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Story [Dragon Age: Inquisition] The Tempest's Shadow (Lavellan, Solas; drama/romance) Author's Note 01/02

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Idrelle_Miocovani, Jul 28, 2016.

  1. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Title: The Tempest's Shadow
    Author: Idrelle_Miocovani
    Fandom: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Genre: drama, romance, has its funny moments but also gets tragic, action/adventure, political intrigue
    Characters: Female Lavellan, Solas, Sera, Blackwall (and the rest of the Inquisitor’s companions).
    Timeframe: all over DA: Inquisition’s timeline and post-Trespasser
    Summary: After the fall of Haven, Venara Lavellan finds herself named the leader of an organization she can barely comprehend, heading a fight she never asked for. Swept into a world fraught with war, magic and political intrigue, Venara is determined to use her newfound position to change the lives of mages and elves for the better. The only retreat she has from the chaos is her hesitant, slowly growing relationship with Solas. But as her radical choices and growing magical power threaten an already fragile Thedas, even the Inquisition is uncertain whether she will truly save the world or doom it forever. Uncertain of how she can and cannot trust, Venara finds herself on the brink of shattering--and perhaps no one, not her friends, not even Solas, can pull her back.
    Notes: Major spoilers for Trespasser, if you have not played it yet because it’s a DLC and Bioware sure likes to get its money. Venara is my "canon" Inquisitor--or at least the Inquisitor whose worldstate I will be uploading when Dragon Age 4 comes out.

    This story assumes that you are familiar with the general narrative of Dragon Age: Inquisition.

    Elven in Dragon Age is scattered and incomplete. I know of a few fan archives that have attempted to flesh out the language and make it work, but regardless, canonically, the grammar structure remains unknown and many, many words are unknown. Some known words and phrases I have taken from the games; others I have made up myself based completely on the sound of it and what few words are known, so they are 100% inaccurate—just roll with it (pretty please). I have marked English translations of Elven phrases at the end of each chapter.

    Note, Sept. 27: Because the scope of the story is different from what I initially intended, the title, summary and some of the chapter titles have been edited to reflect what I'm doing now. Also, this version has been edited slightly to be TOS-compliant. The original version is on my ff.net and A03 accounts, which are linked in my profile. :)

    Enjoy! :) [:D]

    Note, Jan. 2: Because of the darker turn the story has taken, I'm having trouble editing the content so that it meets TOS. As of right now, I have decided to pause posting here until I can figure out whether or not its worthwhile to go through the effort of editing the story so it can be posted here. If you're interesting in still reading it, it can be found through my ff.net profile and A03 profile.




    THE TEMPEST'S SHADOW


    CHAPTER I
    In the Eye of Youth

    Venara Isena Lavellan was not named for a grandmother, cousin or aunt. Nor was she named for a legendary Master or Keeper of the clan. She was not named in honour of gods or goddesses, nor great wild beasts, nor ancient places important to the Elvhen’s history.

    When her parents had seen her tiny brown face for the first time, when they had beamed down at their daughter’s green eyes, rosy lips and tangled hair, they flung away all sense of tradition and composed a name (her parents were both singers and musicians): “ven”, derived from the Elven root “vehn”, meaning “protector”, and “ara”, from “ahra”, meaning “blossom”.

    Blossom protector.

    Protector of blossoms.

    (Sometimes Venara wondered if Solas insisted on calling her by her title as a way of staving off a fit of laughter should he have to regularly address her by her given name. But on the other hand, her fellow elven apostate had a bit of a stick up his arse when it came to proper address—or perhaps that was his sense of humour. Now she was reflecting on it, she was fairly certain it was his way of irritating their more self-righteous human companions—nothing like an elf insisting on being polite and overemphasizing their titles, it drove them mad, particularly the noble ones.

    Yes. It was definitely his sense of humour, Venara decided. It’s what she did, too, after all.)

    Of the entire Lavellan clan, only Venara’s mother, Isena, Keeper Istimaethoriel and their hahren, Therion, were well-versed in Elven, of which much remained lost. Growing up, no one teased her for her (rather horrifyingly silly) name, as the other children were not well-acquainted enough with their ancestors’ language. It was only when Venara was named first to the Keeper and began to study magic and lore that she herself came to understand the origin of her name.

    At a sprightly thirteen, she was already tall and willowy for her age, very nearly approaching the height of humans. As her father, Roshan, assisted with setting a deer caught during that afternoon’s hunt to roast, Venara leaned on her freshly cut oak staff, eyes fixed on her mother as she re-strung her lute.

    “Soon you’ll have moss growing on you if you don’t move, little flower.” Isena spoke without looking up.

    Venara didn’t move.

    “Why do you call me that?”

    “Hm?”

    “‘Little flower.’ Why do you call me that?”

    “Because, da’len,” her mother said, “you’re my daughter and I can call you whatever I wish.” Her eyes sparkled mischievously. “You’ll have that same privilege someday when you have children of your own.”

    “Mamae.”

    “What? You’re not going to be a spindly stick forever.”

    Venara gripped her staff. Her knuckled started turning white. “But I’m never not going to be a mage.”

    “Since when do mages go unloved?”

    “Mamae, this isn’t important—”

    “Would you say Keeper Istimaethoriel is unloved?”

    “This isn’t what I want to talk about, Mamae!” Venara shouted.

    She could hear Roshan chuckling by the cooking fire.

    Isena set down her lute. “Venara, trust me—someday, when you’re grown, you will meet someone who will make you as happy as you make them.”

    Venara blew a puff of air out her bottom lip. “That’s not what this is about, Mamae. I want to—I want to know about my name.”

    Isena’s brow furrowed. “Your name? What of it?”

    “It’s not…in keeping with the traditions of the clan. You made it up.”

    “And if we all kept within the traditions of the clan, we would all eventually have the same name,” her mother said lightly.

    Venara ground her teeth. She took a deep breath and spoke, carefully, in Elven. “Vehn’ahra ahnsul ma melin?”

    For a tantalizing moment, her mother stared at her, eyebrows raised—and then she laughed.

    “Mamae!”

    She kept howling.

    “MAMAE!”

    Isena howled with laughter, her eyes streaming, the golden marks of her vallaslin stretching with her laugh lines. Venara would have folded her arms and scowled, but her hands were busy gripping her staff.

    She opted for just scowling.

    (Venara still found it surprising that Solas never remarked upon her penchant for glowering facial expressions. Unlike the other men who had wormed their way into her heart, he never told her that she needed to smile more, or that she was prettier when she smiled, or that she needed to stop taking things so seriously. “Your capacity for diverse emotions,” he said, “is what makes you a living, breathing being capable of intelligent thought. There is no shame in it. Feel what you must—you of all people deserve that much.”)

    “Mamae…”

    “It is a beautiful name, Venara. Even Keeper Istimaethoriel says so.”

    “It sounds…silly. In Elven.”

    “Silly?”

    “Stupid.” Venara’s gaze dropped to the ground. She scuffed at a patch of grass with her foot. “If I’m going to be Keeper someday, I don’t want to be the laughingstock at the Arlathvhen!”

    Isena stood and approached her daughter. For a moment, she seemed to tower over her daughter, solemn and foreboding, her face cast in shadow as a cloud passed over the sun. “You were born in the spring,” she said quietly. “Our aravel had run aground, its wheel broken. Keeper Istimaethoriel called the entire clan to a halt. We were forced to stop, despite knowing we would all be in danger if we remained. An angry mob of humans from a nearby city blamed us killing a family of travellers. They chased us away with fire and knives, chanting ‘knife ears, knife ears’ all the while.”

    She drew a breath. “I gave birth to you under a flowering tree, while our craftsmen repaired the broken wheel and the hunters stood guard. The humans attacked us, but Keeper Istimaethoriel created a wall of flame that scared them away. And so you came into this world, amidst the blossoms of that tree and within the protection of our clan. Is that something to be ashamed of, da’len?”

    The sun broke from behind the clouds. Venara gazed up at her mother’s beautiful, patient face.

    “No,” she said. She hesitated. “But… that’s not our way, Mamae. Names have power. We don’t… create them. They should reflect our people, our history—”

    Isena rolled her eyes. “You’ve been listening to Therion.”

    “Of course I have! He’s our hahren! I’ve been listening to him since I was a child!”

    “And what would happen if everything stayed the same forever, Venara?”

    “We would go on,” she replied ardently. “The same as we’ve always been.”

    Her mother took her hand. Isena’s hand was deeply callused, from years of plucking at both lute and bow strings. Venara’s was smooth—undamaged, untested.

    “Think harder, da’len,” Isena said softly.

    “We would preserve our traditions. They wouldn’t be lost.”

    Isena shook her head. “But we would also never learn more. What we think we know to be true is often only a sliver of the truth. History—our history—is not a clearly marked, winding road, but rather an old forest path, so overgrown that the way through will be the path you least expect. We cannot learn more about ourselves if we hold to our traditions too tightly, if we are not willing to change—to learn, to grow.” Isena paused. “Your name is but a small gesture to that, little flower.”

    She reached out and took Venara’s other hand. The oak staff dropped to the ground.

    “Do you know what happened to those villagers?”

    “They never dared to bother Clan Lavellan again?”

    Isena smiled softly. “No. Our keeper sent envoys. She spoke to the duke, the humans’ leader. And together they made peace.”

    Venara’s eyes flashed. “Why?! They attacked us!”

    “Change,” Isena said simply. “Keeper Istimaethoriel wanted change.” She let go of Venara’s hands.

    Venara was certain the lesson her mother was trying to impart would have continued on until dinner, but at that precise moment she realized her staff had not, in fact, fallen to the ground. Instead, it was floating five feet in the air, rotating horizontally and intermittently spitting violet sparks from a cloud of dark grey smoke. Venara yelped and rushed to stop the staff from causing accidental damage. The staff set the passing halla keeper’s hair on fire, but Venara was quickly able to remedy the problem by throwing a bucket of water on the woman’s head.

    Venara would never again ask her mother about her name. But she would remember the story, the lesson, and—most importantly—the city’s name.

    Wycome.




    ELVEN WORDS/PHRASES
    Hahren—elder
    Mamae—mother
    Da’len—little child or “little one”
    Vallaslin—blood writing, taking the form of intricate tattoos on the face, given to a Dalish elf when they come of age. Different tattoos are linked to different gods in the Dalish pantheon.
    “Vehn’ahra ahnsul ma melin?”—“Then why did you name me ‘blossom protector’?”
    Arlathvhen—the great gathering of Dalish clans occuring once every decade
     
  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oooh, but I like this already! [face_thinking]

    Your young Venara is a dear, even struggling to be grown up and wanting a name to reflect her aspirations in life. The story behind her naming, however, was beautiful - really, there's power in such a name, I have to imagine, even if it's not honoring a god or ancestor. Her mother was all too wise when talking about tradition and change, even in the context of her lighter teasing. Both: “And if we all kept within the traditions of the clan, we would all eventually have the same name,”

    And

    “But we would also never learn more. What we think we know to be true is often only a sliver of the truth. History—our history—is not a clearly marked, winding road, but rather an old forest path, so overgrown that the way through will be the path you least expect. We cannot learn more about ourselves if we hold to our traditions too tightly, if we are not willing to change—to learn, to grow.”

    Were wonderful passages, though not quite what Venara wanted to hear, I suspect. :p

    And I really liked the glimpse you gave into her relationship with Solas. Both:

    Sometimes Venara wondered if Solas insisted on calling her by her title as a way of staving off a fit of laughter should he have to regularly address her by her given name. But on the other hand, her fellow elven apostate had a bit of a stick up his arse when it came to proper address—or perhaps that was his sense of humour. Now she was reflecting on it, she was fairly certain it was his way of irritating their more self-righteous human companions—nothing like an elf insisting on being polite and overemphasizing their titles, it drove them mad, particularly the noble ones.

    And

    “Your capacity for diverse emotions,” he said, “is what makes you a living, breathing being capable of intelligent thought. There is no shame in it. Feel what you must—you of all people deserve that much.”)

    Were fantastic, and I loved the character sketch they provided - for him and Venara both. =D=

    As always, thank you for sharing your work! You know that I am eager for more. ;) [:D]
     
  3. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Mira_Jade

    Her mother was all too wise when talking about tradition and change, even in the context of her lighter teasing.

    Which is rare...many of the Dalish clans presented in the DA games (I'm not sure about the books as I haven't read them) are very much focused on preserving what little remains of their traditions. Though, of course, if you play as a Dalish Inquisitor, you usually end up swerving into "untraditional elf" moments, which I totally did with Venara's playthrough. I tried to give reason for them here, so that's where Isena's wisdom comes from. :p

    And I really liked the glimpse you gave into her relationship with Solas. Both: [...] Were fantastic, and I loved the character sketch they provided - for him and Venara both.

    Thank you! I don't know why, but I'm kind of into using parentheses to create narratives asides right now. I don't know why, but it's fun to be able to use them to give a glimpse of what you might see in the future. 8-}

    Thank you for reading, my dear! [:D]
     
  4. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    I'm retracting my posting schedule as I am going out of town tomorrow and my internet is going to be all over the place. So, who knows? 8-}




    CHAPTER II
    Beyond Haven's Fall

    Her face was no longer the soft, tiny one her parents had greeted all those years ago. It wasn’t the calm, serene one that had taken the pain of the ritual in silence, when Keeper Istimaethoriel had applied her golden vallaslin at her coming of age ceremony. Nor was it the sharply angled, weathered one her parents had said farewell to when Istimaethoriel gave her the mission to infiltrate the Divine Conclave. Only her eyes and their bright, forest green remained the same.

    As Varric would say, she had seen a lot of crap.

    She was heavily scarred now. Having grown up both on the move and with a considerable amount of raw magical talent, a few minor scars were to be expected – bumps and bruises from falling out of a tree, or off the back of an aravel, or when she successfully performed a Fade Step for the first time and teleported herself into a giant stone pillar.

    But then Corypheus… happened.

    She had withstood the darkspawn magister’s orb sending her spiralling physically through the Fade. But the next time she encountered him, he didn’t bother with magic: his dragon ripped its claws into her, and then the magister nearly tore her arm out of its socket, and then the world’s greatest threat threw her against some siege equipment (convenient that). She promptly used it to bring down half a mountain with an avalanche before throwing herself into an abandoned mine.

    Like Varric said, she had seen a lot of crap.

    She wasn’t entirely sure which of these incidents had destroyed her face more—she had the feeling it had been unceremoniously thrown into the trebuchet, but she liked to tell herself it was the dragon. Regardless, when she came to in that icy mine shaft, her face was covered in so much frozen blood that her eyelids had almost been iced shut.

    The Inquisitions’ healers did their best. Even Vivienne managed to reduce some of the scarring, though she did flippantly remark that she only did so “because we can’t have you looking like you wandered in from the Korcari Wilds, my dear, you’ll put half the Orlesian Empire right off.” Dorian politely declined, reasoning that since his specialty was in necromancy, healing spells were a little beyond him. “I want to heal you,” he said, “not raise your flesh from the dead—oh dear, that sounded a trifle morbid, didn’t it?”

    It was Solas who came to her side early one morning, just as the sun began to rise and the camp’s inhabitants along with it. Venara had slept much of the previous night and day—after her arduous climb out of the mining shaft and gruelling journey through the snow and ice, she had collapsed in a snow drift at the edge of the Inquisition’s mountain camp. She vaguely remembered Cullen shouting something and then being dug out of the snow by Cassandra and Leliana. The following day, healers and mages paraded in and out of her tent, desperately trying to staunch her wounds and save the life of the woman who had saved Haven’s people. Eventually she had had enough and yelled at them all to leave.

    When she awoke, she found Solas standing at her tent’s entrance. The tent flap was pulled back slightly, letting a sliver of golden light shine through. Solas was dressed the same as he always was—simple clothing of brown and green, wolf jawbone pendant, no shoes, despite the snow.

    “Apostate elf” just about summed him up. Though Vivienne and Dorian both had a penchant for “hobo elf” as a descriptor. It was about the only thing they could agree on.

    Venara groaned, putting the back of her hand over her face.

    “I’ve always had a fondness for mornings,” he said. “So quiet. And perhaps more beautiful because of it. It is easy to see a sunset; not so to catch a sunrise.”

    “Good morning to you, too, Solas.” Venara did not move.

    “It is.”

    Venara lowered her hand and opened her eyes. “What?”

    “A good morning.” Solas gestured to the end of her bed. “May I?”

    “Good morning?” Venara said, gingerly pushing herself up into a sitting position. “I fail to see how there is anything good about this. We were stomped on. Crushed. And now we’re stuck on the side of a mountain, completely exposed, and Corypheus is still out there, probably hunting us down as we speak. And there’s nothing I can do about it, not when I’m—” Her voice caught.

    “You will heal.”

    “I’m an invalid.”

    “You will recover in due course.”

    “How can I fight when I can barely move?” Venara snapped. She paused, her face flushed, her eyes lowered. “I’m… sorry. This isn’t your fault.”

    “No apology necessary,” he said. “You are in pain,”

    “That’s not a good enough reason to be inconsiderate towards someone I can a friend, lethallin,” she said.

    Something like surprise passed briefly across Solas’ face. “Herald—”

    Venara grimaced. “Please,” she said. “Don’t. I don’t need to be reminded of that right now.”

    He nodded. “As you wish—my lady.”

    Venara’s eyes narrowed. “That’s even worse!”

    “I suppose that makes ‘my Lady Herald’ an absolute curse to your ears,” he said.

    “Don’t. You. Dare.”

    He raised an eyebrow, a hint of a smile tugging at his lips. “You’re cross with me, lethallan?”

    “Of course I’m cross, you’re teasing me when I’m at my weakest! Coward.”

    “Ah, and yet you seem to be laughing.”

    “I am not!”

    “Oh, I see,” Solas said. “All signs of mirth indicate extreme grievance. It is unfortunate, but that is how it is for some—”

    “Oh—” Venara could feel herself flushing. The first curse she could think of bubbled to her lips. “Fenedhis!”

    And that time, he laughed. He did not laugh very often, but this time he did. Venara watched him, confused.

    “I – I am sorry,” he said, trying to control both laughter and smile now. “That was… not appropriate.”

    “No,” Venara said softly. “There should be no apology for laughter. Not when there’s precious little of it.”

    “Lethallan—” He leaned forward, his hand accidentally brushing hers. He paused.

    Venara kept her hand where it was. So did he.

    “Lethallan,” he began again.

    “Yes, Solas?”

    “I believe I can help. With your injuries. And your… scarring. I know a spell – I don’t believe it can remove the scars completely, but it may help some. With the pain, at least.”

    Venara exhaled. She closed her eyes. She was so tired. “Do it.”

    “All right.”

    She could feel him shifting closer to her. She kept her eyes shut.

    “Lethallan, I need you to look at me.”

    His voice was very close to her. She murmured a response and opened her eyes.

    She looked into his, green to blue, hardly blinking as he cast his spell. A net of warm, blue light fell across her. Her pain eased. Her face itched. And then the light subsided and winked out.

    Solas exhaled and let his hands drop.

    “How do you feel?”

    “Better. Thank you.” She shifted in her bed. She raised a hand and touched her face. She stiffened.

    “I said it could not remove the scarring completely—”

    “It’s fine,” she said. “You did what you could.”

    There was a dagger under her pillow, the closest thing she had to a mirror. She grabbed it and drew the blade. Her reflection stared back. Though distorted, she knew her scars were bad. Her right cheek was sliced and lacerated. Web of smaller lines and indents, red and raw, ran across the left side of her face. Her vallaslin, golden like her mother’s and the exact same marks as her father’s, was stretched and puckered, her devotion to Dirthamen marked forever.

    Tainted.

    Ruined.

    Almost obliterated by an ancient Tevinter magister.

    She could feel the prickle of tears behind her eyes, but she did not let any tears fall. She grit her teeth and sheathed the dagger.

    “Thank you, Solas,” she said. “Truly. Ma melava halani. Ma serannas.”

    He smiled faintly. “You should rest, lethallan. I’m sure Seeker Pentaghast and the others will want to speak to you as soon as you have the strength.”

    And with that, he left. It was only then that she realized she had been clutching his hand to hers—the hand marked by the anchor, the hand that glowed, the only hand in the entirety of Thedas that could close the rifts that had torn the world open to the Fade. It was with that hand that she had held on to his, gripping it as if she could never let go.




    ELVEN WORDS/PHRASES
    Lethallin/Lethallan—reference to one who is familiar/a friend
    Fenedhis—Dalish common curse. Meaning unknown, but probably the equivalent of “crap”.
    Ma melava halani—You helped me.
    Ma serannas—Thank you.

    Thanks for reading! [:D]
     
  5. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    This was another great character sketch!

    She wasn’t entirely sure which of these incidents had destroyed her face more—she had the feeling it had been unceremoniously thrown into the trebuchet, but she liked to tell herself it was the dragon.

    Yeah, I would go with the dragon too. :p Wow! Gone through 'a lot of crap' really is the best/only way to put it. She's a fighter, though, to keep on pushing forward through all of that - but, more about that later. [face_love]

    “Apostate elf” just about summed him up. Though Vivienne and Dorian both had a penchant for “hobo elf” as a descriptor. It was about the only thing they could agree on.

    The 'hobo elf' part just killed me. [face_laugh][face_laugh] The interspersed moments of humor were perfect through this update.

    “I’ve always had a fondness for mornings,” he said. “So quiet. And perhaps more beautiful because of it. It is easy to see a sunset; not so to catch a sunrise.”

    Yes, this. On a side note, that is my personal hiking/trail philosophy in a nutshell. Get out early and watch the world wake up while mostly everyone else sleeps. :p [face_love]

    But the highlight of this chapter I couldn't really copy and paste - their conversation, the bantering and the comradery and the awful underlying sadness mixed with hope. There is such a bond connecting them, and his trying to heal her - even if only to take the edge off of her pain - completely broke my heart. Just beautiful.

    And, okay, I suppose I found something to highlight - ;)

    And with that, he left. It was only then that she realized she had been clutching his hand to hers—the hand marked by the anchor, the hand that glowed, the only hand in the entirety of Thedas that could close the rifts that had torn the world open to the Fade. It was with that hand that she had held on to his, gripping it as if she could never let go.

    [face_love][face_love] Such beautiful prose, and just the right amount of emotion to sock you in the gut. Perfect. [face_love]

    As always, I am looking forward to more of this! =D=[:D]
     
  6. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Mira_Jade -- Thank you for the comments! [:D] I have a backlog of chapters that I wasn't able to post over August... [face_blush] Hopefully I should be able to get them out now!

    Yes, this. On a side note, that is my personal hiking/trail philosophy in a nutshell. Get out early and watch the world wake up while mostly everyone else sleeps.]

    [face_laugh] Same here!!




    CHAPTER III
    Faith

    When she was a child, Venara would stay up late—much later than the other children—and talk with her father. They would lie, side by side, in the grass some distance from the cooking fires, gaze up at the sky through a break in the leafy canopy, and watch the stars. Sometimes Roshan would tell her stories, sometimes he would try to impart his wisdom, but mostly he answered her questions. Her many, many questions.

    “What are the stars made of?”

    “How many leaves are on that tree?”

    “Can you teach me to sing? Right now?”

    “How do you say ‘kiss my butt’ in Elven?”

    And Roshan would smile and answer his daughter in due course, as best he could.

    “Shining rock. And all the souls of the Elvhen finding their way home, to the Evanuris.”

    “Ten thousand, three hundred and five.”

    “No. We’ll wake the clan. Hush now.”

    “‘Dhava ma’masa’, but don’t go saying that around Keeper Istimaethoriel or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

    As night fell, cloaking the camp in shadow, only a few hunters remained awake. Venara would catch them and the light of their lanterns out of the corner of her eyes, keeping watchful guard. And she felt safe, protected—and daring enough to ask the questions she could not ask during the heat of the day.

    “Pa, how long did it take to get your vallaslin?” she asked.

    She was fascinated by her father’s vallaslin. Well, any vallaslin, to be honest, but her father’s in particular. His was unique—of all the members of Clan Lavellan, he alone wore the markings of Dirthamen, in silver ink.

    The vallaslin was an ancient tradition, stretching back thousands of generations, all the way of the days of Arlathan. The facial tattoos honoured the Dalish pantheon, the Evanuris. Composed of five gods and four goddesses, the Evanuris were said to creating the gifts of the world: Elgar’nan, the All-Father; Mythal, the Protector and All-Mother; Andruil, the Goddess of the Hunt; Sylaise, the Hearthkeeper; June, the God of the Craft; Ghilan’nain, the Mother of the Halla; Falon’Din, the God of Death; and Dirthamen, the Keeper of Secrets. There was one more, but his name was rarely spoken, except in hissed and whispered curses: Fen’Harel, the Dread Wolf, the trickster god who betrayed the Creators and brought about the destruction of Arlathan. The Dread Wolf had no markings.

    Venara had always wondered why, but she had been too frightened to ask. Though gone, the gods were still present in their own way, hungry and powerful, and the Dread Wolf was not one the Elvhen wished to anger.

    “It takes half a day, more or less, to complete the blood ritual,” her father answered. “Sometimes longer, depending on the vallaslin being applied. But you know this, da’len—you’ve witnessed the ritual.”

    Venara drew her knees into her chest. “I know. But I wanted to hear it from you. Did Keeper Istimaethoriel apply yours?”

    “No,” Roshan said. “We had a different keeper then—Keeper Atharan. He died before you were born. He was not our keeper for long, but he was very wise. And kind.”

    “Oh.” Venara hesitated. “How did he die?”

    “That is not a tale for young ears—”

    “Pa! I’m not that young—”

    “You are eight years old, da’len, that is young.”

    Venara let out an exasperated breath, but she said no more. Beside her, Roshan fell silent. They remained that way for some time as the branches above them creaked and cracked in the wind. Venara watched the stars twinkling beyond the canopy.

    “Templars,” Roshan said finally. Venara’s heart leapt—he had changed his mind. She rolled over onto her side, moving closer to her father’s warmth as she listened intently to his story. Roshan did not look at her as he spoke; he continued to gaze upwards. His voice was quiet, flat. “Templars from Kirkwall. They came to take our mages—even the children younger than you are now. The templars said they were a danger. They wished to put them in some barbaric tower, far away. Atharan would not have it.”

    “What’s a templar?” Venara asked. “Is it a monster?”

    “No,” Roshan said. “Templars are shemlen. And misguided fools who are trained to contain magic.”

    “…contain…?”

    “Not everyone believes as we do, da’len,” Roshan said. “In many places across Thedas, in little villages and great walled cities, magic is feared. To many, magic is not a gift, but a curse.”

    Venara frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

    “Oh, da’len.” Roshen sighed. “Remember when Elerion and Adana and all their friends stopped playing with you?”

    “I set a tree on fire. I didn’t mean to!” Her hands clenched. “They still don’t like talking to me. They talk to Keeper Istimaethoriel, but that’s because they have to.”

    “The fear is misguided, da’len,” Roshan said. “In time, they will learn better. But imagine now if everyone in all those villages, and behind all those city walls, were like Elerion and Adana.”

    “That’s…” Venara thought. “That’s not good.”

    “And what do you think happens, when hundreds and hundreds—even thousands—of people are afraid?”

    “Nothing good.” Venara folded her arms around her knees and hugged them to her chest.

    “People fear that which they cannot understand, da’len,” Roshan said. “And fear makes them do unspeakable things. They are not willing to understand that mages, like everyone else, are people. And that means that, like everyone else, there are good mages and bad mages.” He paused. “But it is true that magic is dangerous—why?”

    “Because… because it can blow up in your face?”

    Roshan sighed. “Not just that. What lives on the other side of the Veil?”

    “Spirits.”

    “And?”

    “…demons,” Venara whispered.

    “And what happens to a mage who cannot control their magic?”

    “The demons get in,” Venara said quietly.

    “But not if you have a strong will,” Roshan said. “I’m glad to see you haven’t been skirting all your lessons, Venara.”

    “I haven’t been! I don’t skirt!” Venara’s voice rose. She was glad it was dark; she could feel herself flushing. “All right, maybe once, but it was only because Keeper Istimaethoriel was making me read all those big books!”

    “She has reason for that, da’len, they’re important.”

    “I already read them! And memorized them!”

    “Oh.” Roshan paused. “Well, then—that’s different. But still, there is no need to yell. You’ll wake the clan.”

    “Sorry, Pa.”

    The grass was prickling the back of her next. Venara shifted around. “Why did the templars want to lock everyone up in a tower?”

    “Shemlen in particular cannot see magic as anything other than a potential threat,” Roshan continued. “The Andrastian religion teaches them to be wary of it, and so instead of learning about what they do not understand, they created towers where they keep their mages, with templars to guard them—and control them should their magic fail.”

    “That still doesn’t make sense, Pa,” Venara said. She could feel herself growing hot in the face. “I’m afraid of spiders, but that doesn’t mean I want to lock them all up.” Her skin prickled. Was that a spider on her leg? She brushed frantically at her skin, then calmed down—it wasn’t a spider, just a leaf.

    “Mages are not spiders, da’len, and it is not only shemlen who fear magic. The Qunari sew shut the mouths of their mages and put them in chains. Even the Elvhen are not blameless. There are Dalish clans who leave their mage children in the wild if there are too many mages amongst their number.”

    Venara felt sick to her stomach. “Pa…”

    “I don’t tell you this to scare you,” Roshan said, “but to warn you. You have been very fortunate to have been born into a clan that remembers that magic is a part of us, and not something created to destroy us. When you are Keeper, remember that.” He paused. “And stay away from Kirkwall.”

    Venara would not have guessed that twenty years later, the name Kirkwall would be on everyone’s lips. The Andrastian chantry destroyed by a mage, the Templar Knight-Commander gone made, the Mage-Templar War ignited, and thousands dead.

    Kirkwall was the reason for the Divine Conclave.

    Kirkwall was the reason she had been sent to Haven.

    Kirkwall was the reason she—an elven mage, the very thing Andrastians feared—was now the official leader of the Inquisition. In her youth she had thought she would one day be Keeper Venara Isena of Clan Lavellan. But now, the tides had turned and that fate was out of her reach.

    She would be Inquisitor Lavellan until the day she died.

    ***​

    “Inquisitor, you seem flustered—are you all right?”

    Venara had entered the Skyhold rotunda moments before. Solas’ back had been to her, but he turned around upon hearing her approaching footfalls. Venara raised an eyebrow. He was uncharacteristically messy, his clothes and hands spattered with some kind of pigmented plaster.

    “What’s this?” Venara asked.

    A section of the rotunda wall had been neatly sectioned off. Upon it, a fresco was being painstakingly painted. A fresco of…

    Venara blinked. “Is that… Haven?” she asked, bewildered.

    “The Temple of Sacred Ashes,” Solas said. “And the moment you stepped out of the Fade.” He folded his arms and looked up at his handiwork. “As I told that bumbling archivist, Skyhold is your fortress.”

    “Yes. Thanks to you.”

    She wasn’t about to let him forget that though she had led their scattered people through the snow and out of the dark, Solas had been the one to tell her where to go. Skyhold had been his plan—she had just been the one to enact it, by virtue of being the hero previously called the “Herald of Andraste.”

    Well, at least “Inquisitor” was better than that. However, she doubted she would ever stop protesting the idea that she had been divinely chosen by the prophetess of the religion that had nearly crushed her own.

    “And,” Solas continued, “as it is your fortress, your deeds belong here. And you already have many—the Temple, the formation of the Inquisition, your reclamation of the Mage Rebellion at Redcliffe, your stand against Corypheus at Haven…” He smiled. “I will have to work quickly to keep up with you.”

    Venara sighed. “I don’t want to be venerated, Solas.”

    “This is not veneration,” he said. “This is record. History.”

    Venara looked up at the emerging fresco. It was incredibly detailed, its imagery stylized in a way that could not be interpreted as anything but elven. She had never seen anything like it, not even in the ancient ruins her clan occasionally happened by.

    “It’s beautiful,” she said. “Where did you learn to do this?”

    “Ah. The Fade keeps many secrets.”

    “Including the secret of ancient Elven art?”

    The lines around his eyes creased as he smiled. “But of course. What else would you find in the Fade?”

    Venara folded her hands behind her back. “I don’t know—you’re the expert here. Why don’t you tell me?”

    “I would very much like to.” His eyes narrowed. “But I would not keep you from your duties—or is that not a report you hid behind your back?”

    Damn it. He never missed anything.

    Venara let her hands drop to her sides. The report remained crushed in one fist.

    “It’s… nothing.”

    “The strain in your voice indicates otherwise.” He gently took her hand and led her to the couch nestled against the opposite rotunda wall. They sat. “What is it, lethallan?”

    “A report from Leliana.” Venara unrumpled the parchment and smoothed it out on her lap. “Concerning my clan. They are…under attack. From bandits.”

    She had not heard from her parents, nor her clan, since before the explosion at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. But news travelled quickly, particularly the news that a Dalish mage was the head of the Andrastian-led Inquisition. Though the organization had splintered from the Chantry, many of Andrastians in Thedas remained outraged that a woman who was both elven and mage held as much power as Venara did. On the other hand, she had also heard rumours of elves in alienages across Fereldan and Orlais rejoiced at her election—but this was seldom talked about. Outrage was louder than hope, after all.

    Some weeks ago, Venara had dispatched a messenger to the Free Marches, to find Clan Lavellan. She had written several letters—to her parents and to Keeper Istimaethoriel—to let them know that she was well, that she was not breaking under the pressures that came from tracking Corypheus’ underlings while leading the Inquisition as best she could. When the messenger returned, she carried a letter from Keeper Istimaethoriel that bore bad news and a plea for help.

    “I take it this has happened before,” Solas said.

    “Yes.” Venara gripped the paper. “It has been that way for a very long time. The shemlen hear that a clan has moved into the area, they either flee or come running at us with pitchforks and knives. Or worse, the lord of some town thinks we’re a pest, or trouble, and sends his knights. Or word is sent out to a Circle and the templars come…” She paused. “Was it not that way with your clan?”

    A look of confusion briefly flickered in his eyes. “No,” he said. “I am not Dalish—you know this.”

    Venara wanted to slap herself on the forehead. No, of course he wasn’t Dalish. There was not a trace of vallaslin on his face. And yet the way he spoke, the vast array of ancient knowledge he had gleaned from the Fade—he could hardly be a city elf, nor did he seem like a Circle elf who had escaped one of the mages’ towers. But in truth, she didn’t know what he was. He had never told her and she felt it was impolite to ask.

    “I’m sorry,” she said. “I hadn’t forgotten, I’m not—”

    “Used to speaking to an elven hedge mage who is neither Dalish nor from the alienages?”

    “I’m sure you have a story,” Venara said. “We all do. But I won’t press you to share it, unless you want to.”

    “Thank you.” He was starting intently at her again. “What will you do with Leliana’s report?”

    “I don’t know.” She sighed, her brow furrowing. “When I sent that messenger to my clan, it was with the intent of informing them that I was all right. I didn’t expect that they would be in more trouble than I.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “This feels… wrong.”

    “How so?”

    She pressed her hands together. “It’s been at least three years since an attack on the clan. Ever since Keeper Istimaethoriel negotiated trade with the Duke of Wycome, shemlen across the Free Marches have been accepting us, raids on our clan becoming more and more infrequent. She wanted change. She didn’t believe in natural hostility between elf and human. And she made that change happen. It’s why she sent me to Haven in the first place.” Venara ran her hands over her face. Her fingers twitched slightly as they passed over the bumps of her scars. “Istimaethoriel would not ask for aid unless…” She shook herself. “I have to go, Solas, I have to go back, I have to help—”

    “This is not your fight, lethallan!”

    “Of course it is, it’s my clan!”

    “Then what of Corypheus? What of the fade rifts? What of the red templars and the Venatori—”

    “It doesn’t matter!” she shouted. “Can’t you see? I should be there with them. “I should be there with them. I’m still named first to the Keeper. I was to lead my clan one day. I should be there, I have to be there—”

    “But you’re not,” Solas said. “Accidental or no, you have found a different path—”

    “I didn’t choose this!” Venara was on her feet, pacing wildly around the rotunda. Leliana’s report fell to the floor. “I didn’t choose any of this! I didn’t want to be named some holy leader for a religion I don’t even believe in, I didn’t want a mountain dropped of me, I didn’t want to be the only person who can save the world, and I certainly never wanted to have this thing on my hand!” Her left hand had curled itself into a claw-like shape. The anchor glinted faintly. “I just want to be with my family,” she said.

    “I know, lethallan.” He stood. He crossed the rotunda and embraced her, and as he held her, Venara felt her anger and helplessness slowly melt away. Her heart, on the other hand, pounded in her chest.

    “I am sorry that this has happened to you,” Solas said.

    “As long as you don’t tell that it was divine fate that made me Inquisitor, I’ll be fine.”

    “I can promise you that has never crossed my mind,” Solas said. “I make it a habit of being wary of anything claiming to be divine.”

    She looked up at him. “Then… then what of our—” She caught herself. “—the Dalish gods?”

    He stiffened.

    “What are they to you?”

    He slowly let her go. “My interest in the Evanuris is purely… scholarly. They are not my gods.” There was a tightness to his voice she hadn’t heard before. “I hope that does not offend.”

    “No,” she said. “You have a right to your own beliefs. Just as long as you don’t take a leaf of our Sera’s book and insult me for mine.”

    “I can assure you,” Solas said, “the world will have to end twice before that happens.”

    “The world’s already ending, mate.”

    Venara and Solas spun around. No one had entered the rotunda. Someone coughed from above. They looked up.

    Sera was hanging upside down from some strange contraption comprised of a harness and a rope. It was suspended from a hook somewhere in the library, a floor above. She was stuffing cookies into her face.

    “Aww, look at you two being all elfy,” she said, smirking, her eyes alight with mirth. “Good thing I’m up here and you’re down there, I hear elfy-ness is contagious.”

    “Yes,” Solas said. “Though from what I have seen, you seem perfectly immune, despite the wealth of knowledge available to you.”

    Sera scoffed. “Which is why you’re down there and I’m up here. Got it?”

    Solas let out an exasperated breath and walked away.

    “Ok. Venara,” Sera said. “I think loverboy over there is mad.”

    “He’s not my lover.”

    Sera blew a raspberry. “That’s what you think. Tut tut.”

    Venara folded her arms. “Would you get down from there? You’re going to hang yourself if you’re not careful.”

    “Nah. It’s perfectly safe.” Sera stuffed another cookie in her mouth. “Rawwht, Doh-ee-an?” she called, spraying crumbs everywhere.

    From the other side of the rotunda, Solas grunted.

    Sera swallowed. “Right, Dorian?!” she repeated.

    “Er—yes!” Dorian’s voice floated down from the library above. “Completely safe! One hundred and ten percent safe!”

    “See?” Sera said. “Safe. Dorian knows—he’s from Tevinter, they know stuff there.” She tilted her body and began to swing from side to side. Venara was starting to get dizzy from watching her. “You know, if you want to help your family, you should do something instead of standing here, moaning about it.”

    “I’m trying to, Sera,” Venara said wearily. “But I can’t go to my clan, who knows when Corypheus—”

    “Oh, forget about bleedin’ Coryphenis for a second! You can’t go, but just ‘cause you can’t go yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care. It’s not like you became Inquisitor and just stopped caring.” Sera wiggled in her harness and pulled herself up until she was upright. “Send someone you trust to get the job done. Someone who’s like you, but not you you. Just so you can be sure they won’t bungle it up. This is your family—your clan, whatever—after all.”

    Several hours later, a band of Leliana’s elven agents rode off into the setting sun. Venara watched them go from the battlements, Solas at her side, praying with all her heart that they arrived in time. Dirthamen was a god of shadows and secrets, but she hoped he was watching. She hoped he offered whatever protection he could.

    Her clan was her heart. No matter how far away, no matter who she became, she could not let anything happen to them.




    ELVEN WORDS/PHRASES
    Da’len—little one
    Dhava ma’masa**—kiss my butt
    Shem/shemlen—“quickling” or “quick child”; human
     
  7. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    CHAPTER IV
    In the Company of Friends

    Her scars had faded, but they never truly went away. They were far too deep for that. For some, they were a way to instantly identify her as the Inquisitor, as she had now become. After all, there weren’t too many Dalish apostates with serious facial scarring running around. For others, her scars were an entry ticket to the Iron Bull’s nightly “drink and boast about your war wounds” gig at the Skyhold tavern.

    For Venara, they were a reminder. Of what she had faced. Of what she had to stop. And – most importantly – of what she had survived and overcome.

    You tried to kill me, she thought. But you didn’t. You couldn’t. Not with all your power, not even with your dragon. Dirthara-ma, Corypheus—I may not be immortal, but I am not so easily killed.

    Though it certainly seemed that there were many things in Thedas that believed she was. She had survived attacks from bears and wolves, bandits and rogues, red templars and Venatori mages, and more demons than she could count. Half the living creatures and people in Thedas wanted a piece of her. However, that did not stop her from leaving the safety of Skyhold on her seemingly impossible mission to close all the fade rifts that had appeared across Orlais and Fereldan.

    And now she found herself caught in the middle of Orlais’ civil war, lost in wooden ramparts somewhere in the middle of the Dirthavaren, and under siege by the undead. They had come to find a friend of Solas’; they ended up getting embroiled in fight after fight.

    Venara gripped her staff—newly crafted from the finest materials Josephine could afford—in one hand. From her other burst a greenish-yellow beam of focused spirit magic, shaped roughly like a sword. Around her shimmered a protective blue barrier.

    As Venara ducked and somersaulted and twisted her way around the battlefield, relishing in her newfound powers of the Knight-Enchanter, she was suddenly grateful for her father insisting on teaching her how to wield a longsword. She had complained and moaned, insisting that, as a mage, she would never, ever pick up a blade to fight, but Roshan had ignored her protests and dragged her to the back of the aravel to train with the hunters. “There may come a time when you cannot defend yourself with magic,” he said. “Magic is a tool; so are blades. Learn both.” Sure, a magic blade springing from her hand wasn’t quite the same thing, but many of her childhood lessons held true.

    Venara’s barrier flickered. An undead corpse staggered before her, its flailing sword crashing down upon her. Her barrier exploded in an icy array—the swarm of undead surrounding her were blasted backwards, their rotting bodies torn apart.

    From somewhere to her left, she heard Sera’s voice rise: “Eat it! EAT IT!”

    Free of enemies, Venara rushed up the rotting wood stairs to the highest level of the ramparts. She dashed across a bridge just in time to see Sera go flying backwards, a stream of green light erupting from her chest. Venara followed the green light back to its source—a pit of bodies, sheathed in a magical barrier, above which floated—

    “Delltash.”

    An Arcane Horror.

    She hated those things, tragic though they were. The corrupted remains of a mage who could not control their connection to the Fade. A Pride demon manifesting inside a mage’s body.

    Sera lay crumpled on the ground, barely stirring. The Arcane Horror remained focused on her, despite Blackwall raining blows down upon it from the front. Sera groaned—she sounded like she was about to pass out. Venara raised a hand to erect a new barrier—

    And nothing happened.

    “Fenedhis lasa!” Venara cursed. She turned around wildly to face the Arcane Horror. Gripping her staff, she shouted: “SOLAS!”

    Even before she finished crying his name, she raised her staff and fired an electrical bolt at the Arcane Horror. Distracted, the green light connecting it to Sera faded. Its head snapped around, its distorted face fixated on Venara. It leered at her. Green spirit energy spiralled towards her—

    And immediately hit the shimmering blue shield that sprang up around her. Venara glanced over her shoulder, though she did not need to—she had been fighting with Solas for so many months now, she intuitively knew where he would be on the battlefield. She nodded her thanks to him and disappeared in a flash of blue and white. She re-appeared behind the Arcane Horror, having Fade Stepped straight through it, and ran her spirit blade into its back.

    It hissed and spat and shook, then disappeared in a cloud of black smoke.

    Sera coughed and slowly pushed her upper body up off the ground.

    “Is it dead yet?” she asked blearily.

    With a howl, the Arcane Horror reappeared behind Sera, its claw-like hand raised to deal a death blow—

    And a silverite blade plunged through its torso. The monster exploded, its essence scattered to the wind.

    Blackwall sheathed his sword. “Good riddance,” he said.

    Sera dragged herself to her feet. “That was close, yeah?” she said. She grabbed a glass bottle from her belt and drained the contents. She shuddered and threw the bottle away. It flew up in the air, arcing high before tumbling down and shattering on the rocks below the ramparts. “Too close,” Sera added.

    “We should burn the bodies,” Solas said as he jogged over from where he had been positioned for most of the battle. Mages were seldom helpful in melee combat; they were much more like archers, firing deadly projectiles from afar. Unless, of course, they were Venara.

    “And how do you propose we do that, Chuckles?” Sera asked. “Can’t get through that.” She pointed at the magical barrier surrounding the pit of bodies.

    “I see you’ve been spending time with Varric,” Solas said flatly.

    “Not a crime now, innit? You just don’t like him ‘cause he has a sense of humour and you don’t.”

    “Enough, you two,” Venara said wearily.

    Sera blew a raspberry at Venara as she clambered across the wood boards to where the pit had been dug. It was large and roughly square in shape, surrounded on four sides by a glowing fire barrier. It was the second one like this they had encountered. Someone on the plains had insisted on taking advantage of the Dirthavaren’s blood-stained history and using it to wreak havoc.

    “So,” Sera said, appearing at Venara’s side. She stood on tiptoes and rested her chin on Venara’s shoulder. “How we gonna get rid of it?”

    A flash of ice magic blurred past them. Sera stumbled back, snorting and snuffling—her eyebrows, eyelashes and nose hair had frozen. The icy spell hit the fire barrier and it dissolved into thin air. Solas calmly walked by the elven women—Sera was still snuffling—and towards the pit.

    “Like so,” he said. A flame appeared in the palm of his hand, dancing like candlelight. He dropped it into the pit. The dead bodies thrown there were engulfed in seconds.

    Sera had moved on to frantically rubbing her eyebrows, which were covered in tiny ice crystals. “You’re a ****—y’know that right, eh, Solas?” she said. “A bigheaded, magey ****—”

    “That’s enough, Sera,” Venara said calmly.

    “But he is! Look what he’s done to me, he did it on purpose, he’s smarmy like that—”

    “It won’t last. Look, you’re almost unfrozen anyway, your natural body heat’s seeing to that—”

    “And ‘course you can’t see it, ‘cause you fancy him or whatever—and that’s fine, innit, I just don’t wanna get all caught up in magic—eh, what are you doing?!”

    “I’ve had my eyebrows and eyelashes frozen plenty of times, this will help—”

    “No, no, keep that away from me!”

    “I thought you wanted to get that magic ice off your face—”

    “Venara, no! Keep that flame IN your hand, please—”

    And that was when a rage demon promptly appeared in front of them.

    “Never mind!” Sera shouted. “Use that flame in your hand! Over there!”

    And with that, she drew her daggers, pulled a vial from her belt, downed the contents, and disappeared in a flash of lightning and glinting metal.

    Venara sighed. “But rage demons are immune to fire,” she muttered as she gripped her staff and cast a barrier, preparing for yet another battle on the Exalted Plains.

    They dispatched the rage demon and its accompanying wraiths with ease and more than a little flare (Solas created a rift that pulled them together in a clump, then Venara electrified them into dust). Afterwards, Venara gave Blackwall a knowing look before they set off down the path. He would keep Sera occupied for the next little while, putting her mind on jokes and pranks and far, far away from her extreme fear and distrust of magic.

    Solas joined Venara as she pushed along down the path and began scampering over a large rock shelf. Blackwall and Sera trailed behind.

    “I cannot fathom why you bring that girl with us,” he said.

    “It’s obvious, isn’t it?”

    “No,” he said. “I’m afraid it’s not. But then I have so little patience for those who are fervently and unreasonably afraid of magic. It does not end well.”

    “She’s helpful.”

    “She’s rude,” Solas grunted. “And uncouth. And loud. She’s insensitive towards the history of the elves to the point she may as well consider herself human. And she has no desire to learn, or engage in intelligent conversation about anything worthwhile. Do you know what the longest conversation I have had with her was about?”

    “I can’t imagine you two having a conversation that last for more than three words each,” Venara said. “And that’s not a conversation, that’s throwing insults.”

    “She wanted to know,” Solas continued, his outrage straining his voice, “if I had… if I had had… if I had had relations with the spirits I encounter in the Fade.”

    Venara stopped in her tracks. She looked back at him, eyebrows raised. “Solas,” she said. “I do believe you are blushing.”

    “I am not!” he said hotly.

    “How would you know?” she replied. “I’m the one staring at your face.”

    Venara turned and continued down the path. She could hear Solas practically steaming as he followed her. She chuckled.

    “What are you laughing at now?” He was incredibly put-out.

    “Sometimes you’re as much of a child as she is, Solas.”

    “I am not! What a thing to suggest!”

    “What?” Venara said. “Us wise old beings can’t be childish sometimes?”

    He let out an exasperated sigh. “Very well…I admit, Sera is… useful. And talented.”

    “More than talented. She taught herself archery, but then she turned around and taught herself how to wield dual blades. And now she’s a hundred times more dangerous than when we met her.”

    Venara fell silent. She looked out at the barren landscape ahead of her: the scorched, rolling plains, dotted with twisted clumps of naturally sculpted rock, rolling right down into the river’s edge. It was strangely beautiful here, even in this war-ravaged land. She wondered what it had been like before, long ago, when the Dales still belonged to the Dalish.

    “Do you ever feel… strange here?” she blurted.

    “…strange?”

    “Like somehow… here, you are closer to who you are, who you were, who you could have been.” Venara placed her hand on the spiralling tower of rock she stood beside. She gazed upwards, watching how it climbed higher and higher and higher into the sky… How many of her ancestors had done the very same thing, in the very same place?

    “The Veil is thin here,” Solas said. “It is not unreasonable to think it may have some effect on you—”

    “That’s not what I meant,” Venara interrupted. “I meant… I meant closer to your ancestors. Closer to the elves of old.”

    She looked at him. He had that deep, unknowable look on his face that came over him sometimes, particularly when they discussed ancient elves. It was like he was someplace else, in a different time, a forgotten time…

    What’s happening to you, Solas? she thought. What are you thinking? Where are you going?

    He had told her of the places he had gone to dream, to walk the Fade and see the most ancient memories of places no one remembered or cared to recall. Had he come here? Had he seen the Exalted Marches in the reflection of the Fade—distorted, but still clinging to truths the real world had long forgotten?

    She was about to ask when he spoke.

    “Whether or not I feel as you do... that is not something I can answer. But what I do know, lethallan, is that if this place speaks something to you of the history of your people—then that cannot be a terrible thing.”

    Behind Solas, Blackwall and Sera came into view, huffing and puffing from the exertion of climbing up a steep rock shelf. They had their weapons drawn and seemed to be using them for—

    Venara looked away. Dirty jokes. Sera’s favourite pastime. Well, better Blackwall than her. She would just embarrassed herself—usually from accidentally admitting a lack of experience in certain… subjects.

    “You know why I bring Sera?” Venara said finally, as she and Solas waited for their companions to reach them. “She reminds me of home. There are boys and girls in my clan who are the same as her in attitude, in speech, in demeanour—”

    “And in crude jokes?”

    Venara smiled. “Yes. Absolutely. She may hate magic and she may disrespect Dalish culture and history, but…” She looked at Solas. When she spoke, she spoke firmly. “She was in Denerim during the Fifth Blight. She was child. I don’t think that left her with a very good impression of magic, do you? If I can help her overcome that fear, I will. She’s like a little sister. A very loudmouthed little sister who can be a bit of a brat and is terrifying fast with a pair of knives, but a sister nonetheless. Now do you understand?”

    Solas smiled. “Yes,” he said. “I believe I do.”




    ELVEN WORDS/PHRASES
    Delltash—common curse. Meaning unknown.
    Dirthara-ma—May you learn. Used as a curse.
    Fenedhis lasa—Common curse. Possibly the equivalent of “crap”.
     
  8. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Oooh, I do love when I get to read two updates, rather than one. Twice the reading! [face_love]

    “‘Dhava ma’masa’, but don’t go saying that around Keeper Istimaethoriel or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

    Bwaha! I loved that. Her entire conversation with her father was lovely. I loved the exploration of their history and culture, especially juxtaposed with her conversation with Solas. That was rife with so much tension and pain, and my heart really went out to her there. :(

    And Sera. Sera was the best. [face_laugh][face_laugh]

    Especially:

    “She’s rude,” Solas grunted. “And uncouth. And loud. She’s insensitive towards the history of the elves to the point she may as well consider herself human. And she has no desire to learn, or engage in intelligent conversation about anything worthwhile. Do you know what the longest conversation I have had with her was about?”

    “I can’t imagine you two having a conversation that last for more than three words each,” Venara said. “And that’s not a conversation, that’s throwing insults.”

    [face_laugh][face_laugh]

    Venara's explaining her inclination towards Sera was beautiful, as well. You have a great collection of emotions going on here - with the angst and the humor, all wound with a thread of mysticism and capped by some great action! I highly enjoyed reading, and thank you for sharing, as always. =D=[:D]
     
  9. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Mira_Jade Hahahaha! I have an actual posting schedule now (Tuesdays and Fridays) as I'm writing regularly and have several chapters stored up! I'm quite proud of myself. :p So maybe you'll get two in a row again. ;)

    I've really enjoyed exploring Venara's history with her parents. It's never covered in-game, so there's lots of interesting interpretations. Venara's a bit of a history nut, especialy when it comes to her people. The more she can learn, the better--even if what she learns does not necessarily make her happy.

    SERA! Sera is SO MUCH FUN TO WRITE! It's funny, I hated her the first time I played the game, but she really grew on me (especially with Venara's playthrough, where Sera became like a little sister to her). I have another Inquisitor who got so irritated and frustrated that she kicked Sera out of the Inquisition.

    Awwww! Thank you!! [face_blush] [face_love] I'm glad you're enjoying! [:D] (I still owe you a Hamilton fic!)




    CHAPTER V
    Where the Heart Lies

    She had kissed him.

    She had kissed him.

    She, the leader of the Inquisition, had indisputably, irrevocably made out with her elven apostate companion. (Sera had been right—she did fancy him, no matter how many times she denied it.)

    Not only that, she had kissed him more than once.

    Sort of.

    She wasn’t entirely sure if the first one counted, having done it in the Fade, while they both dreamed, but if she knew anything about the Fade, it was that it wasn’t just the spirit realm and a place of dreams. It was real. And so that first kiss had been real.

    He had taken her back to the memory of Haven, back to when he had grabbed her marked hand and pointed it towards that first fade rift. She had closed it. And in that dream, he had told her… he had told her that she changed everything.

    She knew the sentiment well.

    Venara had never been inclined towards romance. In her youth, she had watched from afar as the young hunters and warriors tentatively courted each other, giggling and blushing. The youths often laughed and teased whomever courted them, particularly when their suitors—both boys and girls—botched the proper rituals. A few couples were even married not long after their passion sparked.

    Venara had few suitors. Not many, but enough to be acceptable. She cared for them, as they were of her clan, but her courtships felt more of a performance than something genuine. Her suitors invariably told her she was too serious, too dour, too terrifying, too… cold. Eventually, they stopped coming altogether. Venara could never quite feel the same things her peers did, and when she was young, she believed herself to be incapable of being loved. By the time she came of age and gained her vallaslin, she had learned to stubbornly ignore her lack of passion and interest—she was better off alone. She had remained that way for a very long time. Now, a decade or so later, she was surprised—very surprised—to find herself feeling things she never had before, saying words that had never crossed her lips, and doing things that—

    Well.

    To put it lightly, she had initiated that first kiss, there in the Fade, in the memory of Haven.

    Strangely enough, Solas seemed to be more hesitant about the whole thing than her. His presence had a way of putting her mind at ease, of lifting the burdens from her shoulders—with him, she was in a place where she could truly be herself. It was different for him. It had been a long time, he said. A very long time. She listened to him awkwardly apologize for being too forward, for encouraging something that never should have happened between them—

    But if she changed everything for him, he changed everything for her. And she did not want to let that go.

    So she did what she hoped he would have done should their situations be reversed.

    She gave him time.

    Solas had found his own way back to Skyhold from the Dirthavaren. While on the plains, they had searched for a friend of his, who had called out to him in pain. The friend was a spirit of wisdom, summoned by a group of foolish shemlen mages for protection against bandits. They had twisted the spirit’s purpose, turning it into a Pride demon. By the time Venara and Solas arrived, they could break the spirit’s bonds and release it, but they could not save its life.

    Devastated and grieving, Solas had left Venara on the plains. She was not hurt by his actions—she was worried.

    She returned to long before he did, and occupied herself with her duties around Skyhold—judging prisoners, greeting visiting delegates, overseeing renovations to the castle. Every evening, she would climb the battlements and watch for him until the sun went down.

    When he did return, Venara was so relieved she nearly flew down the stone steps to the lower courtyard. It took all of her self-control not to throw herself into his arms.

    “The next time you have to mourn,” she said as she looked directly into those sad, blue eyes, “you don’t need to be alone.”

    It happened that evening. They were standing on her balcony, its spectacular view of the forested, snowy mountains alight with golden light. This time, it was he who surprised her. She had broached the subject of what was happening between them. From the direction of their conversation, his hesitance coupled with the many, many times he said something along the lines of “we shouldn’t” or “it would be kinder in the long run not to”, she had expected him to look at her with those very sad eyes and leave. And as she turned away from him to accept the inevitable truth, that this could never work, he had grabbed her arm, pulled her close and kissed her.

    And she was flooded with such joy that she set aside her fears for her clan, her fears for the Inquisition, her fears for the world’s future, and just lived.

    Then he kissed her again, smiled that strange smile of his, and murmured, “Ar lath ma, vhenan.”

    I love you, my heart.

    Her mother had once told her, “Someday, when you’re grown, you will meet someone who will make you as happy as you make them.” Venara had always remembered those words as an example of a mother’s kindness. She would now remember them as a mother’s wisdom.

    And now—a few weeks later—Venara and Solas stood on the balcony outside her chambers, catching one last moment of peace. They were due to leave for Adamant Fortress and its army of Grey Wardens in the morning. The sky was a vivid indigo, turning navy—the sun had just set and the stars were out in abundance. Here, in the mountains, they were almost as bright as the moon.

    “En este nuis’leal.”

    “En estay nuis’leal.”

    “Min’nydha.”

    “Min…nydha.”

    “En este nuis’leal min’nydha.”

    “En estay nuis’leal min’nydha.”

    “En este nuis’leal min’nydha.”

    “En este nuis’leal min’nydha.”

    “That’s right,” he said softly.

    She sighed happily and rested her head against his chest. “Ma serannas, vhenan.” She smiled. “Truly. Thank you. So much of the language is lost.” She paused. The cold night air felt like it was freezing her nose every time she breathed in. “I’ve heard of Dalish clans that are fluent and never speak a word of the common tongue,” she said, “but I have never met them.”

    “Nor have I,” Solas said. “I suspect their claim to fluency is just that—a claim. Something to bring them fame and renown.”

    “And where did you learn?” she asked. “Your friends in the Fade?”

    “You could say that, yes.”

    “My parents taught me,” Venara said. Somewhere out in the darkness, a wolf howled. No doubt there was a pack emerging from their den to hunt. “And my Keeper. It’s all that my clan remembers.”

    “Knowing Clan Lavellan’s reputation for trading with human settlements,” Solas said, “some would use that against you. Say you have been tainted by humans.”

    “No more than any elf alive,” Venara replied. “They say the arrival of humans ushered in the fall of Arlathan. That because of them, we lost our immortality.”

    Solas fell silent. Instead of speaking, he drew Venara close. It was cold on her balcony that night and she was shivering. The sleeping gown she wore was beautiful (a gift from Vivienne, who was slowly and steadily overhauling Venara’s wardrobe), but it was not very warm. The fabric clung to her, tumbling down in folds of grey royale sea silk. Venara wished she had wrapped herself in her cloak, but she did not want to spoil the moment by going back inside to fetch it.

    Solas, unlike Venara, was never cold. She meant to ask him what spell he used—Inferno magic was not her speciality. If she made anything more complex than a small flame in her palm, her magic tended to explode in her face.

    “And what do you believe?” Solas asked after some time.

    “I don’t know,” Venara said. “We will never know for certain, no matter how long and far we search. Too many years have passed. And what little remains will soon crumble into dust.” In the flickering, golden light of the torches, she saw her breath rise in the air. “But…” She paused, hesitant to voice an opinion that had been growing ever since she left her clan. But she was speaking to Solas. She trusted him as she trusted her Keeper, or her parents—perhaps even more. “It does seem arrogant of the Elvhen to blame the fall of our entire race on humans alone,” she said finally. “I don’t know. I believed that once, but now—I’m not so sure. It must have been more complicated than our hahrens teach. There are good humans and bad, just as there are good elves and bad. And Arlathan was said to be a great city. Empires that are conquered from outside are, more often than not, crumbling from within.”

    “That is true,” he said. “Though most historians are reluctant to record the corruption of their own countries.”

    “Have you seen it?” Venara asked. “The rise and fall of empires like Tevinter and Orlais? The Fade must speak more truly than dusty old tomes.”

    “In a way, it does. And it can. But the ancient memories reflected there are still just that—reflections.”

    Somewhere out in the darkness, a wolf howled. No doubt there was a pack emerging from their den to hunt.

    “Have you heard any more news?” Solas asked.

    Venara shook her head. “No. Nothing.”

    Even in his embrace, she had gone stiff.

    “I’m sure they will be all right, vhenan,” he said. “Your keeper is an intelligent woman—she will keep them safe.”

    “I know. I’m just…” Her voice faded away. Her clan would be fine. Leliana’s people were competent—she should not waste her energy fearing for her clan’s safety. As she thought of her clan, her parents, a distant memory came back to her. She chuckled.

    “What is it?” he asked, bemused.

    “Nothing. Well…” She paused. “Do you know why my parents named me ‘Venara’?”

    “It is a beautiful name.”

    “And ridiculous,” she pointed out.

    He looked down at her, completely baffled. “How so?”

    “They coined it,” she explained, “to reflect an incident that occurred at my birth. Put together what little they knew of the language, and came up with… well… why are you looking at me like that?”

    “Venara,” he said. “You are not the first woman to bear that name. It is a contraction of ‘vhenan’ara.’ Heart’s desire.”

    Venara stared at him. Her parents had it… wrong?

    “What did they believe it meant?” Solas said slowly.

    Venara tugged on her hair, weaving her long, dark mane into a braid. “Erm… well…” She turned her back on him, her face flushed.

    “Vhenan—”

    “Well, see,” she began, “they were only trying to be creative, you know, and—”

    He leaned against the stone balustrade. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

    “No, I’ll tell you—but you have to promise not to laugh.”

    “I promise.”

    Venara turned to face him. He waited patiently. “They said…they say it meant ‘protector of blossoms.’ From ‘vehn’ and ‘ahra.’”

    To her surprise, he was able to keep his promise—though it took much visible effort for him to contain his laughter. His eyes danced.

    “Oh, vhenan—”

    “I know, I know.”

    “I am sure your parents are wise people, if a little misguided, in the ways of the language.”

    “Aren’t we all?” Venara shot back. “A little misguided?”

    He paused. “I suppose that’s true.” He looked out at the mountains. The wolves were howling again.

    And so she told him the story her mother had told her—of the shemlen, of the tree, of her birth, of her clan gathering to protect them. And he listened, and he did not interrupt, and she found she was both grateful and happy to have finally shared this part of her that no one outside her clan had heard before.

    “As I said before,” he said when she finished, “you have a beautiful name.”

    She lowered her eyes, a faint smile on her lips.

    “But names are very seldom what they mean. Rather, they are what you, and others, make them.”

    “I know.” She joined him by the balustrade. Her fingers were now busy undoing the braids. Her dark hair fell free in a tangled mess. “But…still, I wish I knew more.”

    “Of what?”

    “Of – everything!” She stepped up to him and seized his hands. “I spent my entire life listening to my keeper and my hahrens lament how little we know and how much has been lost, but that’s all. That’s it. Nothing else. I resigned myself to that truth long ago, but you, Solas—you have shown me a new path.” She raised his hand and gently kissed it. “Show me. Please.”

    “The Fade.”

    “Yes, the Fade.” The words tumbled out of her now, fast and impulsive. “I want to – to walk in the Fade, in my dreams. See the people and places of long ago, walk through the memories mirrored there, learn what I can of lost histories and forgotten truths, and… and…” She looked up at him, gazing intently, passionately, into those unfathomable eyes. “I want to do this with you.” She stepped closer, putting her arms around him and kissing his cheek. “I want to go there with you,” she breathed. “Show me.”

    He was silent for a moment. She could feel both their hearts racing.

    “All right.”

    He kissed her then and she pulled herself closer. Her hands caressed his back, running over muscles that were surprisingly defined for one as willowy as him. She could feel his hands on her as well, one tangled in her hair, one on the small of her back, pressing her body to his. She was keenly aware of the touch of his hands, the feel of his lips, his scent, fresh and soft—of how close their bodies were, of how little fabric was between her skin and his touch, of a deep, deep longing she had for...

    The intensity of it took her aback. She was not like this, she had never been… this. She was ice, she was reason, she was control. She had never been passion. Was this… was this what it felt like?

    If she could disappear into this moment, she would.

    “Come with me, vhenan.”

    They walked, hand-in-hand, back into her chambers. A fire crackled in the fireplace. A half-finished bottle of wine and a couple crystal glasses stood on the table by the couch. Her desk was littered with missives and reports to the point they were falling on the floor in heaps. A lute perched on the end of her bed; she had been playing one of her father’s songs earlier.

    “It is best,” Solas said, “to lie in the ruins of ancient places—such locations draw attention from across the Veil, mirroring and recalling events that happened there. It is a distorted remembrance, but a remembrance nonetheless.”

    Venara removed the lute and set it down gently on the floor. “Can you reach such places in dreams without being there physically?”

    “Sometimes,” he said. “But don’t forget, vhenan—we are in a ruin of an ancient place. Tarasy’lan Te’las has had many guests in her halls. She has seen many things, and thus has many stories to tell.”

    Venara took his hand and pulled him onto the bed. They lay curled together, his arms around her, and together…

    They dreamed.




    ELVEN WORDS/PHRASES
    En este nuis’leal min’nydha.—The stars burn bright tonight.
    Tarasy’lan Te’las—the place where the sky was held back.
    Vhenan—my heart. Term of endearment.
     
  10. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    CHAPTER VI
    Dreams and Desire

    A band of assassins stalking stone halls in the dark of night…

    A clan of dwarves exiled to the surface finding refuge…

    A bloody ritual, a cloaked woman convening with spirits, a spell cracking the very foundations of the earth. Venara saw many things when she dreamed at night. Solas took her hand and guided her from memory to memory. It was as if he was leading her down a dark corridor filled with doors and, one by one, they would open and a moment from the distant past would flow out, swallow them, then fade away. It was staggering, what the Fade could remember. So many forgotten wars and conflicts, great loves and forbidden romances, mundane every day acts and – lives. Just lives. Human, dwarf, Qunari and Elvhen.

    But there was something else, always something else, lying beneath. Venara could sense it, wherever and whenever they travelled. She lost him once, in that endless corridor, and it was when she was blindly searching for him, calling his name and trying to swallow her rising panic, that she found she could almost touch that something else. It was as if it was beyond a locked door, just out of reach. And she thought she could see—

    Palaces that floated.

    Fortresses perched high among sixty-foot trees.

    Magical battles, elegant duels, a destructive fight with a massive high dragon. An elven man in silver armour, cloaked in magic and wielding a greatsword wreathed in flame. An ancient age of magic long forgotten by all who now walked the earth.

    And then she found him again—or he found her—and it was as if she had never seen it. She wanted to ask if he had seen them too, if he knew what they were, but, strangely, she could never get the words out.

    Venara could barely make sense of what she saw. Once she woke, she could only recall hazy snippets that felt more like fantasy than memory. Even under Solas’ guidance, she always had the feeling that she had witnessed more than she could remember. But then, such was the way of dreams.

    Walking these memories, however distorted, filled her with an unquenchable exhilaration. These glimpses into the past fueled her with a manifest desire she had never felt before. She walked in the past, history playing out before her very eyes, echoing in eternity… Oh, the things she could learn, the secrets she could uncover. Dirthamen would be proud of her, would he not? She had never felt that she lived up to her vallaslin and patron god more than she did now.

    What she remembered of the long nights she spent walking with Solas through the Fade, she recalled in intense flashes. One battle here, a mysterious meeting there, and then—Solas. Though it felt like one could drown in thousands of years of history, she knew she never could, for all roads lead back to him.

    As the path from Skyhold to Adamant Fortress was dotted with ruins and ancient battle fields, it became their custom to retire together every other night, to lay hand-in-hand in waking dreams, to see what secrets each new site hid. There were times on the long march down the Frostback Mountains and across Orlais when Venara could not wait for evening to come so she could close her eyes and go…

    Someplace else.

    Someplace alive with ancient truths.

    Someplace where she was just a mage, just an elf, just herself. Solas had once told her that things were easier for him in the Fade. At first she hadn’t been sure what he meant. Now she knew.

    Now she knew all too well.

    ***​

    “You are yourself. How can you not see? Your self burns too brightly for you not to be.”

    Venara gave a start and almost dropped her bowl, slopping porridge all over herself. It was breakfast. The sun had barely broken over the horizon and already the Inquisition camp was bustling with activity. They would be on the move within a couple hours, riding out of the foothills and into the great swaths of forest and plains that spread across southern Orlais.

    As she wiped porridge off her trousers, Venara eyed Cole, who was perched above in the crook of the big oak tree under which she sat.

    “You’re upset,” Cole stated.

    “No. No, I’m not—”

    “You’re thinking that I’m difficult to understand. That you don’t know why I behave as I do. But then you tell yourself I am a spirit, and not a young man—”

    “Cole,” Venara said, straightening up. “We’ve talked about this. Just because you can read minds doesn’t mean that you should. Friends don’t invade the privacy of their friends.”

    The young man swung a leg back and forth. “Is that what I am? A… friend?”

    “What do you think?”

    “The porridge is not ruined,” Cole murmured, bowing his head so that his oversized hat shaded his face even more than usual. “I don’t understand why you don’t eat it.”

    “It’s on the ground, Cole.”

    “Horses eat off the ground. And goats.”

    “I’m not a horse or a goat.”

    “But horses are beautiful. Goats are, too. Shame the Avaar had to throw theirs at the walls.”

    Venara had almost forgotten about that. She had thought it was a shame, too. Waste of a good goat.

    A gush of wind blew in Venara’s ear. “The thing you wish to ask him—you should ask. Questions never hurt, but sometimes answers do.”

    Cole had disappeared from the tree. Venara turned, but already he was several feet away and walking back down the trampled path to the kitchen tents.

    Fenedhis! Damn compassion spirits. Cole never could be clear, could he? Though perhaps that was a good thing. If Cole were human, every member of the Inquisition—from the lowest servant to Venara herself—would have their deepest secrets spilled.

    Venara sat back down, her back to the tree again, and picked up her half-empty porridge bowl. She had fifteen more minutes of freedom while she ate, and if it could go interrupted, she would—

    Sera dropped out of the tree and landed with a thump directly in front of her, missing her by inches. “Heeeey-yo, Inquisitor—scared you, didn’t I?”

    Venara, who had been mid-bite, had managed to slop the rest of her porridge down her front. “Not exactly,” she said through gritted teeth.

    “Then why d’you got porridge all dribbled down your front?”

    “Why can’t I enjoy my breakfast without half the camp falling out of my tree?!” Venara stood and stalked off back towards the kitchen tents. Sera followed.

    “Admit it,” Sera said as they passed Dorian and Iron Bull, who were suspiciously deep in conversation. They were never seen together this early in the morning… “I finally did it. I startled you.”

    “Yes,” Venara said, handing over her empty bowl to a serving girl and picking up a fresh one. “You startled me. Congratulations.” She began to shovel porridge into her mouth as quickly as possible, before someone else could bump into her and spill it. The roof of her mouth burned.

    “Ooooh, someone’s snippy today.”

    Venara rolled her eyes and finished her breakfast. She turned and tromped towards her tent. Hopefully no one had started to take it down yet. She needed a change of clothes. She couldn’t lead the Inquisition army through Orlais in porridge-soaked shirt and trousers. Vivienne would have a fit.

    “I’m not snippy, I’m—”

    Sera wiggled her eyebrows. “Irritable? Frustrated? Unsatisfied?”

    “No,” Venara said. “Well—maybe—I don’t know, I’m not sure yet, there’s—”

    “Ha! Ha ha!” Sera doubled over, cackling with laughter. She exerted herself so much she dropped to the ground and rolled around in a spot of grass muddied by foot traffic. Venara folded her arms and waited.

    “Are you done yet?”

    “Nope!” Sera’s eyes gleamed gleefully. “It’s just too good, innit?”

    “What is?” Venara snapped.

    Sera stopped laughing. “You mean—what you said—it’s… not?”

    “What in the name of Mythal are you going on about?”

    Sera stood up. Her pale face was flushed pink. “Never mind.” She walked forward. Venara caught up with her and grabbed her elbow.

    “No, tell me, what was that about? What did you mean?”

    “Nothing!” Sera pressed forward, dragging Venara along. “Nothing important! Don’t you want to change or somethin’?”

    They had reached Venara’s tent. Venara pushed the tent flap aside and pulled Sera inside. “You can tell me,” she said, “while I change.”

    Venara stalked over the trunk placed at the end of her bed and kicked it open. Sera flitted about nervously near the tent’s entrance. Venara watched her and sighed. She never knew what to do with that girl. As she pulled out a fresh shirt and pair of trousers, Venara absently thought that she should have a word with Josephine. This was far too extravagant, even for a campaign. She didn’t need a bed and a trunk when they were marching thousands of leagues to attack a Grey Warden fortress overrun by a demon army. She and Solas could sleep on bedrolls, just like everyone else.

    “See,” Sera said eventually as she hopped on one foot, “I thought I said something funny—‘cause the whole camp’s been talkin’ bouts it, see—but you didn’t, uh, get my meaning and now I don’t think it’s really all that funny, but maybe it would be, between friends, y’know, like you and me are—”

    Venara disrobed and began changing clothes. Sera turned pink and immediately turned her back.

    “What has the whole camp been talking about?”

    Sera’s back stiffened. “Um.”

    “Sera.”

    “You,” she said. “And Solas.”

    Venara finished pulling on her trousers and flung on the new shirt. “What about me and Solas?” she said exasperatedly as she laced it up.

    Sera spun around, hand over her eyes. “You can’t be serious.”

    Venara looked at her. “You don’t have to do that.”

    Sera lowered her hand. “You do realize that the whole camp knows about you two, eh? The bloody Queen of Antiva probably knows about you now. You’ve not exactly been, well, hush-hush.”

    Venara frowned. How did the entire camp know that she spent her nights visiting the histories captured in the Fade?

    “I even heard Cullen talking about it. He thinks it’s weird. But Josephine says it’s cute and Leliana—”

    “Never mind,” Venara interrupted. “Why the hell is everyone so interested how I spend my nights?”

    Sera stared at her. “You can’t be serious.”

    It was only then that Venara began to feel like she was missing something important. Very important.

    “Fenedhis lasa!” She flushed deeply. “You—me—they can’t all be—talking—they can’t all be talking about me and Solas!”

    She could feel herself growing redder. It all made sense now, and it she didn’t like it one bit.

    “I think they can,” Sera said. “Everyone wants to know who the almighty Inquisitor is—” Venara glared at her. “Well,” she continued. “You just made it awfully obvious. I mean, what did you expect when you sneak off into your tent together almost every night?”

    “Delltash! Ar’m daral is’var nabrenn vis esh’an tel’ra!”

    “Sure thing,” Sera said, understanding the tone but not the meaning.

    Venara needed air. She tore her tent flap open and stalked back out into the open. The sun had now fully risen, as had the Inquisition camp. Venara paced between rows of collapsed Inquisition tents, Sera following.

    “Well,” she was saying, “as long as you’re having fun—”

    “It’s not like that!” Venara exclaimed.

    “Then what’s it like?” Sera said. “‘Cause the way Varric puts it, you two have enough sexual tension to fill ten novels.” She paused and cocked her head. “At least, I think that’s what he said…” She snorted. “Look on the bright side. You don’t have to worry about keeping it a secret. Everyone knows!”

    “Why does the whole camp need to know my private affairs?” Venara said in a strangled voice. “They. Are. Private.”

    “Not when you’re Inquisitor, they aren’t. That’s what I keep telling you, but do you listen—?”

    “Nothing’s even happened yet!” Venara shouted.

    Sera snorted. “Bollocks!—Wait. What?”

    They had returned to the foot of Venara’s oak tree. Winded from the briskness of her walk through camp, she placed a hand on its trunk and leaned into it. She fervently hoped no one else was hiding up there. “We haven’t—nothing has—it’s not what the whole camp apparently thinks.”

    Mythal! This was the kind of attention she was most definitely not equipped to deal with.

    Sera’s eyes widened. “So you haven’t—” She giggled, then pressed her hand to her mouth, stopping herself mid-laugh. “I’m sorry. That was rude. I’m working on it.”

    Venara sighed.

    She didn’t know what to think, other than how much of an idiot she was. Of course there would have been talk. A military camp was not exactly the kind of place that kept secrets well, especially secrets having to do with—well, as Sera had pointed out, it was all out in the open. She wished fervently that she could decline this one perk that came with being Inquisitor—the one that said that everyone was overly curious about her sex life.

    Not that she technically had one at the moment.

    Not that she needed one.

    Or wanted one.

    Did she want one?

    She had never thought consciously about it before. But unconsciously…or in day dreams…there was a certain someone that she might consider—

    Venara flushed again.

    “Look,” Sera said, “you can tell me to shut up if you want to—especially ‘cause I was a bit of an ass about a few things earlier—but you’ve been snogging Elven Lore for months now. What gives? If I was you, I would probably have jumped him already.” She paused. “Emphasis on the ‘if I was you’ part. ‘Cause I’m not into that. Like, at all. Too elfy. And not a woman. Gross.”

    Venara folded her arms, hugging herself tight. “Not everyone is like you, Sera,” she said. “I don’t need…that.”

    “Everyone needs that—”

    “Not everyone,” Venara said firmly. “Not always.” She paused. “I might. But I—we—haven’t decided yet. I’m not one to jump into someone’s trousers after meeting them. I need…something else first.”

    The bridge of Sera’s nose pinched. “I don’t jump,” she said, her voice quite small.

    “Oh?” Venara raised an eyebrow. “Then while you’re busy fooling around with the girls at Skyhold, why haven’t you noticed Scout Harding trying to grab your eye?”

    “I don’t—” Sera stopped. “Harding what?”

    Venara nodded.

    “Are you serious? You’re not joking or somethin’, eh?”

    Venara shook her head. She had seen the way the dwarven scout looked at Sera—and she had heard her talk fervently about the young elven woman to anyone who would listen after a couple pints. If Venara was picking up on it, then that meant that Lace Harding was definitely interested in Sera.

    Sera stood still as a statue for an unusually prolonged period of time. “How do you know these things?” she whispered.

    “I’m the Inquisitor,” Venara said. “I know everything.”

    “Except what you want in bed!” Sera blew a raspberry, her eyes dancing mercilessly.

    “Sera!”

    As the rest of the camp finished pulling up and preparing to move on, some keen-eyed Inquisition soldiers might have spotted their illustrious leader chasing a blonde elven girl in a mustard-stained red tunic around the remains of the camp. No doubt the Nightingale’s eagle-eyes noticed—and she said nothing. Cassandra noticed—and may have cracked a smile. Commander Cullen did not notice—he was too engrossed in his reports at his makeshift war table, even though Venara Fade Stepped right through it.

    Eventually, Venara chased Sera right back up the oak tree. She was so winded by the hour-long stunt that collapsed at its base and let herself sink into the grass. For a moment, she almost felt like she was home, in the Free Marches, with her clan.

    Sera popped her head out of the tree’s foliage.

    “So if you and His Elfiness are not having sex, then what are you doing?”

    Venara passed a hand over her face. “Sera, remember that time—oh, about five minutes ago—when I told you I’d freeze your leg hair off if you asked invasive questions about my private life?”

    “Yeah, but maybe I don’t want my leg hair. Or my armpit hair. Or my—”

    “I dream, Sera,” Venara said abruptly. She wasn’t looking at the elven girl perched several feet above her. She was looking at the sky—blue-grey and fathomless. Like something else she knew. “We dream. We walk the Fade and see the world as it once was. And we learn. The things I’ve witnessed…I don’t know, I can’t explain. They’re fabulous and wondrous and terrifying. And confusing. And intoxicating. But they’re just images and some of them…it’s like I need to know the truth behind them.”

    Bird twittered overhead.

    “Mages,” Sera said finally. “I don’t get it. Why would you do something that puts you right in the way of demons?”

    “I’m not afraid of them. And they rarely follow us.”

    “Yes, but… demons.”

    “So? A spirit is a spirit.”

    “You’re not normal, you know that right? And, ugh, you’re even starting to sound like him.” Sera slid her rear along the tree branch until she was closer to the ground. Then she leapt down and landed with a soft thwump right by Venara’s face. “But that’s okay, innit? Doesn’t make you a pretentious ****.” She cast an eye down at Venara, who still lay on her back in the grass. “But if you told me all that just to get my opinion, I think you shouldn’t get your knickers in such a twist and just do the do already.”

    “…Do the do?!”

    “Yeah.” Sera shrugged. “You’ll feel much better. Trust me.”

    With that, Sera scampered off, leaving Venara sprawled in the grass beneath the big oak tree. In the distance, the Inquisition’s horns sounded. It was time to move. Adamant was waiting. But first, she just wanted some time alone to think—

    A shadow fell across her face.

    Venara’s right hand shot up, crystalizing in a globe of ice. “If you’re in the tree,” she said, “you might as well come down right now. I’ve had my fill of people falling out and porridge spills!”

    “Why would I be in the tree?” a familiar voice asked. “She is a most wonderful oak, and possibly excellent for climbing, but that is a past time to which you and I cannot afford the time.”

    “Solas!” Venara rolled over and sat up. She stumbled slightly in her hastiness as she threw herself into his arms.

    “What’s the occasion?” he asked, puzzled by the forcefulness of her embrace.

    “Cole and Sera both fell out of the tree this morning and almost landed on my head,” Venara said. “Sera did it twice.”

    “Somehow I am not surprised. Dare I ask what you meant by ‘porridge spills’?”

    “No.”

    “Seeker Pentaghast is waiting for you,” he said, gesturing towards the clearing where their horses had been stabled overnight. “Shall we?”

    As they walked over the trampled grass towards the horses, Venara thought about what Sera had said. What did she want? She knew she loved this man, this man who had somehow fallen for her. Having him as a constant in her life was something unparalleled. And there was nothing she wanted more than to spend her evenings dreaming, with him, and…

    Was there something else? Something they had left unspoken, too shy, too hesitant to mention…

    “Vhenan? Are you all right?”

    She flushed. “Do you mean it?” Venara asked suddenly.

    “Pardon?”

    “When you say ‘vhenan’, do you mean it?” Venara paused, searching his eyes, his expression. “‘My heart.’ Am I your heart?”

    He looked at her and smiled. “Yes.”

    “Then I must ask—” She paused, trying to slow her breathing. Her mind was racing with spiralling thoughts of the dreams, the Fade, what Sera had said, what she longed to see again…

    “Venara?”

    “The floating palaces,” she said quickly, as if the images would disappear and be forgotten if she did not verbalize them now, in this very moment. “The castles in the forest. The elven warrior with the magic-bound sword. I’ve seen flashes of those in the Fade, when we dream. What are they? Why can’t I ever get close?”

    Solas stopped walking. They were very close to the horses. Venara could see Cassandra gesturing at them, indicating for them to hurry. The horns were blowing again. The army was on the move.

    “I have seen them,” he said softly. “But they are so far lost that even I cannot reach them. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say they are the remnants of Elvhenan.”

    Venara froze. Arlathan. She had seen Elvhenan.
    Oh, Dirthamen!

    “We can speak more of it tonight,” Solas said. “I believe Seeker Pentaghast is growing impatient.”

    “Yes,” Venara said. “Let’s go.”

    When they reached the horses and Cassandra began to explain how the next leg of the journey was infested with emerging Fade rifts, Venara’s mind raced. She had so many questions she wanted to ask, so many images she wanted to find again—and she could barely sort out her emotions—and then… what Sera had said (why did that bother her so?)—

    A cold wind blew in her ear.

    “The thing you wish to ask—you should ask.”

    Go away, Cole! I did ask about the things I saw!

    “You should ask,” Cole’s voice insisted, “the thing you wish to ask. In the place where it’s right.”

    Venara’s insides turned. She could feel herself flushing again. It seemed she had not asked Solas the question she had really needed to ask him.

    It also seemed she wasn’t getting out of this easily.

    But she already knew she didn’t want to get out of it.

    By the Creators…why did I make this so complicated?




    ELVEN WORDS/PHRASES
    Ar’m daral is’var nabrenn vis esh’an tel’ra—I’m going to wring their necks if they don’t shut it!
    Delltash—common curse, meaning unknown
    Fenedhis/Fenedhis lasa—general curse, equivalent of “crap”
     
  11. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Whew, I am here and finally catching up! My apologies for being late - I've been sneaking on and offline this last week, and am just now using a rain-day to knock out my reviews, but anywho . . .

    She, the leader of the Inquisition, had indisputably, irrevocably made out with her elven apostate companion. (Sera had been right—she did fancy him, no matter how many times she denied it.)

    I loved Venara's plain old girlish flailing over having kissed a guy she likes. It was a great way to start the chapter. And then I particularly liked her views on romance so far in life. For her to think herself so cold and above passion, but to find it in Solas when the time was right - just beautiful. [face_love]

    (And Sera! [face_laugh])

    Her mother had once told her, “Someday, when you’re grown, you will meet someone who will make you as happy as you make them.” Venara had always remembered those words as an example of a mother’s kindness. She would now remember them as a mother’s wisdom.

    Oh, that is the perfect way to phrase it! I absolutely adored those few lines. [face_love] Then, the discussion of her name, their walking the Fade together - just, so much lovely prose and just plain beauty in this update. [face_love]=D=

    Then, the details of the Fade in the next update - wow! Very powerful and poignant - what an intense experience.

    I next loved Cole's old-souled wisdom, coupled with the bantering. This:

    “The porridge is not ruined,” Cole murmured, bowing his head so that his oversized hat shaded his face even more than usual. “I don’t understand why you don’t eat it.”

    “It’s on the ground, Cole.”

    “Horses eat off the ground. And goats.”

    “I’m not a horse or a goat.”

    Just cracked me up! I loved it. [face_laugh][face_laugh]

    And Sera! Sera. I knew that she'd have . . . unique words of wisdom on their evolving relationship, and she certainly did not disappoint. :p

    “I even heard Cullen talking about it. He thinks it’s weird. But Josephine says it’s cute and Leliana—”

    [face_laugh][face_laugh]

    But I especially love how Sera back-pedaled when she went too far, and apologized for being rude and honestly trying to help in her own, Sera-way. I love the friendship you portray growing between them; they are a highlight to read.

    Then, right back to the mysticism of the Fade, and Cole's parting advice - just perfect. The various emotions/tones you conveyed really came full-circle, and it made for a wonderful read.

    As always, a fantastic few updates! =D==D=



    Awwww! Thank you!! [face_blush] [face_love] I'm glad you're enjoying! [:D] (I still owe you a Hamilton fic!)

    Weeeell, I wasn't going to mention it, but if you are still inspired to write . . . [face_batting][face_mischief]
     
  12. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Oh no worries! [:D] It's a busy time of year. The only reason I'm writing/updating so much is that I don't have a job yet and I'm not working on a show at the moment. :p

    Oh yeah, she definitely flails... Romance is something she really, really has no experience in. I was pretty eager to explore that side of her, especially considering she's 27-28, so you'd think she'd have some experience in these matters, but nope.

    She's still adorable though. And she and Solas are total dorks. Extremely elfy dorks. :p (I'm re-playing her playthrough and can finally screencap cutscenes and such--makes for good writing inspiration).

    That's why I love Sera. [face_laugh]

    Thank you! [face_love] I've been finding it a little difficult to get back into prose after two years of just writing plays, so sometimes I keep thinking I'm overdoing it, but I'm glad you like it! :)

    Cole cracks me up too. He's difficult to write because he is a spirit, not a person, and doesn't always understand social cues. And he knows...things. There's an injoke in the Dragon Age fandom on tumblr about how there's a whole bunch of stuff Cole should have told the Inquisitor, but no, he doesn't--instead he talks openly about the Inquisitor's sex life. 8-}

    That's one way to put it! [face_laugh] Their friendship is a lot of fun to write, and I especially love developing the bratty little sister part of that relationship. Sera's a joy. [face_love]

    I want to! My partner and I have been singing Hamilton non-stop (pun not intended) in the car whenever we go somewhere. But my head is full of elves and dragons right now. I'll try to get the Hamilton muse activated at some point. :p

    Thank you so much--as always--for your lovely comments! [:D] [face_love]
     
  13. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    So... the story has taken a giant turn in scope (I just passed 30,000 words in the chapters that I haven't posted yet and I'm quickly soaring towards 50,000). As such, I edited the title and some of the previous chapter titles to better reflect the change! (The previous chapters themselves have not been edited.)

    There was some TOS-non compliant language in this chapter, so it's been edited a little bit from the original--I'm hoping I caught everything!




    CHAPTER VII
    On Her Own Terms

    “Where do we go when we dream, da’len?”

    “The Beyond.”

    “And what is the Beyond?”

    “The realm of spirits. And magic.”

    Venara was seven years old. A week ago, her magic had manifested. (And in a truly magnificent way, or so her father said. Roshan insisted that the tale of her manifestation was worthy of being immortalized in a clan ballad. Venara disagreed—vehemently. She had set a bush on fire. And then another, and another, and another, until she was running around, flapping her arms uselessly, puffs of flame spitting from her fingers until some thoughtful parent saw her and dumped a bucket of water on her head, and then a second one for good measure—well. There really was no point in repeating the rest of the story, now, was there?) Though there were many smiles and tear-eyed looks and certain members of the clan murmuring their congratulations to Roshan and Isena, Venara did notice that, from that moment on, she was treated differently. Not only by the other children (who were understandably cautious around her), but from… everyone.

    And now she sat, cross-legged, in Keeper Deshenna Istimaethoriel’s aravel. Though it would be several years until Istimaethoriel could consider naming her First to the Keeper (and in truth, Venara did not hold out much hope—there were two other candidates, both older than her), Istimaethoriel had gladly taken Venara under her wing. Venara liked the Keeper’s aravel. It was so fundamentally different from both her parents’ aravel and the camp. Venara relished the differences. The interior was panelled with a wood tinted ruby red, similar in colour to Istimaethoriel’s vallaslin. The walls were decorated with simple wood carvings made from ironbark that honoured Mythal, the deity Istimaethoriel had chosen to serve. Books and scrolls were piled in every corner, organized by some system known only to the Keeper. Most were written in the common tongue, but many were in Elvish and others were in strange, foreign languages Venara could not hope to understand (she later learned that they were Ancient Tevinter and Qun’lat). In one corner lay a small, narrow cot (Venara was sure the Keeper had made it as small as possible in order to create more room for her expansive personal library). Several pillows, sewn from red fabric and embroidered with images of halla in white thread, lay scattered about. A couple iron-wrought lanterns hung from the ceiling.

    This was Venara’s second lesson on magic.

    “Indeed,” Istimaethoriel was saying, “the Beyond—or the Fade—is the source of all magic in the world. Without it, we would not have the ability to move the aravels, or heal our sick and wounded, or preserve the knowledge of our people—or defend ourselves from those who mean us harm. This is not to speak ill of our hunters or masters. Their skills are just as crucial to the clan as those of the mage. But we elves came from magic, and it is through magic that the Dalish continue on.”

    Venara listened with rapt attention. She knew most of what Keeper Istimaethoriel told her, but that was when she hadn’t been a mage. Things were different now. Now… she knew she was affected directly by things other children spoke of in hushed whispers.

    “If magic comes from the Fade,” she said, “and we go to the Fade when we dream…why doesn’t everyone have magic?”

    “A good question.” Istimaethoriel brushed a lock of red-brown hair behind her ear. “Though all living, intelligent beings dream (save for the dwarves), not everyone is bestowed with the gift. The Veil, which separates the physical and spirit realms, does not allow just anyone to reach through and use its gifts—”

    “What would happen if there was no Veil?”

    Istimaethoriel paused. “Erm—”

    “Would everyone have magic? Even the dwarves?”

    Istimaethoriel’s brow furrowed, her jaw clenched—she seemed flustered. “Da’len—”

    “Can you imagine that?!”

    “Da’len—”

    “A world where everyone had magic?!”

    “Venara!” Istimaethoriel seemed taken aback by the forcefulness in her voice. Venara fell silent and curled up. Her parents were quiet people—she was rarely yelled at.

    “That is a fantasy,” the Keeper said. “And not a beautiful one. The Fade is the place of dreams, yes, but that means it is also the place of nightmares. If the Veil did not exist, if there was no barrier between the physical and spirit realms…our world would not survive.” Istimaethoriel leaned forward and took Venara’s hands. “You have been blessed with a great gift, da’len. Serve it well.”

    Istimaethoriel slowly let her go.

    “So… so… if the Fade is the place of nightmares, is it… evil?”

    Istimaethoriel sighed. “No. It is not evil. I do not believe that any person, race, spirit or place can be inherently evil. It is never so simple. But – that being said – the Fade is a place of tremendous power. Respect it, and it will respect you. Remember that.”

    “Yes, Keeper.” Venara’s hands fidgeted in her lap. She stared at them.

    “Is something the matter, da’len?”

    “No, Keeper.”

    Istimaethoriel raised an eyebrow. “Venara—”

    “I’m just sleepy, Keeper.” She yawned, to show how tired she was.

    “Is that all?” Istimaethoriel’s voice was quiet.

    Venara hung her head. It was hard to keep something from the Keeper. She was always soft, always gentle, but she always weaseled it out of you, one way or another. It was impossible to lie to her when she was looking you directly in the eye.

    “What if… what if I can’t do it?” Venara said finally. “What if I’m a bad mage? What if a demon gets me, or—”

    Istimaethoriel crossed to her and put a gentle arm around her young apprentice. Venara rested her head against the Keeper’s chest and, slow at first, but then faster and faster, all her fears came tumbling out of her. Her fear of being unable to safely cast magic; her fear of being unable to control herself; her fear of becoming power hungry, as she heard mages in Tevinter did; her fear of fire magic, of the Inferno, which she could see, in her mind’s eyes, blasting away the aravels; her fear of her magic turning inwards, transforming her, reshaping her until she was utterly, utterly unrecognizable. Until she became… a monster.

    Her fear that her magic would someday kill her, and her parents, and her clan.

    Istimaethoriel listened silently as she held her trembling apprentice. She did not speak until she was certain Venara had finished.

    “I know you’re afraid,” she said. “I was, too.”

    “You?” Venara said incredulously. “But you’re brave! You’re the bravest person I know!”

    “Fear and courage are not at opposite sides of a spectrum, da’len,” the Keeper said. “They both hang in the balance. And the fearless are foolhardy.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Do you know the story of the Hunter and the Frost Dragon?” she said.

    Venara shook her head.

    “Hm. I’m surprised—your father loves telling it. It is about his great-great-uncle, after all.”

    “Really?! What did he do? Did he fight a dragon? Did he kill it—?!”

    Istimaethoriel raised a hand, calling for silence before Venara got too excited to listen.

    “Davan the Red,” Istimaethoriel began, “was one of the greatest hunters our clan had known in years. He was also one of the most reckless. They called him ‘the Red’ not only because his hair was red and his vallaslin was red—but because the colour matched his temperament.”

    “But Keeper,” Venara said. “You’re red.” She glanced around the aravel and knocked on the ruby-coloured wood. “Does that mean you’re reckless, too?”

    Istimaethoriel laughed. “Some would say I am, yes.”

    “Have you slayed dragons?”

    “Do you want me to continue this story or not?” Istimaethoriel asked.

    Venara nodded and folded her hands in her lap.

    “Davan claimed many great victories for our clan—there was not a beast he could not tame, nor foe he could not vanquish. He would lead the most dangerous missions and always come back alive. Soon word spread of him across all the clans of the Dalish. From Rivain to Fereldan, all spoke in wonder of his great deeds. But such an honour was not enough for him and he felt dissatisfied by his own accomplishments. One day, a Nevarran prince passed by the clan. The prince was a dragon hunter, and upon hearing of Davan’s accomplishments, he shared a story

    “The prince told Davan of a dragon of frost that dwelled in the mountains above. No man could kill the dragon, not even the prince himself. To this, Davan replied: ‘But sir, as you can see, I am no man. An elf I was born, and an elf I shall die, and I shall slay this dragon of yours.’ And so the Nevarran prince saw the elven hunter away to the mountain, where the frost dragon dwelled.

    “So unafraid was Davan, that he climbed the mountain alone, his red-hot temperament keeping him warm. And he climbed and he climbed, and as he climbed, snow began to fall. But the dragon was nowhere in sight. And so he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed once more. This time, the snow fell thicker and deeper, and still the frost dragon was nowhere in sight. And Davan would not turn back, for turning back meant failure. But the snow continued to fall and fall and fall, until Davan sunk into its depths and was seen no more. And his clan mourned him.”

    Venara listened solemnly. A tiny, little part of her mourned the fact that her great-great-something uncle had never actually fought a dragon.

    “There was a dragon upon that mountain, da’len,” Istimaethoriel continued. “But she was up so high that it was nigh impossible to reach her. Many had tried and failed, even with proper planning to negotiate the snows. To attempt it without… death was the only certainty.”

    “My father loves this story?” Venara said, baffled.

    “It is a good reminder of what fearlessness does,” Istimaethoriel said. “You are wise to be afraid, da’len—but not so afraid that it controls you. Learn to use your fear for your own betterment, and one day, you will be a great mage.”

    The lesson was well meant. Venara would carry it for the rest of her days.

    ***​
    Venara floated.

    She could feel her heart beating its steady rhythm as she drifted, lake water flowing over her body. Though it was still early (the sun had not yet risen above the hills), the lake had surrendered its customary morning stillness to the soft breeze on the air. Small waves lapped against her, tugging gently at her body, though they were not strong enough to spray mist in her face. The water was silky and felt pleasantly warm against her naked skin. Her hair, loosened from its customary bun, fanned out behind her head.

    She felt at peace here, in the middle of this lake, in the middle of the little-inhabited forests of Southern Orlais. They were not far from the Emerald Graves and much of the landscape was the same. Inquisition forces had passed through the area a week ago on their long march to Adamant Fortress. Venara had intended to continue with them, but Cassandra’s reports about abundant Fade rifts in the area had inevitably drawn her away. Rather than leave them be after the army passed, Venara had splintered from the main force. Her friends and companions had followed her into the woods to find as many Fade rifts as they could and close them permanently while Cullen took the troops forwards. They were in a hurry to reach the Grey Warden fortress and stop Livius Erimond and the Warden-Commander’s desperate, foolhardy plan, but even that would not stop Venara from ensuring the locals’ safety. Vengeful spirits made for poor neighbours, after all, and Venara was the only one who could stop them for good.

    Venara exhaled, a puff of air escaping her lips. They were leagues behind the main force now and there had been far too many close calls for comfort. She was really bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “I’ll take care of it.” Sera had nearly fallen to a Pride demon, then Venara herself had been knocked unconscious during a nasty entanglement with three Despair demons. She didn’t even want to think about their surprise encounter with the giant. The beast had stumbled into their fight to close a rift, drawn by the noise and the cackling magical energy shot from Venara’s staff. The giant felled Dorian with one blow, then Cassandra (who had already been weakened by the demons spewing from the rift). Venara and Solas had been left to stand firm on their own, casting barriers around each other until Venara could gather enough energy to pull open a new rift and suck the demons back through.

    No.

    Not demons.

    Spirits.

    Spirits that had been corrupted from their purpose.

    Before she met Solas, Venara had never questioned the true nature of demons. When it came to the discussion of spirits, Keeper Istimaethoriel had focused Venara’s magical training on the practicalities of avoiding demon possession and never considered the nature of the beast. She loved Istimaethoriel very much and would never deny how talented a mage she was, but Venara couldn’t help but think how little her mentor truly knew.

    And for that she felt incredibly guilty.

    Venara sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, gently teasing out the tangles. Last night she had dreamed of returning to her clan. She had seen her family again, been welcome home with open arms, and proudly accepted the position of Keeper from a smiling Istimaethoriel, who passed on her sylvanwood ring. And at her side had been Solas. That possibility—of the two of them returning, safe and uninjured, to Clan Lavellan once this was over—it had been so clear. She had never realized she wanted it so badly. The two things she treasured most, brought together—her clan and her… her…

    Oh, for the Creators’ sakes…

    She had never truly asked herself what Solas was to her. As Sera had very clearly notified her, the soldiers at the Inquisition’s camps gossiped one thing. Her friends and advisors thought something similar. Solas himself called her vhenan—honestly, genuinely and wholly. Why was it so hard for her to do the same? To acknowledge what she felt?

    She desperately wished she could just say it. Solas had told her how difficult it had been for him to acknowledge his own feelings, that it had been a very long time since he had felt close to another, but she felt leagues behind. She loved him, she knew in her heart that she did—so what was stopping her from admitting it? Fear that whatever this beautiful, life-changing thing was, it was doomed to fail? That she was not deserving of this man because she was—as her peers had told her in her youth—too cold, too stern, too incapable of genuine love? That her responsibility to Thedas, to the entire known world, outweighed her personal happiness? That she would one day lose him, that he or she or both of them would die and Corypheus would win and the whole world would go to ruin?

    “Venara? Is that you?”

    Venara yelped, accidentally taking in a mouth-full of water.

    “I see that it is,” Solas said.

    “Wha-what are you doing there?” she spluttered. She trod water, sinking her body into the water so that only her head was visible. She would like to keep the fact that she was skinny-dipping to herself.

    “Looking for you, of course.” He was standing at the water’s edge, where a large tree had sprung, its massive roots curling down into the weedy shallows of the lake. “Our friends had some concern when we awoke and found you gone. When you did not return after three hours…”

    She hadn’t realized she had been gone for so long.

    “I like to swim,” Venara said. “The lands my clan travelled are filled with rivers and lakes. We were all taught to swim at a young age—we’d spend days on the shore of great lakes, playing games, fishing, hunting…” She stretched out her arm and rotated her shoulder. “Skyhold’s too cold to swim—unless you like glacier-fed lakes, I suppose.” She looked around the lake, a smile tugging at her lips. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it until we camped here.”

    Solas nodded. He sat on one of the tree’s massive roots, one that arched out over the water. The sun had finally broken out above the skyline, its golden light softly illuminating the lake.

    “What is it?” Venara asked. She was still treading water—she wasn’t quite ready to leave the lake’s comforting embrace yet. Also, she wanted Solas’ company and she didn’t want to ask him to leave just so she could get out and get dressed.

    “By rights we should return to camp,” he said. “The others are waiting, they’re most likely still searching for you.”

    “If they’re searching, then they’re not waiting.”

    “There is something pleasant about staying here. Alone with you.”

    Venara smiled. “Then stay.”

    “I was hoping that would be your answer.”

    You should ask the thing you wish to ask. Cole’s voice echoed in her head. Venara flushed and ignored the memory. There was a time and a place for that conversation, and bobbing naked in a lake was not it.

    “Solas,” she said, “I’ve been meaning to ask. I know you don’t always approve of the Dalish, but would you come with me, to meet my clan? Once all of this is done?”

    He bowed his head. “I would be honoured.”

    “Keeper Istimaethoriel would love to argue magical theory with you,” Venara said. “And I’m sure my father will want to pick your mind for as much of the Elvhen language as possible.”

    “And I’m sure Isena and Roshan will have plenty of embarrassing stories to tell me of your youth,” he said.

    “Oh no. Those are secret. You’ll never pry them out of them.”

    “Odd,” Solas said. “Considering that parents enjoy embarrassing their children, particularly at weddings or other such events.”

    Venara had swum closer to the shore, close enough to splash water at him. He got a face full of it, then turned to her, eyebrow raised, dripping wet.

    “That is a war you cannot win, vhenan.”

    “The children of Clan Lavellan are known for their agility in the water and their centuries-honed skills,” Venara challenged. “Try me.”

    Solas raised a hand and flicked his wrist. A wave of water rose up and crashed down upon her. She sputtered and dove forwards, resurfacing several feet away with a face full of hair. She swept the mane of brown hair aside and made a face.

    “Fenedhis! You cheat! This is a magic-less war!”

    “Oh, I beg pardon, my lady,” Solas said. “But you should have announced the rules of engagement before we began.”

    Venara shot more water at him. “Don’t make me pull you in here!”

    “If you’re going to make threats, vhenan, you should follow through on them!”

    Venara laughed and dove through the water, swimming towards the root upon which he was perched. Suddenly, she stopped short, remembering her distinct lack of clothes. She sunk into the water feet-first so that only her head bobbed above the surface.

    “On second thought…”

    “Don’t back out on me now,” Solas called, “this was your idea after all. What would Clan Lavellan think of their bravest daughter backing down from one of their greatest traditions?”

    Venara tried desperately not to flush. Solas hadn’t seen her clothes piled up neatly by the base of the tree—he probably thought she was wearing something in the water. What kind of Inquisitor allowed themselves to be caught skinny-dipping while they were technically on duty?

    “Oh no,” she said. “It’s just…” She paused. “I’m missing my home today.” That was true. Very true. “And I came here to swim, not—well… Not that I don’t want your company right now, I do very much, it’s just—”

    “I can go, vhenan,” he said, “if you wish to be alone with your thoughts. You need only say.”

    Venara wished she could slap herself on the forehead.

    She closed her eyes and took a breath.

    “Solas, stay, please,” she said. “I want you to stay. I’d rather be with you than in the company of my own thoughts.”

    “Then I’ll stay.”

    He remained perched on the root of the tree, calmly watching the sky and the water as Venara swam, feet dangling close to the water’s surface. As she finished a lap and swam back to him, he said, “I know how much you miss your clan, Venara. It is unfortunate that circumstances sought to take you away from them.”

    “Perhaps,” she said. “We don’t know what happened at the Conclave, but we know I somehow interfered with Corypheus. If I hadn’t been there…who knows what state Thedas would be in now?”

    She shuddered as she remembered the horrific, broken future she had seen with Dorian in Redcliffe, when Alexius had thrown them forwards in time. The world was physically falling apart, her friends either dead or under red lyrium’s spell…They had died for her, then. Solas had died for her. A future version of him, that was. She wouldn’t let that future have a chance to come to pass.

    Venara shut out the memories and looked up at Solas. “Do you miss your home?” she asked. It was the one thing they barely talked about. She felt she knew him as she knew herself, but there were still many, many things she did not know.

    He looked at her, the sad expression that had become so familiar to her flickering in his eyes.

    “Yes.”

    She held his gaze. “You never told me where you’re from.”

    “Far away and long lost to the ravages of uncontrolled magic,” Solas said. “But that is not a tale I am ready to tell, vhenan. Even to you.” He paused. “Nor is my homeland a conversation to be had when one of us is floating naked in a lake.”

    Fenedhis. Damn it. He had noticed.

    Venara flushed.

    “I am sorry,” he said. “It was inappropriate of me to mention it.”

    “What? No. Not at all.”

    “I’ve embarrassed you.”

    “Why would I be embarrassed? I’m not embarrassed. It’s not like you won’t see me this way some day—”

    Fenedhis! Damn it! Why did words suddenly fly out of her mouth before she knew what she was saying? Idiot, idiot, idiot—why was she like this? She could handle vastly advanced combat magic, discuss the politics of human nations with noble delegates (and hold her temper when they inadvertently insulted her origins), hold judgements for captured enemies, but this she could not do. She felt like a thirteen year old girl with how bumbling she was.

    “Vhenan,” Solas said, noting her inner panic, “I merely made an assumption that from your discarded clothing somewhere in that general vicinity, and from your caution about leaving the water, you were—”

    “I know! I know, you don’t have to say it!

    “I only meant that I wasn’t—I didn’t see—I mean, I wouldn’t—”

    “Yes—yes—yes, I know, I know what you mean!”

    Fenedhis. What a pair they made. Two bumbling, awkward fools.

    They caught each other’s eyes and for a moment, neither of them moved nor spoke. Above, birds sung and called, the wind blew and leaves whispered on the trees.

    And then there was laughter. Genuine laughter. Venara and Solas’ laughter broke the silence, startling more than one bird out of a tree and into the sky. Idiots, fools, maybe, but at least they on common ground.

    They were still laughing when Blackwall and Sera came tromping into view, thoroughly put out.

    “See, I told you, I thought I heard them over here—”

    “Look,” Blackwall said as he stomped towards the shore, “if you’re going to run off, my lady, you might as well tell us where you’re going. We almost ran into a Fade rift looking for you—”

    “I didn’t ask for you to come looking for me!”

    “What else are we supposed to do when our leader goes missing?” Blackwall snapped. “You’re invaluable, whether you like it or not—”

    “So you’re my self-appointed baby-sitter?”

    “No, but—”

    Twigs snapped. Cassandra and Varric appeared, both covered in dirt. They looked like they had run into some kind of skirmish.

    “Where is she?” Cassandra said. “Is she all right—”

    Blackwall pointed a gauntleted hand towards the lake. Venara slowly raised her hand and waved.

    Cassandra drew herself up to her full height. “My Lady Inquisitor!” she shouted. “You’re an idiot. Do you know how much worry you caused—”

    “She knows,” Blackwall growled. “I told her.”

    Cassandra sniffed. “That does not mean that I will not tell her as well.”

    “This should be pretty,” Varric said.

    Sera shrugged as Cassandra began yelling, repeating much of what Blackwall had already said, but with a certain Cassandra-ish emphasis. Sera drifted away and looked over at Solas. “What’ve you been doing, chump?”

    “That is not your concern,” he said.

    “Did you find her?”

    “She didn’t need to be found.”

    “Hey! Don’t use that language on me?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “That twisting thing you do with words that make it sound like we’re the idiots and she’s in the clear!” Sera waved her arms in Venara’s direction.

    Venara’s arms were growing tired from treading water and yelling back at Cassandra.

    “What if something had happened to you?” Cassandra shouted. “You’re far too important—”

    “I can take care of myself, Cassandra—”

    “I know that, and that is not the point—”

    “It is, my lady,” Blackwall said.

    “Don’t call me ‘my lady’ like I’m some daughter of a noble house,” Venara snapped.

    “You’re the Inquisitor,” Cassandra said. “That automatically makes you a noble in the eyes of the great houses, whether you—or-they—like it or not.”

    More snapping twigs. Dorian, Vivienne and Iron Bull appeared.

    “Oh, look!” Dorian said. “There she is!”

    “Good grief, what is she doing in there?” Vivienne said. “Did she fall in?”

    “Uh, I think she’s just taking a bath, ma’am,” Iron Bull said. “I think we should all turn away. Except maybe Solas.”

    “YES!” Venara shouted, her voice echoing loudly across the lake. If anyone else was in the area, they would hear her. “I AM THE INQUISITOR. An Inquisitor who just so happens to like swimming in lakes so she can deal with her very tumultuous thoughts. And this Inquisitor would very much like—”

    “Your personal safety is a priority, Inquisitor,” Cassandra said. “We cannot lose you. Without you—”

    “You can’t seal rifts, I know—”

    “—we would have no one to lead us against Adamant. We are in the middle of a campaign—”

    “Does anyone else think this has gone a little too far?” Sera said. “She gets it. Drop it.”

    Sera’s comment was lost in the bickering.

    “You are forgetting something vital,” Solas said. “And that is the Inquisitor’s autonomy. She has the right to go where she pleases, when she pleases, without notifying the entire camp of her whereabouts!”

    Cassandra scowled. “Leliana—”

    “Oh, of course Leliana always knows where everyone is,” Solas said. “I’m sure that’s how certain gossip gets spread throughout Skyhold and the Inquisition camps, is it not?”

    Cassandra flushed. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

    “I’m sure you don’t.”

    “The fact of the matter is,” Varric said calmly, “Venara ran off—”

    “I didn’t run off—!”

    “—we ran off looking for her, took some scrapes in the process, and now there’s still this hanging question about the Inquisitor’s personal safety.”

    “No one asked for your opinion, Varric,” Cassandra said.

    “Look, not to overlook the important of the Inquisitor’s scolding, but since she has been found, do you suppose we should all stop yelling now before we draw some unfortunate thing’s attention?” Dorian suggested.

    No one heard him. They had ceased to hear Venara, too. As her rag-tag group of friends—this random group of people who had sworn their lives to her and the Inquisition’s cause—descended into bickering and shouted themselves hoarse about what Venara should and should not do, Venara sighed and dunked her head under water. She loved them, but they could be such idiots sometimes.

    She resurfaced and wiped dripping water off her face. Taking a deep breath, she planted her feet on the murky lake floor, feet squishing in the mud, and walked out of the lake. Her companions fell silent, staring at her.

    “Do me a favour,” she said, water dripping off her body as she marched towards her clothes and gathered them up. “And remember that some things just aren’t worth arguing about.”

    And with that, she disappeared into the woods, stalking off back towards the camp.

    “Why didn’t you ask me?” Cole’s voice said. “I knew she was there all along.”




    ELVEN WORDS AND PHRASES
    Da’len—little one.
    Fenedhis—general curse, equivalent of “crap”.
     
  14. Sith-I-5

    Sith-I-5 Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 14, 2002
    Chapter 1.

    Well, that was fairly beautiful. The words that I was thinking for the last eight lines towards the end, so in that context, the last bit with the sparking staff and someone's hair alight - braining her with a bucket sounded a bit drastic but maybe elves are hardy - felt rushed.

    Pre-floating staff was a very easy read; many thanks for the lines between things.

    Excellent world building. A couple of names looked like LOTR ones with an 'h' inserted. Great elven language creations. Great people.

    I liked that her Dad did not do any of the expression comments. Great stuff.
     
  15. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Sith-I-5 Ehh, it was early days when I wasn't really taking this seriously and the fic was just supposed to be an exercise (it's completely different now). If I had the energy, I'd re-write the first three or four chapters, but I'm trying specifically not to edit my fanfic too much, otherwise I'd never get any of my professional writing done!

    In regards to the elven names sounding like elven names in Tolkien's mythos--yes, well, the Dragon Age elves are definitely inspired by Tolkien's elves, the major differences being that their magical society collapsed and now they're mortal and at the bottom of the racial hierarchy and get stomped on a lot by humans. There are a lot of "h"s in Dragon Age's elven (Elvhen, Elvhenan, vhenan, Ghilan, sahim, etc)--I imagine it has something to do with the cypher David Gaider mentioned the devs use to create the language in-game!

    Thanks for reading! :)

    ***

    I should at this point mention that there is a lightly more mature version of this story (mostly it's just the characters are using more non-TOS-compliant language, but there's more mature content there as well) on my ff.net/AO3 account. This chapter has been edited slightly.




    CHAPTER VIII
    In the Night

    The sands whispered in the dark of the night, blown from dune to dune by endless breezes. Sandstorms were not uncommon in this part of Thedas, and, consequently, Venara and her companions had found shelter for the night in a ribbon of bulbous volcanic rock that zig-zagged its way through the desert. It was this outcropping that Venara now climbed, determined to reach the top. Most of her companions had retired for the night; only Dorian and Iron Bull remained by the fire, too deep in conversation to notice their Inquisitor scaling the rock face above.

    It was hard work. Reach—pull—reach—pull. She was often unable to find a good handhold and would wind up awkwardly pressed against the rock while she searched for somewhere for her fingers to grip. She could have chosen to walk all the way to the end of the ridge and then up the side of the dune, but she preferred the challenge of the climb. The physical exertion was good for her restlessness.

    And she was restless.

    They were deep into the Western Approach now, a day or so away from the main camp. Cassandra had decided to brave the unforgiving landscape and rode on ahead to inform Cullen of their approach. As soon as Venara arrived, they would put their plan to lay siege to Adamant into motion.

    “Fenedhis!”

    Venara slipped, but caught herself before she fell. Her shoulders complained about the sudden, unexpected drop, but she gritted her teeth and continued the climb.

    She was eager to get to Adamant. Corypheus had control of most of the Grey Wardens, a control she had to break. Unlike the incident with the rebel mages at Redcliffe (whose cause she empathized, but ultimately did not understand—the politics of humans sometimes went over her head), the Grey Wardens hurt her on a person level. The greatest hero of their age, the woman who had slain the archdemon and stopped the Blight ten years ago, was Dalish. When Keeper Istimaethoriel had brought Venara to the last Arlathvhen, she had met the fearsome warrior. Alorien Mahariel was stern and foreboding, particularly as she carried a giant greatsword that looked like it could cleave mountains in half. Through her position as the Hero of Fereldan, she had brought much needed respect to the Dalish. Because of her, Venara had once seen the Wardens as mighty heroes to be revered and respected, a belief that had lasted until the moment Venara had seen for herself how the order had been corrupted by Corypheus. She hadn’t believed Leliana’s suspicions about something mysterious occurring—hell, she had even convinced a young elven woman she met in Crestwood to join the order.

    And Mahariel… Mahariel had disappeared. Whatever reverence Thedas still felt for Mahariel would be shredded by the Wardens and their demon army.

    Venara reached the top of the outcropping and pulled herself up. She slithered forwards on her stomach, making a face as sand fell uncomfortably down the front of her shirt, pulling herself along until only her legs dangled over the ledge. She flipped over and sat up, brushing off sand.

    She was right. The view was worth the effort.

    It was unlike anything she had ever seen, as Dalish clans seldom travelled through such places. What was ugly and brazen and hostile by day was cool and serene by night. There was a haunting beauty to the vastness of the land beyond. It was mostly flat, but she could see the rises where rock outcroppings like this one pushed their way out of the dunes. The moon hung low in the sky, shining bright and silver among the stars, larger and brighter than Venara had ever seen it.

    It was disturbingly still. The land was dead, scarred, cracked and ruined. It would be like this until the world ended.

    “It was a forest once. Home to some of the greatest and proudest trees to take root in Thedas.”

    Light footsteps on the sand. Venara didn’t have to turn around to know he was there. Solas put a hand on her shoulder as she continued to gaze out at the wastes. She covered his hand with hers.

    “How did you know what I was thinking?” she asked quietly.

    “A lucky guess,” he said.

    “You know me too well.”

    “I hope that’s not a complaint.”

    “Don’t worry. It’s not.” She smiled faintly. “Tell me about the trees.”

    “They stretched far higher and far wider than those of other woods,” he said. “When folk walked among them, they felt protected. And if they took an axe to the wood, they would feel threatened. The forest was sentient and it harshly judged the actions of the guests it sheltered.”

    “And then the darkspawn came,” Venara said. “The Second Blight. They destroyed the land.”

    “It was already broken by then, but the Blight was the final blow,” Solas said. “The trees withered and died, or were cut and torn, becoming ash in darkspawn forges. Its nature turned from its purpose, the land died.”

    Venara squeezed his hand. “There are trees that live here now,” she said. “Plants that grow in arid wastes. It’s a struggle for survival, but life can return.”

    “From some desolations, there is no return. There is no recovery. This land is one of them, I fear.”

    “It’s still beautiful.”

    Where else could the moon shine so brightly?

    “Beautiful,” he said. “And dead.”

    She looked up at him, an eyebrow raised. “Well, aren’t you the romantic.”

    He smiled and sat down beside her. She leaned against him, drinking in his warmth. “How did you get up here?” she asked.

    “Oh, I have my ways.”

    Venara snorted. “Is there some kind of ancient elven teleportation magic I’m unaware of?” A Fade Step could only carry you so far.

    “No,” he said. “I walked.” He put an arm around her shoulders and drew her closer. “Why come up here?”

    “I wanted to see,” Venara said. “These lands, these places we travel through…” She exhaled. How to explain it? “I want to remember them as they are, regardless of how desolate. These lands, the memories they hold—they deserve to be remembered.”

    He looked down at her, lips pressed together in concern. “You’re worried.”

    “I’m fine.”

    “You’ve never been this worried—”

    She glared at him. She didn’t need reminding of her anticipation about the upcoming siege. “That’s the problem with forced marches,” she said. “It’s a long way from Skyhold and I’ve had little to do but think, when I’m not running around closing stray Fade rifts.”

    “You’ll stop Erimond,” he said. “You’ll bring the Grey Wardens to their senses.”

    “Such faith!”

    “Faith, especially faith in one’s own capabilities, is more powerful than you give it credit.”

    “There’s a battle coming, Solas,” Venara said. “I may die. And if I do, I’d like to die knowing what it was for. This—” she nodded at the vast desert landscape—“reminds me. It’s not just the people we’ll lose if Corypheus wins. It’s the very land itself. I saw what happened in that future—the Breach was everywhere. It was all…broken.”

    “He will never succeed,” Solas said. “Your spirit is stronger than his, like a beacon, whereas his is weak, corrupted. He is powerful, but so are you. You grow stronger with each passing day. And you have something that he does not.”

    “What?”

    “Love, vhenan,” he said softly. “You love this world, even with all its flaws. You care about its very soul, whereas Corypheus would see it torn apart in pursuit of his goal. You fight for a cause greater than Corypheus can imagine. Where he seeks to destroy, you seek to protect. It is much easier to set the forest aflame than it is to put it out.”

    His eyes sought hers and she held his gaze, her fear and anticipation melting away. A calmness she had not felt for days washed over her. She kissed him then, pressing her lips to his with a fervour she did not expect.

    “Ma serannas,” she murmured, kissing him again. “Ma serannas.”

    He pulled away, brushing a loose lock of hair behind her ear. “Besides,” he said, “not only does he have you opposing him, but he has us to contend with.”

    “An ancient Tevinter magister defeated by a pair of elves?” Venara said. “The historians will have a field day.”

    “They do enjoy their dramatically satisfying endings,” Solas said. “Some are worse than Varric in that regard.”

    The wind whispered, blowing sand in narrow, rolling streams across the dunes. Below, Venara spotted Iron Bull standing up from the fire. He stretched, then said something to Dorian. Dorian laughed and pulled Bull in for a kiss. Venara looked away, offering her friends privacy. They didn’t know she had an eagle eye on them. She smiled—she’d suspected something had been happening between them. Seems they were acting on it.

    Venara shivered and pressed herself closer to Solas. He was very warm—she had been intending to ask him about the spell he used, but hadn’t done it yet. Inferno magic was not her forte.

    Besides, she had something else she wished to ask him. She’d been thinking about it for days, forming and re-forming the words in her head until she knew they were what she wanted to say. If she loved him, it was time for her to trust him.

    It was time for a leap of faith.

    So she stood and held out her hand to him. “Solas?” she said. Then she spoke in hesitant Elven. “Ar nuvena somniar min’nydha. Tamahn sulrahn ar nadas av’ahna ma, ar te’elan si ra amahn.”

    He nodded and took her hand. Together, they walked the slow route back down to the camp.

    ***​

    Her sparse tent (which held only a bed roll and a collection of blankets) was not comfortable, but that hardly mattered. They would soon not feel the cold or the hardness of the sand and stone beneath them. Venara lay in his arms, as she had done for many nights before, eyes closed—listening to his steady breath, feeling the pounding of his heart.

    It took her time to find her way, as it always did—lucid dreaming could be difficult to control, particularly if one wanted to find a specific place. The Fade twisted and churned, multiple variations of reality pressing up against each other, fighting for control. There was only one place Venara sought, and she was in control of it. Once she found it, she dismissed the others, blocking them from intruding upon the place she now wove from memory.

    A forest glade. It was rich in green from nourishing rainfall, though in the “day” she created there was no rain, only a clear azure sky and a golden sun. The grass was long and soft, dotted with wild white flowers. The woods sung with the song of birds and animals. Not far away, a brook babbled as it tumbled down a rocky incline.

    She laid a rich scarlet blanket on the ground in the centre of the glade, strewing it with pillows. If this was not the Fade, she would have laid a feast nearby, but she knew neither of them would wish to eat here. She had seen scenes like this countless times as a youth, though they had never been directed at her.

    She did away with her dirty, blood and sweat-stained Inquisition uniform, replacing it with a simple green dress trimmed with gold embroidery. Her mother had made one like this for her once—she hadn’t thought to bring it on her mission to the Divine Conclave. She missed wearing dresses, she felt so normal when clad in one. Like herself. She didn’t have any at Skyhold—her wardrobe had been carefully selected to reflect the nature and practicalities of her station.

    She braided her hair—half up, half down—and made it as intricate as her imagination would allow. Something special. Just for her.

    It took her seconds to form it all as she’d had the image of this moment in her head since the day she had walked naked out of the lake to make a point. And so there was nothing else to do but to sit on the blanket and wait for him.

    He came, and when he did, he looked around the glade, astonished by the details of her creation.

    “What is this place, vhenan?” Solas asked.

    “A glade near Wycome,” Venara replied. She stepped off the blanket and onto the grass, walking gently around the glade. “Lands my clan regularly travel. My home.” She looked up at the sky. “This is summer.”

    “Venara, this is beautiful. Your home is beautiful.” He gazed at her, taking in how she looked in a dress. “As are you.”

    “Sweet talker,” she said. “It’s the Fade. It can be whatever you want it to be.”

    He raised an eyebrow. “Are you… quoting me? At me?”

    She grinned and nodded.

    He laughed and closed the distance between them, taking her in his arms and kissing her. Her body felt electric. Whether it was the Fade or her heightened senses, she somehow took in much more of him—his scent, his touch, his lips furiously pressed to hers, the feel of his hands on her back. Gone was the hesitance he usually displayed, replaced by an assuredness he had rarely exhibited before. He wasn’t forceful—he was never forceful—but there was an energy about him that was… different. And she liked it very, very much.

    Feeling breathless, she pulled away, collapsing into his chest.

    “You don’t kiss me like that at Skyhold,” she said.

    “Do you want me to?” He paused. “I know you’re uncertain of where your boundaries are, vhenan, and I wish to respect them—”

    She raised a hand gently to his lips. “You can kiss me like that,” she said. “I want you to kiss me like that.”

    And so he did. He kissed her fiercely, hands pressed to the curves of her body. He lifted her up, supporting her weight as she wrapped her legs around his waist. She parted her lips and deepened the kiss as he carried her to the blanket and gently put her down. They tumbled into soft fabric and she landed beneath him. His weight pressed into her, but not uncomfortably so—she was much more distracted by the feel of his body on hers. Her heart was racing. She didn’t want this moment to end—

    Solas froze. He moved away, cheeks flushed, and sat beside her.

    “I imagine that this is what you wanted to discuss,” he said.

    Venara pushed herself up, her tousled hair falling over one shoulder. “I don’t want to push you, Solas.”

    “Nor I you.”

    “Then…?”

    He looked at her. “This is not a good idea, vhenan. Even in the Fade.” He gazed up at the sky and its pale blue. She had made it that way.

    “That is precisely why I brought us here,” Venara said. “Where things are easiest. For us both.”

    In the place where it’s right.

    He brushed her loose hair back. “I know,” he said softly. “But what you are asking for, I am uncertain if I can give it. There are—”

    “Considerations?” she interrupted. “If you don’t want to sleep with me, Solas, you need only say—”

    “I love you, Venara,” he said fiercely. “It is not that I don’t want to, believe me. It’s that I don’t know if I can until you know the truth. There are secrets you don’t know.”

    She grasped his hands. “Then tell me.”

    “I can’t. I am not… prepared to do so. This secret may be the one truth I can never tell. And there should be no secrets between us.”

    “Everyone has secrets,” Venara said. “It’s impossible to completely know another person.”

    He shook his head, eyes lowered. “I don’t want to hurt you. I never want to see you in pain again.”

    She gently pressed a hand to his cheek and turned his face towards her. “I told you once,” she said, “that I was willing to take a risk if you were. And you said yes. We may shatter and fall and burn among the stars, but it’s better to take that risk than to let a possibility fall away.”

    “I don’t want to lose you,” he said. “But there are others more worthy of you than I—”

    “Stop,” she said. “I don’t want them. I want you. And you will never lose me.” Their hands were laced tightly together, their faces so close that they could feel each other’s breath. “I know this isn’t easy for you, Solas. What can I do to help?”

    By his expression, she knew he was doing that thing again, where he disappeared, as if lost in thought, to another world. She waited, patiently, for they had all the time they could need, here in the Fade. When he came back to her, there was a fierceness about him she did not expect.

    “Tell me that this is truly what you want,” he said.

    “It is.”

    “Then I will take this risk with you, if you are—”

    “Stop asking me if I’m certain,” she said. “I am. I am, I am, I am.”

    He kissed her, holding her close, one hand tangled in her hair, the other pressing against her lower back. Her lips parted and she kissed him deeply. Her hands ran down his back, feeling the strong, lean muscles beneath the rough wool of his clothing. Her body trembled.

    “Venara—” He pulled away. “What’s wrong? You’re shaking.”

    “It’s nothing.” She found herself pressing against him, head in his shoulder. “Nothing’s wrong.” The words came out muffled.

    “It doesn’t seem that way to me,” he said gently. “Tell me.”

    “I’ve—I’ve never—” The words caught in her throat. She took a breath and began again. “For so many years,” she said, “I thought I would be alone. That I could be nothing but undesirable. There were so many in my clan who said they wanted me as I was, but there was such a rush. And they never wanted me as I was.” She paused. “I’ve never been with someone,” she said. “Not a soul.”

    “Oh, Venara… I didn’t know.”

    “How could you? I never told you. It’s not something you share after you reach a certain age. You become an embarrassment.” She met his eyes and smiled faintly. “You waited for me. You waited for me to realize that I do want this. Thank you.”

    She kissed him.

    “Ar lath ma,” she breathed.

    She hadn’t said it before, though she had known for a long time that it was true. He swept her up into a fervent embrace. He kissed her fully, soundly. She felt his hands undoing the clasp of her dress, just as she tugged at the hem of his tunic. He broke the kiss, stepped back so she could pull the tunic off over his head. She gazed at him, marveling at him, and pressed a hand to his chest, which was now bare save for the wolf jawbone pendant he always wore. Then she smiled and reached back, loosening the laces that held the back of her dress shut. Taking a breath, she let the dress drop to the ground.

    The sun was warm on her skin, and she felt even warmer as she saw him look at her—truly look at her. He took in every curve, every scar, her full vallaslin—the golden tattoos that raced down her arms and back and legs.

    Earlier, she would have been terrified. Earlier, she would never have put herself in such a vulnerable place. But when she was with him, she didn’t feel vulnerable. She felt safe. She was his. And he was hers.

    He pulled her close, and she fell into his embrace. Catching his mouth with hers, she slowly pushed him down into the pillows that were strewn across the blanket, marvelling at the electric feel of his skin on hers.

    Though she had never done the deed, she had heard enough about the sexual escapades of certain members of her clan and the Inquisition to know what to do. And, of course, Cassandra’s erotic novels had helped spark her imagination.

    “This is quite the dream, vhenan,” he said.

    “The very best,” she replied, kissing him softly.

    This would be a night forever imprinted on her memory.




    ELVEN WORDS AND PHRASES
    “Ar nuvena somniar min’nydha. Tamahn sulrahn ar nadas av’ahna ma, ar te’elan si ra amahn.”—I want to dream tonight. There’s something I must ask you, but I cannot do it here.
    Ar lath ma—I love you.
    Fenedhis—general curse, “crap”.
    Ma serannas—my thanks/thank you.
     
  16. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    She had set a bush on fire. And then another, and another, and another, until she was running around, flapping her arms uselessly, puffs of flame spitting from her fingers until some thoughtful parent saw her and dumped a bucket of water on her head, and then a second one for good measure—well. There really was no point in repeating the rest of the story, now, was there?

    [face_laugh][face_laugh] Oh, sweetie. :p That story was just so very endearing - once again I like, for all that the plot of this story could be very dark for the challenges they are facing/the odds they are up against, there are some jaw-achingly adorable and funny moments like this to balance it out. Perhaps this is one of the stories Solas can wrangle from her clan when he visits. [face_mischief]

    The flashback with her learning magic was awesome. I loved the child-like innocence with wanting all the races to know magic, and questioning the Veil's place. And, hey, I learned a lot too while reading. So there's that.

    And Solas! [face_love] How they could go back and forth from these real, beautiful moments of shared empathy and mutual feeling to playing in the water like complete and utter dorks just made my morning. I kept on looking for things to quote, but my selections were growing too long. So I'll just tell you that that entire interlude was just fantastic.

    “That twisting thing you do with words that make it sound like we’re the idiots and she’s in the clear!” Sera waved her arms in Venara’s direction.

    Ask an elf no questions, for they will answer you neither yes nor no! [face_laugh] I get a kick every time Sera opens her mouth, really. Oh, and her friends were truly priceless here! This whole group is a hoot. :p

    “Why didn’t you ask me?” Cole’s voice said. “I knew she was there all along.”

    [face_laugh] Quite possibly the best closing line for a chapter, in my personal opinion. The comedic punch of that was perfect. [face_laugh]

    The next update was equally beautiful. The barren beauty of the land, Solas remembering what the forest was like before - your prose was especially lovely in this segment, and I could have quoted every other line again. You set a great atmosphere, and reflecting on what was lost and what they stand to gain, or lose even more so, really made this passage:

    “He will never succeed,” Solas said. “Your spirit is stronger than his, like a beacon, whereas his is weak, corrupted. He is powerful, but so are you. You grow stronger with each passing day. And you have something that he does not.”

    “What?”

    “Love, vhenan,” he said softly. “You love this world, even with all its flaws. You care about its very soul, whereas Corypheus would see it torn apart in pursuit of his goal. You fight for a cause greater than Corypheus can imagine. Where he seeks to destroy, you seek to protect. It is much easier to set the forest aflame than it is to put it out.”

    - pack even more of a punch.

    That was beautiful. It's the classic good vs. evil matchup, in its purest sense, but the power of that truth, and the strength that such faith - faith, I loved that line too - inspires was lovely to read about here. [face_love]

    That, and Solas always seems to knows just what to say. :p [face_love] Seriously, one smooth talker!

    And then their night in the Fade! Her home and the comfort of their surroundings; him being so, so endearing; their growing closer as a couple with this step - yep, another wonderful bend in their path, and I enjoyed every word of it. I'm glad that this story has turned so long for you, I am eager to read more of it! [face_love]

    =D==D=
     
    Idrelle_Miocovani likes this.
  17. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    I. In the Eye of Youth
    I'm not familiar with Dragon Age, but I'm enjoying this story! Love how you begin with the meaning of her name - both its literal meaning, and it being symbolic of change. Very lovely writing throughout, I especially like this line: Isena’s hand was deeply callused, from years of plucking at both lute and bow strings. Venara’s was smooth—undamaged, untested.

    So far I've just read the first chapter. I'm a slow reader, but I will try to catch up!
     
  18. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    I try to balance out my fiction as much as I can, especially since I enjoy writing stories that get pretty dark and I kill off a lot of people (my partner made a joke the other day about how the ONE comedy I wrote featured characters bickering in the afterlife). As dark and serious as things get, there's always a place for more humorous things, I think.

    Maybe. :p

    Cole is the best. Never doubt a compassion spirit. They know things.

    Doesn't help that his voice actor is Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones from Torchwood, which is something I find SO funny, I don't know why, help).

    Thank you, my dear! It's been a while since I've written a true romance scene (I mean... one that doesn't involve 18th century pirates yelling and swearing and attacking each other with guns and swords), so it was pretty refreshing to write. And I'm kind of nervous about the story growing to be so long (the entire thing will be around 36 chapters long, so I have a long way to go still), especially considering my last long fic never got completed. But thank you so much for your comments! [face_love] [:D]

    Thank you so much for reading! [:D] I try to write things so they make sense to readers not necessarily familiar with the game's world and storyline, but if you ever feel like you need clarification about something, let me know. :)
     
  19. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    CHAPTER IX
    Before the Fall

    Venara arrived at the Inquisition camp in a flurry of sand and dust. She threw herself out of the saddle, patted her horse on the side, and marched directly to the command tent. Cullen waited for her, holding the tent flap open.

    “Inquisitor! You’re later than expected.”

    “Yes, well, there were some unexpected Fade rifts.”

    Venara ducked into the tent, brushing sand off her shoulders. They had been caught in a surprise dust storm on the final leg of the journey—in between destroying Fade rifts. She was really starting to hate the Western Approach. Trying to rid herself of her irritable thoughts, she picked up a jug of water from a table by the entrance and poured herself a glass. She downed it and poured another, taking the moment of reprieve to quickly glance around the command tent.

    Several lamps had been lit, basking the space in a low red, light. A war table with a large map of Adamant Fortress and the surrounding area had been set in the centre. There were three people here. Leliana leaned against the table, her hood customarily pulled over her hair so her face was cast in shadow. A stack of reports lay by her right hand. Her sharp eyes glanced at the top most one every so often.

    The Grey Warden, Alistair Theirin, stood opposite her. Venara had met him three times—once in Crestwood, once at an ancient ritual tower in the desert, and once at Skyhold. For a man who carried the burden of a legend, he seemed so…normal. And strangely carefree. The opposite of his wife, Alorien Mahariel, although he had once insisted that she had a secret sense of humour. There were so many questions Venara wanted to ask him about the Fifth Blight, but she held her tongue. Alistair had suffered greatly when he grew suspicious of the wardens and split from the order in order to investigate. The Calling pulled at him, just as it pulled at all wardens—only great focus allowed him to resist it.

    Though Venara wasn’t entirely sure how this man could have great focus. He was quipping one moment, making jokes the next, and his occasional moments of seriousness were coated with sarcasm. He even managed to break Leliana’s impassive expression, a feat Venara thought impossible. Though, of course, she and Alistair had been Mahariel’s comrades during the Blight.

    At the end of the war table, sitting in a large-backed chair with her arms folded and her right foot resting on her left knee, was Lorenna Hawke. She gazed darkly at the map, her lips pursed, one hand poised as if about to reach back behind the chair and grab her staff. Occasionally a lock of red hair fell across her eyes and she blew it back into place with a puff of air.

    Venara didn’t know what to make of Hawke. The Champion of Kirkwall was very different in the flesh from her description in Varric’s book. She was cold, her sharp wit edged with an iciness Varric had, perhaps, purposefully left out. She was, at best, a difficult woman to get along with.

    Hawke had spent very little time at Skyhold, possibly out of a desire to avoid Cassandra and Leliana. Venara knew that prior to the explosion, the two had sought Hawke to be the leader of the Inquisition. Hawke had pointedly ignored the call. Saving Kirkwall, possibly the most strife-stricken city in the world, had been enough for her—did she have to save the damn world as well?

    Maybe she didn’t. She’d been caught up in this mess despite her attempts to avoid it.

    Still, Venara could not help but wonder what would have happened if Hawke had agreed to be named Inquisitor.

    “How is Mister Schmooples?”

    “Just Schmooples, Alistair.” Leliana didn’t look up from the table. “He’s dead.”

    “Oh…that’s too bad. Alorien liked him.”

    “Well, there’s Boulette and Schmooples II now.”

    “He had offspring?! How cute.”

    “She,” Leliana corrected.

    Alistair shrugged. “Still cute.”

    Hawke slammed her feet on the floor and stood. “While this is all very interesting,” she said, coming to stand by the end of the war table, “unless Schmooples the Nug is going to lay siege to those walls, can we get on with it?”

    Alistair eyed her. “Touchy.”

    “On edge, Alistair,” Hawke said. “It’s called being on edge. There’s a whole lot of blood magic happening in that fortress.”

    Cullen folded his arms. “I suppose this isn’t the time to point out that you were once a blood mage, Champion.”

    “Oh right,” Hawke said, nostrils flaring. “You’re here.”

    “I am.”

    “Then you can politely bugger off about my past,” Hawke said. “Unless it’s to remind everyone that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to blood magic.”

    Venara glanced at Cullen, who seemed distinctly uncomfortable with Hawke’s presence. She hadn’t known Hawke had once practiced blood magic.

    “Tell me what you know,” Venara said, hoping her interruption would diffuse the growing tensions in the room.

    “Our armies are station and waiting for command,” Cullen said. “There has been no movement from within the walls—”

    Hawke snorted.

    “—as far as our scouts can tell.”

    “No movement?” Hawke said incredulously. “The sky lights up every night! That ritual we witnessed—Erimond’s conducting more. Soon all the Warden mages will either be dead or under Erimond’s command.”

    “We can’t be certain that is the nature behind the lights—”

    “Don’t argue with me, Cullen.”

    “All magic releases some kind of energy,” he continued. “There could be another reason, which is why we should scout the situation before—”

    “They’re raising demons,” Hawke said. “They sacrifice some poor raw recruit and draw a demon in. That’s the source of your lights. I know it, Alistair knows it, your Inquisitor knows it. And as a templar, you should know it.”

    Cullen flushed. “I’m no longer a templar, Hawke.”

    “Wonderful. So that means you’re even more of an incompetent bastard than I thought.”

    Cullen slammed a fist down on the table. “Look, you—”

    “Enough!” Leliana shouted. “Let’s put aside our personal vendettas for the moment and remember where we are.”

    Hawke glared at Cullen.

    Cullen glared at Hawke.

    Both looked away.

    “Fine,” they said.

    “As long as she behaves,” Cullen said.

    “I will if he will,” Hawke shot back.

    “Maker’s breath,” Alistair said, “you do realize you sound like children? And I thought Leliana and I were bad!”

    “Don’t push your luck, Alistair,” Leliana said. “Remember, I’ve seen you naked.”

    Alistair turned red. He coughed awkwardly as Cullen, Hawke and Venara looked at him, eyebrows raised. “I’ve tried to forget about that, to be honest,” he muttered. “Well. Um. Shall we discuss the—er—” He ran a hand through his sandy-blonde hair. “—the battle tactics?”

    “There’s not much else to say,” Cullen said. “Once Inquisitor Lavellan gives the order, our troops march.” He jabbed a finger at the map. “The trebuchets must be protected at all costs until the walls are breached. Without them, we have no chance of taking the fortress.”

    “Ask Cassandra to oversee the trebuchets,” Venara said. “Nothing will get past her.”

    Cullen nodded. “Once the gates are breached, Lavellan and her team will strike deep into the fortress and find Erimond and the Warden-Commander. Our troops will provide the cover she needs.”

    “And who’s to be in this team?” Hawke asked.

    “Solas and Sera,” Venara said immediately. “And Blackwall. His position as a Warden may help sway some of them to our side.”

    “I’ll go with you,” Alistair said. “You can use another sword at your side. Besides, I want to have a good talk with Warden-Commander Clarel.”

    “Hawke should join the battalion scaling the walls,” Leliana said. “They will need the protection a mage can provide.”

    Hawke nodded. “Providing I can join you when you face Erimond. I owe that bastard a punch in the face.”

    “Done,” Venara said. “Ask Iron Bull and Cole to join the troops on the ground, Varric can aide the archers, but we may want to use his particular skills at choke points once we get through the walls.” She paused, thinking. “Give Vivienne and Dorian command of the rebel mages who joined the army. We’ll need their help to cover a retreat if the siege turns foul.”

    Cullen nodded.

    “There is another concern, Inquisitor,” Leliana said. “I must speak for Josephine, as she is not here.” She glanced at Cullen. “I would caution against attacking Adamant outright—”

    “This is no time for political games, Leliana!” Cullen growled.

    “Battles are fleeting, Commander,” Leliana said. “Political games, as you say, are not. How we approach Adamant is just as crucial as laying siege to it. How we accomplish this task could shape the future of the Inquisition. Already we are on dangerous ground. By marching an army through Orlesian territory, we have welcomed heavy scrutiny of our every military move. We can bring the Wardens to hell and still lose whatever political favours we have painstakingly gained.”

    “The Wardens aren’t a political force,” Alistair said.

    “Oh? And are you not welcomed into any city and any court, from Orzammar to the Dalish clans to Minrathous and Antiva City and Denerim? All on account of being a Warden, no?” Leliana looked to the map, her fingers tapping along its edge. “We know the truth of the Wardens, but the rest of Thedas does not. Ten years is not long enough to forget a Blight.” She glanced at Alistair. “Nor who brought about its end.”

    Alistair shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

    “It’s true,” Hawke said. “There are many who still look favourably upon the Wardens. If the Inquisition attacks, apparently without provocation—”

    “What are you saying?” Cullen said. “We didn’t march our army across Orlais simply to turn around and go home—”

    “No,” Leliana interrupted. “And we won’t turn around. I am merely saying we must observe the formalities of war.”

    “Ah,” Cullen said. “You want to negotiate a truce.”

    “I want to at least have some semblance of negotiating a truce.”

    “And what good will that do?” Hawke said. “They will never listen.”

    “Leliana,” Venara said, “this isn’t a situation we can negotiate—”

    “No,” Leliana said. “But we must at least put in the appearance of one. People will see. People will whisper. People will know that we did not merely come here to wage a war.”

    “So what do you want me to do?” Venara said hotly. “Challenge Erimond and Clarel to single combat?”

    “If you want,” Leliana said. “I doubt they will agree. I merely want you to talk to them.”

    “Yes,” Alistair said, “and maybe you can bring a surprise lightning bolt down on Erimond’s head, that’ll solve half your problems!”

    “Disregard Alistair’s advice,” Leliana said flatly. “Like usual, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

    “Oww,” Alistair said.

    “Though if Clarel is there,” Leliana said, “you must try to speak to her. Divulge Erimond’s true nature. It’s possible she’s not aware of his true plan. She may turn on him. This battle will turn be bloody otherwise. You could save countless lives—not all of these Wardens deserve to die.”

    Venara pushed her loose hair back behind her ears. “All right,” she said. “We call for a truce. Then what?”

    “Then…we wage a war.”

    Venara nodded. “Have your people send Erimond and Clarel a message. We meet them now.”

    She took a breath, her eyes lingered on the map. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing up.

    She had a very bad feeling about this.

    ***​

    They rode out, their horses’ hooves churning the sand as they galloped towards the looming fortress. Venara led the way, flanked by Alistair and Hawke. Cullen rode behind, with Blackwall and Solas. Two pennants fluttered high in the cloudless blue sky: the Inquisition flag and a white banner.

    “I hope you’re ready for this,” Alistair said.

    “I am,” Venara replied firmly.

    “Good to see you’ve got more confidence than I did when I was starting out,” he said. “I almost wet myself at Ostagar.”

    “It comes with the job.”

    “What? Being the sole saviour of the world?” Alistair smiled and shook his head. “Ar eolasan ga’o mah, lethallan. Ra’s uglaer.”

    “Ma dirtha Elvhena?!”

    “A little bit here, a little bit there,” Alistair said. “Comes with the territory when your wife’s Dalish.”

    Venara looked ahead to the fortress. Its walls shone brightly in the midday sun.

    “You don’t think she could be in there,” Venara said.

    “No,” he said. “Alorien’s on an important mission. Her silence doesn’t mean she’s been swept up in all this. She’s too smart for that. And stronger than the lot of them put together.”

    “I know. I met her once.”

    “You did?” He chuckled. “Isn’t Thedas such a strangely small place? Some years ago it seemed like everyone was in Kirkwall, for one reason or another.”

    “Is that how you know Hawke?”

    “Yeah. I…helped her with a situation. Didn’t do as good a job of it as I should have.” He winced. “Wardens are supposed to be neutral parties to political feuds. Gets in the way of your personal morals sometimes.”

    “And Cullen?”

    “Ah, no. I met him earlier. In Fereldan. During the Blight.” Alistair paused. “He’s changed a lot, that one. Different man each time I run into him.”

    Hawke snorted.

    “And what exactly is your issue with my commander, Lorenna?” Venara asked.

    “Long story,” Hawke said. “Which ends with me punching him in the face—while wearing a gauntlet. If you’ve ever wondered how he got that scar on his lip, that’s how, and don’t believe whatever tripe he tells you.” She paused. “Short answer is I don’t have much patients for idiots. Especially idiots who get walked all over by tyrants sitting in commands that don’t belong to them.” She eyed Venara. “Don’t worry, I don’t mean you. You’re good. You’ve got something going for you, Inquisitor.”

    They fell silent as they rode up to the fortress. Venara reigned in her horse and stared up at the imposing walls. She could almost feel the heat reflecting off the great iron gates. The battlements above were empty. Silent. If she didn’t know better, she would have thought the fortress was abandoned.

    “We are from the Inquisition!” she called. “We come under the white flag to speak to the ones who man this fortress!”

    No answer. The wind swept sand along the dunes.

    “Maybe they won’t come,” Cullen said.

    “They will,” Hawke said. “I somehow get the sense Erimond can’t resist a show.”

    Venara wet her lips. “An army stands beyond your walls!” she shouted. “You do not have to suffer an attack! Send Erimond and the Warden-Commander to parlay with us!”

    Silence.

    “Well, then,” Alistair said. “So much for that.”

    Venara scowled. She turned back to the walls, this time raising her left hand, willing it to glow. Green light burst forth from the mark and swirled about her.

    “I am Inquisitor Lavellan!” she cried. “And I demand to speak to the leaders of those within your walls! I do not wish bloodshed upon your people—”

    Clang. With the heavy grind of metal on metal, the gates opened. Two figures rode out.

    “Then why,” one of them said silkily, “did you come here, all dressed up and with an army? Seems like you want a war, little pretender.”

    “Erimond,” Hawke snarled.

    The Venatori mage looked almost the same as he did the last time Venara had seen him. He had tried to kill her then, and failed—rather spectacularly, she might add. He had tried to control the anchor and it had backlashed severely, tossing him about like a rag doll. But Erimond rode proudly now, his back straight, his head held high, seated on a massive black stallion. His black hair was slicked back, his golden armour glinted in the desert sun, his white cloak nearly blinded them as he approached. On anyone else, it may have looked impressive, but on him it looked…seedy. That was probably thanks to his permanent sneer and curled lip.

    The woman who accompanied him was much more subdued. She was an older woman with a shaved head, clad in Grey Warden armour. Her face was marked with lines and a few scars. She rode with steely determination, and Venara knew this was a woman who stood by her decisions and her belief that she was doing the right thing, no matter the consequences. This had to be Warden-Commander Clarel de Chanson.

    “I must admit, Inquisitor,” Erimond said as he rode to a stop some feet away. “I expected you much earlier.”

    “Sorry to disappoint.”

    “It’s all very unfortunate for you,” Erimond continued. “If you hadn’t insisted on marching your army all the way here, I might have thought to be more lenient. But as things stand, the Grey Wardens refuse to negotiate with corrupt political pretenders insistent on waging a holy war.”

    “This war isn’t holy,” Venara said flatly. “And you’re not one to talk about my army, when you have an army of demons sitting on the Orlesian border—”

    “Is that what you see?” Erimond snapped. “Demons? Or the very kind of army—the only kind of army that can descend into the Deep Roads and wipe out the remaining Old Gods, thus eradicating future Blights?”

    “You’re mad,” Solas said. “Do you realize the chaos that would unleash?”

    “I don’t deign to speak to elven servants,” Erimond said.

    “Warden-Commander!” Alistair shouted, trying to draw Clarel’s attention. “How can you listen to this drivel? Cor—”

    “Alistair,” Clarel breathed. “Traitor. So this is where you ran to? Will you now see your brothers and sisters slain?”

    “I’m not the one killing them in rituals to bind demons!” Alistair cried. “Listen to me, Cor—”

    “I have no words for a traitor,” she spat.

    “You betrayed us first, Clarel,” Alistair said.

    “Enough!” Clarel snapped. “I came to look the woman who would slaughter us in the eye. I have seen here. And I know her. And I defy her.”

    Clarel swung her horse around.

    “Warden-Commander!” Blackwall shouted. “I, too, am one of you. I know you are not a traitor. I believe you are an honest and good woman. But if you—”

    Clarel looked over her shoulder. “I don’t know your face, warrior,” she said. “And you stand with the Inquisition. You’re no Warden to me.”

    She kicked her horse and cantered back towards the fortress.

    “This concludes out negotiations,” Erimond said. He turned his horse around and followed Clarel. They watched him go.

    “Damn it,” Hawke hissed.

    Venara pressed her heels to her horse’s sides, nudging him into a canter. She rode down Clarel and Erimond, swerving in front of them to block their entrance.

    “We’re not finished,” she said, pulling up. “I don’t want to kill your men, but—”

    Erimond pulled his giant stallion forwards, guiding the horse in circles around her, nearly brushing her sides. Venara kept a tight grip on her reins, trying to keep her much smaller horse from panicking.

    “Don’t you understand, pretender?” Erimond hissed. “We’ve had enough of your kind.”

    “Clarel!” Venara said desperately as she tried to ignore Erimond. His hand brushed her shoulder and she shook him off. “He’s lying—he’s deceiving you! This army isn’t for the Blight, it’s for—”

    Clarel’s eyes flashed angrily. “You would say that,” she said. “You would lead me off my path. But you cannot begin to understand the kind of sacrifices we make, Inquisitor. Take your army and go home. Or stay here and die.”

    She kicked her horse and took off to the gates. Venara tried to chase after her, but was blocked by Erimond. Instead, she raised her hand, a magical ice crystalizing in her palm.

    “Listen to me—argh!”

    “VENARA!”

    A bolt of electricity hit her side, blasting her off her horse. Venara rolled across the ground, over and over and over, stopping face-first in the sand. She heard a panicked whiny, followed by the thunder of horse’s hooves. Through bleary eyes, she saw her horse galloping away, frightening. She struggled to pull herself up, but all she managed was to drag herself along the sand. She could barely move, her side felt like it was on fire. She gasped in pain and felt a cold, slick hand seize the back of her neck, pulling her head up.

    Erimond.

    “Corypheus will have your very soul, little pretender,” he hissed.

    Venara spat in his face.

    Erimond frowned, wiping the spittle off his cheek. He leered at her, raising a hand to cast a spell. Venara summoned her spirit blade, the bright yellow-green weapon springing from her hand, but Erimond stepped down hard on her wrist.

    “None of that now,” he said as she yelled in pain. The blade disappeared.

    Moments later, his spell completed and she felt her body rising in the air. She was encased in a transparent globe of magic, completely unable to move. She gasped and heaved, trying desperately to suck air into her lungs. Her chest was being slowly crushed. Her vision began to black out.

    “In fact,” Erimond said, “I’ll bring you to him myself. You won’t pull what you did at the ritual tower again—”

    “Banal nadas!”

    A bolt of fire struck Erimond in the face. He screeched in pain, clutching at his searing skin. The globe surrounding Venara dissipated and she dropped into the sand. She pushed herself unsteadily to her knees and saw Erimond thrashing about, one hand to his face. An eye gleamed through a gap in his fingers, hatred boiling within it. His lip curled. He raised his free hand, a swath of purple energy growing from the centre of his palm.

    And then Solas was there, stepping between them, staff held aloft, shimmering with magic.

    Erimond paused, stumbling backwards, uncertain of whether or not to attack.

    “Vin ma emma harel, shemlen,” Solas hissed. “Valas mala er ar tu na’din.”

    Erimond laughed. He met Venara’s eyes. “That one won’t always be around to protect you, rattus,” he spat, staggering. “See you in battle—” He threw his hands into the air and disappeared in a cloud of tumbling black smoke, teleporting himself back behind the walls.

    Solas looked down at Venara helped her up. She put an arm around his shoulders, leaning into him.

    “Ane’ma ga’gonun?”

    “Ar’m lis. Ar’an isala nuven’in—”

    With a sound like a thousand hissing snakes, a volley of arrows shot up into the sky, arcing through the air before descending down—down—down—

    “Jos!”

    They ran, casting a protective barrier around themselves to stop the arrows. Venara’s side burned, but she grit her teeth, ignoring the pain. Ahead, her companions were turning their horses, arrows falling among them. She watched as Blackwall and Cullen both caught an arrows with their shield and Hawke threw out a powerful burst of magic, shattering a wave of arrows into dust, saving Alistair from being shot through the throat. Then they all kicked their horses into a gallop, fleeing out of range of the Wardens’ archers.

    Seizing Solas’ hand, Venara closed her eyes and Fade Stepped them both forwards towards his horse. She flung herself into the saddle and he climbed up behind her. They took off, galloping hard towards the others in a cloud of dust and sand.

    “Maker’s breath!” Alistair swore loudly.

    “I told you,” Hawke said. “So much for negotiations.”

    Venara threw a look over her shoulder. The battlements had turned black with a mass of soldiers.

    The battle had begun.




    ELVEN WORDS AND PHRASES
    “Ar eolasan ga’o mah, lethallan. Ra’s uglaer.”—“I know all about that, my friend. It’s awful.”
    “Ma dirtha Elvhena?!”—“You speak Elven?!”
    “Ane’ma ga’gonun?”—“Are you all right?”
    “Ar’m lis. Ar’an isala nuven’in—”—“I’m fine. We need to—”
    “Banal nadas!”—literally “You know nothing”, but the Elven equivalent of saying “Shut the eff up”
    “Jos!”—“Move!”
    “Vin ma emma harel, shemlen. Valas mala er ar tu na’din.”—“Yes, you should fear me, human. Leave now, or I will kill you.”
     
  20. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    II. Beyond Haven's Fall
    I love Venara's voice! And I really like Solas, he seems sweet. I love the dialogue throughout!

    Some of my favorite lines:
    “Apostate elf” just about summed him up. Though Vivienne and Dorian both had a penchant for “hobo elf” as a descriptor. It was about the only thing they could agree on.

    “No,” Venara said softly. “There should be no apology for laughter. Not when there’s precious little of it.”

    Her vallaslin, golden like her mother’s and the exact same marks as her father’s, was stretched and puckered, her devotion to Dirthamen marked forever.

    Tainted.

    Ruined.

    Great chapter!!
     
  21. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Tarsier Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the dialogue, it's my favourite thing to write :p .




    CHAPTER X
    Shadows and Dust

    Adamant Fortress looms above them, a shadow made of metal and stone. Once its purpose was to protect, a last stronghold holding out against a tide of darkspawn. But now that purpose has turned inwards upon itself, corrupted, led astray.

    The battlefield is hell. Trebuchets rain flaming stones upon the walls, grinding the walls into dust. Iron wrought siege ladders slam against the battlements, Inquisition soldiers scrambling up them like insects. A battering ram pounds against the great gates—thud—thud—thud. But no matter how much punishment the Grey Wardens take, they deal twice as much.

    They are wardens. Heroes, warriors of legend, trained to kill darkspawn and survive. The recruits have trained for worse than this, the veterans have fought worse than this. Men and women fall to swords and axes. Pitch is poured over the walls and set aflame by volleys of fiery arrows. Stones larger than a man’s head are dropped over the walls, crushing whomever they strike. The fortress walls are ripe with blood and gore. The Inquisition walks knowingly into a slaughter and the demons are still to come.

    Her people are dying and she brought them to this.

    She has never seen battle on this scale before. Among the Dalish, there were skirmishes with humans seeking to thieve or kill. During her time as the Herald, the worst battle had been the siege of Haven, but that was not war, that was an ambush. In her missions as the Inquisitor, there were fights with demons and Venatori and red templars, but nothing amounting to a full-scale battle.

    It is only now that she recognizes that the Inquisition is at war.

    So she steels herself and holds her head high, grasping her staff firmly in both hands. She looks to her friends, her closest companions, those she trusts to have her back in a battle such as this, the only ones she could take into the heart of the fortress. Their faces glow in the fiery light—Blackwall. Sera. Solas. And, at the edge of their strike team, Alistair Theirin, the Grey Warden who rebelled against his own order, pledging himself to aid the Inquisition in this dire hour.

    An explosion sears the air with flame and smoke behind her. By the earthshattering sound of grinding metal, she knows Cullen has finally broken the gate.

    “Let’s go,” she says.

    ***​

    The blood in the sand has dried. Human, elf, dwarf… Soon it would all be swept away by the wind, forgotten to time. So many lives had been lost in the siege. Venara felt like she was back at Haven, just after the explosion at the Divine Conclave, but this felt worse. Much worse. No one could have stopped the loss of life Corypheus had caused. But here, at Adamant—her soldiers’ lives were on her head. She had been the one to order the siege. She had been the one they had fought for.

    But she had never had a choice. The threat the Grey Wardens had posed was far too great for her to ignore. This had been the only way.

    “Do you want to talk about it?”

    Venara looked up, surprised. She had sealed herself away among one of the more secluded towers left standing on in the now abandoned fortress. Inquisition forces were pulling up camp, preparing for the long march back to Skyhold.

    The surviving Grey Wardens had already left, following Venara’s final command last evening.

    Venara had needed to be away from the commotion, needed to be alone, just for a moment, just so she felt like she wouldn’t suffocate. She couldn’t look any of her friends in the face. Especially Blackwall.

    It was a good thing the woman who spoke to her now was not a friend.

    Hawke leaned against the tower wall, arms folded across her chest. She had left her staff at camp, which was unusual—as far as Venara knew, the mage went everywhere armed. Her green eyes shone out from under a shock of unruly red hair, observing Venara with a calm, but calculating look.

    “Talking about it helps,” Hawke said. She had a frustrating air of authority. “Even when you don’t want to. I know, believe me—I’ve seen enough disasters happen in this world.”

    Not like this.

    “I can see you’re the broody type,” Hawke said. “I’ve been here all of ten minutes and you haven’t said a word. Not a peep.”

    Venara, who was still seated by the tower window, glared at her.

    Hawke laughed. “See? There you go! I swear you could give Fenris a run for his money. You could have competitions, see who can hold a glare the longest and who cracks first.”

    Shut it.

    Hawke sighed and ran a hand through her hair.

    “Look,” she said. “I didn’t come up here to bother you. I came to make sure that you’re all right. You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders and no one will ever understand what that feels like.”

    “I’m fine,” Venara said.

    “Liar.”

    Venara felt the urge to yell or scream or punch Hawke in the pace. But she didn’t. She kept herself in check. It wasn’t Hawke she was angry at.

    “What do you want from me?” she said.

    “To forgive yourself,” Hawke answered.

    “I don’t deserve that.”

    “It was his choice, not yours.”

    “It doesn’t matter. I should have stopped him.”

    “Then you’d be dead yourself. And there would be no way of sealing any more—”

    “Is that all you humans care about?” Venara snapped. Her left hand clenched; she could almost see the glow of the mark swirling between her fingers. It reacted to her emotions more often now. “The mark? This blasted thing on my hand that I never asked for?”

    Hawke’s lips pursed into a thin line. “I saw those memories in the Fade. You may not have asked for it, but you were the one who touched that orb. You—”

    “Is this tough love routine supposed to accomplish something, Hawke?” Venara said. “Hm? Because the way I see it, you’re trying to pull my strings, and that’s not a wise thing to do—believe me.”

    Hawke raised a hand in peace. “All right,” she said, backing away to the tower entrance. “You win. My mistake. Just a small piece of advice, if you’re willing to listen.”

    Venara’s eyes flashed. “What?”

    “This reluctant hero thing is doing you no favours,” Hawke said. “You may hate what’s happened to you, but at the end of the day, you don’t have really have a choice.” She turned and walked through the door. “I’m leaving for Weisshaupt,” she called over her shoulder. “Someone has to inform the order of this mess. If you need me, you know where to find me. Otherwise—good luck, Inquisitor. Dareth shiral.”

    Venara watched her go. The sudden silence was excruciating.

    ***​

    She has never truly known chaos until this moment.

    She moves, lithely, with a profound grace she never knew she had mastered. With one hand, she throws up protective barriers around her allies; with the other, she punctures the Veil, creating the tiniest of rifts, using the pull of the Fade to suck the demons back to whence they came.

    It has been a hard hour of battle. They rescued Hawke from a Pride demon that had appeared on the battlements, then they rushed to protect their soldiers from being knocked from the walls by the enemy. Their faces are pale, covered with sweat and blood. Exhaustion seeps into their motions.

    She calls to each band of Grey Wardens they encounter, begging them to surrender. She does not want more blood on her hands. And it is not these poor, misled fools she has come for. Her quarrel is with their leaders, with the Warden-Commander who thought using blood magic to build a demon army was the key to ending all Blights. With the Venatori mage who first placed the idea in her head.

    Some listen, throwing down their weapons and making a hurried escape towards safety. These Wardens don’t want to die, even though a Warden’s life is ultimately linked to death. They look to Blackwall and Alistair, the Inquisition’s own Wardens, and powerful ones at that to stave off the Calling that so many others fell to, enrapturing them and unknowingly ensnaring them to Corypheus’ whims.

    Others don’t.

    And so they die. They die by Sera’s daggers and Blackwall’s sword. They die by Solas’ magic and Alistair’s blade and Hawke’s spells. They die at Venara’s hand. She tears them apart so easily, their bodies coalescing into green magic until they disappear forever. It is only now that she realizes what she is becoming: less of a person and more a force.

    It terrifies her, but she does not let that show. She merely continues on.

    When they reach the main courtyard, a ritual is in place. Venara sees a hesitant young elven recruit approach the Warden-Commander, offering the woman her bare throat. Too late, Venara realizes in horror that the recruit is the same woman she once told, in her ignorance, to join the Wardens. A cry escapes her lips, and as she rushes forwards, the Warden-Commander slits the recruit’s throat. Blood flies. The Venatori mage, from his position above, sneers.

    He has to die, she thinks. These Wardens are fools, but he—Erimond—began this. His life will end it.

    ***​

    They were deep into the Orlesian forests now, at least half-way back to Skyhold. Venara was on edge. What had happened at Adamant haunted her. The very place she had once held dear, where she had gone to find peace, was all but destroyed by her experiences. Solas had tried to comfort her, but she had pushed him away. And so she sought her friend instead.

    Blackwall was chopping wood when Venara found him. It was unnecessary—there was more than enough wood already to keep the Inquisition camps warm. But Venara knew he liked to keep his hands busy. It was one of the things she liked about it.

    “My lady,” he said as she approached.

    “You know, I wish everyone would stop calling me that.”

    “It’s a mark of respect,” Blackwall said as he raised the axe once more. “A reminder of your station. Nobles are very touchy about those sorts of things. They like to know where everyone stands—” Thud. A piece of wood fell free. “—so they can know where they stand.” He tugged the axe loose.

    “Fenedhis.”

    “If that’s what I think it means, then I agree,” he said. “So, then—what should I call you, Inquisitor? If ‘my lady’ doesn’t suit you. Have you no titles among the Dalish?”

    “I have a name, Blackwall,” she said. “Use that.”

    “I know,” he said. “But I… respect you and—”

    “My name’s enough,” she said firmly. “Surely we’ve been friends long enough that can you can use my name.”

    “Friends, eh?” Thud. “I suppose we are…”

    He fell silent. Venara watched as he continued to chop wood, the axe thudding down again and again and again—

    “You shouldn’t have exiled the Wardens,” he said coldly.

    “I had to.”

    “You didn’t have to—”

    “They proved themselves far too susceptible to Corypheus’ sway,” Venara interrupted. “Even if I wanted to trust them, they would prove a danger to the entire Inquisition if we brought them back to Skyhold—”

    “You let your anger speak for you,” Blackwall said. “They made a grave error, yes, but they were tricked. There’s still honour amongst them, I know there is—”

    “The only honour that remains in the order lies with you,” Venara said flatly. “Warden-Commander Clarel killed an innocent young woman whose only fault was her belief in helping people—”

    “Clarel was fooled,” Blackwall said. “If you want to blame someone for Jana’s death, blame Erimond—”

    “I do,” Venara said. “But Clarel still bears responsibility for her death—”

    Blackwall slammed the axe into a log. “She paid for her mistakes with her life. Or have you already forgotten she was mauled by a dragon?”

    “No,” Venara said quietly. “I haven’t forgotten.”

    “Good.” He folded his arms. “What we saw at Adamant—what we saw in there—it changed us. All of us. Don’t let it change you for the worst, my lady. Don’t let what happened stop you from feeling compassion and remembering that beneath some mistakes—as horrible as they may be—lies a person who honestly believes they were doing the right thing.” He pushed up his sleeves, suddenly business-like, and resumed hacking at the pile of wood. “You’re a force to be reckoned with, Venara. Remember that.”

    A cold breeze blew across her face.

    “Do I scare you, Blackwall?”

    He paused mid-swing. He didn’t look at her. Slowly, he lowered the axe. “If I’m being honest—yes.”

    “Why?”

    “Because we were wrong about you,” he said. “All of us. The Divine saved you, not Andraste. It’s as you’ve always claimed—you’re not chosen for some holy purpose.”

    Venara frowned. “What does that have to do with anything?”

    “Because you hold incredible power,” he said. “You close rifts and walk the Fade. You’ve survived where others would have died. You perform feats that look like miracles—or nightmares. And you’re growing stronger.” He paused, finally looking her dead in the eye. “I see the way you fight. The way you can tear men apart with a single gesture… Electrify them into dust. It’s terrifying.”

    Her insides twisted. “I didn’t realize you were afraid of magic.”

    “Not afraid,” he said. “Very, very wary. It was easier when your powers appeared to be a gift from Andraste, regardless of whether or not you believed it to be true.”

    Venara’s throat felt dry. “Are you saying that you don’t trust me?”

    “Of course not,” he said. He sounded slightly offended. “But even you cannot deny that you will have a hand in shaping the future of this world. That is immense power, whether you like it or not.”

    “I can’t decide the fate of the world, Blackwall,” she said. “I can’t have that power.”

    “You don’t have a choice.” He glanced at her left hand. It, thankfully, was not glowing. “That power you hold—there’s nothing else like it. You walk among myths and legends.”

    He gathered up an armful of wood and began to walk across camp, towards the quartermaster. Evening was approaching. Venara followed.

    “Just because we don’t know exactly how it works doesn’t mean it’s mysterious,” she said. “It’s elven.”

    “Ah, yes. Elven. As you are.”

    Venara hurried to keep up with him, his long legs vastly outpacing hers. “What does that mean?”

    “I don’t know,” Blackwall said. “A coincidence. Or perhaps not. Perhaps you are chosen—just not by the god we thought.”

    Venara stopped moving, jaw dropping slightly. This was the first time she had heard a human acknowledge the elven pantheon in such a way.

    “Blackwall—”

    “Goodnight, Venara.” He bowed his head and walked off further into camp, leaving her rooted to her spot.

    ***​

    Clarel is desperate, but she is not stupid. Though it is too late, she realizes Erimond’s game. She realizes she has been tricked, made to think her army was to end all Blights, when in truth it had been made to serve Corypheus. She turns on Erimond, determined to reduce him to ash and scatter his remains across the Western Approach. She chases him through the fortress, leaving Venara to fight off demons and enslaved wardens both.

    She will barely remember what comes next, as it is all too chaotic, it will be scrambled in her mind—

    The dragon comes. Corypheus’ servant.

    Clarel dies.

    Her magic shatters the battlements.

    And they fall—

    Oh, how they fall.

    Fall.

    Fall.

    Fall.

    Into the deep, to be crushed by sand and stone.

    So she stretches out her hand, as if by instinct, and rips open the Fade.

    Into nothing but the stuff of nightmares.

    ***​

    “Solas?”

    She found him on the green. Though it was cold that morning, he was shirtless and in the midst of some kind of meditative stretching series. Sweat rolled down his face as he concentrated, eyes closed, moving with achingly slow, but precise, movements, the effort rippling across his body.

    He hadn’t heard her.

    She didn’t want to interrupt him.

    So she sat in the grass and pulled her cloak close to protect herself against the chill. The foothills of the Frostback Mountains were always cold this time of year. She was surprising there was no frost upon the grass or thin sheets of ice covering the streams.

    “You don’t have to wait for me, vhenan.”

    She shrugged. “I was enjoying the view.” She spoke in Elven. Her grasp of the language had improved to the point where she felt almost fluent.

    He raised an eyebrow and came to sit by her. “You don’t have to stop.”

    She smiled faintly. “Solas,” she said, “what did the Nightmare say to you in the Fade? I heard, but I couldn’t understand.” The demon had issued its threats, tailoring each one to strike at the very nature of Venara and her companions. When it reached Solas, something had changed. A different tone, a different resonance, a different language. Elven, but beyond the Elven Venara knew. Something much more ancient. A dialect with which she was unfamiliar. It was the only explanation.

    But how did Solas know it?

    “We should not dwell on what happened that day, vhenan,” he said.

    “I have to,” she said. “I can’t stop. I can’t get the images out of my head—”

    He caught her hand. “You must let go of what happened. Or else that wound will never heal—”

    “It’s not just what happened, Solas!” She pressed a hand to her lips, then slowly let it drop. “We walked physically in the Fade. We were there.”

    “Yes.”

    “It was hell,” she whispered.

    He looked at her, eyes searching hers. “It was the realm of the Nightmare, not a reflection of the entire Fade—”

    “It doesn’t matter.” She was gripping his hand now, as if that grasp somehow aided her in her argument. How could he not see? “That place—that realm—was real. Real. And we were trapped there.” She took a breath. “I thought the Fade would be beautiful, that it would be something extraordinary, beyond imagination. But it was dark and cold and filled with shadows and fear.” She paused, pushing her loose hair over her shoulder. She could feel herself beginning to shake. She fought it down. “We talked… we talked once about a world where there was no Veil, where the Fade and the physical realm were one, where spirits could interact with men without causing harm. And I thought…” Her eyes stung. “I thought it would be beautiful. But now I know I never want something that holds the Nightmare to even touch my world.” She could feel the tears glistening in her eyes, refusing to fall. They simply grew and grew, clinging to her lashes. “I can’t dream again, Solas. I never want to dream again. I don’t want to go back there… I don’t want to go back…”

    Solas nodded, pulling her close. Only then did her tears fall.

    “I…I don’t know what I’m becoming.” The words came out slowly, stuttering. She clung to him tightly. Part of her felt like she would break.

    “I know, vhenan.”

    “I can’t keep making these choices.” She was shaking all over now, the tension that had built up since Adamant searching for a way out. “How many people died because of me? Or for me? How many people have I killed—?”

    “Look at me, Venara.”

    She shook her head, burying her face in his shoulder.

    “Look at me.”

    He gently raised her chin so they were face to face. Her body trembled and she gasped for breath.

    “His death was not your fault,” Solas said. “None of their deaths were you fault. Not his, not the soldiers. All of us who serve the Inquisition, who have sworn to help you—we know the risks. You can’t save us all when we are at war.”

    Slowly, her gasping breaths came to a stop. Venara blinked away her tears and pressed herself to him, melting into the comfort of being held. He kissed her cheek and held her close.

    “No more dreams,” he said softly. “Not until you choose. But…” He paused. “Perhaps it is best we do not dream together at all.”

    She nodded and closed her eyes. She felt drained. “Thank you,” she murmured. She breathed deeply—her heart still pounded in her chest. “You never answered my question,” she said finally. “What did the Nightmare say to you?”

    “It recognized me,” Solas said, his voice low. “From my journeys in the Fade. It said my pride will be my fall.” He stiffened. “If that one troubles me again, I will destroy it.”

    His words were cold and fierce, like winter’s frost stinging the skin.

    ***​

    The Fade burns cold. A shadow haunts their steps, feeding upon their deepest fears. The Nightmare—all shadow and dust.

    They find their way, stumbling forward.

    They find their way, fighting off demons and fears drawn to their presence.

    They find their way, guided by the glowing spirit of the Divine—or perhaps the spirit who chose to mimic the Divine.

    Venara recovers her lost memories. One by one, the lost pages from the day of the Conclave explosion are pieced back together. She seeks Corypheus, aided by Grey Wardens, using Divine Justinia as a sacrifice. She sees herself, interrupting a ritual years in the planning. She sees the orb fall. She sees herself touch it.

    She sees herself marked. Then all goes dark.

    They find their way.

    They find their way, through twisted landscapes, green fog, through the weight of a place no living being should walk.

    There is one way out. A massive rift, guarded by the Nightmare. They must reach it.

    So they fight.

    They clear a path.

    And then…

    ***​

    Alistair stared at the giant demon overhead. It took the shape of a spider, its pincers snapping, dripping with poison, its multiple eyes rolling. It looked angry and it looked hungry.

    “Eeugh,” he said, grimacing.

    “How are we gonna get past that thing?” Sera shouted, wiping bloodied sweat off her brow.

    “We fight it,” Blackwall said, hefting his shield. “We don’t fear it any longer. Make it bow to us.”

    “Are you insane?” Hawke said. “That will get us all killed—”

    “Whatever we decide,” Solas interrupted, looking up worriedly at the demon, “we must decide quickly.”

    Venara gritted her teeth. “Maybe we can distract it, give us time to get through the rift—”

    “How?” Hawke exclaimed. “Any distraction will end up with more than one of us killed!”

    Venara was about to shout back an argument when she heard a determined voice rise.

    “Not necessarily,” Alistair said. He turned and looked at the exhausted party. “Your priority is to get back to Adamant and stop Erimond before he can do more damage. I can get you there.”

    “You’re going to fight that thing on your own?” Hawke said incredulously. “You’ll die, Alistair!”

    “Eh, I’m a Grey Warden, it’s what we do.” He smirked. “Besides, it’s about time I did something worthwhile. My wife killed an archdemon and I’ve been living in her shadow ever since.”

    “Don’t be an idiot,” Hawke snapped. “Corypheus is my responsibility, it’s my blood that released him from that damn prison in the first place—”

    “This is no time to be a hero, Hawke!”

    “You’re the only remaining senior Grey Warden in Orlais,” Hawke continued.

    “So? I was never very good at it.” Alistair paused. “Look, it was the wardens who helped Corypheus kill the Divine. It should be a warden who sets it right. Now are you going to go or—”

    “Now who’s being the hero?” Hawke snapped.

    Alistair turned to Venara. “Inquisitor, please—”

    “I can’t tell you to do this,” Venara said. “I can’t condone a suicide mission—”

    “This is my decision,” Alistair said firmly. “You’re not condoning anything.”

    “Alistair—”

    The ground began to shake.

    “It’s coming!” Sera screamed.

    “Venara, we have to move!” Solas said urgently, grabbing her arm.

    Alistair drew his sword. “Go on. Get out of here—NOW!”

    A giant pincer crashed down upon them, dripping poison and mucus. Hawke, Solas, Sera and Blackwall were flung one way, and Alistair and Venara the other. The ground trembled and cracked. Venara rolled, coughing, and sprang to her feet, wiping blood out of her eyes.

    The path was nearly destroyed. Only a tiny sliver of ground remained, connecting her to her companions and the rift that was their way out of the Fade.

    “Alistair—!”

    He appeared out of nowhere, catching her arm. There was a bloody gash in his forehead. “I’ll buy you time,” he said. “Go.”

    “No—”

    The ground shook. Venara was flung to the ground once more. The path from her spit of land to the next was quickly crumbling. She saw Solas running back towards her. Above, the giant spider was preparing for another attack.

    “Run!” Alistair said, seizing her and pulling her to her feet. “And give my love to Alorien. Tell her… tell her…” He stopped. “Oh, she knows.”

    Venara ran. The pincer smashed down. She threw herself forward, propelled out of its reach by her magic. She slammed into something hard and rolled, down, down, down, and almost off the edge of a cliff. Someone caught her by the arms. She looked up as Solas pulled her to safety.

    Then they ran.

    As they jumped into the rift, Venara looked back to see Alistair standing his ground.

    “Pity you’re so ugly!” he shouted. “I’d’ve liked to fight a dragon one more time, but I guess you’ll have to do.”

    He charged. The creature descended.

    And Alistair Theirin was gone.

    ***​

    The day Venara returned to Skyhold, a trial was held for Livius Erimond, the Venatori mage who had manipulated the wardens into Corypheus’ clutches.

    He was found guilty.

    Venara beheaded him herself.




    ELVEN WORDS AND PHRASES
    Dareth shiral—“safe journey”, used as a farewell.
    Fenedhis—general curse, equivalent of "crap".
     
  22. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    CHAPTER XI
    Just an Elf

    Venara leaned against the balustrade, pretending to listen to some Orlesian noble prattle on as she looked out at Skyhold’s surroundings. News of what had happened at Adamant travelled quickly, and the Inquisition was receiving more delegates than ever before. Many of these visitors simply wanted to use their noble status to hear the account first-hand, while others wanted to extend offers of friendship and gain political favour. With the Orlesian civil war wearing on and Empress Celene’s peace talks slowly approaching, every noble from Emprise de Lion to the Western Approach wanted to have the Inquisitor’s ear, for she would surely play a crucial role in determining the nation’s future ruler.

    I hate Orlesian politics, Venara thought. She didn’t care who ruled, as long as they unified the country. If Orlais fell to internal strife, Thedas would become dangerously unstable—unstable enough for Corypheus to run it into the ground. She had seen that happen, in dangerous future Alexius had once thrown her into. A future the Inquisition was now halfway towards preventing. Thanks to the events at Adamant, the darkspawn magister no longer had his demon army.

    The afternoon was bright and sunny, the mountain surprisingly warm. Josephine had decided to take advantage of the good weather and had servants set up some fine chaise lounges on one of the upper balconies that surveyed the courtyard.

    “It will remind them of where they have come and why,” she had reasoned, “It’s easy to forget oneself when locked away in a conference chamber that looks very much like every other conference chamber. They want the Inquisition’s favour? Then we should remind them what the Inquisition is.”

    Josephine had been right. The air carried the cacophony of a military base—the clash of swords from the training grounds, the whoops of laughter from outside the tavern, the idle chatter of those on their way to the stables or the smithy. It was hard to ignore.

    Correction—it was hard for most people to ignore. Venara’s guests seemed to be doing fine ignoring it.

    She glanced to the lounging nobles on her right. There were three of them, all deep in conversation, hands bearing glasses of chilled wine aloft as they politely nibbled on one frilly cake or another (the frilly cakes were more of Josephine’s work). Venara had no idea what they looked like or how old they were, and she would have had no way of differentiating them if they had not been dressed in different, vibrant colours.

    It bothered her that she could never properly see the face of an Orlesian noble. They always wore one mask or another, even in a place like Skyhold. And of course their hair was covered with hats and headdresses…So much useless fabric. It was impossible to know who someone was beneath all that. They could change identities in a pinch, tailoring themselves to whomever happened to be in their company in a particular moment.

    It was both fascinating and frustrating. Venara could never revel in such deception—she preferred things to be as they were. Life was complicated enough as it was without throwing on an extra layer of deceit for fun.

    I’d make a horrible spy.

    “…are renown as formidable warriors, it must have been quite the battle.”

    Not that I could ever be a spy, half the world knows who I am by now.

    “I should very much like to speak to your Commander—er—what was his name… Cullen Rutherford, yes? A detailed report would help very much with my analysis of…”

    But maybe that’s the purpose of masks. To hide who you are so you can move about freely. Anonymity. If they don’t know who you are, they can’t use your identity against you…

    “What say you, Inquisitor?”

    “Hm?”

    Venara found herself suddenly scrutinized by three masked faces. The one in blue and green coughed pointedly. She immediately straightened her back and tried her best to look alert and forthcoming. She was suddenly aware that she had forgotten each noble’s name. She made the executive decision that she would call them Peacock, Pig and Druffalo, based on the colours they wore or their general attitude. Peacock was in a many layered gown of blue and green, with a sparkling gold mask. Meanwhile, Pig did not have a pig mask, nor pig colours. He merely had a pig attitude: hungry and greedy. And when he laughed, he snorted through his nose. And Druffalo was as dull and slow as, well, a druffalo.

    “Comte Bordelon would very much like to speak to Commander Cullen about his tactics at Adamant,” Josephine supplied. “For his book on the exploits of the Inquisition.”

    “Oh.” What book? “Yes.”

    Josephine hesitated, as if uncertain whether Venara had finished speaking. After an awkward silence, she began again. “Ah, yes,” she said, addressing Pig, “it has been a very long day, Comte—and a very long month, so to speak. Please forgive us if Lady Lavellan—or I, for that matter—appear weary, I assure you it is not with you.” She smiled gracefully. “Pardonnez-nous, s’il-vous-plaît.”

    “I would never think such a thing, of course, Lady Montilyet,” Comte Pig said. “Ce n’est pas un problème, madame."

    “I’m sure Cullen would be happy to tell you anything you want to know,” Venara said. Like how Hawke almost punched him in the face. Again.

    She saw Josephine subtly jerking her head in the direction of Venara’s unoccupied chaise longue. She quickly sat down, crossing her legs and leaning forwards, trying to look interested. “Er… what else would you like to know?”

    Out of the corner of her eye, Venara saw Josephine’s eyes widen in horror. She quickly gave Venara two small, quick shakes of her head.

    “I am more interested in these rumours, Inquisitor,” Druffalo said.

    Venara raised an eyebrow at Josephine.

    “They say you fought a dragon—”

    Josephine rolled her eyes at Venara.

    “—and that you jumped upon its back to slay it—”

    Venara narrowed her eyes and smirked. She could tell that if Josephine could have buried her face in her hands, she would have.

    Druffalo was still speaking.

    “—before you plummeted into a pool of green magic—”

    “I didn’t slay a dragon,” Venara said immediately.

    “Ah, misfortune!” Druffalo exclaimed. “I would very much like to speak to one who has. I am writing a novel, you see. It is strange how stories change and grow, no? I wonder why so many say they say you fight a dragon when—”

    “Because there was a dragon.”

    “Oh!”

    “I just didn’t kill it.

    “Oh.”

    Druffalo’s disappointment was palpable. Venara tried not to laugh.

    “Don’t mind Élisabeth, Inquisitor,” Pig said, “she has a great love of women warriors and incredible feats.”

    “François!” Druffalo was scandalized, but she recovered quickly. “If you didn’t kill it, what happened to it?”

    “Oh, I imagine it flew back to Corypheus,” Venara said. Druffalo gasped audibly at her use of the name. “Look—” She was starting to feel irritated. “—if you want to talk to a dragon slayer, bother the Iron Bull. He loves to talk about dragons. Will probably buy you a pint just so he can talk your ear off about them.”

    Druffalo tilted her head. “The… Iron Bull?”

    “A Qunari mercenary, ma chère,” Pig said. “Don’t trouble yourself with him. But I hear Cassandra Pentaghast is here. The tale of how she slew a dragon to protect Divine Beatrice is all but legendary.”

    “I could never do that!” Druffalo said. “I would never want to bother her with something so…so…”

    “You mean you’re scared of her.”

    Druffalo gasped. She and Pig looked at each other.

    Venara shrugged. “Fair enough. That’s understandable.”

    Druffalo remained still, stunned. But Pig laughed—or, rather, snorted—and reached for his wine. He look a long, hard drink. Peacock shifted on her chaise, primly adjusting the folds of her bright blue and green gown. Venara decided she looked like one of the frilly cakes.

    “Oh, Inquisitor,” Pig said, still chortling, “you are a delight! So blunt. So provincial. I admit, I haven’t spent much time with your kind, I thought you all to be crass and utterly humourless.”

    Venara’s face grew hot. “…my kind?”

    “The Dalish,” Pig said, taking another drink. “Oh, did you mean elves? I have several elves among my staff, but they’re nothing like you. Completely lacking in wit and grace. You, my dear, are a treasure—for an elf.”

    He said it like it was a compliment.

    I wonder if you’d say the same thing after I electrify you into a puddle.

    “Ah—time is short, I’m afraid, Comte,” Josephine interrupted. “Dinner will be served soon and the Inquisitor has other duties to attend to before night falls. Perhaps we should—”

    Peacock raised a dainty, white-laced hand. She coughed.

    “Oh, yes, Marquise?” Josephine said. It was a wonder how she managed to sound so tactful with these idiots.

    “Il y a une autre affaire que je veux discuter avec vous,” Peacock said. “Ce problème ne devrait prendre pas un moment. Pouvez-vous traduire, ma chère Josephine, alors notre petite madame là bas pourrait comprenez?”

    Josephine looked startling uncomfortable. But she nodded, and said, “Of course, my lady.”

    Peacock turned to Venara, her golden mask glittering in the late afternoon sun. She began to speak in rapid Orlesian, the words slithering out of her thin mouth faster than water flowing down a stream.

    “Vous êtes une personnalité si controversée, Lavellan—”

    “Mistress Lavellan,” Josephine translated. “You have become a very controversial figure. There are some who see you as Orlais’ saving grace. Indeed—”

    Venara could see her struggling to keep up. The marquise paused very little and waited for no one. Venara wondered how she fit so many words into one breath.

    “…indeed,” Josephine continued translating, “the work you have done to aid the refugees of the civil war is commendable. But there are others who see you as a threat. A dangerous one. You head one of the largest military forces southern Thedas has seen in centuries. That is enough to make the nations closest to you nervous. Though some praise your actions at Adamant, it cannot be forgotten that…” Josephine hesitated. Peacock tilted her head at her. Josephine took a breath. “It cannot be forgotten that you marched the aforementioned army through Orlais without proper permittance, at a time of great national strife—”

    Josephine stopped. She looked distinctly uncomfortable. Venara had a feeling she had been hearing the edited version of Peacock’s speech.

    “If you have something to say to me, then say it,” she said. “You speak the King’s tongue, do you not? You understand it perfectly, so why do you not—”

    “Je ne vais pas me baisser à une niveau misérable seulement pour conversez avec une sorcière inculte!”

    “Tel ilen mah daer’em, shemlen—vis ma iselen em to eolasan mar te ma ad’eolasa emma!”

    Venara stared at Peacock, her eyes boring unforgivingly into hers. Eventually, the marquise looked away.

    “Merde,” she muttered.

    Josephine looked scandalized.

    “Perhaps we should retire for dinner,” she said cautiously.

    “No,” Peacock said tartly, folding her hands in her lap. “I will say what I must, for though I say it harshly, it must be said. For the good of the Inquisition. And your Inquisitor.” She looked at Venara. “Others may be impressed by your heathen language, but the Imperial Court will not. You have much to learn, elf, and very little time to do so. Your handling of Adamant was a disaster. In your haste, you disregarded the laws regarding the deployment of foreign powers across—”

    “Marquise,” Josephine interrupted, “it is my understanding that the Inquisition is Orlesian. Skyhold sits on Orlesian land. The Inquisition holds the blessing of Empress Celene. Therefore, no laws were broken—”

    “Don’t show yourself to be such a fool, Josephine, you’re better than that,” Peacock said tritely. “With such civil unrest, Empress Celene may not hold the throne much longer. Already many do not recognize her as their ruler and look to another.”

    “Gaspard,” Josephine said. “We are aware of the circumstances of the war, Marquise, we are not politically ignorant—”

    “You say your Inquisition is Orlesian?” Peacock interrupted. “How? You yourself are Antivan, my lady. No amount of years spent in Val Royeaux will change that. Your Commander is Fereldan. Your supporters come from as far as the Free Marches, Antiva and Rivain, even farther in some cases—I know you have a Tevinter mage and an oxman mercenary in your midst. Cassandra may have been the Right Hand of the Divine, but she is Nevarran. And dear Leliana—she is one of us, but she is not what she seems. Tell me again—how are you Orlesian?”

    Josephine was silent, but her eyes glared daggers.

    “No,” Peacock finished. “You—the Inquisition—cannot claim to be Orlesian. It can never be Orlesian, not with a Dalish mage at its head.”

    Venara stood up with such force she kicked her chaise longue back. “I am not here to please the Imperial Court,” she snapped. “And I am not here to please you. I am here to stop the world from falling apart.”

    Peacock did not look the least bit startled by the force of Venara’s words. “You will never succeed at that if you remain at the head of this organization,” she said.

    “Because I’m Dalish?” Venara hissed. “Or because I’m a mage?”

    “Both.”

    Venara clenched her fists. “You do realize that the Hero of Fereldan is Dalish?” she said. “Without her, Fereldan would have fallen to the Blight, and Orlais after it.”

    Peacock shrugged. “A warden is a warden. If Mahariel had not stopped the Blight, another would have in her stead. Her race is irrelevant.”

    “And the Champion?” Venara said. “She’s a mage, and without her Kirkwall would be under the control of the Qunari—or destroyed!”

    Peacock laughed. “You can’t be serious,” she scoffed. “Lorenna Hawke creates more messes than she can clean up. It was one of her mage acquaintances who destroyed Kirkwall’s Chantry and incited the Mage-Templar War—and I hear Hawke practically encouraged him along that path. Hawke is only revered because she happened to be in the right place, at the right time, and just happened to take down Meredith.” She snorted. “No, ma chère. Mages cannot be trusted with politics.” She paused, looking Venara in the eye. “Nor Dalish elves.”

    “Ma eolasas banal, shem!” Venara snarled.

    “You only prove my point, chère,” Peacock said. “Keep speaking like that, keep allowing yourself to become enraged, and they’ll never see you for anything but what you are: an outsider, a delinquent, a curiosity. Something to be disposed of when she outlives her usefulness.”

    Venara’s fingernails dug into the palms of her hands. “If you have nothing but hatred for me, why did you come?”

    “Because I support the Inquisition and its cause, not you,” Peacock said. “The two aren’t mutually exclusively.” She sighed and stood, setting down her wine glass. “I think I shall retire,” she announced. “Thank you, Josephine. This was really quite enlightening.” She turned to Pig and Druffalo. “François, Élisabeth—come.”

    And with a swish of silks and a clatter of heels on stone, they were gone.

    “I am so sorry, my lady!” Josephine exclaimed. “The Marquise de Marchande holds great political sway, and when she asked for an audience, I dared not refuse her! But if I had realized—”

    “You’re not the one who needs to apologize,” Venara said.

    “Here demeanour was despicable. And I opened you up to that harassment.” Josephine lowered her head. “It will not happen again.”

    “It’s not your fault,” Venara said firmly. “Is that what I can expect at Halamshiral? Insults and… tantrums?”

    “Perhaps,” Josephine said quietly. “The Marquise de Marchande takes great delight in upsetting others, but… She is not unique in her prejudice against non-humans. There are many who will take offense at your origins.”

    “Well,” Venara said lightly, “we’ll just have to prove them wrong. Or I could paralyze them with lightning.”

    Josephine’s eyes widened. “Oh no, my lady, I would not suggest—”

    “Relax, Josephine, I was joking.” Venara sighed and sat down. “But I do need to learn how to talk to them. Peacock was right about one thing—I don’t know anything about politics. Especially Orlesian politics.”

    Josephine opened her mouth to reply, but stopped short. “I beg your pardon—‘Peacock…?’”

    “Oh!” Venara grinned. “I forgot their names, so I came up with something else. The marquise is Peacock. The girl is Druffalo. And the comte is Pig.”

    “But Comte Bordelon wasn’t wearing a pig mask…oh!” Josephine’s eyes sparkled. She laughed. “His mannerisms certainly are…piggy, aren’t they?”

    Venara sniggered. So did Josephine. Soon they were almost doubled over, laughing hysterically. Josephine was laughing so hard she collapsed next to Venara, hand to her chest.

    “Shall I…” Josephine fought down the laughter. She cleared her throat. “Shall I arrange for lessons in Orlesian etiquette, my lady?”

    “Anything to prepare me for that cesspool.” Venara paused. “Can you teach me Orlesian? Next time some noble idiot decides they’re too noble for me, I want to surprise them.”

    “I can,” Josephine said. “It can be a difficult language to learn. You may only have a basic grasp of it by the time of the peace talks—”

    “I can do it.”

    “Very well. I shall add it to your schedule—”

    With a sudden patter of boots on stone, an elven messenger burst onto the balcony.

    “Inquisitor Lavellan! Ambassador Montilyet—” He bowed.

    “What is it?” Venara asked, standing.

    “We’ve received word from your clan,” he said. “Leliana wants to see you in the war room at once—”

    Venara took off, Josephine hot on her heels.

    ***​

    “But why would the Duke do this?” Josephine said. “He has always supported the Inquisition openly—”

    “And he made a trade agreement with my Keeper,” Venara added. “He’s been friendly towards Clan Lavellan for years—”

    “Fear can easily ignite underlying prejudice,” Leliana said. “Wycome is in a state of panic over this mysterious plague. Duke Antoine needed a scapegoat, someone he could blame for the illness so he had the appearance of taking action. Clan Lavellan was…available.”

    Venara crossed her arms tightly. She could feel her fingernails digging into the skin. “Do we know what it is? This… plague?”

    “No,” Leliana said. “But it only affects humans. The nobles blame the elves in the alienage of spreading it. They call it the… they call it the ‘Knife-Ear Plague.’”

    Venara’s jaw clenched.

    “As to its source… we don’t know.”

    “A plague targeting only humans,” Cullen said. “Seems like the very thing to use if you want to unravel a city, suffocate it with unrest.”

    “But to what end?” Leliana interjected. “There must be some end-game, no? This can’t simply be a convoluted strike against the Inquisitor—”

    “No,” Venara said. “Believe me, my clan can get into its own problems without me being the catalyst. It isn’t always safe for the Dalish to roam the Free Marches.”

    She turned around, arms still folded, and walked to the windows, back to her advisors. If she could simply go herself, she would find her clan. She would protect them. And they would leave Wycome without a trace, simply disappear and go someplace where the shemlen couldn’t follow…

    She had to do something. Anything. She had thought her clan would have been safe once she dealt with the bandits, but she was wrong. The problem ran much deeper.

    It ran to that treaty.

    It ran to that Duke.

    Oh, Istimaethoriel… who knew that your fondness for humans would come back to haunt you?

    Venara knew the answer to that.

    Everyone.

    For the Dalish—no matter whether they roamed Fereldan, Orlais, or the Free Marches—one thing remained the same: trust humans, and you ended up burned.

    Istimaethoriel had wanted that to change. She championed it. She believed in it. And for her faith, Duke Antoine had betrayed her.

    He will pay for that.

    “…I can send ambassadors,” Josephine was saying. “They can speak to the Duke, convince him—”

    “This is not a time for talks, Josie!” Leliana said. “Antoine chose to threaten Clan Lavellan himself—”

    “Because he saw no other way! He made a grave error, but it was an error made to quell the unrest in the city. Wycome will burst—”

    “How can that excuse him?” Leliana snapped.

    “It doesn’t,” Josephine said quietly.

    “His position is clear,” Leliana continued. “He would rather let elves die than find the source of his city’s unrest.” She leaned heavily against the war table. “I can have him assassinated.”

    Venara spun around.

    “Leliana!” Josephine cried. “Why is that always your first answer? There must be another way. Compel him to investigate the plague, reveal the ones behind the plot—”

    “And will that stop his people from killing the elves in their alienage?” Leliana interrupted. “Elves that he, the Duke, is sworn to protect? And what of the Inquisitor’s clan? Will compelling Antoine stop his mercenaries?” She looked to Venara. “There is only one way to stop this. Slit the throat of the man in charge.”

    “You cannot know the repercussions of that,” Josephine said quietly.

    Venara held Leliana’s gaze, Josephine and Cullen watching her nervously. They stood in silence.

    “How much risk to my people does the assassination pose?” Venara asked finally.

    Leliana was silent.

    “Leliana—tell me.”

    “Some,” she said. “It will stop the direct threats to your clan, but Antoine is the leader of the city. I cannot say for certain what will happen if the city loses its head. It could collapse. Many people could die.”

    “All the more reason to think this through,” Cullen said. “With caution—”

    “We don’t have time for that!” Venara snapped. “My clan is already under attack! Even if we act now, they could die tomorrow before our course of action is set. Leliana, are you certain this can work?”

    “Yes.”

    “Leliana,” Josephine began. “I—”

    “I can save your clan, Inquisitor,” Leliana said, her eyes steely with determination.

    “Then do it.”

    Leliana nodded. She turned to leave the war room.

    “Wait!” Cullen shouted. “This requires further discussion—we can’t just assassinate members of the Free Marches’ nobility on a whim—”

    “Cullen,” Venara said. “Shut up.”

    Josephine pressed a hand to her mouth.

    “With all due respect, my lady,” he said, touching her gently on the shoulder, “you’re not thinking clearly—”

    Venara angrily brushed his hand away. “This isn’t about the Inquisition!” she snapped. “This is my clan. This is my family. It’s personal.”

    “You don’t have to kill him.”

    Venara laughed hollowly. “So? If I were in Wycome right now, he would have no problem killing me.”

    She turned and walked away, following Leliana through the great oak doors. She stopped at the entrance and looked back.

    “After all,” she said, “I’m just an elf.”




    ELVEN WORDS AND PHRASES
    “Tel ilen mah daer’em, shemlen—vis ma iselen em to eolasan mar te ma ad’eolasa emma!”
    “Don’t use language against me, human. If you expect me to know yours, then you should know mine.”

    “Ma eolasas banal, shem!”
    You know nothing, human.


    ORLESIAN/FRENCH TRANSLATIONS
    Excusez-moi, mes amis françaises, c’est une tellement longue temps que j’écrivais en Français et ma grammaire/vocabulaire est terrible!

    “Il y a une autre affaire que je veux discuter avec vous. Ce problème ne devrait prendre pas un moment. Pouvez-vous traduire, ma chère Josephine, alors notre petite madame là bas pourrait comprenez?”
    “There is another matter I would like to discuss. It should only take a moment. Would you care to translate, Josephine dear, so our little lady can understand?”

    “Je ne vais pas me baisser à une niveau misérable seulement pour conversez avec une sorcière inculte!”
    “I will not stoop to your wretched level just to converse with you, you uncultured witch.”
     
  23. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The Fanfic Manager With The Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    And I'm kind of nervous about the story growing to be so long (the entire thing will be around 36 chapters long, so I have a long way to go still), especially considering my last long fic never got completed. But thank you so much for your comments! [face_love] [:D]

    Personally, I'm looking forward to it being so long. ;) [face_mischief] And that's the great thing about fanfiction - it's all about writing in the here and now and going with the flow it. Just enjoy the journey while it goes. :D

    Alrighty, now for quite the catch-up . . .


    IX. - Whew! That was quite the update! I liked meeting the new characters here, especially Alistair. Ancient/legendary vibe with a quipping, carefree attitude? Yeah, I'm totally onboard with that. There was a lot going on here with the parlay and the prelude to battle, and you did an excellent job orchestrating all of the tensions and points of view with the different sides. Your dialogue was spot-on, as usual. I loved it all. =D=


    X. - Oh . . . the opening scene was very powerful! I can only imagine the shock of wholescale war for the first, and you perfectly got inside of Venara's head. I particularly liked:

    They are wardens. Heroes, warriors of legend, trained to kill darkspawn and survive. The recruits have trained for worse than this, the veterans have fought worse than this.

    Especially the second sentence. Wow. Everything dealing with Venara's burden of command and use of power was so well thought out and powerfully executed. I really liked how the narrative jumped back and forth through time. It packed a great punch that way. (The death of the girl she recommended to be a Warden - that was a sharp blow all of its own. :()

    “What we saw at Adamant—what we saw in there—it changed us. All of us. Don’t let it change you for the worst, my lady. Don’t let what happened stop you from feeling compassion and remembering that beneath some mistakes—as horrible as they may be—lies a person who honestly believes they were doing the right thing.”

    That's really what it boils down to; holding onto yourself no matter what you have to do, even if its an awful thing for the right reasons. Ack, I wanted to hug Venara through all of this! :(

    And Alistair. Alistair. That part hurt . . . a lot. I got emotionally attached too quickly. :(


    XI. It bothered her that she could never properly see the face of an Orlesian noble. They always wore one mask or another, even in a place like Skyhold. And of course their hair was covered with hats and headdresses…So much useless fabric. It was impossible to know who someone was beneath all that. They could change identities in a pinch, tailoring themselves to whomever happened to be in their company in a particular moment.

    It looks like some things never change, no matter the 'verse. I like that the masks are literal, here. Her conversation had me both amused, disgusted, and face-palming, all at once. o_O Just . . . eugh. :mad:

    "You, my dear, are a treasure—for an elf.”

    He said it like it was a compliment.

    There was a little bit of bile in my throat there. [face_plain] I admire her composure.

    Venara laughed hollowly. “So? If I were in Wycome right now, he would have no problem killing me.”

    “After all,” she said, “I’m just an elf.”

    Eugh, the escalation here . . . just when you think that you have enough to deal with, you know? I am looking forward to seeing how this is resolved.


    Excellent writing, as always! I quite enjoyed catching up. [face_love]=D=
     
  24. Tarsier

    Tarsier Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 31, 2005
    III. Faith
    Lovely writing, as always! Magic here sounds fascinating, makes me want to play the game. I love the conversation of young Venara and her father - his patience and honesty, and her precocious curiosity.

    Some of my favorite lines:
    And she felt safe, protected—and daring enough to ask the questions she could not ask during the heat of the day.

    Outrage was louder than hope, after all.

    “I can assure you,” Solas said, “the world will have to end twice before that happens.”

    I'm liking Solas more all the time. :) And I'm glad that Venara was able to help her clan, even if she can't go herself.
     
    Idrelle_Miocovani likes this.
  25. Idrelle_Miocovani

    Idrelle_Miocovani Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2005
    Mira_Jade

    Personally, I'm looking forward to it being so long. ;) [face_mischief] And that's the great thing about fanfiction - it's all about writing in the here and now and going with the flow it. Just enjoy the journey while it goes. :D

    [face_laugh] I just have absolutely no faith in myself for finishing long, multi-chaptered work after This Time Around got abandoned at +300,000 words. :p

    Whew! That was quite the update! I liked meeting the new characters here, especially Alistair.

    This chapter kind of marks the point where I decided to expand the story by quite a bit. I originally went right into what is now Chapter X, but I felt it necessary to establish what kind of (brief) relationship Venara had with Alistair before doing that.

    Ancient/legendary vibe with a quipping, carefree attitude? Yeah, I'm totally onboard with that.

    Also, Alistair! You need to play Dragon Age: Origins! Play it for Alistair. (Also excuse Morrigan's look in this video, I have no idea what mod the uploader was using but I don't like it, Morrigan does not look like that).

    I really liked how the narrative jumped back and forth through time. It packed a great punch that way. (The death of the girl she recommended to be a Warden - that was a sharp blow all of its own. :()

    Thank you! I was trying something new because I didn't want to do a straight up novelization of major in-game events like Adamant.

    And the death of Jana was included because it hit me like a ton of bricks during my playthrough, so of course I brought it into the story. You can tell Jana to join the Wardens waaaaay before you even reach Adamant (if you don't tell her to do that, you can recruit her into the Inquisition). So I did, because Venara had a strong appreciation for the Grey Wardens, what with the Hero of Fereldan being Dalish and all. And then when I got to Adamant and I saw that Jana was the sacrifice (there's always a sacrifice... if it's not Jana, then it's some random Grey Warden NPC you've never spoken to), I was SO MAD.

    Damn it, game. Damn it.

    And Alistair. Alistair. That part hurt . . . a lot. I got emotionally attached too quickly. :(

    That's why I wrote Chapter IX in the first place. So you could get attached. [face_devil]

    But this moment in the game really sucks. Like really sucks. It's not too bad if you're working with a worldstate where Alistair isn't a Grey Warden, but if he is, you have to choose between him and Hawke (the player character of Dragon Age 2) as to who will stay in the Fade. It's AWFUL :_| (so of course I love it as a narrative moment).

    It looks like some things never change, no matter the 'verse. I like that the masks are literal, here. Her conversation had me both amused, disgusted, and face-palming, all at once. o_O Just . . . eugh. :mad:

    Orlesians are... pompous jerks? And really irritating? And have horrifically bad French accents in game. Like I kind of hate how much the developers made them annoying, elitist clods. Makes for fun writing though.

    There was a little bit of bile in my throat there. [face_plain] I admire her composure.

    She was pretty close to blowing up, to be honest. But one of the things I wanted to bring into the story was the treatment of elves as second-class citizens (they're inspired by First Nations tribes and the Romani). Because that's something that the game drops of the ball on a little bit, so I wanted to flush it out here, especially considering how close Venara is to her Dalish roots.

    Eugh, the escalation here . . . just when you think that you have enough to deal with, you know?

    There's always something else!

    I am looking forward to seeing how this is resolved.

    [face_devil]

    Excellent writing, as always! I quite enjoyed catching up. [face_love]=D=

    Thank you for reading and your wonderful comments, as always, my dear! [:D] [face_love]

    Tarsier

    Lovely writing, as always!

    Thank you! [:D]

    Magic here sounds fascinating, makes me want to play the game.

    Oooh, boy. The magic system!! Also the way magic is treated by others in the world. Thedas is a world where most mages are heavily scrutinized for being able to wield magic (because magic = close proximity to spirits and demons). Human mages often lived locked away in towers called Circles, where they train and study under the watchful eye of Templars, who are trained to kill mages who become possessed by demons. A lot of mages don't like not being able to leave the Circles; they also don't like how suspicious Templars are. It's very complicated. An all-out war between Templars and Mages breaks out at the end of Dragon Age 2 because one of your companion characters blows up the Kirkwall Chantry (the equivalent of a church).

    AND YES, PLAY THE GAMES!! :D If you have time, start with Dragon Age: Origins, the world will make a lot more sense. Dragon Age 2 is kind of crappy in terms of gameplay, but necessary for story/world development, so it's up to you (it's really easy to catch up on the story by reading the wiki or watching YouTube videos). Dragon Age: Inquisition is easily my favouirte of the three. Being a mage is A LOT of fun. Here's a Knight-Enchanter mage taking on a dragon by herself in DA: Inquisition.
     
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