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Last Laugh

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Calaeril pulled her robe closer around her, wanting nothing more than to curl up under her furs and rest. They had spent weeks riding over harsh terrain, tracking down one of the last threats known to Middle Earth. The War of the Ring was over, the land slowly healing.

All that was left was a whisper of evil magic. Tales overheard amongst the hushed voices of the refugees in Minas Tirth. There was no name to put to the stories though, something Calaeril still frowned at. The refugees spoke of a blast of magic, strong enough to level an entire village in seconds. Magic that brought forth creatures from the depths unlike any had seen before, Magic such as this had never been seen during the war. Was this a new threat? A new grab at power?

We make camp here for the night,” she called out to her companions.

Night was starting to fall, and with the shadow of the White Mountains soon upon them it would be getting cold as well. Winter was soon here, or it felt as such. She was already missing the sweet warm air of Greatwood. Around now there would be wine flowing, dancing long into the night, and songs sung under the moonlight.

Calaeril dismounted her equally as tired mount. Whispering words of thanks as she looked into the beast that had carried her far. Her armour clinking softly under her robe as she surveyed the area. It would have to do for now. There was enough cover to shield them for any unwanted travellers stumbling into their camp.

After a simple meal she sat next to the fire, the heat of the flames warming her as she listened to Feron, her second in command, gently pluck the string of his small harp. It was an unexpected touch of home, one she hadn't realised she had missed until the soft music flittered about her.

"How long do you think until we meet this wizard?" Feron asked looking over to her.

Calaeril looked towards him. “I don't know,” she admitted. They had been on his tail now for almost two weeks. Every time they got close he seemed to slip through their hands, escaping into the winds, just as he came. "Hopefuly before the first snow."

Her armour, now feeling heavy, gave a creak as she got to her feet. The horses had settled for the night. Many of her men had retired to their tents to rest. Although elves did not need much sleep, they had been travelling for so long now even the best of them were feeling tired. Her body was screaming for rest, but her mind was wandering, scanning the campsite for any threats. Old habits die hard. She had been a soldier for so long she sometimes wondered what it would be like to live as a noble as her sister had chosen to.

Her sweet younger sister, Midhel. Oh how she missed her. Almost identical to her in appearance. The same light, almost white, hair that hung loose to their waists. The same body, lithe and limber, both made for dancing, but hers was a dance more suited to battle. The only noticeable difference was in the their sea blue eyes, Midhel's were always smiling, showing joy in all things around her, while Calaeril's were always watching, never missing the fake smiles of court, the weakness in someone's armour. She had never been suited to the sheltered life her parents insisted she live and jumped at the first chance she got to train alongside Thranduil when they were both children.

Her mind darted off again, thinking of her childhood. The games they used to play and pranks they used to pull on anyone who tried to tell them off. She missed those days.

A shrill whistle from the treeline snapped her from her thoughts, followed by another two coming from opposite directions. Warning alarms. Her hand reached for the horn at her waist, bringing it to her mouth she blew and sounded the alarm.

The camp was suddenly brought to life. Her men sprouted from their tents, weapons in hand, only to be met with a volley of arrows. Orcs charged from the trees towards her, she raised her weapon and met them head on. Their stench mixed with the smell of blood in the air around them as Calaeril and her men cut them down. But, they still kept coming.

Calaeril wretch her twin swords from the body of a mutilated orc and felt something tickle along her skin. A pit formed in her stomach as she recognised the telltale sign of magic. But this magic was unlike her own, it was dark, twisted. Her head darted back and forth, searching for the source, only to lock onto a figure standing half hidden behind a tree. The magic rolled off him in waves as his lips moved in a silent motion. She lifted her blades again, Calaeril's eyes set on her new target.

His eyes locked on hers, sending chills down her spine as he uttered something in his foul tongue. The air grew heavy and thick and the very ground around her started to shake. He threw his head back and laughed, and fixed his eyes on her once more. Calaeril struggled to keep on her feet as the world around her was shifting. The men around her were also having the same problem, but the archers were able to deal with the last few orcs. The Wizard the last one standing.

His laughter grew louder as the ground shook more violently. The horses shrieked in fear, threatening to bolt had they not been tethered earlier. Above the campsite the wind picked up, swirling as the night sky turned light as a shining sickly green appeared above them. Calaeril's eyes widened in fear as the magic emanating from the light pressed against her skin. The light encompassed the camp as the ground continued to shake, and with an ear shattering explosion the light was all she saw as it expanded and consumed them.

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Every bone in Calaeril's body screamed as they bent and twisted, the magic swarming around her in a grotesque dance. She grit her teeth holding back a scream, throwing her head from side to side trying to see something, anything. All there was was the sickly green light and the pain. It overrode every sense, consumed her whole being. The magic in her body fought against the unnatural force that was binding it to its will. Her blood feeling as though it was boiling as the magic pulsated under her skin.

As hard as she tried, a scream was ripped from her lips as it all grew too much. Then, with one final lurch the ground under her shifted for the last time and with it the light faded.

She knelt in the centre of her camp. Feron rushed to her side helping her to her feet as she took in the scene around her.

Gone were the White Mountains, and the plains to the north. Instead, she saw a different set of mountains bathed under the warm morning sun, plants she had never seen before and a landscape totally foreign to her. But she also noticed, the damn wizard was gone, but the glowing green light still hung over their camp, pulsating the same magic that had brought them here, where ever here may be.

“What is that thing?” Feron asked, looking up at the light.

She didn't know how to answer. Whatever that thing was, it was dangerous, the pain it had caused still fresh in her mind.

“The orcs have gone,” she noted out loud. All traces of their battle gone, save for their wounds. The ones who had been caught by the first waves of arrows sat propped up near the still lit campfire. They needed her attention first.

“Search for athelas,” she instructed the nearest solider. They were going to need it.

Calaeril knelt beside the wounded elf, his breaths coming in shallow gasps. Her hands hovered over the wound, taking in just how serious it was. She pulled at her magic, getting ready to chant the spell, and paused. Her magic felt different... It flowed around her so easily, even without the spell. Tentatively, she pushed the healing magic in to the wounded elf as she normally would have done, and watched as the wound started to heal before her eyes. Not knowing what was going on, but whatever it was she realised it had made her magic stronger. Her men would survive.

She made quick work of the rest of her companions, healing everything from the faintest of cuts to those who had not long to live. By the end of it she was exhausted. Her hair stuck to her forehead, slick with sweat.

“Head cou-!” She started to call out, trying to count if everyone was here.

“Thirty,” Feron sighed beside her. A slight smile on his lips. He knew how much this group of elves meant to her. Thirty. Everyone was here, and more importantly, alive.

“My Lady,” Lagoron, the one she had tasked with searching for the herbs, returned, his hands holding something that was not athelas. “My Lady, there is no athelas. But, this seems to have the same properties.” He held out a plant, its green foliage veined with silver. It resembled nothing of the plant she knew but she could feel the healing magic under its surface.

“Search for more, it will have to do. Feron, I need you to –” Her words were cut off as a snap from above her drew her gaze.

The light above them once more started to pulse with energy as it crackled and moved. Her company readied themselves, unsure what to think. Their rest was short lived.

“Ready your weapons!” Calaeril called to them, as she lifted her blades with her aching arms. Archers readied themselves near the rear of the encampment, the rest falling into line beside her. This time they would not be caught off guard.

The light once gave a pulse, this time expanding more as the light flared, and as it retreated somewhat, what it left in its place were the creatures the refugees had spoken of.

Spirits of different sizes flittered in and out of existence. Their forms always shifting but remaining faintly resembling human. The same green glow as the light above them cling to their form. And, at the centre of it all stood a monstrous creature. Standing as tall as an ent, its long snaking limbs unfolded from itself and let out a ear-splitting shriek.

“What is that damn thing?” Feron gritted beside her, his light hair falling half over his face.

“I'm sure it will die just like anything else,” she called as she charged the creatures.

The wraiths shot forth blasts of magic hitting them square on as they failed to anticipate it. Calaeril grunted as she felt it ricochet inside her body but she still moved forwards towards the hulking beast.

It was a learning curve, staying out of its long reach and still being able to land blows. Each blow coming faster and faster as she learnt it's moving patten. Her blade bit into the almost woody texture of it's skin with a loud thunk, causing her to wince and silently thank the Valar that they had brought plenty of mythril whetstones with them. The horror reared back as Calaeril's blade sliced through it's flesh. Hearing the sound brought a new rush of energy to Calaeril, and with the help of Feron, they made quick work of the creature. By then end of it their blades were coated in thick, dark blood.

With the last of the wraiths cut down in a similar manner the rest of the company stood looking to Calaeril, waiting for what to do next, each one of them wore a look of exhaustion on their faces. She wiped the sweat from her brow, finally able to catch her breath. Pulling her water skin from her belt with shaking hands, she took a long drink and nodded towards the body of the creature; the ghost like beings had thankfully vanished upon their death.

“Take it far from here and burn it. I do not like having it's foul magic anywhere near our camp.” Calaeril looked up at the glowing light that still hung over their heads. It still looked and felt the same. Was it a portal of some sort? How had it brought them to this place? Was there a way that they could use it to get back? All these thoughts ran through Calaeril's head but she had no idea where to even start. This sort of magic was totally foreign to her and was more of the expertise of Mithrandir.

“Feron, as I was saying,” she turned to her friend. “Check our supplies, see how much was damaged during... whatever it was that just happened.”

She had only gotten half a dozen steps away when she felt a familiar tug. Fearing to look back as she heard a tell tail snapping above her. Her hand instantly reaching for the blades sheathed at her sides.

“Formations!” She heard someone call out and she finally turned to watch as the portal expanded again, summoning the creatures once more.

There were more this time. She counted four of the towering beasts, and multiple ghosts littered the area below the camp. She had no idea how many more of these things would continue to spill from that light. And for how long. All she knew was they had to stop it.

This time around at least they knew what they were up against, they knew where to make their strikes count. But for every hit they managed to land, the creatures paid them back with force.

Calaeril's blades felt heavy in her hands, as if the blood itself was weighing them down, and she knew, it wouldn't be long before the last of her energy gave out. She stood gasping for breath, the demon in front of her snarling smelling the blood dripping from her wounds. A hungry look in it's eyes as it sized her up. It knew she was almost done.

Calaeril could feel her lips pulling up into a snarl as she charged the creature. If she was going to die, this thing was coming down with her. Her robe, caked in blood, gore and filth, pulled back as she ran towards it.

Mere feet away from it she felt a shift in the air, and a tingle along her skin. Her eyes widened as the air in front of her grew cold and hazy and she felt someone's grip her around her waist from the side. Her footing faltered as she stumbled, falling into the person sending them both to the ground.

Calaeril knelt half on the ground and half pressed against the person. Below her was an elf, his slightly widened eyes looking back up at her as if in shock. A blast from behind her knocking whatever balance she had left and sent Calaeril sprawling on of him.

Her head turned towards the where the explosion had come from and her mouth hung open in shock. The demon she had been rushing towards lay in a heap, it's limbs torn from it's body and scattered around the area. She gave a quick nods of thanks to the elf below her and got to her feet, watching as new arrivals entered the clearing.

Two humans and a dwarf, who was strangely devoid of any facial hair, came sprinting towards the green light from the treeline. Their own weapons raised as they joined the fray. One of the humans, she noticed, a young man whose clothes reeked of wealth, hung back slightly, his hand raised towards the light. There was only one final hulking creature left. She took a step towards it, and felt a hand on her shoulder, holding her back. The elf stood behind her, shaking his head as he moved to stand beside her, a staff in his hand. Was he a wizard then? Calaeril got her answer as he swung it forward and a bolt of cold magic came forth, freezing the creature slightly and slowing it down. Her men jumped at the opportunity to press forwards, no matter how small of a window they had been given. Arrows soon riddled the creature, it's movement still hampered by the spell. She watched as Feron sunk his blade into the beast for the final time and it fell to the ground. She let out a sigh of relief.

Calaeril still felt the magic from the light however. Although it was silent for now, but, she guessed, soon they would have to fight more of these creatures. Her gaze fell on the human whose hand was still raised towards the light. A look of concentration on his face. Then she felt it. The magic from the light started to pulse again, this time towards the human. It twisted and turned above them, snapping back and forth violently as it hummed and pushed towards him. He gripped his hand and with a crack that echoed around the clearing the portal was gone.

“Ha!” he yelled. “Told you I'm getting the hang of this!” He cheered and looked to the other human, a woman whose armour had seen many battles, but got no response. Her eyes fixed forwards. The man followed her gaze, his eyes widening as he took in the line of elven archers, their arrows notched, and pointed towards the small group.

Feron stood behind the line now, his face unflinching. “Move and you die.”

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Calaeril stood watching the scene unfold. The human male stood frozen as he looked at the line of archers, unsure what to do next.

“Woah now,” the dwarf spoke up, moving to stand in front of the humans. “There's no need for this.” He put away his unusual looking crossbow, and held his hands out in front of him in a sign of peace.

The language they spoke was unusual, and had Calaeril not travelled so far long ago, she herself would not be able to decipher what they were saying. The language was one spoken in far off lands, although thickly accented and she had to concentrate as to not miss words.

“Who are you? And why are you here?” Feron commanded of them in elvish. Not being able to understand them.

“Umm, Seeker? Don't suppose you understand that?” The dwarf looked over his shoulder at the woman.

“No,” came her curt reply. Her hand gripping the shaft of her sword, eyes still fixed at the elves in front of her.

“If I may be of assistance?” Calaeril's head turned to see the elven man beside her start to walk towards the small group. “We mean you no harm,” he addressed Feron.

Calaeril frowned. An elf so quickly coming to the defence of humans was uncommon. She looked the elf over. He was taller than her, even hunched over slightly as he was. Was he trying to seem weak? She knew from when she had fallen on him his body was powerfully built. Strong muscles hidden under well worn travellers clothes. He, like the dwarf, had no hair on his face, but the strange part was he also had no hair on his head. Was it a common fashion in these parts to not have hair?

“You say that, but you seem to be able to control the portal. Explain yourselves or prepare to die.” Feron's voice unwavering but she could see the signs the battle had taken on him, as hard as he tried to hide them.

“It is called a rift, a tear in the veil, that connects to the fade,” the bald elf explained, and upon seeing the confused look on Feron's face he paused, thinking something over before continuing. “There was an explosion at the conclave, which tore a hole in the veil. Smaller rifts such as these have been appearing all over Thedas. We are part of the Inquisition, and are looking for a way to seal the breach, and stop them forming for good.”

“It does not explain how he was able to close the portal,” Feron nodding towards the young man.

“He fell from the breach at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Somehow, he holds the key to being able to close the rifts.” The elf leaned against his staff casually. Calaeril noted his eyes flickering over the group in front of him. He was counting their numbers. But, she didn't see an aggressive look in his eyes, he seemed curious more than anything.

Feron remained silent. He had said his part and the decision was up to her. If they really were trying to stop these... rifts... from forming, then maybe they could help. Perhaps this is where the wizard had gotten his magic from? Magic in these lands seemed to flow much easier, it would not be impossible to somehow syphon magic from here and send it to where it was needed. But the energy needed for something like that to happen would be immense! She shuddered at the thought of a wizard that powerful running rampant near her home.

“Stand down,” she ordered and sheathed her swords. Her companions lowered their weapons, still on edge, but happy to not have to fight again.

All heads of the small party snapped in her direction. Realisation on their faces that the elven man had not been in command.

“This seems to be a problem we are both seeking a solution to,” she stated. “You are welcome to share our camp if you so desire. I owe you that much at least.” Calaeril once more nodded a silent thank you to the elven male. He had saved her life while facing that creature after all.

Calaeril looked over her men. Many were injured, but few of them were life threatening. She felt inside her to see how much energy she had left. If she could heal those few that were seriously injured, then maybe she could lay down and rest. She felt the blood trickling down her side as she moved towards the tents.

“Gather the injured,” she ordered Feron, ignoring the look of concern on his face as he saw her sway slightly. “Bring them to me. Then search for that plant.” There were dark spots forming in her vision. She tried blinking them away, determined to focus on her task as she opened the flap of her tent.

A strong grip on her arm made her head turn. The elven wizard stood beside her once more, his eyes boring into hers. “You need healing,” he stated.

“The others need seeing to first,” she tried insisting just as Feron followed them into the tent. His eyes showing his distrust in the man who still held her arm.

The elf looked her over again, shaking his head, and turned to Feron, “It would be improper if I were the one to remove her armour, you, on the other hand, seem acquainted with her. It needs to be removed so I can assess the extent of her injuries.”

Feron looked at him for a long moment before nodding. He turned to her. “Turn around My Lady,” he said and reached for her grime laden robe. Calaeril frowned, annoyed at the betrayal, but cooperated all the same. Wincing as the pieces of armour were removed. And, after stripping her to her basic shirt and breeches Feron took a step back.

Taking it as his queue, the wizard directed her to her bedroll. His hands hovering over her, and she could feel the magic starting to flow from his hands and into her being. A small sigh of relief leaving her lips as the pain started to ebb away slowly.

“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions,” he said softly to her, his back to Feron.

“Calaeril,” she replied and flinched as his hand moved to the bottom of her shirt, lifting it.

“The wound is deep.” He looked down to where one of the demons claws had found a gap in her armour. “This will be uncomfortable, but only for a moment.” His hand pressed against the wound painfully, causing Calaeril to grit her teeth. But like he had said, it only lasted a moment before the pain faded and a cool sensation replaced it. Her eyelids felt heavy, the rush of battle finally wearing off. Her eyes closing as she started to relax.

She felt Solas working over her, not missing any part of her body, even healing minor cuts along the side of her face. Once he was done, her eyes fluttered open to see him rock back onto the balls of his feet. Feron was nowhere to be seen.

“Sleep now,” he said to her. “I will attend to your men. We can talk once you have rested.” Calaeril's eyes closed once more and she was quickly asleep.

 

When she woke Calaeril lay staring up at the roof of the tent. Her body felt well rested under the furs of her bedroll. Outside her tent she heard the faint plucking of a harp accompanied by someone humming to themselves.

She pulled from her pack a soft dress, one she had reluctantly let Midhel pack for her, and pulled on a robe over the top. The night had a cool bite to it as she slipped on a pair of slippers and headed out to the campfire.

“Look who's awake,” the dwarf greeted her with a smile of his face. The music stopping for a second as Feron looked her way. “Tell her I hope she's feeling better.” The dwarf looked at Solas expectantly.

“I trust you slept well?” Solas greeted her as she sat.

“Yes. Thank you once more.” Now she owed him her life twice over. It was uncomfortable owing an unknown person so much. A light tilt of his lips was his only answer.

“I don't think I've ever seen elves this big before...” The human male's voice spoke in awe as he sat looking at them with wide eyes.

Calaeril's looked at him puzzled. Big? What did he mean? There was nothing out of the ordinary with her group, none were overly muscular, or had a large belly. This group was hand selected to move quick, and such builds would slow them down.

“Yes, I was thinking the same thing.” The woman's eyes were still unfriendly as she looked around the group.

“Calaeril,” Feron's voice called to her softly. She turned to look over at him. He flicked his head upward towards the stars. Confused, she followed his gaze and looked up. Eyes widening in shock.

Two moons sat in the sky. Not one, but two. And the stars, stars that she had gazed at for countless nights, were gone. She saw a completely different set of constellations, none of which she recognised. She looked over to Feron understanding what he was getting at.

“Where are we?” She asked Solas.

“We are about a weeks travel to Redcliffe village, in the Hinterlands.” Came his reply as he too looked up at the stars. The crackle and warmth of the fire did little to sooth her.

“What land is this?” She wondered out loud. Everything was wrong. The magic, the land, the damn sky!

“This is Fereldan,” the elf replied beside her, jerking her attention back to him. “Are you not from here?” He asked, a small furrow between his eyes.

“Where is Fereldan?” She was dreading his answer.

“Thedas.”

“This is not Arda? Middle Earth?”

He looked at her for a long moment as what she was saying sank in. “You are from a different world. The rift brought you here didn't it?”

She ran her hand through her hair in frustration, wishing they had killed that wizard before he had completed his spell. This was not their world. He had brought them to an entirely new place and she had no idea how to get them home.

“It is better if the others do not know of this,” he nodded towards the other three members of his party. “If they should ask, you are travellers from across the great sea to the west and were sucked into a rift that sent you here. The Seeker would not take kindly to your news.” His calm expression did not match the warning he was giving her. She nodded in agreement. A land across the sea was much simpler.

She sat for a long moment, her mind running over all the new information.

“She's really pretty, do you think she would want to dance?” The young human asked the dwarf.

“It's your funeral kiddo. I for one would like to be alive to see the sun rise.”

“But, the music is so nice! Will you dance with me?” He turned to the stony woman beside him who gave him a gruff unintelligible reply.

“His name is Maxwell Trevelyan,” Solas supplied her with a name. “Still very young and innocent. His parents sent him to the conclave to experience the world more.”

Hearing his name Maxwell looked over at them. A big smile on his face. His youthful face looked no more than twenty, a shadow of dark hair on his jaw.

“Cassandra Pentaghast,” he continued. “Right Hand of the late Divine. She belongs to the Seekers of Truth, they are the ones who founded the Inquisition. And then there is Varric Tethras. Master Tethras is a writer.”

“I heard my name,” Varric said as he stood and did a slight bow, a charming smile on his face. “Varric Tethras, Master Storyteller, at your service.” She couldn't help but laugh at his cheerful demeanour.

She nodded her head in greeting as Lagoron handed her a bowl of stew. Calaeril sat silently eating her food and looked over to her own companions. Whatever the problem in her world was, it looked like it started here.

“If you would, I would like you to tell them that we will aid you in your quest to fix these holes in the sky.” Solas looked shocked but quickly recovered and relayed her message to the others who, save for the woman, looked grateful for the new additions to the 'Inquisition'.

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That night, having had rested so recently, she took first watch. Calaeril had to keep pulling her eyes away from the sky. Never had she thought she would ever be in a position like this. She was a Sindar elf, an elf of starlight. And what was the Sindar without their own stars. She deflated slightly at the thought.

First watch turned into second, followed by the third before she started to feel the tiredness creep back into her bones.

“Your watch ended long ago friend.” Feron seated himself next to her as she perched in a tree.

“There is much to think about,” she replied. “Come the morning we will pack up the camp and head towards this human village. Gather as much information from the area as you can. But,” she hesitated, “stay out of sight. We need more information about this land than they are willing to give us. Their customs for one. Last thing we need is another misunderstanding.”

Feron weighed her words and nodded. “As you wish.” He unslung his bow and rested it on his lap as he settled himself in for the next watch. Calaeril silently dropped to the base of the tree and made her way back to her tent. Glancing at her now clean and repaired armour that sat at the base of her bedroll, she smiled.

The furs of her bedroll welcomed her as she crawled beneath them. Sleep soon finding her.

 

She dreamt of a vast forest, much like the one of Mirkwood when it had been know as Greatwood. Trees towering above her, teeming with wildlife. Birds sung under the warm sun filtering through the leaves, melodies Calaeril had never heard before. Here the very air itself seemed to sing with life, vibrant and rich.

A rustling from a nearby thicket caught her attention. Before her stood a hart, larger than any she had ever seen. The horns adorning it's head grew proudly in whichever way they chose. Calaeril was in awe of the majesty of the beautiful creature. Her hand reaching out, coaxing it closer.

The soft fur of it's nose rubbed against her hand as it nuzzled her outstretched hand, bringing a sow smile to her face.

“Will you run with me?” She asked it.

Eyes that held a wealth of wisdom looked back at her before turning and sprinting off back into the thicket. She gave chase, following it amongst the ancient trees. Together they leapt over the sprawling roots and danced between the trees time had forgotten. Never tiring, never stopping. Soon other wildlife joined their game, a deer pranced beside them, rabbits darted underfoot, a noble owl swooping between the branches. And then, to her amazement, a wolf, fur the colour of the night sky, joined her at her side. It's powerful strides keeping pace with them easily. Calaeril's heart soared as she felt all the stress drain from her body. Here she felt free.

 

Morning came too soon. And, following her order from last night, Feron had the camp packed up and ready to go before the smaller company had time to rub the sleep from their eyes.

“I think they forgot to saddle their horses,” Maxwell said, looking over to where they sat, mounted, and suited in their armour already.

“It was not uncommon for elves of old to ride in such a manner,” Solas explained. “It does not surprise me that in some places this custom had survived.”

“Wizard, do you not have mounts?” Feron said, and slid from his horse. Calaeril looked towards them.

“The Inquisition is still in it's early day,” the elven man replied. “That is one of the reasons for our journey to Redcliffe.” His response earned him a heavy sign from Feron and he turned to look to her.

“Very well. I would much rather arriving there much faster.” She said.

A quick nod of his head had another of her men dismounting. Handing the reigns to Feron before slinging himself up onto the back of another horse. Taking both reigns in his hand he brought the horses to Solas who looked at him curiously.

“I trust you are a strong rider?” The smile on Feron's face was met with a nod.

“Solas, what's going on?” The Seeker asked.

“It seems we are to arrive in Redcliffe much faster than we anticipated Seeker.” There was a look of appreciation on his face as he smoothed his hand along the main of the white horse.

It was no surprise that Cassandra rode with the young man seated closely behind her. Both of them looking uncomfortable with the lack of saddle. But, they were covering much more ground, so they didn't complain. It was however rather amusing watching the small dwarf hanging on for dear life as he clutched Solas' waist.

“Where did these elves come from?” Calaeril's head turned towards the stone faced woman, listening to her question.

“Across the Amaranthine Ocean,” came Solas' smooth lie. “They were travelling home when a rift sent them here.”

“There are elves that far away?”

“After the fall of Arlathan it does not surprise me that elves ran, even across the ocean, to escape Tevinter, Seeker.”

“And why are they equipped for war then?” Her cold, untrusting eyes settling on Calaeril's face.

“Rifts have spread to their land as well. They were trying to find the reason for it.”

“Spread across the ocean!?” Cassandra's eyes widened. “Makers breath,” she cursed before falling silent once again.

They reached a large road come mid afternoon. Calaeril looked out over the lake as they rode, it was peacefully calm.

“It is lake Calenhad. Redcliffe lies on the southern shore.” Solas had come to ride beside her. “If we keep this pace we should reach it in two days time.”

“And this is all part of Fereldan?” she asked.

Solas nodded his head. “Yes. On the other side of these mountains is Orlais. Fereldan reaches to the north until it meets the Waking Sea. And then over the sea lays The Free Marches, Nevarra, and then further north Rivain, Antiva and The Tevinter Imperium.” He said the last one with undisguised disgust. Seeing she had noticed, he tried to explain. “The Imperium has a strong history of slavery.” he said simply. From the corner of her eye she could see Feron's face also turn down in disgust.

“And your Inquisition, it belongs to Fereldan?”

“No. As far as I can tell it is independent.”

Calaeril's brows rose. “As far as you can tell?”

“It is like a newborn, time will tell if it will go it's own way,” he turned to look at her, “Or it may become a pawn in a larger game. I am hoping for the former.”

“You have little faith in those you ally with Solas.”

“I am an apostate. I cannot afford to trust easily.”

She had picked up on a few of their customs. This Maker of these was a religious being of importance. Solas had strayed from that path? Was this something to be shunned because of? “You do not believe in the Maker? This made you an apostate?” She voiced her question.

“No. While it is true I do not believe in the Maker, that is not what I mean. I am a mage not from a circle. Thus branded an apostate.” His response was calm. “Had I of offered services months ago then I am sure I would have been locked away with the rest of the mages in the circle.” Ah, so wizards here are known as mages and are disliked. She filed away that piece of information along with everything else Solas had told her.

Come evening she had pried much information about Thedas from Solas, who in turn was quite glad to share it to a new student. They camped just off the road, along the shore of the large lake. She could see smaller groups further along the shore, some traders, others like themselves, looked ready for war. Tomorrow they would have to hunt, she noticed, their supplies were getting low. They ate in comfortable silence, save for Varric telling his wild stories to an ever interested Maxwell. Her own men sat off to the side, not paying visible attention to them, but, she knew they were always listening.

Their own scouts had been collecting herbs and roots along their journey, more than they would use. Perhaps she could make use of the traders close by? Gathering the pack, she motioned her two main scouts to follow. Lagoron and Dúlinnor were the best of them, Lagoron his speed, and nothing missed Dúlinnor's ever watchful eyes.

“What have you learned?” She asked walking down the quiet road, her robes fluttering in the cool night air.

“The wildlife in this land is different, but for the most part it is harmless. It should not pose a threat to us in the future.” Lagoron said as he walked to her left. “As for the plant life... it is interesting. I have seen a flower that warms to the sun, releasing a pleasant fragrance, but is hot to the touch. I collected some seeds for further study if you require them Dúlinnor.”

“I will have a look,” came Dúlinnor's quite reply. He was a man of few words, but when he spoke he spoke with the grace that came to all her people.

Up ahead they could make out one of the groups of traders. “These people do not trust elves,” Dúlinnor eyed the new group of humans wearily. He was right, she could see the eyes of the humans narrow at them, hands never far from their weapons.

“This land trusts no one,” Calaeril replied, “Most of all those who use magic. Tell the others to refrain from using it in front of anyone.” They stepped closer to the group of travellers, feeling naked without her armour. This was a trade, she reminded herself, not a battle. Maybe she could practice using this strange language.

“Well met travellers,” she smiled at them, the movement of her tongue felt stiff. This was a crude language. “You are traders are you not?”

They eyed her, taking note of her clothes, the pack hanging from her shoulder and the two armed elven men at her side.

“You ain't got anything we want rabbit,” of the younger men spoke first, disdain clearly in his voice. Rabbit? By the tone of his voice it was supposed to be an insult, but why rabbit? Calaeril was confused.

The rest of the group looked on in silence, no one adding anything past the man's initial statement. The sound of the fire the only noise save from one of the tents she heard a deep, raspy cough.

“Then we shall move on.” She did not want to waste time with those not interested, there were other traders in the area after all.

“Wait!” The voice of a woman called out. They all turned to look as the flap of a tent opened and an old woman hobbled out. She was very old by human standards, her hands swollen with age, joints creaking as she moved. “Don't listen to these young ones.” She shot a withered glare towards the ones seated by the campfire. “I'm still in charge, even if they forget sometimes. What do you have to trade?”

“Plants. Herbs, roots and flowers.” The old woman's eyes lit up. “Maybe you can make use of them.”

She wanted it all. Especially the healing plant they called elfroot. Calaeril made a special note to make sure her people collected more of it. Lagoron hovered around her at all times, never out of reaching distance should something unexpected should happen. The old woman was careful in her actions, pain evident on her face as she tried to use fingers.

In return for the plants she got a collection of strange coins, honey and salt. Honey for wine and medicine, salt for meats. It was enough to start them off for future trades. It seemed like they would be in Thedas for a while, and an income of sorts would be required if they wanted to survive.

“Lagoron, go to our camp and get the soothing balm.” Every wince on the older woman's face made Calaeril wince in return. She could not leave the old woman like this. Lagoron swiftly carried out her command and was back before the woman could question his disappearance. He handed over the bag filled with their healing supplies.

“What is this?” The old woman asked looking over the assortment of jars.

“Your hands,” Calaeril held out her own hand. Unsure, the old woman put her hand in Calaeril's. Using the balm she smoothed it over the swollen skin, earning a relieved sigh.

“What's this stuff?” One of the younger armed men came over to look at them.

“It is a soothing balm, normally we use it to help those after a battle, but it works just the same now.” She explained to the man.

“You're a healer then?” There was a light shining in the older woman's eyes as she asked the question. Calaeril nodded and moved onto the other hand. “Can you help my son? He was injured by bandits a few days back and has a fever.” Fever meant infection.

“I can have a look, but I cannot make any promises.” At least maybe she could ease his suffering.

Calaeril had hardly finished rubbing on the balm before the old woman grabbed her hand and dragged her off to the tent she had come from. Inside was her son. Judging by the pale colour of his skin and how his eyes hardly opened at the sound of them entering, he had no more than a day or two before he was well beyond saving. Now, in his current state her medicine would do very little. He needed magic.

“Dermon, I brought help. Open your eyes.” The woman knelt next to her son, his eyes opening for a second before closing again, too weak to look around.

“If you could leave us.” If Calaeril was going to try save him it was best not to have someone watching her every move. Reluctantly the older woman left the tent.

“I thought she'd never leave,” Dermon's voice was ragged. She handed him the cup of water by his bed, helping him drink.

Calaeril moved to where she saw bandages on his thigh, slowly unwrapping them. The smell of infected tissue met her nose, she tried not to gag at the smell.

“You are dying,” she said. There was no need to try and sugar coat this.

“Aye, I know.” A fit of coughs caught him, she could do little to help.

“My herbs will do little to help here. The infection is too far spread.” Black lines travelled up his leg. Amputation was no longer an option. All that was left was hoping her magic could be able to do something. She hesitated before talking again. “There is another way I can try and heal you.”

His eyes opened and looked at her for a long moment before closing again. “You a mage then?” He didn't sound angry or disgusted. He didn't seem to care. “If you can save the leg do it.”

With his permission she pressed her hand against the infected area. Foul blood oozed from the gash, she wiped it away with a cloth before reaching for her magic.

The last time she had used it had been right after a battle, she had been too tired to fully grasp what she had been feeling. It was like a deep running well, connected to the very earth around her. She pulled at the well, willing the healing magic to come forth and into Dermon. She worked over the man, replacing all signs of infection she could find, draining any bad blood too corrupted to be saved. By the end of it she looked down at the now sleeping man, there was some colour back in his skin, but he would still need time to heal. The infection was gone, his blood clean, but she could not risk sealing the gash with magic, it would be easily noticed. In her bag she searched for the basic supplies and went about stitching his leg.

That was how the old woman found her. Head bent over, mending her son's leg in the limited light in the tent.

“I will leave you with some salve.” Calaeril didn't look up from the leg as she finished bandaging the area. “The bandages will need changing twice a day, the salve applied each time. I cleaned the infection best I could, it should not come back. Tell him once he wakes that his leg will make it-” Arms engulfed her as the old woman threw herself towards Calaeril.

“Thank you!” Tears fell from the woman's eyes freely. “I don't know how I can ever repay you! What's your name?”

“I am Calaeril. We are with the Inquisition.” It felt strange to hear herself aligned with the human order.

“You're always welcome to share our fire, if we ever meet again.” The gratitude the older woman showed shone in her smile.

They tried to leave after that but the woman pressed a pouch into her hand, refusing to let them go without paying for the treatment and medicine. She accepted the trade reluctantly before Lagoron, Dúlinnor and herself returned back to camp.

Chapter Text

The Hinterlands was not what she expected. Then again she had not been sure what to expect in the first place. She sure didn't the level of violence that greeted her. Within the first day of travel they had come across mages and templars, locked in battle, neither sides willing to listen to reason. A village known as the Crossroads had been under siege, bandits roaming the countryside.

I wonder if it maybe we have bitten off more than we can chew,” Feron said voicing his concerns. “This Inquisition seems rather unequipped to deal with the level of discontent in these lands.”

As much as it pained Calaeril to admit, she saw the reasoning behind his words. But, this 'Herald' was the only lead they had to stopping the rifts from entering her world. The Inquisition was still their best hope.

We will do all we can to aid them. They will grow given enough support. Until we can find a way home, we need them.”

Their supplies had grown. Elfroot made a suitable replacement for kingsfoil, their medicines earning them trading rights within the village. Her scouts watched daily, gathered information, but kept hidden. Their presence in the area was hardly noticed. All eyes were on the smaller group of the the Herald however.

“We don't know the location of either of their camps! We'll be walking in blind!” Varric argued with the Seeker. Neither could agree on a course of action. Mages and templars alike ran rampart in the area, killing any. Refugees or patrols, it mattered not, all were hunted down. “We don't have the forces to do this!”

Calaeril stood patiently to the side. She wondered how anything in this world got done if everyone was so ready to hide and cower behind their walls. Solas had been translating for them, although she did not need it, and for the most part he stayed out of their squabbles.

Lagoron, lead the scouts to the west. Search for this camp.” She gave them their orders. Not one questioning her. “Feron, lead the others and clear the roads. Ensure the way is clear for any refugees then meet up with the scouts once they find the camps. You know what to do.”Solas relayed her orders to Cassandra who agreed to help clear the roads.

And you?” Came Solas' question.

She looked over to the village. It was in poor condition. It needed food, medicine, healing. “The village needs help as well. Ýril, come with me, we will aid those here.”

“Seeker, our elven captain here is going to assist the village. I will stay here to help them communicate.” Cassandra was unhappy to hear of Solas' decision, reluctantly agreeing before her and Feron left the small village. Varric sluggishly following behind them, grumbling about wanting to be back in the city.

Ýril and Calaeril helped the priestess, known as Mother Giselle, tending to the wounds of the injured. Solas lending his magic to those her herbs could not help. The three women made steady progress before they felt the familiar pangs of hunger.

“Go to the northern part of the town, there is a hunter there. He should be preparing food.” Mother Giselle instructed them. Gratefully they thanked her and made her way to the hunter who in turn handed them food.

As she ate she couldn't help but overhear him as he talked with another human. It was not hard, they did not lower their voices.

“More refugees turn up every damn day. At this rate we'll all starve by the end of the week,” he complained.

“Aye, those damn mages keep scaring the rams away. Hunters are too scared to go out as well.”

Solas saw her looking at the men. “They need food. There are too many mouths to feed.” He explained to her.

More and more people needed help, wherever she looked. “They gave us food. It would be polite to repay them.”

 

 

They left the village soon after that. Bows in hand, Calaeril and Ýril walked the path back up the hill. The area was scarred from battle, signs that Feron had come through here already. Their horses trailing after them at a leisurely pace.

The rams were not hard to find. The large, burly animals left many tracks, each one easy to follow. Ýril broke off from their group, following one set, while Calaeril and Solas the other.

The wind was in their favour, but still she made sure they were never upwind of their prey. Notching an arrow she lifted her bow, eyeing up the rams grazing in the field beyond. She took a deep breath, and exhaled, letting loose the arrow, another soon flying towards the second ram. They both collapsed to the ground, grass still in their mouths.

A quick kill. You are quite proficient at this.” Solas commented, nodding to her bow.

There is no need for an animal to suffer.” She never understood the need humans had to hunt things for sport.

Indeed. Your skill with the bow indicates you are familiar with it. Were you a hunter in your land?”

Calaeril smiled. “A hunter of sorts, yes.” If hunting orcs and spiders counted that is. “I was part of the king's personal guard. Being able to use a bow would be helpful in some situations.”

Solas chuckled. “Yes, I would imagine so.”

Together the lifted the rams onto the back of the horses. The blood quickly soaking into the pristine white fur of the mounts. Nostrils flaring, hooves stamping at ground as they voiced their displeasure. She soothed the horses, promising a trip to the river later. As she talked softly to them she felt an odd sensation slide over her skin. The cool feeling of magic slid around her as she frowned. What was this? She could feel no ill intent from the presence, it seemed more curious than anything else. Before she could focus on it more it disappeared as fast as it came, leaving her confused by the whole experience.

My Lady,” Ýril had returned, her own mount carrying the bodies of two more rams. It should be enough for the hunters. “There is trouble.” The words had hardly left her mouth before they were off, following Ýril as she led them towards a cabin. Calaeril could hear yelling inside.

Bursting through the door they came face to face with a templar, his hand wrapped around the neck of an elvish woman. Pants hanging past his knees made his intentions clear as to why he was here.

“Piss off!” He growled at them. “This bitch had it coming. Fucking rabbit.” He spat at the woman. Tear pouring down her face as she chocked, gasping for breath. Her clothes in tatters, as it clung to her skinny frame.

Knife in hand Calaeril stared the man down. “There is no mercy for people like you.” Without any warning she leapt forward, sinking her blade into the indent at his throat. Eyes wide, he spluttered, spraying blood as he tried to speak, before dropping the woman and sinking to the ground in a heap.

“Thank you!” The woman said as she gasped for air. Solas came forwards, checking her for injuries, healing the red welts the templar had left on her neck. “Those bastards killed my husband, accused him of having magic. Then this one came back, he was going to...” Tears ran down her face again. “Going to....” With a yell she got to her feet, kicking the lifeless form of the templar at their feet. “You sick Fuck! Dread wolf take you! You killed my husband.” And with that she sank to the floor again, weeping uncontrollably. Ýril went to the woman's side, ushering words of comfort, whether or not the woman understood was irrelevant in that moment.

Dragging the body from the house, Solas finally spoke. “You speak common.”

Calaeril groaned inwardly. She had honestly forgotten Solas had been there, all her focus had been on the templar. “Yes. It is spoken in one of the lands of men. The others of my party however cannot speak it.”

“You speak it well,” he complimented her. “So you are well travelled then.”

“Much the same as the fall of this Arlathan, we also had to leave our homeland. Some of us took a long way around.” She replied.

“It was recent then?” There was interest in his voice. “The destruction of your home?”

“No, not recent. It happened in the Years of Trees, some 10000 years ago. But we still mourn the loss of our home.”

He was silent, thinking something over. “I take it your race has a long lifespan? How old are you if I may ask?”

She considered berating him for his question, but there was something about the hope in his voice that made her answer truthfully. “I not long ago celebrated my 7056 th birthday.” It was not a very old age, compared to the ones born during the Year of Lamps, but she had achieved much in her life. “I have never seen one of my people die from age. But here....” She thought of some of the elves she had seen here. Crows feet at their eyes, hair white from age, memory lost to the point they could not recognise loved ones.

“The elven name for humans here are 'shemlen', quick ones. For during the time of Arlathan my people did not know age as they do now. The elves of this age are remnants of once was.” There was a deep sadness in his voice. Calaeril did not have Ýril's comforting ways, she could only stand there motionlessly. “But now I see how you are able to handle yourself so well. You really have had many years of practice.” She just smiled at his attempt of making light of the conversation.

They buried the body far from the cabin, promising the widow to find her husband's wedding ring, it was the least they could do for the woman who had lost so much. Returning back to the village, horses hauling the rams, they went to the hunter.

“How did you – no, it doesn't matter. Thank you,” he said. “It will keep the hunger pangs away for at least another week. Now that the Inquisition is clearing the roads, our hunters can finally head back up into the hills themselves. Thank you.”

“We should return to the Revered Mother, I suspect she will be wondering where we have gone.” Solas moved off first, leaving them to catch up.

 

 

 

Feron arrived back at the camp not long after nightfall, a smile on his face. “We have done as you asked my lady. The templar camp has been dealt with.”

Any problems I should know about?”

No. A few scrapes here and there, but all are fine,” he replied. “The dwarf's weapon was quite interesting. It is a marvel of technology.”

Varric was voicing his concerns once more to the Seeker, who in turn argued hers back. Maxwell ignoring them both as he chewed on his dinner. Feron watched them with amusement. “They bicker like an old married couple. I am picking up their language slowly, but even still, it makes me wonder how they ended up travelling together if they cannot manage a single conversation without yelling at each other.” Calaeril laughed at his comment.

Yes, it is a wonder.”

Later she sat by the fire, a cup of wine in her hands, looking up at the sky. They had tried their best to correct the horrid excuse that passed for wine in this land, the result was enough to pass as elven, but barely. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Solas approach, book in hand.

“Good evening Solas,” she smiled at the mage.

“Good evening Calaeril.” He greeted her back. “I have come to read here if that is alright? Master Tethras and the Seeker are rather vocal this evening.” And that they were. Although on the other side of the camp, their voices rang out in the night air. It would be a wonder if any of them got any sleep if they continued that way.

“Of course. Please join me by the fire.” She moved over on the log, and took a sip of her drink. “There are actually something I wish to ask you.”

“Oh? Well I will answer if I can.”

“I have heard this phrase, may the dread wolf take you, used often by the elvish people here. What does it mean?”

Solas looked uncomfortable but still answered her question. “It refers to the elven god Fen'harel, also known as The Dread Wolf. It is a dalish curse, something along the lines as to wish someone bad luck.”

“Oh. Then I will make sure not to use it often then.” She dropped the subject. Solas nodded and opened his book, resting it on his lap as he read in the dim light of the fire.

Maybe it was the wine, but she was sure she felt the tingle on her skin again, the same sensation she had felt whilst they were hunting. The cooling sensation smoothed over her skin, warm from the fire. It was pleasant in a way. Unlike last time however, it stayed, inspecting every part of her. She drank from her cup, and continued observing it as it did the same to her. Deep inside she felt her own magic wanting to reach out and inspect the foreign magic, curious to see what would happen, she let it come forth. Her own magic, so much like the earth itself rose, meeting the frosty magic with an almost playful greeting. It swirled around her as it expanded in the slowest of movements. She resisted the urge to frown, sensing the strange aura retreat slightly, before it crept back slowly, it's interest stronger this time.

“Solas! You have first watch!” Cassandra yelled from the other side of the camp. With the sudden noise, the curious magic retreated, leaving a tingling on her skin. Solas jumped at the noise as well, his book slamming shut. She tried not to laugh.

“If you will excuse me, I should start setting the wards for the night.” And with that Solas left her alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Solas

 

 

Solas' finger toyed with the edge of the page, the book itself was interesting, but his mind was elsewhere. More specifically on the new company that they had acquired on their way to the Hinterlands. At first he had thought them of his people. Their height, grace, the language, even the way they fought, was all a reminder of what was long lost. But, the more time he spent with them the more he saw them for what they were, a glimpse of what could have been had the corruption of his people not destroyed everything they were.

 

And then there was Calaeril. The one who continued to amaze him. She was nothing like he had expected. She came from nobility, that much was obvious by the way she held herself, but she did not lord it above the others of her company. They were her equals, none below her. Solas' lip twitched, there were a few who could learn from her, his thoughts gracing over a certain someone back in Haven.

 

She had asked him about The Dread Wolf. He had tried his hardest to keep a straight face during that conversation. Of course they would come to learn of this world and his failings. He wondered if they would come to curse him as the ones he had saved had. If they would also blame him for all of their problems.

 

Out of curiosity, he let his aura flow out over towards her, trying to sense her reaction to their conversation. He had done this earlier today, trying to learn more about her, but had found out little. She had little to no aura of her own, indicating she was not a mage, and for some reason this bothered him somewhat.

 

His aura moved over her, and his brow rose when he saw a reaction. Her eyes widened slightly, a small gasp pulled from her lips. He continued his exploration, trying to pick on anything that could give him answers to his never ending list of questions. He felt surprise, wonder, and overwhelming curiosity common in children. He was going to pull his aura away when he felt something shift in her, and like a door opening, magic rose to greet him.

 

Solas was shocked and amazed. Her magic felt so much different from anything he had experienced. It was raw and open, full of life giving energy. It pushed and pulled at his aura, drawing it closer, before playfully backing off again. Solas resisted the urge to move closer to her as her aura merged seamlessly with his own for a moment. Did she know what she was doing?

 

“Solas!” The Seeker's voice made him jump, his mind had wholly been focused on Calaeril. He excused himself, taking his long forgotten book with him.

 

He walked the perimeter of the camp dozens of times, every so often stopping to check on the wards. It was useless, just an excuse to keep his mind busy, his wards never failed. Calaeril was a mage then. He had shrugged it off so easily the first time, sensing no magic from her then, but now having felt how easily she controlled it he was shocked he had dismissed it to quickly. No, she most definitely was a mage, and a powerful it seems.

 

The night was calm. Below them the small village was asleep. His watch came and went tortuously slow, and he eagerly slipped into his tent, seeking the fade.

 

Of course his thoughts decided to follow him even there and he found himself not in his own dream, but in Calaeril's. But, he noticed, she was not alone. Wisdom, the spirit he counted as one of his closest friends, was there. He looked at the form she had chosen, a hart, brows raising from where he stood in the shadows.

 

Calaeril was humming a soft tune while running her hands down Wisdom's flank, she was caught up entirely in her own world. Her long pale hair shifted slightly in a warm breeze. Soft sunlight making it shine brighter than any kings jewels. She was beautiful, he noted, the very representation of the same essence of spring her magic felt of. He wondered briefly what it would be like to her hand, would it be hardened by years of training like his were? Or, were they as soft as they looked?

 

Solas shook his head, trying to rid himself of that line of thought. He turned to leave when he heard Calaeril's humming change, and she started to sing.

 

“The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.”

 


Solas couldn't move, his feet were frozen in place as he listened to her sing. Calaeril's voice held steady, her notes never wavering. She sang softly, as one might sing to a child to put them to sleep. Only her voice commanded an entirely different reaction from him.

 

Wisdom's head lifted and looked at him, her eyes easily finding him in the darkness he surrounded himself with. Calaeril's gaze followed hers, her song pausing, but lost interest when she found nothing. Solas held his breath, warring with himself, wanting to hear more but knowing this was her private dream.

 

“There Beren came from mountains cold,
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled
He walked alone and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.”

 

 

This was not right, watching her in her dreams like this, he scolded himself. He tore himself away, forcing his feet to move, not to listen to the hypnotic way her voice had captured his attention. He faded further into the shadows, searching for his own place in the fade.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Lagoron and the scouts set out after first light to scout for the mage encampment. Fighting mages made Calaeril feel on edge. The range and scale of magic here was so much more destructive than in her world. She knew that this had to be done, but it didn't stop her from feeling uneasy sending them off in such a small group.

“Are we tending to the sick again today?”  Ýril's question came. She sat with the remainder the company.

“No. I do not like the feel of the mages. We will join Feron in clearing the roads until we hear word from Lagoron.” Calaeril replied setting down the tasteless bowl of porridge. The food here was all tasteless. What she would give for a taste of home, or even just a handful of spices.

“Very well."  Ýril replied, her food forgotten, most likely for the same reason as Calaeril's.

“Varric,” Solas' voice was still heavy with sleep as he addressed the dwarf. “You joined the Inquisition when seeker Pentaghast questioned you?” Calaeril's head turned slightly to listen into their conversation, eager to learn more about them.

Varric's shoulders shook as he laughed. “She was very insistent that I help.”

“Interesting.” Solas seemed to think that over for a bit. “What's 'Interesting'?” Confusion written on Varric's face as he rubbed his chin.

“It surprised me that an elven apostate is the one who joined the Inquisition voluntarily.” Solas replied and got to his feet, heading towards his tent. Varric was looking after him with an unknown expression on his face before continuing to eat.

 

 

The roads were much clearer today than they had been since they had arrived in the Hinterlands. But, with less bandits to harass them, more and more refugees were starting to show up. They had little but the clothes on their backs. Many of them needed food, medicine, shelter. Calaeril wondered how something so small as the Inquisition could help so many people.

The small amount of remaining templars in the area didn't prove to much of on obstacle, falling quickly almost as soon as they came upon them. Calaeril bent over one such templar, searching for anything useful when she came across a note.

 

Meet us later at Dwarfson's Pass.

Got some nice stuff off those rabbit ears we dealt with yesterday.

We can sell it on our way to Val Royeaux. We'll wait a couple of days, if you're not here find your own way there.

 

Calaeril felt the anger from yesterday come back in full force. These templars were meant to protect innocents, but instead were hunting them down and robbing them. The mere thought that they were still in the area solidified the thought that they would have to hunt them down.

“We will make a detour to Dwarfson's Pass,” she said while rereading the note. “There are templars there we must deal with.”  She caught Solas' eye and held the note out to him.

“The ones from yesterday?” He asked as he accepted the piece of paper. She nodded.

Dwarfson's Pass was not to far away from their current position, making a quick trip there wouldn't take long, neither would it require the whole company to come with her. The woman had said there were only two others involved in the attack, so it wouldn't take long either.

“Feron, I'll take a few men and deal with these templars at Dwarfson's Pass. I will not be long. Continue clearing the roads, I'll meet you later.”  Feron nodded at her orders.

On her orders three of her men, including Dúlinnor, accompanied her as she set out for the pass. They made quick time, and arrived in under an hour. From their position hidden behind an outcrop of rock they watched the templars ahead of them. They sat relaxed in the shade of a tree, their armour set down next to their packs some distance away. There were only two of them, neither of them paying any attention to their surroundings. The voices of the templars carried over to them and Calaeril frowned as she listen to their disgusting talk of their conquests in the region.

Calaeril unslung her bow, and stepped out from behind their cover and into the sunlight. The movement caught their eyes, their eyes quickly landing on her and her readied weapon. Realising their weapons and armour were too far away to quickly reach, they froze. Calaeril stepped closer. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the rest of her small group follow suit.

Realising they were outnumbered seemed to snap them out of their frozen state as they jumped to their feet.

“Boss-” the younger of the two looked at them with wide eyes.

“You have no business here rabbits,” the one who looked to be in charge spat at them. The other one stood back slightly, eyes flicking between her and to the others at her back. “Get out of here before send you away in pieces.” His false bravery made her smile.

“You have something that does not belong to you,” she said, still smiling as she rose her bow and aimed it at them. “We would like it back.”

Piss off!” His face started to go red as he grew more and more flustered. “I ain't got anything of yours.”

Calaeril laughed. “I know. You would never have been able to take anything off me, you would have died before you could even try. No, you took something from a body not yet cold after his wife watched you murder him. You will return it now, or, you will be the ones sent away in pieces.” She turned their words back on them and stood her ground.

“Boss, maybe we should ju-” the second guy started.

“Those filthy rabbits got what was coming to them! He was a bloody mage! That whore was lucky to get out of it alive, harbouring him like that!” He took a step towards his weapon, never looking away from Calaeril. Calaeril watched his movement with interest. The fact that he thought he might be able to make it was amusing to her. The younger man stepped back from his companion, distancing himself as he saw what was about to happen.

n an almost sluggish rush the fuming man leap towards where his sword lay. In the same moment an arrow flew through the air from behind her, hitting the man in the leg, making him tumble to the ground.

“Do not try that again,” She growled at the man, her own bow still aimed at him. “I will not ask another time. Give back what you have taken.”

“Fuck you knife-ear!” He tried again to get to his feet and spring towards his weapon.

“Disappointing,” Calaeril said as she lowered her bow. Another arrow flew past her, hitting the fumbling human square in the chest. He spluttered as he fell back to the ground. His life ending as blood flowed from his mouth. Calaeril turned to the other human who looked at his fallen companion in shock.

“This one seems a bit slow. Think he'll try the same?”  One of her men commented behind her, another laughed.

The voice brought the young man's attention back to what was happening and he held up his hands in surrender. “I don't want any trouble!”

“Return what was stolen,” she commanded him.

“I had nothing to do with what ever he did! Honest! We were going to travel to Val Royeaux together. But I was going to ditch him along the highway.”

“And do what?” She asked. “Maybe find some helpless person along the way to rob?”

“No! No, I was going to go to Haven, join the Inquisition. I never wanted to be part of this war with the mages.”

He wanted to join the Inquisition? On the surface she could sense to deceit from him. She studied the man closely. He was young, around the same age as Maxwell. For a human that meant he had hardly become a man, he had probably just become a knight.

“Search the body for any valuables. Look for a wedding ring in particular,”  she said as she rose a hand, signalling her men to stand down. She looked back at the man. “You will go to the crossroads, and report to the men stationed there who are with the Inquisition. If I hear anything of you I will hunt you down. Do you understand?”

He hastily nodded and ran towards his things. Packing up as fast as he could before running off.

“My Lady,”  Dúlinnor held out his hand. He was holding the small ring they had been searching for, blood from the dead man muddying the golden surface. She took the ring and slipped it into a pouch at her waist.

“We should get back to the others,”  she said and nodded towards the dead man. “Leave him for the birds.”

 

 

 

When they finally caught up with the others there had been still no word from the scouts as to the whereabouts of the mages encampment and it was getting on into to afternoon. The late autumn air already turning cold for the night, they decided to head back to their own camp on the outskirts of the crossroads.

“Did you find the templars?”  Solas asked her as he set his staff down by his tent.

“Yes, and they have been dealt with. I will send Ýril later to give the widow her belongings back. How much longer will we be in this area?”

He paused to think about it for a moment. “Once we bring this area under control and restore peace I assume. Then will need to speak with the horse master before we leave. More mounts would make travelling back to Haven much quicker.”

“Very well.”

“Solas,” Maxwell came to stand beside him. “You are an expert on the fade right?” He asked.

“I have many experiences in the fade, yes. What is it you need?”

“Well, as a mage you must see so much more than I ever could. Would you tell me of something you've seen there?” His face looked hopeful.

"I saw a young Qunari working in a simple kitchen,” he started, “baking bread as she was ordered every morning. In every loaf she broke the rules. She’d take a pinch of sugar and fold it into the centre, like a secret, and this act of small rebellion brought a shining smile to her face."

Calaeril wondered briefly what a Qunari was. The word was completely foreign to her.

“That's such a sweet tale. Was it true? Did that really happen?” Maxwell continued to ask questions.

“It is possible. It was a memory captured in the fade,” he answered.

Cassandra, listening from not far away interjected. “You say you've witnessed these past events in the Fade, or the memories of them. But the Fade distorts reality. Surely it cannot offer a true reflection of what occurred.”

“Are your own memories any different?” Solas countered. “The truth is never precise, regardless of where you are.”

Cassandra huffed at his answer and pulled Maxwell away.

“Solas, you speak of this fade often, what is it?”  Calaeril's curiosity got the better of her ask she asked.

“I forget you are not from this world.” Solas smiled slightly and motioned her towards the log they had sat at the night before. “The fade is the realm in which magic comes from. It is a place where dreamers go when they sleep and spirits dwell. It is separated from this world by the veil. In the time of my people this world and the fade were one, spirits were free to come as they pleased, magic was in the very air you breathe.”  He said longingly staring up at the sky.

The idea that magic was so common reminded her of the stories her parents used to tell her, of the days when the Maiar were seen as often as the elves themselves. He spoke in the same way they used to when they recalled those times.

“You said it is where dreamers go? So people here all go to the fade?”  She asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “You as well will have experienced the fade by now. For many dreaming in the fade is a harmless experience. But, for mages it is another story. For ones who have magic their connection to the fade is stronger, and if not careful they run the risk of possession by spirits and demons who want to enter this world.”

“So a mage is never safe then, even when they sleep.”  The thought made her sad. Magic here was so much more complicated. Nothing was simple.

“My Lady,”  Lagoron's voice came from the treeline as he walked towards where she sat. “We have found the apostates. They are camped in a cave system in the woods. They have set barriers to the entrance of the caves so we could not assess their numbers.”

Damn. This meant they were more or less going to be walking in blind, no matter how they went about this. Maybe catching them off guard during the night while they slept would be the best option. But having to destroy the barriers would cost them the element of surprise.

“Is there was a way to sneak into their camp while the barrier was down and remove it from the inside?” She asked Lagoron.

He shook his head. “They come and go at all times of they day, and always have people set at the only entrance. Each time resetting the barrier.”

Dúlinnor seeing the arrival of Lagoron had joined them and spoke up. “Perhaps we can send someone with magic in, to infiltrate their ranks, and disable the barrier during the night?”

The plan had merit. It could work. But, they had no idea of the social structure of the mages of this world. If any of them were to go in they would be found out immediately.

“I will do it,”  Solas spoke. “I know enough of the mage circles to pretend for a while.”

“If you are sure you will be able convince them long enough?”  Her question was met only with a smile.