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Wait, What?

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Getting sucked into a video game was not something I had planned on doing at the beginning of my unexciting day.  It was pretty far down the list, you know?  Like, it was wayyyyyyy down there.  But not beneath getting my toes chewed off by koala bears.  That...that’s not a story I want to get into.  Forget I said anything.  Really.  Just forget it.  

But hey, it wasn’t all that bad.

Okay, maybe it was a tiny bit bad.

You know what? I'll be honest here. It was really bad.  

The whole jumping into another dimension of reality happened right after I had created my character.  And, the artistic perfectionist that I was, didn’t accept it until I was perfectly happy(ish) with my little elf.  After I pressed the enter key on my computer the game began to seriously glitch and made this awful screeching sound.  I moved as fast as I could without feeling like I was going to pass out and crouched down to to the hard drive.  I pressed the off button repeatedly, but the sound only grew worse and the game made no notion of shutting down.  So, with a frustrated groan I leaned over the back and unplugged the cord from the outlet.  

And that was when a shooting, blinding pain erupted in my arm.  I wasn’t sure if I ever screamed.  But who cares?  I cared about the fact that darkness closed in on me within seconds.

-

The darkness was the first thing I became aware of.  Great, I thought sarcastically, that’s how I died.  Being electrocuted by my own computer.  Welp...at least it was short and sweet.  My death didn’t have to be drug out any longer than it already was.  I can finally have some peace--

The pain in my hand made me open my eyes, and for a split second I was utterly bewildered.  Was I dead?  Was I not dead?  What the freak was going on?

Once my vision cleared I found that I was shackled in...manacles?  Whatever you called them?  Oh, and swords were being pointed at me by some soldiers.  Soldiers...in armor.  Medieval armor.  The air smelt dank and heavy and cold, and my knees ached slightly from the position I was in.  Hey, why didn’t my body feel like it was shutting down from a poisonous, incurable disease?  Why was my eyesight so good?  Why did everything feel...sharper?  

I forgot all those questions when a pulse of green light caused a wave of pain in my arm and up my shoulder.  I groaned and keeled over it.  My breathing picked up when I realized that, yes, my hand was glowing green.  

“What the poop?” I whispered.  Panic rose in my throat like bile.  “What the poop?!”  This time I did scream.  It wasn’t high-pitched and shrill.  I suppose you could compare it to something along the lines of a dying cat.  It surprised the soldiers, who upon another glance looked just as scared as I felt.  

A woman with short, choppy hair and a wicked scar on her face entered, a sword on her hip and wearing armor with an eye on the breastplate wreathed in...sunlight?  Why did that ring a bell?  Why did her face ring a bell?  But I didn’t care to evaluate further because I was in the midst of an oncoming panic attack.  My breathing started to pick up and my body began to tremble.

She definitely didn’t look like she was about to coddle me and tell me everything was going to be alright.  She looked like she was going to murder me.  Behind her trailed a familiar red-headed woman wearing some sort of long mail and a purple hood.  Where did I know her from?

“Look,” I began to spout, inwardly wincing at how terrified my voice sounded.  “I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t understand why you’re wearing clothes like that and can somebody just please tell me why my hand is glowing?”

The black-haired angry woman circled me before speaking in a voice with barely restrained fury.  “Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now?  The Conclave is destroyed.  Everyone who attended is dead.  Except for you.”  She snarled, making an accusing gesture inches from my face.

My breathing steadied.  Okay.  This wasn’t good.  “And you think I did it,” I said, voice still shaky but not as scared-sounding.  “Of course.”

She took the wrist of my glowing hand and held it up.  “Explain this.”

I gave her an incredulous look.  “I can't!  Seriously, I just asked you if you could!”

She sneered.  “What do you mean you can’t?”

“I don’t know what that is or how it got there!” I said, surprised at the sudden steel in my voice.  “Believe me, I would happily tell you if I did!”

“You’re lying!” the woman shouted, and lunged for me, but was pushed firmly back by the lady in the purple hood.  

“We need her,” she spoke in a light, soft voice that sounded like it had a French accent.  Oh, I knew that voice!

I rolled my head back and groaned.  “Look, whatever game you’re playing, whatever stupid hallucination this is...”  I shook my head and made a noise in the back of my throat.  “I’m innocent.  A-and I know that’s the worst thing to say right now, but it’s true.  Oh, gosh, I’ve never said anything more true in my entire life.”

The red-haired lady stepped closer to me.  Where the heck did I know her from?  Those eyes of hers really did pierce into me like a...a knife?  I’m scared out of my mind right now, I don’t really feel motivated to find a good analogy.  “You were there.  What do you remember?”

I don’t remember anything!  This is what I’ve been telling you all along! I began to say, but paused.  My eyes widened when distant, vague memories started to drift into my mind.  “I remember…” I said slowly, closing my eyes in an attempt to see better.  “Running.  Things were chasing me, and then…” I reopened them.  “A woman?”

“A woman?” repeated the redhead.  She didn’t act like she wanted to kill me upon speaking, so I warily continued.

“She...reached out to me, but then…”  I scrunched up my face to claw for more memories, but sighed exasperatedly when I found nothing more.  “Sorry.  That’s all I’ve got.  Go ahead and kill me, now.  Maybe I can wake up from whatever the heck this is.”

The two women eyed me, before the warrior began to speak.  “Go to the forward camp, Leliana.  I will take her to the Rift.”

I sucked in a breath as the red-headed woman nodded and departed.  Leliana?  From Dragon Age:  Origins Leliana?  That can’t be possible.  That’s just in the game.  That’s…

My mind pieced things together.

I’m in freaking Dragon Age:  Inquisition.  

As the black-haired woman turned back to me I made the executive decision of just going along with it.  What harm could that do?  I was dying, anyways.  Or, at least I was, back at home.  Wherever home was from this place.  And, from the way my hand was feeling, I could tell that I was dying here, too.

My wrists were released from the manacles by her.  She was so...real.  Her face was fierce and her eyes were fiercer, and she smelt of leather and metal.  I licked my lips before asking, “What did happen, if I may ask?”  Right then I could only remember bits and pieces of gameplay I saw in the trailers.  It wasn’t enough to perfectly recall what would be happening.

I was helped to my feet.  “It will be easier to show you,” the woman said in a solemn tone.

We made our way out of the dungeon and through some heavy wooden doors pushed open by soldiers.  I breathed in cold air and shivered.  There were wooden buildings scattered about, all covered in a layer of snow.  Mountains gouged the sky.  The sky that had a hole in it.

A big, gigantic, hole.  Did I mention that it was the same color as my hand?  Because it was.  Rocks floated in the air around it, swirling lazily.  Safe to say it was pretty dang scary.  

“We call it “the Breach.”  It’s a massive Rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour,” the lady explained, gazing up at it.  Ah, yes, the Breach.  Now I was beginning to remember.  And the demons!  How could I forget the lovely demons?  

She settled her gaze back down to me.  Why did I feel shorter?  “It’s not the only such Rift.  Just the largest.  All were caused by the explosion at the Conclave.”

“An explosion can do that?” I asked, unable to help the awe escape from my voice.  “That’s...bad.”

There was a huff, and then, “This one did.  And yes.  It is very bad.  Unless we act, the Breach may grow until it swallows the world.”

I was about to open my mouth to say something quite stupid and probably would have gotten me a punch to the face when the Breach was a good pal and sent a loud pulse down to the ground from its place in the sky.  At the same moment my hand flared up and sent me to my knees, screaming in pain.  Green light crackled brightly around it.

I clutched it as closely as I could to my chest and drew in a ragged breath as the pain slowly subsided.  The woman crouched in front of me.  “Each time the Breach expands, your Mark spreads...and it is killing you.”

“You think?” I had to say between gritted teeth.  She chose to ignore my comment.

“It may be the key to stopping this, but there isn’t much time.”

Of course there wasn’t much time.  Why would there ever be much time?

I sighed.  “And I’m guessing I really don’t have a choice in this, do I?  Either this stupid Mark will kill me or you will.”  The woman opened her mouth to angrily reply, but I added, “I’ll do my best to try to help, then.  No point in wanting more to die.  Right now choosing to be a masochist and a sociopath probably wouldn’t be the best route to take.”  

Surprise flickered across her face, as well as relief.  We stood back up and began to walk through the streets where battered and worn and sad people turned their gazes to us.  Most of those became angry glares.  A few people even yelled at me.  “They have decided your guilt,” spoke the woman.  “They need it.”  Her hand was placed firmly on my shoulder as she guided me through.  “The people of haven mourn our Most Holy, Divine Justinia, Head of the Chantry.  The Conclave was hers.”  

Chantry.  Divine.  I knew those terms.  We made our way out of Haven and down a path.  “It was a chance for peace between mages and templars.”  More words I knew.  Hawke caused the mage rebellion.  How long ago had that been?  “She brought their leaders together.  Now, they are dead.”  There was pain in her voice, and I fell a small amount of sympathy towards her.

We came to a stone walkway with another set of large, heavy wooden doors.  I guessed it was some kind of fortification.  “We lash out, like the sky.  But we must think beyond ourselves.  As she did.  Until the Breach is sealed.”  Despite the sadness, there was resolve in her voice.  I gave her a second glance.  So she wasn’t just an angry ball of muscles and grit.  Good to know.  I think.

She stopped me and cut the bonds they had tied around my hands before exiting.  “There will be a trial.  I can promise no more.”

There was honesty in her eyes.  I gave a curt nod, hands dropping to my sides.  “Come.  It is not far.”

“Where are you taking me?” I asked, trying to hide away the nervousness.

“Your Mark must be tested on something smaller than the Breach.”  Her legs took long strides that I had to walk quickly to keep up with.  “Open the gates!” she called in a commanding voice.  “We are heading into the valley.”

The two of us broke into a jog, and there I saw the first of the dead.  They were soldiers, pale and frozen, bodies mangled in the snow.  I should have felt sick, but I didn’t.  I only felt sadness.  These weren’t just random computerizations in a game.  They were real.  This was all real, in some crazy way or another, even if it left my mind reeling in the similar way Interstellar did.

I set my gaze firmly to the Breach.  If I was going to be the main character, then by golly I would be a good one.  If not for myself, then for all those lives lost.

We had gone about five minutes before the Breach pulsed once more.  The pain made me stumble to my knees and groan in agony.  The lady knelt beside me and helped me back up.  “The pulses are coming faster, now,” she declared quietly.  “The larger the Breach grows, the more demons we face.”

We continued once more.  “So, how did I survive the blast?” I asked tentatively.

“They said you leapt out of a Rift, then fell unconscious.  They say a woman was in the Rift behind you.  No one knows who she was.  Everything in the valley was laid to waste, including the Temple of Sacred Ashes.  I suppose you’ll see soon enough.”

The two of us ran in silence, and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t grow weary.  My body--it was smaller and leaner--kept up a steady pace without exhaustion. And I could breathe. It was glorious.

We came to another fort and began to cross the bridge when an explosion of green made impact with the stone and shattered it, the sounds thundering in my ears.  The bridge gave way and I was falling to the ground below.

We rolled over the broken stone and onto thick, frozen ice that made my fingers numb just by touching it.  I had pain on my side to add with the pain in my arm, but it was throbbing and familiar.  I looked up to see another meteor of green blast about twenty feet away from us.  Except, this time, a thing emerged from it.  Oh.  So that was a demon.  How downright terrifying.

“Stay behind me!” the warrior called, unsheathing her sword and placing her shield in the other hand.  She gave a war cry and charged, not knowing that a few feet beside me the ground bubbled ominously, practically screaming, “something is going to pop out of me that wants to kill you!”  I would have been stupid if I didn’t know something was going to come from it any moment.

Looking around wildly, I saw that there was a greatsword lying next to a few broken crates.  I dove for it, not even expecting to be able to lift it.  But, to my amazement, I picked it up with ease.  My hands should have felt clumsy gripping the hilt, but it felt...natural.  As if I had been doing this my whole life.  And I didn’t even have lyrium tattoos!

“Sweet,” I whispered, then turned to face the demon that was coming for me.  I swung into it and felt the blade slow as it cut through...flesh?  I didn’t know what demons were made of, but it certainly wasn’t skin and bones.  It was more like vaporous miasma.  The thing howled, but only in anger and not pain.  I gave it a few more chops before it sunk to the ground and dissolved into the air.  

The woman was just finishing off killing the last demon.  I held the sword up high, proud of my accomplishment.  “Did you see that?” I had to laugh, and looked at the giant weapon in my hands.  “Like, how is this possible that my tiny body can lift something twice my size?  It’s so awesome.”  I was glad I chose to be a warrior.  Mages were overrated and a rogue elf was stereotypical.  Bring on the cool points.

Instead of being just as amazed as I was, the woman pointed her sword at me and said in a harsh voice, “Drop your weapon.  Now.”

Her lack of enthusiasm made my mood sour.  “A demon attacked me.  What else was I supposed to do?  Ask it not to rip me to shreds?”

“You don’t need to fight,” she growled.  I had to scoff.

“So you’re saying that it won’t happen again?  Lady, there is a friggin hole in the sky.  I’m pretty sure I will.”

She sighed.  “You’re right.”

I had to bite back a girlish “really?”  as she sheathed her sword.  “I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless.  I should remember you did not attempt to run.”

I paused before quickly saying, “You know, I never did get your name.  It would be pretty nice to know.”

“Cassandra.  My name is Cassandra Pentaghast."  Oh!  Oh, freak!  How could I forget!  She was the one who was in the last Dragon Age game wanting to about Hawke!  Duh.  Man, it had been too long since I had a good adventure as the Champion of Kirkwall.  "And yours?”

I opened my mouth to automatically respond, but thought against it.  A whole new world, right?  What was the name I had given myself in the game?  Oh, come on, think!

After a moment I sighed and said truthfully, “I don’t remember.”

Concern dashed across Cassandra’s face before it returned to its normal seriousness.  “Perhaps you shall remember, in time.”

-

“We are nearing the Rift!  We need to help those who are fighting!”

“Who’s fighting?” I yelled back, reaching over my shoulder and grabbing my great sword easily.  

“You shall see.”

Well thanks, Cass.

We rounded the corner and I almost faltered when I saw a green, crystalline object hanging in the middle of the air.  There was a small swarm of demons, and fighting them off were two people, both men from the looks of it.  One was really short and shooting a crossbow, and the other was a mage and was shooting blasts of ice while he swiftly whirled his staff.  Was he barefoot?

Cassandra and I dove into battle and quickly killed off the demons.  No sooner than the last demon fell the mage, who was an elf, roughly grasped my hand and yelled, “Quickly!  Before more come through!”

A pulse of energy escaped through my hand and linked to the Rift.  It was a different feeling, but not painful, for once.  There was a high pitched sound that grew in intensity until I instinctively knew when to pull my hand away in a fist.  The air grew taut as the Rift vanished.  But as everything snapped back into place my eyesight grew blurry like my vision back on Earth.  I hardly noticed that, though, because all of a sudden my lungs were on fire and I couldn’t breathe.  

I fell to my knees on the ground and gasped in all the air I could, but it literally was like breathing through a straw.  There were hands immediately upon my throat and chest, and I felt a cooling sensation spread across my skin, but it didn’t have any effect.  Slowly, though, my vision cleared once more and I drew in more air with each inhale.  I gripped the wrists connecting the hands upon me and guided them away.  They belonged to the elf, who had deeply furrowed eyebrows and worried eyes.  

That elf...I knew him.  Realization dawned on me.  I wanted to scream, YOU’RE THE DREAD WOLF, THE GOD OF REBELLION, AND THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!  But I only let out another small wheeze.  “My magic did not work on you,” Solas said slowly.  “Why is that?”

I shook my head.  “No idea,” I whispered, and pushed myself up.  I leaned my head back and sucked in a lungful of air.  “Oh, I was not expecting that little slice of hell to happen.  But, to get back to the bigger question:  what did you do?”

“I...did nothing,” the elf said, hiding any emotions but politeness.  “The credit is yours.”

“I think the credit belongs to this,” I said a little angrily as I waved my hand in the air.  Man, why were my memories so fuzzy?  I knew he was the Dread Wolf, but how did I know?  It made me frustrated that I couldn’t simply pull up his info from a phone, or better yet, my own brain.  And my brain usually never failed me.  Photographic memory and all that good stuff.

“Whatever magic opened the breach in the sky also placed that Mark upon your hand,” he explained.  “I theorized the Mark might be able to close the Rifts that have opened in the Breach’s wave--and it seems I was correct.”  There was a hint of pride in his voice at the last sentence and one of the corners of his mouth twitched upwards.  Pride.  Pride.  Why were him and that word related?

“Meaning it could also close the Breach itself,” Cassandra added, drawing closer.  

“Possibly,” said the Dread Wolf.  “It seems you hold the key to our salvation.”

I gave a hysterical, short laugh in response, at a loss for words.

“Good to know,” said an absolutely recognizable voice from behind me.  I spun around and saw the dwarf I had come to love and adore idly fixing his thick leather gloves.  “Here I thought we’d be ass-deep in demons forever.”  He looked up, an easy smile displaying on his face.  I nearly fangirled right then and there.   A small squealing noise escaped from the back of my throat.  Okay, I had to fangirl a little.  

“Varric Tethras,” the dwarf introduced, walking forward.  “Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tagalong.”  He winked to Cassandra, who scowled.

“Varric Tethras,” I said, the name easily gliding off my lips.  “Oh, man, you’re so much cooler in real life!”  I reigned myself in before I could completely spin out-of-control.  I couldn’t raise more suspicion than I already had.  “I...uh, sorry.  I’m a big fan, that’s all.”

Cassandra made a disgusted noise as Varric chuckled.  I turned quickly to her so I could save myself from further embarrassment.  “So, what now?”

“Now, we go to meet Leliana.”

“What a great idea!” Varric interjected jovially.  I grinned at the notion, restraining myself from bouncing up and down on my feet with my hands clasped together.

“Absolutely not,” Cassandra said coldly, striding forward to close the space between her and Varric.  My excitement deflated.  “Your help is appreciated, Varric, but--”

“Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker?” Varric interrupted in a more serious tone.  “Your soldiers aren’t in control, anymore.  You need me.”

Yes, yes we do need him and his glorious chest hair.

Cassandra made another disgusted noise and turned away, but made no move to keep Varric from accompanying us.

“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions,” said the Dread Wolf.  Duh!  Solas=Pride in elvish.  Elfin?  Elven?  Probably should check up on the correct terminology sometime.  Everything was coming back, slowly but surely.  Wow, he played unknowing nonchalance quite easily.  “I am pleased to see you still live.”

“He means, ‘I kept that Mark from killing you while you slept,’” Varric translated.  I gave another short, hysterical laugh.  Okay, seriously, you need to stop with the hysterical laughter.  They’ll think you’re crazy.

“I can’t close the Breach if I’m dead,” I responded.  “So, um, thank you.”

There was wariness in Solas’ eyes, but he hid it well.  Why did I feel so angry with him, all of a sudden?  I’ll probably find out soon enough.  “You are most welcome.”  He directed his attention towards Cassandra.  “Seeker, you should know:  the magic involved here is unlike any I have seen.  Your prisoner is no mage.  Indeed, I find it difficult to image any magic having such power.”

Liar, my conscience said.  Hm.  Interesting.  

“Understood,” Cassandra said with the slight dip of her head.  “We must get to the forward camp quickly.  

“Well,” Varric drawled as he looked up at me in passing, “Bianca’s excited!”

-

“So, if I may ask,” Varric said as we made our way up the mountain pass.  I had told them to take it, earning yet another disgusted noise from Cassandra and a smile of approval from Varric.  Oh, and Chancellor Roderick was a total d-bag.  “What’s your name?”

“It’s, uh…” I struggled to remember as we neared the ladder.  “Crap.”

“Crap?”

“No!  I can’t…” Then I did remember, and my face lit up.  “Oh!  Yeah!  My name’s Alaran.”

“Alaran.”  My new name easily rolled off Varric’s tongue and I got all giddy.  “Interesting.  So, Al, can you tell me what kind of get-up you gave going on?  Didn’t know Dalish wore stuff like that.  Whatever...that is.”

I cringed on the inside.  I figured the question would be coming sooner or later.  I wore faded black skinny jeans and a cowl-necked gray sweater, with knee-high black boots that offered no protection from the cold snow, and a burgundy wool coat that came down to my thighs with black buttons, a hood, and a matching wool belt to tie it into place.  Which was weird, because I’m pretty sure I was wearing gray sweatpants and a cat T-shirt before the game sucked me in like a fat guy downing a giant Coca-Cola at McDonald’s.  Okay...not one of my best comparisons.  I’m in another reality, alright?  Give me a break.   “They’re just clothes, Varric,” I sighed, trying to brush it off.  “Do you think the Dalish are completely savage?”  I used the right type of inflection of voice to get him to shut up.

We quickly came to another Rift that I sealed after battling demons.  They were a different kind, all green and spindly with gaping maws that would most certainly give me nightmares later.  Except their legs could easily be cut through because of said spindliness.  The second time I found myself raising my hand with hesitation.  I didn’t want to be blind and dying again.  But curse my smartness, I knew what duty looked like.  And this certainly was becoming duty.  Heh heh.  Hero’s Duty.  It was a big pile.

The Rift sealed and the feeling of suffocation hit me like a tidal wave, but this time I didn’t fall.  Instead I placed my hands on my knees and tried to breathe as evenly as I could.  Varric put a hand on my shoulder to steady me.  When the episode passed I stood straight once more and waved Cassandra off, repeating that I was fine.  

Solas stepped beside me.  “Sealed, as before.  You are becoming quite proficient at this.”  He didn’t even appeared a hint concerned.  I held back a sneer.  Proficient?  Proficient?  Buddy, that was flip-tastic what I did there.

“Let’s hope it works on the big one,” Varric said, gazing up at the Breach.

Yeah, and that I don’t die.

Cassandra was helping a female soldier to her feet.  Her words were too low to hear, but Cassandra looked to me and said, “Thank the prisoner you’re alive.  She was the one who suggested we come this way.”

“The prisoner?  Then you…?” the female soldier said, obviously at a loss for words.  

“Don’t mention it,” I said, humbled at the thought that I had actually saved lives.  

Once the soldiers had left Solas said, “The path ahead appears to be clean of demons as well.”

“Then let’s hurry, before that changes.”

-

I saw the explosion up close.  The smell of burnt flesh filled my nostrils and the back of my mouth.  Again, I should have been sick, but I wasn’t.  Still, I was horrified.  Whatever did this...they would feel my wrath.  

Getting ahead of yourself, aren’t you?  This is a game.  Maybe in a few moments you’ll be back home.  And since when you use words such as "wrath?"  

But I didn’t want to go back home.  Not when so much already depended on me.

“The Breach is a long way up,” Varric stated quietly as we looked around.  

“It looks like a giant green butthole,” I said, only becoming aware that I said that out loud after I spoke it.  

Cassandra sputtered.  “Quite the observation,” Varric added dryly.  I looked down at him and raised an eyebrow.

“Says the guys who literally said, ‘The Breach is a long way up.’  At least mine was more abstract.”

Varric was about to reply but was interrupted.  “You’re here!” Leliana’s voice said as she and some other soldiers rounded the corner.  “Thank the Maker.”

“Leliana, have your men take up positions around the temple,” Cassandra ordered.  Leliana gave a nod and departed.  My nerves started to make my body slightly tremble.  “This is your chance to end this,” Cassandra said to me seriously.  “Are you ready?”

No, no I am most certainly not ready.  Are you kidding me?  This is insane!  “As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said with the steadiest voice I could manage.  “Which, isn’t that much, but it’s better than nothing.”

The corner of Cassandra’s lips tugged upward, then straightened.  

“This Rift is the first,” Solas said, “it is the key.  Seal it, and perhaps we seal the Breach.”

Good enough, I supposed.  I doubted they could fly me up to it.

-

Red lyrium.  

I shot a look at Varric, who was suddenly very grim.  He had the right to be, with all the hell it caused in his life.  “You know this stuff is red lyrium, Seeker,” he said as we passed it cautiously.  

“I see it, Varric.”

“But what’s it doing here?”

“Magic could have drawn on lyrium from beneath the temple,” Solas offered to explain.  “Corrupted it.”

“It’s evil.  Whatever you do, don’t touch it.”

“Keep the sacrifice still."

I automatically ducked from wherever the voice was coming from, which, by the way, sounded familiar.  

“Someone, help me!” said another familiar, feminine voice.

“That is Divine Justinia’s voice!” Cassandra exclaimed in disbelief.  We hopped down from a ledge, where I landed easily.  My nerves were causing my breath to become rapid.

We neared the giant Rift.  My hand sprung to life in green, but it wasn’t painful, thank goodness.  I wasn’t sure if I could have handled that.  

Someone, help me!” Justinia’s voice repeated.

“What’s going on…?” my voice rang out, causing me to jump backwards.  Then there was a very eloquent, “Holy shit!

“That was your voice,” Cassandra said to me, confusion on her face.  “Most Holy called out to you.  But…”

A dim image surrounded us, and I saw a giant shadowy figure holding what must have been Justinia up in the air.  Red magic swirled around her splayed arms, keeping her in place.  Then I came into view, a terrified expression plastered on a foreign face.  So that’s what I looked like.  Not bad, not bad at all.  Although my face was a little too angular for my taste.  If the situation hadn’t been so tense, I would have laughed out loud at how I looked when I saw the shadowy figure.  “Run!” Justinia shouted to me.  “Warn them, while you still can!”

“We have an intruder,” said scary familiar-voiced guy.  His eyes were orbs of red fame.  How comforting.  Why did I have a feeling that he was going to be the enemy?  “Slay the elf.”

The light from the Rift grew in intensity and I had to shield my eyes.  In a soft flash the scene dissolved.  “You were there!” Cassandra said accusingly.  Great.  Just great. “Who attacked?  And the Divine, is she…?” Her voice faltered for a moment, then picked back up.  “Was this vision true?  What are we seeing?”

“I don’t remember!” I said, showing more than my fair share of nerves.  “I’m just as freaked out as you are!”

“Echoes of what happened here,” Solas said lowly.  “The Fade bleeds into this place.  This Rift is not sealed, but it is closed...albeit temporarily.”  He looked to me.  “I believe that with the Mark, the Rift can be opened, and then sealed properly and safely.  However, opening the Rift will likely attract attention from the other side.”

“That means demons!” Cassandra called to the soldiers.  “Stand ready!”

I took in a shaky breath.  “You got this, Al,” Varric said quietly to me.  I glanced at him and gave a small smile.  

“Thanks, Varric.”

I heard bowstrings pulled back and swords being unsheathed.  Cassandra nodded once to me.  I steadied myself and lifted my hand.  The move was natural.  Guess I could open Rifts as well as close them.

Energy surged from my hand and nearly drug me off my feet.  The Rift opened and then--boom.  A big freaking demon.  And it laughed!  The thing laughed!  And blew electricity!  I was struck by a glancing one and it made me spasm and fall to the ground.  I had to gag down a healing potion after that.  It did not taste good at all.  And I didn’t get the cool, golden, glowing aura from drinking it like I did in Skyrim.  That was pretty disappointing.

Once the demon had been slain Cassandra yelled for me to do it, so I thrust my hand out, eyes catching Solas’ worried face as he watched.  You have so much explaining to do, I thought to him, and closed it.  Typically energy pulsed, but this...whatever this was roared within me and blasted me off my feet, careening me into darkness.

I should probably get used to passing out.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I awoke in my bed.  That was...weird.  But, hey, at least I didn’t feel my body killing itself.  I should probably--

My eyes fully opened.  

Oh.  Oh.  OH.

I jerked upright and swung my knees over the bed just as an elf walked in.  Did I look that tiny?  Probably.

The elf dropped the crate she was carrying in fright.  “Oh!  I-I didn’t know you were awake, I swear!”

Why did she sound so scared?  “Of course you didn’t,” I blinked.  “I just woke up, like, three seconds ago.”

The elf didn’t seem to hear me and dropped to her knees.  “I beg your forgiveness and your blessing.  I am but a humble servant.”

Her bowed head hesitantly peeked up when she heard that I was laughing.  I stood up and strode over to help her to her feet.  “Bowing to me won’t get you anywhere.  Now, talking to me--that’ll get the both of us somewhere.  Where am I and what’s happened?”

“You’re back in Haven, my lady,” the elf said, visibly reduced of stress.  “They say you saved us.  The breach stopped growing, just like the Mark on your hand.”

I glanced down and saw that instead of an angry green glowing light, there was a tear in my palm that emitted a friendlier glow.  I frowned.  “It looks like a vagina,” I muttered aloud.  The elf laughed before she could stop herself.  That in turn made me smile.  

“It’s all anyone has talked about for the last three days--you stopping the Breach from growing, not from the Mark looking like...that.”

“So, does a trial happen now?” I asked, looking around the small cabin.  

“I don’t know,” the elf replied.  “But I am certain Lady Cassandra would want to know you’ve wakened.  She said ‘at once.’”

“Probably in that scary voice of hers, too, I suppose?  Where is she?”

“In the Chantry, with the Lord Chancellor.”

I went over and picked up my folded burgundy coat.  “Thanks for the warning.  What’s your name?”

The elf hesitated.  I raised an eyebrow, then she said meekly, “Ivena, my lady.”

“Ivena,” I said, feeling the name in my mouth.  “That’s quite pretty.”

She flushed, began to bow, but stopped herself, then walked back out.  

I looked in a small mirror before I braved myself to go outside.  It was so weird, having a different body.  I had basically albino skin with high, light pink cheekbones.  Hardy har har me, way to choose the skin color that’ll sunburn in a thunderstorm.  My pale blue vallaslin covered my forehead and the bridge of my nose with tree-like markings, and a little one started down the bottom of my lip and ended at my chin.  I had great big violet eyes, because I thought that it’d be funny to make them the most saturated purple I could.  At least I wasn’t basically blind like I was back home.  Or that I thought it’d be even funnier to make my eyes red or something.  My hair was a shock of white chopped off at the base of my neck, with one side partially shaved off.  I remembered choosing the style because I knew I could never have such a hairdo in real life.  My lips were a dark berry color.  All in all, not too bad.  Although I would have to get used to all of the angularity and the...ears.  I was just thankful I hadn’t made my character all dorky looking.  But my voice was still the same, so that was nice.  

When I stepped out and passed people, they all gawked at me.  The soldiers had their right arms crossed over their breast.  All very weird.  I picked up my pace.

I made my way into the Chantry and was greeted with warmth.  There was indistinct conversation from the door straight ahead, but upon getting closer I heard that it was Cassandra and Chancellor Roderick bickering.  Wonderful.  Just what I was hoping for.  

-

Cassandra was so hardcore.  When she slammed down the book I got all the tingles of excitement.  She had the chancellor walking away with his tail between his legs.  “Help us fix this,” the Seeker said, holding out her gloved hand.  “Before it’s too late.”

I looked down at it, then firmly clasped her hand.  She gave a slight smile of approval.  

-

I was outfitted in a vest with a jacket and a scarf.  I had heard them say that it was more of a rogue attire, but since people weren’t aware that elves could hold up a greatsword, there hadn’t been any immediate warrior armor.  Not that I minded.  I looked pretty cool.  

Cassandra walked with me to the War Room and caught me looking down at my now gloved hand.  “Does it trouble you?” she asked.

“I’m getting used to it,” I responded.  “It just feels like I’ve hit my elbow on a corner and now I have pins and needles.  But it’s not bad.  I can ignore it, mostly.”

“What’s important is that your Mark is now stable, as is the Breach,” Cassandra said in her attempt to reassure me.  “You’ve given us time, and Solas believes a second attempt might succeed--provided the Mark has more power.”

“Power?”

“The same level of power used to open the breach in the first place,” she explained further.  “That is not easy to come by.”

“Please tell me you have something in mind.”

“We do.”

With that we entered the War Room.  “May I present Commander Cullen, leader of the Inquisition’s forces,” Cassandra said, gesturing to a very studly looking tall, blonde man in armor and a fur coat.

I choked.  “Commander Cullen?

I said his name as if I knew him, which made his eyebrows furrow.  Wow.  Those perfect eyebrows matching his perfect face.  “How did you go from looking like a gross Templar to…” I gestured wildly.  “That?”

By now I was getting concerned looks.  I rubbed my face in my hands, pulling a half-truth from my butt.  “I was...in Kirkwall when you…” I trailed off, hoping that they’d get the feeling I’d rather not continue.

“Ah,” said Cullen stiffly.  “Yes.  Well...circumstances changed.  As did I.  But enough on that.  We lost many soldiers in the valley, and I fear many more before this is through.”

“This is Lady Josephine Montilyet, our ambassador and chief diplomat.”

The Spanish-looking woman gave a smile and a slight nod of her head.  She had a wicked-looking board with a candle on top meant for writing.  “Andaran ati’shan,” she said in a nice voice.

I blanched.  Crap.  That was elven, wasn’t it?  “You speak elven?” I said, channeling my surprise to make it seem like I was shocked she knew the language, and not that I didn’t.

“You just heard the entirety of it, I’m afraid,” Josephine laughed lightly.  

“And of course you know Sister Leliana,” Cassandra continued.  Oh yes, I did.  How had she gone from a singing little ball of hope to a serious and very scary looking woman?  I had to find out.  

“My position here involves a degree of--” Leliana began, but Cassandra cut her off.  

“She is our spymaster.”

“Yes,” Leliana said dryly, “tactfully put, Cassandra.”

Looks like I couldn’t be getting all buddy-buddy with Leliana as I had hoped.  She was a spymaster.  Which meant that she was going to try digging up all my secrets, if she hadn’t begun to do so already.  Crap.  Well let's just put a pin in that problem and save it for later.  

“So,” I drawled, “Cassandra tells me you have a plan.”

“I mentioned your Mark needs the power the close the Breach for good.”

“Which means we must approach the rebel mages for help,” Leliana said, taking her gaze from me to Cassandra, thankfully.  

“And I still disagree,” Cullen said, hand resting on the pommel of his sword.  “The Templars could serve just as well.”

Of course Cullen would say that.  And from the glance he gave me afterward, he knew what I was thinking about his statement.

“We need power, Commander,” Cassandra sighed.  “Enough magic poured into that Mark--”

“Might destroy us all,” Cullen finished.  “Templars could suppress the Breach, weaken it so--”

“Pure speculation,” Leliana interjected smoothly.  

“I was a Templar.  I know what they’re capable of.”

“Like killing innocent people who sneezed and somebody thought it was magic?” I said.  I had thought it would stay in my head, but apparently my filter for such things was very slim these days.

Cullen blushed red but said nothing.  There would have been an awkward silence, but Josephine saved the day and said, “Unfortunately, neither group will even speak to us yet.  The Chantry has denounced the Inquisition--and you, specifically.”

“Not surprising,” I said, crossing my arms and tugging on one of my earlobes absently.  “The Chantry is in upheaval with the death of the Divine.  They would look like desperate heretics to the rest of the world if they immediately supported a non-human.” I looked around and saw surprised expressions.  “Oh, right.  Sorry, I’ll go back into my frightened little Dalish act if that makes you more comfortable.”

Leliana was the one to giggle at that.  “Some are calling you--a Dalish elf--the “Herald of Andraste.”  That frightens the Chantry,” Josephine said.  “The remaining clerics have declared it blasphemy, and we heretics for harboring you.”

“Chancellor Roderick’s doing, no doubt,” Cassandra spat.  

“It limits our options.  Approaching the mages or templars for help is currently out of the question,” Josephine went on to say.  

I sighed.  “Of course not.  It would impossible for them to be more concerned about the Breach.  Which, I think I can safely say, is the real threat.”

“They do know it’s a threat,” Cullen said.  “They just don’t think we can stop it.”

“There is something you can do,” Leliana offered.  “A Chantry cleric by the name of Mother Giselle has asked to speak with you.  She is not far, and knows those involved far better than I.  Her assistance could be invaluable.”

My mind worked through the scenarios.  “As promising as that sounds, it could be an ambush for all we know.”

“I doubt it,” Leliana responded lightly.  “From what I know of her, she is a kind soul and not the sort to involve herself in violence.  You will find Mother Giselle tending to the wounded in the Hinterlands near Redcliffe.”

“Look for other opportunities to expand the Inquisition’s influence while you are there,” said Commander Cullen.  

“We need agents to extend our reach beyond this valley, and you’re better suited than anyone to recruit them.”

Because I have a vagina on my hand.  Yes.  

“In the meantime, let’s think of other options.  I won’t leave this all to the Herald,” Cassandra swooped in, saving the day.  

-

The evening before departure Varric found me sitting at a table by myself in the mess hall, horking down bread and ram stew.  It was so delicious, and I was able to eat.  I was ready to test the limits of my new stomach.  Bring.  It.  On.

“Food that good, huh?” the dwarf asked as he took a bench across from me.  I gave a furious nod, cheeks bulging.  He chuckled, and I struggled to swallow so I could talk to him.  That ended up with me choking.  “Easy, there, wouldn’t want the Herald of Andraste to choke on a bit of bread and leave us defenseless against the Breach.”

“Herald of Andraste,” I muttered after a few unceremonious coughs.  “It doesn’t even have a good ring to it.”

“On the contrary, Herald, I think it has quite a nice ring,” Varric said condescendingly.  I snorted.  

“Fantastic.  I’m not even supposed to be here, yet they’re calling me stuff like that.”  This time I angrily bit down on my bread.  I was still slightly scared of my whole situation in everything.  Was I just going to randomly wake up?  Was this just a figment of my imagination?  I couldn’t tell, anymore.  But, I had managed to take it all in fairly well.  I wasn’t exactly dying, here, so that was already a tally on the Pro side.  I had seen the gameplay, though; it reminded me that serious things were coming ahead.

“How’re you taking it all in?” Varric asked.  I shook my head.

“Between choking fear and hysterical laughter?  Pretty well.”  A thousand and one questions pounded against my skull, but I couldn’t ask Varric if Hawke was a man or a woman, if he/she romanced Anders time and time again like I did, or went with that one playthrough where I romanced Fenris and had all sorts of trips on the angry angst train.  Could Hawke come visit?  Was Anders even still alive?  Was Sebastian the king of Starkhaven?  Did Bartrand live and was a madman from the red lyrium, or did he die?  Was Bethany and Carter still alive?  Was Alistair a king or a warden or dead?  

“You okay, Al?” Varric asked a bit uncertainly.  

“Wh--Oh, yeah, sorry.  I’m fine.  Just…” I took in a deep breath, rerouting my emotions.  “This is a whole lot to take in.  I can barely keep it together.”

“I don’t blame you.  If you want, we can head down to the tavern and grab a pint.”

I blinked a couple of times, then smiled.  “That sounds great, actually.  Except, I might mention that I don’t drink.”

Now it was Varric’s turn to blink.  Then he threw his head back and laughed.  It was a great, rich laugh, and I found myself laughing as well, though I had no idea why he was in the first place.  “Oh, good one!  You almost had me!” Varric eventually sighed after his laughing trailed off.  

“Varric,” I grinned, “seriously.  I don’t drink.  Alcohol isn’t exactly something I enjoy partaking in.”

His smile faded.  “You don’t drink?  Well why the hell not?  Everybody drinks, unless you’re Commander Cullen.”

He reeked of alcohol and sweat as he neared me.  I braced myself, knowing what was going to come next.  Hair disheveled and speech slurred, he raised his hand and swung.  The blow sent me to the wooden floor.  Mother would have heard that.  She would have heard, from her pretty little room in her pretty little life with her pretty little things so she could pretend to be happy.  She wouldn’t come down.  She never had, before.  My cries for her had long been abandoned.  

I looked into the eyes of my father.  We had the same, after all.  But we were not the same.  Not even close.

I shrugged.  “I like having my senses sharp.  And that whole hangover thing?  It’s not particularly something I would want to pay for just so I could drink swill that most likely tastes like piss.”

The dwarf evaluated my words before giving a shake of his head and a low chuckle.  “Fair point, I suppose.  But you can still come and watch me drink said swill-piss.”

“I would love to.”

-

The morning was cold and crisp as I swung my cabin door open and breathed in the sharp air, a grin spreading across my face.  The sun was barely rising, preparing to awake the rest of Haven.  I made my way down to the stables, kicking up snow in my new boots that came up to my thighs.  I even began humming a song.  That’s how excited I was.

Well who did I get to see at the stables but Mr. Excitement-Sucker himself.  Solas was preparing one of the horses for travel, tying packs to the saddle while the mount lazily pawed the ground.  I had managed to avoid him for the last couple of days, mostly because I was super scared of him.  Solas was smart; smarter than I was.  I knew he was suspicious about me, and about my resistance to magic.  Hell, I wondered about that too.  But did I want to explain myself to him?  Absolutely not.

I was already turning back on my heels when I heard him call, “Ah, Herald.  I did not expect you to be up this early.”

I kept myself from cringing like a child getting caught stealing candy.  I shifted back to his direction.  “Yes, well, I couldn’t sleep.”  I think the time here is messed up from Earth time.  I had jet-lag.  Or dimensional-lag?  Whatever you wanted to call it.  

“I am sorry you could not rest.  But, this does give me the opportunity to ask you some questions I have been meaning to do since you awakened from sealing the Breach.”

I had to smile.  “Good.  Because I have questions of my own for you.”  Fen’Harel, I about added.  But, as Chandler Bing once said, “keep it inside!”  So I did, just for a little longer.

Solas slightly raised an eyebrow.  “Oh?  And what questions would those be?”

“You first,” I said as I walked over to a horse a stablehand already saddled for me.  It was an old, tired mare who looked like she wanted to keel over and die rather than make the trek to the Hinterlands.  I began to scratch under her chin and tilt her nose up so she could smell my face.  I distantly remembered fond memories of days at the stable, where my black thoroughbred awaited me and my treats, and how we worked as a team in equestrian competitions.  Typical white-collared girl, I know.  I'll explain later.

“Very well.  You were lying to Master Tethras when you said that your clothing was Dalish attire.  I, for one, know it is not.  In fact, I have not seen clothing like that in all my travels, both of the Fade and the Waking World.  So where does it originate from?  And, if I may press further, where do you originate from?”

“I’ll only answer if you tell me where you originate from,” I said, stalling so I could find a believable lie.  

Solas’ eyes flashed.  Ah.  He recognized that I wasn’t some simpleton.  This was going to get trickier.  And more fun.  “From a remote village in the north.”

I leaned against the mare’s frame, who I had now called Babs.  She looked like a Babs.  “Why do I find that so hard to believe?” I said with a smirk.  “How can you expect me to answer questions honestly when you fail to do so yourself?”

Okay, okay, I knew I was being a bit theatrical, but how could I not?  “It is not a lie,” Solas said smoothly.  “I did not stay there, nor have I ever returned.  It is where I originated from, but not where I would call my home.”

I sucked in a breath and tilted my head.  “Ooh, yeah, still not buying it.”

Solas set his jaw.  “And where would you believe me to be from?”

I slightly narrowed my eyes as I weighed the choices of revealing that I knew Solas’ true identity right then and there, or keeping it to myself for the time being.  After several moments I said, “from a place that is not like this one.”

“And you?” he questioned immediately back.  “Is your response the same?”

I crookedly smirked, seeing Cassandra and Varric making their way downtown--man, keep it inside--making their way to the stables.  “You wouldn’t believe how true that statement is for me.”

-

The dwarf that greeted us in the Hinterlands camp was absolutely adorable.  I wanted to pick her up and tuck her in my pocket for safekeeping and pull her out when I was feeling down.  But I would never tell her that, especially after I got to know her better.  “The Herald of Andraste,” she said with a wry smile.  “I’ve heard the stories.  Everyone has.  We know what you did at the Breach.  It’s odd for a Dalish elf to care what happens to anyone else, but you’ll get no back talk here.  That’s a promise.”

Wow.  The Dalish were jerks.  No wonder why Solas didn’t like them.

“Inquisition Scout Harding, at your service.  I--all of us here--we’ll do whatever we can to help.”

“Harding, huh?” Varric said.  “Ever been to Kirkwall’s Hightown?”

“I can’t say I have,” Harding said, slightly hesitant.  “Why?”

“You’d be Harding in...oh, never mind.”

I face palmed while Cassandra made an accompanying disgusted noise.  Once my hand slid off I said, “It’s nice to meet you, Scout Harding.  What’s the situation out here in the Hinterlands?”  Look at me, sounding all business-like.  

“We came to secure horses from Redcliffe’s old horsemaster.  I grew up here, and people always said that Dennet’s herds were the strongest and fastest this side of the Frostbacks.  But with the mage-templar fighting getting worse, we couldn’t get to Dennet.  Maker only knows if he’s even still alive.  Mother Giselle’s at the Crossroads helping refugees and the wounded.  Our latest reports say that the war’s spread there, too.  Corporal Vale and our men are doing what they can to help protect the people, but they won’t be able to hold out very long.  You best get going.  No time to lose.”

No time to lose, indeed.  As soon as we made our way past the camp we were thrown into a skirmish.  I dove in without a second thought to protect fleeing refugees, but as soon as my sword clashed with another man did I realize that this was not fighting demons at rifts.  This really wasn’t a game.  I could see the frenzy in his eyes, the stubble on his chin, the scuffs on his armor and the smell of sweat-soaked leather.

The first man I killed was that templar right there in the Crossroads.  There were only a few exchanged blows between us, and with my newfound fighting skills he was no match for me. The sound of my greatsword cleaving into him was horrifying.  I froze, taking in the blood that poured from the gash in his chest and into the ground, of the glassy gaze he had, face twisted in that look of final fear before being consumed by death.  And with my memory, I would never, ever forget it.

I was about to be struck down by another Templar had it not been for Varric.  He put a bolt through the enemy’s neck.  After that I lagged behind the others, helping injured and panicked refugees and Inquisition soldiers get to safety.  When it was all over with I shakily put my sword back and walked away to a secluded place as calmly as I could so I wouldn’t raise alarm.  Once I found a spot, I sat down on a crate, put my head in my hands, and quietly cried for a short while.  I hated crying.  Hated it.  So I composed myself as quickly as I could and looked up just to see Varric gazing at me, his arms crossed.  “I’m sorry,” I said brusquely, and stood.  “I didn’t hear you.  I suppose I should go and find Mother Giselle.”

“How old are you, Alaran?” Varric asked calmly, rooting me to the spot.  My lip began to quiver, but I stilled it.  

“Old enough,” I responded softly, because if I had said it any louder my voice would have come out shaky.  I didn’t want to tell him, or any of them for that matter, that I was nineteen.  He already had cause enough to believe I couldn’t handle the position; I didn’t need Varric thinking that I was just a silly teenager with a weak spine.

“Have you ever even killed a person, before?”  Still that same calm voice, neutral of judgement.

I looked away.  “My first was that man back there.”  I knew I should have lied, but I already had enough secrets to last me a lifetime here.  I didn’t want to bother with adding any more.  Emotions bubbled up to my mouth before I could stop them.  “Varric I cry when I have to squish spiders.  How can I kill people?  That was a real man back there, with a real story and real friends and a real family.  How can I be okay with separating a soul from a body?”  I felt like collapsing once more.  “But how can I be what people expect me to be when I don’t do what’s necessary?”

Varric made a step forward, but faltered.  “Shit,” he swore.  “I’m not good at this kind of stuff.”  He groaned and rubbed the back of his neck.  “I...look.  Sit back down before you pass out or something.”  We both took a seat back on the crates.  “I’m going to be honest with you; you’ll never forget the face of the first person you kill.  But usually the other person you’re fighting isn’t thinking what you’re thinking.  They’re going to kill you.  With that Mark of yours, Al, you can do a lot of good with it, and save a lot of people--more than you’ll ever kill.  So if you call it quits, then you’ll be killing too many to ever count.  Would you have that weighing on you?”

After a moment I shook my head and sighed.  “No, no I don’t.”  I was silent for a moment, and then I grabbed Varric’s gloved hand and gave it a squeeze.  He stared down at it.  Then I let go and smiled.  “Sorry.  I’m a physical contact kind of person.  Hope you don’t mind, because you’ll probably be getting a lot of hugs and cuddles from me.”

-

The rest of the day we found ourselves doing all sorts of odd requests and errands and pleas.  Except, I wasn’t any good with a map (my intelligence only goes so far), so after getting us lost and confused and frustrated I handed it over to Cassandra.  Except Cassandra wasn’t good at reading a map either.  In the end, though, we did mark a few apostate caches that could be brought back later to the refugees and made it to the farm Master Dennet lived at.  

I jerked my sword back from the corpse of one of the wolves that attacked us as we crested the ridge to Redcliffe Farms.  “Correct me if I’m wrong,” I stated, purposefully looking at Solas, “but I don’t think wolves should act like that.”  

If he was uncomfortable with my statement, he didn’t show it.  “It is strange, indeed.  Perhaps we can gather more information about it at the farm.”

Somebody was no fun.

The sun was setting by the time we had made camp on the outskirts of the farm.  Cassandra had managed to send word to Scout Harding to bring more Inquisition forces to set up here as well. My hand was aching, and occasionally flickered green. There was a rift nearby, then.  But I didn’t want to deal with the side effects tonight, so I told them that we would take care of it first thing in the morning.  I got the short straw of the first watch, unfortunately.  That meant Solas would stick around after Varric and Cassandra went to bed so he could interrogate me and I couldn’t run off.

The egg-headed mage did just that.  “If you are not from a place such as this one,” he immediately began, “where?”

“Need I remind you that any question you ask me you have to answer yourself?” I said monotonously as I tucked my knees under my chin and lazily broke pieces off of a stick and tossed them into the fire.  The ache in my hand was making me grumpy, and Solas' stupid voice reminded me that it was his power causing it.

“I am aware.  I consider the Fade my home.”

Liar liar leggings on fire.  

I snorted in amusement at my rendition of the tune.  Solas took the sound as me disregarding his answer.  “And am I to assume that you do not believe that, either?” he asked a little heatedly.

“Nope, but it’s more truthful than what some of your other answers could have been.”  I threw another broken piece into the flames.  “And I come from a place where elves aren’t discriminated.”

A good enough answer, I supposed.  From my peripherals I saw Solas shift.  “Where?” he said a little too hastily.

“The Dalish do not discriminate against themselves, Solas,” I said in an obvious voice.  He huffed irritatingly.

“Now we are resorting to outright lying?”

“I never said I would answer truthfully.”

He stiffened, and though I couldn’t clearly see his face, I knew Solas’ jaw set.  “In that case, I can be dishonest as well.”

“Go for it.  But I already know the truth.”

KEEP IT INSIDE!!!

Too late.  Why, why did my narcissism have to come out now?  And I knew it was narcissistic because I had a foolproof way to tell if I was being that.  Step One:  I ask myself if I sound like Tony Stark.  That’s...pretty much it.  And my statement was very Tony Stark-ish.

I met eyes with Solas, who suddenly looked very...predatory.  There’s the wolf.  “And what,” he said in a low voice that resonated up through his chest, “do you suppose the truth is?”

To hell with it.  If Solas was onto me, then I would make sure he knew I had a one-up on him.

I leaned close, as if to share a secret.  “Let’s just say that the names we both call ourselves by are not our real ones.”

Solas leaned in even closer, so much that we were nearly nose-to-nose.  He really thousands of years old, wasn’t he?  I could see it in his eyes.  It almost made me feel sorry for him.  “If you know my name,” he whispered, breath tickling my skin, “then speak it.”

I could backtrack, I really could.  It would have been difficult, yes, but I was smart.  Solas would still be highly suspicious, but I could leave a small margin of doubt.  

Keep it inside.  Keep it inside.  Keep it inside.

But did Chandler Bing ever really keep anything inside?  No!  If he did he wouldn’t be Chandler Bing!  Oh, gosh, I could be killed by Solas any second and I was thinking about Friends?

“Fen’Harel.”

Solas’ eyes widened and his face paled.  I went on before I got a shard of ice through the eye.  “I don’t like what you’ve done with the sky, quite frankly.  And I may die when I have to seal it.”  Dang, I never knew I had the scary voice down.  “But as long as you don’t pose a threat to me, I won’t be a threat to you.”

The elvhen was silent.  I resisted the strong urge to leap away and grab my great sword, which was in arm's length.  His eyes were a thunderstorm.  I stood up, but not a moment later he gripped my wrist and held me in place.  I focused on my breathing.  If I needed to scream, I would.  Cassandra and Varric would be out here in a second, and I would tell them the apostate's true identity.  I looked down at Solas, narrowing my eyes and sending the message:  just try it.  I dare you.  I want you to.  

After a few heavy moments, Solas' strong hold released.  There was a possibility that would bruise.  But I could take a bruise over fatal injury.  "You think you may know the truth," Solas spoke in a low, threatening voice.  "But you do not.  You know nothing, da'len."  He stood, and I realized that I hated my short height.  Solas wasn't even that tall, but between the two of us he had the advantage of looking down at me.  

"From the looks of it, Solas, neither do you," I hissed.  "Otherwise there wouldn't be a Breach in the sky and thousands dead."  I paused as more memories came back.  It was agonizing, having a less-than-clear memory of what I had read on the WikiPage of Solas.  I had just wanted to know a few Dalish phrases, and one link led to another and I was stumbling on the major spoiler.  But I was okay with knowing; it meant I could save myself from heartbreak when the option for romancing him came up.

I angrily rubbed my forehead.  "The orb," I grumbled, and looked down at my hand.  "That's where this Mark came from, isn't it?  But...but who did you give the orb to?"  I curled my Marked hand into a fist and held it to my chest.  I was more talking to myself than Solas at this point.  I didn't really care if he answered.  I would remember, sooner or later.  After a few moments of drawing blanks I sighed and drooped my shoulders.  "Whatever.  I'm done for the night.  You should be, too, Solas.  Go to bed."

I turned my back to him and stepped to the edge of camp, looking like I was beginning to take watch.  In reality, though, I was processing what had just happened, and what could ensue because of my inability to keep it inside.  Solas may be my Moriarty.  That wasn't a happy thought.  I didn't know when the elf retreated to his tent, but for the duration of my shift I could feel the lingering tension we had brought to the place.

Playtime is over, Al.  Way to go.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"The beast awakens," Varric crooned as I emerged from the tent.  I glowered at him.  "Is there even a brush strong enough to untangle that rat's nest you have sitting on top of your head?"

"Just give me the one that you use to groom your chest hair and we should be good to go," I said with a smirk.  Cassandra snorted into her mug she was sipping from.  I stretched up high, then violently jerked my back sideways.  A symphony of crackles sprung forth.  I went on to pop my neck, collarbones, hips, legs, fingers, and toes.  It got quite the pleasant grimace from Varric.

"Aren't you afraid you're going to break something?"

"If I did, it'd be pretty funny," I shrugged as I sat down and rummaged through my pack for the dried apples that were calling my name.  

"You think breaking something would be funny?" Cassandra asked.  I giggled.

"Yeah, imagine me just popping my hip and then it'd pop out of place and I'd collapse and scream, 'Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!'" I said, impersonating an old lady at the Life-Alert phrase.  The Seeker and the dwarf stared at me as I laughed to myself for a good while.  After my light breakfast I set to work on brushing my hair.  Elf hair was unusually fine and soft, a bit like baby's hair.  It wasn't like my mass of curls I had back on Earth.  Except, once I got sick brushing my hair didn't become an issue, anymore.  So, despite the slight pain I had from getting the snarls out, it wasn't too bad.  

We would reach Val Royeaux within the afternoon.  I was excited to see a big city.  Even though I enjoyed Haven and its quaintness, and the sleeping under the stars in the Hinterlands, I missed the surge of people, the feeling of life on my skin.  I thought about the times when I would take my violin or my guitar and play on the street, despite the fact that I was already well-off.  I just wanted to brighten's somebody's day, somebody's afternoon.  The smiles I received were better than any tip.  

Solas was the last one to wake.  He proved to be quite grumpy in the morning, especially towards me.  We had circled each other like wolves--HA HA HA--ever since I revealed to him that I knew who he was.  But with how busy I was and fact that I was hardly ever alone provided a temporary protection from any questions he wanted to assault me with.  Oh, and I could see those questions inside his shiny noggin.  They were rattling around like beans in a maraca.

I choked on the water I was drinking when the simile came to me.  Solas, who had a sixth sense of when I was thinking about him, turned his head to give me a brief glare.  I smirked at him.  I made it a point to never completely smile at Solas; that would mean I liked him and approved of his life choices.  And smirking provided a much better result than glaring.  It always made Solas seem to...puff up.  It's hard to picture, I know, because the guy had no hair to even puff up in the first place, but believe me, he did.  If Varric and Cassandra saw the tension between us, neither of them had said anything, yet.  Probably because Cassandra was Varric's Solas.  He liked to puff the Seeker up, and man, she fell for the trap every time.  If Cassandra could just control her emotions and not give a reaction so freely, Varric would probably lay off.  But she didn't, so he kept at it.  And every once in a while Varric and I would tag-team.  That was a good time.

-

I could feel the pompous-ness as soon as we stepped through the city gates.  But that didn't stop me from gawking.  If ever there were a time where I could completely pull of the Dalish act, it would be now.  The architecture was to die for, the statues were amazing, and I almost asked Cassandra with my hands clasped together if we could take a ride on a gondola.  Before I could do so, though, the Seeker herself began to speak.  "The city still mourns."

Well, from the way a passing woman stopped dead in her tracks and screamed at the sight of us, I found that difficult to believe.  "Just a guess, Seeker, but I think they all know who we are," Varric observed. 

I cupped a hand to my mouth and shouted to the fleeing lady, "It's okay, not all of the Inquisition wears clothes like Solas!  You have nothing to be afraid of!"

The mage cast me a thunderous look.  And what did I do?  I smirked.  And what did he do?  Puffed up.  More like a frightened kitten this time, though, so that was an improvement.

A scout jogged up to us.  I threw my hands exasperatedly in the air.  "My lady Herald," she addressed, and fell to one knee.

"You're one of Leliana's people," Cassandra said.  "What have you found?"

"The Chantry Mothers await you, but...so do a great many templars," the scout informed.

"There are templars here?"

"People seem to think the templars will protect them from...from the Inquisition.  They're gathering on the other side of the market.  I think that's where the templars intend to meet you."

My stomach did a flip in anxiety, but I showed no signs of fear.  "Only one thing to do, then," I said, shifting gears in attitude.  I strode forward, with everybody else flanking me.  

The market was stocked full of people listening to the chantry mother.  They parted as we came forward, buzzing with indiscernible chatter.  "Good people of Val Royeaux," she spoke, picking up her voice when she saw us, "hear me!  Together we mourn our Divine.  Her naive and beautiful heart silenced by treachery!  You wonder what will become of her murderer.  Well, wonder no more!"  Oh, poop, I knew where this was going.  "Behold the so-called Herald of Andraste!  Claiming to rise where our beloved fell!"  She sneered at me, whereas my face was a composed mask.  "We say this is a false prophet!  The Maker would send no elf in our hour of need!"

The volume of noise around us spiked.  "You say I am the enemy," I said, my voice clear and very speech and debate-like.  Hey, I didn't only do it for the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.  "The Breach in the sky is our true enemy.  We must unite to stop it, otherwise we will fall."  The mention of Lincoln may or may not have affected my words.  

"It's true!" Cassandra added.  "The Inquisition seeks only to end this madness before it is too late!"

"It already too late!" the chantry mother proclaimed, and pointed to the group of very angry-looking templars.  I tensed, preparing to act in case there were to be an altercation.  "The templars have returned to the chantry!  They will face this "Inquisition," and the people will be safe once more!"  Her eyes were alight with, how shall I put it?  Holy fire?  

I was expecting a lot of things.  I always do.  But I was not expecting a templar to come up behind the mother and punch her in the back of the head.  Dude!  Seriously?  Couldn't you have at least tapped on her shoulder so she was facing you?

As she fell to the ground my eyes narrowed, a beginning sign of my veneer cracking.  "Still yourself," said one of the templars to another, the one who had been standing with the chantry members.  "She is beneath us."  

"Was that supposed to impress me?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.

"As if I would do anything for your pleasure," responded who I assumed to be the man in charge of this whole debacle.  I was about to retort with a very nasty comment about his too-big ears and most likely look childish when Cassandra swooped in and began to speak.

"Lord Seeker, it is imperative--" she began as if he just hadn't ordered an old lady to be punched in the back of the head.  But he cut her off.

"You will not address me," he said as he descended the wooden stairs, not even looking at her.

"Lord Seeker?"

Cassandra's insistence on speaking to him got the Lord Seeker to turn and face us.  The crowd shifted uncomfortably.  I didn't blame them.  "Creating a heretical movement, raising up a puppet as Andraste's prophet.  You should be ashamed," he spat.  "You should all be ashamed!  The templars failed no one when they left the Chantry to purge the mages!  You are the ones who have failed!  You who'd leash our righteous swords with doubt and fear!  If you came to appeal to the Chantry, you are too late.  The only destiny here that demands respect is mine."

Wait, what? 

I shook my head and looked over the Seeker to the other men and women behind him.  "Templars, one of your own commands the Inquisition's forces.  Join us, as he did!"

The Lord Seeker barked a guttural laugh, ignoring some of the uncertain glances the soldiers were giving him.  "A staunch and loyal member of the Order.  So loyal, he abandoned them for a false Herald."

"But Lord Seeker," said the dark-skinned templar who was looking the most uncertain out of all of them.  "What if she really was sent by the Maker?  What if--?"

"You are called to a higher purpose!" said the templar who punched the mother.  "Do not question!"

"will make the Templar Order a power that stands alone against the Void.  We deserve recognition.  Independence!"  He looked up and down at me.  "You have shown me nothing, and the Inquisition...less than nothing.  Templars!  Val Royeaux is unworthy of our protection!  We march!"

As the templars left the market, Varric said, "Charming fellow, isn't he?"

"Has Lord Seeker Lucius gone mad?" Cassandra fumed.  

"Most likely," I responded.  "His speech wasn't even well-prepared.  Definitely a sign of madness.  But, fortunately, the templars aren't our only hope."

Cassandra gave a shake of her head.  "I wouldn't write them off so quickly.  There must be those in the Order who see what he's become."  She sighed, a momentary look of exhaustion on her face.  Then it was gone.  "Either way, we should first return to Haven and inform the others."

As we were walking back in silence, an Orlesian voice said from behind us, "If I may have a moment of your time."

We turned and watched as an elf approached us, dressed in mage robes.  Oh, honey, your hair.  Please, let me help you.

"Grand Enchanter Fiona?" Cassandra asked slowly.

"Leader of the mage rebellion," Solas said, slightly surprising me that he would know of such things.  "Is it not dangerous for you to be here?"

"I heard of this gathering, and I wanted to see the fabled Herald of Andraste with my own eyes," Fiona replied.  "If it's help with the Breach you seek, perhaps my people are the wiser option."

I wanted to stroke my imaginary beard in thoughtful consideration, but restrained myself.  "And in exchange for your help?" I questioned.  Better just cut the crap and get to the point.

"Oh, I haven't promised the Inquisition our help yet," Fiona said with a light, honeyed smile.  "Consider this an invitation to Redcliffe:  come meet with the mages.  An alliance could help us both, after all.  I hope to see you there.  Au revoir, my Lady Herald."

As soon as Fiona came, she left.  "Come, let us return to Haven," Cassandra said.  But...but the gondolas, Cass.  The gondolas!

-

Oh, and then there was Sera.  I knew I would love the crass, hard-to-understand city-elf, partially because she had a crazy sense of humor, and partially because she grated on Solas' nerves.  We would get along great.  I found it quite funny when we were fighting off those guards with no breeches on.  He he.  Genius.  The Red Jennies also intrigued me.  They were almost like an organization of Robin Hoods, and would add a whole new dynamic to the growing Inquisition.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity of having them work for us.  Gears in my mind working to how they could help us and we them were already turning.  

But, still, as I fell asleep, it was to the stupid image of the chantry mother being punched in the back of the head.  I swear...if I ever meet that templar again, I would punch him so hard in the back of his head it would look like a scene from Scanners.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sera and I suppressed our giggles as we neared the apostate mage's cabin. There was a dim flicker of candlelight, but nothing else. The glow of the Breach offered us plenty of light to enact our plans. So, secretly I thanked Solas for this one. Because of his ill-considered actions, the front of his cabin was about to get vandalized extraordinarily well.  

"Hurry up," Sera hissed as I fumbled to get the paintbrushes ready.  Once the brushes were lathered in white paint, we began our work.  It was a special kind of temporary paint that would peel off within a day or so.  I wasn't that cruel, even though Sera was.  She wanted to carve all sorts of obscenities into his cabin.  And I thought I had it rough with Solas.  There were several occasions when I told Solas to shut up because he insulted Sera so blatantly.  She wasn't much better, but her words held no bite.  His, though...they were toxic.

Our new mural didn't take long to finish up.  A little thickening here, a bit of smearing there, and before you knew it we beheld a masterpiece.  Then we booked it, awaiting until morning.

-

Solas stepped outside, only to find that a small crowd had gathered around his cabin.  As soon as swung the door opened and placed a foot on the snowy ground, several began to laugh while others poorly suppressed their grins.  He frowned, and followed their shifting gazes between him and the outside of his cabin.  Solas walked into the snow a few paces before turning around and gazing at the wooden wall.  From my viewpoint behind one of the boulders, I could see his fists clench and body puff up.  It wasn't a kitten puff-up, either.  This one was, oh, I don't know, Crookshanks puffed up.  

Painted in bold white was a ginormous butt centered around the door Solas had just stepped through.  Slowly, he pushed the door closed to see that the crack ran down the center of it.  Even I could see from my distance that his entire bald head was a bright pink.  Come on, come on, turn around so I can see your face! 

Eventually he did, and hoo boy was it furious.  Solas somehow to look graceful even while storming--oh, crap, he was storming right in my direction.

I dove into the cluster of nearby boulders, clenching my teeth at the biting cold seeping into my clothes.  If he was in a normal mind-set, he would have undoubtedly seen me.  But as he was not, he stomped right past my hiding spot.  I slowly climbed up and watched as Solas entered the Chantry.

"You evil little girl."

I spun around and saw Varric gazing knowingly up at me.  I crossed my arms.  "Little girl?  Varric I'm taller than you."

"You know what I mean."  He looked over at Solas' vandalized cabin.  "You and Sera are going to be the death of Chuckles."

I put a hand over my heart and pretended to be hurt.  "Varric, are you insinuating that I did such a thing?"

"It's not insinuation, per say, when it's the truth."

I scoffed.  "Yes, well, he is quite the Sol-Ass, after all.  It's only fitting."

Varric face-palmed.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I hummed as I tugged absently on an ear. Thedas lay spread out before me, and it could have been taken for reality had it not been for the absence of the advisers. Sometimes it was nice to just come to my dreams and plan there. Plus, if I grew tired of the silence, I could simply wave my hand and music would start playing. Right now it was some classical music. That always managed to get my mind focused.

I figured out I could use the Fade to my advantage shortly after sealing the Breach.  And, since I couldn't be possessed because I wasn't a mage, the demons took no notice of me.  If they did, I tuned them out with the music.  Eventually they just left me alone.  I let the wisps and other spirits flit around, though, because they posed no threat and provided some simple company I found myself enjoying.  They didn't question me, chastise me, or look at me in concern.  They simply were.  I talked to them despite knowing that they wouldn't answer, which helped me sort out my thoughts.  "Storm Coast it is," I said, placing an Inquisition piece down on the area.  "That should be fun.  I've always liked the ocean," I said to the wisps.  "Though I doubt it'll look like Carlsbad Beach.  Or any of the beaches that I like.  I betcha there's a reason they call it the Storm Coast."

"There is."

I spun around, a great sword immediately in my hands.  Once I saw who it was, I sighed and let the weapon vanish.  "Not cool," I growled at Solas. The music abruptly ended.  "Isn't this an invasion of privacy or something?  Are your dirty feet going to leave a permanent residual on my dreams?"

"That makes no sense," Solas said, his nose angrily crinkling.  He was sensitive about his bare feet, I found.  

"Get out of my dream, butt-munch!" I shouted, and went to push Solas' chest--

My hands hit nothing and I stumbled forward.  There was a low chuckle from behind me.  I turned and glared at the Dread Wolf.  "Though your skills of manipulating the Fade are far greater than I expected it to be, you're still a child here, fumbling and tripping over the simplest things."

"And how would you know?  Have you been watching my dreams or something?" I said it sarcastically to hide my embarrassment, but when Solas only tilted his head and got that glint in his eyes did anger flare within me.  "Ew!  That's so creepy!  These are my dreams!"

"Since you know so much about me," Solas said as he idly looked around the War Room.  "I thought I would see if I could know more about you."  His stormy blue eyes settled back on me.  "I did not think it would be possible anyone could have more secrets than I."

I turtle-frowned at Solas.  "Oh, gosh, you really need to work on your Fade-Talk."

He ignored my comment and stepped closer to me.  "You are from another land, that I do know.  A land where elves are not discriminated.  But where?"  He turned to walk slowly across the room to the opposite side of the war table.  Ugh.  He really was Moriarty.  But then that meant I was Sherlock.  That also meant I was Smaug.  Awesome.  "You reveal little even here in the Fade, and I thought that it would be another dead-end.  That is, until you started talking to the wisps and spirits.  You tell them tales of your homeland, and they flock to you like moths to a flame.  Whether or not it is because of the Mark on your hand, I am unsure."  Solas stopped and faced me.  His hands were clasped behind his back and there was a faint twitch on his lips.  "But it is of little consequence.  What I have come to learn, though, is that you, Alaran, are from another world."

knew he was leading up to it from the moment he began talking, but it still came as a shock to me when Solas actually said it.  For several moments I was suspended in a wide-eyed, rigid state.  When I found my voice, once more, I said softly, "What now, hm?  Are you going to banish me back to my world?  Run and tell Leliana of my true identity?  I sincerely doubt you'll do either, so what is it?"

"Nothing.  At least...for now."  Ooh, that bastard was relishing in having the upper-hand.  "You have kept my secret, so I will keep yours."

Solas disappeared, and before I could move an inch he was behind me, leaning into my ear and whispering, "But you had best tread carefully, Herald of Andraste.  You can no longer defend yourself with the shield of your knowledge alone.  And who knows what I will do, should the time come that we become opponents?"

"We already are," I stated coldly.  He chuckled soundlessly and stepped back.  I didn't face him, but waited until his presence vanished.  It was then that I gripped the edge of the table and let out a shaky breath, closing my eyes and trying to rid myself of the fear eating at my mind.  When it would not dissipate so easily, I did the only thing I could.

I awoke.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

It was her eyes that unnerved Solas the most. They were bright and sharp and they knew.  Whenever they looked upon anything else, they were dancing and even.  When they looked upon him, though, that was when he saw the lightning.  From the moment Solas saw what color they were, that was what they reminded him of.  Not lightning in a storm, no; they were the lighting cast by mages, the lightning fueled by magic, that set fear into the hearts of many brave men and women.  They crackled and snapped whenever he spoke to her, or even looked at her.  

If Alaran's eyes weren't bad enough, her mind was what nearly set him off the edge.  She was intelligent.  No...calling Alaran intelligent was like calling calling templars bad.  The word was too vague, too broad.  It didn't do her justice.  She had a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, and could speak with ease and confidence and weight.  Many times Solas was unable to to come back with a response whenever she insulted him.  He would have felt worse about it, had she only done it to him.  But many times Varric was at a loss, as well, whenever Alaran fired something at the dwarf.  The fact that she could make Solas feel such immature emotions, though, infuriated him.

She had been an enigma.  Everything about her was something of a mystery to Solas, one that he wanted to solve.  He made his move the morning of their departure to the Hinterlands.  He had purposefully gotten up as early as he could, much to his reluctance, so he could catch Alaran.  She had come around the gates to the stables.  Upon first glancing at Alaran one would think that she looked ridiculous with the great sword strapped to her back.  It was twice her size.  But after seeing Alaran cleave it into demons with an astonishing amount of strength and speed, Solas knew better than to laugh at her.  She didn't wear proper armor, though, for the warrior she was.  

Alaran stopped dead in her tracks when she saw Solas, who was observing her from the corner of his eye.  He called out to her just as she was beginning to turn away.  It was an amusing sight. Those violet eyes were wide with surprise and...fear?  But it was quickly quelled as Alaran strode forward, looking like she hadn't been about to flee.  Solas began talking to her, instantly picking up on the way her eyes flared at each question.  It was something Solas knew was in his own eyes, and that slightly worried him.  Who was she?

His worry grew with each question she stepped around as if it was a well-practiced dance.  Solas had to rein in his instinctive emotions when Alaran said she didn't believe where he came from.  She had spoken it as if she already knew.  

Come to find out, Alaran did.  

His name, his title, rolled off her tongue like a too-sweet candy.  Solas was close enough to see her wide pupils and individual long, silver eyelashes, and smell the dried apples Alaran always insisted on eating over real food.  For a moment he thought he would be sick.  How did she know?  How?

 Alaran also knew that he was an indirect cause of the Breach, and that the orb may be the cause of her premature death.  Her voice was unbreakable steel when she said it all.  She looked young, and acted childish more often than not, but Solas doubted the age he supposed her to be when she talked like that.  He considered killing her for longer than he cared to admit.  But Alaran expected that; she was challenging him to try.  Her posture as she stood over him was that of a leader, albeit one that didn't know its position, yet.  At that moment Solas knew that if he killed her, the consequences would tear apart the world he was trying to rebuild.  

Solas had released her and retreated to his tent, but sleep did not come for a long while.  

A night after the revelations, Solas entered Alaran's dreams.  He had expected her to be unaware of the Fade, as she was not a mage and was strangely resistant to magic--he would have to look into that later.  He had suspicions that the Mark would enable her to manipulate some of it unknowingly, but...yet again, she managed to surprise him.  Alaran could control the scenes and images around her as if she had practice for decades.  Her power attracted demons, yes, and once or twice Solas thought he would have to intervene, but Alaran could banish them without a second thought.  Their attempts to drag her into a nightmare, to make her relive bad memories, were futile.  He assumed she would do the same to the spirits and wisps that were drawn to her after some time, but she did not.  In fact, Alaran enjoyed having them nearby.  Solas did, too, because she spoke to them, and when she spoke to them she would reveal her secrets, her past, and asked them questions that she would answer herself.  It often brought a faint smile to Solas' lips.  Though he would never admit it aloud she...was quite funny.  

Still, Solas didn't get much information to base his assumptions on until the night they departed from Val Royeaux.  He stopped at the cracked door and leaned against the wall so he could hear Alaran's conversation.  "...they don't do that where I come from!  You know that?  Well, no you don't, but it's still true.  Like, come on, dude, I know the chantry mother was being an old hag, but--ugh!"  A pause of silence.  "Yeah, you're right, I guess a lot of violence still happens on my world."

My world.

Could...could it be possible?

"The thing is, though, is that if it had happened where I come from, the whole world would have known within seconds.  Oh, that's another thing I miss--but don't tell anyone I said that.  I'm not sure if I could even say that I missed Twitter and Instagram out loud.  Anyways, with the way my whole world is connected, the Templar Order would have been facing criminal charges and, worse, an angry public.  But nobody except those in the market even knew that took place.  The templars can walk off like its nothing and--and--"  There was a frustrated sigh.  "I don't even know why it's bothering me so much...yeah, maybe that's it.  I have lived a pretty sheltered life.  Outright unnecessary violence isn't something I'm used to.  Especially witnessing cheap shots like that."  Silence ensued for several minutes, but Solas heard the slight scraping of an Inquisition piece move over the war table.  The fact that she came here in the Fade and not pursue other frivolous dreams was another testament to her developing the habits of a leader.  "You think Leliana should take care of that?  Really?  Josie would be able to handle it, I think."  She chuckled.  "No, not Cullen.  He's a hottie patottie, that's for sure, but the guy thinks everything can be taken care of by punching it.  Wait, what if Cassandra and Cullen were pitted against each other?"  She gasped.  "Ooh, I should make that happen.  Those two like to punch things.  They could be a team, now that I come to think of it.  Need a new building?  Punch it into existence!  Gotta chop wood?  Punch wood instead!  Tea-time with nobles?  Punch the nobles and the tea!  Why?  For the sake of diabeetus, of course!"  Alaran said the last bit of the sentence in a strange, gruff accent, then broke into a fit of laughter, then trailed off into a sigh.  "Oh, that's another thing I miss:  memes.  Freaking memes.  I wonder what kind they have of this place.  If I..." she faltered, and her voice became serious.  "If I ever go back, I guess I can find out then."

Did she want to go back?

"Not that I want to go back, of course.  There's too much to do, here.  Humpty-Dumpty kind of broke the sky, so before I can even begin thinking if I truly want to return home, I gotta patch that up."

Solas used the context given to infer that Humpty-Dumpty was him.  "This world...it's not all that nice, guys.  But I guess you all know that.  You can get turned into demons here.  Which, try not to do, because I like all of you."  She huffed.  "It's at times like this I wish I was at friggin' Hogwarts.  They would have understood.  Dumbledore wouldn't have chained me in a cell and interrogated me.  And I betcha Hermione and I would have become best friends...or worst enemies.  We're both too smart for our own good.  And the magic there is cool.  Here it's just feared...and really crude."

The elf had to refrain from blowing his cover and demanding how magic here is crude.  "And you know what I'm really pissed about?  That whoever or whatever sent me here didn't think to ask me if I was okay going without flushing toilets."  Alaran made a disgruntled noise, and returned to muttering about what actions should take place in the War Room.  But Solas had his information.  With a smug smirk, he left Alaran's dreams.

Yet, Solas returned, night after night.  Sometimes Alaran would hardly talk at all, but the music that emitted from the slightly ajar door was enchanting.  It was completely instrumental and foreign, but Solas found himself remembering days gone by.  He could still recall the feel of the cool marble floor underneath his feet as he and his People were swept up in dance.  He sat quietly outside, propped against the wall with his head rested back.  Alaran would faintly hum along with the music, but never sang to it.  He still couldn't tell if she had a nice voice or not.  Once or twice Solas almost imagined the two of them dancing together, but he would banish the thought before it even completely formed.  

She would tell stories to the spirits, voice quick and animated and fluent.  They were mostly accounts of beautiful places.  Alaran had seen a whole forest of trees that were hundreds of feet tall and thousands of years old, and rolling hills with an endless view of the changing of colors.  There were beaches with white sand and azure waters, so pure and pristine you could never tire of the view, and fog-covered mountains in the morning light.  Solas could close his eyes and picture the scenes perfectly.  Maybe...maybe one day Alaran could show them to him, there in the Fade.

No.  Such thoughts were foolish.

Solas picked up tidbits of conversation to infer that Alaran had many friends, at one point, but lost them all.  Also, she and her parents hardly saw eye-to-eye on anything.  Her voice was often bitter when she spoke of either, and never stayed long enough on the topic for Solas to know why that was the case.  It was extremely aggravating, not being able to freely ask Alaran questions.  If she was only a naive, timid, trusting girl...

But she wasn't.  Alaran was a woman to rival Solas' own nature.

 When the time came that Solas confronted Alaran about the identity of her own, he couldn't deny that he was pleased with her reaction.  She was nothing but a frightened little halla, seeing the wolf for the first time.  She was even frozen to the floor, limbs too rigid to move.  Even those violet eyes were void of any lightning.

So why did he feel guilty when he saw what she did when she thought he had departed from her dream?

Alaran had braced herself against the table, drawing in rapid, shaky breaths.  Her shoulders trembled under an invisible burden, knuckles white and tense.  Whatever warmth in Solas' abdomen vanished, and was replaced by a sour twist in his gut upon realizing that he was wrong in his assumption that Alaran would use his identity against him, that her intentions were malicious.  For all her veneer and confidence, she was frightened, and the Fade was the place where she could come to collect her thoughts and help her become less so.  He had ruined that, now.  Never once did Alaran talk to the spirits specifically about Solas, about blackmailing him, about how evil he was.  She referenced him a few times, but it was only in passing, and never with venom.  In fact, she wanted to help the mages and the elves, help the poor and unfortunate, and ultimately just save lives, just as he did.  But instead of approaching her rationally and revealing the purpose of his actions--which Alaran most likely would have listened to--he spied on her like one of Leliana's lackeys, picking up discarded truths here and there, and approached her like she was the enemy and not Corypheus.  As a result, he solidified any negative feelings and malice Alaran had towards him, and only proved himself to be the man she thought he was.  In those short minutes Solas had destroyed anything good between them.

Perhaps Alaran was correct about him.

Solas fled from the dream, but knew that he would not be released of the heavy weight that settled in his chest.  

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I craned my head up at the Qunari.  In retrospect, I probably looked more like Doge than anything.  Much horns.  Very muscle.  So scars.  Wow.  Many tall.  

When Iron Bull sat down on a boulder we were eye-to-eye.  Immediately alarms went off in my head.  Something was up with this guy.  He looked too...relaxed, as if it were a well-practiced body movement instead of an actual one.  "So...you've seen us fight.  We're expensive, but we're worth it...and I'm sure the Inquisition can afford us," he said with a knowing chuckle.  

"There are better things to put our money towards than hiring mercenaries, however good you are," I said, veneer up.  Iron Bull instinctively made me want to be wary.  

Instead of being offended Iron Bull merely leaned slightly back and smiled.  "If you hire us, you're not just getting the Chargers.  You're getting me."  His smile turned sharp.  "You need a frontline bodyguard.  I'm your man.  Whatever it is--demons, dragons?  The bigger the better."  He stood up, the two of us walking away from the crowd.  "We can do the work your soldiers can't.  And from the way it seems the Inquisition is headed, you're going to need people like us."

After a few minutes Iron Bull and I came to an agreement.  I thought we were finished when he added in a more serious tone, "And there's one other thing."  All at once his stance, face, feeling...changed.  I knew I was looking at more than just a hired hand with muscle.  "Might be useful.  Might piss you off.  Ever hear of the Ben-Hassrath?"

My blood ran cold.  Crappity crap crap.  "They enforce the Qun," I said slowly, the words bitter with truth.  "And they're spies."

"Yeah, that's them.  Or, well, us."

Ding ding ding!  Your spidey-senses were tingling, Al!  Or, spy-senses.  "The Ben-Hassrath are concerned about the Breach.  Magic out of control like that could cause trouble everywhere," Iron Bull went on to say.  "I've been ordered to join the Inquisition, get close to the people in charge, and send reports on what's happening.  But I also get reports from Ben-Hassrath agents all over Orlais.  You sign me on, I'll share them with your people."

"So," I said after being silent for a while.  "You're Qunari spy and you just...told me?  I don't think it's supposed to typically work like that."

"Whatever happened at that Conclave thing, it's bad.  Someone needs to get that Breach closed," Iron Bull responded.  His absent gestures made me extremely aware of how large his hands were.  One alone could probably squish my head like a grape.  "So whatever I am, I'm on your side."

I furrowed my brows in thought.  "And you would have been found out sooner or later by us anyways and had to bail," I stated carefully.  Then I flashed a smirk.  "And we are the Inquisition, after all.  Nobody expects us."

"Better you hear it right up front from me," Iron Bull shrugged, completely lost on my reference.  

I weighed my options.  He was one of the main companions.  Though I despised the fact that I was allowing yet another spy into the Inquisition, we probably needed him.  And from the way I saw him swinging that war hammer...he could be put to good use.  

"You report straight to Leliana," I said in my Inquisitor-voice.  "If we find out that anything slips by and you put anyone in the Inquisition in danger, I will personally see to it that you become a Tal-Vashoth outcast."  It didn't sound like a threat.  Just a cold statement.  Iron Bull's one eye widened slightly, but nothing else.  He dipped his head in agreement.  

"You got yourself a deal."  Iron Bull held out his hand.  I shook it--well, that's not really an accurate statement.  My hand was swallowed by his.  Yeah, that's more precise.  "By the way," he said, a smirk spreading across his face, "I like the way you fight.  It's hot.  You should keep that dried blood on your face.  Adds character."

"Thank you," I responded, smirking as well.  "And I just might."

-

“Have you ever dreamt of flying?” Alaran blurted out suddenly.  They were in the middle of a meeting in the War Room, discussing the situation in the Fallow Mire, when she posed the question.

“My lady?” Cullen said.  Her wide violet eyes roamed over the table, calculating, perceiving, judging.  How Alaran could so efficiently maneuver through the war table, Cullen would never know.  He was about to dismiss the notion that she had said anything--the Herald said strange things and made strange noises from time to time--when she said:

“Flying, Commander.  You know, soaring above the clouds, seeing the vastness of the land?  Where no arrow can touch you, where no eyes can see you?”  Those eyes were darting from one piece to another, softly shielded by silver eyelashes.  “I wish I could fly.”  Then she moved one of Leliana’s pieces to the Fallow Mire.  “Prepare a convoy.  If this man wants to face me, then he’ll get the opportunity.  If the lives of so many soldiers were not involved, we could most likely ignore the threats.  But that's not the case, now is it?”

“As excellent of a fighter you are, Herald,” Cullen began, “this is no ordinary opponent.  The Avvar are fierce warriors with the advantage of having several feet over you in height.  You will need to train.”

Her violet eyes flashed up to him and he had to keep his breathing steady.  “So be it, Commander.  We will begin tomorrow morning.”

“But--”

She held up her hand, silencing him.  Maker, why was Alaran so intimidating?   Cullen could have blamed his feelings on the fact that she wasn't too fond of the Templar Order, but that wouldn't have been entirely correct.  No...it was in the way she held herself with the strong, subtle stance of an unknowing leader.  He had seen it in many high-ranking officials.  He knew it was how he held himself, although he was aware that he was actually doing it.  But still, Cullen knew that it wasn't only that.  Maybe one day he could determine what it was.  “You are the most seasoned veteran here, Cullen.  I know that you wouldn’t go easy on me.”  Her eyes softened, for a moment.  “I apologize.  If you absolutely cannot…”

Cullen took a deep breath, fighting the blush coming on.  She always, always managed to make him blush.  How old was she even, exactly?  Nobody knew.  “It would be my pleasure, Herald.”

-

Lavellan could fight, that was for certain.  Great swords were weapons meant for warriors like Iron Bull and Blackwall, not for a slight elf who barely came up to his chest.  But she was a whirlwind, and the steady calculation Alaran brought to the War Room followed onto the battlefield.  A crowd had gathered to watch, and was gaining volume by the second.  Cullen found himself sweating despite the chill.  But he was an excellent fighter as well, and once he found that Alaran was much more skilled than he had originally thought, Cullen held little back.  It was a formidable match, the two of them.

Finally, Cullen was able to sweep Alaran off her feet and send her sprawling.  She landed on the ground with a grunt.  “You’re d--” Cullen started to say in his automatic commander voice, but stopped short when he saw glistening, visible tears in her eyes.  It made Alaran look extremely young and vulnerable.  His sword instantly lowered.  “My lady Herald, is--”

With a loud howl Alaran sprung up and shot straight at Cullen, hitting him so hard that his teeth rattled.  He landed hard on his back, seeing bursts of light as his head smacked against the cold ground.  Alaran straddled him with strong, muscled thighs that squeezed so tight his armor groaned in protest.  The edge of his sword was at his neck.  She was breathing heavily, sweat running in rivulets down the sides of her tattooed temples.  “You’re dead,” Alaran said quietly.  Violet fire danced in her eyes.  Then she began to laugh.  It was not an unkind laugh, but surprising in the circumstance.  “Oh,” she panted, head thrown slightly back and exposing a delicate, arched neck, “it’s funny because you were about to say that to me before I whooped you.”  Alaran's strange way of speaking became more prominent as her guard slipped down at her victory.

She relaxed her legs and hopped off.  Cullen grumbled as he got back to his feet, resisting the urge to rub the back of his throbbing head.  Not the worst injury he'd ever gotten, but the first in a long while, particularly in practice combat.  More than anything, Cullen't pride was what took the biggest beating.  Varric was already collecting and handing out money.  “You--” he stuttered dumbly, “I thought--” He felt the blush rise to his cheeks.  Alaran straightened from picking up her great sword and raised a silver eyebrow.  

“That your poor Herald was injured?  Yeah no I knew that you would fall for it.”  She gave a full grin as she strapped her weapon onto her back.  It took Cullen by surprise that he had never actually seen her truly grin, before.  It was bright and genuine.  

“The Avvar will not falter when you merely get misty-eyed,” Cullen snapped, irritated at her and himself.  He felt a headache coming on, whether from hitting the ground or the sign of an oncoming episode, he could not tell.

Alaran’s smile faded, and Cullen suddenly felt guilty at being the cause of it.  For a moment, she allowed herself to glow, and he had ripped it from her.  “You’re right,” she said in the cool, collected voice of hers.  “Tomorrow I won’t act so childishly.”  She gave a slight bow and departed through the cheering crowd before Cullen could get another word in.  

-

"Harding!" I exclaimed as I saw my favorite freckled-face dwarf.  "What brings you here?"

"You," she said dryly.  We quickly went over the route to take in the Fallow Mire.  "Hey, Herald, are you afraid of the dead?"  

"My, my, Scout Harding, are you trying to rile me?" I asked back.  She smiled an innocent smile, even though her green eyes were mischievous.  

"No, just making sure you're not squeamish."

"I'll have you know that the dead don't bother me at all," I retorted.  "What's the worst they can do, bite me?"

Turns out that yes, yes they can do much worse.  Especially when they're controlled by freaking demons.

"Ah, shit," Varric cursed as he saw me propping myself up against the beacon, examining the arrow protruding from the area just below my collarbone.  He, Iron Bull, Sera, Blackwall, and Vivienne all gathered around me.

"Just pull it out," I said, biting back the pain.  

"'Ave you got shite for brains?" Sera practically yelled.  "You can't just pull an arrow out!  It'll drag all your meaty stuff with it!"

"She's right," Blackwall added.  "Pulling it out will probably kill you."

"It's shallow enough," I argued.  "I think it glanced my bone, that's all.  Here, let me just--" I wrapped my Marked hand around the shaft, but Vivienne immediately stopped me.  Everybody else was headed for it, but she was just the nearest to me to do so.

"My dear," she said in that natural, condescending tone, "don't be such an idiot.  We will return to camp and you can be attended to there."

I was already shaking my head before she even finished her sentence.  "Nope.  Not gonna happen.  You heard what the Skywatcher said!  The soldiers were going to be executed tonight if we didn't get there!"

"And if you fight that Avvar with an arrow sticking through your shoulder, you'll be dead too," Varric said seriously.  I gaped at him, then at the rest of my companions.

"Seriously?  You're all going to call it quits because I have a stick through my shoulder?"

"That's not a stick, Boss," Iron Bull rumbled.  "That's a rusted, swamp-ridden arrowhead.  I'll be surprised if an infection isn't spreading already."

I stood up, shoving aside Blackwall's and Vivenne's hands as they offered to support me.  "Either you help me get those soldiers back, or I go alone," I said darkly, pouring all the iciness I could into my facial expression.

"Oh, dear, I was afraid I was going to have to do this," Vivienne sighed, and placed a hand on the back of my neck.  I felt a tingling sensation, as if her palm was covered in Icy-Hot.  A moment later I realized what she was trying to do and jerked away.

"Did you just try to put me to sleep?" I spat venomously.  The Grand Enchantress looked utterly bewildered, which was a rarity.  Good thing I had a photographic memory.  I could save the image forever.

"Oh, heads up," Varric deadpanned, "magic doesn't work on our Herald."

I shook my head disappointingly at the group and uncorked a healing potion.  I hated taking them.  They tasted like the tears of Dolores Umbridge and Prince Joffrey.  It didn't help that drinking nasty liquids was the one thing I hated most in this world.  In any world, considering that I've been to two.  I shuddered and coughed as the potion coated my throat.  "There," I rasped, wiping my mouth with a damp sleeve.  "That'll slow the bleeding."

"You're mad, yeah?" Sera said, but there was a grin on her face.  I knew I could count on her.  She gripped the shaft of the arrow and snapped it.  I ground my teeth together as the jolt of pain racked through my shoulder.  

"I guess we're worrying about an arrow through your shoulder later, then," Blackwall said sarcastically as we began walking, once more.

"At least it wasn't an arrow to the knee, huh?"

It didn't help that there were crickets chirping in the mire.

We came to the hold soon enough.  "Oh, great," I sighed.  "Those are a lot of zombies."

"Zombies?" Varric repeated.  I only waved him off. 

"We're not getting through that," Iron Bull stated grimly as he crossed his arms.  

"No, no we're not," I said, digging my feet into the muck and crouching.  "So I guess we'd better be fast."

"Herald!" Blackwall exclaimed, but I was already off, dodging through the mass of moaning corpses.  Rick Grimes would be so proud of me.  They didn't even have the chance to touch me.  

Sera, Varric, and Vivienne ran with a similar tactic as mine, but Blackwall and Iron Bull were too bulky to evade as quickly as we all did, so they ended up barreling through.  Sera put arrows through the attacking Avvar and I raced up to close the gate so the horde wouldn't get through.  It left me feeling light-headed and knees weak.  Sera put a hand on my uninjured shoulder.  "You okay, Ally?"

"Peachy," I responded shortly.  My eyes landed on a nearby crate.  "Ooh, look, healing potions!"

-

I grimaced as I looked at the Avvar chieftain.  I was really not in the mood for epic dueling.  I was tired, grumpy, injured, and water-logged.  "Ah, hell, here he comes," I groaned, pulling my great sword over my back with my good arm.  I had to make this quick.  He had a giant stone war hammer that would turn me into a pile of Alaran Jam if I didn't end it before it could really begin.  

My mind should have been calculating weaknesses, weighing the possible outcome of attacks, all that good stuff.  And I could lie and say that I did just that.  But I'm gonna be honest here.  The only thing that I was screaming to myself as I charged the Avvar was, "LEEEEEEEROY JENKINS!!!!"

The Avvar swung his war hammer down on the ground, cracking the stone.  I had hesitated, slightly, but in one insane move I stepped onto the war hammer and used its rising momentum to launch myself at the chieftain and wildly swing my great sword into his neck, cleanly lopping his head off.  Unfortunately my body kept moving as the decapitated corpse fell, and I moved over the gushing stump.  Hot blood smeared itself onto my face and chest as I flew onto the stone floor.  The jarring impact made me cry out as my shoulder seared in pain.  

I just lay there as my companions finished off the other opposing Avvar.  I tasted blood in my mouth, but wasn't sure if it was my own or the chieftain's.  

Iron Bull was the first one to crouch beside me.  "You okay, Boss?" he asked.

"Is that a hint of worry in your voice?" I croaked.  "Bull, I think the Inquisition is making you soft."

"Well, you are covered in buckets of blood.  Nice landing, by the way."  I groaned as Iron Bull helped me up.

"Quickest fight I've ever seen," Varric said as he propped Bianca over his shoulder.  "I'm probably going to have to make the scene longer in the books.  You know, add some thrill.  'Cause that was really anti-climactic."

I was too tired to come up with a retort, so instead I looted the dead Avvar and found a key that would unlock the door I sincerely hoped the hostage soldiers were in.  Because if they weren't...well, let's not think about it.

But hey, they were!  Although a few gasped when they saw my unsightly appearance.  I probably looked like Carrie.  

Just as we were walking out something caught Blackwall's attention.  He walked over to a corner in the hall where dead bodies still lay.  "Would you look at that, Herald!" he said happily.  "It's a Grey Warden banner!  That means there's most likely more items here!"

"We can look around," Varric shrugged.  Oh, so they had just forgotten that I had an arrow in my shoulder?

"I call the top floor!" Sera exclaimed and dashed off.  They all departed on their little quest--even Vivienne!--and all but abandoning me.  

"Don't mind me," I said weakly as I sunk to the floor with my back against a wall.  "Just injured and exhausted.  No biggie."

The Skywatcher found me, surprisingly.  "I saw the fight," he said, towering over me.  "You really did it.  Short and sweet.  No theatrics, nothing.  I like that."

I didn't bother looking composed and business-like.  I didn't think he cared, either way.  "You'd be a great help to the Inquisition.  I would be honored to have you join our cause."  It would have been a better statement had I not spoken it through a giant yawn.  

"Exhausted, Herald?"

"You have no idea."

"Is that an arrow through your shoulder?"

"Yes it is."

"Want me to get it out for you?"

"Please."

The Skywatcher knelt down and pulled out a thin pair of knives from one of his packs.  I closed my eyes and made faces as he somehow pulled the broken shaft through cleanly and quickly.  After that he dumped some kind of foul-smelling potion onto my wound.  I expected it to hurt, but instead it remedied the pain almost instantly.  "Mm," I said, half-asleep already.  "Thank you."

"Where are your companions?"

"Gallivanting through the castle looking for Grey Warden artifacts."

"And they left you here?"

"Yeah.  The bastards."

"How long will they be?"

"No idea."

"Would you like for me to carry you back to one of your lowlander camps?"

Wordlessly I held out my arms like a small child, waiting to be picked up.  The Skywatcher lifted me easily off the ground and held me in one arm while he picked up my great sword with the other, slinging the strap over his shoulder.  Once he had done that he moved to cradle my limp body.  I was passed out before he even began walking down the stairs.

And thus ensued one of the strangest things Scout Harding had ever seen.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Are you absolutely sure this is the right decision?" Cullen asked, unaware that he was gripping the pommel of his sword.

"No, and I fear what may come if we take one wrong step," I replied.  "Choosing to ally with the rebel mages will be a punch in the face to the Templar Order.  They won't offer us aid.  I worry, though, because there have to be some templars that see the light and may still want to join even if an alliance between the mages is successful."  I tugged on an earlobe.  "I won't allow the Inquisition to give up on them."  I moved one of Leliana's pieces to Therinfal Redoubt.  "You get word to at least some of the templars and inform them that we know something is going on with Lord Seeker Lucius, and we will provide sanctuary for them if they wish.  Have one of your people contact Delrin Barris.  He was the templar in Val Royeaux, and I have a feeling that if anyone will listen, it'll be him."

"There still may be time to recruit both," Cassandra offered.  I glanced at her, then back down at the map.

"No," I quietly whispered, knowing that whatever I did from here on out meant no going back.  "There's not."

-

There was a knock on my cabin door.  I turtle-frowned, wondering who it could possibly be.  Probably Sera, drunk off her scrawny butt and wanting me to do something crazy with her.  I wasn't in the mood for it, though.  I should have been in bed a long time ago.  We left for Redcliffe in the morning.  

I set aside the book I was finally able to read and walked to the door.  Josephine had been giving me reading and writing lessons because I was, after all, an illiterate Dalish.  But I had caught on quickly and managed to understand the written language within a couple of months.  

I open the door, saw who was standing there, and promptly shut it.

"Herald," Solas said irritably on the other side.  "Do not act so childish."

"Sorry!" I called as I took a seat once more.  "The mage position is filled!  Vivienne is already traveling with us!"

"The Circle Mage?" Solas asked incredulously.  "You would choose somebody to go with you who wants anybody with magical abilities to be caged their entire lives?"

"Let's just say she brings a refreshing opinion," I said.  Okay, so I didn't really agree at all with Madame de Fer's views on what should be done with the mages, but I needed somebody well, magical to travel with Cassandra, Varric and me, and it was either her or Solas.  I wasn't bringing Solas, so that left Vivienne.  And I got along with her well enough.  She had a cunning political mind that I absolutely loved debating with.  "Go away, Solas!  Don't you have to wax your head or something?"  Under my breath I muttered, "Lord knows how shinier it can get."

After a loud, angry sigh I heard Solas trudge off.  In all honesty, he had really hurt my feelings.  I mean, did he really think that I was that horrible?  Was I that horrible?  But, maybe he had come to apologize.  And look what I did.  I acted horribly.  Ah, hell.  

Groaning, I slammed my book shut and pulled on my boots and the burgundy coat I had first arrived in and stepped into the cold night.  I shoved my hands in my pockets and quickly caught up with Solas.  "Hey, butt-munch" I said, just loud enough for him to hear.  He stopped and turned, jaw set.

"What is it you wish to berate me with now, Herald?"

"Would you stop calling me that?  You and I both know I'm not any sort of Herald."  We glared at each other for a couple of moments before I went on.  "Look, I'm...I'm sorry," I choked out.  I could literally feel my throat closing so those words wouldn't come forth.  "If you want...you can accompany us to Redcliffe.  But I'm not telling Vivienne to stay.  You two will just have to get along.  Got it?"

Solas evaluated my offer, seemingly unaffected by the cold while I stood there shivering and chattering my teeth.  The light of the Breach reflected off his stupid shiny head.  "Thank you.  I will accept your offer.  And...I apologize as well."  He seemed to have just as hard of a time getting the words out.  What a douche bucket.  "My prior actions may have been...uncalled for."

Oh, just uncalled for?  Not a total invasion of privacy?  "Apology accepted," I found myself saying, though I wasn't really sure if it was true or not.  "We leave at first light.  Best get packing."

"That is one perk to being an apostate," Solas said with a faint twitch of his lip.  "I have little to pack."

I rolled my eyes and hurried back to the warmth my cabin provided.

-

Once I had regained my breath from closing the rift in front of Redcliffe's gates, I looked at my companions and said, "I wasn't the only one who had time slow and speed up around me, right?  Because if I was, then I may be turning into the Flash."  Ope.  Probably shouldn't have said that out loud.

"That rift in particular seemed to have the ability to alter time around it," Vivienne observed, ignoring my off-handed comment.  She was especially talented in the art of doing that.

"Maker have mercy!" one of the Inquisition scouts exclaimed, jogging forward.  "It's over!  Open the gates!"

We walked through to greet one of Leliana's people.  Sometimes I took comfort in seeing them, and others...well let's just say it's not really all that great being watched at all times at Haven.  "We've spread word the Inquisition was coming, but you should know that no one here was expecting us," he informed.  

"No one?  Not even Grand Enchanter Fiona?" I asked.

The scout shrugged.  "If she was, she hasn't told anyone."

Suspicion began to gnaw at my mind.  The scout went on.  "We've arranged use of the tavern for the negotiations.  You can--"

A flustered-looking elf in mage robes rounded the corner.  "Agents of the Inquisition, my apologies!  Magister Alexius is in charge now, but hasn't yet arrived.  He's expected shortly," the mage gave a short bow.  "You can speak with the former grand enchanter in the meantime."

Whoa.  Hold the phone.  Magister?  Former grand enchanter?  Those words basically screamed that whatever was ahead wasn't good.  

We headed to the tavern nonetheless.  There Fiona stood, with the same sad-looking hair.  "Fiona!" Vivienne exclaimed with mock-cordiality.  "You look absolutely dreadful!"

"Agents of the Inquisition," Fiona said after shooting daggers at Madame de Fer.  "Welcome.  What has brought you to Redcliffe?"

"You of all people should know why we're here," I answered.  "You came all the way to Val Royeaux to invite us."

She gave the slight shake of her head.  "You must be mistaken.  I haven't been to Val Royeaux since before the Conclave."

"Fiona, dear, your dementia is showing," Vivienne commented.  Down, girl.

Varric and I glanced at each other, our suspicions coinciding.  "While the templars were leaving, you came to Val Royeaux and asked me here," I said, feeling the veneer crawl up my face.  

"The templars left Val Royeaux?  Where did they go?  That sounds...why does that sound so strange?"  Fiona shook her head more firmly this time.  "Whoever...or whatever brought you here, the situation has changed."

Here we go.  "Changed how?" I asked.

"The free mages have already...pledged themselves to the service of the Tevinter Imperium."

"An alliance with Tevinter?" Cassandra said disbelievingly.  "Do you not fear all of Thedas turning against you?"

"I understand that you are afraid," Solas said in a calmer tone, "but you deserve better than slavery to Tevinter."

"As one indentured servant to a magister, I no longer have the authority to negotiate with you," Fiona said evenly.  I resisted running a hand through my hair.  

"Very well.  Who is in charge now?"

The door to the right of us flew open and a man stepped through.  From the way he was dressed, I knew he could only be from Tevinter.  I raised an eyebrow, purely from imagining that the magister had been crouching outside the door, stifling his giggles and waiting for Fiona to give him his cue to dramatically enter.  "Welcome, my friends!  I apologize for not greeting you earlier," he said pleasantly.  

"Agents of the Inquisition, allow me to introduce Magister Gereon Alexius," Fiona said resignedly.  

"The southern mages are under my command," Alexius spoke, stopping a few feet in front of me.  "And you are the survivor, yes?  The one from the Fade?"  He looked up and down at me.  "Interesting."  The way he said interesting certainly made me believe he meant more than that.  

"We have come to retrieve mages to aid us in closing the Breach," I said, skipping all pleasantries.  I certainly wasn't going to suck up to a Vint Magister.  

"Right to business!" he exclaimed with a smile that didn't meet his eyes.  "I understand, of course."  He gestured for me to take a seat at a nearby table and followed suit.  "Felix," he called, "would you send for a scribe, please?"  Alexius gave a slight apologetic nod.  "Pardon my manners.  My son Felix, friends."

From one look I knew that the young man who bowed was undoubtedly dying.  I had seen that same face in my own mirror too many times to think he was at all well.  "I am not surprised you're here," Alexius said, drawing my attention back to him.  "Containing the Breach is not a feat that many could even attempt.  There is no telling how many mages would be needed for such an endeavor.  Ambitious, indeed."

"Being anything less than ambitious could result in disaster, with the threat we face," I said, tilting my head back slightly.  "I'll take every mage you can give me."

He leaned forward.  "There will have to be--"

The both of us looked back over at Felix, who was walking back to join us.  Only, he didn't look so hot.  It was in the way he swayed and had the glassy expression on his face that told me he was going to be on the floor within moments.  I acted quickly, standing up and catching him as he collapsed.  "Felix!" Alexius cried out.  The emotion in the magister's voice surprised me.  So, underneath all those layers of slime and villainy was a real, concerned father.  

Something crumpled was shoved into my hand from Felix.  I didn't know what it was, but I discreetly tucked it into the folds of my jacket before Alexius came too close.  After that Felix straightened, seemingly relieved of his bout of vertigo.  He looked me in the eyes, and though I saw a sick face, there was still life in his own.  Ah.  So he was one of those.  I wish I could say that I had been one, as well.  "My lady, I'm so sorry.  Please forgive me," he said as he clutched his stomach.

"Are you alright?" Alexius swooped in, putting a hand on his son's shoulder.

"I'm fine, Father," Felix assured, sighing.  

"Come, I'll get your powders," Alexius said softly, leading his son away.  "Please excuse me, friends.  We will have to continue this another time."  He informed Fiona that she was needed back at the castle, but before he could completely lead Felix back through the doors his son gave me an unreadable glance.  I had to slightly smirk at his tenacity.  Alexius promised us that he would send word to the Inquisition so we could continue business another time, all the layers of slimy glob piled back on.  

 After the magister and his men left, I pulled the letter back out, squinting at the words.  I could read print, just fine, but when it came to flourishing, John-Hancock-Gone-Thedas handwriting it took me longer to discern what the message was.  "Come to the chantry," I read, then looked up at my companions, mouth set in a grim line.  "You are in danger."

-

What a beautiful man.

Oh, my gaydar senses went off the charts as soon as I saw him.  I mean, what kind of straight man in Thedas has a hipster mustache?  But holy poop on a pedestal, he could fight and look fashionable while doing so.  How long had he been fighting off demons before we arrived?

I accidentally stepped into an area where time sped up and flew into Solas, who was on the other side.  He grunted at the impact and stumbled.  The words "sorry, bro,"  sprung to my lips, but I quickly sealed them shut, and instead smirked at the elf, as if to say, "Oh, I totally meant to throw off your groove."  Solas took the bait and puffed up at me.  Our encounter was extremely brief, however, because apparently the demons loved rampaging through a holy chantry.  Perhaps it would be best if I just blew it up.

Too soon?

...Yeah, that was too soon for even me.

The mustached mage finished off the last of the demon.  He smiled sarcastically at me.  "Good!  You're finally here!  Now, help me close this, would you?"  He acted as if we hadn't just fought off a dozen demons moments ago.  I scoffed at his nonchalance, but strode forward and felt my arm pulse with energy as I closed the rift.  Not a moment after I was braced up against my knees, vision blurry and lungs feeling like they were going to collapse.  Except, this rift made my body feel like it should raise more hell.  I started hacking, tasting the familiar metallic tang of blood.  I spit as much as I could out.  There was a hand on my back, and from the weight of it I could tell it was Varric's.  He usually put a hand on my back when the rifts left me particularly worse for wear.  

I made a disgusted noise as I regained my eyesight and saw the dark spatters of blood on the stone floor.  "That doesn't usually happen, Al," Varric muttered to me, dropping his hand when my back straightened.  "What's going on?"

"Something probably horrible and potentially disastrous," I sighed, wiping my mouth with the back of my sleeve.  Everybody was looking at me with concern.  All except for the mysterious mage.  He was gazing at me--at the Mark--with awe.

"Fascinating," he breathed.  "How does that work, exactly?"

Oh, I accidentally touched the orb of a grumpy elvhen god who's standing right behind me.  He's kind of racist and we despise each other, if you want to know more.

The magnificent mage--this could actually become a thing--took my silence for me not knowing and interrupted my inner dialogue.  "You don't even know, do you?  You just wiggle your fingers, and boom!  Rift closes.  

"There's actually less wiggling than you'd think," I responded.  He huffed in amusement.  "Who are you?"

Wait wait wait.  Was he one of the companions?  My companions?

"Ah.  Getting ahead of myself again, I see."  He slightly bowed.  "Dorian of House Pavus, most recently of Minrathous.  How do you do?"

Oh he was.  Awww yisss.  I really didn't want to kill him.

"Other than nearly coughing up my lungs, good," I said with a smile.  I felt the same connection with Dorian as I had with Sera.

"Another Tevinter," Cassandra said as she walked up beside me.  "Be careful with this one."

No, Cass, he's a good guy!  A well-dressed good guy!  

"Suspicious friends you have here," Dorian said wryly.  He kept his focus on me.  "Magister Alexius was once my mentor, so my assistance should be valuable--"  Dorian flashed a dazzling smile.  "As I'm sure you can imagine."

"Were you the same one who sent that note, then?" I asked.

"I am.  Someone had to warn you, after all."  His smile faded.  "Look, you must know there's danger.  That should be obvious even without the note.  Let's start with Alexius claiming the allegiance of the mage rebels out from under you.  As if by magic, yes?  Which is exactly right.  To reach Redcliffe before the Inquisition, Alexius distorted time itself."

Well.

Poop.

"Ah," I said lightly, "there's the plot twist we've all been waiting for."

"That is fascinating, if true..." Solas piped up.  Of course he'd be interested in traveling through time.  I bet he would go and make sure I had never touched the orb to begin with.  "And almost certainly dangerous."

"The rift you closed here?" Dorian went on.  "You saw how it twisted time around itself, sped some things up and slowed others down.  Soon there will be more like it, and they'll appear further and further away from Redcliffe."  And my episodes would most likely become worse and worse.  "The magic Alexius is using is wildly unstable, and it's unraveling the world."  He suddenly smirked.  "Having trouble wrapping your head around it?"

"Actually, no," I said immediately back.  "I understand.  Everything's all wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, and we need to fix it.  Although, how would you know about it as in-depth as you do?" I asked pointedly at Dorian.

"Because," he sighed resignedly, "I helped develop this magic."

Dorrrriannnnn.

"When I was still his apprentice," explained Dorian, "it was pure theory.  Alexius could never get it to work."  He reached up and twisted one of the tips of his mustache.  I kept myself from giggling like a little girl.  "What I don't understand is why he's doing it?  Ripping time to shreds just to gain a few hundred lackeys?"

"He didn't do it for them."  I about jumped as Felix emerged from, well, from the shadows.  Did all Tevinters have a flair for the dramatic as the three I had met thus far?  

"Took you long enough," Dorian chastised, but it was the kind due to worry.  "Is he getting suspicious?"

Felix shook his head.  "No, but I shouldn't have played the illness card.  I thought he'd be fussing over me all day."  He turned his head to me.  The fire in his eyes was still burning bright.  "My father's joined a cult.  Tevinter supremacists.  They call themselves "Venatori."  And I can tell you one thing:  whatever he's done for them, he's done it to get to you."

"I'm quite flattered," I said mockingly.  "Whatever shall I send him as a thanks?"

"Fruit baskets work every time," Dorian smiled.  "You know you're his target, correct?  Expecting the trap is the first step in turning it to your advantage.  I, for one, cannot stay in Redcliffe.  Alexius doesn't know I'm here, and I want to keep it that way for now."

"Well," I said, sizing up the Vint.  "I don't think the Inquisition formally has a mage from the Imperium.  We could always use a little color."

Cassandra made a disgusted noise at the same time Solas sighed.  Dorian raised a perfectly waxed eyebrow and hummed.  "Perhaps I can provide said color.  But I have a few things to get in order before I depart.  I will meet you in Haven."  We nodded our heads to each other and Dorian turned to leave, but not before calling over his shoulder, "And Felix?  Try not to get yourself killed."

"There are worse things than dying, Dorian," Felix said, quiet enough that the mage wouldn't hear his words.  I looked up at the young, sick man.  

"What is it?" I asked him simply.  He knew what I was talking about.

"The Blight," Felix answered just as simply.  My heart ached for him, and I put a hand on his arm.  

"I know you've heard more apologies and condolences than actual words of comfort," I said, a bit anxious that the others would hear, but I spoke to Felix like I wish I had been spoken to when I had fallen ill.  "So I'll say this:  yes, there are worse things than death.  It's the one thing that's inevitable, the one thing nobody can avoid.  The only difference is the way we die.  But don't let your spirit break, Felix.  That...that is most certainly a fate worse than death."  Trust me on this one.  "I can tell that yours hasn't.  Because of that, you may just help us save the world."

Had I been speaking to any other person, I probably wouldn't have added the last bit.  But when I looked into Felix's eyes, I saw a better version of what I may have been, of what I wish I could have been like.  Despite knowing that he was going to depart from this world, soon, he was still trying to keep it intact.  If only Thedas had more people like him.  If only any world had more people like Felix Alexius.  

Gratitude shone alongside his fiery eyes.  How old was he?  My age?  A bit older?  It didn't matter.  "Thank you," he said softly.  I dipped my head and let my arm drop.  As I turned to walk out of the chantry, I avoided the gazes of my friends.  And Solas.  I didn't want to see what I knew would be there.  Questions.  Questions, questions, questions.  That's all they ever had for me, these days.  

And I, being the lying coward I was, couldn't answer them.

-

"I know you're there," she sighed from the room.  Solas stiffened.  "I don't know what you think you'll get out of me, but I can assure you that it's nothing of importance.  Unless you like hearing me talk to the spirits about endless concerns and problems."

"They certainly like it," Solas responded.

"And how do you know?"

"Because they talk to me."  Alaran's silence allowed Solas to continue.  "They like your voice, and your stories.  You keep them from turning to darkness."

Another few moments of silence.  "Guys!" Alaran suddenly hissed to to her friends.  "You're not supposed to talk to him about me!  He's my Moriarty, remember?  Or do I have to explain to you again the whole plot line of Sherlock?"

There was a shuffling of feet, so Solas stood before Alaran could catch him sitting cross-legged on the ground.  He had to retain some air of dignity around her.  She swung the door wide open, making that odd frown of hers.  "I know that Alexius' time magic and the orb are connected, Solas.  Somehow, they are.  Care to explain?"

"I know as much as you do," he retorted, clasping his hands behind his back.  Alaran's frown retreated, and Solas became very aware of the worry written all over her face, even as composed as she was.  "What concerns you, da'len?"

Her eyes struck lightning against his will.  "Don't call me a child," she spat.  "I lost my innocence long before I came to this world.  And if you consider my concerns to be childish, then you're an even bigger fool than I thought."  Alaran stepped back into the War Room and slammed the door shut.  

Solas drooped his shoulders and pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing bitterly.  He most certainly was a fool.  He had come to formally apologize--the one he gave to her in the middle of night back at Haven was pitiful.  Solas thought that it would be easier to properly convey his emotions in the Fade.  He even had prepared the speech in his head and repeated the lines over and over.  But damn that girl.  Any time she set her eyes upon him all rational thoughts escaped Solas' mind, leaving him flustered and irate and feeling like he was once again a stupid, arrogant boy.  He had thousands of years over her, yet most of the time Alaran looked at Solas like he was the irresponsible one.  

Well, she wasn't completely wrong.

That was what grated Solas the most these days. Alaran was hardly ever wrong.  It left him with little reason to harbor resentment against her, or at least founded resentment. He was being proud, he knew it.  The name fit him well for a reason.  

For the second time, Solas departed the dream with a twist in his gut.

-

I didn't even bother to smirk at Solas.  I had enough of him.  He was just...

Happy thoughts, Al, happy thoughts.

But happy thoughts were hard to come by as we traveled to meet Magister Alexius.  So this is what Gandalf felt when he walked into Dol Guldur.  I even used the same phrase he spoke to Radagast when Leliana expressed her concerns.  "It is undoubtedly a trap."

Solas, Cassandra, Varric, and Dorian were accompanying me.  The I only let Solas join because I was unsure if any ancient elvhen magic would suddenly spring up during our time there.  I had no idea what to expect, except that Alexius was going to try to kill me, which was more of a given than anything else.  Though I didn't fear death myself, I feared for the death of those around me.  And if I died, then most likely many more would follow suit.

We reached the castle by nightfall, and a servant greeted us.  Okay, "greeting" was more of an overstatement.  He sneered at us in welcome was more like it.  "The invitation was for Mistress Lavellan only," he spoke with an upturned nose.  "The rest of you must wait here."

"Where I go, they go," I said with a flat look and a steel voice.  The servant looked over my shoulder at them, furrowing his eyebrows and crinkling his nose in annoyance.  When he looked back to me I shifted my stance to a threatening one, though my face remained neutral.  After a moment he shook his head, silently saying, "This is way above my pay grade," and motioned us to follow him.  Tevinter guards flanked us.  

I nearly stopped and rolled my eyes at the sight of Magister Alexius in the great hall.  "My lord magister, the agents of the Inquisition have arrived."

Alexius languidly rose from the throne.  "My friend!" he had the gall to say.  "It's so good to see you again...and your associates, of course."  He smiled placidly.  "I'm sure we can work out some arrangement that is equitable to all parties."

"Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?" Fiona said suddenly, appearing out of nowhere.  Seriously, when did they get their cues to come in?  Was this a practiced event?  Why wasn't I invited to rehearsal?  

"Fiona, you would not have turned your followers over to my care if you did not trust me with their lives," Alexius chastised like a parent to a child.  

"Yes, because you look so absolutely trustworthy," I couldn't help but say with a sneer.  Varric stifled a laugh.  Alexius looked down at me, eyes narrowing.  "Enough with the pleasantries, Magister.  Shall we get to business?"

"It's...refreshing...to meet someone so goal-oriented," he said, still staring at me like I was a heap of garbage.  He took his seat once more.  "The Inquisition needs mages to close the Breach.  I have them.  What shall I get in exchange?"

"Actually," I said as I tipped my head slightly to the side.  "I was wondering if you could tell me a bit more of these so-called Venatori?"

That took Alexius by surprise, but he soothed his facial features before saying, "Now, wherever did you hear that?"

"I told them," Felix confessed, speaking for the first time.  My heart dropped into my stomach.  No, Felix...you didn't have to.  

But he was brave.  So he did.  "Felix, what have you done?" his father asked ominously.

"You wanted me here," I cut in so Felix could stay out of it as much as he could and not twist the knife of betrayal further into his father's skin.  I didn't want him to have to live with any more than he already would.  "Why?"

Alexius snapped his attention to me.  "Do you know who you are?  You walk into my stronghold with your stolen mark--a gift you don't even understand--and think you're in control?  You're nothing but a mistake," he hissed.  

"Oh, believe me, I'm fully aware of being a mistake," I said back.  "But what exactly was the Breach supposed to accomplish?"  Finally!  Here was my chance to remember everything!  Come on, Magister, be a villain and tell me the whole plot.

"It was to be a triumphant moment for the Elder One, for this world!" Alexius rasped, gesturing broadly.  

"Father, listen to yourself!" Felix pleaded.  "Do you know what you sound like?"

"He sounds like the villainous cliche everyone expects him to be," Dorian's voice suddenly called out as he stepped from the shadows.  Oh, come on!  There had to have been a rehearsal that I wasn't told about!  

"Dorian," Alexius said in a low, dangerous voice.  "I gave you a chance to be a part of this.  You turned me down.  The Elder One has power you would not believe.  He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes."

My anger at still not knowing who the Elder One truly was cracked my veneer.  "Blah blah 'my cult is better than yous.'  I've heard it a thousand times," I snapped.  

"Well, you know, it's a chance for the Imperium to really one-up that whole "starting the blight" thing," Dorian added in.  

But Alexius was in full fanatic mode.  "He will make the world bow to mages once more.  We will rule from the Boeric Ocean to the Frozen Seas," he ranted.  

"You can't involve my people in this!" Fiona exclaimed.  

"Alexius," Dorian said, stepping forward in an attempt to bring him to his senses, "this is exactly what you and I talked about never wanting to happen!  Why would you support this?"

Felix jumped in on the attempt as well.  "Stop it, Father.  Give up the Venatori.  Let the southern mages fight the Breach, and let's go home."  

"No!" Alexius said in a lucid voice.  He gripped his son's shoulders.  "It's the only way, Felix.  He can save you!"

I let my veneer slip away completely as I realized just why Alexius was doing what he did.  Bitter empathy settled in my bones.  

"Save me?" Felix said back angrily, not hopefully.  

"There is a way!  The Elder One promised.  If I undo the mistake at the Temple..."

"I'm going to die," Felix cut off harshly.  "You need to accept that."

Alexius' lucidity disappeared.  "Seize them, Venatori!  The Elder One demands this woman's life!"

Then the freaking Inquisition soldiers make their entrance!  I nearly threw my hands up in the air.  So it wasn't only the Vints that were dramatic.  Everybody in Thedas was dramatic!  "Your men are dead, Alexius," I said coldly. 

He was a cornered animal.  That made him ten times more dangerous.  "You...you are a mistake!" Alexius seethed.  "You never should have existed!"

Just stating what I think about almost every day, buddy.

Some kind of pendant that crackled with the same energy on my hand lifted into the air above Alexius' palm.  Dorian screamed "No!" and sent a blast of magic at the Magister.  It knocked him off-balance, disrupting the charge of the pendant.  Good for you, Dorian!  Oh, wait, no, not good at all.  

A vortex opened up beside Dorian and me, sucking the two of us in before I could even profess any lewd language or high-pitched scream.  I could have sworn I heard a vworp-vworp, but maybe that was just me being scared out of my mind and driven to hallucinating.  

So this was it.  This was how I died.

Shit.

-

Oh, wait.  Not shit.  Water.

I had about a moment to take in my surroundings before two soldiers in ridiculous metal helmets ran in, swords in their hands.  "Blood of the Elder One!" one exclaimed.  "Where'd they come from?"

I would have happily answered had they not attacked us.  Oh, and let me just say that fighting in knee-high water is not particularly fun.  Dorian and I, as disoriented as we were, killed the soldiers in a short amount of time.  "Displacement?" Dorian said, furiously twisting his mustache to the point I thought it would have pained him.  "Interesting!  It's probably not what Alexius intended.  The rift must have moved us...to what?  The closes confluence of arcane energy?"

I stared slack-jawed at him for a few moments, for once at a total loss of words.  Then I shook my head.  "Looks to me like we just traveled through time."

Dorian's eyes lit up.  "Of course!  It's not simply where--it's when!  Bravo, Herald, bravo!  I did not expect you to have a scientific mind!"

Not really.  Just imagining the sound of the TARDIS reminded me of time travel, though, and helped me think more clearly.  "Alexius used the amulet as a focus, and that moved us through time!"

"As nerded out I know you want to get, we need to undo whatever happened and go back," I said seriously, deflating the mage's excitement.  "I have a feeling that whatever happened when we were gone wasn't good."

"I'm not certain it'll be a matter of snapping our fingers, but yes, I quite agree."  He liked to get animated with his staff, and though he was solemn as well, I was nearly whacked in the face with the crystal ball that sat atop the stave.  "Let's look around, see where the rift took us.  Then we can figure out how to get back...if we can."

"Let's go, then."

"Right behind you."

We waded through the flooded cell until we came to dry ground, where Dorian used a spell to dry the both of us off.  Though magic didn't work on me, it worked on my clothes, which was quite nice.  Dorian and I had been wandering for a short while when I abruptly stopped.  "Sh," I said before he could fully open his mouth.  "Do you hear that?  It sounds like..." blood drained from my face.  "Oh, dear lord.  They're still here."

"Who?" Dorian asked, but I was already running to the source of the Chant of Light.  "...the paths of this world and the next.  For she who trusts in the Maker, fire is her water."

I rounded the stone corner.  "Cass!" I breathed, slamming against the bars of the prison cell.  The Seeker leapt to her feet and backed up, obviously shocked.  I saw the red glow about her, the crystallization behind her eyes.  I wanted to cry right then and there, but forced myself not to.

"You've returned to us," she whispered in disbelief, taking a few steps forward.  "Can it be?  Has Andraste given us another chance?"  Cassandra started to shake her head, and said in a broken voice, "Maker, forgive me.  I failed you.  I failed everyone.  The end must truly be upon is if the dead return to life."

"Not dead," I said in a very Sherlock-like voice, and punched the lock on the cell door.  It snapped and swung open.

"Alexius sent us forward in time," Dorian explained.  "If we find him, we may be able to return to the present."

"Go back in time?  Then...can you make it so that none of this ever took place?"  Cassandra exited the cell warily.  

"If Dorian is right and can reverse the spell, then yes," I said with a quick nod.  I had a hard time focusing on my words.  My eyes kept trailing over Cassandra's thin body, taking in the damage that had been done to her.  

"Alexius' master...after you died, we could not stop the Elder One from rising.  Empress Celene was murdered.  The army that swept in afterwards--it was a horde of demons.  Nothing stopped them.  Nothing."

For the first time since I had been here in Thedas, I felt sick to my stomach upon hearing the words.  

"I...I should have been there," I found myself saying as I looked down at the ground.  Guilt crashed over me.  I wanted to sink to my knees in defeat.  But I couldn't; not with the slim amount of hope we had.  

"You're here now," Cassandra said gently, but firmly.  I met her discolored eyes once more and gave a faint smile.  "Come.  The others should still be alive.  They separated us after the third escape attempt."  Cassandra moved forward, but staggered and leaned against the wall, drawing in deep breaths.  I moved to help her, but she snapped, "No.  Do not touch me.  You cannot be tainted."

I still gripped her arm despite the red glow about her that seeped a sickly warmth into my hand.  "I won't.  I promise."  My smile this time was more assuring.  I wouldn't...right?

The three of us found Varric next.  "Andraste's sacred knickers," he proclaimed as I punched the lock.  "You're alive?"

"I'm glad you think that we're immediately alive and not that we returned from the dead like Cassandra," I said, hiding the agony I felt when I saw that he, too, was tainted.  

"Where were you?  How did you escape?"  Varric looked as if he wanted to hug me, but forced himself to stay put.  

"Oh, you know, fell through time and ended up here in the future," I said offhandedly.  "So technically we didn't escape at all."

"Everything that happens to you is weird, you know that, right?" Varric asked me.

"You may or may not be right," I said, tipping my head from left to right with each option.

"I'm always right," he said with that easy smile of his, as strained as it was.  "And when I'm not, I lie about it."

We gave the dwarf a rundown of what was going on and what we planned to do in as briefly as possible.  "I promise you, Varric," I said, putting a hand on his shoulder and tightening the grip when he tried to pull away.  "I won't let this happen."

He huffed, shaking his head.  "I'm pretty sure you're crazy.  Or I'm crazy.  Either way, it's a nice thought.  You want to take on Alexius?  I'm in.  But we should probably grab Chuckles, first.  He'll most likely want to be a part of this."  Varric slipped from my grasp.  "And you probably shouldn't touch us."

"I tried to get her not to," Cassandra growled as we began moving once more.  "She didn't listen."

"I don't care," I said in a harsher voice then I intended.  I cleared my throat.  "It'll take more than touching your clothes to be infected by red lyrium.  Besides, I've touched it before."

Varric made a noise, then stumbled as we reached the stairs.  I supported him with a hand under his arm.  "You what?  When?"

I made a face as I recollected the memory.  "Um, that one day in the Hinterlands where we came across it.  All of you were complaining about how it made you feel, but I wasn't feeling anything, so I touched it when nobody was looking.  Made my arm feel like syrup a bit afterwards, but nothing else."

"You don't feel the effects of red lyrium," Varric mused after a few moments of stunned silence.  "Have I mentioned that you're weird, Al?"

"Too many times to count."  75 times, actually. I had yet to add Yankovic to the end of those phrases.

Cassandra and Varric were struggling to keep up after another flight of stairs, but after I heard that familiar voice call out, "Is somebody there?" just a short ways away, I had Dorian watch over the two while I went and broke Solas out.

He seemed genuinely shocked when I came into view and slammed my fist into the lock.  I could get used to opening doors this way.  Cullen would be proud.  "You're alive!" he said, voice unguarded and full of emotion.  "But we saw you die!"

I had a retort ready, but decided to not say it.  Now wasn't the right time.  "The spell Alexius cast just displaced us in time.  Dorian and I barely just got here."  I yanked open the door.  

"Can you reverse the process? You could return and obviate the events of the last year.  It may not be too late!" Solas spoke fervently, but stilled when he saw the grim expression on my face.  "What is the problem?"

"Problem?  Problem?" I had to laugh, but it was humorless and full of mirth.  I gestured to all of him.  "You have freaking red lyrium in you!  All of you do!  You...you're not supposed to..." I was losing the grip I had on myself.  I hadn't expected I would react the way I did upon seeing Solas, of all people.  

I turned my back to him and ran a hand through my hair, taking steady breaths.  "It will be alright, Herald," Solas promised in a sincere voice.  "You have not failed.  You will not fail."

"What is the world like?" I asked abruptly.  "What...what has become of it?"

He was silent for a few moments.  "Far worse than you shall ever know."

The weight that had been growing on my shoulders pressed down on me.  "Alaran."

The way Solas said my name was gentle and cut through the haze that was encroaching on my mind.  I faced him once more and saw a tired man with just as much weight on his shoulders.  "I...I am sorry.  For everything.  Ir abelas, lethallan.  You deserve a better fate than the one forced upon you.  But, if anyone can save this world, I entrust the duty to you more than anyone else."  He looked down at his feet and added, "More than myself, even."

It was pure insanity, what I did next.  Maybe the red lyrium was affecting me.  

I collided against Solas' chest, wrapping my arms around his waist and squeezing as tightly as I could without hurting him.  It was awkward and jerky and the light armor I had on got in the way.  I could feel ribs poking from under his tunic.  He stood there, frozen, and for a moment I was overcome with fear that he wouldn't return the act.  I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when I felt his arms slide under my great sword so they could fully encompass my upper torso.  The red lyrium in his system made Solas emit the same warmth that felt just wrong, but I ignored it.  We were both two people just trying to save the world that, at times, we weren't for sure should be saved.  But I thought of my friends, of all the good people I had come across, of all the breathtaking places I had been, of Ivena, of Felix, of Master Dennet and his family, of Adan, of so many others and I knew that I had to save this world.  In not doing so, I was condemning my own soul.

The hug lasted only a few moments, but when I let go the weight on my shoulders was visibly lessened.  The same was for Solas.  "Come on.  Let's get back to the others and find you your weapons."

-

"Leliana!" I shouted as she slit Felix's throat.  She had a cold snarl on her scarred and emaciated face.  There was something missing in those blue eyes.  Something...dead.  

The battle was long and grueling.  More than once I had to help Cassandra, Varric, or Solas up to their feet.  We had found their weapons in one of the rooms while searching for the red lyrium shards to open Alexius' door.  I gave them all of my health potions I had on me when theirs were depleted.  The only injury I had taken was the shallow cut under my eye.  When Alexius laid slain at my feet did we hear reinforcements.

"We will hold them off!" Cassandra said, already heading for the door.  I knew that if we succeeded, Dorian and I would return to them alive, but...but just watching your friends walk to their deaths to protect your own life was something that made my chest feel like it was going to collapse.  

"Just make the world right again, Al," Varric said before he joined the Seeker.  "I believe in you."

"As do I," said Solas resolutely.  I wanted to shout for them to stop as they went to meet the enemy, to keep them back beside me, but I knew not even I could stop them now.  They were choosing how they died.  I had to commend them for that.

I knew it was a good twenty minutes or so before the doors burst open, but in my mind it was moments and an eternity combined into one.  I watched in horror as I saw Solas' mangled body cast to the ground by a demon, and Cassandra's dismembered head trampled underfoot, and Varric...he was torn in two right before my eyes.  I didn't know I was running forward until Leliana hauled me back and took my place, grabbing her bow and shooting as many demons and Venatori as she could, chanting indiscernible words as Dorian made last improvements to the amulet.  I distantly heard myself screaming her name as she was shot with arrows.  Still, still she kept going until a claw shoved itself through her chest.  "Alaran!" Dorian yelled.  "We have to go!"

Against my entire being, I let Dorian yank me through the vortex.  Together we plummeted back through time.

-

"You're going to have to do better than that," Dorian said as he and I stepped through the black fog accompanying the vortex.  I was expecting another fight from Alexius, but instead he sunk to his knees, a defeated man.  

"You failed, Alexius.  How forgiving is your Elder One?" I spat, emotions from just moments before still roiling inside me.  

"You won," the Magister said with his head hung low.  "There is no point extending this charade."  He looked up, but not to me.  "Felix..." Alexius whispered despairingly.  

Felix crouched.  "It's going to be alright, Father," he reassured with such simple conviction I knew it to be true.  

"You'll die," Alexius cried, tears welling in his eyes.  The hateful emotions began to fade upon the sight.  

"Everyone dies."

As Alexius was quietly taken away by the Inquisition soldiers, Felix and I shared a glance.  He gave the smallest of nods, and I in return.  Then he was gone.

"Well," Dorian said jovially as if he hadn't just seen the people in front of him viciously murdered.  Maybe he hadn't.  He was, after all, focused on getting the amulet to work.  "I'm glad that's over with!"

Soldiers not donned in Inquisition armor marched in on either side of the hall, stopping and taking a place in a coordinated manner.  "Or not."

"Grand Enchanter, we'd like to discuss your abuse of our hospitality."

Ah.  So that's what happened to Alistair.

Fiona scrambled forward.  "Your majesties."

"When we offered the mages sanctuary, we did not give them the right to drive our people from their homes."

"King Alistair, Queen Anora, I assure you, we never intended..."

And there was Anora.

"In light of your actions, good intentions are no longer enough," she spoke with the composed anger of a queen.

"You and your followers have worn out your welcome," Alistair spoke with less of the composed anger of a king.  "Leave Ferelden, or we'll be forced to make you leave."

Fiona paled.  "But...we have hundreds who need protection!  Where will we go?"

"The Inquisition still requires your aid," I said, fighting off the exhaustion that threatened to creep into my posture.  I strode confidently forward.  "Join us, and we will assure your safety there."

"And what are the terms of this arrangement?" Fiona asked me.

"Hopefully better than what Alexius gave you," Dorian threw in.  He looked to me, as well.  "The Inquisition is better than that, yes?"

"The mages will pose a danger, yet," Cassandra said.  I had to keep myself from shuddering as I remembered the lyrium behind her eyes.  "I suggest that we conscript them."

"And be moved from one cage to another?" Solas butt in.  "That screams a disaster."

I couldn't talk to them.  Not now.  "It seems we have little choice but to accept whatever you offer."  Fiona looked at me expectedly, fearfully, hopefully.  

"We would be honored to have you fight as allies at the Inquisition's side," I said in a strong, confident voice, hiding from everyone in the hall the tumult of emotions dancing just below the surface of my skin.  

Fiona's eyes lit up.  "A generous offer.  But will the rest of the Inquisition honor it?"

"The Breach threatens all of Thedas.  We cannot afford to be divided now."  My talking had gone auto-pilot, because inside the emotions imploded into numbness.  "We can't fight it without you.  Any chance of success requires your full support."

"It's a generous offer," King Alistair said dryly.  "I doubt you're going to get a better one from us."

Fiona bowed her head in thankfulness and lifted it.  "We accept.  It would be madness not to.  I will gather my people and ready them for the journey to Haven.  The Breach will be closed.  You will not regret giving us this chance."

I barely heard her words, though.  I just wanted to lie down and let myself recover.  I couldn't be numb.  I couldn't.  That was going back, back to the time when I didn't care.

And I had to care.

For the sake of the world, I had to.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Something about Al had...changed. Varric noticed it when they left Redcliffe. She should have been smirking at Solas, getting him riled up. She should have been humming absently to herself, large violet eyes drinking in everything she saw with wonder, even though they had been through the Hinterlands a thousand times. She should have been sneaking dried apples from her pack and into her mouth. She should have been doing a lot of things. But she wasn't. Alaran only sat rigidly in her saddle, fixing her gaze straight ahead, face expressionless. When she had looked at them Varric saw pain, raw and lancing. What had happened in the future she and Dorian fell into?

Among the many things Varric wasn't good at, confronting people was one of them.  Especially the likes of Al.  She had a wall, thick and impenetrable.  The only day he had ever seen it down was when he caught her crying at the Crossroads, and even then it was built back up at an astonishing speed.  Trying to get through to her would be difficult.

Varric awoke in the middle of the night to a blood-curdling scream.  He jolted out from under his blankets and grabbed Bianca, charging out of the tent and into the night, nearly trampling Solas as the mage scrambled to get up as well.  It had been Al screaming, he knew it, though he hadn't ever heard her scream quite like that, before.  The campfire offered a little light.  

Dorian stopped them from getting too near the tent.  "She's fine," he assured with a relaxing gesture.  "Just a bad dream, that's all.  Cassandra's with her."

The Vint's explanation didn't stop Varric's heart from pounding.  "Andraste's tits, that came from a bad dream?" he exclaimed a little too loudly.  Dorian shushed him just as loudly.  Varric exhaled and rubbed his brow.  "What did you two see in that future of yours?"

"was working on getting the amulet to transport us back," Dorian said as he went to sit back down on a wooden log.  His voice was low.  Varric and Solas gathered around him.  In the tent behind them the Seeker was speaking, but it was too soft to be discernible.  "But Alaran...she saw something much worse.  But I do not speak for her.  If you really must know, then you can ask yourself."

Varric definitely wasn't going to barge into the ladies' tent and demand to know what happened.  He'd be impaled by one or both of the swords they carried.  Solas didn't make any move to do so, either. 

They went back to their tent in silence.  But Varric didn't sleep.  Al's scream kept ringing in his ears.

-

Cassandra had been awoken to a knee to the back.  She awoke with a grunt, immediately annoyed.  The Herald was one of the worst people to ever share a tent with.  Though their conversations in them were often deep and meaningful, the minute Alaran fell asleep she was tossing and turning and jabbing Cassandra with bony limbs.  And she cuddled.  It didn't matter how far away their bedrolls were; somehow Alaran managed to find whoever her tent mate was and sidle up to them.  After some time Cassandra just got used to it.  But this particular blow hurt.

She was about to return to sleep when Alaran whimpered.  That got Cassandra's attention.  She turned and peered into the dark.  Some light was provided by the campfire outside, and the Herald's porcelain skin was easily distinguishable.  Her face was twisted into a terrified grimace, and she tossed and turned erratically.  Cassandra moved to wake her up from what was obviously a bad dream.  The Seeker had plenty of them, some of which Alaran herself awoke her from.  

Alaran's violet eyes flew wide open and she screamed.  Cassandra jumped back at the sound, stunned that such a noise could escape from the Herald.

Dorian swooped in, stave in his hand.  Alaran had stopped herself, by now.  She was drawing in rapid, shallow breaths.  A sweat had broken on her brow.  "Just a bad dream," she wheezed.  Dorian's face was solemn, but he gave a single nod and withdrew.

Outside, Cassandra heard Varric yelling.  She didn't catch his words, though, because she was pulling Alaran close in an awkward hug.  The elf's own body was stiff.  "Cass--I don't--"

"Whatever it is you saw, you can talk about it," Cassandra surprised herself by saying.  She let go.  Alaran took a deep breath and ran a hand through her hair.  "I knew something was wrong.  You had been acting differently ever since we departed the castle.  And that was not just a bad dream.  Bad dreams don't make you scream bloody murder.  It is--"

"I'm fine, Cassandra," Alaran cut off, using her voice of perfectly balanced steel and emotionlessness.  She settled back down on her bedroll and covered herself up with the blanket.  "I apologize for awaking you."

Cassandra glared at her, making sure she felt her gaze.  But after a few minutes of Alaran making no movement, the Seeker huffed loudly and laid back down. But Cassandra didn't sleep.  Alaran's scream kept ringing in her ears.

-

 My throat was still raw from the scream that tore from my throat the night before.  I hadn't gotten any sleep after that.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to, anyways, with the nightmare I had.  Similar things most likely awaited once I closed my eyes.

Everybody looked at me as if I were going to break into a thousand pieces at any minute.  I hated it.  I hated that look of pity.  I wasn't weak.  But though they looked, they never spoke.  Most of the day traveling through the Hinterlands was spent in silence.  Not even Varric bothered to strike up a conversation.  I should talk to them.  I know I should.  But how can I say "Hey, I saw all of you literally get ripped to shreds and strewn across the floor at my feet.  That's messing me up a bit.  Who knew, right?"

I guess I could say it just like that.

Shit.  I needed a freaking therapist, didn't I?  Except, there were no therapists in Thedas.  The only counseling people looked for was at the bottom of their mugs in the tavern.  I could go talk to my spirit friends in the Fade, but that would risk a nightmare I had no control over.  So what could I even do?

I didn't know.

We came across a tipped-over, abandoned cart.  I was about to pass it without a second glance when I saw something peeking out from under a few sacks.  I pulled my mount, Phillip (Yes, like the horse from Chronicles of Narnia.  And Babs was happily spending her days on Master Dennet's farm, frolicking with the druffalo) to a stop and hopped off.  "What are you doing, girl?" Dorian asked.  I clambered over broken crates and barrels until my hand gripped what I had set my eyes upon.  I pulled it out, excitement bubbling inside me.  Could it be...?

No.  No it couldn't.

I sighed as I saw that I was holding up a lute instead of a guitar.  I didn't think they had guitars here, anyways, but one could only hope.  "Al," Varric said from his mount, a surly, belligerent pony we had rightly named Darkspawn.  "I didn't know you played."

"I don't," I said absently, fingers already plucking at the strings.  The lute seemed to be in good condition.  I held it awkwardly in my arms--the shape wasn't what I was used to, and there were more strings than a guitar had.  Wordlessly, I got back into the saddle and let Phillip follow the path while I let go of the reins and tuned and figured out how many chords I could play.  I forgot about the companions riding behind me.  When something sounded off, I bit my lip and fixed it as best I could.  

"The second string needs a bit of tuning, still," Dorian commented lightly.  

"Do you play the lute?" I asked as I tinkered with the string he was talking about.  

"Oh, I dabble.  Nothing serious.  I didn't know you had an ear for music, Herald.  I'm impressed."

"It's all I ever do," I muttered vaguely.  Dorian snorted.  

"Move your hand up a bit."

I did and continued plucking and playing.  Soon I struck up a simple tune resembling Space Oddity.  I played it over and over until I began throwing in new notes and chords.  A part of me wanted to sing, but I reminded myself that the others didn't know I was from another world and would most likely interrogate me as soon as I was finished.  I didn't want to lie to them.  But maybe they would get to hear me sing, one day.  

We reached Haven by the evening.  Cullen and Josephine were immediately beside me, hurtling questions about what happened at a hundred miles an hour.  But I just...walked off.  And I didn't stop.  I was bent over the lute all the way to my cabin, ignoring Iron Bull and Sera and Leliana and anyone else who thought they could speak to me and expect me to answer.  My hand only lifted itself from the lute when I opened the door to the cabin that already had a fire going in it.  Then it was locked, and nobody saw me for two days.

In those two days I learned to play a new instrument.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Each stepped carried me closer to the Breach.  I couldn't stop thinking about how my life got so flipped around in a matter of moments.

Hey.

Wait a minute.

This is a story all about how
My life got flip-turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute just sit right there,
And tell you how I became the Chosen of the Maker

In the state of New York, born and raised
In the music room was where I spent most of my days
Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool
And playin' some piano inside the school

When a couple of cells, they were up to no good
Started making trouble in my body-hood
I got one big result and my parents got scared
They said--

"Herald."

They didn't say that.

I looked up at Cassandra.  Her face was grimly set.  "What do you think will happen when you close the Breach?"

I'll get to be able to finish my freaking rap that you totally ruined.  "Oh, I don't know," I sighed, shifting the strap on my chest that held my great sword.  "I hope to think that I'll close it and we can all go dancing afterward."

"Dancing?" she snorted.  "That's what you're thinking about?"

"Yup.  You should join in."

"You're not thinking about...about if something happens to you?"  

I raised an eyebrow.  "Cassie--"

"--do not call me that--"

"--are you being all gloom and doom?"

"How can she not?" Solas interjected, walking up beside us.  "You face a very dangerous task, Herald.  And from the way closing the rifts affect your body, this could prove to be fatal."

I stared flatly at the elf.  So that whole sincere, heart-felt apology he gave to me in the prison?  Didn't actually happen.  I never hugged Solas, he never hugged me back, and we never confessed things to each other that we never thought we would say in the first place. But he believed in me. I guessed that was enough. Still an ass, though. "I just won't die, then. "

Solas gave me one of his how very mortal of you to say looks as Cassandra scoffed. "It is easier said than done," the Seeker reminded me. 

"Oh, not really. If I just try not to die, I won't."

"That's quite unlike your usual attitude, Herald," Solas said glibly.  "Do you have a grand plan that ensures you live?"

"Sure I do.  I have a plan for everything."

"And your plan for this?" Cassandra asked with a sidelong gaze.

"Well, if my heart stops beating I'll just picture Solas naked and I'll be so frightened at the image my heart will kick start from the fear coursing through my body."

Cassandra sputtered a laugh before she could stop herself as Solas angrily set his jaw, knuckles white at his side.  I covered my eyes and predicted the scene that would occur.  "Ah!" I screamed, feigning thrashing as I walked.  "Too bright!  Too--much--white!  I'm BLIND!"

"You are paler than I am!" Solas snapped.  I laughed even more at his reaction.  Some of the nearby mages that overheard the conversation--which wasn't difficult to do--were snickering, as well.

"I'm just joshin ya, Solas!" I said, nudging his arm with my elbow.  "Givin ya gravy."

"What does that even mean?" he said irately, crinkling his nose.  

"The Herald often says things that most of us don't understand," Cassandra answered.  "I've learned to ignore it."

I gasped in mock-hurt.  "Cassie!  That's rude!"

"Stop calling me that," she growled, shooting daggers at me with those brown-and-blue eyes of hers.  "Varric and Sera are using it now, and I will kill the three of you if it continues."

"I'll be a martyr for the cause!" I stated proudly.  She made a disgusted noise and rolled her eyes.

Our banter had calmed our nerves for a short while, but the flutter in my stomach and the dryness in my mouth returned when we reached the ruins of the Temple of Sacred Ashes.  And, right above it...

The Butthole.

The rocks were even still floating and everything.  How charming.  And actually really, really epic.  I briefly wondered if I could jump on them and they'd stay up.  Several very funny scenarios popped in my mind if I did do that.  Damn this Mark on my hand.  If I didn't have it, I could try.  But oh no, I have to look important and confident and bleh bleh bleh.

Too soon I heard Cassandra calling the support to order.  "Mages!"

"Focus past the Herald!" Solas ordered in a commanding voice, raising his stave up high.  "Let her will draw from you!"

In one motion I was connected to the Breach.  It pulled on me, pulled on every fiber of my being.  I had to dig my heels into the ground in attempt to stop myself from getting drug forward.  I couldn't think of anything else, didn't dare to think of anything else, except that I I felt the power of the orb trying to tear away from me and take my life with it.  It wasn't good or evil; it just was.  It was a force and nothing more, but a great force nonetheless.  

I couldn't feel my entire arm.  I couldn't feel anything.  Not the way my heart pounded or the fire in my lungs or the ache in my stomach or the clench in my teeth.  I was...I was nothing but a force, coinciding with the power of the foci inside me for a few blissful, agonizing moments.  I was barely aware of when the Breach closed, but after that I wasn't aware of anything.  Not even when my body was thrown to the ground and the blackness I was pitched into.

-

There was a woman.

She was glowing green.

Wait...wasn't heavenly fire supposed to be white or gold?

And I don't think heavenly beings played the ukulele.  Or sang Riptide.  Or had a jet-black Mohawk.  Or wore clothes from my world.

"Hey, kiddo!" the woman said, uncrossing her legs and standing up from the ground, the glow fading from her.  Well, I wasn't sure you could consider it ground.  It was a swirling mass of dark gray.  Upon looking around more, I saw that everywhere was like that. 

She sauntered forward with an easy gait, holding the ukulele in one hand.  Holy Moses was this woman tall.  Like, she was a good 6'3 or 6'4.  And not to mention she had the body of a swimmer, all fluid and toned and whatnot.  I was jelly.

"Who are you?" I asked.  

"Would you believe me if I said I was the embodiment of your conscience?" the woman said, waggling black eyebrows suggestively.  

"...No, not really."

Her lithe shoulders drooped.  "Aw."  Then they perked back up.  "Well, that's okay, because I'm not."  The ukulele vanished from her hands as she threw them dramatically into the air.  "I am the all-powerful being that sent you here to this otherworldly realm!"

I made a face.  "Really?  You don't look like an all-powerful being.  More like a...guitar player in an indie rock band."

She pointed a finger at me with a knowing wink.  "That's the point.  Solas had the same idea--not the indie rock band part, the incognito ploy--but he pulled it off to the point that it's obvious he's hiding something.  Me?  I'm as cool as a catfish."

"I don't think that's even a phrase."

"Whatever."  The woman held out her hand.  I shook it.  She had long, slender fingers.  "The name's Hallah.  With an H at the end.  Not to be confused with the skimpy deer the Dalish ride."

"Alaran."

We let go.  The woman smirked.  "I like your new name.  Al-ar-an."  She pronounced it slowly.  Then she flashed a bright, beautiful grin.  Hallah was gorgeous, that was for sure.   Besides the well-suited Mohawk and the amazing body, she had flawless olive skin and well-defined, feminine features.  But it was her eyes that entranced me.  They weren't just a pure, emerald color; they were an entity of their own, revealing the truth while hiding too many secrets for one lifetime.  They were like Solas' eyes, but a thousand times more ancient.  Yet, for all that they held, I saw kindness.  

"How did you send me here?  Why?" I asked, sounding like an imbecile more than an intelligent person.  Hallah tapped the side of her nose, eyes gleaming mischievously.  

"Save the questions for later, little lamb.  We don't have time for them.  You heart has, in fact, stopped, and nothing is restarting it.  Cassandra and Solas are having a freak-out because they can't revive you.  can revive you, but that's because I'm the one keeping you here in the first place.  Just thought I would finally get introductions in order."

I gaped at this strange woman.  Was this in the game?  But there was absolutely no hinting of her!  "No, I'm not technically in the game," Hallah smirked.  Wait, had I said that out loud?  "And no, you didn't.  I can read minds.  All-powerful, remember?  Well..." she winced, "almost all-powerful.  I'm what you could consider a curve-ball."  She smirked again--it made my own look like a dopey grimace--and put her hands on my shoulders.  "We'll talk again soon.  Oh, and don't tell anybody, especially Solas.  He'll shit a brick sideways if he finds out I'm involved.  Now, get back to the Waking World!  Tell them that you pictured the egg-head naked, after all."  Hallah laughed and I would have laughed as well, but the fog or ethereal mist or whatever you wanted to call it closed in around me.  As I returned, images of Solas' twisting body and bare flesh touching mine dashed through--

Ack!  No.  I was only kidding!

-

She was so still.

Cassandra was calling for healers left and right, but Solas knew that no magic would help her.  He forced healing potions down Alaran's throat, but the red liquid she loathed so completely did nothing.  Everything was fine with Alaran.  There were no wounds, no signs of internal injury...it was as if her life had simply been stolen with the sealing of the Breach.

You are no god.  The words drifted back to him.  They were still clear in his mind, even with the passing of thousands of years.  

And what would I need to be a god? Solas had said back arrogantly.  He was just a young man, then, more proud and foolish than he was now.  He knew he wasn't one, but still thought he had all the power in the world.

When you can bring the dead back to life, that is when you would become one.  But you can't, and you never will.

It was only a short while after that conversation did Solas become devastatingly aware how true that statement was.  Looking upon Alaran's lifeless body was just another bitter reminder.  

"Do something, apostate!" Cassandra demanded harshly.  Fear was plastered all over the Seeker's face.  

"I cannot," Solas heard himself say, voice concealed of any true emotions.  Inside he was wailing in despair.  "She is--" gone.

Alaran's eyes flew wide open and she sucked in a breath full of life.  "Alaran!" Cassandra exclaimed, crouching beside her friend.  Together, they helped the Herald sit up, who was groaning and cradling her arm.  But she was alive.  She was alive.

"Ugh, I don't recommend picturing Solas nude," Alaran said after she had caught her breath, face scrunched up in discomfort.  "I don't know if coming back to life was worth seeing that."

Solas couldn't even bring himself to be annoyed.  She looked over at him and smirked, but her eyes didn't crack lightning.  "How do you feel?" he asked her a bit too hastily.

"Oh, not too bad.  My chest hurts.  Is that normal?  My body's never shut down, before.  I don't know what I should be experiencing."

"And your hand?"

"It feels like I closed a giant hole in the sky--"  Alaran barked a loud laugh, pretending to be surprise.  "Oh wait!  I did!"  

How could she be so relaxed when less than a minute ago they all thought her to be dead?  Solas shook his head, sighing.  

They helped Alaran to her feet and wrapped her arm in a sling until the crippling pain faded.  Other than that, she seemed fine.  On their journey back to Haven, though, Solas had dared to steal a few glances at Alaran when she thought nobody was looking at her.  The cheerful countenance and faint smirk was absent; her face was void of any expression at all, which typically meant she was thinking deeply about something.  So perhaps she knew that this was most likely far from over.  Or she had seen something Solas was unaware of.  If so, what?  He needed to ask Alaran many things that required them to be alone.  Perhaps in the Fade they could meet?  It possibly meant making amends to the other times Solas had despoiled her sanctuary.

Yes.  He would take the risk.

-

Cassandra found me looking down at the celebrating Haven from atop the steps outside the Chantry.  “Solas confirms the heavens are scarred, but calm.  The Breach is sealed.  We’ve reports of lingering rifts, and many questions remain, but this was a victory.  Word of your heroism has spread.”

I had to smirk at the thought as I turned to Cassandra.  “You know how many were involved, Cass.  I was just thrown into the middle of this out of pure luck...or unluckiness.  I still can’t figure out which one.”  Yeah, because Hallah hadn't given me freaking answers.  I could have stayed dead for a little longer so she could answer them.

“Whatever it is, I can affirm that it is strange.  I’m not sure if we need more or less,” Cassandra returned.  “But you’re right.  This was a victory of alliance.  One of the few in recent memory.  With the Breach closed, that alliance will need new focus.”  She seemed to be implying something, and I was about to ask her if what she was getting at was what I thought she was getting at when my ears twitched at a sound coming from the mountains.  I redirected my gaze, and that cold feeling of dread sunk in my stomach as the warning bells began to ring at the sight of uniform torches stringing down the mountainside.  

And so begins the second half of my story.

“What the…?” Cassandra gasped.  “We must get to the gates!”  She unsheathed her sword and began to run down the stairs, past the people taking refuge in the Chantry.  I followed close suit.

Varric and Solas quickly joined us.  “Cullen?” Cassandra could only ask as we approached the grim commander.

“One watchguard reporting.  It’s a massive force, the bulk over the mountain.”

“Under what banner?” Josephine asked nervously.

“None,” Cullen simply said.  Josephine’s eyes widened.

“None?”

Just then there was a banging at the doors we all stood by.  Cullen drew everyone back, but something...pulled me forward.  I had an instinctive feeling that whoever was doing that was not dangerous.

“I can’t come in unless you open!” said a young, male voice.  Despite Cullen’s protesting I pushed the gates and stopped as I saw littered bodies all around.  One of the enemy soldiers, a hulking man in armor that nearly made me sick upon recognizing the type strode rushed forward with a heavy axe coiled back, but dropped as a dagger sliced into his back and killed him before he probably even knew it.

The boy was tall and lean, with a big, odd floppy hat spilling over and covering most of his face.  Underneath I saw pale skin and bits of flaxen blonde hair.  Oh!  Oh!  He was the last companion!  How could I forget about him?  “I’m Cole,” he said in a hurried voice.  “I came to warn you.  To help.  People are coming to hurt you.  But you already know.  You've known the second you awoke from the swirling grey.”  He began to put his arm out to me, but pulled back at the last second.  “The Templars come to kill you.  But you knew that as well."

“Templars?” Cullen said angrily.  Cole pulled away further as the commander angrily approached.  “Is this the order’s response to our talks with the mages?  Attacking blindly?”

“The Red Templars went to the Elder One,” Cole explained neutrally.  “You know him?  He knows you.  You took his mages.”  He pointed a finger up to the mountain.  “There.”

“I know that man,” Cullen said gravely.  “But this Elder One…”

“He’s very angry you took his mages,” Cole said simply.  

Shit.  Shit shit shit.  How could I forget that Solas gave the Orb to Corypheus?

“Cullen,” I said fiercely.  “Give me a plan!  Anything!”

“Haven is no fortress.  If we are to withstand this monster, we must control the battle,” Cullen replied.  

-

Commander Cullen watched as Alaran’s violet eyes calculated at amazing speeds.  A few moments later they lit up.  “We create an avalanche,” Alaran whispered.  “Just like in Mulan!”

“The trebuchets are defenseless,” Cullen combated, hope exciting within his chest.  “If we can defend them for long enough…”

Skadoosh,” Alaran grinned wolfishly.  “I’ll get the gang and we’ll bury those ding-a-lings in a hundred feet of snow.”

“You are certainly a strange one, Alaran,” Cullen said before he could stop himself.  But that only made her grin widen.

“The ordinary are not the ones who change the world, Commander,” Alaran responded with a knowing gaze.  “Rally the defenses.”  She paused, then added, “Curly.”

-

“Get out there and use that force.  Use everything you can!”  Cullen unsheathed his sword and turned to the gathered mages.  “Mages!  You have sanction to engage them!  That is Samson.  He will not make it easy!  Inquisition!  With the Herald!  For your lives!  For all of us!”

Damn.  There was the Commander I trusted with my life.

“You are not from here,” Cole said as Cassandra, Solas, Varric and I prepared for battle. I froze.  Nobody was near enough to have heard.  “Don’t worry,” he said, “I am here to help, not to hurt.  Telling them would hurt you.”

I had to know more about Cole, but right now I was forced to save the questions for later.  So instead I gave a quick nod and said, “Help the people, Cole.”

Then he just...disappeared.  I blinked.  Well.  That was odd, in the midst of all this...oddness.

We fought off the waves of Red Templars on the trebuchets.  I was toasty warm with the heat from the red lyrium that rolled off them, so that was a plus, I guessed.  Then we made our way over to the second one, where I had my friends watch my back as I turned the wheel.  It finally fired, and everybody but me watched with relief and pride as the giant rock was launched into the mountainside.  It started an avalanche and wiped out the army, from what I could tell in the darkness.  There were cheers all around.

“Varric,” I said to the dwarf as he stood beside me.  “In the stories, it’s never really the end when you think it is, isn’t it?”

His cheers faded and he looked up at my grim face.  “What are you saying--”

There was a deafening roar that shook the ground, and a moment later the trebuchet exploded as a red fireball plummeted from the sky and completely destroyed it.  

I looked up.  “If that’s an archdemon…” I muttered angrily, “then somebody call the friggin Hero of Ferelden because I’m not about to kill one.”  In a louder voice I yelled, “Everybody to the gates!”

With that we all booked it.  Harritt called for help to get some of his supplies indoors that was blocked.  I wanted to say no, to yell at him that it wasn’t worth dying for, but I liked Harritt.  He had given me some good, flexible armor.  Once I helped him we made it to Cullen, who was standing at the gates and beckoning us in.  “Move it!  Move it!” he yelled.  After the last of the stragglers came in the doors firmly closed behind us.  “We need everyone back to the Chantry!  It’s the only building that might hold against...that beast!”  He looked at me and slightly shook his head.  “At this point...just make them work for it.”

-

Chancellor Roderick was the one standing at the gates.  He was bleeding from his side, but was still standing.  That tough, mean old man was hard to kill.  “Move!” he directed in a pained but audible voice.  “Keep going!  The Chantry is your shelter!”

Once we had all stepped through I turned to see the chancellor collapse, but Cole was there to catch him.  “He tried to stop a Templar,” Cole explained as he helped the old man to a chair.  “The blade went deep.  He’s going to die.”

“What a charming boy,” Roderick said dryly.

I saw Commander Cullen the same time he saw me.  We met each other halfway.  “Herald!  Our position is not good.  That dragon stole back any time you might have earned us.”

“Is it really a dragon, though?” I questioned.  Cullen’s face paled.

“I’ve seen an archdemon.  I was in the Fade, but it looked like that,” Cole confirmed.  I pointed a finger at him.

“Okay, remind me to ask you about that later.”

“I don’t care what it looks like,” Cullen snarled.  “It has cut a path for that army.  They’ll kill everyone in Haven!”

My brain went into overdrive, trying to come up with a plan that wouldn’t result in the population of Haven being slaughtered.  “The Elder One doesn’t care about the village,” I said, my voice sounding suddenly strange in my own head.  “He only wants me.  But if it can save these people, he can have me.”

“It won’t,” Cole said to me.  “He wants to kill you.  No one else matters, but he’ll crush them, kill them anyway.  I don’t like him.”

“You don’t like…?” Cullen began exasperatedly, then switched his train of thought midway after deciding it wasn’t important enough to continue.  “Herald, there are no tactics to make this survivable.  The only thing that slowed them was the avalanche.  We could turn the remaining trebuchets, cause one last slide.”

I shook my head.  “We’re overrun.  To hit the enemy, we’ll have to bury Haven.”

“We’re dying, but we can decide now.  Many don’t get that choice.”

I felt my look turn into a glare.  “I don’t believe in no-win situations, Commander,” I spoke softly, dangerously.  

“Yes, that,” Cole said absently, cutting through the tension.  “Chancellor Roderick can help.  He wants to say it before he dies.”

The cleric explained to us the secret passage leading out of Haven.  My heart felt it was going to burst for that sour old man.  After all this time, we could agree that the people needed to be saved.  I gave him a kiss on the cheek and whispered, “You were truly sent by Andraste, Chancellor Roderick.”  Even if I wasn't sure Andraste actually existed, it would give him comfort to hear me say it.  I stood and turned to Cullen once more.  “What do you think, Curly?  Will it work?”

“Possibly,” he said, hope gleaming in his honey-colored eyes.  “If he shows us the path.  But what of your escape?”

I could only respond with silence and a grim look.  Realization spread across the commander’s face.  But he knew the weight of duty.  If anything, he understood.  “Perhaps you will surprise it, find a way…” he suggested, but it was only empty words of comfort.  

Before Cullen left, he told me to let that thing hear me.  Oh, I would.  “Shall we?” I said to my friends, ignoring the thought that I may never see them alive, again.  

“Let’s get this over with,” Varric sighed, hoisting Bianca over his shoulder.  We had an unspoken agreement that we were all proud to have fought beside each other.  With that we burst out the doors.

-

The trebuchet was ready to fire.  We were almost there, we were--

The archdemon sprayed red lyrium fire.  I looked to my friends.  They were battered and bloody but still alive.  “Run!” I yelled to them.  I made it look like I was following, but I stayed instead, and faced down "The Elder One."  Even if it took my life, I would get that trebuchet launched.  

“Corypheus,” I whispered.  He looked different, more red lyrium-y, but it was him alright.  I hated that I couldn't remember him until now.  

He smiled a twisted smile.  “I am surprised you know my identity.  Pleasantly surprised.”  

“Don’t bother telling me your whole grand scheme,” I said flatly, surprised at how calm I was despite the raging fear inside me.  “I think I already know.  I got away and now you’ve come to fix the oopsie and enact revenge.  Blah blah blah I need to fear you blah blah you’re a god blah blah blah.”

“For one so unimportant you seem quite arrogant in your assumptions” Corypheus said, the look on his face that of a cat toying with a mouse before it brutally tore it to pieces.

“I’m not arrogant.  That’s thinking you are better, that you are already victorious.  But I think neither.  You, on the other hand..." I smirked, shocked that I could even do so with the fear crashing inside me.

Corypheus' expression twisted with hatred.  He lashed out his hand and I screamed in agony as my hand was pulled forward.

No screaming for you!  Oh, for--out of all the times I could have thought of a Seinfeld quote, it had to be when I was facing the biggest threat to all of Thedas.  And replacing soup with screaming was just downright tacky.  I could do better than that, even in my state.

My mouth clamped shut.

“You are no Herald.  You are a thief,” Corypheus spat.  “You have stolen what is mine.”

“A very grumpy elvhen god would beg to differ,” I managed to say, though it came out in a soft gasp.  

He gripped my wrist with the Mark on the adjoining hand and lifted me off my feet like a rag doll.  “You are no Chosen One.  You are nothing.

“I.  Know.”  I hissed, and then hoarsely laughed.  “You’re going to get beaten because of yourself.  Congratulations.  It takes somebody really special to be able to do that.”  Then I culminated a nice amount of saliva in my mouth and spat it into Corypheus’ mottled, disfigured face.  He roared and threw me against the trebuchet.  I felt something inside me pop.  But as my eyes looked up, albeit a little dazedly, I saw my trusty great sword lying beside me.  I grabbed it and pushed myself up, holding the sword bravely in front of me.  Man, this moment needed to be drawn by somebody.  I mean, if I didn’t die before I could say it happened.  

Corypheus yammered on, but was unaware of the flare going off behind him in the distance.  His eyes widened as I kicked the lever of the trebuchet.  It launched a catapult into the sky and on the mountain.  The ground rumbled.

I definitely looked like Mulan as I smirked triumphantly at Corypheus.  He knew the battle was lost, so as the archdemon took him away I ran as fast as my weakened body could carry me as the roaring avalanche bit at my heels.  There was a hole nearby, so I dove into it.  My knee collided with something and I felt it crack.  The injury was the final straw, but I wasn’t afraid of the consuming darkness.

I do not fear death.

-

Ugh.

Why was I always passing out, again? was my first thought upon regaining consciousness.  Hot, searing pain stabbed repeatedly into my side and leg.  Oh.  That's why.  

I forced myself up off the ground, hissing between my teeth.  I knew my leg was dislocated; I had received the exact injury a few years back, when I took a nasty spill at one of my equestrian tournaments.  Well...hopefully it was only dislocated and not completely broken.  I was pretty sure.  Only one way to find out.

In one jerk I reset my knee.  A ragged cry tore from my throat and hot tears sprang to my eyes, the latter cooling so quickly they didn't even warm my cheeks as they ran down.  Nobody knew I was crying.  That was good, at least.  Even better was that the pain in my leg receded, and I could put more weight on it.  I would have to be careful not to throw it out of place, again.

My rib, on the other hand, was another story.  One was cracked on the right side, and walking all by itself was agonizing.  I thought I wasn't going to be able to make it out of the tunnel--if it even led to anywhere--when thank the Lord there was a cache of healing potions.  Most of them were empty bottles, but I found a couple and downed them as best I could.  The pain in my side lessened enough so I could keep from blacking out once more.  I continued down the dim path, teeth chattering uncontrollably.  My armor didn't provide much warmth in cold like this.  

Oh, but hey, turns out I can do a really crazy thing with the Mark and completely destroy demons with it.  Solas and Dorian were going to be all over it when I showed them.  If I lived to show them.

Arms wrapping tightly around myself, I trudged out into the blizzard.  I couldn't see anything and I was slowly being frozen to death.  My jaw was locked so tightly it ached, and even if I did call for help it would be a pitiful whisper.  I lost track of time and any sense of direction.  My mind had become an empty slate.  Maybe if I just laid down...

A wolf howled.

Solas.

I laboriously forced thoughts back into my mind and waded through the snow, following the source of the howling.  When one ended, another began, redirecting my path.  I passed cold, half-buried remnants of a campfire that showed the survivors had been through here.   But I was so, so cold.  Despite my will to keep moving forward, my body was shutting down.  I could only hope that my legs moved because I no longer felt them.  There's that burning kind of cold, you know?  And then there's the numb one.  I was primarily the second.  

The howling stopped when I saw the faint glow of light coming from the valley below.  But there was still quite a lot of distance to cover.  I...I couldn't...

No.

With the last strength I had in me, I pushed myself as hard as I could.  I thought of Sera's foul language and the prank we had planned to twine flowers in Blackwall's beard when he was asleep.  I thought of Cassandra's variety of disgusted noises she always made at me whenever I purposefully said something stupid and hearing the fiery passion that ignited in her eyes whenever she spoke of her faith.  I thought of Varric's voice as he wove stories out of thin air and waking up to his chainsaw snores in the next tent over.  I thought of Blackwall's gruff sense of humor and how he'd whittle wooden figurines for the children of the servant elves in his spare time.  I thought of the way Dorian twisted his mustache when he was thinking and how his eyeliner would run even in the lightest of rain.  I thought of Iron Bull and the way he'd grin at me in approval whenever we finished our practice dueling and how he was the first one to knock on my door when I holed myself up after Redcliffe and told me that shit happens and after a point we need to buck up and get on with our lives.  I thought of Vivienne's ridiculous Hat of Majesty and how I still managed to make her look slightly surprised whenever I said something remotely intelligent concerning politics.  I thought of Cullen and the blush he got whenever I teased him and the silent endurance I saw him display when I found him suffering through an episode of lyrium withdrawal in his cabin.  I thought of how Josephine wove through problems as if it were nothing and ensured that nobody was speaking ill of me because of my Dalish appearance.  I thought of Leliana's secret obsession with those creepy nugs and how I caught her quietly singing to herself when she thought she was alone and threatened to dispose of me if I ever told anyone.  And I thought of Solas and the emotion that unveiled itself when he spoke of his travels in the Fade and the way he had looked at me when I came back to life after sealing the Breach.  I thought of so many more memories I had with the people I knew I could call my friends because they were my Anchor in this world.  There wasn't any lingering sadness after I had been ripped from Earth because I had nobody there like I did here.  

I stumbled.  My legs were giving out.  Think think think, Al.  Think of the way Varric's jacket smelled of light pine oil and the sound of Sera's laughter and the taste of Blackwall's extra crispy bacon around the campfire and the callouses on Cassandra's hands felt as she gripped my hand and helped me off my back and Solas puffing up at any remark I'd make concerning him and how that damn mage got me to care for him and--

I pitched forward soundlessly into the snow.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"I should have done something," Cassandra muttered bitterly to herself as they walked through the cold snow and further into the mountains.  The whole party was quiet; sadness covered them like a thick, suffocating blanket.  Guilt gnawed at her relentlessly.  She should have known Alaran wouldn't simply run away, not when there was still the trebuchet to launch.  But they had followed her orders blindly and automatically, running as fast as they could until Solas realized that the Herald wasn't with them.  Cassandra heard her wail in pain, and she would have turned around and ran to fight alongside her companion, her friend.  For Alaran, Cassandra would gladly face death.  Varric had a firm grip on her wrist, though, hauling her forward and away from the strange Dalish elf who had wormed her way into the Seeker's heart.  "Maker preserve her.  I should have done something."

Sera had a come-apart when Solas informed them of what happened, and would have had an outright temper tantrum had it not been for the Warden to keep her in check.  Cassandra would have took it upon herself to break the news, but she feared her voice would have shook had she done so.  She had lost many comrades in many battles, but the sting never lessened with their death.  She should have been there.  

Blackwall had an arm around Sera, holding her close and murmuring indiscernible comforts to the city elf as she angrily sobbed. "It's not fair," Cassandra heard her say. "She's done nothing but help all these stupid people and she's the one who dies for it."

"I know," was all Blackwall could say. "I know."  He had his own look of grim sadness.

"Why didn't any of you stay with her?" Dorian eventually burst out, spinning and facing Cassandra and Varric.  Any reserve she had in her weary body snapped.  She needed to hit something, and the Tevinter was the perfect target.

"You know Al, Sparkler," Varric sighed lowly.  "She had that whole hero-mentality.  Gotta do what's right, no matter what.  Hell, I don't think she even cared if she died.  She..." his voice cracked, but he cleared it.  "Al made us believe she was right behind us.  And like the idiots we were, we just ran until it was too late to go back."

There was a long silence as the others took in Varric's confession.  Cassandra's balled fist relaxed.  Dorian wasn't acting unreasonably; she would have been the same had somebody else been in her place.  But the words still reminded her of the burning shame she was experiencing.  "She always had been unreasonable," Vivienne said suddenly.  "The girl cared too much for the life of others and spared none for herself, and would not let anybody else get a word in otherwise even if it posed a threat to her safety.  A commendable trait to have, but in this case it was a serious flaw."

"And what would you know about commendable traits and flaws?" Solas spat intensely, whirling on the Grand Enchantress.  He had been walking ahead of the group the entire time, and hadn't said a single word after breaking the news of Alaran's sacrifice.  About an hour had passed since then.  Cassandra was surprised at the anguish written across the apostate's usually passive face.  It brought out every one of his defining features: the set jaw quivering with either anger or sorrow, the sharp nose crinkling in disgust, the gray and blue eyes a whirlpool of emotions, the full lips curling with disdain, and the toned posture coiling with emotion.  "You--a selfish woman who knows nothing but deceit and betrayal--has the audacity to evaluate the Herald's actions?"  Solas shook his head once in contempt as he looked up and down at Vivienne. "You are irrelevant to our cause.  It is only because of the Herald's good grace that you were allowed to join the Inquisition, and it is because of her serious flaw that you are alive where you stand."

Vivienne tilted her head up at Solas, face an unreadable mask.  "And you, Solas?  Are you one to speak for her?  If I can recall, correctly, you despised her.  Or rather she despised you.  And now here you are, regretting every harsh word you spoke to her, every action of hers you questioned, and every smile that came across her face you set out to destroy.  From one selfish person to another, I can say that you don't have any more right than I."  The Grand Enchantress' voice was as condescending and light as ever, but her blue eyes were glistening faintly in the light from the sparsely placed torches.  

Solas glared murderously at Vivienne before turning on his heels and disappearing into the mass of survivors.  Vivienne scoffed at his departing figure.  "Pathetic."

"Give him a break," Iron Bull said.  He was still shirtless despite the biting cold.  "He loved her, after all.  Not his fault he's taking it harder than the rest of us."

"Wot?" Sera said as she noisily wiped her nose with her sleeve.  Her eyes were still red, but she was no longer crying.  "Baldy hates Ally.  It's obvious, innit?"

"Nah," Iron Bull replied.  "He loved her.  Don't think he even realized it--probably never will--but he did.  It was one of those weird situations where he fell in love before even liking her."  He looked around at the rest of the group, all who had a variety of stunned expressions.  "You guys honestly didn't see it?"'

"I thought I saw something, but I could never really tell what was up between the two of them," Varric said with a humorless smirk and a shake of his head.  "And Al may have keeled over if she found out Chuckles liked her, least of all loved her...Or killed him."

"I can picture it now," Blackwall joined in.  "She'd get that horrified look on her face--the same one that comes up whenever she sees nugs--and she'd walk up to Solas and grab his ear and yank him down to her level and scream at him, demanding why he loved her.  Then the two of them would get in a fight like they always do and she'd tackle him like she did that one time."

Sera giggled hoarsely at the image Blackwall had portrayed.  Cassandra found herself smiling at it, as well.  "Yeah, then Solas would get all puffed up and start talking trash to her in elven with his ears all pink," Sera added.  

Varric's eyes widened and he groaned.  "That was the sign!  Only Al could make Chuckles' ears turn pink."

"From the way he stormed into the Chantry when his cabin was mysteriously vandalized after Sera's arrival, she could do more than make just his ears turn pink," Vivienne commented, smiling wryly.  "I thought I could only see such a reddened face on Cullen."

"Solas' cabin was vandalized?" Dorian asked.  "I've never heard this story.  Do tell!"

Sera began the story of how she and Alaran were the ones who painted an ass on Solas' cabin, accompanied by Varric's own recollection of the morning after.  He created a vivid portrayal of the apostate's reaction, and how he watched Alaran cram herself in between the rocks so he wouldn't see her as he stormed to complain to Josephine.  He said that her butt was sticking so high in the air it was a wonder that Solas didn't see her.  They all collectively groaned when Varric repeated the horrible pun Alaran made to go along with the prank.

"That's the worst thing I ever heard," Blackwall chuckled.  

"If it came from anyone besides Alaran, I would have thought them idiots," Cassandra huffed with a smile.  "Then again, there were times when I considered her to be just that."

"Oh, there were plenty of times we all did," Varric said, wrapping his arms around himself to preserve some warmth.  He was struggling the most in the snow because of how short his legs were, but kept up pace.  "Remember our first week together in the Hinterlands?  We were lost almost the entire time because of her.  Though you weren't much better, Seeker."

"At least didn't have us running into bears every ten minutes," Cassandra retorted.

"She really doesn't have a sense of direction, does she?  For a Dalish elf, I find that quite odd," Dorian mused.  The temporary bout of nostalgia that had befallen the group faded upon hearing the Vint talk of Alaran as if she were still with them.  But Cassandra had felt the rumble of the avalanche even at their distance.  They all had.  If they were to ever find the Herald's body, it wouldn't be until springtime, and that wouldn't come around for a few more months.  

"Can we just...keep talking about Ally?" Sera said when the silence grew to be too loud for them to handle much longer.  "If I keeping thinkin to myself I'm going to end up killing somethin.  I need to think out loud."  Cassandra couldn't agree more.  

"Sure, Buttercup," Varric said with a strained smile.  "Remember when we were stuck up on the Storm Coast, and Al had run out of dried apples..."

-

Solas was angry.

No.

He was furious.

How, how had he been so incompetent that he couldn't turn around to see if Alaran was behind them?  He knew that look on her face when she told them to run.  He had seen it a thousand times.  It was stark, unyielding duty.  And the only thing Solas could think about in that moment was how completely beautiful she had been wearing it, instead of realizing that the look meant she was going to follow through with their original purpose without them.  His feet had swiftly carried him away from the archdemon because he was scared.  They all had been.  Except for Alaran.  She showed no fear of dying.  Fear of others, dying, though...that is why she stayed.

He should have been there.

Upon hearing the Grand Enchantress speak, Solas lost the poise he had so desperately been trying to cling to.  He saw the grief in Vivienne's own eyes, but continued anyways.  In a clearer state of mind he would have known better than to verbally assault somebody well-versed in destroying reputations and lives with a few words.  But he wasn't, so when the tables were turned on him, he found that he was void of anything to retaliate with.  Solas then stormed off, weaving through the countless number of men, women, and children who were still alive because of the sacrifice of one irritating, brilliant, kind, woman who made horrible jokes and hummed to herself and ate an unhealthy amount of dried apples and held lightning in her eyes.

Solas planted the image of those violet eyes in his mind, framed by silver eyelashes and eyebrows with the right one raised.  Next, the nose that was almost completely straight except for the cute, upturned tip at the end.  Then there were her lips, berry-colored and smirking with faint signs of dimples in each corner.   After was Mythal's pale blue vallaslin, spreading across her porcelain-colored features and ending in a thin point at the hollow of her neck.  There was her snowy hair that nearly glowed in the sunlight, shaved on one side and revealing a pointed, occasionally twitching ear while the rest was slightly pulled over to the opposite shoulder.  Solas basked in the agonizing, joyful feeling he got in his chest and behind his skull when he set the image of Alaran into motion.  The smirk turned into a grin and her violet eyes scrunched up and the dimples made their entrance.  She tipped her head back, exposing a delicate, swan-like neck and laughed.  Her throat bobbed up and down as the unmistakable noise flooded Solas' ears.  It was so real that for a moment he almost fooled himself into believing that Alaran was right beside him.

She wasn't, though, and the sound of her laughter faded.

In the distance, wolves howled.  They had been doing it for quite some time, now, and more than a few around Solas were beginning to worry about an attack.  But they weren't howling from hunger.  They were howling from the slim chance of hope that always accompanied Alaran's spirit wherever she went.  Perhaps she had carried it with her through the avalanche.  They would guide her to the survivors.

But they had been trekking through the mountains for more than two hours, now, and a blizzard was in full-swing.  Perhaps the wolves now only wailed in lamentation of the loss of a bright, genuine, unique soul.

Eventually Solas found himself back near the small, broken companionship that was somehow still trudging through the snow.  Varric's voice was warm despite the frigidity.  "...and Al goes, 'Oh, shit, that's not spirit essence.'"  There was an assortment of groans and soft laughter around the dwarf.

"That is disgusting," Dorian said through short giggles.  Solas had missed most of the story, but he knew they were talking about Alaran to soothe some of the misery they were all feeling.

"It was disgusting," Bull assured.  "And hilarious."

"No, it wasn't," Blackwall grumbled, "because she smeared it in my beard.  Took days to get out."

And so Solas listened to the compilations of stories about Alaran from a distance.  He could feel Iron Bull's good eye on him, but nothing else.  Soon, a wistful smile shadowed his mouth as more stories piled on.  He had been present for plenty of them, but there were still more that he had no idea even happened.  "She did not offer them dried apples!" Cassandra gasped.

"I'm not lying!" Sera said back as she cackled.  "Said something weird like, 'You get a bit evil when you're hungry.'  Made no sense, but didn't matter, yeah, 'cause they took 'em!  Took the whole bag!  And then they just left!"

"I recall her being dour the rest of the journey, though," Vivienne put in.  "Her obsession with them was disturbing."

"Always asked her if she got plugged up from eatin so much of 'em," Sera said, swore when she stumbled, but kept on going.  "And you wanna know what she said?"

"No," said a few.  Sera went on anyways.

"She said that the day she got plugged up from eatin them would be the day Cassie kissed Varric."

A loud, disgusted noise came from the Seeker while Varric and everybody else laughed.  Solas couldn't help but chuckle soundlessly at the thought.  

Cullen and Leliana finally called for the final stop until daybreak.  The valley they found themselves in provided some relief from the blizzard.  Tents and small campfires were set up for the weak and injured.  It was a poor sight, and Solas' body screamed to lie down, but he put himself to work, moving into a mindless routine of healing flesh and warming hands of numerous people.  It dulled his thoughts, which in turn numbed what he was feeling.  Solas didn't bother to look at the faces of those he was helping--it mattered not to him.  

It would have mattered to her.

The abrupt thought collided against Solas' empty mind.  It felt like a physical blow to his head and he staggered, grunting softly.  A hand shot out and gripped his arm, steadying him.  Solas was already opening his mouth to snap at whoever it was that thought he needed help, but when he saw that it was Dorian he closed his mouth and breathed through his nostrils.  "You've been going for hours, Solas," Dorian stated.  "Perhaps you should rest."

Solas shook himself free.  "I am fine."  It was such a blatant lie he could have laughed aloud at it.

"None of us are fine," Dorian huffed plainly.  "You aren't an exception.  Here."  A lyrium potion was shoved into Solas' hand.  Wordlessly, he downed it.  "Just because you lost someone you..." Dorian paused, turning his direction at the sounds of shouting near the entrance of the valley.  Solas' heart began to pound against his chest and blood roared in his ears.

The wolves had stopped howling.

"Alive, awake, aglow," said the soft, neutral voice of Cole, who suddenly stood beside the two mages.  He looked vacantly at the two personages wading through the snow from the valley beyond.  A small figure was wrapped up in the taller one's arms.  From the head of blonde, curly hair, Solas could make out that it was Cullen.  "Thank the Maker, Praise Andraste, hope is not lost.  She is small and smirking against my chest and hope is not lost."

"The Herald is alive!" a cry rang out.  

There was a moment where the world teetered on the edge of change, unsure whether or not it would take the risk of falling.  Solas felt the tremor, the stillness, then--

The camp erupted into chaos.

The leap.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ah, I just loved waking up to the sound Cullen, Josephine, Leliana, and Cassandra arguing.  Really.  I used to have them stand outside my cabin window and shout beautiful things to me as I blinked my eyes open and stretched in my bed like a pre-feminist Disney princess.

My mouth tasted like ram shit (don't ask) and my body was stiff and sore.  I groaned as I propped myself on an elbow took in my surroundings.  My eyes rested on the chantry mother sitting beside me.  "Mother Giselle," I croaked, somehow smiling.  "Hows it going?"

"Shh, you need rest," she spoke with a returning smile.  I was glad to see her face.  It was warm and full of love.  

"Yeah, well, that ain't gonna happen with those guys arguing," I said, dipping my head over to the source of the noise.  "They've been at it for hours."

"They have the luxury, thanks to you.  The enemy could not follow, and with time to doubt, we turn to blame," Mother Giselle said to me.  "Infighting may threaten as much as this Corypheus."

"The only thing yelling gets us is a headache," I grumbled, sitting up straighter.  "Well, another headache.  I kind of already got one going."

"They know.  But our situation--your situation--is complicated.  Our leaders struggle because of what we survivors witnessed.  We saw our defender stand...and fall.  And now we have seen her return."  I sighed and slowly swung my legs over the cot I had been laying down on, rubbing my cold forehead.  "The more the enemy is beyond us, the more miraculous your actions appear.  And the more our trials seem ordained."  Uh huh.  Sure they were.  "That is hard to accept, no?  What "we" have been called to endure?  What "we," perhaps, must come to believe?"

"Mother Giselle," I said as I gave my head a small shake, "I just don't see how what I believe matters.  Lies or not, Corypheus is a real, physical threat.  And as much as I hang onto hope as the next person, I fear it may not be enough alone."  I stood up, blinking the vertigo away, and made my way over to the advisers.  They were now scattered about the area, looking all sorts of dejected and doubtful.  I put my hands on my hips and breathed in and out.  My mouth to say something, but nothing came to mind.  I was drawing a blank.  Seeing their fear only fueled my own.

"Shadows fall
And hope has fled"

I turned and, much to my disbelief, saw Mother Giselle stepping forward with her hands clasped in front of her, singing in a serenading alto.  

"Steel your heart
The dawn will come.
The night is long,
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come."

Her voice rang throughout the camp.  When she began the second verse, Leliana joined in, her voice sweet and high.

"The shepherd's lost
And his home is far
Keep to the stars,
The dawn will come."

More voices joined in the song.  I hadn't heard it, before, but recognized it as the same tune that was playing in the start menu of the game.  Goosebumps prickled on my flesh.

"The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come"

I couldn't exactly describe the emotions that were swelling inside my chest when the survivors began to bow on one knee to me.  I large part of me wanted to back away and wave my arms in the air and tell them that this was just one big mistake.  

"Bear your blade
And raise it high
Stand your ground
The dawn will come
The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come..."

These people who had barely known me were giving me the right--the honor--of being in the position of saving them.  Would they bow to me if they knew that I wasn’t from this world?  Would my friends look at me the same if they knew that just several months ago I was a dying, human girl?  

Who was I to have these people kneel to me?  I was just as imperfect as they were, just as scared as they were, just as mortal as they were.  

But I knew the ways of people, of humanity.  I knew their reason.  I was one of them, after all. 

So I stayed put and remained standing, ignoring my pains, ignoring the abyss of doubt.  I was theirs.  All of their wonderful souls were entrusted to me, now.

I would not--could not--fail them.

As cheers rose into the night a familiar presence strode up beside me.  "A word?"  It was all he said before he was walking off, again, not bothering to see if I would follow.  I briefly considered not; it would have been amusing to make Solas stand and wait out in the dark.  But I followed.  He was the reason I was alive, after all.

I could barely see Solas' figure ahead of me as we made our way into the night.  He elaborately moved his hand back and forth in the air and veilfire erupted in a brazier I had not previously seen.  He stopped beside it and turned to me, hands clasping behind his back.  I caught the image of the magical firelight dancing off his features; I was going to have to draw it, later.  "The humans have not raised one of our people so high for ages beyond counting," he said, curving his lips ever-so-slightly at the irony of how true the statement was.  "Her faith is hard-won, lethallan, worthy of pride."

"Why do I have the feeling that you didn't creepily say 'a word?'  just so you could praise me?" I asked, raising an eyebrow and smirking.  He rolled his eyes.

"Unfortunately for you, no, it is not.  The trust you have cultivated so far will not grow in the wilderness.  You will need every advantage."  Solas looked away from me and focused on the night sky.  "By attacking the Inquisition, Corypheus as changed it.  Changed you."

"Changed me how?"

He glanced back at me with a knowing smirk of his own.  "I find it extraordinarily hard to believe that you do not have an answer already.  In fact, I am quite certain that you do know."  

I did.

"You must scout to the north.  Be their guide.  There is a place that awaits for a force to hold it."  Passion was building in the elf's demeanor.  "There the Inquisition has the chance to build, to grow."  He paused when he saw the look on my face.  "What is it?"

"Why are you doing this?" I asked, taking a step closer to him.  "You could have slipped away in the night at any time.  Everybody thought I was dead; what hope were you clinging onto that kept you here?"

Something flickered in Solas' stormy blue eyes.  "I considered it, however momentarily.  But, even with your demise, I still needed to see this through.  I willingly gave Corypheus my Orb without foreseeing him surviving the ordeal; everything that has and will happen to Thedas is because of my own foolishness."

The steadied remorse in his voice made me frown and furrow my eyebrows.  "It wasn't foolishness," I found myself saying.  He softly scoffed.

"Oh?  What is it, then?"

"It was duty."  Solas cast his eyes onto the snowy ground.  His jaw set, but it wasn't from anger.  I went on.  "Look, Solas...I know things didn't turn out the way you wanted.  But I understand the sense of failure you're feeling, as well.  Do you know how many times failure has kept me up at night after something went wrong, even after all the planning I did at the war table both in and out of the Fade?  Trust me, that's only the beginning of the long and painful list.  Would I go back and fix everything, though?  No.  As difficult as that is to say, I wouldn't.  If I did, I wouldn't be where I was right now.  We wouldn't be where we are, right now.  And I like where I am.  I..." my voice faltered, but picked back up.  I had to finish.  "I hope you do, too."

Solas looked back up at me.  The weight I saw pulling on him in Redcliffe's dungeon was currently sitting atop his shoulders.  "You speak with so much conviction," he breathed.  "But your failures haven't scattered and oppressed your people.  They haven't caused a threat that could destroy the world."

"Hey," I said with a small smile.  "Let's not start a pissing contest to see whose failures are the biggest, okay?."

"I would win," he huffed with a similar expression.  "But...I suppose you're right, in the sense that I do not regret where I am, now."  The way Solas gazed at me made my stomach flutter.

Wait.  No.  He's not supposed to be able to do that.  Abort.  Abort.  Abort.

"Come on," I said, nudging my head in the direction of camp.  "Let's go tell the advisers what the plan is."  We walked back together.  "Oh, and thanks for that whole wolf-howling-GPS thing.  Really saved my life, you know?"

"I am glad," Solas smiled faintly as he looked straight ahead.  

"What was everybody like when they thought I had been crushed under two tons of snow?  Did Cassie cry?  Did Varric cry?"  I gasped loudly.  "Did you cry?"

"My eyes remained dry.  As for everybody else, the only one who was audibly doing so was Sera."

I turtle-frowned.  "Only Sera?  Nobody else?  How rude."

"We were preoccupied with escaping into the mountains and fearing an attack from an archdemon any second," Solas retorted.  "Stopping to weep would have been detrimental."  He was silent for a moment.  "They did, however, begin sharing stories of you.  One does such things when they lose someone they love.  To preserve their memory."

"Was it nice and heart-warming?  Or did they just reminisce about all the stupid stuff I've done?" I questioned suspiciously.

"Take a guess."

harrumphed.  "Dare I ask which stories?"

"There were quite a few.  Though one was about you waking up with a nug paw tangled in your hair."  Solas couldn't hide the gleam of amusement in his eyes despite his face remaining passive.

I groaned.  "Oh, lord, they were the awful ones.  Nothing about how heroic and brave and kind I was?"

"If there were, I missed it."

"Hm.  I'm going to have to think of a way to exact my revenge."

"They were grieving.  I hardly think they were doing it to spite you."

"Well when you put it like that you make me feel like an asshole."

"Ir abelas.  That was not my intention."

"And would you stop being so subtly sassy?" I said exasperatedly.  "It really grinds my gears."

"Perhaps I am exacting my revenge, then" Solas stated.  We were almost back to the camp, now.  I could see some of our friends huddled sleepily around the campfire.  I longed to hear their voices, their laughter.  Maybe one day I would reveal that I kept moving because of them, not because of my responsibilities or my passion to help others.  They were what kept me going.

"Your revenge?"  I made a face.  "And why would you want that?  What did I ever do to you?"

"If I begin telling you, I fear I would not ever finish.  And--" he added before I could open my mouth to make a comeback.  "I was not fond of the feelings you created within me when we thought you had departed from this world."

My comeback died in my throat.  Solas was still looking straight ahead, cool and placid as ever.  Except for the eyes.  They were something else entirely.  "And whatever happened to us being opponents?" I drawled out before we had to get to business.  My tone easily hid the torrent of confused emotions in me.  Really confused emotions.  I could only place them under the category of:  What the Poop?

"That was before I realized that if anybody could change the world for the better, it would be you.  More so than I, even."  

I had heard the similar statement before, but for Solas it was the first time he had ever spoken the words.  He glanced at me and I saw the same faith in his eyes as I did before, but without red lyrium crystals growing them.  Still, the statement made me feel the exact same way.  I wanted to hug him, to tell him that because of his so-called foolish actions I was able to live again, and regain my spirit I thought I had lost.  

But I didn't.  We reached the tent with the advisers in it and began making preparations.  

-

"Solas," Alaran whispered, astonishment plastered all over her porcelain face.  "You got me a castle.  Sweet sassy molassy you got me a castle."  Instead of gushing an extensive thanks and assaulting Solas with questions, she tipped her head up to him and smirked.  Lighting--albeit playful--danced in her eyes.  "This might just make up for your incessant assery."

He should have known she would say something insulting, rather than conveying gratefulness.  "It is called Skyhold," he said, ignoring Alaran's attempts to rile him.

"Skyhold."  The word escaped from her lips as if it had belonged to her for some time already.  "And what was the original name of it?"

Solas was caught off-guard with the question.  "Tarasyl'an Te'las," he said once he regained some train of thought.  "The place where the sky was held back."  

Alaran looked back to the fortress and hummed.  "I like that one better."

"As do I."

"You will tell me how you know of it, once we're settled in."  It never ceased to amaze Solas how quickly Alaran's expression could go from light and amusing to serious and wise in less than a moment.  Her order made the very air around them snap in attention.  Behind them, he could hear others cry out at the sight in wonder and relief.  Their discussion would soon come to an end.  

"And so I shall."  

A gust of wind tugged the hair behind Alaran's ear free.  That odd frown of hers extinguished the calculating look of a leader instantly, so fast that Solas almost wanted to laugh at the sight.  She lifted a hand to tuck the snowy strands back into place.  He stiffened at the sight of her bandaged palm.  "I thought any wounds you had received at Haven were healed," Solas said.  Alaran's hand hesitated slightly beside her ear before she lowered it.

"They were."  The mass of survivors were nearing, less than twenty paces back.

"Then what did you do?"

"I made a reminder to myself that I would never let what happened at Haven occur, again."  

The obscure sentence combined with an emotionless voice made a small stone of dread settle in the pit of Solas' stomach.  Before he could get another word in, Alaran was striding forward, shoulders thrust back with an easy confidence as she led the Inquisition to Skyhold.  To a new world.

-

I walked out of my little makeshift room, in the official Inquisition attire I was now obliged to wear.  It fit me nicely, but I didn't like the color.  Tan fabric and alabaster skin weren't something that meshed really well.  I scanned the grounds, drinking in the view of working bodies and lively voices.  My eyes fell on the four people standing a bit aways.  Cassandra beckoned me over.  The other three departed as she clasped her hands behind her back.  “They arrive daily from every settlement in the region.  Skyhold is becoming a pilgrimage.”  We began to walk up the stone stairs.  “If word has reached these people, it will have Reached the Elder One.”

“Corypheus,” I corrected.

“Corypheus,” Cassandra repeated dryly.  “We have the walls and numbers to put up a fight here, but this threat is far beyond the war we anticipated.  But we now know what allowed you to stand against Corypheus, what drew him to you.”

I held my hand up, the vagina-mark glowing faintly.  “He wanted this but couldn’t have it, so he probably wants me dead.  But we’re amassing supporters, people who have hope and faith of defeating him.  I doubt he likes that.”

“Your decisions let us heal the sky.  Your determination brought us out of Haven.  You are that creature’s rival because of what you did.  And we know it.  All of us.”  We were walking up another flight of slimmer, steeper stairs.  Ugh.  There were so many steps.  Maybe I should replace them with ramps.  Wait.  Probably a bad idea.  I got the mental image of Cassandra angrily slipping and sliding down it.

We came to a rest in an elevated part of the staircase.  Leliana stood a few feet away, holding a sword in the flat of her hands.  “The Inquisition requires a leader:  the one who has already been leading it.”

Well.  Okay.  Looks like it'll be official, now.

I turned my gaze to the crowd below.  They were chattering loudly, excitement buzzing in the air.  “You,” Cassandra finished.

My throat clenched.  “I...thank you.  I’m honored.  But...what if I fail, Cassandra?  What if I fail all of them?”

She placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder.  “I would be terrified handing this power to anyone, but I believe it is the only way.  They’ll follow you.  They’ve seen you you’ve been guided by Andraste’s hand.”  She guided me over to the sword.  After a moment I gripped it and raised it up.  The corners of Leliana’s mouth turned upwards.

“I will stand for the Inquisition,” I said softly, then in a stronger voice I spoke to the two women, “and the Inquisition will stand for all.”

Pride exuded off of Cassandra.  “We will follow, wherever you lead us.”  She focused her attention to the crowd.  “Have our people been told?” she called in a clear, loud voice.

“They have,” Josephine called back.  It was probably the loudest I have ever heard her speak.  “And soon, the world.”

“Commander, will they follow?”

My heart began to pound because I knew I was witnessing a turning point in the history of this world, in my own story.  “Inquisition!  Will you follow?  Will you fight?  Will we triumph?” Cullen called, a louder cheer responding after each question.  It was roaring by the time Cullen unsheathed his sword and pointed at me.  “Your leader!  Your Herald!  Your Inquisitor!”

I raised the sword high, determination settling into my soul.

-

“So this is where it begins,” Cullen said as we looked around the grand hall.  Most of it was in shambles, but the stonework was still strong, still unmovable.  

“It began in the courtyard.  This is where we turn that promise into action,” Leliana corrected lightly.

“But what do we do?” Josephine asked.  “We know nothing about this Corypheus except that he wanted your Mark.”  

I glanced down at my softly glowing hand.  “Right now all I care about is if Skyhold can stand against him.  I will not have a repeat of what happened at Haven.”  The faint burning in the palm of my other reminded me constantly of the responsibility.

“Skyhold has the bones to withstand Corypheus.  After what you did with one trebuchet, I’d bet against direct attack.”  There as as slight smirk to his face.

“We do have one advantage,” Leliana said slyly.  “We know what Corypheus intends to do next.  In that strange future you experienced, Empress Celene had been assassinated.”

“Imagine the chaos her death would cause,” Josephine said in a hushed tone.  “With his army…”

“An army he’ll bolster with a massive force of demons, or so the future tells us,” Cullen finished.

“Corypheus could conquer the entire south of Thedas, god or no god.”

Leliana sighed.  “I’d feel better if we knew more about what we were dealing with.”

“I know someone who can help with that,” said a nonchalant voice.  I face palmed.  Of course.  Of course he did.  Why hadn’t I thought of it sooner?

We turned to Varric, who had most likely waited for the right moment to intervene.  What a dramatic dwarf.  Couldn’t blame him, though.  “Everyone acting all inspirational jogged my memory, so I-I sent a message to an old friend.”  Varric was speaking directly to me, now.  “He’s crossed paths with Corypheus before, and may know more about what he’s doing.  He can help.”

I raised an eyebrow.  Then, in a deadpan voice I said, “Oh, Varric, we have no idea who you could possibly be talking about.”  I suppressed any excitement churning inside me and instead fixed my tone.  “Introduce me when he arrives.”  I had been sorely disappointed when I found out that Hawke was a man and not a woman, but it was still Hawke.  The Champion of Freaking Kirkwall.

Varric looked over his shoulder nervously like somebody was listening besides us.  “Parading around might cause a fuss,” he said after a moment.  “It’s better for you to meet privately.  On the battlements.”

“That complicated?” I asked.  Varric huffed in agreement, rubbed the back of his neck, then left.

“If Varric has brought who I think he has,” Leliana said once the dwarf had left, “Cassandra is going to kill him.”

-

Inquisitor Alaran Lavellan.

The title weighed on me more than anything else had, before.  I couldn’t believe this was still actually happening, yet at the same time I could.  It made my head hurt.

“So...Inquisitor, eh?” Varric’s voice said behind me.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  There was nobody else around, so I didn’t have to act entirely professional.  I spun around and hugged my dwarf.

“I knew that was coming,” he groaned as I crushed him with my unnatural strength.  Laughed but didn't let go.

“Come on, Varric, you should enjoy my hugs by now,” I teased.

“Can’t--breathe--”

I laughed even more and released him.  he took a few gulps of air.  “The Blessing of Andraste is upon you, now, Varric Tethras.  You can write hundreds of stories from that moment alone.”

“I can see the title now:  The Herald of Andraste Hugged Me So Tight I Died.”

“Or:  The Inquisitor’s Presence was So Holy I Pooped My Pants,”  I pointed out.  Varric threw his head back and laughed.

“Or that.”  He folded his arms.  “So, how does the whole Inquisitor thing feel?”

I sighed, knowing that question was coming, and ran a hand through my hair.  “Heavy.  I’m still unsure whether or not I can handle it.”

“I remember you saying that on our first day to the Hinterlands.  And look how far you’ve come.”

“Yeah, yeah.”  I waved him off.

Varric paused before he continued.  “Back there...at Haven...why didn’t you tell us that you were going to stay?”

Crap.  I knew that question was coming, too.  I looked into his sienna eyes.  “Because I couldn’t lose any of you.”

“You know that’s a shitty excuse.”  Varric was pinning me down with his gaze.  I hated when he did that.  Only should be able to do that.

“Oh, totally.  But it’s true.  From day one I...you guys didn’t see me as somebody who was only a tool.  You saved me, time and time again.  Losing you--any of you--would have been a burden I feared I may not have been able to bear.  And because I knew you were all alive, waiting for me after Haven...it kept me going.  Plus the trebuchet needed launching,” I added in a much lighter voice, but I couldn't manage to keep it.  “This whole Inquisitor--thing...I need you guys more now than ever.”  There.  I had said it to Varric.  I figured he would be the first one I confessed it to.

Varric let out a heavy breath and cast his eyes down to the floor.  “Shit.  I was hoping that you'd be sarcastic about it."

“Oh, really?  Well, then, Varric Tethras:  if I had lost you, then who would be there to continue Swords and Shields?  Which reminds me of something I need to ask you about…”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“...But this violates everything we know about the Fade.”  Cassandra’s voice drifted up to me as I walked down to the courtyard.  There was most likely yet another problem that I needed to deal with.

I saw saw her and Solas conversing a ways away.  Cole was nearby, sitting on the ground and picking at stones and grass, that ridiculously large hat covering his face.  

“So it does,” Solas affirmed.  They both turned to me when I got close enough to be a part of the conversation.  

“Inquisitor,” Cassandra said solemnly, “I wondered if Cole was perhaps a mage, given his unusual abilities.”

“He can cause people to forget him, or even fail entirely to notice him,” Solas explained.  “These are not the abilities of a mage.”

“Of course not,” I said, interrupting the elf’s lecture.  “He’s a spirit."

Solas blinked.  "And how did you come across this knowledge?"

"Uh, I asked him," I said in an obvious, mocking tone.  "Normal people do things like that, and not just cause a scene in the courtyard while the person you're talking about is sitting less than twenty feet away."  I turned my head over my shoulder and looked at Cole.  "He's pretty cool."

“He is a demon, more likely,” Cassandra argued, a stubborn scowl settling on her tanned, scarred face.

“If you prefer, although the truth is somewhat more complex,” Solas continued in the tone of a patient adult speaking to a little child.  

“Um, if you’ve forgotten, Cass, Cole warned us about Corypheus at Haven.  He saved a lot of lives,” I spoke kindly.  

The Seeker still scowled.  “We cannot know the true motivations of a demon.”

“In fact, his nature is not so easily defined,” said Solas, his jaw on the onset of setting.  

“Speak plainly, Solas,” Cassandra huffed.  “What are we dealing with?”

“Demons normally enter this world by possessing something.  In their true form, they look bizarre, monstrous.”

“But you claim Cole looks like a young man.  Is it possession?”

I cast another glance at him.  He couldn’t possibly an abomination.  

“No,” Solas answered.  “He has possessed nothing and no one, and yet he appears human in all respects.”  He shifted to me.  “Cole is unique, Inquisitor.  More than that, he wishes to help.  I suggest you allow him to do so.”

“Did any of you consider what Cole has to say for himself?” I asked with a slightly raised eyebrow.  The two of them were silent and looked about sulkily.  When I turned back over to look, he was gone.  “Where’d he go now?”

“If none of us remember him,” Cassandra said forlornly, “he could be anywhere--”

“Ah!” I exclaimed, purposefully cutting off Cassandra before she could look even more like a jackass.  “There he is!” I pointed over to the healer’s tents and walked off.

“Haven,” Cole said quietly as I neared.  “So many soldiers fought to protect the pilgrims so they could escape.”  His voice dropped.  “Choking fear, can’t think from the medicine but the cuts wrack me with every heartbeat.”  He began to pick at his fingerless gloves, still talking.  “Hot white pain, everything burns.  I can’t, I can’t, I’m going to...I’m dying…” The soldier nearby gave a death rattle.  “Dead,” Cole finished flatly.

“You’re feeling their pain," I observed.  

“It’s louder this close, with so many of them,” Cole told me.  

“Would you like to go somewhere more comfortable?” I suggested.  Obviously I had a soft spot for spirits.

After a moment Cole said, “Yes.  But here is where I can help.”  He drifted off to another soldier, and I followed.  “Every breath slower.  Like lying in a warm bath.  Sliding away.  Smell of my daughter’s hair when I kiss her goodnight.  Gone.”  He turned again.  “Cracked brown pain, dry, scraping.  Thirsty.”  Suddenly he had a glass of water and knelt down by a female soldier.  “Here.”

“Thank you,” she rasped.  

Cole stood back up.  “It’s alright.  She won’t remember me.”

“So you’re using your powers as a spirit to help people?” I asked him.

“Yes.”  He didn’t look at me.  “I used to think I was a ghost.  I didn’t know.  I made mistakes...but I made friends, too.  Then a Templar proved I wasn’t real.  I lost my friends.  I lost everything.  I learned how to be more like what I am.  It made me different, but stronger.  I can feel more.  I can help.”

“The Inquisition could use all the help it can get,” I said.  “If you are willing, you can stay.”

“Yes, helping,” Cole mused.  “I help the hurt, the helpless, there’s someone…”  He moved to a dying soldier.  “Hurts, it hurts, it hurts, someone make it stop hurting, Maker please…”  Cole drew a knife out.  “The healers have done all they can,” he said neutrally.  “It will take him hours to die.  Every moment will be agony.  He wants mercy.  Help.”

I looked at the soldier’s wound.  It was not one that he could recover from.  So, with a quick nod I said, “Help him, Cole.”

Deftly Cole slashed the man’s neck.  There was no more than a soft sigh.  He straightened.  “I want to stay.”  His unnaturally pale blue eyes peered into mine.  "The blade slides across your skin smoothly, the hot blood warming your hand.  The color is crisp and rich and dark and real.  Failure, gnashing and kneading bruises your heart and you cannot forget.  It hurts, but the hurt reminds, remembers, recognizes your responsibility."  He tilted his head and spoke the next sentence as if he didn't understand.  "The hurt helps."

"Walk with me," I suggested before he could blurt out any more of the things I was feeling around people.  We made our way to a secluded section of Skyhold.  I took a seat and motioned for him to do the same.  "You know I'm not from here.  Thank you for not telling anybody."

"You want them to know, but you are afraid.  You should not be.  They are your friends."

"It's easier said than done," I sighed, looking up at the beautiful blue sky.  "I just...I haven't had friends like I have these people.  And I fear that they may think I'm crazy if I do tell them.  Well, they think that already, but this kind wouldn't be good.  Even if they don't think they're crazy, I'm not sure if I could handle how they may look at me afterwards.  They'd think I wouldn't see them do it, that I wouldn't take notice, but I would."  I scoffed softly.  "I'm particularly good at noticing a lot, despite the fact that I might not want to in the first place."

"Chest collapsing, caving, crushing your soul, your will.  Air doesn't come and you don't care.  You haven't cared, not for a long while.  The songs in your heart are withered, washed, whisked away, and you don't care."

I grimaced.  "Aaaand then there's that."

-

“Oh, my,” Alaran said in a hushed voice.  “He’s beautiful.”

Vivienne chuckled.  Only Alaran could make the Grand Enchantress chuckle.  Varric didn’t think Madame de Fer liked anyone, let alone a sarcastic, warrior Dalish girl.  But after hearing them discuss Orlesian politics like a couple of scholars, he knew Alaran had Vivienne as an ally and, later, as a friend.  Not that the blasted woman would ever admit to having such a thing.  “Call it a gift, dear.  For all that you’ve done for me, and for Thedas.”  

Alaran playfully narrowed her eyes at her.  “If you think that this has gotten you more power from the Inquisition…” her eyes glanced back to the hairy gift.  “Then it most certainly has.”

Varric watched as Alaran approached the Red Hart.  It warily snuffed at her, so she put her face against its muzzle and breathed deeply.  It did the same.  Which was good, Varric supposed, because he really wasn't in the mood to see the newly titled Inquisitor get impaled by those ridiculous antlers.  “Hello,” Alaran whispered in a meek voice Varric only heard when she spoke to mounts.    The beast’s legs were about as tall as she was.  “Hello, my friend.”

“You look like you’re going to begin kissing the smelly thing,” Dorian whined.  “Can we go already?"

“Do you need help getting on, Inquisitor?” Blackwall teased.  

“You losers are just jealous that I get to ride a hart and you’re stuck in a wagon or on a horse,” Alaran remarked.  She then went over and gave Vivienne a a hug.  “Thanks, Viv.”  Oh, yeah.  Alaran was the only one who could get away with calling the Grand Enchantress to the Imperial Orlesian Court “Viv.”

“You’re very welcome, dear.  Now go on; the hair you’ve already accumulated on you is astonishing.  I can’t have it getting on me.”

Alaran laughed and let go, then went back to her mount and swung herself effortlessly into the saddle.  Her eyes gleamed, and there was a joyous grin on her face.  Varric found himself grinning as well.  Alaran smiled and smirked and laughed but she rarely ever grinned.  It made her look on the younger side of the spectrum that Varric guessed her age somewhere to be.  She still hadn't told any of them exactly what it was, to this day.  

Alaran looked down at Varric.  “Jealous?” she asked, raising a silver eyebrow.

“Not one bit,” Varric responded.  “I like not having to worry about falling to my death.”

“For somebody who writes about dashing heroes, you sure are pretty boring.  And besides, I would have thought that you’d like to experience the feeling of being tall, for once."

She snickered at her own words, as usual.  Varric didn't mind it in this particular instance.  Too often he saw her wearing that mask of seriousness and calm, and knew that soon she would keep it on more than she took it off.  

“Inquisitor!”  Josephine called, a furious look on her face.  The Antivan was storming as gracefully as she could to the stables.  Alaran made a hilariously terrified face.  

“Josephine doesn’t look JoseFINE.  Gotta go!”  Then she spurred her hart forward and raced out of Skyhold.

Varric laughed to himself as he got atop Darkspawn.  “Ah, Josefine.  Good one.”

-

"Where are you from, Boss?"

There wasn't an even the slightest hesitation in my voice as I popped a dried apple slice in my mouth.  "My clan is near Wycome, but we moved around too much to really consider any solid place a home."  I had enough practice with the questions Leliana sprinkled throughout some of our conversations to respond on my feet.  The spymaster hadn't actually...contradicted my story, which I got from what little of the background I remembered upon reading at the start of the game.  It was strange, and I would have worried about it more had I not been worrying about a million other things for the last several months.  Iron Bull, though...he just watched me in silence, taking in my every move, my every decision.  

Until now.

"You're great at lying, that's for sure.  But I'm great at catching lies."  He spoke with that easy, warm rumble as he always did.  "So you wanna try again, or be honest?  I'll know, either way."

I grimaced at him.  "Ugh.  Why do you have to go all Ben-Hassrath on such a pleasant day?"

"Boss.  I know what you're doing.  Seen it a million times."  The rumble in Bull's voice was still there, but the ease and warmth was now gone.  He gazed down at me as we walked.  The others were behind us, chattering away in their own conversation.  It was the perfect time for him to prod me for my secrets.  "My question still stands."

The ease in my voice had vanished, as well.  "It matters not where I come from.  Who I am today and how I conduct myself has very little to do with my origins.  You should do well to remember that, Iron Bull."

"Oh, believe me, I do."  The familiarity was back.  "But the thing about secrets, Boss, is that they never stay that way.  Especially when people find themselves in positions of power."  Despite the warm day, I got chills.  I knew Bull spoke the truth.  "Just trying to see if you'd take the chance to reveal it before something happens that makes you reveal it.  Be less painful that way, you know?"

"I know."

Iron Bull laid off for the day, but his eye never left me.

-

I laid down, a loud, high-pitched moan escaping my lips.  My body writhed against the feeling.  "It feels so good," I gasped.  "Oh, oh, oh!"

The large Orlesian bed felt like heaven.  As much as I had grown to love my little cabin in Haven, I had missed first-world luxuries.  Yeah, yeah, I know my American ways are obnoxious and over-bearing--believe me, I'm an American.  I know--but holy crap on a cornflake the mattress had a lover's touch and caressed my skin in all the right places.  If I was truly Dalish, I would have been offended at the ostentatious shemlen culture, but hey!  I wasn't!  So I could freaking enjoy a bed made of angel feathers and the laughter of Tom Hiddleston.

There was a knock at my door.  "Inquisitor?" Josephine called.  "Inquisitor Lavellan?"

"Go away!" I called.  "I have begun a scandalizing affair with this sexy bed.  We'll be sharing our love for the next few hours.  Come back later!"

Josie's muffled laughter was heard through the door.  "I can assume you're pleased with the bed, yes?  I am glad.  But, word from one of Leliana's people has confirmed that...he...has arrived.  He is with Varric on the battlements."

I pressed my face into the down-stuffed pillows and screamed.  

"...Inquisitor?"

"I'm going to kiLL VARRIC FOR THIS!!"

I violently pushed myself off the bed and strapped my great sword over my back, putting on my scary Inquisitor face.  Did I need my great sword?  Absolutely not.  Did I want to cut a stumpy dwarf down because of his friend's poor timing?  Absolutely.

I threw open the door and Josephine froze, wide-eyed and terrified.  I stormed past her and made my way down the stairs.  People basically pressed themselves against the wall as I angrily walked up to the battlements.  The cold wind whipped my hair in every which-way direction, making me even madder.

Composure, Alaran.  He's the Champion of Kirkwall.  He deserves respect.

Oh, screw the Champion of Kirkwall!  He just comes prancing in when Varric sends one soppy letter even though NOBODY has seen or heard of him in ages!  Wait--But Varric knew where to send the letter to get him!  Oh, that bastard.  That hairy, deceitful bastard!  

"I haven't heard from Hawke in forever, Al," Varric's voice echoed in my mind.  "Couldn't tell ya where he's at.  Though the second I find out, I'll be sure to send your fan letter.  He'd appreciate it, coming from you."

He lied to you.  He lied right to your face, smiling as he did so.  

I saw red.

Varric greeted me with an easy smile.  Beside him stood an armored figure with his back to me, strapped with a staff.  "Inquisitor," the dwarf introduced, "meet Hawke, the Champion of Kirkwall."

Hawke turned.  He was really quite handsome, and had the same red streak across his nose like my own female Hawke.  His brown, choppy hair was tousled by the wind, and his trimmed beard defined his strong jaw.  "Though, I don't use that title much, anymore," he added.  

"I know who he is," I icily said back.  I had trouble composing myself from the rage that had built inside me.  And it all started because I was taken away from my bed.  Holy hell, I probably needed to take a nap or something.  

Varric faltered at hearing my tone.  "Hawke," he continued slightly hesitantly, "the Inquisitor.  I figured you might have some friendly advice about Corypheus.  You and I did fight him, after all."

Hawke bowed slightly to me.  I gave the barest of nods in return.  "I find it difficult to believe you actually want my advice.  Did you hear what happened to Kirkwall?  My advice nearly tore that city apart."

My anger lessened a fraction.  "I'm not saying I'll follow your advice."

He barked a laugh and looked over to Varric.  "I see why you stuck around."

Varric shrugged, smirking.  "Whatever happens, it'll make for a great story."

"And if it doesn't, you'll just make up something better," Hawke finished sarcastically.  He leaned up against the stone ledge.  "So, Inquisitor, what would you like to know?"

I know everything already, idiot.  "Varric said you fought Corypheus, before."

Hawke huffed, and Varric took a drink from a bottle of swill as if to drown out the memory.  "Fought and killed.  The Grey Wardens were holding him, and he somehow used his connection to the Darkspawn to influence them."

"Corypheus got into their heads.  Messed with their minds.  Turned them against each other," Varric said with a slightly curled lip.  

"If the Wardens have disappeared, they could have fallen under his control again."

Ah, shit.

"You're giving me maybes," I responded.  "I need proof." 

"I'll get you some, then.  I've got a friend in the Wardens.  He was investigating something unrelated for me.  His name is Stroud.  The last time we spoke, he was worried about corruption in the Warden ranks.  Since then, nothing."  Stroud.  Okay, I knew that name.  It was...he was the man that took Carver into the Grey Wardens when he contracted the Blight.  Boom.  Still got it.

"Corypheus would certainly qualify as corruption the the ranks," Varric said, that sardonic piece of shit.  "Did your friend disappear with them?"

"No.  He told me he'd be hiding in an old smuggler's cave near Crestwood."

"If you didn't know about Corypheus, what were you doing with the Wardens?" I asked, trying to look confident and a bit sassy, but my wildly whipping hair was making that hard to do.

"The templars in Kirkwall were using a strange form of lyrium.  It was red.  I'd hoped the Wardens could tell me more about it."

"Why go to the Wardens when you could have gone to your friend standing next to you?" I asked bitingly, jerking my head over to Varric.  "He knows plenty about red lyrium.  Or does he keep secrets from you, too?  It's most likely what the templars were using, anyways.  At least the ones who attacked us at Haven were.  But if the Wardens know more about it, I'll readily take any information."

Hawke looked uncomfortably between Varric and me.  The former was standing stiffly, a flush scrawling across his tan face.  "I'll...do what I can help, Inquisitor.  Corypheus is my responsibility.  I thought I'd killed him before.  This time, I'll make sure of it."

Um, I don't think you're going to be the one killing him, buddy.  But a nice sentiment.  

"Thank you.  Now, tell me, Hawke; where did you go after the mages rebelled?"  I crossed my arms under my breasts and took up a commanding stance.  The Champion nearly took a step back to distance our proximity.

"I heard the Chantry might be sending an Exalted March to Kirkwall to put down the rebellion.  I hoped that leaving would save lives and force the Divine to divide her forces to come after me.  As it turned out, I needn't have bothered.  All the Circles started rising up, and the Exalted March never came."

I relaxed my posture by half an inch.  I almost spat to Varric, "Why couldn't you just tell the truth, you asshat?"  But I didn't.  I was just culminating a nice pile of anger to hurtle at him later.  "And I can assume Varric's been feeding you information about the Inquisition?" I said as dryly as my mouth could handle.  "What has he said?"

"Only good things, I promise," Hawke said, dashing a smile.  "I was a little surprised, actually.  Varric isn't one for religion in general, but he thinks highly of the Inquisition.  I think the exact phrase was, 'has a good shot at fixing Blondie's mess.'"  He imitated Varric's gravelly voice.  "And he's spoken well of you, too.  Told me you were a fan of The Champion of Kirkwall."  Oh, was Hawke trying to help his little dwarven friend get back in the clear?  How sweet. It was a bad decision, but still sweet.

I smiled.  It was full of venom.  They were in for a world of Alaran-Fueled Pain.

-

“‘She’s amazing, Hawke, she’s fantastic, Hawke, she’ll totally have hearts in her eyes when she sees you, Hawke, she’ll pass out when you smile, Hawke,’” the Champion of Kirkwall mimicked in a the same impersonation of Varric he had done an hour ago.  The dwarf himself nursed on his ale sulkily.  “I’ve never felt that foolish since I was a boy, Tethras.  You made me believe she’d be another one of the fans, not some high-dragon going in for the kill!"

“I know,” Varric grumbled.  “But how do you expect me to even think that was going to happen?  I took as much as a verbal beating as you did.  Worse, actually."

“Will she even consider the information given?”

“Most likely.  Alaran’s smart.  Too smart for her own good, sometimes.  But she knows what will ultimately be best.”

“Those eyes...they’re quite frightening, aren’t they?”

“Ah, they can be pretty soft when you catch her at the right moment.  But, yes.  You should have seen the way they froze Cullen to the ground when he spoke a little too highly of the Templars in Kirkwall.  Had him scampering around her like a kicked puppy for a few days after.”  Varric tipped back the rest of his drink and slammed the mug on the table.  He felt...he felt awful.  Al had trusted him completely, and instead of trusting back and telling her the truth he had to go and be the fuck-up he was and lie to her face over and over again.  She wouldn't have gone to the Seeker, despite how close those two were.  He and Al were closer.  Shit, she was one of his closest friends, alongside Hawke.  And when she had told him that he and the rest of their companions were the main reason she made it back alive after the destruction of Haven, Varric almost spoke the truth he had been hiding right then and there.  Al would have understood.  Those large violet eyes would have been sad, but she would have given one of her small smiles and made a half-assed joke and then kindly asked him to explain.  She was anything but unreasonable.  Yet he, being the cowardly bastard he was, just couldn't bring himself to do it.  Sweet Andraste, Varric would never forget how cutting Alaran's words had been, and how, despite that, her eyes had been misty.

"Wanna talk about it?" Hawke gently pressed, sensing his friend's unhappiness.

"Not really," Varric sighed, gazing down at the bottom of of his mug, lazily tipping it back and forth and watching the remnants of the swill-piss Alaran so rightly titled glide back and forth.  "She was...Hawke, I'd never seen her that angry, before.  Al doesn't get angry like that.  She's so damn composed with all her other emotions, except for the good ones.  I--I don't know.  Can I just continue getting drunk off my ass in peace?"

Hawke took a loud swig of ale.  "Only if I can do it with you."

But, with all things Hawke-related, nothing ever just happened in peace.  The more he drank, the more his guilt about the whole ordeal with Al numbed, but the more raucous he and Hawke became until Varric found himself swaying unsteadily on a table, retelling a story about the Champion of Kirkwall. Hawke had some dusky brunette sitting atop his lap, sloshing his ale around and raising it high as he and the others in the tavern cheered at the feats the dwarf told.  Varric lost track of time and all sense of reality until he found himself puking his guts up against the outside of the tavern wall.  It was unusual for him to be unable to hold his liquor; how much had he drank?

"Well don't you look like a heap of poo."  

Her voice cut through the thick, drunken fog Varric's mind was wrapped in.  He straightened and wiped his mouth.  The world careened dangerously as he turned to see Alaran standing there, a hand placed on one of her cocked hips and her head tilted slightly.  "Al," Varric said, his voice ridiculously slurred.  He had to apologize to her for being such a liar and an idiot.  "I..."  Bile rose in the back of his throat and he spun around, bracing himself once more against the wall.  

A delicate hand put itself on his back.  "Didn't know you were a lightweight, Tethras.  But I guess I should have figured.  You have a small body, after all."

Even though she joked, Varric didn't feel like laughing.  "I'm sorry," he breathed as coherently as he could, still hunched over and propped against the tavern.  Varric closed his eyes.  "I'm sorry, Al."

There was only the barest of pauses before Alaran's hand moved comfortingly up and down his back.  "I know.  I forgive you.  And I'm sorry, too."

An immense weight lifted off of Varric's entire body, and he no longer felt sick.  He let his arm get moved around Alaran's waist as her own circled over his shoulder, and together they walked back to his room.  The stairs were a difficult obstacle, and at times Al basically lifted him up with her unnatural strength so he wouldn't stumble so much.  Varric didn't dare to let himself attempt walking on his own; everything around him was tilting and pitching back and forth.  The only real, solid anchor was Al.  He could feel her muscled warrior's body underneath the thin Inquisitor's uniform, strong and unmoving, much like her personality.  "How ya doing?" she asked Varric as they made their way down the hall to his room.

"Better," he managed to respond.  Al's body shook with silent laughter.  

"I find that hard to believe, with the state you're in right now."

But it was the truth.  They both knew it.

Alaran dumped Varric unceremoniously onto his bed and he groaned.  "Shit, be gentle, Al."

"Why, is this your first time?"  Alaran jibed as she went to work on unlacing his boots and tugging them off.  Varric laughed.

"I hope Hawke is still alive.  He's probably worse off than I am."

"I think I saw him sound asleep on one of the tables in the tavern.  And Cassandra hardly ever goes in there on her own, so he should be safe for a little while."  She yanked off his other boot and tossed it by the door with the matching one.  Varric caught a glimpse of the scabbed-over gash on her hand.  He had thought about confronting her because of the self-inflicted wound, but decided against it.  They all had their ways of grieving.  He just hoped she wouldn't do it again.  "Come on, sit up."

"Why?" Varric protested sleepily.  His eyelids were getting heavy all of a sudden.

"So I can take your stupid jacket off, dummy."  Alaran pulled if off his sluggish, outstretched arms.  Varric caught the faint scent of lavender on her skin and hair.  

"Why do you always smell so nice, Al?" he asked with his eyes half-closed and slowly smiling.  Alaran smirked.  

"Because I prefer not smelling stinky like some people.  You, specifically."

"I don't smell bad," he argued, his head hitting the pillow.  Blankets were pulled over him.  "You're weird about bathing all the time, though..." He was quickly losing his train of thought.  "It's as if you're from a different place entirely, sometimes."

A chaste kiss was pressed against Varric's forehead as he was quickly called to sleep.  "Maybe I am," Alaran whispered so quietly Varric wondered if he ever heard it at all.

-

Oh, great.

I raced up the stairs, fearing that Cassandra had skewered Varric with her sword.  But much to my relief I found the two of them jut brawling.  The Seeker more so than Varric.  "You knew where Hawke was all along!" she yelled furiously.  Varric shoved her off.

"You're damned right I did!" 

"You conniving little shit!"  Cassandra moved so swiftly that Varric had little chance of ducking under her swing.  He didn't, and she clocked him squarely in the nose.  Varric clutched his face as blood spurted from his fingers, swearing up a storm.

"You kidnapped me!" he said thickly as he moved to the safety of the other side of the room.  "You interrogated me!  What did you expect?"

Cassandra made the move to attack Varric again, but I was up the last of the stairs and intervened.  "Hey!  Enough!" I commanded sharply, squaring up with Cassandra. 

"You're taking his side?" she questioned accusingly, angrily gesturing to Varric.  

"I said enough!"

My voice cracked throughout the building, but not from the volume.  Gonna be honest, it scared me a little how well I could wield my voice.  Cassandra distanced herself from Varric and me.  "We needed someone to lead this Inquisition.  First, Leliana and I searched for the Hero of Ferelden, but he had vanished.  Then, we looked for Hawke, but he was gone, too.  We thought it was all connected, but no."  She narrowed her eyes at Varric.  "It was just you.  You kept him from us."

"The Inquisition has a leader!" Varric defended.  "And a damn good one at that!"

But Cassandra wouldn't listen.  "Hawke would have been at the Conclave!  If anyone could have saved Most Holy..."

I understood Cassandra's reasoning, but didn't agree with it.  "Varric's not responsible for what happened at the Conclave."  Solas is.  I might not mind seeing you punch him. 

"I was protecting my friend!" Varric said, anger flaring through his words.  He may have looked more threatening had he not been pinching his nose shut to keep it from bleeding even more.  

"Varric is a liar, Inquisitor," Cassandra seethed.  "A snake.  Even after the Conclave, when we needed Hawke most, Varric kept him secret.  From me, but most of all from you, his so-called friend."

Before I could answer Varric cut in.  "He's with us now.  We're on the same side!"

"We all know who's side you're on, Varric."  Cassandra folded her arms.  "It will never be the Inquisition's."

Ouch.

"Attacking him now won't get us anywhere," I said, trying to diffuse some of the animosity.

"Ha!  Exactly!" Varric said triumphantly.  I turned on him.

"And attacking her now won't get us anywhere," I chastised.

Varric scowled and sighed frustratingly.  "I understand."

Any anger that had been in Cassandra had been snuffed out, and all that remained was a dejected, tired woman.  She walked a ways to the small round table in her room and leaned on it, her back to us.  "I must not think of what could have been.  We have so much at stake.  Go, Varric.  Just...go."

The dwarf and I exchanged a look before he made his way down the stairs.  But before he descended he stopped and said, "You know what I think?  If Hawke had been at the temple, he'd be dead, too.  You people have done enough to him."  

I furrowed my eyebrows and slightly shook my head.  Varric's eyes swam with guilt upon seeing my reaction, and he departed.

"I...believed him," Cassandra said once Varric was gone.  "He spun his story for me, and I swallowed it.  If I'd just explained what was at stake...if I'd just made him understand..."  She shuffled over to a chair and heavily sat in it.  "But I didn't, did I?  I didn't explain why we needed Hawke."  I sat down in an adjacent chair.  "I am such a fool."

"Cass..." I said softly.  "You're only seeing one step ahead of what could have been.  Have you considered if Hawke even would have agreed to lead the Inquisition?"

She was silent, and hung her head low.  "No, I had not.  He most likely wouldn't have trusted me for a second."  Her head lifted once more and we met each other's eyes.  "But this isn't about Hawke, or even Varric.  Not truly.  I should have been more careful.  I should have been smarter.  I don't deserve to be here."

I received a slightly aghast look when a laugh bubbled up from my throat.  "Have you looked at our Inquisition, Cassandra?  We're all fools, here.  You're going up against tough competition if you're trying to be the biggest."

She gave her own choked laugh.  "Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

"More at home, maybe," I smirked.

Cassandra breathed deeply.  "I want you to know, Inquisitor, that I have no regrets.  Maybe if we'd found Hawke or the Hero of Ferelden, the Maker wouldn't have needed to send you. But he did."  We both stood.  "You're...not what I'd pictured.  But if I've learned anything, it's that I know less than nothing."

-

I found Varric staring forlornly into his claimed fireplace in the great hall.  "Cassandra's calmed down," I said as I neared.  "I think you can take your hand off your crossbow."

"Define 'calmed down' for me in terms of who or what she's punching right now," Varric said back, tearing his gaze away to look at me.  He rubbed the back of his neck.  "Al...you know I wasn't trying  to keep secrets.  I told the Inquisition everything that seemed important...at the time.  But keeping it from you...that ate at me more often than not."

"I know, Varric," I said, then wryly smirked.  "You never would've kept quiet otherwise."  He smiled back, but it was half-hearted.  Cassandra's words had taken a toll on him, and I imagined he still hadn't forgotten the scolding I gave him yesterday.

"I keep hoping...none of this is real.  Maybe it's all some bullshit from the Fade, and it'll just disappear.  I know I need to do better.  Again, I'm...I'm sorry.  And I'm saying it soberly, this time."

I pulled Varric into a hug without a second thought.  "And again, you're forgiven, my hairy dwarf."

In that moment I believed myself to be the biggest hypocrite in all of Thedas.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Dorian stared up at the canvas of the tent, eyes wide open.  The downpour of rain that had come in buckets was now a steady drizzle.  How did he know that there was a difference?  Because he had been awake the whole night through.

Cassandra, Varric, and Solas lie on either side of him.  The cold weather had made them forego sleeping in their own separate tents.  Which, wouldn't have been bad at all, except for one minor detail: Inquisitor Alaran was a deranged sleeper.

Deranged.  Not bad, or annoying or even loud.  She.  Was.  Deranged.

Somehow, after elbowing and kneeing Dorian too many times to count, Alaran had grown unsatisfied with her sleeping position and moved to sleep on top of her four companions.  The worst part was that the other three acted as if it was entirely normal.  Her chest was on Dorian's abdomen, scrawny legs twisted over Cassandra, feet tucked between Varric's legs, and head jammed into Solas' side.  Maybe, maybe if she had laid still, Dorian could have shut his eyes, but oh no, she had to toss and turn about, hands smacking Dorian's face more than once.  And fasta vass was she uncomfortably warm.  

As early dawn approached, Cassandra finally stirred next to him.  Her eyes cracked open to see Alaran's frame atop hers.  "Ugh," was all the Seeker could manage to get out. 

"I am going to kill her," Dorian whispered, still staring straight up.  "I am going to kill this damn girl.  Corypheus and I are going to be best friends because I'll have killed her before he could even try."

Not a moment after Dorian had spoken one of Alaran's legs spasmed, followed by a low groan of pain from Varric.  "Andraste's tits," he said through gritted teeth. "What the--oh, for hell's sake. This is on a whole new level."

 "I'm assuming she kicked you in your nether regions?" Dorian asked, sarcasm dripping off each word.

"Spurred is more like it," Varric grumbled.  "Why did Chuckles have to get the good part of her?"

"On the contrary," Solas spoke with eyes still closed, "Alaran does manage to bite."

Dorian snickered. "Are you sure she was sleeping when she did that? It would be a good excuse to take her resentment of you out."

Solas opened his eyes at that and shot daggers at Dorian.  "No," the Seeker sighed irritably, "I can attest that she does bite.  And she always manages to find soft parts of flesh to do so."

Alaran softly sighed and rolled onto all their faces, which released simultaneous groans. Cassandra had enough and shoved her off.  It woke the Inquisitor, who propped herself up on Solas' kneecap.  He hissed in pain.  She blinked blearily, violet eyes adjusting to the dim light and white hair defying gravity.  Dorian nearly killed her right when she took in the three of them and her position, snorted a laugh, and got up.  One of her bony knees sunk into Dorian's stomach.  "Come along, children," she chimed as she began getting ready.  "We have a day's journey ahead of us.  But, I hear Crestwood has lovely weather this time of the season, so that'll be nice."

"Where'd you hear that from?" Varric muttered sarcastically as he sat up.  Alaran opened her mouth to respond, paused, and tilted her head.

"Myself.  What can I say, I like the rain?"

-

Yeah.  I liked the rain.  Wanna know what I didn't like?

Freaking underground tunnels.  

"Inquisitor," Cassandra said upon looking at my demeanor.  "Are you well?"

"Yes," I lied.  Varric snorted.

"Whatever.  Her mighty Inquisitorialness is claustrophobic," he said.  I would have been mad, but I only had enough strength to focus on keeping my heart from thudding out of my chest.  Why couldn't I have been selfish and gone straight back to Skyhold after meeting with Hawke and Stroud?  Why did I have to care so much about people?  Ugh, first world problems.  Or would it be Thedas problems?  Or Inquisitor problems?  Probably the last one.

"I'm not claustrophobic," I snapped back hastily.  "I just don't like the thought of being crushed under layers of earth and slowly suffocating.  I experience the inability to breathe often enough as it is.  And lemme tell you guys, it's not something I enjoy."

"Calm down," said Dorian airily.  "These tunnels are thousands of years old."  My stomach dropped and I had to refrain from gulping.  "It'll stand for one more day."  Oh, he was enjoying making me even more scared!  The Tevinter had been particularly unhappy about the deprivation of sleep he got the night before.

 "Relax, lethallan," Solas said.  "I have felt no tremors, no--"

The ground shook--wait, that was a bad description--the very tunnel rumbled.  I acted out the scene from Tarzan where Jane clung onto the ape-man's back as he saved her from the baboons, only Tarzan was Varric and he wasn't in the mood to be mysterious and heroic.  "Al--" he sputtered as I took hold of him while producing a shrill whine.  "What--what the--"

"I've never seen you move so fast, Inquisitor," Dorian said sarcastically.  "Perhaps you should save it for the fight?  I'm sure you'll effectively surprise the demons with that move."

"Ow," Varric protested, "you're knees are so damn bony.  Would you get off me?"

So much for comforting, caring friends.  

"Screw all of you," I muttered, and slipped off Varric's back.  "Wasn't it just a month ago all of you were mourning my loss and telling stories about me to keep my memory alive?  Shouldn't you be, oh I don't know, less of a bunch of assholes to me?"

"Well, you did make it very believable that you were dead," Dorian mused.  "But if you actually die this time, we'll all gather around the campfire and retell how the glorious Inquisitor was scared out of her intelligent, wise mind when there was a little quake in the ground."

I glared at Dorian.  "You had better watch what you say, Pavus," I hissed threateningly.  "Or otherwise you may just wake up and find half your mustache missing."

That seemed to strike some genuine fear in the mage, and he shut his mouth.  Varric did let me hold his hand, though, and soon I found myself humming as we descended further underground, just to keep my sanity.  Ironically, it was the tune to Misty Mountains.  I guessed that happened when one of your best friends was a dwarf and you're literally underneath a mountain.

"What is the song you are humming?" Cassandra suddenly asked.  "I have not heard it, before."

Shit.  Poop.  Crap.  Diarrhea.  "Uhhh, it's a Dalish song."  My fallback excuse for everything.

"You seem like you have a fair voice, Inquisitor.  Perhaps you can sing to us to help pass the time?" Solas put in.  I wanted to punch him in the throat.  "We know so little about the Dalish, let alone their songs."  I could hear the smug smile in his voice.  

"I concur with my friend Solas," Dorian said.  Since when did the two of them ever agree on anything?  Oh, right, they agreed when they wanted to make me even more miserable.  "And who knows?  Maybe singing will help you feel better?"

Would the rest believe me if I said they were all killed by demons, and not my great sword?  

"Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep 
And caverns old."

Why was I singing without so much as a protest?  I had taken it upon myself to not sing to anybody because...because...well, I don't know exactly the reason why, okay?  I was oddly private about any of my artistic gifts here, when back on Earth I was jumping at every opportunity to showcase my skills.  

When I finished the short song the group walked in stunned silence.  I felt my ears and cheeks grow hot.  What was this?  I didn't blush.  

"That was..." Cassandra began, but couldn't continue.

"Amazing," Dorian completed.  For once he seemed taken off-guard.  I wanted to crawl in a hole and die--oh, wait!  I was already in a hole!  Silly me!  I never thought I would actually be happy to see the giant rift which I could already tell would send me to my knees after closing it.  

After that whole ordeal I was basically running to get out when Solas said in his mystical, immortal voice, "I sense an elvhen artifact close by."

I just about cried right then and there.

-

"Inquisitor," Blackwall said uneasily, "are you sure these things are safe to ride?"

I moved my hands over the dracolisk's rough, dry hide, feeling its sinewy muscles and taut ligaments.  "Oh, come on, Blackwall, they're harmless!"

"If you had told me that before I saw you feed it a slab of meat, I might have just found it more believable," he said, glaring warily at the one he was to ride.  It had a similar expression.

"They smell like muck," Sera scowled.  "Like, mucky muck sittin out in the sun for too long."

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but can I please just stick to Darkspawn?" Varric whined.  I rolled my eyes at them and focused back on my mount.  A tongue lolled out from the side of his sharp-toothed mouth and he squawked.

"At least ours aren't defects," snickered Sera.  I pressed my forehead against my dracolisk's.  

"You're not a defect," I cooed.  "You're handsome.  You're a handsome boy.  A little dopey, but I like that.  These guys just don't appreciate you, do they, Joey?"

"Joey?" Blackwall repeated.  "What kind of name is that?"

"Does your Joey's apple hurt, huh?" I said, ignoring the question and rubbing the scaly neck that glistened blue and green in the sunlight.  "Do you need another treat?"  I looked over at the horsemaster.

"Inquisitor," Dennet sighed woefully.  He said he would come to take care of the horses.  Instead, he got tasked with taking care of a lot of horses, harts, and now, dracolisks.  I smiled a sweet smile and held out my hand.  Dennet sighed once more and reached down into the bucket he was holding to give me another piece of red meat.  

Joey wolfed it down, nearly snapping off my hand with the dark purple scar crossing the top.  I only giggled.  "Yeah, you're hungry, aren't you?"

We were finishing packing when I saw a gleaming beacon of reflected light make its way down the stairs out of the corner of my eye.  No.  No no no.

"Inquisitor," Solas called, gliding over the cold ground on soundless bare feet.  "A moment, please?"

Sera didn't hide her loud groan.  "Elfy had better not be coming with us.  It's four weeks, yeah?  I can't take hearing him go on and on about elvhen glory the whole friggin time."

I sighed and gave Joey a resounding pat before meeting Solas halfway.  He looked down at me with sharp eyes, hands clasped firmly behind his back.  "I see that you are leaving without Dorian or Vivienne.  It is quite unusual for you to plan any expedition without the presence of a mage."

"We'll have Hawke there," I shrugged, feigning nonchalance so I could get a reaction.  I did.  Solas stiffened his shoulders and he subtly set his jaw.

"Hawke is meeting you at the Western Approach.  That is a two-week gap.  Much could happen during that time."

"I didn't think you'd want to go, Solas, with how sensitive your bald head is to the sun.  And there's a lot of sun in the desert.  You'll be getting blisters as big as your ego," I said, folding my arms and tilting my head up as I smirked.  Solas breathed slowly through his nostrils, holding himself back from making a biting retort.  My smirk grew.

"If..." he said a little too sharply, then stopped himself and breathed once more.  "If you permit, I would like to accompany the party to the Western Approach.  I could offer much assistance."

"You sure about that?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.  "The last time you and Sera traveled with each other there were lizards in your bed."

"And I'll make it scorpions this time around!" shouted the city elf, proving that we hadn't been far enough away to have a private conversation.

"I can manage."

I looked over my shoulder to everybody else.  "What do you guys think?  I'm fine with Elvhen Glory coming if you are."

"I like Chuckles," Varric beamed, a clever gleam in his sienna eyes.  Fantastic.  What did that little man have in store?  "I'm okay with him coming."

"I have nothing against Solas," Blackwall said.  "His magic has saved my life more than once.  Can't hurt to bring him along."

Sera lolled her head back and spat a flurry of curse words before saying, "Whatever.  I don't care.  But if he tries any creepy magic on me, I'll...I'll stick an arrow through one of his chincy eyes!"

I turned my head back to Solas.  "You hear that?  You have chincy eyes.  An admirable trait to obtain, so I've been told.  Looks like your in!  Congrats!"  I started walking back to Joey and pulled myself into the saddle.  "We got one more dracolisk, right, Dennet?"

The horsemaster looked at me dubiously.  "Inquisitor, are you sure...?" 

"This is Solas we're talking about here!  He can handle anything from hangnails to harts!  So of course I'm sure he can ride the Hunter Shade!"

-

Solas impressed me by staying on as long as he did.  With him being an ancient elf and all, I thought he'd whisper something mysterious in the dracolisk's ear--ear-hole--and immediately befriend it.  But maybe I've just watched Lord of the Rings, too much, because that was not what happened at all.

The Hunter Shade had tried to buck Solas off the moment he settled into the saddle.  And again outside of Skyhold's gates.  And again at the foot of the mountains.  And again and again until finally the dracolisk caught Solas as he was just beginning to relax and in three short bucks had the elf soaring over his head and into the ground.

I hopped off Joey as the other three laughed their asses off.  Instead of bolting, his dracolisk stood their contentedly, proud of his feat.  I lifted Solas back up.  "Maybe you should try telling it one of your Fade stories," I suggested happily.  "Or try admonishing its culture.  Or try--"

"Shut up."

I put my hands up in a surrendering gesture.  "Just trying to help, that's all."  A bruise was already forming on Solas' cheekbone.  "If you want, you can ride Joey while I take on the Hunter--"

"No," Solas snapped, brushing himself off and striding back towards the dracolisk.  And thus the war started all over again.  Solas would get bucked off at least twice a day, and the dracolisk would look down at him smugly.  Should have it stopped being funny after the fourth or fifth time?  Yes.  But did it?  No.  No, most certainly not.

I pulled Joey up by Solas, who was once again getting to his feet.  "Have you tried singing it a song?  Have you tried entering its dreams and threatening it?"  I paused.  "Oh, wait, you only do that with me."  I threw my head back and gave a loud, forced laugh.

"That's a fake laugh," Solas fumed.  I couldn't let the opportunity pass to quote a line from one of my favorite movies.

"It's real."

"Wait," Sera said, fear edging her voice.  "Elfy went into your dreams?  He can do that?"

"Oh, yes," I said back mysteriously, leaning towards her.  "But for some reason he smells like a wet dog--or wolf, whichever you prefer--so you know when he's around."

Something glided across my body, cold and foreign.  I lazily turned around in my saddle to look at Solas, a smirk drawling on my face.  "You're the Aes Sedai and I'm Matrim Cauthon, Solas.  Stuff like that won't work on me."

Anger rolled off of Solas, but he said nothing.

By the end of the first week the battle between the two equally stubborn and prideful creatures came to a standpoint.  We were losing time, and we had to be to the Western Approach as soon as possible.  

I slid off Joey and pulled Solas up to guide him over to my mount.  "Inquisitor, I can--" he began testily.

"No, you can't.  You're holding us back, Solas.  Just trade mounts with me, for a while."

He glowered.  "And what makes you think you can handle the Hunter?"

"If he bucks me off even once, you can have him back.  Until then, get over yourself and get on."  I pulled a spare leather strip I had from my pack and got into the Hunter's saddle, gripping his reins firmly and kicking him to go forward.  Thirty seconds later he tried throwing me, but I felt it coming and yanked his reins inward to my right thigh, spurring him furiously and causing him to leap in a tight circle instead of buck.  The leather strip I had in my hand swatted his hindquarters.  When I grew tired going the same way, I yanked the reins back to the opposite thigh.  He screeched and shrieked, but I didn't stop until the both of us were breathing heavily.

Blackwall, Varric, Sera, and Solas all stared at me with wide eyes.  Joey had his head cocked curiously.  "Shit, Quizzy, that was grand," Sera then cackled.  

We made our way in peace.  I ended up growing quite fond of Hunter.  It still spat at Solas whenever he came too close, though.

"That beast is infuriating," Solas said heatedly.  

"Oh, I don't know, it reminds me of somebody I know," I said nonchalantly.  "Somebody whose name sounds like Pole Dance."

Blackwall guffawed.  Yes, yes they did have pole dances here.  It was part of the Rivaini culture, I found out.  And no, it wasn't one of my best jokes, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity of comparing Solas' name with Pole Dance.  They do sound alike, if you don't think about it too hard.

The tips of Solas' ears turned pink.  "That was not funny," he said through a set jaw.

"Then why am I laughing?"

-

Hawke and Stroud met us at the keep.  "We must hurry," Stroud said, "I fear that they may have already begun the ritual."

"Blood magic, I wager.  I can smell it.  Or see the corpses.  You take point," Hawke said to me.  "I'll guard your backs."

We silently walked forward, and my gut twisted when I saw the wardens standing alongside demons.  We had been too late.  Always, always too late, aren't you?

"Inquisitor," said a mage standing at the top of the stairs.  "What an unexpected pleasure.  Lord Livius Erimond of Vyrantium, at your service."  He elaborately bowed.

"You are no Warden," Stroud spat.  "Whatever it is you're doing, we've come to put an end to it."

"Ah, yes, you brought in the Inquisition like a hound, I see, coming to defend you?"

"You serve Corypheus," I declared.  "The only defense anybody needs is you.  Tell me, Lord Erimond, how did you even worm your way into the Wardens?"

"I went to Clarel full of sympathy, and together, we came up with a plan," Erimond rightly indulged.  "Raise a demon army, march into the Deep Roads, and kill the Old Gods before they wake."

"Ah, yes, that demon army," I sighed.  "Could you have been a bit less unpredictable?"

He sneered.  "Once the rest of the Wardens complete the ritual, the army will conquer Thedas.  Unpredictability is not needed."  Erimond lifted a hand and curled it into a fist, red magic pouring out.  I gasped and went down onto a knee, clutching the Mark.  My eyesight went blurry and my lungs refused air to come in.  "The Elder One showed me how to deal with you, in the event you were foolish enough to interfere again.  That Mark you bear?  The Anchor that lets you pass safely through the veil?  You stole that from my master.  He's been forced to seek other ways to access the Fade."

Ugh, enough.  I bent the Mark to my will, convincing it to help me.  "When I bring him your head, his gratitude will be--"  I snapped the connection shut and Erimond was cried out in surprise as he was tossed backwards.  My vision cleared and my lungs grew strong once more.  

"Be what?" I asked, standing up straight.  "I didn't hear you, could you speak louder and reveal to me even more of your plans?  Because if you could, that'd be nice."

"What a tool," Varric huffed.

Erimond stood, clutching his side and fleeing.  "Kill them!"  

I had my great sword in my hand and sprung after him, but was blocked off by the corrupted Wardens.  "If you're in there at all," I whispered as I parried with one.  "Please, know that I am sorry this happened to you.  I'm sorry we were too late."  In two swift movements I cut off his arm and then cleaved my sword across his chest.  Blood spurted onto my face and armor as my weapon tore through his armor and flesh.  Then I was onto the next, fighting and killing and tasting the blood of misguided Wardens in my mouth.  

It was over quickly.  "They wouldn't listen to reason," Hawke said as he pulled the end of his staff from a demon.  

"You were correct," said Stroud as he grimly surveyed the bodies.  "Through the ritual, the mages are slaves to Corypheus."

Hawke shook his head.  "Of course.  Sacrificed in the ritual.  What a waste."

"The Wardens were lied to," I said as I put away my great sword.  "They were trying to prevent future Blights."

"With blood magic and human sacrifice," Hawke said with more than a hint of anger.

"The Wardens were wrong, Hawke, but they had their reasons."  Stroud looked like a man trying to be strong in wake of so much anguish.

"Everyone has a story they tell themselves to justify bad decisions," Hawke argued pointedly.  "And it never matters.  In the end, you are always alone with your actions."

There were a few moments of silence.  I was suddenly overcome with exhaustion, and just wanted to go lie down in a tent and sleep.  "I believe I know where the Wardens are, Your Worship.  Erimond fled in that direction."  He pointed to the east.  "There's an abandoned Warden fortress that way.  Adamant."

"Good thinking."  It was all I could muster myself to say.  

"The Warden and I will scout out Adamant and confirm that the other Wardens are there," Hawke told me.  "We'll meet you back at Skyhold."

-

I examined the back of my scarred hand as we settled around the low campfire.  Might as well add another, for all the lives of the Wardens that were lost.  Of all the lives that will be lost.

The day hadn't ended after the excursion with Erimond and the corrupted Wardens.  There were shards to find, Chantry trails to follow, sulfur pits to suffocate in, and phoenixes to be attacked by, all in the scorching heat. It turned out, though, that I had an exceptionally hard time even feeling sunburned, let alone getting one.  As for everybody else...

"Come here, dummy," I said to Sera, hands lathered with soothing ointment.  Her face and ears were a bright red, and her cheeks were already peeling.  

"I hate this stupid place.  I hate the stupid sand--I hate it more than muck--I hate the stupid animals here.  I hate the stupid heat.  And I hate you for bringing me here."  I flicked Sera's nose and she winced and softly cried out.  

"Well, I hate you too," I said lovingly as Sera rubbed the spot I had flicked.  "Next!"

Blackwall sat down in front of me, groaning with the effort.  "Be lucky you don't wear armor, Inquisitor," he said tiredly.  "Or have a beard."

"I'll keep that in mind the next time I'm considering growing one," I said as I carefully maneuvered the ointment around the line of hair on Blackwall's face.  "Did you drink all the water I told you to?"

"Yes, I did, mother."

"Somebody needs to take care of you," I smirked.  He sighed in relief at the cooling effects on his face.  

"Thank you for that."

"You're welcome, Hero.  Next!"

Varric's lips had taken the most damage from the sun.  "You know, with the condition of these--" I tapped a finger on his lower lip.  "You might just have to refrain from talking, for a while."

"Me?" Varric asked incredulously.  "Stop talking?  But I have such a nice voice.  People love to hear me talk."

"I think you like to hear yourself talk," I corrected.  

"This place is like a darkspawn's armpit.  Why did you drag me along, again?"

"Don't lay the blame on me.  Wasn't it you who said, 'Al, if you don't take me with you neither you or Hawke will know what to do with yourselves.'"  I puffed out my chest and tucked my chin under in attempt to impersonate Varric's voice.  It was poorly done.  Varric snorted as I chuckled to myself.  I looked down at his sunburned chest.  "I told you to cover your chest, Varric."

"I know, I know."

I gave him a withering look.  "I love you, but I'm not rubbing this stuff on you."  I held out the jar the ointment was in and held it out to Varric, who dipped two of his fingers in and got a spoonful out, then retreated back to the spot he had originally been seated out.  Solas then came and sat in front of me.  "Next!" I shouted directly into his face.

"I am already here, Inquisitor," he said irritably.  Out of all of them, Solas took the cake for having the worst sunburn.  His scalp, ears, and cheeks were already peeling something awful.  Even his hands were sunburned.  And those feet...yep, sunburned as well.

"You didn't give me the time to say it," I said back.  "Did you just expect me not to call out next?"

"Yes."

"That's rough, man.  That's rough."  Solas sighed as I began to gingerly put the ointment on.  He pointedly avoided my gaze as he talked.

"You do not need to do this.  We are all adults."

"No, I don't.  But I like being kind.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, you know?  You should try doing it sometime."  I moved my hand over Solas' right ear and rubbed the edge between my fingers.  He made a surprised noise--there may have been something else to go along with the sound, but I wasn't sure--and yanked back.  "What?" I asked angrily.

"My ears..." Solas started just as angrily, then composed himself somewhat to say the remainder of the sentence.  "They are sensitive, as all elf ears are, but...with the sunburn on them they are extremely tender."

I raised an eyebrow in amusement, but didn't smirk.  "Sera's weren't that sensitive."

"Because I'm not an elfy-elf," she said from the other side of the low campfire.  Solas closed his eyes and had that expression of, Lord, give me strength.  

"I'll be careful," I assured, and went back to work, fingers barely grazing over the sharp tips of his ears and back down to his earlobes.  Solas stared down at his hands the entire time until I finished his face and set to work on those, feeling the callouses on his palms and from all the years of wielding a staff and being outdoors.  "How you manage to get a sunburn on your hands, I'll never know," I sighed wistfully.  "But there.  All done.  And like Varric's chest, I'm not touching your feet.  Not that you'd want me to, anyways.  I bet they're ticklish."  I waggled my eyebrows and let him scoop some of the salve out.  

"Ma serannas."

"Nach maetolo."

Even though Solas didn't understand my Sindarin, he dipped his head in acknowledgment.  If he was going to throw his elven at me, I was going to throw my elven at him.  

"Al, sing us a song," said Varric as he sprawled out on one of the blankets we had laid atop the sand.  

"Yeah, Quizzy, I ain't heard ya sing, before," Sera said as she tore at a hunk of jerky with her teeth.  "Why'd you sing to them but not me?"

"That was in a moment of extreme fear," I said as I put the ointment into my pack and pulled out some dried apples.  "I wasn't meant to sing to anyone."

"Maker's balls, girl, you need to eat something other than that," Blackwall exclaimed.  I made a turtle-frown.  

"Don't tell me what to do."  But I took the hunk of jerky he offered and wolfed it down.

"Sing!" Sera demanded and tossed a handful of sand at me.  I sputtered and spat out the grainy bits.  

"I had my mouth open!"  I fumed, and cuffed Sera's burnt cheek.

"Ow!" she shrieked, and lunged for me.  We fell into the sand that we had spent a solid hour getting out of our clothes and tumbled into the dark.  Sera played dirty, but I played dirtier.  I grabbed onto her ear and twisted it while I took her left wrist and pinned it behind her back.  "Fock you, you fockin knife-ear!" she yelled.  "Gerroff me!"

"Who's the Master Commander?" I demanded loudly.  

"I'm not sayin your stupid code name!"

"Who's the Master Commander!"

"Fock--you are!  Alright?  You're the Master Commander.  Now GET OFF!"  

We both broke down into laughter and headed back to our blanket.  Varric and Blackwall were shaking their heads and chuckling.  Solas even had an amused smile on his face.  Sera moved so she could place her head on my lap and crossed her arms.  With an unspoken agreement, I began to sing.  

"In the spring we made a boat
Out of feathers, out of bones.
We set fire to our homes,
Walking barefoot in the snow.

Distant rhythm of the drum
As we drifted towards the storm
Baby lion lost his teeth
Now they're swimming in the sea

Troubled spirits on my chest
Where they laid to rest.
The birds all left, my tall friend,
As your body hit the sand.

Million stars up in the sky
Formed a tiger's eye
That looked down on my face,
Out of time and out of place

So hold on.
Hold on to what we are.
Hold on to your heart."

My voice carried into the night and over the rolling desert dunes.  My friends listened, entranced and still at the song.

"Awaken by the sound
Of a screaming owl.
Chasing leaves in the wind,
Going where we've never been.

Said goodbye to you, my friend.
As the fire spread.
All that's left are your bones
That will soon sink like stones.

So hold on.
Hold on to what we are.
Hold on to your heart."

I knew I shouldn't have sung a song from Earth, but I couldn't resist.  It was one of my songs, one that I had listened to over and over again as I walked down the street, smiling to myself because only could hear it, and only was feeling the emotions I did because of it.  I hoped I the others could feel similarly when they heard it.  And, from the looks on their faces after I hit the ending note, it had.  Except for Sera's.  She was passed out, head still rested on my knee.

"That was--" Blackwall started, but I cut him off.

"Don't say anything.  It doesn't need to be said.  It can be felt," I said firmly, but not unkindly.  I tilted my head up to the night sky.  "I'm tired, though.  I'm going to go to sleep."  I slipped my leg out from under Sera's head and cradled it with my hands as I stood.  She didn't even stir.  Then I picked her up like a child and took the two of us to our tent, leaving the men with their thoughts.

-

Solas' heart tuned to Alaran's voice, that night.  And it would never tune to any other woman's.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I was not ready to go back to the Western Approach so soon.  We had two weeks in between after returning to Skyhold to prepare for the assault and beginning the march.  The lives of so many that could be lost weighed heavily on my shoulders.  War.  Why does war alone have to bring change?  Why is history always written in blood?

The scar on the back of my hand served as a reminder of what was at stake.  "You alright, Al?"

Varric's voice drew me back to reality.  I smirked at the dwarf, but knew it didn't reach my eyes.  "Of course I am, Varric."

He looked at me doubtfully, seeing the complete bullshit in my words, but said nothing.  He was good that way.

Adamant loomed in the distance.  Never thought you'd be leading an army to siege a fortress, would you?   This is a long ways off from wanting to become a musician.  You kind of missed the mark on this one, huh?

I pulled up beside Solas, who had applied copious amounts of sun block to his face, this time around.  "You got any advice for me?" I asked.  He gave me a skeptical glance.

"I have advice to give you on many things, Inquisitor.  Very few of which you would heed to.  Perhaps you could be more precise in the topic of interest?"

I couldn't handle the snark today.  I forced my shoulders to stay upright, even though I wanted to sag all the way into the sand and bury myself under it.  "No.  I...I don't suppose I can," I said quietly, and pulled back.  Solas fully swiveled his head around to me, surprise flitting across his face.  

"Bending, bowing, breaking your back," Cole's voice said suddenly beside me.  "You can taste the uncertainty in your mouth, in your stomach.  It..." he trailed off, then fully looked at me.  "I can't feel you.  There's a wall, impervious and impenetrable and you keep me out.  Why?"

"Because," I answered, "sometimes it's just better to let me...keep it inside."  I smiled bitterly at the irony of my statement.  "But don't you worry about me, Cole.  I'm pretty tough."

"I always worry about you," he whispered, then flickered and was gone.

Time blurred, and before I knew it I was watching fiery catapults launch into the walls of Adamant and tear the defenses down, where Wardens unknowingly gave their lives for the enemy they swore to fight against.  Did they even know why we were attacking?  "I know you have a horrible joke to say," Cassandra said dryly as we charged.  "So, what is it?"

"I..." I started, then grimly set my face.  "No.  I don't have one."  

-

"Alright, Inquisitor.  You have your way in.  Best make use of it," Cullen said, tucking his lion's helm under his arm.  His curly hair was damp with sweat and curled in an unruly fashion.  I would have to draw it later.  "We'll keep the main host of demons occupied for as long as we can."

"You keep the men safe, Commander.  That is the most important thing," I said back firmly.  "If it begins to get out-of-hand, you pull back.  We can take care of ourselves."

"We'll do what we have to, Inquisitor," Cullen responded.  "Warden Stroud will guard your back.  Hawke is with our soldiers on the battlements.  He's assisting them until you arrive."  There was a scream up from up above.  We both looked upwards to see an Inquisition soldier fall to the ground with a sickening crunch.  Atop were a swarm of demons.  Cullen snarled.  "There's too much resistance on the walls.  Our men on the ladders can't get a foothold.  If you can clear out the enemies on the battlements, we'll cover your advance."

Time blurred once more until I found myself running in and seeing who I could only assume Warden Commander Clarel slicing the throat of one of her comrades.  Always too late.  Always too late.

"Stop them!" Erimond shouted from his position beside Clarel.  "We must complete the ritual!"

I gestured for my companions to stop and await my orders as I marched forward.  "Clarel!" I yelled, voice tearing through the air.  "If you complete that ritual, you'll only be aiding in the destruction of this world!  You are serving the Blight itself!"

Clarel froze.  "Don't listen to her," Erimond spat.  "They do not know the sacrifices the Wardens made for doing their duty!"

"What does she mean, we're serving the Blight?" Clarel asked, voice layered with anxiety.

"Your Tevinter mage is binding the mages to Corypheus!" Stroud shouted.

She paled so visibly I could see it from even at my distance.  "Corypheus?  But...but he's dead!"

"These people will say anything to shake your confidence, Clarel," Erimond spoke, pointing accusingly at us.  The Warden Commander rubbed her forehead, a similar action I had done so many times I no longer realized I when I was doing it.  When her hand dropped and her eyes opened, I saw the resolve.  The resolve to continue with their original intent.

"Bring it through."

"Please!" Hawke begged.  "I have seen more than my share of blood magic!  It is never worth the cost!"  The way his voice carried weight over the entire courtyard was another testament as to why he was the Champion.  

"Wardens!" I joined in.  "You know that this is not right!  You've seen what the binding does to the mages!  Their souls are gone.  All that remains are puppets!"

There were murmurings among the ranks.  "This whole thing is wrong!" one Warden finally shouted.  "We didn't want to believe it, but it's true.  I knew those mages.  They were my friends...but now they're empty!  Stroud warned us, but Clarel only wanted him killed!"

"Then help us stop this madness!" I demanded fiercely.  All heads turned back up to Clarel and Erimond.  The Commander was in absolute shock, but the servant of Corypheus began raking his staff back and forth against the stone.

"My master thought you'd pose a problem, like the little thorn you are," he said.  "So my master sent a little present!"

The sound of the archdemon's roar gave me flashbacks to Haven.  While I tried to recover from the stunned, dizzy state I was in, everybody else watched in horror as the beast circled the keep until it finally came to rest on one of the towers.  Erimond laughed triumphantly--then skidded across the ground as a burst of lightning hit his back.  He rolled over slowly and held a pleading gesture out to Clarel, who was raising her staff at the archdemon.  After a moment's hesitation, she sent another bolt at it.  There was another roar and I wanted to cover my ears because the memories were so clear and vivid and I could feel the warmth of red lyrium and the screams tore at my ears until they bled and--

A hand placed itself on my shoulder.  I looked up to Cole, the images fading.  "I always worry."  He spoke like as if a pride demon hadn't just been summoned and was now charging at us.

"Thank you, Cole."

-

 Varric watched in horror as his two best friends were consumed by the rubble of the falling bridge.  He didn't realize he was being pulled back until Iron Bull threw him over his shoulder as the two of them, Cole, Vivienne, and Dorian escaped to safety.

"She's gone," Cole muttered.  "They're all gone.  I can't feel them Varric, I can't feel them.  They've been consumed by the Fade."

-

The oxygen tank and glasses were waiting for me as I fell.  I scrambled for my glasses and put them on so I could see clearly and make sure the tank was working properly.  My bones were already beginning to ache, especially in my back.  But as soon as the oxygen tubes were positioned correctly on my nose, I sucked in the air and sighed.  I stood up from my knees and froze as everybody else gaped at me.

"What is that?" Cassandra asked.  I deflected her question.

"I think you should be worried about the fact that I think we're physically in the Fade."  I looked around, taking everything in.  "It's really green, isn't it?"

Solas scoffed.  "That is the first observation you make?  Not that you can nearly touch the Black City?"

"Oi, Quizzy, wot the fock is on your face?" Sera asked loudly.  

"Glasses," I responded.  "Well, spectacles."

"I think she's more curious about that," Blackwall said, gesturing to my tank and tubes.  I looked down at it for a good while.

"Well," I muttered.  "This is not how I wanted to tell you guys."  

"Tell us what?"  Cassandra asked warily.  I pushed up my glasses, automatically falling back into my old nervous habit.

"I'm, uh..." My mouth went dry, but against all odds I got the next sentence out.  "I'm not from this world."

I cringed, waiting for what would follow.  I wanted them to burst out and demand how that could be possible.  I wanted them to react angrily.  I wanted them to confront me.  But they didn't.  They only stared at me in deafening silence.  

"Wait."  Hawke's deep voice broke through.  "You're from another world?"

I weakly smiled.  "Yeah.  This isn't...this isn't even my real body.  It was given to me."

"By who?" questioned Cassandra in an indistinguishable emotion.  "The Maker?  Andraste?"

"A lady with a Mohawk, actually.  I don't think she was either."

Solas' stance stiffened and he paled.  "No," he whispered, eyes far away and voice distant.  "That cannot be possible."

"It still doesn't explain what that is," Blackwall insisted.  All eyes looked down at the oxygen tank.

"It...gives me air," I spoke carefully.  "My lungs, back on home, were...very poor.  Let's just put it that way.  But it's why I can't breathe after I close rifts.  Something to do with a weakened Veil or a connection between worlds or something.  I don't know how it works, honestly."  My fingers adjusted the tubes that hooked behind my ears.  "But maybe we should, you know, try to get out of the Fade before you interrogate me?"

-

"Inquisitor, you need to rest," Solas said.  I wearily shook my head.

"No, I...I'm okay."

"You can hardly walk, let alone fight.  You need to--"

"No!" I whirled on him.  "We have to--"

"They will never not see you as weak," Fear's voice echoed.  "You've hidden your age, your sickness, and your identity so they wouldn't see you as weak.  Yet here we are.  Do you see how they look at you, a girl no more past her twentieth year stagger up the steps as the universe slowly recalls the state she was in before she came?"

"I turned twenty and you didn't even throw me a birthday party, Fear?" I said sarcastically, despite that it came out in a breathless pant.  "How could you?"

"Ah, how amusing.  You use humor to hide the numbness that eats at your soul.  You had thought it had been vanquished with your arrival to this world.  But such things cannot simply be left behind."

"Don't make me angrily shake my fist in the air and yell at you," I sighed, feigning reluctance.  "I really don't want to be one of those people."

"You must stop speaking to the demon," Solas chastised.  "It will only further any negative feelings."

I couldn't find enough breath to respond, so I only glared at him.  "Inquisitor," Hawke said, looking down at me with concern, with pity.  "If you will not rest, at least let one of us carry...your device."  I had been lugging my tank over the black, rocky ground for the past thirty minutes.  I didn't want to say it out loud, but I wasn't sure if I could go much longer.  

"Fine," I grumbled.  Stroud deftly picked it up and slung the strap over his shoulder.  "Just be sure to keep it next to me."

"Of course," said Stroud with a quick nod.  My great sword was quickly becoming an immense weight, but my dignity would be utterly destroyed if I had to take it off.  Since my head was shaped differently, now, my dark green, horn-rimmed glasses kept sliding off the bridge of my nose.  It would have been really inconvenient fighting demons, but I was forced back by Cassandra to wait behind nearby rocks while the others killed them.  Still, they remained quiet.  Not even Sera had said two words to me.  Blackwall shot me sidelong glances.  Cassandra didn't look at me at all.  Solas did nothing but look at me.

Nothing you've done mattes, Al, I said to myself as I looked down at the scar on my hand.  It doesn't matter, anymore.  They can go on, without you.

I felt nothing even as the spirit embodying Divine Justinia revealed truths to us--to me--and told me that she thought my spirit was worth saving, which was why she sacrificed her life for me.  I felt nothing as we came across the headstones with all of my friends' worst fears.  I should have felt something, I wanted to feel something...but I didn't.  I wanted to tell Sera that she was the Something, that Cassandra had helped me more than she would ever know, that Blackwall was one of the strongest men I've come across, that...that Solas wouldn't be alone whenever his death came.  But I didn't.  The only thing that I was coherent of was the burning in my lungs and the tremble in my legs and the dryness in my mouth.

"You know, Al," Hawke said to me as we waded through calf-deep, temperatureless water, "I knew they were looking for me to be the Inquisitor before the Conclave.  And yes, Seeker, you can glare at me all you want, but you know what I think?  If I had somehow, in some way, been given the title, the world would already be destroyed because I can't seem to do anything but cause a shit-storm.  You, on the other hand...you have the ability to not only protect Thedas, but to make it better.  The Inquisition is lucky to have you, Thedas is lucky to have you, and--"

"And we are lucky to have you," Cassandra finished.  I looked to her, something sparking within me, faint and vulnerable.  "You lead this Inquisition when you could have easily turned your back on it.  But that is not all.  You have become one of the most fiercest, loyal friends I have ever had the honor of knowing."

"Aye, the same goes for me," Blackwall said.  "You are a woman with so much intelligence, honor, wisdom, and compassion I thought your kind only existed in storybooks.  Not even Varric would write a tale with a character such as yourself."

"I'm not gettin all squishy and shite," Sera scowled.  "And it pisses me off you didn't tell me you come from a whole different planet, but whatever 'cause I like ya, yeah.  Sometimes I really hate ya, but that's 'cause I like ya.  You look after little people.  Little people like me.  Make me feel like I'm important."

The spark had become a strong, little flame.  "You will always be our friend," Solas spoke softly and firmly.  "And you will never be anything less than that."

My vision blurred despite my glasses.  I scrubbed my eyes before anything could spill over.  "Ugh, you guys all suck," I mumbled, but it was with a small smile.  "Except for you, Stroud.  You're pretty awesome."

"Thank you, my lady," Stroud smirked.  

"You know, it makes all sense now," Sera said after a brief pause.  "You bein weird and whatnot."

"No," I admitted, "I was pretty weird back home, too."

"Weird or not," said Blackwall, "don't change."

-

Stroud and Hawke were helping me run to the rift.  I watched the other four jump through safely.  They were safe.  It hadn't been too late.  We were going--

The monstrosity cut us off with one of its hairy, spindly legs.  "Hawke, get the Inquisitor out of here!" Stroud yelled, handing my tank over to the Champion.  But Hawke shook his head pushed the tank back.  

"No!  The Wardens need somebody to lead them!  You must go, Stroud!"

The two men looked to me.  In a split second I considered who I would have to leave behind.  It was not a hard decision.  

I yanked the tank from Stroud's arms and tore my tubes off.  I still had a small window of opportunity to do what I wanted to do, but I needed to do it immediately.

Gripping both of the scruff of their necks in one deft move, I put all the strength I had left to shove them forward.  "Alaran, no--!" Hawke yelled, trying to spin and come back to my side, but Stroud had a grip on his arm and was pulling him to the rift.  I drew my great sword.

"Tell Varric he owes me one," I smirked at the Champion, pushed up my glasses, and began chopping into the demon's leg.  Once Hawke and Stroud had leapt through, I shot my arm out and closed the rift.  I gasped for air, but none would come.  Something fast and sharp slashed across my side, and I felt hot blood spill down.  I didn't feel any pain, though, as I fell to my knees and let the back of my head hit the ground.  I grinned as blood filled my mouth at the joke I finally came up with.

Why didn't Adamant Fortress stand against the trebuchets?

Because it wasn't made of  adamantium.

I closed my eyes.

-

Varric watched with astounding relief as everybody tumbled through the rift, looking worse for wear but alive.  Warden Stroud came, pulling Hawke alongside him, and--

The green rift snapped shut.

 Anguish was written all over the faces of the two men.  His friend hung his head low and snarled as he gripped his dark brown hair with one hand.  

Varric's voice cracked as he asked the question he already knew the answer to.

"Where's Al?"

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Hey...hey, wake up."

A finger poked my cheek.  I groaned and stirred.  My eyes cracked open.  Hallah Lynne beamed down at me.  "Hello, cotton swab."

"Ugh," I rasped.  "You were not the face I was expecting to see.  Actually, I wasn't expecting to see anybody.  Am I dead?"

"Nopety nope nope," Hallah crowed.  She waggled her fingers on my face.  I sputtered and weakly swatted them away.  "You're alive and well and still in the Fade.  With me!"  Hallah hauled me into a sitting position.  My body creaked as I sat up.  I whimpered.  My side hurt the most.  I looked down and saw that there was an ugly, freshly stitched wound on my pale waist.  "I did a good job, didn't I?  Oh, and way to really thank me for putting your oxygen tank and nerdy glasses when you came through the Fade."

"Why am I not dying of cancerous cells?" I asked when I became aware that I could breathe normally.

"'Cause I'm friggin' awesome," Hallah replied.  I clenched my aching teeth.

"That's not a real answer." 

Hallah rolled her spectacular green eyes.  "Uuuuuuggggghhhhhhhh.  Fine."  She snapped her fingers and the Fade was gone around us in a flash of brilliant green.  The next moment we were sitting in one of my favorite cafes in New York.  I wildly looked around.  Nobody seemed to notice the fact that I was a dirty, grimy, wounded elf, and that we had just transported out of mid-air.  

"What did you do?" I asked stupidly.

"All-powerful remember?"  A cappuccino appeared in her hand and she took a sip.  Hallah was dressed in a Fitz & the Tantrums t-shirt with a black leather jacket.  Several metallic rings were placed on her fingers and thumbs and her nails were a chipped, sky blue color.

"You keep saying that, but that's like saying tomatoes are red because they're red."

"Point taken."  Hallah leaned back in her chair and hummed briefly before starting.  "I'm what you call...a Traveler.  With a capital T.  But that's a broad title.  I actually do a lot more."  Her olive hands began to move animatedly.  "The Universe and I are, like, BFFs.  Well.  Sort-of.  Sometimes I can unravel a lot of things, but it's never destructive.  Anyways, the Universe..." Hallah raised an eyebrow at the word, "let me give a very, very special soul a second chance at life.  It's not something I even get to to everyday, and believe me, there are an infinite amount of souls that are important and special beyond comparison.  But you--you--caught my eye.  I partially think it's because we're so much alike.  Have I mentioned I'm omnipotent?  No, no I haven't.  I am, soooo...I saw that you would be the best option for Thedas, bent a few rules, and ta-da!  Here you are, all pale and glimmering and sassy!"  She grinned broadly and took another sip of her drink.

I narrowed my eyes at her.  "Do you know Solas?"

"Do I--do I know Solas?  Al, Solas and I were thick as thieves back in the day!  Causing all sorts of magical mayhem, I'll tell you.  We even consorted together to help his People from...from his People...but we had a bit of a falling out when I told him the path he was taking wasn't going to turn out the way he wanted."  Hallah's eyes flickered with sadness, aging her by a thousand years, but it was gone before a full second could pass.  "It didn't.  If I really wanted to, I could have changed it all.  But then you wouldn't come into play, and the both of you aren't just supposed to save Thedas, you're supposed to make it better.  Ya smell what I'm stepping in?  Oh and by the way, I'm really loving all this rivalmance you two have going on."

Wait.  What?

Hallah kept talking as if she hadn't just commented on my relationship with Solas.  "But that damn egg, as immortal and hard-boiled as he is, wouldn't see why I didn't do anything when he was in uthenera.  He's still pretty pissed at me, so I'm just staying away, right now.  But now he knows that I'm the reason you're here, so get ready to be assaulted by offensive and belittling questions when you get back.  Or maybe not.  Hold up--oh wow he's actually going to be pretty chill about it.  Well alright."  Hallah ran a hand over her Mohawk.  "And...and tell him that I'm sorry.  But he'll see the bigger picture, soon.  I know that's a totally asshole-omnipotent-immortal thing to say, but in this case, it's true.  When he's ready to talk, I'll be there."  She looked down at her cup, pushed her lips to one side, and then downed the thing in one gulp.  I gaped at her dubiously.

"Aren't you gonna get the shits from that?"

Hallah laughed, full and rich.  "Luckily for me, no.  I have full control over my body."

"It seems like you have full control over everything."

"Oh, I wish.  Well, not really, because what's the fun in that?  I can guide and change plenty of things, but there are more events set in stone than you might realize.  Like the whole Fade thing?  One of you three had to stay.  There are decisions that, while they have courses, must take a course nonetheless."  She got a faraway gaze in her emerald, swirling eyes.  "I would love to lecture you more on all things time and space, girly, but we're running out of time.  I like to keep on a somewhat linear track."

"Some what linear?  Meaning you don't have to be linear all the time?"

"Technically, no, but I just get confuzzled if I hop back and forth like nobody's business.  And though I'm omnipotent and can See everything, it gets to be a pain most of the time.  What can I say, I like to live in the moment!"  She folded her arms and fixed me with her eyes.  "Get all your questions out.  We have less than a minute."

A torrent of words flew from my mouth.  "Is this video game in another dimension?  Has it always been real?  Does that mean books and movies are real?  How old are you?  Do you have an endgame?  Will--"

"Not another dimension but from a few thousand galaxies away, yes, yes, I was around twenty-six when I fully accepted my immortality but I move too much through time that I can't exactly tell you, my endgame is just to help make the world you now call home a better place, and--"  Hallah smirked and leaned forward, "time's up."

-

I fell six feet from above the ground, groaning loudly in pain as my great sword jammed into my back and my side pulled on the stitches dangerously.  There was yelling, screaming, and then cheering.  It was deafening.  

Hands immediately gripped me and helped me up as I shook my head clear.  "Inquisitor!"  I looked up to see an utterly relieved Cullen Rutherford.  "We thought you were lost to us forever.  The rift's been closed for hours!"

Before I could answer him, Sera came out of nowhere and yanked me from Cullen.  She grabbed hold of both ends of my jacket and pulled me close to her furious face.  "You fockin piece of shite!  I already had to feel what it was like with you bein dead once!  Now you go and do it again!  Fockin--"

My arms wrapped around the rogue's waist and I held her tightly, burying my head into her shoulder.  A sudden sob escaped from her chest.  "Don't fockin do that again," she whispered.

"I won't," I whispered back, and let go.  Sera saw that she was at the center of attention and dashed away out of sight.  I felt the warm breeze of open air touch my side where the leather had been sheared and I had earned a would-have mortal wound.  Maybe I should get new armor.  I saw the faces of all my other friends, who were mostly grinning.  Vivienne, Dorian, and Solas weren't.  Leave it to the mages to maintain an air of superiority and vagueness.  I addressed the Wardens and allied them with the Inquisition.  They needed a chance of redemption.  I was given one, so why couldn't they?  They could be better than they were, with our help.  With my help.

I didn't get to see another truly friendly face until hours later, when Cassandra stormed into the healer's tent where I was getting checked out for any other wounds besides the sewn up one on my side.  It would leave a large scar, I knew.  "You," she fumed.

"You," I sighed with a dreamy smile.  She stamped up to the cot I was sitting on and loomed over me.

"Did you not think of what would have happened to the Inquisition if you perished?  The chaos that would have ensued!"

I snorted.  "Oh, please, Cassie.  I've already gone over with the advisers what they would continue to do should anything happen to me."

"That is not the point!"  Her voice was reaching loud levels.  The healers quietly slipped out.  I grimaced at their departure. 

"You're scaring off--"

"And you scared me!"  Cassandra yelled it lividly, but her hand was trembling as she shoved a finger into my chest.  "Do you not understand that you are more than just a figure?  You are a friend!  A terrible one, considering what you pulled, but you fail to realize time and time again that we are here to help you, and not just you helping us!"  She snarled and took a few steps back as I sat there wide-eyed at the Seeker.  "You will not do that again, yes?" she asked in a steadier, quieter tone.  I felt horribly guilty at that moment, despite that I knew what I had done was right.  Hallah would not have saved Hawke or Stroud if I had chosen one of them to stay.  They had almost lost me for the second time.  That must have taken a toll on all of them, especially Cassandra.  

I stood up and hugged her in almost the exact same way I hugged Sera, except I had to adjust my head so it wouldn't press uncomfortably on her armor.  She made a soft disgusted noise, but hugged me back, albeit awkwardly.  Cassie didn't do personal contact all that often.  "If I do it again, I promise you can kill me," I said.  "Sound fair?"

"Yes."  We chuckled and released.  "The others wish to see you.  Not seeing you come back from the Fade was a devastating blow to all of the Inquisition, but...but especially those of whom you are closest with."

"I understand," I said.  Cassandra gave a short nod, and then helped me change out of my damaged armor and into a dark gray tunic that wouldn't irritate my wound. I still had bits of Fade-dust in my hair, which was gross because I knew my strands would turn dingy, but we were out in the middle of a desert.  Nobody would be judging me by my appearance because they looked similar.

"My dear," Vivienne said as she glided up to me.  Well, not everybody looked horrible.  Somehow the Grand Enchantress still looked as if she had just returned from the spa.  As always.  She cupped one of her dark hands on my chin and tilted it up.  "You look simply awful.  Perhaps you should refrain from having near-death experiences so often?  It would do wonders for you skin."

I gave her a withering look but couldn't help smiling.  "Thanks for your concern, Viv," I said sardonically, pushing her hand away.  She had a strange way of showing love.

"Healed, helped, honored," Cole said as he gazed at me, our bodies nearly touching from how close we were to each other.  I should try to explain the bubble people have, sometime.  "You didn't feel and then you did and it is all better but the Other Mark calls to you to go back to where your mind once was."  He hesitated, then put a hand on my shoulder.  "Don't go back."  

I put my hand over his large, slender one.  "I won't, Cole.  You feel how much I promise that?"

"I do."

"Good."  

"Whatever it is you two oddities are doing, please stop," Dorian sighed as he twirled his mustache idly.  "I can hardly handle the sentimentality."

"Dorian," I laughed, "you are the textbook definition of sentimentality."

He feigned being affronted and clutched his heart.  "Inquisitor, if you say such a thing about me again I fear I might turn into a puff of ash from the outlandish statement!"

"A puff of ash?" I shot back.  "Not a puff of sparkles?"

Dorian flatly stared at me.  "I see you didn't leave that charming personality of yours in the Fade.  What a pity."

"Atta Boss," Iron Bull beamed as he put a thick gray arm over my shoulder and pulling me into his hulking body.  "Still haven't lost your touch for making the Vint squirm."

"Nope," I beamed back, face partially mushed against his side.  

"Don't egg her on, Bull," Dorian huffed irritatingly.  I slipped out from under the Qunari.

"Speaking of eggs, where's our dear Solas?  I have a lot to talk to him about."  A lot.  

"He's off pouting, most likely," Blackwall answered, jerking a thumb behind him to a nearby tent.  "He didn't take you supposedly being dead the second time around very well."

"Worse than the first time, actually," Cassandra added.  "You should go and speak to him...privately."

Why were they all staring at me like they knew something I didn't?  

I narrowed my eyes at them.  "I'm watching you, Inner Circle, always watching," I said in an imitation of Roz's famous line from Monsters Inc.  There were was an eye roll, a disgusted noise, and several shaking heads.

I turned on my heels and strode into Solas' pitched tent unannounced.  "What's up, butt-munch?" I asked loudly to the elf, who was in the midst of changing his tunic.  He froze with it halfway off his muscular body.  I grimaced.  "Oh, dude, come on...have a little decency," I whined as I dramatically covered my eyes.  "I didn't actually need to see you naked this time around."

"Do you ever take anything seriously?" Solas snapped.  I opened my fingers and peeked through them.  He was now fully clothed.  Control the blush.  Control the blush.  Control--ah hell, I'm blushing.

But it was okay, because Solas was, too.  "Oh, don't be so grumpy," I said as I made a face, dropping my hand and stepping further into the tent.  "Look, I know that you're--"

"And what do you know about me?" he said in a sharp, dispassionate voice.  I paused, then felt my eyebrows furrow.  Solas folded his dirty tunic and placed it in his pack, then straightened to face me.  His eyes were a violent storm.

"I know that you're trying to act all emotionless about this, but that's just a cover," I said back a little bitingly.  "I don't know what exactly it is you're thinking, but that's why I've come to talk to you."

"When have you ever cared what I've had to say?"

This time my jaw dropped at how ridiculous Solas was being.  For a second I was at a loss for words.  "W-wow, Solas.  Stop acting like a child.  You're a grown-ass man.  Get over yourself."  I breathed heavily through my nostrils and ran a hand through my grimy hair.  Solas had set his jaw, but he remained quiet.  "I...I know I kind of pulled a fast one on you guys, and for that I'm sorry.  I really didn't plan on staying, just so you know.  I like the Fade, but not that much," I snorted.  "But still.  I'm sorry I made you guys feel like you did.  Made you feel like you did."

Solas' jaw had unclenched by the time I finished talking, and he had cast his eyes to the ground.  "No," he said lowly in his chest.  "You should not need to apologize to me.  I am the one who forgets that you have a duty to your own conscience as much as you do to the Inquisition.  You are far wiser than I, even at your age, and I should do well to remember that more often."

A small smile turned the corner of my lips upward.  "I'm not as wise as everybody thinks me to be.  I only let them think that way."

He returned the small smile that released the tension in his face.  "Then their thoughts are not misguided."

I bit my lip and scrunched up my eyebrows, started, stopped, and then rushed forward to embrace Solas.  I was giving hugs willy-nilly today, it seemed.  Solas reacted the same way as he did at Redcliffe by stiffening, except this time I could feel strong muscles under his shirt and smelled the outdoors and old books.  I could his heart beating wildly as my ear pressed against his chest.  "Hug me back," I whispered loudly as I grinned.  "It's what normal people do."

In one slow but fluid motion I was in his arms.  Solas tucked his nose against my hair and breathed in and out.  I rose and fell with the motion.  "I do not believe we are what you could consider 'normal,' Inquisitor."

"Alaran," I corrected, and leaned back so I could gaze up into those gray and blue eyes.  "Call me Alaran."

"Alaran."

My name rolled effortlessly, intimately off of Solas' lips.  "Solas," I whispered back.  I doubted that he could feel how fast my heart was beating because his was thumping so loudly.  I smirked, but it was of a different kind.  I felt myself glowing.

Wait.

Why was I feeling like this?

Better yet, why was Solas feeling the same way?

-

Hawke and I exchanged glances.  Varric's back was to me, facing the fire and tinkering with Bianca.  The Champion and I made the silent agreement that Varric and I had stuff to talk about alone, so he departed quietly.  Varric looked up to see where his friend had gone, but heard me approach.  It stung when he gave me a reproachful look over his shoulder and said nothing.  I sat down beside him, wincing at the ache in my side.  "Hey," I said quietly.  Varric moved his fingers over Bianca's gears wordlessly, pointedly not looking at me.  I absently grabbed a handful of warm sand and let it sift through.  After a few minutes of heavy silence and the sounds of clicking mechanisms, I spoke in an anguished voice, "Varric, talk to me, please."

"What do you want me to say, Al?"

"How you're feeling."

Another several moments of silence.  "You really pissed me off.  There.  All done.  Now leave."

I cringed, the knife diving deeper into my chest.  "Varric.  Don't be like this."

He leaned back his head and looked at the night sky, closing his eyes and sighing.  "How can I not?  I'm a selfish bastard.  I only care about my own feelings."  The self-loathing was clear as day.  "When Hawke told me you stayed behind in the Fade, I hated you.  Sweet Andraste, I hated you.  You just had to make me like you, make me love you, and then you go and have to be the hero.  Well you know what, Alaran?  Sometimes I don't want you to be the hero.  Sometimes I just want you to save your ass so we can fight another day together and do stupid shit."

"I saved Hawke for you," I said suddenly.  My eyes were locked on the fire.  I couldn't move them away even if my life depended on it at that moment.  I wanted to explain more, but I literally couldn't.  All I could do was let the sentence sink in.

Varric took in a trembling breath.  "Fuck."

I put my head on his shoulder and smelt the comforting scent of pine oil.  "I'll always come back, Varric.  Whatever happens, I'll always come back."

"Don't make promises you can't keep."  

"Okay.  I'll never promise that I'll stop trying to get you and Cassandra together.  I'll never promise that I'll stop eating dried apples.  I'll never promise that I won't get hurt or injured.  I'll never promise that I won't hit you with a pillow whenever you're snoring--"

Varric huffed a laugh and covered my mouth with his thick hand.  "I get it, I get it--Andraste's tits, did you just lick me?"  He let go and wiped the spit on my pants leg.  "You're one disgusting girl."

I giggled and took the hand I licked with my own.  "And you're one disgusting dwarf."

We chuckled and stared together in the fire.  The sting had been soothed and we were good.  No matter what, the two of us would always be good.  "So...here's a question," Varric drawled out eventually.  "You're from another world?"

"Are you cool with that?"

"Are you kidding me?  This'll make for an even better story!  Alaran Lavellan, the Otherworlder who came to Save Thedas!"  Varric mimed the the headliner in the air, then chuckled.  I lightly smacked his chest, scoffing.  "Nobody could really keep their mouth shut.  It stayed in the circle, of course, but we all know.  It makes a lot of sense, though.  Explains why you're so weird."

"Do you have an excuse as to why you're so rude?"

"It's just another part of my amazing personality, Your Inquisitorialness."

We were just beginning to get comfortable when a soldier trotted up and gave a quick bow.  "Your Worship, Commander Cullen requests your presence in his tent--"

He was cut off by my very un-Inquisitor-like groan.  "Duty calls," I said to Varric and stood up.  He gave an easy smile.  

"Go get 'em, Al."

-

"Hallah Lynne saved you?"

"Yep.  Hey, can trees go on and on forever in the Fade?  Because if I can make this thing keep going, I'm gonna do it."  I grunted loudly as I latched onto another branch of the old, tall, twisted tree and swung back and forth, humming.

"It would attract demons," Solas said as he stared up at me.  "If you could come down and--"

"I'm an adult, Solas.  I can do whatever the freak I want.  Maybe you should come up here!"  I pulled myself up on the branch, calculated the distance to the next one, and sprung to it with a triumphant shout.  Even with the distance between us, I could hear Solas sigh.  I looked down at him and smirked.

"Are you afraid of heights, da'len?"

"No, I am not."  Solas pinched the bridge of his nose, and then was beside me the next instant.  I beamed and took a seat, legs swinging freely.  "This is...certainly a long way up," he evaluated, swallowing hard.  He was near to the trunk of the tree.

"Shh, don't attract any fear demons," I whispered conspiratorially.  "I've already faced enough as it is.  Can you be brave, oh great Fen'Harel?"  I called in a breeze and the tree began to sway ever so slightly.  Solas jumped and braced himself further against the trunk.  I grinned and laughed at his reaction.

"Is your main goal in life to cause me suffering?" Solas asked witheringly.  "We have to discuss Hallah Lynne--"

"Is that her last name?"

"Yes.  Now, she is--"

"Did you not like me because I was like her a lot?"

"You reminded me of her somewhat, yes--"

"Do you think I can pull off her hairdo?"

"Inquisitor--"

I stood up and spread my arms wide.  "I'll answer questions after I do just one thing."  I sucked in a lungful of air and screamed at the top of my lungs, "SIE SIND DAS ESSEN UND WIR SIND DIE JAGER!!" and jumped off into the air.  I heard Solas shout my name, but I was squealing with too much glee to care.  Too soon was the fall over, and I landed safely on the ground, unharmed.  Was it safe to say that I was in a good mood?  All of my friends knew who I was, and they accepted me.  That was an amazing reason to be happy.

Solas was beside me once more.  "You are incorrigible."  I would have been offended, but there was a quirk to his lips.  

"You know you're just the pot calling the kettle black, right?" I asked as I slumped to the ground.  Solas did so more elegantly.  

"Perhaps."  A smile now toyed on his face.  I snorted and yanked up a fistful of grass and threw it at him.  Solas flinched against it, but did the same and threw it at me, a short burst of laughter escaping from him.  The tips of his ears were pink.  "But to the questions.  When did Hallah first reveal herself to you?"

"After I closed the Breach.  She just told me a bit about who she was and said that it was her who was keeping my heart from restarting.  And she told me not to tell you she was involved, otherwise--and I quote--'you'll shit a brick sideways.'"  

"Has she asked you to do anything specifically?"

"Other than save Thedas?  No.  Hallah...actually seems to be on my side.  On our side."

Solas cast his eyes down in thought.  "It is.  And she helps many with the power she has.  But it is never an easy thing to swallow when knowing that Hallah could have prevented many things and not disrupted the flow of time."

"She told me you wouldn't understand," I said after a moment.  One of my fingers twisted at a blade of the too-vivid grass.  "But if she had intervened, my role wouldn't have been necessary, and Hallah said that I...I was going to make Thedas better and not just keep it from destruction."  I left out the part of what Hallah had said about us.

The elvhen rubbed his brow in thought.  "Of course," he whispered to himself.  "That damn woman."

"You two have a rocky relationship, don't you?" I asked.  Solas twisted his smirk.

"That would be a close definition, yes.  She and I...we had the same goals.  She made what I was able to do possible.  However, you have just tasted what her personality is like.  Combined with my own, we made for...quite the interesting pair."

A small seed of doubt planted itself into my mind.  "So you and she were...together together?"

Solas threw his head back and barked a laugh.  "No.  Hallah, as loose as she seems, does not bed every person she comes across.  Myself included.  I do believe that at one point in her life she had a husband, though she would never reveal much about him to me.  Hallah keeps the life she had before she was immortal separate from the one she lives, now."  Whew.  That would have been awkward.  Wait.  Why am I worried about this, again?  

I pushed my lips to the side before asking, "What was she able to help you make possible?"

Solas stared at me intently.  Then his shoulders slumped slightly and he bowed his head.  "I...I fear I do not have enough courage to tell you that part of my life, yet.  Forgive me."

Sympathy clutched my heart.  "I understand," I said back soothingly.  I held out my pinkie.  Solas stared at it.  "You have to pinkie promise that you will tell me one day, though.  This is a must.  It's stronger than a blood pact.  I swear it."

He rolled his eyes, put outstretched a pinkie of his own.  I smiled as I hooked mine around his.  "I have not heard of this pinkie promise, before.  Is it from your world?"

"Where else would it be from?"

"You do have quite the odd mind, Alaran.  My asking is not unfounded."  Solas was full-on smirking, now.   

"And would you like me if I were dull and unoriginal?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.  His smirk faded, but his eyes grew in intensity.

"No.  I would not."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I couldn't, for the life of me, stop myself from laughing when Josephine told me the Avvar Chief's crime.  "That was what he was doing?"  I leaned forward, my day just becoming made.  "Tell me, Chief Movran, what brought you to throw goats at Skyhold?"

He chuckled lowly.  "A courtroom?  Unnecessary.  You killed my idiot son.  And I answer as in my custom by smacking your hold with goat's blood."

"That is...fantastic."  I looked over to Josephine.  "Can we do that to our enemies, Lady Montilyet?"  I paused and furrowed my eyebrows, then swiveled back to the chief.  "But the goats weren't even dead.  Is that why Cullen was complaining that he stepped in goat poo?"

"Inquisitor, focus."

"Right."  I attempted to put on my best game face, but was failing miserably.  Goats?  Goats?  It's so totes.

I nearly lost again when I thought of it.  "From what I understand, ser, is that the rest of your clan has no quarrel with the Inquisition.  Is that true?"

"Aye, it is.  My son got feisty.  Having a red-headed mother guarantees a brat."  I nodded consolingly.  "Do what you will, Inquisitor.  My clan yields.  My remaining boys still got brains in their heads."

"Well, this seems purely incidental, Chief Movran," I said as I rested my head back and crossed a leg.  "It cannot be repeated, but if you have any future quarrels with the Inquisition, feel free to toss all the goats you want at us."  I heard Josephine breathe evenly through her nostrils.  "As this cannot go unpunished, I hereby declare that you and your clan are banished to Tevinter with all the weaponry we can supply you with."

Chief Movran laughed again.  "My idiot son did do something right, after all!"

I cheerily waved him off, sighing happily.  Josephine walked up to me.  "That was..." she began steadily, trying to keep composed.  

"Immature?  Silly?" I suggested with a smirk.  "Oh, yes, it most definitely was.  But he threw goats at us, Josie!  How could I even try to act seriously?"

"The nobles--"

"The nobles here are just trying to make their names known somewhere outside of their country.  I couldn't give a flying frilly cake what they think, right now."

"You should."

I pointed a finger at her and raised an eyebrow.  "But I don't."

She sighed tersely and scribbled something down on her clipboard so she wouldn't snap at me.  As the small crowd dispersed, I stood up and faced my adviser.  "I promise that any future judgments won't be like this," I promised assuredly as I placed a hand on her arm.  "But, come on, Josie, can you honestly tell me with a straight face that you didn't think this was at all funny?"

Josephine's lips immediately quirked, settled, then quirked again.  After a few moments she looked down and chuckled lightly.  "No, I suppose I cannot.  Especially when Cullen reeked of goat feces in the War Room."

I threw my head back and laughed, then impersonated the Commander in a deep voice.  "Maker's breath!  I--I don't know what I stepped in!  Pardon my smell, ladies.  It is not me, I assure you.  Why do I blush so much?  Maker's burps and farts this is embarrassing!  Excuse me."

By the time I had finished gushing and looking flustered Josephine had broken down into a fit of giggles, a dark hand placed over her mouth to stifle the noise.  "He really does act like that, doesn't he?" she finally managed to ask when she recovered.  "Is that one of the reasons why you tease him so?"

"Josephine, it's the only reason."

-

"Hey, Leliana," I said as I leaned over the railing of the rookery, a contemplative look on my face.  "Do you think that I could jump from here and land on Solas' desk?"

"No."  There wasn't even a hint of hesitancy in answering my question.  She most likely didn't even look up from her papers.

"I'm going to do it."

"I will throw a book at your head if you do."  I doubt Leliana thought I was serious when, in fact, I most certainly was.

"Good luck aiming," I smirked, hopped up onto the railing, and marked Solas' desk with an imaginary X.  The elf was sitting at it, reading something.  Oh, this would be too good.  Well, as long as I didn't break every bone in my body.

"Inquisitor!"

But I was already in the air, a huge grin on my face as I fell.  I caught a glimpse of Dorian, who had to do a double-take at my plummeting body and sprung up from his chair to the edge of the library.  Then I was past him, and fell into a crouch when my feet promptly landed on the Dread Wolf's desk, nose inches from his.  Unfortunately, I had caught him right as he drinking something from a glass.  Solas' eyes bulged as largely as his cheeks and sprayed a coating of half mist, half spit onto my face.  He coughed and sputtered as I shrieked and frantically wiped the moistness off my skin.  "What is the meaning--" Solas began to demand, but I ignored him and stood up straight, pointing to Leliana.  Her icy blue eyes glared murderously down at me.  

"I AM THE MASTER COMMANDER!" I yelled victoriously at the top of my lungs.  Leliana disappeared for a brief moment into the rookery, and I got a sudden feeling of dread.  She appeared once more, coiled her arm back, and hurtled a book down at me.  I yelped and dove out of the way, rolling onto the floor and hearing the book slam onto the surface of Solas' desk where I had been moments before.  Solas stepped quickly from his chair.  I scrambled up and reached out for the other elf, yanking on the crook of his elbow and momentarily lifting him off his feet.  

"Inquisitor, what--"

"We must get to safety!"  I looked up and ducked, narrowly avoiding another book.  "HA!  Your aim is getting rusty, Leliana!  Maybe you should--oh shit!"  A particularly heavy book clipped my shoulder.  I cried out dramatically and fell into Solas' arms.  "I've been shot!  H...help!  I've been shot by flying reading material!"  I went limp-noodle and Solas grunted in surprise at the sudden weight he was holding.  

"I can't believe I'm doing this," he grumbled as he swept me princess-style into his arms and deftly carried me out of the rotunda.

"This isn't over, Spymaster!" I shouted to Leliana, whose eyes shone with mischief.  She was an evil little red-head.  

We escaped through the battlements.  Solas set me back down on my feet.  I leaned up against the wall, laughing too hard to stay upright.  "Were you attempting to end your life, Inquisitor?"  Solas asked dryly.  I pressed my forehead against the stone, drawing in ragged gasps as tears sprung to my eyes.  My laughter had now become a series of hissing, breathless squees.  I didn't answer the question for quite some time.  I peeked out of the corner of a blurry eye and saw that Solas couldn't stop himself from smiling.  

"Ah, no," I sighed eventually, turning so my shoulder was braced against the wall.  My cheeks were still sore.  I crossed my arms and said, "I just wanted to see if I could land on your desk from the rookery.  By the way, how is it possible that you've never been pooped on by the birds, before?"

Solas rolled his his head slightly to the right and smirked.  "I have my methods."

"You put barriers up, don't you?"

"Yes."  

I slapped a hand to my cover my eyes and laughed a groan.  "Oh, man, what if I landed on that instead?  That would have been hilarious."

"And painful."

My hand slid down, pulling my skin with it.  The face it produced made Solas snort.  Was that a grin I saw?  "Great Scott!" I exclaimed aloud, and caught the image in my mind.  "It really does exist!"  Then I turned and booked it back to my room to draw it, leaving Solas standing there utterly confused.

-

Blackwall was chopping wood when a piercing scream split through the air.  He dropped the ax in his hand and immediately sprinted to the stables where the sound had originated from.  Just as he burst through the door a small, pale body collided with his.  Had he been relaxed he would have been sent sprawling.  Instead Blackwall staggered, ribs getting crushed by the unnaturally strong arms wrapped around his waist.  "My lady?" Blackwall attempted to ask, but it came out as a wheeze.  

"Oh Blackwall it's horrible," Inquisitor Lavellan whispered.  She looked up at him with wide, terrified, violet eyes.  "Who would do such a thing?"

"Do what?"  Blackwall's whole upper body was being squeezed so tightly it burned.  He couldn't keep from breathing in relief when her arms released.  

"Get those damn giant nugs!" Alaran said, pointing angrily to the stables.  "I hate nugs!"

Her fear of the hairless creatures was uncommon; most thought nugs were stupid and cute, Blackwall included.  Alaran's fingers wiggled erratically in front of her disgusted face.  "With their creepy hands and their disproportionate noses.  I didn't even know giant ones existed!  What kind of cruel god would create such unholy beasts!  Better yet, who would have the audacity to even permit them to Skyhold!"

"That would be me."

The honeyed Orlesian voice came from the shadows.  Alaran whipped around, her eyes narrowing venomously.  "You."

Leliana stepped out from the spot she had taken up to observe.  Blackwall's unease of her increased; the corner itself didn't entirely hide her from view, yet Leliana managed to make it do just that.  "I thought they would add a refreshing variety to Skyhold's mounts."  Her pale blue eyes glinted, illuminating her whole face with mischief.  "Do you have a problem with that, Inquisitor?  I had gotten them for you, after all.  The suppliers were all too happy to provide the nugs to aid our cause."

"Is that cause giving me nightmares for the next ten years?" Alaran seethed.  Leliana's face remained mostly passive, save for the polite curve of her mouth.  

"That was not my intention at all.  But maybe you can try jumping from them, next time."  Leliana leaned into Alaran's ear and whispered loud enough for Blackwall to hear.  "Try not to picture their paws tickling you, Inquisitor Lavellan."

Alaran's body stiffened as if she had been electrocuted.  Leliana charmingly giggled and departed from the stables.  After a few moments of silence, Blackwall put a hand on the slight elf's shoulders, trying his best not to smile at the hilarity of the whole thing.

"I'm sure they're not all that horrible, my lady."  She saw right through his mask and clenched her teeth.

"You think this is funny, Blackwall?"

After a moment he answered honestly, "I find it one of the funniest things that's happened this week."  Alaran huffed loudly and glared at him coldly.  For once, he was unfazed at it.  Blackwall chuckled and put an arm over her shoulder comfortably.  "Come on, I'll go with you to see them again.  The thing about fears is that you have to face them."

"Um, did my headstone in the Fade say that my biggest fear was nugs?  I think not.  I'm not afraid of them, Blackwall," she sniffed.  "I just think they're the worst things on this planet.  I bet Corypheus rides nugs."  The last bit was spat dourly.

"Of course, Inquisitor.  Of course."

-

I knocked on Cullen's door.  "Commander?  May I come in?" I called.  I knew that he despised being intruded upon.  But when there was no answer, I slowly opened the door and poked my head through.  When I saw what was happening, I calmly slipped inside and locked the door behind me before dropping all my papers and rushing over to his side.  Cullen was trembling violently on the ground, a low moan coming from the back of his throat.  I sank to my knees and pulled his giant body into my little arms, brushing the curly, golden locks that clung to his sweaty forehead.  "Oh, Cullen," I whispered, gently rocking him back and forth.  It wasn't the first time I had come upon the Commander suffering from lyrium withdrawals.  It also wasn't the worst.  

"I...forgive me..." he whispered, voice weak and shaky.  "I...I'm not..."

"Shh, you're just fine," I said back kindly.  "Would you like me to sing to you?"  

"...Yes, please."  

I began humming the intro to the song.  Cullen's shaking immediately began to ease, bit by bit.  

"Barcelona,
I still long to hold her once more, oh,
My boots of leather,
From Europe
I gather you know, know,

Every time you have to go
Shut my eyes and you know
I’ll be lying right by your side
In Barcelona"

Cullen's breathing steadied, eyes still closed but not squeezed shut like they were.  His pauldron was digging into my stomach, but I didn't pay much attention to it.  I kept singing, voice low and melodious and reverberating up my chest where Cullen's head rested.

"The native man sang in a foreign tongue,
I still ache to know the song that he sung,
Barcelona

Every time you have to go
Shut my eyes and you know
I’ll be lying right by your side
In Barcelona

Every time you have to go
Shut my eyes and you know
I’ll be lying right by your side
In Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona

Every time you have to go
I shut my mind and you know
I’ll be lying right by your side
In Barcelona"

The trembling had all but stopped, and Cullen was breathing evenly after I had trailed off on the last note.  He opened his honey-colored eyes and gazed at me.  "Thank you, Alaran," he said, voice scratchy and soft.  I gave a small smile.  "Maker, but is your voice beautiful."

My small smile turned into a kind smirk.  "I don't know, Commander, you have quite the gift yourself.  I heard the way you carried the whole entirety of Haven when everybody started singing The Dawn Will Come.  I can picture you in Chantry robes now, singing hymns and whatever it is Chantry boys do."

He rolled his eyes, but was smiling.  "You flatter me, Inquisitor."

"I only flatter the people I don't like," I said, and bopped his nose.  "And I like you.  Therefore, it isn't flattery.  Now, are you good to go?  Can you sit up?"

"Yes, I believe I can."  I steadied Cullen's armored back as he got out of his former position.  He looked at me a little sheepishly.  "I doubt you're going to let me get back to work, aren't you?"

"Right you are," I said, and pointed up to his loft.  "You.  Bed.  Now.  Ooh, that sounded a bit kinky, didn't it?"  I waggled my silver eyebrows.

He flushed and I snickered.  "You enjoy doing that, don't you?" Cullen sighed.  My laugh was my answer.  I helped him stand and reprimanded him once more for wearing such heavy armor even when he was in his own room.  Once he convinced me that he could get his armor off by himself, I departed to get some food from the kitchens.  There was hardly a glance my way; it had become a usual thing for the Inquisitor to be carrying a lunch tray all over the place.  What can I say, I like eating at places somewhere other than the great hall?  

It was always tricky getting food up the ladder, but since I was awesome I did it, although there was a bit of broth sloshed around.  Cullen was propped up in his bed, dressed in a loose tunic.  He turned his nose up at the light meal when I placed it in front of him.  "I don't feel like eating," he complained. 

"You need to eat something, Rutherford," I said as I broke off a bit of bread and dipped it in my own stew.  "You'll only feel sicker if you don't.  But you can start by drinking that tea to help settle it."  I doubted he would have done it if I hadn't been there beside him, but the day Cullen disobeyed my orders would be the day Hunter came to like Solas.

-

Dorian stopped to look over the railing with a raised eyebrow.  He enjoyed watching Solas and Alaran interact.  They were both hopelessly oblivious to their feelings for one another.  She would bring him books and toss them on his desk without another word, he would call her over while she was passing by and have her look at something on his desk, she would pause to examine his frescoes and point something out and he would stand up from where he was seated to stand beside her and explain, he would give one of his odd bursts of laughter when she said something funny--which he never did before--and she would sometimes sit atop his desk and animatedly tell a story.  

Alaran was walking in from the door that led to the battlements and seemed to have the intent of not stopping to talk to Solas.  He was deeply engrossed in a book and didn't look like he would acknowledge her.  Dorian was about to go back to his own duties when he saw Alaran halt right behind Solas, cock her head, and turn so she was facing his back.  Standing on her tip-toes and placing both hands on the back of his chair, Alaran breathed loudly a few times on his scalp.  Solas stiffened but couldn't turn to look up at her because she had taken her arm and made a cleaning motion on the spot where she had breathed, making loud "squeege squeege squeege" noises.  "There," Alaran declared after a few seconds, moving her arm back.  "All clean and sparkly like it should be."  

Dorian guffawed loudly as Alaran glided off.  Solas swiveled his head up to the Tevinter and scowled, the tips of his pointed ears a ripe pink.  "It's her that did it, not me!" Dorian professed as he held up his hands innocently.

His head did seem to shine a little brighter, but perhaps that was just Dorian's imagination.

-

"I don't understand why you give everybody else nicknames, but you just call me 'Al,'" I said, using my poor imitation of Varric's gruff voice when I said my shortened name.  Varric didn't even look up from whatever it was he was writing.  I was literate, yes, but I still couldn't read upside down.  

"What nickname would you have me call you?" he asked absently.  The cute, half-rimmed spectacles he wore whenever he was reading or writing were precariously balanced on the tip of his nose.  It made him look like a dad.  

"How would I know?" I asked, throwing my arms exasperatedly in the air.  

"So you don't like me calling you Al?"

"That's not what I said, Varric.  Are you even listening?"

"Sort of.  So at least I'm not just tuning you out."  He adjusted his glasses before continuing his work.  I slumped in my chair and pouted a good two minutes before Varric spoke again.  "I thought that you could be Violet, for your eyes, but that wouldn't do them justice.  Snowball was another one, but you fought too violently to be aptly nicknamed that, though it was close in the running.  You were a bit spastic in the beginning, so there was Twitchy.  Then I considered calling you Crap because that's what you said when you couldn't remember your name, but that might have hurt your feelings.  But when you said your name, it just clicked.  It always does.  Al."  Varric smirked as he mused the name.  "It suits you better than any nickname."

I turtle-frowned at the warm and fuzzy feelings I was getting.  Varric leaned back and sighed, rolling his wrist and curling his fingers a few times.  "I didn't know you had carpal tunnel," I stated, sitting up and propping my elbows on the wooden table.  

"What's that?"

"Your wrist hurts, doesn't it?  Gets all tingly and tight and makes your hand kind of go numb.  Can I see?"  I held out my hand to have Varric place his arm atop it.  I used the second digit of my index finger and gently pushed it up the underside his wrist and forearm.  "I found that this relieves it a bit."

Varric hummed contentedly.  "I didn't know you had the carpet...whatever it is you called it."

"Yeah," I said as I continued the process.  "It's pretty common back on Earth.  And since I was a musician, I was bound to get it.  I was too stubborn to ever wear the splints made for it, though, so I just suffered."

"Is that what you wanted to be before you came here?  A musician?"  Varric had slid into his easy-going interrogation mode.  I glanced up at him, considering whether or not I should tell him.  But he would make his own assumptions anyways, so I went with it.

"Yeah.  A violinist, specifically, but I could have broadened my range at any time if or when I wanted to."

"You didn't want to sing?"

I shrugged.  "Yeah, but I'm a lot better at playing the violin.  I was already performing for symphony orchestras before I got sick.  But..."  My thumbs began to knead into Varric's arm, next.  "I did enjoy playing an assortment of instruments.  I loved the guitar, which is like a lute with less strings and has...well I can't really explain how it sounds but if the lute were a sunset the guitar would a forest."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"It will, if you ever get to hear me play the guitar one of these days.  I really liked playing the piano as well, though.  But you guys don't have that here, yet.  Maybe you never will.  The sounds it produces are like...like how Skyhold is beautiful and strong and old and young all at once."

"Still not making any sense," Varric chuckled.  I smirked and finally withdrew my hands.  "Thanks, Al."  

"You're welcome..." I scrunched up my face in thought, then gave up.  "Damnit.  I still can't come up with a nickname for you."

"And I doubt you ever will."

"Shut yo face, Tethras."

-

"Inquisitor--" Josephine called to me, but I cut her off with a sharp wave of the hand.

"Not now, Josie.  I'm off to Ride the Bull."

The Antivan paled and opened her mouth to question me, but I was striding so briskly she couldn't get anything out in time.  I was dressed in my "work-out" clothes--an olive green, loose tunic, black leggings, and calf-high boots.  My short hair had been tied back in a bun--well, a knot was more accurate.

"Boss," Iron Bull greeted loudly, spreading his arms wide as I entered the ring.  

"The Iron Bull," I said back with the same tone of voice and gesture.

"You ready to get your scrawny ass kicked?"

"You ready to get your fat ass kicked?"

"Stretches, first."

"Of course."

We worked our muscles until they were loose.  The Chargers were already gathered around the fence, along with Varric, Blackwall, Sera, and Cassandra.  I gave my shoulders a final roll and Iron Bull tightened his eye patch.  What had brought this on?  Let me recall...

..."I bet I could kick your ass, Boss."

"You want to find out?"

"Yeah."

"Let's do it."

Yep.

Iron Bull and I circled one another, seeing each other's weaknesses and strengths.  As strong as I was, Bull was easily five times stronger.  I had to be quick and precise if I was to get him down.  I knew his right leg had been twisted a while back and he was still recovering from it.  He knew that I had just dislocated my shoulder a couple weeks ago.  

"You gonna go first, Boss, or am I?" Bull asked.  "I know I can be pretty intimid--YEAH!"

I lunged in the middle of his sentence, going all-out.  The gathering crowd cheered and jeered as we fought.  At some point I ended up on Iron Bull's right horn, using it as leverage to send him off-balance and kick him in the face.  He gripped my leg and threw me like a boomerang into the ground.  The thing about boomerangs, though, is that they always come back.  I pushed myself back up, and charged once more.  I found that I did more damage if I got behind him.  One of my fists jabbed into the back of his bum knee and collapsed it.  Bull spun to swing at me, but I dodged it and leaped up to wrap my legs around his thick neck, a fierce war-cry escaping from me.  Both my arms locked themselves around his horns.  He grappled for me and managed to grab my hair and yank me as far as he could.  I let go of the left horn and elbowed him in his blinded side.  I had to get him down.  It was now or never.  

I pulled all my weight to stagger Bull to the side.  He careened--right into the fence post.

I slammed into it, all the air rushing out of me in an oof.  At least I hadn't gotten my face smeared against the wood like Iron Bull.  The post gave way and the horn I had been using as a steering wheel crushed against my chest.  The cheering turned into laughter.  

"You okay, Boss?" Bull groaned as he rolled away enough so his horn wasn't slowly killing me.  

"Yeah," I groaned back.  "You?"

"Yeah."

Varric was heartily laughing as he helped me up.  I winced at the bloody splinters jammed into Iron Bull's cheek.  "So who won?" I asked the dwarf.

"Well it looked like it was going to be you, but then it all just turned into one huge cluster-fuck," Varric responded, patting me on my bad shoulder purposely.  I hissed and jerked away.  

"Nobody won that round, Quizzy," Sera cackled.  "Both of you look like shite."

I flipped her the bird.  She gave one right back.  

Bull and I stood up.  I jerked my thumb over to the tavern.  "Come on, let's get those splinters out of your face."

We started walking when Bull said, "Wait, how are you going to get them out of my face?"

"You'll see."

I knew Rocky had an adhesive similar to what was on a waxing strip.  Let's just say that the wooden fragments were removed all at once.  And that Bull had to shave so he wouldn't be walking around with a bare patch on his jawline.  

We went at it again the very next day.

-

Solas watched with fascination and care as the paintbrush moved over the wall.  He was well-practiced at not jumping in alarm at sudden noises, so when there was a tired hum from behind him, he didn't start.  Instead Solas finished the stroke and turned to see Alaran moving into the rotunda, eyes heavy with sleep and hair a messy white halo.  He had to smile at the picture.  A blanket was wrapped tightly around her small frame, and her bare feet made shuffling sounds against the floor.

"What are you doing up at this hour?" he inquired.  Alaran first threw herself on his couch and curled up, head on the armrest.

"My Mark hurts," Alaran said tiredly, tightening the blanket around her.  

"I did not know the Anchor bothered you away from rifts," Solas said, tilting his head in contemplation.  She shook her head back and forth and yawned.

"No, the other Mark."  A hand slid out from the cocoon, revealing the stark pink scar on her pale flesh.  Solas frowned.  Alaran saw his expression and tapped against her temple, eyes already beginning to close once more.  "It makes me think not nice things.  I shouldn't have ever done it, but at the time I thought it would serve as a good reminder.  Now all it does is tell me that I'm going to fail like I did at Haven."

He found himself setting his paint and brush aside and walking over to Alaran.  She idly examined it.  "You did not fail at Haven," he said seriously.

"I know.  And I also know that it's really just me telling myself all sorts of negative stuff, but I only think about it when I look at the scar."  Alaran clenched her hand and tucked it back inside.  Her eyes closed, silver lashes barely brushing against her porcelain skin.  "So I figured that if I wasn't alone, I wouldn't think that way."

"And you came here?"

"Yeah.  Well...I was actually headed to the tavern to go see what Sera was up to, but when I saw that you were still up I came here instead.  The tavern is really noisy, anyways.  And it kind of smells like piss."  She drowsily smirked and Solas' heart fluttered.  

"You are welcome here anytime, Alaran."

"Thanks, Solas."  Not two moments later she was sound asleep.  Solas resisted the urge to tuck the snowy tuft of awry hair behind her ear.  He failed miserably.  Alaran's hair was as soft as he had imagined it.  And she smelt of lavender.  The smell reminded Solas of a dinner table, where his legs swung back and forth in a chair because they were too little to reach the ground.  A vase of fresh lavenders picked from the garden outside sat in front of him, and he didn't like it because they got in the way of seeing--

His hand pulled back and he stood to return to painting.  Except, Solas couldn't seem to control where his eyes trailed to.  She was...she was beaut--

Alaran's body jerked and she rolled off the couch with a thud.  He froze, expecting her to instantly wake up, but she stayed still, her bottom comically raised in the air.  Solas had to chuckle at the sight.  She was one of the most dangerous sleepers he had ever come across.  Instead of moving her back onto the couch--Solas knew that Alaran would only roll back off within a few minutes--he took his vest that had been draped over the his chair, folded it up, and placed it underneath her head.  Soon after she kicked the blanket loose and had it tangled between her legs.  Still, Alaran showed no signs of stirring.  Occasionally Solas would hear her from behind him smacking a palm or a foot against the stone as she violently turned.  When his own eyes grew blurry from fatigue, he put everything away slowly and deliberately so he could prepare himself for what he would do next.

Solas crouched down and picked Alaran up.  However, her body involuntarily reacted to his movements and she squirmed, nearly making him lose grip and come dangerously close to dropping her.  "Alaran," Solas whispered in some attempt to wake her.  "I am--"

"Tacos are bad unless you eat them with a spatula."  Alaran blinked her eyes open and stared vacantly up at Solas.  "Don't forget to buy eyebrows for the fire."

Solas had heard Varric and Sera tease Alaran about her sleep-talk, but he had never heard it himself.  It brought an amused smile to his face.  "I won't," he replied.  Alaran seemed satisfied with his answer and reached up to wrap her arms around his neck and bury her head in the crook of his shoulder.  She shifted her legs so they were on either side of Solas' waist.  From the iron grip she had in both places, Solas knew he wouldn't be prying her off any time soon.  So he tentatively placed his hands on her muscled thighs to support her and began to walk.  The tips of his ears were red and there wasn't even anybody around for him to be embarrassed in front of.  Alaran muttered other incoherent things up the flight of stairs to her chambers.  Her body was warm and nice and the smell of lavender was intoxicating.  Solas gave into temptation and dared to breathe in--

A strand of Alaran's fine hair sucked into one of his nostrils and he loudly sneezed, hands involuntarily squeezing her thinly covered legs.  Again Solas froze, waiting with dread for her to wake up and demand to know why he had gripped an area close to her behind.  But she didn't.  His pace quickened.  

Once inside her dark chambers, Solas made his way to the bed and bent over to release her.  Alaran suddenly loosened her grip and landed on the bed with a bounce.  Solas covered her with the plush, finely made blankets.  "Sleep well, lethallan," he said, faintly smiling.  Alaran rolled over and splayed her limbs out.  He wondered how she hadn't suffocated herself yet.  

Solas realized that Alaran's scent had rubbed off on his clothes as he made his way back to his room.  He didn't change out of them for the night.  Coincidentally, he failed to sleep for a long time.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"I don't think people use the phrase 'get thee to a nunnery' enough around here," I contemplated aloud as I gazed down at my cards.  

"Al, that's not even a phrase here," Varric said, chuckling lightly.  I frowned.

"Still." I laid down my cards and the whole table groaned at what they saw.  

"That's it," Blackwall grumbled, "We're not letting you play Wicked Grace anymore.  You're bleeding us dry, you tyrant."

"Hue hue hue," I said, jutting out my chin so I could make the weird laugh sound better.  Cassandra made a disgusted noise.

"Why do I even come here?" she asked rhetorically.

"'Cause you got nothin better to do than slice away those dummies," Sera answered anyways.

I slid the coins in my hand.  "She slices and dices and chicken fried rices them!"

"Well aren't you on one, tonight," Dorian sighed.  "Does your oddness know no bounds?"

"Wait til you see me dance," I said suggestively, waggling my eyebrows.  

"Oh!" Josephine gasped.  "Yes!  Thank you for bringing that up, Inquisitor!  We received an official invitation from the Winter Palace today, which means we can begin making preparations to stop the assassination of Empress Celene."

I curled my lip.  "Can't we just send her a nice bouquet of flowers and a lovely written note saying that we don't want her to get assassinated and to cancel everything?"

"Al," Varric drawled, "do you not know how to dance?"

"Oh, I know how to dance, Master Tethras.  Just...not dancing from here."  My voice trailed off into a mumble.

"Do not worry," Josephine assured, "I shall set up dance lessons, yes?"

I furiously shook my head.  "Nope.  Nope.  I'm not dancing unless it's to Uptown Funk or Waiting for Love.  Does this world have those songs?  I think not.  So the dancing lessons won't be necessary."

"Dancing is an essential part of the Game," Josephine said with infinite patience.  "You must."  

"You're all artsy fartsy though," Sera said, "dancing should be easy for you, yeah."

My lips pursed.  "Dancing has not been one of my strongest suits.  There.  I said it.  Are all you assholes happy?"

"Very," Iron Bull answered with a smirk.  

"Well you know what I'm happy about?" I said, standing and dangling my heavy coin purse.  "That I got all y'alls money!  Alaran out."

-

"I need to ask you a Fade question," I said, skipping pleasantries and bursting through the door to the rotunda.  Solas looked away from his painting and turned his head to me.  I knew that would get his attention.  Well, nowadays I got his attention no matter what.

"Yes?"

"So you know how there's spirits of compassion and spirits of love and whatnot?"

"Yes."

"Are there spirits of dancing?"

Solas' expression turned quizzical.  "Why would you ask such a question?"

"Because," I said, flinging myself dramatically on the couch, "Josephine is making me learn how to dance all snooty-snoot here for Halamshiral.  I can't dance in the first place, Solas.  How do they expect me to know learn all the footwork in a month?"

He didn't try to hide his amusement.  "No, unfortunately there are no spirits of dance that I am aware of."  I whined loudly.  "But I have faith that you can learn the techniques.  You've accomplished anything you've set your heart on, so far.  Dancing should not be any different."

I still pouted childishly.  "I wish dancing here was the same as dancing on Earth.  At least I wouldn't be the only one embarrassing myself."

"What is dancing like from your home world?"

My pout immediately turned into a smirk and I sat up.  "It's crazy.  And a lot of fun."  I paused, an idea forming in my amazing brain.  "Would you like to see what it's like?"

Solas saw the glint in my violet eyes.  "Would I regret it?" he asked doubtfully.  I stood up and made my way over to him.

"Come on, Solas, do it for the pursuit of knowledge!  I'm giving you a first-hand opportunity to experience something from a different planet!"  I casually threw my arms around his waist and leaned into his chest.  I did it a lot, mainly so I could hear his heart pound excitedly, but I did enjoy the feeling that fluttered inside me whenever I did as well.  Solas looked down at me and couldn't help but smile at the wide-eyed, excited look I was giving him.  

"...Alright.  I will join you in the Fade tonight."

I let go and fist-pumped, doing a little shake of my hips.  "Aww yiss.  Party in the Fade!"

Solas sighed and shook his head, chuckling soundlessly.  I back-tracked out of the rotunda, pointing at him and said, "Don't be late."

-

"Hallah, I don't know what I'm going to wear," I stated anxiously, forming the dance room around me.  The Traveler snorted.  She was leaning against one of the walls, plucking at her ukulele.  

"Al, he's, like, ancient.  I doubt he'll be worried about what you have to wear.  I mean, do you see that awful shirt he constantly has on?  It looks like something a republican granny would wear.  Gosh, sometimes you can be such a twenty-year-old."

"I am a twenty-year-old."  

"Oh yeah."  Hallah struck up a series of pleasant chords and pushed her lips to the side in thought.  "Hm.  Well he'll be wearing his raggedy clothes, so anything you wear really will be a one-up.  Do you want to go total slut, semi-slut, or college-girl-on-spring-break?"

"There's a difference between those three?"

"Definitely," Hallah replied.

"I don't want to scare him off," I said after briefly considering the type of clothing I'd be wearing if I chose any of the categories.

"Fair enough.  Save that stuff for later."  She winked.  "Um, how about this?"  Hallah waved her hand in my direction and I felt the clothing I wore shift into something different.  A mirror appeared next to me.  I stared at myself, then cocked a hip and smirked.

"I like it."  I wore faded black, high-waisted skinny jeans and a royal blue, slinky crop top with capped sleeves.  Whenever I stretched or twisted it would reveal glimpses of my alabaster stomach.  Silver flats donned my feet, and a matching silver chain dangled from the top of my right ear to the lobe.  Light makeup dusted my eyes and cheekbones, but my berry-colored lips were amplified, making it even more obvious when I smirked.  I struck a few sexy-ish poses.  Unfortunately, sexy wasn't in my repertoire, which meant I got snickered at by the immortal with a Mohawk.  "Just...stick to being adorably awkward," Hallah sighed.   I gave a sad, agreeing nod.  

"This place won't attract any desire demons, will it?  Or demons of any kind?"

"I'll make sure it won't.  This is your first date, after all!  Look at my little Alaran, all grown up!"

I face-palmed.  Yeah, yeah, technically I hadn't been on a date in my entire life.  I've been kissed by boys, though, so I'm not totally virginal.  The first time was in eighth grade, when Jimmy Geishrich asked me to dance with him at the school Halloween party and planted an awkward kiss on my black lipsticked mouth (I was a Goth vampire.  Totally original, right?).  The second time was freshman year when the theater kids decided to play the kissing game and I got a peck on the lips by Henry Busick.  And the third was from Conner Nelson after he dropped me off from violin practice.  And...that's it.  Yep.  I'm a total harlot, I know.

I found it more than ironic that my very first date was with an ancient elvhen who's thousands of years old and most likely had no idea that this was even a date.  "Please tell me that this won't result in disaster," I begged Hallah.  She shrugged and smiled.  

"It's not going to be boring, that's for sure."  Hallah tilted her head to the left and her eyes brightened.  "Oh, he's coming!  Quick, make it look like you've been dancing for a while!  And don't tell him that I was here!"  She vanished and I began the dream, recreating the loud, fast-paced music and the swarm of bodies.  I hadn't actually ever been to a club, before, but I'd seen enough movies to know what went on.  Probably.  

I quickly fell into the rhythm of the music and the swaying, jumping, moving bodies all around me.  My dancing styles fell somewhere between white dad at a Fourth of July barbecue and a stripper who needed to put food on the table, mixed in with a little Beyonce.

"Solas!" I called when I saw him enter, and was pleased with the aghast look on his face.  I wove out of the bodies and jogged over to him.  He didn't try to hide the way his eyes moved up and down my figure.  I bit back a girlish grin and instead smirked.  "Ready to par-tay?"

"This is what you consider dancing?" he asked, having to raise his voice over the music.  "This isn't dancing!  This is...this is rutting!"

"Hey, now, don't admonish my culture!" I said back, mouth splitting into a grin.  "Come on!"  I grabbed his hand and drug him into the crowd.  I could feel resistance, but if Solas really didn't want to try it he would have flat-out said no.  As soon as we were in the middle once more threw my hands up and rocked and gyrated my body, mouthing the words to the song that was playing.  The thing about dancing and me:  even though I would never be considered at least remotely good by my world's standards, I had fun.  And that's what dancing is really all about, isn't it?  To make you feel good.  

"You don't expect me to dance!" Solas yelled into my ear.  

"Of course I do!" I yelled back, and belted the chorus of the song.  "If I have to be awful your world's dance, then you have to be awful at mine!"

He rolled his eyes and made no move to begin dancing, so I gripped both of his hands in mine and swayed them from side to side.  I was jumping while I did so with my head thrown back to the ceiling.  To anybody else, it would have been a ridiculous sight, me trying to get Solas to dance.  Hell, it was a ridiculous sight to the both of us, which was why we were both laughing a short while later.  Solas had taken to bouncing lightly on his feet, letting me have full control of his arms.  I flailed them around as I moved erratically, confusing myself with the movements of my hips.  They do, in fact, lie.  Our bodies wound up getting really close, which would have been very sexy had I not tripped over my feet and stumbled into Solas' chest.  He gripped my waist to steady me, but his hands landed on the bare spots of my stomach.  They lingered a bit before he jerked them back.  I looked up at Solas to see if the tips of his ears had turned red.  They did.  I felt a buzzing on my skin where his touch had been moments before.  And the awkward idiots we were, we paused in our dancing and stared at each other, both our faces quickly becoming flushed.

I smirked to make things better and easily grabbed his hand.  The music faded.  "Let's get out of here like the cool people we are."

A thousand butterflies exploded in my chest when Solas laced his fingers through mine.  "Let's.  Where shall we go?"

I tilted my head in thought.  "Hmm."  A moment later my face lit up.  "Oh!  I know!"  I slapped my free hand to the left side of my chest.  "Energize!"

-

New York City sprawled endlessly before us, illuminating the night.  Solas took in a breath, his face looking like mine did when I had first seen Skyhold.  "Welcome to the City that Never Sleeps," I declared proudly.  "My home.  New York."

"The...lights," Solas whispered breathlessly.  "It's--"  he froze and visibly paled.  I furrowed my eyebrows.

"What is it?"

"We..." he cleared his throat in an attempt to rid it of the trembling.  "We are most certainly up high, are we not?"

I paused before a smirk crept onto my face.  "You are afraid of heights, aren't you?"

"They do not make me the most comfortable, no," he said, pointedly looking down at me.  My smirk widened.

"That's just the eloquent way of saying it.  But it's alright."  Two chairs appeared in the center of the blacktop and we sat down in them.  I closed my eyes and breathed in the summer night air that I could conjure up at any time.  "I've missed this place."

"Do you enjoy being up this high?" Solas was firmly clutching the armrests as if he was threatening to float away into space.

"Solas," I deadpanned, "I talk about flying all the time.  What do you think?"  A wicked idea popped into my head.  Standing up, I skipped over to the ledge and fluidly stood atop it, the tips of my toes hanging off the corner.  My breath left me in pure delight as I stared at it all.  I balanced my arms on either side of me and began to walk along the edge like it was a tightrope.  Solas made a frightened, angry noise.

"Alaran!  You'll attract demons!"

"Liar," I giggled, rolling my head over to him.  He was standing up in a slightly crouched position with an outstretched arm in my direction, jaw tightly clenched.  I beckoned Solas over.  "Oh, come on!  None of this is real!  You have nothing to worry about, Solas.  Trust me."  I hopped back down to the blacktop.  Slowly, like the wary wolf he was, Solas came over.  I crouched and he followed suit.  My elbows propped up on the ledge and I rested my chin on a fist, humming happily.  Solas would take a glance, close his eyes and turn his head away, and then do it again.  He repeated the process until he could look at the city while only slightly cringing.  

"Admit it," I said after a minute or so of silence, "this place is beautiful."

Solas huffed a laugh.  "Yes, it quite is.  Are all these lights powered by the electricity you said your world had harnessed?"

"Yes."

"That is amazing."  The light emanating from the city below made his eyes shine warmly.  Or maybe that was just how they naturally looked.  Either way, I stopped to stare.  "What is the city like down below?" Solas asked, shifting his gaze to me. quickly averted my eyes straight ahead of me.  

"It's...very real," I smirked.  "Everything is loud and up close and there are ungodly smells coming from the sewers and the garbage and the people themselves.  See those steady streams of light that look like a glowing river?  Those are the cars I told you about, and being in one during rush hour is worse than any torture you could think of.  It should be a horrible place, and sometimes it is, but...gosh, I love it.  Everybody is so diverse and there are so many stories to be told and so many things to try and so many places to go.  You see that greenish light just a block away?  It's an all-night diner, and when I was first living on my own I'd go down there and have a huge cheeseburger and fries and a strawberry milkshake at one in the morning just because I could.  And down over there?  It's a bookstore with a little cafe built in and I'd go there in my free time and draw."  My finger lifted a ways further into the distance.  "And even though you can't see it, that's where I'd go to perform street music."  I kept talking because I could feel Solas' gaze on me and see a faint smile from the corner of my eye, and I was afraid that if I did he would look away.  So I talked and talked, pointing at different places and lit-up buildings and experiences I had over here and there until finally I lost steam and dared to look back at him.  My breath caught in my throat when I found that he didn't move his gaze.

"You have a lovely voice," he complimented.  "I could listen to it all day."

"My voice?  What about yours?" I said back before I could turn too pink.  I rolled over so my back was against the ledge and put on a stern face and said in an accented voice, "The Fade is a wonderful place.  I frolic in the dream meadows and play with dream kittens.  Everybody should partake in it."

He snorted a laugh and took up the same position as I had.  "You could easily pass as elvhenan with your accent."

My face lit up.  "Really?"

"No."

Solas laughed once more and defended himself against the smack I gave him on his shoulder.  "It's a good thing I like you, ya know.  Otherwise I might just toss you off this skyscraper."

"Oh?  You like me?"  There was a mischievous glint in his gray-blue eyes.  I narrowed my violet ones back.  

"Of course I do.  Which is why I'm so heartbroken at your insult.  As such, I have no choice but to throw myself over the side."  I bolted to pitch over the building, squealing when Solas' arms wrapped around my waist and hauled me off my feet.  I kicked my legs in the air as he carried me a safe distance away and promptly released me.  I whirled on Solas, meaning to yell at him and angrily jab my finger in his chest and say some snarky comeback.

Instead, though, my lips crashed against his, and I cupped his strong, defined jaw with both hands.  Sweet baby Stig was his lips soft and holy crap what am I doing--

I pulled away, immediately realizing just how completely stupid that was when Solas spun me back around and held me tight against him, our kisses fast and passionate and Andraste's tits that was one helluva tongue. Solas wound his fingers through my snowy hair and gently tugged on it.  I clutched the fabric of his sweater and stood on my tip-toes.  I could feel that he was smiling even with my eyes closed.  "You are just so..." Solas whispered lowly between kissing.  "Tiny."

I pulled back and glared as he grinned, but I couldn't even keep a straight face long enough to successfully make him think I was angry.  "You're insufferable," I said through gritted teeth.  His grin faded into a loving smile, and his hand unwound itself from my hair so he could graze my bottom lip with his thumb.  Ack, why was my heart melting into a puddle of mush?

Then Solas' eyes became guarded.  His hand dropped.  "Perhaps it would be best--"

"Oh nuh-uh,"  I said, yanking away from his grasp.  "Don't pull your whole angsty 'I-have-too-many-burdens-to-bear-and-I-will-only-cause-you-sorrow' crap.  I like you, Solas.  I like you a lot.  Freakin-A, I'd never thought I would be saying that, but yet I am.  I know who you are and I know your burdens and you know me and mine but if you don't want to be with me then just say it and I'll back off."  I sucked in a breath after the lengthy sentence.  Solas stood there silently, and I watched the guard slip down.  He bowed his head.

"Forgive me, Alaran.  I did not intend..." he looked back up and made a move to embrace me, but seemed as if he didn't know exactly how to enact it.  "My feelings for you are strong, as well.  But, as I often do, I destroy that which I care about.  To see something happen to you because of my follies..."  Solas shook his head and briefly closed his eyes as if he was in pain.  "I am selfish in the way that I do not want to experience what that would do to me."

I huffed loudly.  I was still mildly angry, but I embraced him nonetheless.  Solas clung to me, the bottom of his cheek pressed against my brow.  "And you don't think I have the same fears?" I spoke softly into his chest.  "But we all deserve happiness, Solas, no matter where we are in life."  I tilted my head up to him and touched his lips kindly with my own.  "Even an elvhen disguised as a poor apostate."

-

The day I had been dreading had finally come.

“This is not JoseFINE,” I grumbled.  The Antivan woman gave me a flat stare

“That phrase has spread throughout Skyhold thanks to you, Inquisitor.  But learning Orlesian dancing is necessary.  It's a vital part to--"

“The Game.  I know, I know.  But--hear me out, please--can’t I just drop a sick beat on them and be done?”

“Use terminology from our world, dear,” Dorian said lightly as he took a seat.  The rest of the Inner Circle had come to watch my upcoming failure, most of them with smug looks.  The bastards.

“You got this, Boss,” Iron Bull encouraged.

“Are we ready?” Josephine asked.  I nodded, but had a resolute frown on my face.  Vivienne began sharply tapping a baton to the beat.  The two of us got into dancing position.  As soon as she began to lead me I was stumbling over her feet and my own.  

Let me spare you the stories of the next hour.  It wasn’t pretty, but I did learn a few phrases of Antivan curses.

There was a collective sigh of relief as Josephine and I let go of each other.  I stomped off a little ways and flipped an imaginary table.

“What on earth was that?” Dorian asked.  I did it one more time to another section of air.

“Flipping tables,” I growled.  “I can’t flip a real one, so I pretend to.”

“Well it looks all sorts of ridiculous.  I would encourage you to stop.”

I turned back to Josie, shoulders sagged.  “This is hopeless,” I sighed.  “I’m going to get kicked out for not being able to dance and most likely send one of those tiny Orlesian men into the buffet table.”  Iron Bull and Blackwall laughed.  Cassandra smirked.

“Yeah, you dance worse than I do,” Sera snickered.  I scowled at her.

I hadn’t noticed Solas looking so disgruntled until I did a second take at his face.  “Have something to say, do you?” I asked him.  

“You are not being led properly, that is all,” Solas responded.  Josephine breathed through her nostrils, obviously insulted.  

“Well,” she said tightly to Solas, “then perhaps you should lead her."  Underneath her breath the ambassador muttered, "Maker knows I’ve done all I can.”

I put a hand over my heart and feigned being hurt.  “You just really had to twist the knife in my heart, didn’t you?” I said to her.  She breathed again, but there was a smile on her lips.  

Solas stepped forward and swept me into a dancing position.  “Are you ready?”  It wasn’t really a question.

“No,” I said back.  Vivienne began tapping the baton against the desk once more, and before I could even gather my wits Solas had me moving on the dance floor at a swift pace.  I began to look at my feet out of fear that I was going to stumble, but he made a noise to get my attention.

“Keep your eyes on me,” he instructed.  So I did, and found myself relaxing to his touch.  We just moved together right.  I knew where Solas was going to step even when I didn’t, which made it easier to not focus so much on my own shortcomings.  He even hummed one of the waltzing tunes in the back of his throat, which prompted me to ask him later if he could sing at all.  Solas spun me and guided me and I loved it.

We finished in an elegant dip.  Then, after a breath, I flung my arms around him, squealing and shimmying my entire body.  I hopped away and did more of my little dance, then crouched into a Tim Tebow move.  Once I leaped back up I twisted wrong and my side flared with pain.  “Ooh,” I winced.  “No more of that, feels like.”

“Thank the Maker,” Vivienne said lightly, “Whatever that was, it’s not very becoming.”

I made a face at her, then moved my gaze back to Solas.  He had his arms clasped behind his back, looking very proper and royal.  

“Okayy,” Varric drawled.  “And I’m guessing you learned how to dance like that in the Fade?”

“Your dancing is very...well, very good,” Josephine stumbled, obviously directing the observation to Solas.

“Why, thank you, Josie, I try,” I said in a snooty voice, mimicking a curtsy.  She rolled her eyes at me.

-

I stared at Sera, who had her arms angrily crossed and a sneer on her face.  She had been the unfortunate model Josephine had snagged to put the formal attire on.  "It's...uh...it's nice," I said in a voice an octave higher than usual.  

Josephine pursed her lips.  "You do not like it."

"It's not that I don't like it..." I started animatedly.

"It fockin hurts my eyes," Sera grumbled.  I nodded in agreement, grimacing.

"Yeah, it's a bit unappealing to the eyes.  But--" I added before Josephine could get her feelings hurt, "I think I know how to make this still look royally bad-ass.  Here."  I walked over and undid the silken blue sash and held it up to the Orlesian tailor.  "Do you have this in a pale gold?"

"Oui, Madame."  She sifted through her trunk and soon pulled out one the exact color I was thinking.  I smiled.

"Merci."  I turned back to Sera and tapered the sash onto her.  The four of us examined the adjustment in the full-body mirror.  "How does that look?"

Sera raised an eyebrow and did a few poses.  "I still look like a pompous arse, but it's not all bad."

"Josie?" I questioned.  "How do you feel?  If you don't like it, we can always stick to the blue."

"No," the adviser said as she tilted her head in thought.  "I approve of it."

"Great!  And, maybe we could tuck in the sides for the women..."

-

"Look at you, you handsome devil," Alaran smirked as Solas stepped out from behind the divider.  She strode forward and smoothed out his sash, her touch kind and warm.  Solas' heart beat wildly on its own accord.  The uniform was tight and fitted on her body, the dark red fabric complimenting her porcelain skin and white hair.  Black kohl had been applied to her silver eyelashes, bringing out their incredible length and the vividness of her eye color.

"And you look stunning," Solas said.  It was the simple, beautiful truth.  

Alaran snorted, as he suspected she would.  She rarely got flustered at compliments.  "I look like many things, my dear Solas, but beautiful is not one of them, especially in this outfit.  Now, if you said I looked intimidating and powerful and confident, I would be more willing to believe that."

"You look all those things and more.  I just chose the description I liked best," Solas returned, a little smirk spreading on his own face.  Her eyes crinkled around the edges in happiness.  Alaran emulated leadership and prowess as they walked down the stairs to depart to Halamshiral.  Solas couldn't help but observe her.  He had never thought that when he awoke, he would find somebody that he would want to share his heart with.  But having Alaran's affections was something else entirely.  She was...nothing Solas had ever expected, yet everything he wanted and needed.  

Had Hallah Lynne seen this occurring?

Most likely.  

But he wouldn't think of the Traveler, not now.  Not when Alaran had easily linked her arm with his as if he were her escort and not the other way around.  While he felt the tips of his ears turn pink when the others saw the two of them, Alaran only smiled proudly.

"Oh, no, it's official," Dorian groaned.  His mustache was especially curled tonight.  

"Excellent timing, dear," Vivienne commended, looking especially dangerous in her uniform.  "Although you know I'll never entirely approve of it.  You have a reputation to uphold, after all."

"I know, Viv," Alaran said smoothly.  She never got riled at the Enchantress's remarks.  Perhaps that was a good thing.  

"Alright, Blackwall, pay up!" Sera shouted, holding her hand out to the Warden.  He grunted in irritation and fished out a few coins from his pocket.  Solas furrowed his eyebrows.

"You had bets placed?" he questioned incredulously.  Sera stuffed them into her uniform, snickering.

"'Course we did, elfy.  Bull told us you were all googly for her after Haven.  Took ya long enough."

Alaran turned her head up to him and raised an eyebrow.  "Is that true?"  Her eyes glinted in delight.  Solas sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, refusing to answer in public.  She could prod him for it later.

Varric oddly remained silent during the conversations that went back and forth until the three carriages pulled up and Josephine shepherded them into each one.  Alaran and Solas wound up with Cole and Cassandra.  The spirit picked absently at the hem of his sleeve while the Seeker dourly crossed her arms and stared out the window.  "Don't worry, Cassie, it'll all be over before you know it," Alaran assured mockingly.  Cassandra made a disgusted noise.

"Be grateful that I cannot take my sword with me, Inquisitor.  I'd have five Orlesians skewered on before the night was even half over if I did."  She irritably swept her short black bangs to the side of her brow.  "This will be miserable."

And Alaran Lavellan, the collected, intelligent, commanding Inquisitor she was, said, "Well if it makes you feel any better, I'll be miserable too.  Vivienne got me to try out these lacy Orlesian panties to wear, and hoo boy are they riding up something awful.  I'm going to be squirming and ducking behind pillars to dig them out of my ass throughout this whole ordeal."

Cassandra huffed a laugh, her expression lightening somewhat.  Solas firmly put the picture of her wearing the garment out of his mind before Cole could pick up on it.  Instead the spirit asked aloud, "What do you mean, 'they ride up?'"

It was going to be an interesting ride to the Winter Palace.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The Winter Palace.

Like most beautiful places, it was built on the bones of the oppressed and forgotten.  But I would not forget.

I remembered Josephine's words as I stepped out of the carriage.  "The political situation in Halamshiral hangs by a thread.  The empress fears our presence could sever it."  I immediately spotted the man of the hour, the reason why we were here in the first place.  "The grand duke is only too happy to have us at the ball as his guests, so our invitation comes from him.  Whether we act as his allies, or upset the balance of power, he gains an opportunity...if not a clear advantage."

"It is a great pleasure to meet you, Inquisitor Lavellan," Gaspard said as he approached.  He swept into a bow and kissed my gloved hand.  So it begins.  "The rumors coming out of the Western Approach say you battled an army of demons.  Imagine what the Inquisition could accomplish with the full support of the rightful Emperor of Orlais!"

Nobody is going to rule Orlais.  I want ANARCHY! I was tempted to scream, then tear my clothes off so I was naked and set everything on fire.  But I didn't.  

"I can see many benefits to such an alliance," I responded coolly, guarding my emotions so nothing would be conveyed save distant politeness.  

"Keep the image firmly in mind," Gaspard said, seeing that I was on my A-Game and thus being on his own.  "We may see it materialize by the end of the evening."  He paused, eyes looking up and down my body.  I hid my revulsion well.  "I am not a man who forgets his friends, Inquisitor.  You help me, I'll help you."  We began to walk together, both of us relishing a little in the stares we got from the other nobles and the fervent whispers that ensued.  "Prepared to shock the assembly by appearing as the guest of a hateful usurper, my lady?"  Gaspard chuckled.  "They will be telling stories of this into the next age."

I considered taking the bait, but backed off.  "It's a pleasure to meet you, Duke Gaspard.  I look forward to ending this civil war."  The inflection of my tone on the last sentence barely implied that I would do whatever it took to stop the massacre.  Gaspard heard it well and eyed me sharply from behind his golden mask, a smile playing on his face.

"As do I, my friend.  The empire needs stability and security, now more than ever.  If you have the safety of the Orlesian people at heart, Inquisitor, perhaps you will look into something for me."

-

"...And now, presenting:  Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons.  And accompanying him, Lady Inquisitor Lavellan."

I walked with an easy, confident gait as I descended the stairs, revealing just the tiniest of smirks to let the nobles know that I was not something to be taken lightly.  The Inquisition itself was not something to be taken lightly.  It let them know that I was not a scared elf in a place I knew nothing about.  And it definitely let them know that I was just as dangerous as they were, if not more so, for I saw past the flattery and insults so many hid themselves behind.  

With the entirety of the Inner Circle standing behind me--I could only imagine what we looked like to the rest of the world from our hodge podge of characters--I bowed once more to Empress Celene, who kindly curtsied in return.  She wanted me to see her as a standing political figure, a force that I could not go up against, but all I saw when I looked upon the woman was somebody who burnt down an alienage full of innocent elves when she couldn't control rumors.  I saw a woman who was afraid because of how weak she really knew she was.  "Grand Duke.  We are always honored when your presence graces our court."

"Don't waste my time with pleasantries, Celene," Gaspard said.  I resisted shooting him a surprised, respectful glance.  "We have business to conclude."

"We will meet for the negotiations after we have seen to our other guests," Celene spoke.  The duke gave an elaborate bow that bordered on mocking and departed.

"Lady Inquisitor," Celene addressed me.  Was it just me, or was her voice somewhat annoying?  Don't get me wrong, I was all for French--Orlesian--accents, but...*uncomfortable internal squirming.* "We welcome you to the Winter Palace.  Allow us to present our cousin, the Grand Duchess of Lydes, without whom this gathering would never have been possible."  The short-haired woman beside the Empress curtsied, her eyes attempting to pierce through my defenses.  

"What an unexpected pleasure.  I was not aware the Inquisition would be part of our festivities," she said, her voice honeyed and dangerous.  I knew then that she was a threat, no matter how she played her hand.  "We will certainly speak later, Inquisitor."

Celene went on.  "Your arrival at court is like a cool wind on a summer's day."

More like a smelly fart in a cramped elevator.  "I am delighted to be here, Your Majesty," I said respectfully.  Ugh, why did I have to keep all my real thoughts inside, again?  Oh, right--I was the leader of the fastest growing power in Thedas.  Dang.

"We have heard much of your exploits, Inquisitor.  They have made grand tales for long evenings."  She evaluated my reaction when she spoke the next sentence.  "How do you find Halamshiral?"

It's pretty.  Pretty LAME.  OOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  "I've never seen anything to equal the Winter Palace," I responded with a light smile and taking on a slight doe-eyed expression to ensure her that I was impressed.  

"We hope you will find the time to take in some of its beauties.  Feel free to enjoy the pleasures of the ballroom, Inquisitor.  We look forward to watching you dance."

And I look forward to "accidentally" stepping on the toes of tiny Orlesian men.  And holy shit do I have the biggest wedgie of my life.

-

Solas watched with hidden amusement as Alaran danced with multiple partners.  He recalled the conversation they had a few nights prior to the departure.

"Hey," Alaran said as she scribbled notes down on the margin of a book she was supposed to read about how cutthroat Orlesian politics were.  She was on the couch laying flat on her stomach, her bare feet pointed in the air and lazily curling around each other every so often.  "What were elvhen politics like?"

"They were just as dangerous as politics today.  Except, we were all immortal, so grudges were held much longer."

"No, I mean what kind of system was it?"

Solas' eyebrows furrowed.  He did not fully understand the question.  "It was politics.  I am not certain I can go into further detail of the systems of it."

Alaran turned her head to him, mildly surprised.  "Really?  This world has only known one type of political system?  Even the ancient elves used a feudal monarchy?"  A contemplative frown flashed across her mouth and she raised an eyebrow.  "Huh.  Interesting.  Then again, I don't know why I would have thought otherwise."  She dipped her quill in the inkwell that had been placed on the floor and went back to writing.  Solas continued to stare at her.

"And your world has different political systems?"

"Uh-huh," Alaran replied absently as she wrote.  "My country governs through what you would call a 'Representative Democracy,' though there would be quite a few that would beg to differ.  Myself included, in some of its aspects."  

Curiosity sparked in Solas' mind.  He set aside his book and focused his attention on her.  "And what are the differences between the two systems?"

A smirk curved up the side of Alaran's mouth.  "Well, for starters, we don't have to dance in order to play hardball..."

Whatever unease that may have been inside her on the ballroom was expertly hidden. Alaran moved fluidly and as she simultaneously spoke with the nobles she was dancing with.  There was a practiced smirk here, a compliment there, and a few falsified amazed expressions at whatever the Orlesians were feeding her.  Everything she did was fascinating and beautiful, and Solas would love every agonizing moment of her destroying him if there ever came a time, because Alaran was not just his equal; she was superior.  They both knew it.  Everybody knew it.  But Alaran was not one to say or think such things.  It only added to the exquisite spirit she was.  

"Solas, you're staring again," Dorian sighed as he sidled up to the elf.  The Vint downed his glass of deep red wine in one gulp.  Solas gave him a sidelong glance, slightly raising an eyebrow.

"The night isn't even half over, Dorian.  Do they teach such a thing called 'pacing' in Tevinter?" Solas had to ask.  But his sass was well-met.

"Oh, no, there's no time for any of that, especially when we have to bring about Blights and false gods and an impeccable taste in fashion," Dorian responded.  He snatched another glass from a passing servant elf.  "A pity, too.  I would have enjoyed having some self-preservation on such a night."

The two of them watched as Alaran was dipped low to the ground by a particularly ostentatious noble, who after pulling her back up moved his hand down and squeezed her ass.  Solas found that he was already starting to move forward, but Dorian grabbed the back of his collar and stopped him.  "I know you'd love to cause a scene, but I do believe that our Inquisitor has got this taken care of."

Much to Solas' chagrin, he crossed his arms and thunderously glared as they continued to dance.  Alaran's face remained polite, but her eyes were a lightning storm.  She leaned in and whispered something intimately into the noble's ear.  Solas could clearly see all the color drain from the man's face, even with a mask partially covering it.  Dorian chuckled at the scene.  "What did I tell you?  I'm going to have to ask her what it is she said."  He took a more controlled sip of his wine.  "My, my, I wonder if these Orlesians know what they've gotten themselves into by throwing Alaran into the mix.  I simply cannot wait to see how the night will turn out."

The night went on and Solas found himself leaning comfortably against the wall, picking up all sorts of nasty rumors and secrets that brought a small smile to his face.  Still, his breath caught and he was left momentarily stunned when Alaran strode into the wing he had taken place in.  Her violet eyes gleamed in the dim light when they saw him, and her composed face allowed itself a small smirk as she walked up to him.  "Enjoying yourself?" Alaran asked.  Her eyes flickered up to the metal hat atop his head, and, as she called the facial expression, "turtle-frowned."  "I don't know how you possibly can, with that Hershey's Kiss on your head.  Protecting your thoughts from aliens in cornfields?  From professors in wheelchairs?"  Solas rolled his eyes and smiled as he let Alaran make references from her home.  

"Are you finished?" he asked after she was particularly pleased with a comment and laughed in that amusing, disconcerting hue hue hue voice.  

"Probably," Alaran shrugged, a dimple exposing itself on the side of her cheek where her smirk tended to shift towards.  Was she aware that she had an aura of radiance about her?  "But really; are you enjoying yourself?"

"I do adore the heady blend of power, intrigue, danger, and sex that permeates these events," Solas confessed.  Now it was Alaran's turn to roll her eyes, black-colored lashes fluttering lightly.  

"You're such a nerd," she chuckled.  "It's a good thing I'm just as bad, huh?"  Her smirk faded and she looked up lovingly to him.  "Do you have any interest in dancing with me at some point tonight?"

"A great deal," he said, his heart picking up pace at the thought of Alaran in his arms as they swept across the dance floor.  "Although dancing with an elven apostate would win you few favors with the court."

"Pfft.  At this point I could have somebody killed and they would ooh and aww at me in wonder.  For people who pride themselves in knowing the Game so well, they sure can be gullible."  Her eyes crackled mischievously.  "Perhaps after business is concluded we can?  But--" she added before Solas could answer, "you'll have to take off that ridiculous headpiece before you have me in your arms."

Solas bowed respectfully.  "Anything for you, my lady."

-

"Leliana," I hissed as soon as I caught the spymaster alone.  "Did you know Empress Celene's apostate adviser was freaking Morrigan?"

If she was surprised that I knew who Morrigan was, she didn't show it.  "I did."

"Aren't you two friends or something?" I said, exaggerating the word.

The corner of her lip turned downward.  "We fought together and aided the Hero of Ferelden, but that is not a term I would use to define our relationship."

I pinched the bridge of my nose and sighed.  "Ugh.  That's really disappointing.  But I'm glad I didn't suggest she come back to Skyhold so you two could catch up.  Who knows what evil thing you would do to me then."

-

I looked on with hollow despair at the massacre.  How many nobles would lose their lunch if they saw such a thing?  Better yet, how many would even care that this happened?  They were just elves, after all.

"This isn't right," I whispered lowly.  "This isn't right."

"My dear," Vivienne said, "we have more important things to attend to.  The elves--"

I slammed the Grand Enchantress against the wall, fury filling the emptiness.  "Don't you dare suggest that these people should not be mourned, Madame de Fer.  Can't you see that this is unacceptable?  That society shouldn't stand for this?"  I shook my head disgustedly at her and released my grip.  Vivienne straightened her outfit and glared at me with anger and...fear.  My fury quelled a bit.  "I'm sorry, Viv--"

"Do not be sorry for your beliefs, Inquisitor," she cut off seriously, her anger dissipating as well.  "For it is your beliefs that will change the world.  What is it that you told me, once?"

I cast my eyes down, knowing exactly what she was remembering.  "'The actions of a society does not define the actions of a single person, but the actions of a single person can define a society,'" I quoted quietly.

"May you take that to heart, tonight."

-

My advisers looked to me expectantly.  I would have to make a decision right there and now.  "I am a bit surprised that you would trust me to make a decision for a nation I didn't even know existed only a year ago," I had to bitterly laugh.  "Do you really think I know what's best?"

"Yes," Josephine said immediately.  "You are our Inquisitor, and our friend.  We have witnessed you make wise decisions time and time again.  Now is not any different."

Despite her intent on assuring me, I felt my heart become heavier.  I was just a musician.  Musicians don't decide the fate of a country with one single sentence.

You're much more than a musician, now.  You chose to take that path the second you followed Cassandra through Haven's Chantry doors.  And this is just one stop along that path.

I wouldn't chose Gaspard.  He was too brash and tactless, and had little concern for those beneath him.  He would never truly work with Celene.  Oh, he'd sign treaties and agree and smile fake smiles, but his heart would be set on other goals.  And eventually he would crave more power and disrupt the already tenuous balance.  Celene was already the empress, and I could keep her on the throne if I wanted to.  She had already agreed that she would ally with the Inquisition, but she would go to any length to cover future mistakes she would most likely make, even if that meant turning on the Inquisition itself.  I wouldn't have Orlais be an enemy of us.  And getting Celene, Gaspard, and Briala to work together?  It could work out, with the best intentions, but too many lives had been lost in the cause of best intentions.  Eventually Briala would be forced out of her position, no matter how much her empress "loved" her.  There was no such thing as Love when playing the Game, and these people breathed the very thing.  And Briala...I didn't like her for attempting to cover her tracks by killing one of her own people, but I would be a liar if I said I never had to do condone similar orders such as hers.  She was a cunning woman, but she was also the best chance for the elves to escape the oppression they were under.  Briala could pull Gaspard's strings like a marionette, and have the Inquisition to help keep him in his place.  She could help us better the world.

Change had to begin somewhere.

And it started in the middle of a beautifully gilded ballroom.  

I held my shoulders up as I spoke, resisting the incredibly strong urge to hang my head and turn my back on everything.  "Celene will be assassinated.  We give Briala control."

-

I leaned over the railing of the balcony, tears threatening to spill over.  I had to take a few deep breaths.  Conceal, don’t feel.

I quietly laughed humorlessly and hummed Let It Go to myself.  It was the Winter Palace, after all.

Once Morrigan had spoken to me, I felt Solas’ presence without even having to look.  “Hello,” he said kindly.  His voice made more tears spring to my eyes.  “You are certainly missing out.  Despite an assassination, the Orlesians can still party quite easily.  I--Alaran?  Are you well?”  His worried voice nearly sent my feelings off the edge.

He put a hand on my shoulder.  I breathed heavily and steeled myself to look up at the stars.  I began rambling.  “I won awards in all of my AP courses in high school for being one of the best political minds in my class.  I took first at Speech and Debate nationals from my case on the downfalls of having a government and politics as well as the upsides.  Scholarship money poured in.  I always talked so decisively, so tactfully.  The teachers and judges loved it.  I was so critical of democracy and its slowness.  Hell, I’m critical of every government system.  If I wanted to be, I could have been one of my nation’s politicians.  Now I have to actually play the Game, and what happened back there...what I made happen back there…” I looked down at the Anchor.  “Nobody has ever prepared me for that.”  I spun around, raw emotions searing against my heart.  “This wasn’t supposed to be real, Solas!  None of it!  Yet I just sanctioned the very real death of an empress!  A beloved one at that!”  I shook my head.  “I’m not even from this world and yet I’m making decisions for it.  I’m turning into a monster, aren't I?  It'll be just a matter of time before I'll be the next villain, and the new heroes will stand against me."

His eyebrows furrowed deeply and he gripped my hands tightly.  “That is not true, Alaran.  Both you and I know that.  Sometimes sacrifice is necessary for change.”

I barked a bitter laugh.  “Every tyrant who's murdered millions has spoken what you just said.”

“As well as kings and queens who have saved their kingdoms from utter destruction,” Solas said gently but firmly, and stepped closer.  “It all depends on the mind and soul of that person.  And you, vhenan, have a good soul.  That I do know.”  He lifted my right hand and tugged off my glove before he pressed a soft kiss along my jagged scar.  I bit back more tears, but knew my eyes were getting that dark plum color.  He placed a hand on my cheek and I closed my eyes and leaned into it, not realizing how much I craved his touch.  "You have taught me again and again that letting thoughts of what could have been will only keep us from moving to where we're supposed to go.  But I know the burden you bear.  I know it well."  An old anguish crept into Solas' voice.  "And I am truly sorry that you must carry it.  But again, you've made it clear to me that whatever our sorrows, whatever our faults and fears are, they do not have to be carried alone.  I...I am here for you, Alaran.  You are not alone."  

I opened my eyes back up and saw Solas looking down at me, his face pained and hopeful and loving.  A single tear rolled down onto my cheek, but he wiped it away with a tender sweep of his thumb.  "I do more teaching than I realize.  I'm becoming more and more like you, after all," I said, sputtering out a weak laugh.  Solas smiled.  

"Yes.  But while I tend to lecture, you speak.  There is a difference between the two," he said in that subtly sassy tone of his.  I couldn't control my eye roll.  Solas got a glint in his eyes and he suddenly stepped back.  "Come, dance with me!" he said excitedly, his voice sounding young and passionate.  A slow smile spread across my face.  I tossed off my other glove and pointed to his head.  

"Not until you let me take that off," I said.  He chuckled and dipped low enough so I could remove the dreadful helmet-hat-thingy.  Seriously, it was one of the most atrocious things I had ever come across.  

I looked at it for a moment, furrowed my eyebrows, then flung it off the balcony as hard as I could.  Solas made a loud noise of surprise, and we watched it arc gracefully in the moonlight, then plummet into the dark.  I huffed a contented breath.  "Did that make you feel better?" he asked with a high, raised eyebrow.  I grinned and nodded.

"Yeah, yeah it did.  And you know what else will make me feel better?"  I fished out my spare knife from my boot and pulled down the side of my trousers by my hipbone, revealing the lacy black thong I was wearing.  I pinched it out far enough so I could cut it in two, shimmied as I yanked it up, and then tossed it over the balcony as well, breathing a loud sigh of relief.  

Solas shook his head, shoulders shaking with laughter and his face pink.  Next he bent low into a bow with an outstretched hand.  I took it and the world spun around me as we began to dance to the distant music drifting up through the balcony doors.  I had grown extremely tired of the traditional waltz I had to dance to for most of the night, so instead we twirled wildly and exaggeratedly, our steps mismatched and swift.  I had leaned my head back up to the night sky and counter weighted my body with Solas' to make our spins sharper and faster.  We were both grinning broadly at our terrible dancing, but that didn't stop us.

In one deft movement, Solas gripped me by the waist and lifted me up in the air.  It wasn't Dirty Dancing style, but all of a sudden my feet were no longer touching the floor.  My hands braced themselves on his shoulders and I laughed loudly in delight, the night sky whirling dizzingly in my vision.  When Solas slowed and began to lower me, I brought my head back in and blinked comically a few times to adjust my sight.  I found that I was inches away from Solas' flushed face.  So I did what anybody would do.  

I kissed him.

-

Alaran's head rested on Solas' shoulder, her mouth askew and hair somehow messed up already despite the fact that she had hardly even moved.  Cassandra had propped herself against the carriage wall, arms folded tightly under her breasts.  Even asleep the Seeker had a serious face.  Varric had opted to ride with them instead of Cole, who was now most likely torturing Sera and Iron Bull without even knowing it.  

The lights from Halamshiral dimly illuminated the inside of the carriage.  Solas felt his eyelids growing heavy and was ready to give in to a night in the Fade when the dwarf's deep, gravelly voice brought him back.  "Chuckles.  I need to talk to you."

"Yes, Varric?" Solas said, resisting the yawn in his chest and directing it into a sigh.  Varric's easy-going expression was gone in an instant, and he held Solas' gaze with strong sienna eyes. 

"I know the likes of your type, 'cause I'm one myself.  We tend to love things with a broken kind of love, and that in turn breaks others.  Somehow, in some damn way, Al hasn't been broken because of me, and there have been plenty of times when she would have been justified to become so.  I still don't know exactly why she puts up with me.  But because she does, I care for her well-being."  Varric leaned forward in his seat, shadows dancing across his face from the passing lights.  "So I'm only going to tell you this once, Solas:  if you ever, ever hurt her in any way, I will cut your hands off.  You will never be able to wield a staff, never be able to cast a proper spell, never be able to turn the pages of a book, never hold a paintbrush, and never wipe away the tears that you weep because you lost the greatest thing that ever came into your broken life.  Am I making myself clear?"

Solas found that his jaw was tightly clenched, partially out of anger, but also partially because he knew Varric was deathly serious.  "If I ever do hurt her, Master Tethras, then I will willingly place my hands on the chopping board for you to remove," Solas said slowly and deliberately.

Varric seemed satisfied with the answer and leaned back, easy smile reappearing as if it had never vanished in the first place.  "Good."  He yawned widely and made himself comfortable in the corner of the carriage.  Varric's eyes were closed when he said, "Sleep well, Chuckles."

Solas wrapped his arm tighter around Alaran and placed a kiss on top of her head.  Varric had instilled fear in him.  The fear was that he could lose Alaran, and it would be his fault that he lost her.  

His vhenan shifted suddenly, mumbling, "Beg the dolphins to poke her.  They're..." she trailed off.  Solas smiled faintly.  He could get used to her sleep-talking.  She was quite adorable, after--

Alaran's elbow twitched once before slamming into his groin.  Solas choked off a cry and gritted his teeth, trying to control the vomit quickly rising in the back of his throat.  He cast out magic to soothe the pain, swallowing hard to keep from panting.  She mumbled something else and buried her face against his neck, the faint lavender aroma wafting to his nose.  Solas closed his eyes and breathed in and out to steady his racing heart that had spurred up when adrenaline shot through his body.  

...He supposed he could get used to the physical damage she would most likely give him every night, too.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"You're not happy with me."

Solas glanced up from the book he was reading and saw Alaran standing squarely in front of him, her arms folded and legs spread slightly apart to make her tiny frame appear bigger.  Her white hair, which had grown down to below her breasts, was swept over one shoulder.  Why she still kept one side of her scalp shaved, Solas would never know.  But whatever hairstyle she had, she would remain stunning.

"And what would make you presume that?" Solas asked, but he could hear the clipped tone of his voice that alerted both of them that he was.

"You didn't want Cole to become more human."  

Solas softly sighed and placed a leather bookmark between the pages he was currently at before closing the book and fully turning his head to meet Alaran's gaze.  Her violet eyes didn't crackle, but they were still nonetheless intimidating as they looked down at him.  He alleviated some of the pressure by standing; at least then she would have to look up at Solas.  "I am not unhappy at the outcome, if that is what concerns you.  Cole is doing what no spirit has done before."

"Then why is your jaw set?"

He quickly released his clenched teeth.  "You're not happy because you didn't know what would happen to Cole when he made his decision, and that you were wrong in your assumptions of him being worse off."  The truth of Alaran's statement shamed Solas.  He prepared himself to apologize and profess his foolishness to her yet again, but Alaran stood on her tip-toes and pecked a kiss on his cheek.  When she pulled away, she was smirking.  "No need to apologize, Solas.  But, you can make up for it if you come with me."

They had made their relationship public months ago, but Alaran's soft, berry-colored lips still sent heat to Solas' ears.  "I would gladly accompany you anywhere, ma vhenan."

Alaran's smirk transitioned into a smile and she turned on her heels to walk out.  Solas followed behind, drinking in the sway of her hips and the curve of her back and the swell of her ass.  As soon as they had a moment when there weren't any prying eyes, Solas couldn't resist but pinch her right cheek.  He grinned smugly in satisfaction when she visibly jumped.  "Heyy," Alaran drawled, slowly facing him.  "Who ever gave you permission to goose me?"

"You did," Solas responded lightly.  "It was an implied grant, but it was there nonetheless."  

She wryly smirked and neared Solas to wrap her arms around his shoulders.  "Well, I guess I'll imply that if you ever feel the need to do it again, I'll happily let you."

Then Alaran's lips were on his.  She pressed forward until Solas' back hit the wall nearest to them.  Alaran's lips moved steadily and rapidly, nipping at his bottom lip and lacing her tongue inside his mouth at all the right times.  A low moan crawled up Solas' throat, and he wound his fingers through her white locks with one hand, the other reaching down and squeezing her ass hungrily.  It was muscled and tight, but soft enough that he could dig his fingers into it.  Alaran's pleased gasp stirred his arousal, which she soon felt.  "Alaran--" Solas began, tearing his lips away.  He was embarrassed at such a reaction his body caused.  "Ir abelas.  If you are--" his sentence was cut off by another moan as Alaran thrust her hips into his, kisses fiery and passionate.  He happily gave in, and moved his other hand down to fully cup her bottom.  Another wave of want made him rise again.  How, how could he have resisted Alaran's body for this long?

She separated herself too soon, leaving Solas throbbing and hunched over.  A witty smirk was on her face, but her eyes were bright with desire.  "And what, exactly," Solas panted, "did you want to show me, Inquisitor?"

Alaran only smirked more and strode away, humming a bright tune.  

I cleaved my sword through the dragon's neck, saying a silent word of thanks to let me battle it. Not that I would ever tell anybody that I did such a thing.  

"Okay, Boss, you know what to do," Iron Bull said, standing beside me. Cassandra made a disgusted noise.

"You're choosing to become a Reaver? That is barbaric."

"Yes, my dear, imagine the talk once word gets around," Vivienne said, keeping her distance. "Why couldn't you choose a nobler path, like the Way of the Champion, or the Templar?"

"Well, if you haven't noticed, I'm not the biggest of warriors," I said idly as I prepared the infusers, "and I need to look intimidating on the battlefield. You and I both know that when all else fails, we need to strike fear into the hearts of our enemies, Madam I-Wear-A-Set-of-Glittery-Horns-Into-Battle."

"Yes, but...drinking blood and eating hearts?" Dorian blanched. "That's a little extreme, don't you think?"

"What, and getting addicted to lyrium isn't?"

"Not compared to this, it isn't!"

I sighed at all of them, then began digging into the dragon's breast. "Yeah, get in there," Iron Bull grinned as if it was a sexual act. I drove both my arms into the chest cavity and severed the heart from the arteries. It was hot and sticky and bigger than my head.

"Do you think this will taste good over the fire?" I chuckled as I held it in front of me.  "Just kidding, it's not going over a fire.  I'm eating it right now."

Bull laughed as the others groaned. I did all the steps necessary, then looked at the still steaming heart in my hands. I felt like Daenarys.  Hey!  I even kind of looked like her!

"Once you bite into it, Boss, you'll want to kill something," Iron Bull said in a more serious tone. "But I'll be ready. The rest of you will probably want to get back."

"Inquisitor, I highly advise against this," Solas said as he backpedaled with the rest.

"Yeah, Al, even I think this is just a little much," Varric agreed. I gave them looks of contempt.

"You guys are just scared," I grumbled, and glared at all of them as I ate the dragon heart, not breaking eye contact even as I tore through the stringy bits.

Dorian ran to the bushes and vomited. I myself had no reaction of sickness. That was good. I didn't want to throw up.  That would have been embarrassing, and I didn't want to find out what my body would be like if I failed to complete the process.

I ate quite a good portion before I felt the frenzy like Bull told me I would. The world became a thousand times sharper and clearer, and my blood sang for me to ATTACK.

The heart dropped from my hands and I let out an unholy screech. "YEAH BOSS!" Iron Bull raged. "FIGHT ME!"

I did. My entire being was blood lust, and I didn't hold back when fighting.  My attacks were fast and ruthless, and became even more so when Bull managed to get a hit in.  It almost felt good when he punched me in the face.  I knew the pain was there, but it only fueled the frenzy.  

By the time I was finished I imagined I was quite the sight. I felt the dried blood on my face and in my hair. It also covered my chest and arms.  Damnit.  I was going to have to get new armor, because there was no way that much was coming out.  

I hunched over and breathed heavily, blinking away the blackness that tinged my eyesight.

"How do you feel, Boss?" The Qunari asked me as he put a giant hand on my shoulder.

"I feel...really hungry," I panted. He chuckled.

"What kind of hunger? Focus, tell me what you really feel."

I cocked my head after a few moments. "Like, I feel as if I should eat the rest of that heart, honestly."

He beamed like a proud parent. It was more than my parents had ever beamed at me, actually, so that made me feel all warm and whatnot. "Good. You'll make an excellent Reaver."

I turned and picked up the remains of the now cold dragon heart that had collected a layer of dirt and grass and ate the rest in a few huge bites. By now everybody had turned away except for Bull for fear they might be sick. I just gave a foody grin at the other fellow Reaver, who had his arms crossed and was looking at me in pure admiration.

Once I was finished I felt much calmer, like I could go for a nice stroll and sketch drawings of squirrels. "Ah, that's better," I sighed contentedly as I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. I reeked of blood and sweat and innards.

"My dear, that was absolutely horrifying," Vivienne said as she examined me with disgust. "That blood will never come out of your hair."

"Sure it will, Viv," I said jovially and spread my arms wide. "Now give your dear friend a hug."

She made a disgusted noise that rivaled Cassandra's and strode off a ways.

"You'd better get cleaned up before we head back to camp," Varric said warily, inching towards me. "Otherwise you'll kill all the soldiers from fright."

"That's a good point. Dorian, Cassandra, come with me."

My two friends vigorously shook their heads. So I shrugged and started walking by myself down to a nearby stream. There were always nearby streams in Thedas.  Don't ask me why. I stripped myself of my armor and began cleaning what I could from my face, neck, hair and arms.

The journey back was filled with silence from the rest of the group while Bull and I compared notes on the experience. "Did you see red?"

"No, but I saw a whole lot more. Like every move you made I could see coming, and every time metal clanged together I felt stronger. Did you have to go into the frenzy as well?"

"Yeah, just so I could keep up with you. It was bad ass! And the way you ate that heart, even with dirt and grass on it..." He hummed. "There was some definite arousal going on in my pants."

The poopers behind us collectively groaned.

"Aw, thanks, Bull."

"You're welcome, Boss."

-

Solas awoke to a rustling in his tent.  He immediately cast light to reveal the intruders, a hand on his stave in case fighting would be necessary.  But all his light revealed was Sera and Alaran frozen in place, a heap of flowers in the Inquisitor's hand and twine in the city elf's.  Both of them were bent over Blackwall, who slept soundly beside him.  "You said he wouldn't wake up," Sera hissed to her friend.  "That he'd be dancin in the Fade, yeah!"

Alaran eyed Solas dangerously as if he were her worst enemy.  She crouched down so she was level with him, her face inches from his.  Solas could safely make the assumption that she had consumed a large amount of dried apples from the way her breath tickled his nose.  "If you so much as make a sound, Solas, I will break your beloved staff, then your kneecaps."

"And by staff she means your dick," Sera whispered, giggling.  Alaran rolled her eyes.

Solas gave a single nod and laid his head back down, more wanting to see what the two women would do than out of fear from Alaran's threats.  He kept the magical light he had cast on for them to see, even.  As the Warden snored softly, Alaran and Sera wove flowers through his thick beard, knotting them in place with the twine until the entire thing looked like a miniature meadow.  Alaran held a closed fist out to Sera, who bumped it with her own.  Then they turned and departed, but not before the Inquisitor crawled to Solas' side and kissed him on the lips.  "Thank you for the light, ma vhenan.  I won't tell Blackwall you were an accomplice when he wakes up."

"Ack," Sera grumbled, "get a room, you two."

"Why get a room when you have a tent?" Alaran asked, waggling her eyebrows.  Sera rolled her eyes dramatically and left.  Alaran moved to depart as well, but Solas reached out and quickly placed a hand on the nape of her neck to hold her in place while he savored her lips.  Another hand snaked its way up her tunic.  Solas knew he was being brash, but until she pulled away he would savor in feeling her incredibly smooth skin and trace his fingers over the firm muscles that lined her stomach.  He loved, loved the way when he felt her smile while she kissed him.  "Naughty, naughty elf," Alaran whispered lowly.  Solas smirked.  She kissed him once more and sneaked out of the tent.

He would have to concentrate extra hard to find sleep, tonight.

-

Solas caught me moving from my cabin room to Varric's with a clean bucket.  "Taking care of Master Tethras, I see," he said wryly, easily steadying himself on his door frame.  

"The elfroot helped, but he's pretty sick," I sighed.  "I told him not to come, but he insisted.  'I have a few things to take care of in Val Royeaux, Al.  You can't stop me,'" I mimicked, puffing my chest out to better match the low octave at which Varric spoke.  "I don't really know what was important enough for him to join us personally, but..." I shrugged.  "I don't mind taking care of him.  He gets pretty whiny if you don't."

Solas chuckled.  "You are too kind, vhenan."  

"Yeah, and look where that's gotten me," I dryly said, holding up the bucket.  "Being cooped up in a room with a vomiting dwarf."

"I could offer my assistance, if you'd like."

I tilted my head in thought.  "Hold on, let me ask Varric."

I entered into my friend's room.  It was a good thing I was used to the stench and sight of vomit, because otherwise I would have been prone to sickness myself.  Varric was a poor sight.  He was only wearing his trousers and strewn on his bed, one hand placed on his stomach and the other placed on his sweaty forehead.  "Andraste's tits, please kill me," he groaned.  

"You were the one who insisted on coming, dude," I said, placing the bucket on the floor so he could use it if need be.  "And you're still not going to tell me why you wanted to, huh?"

"Nope," Varric responded.  "But you'll find out, sometime soon.  Hey, do we have any more elfroot potions?"

"You drank the last one fifteen minutes ago."  I sat beside him and placed a comforting hand on his tanned, scruffy cheek.  "We only have three more hours to go.  You can make it."

"I'm going to puke out my stomach before it ends."

"Don't be so dramatic--oh and hey, Solas said he could work his hand magic on you with your permission."

"Do you have to make things dirty right now?  Especially when we're talking about your boyfriend?"

I snickered.  "It's up to you, Tethras.  It will most likely help."

After a few moments of consideration, Varric sighed loudly and said, "Fine.  Just tell him to keep his face placid when he wants to laugh at my pitiful state."

Smirking, I said, "I will.  Don't move; I'll be right back."

A sickly groan was his response.

Solas was still outside in the hall when I opened the cabin door and jerked my head for him to come in.  Solas' face certainly did remain placid, and he went to work on Varric without any remarks.  After a few minutes of working to ease Varric's seasickness, he put the dwarf to sleep.  "He should rest peacefully for the rest of the journey."

"Good," I smiled.  "Thank you.  Really."  We both stood and left the cabin room.  Solas wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me into him.  "I doubt you're going to let me adjourn to my own cabin, huh?"

"If you wish to return, I will let you go willingly," Solas said with the quirk of his lip.  He opened his door and slightly raised an eyebrow, awaiting what my answer would be.

It wasn't a long wait.  I smirked and the two of us went inside.

-

"Oh, you sneaky son of a bitch," I whispered, joy threatening to make my chest explode.  On top of my bed lay a case.  And in that case was a violin, gleaming and dark and beautiful.  Beside it was a simple, handwritten note that belonged to only one person.

Don't let the music die inside.

-

She was a Reaver.  Solas had watched her leave trails of corpses in her wake, then heft her great sword over her shoulder and smirk at him, ignoring the numerous cuts and bruises and broken bones that riddled her body.  The strong healing potions specifically crafted for Alaran repaired most of the wounds, but Solas wished they weren't needed in the first place.  And her armor.  The dark blue leather coat with metal toggles on it and light silver chain mail with a black sash tied around the waist accompanied by a gray woolen scarf did little to protect her in close combat.  Neither did it help that her legs were almost completely unprotected with the plain leggings she wore and thigh high black boots.  Solas often asked her if she had a death wish, but Alaran would just laugh and go off about how ridiculous she would look in actual metal armor like Cassandra's and Blackwall's, and that he should be thankful she didn't go charging into battle shirtless like Iron Bull.  His barriers that he cast on her were weak; Alaran's body slicked off magic like stone slicked off water, so the barriers were never as strong like they were on Solas' own body and the others.  It always concerned him, how unprotected she was.  Alaran was not invincible.  That had been proven time and time again, but still she fought as if she was.  

They were ambushed by Red Templars while passing through Crestwood.  Alaran dove into battle, cleaving through the enemies alongside Iron Bull while Cole sunk his daggers in between armor and red lyrium shards.  Solas stayed back, expertly casting his magic and feeling adrenaline pump through his blood.

He was blindsided by a templar and cried out as he was knocked to the ground.  "Solas!" he heard Alaran cry, and before the templar could even raise his sword to drive it into Solas' chest his vhenan cut the man in two, a feral scream ripping from her throat.  Hot blood spattered onto Solas' face, but his eyes remained open to watch the templar's bowels spill onto the ground beside him, followed by the corpse itself.  Alaran didn't even pause to look at what she had done.  She was too busy defending Solas from the wave of lyrium-riddled men and women.  Solas scrambled to his feet and began depleting his mana at a dangerous rate to help Alaran.  They knew she was the Inquisitor; they focused on her.  Fenedhis, there were so many.  

"Boss!" Iron Bull roared.  "Fall back!  We need to get out of here!"

Solas narrowly dodged an arrow that whizzed past his head.  He took out the archer that had fired with a shard of ice to the man's gut, but felt the exhaustion of overexerting himself slow his movements.  "Alaran!" he shouted.  "We must go!"

"I'M--IN--A BIT--OF A--JAM--HERE!" Alaran screamed back between swings.  "IN CASE--YOU COULDN'T--TELL!"

But, to his complete and utter amazement, Alaran kept going until every single Red Templar that fell upon her was dead at her feet.  Solas could only stare at her in amazement.  

"What, do I have something on my face?" she smirked, and wiped away some the blood that was smeared on with the back of a gloved hand.  

"That was amazing, Boss," Bull said, his massive ax resting on his shoulder.  "If Solas wasn't your kadan, I'd fuck you right here and now--with your consent, of course."

Solas glared at the Qunari as Alaran threw her head back and laughed.  How did she find that funny?

"Exhausted, emptied of all strength," Cole muttered as he cleaned his blades.  "You're tired but you smile because you don't want them to worry for you."

"Thanks, Cole," Alaran sighed sarcastically.  The spirit tilted his head in contemplation.

"That was...sarcasm?  Yes?"

"Would you look at that, my little spirit is growing up!" Alaran beamed radiantly.  "Soon, you'll be able to get innuendos of all sorts.  We can even begin--"

The sentence was never finished, for an arrow had pierced itself through Alaran's porcelain skull.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I looked upon myself.  A machine beeped rhythmically along with the rise and fall of my frail chest.  My eyes were closed.  They would never open again, either.  

Hallah stood beside me.  "You're in limbo.  And, as limbo requires, you must make a choice."  She gestured to the body I thought I would never have to see, again.  "If you return, you will wake up in this state.  It's only been a few days since your home nurse found you unconscious on the floor."  Her hand waved to the right as if she was swiping the air.  The view in front of us changed, and I now looked upon Solas, Iron Bull, and Cole running to my lifeless body in slow motion.  "Or you will return here, and I'll see to it that the arrow to your pretty head is removed without damage.  It will hurt.  It will be one of the worst pains you have ever experienced, but you will ultimately live.  And your body from Earth will die.  However, the Laws of the Universe predicates that something has to be taken when being given life once more."

"You gave me a life, though.  Why wasn't anything taken then?"

Hallah looked down at me, an ancient smile on her face.  "That is because I'm not the Universe.  I am only one person, with my own rules and requirements.  Be thankful that I am allowed here to help you; otherwise you'd be stuck in limbo forever, one soul with two bodies, unable to access either."  She turned her gaze back to the scene.  My friends were slowly closing in on me.  There was a wild, feral, broken look on Solas' face as he reached out to my body.  "But you'd best hurry and decide.  Once he touches you, your death will become very real, and then I won't be able to do a single thing than take you back to your old body."

"If I chose this one, will I ever again have to face the threat of limbo if I am killed?"

"No.  Everything will be as it should, as it always should have been.  Your sudden death here was unexpected and unseen.  Such is the Pattern.  Even my Sight was blind to this.  For that, I am sorry."

"Does it matter what I chose to give up?"  Going back to my old body wasn't even an option.  Back there, I was alone and dying and forgotten by those who only used the expression of Love as a hollow compliment.  Here, I loved and was loved by those who had been broken and fixed, just like me.  

"You already know what you choose to give up.  As does the Universe.  You need only say it."

Solas was sliding to his knees.  I would be in his arms, soon.

"I give up my love of dried apples."

Hallah chuckled a groan and shook her head as she face-palmed.  "Are you freaking kidding me?  The Universe has a strange sense of humor.  Stranger than mine, even--which is saying a lot.  I mean, you'd think it'd be something serious like your musical talent or your unnatural strength or your drawing skills.  But no, it isn't!  Ugh.  It's making my head hurt, and I never get headaches.  Are you two happy?"  She scoffed, as if there was a third person speaking.  "Whatever.  Like I care."

I was pitched into darkness and into light, and Hallah's voice whispered to me, "You are no longer Annabelle Janette Hughes.  You are Alaran Lavellan, the Otherworlder, the Herald of Andraste, and the Love of Pride.  You have remade history that has not yet come to pass.  You are tied to the Universe more than many ever will be.  Whatever may come, know that it has always, always been your choice."

I slammed back into Life.

-

No.

Solas watched in frozen horror as the love of his life fell to the ground, a dark arrow protruding from her delicate skull.  Blood gushed into her ivory hair, and her smirk faded into an expressionless mask.  Alaran's violet eyes were still open, but they were vacant and empty and they held no lightning.  

Cole expertly threw the dagger at the Red Templar who had hid himself in the trees.  He grunted when the blade sunk deep into his chest and fell, but Solas did not care what happened to the man because his vhenan was...

He wouldn't believe it to be true.  Solas ran to Alaran and scooped her tiny body into his arms.  Her head rolled back and gazed up at the night sky.  It made him feel sick.

"Ir abelas, ma vhenan, ir abelas."  He was holding her tight to his body, rocking the both of them back and forth.  She still smelt of lavender.  "Emma lath.  Emma lath.  Ma nehn, ma revas, ma solas--"  

Alaran's body jolted and was consumed by fiery green light.  She screamed a cry so shrill and piercing and wrenching that Solas nearly threw her from his arms so he could escape the noise.  But he held her because she wasn't dead.  Her body was burning his, and he could feel Hallah Lynne's power scorch his flesh, scorch the well of his own magic and it set aflame what he could not light himself.  For less than an instant, Solas' own raw soul touched Alaran's.  It was a sweet symphony of music, high and trembling yet deep and strong.  It was not a young soul; deep ravines of sadness and despair and doubt cracked it like broken marble, but the pits were filled with laughter of friends and moments of joy and unending hope.  The ravines would never be completely healed, but neither would she fall into them and never escape.  Her soul was molded by experience and circumstance, but there was an eternal expanse of potential to become more, and Solas never saw its end.  He could feel the signature sharp, violet lightning crackle and whip its tendrils against his, but it was familiar and he extended his own will towards it.  Before they were torn away and would never experience something like this again, Solas hungrily, lovingly wrapped Alaran's essence around his, clinging onto it with everything he had.  

The fire vanished and they were torn from each other's grasp.  Alaran arched her back, drawing in a deep, loud, pained breath.  The sight of her return brought tears to Solas' eyes, and he showered her with kisses, uncaring for the blood and viscera on her beautiful face.  Each rapid rise and fall of her beating chest drew him tighter to her.  Alaran was the only thing he ever wanted to hold--nothing, nothing mattered more than the woman in his arms.

"Solas," Alaran's melodious, smiling voice whispered.  "It's alright.  I'm not going anywhere."

"Please, never do that again."  His voice cracked.

Alaran pulled back far enough so that she could look Solas in the eyes.  "But...why?  I mean, getting an arrow to the head was pretty fun."

He snorted as she laughed and went on.  "I mean, at least it wasn't an arrow to the--"

"If you say 'knee,'" Solas cut off, trying to sound dangerous but failing miserably because of the grin on his face, "I will dump you on the ground."

She called his bluff.  "Knee."

Instead Solas pulled her close to him once more, silent laughter shaking his shoulders.  Alaran had come back from death, and yet she was already making jokes.  Solas loved her even more.

"I don't understand."  Cole was standing beside them, picking at the hem of his sleeves nervously.  "You were gone but then you weren't, you were in between and everywhere.  There was nothing of you left but then there was everything of you.  So bright, burning, beautiful that it hurt to be near you."

"For once, I agree with the boy," Iron Bull said a ways off.  "Though I'm not sure I want to understand.  But, I'm glad you're alive, Boss.  You make coming back from death look easy."

Alaran chuckled and stood up, reluctantly tearing herself away from Solas' arms.  Her legs were slightly wobbly, but Solas was there to steady her.  She picked up the arrow that was in her head only a minute ago and idly examined it.  "Souvenir," she declared.  "Awesome."

Solas decided that he should tell her of the new appearance her hair had taken.  "It seems that Hallah Lynne decided to change your hairstyle when she withdrew the arrow from your skull."  He placed a hand on the small of her back, the misery of not feeling her warmth too much to bear.  

Alaran turtle-frowned and ran a hand over the side of her scalp, where a small, dark red scar now resided.  "Did she freaking give me a Mohawk?"  Her hand felt the other side.  "Oh, she did not just..." Alaran ran her fingers through the long silver tresses that still trailed down between her shoulder blades.  "Oh.  Okay.  That's not so bad, anymore."

"Look," Iron Bull said, shifting his eye about uncomfortably, "can we just get out of here?  I'm still a freaked out at what I just saw."

Alaran waved the arrow tauntingly in front of the Qunari.  "You want me to tell you what I saw when I was in limbo?"

"No, no I do not."

She sighed.  "Fine.  But yeah, let's get out of here.  I'm really hungry."

"I have some dried apples in my pack," Solas offered.  He had taken to keeping an emergency supply so Alaran wouldn't get grumpy if she ran out.

His love wrinkled her nose.  "Blegh.  No.  Do you want to make me sick?"

-

I placed the mounted arrow up on the mantle of my fireplace as I hummed.  I was still trying to recall perfectly how I felt when Solas' and my souls touched.  No.  'Touched' wasn't a strong enough definition.  We had...intertwined.  It still wasn't exactly spot-on, but it was close.  But my mind was back into it's mortal mode, and wouldn't allow me to comprehend what I did in that half-moment.  But what I did remember sent a flutter in my stomach and made my breath hitch.

I loved Solas.  I truly, truly loved him.

There was a tentative knock on my door.  "Come in," I called lightly.  It opened and Cole stepped through, hunched over timidly and picking at his sleeves.  "Cole?" I asked, eyebrows furrowing.  "What's the matter?"

He took another step forward.  "I...I am sad," he stated.  "I do not like the feeling."

"Why are you sad, Cole?" I pressed gently.

"If I were me, If I were once me, like I once was, I could have felt the templar," Cole said, his voice bursting with emotion and taking on a louder tone.  "I could have felt him, and you wouldn't have been torn from your body and sent to the swirling gray.  But I didn't.  All I felt was your Pride screaming as his world was sliced, split, shattered at the sight of your lightning-less eyes."

I took his large hands in mine and gripped them tightly.  "Cole," I spoke compassionately, "it wasn't your fault.  Don't regret being what you are now because of something none of us could have foreseen.  It all turned out good, right?  That rift we closed on our way back didn't make me feel my sickness.  I will never have to feel my sickness again because of what happened.  Please, don't despair.  Things turned out okay.  You're still okay."

I hugged the boy of compassion.  He hugged me back.  It was awkward but heartfelt, and soon Cole said, "I don't feel sad, anymore."

I laughed kindly and let go.  There was a small smile playing on his lips.  "You may be mad at me, though."

I raised an eyebrow.  I hadn't ever heard him say such a thing, before.  "...Why?"

"Varric asked me why 'Iron Bull was looking so disturbed.'"  He imitated the rogue's voice surprisingly well, which made me laugh.  "So I told him."

My laughter died in my throat.  "You did not, Cole."

"He is coming right now, stomping and stampeding up the stone stairs, a thunderstorm of short proportions."

I drug a hand down my face and groaned loudly.  "You should probably leave, Cole."

"I know."

"And Cole?"

"I love you."

He paused before dashing away.  "I...love you too, Al."

I gave him a small, meaningful smile.  Cole slipped away out the balcony--I trusted that he wouldn't fall to his death--as there was an angry pounding on my door.  "Alaran!" Varric yelled.  I winced.  He was really mad if he used my full name.  

I made my way to the other side of the door and locked it.  "I'm not letting you in unless you say the secret password!"

Varric tested the knob and growled.  "Is the secret password:  You're an asshole?"

"Nope!" I laughed.  "Try again!"

There was a silence and I heard the faint clicking of a lock being picked.  I barely had enough time to brace my body against the door as Varric tried to burst through.  The stone was slick and my slippers didn't get much traction, so Varric eventually pushed through.  I squeaked and scrambled to my bed, jumping on it and burying myself under the covers.  "Al, you had better start--" 

"LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" I screamed at the top of my lungs.  Varric tried yanking the covers off of me, but I clutched them with my fists and curled up in a ball.  "I'M NOT TALKING TO YOU UNLESS YOU'RE GOING TO BE NICE!"

He snarled and continued to rant at me while I continued to "LA LA LA" over his voice.  Finally I made a mad dash and flung myself out from under the blankets, but Varric snagged my robe and started to haul me back.  I untied it and slipped out, laughing madly, and bounded out the door and down the stairs.  "You can't catch me you can't catch me!" I taunted over my shoulder.  

"AL!" Varric shouted at the top of the staircase.  "Get back here!"

I ignored him and continued running.  "Solas!" I cried as I made my way into the rotunda.  He jumped up from his seat, fear filling his passive face.  Ooh.  It was probably too soon to act scared around somebody who thought he had actually lost me.  

"What is it?" he questioned, nearly running to meet me halfway.  Solas grunted in surprise as I climbed onto his back, wrapping my legs firmly around his waist and peeking over his shoulder as Varric entered, his face red with anger.  

"Protect me from the angry little man!"  I feigned a damsel-in-distress voice.  "For he seeks to do ill-will towards me!"

"I hardly doubt that is true," Solas wheezed as my legs crushed his ribs.  "I am assuming he knows?"

"I sure as hell do!" Varric fumed.  "Why didn't you tell me? I had to find out from the Kid!"

"Because I knew you would be like this!" I argued back.  Solas huffed for air as my arms and legs continued to tighten.  

"Alaran..." he gasped softly.  "You're..."

"Don't be such an ass hat about this!" I yelled.  "I'm here, aren't I?  I'm alive and well!"

"You just think you're invincible, don't you?!"

"No!  I got a nice scar on my head as evidence!  And I'll explain myself as soon as you calm down!  Call me old-fashioned, but when somebody yells at me I don't feel inclined to talk to them!"

Varric's jaw twitched, but after a few breaths he remained quiet.  I deemed it safe enough to come out from hiding behind Solas and released.  He doubled over and gulped in air.  I winced and patted his back.  "Sorry, vhenan."  I walked up to Varric and put an arm over his shoulder to lead him away.  "Okay, so here's how it went..."

-

Alaran played for the Inner Circle.  The violin Varric had gotten her was beautifully crafted, and it played exquisitely.  Her fingers and the arm that held the bow were a blur, and produced music so beautiful it rivaled anything Solas had ever heard, even from the time of Arlathan.  The longer Alaran played, the more he was sure that she was glowing.  Her body didn't stay still; the ivory braid that trailed down her scalp and back swayed slightly as she moved.  Solas found his heart was swelling so much it was nearly painful.  

She was beyond beautiful.

And she was his.

-

Solas tenderly kissed the back of my hand, then my palm, then up my arm.  I hummed in happiness.  We were laying down in my bed, all snuggled up and looking cute.  "I must confess," Solas said with a burdened voice, "I fear I will never forget the image of...what happened."

"It's alright, I don't blame you."  I nestled my head on Solas' chest.  "I never told you about what I saw at Redcliffe, did I?"

"No.  I could feel the trauma you had received, so I never pressed."  

"Well...while Dorian was working on the amulet, you, Cassandra, and Varric bought us time by holding off the Venatori and demons.  But..." I struggled to find my voice.  I hadn't ever really talked about it to anyone; I had just buried everything deep inside.  "But they burst through the door, and they threw your body to the ground.  Your neck was snapped, and there were...you had been mangled to the point that I hardly recognized you.  Cassandra had been decapitated, and Varric was torn in two."  I rubbed my eyes to try and smudge the image, but it did no good.  "So yeah.  I know how you feel."

Solas kissed the top of my head and softly stroked my cheek with the back of his knuckles.  "I am sorry. More so that you felt as if you had nobody to talk to about it, but I am sorry."

I turned my head to him and gave a small smile.  "Don't worry about it.  You're alive and well, and I'm happy."  I kissed him lovingly on the lips.  "I am so, so happy."

Our kisses became passionate in a short matter of time, and I found myself sitting atop Solas.  His hands trailed up my tunic and to my bare stomach.  The tips of his fingers tucked under my breast band, but he paused.  "Alaran, if you are uncomfortable..."

I took his hands and guided them upward.  Solas moaned, and I felt him harden.  "You're going to stay with me, Solas," I whispered. 

"Ma nuvenin."

We didn't have sex, that night.

We made Love.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Inquisitor!" Cullen said, striding up to me and my position on the Sunburst Throne.  "We have captured the woman who fell from the rift in Crestwood, as you have ordered.  It was not easy, and we couldn't have done it without Leliana's people, but it was ultimately a success.  We could not get her out of her attire, and thus we haven't seen her identity, but I am sure that won't be an issue soon enough."

"Bring her in," I stated with a gesture.  Cullen snapped orders, and the soldiers opened the doors to the great hall to bring in the prisoner.  It was all very dramatic, but then again everything was dramatic in Thedas.

My eyes widened in shock as I watched who exactly strode in.  I found myself slowly standing to my feet, blood pounding in my ears as the captured woman was thrust before my feet with her hands and ankles chained together.  She wore the distinct black and blood red Dark Brotherhood garb, but instead of also wearing the cowl that went along with her black hood, she donned one of the Dragon Priest masks--I wasn't for sure which one it was.  Pale yellow eyes glowed behind her cover.  She was tall; nearly as tall as Cullen.  Something wound around her right leg underneath her clothing.  

"Has she spoken at all, Commander Rutherford?" I asked absently.  He slightly frowned upon hearing me address him the same way I did when I wasn't pleased with something he'd said or done.  

"...No.  We haven't gotten a word out of her."

"Thank you," I spoke to the woman.  Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.  "For not killing my soldiers, I mean.  You easily could have, whether it be with your weapons or your Thu'um.  I would not have wanted to make an enemy of the Dragonborn."

The yellow eyes widened.  "Inquisitor, do you know her?" Cullen questioned.  I ignored him and commanded for her to be released immediately.  When the manacles dropped the Dragonborn looked as if she was going to attack and for a moment I grew very scared, which was not a feeling I was fond of.  I hardly ever got scared, not truly.

But she relaxed and thrust her shoulders back confidently.  "Can you understand me?" I asked her.

"Yes."  Her voice was low and purring.  

"Good, because I know only about two words of Dovah," I chuckled.  "Commander, gather the Inner Circle and meet us in the War Room.  There is much to discuss."  I turned on my heels and strode out, the Dragonborn following close behind.  

Don't fangirl.  Don't fangirl.  Don't fangirl.

"So tell me," I said idly as I pushed through the door, "do you know where you are?"

"I know that I am in a realm called Thedas.  It knows nothing of Tamriel.  Am I in another world, Little One?"

I inwardly squealed at the nickname I had been given.  "Yes.  I don't know how you got here, but you are." 

"Then how do you know of my identity?"

"Now that is the million-dollar question."  We looked over the map of Thedas.  "You are here, in Skyhold.  Oh--and my name is Alaran.  I lead this thing called the Inquisition.  We fix shit."

"I am Skyggen.  I lead...everything."

I laughed, and Skyggen huffed in amusement.  So it was the same in the video game how the Dragonborn basically ruled every organization whether good or bad.  "So..." I drawled, peering into her yellow eyes that looked like a cat's.  "I take it you're not a human or an elf?"

She snorted.  "That is what everybody thinks.  I don't understand why so many have an obsession with both races."

"Honestly, I don't, either," I sighed as I tugged on my pointed ear.  I quickly put my hand back down and cleared my throat.  "If you're neither, then what are you?"

"I am Khajiit."  Skyggen pulled off her mask and I fangirled before I could help it.  My hands slapped to my cheeks and I squeed as I saw her beautiful, black, gray and white furry face.  She lowered her hood and sighed lightly as her tufted ears stood up straight.  

"Where's your tail?" I questioned.  Skyggen held up a finger and reached around to her backside and grunted as she tugged her tail through.  So that was what had been wound around her leg.  I openly grinned.  Her whiskers twitched in slight annoyance at my reaction.

"I am assuming you do not have Khajiit here, Little One?"

I furiously shook my head back and forth.  "Nope.  Okay, if you're Khajiit why don't you have an accent?  You know..." I hunched over and tried my best at impersonating one of the traders from the game.  "Khajiit has wares, if you have coin."

Skyggen's yellow eyes rolled.  "I've never stepped a foot outside of Skyrim, nor had my parents.  The blood of the Nords runs thicker in my veins than anything."

"Awesome," I giggled.  "Oh, hey, can I pet--"

The door opened and we both turned to see the Inner Circle trudge in.  "This had better be--" Dorian began to whine, but stopped dead when he laid his eyes upon Skyggen.  "Fasta vass!  What is that thing?"

"Eugh!" Sera yelled.  "It's an overgrown cat wearing...people clothes!"

"Maker's breath!" Cullen exclaimed.  

Cassandra reached for the pommel of her sword.  "Inquisitor, is it dangerous?"

"No!"  I waved them to be silent.  "She is not dangerous, but all of you certainly look like a bunch of assholes!"

"I take it these are your companions," Skyggen said dryly, folding her arms under her breasts and flicking her tail back and forth.  

"They're a little rough around the edges," I sighed "but they're pretty good."

"So are you going to explain to us what's going on or what?" Varric asked.  Skyggen moved her eyes down to him.  They widened substantially.

"A Dwemer!" she proclaimed, and crouched down in front of him.  "So your Thedas has the lost folk!"  Skyggen purred as Varric blanched.  "Tell me; did you intermix with the humans?  Is that why your ears are rounded?  How many of your people are left?"

Okay, so the bad ass Dragonborn was also a nerd.  This was great.

"Uh...Al?" Varric said uncertainly, looking over her shoulder to me.  "What's she talking about--Ow!  That's my chest hair!"

Skyggen held up a strand of Varric's hair she had suddenly plucked and examined it in the light.  "I must study this.  Do you by chance have an alchemy table?  Oh, and I may need more samples."  She pulled out a small handkerchief from her boot and wrapped the hair in it before tucking it back inside.  Varric rubbed the spot it had been ripped from, pouting.  

"Did you study at the College of Winterhold?" I had to ask Skyggen.  She gave a single nod.

"Yes.  I had to study there before I became the head of it."  

"Inquisitor," Josephine said lightly but firmly, "focus."

I turtle-frowned at the ambassador, but knew she had a point.  "Okay."  I sat on the war table and crossed my legs.  "Everybody, this is Skyggen.  She's what you call the Dragonborn, or Dovahkiin.  Like me, she's from another world."

"Then how do you know her?" Leliana said, her pale blue eyes attempting to unnerve me.

I rubbed my brow.  "Yeah...this is where things get difficult.  For all of us.  Even you, Skyggen."  I tossed my head back and groaned loudly as I collected my thoughts.  "How do I explain this okay so..." I clapped my hands together.  "My world is extremely technologically advanced.  You all know this.  We have no magic, we have science."

"They are one in the same, though," Skyggen frowned.  

"Thank you for pointing that out, Thor.  Yes, it could be considered that.  Except we don't have any inherent magical abilities.  But I'm getting off-track.  Ummmm...okay, my world has these things called video games.  We basically..." I cringed at the stereotypical description I was giving to those from a medieval period, "...have a tiny box that play stories for us, and sometimes we can control what the characters in those stories do.  And both of the worlds--Thedas and Skyrim--are the games that we play."  I was getting blank stares.  "Well, here--let me prove it to you."  I looked to Varric.  "I could play you in Dragon Age: II and play Hawke.  Except, Garrett was a woman named Marian because I made my character that way.  Solas honey I'm sorry this is going to sound so weird but in the game we could romance people, so I romanced Anders like four times and Fenris once.  Cullen--remember when I told you I saw you in Kirkwall?  Well...that's because I was playing Hawke.  And there was a game before Dragon Age: II called Dragon Age: Origins, and then I got to play the Hero of Ferelden which is why I tried getting to know you, Leliana, but you kind of bit my head off so I threw that one in the dump.  And...and this body that I have, now, was the body I was going to play with in Dragon Age: Inquisition.  Solas, that's why I hated you so much in the beginning.  Because there are freaking WikiPages and Tumblr libraries dedicated to how much you break hearts and betray everybody--oh shit did I just say that out loud?  Yeah no this is turning into a cluster-fuck but I'm just going to continue anyways--and then there's Skyrim." I swung over to Skyggen, who was pulling off an incredulous look with her cat face.  "Everybody basically loves The Elder Scrolls.  I mean, you literally suck the souls from dragons.  That's why I asked you if you were an elf or a human, because those are what some of my characters have been, but I've been a Khajiit as well, except my character looked different from what you look like and his name was Ser-Pounce-A-Lot."  I rubbed my face furiously with my hands and groaned once more.  "I know all this sounds so weird but it's true.  I have to talk to Hallah Lynne about this more, but I have a theory about Earth being a hub--"

"Wait," Skyggen interrupted, "did you say Hallah Lynne?"

"Uhh...yeah?"

She threw her hands up in exasperation.  "Is that damn woman everywhere?"

"Unfortunately, yes," Solas answered.  

"Hallah Lynne?" Leliana said unexpectedly.  "That was the name of my agent who was in charge of looking into your background, Inquisitor."  Her eyes flashed dangerously.  "Who exactly is she?"

"An omnipotent, time-traveling immortal who sent me here in the first place," I responded.  Yeah.  This was definitely a major shit-storm.  "Uuuuuuggggghhhh."

"That...makes sense, now," Leliana said as she tilted her head.

"So our lives in your world is just something you play to pass time?" Varric asked.  I nodded heavily.

"...Yeah.  That's why I asked so many questions.  It's not just because I read the Champion of Kirkwall.  And I'm so sorry I never told you guys earlier, but how could I?  It sounds insane saying it out loud and..." I deflated.  "You guys can go ahead and throw me in a white room, now, and defeat Corypheus all on your own."  I stood up wearily and with my head hung low to avoid all their gazes.

Varric laughed and I stopped and lifted my gaze back up.  "You know what?  I'm not even surprised.  Your life is so bat-shit crazy this just puts the cherry on top."

"It fockin doesn't make sense," Sera scowled.  "But your whole life doesn't, so it all works out, yeah."

"Tell me," Dorian said exaggeratedly, "did they have one of these video games about my life?"

I barked a laugh.  "No.  Nobody likes Vints; you're the first that's actually good in the games."

He frowned and I swore his mustache bristled.

"Well," Skyggen declared, "there are many more questions that I want answered, and I would, at some point, like to get back to Skyrim, but for now can I get a bath and a pint of ale?"

"Sure thing," Iron Bull piped up.  "The Chargers and I would love to hear about how you eat the souls of dragons."

I rolled my eyes.  Of course that'd be the thing he'd pick up on.

Skyggen smirked and her ears twitched.  "As long as you're buying the drink."

-

Skyhold was home to harts, giant nugs, a bog unicorn, fat goats that head-butted Cullen whenever he came too near, a Qunari spy, a butt-ton of apostate mages and former templars, a Reaver Inquisitor that played the violin from her balcony at late hours, a spirit-turned-boy, a Tevinter mage, and a mysterious elf whose head eerily looked like an egg.  Because of this, seeing a humanoid cat drinking in a tavern didn't get much of a reaction.

"Vhenan," Solas pondered as he sipped at his swill-piss.  "What is a Tumblr and why am I on it?"

I had to throw my head back and laugh at the question.  "Oh, Solas.  You don't want to know.  Just drink your ale."

"But--"

"You really don't want to know."  

He sighed at me and took a deeper drink.  I slightly raised an eyebrow; I hadn't seen Solas drunk, before.  This...could get interesting.

"So, Al," Varric said as he sidled up to me.  He was well into his fourth mug, but it didn't seem to affect him that much besides rosier cheeks.  "What did I look like in these games of yours?"

"Well..." I said, preparing myself to relish the reaction I would get from the next sentence.  "Your chin was way out-of-proportion, there was hardly any definition of your nice line of stubble, and your chest hair wasn't even glorious.  Still some good one-liners, though."

Varric frowned.  "My chin was out-of-proportion?"

"That's what I thought, at least.  But you looked much better in the Inquisition trailers I watched before playing, and even more so in real life."

"You're bullshitting."

I smugly smirked. "Well, if I am then consider it payback."

He took another long drink, then leaned over to Solas and said, "Sometimes I feel sorry for what you have to put up with, Chuckles.  I really do."

Solas smiled.  Oh, my...was that a tipsy smile?  "Do not feel sorry for me.  She is quite the lover.  I'd gladly put up with much more before thinking she's too much to handle."

My jaw dropped as Varric roared with laughter.  I swatted Solas' chest and he laughed as well.  Maryden started up a lively tune, and in no time at all there were people dancing and clapping and stomping.  I intended to stay in my seat, but Solas gripped my hand and pulled me forward.  "No--Solas--" I stuttered, but the whole tavern cheered at the sight of their Inquisitor getting on the dance floor.  I scowled at my elf; he smirked in return.

Solas led me through the dance, and my heart melted at his happy, tipsy grin.  We laughed along with the tavern as they watched me stumble over my feet and improvise my own dance moves to compensate.  "There is no woman in Thedas who is more beautiful than you, vhenan," Solas said to me as the world blurred around us.  

"And there is no man who is more handsome than you in all of Thedas.  Even though you can't grow a beard," I jibed back.  He rolled his eyes.  The song ended and Solas dipped me in an extravagant bow, and I felt the ends of my braid sweep the wooden floor.  I really liked my new hairstyle.  It made me look older and more intimidating.

There was clapping and hollering as we made our way back to our seats.  Varric pushed another mug into Solas' hands before he was off mingling with everybody once more.  "So, Hairless Elf," Skyggen said as she pulled up a chair beside us.  If she had been drinking, she didn't seem affected.  "I have a question for you."

"Yes?" Solas asked politely.

"Have you taken an arrow to the knee, yet?  Your woman won't wait forever, you know."

His face went from delighted to flat in less than a second, and he slowly turned his head to witheringly look at me.  I was covering my mouth to stifle my mad giggles.  "Arrow to the knee," I wheezed, "Arrow to the knee, Solas."

Skyggen was confused at the joke she had missed, so she shrugged, downed the mug of ale in her hand, and stood back up to make her way over to Iron Bull.  Soon after I saw them leave together out of the corner of my eye.  Figures.  Bull's always wanted to have sex with a dragon.  And the Dragonborn was close enough.

"Oi! Quizzy!" Sera shouted from the other side of the tavern.  "Sing a song!  We've been fockin waitin for ages!"

Oh, great.

I never told them that my world didn't have any tavern songs, but neither did I tell them that I listened to the song Bofur sang in the extended edition of the first Hobbit movie a million times, so after some poking and prodding by Sera, Varric, Blackwall, and Solas, I got up on the table and stamped my foot to the rhythm I would be singing to.  Others followed suit by banging their fists on tables of their own or clapping their hands.  I took in a deep breath then belted out the lyrics as loudly as I could, pleased with the sound I produced even though I hadn't sung that loud in years.  The tune was short enough that I wouldn't be stuck standing and singing for too long, but lively enough that it satisfied those in the tavern.  A huge crowd had gathered and Solas was drunk and Sera was clocking people in the face with bits of cheese and Blackwall was laughing loudly at a story Varric was telling and Cullen was losing money to a game of Wicked Grace and Bull was somewhere off with the Dovahkiin doing stuff I didn't want to picture.  

This was what Corypheus wanted to take from us.  From me.  

I wouldn't let that happen.

-

The sight I walked into the next morning cracked me up.  Solas was laying on his bed, curled up into a ball and holding a pillow over his head.  "Good morning, sunshine, the earth says hello!" I chimed as I opened the curtains and yanked the pillow from his grasp.  Solas squeezed his eyes shut and turned over, groaning.

"You are a cruel woman," he said into his mattress.  

"What were your words last night?  You'll gladly put up with much more of me because I'm an excellent lover?" I asked.  Solas groaned again.

"I said that?  How awful.  Ir abelas."

I sat down on the bed beside him and rubbed his muscled back.  "It's alright.  I really am good in bed, let's be honest here.  Hey, why don't you just use magic to cure your hangover?"

"I am."

I cringed.  "Ooh.  That's rough, buddy."

"I am never stepping foot into that forsaken tavern again," Solas swore.  I smirked.

"I don't blame you.  Going in there barefoot?"  I shuddered.  "It's like stepping into a Wal-Mart bathroom without any shoes on.  Blegh."

Solas sighed loudly, and I was blessed with the view of his expanding sides.  My fingers traced over his skin.  "You have freckles, you know," I observed.  "Were you shirtless a lot?"

"In my youth, yes."  He still didn't roll over to face me.  "I suspect that's where they came from."

I planted a kiss on a certain patch.  "Well I like them.  They're cute."  Then I leaned back and rolled Solas over.  He groaned once more.  I rolled my eyes.  "Stop being such a baby, Solas.  It's as if you haven't had a drink in thousands of years."

"Have I ever told you that you're insufferable?"

"Maybe.  My memory's a bit fuzzy because usually when you start criticizing me I just tune you out," I said mockingly.  "But seriously, come on.  We need to get Skyggen back to Skyrim, and she's already offended Dorian by telling him that his magic is crude and rudimentary.  I think he's still in the library skulking."

-

So get this gang.

I can open rifts to another dimension.

I mean, I have to know which dimension and it's really, really draining, but I can do it.  With the help of Solas, Dorian, and Vivienne, of course.

"My weeks here have been eventful, Little One," Skyggen said as she clasped me on the shoulder.  "I will remember the time fondly."

"Good," I smiled.  "If you're ever in need of a little help, don't be afraid to call.  Seriously.  Just use your Thu'um.  It's amazing."

She laughed, revealing glistening fangs.  "Don't worry, I will.  And if you ever need help slaying more dragons, just do what you're doing now and I'll be sure to come and aid you."

"I'll keep that in mind."  After a moment I hugged the Khajiit.  She purred and her tail flicked in content.  

"Skyggen," Solas said, stepping forward and shaking her furry hand.  "It was an honor.  I wish you luck in your travels."

"And you, Solas.  Be sure to inform me when you finally--"

"Take an arrow to the knee," he finished in a clipped voice.  Nobody was still really over the fact that I was right about that being a phrase.  "Yes.  I know."

"Can we please hurry up?" Dorian whined as he and Vivienne held open the rift with their magic.  "My arms are getting tired!"

"I am tempted to take longer, just to irk him," Skyggen muttered to me.  I snorted in amusement.  But we both turned to the green tear in the fabric of reality and readied ourselves.  It was amazing that the Anchor was part of the Orb, and the Orb was Solas', and he at one point actually could harness its power.  

Skyggen used her Thu'um to direct the destination she would be travelling to.  It shook me to the very core.  Iron Bull winked at her and she winked back.  Then Skyggen looked to me, gave a respectful nod, and leaped through.

I snapped the rift shut.  Instinctively I still prepared myself for the aftereffects, but none ever came, anymore.  

"Man," Iron Bull said as he stared at the space where the rift once was.  "That was some of the best sex I've ever had."

We all groaned and made our way back to Skyhold, which was only about half a mile away.  "Is that where that bite mark came from?" Varric inquired.

"Mmm, yeah."

I was faced with the struggle of blocking out the mental image of the Iron Bull and the Dovahkiin going at it.

A question nagged at the back of my mind.  If both the worlds of Skyrim and Thedas existed in some place, somewhere among the Universe...was it true for other things I had once thought were only fiction, as well?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Dorian."

His name was whispered like a tender, gentle prayer.  He felt a hand on his shoulder, and it gave a caring squeeze.  Dorian closed his eyes to rein in the roiling emotions that threatened to explode out from inside of him.  "Hm?  Yes, Inquisitor?  I'm sorry, I was thinking about how I would look in Plaidweave.  Not as bad as you would first think," he said as looked up at Alaran.  He hoped that he could at least deflect some of her concern with joking, but she saw right through it.

Still, Alaran joked back.  "Well, if you really want something crafted out of it, I'll happily find the time to get it made in the Undercroft."

Dorian snorted and Alaran chuckled as she took a seat on the floor and grabbed his lute that was precariously leaning against some books.  Her fingers moved with a mind of their own as she spoke.  "You want to talk about it?"

"Darling, when do I ever want to talk about anything that isn't about magic or fashion?"

"You sure like to complain about rainy weather, so you talk about that a lot," Alaran said back as she made a face.  She was tuning the lute without even pausing to look down.

"Must you be a sarcastic snowflake?" Dorian asked exaggeratedly.

"Must you call me something I've heard a million times?  I thought you'd be a little more original."

"I'm in a state of duress, Alaran.  My sass isn't like it usually is."

They both chuckled, but Alaran's smile slipped and her silver-lashed eyes looked down at the strings of the lute.  "My dad and I had problems, too," she spoke softly.  "He didn't try to perform blood magic on me, but he did hit me."

Dorian paused.  "I didn't know that," he mused quietly.  Alaran gave an absent nod, her fingers beginning to pick up pace.  

"Yeah.  He was an incredibly smart and talented man, and I did love him, but he had a drinking problem.  To the world he was one thing, but behind closed doors he was an alcoholic.  It was always after the fourth glass that he would prowl around the house and find me.  Never my mother--she was off in her own little world filled with pretty things--only me.  That's why I don't drink, if you hadn't figured that out."  Alaran found a lilting tune Dorian had never heard, before, and replayed it over and over again.  "I don't know why he ever did it, and he stopped when I got older, but...I know a bit of what you're feeling."  Alaran looked back up, and Dorian was consumed by her violet eyes.  "You're not alone in the pain, Dorian.  Not if you don't want to be.  You're loved, here, and I would never want you to change."

She spoke with such conviction Dorian almost forgot his grief.  His eyesight began to blur, so he blinked a few times to clear it.  "Fasta vass, Alaran.  Why must you do this to me?" he asked as he weakly laughed.  Alaran set the lute aside and shuffled over to Dorian on her knees and wrapped him in a hug.  She was not a soft woman; every inch of her was muscled and hardened from swinging a great sword twice the size of her body, but her embrace was comforting and Dorian sunk into it, his nostrils filling with the scent of lavender.  "For what it's worth, Dorian, I love you."

The burning in his throat didn't make things easier when Dorian said, "Even though I'm an incessant ass a majority of the time?"

"Yes, even with that."  Alaran gave Dorian a final squeeze and let go.  Her small smile gave him hope, and it promised him that she knew he loved her back without him having to say it.  "Would you like to join me in the tavern?  Everybody else is going to be there.  Even Solas, though he's not going to be drinking any time soon."

They both stood up as Dorian said, "What a pity.  He's such good company when he's drunk!"

"You're not the one who has to deal with his grumpiness the next day."

Dorian laughed and casually put an arm around Alaran's shoulder and the two of them descended the stairs to adjourn to the tavern.  Despite the traumatic ordeals he had to endure to get to this point, he was thankful he wound up here, with an Inquisitor from another world who led their merry, mouthy band of misfits.

-

She burst into Sera's room without knocking.  Not that she did that anyways.  Not that Sera ever did that either.  "What do you fockin want?" Sera demanded as she turned over to face the wall.

"You're being a baby, Sera," Alaran said as she entered.  "I know that things didn't--"

She jolted out of her bed and swung a fist at her best friend.  Alaran easily ducked it.  Her violet eyes got all scary-lookin, but Sera glared right back.  "Get the fock out of my room!"

"Sera you've had plenty of time to get over what happened.  And I watched you beat the shit out of that noble, then told you that I still wanted the Red Jennies to work alongside us.  Everything turned out alright!"  

"You don't understand, none of ya," Sera snarled.  "You're just like them!  You were all prissy and too-important for everybody back on your own planet!"  

She said what had been eating at her for the past five days.  Alaran's eyebrows scrunched together as she fockin pieced it all together in her too-big brain.

"That's what this is all about?  That I came from a privileged home?"

"Ugh!  Stop using that fockin word!  Privileged," Sera spat.  "This whole time you acted like you thought nobles were shite, but you were one of them!  You got everything handed to you!"

Alaran drug a hand down her face and groaned.  "I told you that there isn't nobility where I come from!"

"It doesn't matter!  You never had to worry about your throat gettin fockin slit 'cause of the coin in your pocket!  You never had to worry about your alienage being burnt down 'cause some stupid fockin noble didn't want to look at ya!  You just got to sit in your pretty little house in your stupid ignorant life and fockin pretend like nothing bad ever happened!"

Her best friend raised an eyebrow and folded her arms.  "Are you done, now?"

"No!" Sera shouted.  "I'm fockin not!  You're...you're..." no words came to her mouth to hurl at Alaran and Sera got to see how much of a twat she had really been.  She slumped down onto her bed and scowled furiously so she wouldn't cry.

Alaran sighed and sat down beside her and laced their hands together.  "I did live a comfortable life, Sera, if you looked at the money we had.  But it wasn't a happy life.  There was no love in it.  So yes, my house was pretty on the outside.  On the inside, though, it was shit."

"Ugh.  Why do you always have to be so...good?" Sera asked.  She shouldn't have a friend like Ally, who was smart and too clever for her own good and bad ass and showed Sera more kindness than she'd ever thought she would have been given.  It was fockin annoying.  And yet...she would never want to give it up.

Alaran laughed softly.  "You know, I'm not really all that good.  In fact, I kind of wanted to punch you just a second ago."

Sera giggled.  "You could've.  I deserved it."

"No, you didn't.  You're my friend.  I've already forgiven you.  I just hope the next time I mess up, you'll do the same."

"'Course I will."

-

Iron Bull awoke with a jolt and felt his blood pumping furiously through his veins.  Where is he where is he where--rain.  The sound of rain on a tent.  Varric's snoring beside him.  They're on the Storm Coast.  They had just...

The memories of what had happened flooded back, and Iron Bull held his head in his hands for a few moments.  Fuck.

He was Tal-Vashoth.  

Knowing that sleep wouldn't come back to him for the rest of the night, he crawled out from the tent and into the open, ready to trade shifts with whoever was sitting on watch.  At least he could be miserable in weather matching his emotions.

To his surprise, Alaran was sitting by the meager campfire that would soon be extinguished by the rain.  Her hood was down and white tendrils of wet hair clung to the sides of her shaved head.  Iron Bull could still pick out the scar left over from when that arrow had pierced her skull.  "Hey, Boss," Iron Bull said smoothly as he walked over.  "Go get dry and rest."

Alaran looked up at him and gave a small smile.  "Nah, I'm good.  I like the rain.  Sometimes, when there's a really bad storm approaching Skyhold I like to stand on my balcony and dramatically whisper, 'highstorm.'"  She chuckled.  "Not that you would get it.  But believe me, I'm hilarious in my own head."

"Still pretty funny out loud, too," Bull smirked and sat on the same wet, fallen tree trunk Alaran was perching on.  She closed her eyes and tilted her head back, a rare, serene expression on her face.  Her silver eyelashes clumped together from the raindrops.  "You really should take the chance of getting some rest, Boss, before I rescind my offer."

"You're not going to," Alaran responded with her eyes still shut.  "Did you have a nightmare?"  An eyelid slid open and she looked sidelong at Iron Bull with a violet gaze.  Then it closed again.  "What was it about?"

Nobody had ever asked what the Iron Bull dreamed about.  Nobody dared to.  Nobody except for her.  There wasn't even a hint of hesitancy or nervousness.  "I saw all the corpses those who were lost on the dreadnought.  They were calling me Tal-Vashoth, and then...they grabbed me and began dragging me down to the bottom of the Waking Sea.  I didn't fight.  I deserved it.  I deserved the madness they were going to have me succumb to."  He rubbed the back of his neck, wondering why he even confessed.  That hadn't been the worst of the nightmare.  It was just the one he was willing to tell.  "Then I woke up and came out here."

If Alaran was feeling something, Iron Bull didn't know what.  She had a practiced mask that was impenetrable to even his Ben-Hassrath eye.  "Your worst fear is madness, isn't it."

"Yeah."  The fire was only hot embers, now, and they were plunged nearly into total darkness.  

"You're not going to go mad.  Not ever."

Bull nearly snorted, but he wanted to see where Alaran was going with this.  "And how can you be so sure, Boss?"

Alaran straightened her neck and turned her head to him, her eyes bright lights in the dark.  "You were afraid you were going to become mad under the Qun.  But you're not under the Qun, anymore.  You go mad when you have to separate yourself into two personalities.  You don't have to be two people anymore, Bull.  It's going to hurt like hell, which I know you won't admit, and you'll have plenty of more nightmares.  When you do, though, I'll be here."

"Sitting in the rain?" Bull had to ask sarcastically.  He wasn't good with touchy-feely situations.

Alaran knew that and went along with it.  She smirked.  "And singing."  

Iron Bull should have told her to knock it off, that she'll only attract every Venatori, darkspawn, Red Templar, bandit, and bear in the Storm Coast, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.  So he sat there and basked in her voice as she sang, and let it weave through the multiple injuries his mind had taken over the past day.

 And I wake to the wail.
Like moan of a bus as it groans to a standstill,
Around the block from the place that I'll leave soon;
Four bulbs later, bulbs from the lamp that my dad bought me.

So I'll hit the ground running and tear up the streets.
But complain about my face and the pain in my feet,
As I notch up another year until we're all past it.
And the noose around my neck's tightened too much to take.

And I wake to the wail.
Like moan of a bus as it groans to a standstill,
Around the block from the place that I'll leave soon;
Four bulbs later, bulbs from the lamp that my dad bought me.

So I'll hit the ground running and tear up the streets.
But complain about my face and the pain in my feet,
As I notch up another year until we're all past it.
And the noose around my neck's tightened too much to take.
The noose around my neck has tightened too much to take.

Alaran trailed off on the last note.  Iron Bull found that he had closed his eye to focus entirely on the song.  It wasn't so much the lyrics as it was the tune.  It helped.

With most people who were in a similar situation as he was, Alaran would have given them a hug or held their hand or linked her arm with theirs.  But that had never been the way between the two of them.  So instead Bull was comforted merely by her presence as the two of them sat silently in the rainy dark until morning.  And after, when he was plagued by nightmares, he would hum the tune of Alaran's song to help ease the pain.  

She had been right, though.  Iron Bull never feared madness again.  

-

Vivienne hadn't the courage to be upfront with Alaran.  All she could do was ask her dear friend for a favor.  The Inquisitor had every right to deny the Grand Enchantress and demand an explanation, but Alaran took one look at Vivienne's face and gave a single nod, saying that she would see it done.  A few days later, she was given the wrapped heart of a snowy wyvern.  It crushed Vivienne that Alaran could have so much unquestioning trust in her despite what all the others said, and she herself couldn't say what it was she needed the heart for.  So she took the white-haired elf with her to see her love, her Bastien.  She could imagine just what Sera and Blackwall would say if they knew about him.  So the viper has a soul, after all!  

Alaran had always believed that Vivienne did, though.  It astonished her how much she loved Alaran, how she highly regarded her opinions whether or not they were agreeable.  Perhaps it was because either of them could have become the other if circumstances had been different.  

When the potion failed and Bastien died right before Vivienne's eyes, it was Alaran who had held her while she silently wept, and promised that she wouldn't tell a soul she saw the Grand Enchantress show anything less than cold superiority.  It was Alaran who listened to the stories of how they met and the love they shared late into the night with a small smile of intrigue and focus.  It was Alaran who left Vivienne a small bouquet of flowers with a foolish, immature joke that left her giggling.  

And it was Alaran who made her feel relevant.  

-

She looked at him like he was real.  Violet, vibrant eyes that saw more than what was in front of her and it made him happy.  

Alaran had asked Cole what his decision would be.  Not Solas' or Varric's or even hers.  His.  It was because of her that he chose to become more human, because he believed that he could actually succeed if she was beside him.  Both hands, marked, marred and memorized guided Cole through the nights when he found himself in her room, body shaking from how real it all felt.  Sometimes he was too real.  He was too real and he didn't like it until she helped him.

Alaran would have made a good Spirit of Compassion.  

She and Solas exchanged sharp glances from time to time whenever Cole was around them, but it dulled like a blade that had been wielded for too long without maintaining care.  Their love for each other was an unbroken cord; it had forged when Alaran had been carried away to the swirling gray then slipped back in.  They would never extinguish because of the other.

Cole wondered if he would ever feel such a thing.

-

"Blackwall."

He shut his eyes. She shouldn't be here. None of them should be here. "That's not my name," he muttered.

"Look at me."

Against every fiber of his being, Blackwall did. He expected to find Alaran's face full of cold, ruthless malice like he had seen so many times when they faced down enemies.  She could crack down lightning and destroy him, and he wouldn't do so much as cry out.  He would willingly accept it.  

Instead he saw her crouching, eyes full of love and mercy. Alaran wore her deep red uniform with a black sash and the golden Inquisition emblem on her breast. She called it her Intimidation Suit. And it certainly was intimidating. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"Don't talk to me in that voice," Blackwall snapped, ashamed that he would use such a tone to one of his few friends who saved his life and joked with him, hugged him and twined flowers in his beard too many times to count. "Maker, why aren't you angry at me? At what I've done! I ordered a family to be murdered, then I ran and left my men to pay the price!"

He slammed his hands against the bars. Alaran didn't move. She didn't even flinch.

She tenderly placed her porcelain hands atop his own gloved ones.  They looked like the same kind of hands from the dolls his sister used to play with, except they were riddled with even paler scars from countless nicks and scrapes. "I know you want me to be angry with you, to yell at you, to hate you. And I honestly could.  But what you want isn't necessarily what you need." Alaran leaned close, and Blackwall was consumed by her violet eyes. "Whatever we were before..." Alaran began.

"We are now the Inquisition," Blackwall finished in a barely audible whisper.  She had repeated it to them too many times to count, up to the point where it was a common saying throughout Skyhold.  Blackwall had spoken it to himself thousands of times when he was plagued with the deeds of his past whenever he closed his eyes.  It had been a desperate plea, then, but now it was a statement that rang pure with truth.  

Alaran gave one of her signature small smiles. "Now, tell me everything."

So he did.  Blackwall wept in front of his Inquisitor, the woman who had been his salvation when he thought there was nothing that could accomplish such a task.  

And when he stood in front of her, nothing more than a broken man, she gazed down at him from the throne that belonged to her and nobody else, and she began to rebuild him.  "You will go to the Wardens and finish what Blackwall started for you."  Alaran was the picture of regality as she sentenced him to a better life.  

Thom Rainier wouldn't fail her.

-

"You should reform the Seekers."

Cassandra breathed a small sigh of relief.  She truly wanted to, but she would have chosen against it in less than a heartbeat had Alaran thought otherwise.  That was how much she trusted the Inquisitor, and proved how much the Reaver warrior was Cassandra's rock amidst all this chaos.  

Alaran gave a surprised look at the Seeker.  "What, did you think I was going to say no?"

A chuckle escaped Cassandra's lips.  "I...am not certain.  I had highly hoped not."

"Oh, for the love of--Cassie!  Seriously?  When have I ever been one to say no to a second chance?"  Alaran feigned being affronted and she tugged on her braid irritably, then let go and muttered something about looking like Nynaeve if she kept it up.  "I honestly think that if anybody can accomplish the task, it would be you.  There are very few people that I know have faith to push forward as strongly and steadfastly as you do."

The statement made Cassandra's cheeks blush.  "Thank you, Inquisitor," she mumbled.  Maker preserve her, but she was never good at accepting nice things said about her.

Alaran smirked, but then it faded.  "I'm sorry about Daniel, Cassandra.  You told me stories about him.  He seemed like a good man."

"He was a great man," Cassandra responded, looking down at her hands.  "And I will grieve his loss for some time.  But he is with the Maker, now.  I do not regret where he has gone."

"Do you want to go to Andraste's shrine and say a prayer?"

The offer surprised Cassandra; Alaran had never been one to express any religious beliefs.  Her heart swelled when she realized that Alaran suggested it because it would make Cassandra feel better.  A small smile was on the Inquisitor's face when she looked back up.  "...Yes.  I would like that, my friend."

-

When Leliana turned to face Alaran, she was preparing herself to see a horrified expression on the Inquisitor.  So she will really see what I am, Leliana thought absently, bitterly.  She will become aware of the monster she smiles at and whose rookery she jumps from.  

Yet, when Leliana looked to the Inquisitor, she saw hard resolve and respect.  "It had to be done," was all Alaran said.  Maybe she was aware of how profound that simple statement was to Leliana, and maybe she wasn't.  Either way, it lifted a heavy burden off Nightingale's chest.  Alaran had come at the right time to check in on Leliana when she had spent some time to grieve.  Nobody else would have done so, Leliana knew.  And she wouldn't deny that she had tried to push Alaran away, but the elf was adamant and stalwart and wouldn't be swayed.  Leliana was grateful for it.

But, as it was her job to keep a countless number of things hidden, she kept that a secret as well. 

-

"Don't worry, Josie, we won't let you get assassinated," Alaran assured as she leaned back in the chair opposite of the ambassador's.  There was a smirk on her face and she jerked a thumb to her chest.  "And if you are, I'll see to it that it'll be epic and rememberable.  I mean, there'll be frilly cake fights and explosions and I'll somehow manage to get sunglasses and a machine gun and when I'm facing down your assassinator--is that even a word?--I'll put on my shades--" Alaran stood up on the velveteen chair and mimed holding something in her arms, "and I'll say 'Hasta la vista, baby' and then I'll light them up--" she started twitching her arms violently and made loud chg-chg-chg noises.  

"Inquisitor," Josephine said, interrupting Alaran as she so often did when the woman got off-track.  "Focus."

Alaran, instead of being embarrassed and looking properly sheepish, just smirked and plopped back down on the cushion.  "Sorry.  I finally figured out how to work a television in the Fade.  I watched the Terminator movies last night.  It was glorious."

Did she ever realize that sometimes she made little sense?  Well...she was from another world.  Josephine had to give Alaran some slack.  "I do believe I know of a way that this can all be resolved peacefully."

Alaran turtle-frowned.  "...Well alright."  Then her face perked up.  "Ooh!  Do we get to go to Val Royeaux?"

-

The box sickened him.

Cullen picked it up and hurled it at the door.  At the same time he did so, the Inquisitor strode in and narrowly ducked it.  "Maker!" Cullen exclaimed, rushing forward.  "I--I did not mean--"

"Good aim," Alaran interrupted with a smirk.  He couldn't find it in himself to be humored.  He ranted to her while she listened attentively, her ears occasionally twitching.  Then, when it finally boiled down to the single question Cullen had been too afraid to ask himself, Alaran did it for him.

"Do you believe you should be taking the lyrium?"

A heavy blanket of silence fell upon the room.  Cullen gripped his curly hair with a hand and snarled angrily.  "I don't know!  I..." he slumped into the chair, knees to weak to support his body.  He was falling a part.  He could feel it.  

Alaran walked over and sat on his desk.  "Yes, you do."  Her voice was hopeful and commanding.  He found solace in her gaze, so he turned his head up to her.  Maker, but she looked older with her different hairstyle, especially when it was braided as it was and pulled over her shoulder.  "And whatever your decision, I will support you wholeheartedly and unwaveringly."  A hand placed itself on his feverish cheek.  

Cullen closed his eyes and breathed heavily.  "I...will not take the lyrium."

When he opened them again Alaran betrayed nothing.  "No.  You won't."  Her assurance gave Cullen more strength than he would have first thought.  "You will not be chained to lyrium.  Never again."

"Never again," Cullen repeated in a whisper, as reverently as he recited the Chant of Light.  Even if Alaran's Mark was not from Andraste, she had truly been sent by the Maker.  "Never again."

-

From the very first moment she had laid eyes on Bianca, Varric knew that Al loathed the woman.  To most people, her face would have looked blank and polite.  But Varric saw the way her violet eyes snapped dangerously.  "You're much more...smaller than I thought you'd be," Bianca said with a smirk.

Alaran smiled back, but it was the exact replica of the smile she had given Hawke and Varric before she traumatized them.  "Hm.  And  you're much  more...plainer than I'd thought you'd be."

Bianca's eyes narrowed and Varric lowly whistled.  "Careful, Bianca; the Inquisitor's tongue can be dangerously sharp."

"Yes, Varric knows that fact quite well," Alaran said lightly, subtly implying something that the two of them knew never would have happened in a million years.  But Bianca didn't know that.  

The rivalry between the two women only escalated when they reached Valammar, and Alaran was forced to go underground.  The Deep Roads weren't exactly Varric's favorite, either, but compared to Al's fear he looked as if he loved being there.  Her mood soured with each smuggler they came across.  When they came across darkspawn, Varric took a step back from Al because he was afraid he would be electrocuted with her eyes.  Fortunately for him, she took all her anger out on Bianca.  

"Bianca," Al spoke in a low, incredibly deadly voice, "if you didn’t mean so much to Varric, and for not your position in the Merchant’s Guild, I would have you jailed with the snap of my fingers.”  She didn't look intimidated, so Varric's best friend kept going.  "So listen close and listen well.  The Inquisition will see to it that you will never reach the status of Paragon.  And if you ever try to use Varric or anybody to fix your mistakes, I will ensure that you'll be enlisted the study of red lyrium."  Al leaned in closer and said in a voice just above a whisper, "And by that I mean it'll be force-fed to you five times a day.  Do I make myself clear?"

Bianca's face turned malicious.  Nobody dared to breathe.  Al's full-frontal fury wasn't something often seen.

She turned to leave, but Varric just knew that Bianca would get the last word in, even if it meant the death of her.  "If anything happens to Varric, I'll feed you your own eyeballs."

Al snapped around so fast she was nearly a blur.  Her leather-gloved fist collided with Bianca's jaw and there was a resounding smack as she went flying onto the floor.  

Iron Bull was the first to laugh.  "Boss...damn."

She looked over to Varric, grimacing.  "Sorry, Varric.  I...kind of lost it."

Bianca whimpered as she tried propping herself up.

Surprisingly, he chuckled.  "You know what?  I'm not even that mad."

Al smirked at him.  "Come on.  Let's get back to Skyhold."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When I walked into the rotunda I immediately knew something was wrong.

Solas was drinking tea.

He turtle-frowned and grimaced, then set it aside.  I walked in and leaned on the desk.  “What’s up?  Something wrong with your tea?” I asked with a smirk.  

“It is tea,” Solas said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.  “I detest the stuff.  But this morning, I need to shake the dreams from my mind.  I may also need a favor.”

“Name it,” I responded smoothly.  There were few days when I questioned Solas' actions.  I trusted him with my heart.  

Solas stood up and walked a ways off, unable to sit still as he explained.  “One of my oldest friends has been captured by mages, forced into slavery.  I heard the cry for help as I slept.”

He turned back to me.  “When your friend was captured, how did he...she…” I trailed off, expecting Solas to answer.

“It,” he confessed with a tilt of his head.

“It?” I couldn’t help but repeating.

“My friend is a Spirit of Wisdom.  Unlike the spirits clamoring to enter our world through the Rifts, it was dwelling quite happily in the Fade.  It was summoned against its will, and wants my help to gain its freedom and return to the Fade.”

I gave a small nod at the understanding.  I had my own spirit friends as well, and would be devastated if anything bad happened to them.  “Do you have any idea what the mages would want with your friend?”

“No,” he said, nose wrinkling faintly in anger.  “It knows a great deal of lore and history, but a mage could learn that simply by speaking to it in the Fade.  It is possible that they seek information it does not wish to give and intend to torture it.”

“Where’s the location?” I said, resolution settling in.

“In the Exalted Plains.  Alaran, you do not--”

“I’ll grab Cole and Varric.  They’ll be the most comfortable with this.  Go pack.  We’ll depart in a couple of hours.”

His face had been surprised at my complete willingness, then turned to gratitude.  He stood up and hugged me.  That was surprising on his part, because Solas was not typically one to initiate physical contact.  It was always me.  “Thank you, ma vhenan,” he whispered in my ear.

“If you two are about done,” Dorian shouted up from the library.  “I’d like an invitation to join your little rescue brigade.”

-

The Exalted Plains was a bit better-looking from our last visit.  We rode hard and swiftly, and cut down undead without delay.  Then it was from foot after reaching the nearest camp to our place of destination.

“Thank you, Inquisitor,” Solas said as we set at a steady jog.  “It is not far from here.”

“Everything here is blurry,” Cole unexpectedly said.  “It wants to forget, but now the rocks are solid.”  His words didn’t give me much optimism for what was to come next.

Soon we came across the corpse of a mage on the road.  “One of the mages.  Killed by arrows, it would seem,” Solas observed.  He had tried to keep as calm as possible, but I knew underneath he was roiling with emotions.

“Bandits, most likely,” Varric affirmed.  We set off again, but not long after more corpses were strewn on the path.  

“These aren’t mages,” Solas said, something in his voice I couldn’t quite place.  “The bodies are burned, and these claw marks…”  I looked at my love and found it was fear.  Fear, written all over his face and in his voice.  “No,” he muttered.  “No, no, no.”

“Hurry,” I could only say, and we continued in a faster run.  The five of us rounded one of the rocks and stopped dead in our tracks at the sight.  Solas gave a horrified gasp.

“My friend.”  It was spoken softly, but in a way that you knew he was screaming on the inside speaking those words.  The pride demon was crouched and restrained.

“The mages turned your friend into a demon,” I said, hiding my shock at Solas’ look of fury.  He snarled in anguish and enragement.  

Solas tugged down the gloves on his hand, not looking me in the eye.  “Yes.”

“You said it was a Spirit of Wisdom, not a fighter,” I went on to say as calmly as I could, but a torrent of my own emotions were swelling inside of me.  

“A spirit becomes a demon when denied its original purpose,” Solas bit back, finally meeting my eyes.  I spared him the pain of maintaining it and turned my head to look at the demon.  

“So they summoned it for something so opposed to its own nature that it was corrupted.  Fighting?”

The tall bushes stirred and a mage stumbled out.  He did not look like a brave man.  I immediately felt resentment towards him.  

“Let us ask them,” Solas snarled.

“A mage!” said the man, obviously relieved at the sight of us and blissfully unaware of the fury about to be rained down upon him and the others.  “You’re not with the bandits?  Do you have any lyrium potions?  Most of us are exhausted.  We’ve been fighting that demon--”

“You summoned that demon!” Solas yelled.  “Except it was a Spirit of Wisdom at the time!”  The mage took a step back at the unanticipated reaction.  “You made it kill!  You twisted it against its purpose!”

“I-I-I understand how it might be confusing to someone who has not studied demons,” the mage sputtered.  Ooh.  Not a good thing to say.  “But after you help us, I can--”

“We are not here to help you,” Solas seethed.  

“A word of advice?” I said to the mage.  “I’d hold off on explaining how demons work to my friend here.  He’s smarter than you are, though from the looks of it that's not a hard feat to accomplish.”

“Listen to me!” the mage said exasperatedly.  “I was one of the foremost experts in the Kirkwall Circle--”

“Shut.  Up.”  Never had two words been spoken more venomously.  “You summoned it to protect you from the bandits!”

“I--” the mage began, but after glancing again at us, he thought better of it.  “Yes.”

“You bound it to obedience, then commanded it to kill,” Solas further unraveled.  “That is when it turned.”  He looked at me as a man desperately clinging to hope that his worst fears would not come true.  “The summoning circle.  We break it, we break the binding.  No orders to kill, no conflict with its nature, no demon.”

“What?” the mage sputtered.  “The binding is the only thing keeping the demon from killing us!  Whatever it was before, it is a monster now!”

“Inquisitor, please,” Solas begged.

“We’ll disrupt the binding,” I said barely after a moment.  I was as desperate as he was.  “You and Dorian can do it quickly.  Varric, Cole and I will distract it.”

“Thank you,” Solas said with all the gratefulness he could muster in the phrase.  The Pride Demon stood and rose, a ferocious roar reverberating among the rocks and making my bones feel like they were buzzing.  “We must hurry!”

As Dorian and Solas destroyed the bindings, the demon got me good as Varric, Cole and I were keeping it distracted.  The wound was shallow enough, but I felt hot blood run down my back, the salt from my sweat dripping into it and making it burn.  "Al!" Varric shouted as I clenched my teeth to keep from raising alarm.  Solas jerked his head back to Varric's cry, but he only saw a frontal view of me and thus viewed nothing wrong.  I gave a small nod to assure him that I was fine.  In any other circumstance he would have seen right through it, but this was not a usual circumstance.  "Get back, Alaran," Varric growled as he shot glancing bolts at the demon.  "You're hurt bad."

My jaw was glued shut, so I only gave him a stubborn look that he knew quite well.  Varric snarled softly, but heeded my wishes.

I kept going.

When the last pillar was destroyed the demon vanished, and was replaced by a coal-colored spirit that took the shape of a female.  I forced myself to watch, even though I didn’t want to.  My back was a mass of excruciating pain and I struggled to stand straight.  This wasn't a typical injury. 

Solas crouched in front of her, a despairing expression on his face.  “Lethallin.  Ir abelas,” he muttered.  

“I’m not,” the spirit spoke.  I tensed, knowing that it was speaking elvhen.  How could I understand it?  Was it from the claw marks that it gave me?  I had no idea, honestly, and I was battling for my consciousness too much to try and figure it out.  “I’m happy.  I’m me again.  You helped me.  Now you must endure.  Guide me into death.”

Tears formed in my eyes, but I blinked them away.  A combination of feeling like my back was on fire and seeing the love of my life in the state that he was in was not a good mix.  “Ma nuvenin,” Solas whispered heartbreakingly after a moment of silence.  He made a slow movement with his hands as if to draw the spirit close to him, then pulled them apart.  The spirit broke into nothingness.  “Dareth shiral,” Solas uttered.  

“I heard what it said,” I spoke with a trembling voice.  I had to be strong.  I had to be strong.  “It was right.  You did help it.”

“Now,” Solas said, an ancientness in his voice I had heard seldom times.  “I must endure.”

“Let me know if I can help.”  It was all I could think to say.  Literally.  My mind was beginning to blank out.

Solas stood and walked to me.  “You already have.”  He was clinging to remaining calm and composed, but was failing miserably.  He then turned his attention to the gathered, frightened mages.  “All that remains now is them,” he spat.  

“Thank you,” said the mage who we had first spoken with.  He said it honestly.  “We would not have risked a summoning, but the roads are too dangerous to travel unprotected.”

Not the right thing to say.  Solas advanced on them, fury quickly regaining its position in his stance.  “You tortured and killed my friend.”

“We didn’t know it was just a spirit!  The book said it could help us!” the mage said as he backpedaled like cornered prey.

Fen’Harel had caught their scent.  And whether or not I did anything, he would kill today.  Even when I saw him slay the mages, the poor, ignorant, unknowing mages, I felt no anger towards him, no disgust.  Only sorrow.

“Damn them all,” Solas cursed as he stood among the flaming corpses.  He clenched and unclenched his fists.  “I need some time alone.  I will meet you back at Skyhold.”

Solas left without turning to look back at me.  The pain from that was worse than the physical affliction I was currently dealing with.

My friends knew better than to say something before Solas was out of earshot. When he had disappeared behind an outcropping of rocks did I then drop to my knees and let out a strangled cry, my great sword falling beside me.  "Quickly, Varric, get the potions," I heard Dorian say, any sass that he usually spoke with gone.  I began hyperventilating and Cole helped me lay flat on my stomach.

"Searing, singeing, serrating pain," he muttered, "but nothing is as bad as watching him leave."

"Now's not a good time, Kid," Varric said as he uncorked a healing potion.  "Ready, Al?" he asked, his voice low and fearful.

"No--" I said between gritted teeth.  Varric poured it on and a ragged scream tore through my throat, but it was muffled by the ground.  My fingers dug into the dirt and tears streamed down my cheeks.  I wanted to die.  I needed to die.

I remembered a conversation I had with Dorian on Pride Demons a while back amidst the blinding pain I was experiencing.  "Why does everybody always cut off their hands?" I had asked.  "I mean, I figured it was just because they shot friggin lightning out of them, but after what I saw at Adamant, I'm guessing that's not the case?"

"Pride Demons are particular in the way that their claws are poisonous," Dorian had responded.  "How strange and fascinating is that?  I heard it's quite excruciating, and can be fatal if not treated to right away."

"Do you think Leliana uses the stuff for her torture methods?"

"Darling, I think Leliana secretes the poison from her own claws.  That's why she wears gloves so often."

Cole picked me up in his arms and the movement made me scream louder and cry harder.  I should have hated crying in front of them but I didn't care about anything except the burning.

"Holy shit," Varric grunted as he picked up my great sword.  "Al, what the hell?  How can you pick this up?"

I knew he was trying to make me feel better, to distract me, but I couldn't respond.  It was physically impossible.  "We need to get her back to camp as quickly as we can," Dorian commanded.  "We're low on healing potions and she's going to need a more practiced healer's hands to ensure that she lives."  He spoke a slew of angry Tevene.  I didn't need to understand his language to know who he was cursing.  Solas had the healing hands.  And in his grief, Solas had left.  He hadn't looked to see the pain on my own face.  

Healing potions were put to my mouth and I tried swallowing the best I could, but there were still large amounts that spilled down the sides of my mouth.  "Varric, hurry up!" Dorian shouted distantly.  "She'll begin hallucinating, soon..."

Time merged together and ever fiber of my being was pain.  That's all I knew.  Then I was lying on a table in a surgery room and masked doctors were taking out my lungs and replacing them with Pride Demons and I screamed at the sight of the gaping hole in my chest.  I started to kick furiously to get them off of me, and they were strong but I was stronger.  I fought and I fought and I felt my steel-toed boot collide solidly with something, which lessened the doctors grips on me.  One of the operators pulled down their masks and it was Corypheus.  The others followed suit, and I saw my mother and my father looking down at me.  I tried swinging my fists out at them but my arms were held back down, again.  I screamed because I was hurt and I was afraid.  I screamed and screamed and--

Something slammed into my head and I was knocked out.

-

Dorian was sitting in the healer’s tent when I awoke, eyes bloodshot, hair and mustache disheveled, and body slumped.  But he smiled when he saw my eyes open.  There was a dark, discolored bruise on his jaw.  It all came back to me.  “Did I…?” I said hoarsely.  My throat was dry and sore.

“Punch me in the face?  No.  But you did kick me,” Dorian said.  He gestured over to the cot next to me and I gasped.  "Mine wasn't bad.  You did, however, manage knock Varric unconscious.  Though I think he's just sleeping, now."

"Har har, Sparkler," Varric said with his eyes still closed.  There was a nasty goose egg on his forehead. "I'm so glad you care about my well-being."

I laughed, but it came out as a rasp and my back flared with aching pain.  I whimpered and stiffened.  Dorian was beside me in a second with one hand clasped around mine and the other on my forehead.  Varric was attempting to sit up, but his eyes went glassy and he flopped back down.  "I...I'm sorry," I grimaced to my friends.  "I just didn't think...he needed to..."

Tears welled up in my eyes at the image of Solas leaving.  I squeezed them shut and drew in a shaky breath to quell the urge to cry.  They had already seen me cry enough.  It didn't prove entirely successful, because a few tears rolled down the sides of my temples and into my pillow.  "Alaran..." Dorian began, but I smiled because that's all I could do.  I opened my eyes again.

"Don't worry, Dorian.  I'll be fine," I assured.  He knew it was complete bullshit, and I didn't dare look at Varric because I could feel the anger radiating off of him, but neither of them pressed further about it.  

"You still have a fever and your wounds are far from healed because of the poison, but you’ll live.  We would have carted you off to Skyhold right away, but first we had to get a cart," Dorian said instead.  

“And?  Do you have one now?”

“Yes.  It arrived about twenty minutes ago.”  He sat at the foot of my cot.  There was worry in his blue eyes.  “I...we weren’t sure if you were going to make it there for a bit, Alaran.  It raised all sorts of chaos in my shriveled little heart.  So please, don’t do that again.”

I chuckled, which made me aware of the searing in my back once more.  “Wouldn’t dream of it, Dorian.”

-

After three weeks, Solas returned.

I was heading down the stairs to go speak to Blackwall about training recruits with Cullen when I saw him.  Before, I had been bitterly aware of the fact that I should have worn a coat in the chilly fall air, but wearing one would mean that my back would be irritated even more, so I thought against it.  Right now breast bands sucked.  I had been restricted to only wear loose tunics that were more along the lines of night shirts, and they swallowed my little body to the point that it was comedic.  But when I saw his weary, hunched over figure walking through the gates I forgot about everything except for the single thought that he had come back.

Even though everything inside me was freaking out, I calmly strode up to Solas and said a simple, "Hello."  

He was a poor sight.  The clothes he had worn to the Exalted Plains were still on him, wrinkled and disheveled and caked with grime.  Solas' face wasn't much better.  Dirt mixed in with his freckles, and his face was pale and gaunt.  But his eyes...they looked the worst out of everything.  I had seen the same things in my own, at many points; they were ready to cry at any moment, to release everything in a violent torrent, but through sheer will it was all held back.  

"Inquisitor," was all he said, cold and formal.  I brushed it off.  Grief shone in his eyes.

“How are you, Solas?” I asked quietly, trying to keep more of my stronger emotions from leaping through.  

“It hurts,” Solas responded, voice rough and thick.  “It always does.  But I will survive."

“Thank you for coming back,” I couldn’t help but say.  He most likely had no idea how worried I was for him.  

“You were a true friend.  You did everything you could to help,” Solas said.  “I could hardly abandon you now.”

I could hardly abandon you now.  There was no hint of him implying that he came back because he loved me.  But I stayed steadfast.  

“Where did you go?”

“I found a quiet spot and went to sleep.  I visited the place in the Fade where my friend used to be.  It’s empty, but there are stirrings of energy in the Void.  Someday something new may grow there.”  His face flashed with sorrow, then composed itself once more.  “But, do not let me distract you from your duties.  I shall be in my studies, if you need me.”

Solas moved to walk past, me, but was stopped when I gripped his arm.  I felt that it was thinner.  “Do you truly believe I care for you so little that I would let you go and be alone?” I asked in an even quieter voice, feeling my eyebrows furrow.  “That I would let you grieve in isolation even more than you have already done?”

“I...suppose not,” Solas said, casting his eyes down before I could read anything.  His body was rigid, but it leaned towards me as if he wanted, needed physical contact.  I would have given it to him, but there were too many eyes; too many that it would have made him uncomfortable and only draw away from me.  

“I was going to talk to Blackwall right quick,” I said plainly.  “I would be happy if you could accompany me.  Then we can put our feet up.”

“Of course.”

Blackwall was grateful for the offer, and readily accepted it.  He also asked Solas how he was doing.  The mage tactfully evaded answering.  Blackwall saw, but he was kind enough not to say anything further.

We bid our farewells.  Solas and I made our way to my chambers.  His silence was tangible, his sorrow damp on my skin.  There was a void inside of the Wolf's heart.

“I brought you here for a reason, actually,” I explained as I climbed up the ladder to my makeshift art studio above my bed.  Only I was allowed to go up.  It was like a secret fort exclusively for Inquisitors.  And how many Inquisitors were there?  That's right.

“Oh?”

I grabbed the canvas board that was propped up on the easel.  “Yeah.  when you were gone, I thought I’d paint you a little something.”

-

Solas wanted nothing more than to take a bath and lie down in the privacy of his own room.  But Alaran kept him on his feet.  He most likely needed it.  Needed her.

He watched Alaran climb up the short ladder and grab a canvas off the easel standing in the middle of the loft.  Sometimes he had caught her perched in her nest, drawing or painting unknown things, but she had bluntly told him that she didn't want him or anybody up there besides herself.  So he respected her wishes, and never went up.  Though, Solas did wonder from time to time of how much artistic quality she possessed.  Unlike Alaran's musical talents, she kept whatever skills she had with the brush or charcoal extremely private.  Solas knew that it was a very special occasion for her to be doing this for him, but he couldn't muster the energy to properly convey his emotions.  He couldn't properly feel at the moment.

Alaran ended up ignoring the climb down and jumped, landing with barely a sound but a visible wince on her face, as if something pained her.  A minuscule part of Solas wondered what it was, and that he should have inquired what was wrong, but his mouth wouldn’t work.  She came forward tentatively, her violet eyes wide and bright with anxiety and hope. “It’s...here.”  She handed the painting to him.

Solas lost his breath.

The painting in itself was exquisite; everything was vivid and realistic.  But what was more profound was what the painting depicted. Solas found himself gaping at a picture of him and Wisdom sitting back-to-back, both of them serenely looking up at the stars.  Wisdom had its legs crossed and Solas had an arm propped on one bent knee while the other was stretched flat.  The night sky was swirling with colors.  They were sitting in the spot they had always found each other at.  Had it been looked at by anybody other than Solas, it would not have been a profound picture.  As it was him who was, though, he found that no words would come to mind to express just how much the painting meant to him.  

He wasn't sure if he had been staring at it for a few minutes or a few hours, but when he finally tore his gaze away and saw Alaran gazing back at him with a small smile and loving, understanding eyes, a dam broke somewhere inside him.  Solas' knees gave way and his shins hit the floor as he heaved a sob.  Alaran was beside him in a moment, gently taking away the picture and setting it on her desk.  He clutched her loose gray tunic and twisted it in his hands as a low wail escaped from his chest.  Alaran held Solas' head against her waist where he had buried his face in, her touch tender and delicate.  Wisdom was gone.  Wisdom was gone, just like everything Solas had ever loved in his life.  There was...

Solas almost thought nothing, next, but he realized just who he was freely weeping against, who still embraced him when he had purposefully turned his back on her and isolated himself from the world.  Remembering the undying love he had for Alaran and the love she held for him in return was almost too much to bear, and Solas was racked with a new wave of sobs.  "Vhenan," he gasped.  "Ma vhenan."

"Ma Solas," Alaran whispered back, then sank to her knees as well and pressed a kiss on his wet lips, then cradled his neck as he buried his head in her shoulder.  Solas wrapped his arms around her frame squeezed.  Her body stiffened momentarily, but before he could be concerned she relaxed.

When everything had been let out and Solas was nothing but an empty, exhausted husk, Alaran pulled back and caressed his cheek.  He leaned into her touch.  "I think what you need is a nice warm bath."

He smiled at the idea of sharing a bath with Alaran.  "Yes, I believe I do."

She stood up slowly as her hands lifted him as well, and called for water to be sent up.  Once it was, Solas put a heating rune at the bottom and was stripped of his clothes.  He hummed in contentment as his body slipped under the water.  Alaran smiled and rolled up her sleeves.  How had her hair gotten to long in such a short period of time?  It swept over her shoulder and nearly touched the water Solas was in as she began lathering up a sponge.  A sweet hum warbled at the back of her throat.  "I think you should join me, vhenan," he said as he grazed her berry-colored lip with his thumb.  She smirked.  

"I already bathed this morning.  Just enjoy yourself."

"I would sincerely enjoy it more if you were in here with me."

"Solas," Alaran said lightly, but there was a spark in her violet eyes, "I already bathed.  I'm sorry."

Solas' mouth drew into a small frown.  Alaran wasn't one to pass up a bath.  By now she should be doing a purposefully awkward strip-tease and make awful jokes about it all.  Instead she was deliberately looking away from him and concentrating on the movements of the sponge in her hand.  "What happened."  It wasn't a question.  

Alaran sighed and managed a small, reassuring smile as her eyes met his.  Solas then saw her face--truly saw.  Pain flickered behind the vibrant purple colors, and her skin had taken on a slightly ashen pallor.  Her smile was strained and forced.  "Nothing that should trouble you, love."  So something had happened, and Alaran was hiding it from him.  

Solas decided that he had to be patient in finding out the truth.  Pressing Alaran about it would only push her away and give her cause to hide things better.  So he pulled her in for a kiss and let her bathe him as she hummed.  "Hey, I was wondering about something," she said as her fingers gently cleaned the spot behind his ears.

"Yes?"

"Was my room your room, once?"

He chuckled.  "It was.  Though, I was not particularly fond of all the space."

"Why?"

"It only reminded me that I was alone.  There was nobody to help fill it all.  And, as you know, I do not like heights.  I could not stand astutely and proudly on my balcony without getting vertigo."

They both laughed.  "Well," Alaran said when her giggles subsided, "if you want, you can try it again.  This being your room, I mean.  Not you standing on the balcony looking majestic as your tunic flapped in the wind."  She looked at him in earnest.  "You basically live here, anyways.  I think there are more of your clothes in my drawers than there are in your own room."

"And what of the public?  What would they think of their wise and powerful Inquisitor officially claiming her apostate lover as her own?" Solas had to ask, but was unable to keep from smirking as he said so.  Alaran snorted.  

"Like I care."

"You should."

She bopped his nose, leaving a dollop of suds on his tip.  "But I don't."  Her smirk turned into a grin.  "Aww, you look so cute."

He wiped it off with the back of his hand.  Alaran made a face.  "Well it's a good thing I have a photographic memory.  I'll remember the image forever."

Alaran then pecked a kiss on his forehead.  "I love you, Solas."

"And I love you, Alaran."

-

It was by chance that Solas awoke when Alaran was changing into a new set of clothes the next morning.  He had fallen asleep long before she had, and she was up before he.  The lack of sleep could become a concern, and Solas would keep a close eye on her, but for now she seemed fine.  He lazily smiled at the image of her pulling on her black leggings, and eagerly awaited for the sight of her removing her gray tunic.  

The pleasure was replaced by sickness and horror when Alaran slowly lifted up the fabric, hissing softly.  Three long gashes made their way from her right shoulder down to her left hip, red and swollen and scabbed against her alabaster skin.  

"Vhenan," he gasped.  Alaran quickly shoved her gray tunic down and spun to face him, as he was already out of the bed and making his way to her.  

"Solas, listen, it's nothing.  I'm fine."

"Nothing?" he snarled, reaching to lift up her tunic.  She firmly pushed his hands back down.

"It was an accident.  I was stupid and it got me--"

"What.  Got.  You."  Solas whispered dangerously.  Whoever did this, whatever did this, they would pay--

Alaran's sad expression shattered his anger, and the realization came crashing down on him.  He recalled Varric calling out Alaran's name in fear, and how she looked at him with staunch duty and not that she was okay, and how he completely ignored it.  Then he had turned and walked away from her, and she stood strong in front of him while he buried himself in his own selfish grief.  The scream, the scream was hers.  Solas had faintly heard one echo among the rocks, but he disregarded it for nothing more than the wind or a fennec.

"The poison..." he muttered, afraid of the question he needed to ask.  "Did it...affect you?"

"I turned into a newt, but I got better," Alaran said, flashing a smirk.  "And Dorian made sure I was taken care of.  It was a pretty funny sight when Varric had to carry my great sword."  She had evaded the question, which meant the poison had coursed through her body.

Alaran was lucky to be alive.  

"This is my fault," Solas spoke, his voice cracking.  He had almost lost her and he hadn't even known it.  "I do not deserve you, vhenan."  Solas was beginning to break apart, piece by piece.  It was all his fault.  Everything.  Everything that had been done to Alaran was because of him, in some way or another.  Everything.  He should have known better than to let Alaran love him, because she would only be broken in return--

"Get over yourself."

Wait...what?

Alaran crossed her arms and tilted her chin up to Solas.  "You need to get over yourself, Solas, and stop having a pity party.  Shit happens.  It happens to me, it happens to you, it happens to everybody.  Do you honestly believe that I have no agency of my own?  Solas I made this choice to be here, to be with you.  And I know you would just love to pile the blame on yourself and wallow in it until the next age, but if you do that then you are disrespecting me as a person and as your vhenan.  I am not some doll that can be perched on a shelf and be dusted off every once in a while to keep up appearances; I am a real, breathing, living person, and I am fully aware of what may lie outside these walls yet I go out there anyways.  This is not your fault.  This is nobody's fault.  Not even mine.  Do you understand me, Solas?  If you blame this on yourself then you are purposefully choosing a path that will not lead you to happiness.  And if you aren't happy, I'm most certainly am not happy, either.  Then we have a problem."  Alaran stood toe-to-toe with Solas and tipped her head up defiantly.  "So put whatever it is you're hanging onto in the fuck-it bucket and get on with life."

Solas stood there in stunned silence as Alaran's words sunk in.  He remained standing there even after she left the room.

-

Varric rubbed his eyes to try and get rid of the memories of Al crying.  The first one was of her curled up in Cole's arms.  Those tears were savage and raw and it made sense.  But the second time, when she had cried because of Solas...that was what haunted Varric's mind.  They were silent and fluid, which made it all the more heartbreaking.  And she had smiled after, just so he and Dorian could feel better while she was trying to keep herself from crumbling.

That bastard was going to get his hands cut off.

When Varric had seen Al walking with Solas off to her room, he was tempted to put a bolt right up Chuckle's ass, then thought against it.  The mage looked awful enough as it was; if he was going to say or do something, it would be later.  

Surprisingly enough, Solas had come to Varric.  "You have a lot of nerve--" Varric began, but Solas had unclasped his hands from behind his back and laid them on the table.  His unnerving blue eyes were pained and brooding.  Great.  Just fucking great.  He had to be chivalrous, and Varric would be an ass if he still hated Solas.  

"I know I hurt her," Solas spoke quietly.  "She will never admit it, but I did.  So do what you must, Master Tethras.  I will pay the price."

After a moment, Varric groaned and leaned back in the chair he was sitting in.  "You know if I did anything, Al would kill the both of us for being dumb asses.  Just--get your hands off my table, Solas, and listen."  Varric drug a hand down his face before beginning, literally feeling the intensity of Chuckle's gaze on him.  "You fucking made her cry.  Not only did she cry, but when that demon's poison was killing her she screamed your name.  And where were you?"  He shook his head in disbelief.  "Andraste's tits, but she loves you.  She loves you more than the Inquisition, and she is more devoted to its cause than anybody in Thedas.  You wanna know how I can tell she does?  Because the moment I watched her lay eyes on you from across the courtyard, I knew she forgave you for everything.  For the way you left her in the Exalted Plains, for the three weeks you were gone, for everything.  So you had better fucking forgive yourself, too, because otherwise all that she went through would be for nothing if you just pushed her away."

Varric drew in a deep breath after his rant was finished.  He wanted to continue staying angry at Solas, but from the look on the elf's face that wasn't going to happen.  Shit.  Why did he talk sense into people, again?  

"I will...heed your counsel, Varric," Solas said softly.  He turned to leave, but paused and said, "And thank you for not opting to cut off my hands."

Varric softly laughed.  "What can I say?  I'm merciful like that."

He had learned from the best, after all.  

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Sssssssolasssssss."

He squirmed and rolled away from me.  I laughed and latched onto him, pressing my mouth against his ear and hissing, "What isssss it, my love?  Isssss ssssomething wrong?  Why are you acting thissss way?"

Solas let out a strangled half-cry, half-laugh and tried prying me off of him, but to no avail.  Not only were is ears sensitive, but he had a thing about hissing sounds up close.  So, being the good vhenan I was, I exploited it mercilessly.  "A-Alaran," Solas gasped as he tried defending his ear by pressing it against his shoulder.  "Stop!  And don't you make that--"

"Hue hue hue," I finished, and he groaned loudly.  Inquisitor Alaran, trolling the Dread Wolf.  

After my tormenting was over, I pressed a loving kiss on Solas' lips.  He glided his hands over my hips and moved to push them gently back against himself.  But I pulled away, smirked, and hopped out of bed.  "Sorry, love, I have a lot of Inquisitor things to do today.  No time for moany-moan stuff."

He stared at me flatly.  "Must you call making love...that?"

I began to braid my hair in the single plait that ran along the center of my scalp.  "I think I have to.  I figured that if we were in a book or something and it started to go into detail of us--"

"--Spare me your next thought--"

"--Every other sentence would be describing moaning and groaning because dang Solas you moan a lot."  I swung my half-braided hair over my shoulder to continue.  "And I do tend to gasp quite a bit.  But I was thinking and decided what would be written.  So here's how I imagine what it would be like."  I cleared my throat and then began in a dusky voice, "Her dark, luscious nipples hardened at the barest of his touch.  'Oh, Solas, you're a god,' she gasped, eyes fluttering shut and biting her lip.  'I know,' Solas growled back and sheathed himself within her folds in a slow, agonizing movement that made Alaran cry out in wanting."

"'Sheathed himself within her folds?'" Solas snorted disbelievingly.  "How is that at all eloquent?"

"Sh.  I'm not done," I said, and tossed my braid back and grabbed on of my form-fitting Inquisition suits to change into.  "He moaned and she moaned and there was moaning of all sorts as the great Dread Wolf penetrated the she-elf.  Alaran clawed at his back and he whimpered, 'Please, vhenan, my skin is tender and you don't know your own strength--'"

"I have never said that," Solas argued, covering his eyes with a hand as he fell into a fit of laughter.  I pulled my night tunic over my head, but got caught up in it.  So as I continued I was wrangling myself out from the grasp of the formidable foe.  

"Alaran moved her hands down to his sexy ass and gave it a squeeze as if she was testing for its ripeness like one would do with a peach."  Solas rolled over on his stomach and muffled his laughter into the pillow.  I triumphantly tossed the tunic over my head and threw it on the ground.  I then slipped my arms through the sleeves of the uniform.  But I wasn't done yet.  "Solas bit down on her porcelain flesh, then moved his way down to lavishly lick her breasts like the wolf he was.  He moaned as she gasped.  They made the same noises for some time.  'Oh, Alaran, I'm going to come.'"  I tried my best at impersonating Solas' wanton voice but failed miserably, which made me teeter on the edge of losing my cool and not finishing the depiction.  "'But it's only been a minute and a half, Solas," I went on to say in a breathy, high-pitched version of my own voice.  Solas' laughter stopped dead and he turned his head to glare at me sidelong.  "'Ir abelas, vhenan, I--ah--AH!  ELVHEN GLORY!"  I thrust my hips as I cried out in the poor imitation of Solas.  Then I let my body deflate and blew a loud raspberry.

"No matter what Sera says, I have never cried out 'Elvhen Glory' in bed," Solas said dryly.  "And that incident concerning my shortness of duration only happened once."

His defensiveness made me laugh.  "Oh, you know I'm just joshin ya, Solas," I cooed and walked back over to our bed.  He looked at me reproachfully and hid his face in the pillow.  I crawled back onto the mattress and straddled his back.  "Sundays sittin on your back porch..." I began to sing.  

Solas groaned.  "No, da'len.  I'm not singing."  I had found out that he had an incredible voice a while back when I asked him to sing an elven lullaby to me.  It took some poking and prodding, but I eventually got him to do so.  Solas wasn't too amused when I told him that I would quit my job as Inquisitor and he would quit his job of being an egg in disguise and we could travel across Thedas singing mashups of Sera Never Was and Chantry hymns.  

I ignored him.  "And I came armed with a couple of chords, and I played for youuuuuu."  I was grinning so broadly that my cheeks were beginning to ache.  I leaned down closer to Solas' ear.  "You let me keep you entertained, with stories I exaggerate, that you know aren't truuuuuuueeeee."  I shimmied my hips at the last overdone note.  "And as you sit there making daisy chains, and I throw in a hand grenade, and tell you how it is I really feel for youuuuuuuu."  

I paused, waiting to see if Solas would react and sing the chorus with me.  I bit back a squee when I heard his muffled voice.  "...I'm sending postcards from my heart,"

I leaped off of him so he could turn over as I sang, "With love for a postmark and then, you’ll know that you make me,"

"Feel like we've been caught," Solas continued as he rolled onto his back, a begrudging smirk on his face, which brightened when he looked at me. 

I threw my head back and started swaying my shoulders from side-to-side.  "Like kids in the school-yard again..."

"And I can't keep it to myself..."  Solas rolled his eyes.  I stood up on the mattress and spread my arms out wide as I belted out the lyrics.

"Can’t spell it any better, L-O-V-E forever!"  I broke into a dorky dance while Solas was still laying down.  I pointed at him when it was his turn to go.

"I hope you know that I’m sending a postcard..."  Solas grabbed my passing arm and yanked me back down so I was lying on top of him and gave me a smiling kiss.

"I don’t care who sees what I’ve said," I whispered, and together we finished the chorus, "Or if the whole world knows what's in my head."

It's always an amazing feeling when you're reminded just exactly why you love the person you do.

-

"Suit up, gang, and let's get moving," I said cheerfully to my bleary-eyed companions.  "The Frostback Basin won't wait forever!"

"It's friggin mountains," Sera grumbled as she stuffed her hands in her armpits to keep them warm.  "They'll bloody be there by the time we're nothin but a pile of smelly dust."

"Think of the historical things we'll find!" I continued as if she hadn't spoken.  "I don't know about you guys, but I'm excited."

"Why can't you be like all other warriors and have rocks for brains?" Varric sighed.  "Then you wouldn't be interested in this and we wouldn't have to be up at the ass-crack of dawn."

"To be fair, I don't have rocks for brains," Blackwall said.  "I have wheels of cheese."

I made a confused bruh gesture at him with the accompanying facial expression.  

"Hey, Boss, can we take the giant nugs?" Iron Bull asked.  "They're pretty fun to ride.  Instead of running they leap."

I visibly shuddered at the thought.  "No.  Freak no.  Freak.  No."

That got a good chuckle from all of my bastard friends.  

We were off a short while later and arrived at the camp by midday, and I got to see my favorite scout.  "Harding!" I greeted as I spread my arms out wide.  It had become custom for me to do that every time I met her at a new camp.

"Inquisitor," she said with that cute, wry smile of hers.  Harding introduced me to Bram Kenric, who was delighted to tell me that they were on the verge of finding the final resting place of the last Inquisitor.  I got all sorts of nerd-giddy.

"The texts say that Inquisitor Ameridan was a dragon hunter who vanished on his last expedition," I put in.

Bram's face lit up.  "Yes, precisely!  I see you've read Letrec's Precursors to the Chantry!  Inquisitor Ameridan stepped down shortly before the Nevarran Accord brought the Seekers of Truth into the Chantry.  He hunted demons, dragons, and dangerous apostates in a time before templars even existed."

"I'm all for history if it means tracking down the equipment of a famous demon hunter," Harding smirked.  I chuckled.  Leave it to Lace to say something like that.

"Scout Harding," I smiled, "you had me at 'equipment.'"  

"Thought you'd might like that."

-

"Boss," Iron Bull shifted uncomfortably, "how are you and Solas so normal about the whole...spirit thing?"

I shrugged.  "It's not so bad.  They're pretty cool, if you treat them nicely."

"But they can turn into demons."

"Everything can turn bad, if you put them in the wrong circumstances," I continued to explain before Solas could say something condescending.  The last time he and Bull went at it I had to...tackle him.  

That can be a story for another time.  

"Oh, well done," Professor Kenric gushed as we stepped into the darkened hall.  "Well, done, indeed!"  

"That's something you don't see every day," Harding said in a slightly awestruck voice.  

"A pair of shrines!"  Kenric gestured to one of them.  "This one is clearly Andrastian, albeit from a very early period, likely Pre-Divine."  He looked to the other one.  "But this is elven.  One of their gods.  Um, what was it...?"  The professor rubbed his brow in thought.  "'Every mother finds druffalo among sleeping juniper groves...'  G-something, the one with the deer."

I raised an eyebrow.  "What was that?  'Every mother finds druffalo?'"

Kenric blushed and looked away.  Harding was smirking wryly.  "Oh, it's um, a memory aid to help me with the names of the elven gods," he confessed sheepishly, then gave me an apologetic look.  Oh, right.  Duh.  I was Dalish.  I should have acted offended or something.  "'Every' is Elgar'nan, 'Mother' is Mythal, 'Finds' is Fallow-Something..."  He coughed and muttered, "I was more focused on early Chantry history.  I didn't really do elves."  

Aww, he was so painfully awkward it was adorable.  No wonder Harding liked him.  

I glanced at Solas and felt my lip twitch upward before I caught it.  "Are you sure that your memory aid caught all the elven gods?"

"Well there's only one 'F' for Falon'Din--that's what it was!  Of course!--But, erm, I suppose I forgot Fen'Harel."

"Most people do," Solas quipped.  Nobody understood why I heartily laughed after his statement.  

"This...isn't him though," Kenric said as he scratched his chin.  "It's one of the ladies--ah, obviously.  G-something."

"You're right," I assured, and he let out a breath.  "If it was Fen'Harel there'd be hairless wolf shrines instead."

Solas choked and Sera scowled at me.

"Stop not making sense, yeah," she said.  "Even I fockin know elfy lore.  That's Ghilan'nain."  

"Yes!" Kenric exclaimed as he threw his hands triumphantly into the air.  "Brilliant, thank you!  That would have bothered me all day!"  

"Two shrines for two lovers:  Inquisitor Ameridan and Telana.  Maybe Telana was an elf," Harding pondered.  I refrained from girlishly giggling.  She was such a romantic that it was disgustingly cute.

"Oh, yes, that's good!" Kenric praised.  "The Chantry expunged references to elves before the Exalted March on the Dales.  They erased the Canticle of Shartan.  They must have done the same to Telana!"  

"The Chantry should not rewrite history to cover up inconvenient truths," I said, and got a huff of approval from Cassandra.  

"Agreed," said the Seeker.  "The Chant of Light should spread the truth, not suppress it."

Kenric looked guilty, even though he had really done nothing wrong.  "Regardless, the important thing is what this tells us.  It's not a burial site, that much is obvious."

Scout Harding approached the shrines and crouched down.  "Look at these flowers," she said, and gently touched the petals with gloved fingers.  "They're not native to the area.  What if they were left at the shrine as an offering?"

Kenric went over and crouched beside her.  I snapped the image of the two of them in my head so I could give them a drawing of it on the day of their future wedding.  I had already decided that they were going to be married.  "Yes.  A night of prayer before battle against the dragon.  But then where, where...?"  He shook his head and continued talking absently to himself.  "We're missing something.  What are we missing?  Where did you go?"

-

"Are you trying to reveal my identity?" Solas suddenly whispered in my ear.  I craned my head up to him.

"It was a joke," I whispered back.  "They're not going to think anything of it.  And you honestly know what I think, Solas?  That if they knew, they're still going to accept you.  They accepted me."

He stared at me flatly and his jaw clenched.  Everybody else was listening to Professor Kenric tell an experience he had in the Arbor Wilds, but Iron Bull had his gaze on us--it was discreet and nonchalant, but I knew the feeling well.  The conversation had to end, soon.  "You are not the one who gave their Orb to Corypheus to unlock its power."

"No, no I am not.  But still, Solas.  I don't think you have to hide.  I know it may be hard to believe, but most of those people behind us actually like you."

"That's debatable," Solas said dryly.  I smirked.

"Perhaps.  But you do have one thing going for you."

"And that is?"

I slipped my hand into his.  "I trust you.  And they trust me.  So you know what that means?  They'll trust you, too."

He harrumphed, but didn't say anything further.  

I really hoped I was right.

-

"Okay, so those rocks are floating," I said aloud.  My eyes followed the elven man sitting in pocket of time, so I walked up the rocks, knowing that I looked confident but feeling like I was going to slip and fall or do something embarrassing in front of this incredibly intimidating person.  Literally, I've never been intimidated by somebody like Ameridan.  As soon as I was near enough, I dipped my head in respect.  "Inquisitor."

"Inquisitor," he said as he remained crouched in his position.  "Andaran atish'an.  I am glad Drakon's friendship with our people has remained strong."

I frowned, feeling guilty about what I had to say.  "It has not.  Drakon's son, Kordillus the Second, destroyed the Dales."  

"Drakon's son..."  Ameridan closed his eyes and bowed his head.  "How long?"  I was amazed at the tenacity he still had despite the fact that he knew he wasn't going to like the answer.

"You were the last Inquisitor," Cassandra responded for me.  "There has not been another since you disappeared 800 years ago."

Ameridan looked up to us, but his gaze was far away.  "Drakon was my oldest friend.  He would have sent someone to find me."

"He never had the chance," said Solas, his voice low and heartfelt.  He knew the feeling of waking up to see that everything he thought the world would be...wasn't.  "The darkspawn that rose in the Anderfels threatened all of Orlais."

"I see."  Ameridan's gaze focused on us.  "Telana escaped the battle.  Did she...do the records say what became of her?"

I wanted to be dishonest, but being that would have eaten at me for some time after.  And I already respected Ameridan too much to lie to him.  "She returned to the island.  From what we can tell, she died trying to reach you through dreams."

Ameridan breathed softly in despair.  "I asked her not to.  She was a good hunter and the love of my life, but she..."  He composed himself before he couldn't control his emotions.  I had experience doing that myself countless times.  "I never wanted this job.  Hunting demons was so much simpler than politics."

"Inquisitor Ameridan," Cassandra spoke up.  "How could the leader of the Seekers be a mage?"

His forehead wrinkled and his lip curled, but not enough to truly look angry.  "Has history forgotten so much?  I was not a Seeker myself, as most Inquisitors were.  I used my magical gifts in the hunting of demons and maleficarum.  Do the Seekers no longer welcome the aid of mages?"

I expected Cassandra to react negatively, but she had grown over time, meaning that she didn't respond as rashly, and instead answered, "No.  That was forgotten...among many other things."

"This is Cassandra Pentaghast," I introduced, gesturing slightly to my friend.  "She is a member of the Order of Seekers, and is making plans to rebuild it for the better.  I trust her dearly."

Cassandra shone with silent pride as she bowed to Ameridan.  "I am honored, Inquisitor."

"As am I," he said back.  "Your predecessors were good men and women in difficult times.  As the Inquisition joined the Chantry, we required a leader who inspired loyalty, not fear.  Drakon asked that I lead, to show a united front.  I was needed..." he shifted his pale green eyes over to me.  "As I suspect you were needed."

"I hadn't originally intended to become the Inquisitor," I said.  "But I took the position as a duty to Thedas.  Whatever my life was before, it is now mostly the Inquisition."

Ameridan gave a small nod of respect.  I felt my heart swell with pride.  "Take moments of happiness where you find them.  The world will take the rest."  I became acutely aware of Solas standing next to me.  "The dragon carries the spirit of an Avvar god.  I lacked the strength to kill it.  My own magic was able to bind us all, locked in time.  But when the cultists drew that spirit into another vessel, it disrupted my bindings.  It is breaking free."

"Well," I said with a smirk.  "I'm already fighting one would-be god."  And sleeping with another.  Giggity.  "I can make time for one more."

"Then I leave the world in good hands," Ameridan said with a mirrored smirk.  "The passage of years can be delayed, but not ignored.  I will soon join Telana at Andraste's side.  Take this."  A green light emitted from the former Inquisitor and settled in my chest.  "It holds the last few memories of an old hunter who was neither as wise nor as strong as he thought."  Ameridan started to disintegrate and the gigantic freaking dragon behind him began to move.  "Fight well, Inquisitor.  I am  honored to have met you."

Despite my sadness, I was happy.  Happy because of his words, and happy because he was finally getting rest.  

That happiness ended when the time pocket exploded and sent us all flying backwards.  Having a great sword is nice and all and can do some major melee damage, but it really, really blows whenever I landed on my back with it still strapped to me.  I would have laid there and pouted, but the dragon was already stirring and snarling.  I groaned and rolled up to see the dragon only a few feet away from me.  It roared and I felt my bones vibrate in my body.  Would it be too late to open a rift and call Skyggen?  Probably.  Dammit.  

"We need to stop the dragon," Cassandra said as we watched the beast soar up into the night sky.  Oh hey the moon was really pretty.  "It still carries the spirit of Hakkon."

"Okay, I know you guys won't get this, but I need to ask it," I said, wincing as I rolled my shoulders.  "Say we have some dementors, and we used those dementors on Hakkon's spirit.  Would everything work out then?  Because if so, then I could somehow find a way to open a rift to Azkaban Prison and pull a few out to do the job for us."

"At least you're learning to warn us about your bat-shit crazy questions beforehand," Varric said sarcastically.  I beamed.

"I know, right?  It really proves that I wasn't the person I thought myself to be before, but you guys still accept me for who I am."  Solas glared at me as I made the passive aggressive comment.  "Let's get going, though.  I don't think that dragon's going to wait for us."

Regaining Ameridan's memories made me see just how important my friends were, and that despite the age and time, they were essential to success.  I hoped Solas saw that, too.

Then we had to fight the freaking talking dragon.  He didn't even sound cool like Smaug or Paarthurnax.  "Lowlanders, I am the Breath of Winter, the Cold Wind of War!"  It spread its wings wide.  "Join me in battle and die!"

"Challenge accepted!" I yelled back and unsheathed my great sword, charging and pleading to whatever deity was listening that I wouldn't slip on the ice.

The battle was long and grueling, but I thought we were winning.  We had faced dragons, before, and this was supposed to be nothing more. 

So it was purely by coincidence that when I shoved Cassandra out of the way of one of its claws clipped my shoulder.  I cried out in anger more than I did in pain as I toppled to the ground.  "Alaran!" Solas screamed.  I didn't realize why he sounded so fearful until I looked up and saw the dragon's giant foot above me, getting ready to squash me like a little albino cockroach.  

In that moment I was consumed by fear.  I couldn't die now, not when I had yet to face Corypheus.  But my great sword had been knocked out of my hands, and no matter where I moved some part of me would be crushed under its weight.  So I shrieked the only thing I could think of in the last few seconds I had to live.

"Solas!"

There was a violent roar and a vicious ripping sound.  Not a moment after something dark and huge collided with Hakkon's foot.  The dragon screamed as it's appendage was massacred by a black wolf bigger than a hart with blazing red eyes.  No.  This wolf wasn't just the color black.  It was coated in darkness so consuming not even the blackest night could compete.  

I rolled out and scrambled for my sword.  The Dread Wolf had distracted it long enough for it to reveal its breast and underbelly.  I gave a fierce battle-cry and swung upward, the edge of my blade sliding smoothly through its scaled flesh.  Hakkon gave an ear-splitting screech as its steaming bowels spilled onto the ice below.  I dove out of the way in time to not be drenched in dragon guts.  

"Solas?"  My voice was shrill and panicked.  I couldn't see him.  I couldn't see him anywhere--

"Inquisitor!" Cassandra shouted.  She and the others had their weapons directed at me with varying looks of fear.

No.  They weren't directed towards me.  

A hot breath puffed on the back of my neck.  Slowly I turned and saw the great, six-eyed wolf staring down at me.  

I roughly shoved his chest.  "Hey!  Don't do that again!"

A pink tongue lolled out and Solas pointed his ears forward as if to say, Who, me?

"Yes, you!"  After a moment I couldn't help but grin, and I threw my arms around his furry neck.  My fingers clutched his soft black pelt.  "Thank you, love."

"Love?" Dorian repeated incredulously.  "That cannot possibly be..."

"It's fockin Fen'Harel!" Sera shouted, drawing back her bow.  "Ally, get the fock back!"

I rolled my eyes and turned to face the companions.  "Oh--really?  Did you not see him save my life?"

"Al," Varric said lowly.  Holy shit, he was afraid.  "Please.  Get back."

I threw my hands up in exasperation.  "You guys are being freaking ridiculous."

"How can we not?" Blackwall asked.  "There is the biggest wolf I've ever seen standing right behind you."

I pinched the bridge of my nose.  "I'm going to tell them," I said to Solas.  He grunted and sat on his haunches, his ears laid back in anxiousness.  "Yes, this is Fen'Harel.  He's also a grumpy elf who likes frilly cakes and sunburns easily and goes by the name of Solas."

A stunned silence ensued.  It grew to be so uncomfortable I coughed awkwardly and shifted my feet.  "Um...love?  Could you...change back?  I don't think you're helping much by looking threatening."

He whined.  Whined.  My eyes roamed over to a nearby patch of shredded clothes.  The others followed my gaze.  Sera was the first one to laugh.

"Elvhen Glory afraid to expose his elvhen glory?"

The tension dissipated and the others began to laugh as well, including me.  Solas huffed irritably and laid his ears back again, this time in annoyance.  "Here, Solas," Blackwall chuckled as he took off his winter coat and strode forward to hand it to me.  I turned to the Dread Wolf and raised an eyebrow.  My hands pulled open the coat so he could transform and slip into it.  When Solas only stared flatly at me with his six red eyes, I sighed and began to fold the coat back up.

"Well, if you want to go naked..."

He growled softly and I smirked.  I reopened the coat and watched with fascination as Solas shifted from a wolf to his naked self.  He quickly shoved his arms through and wrapped Blackwall's coat tightly around him.  I bit my gloved fist at the hilarious sight.  Blackwall's coat swallowed Solas, but there was a still a good portion of his bare legs showing.  The disgruntled elf folded his arms as everybody openly laughed at him. 

"Inquisitor?"

Our laughter died and I spun around to see Scout Harding gaping at us.  Oh, shit.  She had seen everything, hadn't she?  

I opened my mouth to quickly answer, but there was a whooshing noise coming from the corpse of the dragon.  Then we all gaped at the spirit that rose from the dissolving body and soared into the beautiful night sky.

So yeah, things did get weirder.

-

"Maker's breath," Cullen mumbled, running his fingers through his hair once I finished telling them everything.  We were all gathered in my room, which was illuminated only by the warm fire crackling contentedly in the fireplace.  The sun had set long ago, and I wasn't sure what exactly the time was, only that it was in the early hours of the morning.  

"It...all makes sense, now," Cassandra said as she slumped in the chair she had seated herself in.  "You were no mere apostate that was curious to study the Mark and the Breach.  You wanted to see how your power had transferred to Alaran, and how you could fix it."

"Yes," Solas replied softly.  His eyes were tired and sad.  "I joined because the Inquisition offered the best chance of repairing the damage I had done."

"Well," Leliana bit dangerously, "you can't exactly repair the death of thousands."

He couldn't muster enough strength to look back just as sharply.  Instead his sadness increased.  "No.  I couldn't.  But I thought that if I lent my aid, something new and prosperous might grow from it."

"Can't disagree there," Varric sighed as he shrugged his thick shoulders.  "This is your castle, after all.  And you did save Al's life.  Even if it was your power you were saving her from."

"Explains why she hated ya so much," Sera said.  She grabbed a nearby apple and bit into it.  "You were the fockin cause of it.  Pretty funny she ended up loving ya, innit?"

"It...was an unforeseen outcome," Solas responded, his lip twitching upward as he glanced at me.  I gave a small smile.  

"I want to be angry with you," Cassandra muttered as she gazed vacantly at the floor.  "Maker preserve me, I do.  But...if not for you, Thedas wouldn't be as united as it is.  There is great evil, yes, but there is also great good."

"Congrats, Chuckles," Varric smirked.  "By giving the Orb to somebody who wants to destroy the world, you inadvertently made it better."

"Are we all just going to forget that you turned into a wolf?" Dorian burst out.  "You said that you needed the Orb's power to be unlocked by Corypheus because you weren't strong enough to do it yourself after you woke up from your little nap.  Yet how did you possibly accomplish such a transformation without that power?"

Solas studied his hands before answering.  "When Alaran was brought back to life by Hallah Lynne--"

"Technically she didn't bring me back to life.  She just helped me," I corrected.

Solas briefly nodded at the statement.  "Yes.  When she guided Alaran back into her body and healed her, there was a moment when the Being's raw power touched me.  That restored some of my own power back to its original state.  Not all, but some, including my wolf form.  I do not know if it was her intended purpose, or if it was by happenstance.  I am guessing the it was the first, but there is still some doubt.  Whichever one, though, has duly strengthened me."

"Which, in turn, saved my life," I added.  Then I hugely yawned. "Alright, I need to sleep.  We did just fight a dragon with the soul of an Avvar god.  Some rest from all that would be nice."  I stood, and the others did as well.  Leliana still looked at Solas with disgust and contempt, but we both expected that.  Cullen looked bewildered, and Josephine had her manicured eyebrows drawn together in thought.  Everybody else just looked as tired as me.  

"I must say, Solas," Vivienne said as she glided by, "you pulled off the unwashed hobo apostate look quite well."

"I agree with Madame de Fer," Dorian commented as he strode alongside the Grand Enchantress.  "It was well-played.  Oh, and..." the Vint dropped his voice to a conspiratorial whisper.  "You certainly have the body of an elvhen god."

I laughed at both the statement and the way the tips of Solas' ears turned bright pink.  Dorian winked at the both of us and strode out.

"For being the fockin Dread Wolf, you're shiny and bald all around, yeah," Sera jabbed with a shit-eating grin.  "Thought you'd be hairy like Blackwall."

"That's because I'm a lummox, not a wolf," Blackwall grunted factually.  Sera giggled evilly.  

"It looks like everybody saw me in my nakedness," Solas stated dryly.

"Now I see why Alaran was brought back to life after sealing the Breach," Cassandra said with a small smirk after overhearing his words.  "You do have a very nice..."

"Physique," Varric finished, flourishing his hand.  "I bet after picturing all of..." he gestured up and down at Solas, "that, Al figured she'd be missing out if she stayed dead.  Is that why you always came back?" he asked me.

I beamed.  "Maybe."

They snickered and departed, leaving just the two of us.

Solas sighed.  "Remind me again why we're friends with them?"

I smiled warmly and wrapped my arms around him.  "Because they accept us for who we are, and we them."

He snorted, and then enveloped me in his embrace.  "You're a pretty sexy wolf, if I may say so myself," I smirked.  "Although your eyes aren't blue.  I like them when they're blue better when they're red.  And your fur doesn't match your eyebrows.  What color was your hair, again?  I don't think it was black--"

Solas cut off my questions with a hard kiss.  I made a noise of protest, but soon gave into his trap and kissed back.  We clumsily made our way over to the bed while our mouths were still locked together.  I landed on top of Solas and purred as I slid my hands under his tunic and flicked my tongue against his.  Solas responded to my affections for a short while, but not long after they lessened.  When it became apparent that I was the only one kissing, I pulled back to see what was wrong.

"You've got to be freaking kidding me," I whispered.  Solas was out cold.  He was even snoring.  It was a soft little sound and he vehemently denied doing it, but I knew it was.  I partially wanted to wake him up and give him a hard time, but then I remembered that he had changed into a ginormous wolf for the first time in thousands of years.  It probably had taken a toll on him.

So instead I pulled Solas into bed beside me, kissed him on his shiny bald head, and lay beside him.

Once my eyes closed, though, questions pounded in my skull.  I had never thought just why Solas needed the Orb to be unlocked, and what his plans were when it was.  He hadn't mentioned anything beyond the Orb being his and his mistake of giving it to Corypheus.

Crap.

Solas was still hiding something.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually prefer the Western Approach compared to this Maker-forsaken place," Varric whined.  "There's not as much sand there as there is--"  He stumbled and pitched forward, then swore profusely as sand sprayed down his clothes.  

Everybody was in a dour mood.  The Hissing Wastes was an awful place to have to fight Venatori, and I about got shanked when I accidentally set aflame one of the wrong veilfire braziers in the dwarven ruin and unleashed a whole lotta demons.  So we had to give that pursuit up, if only to preserve my life.  And holy freak, the spiders.  

"We're almost done," I sighed wearily.  "Just one more camp to go."

"Yeah, and we have to climb one of the only mountains in this damned place to get to it," Dorian grumbled.

"Need I remind you, Master Pavus, that you voluntarily asked to join us so you could hunt down some Venatori," I said.  "You'll get no sympathy from anybody if you keep up your complaining."

"Alaran, darling, would you mind not talking?  Then I won't be tempted to knock you upside the head with my staff so badly."

"Lord, give me strength," I muttered hoarsely up to the night sky.  

We continued the arduous trek in silence.  I got a headache right where the arrow had pierced my skull nearly a year ago.  It occurred from time to time and typically I could easily ignore it, but with everything culminating into a nice pot of shit, I was overtly aware of the throbbing. "Vhenan, is everything alright?" Solas asked after catching me rub the side of my head for the fifth or so time.

"Yeah," I responded.  "It just...hurts, sometimes.  I think it's phantom pains.  I doubt my brain can entirely forget being skewered.  But...argh!" I furiously scrubbed to try and make the feeling go away.  It only made the skin on my scalp raw.

Solas put an arm around me and kissed the scar.  It didn't exactly help, but I did feel better.  Kisses from him just did that.

We trudged up the rest of the mountainside in silence, thankfully.  I loved my friends, I really did, but sometimes...sometimes I just want to punch them in the face.  Or hit them with a chair.  

My ears twitched at the distant noises as we approached the Venatori camp.  "Is that...fighting I hear?" I asked slowly.  "But this is in the freaking middle of nowhere.  Why would anybody...?" 

"Let's find out, then," Iron Bull smirked as he gripped his war hammer.  We went in through the wooden gates, and soon came across Venatori corpses with their...

"Holy shit Varric!" I squealed.  "There's only one guy I know who can rip hearts out without saying Kali Ma!"

"Al, wait!" Varric yelled, but I had already taken off to the center of the camp where I heard the most clamor.  I met some straggling Venatori head-on and cut through them without a second thought.  In frantic, fangirl state I narrowly avoided a dagger, but the tip still lightly nicked my cheek.  I softly snarled and decapitated the agent with one heavy swing.  Then I was off again, hearing the others close behind me as they caught up.  We rounded the corner to a section of camp and--

There.  There he was.

I dove into battle, plunging my sword into the nearest Venatori with a war cry.  There were a ton of them, but I think all of us had been waiting to release some anger the whole night, so we didn't have any struggles when it came to killing Tevinter cultists.  

As the last Venatori was chopped down, the other white-haired elf turned his dark green eyes at us.  His hair was no longer short and angsty; it was pulled back in a bun, with loose strands framing his face.  

"Broody!" Varric greeted.  "Didn't think we'd see you here!"

Fenris sheathed his great sword.  The weapon was so magnificent it made me slightly horny.  Weird, I know, but no less true.  "Varric," he said in an only slightly disdainful voice that was mixed with pleasantness.  "I did not expect to see you here in this wasteland."  His eyes roamed over to us, then settled on me. It was probably due to the fact that I had a stupid, open-mouthed grin on my face.  "I see you found another odd company to adventure with."

"This?" Varric asked sarcastically as he gestured to us.  "No!  They're the Inquisition!  Didn't you hear?  I'm helping make the world better, now, and not just setting shit on fire."

"That's debatable," Dorian said dryly.  

Varric ignored him.  "Oh, and don't mind Al; she acted the same way when she saw me.  I think she was taken aback at how magnificent my chest hair was."

Fenris smirked.  "It hasn't lessened an inch in its magnificence."  Then his smile faded.  "What are agents of the Inquisition doing out here?"

"We--uh--we came to hunt Venatori," I sputtered.  I was the Inquisitor, after all.  I had momentarily forgotten about that minor detail.

"I see that the Inquisition has chosen to align with mages," Fenris scowled as he looked at Dorian and Solas.  "But I am not surprised."

My smile slipped and I was thrown back into reality.  "Wait.  You were best friends with Hawke, and he was a mage, wasn't he?" I asked.  "I didn't think you would still have a chip on your shoulder about them."

"Hawke was...different," Fenris said slowly, "and I consider him a friend.  But mages like him are rare.  The rest, though, have only given me more reason to distrust them."

My mind wandered and I almost asked him if he could narrate my death with his sweet, chocolaty voice, but I caught myself in time.  "The apostates in the Inquisition are all good people, though.  They're just trying to help, too."

Fenris looked down at me and scoffed.  "Do not let optimistic, grandiose views get in the way of how the world actually works, child.  Otherwise you will sorely feel it later on in life."

Child?  

Oh.

Oh.

Fenris didn't know I was the Inquisitor.

"What are you doing out here, Broody?" Varric said as he adjusted his gloves.  

"My people and I were tracking a slavery shipment out from the Imperium and had plans to set them free and aid them in escaping their captors, but just a few days out they completely disappeared.  It was through sheer luck that I was able to pick up their trail.  It led me here, and to the Venatori," Fenris responded.  "The journey was arduous, but I do believe it was worth it."

"Where were you going to take the elves after freeing them?" I questioned, an idea sparking in my mind.  

"We have outposts in the Free Marches.  There we help them find their individuality.  It is a simple life, but they want nothing more than that."  A smile hinted on Fenris' lips, and I realized that he was happy.  He was happy doing this.  

"Al," Varric said warily, "what are you thinking?"

I met eyes with Fenris as I answered.  "I believe that I can say, on behalf of the Inquisition, we can offer some assistance to your cause.  A lot of assistance, actually.  We already provide a safe haven for elves who know that they deserve a better life than the one the world has given them."

One of my eyebrows raised at how Fenris reacted, but it wasn't in anger.  It was in amusement.  “And what are they tasked with doing in the service of the Inquisition?  Cooking in some kitchen or digging latrine pits?” he sneered.  “The only difference from their former life there would be that they get measly wages.  Humans will still trod them underfoot, including the Inquisitor.”

"Um, my dear man, do you realize--" Dorian began, but I cut him off with the wave of a hand.  

"No, no, Dorian, it's completely expected for Fenris to think like that.  I can assure you, though, that the Inquisitor has the elves in her best interest."  In a lower voice I added, "I even hear she has an elven lover."

Varric poorly stifled a laugh.  

"So did Celene," Fenris said bitterly, but he made even the meanest statements sound like a serenading poem.  "And when it came into light, she burned down elven alienages out of fear and desperation.  Will your Inquisitor do the same?"

I shrugged.  "Probably not.  She did indirectly kill Celene because the Empress had done that.  It didn't settle well with our Inquisitor, so she changed the game."  I was having too much fun with him.  

Fenris' sneer deepened.  "And who are you to speak for your leader?  You, a Dalish elf?"

Oh, he really didn't know.

"Yeah, a Dalish elf!" I exclaimed jovially.  "The Inquisitor listens to my advice a lot concerning elves, because we Dalish know more about our kind than anybody."  Fenris' eyes were set ablaze.  "We just...we..." I trailed off and frowned.  "Dammit.  I really couldn't go anywhere with that, could I?  Literally nowhere."

"It was a bit embarrassing," Iron Bull commented.  "But nice try, Boss."

"Are you trying to get your heart ripped out?" Dorian asked me sassily.

"No!  But, I mean, that would be so cool.  Hey, Fenris, if you rip my heart out can you narrate it as you do so?  'Cause that would be a really epic way to die."

"Alaran," Solas sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head.  "That is not--ar lath ma, but sometimes I don't understand the way you think."

I turtle-frowned at him.  "Rude."

"Look, Broody," Varric chuckled as he took a step forward.  "We didn't mean to make you all defensive and feisty.  We were just messing around.  And sorry about Al being weird.  You'd think that she'd be more professional and serious, being the Inquisitor and all."

I threw my head back and groaned loudly as Fenris lost all anger and widened his eyes in complete shock.  "Varric!  wanted to tell him!"

He threw his hands up exasperatedly.  "You were taking too long!  Not my fault you ask questions that make people concerned about your sanity!"

I dramatically drug my hands down my face before taking a deep breath and holding one out to Fenris.  "Inquisitor Alaran Lavellan.  It's an honor to meet you, Fenris."

Warily, he shook it.  "Oh, now you act all important," Varric muttered.  

I looked over my shoulder and glared at him.  "I would cut off your head, dwarf, if it stood but a little higher from the ground."  My gaze focused back on Fenris.  "We'll help you get the slaves out of here.  There's an Inquisition camp not too far away; if you bring them there, we can give them any medical attention and proper food and supplies."

After a moment, Fenris said, "That would be most beneficial, Inquisitor.  Thank you."

-

"There you go," I cooed as I gently tipped a water skein to the elven child's chapped lips.  He was an extremely young, raggedy thing, and it disgusted me that living, breathing people could be treated in such a way.  The boy was frightened of me, at first, but he had a broken ankle and could hardly walk.  I turtle-frowned at him and pretended to be sad when he shied away, and sniffed a few times.  Fenris spoke in a low, gentle voice to the boy, gesturing to me.  By then I had wiped away a few imaginary tears.  I figured he had said something along the lines of, "If you don't let her help you, you'll hurt her feelings." in Tevene.  So, hesitantly, the boy outstretched his hand towards me.  My facade vanished and I smiled as I took it, then lifted him up so I could carry him back to the camp.  He was so, so little, and I could feel every one of his ribs and vertebrae.  

"Does he have a name?" I quietly asked Fenris as the boy began to drift to sleep after getting a small amount of food in his tiny stomach.  Fenris relayed the question to the boy, who shook his head once.  

"Many do not, Inquisitor," Fenris said to me.  The freed slaves now huddled together in the camp, still unsure if this was just a trick and the next day they would find themselves shackled and bound once more.  We couldn't let any of the magical healers touch them or they would began panicking and begging for mercy, so we had to give them healing potions.  I looked over to Dorian, who sat at the edge of the camp, his eyes on the elves but his gaze far away.  I would talk to him later about how he felt.  I already knew I wouldn't get much out of him, but if there was any way I could ease his burdened mind, I would do so.  

"This will change," I spoke, my voice silent steel.

Fenris met my stare.  "Do not make such statements when Thedas is against you in them."  It wasn't a biting sentence; it was truthful and plain.

Something powerful and resolute consumed my soul.  The sound of my voice in the next words I spoke sent chills down my back.  "Then I will see that Thedas itself changes."

He blinked.  After a moment, he said, "I hold you to that, Inquisitor."

Fenris walked away, and I looked to Solas only to find that he was staring back at me with an indescribable expression.  I was about to ask him what was wrong, and if it had to do with whatever it was he still hid from me, but just then the elven boy thrashed and jolted awake with a short scream.  His chest fluttered with the rapid breaths he took.  I held him close to me, and after a moment he wrapped a small hand around my braid that hung over my shoulder.  I began humming and gently rocked him back and forth, my maternal instincts kicking in.  It was a bit of a surprise to me; I hadn't thought that I even had any to start with.

Soon I was singing Josh McBride by The Head and the Heart.  It was one of the songs I thought of that had a lullaby tune on short-notice.  I mixed up some of the lines and my voice cracked more than once because my throat was dry, but I kept going because the boy looked up at me with those dark brown eyes that told me for the first time in his life, he felt safe.  By the end of the song he was sound asleep, and so were many of the other elves nearby.  Varric had his chin tucked against his chest and was dozing, and Iron Bull was sprawled out on a blanket with a hand behind his head, his one eye closed.  Dorian was stifling yawns, and Solas was drowsily blinking.  I found that my own eyelids were heavy with fatigue.

"Go get some rest, Inquisitor," Fenris said quietly to me after I had started to slouch sideways from falling asleep.  "I will take the boy."

Wordlessly, I slipped him into the former slave's arms and retreated with Solas to our tent.  We kissed and bade each other goodnight as well fell asleep.  It was too hot to cuddle, but our hands were still touching.  I didn't even go to the Fade, that night, and morning approached too quickly for me to have gotten proper sleep.  We had to depart extra early if we were to beat the worst of the desert heat.  

Fenris said he would contact the Inquisition when he got back to the outposts so we could set up terms for assistance, and assured me that he could take care of the freed elves on the journey back.  I hugged the boy who would find his name, soon, and kissed him on the forehead.  He gave me a small smile and gently tugged on my braid.  I laughed and pushed him along, trying to ignore the sadness that was clenching my heart from our parting of ways.  

Perhaps I would see him, again.

It was a good thing Fenris had already left when the Inquisition scout jogged up to me and handed me a rolled report.  "That's strange," Varric said as he and the others gathered beside me to read it.  "I didn't think Leliana would be sending any secret messages with us being way out here."

"It's not from Leliana," I said, recognizing Cullen's handwriting.  "It's from the Commander.  But what would he..." My eyes scanned the short message and my stomach twisted from unknown emotions.

Inquisitor,

Return to Skyhold as quickly as possible.

We have found The One.  He is here.

"Who's The One?" Dorian asked as he read over my shoulder.  I rolled the message back up and tucked it into my jacket.

"There was somebody we had been looking for," I said solemnly.  "We were asked by the King of Starkhaven to find and judge him accordingly.  If we did so, we would gain an alliance with the kingdom."

Varric stared at me.  "No, Al," he absently whispered.  "Choir Boy...this is bad."

I went on.  "I didn't expect we would find him so soon, if ever.  But now that we have, it's going to be a hard ride back to Skyhold, so I'm apologizing in advance."

I started to walk away when Dorian called loud enough for me to hear, "Who is it, Alaran?"

My head tilted up to the gray morning sky and I breathed in and out, pausing in my steps.  Whatever awaited us back at the keep was going to be...I didn't even know.

"Anders.  We found Anders."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

They'd want a public judgement.

Welp.  Sucks to suck.

"Are you sure you don't want to wait, Inquisitor?" Josephine asked me as I walked from the War Room with her and Leliana.  Cullen was grabbing the mage who had been hunted for years to bring him to me.  

"Yes, I'm sure.  The longer we wait, the longer he sees us as his enemies."

"We aren't exactly his allies," Leliana commented softly.

"No, not exactly."  I took off my riding gloves and stuffed them in my back pocket.  My hands were grimy and sweaty, and the rest of my body was in a similar state.  "But if anything happens and he gets out-of-control, there won't be a mass crowd of bystanders to get in harm's way."

"...I see your point," Josephine agreed as she scribbled something down on her clipboard.  "How was the Hissing Wastes?"

"Hiss-tastic," I responded with a sarcastic smirk.

The two women sighed.

My friends had gathered beside a few Inquisition soldiers to witness the small trial.  The hall looked vast when there was hardly anyone in it, but I could clearly see who had entered through the doors all the way from the Sunburst Throne I had seated myself on.

Anders wore a ragged, threadbare cloak and even worse-looking clothes.  His skin was pale and gaunt and it looked like he hadn't been fed, properly.  He stumbled forward and fell to his knees as one of the soldiers pushed him down.

"Inquisitor--" Cullen began formidably.

"Commander Rutherford," I cut off, shooting a lightning glare at him.  "Did you intend to insult me by bringing this man in for judgement looking like he is?  The last time I saw prisoners look like this they were in a Red Templar encampment.  Or have you forgotten that we are the Inquisition, and every man, woman, and child that passes through these walls will be treated respectfully, no matter what they have done or where they have come from?"  My eyes roamed over the guilty soldiers.  Many of them averted their own gazes.

Anders was looking up at me with a bemused expression.  Cullen had blushed a deep red.  He bowed low.  "Apologies, Inquisitor Lavellan.  I will see to it that this does not happen, again."

"Thank you," I clipped.  I turned my head back to Anders.  "Forgive us for the treatment you have suffered from.  I would have attended to the matter sooner, but I was occupied elsewhere."  I leaned back in the chair and crossed a leg.  "Your crimes are very serious, Anders.  But I believe you already know that."

He scoffed lightly.  "At least you see me as a competent human being."

"I do."  I tipped my head slightly to the side.  The hall was eerily quiet, and I felt everybody leaning forward in anticipation for my judgement.  "You know your crimes the best out of anybody, for you have to live with them every time your eyes close.  That deems me unfit to properly pass judgement.  As such, I will defer the duty of determining that judgement...to you."

Anders was not the only one whose jaw dropped at my statement.  "Andraste's frilly knickers," he whispered.  "Are you allowed to do that?"

"You have the Spirit of Justice within you, Anders," I said, ignoring his question.  "What is the justice you would bring upon yourself?"

He stared at me for several moments, then dropped his gaze down to the floor in front of him.  "I...you cannot possibly expect me to know what punishment I should pay right now."

"But I do.  So what shall it be, Anders?"

The loudest noise in the hall was the roar of the fireplaces and the howling wind outside that demanded to come inside.  I felt my heartbeat pick up when Anders' eyes began to gleam blue.  I sensed a crackle in the air, as if magic was swelling up inside the man.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention something.  Ever since I had been crammed back into my body like I was made of Play-Dough, I could both feel and be affected by magic.  I had kept it a secret from everybody thus far.  I just had to act natural when I felt waves of mana rippling off of Solas, Dorian, and Vivienne whenever they cast something.  I wasn't sure if that meant I had magic inside me somewhere, now, or if that's how everybody felt.  I hoped it was the latter.  I had too much shit on my plate as it was; I didn't need to add mage to it.  Why did I keep it a secret?  Well, I couldn't play all my cards at once.  I would gladly let others underestimate me; that way they would never know what I was capable of.  The opportunities for doing that was growing smaller and smaller with each passing month, so what I could keep to myself I did.  I just had to stay away from red lyrium, because it affected me just as much as it did the others, now.  

Luckily, I wasn't the only one who felt Justice stirring.  Cullen unsheathed his sword and my mages had their staves in their hands.

I stood and approached Anders unflinchingly.  My skin prickled at the magic, but that didn't stop me from crouching in front of him.  "What is your judgement?" I repeated.  Anders squeezed his eyes shut and let out a strangled gasp as he battled with the spirit inside him.  

"Inquisitor, get back!" Cassandra shouted, but I barely heard her over the sound of the blood pumping in my ears.  My instincts were screaming for me to leap away and give the order for his magic to be dispelled, but if there was anything I knew about myself, it was that I had a steel grip on letting my fear get the best of me.  Except when it came to nugs.  

"You are not a Spirit of Justice," Anders' other inhabitant spoke.  "Yet you speak akin to one."

"I could be considered many spirits of many things," I said back.  "But I am best known as the Inquisitor."

"No.  You are known as steel biting through flesh, of ruthless and merciful decisions.  You are known as the cold voice that demands justice and will get it by any means necessary, yet also as the voice that utters compassion and kindness.  I do not understand it."

"That makes two of us."

"He longs for justice.  Though he still stands by his actions, he knows it is only right.  Ensure that justice is served, Inquisitor."

"I will."

The air snapped back into its normal self, and Anders inhaled a ragged breath.  I raised an eyebrow in waiting.  "I...I conscript myself into the service of the Inquisition until my life is forfeit.  Whatever it is that I can offer, you shall have it."

"Inquisitor," Cullen said sharply, "will you excuse his crimes this easily?  I--"

"I excused your crimes just as easily, Commander Rutherford," I said quietly and dangerously as I stood straight.  It was a challenge for him to continue to question my authority.  "I understand your trepidation, and we will take the necessary precautions, but when a man turns over his agency to our organization, I deem that punishment enough.  At least you still maintain yours."  I looked down at Anders.  "Stand."  Shakily, he did.  "If Justice becomes a threat to yourself or to the inhabitants of Skyhold, I will have him removed."  Not you.  Him.  I will separate something so intertwined with your very soul you won't have any idea what to do with yourself.  Anders got the hint.  "One of our former templars will be assigned to you for the first few weeks.  You will treat them with respect, and they will do the same.  You will be given clothes, a room, and meals.  Nothing more.  Not until you have proven yourself an asset to the Inquisition.  Then we will see what the next step will be.  I hear you excel in the field of healing; as such, you will work in the medical room."  His eyes shone with excitement.  "Ambassador Montilyet," I addressed, turning to the Antivan.  "Prepare a bedroom for Anders.  Somewhere secluded."  I paused, remembering a vital piece of information I had previously forgotten.  "You have not heard the Calling, have you?"

"Justice has kept me protected from most of it," Anders answered immediately, as if he had been waiting for the question.  Would he have brought it to attention if nobody else had?  I wasn't sure.  "But I feel it in the back of my mind.  Something that has to do with Corypheus, I'm assuming?"

"You assume correctly," I said.  "But that is a matter to discuss later.  You'll be escorted to your room, where a meal will be provided."  In a louder voice that spoke to the small crowd in the hall, I said, "This trial is adjourned."

-

I was so freaking tired.  All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep for the rest of the next day.  But there were still things that needed to be done.  Anders was assigned to a former templar woman who went by the name of Laurel Trevelyan, but according to Cullen she went by the nickname Scratch.  He didn't know why.  Leliana said she would find out.  Laurel was a fiery woman who took no back-talk, and despite her mouthy attitude, she was a staunch soldier whom Cullen trusted.  I was going to write a personal letter to Sebastian Vael and tell him the punishment Anders had been given, and if he had any quarrels with "my" decision, I would be glad to invite him to Skyhold and discuss matters here.  Honestly, my actions had been risky.  The alliance with Starkhaven hung by a thread.

But I believed in second chances.

From the darkness that covered Skyhold, I figured it was around three in the morning.  I made my way to Cullen's office.  I wouldn't let the tension between us go unresolved.  That wasn't how I rolled.  Not with anybody.

I knocked on the door, but entered without permission.  Cullen would have ignored me, anyways.  

He was sitting in his chair with his head buried in folded arms on his desk.  Cullen looked up and glanced at me with honey-colored eyes before returning to his original position.  "Inquisitor, please...just leave me to myself, for the time being."

"I considered it, but then I thought, 'ehhhh, better not.'"  I pulled up a spare chair and placed it on the other side of the desk.  I propped a chin on my elbow.  "I'm sorry for yelling at you."

"You had every right to," he said, his words muffled.  "Maker, I acted like the templar I thought I left behind Kirkwall."  Cullen looked up at me.  There were dark circles of exhaustion under his eyes, and his curly hair was unkempt from most likely running his fingers through it too many times.  "I would understand if you appointed a new commander, Inquisitor."

I rolled my eyes and laughed at Cullen's grave behavior.  Due to my own tiredness, I ended up breaking down into a complete fit at the thought.  Cullen scowled, at first, but soon he was chuckling himself.  "I suppose it is...a bit absurd," he admitted.  

"Just a bit," I said as I made a face.  I leaned back in the chair and groaned loudly as I rubbed my sleepy eyes.  "Oh, Cullen, you're a great person.  I'm not going to hold any shortcomings against you.  We all have them.  And I understand your disapproval of my actions.  If I didn't, I wouldn't deserve to be Inquisitor.  Please, continue to be doubtful.  If you weren't, I would have to question myself.  And we couldn't have that, now could we?"  I winked as Cullen shook his head, the scar on his lip making his smirk stand out even more.  

"I may not want to bring anybody to be judged by you again, Alaran.  The first time with that Dragonborn was bad enough, but this occurrence was downright traumatizing.  Perhaps we can leave them to Josephine, from here on out?"

"If that's what you want, Curly."

-

"So you really think the Black Emporium has an eluvian?" I asked Morrigan and Solas.  

"Possibly," replied the Witch of the Wilds.  "We are going off of rumors, and can only determine if it is or not ourselves, but if so, then the Inquisition will gain an advantage over Corypheus."

"It'll be really funny if we get there and it's just a fancy mirror," I giggled.  

"Let's not dwell on those thoughts, Inquisitor."

"I'm looking forward to seeing all the illegal shit I can get my hands on," Varric grinned, then glanced at the glaring Seeker and cleared his throat.  "I mean, I can't wait to be an upstanding citizen and resist the temptation of buying black market goods."

Cassandra made a disgusted noise.  Seriously, I should put that on a T-shirt.  She did it all the time.

I dared myself to look at Solas, but failed in holding back a laugh and had to look down at my hands.  "What is it," Solas sighed.  "You've been doing that all day."

I tried again, choked, then leaned over my saddle horn and buried my face into my Red Hart's furry neck.  "Spit it out, Al," Varric called.  "You're not going to keep it to yourself.  We all know that.  Might as well get it out now."

"Fine, fine," I giggled, and sat up straight.  "So, um, I was just admiring my hot, studly elf when I realized that..." I broke into another short spout of giggles before I composed myself enough to say something coherent.  "That the way he typically dresses, with his leggings and sweaters..." I bit my lip, a short squee sound escaping from my throat.  "It's the same way common white girls dress back on my world."  I threw my head back and laughed loudly as the others looked around confusedly.  "S-Solas, w-would you like a p-pumpkin spice latte?  I-I could set you up an I-Instagram account a-and then your username c-could be Solastseason!  'C-cause, y-your apparel i-is so basic!"

"Wait, so you're saying that our immortal elf dresses like women do back on your planet?" Varric reiterated.  I nodded despite my inability to breathe.  Varric joined me in laughing, and Morrigan and Cassandra both smirked while Solas clenched his jaw.  

I laughed so hard I fell out of my saddle.  

-

It was a tiny bear.

"Inquisitor," Cassandra sighed.  "Don't chase the little bear around."

I managed to catch one and squeezed it in my arms.  It grunted.  "But look how cute he is!" I gushed as I pressed it to my cheek.  It grunted again.

"We're looking for the eluvian," Morrigan said dryly, "not miniaturized beasts."

"You're a miniaturized beast," I muttered under my breath as I set the bear back down.

"What was that, Inquisitor?"

"Hm?  Oh, nothing, Morrigan."  We made our way through the overstuffed shack.  I stopped dead when I saw Xenon.  We all did.

"Thank you for not looking like that, vhenan," I whispered to Solas.  "You wear immortality well."

"I heard that!" the Antiquarian screeched.  "And do not antagonize Chauncey!  He may be tiny, but he nips!"

"Yes, sir," I said immediately.  "We won't cause any trouble."

"That's what all pretty girls say.  I bet you're nothing but trouble!"

"That may or may not be partially true," I smirked.

"Ha!  I like this one.  Reminds me of that bird...Eagle?  Sparrow?  Something along the lines."

"Hawke?" I suggested.  

"Ah, yes!  Hawke."

"Excuse me," Morrigan interrupted, "but we've come here to search for a mirror that may possess magical qualities.  Is this correct?"

"Perhaps.  I haven't been able to turn my head for two centuries, but I believe there is one nearby.  Urchin!  Get me a moist toweleTTE."

I shuddered at the annunciation of the words.  

We made our way to the back of the musty shop.  Solas kept stopping to look at old books, and after I raised an expectant eyebrow at him he huffed and began picking them up.  

"Is this what you're looking for?" Varric called from a few shelves over.  We squeezed through the narrow aisles to see what he was standing in front of.  

Morrigan breathed in disappointment.  "No.  'Tis not."

"She is right," Solas agreed sadly.  He would have been sadder had it not been for the armful of books he had.  "I sense that it is magical, but it is not an eluvian."

"Well, shit," Varric grumbled, rubbing the back of his neck.  "But I didn't just come here for the mirror--no offense, magical people--so if you excuse me, I'll be off looking for anything reasonably priced and reasonably illegal.  Wanna come with, Seeker?"

Cassandra rolled her eyes, but agreed.  She and Varric walked off.  

"I believe I'll follow a similar suit," Morrigan said after examining the mirror.  "There may be something worthwhile."

I looked to Solas.  "Can you carry all those books by yourself, mister?"

He pecked a kiss on my lips.  "Yes."  And then turned on his bare heels and disappeared behind the numerous shelves.

I sighed, debating on whether or not I could play with Chauncey, when the mirror I now stood just a few feet away from rippled.  I took a step forward to examine it more closely, and my eyes widened in disbelief as I saw what was happening.

"What the freak?" I whispered.  "This cannot be for real."

Then I grinned evilly.  

-

Solas was going to need a bag or so for all the books he had.  Perhaps Alaran could recruit an extra pack horse?  These books, while most certainly banned by the Chantry, were rare and held all sorts of fascinating information, some of which Solas thought was lost to the world entirely.  He pictured sitting up in bed reading all of them by candlelight as Alaran slept next to him, occasionally jabbing a knee into his thigh or waist.  He didn't mind, though.  He would only pull her closer.

Alaran suspected something, Solas knew.  She was irritated that she didn't know what she was suspecting, and he supposed that sooner or later she would ask him.  Solas feared that he wouldn't be able to tell her, and if he did she would attempt to stop him, and not join him in the cause.

If she didn't join him, then Alaran would be one of the most formidable enemies that Solas would ever face.

"Vhenan?" she called, bringing him out of his own thoughts.  "Could you come here, for a second?"

"Yes," Solas called back, and set his precariously stacked books on a nearby table.  He made his way back to the mirror, hissing softly as he hit an elbow on one of the shelves.  

"Are you okay?" Alaran asked.  Solas rubbed it and kept walking.

"Yes, I'm f--"

The elf that stood before Solas had dark, tawny skin and short, choppy brown hair.  Faint green Ghilan'nain vallaslin lined her forehead, and her eyes were blue and spring green.  Her face was round and the bridge of her nose connected flatly to her forehead.  Her ridiculously full lips were a bright pink, and she had vivid yellow makeup around her eyes.

"Come to me, lover," she spoke.

It was Alaran's voice.

The elf broke down into a fit of familiar laughter.  "Oh, man, I got you good!  You should see the look on your face!"  

She was wearing the same armor Alaran was, and had the same Greatsword of the Dragon she recently acquired strapped to her back, but...

"It's not an eluvian, no, but it does transform your face," the elf explained.  

"Hey, Al, I found something I thought--" Varric rounded the corner with Cassandra.  He faltered when he saw the different elf, who had now cocked a hip and smirked.  

"Like my new look?" she asked.

Varric and Cassandra gaped at her.  "That...cannot be possible," Cassandra said, awestruck.  

"Sure it is!  Here, look and see."  The elf faced the mirror, which rippled when her gaze settled on it.  Solas watched with wonder as her face transitioned back to porcelain skin and white hair and pale blue Mythal vallaslin and intense violet eyes and berry-colored lips.

"Andraste's ass," Varric stated dumbly.  "Wh...what just happened?"

Alaran pushed her lips to the side.  "I'm guessing it's a DLC.  I remember seeing the Black Emporium when I was downloading the game--I got it a bit later than everybody else because I didn't have time to play it for a while--but I didn't get the deluxe edition because I was being a cheap ass.  I don't know why; I was dying, anyways.  I could have blown all my money, if I wanted."  She shrugged.  "But oh well."  Her eyes widened as an idea formed in her mind.  "Ooh!  I wonder if I can turn into a Qunari!"

Solas wanted to stop her, but he knew she wouldn't listen when it came to something like this.  Besides, he was too fascinated for the suggestion to be heartfelt.  Alaran squinted her eyes at the mirror and in one fluid shift she was a Qunari woman.  Her horns slid from one type to another, and she tweaked her eye color, hair style, and facial structure until she was satisfied.  "Goodbye Inquisitor Lavellan," Alaran said triumphantly as she folded her arms and towered over them.  "Hello Inquisitor Adaar."  She tilted her head to look at herself and gave a low whistle.  "Ooh, damn, I look all sorts of sexy and powerful.  Could you handle this, Solas?"

"Depends on what you would want me to handle," Solas said back with a slight smirk.  Alaran grinned at him as both Cassandra and Varric groaned.  

"Just when I thought shit couldn't get weirder," the dwarf mumbled, "you have to go and prove me wrong."

"It's what I do," Alaran winked.  They watched in amazement as she changed herself to a human woman with long tresses of black hair and amber eyes, then to a dwarf with red hair pulled back into a bun and a thick tattoo on one side of her face.  "Ugh.  Nope.  Nope.  I can't be this short.  I'm really sorry, Varric."

"Will you hurry up and change back to you?  I still want to show you something."

Alaran harrumphed, but changed back to her beautiful, original self.  Solas had to smile at the view.  She grabbed his hand and pulled him along as they followed Varric and Cassandra through a maze of shelves.  They stopped at a collection of an assortment of strange objects.  "You explained what some of the things back from your world looked like," Varric said with a proud smirk as Alaran gasped.  "Do any of these look familiar?"

"No way," she gushed.  "No effing way."

-

I gingerly touched the old eighties record player that still had a Beatles track on top of it.  "How the freak did this get here?" I pondered aloud.  "You know what?  I'll ask Hallah about it later."  Beside me, I felt Solas bristle.  He didn't like the fact that I still talked with the Traveler.  "But for now...oh, dang.  It doesn't have any electricity.  Babe?"  I turned to my common white elf and held the end of the plug up to him.  "Could you give this a bit of juice?  Don't exactly pour lightning into it, but...try something, please?"

Solas' eyebrow twitched, but he took the plug and studied it for a few moments before wrapping his hand around it and casting a tingle of magic up through the cord.  They all jumped back when the record started up, but I slapped my hands to my cheeks and grinned one of the biggest grins I had ever grinned.  So yeah.  Lots of grinning.  

"--Pouring out like endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind..."

I threw my hands up in the air and swayed back and forth, mouthing the words as undulating waves of joy filled my soul.  I never thought I would hear music from my world again.  The music, while grainy and scratchy and faint, was mine.  This was my music, this was what I came from, this was what shaped me into who I was.  Tears sprung to my eyes, but I didn't let them fall.  I was too happy to do that.  

The song ended and Solas handed the cord back to me.  In turn, I threw my arms around him and covered his face in kisses.  "Thank you thank you thank you thank you," I repeated gleefully between them.  He was grinning like the dorky nerd he was.  It was rare to see such a grin on Solas; he liked to portray himself as mystical and elusive, though that was lessening when the Inner Circle had discovered his true identity.  After I was finished with him I put an friendly but tight around Varric and mussed up his strawberry blonde hair.

"Did you absolutely have to do that?" he complained as he took out his leather hair tie and raked his fingers through his hair a few times before tying it back again.

"Yeah," I responded with a smirk, but I had already turned back to the various objects from my world.  "This...this is amazing.  I never thought I would see anything like this, again.  Look!  You see this?  It's a kaleidoscope!"  I shoved it in Solas' hands and explained to him how it worked.  As he was preoccupied with that, I moved on.  "And this!  This is a freaking can opener!  There's not even any cans in Thedas to open, but I'm taking it with me.  Ooh!  A set of keys!  I feel bad for whoever lost them.  It even has a jump drive still attached on the ring.  Oh!  Oh!  A credit card!  Platinum.  Dang."  I then giggled madly and put on an old headset and said in the lowest voice I could, "Otherworldly objects are just a figment of reality that we have not yet come to comprehend.  Welcome to Nightvale."  I grimaced.  "Ow.  Headphones hurt my tender elfy ears."

"Vhenan, this is spectacular," Solas said as he continued to play with the kaleidoscope.  "What was it used for?"

"A toy for children to play with," I shrugged, then grinned as he pulled it away with a frown.  What made it even funnier was the red ring the kaleidoscope left around the eyelid he had pressed it against.  "And toys should be shared with our friends, Solas.  So give it to Varric and Cassie."

He did, and instead listened to me as I pointed out various objects that had little value in my world, but made me nostalgic as I described them.  My eyebrows furrowed as I saw one particular device.  I reached back in the shelf and pulled it out.  "Huh.  That's odd."

"What is it?" Solas asked as he leaned in close to me to examine it in my hand.  

"Oh--nothing, it's just another toy from a TV show.  Like, it's a pretend replica of the actual thing, which isn't even real."

"What is it a replica of?"

I blew the dust off of the device and fiddled with it until I got it to work properly, and chuckled when Solas slightly jumped back at the sudden green light and noise.  It was a familiar noise, one that I would always remember by heart from the endless episodes and adventures I had seen it be a part of.  "It's a sonic screwdriver.  I'm surprised the battery still works."

"What is it meant to do?"

I clicked it shut and tucked it in my jacket for safekeeping.  "Fix things.  But it won't work in this world.  Or in any world."  I looked around, a frown forming on my lips.  "Hey, does anybody know where Morrigan is?  I want to head out.  Oh, and we're taking that record player with us.  Also, I might try to steal Chauncey without Thaddeus seeing."

-

Sometimes Varric really hated the way Al looked at him.  Because when she looked at him like she was doing now, she was going to ask a question he didn't want to answer.  "You're second-guessing me, aren't you?"

He let out a soft, exasperated sigh.  She had found him leaning against the stone ledge of the stairs, staring at the medical building below.  Blondie was inside.  And inside Blondie was something that Varric would have had nightmares about, if he dreamed.  "I don't know, Al."

"You want me to give you another chance at lying?  Maybe it'll be better this time."

Varric rubbed his brow.  "What do you want me to say, Al?  That I approve of this?  You...you weren't there.  And I know you said you saw it from the game, but...you didn't see the look in his eyes when the Chantry blew up.  Maker, I'll never forget it.  And now he's here, in a place where people are supposed to feel safe.  What if he starts talking to the mages about doing something crazy?  He was a fanatic, but we didn't see the signs until it was too late.  And now I'm afraid that I'm going to wake up one morning and see Choir Boy pounding at the gates with an army behind him because he wants to see Blondie's head on a pike, not healing sick children and doing good."

Alaran looked down at the medic hut, as well.  Her strip of white hair was tied back into a ponytail at the nape of her neck.  Maker, it was getting long.  She wore a dark maroon, long sleeved tunic with a black dragon skin vest and matching black leggings.  It made her look even more intimidating.  Like she was more than the Inquisitor, if that was at all possible.  "I know the looks of a broken man merely trying to get by in life, Varric.  Anders will be fine."

"But what if he's not?"  He fully turned to face Alaran.  Hot fear and anger Varric had tried to suppress broke through.  "You have more than just a duty to helping a single person, especially one who's done horrible shit in his past.  Because of him we might have an entire nation against us, and you're okay with that?"  Varric immediately regretted the words he said next.  "Sometimes I wonder if you see this as just a game, still.  But you're more than just a person, Alaran.  You need remember that and start acting like it."

She flinched and her mouth opened slightly before it composed itself into an expressionless mask, but her violet eyes had cracked.  Shit.  Shit shit shit.  What had he done?  What had he just done?  Oh, Maker...Maker no.  

"You're right," Alaran responded neutrally.  "Though I will no backtrack my decision, I forget how my people see me."  One single, clear tear slowly rolled down her cheek and dripped onto the ground.  Varric watched it glide over her skin with sickening horror.  "Thank you for the reminder, Varric."

She turned and silently walked away.

Varric stared down at the fading tear stain on the stone.

"You know what I'm afraid of, Varric?" Alaran asked as she wrote reports across from him.  She was fitting into her role of the newly appointed Inquisitor well, even if Josephine was trying to get her to grow out the partially shaved side of her head so she would look more "becoming."

"Besides nugs?  What?" he asked back absently as he quickly scrawled down the awful, corny sequel to Swords & Shields.  The Seeker would eat it up.

"I'm afraid that the more I have to become the Inquisitor, the less of a person I'll actually become."

"What do you mean, Al?" Varric questioned as he glanced up over his spectacles.  She had a thoughtful and slightly anxious look on her face.

"I mean that one day I won't be a person at all to the world.  I'll just be a force, a title, a...mindless legend.  That nobody will see me as me."

Varric understood her fear.  He smiled an easy smile that he knew would comfort her.  "Don't worry.  I'll always think of you as an oddball warrior elf who has no sense of direction and no concept of what constitutes as a good joke.  You'll always be just a person to me, Your Inquisitorialness.  I hope you can stand that."

A small smile formed Al's lips, and her eyes ignited with trust and hope.  "I can.  Thanks, Varric."

The small droplet of water that had escaped from the eyes of one of the strongest women Varric knew vanished into nothing.  

-

Solas knew it was her even without looking up.  "Vhenan, these books are incredible," he immediately began to say, excited at the prospect of sharing the new found knowledge with Alaran.  The cool spring air that hinted at summer lightly stepped into their shared room.  "I had no idea..."

Alaran wordlessly clambered onto his lap and buried her face into his chest, her fingers gripping his jawbone pendant.  He looked down at her in slight confusion, but after seeing burdened, despairing expression on her face he understood.  The title of Inquisitor was not a light one.  And it would not lessen any time soon.  

Setting the book aside, Solas wrapped Alaran into his arms and kissed her forehead lovingly.  "You still see me as a person, don't you, Solas?" she asked.  Her typically strong, confident, borderline sarcastic voice was gone; all he heard was a scared, young woman.  

Solas stroked her ivory hair.  "Of course I do," he said gently.  "You would have to be a person if you were ma vhenan."

She made a noise somewhere between a sigh and a snort.  "Would you still say that even if I wasn't?"

He paused.  "I...doubt it."  Alaran stiffened and she began to pull away, but he held her fast.  "I'm not finished.  If you weren't, then I wouldn't know you as you like I do now.  That is the wonderful thing about being my heart, Alaran; I know you as a person more than anybody else.  Our souls touched.  If you weren't a person to me, that would not have happened.  But you are.  You are real and you are individual.  If it is only I who knows that come the end of all this, then I will hold the truth dearly and valiantly."

Alaran's knuckles were white from gripping the jawbone so tightly.  Her bottom lip trembled, but she shed no tears.  "Okay," she whispered.  

Solas sang to her.  It was a song his own mother sang to him.  He recalled the words perfectly.  By the end of it, he thought Alaran to be asleep.

His blood ran cold when she suddenly said, "I will find out what you hide from me still, Solas.  But not today."

In the Dread Wolf's lap sat the most precious, loved, dangerous thing ever to make its way into his life.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"...Would you just shut up for one second and let me do my work!"

"Would you just do your work for one second and stop being such a wanker?"

I paused and bit down my surfacing smirk before I entered the medic room.  It was a recent addition to Skyhold, but was a much needed one.  And with Anders to help, things ran much more smoothly.  Even Cullen had to admit that when he found that his soldiers were going in with injuries and coming back the very same day looking as good as new.  

Anders sat over a terrified-looking courier as he furiously worked at mending a broken arm.  And I mean furiously.  Like he seriously looked like he was about to murder somebody.

Most likely Laurel Trevelyan.  

She sat in the corner, suited in Inquisition uniform but without the hood or helm.  Her knot of curly black hair was pulled tight into a French--Orlesian?--braid, which brought out her vulpine features.  She had light skin with a pale, slim scar running alongside her temple and down to her ear and eyes that reminded me of dark evergreen trees.  

Trevelyan immediately stood when she saw me enter and flung a closed fist over her breast.  "Inquisitor!" she greeted, any trace of the snarky attitude she had just moments ago gone.  

"One moment, Inquisitor, I'm trying to heal a broken bone, here," Anders sighed.  The courier looked even more terrified at the sight of me. 

"Take your time," I said, and moved over to sit in an unoccupied chair.  Trevelyan cautiously sat back down, unsure of whether or not she could remain standing.  

I watched with fascination as Anders deftly moved his blue, glowing hands over the injury.  In no time the courier breathed in relief as he flexed his fingers.  "Thank you, Ser Anders," he sighed with a smile.  Then his eyes snapped to me and he leaped from the cot, gave a hasty, clumsy bow, and nearly ran from the building.

Anders watched him leave with a raised eyebrow.  "Do you do that to everybody?" he asked.

I shrugged.  "I don't try to.  But that was the same courier that was there when I ordered for a man who had been raping servant women to be castrated.  Maybe that has something to do with it?"

He snorted.  "Perhaps.  You had a man castrated?"

"I didn't do it myself," I said, wrinkling my nose.  "I had one of the physicians do it.  So be glad that you were captured when you were, otherwise you would have most likely been tasked with severing a dick."

Trevelyan's jaw hung open momentarily when I said "dick" before she clamped it shut.  Anders gave a surprised chuckle.

"So you really are the high-dragon Hawke described you as."

"Only when I want to be," I smirked.  He had told Leliana and me that he had been in contact with Hawke sporadically.  The Champion of Kirkwall checked up on him and made sure he was still alive, and always gave him money to keep on surviving.  They also exchanged stories of what had happened to each of them between the last time they met.  Apparently I was one of the stories Hawke told.  "I see you've been doing well.  And Trevelyan's reports come in clean."

"Oh?"  Anders looked slightly surprised, and glanced over at Laurel.  She had turned pink for some odd reason that was unbeknownst to me.  "That's...good.  Good.  So you're not going to behead me with Sebastian sitting in the front row?"

"Not right now," I chuckled.

"Have you had any word with the King of Starkhaven?" he asked.  Trevelyan made an angry noise and he cleared his throat.  "Apologies, Inquisitor.  I am so very thankful I have Lady Trevelyan to remind me who I speak to."  He didn't sound thankful.  

I didn't mind.  It was freaking Anders.  How could I mind?  "No, I haven't, though I expect I'll get a response, soon.  Hopefully he'll have enough good graces to alert me of his coming before he arrives."  I scratched the side of my head irritably.  My scar was hurting, again.  Sometimes I wished that I had been shot in the forehead so I could say that and then have people call me the Chosen One.  Solas would make an excellent Voldemort.  Except...Harry Potter didn't fall in love with Voldemort.  

I resisted the urge to gag at the thought.  Abort.  Abort.  Abort.  

"Does that bother you?" Anders questioned as he gestured to my scalp.  

"Only sometimes.  But I suppose I'm lucky it doesn't hurt more.  Most people don't recover so well from an arrow to the head."

He smiled at my lightheartedness.  "That's true.  May I?"  Anders began moving towards me.

"Oh, no, I don't--" I began to say, but before I could get the full sentence out his calloused hand was on me, a warm, gentle thrum of magic soothing my pain.  The feeling was foreign and new to me, and I jumped.  

"Anders!" Trevelyan said sharply and she stood and batted his hand away.  Anders recoiled in confusion.  

"What?" he demanded.

"Magic doesn't work on the Inquisitor," the templar explained with infinite patience.  

"Then why is her pain gone?" he retorted.  

I sat frozen in my seat.  The two of them slowly looked back at me.  "You will not tell a single soul," I whispered lowly, meeting their gazes.  After a moment I added, "Please.  It is not the right time for them to know."

Anders and Laurel remained silent as they each gave a single nod.

-

I thought myself to be strong.

I always had to be strong.

I would be strong before I was weak.

But looking Solas in the eyes as he told me what he intended to do with the power of the Orb made me feel like the weakest person in the world.  

At first I had trouble processing his words.  Then, like a tsunami, it all crashed down on me.  I stopped hearing his voice.  I saw was his mouth moving and anguish in his gray-blue eyes, but the only thing I was aware of was the buzzing in my ears.  The same buzzing ran down to my bones and made me feel like I was going to dissipate into nothing.  It was separating every single cell, every single molecule, every single atom.

I never thought that just a few words would completely destroy my world like this.  

"...Alaran...Alaran, please..."

I reformed slightly to focus on Solas.  There were tears in his eyes, and he gripped my hands as if they were the only thing of substance he could cling to.  Then I realized that he was breaking apart, just as I was.  

My hands slowly squeezed Solas'.  It was a slow movement; my fingers hardly worked at all.  He shuddered a breath and bowed his forehead against our clasped hands.  "Please, vhenan...please.  You must understand...I thought that I could fix the world.  But I made it worse.  I made it worse, Alaran.  I must fix my mistakes."  He lifted his head and held both of my cheeks.

"By ripping it apart?" I whispered, hearing the soft horror in my voice.

Solas closed his eyes and breathed through his nostrils before opening them once more.  They were despairing but stubborn.  My heart broke.  "The world is not as it should be, Alaran.  The elves--"

"We are helping the elves already, Solas," I said.  My throat was scratchy and weak.  "We have made so much progress--"

"They will still never possess magic, never know the history of the proud race that they are."  His fingers now dug into my flesh.  I pulled away.  It was the hardest thing I ever made myself do.  Solas looked at the space between his hands where I had been as if he wasn't sure what had just happened.  

"We can help them, Solas.  Together we can help them, but not this way.  Not this way.  I will not have the world I have been trying so hard to save be destroyed because you want it back to the way it was."  My voice, which was usually strong steel, was cracking and pleading.  "And from what you've told me about how the world used to be before you created the Veil makes me believe that it isn't one worth going back to."

Solas' jaw clenched, but his eyes were wells of sadness.  "And you think this one is better?  Where mages are oppressed and the Chantry interprets the law?"  I stood and turned my back to him, walking a few paces away.  Solas followed.  His presence behind me was overwhelming.  "You said that you would see to it that Thedas itself change.  Is this not the way?"

I spun on Solas and he visibly flinched, but stood his ground.  "No.  I want to see Thedas change, not in ruin.  You cannot possibly believe that things would get better if you tore the whole world asunder."

"You are tearing the world asunder as we speak," Solas growled.  "Have you truly not seen it, Inquisitor?"

There it was.  The title.  Not my name.  Not me.  

"I am doing the best I can at making the world better, Solas.  Have you truly not seen that?  Do you believe that I would let you tear down all that I am building because you are frightened?"  

Solas recoiled and a storm began to brew in his eyes.  I went on.  "You are frightened because you have no claim on this world as it is now.  You are frightened because you don't know who you are, anymore.  And you are frightened--"

"Enough," he snarled.  

"--Because you are afraid of the unknown."

My heart was pounding painfully and my body shook.  Something alien and terrifying stirred within me, but I vaulted it inside before it could even fully announce its presence.  

Solas took a step back and cast his gaze away from me.  "And you are not?" he asked, his voice riddled with fear.

"Of course I am, vhenan," I spoke, my face twisting in despair.  "But just because the past is familiar doesn't mean that I want the present to return to that state.  Please, Solas.  You are not alone in this.  I can help you.  We can help you."

He snorted softly and my heart broke at his derision.  "Help me with what, exactly?  Pick up fragments of my broken dreams and attempt to repair them?  It won't be enough."

"Then tell me what will be."

Solas turned his eyes back to me.  "When this world is restored and my People are in their rightful place."

I wanted to tear my hair out at his blindness.  "Don't you see, Solas?  If you stand by my side then we can do just that!  We can do more than that!  But if you try to tear down the Veil, you will kill more than you ever save.  Please, please, don't put that burden on yourself."

He smiled a broken smile.  "I have had that burden on my shoulders for ages.  This will not make a difference."

I thrust my hands out and clutched at his tunic, pulling him close to me.  "Will you just listen to me?  I will not have you become the villain!  Not when you are my hero."

Tears formed in Solas' eyes.  I moved my hands up to his face.  "I know what duty is.  I have tasted and bled duty.  I understand why you have come to the conclusion that you have."  Hot tears fell from my eyes when I saw that they fell from Solas'.  "And I am so, so sorry that you had to wake up to find that your world was gone.  But this is not the end.  It has never meant the end.  You can find yourself beside me.  There is a purpose to everything, Solas.  All is not lost."

"Purpose," Solas whispered, and pushed my hands down.  "You are so faithful in believing that everything has a purpose, destiny.  How is that possible, considering that you would be dead had it not been for somebody who interferes with time?  Your purpose was not meant to help this world.  Your destiny was not meant to be by my side, nor I yours.  If anything, believe that the proper destiny for Thedas is for me to continue with my plans."

The world shattered around me.

For the first time since I was thrown into this place, I was the first to let my gaze drop.  My eyesight was too blurry to see properly, anyhow.  "If that is how you see us, then I will respect your opinion.  You do not have to pretend, anymore."  I took a deep breath and thrust my shoulders back as I walked to my door.  Before I opened it to run away from Skyhold, I paused and turned my head to the the side, seeing Solas from out of the corner of my eye.  "You may think our duties to be different.  But I think it's safe to say that the commonality we share in them is that...perhaps they were meant to be carried alone, after all.  Not by Alaran and not by Solas, but by the Inquisitor and Fen'Harel.  However heavy it is, I do wish you strength."  There was nothing salvageable of my heart when I uttered, "Goodbye."

-

Varric watched as Alaran strode past at a brisk pace.  A sick feeling twisted his stomach into a knot as he saw the completely empty expression she had. 

He wanted to ask her what was wrong, to tell her that whatever it was, everything would be alright.

But he didn't.  And she walked on.

-

Solas stood there in the empty, cold room that had once been so warm and full.  It was how he truly remembered it; devoid of any life but for his own flickering soul, pressing all his thoughts and feelings and fears and doubts into a thick air that threatened to suffocate him.

The image of her heartbroken face as he said those vile, evil words to her would never fade.  The feeling of her hands upon him in love and kindness despite the revelations still burned his flesh.  The taste of bile in the back of his throat as he called her Inquisitor and not Alaran or vhenan hadn't completely receded.

No.  It was rising.  Rising and not stopping.

Solas rushed into the bathing chambers and fell to his knees, retching up the contents of his stomach into a chamber pot.  He hoped that it would empty the feelings of crashing guilt and despair.  He hoped more so that it would empty the feeling that he was wrong about everything.  

But it didn't.  

The stone floor offered no warm embrace as Solas crumpled into a sobbing heap.  He wanted Alaran to hate him and swear that she would stop him at any cost.  Then he could consider her childishly hopeful and optimistic and not feel such agonizing pain.  But she hadn't.  Of course she hadn't.  In Alaran's violet eyes, Solas was her salvation, her hero.  Nothing would change how she viewed him, and her words had made sense.  They had made sense and yet...And yet Solas, in his fear and desperation, refused to acknowledge her wisdom.  

His plans were to restore the world he had known.

Then why did his world feel so completely empty?

After there were no more tears to shed, Solas picked himself back up and sat down at the foot of his and Alaran's bed.  He was determined to wait for her.  He would never in a thousand years be able to apologize to Alaran enough, but he could begin by listening to her.  Truly listening to her, and not just shutting his mind from all she had to offer.  Solas wasn't completely sure what would happen, but he trusted his vhenan enough to know that she would find a way.  That they would find a way.  A better way.  Hadn't that been what he wanted all along?

Solas continued to wait.  Hours passed.  He paced the room like the caged wolf he was.  It was after the sun had set that Solas couldn't take the silence any longer and made his way down to the great hall.  He was mildly surprised when he saw Varric sitting at the table the dwarf usually occupied.  Solas would have thought that he and Alaran slipped somewhere quiet so they could talk about it all.

"Master Tethras," he called politely.  Varric looked up from whatever it was he had been writing.  There were dark circles under his eyes and he failed to give an easy smile.  

Something was wrong.

"What can I do for you, Chuckles?" Varric asked as he straightened.  

"I...was hoping you knew where Alaran was," Solas said, suddenly reluctant.  

Varric's eyes broke, but his face remained neutral.  "I haven't seen her all day."

"Ah.  I see.  I am sorry for disturbing you.  Please, continue with your work."

Panic clutched Solas' heart.  Where was she?  Where was his vhenan?

"Everything alright?" Varric asked, slightly raising an eyebrow.

Solas couldn't bother to lie.  "No.  It is not.  Alaran and I..." he trailed off, unable to come up with the right words.  "I have hurt her.  Deeply.  I wish to make amends...if I can even do that."

Instead of looking angry or spitting out a sarcastic retort, Varric closed his eyes and breathed deeply.  "Then I guess that makes two of us."

Solas pieced it together very quickly.  Varric had been the one to make Alaran doubt her individuality.  She had been teetering on the edge, and Solas hadn't even recognized it. 

It was his hands that had pushed her off.

"Cracking, breaking, shattering.  It's all falling apart."  Cole made the two of them jump.  The boy wrung his hands nervously.  "She's becoming more of a person and less of a person and it hurts to look at her."

Solas nearly shook Cole by his shoulders.  "Where is she?" he asked instead.

Surprisingly, Cole narrowed his eyes at Solas.  "She is falling because of you.  Falling as graceful as a the first drop of rain and as terrible as waterfalls of blood.  Both of you."  He looked to Varric, who was pinching the bridge of his nose and squeezing his eyes shut.  "But she does not want to lose herself, not truly.  You two can help mend the hurt, to bring back Alaran and not Herald or Inquisitor or Your Worship."  Cole scratched the skin on the back of his hand.  "She goes to the cold to numb it all, to gaze into the vast white to forget who she is.  The Iron Bull and Blackwall are with her, and they fear for her.  But she took them because she knew they wouldn't question her."

"Cole," Varric repeated, "where is Al?"

"Emprise du Lion.  Hurry.  If you do not make it to her in time, she will not come back as Alaran."

The dwarf and the elf made no delay in their departure.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The bitter cold of Emprise du Lion did nothing to numb the agonizing pain of a broken heart.  Broken hearts are weird, you know?  It's as if literally a whole chunk of who you are has been ripped out, and you don't feel it but at the same time you do.  You feel nothing and everything at such a heightened level it makes you want to die.  

I wanted it taken away from me.

Iron Bull and Blackwall didn't ask me questions.  That was the reason I had brought them.  I knew Iron Bull saw exactly what was wrong, but he was smart enough not to press.  Blackwall most likely sensed something was up, but he didn't have enough tact or persistence to successfully confront me about it.  So we traveled swiftly in silence.  There was a red lyrium quarry that needed to be cleared.

"Let's go kill us some Red Templar bastards," Iron Bull growled eagerly.  He still remained shirtless, despite the fact that I was betting the temperature was in the single digits.  I was bundled up in a heavy coat and a scarf, but my legs and feet were still frozen.  My fingers, though, were toasty warm because I had a flaming great sword.  So that was nice, at least.  And no, we weren't going in this alone.  The Inquisition soldiers stationed here were also raiding the quarry with us.  I didn't have a death wish.  Well...maybe I did, but of a different kind.

I didn't want to be Alaran, anymore.  Nobody saw me as that, anyways.  And though it hurt me on incredible amounts, I would take on the title proudly.  Why wouldn't I?  

As we charged into the quarry and met the first contingent of templars, I felt myself slip away.  And with that, the pain.  

Oh, there were pains of different kinds.  I got punched in the face by a gauntleted templar and my wrist was broken, but we moved through the quarry so fast that I had no time to choke down a healing potion.  "Are you alright, my lady?" Blackwall asked as we jogged through one of the tunnels.  

"Yes," I responded, forcing myself not to chime just peachy or freak-tastic.  

"Boss, take a--" Iron Bull began, but a wave of templars hit us, the red lyrium sprouting out from their bodies making my head spin and my senses feel like cotton.  I sparked the Reaver inside me and I lunged into battle, using my physical pain to fuel my rampage.  The stench of burning flesh filled my nostrils.  

A shield bashed into my side unexpectedly and I went flying into the cave wall.  My head cracked against the stone and I saw bright stars in my vision.  My legs wouldn't support me as I slumped to the ground.  I was able to see the Red Templar raise his sword high at me, his eyes alight with the poisonous lyrium.  I narrowly rolled out of the way.  These had to be the last of them.  They were desperately fighting in attempt to overwhelm us before we could cut down too many of them for that to be possible.  

We pushed them back out of the tunnel and into the cold, harsh daylight.  The back of my head had been cut open, and I felt hot blood rushing down into my scarf and the nape of my neck.  Use the pain.  Use the pain.  

Use the pain.

With a roar so fierce it made some of the Red Templars hesitate in fear I broke into a run with my sword held high.  Blackwall and Iron Bull joined my side and together the three of us lead the charge.  Everything inside of me was pulsing and buzzing and alive and screamed that I was still me.  I could never force myself to be lost.  

But the world needs the Inquisitor.  Not Alaran.  The world will never appreciate my stupid jokes and the songs I sing and my scent of lavender I love so much.  It will only appreciate my powerful will to save and to change and to make the decisions nobody else wants to make.  

I like who I am, though.  I like when I laugh at the looks on the faces of my friends when I say something horribly dumb and funny.  I like the way humming feels in my throat when I work.  I like the scent of lavender on my skin and clothes.  I like the way the strings of my lute feels on my fingers.  I like how my smirk fits well on my mouth.  I don't want to lose that part of me.

My friends don't want Alaran to lead them.  They want the Inquisitor.  It has been the Inquisitor that's saved them in battle.  It has been the Inquisitor that has upheld them with the strength Alaran could never manage on her own.

It was never the Inquisitor that held desperate hands.  It was never the Inquisitor that wiped away falling tears.  It was never the Inquisitor that brought a hot mug of tea on a cold winter's night to those who felt alone.  They need me to be Alaran as much as I do.  Though it may be the Inquisitor that they only see, they will always need Alaran.  I could be okay with that.  I would know.  I could deal with the pain if it meant that they wouldn't be in any.  

Dammit, this wasn't the way I was supposed to go.  I was supposed to lose a part of myself and with that the pain, not want to add on more.  It hurts.  It hurts so much already.  But if others are happy and I'm the only one hurting, I still call that a job well done.  Am I a freaking masochist or what?  I'm  willingly  taking on all the sorrow and despair when I could just choose not to.

Ah, who am I kidding?  I could never choose to.  I'm too narcissistic to let Alaran go.  I'm the one who makes myself laugh most of the time, anyways.  

Looks like I solved my existential crisis while trying to kill a mother freaking shadow.  

"Well," I grunted to it as I parried its jagged arms, "thanks, bud.  You really helped a girl out."

I cleaved my sword into its neck.

"Nice job, Boss," Iron Bull complimented.  The battle was over.  Red Templar bodies lay strewn across the quarry, but there were no bodies of Inquisition soldiers.  That was good.  Today...today was a good day.  Oh, gosh, I can't believe I'm saying such a thing.  The love of my life just tore my heart to shreds only a day ago, and I'm saying that it was a good day.

That still didn't make it any less true.

"Thanks, Bull," I said back with a smirk.  He looked down at me with a piercing eye.

"Are things better?" he asked simply.

"No," I answered honestly.  "But it's getting there."

"Maker's balls," Blackwall whispered.  We both looked at him.  "What the hell am I seeing?"

He was staring over my shoulder with his mouth gaping open.  I turned around to see on the crest of the quarry a hulking black wolf with six red eyes locked on me, its fur shifting slightly in the wind.  It would have looked majestic, had it not been for the fact that sitting atop of the wolf was a strawberry blonde dwarf with a crossbow strapped to his back.

A laugh sputtered out from my lips at the sight.  It was really quite ridiculous.  Snapshot.  

"I'm guessing they're here for you," Iron Bull chuckled as he folded his arms.  "Damn.  I don't think they know how stupid they look."

"They usually don't," I answered.  "Get the Inquisition soldiers searching for those papers Cullen told us about, and ensure that all these poor people here get out of the cages and around a warm fire.  I'll be back."  

My heart began to race as I climbed up the path of the quarry to get to the two dinguses.  My wrist throbbed and my face freaking hurt and I didn't want to know how the back of my head looked, but I walked to them anyways.  Despite the utter devastation they had wrought upon me, I knew I still loved them unconditionally, and if they sought forgiveness then I would give it to them.  The Inquisitor wouldn't have done that.  Ugh, I hoped I wasn't getting a dual personality.

Varric slid clumsily off of Solas, who then transitioned back to himself, clothes and all.  I was disappointed at that.  I had kind of hoped that he would be apologizing to me naked and shivering.  

The three of us stood there in silence, for a while.  I was the first to speak.  "Don't you two ever make me feel that way, again.  You--" I pointed to Varric, who cringed.  "Don't for one second think that this is just a game to me.  It has never been a game.  And you know what?  I think you took your anger out on me when you should have spoken to Anders.  You will speak to him, now.  I'll make sure of it.  That bitterness festering inside you will only do your own spirit harm, Varric.  I won't have that happen.  And you--" my finger moved over to Solas, who looked down at his bare feet.  "You will be responsible for putting my heart back together after destroying it before my own eyes.  If I'm not satisfied with the result, I will end you.  And if you think that I'll let you continue with your plans, I will end you then, as well.  Even if it means losing a part of me I will never get back, I'll do it."  I crossed my arms.  "Oh, and if either of you really thought that I couldn't save myself from becoming something else, then fuck you.  I know who I am.  I'll always know who I am, with or without you."

I let out a breath, as well as any resentment towards Varric and Solas.  Sometimes it sucked how easily I forgave, but then again it was a fine quality.  I don't know.  Why did I have to be such a complicated soul?  "You guys are a little late for the party, so your grand entrance was all for nothing.  But come on back to camp.  I'm sure in your haste you forgot to pack some food, so you're probably hungry."  I jerked my head towards the faint columns of smoke rising up into the air and started to move away, but the elf and the dwarf remained still, guilt and sadness still consuming them.

I sighed, unstrapped my great sword and dropped it to the ground, then rushed forward and embraced Solas.  There was no hesitation when he did the same to me.  "Forgive me, vhenan," he whispered heartbreakingly.  "Please, forgive me.  Ir abelas, emma lath."

I kissed Solas' warm cheek.  "You're forgiven."

It felt so...glorious...to be in his arms once more.  I didn't care if we had fought over the fate of the freaking world.  I was in his arms.  He was sorry.  Things wouldn't heal automatically, but they would heal nevertheless.

After a while I let go of Solas and turned to Varric.  He shifted his feet awkwardly.  I smirked and crouched down on one knee so I was the one looking up at him, ignoring the wet cold seeping through my trousers.  Varric closed his eyes and snorted as he shook his head.  "You're an asshole," he muttered.  I spread my arms wide.

"Not as big of an asshole as you," I smiled.  Varric wrapped me in his thick arms and I breathed in the scent of pine oil while he breathed in the scent of blood and lavender (hopefully there was a bit of lavender in there).  I was glad he had covered up his chest with a vest and a scarf; otherwise I would have gotten a face full of dwarf hair.  

"No, not as big as me," Varric gravelly whispered.  "I'm sorry, Al.  I really am.  Just...kick me in the nuts if I ever do this again.  Hard."

"I'll take you up on that suggestion," I chuckled.  We let go of one another and I stood, looking at the two men I held most dear in my life.  "Alright, I'm freezing and my whole head is throbbing, and this really hurts."  I held up my broken wrist.  "Can we go back to camp, now?"

-

I nuzzled Solas' neck and sneaked a hand under his sweater to trail a finger down his bare chest.  He hummed in pleasure at my touch.  "Thank you, vhenan.  For all you've done for me.  I am unworthy--"

I groaned and rolled on top of him, placing my other hand over his mouth.  "Could you just not, you know, degrade yourself?" I asked as I made a face.  "I really don't want to hear it, tonight.  You deserve me, and I deserve you.  Simple as that.  Don't question it."

My hand lifted off Solas' mouth and he stared at me witheringly.  I raised an eyebrow.  "Ma nuvenin," he eventually sighed.  "But sometime we must discuss how the elven race can be restored without tearing--"

He was cut off as my hand covered his speaking hole once more.  "Seriously.  Can't you just relax?  Jeez, Solas, we nearly lost each other.  I don't really want to talk about the cause of it tonight.  Yes, we will discuss it, but later.  Can you be patient enough for that?"

Something wet smeared itself across my palm.  I stared at Solas flatly as his eyes twinkled with mischief.  I wiped his own spit on his cheek.  "Argh!" Solas grumbled, and rolled me over so he could pin me underneath him.  I gave him a death glare.

"Don't you even dare--"

Solas moved his hands down to the sides of my stomach and dug them in.  I flailed as I stifled hysterical giggles.  Solas continued the process of tickling me.  Ever since he got his freaking wolf powers back, he was a lot stronger, too.  Like, he rivaled my strength.  It wasn't fair.  

"I'm--g-going to r-rip your--throat out," I wheezed, my threat machine currently out-of-order because of the assault on my body.  

"Oh?"  Solas grinned wickedly.  "And how can you possibly do that when you're in a powerless state?"

I craned my head up and latched my mouth on the side of Solas' neck, sucking intimately while occasionally flicking my tongue over his skin.  His fingers had stopped moving and he tilted his head away so I had more access.  Though I was still pinned down and unable to move anywhere else, I snaked my hands underneath his trousers and lightly dug my nails into his soft flesh.  A slight gasp escaped Solas and he began to relax his grip.  Almost there.

My hips pressed into his, hardening his length.  Solas had lowered enough into my shoulder that I could grab his ear between my teeth and nip at them.  He throbbed two, three more times before he completely released me.  In one swift movement I flipped the both of us over so I was on top once more.  I was planning to say something snarky and witty, believe me, but whatever thoughts I had kind of went down the pooper when all our clothes came off instead and we made moany-moans.

Okay, okay.  We made love.  *shimmies breasts and lowers voice five octaves*

-

"Maker's breath," Cullen muttered irritably as the others groaned.  I swiped all my coin into my quickly filling purse.  "How?  How, woman?"

"Never bet against an Otherworlder," I winked.  Josephine made an undignified noise that nobody outside this room would ever hear.

Solas looked disturbed.  "I have not lost a game of Wicked Grace for thousands of years," he stated hollowly.  

"Maybe you're still a bit groggy from your nap?" I asked, raising an innocent eyebrow.  He glared at me, but his lip was curved.  "Alright, Cully Wully," I said, turning my attention to the Commander.  "You're not going to be naked, unfortunately, but as you have lost yet another round, it's time to pay up."

He rubbed his brow and sighed.  "What is it, this time?"

I leaned back in my chair, humming and tapping my chin with a finger.  "What is it, indeed?"  It didn't take long for me to come up with an idea.  "Ooh!  I got one."  I leaned over to Sera and whispered a few words to her while the rest of the circle leaned in, attempting to catch a few words.  Sera giggled madly and leaped up.

"You got it, Ally."  Then she dashed off to her room.

"Just tell me," Cullen groaned.  "Then I can at least prepare myself for the misery that's about to ensue."

"You've brought this upon yourself, Commander," I shrugged apologetically.  "Haven't you heard that gambling is a bad habit to form?"

"Except for you," Blackwall said sulkily.  After Cullen, he had lost the most coin.  "Have I ever told you that you're a tyrant?"

"You keep using that word," I said with furrowed brows.  "I do not think it means what you think it means."  I turned back to Cullen.  "As payment, you'll wear the shipment of clothes we got from the Qunari for the rest of the evening."

He let out a breath.  "Oh.  That's not so bad--"

"The female clothing."

Cullen paled, and then was hit in the face by the outfit Sera had up in her room.  "All the strings confuse me, yeah, so I'm not helping ya," the city elf giggled as she sat back down in her seat.  Cullen peeled it off his face and stared down at it in horror.  

"Don't worry," I sad with a reassuring smile, "I'll only make you wear the top."

The table roared with laughter.

With a face red as a beet, Cullen pulled off his uniform tunic and let me tie on the skimpy outfit.  Sera had the right to be confused by all the strings; everything was really complex.  But eventually I got it all cinched tight and looking magnificent on the hulking Ferelden man.  Everybody by now either had their foreheads pressed against the table in hysterics or were clutching their sides as they loudly laughed.  "Up, up," I said enthusiastically to Cullen.  He groaned, but did as he was told.  I grinned proudly at my achievement.  Sera's top was stretched tight over his massive chest, and the strips of crossing fabric barely covered his man nipples.  The thin leather strings cut into his muscled arms, waist, and neck.  It was probably the best thing to happen in all of Thedas.  Snapshot.

The door suddenly burst open and Anders stormed in, followed by an angry-faced Trevelyan.  "Inqui--" the mage began, but both of them stopped dead when they saw Cullen standing there.  Trevelyan's jaw dropped to the point where it could have been out of a cartoon.  Oh.  Right.  Cullen was the intimidating former Knight-Captain that she took orders from.  

Cullen buried his face in his hands.  "Maker, take me now," he groaned.  I tried to look composed and cool in front of Anders and Trevelyan, but failed miserably.

"What can I do for you, Anders?" I said, my mouth starting to become sore from working so hard to keep it straight.

Anders still had his wide eyes glued on Cullen.  "You...you know what?  I seem to have completely forgotten what I had come here, for.  Pardon the interruption."  He then dazedly turned on his heels and strode out, followed by Trevelyan, who had a harder time tearing her eyes away from the Commander's exposed body.  

Once the door firmly shut Cullen slumped back down in his chair.  Varric patted him comfortingly on his shoulder.  I returned to my own seat and grinned evilly at my friends.  "Alright, who's up for another round?"

The round shortly ended when Varric found out I had been counting cards that night.  To be fair, I didn't do it all the time.  Only when I was feeling lucky.  Safe to say, I booked it out of the tavern before I got skewered, shanked, poisoned, exploded, set on fire, frozen into a block of ice, or looked at disapprovingly.

-

Solas awoke when he couldn't find Alaran in the Fade, so it didn't surprise him when he saw her sitting at the foot of their bed, a green light illuminating her face and that annoying sound hitting his ears.  "Vhenan," he sighed sleepily, rubbing an eye.  "You toy with that too much."

"It doesn't make sense," Alaran responded quietly, her forehead wrinkled deep in thought.  "I can't figure out how to get it open and see how the batteries are still working.  And it feels...different.  Nothing's plastic or made of cheap metal.  I don't know if it's a collector's item or what, but...gah."  She snapped it off.  "You're right.  I should just leave it alone."  Alaran crawled back and placed the sonic screwdriver into her nightstand drawer.  She tugged the blankets over her and wrapped an arm and a leg around Solas' waist.  "But what if...oh, never mind."  Alaran kissed him lovingly on the cheek.  "Goodnight, love."

-

"I'm going to dedicate a song to dat ass," I declared aloud.  

"Da'len," Solas hissed as the others snickered.  

"What?" I asked, affronted.  "Solas, your butt is nicer than mine, and I do yoga and pilates in the morning.  I haven't even seen you work out.  Like, what do you even do?  What other secrets does that suffering dome of yours hold?"

Dorian guffawed as the tips of Solas' ears turned pink.  "Oh," I added, "and you still haven't told me what the color of your hair actually was.  Are you ginger?  Your eyebrows are ginger-ish.  If that's the case, then it's no wonder they called you the Dread Wolf.  Everybody was afraid you would steal their souls.  Anyways, back to my original thought."

"So you finally figured out how to get back on topic?" Dorian asked sarcastically.

"Shut up.  Okay, so there are a lot of songs back on Earth that sing about booties.  Women butts, of course, but your butt is so fine I think we can make an exception."  Cassandra was covering her mouth to hide her grin.  I rubbed my hands together in thought.  "Hmmm.  Oh!  Oh!"  I broke down in a horrible beat box before belting out improvised lyrics in the woods of the Emerald Graves, "Solas got them apple-bottom leggings, feet with no fur, the whole Inquisition looking at--"  I stopped.  "Ploppers."

"That's not a swear word, Al," Varric chuckled.

"Ploppers.  I like the word ploppers," Cole repeated happily.  

"Right?  So that song's out.  It doesn't fit you well enough."  Solas' ears twitched slightly.  I ignored it.  "Ummmm HOLY FREAK I GOT IT!"  I fist-pumped.  "Alright, babe, you ready to hear my sweet serenading of your scrumptious scadoodle?"

"No."

I pretended to blow a trumpet, then broke down into another beat box.

"Whatcha gonna do with all that junk
All that junk inside your trunk

He's gonna get get get get me drunk
Solas is gonna get me drunk
Get me love drunk off his his hump
His hump, his hump, his hump his hump his hump
His lovely elfy lumps

Check it out

He drive the ladies crazy
He do it on the daily
They treat him really nicely
They buy him all the cakesies
Chocolate and vanilla
Red velvet but not chinchilla
Caring they be sharin'
But Quizzy got him wearing fly
Whether he ain't askin'
I say I love his ass in
Seven jeans
True religion
He say no
But I keep givin'
So he keep on takin'
And yes he is taken
Cause we are totes datin'
Now keep on demonstratin'

My love my love my love my love
I love his elfy lumps
His hump his hump his hump
His humps they got me--"

My sick beats attracted a giant.

-

I could almost hear Varric's heart thumping as we walked to the medic building.  I put a hand on his shoulder.  "It'll be okay, Varric," I said with a small smile.  "Anders isn't going to do anything.  He's really...mellowed out, if you will."

"I don't know what that means," Varric grumbled, but his heart wasn't into it.  

"It means that nobody has ever been in the slightest of danger since he's gotten here.  Justice has been quiet, and Anders has saved countless lives."  Our feet crunched over the newly fallen snow.

Varric was quiet the rest of the way, up until we reached the wooden door.  "Al, I don't know if I can do this," he muttered, looking up at me with pleading eyes.  

"Well know you can, Varric.  You never think of yourself as strong, but you are.  You got this."  I opened the door.  The smell of elfroot hit my nose.  "We can--"  

Anders and Trevelyan both looked at us in horror.  I grimaced as Varric sputtered a laugh.  "Dude.  Those cots are for the sick, not the sex." 

"Nice ass, Blondie," Varric commented.

"And nice legs, Trevelyan," I smirked.  "We'll leave you two...to it."

I closed the door.  Varric and I took one look at each other and broke down into laughter.  "Perhaps we should come back later?" I managed to get out.

"Oh, I'm counting on when we go back.  Blondie will never hear the end of it.  I'm also going to have to send a letter to Hawke explaining what we just saw."

-

The King of Starkhaven gazed into the intense violet eyes of the Inquisitor.  She was as slight and willowy as they said, but that made her no less of a formidable person.  

Formidable or no, she would feel his wrath.

"Walk with me," Inquisitor Lavellan said suddenly, clasping her hands loosely behind her back.  Her eyes flickered over to his guards.  "They can come, too."

Perhaps Sebastian did as she was told because her voice, while polite, held insurmountable weight to it that demanded she be followed.  He had to note that Skyhold was an immense fortress, and was nearly incapable of penetrating.  It suited the Inquisitor well.

"I did not come for a nice stroll, Inquisitor," Sebastian said, refraining from snapping at one of the most powerful women in all of Thedas.  "We had made a bargain.  And a simple one, at that.  I am a forgiving man, but this is unacceptable.  Do you know exactly what sort of evil you have willingly let come within the sanctity of your walls?"

They entered the garden.  Though there was a fine layer of snow and the air was biting and cold despite that they were in the middle of spring, people were still milling about, and the sound of children laughing drifted toward them.  the Inquisitor led them over through the covered stone walkway that protected them from the slowly falling snowflakes.  After a short while she stopped them and gestured over to a group of children playing.  Instead of answering his question she asked her own, much to his irritation.  Now was not the time for a philosophical debate.  "Do you see that girl?  The one with the frizzy blonde hair?  Who laughs the loudest and has bright green eyes?"

"I do," Sebastian replied through nearly gritted teeth.  Andraste, grant me patience with this woman.  

"Does she not look like one of the Maker's precious children?"

That got his attention.  "...She does."

Lavellan let her hand return behind her.  "Three days ago she contracted the bone-coughs.  A swift, fatal illness even for adults.  Her mother, a serving woman who had her husband returned to the Maker during the battle at Adamant, brought her child into the medical house to see if her daughter could at least be at ease before she passed on to the next life.  But the healer in charge did not allow that to happen.  He stayed up throughout the night taking care of the girl and nursing her back to health while exhausting himself to the point of unconsciousness.  If it had been any other healer, they would have numbed her wrists and then slit them so her suffering could be ended.  But here she is, playing in the snow and..." a small smile trailed across her lips, "and shoving snow into that poor boy's face."  The Inquisitor turned fully to Sebastian.  "That healer was Anders, Your Highness.  If you truly believe that his death was worth the death of that precious child and countless others, simply say so and I will continue with our original plans.  But I want to remind you that the blood of all those that Anders could have saved will not be on mine.  They will be on yours."

The air around them grew very still and very alive all at once.  Sebastian looked back at the young girl.  "I am not a religious person, unfortunately," the Inquisitor continued to say after the silence had drawn out.  "But I am very devout in the belief that forgiveness is the only way we can make it through this life with happiness in our hearts.  It is not an easy path, and not one that all can handle.  But we who must take that path for the sake of our people need to use forgiveness as a tool.  If not for us, then for them.  For if we have no semblance of happiness, then neither will they."

Sebastian found that he had a wry, semi-mirthful smile on his face.  "What was it that he always used to say?  Anders?  'Andraste's knicker weasels?'  I believe that was it.  Andraste's knicker weasels, my lady, but I believe that if you wanted, you could become a Chantry mother with the words you speak."

She crookedly smirked.  "My King, if I was to be affiliated with the Chantry at all, I would only want to be the Choir Girl."

In that moment Sebastian Vael, the King of Starkhaven, respected Inquisitor Alaran Lavellan.  "And I, the Choir Boy, would be honored to sing at your side," he said with a slight bow.  After hesitating, Sebastian asked, "May I...see Anders?"

"Of course.  I do believe he is with Varric, right now.  Shall we?"

The dwarf and the mage were in the medical house, talking in low voices and warm smiles on their faces.  Both of those slipped when Sebastian entered with Alaran.  He had dismissed his guards to wait outside.  

Seeing the man who blew up the Kirkwall Chantry brought a slew of emotions Sebastian had formerly kept festering inside him.  He found himself taking an angry step forward, but was surprised and slightly thankful that the Inquisitor had gripped his arm to keep him in place.  

"Ah, shit," Varric grumbled, his familiar voice bringing up even more memories of a time long past.  "You brought him here, Al?  Are you trying to get us all killed?"

"If anybody's doing the killing," the Inquisitor said in a more relaxed tone, her hand releasing Sebastian's arm, "then it'll be me because you men get on my nerves too much."

"Um," Anders said hesitantly, not taking his gaze off of Sebastian, "if I do by chance die, could you please tell Laurel that it really was me who placed flowers on her barrack bed?  I panicked and lied about it when I found out she's actually allergic to them and that it sent her into a sneezing attack for the rest of the day."

The Inquisitor sighed loudly.  "Sit down, Sebastian, and talk to Anders.  And Varric--" her eyes narrowed at the dwarf, who was quietly slipping out of his seat.  "You stay as well."

"But why?" Varric whined childishly as he plopped back down.  

"Because apparently, alongside being the Inquisitor, I've now become the counselor in this group therapy session.  Free of charge, thankfully.  And it can't be a group if there's only two people."  She leaned back and crossed her arms.  "Now get to hashing.  And let's try to be done by dinnertime?  I wanted to read a good book and listen to some records."

Alaran didn't get to do either, that night.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Marry me."

Solas nearly painted a red gash along the wall.  His whole body had stiffened and his knuckles were white from tightly gripping the paint brush.  Slowly, pointedly, he turned to look at me.

"Excuse me?"

"Marry me," I repeated, hopping up from the cream-colored couch and walking up to him.  "Make me yours forever."

He eyed me as if he wasn't sure I was being serious.  "What has brought this on?"

"What hasn't brought this on, you mean," I corrected with a smirk.  "I mean, I love you and you love me and I seriously doubt we'll want to be with anybody for the rest of our lives.  That means that we should get married."  

Instead of looking joyful excited, sadness fell upon Solas.  He returned back to his painting.  "Ir abelas, vhenan.  I do not think that would be the wisest option."

My heart dropped.  "Why not?" I asked, unable to bring my shoulders back up.  But I already had a feeling of why he didn't want to.  

"While I will live on, you will grow old.  And when I see you die--"

"Um, who are you to say that I'll die?" I interrupted, taking a step forward.  "Unless you have plans to go to the Undying Lands, we should have all the reason in the world to get married."

"You will die, because you are mortal," Solas answered with a sigh.  Then he shook his head and snorted.  "And I must sound incredibly selfish right now."

I threw my arms around his waist and nuzzled my cheek against his back.  "A bit.  But it's understandable.  Just think, though.  Solas and Alaran, bringing Thedas into a new era hand-in-hand, the power couple everybody wants to be.  The egg and the snowflake.  The lips and the laughs.  The--"

"The lips?"

"You're the lips.  I'm the laughs."

"What do my lips have to do with any of this?"

"They're freaking gorgeous, Solas.  You have pretty lips.  Pretty lips that I wanna kiss all day long."  I shimmied my body and made a happy noise in the back of my throat, and then proceeded to lift Solas off his feet.

"Hng!  Alaran!" Solas wheezed.

I laughed and set him back down.  He turned to me and gave me a kiss on the lips, then grazed his thumb over his cheek, a glint in his eyes.  "I promise you, vhenan, that once all of this is over, we can begin our life like it should be."

Butterflies tickled my stomach.  "Then I'd better tell Corypheus to hurry his ass up so we can finally start."

After making some more googly eyes at each other, I finally left and went to make rounds on the battlements, in which I greeted soldiers and asked how they were and if there was anything we could do better so they could be more comfortable.  They all gave me odd looks as they bowed and answered my questions, but I brushed it off as nothing and for the next hour and a half met with Commander Cullen, Sebastian Vael, a numerous amount of Orlesian nobles, and...

King Alistair Theirin.

"Your Worship," he greeted after bowing and kissing my hand.  With a smile and a raised eyebrow that made me squee on the inside, Alistair said, "I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but it seems you have a smudge of paint on your cheek."

My blood ran cold.  

Calmly striding over to a nearby mirror, I saw that where Solas had so lovingly grazed my skin was a vivid streak of red paint that nearly ran across the entirety of my cheekbone.  "I'm going to crack that egg's head open so hard the Fade itself is going to bleed through.  I've had that on my face all freaking day," I seethed.  

Then I remembered that the King of Ferelden was standing only a few feet away.  I turned to him to apologize for my sudden outburst, but saw that his shoulders were shaking with poorly contained laughter.  "Forgive me...Inquisitor...but..."  Alistair threw his head back and heartily laughed.  "Oh...cracking the egg's head...good one!  And I suppose you mean that elf mage?"

"Who else?" I chuckled, my muscles relaxing.  "It's quite the terrible thing that I love him, isn't it?"

"Ah, yes it is," Alistair grinned.  He then licked the back of his thumb and held my chin up so he could scrub it away.

I scrunched up my face.  "Ow.  Ow.  Ow."

"Sorry!" he apologized, but still continued to rub my skin raw.  "I...ah...Anora is with child and she told me to take up any opportunity to practice fatherhood."

"Well," I groaned, "at this rate your child will at least live to see its second year.  After that...I can't be for certain."

Alistair licked his thumb again and continued at a gentler rate.  "How's that?"

"Better, but I think I'll have to put some cream on my face so it won't chafe too bad."

"This isn't weird, is it?  The only other time we met I was very angrily exiling the mages."

"And your mother?"

"And my mother."

"No, it's fine.  It's...actually quite relieving.  I don't have to be all Inquisitor."  And I especially didn't want to have to be that around you, my Cheese Puff.  I glanced over at the cheese tray and, to my delight, saw that it was almost completely empty.  "I mean, I don't mind being the Inquisitor.  I love how much I can help.  But it just gets a bit..."

"Exhausting?  Fatiguing?  Soul-sucking?" Alistair finished.  "Yes.  I know how that feels.  Damn, this paint isn't coming off."  He licked his thumb once more.  "I'm glad you get tired of being the Inquisitor all the time.  Now I don't feel so bad not wanting to be King of Ferelden every hour of the day."

"So are you excited to be a dad?"

Alistair's nail scraped my cheek and I winced.  "Oh!  I'm so sorry!  It's just--"  Alistair took a deep breath that blew out his cheeks.  "I'm terrified.  I can hardly tie my own shoelaces; how am I supposed to tie my child's?"

"You'll be a great dad, Alistair," I said honestly.  My neck was getting sore from having to crane my head back so far.  Hot damn, but he was freaking tall.  "I mean, it feels like you're tearing my skin off from my skull, but hey, practice makes perfect!"

"Let it be known that the Inquisitor let the King of Ferelden practice parenthood techniques on her," he declared with a grin.

"And let it not be known that he physically injured said Inquisitor," I grinned back.  Alistair laughed and gave a few more calloused wipes, then dropped his hand.

"I'm sure Leliana can keep that a secret," he said.  "There!  Even though your face is quite red, the paint is gone!"

I touched my tender cheek.  "Thanks, Alistair," I muttered.

"Ha!  We're on a first-name basis, now?  That's good!  You're very welcome, Alaran."

If I didn't have an elf man I loved very much and if Alistair didn't have a pregnant wife he had grown to love, I would have sex-jumped him right then and there.

The two of us sat down.  "I'll give you two options," I said, crossing my leg and leaning back on the couch across from the chair Alistair had taken up.  "Either we talk about negotiating peace talks with Orlais now and have a good time later, or we can save the negotiations for tomorrow and have a good time for the rest of the day."

Alistair raised a considering eyebrow as he rubbed his chin.  "Hmm.  Second.  I'll take the second, please."

I grinned.  "Awesome.  Our first order of business is to go down to the rotunda so you can watch me chew out Solas.  And now that I think of it, I can chew out Cullen as well.  He didn't say a single word about it."

"I haven't seen egg cracking in a while, nor how red Cullen gets when he gets yelled at by pretty women.  This should be fun!"

-

"Remind me again why we're in here?" Alaran asked as she warily looked around the underground tunnels.  Her hand was gripping Solas' tightly.  

"Oh, you know, darkspawn, Red Templars, giant spiders, and deep stalkers all have a personal vendetta against the Inquisition," Dorian said as he waved a nonchalant hand in the air, "so we've come to smite them down with the fury of your flaming sword."

"Why couldn't they come to us?"  Her skin was an almost gray color, which meant that she had either lost a serious amount of blood or she was extremely terrified.  "I think the Deep Roads were invented to traumatize me."

"I don't think so," Varric drawled.  "You're important, but you're not that important."

"I'm important to Solas," Alaran argued.  She looked up to him with wide violet eyes.  Solas fell in love with her all over again, and for a moment he forgot where he was except that he was by her side and her hand was in his.

"You are the most important thing in the world to me, vhenan,"  Solas said with a smile.  A bit of color returned to Alaran's cheeks and her eyes danced with joyful lightning.  

Sera blew a raspberry.  

A behemoth roared in response.

"Oh for hell's sake," Alaran groaned, her hand slipping out of Solas' to bring her great sword from over her back.  "I really, really was hoping that there wouldn't be a behemoth.  All that red lyrium up close makes me--"

She clamped her mouth shut.

"It makes you what?" Dorian and Solas asked simultaneously.  Alaran made a face at the both of them.

"Ploppers," she cursed, then charged at the behemoth. 

Solas cast a barrier spell at her out of instinct and found that it worked exceptionally well.  He had altogether stopped for some time after Alaran told him that it wasn't worth spending his mana on her.  It had been right after...right after she had been brought back to life after sustaining the arrow to her head.  That damn thing still sat on the mantle, and Solas would sometimes find Alaran gazing at it fondly as if she was seeing an old friend.  But that was beside the point.  His magic worked on her, now.  Solas immediately thought of all the times she could have been healed easily, all the times that she could have been burnt to a crisp by flames, and all the times she could have been infected by the red lyrium.

Alaran took the blows given by the behemoth's giant arms in stride.  She cleaved through one of its legs and sent it stumbling and howling, her white braid whipping as she leaped onto its back and plunged her flaming sword through its back.  Alaran's snarl turned into a smirk as the monster gave a dying gurgle and was still.  She looked up proudly to Solas.  Her smirk slipped as she remembered her words only a minute ago.  Solas knew he didn't look too pleased, either.  "Alaran," he said as he advanced on her, "what is it--"

She yanked her great sword out and bolted down the hall.  Solas sighed.  He should have known she would flee.  

-

The chateau loomed before us.  "I've got a bad feeling about this," I quoted.  

"I think we all do, my dear," Vivienne said as she leaned on her staff.  "But whatever evil lurks in that house, it is up to us to cleanse it."

"Um, unless I drive a 1967 Black Chevy Impala, I don't think I'm qualified to cleanse anything," I said as we started walking forward.  

"Let's just get in and out, yeah," Sera said nervously.  "This place gives me the fockin creeps."

"It gives us all that," Solas agreed.  I inched near him until our shoulders were nearly touching.  

The beauty of the Emerald Graves seemed distant and blurred as we pushed through the gates.  There were no sounds of chattering birds and no warm, slightly humid breeze that I had felt on my skin only moments before.  Every inch of my body screamed that I should get out of here, that I should turn and run away because it was evil.  

I clenched my fists to get rid of some of the trembling before I pushed open the chateau doors.  Blackness swallowed us as we stepped inside.  Nearby, torches started to light up.  "Please tell me one of you mages did that," I whispered to Vivienne and Solas.

"No," they replied.  I gave a single nod.

"Okay.  Okay.  Let's...make this--"

Something invisible gripped my ankle.  I couldn't help but shriek as I was dragged and consumed by darkness.  

-

Fock.  Fock.  Fockity fockin fock shit shit fock shittin fock.

Sera's whole body shook uncontrollably as she held her bow in her hands, an arrow waveringly notched.  This couldn't be real.  Ally had been taken out of nowhere, first, and the way Solas fockin looked afterwards didn't give her any comfort.  They scrambled after her, but it was as if she had just disappeared.  She told Solas to do something magical and get her back, but he couldn't fockin "feel" her, whatever the hell that meant.  They tried searching for her, but the corpses, the fockin corpses came shambling at them and they had to run.  On their way up the stairs Vivienne gasped in terror and Sera saw inky hands wrap themselves around her waist and drag her into the shadows themselves.  "Run," Solas whispered to her, and they ran as fockin hard as they could. 

"What the fock is going on?" she yelled at him, her voice quaky and terrified.  

"Old evil has found its way into the world," Solas responded.  They had made it up where there was light, thank the fockin Maker.  "I have not seen such things since I was a boy."  His face was pale and Sera noticed that he had freckles on his nose and cheekbones.  

"What the fock happened when you saw this?"  Sera hurriedly put arrows through a corpse that sprung out from behind a shelf.  

"The darkness consumed my village," Solas said gravely.  "Few escaped."

"What happened to those who didn't?"

They descended back down into darkness to avoid the horde of corpses now on their trail.  "They were--"  The fockin Dread Wolf himself made a noise of terror as he was captured, disappearing into nothing.

Sera ran as fast as she could.  She was back in the alleys in Denerim and nobody could fockin catch her because she was fast and she knew what the fock she was was doing.  She had to get out.  Fock.  She had to get out.

There.  A door spilled light into the dark hall.  Sera pushed her legs even harder, hearing her breathing sharp and loud in her ears.  She was almost there.  Almost, almost, fock yeah, almost--

The second the jumped for the light freezing, wrong fingers clutched her calf and drug her back.

Sera screamed the loudest she had ever screamed before it was cut off.  

-

I sat on the Sunburst Throne.  The metallic stench of blood filled my nostrils, and I loved it.  Rivers of the nearly black liquid streamed down the steps and flowed through the great hall.  On pikes before me were all those who stood in my way.  Even my so-called friends had to go.  Cassandra had been the first.  She questioned me too much and told me what I was doing was wrong, as if she knew not who she spoke of.  Her corpse was rotted and broken because she had been there the longest.  The next were Cullen, Josephine, and Leliana.  They went at the same time, all piled on top of each other.  I basked in watching their bodies squirm and flail and as they cried out for the Maker's mercy.  The only one who heard their cries was me, and I laughed in glee at it all.  After them was Varric.  The stupid dwarf thought he knew what was best for me, and talked to me as if I was only his friend.  He did not know that it was the most powerful woman in Thedas who he spoke ill towards.  I almost felt pity for him as his body was heaved onto the pike.  Once Varric had been punished, they were picked off like dying flies in the cold fall air.  Vivienne, Cole, Dorian, Iron Bull, Sera, Blackwall, and then...

Fen'Harel himself. 

The battle had been glorious.  The rebel god had taken up the duty to fight against his ex-lover in hopes of defeating me.  He was saving me from my own insanity!  It was not insanity, I had told him as my sword drove into his massive black wolf-chest.  I was power-hungry.  There was quite the difference.  I would have been insane if I did not know what my plans were.  But oh, I knew my plans.  I knew my plans better than anyone.  And he could have joined me at my side.  We would have ruled Thedas together, striking down any who opposed us.  But no.  The Dread Wolf had plans of his own, as always.  So I had to end him, of course.  

I threw my head back and laughed at the sight, then kicked up a spray of blood.  The world was mine.  There was no other smarter than I, no other more cunning than I, no other--

"Ew ew ew ew ew."

Hallah Lynne tip-toed through the ankle-deep sheets of blood, a disgusted look on her olive face.  "This is so freaking gross.  Yuck!  Al!  What the hell?  Blood?  What is this, The Shining?"  She looked over the endless rows of corpses on pikes.  "Well would ya look at that.  It is."

I stood up languidly.  "Hallah Lynne," I purred.  "The woman of the hour.  Come.  If I can defeat you, then--"

Hallah walked up to me in two long, powerful strides and slapped me on the face so hard I went careening back into the throne.  

I shook my head slowly as the pain brought me to my senses.  Horror consumed me as I gazed at the sight laid out before my eyes.  My stomach churned and I felt incredibly sick.

"Oh, no, none of that," Hallah said as she crouched down beside me, one hand on my forehead and the other on my back.  The view shifted until I was staring out at a warm, lively great hall that was filled with happy, loud voices.  

"Wh...what's happening?" I managed to ask as the sickness faded.  Hallah helped me to my feet.  My cheek still burned, but it was a good burning, if there ever was one.  

"Uh, I guess you could call it black magic?  Well, that's not exactly what it is, but a lot of people think so.  It's actually a bunch of aliens that feed off of terror and worst fears and bad memories and all sorts of vile stuff.  Make sense?"  

"Not really, but I'll go along with it."  I paused before I sighed, "Hallah, this is Thedas not some Doctor Who episode."

She winked.  "Not yet."

I ignored her.  "Has everybody else been taken?"

Hallah ran long fingers through her thick-tufted Mohawk.  "Yeah.  So we gots ta get 'em back.  Before they, like, die."  

My skin prickled at the thought.  "And we can't have that, now can we?"

"We sure can't," Hallah smirked.  "Aren't you glad you have an all-powerful immortal as a friend?"  We started to run towards the doors of the great hall.  

"As long as you aren't like Q, I'm really glad," I responded gratefully.  She really was a big help.  

Hallah sneered.  "Q.  Don't get me started on that bastard."  She waved a hand and the doors shattered into a million pieces.  "We're going to get Vivienne first.  Take my hand."  I did without question.  Hallah slashed her hand through the air and reality split.  We dove through and into a dizzying void, but came out on the other side without harm.

It took me a moment to comprehend what was going on.  It didn't come to me that the little, dark-skinned girl with curly black hair that defied gravity was Vivienne until she screamed as her hands danced with flames.

"We have to ship her off to the Circle," said a dark, faceless figure.  It's voice was twisted   Vivienne continued to scream as tears ran down her face.  "We will have no child of ours be a mage.  I would have preferred her dead."

The other faceless figure agreed.  "Lock her away, for now, until one of the Circle members can come take her off our hands."

Vivienne's cries turned to pained wails as the first faceless figure grabbed her by the hair and began dragging her away.  I drew the dagger I kept on my waist and lunged, driving the blade into its shadowy flesh while grabbing Vivienne.  It screeched and dropped her.  My arms burned with the flames licking across Vivienne's tiny body, but I ignored it and fled with her in my arms.  Hallah threw some sort of green energy blasts at the monsters, who cracked and snapped their bodies until they were disjointed figures that rasped in air from mouths that engulfed their entire face.  "Oh shit oh shit oh shit," Hallah cursed through gritted teeth.  I covered Vivienne's eyes so she wouldn't see.  Her skin was scorching hot.

"Hallah!  Let's get out of here!" I yelled, inching towards the door.  Hallah snarled in response and sent a pulse of power right at the creatures, who now towered over us by several feet.  The wave of energy hit them full on and disintegrated their inky forms.  Terrible, teeth-gnashing howls came from them as they died.  Or at least I hoped they died.

"Viv," I whispered to her, uncovering my hand and smiling.  "Hey, Viv, it's all over.  You can come back, now.  This isn't real.  Please, Viv, come back."  Holy cow, she was beautiful even as a little girl.  

I set her down and wiped away her tears.  Hallah stood nearby, stretching her slender, toned limbs and groaning.  I hadn't noticed what she was wearing.  On her T-shirt was Finn & Jake from Adventure Time plastered on, paired with a red, blue and white flannel shirt and blue skinny jeans with Napoleon Dynamite snow boots.  She should have looked like a dorky mess, but I supposed that Hallah could wear a garbage bag and still make it look good.  "Viv, we still have to save Sera and Solas.  The two dingleberries can't save themselves, ya know."

Vivienne looked at me with wide blue eyes.  Her lower lip stopped quivering and she gave a single nod.  Not a moment after there was a burst of bright light.  Once that faded, the Grand Enchantress stood there, complete in her glittering glory.  I hugged her.  She hugged me back.  "Thank you, my dear," Vivienne whispered sincerely.  "I do not want to relive that moment ever again."

"You won't have to, if we get out of here," I smiled.  We let go.  Vivienne turned to Hallah Lynne and she wryly smirked.  

"I always had a feeling that your name wasn't Luna Lovegood."

Hallah grinned.  "It's good to see you too, Madame de Fer."

I threw my hands up in the air as I shook my head.  "Shoulda known.  I shoulda known that the freaking Grand Enchantress herself was "acquainted" with you."

"Less talking, more saving?" Hallah instead asked.  After that statement we were off, jumping through another tear in reality.  

My blood boiled and I saw red when we came upon Sera.  She was on a seedy bed, her legs spread apart and tears running down her dirty face as one man held her down and the other thrust himself into her.  The movements were frenzied and painful.  Sera managed to tear her covered mouth away from her rapists.  "Somebody help!" she screamed shrilly, and my heart broke.  This was one of her memories.

"Ain't nobody helping you, flat-ear," the man inside her grunted.  His head was then promptly lopped off by my great sword.  Vivienne set the other aflame with such fury he became a pile of ash in moments.  

"That's a double-negative," I spat at the decapitated head.  I then quickly sheathed my sword and scrambled over to Sera so I could hold one of my best friends in my arms as she wept.  The sound of Sera crying always physically pained me, but this time I was nearly in tears myself.  "Nothing like that will ever happen to you again," I whispered soothingly to Sera as I stroked the back of her head.  "You hear me?  Nothing.  You're safe, now."

Sera's disheveled appearance returned to its former state of her rogue attire.  "I know, Ally," she croaked back, sniffed a few times, then sat up fully so she could wipe away the snot running from her nose on the back of her sleeve.  I smiled.  It was an endearing trait of hers.  "Can we go and kill more of the fockers who did this?"

My smile turned into a smirk.  "Hell yeah."

Sera and I got off the bed and turned to leave.  Hallah crossed her arms and cocked a hip when we both laid eyes on her.  "Holy shit it is you," Sera breathed, then giggled.  "Fockin brilliant, yeah."

"Do you know all my friends?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at the Traveler.  She shrugged.  

"More or less.  I know a lot of people."

I rolled my eyes.  "Whatever.  Let's go and save my wolf."

Another jump through a tear.  The second I stepped out onto the landscape before my I was hit with the smell of burning wood and the stench of blood and rot.  A great battlefield lay before us, and was piled high with armored corpses.  There were humans and dwarves and elves and even a few Qunari.  The sky was dark and stormy, and booming thunder shook the ground.

"There," Hallah pointed grimly.  I followed her finger over to a hilltop and saw a giant black wolf engaged in battle with a swooping, great white bird.  It looked more along the lines of a harpy eagle than anything.  It gouged its talons into the wolf's back the same time the wolf lunged up and sunk its teeth into the bird's downy neck.  There was a deafening screech as the bird fell to the ground and released its hold on the wolf.  I broke into a run.

The black wolf and the harpy eagle transformed.  A ragged cry tore from Solas' throat as he fell to his knees and picked up my lifeless body.  My throat had been ripped clean out, and blood spilled onto the ashen ground.  Solas held me close to his chest, threw his head back, and wailed.  It was the sound of a man who had finally lost everything he had ever loved in his long life.  He had donned golden armor meant for battle, which contrasted sharply with my own that were black and silver.  

"Solas!" I cried out.  "Solas, none of this is real!"  I pulled to a stop a few feet away from him.

His wails subsided and he slowly turned his head to look at me.  His gray-blue eyes were vacant.  "V...vhenan?" he rasped.  I managed to smile, ignoring the horrific sight of my corpse in his arms.  

"It's me," I assured.  "I'm still alive."

Solas turned his head back down at my body.  "I...I killed you, Alaran," he mumbled.  "We chose duty over love.  And look where it got us."  

I gazed out at the surrounding battlefield that seemed to go on for miles.  "Then I guess we won't do that, huh?"

"Is none of this real?  Truly?  I haven't just gone mad and am now conjuring up a memory of you?"

I knelt down beside Solas and tilted his chin to me.  "When have I ever turned into a giant bird, Solas?"

"Many times," he mused, but some light was returning to his eyes.  My body flickered and disappeared from his grasp.  "Sing to me," Solas pleaded.  "Sing us our song."  I moved my hand to the side of his cheek and gave a small smile.  He leaned into my touch.

"I’m sending postcards from my heart,
With love for a postmark and then,
You’ll know that you make me
Feel like we’ve been caught.
Like kids in the school-yard again.
And I can’t keep it to myself.
Can’t spell it any better,
L-O-V-E forever.
I hope you know that I’m
Sending a postcard,
I don’t care who sees what I’ve said.
Or if the whole world knows what’s in my head."

Not a moment after I had finished Solas crashed his lips against mine, more tears spilling from his beautiful eyes.  "You're real.  You're real," he whispered.  

"Yes and yes," I whispered back.

"Okayyy," Hallah Lynne drawled as she, Sera, and Vivienne approached.  "This is all well and good and hello Solas how have you been sorry I can't talk right now we'll have tea sometime though but now we've got to get the boss-fight over with."  She jerked her thumb over her shoulder to a massive black swarm of shadows coming right for us.  Fear gripped my heart.

"Hallah," I gulped, "how in the hell are we going to fight that?"

She smirked.  "Let's go find out, shall we?"

-

Hallah dropped us off in front of the chateau's gates.  She must have a thing for dropping people off mid-air because I dropped a good six feet.  On my back.  Again.  

"Arrrggghhh," I grimaced as I weakly flailed around.  "That effing hurts."

Solas placed a hand on me and a cold wash covered my body, getting rid of the pain.  He had a smug, self-satisfactory look on his stupid face.  "It seems you've been keeping secrets from us, da'len."

I cuffed him on the cheek.  He chuckled and pushed my hand away.  "Oi, Quizzy," Sera said as she sat up.  "We all had bad shite in there, yeah.  What was yours?  Vivvy told us hers."

"I...you don't want to know," I muttered.  

"Oh come on, it couldn't have been as bad as Elvhen Glory's world domination thing," Sera continued.  When I didn't answer she groaned.  "Please tell me it wasn't about world domination."

I could still feel the blood that had seeped into my shoes and the glee I experienced when I watched my friends get impaled and the life leave their eyes.

"It was worse."

-

"Why are we all gathered outside your door, again?" Dorian asked as he twirled his mustache.  "It's making me quite uncomfortable.  I can practically feel the individual hair follicles on Blackwall's beard."

"Yes, and isn't it glorious, Dorian?" Blackwall chimed back.  Ah, Blackwall.  I freaking loved him.

I clapped my hands together to get their attention.  "Okay!  So after some pondering and serious consideration, I've decided to showcase a few of my drawings to you.  It's nothing spectacular and I don't expect any of you to stare at them and pretend to know what the hidden message is.  They're just drawings and paintings of us and a few other things."

 "Ooh!  I simply cannot wait, Inquisitor!" Josephine tittered.  "Please, let us in!"

"As you wish," I smirked, tempted to find the nearest hill and roll down it whilst saying that phrase.  Instead, though, I opened my door and let them enter.  

After the living nightmare at the chateau, I had a little come-apart at the fact that they still hadn't seen all the facets of who I was, even though I had seen theirs.  I supposed they had just waited for me to finally be ready to show them this part of myself.  The patient bastards.

"Maker's breath," Cullen mumbled as he made his way to one of himself.  I had caught a snapshot of him with his lion's helm tucked under his arm and his head turned to the side as he gazed proudly at his soldiers.  The Lion's Pride, it was called.  "This is..."  His eyes moved down to the depiction of him in Sera's Qunari top.  The Bet Lost was the title down in the corner.  I had even used some colored coal to smudge on his cheeks.  "Of course you would draw that."

"Why the fock would you draw me?" Sera asked, but there was no bite in her words.  She was entranced by the painting I had done of a side view of her, with the string of her bow pulled back against her cheek and one eye closed with a grin on her face.  The Something.

"Ah, shit, Al," Varric sighed.  "Really?  I don't like this touchy-feely crap."  His picture was when I caught him staring fondly up at the fall leaves when we were travelling through the Hinterlands.  Varric Tethras' Day Off.  The absolute look of peace on a face typically masked and sarcastic was something I had to get down.  

I patted him mock-consolingly before moving on.  It made me so, so happy that all of my friends loved what I had drawn and painted and sketched and everything in between.  I wouldn't be seeing them on pikes.  Not now.  Not ever.  I would kill myself before I laid a finger on them.  They were my family.  My home.  Solas, Varric, Cassandra, Sera, Dorian, Iron Bull, Vivienne, Blackwall, Cole, Josie, Cullen, and Leliana...they were what made everywhere I went a place of love.  Even if Skyhold was somehow turned to rubble and the Inquisition shattered into nothing...as long as I had them, I would be happy.

"We remind you of a song," Cole suddenly said as he trailed a light finger down a portrait of him wrapping a bunny's hurt foot amidst a battle.  The Boy of Compassion.  "Filling, flying, freeing your heart because it is perfect."

"Might as well sing it," Dorian sighed.  "Oh, and I am a bit disgruntled that you kept such exquisite artistic abilities from me; I could have had you painting ginormous murals of my scantily-clad body months ago."

"I'm not singing it," I retorted.  "You guys listen to me enough as it is.  You're probably getting sick of it by now, if you haven't already."

"For fock's sake just sing," Sera groaned, then chucked a paperweight at me.  I dodged it easily, but it hit Iron Bull's chest and bounced off with a light thud.  He absently rubbed the spot with a massive hand.

"Yeah, why not, Boss?  You haven't sang for a while."

"I did sing about Solas' sweet booty," I corrected.

"That wasn't a song," Solas said with infinite patience.  "That was a flurry of fast-paced words."

"Poetry!"

"No."

I sighed.  "Whatever.  Fine."  They all quieted as I cleared my throat and pursed my lips together to whistle the opening tune.  I decided to just sing a snippet of the song; that was what made me think of all of them the most. 

"Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I'm with you
Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I'm with you"

I began to dance, unsurprisingly.  I shimmied over to Dorian and had him twirl me.  He rolled his eyes, but there was a definite smile under his mustache.  I then hopped over to Sera, and together we unashamedly began to move our bodies in hilarious poses.

"La la la la
Take me home
Ohh I'm coming home"

I moved onto Blackwall and he did a dramatic farce of a waltz with me, laughing as he did so. 

"I'll follow you into the park,
Through the jungle, through the dark
Ohh, I've never loved one like you"

I skipped over to my Solas, who gripped me by the waist and spun me in the air, a bright smile on his face.  Holy freak, this was becoming a musical number!  Hell yeah!  Alaran for the win!  We even kissed each other before I went onto the next verse.

"Moats and boats, and waterfalls,
Alleyways, and payphone calls
I been everywhere with you"

Varric pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head, being the best friend he was and feeling embarrassment for me.  I wrapped my arms around the back of his shoulders and belted out the lyrics, forcing him to sway with me as I rocked from side to side.  By now everybody was moving somewhat to the catchy song.  I grinned broadly when I saw Cassandra tapping a foot.

"Laugh until we think we'll die,
Barefoot on a summer night
Never could be sweeter than with you"

I cupped the Seeker's face in my hands and serenaded her as she made a disgusted noise.  My hips and legs were full-on swinging now, totally out-of-sync with the song itself but what did I care?  I was with my friends.  They had seen the best and worst of me.  I wasn't sure where this one fell, but it brought smiles to their faces and laughter to their lips, so I was happy.  

"And in the streets you run afree,
Like it's only you and me,
Geez, you're something to see"

Somewhere the music accompanying the song started up.  I continued to dance and sing as I pointed an appreciative finger up in the air, figuring Hallah would receive my thankfulness.  The others made noises of surprise, but only for a few moments.  Weirder shit had happened when I was around.  I moved over to Cole and grabbed both of his hands in mine.  He looked panicked, but also had a giddy grin on his face as our feet moved clumsily together.  My eyes latched onto Cullen's and he blushed a furious red.  "Inquisitor, no--" he began, but I had already started doing the Carlton around him as the others laughed and danced as well.   

"Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I'm with you
Home, let me come home
Home is wherever I'm with you"

I threw my hands up in the air at the final chorus, my head thrown back and the music ever louder.  I didn't even care how I sounded; all I cared about was that these people, these stupid, irritating, funny, caring, loving people had pieces of my heart I would never want to take back.

"La la la la
Take me home
Ohh, I'm coming home"

The music faded, but not our spirits.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Alaran was sitting up on the rail of the balcony overlooking the mountains below.  Solas' stomach did a nauseating flip.  "Vhenan," he said as calmly as he could, inching towards her while trying not to look down.  "Please get down from there.  You could fall."

Solas knew he shouldn't have said that.  Alaran gave him a sidelong glance over her shoulder, smirked, and then hopped up onto her feet, her balance the only thing keeping her from plummeting hundreds of feet below.  "I'm fine, Solas.  Really.  Look!  I can even do this!"  She leaned forward and Solas gasped in terror as Alaran did a handstand on the stone ledge.  "Elves have remarkably good balance," she commented, her braid hanging off the edge entirely.  "Except I am disappointed we can't walk on top of snow."

"Alaran," Solas said, giving up his pride and letting fear creep into his voice.  She sighed and hopped back onto the floor.  

"Sorry, sorry.  You kind of caught me at a moment where I needed to at least feel a little rebellious."  Alaran languidly wrapped her arms around Solas' waist and looked up at him with burdened violet eyes despite the smirk on her mouth.  "Apparently there's been earthquakes going on in the Deep Roads and the Inquisition is expected to see what's up.  We haven't even defeated Corypheus yet, but for some reason they think that we can fix the ground from collapsing on itself and destroying major supplies of lyrium.  Fantastic, right?"  Alaran let go and began mimicking Josephine with an eerily good Antivan accent.  "'Inquisitor, though Corypheus still remains a threat and you are the only one truly capable of stopping him, I'm going to send you into a place where you can die just from a big rock hitting you on the head.  Oh, and remember that there's darkspawn!  Not Varric's pony--the real things.  We are a beacon of hope for all, Your Worship, and if this proves successful we will remind Thedas as to why we are the growing power we are."  Alaran shifted positions to crossing her arms and looking dubious.  "But Josie," she said in her own voice, "what if I die and this all goes to shit?"  Back to the Antivan posture.  "Oh, it won't.  I assure you.  I hear the Deep Roads are lovely this time of year."  Alaran ended the exaggerated recreation of their conversation.  "It's freaking ridiculous."

A smile played on Solas' lips.  She narrowed her eyes at him.  "What?" she asked.

"I believe that you are throwing such a fit over this due to the fact that you are quite terrified of being underground.  And the Deep Roads..."  Solas' smile widened.  "They are underground."

"Yeah no shit Sherlock," Alaran cursed, then punched his shoulder harmlessly.  "But guess what?"  There was a wicked glint in her eye.  "You're coming with me.  And how we get into the Deep Roads is by descending thousands of feet on a rickety wooden lift with no railing or anything to hold onto.  Except for me, of course."  

Solas' smile vanished.

-

"Harding!" I exclaimed as I threw my arms out wide.  The scout turned to me and gave a wry smile.  

"Inquisitor," she greeted, striding forward to greet us.  "The workers are almost done building a lift to the Deep Roads.  No darkspawn trouble yet, but the earthquakes have been brutal."

"I was told to meet Shaper Valta," I said, and flicked away a drop of rainwater that had hit me right in the eye.

"She's waiting below.  You won't see an Orzammar dwarf on the surface.  They have rules against that."

I raised an eyebrow.  "From that sassy tone, I'd guess Orzammar isn't your favorite place."

"That's just how I speak, Inquisitor," Harding smirked.  She then shrugged.  "I don't have an opinion.  "Cloudgazers" like me aren't allowed in the city."

"Well I'm glad you can gaze at clouds," I said back.  "On our way here, I saw one shaped like a penis.  Quite spectacular."

Sera giggled as Cassandra made a soft disgusted noise.

Harding was about to respond when the dwarves fixing the lift we were to ride whistled and made a motion that it was ready.  I huffed a sigh.  "Let's get this show on the road, shall we?  Heh.  Road.  Like the Deep Roads.  Get it?"

"When you have to ask us if we get, it, Al," Varric said as we walked up to the lift, "usually means that we do, but we don't find it funny."

"Stop being so grumpy," I smirked, and ruffled his hair.  He ducked out from under me and scowled.  "Don't worry, I'm not going to release you back into your natural dwarven habitat."

"When I finish the book about you I'm going to include that you were very racist."

"I love you too, Varric."  We all paused at the edge of the ravine, looking down.  Solas had stayed the furthest back. 

"Ladies first," said Blackwall.  I rolled my eyes, took a deep breath, and stepped over onto the lift.  It swayed, but I knew that as long as I kept my balance even and didn't freak out it would all be okay-ish.  

Cassandra went next, followed by Sera, Varric, and Blackwall.  We all looked at the mage, whose bare feet seemed to be glued to the wet, stony ground.  "Come on," Sera complained, "'S not all that bad.  We 'aven't got all day!"

"I--" Solas began to argue, but thought better of it closed his eyes while drawing in a breath.  "Yes.  You are right.  I am letting my fear get the best of me."  

I took a step forward.  "Hey," I said to my vhenan.  "Look at me.  Just me."  I seriously had told him that I was only joking when I said he had to come with us on the expedition, but Solas insisted like the stubborn ass he was.  I knew this was going to happen, and I even said that to him, but he said something along the lines of, "I am an ancient elvhen, Alaran.  I have fought false gods and created the Veil.  I think I can handle riding a lift."

Apparently not.

I held out my hand.  "You got this, babe."  Solas fixed his eyes on me, took another deep breath, and stepped over the tiny gap between the edge of the walkway on the ravine and onto the lift.  We all cheered as he landed safely.  Solas' arm wrapped itself under my great sword and firmly around my waist to the point that it was a bit uncomfortable.  But I let it slide, if only because I knew I would be doing similar things to him when we reached the Deep Roads themselves.  

"Try not to die, Inquisitor," Harding called.  

"Just for you, Harding," I winked back.  Then, with a lurch that made Solas stiffen in panic and tighten his arm even more, we descended.

About halfway down Varric spoke.  "This reminds me of a story," he said as he looked around at the walls closing in around us.  

"Shocking," I said, the word dripping with sarcasm.  I knew Varric heard it, but he went on.

"It's about an impossibly handsome dwarf and his friend who got crowned King of the Nugs."

That got my attention.  I looked down at him and raised an eyebrow.  "A nug king?  Really?"

"It's...not as good as it sounds.  Nugs mostly just shit on the floor and roll in it."  Varric feigned an amazed and excited face.  "Welcome to the Deep Roads!"

"Stupid darkspawn!"  Sera suddenly yelled suddenly after a few minutes of silence, making most of us jump.  It was mainly because her voice bounced off the stone.  For good effect, she spat a big lugi over the edge of the lift.

"You're more likely to hit rock," Cassandra stated.

"Still their house," Sera said smugly.  "Message sent."

"Always wondered if I'd die down here," Blackwall spoke darkly.

"Well," I frowned.  "That escalated quickly.  And you're not dead yet."

"The day's just starting."

"Which means you have plenty of time to check your attitude before you wreck your attitude," I said lightly.   

The lift hit the ground with a resounding thud, and Solas practically hauled me out from it.  I craned my head up to look at the tiny patch of sky.  Don't panic.  Don't panic.  Not when there's still a little bit of daylight you can see.

"...Korut...Magari...Novric...Your names will not be forgotten," said the female dwarf standing over covered bodies a ways off.  She had a board similar to Josephine's in her hands.  We walked to her.

"You must be Shaper Valta," I said once we neared.  She turned to us and gave a brief bow.

"Atrast Vala, Inquisitor.  The Shaperate welcomes you to the Deep Roads."

Those last two words sent chills down my spine.

-

Want me to share a bit of insight on what it feels like to get head-butted by an ogre?

It freaking sucks.

There.  Insight shared.

-

"I--"  Swing.  "HATE--"  Swing.  "THE--"  Swing.  "DEEP--"  Swing.  "ROADS!"  I roared, though I doubted anybody heard me amidst the chaos fighting darkspawn caused.  Nobody--nobody--should have to know what burning darkspawn innards smelled like.  

Once the charges were set and the tunnel was collapsed and we had finished nursing our wounds, I met up with Valta and the black-headed dwarf who seemed to be in charge.  He was sitting on some stone stairs, sharpening an axe.  "Inquisitor, meet Lieutenant Renn:  a veteran of the Fifth Blight and one of the Legion's finest commanders," Valta introduced.

He snorted.  "Ha!  Someone paid her to say that."  Renn stood and grasped my hand in greeting.  "Appreciate the help, Inquisitor.  Collapsing that seal bought us time.  Blighters had the run of these tunnels for days.  Now they have a roadblock."  

As they talked and answered some of my questions, I found it obvious that the two loved each other.  It was an innocent, deep kind of love that neither of them would most likely express towards one another, but they both knew it.  Even in literal darkspawn pits like these, a light found its way.  "Well," I said with a smirk, "the Legion has the Inquisition's full support."

Renn chuckled.  "Even after you said you hated the Deep Roads?"

I winced, but laughed as well.  "I was hoping nobody heard that.  And no, the whole...underground thing isn't a particular favorite of mine."

"It's completely understandable.  But on behalf of the Legion, I think I can say that that's the best news we've heard since the quakes began.  Actually, the only good news."

A thundering rumble shook the very ground.  Terror gripped my heart, but Solas was beside me at a moment's notice.  "Take cover!" he yelled, shielding us and the others with barriers.  A giant stone dwarven sculpture broke apart and pitched forward.  I clung to Solas' leather vest as it crashed.  Debris went flying and several medium-sized chunks of rock hit the barrier before us.

Once the air cleared we all stood up.  There were no groans or wails of pain.  Everybody seemed fine.  I looked over to Valta and saw a faraway glaze in her eyes, as if she was hearing something.  Then she scrambled up.  "You heard that, yes?  The rhythm in the tremors?  It's clearer.  Stronger.  More insistent."

"I hear it," Renn answered.  "Doesn't prove a thing."

Valta set her jaw at him before turning to me.  "These quakes are not a natural disaster.  They're deliberate.  There's an...intelligence behind them.  

I resisted the urge to toss my hands up in the air.  "How could an earthquake be caused deliberately?  And if so, who in the heck would want to cause them in the first place?"

"We get plenty of natural tremors down here," Renn said.  "These are different."  He jerked his head to Valta.  "She thinks she knows why."

"I found an ancient text during an expedition with Renn last year.  At the same time, it was just a curiosity.  But now..."  She fully met my eyes.  "The text describes giant creatures--called "Titans"--living deep underground.  They "sing" in the Stone, shaping it.  When these quakes began, I believe we heard that rhythm.  I believe a Titan is causing all this destruction."

"Well," I sighed, "if anything is called a Titan, there's good reason.  Let's just hope we don't need Percy Jackson for all of this.  And mysterious songs often lure people to their deaths--or to an Archdemon."

"This rhythm isn't a song, exactly," Valta explained.  "It sounds like...air flowing through lungs."

"Hmm," Renn grunted.  "Air that can collapse a whole mine."

I scratched my eyebrow.  "Oh, man, this one's going to bite me in the ass," I muttered.  "We were sent here to "stop" the earthquakes, but I really had no idea how to do that in the first place.  It's not as if we can just try shutting the ground off and on again to see if that works.  The Titan theory isn't all that much to go on, but it's better than nothing."  My eyes widened as I remembered I had a walking history textbook as a lover.  "Hey, Solas!" I called.  "Come here!"

He walked over to us.  "How can I help?" he asked smoothly.

"Have you ever heard of anything called Titans?"

All the color drained from Solas' face.  "What would the topsider know about Titans?  Not that they exist, of course," Renn said.  

"Varric!  Sera!  Cass!  Blackwall!  Time for a history lesson!  Come join the circle!" I shouted over my shoulder.

"I don't wanna fockin listen to dusty balls tell some stupid story," Sera scowled as she trudged over with the rest of them.  

"Alaran," Solas said lowly and seriously.  He gripped my arm tightly, but I believed it to be in fear.  "We must depart.  Immediately."

His words gave me an ominous feeling.  "What do you know, vhenan."  It wasn't a question.

"So are we going to tell these two about him or no?" Varric asked, gesturing to Renn and Valta.  "Because if not then I suggest you two move somewhere else to whisper."

Solas and I had a silent conversation.

We need to tell them, I said.

No.  I will not have my identity revealed to more than it already has, he said back.

If you refuse to say anything, then lives could be lost.  And you know how I get when lives are lost when they could have been prevented.  

He sighed and dropped his gaze momentarily before bringing it back up to the two dwarves.  "I am of the Ancient Elvhen.  Though you most likely do not know of my People's lore, I have been called Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf.  What you should know, though, is that I have lived long enough to know that these Titans are very, very real."  

There was a long pause.  "You're kidding," Renn eventually said flatly.

At the same time, Valta said in a much more excited tone, "You're kidding!"

"Believe me, we all wish Chuckles kidded more," Varric drawled.  

"How do you know about them?" Valta asked eagerly.  

"We...hunted them," Solas said reluctantly.  Things got awkward real fast.  "They were the Walking Earth itself, magnificent creatures with wells of power deeper than you can possibly fathom.  Inside them was a hive that lived off of its life-blood, the lyrium.  They were mindless creatures that knew not who they were, yet when a Titan was defeated they began to take on some semblance of intelligence."

My eyes flickered over to Renn and Valta as my mind pieced together what Solas was implying.  "The dwarves.  They were the dwarves."

"Yes.  Most did not even know that the Titan had fallen when they began to think for themselves, although there has been a connection to the "Stone," as you call it, ever since."

My mind was already becoming overloaded.  "But if you killed a Titan, it should die and its blood should drain.  The song the Titan sings to its children should be gone.  It shouldn't be..."  My eyes widened as I remembered Bianca's words.  "The lyrium shouldn't be alive."

Solas gave a sad, ancient shadow of a smile.  "Things as immense and as connected to the very fabric of creation itself do not fade so easily.  I never said that we killed them.  We only felled them, weakened them in order to gain access to the lyrium.  They slumber, but they are far from dead.  In fact, it seems that they have grown."

My stomach twisted with my next question.  "Do the earthquakes mean that it's awakening?"

"I am not certain.  Whatever is happening, we must put a stop to it in any way we can.  It took legions of armies to even injure it, and that was with the use of powerful magic.  I fear that the world as it is now will not be able to stand against a Titan if it fully awoke."

"Okay, how do we even know you're this ancient immortal?" Renn asked doubtfully.  "Do you have some way to prove it?"

Solas looked and me and said with his eyes, You see?  They don't even believe me.  They never do.  Let us move on.

I raised an expectant eyebrow.  Well what did you expect, for them to just fall to their knees and worship you?  You're not a god.  You don't require faith in your abilities.  Just show them your wolfiness.

He sighed.  Fine.

In one fluid motion Solas transformed from his elven form to the giant black wolf.  Since he gave no warning, Sera and Blackwall didn't know to move out of the way.  They were promptly barreled over.  "Hey, watch where you're pointing your furry ass," Blackwall growled as Sera cursed at him.

I think the six red eyes made them believe Solas was actually who he said he was.  But maybe that was just me.

"Holy shit," Renn gaped.  He then gave a short laugh.  "Why couldn't you use that when we were fighting darkspawn?"

Solas easily slid back into his regular form.  "Because darkspawn blood is poisonous.  I would not like to experience the consequences of ingesting such."

"So you saw what they were like," Valta whispered.  "Amazing."

"Yeah, yeah, it's amazing, fantastic, awe-inspiring," Varric interrupted.  "But can we focus on the fact that if we don't stop these quakes soon half of Thedas will come crumbling down?"

"And something else may arise from the rubble," Solas added seriously.  

That got us moving.

-

My chest was tight as we descended further into the earth.  I mean, I had already been downright terrified of coming here in the first place.  Now that I knew there was something ancient and powerful deliberately causing the earthquakes and could bring down miles of rock on top of us at any moment, I was staving off a panic attack.  I hadn't had one in forever; not even with my Inquisitor duties.  

"Hum a song, vhenan," Solas whispered softly in my ear.  "That always seems to help."

Immediately I began humming Holding Out for a Hero.  

"What is she--" Renn began, but Valta elbowed for him to stay silent.  I tapped my foot to the beat.  If I hadn't been so scared shitless, I would have started dancing to the music in my head.  We were plunged into total darkness.  Solas lit a small light on the top of his staff.  I felt the walls closing in around me.  I couldn't breathe.  I couldn't freaking breathe.  I forgot how the tune went, so I hastily moved to other things I knew.  Quotes.  Facts.  Anything that kept me from going insane.

"Space.  The final frontier.  These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  It's continuing mission:  to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life, and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no one has gone, before.  Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.  Life before death.  Strength before weakness.  Journey before destination.  Did someone say "chimichanga?"  Never mind.  That was just the sound of my skull and brains healing.  Banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories an hour.  Human saliva has a boiling point three times greater than that of regular water.  Remember, the Aperture Science Bring Your Daughter to Work Day is the perfect time to have her tested.  I came here to drink milk and kick ass--and I've just finished my milk. A small child could swim through the veins of a blue whale.  Bananas are a good source of potassium.  I'm not crazy my mother had me tested.  I'm not a psychopath, Anderson.  I'm a high-functioning sociopath.  Do your research.  Un, deux, trois, quatre, sanc, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix.  Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond.   Why spiders? Why couldn't it be "follow the butterflies"?  Mordor. The one place in Middle-Earth we don’t want to see any closer. And it’s the one place we’re trying to get to. It’s just where we can’t get. Let’s face it, Mr. Frodo, we’re lost.  Leslie, I typed your symptoms into the thing up here, and it says you have network connectivity problems.  Dear Varric, please learn to parry. Your innards.   I am Garrus Vakarian and this is now my favourite spot on the Citadel.  I ate my twin in the womb--"

The lift hit the ground.  I jumped off and walked out into the darkness, trying to regain some semblance of composure.  My blood roared so loudly in my ears I almost didn't hear the skittering.  I paused, trying to hear.  "Who's there?" I called, which, in retrospect, was probably one of the stupidest things I had ever said.  I couldn't see into the darkness and Solas' light was too far away, so I hurried and grabbed my great sword and brought it in front of me just as a bolt of lyrium shot straight at my chest.  It ricocheted off the metal and pinged into the darkness.  

That definitely brought me back to reality.  

-

"Did you quote me when you were having your mental breakdown?" Varric asked as we traveled through the tunnels looking for gears.  "I haven't said stuff like that since my days with Hawke--oh.  Right.  That's really creepy, you know?"

"Yeah, yeah," I said absently as I picked up a dusty old book.  I flipped it to a random page.  My eyebrows furrowed to the point they almost connected.  "The Nug King?  What the poop?"  I quickly read through it.  "Holy freak you guys.  Listen to this."  I cleared my throat and began to recite the poem.

"All praise the Nug King.
Sate his appetite with cheese.
Older is better."

"You are afraid of nugs," Cassandra pointed out when she saw the look I got.  "I do not think whatever you are planning on doing is a good idea."

"That could be the title of my autobiography," I smirked.  "Hey, Renn, you got any old cheese on hand by chance?"

We got a little side-tracked, so what?

-

I leaned down to examine the waystone.  "Only those who believe may cross," I read aloud.  "Subtle."  I stood back up and looked over the pit below.

"Alaran."  Solas' voice was warning.  "Don't--"

I leaned off the edge and into the dark.  My feet hit solid stone that appeared before me.  I gave a laugh as the others breathed sighs of relief.  "Hoo boy, I'm glad that worked.  Think of how messy the alternative would have been."

"If I die down here," Blackwall said as he and the others followed, "it will be because you gave me a bloody heart attack."

I rolled my eyes as I walked down the glowing lyrium tunnel.  I tried not to think too hard that this was probably apart of the Titan's body.  And I tried to think even less that I was still miles below ground.  

I still had to hold back a shriek as I ran right into a swarming mass of squeaking nugs.  A few even crawled over my feet with their little...hand-feet.  "Well that's not something you see every day," Varric commented as we walked into the cavern all the nugs were gathering into.  

"There's the altar," I said, taking out the small wheel of cheese Renn had pulled out from almost nowhere.  I didn't want to ask him where he stored it.  The others stood back as I placed the definitely stinky dairy product onto its proper placement.

All the freaking nugs started staring at me with their black, beady eyes, chirping among themselves.  I started to get unnerved.  It was as if they were sentient.  

A shadow of a giant nug loomed from behind the altar, making a few deep, snuffing noises.  I placed a hand over my shoulder to grip the hilt of my great sword.  If this was going to be a boss battle with a nug, then I was--

It hopped out into the open with a squeak, looking as disgusting and normal as ever.  Except for the fact that it wore a tiny metal crown on its hairless head.  

"Well, shit," was all Varric could think to say.  I shook my head at the absurdness of it all, but knelt before the Nug King as it took its rightful place on top of the altar--which, now that I thought better of it, was actually a throne.  Huh.  

The nug squeaked judgmentally to me.  I raised an eyebrow.  "Are...are you putting me on trial?"

An affirmative squeak, this time.  Then a differential one.  After that it stood on its hind legs and spoke regally.  "I'm feeling very...judged," I said, utterly bewildered.  Well.  I had sought after the Nug King in the first place.  I had just thought...I don't know.  I really don't.

-

"Um, Solas?" I asked airily as we all gaped at the stunning underground landscape.  "Has this been in a Titan's body all along?"

"More or less," he said as he strode up to me.  There was a slightly fearful look on his face.  "Though never as big."  In a barely audible whisper Solas said partially to me and partially to himself, "What have we done?"

I could only give his hand a squeeze for comfort.  "There!"  Valta pointed down to a stone walkway with something glowing a crystal blue in the center.  "That's the source of the rhythm."

"And I'm guessing that's also its heart or something like that," Renn said as he stood beside her.  

"Yes," Solas confirmed.  "We have made it to the center."

The Sha-Brytol were there to greet us with a warm welcome throughout our journey to the heart.  I felt a lot less terrified of being underground, though.  Everything seemed to be an exact replica of the outside world, with daylight and all.  No wonder Valta and Renn looked so amazed.  They had literally never seen anything like it.  

"Magnificent," Solas spoke as we finally made it to the heart.  "Whenever my people successfully harvested this, we would celebrate for years."

"Then why has it grown back?" I asked.

"What do all things made of the earth do?" Solas asked in return.  "They begin anew.  This should have been expected.  Nevertheless..."  He trailed off, becoming lost in his own thoughts.  

The heart rumbled, suddenly, and I distantly heard a song, a beating, beautiful song.  Then it was gone.  Two bolts of lyrium shot out at Valta and Renn, knocking them off their feet and reeling them into unconsciousness.  Stone walls cut us off from them and trapped us inside.  I pulled my great sword out, the heat of the flames warming my cold cheeks and hands.  

The boss fight.

Rocks tumbled and rolled as the heart broke off crystalline strands of lyrium that held it aloft.  They all drew together into a giant, humanoid form connected by blue veins that the heart had sent out to twine it all together.  

Now, I've fought dragons and darkspawn and templars and bears and demons and bandits and corpses and crazed Orlesian women in harlequin suits, but never have I ever fought solid rock.  

This probably wasn't going to be fun.

-

"Do you think Renn and Valta will be alright?" Cassandra asked as we made our way back to the surface.  "Maker preserve them, but whatever happened when the lyrium struck their bodies..."

"They will be fine," Solas said, but from the concerned look on his face I could tell that he didn't believe his words very much.  

"Nothing good ever happens in the Deep Roads," Varric said.  "This won't be very different."  

I looked up at Solas.  There's more you're not revealing.  When will the time come that you can trust me?

I will tell you, I promise.  But not here.  They do not know what I have started.  He stared sadly at the ground.  Not even I had considered that the consequences of my actions could have reached this far.

I should teach you about the Ripple Effect, sometime, I said with a sarcastic, knowing look.  Solas scoffed, but his grip on my hand didn't loosen.  

"I can't wait to get back out in the fockin air," Sera said.  "This place smells like dank and lizards."

"Lizards?"  Cassandra repeated.  "Why on earth would you know what lizards smell like?"

"'Cause they're friggin awesome," Sera responded.  

"But...oh, never mind."

"Hey Blackwall," I said, "you didn't die, did you?"

"The day is still young," he said back, a wry smile under his beard.  I punched him lightly on the shoulder.  "Ow!  My lady, you don't know your own strength."

"Whatever, pansy," I chuckled.  We reached the lift and got on without question.  As soon as the clanking started I started falling asleep.  Solas' arm was around my waist, so I leaned my head against him and shut my eyes.  

"...Wake up, ma vhenan.  We have reached the surface."

I made a noise.  "No.  You're carrying me."

"After we step off the lift, I will."

I rubbed my bleary eyes and stepped off.  "Oh, man," I groaned as I stretched.  "Can we not go to the Deep Roads ever again?"

"You're the Inquisitor, Al," said Varric as he yawned.  "We just follow you."

"I'm going to push you off the edge, Tethras."  I breathed in the cool night air that was heavy with the smell of petrichor.  I longed to see the starry sky, but the thing about being up on the Storm Coast was that there was never a day that wasn't overcast.  But it was okay.  

I spread my arms out wide and trotted down the path.  "I freaking love the Storm Coast!" I yelled into the dark.  "I!  Love!  The!  Storm!  Coast!"

"You're going to attract bears, Inquisitor," Cassandra said, but she spoke with a small smile.

"You'll just punch them in the face, Cassie," I laughed.  "So we have nothing to..."

I slowed to a stop.

No.

This wasn't happening.

This.

Wasn't.

Happening.

The door to the police telephone box that was sitting in the middle of the muddy path swung open.  Acrid smoke billowed out.  A man coughed loudly and waved his hand in the air as he poked his head through.  He looked around at his surroundings with a wondrous gaze before his eyes settled on me.  "Ah!  Hello!"

"Get out of the way, Raggedy Man!" an angry Scottish voice said, and the man was pushed out into the open by a coughing, red-headed woman who held the hand of another lanky man.  They wore modern Earth clothes, except for the Raggedy Man.  He had on a tweed jacket with suspenders and a bow tie.  

The Scottish woman looked around.  "Aaaand we're not in the Bahamas, I see.  Well.  I'm glad I didn't put on my swimsuit."  She paused.  "Where are we, exactly?"

"I don't know," said the Raggedy Man.  "Let me ask."  He walked up to me with a bright, dopey grin.  "Excuse me, but could you tell us where we are?"

"At least introduce yourself," the other man sighed.  "You look like you've frightened her half to death."

"Right.  Hello again!"  He gave a knowing wink.  His next sentence made my heart stop.

"I'm the Doctor."

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"...Hello?"

The Doctor waved a hand over my face.  "Hello?  Are you okay?  Can you tell us where you are?"  He cupped his hands around his mouth.  "Can!  You!  Tell!  Us!  Where!  We!  Are?"

When I was incapable of answering, The Doctor looked over my shoulder to my companions behind me.  "Can you tell us where we are?  We--"

I heard the sound of a sword unsheathing.  Oh, poop.  Cass can't kill the Doctor.

I willed my body to turn around.  The Doctor was holding his hands up high as the Seeker had her weapon pointed at him.  "Who are you?"  She demanded.  

"Nobody ever listens to me," he muttered sulkily.  "I'm The Doctor hello yes pleased to meet you what's wrong with your friend?  Never mind that I need you to tell us where we are."

"Thedas."

I spoke the word before I even comprehended that I had.  The Doctor spun back around to me, beaming.

"Thedas!  I love Thedas!  What a spectacular place to be!"  He pulled out his psychic paper and waved it in front of my face.  "I'm here for whatever that says, yes."

I blinked slowly, then met eyes with the man who kept me from the brink of utter despair.  From curled up under my blankets trying to forget the mother and father I had, to sitting in the hospital with needles poked into me, he and his two companions had been there.  They had all been there.  

"It's blank," I stated dumbly.

The Doctor jutted out his jaw like I had so often seen him do.  "Oh no, you're too smart for you're own good.  Now I'll have to come up with something else."

"Inquisitor," Cassandra said cautiously, "this man may pose a threat."

Amy snorted.  "I wish."

The Doctor shushed her.  "No, I don't pose a threat or at least I don't believe so.  You see, our...thing--"  he gestured to the TARDIS.  "Has, er, lost a wheel.  It's--"

"I know who you are," I said hollowly.  My brain was mush.  It was mush and it would probably never go back to functioning properly.  "You're The Doctor."

His brows rose dubiously, and he looked at me like I was stupid.  I remembered to breathe.  "You're...you're a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey.  You're the Oncoming Storm, the Time Traveler, the...the...you're not supposed to be real."

After landing in a video game and meeting the Dovahkiin, I still had a hard time believing that the Time Lord in a bow tie was standing before me.  "Oh, fock this, is he from another one of your creepy games?" Sera shouted.

"Games?  What games?"  The Doctor asked.  Now he was looking at me like I was standing in the middle of a spotlight.  "How do you know me I don't know you."

"You are a Time Traveler," Rory pointed out idly.

"No, no."  The Doctor squinted his eyes at me.  Then he leaned in close and sniffed.  I stood there numbly.  "You smell weird."

"Hey, mate," Sera interjected, "fock off.  We just got back from fockin being underground for two days."

The Doctor ignored her.  His eyes darted over my face.  "You're not supposed to be here, but you got all smooshed into this world's timeline like one of those goo cups that make the farting noises.  Now you're here and the fabric of reality draws to you.  You're a magnet, a magnet that yanked the TARDIS all the way from another dimension and I'm guessing much, much more.  That will never stop.  So I suppose the accurate question is:  who are you?"

Who was I?  Who was I?  

"I'm...Alaran," I said.  Okay.  My brain was starting to work, again.

"No no no, I mean who are you?"

I paused briefly before I gave my answer.  "An Otherworlder."

His lips twitched upward in a brief, bright smile.  "That's more like it."  He straightened up from leaning down to meet me in the eyes.  "But you still smell funny."

"I'm sure all of us smell funny," Blackwall grunted.  "And I don't believe you know who you're talking to."

"It's okay, Blackwall," I said, regaining a bit of volume to my voice.  "He's...just strange, that's all."  I awkwardly scratched the back of my head.  I wasn't really doing a good job at making The Doctor's entrance grand or anything.  I should have figured.  "Um...I have your sonic screwdriver."

The way The Doctor's face lit up made my spirits soar.  "Really?  Where?  Can I have it back?  Preferably now?"  There were no questions as to how I knew him or who he was.  I guessed he was used to it.  

"No," I answered.  His face fell comically.  I had to bite back an oncoming grin.  Ah.  There was the fangirl stirring inside me.  "We're about three days away from Skyhold.  It's in my room there.  You can take your TARDIS..."  I looked over my shoulder at the time machine, which was still billowing smoke.  "Or not."

 "Wait a second," Rory said slowly.  He peered at my friends.  "You all look..."  Then his eyes widened and his jaw dropped.  "No way."

"Rory Williams," I said with a weak laugh, gesturing to the Inquisition members.  "Meet Blackwall, Cassandra, Sera, Varric, and Solas.  Somehow the TARDIS threw you guys into the third installment of the Dragon Age games."

"Dragon Age?" Amy questioned and making a face at her husband.  "That nerdy game you play?  The one with the magic and the elves and the..."  Her eyes moved over to my ears.  I gave a small smile and twitched my pointed appendages.  

"We nerds like it, give us a break," I said as I tilted my head back.  "But it's pretty funny to think that even in another dimension you have Dragon Age."

Rory pieced it all together pretty fast.  Then he slapped his hands to his cheeks and gasped loudly.  "You're the Inquisitor!  Skyhold!  Corypheus!  The--the Orb--"  His eyes darted over to Solas and stuck.  

"Oh, yeah, we all know," I put in.  "I kind of changed the course of the game, I think.  You see, I was actually sent here from Earth--not yours, a different one, I'm pretty sure--by this lady called Hallah Lynne--"

The Doctor spun me back around to him.  There was a dangerous, dark look on his face.  "Hallah Lynne?  Hallah Lynne sent you?"

"Hallah!" Amy said fondly.  "I miss Hallah.  I haven't seen her in forever!"

The Doctor glared at her.  "There's a reason we haven't seen her in forever.  She disrupts the fabric of reality, reweaves the threads, pretending like she knows how to knit and sew but really has no idea."

"Kind of like you?" Amy shot back, cocking a hip.  The Doctor sneered.  

"That's entirely beside the point.  I'm not immortal--"

"Yes you are--"

"don't stick my nose into places it shouldn't be--"

"Yes you do--"

"And I don't dress preposterously."

Amy threw her head back and laughed at the false statement.  Even I had to chuckle.  

The Doctor sniffed and straightened his bow tie.  I shouldn't fangirl.  I really shouldn't.  I was the Inquisitor.  Inquisitors shouldn't fangirl.  

My mind became normal once more.  Well, normal to me, anyways.

The natural reaction then kicked in.

I covered my eyes with my hands and screamed a laugh.  "AAAAHHHH I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING!  THE MOTHER FREAKING DOCTOR IS HERE!  HOLY CRAP ON A CORNFLAKE I'M LOOKING AT THE DOCTOR!  THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING!"  I lunged forward and gripped his tweed jacket in my hands, feeling the roughness of it between my fingers.  "The Doctor is in Thedas.  The Doctor is in Thedas.  Do you realize how many fanfics could be written about this moment alone?  Wait.  Wait!"  I let go and turned my head wildly in the air.  "Are people watching this?  Is this another episode?!  Helllloooooooo viewers!"  I fixed my view on a certain point of air.  "Can anybody see me?"

"Episode?"  Amy crossed her arms.  "What are you talking about, crazy pants?"

I didn't really hear her.  "No, they probably can't," I frowned.  "Copyright stuff and all that.  I doubt Bioware would ever make a deal with BBC."

"Oi, Quizzy, let's get outta here," Sera hollered.  "We can't stand here all night with your leggy friend."

"Leggy friend?"  I looked over at the Doctor, then down to his legs.  A throaty giggle escaped from my throat.  

"Oi, I'm talking to you," Amy said to me, her Scottish brogue thickening.  "What did you  mean by episode?"

My euphoria faded.

"On my Earth, you're a television show," I explained, absently tugging my braid.  "Well, the Doctor is a TV show.  He always has been.  All the way from the first, and most likely all the way up to his final moments."  I shifted my gaze over to the Doctor, who looked to be a combination of shocked and overjoyed.  Then he ran his fingers through his brown hair and poorly attempted to give a smoldering grin.  

"I told you I could make it as a celebrity, Pond."

Not it was my turn to look shocked and overjoyed.  "Wait.  You're not at all upset over the fact that in my dimension your whole life and times have been displayed for the whole world to see?  Literally the whole world.  You have a huge fanbase."

"Upset?  Why would I be upset?  This is fantastic!"   The Doctor rocked back and forth on his heels, broadly grinning.  "Now--"

The TARDIS began to make its vworp vworp sounds and started fading in and out of time and space.  The Doctor's grin fell and he ran to it, waving his arms and screaming, "No!  Don't go, old girl!  Wait!"

She didn't.

"Great," Amy groaned.  "Just great.  Now we're really stuck in this imaginary place."

"Hey, Tomato Brain," Sera scowled.  "Why don't you come up to my fockin face and call me imaginary."

I stared at the empty space where the TARDIS had been only moments before.  "Welp.  Looks like you're all coming back to Skyhold with us."

-

"One sonic screwdriver, coming up," I stated proudly, and held the device in front of the Doctor.  He gasped in delight and happily snatched it away out of my hands, tossing it up in the air and letting it twirl before catching it and tucking it back inside his jacket.  "If I may ask," I drawled, "how did it end up in Thedas?"

"He threw it into a miniature worm hole to show us that it would come back to him," Amy said plainly.  "But it didn't."

"Yes, the Universe is fickle that way," The Doctor said.  "Your pull is so strong that anything that gets sucked into a worm hole ends up here, all spaced out time wise.  But thank you very much for this."  He patted the spot where his sonic screwdriver was at.  "Now the question to ask is:  how are we going to get back to our own dimension?"

"Why don't you just ask Hallah?" I said before I thought better of it.  The Doctor scowled.  

"I am not asking Hallah."

"Oh, and why not?" Rory groaned.  "Are you still mad at her for giving you--"

The Doctor shushed him loudly.  "No I most certainly am not!"

I raised a suggestive eyebrow.  "What did she do to you?"

"It doesn't matter," The Doctor huffed.  "I still have no intention to call on that...that woman."  He spat the word as if it was a vile insult.  "I can find a way to get us out of here."

I sat on the top of my desk and let my heels rhythmically beat against the wood.  "You know, whenever the TARDIS leaves, it usually means that you're going to have to offer your assistance in some way or another.  At least, that's what it always meant in the show."  I hesitated briefly before continuing.  "Um, about that...what's the most recent thing that's happened to you guys?"

"A lot of things happen," Amy said as she took a spot on the couch and lounged.  "You'll have to be a bit more specific."

"Does the word Pandorica mean anything to you?"

All three of them turned their gazes sharply at me.  I held my hands up.  "Whoa there, no need to kill me with your glares.  I'm guessing all that good stuff has happened, then?  Rory waited two thousand years for Amy?  Yeah?  Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?"

"Might I just say that I'm beginning to like the idea of us being a television show less and less," Rory commented as he went to go sit down by Amy.  "At first it was cool and all, but now..."

"It's just creepy?"  I finished.  "I can only imagine."  A huge yawn stretched my jaw muscles.  It set off a chain reaction.  "Oh, man.  Well, I'm really tired.  Kind of just figured out that there are enormous giant earth Titans sleeping all over Thedas.  It takes a lot out of a person."

"You just did The Descent DLC?" Rory asked eagerly, sitting forward.

"It was a DLC?" I asked back.  "Huh.  I guess that makes sense.  Yeah, I did."

"What happened?  Did you--"

Amy groaned loudly and hauled her husband up.  "Let's go to bed, Rory.  You too, Raggedy Man."

-

I narrowed my eyes at the report.  "I thought the same, believe me," Leliana said when she saw the look on my face.  "In all my years...I have never heard of anything like it."

"Well," I sighed as I set the report back down on her desk.  "I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.  It makes sense, now, with The Doctor being here and all.  He'll be able to help us, at least."

She raised an eyebrow.  "I find it difficult to believe that this "Doctor" has saved nations and planets.  He is but a man, and one who does not look as if he has the slightest idea to wield any sort of weapon."

I tapped the side of my bare skull.  "He doesn't need to when he has his mind."

Leliana pursed her lips in thought.  "I suppose you are right.  But these reports, Inquisitor..."  Her expression darkened.  "Be careful."

I smirked nonchalantly.  "Leliana, I've already faced down aliens.  If they really are some, then believe me, I've got this.  Especially with The Doctor here.  Oh, and by the way, have your people seen any big blue boxes?"

"No, they have not.  We will continue our search, though."  

I stood up, and Leliana followed.  "Thanks, Lel.  I appreciate it."

The corner of her lip turned upward at the statement.  "I am just doing my job, Inquisitor."

"Still," I smiled.  "We'll head out today.  Could you tell Josephine that she'll have to cover for me with the nobles that are visiting?"

"Is that the real reason why you're leaving so soon?"

"Maybe, maybe not."  I stepped onto the wooden railing.  "You'll never know."

"I know everything," Leliana giggled lightly.  I made a face at her, then stepped off.

Rory was just wandering into the rotunda when I landed with a crouch on the floor.  He beamed and pointed a finger.  "Ah!  So it does really happen!"

-

The Emerald Graves, it seemed, was the number one vacation spot any extraterrestrial beings liked to come to chill out and eradicate any living thing that crossed their paths.  "What a lovely place," The Doctor sighed happily as he looked out the carriage window.  "I am simply--"

A flaming arrow crashed through the opposite window and nearly took off his nose.  Amy shrieked in surprise.  It suck on the floor, quickly igniting the wood.  "Solas, put that out!" I commanded as I leaped through the door.  Another arrow, this one not flaming, thankfully, grazed my arm, taking a bit of skin with it.  I ignored it.  Blackwall, Dorian, Varric, and Vivienne poured out of the carriage behind.  "Bandits!" I called.  

Bandits, indeed.  They were most likely what was left over from the Freemen of the Dales organization.  We had eradicated their head leaders months ago, but there were bound to be remnants.  I gave a fierce war cry and charged, brandishing my flaming great sword.  The fight itself was short and lasted only about two minutes.  With three mages on our side, we soon found ourselves looking at ten corpses of sad men who had nowhere else to run.

"What did you do."

I turned and saw The Doctor looking at the bodies with angry despair.  Amy and Rory stood a ways off, his arms wrapped around her protectively.  "It was either us or them," I sighed.  Was that really the mentality I had, now?  

"No, it was either being brutish and stupid or fair and smart," The Doctor snapped.  I blinked, composing and channeling the emotions that sprung up.  

"Doctor, they almost killed you.  And they would have killed all of us, too, if we hadn't stopped them.  But don't think for one second that I wished it was this way."  I sheathed my great sword and sighed heavily.  "Desperation makes or breaks men.  And it broke them."

"Shall we bury them, my lady?" Blackwall asked quietly.  I gave a single nod.  

"The shovels are in the trunk of the carriage, Doctor," I said as I walked past.  "You can help, if you want.  I've always figured that a proper burial for all those that I've killed is the least I can do."

He stood there silently for a few moments before following us.

"Alaran," Solas sighed as we dug.  "You need to tell me when you've been hurt."

I looked down at the open wound on my upper arm.  "Oh.  I honestly forgot about it.  Sorry, vhenan."

Solas placed a hand over it and I felt the cooling sensation wash over the injured area.  I thanked him, and, upon looking at his expression, I said, "What's on your mind?"

He chewed on his words before slowly speaking them.  "The Doctor...he has seen much, hasn't he?"

I focused my attention back on the hole I was digging.  "Yes.  At least you were able to escape the sight of watching your entire world burn.  He wasn't so lucky."  I straightened my back, deeming the grave good enough to pile a couple bodies in.  I wiped my brow before continuing, my gaze latched on The Doctor.  He was a little ways away, chatting with Dorian, who was most likely assaulting him with time travelling questions.  "But there is hope for him, yet.  And it kills me that I can't tell him."

"And the other two?  They are mortal."  We shifted our attention to Amy and Rory, who were preparing the dead men to be buried.  "What do they do?"

"They keep The Doctor from despairing," I answered simply.  "They are his friends.  We all need them, if we want to get by in this life happy."  I looked up to Solas, who had his brow furrowed in thought.  "Come on.  Let's get these guys taken care of."

-

"This place looks deserted," Varric commented as we entered the chateau.  It was the same freaking chateau as last time.  Freaking hell.  If I had known that earlier, I wouldn't have come in the first place.  I honestly would have burned the report.

"This was where the aliens that captured us," I said.  I did not want to go into that place again.  Nothing good awaited.  

"What species were they?" The Doctor asked as he pointed his sonic screwdriver at the looming mansion.  

"Oh, what did Hallah call them?  The Sacardi?  Yeah, pretty sure that's what she said they were."

"Then you are very, very lucky she came to rescue you," he muttered.  "Otherwise you wouldn't have gotten out yourselves."

"They're not in there, again, are they?" I questioned warily.

"No, no.  Well.  I'm almost certain they're not," The Doctor answered as he examined the results his sonic screwdriver produced.  "But what I can be positive about is the fact that this place sits on a tear in reality, just one of many that were most likely caused by you being thrown in here.  It's similar to the one we were dragged in through."  He tucked the Time Lord device back into his pocket and turned to me, grinning.  "Shall we?"

"This place gives me the willies," Amy said lowly as we walked through the front garden.  The flowers were wilted and bare from months of not being taken care of.  

"The aliens here before us slaughtered every member of the house," I started to say.  I shouldn't creep myself out even more, but I was unable to stop my mouth from moving.  "There were oh, about a hundred people?  Servants and all.  The Sacardi trapped them in their minds and made them relive their worst memory or fear until their bodies literally shut down.  They would then gorge themselves on the emotions produced.  So yes.  I can imagine why it would give you the creeps.  Evil still lingers here, and I doubt it will ever entirely fade."

"Thank you for that lovely thought," was Amy's sarcastic reply.  

"You're most welcome."  We stopped at the front doors.  I looked back at Solas and Vivienne.  "We'll be okay," I promised them.  They gave me brief nods in response.  I then looked down at the ornate, bronze handles.  "We'll be okay," I whispered.  "We'll be okay."

I opened the doors.

-

So guess what?

We actually weren't okay.

Solas, Vivienne, and Dorian each cast light from their staves immediately upon entering.  "Al," Varric said quietly as we walked.  "What did the report say that made us come here?"

"Fairbanks sent some men to claim a chateau," I said back just as quietly.  "About a dozen or so.  Only one returned.  He said that there were statues that grabbed all of the men..."  

I stopped dead.  You stupid, stupid girl.  You just think you're so smart, don't you?  You thought you were so smart that a vital piece of information seemed unimportant to you.

The Doctor and I shared one terrified look.  "Run," he whispered.

We all began to book it back to the door.  "What's this all about?" Dorian asked me, the light on his stave casting warped shadows as it flew back and forth with the motion of his arm.

His question was answered when we saw that two stone angels that hadn't been there before blocked the entrance.  

My heart threatened to beat right out of my chest and I was nearly consumed with maddening fear.  "No, not them," I pleaded.

"Nobody blink," The Doctor growled.

"Andraste's tits, what are those?" Varric asked, fear tingeing his voice.  

"Alaran?" The Doctor spoke lightly as we all began to slowly back up.  "Care to explain?"

"They're Weeping Angels," I answered breathlessly.  A cold sweat had broken out on the back of my neck.  "And they're probably one of the scariest things in this Universe besides The Silence.  They don't exist when we look at them, but the moment we turn our gaze away or even blink, they move."

"Just blast them with magic," said Blackwall, his sword raised in defense.

"They'll only absorb it," The Doctor said.  "It'll make them more powerful and we don't want that now do we?"

"And how would you know?" Vivienne shot back.  "You haven't the slightest idea of what our magic can do--"

"No, but I have a very good idea of what the Weeping Angels can do," The Doctor cut off, pointing his glowing sonic screwdriver at them.  So he really did do that a lot.  "Your so-called magic is harnessed energy.  They were most likely drawn in here by their own free will because they sensed how much of it this world has.  Were it not for whatever barrier I can feel woven through the very air itself that shields even more of the ancient energy, the Angels would have multiplied and be spread across Thedas by now."

Solas and I dared to glance at each other.  "How many more are there?" I asked.  

"No idea," The Doctor said back lightly.  "So I suggest we find a way out of here, yes?"

"Dare I ask, but how do they kill us, exactly?  Because from the way you four are reacting, I'm guessing it's not good," Dorian said, still finding a way to be sarcastic.  

"Oh, they'll send you back in time," I said.  I had now taken out my great sword so the flames could offer even more light and give me some notion of being protected.  I wondered if I could hack off one of the Weeping Angel's arms.  "So it's actually really nice.  You die of old age."

"Well," Blackwall huffed sardonically.  "That's not so bad."

"No, not at all.  You could get sent back in the middle of a Blight or during the Exalted March or in the middle of a Qunari attack on the Tevinter Imperium.  Maybe you'll get lucky and get sent back into Ancient Arlathan.  Solas could help you out then, at least.  Unless it's you, Solas, that gets sent back.  Except I don't really want to see what that would alter.  Let's face it; going back in time here in Thedas is something none of us want to experience."

"Point taken," Blackwall said.  

"We have to get out into daylight," The Doctor commanded.  "There we at least have a shot of getting out of here."

"There's a door to the courtyard, nearby," I said.  "I know there is.  I'm going to turn around.  Mages, keep the lights up.  I'm betting they're moving the darkness as we speak.  We're going to have to be smart about this if we're to make it out of here."

"They'll want you, Solas, Dorian, Vivienne," The Doctor said as I began guiding us towards the thin sliver of sunlight I saw in the distance.  "It's--"

The three that he had just addressed all cried out in varying degrees of surprise and pain as their lights flickered.  Panic rose in the back of my throat and I raised my sword out more and higher to extend the dim light it gave off.  "Solas?" I said frantically, trying to look at him to make sure he was okay while keeping my eyes on the swallowing darkness.  "Solas, what happened?"

He burned more light into his stave, but there was a sweat on his brow and he was pale.  The other two didn't look much better.  "They're sucking our mana," Solas growled.  "Fenedhis."

"It's like templar distilling," Dorian explained further.  His hands trembled.  "But much more unpleasant. I can actually feel them eating my reserves.  So I suggest we try to make it to that door even more quickly before we're plunged into darkness?"

"Oh, well isn't that just great," Amy groaned.  "I'm blaming this one on you, Doctor.  Our trip to the Bahamas is going to be an entire week, now.  No exceptions."

"How is Earth?" I said as we broke into a jog while keeping our circular formation as best we could.  "I mean, I haven't been back to it in two years.  Any new shows out?"

"Orange is the New Black was spectacular this latest season," Amy responded.  

"Oh yeah?  What happened?"  I heard the terror in my voice.  Not because I was afraid of what had happened on Orange is the New Black.  Because, you know, there were Weeping Angels chasing us.  

"So Piper--"

The white lights extinguished completely for a second and something snagged my braided hair.  I shrieked and stumbled as my feet were nearly swept out from under me.  Solas snarled and slammed his stave into the ground, producing an enormous amount of light.  I started hyperventilating at the sight of an angel gripping my white locks in one of its hands.  And I nearly pissed myself when we all saw the view Solas' light temporarily provided.  

Weeping Angels poured down the staircase and swarmed around us in one giant horde, their serene faces twisted from their unhinged jaws and pointed teeth.  One was nearly touching Vivienne, and another had a fist raised to break Blackwall's shield.  

"Solas," I panted.  "Solas you have to keep the light up.  Otherwise we'll all be gone."

"I'll try," he said through gritted teeth.  "My well of magic is deeper than Dorian's and Vivienne's, but it will be gone soon if we don't move."

I yanked my spare dagger free and handed it to Amy.  "Cut," I instructed her.  She didn't even hesitate in chopping off a good portion of my hair.  The dismembered braid hung limply in the angel's grasp.

"Oh," The Doctor said suddenly as we began weaving our way slowly through the frozen statues.  "I forgot to tell you, Alaran, that they really want you.  The power you hold, the one that makes you smell quite funny, could feed them for eons."

"How could you forget to mention that?" I seethed as a new wave of panic roiled in my stomach and made my knees weak.  

"I was about to, but then I got distracted."

"By what?"

"Well my bow tie was crooked."

Let it be said that I, Alaran Lavellan, strongly considered killing one of my greatest heroes.

"We're almost there," Varric called out excitedly.  I turned to look at the single, open doorway that was now flooding in light--

"AH!  SHIT!" I screamed as indestructible stone hands grabbed the scarf I was wearing.  Blackwall swooped in and tore it away.  We were moving even faster now.  Solas' light was ebbing further and further inward, and he grunted in effort to even keep it alight. 

Amy and Rory were the nearest to the door, so they jumped through first.  Following them was Varric, Blackwall, The Doctor, Vivienne, Dorian, me, and then Solas.  I caught him in my arms as he stumbled and fell, his energy exhausted.  We sank to the ground together.

The Doctor cheered and held two thumbs up into the air.  He spun around to us, beaming.  "That was spectacular!  Bravo, Solas, bravo!"

"Thank you," Solas said weakly.  He clung to me.  "Vhenan," he whispered in my ear.  His voice was shaky and coarse.  "I...I heard their thoughts.  They told me things about The Doctor, about myself, about...about you."  

I leaned back to fully look at Solas.  He was a ghostly white and his eyes swam with confusion and fear.  "You heard them?" I whispered back incredulously.  "But you're not supposed to hear them.  That's--"

"Impossible?" The Doctor finished.  I jerked away when I realized that he was crouching right next to us.  "Not entirely.  With how much power you hold compared to all of theirs, it would be highly likely that something crossed between you two."  He looked at us solemnly.  "But if you heard what they thought, then I would figure that they heard yours, too.  I dearly hope you don't have any secrets too severe."

"I'm immortal," Solas sighed resignedly.  "Of course I hold devastating secrets."

"So what now?" Amy asked aloud.  She looked around the dead, dry courtyard.  "Unless we decide to get Spider-Man abilities, I seriously doubt we can scale the walls without falling and breaking our necks."

"And the sun will be setting, soon," I said grimly.  "So it looks like we have a shitload of problems.  We're trapped in a chateau by a whole bunch of Weeping Angels.  Even if we do get out, we'll have no way to contain them, and they'll most likely spread when they gain more power.  That, and more aliens from all over the place will be pouring through.  Ignoring all those problems, we still have no idea as to where the TARDIS could be."

"Why don't we just light the place on fire?" Varric prompted.

"The angels aren't affected by normal elements," The Doctor said.  "And even with this place still burnt to the ground, the tear in reality still remains."

"Well why don't we just ask Hallah?" Rory said exasperatedly.  "She'll help us."

The Doctor jutted out his jaw.  "She'll be waiting for that," he grumbled.  "She'll make fun of me for not being able to get us out of this myself and I can!"  He stood up.  "I'm The Doctor, a Time Lord of Gallifrey and I will not ask for her help.  Geronimo!"

-

Not Geronimo.

The sun was getting ready to dip below the chateau rooftop.  The Doctor was still prowling the courtyard, trying to come up with an idea as to how he was going to get us out of here.  

So much for seeing a grand, ridiculous scheme pull together from that big brain of his.  Not that I minded.  He had said Geronimo, after all.  That kind of made my life.

I ran a hand through my loose white hair.  It was still long enough that I could braid it, but I missed the length.  "Does it look too terrible?" I asked Solas.  

"Not at all," he immediately replied.  "I quite like it."

I rolled my eyes, but it was with a smile.  "You're just saying that because you love me."

"Perhaps.  One can never be too sure of it, though."

I opened my mouth to retort, but Varric interrupted me.

"Guys?" he said in a loud, frightened tone.  "We've got company."

We directed our attention to the doorway.  A Weeping Angel stood there with her eyes covered.  All of us scrambled to our feet.  "Doctor?" I called.  "Got any ideas, yet?"

He skulked over with a dour expression.  "Call Hallah," he muttered with a pout.  

Solas breathed through his nostrils.  I doubted he wanted to see the Traveler any more than The Doctor.  Dear lord, what had this woman done to these men?

"I don't have to be called.  I also take text messages, smoke signals, Morse code, knock-knock jokes, and unicorn farts as a suitable form of communication," a familiar voice said.  We all looked up above us and saw Hallah Lynne poking her head through a green hole in the air.  Upside down.

She slithered through the hole and rolled up once she hit the dry grass.  "Jeez, guys, don't look at me!  You have freaking Weeping Angels attacking you!" Hallah yelled, and gestured to an area that was out of our peripherals.  Oh and would you look at that.  Weeping Angels.  Five of them.  

Hallah Lynne was as tall and as lean as she had been in the Fade.  There was really no difference except for the fact that I could feel sheer power rolling off her in undulating waves.  She was wearing a denim jacket with a raggedy Jurassic Park T-shirt thrown on with camouflage pants and black boots.  Again, she would have been a fashion disaster if she hadn't worn everything so damn well.  

"Doctor!" Hallah greeted, walking over and throwing an easy arm over his shoulders.  He scowled, but it didn't really have any malice in it.  "So nice of you to come to Thedas!  Isn't it lovely, with all the magic?"  I swore her eyes got little stars in them as she spread the word out in the air with a hand.  "What did I say to you the last time we hung out?"

"Throwing me into the ocean and following suit it not what I call hanging out," The Doctor said.  Hallah ignored him.

"I think I said that you'd appreciate my help more the next time we met up.  And would ya look at this!  I think you do!"  

"Hallah," I said, taking a step forward.  "I, uh, I would love to hear your stories about you and The Doctor, I really would, but right now could you please just get us out of here?  And send the Weeping Angels back to their Universe and close the tear in the fabric of reality?"

She winked and pointed a gun-finger at me.  "You gots it."

Hallah took her arm off The Doctor's shoulders and walked to an empty spot in the courtyard.  "Whoo!  Go Hallah!" Amy cheered as she cupped her hands over her mouth.  Hallah threw a fist in the air as she walked away like the epic scene from the Breakfast Club.  Then that closed fist pulsed out such a powerful, forceful wave of energy that it knocked us all off our feet and sent us sprawling on our backs.  The air grew incredibly humid one moment, then dry and crackling the next.  It became hard to breathe, and Solas held me close to him to protect me from the vicious wind that had picked up.  Except, it wasn't really wind.  I guessed it was...reality?  A reality hurricane?  I didn't know, nor would I most likely ever find out.  I heard Hallah distantly singing a the theme song to That 70's Show.  

If we weren't such kindred souls, I would have thought her to be insane.  Maybe that's why my friends always looked at me like I was crazy more often than not.  

The air turned dark and shadowy for a split second and there was a CRACK before everything returned to normal.  We all dazedly sat up.  Hallah popped her knuckles as she walked back over to us.  "Boom.  Problem solved."

"It could have been solved had you not done it the first time you were here," Solas snapped.  "Yet you like to play, to toy.  If whatever comes next amuses you, you'll let it happen instead of doing what is right."  Hallah rolled her emerald eyes.

"Ugh, Solas.  You know, for somebody who's immortal you really can't see five inches in front of you.  And that's why the People are where they are, now.  You didn't freaking listen to me, even though I can pretty much see everything.  You really--"  She closed her eyes and drew in a breath, calming herself.  When she opened them back up they were calm and nonchalant once more.  "You know what?  It's alright.  I've always liked you more when you're an ass than a self-deprecating man."  

"I can't believe it was you the entire time," Varric lowly chuckled as he shook his head.  "You.  I shoulda known."

I stared flatly at Hallah.  "Seriously.  What's with you and knowing all my friends?"

Hallah shrugged her lean shoulders.  "I'm immortal.  I've got a lot of time on my hands."

"W-whatever.  Did everything get fixed?"

She gave two thumbs up and smirked.  "You bet it did.  No more Weeping Angels, no more tears in the fabric of this reality--well, in this place, anyways.  You shouldn't have any more problems with the chateau.  Oh!  And on my way here, I found a certain pissed-off time machine."  Hallah waved her hand absently and the TARDIS appeared in a corner of the courtyard.  "She verbally beat the shit out of me, FYI.  I hate it whenever she gives me a talking to."  

"Well, at least somebody can give you a talking to," The Doctor said, visibly happier now that he had his TARDIS back.

"Doctor," Amy said like a parent would talk to a child, "what do we say to Hallah Lynne?"

He looked about dourly for a bit, then mumbled a "thank you" in Hallah's direction.  She beamed in return.

"You are most welcome.  Alaran?  Is there something you want to ask The Doctor?"

Her emerald eyes bore into me.  I suddenly grew uncomfortable, and I shifted my feet.  "Oh--no.  No, I don't."

"She wants to see the inside of the TARDIS," Hallah said, rolling her head towards him.  I glared at her, but she only smirked.  

The Doctor smiled a warm smile.  "Come on in, then."

I grinned and followed him inside.

It was a surprise I didn't pass out.

-

It wasn't until I had ventured inside the TARDIS, got some old records for my record player from the Time Lord and a proper toothbrush, said farewell to The Doctor, Amy, and Rory, told the latter two to keep an eye on the first, watched the TARDIS fade out of existence and back to their own reality with Hallah's help, traveled back to Skyhold, took a bath, laid in bed with Solas by my side, and closed my eyes did I realize what Hallah had done.  She knew she could have closed the tear easily, but if she had then The Doctor wouldn't have had to come here and I wouldn't have seen any of them.  I wouldn't have gotten to have one of my biggest fantasies come to life.  I had seen The Doctor.  

I had seen The Doctor.

And he liked me.  They all had.  

"That Anchor or whatever it's called on your hand," he spoke to me quietly as the others gaped in awe at how it was, in fact, bigger on the inside.  "It's old, old power.  It will kill you, if you don't remove it somehow."

I glanced over at Solas, who was intensely studying the circles on the wall, then back to The Doctor.  "I know."  I paused before continuing with what I knew I should tell him.  "Back on my Earth, Doctor, well...you're a beacon of hope for everybody.  Your adventures, your laughter, your wisdom...it gives so many hope.  Before Hallah brought me here, I was dying of cancer.  And before that, even, I was in an abusive home.  But you...you kept me from hating the world.  I failed a bit miserably towards the end, but know that for years and years you've been loved.  So, on behalf on everybody who will never get the chance of meeting you, I'd like to say...thank you.  You will always be one of my heroes.  And though I can no longer imagine you coming to pick me up from my life and take me away on adventures throughout the universe, I can imagine that one day, maybe one day we'll get to see each other, again.  But if not, I'd just like to do one thing."  I threw my arms around The Doctor and squeezed his waist.  He stiffened in surprise, but then hugged me back.  

"Best day ever," I whispered into his tweed jacket.

Hallah had made it possible.  That sly woman knew what she was doing all along.

I turned over and snuggled up next to Solas, unable to get enough of him.  He was already fast asleep, though, most likely dissecting the TARDIS from his memory.  Maybe Dorian was with him, too.  The nerds.  

"Alaran."

Oh.  So he wasn't asleep.  "Yes?"

"Demons run when a good man goes to war.  The angels kept repeating that.  They said that the demons wouldn't run from me.  They would flock."

A chill went down my spine.  "Do you believe that?" I asked softly.  

"...No."

I kissed Solas' cheek.  "Good."

I still wished I could have told The Doctor.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Garrett!" I exclaimed, hugging the Champion of Kirkwall like he was an old friend.  He gave a rich, full laugh as he embraced me in his arms and picked me off my feet, giving me a giant kiss on the cheek with his scruffy chinstrap as I laughed.  I felt Solas puff up even from across the tavern.  That was the only reason Hawke even did it.

"It's good to see you, Al," he grinned, setting me back down.  "And Maker!  Your hair!  I didn't think it could make you look even more intimidating than you already are!"

Solas calmly strode up beside me.  "Hawke," he greeted.  "A pleasure."

"Solas!  And I see your hair hasn't changed one bit!"  He leaned in close, and I could definitely tell that he had already started the party in the tavern from the smell of alcohol.  "And by that I mean that you need to have hair first in order for it to change.  But nice eyebrows!  They're immaculate as ever."

"I seem to have forgotten why you are here, Hawke," Solas said politely, but with all the subtle snark I've ever heard.  And that was saying something because a lot of it was always directed at me.  "Could you please inform me of that reason once more?"

Hawke waggled his black eyebrows at Solas and laughed again, but didn't answer.  Instead he shouted, "Varric!  Varric, where are you?  I've lost you in this crowd!"  He then wandered off.

Solas sighed and looked down at me.  "Would you care to explain?" he asked.  

"The Inquisition extended the offer of helping the assault in the Arbor Wilds to Hawke.  He readily accepted, as long as we paid for his tavern tab that he left the last time he was here and the one he'll leave again."  I paused before I said my next sentence.  "Varric was concerned about him and he came to me asking if I could do him a solid.  Hawke's been struggling.  That's all he really told me."

"Why not let Varric just go to Hawke after all this is over?  Kirkwall would become their playground once more."

"Because I'm not that cruel," I huffed with a grin.  Solas chuckled.  I tapped my index finger on my lips.  His lips were on mine not a moment later.  

"You have me wrapped around your finger, vhenan.  I can't imagine what it will be like when we have a daughter."

Solas had said it without thinking.  I faltered, then an even wider grin spread across my face.  "A daughter, huh?" I repeated.  The tips of his ears turned a bright pink and even spread to his cheeks.  We hadn't discussed children, really.  We had hardly even discussed marriage after that day I brought it up.  Oh, there were hints here and there, but nothing substantial.  

"I..." Solas started to argue, but after a moment his shoulders deflated and he sheepishly smiled while he looked down at his bare feet.  "Yes.  A daughter."  The tavern roared around us in cheers as something went on in the background.

"And what about a son?"

"Preferably a son as well."  His smile spread and I got butterflies in my stomach.  I twined my fingers through his and led us to a chair.  Varric and Hawke were in their natural habitat, leaning against the bar with mugs of swill in their hands and their heads thrown back in laughter from reminiscing about the good ol' days.  The tavern was packed full, partially due to the Champion's presence and partially due to the patrons wanting to get their minds off of the looming march on the Arbor Wilds approaching much too fast.  

"Quizzy!" Sera bellowed as she staggered over, nearly toppling onto the table we were seated at.  She was drunk off her ass.  It looked like a lot of people were lit, now that I had a better view.  Most of the Inner Circle were here, all except for Vivienne and Leliana.  "Want me ta get ya a drink?" she slurred.  I laughed and reached over to ruffle her blonde, choppy hair.

"Nah, Sera, I'm good."

"Su' yourself," Sera slurred, and straightened up as best she could.  "I'm gonna see if I can get some pussy tonight."

Solas wrinkled his nose while I held out my fist for her to knuckle-bump.  She managed to hit it with her own, giggling drunkenly.  "How the two of you ever became friends, I will never know," Solas muttered with the shake of his head.  

"We became friends because we both despised you," I said back with a smirk.  "So thank you for that, love.  Because of you our bond was forged and refined into something unbreakable."

He snorted.  Two mugs were then slammed in front of us by Iron Bull.  "Heyyy Boss," he growled happily.  "Ready to get shit-faced?"

"You know it, Bull," I said back just as roughly, took my mug, and slid it over to Solas.  Bull groaned.

"When are you going to live a little?  Take a drink!  Step on the wild side!"

"I'm feeling very peer-pressured right now!" I had to yell when the tavern cranked up in volume.

"It's not peer pressuring when you know you wanna!" he roared back.  I waved him off, but he only took up a seat.  "So I've got a proposition for ya, Boss!  Well, more of an arranged event--"  I groaned.  "We've already got bets going around!  You and Hawke. The Herald and the Champion.  Arm wrestling match."

My cringe lessened.  Oh.  That wasn't so bad.  "Do I get the winnings?" I asked.

"AAARRRGGGHHH ATTA BOSS!"  Bull stood up and yelled over the tavern chaos, "VARRIC!  SHE'S IN!"

The center of the tavern was cleared in what seemed a matter of moments.  Hawke sat in a chair on one side of the circle while I popped my knuckles in the other.  I smirked at him and he flashed a charming, arrogant grin in return.  Varric was collecting loads of coin as bets were placed.  

"Vhenan," Solas said in my ear, his voice low and smooth.  "I would encourage you to kick his ass."

I twisted my head to get a good look to see if Solas had said what I thought he did.  The corners of his lips were turned upward and his eyes were crinkled in delight and mischief.  

"I love you," I whispered breathlessly, then kissed him passionately.  The crowd cheered at the sight.  When I pulled away Solas was nearly as red as Cullen got, but he was chuckling.  

"I'm glad you're kissing your beloved one last time before you meet your end!" Hawke yelled, took a hefty swig of ale, then stood up and swaggered over to the table.  I rolled my eyes at the ridiculous sight and strode forward to sit in the chair supplied for me.  Hawke held out his arm with an open hand, his elbow propped on the splintered wooden surface.  

"Ready to feel the pain, Hawke?" I asked with a raised eyebrow, gripping his calloused hand with my own, which was just as calloused, if not more so.  He rubbed a thumb over my skin flirtatiously, humming low in his chest.  I could feel Solas' piercing glare on him.  "You're evil, you know that?" I giggled in a whisper.  

"Shh, I'm trying to become successor for the Divine.  Wouldn't want rumors like that getting out, now would we?"

"You planning on playing fair?" I questioned.

"Why, Alaran, why would you ever think of such a thing?"

"GO!" Varric belted out.  Hawke's visible muscles immediately coiled and bulged as he tried to take down a solid wall.  I smirked even more.  Hawke didn't break eye contact even as his face turned red and a vein began to pop out alongside his temple.  His arm slowly began to lean back to the table only after about ten seconds.  

"You okay?" I smirked.  

"I'm--perfect--" he said through gritted teeth.  Then he got a glint in his hazel eyes as his hand started to become abnormally warm.  My smirk vanished as his grew.  "Varric told me your immunity to magic went away after you took--what was it?--an arrow to the head?  I would've paid to see that."

Hawke was starting to regain the space lost as his hand reached scorching temperatures.  "You are evil," I grunted.  "Hey Varric!" I called, glancing over at the dwarf.  "Are there any rules here?"

"The only rule is that there aren't any rules, Al!" Varric yelled.  

"Okay," I whispered, my smirk coming back.  "AY YO CULLEN HOOK ME UP WITH SOME OF THAT DISPELLING!  THIS MAGE BE CRAZY!"

"Of course, Inquisitor!" Cullen immediately said.  Hawke's eyes widened and he grunted as his mana was ripped away from him.  I laughed triumphantly as I slammed his forearm into the table.  The tavern rumbled with the deafening cheers that followed not a moment later.  I leaped out of my chair and threw my hands up, high-fiving random people in the crowd.

"Pay up, Tethras," I said proudly, holding out my hand at the dwarf.  He smiled wickedly at me.  

"Didn't Iron Bull tell you, Al?  This ain't just a single match.  We've got a whole roster going!"

"Who's next, then?"

Varric stripped off his jacket and tossed it out of the now-empty chair Hawke had occupied moments before, purposefully revealing his huge muscles.  I face-palmed.  "Freaking hell, Varric!  No!  Give me my money!"

"Is the Inquisitor afraid of a dwarf?" Hawke shouted exaggeratedly.  I looked over at Solas for help.  He only gave me an I have no sympathy for you look back.  

"I beat you in Wicked Grace all the time, Varric," I sighed, also shrugging off my light jacket and revealing my own muscles.  It was pure coincidence that I had worn a vest-tunic over my jacket.  And lemme tell ya, even though I was paler than an Avvar, I had guns.  They were all wiry and lean, but they were also defined and rock-hard.  Swinging great swords all day and having unnatural strength does that to a person.  "I think I can take you on in an arm-wrestling match."

I sat back down in my seat and gripped Varric's mitt of a hand.  "You know," I said, "I'm glad that I don't have to worry about you trying to kick me in the shin.  Your legs are so short they can't even reach the floor, let alone reach me."

"If I didn't know any better, Al, I'd think that you were trash talking because you were scared," Varric said back with an easy smile.  I bet to anybody else we were quite the sight.  

"For the love of the Maker just GO ALREADY!" Hawke bellowed.  Another mug of ale had already found its way into his hand. 

Varric was...strong.  It was probably due to his compact, lyrium-descended ancestors giving him the power to make them proud or something.  Those guns of his weren't just for the show.  

But guess what?

I was stronger.

Varric's arm hit the table after a minute.  It was longer than the match with Hawke, at least.  "Are you going to put that in your book?" I said as the tavern grew louder than ever.  Varric chuckled and raised his hands in defeat.  

"If I do, I'm going to lie about me winning."

"Like anybody would believe that."  I paused.  "Will you pay up now?"

"Not a chance."

I leaned back in the chair.  Tonight my hair had been set free of its braided prison and was pulled over my shoulder.  I twirled the loose strands in between my fingers.  "How many have you got lined up?"

"Oh, just two more, that's all."  Varric looked over to Iron Bull and jerked his head, motioning for the Qunari to take his place.  "You're up, Tiny!"

I rolled my head to the side and gave Varric a flat look.  "You've got to be kidding me."

He shrugged his shoulders innocently.  "I'm just a man trying to make money."

"You sleazy bastard--"

But Varric was already gone and Bull had taken up the seat.  He propped up his elbow and pointed up a finger for me to grab onto.  The tavern shook with laughter.  "You left this part out on purpose," I growled, swatting his finger away and holding out my hand.  I was going to lose.  I was strong, yeah, but this was the Iron Bull.  I had beaten him before in actual duels, but never in a match that was based off of sheer strength alone.  

A giant gray hand wrapped itself around mine, basically swallowing it up.  "Ah, you love me, Boss," he grinned.  

"I won't after this, that's for sure."

"Oi!  For fock's sake, just go!" Sera screamed.  

I didn't immediately get beat, but it didn't take long for Iron Bull to begin overpowering me.  Hawke was yelling a slew of curse words in support for Bull.  "Looks like you're gonna lose this one, Boss," he smirked.  "But it's alright.  I..."  One pale green eye moved over my shoulder.  His pupil constricted in...fear?  Whatever was happening, it made him relax a bit.  It was hardly anything, but I took the opportunity and roared as his arm hit the table.  Bull looked down at it in realization, then frowned in anger for a moment before he threw his horned head back and laughed.  "Fuck me, that was fantastic!  You know, you've got one scary fucking boyfriend, Boss.  You should be glad you have him around for times like these.  Fucking magic fucks me up."

I craned my head around to look at Solas, who was standing there passively, a polite, I-Did-Nothing-Wrong-Vhenan expression on his face.  I winked at him before turning back around and standing up.  "Alright, Varric, pay up.  I'm done here.  You should be thankful I'm only slightly considering kicking your hairy ass off Skyhold's battlements."

"Just one more, Al, then you'll be done!" Varric said jovially.  "Hey, Chuckles!  Come on over!"

I frowned deeply and gave the iciest glare I could to Solas, who was now calmly walking over and taking up a seat.  "Dishonor on you," I spat at Varric.  "Dishonor on you, on your family, on your cow!" I pointed angrily at Hawke, who looked genuinely hurt at my remark before tipping back a not-so-sad gulp of ale.  I stormed back over to the table.  The tavern was about to come down on top of us.  Almost all of Skyhold had crammed themselves in here, and still plenty more streamed out the door and into the night.  

"This is why you didn't stop me or make a sassy remark," I sneered at Solas.  "Varric roped you into this long before we even came into the tavern."

"It happened something along those lines, yes," Solas said back with the slight tilt of his head and a flash of teeth as he grinned.  Ugh.  I hated when he did that.  It made him so...Dread Wolfy.  

"Now this, Al, THIS is going in my book!" Varric said over the roar of hundreds of voices.  The tavern was probably going to run dry of any and all liquor tonight.  

"I hate you," I grumbled, and propped up an arm.  Solas easily took it in his.  Damn his hands.  They just had to fit right in mine.  

Solas started without hesitation.  My elbow was getting sore from being pressed against the table for so long, I noticed.  And what sucked even more was that we were pretty equal in strength, so it all came down to endurance.  But Solas hadn't been the one to face three other competitors.  "A problem, vhenan?" he asked lightly as I furrowed my brow.  

"The only problem I'm having is facing the utter betrayal you've laid upon me," I said back dramatically, hoping to spur some kind of self-guilt in him.  There was none.  "Let me guess, you have indomitable focus when it comes to things like this?"

"I have indomitable focus when it comes to many things," Solas steadily replied.  "Including this."

"Pure gold, right there!" Varric commented loudly.  "Definitely going in the book!"

When I wouldn't yield an inch, Solas started to play dirty.  A shift of mana slid up my leg in a soft, intimate tendril.  A muscle twitched in my jaw.  The tendril trailed up to my thigh and got dangerously close to my lady bits.  "Don't you--" I began.

The tendril became a pulsating wave and glided into me.  I stifled a gasp and instead directed my anger into my fingernails.  Solas' subtle smirk disappeared when my nails drove into his skin.  I dug them in as hard as I could without losing too much grip.  Still, there was mana washing into me at a steady rhythm.  Hawke was close enough that he could feel the magic and doubled over in a fit of laughter.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see Cullen sleeping on Josephine's shoulder, his mouth slightly ajar.  So I wasn't getting any more of his templar help.  

"Solas," I pleaded quietly, letting my veneer slip not into a look of arousal, but in a look of anxiousness.  "I don't think you should do that."

"Oh?  And why not?"

"Because..." I said, pouring every ounce of truth into my violet eyes, "because I'm pregnant."

Solas' own eyes widened in shock and he went limp.  I then slammed his arm down with such ferocity the table broke and Solas was jerked out of his chair.  The volume of noise sent my head buzzing.  Solas looked up at me with dry frustration.  

"That was..." he started to say, then thought better of it when he saw the look on my face.  "Fair enough," he breathed.  I helped him up and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  

"Yes, yes it was."  I pulled back.  "Now if you excuse me, I have to find a conniving little shit and his bird friend.  The two of them seemed to have disappeared WITH ALL MY MONEY!"

-

After asking around, I tracked Varric and Hawke down in the gardens.  The ginormous, full moon illuminated everything in crisp detail.  I regretted not grabbing my jacket from the chair I had hung it on.  My skin prickled in the cold, but it also calmed the painful throbbing between my thighs.  Damn that egg.  Damn him.

I was about to assault the both of them with a hundred insults when I saw that Hawke was hunched over on a bench with his head in his hands.  Varric was sitting next to him, a comforting hand on his back with one of his sad, heartbreaking expressions he didn't like anybody to see.  I wondered if he had ever looked at me in that way when I wasn't looking.  I knew that it would disappear in a split second if I announced my presence or if Hawke looked back to him.  

A soft, ragged cry tore from the Champion's throat.  "Varric," he gasped, his normally booming, confident voice replaced with a hoarse, frightened one.  "Varric, I can't do this.  I'm...I feel so damn empty inside.  And Maker, the nightmares.  I don't sleep, anymore.  And I see them even when I'm awake.  I'm going mad.  Andraste help me, I'm going mad."  Hawke broke down into a fresh wave of sobs.  I silently walked into view.  Varric caught sight of me immediately and straightened his face.  

I crouched in front of Hawke and felt my heart ache with compassion.  "Garrett," I whispered.  He jerked his head up to see that we were eye-to-eye. 

"Inquisitor.  I-I--"

"Shh.  You don't have to say anything."  I placed a hand on the side of his wet face and gave a small, gentle smile.  "You aren't empty inside.  And you aren't going mad.  You've gone through some traumatizing things.  Those things leave scars, I know.  Believe me, I know.  But don't you for one second think that what you're feeling is what you deserve.  It's not."

He gave a weak laugh.  "I feel pretty stupid, crying in front of a woman who has the weight of the world on her shoulders about the incomparable duties I had."

My fingers playfully tugged on his short beard.  "Knock it off, Garrett.  Your feelings are important.  They're just all jumbled up because you can't get them out properly.  Back on my world we have professionals who can help you through the process, but unfortunately Thedas has none, and I doubt it will for a few hundred more years.  But you have me.  And you have Varric.  We'll help you to the best of our capabilities, okay?  You're not being given up on that easily."  I moved to sit up on the bench beside him.  "Some days are going to be worse than others, and recovery isn't going to be easy, but I have full faith that you can overcome it."

"Recovery?  What needs recovering, exactly?" Hawke asked, trying to assert some sarcasm back into his voice.

I tapped the side of my head.  "Your noggin.  They always hold the worst wounds.  What makes it even more difficult is that nobody can see them, so when you try to explain your injuries they don't understand and make you feel worse or isolated.  But I understand.  Lord knows I understand.  So whenever--and I mean whenever--you feel the need to talk to me, I'll be here.  We'll both be here.  You have nothing to be ashamed of, Garrett.  Help is within reach."

"Yeah, what she said," Varric said with an easy smile, but his eyes still shone with pain of seeing his friend in such a state.  

Hawke groaned softly as he straightened his back and looked up at the moon.  "I doubt either of you are going to let me go back to the tavern, are you?"

"No, but speaking of taverns," I said airily, and leaned over to pierce Varric with a glare.  "Where's my money?"

-

"Were you serious about that kid thing?" I asked Solas as we laid in bed together.  

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know.  It just got me thinking."

Solas turned his head to look at me.  "About what, vhenan?"

"How many kids I want.  What they'll look like.  What their names will be.  I hope you don't mind if they're human Earth names."

He nuzzled his nose against my cheek.  "And what would the names of our children be?"

"Well..." I said hesitantly, absently running a finger over Solas' torso.  "I like the name Charlotte for a girl, and Sam for a boy."

Solas hummed.  "As do I."

"Really?" I asked in hushed excitement.

"Of course," he chuckled.  "I think they're wonderful names.  What did you expect my response to be?"

"I don't know.  I thought you'd want to stick traditional elven names or something and name our kid Da'Fenedhis or something."

Solas choked on his laugh.  "You would want our child to be named 'Little Wolf Penis?'"

I covered my eyes with a hand as pealing laughter shook my body.  I could have made a thousand dirty jokes right then, but my mind had wandered to another topic before I could.

"You know I want to be married before we have children, right?"

He slowly turned my head with the slight touch of the back of his hand so I was gazing into his gray-blue eyes.  They were full of love.  "And you shall have your wish, emma lath.  When this is all over, you shall have everything I can offer to you."

"Sweet-talker," I whispered, and kissed him.

-

Hawke stopped outside of the doors to the War Room.  His palms were sweaty and his breathing was rapid and shallow.  Everything, everything was pounding against his skull, demanding to be let out.  He felt sick, but knew nothing would come up if he was since he hadn't eaten anything since lunch yesterday.  Hawke could hear the muffled voices of Lavellan and Leliana speaking to each other.  She was busy.  Maker, she was always busy.  She didn't have time for him.  He was so stupid.  The tavern had a nice spot calling his name.  It always did.  There he could pretend that everything was just spectacular and drink himself into a stupor.  But Varric would be pissed, and he didn't want to end up in Anders' care while he emptied up the contents of his stomach into a bucket.  Anders would never let him live it down.

Help is within reach.

Alaran's voice had a horrible way of sticking in Hawke's mind.  

He raised his hand and knocked on the thick wooden door.  The muffled talking stop and a few moments later it swung open.  "Oh!  Messer Hawke!" Ambassador Montilyet said in her charming Antivan accent.  "I did not know--"

"We'll conclude this meeting for today," Alaran said calmly and firmly as she strode past Josephine.  "I'll get that report to you come evening, Lel."

"Of course, Inquisitor," the spymaster chimed, eyeing Hawke with her unnerving blue eyes.  Andraste's shiny ass, she stared into his soul.  

The two of them walked down the hall.  Hawke had no idea where Alaran was taking him, but he followed nonetheless without question.

They wound up on the battlements.  "I can never come up here with Solas," she joked.  "He's afraid of heights.  We took a walk up here, once, trying to be all romantic and gushy, but that only ended up with him fainting."

Hawke guffawed at the image.  "He fainted?  Why didn't he just tell you that he couldn't handle it?"

"Because he's a proud elf, and he wanted me to be happy, even if he wasn't," Alaran smiled.  "But after I got over the mini heart-attack he gave me, it was pretty funny."  She leaned up against the stone and gazed at Hawke with patience and openness.  It was then he realized that she truly meant every word she had said, and she cared about him as Garrett Hawke.  Not as the Champion of Kirkwall.  Just as him.  Even with the fate of the world on her mind, Alaran still made it a matter of importance to ensure that he was okay.

Maker, the world needed more people like Alaran.

"So...what's up?"

 

 

 

Chapter Text

My stomach was in knots and I had a headache coming on.  I should have been asleep, by now, but I wasn't.  There was still so much to do and I didn't have nearly enough time to get it all finished.

"Vhenan.  Come.  You need rest," Solas said gently from the bed.  I glanced up at him and considered ignoring his statement, but figured I shouldn't take my anxiety out on the one who loved me most in this world.

"There ain't no rest for the wicked," I ended up singing from the Cage the Elephant song in an exaggerated twang.  "And money don't grow on trees.  I've got bills to pay I've got mouths to feed, and ain't nothin in this world for free."

He got out from under the blankets and walked on over to me, taking up the spot behind me and pressing his thumbs into my shoulders.  I hissed in pain.  "You're tense," he stated teasingly.

"Oh, I wonder why," I said with all the sarcasm I could muster.  My face twisted up in a mix of pain and pleasure.  "A little lower," I instructed, and Solas moved his kneading thumbs down.  I tried focusing on the orders I had to write, but with the steady massage I was getting it became extremely difficult.  Before I knew it I felt my eyes drooping and the quill between my fingers slipping.  "If I didn't know any better," I mumbled, "I'd think that you were trying to relax me on the night before we face Corypheus and his army of Red Templars."

"Now, where would you find the evidence to make such a conclusion?" Solas said, a smile in his voice.  I rolled my head back so I was looking up at him.  One of his fingers trailed down the length of my throat, which in turn made me hum in contentment.  "The world won't crumble if you don't fill out a few papers, Alaran.  Join me in bed."

I hardly resisted the temptation.  I sighed and stood up wearily, saying, "If it does, though, I'm telling Leliana that you used your dark elvhen magic on me."

I hit the pillow and was out less than ten seconds later.

-

"I got you a gift," Hallah said as she strummed her ukulele.  "One that'll make you look bad ass."

"I already look bad ass, though," I frowned.  Was I dreaming this, or was it actually happening?

"You never just dream about me.  I'm too cool for that.  And nobody can look too bad ass, Al.  The potential is infinite.  Oh, and I also got you something that would calm some of your nerves."

"What are these things that you've got me?"

She flashed a smirk.  "You should probably wake up for you to see them.  Way to go, Al!  You got a full four hours of sleep!"

My eyes cracked open and I found myself blessed with the view of Solas drooling into a fine Orlesian pillow as he softly snored.  One of my legs were tucked between his, my arm at a bent angle with the elbow jabbing into his side.  He had gotten used to my sleeping habits and hardly ever awoke if I unknowingly hit him.  

I groaned and felt my body begin to pop as I sat up.  I twisted a few times and considered just flopping back down on the bed and pulling the covers over me so I wouldn't have to face what was coming, today.  

Then I saw the armor.

I threw the covers off of me and heard my feet slap loudly on the stone floor as I ran up to the mannequin Hallah had placed in the middle of the room.  "Oh, eff me," I whispered with a broad grin.  "It's perfect."

If I wanted to strike courage in my soldiers and fear in my enemies, this armor would do the trick.  The vest was made of sleek black dragonscales with a matching black sash that was tied around the waist.  A black cotton tunic peeked out from underneath the collar of the vest and stopped about halfway up the neck of the mannequin, embellished in silky silver trimming that cut into a small V in the center.  I plucked the tunic and found that it was actually the same material that Under Armour was made of.  Huh.  Go figure.  

Pulled on top of the vest was a blood red, form-fitting leather jacket that swept down to mid-thigh.  Small silver toggles lined the front.  Black gloves were pulled on up to the elbows, and the knuckles were embellished with drakestone for maximum pain whenever I had to punch somebody.  Travelling further down the mannequin, I saw that I had skin-tight black trousers and thigh-high black boots that were covered by finely made drakestone greaves and sabatons, thin enough that they wouldn't weigh me down yet still capable of protecting me.  

Safe to say, it was completely bad ass.

I sent for some hot water to bathe in, making sure my skin and hair smelt like lavender.  It was a ritual practice for me before I ever traveled anywhere.  Get cleaned, smell like lavender, kick butt, and hopefully still smell at least a little good by the time it's all over with.  After that I dressed in some comfortable underwear and strapped on my breast band, both of them a matching dark blue.  Hey, girls know that matching underwear makes them feel more powerful and confident.  And I needed all the power and confidence I could get.  

Then came the armor.  I got everything off easily enough, though it took some maneuvering to slide the boots and trousers out.  And by maneuvering I mean I popped the legs clean off so I could get the pants.  Everything fit perfectly, and I thanked Hallah Lynne out loud, knowing that she'd most likely hear.  The tunic under my vest was sleeveless, though, which irked me.  I knew she had done that on purpose.  

I shrugged on the perfectly fitted jacket and looked in the mirror.  My hair was still damp and messy from the washing I had given it, but that only highlighted my utterly lethal look even more.  

I tilted my chin slightly upwards and smirked.

-

"Boss," Iron Bull rumbled, his one eye roving up and down my body.  "Damn."

Sera gave a low whistle and then whooped at my entrance.  "Look at you, Quizzy!  Look like you're ready to fock shite up!"

"I-Inquisitor," Josephine said, her eyes wide and shock on her face.  "Wherever did you get that outfit?"

"It was a gift," I responded simply.  We were all gathered in the War Room.  Each and every one of us.  They had been with me since the beginning, and they would see this through til the end.  I loved every single one of these precious bastards.  

"Oh, don't be looking at us like that," Dorian fussed.  "We know we're spectacular--particularly me--but could you, just this once, keep it inside?"

I gave a small smile.  "You know I've never been good at that, Dorian."

"Unfortunately, I do."  There was a hint of a nostalgic smile on his lips as well.

I clasped my hands behind my back and took the familiar spot where I stood at the war table.  The giant map of Thedas had so many tiny pinpricks in it I doubt I could have counted them all.  They were stars; tiny and seemingly insubstantial from this point of view, but in reality they were huge, momentous forces.  Each one marked a spot where a problem had been solved, an alliance had been forged, people had been saved, and where evil had been smote down.  Everything I had gone through...all the headaches and the scars and the silent tears and the fake smiles...they had led us up to this moment.  I didn't regret a single thing.

My eyes rose to see my advisers.  Had any of them not have been my side, everything would have cracked and crumbled.  I could never show enough appreciation for them.  "Commander," I said, my voice snapping the room to attention.  Cullen straightened his back even more.  He always did that when I spoke directly to him in the War Room.  "Are the soldiers ready to march?"

"Everything is as it should be, Your Worship," Cullen responded back immediately.  "We await only your word."

I looked at the three of them proudly.  "The Inquisition began as a handful of soldiers.  Thanks to you three, we're now a force that will topple a self-proclaimed god.  I could ask for no finer council, no better guidance.  From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful that you have been here every step of the way."

Josephine was grinning unashamedly, Cullen was blushing confidently, and Leliana was smirking timidly.  "And I speak for all of us when I answer:  we could ask for no finer cause, and no finer Inquisitor," Cullen said in return.  

The air buzzed with unseen electricity, a combination of excitement and anxiousness and fear and hope.  I took my dagger out and drove it into the spot where the Arbor Wilds was mapped.  "Let us begin."

-

I hadn't noticed my jacket had an inside pocket until we were already on our way to the Arbor Wilds.  We had been marching swiftly, and would be there within a day.  I felt worse than I had when we were on our way to Adamant, but this time around I was confident in my abilities to get shit done.  I wouldn't let Corypheus win.   Not now.  Not ever.  

Still, I could feel the soldier's tension and tasted the tang of sweat and fear.  Morale was precariously balanced on the edge.

My mouth tugged into a puzzled frown as I felt something small and square in the pocket.  I reached in and, upon my fingers gripping it and instantly feeling the familiarity, I gasped loudly.  "Inquisitor?" Cassandra asked, quickly kicking her horse so she was riding beside me.  "Are you well?"

"I...I don't know," I answered truthfully.  I slowly pulled out what I knew was my old phone.  Earbuds were wrapped around it.  

"What is that?" Cassandra said, her eyes widening in wonder.

"A phone," I answered breathlessly.  I couldn't believe it.  She had...Hallah had...

I tugged my gloves off and dropped Joey's reins on his neck.  He would never run from me, anyways.  I gingerly unwrapped the cord from the phone and pressed the power button.  It sprang to life, complete with my Deadpool lock screen.  I made a choking scree sound and swiped the screen up.  The battery was at a hundred percent and I had full bars of service.  "No way," I whispered, "no freaking way."

"What are you making weird noises over, Al?" Varric questioned, craning his neck up curiously from his spot on Darkspawn.  

I ignored him and instead pressed my Spotify app.  All of my music popped up without delay.  I hastily put my earbuds in and let my thumb hover over the shuffle button before tapping on it.

~Boom boom clap~
~Boom boom clap~
~Boom boom clap~
~Boom boom clap~

My brain exploded.  

I had my record player back in my room, which played lovely old songs that I was very much fond of, but this...this was...

Amazeballs.

Frission coursed through my body and sent my skin prickling.  It was as if I hadn't heard music in my entire life.  The sound was so crystal clear and thrummed a resonating sound in my head.

I quickly paused the song before I could get ahead of myself.  "Cass!" I said sharply.  "I need you to bang your shield."

She crinkled her nose while Varric laughed.  "No!  Not like that!  I mean, I need you to start up a rhythm!"  I jumped off of Joey, who only slowed his amiable pace.  There were soldiers all around us, and had I not been the Inquisitor I would have gotten swallowed up by the army.  Cassandra huffed but did as she was told, unstrapping her shield from her back and holding it in front of her.  I walked up to her mount and banged my fist against it in the one-two beat before clapping my hands loudly.  "Just like that.  It's all I ask."

So Cassandra did, and I clapped again.  "Are you trying to start up a battle march hymn?" Varric asked dubiously.  I gave a firm nod.  He shrugged his shoulders.  "Alright.  You're the Inquisitor."

"Damn right I am," I said, flashing a smirk.  

It started out slowly, but after a while the soldiers caught on.  Once it started, it didn't stop, and the tension dissolved as the beat intensified in volume.  Once I deemed it fit to be ready to get to the next step, I placed one earbud back in and tapped on the play button.  I swung back on top of Joey so my voice wouldn't be lost in the tumult.  My lungs swelled with air and my body coiled in unbearable excitement.  

 

"Buddy you're a boy make a big noise
Playing in the street gonna be a big man some day
You got mud on your face
You big disgrace
Kickin' your can all over the place
Singin'

We will we will rock you
We will we will rock you"

As if by some divine impression, the soldiers mirrored the We will rock you lines twice.  I never got to the rest of the song because that had stuck, along with the boom boom clap.  The very ground shuddered under the Inquisition army's footsteps.  

I looked down at Varric, who had an indescribable expression on his face.  "Going down in the book?" I yelled over the noise.  

"No, Al," he said with a smile.  It wasn't his usual one.  I didn't know what to think of it, actually.  "This is going down in history!"

-

The second we hit the jungle terrain of the Arbor Wilds something terrible happened.

I.  Sneezed.

Half of the Inner Circle all turned their heads at me in surprise.  They had never heard me sneeze, before.  I opened my mouth to say something, but only sneezed again.  My eyes began to water and itch hardly a moment after.  Another sneeze.  And another.  And another.

Snot sprayed onto Joey's neck and Sera made a blegh noise while cackling.  "Well," Blackwall grunted lightly, "looks like somebody's allergic to the native flora here in this beautiful place."

"No," I groaned thickly.  "No, no, nuuuuu."  I angrily rubbed my swelling, goopy eyes.  "This can't be happening."

Solas chuckled and pulled Hunter up close to me.  Our knees bumped together.  "Here, vhenan.  Let me assist you."

I pouted and sniffed as Solas waved a healing hand over my face and throat.  The discomfort vanished.  I sighed in relief.  "Is it foolish to think that you cured me of my allergies?" I asked him.

"Yes.  I will have to repeat the process every hour or so."

My lips tugged into a frown.  "Like we're going to have time to remember to do that."

"Then I suggest you carry this."  Solas was poorly hiding a smile as he pulled out a handkerchief for me to use.  I scowled at him, but took it anyways.  I would most likely need it.  

"Don't let her be giving that to any brave soldiers as a token of gratitude," Dorian chimed in.  "As much as they love their Inquisitor, I doubt they'll want a slimy snot rag to keep close to their hearts."

"You don't have to hide the truth, Dorian," I sighed resignedly.  "If you want my used handkerchief to tuck under your pillow at night, just say it.  I won't judge you."

"No, but the rest of us would," Blackwall chuckled.  I stuffed the handkerchief into one of my pockets of my jacket.  I had found out that the thing had a lot of them.  

"So who's going with you into this whole shit show?" Varric asked me.  I glared down at him; he had asked that just to instigate things.  I couldn't take all of my companions; we needed to move swiftly and efficiently, and too many of us would only make things difficult, especially if one got injured.  

"Solas, Blackwall, and Cole."

There was an immediate backlash.  I was nearly overwhelmed with angry dissent.  "Oh, you know what?" I said heatedly over the top of them.  "Cole is a spirit.  He's not going to tell me to do anything that I don't want to do.  Blackwall's a gentleman.  He's not going to openly disagree with me and question any decision that I may have to make.  And Solas...Solas is old as balls.  Ma vhenan, you know it's true.  He knows what's going on, and if I do need to be questioned I trust him to do so.  And none of them are entirely scared of magic, now are they?"  Dorian and Vivienne immediately opened their mouths to argue.  "I'm not hearing any of it.  I made my decision.  Live with it.  I've already made arrangements to have all of you stationed in imperative places if we are to keep the Red Templars back."

"Al--" Varric immediately began to complain.  I shut him down with a silencing glare.

"Not.  A.  Word."

One beat.  Two.  Three.

"Inquisit--" Cassandra started.  I spun around and shut her up with the same glare.  

One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  Five.

"Boss, I don't think--argh.  Fine."

One.  Two.  Three.  Four.

"This is fockin--alright alright."

One.  Two.

"Well this is simply absurd--kaffas."

One.

"My dear, are you--I do believe I was the one who taught you that look in the first place.  I would encourage you not to use it on me, again."

Save Cole, Blackwall, and Solas, the Inner Circle was, in lack of better terms, pouting.  

And oh, could they pout.

-

"I wonder:  is it Andraste your soldiers invoke during battle, or does a more immediate name come to their lips?" Morrigan asked idly as she glided up next to me.

"Oh, Morrigan, how lovely to see you, again," I sighed.  "I see that by coming to a battlefield you've decided to wear even less clothing.  Not that I can say anything against it.  You really do have a smokin' hot bod.  I guess I should be glad we're here where it's warm; otherwise you'd be poking eyes out with how bad you'd be nipping."

"Ah, there's that lovely charm so few get to experience," Morrigan said back, her already throaty voice enhancing the dryness of her tone.

I rolled my eyes.  Morrigan and I had developed the kind of relationship where we were rude to each other when we weren't discussing things at the war table.  I think that meant she liked me, but I couldn't be sure, so that's why I was just as rude back.  "There's this thing called respect, Morrigan.  No one mistakes me for the Maker.  But if you do, feel free to continue worshiping me.   I wouldn't mind a secret shrine in your bedroom or something like that."

"You would be more likely to come to my aid than a Chantry fable, true.  As well as theirs."  Her yellow eyes roamed over the bustling campsite, where soldiers prepared themselves for battle.  "But I digress.  If your scouts report accurately, I believe these ruins to be--"

"The Temple of Mythal?" a smooth, subtly sassy voice interjected.  I held back a smirk and turned my head to see Solas approaching, his hands clasped behind his back and that mask of pleasantness he put on whenever he felt like he was dealing with people who didn't know as much as he did.  I got that look a lot from him back when he was the Moriarty to my Sherlock, the Khan to my Captain Kirk, the Voldemort to my Harry Potter, the Steve Carlsburg to my Cecil Palmer, the...the...well, I think I've made the idea clear.

Solas stopped beside the two of us.  He was donned in his mage armor and his usual brown leather leggings.  Sunlight glinted off his dark, copper-colored gauntlets and the matching pauldron that sat on his left shoulder. I could see the shape of chain mail underneath his olive green uniform that was tucked into a matching sash tied around his waist.  A leather belt the similar shade of his leggings sat on his hips, the pouches filled with most likely was vials of lyrium and healing potions.  My silver tonics belt was in a similar position, except a few grenades were tucked away in there as well.  Ya know...just in case.  "Yes," Morrigan said reluctantly.  "What do you know of it, Master Solas?"

I raised an eyebrow at him.  "Yes, Solas.  Care to explain?"

"I know that it contains something far more powerful than the eluvian.  And if that is what Corypheus truly seeks, then we should not tarry."

I crossed my arms.  "And why haven't you told me of this before we departed?"

"It has been thousands of years, vhenan.  My knowledge may be outdated."  Solas let the quirk of his lip slide back into neutrality.  "I was unsure as to whether or not it still existed, but from the ancient magic felt here...I do believe at least something of it remains, if not all of it."

"Okay, thanks for being cryptic and all, but could you still explain to me what it is exactly that Corypheus may or may not be seeking?"

Solas' eyes flickered over to Morrigan, who was intensely focused on him with her blazing yellow eyes.  "The Vir'Abelasan.  From your extensive knowledge of elven lore, Witch of the Wilds, do you by chance know of it as well?"

Her eyes seemed to glow at the remark.  "I am afraid not."

"Well that's alright Morrigan because neither do I," I said, leaning understandingly towards her.  "So, my dear Solas, the elf with the eggsquisite knowledge of this Vurp Habelesan, could you tell us what it is?"

He gave me a flat look.  "The Well of Sorrows.  It contains...memories, of sorts.  And, as a result, knowledge and power that dates back to the earliest years of the Elvhen Empire.  The rest is too difficult to explain without talking extensively about it, and we do not have the time."

Booming sounded in the distance, and the three of us turned to see smoke billowing in the air.  "Don't light the jungle on fire, Cullen," I muttered.  Blackwall and Cole walked up.  I gave them both a small smile.

"Are we ready to rock?"

-

Sentinel and Red Templar corpses piled the entrance to the Temple of Mythal.  We stepped over them and walked quietly to the balcony ledge to see what kind of fighting was ensuing, crouching down so as not to be noticed.

My blood ran cold when I saw that Corypheus and Samson were there, along with some of those ugly mother truckin templar beasts and a single Grey Warden.  One elvhen stood in front of the others, but all looked to be prepared to die.  "Na melana sur, banallen!" 

One of the elves was lifted off the ground by his neck by the Tevinter Magister.  "They still think to fight us, Master," Samson said, and even though his back was turned to me I knew he was making a sneering grin.

 Corypheus crushed the elf's neck in his grasp and strewn him aside, then began striding straight towards the Sentinels.  "These are but remnants.  They will not keep us from the Well of Sorrows."

Solas and I exchanged glances.  So he was right.  Shit.

Two small, stone obelisks sparked to life, veins of light crystal blue weaving throughout them in ancient intricacies.  The hair on the nape of my neck stood on end.  Corypheus hesitated briefly, but then continued to press forward.  Do something.  Do something to him, my Stone Friends!  Kill him, so I don't freaking have to!  "Be honored!  Witness death at the hands of a new god!"

The obelisks flared with magic and shot electric bars of power at Corypheus, engulfing his towering frame and trapping him.  He still managed to reach out to the Sentinel nearest to him and caught the elf by the face, lifting him off his feet and raising him high.  The elf flailed only for a moment, because all of a sudden the the defense system began melting Corypheus.  The stench of scorching, red lyrium infested flesh made its way up to where we were crouching.  Morrigan wrinkled her nose, but other than that nothing came out of her.  We watched as the false god liquefied before he and the stones exploded.  The elf in his grasp as well as the others behind him were tossed backwards by the sheer force, and lay still.  Samson and the other templars were still far enough back, however, to only have been knocked off their feet.  A few chunks of what I hoped to be rock flew over our heads and clattered on the ground behind us.   

By the time we had made it down the stairs Samson and his men were already on the other side of the bridge.  Why are they still going when their leader was blown up right before their eyes?

Because this wasn't over.  Of course it's not.  Silly Alaran, why would you think that things would be this easy?

Samson paused before entering through the doors long enough that he could flash a sneering, malicious grin my way.  I would have chased after him, but an inhuman yell spouted from behind us.  We whirled around and watched in horror as the Warden we thought was dead sat up on his knees, jerking and thrashing as his bones broke.  Something looked to be inside of him, swirling and forming until--

With a gurgling howl, the Warden threw his head back and vomited acidic blood into the air.  His back popped out of place and he slumped back to the ground, his skin ripping violently as a dark, blood-soaked arm sprang out of him.  My stomach dropped.

"No, it cannot be!" Morrigan exclaimed.

"Everybody across the bridge!  Now!" I shouted, not wanting to stand there a moment longer.  We turned and ran as fast as we could, but I heard the roar of Corypheus' Archdemon behind us, it's tattered wings threatening to pull us back in with its suction even from its distance.  

As soon as the five of us stepped in the temple we all joined in our effort to push the doors shut.  I caught a glimpse at the Archdemon opening its maw and preparing to blast us with red lyrium fire.  The doors were heavy, but once we gave them momentum they swung shut.  And not a moment too soon, because the force of the blast sent us staggering back.

The doors sealed shut with glowing gold magic.  "Well isn't that handy," I muttered in observance.  Then we were off again, jogging down the hall.  I felt my nose begin to itch, but I couldn't bother Solas with helping me, now.  He needed to preserve his strength, no matter how strong he said he was.  

"Finally, the Temple of Mythal," Morrigan said reverently as we entered.  "Let us get to the Vir'Abelasan before Corypheus interferes."

"Um, yeah, about him," as we broke into a jog once more.  "How did he return to life?  We saw him die."

"And his life force passes on to any blighted creature, darkspawn or Grey Warden."

"I'm just going to keep on hoping that he can really die and instead focus on finding a way to stop him once we're done here," I said.  

"'Tis strange.  Archdemons possess the same ability, and still the Grey Wardens are able to slay them.  Yet Corypheus they locked away.  Perhaps they knew he could do this...but not how."

I gave her a sidelong look.  "Why do you always say ''tis this and 'tis that?  It's confusing.  Just say 'it is.'  Oh, wait," I laughed, "I forgot.  You have to maintain an air of mysterious magic.  The usage of ''tis' amplifies it, huh?"

-

"Venavis," said the elf standing on top of the high, stone altar.  He was dressed like the other Sentinels, but with a far more commanding presence.  "You...are unlike the other invaders.  You have the features of those who call themselves elvhen."  He pronounced the 'H' in the word more than Solas ever did, which meant he was most likely trying to made a subtle criticism of Dalish culture without thinking that I knew.  "You bear the mark of magic which is...familiar."  He uncrossed his arms.  "How as this come to pass?  What is your connection to those who first disturbed our slumber?"

"They are my enemies, as well as yours," I answered.  "I am anchored to the foci an ancient Tevinter Magister is using in an attempt to tear the world apart and raise himself as a god."  I refrained from sniffing; my nose was threatening to open a boogery faucet.  

The elf's gaze turned level.  "I am called Abelas.  We are Sentinels, tasked with standing against those who trespass on sacred ground.  We wake only to fight, to preserve this place.  Our numbers diminish with each invasion."  Abelas walked a few paces forward.  "I know what you seek.  Like all who have come before, you wish to drink from the Vir'Abelasan."

"He knows of the Well," Morrigan whispered to me.  Not quietly enough, it seemed, for Abelas' gaze hardened.  

"It it not for you.  It is not for any of you," he spoke harshly.

"Solas," I said, slightly turning my head to him.  "Perhaps they will listen to you."

He looked slightly aghast at my suggestion.  "What shall I say?  Shall I sway him from a millennia of service by virtue of our shared blood?  He clings to all that remains of his world, because he lacks the power to restore it."

Though my face remained calm, I felt my eyes spark with lightning at Solas.  Coward.

"We knew this place was sacred," I said as I turned my head back to gaze up at Abelas.  "We've respected it as best we could."

Silence hung heavy in the air for a few moments before Abelas said, "I believe you.  Trespassers you are, but you have followed rites of petition.  You have shown respect to Mythal.  If these others are enemies of yours, we will aid you in destroying them.  When this is done, you shall be permitted to depart...and never return."

"This is our goal, is it not?" Solas said in a suddenly pleading voice.  "There is no reason to fight these Sentinels."

Why  would I want to fight them, Solas?  Why?  Do you think I'm that bloodthirsty?

"Consider carefully," Morrigan advised in a low, fervent tone.  "You must stop Corypheus, yes, but you may also need the Well for your own."  

No, you may also need the well for your own, Tits McGee.  Yeah, you're nipping.  Woo hoo.  

I briefly considered each of their statements before saying to Abelas, "We accept your offer."

"Then you will be guided to those  you seek," Abelas said.  "As for the Vir'Abelasan...it shall not be despoiled, even if I must destroy it myself."  He turned on his heels and strode out.

"No!" Morrigan yelled, and turned into a raven.

"Morrigan, stop!" I cried out, desperately reaching for her, but she had already flapped out of reach.  We all watched her fly after Abelas, and soon disappeared from sight.

"Damn that woman," Blackwall grumbled.  

I rubbed my brow in stress, but then said, "You know what?  We'll deal with that problem when we get to it.  For now, though, let's just...follow that nice-looking Sentinel glaring at us."

-

"The Well of Sorrows," I said, my voice a mixture of emotions that I couldn't quite place.

"It's so loud, and so cold," Cole muttered.

The sight we came upon was not a pretty one.  The last of the Sentinels were being slaughtered.  One was burnt to a crisp while another had his neck snapped by a templar's foot.  

Samson was saying something to his men--if you could call them that, anymore--when one of them raised a finger at us and shouted, "Samson!  Ser--watch out!"

"Inquisitor," Samson crooned.  "You've got a damned long reach.  We come to the back end of nowhere, and here you are."

"What can I say," I said thickly, "I enjoy travel--"  I broke out into a wheezing cough, then made a few gagging noises so I could try and get an obnoxious ball of phlegm out.  Once it was in my mouth I spat it on the ground, hoping that no Sentinels would see me spit stuff up on their sacred grass.  

Samson had his lip curled in disgust.  I shrugged apologetically.  "Allergies.  Anyways, back to the speeches.  Continue on, Samson."  I made the mistake of rubbing the back of my eye with my knuckle.  Cold, sharp stone jabbed into my jelly ball and I moaned in surprise and pain.  

He hesitated momentarily, weighing the chances of me being serious or not.  But, much to his villainous cliche, he started talking once more.  "Corypheus chose me twice.  First as his general, now as the Vessel for the Well of Sorrows.  You know what's inside the well?"

"Zyrtec?" I prompted.  He looked a bit taken aback at my interruption.

"N-No.  Maker, what even is that?"  Samson grumbled irritably before continuing.  "Wisdom.  The kind of wisdom that can scour a world.  I give it to Corypheus, and he can walk into the Fade without your precious Anchor."

"Oh.  Oh, I knew that," I said as I made a face.  "Seriously?  We've been dilly dallying for this long?  Laaame."  I fished out the rune Dagna had created specifically to destroy Samson's lyrium armor.  I smirked.  "I got you a little present, Samson."  I chucked it at him, and it stuck to his armor, which immediately fell apart as the rune worked its magic.  He snarled in shock and watched as everything fell to the ground.  I pulled out my greatsword, which erupted in coiling flames.  "I like this look on you better, by the way," I commented as I charged straight for him.

Even without Samson's armor, the dude was a tough match.  The battle was long and arduous, and it didn't help that I was in the midst of a full-out allergy attack.  My eyeballs were secreting unwelcome juices as well as my nose.

But hey, it was pretty funny when Samson managed to knock my weapon out of my hands and pick me up by my neck to hoist me off the ground.  I kicked my skinny legs in the air, trying to see if I could at least injure him in some way.  "You will fail," Samson hissed to me.  "You will never--"

My face twisted into something ugly and I sneezed the biggest sneeze I had ever sneezed in my sneezing history.  If there hadn't been a grip on my throat--which wasn't all that tight, now that I thought of it--I probably would have rocketed over the edge of the waterfall and into the chasm below.  Samson flinched as a slimy green booger hit him right in the eye.  I looked down to see that the train of snot was still connected to my nose.  It was so huge and long.  "Whoa," I giggled stuffily.  "That.  Is.  Epic."

Samson made a pure noise of disgust and threw me on the ground as he tried to hastily wipe away my residue.  I cackled as I rolled up and grabbed my greatsword, but before I attacked him I reached inside my pocket and pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the boogers that were now all over my face from the impact.  When I brought it down, I saw a man, not a Vessel or the Second-in-Command to a false god, reacting in a way any human being would when somebody sneezed right in their eye.  He had just been a man, a man who had something bad happen to him, and that turned him to darkness.  We all could have been like Samson, at some point or another.  But we would have regretted the decision we made every day of our lives, deep down.  And with his grip on my throat...I doubted he truly wanted to kill me.  Ah, hell.  He would be better off if I had just killed him.  The lyrium addiction would drive him insane, without his armor to protect him.

But I would believe in second chances until the very day I died.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Blackwall, Cole and Solas take down the last templar.  There was nobody bad around to see what I was about to do.

"Hey, Samson," I called, striding forward.  He looked up at me, but it was too late for him to do anything.  "I'm sorry," I apologized, then punched him square in the face.  Blood flew out of Samson's mouth and he toppled to the ground.  I had knocked him out cold.

"Maker's balls," Blackwall said as they approached.  "That was one hell of a--"

Our heads snapped to the commotion going on at the base of the Well.  Abelas was conjuring steps--what was it with this place and stairs magically appearing out of nowhere?--and running to destroy everything.  "Abelas!" I shouted, and we raced to follow him.  A black raven flew overhead, and just as we got up she was transforming back into her human appearance, cutting the Sentinel off from the chamber filled with still water just a few steps away.  

"You heard his parting words, Inquisitor.  The elf seeks to destroy the Well of Sorrows."

"So the sanctum is despoiled at last," Abelas said icily.  Embarrassment immediately flushed my cheeks.

"Y-you saw that?  I am so sorry, Abelas, I didn't mean to spit a lugi on the ground.  It was instinctive, and...and..." I stopped my rambling.  "Oh.  You weren't really talking about that, were you?"

"He would have destroyed the well himself, given the chance," Morrigan went on.  

"To keep it from your grasping fingers!" Abelas argued.  "Better it be lost than bestowed upon the undeserving!"

"Fool!  You'd let your people's legacy rot in the shadows?"

I sneezed loudly, but this time I had my handkerchief out to catch any projectile snot.  The tense scene was put on pause as I noisily blew my nose.  When I was done, I cleared my throat and turned back to Abelas and Morrigan.  "Okay.  I'm good, at least for a little bit."  I put the hankie back.  "Enough, the two of you."

"You cannot honestly--" Morrigan began to demand, but was cut off by my steel, razor-sharp voice.

"I said enough."

She calmed herself before saying, "Inquisitor, we cannot let Corypheus use this.  Even your elven lover would agree."

I raised an eyebrow.  "Did you seriously just call Solas my 'elven lover?'"

"If you use the Well, all that we are, all that we knew, will be lost forever," Abelas said gravely.  I pointed a finger at him.

"Not exactly."  My finger roved over to Solas.  "You're sounding a lot like he did, before I talked some sense into him.  And that's still a work-in-progress."

Abelas curled his lip in disdain.  "No.  Never again compare me to...him."

Solas' jaw set, but there was no anger in his eyes.  "We have plans, Abelas," I said more gently.  "This will not be the end.  I promise you that.  Somehow, the world will gain back some of what it has lost.  No, it will not be completely the same.  But nothing forever remains that way."  My lip twitched upwards.  "For some reason you elvhen have difficulty getting that through your skulls.  But if Corypheus gets to this Well, then there will be nothing to preserve or restore left."

"Our people yet linger," Solas added.  "Not all is lost yet, lethallin.  There is still a place for you."

Abelas looked at the two of us--truly looked.  Despite my red nose and my slightly watery eyes, he saw the two people that, together, they would bring Thedas into a world nobody would foresee coming.

We gained the right to use the Well.

I let Morrigan take it.  While Solas wasn't happy that she took it at all, it was better than myself drinking the water.  Mythal was very much real, and I very much did not want to be "bound to her will," as Solas put it.  Though it would have helped us restore the elven race, neither could I take the chance of something adverse happening with my Otherworldly origins, despite what Hallah said.  And...as shady as Morrigan was, I trusted her.  She didn't want to watch the world burn.  Sure, she would have to live with voices in her head, but I supposed she could deal with it.  I wasn't sure if I could.  There were already a lot of those rattling up in the attic of my brain.  No, there would be my friends who wouldn't approve, but I needed to stay sane if I was to continue to change the world.  Wow.  That was such a normal phrase for me to use, now.  Change the world.  Since when did I so readily take on the responsibility of that?  And I figured I not only had Solas to council me, but Hallah Lynne as well, if I ever needed to know things that were beyond my knowledge.  Images of the nightmare I saw at the chateau flashed through my mind, warning me of the dangers that came when too much power was put in my hands.  I knew I could hold a lot, but at what point would it begin holding me?

"Oh, hey, would you look who it is," I said, my eyes honing in on the figure of one dusty magister.  I turtle-frowned even when adrenaline pumped through my veins and and screamed for me to run.  "Heyyy, why can he fly and I can't?"

"The eluvian!" Morrigan said, throwing a hand out and sparking it to life.  

I made sure everybody was through before I leaped in myself, and to my amazement saw the remnants of the pool swirl to life in front of Corypheus.  A woman formed in the middle.  Corypheus roared in rage at her.  I would have stayed to see more, but I decided it best to jump through before the tower of water crashed down on me.  

-

I peeled my face off the stone ground and watched as Morrigan closed the eluvian.  We all breathed a sigh of relief.  

"Great," I groaned.  "We're back in Skyhold while everybody is still in the Arbor Wilds.  That won't be easy to explain in a simple letter."  

I then proceeded to pass out.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"...Well hello, there," Anders smiled down at me.  I swallowed the hard, dry lump in my throat.  My whole body ached, especially my lower stomach.

"W...what happened?" I said weakly.  I felt like shaking, but my body didn't have the strength to actually do it.

The mage's smile slipped and his eyes saddened.  He sat beside me on the bed I was laying on.  We weren't in my room; I had been settled in one of the private chambers I had set up in the medical house for patients that required more time to recover and shouldn't be disturbed.  Where was everybody?  Why was it just the two of us?  Where was Solas?

"Inquisitor..." Anders began, then faltered and looked away from me for a bit, gathering his words before bringing his eyes back to mine.  "When it...comes to reproduction, elves differ from humans.  Yes, the gestation period is a typical nine months when bearing a child, but the symptoms for elves are far more subtle, and visible signs of pregnancy do not begin to show until later on in the early third trimester."

My chest felt like it had caved in.

No.

"...Miscarriages are different for elves, as well.  There is little to no bleeding, and very seldom is there pain, depending on how far along a female is.  The only prominent symptom of one is fainting, and swelling, discoloring, and cramping of the abdomen."

My ears buzzed louder and louder with each passing second that Anders spoke.  When he didn't go further, I looked up to the dark wooden ceiling, my jaw clenching so tightly it hurt.  "How far along was I?" I whispered when I managed to unlock my sealed teeth for a few moments.  

"About five or six weeks," Anders breathed.  "You are lucky I was to remain here in Skyhold; Solas carried you here in his arms, nearly scaring the piss out of me when he burst through the doors.  None of them knew what had happened to you.  Neither did I, but I was fortunate enough to get them all out before making the revelation."

"So they don't know?"  I swallowed hard once more, but because a lump of a different kind now took place in my throat.  There was the night, the night when I had forgotten to drink that awful tea which kept me from getting pregnant because we had been ambushed by Venatori agents.  I didn't think...

"No, they do not.  Only you and I do."  Anders' shoulders were slumped heavily and his lower lip was threatening to tremble.  After a few seconds I reached over and placed my hand on top of his.

"Thank you, Anders," I said, my voice hoarse from the emotions I was penning inside.  "I know it must have been difficult trying to find a way to break the news to me."

He gave a halfhearted laugh.  "Andraste's dainty toes, you're the one who's had something traumatizing happen to you, and yet you're comforting me.  I think there's something a bit off with that."

I faintly smiled at him and forced it to reach my eyes.  "I don't think anybody can heal entirely if they don't allow themselves to help others in need, no matter how big or small the problem may be."  

Anders huffed and smiled as he shook his head, but didn't argue.  The ache in my throat began to fade.  "How long have I been unconscious?" I asked him.

"You remained in the state for only a short while, but I put you back to a dreamless sleep as I healed you so you wouldn't be aware of the pain you may have felt.  It's been only two hours, and I do believe Solas is creating a trench outside the door from all his pacing."

"And you haven't told him?" I questioned with a bit more anxiousness.  Anders shook his head once.

"It is not my place to tell him that.  The only circumstance that I would have was if your life was in immediate danger, and it was not.  Maker, I've never seen anybody with a stronger body than yours."

That made me chuckle, but I immediately regretted doing so because my stomach lanced with pain.  I choked off a cry, but Anders was there to place a healing hand on my abdomen.  I relaxed and settled back into the bed.  "You're probably going to give me a disapproving look after I ask this, but when can I get back out there?  I did kind of leave the entirety of the Inquisition in the Arbor Wilds.  They probably think I'm dead by now."

He did in fact give me a disapproving look.  "You need to let your body recover, Inquisitor.  And, as a healer, I'm ordering you to move as little as possible for the next week."

I opened my mouth to protest, but there was suddenly an olive-skinned woman with a Mohawk sitting at the foot of the bed.  Anders froze in place, gaping at her.  "Y-you," he sputtered dumbly.  Hallah smirked and raised a hand in greeting.  Then her intense emerald eyes met mine.  

"Hello, Alaran," she said, her voice melodious and smooth and soft.  Without her typical, sharp smirk, Hallah's face was serene and beautiful in the way that a sunset dipping below the ocean waters was: breathtaking, but ultimately indescribable.  

"Hallah."  I was embarrassed at how pained I sounded when I spoke her name.  A wave of tears sprung to my eyes.  

The Traveler moved fluidly to my side in a heartbeat, and picked me up in her arms.  Anders made a noise of protest, but there was no pain when I was propped up and enveloped in a comforting embraced.  No tears spilled over, but I breathed raggedly into her bosom and clutched the fabric of her soft gray T-shirt in my hands.  "I'm so sorry, girly," Hallah said kindly as she ran a gentle hand over my clammy scalp.  "I wanted to tell you, but...I didn't know what path you would take.  Had you drank out of the Vir'Abelasan, your child would have lived, but he would not have been your child, at least not completely.  He would have been something else entirely because of the effects of the water.  You would have had to kill him, and then you would have died from grief."  I squeezed my eyes shut and whimpered at the possible future I would have had to go through.  Hallah held me tighter, one of her hands moving down and rubbing my back.  "I'm sorry, Alaran.  You can blame me.  I won't mind.  This is why so many people dislike me, anyways; I would understand if you thought similar things."

As much as I wanted to--oh, I was strongly tempted to--I didn't.  Shaking my head once, I pulled back and sat up.  Hallah's expression was so anciently despairing I knew I couldn't bear to add to her own burden of being shunned by others she had only wanted to help.  "No...I won't.  You shouldn't be blamed for things like this."  I sucked in a deep breath.  "It hurts.  It hurts so much."  I clawed at my chest with a trembling hand.  "But...but this is not the end.  I understand, Hallah.  I do."

Hallah's eyes glistened briefly before she smiled.  That in itself was a mixture of pain and sadness and eons of hardship, but also of happiness and endurance and will.  "Thank you," she whispered with so much gratefulness it was almost tangible.  Hallah placed a hand on my shoulder.  "If...when you need somebody to talk to, I'll be here.  The ties I have to the Universe make it incapable for me to ever conceive children, so...yeah.  I know what it feels like."  The way she spoke it made my heart wrench even more than it already had.  She most likely lived countless lifetimes, yet all she really wanted was to raise a family.  "But, also like you, I have somebody who loves me very much, and he raises me off my feet when I feel like I can't bear the weight of it all."

I tilted my head, a glimmer of surprise making my eyebrow twitch.  "I didn't know you had a significant other, Hallah."

She smirked.  "Solas told you that I had a husband once, but only because he didn't know if I still had one."  She held up her left hand and a silver ring with a single diamond shimmered into view before disappearing once more.  "It's pretty distracting to others outside his world, so I keep it hidden when I'm away."  Hallah's hand dropped back onto her lap.  Her lips showed signs of her smirk returning.  "Go ahead," she sighed, "ask me who it is."

"Who is it?" I blurted out.  I had to know.  Hallah Lynne!  A married woman!  The scandal!  I couldn't wait to tell Solas and shove it in his face that if one immortal can be married then so can he.

"Well," she drawled, flicking her eyes slyly to the side.  "Technically my name isn't Hallah Lynne.  It hasn't been that for a few years.  But," she sighed, "the Universe only knows me as that, so I typically stick with it.  My actual name is Hallah Wilson."

"That still doesn't tell me who he is," I pointed out dryly.  "And if it's only been that for a few years, then why did Solas know that you were married thousands of years ago?"

"Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff," Hallah winked.  "I'm a Time Traveler, Al.  Things are weird.  In my husband's time, it has been a few years.  But in my time, it's been that for a long while.  Don't think about it too hard; you'll only get a headache."

"Yeah, okay.  But who is it?"

Hallah stood up, ignoring my question like I knew she would.  "Your stomach shouldn't hurt, anymore.  I worked my "magic" on it."  She exaggeratedly quoted the air.  "Except the swelling and excess fluid is still there.  If I did anything more I would have to hurt you--I don't want to get into that right now, though.  Oh, and I even took it upon myself to go to the Arbor Wilds and inform Cullen and Leliana of your whereabouts.  In person.  Yeah, be thankful, 'cause I had to face Leliana and tell her that it was actually me that covered your backstory when I posed as one of her spies."  Hallah shuddered.  "Sometimes I wonder if that ginger has a soul.  You wanna know why people get so freaked out by her stare?  Because their entire subconscious is screaming that she's actually gauging whether or not she wants to eat theirs."

I couldn't help but laugh.  Hallah's gaze shifted over to Anders, who I had actually forgotten was still here.  I twisted around and saw that his usually healthy complexion was pale and his brown eyes were wide.  "See?  I told you it would be alright if you got caught," Hallah said to him in an obvious tone.  She crossed her arms under her breasts and cocked a hip.  "And hello, Justice.  Thank you for listening to me."

I whipped my head back and forth between the two of them.  "Wait.  You talked to Justice?"

"No, she threatened him," Anders said wryly.  "There's a slight difference."

"Only a smidge," Hallah said with a sarcastic crinkle of her eyes, holding up her hand and making a tiny space between her thumb and forefinger.  "I had to make sure he wouldn't ruin things with Scratch.  She's the best thing that will ever happen to you, after all."

Scratch?  Oh--Trevelyan.  I had forgotten that was the nickname she went by.  

Hallah lightly clapped her hands together.  "Anyways, I should get going.  My beloved needs chimichangas, and you need to see yours before he cracks that egg head of his from all the waiting."  Hallah ran a finger in the air like there was an invisible, reverse zipper.  Emerald green light shimmered beyond the rift.  It hurt my eyes to look directly at it.  She put a long, slender leg through.  "I'll be here for you, Al," Hallah said with a firm smile.  "As well as the others.  They all love you.  It's okay to be weak in front of them, sometimes.  Because," she shrugged, "if you're never weak, then how do they really know if you're strong at all?"

She made a hang-loose gesture and bit her lower lip in a suggestive way before disappearing through the portal, which closed behind without so much as a pop.  

"Well," Anders said after a drawn-out silence.  "That was..."

"No need to explain," I said when he couldn't come up with the right words to say.  "I totally get it."

-

Solas wished he could just take all of Alaran's pain away.  He would gladly do so without a moment's hesitation.  His own stomach dropped to the floor as she explained to him what had happened in a quiet, vulnerable voice, occasionally placing a wandering hand to her stomach.  Fenedhis.  He should have known.  If only he had let his magic seep into her abdomen and explore what lie beneath, then maybe...maybe...

"Hey," Alaran said consolingly.  She guided Solas' turned head back to look at her.  "Don't blame yourself, please.  I...I don't know what I would do if you did."  Her violet eyes grew moist and began shifting to a dark plum color.  "You didn't know.  I didn't know.  It was just...something that happened.  It was out of our control, just as many things are."

Solas covered her hand with his, closing his eyes and breathing in the faint scent of lavender that lingered on her skin.  A torrent of emotions roiled inside him, so he did the only thing he could do.

He pulled her into a hug and pressed a loving kiss to her soft, quivering lips.

"Sing me a song," Alaran whispered.  "Please."

She was pulled into Solas' lap, where he cradled her and held her body tight to his.  A porcelain hand wrapped around his jawbone pendant as Alaran tucked her head into the crook of his neck.  Solas leaned his back into the couch they had been sitting on and found himself singing a melody he hadn't realized he even remembered the lyrics to.  Elvhen songs were not short, simple tunes.  This one lasted a full ten minutes, weaving a story otherwise lost to the world.  A slow tear rolled down his cheek and fell onto Alaran's shirt as he remembered who used to sing the song to him.  As he remembered the pain his vhenan was going through.  As he remembered the pain they both had to endure.  As he remembered that they would endure it together.  

When Solas finished Alaran sobbed softly once.  They sat in silence for some time, unable to come up with the right words so instead basking in the presence of one another.  Sometimes it was all anyone could do.

"Where did you learn that song?" Alaran eventually asked, the sentence soft and raw and lingering in the air after it had been said.

"My mother," Solas said back.  He took a strand of her loose hair and twined it between his fingers.  

"Could...could you tell me about her?"

"It would be my pleasure, emma lath."

-

"And where are you headed off to?" Varric asked Her Inquisitorialness as she descended the staircase, a pack slung over one shoulder and her back void of any towering greatsword.  She was dressed in simple travelling clothes.  He couldn't blame the girl for wanting to get away from Skyhold for a bit, after the whole ordeal in the Arbor Wilds.  

Except...something was off.  It was only through the subtle signs that weren't even really signs--they were more like feelings Varric got--that he knew something was up.  "What's wrong," said Varric, his easy smile disappearing and a concerned furrow in his brow becoming the dominant expression.  

Al slightly pursed her lips, considering on whether or not she was going to tell him.  Varric crossed his arms in waiting.  There were hardly any people around; Skyhold had unofficially taken a day off after they had returned from the jungle, and due to the fine summer day few wanted to be indoors.  The only reason Varric had stayed inside was because he had several letters to finish up writing to some contacts back in Kirkwall.  

"Are you sure you want to know, Varric?" she questioned.  His furrow deepened; this wasn't like her.  Something was definitely wrong.

"Of course I do," he said back.  Al glanced around to make sure there were no eavesdroppers nearby before she partially bowed her head and gazed at the floor.

"Um, so...turns out I was pregnant."  

Varric couldn't help his jaw from dropping.  Al went on before he could let shock and elation bubble up from his chest.  "Except...I had a miscarriage."  The initial reaction died as quickly as it had come.  "I didn't know I was with child until afterwards, when Anders told me."  She laughed, but it was aching and broken and everything but humorous.  "I was only about six weeks along.  It's...yeah."  Her eyes met Varric's, and he saw that they were that dark plum shade that only appeared whenever she was near tears or actually crying.  "I need to get away for a little while, so Solas and I are going to Crestwood for a few days."

Andraste, help her, Varric silently prayed as he wrapped his arms around Alaran.  He felt that her belly was slightly swollen and hard and his heart broke.  Not his Al.  She already had been through enough.  She didn't need this.  Damn it all to the Void, but she didn't need this.  "I'm sorry, Alaran," he said sincerely, pouring all the meaning he could into those three words.  "Maker...I'm so sorry.  And I'm sorry I can't think of anything to say, right now."

"It's alright, Varric."  How she could manage to make even her weak voice sound strong, Varric would never know.  "You don't need to say anything."

"It's just...dammit, it's not fair," Varric found himself arguing quietly.  He released his grip on Alaran's reed-like waist and looked up at her.  

She gave a small smile filled with cracks and hurts yet with wisdom and love.  "Life is fair, Varric.  It's fair because it's unfair to everyone.  Nobody is exempt from its reach."  She patted the side of his stubbly cheek and rubbed her hand over the coarse hairs a few times before dropping it.  "But I'll be alright.  Not today, but...eventually.  I'll be alright.  Yeah.  I believe I will."  

Tears for the pain Al was going through swelled in Varric's eyes.  He cleared his throat before he could dwell on it too long.  If he was to shed tears for Alaran, it would be in private.  "The others are all playing an outdoors game of Diamondback, so if you want to avoid them then you should go through the kitchens," he instead advised.  Alaran's eyes sparked with love, and Varric wanted to curse at her for only heightening the temptation to cry.  "But they'll figure out you left soon enough.  Then they'll come whining to me and want to know where you and Chuckles went.  What should I tell them?"

Alaran blinked slowly before answering.  "The truth.  Tell them the truth.  They deserve to know.  And...I don't think Solas and I can get through this without all of your support."

Either she needed to leave soon or Varric did, because he wasn't going to be able to rein himself in much longer.  "You got it, Al," he said with a false smile.

But Maker knows Varric would smile for her any day.

As soon as Alaran slipped through the kitchens, Varric calmly went up to his room, silently closed the door behind him, then fell to his knees at the side of his bed and wept uncontrollably for his friend.  

-

I couldn't help but let a small laugh bubble to my lips as I looked upon the familiar den.  "We fought that wyvern here," I stated as I looked around, Solas' warm hand laced between my fingers.  "Then I brought back the...what was it?  The liver?  To that lady and she was so happy she sent us back with a bouquet of flowers that Sera and I used to weave in Blackwall's beard."

Solas laughed.  "Ah.  That is where you got the various assortment.  I had always wondered."  He closed his eyes and breathed in the cool night air.  "The Veil is thin here.  Can't you feel it?  It tingles on your skin."

I stilled, and soon enough I felt my flesh prickle with the energy.  "That's amazing," I breathed.  We walked to the edge of the pond, which clearly reflected the ginormous moon resting in the air.  I then turned to him and smiled.  He smiled back, and lovingly grazed my cheek with his knuckles.  

"You are so beautiful," he breathed, and no matter how many times I heard him say that, I always got butterflies in my stomach.  "Ar lath ma, Alaran."

"Ar lath ma, Solas."  Some semblance of peace had rested in my breast, which was more than I had felt in months.  "Are you ready?"

"If you are, yes."

We both spread out a blanket on the ground knelt on it.  I let my eyes close shut as Solas touched both sides of my face with the tips of his fingers.  Slightly burning but not painful warmth laced under my skin, along the very lines where my vallaslin rested.  In a matter of moments I felt it lift free.  When I reopened my eyes, I saw Solas looking at me with so much love I wanted to cry.  But enough crying had been done for the day; all I wanted to do was cling onto the joy I felt as I was reminded that he was mine, and I was his.  

"You are a Queen," Solas said.  His lilting voice was all I ever wanted to hear.  "My Queen."

"And you are my King."  The two of us lay atop the blanket and stared up at the moon and its stars, our bodies twined together.  I would be falling asleep, soon.  I could feel it behind my eyelids.  It didn't help that Solas' comforting smell made me even more drowsy.  

My mind kept wandering to the simple statement.  I will be okay.  We will be okay.

Yes.

I would be okay.  We would be okay.

It wasn't until I was nearly asleep and my thoughts were in a state of semi-awareness did I realize two extremely mind-blowing things.

I jerked up, gasping loudly.  Solas bolted upright as well.  "Vhenan?  What is it?" he asked worriedly.  I turned to him and gripped his clothes, nearly shaking him in excitement.

"Wilson!  Chimichangas!  Solas, Hallah Lynne is married to Deadpool!"

screed as I flung myself back onto the blanket, laughing madly.

My day had officially been made.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"It was pulsing and beating, so faint I could hardly hear it, but I did.  I did.  But I did not say anything because I...I..."

I reached out and grabbed Cole's arm, stilling him from pacing.  He was near violently picking at the hem of his sleeves.  "Cole," I spoke gently.  "It's okay.  None of this is your fault."

"But I could have done something--"

I clamped a hand over his mouth.  "We both knew that when you decided to become more human, you would take on said human qualities as time progressed.  Now you're feeling less the emotions of others and more your own.  And that's wonderful, Cole.  I am so, so happy for you."

He calmed down and I let my hand drop.  As expected, things had been weird when Solas and I first returned after our trip to Crestwood.  Everybody was trying to console me in their own way, but they didn't know exactly how to get into the rhythm of it.  After a short while, though, they began treating me normally.  That was all I really wanted from them, and only when I would suddenly stop talking in the middle of a conversation would they comfort me in small, meaningful ways.  Cole had been particularly upset about my miscarriage not only because he hadn't been able to help, but because he couldn't sense as much, anymore.  He had to constantly actively try and feel what others were feeling, but he hadn't realized that he needed to do so with me in the first place.

"I'll be okay," I said with a small smile.

"We'll be okay," Cole finished.  

"Yes, we will."

-

So the encounter with Mythal was awkward.  Especially since it was Morrigan's mother.  I think I already knew that, from a WikiPage.  But I could see where her particular taste in fashion came from.  I seriously wanted to ask how Flemeth got her hair in horns like that.  

"You carry the scent of a welcomed intruder," Flemeth spoke to me.  "There is wisdom beyond this world that you hold, Inquisitor.  It is a shame you did not drink from the well.  The knowledge we could have shared..."

That--that--was the very reason I hadn't.  I would have been bound to share that knowledge, whether I wanted to or not.  I was again reminded why I was so glad Solas had removed Mythal's vallaslin.  As good of a woman she was, I would not go to her and make claims that I worshiped her in any way.  "I tend to keep the twining of your world and mine apart," I said.  I didn't need to keep it a secret from Morrigan any longer; with the power of the well inside her, the voices immediately told on me.  Oh, there were loads of questions that I got assaulted with, but nothing more horrible than some of the things the Inner Circle had already asked me.  

Flemeth chuckled.  "Oh, dear, you really do believe that, don't you?  How...hopeful of you."

I kept my face composed, even though I suddenly had the urge to set one of her hair-horns on fire.  

-

Ironically, it was when we were talking about how we were going to find Corypheus at the war table did the Magister spotlight himself.  

I doubled over and cried out in pain, clutching the sparking Mark and holding it to my chest.  "Freaking--vagina--Anchor!" I spat through gritted teeth.  It was at the same level of agony as it had been when I first woke up to the Butthole in the Sky and literally had no idea what was going on.  

The green light that had bathed the room faded, along with the burning ache.  I straightened and hobbled over to the window to see yet another green sky butthole.  "Corypheus," I hissed.  Boiling rage swept through my body.  

"He did that?" Leliana gaped.  "But why?"

"Either I close the Breach again, or it swallows the world," I stated grimly.  "I've done it once before, though."  I managed to smirk despite the dire situation.  "I think I can do it again."

"But...that's madness!" Josephine exclaimed.  "Wouldn't it kill him as well?"

"Yes.  Probably.  I would think so.  But I think that in light of what has happened, he just wants to watch the world burn."

"Inquisitor," Cullen said gravely, "we have no forces to send with you--we must wait for them to return from the Arbor Wilds."

"I know," I responded.  "Why do you think Corypheus did this now?  He thinks we'll be incapable of stopping him without an army."  I squared my shoulders and ignored the throbbing in the palm of my hand.  "But he's wrong."

Skyhold erupted into efficient chaos.  Mounts were prepared, scouts were sent, and the Inner Circle joined me as I walked down the steps of the castle, donned in my red-and-black armor.  Night had already fallen, but the sky was alight with the glow from the new Breach.  The people that were rushing by stopped to watch us as we strode through the courtyard as a single, mighty force to be reckoned with.  They were part of the Inquisition, yes, but we were the Inquisition.  

Master Dennet had our horses ready to ride.  I smiled fondly at Phillip.  "Hey, bud," I said, patting his nose.  "Are you ready to rock 'n' roll?"  

"Inquisitor," Dennet said, slightly anxious.  I turned my head to him and raised a questioning eyebrow.  

"Yeah, Dennet?"

He pulled out a hand-stitched doll only about six inches long and three inches wide.  Brown yarn served as hair, and the dress was a nice, corn blue color.  The fabric that served for the skin obviously came from a white flour bag.  "Elaina and the grandkids made this for you."

I gasped in delight and took it.  "Oh!  It's so cute!  Thank you, Dennet!"  I tucked the doll into one of my pockets that was just the right size for it, knowing that it would be safe there.  Iron Bull and I had already tried seeing if the jacket would ever tear by putting it on a dummy and swinging all sorts of swords into it.  When it never even showed signs of being nicked, we figured it was pretty much indestructible.  "Tell Elaina and the grandchildren I love it."

"Will do, Inquisitor."  He paused before saying, "and for what it's worth, it's been an honor."

I smirked at him and swung myself into Phillip's saddle.  "You make it sound like I'm not going to come back!"

For the first time in my life, I saw a smile dash across the serious horsemaster's face.  "You had better.  Who else would the nugs have to cuddle if you didn't?"

My smirk turned into a grimace.  "Ew.  Maybe I really shouldn't return, then."

A short minute later we were racing across the bridge.  I leaned low again'st Phillip's back, his dark mane whipping the skin on my cheeks and adding to the bite of the cold.  Varric was reluctant to ride a horse of his own ("Why can't I just ride Darkspawn, Al?"  "Because we all know that if your evil little pony even gets near Corypheus, he'll take the Orb for himself and use it to kill everyone in his path."  "Point taken.") so we plopped him on with Cassandra, who surprisingly didn't make a noise of disgust as he wrapped his arms around her waist.  

We left the horses a ways back with Harding and stormed up to the ruins, where yet again there were rocks floating and demons fighting the scouts and Corypheus standing there with the Orb floating in his opened palm.  Cassandra cut down the remaining demon as I slowed to a walk, a lightning storm in my eyes.  We would stop this, here and now.

"I knew you would come," Corypheus grated, and dipped low into a mocking bow.

"It ends here, Corypheus," I snarled.  

He looked up at me from his bow and twisted his sneer into a grin.  "And so it shall."  Red power emanated from the Magister and he pulled his arms up high.  There was thunderous cracking as what was left of the temple separated from the earth and lifted into the sky.  We were tossed to the ground as it rose higher and higher, but soon gathered our wits and quickly scrambled up.  I unsheathed my greatsword and felt the familiar flame ignite on the metal.  

"You have been most successful in foiling my plans, but let us not forget what you are.  A thief, in the wrong place at the wrong time.  An interloper.  A gnat.  We shall prove here, once and for all, which of us is worthy of godhood."

"In case you've forgotten, I've never wanted to be a god," I said, gripping the pommel of my sword and drawing forth the warrior inside me.  "Though I wouldn't mind the title of God-Slayer.  That has a nice ring to it, don't ya think?  The God-Slaying Gnat.  Yes.  Let's go with that, shall we?"

A reverberating, metallic growl came from the ruins behind Corypheus.  The lyrium dragon crawled out, spread its wings, and swooped in to kill me and everybody that stood with me.  Before it could get to us, though, another dragon, this one purple, blindsided it and knocked it off-course.  The two beasts rose into the night air, their claws and jaws locked on each other's hides.  

"You dare," Corypheus seethed.

"No, I was double dared," I said back with an infuriating smirk.  I then attacked.

"Hey, Al," Varric said amiably to me as we sat together in the grand hall.  The evening was peaceful, for once, and the stones soaked in the rich sounds of laughter and love.  Solas would have been with us, but he was off with Morrigan, discussing things that the voices from the Well of Sorrows told her.  After they told her my true identity, they told her who he was.  No, they did not technically like each other, but for the pursuit of knowledge they put aside their differences.  "What are you going to do once this is all over?"

I shrugged.  "No idea.  I haven't thought that far."

"Yeah, you have."

"You're right."  I huffed a sigh and looked down at my plate of food.  "I have plans.  We have plans.  And I hope that you'll want to be a part of it, when the time comes."

"And be a part of another one of your stories?  I wouldn't miss it for the world, Al."

I moved my gaze back up to the dwarf, a small, wistful smile playing on my lips.  "Have you ever thought about starting a story of your own, Varric?"

The question caught him off-guard, but he eased into a chuckle.  "And what do you mean by that?" Varric questioned passively.  I propped an elbow up onto the table and rested my chin on my closed fist.

"You write so many of these grand stories, Varric, but do you ever wonder what you would write about if the story was your own?"

"I already do that," he laughed.  "I tell stories from my point-of-view, which, by the way, is the best kind of view."

"You're evading me," I said, still with a small smile.  "You know, I think Thedas could use a story about Varric Tethras.  Better yet, I think Varric Tethras could use a story about Varric Tethras."  My gaze flickered over to the tall Seeker that had taken up a seat next to Blackwall a few tables away.  Varric followed my eyes and stiffened oh-so-slightly when he saw who I was looking at.  "And maybe have somebody at his side when he makes it."

There were a few moments of silence before Varric said quietly, "And what if my own story only ends up as a tragedy?"  His eyes drifted back to Cassandra.  

"I think the only true tragic stories are the ones never experienced," I replied.

His expression went back to being nonchalantly guarded.  "If I do, then who will be there to tell the shit-show of your life?" 

I smirked.  "Well, with how much is coming, I doubt you could ever get it down, anyways."  My smirk then slipped.  "Just...when you do write--because I know for a fact you will--could you help the world remember that my name was Alaran?"

Varric knew what I meant, and he put a thick hand on my shoulder.  "Yeah.  I can do that."

My smile returned.  "Thanks, Varric.  Now, I think you have somebody you should go take a walk with." 

The fact of the matter was, all of my friends would most likely leave.  The Doctor's words drifted to my mind whenever I had to walk with the crushing reality.  We're all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one, eh?

I wanted them to make theirs good.  So I would let them go, when the time came.  

But not right now.

"Bull!  Blackwall!" I roared over the screeching of Corypheus' dragon we were trying to kill.  "Take out its hind legs!  And for hell's sake, Sera, PUT AN ARROW THROUGH ONE OF ITS EYES!"

Sera cackled as she sprang away from a blast of lyrium fire and twirled gracefully in the air, letting loose a flurry of arrows too quick for my vision to follow.  The dragon gave a deafening shriek as one of them pierced its eyeball.  "For a second there I thought you were going to tell me to put an arrow through one of its fockin knees!"

"THAT TOO!"

I narrowly dodged one of its swiping talons.  A claw jarringly dinged against my sword, rattling up my arms and making them feel numb for a few moments.  That just made me angrier and fueled my blood rage, so I in turn attacked even more ferociously until I was whacked with its tail.  The wind rushed out of me as I flew into the air.  Solas lashed out a barrier around me moments before I hit a crumbling wall.  I made an ungracious oof noise, but other than that I was fine.  I pushed myself off the ground and started to run back to the fight.  "Dorian!  Charge me!" I shouted at the Tevinter.  My sword flared even more and became a beacon of fire as I dodged the dragon's snapping maw.  In one single slice I swung my blade upwards and sliced into the soft spot of its throat.  Burning dragon-flesh seared into my nostrils and mouth and blood sprayed all over me, but the job had been done.  

As the dragon fell, a form of red power swirled into the air until it turned into a spherical shape.  It then rushed to the spot where Corypheus lay fallen on a broken balcony.  The power seeped into him and raised the false god to his feet.  Sparks and embers flew off of him as he thrusted the Orb up high.  "Let it end here!  Let the skies boil!  Let the world be rent asunder!"

The Anchor flared to life and crackled up my arm as we raced up the stairs.  I staggered, but Cassandra and Solas were there to support me as I cried out in pain and fury.  "The Breach is getting bigger!" Varric yelled.

"He's really doing it!  We have to stop him!" shouted Dorian.

Of course Corypheus would make the final fight on top of the highest point of the tower.  There were a few moments of blinding panic as he either threw or blasted magic that sent my friends soaring into the air and landing dangerously close to the edge.  But he was weak, and we were stronger than he was.  

Corypheus hit me with vile red magic before turning towards the sky.  "Not like this!  I have walked the halls of the golden City, crossed the ages--"

"Would you just SHUT UP?!" I screamed, clenched my fist, then thrust the Anchor out to the Orb, calling it to me with every ounce of will and strength I had left in my battered body.  It was ripped from Corypheus' grasp and flew into mine.

Power consumed my entire soul, so much that I could hardly control it.  Distantly, I heard Solas shouting my name in panic.  But before I was overwhelmed and destroyed, whatever it was I had locked away inside of me so long ago after I came back to life as only and always Alaran Lavellan sprang forth and steered the current of energy away from harming me.  Instead it pulled--it pulled and yanked and as I watched Corypheus fall to his knees I held the Orb up above my head and pushed all that there was into the sky and straight at the Breach.  I felt my feet begin to lift off the ground a moment before there was a deafening boom as the Breach closed, leaving an aurora-like scar similar to my hand in the night sky.  

I lowered my numb arm and dropped the Orb on the ground.  I strode up to Corypheus and raised the Mark at him.  "You wanted into the Fade?" I snarled.  He bellowed in shock and pain as I opened something more than a rift at the very core of his being.  "Well challenge accepted."  

The Tevinter Magister, the Elder One, the False God, crumpled into nothingness.

I would have either stood there triumphantly or collapsed to the ground, but everything around us started doing the latter before I could.  If this thing falls, then the whole Frostbacks are screwed because something hitting the ground this large and at this height will demolish everything for miles and oh gosh why couldn't I have the Avengers help me out on this one?  Not to mention that we'll literally be tossed into the air when we start plummeting as well and this is it we're all going to die.  Solas, love, where are you so I can be held in your arms--

"Dude," Hallah's voice echoed in my brain.  "Do you think I would leave you hanging like this?"

I would have answered, but a particularly large rock bonked me on the head and sent me careening into darkness.

-

When I awoke I jolted up, only to have a wave of vertigo hit me and send me flopping back on the uncomfortable rubble.  So instead I gazed up at the starry sky, catching my breath and waiting a little while before I tried again, except more slowly this time.  I groaned as I picked up my greatsword.  My body popped in some not-very-good places as I straightened my back.  "Ow," I winced.  "Freaking ow."  I started to make my way through the rocky debris, the word "ow" becoming a steady beat with each limp I took.  I really hoped everybody else was okay, and that I was the worst off out of all of them.  

I sucked in a breath to start shouting their names when I came upon Solas kneeling over the broken remnants of the Orb.  Oh.  Oh crap.  I...I had forgotten.  I had seriously forgotten.  I would have told him...I would have told him had I...

"Solas," I whispered.

He didn't turn around.  "The Orb."  His voice was broken and soft.  

Terrible guilt washed over me.  I hadn't even thought about what would happen when I used it to close the Breach.  "I...I'm so sorry, Solas."  I took a step forward to go and comfort him, but he snapped his head to look at me over his shoulder.

"Don't."  

I stopped.  Something in my chest was stirring, burning, growing.  "Please, vhenan..." 

"Leave me," Solas commanded coldly, even though voice shook.  

I numbly turned away to depart, the feelings in my chest fading away with each step I took.

He was going to leave.

"Inquisitor!" Cassandra shouted nearby.  "Are you alive?"

My feet thudded wearily on the broken staircase, but I still somehow smiled when I saw my friends waiting for me at the bottom.  My head throbbed from where the rock had hit me, and after I patted it I felt flecks of dried blood drift off underneath my gloves.  "Well," Varric huffed as he tossed his hands lightly in the air.  "Should we start celebrating?  Is it really over?"

"I think so," I smirked.

"What do we do now?" Cassandra asked.  Her eyes flickered behind me and I felt the burning return.

I twisted around to see Fen'Harel just turning away to leave.  "Solas," I called.  He paused and slightly shifted.  He was on a precipice, and if I spoke my words right I could...I could get him to stay.

"Yes?"  I barely heard the question from how softly he spoke.  Turn to look at me, look at me, just look at me, vhenan.  Look at me.

Solas did, gazing out at all of us.  I swallowed hard so my voice could be clear.

"You must gather your party before venturing forth."

He slumped his shoulders slightly and briefly closed his eyes, thousands of years weighing down on him.  When he opened them I smiled in elation.  They were clear and focused on me.  "I do, don't I?" Solas said with a faint smile of his own.  He turned fully and started to make his way down the stairs.  The Inner Circle cheered.  We both rolled her eyes.

"Well, that was certainly dramatic," Dorian said wryly as he twisted his mustache.  "Varric, will you get that down in the book?"

"Oh, most definitely," Varric laughed.  His lip had been split and there were rips on his jacket.  I hobbled down and waited for Solas at the base.  

"We did it," I breathed, the realization finally sinking in.  "Guys.  We did it."  I laughed, loud and free, and spread my arms out wide.  "WEEEEEEEE ARRRRREEEEE THE CHAAAAAAAMPIONS!" I belted out, even if it made my whole body groan in protest.  I repeated the verse in an incredibly high soprano that I had only reserved for when I was singing in a musical.  "WWEEEEEEEEE ARRRRRRREEEE THE CHAAAAAAAAMPIONS!!! NO TIME FOR LOSERS, CAUSE WE AAAAAAARRRRRRREEEE CHAAAAAAAAAMPIONS..." I made the chug-chug-chug noises of an air drum being heavily beaten on with the accompanying motions before singing, "OF THE WOOOOOOOORRRRLLLLDDD!!"

Iron Bull and Sera wolf howled into the night sky as the others clapped.  I spun around a few times before falling into Solas' arms, laughing uncontrollably.

It was cut off by the burning in my chest that swept any breath I had in me away.  I cried out in pain as my body went through spasms.  Solas' joyful expression disappeared, replaced with frightful concern.

"Alaran?  Alaran, what is it?" he asked, sinking to the ground with me in his arms.  Something was roaring within me.  The cheering stopped and my companions circled around me.  "

Kaffas," Dorian swore.  "Solas, did you--?"

"No, I didn't," he snapped back.  My eyes darted wildly around.  What were they talking about?  What...

My back arched and I screamed.  Oh, gosh, I have an alien inside me.  It's going to pop out of my body any second, now.  And I doubt anybody here will know how to combat freaking aliens.

My vision turned black and the only thing I became aware of was the war going on inside my being.  It was going to tear through my existence and obliterate everything if I didn't somehow get it under control.  Battling the undulating force of swirling green power was a small spark of violet.  Ugh.  Color clash.  Not savory at all. 

Josephine's clipped Antivan voice drifted into my mind.  Inquisitor, focus!

I molded the spark into a flame, then into a wildfire.  It swarmed the green, which was several shades lighter than Hallah's own emerald colored energy.  This couldn't have been her doing.

The battle raged on for an eternity until the green finally began to wash over the violet, which cracked and whipped in defense, but to no avail.  Its opponent was too powerful.  Besides myself, everyone around me was going to be killed.

No.

Instead of fighting, I let the force green sweep over me and nearly extinguish the violet.  But in a sudden movement that would either work and save us all or not work and kill us all, I constructed a dam, a prison for it, using its own power against it and shaping it with my own in a mad, insane act.  This will never work.  This will never, ever work.

But it has to.

I was quickly losing myself, so I thought of my friends and Solas and everything I loved and everything I hated and forced it upon the green, so much that it snapped in another direction and began moving, forming everything and everyone around it.  I heard the screams of others and for one horrifying fearful moment I thought that we would all be killed.  No.  More than killed.  We would simply cease to exist.  That was how much power resided in me, now.  

But, fortunately, the green only drug them with it, so I grabbed each of their own consciousness with what little violet I had left and tucked them away, feeling who was all there while the prison was still building.  Solas Varric Cassandra Sera Dorian Blackwall Iron Bull Vivienne Cole and even Cullen and Josephine and Leliana and Harding and Hawke and Anders and Morrigan.  We would all be trapped by the green in its prison, soon.  I am so sorry, my friends, I thought to them.  You don't deserve this.

I knew I would most likely die if I succeeded, but at least I wouldn't be wiped from existence.  I had done this so they could continue to live along with the rest of Thedas.  Though I felt sadness about the circumstance they were now in, I didn't feel guilt.  They would have followed me into death with only a bit of whining, anyways.  They wouldn't have wanted me to feel guilty.  At least they would all be remembered.  That was the least I could give them.

The prison was completed.  I was almost spent; it would be time to let go, soon.  

A swath of intense emerald cut through the seam of the prison and enveloped me, changing everything, yet nothing at all.  

"I got your back, jack," the emerald spoke.  "I promise you, Al, I'll find a way to get all of you back.  I will find a way.  But for now...escape.  Don't be afraid.  You were thrust into this world.  Now they'll get to experience yours, however unreal it may be to the Universe.  But it'll be real to all of you.  Remember that.  You have your party.  Now venture forth."

Everything imploded.