dedication: to alma, for letting me be angry.
notes: i don't even like solas.
notes2: also don't get me started, i am writing this while pretending that bioware's terrible continuity does not affect me at all.
title: rebellion (at the root of all things)
summary: Ellana, you think. Ellana. — Solas/Lavellan.
The Veil falls, and after the dust has settled and the lives have been lost, it is like this:
There are stories about her. She is fadewalker and death dealer and rift mage, and to hear of the people in cities speak of her, she is halfway to demon and near enough already to god. Her eyes have bled themselves of colour, sunk in deep with the threads of the Veil, green as the last dying strands of every old friend you have ever known. There is nothing left of her but the unending trudge of destiny, her mad need to thwart everything you ever worked for even when she didn't realize she was doing it.
And you—you are too late.
It is a cold day. Your breath comes out solid. There are prickleweed thorns in her palms, deep dark things that have left open weeping sores, blood trickling down her wrists. Her hair unspools down her shoulders, faintly shimmering in the winter sunlight. There are no gods, but you think that if there were, she would belong to them because she is not a mortal thing, insofar as any of the People are mortal. Her name is stuck in your throat. Sometimes it feels like you have loved her for your whole entire life, every single particle of your being breathing only for her. Sometimes it feels like you have lost yourself, Mythal's last sacrifice still bitter on your tongue. Mythal, mother and sister and unrequited love—she did not want this for you, but what you want has never figured into what you end up doing. You have been the death of every woman you have ever truly loved.
Of course, this is no different.
"Dana," she snaps, the word cracking across your face, hard as a clenched fist with the force of her will. The world after the Veil is a strange blend of intent and power, magic like breathing; it is the world you know best, the world you have loved and lost and found again, and when she says break, things do.
(It has taken the better part of three centuries for most of your people to relearn the magic that is their birthright, and even now, they struggle with it. That she has taken the Fade and wound it so tightly to her will is… unnerving, to say the least. The Void's deadly deeps are bound up in her pretty fingers, and you know, suddenly, with a hollow kind of certainty, that she could kill you. She could kill you, and you do not think it would hurt her at all. You swallow, throat dry.)
She is, as always, ahead of the curve.
"Ella—" you fail to get her name out. Power closes around your voicebox, tight as a vice.
"Dian," she says. "Dana! Why are you here, Dread Wolf? To gloat?"
Stop, she says. Break, she says. Stop, break.
But you do not break.
The pressure on your throat levels off, and you can see the consternation in the lines of her face. You are older than she, and you have had so much more practise at molding the Fade to your will. You push her magic away to let yourself breathe, and you pray that she does not take note of the shaking effort it requires. She is strong. She has always been so very strong.
"Not another step, Fen'Harel," she says, very quietly. The emphasis on the name nearly makes you sick. You have not heard her voice in so long, and to hear the loathing in it now near knocks you off your feet. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust; you think she would have been so much better off if you had never fallen in love with her. Perhaps she would not be so fractured. Her staff is limed with cruel green light, and she levers it at your face. "Why are you here?"
You don't really have an answer for her. You don't really know why you're here.
You don't even really know where here is.
"Vhenan," you say, and the word comes out so tired. Three hundred years is a long time, and the chasm between her and you has grown with every single lost minute. Common rises to your tongue unbidden, and Arlathan and its language are forgotten. "I have missed you."
"I am sure you have," she says. It is why I have stayed away, hangs in the air thick and sour as curdled milk. Her lips peel back from her teeth. It is not a smile. "Does peace not suit you, my love? Or is it just godhood?"
She says the words like a curse, and you close your eyes.
You have been called god three times in your life. Once: when you were naught but a boy, stunned and startled but a killing thing on a battlefield. Soldiers become generals become kings become legends, and so you had, but it had not lasted—later they called you rebel, but first they called you god—because they were hungry for power that did not belong to them, and when they finally killed for it, you went and killed them back. Twice: the Dalish, three hundred years gone, vallaslin tattooed onto their faces, the willing slavery of the gesture such a rankle at the back of your throat. You offered to take it from her face, and she said yes, but that didn't last, either. She wears it now, wears it again, Mythal's benediction inked into her skin forever more. Three times: oh, God, save us, they whispered, as you took your fabricated chokehold in your hands and tore it down, left the mortal world and its mortal trappings to flames and death.
No, peace does not suit you.
Perhaps it is something you always should have known.
But you did not think you would ever hear such vitriol. Not from her, not when she has been everything, everything you have ever wanted or needed. The Fade bleeds out of her and into her like breathing. You can't even remember the colour of her eyes. You think they were light, pale as a hazy pre-dawn sky.
"Vhenan," you say again, my heart, my love, my home. "Enough."
"Enough," she says, and her voice cracks right down the middle, a hysteric kind of laughter hidden in the words. "Enough, he says! As though you have any right to it, Creators, you should have killed me when you had the chance."
She knows the words will wound, and she jerks her face up so that her vallaslin is thrown into high relief. You hate it, hate it, recoil away from the sight of it on her face on reflex. And she does smile, now, manic-wide because she's caught your discomfort and she revels in it, in this last small dagger shoved in between your ribs. It hurts to breathe. The lyrium of her prosthetic pulses in time with every jagged inhale.
You try for her name again. It tastes like an Age gone by. "Ellan—"
She holds up a hand, her real hand, flesh and blood and bone. "I am never going to stop," she says, and it is such a simple thing. You can feel the way her magic hooks inside of your chest, singing through your blood. A conversation comes back: blood magic is not inherently evil. "I am never going to forgive you. I cannot."
"I do not expect you to," and it is a truth you have always held so very dear.
The word bends and snaps, warps in on itself. A flash of green light, her magic in your chest—you never should have let her learn Rift magic, it has made her as deadly a thing as you are yourself. Soldiers to rulers to gods; already she is a legend, necromancer witch queen of the fens, done up in bone-paint and witchlight, fire wreathing around her hands. She kills everything she touches, a long wake of destruction left behind her.
You breathe in—
vhenan, vhenan, come back to me, come back
—and she yanks you to her, but it is not a kindness.
You sink to the ground, both of you, you with your head in her lap and she bent prone above you. You have memories of this, but only a few. You have dreams of this, as many as there are stars in the sky. To touch her is the greatest sin, because you do not deserve the honour.
For a long time, you lay there, only barely alive. The sky is cranberry. The ground is black as ash. This is not the Exalted Plains. This is not the Emerald Graves. This is Skyhold, and you should not be so surprised.
"You should have killed me when you had the chance," she repeats, running her fingers over your face. It is like this: over your eyes, down your nose, across your lips. Up your jaw to the tips of your ears, back down to your collarbone. She maps you out. It is such a sorrowful deconstruction. "Because one day, I am going to kill you for it. One day, I am going to kill you for everything."
"As you should," you rasp. Another truth.
"They died screaming," she says, and her voice has turned so gentle. "Did you know? All of them, every last one. Even Cole, and he wasn't halfways to human at the end. It was so pointless, Dread Wolf. So much death. And for what?"
"You know for what," you tell her. Arlathan sweeps out of you, a sigh of magic and beautiful curved stone. The Shattered Library, whole anew. Far-flung palaces, children laughing, the natural order of things once more. Your people, the People, hers and yours. "You know, vhenan."
"Yes," she says. "I know."
She waits, and the words leak out of you, just like she knew they would. "It was not worth it."
"Yes," she says, again. "I know."
She drops her forehead to yours and lingers. She is so close that you breathe the same air, all of her mingling with all of you, and it has been so very long since you've so much as touched her cheek. Ellana, you think, muddled with it, Ellana.
There is a depression in the world, pressure against your chest as she sinks down to curl into your side. It tastes like magic, like veilfire, like pain—
"I hope this hurts," she says, but there is such sorrow in her eyes.
Her magic snaps your every rib. Drowning in your own blood—that's a new one. You have died a hundred thousand times in a hundred thousand ways, and all of them at her hands, in dreams and nightmares and fantasies. Of course the way she actually decides to do it is the only one you haven't thought about. Food for thought, when she pulls her staff out of your chest and leaves you to finish dying in peace.
(Peace, ha, funny.)
This won't kill you, but it will be a close thing. Her hands on your face might just be worth it. You have waited three hundred years, and you will not wait a moment longer.
"Ar lath na," you tell her, a dark bubble of blood on your lips, the bitter copper tang of it thick in your mouth. You should have said it before now; three hundred years too late is just your style. You always did have awful timing. I love you. I will love you after I have ceased to exist, and then every day after.
"I wish you didn't," she says into your throat. Something screaming inside your chest goes very quiet instead. She doesn't tell you all the better ways it could have gone. She is not that kind. "I wish I didn't."
"But you do," you say, and it is such a terrible, terrible relief to know that after all this time, there is still no one else. Her hair is pale perfect satin between your fingers, white as halla, soft as new leaves. The colour has all leeched out of her, even the Fade. Her eyes are golden as a sunrise, clear and clean and—and you love her. You love her. Spirits, but you love her. "You do."
"But I do," she says, nods again. "I do."
You lay there for a while longer, listening to the sucking wet sound of your breath. Already, your own power is healing the internal damage, bones reknitting and flesh regrowing and pain receding. You are very lucky the fourteen broken ribs did not pierce through your lungs, although in truth it is probably not luck. Her vengeance would never be so quick, nor so vulgar.
"I hate that I love you," she says, at long last. Your blood mats her hair. She is all stark lines as she rises, white against red against white. The gaping maw of time and bitterness between you tears opens again. "After all this time, after everything, I still—and I hate it. I hate it."
At least you are not alone in this, you don't say. At least we are both bound to it.
"Do you even regret it?" she asks. Softly, like an apology. Softly, like she has to know.
"No," you exhale. This is a lie. "Yes," is also a lie. "No."
She stands still above you for a long time. The wind catches against her robes, the beautiful old leathers you found in the Library all those years ago. There is something important to that, but you are too tired and too hurt to put your finger on what it might be. Your ribs are going to be protesting for weeks. It is not as if you don't deserve it.
But she is so very, very quiet. "Don't come looking for me again."
"Vhenan—" you say, break off at the look on her face. You did not think it possible, to hurt so much and still be alive. Physical pain is nothing, nothing compared to this.
"Solas," she says, fingers tightening around her staff. "Please."
You have to close your eyes to nod your acquiescence. You watched her leave, once. She'd been bleeding and battered, broken all the way through. The sharpness to her shoulders, the way she'd cradled herself so close; these are the things you have carried with you, all these years. Through the destruction of your failed Veil, through your rebellions, through your long nights all alone, plotting and missing and aching.
Through all of it, you have carried her. Fadewalker, death dealer, rift witch: whatever she is, whatever she becomes—all the loose stones and fissures of her mind, the dark sticky places of her soul that exist only because you put them there—she is yours. Even now. Even still. Even though she hates it and hates you and hates herself, she is yours. Even though she is going to kill you one day, sooner than you probably expect, later than you probably wish.
And you do not think you can watch her leave you, again.
You spit up the blood instead of swallowing. Rebellion, at the root of all things.
Ellana, you think. Ellana.
notes3: who knows not me