At first, Abelas tried to meditate. There was much to consider and go over, after all. With the world restored to its former magical state, it would have been easy to summon a spirit of purpose or wisdom to guide him in contemplation, and help him order his chaotic thoughts. But he soon found that he was too tired to stay awake, and the spirit he'd felt ready to volunteer simply smiled, retreating as he nodded off.
What greeted him as he woke in dreams was the very room they were seated in. Fen'harel and Fenlamea stood off to the side, deep in conversation. He stood and approached them, Fen'harel nodding, and Fenlamea smiling at him respectively, as they noticed his presence.
"Savhalla, hah'ren. I was wondering if you would be joining us," Fenlamea greeted.
Abelas smiled softly. "I found I was unable to resist the lull of slumber after so draining a day. I had wished to meditate, but it seems I will have to delay it, in favor of watching you work."
She chuckled, shaking her head. "We'll see. I can see the threads that guide me where I need to go, but following them with me may be difficult, as Fen'harel was just explaining."
Fen'harel nodded. "Yes, unfortunately we will not be able to follow her to her various destinations, which is why I was giving her instructions on how to get back quickly."
"Were you going to start the party without me?" asked a new voice, and the three of them turned to see Cunning walking up the steps into the room.
Fen'harel and Fenlamea both brightened at the sight of the spirit, but Fen'harel was the first to reply.
"Ah, Cunning, excellent. You wish to accompany your goddess, then?"
Cunning nodded. "I do. Where is Duplicity?"
"He'll be along in a moment. Do you wish us to teach you how we do it?" Fen'harel replied, tilting his head.
Cunning waved him off, shaking her head. "No, I understand the basis of it well enough."
"Well I'm so glad someone comprehends what's going on here, because I'm lost. Duplicity?" Fenlamea cut in.
Fen'harel turned to her and explained, "Duplicity is the spirit that has been my familiar for ages untold. He is the one I call upon to summon forth the Dread Wolf."
She blinked several times, aura clouded with confusion at first, then slowly clearing to understanding as she turned back to Cunning. "You want to, what? Bond with me to form another Dread Wolf?"
Cunning smiled, shrugging. "It's up to you whether it'll be dreaded, my goddess. But no, we're already bonded; it's simply a matter of learning the spell and choosing the appearance of your new spirit form."
Just as she finished, Duplicity made his entrance, manifesting next to Fen'harel and placing his hand on Fen'harel's shoulder with a smile. "I am here, my god."
Fen'harel smiled and patted Duplicity's hand. "Good. Shall we?"
Duplicity nodded, and Fen'harel looked to Fenlamea and Cunning. "Observe. We will demonstrate, until you learn it properly."
Fenlamea snorted. "Alright, go for it. This is the first I'm hearing of any of this, so it should be interesting."
Cunning smiled and placed her hand on Fenlamea's shoulder. "Worry not, my goddess. This has been done for ages beyond counting. We simply have to catch up."
Abelas came to stand on the other side of Fenlamea, watching as Fen'harel began to cast, Duplicity lending his will to the spell. A moment, and the Dread Wolf stood before them, complete with his blackened fur and red eyes. The Dread Wolf shook himself, and the form dissolved, returning Fen'harel and Duplicity to their previous stance. Fen'harel gestured to Fenlamea.
"You tasted the spell?"
She bobbed her head in confirmation. "I did, but I would like to taste it again to be certain."
Fen'harel smiled, casting again, then retreating. "And now?"
Fenlamea drew in a deep breath, nodding on the exhale. "I think I have it. We'll find out."
She tried casting, Cunning giving her strength to the spell, but it fizzled. Fenlamea huffed. "Well, that didn't work." She looked back at Cunning. "Again?"
Fenlamea took a breath and let it out slowly, closing her eyes in concentration as she began again. It almost seemed like it was working, but then it died again. Fenlamea frowned and gestured to Fen'harel with a frustrated sigh. "Something's not right. Show me again."
He shook his head this time. "It is not the spell, nor your method of casting that is lacking. Something is interfering."
"That would likely be my fault."
Everyone turned to the source of the thin, soft voice, to see Dirthamen materializing from shadow. "Apologies. I wanted to observe. I believe my magic is what's interfering. Our link from earlier today must've mixed our auras a bit more strongly than I'd anticipated." He smiled contritely to Fenlamea. "Please, try again. I am eager to see our sister's new spirit form."
She chuckled softly, shaking her head. "It's no trouble, isa'ma'lin. But perhaps next time, don't hide in the corner? I have no problem with you venturing into my dreams, so long as I know you're there."
Dirthamen smiled, bowing his head in acquiescence. "That is indeed a reasonable request, asa'ma'lin."
Fenlamea paused, tilting her head as she looked at Fen'harel, a quizzical expression clouding her features. "This spirit form- is this something that can be cast outside of dreams?"
Fen'harel shook his head. "No, though you can use the practice of dun'himelan to achieve a similar - if powerless - result. Cunning would not be required for that transformation, naturally."
"I could join you as a twin for that, if you like. Might be fun," Cunning supplied, smirking deviously.
Fenlamea grinned at Cunning, dipping her head softly. "I think I'd like that." She turned back to Fen'harel. "Alright, going for another attempt."
She glanced over her shoulder with a nod at Cunning, who returned the gesture readily. Fenlamea began casting once more as she faced ahead, her aura flaring with determination. The thick mist of her mana billowed from her in surging waves as she pressed the spell into existence, and this time, it did not fail.
In place of her elvhen form stood a large wolf, with a coat as pure white as freshly fallen snow, three blood red eyes shining radiantly from behind pale lids with Cunning's added power. Fenlamea looked around, blinking her eyes several times before she focused on anything in particular.
When she did, she rounded her gaze on Abelas, canting her head at him. She tried to make some sort of noise, which ended up being nothing more than a soft whuff. She shook her head, trying again, with similar results. She closed her eyes and her head sank dejectedly below her shoulders, a pained whimper sounding from her throat. She looked to Fen'harel and whined.
Fen'harel smiled sympathetically. "I believe what she means to ask, Abelas, is if you approve."
Fenlamea wagged her tail, whuffing quietly at Fen'harel in apparent agreement.
Abelas raised an eyebrow. Why would it matter to her if he did or not? "She cannot speak, to ask the question for herself?"
Fen'harel grimaced slightly. "I have not taught her the spell; one moment, I will show her."
He and Duplicity cast themselves into the shape of the Dread Wolf, and faced Fenlamea. Abelas could feel the pressure of the Dread Wolf's mana, as he willed a spell into the air, and Fenlamea's attempt at replication. A repeated performance later, and Fenlamea turned her attention back to Abelas, as Fen'harel dismissed the Dread Wolf form.
He felt her presence crawl along his mind, mingling her aura with his as her voice gently caressed his thoughts, "Well, what do you think? I have no idea what I look like, other than very... white."
A surprised chuckle escaped him, and he smiled down at her. "It is indeed very white, goddess. The third eye is an interesting addition; was that intentional?"
She surprised him by growling slightly, before he felt her brush against his mind again, more roughly, "'Goddess'?! Exactly when did you decide to start calling me goddess? What happened to just using my name?"
He hesitated, uncertain how to respond for a moment. Had the decision even been a conscious one? She was a goddess now; the very fact that she was able to use the form she currently inhabited proved that much. Her question had her aura mingling curiosity, indignation, and a tinge of sadness, all surrounded by a twisting miasma of uncertainty. "Ir abelas, Fenlamea." Her aura relaxed at hearing her name usher past his lips. Curiosity still pricked at his mind. "You did not answer my question."
She looked off to the side at first, then answered as she turned back to him. "I am not Fen'harel. I didn't want six eyes, but three still makes an impression, if a less intimidating one."
"So you seek to be known for the third eye, but not feared?" he inquired.
A disembodied chuckle suffused his senses with its mirth. "Something like that. It keeps them from wondering too much about whether or not I actually have the power I claim to possess, but doesn't scare them into wakefulness. Not sure I want to keep the white, though. I think that's Cunning's influence."
"That is unfortunate."
She tilted her head at him. "Why?"
"The white coat suits you," he told her, honestly.
She blinked all three eyes at that, hard. "It suits me? How so? You do recall my hair is black, yes?"
He nodded. "I do, but your spirit form should reflect your soul, not your appearance. Your current figure achieves that goal perfectly, as it is."
She turned from him then, looking to Dirthamen. A moment later, he smiled.
"I believe he is correct, asa'ma'lin. It does indeed reflect what I know of your spirit. It is rather appropriate, not to mention pleasing to look at, as spirit forms go."
She looks to Fen'harel, who merely gives her a small smile and a nod, a confirmation of his agreement. Huffing, she turned to Abelas, looking somewhere near his feet at first, then scanning upward to his face.
"Fine, if you all think the white's so grand, I'll keep it. I don't understand what all the fuss is about- it's just white."
Abelas smiled softly. "White is a color of purity and peace; two things Thedas desperately needs right now, especially in its leaders. Appearing as you are will assist in promoting those ideals."
Her aura became shaded with skepticism. "I'm promoting purity and peace... as a three-eyed wolf?"
He shook his head, amusement playing at his lips. "Most will not remember that detail on waking, unless you wish them to. What they will remember, is whatever message you give them, or scene you create for them."
"That is very true," Fen'harel interjected, waiting for Fenlamea to look at him before he continued, "they will only recall what you impress upon them to remember, upon waking. Create a strong enough message, and they will remember that, more than anything. This is what my power - now yours - is intended to do."
She huffed and shook herself, dismissing the wolf. "I imagine you're all tired of only hearing one side of the conversation," she offered in explanation, tossing slightly apologetic looks at those gathered, before focusing on Fen'harel again. "So, they could be completely ignorant that I'm even there, if I want them to be?"
Fen'harel nodded. "Yes, if that is your preference. Your spirit wolf is merely a conduit, a means to traverse dreaming minds with the most efficiency possible. You can use it in any way you desire within those dreams, or dismiss it entirely once you reach your destination; it is your choice. It is only a tool, to be used as you see fit."
She bobbed her head and glanced back at Cunning, who placed her hand on Fenlamea's shoulder, at the ready. Fenlamea cast her spell, falling into the shape of the wolf with greater ease than she had previously; obviously gaining familiarity with the spell. She looked to Dirthamen, Fen'harel, and Abelas in turn, apparently sending messages to each of them.
"Sleep well, hah'ren. I'll be back with the dawn," was the one he received, just before she bolted for the balcony, jumping up and vaulting off the railing, then disappearing from sight completely. Had he not witnessed the Dread Wolf perform a similar feat many times, he would have worried for her safety.
He swung his gaze back to Fen'harel, who dipped his head and vanished, waking from his slumber. Abelas watched as the shadow of Fen'harel's physical form left Fenlamea's chambers, retreating down the stairs.
"Finally," came Dirthamen's unexpected exclamation, "we can speak in private. I have something for you, Sorrow."
Abelas flicked an eyebrow up, his curiosity piqued. It was not often the Keeper of Secrets was so... direct. "Do you? What shape does this 'something' take, I wonder?"
Dirthamen smiled, chuckling softly. "You recall your new mistress declared you worthy of reward, yes?"
Abelas frowned slightly, but nodded. "I do, though you saw how she reacted when I called her a goddess. It may be best to avoid indicating she has any form of dominion over me, when she is present."
Dirthamen smirked. "I did indeed see her reaction. It was rather noble of her, considering how you view her."
Abelas' eyebrows knit together in confusion. "Exactly how is it you believe I view her?"
Dirthamen snickered, inclining his head toward Abelas. "You said it yourself, did you not? She is your goddess. In any case, I did not come here to debate in what esteem you hold your new charge. The boon I grant you for your service is a memory; one I believe you will find rather more rewarding than you expect."
Abelas' confusion only grew at that declaration. "A memory? Whose memory?"
Dirthamen beamed at him, waving him toward himself encouragingly. "Come, you shall see. I do so look forward to knowing your reaction; that will be more than payment enough, in itself."
Abelas hesitated, suspicion clawing up his spine. "Is this truly a reward, or an exchange?"
Dirthamen released the loudest of his laughs, which was still subdued, compared to nearly anyone but Abelas himself. "It is both, but only because I am curious. I will take nothing from you that I do not see or hear from outside of your mind. Worry not."
Only slightly reassured by this promise, Abelas pressed forward, waiting until Dirthamen held his hand out, to extend his own hand. He hesitated for only a moment, then lowered his fingers to brush against the god's palm.
The first thing that hit him was the adrenaline. Then, a frantic awakening of the senses; smell, sight, sound, touch. Memory of dulled reactions that are suddenly sharp, crisp, awakened. He realizes where he is, and knows the memory is recent, only months old. The view of the memory shifts, looking over- at himself. Then, it all clicks into place.
The sight of his aura - through what he now understands is Fenlamea's eyes - evokes emotions stronger than any he has felt in a millennia. These are her emotions, how she felt at first seeing him, after embracing the gift of the Vir'abelasan. He feels her soaking in the vision of him, with the reverence of a soul starved of sustenance, which has been given food and water for the first time in memory.
The moment seems frozen in time, her eyes taking in every detail, even down to the saddened regret etched permanently into his golden eyes. Time slowly grinds into being once again, as he feels the tear roll down her cheek. He nearly chokes on the sorrowed embarrassment she feels, watching as she quickly looks away, wiping the tear from her skin. Her voice trickles into his ears with newly unlocked perception, evoking reactions in him that became automatic recognition when he was a child, but through her ears, they are as fresh and raw as any newborn's. He hears his response, and the memory ends, now firmly embedded in his own mind, able to be recalled for as long as he can remember it.
The reality of dreams returned, stunning in the sharpness of it, after such an experience. He gasped for air, his shadow in reality mirroring him, as it was his body that lacked the air, not his spirit self. He gaped at Dirthamen, who smiled kindly back at him, eyes flitting about, reading the last remnants of his reactions to the memory.
"This is truly how she saw me, that night?" Abelas managed, once his air supply was assured.
Dirthamen dipped his head in confirmation. "It was. Quite the experience, was it not? A worthy reward, I should think. And your reaction was very intriguing indeed; mother will be quite curious to hear my report." He smiled and patted Abelas on the arm. "I wish you peaceful rest, Sentinel. You will need it, to keep her alive. And that is how I want her to stay, understood?"
Abelas was nearly insulted by the insinuation that he would willingly let her die, but his pleasure at seeing - with a glance at Dirthamen's aura - that the god truly did want her to live, overrode it. He bowed his head in respect. "As do I. I will do everything in my power, to see she remains so."
Dirthamen smiled. "'Ma serannas, Sorrow."
The Keeper of Secrets faded into shadow, either waking or simply concealing himself.
Abelas slowly walked over to the chair his shadowed self was seated in, settling in it as well, in preparation for waking. He needed time to meditate - truly meditate, not sleep - on this new information, this boon he'd been given. He wanted to be certain of everything he saw, to replay the memory in as much clarity as he could muster.
It was no idle curiosity, or diversion that he sought to satisfy- oh, no. What he searched for was of utmost importance, both to him and to... his goddess. If he was right, if what he saw indeed rang true...
It would change everything.