Moments in Time.
Characters & Pairing(s): Wynne, Solona Amell, with background Solona/ Alistair
Rating: Teen - no graphic violence or language, references to canon but not as graphic as the actual game.
Warnings/Contains: Canon character death.
Summary: Throughout her life Solona Amell has faced many challenges and changes. From simple village girl to Circle Mage, from Circle Mage to the new Grey Warden recruit, and to finally becoming one of the last two Wardens in Ferelden. And through it all one woman has been a constant source of comfort and wisdom for Solona, that woman is Wynne, and this story shows a brief snippet of the bond they share.
Disclaimer: I don't oen Dragon Age, the world its set in or any of its characters. These all belong to Bioware and I'm merely borrowing them for entertainment purposes.
A/N: Originally written for LiveJournal's Women of Dragon Age character challenge.
Thanks to my Hubby for the beta, encouragement and advice. Orignally this piece was meant to cover all of Solona's life, and the influence Wynne had on it. However, I found myself running out of time, so sadly this only covers half of what I had planned. Hopefully in the future I can go back and add the other six scenes I had in mind. This is my first venture into the Dragon Age fandom, and I found I loved it. Hopefully this will be the start of a new world of writing for me. I hope anyone reading finds something they enjoy in the story.
The tower was impossibly tall. And cold too. Even the stones looked as though they were made from ice.
Solona Amell did not like this place. She did not like this place at all.
Prompted by the call of the two Templars escorting her, eight year old Solona climbed into the boat that would carry her across lake Calenhad and to her new home.
Before sitting down in the wooden bateau, Solona cast one final look at the land behind her. Though her parents' farm couldn't be seen – due to it been located hundreds of miles to the south, just on the out skirts of Lothering – she pictured it in her mind's eye. The smiling faces of her mother, father and brother Aristide – as they waved her off – dancing fresh in her memory.
A single tear ran down Solona's face as the boat took to the water, and the pair of Templars began gently rowing it across the lake.
The journey was a silent affair, neither Templar making conversation, and the usually talkative Solona not having it in her to chatter at the moment.
On their travels north to lake Calenhad Solona had gotten used to the idea of living in the Circle of Magi and had come to look forwards to it in fact. At first the discovery that she was a mage had terrified her but now Solona was positively excited by the prospect.
That was until she'd seen the tower itself. The place looked more like a fortress than the palace her mother has promised her it would be. Hundreds of tiny windows were lit with flickering lights, and the prospect of being surrounded by so many people made Solona nervous.
She had enough trouble dealing with the crowds on prank day, let alone a tower full of mages and Templars.
And of course, they'd all be more powerful than her too. All the mages had probably been there for years, and most likely knew countless different spells. She would be the boring country girl who knew nothing. She could barely read, let alone cast an incantation.
The circle tower loomed closer and closer, and Solona's anxiety rose.
The Templars she'd travelled with were nice enough, but their swords and armour gave her the creeps. She'd only stopped being scared of them due to sleeping in the same camp as them for nearly a week. How would she fare on a daily basis around strange Templars, who's very duty it was to enforce law over mages like her.
What if she forgot one of the rules and they turned those gleaming swords on her?
By the time they reached the tower, Solona's heart was racing, her palms were sweaty and her knees were shaking.
I can't do this, she thought, fear paralysing her and making Solona unable to get out of the boat.
"Come on now, girl," one of the Templars called. The male of the two, Bryant was the name he went by.
"I can't move."
"What do you mean, you can't move?" Bryant questioned.
"I can't get up."
"Stop this nonsense now and get out of the boat. We can't keep Knight-Commander Greagoir waiting."
"Hang on a minute Bryant. Look at her, she's terrified," the female Templar put in. Ivy her name was. "Maybe we should get someone else. The First Enchanter, perhaps?"
"Alright. You sit here with her, and I'll get the First Enchanter."
Bryant entered the tower, and upon seeing that nothing terrible happened to him, Solona's worries eased a little. But still she was unable to leave the boat.
Ivy took off her helmet, her black hair braided into a long plait that ran down her back, and her gauntlets too. She left them both on the lake shore, climbed back into the boat and sat beside Solona.
"It will be okay. You'll be happier with people of your own kind."
Your own kind … the words sounded strange to Solona's ears. She didn't know what her kind was any more. Growing up she always thought she'd remain on the farm with her parents and Aristide until she met a nice boy, from Lothering perhaps, and married him. Farmers, villagers, merchants and smiths. Those were her kind. Not Templars and mages. This was a world Solona knew nothing about.
Failing to get a response from Solona, Ivy lapsed into silence, and the pair passed the time quietly until Bryant returned.
Following him was a woman, a concerned expression etched onto her face. She had blonde hair streaked with grey, mischievous blue eyes, and the kindest face Solona had ever seen.
"Give me a moment with the child," the new-comer said. Ivy climbed from the boat, and as she put her gauntlets back on, she and Bryant walked into the tower.
The newcomer - who was wearing red robes, similar in style, if not shade, to those Solona had once seen the Chantry sisters in Lothering wearing, but adorned with a golden belt – climbed into the boat. Unlike Ivy, however, she sat opposite Solona and looked curiously at the girl.
"Hello, my name is Wynne," she began with a kindly smile. "And I'm here to tell you that here's no need to be afraid, child."
Somehow the calmness of this Wynne's voice compelled Solona to speak.
"That's easy for you to say. This is your home. Its not mine. I've had to leave my home behind."
"Some might say one of the benefits of coming to the Circle is that we're surrounded by people who, at one time or another, had a different home from this. While the Circle is my home now, it wasn't always. I know how you feel."
"How can you possibly know how I feel? Does your magic allow you to read minds?"
Wynne chuckled at this.
"Unfortunately not. But I too was once a frightened girl, waiting on these very shores to begin my new life. And I too had the same fears you hold with in your heart. I know what it's like to leave behind a family that you love. And I know what it's like to be faced with the prospect of starting a new life somewhere different, surrounded by strange people. But believe me when I say there is nothing in the tower that can be worse than what you're imagining inside your head. Surely you will face challenges and hardship, but you will be surrounded by friends. By people who care about you. I am one of those people Solona, and I ask you now to come with me and I promise that no harm will come of you."
Solona looked up from her hands, where she'd been counting the lines on her palm, and into a pair of brilliant blue eyes. They were so honest and earnest and full of compassion that Solona found it impossible to mistrust Wynne and her words.
Solona took the hand Wynne offered to her, and with the help of the mage, she climbed from the boat and made her way to the tower ready to begin her life in the Circle.
It was Feastday and Solona could hardly contain her excitement. Feastday in the Circle always meant a break from studying, a massive banquet in the evening, and of course, gifts.
This year she had something very special in mind, intended for someone very important to her.
Solona had been working on the Feastday gift for months, using all her free time when she wasn't studying to perfect the present. It was meant as an indication of her true feelings, a confession of love that she hoped desperately was reciprocated.
For the last four weeks Solona had been working on an ice carving. She had formed a ball of ice and enchanted it to never melt naturally. And then using carefully directed blasts of fire she had melted the ball into a shape.
Now it resembled a heart, with two kissing kittens climbing on top of it.
It was perfect!
Solona just hoped he found it perfect too.
Taking the ice sculpture from the trunk at the end of her bed, Solona slipped out of the apprentice quarters and went in search of the object of her affection.
She found him in the corridor near First Enchanter Irving's office.
"Anders," she called out.
The blond mage turned to her with an easy smile, his brown eyes twinkling in the lamplight.
Solona's heart skipped a beat. She'd been in love with Anders for as long as she could remember. Being five years older than her, as he was, Anders had been assigned as Solona's mentor at the Circle. It was his job to show her around, help her fit in, and then help her with her studies. In the two years that Solona had been at the Circle, their friendship had gone from strength to strength. When Anders had recently taken his Harrowing, Solona had been extremely impressed. In her eyes, he was the greatest person ever. The best looking too.
"Happy Feastday," she said, sitting on the bench beside him.
"Happy Feastday to you too Solona. Are you enjoying your day off?"
"I am. Are you?"
Usually Solona had a handful of questions for Anders. What was the Harrowing like? Were spells and incantations harder to cast once you progressed past apprentice level? What did the Senior Enchanters keep locked away in those chests in the basement? And why did First Enchanter Irving always smell of peppermints?
Today, however, her throat felt uncommonly dry, and all sensible thoughts slipped from her mind.
After a few minutes of tense silence had passed between the two, Anders shifted nervously in his seat, and Solona worried if she didn't say something soon he'd grow bored and leave.
"Do you like cats?" she blurted.
Anders laughed, creating dimples in his cheeks, and sending Solona swooning.
"I do. I had a cat as a child, before I cam to the Circle, actually. Ser Pounce-A-Lot was his name. I tried to bring him with me, but Knight-Commander Greagoir wouldn't let me keep him. Damn Templars, always ruining our fun eh?"
Solona grinned. "I have something for you. It has cats on!"
"Oh?" Anders quirked an eyebrow and looked at Solona questioningly.
From out of the pocket of her robes Solona withdrew the ice sculpture of the heart and kissing kittens and presented it to Anders.
"It's … erm … I made it myself … from ice, obviously. It's meant to, well … "
"It's lovely," Anders finished for her, taking the sculpture and holding it in his palms like it was a precious jewel. "I'll treasure it forever."
And then Anders did something Solona had only hoped for in her wildest dreams. He leant across and kissed her on the cheek. Solona's heart did somersaults.
Anders left not long after that, taking the ice sculpture with him – still holding it carefully, like it was the most important thing in the world to him – and left Solona sitting on the bench, grinning inanely.
Later that day Solona and Jowan were making their way to the banquet hall for that evening's feast, when they rounded the corner and the sight Solona saw made her stop dead in her tracks.
There was Anders, sitting on a bench, joined at the lips with Petra, who's red hair had come free of it's usual bun as Anders ran his fingers through it.
Lying disregarded in a rubbish bin next to the bench was Solona's Feastday gift for Anders.
Tears ran down her cheeks as Solona turned on her heel and raced away, leaving a bewildered Jowan standing in the hallways staring at the kissing couple.
Solona entered the apprentice quarters, threw herself into her bed, and pulled the covers up tight over her head. She buried her face in her pillow and cried. Cried harder than she had in years. Her heart felt like it was breaking in two, a pain she hadn't experienced since leaving her family two years previously.
Solona sobbed for what seemed like a life time, until eventually she felt a presence sit on the end of her bed.
"Go away Jowan," she said from under the covers.
However, it wasn't Jowan who replied, but a distinctly female voice.
"When you weren't at the feast I asked Jowan where you were," Wynne began. "He told me what you saw in the corridor, and how you ran off. What happened my child?"
Solona pulled the bed covers off her head and looked at Wynne with red-rimmed eyes, her cheeks stained with tears.
She relayed to the senior enchanter the story, telling Wynne of her love for Anders, the gift she had made for him, his promise to treasure it forever, and then her later discovery of him kissing Petra and the present lying disregarded in the rubbish.
"Oh my poor dear," Wynne cooed, pulling Solona into an embrace and stroking the girl's long dark hair in a motherly fashion. "First heart break is always the worst."
Solona sniffed in response.
"I remember the first boy who broke my heart. Orsino his name was. He was a lovely elf boy with beautiful long silvery-blond hair. I thought he was the bees knees. I followed him everywhere. Then after his Harrowing, as he rose up the ranks in Circle, he was transferred to Kirkwall. The day he left I cried myself to sleep. I never thought I'd love again. A short while later, a certain someone caught my eye, and Orsino was all but forgotten. I hear he's First Enchanter of the Kirkwall Circle now."
"It gets better then?"
"Of course it does my child. Time is the greatest healer they say. Of course, it will hurt for a while, especially when you see Anders around the Circle. But soon, some other charming boy will catch your eye, and all this will be forgotten."
"But I want it to stop hurting now? Can't you do a spell to make me forget?"
"I could, but what would the use of that be? Isn't it our hardships that make the good times seem more worthwhile," Wynne suggested. Solona contemplated the idea for a few moments and then nodded her head in agreement. "I do however have something to ease the burden of a broken heart."
With a grin, Wynne produce a sugar cake from Maker only knows where and handed it to Solona.
Her Harrowing was now only two weeks away and Solona was studying hard. She didn't know what would be in store for her once First Enchanter Irving called her for the test, but she wanted to be fully prepared for every eventuality.
It was almost midnight and all the other mages and apprentices had left the library already, but still Solona remained.
She had taken down from the shelves three books – The Nature of Nature: Herb-lore and Botanical Uses in Potions Making, Healing Halla; Do the Dalish Deer have Hidden Healing Properties? and Fear in the Fade; Why Demon Corruption is Important to Guard Against – and had every intention of reading all three before going to bed that night. Even if it took her until the early hours of the morning.
She just had to pass the Harrowing, no matter what happened. And it wasn't even to do with Jowan's claim that you were killed by the Templars if you didn't pass the test. Though she somewhat thought her friend was over-exaggerating, anyway.
Solona wanted to pass her Harrowing because otherwise leaving her family, and being bought to live at the Circle, would all be for nothing.
She couldn't, wouldn't, let almost ten years of hard work go to waste.
Solona was determined to make the family that she'd left behind proud of her. She was unwavering in her desire to make the senior enchanters, and First Enchanter Irving pleased with all she had achieved, and repay the constant faith they had in her.
But most importantly, Solona wanted to pass the Harrowing for herself. She wanted to prove, not only to the Circle, but her own mind too, that she could be a good mage. No, not just a good mage. A respected mage.
And that's why, even when the library became utterly quiet, still and dark, and Solona only had one small candle for company, and her eyes stung from tiredness, she remained in her seat – ignoring how the hard wood was now cutting into her back – and continued to study.
She was so absorbed by the theories featured in Healing Halla that she didn't hear the approaching footsteps, and didn't even realise there was someone else in the library until that someone cleared their throat.
Startled, Solona looked up to find a sleep mussed Wynne standing besides her desk. The senior enchanter's grey hair, that was usually bound in a bun and secured at the crown of her head, was flowing free and ran down to her shoulders. Her usually bright blue eyes were glassy and glazed. Yet still, Wynne had an affectionate smile on her face.
"You couldn't sleep either I take it?" Wynne commented, taking a seat at the table where Solona's books, rolls of parchment, ink and quills covered most of the surface area.
"I'm studying," Solona informed simply. "My Harrowing is now only two weeks away and I want to be prepared."
"Well you'll certainly be that with all this reading material."
Wynne idly picked upthe book Solona had discarded and flicked through the pages.
"The Halla are lovely creatures aren't they? Very gentle and majestic. I do wish I had had the chance to study the Dalish and their ways of life."
"Perhaps you will yet."
"Yes. Who knows what future the Maker has in store for us. Seeing the wonders of the Halla would certainly be a magical experience indeed."
"But you're a mage. You use magic on a daily basis."
"Yes, and that's why it has become second nature. Summoning a fireball to kill spiders, or healing a wounded friend loses the wondrous effect non-magical people experience, because we're so used to using our abilities. But observing the Halla would be something else. The whole Dalish culture is fascinating as well. I often wish we had more contact with them."
"They seem like interesting people. Perhaps if I pass my Harrowing I may be granted the chance to study them."
"I'm sure once the Harrowing is over a great many opportunities will present themselves to you."
"What was your own Harrowing like?"
"I'm afraid I'm not really permitted to say. However, what I can tell you is that the Harrowing is different for each mage that takes it, and is designed to test your abilities."
"Will you be here for mine?"
"Unfortunately I won't."
"You won't? Why not?"
"I leave for Ostagar in a few days. King Cailan has issued a call to arms. He fears there may be a Blight and has requested aid from the Circle. It's more than duty to the King that compels me to go though. I cannot idly stand by and do nothing when I have magic and innocent people may be saved."
"I understand. I'd wish to go myself if I could. Perhaps if I pass my Harrowing The First Enchanter will permit me to join you?"
"I'm sure First Enchanter Irving has plenty in mind for you once you pass your Harrowing."
"You think I will pass it then?"
"I can't see how someone with your dedication to study could possibly fail."
"Your faith in my is always appreciated Wynne. I hope I do you proud."
"You already have done Solona."
Wynne covered Solona's hands with her own, and placed a motherly kiss on her cheek.
"Now perhaps we both should get some sleep."
Knowing there was only a few hours left until dawn, Solona agreed, and together the pair walked back to the sleeping quarters, parting only when Solona had to go onto the apprentice area.
Ostagar was huge! Bigger than huge, the ruined fortress was enormous! Even compared to life at the Circle, the encampment was abuzz with activity. The sights, sounds and smells of the King's army made Solona feel dizzy and lost.
Three weeks had passed since she had taken her Harrowing, and Solona's life had changed forever. In that time she had withstood the temptations of a demon from the Fade, tried to help Jowan escape the Circle, been betrayed by Jowan when he revealed to all he was a blood mage, threatened with imprisonment in the Aeonar by Knight-Commander Greagoir and eventually invited to join the ancient order of Grey Wardens by Warden Commander Duncan.
Then together with Warden Commander Duncan, Solona had travelled to the south of Ferelden - past her former home on the outskirts of Lothering – to the once grand fortress of the Tevinter Imperium.
Now she was getting used to life as a Grey Warden, as King Cailan's armies readied themselves to fight the darkspawn and she prepared to take yet another test. The Joining.
Solona had no idea what the Joining was, just that it was very important, and the final step in her becoming a Grey Warden. After the Joining was completed, she would join the ranks of Wardens here at Ostagar, who would then join with the King's army to fight back the darkspawn.
And oddly enough, Solona couldn't wait!
Since passing her Harrowing, something had awoken in Solona. A sense of adventure she had never possessed before. She had spent the last ten years studying, readying herself to become a full-fledged mage, and now that she was, she wanted to put her magical gifts to good use. Helping the King defend the realm seemed like as good a use as any. A noble pursuit even.
But first there was something she had to do. Something very important.
On her journey to Ostagar one thought had sprung to mind. Seeing Wynne again.
Solona recalled how the senior enchanter had readily joined with the mages assisting King Cailan and had travelled to Ostagar just a few weeks before Solona's Harrowing.
She hadn't expected to see Wynne again for a very long time, and the knowledge that her mentor was here in the camp filled Solona with joy. And so, before she took part in the Joining, and before she sought out the new Warden recruit Alistair, as Warden Commander Duncan had asked her to, Solona had every intention of seeking out Wynne and telling her about her appointment in the Grey Wardens.
Solona found Wynne in a secluded area of the camp that has been set aside specifically for mages. The senior enchanter was more than a little surprised to see her former prodigy again so soon.
"I can't believe First Enchanter Irving has allowed your leave of the Circle so soon. You must have done very well in your Harrowing indeed. I knew you would."
Wynne made no effort to hide the pride in her voice, and Solona instantly felt guilty. She had done well in her Harrowing, and The First Enchanterbeen very impressed. But then she'd agreed to help Jowan recover his phylactery from the Mage Tower basement, so he and his girlfriend Lily could run away together. They'd been caught of course, and it had been then that Jowan had revealed he was a blood mage. Lily had been sentenced to imprisonment in Aeonar, and sadly Jowan had escaped. Solona knew if it hadn't been for the intervention of Warden Commander Duncan she would have been in very serious trouble, possibly even sent to Aeonar herself. But as it had happened he needed recruits for the Grey Wardens, and she had readily agreed. And not just to get herself out of trouble either. She wanted to do something with her life, and the wonderful magical gifts the Maker had granted her with.
But how did she tell Wynne all of this now? How could she confess to a woman who always had the uttermost faith in her that she'd been willing to help Jowan become an apostate? Solona couldn't bear the thought of seeing the same disappointment she'd seen in The First Enchanter's eyes in Wynne's eyes too.
"I … erm … not exactly. I've joined the Grey Wardens."
"The Grey Wardens? Well that's certainly a worthwhile application of your abilities. I'm sure First Enchanter Irving was very proud of that decision."
"He … erm … he would have been if the decision hadn't come after I was caught helping Jowan steal his phylactery from the Mage Tower basement."
And there it was, the look of disappointment.
"I'm sure you had a very good reason."
"I did. Jowan was going to be made Tranquil, I couldn't let that happen to my friend."
"Of course not. But do you think life as an apostate would have been any easier?"
"Well I'm sure Jowan will find out. He used blood magic to escape the tower."
"He did what?"
"Yeah. It seems I was wrong about him all along. I thought he was a good person."
"You weren't entirely wrong. People do insane things when they're desperate."
"But he could end up hurting someone with his blood magic."
"It's likely as an apostate he'll be too scared to use magic again."
"Even so how do I live with it on my conscience that I helped him escape?"
"By remembering you were just trying to help a friend, and that you didn't force him into using blood magic. That was Jowan's choice, and he'll have to live with it."
"I did the right thing then?"
"Perhaps. While your actions were misguided, your intentions were honourable. Besides, I'm sure you'll more than redeem yourself as a Grey Warden."
"You approve then?"
"Very much so. The Wardens do a lot of good. You could save a lot of lives Solona. If the Wardens and King Cailan's army are able to defeat the darkspawn here at Ostagar the rest of Ferelden need not suffer."
"You think we stand a chance against them then?"
"The King certainly seems confident."
"Any time Solona. You may be all grown up now, but to me you will always be the little girl I met ten years ago."
Solona had never felt more alone in her life. Not even when she'd been a child and was brought to the Circle.
Sure she had Alistair, and now Morrigan as well to travel with, but they were practically strangers. One was a former Templar, the other an apostate mage, two people who couldn't be more different from a Circle mage like herself.
Her heart ached for the familiarity of the Circle, for those that over the last ten years had become her family and for those who had not lived through the horrors of Ostagar.
Her dreams were plagued with visions of fire, falling towers, darkspawn and most terrifying of all the Archdemon.
Alistair said these nightmares would pass in time. Solona wasn't sure she'd ever get the image of the Archdemon out of her head.
Daytime offered no respite, because even though she was not plagued with horrific dreams, Solona was overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt that she'd lived while others had died. Guilt that she hadn't done enough to save all those innocents who had lost their lives. Guilt that she wished she was back at the Circle rather than being one of the two remaining Grey Wardens in Ferelden.
The guilt only increased when she thought of King Cailan, their shining monarch, who had been so sure victory would be theirs. Of Warden Commander Duncan, who had saved her from punishment at the Circle, and had – in the little time she had known him – taught her the importance of fighting for what was right. And for the army who had sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the people of Ferelden. Among the King's forces were the envoy of mages sent from the Circle, Wynne included. Solona's heart broke at the thought that her mentor had perished in battle.
Solona needed closure, and comfort and familiarity. So, when Alistair and Morrigan had left it to her to choose their first port of call in their attempt to gather allies to defeat the darkspawn horde that still plagued the land, her choice had been a simple one.
"I think we should return to the Circle," she told them.
"The Circle, yes. Mages, right," Alistair bumbled. Being in the presence of two mages was difficult enough for him, let alone a tower full of them.
"Are you sure this is wise, all things considered?" Morrigan put in. Thinking of herself, of course, and her status as an apostate.
"Don't worry, no harm will come of either of you at the Circle. The mages will want to fight back the darkspawn as much as we do. And … I …" She didn't know how to confess the feelings inside. "I … need to see them. They're my family. I need to see them, make sure they're okay."
"Quite understandable really. I feel them same. I have to confess, it's one of the reasons I suggested we should visit Redcliffe. I have loved ones in the town and I wanted to make sure they were okay."
Solona's heart softened towards the former Templar a little, and she flashed him a wry smile. "We'll go to Redcliffe next, I promise. Right after we've been to the Circle. We can travel south, along the coast of Lake Calenhad."
"Excellent. Sounds like a plan."
"Morrigan, do you agree?"
"Do as you please, and I will follow you dutifully."
And with that, the apostate walked back to her tent, which was set a little further way from the others. Solona was left perplexed. Was Morrigan being serious or not? She could never quite tell.
Travelling to the Circle helped put Solona's worries at ease somewhat. She knew once back in the familiarity of home she'd be able to think clearly again, and form a plan of action, as well as seeking counsel of the senior mages. Perhaps they'd even have news of who, if any, had survived the battle of Ostagar.
However, what Solona found at the Circle Tower only served to increase her worries, and her guilt too.
"What's happened here?" she asked Knight-Commander Greagoir.
"A number of blood mages broke into the Tower, with the intent of overthrowing First Enchanter Irving. The resulting power surge has weakened the veil between our world and the Fade, leading to demons coming through. They've overtaken the Circle. I've ordered a lockdown, and sent for The Right of Annulment. If I must, I will kill everything inside."
"You can't. There might be survivors. We have to at least try to save them before we condemn them to death."
"I can't permit you to do that, Warden." Solona didn't miss the emphasis that Knight-Commander Greagoir put on her new title. "Most likely anyone who isn't dead are Abominations, and I can't let that escape into the world."
"Please, just let me try. Nothing will get out, only me and my companions will go in. I'll check there are no survivors and that the tower is safe."
"Absolutely not! You're barely a mage initiate past their Harrowing, you won't be able to defeat what's behind those doors."
"I lived through Ostagar or need I remind you? Are you really going to stand in the way of the last two remaining Grey Wardens in Ferelden?"
"You may have been Irving's little prodigy but those sort of threats won't stand with me."
"I'm sorry. But people do insane things when they're desperate. You respected the First Enchanter once, let me find out if he's still alive."
"Even if he is there's no telling what those blood mages have done to him."
"Just give me an hour, that's all I need. If I don't find any survivors then you can call the Right of Annulment if you must."
Greagoir took a few paces away from Solona, stroking his beard as he contemplated her suggestion.
"Fine, you have one hour. But it's under one condition. I insist that you must locate First Enchanter Irving. I will accept that the tower is safe only if the First Enchanter stands in front of me and says so."
"Alright. If First Enchanter Irving is alive - which I'm sure he will be, it would take more than a few demons to defeat him - I will bring him to you."
"Very well. You and your companions may enter."
Knight-Commander Greagoir lowered the wards and allowed Solona, Alistair and Morrigan access to the rest of the Tower.
As the doors slammed shut behind her, Solona heard the sounds of a magical battle, and was confronted with the fiery form of a rage demon.
Solona pulled her staff from where it was strapped to her back and readied herself to fight.
However, someone was already attacking the demon, and had the creature almost defeated. As the mage defeated their fiery foe, Solona looked around for who had done this and spotted a familiar figure. She almost couldn't believe what her eyes were seeing.
"Wynne!" she exclaimed, rushing forwards to embrace her mentor. "You're alive. But how? I thought you'd perished at Ostagar?"
"It seems the Maker has a place for me yet," Wynne replied cryptically. "And you Solona, how did you survive the horrors of the battle? I heard the tower was overrun."
Solona relayed to Wynne the story of how she and Alistair had been rescued by the Witch of the Wilds, and then nursed back to health by the witch's own daughter, Morrigan.
"So it seems the Maker has a place for both of us."
"Apparently so. Knight-Commander Greagoir has allowed my companions and I through to search for any survivors. He said he will call for the Right of Annulment unless I locate First Enchanter Irving, and bring the First Enchanter to him to attest the Tower is safe."
"Then we must find First Enchanter Irving."
"You're coming with us?"
"Of course," Wynne said, lowering the barrier she had previously created to protect the apprentices and children, and allowing Solona to lead the way through the first floor.
The following hours were long and arduous. Solona was finding it harder and harder to fight the growing fatigue. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in her bedroll and recuperate the strength that had been all but spent fighting her way through the tower battling blood mages, abominations and worse.
Eventually the quartet made their way to the fourth floor, where after defeating a Desire Demon, they encountered a sloth demon who's power could not be defeated in the mortal realm.
Solona recalled the demon's voiced echoing like the beating of a war drum before the party fell into an enchanted sleep, and the demon pulled them into the Fade.
She woke alone, and it soon became clear to Solona that if she wanted to escape the Fade she'd have to traverse it and obtain the different forms needed to overcome the many obstacles the Sloth Demon had put in her way.
With the obstacles removed, Solona sought to defeat the Sloth Demon's protectors, which in itself was no easy feat as she battled more demons, abominations and even a ogre.
Having obtained the Fade forms she needed, and after vanquishing the Sloth Demon's guardians, Solona explored the final areas of the Fade, and it was in these area she found her missing companions.
Alistair was living in a happy dream world with his sister and her children, blissfully unaware the family he was with were only an illusion created by the Sloth Demon. However when Solona alerted him to this fact he stood by her side and they defeated the demonic spectres.
"I knew that meeting with my sister was too good to be true," Alistair commented. "For starters no cheese in Ferelden tastes that good."
Then together she and Alistair tracked down Morrigan, who was talking with a spirit representation of her mother. Knowing it wasn't the real Flemeth, Morrigan instructed Solona to kill the apparition.
"Well that demon was even more annoying than Mother. It couldn't even create a good impression of her."
"And that's saying a lot. I thought Flemeth was positively delightful," Alistair quipped.
Morrigan cut daggers into his back with her eyes.
"We need to find Wynne," Solona insisted. "She could be in danger."
Though she wasn't in danger, the illusion Wynne was trapped in was far from a happy one. Surrounded by phantoms she believed to be dead mages, Wynne fought desperately to bury the bodies, as she battled with the guilt of causing their demise.
Solona rushed to her former mentor's side.
"Wynne!" she cried.
"Oh Solona, I'm so sorry. This is all my fault. I've killed them, I've killed them all," Wynne sobbed.
"No you haven't. Wynne this isn't real, it's the work of a Sloth Demon. Don't give into it."
"But how can it not be real? The pain feels too great."
"That's part of the demon's evil magic. You have to resist. Focus on my voice Wynne. Resist the demon."
"I don't know how to child."
"Yes you do! You more than anyone know how to resist demons. You have to have faith!"
The word "faith" seemed to have an odd effect on Wynne and her eyes glowed brightly for an instant before she snapped out of the spell the Sloth Demon had put her under.
"We must defeat the demon and escape the Fade," Wynne said.
The group made their way to the Inner Sanctum and were finally confronted with the Sloth Demon that had trapped them.
They fought the creature as it took on five different forms – ogre, Rage Demon, abomination, shade and Arcane Horror – until they'd worn it down and had it defeated. At last the Sloth Demon was vanquished.
After Niall - a spirit who had helped Solona in the Fade - asked them to retrieve the Litany of Adralla from his corpse, claiming it was the key to defeating the blood mage who had control of the tower, Solona and her companions were freed from the Fade and returned back to the Circle.
They retrieved the Litany from Niall's body, and continued fighting their way through the tower battling a Drake and Dragonlings, until they reached the stairway that would lead them up to the Harrowing Chamber.
Here Solona found the Templar Cullen trapped in a magical prison. He was mumbling incoherently, and confessing that it was unfair they were using his desires for her against him. Solona blushed, and shifted uncomfortably. Jowan had often teased Solona that Cullen had had a crush on her, but Solona had always brushed off Jowan's claims. It seemed he was right all along, Cullen did have feelings for her.
Speaking with a calming voice, Solona convinced Cullen that she and her party weren't apparitions sent by demons, but that she was real. She told him how she'd been sent by Knight-Commander Greagoir to find First Enchanter Irving.
"You can't go up there," Cullen said firmly. "Uldred is a monster. The things he … did … they were unimaginable. And now he's turning what mages are left living into blood mages, abominations or horrible amalgamations of both. Everyone in the Harrowing Chamber needs to be killed."
Wynne looked at Solona beseechingly. "No, it can't be."
"I won't kill innocent people who may or may not be blood mages," Solona argued firmly. "If First Enchanter Irving is still alive – and I feel that he is – there is no way he would allow Uldred to corrupt the living mages. I will do what I told Knight-Commander Greagoir I would, and rescue as many Circle Magi as I can."
Wynne smiled proudly.
"I can't let you do this. You're not strong enough to stop Uldred alone," Cullen argued.
"I'm not alone. I have my companions, and the Litany of Adralla. I will defeat Uldred!"
"You've not heard the last of this. I will report your plan to do to Knight-Commander Greagoir. He will agree with me that everyone in the Harrowing Chamber needs to be killed."
Ignoring Cullen's threats they walked past him to the staircase.
"I'm very proud of what you did there Solona," Wynne said. "It took courage to stand up to Cullen. I only hope your faith isn't misplaced and that First Enchanter Irving is still alive."
"He is. I'm sure of it."
They entered the Harrowing Chamber, and Solona was shocked to discover that Uldred was one of the mages who had offered the services of the Circle of Magi to light the beacon during the Battle of Ostagar.
Uldred then revealed his true form, and the reason behind his attack on the Circle tower, he had joined with a Pride Demon.
Solona, Wynne, Alistair and Morrigan fought the Uldred-Pride Demon, defeating any abomination he sent at them and using the Litany of Adralla to prevent any more innocents from being corrupted.
The battle was tough and tested Solona's magical skill to the maximum, but she never gave in. Having Wynne fight by her side gave Solona the courage to keep going, even when it felt all was lost. Wynne's cries of encouragement, and prompts to use the Litany spurred Solona on, and she mustered strength from the very depths of her being.
Eventually the Uldred-Pride Demon fell, and as his corpse crashed to the floor the enchantment over First Enchanter Irving and the remaining mages broke.
First Enchanter Irving blinked rapidly as though waking from sleep.
"Wynne," he said weakly. "And Solona too. But what has happened here?"
"It was Uldred, First Enchanter. He had joined with a Pride Demon and sought to over-throw the tower. He was turning mages into abominations."
"The horrors a mage can do when corrupted. Is he … ? Has he … ?"
"Yes, we defeated him."
"You have my thanks. I never dreamed I would see you again Solona. I couldn't be more proud of all you have accomplishing in saving us."
"I wasn't alone," Solona said modestly. "But come. We must take you to Knight-Commander Greagoir, so that he can see the tower is safe."
With the physical evidence that First Enchanter Irving was alive and well, Knight-Commander Greagoir – despite Cullen's argument to the contrary – agreed to call off the right of Right of Annulment and allow the First Enchanter to resume joint control of the Circle.
With order restored, and First Enchanter Irving more than willing to comply with the Grey Warden treaty - once the Circle was rebuilt - and send assistance from the Circle to aid the fight against the darkspawn, Solona, Morrigan and Alistair prepared to leave.
"I guess this is goodbye then," Solona said sadly to Wynne.
"Goodbye? No child, First Enchanter Irving has granted me permission to come with you."
"You're coming with me?"
"Yes, someone will need to mend your socks when they get a hole" Wynne smiled wistfully. "I'm proud of all you've done today Solona. It would be my honour to fight by your side."
"Good night my dear," Alistair said, kissing Solona softly on the temple, before retreating into his tent.
Solona flopped down on her bedroll, warmed by the dying embers of the fire, and sighed with contentment. Taking the rose Alistair had given her from its hiding place under her pillow, Solona stroked the velvety petals and let out another contented breath.
Even in the midst of war, with darkspawn at their backs, and a trip to the Dalish Camp at the Brecilian Forest Outskirts ahead of them, somehow she and Alistair had found happiness together.
"Would you like some more tea?" a voice inquired, startling Solona from her thoughts.
Solona smiled gratefully at Wynne. "Please."
Wynne filled a small iron kettle with water and herbs and hung it over the campfire to boil, as she found two tin cups for them to drink from.
"You're quite taken with each other, aren't you?" Wynne said as they sat around the fire with their cups in hand.
"You know about Alistair and me?"
"It's hard not to notice. You seem joined at the hip since we left Denerim."
"We're just taking it one day at a time."
"A wise choice. The road you travel is not an easy one."
"I know. But I'm a person with emotions, not just a Grey Warden."
"I'm not denying your feelings for him. I just want you to be aware of the difficulties you will face. And I don't just mean when fighting the darkspawn. Alistair is heir to the throne."
"Alistair doesn't want to be king though."
"He may have no choice in the matter."
"I know that, and I know I could lose him. But I want to hold onto what we have until that time comes."
"And then what?"
"And then we fight darkspawn and defeat the Archdemon … together."
"Just be careful Solona. I would hate to see either of you hurt from all this."
"We know what's at stake Wynne. But I appreciate your concern. I know you're looking out for me."
The two companions lapsed into comfortable silence for a time, until Solona spoke again.
"Were you ever in love Wynne? You told me about Orsino, but how about after him?"
"I had many lovers in my youth. That is one advantage of being a mage, as we're not expected to marry or have children. The normal constraints of society don't apply to us."
"Tell me about them."
"There was one boy, when I was almost eighteen, who really stole my heart. His name was Jaime and he had hair like golden wheat and bright green eyes. We were apprentices at the same time, and I took my Harrowing not long after he had passed his. We studied together, and spend most of our free time in each other's company. Before we became lovers he was my closest friend. The progression to the bedroom was a natural one, and felt like a normal extension of our friendship. We were inseparable for many years, until ambition took us in different directions. I progressed through the ranks of the Circle, finally becoming a Senior Enchanter, and Jaime moved to the Circle in the Orlais to study wild Sylvans. We keep in touch still, though as our lives have become busier our letters become less and less frequent."
"It sounds as though he's very important to you."
"He was … he still is. But we both always knew our relationship was never something permanent, like a marriage. We often sought out other lovers too, while we were together. There was no exclusivity."
"Didn't that bother you?"
"No, I liked my freedom. And I knew that just because Jaime shared his bad with others it didn't mean he valued what we had any less."
"I never thought about it like that. I just … well I thought you'd want something more committed."
"Why? Because I'm a grandmotherly old woman who mends your socks now? I was young once too."
Wynne chuckled and Solona found the brightness in her eyes infectious, she couldn't help laughing herself.
"It's important to seize life when you have the chance. Only the Maker knows how long we have, and in times of conflict like this, that becomes even more apparent."
"Which is exactly what Alistair and me are doing."
"I know. Just be careful?"
"Now, I think it's high time we both got some sleep. We have a long journey ahead of us tomorrow."
"Okay," Solona agreed, standing and picking up their tin cups and the kettle. She took them both over to the stream they'd set up camp by and washed them out.
"Good night Wynne," Solona said, picking up her bedroll and walking towards her tent.
"Good night Solona," Wynne returned, opening the flap to her tent. "Pleasant dreams."