The group had been walking for some time in the forest through the night and even into the morning. Renan even spotted a few markers along the way that seemed ancient, some even more so than the others; she spotted elven ruin markers, remains of old, decrepit walls & walkways, and even an old Inquisition banner flag tangled among some branches. "It seems we may be on the right path," she noted looking up at the banner as they passed under it. "We are, young lady," they heard Lahtym say before they walked through a large hollowed log, "We're walking in the very footsteps of those who came before us many Ages ago."
"They wouldn't happen to be the Inquisition of the Dragon Age, would they," she asked with greater interest, to which Lahtym had a soft chuckle. "They traveled along these paths as well as they pursued after the Red Templars of the Elder One, yes," he replied with a smirk as they emerged from the log and started to cross a river, "These old ruins held a great secret inside that he coveted so greatly but thankfully the Inquisitor Lavellan prevented him from getting it. But, not without using it himself."
"That's right," Solasan noted as he stepped out of the river and shook his feet dry, "It was written that Inquisitor Assan Lavellan claimed the Well of Sorrows before Corypheus arrived and he was sworn into servitude to Mythal. He even claimed to have met Mythal herself." "Legends will state many indescribable things, but only a few turn out to be true," Lahtym noted with a smirk as they proceeded past the thick brush, "The question is, can you tell which are real and which are false?"
The two youths continued on a bit more, but exhaustion was starting to take over as they had been traveling for a solid day and some hours. Looking up, they spotted large statues of elven archers seemingly pointing in the direction of the temple, and Lahtym had a big smile spotting others in the distance. After a lengthy walk, they reached the front wall of the temple seeing not only two large statues of stags that were used to represent Ghilan'nain; walking past them, they also saw at the entrance arch rested two much larger statues of howling wolves and past them two familiar statues of Fen'Harel laying in rest with his head raised.
The group walked past the large statues and deeper into the tunnel which seemed to stretch for some time, and upon exiting, they spotted a massive temple ruin surrounded by a large lake that had a ring of water that dropped into steep waterfalls. The sun was barely emerging from the horizon when they crossed the bridge and into the entrance of the temple, and it was at this point when the mysterious elf that was traveling with Lahtym had taken the lead as if he had mastery of the layout for the temple. Not that the two were going to object, this was their first time there.
Going past the large doors, they saw they were magically sealed upon them closing and so they ventured further in; walking past the overgrown shrubs and trees, they walked even deeper reaching its vestibule and saw two pillars that looked like monuments placed in the middle. Lahtym walked to the center platform and motioned the two youths forward. Confused, they looked at the platforms seeing it laid out in panels similar to a chessboard but in a specific pattern. Looking up at the platforms, Renan blinked lightly seeing the written text upon the stone and took a moment to read them before stepping on a panel seeing it light up a bright blue.
"Seems the magic of this temple is still going strong," Solasan noted with a small smile of wonder. "It's a puzzle," Renan noted before pointing to one of the stone pillars, "The written texts say that we have to pay respects before venturing in further. Does that mean there are more within?" "Three more inside to be exact," they heard the elf respond lightly standing at the bottom of the steps that led up to the puzzle platform, "Do all three and you pass into the inner sanctum safely and you will have shown respects to Mythal and all who rest here."
"It's not just Fen'Harel's family that are here," Solasan asked lightly, to which the elf shook his head, his golden eyes looking up at them in certainty. "The Dread Wolf's descendants rest here, but so do a great many Sentinels who wake to guard this place from outside dangers. So, I'd suggest treading carefully on this sacred ground," he finished firmly. The two nodded seeing the early morning sunlight starting to beam into the roofless part of the temple, and Renan proceeded to complete the puzzle and noticed an odd happening when she stepped onto a tile that had vines growing from it.
"What'd it do," she heard Solasan call out as she was a few paces away. "It seems you should not step in the same place twice," Lahtym replied and Renan turned back looking confused. "But, I didn't step on the same tile twice," she exclaimed. "But, it mistook nature itself for your steps," Lahtym noted pointing to her foot that was resting on vines that covered across a few tiles. Letting out a soft 'Oh' Renan sought to try again, this time with a different tactic: hopping from panel to panel until all were lit.
Solasan couldn't help but let out a soft chuckle seeing her display, and Lahtym had a small laugh of his own. "Resembles a rabbit, wouldn't you say," Lahtym asked in a light jest. "Wouldn't that count as an insult," Solasan asked with a small smile, "Granted it's been used as an insult in the past." "I mean it in all respects granted her actions are validating the name," Lahtym noted with a smile seeing her hopping over the last few tiles. When all were glowing, they heard a hum of magic a distance behind them and saw a large door glowing the same bright blue as the puzzle tiles.
"It seems we've gained entry inside," Lahtym remarked with a smile stepping down the steps before Solasan and Renan followed after him and the elf to the large doors. "I hope the puzzles are not too complicated," Solasan noted lightly, "We've been traveling for so long, I'm a great deal exhausted." "I am too," Renan noted softly, giving her face a light rub, "I'm surprised I even had the energy to do that puzzle." "We will rest in due time," they heard the elf say aloud, "Once you've completed your task, you can be permitted to rest inside." "I suppose it wouldn't be easy, huh," Renan asked light-heartedly.
"But all worth it, I promise you," Lahtym assured lightly as they walked past the doors and into the other room spotting a pool of water in the middle and a separate floor with many different entrances around the place. They walked to the separate rooms and did each puzzle at a time. Solasan was able to do a simple one on his own, the second one Renan completed it while being mindful of the switch that raised a grated gate, and the last one, the two youths worked together on it & often restarting it due to a misstep or a fall making them land on a lit tile twice.
They were able to complete all three puzzles together and spotted a door on the far side of the room lit with the same blue glow, and the small group entered through the massive doors into the room seeing its massive space and a raised platform on the far end of the room. "What was this room used for," Solasan asked softly as he turned with his steps looking around the large space around them. "Questions answered for another time," Lahtym replied lightly, "We promised you rest when you finished proving yourselves, and rest you shall receive." He faced them before pointing to his right to a door that was left ajar, and they stepped through spotting another entrance but also spotted that bedmats were placed around, and even a small variety of children's toys.
"Not in this room," they heard the elf note lightly before going toward the wall revealing a hidden door slide to the side and he stepped into a hallway to which the youths followed with Lahtym nowhere in sight. Their best choice now was to follow their mysterious guide. "By the way, you.. You never gave us your name," Renan questioned softly to which she saw a light head tilt as if he was listening in on her and he turned his head facing forward again. "I have had a few names over the course of time," he replied lightly as they entered another room that was decorated with murals and a golden statue of Mythal.
"I was told in the past that I could find a new name, but since leaving this place, I have been unsure of what to call myself, with no cause or duty left remaining," he continued as they walked another passage, "So, I just kept my ancient name but kept close by keeping vigil from the wilds." He stopped in the next room and the two could spot familiar murals of Fen'Harel, Dirthamen, and even Ghilan'Nain decorated along the walls, and at the far end, two large owl-like statues with wings spread open. "You may rest here," they heard him say lightly, "Just do not rest near the doorways."
The two nodded before rolling out their bedmats near a mural and their eyes caught a quick glimpse around seeing the ancient artwork decorated around the room as the elf stood at another doorway as if looking through seemingly on guard. Renan laid down first and let out a soft yawn before she felt someone cover her and looked up to see Solasan covering her up with his cloak. "It's still chilled in here a bit," he offered softly, "Best to keep warm." "Ma serannas, but what will you use," she asked looking up at him. "I have another in my pack I can use," he noted before laying down on his own bedmat and rummaged through his travel pack a bit.
When he pulled out an extra cloak from his pack, he looked over to see Renan had closed her eyes and she seemed to be dozing off quickly. He had a small smile reaching over and pulled the cloak over her shoulder a bit more before untying his hair and laid down completely covering himself, and as soon as his head hit the roll, he felt the exhaustion hit him harder than he thought as the two fell quickly to sleep. Stepping back over, the elf looked down at the two before looking up at the mural they were resting beneath and let out a soft sigh. "Their fixation with you just might be their undoing, Dread Wolf. But, let us hope it is not the case," he said softly at the mural of Fen'Harel.
In the Fade, Solasan explored the Fade a bit more and even saw some glimpses of memory of the Temple of Mythal, even seeing the Inquisition of the Dragon Age as they explored this area. He saw them pass their tests as he and Renan had, they allied with the Sentinels, how Assan drank from the Well of Sorrows & how his lover was worried for him afterward, and as well as their escape through the eluvian connected to the Well before Corypheus reached them. If only he could share some of these historical visions with Fen'nan so he could see the bravery his ancestor displayed, and if Renan had fallen asleep next to him, where was she in the Fade?
Then, something started to stir him from his dreams..
Slowly stirring awake, he could feel a light tickling feeling on his nose and as his eyes fluttered open, he could hear a child's giggle and tiny feet seeming to scurry back. As his vision cleared, he saw a little one seemingly trying to hide behind one of the owl statues in the room, but they had one of their wide, blue eyes peeking at them and Solasan could spot wavy brown hair curled around their face and tiny pointed ears poking out from the thick hair. He sat up stretching a bit and turned back facing the direction the little one hid again with another giggle making him smile a bit. "Aneth ara, da'len," he greeted softly as he tied his hair back, "I didn't mean to scare you if I did."
He saw the little one peek out again and shake their head before running toward the entrance with a giggle before calling out, "Mamae! Papae!" which quickly drew his attention, fearing they were in trouble for being there. Renan was seemingly still asleep but from the little one's call, she started to stir and as Solasan got up, he heard another set of footsteps coming closer, but they didn't have the sound of an adult's footsteps. A young adolescent elf peeked their head through holding the little one close, and they looked very similar to the younger child in their arms, but their hair was much longer & a bit darker and even their eyes was a much brighter shade of blue than the toddler's.
"You're awake," he heard them ask lightly, noticing they sounded about twelve or thirteen years old before stepping past the doorway completely, "Abelas told us to let you rest, but Sulahn wandered off and seemed to have found you." "That's the little one's name," Solasan asked as he stood straightening himself up a bit and he saw the youth nod. "My little sister. It's strange to have new faces here, but Abelas and Lahtym said you're to be trusted, and even the Sentinels said you paid respects by completing the tests," the youth responded as the toddler in their arms played with their hair, "They told us why you were here actually, and we think it's for the family to decide which answers to give." "Which answers to give," Solasan repeated softly and the youth nodded again.
"They seemed unsure as to why you came here concerning our ancestors, but they wanted to see you once you two awoke. It seems only one of you is awake though," they said softly, "Should I let them know you're awake at least?" "I can go with you, if it will help set their minds at ease a bit," Solasan replied lightly, "I intend to let Renan rest as much as she can. We had a long day's travel earlier so we were heavily exhausted after completing the tests." The youth nodded and looked toward Renan still seemingly asleep in her bedmat before motioning for Solasan to follow, and he did as he saw the youth place their little sister on her feet and she trotted ahead with a giggle.
"Have you lived here with your family all this time," he asked softly as he approached the youth and they started to walk, and he saw them nod. "Ever since I was born, and even before then," the youth replied, "My mother said we've lived here for several generations, keeping us safe from the dangers of the outside. Well, the dangers outside of the Arbor Wilds. I've hunted in the Wilds with my father many times, but we've never left beyond its borders." "Then, you know the territory well," he noted softly and the youth nodded again, "Our family has always stayed in the borders of the Arbor Wilds, with this old temple as our home," they explained as they reached the first room seeing the bedmats and toys again, even spotting their little sister grabbing a plush wolf doll holding it close and she stepped out the other entrance.
"When we've asked about why we can't leave the forest, we're always told that there are dangers to our family because of what our ancestors did," the youth said softly, "But, they never tell us what it is. Only the adults and the Sentinels know, but won't tell us." Solasan had a nod before they reached the main chamber and saw a number of armored elves with hoods on around the room, and on the other side, they saw a large family unit with the toddler jogging toward them giggling lightly and into the arms of who seemed to be their mother.
Doing a count, he saw it was a total of nine adults, twelve children, and six infants including the youth and their little sister; a large family unit. Fen'Harel's surviving family.
The mother stood up holding her daughter in her arms, her robes smoothly falling into place as her long chestnut brown hair fell down to her waistline, and approached holding her baby close. Solasan stood still, practically holding his breath, as he saw her gently touch the youth's shoulder and saw them approach the family unit again as she inspected Solasan. He wouldn't dare move for fear it would alter her judgment, but as she looked him over, she noticed that she - much like her children and the rest of the family - all bore blue eyes, all varying in different shades, and their hair even varied from shades of deep, dark oaken brown into snow white.
He seemed so captivated by the family unit he was seeing, that his attention was jerked forward when he felt his chain necklace tugged on and saw the mother looking at his necklace seeing the two rings resting on the silver chain. "Where did you get these," she asked softly. He replied softly, if not timidly from her stern glare, "They were given to me by my mother. These were my parents' wedding rings before my father died." Seeming pleased with his response, she let his necklace go before Solasan spotted a taller male approach and he bore armor similar to one of the Sentinels in the room but was more for stealth and he had a nearly-shaven cut like his own but held no ponytail in his dark brown hair.
The man looked down at his rings as well before letting out a small sound letting them go, "They look very similar to our family's rings, vhenan," he said to the woman beside him, indicating she was his lover or perhaps his wife. "I know," she replied softly, "But, many of Fen'Harel's rings are out there, vhenan, who's to say it's not just another ring set from a family of his followers?" She saw him looking at Solasan a bit unsure before they heard Lahtym not far from them, "Many curious questions that need answers, and I'm sure not all can be answered in so little time," and they turned to see Lahtym stepping in through the chamber entrance they had entered through much earlier.
"Aneth ara," the woman greeted with a light bow of her head, and her husband & the family did the same with light bows of their own, "Did you lead them here?" "I did, lethallan," he replied as he stepped into the chamber, "After all, they were curious and so was I; curious to see where their venture would lead as they search for answers." "Without a price?" "None. But, I'm sure grandmother would love to ask something of them in return for answers." "Asha'bellanar? Are you sure she'd aide them without a price?" "It's hard to say," Lahtym replied with a shrug, the black feathers in his pauldrons flowing with his shrug, all while Solasan's eyes & ears were brought to attention by the name they spoke, "Grandmother has always been a fickle woman, and just as cryptic as I."
"That's an understatement," the woman's husband mumbled out, earning a short array of laughs from the family unit, and even from Lahtym. "Yes, grandmother is often full of secrets and very mysterious, but I do not fault her nature," he said in a type of kindness toward his family, "She just gives a push or sometimes.. nudges when it's required," he motioned with another laugh. "Apologies," Solasan announced softly catching their attention, "You said Asha'bellanar," he asked looking to the elven woman beside her and saw her nod with a small smile, "As in The Woman of Many Years? Flemeth?" "The very same," Lahtym replied softly, "Surprised to know that she's my direct family?"
"I never thought her line would have survived this long," Solasan said softly, "I mean, her daughter disappeared around the time she did." "Fen'Harel's family survives before your very eyes, do they not," Lahtym said motioning toward the family unit of elves, and Solasan had a small nod before Lahtym continued, "My ancestor, Morrigan, and her son, Kieran, have survived to continue the line of Mythal until me. I am the last son of the legendary line, as they are of Fen'Harel's legendary line." "So much for a legendary line if we're having to hide out here like cornered game animals," another of the men of the family unit said dryly earning him a light nudge from another man beside him.
"You know the reasons, lethallin," Lahtym noted softly, "Your ancestors simply wanted to protect you from the wrath of the Evanuris." "Just because we're descended from someone they hated," the man asked again as he rose from his spot stepping away from the group, "He put them in their place, called them out on their nonsense, and that gives them the right to hunt us like vermin after murdering him and his wife simply because they protected the People from them? That's wrong on so many levels, it's absolutely ridiculous!" "And many in your family would agree with you, lethallin," Lahtym continued as he approached the angered elf and gently rested a hand on his shoulder, "But, with how much his family line - your family line - has grown, he would have wanted his family safe. Wouldn't you say the same of your own children?"
The elf looked up at him before looking back at the group, but his eyes only laid on two girls in the group about ten years of age, both with oak brown hair like his own; he let out a soft sigh before nodding. "I suppose so," he breathed out softly, "But, I guess after living here so many years, it's become so tiresome, boring even. I love this place, it's our home, but we cannot stay hiding in the shadows forever. Those murderers are still alive while our ancestor is dead from their cruel injustice. That's cruelty at its finest." "And their justice will be done, that I assure you," Lahtym assured with a gentle smile giving his shoulder a soft pat and gently urged him to sit with the family again. He did so, sitting with the two girls he had his eyes on earlier.
Solasan blinked in slight confusion, "What do you mean, their justice will be done? Do you mean when they murdered Fen'Harel as they did with Mythal?" "Similarly," Lahtym replied facing toward him, "While they murdered Mythal in their lust for power, they murdered Fen'Harel and Asha'Fen as a personal vendetta for locking them away preventing them from annihilating the world. At least, that's what the stories claim. But, they've calmed down since the truce was made, and they cannot fight back, even if Fen'Harel's family were to emerge once more." "Why not," Solasan asked softly, to which the woman beside him replied softly.
"The truce they made with our ancestors, Revas, Melara, and Samahl," she started softly, "Their truce required that they keep their ways peaceful not only to the People but also to those of our family as well. To ensure they kept to their word, the three siblings used one of their father's Foci and when the Evanuris made their truce with the three, their combined power was locked inside it and should they break their word, the Foci will destroy them all."
"That's.. That's incredible," Solasan breathed out in surprise, "No wonder we've been in peace for three Ages. But, I fear that may be coming to a close." That statement caught their attention causing a few of the adults to rise, "A fortnight prior, a close friend and I used a powerful spell to protect Arlathan from an onslaught of demons as they attacked the people and even a visiting Clan. This caught the attention of the Evanuris, and they were searching door-to-door for us, so we went into hiding. First in Skyhold, then in Fen'Harel's sanctuary, and we found clues that led us to find his family line out here."
"And, so you found us," the woman said softly giving his arm a light pat, "But, I'm afraid we're not complete." "Not complete," Solasan repeated softly sounding confused, "Is some of the family missing or perhaps passed? Maybe they entered Uthenera?" "Missing, da'len," he heard her husband reply softly as he got closer, "One of our family left here about 30 years ago, never to be seen again. She was the oldest of Revas' line, and her two other siblings remain."
"Was she important," Solasan asked softly to which he saw the elder nod, "She was not only a very powerful mage but she was also the one who inherited the family rings from when they were passed down from Revas himself after his parents' murder. He gained their rings to keep their memory close, and his descendants gained their rings from firstborn to firstborn as he was the firstborn son of Fen'Harel. That's why I took interest in your rings, da'len. I last saw the rings when I was very young so I don't quite remember them, but they look very similar."
Solasan looked down at his rings around his neck in a light shock and confusion. "But, there are others who have these rings," Solasan noted softly, "I know someone in Arlathan who has a ring very similar to this, too." "Which is why I noted that there is no way of knowing for sure if those rings truly were Fen'Harel & Asha'Fen's," he heard the mother say softly, "Wishful thinking on our part, I suppose, trying to recover lost family, but after 30 years, it's hard to say whether or not she or her line survived." "What was her name," he asked with a gentle smile, "Perhaps I can ask around for her when I return to Arlathan."
Hearing his gentle offer, she looked up to her love and he seemed a bit unsure before letting out a soft sigh. "Vunin," he said softly, "Her name was Vunin." Solasan's smile faded, his blood grew cold, and his eyes widened. Vunin? A very common name, but only one name stood out.
His mother's name.