When he opened his eyes, he remained still, watching the shadows bleeding through the roof of his tent. He raised a hand to press against the meat of his chest and at the proof of its rapid beat, the calm on his face broke slightly.
He was dangerous. Reckless. Terrible, but Solas couldn’t narrow down whether it was him behind everything or if the idiot was being manipulated by someone else.
His shameless smirks never quite matched the wide-eyed panic that came after. That panic must be contagious.
“I need you, Fen’Harel.”
The words had pulled something from his chest that threatened to break open. An instinct he hadn’t felt in…ages. Something that had no place in the path that he now walked.
One could argue that the apostate was more than an advantage on the battlefield. With his icy grasp and effortless barriers, he controlled the danger while appearing heroic. But it was because it effortless that he bothered. It was not heroic. It wasn’t about saving anyone. It was about finding his orb and fixing this monstrosity that they called a world.
Their children grew up to realize too soon that life wasn’t fair. Of course it wasn’t. It never had been. But once upon a time, children were precious and rare. Whole villages celebrated the birth of a new spirit and blessings were given by their…gods. More lies. Lies upon lies, but there was a time when everyone was happy. A time before the greed. Before the first Titan fell and the void was unleashed.
“We can rebuild everything better than it was, if you just give me—”
Theron was dangerous. His lack of restraint and total lack of understanding the power he wielded could not be allowed. Within that conviction, Solas felt a clawing in his chest that he recognized even if he refused to give a name to it.
The irony. Pride meets jealousy and refuses to submit.
“I’m willing to bet, my friend, that you’ve forgotten everything but Pride.”
His lips curled at the memory. Without his pride, where would he be? Drowning in jealousy and despair? Raging from within until he burned himself and everything around him to dust. Let the world start over without them all.
Perhaps he was corrupted.
But as old as he was, he still wasn’t sure how to keep the conflict from escalating within his own body.
Wisdom would know. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, waiting to feel his awareness shift.
“We can’t tell them,” the Seeker’s voice interrupted his submersion.
“Cass…we never should have taken him from the start. I’m telling you, he’s not our enemy.” Elana’s voice was soft, but resolute. Solas sighed and rubbed his face with both hands, realizing that dawn wasn’t far away if they’d both discovered his escape. The elf had charmed his way into Elana’s good graces, though it clearly wasn’t difficult. Solas was there as well.
“You hold yourself apart. It can be… I’m sure that it feels very hot and cold.”
Spoken like he knew anything about it.
“…I am not the Herald.”
What did it mean? The vehemence in which he denied it… as if it was a sore subject that came up often.
“But you have been before. Much like you have been Sarah for me more times than I can count.”
He had been before… Solas thought of Elana and tried to imagine Theron in her movements and words. It didn’t fit. He was reckless and mouthy. She was kindness and grace. Too much kindness, but it was not a trait that he would ever judge harshly.
He had been before… the idea that Theron had experienced everything before would give weight to his unnatural awareness that they would face an Envy demon in Val Royaux. No matter how impossible it felt, perhaps since the breach, if this moment in time… were able to be encapsulated and relived…then maybe.
But no. Manipulating time would not explain Theron and Elana existing inside the same space. Could Theron be a spirit?
He could be. A spirit that perhaps experiences time differently… the fade had always been a reflection of the past and present, but was it too hard to imagine it could also contain the future? The pull to visit Wisdom was strong. The idea that there was more to the fade than he’d anticipated and experienced himself…it was alarming. And exciting.
He closed his eyes, wondering if he could take just a few moments to express the question so Wisdom could investigate.
“He’s…I think his heart is in the right place, but he could undermine everything the chantry has accomplished. If he’s in custody, I could keep an eye on him. Otherwise, Leliana might…”
“You would make sure he’s not harmed? Even if you think he’s dangerous?”
“With the influx of templars, I think it’s imperative.” There was a pause before she continued, “We don’t have much time. Let’s wake the others and head for the Crossroads. Maybe someone has seen him.”
“Solas. Ah… good morning. Are you awake?”
He sighed and opened his eyes, realizing there would be no peace to ask Wisdom’s counsel until their next rest. “I’m awake.”
Elana looked surprised when the flap of his tent parted and Solas stepped out shirtless, but gathering his tunic and in the process of sliding it over his head. It was manipulative, for sure, but not beneath him. Despite speculations, uthenera did not protect the body from atrophy and it had taken the past year to recover the meat on his bones. As the cloth fell over him, he hesitated. It was so brief that anyone not paying attention wouldn’t notice, but Elana always paid attention.
“He’s gone,” she said. “Escaped during the night after an attack.
“Perhaps that’s for the best,” he murmured, reaching for his pack and then starting to break down his tent. He heard the Seeker waking up the others.
“You’ll miss him.”
His head snapped in her direction and his eyebrows furrowed. She hadn’t said it as a question at all. You will miss him. “I won’t.”
“You will,” she insisted. “You filled out since he started feeding you, you know. We all have.”
He cringed because even that was in Theron’s voice. The elf was in his head and he hated it. Hated that Elana noticed how he’d started showing more of himself in exchange for those looks. It wasn’t fair. He’d done it for Elana. To see how she thought of him, but there’s always been the weight of the idiot’s gaze. “I doubt he’s gone for good.” When she didn’t respond, he sighed and added, “He’s safer…now.”
Now that I can’t reach him.
Things were quiet on the ride to the Crossroads. Solas rode behind the group and only after the lull seemed sure to last and his horse content to follow, did he shift his position on his horse and close his eyes. It wouldn’t be the first time he had kept one foot in wakefulness while he traveled.
He felt the veil slip over him as he sank into it, knowing exactly where he would find his friend.
When he opened his eyes, he snarled.
“How long are you going to keep him here?” Wisdom sent a curious look at the grinning figure next to him before returning his gaze to his oldest friend. They watched from the castle as the wolf stood in the middle of a filthy swamp, his hackles raised as if he weren’t facing down the smallest… fox riding a dog. It was absurd, and yet…
“Until he learns his lesson, I’d expect. You’re not going to ask me to let him go?”
The spirit felt the weight of the man’s gaze as he shook his head. “No. I’ve tried to tell him before, but perhaps I was not as blunt as I should have been. He doesn’t remember anything from before, you know.”
A soft hmm of agreement answered him. “I suspected. He didn’t recognize me at all.”
“I don’t know how to fix this, Mis–”
“Jareth, now. I won’t be caged again.” His tone hadn’t changed, but the word choice was enough to make Wisdom search his face.
“Is that what I am? Caged?” He wondered at it. At the tingle of a feeling that there was something he did not know when knowing was his soul. Wasn’t it? What am I, if not Wisdom?
“As long as you keep your head in the sand and ignore the fact that we are all many things, you cage yourself. If I thought caging you would give you the release you need, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
Jareth’s grin was too wide and his eyes glittered in humor. Wisdom swallowed, unable to hold his gaze anymore. “I’m not stupid, you know. I can tell you’re being lewd.”
“But do you know how I’m being lewd? Would you like me to show you?”
The noise that escaped his throat was shameful and that eagerness that pulsed in his chest reminded him so much of curiosity that it startled him. He battled with his answer because to refuse was Pride, but to beg was borderline Gluttony. He knew so much, did he have to know everything?
“Yes.” The answer was out before he could stop it.