As always, spoilers for Solasmancers and, at this point, the game in general.
As the name of the chapter implies, this centers around grief. It is very sad. I am very sad after having written it. I swear that something will happen in the next chapter when everyone gets together and the real conflict of the story is revealed. I just wanted to get all the sadness out of the way in the first two parts so I don’t have to have any more damn crying… for a while.
In other news, I’ve recently decided that I ship Dorian and Cullen (well, I have the one Cullen x Trevelyan playthrough, but this story is based on my Solas x Lavellan run, so there). If you’re offended by the idea of Cullen swinging Dorian’s way…. sorry?
I think they’d have an interesting dynamic as a couple.
In case you couldn’t tell, in my playthrough Meria and Dorian are absolute best friends and love each other (platonically) dearly. He’s the one I really wished would have had some sort of consoling words for Meria after the breakup. Like, I went straight to see Dorian, in IRL tears because sad, and I actually cried harder when he didn’t even acknowledge that the vallaslin were missing. What is wrong with me?
~ 2,200 words
Skyhold was clad in her best finery for the occasion. Elegant swags of rich velvet cloaked her walls and towers. Bouquets of crystal grace adorned her halls. Torches of veil fire were everywhere, lining the battlements and walkways like jewels strung on a necklace.
The fortress was beautiful, an exquisite flower against the picturesque backdrop of snowy mountaintops. And why shouldn’t she be beautiful today? She was celebrating a singularly magnificent life, a flame that burned too intensely to last. Her mistress had set out for the last time, shaking the chains of this world from her weary soul and falling into that eternal sleep.
Dorian’s eyes were dull, blind to the trappings of mourning around him as he walked slowly through the garden. His mind cast itself back over and over again to the moment she’d slipped away. It had only been two days. Two days that felt like a lifetime and an instant at once. He hurt, Maker, but he hurt. There was an echoing hollow place in his heart where she used to live. The place he’d made just for her. How many walls did he have to tear down to let her in? How many had she torn down herself before he’d known it? Excepting Felix, she was his first true friend. Because of her, there had been many more. She’d taught him how to abandon the ironic detachment that he’d armored himself with. She’d taught him how to be genuine. She’d taught him how to care.
Despite the empty place in his heart, he couldn’t cry. They kept telling him to “let it out.” He didn’t know what it was he should be letting out. His hurt? His anger? Everything? To let that out would be to flood the world. There was so much love and rage and sorrow and confusion, he’d drown trying to let it out. No, outside the constant dull ache in his chest, he had become numb, it was safer that way.
His feet carried him without any interference from his mind. He moved aimlessly past the main hall as he remembered his friend’s last night. He couldn’t believe it, but she’d opened her eyes for the first time in days. With horror, he realized the anchor had not only covered the left side of her face, it had taken her left eye as well. It pulsed with a sickly green light that shook him to the core and set his teeth on edge. Despite the anchor, however, she was clear and present, lucid in what were to be her final moments. She actually sat up, and he remembered how his heart had skipped a beat as he allowed hope some room to grow. She took a slow breath and reached for him, her one blue eye clear and focused.
Her hands closed around his, impossibly hot, heartbreakingly thin. Hope receded as she opened her cracked lips.
"The dream is real. The Black City is real. The wolf
is real. It’s all real, Dorian.”
Her voice was the sound of the desert. Sand on sand on sand, breaking and grinding. But still hers. Still sweet to his ears.
"I don’t understand…" he began.
"Ir abelas, Dorian. Ma serannas. For everything, ma serannas."
There was a moment of silence as she closed her eyes and leaned back against her pillows.
"Ar lath ma, lethallin," she breathed out, almost too quiet to hear.
And that was it. She was gone. The anchor marks that had covered her pale body burned with blinding intensity for a moment and then were gone. Both her eyes were blue. Both her eyes were empty.
He sat alone with her in silence for a long time, even after the fire died and the candles burned down. He didn’t move, scared that if he did, scared that if he told someone, it would all be real. Instead, he’d gone over what she said to him over and over. He hadn’t understood it and he cursed himself for never bothering to learn her language in all the years they were friends.
"Hey… Dorian? Are you ok?" a familiar voice called out, notes of concern clear over the layers of grief.
Dorian snapped out of his reflection and looked around, mildly surprised to see he’d made his way to the Commander’s office. The man himself stood next to the window behind his desk. His red face and bloodshot eyes painted a picture as plain as day. In his mind, Dorian saw the Commander gazing out that window as he did whenever he was troubled, trying to hold back the tears and failing. Despite what he’d have his enemies believe, Dorian knew that Cullen’s heart was huge and his emotions ran deep and strong. Meria had meant a lot to him, too, Dorian knew. She’d helped him break his addiction. She’d shown him that he was stronger for all his scars, a better man for the lessons learned from his mistakes. She’d taught him it was ok to love another in his own slow way. She’d helped him find that love.
"As well as can be expected," Dorian’s voice cracked and trembled. Just seeing Cullen’s tear-streaked face and the worry in his eyes was enough to bring on the storm. He felt the flood coming, and there was nothing he could do to turn the tide.
"Fuck that," he said, somewhere between rage and sorrow, "This whole thing, the whole world, we’re all of us fucked. Proper fucked. What was the point of saving anything when everything is so wrong? How can people like Samson or Florianne still draw breath while she has none? How can I… how can I fill her spot in my heart? It hurts, Cullen. Maker, it hurts! I can’t…" Dorian’s rage became strangled sobs as the floodgates opened. His legs drained of strength as he lost balance and swayed dangerously. He was sure he’d fall and found that he didn’t care. Instead of the hitting cold stone floor, however, he found himself secure, caught in soft warmth. Strong arms pulled the mage in tightly against a warm chest. Hands calloused from years of living by the sword and shield ran fingers gently through dark hair. Scarred lips kissed the tears away with heartbreaking gentleness.
The Commander didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. The Lion of Skyhold wasn’t great with words, but Dorian listened to the sound of Cullen’s heartbeat and finally, finally began to let it out.
Across the mountains, Solas lifted his eyes to the horizon. Skyhold burned with splendor in her honor.
"It is her fortress, after all," he whispered, "It reflects her actions. The depths of its grief is a testament to her."
He smiled sadly as he began the last leg of his journey, one that had started as a quest to tell her the truth, but had become instead a trek to pay last respects. He’d been making his way to Skyhold since the night she appeared to him in the Fade. That was weeks ago now. He would have made better time, but the spring thaw made for treacherous terrain, so the going was painfully slow.
Indeed, the trip was made all the more painful by the knowledge that every day she was falling further away. He felt her decline almost physically, since he was tied to her in more ways than one. The anchor itself originated from him, but the deepest connection was through Mythal. He remembered how frustrated he’d been when she chose to drink from the Well of Sorrows. He’d raised his voice at her for the first time in true anger. She took it in stride and calmed his anger with subtle grace and charm.
She happily told him she’d make the world a better place with the power, vowing to try again and again if she failed. Her confidence. Her spirit. Her wonderful innocence. Everything about her filled him in that moment, and his frustration melted away. In that moment, there was only love. He was truly moved by her. Her words inspired him and showed him how cynical and bitter he’d become. The fire in her eyes called him to be better, and he desperately wanted to answer her.
He decided to tell her everything. He let himself hope that he could build a life with her. As they journeyed to Crestwood together that day, he saw it all. He’d give up on his quest. They’d be bonded together. He’d do his best to recreate the ancient elvhen bonding ceremony, and though it would surely be a poor subsitute, it would be perfect because she’d be there, shining, beside him. He saw their life together, journeying through the world and through the Fade, together as one. He looked forward to the nights they’d spend talking and telling stories or simply reading, comfortable in each other’s company. He thought of the ancient elvhen secrets he could teach her and the temples they could explore. With a blush, he thought of making love to her and then holding her as she drifted off to sleep each and every night. He felt the warmth of her breath, steady on his chest, and the beating of her heart in the dark of night. He dared to dream of their children, and all the things he could teach them. Saw them grow into compassionate and kind adults, defying expectations of elves at every turn.
He then saw her, growing old and frail and lesser. Finally dying while he never aged. He saw his children spat upon and beaten in the streets for the shape of their ears. He saw the pain and confusion in their big, tear-filled eyes as he tried to explain why the world was so full of hate. “We didn’t do anything to them, we promise, daddy. Why did they hurt us, mommy? We just wanted to play with the other children. It looked like fun.”
The words of his not-children pierced his mind and the happy future he crafted evaporated. He saw the faces of the downtrodden elves, sad and abused in their alienages. He saw the arrogant fumbling of the Dalish, forever homeless and in danger from all sides. He saw his people reduced to animals.
As if she knew his heart was troubled, Meria reached out and grabbed Solas’s hand as they walked into the grotto he’d taken them to. His heart only grew more pained as he realized he could never tell her the truth. Worse, he could never be with her. Not the way she wanted or the way he’d daydreamed as they walked together. Until the world was safe for the people, his heart was not his to give away.
He knew she expected something from him. The look in her eye was expectant, exited. He braced himself and followed the course of action he knew was right.
Afterwards, he didn’t turn when he heard her sorrow and confusion rising into the warm night air. As she crumbled to the ground behind him, his stride remained the same as it ever was - calm and purposeful. There was no hitch in his gait, no hint of hesitation, even when she called out that she loved him, calling him vhenan. Even when, finally angry, she called him cruel, cold as the stone.
Her words were daggers, but he had pressed on. He needed her to believe that it was over. He couldn’t let her see the weakness in his resolve. Couldn’t let her see the loneliness that already washed over him. Couldn’t let her see his face twisted with the bitterness of regret. Couldn’t let her see the tears that burned down his cheeks as he mourned the life that could have been.
Deep in memory, Solas crested the last mountaintop between Haven and Skyhold, his hot breath forming clouds around his head. The first time he had stood in this spot, gazing out at Skyhold, she was beside him, bright and full of life and hope. Her face was full of wonder as she examined her new home. She laughed with delight and bounded down the mountainside.
Standing there now, in the cold dark of loneliness, it all became suddenly too real. Her light was gone from this world. The anguish he felt at leaving her in Crestwood was a trifle compared to this. The hole in his heart was ragged, ripped and bleeding for the loss of her.
He feel to his knees, grasping his staff at the last moment to keep from falling completely. The rush of emotion threatened to overtake him, but he kept it at bay with an iron will. He was, after all, very good at keeping his mask of detached composure up. The years of sacrificing personal needs for the greater good made him an old hand at pushing emotion and heartache back into the recesses of his mind.
He’d only dropped that mask once since waking from the long slumber of Uthenera. Once in a crazy fever dream when she made him believe he could be happy.
Jaw clenched and eyes dry, he rose and made his was slowly down the mountain towards her fortress.
"She will know why."
For the first time in weeks, he heard the other voice, that might-be-Mythal, speak up.It will not be that simple. It never is where love is concerned… even in the face of death.