What I really wanted to say was that a monster is not such a terrible thing to be. From the Latin root monstrum, a divine messenger of catastrophe, then adapted by the Old French to mean an animal of myriad origins: centaur, griffin, satyr. To be a monster is to be a hybrid signal, a lighthouse: both shelter and warning at once.”121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡes3Flrovbv
~Ocean Vuong, On Earth We're Briefly gorgeous.
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Vun’amelan groggily rolled out of bed, bones cracking as she stretched. Her shoulder protested the movements. "By the gods, this is the last time I dislocate a shoulder." she thought to herself, groaning. The lone darkspawn had been tougher to kill then usual, and even after a week it still ached.
Carefully, she went to the cabinet and grabbed a piece of hard bread and a water skin. The bread was tasteless, but better than nothing. She checked over her stock. Enough food to last four more days at a stretch, though she needed to find more rye. Which meant more water. "Nearest water source is an hour away."
Using the last of her water to wash herself, she glanced at the mirror. Her appearance wasn’t special. With this new Blight, she looked like everyone else: bloodshot eyes, ashen skin, nothing but a ghost who refused to fade. Absentmindedly, she played with a braided piece of her hair. "How long have I had it braided? A month? Hm, I’ll have to change it tonight."
The small hut was barely holding itself together, but it did its job. All the windows had been boarded up, and a cabinet and dressing table stood between her and the door. A fallen tree had made itself home next to her bed, providing cover from darkspawn. She hated being alone, but knew it was for the best. Having more than one person attracted darkspawn.
Donning her Dalish Keeper robes, she strapped four water skins and a knapsack to herself. Knowing the dangers of the contaminated water, she grabbed her dragon leather gloves.
The trek to the lake was uneventful. Small patches of rye littered the way, and by the time she reached the lake her knapsack had a decent amount in it. Even after two months passing, it felt weird not to be speaking with Dorian. She had lost her communication stone a long time ago, destroyed as she fought a pack of Blight wolves. She didn’t dare think whether Dorian was still alive.
They were the last two of the Inquisitor’s circle. Technically three, but she wasn’t sure if Fen’harel had survived after the explosion in the temple.
The familiar sounds of hooves reached her ears, and she froze in collecting the water. She glanced up to see a Dar’hall. The blighted halla snorted at her, shaking its head. Carefully, she placed the water skin down and grabbed her staff. Using Winter’s Grasp, she killed it with a charged lightning bolt. The halla screeched before collapsing, but Vun’amelan was so used to the sound she no longer felt guilt. "I need to check my wards", she thought to herself as she glanced around.
Finishing up collecting the water, she walked past the blighted halla and let her senses prod the wards. Part of it had been broken, a familiar magical energy taking its place. She looked around, and-
"You’ve changed", she wanted to say, but hadn’t they all? Dark, matted hair framed his sunken face, its reddish hue a stark contrast to his ashen skin. The chest armour was a dark red; of course he would only seek her when he was moments away from death.
The harsh laugh that escaped surprised even him, judging by his raised eyebrows. Her voice cracked from not having been used. “I doubt you are here for me to just heal you.”
Fen’harel glanced down at his blood-soaked torso, shaking his head. “It is far too late, I am afraid. I intend to use my last moments wisely.”
She hummed. Once, she would have insisted on helping… but that was long ago. “This isn’t a social call, then. Why are you here?”
“I’m here to offer you a deal.”
“Offer?” At this, a more high pitched laugh escaped her, near hysterical. It quickly cut off into a coughing fit, body protesting the quick movements. Slowly, she regained control of her breathing. “Do I have much choice, Fen’harel? After all, you have me leashed. And guilt tripping me with your ‘I’m dying’ spiel, to boot!”
That day was still fresh in her mind. She had come so close to killing the Dread Wolf, only for him to take control of her body. She had been forced to her knees, trying to work out how he could do the same thing as Mythal. And he had told her; in the same tone one would use to describe a particularly nice recipe.
Fen’harel flinched. “There is a way to send us back in time, to fix all of this, but I need your help. You’re the only one who has the skill set required.”
“Dorian would be a better option.”
“I asked him.” At her questioning gaze, he looked away, face pinched.
Gods… She wanted to be angry, but she could muster nothing. Emotions were a tricky thing to grasp nowadays. The numbness had settled deeply into her body; then again, what was left of someone who had one foot in the grave? Closing her eyes, she asked, “what do you want?”
“We need to combine our magic and essentially become one,” Fen’harel started, watching her closely. She didn’t react. “With our combined magic and the pendant I have, we can control how far we go back, to a degree.”
“Just tell me what to do,” Vun’amelan snapped.
He paused. Blinked. “You-?”
“I do not care of the risk,” she interrupted. “Either it works or we die. Get it over and done with, Dread Wolf.”
He stared at her for a moment, slowly nodding. “Alright.”
The process was… surprisingly simple. The pendant lay between their sitting forms. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend they were back in Skyhold…
But pretending was a long gone pastime.
Fen’harel held out his hands, dislodging her from her thoughts. “It will be easier if we hold hands.”
At this, Vun’amelan almost hesitated. Slowly, she reached her hands out and clasped his, almost snatching them back at how cold he was. She refused to meet his gaze, instead focusing on the blood-stained wolf jawbone.
“Try to relax,” his voice murmured, surprisingly even for a dying man. She didn’t reply, instead closing her eyes.
She could feel magic prodding at her own, and she let her own reach out. A third one, the pendant, slowly combined with them. A small gasp escaped her. The combined magic overwhelmed her, memories flashing in her mind.121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡc1ucwj9gj1
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“If I’m to die,” she snarled, “I’m taking you with me!”
With that, a bolt of lightning hit the stone above them. The cave shook, rocks falling between her and Fen’harel. Triumphant at seeing his shock, she turned and ran. She barely made it out, and-
he stumbled into the clearing, collapsing onto the unforgiving ground. His body screamed at him. He was used to sorrow, but this… he just wanted to close his eyes and give up. I’m sorry, vhenan-121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡjeniqqzZdR
121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4vwOX4wrTI
“I never wanted this,” he whispered. He’s kneeling before her, body tired from fighting countless darkspawn. “Please, vhenan, I never-”
“I know,” she whispered back. She knelt down, heart heavy and raw; as much as she wants to be angry, she understands. No one expected this to happen.
“I don’t expect you to forgive me-”
“Oh, vhenan,” she murmured so reverently, and he can’t hold back the sob as she wraps her arms around him. Her voice wavers; still far too soft for a monster like him. “No matter how angry I am, I will always love you.”
Something inside him breaks at that. He buries his face into her neck, smelling nothing but blood and sweat. Her natural scent is gone. He’d give anything to have that soothing scent.121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡwaoIjKbwx1
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Her arms burn as she digs out the last part of her eleventh grave. The sorrow never dulled, only digging deeper with each death. Climbing out, Vun’amelan dropped the shovel and knelt before her friends body. Even covered in dirt and blood, Vivienne still looked beautiful.
Carefully, she lifted the body and placed it in the grave. The first scoop of dirt always weighed the heaviest, she found. The forest was silent, as if mourning with her. As she continued, she murmured, “May you find peace in the Beyond, lethal'lan.”121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡkf2swunfJg
121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡAT83CxkOL9
“This was no normal death,” he murmured, studying the two bodies. Deep gashes littered both, almost torn to shreds. Lady Andruils hunting grounds had no such creatures that could cause this. “Did you see anything else?”
The young elf shook his head. His hands twitched, body thrumming with nervous energy. “No, Elder. I- I’m sorry-”
“There is no need to apologise, young one,” Solas gently admonished, a familiar sadness touching his voice. He hated how scared the people were of the so called ‘upper class’. By experience, he knew how cruel some of his fellow soldiers could be.
Suddenly, an odd, almost nauseous feeling gripped his chest. He opened his mouth-
and a bright light encased him, body weightless. He tried to yell, but nothing came out. Another presence, familiar yet not quite, slammed into his very being. His – no, their – shoulder ached. Their chest burned and burned and- 121Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡB3EOx20hTL
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They collapsed onto damp grass, white spots taking over their vision. The pain was gone, at least.
"Where are we?" A voice wondered.
"Back in time", a second voice replied.
Confusion swept through them, trying to decipher what was going on. That… was their voice, but not.
"We… may have a problem." The second voice sounded chagrined. Vaguely, they noticed this voice was deeper.
Slowly, as if being gently set down, the second voice’s presence withdrew. The first voice gasped, clutching their- her torso.
“Oooh, fuck,” Vun’amelan whined, “that hurt. My body feels like it’s on fire.”
“Try not having an actual body,” a familiar voice muttered next to her.
She slowly turned her head, spotting him. “What the fuck happened!?”
Fen’harel slowly sat up, expression pinched. His body was transparent and blue-white, and with rising hysteria she realised he didn’t have a solid body. “It seems my injury was worse than previously thought.”
She couldn’t speak, merely staring.
“I think I died halfway through,” Fen’harel mused, stroking his chin. His white eyes bore into hers. “At least you have your body.”
“At least-?” She sputtered, waving her arms frantically. “You’re a wraith! How am I- wait, why do I feel amused?” She focused, and upon realising why she buried her face in her hands. “Fenedhis, that’s you. Are we bound together, like with Anders?”
His nose scrunched up, disdain rolling off him. “It would appear so.”
“Oh, brilliant.” A hysterical laugh bubbled up, and if not for Fen’harel’s sudden worry she wouldn’t have bothered stopping it. And wasn’t that weird, being able to acutely feel another persons emotions. “I… I need a moment. Where are we, exactly? How far did we go back?”
“I’m not entirely sure,” Fen’harel admitted. “But since we’re in a forest, your clan can’t be far.”
“Right.” She took a deep breath, trying to sort out this odd situation. “Ok, first of all I need a nap. A long, nice nap. Then we’ll sort everything out. How’s that sound?”
He nodded. “A wise decision.”
The nap at least cleared her head a little. Fen’harel’s too, judging by his calm demeanour. “How long was I asleep?”
Fen’harel looked at her, eyes narrowing in concentration. An hour.
The sudden ear-shattering voice had her falling off the branch, barely managing to land on her feet. “Fenedhis, give some warning next time!”
“Sorry,” he said, and she could tell he genuinely meant it. “I’ve been learning new abilities. I can become invisible to others, and it seems we can communicate telepathically.”
The excitement and wonder rolled into her own, and for a brief moment she felt weightless. “And when feeling the same thing, it’s enhanced. We’ll have to keep an eye on that before I fly away.”
Vun’amelan snorted. “It is, but we’ll need to control it. Last thing we need is to lose control and set something on fire. Or worse.”
His brows furrowed, sombreness dulling the excitement. “You are correct. I am most curious to know if you are as magically powerful as me.”
“If that’s the case, we’ll definitely need to do lessons.”
At feeling his bafflement, she shrugged, knowing his next question. “Honestly, it’s either roll with the punches or go insane. The clan will be looking for me by-”
"Now", she finished mentally. Fen’harel disappeared from view, but she could still feel his presence. She turned around, breath catching in her throat.
Keeper Deshanna looked beautiful as ever, even at fifty years old. The sides of her white hair had been shaved, the middle braided and hanging over her shoulder. Her dark eyes were narrowed in worry, voice reflecting it. “I felt a disturbance in the Veil, and – are you alright?”
Vun’amelan went to open her mouth to reassure, but closed it. Instead, she focused on Fen’harel. "We must tell someone, and she would never tell anyone else."
It was quiet, and she could feel his begrudging nod. "Alright."
“Keeper,” she began, hesitating. “Something did happen with the Veil…”
“What happened?” Deshanna asked, voice kind. She now stood in front of Vun’amelan, enclosing a hand with her own.
“In 9:45 Dragon, the Veil is torn down,” Vun’amelan stated, ploughing on as her Keeper opened her mouth. “It unleashed a new Blight, something far worse than all five Blights combined. A year, maybe more… I lost track after a while, to be honest. But Fen’harel approached me, offering a way to go back in time and stop all this. So we did, and now we are here.”
Keeper Deshanna stared at her, and Vun’amelan stared back. Slowly, she said, “This is a lot to take in. Though impossible, you sound so sure. Do you have proof?”
“I do, but first you must understand something. Originally we were meant to go to our younger bodies, but it kind of backfired. I landed in my younger body, but Fen’harel…” She took a deep breath, looking behind her Keeper where he stood. “Well, he’s been turned into a wraith. Or a ghost. I’m not entirely sure which, to be honest.”
“Neither am I,” Fen’harel admitted, and the Keeper whirled around to face him. “En’an’sal’en, Keeper. I mean you no harm.”
“No harm?” Keeper Deshanna hissed, unsheathing her staff. “You dare touch my da’lan-”
“Keeper, wait!” Vun’amelan stood in front of her, desperate. “Please, he speaks the truth. We did not expect this to happen.”
Keeper Deshanna paused, staring between the two. Slowly, she put her staff away. “I expect a detailed explanation, da’lan.”
The tone made her wince, feeling like a child again. “Alright. Firstly, though, what year is it?”
Hours later, Keeper Deshanna shook her head. “This is beyond complicated. What do you plan to do now?”
“Well, we have a year before I get physically thrown through the Fade,” Vun’amelan mused. “I’m thinking of visiting the Arbor Wilds. The vir’abelasan will need to be secured sooner or later, and I’d rather do it sooner.”
“You’ll be bound to Mythal’s will,” Fen’harel reminded her, disapproval rolling off him in cold waves.
Vun’amelan gave him a look. “As I told you last time, I am sick and tired of shem’s taking what is ours. If we are to move forward, I want to do it with my people coming first. The knowledge in that well-”
His face twisted. “You would risk everything-?”
“Didn’t you just do that?” She asked, not feeling guilty in the slightest for her harsh tone nor his guilty flinch. “We saw what happens when the Veil is destroyed. Maybe there is another way, but till then try not to be a hypocrite!”
With a snarl and a hot flash of anger, he stormed off, disappearing. She knew he wasn’t far- his white-hot anger was a few miles ahead of them. At Keeper Deshanna’s look, she said, “he’s still around. Let him sulk.”
“You are not afraid of him.”
A chuckled escaped her, a familiar fondness building in her chest. “I have known him for over four years, ha’hren. He will brood and sulk for a while, but he will come back. He always does.”
Keeper Deshanna looked knowingly at her.
With a sigh, Vun’amelan murmured, “I knew him as Solas first. Kind, patient, happy to exchange knowledge. He was the only other elvhen mage who understood my predicament, though that did not mean we always saw eye-to-eye. Oh, we had our disagreements… but we always respected each other. It was hard sometimes, to understand each other’s different perspectives, but we tried. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion, even if his stubbornness annoyed me.”
Of course, Keeper Deshanna picked up on the paste tense. She leaned forward, clasping a hand on her shoulder. “And Fen’harel?”
“I care for him, deeply.” Here, she paused. The sad understanding hit harder than usual, leaving her eyes burning. “But I do not love him.”ns188.8.131.52da2