Theron found out just how impossible when, after healing the last rebel templar, he was jerked away from the group by a fierce seeker with fire in her veins. He felt all the confidence drain out of him, replaced with a sinking sensation in his stomach. “Cass—”
She stumbled and shot him a look.
“—andra. Cassandra. I’m sorry for the dramatics. I was ups—”
“Irresponsible!” She whisper-shouted, dragging him the final few feet around a corner before continuing. “You…you cannot just…”
Theron’s face fell because he could see how she was struggling. It wasn’t like he didn’t realize what he’d done. In the moment? Protect his people. Now? He’d shaken the foundation of their faith despite his efforts not to blasphemy their religion. “I’m sorry, Cass.”
She must have noticed how exhausted he looked because she almost deflated before his eyes. “Theron…I’m sorry too…but you’ve left me no choice.”
With a sharp pain on the back of his head, his world went dark.
He woke to the feel of a gentle breeze and just basked in it for a moment with his eyes closed. Maybe a breeze told him nothing about where he was, but for the moment, nothing hurt and his muscles were relaxed.
“I can’t keep you long. The Wolf already demands entrance.” Niall’s voice was like unlocking a door within Theron’s mind.
I’m in the fade.
Shame hit him and he kept his eyes clenched shut. Even if he couldn’t see Niall’s disappointment, he imagined he could feel it. He had fucked up so much since he’d last slept.
“Open your eyes, Traveler.”
He felt a touch to his face and gentle fingers brushing through his hair.
“Open your eyes.” The voice this time was not Niall’s. It was lilted. Deep. Hesitant as if the words were foreign, but confident.
Theron opened his eyes and felt them tear almost immediately. Arishok. Or his mind version. It occurred to Theron that he couldn’t continue to name him that even in his mind. It wasn’t fair. It would be like calling him Inquisitor. It might have been who he once was or had been before, but it also never would be. “I’m sorry,” he said again, feeling like it could never be said enough.
“Are you really?”
Theron shifted his head slowly to glance in Niall’s direction, as always, noting his posture by the sheer absence of moonlit forest around him. With the twin moons behind him, Niall was… ethereal. Theron slowly sat up and shifted, ignoring another apology on his lips as he leaned against the Arishok behind him. “I’ve already told Solas and Bull too much, and they’re probably taking me back to Haven now for what happened with the Templars.”
“You worry they will kill you?”
“No.” Theron sighed, already thinking of the trust he’d lost with Solas and Bull’s warning. “I mean, they very well might, but I’m not worried about that. They will put me in the dungeon and I’ll have lost every chance to save more lives.”
A low hmm from Niall followed by another breeze teasing Theron’s hair. The elf closed his eyes again and the sensation seemed to drift down to tease beneath the lobe of his ear. “Then you must not go to Haven.”
“I don’t think I have a choice, Niall.” The almost chilly caress slid down the edge of his jaw and tingled over his lower lip. Theron’s lips parted on a sigh, distracted a moment by the alluring urge to taste the chill with his tongue. It worked because almost instantly, he felt a mint-like tingle flood into his mouth.
“You are a creature of impulse and need, indeed. But you always have a choice. Use your instincts. They are reckless, but formidable.” Theron fell backward as the form behind him as well as the breeze, disappeared abruptly. “The Wolf comes.”
And just like that, Theron was falling through the ground, his stomach rolling as up became down and down became up until he found himself laying on something hard. Harder than the ground, but coarser than stone. A single moon shone down and as he moved to stand, he hissed as bits of gravel pressed into his hand. His eyes followed the double yellow line separating one side from the next. “I’m on a road? What the hell.”
In the distance, he saw the shimmer of headlights approaching and he moved to the shoulder cautiously. He was still in the fade, wasn’t he?
He looked around for the Wolf, but saw nothing as the car slowed. A sexy 67 Chevy. It looked a bit darker at night, but Theron figured it was probably candy apple red. The window rolled down slowly and he was met with soft brown eyes and a mop of warm brown hair. Stretched across the passenger seat to roll the window down, was a handsome…elf.
That can’t be right… unless this really is still the fade. Am I doing this?
“Need a ride?” the stranger asked casually, leaning back to his side of the car slowly. The leather of his jacket squeaked against the leather of the seats and Theron looked thoughtful. Where? Where would they go if he got in the car? Where could they go?
“Sure.” As usual, the words were out of his mouth before he thought about the consequences.
They were lost in the wind when the elf grinned. I have zero self-control. “Get in.”
Theron opened the door with a metallic click and marvelled at the cream interior. How could he be doing this? He’d never been in a car like this before. Seen movies, maybe. But was his imagination this good?
Movement came from the woods behind him. He sucked in a breath and turned to peer into the darkness. What burst out was…a wolf…wolf? It stood with legs spaced haphazardly and then shook, adjusting its stance as if composing itself and Theron found himself smiling. “Who are you?”
The wolf let out a grunt and turned to face him. Six eyes peered at him a moment before he approached Theron.
“Oh shit… you downsized. Why? I liked you as you were.” Theron watched as the Wolf wiggled around his hold on the door and hopped into the classic as if he’d been invited. The elf in the driver’s seat just shrugged. “Looks like he wanted a ride too.”
“Huh.” He hesitated, but finally just got in the car and shut the door. Once inside, he reached for the seatbelt on impulse. He had it extended and clicked shut before he realized that both the elf and the Wolf were just watching him.
Theron stared back a moment. Still…frankly trying to judge who the hell this elf was. Realizing that nothing else was happening, he offered. “Seat belt… it holds you in the car if there is an accident… a collision at high speeds. You don’t normally survive being ejected from a car.”
The brown-eyed elf’s eyes lit up. “Ah, which is why this cart is surrounded by metal. It is another protective casing.”
“Yeah, actually. I’m not really that knowledgeable about it, but I think there was a lot of thought put into how hard or heavy the material could be to provide protection while not increasing the weight of the car.”
“Car? Not cart?”
Theron shrugged. “I have no idea. I honestly hadn’t made the connection between the words until you called it a cart. Another word is automobile or vehicle, but I can’t really guess how all those words came together.”
“Fascinating.” The elf looked so proud when the car started moving again that Theron didn’t want to tell him they could go a lot faster. A lot. Baby steps. Clearly this was new to him.
“So where are we going?”
“I was hoping you could tell us.”
The woods passed by them slowly. Honestly, they were barely crawling. Theron glanced at the Wolf and he looked unimpressed. “I’ll tell you what… do you want me to drive? It might be easier to show you the way than tell you.”
“Oh… am I doing it wrong? I could adjust my methods.”
Theron grinned. The elf really did give off total Spock vibes. “Not wrong at all, but I figured a demonstration would allow you to improve MY methods.”
Two of the Wolf’s six eyes blinked slowly, almost narrowing at him. “You make a fine point. Let’s switch.”
The car came to a stop… it wasn’t hard. They really had been crawling. When the brown-eyed elf opened the door and stepped out, Theron hissed and leaned over to pull the emergency break because while it was minute… the car was still moving. It stopped, and he breathed a sigh.
The Wolf next to him grunted, shifting in the seat as if uncomfortable.
“Don’t worry. It’s just a dream…right.” Theron teased, opening his door and walking around the car to get into the driver’s seat. Theron watched the stranger cheerfully put on his seatbelt before putting on his and releasing the brake.
He got a keen sense of satisfaction when the elf floundered and found the handle above the door as he pressed on the gas. Ah, this is the way. He leaned down and cracked his window, feeling the wind whip his hair. He saw the other elf do the same, notably without letting go of the handle. “My family always fondly called it the ‘Oh shit’ handle.”
“An apt description.”
Even the Wolf made a chuffing noise that Theron likened to laughter. I wonder why he isn’t talking. He did before. He returned his eyes to the road and knew he’d have to decide on a destination soon. “Are you Adventure?” He asked curiously. It wasn’t his first choice, but while he was an awful liar, he wasn’t the worst at fishing for information.
“You think I—” The elf stopped and a glance from Theron showed him smiling. “I’m not Adventure, but thank you for thinking so kindly of me. Adventure is often impulsive and reckless, but they are pure and selfless.”
Theron glanced at the elf and his lips twitched as he tried not to smile.
“What? What’s that look?”
The wolf chuffed again, shooting Theron a look that was clearly disbelief while the stranger laughed. “Oh…I chose well, then?” The elf raised a hand to finger the collar of his jacket. “But you aren’t wrong. I do have a passion… for knowledge. I am Wisdom.”
I thought he was a woman?
“Is this the way you always look?” He asked and noted that the scenery was finally starting to change. The forest gave way to a cliffside view of the ocean. California coastline, if he had to guess. Not far from Carmel.
“You have seen me look differently?” Ah, that’s where Solas got his propensity for answering a question with a question.
“Yes and no.” Theron answered honestly. “I saw probably a possible you. You were a woman. In trouble.”
“When?” A glance showed the elf didn’t look concerned at all, merely curious.
“I’m not sure of the timeline anymore. Things are changing.”
“You are changing things and you wonder if it is wise.”
Theron breathed a sigh of relief. He…she… they understood. He saw a scenic view up ahead and pulled in to park. It was…stunning. The moon looked massive.
“Yeah. I’m not sorry, because things must change… but I worry at trying to do it alone.” He shifted in his seat, meeting the spirit’s brown eyes.
“You are far from alone. You have more than one powerful ally already.”
The Wolf growled, shuffling closer to Theron and encroaching on his lap until Theron popped open the door and let him out. With a glance at Wisdom, who was already unbuckling his seatbelt and getting out as well, Theron followed. “I still value your counsel greatly. I meant to ask the Inquisition to acquire an anti-summoning amulet for you when I arrived at Haven, but I’m probably on my way there to be locked up as it is. I’ve lost what trust I had earned.”
“Who—are—you?” Theron startled as the ground buzzed with each word under his feet.
Ah. There he is.
The Wolf in his full-sized glory sat on his haunches, facing the ocean but his many eyes stared at Theron, who was speechless for too long. He found himself leaning against the car and looking out over the ocean while he tried do what he should have done all day. Think.
“There is no wrong answer.” Wisdom murmured, and Theron was surprised to feel the spirit right next to him. Close enough their shoulders touched.
“Even if I just don’t know?”
“Especially then. What do you know?”
The air vibrated around them as the Wolf growled, clearly dissatisfied.
“I remember this view. This moon. My small town. My family. A life here… but how real is any of it? My first friend in the fade said it doesn’t matter if any of this is a dream or not as long as I accept that it’s mine. My dream. My world. My people, Wisdom.” He broke his gaze away from the ocean and fell into Wisdom’s brown pools instead. “I came into Thedas from the fade… so I can’t really be certain about anything else, can I?”
Wisdom looked thoughtful at that. “This place is real. The memory is real for you. How it was made remains to be seen. Whether it remains without you to live in it is unknown. Does that scare you? The uncertainty?”
“Not…the uncertainty of where I came from, no. I worry more about where I am going.”
The spirit nodded graciously. “That is wise.” He glanced past Theron at the Wolf before looking away. “It is unwise to dwell in the past.”
“Do you not miss your home?” Theron felt the Wolf’s words in his chest and shivered. That voice.
“No… especially not if I can come here and see it like this. So I’ll only remember the best of it and not the worst.”
“You have no loved ones?”
His lips pressed together as he considered the question. “I… of course, but I never saw them. I have no one special that would miss me beyond a passing memory. But even if I did, they either live on without me or live always in my memory.”
The Wolf chuffs and at his current size, the effect musses Theron’s hair. He hadn’t realized he had moved so close. “You are not one to be forgotten.”
“Neither are you.” Or else I wouldn’t have tried for a better ending with you so many times. So much for not dwelling on the past.
The Wolf’s eyes blinked slowly and he looked away. “And yet, I am known as the villain.”
Wrongly for your actions in the past, but you threaten to earn it in the future.
When Theron glanced at Wisdom, he found the elf looking at him deeply. Can you hear me? His stomach dropped when the spirit nodded slowly.
That’s a negative.
Thank god. My thoughts are much for even me sometimes. I apologize in advance.
The spirit’s lips quirked and Theron blushed, suddenly all too aware of how attractive the spirit’s form was. No. Pineapple and Ham. Ham and Cheese. Cheese and Crackers. Crackers and Jacks. Jacks and O…Hugs. Hugs and noo—.
The Wolf’s voice finally interrupted that hot mess. “You are tied up in a tent several hours ride from the encampment. The Seeker wanted as much distance from the cured Templars as possible. Despite agreeing to join the Inquisition, their loyalty is to you and you alone.”
“And the team?”
“Waiting for a detail to escort you to Haven. The herald and her most trusted head for Val Royeaux as soon as possible.”
Theron sighed and glanced at Wisdom from the corner of his eye. Quid pro quo. Solas hasn’t admitted who he is yet, but I promised to tell him things that put him in danger. Can you help me keep that promise without fucking up this peaceful duality?
The spirit nodded and said, “You had plans for Val Royeaux, did you not?”
“I did. I’d hoped to sneak away and arrive separately. I was afraid my actions would affect the Inquisition if we arrived together… Judging by tonight, I had the right idea.” He paused, glancing at Wisdom. I need to tell Solas about the Envy demon in Val Royeaux, but would it count if I told this form in the fade?
A small shake of his head made Theron sigh.
“How did you cure the Templars?” The Wolf asked carefully.
The relief dried up instantly. So they were talking about it.
“I felt it sing to me, and I sang back,” he said slowly.
“You made no discernable noise,” the Wolf persisted.
“My blood… sang back.”
“Fascinating. The origin of Lyrium being what it is—”
“And healing the templar’s hands?” The Wolf cut Wisdom off and Theron frowned.
That was incredibly rude. Wisdom smirked and looked away, making Theron realize that the Wolf had interrupted him on purpose. Ah. So the history of Lyrium is off the table. I could tell him that I already know it’s Titan’s blood, but I won’t. I’m sorry that I’m not a better person.
Wisdom gently knocked his shoulder against Theron’s and the tiny curl at the corner of his mouth suggested how much he wanted to smile.
Theron cleared his throat and set his attention back to the Wolf. “I willed it. I told you. This is my world.”
“Yet you question whether this is all a dream.”
“Especially if it’s all a dream. You control dreams, do you not? Then what says the world outside them isn’t mine?”
“The fact that you are bound and unconscious in a tent.”
Ah, he has jokes.
“For now.” Even as he said it, Theron wasn’t confident that he could escape, but he was not about to tell the Wolf that.
“On that note, I must take my leave. I have errands.” Wisdom quipped, pushing off the hood of the car and stepping away. He fingered the sleeves of his coat, seeming fond of the snaps and then bows slowly. “Thank you for your company, and your friendship, Theron.”
“You’ve hardly known him long enough to—” The wolf aborted the comment when Wisdom’s smile fell and his eyes glinted in the moonlight.
“Ma nuvenin,” the Wolf relented, and between one breath and the next, Wisdom was gone.
“I didn’t think I would get to meet him,” Theron murmured. Now that they were alone, his fingers itched to pet the overgrown dangerfluff.
“You did not foresee it?”
While it was obviously more than that, it was easier to go along with it. “No, I didn’t.”
“Then perhaps he won’t be in danger.”
“That’s flawed thinking, isn’t it? So far everything I’ve done to help has made things more dangerous. I… think it’s safer to assume it will continue.”
“Then how can you know that you are doing the right thing?”
Theron was quiet for a moment, not unaware of the parallels of two men alone playing god to save their people. “I think it’s worth it.”
“The end justifies the means, you mean.” The bitterness in his voice was cutting.
“No, I’m saying that sometimes the journey is what matters. People live and die, Fen. In my world, that’s the only constant. So the measure for a good life is finding and sharing that happiness.”
“Then you cannot possibly understand me or MY people. We were imm—”
The Wolf was interrupted as Theron lurched forward, hands clutching at his throat as he struggled to breathe.
“Theron…what..” The Wolf snarled and snapped, “WAKE UP.”
Theron woke with a gasp of air and dragged a ragged breath in to scream when a hand fastened over his mouth. “Hush.” Blackwall’s voice was a relief even if Theron remained on edge. He felt the rope binding his wrists loosen and realized the warrior was freeing him. Further, as he tried to sit up, he winced. Why did it hurt? And was he wet?
His hands rose slowly to touch the liquid covering him and came back dark. Startling clarity hit him when he recognized the coppery smell. He was sore, but nothing hurt enough to account for all of the blood. Theron reached for Blackwall desperately, whispering, “Are you hurt?”
A hand touched his mouth again before the warrior leaned forward and Theron shivered when he felt the man’s beard as he whispered. “It’s not mine. This bastard thought he’d just sneak into camp and do you in while you slept.”
Theron looked around and though it was dark in the tent, he’d recognize that ugly mug anywhere. The Templar leader. Smarmy bastard.
He startled when Mojo was shoved in his hands. Blackwall nodded at the long cut along the back of the tent. He was… letting him go?
Theron’s eyes glittered, and he lunged forward to hug the guy, but was stopped by a hand on his chest. A second head jerk toward the exit was sobering.
No bear hugs, I guess…
Once out of the tent, Theron looked around. The camp was quiet, but there was no guarantee that it would remain so for long. If only he had any idea where they were. It could be a day’s journey before he was even able to orient himself long enough to determine the fastest route to Val Royeaux.
Theron startled as his wrist was seized and pulled. Blackwall had exited the tent and was pulling him into the forest. He dug his feet in and pulled until the warrior stopped and glanced back at him. Theron knew he had to look as confused as he felt. “You’re coming with me?” he mouthed.
The warrior gave him one firm nod before pulling again and Theron followed with a flutter in his chest.
I’m not alone.
That elation lasted only for a moment because just as they crossed out of the clearing and into the dark foliage, Blackwall stopped abruptly, making Theron bump into him from behind. “What is…oh.”
The elf leaned against a tree, his eyes flickering with ever-changing emotion. Theron looked down at himself and swallowed. There was so much blood, it looked as if his throat had been cut. After an awkward silence, Solas seemed to recover and whispered, “You made a promise to me, Theron.”
Theron pulled his wrist from Blackwall’s grip and stepped around him, whispering back, “I know, I wish I could stay. But I can keep one promise.” He glanced back at Blackwall, who shrugged and stepped away, appearing to stand guard even if Theron was fairly sure he’d be listening.
“In Val Royeaux, you will encounter Lord Seeker Lucius. He’s an envy demon. Don’t engage. It’s just theatrical.” He pauses, trying to think if there was anything else. Would they visit Redcliffe before he saw them again? He couldn’t be sure. “In Redcliffe… there is a magister experimenting in time magic.”
Theron winced when the wolf’s lips pressed into a hard frown, not realizing how hard this would be. They didn’t have time for full stories and so far their time in the fade was wasted as long as Solas insisted on visiting as the Wolf. Yeah, he could confess that he knew but he liked his dangerfluff form. Six eyes and all.
“If Elana disappears with Dorian…she’s not dead. I promise.”
Solas looked worried now, his eyebrows drawn together and he seemed to be searching Theron’s eyes for something.
Please don’t let me break that promise.
“Theron, we’ve really got to go. Now.” Blackwall’s voice was a fierce whisper and Theron looked desperately at Solas. His eyes took in his piercing eyes and the curve of his collarbone. The way his shoulders were just a tad broader than you’d expect from a normal elf and his hands, the hand that reached toward him just then and—Oof—pushed him out of his thoughts.
“Until we meet again.”
Theron bit back a whine as Blackwall grabbed his wrist and pulled him along again, aborted curses whispered under the warrior’s breath. “You’re like a fucking horny sprite. You could be at your own fucking judgement and you’d stop and try to fuck the executioner one last time.”
“For science,” Theron muttered, acknowledging his own pouting because it was just hitting him that he was leaving behind Varric, and Bull. Any chance of being present for Dorain’s introduction. FELIX. Fuck, how could he save Felix if he couldn’t be at two places at once? If he went to Redcliffe first, he’d definitely miss his chance to warn the Templars in Val Royeaux.
He was so distracted by his thoughts that he was surprised at the soft snicker of a horse. Four, actually. Two were saddled and waiting, held by two familiar faces. “Leland!”
“And Kirk,” the other knight offered. “We heard you might need some assistance…and just in time, it seems.”
Theron looked at Blackwall, feeling a prickle at the corner of his eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that, boy. The Iron Bull set this up.” Then he leaned closer, that damn beard brushing Theron’s neck again and generating yet another shiver. “Said you know all my secrets, but told him they’re nobody’s business but mine… That I’m loyal and worth the risk.”
He leaned back and moved to guide one of the horses over. “I figured that means you might be too. Let’s go. We need to get someplace safe to clean you up before sunrise.”