The first time he saw her, he felt nothing but guilt. She was a pitiful thing, huddled in the corner of her cell, crying out and convulsing every time the mark on her hand pulsed. This was not what was supposed to happen; he begrudgingly admitted to himself that his error in judgment had massive consequences. The explosion at the Conclave was one; the Breach, along with the numerous fade Rifts appearing, was another.
And now, a young Dalish mage, the only survivor at the Conclave, would likely die because of his foolishness.
But dwelling on his mistakes would solve nothing. Determinedly, he sat beside the girl and performed every healing spell that would not react with the magic of the Anchor. The Seeker walked into the cell from time to time, and alternated between glaring at the girl and glowering at Solas. She and the Nightingale spoke in hushed tones, but their conclusion was obvious: they believed the girl to be the one responsible for the explosion at the Conclave.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the girl's convulsions lessened and gradually seemed to become less painful. He stood up, extremely exhausted, but also invariably pleased with himself. The girl was resting peacefully now, her face regaining its natural hue rather than the white sheet it had been before. Her mark still pulsed, but less violently now. He'd studied it while healing her, and had come to the conclusion that its connection to the rifts may be the key to closing the Breach.
Perhaps he could find a way to undo the disaster he had wrought upon the world.
The next time he saw her was behind an enemy. She impaled the demon he was fighting using her staff, and froze it from the inside. When the fight was over, he grabbed her wrist and pushed her open palm in the direction of the rift. She did not cry out, but she gritted her teeth in obvious discomfort. He could feel the rift folding, as if being sucked into her hand. When it seemed to be too much for her mark to handle, she yanked her hand back, and the rift was sealed with a quiet pop.
The girl looked at him in wonder. "What did you do?"
"I did nothing. It seems that the mark on your hand is the key to sealing these rifts."
"So I can help!" she beamed at him. And despite his generally grim attitude, he found himself smiling back. It was different, seeing her now than when she was huddled in her cell. Her fiery red hair seemed to add to her liveliness, and her big green eyes were soulful and sincere. Her face was marred by the vallaslin of Mythal—a tree from her nose, spreading to her forehead—but Solas still thought her beautiful. The two stared at each other a moment too long, and Varric interrupted them with a small cough. She blushed lightly in embarrassment and turned towards the dwarf, who introduced himself with a bow.
She was a charming young thing, but also relatively naïve and eager to please. He would guide her, he silently vowed. He would ensure never to see that light snuffed from her eyes.
She turned out to be an inquisitive woman, opinionated but generally open-minded as well. It was a delight whenever she approached him and asked questions about his traipses around the Fade. They would also often discuss topics regarding Elven culture and history. The Herald was curious about the past, and was mournful of the fact that no one knew much about it. She begged him to teach her how to visit the Fade as he did and he, despite his better judgment, agreed when they were allowed to do so.
Talia, as she often reminded him to call her, was not without faults, however. Her eager to please attitude had found her agreeing to whatever the others said, no matter what her actual opinion was on the matter. It was difficult for her to lead, as the Qunari once commented, when they'd looked to her for instructions and she knew not what to do.
Therefore, he was quite surprised that she was adamant about allying with the mages rather than the templars. Evidently, her advisors were surprised too, and while the Seeker seemed pleased that the Herald stood up for her beliefs, the Commander looked incredibly miffed with her decision.
Of course, forging an alliance with the mages had been incredibly difficult.
With the added trouble of the Tevinters, Grand Enchanter Fiona's idiocy, and time magic of all things, each step needed to be carefully planned by the Spymaster and the Commander. They had help in the form of Dorian Pavus, a Tevinter mage and former student of the Magister's. Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan.
The Tevinter Magister opened a rift in time and sent the Herald into it. Pavus interrupted the spell, and the two disappeared into the portal—briefly. After a few seconds, the two popped back into existence, but looked worse for wear. Talia had a deep gash on her head, and the blood was trickling down the side of her face. Pavus had various scratches on his arms, and his robe was burnt on one side. Regardless of his state, the Tevinter mage still had enough energy to sass the Magister.
"You'll have to do better than that," he smirked, though it did look half-hearted to Solas.
Talia was a different story. The light that he had so admired in her eyes was gone, replaced by a deep pit of nothing but rage and despair. When Alexius had fallen on his knees in front of her, she hauled him up the collar and slammed him against the wall. All of them stared in shock as the sweet and joyful girl started choking Alexius with a strength none of them thought she possessed.
"Herald!" All of them rushed forward to stop her, but it was Pavus who managed to do so. He placed a hand on her shoulder and gave her an understanding look. She took a deep breath and her face crumpled. She let go of the Magister, and he slumped onto the floor.
Talia gestured to one of the Inquisition soldiers.
"Get him out of my sight," she hissed, and when Alexius was hauled out of the way, she turned to the Grand Enchanter. They were interrupted by the appearance of the King of Ferelden, whose unwavering glare was in stark contrast to the neutral expression on his wife's face. His angry tirade was occasionally disrupted by the Queen, who added a few statements here and there to soften his words. It was a sad day, when a Monarch who wholeheartedly wished to help the mages was forced to exile them due to their leader's idiocy.
"But…we have hundreds who need protection. Where will we go?"
"You will be leaving here with the Inquisition," The Herald spoke quietly but firmly. Whatever happened in those few moments they were gone, it had affected her deeply.
Solas was surprised Fiona still had the gall to demand something. "And what are the terms of this arrangement?"
Madame de Fer scoffed at the Grand Enchanter. "My dear, at this point, I believe you should just be grateful that the Inquisition is here and willing to take in you and your rabble."
"Hopefully better than what you have here. The Inquisition is better than Alexius and his Venatori, aren't they?" Dorian said, watching the Herald carefully.
"While their leader has erred in her judgment, I do not believe that the mages should be taken in as prisoners. An alliance with them would further the Inquisition's cause in the foreseeable future." Solas commented. It might have been underhanded of him, but he knew that Talia would side with the opinion of the majority. He could not help but feel sorry for the rebel mages. The leader made a mistake, and the people were going to suffer for it. But they would not make that same mistake twice. It would be foolish for them to squander the second chance the Inquisition would offer them.
The Herald looked down and was silent for a moment before looking up, her eyes blazing. "You are to surrender yourselves as conscripts of the Inquisition." her voice brooked no argument, and Solas was stunned, not an easy feat in itself. Did she not feel a kinship with these mages? Did she not understand that they needed to be given another chance? That they had acted the way they did because they backed themselves into a corner?
"I—I know we shouldn't have accepted the Magister's help, but surely—" Fiona was cut off by Talia.
"No, you shouldn't have. And until you prove yourselves worthy of an alliance, you will be helping us seal the Breach. I will not put my men in any more danger by taking chances of those who have not earned it." she crushed the Grand Enchanter's argument brutally. She turned to the rest them. "Assist the Grand Enchanter with packing, we will be leaving Redcliffe by the end of the day." And she strode out of the room, leaving all of them speechless.
Talia did not turn up until they were all ready to leave Redcliffe. She gave a few orders shortly and proceeded to stay silent until they made camp. The waiting was the most difficult part, Solas decided. Sooner or later, she would approach him and explain what happened, but it had been very difficult for him to accept her decision. Pavus disapproved of what she had done, but Solas could see that he understood her reasoning. It irked him that the Tevinter mage knew of something he did not, and it was what pushed him to go and look for the Herald.
He finally found her sitting underneath a tree, hugging her legs to her chest and staring into space. She did not look up when he approached, nor did she give any indication that he noticed her.
Solas looked at her critically and noticed that her cheeks were stained with tear tracks and her eyes were swollen. He felt a stab of guilt as he realized that no one had healed her head wound and the blood had dried on the side of her face.
"Ma falon…" Solas said quietly.
"I know what you're thinking," she said. "You think I'm a fool. You think I'm heartless for conscripting them and not giving them a chance. You think I'm a child playing at war—with no idea where I'm going and what I'm doing. Well? Am I right?" she hissed when Solas remained silent.
She looked so forlorn that the sermon Solas prepared was scratched out of his mind. He went down on one knee in front of her, cupped her chin with one hand, and raised her head so that he could meet her eyes.
"I think that you give yourself too little credit," he said gently. "You were under a great deal of pressure and you made a decision when it was needed. I may not agree with it, but it does not mean that I think you're a fool."
Talia looked away from his gaze and took a shuddering breath; a few more tears escaped her eyes.
"I think that you have gone through much today," he added, standing up and pulling her up to her feet. "I think that it's time somebody looked at that head wound."
She let him lead her to a nearby creek and he washed off the blood on her face as he inspected the wound. He ran a hand over the gash, and muttered a healing spell to close it. She sighed as the spell washed over her, and when it was over, he settled his hand on her cheek. She leaned into his touched.
The look she gave him was intense, and filled with an emotion Solas did not dare name. He swallowed, his heart clenching at the sight of her.
"Do you feel better?" he asked, forcing his voice to remain calm and soft.
"I saw you die," she whispered.
Solas cocked his head to the side in askance.
"Alexius sent us forward into time, a year from now," she continued just as quietly. "It was chaos, but thankfully Dorian was there. He—it was his plan that allowed us to get back to our original time."
"What happened?" he prompted.
"I just know that the Orlesian Empress was assassinated, and…he took over. The world…it was taken over by this…Elder One. We didn't stay long enough to know who he was." she looked away in shame, as if she had failed her mission.
"You were right to have left when you did," he reassured her.
"You died," she repeated. "You, Vivienne and Leliana. You gave your lives so that we could go back in time. "You died so that I could live."
"And I would do it again," Solas said firmly.
"But I don't want you to die for me!" she cried, wrenching herself away from his touch.
"It does not matter what you want, ma falon," he said quietly. "I would protect you with my life." And he would, he realized. In the short time they'd known each other, he had grown to care for her. More than he should.
More tears escaped her eyes, and Solas wiped them away tenderly. She flung herself into his arms and hugged him desperately.
"Everybody was dead and it was my fault," she sobbed. "They depended on me, and I wasn't there—"
"Shhh," Solas stroked her hair. "It was not your fault. It was the Elder One. The only thing that the future proved is that you are instrumental in winning this war."
"But I'm just a Dalish First—"
"No," he said firmly and he held her away from him so that he could look her in the eye. "You are not just a Dalish First." He smiled at her. "You are Talia Lavellan, the Herald of Andraste."
She gave him a watery smile and burrowed further in his arms. As he held her, he vowed to always be by her side, to finish this fight until the end. His mission was no longer just to right his wrongs, but to ensure that the Herald—Talia—would survive this war.
When she announced that she would stay behind to aim the trebuchet, his heart leapt to his throat. He did not bother dissuading her, he could see in her eyes that anything he would say would not move her. Immediately, he'd volunteered to come with her. She gave him a beautiful smile, the one that always threatened to make him blush, and rounded the rest of the group, Dorian and Iron Bull, and headed outside to stall.
All around them, Haven was burning quickly. They moved towards the trebuchet, clearing a path through the Red Templars that were in their way. The fight that followed was difficult. It seemed the templars realized their plan, and was bent on stopping them. One templar had transformed into a hulking behemoth, and they took turns distracting it and aiming the weapon.
When they had finally defeated the beast and aimed the trebuchet, the Archdemon appeared once again.
"Move, now!" Talia shouted and they as they sprinted away, the dragon breathed fire down upon them, and the explosion that followed separated them from the Herald.
"Go! Run!" he heard her voice shout through the fire and rubble.
"Boss!" Bull shouted as he and Dorian looked for a way to get to her.
"We must leave," Solas said quietly, and the two rounded on him.
"Leave her? Has the fighting taken its toll on you and shut down your mental faculties?" Dorian asked incredulously.
"I have to agree with the 'Vint here," Bull grunted. "If she falls, the Inquisition crumbles."
"Well what choice do we have? We cannot find a way to get passed the rubble and the fire, and even if we do, what then? We would all end up dead and she—" he coughed to hide how his voice hitched. "She would have wanted us to live,"
"She ain't dead yet," Bull said, his statement punctuated by the muffled voice of Talia, which could still be heard above the crackling flames.
Dorian glared at them both and threw his hands up. "So what? We simply leave?"
The sound of a trebuchet being launched ripped through the air.
"I would suggest we run." Bull said calmly as the three dashed to find an escape route, leaving Haven—and the Herald to their doom.
It seemed like a long and terrible journey through the cold, with nothing but the tunics on their backs for protection against it. When they finally came across the survivors of Haven, all three were uninjured but incredibly drained. They were escorted into a tent and were forced to lay down and rest.
"Where are they? Is she—?" Solas heard the Commander's voice say. Of course he would ask about her. He'd seen the looks he sent her, heard the longing in his voice when speaking to her. He was enamored with her, much as he was.
"She was not with them," the Seeker replied quietly.
"Oh," he took a deep breath. "I see."
"She will turn up, Cullen. The Maker will not abandon her."
"I wish I had your optimism," he sighed. The two moved away, and Solas was no longer able to eavesdrop on their conversation.
"Oh ho! It seems our dear Commander carries a torch for our lovely Herald," Dorian commented offhandedly.
Solas ensured his tone was neutral before he answered.
"It seems so."
"Aaaand, I see he's not the only one," and he added darkly, "Well, none of this would matter if she does not come back."
Solas stalked out of the ten, unwilling to hear any more of Dorian's taunts. The cold air did little to calm him down. Could she have made it out alive? Had he made the right decision.
Come back to us, Talia. Come back to me.
After a few hours of waiting, Solas still could not get rid of the gnawing guilt.
"I will go look for her," he announced to the group. They all looked at him in surprise, except for Dorian, who pursed his lips.
"Can't get rid of that nagging feeling, I suppose? We did leave her to her death," he commented with forced nonchalance. Solas opened his mouth to retort, but Dorian continued. "Of course I'll come! I'm so glad you asked."
Solas wanted to argue, but decided against it. There would be nothing he could say that Dorian did not have a comeback to. As they prepared to leave, the Commander barged into their tent, also carrying a small pack.
"Yes my dear Commander? What can I do for you?" Dorian asked, his tone heavy with implications. Cullen ignored him and focused on Solas.
"I hear you'll be going out to look for the Herald." he said.
"Yes? What of it?"
"I will be coming with you." Cullen said with such finality that Solas had a difficult time preventing a snarl from forming on his face. Instead, he kept his expression perfectly neutral.
"Of course, Commander," he inclined his head in assent.
The Seeker wound up accompanying them as well. Solas brought Cole; the spirit would be able to sense the Herald's thoughts.
"Guilt. Pain. I could have done more. Should not have left her," Cole muttered.
"Wonderful, I have always wanted someone announcing my inner musings to the masses." Dorian said grumpily.
"You're hurting, I want to help."
"Well, as kind as your intentions are, I would rather they not know everything I'm thinking."
It was an hour later, when Cole finally spoke about something other than their thoughts. "Snow. Cold. Everything hurts. The memory of his face keeps her going."
"Where?" Cullen asked impatiently.
Cole pointed in the direction they were already going and the Commander sprinted passed them, Cassandra close behind him. Solas followed the two and he caught a form of a woman in the distance.
"There!" Cullen exclaimed, and he rushed towards her, catching her just as she fell on her knees.
"Thank the Maker!" the Seeker said in relief.
The tightness in Solas' chest lessened at the sight of her. She was pale, and her lips were blue with cold, but she was alive and unscathed. His relief transformed into something else when the commander gathered her in his arms and carried her back to camp.
The wolf in his struggled, wishing to hurt the man who dared touched what was his—
But—he breathed in deeply—Talia was not his.
When they reached camp, he looked over her and left her side only at the insistence of Mother Giselle that he rest. He eventually agreed to leave, but did not retire to his tent to sleep. He stayed outside in the cold, his thoughts and his guilt his only companions.
He'd left her—left her, after he swore he would always protect her. There was no way for them to defeat Corypheus. It was the logical thing to do…but was it the right thing? He did not know.
His thoughts were interrupted as he heard singing. It started softly, Mother Giselle—singing of a dawn to come. Then the Nightingale added her voice to the next verse. Many followed suit, and when his curiosity peaked, Solas approached the camp to see what it was about.
It was a surreal sight.
All around her—human, elves, dwarves, qunari—knelt down in a show of fealty to Talia, a Dalish Elf Mage. That may be the case now…he frowned. When they find out that the artifact is actually elven…
When she finds out that it was his…
He pulled her aside after the debacle was over and explained his thoughts on the artifact, careful not to let too much slip from him. She agreed and even suggested that the orb be recovered. He sighed in relief, his orb would be saved. All that remained now was…
"Solas?" she asked.
"Is something the matter?"
Solas rubbed his forehead.
"Yes," he finally said.
"I left you," he admitted.
She blinked at him. "What?"
"At Haven. I left you at the mercy of that monster."
"We got separated, but that was no excuse! I left you for dead!"
"You did the right thing," she said softly, touching his face lightly.
"How could leaving you to face him alone be the right thing?"
"We need people loyal to the Inquisition," she said. "If the best course of action meant leaving me…"
"Would you have left me?"
"I—," she dropped her hand from his face and looked away.
"Would you?" he prodded.
"I don't know," she sighed. "All I know is that I am glad we survived Haven. I'm glad you are here with me," and she gave him another one of her smiles. Solas found himself smiling back, but the feeling that he was deceiving her—misleading her to think that he was someone he was not—it weighed heavily on his mind.
But not enough to keep him away from her.
"Solas, please," the newly appointed Inquisitor pleaded as she approached him in his room. "I am very interested in knowing more about the Fade and your explorations."
He looked up from the book he was reading—a nonsensical 'study' on the shards they found in the Hinterlands. "Very well," he placed the book down and stood up. "But let us continue this conversation somewhere else."
Solas led her to her room and onto her bed, where he cast the spell to put her to sleep. Not trusting himself to fall asleep in the same room as she, he went back to his quarters, where he cast both of them into the Fade.
He chose Haven because it was familiar, a place that would always be memorable to her. The two of them wandered around Haven, as Solas explained his efforts in healing her and attempting to seal the rifts. He remembered the time she closed her first Rift. The utter power in her hands, and the beautiful smile she gave him afterwards.
"It seems you hold the key to our salvation," he said. "You sealed it with a gesture, and at that moment—I felt the whole world change."
"Oh?" she said, and her expression turned coy. Over the past few days, she would subtly flirt with him, and he found himself enjoying her company, and—dare he say it—flirt with her as well. "You felt the whole world…change?"
"A figure of speech," he smiled back, attempting to play it off as nothing.
She sidled up towards him until she was close enough that he could feel the heat from her body and the breath from her lips. "I'm aware of the metaphor—I'm more interested in felt."
Looking directly into her eyes, he spoke feelingly, "You change…everything."
The intensity of his gaze made her blush and look down, murmuring, "Sweet talker."
Pleased that he had been able to fluster her, Solas looked away. He did not expect her to pull his face towards hers, nor did he predict that even in his wildest dreams, she would make the first move.
The kiss was soft and brief, a mere touching of the lips. But it set a fire inside him that could not be quenched. She let go all too quickly and gave him a rather cheeky grin.
He snaked his hand to her waist and pulled her to him, bringing their lips together once more.
The taste of her—like fine wine, but he found himself more thirsty as he drank. He kissed her with such fervor, and she returned it as enthusiastically. When they separated, his breathing had started to make him sound like a winded snoufleur.
She licked her lips and he found that he could not resist diving in for another kiss. As he bit down on her lip, and his tongue warred with hers, a muffled moan came from her, and fanned the flames of his desire. He wanted nothing more than to push her down to the ground, continue his ministrations with her person and produce that sound from her until they were both spent.
But it was wrong to take advantage of her. She was in love with the image he projected, nothing more, and he should not mislead her.
He extricated himself from her and once his breathing went back to normal, he spoke. "We…shouldn't. It isn't right. Not even here."
Talia's expression changed from blooming to confused. "What do you mean, 'even here'?"
He smiled at her bemusement. "Where did you think we were?"
She looked around her in awe. "This isn't real…"
Solas watched her as she marveled at the Fade, and how real it seemed to be. His heart ached for her, his arms already growing cold from her absence. But he cannot—should not do it.
"That is debatable. Probably best discussed when you…wake up." And at her words, both of them were pulled out of the Fade.
He got out of his chair and paced, trying to think of what to say before the Inquisitor arrived. Touching his mouth, he fervently tried to erase the feel of her lips, and the press of his body against his. It was wrong, misleading her. Not only was he one of the gods she had come to dislike—Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf who had supposedly killed Mythal—he was also Corypheus' enabler. Without him, nothing like this would have happened. The growing death toll of Inquisition scouts, soldiers, and supporters were all on him, and he could not let her love him without knowing what he'd done.
And he had no intention of letting her find out.
The door that led to the main hall creaked open, and he knew it was her before he even looked.
"Sleep well?" He was unable to stop a smug smile from forming. Fenedhis. He should not encourage her.
"I've never experienced anything like that," she still sounded breathless, and the flush on her cheeks made him want to press her against the wall and ravage her.
He coughed lightly. "I…apologize. The kiss was impulsive and ill considered. I should not have encouraged it."
And just with a few words, the light in her eyes was gone, and her face fell. "Oh…I thought…if I have offended you…I'm sorry." her voice sounded small, and Solas immediately felt guilty.
"No. You have no need to apologize. I…it has been a long time. And such things are easier for me in the Fade. I am just not certain this is the best idea. It could lead to trouble."
She gazed at him critically, before saying boldly, "I will take that chance. If you are willing."
Not often did people surprise him, but she still continued to do so.
"I—ah—maybe. I should like to think about it. There are…considerations."
"Of course," she gave him a small smile, but he could still see the lingering hurt in her eyes.
"Thank you. It's not often I find myself thrown by things that happen in dreams. But I am reasonably certain that we are both awake now," he said briskly, trying to erase the awkward atmosphere. "And if you wish to discuss anything, I greatly enjoy our time together." he added softly.
Her smile widened and her eyes sparkled once more.
After three days, he finally returned to Skyhold. He mourned the passing of his friend in solidarity, not wanting to distract the Inquisitor from her duties. He wanted to thank her, and apologize for taking up so much of her time.
She was incredibly accepting. Instinct would have her kill the Pride demon, but she deferred to his judgment and destroyed the summoning circle instead, restoring his friend to its original state. He passed Dorian in the main hall, and the Tevinter Mage looked at his robe critically before speaking.
"Solas, good to see you. Pray tell, what is this look you are trying to achieve?"
Solas raised an eyebrow. He was slightly muddied from his travel, but his clothes seemed hardly tattered. "I'm sorry?"
Dorian tsked. "No, that outfit is sorry. Is this some kind of statement?
"Well it screams 'apostate hobo'."
"Unwashed apostate hobo, more specifically." Madame de Fer commented as she passed the two.
"Please speak up. I cannot hear you over your outfit," he said irritably, and Pavus threw back his head with a laugh.
"Such sass! Why Solas, I did not think you had it in you!" he said with a grin.
Solas shook his head and changed the topic. "Have you seen the Inquisitor?"
Pavus' eyes gleamed in mischief as he smiled at Solas. "Indeed I have."
When he said no more, Solas said, "And may I know where she is?"
"Oh last I saw, she was in the gardens, spending quality time with our dear Commander."
Solas felt a spike of anger at the mention of Cullen, and he was sure Dorian did it on purpose to goad him.
"Thank you," he said shortly. As he turned to leave, Dorian called after him. "But don't bother yourself checking the gardens. They've probably moved to a more comfortable setting."
Solas stiffened, but forced himself to ignore Dorian's words and walk in the direction of the gardens. Feeling slightly self-conscious at Dorian's and Vivienne's scrutiny, he detoured to his room for a change of robes before heading out to look for her.
He was both relieved and not to spot the two playing chess in one of the stone tables in the garden. As he approached them, he noticed that the game was over, and that they were simply talking.
"We should spend more time together," he heard Talia say, and he felt a stab of jealousy. Did she prefer the Commander's company to his? Was he more open with her? Did they talk more of personal matters rather than academic?
"Would you not prefer Solas' company?" Cullen's voice had an edge to it and he saw Talia's face fall at his words.
Unwilling to listen to anymore, Solas approached the table, startling both Talia and Cullen.
"Inquisitor, Commander, am I interrupting something?" it came out as more of a challenging statement as he stared down Cullen.
"Solas! You're back!" the joy in her voice was noticeable, and Cullen's lips turned down in a frown.
The Commander held his gaze, and replied evenly, "No, I was just leaving. Thank you for your time, Inquisitor." And he turned on his heel and left.
Solas watched him until he exited to the main hall. "Do you have a moment?"
"For you? Of course," she grinned. The two headed to her quarters and lingered outside on the balcony. It was twilight, and the sun was slowly moving down in the horizon.
"Are you all right?" she asked.
"It hurts," he admitted. "It always will, but I will survive."
She placed a hand on his arm. "I'm glad. I just want you to remember that I'm here. You don't have to do this alone."
Solas looked down. He had gone so long without support, he'd forgotten how nice it felt. "Thank you…it's been so long since I could trust anyone."
She smiled at him lightly. "And do you?"
Solas grasped her hand and brought it up to his lips to kiss lightly. "With everything I am," he replied, never breaking eye contact.
"You are not what I expected. You've shown such wisdom I haven't seen since…my deepest journeys in the Fade." He'd almost said since he counseled with Mythal; that would not have been wise. "Most people are predictable. Most people act as with so little understanding of the world. But not you."
Talia looked at him with a small pout in her lips. "So…what does this mean, Solas?"
He let out a small laugh. "It means," The words tumbled out of him before he could stop himself. "I have not forgotten our kiss."
Her eyes grew hooded. "Good," and she gave him another one of her coy smiles. Before he knew it, he had gathered her in his arms and his mouth was on hers. It was a heated kiss—full of unexpressed passion and—dare he say it—love, that his heart threatened to burst out of his chest.
Solas drew back, he needed to leave, to end this before he—
"Please don't go," she said softly.
He could not look at her. "It would be kinder in the long run. But losing you would…" his heart clenched at the thought. He hugged her to him and kissed her again, more softly this time. As he rested his forehead on hers, he said the words he'd been holding back.
"Ar lath ma, vhenan,"
And her eyes filled with unexpected tears and she pulled him back for another kiss. "Ma emma lath."
The sun set, and for once, Solas spent the night exploring something other than the Fade. He committed every plane, every scar, every mark, every sound she made to his memory. As they lay side by side, Talia curled up against him, and he stroking her hair, he realized that this was true happiness. To love and be loved…he never thought it possible. For now, he pushed everything else out of his mind and enjoyed the few moments of contentment the world still had to offer.
Adamant was horrible—there was no other word for it. Apart from the Grey Wardens foolish plans of destroying the Blight, being plunged physically into the Fade, although something he had done before, was no less unsettling with a Fear demon running loose.
"Dirth ma, harellan. Ma banal enasallin. Mar Solas ena mar din." the demon's words reverberated in his mind, and for once, he was glad that Talia's understanding of elven language was less than stellar. Tell me, trickster. Did your victory amount to anything? You appear as Solas, but we both know Solas does not exist.
He was in his room back at Skyhold, and he comforted himself by continuing the murals on his walls. Talia entered after some time, watching him work silently. When he finished one section of the wall, his portrait, the Wolf, she spoke from where she was seated.
"Solas, how are you?" she tried to keep her voice light, but he could hear the worry in her voice.
He set down his palette on the floor as he spoke, "I cannot believe the Grey Wardens could even conceive such a plan. To seek out the old Gods deliberately, in some bizarre attempt to preempt the Blight," he shook his head in disgust.
"I know," she put a hand on his arm. "I'm glad we could end this madness before it started."
"Thank you," he touched her hand gratefully. "I've been alone for so long…it's difficult to get used to having the support of others."
"What the Fear demon told you," Solas looked at her sharply, "I couldn't understand it…but it shook you." he almost sighed in relief.
She did not understand. She does not know what I am.
"Yes, it was unsettling," and it reminded him of things he would rather not think about. The fact that he needed to end this relationship he had with the Inquisitor. "But something I would rather not talk about."
"Then what would you like to talk about?" her voice was full of implications, and Solas merely gave him a smile.
"Come with me, vhenan."
He brought her to, a quiet place away from Skyhold, where a small waterfall fell into a small pool. The night was quiet, and it seemed even the animals would not be interrupting them tonight.
They walked hand-in-hand as they neared the clearing. "The veil is thin here. Can you feel it on your skin, tingling?"
"Well my skin is tingling, but I doubt that's because of the Fade," she grinned at him suggestively, and it pulled a small laugh out of him.
He stopped walking and faced her. She looked up at him, love shining in her soulful eyes…a love he should not encourage.
"I've…been trying to determine some way to show you what you mean to me."
"I'm listening, and I can offer a few suggestions," she said cheekily. His smile grew more strained, and she noticed. "What's wrong?"
"For now, the best gift I can offer is…the truth."
"The truth?" she looked surprised, and slightly apprehensive.
"You are unique. In all Thedas, I never expected to find someone who could draw my attention away from the Fade. You have become important to me, more important than I could have imagined."
He wanted to admit it to her. He needed to tell her who he was to end this farce.
Talia reached out and touched the side of his face lightly. "As you are to me."
"Then what I must tell you…the truth…" he swallowed. No, he could not do this. What he'd done…it was unforgiveable, and he knew she would not give him the chance to right his wrong once she found out. "Your…face," he said instead. "The vallaslin, in my journeys in the Fade, I have discovered what those marks mean."
"They honor the elven gods," she said in confusion.
"Yes…and no. They are slave markings, or at least they were in the times of Ancient Arlathan."
Talia looked down in despair. "So this is what? Just another thing the Dalish got wrong?"
"I'm sorry," and he meant it.
"We tried to preserve our culture, and this is what we remember? A time when we were no better than Tevinter?"
"I did not mean to hurt you," he said emphatically. "If you like, I know a spell…I can remove the vallaslin." He had done it on many a slave back in the days of Arlathan. They had whispered fervent prayers in the night, and he would come to free them. He was not considered the God of Rebellion for nothing.
"If what you're saying is true…" she said hesitantly.
"It is," he assured her.
"Then...my people vowed never to submit to slavery," the fire he so admired was there in her eyes once again.
"I'm so sorry for causing you pain. It was selfish of me. I look at you and see you for what you truly are. And you deserve better than what those markings represent."
Talia sat down by the pond, and Solas went down on his knees in front of her. He raised his hands and it hovered at either side of her face. At her nod, he muttered a spell, and he passed both of his hands over her face, blue light faintly emitting from him, washing away the remnants of her vallaslin. Once it was done, he let his hands rest at either side of her face. Seeing her unmarked, untouched, made his breath catch in his throat.
She was so perfect.
"Ar lasa mala revas," he murmured. "You are free." He took her hands and pulled both of them to her feet. They gazed at each other for a moment, neither knowing what more to say. She looked down, away from him, as if she were feeling self-conscious.
He cupped her chin with one hand and raised it so he could look her in the eye.
"You are so beautiful," he whispered. He leaned forward and pressed their lips together. It was a sweet kiss, full of things he wanted to say and more. When it was over, he leaned back and let go of her.
"Solas…?" she asked quietly. She must have noticed the apology and pain in his eyes. "Are you…? Please…please don't leave."
"Forgive me," he said as softly. "I distracted you from your duties. It will not happen again."
Her expression turned from despair to thinly veiled anger. "Solas, you can't keep doing this to me. You can't keep on—on playing with my feelings!"
"Please, vhenan," his tone was pleading. There was no other way, they could not continue this…he could not continue misleading her.
"Then tell me you didn't love me!" She pushed him away. "Tell me I was some casual dalliance so I can call you a heartless monster and move on!"
"I cannot do that…I—"
Her eyes were filled with such despair and rage that it stopped him in his tracks. " Dirth ma, harellan. Mar Solas ena mar din."
Ice filled his veins as she repeated the demon's words. Did she understand what it meant?
"Banal abelas! Banal vhenan!" she shouted in his face and stalked away—hopefully back to Skyhold.
Solas looked up at the night sky and closed his eyes. It was the right thing, he tried to convince himself. The pain in his chest was horrible, no amount of preparation could have readied him for it. He felt her absence keenly and he longed for nothing else but to keep her safe in his arms.
But he cannot do it, for he is Fen'Harel.
And he had a job to finish.
It was Dorian who first noticed the lack of Talia's vallaslin. He could hear their voices from his room as they spoke one night in the library.
"Something on my face, Dorian?" she asked.
"Something not on your face, actually."
"I'd rather not talk about it," was her strained reply.
"Does this have something to do with our favorite apostate hobo?" there was silence, before Dorian spoke again. "I did notice the sudden lack of meaningful looks traded."
"There was no meaning in those looks Dorian," she replied hollowly. "We were simply in an 'emotional entanglement that would benefit no one'." she quoted him and Solas winced at it. His words were harsh, and he did not mean it, but she had to let go. There should be no room for him in her heart.
"Oh he said that, did he?" Dorian's reply sounded all too casual.
"Maybe you should pry the story out of him."
"I have been meaning to have a conversation with him."
After a few more minutes of silence, the Inquisitor left the library, presumably to go back to her quarters, and Solas heard someone's steps going descending the stairs to his room.
"Dorian, what can I do for you?" he asked without looking up.
"Why Solas, I had just heard the most extraordinary news from our lovely Inquisitor."
"I am quite certain it is news that I already know about," he replied neutrally.
"Eavesdropping? I didn't know you loved hearing our voices so much."
"It is not eavesdropping when the two of you are speaking loudly enough to be heard by an innocent bystander."
"Well then," the Tevinter mage leaned against the doorframe. "Since you already know what I am going to ask, I would like some answers about what transpired between you and the Inquisitor."
"Our comings and goings are none of your concern, Tevinter." he bit back a growl.
"My, my. You aren't nearly this offensive when you're not guilty of something." he approached Solas' table, and leaned forward.
"Your trysts are my concern when it affects the well-being of my friend. As I'm sure you would understand…if you had friends," Dorian looked him in the eye, beneath the nonchalance in his tone, he could hear the worry for the Inquisitor.
"Our dalliance was selfish of me," he finally said. "Something that should not have happened and cannot continue."
"So giving her happiness was not worth your time?"
Solas rubbed his forehead. "What is it you want from me, Dorian? An apology? I have already offered it to the Inquisitor numerous times."
"No, I just want her to be happy," Dorian turned on his heel and stalked out of the room, only pausing briefly to give a final warning. "If you will be ending this, make sure it is the end. She can only suffer so much heartache before she breaks."
And Dorian left Solas alone with his thoughts.
How he'd missed the strange mix of intrigue and danger that politics offered. In Arlathan, the Pantheon was almost always in chaos—he and Andruil would often come to blows, Mythal would play the peacemaker, and Elgar'nan would watch them with dark amusement. Politics then was not so different as what he could see in the Winter Palace. The planned assassinations, the planted agents, the dirty secrets and five-minute trysts—all of these were present even in Arlathan.
In the end, they had uncovered the plot of the Duchess Florianne to assassinate the Empress and give Orlais to Corypheus. The Inquisitor had let the Duchess kill the Empress, before acting, thus letting the Duke Gaspard ascend to the throne of Orlais.
The Inquisitor had become…different. She was by no means a dictator, but she'd become more comfortable in her role, and she'd come to understand that making a decision sometimes required sacrifices. In this case, it had been Empress Celene. Gaspard was a good choice, Solas decided, he had been a general, and they would need the Orlesian forces in their fight against Corypheus.
He finally spotted her alone in the balcony. He hesitated for a moment before walking slowly towards her, but a hand on his arm stopped him.
"Did you already forget our agreement, Solas? I should have reminded you—I'd forgotten what old age does to people," Dorian's voice was light, but he could hear the threat. He was right of course, and Solas should have known better than to try to get closer again. Shrugging off the Tevinter's arm, he stalked away, but stayed in an area where he could still keep an eye on her.
He stiffened when he noticed the form of the Commander make his way towards her and leaning on the balcony. Solas could not hear what they were talking about, but he could see the smile that made its way onto her face—the smile she normally reserved for him. He clenched his fists as Cullen bowed somewhat frivolously and extended a hand to her.
Don’t accept it, don't—and his silent pleas went unheard as she reached for his hand with a smile, and the Commander drew her into his arms and twirled her on the spot.
Solas thought he would break the railing with how tightly he gripped it. It was torture seeing her with another man, seeing her smile and laugh at something he said. Would this be the atonement for his sins? It seemed to be a hundred times more difficult than the burden of saving the world.
They haven't kissed, but in his mind's eye they already have. How many times had he seen them together in Skyhold? They spoke often, and seemed to share quite a few moments together.
Was she already in love with the Commander when they were together? His heart contracted at the thought. There was no point in staying and torturing himself over something he had wanted. He pushed himself off the railing, and with a final glance at the pair, disappeared into the night.
It had been a surprise when Dorian came to his room and asked them to come with them to the Temple of Mythal.
At his raised eyebrow, Dorian sighed. "Unfortunately, you are our Elven expert, and as much as I don't want you near her, we need you on this mission."
"I am not a child, Dorian. I can put my feelings behind and focus on a mission."
"For your sake, I hope you can."
Talia was not happy with him being there, as evidenced by the constant glares sent his direction. He ignored it, and said little, speaking only when spoken to. Until, they reached Mythal's temple…and saw his shrine inside it. It brought old feelings of nostalgia, late night musings with the goddess, plotting and planning for Arlathan's future.
So when the witch had decided to make random guesses as to what his shrine was doing there, Solas could not help but reply scathingly. The two started a heated argument, only interrupted by the Inquisitor when she spoke.
"You two look like you're about to kiss. Should I get you a room?"
The remark made Solas give her a look of shock, which she merely sneered at. Hurt, but not surprised at her anger at him, he kept silent for the remainder of the way. They finished the rituals and found themselves surrounded by ancient elves, headed by Abelas.
Solas' eyes widened as he saw him. He'd thought Abelas dead when Mythal had been assassinated. Thankfully, he did not seem to recognize Solas, only focusing on his duty to protect his lady's sanctum. Talia had accepted the alliance with the ancient elves, and they cleared their way of Red Templars until they reached the Well of Sorrows.
To his dismay, Abelas did not stop her from drinking from it, stating that they have already earned it. Solas could hear the voices from the well—knew that if she drank, Mythal would claim her one day.
"Please vhenan!" he used the endearment without thinking. "If we must have the power of the well, let the Witch drink it! But please not you."
Talia was already in the water when Solas spoke. She looked back at him in sorrow. "I begged something of you once, before. And you did not listen…"
"Vhenan, NO!" he shouted as Talia cupped the water and brought it up to her lips. A blinding bright light emerged from the well, and none of them could see what was happening. It was only the Iron Bull's arms around him that stopped him from running towards her.
When the light was gone, Solas, rushed to Talia's prone figure laying on the ground.
"Inquisitor! Inquisitor! Are you all right?" he was panicking.
Talia groaned and stood up, seemingly all right. As soon as she realized who helped her up, she snatched her arms back.
"NO!" a strangled scream from above them sounded. Corypheus.
The eluvian before them was activated, and they all ran through it, and exited at the one in Skyhold.
As soon as they caught their breath, Solas rounded on Talia, shocking everyone in the room.
"Do you realized what you've done?!" he shouted, his anxiety, helplessness and anger making him raise his voice. "You gave yourself into the service of an Ancient Elven God!"
"Well what's it to you? You don't even believe in the gods!" she said just as heatedly.
"We should leave them be," Dorian muttered and ushered Bull and Morrigan out the room.
"I don't believe they were gods! But I believe that they existed!" he ran a hand down his face. "Spirits, demons, whatever they were! And now you are a slave to one of them!"
"Well what does that mean, exactly?" she asked in anger.
"It means that you are Mythal's creature now. Everything and anything you do will be for her." He paced the room. "Why could you not listen?! Is this revenge? Did you do this to spite me?"
Her hand was sharp as a whip as she slapped his face.
"How dare you?" she was quaking with anger.
"I dare because I begged you and you threw it at my face! You said you begged and I did not listen as well. What was I supposed to think?"
The anger drained out of Talia and she against the cold stone of the room.
"I know that we needed the well, and I know I couldn't give that power to Morrigan. I was already convinced of that, I only added the words to hurt you."
"Well it did. Are you happy now?" he retorted.
Talia looked up, her eyes full of unshed tears. "No, not after you've broken me."
Solas deflated. "Vhenan—"
"Don't!" she said sharply. "Don't call me that."
"Why?" he challenged. "Because you have someone else now? Did I matter so little to you?"
"You have no right!" she raged. "You left me! You decided it was best for us to leave each other, and now you have the gall to stand there and judge the choices I have made! I want to be happy, but even that you have to take away from me!"
"Talia…" he said in regret.
"Shut up!" she hissed. "Just…leave me alone." she leaned on the wall and looked away from him.
Solas wished he could take it all back—his venomous and jealous words, but he couldn't. He really had no way of fixing this with her, not after everything that happened. After leaving her alone, he found himself traversing the path to the Commander's office.
Cullen looked up from the report he was reading to see him enter. There was a flash of surprise, before it was replaced with wariness.
"Solas, what can I do for you?" he asked evenly.
"As unpleasant as this is for me, Commander. I must say it," he took a deep breath.
"Talia has been the one shining beacon in my life, the only person I have cared about with every breath in my body. Hurting her by leaving was not something I wished to do, but it is necessary. Our relationship would have inevitably ended in more pain for her. As surprising as it is, she has grown to care for you. Do not waste the opportunity." he turned back. "Love her, care for her, make her happy—as I could not." and he stalked away, leaving without letting Cullen say a word.
He saw them on the battlements one day, sharing a pleasant stroll. Though he had told Cullen to love her, it did not make seeing them together any easier. When he saw them share a kiss, a kiss that in another life would have been theirs, he could not help the lone tear that escaped his eye. He wiped it away discreetly. Thankfully, nobody had seen…or so he thought.
Dorian approached him in his room that evening.
"How are you feeling?" the Tevinter asked as he settled on the chair in front of Solas.
"Why Dorian, I didn't know you cared," he replied, not looking up from the tome he was reading.
"I only ask because I need something to share during gossip night," Dorian sniffed.
"Gossip night? I was under the impression you spend your nights with the Iron Bull," he replied offhandedly.
"Well—I—you have me there." Dorian admitted. "Been practicing your comebacks with your spirit friends?"
"I may have."
Dorian let out a huff in amusement before turning serious. "So how are you? Really?"
Solas sighed and put his book down. Dorian would not relent unless he gave the Tevinter an answer. "I am fine, thank you."
"The tears in your eyes this morning said otherwise," he commented, and Solas stiffened. "It's all right not to be all right, Solas. I've realized that...Talia isn't the only one affected by what happened."
"How wonderful for me," he muttered, and Dorian raised an eyebrow at him.
"For what it's worth—I am sorry about the way it ended with the two of you. You both had seemed…very happy."
Solas wanted to be angry, to shout at Dorian for reminding him of the hollowness in his chest. But it occurred to him that the Tevinter didn't need to come down to his room and speak with him; he didn't need to reach out and ask him about his feelings.
"I…" he looked down. "Thank you, Dorian."
The Tevinter mage surprised him by walking over to him and giving him a hug. "I'm not going to make fun of you, you know."
"You always make fun of me, Dorian." he said, but he could already feel the tears filling his eyes.
"Not about this. Never about this."
While they had their differences, Solas was glad for Dorian's support. And for the first time, Solas let the tears fall freely, allowing himself to be vulnerable to a man he could now certainly call his friend.
Once Corypheus had been defeated, he felt numb. He staggered towards his orb—the orb that was the key to unlocking his power—now in pieces, crumbling to the dust. It was how Talia found him, mourning for a relic of a forgotten time.
"I know you wanted the orb saved," she said quietly. "I'm sorry."
"It—it is not your fault," and he was ashamed to hear his voice hitch.
"Maybe we could put the pieces back together—?"
"No," he shook his head, standing up. "It does not work that way…things were not supposed to happen this way." he whispered.
"Solas…" she reached out to him, the only voluntary contact they had in months.
"Whatever happens, please know that what we had was real," he said as he turned around to face him. "And forgive me, for being a selfish man," and he drew her into his arms, pressing his lips to hers for one last time. He poured everything he had in that kiss, his sorrow, his regrets, his love and passion for her.
"Inquisitor! Are you alive?" he heard Cassandra's voice, and he released Talia.
"Solas…" she said sadly.
"Inquisitor!" came Cullen's voice.
"Go," Solas said softly, and once Talia descended the steps, he rushed away, disappearing like a thief in the night.
It was an arduous journey, but he finally reached his temple, and he found Mythal activating an old Eluvian. She did not turn to look as he approached, but she spoke in her usual chastising way.
"I knew you would come. You should not have given the orb to Corypheus, Dread Wolf."
To hear someone say his name made him nostalgic. "It was an error in judgment. I was too weak to unlock it after my slumber." he sighed. "The failure was mine. I should pay the price…but the People…they need me."
"So the plan is still in action, I presume?"
"The one we spoke about millennia ago? Perhaps a few changes here and there, but yes, it will generally stay the same."
Mythal finally looked at him, and he could see the pity and sorrow in her eyes. He drew her into a hug to comfort both of them.
"I am sorry, old friend." she said softly.
"I am sorry, as well," he raised his eyes to hers, and with a flash of light, Mythal's life force was added to his. There was a moment of disorientation before he felt his power returning.
Talia's face, their moments together, the love they shared were locked out of his mind as his power flowed through his veins. "Ar lath ma, vhenan," he whispered before collapsing.
When he stood up, no more distractions were lingering in his mind. All was left was the Greater Plan. He was no longer Solas.
He was Fen'Harel.