Solas had expected the one who bears his mark to be upset, bewildered. Possibly angry. She had just woken from a prison cell, after all, accused of a horrific crime she could not have committed, and dragged head first into a world of chaos. Even Solas had difficulty keeping his composure in the aftermath of yet another horrifying mistake.
He did not expect that wild gleam in her eyes to linger. She stalks around Haven with a gaze like a storm cloud, often disappearing into the surrounding woods for hours at a time and returning with wild game. Between those eyes and the snarled mess of her haphazard bun, she looks feral, a hawk trapped on the leash of the Inquisition.
Whispers follow her of savage Dalish elves and unprovoked violence and the sheer disbelief that something like her could have been chosen by Andraste. The Herald does not react, though her face grows stony and even more unfriendly. Solas fears that by the time she accepts the leadership that’s been thrust upon her, the ties between her and the Inquisition will be too frayed to function.
He needs this Inquisition to function.
She passes him by quite often, despite his cabin lying on the longer route to the Chantry. This is not surprising– he is, after all, the only other elf with no attachment to the Chantry and his roots are the closest, culturally, to the Dalish. His presence must soothe her in some way, though she has yet to relax around him (or anyone for that matter – except for Varric). As such, he feels the most qualified to give her guidance.
“If you didn’t like such whispers, you shouldn’t encourage them,” he tells her one morning as she passes by him.
Her eyes narrow, that hawkish gleam coming out. “What's that supposed to mean?”
Solas gestures to the people around them, stocking supplies and building more housing and running errands. “What they call you is certainly rooted in unfair prejudice, but you have done nothing to dissuade them of it. Look around you. Everyone is afraid. Everyone is lost. They want someone to lead them, someone with a determination that will turn those fears into something powerful. Someone like you.”
He knows immediately that he has overstepped. The sudden ferocity of her gaze unnerves him, an arrow that pierces through three millennia of power and experience.
“You know what I want?" She steps closer to him and he fights the urge to step back. "I want to get the hell out of here and go home. I want to be with my clan so I’m not the only Dalish in a thousand miles. I want people to stop looking at me like either I’m a murderer or a savior and leave me the hell alone. And I want this fucking thing off my hand!”
She shakes her fist at him, his mark flaring. "Do you even know what having this on your hand feels like? It’s a starving wolf chewing up the end of my arm and it’s taking every ounce of willpower to keep it from destroying the rest of me. It’s creepy, it’s painful. Every time I look at it my skin crawls. So don’t talk to me about what other people want, Solas. I’m just a scapegoat to them. It’s not like they actually care.“
The Herald stalks off to the Chantry, muttering to herself, before he can fathom a response. But truly, how does one respond to that? He is the wolf sitting in her hand ready to devour her. What comfort could he provide that would not sound like false litanies to her ears?
As preparations for the journey to Val Royeaux build, so does the anxiety balled up in the pit of his stomach. The Herald’s Dalish heritage alone is enough to condemn her, not to mention her uncouth language, unpredictable temper, and blatant disregard for the Chantry. To have her represent the whole of the Inquisition in front of the remaining Chantry leaders bodes only disaster.
The closer the their departure date, the scarcer Lavellan makes herself. Even Cassandra is forced to enlist his help in locating her. They head towards the edge of trees to the east, a strange pair to say the least.
"Josephine has several etiquette procedures to go over before our journey,” she tells him, unable to keep the grimace from her face. “Ellana promised to attend, but no one has seen her all morning.”
“I must admit, I’m starting to have doubts about her –” mental stability – “ability to lead,” Solas finishes delicately.
Cassandra nods. “We have little choice – she alone has the ability to close the breach. But I agree, she is in much turmoil.”
“I have no words to soothe her.”
As they rounded the corner towards the forge, they caught sight of the Herald hammering a scrap of red hot iron. Solas is no blacksmith, but even he thinks her blows more forceful than necessary. Yet the expression on her face is almost serene. It’s the calmest he has ever seen her.
“Perhaps she needs more than words,” Cassandra muses beside him.
Lavellan looks up at them and winces at the sight of Cassandra – the face of a student caught escaping from class by their teacher.
“I’m coming,” she calls out.
If Solas stands in just the right spot, he has a perfect view overlooking the training yard. Most of the time he finds watching the clumsy clash of hastily minted swords distasteful and boring. But all morning Cassandra has been teaching Lavellan how to use a two handed sword and Solas finds he can’t tear his focus away.
The Seeker had started out with stance and movement, allowing Lavellan to become accustomed to the distribution of weight and center of balance. Today the practice dummy stands before them. Lavellan lifts the sword for her first swing but Cassandra stops her. Solas can’t hear their exchange, but Lavellan adjusts her stance and nods before Cassandra takes several steps back.
For a moment, Lavellan doesn’t move. She stares at her target, the intensity of her gaze visible even from his vantage point. Then she charges at the dummy like an angry Hart and brings the blade of her sword down.
The dummy splits in two jagged, splintered halves, straw entrails spilling out into the ground. Solas stares at it, stunned in the aftermath of such violence.
Cassandra lets out a bark of laughter and to his surprise, Lavellan joins in. Their mirth echoes on the cabin walls like music. It’s the first time he’s seen any hint of levity from either woman and he finds himself smiling at the sight of it.
After another exchange of words the broadsword is switched for two heavy poles roughly the same length and Cassandra teaches Lavellan how to spar with them.
The second Cassandra calls for the first match to begin, Lavellan explodes into movement. Never on the defensive, she attacks with all the vicious intent that destroyed the practice dummy, the crack of her blows echoing loud enough to reach his ears. Cassandra calls out the occasional encouragement or correction, but most of her effort is concentrated on guarding against the relentless onslaught of blows that Lavellan rains down upon her.
Though generally coarse and uncouth, there is a gracefulness in Lavelan's movements, a vibrancy from her violence that gives her new life. She reminds him of a mountain lion – powerful and fierce and impossible to look away from.
Solas is mesmerized.
Eventually Cassandra tires and ends the match by sweeping Lavellan’s feet out from underneath her. The Herald collapses in the snow and does not get up, waving off Cassandra proffered arm. Cassandra leans their poles against the remains practice dummy before heading towards one of the tents.
His feet carry him down almost of their own accord until he stands over Lavellan, who lies in the snow unheeding of it’s cold (or perhaps because of it). Steam rises faintly around her heaving chest and sweat beads along her hairline.
“Would you like a hand?” he asks.
She shakes her head and slowly rises to a sitting position. The exertion has left her cheeks flushed and warm, her eyes bright. Despite her bedraggled appearance, Solas is struck by her glory.
“You’re quite impressive,” he tells her. “I couldn’t help but watch you. Have you ever used a broadsword before today?”
“No. I’ve chopped down a lot of trees, though, I figured the technique couldn’t be that different.”
“If your goal was to be utterly terrifying, you did a remarkable job.”
She grins at him, and seeing it up close clenches something in the pit of his stomach. “Thanks! It felt good, actually. Cassandra was right – I needed an outlet. I haven’t been myself since …honestly, since I left my clan.”
He finds himself smiling in return. If Lavellan could burn out her violent temper through something constructive, perhaps there is hope for her yet. Even after only a day, her guard has dropped significantly, her posture loose and relaxed. Her smile lends a remarkable warmth to eyes that were practically arctic in their earlier hatred.
“I must admit it is a relief to hear you say so,” he says.
Lavellan spares him a crooked smile. “Yeah, I know. Everyone thinks I’m a complete psychopath. I’m working on it.”
“I admire your aspirations, but cleaving a practice dummy in two like firewood is not aligned with such a goal.” He gives her a half smile of his own so she doesn’t take offense – the sparring poles are still in arm’s reach of her.
Lavellan jumps to her feet, brushing the snow off. “That’s okay. I have a better goal, one that’s going to make this Inquisition the best it can be.”
“And what goal is that?”
“I’m going to find the person responsible for this,” she shakes the mark at him, “and utterly, completely annihilate them into dust.”
And then she gives him a smile that promises bloodshed.
It brings Solas great relief when Corypheus finally shows himself to the rest of the Inquisition and makes a target of himself. But he knows, even still, that if Lavellan ever finds out the truth, his days are numbered indeed