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Wolf's Den

Chapter Text

This is starting to get really fucking old, thought Faora as she slowly regained consciousness.

With holes in her memory.

Again.

She huffed in irritation as she took inventory of her body. Blindfolded. Always a lovely surprise. Sounds quiet here. She made a single chirping noise and listened. This space sounds open, at least.

Whatever I’m laying on feels pretty comfortable. I wonder if I could take this home? Wrists feel tight. Bound? And not in a kinky way. That’s a relief. Would’ve been nice if they tied my hands in front of me instead of behind, though.

Faora wiggled her shoulders, then her hips. Pack and belt are gone. Along with my clothes. What the hell am I wearing, then? Satin? Who put this on me?! Where is my breastband?!

Alarmed at her situation, she tried to recall the last thing she remembered clearly. She remembers being with Cole, Solas, and Blackwall exploring some majestic ruins. They were only discovered recently and it didn’t look like the red templars had found it yet. Even if the temple was completely taken over by the plant and wildlife, its pillars still stood as tall and proud as the oldest trees and the mosaics glittered as vibrantly as dew covered flowers. Faora practically danced through the temple halls because it was so beautiful.

Eventually they made their way into the lower chambers, lighting veilfire torches as they went. The very last chamber held an altar dead-center of a large mosaic circle. Something in the air was giving her a crackling sensation in the back of her head, like what red lyrium does to her but quieter. Barefoot and cautious, she stepped across into the circle to investigate what the alter held.

The artifact itself looked like a hand mirror. It’s golden frame was adorned with small jewels, the likes of which she has never seen before. Gently turning it in her palm she could see a series of small gears with more jewels in their centers; a large orange jewel that seemed to represent the sun, a slightly smaller pale grey jewel for Luna, and an even smaller white jewel for Satina. Faora found it astonishingly beautiful.

Her thumb began turning the tiny gears absently as she realized that someone was calling her name. Whoever it was sounded very far away, but when she turned around her vision started getting hazy. And then? Darkness.

The tips of her ears twitched at the sound of footsteps coming from a hallway directly in front of her. Rolling onto her knees, she raised herself to sit upright and to face her captors. Two- no, three people. Barefoot? Elves, maybe? Her ears twitched again as she heard voices approaching along with the footsteps. Whoever these people are, I hope they’re prepared for a fucking storm.

Her captors stopped once they entered the room. Faora had her shoulders squared and sat as tall as she could, facing their general direction defiantly. A low whisper from one of them was followed by padding feet that came around her right side. The mattress sank as the other person crawled over to Faora and tugged at her blindfold and held onto her restraints. Her green eyes adjusted quickly to the sudden change in light and locked onto the remaining two before her.

They were, indeed, elves. But she had never seen elves dressed like these. The smaller elf wore loose robes that were dull in color, but were decorated with simple golden embroidery in an unfamiliar, yet nostalgic, style. His hair was long, but bound in a tight braid that came over his shoulder. Bare-faced.

The other elf, on the other hand, stood a head taller than the other. Brown dreadlocks were tied back and hung past his shoulders, and the sides of his head were shaved down. He wore a dark green tunic that exposed the chiseled planes of his chest, lightly decorated with scars. His sash wrapped loosely around his slender hips, and his legs were covered in fine leather wraps. A mantle of pitch black fur hung around his shoulders, and a lupine mask covered the lower half of his face.

But the most striking feature he had were his eyes. A deep, clear blue that pulled you into its tide while trying to wear you down. Eyes that held tricks and secrets. Eyes that knew how to lie.

Faora fought the fear rising in her chest. She didn’t know how she did, but she knew who this man was. This man that the Keeper told stories of to warn the children of his deception. This man whose statues both terrified and struck scorn in her people. This man who was said to have been a god.

This man was Fen’Harel.

Shit.

Faora and the Dread Wolf stared each other down for what seemed like hours. It took every ounce of control for her not to tremble in his presence. This was Fen'Harel, the fucking trickster god. The guy who locked away the Pantheon. And he was standing before her.

Suddenly he spoke loudly at her. Faora’s brows furrowed at his words. What was he saying? He barked at her again, his tone commanding and intimidating. Is he asking me something? This time he waited for her to respond, eyeing her suspiciously.

Faora lifted her chin defiantly. “You are Fen’Harel.” At the sound of his name, the trickster god’s eyes narrowed and head tilted. “Why am I here?” His eyebrows angled downward in irritation. So he doesn’t speak trade.

She tried again in Modern Dalish. It only seemed to confuse him and drive him to raise his voice. Qunlat frustrated them both and utterly confused the other two elves. Tevene and Orlesian made him stand intimidatingly over her at the foot of the bed. Fed up, she shouted again in trade. “Why am I here, Dread Wolf?”

His eyes took on another expression then. He studied her face, particularly lingering on her vallaslin. He looked down his muzzle at her, seeming to choose his words carefully.

He spoke again, but this time his words were accompanied by a gentle touch to her forehead. Faora’s eyes widened at the sudden feeling of her head filling and her tongue tingling. She gasped and shook her head, trying to alleviate the odd pressure. “Now that you can speak properly, who are you and how did you get into my private estate?”

Her eyes went right back up to his, completely astonished. How did…? She understood him perfectly when moments before she didn’t even know what language he was speaking. Before she could ask, he began again.

“None of my wards were breached, nor did the sentinels detect you until you were well inside my home. Tell me, slave, how did you get in? Why are you here?”

She sneered at his arrogant tone. “To be honest, I’m trying to figure that out myself. Awful habit of mine, waking up in random places.”

The wolf was not impressed. “You try my patience.”

“Mine isn’t exactly lasting forever, either,” she retorts. “How about this; I’m not here to attack you, or to spy on you or your house. In reality, I’m hopelessly lost and I stumbled into a place I’m not supposed to be in. I actually need to thank you for finding me, because I probably would’ve accidentally broken something of value. If you tell me where I am, I’ll be on my merry way and you’ll never see me again.”

He stared down thoughtfully at her. Faora tried reaching for her mana to burn off the ropes and make her escape, but she was still too weak to conjure any flame. All she could do was hope that she was clever enough to outsmart the wolf, biding her time until her mana restored itself.

But at the thought of her magic, she realized that her mark was completely dormant. Not even the faint tugging that she usually felt when she got irritated. Why?

“Unfortunately, useless prattling will not grant you freedom. You seem to be in possession of a kind of magic that is rare to see in other people. I intend to find how you came across it.”

Her eyebrow quirked. “Oh?”

Fen'Harel nodded at the elf holding her wrists, and Faora felt her bonds slacken. The one behind her still held firmly onto her as she tried to jerk her hands free. Instead, the wolf’s fingers gently caressed her bare shoulder and trailed down her left arm. He leaned down to reach behind her, the tip of his mask nearly brushing her nose. Shit. Her defenses were slipping. He was so close now, close enough where she could smell summer rain and incense. Wild and decadent. Familiar and safe. Her lips parted in intoxication.

Green eyes met blue, and his seemed to smirk at her reaction to their proximity. Realization of her actions made her blush all the way to the points of her studded ears.

The wolf chuckled in amusement. “Distracted, little fox?” His hand yanked on her arm and held firmly onto her wrist. The dormant mark flared to life once again and his magic flowed into her, causing her to wince. “Because you still need to answer my questions.”

His voice lowered threateningly low. “How did you get this?” He punctuated his question with another pump of magic, more painful than the last.

Faora cried out in pain and slouched forward. The sharp pain in her hand went back to an annoying prickling beneath her skin as he waited for her answer. She gritted her teeth as she fished for an appropriate answer. Should she just tell him that it was a key to opening the veil? Usually shut anyone up. Might not work since he was a mage, too.

Fuck it.

“Terrible luck and noble impulse.”

Nailed it.

Fen'Harel tilted his head and glared. “So it was by ‘terrible luck’ that you were somehow able to absorb my magic, and by ‘noble impulse’ that you continue to evade my questions?”

The cogs in Faora’s head turned. Your magic? The magic I got from the orb? It was his? Her thoughts spun with the implications this brought on. She could only imagine how powerful the rightful owner of the orb was.

One thing was for certain, and that little voice in her head had been screaming it at her ever since he walked into the room.

This guy is dangerous. I have to run.

I need to run.

Faora’s lips twisted to a wicked smirk. Fen’Harel barely had time to register her change in demeanor before she bashed her forehead into his nose.

There was a cracking noise.

“My lord!”

The hold on Faora’s wrists loosened just enough to tear away and launch herself off the bed. The dress-thing she wore – if it really was a dress and not a long tunic – felt like air as she dodged the second lackey and raced out the open door.

If she wasn’t running for her life, she would thoroughly admire how the sun shown through the intricate stain glass windows. She would take delight in how the colors washed the sparkling marble floor in more colors than she could count. She would gaze dreamily at how the architecture blended perfectly with nature.

Unfortunately, now was not the time to gawk.

Suddenly the air vacated her lungs, her blood filled her skull, and the mark snapped violently with energy. She came to a skidding halt on her knees as she gasped for breath and clutched her head. The air around her felt so heavy. Every inch of her skin tingled until she thought she was burning alive. She wanted to scream, but she couldn’t get enough air in her lungs.

What’s happening to me? A spell?

Claws clicked on the marble floor behind her. Faora didn’t realize her eyes were shut until she opened one to look behind her. The sight of a pitch black wolf with many eyes stalking towards her should’ve made her faint, but the pain of the very atmosphere kept her from doing so.

“So the little fox thinks she can outrun a wolf?” he growls mockingly inside her head. Her teeth ached from clenching her jaw to hold back a pained whimper. Forcefully, she rose back up to her feet and staggered further down the corridor.

If she could describe how she was feeling right now, she would say she was hypersensitive. Her ears rang, everything was too vivid, and the air felt tangible and sharp against her skin. Whatever spell this was, it hurt like a bitch and was a pain in the ass to work through. As she hobbled down the corridor she began reciting the Chant of Light in Qunlat, then in Nevarran. Anything to distract herself from the pain.

“Run, little fox. It isn’t a worthwhile hunt if you don’t run,” jeered the wolf behind her. She couldn’t tell if it was her precarious situation or her extremely heightened awareness of the very air around her, but something about his voice was terribly irritating.

“Or are you accepting the fact that you cannot escape me?” His shadow kept on appearing in the edge of her vision when she glanced behind her. Her terror rose with the realization that, eventually, he would catch her. Her fear nudged her feet forward, but Fen’Harel remained on her trail.

“I will catch you, da’len. No matter how far you run, I will catch you.”

The song of her magic blared in Faora’s ears with her rising frustration. Her hands flew to block the noise of his claws and her own screaming. Damn it. Damn it all! Her magic raged inside her like a hurricane and threatened to explode from inside. She needed to get out. Now.

She held her left hand out in front of her and tried to open a controllable rift to jump through, but she couldn’t focus the unstable energy. Her arm stung, her eyes stung, her chest stung, everything fucking stung! Even the sound of claws on marble stung her ears.

“This game is finished, little fox,” he whispered into her head.

Shut up.

Shut up!

SHUT UP!!

She pivoted on the ball of her foot, ever so graceful, and pointed the mark back at the wolf. “Stay the fuck away from me!!”

The energy of the mark blasted a hole into the air before the wolf. More energy than she thought she had. But instead of opening a doorway through the veil, she opened it into a void. Unseen spirits screamed, and Fen'Harel himself froze in surprise.

Faora felt her mana be siphoned out of her through the palm of her hand. Her knees hit the floor hard as she tried to break the stream of energy, crying out with exertion and fear. The edges of her vision began to dull and darken.

She heard a concerned voice calling out to her, calming her. “Da’len!”

She focused on the magic flowing from her hand, focusing on the mark itself. Just like always. Sew it up like patchwork. She winced as she felt the fissure close and tighten back to its dormant state. Slowly, but surely, the hole collapsed on itself and disappeared entirely.

Now it was her turn to collapse. Her limbs felt like lead and her will to move was completely forgotten in favor of her exhaustion. She was still very aware of the danger Fen'Harel posed to her, but urgency turned to apathy as darkness rose to consume her.

A gentle hand cupped her cheek, raising her head off the floor. Her eyes focused as much as they could on the face before her, and what she could make out made her smile warmly. “Solas,” she breathed. “Did you see what I did, ha'hren? I wonder if I could do that again.”

“I rather you didn’t,” he chastised. “For both our sakes.”

Faora giggled weakly and reached up to touch his face. “You’re no fun, ma vhenan.

Her eyes closed and her breathing evened out to a deep and steady pace. Fen'Harel studied the girl in his arms, turning her words over and over in his mind. A spirit appeared next to him and whispered into his ear.

“No. She will remain here. Lift the cancellation wards,” he commanded. “I will study her in my own quarters. And bring some food and wine for our guest. I wager she will be famished when she wakes.”

The spirit bowed its head in acknowledgement and disappeared just as it came. Gently, he lifted her from the floor and turned back down the hall, skirting the new hole in the floor.

A smile tugged at his lips as he watched the pretty elf sleep in his arms. And how well she fit in them! He had never seen a woman like her before, even among Dirthamen’s slaves. He was sure he knew every elf in Dirthamen’s service, because there was no way he would forget a woman with hair as red as roses.

He shook his head. Curious little woman. I do hope your secrets are as delightful as you are.

Chapter Text

Faora woke with a start, fingers gripping into soft sheets. The room she was in glowed with mage lights in ornate lanterns, which adjusted their brightness as she sat up. She was in a large room filled with bursting bookshelves and very fine furniture. A desk was littered with open books and loose sheets of paper, and was the only area that seemed out of order.

On the opposite side of the room, up against tall windows, sat a large sofa with two unlit braziers on either side. She slipped out of the impossibly comfortable bed, taking a moment to find her balance, and crossed the room to look out of those beautiful windows. It was night time now, and the stars blazed and danced in the sky above. Faora had never seen stars like these before, and despite their beauty, she was distressed. She couldn’t find any of the constellations she recognized, which left her feeling terribly lost. And she hated feeling lost.

She plopped down on the cushy sofa and huffed. She took inventory of herself again. The screaming in her head was gone, and only a dull ache was left in her body. The mark was a quiet buzzing now, and she felt her mana flowing through her veins, so she flicked her wrist at an unlit brazier, smiling when the fire roared to life. At least I have that comfort back.

The door to the room opened, and Faora smiled at who strolled in with books in his hands. She all but jumped up to meet him.

“Sol-” she stopped dead in her tracks, realizing who he wasn’t. His face was no longer covered by a mask, letting her see his whole handsome features. If he didn’t have long vines of hair or extravagant and loose-fitting clothing, she would’ve sworn it was him. Disappointment must have shown on her face, because he smiled and tilted his head.

“Missing someone, da’len?” His voice now sounded achingly familiar without that mask to muffle it. Her heart skipped a beat at the sound of the endearment.

She slipped into her own indifferent mask and stared him down as he went to his desk. His movements were graceful and measured, just like Solas. His posture, on the other hand, was far more relaxed. His gait was longer, had a swagger to it. That little difference was enough to make him ‘not Solas.’

“You are Fen'Harel,” she repeated. More for herself than him. He is not Solas. He is not Solas.

“And I have yet to learn your name, little fox.” The way he cooed at her made her want to shudder – either in enticement or terror, she didn’t know.

“And I should tell you my name, why?” Her eyes stayed on him as he opened up a bottle of wine and poured two glasses. His fingers tapped each glass and frost spread from where he touched them. His smile was easy. Earnest. It made her uncomfortable.

“Courtesy, maybe. You are, after all, a guest in my house,” he said as he offered her a glass.

“A ‘guest.’ Meaning you’ll let me leave?” She knew what he wanted. This damn mark always attracts the worst attention.

She thought back to when she was tied up on the bed. Back when he declared the mark his magic. If it really was his, then he could tell her more about it, couldn’t he? Show her how to control it better? Remove it when the veil is completely healed? If he wants the damned thing, he can have it back when I’m done with it.

Fen’Harel offered her a smile as she took the glass. He watched as her green eyes observe him as he did her, how she hid the palm of her left hand by placing it on her cocked hip. His magic within her was quiet, but it called to him nonetheless. It pulsed along with the beat of her heart, his magic flowing through her with her own. He deduced that she must have had this mark for a long time, for he could feel how his magic siphoned her energy. For her, it was a parasite that would drink her dry in a matter of time.

“Eventually. You do wish to return home, correct?”

She narrowed her eyes at him, nodding once.

“Then it would be in your best interest to cooperate. Our last encounter was fun, but I doubt either of us want to repeat that.”

Faora winced at the memory, at how every nerve in her body was set on fire. Never had she felt anything like that. She had been thrown, cut, electrocuted, nearly frost bitten, and nearly crushed, but nothing like that.

She pointed towards the empty corridor. “What happened to me when I ran? Was that your doing?”

His eyes lit up at her inquiry. “You’re sharp. It was indeed mine. A nullification ward was set up as part of your confinement. Although, your reaction when you crossed the ward was unexpected. It was as if your body couldn’t handle the flow of magic.”

She couldn’t keep her brow from furrowing. “Is the veil weak here? I usually have no problem keeping my reserves in check. It’s been forever since it’s leaked like that.”

“The veil?” He repeated.

“No, that can’t be it,” she muttered to herself as she turned to wander back to the bed. She began to pace. “The rifts never made me feel that way. Not even the fade. Lyrium? Are there huge lyrium deposits below us? A vein this close to the surface? Possible…”

Fen'Harel listened intently to her musing. This is discomforting. Had she somehow stumbled upon my plan to lock away the Evanuris? No. She speaks as if she had lived afterwards. But how is that possible? Unless…

She spun back to him abruptly. “Pardon my language, but where the fuck am I?”

Whatever divine power that thought this up surely loved comedic timing. Whatever divine power it was surely loved making her the ass-end of every joke. There was absolutely no hesitation, no pause, no preparation for what he said next. Whatever divine power that put her on this planet and gave her that damn mark just absolutely shat on her.

“Arlathan,” he answered without skipping a beat. Deadpanned. Like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Well, not to her it seems.

Her silence confirmed his suspicions. This child was surely from the future. There was no other explanation. This elvhen girl lived after the construction of the veil and was able to draw enough power to leap through time. This certainly answered questions for his plans, but opened up quite a bit more.

Her bewilderment, however, was a wonder all its own. “Arlathan?” she parroted. “You mean the Dales?”

“I meant what I said.”

“So Halamshiral.”

“That isn’t what I said.”

“…So I’m in Orlais.”

“Da’len, sit down.”

She plopped down on the edge of the bed. Her eyes stared unseeing at the floor before her as she tried to make sense of everything. There was no way she just somehow appeared in Arlathan, the Elvhenan empire’s shining capital. Was there?

He kneeled before her as she drained her wine glass in swift gulps. He offered to pour her another glass, but she declined and took the whole bottle itself. He waited, patient and amused, for her to gather herself with quick swigs and to begin her line of questions.

“How do I know you’re not playing games with me?” She accused. She remembered Solas saying that time travel was impossible before the Breach, and even then Alexius couldn’t travel further than the destruction of the Conclave. Did the ancient elves discover how to travel through time?

“In all honesty, it would not benefit me whatsoever if I told you otherwise. I only lie if I have to.”

Faora quirked an eyebrow. “’Fen’Harel, the honest’? Actually being in Arlathan seems more believable now.”

“But you still do not believe me.” A declaration, not a question.

She shook her head. “Last I remember, I was in some elvhen ruins in the Emerald Graves. Unless I fell through another rift, which doesn’t make any sense because the last one I made led nowhere.”

He thought for a moment, then he gently took the bottle from her and rose to his feet offering her a hand. “Would you believe me if I show you?”

She eyed his hand, then him. “No tricks?”

“No tricks. I promise.”

It must be the wine. Dorian would kill me for not sharing such good wine.Whatever her reasoning was, she could not stop herself from placing her hand in his familiar one and reveling in the warmth from his long and elegant fingers. Fingers she thought she should be missing, but felt well at home in this stranger’s.

His hold was gentle, but commanding. He effortlessly coaxed her to stand and follow him back to the window, stepping onto the sofa, then onto the window sill. Once she stood next to him on the sill he tapped the glass and she watched as it dissolved before her eyes. “Hold on tight, little fox.”

“What are we- Ah!” His arm wound around her waist and pulled her flush against his side. Then, before she realized it, they were sailing through the air like arrows. They ascended far above the tree tops and up into… islands?

Even if there were any breath left in her lungs, she was utterly speechless. Massive chunks of earth floated above the sea of trees and spires below. Upon those rocks were fantastical gardens that hosted glowing trees and sparkling pools that looked like liquid diamonds. Waterfalls cascaded down from many of the islands, making them look like they were tethered to the ground by silver chains.

Fen'Harel chuckled at her silence. The lovely sound drew her attention back to the elf guiding her through the sky. His smile was illuminated by the stars that seemed to be all around them, adding to the sparkle in his stormy blue eyes.

Faora tightened her arms that somehow found their way around his neck. Despite being in the arms of a stranger, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. He tightened his grip on her waist in response, brushing his thumb against her ribs. His touch sent a pleasant shiver up her spine.

“Hold on, da’len. Not that I need to tell you that,” he said into her ear. They came to a small island with a single great tree. She staggered as her feet touched the cool grass. The two of them were welcomed by friendly little wisps that emitted joy and curiosity. They greeted her and Fen'Harel with faint giggles and whispers, swirling and bouncing around them. She couldn’t help but smile.

“This is amazing,” she whispered to no one in particular. The wisps echoed her wonder as she gingerly skirted the edge of the small island. She marveled at the structures below, how they seemed as natural as the forest around them. Spirits flew freely between buildings and islands, presenting a question she was to distracted to ask before.

“How did we even get up here? I’ve never heard of a mage being able to fly. I’ve tried everything!” She spun back around to see him in the company of the wisps. He was watching her with a tangible interest, and she found herself warming up to his gaze.

Why? He isn’t Solas. He isn’t ma vhenan. He only looks like him. For all you know, he could have looked into your memories and made himself look like Solas. He’s using his looks to charm me. That wolf bastard!

Fen'Harel didn’t miss how she cleared her throat and straightened herself. It was clear that she had never seen the likes of Arlathan before. He found her awe to be remarkably refreshing. But what did this mean for Elvhenan after the construction of the veil?

“It is a simple matter of will. If you wish to be up in the clouds, then you plot your course and take off,” he said with a patient smile that mimicked a familiar apostate. Wolf bastard.

“Of course,” he continued, “it helps to have some friends to assist.” The wisps seemed pleased with his acknowledgement and danced around him with renewed enthusiasm.

She sauntered back over to him, crossing her arms over her chest. “So I’m really here. In Arlathan.”

“As I have said before.”

“Meaning I’m lost.”

“Indeed.”

“And I have no way of finding my way back to my friends.”

“One would assume so.”

Faora’s shoulders drooped as she blew a sigh. “So I have no choice but to stay with you.”

His head tilted in amusement. So endearing when admitting defeat. “Unless you would like to worsen you situation.”

She giggled at that, failing to hide it as she stepped around him to gaze at the glittering horizon beyond. She knew she shouldn’t be happy about her situation, but she couldn’t help but feel excited about actually being in Arlathan. It was the city the Keepers told stories about, the city that was a testimony to their ancestors’ greatness. And she was standing in it. Or, above it, I guess.

Faora stole a glance at the elvhen next to her who was admiring the distant mountains. Was it wise to trust Fen'Harel? Fuck no. To challenge him? Probably not a good idea either. Certainly, her safest and most beneficial choice would be to stay with him, the handsome and talented-

Wolf-God. A crafty, cunning, and frighteningly handsome god that wants to research your hand.

Still, it was in her best interest to stay. As a guest, he says.

“Faora,” she declared. She saw him turn his head to look at her from the corner of her eye. He studied her with that same expression a certain apostate often had as he listened to her rants.

“My name is Faora.”

He smiled then. It was a smile that made her heart skip a beat, and a smile that made her want to kick herself in the ass for being attracted to.

“A pleasure to meet you, Faora. I hope we get along well together.”

Yeah. You hope.

Chapter Text

Fen'Harel slouched in his chaise for the seemingly hundredth time that day. The girl had only been there a week and she already had already blown three new holes in the palace, set several drapes and pieces of furniture ablaze, escaped to the roof half a dozen times, and today has made a successful climb to a low hanging island. He was beginning to wonder if sending her back without gaining any of her knowledge would be worth it.

The spirit, one of protection, floated patiently for word on their guest’s whereabouts. She had, once again, managed to slip out of the palace without tripping the new wards. How aggravatingly clever of her.

“My Lord, I have found her and delivered your message to her,” it reported.

“Has she responded?”

“Yes. By throwing up two fingers and telling you to catch her if you can.”

That one earned a groan of exasperation. She has made it a game for them whenever it suited her whim. She would certainly get an earful when he got her back. This must be how a father of a troublesome teenager feels.

He stood and made his way to an eluvian with the Protection trailing behind him. “Keep your eyes on her. Report back if she moves.”

“Ma nuvenin, Fen'Harel.”

~~~

Faora let out another joyful laugh as she “fade-leaped” to the next small satellite island. It wasn’t flying, but she would get there eventually.

Protection tailed her as she attempted to soar. “Lady Faora, I implore you to stop these games and return to the palace with me.”

“Can’t stop, won’t stop!” she shouted back as she performed another back-flip.Oh, this is exhilarating! She couldn’t remember the last time she was this high up. Even at the highest point of the roof of her tower back in Skyhold – which she is now banned from because Josephine was tired of her hiding up there – Faora had never felt this close to the sky. This was definitely better than any dream the Fade offered her.

She poofed onto the next island (almost falling into a pond because I’m a graceful fucking swan) and stopped to catch her breath and regenerate her mana. Mana tasted weird here. Tasted? Is that the word for it? It was certainly different, but as compared to what? She was still in Thedas, that much she was sure of. Did the Fade have a different feel back then? Or is it now? Gods, this is why I didn’t study time magic with Dorian.

Protection finally caught up and came to hover next to her. “Have you finally decided to stop this charade and come back to the palace with me?”

She breathlessly laughed. This spirit was nothing like sweet Cole, but it still reminded her of him all the same. “Sorry, sweetie. I haven’t stopped, just slowed down.”

“Thankfully enough for Lord Fen'Harel and I to catch up,” it remarked. That caught her attention. Sure enough an eluvian two islands behind them glowed to life and gave way to an annoyed god and Protection’s other self.

“Done running amok, Faora?” the wolf called out to her.

Faora puffed a few wayward strands of hair out of her face and saluted back. “It’s not running when I have every intention of coming back.”

“Yet you won’t come back with us now?”

“Let me reiterate. I have every intention of coming back after I finish exploring. Y’know, since someone,” she drawled as she pointedly looked away from Fen'Harel, “won’t show me around town.”

He sighed as he felt his headache slowly intensify. “We have discussed this, Faora.”

At that she turned on the ball of her foot towards the next island. “Glad we understand each other. See you at dinner!”

She took two steps before her feet stopped moving. Her whole body, in fact – save for her face and vitals – lost their ability to move. She heard Fen'Harel walking up behind her, his feet further silenced by the cool grass. She shuddered at his touch yet again as his fingers caught silky threads of bold crimson hair.

She hated it when he touched her. She hated and loved it. She thought of Solas whenever he did. The irony was that Solas barely ever touched her. His touches were always too chaste and too brief for her liking, but she did not want her inexperience and clinginess to frighten him off. Those quick soft touches made her want more – oh, so much more. Thank the creators for Cole and Dorian and platonic cuddling.

She had thought about talking to him about it, but her newness to proper relationships robbed her of her usual outgoing behavior. Solas seemed content with how their relationship was, why couldn’t she be as well? Because Cass got me hooked onto those smutty books of hers. Damnit, Cass. Even if she never showed an interest in all things romantic, it really was what all young women wanted deep down. Silly, sappy, ridiculously frilly romance. With Solas.

A gentle nudge under her chin brought her out of her thoughts and into the eyes of Sol-… Fen'Harel. Mythal knows she tried to will herself not to blush. Mythal knows she failed.

“You often stare off into space whenever I touch you, little fox. Missing someone?” His tone was teasing. It made her lips turn into a slight frown reflexively.

“I don’t see how it’s any of your business,” she retorted.

He sighed, keeping his tone light. “Merely a curiosity. Especially when we’ve grown so close.”

She glared. “Casual touches whenever you drag me back to the palace doesn’t exactly count as ‘growing close.’”

His stormy blue eyes glinted with mischief as he scooped her back up into his arms. “Carrying you like a princess is casual to you?”

“Must be, since you only do it for your enjoyment,” she said as she rolled her eyes.

He chuckled. “Well, what’s not to enjoy? I do have a beautiful and clever woman in my arms that holds untold knowledge of the future in her pretty little head.” He looked down at her as he made their way back to the eluvian. “And you blush quite adorably.”

“I’m not-! You know I could walk just fine on my own if you lift your paralysis spell and put me down.” Gods, I wish I could smack your perfect fucking face.

Fen'Harel shook his head. “I would rather you not run away the second I put you down. You’ve run enough tod- fenedhis!”

Faora felt a cold rush as Fen'Harel fade stepped down the islands back to the eluvian. There they crouched between the back of the mirror and the willow tree behind it. Fen'Harel pinned her with her back against the mirror, dropping the paralysis spell to focus more on concealment. She was enveloped by the fresh smell of rain and incense, and his body was merely inches from hers and oh so warm. Unless I’m the one radiating heat. That’s embarrassing.

“What’s wrong?” she whispered. “I thought no one else comes to these islands.”

“Shh!” He hissed. Of course, no one ever comes to these islands because one can only access them through his eluvians. Dragons, on the other hand, were a completely different matter. Not that he couldn’t easily put down a dragon. Properly trained dragons make excellent servants, but the only one who could earn the unparalleled loyalty of an ancient high dragon should be across the continent right now.

The powerful beating of wings came closer me closer to the islands, and Faora began to squirm. “That’s a high dragon, isn’t it? An old one, at that.”

He looked down at her face, which he found to be inches away from his, and saw her green eyes wide with fear. Or was it excitement? “Don’t worry. I don’t think it has seen us. Did you see any others in the distance?”

She shook her head, keeping her eyes on the sky as a grin spread across her face. “No, I would have felt them. Can I see her?” Her hands found their way to his chest and pushed gently. They were so small against him. Every part of him dwarfed her, really. That was, except for her apparent fascination with Mythal’s dragon.

He pressed closer to keep her still. The dragon gave a mighty roar as it circled the city below, causing the whole island to vibrate. And he could have sworn Faora let out a shuddering gasp at the sound of it. “If you can see it, then it can see you.”

She let out a sigh and relaxed against him. “Pity. She sounds extraordinary.”

Now this is different, thought Fen'Harel. Even as he held her in his arms and leaned down towards her many times before, he hadn’t noticed how very feminine she was. She smelled of wild vanilla and cinnamon, the delicate scent radiating from her small body. He felt her curves through his robes, noticing both soft flesh and toned muscles. She had the body of a warrior, not of a princess nor a mere slave. For as many questions he had asked this woman, he realized that he didn’t know anything about her.

She sighed again, oblivious to the way her chest pressed against his. “Sounds like she’s gone now.” She leaned back against the eluvian as he slouched against the tree. She didn’t notice the way he studied her face. He found the faint freckles under the marring lines of her vallaslin endearing and befitting her. He even quite liked the way her petal pink lips curved upwards in a wistful smile as she gazed at the sky. Her eyes sparkled in wonder of the creature that had just vacated their airspace.

“You do not fear dragons?” he prompted.

She shook her head and he watched with fascination as her hair swayed and shifted colors in the light. “I’ve had to put down three. I wish I had found a way to relocate them and their young, but I wasn’t given the chance to try.” Her eyes came back down to look at Fen'Harel. “Do you fear them?”

“As one should. They are powerful and majestic creatures.”

“Have you ever fought one?”

“I haven’t had the honor.”

“Pray you never have to. But if you ever do, you will never feel anything like it.” The smile that overcame her face was absolutely serene. Odd, considering that they were talking about fighting dragons.

He stood and extended a hand towards her. “I think it’s about time to return. There are matters I must settle before the evening. Come along now.”

Her small hand slid into his and she stood along with him, stretching out her stiff muscles. “Does that mean I’m off the hook?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said as he lead her around into the eluvian. She groaned. There was going to be a lengthy lecture for her later this evening.

~~~

No lecture came, to her relief and surprise. Instead, it was a very silent dinner as compared to the usual questions exchanged. At this moment, all of his attention was focused on several notes and missives scattered about his side of the table. From where she was, she couldn’t see that those reports told of each of the Evanuris’ whereabouts and activities. Seeing Mythal’s dragon solidified his resolve to keep his guest under tighter guard. If any of them found out who she was or where she was from, it could compromise his ultimate plans for the good of the elven people.

So far his agents have reported no unusual activity among his brethren. None of Dirthamen’s agents have been seen prowling about, elven or otherwise. Andruil had disappeared once again into the Beyond, leaving young Ghilan’nain to frolic in her grove alone. Elgar’nain was with Mythal down in the southern temples, and June and Sylaise dwelled in their own palaces among the nobles. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Except, of course, for a miss Faora Lavellan.

Absolutely nothing about this woman was ordinary. She was overflowing with mana naturally and had almost complete control of it by the second day. Her skill set was impressive, especially for such a young woman. And she was fiercely intelligent. Their nightly discussions were very enjoyable, thrilling even.

But she lacked maturity. Especially when it comes to being a house guest. Her research and study habits were incredibly messy, and that was something compared to himself. His servants often had to return books and scrolls to their proper shelves when she left them strewn about in her room. Pieces of parchment littered her floors scribbled with notes and diagrams, those of which no one could read. Either she had a very peculiar thought process, or its all the nonsense ramblings of an imaginative child. The latter was the least likely.

Abruptly, Faora stood from her seat and made her way towards the door. “Not that this isn’t pleasant, but I have a few things I need to do as well. Good night, Fen.”

Does his uncharacteristic silence bother me? No! Not one bit.

Well, maybe a little. Their nightly conversations became a comfort to her. They helped her feel less homesick and lonely, especially with Fen'Harel. It wasn’t just her imagination, he talks and acts exactly the way Solas does. His voice, his habits, his speech patterns – all of it was the same. She laughed at herself. But they’re not the same. Not by a mile.

Fen'Harel’s right hand spirit fell in step with her. “Something troubles you, my lady?”

She waved a hand at his address. “Sweetie, you don’t have to be so formal with me. I’m a traveler, not an aristocrat.”

“But you are a guest of Fen'Harel. I will address you as such,” he replied.

“Well, don’t address me as ‘my lady’ or any nonsense like that. Faora or Fae is just fine.” The doors to her guest chambers opened at their approach, and the mage lights set the room into a lively glow. “All my friends at least call me Faora.”

Protection tilted his head. “Do you consider me a friend?”

Faora disappeared behind a partition as she stripped out of her dinner attire. Even formal elvhen dress was constricting and stuffy. Figures. “I’d like to. I don’t have many spirit friends.”

“I thank you. If that is your wish, then I shall address you by your name,” he declared.

“Glad to hear it, hon.” She stepped into the open in her more comfortable clothes. The things Fen'Harel provided for her were fine, but she didn’t feel that long, brightly colored, revealing dresses were appropriate for what she did most of the day. I’ll probably take a few of them home, she thought. I still have to go to Halamshiral when I get back and I’m sure that these will would be more than perfect. Instead, she wore a very loose mossy green shirt with open sides and a large cowl over a wide black cotton breastband. Her leggings provided her with unlimited movement and comfort for when she ran or climbed, and she paired those with fine leather wrappings for her feet. All of these fashioned by her own hands. It helped with the homesickness.

She had planned to work at her desk until retiring for the night, until a man – Sethrim, was it? – sauntered into the room and gave her a leisurely bow. Sethrim was one of one of Fen'Harel’s eyes outside the palace. Like his servants, he carried no vallaslin. “Good evening, lady Faora. I hope to find you well.”

“Hello, Sethrim. What brings you here?” she greeted in return as she picked up her notes.

“Lord Fen'Harel has requested you meet him at the atrium as soon as possible. I can accompany you there, if you like.” He let his eyes travel her form as her back was turned. Such a beauty, no wonder lord Fen'Harel keeps her to himself.

His gaze went back up for her face as she spun back around and headed back out of the room. “Well, there goes my evening plans. The atrium you said? I know where to go.”

She heard his advancing steps fall in just behind hers. “W-well, we’re going in the same direction, so I’ll walk you there.” His attention went to the spirit floating at her side. “I will keep an eye on her, Protection,” he said dismissively.

They walked in silence down the wide corridors illuminated by moonlight. Sethrim couldn’t help stealing glances at her from the corner of his eye, especially with how her fiery red hair seemed to shift colors with each step she took. She was unlike any of the previous guests lord Fen'Harel has had in his home. In terms of power, she could easily find favor with the Evanuris, perhaps even join them. For all he knew, he walked next to a goddess.

“A little bird told me that you managed to escape the palace, my lady.”

She heaved another sigh. I’ll have to talk to Fen'Harel about how everyone addresses me. “Word travels fast around here, doesn’t it?”

He chuckled. “You’re quite a wonder, you know. Lord Fen'Harel has had to increase the complexities of his barriers over the week. Just who are you?”

She idly blew a lock of hair out of her face and peered at him from the corner of her eyes. “Haven’t I said before? I’m just a traveler. No one special.”

“A traveler with secrets. Secrets that are safe with me, if you wish to share,” he offered, dropping his voice to a seductive whisper.

Faora payed no heed to it. “Not a chance, Seth. My secrets are all I have here. You’ll have to either be a spirit of compassion or that guy right there,” she said, pointing at Fen'Harel standing at the center of the atrium. Mythal have mercy, he even looks good in the moonlight. “Oh, and don’t call me ‘my lady.’”

Sethrim didn’t miss that awe struck look that crossed her face when she saw his lord. Every woman that came here looked at him like that at least once. It had to be the mantle of godhood that made them swoon like that. Women desire those they cannot reach. Perhaps lady Faora is wise enough to see that.

“Faora. Sethrim,” he greeted the both of them with a nod of his head. “Thank you for bringing her here, Sethrim. If I could steal a few moments of your time?” Sethrim nodded and stood close to his lord on standby.

Fen'Harel beckoned Faora with a hand. “I apologize for the dull dinner conversation. My thoughts were elsewhere.”

She shrugged as she crossed the room to him. “You certainly looked like you had much on your mind.” She glanced around the vast and beautiful chamber. “Magic really speeds up repairs, doesn’t it?” The first few days of experiments wrought plenty of research material for Fen'Harel, as well as considerable damage on parts of the building. The atrium seemed to be the safest place to conduct these experiments and the easiest to repair in case things got out of hand.

“It certainly helps. You magical prowess calls for it, after all,” he said with a charming smile.

She couldn’t resist smiling herself. She hid it vainly by lifting her face up to the domed ceiling made of stained glass. “So what are we doing tonight? Am I making more rifts? Or are we measuring it’s magical output?”

“Actually, I was hoping to focus more on you.”

She blushed. “Well, aren’t you forward?”

Both men took notice of her blush. How charming. “It’s the most efficient way to gain what I seek.” He turned to Sethrim and beckoned him near. “I wish to observe your combat skills. You do claim to have fought against three high dragons and emerge victorious, do you not?”

Sethrim’s eyebrows shot far up his forehead. “Three? Three at once?”

Faora laughed. “Well, when you say it like that it sounds ridiculous. I have fought three dragons, but not all at once. And I didn’t take them on singlehandedly, like you’re probably thinking right now. I’m not a one-woman army.”

“How many were you?”

“Four, including myself,” she replied nonchalantly. Sethrim just stared. Four normal people shouldn’t be able to take on a high dragon without immense power to match the adversary. This woman already possessed a piece of his lord’s magic and kept it from destroying her, meaning that she was no ordinary traveler. What other secrets do you keep?

Fen'Harel motioned for Sethrim to stand on one side of floor and ushered Faora to the other. “Do you need to make any sort of preparations before we begin?”

Faora threw off her shirt and took a defensive stance across from Sethrim. She didn’t realize how bad she’s been itching for a fight until one was presented to her. A predatory grin spread across her face as she eyed her opponent.

Fen'Harel stepped back and raised a hand high above his head. “Ready.”

She licked her lips and flitted her her eyes to Fen'Harel before returning them back to the evening’s entertainment. Her skin was electric. “Let’s have at it, sugar.”

Fen'Harel dropped his hand. “Begin!”

Chapter Text

The atrium echoed with the sounds of ice breaking, lightning snapping, and fire blazing. Fen’Harel, however, still winced at the sound of skulls clashing, remembering the ache of when Faora shattered his wolf mask with her forehead. Sethrim stumbled back with the impact as Faora fade stepped past him and out of his reach.

“End match!” he called. The wolf couldn’t help his smile as Faora danced around the floor, shaking out her limbs.

“Ha! That was exhilarating. Are you okay, Sethrim?”

The other elf raised a hand in acknowledgment while his other hand glowed with healing magic over his face.

The god stepped over where the other two were, minding the ice. “I never expected to you to be the defensive type in a fight, Faora.”

She shrugged her shoulders, still bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Depends on the fight. If it’s a big group, then I serve as the distraction. Damn good one, too,” she says as she jabs at the air. “One-on-one, I’m a fucking storm. At least, that’s what my friends tell me.”

“A storm?” Fen’Harel chuckled. “That was more of a gale. You mean to tell me you were holding back?”

Faora blushed. “Well, I didn’t want to hurt Seth.”

“You broke my nose!” Sethrim called from where he now sat, hand still glowing over aforementioned nose.

“Let me say that again; I didn’t want to accidentally hurt Seth,” she said with an apologetic look to Sethrim.

“You meant to break my nose?”

“I meant to halt your spell casting.”

“Well, it worked,” he replied sarcastically.

She mouthed another apology at him and brought her attention back to Fen’Harel. “And to answer your question, yes, I did hold back. I’m still getting used to the flow of magic here. Things like barrier spells and Fade steps - basically anything that focuses more on the caster - are easier to control because I can contain them better. Ranged spells are a little harder to control, like- like a sling shot. There are only so many variables that you can control until the projectile gets away from you, you know? Aside from direction and distance, you’d have to calculate how much power you want when you launch it, how to compensate for that power, the effect of other forces such as wind and gravity, and even the size of the projectile. In this case, it’s the flow backing the power I’m outputting. My personal reserves combined with the ambient magic - theoretically - would…” she suddenly hesitated. “I… I’m, uh, rambling again. I’m sorry.”

“No, please!” Fen’Harel encouraged. She spoke with such excitement that her smile was contagious. “I’ve never heard magic explained in such a way. It’s fascinating.”

Faora cast her eyes down to the floor and habitually twisted a lock of hair between her fingers. “It’s just that… You and Sethrim breathe magic. I live in a world where such a flow is restricted, but mages have to have complete control over it in order to function. To live, even. Having a truly unlimited supply of mana completely throws off my concentration. There’s just so much more that I have to keep track of when it leaves my body. I don’t know about you two, but it feels like a river during a storm. My control is the dam,” she said as she cupped her hands in front of herself. “I have to let the water pass through, but in controlled and manageable amounts.” A ball of green flame ignited in her hands, both of them moving to keep it contained and levitating. “Here, the river overflows, and it threatens to spill over. I have to let more water through, but there is a huge chance of the river overtaking the dam or breaking it entirely. If the dam breaks, the river destroys everything in its path.” The ball of flame grew more erratic and unstable as she spoke. She suddenly threw it high above their heads seconds before it exploded into twinkling green sparks.

Faora sighed as she watched her sparks fall around them. “I don’t fear losing the control I’ve spent years to master. I’m afraid of hurting someone because I wasn’t strong enough.”

Fen’Harel stared. The emotions that played across her face as she explained - awe, concern, concentration, fear, frustration - pulled his heart in several different directions. He, who grew up aware of his magic all of his life, could never fathom the fear of his abilities running wild. Elvhenan thrived on magic, as natural as the earth beneath their feet. She came from a time where magic was feared. Unholy. Was this an effect of the Veil?

When his thoughts refocused, he realized that her brow was still furrowed and her plush bottom lip was back between her teeth. Unable to help himself, he smoothed his thumb between her eyebrows and up her forehead. She staggered back surprised and blushed. He flashed a smile at her and turned away before she could speak and summoned Protection to his side.

“My lord,” the spirit answered.

Fen’Harel removed the mantle from his shoulders and handed it to the spirit. “Wards, if you could. Sethrim, assist him, please.”

Both turned with a “ma nuvenin” and began setting the ward’s pillars. Faora watched the two of them confused.

“One does not build a dam without knowing the strength of the river it is meant to hold,” he said as he looped a cord of his hair securely around the others. “We may as well test those limits, as that was our goal from the beginning. Except this time, I will be facing you.”

Faora’s eyes went wide, but so did her grin. A chance to fight a god?! With heightened magical ability, to add. She bit her lip nervously. “Is that wise? My magic would be very unpredictable like this. And I rather not accidentally hurt anyone.”

Fen’Harel waved a hand dismissively. “Worry not. I would not mind seeing your wild side. Do you require a staff?”

She canted her head to the side flirtatiously, slipping into her element. “If you want to see me get wild, then yes.”

He nodded at Sethrim, who went to a cabinet in the far end of the atrium and retrieved what looked to be a masterly crafted ironbark staff. She felt a jolt of energy when he placed it in her hands, then a sort of inquisitive warmth spreading from her finger tips into the rest of her body, as if it was assessing her. A curious smile curved her lips as she twirled her new battle partner, even murmuring to it. “Hello, my friend,” she greeted. She felt the lightning crackle approvingly beneath the inscribed grip, letting it resonate with her own mana until it felt balanced. With a sharp flourish, she turned back to a patient Fen’Harel and slid her right foot forward.

At that he lifted his chin and took his own stance across from her. “I take it you’re ready.”

She exhaled slowly through lightly parted lips as she swept her eyes around the atrium. Sethrim and Protection stood safely outside of the barrier, either looking forward to the outcome of the match or ready to step in if things went too far. The thought thrilled her, chilled her to her bones. Fire burned in her veins and lightning danced inside her. This was going to be a fight for the ages.

Fen’Harel extended a hand towards her. “Whenever you’re ready, feel free to-”

There was a split second where his sight was filled with nothing but the startling green of her eyes; a split second before the air was forced out of his lungs and he crumpled to the floor.

The floor frosted over in a trail as she danced away from him, eyes blazing and with a feral smile. “Guard up, wolf! I’m not the type to be taken lightly.”

She was gracious enough to let him regain his feet and his breath. He was thoroughly caught off guard and he nearly laughed at himself for underestimating her. Of course it was foolish to do so, you arrogant pup.

Once he was back on his feet, the two of them circled each other. Her contagious grin spread across his own face as they stared each other down. 

“A quick one, aren’t you, Faora?” he praised so casually.

Her normal blush was absent from her cheeks as she tossed her hair and spun her staff behind her. “The wild ones usually are,” she taunted back. She swept her staff horizontally and thrust her palm upwards, erecting a towering wall of ice behind him. Once again she rushed him, but instead of the chill of winter, she wrapped herself in lightning and rode its path towards him.

Quickly he threw up a barrier to take the brunt of her impact, only for her to leap out of sight somewhere above him. Instead of looking for her he narrowed his barrier and laid fire mines around himself. A burst of flames went off to his left and a whoosh of ice followed as she Fade stepped back out of range. She then planted her feet and launched several fireballs, all of them either deflected or narrowly missing him. She kept them flying in such rapid succession that she kept him on the defensive. Soon her wall of ice was nothing more than an enormous puddle around him.

Fen’Harel still kept his barrier up as he waited for her next move. “Your aim needs work.”

Faora blew wayward strands of hair from her face. “I don’t think so, since I’ve hit my mark every time.” She conjured lightning in her hand and glanced down at the water on the floor before looking at him sadistically through her garnet lashes.

Without a second thought he quickly erected a tower of ice beneath himself, taking advantage of the water all around him. Above him a thunder cloud formed and shot a bolt of lightning straight for him. Recalling Faora’s attempts at flight, he shifted his body into an apparitional state and let the lightning pass through him almost harmlessly. An uncomfortable tingle still lingered in his body and the smell of ozone stuck in his nose. He whistled. “Impressive trap. You’re full of surprises, da’len.”

She charged at him again, staff poised to strike when she reached him. Her eyes blazed with determination, unwavering as she chased Fen’Harel around the floor. He narrowly dodged and blocked her advances, Fade stepping back to try to gain some distance.

This was going no where for him, and he grew tired of being on the defensive. He drew a good distance away from her before planting his feet and ferociously mind blasting her a heart beat before her fist could make contact with his jaw. She flew back with a cry and skidded across the floor, staff clattering out of her hand. The god swept a hand towards her weapon and tossed it to his other side before she could recover.

“Careful, my friend. Predictability can be deadly,” he mocked.

Faora shook her head as she pushed herself off the floor. Her smile never left her face, but her eyes blazed in a new light. An eerie light. Their color more yellow and sharp than they were before. She took a wary step forward before attempting to fade step again. A wide wall of fire erupted violently in her path and she barely altered her path in time. A trail of flames ignited after her as she tried to circle around him, keeping her well away from him and her staff.

Her smile turned into a snarl as she fled the fire at her heels. No matter how much frost she threw behind her, the flames persisted like starving wolves snapping their jaws for a taste of her. An idea tickled the back of her mind; a dangerous idea that she wasn’t sure she should entertain. But as Fen’Harel chased her around the atrium, the idea appealed to her more and more. He did want to see what I can do.

She could hear Solas protesting her decision from the more reasonable part of her brain. No, da’len, he would say. You have no idea what sort of effects the environment would have on you if you were to attempt this. In response she would have laughed, kissed his cheek, and said How else would we know if we don’t try?

A burst of powerful and unhinged magic shook the whole room as she released the first safeguard to what she hid inside. Using the mark, she erected the aegis and sealed herself in with a ring of fire. Gritting her teeth, she let the transformation take her, keeping it slow and controlled. Fire ignited and enveloped her, starting at her fingertips and toes and spreading towards the rest of her body and burning off her clothes in the process.

Protection’s form trembled. “Something’s wrong! Stop her!”

A roar violently shook through the chamber from the floor to the ceiling - possibly even beyond the walls of the palace. Faora’s aegis struggled to hold its form as her transformation progressed. The fire burned away to reveal scales spread from her extremities to her center, armoring her arms and shoulders in red and her chest and belly in sunny gold. More red framed her face and came to two small horns at the edge of her hairline, and spikes protruded from her knuckles, elbows, and the points of her shoulders. Her canines elongated into deadly fangs to match the dagger-like claws on her hands and feet, and her eyes snapped open to reveal the amber eyes of a reptile.

Fen’Harel stared at her as she dismantled her shield and extinguished the flames with a wave of her hand. He was a mess of emotions; disbelief, suspicion, intrigue, and fear all tangled together to the point where he couldn’t tell where one ended and the other began. He had never seen such a transformation in the countless years he has been “the Dread Wolf,” even from their brothers and sisters from the farthest reaches of the Elvhen empire. She appeared to be something between a person and a serpent, and the sheer power that radiated from her warped the walls of Protection’s ward and seemed to pull a great amount of ambient magic towards her. And despite the drastic change of appearance and output of power, she still giggled and danced as she took in her own transfiguration.

She gave him a wide toothy grin as she twisted around in circles to see herself. “Amazing! It felt so effortless this time!”

“And this is…?” he drawled when he finally found his voice.

She set both her arms ablaze, completely unfazed by its intensity. “My dragon form. I’ve been trying to speed up and maintain the transformation, but I’ve never been able to hold it for more than four minutes. Now I feel like I can last for hours. Pfft! That would’ve been hilarious if I were a man. Damnit, Sera.” She extinguished the flames and slid her right foot forward once more. “Shall we continue?”

He took his own defensive stance, wondering if he should really let this continue. His eyes glanced over to where Sethrim and Protection spectated. The latter disappeared while the former watched worriedly. Fen’Harel shared his concern.

“Are you sure about this, da’len? You feel… unstable,” he said almost pleadingly. ‘Unstable’ was a gross understatement to the feeling she was giving him. Powerful, sure, but that power rolling off of her only held promises of devastation and ruin.

She gave him a sultry laugh and a careless shrug. “Lack of practice, Fen. Nothing that can’t be fixed with a quick tumble.”

This was wrong. The uneasy feeling he had was growing, and he saw that Sethrim could feel it too. Faora’s posture became sloppier, but her eyes grew sharper and more frantic. She swung her hips seductively as she took a step forward with arms outstretched. “You wanted to see what I can do, right?” Her smile turned predatory and she planted her feet. “Let me show you!”

Faora took a deep breath and a massive torrent of dragon flame spouted from her mouth. Fen’Harel barely managed to throw up a barrier and dodge out of the way, but she turned to follow him, chasing him around the ring. When she paused to take a breath he blasted her with ice in hopes of slowing her down.Think! How do you defeat a dragon?

Another roar echoed through the halls as she launched herself into the air. A blast of fire propelled her towards him, rolling to her feet when she landed with practiced ease. She rolled her head lazily and strutted to him. “I can’t begin to describe how this feels, Fen. I feel so warm, like I’m swimming in sunlight. The magic flows through me like a river.” She brought her hand up to her lips to hide a giggle. “I’ve said that, haven’t I? Except, I don’t think I need the dam anymore.”

Her feet burned prints into the marble floor with each step she took. Fen’Harel could feel her magic growing exponentially at an alarming rate. It was leaking out of every outlet it could find, including the mark on her hand. Now it glowed brighter and pulsed with each beat of her heart. It was eating at her even faster now, and she couldn’t even feel it.

He lifted both hands placatingly. “Faora, I think you should stop this now. You are getting out of control and I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Faora stopped in her tracks and her expression twisted between confusion and hurt. She laughed in disbelief. “What are you talking about? I’m fine!“

“No, da’len, it’s not safe. We don’t know how the magic here is affecting you in this form. Look at your hand,” he pleaded.

She raised her marked hand and stared at it unseeing. She shook her head and dropped it again. “It does that. Nothing new. Why are you being like this, hahren?” Her smile faded with despair.

Fen’Harel stepped closer to her, keeping his hands up and his eyes locked with hers. “Because this is too dangerous, da’len.” She flinched at the endearment this time. “Please, Faora. Change back so we can study this further.”

She took a sharp step back, keeping their distance. Vehemently, she shook her head. “No! You asked me to do this, and I can! Stop treating me like a child.”

Faora set her arms alight in flame and took her defensive stance. Her fire burned so hotly that she failed to notice the slow drop of the temperature inside the ring.

Fen’Harel counted desperately on her lack of focus. Just a little longer, da’len. “Stop being so stubborn and listen! You are losing control of your mark and it will destroy you if you don’t stop this now.”

You’re being stubborn! I would never have gotten to where we are now if I hadn’t taken chances like these. Don’t hold me back!” She charged again with a roar, straightforward and unwavering, only to be forced back skidding on the floor with another mind blast.

Fen’Harel balled his fists in frustration and froze her legs to the floor. “You reckless fool! You are throwing your life away by continuing this lunacy. This is your last chance to end it before you force my hand.”

Faora snarled at him and punched the thick ice with her armored fist. “Stop underestimating me, hahren.” Her voice trailed off to angry muttering and the room’s temperature dropped further. “You always do this! Always treating me like an apprentice. Always telling me I’m in over my head. ‘Faora, calm down. Faora, be more careful.’”

With a final heavy blow of her shaking fist, she shattered the ice holding her. The cold was beginning to creep into her, making her shoulders tremble and her breath fog up, but she took no notice. Her yellow eyes stared unseeing at the ground before her. Sharp teeth dug into her bottom lip in frustration, threatening to draw blood. “Is that it? Is that why you won’t let me get any closer? Why you won’t let me love you? Because you still think I’m a reckless kid?” Her voice trailed off to nothing but frustrated growling.

Cautiously, Fen’Harel crept closer and knelt before her. The blizzard now swirled violently around the two of them, and he could see Faora shivering, but not from the wind. Hot tears hissed as they landed on the frozen granite floor. His hand gently cupped her cheek before he could think to stop himself. The scales were cold and smooth under his fingertips, finding some that even flare out sharply towards her jaw.

Ma da’hale,” he whispered. He resisted the urge to flinch as her reptilian eyes snapped back into focus with alarm and confusion. He chanced a soft smile. “I say those things because I worry. You are a remarkable and vibrant spirit - an oasis in a desert. Forgive me for raising my voice, but I rather you not injure yourself while we still have so much to talk about.”

His plea earned him a bashful smile, bringing back that demure charm that caught his eye before. “You and that smooth-talking mouth, hahren. It’s not fair.”

Slowly but surely, he felt her magic recede and her mark return to dormancy. Taking advantage of this opening, he sent a warm pulse of magic to draw her to sleep. He took a sharp startled breath when she wrapped one hand around his wrist and laid the other atop his, keeping it in place as she turned her face into the palm of his hand. Fen’Harel could do little to stop the shiver that ran down his spine as he felt her still soft lips press into his palm - lips that were as velvety soft as they looked. Lips that stirred something deep inside him.

“There’s a lecture in store for me, isn’t there, hahren?”

It took a second more than he would’ve liked to remember how his mouth worked. “A well-deserved one, I assure you.”

She chuckled drowsily as she fell to slumber. “No getting past you…” Her voice trailed off as her head came to rest on his shoulder. Her lips tickled the warm skin of his neck as she finished her statement.

Fen’Harel stiffened when he realized what she had whispered into his neck. Of course he could have misheard, but there was no mistaking the way her lovely lips curled around that one word, nor could he deny the way her sleepy voice made it the sweetest music.

Solas

It’s been so long since he’s heard that name, but the way she said it made it seem like she had known him for a long time. It could be possible that there was another that shared his name, but something laughed at him in the back of his mind informing him that was not the case. He shook his head and gently scooped her up into his arms, requesting Sethrim to schedule repairs at their earliest convenience. Those are questions for another time, he thought as he exited the atrium.

Fen’Harel watched the sleeping woman in his arms as her scales receded to reveal smooth freckled skin marred only by old scars and vallaslin. Protection came to a glide alongside him as they navigated the many hallways. “Report,” he commanded the spirit.

Protection bowed its head in acknowledgement. “Three dragons were sighted near our airspace. One high dragon and two drakes. All three vacated the premises when her magic faded.”

“I see. What of the high dragon? One of hers?”

“Apologies, my lord. It was too far away to tell. Shall we set precautions?”

“For the time being, yes. Have some of the agents dispel any rumors that might come up. We don’t need anyone asking questions.”

Ma nuvenin.” The spirit bowed respectfully before disappearing to carry out its task.

Fen’Harel realized a moment after the spirit had left that he was headed to his own chambers instead of hers. Damn. Well, there was no reason to turn back now and go the other direction, so he continued on his way without faltering a step. Nothing was wrong with letting her sleep in his bed for the night, right where he can monitor her and warm her back up safely. His actions were completely innocent, nevermind the naked woman in his arms or the not-so-innocent thoughts coming to mind when he thought about ‘warming her up.’ His lip curled in disgust at himself.

Gently, he set her down into his large bed and pulled the sheets over her. A gentle smile curled her lips as she nestled into the pillows and breathed deeply. Her contented sigh made his cheeks redden. The way she mumbled ‘ma vhenan’ made his ears burn. Should he even ask her about this? Who she sees in her mind’s eye? He could hide who he is, but his insides twisted with the thought of deceiving her. Why?!

No! This is nothing to be confused about. She obviously sees someone else in her delusions, not you. There is no need to question her. There is no need to know.

The thought still gnawed at him as he dressed her in a spare shirt and climbed into the other side of the bed facing her. She was an arm’s length away; close enough to reach and to check up on while still maintaining personal space. Maybe even close enough to brush away strands of fine crimson hair that had fallen onto her face. Her nose twitched adorably at his light touch, warming him somewhere deep in his chest.

Slowly, her peaceful expression of tempted him to his own slumber. He reached over and gently stroked her cheek to check her temperature, and when he found it satisfactory, he let his eyes shut, failing to fully retract his hand. They slept soundly that night mere inches from each other, just as if it were straight from Faora’s own dreams.