Every day that they remained in the keep, before the midday meal, the Inquisitor would climb the stairs to the library. At first, Solas assumed she sought the Tevinter boy, evidently developing some unlikely kinship during their time in the bleak future of Redcliffe; but after some weeks, he happened to catch her leading Helisma—their Tranquil researcher—through the halls to the west wing.
It was where the majority of the Tranquil were quartered.
Solas kept a careful watch after that, from his room below. Trevelyan would fetch the researcher and exit through to the hall, and from there enter the Tranquil's quarters. It was… unexpected. Most mages kept away from their Fade-castrated brethren, reminded all too keenly of the fear they suffered beneath the rule of the Chantry.
The Inquisitor would remain there for one hour, and then adjourn to the main hall to dine with whomever was available—Lady Montilyet and Varric frequently made an appearance for midday, as did Dorian, ready to discuss his research. Cullen rarely made time to eat unless it was specifically requested of him, and Leliana rarely made an appearance even then. Other companions wandered in and out as time suited them, and Trevelyan seemed content to keep it so. After approximately three weeks of observation—interrupted by a trek to the Hinterlands in search of a missing caravan and reports of a rift to the south—Solas took a seat beside the Inquisitor just as she began her meal.
She smiled, genuine pleasure making itself known in the lines at the corners of her eyes and in the way her fingers leapt even as she lifted a piece of bread to her lips. "Solas!"
He inclined his head, letting a smile play upon the edges of his own lips.
Her eyes lit every time he used her given name with a pleasure Solas knew keenly. To hear a title in place of the self… yes, he knew the pain that wore the soul as well.
But he would not deny that he used her name now for his own purpose, regardless of his feelings on the matter.
"I have noticed an intriguing pattern these last weeks." His eyes followed the messengers that bustled from door to door across the flagstones, and the nobles too nervous to approach the Inquisitor as she ate. They were early; he did not see Lady Montilyet, and Varric had diverted his attention and pretended to busy himself when he saw Solas sit in the dwarf's usual chair—directly to Trevelyan's left. No one was listening but the Inquisitor herself, a keen, quiet attention.
"Here," he nodded, once. "Your movements, in particular. You seem to spend a good deal of time with the Tranquil. If you are not opposed to my asking, I would wish to know why."
"Oh." The woman's smile did not falter. She turned her attention to the apple on her plate and retrieved a small paring knife with a light, wooden handle. Not one that Lady Montilyet had approved, judging by its heavy wear. "I don't have them all working on a particular project, and I'm not trying to convince them to undergo an experimental process of reversal."
Solas acknowledged her with the slightest bow over his empty plate. "And so?"
A soft sigh escaped the Inquisitor's lips. "I enjoy their company."
"Would you care to explain?" He found himself pulling closer, as though to a particularly exciting passage of fiction, an intent focus that inevitably brought one's nose within inches of the page.
She chuckled, a release of tension, no doubt realizing that he was interested, genuine. She studied him a moment, eyes so like the sea that fed the Fade when he was young. The white locks among auburn caught violet light from the hall's stained-glass windows, and she relaxed, tucked the knife into her belt, and gathered up the slices she had made of her apple. "Let me show you." The woman rose, smiling.
Also unexpected. "Very well—lead the way."
She ate as they walked, invariably toward the western wing of the Keep. The Inquisitor nodded to all they passed, and sent a quick wink to Varric as they departed, who returned a good-natured shrug and wave of his hand.
"I imagine you know much of the tranquil," she said delicately, around a half-chewed chunk of apple.
"I am aware of the injustice done to them, yes." They passed into a narrow corridor, climbed familiar stairs.
Trevelyan nodded. "It's an unforgivable sentencing. If a child can't control their powers, find a different way to teach—do not declare them incapable of learning." Her teeth tore at the red skin of one of the slices. "But, I meant a knowledge of the… nature of what's been done."
Solas clasped his hands behind his back. "Interesting use of words, Inquisitor." She cocked her head, and he continued: "What has been done is—more accurately—unnatural. The Fade is not meant to be sundered from the world—it is, even with the Veil in place, part of this world as much as this world is part of the Fade."
She nodded, stopping at the top of the stairs. "I don't disagree, but—"
"There are forms of meditation that allow one to separate from the… earthly emotions. Tranquility is not unlike that temporary state of being, but that is it: meditation is temporary, controlled. The individual in question makes the choice regarding how far to go, when to return to their worldly cares." He tilted his head, wringing his hands together at the small of his back. "And even then, one is never sundered from the Fade. It simply becomes easier to see its shape, to realize how its tides push and pull on your body, the way the Veil trembles and sings at the mage's touch."
"Yes." She brushed both hands together, considering. "And I find they still have… something. The person they are isn't gone."
"But there is some part of them that has invariably been lost."
Trevelyan pursed her lips. "I'm not completely sure that's the case." She spread her hands, turned to the oaken door. "Let me show you?"
Solas inclined his head. "Of course." This would be… interesting, if true.
Potentially a brand-new perspective. And, if not, it might answer a few inquiries still lingering in his mind.
The Inquisition's young researcher was seated at a low table, quill in hand. It was a cold anger that settled into Solas' bones upon seeing the youth in that face each day, Chantry sun emblazoned, branded upon bronze skin.
"Helisma, are you busy?"
"I have not yet begun in earnest, Inquisitor."
Leona smiled. Solas could not recall seeing her smile at anyone that addressed her as 'Inquisitor' in private company. "Would you mind telling Solas about what you do?"
The woman nodded, turning a gaze upon Solas that he was surprised to find, not hollow, but intent, full.
Yet still, emotionless.
"I continue the studies of apprentice Minaeve—she kept extensive and intriguing notes. I research creatures to give Inquisition scouts and troops better knowledge of beasts they may encounter, research ways to help and to hurt. The best knowledge I can give is how to maintain an harmless relationship between beast and man." The tone was empty, yet the words were not. He turned his gaze to Leona's bright eyes, high-arching brows, and knew she saw him begin to understand.
"The knowledge you share is a great boon, Helisma," said Solas. "How did you come to this task?"
"I had a great fondness for animals, though I do not remember why." A knife twisted in Solas' gut. Of course. The things she could have done with her heart free! A mind is nothing when it sits empty, stirring only when commanded by the passing breeze—"It seemed right to volunteer for the task."
Solas blinked. "You volunteered?"
Leona was smiling in earnest now. "Anything new?"
"Not since this morning."
"And you'll let me know if you need anything?"
The tranquil nodded. "The Inquisition has enough resources that I am able to work at optimum efficiency. Should I require anything more, I shall follow your request and send a requisition form to you directly, Inquisitor."
"Thank you, Helisma."
"Good afternoon, Messeres."
"A pleasant day to you, Helisma," Solas replied, and followed Leona up the next flight of stairs, and out onto one of the tower's balconies.
Her steps were light. "I would have taken you to visit Antony, but I know he's already started working—and he doesn't like to be interrupted during research."
Solas stiffened. "You speak as though he can still have a preference."
"I think Helisma just proved they do." Leona leaned over the thick, mossy stones of the balustrade, folding her arms beneath her breasts. "What has been done to the tranquil is unforgivable, because they weren't given a choice. The state itself is… more complex."
He placed his palms on the sun-warmed stone beside her. "So it would seem—go on."
She smiled, a grateful thing, more vulnerable than the sparkling grins she lavished upon court and companions, refugees and soldiers. "The tranquil are still the people they were. The only thing that has changed is their ability to… touch, to feel, in a way we consider sublime, true, and real. For us, it gives color to the world, and they—do not remember what they miss. It's not gone. It's different. Helisma loved animals, and that love still influences her actions."
"But she cannot feel it."
Leona tilted her head, lips drawn up in the smallest smirk. "Would you say that she's no longer a person because she lacks the ability to feel the way you do?"
Solas opened his mouth. Closed it.
He chuckled, a sound of surprise, delicate in the wan light of the mountain sun.
"You surprise me, Inquisitor." He could tell the human had half a mind to look offended, but she merely waited patiently, settled comfortably upon the balustrade.
So, Solas let the silence stretch on, wind whistling softly between the towers, catching on centuries-smoothed edges of stone mossy tendrils. The bustle of courtyard and battlement was a pleasant murmur, close like the shadow of the Veil, babbling like water over stones, comfort that glittered like silver. Leona's voice set to humming after a moment, an old tune that danced a marching beat—and he doubted the human realized she gave it voice, for she remained perfectly still, as though she were listening to what the wind brought. Auburn wisps tugged free from braids wound around the crown of her skull, and whispered as they tickled the round tips of her ears. Did the breeze bring words to her, too, carrying news of the Veil, mumbled phrases half-remembered, voices of spirits not yet loud enough to call her by name?
Revas. Forever the word on the wind, brought to the pointed ears of… one aged beyond his years.
"Tell me," said Solas, "how has the mark affected you?" Leona's brow furrowed, and she turned to face him, leaving only one arm to rest on the stone. "Has it changed you in any way? Your mind, your morals, your—spirit."
There came a slow smile. "Would I know if it had?"
He chuckled. "It was a foolish question. I suppose you would not."
Leona tilted her head, thick brows drawn tight over clever eyes, the smile never leaving her lips. "I wonder if a caterpillar notices. When it becomes a butterfly, does it think it has changed? Or does it keep thinking of itself as a caterpillar with wings? Maybe it seems natural, not like a miracle at all. Just—ordinary. Another day for a caterpillar. Wake up from a nap to let my wings dry and decide what to do from there. I'm still me, even when people start shouting 'Herald' and 'Inquisitor' in my direction. I just… keep going."
His fingers curled against knotted mosses. "You show a wisdom that I have not seen since—" Solas caught himself. "—my deepest journeys into the ancient memories of the Fade." He was growing careless, it seemed Leona noticed nothing. "You are not what I expected."
She grinned at that, eyes crinkling at the edges. "Good unexpected?" The mage winked.
"Indeed." Solas smiled, and folded his arms to lean on the balustrade, and Leona mimicked his movement, gently nudging her elbow against his. "I respect you deeply, Leona Trevelyan."
"And I you, Solas. I'm glad to call you a friend."
Solas felt his mouth quirk. "It has been some time, but… yes. A friend."
They looked down into the training yard. The recruits dispersed, nursing bruised fingers and mopping brows. Training blades were replaced on the racks, and fresh soil packed over the muddy sparring ring before the young soldiers went off in search of water, ale, or a clean bunk. The Commander, too, strode away, and Solas watched as Leona's eyes followed him. He knew from the twitch of her lips that she lost sight of him around the stairwell to the main hall, but from his angle, Solas could still see well where the former Templar was headed.
"I believe your Commander seeks you."
The delighted flush across round cheeks was difficult to miss. "How do you know?"
Solas let a smile cross his lips, and he nodded toward the man below. Cullen's words were distant, but both of them could make out "Inquisitor," and the soldier in question gestured immediately to their position. Leona's cheeks darkened as the Commander lifted a shy hand in greeting. He gestured to the tavern, and the mage nearly vibrated with excitement, warm tendrils of power cracking harmlessly in the air—Solas wondered idly what the former Templar thought of that habit of hers.
Leona bounced and waved an affirmative, grinning like a fox that had never been hunted, free and pure beneath an emerald canopy.
Yes, here was one thing that never changed.
A friend from another age would have told him he'd become a sentimental old fool—delighted at the sight of young lovers.
For a moment, he thought Leona would skip off without another word, but she nudged his shoulder with a grin before throwing open the balcony door: "Ma serannas, ma'falon." With that, the mage winked and bounced off down the passage.
Solas barked a laugh. "Dareth shiral, da'madan!"
Revas - free or freedom
Ma serannas, ma'falon - thank you, my friend
Dareth shiral, da'madan - goodbye/go in peace, little fool; I took 'fool' from the gaelic and modified it to fit the elvhen language