Chapter 1: Arrival
It was a pleasant day.
Entirely unsuitable to his mood. Solas had just returned from a meeting with his fellow Evanuris, something that had more and more left a bitter taste to his mouth. Even Mythal was of little help, instead offering disappointed glances as he argued with, well, everyone else. Felassan trails behind him, offering little use.
Then the sky exploded, dumping an elf at his feet. It was almost possible that nothing had happened at all. Birds resumed their chirping, Felassan only paused a moment before finishing his next step, and blood soaked the ground.
A large shard of glass was almost dissecting her. She mumbled something as he quickly bent down next to her, but it was incoherent. The woman was dying.
“Sylaise”, he barked, not bothering to turn at look at Felassan. Solas hears his footsteps disappear as the Eluvian is activated. At least June was useful for something. He tore off the woman’s clothes, trying to better asses the extent of the damage. Solas had seen many battles, and thus injuries, in the Fade but this was… how was she still alive?
She struggles for a moment, drawing a raspy breath. Judging by the glass, at least one of her lungs had been collapsed.
“Don’t speak, I’m getting help” he says, feeling terribly, profoundly, useless. Removing the shard would cause her to bleed out, but letting it remain would do the same, just slowly.
She ignores him and raises her other hand, shaking violently, to her chest. Then, she whispers something, 3 syllables as the blood bubbles from her mouth, and the shard falls through her. The hand he had held to her shoulder also falls through her, and he nearly stumbles. Whatever magic that was, it wasn’t from the Fade. The elf is now translucent and a faint blue colour, reminiscent of a spirit. He can only watch in discomfort as the women reaches inside herself, grips the glass and flings it away. She has squeezed her eyes shut, gritting her teeth and, hand still in her chest, begins a healing spell. He realises with a start that her other arm is broken, bone peeking out as it lay by her side, shattered. As his brain tries to process what to do next, she is solid again. The wound is awful, but he can sense that in her 20 seconds of healing she’s managed to repair her lung and most of her rib-cage. With that, she coughs up some blood -he can feel it slick on his hands, why is it so warm- gives him a thumbs up and passes out.
Her eyes where gold.
He is doing his best to repair what he can when Felassan finally returns with Sylaise in tow. Solas can hear the surprise in her tone;
“Later” he growls out. Now is not the time for questions.
Sylaise shuts up, pushing him aside and gets to work. As he stands up, knees protesting after just a few minutes, he realises that his own hands were trembling slightly, and he grips them together to stop. Everything had just caught him off guard.
“Go get hot water and towels” he snaps at Felassan, who runs off quickly. He knows, somewhere, that the elf had done nothing to deserve his ire, but he is in too petty a mood to not direct it somewhere.
Sylaise, for all their disagreements, is an excellent healer. Soon nothing is left to mark where the elf had nearly died, and he thinks for a moment that it looks like the women had decided to take a nap after bathing in the blood of her enemies. He looks away as Sylaise covers the women back up, then picks her up himself and carries her to a nearby room within his holdings.
Now that he has time to look, Solas scans over her face. It is unmarred by vallaslin, showing fairly pale skin, and delicate, if unusual features. Most noticeable of are her ears. They where longer then he had seen before and seemed to curve in towards the tips, unlike the straight edge of his own.
“Sylaise, do you know this woman?” She must have been a noble of some sort, to wear no vallaslin. Perhaps the daughter of someone? Solas knew Sylaise paid more attention to court then he cared to at the moment.
Sylaise caught up to him, increasing her pace. “I would have assumed you did, Dread Wolf. She was at your palace, was she not? So remote too, you won’t even let us visit. Don’t tell me you’re taking women to bed without knowing who they are” she rambled, and he found himself irritated with himself that he even bothered to ask.
“Her ears are quite weird” she supplied, after he had stopped listening.
“I’m aware. I appreciate the help, but you can leave now. She’ll live yet.”
“Ugh, you’re no fun. Courts gonna have a field day, the Dread Wolf and his mysterious lover!”
“She's not…” Solas started, but Sylaise had already left.
Placing her sleeping form on the bed he frowned. The room was nice, if a bit dusty, yet he could not remember the last time he’d been in here. A guest room, and he held no guests.
Now he did, he corrected himself. Felassan knocked at the doorframe. “Come” said Solas, waving him in lazily.
“Her things, and the glass should you wish to inspect them” Solas inhaled to ask but Felassan beat him to the punch “Sorry, Fen’Harel, I do not know her”
Gems, a significant amount of gold, rings, books, a dagger (made of glass, of all things) a blue potion, and 2 journals filled the pack. One journal was full, the other only a few pages in. The language was unknown yet again, but he could tell it was different to the one on the glass shard. The books were in yet another script. The gold coins didn’t resemble anything he knew.
The woman was clearly not from Arlathan.
The clothing she had worn was simple, at a first glance. Blacks and beige, good travelling colours. However, hints of decorative gold where weaved through the bodice, the fringes of the cloak, the very buckles on her quiver grasping carefully engraved plants. The plates of armour -shoulder guards - dropped on the table in the room reflected that same, careful but graceful design. It was not just for show.
Her dagger was an entirely different beast; he fiddled with it, staring out his windows to the city. It was a ceremonial thing; 2 skeletons in a lovers embrace adorned the hilt, with spiralling engraving leading down to 5 skulls at the base. Flecks of blood clung to the dagger itself.
They could not be wiped off.
He felt uneasy and placed the dagger down.
When he finds her in the Fade, his unease grows. He had gone to sleep, intending to find Wisdom and quiz her on the events of the day, but instead found her and many other spirits gathered around the sleeping women. They keep a distance, just outside her dreams. Some of the braver spirits, such as Justice and Valour skirt the edges, but refuse to enter. Solas pushes past them, impatient. Perhaps entering her dreams would give him more information on who she is.
The women is now a dragon, perching on a crumbling wall.
They are high on a mountain, the piercing cold grasping at him even as a wolf. The Dragon seems to inspect him a moment, tilting its head to the side.
“Drem yol lok, grohiik" she says.
“I don’t understand”
She feels much the same, from what he could gather. As the dragon slinks down from her perch, Solas notices that she only has 4 limbs, wings curled in. He thinks of his own attempted improvement on the form of a wolf and wonders if she’s done the same. It takes a certain amount of arrogance to try and improve upon the Creators design, and he thinks he understands her a little in that moment.
Then, she is an elf. He follows suit.
A dreamer? To have such control of the Fade.
The only thing that had changed was her form, however. She still stalks around him, expression neutral. Features that had seemed unusual as she slept look almost alien now. Her hair, not quite black, is impractically long. Her ears twitch slightly in the breeze as she says something again; the intonation is different - another language. He feels a tug of un-ease as she stops before him, and has to fight with himself to hold her gaze. He eyes are golden but slitted, and she narrows them, before breaking her stare and removing her gloves slowly.
Solas doesn’t feel as if he won.
She holds her palms out to him, facing the sky. He wonders if he should just leave, report to Mythal. His Pride stops him. No mage would be powerful enough to harm him in the fade, he reasons.
Tentatively, he lifts his own hands to meet hers. Her skin is warm, bordering on hot, and he nearly flinches away. She grips onto his wrists, twisting so their hands are parallel, preventing him from doing so. Her eyes find him again, and she smiles faintly before closing them. Something tugs at his soul and feels for a terrible second that he just might die. It takes perhaps two seconds, and then he’s falling back, gasping as everything seems to snap back into place as if nothing had been amiss at all.
Solas throws up in the snow.
The woman stands above him, a faint look of concern darting over her face.
She holds out a hand to help him get back up.
“Sorry, I know that feels awful if you’re not ready for it”
Her voice is oddly melodic, he thinks, before remembering to be mad. His ego wounded, he ignores her hand and stumbles to his feet.
“What manner of demon are you?” He spits out. He’s aware, somewhere, that she’s not a demon but ignores it.
She raises an eyebrow, unimpressed.
“That is not very nice”
“I am Fen’Harel of the Evenuri, and I command you to tell me what you just did and what you are” He takes on his wolf form, towing over her, and feels a semblance of control. He had come here to interrogate her, by the Void.
She looks up at him, one hand reaching to her forehead to block out the sun, the other resting indifferently on her hip.
“Ooo, Dread Wolf. Sounds fun. Quick, tell me your plans of world domination”
Solas faltered. This had never happened.
“Really? How dull. Begone”
With an idle motion of her wrist Solas wakes up in bed, kicked out of the Fade. Anger would have seeped through his bones, had he not been incredulous. Not that he spent much time in others dreams, but to have been simply kicked out of it was impressive. Still, whatever magic she was using felt… old. It was nothing he knew. Mythal would find out, he thought. Solas had only a few servants, but he was not foolish enough to believe all of them to be loyal, no matter how much they were paid. The Elvehn woman was clearly not impressed by his titles, and didn’t seem to speak the language before… whatever it was she did. Magic capable of stealing information? He wanted desperately to know more. It was foolish to try and intimidate her into giving it, but it usually worked, in his defence.
It was 3 weeks before she let him back into her dreams. The women was speaking animatedly to a spirit of valour, her hands emphasising as she weaved her story. As Solas approached, this time as an elf, she gave him nothing more than a glance before continuing. The Woman was speaking in her own language - unlike Elvehn, which was lyrical and graceful, her tongue was oddly rough, and throaty. As he listens more, the pair ignoring him for some time, he can tell that she is actually speaking in a mix of two separate languages. The second one is even more guttural, and he can recognise it for the first language she had spoken to him in the Fade. Valour says something - spirits are not constrained by things such as language - and the woman laughs. It’s a warm, delicate thing, and he wishes for a brief pang that he could partake.
He also understands that she’s making him wait on purpose, as a show of power.
Solas looks over their surroundings, an cave the size of a small city. Huge, glowing mushrooms seem to dot the landscape, with a giant orb of some sort acting as a mechanical sun. The architecture, like everything about the women, is unrecognizable.
Eventually, she bows to the spirit, and it leaves to journey to another part of the Fade. She says nothing, so he ventures first, oddly nervous.
"My name is Solas.” He says, waiting for her reaction.
“Call me Ahraan.” She sees that he’s spotted the omission in her sentence and rolls her eyes. “I’ve had many names, this will suit as another. You would not know any of my prior ones, I assure you. Assuming this is not the afterlife, I seem to have dropped in to your world. Quite interesting! But we are dreaming yes? Unless I’ve finally ascended to god-hood, Ser Dread Wolf?”
He smiles, charmed.
“Not that I know of. I apologise for trying to use my title like that. You are not from Thedas?”
“No.” She frowns slightly “I probably should have attempted to lie about that but I fear my circumstances are not working in my favour. Do you know of Skyrim?” Her eyes meet his suddenly and he shivers at her otherness. “Mhm, thought not”
“What are you doing here?”
“Not sure, this was entirely accidental”
“A piece of glass was gutting through you, I was sure you were to die. If you did not heal yourself…” he pauses. “Must have been a big accident”
She ignores him, eyes trained on his face.
“This is terribly rude, but what kind of elf are you?”
Solas frowned. What did she mean? Ahraan looked different, but not unspeakably so.
“The only kind?”
“Ah. Interesting. In my home we have multiple. I am an Altmer, a High-Elf, as the quicklings would say” a thought crosses her face. “You say quicklings, why?”
“They die. We do not. Is it not the same in you-“
She interrupts him, genuine shock on her face.
“Your people are Immortal?”
A chill worked itself up his spine - it hadn't crossed his mind that she could die of something so undefined as living too long. It was unfair that such a spirit could be torn away. How long would they have to discuss things? Solas raked his brain, cursing his lack of knowledge regarding the Quicklings lifespans. Then she had placed her fingers delicately on his chin, tearing him from his sudden spiral, turning his head to make him look at her. It's a feather touch, and she removes it quickly.
"I’m 600 years old. It’s just that it’s an.. rarity among people in my home. I myself will live until I am killed.”
He didn't let it show but felt his heart lift. Instead, he replied with a teasing sniff;
"You are young”
She laughed, and he smiled in return. He had grown to enjoy the sound and decided to look for opportunities to hear it when he could. Her smile dropped suddenly.
"If that is true, I'm beginning to suspect I'm not in Nirn."
That was good, Solas mused, as he was beginning to suspect she was not just an elf who didn't live in Arlathan.
Ahraan was deceptively clever, and as Solas learned quickly, rather private. Although he spent many evenings with her in the Fade, he could get her to speak little of her own world - they had both agreed quickly it was apparent she was no longer in her ‘Skyrim’, and that Solas knew nothing of it. Her mastery of the Fade was… fascinating. He knew she was a dreamer but to be able to bend the Fade to her will so quickly both made him excited, and, he loathed to admit, a little jealous. She mentioned offhandedly that they didn’t draw magic from the Fade in her world, instead coming from a place she called Aetherius. He debated, proposing that it was simply another term for the same thing, but she shot him down, saying it was hard to describe but the difference was profound. He was aware that she enjoyed speaking to spirits, but Justice and Curiosity would not tell him of what was said. So, they spent time talking in the Fade as he told her of his culture, of Arlathan and the Evanuris, of battles and spirits and a little of himself.
He had been speaking of Ghilan’nain’s rise as Andruil's lover when she stopped him and smiled.
"I fear I am waking up, grohiik"
And then she was gone.
Solas cursed and forced himself awake, walking through his holdings to her room. His eyes where bleary but he took care to walk quietly, least one of his servants wake up.
She stood in the moonlight on the balcony, leaning her weight onto it. Most of her back was uncovered by the sheer sheet she had wrapped herself with and Solas gave a sudden intake of breath. Scars ripped across her back, gleaming quietly under the light. He walked slowly beside her, taking care to harden his footsteps to avoid scaring her. She said nothing for a while, and he had no wish to interrupt her thoughts. The glittering spirals of Arlathan spread out before them, and they watched as people started to get ready for the day ahead. Bakers, Nobles, Slaves, Merchants, all had things to do. Solas knew he had things to do too but had found himself drawn to the women beside him.
“I had hoped, the foolish girl that I am, I was just having some rather interesting dream” she said, breaking the comfortable silence.
He thought about pointing out that it had been a dream, but the joke withered away when he saw the frown on her lips.
“I’m sorry, Ahraan”
Silence ruled for a few more hours, even as they sat on the balcony and shared a bottle of wine. Solas knew he had meetings to attend but had cancelled them all for the day. Despite himself, and his loyalty to Mythal, he hoped she would open up, say something, should he stay.
Eventually, she did.
“I was fighting a war when I was dragged here. This had rather unfortunate timing. Krosis”
“What was the war for?”
She smiled at the question, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“For Elvehn supremacy, actually.”
“Your world’s quicklings could wage war against you?”
At this, she laughed, but it was cold and biting.
“I was actually on their side. I answered what the war was for, not my involvement in it”
Solas tilted his head. She would fight against her own race? She was clearly a powerful person, why would she submit to what some quicklings wanted? She had explained that even in her world, the people would live longer than her ‘races of men’. So, they where superior no? Instead of asking the questions individually, he splutters out: “You acted as a traitor to your own people?”, immediately wincing as the syllables left his mouth. The air grew cold. As Ahraan finished her glass, she slammed it down into the edge of the balcony. Solas could smell the blood as a few shards pierced into her hands. He reached to help but she shot a glare his way that made him back off.
She dug out the glass with her trembling fingers, then used a simple healing spell to stitch the skin back together.
“I would be alone, if it pleases.” Her voice is cool and clipped.
Solas wanted to apologise but she had withdrawn into herself and he knew the words would be disregarded at the moment. Instead, he let the shame he felt wash through his aura for a moment, before half-bowing and leaving the room.
He thought could hear her crying as he closed the door.
His own mood darkens as he walks through his halls. Ahraan was deceptively easy to talk to, and Solas had forgotten that she had been torn from her home. Her casual dismissal of him in the first day seemed to rush back to him - she had not mentioned his little display again. A sudden nervousness wormed through him; he had no idea who she was, not really. She had mentioned fighting a war, not in one. Was she a commander? Something more? Little bits of information seemed to trickle into his brain, but he could not make them fit together. She was powerful, possibly equal to himself. She had made herself etherial, not something he would be able to do on a whim while suffering a catastrophic injury.
Most worrying was her body language. Her speech was always formal, steeped in such a way that suggested she was very used to being heard. She walked and spoke in such a way that he had not seen outside of his other Evanuris. A commander of an army may issue commands and expect them to be followed due to his or her authority. A God may issue commands and would have them followed because it was the way things worked. Ahraan spoke like that. Like there was no other option because he could not do anything to oppose her if he wished to. It was a quiet, unconscious sort of arrogance, but it permeated through everything, even as she tried to hide it with her seemingly open and friendly nature.
What gave him pause was that he wasn’t certain she was wrong.
Ahraan worked on controlling her breathing. Breath and Focus . In the Fade, it was easier to convince herself that none of it was real.
It would not do to get upset.
Not many things surprised her anymore, after her years of existence, but to be dumped in a new land, new language and a new culture had worn her down. The Academic side of her thought it was all very interesting, but she found herself almost homesick. At least, in the fade, she had been convinced for a time what she was on a different continent perhaps. That she had been teleported, somehow, to another place on Nirn when the Eye had exploded.
But it was a foolish hypothesis that did little to explain how different her magicka felt. In Skyrim, it was as natural as breathing - it came from everywhere. Here, it felt like she had to suck from a straw. Still potent, but more… directed.
Her heart ached.
Despite the Elvehn man, Solas, trying to intimidate her on their first meeting she had grown to like him. It was refreshing to talk with someone who seemed to have good knowledge of magical theory. The problem with immortality and running a College for mages (A great thesis title, she mused) was that now much of the basis of the education was founded on her own theory. It was difficult to have a stimulating conversation. She had taken a quiet joy in their discussions. The Spirits in the Fade where equally interesting - if a bit one dimensional at times. That beings could be generated, created, from emotion was.. astounding. She wondered if it worked in a similar manner to her ‘become etherial’ shout, dissipating her body to become part of Aetherius.
But everything else made her believe the Thalmor would be laughing at her if they could.
Living people, albeit very powerful people from the sounds of things, worshipped as Gods. It unsettled her, curling in her stomach. A brief part of her considered if this is how her fellow Altmers had felt about Talos, but she pushed the thought away. It was not the time to fall into a debate, considering her rather profound lack of a partner. She had immediately thrown away any thought that they where really Gods and Solas had supported the idea when she voiced it. They were simply worshipped as such.
Rubbing her eyes, she left the balcony and collected her journal from her pack. Solas hadn’t mentioned anything, but she was sure he had rifled through it. The Dovahzul from her previous, and possibly last, day on Nirn presented itself to her. The language was not suited to hard fact and description but had the benefit of being practically dead. She was grateful to see that everything was still there, even the things un-protected by the various enchantments on the pack. It had been a difficult few months, and she had to pick the most important things to bring with her. 2 sets of armour, The Blade of Woe, Azuras star, the Auri-El’s bow, and, her heart singing, the Wooden Mask. Everything else would be safe in Bromjunaar Sanctuary. The Staff of Magnus had been taken before she ended up here.
The Empire was losing the war. It was a simple, if bitter, fact. Although she had helped the Empire during the Stormcloak rebellion, after… dealing with Alduin she had withdrawn completely from much of Skyrim, instead spending her time with the Greybeards. But as they died, taken in the winds of time, she remained the same. At first, simply by virtue of being an Altmer, then by her existence as a vampire. As she got older, collected more souls, and mediated more, she cured herself, then used the Thu’um to become immortal.
And she had walked down to High Hrothgar, after 60 years of meditation, and had known no-one.
So she left.
The College of Winterhold had invited her in with open arms. Her ‘education’ was more of a formality, but she became Arch-Mage a little quicker then she or Savos Aron had prepared for.
Although she had declined to have any direct involvement in the war, after returning to Skyrim from another 3-year stint in Apocrypha, Quaranir had shown up, dying, and thrown the Eye Of Magnus into her care. Cyrodiil had been taken 2 days prior to her coming to Thedas. She let them die, sacrificing many, many people in the hope she could save more in the future. A terrible decision.
Ahraan had failed anyway, for all her hope was worth.
She swallowed away her grief as she traced her own writing. It felt like an age ago, now. After adding some new script, mostly out of habit, she pulled on her cloak and padded out the door, picking a direction at random. She needed to eat.
Promptly, she was lost. The Blue Palace held little to this. She had always known her sense of direction was terrible but even she was in awe of herself. Inigo came back to her, as she walked. Ahraan recalled his words, how he would always tell anybody who would listen how well she knew Skyrim. This list of people included but was not limited to - the Greybeards, Jaarls, bar-maidens, the High Queen of Skyrim, Odahviing, and a beggar she had given a few septums to. She was certain if he could have followed her into Apocrypha via divine resurrection he would have informed Hermaeus Mora himself.
She could never tell, despite her best efforts, if he was joking.
In reality, she had so many things to do that all the rather un-intended detours she was forced to take seemed to end in her favour. She had once ended up in Riften of all places trying to get to the Throat of the World, but it hadn’t been too concerning seeing as she had a Dark-Brotherhood contract to carry out there anyway.
She tried not to think of Astrid's charred body asking her to kill her and wasn’t very successful.
Eventually she came to a stop outside an engraved, grandiose door. Now that she had stopped thinking, a looked around more she realised how… imposing everything was, without being monolithic. She flirted with a comparison to Cyrodiil briefly, in its design. Smaller, of course, then the city, but wielded a similar structure. Winding, crossed hallways with a singular tower blooming in the centre. A six-eyed wolf was engraved carefully into the marble. Fen’Harel indeed. She wondered how Solas had gotten the name.
Shaking her head, she continued walking. For such a large place, it was very empty, although s he managed to follow her nose to what she assumed to be the kitchens. Despite it being midday they were empty.
She was desperately hungry. A stew had been left on the stove, despite the lack of kitchen staff.
Had it been left for her?
Ahraan decided she didn’t care and serves herself, settling at the counter to eat.
She still hears footsteps behind her. Not ones wanting to be heard. Someone had been following her, always at a distance, since she had left her room.
Though Skyrim would likely remember her in a far-away dream of ‘The Dragonborn’, Ahraan would always be a sister of the Dark-Brotherhood. It was a cold little thing she kept tucked away, curled against her soul. Even as she had come to regret it, the training had been invaluable.
So she stays relaxed, unwilling to part with her information gained, and continues eating
The man - she guesses from his gait - also prepares some food, before seating himself next to her.
“You had a rather dramatic entrance, if I may say”. His voice is light and teasing.
The two elves play a game for a moment - who will turn and look at the other first?
“I’m grateful for your permission…” He pauses then to act bewildered. “I believe I didn’t catch your name.”
His eyes twinkle a bit and she can’t help but be a little charmed. Solas was polite and interesting but had never been so outwardly friendly. He reminds her of Teldryn on his more charming days.
“I didn’t give it, but let us not chase each other in circles all day.” She holds out her hand, intending to shake his, but he takes it and kisses her knuckles instead.
“Felassan, but I would be honoured to chase you. A worthy hunt, my Lady.”
A change of tactic is required.
Ahraan leans forward, allows her eyes to lid and parts her lips. She hears his intake of breath as she gets closer, before turning at the last moment to stop before his ear. The tip had turned a lovely pink. She allows her voice to go husky.
“What an odd name.”
Then she leans back and resumes eating, uninterested.
“My, my, I can see why Fen’Harel was so eager to hide you.”
“A mage of great talent appears, literally, out of thin air and he has not formally informed even Mythal yet.”
Ahraan reads between the lines.
“And yet she has not asked to see me?”
“Why would the all mother want to meet you?”
Ah. He is a good spy. Ahraan had thought herself clever by not letting him know that she had heard him walking, but she now suspects it had hurt her case instead. Now he knew that she knew yet was unfazed by it.
What would one conclude from that?
She smiled sweetly instead.
“I’ve let my arrogance get the better of me.”
“I suspect you don’t let anything get the better of you”
“Only in bed”
“Is seduction your only method of deflecting questions?”
“The most enjoyable one, at least”
He laughs, shaking his head. She can tell it's a genuine one. Nothing would come of the flirtation - she wasn’t interested and he had been sent to spy on her - but the wordplay was… fun.
“Alright, I give up”
“I’ve given you quite a lot of information, don’t be like that” she says, smile playing on her lips.
“Not your name.”
“Ahraan” she murmurs.
He replies but she stops listening, pushing the bowl away from herself. She slides off the stool to go do some more exploration.
And possibly give an apology to Solas.
The exploration may be related to how bad she will be at finding Solas.
She pauses at the entryway, debating with herself. If she asks Felassan will know she is not from Arlathan, at the least. Ahraan knew she had no reason, yet, to not trust them, but found it difficult to give it. Biting the inside of her cheek, she asks:
“Why Dread Wolf?”
He blinks at her.
“The other gods like to mock him. His refusal to keep slaves…”
Bile rose in her throat and she could nothing to quell her outburst.
“Your society is immortal and you have slaves?!”
In the back of her mind, she is aware that she’s already let slip too much about how little she knows but at the moment she is too angry to care.
Turning on her heels, she picks a direction at random and storms through the halls, coming to a halt at the same set of engraved doors she had seen before. She can hear an angry discussion happening. Shoving through the doors she finds herself in a grand hall. Solas looks up sharply from the conversation he was having, lips drawn in a thin line of displeasure. He is not having a good day either and she feels a shiver of satisfaction, in spite of how juvenile it is.
The women he is talking to turns to her, and sneers. Ahraan thinks for a moment that she would be rather beautiful were it not for the unfortunate expression.
‘And who is this, Fen’Harel? Have you taken a whore…”
Ahraan doesn’t care to hear the end of the sentence instead grumbled out a ‘Nahlot Zul”. She knew Solas had seen her Thu’um before, even if he had not asked her about it. Rounding on him, she feels her words fall away as he looks at her in horror. Ahraan considers that the other elf had been a lover or something, but decides it doesn’t matter considering nothing but her ego would have been wounded.
Still, the look shakes her. Thus, instead of her rather self-righteous prepared speech, she angrily grunts out:
The Dread Wolf laughs in her face.
Bit of an exposition dump, sorry!
Short chapter, but it felt like the right time to cut it, wanted to go back to Solas.
Solas could tell Ahraan was upset, but the sight of Anduril left literally speechless was a welcome one, even if it was unwise. After he had left Ahraan that morning, Andruil had shown up demanding an audience to discuss her annual blood hunt.
A practice Solas held in little esteem.
So when Ahraan had stormed in, raging as she was, and made her shut up, he couldn’t help his amusement after his shock had worn off.
Then he realised she had just spoken of slaves and he felt his initial mirth expire.
“If you would let my guest go, little dragon, we will speak promptly?”
Solas wasn’t sure why he had called her little dragon, but he been thinking it anyways. He hadn’t asked yet why she was often a dragon in her dreams, and she seemed reluctant to speak of it in turn. Solas felt like he was trying to complete a puzzle with far too few of the pieces.
Ahraan was fascinating, if frustrating.
She flicked her gaze between himself and Andruil, seemingly wanting to say more before settling on “Fine” and unleashing the spell. Her magic felt very idiosyncratic, seemingly emerging from her rather than her connection to the fade. It was also becoming clear that she had to speak to use it, which sounded rather impractical. Perhaps it was part of some sort of ritual? He could feel her connection to the fade though. The black ice of her emotions waved through him.
As Ahraan turned to leave he took note of what she was wearing for the first time - it was ridiculous. She was still wrapped haphazardly in the sheet from before, with an ebony cloak to compliment, stalking through his hall barefoot as if it they were hers.
She would have been a spirit of Pride, had she been one.
Andruil, he knew, was also watching Ahraan. He wasn’t sure of the exact nature of the spell used, but Andruil seemed more confused then the outrage he would have expected.
“Uh…” she blinked, then tried again “You will come to the hunt yes?’
He nodded, bored of the discussion.
Then she too left, through his Eluvian.
Felassan comes and finds him, then. He’s a good spy, and a loyal follower. Solas had asked him to keep an eye on Ahraan, still wary of her intentions.
Much like she is of mine, he realises.
“We only spoke for a minute or two, my lord. She… knows how to speak without saying much.”
Solas felt a flicker of annoyance.
“She’s clearly not from Arlathan, but I guess you already knew that. She expected that Mythal would want to speak to her, but deflected my questions when I tried to pursue why.”
After a few more minutes of discussion, he dismissed Felassan with a wave of his hand. He had not gained anything. Still, something told him he should just go speak with her.
When he finds her, she is sitting cross-legged in his gardens, eyes shut. She’s changed into different clothes - into armour, he mentally corrects himself. It’s of an intricate design, black leather with the sigil of a dragon resting just above her breasts.
He shouldn’t be thinking about her breasts.
Her hair has been gathered into a low bun, wisps of it floating in the breeze. For an aura that was so loud before, he can feel nothing of it now. Had this been their first meeting, he would have thought her to not be a mage at all. Solas scolds himself then - he came to talk, not think.
He settles himself next to her. She doesn’t open her eyes.
“Where did you get the armour from?” he begins.
“My satchel is enchanted - you could only find what I allowed you to.” She breathes out the words, then leans back on her hands, and flutters her eyes open to look at him. It should worry him more than it does.
“You sent Felassan to talk to me”
It isn’t a question but Solas replies with a ‘Yes’ anyway.
She just nods.
“I’m sorry for interrupting your..” she trails off. “My emotions get the better of me. Paarthurnax would not be pleased”
“And friend” she replies.
“Is that the one you spoke of before?”
Her eyes crinkle in amusement.
“I’m capable of having more than one friend, you know”
He feels himself returning her smile, glad that the air seems to have cleared a little.
“Could I be one?”
“Felassan seemed surprised you haven’t sold me out to Mythal yet, so I suppose so.”
“She knows, I’m sure you’ll be dragged before her in time.”
“An exercise in futility” Ahraan huffed.
“What do you mean”
“I will be leaving either way”
“Listen, you cannot just…”
Ahraan calmly spoke 3 words in his face.
“The Shout I just used will force an immortal being to experience mortality. It is so awful for them they cease to function. It does nothing for you because you can die, and seeing as you’re an Evanuris, I am not concerned. “
“I'm not... not the same way they are." He pauses and tries to organise his thoughts. He doesn't want to be shut out again. "Do all your people use these shouts? Is that the magic you used before?” He wanted to ask about how she apparently had the opportunity to use such a shout on a ‘true’ immortal being but he filed it away for later.
She sniffed, then frowned.
“I’ve done a poor job of hiding it. Theoretically, anyone can do them but I am the best living user. Instead of drawing from Aetherius, or the Fade in your case, you bend things to your will.”
“I don’t understand”
She sighed and Solas suddenly feels like a child. He tries to not let it bug him.
“When I shout, I use my understanding of what I’m shouting to alter reality to what I want”
“And anyone can do this in your world?”
She scoffs. Upon seeing the look on his face, her eyes soften.
“I'm sorry, it's difficult to explain. I don't been to be pompous. There where perhaps 5 mortal users in my world. 4 of them where peaceful monks though.”
“It is the language of Dragons” she says. He thinks that Dragons must be very different in her world.
“In your world, what did you do?” It’s a very vague question, but he hopes she will answer it.
“I’ve had many titles” she muses slowly.
Solas takes time to think over what to say.
“Which was your favourite?”
“What does it mean?”
Solas’ tongue feels thick.
“Overlord of what?”
She smiles at him, almost quizzically.
“What do you think? Dragons”
“What…are you?” It’s a stupid question, but he asks before he can stop himself.
“An aspect of time, as all Dragons are”
Solas swallows nervously.
“You are a God?”
She frowns and looks almost offended. It’s an odd feeling, to ask if someone is a God and have them look at him like that. He vaguely wishes the Evanuris would do the same. She inhales, then looks at him, her lips parted slightly.
Then she just winks at him.
“Wouldn’t you like to know”
He really would like to know but doesn’t press her more. She holds his gaze for a little longer, then looks away, studying the air itself. He remembers that this is the same place she had dropped in, all those weeks ago.
“Can I-” she says
“Do you-” he says.
She flashes her teeth and then laughs. He joins in, and everything feels a little better. He can’t imagine her with a title like ‘Overlord’ but maybe that’s okay. She feels….genuine. Maybe he is stupid and she’s really good at her job, but it feels right. She looks out to the rest of the garden. It’s not very impressive. Solas hadn’t maintained it very well over the years, and it was mostly just grass and a few trees dotted between the walkways of the building. It had been beautiful when Mythal had given it to him, and she had fussed after he had refused to take slaves and it had all died.
“Do you mind if I try something?” She tries again, and her voice sounds a little lighter. A little easier.
“Try something is quite vague but go on” he replies.
She manages to tell him to shut up without saying anything, giving him a pointed look. Then, she rolls forwards, resting on her calves, and places her hands gently into the ground. He feels her draw from the fade, pulling the magic through her fingertips and into the ground. Stems start to reach out of the grass, curling and growing as she pours more magic into them. Blue, black, purple flowers are offset by smatterings of yellow. Solas is a poor gardener, but he recognises a few of the plants.
When he joins her, she nearly falters, but then smiles at him. He adds other flowers, ones he had seen in better gardens, cared for over thousands of years. He expects their magic to clash, but it seems to roll off each-other, like ink in water. They build an orange tree together, the sweet spice of the fruit filling the air. He follows her lead, working on the blueprints she leaves behind. At first, he thinks it's going to be chaotic but she works steadfastly with a pattern in mind, taming the plants to order. When they are finished they are both a little sweaty - it’s a completely useless way to drain your magic and the other Evanuris would be almost offended that he hadn't gotten someone else to do it. It’s a little imperfect - he’s sure if one of Mythals groundskeepers looked at it they would be horrified - but it adds to the charm. It’s beautiful.
Better than when it was made.
And then he looks at Ahraan and she’s smiling, satisfaction rolling off her features. She lays back, and he joins her, peaking at the clouds through the leaves of the orange tree.
“I could not do that in Skyrim...I never thanked you for saving my life”
He means to reply but she continues “I am… unused to having to explain myself.”
“You don’t have to then” he speaks without thinking. Solas never speaks without thinking.
Something about Ahra makes him do stupid things.
But when he says it she turns and gives him a look that makes his heart lurch a little, and he doesn’t regret it.
He doesn't bring up the slaves. She doesn't bring up the slaves. He is tired of all their conversations running hot and cold. So, they stay in the garden and pretend everything is fine.
Mythal arrives unannounced 2 days later.
did you know i have 14k words of random scenes for the future?
Solas was not invited to the meeting. If you could call it that at least - they where, in a literal sense, meeting but it suffered from a server lack of the pomp and circumstance that seemed to follow Mythal around. Mythals favourite sentinel even looked displeased, given away by the ever so slight clench in his jaw. Solas had learnt to tell what each type of clench meant, and almost considered it an art form. The Sentinel was a serious man, even by his standards, and this type of jaw clench was the extent of the control he had lost over himself. Perhaps the end is nigh, if Mythal had dragged herself to his holdings instead of just ‘requesting’ a meeting at one of her temples.
Solas faintly understood the sentinel's discomfort.
They were standing awkwardly outside his halls. The sentinel had, probably to his own chagrin, tried to make small talk over the new state of Solas’ gardens. It hadn’t been a very interesting discussion for either of the men, and they had settled into a bubble of silence shortly thereafter. Not only was Solas now worried - because the very interesting women who had dropped into his life and had some vague connection to dragons was now in a one on one discussion with the Evanuris who got quite personally offended when anyone else did anything with dragons but was also one of the few people he respected - but he was also bored. It was almost worse in a sense.
A part of him cringed that he felt that he needed to be around to try and protect Ahra if Mythal took offence to her. If he had been younger, he would have wandered off to go do something more productive. Then he had to hold a snort back - if he had been younger, he would have just run along to Mythal immediately. It had come to amaze him how young Ahra was - when he was 600 he was still running around as Mythals wolf.
The thought of Ahra wearing Vallaslin made his blood run cold- and just how she held herself told him she wouldn’t enjoy it either. The sentinel shifted uncomfortably on his feet as sounds of laughter emitted from the room - it was light and lilting. That was Ahra’s polite laugh. She did it when uncomfortable. She had only been in the waking world for 3 days now, but Solas had gotten a grip on being able to read her better, and she had relaxed more after he had promised to not ask difficult questions.
Mythal wouldn’t be so kind.
Solas’s mouth fell open when they finally walked out of the room after 2 long hours, arms linked and promising to have tea together sometime soon. Ahra had dressed a little better for the meeting - Solas had sent Felassan to get a suitable dress of some manner. It didn’t really suit her. It was a frilly thing, and she was too skinny from all the sleeping and recovery to really fill it out, but at least it was fashionable - at least from Felassan understandings. The situation was almost unnerving - Ahra was, or to be more accurate could be, charming but not to that extent. Mythal was positively glowing. The two women ignored the men as they walked to the Eluvian, Ahra even pausing to bow to Mythal, with the latter gently correcting her to the proper elven style.
And then, just like that, she was gone. No more than 3 sentences were spoken to Solas.
Ahraans pointed smile dropped as soon as Mythal and her sentinel left.
“Did you tell her about the time stuff I said? The dragons?”
Solas felt his lips twitch down.
“No” he said, honestly.
She studied him in the manner he had come to hate. It was the unreadable expression. Mythal gave him the same expression sometimes.
Something clicked in his mind.
“You-“ he started.
“She-“ Ahra swallowed her words. “Sithis. Can we get some food?”
The pair of them were getting very good at avoiding talking about anything. He took her wrist gently, leading her to the kitchens. Ahra had confessed last night she had a terrible sense of direction, and although the touch wasn’t needed she looked like she needed it. Solas tried to ignore that he wanted to. Her skin was always faintly warm as if she’s just dried herself after a hot bath.
Wisdom materialised and started walking with them. Many of the spirits had fled after Ahra had dropped in - Mischief had told Ahra in the Fade that she looked weird - but a few where starting to come back and interact with them outside of their dreams. Ahra tugged her wrist away when they got to their destination. She had withdrawn, saying nothing, caught up in her own thoughts while staring blankly at the fire pit in the centre of the room, leaning on one of the counters. It flickered back and forth in her eyes.
“Sithis?” Solas prompted, mostly trying to distract her.
Solas keeps his hands busy, working on filleting some fish one of his servants had brought in earlier.
A tug pulled at the corner of her mouth, but it was too slight to tell why.
“The Dreadfather - Chaos. Doom. Discord. Nothing. The Void. I-Am-Not” she answered.
“A swear word?”
That earned him a smile. A small one, true, but genuine.
“Not really actually. Sithis exists outside of the Aedra and Deadra, which is what most people on Tamriel worship”
“And yet you use his name?”
She hesitated, then shook her head. “I was-“ she looked down to the table, avoiding his eyes. “I was raised in a death cult and group of assassins dedicated to him”
“Oh” Solas said, dumbly, removing scales from one of the fish.
“Sorry, I am censoring myself. I was the de facto leader of a group of assassins dedicated to him” she was biting the inside of her lips, rolling it between her teeth. Solas continued removing the scales from the fish. “I spoke to a corpse to get contracts…I was the only person who could, was picked and all. People who wanted us had a little ritual and everything.” He put the knife down. “I… left eventually, but I won’t try to justify it. Belief is a terrible thing.”
Wisdom spoke up when he could not. “You were raised in a cult?”
Ahra was inspecting her hands closely. “They had a contract on my parents - they where Thalmor, Elven Supremacists in my world. Didn’t know what to do with 6 year old me so took me along. Astrid, the leader at the time, took a liking to me.” Then she frowned again, eyes getting dark. “We didn’t take contracts on children or pregnant women but it didn’t stop them from using kids. Astrid ended up selling me out 13 years later anyway.”
“I-“ Solas resized he was not speaking loud enough. “I’m sorry.”
She shrugged. “We were hardly the moral bastion, but she was… was my mother. I had been named Listener, I think it upset her. The Brotherhood hadn’t had one in years and she thought I was a threat..” She trailed off, darting her eyes to his face.
He placed his hand over hers, stopping her as she fiddled with them. “I’m sorry you were raised like that. I know what it’s like to trust someone so much they shape your view of the world. It’s a difficult thing to change.” Giving a small squeeze he let go and got back to the fish. “Thank you for telling me.” Wisdom smiled at him.
“It was a long time ago, I left 550 years ago. I’ve come to terms with it. Some of the jobs were very interesting, but I have a very morbid sense of humour.” She was a bit more relaxed now, her posture less rigid. Wisdom, to his surprise, leaned forward, ‘body’ clipping through the surface of the table.
“Tell us about one? I’ve never conversed with an Assassin before. I do enjoy your tales of your world.”
Ahras eyes darted to him again, clouded.
“I kept slaves for a while.” He blurts out the confession. “So you don’t need to… I understand, I mean.” Now it’s his turn to avoid looking at her. “We will try to do better” he continues, his voice suddenly emotional. Ahraan reached out and tentatively squeezed his shoulder. She lets go quickly, brushing past him to get two glasses and a bottle of wine. She pauses as she pours, tilting the bottle back and forth at Wisdom, who shakes her head, smiling.
“I guess spirits can’t enjoy spirits” she mumbles, then smiles at her own terrible joke.
“Out of all our moral failings that joke was truly the apex” Ahraan shoots him a glare but doesn’t lose the smile.
“The vegetables are burning”
“So to preface, I am a terrible cook. I pray for your sakes you’ll never have to eat anything I make. Lucky me, I got a contract where I needed to impersonate one of the best chefs in Tamerial…”
Ahra was a good storyteller - Solas had gasped when she confessed that the contract ended up being for the life of the Emperor of Tamriel. She then went on to say he was a lovely man and they ended up sharing a glass of wine before she killed him, and that she would later side with the Empire in the civil war because of the meeting. Dusk had quickly fled and the trio had moved to the library - Wisdom was teaching Ahra to read, and Solas was lazily sketching the scene in turn. He added another mental note about her - her eyebrows would pinch in slightly when she was concentrating. Sometimes she would look up and catch him staring for a second or two, then return to the reading, face impassive.
It was getting frustrating - he could tell small things, the small movements in her face, the way she fiddled with her hands. But never what she was thinking. He had gotten used to her eyes more now, found them a little less unnerving. They were similar to Mythals, but colder, somehow, the silted pupils easier to ignore with distance. A question bubbled up in his mind but he pushed it away - the meeting with Mythal and subsequent talks about her past had drained her. Her ears would twitch a little sometimes, whenever she misread something and Wisdom had to correct her.
“Did you have spirits in your world? You’re quite comfortable with Wisdom.” She didn’t pause her reading but yawned quickly. Solas knew she had gotten up early that morning to do some training of some sort. She was a mage - he was unsure why she’d need to do physical training but she just said something of burning off energy and connecting with her body.
“Uh..” She yawned again. “Not like this. Sometimes those who had died would manifest as ‘spirits’ but not raw emotions as such” She turned the page of the book, scratching the side of her nose absentmindedly. “Your spirits are much more interesting for what it’s worth” she added, as an afterthought.
“You seem to take everything in stride.” It was a statement and 'seemed' felt like a poor word choice. Ahra did take everything in stride. Solas wasn’t sure if he’d be so calm if he had been dropped in her world.
A small smile broke onto her lips. “Weird shit happens, if you’ll excuse my language. I try not to take it personally. I fear I would have gone insane a long time ago if I did.”
Solas laughed, throwing his head back. What a blasé attitude. After he had calmed, he pressed “Do you not want to go back?”
She mulled over the question for a time. She did this often. Ahra was the type of person who liked to think about what she was going to say before saying anything. “Yes,” she started “but given how I got here I’m not sure it’s possible, if my theory is correct.” Solas tried to ignore the pull in his stomach after she had said ‘yes.’ It was a selfish pull.
“And what is that theory?” He asked.
She set the book down on the table next to her, pulling her legs up to curl into the couch. Wisdom fired him a glare. He was distracting from the lesson. Solas couldn’t find it in himself to mind.
“I was protecting an artefact - the Eye of Magnus. Magnus was one of the et’Ada to create the world, or my world, Nirn, but he fled when he realised another god, Lorkhan, had tricked them into being stuck there forever.” She winced slightly. “This is a lot of paraphrasing so…” Solas just nodded, and she continued. “The fleeing caused him to rip holes into Oblivion, giving Nirn its sun, stars and magic. Shortly after I had joined the College of Winterhold, I discovered the Eye in a very old Nordic ruin.” His expression gives him away. “Nords are another race” she adds, to explain. “I think that the Eye was the original blueprint for the sun, which ended up not being needed. If Magnus, say, went on to create Thedas, it could have worked as a connection, when it exploded, between our two worlds. Given how powerful magic is here…” she trailed off.
Solas rolled the thought around in his brain. He had never heard of this Magnus, but he wasn’t opposed to the idea. Arlathan and well, nearly all elves worshipped the Evanuris as the Creators, but he knew they didn’t make anything. Well, at least not the world. Dragons and The Children of Stone wouldn’t be around then. Wisdom had already started listing off questions, prior annoyance at their reading lessons being interrupted apparently forgotten. She wasn’t giving Ahra time to respond.
Then Ahra yawned again and Solas stepped in to save her from the spirit. “Perhaps it’s best if we continue this discussion in the Fade, friend? It’s been a long day” he said. Wisdom nodded eagerly and disappeared. Ahra gave him a grateful, quick smile of gratitude. “I have not seen Wisdom this excited in decades” he said.
“I’m an exciting woman” she replied, dryly. The hint of a smile gave her away.
They looked at each other and pressure seemed to settle in the room. Solas suddenly regretted he was sitting on the opposite couch. Her name was sitting on his tongue when she cleared her throat.
“Thank you for the food and discussion.” She stood up, unwrapping her legs from underneath her. Pausing at the doorway, she added: “I’ll try not to get lost on the way back to my room” and gave him a wink.
She didn’t join them in the Fade that night.
Solas eventually gave in when Wisdom told him for the fifth time to just go check on her. It was possible she just needed some time alone - she had decisively avoided discussing the meeting with Mythal. It was very early morning, dew sticking to the grass as he made his way to her quarters. He was thinking of asking her if she’d like to move to one closer to his - hers had been picked because it was simply the closest at the time and she had been bleeding out. He could give her better lodgings.
She deserved better lodgings.
When he got there he knew she had left. The bed had been carefully made, all of her small possessions packed up, likely taken with her.
The Orb sat in the centre of the room on a table, glowing. Shadows were cast by anything standing in the lights way.
It was beautiful.
He would have thought it made of glass, if that didn’t seem impractical. Whips of gold, blue, pinks and yellows raced through it, frenetically battling each other for domination. He spent longer than he’d like to admit just watching it. Eventually, he approached it and gently ran his fingers over it - it had the same heat the Ahra did, but he couldn’t feel anything about it. It had been placed in the grips of an elaborate dragons claw, and Solas could spot the engravings of a wolf and dragon running down its palm through the orb. A letter had been left next to the arrangement, folded neatly down the centre.
He removed his fingers from the orb and opened it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t steal knowledge on how to write. Excuse my penmanship, if you will, as writing in Dovahzul hardly lends itself to the elegance of Elvehn. I am sorry for leaving in such a manner - you have been nothing but kind to me, and I will never forget your open-mindedness and intellect, although I must confess I suspect we will meet again. I hope, in time, I will be able to make it up to you.
We have all the time in Thedas, right?
I am leaving to the south. I scanned your maps and spotted some suitable mountain ranges. Do you remember the first time we met in the Fade? That place was called the ‘Throat of the World’. I spent nearly 60 years meditating in silence there once - when I came back down to the monastery I did not know anyone. I’m still wrapping my head around it, but assuming no unfortunate circumstances I need not carry the same fear for you. A small blessing for all that was lost.
I am not
I am a creature of solitude, at my heart, as all Dovah (Dragons) are, but I will admit I am running away from my problems. I need time to think and mourn and adjust my understanding of the world - a hard truth to swallow as a result of my own pride. I am also, and I will likely never say this so enjoy it on paper, scared. I have not told you much of my life, something which I regret and will amend as soon as I regain myself, but I have not been scared in a long time. It is not an emotion that suits me nor I it. A mutual distaste.
I leave with this letter the Orb Mythal gave me. She has implied in a few words that only I can use it, which is something I have absolutely no interest in. I will be forever in your debt if you where to shove it in a drawer somewhere and forget about it.
I need to avoid the Fade, for a time, but I am not avoiding you.
He traces over the words, not finding it in himself to be angry yet.
The pieces don’t fit together.
Ok so realised humans were not on Thedas yet - gonna roll with the idea they were basically cavemen/severely stunted by the lack of the veil, and had very very little presence on Thedas at this point. They came from somewhere, so perhaps a few had wondered into elvehn territory?
Chapter 5: Suitability
2 Months Later.
It’s too hot. Locals to Arlathan, the great city, would sometimes wonder why it was possible their creators let it be too hot. It would be suicide to voice such an opinion, of course, but if you were fortunate enough to not be bound by the Vallaslin, you could at least think about it. Murder rates in Arlathan where low, but suicide rates where ostensibly high. Complaining, for example, was an act of suicide. Even so, it was a pointless question to ask. If Elgar’nan’s mother willed it so, that was the way it was. It was generally the best way to work with the Evanuris, actually. If they wanted something, you would do your best to make it so.
Or be forced to. They were fond of that too.
Mynan was trying to enjoy thinking about the fact it was too hot for as long as he could. The priest of Falon’Din was a stern-faced man who seemingly took little joy in life - suitable for a priest of death, Mynan supposed. The black of Falon’Dins Vallaslin slides down his face, ending at his mouth which was currently in a pointed grimace. Mynan felt much the same. Mynans mother was a slave to this priest of Falon’Din, and now he would be too. You could not, of course, be forced to take the blood writing geas, but there where easier ways to force people to things. Threats did the trick in this case. Threats meaning Falon’Din creating rivers of blood from killing his slaves. If he joined, he might be able to prevent his mother from being in the next shipment.
The Priest looked up from his writing as footsteps echoed down the hall. It was dark because this was a temple to Falon’Din and it would not be very fashionable to have the same white walls and open windows as Mythal. Everything was dark. The temple was made of great monolithic slabs of black Serendibite, sometimes polished to flicker in the light, sometimes raw and menacing to break up the textures of the building. It hurt his head to think of the logistics of moving this much Serendibite to Arlathan, but that was why he wasn’t in charge. The Gods tended to put the most effort into their temples in Arlathan, so he doubted all of Falon’Dins temples were like this, at the very least. It was just an easy way to display wealth and show off the number of followers and slaves one had.
He turned to look at the latecomer - he had been told he’d be going through the process of getting the Vallaslin with a woman. She was dressed in black and white - typical low-quality street clothes that were a little too big for her. The edges of her toes would peek out from her dress as she walked. She walked properly - a stupid thing to notice but something his mother had spent hours trying to teach to his sister. Heel to toe, back straight but head slightly dipped to show respect. Arms gripped lightly at her sides, clutching the fabric of her dress. As she got closer he could make out more - her hair was neatly gathered in a low bun, covering the tips of her ears. She smelt a little of fresh bread and had grey but kind looking eyes.
A kitchen hand. She looked young - Mynan guessed she was in a similar situation to his own. Old enough to join their families in ‘worship’ to Falon’Din.
“You are late” The priest grumbled. It was true - she should have been here 10 minutes ago. It was already an odd time for them to go through the ceremony, as most tended to have it done at night. At least for Falon’Din. The women’s lip trembled a little and she gave a deep bow as she came to a stop next to Mynan.
“I can offer naught but my Apologies my lord. Please accept them, I beg. It’s just my poor brother-”
The priest raised his hand, cutting her off. “Enough” The priest's eyes raked up and down her body. Mynan would be a lair to say she was unattractive. “Perhaps you can make it up to Falon’Din another way”
Mynan doubted Falon’Din would be involved at all.
The women dipped her head again, biting the inside of her cheek. “Of...Of course, My Lord” she stuttered out. Mynan felt a rush of anger but it spluttered out as quickly as it came. It’s not like he had ever known his father. Getting himself killed for saying something wouldn’t help her. Mynan felt a jolt as the priest pried into the women’s aura, wrestling control away from her. Her connection to the fade was a little less than average. It was customary to check if new slaves where talented mages - those talents could be used somewhere else then the kitchen, gardens, or as war fodder.
She gasped a little but recovered quickly - the priest wasn’t being gentle. Eventually, he nodded, satisfied that there wasn’t anything worth elevating her over, and turned to leave and prepare the ritual chambers. Mynan saddled up to her, quickly linking his pinky through hers.
“It’ll be alright. My name is Mynan” he said. She looked up sharply, blinking away the tears that had welled in her eyes. Not that it would be alright. He was a poor liar, but she didn’t seem to notice.
“Diri” she replied, then laughed quietly to herself. “My name is Diri, I mean”
She wrenched herself away from him quickly as they heard the footsteps of the priest coming back. Mynan wished he could do more than provide small lies. It would have been easier for her if she were not pretty. The priest motions for them to follow, eyeing their proximity before turning on his feet, cloak swirling behind him. Mynan moves before she does, leaving Diri to trail behind him. It isn’t a long walk but gives him enough time to develop a sinking feeling.
This was wrong.
It was the way things where done so you sucked it up and turned your eyes and tried not to think about it too much because you couldn’t really do anything about it but it was wrong.
He shoved his thoughts away and followed the priest numbly.
When they entered the chamber he faltered for a second. It was terrible and beautiful. Rings seemed to sink into the ground, eventually ending in a pool of pure midnight, the absence of light itself. It was empty, echoing any noise made back at to their ears. Mynan felt his hands trembling slightly. This was it. Each step towards the pool would be his last few as a free creature.
The priest gestured for him to wade in.
“Wait!” Diri spoke up, panic lacing her voice. “If you will, please allow me to go first, my Lord. To make up for my past transgressions.” The priest paused for a second but nodded. What was she doing? It made no difference if he was bound first or second. Something was also annoying him with how she spoke. What bread-maker used words like transgression.
“Perhaps,” she licked her lips quickly, voice getting lower. “Perhaps I may be able to make it up to you now? It will be better before I am bound, no?” At this proposal, The Priest gave a smirk. Mynan turned to leave, to wait outside, but the priest ordered him to stay as Diri got onto her knees.
The steel of the dagger glinted as she shoved it up through his jaw into his skull. Somehow she was already standing, hand over the mans mouth before Mynan had even processed what happened. Blood splattered across her face, pumping out of the man before he went still and silent, giving up on struggling to stay alive. Diri, or the women because he was beginning to doubt she was a bread-maker, effortlessly picked up the much larger corpse of the man, dumping his body behind the altar. Then she tore off a piece of her dress and started wiping her face clean.
Mynan watched in horror.
She flicked her gaze to him. She’d missed a spot, a splatter of red resting on her eyebrow. Cocking her head to the side, she studies him. “Can you sing?” Her voice was harder now. She wasn’t scared.
“What?” He spluttered.
She frowned at him.
“Are you hard of hearing? Can you sing?” She tucked the dagger back into its holdings on her thigh, reaching for a pencil of kohl and started replicating Falon’Dins Vallaslin on her face. Making quick, practised movements, she recreated the simple design found on many of the kitchen staff.
“Great, come with me. You can’t stay, they’ll have you killed for having had been here. And I would prefer if you didn’t give them a description of me” she stepped closer as she spoke, then gripped his chin and started applying the same fake markings to him. Up close you could tell, but they were believable from a distance.
“You’re an assassin?” He said.
She tutted under her breath. “Just doing a favour I promised. Grand Priest Nelmet was an ass. You were not supposed to be here. I heard he liked to induct the women alone”
She stepped back from him, eyes narrowed as she inspected her work.
“It’ll do.” She gripped his arm and started dragging him along. Mynan was sure she could literally drag him along if she wanted to. She was unnaturally strong.
He wanted to pull himself from her grip but found that he couldn’t. So he protested weakly instead. “Wait. My mother”.
She paused her march but didn’t let go of him. “Is probably already dead. Let me save you” her words were harsh but her eyes were a little softer. He tried to tug away again.
The last thing Mynan saw was her rolling her eyes before the world went black.
The world was swaying in a steady motion. One, two, one, two. His head hurt, spiking whenever he would gently bump into some harsh fabric.
He was being carried.
His blood had rushed to his head, giving him a sense of vertigo to add to his woes. A groan escaped his lips.
“Can you walk?” A demure voice inquired. He started to nod, then remembered his current situation and the fact that the movement made everything go a little funny.
“I think so”
The swaying didn’t stop as he was set down and he promptly threw up. Diri, he remembered now, hesitantly patted his shoulder with a ‘there-there’. It wasn’t very convincing, for someone who was apparently such a thespian before.
“Where are we?” He started, wiping his mouth.
“Not a clue. I was hoping you could tell me. We need to get to the nearest eluvian” she said brightly. Then she scrunched her nose, trying to remember something. “I think they said… something about Dragons and A Square.”
“Dragons hope square?” The world had righted itself, and he took the time to look down the street. It was dark. She must have been carrying him for hours.
She clicked her fingers“Yes, that’s it.” Mynan was finding it hard to believe it was the same women who had been a kind baker and then a master assassin had such a carefree attitude to their current situation. The implications were a little difficult. She started off, not turning to look if he would follow. People did that sometimes, when they were used to being in control. And the people who were not in control followed.
And then stopped to avoid crashing into her. “How do we get there?” She said, nicely if with a little impatience.
“You’re an assassin working in Arlathan and you don’t know your way around? It's one of the biggest hubs in the city” He countered.
She shot him the same type of glare his mother did when he asked stupid questions as a child. Mynan considered backing down. Nearly.
“Yes, well, my original plan got disrupted by you” she huffed.
He noticed she failed to answer the question. He asked her another anyway, as he started to walk. She was lucky he had a good sense of direction, and it would be easy to spot the famed dragon clock-tower once they got into a less destitute area, but he was pretty sure of the way.
“Your name isn’t Diri?”
“The wonders of your intellect never cease” she replied.
That was mean, almost, but she held a playful tone. He let the comment sit, waiting to see if she would add something. People usually tried to fill the silence.
She didn’t try.
He gave up. “And? What is it?”
“Diri is fine” Then she pulled a face. “Actually call me Grey. Diri is a silly name”
“You got it, Diri”
She narrowed her eyes at him and Mynan suddenly remembered she’d just been covered in the blood of an important member of Falon’Dins leadership ring. Not that Mynan had known at the time - he had failed to introduce himself, and Mynan only knew who he was after she had told him.
“Grey it is”. He didn’t want to be added to the suicide rates.
They walked in silence most of the way. It was a cold night, as it often was after a warm day. Mynan was shivering slightly but somehow, Grey, despite wearing less clothing, was coping like a fish in water. As they neared the square, Grey suddenly linked her arms with his, loosening her posture and then throwing her head back into a genuine laugh. He stiffened when he noticed why - a guard was passing.
“Don’t you think the new rooms in Falon’Din’s temple are stunning, my love?” She said it so naturally, it caused him to almost stop walking.
Mynan took too long to reply and cursed himself. “They are, my heart”
The guard ignored them and continued his patrol. Mynan let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
When they were an appropriate distance away she unlinked herself, lips set in a thin line.
“You don’t look like an assassin.”
She gracefully raised an eyebrow in response. “Assassins are just spies who kill their targets at the end. It’s all about blending in. It would be difficult to do that if I were, say, strolling around covered in blood in a black cloak. I could even tie skulls to it to act as my procession.” She paused, looking around the square.
Had she never been here?
“Besides” she continued, “I’m not-“. She stopped herself and sighed. “Let's go, it’s been a long day”
She remained withdrawn as they walked through the crossroads, shrugging off his questions, or any attempt at conversation. At least until he found the right one.
“Why did you ask if I could sing?”
She pinched the bridge of her nose, then stopped and stared at him.
“Are you religious? Do you follow any of the Evanuris?”
He shook his head. He did not. She gave him a sleek look.
“I want to do some small, dangerous, stupid missions. Smuggling slaves out. I have friends but I’m on my own. I’ll understand if-“
“I’ll help.” This was stupid. Mynan was being stupid. Grey was being stupid. He had no real skill set, and he couldn’t for the life of him understand why she’d want a singer.
Fuck it. This, for once, felt right. She gave him a smile and gripped his wrist in a handshake. He was glad she didn’t ask if he was sure because he wasn’t. But he was sure her smile was real. For the first time since he had met her, that was real.
“I’m going to need to blind and deafen you. Just for a few minutes.” She saw his expression. “It’s for your protection. The less you know the better”
He argued, “If you don’t trust me-“
Her expression darkened and he baulked. “It’s not about trust. It’s about what you’ll give up if you’re ever captured and tortured. This will not be a democracy, I’m sorry”
He swallowed, nervously, but nodded. She was right.
“It will not be fun. If you-“
“No. I want to help. I understand”
She reached up to her neck and unclasped the simple rope necklace she had been wearing. He hadn’t even noticed it before now.
Grey was not a below average mage. He didn’t bother asking. Mynan wasn’t stupid, it was one of the few things he’d give himself credit on. Clearly, if the mission went so wrong she needed her magic it was doomed anyway.
She gave him a small smile and he nodded again, words failing.
Everything went dark and muffled.
He could hear small things, a short conversation after she guided him through the rest of the crossroads to their destination. A heavy cloak was wrapped around him, warm fur tickling against his neck. A few moments later a heavy pack was secured to his back. Then they started walking again, Grey guiding him through the dark. The temperature dropped.
When he could finally see again they were in the middle of a snowstorm.
Solas tapped his hands against the table. Mythals temple was cool, bordering on cold. He wasn’t sure why Mythal kept insisting on inviting him to these meetings. Rounding up all 9 of them was not worth the effort. They never agreed on anything. It’s not as if any of them actually ran anything. They all had other people to do that for them. At least the feasts and such had food.
He kept tapping his hands.
Andruil snapped at him, distracted from her discussion with Ghilan'nain
He kept tapping his hands.
Falon’Din was late. Dirthamen kept glancing to the door, expression cool otherwise.
He kept tapping his hands.
Mythal unclasped her hands.“Dread wolf” was all she said.
He stopped but didn’t look at her. Mythal had refused to divulge any information on her conversation with Ahraan, what the Orb was, or anything to do with her at all. Andruil had mocked him, saying it was about time he got into an argument with their mother. Not that she knew what it was about.
Not that he knew anything either.
Falon’Din stormed into the room, nearly an hour late. He was angry. Seething. Solas wouldn’t have been surprised if foam started gathering at the corners of his mouth. His voice thundered around the room. “One of my grand priests has been assassinated. Dagger through his jaw!”
Everyone turned and looked at Solas. He frowned.
“Just because I express my distaste at your ritual… sacrifice does not mean I’m meddling in your affairs” he said, evenly. He was shocked though. All the priests where hand-picked, powerful mages. For one to have been killed in such a way was…unusual. If one where to be killed, it would have been some sort of duel, noticeable traces of magic left behind. No one would be stupid enough to approach with a knife and somehow escape. Well, someone was stupid enough, evidently. Or skilled enough. Or both.
Dirthamen turned to look back at Falon’Din. “I do not think he is lying, my shadow”
Solas had noticed something, in the corner of his eye. Everyone except Mythal had turned to look at him.
As the other Evanuris started arguing again he caught her gaze. She inclined her head so subtly it would have been easy to miss it.
He started tapping again. He wanted to go home.