The moment the doors to the temple are closed, the sounds of the fighting dims. The wards go up, spells to deflect and hide the secrets in the forest, and the doors are bolted and warded shut. A few bodies remain in the courtyard, enemy soldiers, but they will be left to disintegrate into dust.
As they retreat into the antechamber, Abelas erects the final set of wards, changing the magic woven through the temple so that the rites of petition become puzzles and pathways, able to open the doors only on being followed correctly.
There are not many left who know the path.
This has been planned since half of them lost their magic, since news of Mythal’s murder reached the temple. Most of the guardians are already in slumber, and the rest are soon to join them.
Planning what to do next takes them days: as Abelas is the Keeper, he argues he should be awakened first. As one of the senior priestesses, she argues that Abelas needs to be kept as safe as the Well.
As they leave for their respective chambers, ready to enter the deep sleep, Abelas touches her hand briefly. It is a soft touch, a grasping of her fingers before they depart, a goodbye to the decades of intimacy they once shared.
It is the last time they touch for over four thousand years.
She wakes to the barrier dissipating before her, and the face of Ghilan looking worried.
“The first ward has broken, Souveri.”
Her fingers reach out instinctively for magic she knows is no longer there, has not been there since the murder of Mythal and the formation of the veil. Each time she wakes she hopes to feel that tingle once more, that connection to the Beyond, but it is not to be.
Souveri steps from the chamber with her joints aching and her muscles feeling weak, as Ghilan hands her the bow contained with her.
“Three. There is…a magic to some of them that I have not seen since…before. Should I awaken Abelas?”
She takes the bow and tests it: the tension is good enough, and she cocks her head at Ghilan.
“Not yet. Three are hardly worth waking up the entire temple. The rest of this chamber should be more than enough.”
It has not been long since she was last awakened, this much she can tell: her bones do not ache as much as they did before, and the cloud of sleep is already gone.
Each time they wake the world is worse, different, and she is tiring of this routine. Wake, fight, heal, sleep. No conversation, no mourning for what was lost, no connection to her brothers and sisters. No gods returning to save them, to relieve them of their duty.
She wonders if all they are protecting is a mirror and a glorified pool.
The men are dispatched of long before they near the Temple, never truly a threat, but Ghilan is adamant the magic that commands them is old, and Souveri takes extra care to listen to their conversations before her unit dispatches them.
Some kind of war is going on, but she does not get much else.
The curiosity inside her builds, however, with the urge to seek out and figure out what has changed in the world since their last wakening. When the darkspawn had been close by a decade before, not many had ventured out, well aware from centuries earlier that they too were susceptible to the blight. There is much to know, much more to learn about the world since the last age.
The cycle is becoming too much to bear, too much pointlessness in waking and fighting people who have no idea what they are being killed for. The few times that the entire temple has been awakened, they barely speak. They rise, they defend, they sleep. With each awakening, duty is beginning to taste a lot more like bitterness.
Souveri remembers the early days, when they would stay awake for days and bask in each others' company. They would fix up the Temple, repaint the halls and clean the courtyard, trimming the overgrown bushes and taming the few trees. She remembers when there were hundreds of them alive.
Now, less than a hundred remain, and with each awakening it is becoming more painful to see empty chambers and too many trees in the courtyard.
Ghilan seals the rest of her unit away when they return to the temple: it is part of their strict contingency plans. When the first ward is broken, Ghilan awakens, and wakes either Souveri or Abelas depending on the situation. Only when the temple is under direct attack is Abelas to be awakened first: otherwise, she makes the decision. The last time she woke up, it was ten years prior on Abelas’ instruction, when the blight came too close for comfort.
“I may go and investigate.” Souveri speaks as Ghilan seals away the last Sentinel warrior into his chamber, and the priestess looks over at her with scepticism.
“The threat to the temple is over.”
“There could be more.”
“You are too curious.”
“You are not curious enough. How many did we lose last time, twenty? How long before the only living elvhen is Abelas, doomed to sleep for eternity?”
Ghilan straightens, the record book under her arm heavy and fuller as the years go on.
“If you go, I will stay awake. You will report back.”
Before she leaves, she visits the Keeper’s quarters. It is far too tomb like, and Souveri briefly wonders when they all started going to sleep in their armour. Abelas is the only one with a chamber to himself, but where it once used to reflect the man sleeping inside of it, now it is bare and dark. The tapestries on the walls are faded beyond recognition, and the bronze statuette of Mythal is green with corrosion. His staff leans against a wall, the iron blade at the base rusted off, and before it is the newer, sturdier Warhammer that he had taken to using when his duty turned to protection.
Smiling, she briefly aches to touch Abelas’ face, to say a goodbye, but doing so will bring him out of his slumber and she knows he would not let her leave.
He looks peaceful, not as angry as he has been the last millennia, and she misses the days before the war.
She is fortunate that the language has not changed much in the last few hundred years. Souveri remains able to speak it well, if not with a bit of uneasiness, but she finds difficulty in being able to read it.
She is heading through the north of the Frostbacks when she encounters the other elves. She heads this way only because she has heard of some sort of public conclave (at least she thinks that may be what it is, from what she could gather), and is startled by the appearance of one of the forest-walkers.
“Oh! I did not expect to see another Dalish so far from the forests. What are you doing so far out of the way, sister? Are you headed to the conclave too?”
A feral part of her lashes out at being named Dalish, being associated automatically by way of her vallaslin with the ones who wander, getting even basic elvhen history wrong. The Dalish are not her people, and Souveri almost snarls at the connection. She forces herself to be calm, however: with her vallaslin, she clearly looks like her peoples’ descendants.
“I am, sister.”
“Perfect, you can travel with us if you’d like. One our hunters had to return to the clan due to illness, so it is just myself and one other. Where does your clan hail from?”
“We are a small clan, living mainly in the forests to the south.” Souveri thanks the Dalish for their natural distrust of one another: it means that the woman in front of her does not pry for further details, and instead gives a trusting smile. Souveri can feel the magic that runs through this woman, and feels a pang of regret and sadness. She misses the days when it did not feel like a door had slammed shut on her magic.
“I am Ellana, first to Clan Lavellan.”
Souveri grows fairly fond of the Lavellan clan’s First. She is kind and energetic, eager to learn about the world around her even as they travel through the icy climate of the Frostbacks. Souveri learns much of the modern day, and finally understands why the temple was attacked by darkspawn a decade earlier. Much of Ferelden's recent history is revealed to her, but Souveri cannot ask too many questions lest she start looking suspicious.
It is painful, however, to listen to Lavellan recount the ‘old days’, the time of great Arlathan. Everything she says is confused and wrong, and Souveri watches her place a small figurine of a wolf at the edge of their camp every night. All conjecture, all myths from false facts. She does not try to correct it, however: the first time she had left temple, that had been Abelas’ only request of her. The Dalish are set their ways, he had claimed, too stubborn to exchange their lore for the truth.
“Da’asha, if you would please stop-“
“Someone is in there getting hurt, can’t you hear them?”
Souveri chases Lavellan down the corridor, pulling her to a stop in the human temple so strange and different to Mythal’s. Her magic may be gone, but there is a familiarity in the feeling on the other side of the door, and Souveri wishes very much for Ghilan’s presence: she imagines this is the feeling of familiarity that she had when the first ward was broken.
“Da’asha, please, let me go in first. Stay behind me, you are only young.”
Lavellan looks at her, at this elf who has been secretive and quiet on their travel to the conclave: this elf who looks unlike any Dalish she ever seen, with high cheekbones and a vallaslin to Mythal that looks a little bit different to her own. She trusts her, trusts in her allegiance to the same Elvhen god that she places her own in, and nods.
“Very well, but I’m staying close.”
When the temple is blown apart and Souveri alone leaves the fade, the magic that had felt so familiar is now running up her arm, racing through her blood. Souveri pulls, desperately tries to drag her old magic through, but nothing happens other than the mark on her hand expanding, and she falls into blissful unconsciousness.
When the dark haired woman wakes her up to interrogate her, she is asked for her name. Souveri does not hesitate for a moment when she gives it.
Of all the elves she has ever met outside of the Temple, Solas is the one who intrigues her the most.
Like her, he does not consider the elves his people. His tales of meeting the Dalish and trying to explain to them the truth of their history mirror her own, though she despises how she must act and pretend that it is all new knowledge to her. His account of elvhen history is mostly correct, and Souveri itches with the need to know where he found his knowledge.
The Dalish wander the earth for centuries and cannot find the truth of their own history, but a hedge mage who belongs to neither the Dalish or the strange alienages knows more than either group? It seems preposterous to her.
Souveri is well aware that he finds her interesting, aware that he is surprised how eager and willing she is to accept what he says as truth: whether he suspects her, or simply thinks that she is a naïve apprentice willing to hang on to his every word, she cannot say.
It takes her a while to get used to the name Ellana: she can only get away with the daydreaming excuse a few times before her not answering to it becomes suspicious, and she feels a pang of guilt for taking the name of the young woman who died at the Conclave. Souveri knows, though, that if the truth about her origins came out, her life would be far more dangerous than it is now.
She sends word to Ghilan as soon as she is able, and the response that comes two weeks later is far from impressed. She is scolded for putting her people at risk, told that Abelas will be awakened if this gets too out of hand, asked why exactly she cannot return? What Souveri finds the funniest is the outrage over her new title: Ghilan asks who in Mythal this Andraste woman is?
Souveri laughs, for she does not know either.
“Your name. Why were you given it?”
Souveri looks over at Solas, tearing her attention away from the revellers who celebrate the closing of the breach.
“I could ask the same of you, Ellana.”
“I am not the one with a name that means ‘pride’.”
He chuckles, nodding in acquiescence to her point.
“I was a cocky youngster: I like to think my parents named me knowing it would keep me grounded, in the future. A reminder that pride could be my downfall.”
How smoothly he lies, she thinks. She does not call him out on it: they are all hiding something.
“Then your parents sound very pragmatic.” She does not know what else to say, really.
Solas matches her tired smile, and when he turns to look up at the sky there is something in him that is familiar.
“How do you know so much about the ancient elvhen? Not all of it can be found in dreams.”
The ringing of the bells ensures that she misses the way his expression falters, makes it a certainty that the slight whitening of his face is missed in favour of Cullen rushing to her, to explain the oncoming army.
She fights so desperately, desperately hard to keep the dread out of her face when she sees Tarasyl’an Te’las in the distance. Souveri tries to keep the awe and wonder in her expression, even as she recognises the fortress she has heard of only through whisperings in the temple.
She wonders if even Solas knows where he has brought them. He claims he saw the place in the Fade, and she has no doubt about that. If his experiences in the fade are as he says, then no doubt this place is a honey pot for traumatic memories of the world going awry.
When she is given her bedroom a month later, it all feels wrong. The room is fancy and grand and everything she has been raised to dismiss. She wonders if Fen’Harel had slept here, and then berates herself for such foolish thoughts: she is no Dalish cowering at the words 'Dread Wolf'. Skyhold likely looks nothing like it did before, when it was a stronghold that Mythal herself would visit.
Cole visits her the first night in Skyhold, and he confronts her.
"Magic that dances along the skin, trust in a strange elf that appears in the middle of the mountains, her armour is so strange like those from the Tirashan. Why does she look unlike any elf I have seen before? Ellana was curious about you, but you are not her."
Souveri nearly jumps out of her skin, and she spins around to look at him.
"No, Cole, you cannot."
"Duty turns to ash in the mouth, you are bitter, weary, and the name fits. You are old, but torn between Sorrow and Pride. You must tell them."
And she does not even know what or who he is telling her to speak to: Solas, of her true identity? The Lavellan clan, who deserve to know that their First is no longer alive? Or her companions, who she has lied to with every fibre of her being?
"I will tell them, Cole, one day. But not now. Will you keep it secret?"
"I have to. You're not the only one." Souveri hates how cryptic the boy can be, having no idea what he is talking about now. She makes him promise to keep silent, and sends him on his way, certain that her web of lies is unravelling.
One night, she locks the door and breaks down. She misses Temple life, the real temple life when Abelas was their Keeper, serving Mythal as the acolytes came and went with their prayers. She misses her friends, people she never had enough time to speak to each time they wake up to defend the temple. Souveri despairs at the state of the world, and remembers the day she and Abelas ordered the Temple to shut its doors.
Perhaps oddly, she even misses her name. It is not easy to live with no one calling her by her real name; it is much harder than she thought it would be, and she lives in fear that one day a member of the Lavellan clan will turn up and reveal that she is not Ellana Lavellan. She feels guilty for the poor young woman who died, and prays to do her name justice.
And, as she wakes in bed after kissing Solas in the fade, she cries for Abelas. There had been love there, before Mythal was murdered and they were still slaves. There had been potential when they were lovers, a beautiful bond that had disappeared the day they enacted their plan to close the temple to the outside world forever. They have not touched in four thousand years, but Solas’ lips on her own still feel like betrayal.
Her relationship with Solas flourishes, and Souveri grows to love the freedom she finds in the name Ellana Lavellan. As Inquisitor she can travel and find out far more about the world as it is. She feels pity for the Elvhen people, and feels anger at their situation. She knows there is not much she can do, and sometimes she still snaps when she is referred to as a Dalish, but overall there are no incidents of note.
She maps out everything and sends it back, eager for her people to know the shape of the world now, the kingdoms that have overtaken it. She tells of the strange men with horns, the destruction of the dwarven kingdoms, the plight of the shadows wearing the vallaslin.
Both her and Solas are well aware that there are things they are hiding from the other, though Souveri cannot for the life of her understand what he could possibly be hiding. She likes to laugh at the idea that if they ever told each other, she’d win by a landslide. But Solas knows something is up: she is far too eager to learn, too unsure about the world, to be what she says she is. He has trouble believing a Dalish elf would not know who Andraste is, and when he asks her of the fall of the Dales she knows little more than the bare basics.
There is nothing it seems they cannot discuss with one another: they talk for hours on magical theory, on the plight of the modern elf (and she tries very hard to act ignorant and Dalish in these conversations), the events at the Winter Palace and how things might have gone differently, and the Nightmare demon at Adamant. They discuss Corypheus, and how it could have been possible for a Tevinter to enter the Fade physically all those years ago.
She begins to wonder if the Sentinels have judged this world wrongly. Souveri is not an idiot: she knows they can never tell anyone the truth of the temple and their duties, but she sees no reason why they should remain locked up, bound to Mythal for eternity. Knowledge of things she could not ever imagine run around her mind, and she loves that she has the freedom to love.
When Morrigan takes her into the Crossroads, she is almost despondent at the state of the place. It is colourful, yes, but she can feel the weakness in the air, the failure of the magic to keep up. It will not be long before it is lost, if it is not repaired soon.
And when Morrigan mentions the Eluvian in the Arbor Wilds, it is so difficult to keep quiet, to warn them away. She has spent four thousand years killing anyone who got too close to the temple, serving the Vir’Abelasan since she was only seventy-five years old. Souveri feels physically sick at the idea of Corypheus going after her home, her family, and she sends a raven as soon as she has stopped vomiting into a bucket in the corner of her room.
One day, after a night in Solas’ bed, Souveri returns to her own quarters and finds a neatly wrapped package on her desk.
The note that lies under the first layer of paper is written in ancient elvhen, and Souveri nearly cries with happiness at the sight. She has not read something so easily in so long, the language that the humans use being so difficult in comparison to the script she has known for more than five millennia. It is in Abelas' hand, and she feels her open palm go to her chest automatically, holding the paper close.
If you insist on seeing this through to the end, then I would see you properly outfitted.
Inside is the armour she has worn for so long, not new, but fitted well enough. Her old set was all but destroyed in the explosion at Haven, and she has missed the comforts of armour imbued with ancient magic. It smells like home, and she finds herself wondering when Abelas was woken up if the armour arrived so quickly: Ghilan must have done so before her raven arrived.
Ultimately, she decides not to wear it to the Arbor Wilds: The Inquisition truly believes she is Dalish, and if somehow one of her companions gets into the Temple with her, they will wonder just why she seems to be wearing identical armour to the rest of the Sentinels.
Of course, all that caution goes straight out of the window when they arrive to find the Temple all but destroyed. Fires burn in the courtyard, and Souveri watches in horror as Corypheus eradicates nearly half of her own unit as they try to defend the temple.
She knows she must exercise some caution, pretend for some level of cluelessness as she completes the rite of passage that she has witnessed others do thousands of times, but she simply cannot. Solas is looking at her with confusion and surprise, as is Morrigan, but Cassandra and Sera are too eager to keep going to notice that she gets the answers right a little too quickly.
Souveri runs towards the main doors with the desperation of a madwoman, praying fervently that the interior looks nothing like the exterior. Slamming open the doors to the antechamber, the sound of her boots hitting the stone floor is loud and echoing, but she stops in relief at the figure standing on the balcony above.
Her voice is a strangled cry full of terror and relief, but sharp gold eyes only stare down at her from the upper level. He stands there with his arms crossed, tall and towering over them, and that angry look is on his face.
So this ended up being longer than I had thought, so it's now going to be three chapters long! So enjoy!
I hope I have the timelines right: trying to backtrack past the Divine Age is horrific when the wiki lists three different calendars. With the fantastic help of Caritas_Lavellan I've made it so that:
5000 years prior, she starts serving at the Temple.
4000 years prior, the Temple closes after the wars. I imagine, with Abelas saying Tevinter was carrion picking over a corpse, they close their doors well before Arlathan 'sinks', around 1800 years before 9:41. I think. Argh.
If you spot a mistake in the chapter regarding that, please tell me! I've ended up confusing myself with the calendar.
Solas looks at Souveri sharply, his eyes narrowed as he hears his vhenan shout out the disjointed apology, almost like a name. The others also notice it, and they see the tension drain out of Ellana Lavellan’s body as she looks up at the elf who stands above her.
If there is relief in his face, he is too far away for them to notice.
“You are unlike the other invaders.”
Souveri briefly wonders if he has been hit over the head whilst in slumber; does he not recognise her? Even in the clothing of a Dalish scout, she looks exactly as she did the last time they spoke.
“You bear the mark of magic that is…familiar. How has this come to pass? What is your connection to those who disturbed our slumber?” There’s something in his eyes as he speaks, a subtle shift in the tone of his voice that tells her to play along, to protect them all by pretending to be ignorant of them.
“We are not your enemy: we have come to be rid of those who are.”
It pains her to speak so distantly now that she is finally home, around those she loves and misses, and it is painful to register which faces are missing among those who surround them. She wishes to mourn them all: though she had ordered her soldiers not to attack the Sentinels, many had been cut down by the red templars. She longs to wrap their bodies in the sacred blankets as she has done so many times over the ages, but now is not the time.
When Morrigan flies off to race Abelas to the well, she feels her heart drop into her stomach. Abelas will die before he hands it over to anyone: he has presided over the vir'abelasan for longer than she has been alive, and he will not stop now.
“I am curious, Inquisitor, to how you knew their leader’s name before he revealed it to us.” The tone in Solas’ voice tells her she has not escaped the conversation with Abelas without suspicion being cast upon her. Cassandra looks as though she is thinking the same thing, and Sera looks at her as uncomfortably as she looks at their surroundings.
Before she can answer, a familiar voice speaks.
She is filled with relief once again when their guide turns out to be Ghilan, and the woman races them through the back corridors of the temple with urgency. Souveri is not the only one who knows how much their leader cares about preserving the well.
She is not far behind Abelas as he races up the waterfall, her feet following her faith and tapping off the rocks that appear beneath her. Her bow is already drawn and an arrow nocked when she stops shortly behind him at the top, the arrow trained on Morrigan.
To her credit, the witch looks at her with surprise when she shape-shifts back into her human form, and her eyes narrow immediately.
“You heard his parting words, Inquisitor. He seeks to destroy the Well of Sorrows.”
Solas and Cassandra appear behind them, with Sera not far behind, and Souveri closes her eyes briefly, making a decision that she knows will change things between herself and her companions forever. She takes a step forward, to stand alongside Abelas.
“We are sworn to protect it with our lives: you will not have it.”
“What? You’re siding with them?” Morrigan is full of suspicion and disbelief, and Souveri can feel Solas’ gaze burning into her back.
“She is one of them.”
She lowers her bow briefly, and glances back at Solas.
“How long have you known?”
“I had my suspicions. You just confirmed them.”
Morrigan throws her hands up into the air, frustrated.
“Then the pair of you are fools. You would let your people’s legacy rot in the shadows!”
Souveri flinches, but Abelas reacts with anger.
“To keep it from your grasping fingers! Better to lose it than have it despoiled by the undeserving.”
“Enough! We are not having this argument. With Samson gone there is no one to be the vessel. We do not need the Well.”
Morrigan turns on her, expression furious.
“It is the only way we can access the Eluvian!”
“It is not. All Sentinels can unlock it, bound as we are to Mythal and this temple.” Something akin to disgust passes across Solas’ face, but Morrigan tries another tactic before Souveri can comment on it.
“The Well clearly has power, you know this. If it can be turned against Corypheus, can you afford not to use it? The moment we leave here he will send troops to take it: either we take it, or he does.”
She shakes her head.
“I know exactly what using that Well means, Morrigan.”
Abelas steps away and looks down at the Well, an expression on his face that she cannot read. It’s the closest they’ve stood to one another in over four thousand years.
“Do you even know what you ask?” He directs it to Morrigan and the others, as Souveri lowers her bow completely and drops the arrow to the floor. “All that we were, all that we knew, would be lost.”
“To you.” Souveri adds, her eyes on Morrigan. The witch is getting more and more frustrated, and Solas speaks up before the woman thinks to bring out a blade of her own.
“There are other places, other duties. Your people yet linger, you must know this.” Souveri cannot help but believe that last bit is directed at her, though Solas does not look at her. Abelas gives a noise of distaste.
“Elvhen such as you?”
“Yes, such as I.”
It clicks for her, then. The amount of derision in Abelas’ tone is not down to Solas thinking he is one of the elvhen – it is because Abelas recognises what Souveri did not: that the third elf is one of them. The familiarity of his features becomes obvious, and suddenly his knowledge of their history makes much more sense.
She feels silly, ignorant, for not being able to tell right away as Abelas could. The truth has been in plain sight, and she has missed it in favour of soft looks and a wisdom that transcended the ages. She looks over at Sera, who looks ready to fight or flee, and tries to make a joke.
“You’re not also one of the elvhen hiding among us, are you?”
Sera almost spits at her.
Abelas turns to her then, and for the first time in centuries she sees on his face the remnants of what was between them, and there is a sorrow in his eyes at the realisation that if the Well is consumed, they are no longer needed.
“If the Well is to be used, I would rather you be the one to do so.”
She takes a step towards him, her lips pressed together in uncertainty.
“Abelas, I cannot. We are servants, I cannot-“
He holds his hand up to stop her.
“Rather you be the one to use it, vhenan, after four thousand years of service, than a shemlen who thinks she knows the answers.”
“But the price…” Souveri trails off, and Morrigan gives a huff of laughter.
“Bound to the service of a Goddess who no longer exists, if she ever did in the first place?”
Abelas looks at her sharply, but Morrigan does not shrink back.
“Bound, as we are bound already. It may be too much for a mortal to withstand.”
Unlike herself, Abelas did not lose his magic when the veil was erected: she can feel it now crackling in the air around them, as every instinct drilled into him over five millennia fights to destroy the well, to not let it fall into the hands of the unworthy. She is no fool: if she had been worthy of the Vir’Abelasan, she would never have been a servant at the temple in the first place.
“Mythal no longer exists. Elvhen legend states she was tricked by Fen’Harel into the beyond with the rest of the Elvhen gods-“
“Elvhen legend is wrong. The Dread Wolf had nothing to do with her murder.”
The look of annoyance on Solas’ face mirrors her own, and when Morrigan has the grace to look surprised she almost cheers.
“Murder? I said nothing of murder-“
“I think we have established that you don’t know what you are talking about, so if you could kindly shut up, we would be grateful.” Souveri cuts in, finally breaking at hearing this woman act like the superior knowledge on the goddess she has spent three millennia serving. “She was slain by the people who destroyed the Temple.”
Souveri can see Cassandra at the back having a crisis of faith, and she almost feels sorry for the woman who nearly flinches each time Souveri reiterates how old they are. It must be difficult, she thinks, to see the Herald of Andraste admit to being far, far older than Andraste herself.
“Where will you go? Where will we go? I had planned to come back, when this was all done.”
“With the vir’abelasan gone, our duty is over. Only uthenera awaits.”
Souveri frowns, disagreeing completely with the words now that she has seen the world for herself. She wants to free her brothers and sisters, have them see that they can live now that their duty is over. But she knows them, knows they will follow Abelas and that his mind cannot be changed.
“Abelas, no, you cannot go into uthenera-“
“Drink from the Well, vhenan, before I destroy it.”
When she emerges from the vir’abelasan, everything is clear but messy, the voices loud but quiet and uncertain: they recognise that she is truly their kin, but they have laid undisturbed for so long that there is chaos in her mind, the riot of a hundred thousand voices waking up at once. She cannot imagine what it would have been like for a mortal to partake of the well.
Her companions are there waiting for her, with Abelas stood off to the side behind them. They are all silent, taking in the truth of what has happened here. Even Sera is silent, though Souveri knows she has not heard the last of it from any of them.
Before anyone can say anything, finish off the events and find some sort of closure for them all, the doors to the area they are in fly open, and all hell breaks loose.
There is a part of her heart that hurts, at the intrusion this far into the Temple: they had protected everything past the antechamber for thousands of years, and one ancient shemlen and his dragon had razed it all. Souveri wonders how many of her brothers and sisters lie dead behind the magister, but before she can say anything the voices in the Well command, and the mirror springs to life.
It is the first time since Mythal’s murder that she has seen it active.
They run to it, all except Abelas who leaps off the side as though there isn't a thirty-foot drop into the river, and Souveri stands at the edge to move her companions through the mirror. She turns as the water rises from the well in the shape of a shemlen woman, and feels the surprise wash over her.
The figure distracts Corypheus long enough that he no longer notices her, and Souveri takes the chance offered to her. Hand pressing flat against the mirror, she deactivates it and darts behind it, into the servant's passage and far from the unknowing reach of Corypheus.
The mirror shatters under the weight of his frustration, and she slips silently into the darkness.
The Sentinels are waiting in a room off the main antechamber, sealed and inaccessible to the Inquisition soldiers who search for their Inquisitor. She lets them search; they will find Samson easily enough, and she is certain they will retreat afterwards.
There are less than twenty of them left alive. Eighteen where only a year ago there were seventy.
They are lost and uncertain, and the quietest of them all is surprisingly Abelas. That has never been a good thing.
“Where do we go now?” Ghilan breaks the silence and the mourning with her question, and Abelas looks up from where he is stood deep in thought, his chin resting in his hand.
“Uthenera is all that is left for us.”
Souveri reacts to that so deeply that she feels a sickness settling in her stomach.
“No. You can do whatever you like but please, not that. Never that.”
Abelas strides over to her, his face and movement full of carefully contained anger. She is standing on the edge of the sword, and he is the one who wields it.
“Have the shemlen risen you so high that you think you can command us?”
“I did command you!”
“No, you were a priestess acting under my own authority. A right that you gave up.”
Souveri flinches back in the face of his anger, feeling the hurt rippling through her at his words. She sees a flash of regret in his eyes before he takes a step back, but the anger does not leave his features. He is wound tight like a coil, and she waits for him to snap.
“What are you saying? That I’m not one of you anymore? Forcing me out?”
Abelas snorts derisively, and shakes his head. When he looks at her, there is hurt behind the mask. She reaches out to grab at his wrists, but he slaps her hands away.
“We are doing no such thing. You left of your own accord. This is no longer your home. We are no longer your people.” He points angrily to the doorway. "You belong out there."
“You’re being ridiculous.” She recoils at his harsh words, feeling the weight of Abelas’ anger like a slap to the face.
“Am I? Or did you not leave us, and become the head of an organisation devoted to a shemlen religion? Did you not then lead them to our sanctum, using sacred ground as your own battlefield?”
“I did not leave with the intention of doing that.”
“But you did leave. You belong out there, with them.”
Souveri deflates, the fight gone from her. Several of her brothers and sisters behind Abelas clearly agree with him, whilst others clearly disagree. But she will not be a cause of strife between them, when there are so few left.
When she speaks again, the tears in her eyes are visible, but her voice remains strong.
“I will leave, if that is what you wish. But please, Abelas, I beg you, do not go into uthenera. If you give me anything in this world, do not do it. I cannot-“ she cuts off short, and looks down at her hands. “I cannot bear the thought of you all gone.”
There is more to it, of course. Her heart burns with a new love for Solas, but beneath that is a much older affection, a fire that burns for the man before her. Furthermore, Abelas and Ghilan are the ones able to perform the ritual for uthenera: once they sleep, she never will again.
She looks up at Abelas, a finality to her face that is reminiscent of a reluctant goodbye, and imparts the only information she feels will change his mind.
“I had agents search for one of the Temples in the forests to the north, the one we knew to belong to Falon’Din. Only two returned, but I can tell you now that there were many of us there, alive. This world calls it the Tirashan.”
Souveri lowers her hands to her sides, and with an inclination of her head she turns on her heel and leaves. She slips through the passages of her home, avoiding the soldiers from her Inquisition as she heads back to the Well of Sorrows.
It is worth checking if the Eluvian is actually destroyed, before she heads to one of their camps in the Arbor Wilds.
There is no doubting that it is destroyed, she realises when she reaches it, her boots crunching on the shattered glass at her feet. She wonders if she could have even opened it without her magic: no one has tried to since Mythal was slain, and once the veil went up, the Crossroads were no longer deemed safe. They had all been able to open it once, but then they had all had magic.
She is content with the knowledge that she could seal it, at the very least.
Hearing the footsteps long before the man behind her walks into her field of vision, Souveri waits for him to speak as he gathers his words.
“I can repair the eluvian, if you wish to return this way.”
Souveri almost smiles at Abelas, at the pull in his voice that indicates he is uncomfortable, unwilling to apologise but equally unhappy if their parting words are to be vicious.
“I would appreciate it.”
The returning smile is awkward, but Souveri takes it all the same and watches as his magic knits the shards back together, pulling strings of glass and green magic towards the mirror until it stands whole before her.
Abelas opens the way for her, and Souveri is about to step through when she pauses, and reaches out to grab his wrist. He does not push her away this time, but looks at her with eyes that pierce her heart.
“Whatever you choose to do, please, let me know of it. You may think I have betrayed you, but I would like to know what happens, nevertheless.”
He nods, only once, and then disappears around the eluvian into the passage behind it.
The initial return to Skyhold is quiet.
Sera locks the door to her room in the tavern and refuses to let Souveri in, and she will not push the young elf into opening her door. Cassandra watches her with well-trained and suspicious eyes, and Souveri feels the friendship between them becoming more distant.
Solas avoids her, and she him: they are both faced with the startling realisation that everything they have thought about the other has been a lie. There are lingering looks across the main hall that Souveri knows all too well signal the doom of a relationship, the trust dissipating into thin air the moment she aimed her arrow at Morrigan at the vir’abelasan.
Of course, everyone remaining at Skyhold is aware that something is wrong: four of the Inquisition cannot return in the centre of the keep one day, and avoid each other like the plague for up to a week afterwards, without attracting attention. Souveri can see the remaining soldiers watching them all with curiosity, wondering why the tight-knit group are spread to the four corners of the keep.
Leliana, Cullen, and Josephine arrive, along with the rest of the inner circle, a week after the main party has arrived at Skyhold, and Souveri watches from her tower as Cassandra greets them at the gate. The soldiers will likely take up to a month to return, but a debriefing is essential nonetheless.
She heads down to the war room when she is summoned, and walks in to her three advisors standing awkwardly around the table. No one quite wants to be the one to ask the question.
Leliana braves it.
“We have received Cassandra’s report of the events in the Temple, Ellana. Is it true?”
“I cannot tell you the year that I was born, for your calendars are confusing to me, but I can tell you that it was over five-thousand years ago. I was born to a wealthy family, but there were many wars, and when my family backed the wrong side I was sold into the servitude of the Evanuris Mythal. I was seventy-five years old. I served the temple as a priestess, and later a senior-priestess and assistant to the Keeper for nearly a thousand years. When the elvhen empire tore itself apart and Mythal was murdered, we closed the doors to the Temple. That was four-thousand years ago.”
Though her face remains calm, Souveri knows she is visibly shaking like a leaf. It is difficult to tell the truth of it, to these people whose lives are so much shorter than her own. She hides the information on the veil going up: she is already proving a contradiction to everything they know.
Cullen looks uncomfortable, Josephine alarmed, and Leliana stands there carefully. Souveri can see the wheels turning in her head, storing the information and processing it as she speaks.
“When we closed the doors to the Temple, we sent ourselves to sleep, waking only to protect the Temple from invaders. I have lived through all of your history. I slept through the first blight, I lurked the forests when your Andraste came close to the edge of the wilds, and I woke to defend the Temple during the second blight. I have watched as countless wars and ages passed, and this world is both alarmingly similar and horribly foreign to my own. I have denied being the Herald of Andraste not because I do not believe, but because I have lived half my life in a world where she did not exist.”
“And the real Ellana Lavellan? What happened to her?” Souveri finds her respect for Leliana growing by the second: Cullen and Josephine are still quiet, uncertain of what to say. Souveri bows her head.
“She died at the Conclave. We met in the mountains; I was heading there with an aim of trying to understand this world more, and she mistook me for a Dalish elf. It was she who should have entered the room where Corypheus was trying to perform his ritual, but I made her stand behind me as I entered first instead.”
“Why did you take her name? You have taken her entire identity and masqueraded as her for nearly a year.” Josephine finds her voice in order to ask the question, a thousand scenarios running through her mind on how to deal with the fallout of all of this.
“I hardly think I could have explained myself to you or Cassandra. Had I told you that I was five-thousand years old and that I had fancied exploring this world to document it at my Temple, you would have branded me insane. I could not have proved it without the Temple, and your agents would never have gotten past the defences. Ellana wore the same vallaslin as I, and we shared similar features.”
Josephine puts a hand to her forehead, looking uncertain for the first time in weeks. Souveri watches her, waiting for the human to open her mouth to speak.
“How do we tell people that the Herald of Andraste is an ancient elf? Oh I will be dealing with the repercussions of this for weeks.”
Souveri goes to speak, but Leliana cuts in first.
“You don’t tell anyone, Josie. They have kept quiet for a reason. No one finds out outside of your inner circle, Inquisitor. No one. If any rumours circulate, do not address them. It is beyond belief, and those who spread it will be decried as liars.”
Solas finds her in the fade.
“I brought you here because I wanted to show you how much you mean to me.”
They are in the glade from Crestwood, the memory so clear that there is no hint to Souveri that they are in the fade. The sounds of the water rushing down the waterfall, the sounds of the crickets in the bushes, it is all there.
Souveri cocks her head at Solas, confused.
“I will admit; I am surprised you still willing to speak to me. I lied to you.”
Something in his face falls, and his eyes dart away from her face.
“As you discovered when your Keeper spoke up at the Temple, I was keeping the same secret from you.”
Souveri’s laugh is hesitant, as she looks up at the man who has shared her bed for nearly half a year. His presence had chased away a loneliness that had settled into her bones over the course of four millennia, shining a light into the dark and dusty corners of her soul. He looks at her carefully.
“Your name, it means weary. Why did you choose that?”
Souveri pauses, halting their walk through the glade, and looks at him with a sadness in her eyes.
“When Mythal was murdered, several of us changed our names. I did not, not at first. But after a thousand years of watching over the Temple, I was tired. I was weary of waking up and finding the world more different with each go around, and so I changed it to suit.”
Solas nods, satisfied with the explanation, and holds her hands tightly within his own.
“I know I do not need to explain to you the significance of your vallaslin. Where once I looked at you and thought you ignorant of what they symbolise, I understand now that you wear them knowing they mark you as a slave of Mythal.”
His words make her pull back slightly, but his grip on her hands remain firm. She shakes her head at him in anger.
“If you saw the true depths of slavery in our time, you would know that serving Mythal was not true slavery.”
Solas’ eyes narrow, and the atmosphere changes.
“Did you pledge yourself to her of your own free will?”
“No, I was…sold-“
“Were you free to come and go as you pleased, free to leave at any time?”
“Were you able to speak against her, without fear of being punished?”
“Mythal was kind, I chose not to do so.”
“But could you?”
Solas stands straighter, feeling as though he has won.
“Then you were a slave. That she treated you well does not mean you were free.” He pauses, running his thumb over the top of her hand gently. “But that is not why I brought you here.” Another pause, as his eyes leave her face and flicker to their surroundings. Solas stares at one of the murals of an elf for a few seconds before he steels himself, and Souveri knows he is changing tack.
“The vallaslin. I can remove it, if you wish. I know the spell.”
This time Souveri narrows her eyes at him, and she takes a step closer with a look of disagreement on her face.
“No. I was proud to serve Mythal, even if you think I was a slave, I did not consider myself to be one. I was given a duty, a family, and I served the best of the Evanuris. These marks are a part of me. I can’t-“
“Stop. You are perfect exactly as you are. I should not have pushed you.” Solas’ smile is warm and open, and a hand lifts to hold her face in his palm. He studies her face, observing the vallaslin and the steadiness of her decision.
His kiss is soft, the hand falling to her waist is gentle in its pressure to pull her closer until her body is flush against his own. It is tender and careful, nothing at all like the fast and desperate kisses he gives her in the privacy of her chambers. It is sweet, and far too much like he is mapping it to memory for Souveri to be entirely comfortable. Even as her hands slip from his waist, she feels him slipping through her fingers like water.
“And I am sorry. There has been too much deceit between us, and I have distracted you from your duty.”
“Deceit? Just moments ago you were willing to ignore it! Ma banal abelas!” She pushes at him, separating the space between their bodies as he lowers his head. He does not fight back, but takes her rough shoving.
“You are a rare and marvellous spirit. In another world…-“
“What other world? In another world we never crossed paths.”
His head shakes in a way that makes her pause, stops her from going after him. She has known grief and the loss of love, could not have reached her age without it, but the pain is raw as it always has been. Just as she wants to push him away she longs for his arms to encircle her.
“Please, vhenan.” And then he disappears from before her, there one moment and gone the next. The anchor flares briefly, but the light is hidden with how tightly she clenches her fists.
She stands in the clearing alone for nearly an hour, and longs for her magic once more. She wishes for her fire, her flames that would rise higher than any tree in the forest, so hot the halla statues would scorch black from the heat. She had rarely used it before the veil, had considered it something so eternal that she had never improved on the craft. She remembers Ghilan and Abelas desperately trying to teach the remaining Sentinels to cast, futilely helping them to pull their magic through the veil. It never worked.
She forces herself to wake once the sight of the clearing becomes painful. When Souveri wakes in her bed, the place beside her is cold, but the imprint of Solas remains.
The following night, she dreams of flowing skirts and dancing in a palace far grander than the Winter Palace, with spirals that soar into the endless sky. She dreams of forms lighter than air and a face unmarked by vallaslin, large balls full of bare-faced elvhen dancing for days on end.
The music plays; she keeps the form she has chosen, and the dance goes on.
The next moment she is in the Temple, in dark robes of soft cotton to hide the glittering armour beneath. Her face burns from the vallaslin, and Mythal wanders through the celebrations with Pride at her side. It is better, she thinks, than the alternative of true slavery. She dances with the Temple Keeper at the evening celebrations, smiling despite the pain of fresh marks. His smile is different, more curious than the ones he has bestowed upon her fellow recruits, and there is something beautiful in his eyes as he spins her across the courtyard.
She will serve for millennia before everything goes wrong, but for now the hand on her back holds the weight of something more, and the music keeps playing.
And then she’s in Halamshiral, skirts replaced with Inquisition trousers and red jackets, and she is solid, heavier here than she ever was before. The steps are like stumbling, a stair there where once there were none.
Souveri holds tight to her partner on the balcony, but the face changes with the aching of her heart at lost loves, and she longs for the days when she could breathe.