

*

Solas, for once, didn't know what to do with himself. Much to his own surprise, he took Dorian's advice to heart. He swept loose papers into a neat pile on the desk that sat beneath the window in his room, carefully arranging his inkwell and quill beside them. The books in the bookshelf by the desk were lightly dusted and arranged in alphabetical order, just in case Mirae decided to look them over. He pulled up the cover of his small bed and smoothed out all of the wrinkles. He even swept the worn rug rolled out beneath the desk.

Solas, deep down, felt foolish. And old. Too old to be fretting over a woman visiting his room.

But, here he was, fluffing his pillow and setting out a bottle of wine he procured from the kitchens. Two empty glasses sat on the squat round stool he used as a nightstand; he pulled it to the center of the room to use as a temporary serving table.

However, he drew the line at changing his clothes. They were fine and suited his needs perfectly. Still, he couldn't help but pick off lint from the shoulder of his tan sweater and pulling at the hem, smoothing it over the top of his thighs. When he heard the knock on the door, he froze, fingers still drawing at a strange hair that he found on the back of his sleeve.

Solas felt old and, for the first time in a long time, genuinely excited.

*

“What did you say this was called again?” Mirae asked as she took another sip from the glass in her hand.

Solas sat in the chair he used at his desk while she sat on his bed, wrinkling the carefully straightened coverlet. He held his glass in front of his face, examining the clear golden liquid within, “Sun Blonde Vint-1. Do you like it?” Mirae swallowed and nodded her head, a little smile on her face. Solas coughed, “The cooks in the kitchen tried to get me to take a bottle of something called Alvarado's Bathtub Boot Screech but I declined. I told them Boot Screech wouldn't go with the evening I had planned.”

Mirae placed her empty glass on the little table, still smiling, “What kind of evening did you have planned, Solas?” She watched him, her dark eyes sparkling like she was holding back a joke she desperately wanted to tell. He looked away, clearing his throat with a small cough and trying to fight back the heat rising to his cheeks.

Mirae looked around the room, impressed with how much he managed to fit into his humble lodgings. She was particularly jealous of his bookshelf, filled top to bottom with thick volumes bound in wonderfully fragrant leather. She rose from her seat and walked over to the shelf, sidestepping around the wooden table in the center of the room. She sighed as she ran her fingers over the letters etched into the spines. “You're going to have to let me borrow some of these,” she murmured as she read the titles. The entire bookshelf seemed to be solely dedicated to the study of the Fade, although there were some more esoteric titles written entirely in Elvhen.

Warm breath on the back of her neck. The scent of herbs and paint overpowered the smell of the old books. “Of course. You need only to ask.” Mirae relaxed as she felt Solas standing behind her, his large hand reaching out to the shelf to cover her curious fingers. He wrapped his other arm around her waist as he buried his nose in her neck, breathing in deeply. She closed her eyes and leaned back into him as he nuzzled her hair.

They stood there for a while, just breathing each other in.

Solas spoke first, hesitant to break the comfortable silence: “I still have something I want to tell you.” He moved his face from her neck, resting his chin on the top of her head. He still held her body tightly against his own, almost like he was afraid to let her go.

Mirae chewed on the inside of her cheek, thinking. She inhaled, releasing the breath with a shaky calm. She formed a plan in her head, carefully choosing her next words, “I know.”

Solas stiffened, unsure of how to interpret what she meant.

Mirae continued, eyes fixed on the books in front of her. “I know who you are. I've. I've always known, Solas.” He released her and stepped away, drawing his arms back to his side. Silent and his body tense. Mirae doesn't turn around but persisted, “Before I came here, I lived in the Nahashin Marsh in Orlais with my...grandmother. A year ago, the dreams started.” She can feel his labored breathing behind her. “I dreamed of an elvhen man with the most wonderful eyes. I followed him as he explored the Fade. The great ruins of sacred temples,” she paused. A deep breath to steady herself. “I watched him interact with spirits. I saw him relive his most precious memories and the ones he couldn't bear to revisit.” Solas steps back, lowering himself to the wooden chair by his desk. “I always wanted to get closer to him, but never could.”

She felt her tongue grow thick in her mouth. The lies began. “I left the marsh because I wanted to see the world. I heard about the Inquisition from a traveling merchant and thought, why not? I could be of some use, somehow. I didn't know...I didn't know that I would find the man from my dreams here.”

“And who am I, Mirae? Who did you dream of all those nights?”, Solas asked. His voice was low, barely above a whisper.

Mirae turned to face him. She stepped away from the bookshelf and held out a hand to him, silently urging him to take it. “I dreamed of you, Solas." Her voice was serene now, gentle, "I dreamed of you, Fen'harel.”

Solas winced. He bent forward, exposing the broad expanse of his back as he buried his face in his hands. Mirae touched the top of his head, tentatively at first, then laid her palm flat against the bony ridge of his skull. She curled her fingers against his skin, caressing his bald head with affection. His shoulders shook as he took deeper breaths, a flush rising in the back of his neck.

“You knew? This whole time,” his voice was distant, digging its heels into an old, familiar self-loathing. Solas lifted his head, throwing Mirae's hand back as he looked up at her. His gaze tight on her face, eyes hardened. “I am a monster, Mirae, and you chose to get involved with me, because, what? You saw me in the Fade?” His voice began to rise, sharpening to a razor edge, “Did you think it would be romantic? Redeeming me?”

He stood suddenly, pulling to his full height and towering over her. The chair fell back to the floor with a loud clatter. Mirae stepped back, stumbling over the corner of the rug. Solas reached out and grabbed both of her wrists, wrapping them in one large hand. She gasped and pulled back, fear rising in her throat. “Why did you approach me? Why did you invade my life? My dreams?” Anger colored his cheeks.

Mirae struggled against him, anger replacing the fear. She grimaced and threw her head back to glare at him. “We're both alone,” she spat. Mirae felt her mana gnash its teeth at his, hissing and swatting at his intrusion. His mana thrashed against her barrier, dragging its sharp claws down her shield to tear a hole large enough for it crawl in. “We're both alone, Solas. I thought,” Mirae bared her teeth with thin lips, “I thought you would recognize that and realize that I don't give a shit about what you did. That maybe, I understood why.” Her eyes burned into his, dark and ready to fight him on this, “That, maybe, I agree with what you plan to do.”

Solas dropped her wrists and propelled himself farther away from her. His chest rose and fell with arduous breathing. He's coming undone, Mirae thought, he's losing control. “You don't mean that, Mirae. You can't,” he replied in disbelief.

Mirae shook her head and stepped closer, “I do, Solas.”

The armor Flemeth had mentioned, the one he built so carefully around himself, crumbled then. Each hardened piece fell away as the last bit of control Solas had disintegrated. With both arms, he reached to her and pulled her to his chest, his mouth crashing into hers. Mirae clawed at his back, straining the threads of his sweater beneath her digging nails. She slid her hands down to his hips, blindly searching for the hem, and pulled it over his head. She threw it across the room as he tugged at her own top, the two of them fumbling with their clothing as they rushed to remove each piece as fast as they could.

Walking backward to the bed, Mirae pulled at the strings that tied her leggings closed while Solas repeated her actions on his own trousers. She pulled herself through the legs as she fell to the bed, leaving her only in her smallclothes. Solas stood in front of her, pausing briefly to catch his breath before removing his trousers. Mirae gasped and a little giggle escaped her lips, “I didn't take you as the type to go without underthings, Solas.”

He climbed on top of her, totally exposed, and pushed her back against the pillow. “They only get in the way,” he nearly growled. His voice was husky and hot in her ear as his lowered himself against her fully. Mirae sighed as he pushed her chin up with his nose, giving him access to plant kisses along her throat. Her hands wandered down his back, fingertips tracing the muscles and digging in each time he sucked her neck.

Mirae wrapped a leg around his waist, bucking against him lightly. Solas groaned as she pressed herself to him, hardening at the feeling of her growing need. He reached one hand to between her legs and dragged a finger along the gusset of her smallclothes, satisfied to find the fabric already wet. Mirae stifled a moan as he pushed aside the fabric and teased her slit. He brushed his thumb on her clit, sending tiny shock-waves up her spine. She bucked harder, his stiff cock digging into her thigh as she undulated her hips. He put more pressure on his thumb, the friction building as she ground her hips against his hand. Moving faster, Solas watched with rapt attention as she shuddered, moaning softly as he brought her to completion. Her cheeks bloomed a delicious pink that reached to the tips of her ears.

Mirae threw her arms around his neck, rapidly kissing him all over his face, his head. She pulled the lobe of one of his ears into her mouth, rolling it gently between her teeth. Solas dug into the bed with his free hand, clawing at the sheets covering the mattress. Encouraged, Mirae flicked her tongue along the long pointed edge of his ear. He stifled a cry and rolled his hips against hers, desperate to go further. Mirae lifted her hips so he could take her smallclothes off, Solas pulled them down over her legs and tossed them behind him. They landed somewhere, lost in the moment.

Solas grasped himself in one hand, spreading her legs wider accommodate him. For a moment, he just looked down at her, pumping himself as he watched her with heavy-lidded eyes. Mirae shifted in the bed, wordlessly pleading with him to go forward. Solas touched the tip of his cock to her entrance and moved it along the length of her folds, spreading her wetness on himself. Inhaling, he prepared himself to penetrate her. Mirae steeled herself, unsure of what exactly was going to happen. Closing his eyes, Solas slid himself into her.

At the sudden resistance, Solas stopped. He looked down at her, eyes wide. “You...you're...”

Mirae rolled her eyes and huffed, slightly embarrassed and honestly a little surprised. She mumbled an excuse, the only one that popped in her head that felt plausible: “I lived in a marsh, Solas.” He nodded and pulled back slightly, altering his plan to enter her slower. Adjusting the angle of his hips, Solas rocked back and forth slowly, building up the heat between them. Feeling herself stretch to adjust to him, Mirae bit back a soft cry as he pressed himself to her fully. He paused then, drinking in the sensation of being joined completely. “Solas, please,” Mirae whimpered.

Reassured, he rocked against her. Mirae looked up at the body before her, observing the sweet flush that spread from his ears to his cheeks, spiraling its way down to his chest and fading away at the divot of his belly button. She pressed a hand to the pink flesh on his chest, oddly proud that she had made him turn so bright. So colorful. When he came, he collapsed on top of her, exhausted and trembling. Mirae curled her fingers around his neck, pressing her mouth to the flesh of his shoulders.

With a happy sigh, she held him close. She wanted him to stay this way forever, his skin so bright. So completely hers. The pale brown freckles on his shoulders almost completely swallowed up by all of the color she painted him in. He holds her tight in response, rapidly falling into a deep peaceful sleep in her arms.

The little voice in her head pokes with little claws at her joy, gently reminding her what a complete and utter liar she is.

 

Chapter Text

The Arbor Wilds was much more hospitable than the Western Approach. Well, except for being absolutely infested with Red Templars, lingering brain-washed Grey Wardens, and strange hostile elves.

Mirae adjusted the pack thrown across her back, checking and rechecking the potions stowed away. The days before they left for the Arbor Wilds were spent restocking for the battle ahead; her forearms still ached from grinding, mixing, and prepping all of the potions they needed. She flexed her fingers and rotated her wrists, pulling at the soreness of her muscles. There's a little sound in her ears, a quiet little roar that sounds almost like the ocean, that started once they entered the forest. Mirae thought, at first, that it was just a strong wind going past her ears, but the trees stood motionless. She shook her head and dug a finger in her ear, trying to dissipate the strange noise.

The Inquisition forward camp was hidden in a small clearing surrounded by a thick old growth, the canvas tents almost buried in the overgrown ivy and shrubbery. Mirae looked around, absorbed in the wonderfully wet green smell of the trees. She spotted, in the corner of her eye, Josephine speaking with an overdressed Empress Celene, a little impressed the woman stood in a full ball gown in the middle of an ancient forest.

Over a week ago, Commander Cullen had informed her of her assigned duties: a forward push with a cadre of soldiers led by the Iron Bull with her as their support mage, providing healing and defensive spells as needed. Once they had reached their designated stopping point, she was to go on ahead with Bull to support the Inquisitor's party as back-up. Mirae replayed her instructions over and over again in her head, taking deep breaths to steady her rapidly beating heart.

A large, warm hand smacked her the back, knocking her forward a few steps. “Ready to head out, lil' Bird?”, the loud booming voice of the Iron Bull nearly rattled her teeth. Mirae looked at his towering form and nodded, clutching her staff tightly to her chest. He smiled and signaled to the rest of his men to gather up, “Alright, Chargers. You've heard our instructions from the Commander. We cut through the hostiles to clear a path for the Inquisitor. Once we reach our stopping point, me and the Bird here will continue on with the Inquisitor. Got it?” The ragtag group, including an elf with a strange staff who kept insisting to Mirae that she was an archer not a mage, raised their weapons and shouted in response. Bull, a pleased roar rumbling in his chest, playfully punched Krem in the shoulder, nearly knocking the smaller man off of his feet. Krem scowled and raised his sword in the air, “Chargers! Horns up!”

*

Mirae would never, ever get used to the sight of Red Templars. As long as she lived, their grotesque, shattered forms would haunt her nightmares. Flesh stretched tight over pulsating red rock, craggy splinters ripped through metal armor. She tried to focus on healing, protecting the Chargers, but the sound of metal, arrows, and magic cutting through flesh melded with red lyrium made her stomach turn.

Iron Bull urged her forward, “The Inquisitor's party is right behind us. Chargers, hold tight. Mirae, you're with me.” Bull thrived on the battlefield, his eyes beaming with the thrill of fighting. Varric had told Mirae about the time they fought the Ferelden Frostback in the Hinterlands, how Bull had charged ahead and nearly gotten himself killed. Mirae didn't understand it but was grateful he was on their side.

The Inquisitor appeared behind them, panting and her daggers drawn; Cole, Cassandra, and Solas followed behind her. Cassandra held her shield aloft, sweat on her brow, “The scouts said there is a temple just ahead. Corypheus and Samson have been spotted entering. We must continue.” The Inquisitor shook her head silently in response, still trying to gather herself.

Morrigan casually sauntered further behind, her staff in hand, “The temple must hold the eluvian. We find the eluvian, we find Corypheus.” Solas frowned but kept his mouth shut. He looked over at Mirae, eyes softening. He began to open his mouth to say something but instead offered her a friendly nod. She returned it and looked back to Iron Bull, trying to keep the blush off of her face.

Focus on the task at hand. You can act like a love-sick idiot later when you aren't around, you know, people who want you dead.

The Iron Bull spoke quickly to Cassandra, the two warriors figuring out their next movements. Bull shook his head and turned to Mirae, “Bird, you're moving ahead with the Inquisitor. I'm going to regroup the Chargers and we'll guard the entrance of the temple.” She accepted the order and readjusted the bag on her back, the glass bottles inside clinking against each other.

Mirae joined the Inquisitor's party as they took the winding path to the temple. The wind in her ear finally died down, replaced with a muted dissonance of whispers.

*

Mirae had read about Archdemons during her time with Tia, gobbling up all every book she had on the history and stories of the Grey Wardens and Blights. She was not completely unaware of the body-hopping ability. What those texts had failed to mention, she thought, was just how awful it was to witness it happen. It was a full assault to every sense she had: the sight, of course, but the sound and smell of it as well. The metallic tang of blood in the air and the sound of bones cracking echoed off of the walls of the temple.

The great door now shut to the advancing Corypheus, the group finally found time to ground themselves and plan their next steps. This planning, however, quickly derailed to arguing over what to do next. Cassandra wanted to follow Samson without delay while the rest argued for completing the temple rituals. Mirae found herself zoning out, the sounds of the party bickering and the growing whispers were giving her a headache.

Cole stood next to her, his fingers tightly curling over the brim of his hat. He spoke quietly enough that only she could hear, “They sing to you. They know her too. You are as much a piece of her as they are.” Mirae clutched her staff with clammy hands, pressing it diagonally against her body. She bit her lower lip and shook her head, trying to get rid of the invading voices in her head.

Solas stepped away from the fussing party and looked at the two of them, puzzled. He placed a hand on her arm, gently pulling her to his side, “Mirae, are you ok? You seem ill.” She shook her head again and looked up to give him a tight smile, “Just from seeing that...thing with Corypheus.” Solas nodded in understanding and rubbed her arm reassuringly.

The Inquisitor clapped her hands and exclaimed in a huff, “We're walking the petitioner's path! End of debate!” She turned and continued deeper into the temple, giving no chance for Cassandra to continue arguing. Morrigan, pleased with this development, followed the Inquisitor with a smug expression.

As they entered the shaded courtyard, Mirae had to stifle a gasp. The carved stone, the crawling ivy. The pools of water with colorful birds. This was the temple she had dreamed about, the one where she had met with Flemeth. The one she where kissed Solas. She glanced over at Solas. If he recognized it, he indicated no sign of it to her. Mirae lifted her head up to gape at the canopy above them. In the Fade, the air had not been so thick and it was easier to look further in the open archways. Now, the fog hung low and shrouded the temple in a foreboding haze.

The whispering, Mirae noted grimly, became worse the farther in they went. As the Inquisitor danced around some glowing tiles, Morrigan and Solas shouting tips on what tile to step on next, Mirae dug the toes of her boots into the stone beneath her feet. The voices were indistinct but persistent. Cole remained silent, watching her with helpless pity.

Satisfied with her performance, the Inquisitor made a detour, examining each mosaic they came across. Morrigan provided a running commentary on each one with Solas barely containing his irritation at everything she said. Cole followed obediently and Cassandra trailed behind, impatient frustration growing on her face.

Mirae, however, lingered. She stood staring at a blank wall, her staff now hanging limply in her hands. The voices suddenly rang clear and begged her to touch her hand to the barely discernible rune etched in the wall. Touch it, they said, touch and see. Come. Her hand rose, entirely of its own accord, and pressed itself flat against the stone. The rune slowly illuminated from her touch, light spreading from beneath her hand. A small door appeared from beside the rune, the voices imploring her to enter it. Mirae dropped her hand and stepped inside.

*

Rolling his eyes, Solas turned away from the infuriating Witch and the statue of Fen'harel she was discussing with the Inquisitor. He paused and took a quick headcount of their party. “Where is Mirae?”, he asked, trying to conceal the growing worry in his voice. Everyone stopped and looked around, only now noticing that their party was missing a person.

“They called to her, so she went.”

The Inquisitor moved closer to him, her eyes imploring him for a clearer answer, “Who, Cole? Who called to her?”

Cole frowned, shaking his head, “I don't know. There are too many voices.”

*

The path was dark but Mirae kept moving forward, dragging her empty hand across the wall blindly. Each stone she touched sang beneath her fingertips, goading her on. A far off speck of light grew larger with each step, filling her vision as she felt pushed forward by invisible hands.

The light expanded and filled a windowless chamber, nearly empty but for stairs that ran the length of the room, their steps leading to impossibly tall arched doorways, and winged marble statues that stood upon stone pedestals. Deep green tiles covered the ceiling, reflecting and casting the light from torches that hung on the walls. Mirae blinked, trying to adjust her eyes to the light.

A tall hooded figure stood in the far edge of the room, body tense and holding a staff in their outstretched hand. As Mirae walked closer, her feet moving on their own at this point, the figure stiffened and held the head of staff towards her in warning. Yet, in spite of every bone in her body screaming at her to stop, the voices pulled her along. The figure held its position and started casting an offensive spell. Dragging her own staff in her limp hand, her arms loosely held to her sides, Mirae felt the prickling of magic begin to surround her. That is until it suddenly stopped.

The figure tilted its hood back, exposing the face of the man beneath it. An elf with a dark green vallaslin, the same one that was on the face of the Inquisitor. It took up the entirety of his forehead, branches spreading wide across his face. He lowered his staff and regarded Mirae's approaching figure with curiosity, “Your skin is unmarked but still you bare the mark of Mythal in your blood. I have not seen one of your kind for quite some time.” The man leaned on his staff with one hand, seemingly having decided to write her off as non-threatening.

Mirae wrestled with the voices, begging them to let her stop. They relented, pouting at the interruption. “My kind? What am I?” Her voice was hollow, tired. Her feet were beginning to ache.

 “There were many names but one was used more than others," he paused and indicated to her with a jerk of his head, "You are a telin.”

Mirae rolled the word in her head, the vocabulary she tried so hard to remember failing her. She looked at him, hesitant, “I'm a nobody?”

The man leaned further onto his staff, “An empty vessel created with powerful magic to house an unwilling spirit. A puppet. A slave designed for a specific purpose, serving their master unquestionably.”

She frowned. Her curiosity barely sated. “What are you saying? That I'm an abomination?”, she inquired.

He tilted his head, slightly amused at her reply, “If that is what you want to call yourself. Your master gave you some degree of free will. For what end, I wonder.” The man continued, “The temple calls to you, does it not? You must have been made to serve Mythal.”

Mirae stiffened, pulling her staff in front of her. A low, writhing sense of familiar dread rising like bile in her throat. “The gods...they were sealed away a long time ago. Why would I be made to serve a dead god? That's ridiculous. My 'master' did not create me with that in mind.”

Flemeth, my master? Why would she make me to serve Mythal? I don't understand. My head hurts. Nothing makes sense. Everything hurts.

“And yet, you live. You breathe. Blood and magic run through your veins,” the man shrugged, unaware or uncaring of her growing distress.

She feels sick. Angry. She wants to lash out at this man, burn him with every bit of mana she has in her body. “What does that have to do with anything?”, Mirae nearly shouted. Her shaky voice echoed across the green tiled roof.

The man watched her with knowing eyes, challenging her. “You say Mythal is dead. This is true to an extent. If one as powerful of a mage as your master created you in her image,” he paused and shifts his weight to stand straight, “then does Mythal not yet linger? A god cannot truly die, not while they still hold influence over the living.”

Mirae wants to destroy this temple. She wants to dismantle each title from the wall and smash them beneath her feet. Burn the sick, helpless feeling that is climbing her spine. The stones whisper to her, begging her, to listen.

“The party you came with will arrive soon to the Petitioner's Chamber. They search for the vir'abelasan do they not?” The man turned to leave, clearly done with his lecture, “They will not have it. It is not for them to take.”

Mirae does not argue. She's too busy pushing away the voices permeating her head.

He moved further away from her, walking farther into the darkness, “The well calls to you. Whispers in your head. Follow the voices, if you wish. It cannot be used by one as empty as you. You pose no threat to the inner sanctum.” The man lifts a finger to point to one of the archways, his voice fading away down the shadowed hallway as he goes to confront his unwanted guests, “Use the eluvian. The mirror will return you from whence you came. Leave, spirit. Do not return to this place. Not if you value what little free will you have left.”

*

Mirae, despondent at this revelation, gives in: lets the voices guide her, fill her head, and take over her body. They lead her to the well, chattering louder with excitement as she comes into view of the Well of Sorrows.

Come and see! They chant. They pull her toward the moon shaped pool surrounded by mirrors. Come and see what remains!

The water appears to be nothing more than ordinary water. Mirae peers over the rounded edge and looks down the well, seeing only an endless pool stretching down into darkness. She thinks of the black ocean in her dream; the water filling her lungs and pulling her in close, embracing her. She thinks of what Morrigan said, how the well holds ancient knowledge and power. She thinks of the empty feeling in her chest, the one spreading through her body like a cancer.

The voices grow quiet, waiting for her to act. Mirae reaches a finger and touches the water.

Nothing.

She dips her entire hand in. Nothing still. Up to her arm now. No knowledge. No euphoric rush of understanding. The other arm now. The emptiness grows. Desperate, Mirae listens for the voices. They remain hushed. They finally leave her alone.

Mirae takes a deep breath and plunges headfirst into the Well of Sorrows. The voices laugh as she sinks.

*

“What could ever have possessed you to do such a foolish thing, my little thief?”

Mirae blinks. Her vision is blurry, stinging. Her eyelashes are heavy with water and stick together when she closes her eyes again. “Please tell me I am dead,” she groans. She's soaked to the bone, a thin sheen of moisture all over her skin.

“No, my dear, unfortunately, you are alive.” Flemeth pauses for a moment, then adds, “Well. As alive as you've ever been.”

Mirae rubs her eyes and manages to opens them, finding herself on her back looking up at a pale green sky. The ground beneath her is hard and dry, tightly packed colorless dirt with no ground cover. She sighs, “Why didn't you tell me?” She can't see where Flemeth is, but the woman's voice is near, somewhere close by, “Tell you what? I told you, you are nothing more than a body made to hold a spirit. I never kept that from you.”

Mirae inhales slowly through her nostrils, “You didn't mention the whole slave to a dead elven goddess thing.” The air here is stale, sticky. It rolls into her lungs like smoke.

A pause. Then a soft laugh, “Slave? Who told you that you were a slave?” Flemeth is walking around her supine form, circling her like a predator.

Mirae rolls her head from side to side, trying to catch a glimpse of the strange woman. “Some weird cryptic ancient elf with Mythal's vallaslin.” A fleeting figure in the edge of her sight. It continues to move, never stopping. Never letting her see. “I see. Do you feel that you are a slave?”, the figure asks.

Mirae digs her wet fingers into the dirt. “I mean, I wasn't given a choice to spy for you.” She looks back at the sky, “Why Mythal?”

“Why do you think?” It's a joke, this line of questioning. Mirae knows it. Flemeth knows she knows it. But Flemeth lets her lead the conversation, lets her feel like she's in control.

A sigh. It's obvious now, isn't it? Mirae murmurs, “You're her, aren't you?”

“I am a vessel, just like you. Well, not quite like you. You were made from nothing. My body was human once.” A simple, honest answer. Probably the first one she's heard since she arrived in Thedas. It's an illusion, the sky. The dirt. The air slowly choking her. The wet clothes clinging to her body. Mirae glowers at a sickly green cloud, fat and slow, “Only you get all powerful goddess powers. I'm just an elf with fancy dreams.”

“I guess we can't all be as fortunate as I.” Flemeth stops moving and stands directly at Mirae's feet. She watches over her, darkly painted mouth pursed in the tiniest of smiles. She think this is funny.

“What now?”

Still as those winged statues in the temple. Flemeth speaks clearly, firmly: “You will return to the well through an eluvian. They're nearly done bickering over who will drink from the well.”

More questions. “And then? How will I explain my absence?” Never enough answers.

Flemeth waves a hand, like the answer to her question was obvious, "I will send you through unconscious and just a little roughed up. Perhaps some convenient memory loss. They will convince themselves you were temporarily held captive by the, oh what was it those Chantry fools called them. Ah. Yes, deranged elven cultists. You escaped but were wounded.”

Mirae lifts her head up and gawks at Flemeth, crinkling her nose at the plan, “They're not going to believe that, are they?”

A smile, widening across her wrinkled face. “They will, because they do not want to believe in the truth.”

Disbelief inches its way into Mirae's expression, “Which is?” She stares at the goddess by her feet.

Flemeth cocks her head, a little pride inflecting her voice, “That you are something they have never encountered before. A being created by a god, inhabited by a spirit from another world. You are not an abomination. You are a force of nature crafted by an ancient magic they will never understand. They will believe the lie because the truth is something they cannot comprehend.”

“And Solas?”, Mirae proposes. She digs her fingers deeper into the imaginary dirt.

Flemeth stands tall, hands clasped behind her back. Solas stands like that too. That must be the ancient Elvhen power stance. “My dear, Solas has suspected you all along. His doubts are strong, yes, but his love for you is growing stronger. I'm afraid I cannot help you deal with the fallout, that is something you must face all on your own.”

Mirae watches the fat green cloud leave her line of vision. “Oh, goody.”

 

Chapter Text

The sun shone through a small window of the infirmary, casting a long sunbeam across her face. Mirae squinted and squeezed her eyes, begging the light to go away. Her whole body felt like it had been chewed up and spit out. Just a 'little roughed up' my ass, Flemeth. Mythal. Flemythal. She tried to turn her head away from the light but her right shoulder protested any movement she attempted. A little groan escaped her dry lips. She twists in the bed sheets and her right hand cramps up, pain shooting up her already aching arm.

A cool soft hand gently held her back, a crisp motherly voice chiding her, “Don't move now, Dearie. You dislocated that shoulder.” The voice speaks to someone else, “Please run and let Master Solas know the girl is awake.”

*

Solas is watching her, regarding her with a mix of emotions that she hasn't quite dissected yet. Worry, yes, but something else as well. He sits on a small rickety stool by her sickbed and holds her uninjured hand in his own, rubbing his thumb across the top of her knuckles. His face is drawn, the bags under his eyes so deep they look like bruises. “After Morrigan drank from the Well of Sorrows, you fell out of one of the eluvians. You were completely soaked and unconscious. Cole said voices in the temple were calling out to you.” He takes a deep breath, “Where did you go Mirae?”

Mirae can feel herself digging deeper into the lies she's created. She shakes her head, “I- I don't know. The whispers were overwhelming. I remember a wall with a rune on it and then...nothing. Darkness.” People walk by the window, heading off to do whatever tasks they have for the day. Mirae wishes she could just climb through the window and run away.

Solas is looking down at her hand, still stroking it with his thumb. His voice is taut. Distant. “I see. You don't remember seeing anyone else?” His thumb is calloused; thickened skin drags across her own in slow, rhythmic strokes.

“No.” Her hand is sweating, bent fingers sticking to the flesh of her palm. She can feel the necklace still around her neck, under her clothes. Mirae didn't remember bringing it with her to the Arbor Wilds but there it laid, cold against her skin.

He's pushing now, almost pleading, “You were bruised, your arm dislocated. Are you sure you don't remember-”

Mirae snatches her hand out from his own, holding it close to her wildly beating heart. “I said no, Solas! I don't remember anything.” Her eyes grow blurry, nearly in tears. The healer from before hovers by the door, wringing her hands, looking for an excuse to kick Solas out.

Solas draws his hand into his lap, gazing up at her with steady eyes. He looks disappointed. “I am sorry. I am only trying to understand. I was afraid when we couldn't find you. I tried not to panic but...” He trails off and looks out the window, thinking.

Mirae feels nauseous. She wants him to leave. She wants to go back to sleep. “I didn't mean to worry you. If I remember anything, I'll...let you know.” She's exhausted now, the bruises all over her body stinging with each heartbeat. Mirae slides down on the bed and pulls the thin sheet to her chin, signaling to the healer that she wanted to be left alone.

The woman swoops in, all motherly instinct and professional expertise, “Right, out now, Master Solas. My patient needs some rest.” She herds him out the door, tutting the entire time.

Mirae forces herself to sleep, but not to dream.

*

Morrigan just couldn't help herself. She pulled out all of the books she had stored away for just this moment, a towering pile of previously inaccessible knowledge now hers for the taking. She was downright giddy as she turned the pages and devoured the information laid out before her.

“Mother, are you still reading?” Kieran pouted, trying his best not to sound petulant.

Morrigan, still not tearing her eyes away from the book in front of her, reached out a hand and stroked his cheek affectionately, “Yes, dearest, just a few more pages.

*

Mirae was released from the infirmary after just a few days, her right arm now supported in a clean cotton sling. The healer fretted and kept making sure the knot was properly tied, “Now, I know you think don't need this sling but it's better to be safe than sorry.” The matronly woman smiled and patted Mirae gently on the top of her head, “I've spoken with the head healer and she's said to take all the time you need to heal.” The corners of her eyes crinkle as she chortles, “Not like you could make potions with one arm anyway!” She prattles on, advising her to eat well and get plenty of sleep.

Mirae nods and pretends she's listening. There's a bruise on her chin that she can't help poking at with her good hand. The woman is still talking as she shuts the door behind Mirae, “And none of that Antivan singing or whatever it is you do. Rest!” Mirae blinks and tries to adjust her eyes to the outdoor sun.

What am I going to do with this free time? She thinks, still prodding her sore chin. Ah, yes, let's go wallow in my own self-loathing.

She wanders around the large courtyard of Skyhold, wearily watching the activity around her. Cassandra is practicing, as always. She slams into a dummy with a shout before stabbing it in the side with her sword. Mirae moves on. Her old familiar friends, Doubt and Guilt join her. You could be coming up with a plan to continue lying to Solas or, Guilt wheedled, you could tell him the truth.

He'll rat you out to Leliana. Hope you enjoy being slowly tortured for being a spy, Doubt spits at Guilt. Guilt shakes her little head, No, no. He loves you. He'll understand. Doubt rolls her eyes and bares sharp teeth, How could he love a liar like you?

Common Sense butts into the conversation, Technically, you're both liars.

Mirae doesn't want to listen anymore. She heads to the library to drown her sorrows in books. She takes a different path, the one that won't lead her to Solas.

*

It's dark by the time Mirae has had her fill of reading. Dorian bowed out hours ago, muttering something about a previous engagement. Mirae wonders if that engagement involved two large horns and one eye. She had been fortunate to avoid running into Solas this time, but her luck would run out. It always did.

Mirae wanders aimlessly in the courtyard, dreading heading back to her room with only the voices in her head for company. Sleep would be difficult, she could already tell, and she had already read 'The Busty Mage' cover-to-cover at least a dozen times. She found it comforting in a strange way. Out of boredom, she had tried to braid her hair in its usual plaits but gave it up, leaving it loose against her head.

There was still a light in the barn, the one Blackwall seemingly lived in. Mirae never did figure out if he actually slept there but at this point she was beyond caring. Spying for Flemeth had lost its novelty a long time ago.  She recalled the healers talking over her while she slept, whispering about the judgment of Blackwall and his dark past. Mirae edged herself closer to the barn, following the dim light like a beacon.

Blackwall stood by a worktable, staring at a block of wood in front of him. His hands held onto a hammer and chisel but he wasn't moving. There were a few chunks already carved out of the wood, the burgeoning form of a griffon underneath the early cuts. Mirae knocked on the frame of the open barn door, announcing her arrival. Blackwall grunted in acknowledgment but continued to stare at the block of wood. Mirae coughed, “So, do I still call you Blackwall?”

He shrugged his shoulders, his voice rough but friendly, “If you want. Everyone else does. That is, the ones that still talk to me.” Blackwall placed the chisel and hammer down beside the griffon. Mirae leaned with her good shoulder against the door frame, “The Inquisitor pardoned you. What do you plan on doing next?”

He stepped away from the table and lowered himself on a nearby bale of hay. “The Inquisitor gave me my freedom. I chose to remain here, to help as much as I can.” He slumps forward, his shoulders curled in and his head bowed. Blackwall is a big man, Mirae thought, but sometimes he seems so small.

Mirae pushes off the door frame and plops down with crossed legs on the dirt floor in front of him. It's filthy, she knows, but hay makes her skin itch. She leans forward and pushes her head down at an angle to catch his eye, “I know we haven't spoken much but I am glad to see you stayed.”

Blackwall sits up straight, confused, “Really? Why?”

Mirae shrugs with her one good shoulder, keeping her voice light, “I never met Thom Rainier. Never met the real Warden Blackwall. But I know you. Whatever you call yourself, I know you're a good man.”

He snorts, “I wasn't always a good man.”

Mirae adjusts the knot on her sling. She watches him with a placid smile, “Whatever you did before, you've atoned for. I've seen the good you're capable of.”

Blackwall rubs a gloved palm across his face, a little embarrassed. “Thank you, Lady Mirae,” he mutters while carefully not meeting her eye. He looks at her arm but is decidedly too polite to mention her injury.

The lanterns on the wall flicker, drinking up the lamp oil greedily. She watches the lantern, taking a deep breath and trying to phrase her next question without raising his suspicions. “If you don't mind me asking, what's it like? Revealing a, well, lie like that.” She didn't do a good job, her voice comes out too curious. Too desperate for an answer.

Blackwall laughs and scratches his beard, “It's not the easiest bloody thing I've ever done, I'll tell you that. Fighting a dragon was a more pleasant experience.” He looks at her then, scrutinizing her face with a contemplative look.

Mirae holds her gaze on the distant lantern, “Weren't you afraid? That'd you'd lose everything?” The light burns her retinas and when she blinks, she sees the ghost of the flame behind her eyelids.

“Terrified. The Inquisition has given me a purpose, a home. I would've lost it anyway, had I kept up the lie. You can only hide for so long.” He pushes his hands down on his knees and lifts himself up off the bale of hay. Mirae scrambles to stand up, balancing her body weight on her free hand and righting herself after she wobbles unsteadily on her feet. She dusts off the back of her breeches with her good hand.

Blackwall turns his back to her, facing the worktable again. He picks up the hammer and chisel. “He's mad about you,” he says quietly.

“I'm sorry?”

He clears his throat and speaks louder, “Solas. He's a good man, a mage the likes of which I've never seen before.” Blackwall angles the chisel to the wood and continues his speech, “But he keeps to himself, never shares more than what's necessary. He's different around you, even a blind man could see that. He'd give you his heart on a silver platter if only you'd ask for it.” He takes the hammer and lifts it above his head, ready to drop it on the head of the chisel. “Whatever it is you're keeping from him is none of my business.” The hammer meets the chisel, shaving off a piece of wood; the head of the griffon slowly emerging from the block. Blackwall tilts his head to the side to look at her, “Is this lie so important that you'd throw that all away?”

Mirae looks to her feet, blinking back tears. “Good night, Blackwall.”

He returns to the griffon. “Good night, Mirae.”

*

Second floor. Third door on the left.

Mirae held her hand in the air, hovering in front of the door to Solas's room. She couldn't bring herself to touch even the tiniest bit of skin to the wood, letting him know she was there. She flexes her toes in her shoes, straining against the leather. She needs to clip her toenails, she notes. When she's truly nervous, she focuses on little inconsequential things like this. Anything to distract her from what she planned to do.

A voice behind her, crisp and clipped, “Are you waiting for me?” Solas is standing there, arms hanging limply by his side. He still looks as tired as he did on the day he visited her in the infirmary. Mirae chews on her bottom lip nervously, “Ah, ha. Yeah.”

“Please, come in.” Solas opens the door, guiding her inside. The room is as it was before, perhaps a little messier since the last time she visited. He lights a lantern with the flick of his wrist, the sudden light casting long shadows into the corners of the room. Solas sits in the chair by his desk, “How is your arm?”

Mirae lowers herself to sit on the furthest edge of his bed, as far away from him as she can get. She wishes she had done this in the rotunda, at least there she had several clear exits. “Better. I don't really need this sling but...” He cuts her off, his voice becoming impatient, “Have you remembered anything else?”

Mirae is put off, thrown by his tone. She fiddles with a loose string on her sling. “No. Well, sort of. I remember an elf.” His reply is abrupt, “An elf?”

She waves her free hand over her face, pantomiming the strange elven man's features, “Tall, Mythal's vallaslin on his face.”

A bitter little chuckle. “That would make sense, seeing as it was her temple.” Mirae's stomach churns, empty yet painstakingly filling up with her anxiety. Her mouth is becoming drier by the minute, her lips sticking together when she tries to open her mouth.

Solas taps the fingers of one hand on the desk, rapping a brusque rhythm, “Well?”

She sighs, rubbing her knuckles against the cover on his bed. The last time she was here, she...no. She pushes that intimate moment out of her mind. “That's it,” she pauses, then quickly adds, “No. No, it's not. Solas.” Mirae looks up at him, at his face; he's examining her with detached interest. She rushes the words out, “I'm giving you full permission to hate me!”

Tapping again, fingers rising and falling one after the other. His body language is tense but his voice remains impassive, “I do not recall you giving me a reason to hate you.”

Mirae flinches, pleading, “Please, Solas. Please, just listen. This is really hard for me. I-” But he cuts her off, “Did you know that while you were unconscious, I looked for you in the Fade?”

She's confused and rapidly losing control of the situation. Mirae shakes her head, “What? Solas, please. I-” Solas continues, not listening to her, “There was someone there waiting for you.” He looks down at the floor and releases an abrupt puff of air through his nose, “Can you imagine my surprise when I realized that it was someone I knew. I thought, perhaps, she had sought me out in the Fade.” He's ruthless now, not letting her mind catch up to his words, “Instead, she was there for you. Why, Mirae, would this woman, this friend of mine, be waiting for you? A person she surely has never had the occasion to meet before?”

Everything is spiraling away from her. Mirae's not even sure she's still in her body. Everything feels like it's just out of her grasp. “Solas. Flemeth. She.” Her words come out in gasps, short bursts of sound.

Solas, infuriatingly, remains the very picture of calm. He nods and looks her directly in the eyes, “She made you.”

No time to breathe. To think. “Yes.”

He's aiming another shot right at her. “You are nothing but a puppet created by her to spy on me.”

“Yes,” she replies, even though he already knows the answer. He's no longer looking at her but through her. Mirae feels as much as a part of the room as the threadbare rug on the floor.

Then a brief, too brief, moment of vulnerability: “Was it part of your duties then?” There's an ache there, a deep one that no healing spell could touch.

Mirae frowns, digging her fingers into the coverlet and twisting. The fabric bunches, wrinkling the whole bed. She exhales, eyes wide and stuck on him, “What?”

“Seducing me. Making me...” His aim is true. Mirae can no longer look at him, shutting her eyes in a pained grimace. “I see. That answers the rest of my questions then.”

She keeps her eyes closed, struggling to control her breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth. “She never told me what I was supposed to look for. I was only telling her the day to day stuff,” she adds weakly. She wishes he were angrier, that she had a reason to be afraid. Instead, all she can sense is the pain and disappointment rolling off of him.

A laugh, dry. More of a scoff of disbelief than a true laugh, “Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Mirae drops her head and mutters under her breath, “No, I guess not.”

Solas lifts his hand and gestures out the window, “To sate your curiosity, she was looking for doubt.” She knits her eyebrows together, turning what he just said over again in her head. “Doubt?”, she repeats feebly.

He's looking out the window by his desk now. Solas clasps his hands and rest them on top of a closed book, the title unreadable from where she sat. “This plan will bring chaos to Thedas. Many lives will be lost. Flemeth. Mythal. She wanted to sure I did not falter.” He pauses for a moment, then continues, “When I first awoke from my sleep, I was horrified by this world. The Veil I created had reduced it to a shadow of its former self. Yet civilization still thrived, kingdoms rose from the ashes.”

His voice is firm, resolute: “What I will do. What I must do. It will destroy everything. The people I have come to know and respect will most likely not survive. She sent you to me to keep an eye on my bleeding heart.”

Mirae feels utterly exhausted. Her arm in the sling is heavy, useless. “Does your heart bleed for them?” The thin mattress beneath her sags, putting pressure on her still sensitive body. Mirae would give anything to sleep here in this room wrapped in Solas's arms.

Solas watches the night sky outside of his room.“It does. But I have much older wounds, ones that have nearly bled me dry. I cannot continue to mourn both the world I knew and the world I have come to know. I must choose and she knows that.”

“And you have made your choice?”, she asks in a small voice.

“I have.”

He turns away from the window and finally acknowledges her continued presence in his room. “I recognize that you had no choice in this matter. You were brought here for a specific purpose and you fulfilled that duty.” His tone is diplomatic to the point of being maddeningly practical.

Mirae rises from the bed, sputtering, “Solas, what-” Solas holds up a hand to stop her. He is done with this conversation. “I do not hate you for what you have done. Please. Respect my privacy and allow me to have some time alone.” He stands up from his chair and moves to the door, preparing to twist the knob and cast her out.

I deserve this, I deserve all of this. But Mirae wants to have the last word. She wants to salvage the horrible mess that is spilling out of her chest. She composes herself and looks him directly in the eyes, one last time, “Solas, I have lied every day since I arrived at Skyhold. But what, what I have done here. With you. I never lied about my feelings for you, not once.”

He doesn't move. Doesn't react. Solas doesn't say it but Mirae knows he doesn't believe her. He holds the door open with rigid arms, face pale and expression unyielding. She walks towards the open door and, pausing by Solas, places her hand on his cheek. He remains as still as a statue, gaze firmly fixed at the wall behind her. Pressing a dry, close-lipped kiss to his cheek, Mirae murmurs against his skin: “Ir abelas, ma vhenan.”

Mirae leaves Solas behind, his trembling hands still holding the open door.

 

Chapter Text

 Lavellan wipes the blood off her daggers, smearing thick stains on the thighs of her leather armor. She turns back to Varric and gives him a thumbs-up before dropping down to rifle through the body of the dead bandit. Varric shoulders Bianca with a huff, surveying the area around them for any remaining hostiles. He looks in the direction of Cole and Solas, the two men standing in the middle of the now empty bandit camp.

Cole looks down at his hands, flexing his fingers inwards slowly. “Sorrow, guilt. It was inevitable. She will leave.” Solas attempts to hide a flinch but Varric catches it. The dwarf watches him carefully, studying his every move. Solas slides his staff back into the holster on his back, sighing, “Perhaps that is for the best.”

“No, Solas. She will leave.” Cole lifts his head, his wide eyes peering out from beneath the brim of his hat. Solas clenches his hands into fists, his mouth a thin tight line across his face. He is unsure of how to respond, but an uneasy feeling coiled in his stomach.

Cole shakes his head, crouching down to look closer at a lone dandelion on the ground. The words rush out, almost breathless, “The body is too small. Too heavy. The weight too much to bear. She has no reason to stay.” His words become a little more frantic, “I cannot help, she won't let me. She thinks of flying. Dropping feathers for you to catch. She will leave. A bird spreading its wings for flight.”

Cole extends a single finger to gently skim the halo of dandelion seeds. He whispers to the flower, “She will stay if you ask.”

*

“Take it. I don't want it anymore.” Mirae holds out the amulet to Flemeth, her chin stuck out in shaky defiance. She's in the Fade again, a sickly green mist and circling debris encompass her in a lethargic whirl. Around the clearing, thick drops of water rolled down tall gleaming rocks. Despite all the glory and history of the Fade Solas had extolled to her, she couldn't help but find the naked Fade just a bit revolting. Flemeth stands beneath the statue of a towering weeping figure, looking rather bored.

The older woman looks down at Mirae's extended hand with a blank expression. “He did not take it well.” She shrugs and takes the amulet from Mirae. Flemeth turns it over in her hand, rubbing a thumb over the etching of the wolf, “What will you do now, my little spy?”

Mirae steadies her nerves. She knows Flemeth could rip her limb from limb with just a glance but, honestly, she's beyond caring at this point. “I'm leaving.” Her voice is firm but still quivering just along the edges.

“I see.” Flemeth waits for a beat then continues, “To wander around Thedas?”

Mirae shakes her head, “Maybe. I don't know. I'm done with this. With you.”

Flemeth laughs, her hand still holding on the amulet. “Then there is nothing left for me to say but this: enjoy what little time you have left.” She watching Mirae now, a little pity in her yellow eyes. Mirae blinks, confused, “Excuse me?”

Flemeth walks past her, swinging her hips. “You fulfilled the duty you were created for,” she replies flatly. She watches the path below as if she's waiting for someone else to arrive, “You have no purpose and I will not give you another. Your grasp on this world is tenuous at best.”

A hot flash of anger rises in Mirae's chest. “Why...” She pauses, then bites the inside of her cheek, “Then I will spend my time well.” Her jaw is clenched as she holds back the urge to scream.

“Good.” Flemeth waves a hand, dismissing her, “Now, if you excuse me, I have a little family reunion to attend.”

*

Morrigan sighed and set aside another book. She rubbed her fingers on her temples, massaging away the headache that threatens to derail her plans. All of this knowledge now hers for the taking and she simply did not have enough time in the day to absorb it all. Kieran had pouted over being ignored for her obsessive studying but Morrigan tried to soothe the boy the best she could. How could she make him understand that this was as much for him as it was for her?

She placed her hand flat against her stomach, only now acknowledging the dull hunger that rumbled there. Morrigan smiled and stood from her chair, stretching her legs. She would find Kieran and take a long, luxurious lunch with him in the garden. Maybe she would even nab some of those little Orlesian cakes he had come to love.

“Kieran?”

No reply. She finally noticed that Kieran was no longer in their shared quarters. Morrigan stepped outside and made her way to all of the spots in Skyhold he usually haunted. She swallowed the little panic rising in her throat, “Kieran? Darling?”

Morrigan walked swiftly to the courtyard, peering around every column, doorway, and even under the benches for the boy. Her heart began to pound in her chest. The eluvian, she thought. But, that can't be.

She inhaled deeply through her nose and placed a hand on the door to the room that held the eluvian. To her horror, it was unlocked.

*

Mirae had discarded the sling as soon as she could. The bruises faded from purple to a putrid yellow, then eventually disappeared altogether. During particularly cold mornings her right shoulder would ache deep in the socket. But, for the most part, her body had completely healed from being thrown through an eluvian by a powerful ancient elven goddess.

In the passing weeks, she searched for a purpose. Her mornings were spent in the infirmary making potions and poultices until the other healers made her leave. She no longer ran drills with the other mages, abandoning the practice not long after the death of Colette. Mirae couldn't even bear to visit the library now, not wanting to see Dorian gazing at her with pity in his eyes.

Word traveled fast in Skyhold, for better or for worse. They didn't know the full story, thankfully, only that whatever was between Mirae and the hobo elven apostate was over.

Sera offered to put a very nasty breed of lizard in Solas's bedroll but Mirae waved her off, appreciating the thought but not the act itself. The Iron Bull had extended an open-ended invitation to drown her sorrows in some of the harder stuff he kept in a private supply but, again, she declined. She avoided the rest, too tired to deal with their sympathy.

She didn't have any plans and that fact was starting to eat away at her. If what Flemeth said was correct, Mirae did not have much time left in this world. What exactly would happen wasn't revealed to her but she suspected it meant she'd go back to being a spirit. Mirae chewed on a hangnail while watching the merchants setting up their wares for sale. Maybe I can find Dupont. Travel around as his pretty elven daughter again.

Mirae hadn't performed at the Herald's Rest since she returned from the Arbor Wilds. Her thoughts drifted to the guitar quietly leaning against the wall of her room. Taking a deep breath, she headed into the tavern to speak with Cabot.

The dwarven man was, as he usually was, behind the bar with a sour look on his face. Mirae approached, tapping her fingers lightly on the bar to grab his attention. “Cabot? Is it okay if I perform tonight?” She imbues her voice with a sticky sweetness, the kind she knows he hates. Cabot rolls his eyes and continues cleaning a mug with a dirty rag, “If Maryden doesn't care, I don't.”

Mirae releases a short appreciative whistle, not unlike the chirp of a bird, and gives him a wink. He grunts. Cabot sets the dubiously clean mug aside and stares her down, “You up for it?” Mirae blinks, shocked by this uncharacteristic display of something other than glib hostility. She clicks her tongue, still hiding her forlorn state behind cheer, and waves him off.

If she was going to leave Skyhold, she could at least leave them with one last song.

*

Varric twiddled his thumbs, eyes nervously resting on the elven girl lowering herself down on a stool in the center of the room. He had heard, as had most of Skyhold, of the abrupt end of Mirae's relationship with Solas. What exactly happened was obviously only between them but he couldn't help but feel anger towards Solas. He knew, deep down, that it didn't make much sense. Mirae could have been the one to end it. Still, he felt protective over the young woman and that it was his duty as her protector to be angry at Solas. That, he decided, made sense.

Mirae took a deep breath, panning her eyes around the room to drink in the audience. They sat, their mugs in hand, watching her with curious eyes. She would miss this, she thought sadly. She had been so afraid before her first performance. Then, unexpectedly, it became her lifeline. The one thing one that kept her sane. Singing became as essential as breathing.

She spotted the regulars in their usual spots; the ones who spent nearly every night in the tavern, drinking until Cabot kicked them out. Sera perched beside Blackwall, animatedly discussing something involving someone called 'Widdle' with him. Dorian, in a rather bold move, sat next to Bull and the Chargers. Mirae stifled a little giggle, pleased that the two were becoming more open with their relationship.

Mirae pulled her guitar out of its case, honey brown wood gleaming under the light of the fireplace behind her. She ran a hand across the wood, feeling each little divot and dent on its surface. Her mana bubbled, excited, and pooled under her skin. She sighed and lifted her guitar to her lap.

Her voice was subdued and huskier than usual. Tired. “I quit my dreaming the moment that I found you,” Mirae sang, “I started dancing just to be around you.” The guitar followed along, obediently harmonizing with her. Mirae closed her eyes, “Here's to thinking that it all meant so much more, I kept my mouth shut and opened up the door.”

Mirae started to feel that little hair-raising feeling you get when someone is intensely watching you. She pushed it away, continuing with her song, “I wanted nothing but for this to be the end, for this to never be a tied and empty hand.”

If all the trouble in my heart would only mend.” She's carefully avoiding the eyes of the crowd now, looking up to the roof. On the third floor she can see Cole leaning against the banister, another figure standing next to him. Mirae blinks, trying to readjust her focus back to her singing, “I lost my dream, I lost my reason again.”

She looks past the man beside Cole to the planks of wood on the ceiling, trying her best to ignore his presence. “It's not just me for you, I have to look out too.” In a moment of weakness, Mirae flicks her eyes to the man quickly, just to make sure she wasn't seeing things. “I have to save my life. I need some peace of mind,” she sings, looking directly at Solas. Her chest tightens. She drops her gaze back down to the bottom floor.

Lower now, almost a chant: “I am the only one now, I am the only one now...you may not be around, you may not be around.”  Mirae can feel the heat from the fireplace on her back, making her uncomfortably warm. Sweat builds on her neck, dripping down her back and soaking into her sweater. Panic and bile start to rise in her throat. She struggles to control her breathing.

I am the only one now, I am the only one now, I am...” Mirae drifts off, leaving only the sound of the final notes reverberating off the stone walls. Her fingertips feel numb and as she attempts to shake blood back into them, she notices that she cannot feel her feet. Mirae wiggles her toes, begging them to stop and wake up.

If the audience claps, Mirae doesn't hear it. She rises from the low stool and, bending over her guitar, takes a quick bow. She slips the guitar back into its case. To the confusion of the entire tavern, Mirae places it back on the floor and exits the building.

*

It's getting harder to breathe. Drawing in the cold air, Mirae's lungs seize and protest as she forces down it down. Her feet carry her away from the tavern to the empty battlements, taking larger than usual steps to bring her further away from the living. The buildings and lights of Skyhold become a blur as her eyes fill with tears.

Gasping now. Hard, ragged breaths that leave her shaking against the stone wall. Her legs fail her and she falls to the floor, scraping her knees and shins on impact. Mirae digs her fingers into the grouting between the stone bricks until the plates of her nails splinter. She can't feel the screaming nerves of her fingertips, her body engrossed only in the distinct sense that her heart is trying to escape from its cavity. Mirae covers her ears, yanking hard at the pointed tips with her broken nails. She rocks back and forth, keening in a low defeated hum.

Large, warm hands wrap around her quivering shoulders, curling her against an even warmer chest. She is pulled into a lap and embraced like a child. One hand braces the back of her neck, the other rubbing soothing circles on her back. The last tiny shred of willpower holding her back rips apart. Mirae releases a howl of pain as her vision clouds over. She claws at the fabric of Solas's tunic, smearing the blood from her tattered fingertips into the weave. He rests his chin on the top of her head, murmuring soft comforting sounds.

She hiccups and babbles, barely coherent, “She, she said I would leave. And I thought I wanted to but, but I don't, Solas. I don't want to leave this place. I don't want to leave you. I know you said you don't hate me but I know you do.” It all comes out in a single breath. She shivers and hiccups again.

Solas pushes her back gently so he can look her in the eye. His voice is calm and steady, “Just look at me. Hold a moment." Mirae tries to clear her vision by rapidly blinking and focuses on the hazy face in front of her. "Good. Follow my breathing.” He takes a deep inhale through his nose, nodding to Mirae to copy him. Pursing his lips, he releases a slow exhale. Mirae follows as he repeats the action several times, her heart finally beginning to slow its zealous thumping. Solas brings her back closer to enclose her body in his. “Can you feel the wind on your skin? The weight of my hands on you? You are here, Mirae. I have you.”

Mirae releases her death grip on his tunic. Her eyes are still bleary and stinging from the cold. “I want to stay, Solas,” she whimpers against his chest.

“No one is making you leave,” Solas reassures her gently. His hand is still moving in languid strokes on her back, leaving trails of warmth on her skin.

Mirae shakes her head, rolling her forehead into his sternum, “She said I have no purpose now. I'll go back to being a spirit. I-I'm just an empty thing. A nothing. Noth-” Solas interrupts her, his voice firm, “Stop. We will find a way so you can stay, I promise.”

A soft, hesitant thing creeps into her brain. Something Mirae hasn't encountered for a long time.

“We?”, she mumbles. She's so tired now. Her body worn out from panic. Her eyes are sore and swollen.

She can feel her heart slow and mirror the beating of his. She's still copying his breathing, a steady circular pattern that her lungs greatly appreciate. Solas buries his fingers in her hair, tenderly rubbing them against her scalp. He presses his closed mouth to the top of her head and holds it there, his hot breath sending goosebumps down her spine.

Solas doesn't respond to her query. He holds her as Mirae gives in to the great exhaustion pulling her to sleep.

Chapter Text

Mirae felt positively warm and cozy nestled in a cocoon of blankets, a soft pillow under her head, and with a very prolonged source of steady heat pressed against the entirety of her backside.

Mirae felt her swollen eyes struggle to open; pushing back her eyelids was a lot harder than it usually was. She groaned and stretched the muscles in her legs, flexing her feet, and popping the little bones in her ankles. Her eyes flickered open as she rubbed at the hard crust of sleep built up in the corners. She looked at the bookcase on the opposite wall, then to the desk by the window. She drifted over to the patchy rug under the desk. Mirae paused. She looked back to the bookcase. The desk. The rug. Her brain was finally starting to wake and realize that she was not in her room. Not in her bed. No, Mirae was in Solas's room, the man himself fast asleep beside her.

Under normal circumstances, she'd be ecstatic. How many times had she fantasized about this exact moment? Sleeping peacefully next to Solas, preferably right after very enthusiastic physical activity. Their one night together didn't even end this way – Mirae had crept out while he slept, fleeing to her own room before dawn. Solas had been too polite to bring it up but she knew he was upset by her leaving without a word. That night her guilt had eaten away at her, refusing to let her sleep next to him.

Now, here she was, playing the little spoon to the man she craved so badly it nearly hurt. Mirae felt embarrassed at the vulnerable state Solas had seen her in. She wanted to pretend that she could leave and not care.

Solas shifted in his sleep. Mirae froze. He sleepily threw one arm over her torso and drew her in closer. With a sigh, he buried his nose into the dark hair bunched at her neck. Mirae closed her eyes and forced herself to go back to sleep, greedily holding on to the peace of the moment for as long as she could.

*

Morrigan watched as Kieran slept, unable to look away for even a second. She smoothed a hand over his dark hair, searching his face for any sign of harm. True to her word, Flemeth had not laid a hand on the boy. An old fear still stalked around the edges of her brain. Morrigan was too used to the antics of her mother to trust that Kieran was perfectly fine. But, she reluctantly conceded, the boy slept well. Perhaps even better than before now that the dark dreams were gone. Kieran no longer woke in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, babbling incoherently about the memories he saw in the Fade. Memories that were somehow not his but belonged to him anyway.

So Morrigan watched him sleep, too afraid that if she blinked he would be spirited away. She leaned over the bed and pressed a soft kiss to his forehead.

*

Mirae fiddled with a bundle of moist herbs, trying to wrap it in cheesecloth before it spilled everywhere. The smell of rashvine and spindleweed made her want to sneeze.

A junior healer pushed open the door and ran to her worktable. Gasping for breath, the boy looked bewildered as he exclaimed, “Mirae! There's some man out by the main gates that says he's your father.”

Mirae pushed back from the table, equally as confused. She knit her eyebrows together as she rose from her seat to go see what exactly was happening. “What man? I don't have a...” She left the infirmary, digging through her mind at what kind of person would go around claiming to be her father.

Walking past the door to the tavern was a tall Orlesian in a golden mask waving his hand in the air enthusiastically. “My little one! Your hair has grown so long!” Mirae stopped. Her heart jumped into her throat as she raced to the open arms of Dupont, the man laughing as he spun her around. Her joy was overflowing as she planted a flurry of little kisses on his mask. Dupont placed her back on the ground with a chuckle, “Tia is well. She misses you. I have missed you too.”

Mirae felt the pinprick of tears behind her eyes. Tia. She shook her head and grinned, “What are you doing here, my dear father?”

Dupont waved his hand over his mask in a sweeping motion, “They asked me who I was at the gate. I told them I was the father of the famed Songbird!” He leaned in close, eyes behind his mask sparkling, “I have some business to conduct here.”

Mirae looked around for his cart and noticed that he arrived empty-handed. She watched him with a puzzled look. Dupont ignored her and glanced around, eyes searching the courtyard. He walked towards the stairs that led to the other side of the yard, his long legs making it difficult for Mirae to keep up. He scanned over the faces of every person he saw, his eyes narrowed and focused. Dupont paused, eyes locked on to the barn and the man standing right outside of the open doors. He gestured with his head over to the far off figure of Blackwall, “That man, there.” He turned his head to Mirae for confirmation, “He is the one you call Blackwall?”

Barely after she nodded her head, Dupont took off in large strides across the courtyard. Mirae scrambled behind him, still completely lost as to what was happening. Dupont approached Blackwall with clear intent. He tapped on the other man's shoulder and announced loudly, “Bonjour, mon ami. I am Dupont. I believe we knew each other once.”

Blackwall spun around, thrown back by the sudden touch. Dupont carefully removed his mask and handed it over to a bewildered Mirae. He continued, “You were known as Thom then. I was Étienne, a mercenary who served under you.”

Blackwall blinked, shifting on his feet to get a better look at Dupont. “Bloody hell, Étienne. It really is you,” he scoffed.

A smile, amiable and deadly. Dupont tilted his head, raising his hand to wag a finger at Blackwall, “I believe we need to settle a debt.”

Blackwall raised an eyebrow and began to open his mouth when, to the shock of the crowd that had begun to gather round, Dupont landed a clear and teeth-rattling punch to his jaw. Blackwall fell back on his ass, knocking into a few of the on-lookers. A few gasps rose into the air and Mirae clasped Dupont's mask to her chest as she winced at the sound of fist meeting jaw.

With an annoyed grumble, Dupont shook his hand to relieve the jarring pain of shooting in the bones of his fingers, “There. The debt is settled." The smile on his face softened as he stared down at the fallen man, "Live well, Blackwall.” Dupont held out his hand to the fallen Blackwall, silently urging him to take it.

Blackwall rubbed his bearded jaw with a gloved hand, eyeing Dupont and his offered hand skeptically. On an exhale, he shook his head with a low chuckle. He took the other man's extended hand and allowed himself to be pulled up to standing. Steadying himself, Blackwall puffed out his chest and firmly shook Dupont's hand, “You too, Dupont.”

*

“I was born in the alienage of Val Royeaux.” Mirae's eyes widened in shock and Dupont chuckled at her response, “Ha, by the look on your face, you would not have guessed I was elf-blooded. Yes, my mother was an elf, a beauty by the name of Leona. I never knew my father and I really never cared to know him. I loved my mother, my mamae, and needed no one else.”

Dupont sat next to Mirae on the grass beside the sparring ground. His mask laid abandoned in his lap. He plucked thin blades of grass and crushed them beneath his fingers, clearly nervous over sharing his life story. He continued, “She raised me the best she could, working as a servant in the house of a lesser noble. She died when I was barely out of boyhood. Murdered by a drunken chevalier out to prove himself.”

Mirae frowned and took one of his hands in her own, squeezing it gently. He smiled and turned a sorrowful eye to his gleaming mask, “I took odd-jobs to survive, eventually falling into the life of a mercenary. By the time I worked for Rainier, I was a drunk and a whore monger.” Dupont laughed nervously, “Ah. Sorry, excuse my language, little one.” Mirae scoffed and waved him off, urging him to continue.

“When the Callier job turned into a massacre, I ran. Disgusted with what I had become. I hid my face behind a mask and became Dupont, a traveling merchant. It was hard work, but it is a better life than the one I had. Although I am still not sure I deserve it.” He took his hand from hers and ran it down the mask in his lap, tracing the bland golden features with his fingertips. Mirae watched him, her heart aching over his story.

Dupont exhaled and placed the mask back on his face, its smooth visage turning him back into Dupont the merchant. He turned to embrace Mirae, pressing a cheek to hers. He smelled of spices and earth, she noted. She closed her eyes at the pleasant scent, surprised that it felt totally and utterly him. Dupont hugged her so tightly as if he were afraid she'd slip out of his arms and fly away. Eventually, they parted and he placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. Cupping her other cheek with one hand, he examined her face from behind his mask. Mirae frowned and watched, still lost at his ever changing mood, as his face relaxed again. He ruffled her hair with affection and laughed as she fussed over her ruined plaits. 

Dupont sighed, looking down at the torn grass he destroyed, “Mirae, little one, I cannot stay long. Know this: I will always return to lead you home. Sule tael tasalal, da'len.”

*

They sat in their now usual seats, the ones they occupied whenever they were in Solas's room. Mirae perched on his bed, absentmindedly playing with a loose thread on his coverlet, and Solas sitting stiff-backed at his desk. He ran his hands over the pages of a book, the title of which was written in Tevene. Mirae chewed on her bottom lip, wondering when Solas had learned Tevene and if he would teach her. Solas closed the book but kept his eyes locked on his desk, “I will be by the Inquisitor's side as she battles Corypheus. There is a chance I will not return.”

Mirae yanked the thread out of the coverlet, undoing several stitches. She shook her head furiously, her braids thumping against her back. “Don't say that!”

Solas sighed and pushed the closed book away, “Please, Mirae. Death is always a possibility. If I survive, there is still a likelihood that I will not return to Skyhold.” Mirae smoothed a hand over the bed, still chewing nervously on her lip. She could feel a tiny cut split the skin under her anxious tooth. Solas kept his head down, studying the wood grain of the desk with a contemplative gaze. “What you said to me earlier. About my plan. Do you still...” His was voice was soft, questioning.

Mirae sat up straight, nodding firmly, “Yes. I meant what I said.”

The tiniest of smiles, the first one she had seen in on his face in several weeks. “I see.” He coughs and turns to look at her, “Then once I have completed what needs to be done in regards to the orb and a few other tasks, I will send word for you to join me.”

“How?” Still chewing on her lip, the slightest taste of copper in her mouth.

“One of my agents will bring you to me.” Mirae couldn't help but drop her mouth open at his use of the word agent and looked at him utterly baffled. Solas chuckled, waving a hand casually, “I have not been sitting idly by this entire time.”

She laughed, genuinely impressed, “Well, color me surprised. You've always got something up your sleeve don't you, Solas?”

He returned her smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling. Mirae wanted nothing more than to plant a kiss there, to feel the folds of his skin under her lips. They sat there in silence for just a moment but it was long enough for her to feel shy. She pulled at the cuffs of her sweater, bowing her head so he wouldn't see the blush creeping on to her face. “Solas, is it okay if I stay...here...tonight?” Mirae dropped her voice, embarrassed at her request, “I'm afraid. I'm afraid that once I fall asleep, I'll slip into the Fade and never return.”

Solas rose from his seat at the desk and sat next to her on the bed, the mattress sagging under his added weight. He placed a hand on her knee, a tender reassurance, “Oh, Mirae, I would never let that happen.”

Mirae kept her head down, face burning hot at his touch. She dug her fingers into the sleeves of her sweater, straining the yarn beneath her still ragged nails, “But how can you stop it? Flemeth said that I-” Solas cut her off, his voice impassioned, “Then I would look for you. Bring you back to me.”

She scoffed, not out of cruel skepticism, but hopelessness, “But how?”

“I would find you, ma vhenan, even if I had to tear the Fade apart with my bare hands.”

Mirae paused. She played those words over and over again in her mind, the little bird who lived in her chest singing and soaring. Spread them out, each syllable a sweet chord she could strum on her guitar. Ma. Vhe. Nan. She put her fingers to her lips, curling them over the grin that she could no longer hold back. Solas frowned, lost at her sudden change of mood. Mirae peeked out at him from beneath her eyelashes, “You've never called me that before.”

He chuckled, “I am sure I have before? Have I not?”

Mirae shook her head, holding back a little giggle rumbling in the back of her throat, “No. Never.” She felt stupid to let a little thing like this make her so happy. But it did. It made her, if only for a moment, forget the uncertain future that laid before her.

Solas squeezed her knee, muttering to himself but loud enough that she could hear, “Ah. Must have only done so in my head, then.”

She couldn't hold it in any longer. Mirae twisted her torso to face him, moving her hands to both sides of his face just below his ears. She started with one cheek, traveling, pecking every inch of skin until she made it to the other cheek. She kissed his forehead scar and the little chin dimple she loved so much. Every corner, every ridge. She loved them all and made sure Solas knew it. He closed his eyes and she kissed his eyelids, relishing the flutter of the thin skin beneath her lips. Mirae kissed him on his lips, softly, then firmly. Solas shuddered against her mouth and moved his hand from her knee to her back. She pressed her chest against his, still cradling his head in her hands. He attempted to nudge her lips apart with his tongue, swiping short teasing licks across her bottom lip.

Mirae hummed against his greedy mouth, “You never answered my question. Can I sleep here tonight?”

Solas wrapped his other arm around her back, fully encircling her in his embrace. He lowered his mouth to her jaw, trailing along the bone with a murmur, “Of course, ma vhenan. Tonight and every night.”

 

Chapter Text

Mirae paced around the infirmary, watching in the corner of her eyes as some of her fellow mages received their orders for the upcoming battle. They whispered to each other, nervous, yet excited to be a part of a truly historic battle.

Mirae was just a little bit peeved. Well, more than a little bit. She stomped out of the infirmary, several hours before her shift was to be over, and went about searching for the Commander. She climbed the stairs to the battlements, passing by several other groups of people discussing their assignments. Mirae frowned and burst through the door of Cullen's office.

Maker's – Have you ever heard of knocking?”

Mirae couldn't help but widen her eyes to far beyond their normal size. Lying on her back on the desk, the Inquisitor was pulling down her silken top, fingers flying down to button her undone blouse. Cullen pulled away and stepped behind the desk, adjusting the front of his trousers with one hand while the other smoothed his hair back. They were both shades of red that Mirae didn't know even existed in nature.

Lavellan hopped to her feet, hair messily sticking out of her side braid, and tried to put off an air of complete nonchalance, “Oh, hello Mirae. Funny meeting you here. Cullen and I – I mean the Commander and I were just going over-”

Mirae held out a hand and stopped her, “I'm not an idiot.”

Lavellan quirked her head to the side, a crooked smile spreading on her face, “Didn't mean to imply you were.” Cullen dropped into his chair, throwing his head back to gaze at the ceiling. The contents of his desktop were in complete disarray and he quietly went to rearrange everything. Mirae watched him, clearly aware that he was now ignoring her presence. Lavellan coughed and leaned against the desk, “So, Mirae. What brings you here, unexpected, today?”

 “I didn't receive any orders for the upcoming battle.” Mirae tried not to pout but still ended up sounding like she was on the verge of a tantrum.

The Inquisitor put her hands down and lifted herself to sit on top of the desk. Cullen swiftly sat back and shoved his hands in his lap, abandoning his clean up to prevent any possible chance of touching the Inquisitor in front of their unwelcome visitor. Lavellan picked up a quill and twirled it in her fingers, “That's because you're not coming.” Sensing Mirae's confusion, Lavellan shrugged, “You were injured at the Arbor Wilds.”

Mirae shook her head and made a show of rotating her previously injured shoulder, “But I'm fine now – look!” She gave it a little wiggle and, for flourish, cast a small flame in her right hand.

The Inquisitor opened her mouth to reply when Cullen interrupted her, “Just tell her the truth.” He looked over to Mirae and sighed, “Solas requested that you be left behind for your own safety.”

It was Mirae's turn to be embarrassed. She dropped her head to look at her feet, her outrage swiftly extinguished. “Oh. I see. Uh, sorry about this. Please, excuse me.” As she turned to leave, she added with a wink, “As you were.”

“Will do!”, Lavellan shouted in response as Mirae shut the door behind her. Cullen sank further into his seat, eyes glazing over as he watched a light dusting of snow fall from the hole in the roof.

*

Mirae had reluctantly started sleeping in her own bed again. The small single-person bed felt too big with just her in it. Bedtime was a vicious cycle – she would feel tired, start to fall asleep, feel anxious about falling asleep, and then force herself awake. It left her frustrated and fatigued. Eventually, Mirae would just pass out from pure exhaustion. Still, she visited Solas in the Fade every night, praying their connection would keep her tethered to her body.

“You could've told me.”

Solas watched as several spirits reenacted a small festival. They swung from each other's arms, trading dance partners with broad smiles. A little spirit sat in the grass tying colorful flowers to one another in the shape of a crown. With a shy smile, it handed one to Solas who promptly placed it on his head. Mirae stifled a laugh before attempting to look serious, “You asked the Inquisitor not to send me to the battle with Corypheus?”

Solas looked away from the revelry reluctantly. “Oh. That,” he replied flatly.

She poked a finger at his flower crown, tipping it back on his head. “You didn't tell them, did you?”

With deft fingers, Solas plucked the floral crown from his head and dropped it on Mirae's. “No. Our reconciliation remains our little secret.”

Mirae smiled and turned to watch the spirits twirling each other around. The little spirit on the ground had amassed a small pile of flower crowns, working tirelessly to make more. She bent over and picked up another one, smoothing the petals beneath her fingers. “Good.” Mirae arranged it on Solas's head with a gentle touch before stepping towards the dancing spirits. She held out her hand to him and performed an elegant half bow, “Dance with me, my king?”

Solas smiled and took her hand.

*

Watching the troops leave Skyhold reminded her of Adamant. Mirae felt bitter old fears rear their heads again. She pushed them down, burying them under the fragile hope she had allowed herself to cultivate.

Solas had visited her in the morning to hold her tightly. He whispered many things, sweet and serious, in her ear as he held her. They floated in her head, words melding into a hymn she cradled close to her heart.

She sang the words under her breath as the great walls of Skyhold thumped with the sounds of war.

*

Mirae sleeps, afraid, but so utterly worn out that escaping from the waking world felt like a blessing.

In the middle of a dark clearing sat a gray, slanted hut. A black bird perched on the roof, silent and watching smoke pour into the sky from a small bonfire.

The tinkle of jewelry grabbed her attention. Mirae searched for the source of the sound, finding a small figure resting on a log on the other side of the flames. “Well, well, my little thief. You have been busy.”

Mirae nearly leapt through the fire to throw her arms around the sitting elven woman. “Tia!”, she cried happily. Tia clapped a hand on Mirae's bent head and gave her a friendly pat, mussing her braids.

Tia gently pushed her away and warned, “Ah! Hug too tight and I will break. These bones are old, you know.” She gestured for Mirae to sit next to her on the log. Mirae sat beside her, nearly giddy as she took in the sight of the marsh. She knew that she wasn't actually there but the Fade provided a pretty decent approximation. “I'm sorry. I just. I missed you.”

“Ha! I missed you too.” A loud bark of laughter that echoed off of the edges of the dream. Tia grinned with wide, gleeful eyes, “So, the wolfling has given you his heart?”

Mirae blushed and wrung her hands, “Oh, that. So you heard...” She watched the fire, the flames flickering against the darkened sky.

Tia waved her hand, bracelets jingling with every movement. “It is better to be given than to steal, yes? I understand. In his youth, he was quite hot-headed. I take it he has calmed his blood?” She peered at Mirae, curious. Her copper eyes reflected the flames of the bonfire, giving them a molten appearance. Mirae snorted, “Yes. He is almost obnoxiously calm sometimes.”

Tia nodded sagely, “Good. Burn too hot and you quickly burn through an already too short wick.”

Tia waited for a beat, nodding her head to herself silently. The white bun of hair shook as she muttered something in a low voice. She placed a wrinkled hand on Mirae's elbow and timidly asked, “Have you given any thought about my gift?”

Mirae knit her eyebrows together. “Gift? You mean the control over my dreams?”

“What? You – you dummy! You were a spirit! The Fade is your natural habitat,” Tia sputtered in disbelief. She threw her hands in the air, “Ay. Pfft. Is that what the hag told you it was?”

Mirae shrugged, “No. Not really. She just said that Solas would like it.” She watched as Tia wiggled in her seat.

Tia shook her head in short rapid bursts, muttering to herself, “Tricky thing, Flemeth.” She looked back to Mirae, “I bet she told you had no purpose now. That you would go back to being a spirit.”

“Yes. She did. Well, sort of.” Mirae sighed at the thought of the endlessly cryptic Flemeth, “She doesn't like to explain things, does she?”

Tia pursed her lips and tapped her chin with her pointer finger, “Obvious, but not obvious. If I were younger, I'd give her a good thumping.” She grinned at the thought before swiftly shoving her withered finger in Mirae's face, “My name, Mirae, do you remember it?”

Mirae froze. She can remember dirty quotes from a trashy romance novel but this? She racked her brain and tried to sound out Tia's ridiculously long name, “A-ame uhh.”

“Too long with the shems! Rotting your mind. I bet you don't even remember how to peel a potato.” She shook her finger at the younger elf, “Amelanen'u'vunen! What does that mean?” Tia sounded out each part of her name loudly, urging Mirae to listen.

“Uhh. U'ven is star. Amelan is keeper.” Tia blew a wet raspberry, flicking little bits of spit in Mirae's face. She grimaced and wiped the spittle off of her cheek. Tia smacked her on the back with an open palm, “Too slow. Keeper of the stars. Silly name, right? Too long. But-” Tia leaned in and whispered even though they were the only ones around, “Not my name. Not really. A title.”

Mirae opened her mouth, trying to sort through the many questions filling her head. Tia laughed, “Do you think I sit in a marsh for fun? Suffer that horrible bird? No. My job. I watch.”

Tia looked up at the sky, eyes softening, “I watch the stars. I watch the flow of tides. I write them down in my head. Songs of this world.” She looked down at her hands and slowly curled her short, worn fingers into her lined palm. “I am old and cannot walk the land as I could before. Now, I remember. It is quiet in the marsh, except for that damn bird, and I think clearly. I send it to the stars so that all can remember.”

Mirae watched the shadows that carved Tia's face. Tia still looked as she did when Mirae left but a part of her knew that this was only another illusion of the Fade. Tia was lively here, yes, but there was a hollowness she couldn't ignore. Mirae took one of Tia's hands in her own, her fingers intertwining with the old woman's. “But how? I don't understand.”

“When I dream, I visit The Fade. Spirits performing the parts of a play no one remembers the title to. They know, they will hold on to the memories. I fill in the holes, or at least I try to. Sometimes it is silly little things – the scent of plants that no longer grow. But they are important in their own ways. To someone.” Tia smiled with watery, tired eyes. “I remember what was given to me from the one before me and I will give what I remember to one who comes next.”

Mirae squinted at the old woman, “Tia. Are you saying that you're some kind of walking, talking Well of Sorrows?”

A pleased little laugh bubbles in Tia's throat. “Ha! I am tied to no god! Mythal wishes! I. We. The stars belong to no one. No one owns the sky. Not even the gods.” Tia squeezes Mirae's hand and gives her a knowing look, “Before you left, I gave you just a bit. To prepare you for this world. Reading books is a pale imitation of this strange place, no?”

“You've got that right,” Mirae chuckles bitterly. Tia closes her eyes and shakes with silent laughter. She holds Mirae's hand so tightly, with so much trembling strength. The magic around Tia is practically buzzing now, the Fade around her shimmering. Tia leans in, pressing her button nose to Mirae's forehead, “Flemeth said you have no purpose. That you are an empty thing, no?” Mirae nodded, closing her eyes. She can feel Tia's touch changing, growing. It spreads from the little points of contact, tingling and warm on her skin.

Tia's voice is nearly in whispers now but it surrounds Mirae, filling her ears like wind. “Emptiness is not a bad thing, little thief. More room to steal.” A sigh, soft in her mind, “Room to fill yourself with love. Memories. Songs. Emptiness is not a curse, da'len. It is a gift.”

Mirae opens her eyes and sees that Tia is no longer the shrunken elf she has come to love. Her deep skin bleeds into the heavens, copper eyes two large stars that shine brighter than anything else in the sky. The hut is gone and so is the fire, the light of Tia's eyes illuminate the space between them. Mirae looks down at Tia's hands, only to find herself wrapped in stars. She's nervous, hopeful, “Then, you're giving me a purpose?” Mirae watches enraptured as Tia fades, becoming the air that slips into her lungs, “I can stay?”

Tia is smiling, her teeth the clouds that drift across the horizon, “Little one, your purpose will be to stay. Stay and watch. Remember for those who cannot.”

*

When Mirae wakes, she no longer feels the weight of emptiness pulling at her shoulders. She smiles in the dark, still feeling the warmth of Tia's embrace on her skin. The stars, the memories, wait patiently in her head. She stretches her legs and buries her head against her pillow, no longer afraid of sleeping.

Mirae returns to the Fade to search for Solas and to tell him the good news.

*

The Inquisitor and her troops arrive back in Skyhold, triumphant and ready to celebrate. Josephine scurries around the main hall, a long list trailing behind her as she prepares for the victory celebration. Invitations to be sent and sweet little cakes to be ordered.

Ale and food flow freely as the entirety of the Inquisition revels in their success.

Mirae watches from the end of the long banquet table, wrapping her hands around a too large mug of ale. She grimaces when she sips from it, disturbed by how skunky it tasted. She takes in the party around her, examining the familiar faces populating the hall.

On the other end of the table, Sera sits next to Dagna, her arm thrown around the dwarf's shoulder as she leans in close and talks too loudly. Dagna is all smiles, her full cheeks ruddy with joy as she basks in the attention. Blackwall is across from them, laughing at something Sera had said. Mirae hadn't seen him since the confrontation with Dupont but she couldn't help but notice how much more relaxed he was since coming out as Thom Rainier. She smiles as she watched him enjoy himself.

Cole sat perched on the top of an identical table that ran parallel to the Mirae sat at. He wasn't drinking, nor speaking to anyone. He just watched, eyes peering out from beneath his hat. The Chargers were crowded around him, shouting over one another in a chaotic conversation. Bull slapped a hand on Cole's shoulder and handed him a drink, saying something that Mirae couldn't make out over the yelling of the Chargers. Cole looks down at the mug and gives it a sniff before frowning and handing it back to Bull. Bull laughs and takes it for himself, downing it one gulp.

Farther away, Vivienne, Dorian, and Josephine stand in a circle chatting with some overdressed Orlesians. Josephine still looks on edge as she shifts her gaze around the hall, her fingers gripping a wine glass so tightly it looked close to shattering. Leliana walks up behind her and whispers something in her ear. Josephine relaxes and eases her grip on the glass. Leliana smiles and pats the other woman on the back as she casually walks away.

In the back of the hall, Mirae notices something that makes her laugh. The Inquisitor, drunk beyond belief, pulling an equally drunk Cullen into her bedchambers. The door shuts without a sound, leaving the party none the wiser. Mirae decides not to call attention to the absence of the hero of the hour, keeping her mouth shut to let the two lovers enjoy a well earned moment alone.

A light hand touches Mirae's shoulder, pulling her out of her thoughts. Varric lowers himself into the seat next to her, shaking his head, “Birdy, I'm sorry. Solas. He left right after the battle without a word to anyone.” Mirae carefully fixes an expression of sorrow on her face and Varric sighs, believing every wordless lie she has just told him.

At that moment, Cassandra walks behind him and pauses briefly, “Leliana is sending scouts to look for him.” She turns to Mirae with a somber nod, “She will find him.” Mirae smiles weakly and looks down at her mug, the familiar feeling of guilt easing its way back into her stomach.

 

Chapter Text

“Patient. Waiting. A bird listening for a wolf.”

Cole sits high in a tree, looking down at where Mirae rests on a stone bench in the inner courtyard of Skyhold. The area is nearly empty except for two chatty Chantry sisters tending to the herb garden. Mirae sighs and glances up at Cole, his long legs dangling above her head from his leafy hiding spot.

He continues, breathless, “They think you are hurting. They want me to help but you hold him in your dreams. You don't need my help. Not with this. He's gone ahead but you will soon follow.”

Mirae scratches her neck nervously, keeping a close eye on the sisters as they cheerfully worked at harvesting some very stubborn deathroot, “I'd rather you not tell anyone about this.”

Cole pouts, “No, I won't say a word.” Then, he adds with a happy whisper, “I promised him I wouldn't.” She can't see his face but can hear the pleased grin in his voice. Cole, sweet Compassion, always so eager to help.

Mirae snorts as one sister pulls away a chunk of root from the soil and crows in victory, holding the plant above her head like a trophy.

“I see.” Mirae reaches up and gives Cole's foot a playful tug, “Thank you, Cole.” The leaves in the tree shake with delight.

*

After the defeat of Corypheus, Mirae had wondered how long the Inquisition would continue operating. The population of Skyhold was steady and the army kept busy with reconstruction efforts. Mages and the remaining Grey Wardens aided the Inquisition and made easy work of the Venatori and Red Templars that still skulked around dark corners of Thedas. The Inner Circle came and went as they pleased, each trip away lasting longer than the one before. Eventually, Vivienne left Skyhold permanently, eager to return to the comforts of Orlais once Leliana had been chosen as the next Divine. Dorian made long, frequent trips to Tevinter, leaving Iron Bull to pout and drown his sorrows in the tavern.

Mirae couldn't help but feel a huge weight lifted off her shoulders when Morrigan left. The witch had gathered her things and her son one night and left without a word to anyone - not even a letter to Leliana. Mirae knew she was being unfair; Morrigan had every right to be angry and distrustful of her. It just felt good not to have the threat of exposure over her head as she waited.

Waiting, she thought, was beginning to grow old. Solas visited her occasionally in the Fade and these visits were nothing short of pleasant – all heated kisses and sweet nothings. But sweet nothings grew stale and bitter as she felt herself grow restless. In between tight embraces and a flurry of kisses, he reassured her that he would send for her 'soon'. Soon, it seemed, was not an easily estimated amount of time. There was still one more thing he needed to do, Solas promised.

So, she waited. Mirae took on extra jobs around Skyhold, eagerly volunteering to go out in the field for once. She followed her orders dutifully and acted as a healer when needed. Her combat spells weren't that bad, still erring on the side of defense rather than offense. Solas had taught her a few of his favorite spells, ones that pulled from the Fade and twisted the Veil on itself. The spells left her feeling tired but it was a good kind of tired, one that made sleep come easy.

Sleep was another place she kept herself busy. Tia's gift had given Mirae the opportunity to deepen her knowledge of the world around her and to share it. Sometimes it was little things, like reminding the spirits the color of the banners that flew over Skyhold when it was Tarasyl'an Te'las. Other times, it was seeing the stories that unfolded from the old stones as she passed them by. The many lives that had once graced the halls bled into each other, layering their memories into messy, confused piles. Mirae cracked her knuckles and, digging her dream fingers into the jumbled history, set herself to work.

*

“We've missed your singing, Birdy.”

Mirae sat at the bar, quietly watching Cabot sling mugs of frothy ale to waiting hands. She drummed her fingers against her own mug, unable to look Varric in the eye. “Really? I just haven't felt like it since...”

A thick, warm hand gently pat her on the shoulder. Varric's voice was all sympathy and sweetness. “No, I get it. Take all the time you need.”

Mirae lifted the mug to her lips and took a deep drink, sending liquid rushing down her throat. It coated her mouth, leaving a distinctly bitter taste on her tongue. She frowned at the sickly feeling rising in her chest, the bile churning in her stomach.

*

Solas took her hands in his, his face tired and drawn. He had come to her in a dream again, carefully approaching her as she watched two spirits reenact the night before a large battle. One spirit paced around the small room as the other sat on a thinly stuffed mattress. Lovers, she thought, frightened of the future. Mirae squinted, trying to fill in the gaps of the memory played out before her.

He gave a gentle squeeze, his eyes shining with a strange glow, “I have completed what needed to be done.”

Mirae looked away from the spirits, raking her gaze across his face. Deep shadows stretched down his cheekbones like bruises. She squeezed his hand in reply, “Oh? Only took you a few months. What was it?”

Solas gave her a thin, wane smile. “Perhaps it would be better to explain in person,” he replied in a light voice.

Mirae's heart jumped, “You...you mean it? No more waiting?”

He chuckled weakly, “Just a little more waiting, vhenan. My agent is on their way to Skyhold now.”

Mirae pushed down the urge to pout. More waiting, but not much more. She could do that. The spirits embraced, two shimmering figures of pure emotion. Mirae felt tears prick at her eyes. She motioned her head toward the spirits, murmuring to Solas, “They never saw each other again.”

Solas wrapped his arms around her waist, drawing her close in a move mimicking the still embracing spirits. Mirae closed her eyes and pressed her head against his chest.

“Do the memories bother you?”

Mirae shook her head, burying her forehead deeper against him, “Sometimes. There's a lot to sort through. It's,” she paused and chewed on her bottom lip, “It's like reading multiple books at once and trying to keep the plots from tangling up in my head.” Mirae sighed as he rubbed a thumb against her lower back, massaging the base of her spine with the pad of his finger. “Skyhold is old and the memories are innumerable. I want to do them justice. I want to remember all of them.”

Solas pressed his lips to the top of her head and hugged her tighter. The two of them watched silently as the spirits faded away, leaving only a faint glimmer of the memory behind.

*

“Fine silks and furs direct from Orlais!”

Mirae paused as she walked back to the infirmary from her lunch break, the merchant's call cutting through her thoughts like a knife. She blinked and shook her head.

“Wool! Pearl buttons! I am here for only a day, mademoiselles!”

Mirae turned on her heels and practically ran to the marketplace, the familiar Orlesian accent floating over the courtyard like a song she ached to hear. As she skirted the stone wall, her eyes confirmed what her heart had hoped for. Over by the permanent stalls was a small cart loaded with fabrics and pelts. A tall, masked Orlesian stood next to it, draping silks over his arm as he flirted coyly with the crowd of women who hovered around him.

Mirae edged closer, trying to grab his attention. Another woman bumped into her, frowning as she grasped a roll of silk close like her life depended on it. Mirae rolled her eyes and called over the crowd, “Dupont!”

The masked man snapped his head to her at the sound of her voice, his eyes wide behind his mask. “My little one!” Another customer yanked at his sleeve, trying to pull his attention back to their transaction, “Ah. A moment, please! Mirae, I will speak with you when this frenzy has died down!”

Mirae watched as he expertly divided and conquered the women of Skyhold. Passing rolls of fabric and cards studded with shiny pearl buttons, Dupont made short work of his trading. Coins disappeared into the leather purse he wore around his neck, the bag growing fat with each sale. The entire time, the smile never left his face, even when he had a customer angry over prices. Here, Dupont really shined. A quick flash of white teeth and an extra thick layer of Orlesian accent, maybe even a free card of buttons thrown in, and the customer left happy.

Dupont quickly finished up with his last customer, one of the elven girls who worked in the kitchens, shooing her away as he stuffed a parcel of beautiful blue wool into her hands. She opened her mouth to protest, her coins still firmly in her purse and they hadn't even discussed payment. Dupont shook his head with a grin and gave her a wink. The girl blushed and held her free wool to her chest, muttering shy thank yous as she raced back to the kitchens.

Dupont collapsed into the seat of his cart, crushing a roll of velvet beneath him. He turned to Mirae, a knowing smile on his lips, “I have a weakness for pretty elven lasses.” She snorted and rolled her eyes as she joined him in the cart, pushing aside a stack of pelts. The musky smell of animal skin hung in the air and it made her eyes water.

Dupont took a deep breath. “I suppose you already know about Tia.”

Mirae quietly looked through the pile of fur, looking for something specific. “Yes. She visited me in a dream,” she murmured.

“Mm.” He leans in close, his blue eyes sparkling behind his mask, “Her hut is completely gone. I thought I was seeing things! That bird is gone too!” Mirae tilted her head to the side, a lopsided grin spreading across her face. It made her feel sort of giddy, knowing that no one else could claim Tia's little shack for themselves. The hut was a much a part of Tia as her sharp teeth and long pointed ears.

The bird fluttered in her mind. Blue-black wings. A little tingle grew at the base of her neck where her scalp met her skin.

Dupont smoothed a hand over a folded stack of deep green silk. His fingers dug slightly into the fabric as he whispered, “Little one, do you know why I came back?”

Mirae lifted a wolf pelt ticked in brown and white in her hands and dug her fingers into the thick fur. It reminded her of the one Solas wore in the Fade. She resisted the urge to rub it against her face. She looked over at Dupont and wiggled her eyebrows suggestively, “You missed me?”

Dupont grabbed the pelt from her hands and threw it across her shoulder, “Ha. That too.” He nodded, approving of how the pelt looked on her. He fussed with it as he continued, “Do you remember what I told you before?” Dupont pulled back, crossing his arms as he watched her with a cautious look, “I told you, I would always return to bring you home.”

“Dupont...”

Dupont pulled a small coin from his pocket and pressed it into her hand. Mirae knit her brows at the sudden sensation of cold metal touching her skin. The gold coin was small, the same size as a copper, with eight equal sides and no words or numbers pressed into the metal. A forward facing wolf peered out with six eyes, thick geometric knots decorating its etched fur. Mirae breathlessly traced the wolf with a fingertip, her mind reeling at the implications of the coin.

“Little one, I have come to bring you to your home, your heart.”

*

Mirae's mind raced as she dug through her meager belongings as if at the bottom of the pile of clothes she'd find the answers she was looking for. Dupont remained in the marketplace, still coolly playing the part of merchant.

She knew he was elf-blooded, but an Agent of Fen'harel? Mirae shook her head as she tossed aside another threadbare sweater. In a way, she thought, it did make sense. Dupont was trustworthy – he had earned the trust of Tia, a hermit who didn't tolerate anyone stepping foot into her marsh, let alone close to her hut.

Mirae shoved a tunic into her bag. Dupont was friendly and good at manipulating people. He had a steady, established background that Leliana was aware of. As a human and merchant, Dupont could go where elves would never be allowed. His mask was an added bonus as few people knew what he truly looked like. Mirae smiled and wondered when Dupont had been recruited. How long had he been working for Solas?

Wait. Did he know Solas? He must know him. Why else would he had been sent as opposed to some stranger I've never met before? Have I ever even mentioned Dupont to Solas?

Her mind swirled with rapid-fire thoughts as she continued to sort and pack. She paused and looked at the small bag she had already nearly filled. No room for books, she thought sadly. Mirae grabbed the nearly falling apart copy of The Busty Mage and carefully angled it underneath her clothes. She couldn't bear the idea of leaving it behind, not now. She could find other copies, she was sure of it, but only one had the little dog-eared pages and scribbled notes Colette had written in the margins.

Mirae, pleased with her last minute packing, shoved the remaining clothes back into the chest by the foot of her bed. Her guitar sat by the door, cozy in its leather case, and her staff rested next to it. She tossed the now full bag beside them and it landed with a satisfying thump.

Dupont had given her new traveling clothes and she pulled them on, feeling just as giddy now as when he handed her the wrapped bundle earlier. Dark green wool leggings, a brown tunic that skimmed the tops of her thighs, and a long bottle green wool coat with carved wooden buttons. Mirae wrapped the wolf pelt she snagged from Dupont's cart around her neck, tucking it into the collar of her new coat. She sighed as the fur tickled her cheeks when she bent to tie her boots.

At the bottom of the package of clothing was a set of ornate footwraps, beautifully embroidered with curling florals and pulsating with a warming charm. Mirae knew, felt it in her bones, that Solas had enchanted these for her. But she was embarrassed, too embarrassed to even admit to Dupont that she didn't know how to tie the wraps around her legs. She had worn footwraps to the Winter Palace but the Inquisitor had been the one to fix them for her. Mirae had tried on her own but groaned with frustration each time the wraps collapsed into a heap around her bare ankles. So she carefully set them aside, placing them in her bag with reverence.

Mirae checked and rechecked the list she kept in her mind. Bag, guitar, staff. Bag. Check. Guitar. Check. Staff. Check.

Not much, but it was hers and it was all she needed.

Purely out of nervous energy, she straightened the room one more time, pulling at the covers on her bed and swiping at the cobwebs in the corners of the room. Once she was satisfied the room didn't look like a crime scene, Mirae gently placed a folded letter on her pillow.

Mirae tightened the leather wrapped around the ends of her two plaits, pulling the cord taut as she knotted it twice. She looked around the small stone room, the one that had served as her sanctuary for what was probably the longest year and a half of her life. The bed that belonged to Colette was never reassigned, a small mercy, and Mirae wondered who she had to thank for that. She smiled softly as she remembered how Colette's snores echoed off the rock as she slept.  This room would be given to someone else, she knew, and only hoped they loved it as much as she did.

The sky outside grew dark and Mirae knew the time to leave was arriving soon. Dupont would be closing up shop, piling his wares back into the cart, and pulling his cart out of Skyhold before the gates closed for the night. Mirae would be at his side, playing the dutiful pretty elven daughter once again. She dropped the coin Dupont gave her into the pocket of her new coat. The coin barely weighed anything but she could feel it settling in the fabric, cold metal burning against the silk lining. 

Mirae thought of the footwraps nestled in her pack and a bubbling joy rose in her throat. She tossed the bag over one shoulder, the guitar on the other. She held her staff in her hand, suddenly feeling like an overpacked beast of burden. She gave the room one last look before dimming the lantern by the bed, the orange glow casting long shadows into the corners before extinguishing completely. The only light left came faintly from Mirae's staff, a cool orb of white floating in the otherwise pitch black room. She smiled in the dark, closing her eyes briefly to imagine the stone walls around her once more before shutting the door behind her.

*

Lavellan held the note in her hand, Leliana watching her carefully as she read the letters looped onto the paper.

Dear Inquisitor Lavellan,

I cannot begin to express my gratitude towards the Inquisition for housing me for so long.

A friend of mine has recently returned to Skyhold and asked me to accompany him in his travels. I have decided to join him, feeling that I have overstayed my welcome here. I am no soldier nor spy and only an adequate healer. I know I did not serve in many battles but I hope my meager magic skills proved useful when I did.

I found many things here at Skyhold. I found friends. A purpose. I even found love. But most importantly, I found a home.

Thank you. For everything.

Julasan atisha mahn daran. Sule tael tasalal, lethal'lan.

Mirae

 

Chapter Text

 Mirae began to remember why she hated traveling in Thedas. Dupont swore that each day of riding in his rickety cart would be the last but as they bedded down at night, he would waver and shyly add that perhaps another day was needed. Mirae tried to contain her frustration but still ended up snapping at the poor Orlesian on more than one occasion.

The landscape of the Frostbacks changed slowly as they crossed through Gherlen's Pass into Orlais, the coniferous trees edged out by the thick oaks that grew like weeds in the Dales. Mirae found herself zoning out for hours at a time as Dupont silently drove the cart, her eyes glazing over the passing greenery. The road was faint, a barely there trail of brown dirt that was covered by encroaching moss. They had passed a few fellow travelers as they left Ferelden but the crowd grew sparse as they went deeper into the wilds of Orlais.

Dupont pulled on the reins of his horse, drawing on her to stop. The cart creaked as the wheels sunk into the mossy ground. Dupont removed his golden mask and set it carefully on his lap before turning to Mirae with a bright smile that deepened the wrinkles by his eyes, “Okay!”

“...okay?” Mirae looked at the forest around them and frowned.

Dupont continued to smile blandly, “Yes. We are here.”

“You're kidding,” she scoffed in disbelief. Mirae twisted around, desperate to look for any sign of civilization. Finding nothing but trees and chittering nugs hiding in some nearby shrubbery, she smacked Dupont lightly on the shoulder and looked at him in confusion, “This? This is the middle of a forest!”

Her traveling companion lifted his gaze past her, smirking as several nugs ran frantically from their hiding place. Mirae watched as the pink creatures ducked beneath the cart with surprised squeals. The shrubs continued to move, eventually parting as a tall figure stepped through the leaves.

“Solas!”

Mirae jumped from the cart, the heels of her boots digging into the moss as she pushed herself into a run. Throwing her whole body forward, she slammed into Solas as she tossed her arms around his neck and pulled him into a desperate hug. Solas nearly fell backward into the brush but steadied himself as he returned her embrace. His arms tightened around her shoulders as he buried his nose into her hair, taking a deep breath as they held each other with quiet, explosive joy.

A loud honking snort tore the two away from their revelry. “I'm sorry,” Dupont sniffed into a handkerchief he held to his face, his eyes brimming with tears, “I just love a reunion.” Mirae broke away from Solas and looked back at the cart where Dupont remained seated, one hand still wrapped around the reins, the other now dabbing the crisp cotton handkerchief at his spilling tears.

Mirae couldn't help but grin at the crying man, her own eyes threatening to fill with happy tears, “Thank you for everything, Dupont!”

Dupont waved his handkerchief in the air like a flag, his mouth curling into a wide smile, “My little one!” He dropped his hand to his chest, his lips suddenly smoothing into a grim line as he nodded to Solas, “A moment, sir?”

Solas stepped away, sliding his hand down Mirae's back as he walked toward the parked cart. Mirae watched with curiosity as the two men talked quietly in quick, business-like tones. Dupont handed Solas her things while continuing their conversation, his eyes never leaving the other man's face. Solas shouldered her bag and guitar alongside his own bag, tucking her staff underneath his arm as he nodded his head in response to something Dupont had asked. Appearing placated with the answer, Dupont tucked his handkerchief back into the pocket of his coat and pulled his mask back on, adjusting it carefully over the top half of his face. With a swift click of his tongue and tug of the reins, his horse snorted and tossed her head before pulling the cart with a sudden start. Without a word of goodbye to anyone, Dupont and his cart slipped away through the trees.

Mirae frowned, feeling left out of whatever important conversation they just had, “What did you two talk about?” Dupont's sudden exit left her feeling cold, an odd feeling tingling at the back of her head.

“He gave me a brief report of your trip and a few other things of note.” Solas handed Mirae her staff and guitar but held onto her other belongings for her. With a low chuckle, he readjusted the bag on his back, “And, well, he threatened me. In a way.”

Clasping her staff to her chest, Mirae balked, “He what?!”

Solas turned back to the now empty road, examining the bright green moss that covered the ground with a smile on his face, “It seems that if I break your heart or you come to any harm, I will need to watch my back.” He cleared his throat with an awkward cough, “I promised him that I would allow neither of those things to come to pass.”

Mirae felt heat curl over her ears and she knew they were probably red with embarrassment, “He didn't! Oh, that overprotective-”

Her words came to a stop, interrupted by Solas gathering her into his arms for an exuberant kiss. Mirae sighed and leaned into his lips, her outrage swiftly forgotten as she basked in heat of his touch.

*

The two elves continued on foot deeper into the forest, Solas leading them on an overgrown path to the ruins of an ancient temple that laid hidden beneath the trees. Mirae followed him dutifully, occasionally giving in to the temptation of watching him from the corner of her eyes. She traced his profile with languid glances, enjoying the way the tip of his nose dipped down to the delicious curve of his philtrum, then settling on his lips with an unabashed hungry look. She stayed there for a moment, chewing on her own bottom lip as she remembered the warmth of his kiss that lingered on her lips. Mirae was so lost in her thoughts that she barely even noticed when he stopped.

Solas shrugged off their bags and his staff, placing them on the ground by his feet, “I think this is a good time for a rest.”

She looked around, noting that they were still nowhere near anything resembling a ruin. “Is the temple that much farther?”

“No, it is no more than another hour or so. I thought perhaps we could use a moment to breathe.” Leaning against a tree, Solas lowered himself to the ground and stretched his legs out in the tall grass. Mirae joined him, placing her guitar and staff next to the other items. Still starved for his touch, she sat as close to him as she could without climbing directly on top of him. With a quick laugh, Solas threw one arm around her waist and pulled her into his lap. He kissed her, sweet and soft, then deepening the kiss as she pressed desperately against him. Tracing her hands over the muscles in his chest, Mirae hummed as she ducked down to nibble on his jaw.

A wicked, clever thought prowled around in her mind.

“Do you remember the bet Sera made with Varric?” Mirae asked as she tentatively licked at his throat in short, swiping motions. Solas inhaled through his nose as he grasped her forearms with both hands. She continued on, dipping her head to the hollow of his collarbone as she dragged the collar of his tunic aside. She slowly ground her ass against his lap, pleased to find him already stiff against her bottom. She whispered against the heated skin of his chest, “Do you remember what I said?”

“Hm.” Solas murmured, “How could I forget?”

Mirae moved her hands to his waist, dragging her nails across the fabric as she slipped further down his torso. Solas stiffened, suddenly unsure of her wandering. Mirae smiled and pressed a kiss on his stomach; a small, reassuring touch that he could feel the heat of through his clothing. She pulled at the hem of his tunic with one hand to expose the waistband of his trousers, the other deftly starting to work at the knot of that tied them. Undoing his trousers, Mirae trailed small, wet kisses on his skin as she tugged them down over his hips.

“Are you,” Solas gasped as she nipped at the bare skin of his hips, “Are you sure?” Mirae pulled his loosened trousers down further, exposing the swell of his groin before planting a firm kiss at the base of his cock. From between his legs, she looked up at his face, gazing through her eyelashes, as she slowly dragged the fabric down to reveal him fully. Mirae had to bite back a laugh at the sight of his erection flopping against his stomach with a solid thump. She stroked the surprisingly velvety skin of his shaft with her fingertips lightly, admiring the sight of him quivering at her touch. Carefully taking the tip of her tongue Mirae licked the delightfully blushed head of his cock, smearing pre-cum across her taste buds. She blanched at the new unusual taste in her mouth. Solas leaned forward, his hands hovering over her lowered head, “Mirae, you don't have to-”

Mirae stopped and, with an admittedly stubborn look on her face, watched his eyes flicker close as she took him into her mouth. Gripping the base with one hand, she struggled to fit as much of him in her mouth as she could, giving up when he reached the back of her throat and a small gag vibrated in her chest. This, to her surprise, apparently felt good because Solas emitted a pleased groan that made her smalls dampen. Mirae slipped her free hand under the waistband of her leggings, fingers aching to work at the growing need between her legs. Solas buried his hands in her hair, digging his fingers into her braids, and lifted his hips against her face. Mirae sucked, feeling her cheeks hollow against the hard flesh in her mouth, and relished in the sounds that escaped from her lover's lips. Embolden now, she stroked the hand curled around his length in tandem with the movement of her head and tongue. Solas followed obediently, bucking against her with sweet gasps of pleasure.

She worked him the best she could, a little clumsy but sincerely attempting to make up for it with enthusiasm. Mirae could feel the spit build up at the corners of her lips and smearing over her chin, her movements growing sloppy as she worked her fingers over her clit. Her own rising pleasure buzzed in her head. Solas slipped his hands to the sides of her head, cradling and rubbing her sensitive ears with his long, gentle fingers as he fucked her face; his hips jerked and grew more desperate as he circled completion. Pulling back slightly, she flexed and flicked her fingertips on her pulsating clit, sending her over the edge of her orgasm with a full body shudder. Mirae squeezed and twisted the hand around his cock as she hummed a moan that bubbled up her throat.

“Ah, vhenan, I'm-” Solas gasped, thrusting up and pushing himself further down her throat. His attempt to warn her of his upcoming orgasm faded from his lips as he came with a cry, filling Mirae's mouth with his spend. She held him there as he rode out his orgasm, twitching between her lips with weak gasping breaths. Mirae pulled back, Solas's softening cock falling out of her mouth with a wet pop, and, hesitating for a moment, watched him with a dazed look as her mouth hung slightly open. With a shrug, she swallowed the salty load and felt it slide down her throat.

Mirae sat back on her heels, wiping her chin with the sleeve of her coat as a wide smile spread across her face. “Solas?” He continued to sit back against the trunk of the tree, eyes closed and breathing heavily. “Solas?” Mirae poked him in the chest, “Hey, Fen'harel!

Solas blinked, his eyes blurry and unfocused, “Sorry who...” He blindly pulled at his trousers, ineffectively trying to cover himself as he moved sluggishly. “Yes. I'm.” He sighed, his voice came out thick and slow, “Who?”

Mirae gaped at him. Swiftly, with an exaggerated swing, she threw her hands up in the air, “Oh my god, I did it!” Solas flinched as she shouted, her eyes gleaming in victory. “I made you forget your name for a moment!”

*

True to his word, the temple they were looking for was only an hour away from their resting place. Or it would have been if they hadn't stopped several times for a “moment to breathe”. At some point, Mirae lost her smalls in the thrill of undressing. She dug at the seat of her leggings, sorely wishing they had been made of anything but wool.

They sat on the stones that made up the courtyard of the temple, surrounded by broken columns and chipped stone walls. Mirae gazed at the open roof, watching the birds make nests in the holes left by fallen bricks. She scratched at her itchy scalp idly, noticing how her braids now reached the small of her back.

“Solas, do you have a dagger or a knife or, uh, anything sharp?”

The sun hung low in the sky. The barely standing columns of the ruined temple cast long shadows that crisscrossed over the clearing where they made their camp.

Solas sat on the stone covered courtyard, searching through his bag for something. He paused and looked at Mirae, perplexed, “I do. Why?”

Mirae tugged at one long braid, pulling her head with it as she wrapped the thick rope of hair around her wrist, “I need a haircut, don't you think?”

Solas pulled a dagger from a sheath hanging on his belt and handed it to her, watching her warily as she took it from him. “Are you sure? Many women desire hair such as yours.”

She placed the edge of the dagger to the base of her taut braid, clenching it with a white-knuckled fist. “The plaits are childish.” She hesitated for a moment, then pressed the blade to her scalp with firm resolve. Mirae nodded, speaking aloud to herself as if she needed further convincing, “It's hot and just too much work.” Solas watched her with wide eyes as she slowly, then quickly, started to saw through the braid. The blade tugged and yanked at her hair, pulling a few strands directly from her scalp, and Mirae flinched as she felt the weight of the braid pull away from her head. Within a few minutes, she felt a thick lock of hair tickling the top of her pointed ear. Without even looking at her reflection, she knew it was horribly uneven. She looked down at the loose braid in her hands and swallowed a cry, “That was a mistake, wasn't it?”

Solas, for what it's worth, didn't immediately laugh at the sight of her now mangled hair. Instead, he gently took the dagger from her and motioned for her to turn around, baring her back to him as he pulled her to sit between his outstretched legs. Solas quietly worked on Mirae's hair, tossing aside the hair that fell away with a flick of his wrist. Grasping the lone braid that remained, Solas dragged it across the edge of the blade, severing it one quick motion. Mirae felt the breeze tickle her now bare neck. Her head, she noticed, now felt wonderfully lighter without the added weight of her hair. Solas continued, evening out the hair that remained until he suddenly stopped and set the dagger aside.

Mirae turned and looked at him with wide eyes, “How does it look?” She nervously ran her hands through it, marveling at the feel of the short strands. It felt short. Locks of hair curled above her ears and she could tell the back was barely an inch, at most. The section in the front fell just above her eyebrows, skimming her forehead and framing her face.

Solas dragged his fingers through her hair, smiling in wonder at the mess of black hair that surrounded her head like a fuzzy halo. He drifted over her scalp, front to back, his nails carving paths between the strands. Mirae peered shyly at him through her new fringe, eager and waiting with bated breath to hear his opinion. Solas laughed, a soft sweet rush of air that brushed across her cheeks, and pressed a kiss firmly to her brow. Mirae relaxed under his touch, vanity temporarily appeased.

*

"You really don't know how to tie footwraps?"

"I know, I'm a terrible elf. No one has ever shown me how."

He kneeled at her feet, grasping her bare calf with staggered hands. He stroked his fingers along her naked skin, the hint of a fire spell purring under his fingertips.

"Then, vhenan, it seems I still have many things to show you."

*

Mirae watched the fire stretch toward the dark sky, smoke trailing lazily to the open air, and readjusted the guitar on her lap. She plucked the strings, chewing on a thought that had bugged her since the beginning of her journey, “I've always wondered something. Tia and Flemeth were so cryptic about why I was allowed to remember songs from my world. Why they gave me a guitar.” She looked past the fire to her companion and tapped her fingers on the wood, “Solas?”

Solas sat across from her on the other side of the fire with an open sketchbook in his lap. The fingers of one hand curled around a thin stick of vine charcoal. “Well, I would hazard a guess that Flemeth remembered that I have a soft spot for music.” He coughed, adding, “And, by extension, musicians.”

Mirae barked a laugh that echoed off the stones.“You're blushing!” Solas sighed and rolled his eyes. “Did you pine after some ancient elvhen singer?”, she teased.

Solas grimaced, “I did not pine.” He pursed his lips and blew lightly over the open page of his sketchbook to clear away excess charcoal. “It certainly drew my attention to you. Varric wouldn't stop badgering me to attend one of your performances.”

She raised an eyebrow, her interest peaked, “Did he now?”

He tilted his head and his eyes narrowed as if he was trying to remember old joke, a little smile pulling at the corner of his mouth, “I believe the phrase he used was 'little elven songbird that'll steal your heart'.”

“Ugh.” Mirae contorted her face in disgust at Varric's insistence of painting her as some kind of bare-foot elven maiden who seduced the men of Skyhold with her love songs. She ran a hand through her newly shorn hair, delighted with how it felt lighter than air on her scalp. She thought about the perverted Orlesian who asked if she wore nothing but her hair as she sang and snorted a derisive laugh.

He sketched something across the open page then eyed it warily before adding a few more strokes. “Well, he wasn't completely off course.”

Mirae ducked her head, praying that the darkness hid the pink flush that spread over her cheeks. She strummed a few notes, trying to keep her voice light and casual, “What did you think the first time you saw me?”

Solas closed his sketchbook and set it aside on the ground. The fire illuminated the aura around him and cast a warm glow over his strong features. “Hm. Truthfully?”

“Give it to me straight," she nodded.

“I thought you were small.” Mirae frowned and began to open her mouth to complain but Solas cut her off, “Then you started to sing and it felt like you filled the whole room. I was surprised that no one mentioned the magic you cast as you sang. It poured out from you. It hung in the air like fog.” He held out the hand that still grasped the stick of charcoal, passing it languidly over his knuckles from one finger to the next. Solas paused, the charcoal trapped between his thumb and forefinger, “But that was the point, wasn't it? They never knew. Even a majority of the mages didn't notice your spell.” He flicked the charcoal over the fire and Mirae clumsily reached out with both hands to catch it. It landed in her palms, smearing a sooty trail over her skin. “Dorian, of course, noticed. We discussed it a few times.”

Mirae looked down at the charcoal in her hand, murmuring solemnly, “It was a healing spell.” She curled her fingers into a protective fist, pleased at how the heat from Solas's hand still lingered on the thin stick. “In a way, I guess it was like what Cole does. Everyone carried these little hurts. Aches they ignored. Old injuries that acted up in the cold. I wanted them to feel better. Even if only for the duration of a song, I wanted them to forget the pain.”

The wind picked up and pulled the flames toward Solas. He held up a hand, pushing the smoke back with his magic. “It was kind of you.” The smoke swirled around his barrier, crawling along the stones. “Dangerous. But kind.”

*

As they laid in their bedrolls, Solas spoke in a low, pensive tone about Flemeth. Mythal. He spoke of the past, the present, and the future, words tumbling out in a torrent of regret. In the dark, lying on their backs to watch the stars above them, Solas released the ancient pains that dug at him with sharp claws. Mirae listened, silent, clutching his confessions to her chest.

“I learned your name.”

“What?”

“The one you had before Flemeth pulled you to this world. She kept it, for what reason I am still unsure, but she hid it in the corners of her memory,” he replied. Solas rolled over to his side, slipping beneath her blanket to place a warm hand on her stomach. He splayed his fingers wide, each point of contact oozing a delicious pooling heat. Pulling himself close, he whispered faintly in her ear.

“T-that's it? My real name?” Mirae stiffened. She let the name roam over her tongue, feeling it vibrate in her throat as she repeated it silently. It felt stale. Foreign. 

Long fingers delicately rubbed at her ribcage. Solas hummed, hot breath tickling the outer shell of her ear. Mirae inhaled, slowly exhaling as she shifted her body over to face him. She moved closer to him, searching for his form in the dark with blind hands. Mirae chuckled gently as she sunk into his welcoming arms, “If it's all right with you, I think I prefer Mirae.”

“I think I prefer it as well.” A soft, sleepy murmur against her skin. Salty lips, wet and waiting, paused at her temple. They were both tired, in body and mind, and exhaustion soon overtook any lingering physical desire.

Feeling the draw of sleep behind his eyes, Solas drifted into the Fade, pulling Mirae along with him. 

 

 

Chapter Text

The palace grounds were buzzing with activity and bodies moved through the ornate architecture and manicured gardens like wisps. Mirae pulled at the collar of her modest dress, the rough wool scratching at her skin. She had been at the palace for a month now, playing the part of an obedient servant like it was always her station in life. She eyed the tavern, teeming with drunken laughter and conversation, and carefully stepped through the open archways.

“Oi, I recognize you.”

Mirae tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and placed a friendly smile on her face, “Hello, Sera. It's been some time, hasn't it?” Her hair had finally grown out of its butchered stage, now curling beneath her chin in a messy dark bob.

The blonde elf pounded a fist on the table, an accusing glare in her eyes, “Don't 'hello Sera', me! You snuck out like a thief in the night! Varric was convinced you wandered off to find Baldy.”

A look she had practiced many times now passed over face: downcast eyes, sad smile. Broken-hearted. The way they remembered her. “No, I. I didn't do that,” Mirae replied softly.

(liar)

Sera pushed aside empty mugs and a thick book before she sat crossed-legged on top of the table. She watched Mirae with narrowed eyes, “Good. Never got what you saw in that old fart anyway.” She snorted a laugh and muttered harshly, “Bet he had cobwebs in his balls.”

Mirae wrinkled her nose at the imagery. “Ugh. Sera.”

The blonde shrugged her shoulders with an exaggerated motion, “There's no accounting for taste.” 

The sound of a stool being dragged toward them pulled Sera's attention. Iron Bull handed a full mug to Mirae with a wink, “Why, lookee here. It's the lil' Bird and she's flown back to the flock.” He pat the seat of the stool with one large hand and Mirae lowered herself to sit while he leaned against the wall, watching the two elves with a measured look.

She rolled her eyes and took a small sip. “How long did it take you to come up with that?”

“Been stewin' on it once I saw you enter the tavern.” He looked down at her with a gentle smile, “How have you been, darlin'?”

“Good. Just doing odd-jobs. Traveled with my friend Dupont for a while.” Mirae picked at a loose thread on her skirt. “I've been here at the palace for a month now.”

(liar liar liar)

His one eye shone it its socket. Mirae returned his gaze, her breathing steady in her chest. Lying to a professional liar was easier than she thought it'd be. She took another sip.

“They treatin' you right?”

“Hmm. 'Bout par for the course in terms of human-elf relations,” Mirae chuckled.

Sera picked at her ear, digging her pinky finger in the folds to scratch deeply. “Pfft. Should've just become a Jenny. Elf. Human. They don't give a shit, just as long as you fight the good fight.”

“Thanks, Sera, but no.” Mirae shook her head and looked down at her half-full mug, “I have no interest in fighting anyone anymore.”

Iron Bull nodded and pushed his hulking body off against the wall. He placed a warm hand on her shoulder. The heat from his hand sank through the fabric and sent a chill down her spine.

“It's good to see you, Mirae.”

The emphasis on her name made her pause momentarily before she looked up at the large man standing over her. She smiled sweetly (it's a lie it's a lie) and placed her hand over his while Sera made loud gagging noises at the show of affection.

(I don't mind lying. Not when it's for him.)

*

A Qunari is not a small creature and, to Mirae's complete lack of surprise, they seem to grow even larger in death. She sighs and, casting a quick spell, pulls the body behind her with her magic as she studies the small locked room before her.

“No, darling, let me place the dead Qunari for the Inquisitor to find. It's no worry. It's not like you're twice my size and a powerful ancient being.”

She grunts and directs the body toward the shelving lining the wall.

“I'll do the grunt work while you stand there looking all-” She pauses and stands in a mockery of Solas, grasping her arms behind her as she sways her hips in his distinct manner. “All stupid ancient elvhen sexy like.”

Satisfied with the placement of the Qunari, Mirae rubs the back of her hand on her forehead and ponders the events that led her to this exact moment.

“Stupid sexy Solas,” she mutters darkly as she steps back through the Eluvian to report back to her lover.

*

Iron Bull snored loudly from his position on the ground. Stretched out on a plush couch loaded with pillows, Dorian softly nudged him with his foot, pushing the large Qunari onto his back. A few soft snorts escaped from his lips before he settled into soundless sleep. Dorian rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink, “Dreadfully romantic, isn't it?”

“What is?”

Mirae sat with her hands in her lap, feeling distinctly uncomfortable on the lush velvet couch. It had been so long since she sat on something that wasn't the ground or a broken temple bench. Traveling with Solas, recruiting and gathering intelligence for their cause, wasn't a tour of the finest furniture Thedas had to offer.

Dorian indicated his head toward the sleeping Iron Bull, “All of this. Finding, ugh, love in the middle of a surprisingly apocalyptic war.” He rotated his wrist slowly, swirling the dark red liquid in his glass, “If I hadn't experienced it myself, I'd write it off as one of those trash heaps Varric calls his novels.”

She snorted and rubbed a hand on her neck, “If this was one of Varric's books, I'd have a bigger chest and you'd be twirling your mustache every time you spoke.”

“Ha! If only.”

Approaching footsteps stole their attention away from their ribbing. Varric dropped himself into a nearby armchair with a groan, “I do believe my ears are burning.”

Dorian snorted and drained his glass of his remaining drink. He drew up to sitting and raised his empty drink to Varric in greeting. The dwarf nodded his head and drooped further into his seat. Mirae looked between the two, savoring the calm camaraderie that permeated the air. She had to admit that she missed this. Them. She sighed and laid her head back to watch the clouds that floated by.

“What a lovely little reunion this has turned out to be.” Varric looked around, a pleased smile on his face, “The gang's all here.” A dry laugh, then a shrug, “Well. Almost all here.”

“Strange, isn't it? How one can disappear without a trace?” Dorian paused and groaned quietly, looking to Mirae with an apologetic frown, “I'm sorry, darling, I didn't mean to-”

She shifted in her seat, leaning on the armrest and smoothing out the wrinkles in her servants dress with a carefully trembling hand. She looked up at the Vint, a rehearsed sad smile on her face, “No. It's fine. I'm over it.”

Lies arranged neatly around her like bricks; a wall, thick and impregnatable, settled over her shoulders.

Dorian sat back in his chair and crossed one long leg over the other, “Are you? Maker knows I never knew what drew you to him in the first place but I have to admit there was a certain spark between the two of you that I envied a little bit.”

Varric rose one eyebrow and leaned forward, shaking his head with a disbelieving grin, “Really?”

The mustached Vint chuckled and pinched his fingers together to indicate a small amount. “The tiniest, most minuscule bit.” Dorian regarded the empty glass in his hand, giving Mirae a sly smirk, “For a hermit from the woods, he did have the most beautiful hands.”

*

Mirae watched the two figures in the distance. A low, rumbling panic settled in her belly. Swallowing her weakness, she stepped around the frozen Qunari that littered the pathways of the Crossroads and kept her gaze on the distance. The brightly colored trees swayed their reedy limbs as she passed.

Lavellan was panting and crumpled on the ground with her glowing hand held close to her chest. The mark flared and spat sparks into the air, sending rolling waves of pain across the elven woman's face. Solas stood before her, pity etched over his fine features. His armor shone in the eerie light of the Crossroads, painting him in a golden shimmering aura. Mirae turned her head back to the Eluvian she exited from, wondering when the rest of the Inquisitor's party would make their way through. Varric, Dorian, and Blackwall were on the other side still battling the remaining Qunari invaders. The smell of blood filtered through the Eluvian and the thought sat heavy in her chest.

Mirae stepped closer, her breathing heavy as she watched the two elves tensed in conversation. Solas lifted his eyes from the angry elf on the ground to the woman who approached them. Relief flickered across his face briefly before he looked back at the Inquisitor.

Lavellan followed his eyes and twisted her torso to glance backward. Her mouth dropped open slightly as she took in the small form who walked toward her. “You...Mirae, you knew?” Her voice cracked with emotion, “This whole time?”

Mirae regarded her with sad eyes, closing the gap between them as she dropped to her knees before the fallen Inquisitor. The mark, sickly green and angry, flared up again. Lavellan tensed and gritted her teeth. Mirae reached out and pulled Lavellan's hand into her own, tenderly intertwining their fingers. Her skin was cool against the raging heat of the mark, eliciting a soft pained sigh from the weakened Inquisitor.

“Yes. I am sorry, lethallan. I am not who I said I am. I was brought here to...to aid Solas.” Mirae looked back at him, worry wrinkling her features as she searched his face with a wordless question. He nodded his head slowly. The corners of his mouth pressed into a grim line.

Lavellan watched her with furrowed brows, sweat dotting her forehead. “I don't understand. Why? The two of you...”

Solas stepped forward and kneeled, taking Lavellan's hand from Mirae. An ancient ache curled around the edges of his eyes; white smoke quietly overtook his grey-blue irises. “I am sorry, Inquisitor. None of this was meant to happen. My weakness, my failures, have brought you so much pain.”

Lavellan weakly attempted to pull her arm out of his grasp. A groan escaped from her dry lips. Mirae placed a hand on her shoulder, stilling the woman as she held her in place against her chest. Solas staggered his hands, one on Lavellan's forearm and the other holding her marked hand firmly in his own.

“Please, let him help you, lethallan.” Mirae murmured gently to the restless elf in her arms.

The Eluvian behind them crackled to life, three figures stepping out from the battlefield. Three distinct masculine cries arose from the pathway, outrage and confusion echoing through the thick air. A voice called out to her but Mirae ignored it. She looked to Solas and pressed her lips to the crown of Lavellan's head, whispering into her hair a soft spell to calm the shivering woman.

Lavellan whimpered and tried once more to pull her arm away. “I c-can't let you do this. Either of you. I'll.” She swallowed thickly, “We'll stop you.”

Solas lowered his head sadly, hiding his glowing eyes in shame, “I hope you can, my friend.”

The Inquisitor dug her heels into the ground and pressed against Mirae, her eyes narrowed and hard as she glared at Solas with bleary eyes. “Traitor,” she hissed.

With a heavy heart, Solas removed his mark.

*

Solas collapsed as he exited the Eluvian, his long legs buckling at the knees and sinking into the hard stone floor. Mirae kneeled and enveloped him in her arms, tucking his head into her chest as she spoke reassuring words softly into the shell of his ear. He grasped her robes in his hands, white-knuckled, and panting heavily. His hot breath prickled her skin into goosebumps as she rubbed a soothing hand across his wide shoulders.

“We must move quickly, ma vhenan,” she murmured as she pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead. He nodded silently and rose, the panic and regret ebbing as he straightened himself fully.

Solas laid a large hand on Mirae's cheek and pulled her up to standing with his free hand. Rubbing the pad of his thumb across her cheekbone, he watched her for a moment as clarity and calm returned to his eyes. The smoke dissipated, leaving only pain in its wake.

A sigh, then a tender kiss to the crown of her head.

“Yes, vhenan. You are right. We have much to do.”