Title: Herald of Andraste (Oneshot)
Game: Dragon Age: Inquisition
Characters: Female Lavellan, Flissa, Solas, Cullen Rutherford (Mention)
Pairing: Eventual Solavellan
Word Count: 2,925
Disclaimer: Anything relating to the Dragon Age universe belongs to BioWare and EA Games.
Elera Lavellan stared down at her left hand, her brow furrowed in deep thought. It had been a few days after her failed attempt to seal the Breach, and while the Mark no longer pained her with each pulse of sickly green light, her hand still tingled from time to time, as if it were vibrating with untapped power. Occasionally, the Mark would still pulse and glow, but not nearly as frequently as it did when she first emerged from the Fade after the explosion at the Temple of Sacred Ashes.
The elven woman sighed, and hesitantly reached out to brush the fingers of her right hand against the Mark, taking note of the subtle itch that began to spread across her palm. Another sigh passed through her lips, and she finally pushed herself to her feet.
Elera crossed the room, and stopped at the door of the little cottage, hesitating. She battled with the urge to run back to the bed, and remain hidden under the coverlet for another few days, or even a few months. The door before her was the only barrier between her and the people that had once looked upon her with hatred, but now looked upon her – a Dalish elf – with reverence. It was for that very reason that she was always wary to leave her temporary quarters; though these people praised her as the “Herald of Andraste,” how could she possibly live up to the title they so readily placed upon her? She didn’t even believe in their Maker, and yet they still set her as equal to their prophet.
She swallowed, trying to steel herself before she stepped out into the crowd. After one more moment’s pause, Elera finally opened the door and braved the crisp coolness of the Frostbacks. She glanced around, taking note of how people stopped to stare at her, and then tilted their heads respectfully before returning to their normal business.
She let out a breath, watching the resulting mist dissipate into the cold air, before she strode towards The Singing Maiden, doing her best to ignore the echoes of “Herald” and “Your Worship” that followed in her wake.
Elera slipped into the tavern, weaving her way through the small crowd that had gathered for the midday meal, going unnoticed for a few blissful moments. The lack of attention, however, did not last as long as she had hoped.
“Hello!” the woman behind the bar greeted her cheerfully once Elera had settled into a stool. “I’m Flissa and I…” she trailed off as she studied the elf’s face, and then her own paled considerably. “Oh, Maker, you’re her,” she breathed.
The elf fought the grimace that threatened to spread across her face. This very incident had happened numerous times over the past few days. The exact words differed, but the premise was always the same. The shemlens glanced at her and saw another elf, but then they looked closer, and knew that they were face-to-face with their Herald. Each time it happened, she wanted so desperately to scream. She was no hero, no savior, and they had no need to look upon her with such awe and reverence. Especially so when she had failed to seal the Breach. She had merely stopped its growth. And yet…and yet…
Somehow, she found herself simply shaking her head a little. “Please, you don’t have to treat me any differently than you would your other patrons,” Elera urged the woman.
“Y-yes. O-of course, Your Worship. As you wish.”
Elera bit back another grimace, and instead smiled a little. “The stew that your patrons are eating seems quite popular. I’d like to try some of it, if you don’t mind,” she requested.
“Yes, Your Worship,” Flissa replied, and hurried to the large pot where the dish in question bubbled over the cooking fire.
As Elera waited, she looked around the tavern, taking in the details of the Fereldan architecture. Sturdy yet homely; a testament to the simplicity and heartiness of the people of this nation. She also took fond notice of the carved mabari hounds tucked into little nooks around the tavern. She had noticed that Fereldans took great pride in their canine companions, and it was oddly pleasing to see that love expressed through the mabari totems all across Haven. Her nerves now soothed, even if only for a little while, she chanced to look around at the people surrounding her. She immediately regretted it.
Now that she was still, people were starting to notice her, and as such were beginning to realize that the Herald sat among them. Those sitting closest to her adjusted their chairs ever-so-slightly, as if they feared what might happen to them if they so much as brushed against her. Most of the others throughout the tavern were merely distracted from their plates with their staring. A shiver crawled down her spine, and she felt smothered by the expectancy she saw in their eyes, drowning in the hope they placed upon her shoulders…
“Here you are, Your Worship!” Flissa said, redirecting Elera’s attention to the wooden bowl she had placed down on the bar, small tendrils of steam still curling into the air. The innkeeper then passed over a spoon, and a hunk of bread.
The elven woman dipped her head in thanks, and pulled the food closer to herself. She slowly began to eat, and was relieved to note that the other patrons finally seemed content to leave her in peace. The unusual quiet that had fallen over the tavern broke as conversations resumed, and the bard standing by the fireplace began to play her next song.
Thank the Ancestors…
Elera managed to eat her meal in relative peace, for which she was grateful. When she finished, she pushed the used dishes back towards Flissa, and thanked the woman as she got to her feet. As she turned to leave the tavern, she became aware of the shift in the others’ attention as they watched her departure, and suddenly found herself of the opinion that facing demons would be preferable to the unwanted attention she was now subjected to.
Following the incident at The Singing Maiden, Elera set her course for the gates of Haven, stepping quickly past the impromptu training grounds and trekking through the snow. She had no destination in mind. She was simply driven by the desire to get away from the all those damned stares. She stopped only when she stumbled upon the pier that was on one side of the frozen lake, standing opposite the steady construction of the trebuchet outside the gates of Haven. Elera let out a breath, relieved that this side of the lake seemed void of people, and plopped down on the wooden planks. She did not hesitate to set her fingers to the laces of her boots, suddenly desperate to feel a little more like herself, and not feel like she was merely playing at being human. She set the boots aside and wrapped her arms around her knees, hugging her legs close to her chest. She shivered a little as the cold spread through the soles of her feet, but she was also thankful for the fact, because it made her feel grounded.
Elera sighed and tucked her chin into her knees, watching Haven from her current spot, unwilling to go back anytime soon. She suddenly felt very alone, and very homesick. How long had it been since she left the Free Marches, since Keeper Dashana had set her on her voyage across the Waking Sea? The days were beginning to blur together, and she only just realized just how little time she had been allowed to collect her thoughts following the events at the Temple. Her chest seemed to tighten as she found herself longing to hear the laughter of the clan’s children as they crowded around her, demanding that she conjure up snowflakes for them again.
A choked sob tore through her throat, her emotional fatigue finally catching up to her, and she buried her face into her knees, crying freely now that no one was around to judge her for doing so. Elera missed her clan much more than she had realized, but there were so many more factors adding to her turmoil. Of all the attendants of the Conclave, she had been the sole survivor, and that had placed a bounty on her head the second she had stepped out of the Fade. She had been condemned instantly by the people of Haven and the remaining Chantry clerics. So many people had died – good people, based on what little she remembered from that day – and yet she had been the only one to walk away unscathed. Or, relatively unscathed, she amended, looking to her left hand. Again, she began to wonder why she, of all the Conclave attendees, had been blessed – or cursed – with the Mark. Why had the Ancestors tossed her onto this strange new path?
Yes, she had been training to lead, but she had expected those skills to be put to use leading the Lavellan clan as its next Keeper. While her heart bled for the loss the people of Haven were coming to terms with, she could hardly lead them, or accept the fact that they apparently saw her as their one last hope. Tremors passed through her body as she continued to cry, unable to stop the tears.
“…Perhaps I need to return at another time.”
Elera gasped at the voice, turning to look towards the speaker as she hastily set to wiping her hands across her face to try to minimize the tear streaks on her face.
Solas stood at the end of the pier, hands clasped neatly behind his back as he looked at her with an expression that was fairly neutral, save for the telltale concern in his blue-grey eyes.
“N-no, I’ll be fine,” she insisted, sniffing a little bit as she continued to rub a little at her eyes. “Did…Did you need something?” she asked.
“This pier is conveniently located, is it not?” Solas commented rather than replying. “It is far enough away that there is distance between one and Haven, yet not so far as to make it impossible to return in the evening.”
“…I suppose,” she replied, trying very hard not to snap at the elven man. If she were to stay with the newly founded Inquisition, she needed to make as many friends as she could, and the last thing she wanted to do was start unnecessary arguments with someone she barely knew simply because she was in a foul mood. She looked away from him, staring across the lake to watch the small town.
The sun was beginning to set, so some of the Inquisition soldiers were starting the task of lighting the braziers throughout Haven, the fires glowing bright in the dimming light.
“Perhaps we should return, before Commander Cullen sends out a search party for you,” Solas suggested in his lilting voice.
Elera shook her head. “I shall return at my own pace,” she insisted, not looking back at him. “If you wish to take your leave, I’m not going to stop you.”
Her statement was met with silence, and she concluded that Solas must have simply left her, and that his departure had been silent. However, she noticed him step suddenly into her peripheral vision. She turned her head a little and watched her fellow elf sit cross-legged beside her.
“You are much more troubled than you are letting on,” he told her, his expression a little bit inquisitive.
“I…” She trailed off, trying to decide how to explain herself. She had felt so many things, and it was hard to decide which of her emotions was most prominent. In the end, she settled on, “I’m just having a hard time taking this all in, I suppose.”
Elera nodded a little, uncurling from the ball she had made of herself. She slid forward a few paces, swinging her legs over the end of the pier, falling silent as she tried to gather herself before she continued speaking.
“When I left my clan, I…Well, suffice to say that I never expected any of this to happen. The explosion…the Breach…the Mark.” She took another moment to sift through her thoughts. “Of all those people at the Conclave, I was the one to walk away? Of course I’m glad to be alive, but for my survival to thrust me into this role as a…a savior…” Elera shook her head, trying not to cry all over again as she voiced her fears. “I’m just one woman. It…it frightens me that all those people look to me with hope in their eyes. I don’t think I can meet their expectations of me. After all, I’ve already failed to close the Breach once. Who’s to say that I won’t fail again?”
Solas chuckled a little bit, and held up both hands in a placating gesture when she looked at him with an expression that was a mix between bewilderment and accusation.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend,” he offered. “I simply believe that your hesitation means that you are, in reality, the soundest choice for this role.”
That gave her pause. “Really?” Elera asked softly, disbelieving.
“Yes. In truth, I would be concerned if you accepted their admiration with ease.” Solas gave her a very faint smile. “Your hesitation gives you humility, and so I believe that you are more likely to remain grounded despite the responsibility that has been placed upon you.” He looked off towards Haven, his moment of silence contemplative. “The Mark upon your hand has certainly changed many things, and it seems as if your place in history is now inevitable. The real question is: will you run away, or will you stand and fight?” With that, he turned his gaze to her.
Elera stared back for a few moments before she looked down at her feet. “…I…don’t want to let them down,” she finally murmured. “Yes, I dislike that they believe that I was sent by a god I don’t even believe in, but I think that they real reason why it’s frightening that they call me the Herald…I fear that I cannot do what they need me to do.”
“Yet another reason why you are already on your way to succeeding.”
She laughed once, shaking her head. “You seem to have a lot of faith in me,” she added in a soft voice.
“I am simply voicing what some of the others have noted, though I do agree with them,” Solas responded.
After a long pause, Elera spoke. “All I saw was their hope, and I felt undeserving of it.” She let out a sigh, leaning back a little and looking towards the heavens. “I always believed that I would stay with my clan my entire life. Before now, I thought that I would learn all that my Keeper had to teach me, and then I would take her place. In the end, I would only have to care for the lives of a small handful of elves.
“And then I came here, and obtained the Mark…All of sudden, I’m responsible for so many more people. They all watch me, and hope that I can succeed in completing a task that may very well be impossible.”
“The people of Haven have seen you do the impossible,” Solas countered. “It is for this very reason why they look to you for guidance. Yes, you may not have sealed the Breach, but you did stop its growth. For them, it is not improbable that you will find some way of closing it for good.”
Elera glanced at him. “I…suppose I didn’t see it like that.”
He nodded a little.
She looked back towards Haven, a thoughtful expression on her face. Maybe…she could succeed. She was still unsure about accepting the title of “Herald,” but perhaps she could accept the role of savior. If so many people believed in her already, perhaps that could help to strengthen her own resolve.
“I believe you simply needed someone to tell you exactly why they have such faith in you,” her companion said, drawing her attention back to him.
She nodded. “Yes, I think so, too. This…It did help a great deal, thank you.” Elera reached back to take her boots in hand, and carefully dropped down from the pier and onto the ice below. She turned and looked back up to Solas. “Shall we return?”
He offered up another faint smile, and dropped down after her. Together, the two elves started back towards Haven, walking close to each other, though neither brushed against the other.
A calm finally settled over Elera as they walked. She was certainly filled with doubt – she didn’t think that would ever truly go away – but she was also filled with resolve. If Solas and the others believed that she could live up to the expectations that were placed upon her, then there was a possibility that they were right. Perhaps she really would find a way to seal the Breach for good. The Inquisition was young, and her role as one of its most prominent members was only just beginning. Despite her hesitation, perhaps even she, an elven apostate, really could place her mark on Thedosian history.
Her expression set into one of determination, and she quickened her pace a little, her steps a little more assured. There was quite a lot of work to be done.