Saturday, March 16, 2019

Ar Lath Ma, Vhenan: Solas's Romance, Part 4

"Has it affected you? Changed you in any way? Your mind, your morals, your… spirit?" asks Solas. Big questions, and not always easily answered...

INQUISITOR: So what does this mean, Solas?

SOLAS: It means... I have not forgotten the kiss.

It's a big moment when, after Adamant, Solas comes up to see the Inquisitor in her quarters.


As he does.

Wait, no.

He doesn't, does he?

Ever.

No, really. Not ever.

Solas doesn't actually ever come to Lavellan's quarters. He doesn't come to her rooms.

As blog readers, you all know I'm a headcanoning fool, but yes, it feels to me, always, like one of the strictures he has set upon their budding relationship. As if she can go to him within the confines of the Rotunda, but that he cannot visit her in her bedroom because, well... it's just blurring the boundaries for him. Too difficult. Too tenuous. Too close.

See, this is where two roads diverge in a wood, and I—I take the Road of Solas Does Not Have Sex with the Inquisitor. Ever. In-game. While of course acknowledging that there's room for both takes on this (and it's genius of Patrick Weekes and BioWare to espouse this).

And I am not saying this does not occur, um, elsewhere. For instance, in various quality and exciting fanfics, some of which I may or may not also be writing. But I think—in-game, and quite cruelly—that no, they do not. I always find it tragic, because it's something she needs and deserves. Something I wish he had given her. That gift of intimacy. Just that one moment.

But... sigh. Me, I feel like he just can't allow himself to go there.

NOTE: Throughout this piece, I am using screen shots with the "Always Night at Skyhold" PC mod. I just felt, on the latest playthrough, that the mod was useful and appropriately gothic for a romantic story that goes so very dark. I love the original sunset setting for this scene, but to me it's brutally hopeful and romantic (which may have been the purpose). 

I prefer this one, which is starker. Darker. It won't end well. Let's embrace it. But that's me.


Each step of their romance is controlled by Solas—how close, how far, when to touch, when not to. 
Maintaining the Boundaries

So I do not believe that Solas and the Inquisitor have sex. My logic for this goes as follows:
  • Their entire relationship is about the slow burn.
  • Each step of their romance is controlled by Solas—how close, how far, when to touch, when not to. It's not in a toxic way, but that "dominate your focus" dialogue wasn't just there to be funny. Solas is all about control, to me, at least in certain (cough) scenarios. I think he likes to orchestrate things.
  • Each beat of the relationship—except for the crucial Last Date—involves Solas refusing contact then returning to the kisses in spite of himself. And then he leaves with this almost palpable sense that he is forcing himself away from temptation.
  • We never get a sex scene (and, aside from Josie, this is something we get for every other companion across the entire trilogy).

    And, to me, this doesn't ping as Solas being ace (while Josie does)—although I should add here that he does ping as asexual to many other players, including reader Ladyiolanthe, who argues that Solas can certainly in fact be asexual or demisexual, and those are real potential options for him given his behavior as presented. In my ignorance, I dismissed those too immediately above, so of course this is another aspect that can be interpreted by the player. (Note: please forgive any mistakes I've made in discussing those or any other aspects of sexual orientation or preference, as I definitely didn't mean to discard interpretations or representations that may be powerfully meaningful for many players: How you see Solas and his sexuality is absolutely yours, first and foremost. This is just how I have attempted to interpret him.)

    But let's get back to my case for "They Do Not Have Sex..."

    So I'll amend my earlier statement to say that, to me, Solas seems like a very strongly sensual and sexual person, based on his behaviors, and one powerfully in love with the senses of the flesh, and who is deeply tempted by his physical desire for Lavellan. For this reason, the lack of a sex scene is noteworthy to me. Especially since he ends every other sexual moment with with variations on "we shouldn't!" So, for me, the moment he finally capitulates and goes, "Let's have sex!" should be a really big one. But we never see it.
  • We never get kisses with Solas on demand. Which again, I find character-appropriate. Our Inky/Solas relationship is delicate enough that it is probably Solas who initiates the kissage. When he allows himself to. I know his romance was one of the later romances added in the final year of development, but I still think the technical options were there to add a love scene or a "kiss on demand," and that the exclusion of either item is deliberate and noteworthy.
  • Last but not least, Solas instantly and emotionally denies sex when called on it by the Inky in "Trespasser:"
INQUISITOR: And so he did.
SOLAS: I did not. I would not lay with you under false pretenses.

Solas actually sounds upset over the above exchange, as played by Gareth David-Lloyd.

Either way, it's a big issue among Solasmancers, and there are passionate and persuasive points on both sides. But this is where I stand.


However—as I mentioned—I definitely understand those who headcanon that they do have sex after all. It just doesn't work for me the way the romance plays out. And I do think it's actually more angst-ridden and painful that way, that he never even gives her that one thing, that gift of shared intimacy. Not even a single night for them to lose themselves in one another.

Setting the Scene


In terms of the story, Solas has tentatively entered into a romance with the Inquisitor, but they're also in a holding pattern.
Before we go to the balcony with Solas, we're at a very specific point both in the Inquisition storyline and in Solas's romance.

In terms of the story, Solas has tentatively entered into a romance with the Inquisitor, but they're also in a holding pattern. They kiss passionately in the Fade... and the next morning, in the Rotunda, he agrees to the possibility of a relationship if the Inquisitor will be patient with him, as "it has been a long time." She agrees, and he is warm and affectionate in a careful, slightly remote way going forward. But there are no more kisses.


For a pretty long time.

Dammit.

And nothing else happens for what would appear to be weeks or even months in-game. If you look at the ensuing events after the Fade Kiss, the Inquisitor has accomplished a series of events both political and on the battlefield against Corypants. She's spent months establishing Skyhold as an important and vital new hub for the Inquisition, recruited valuable agents, acquired power across Thedas, and acquired loyalties from companions, including Solas. She's also most likely faced the dangers of Adamant and the Fade, possibly conquered the Great Game at Halamshiral, and recovered her memories.


My favorite part of "Wicked Eyes" is how it also provides a subtle, enjoyable new flash of insight into Solas, and it's a more natural escalation, for me, into the balcony scene.
Wicked Eyes and Wicked Wolves

As noted above, one thing I personally will also have chosen to do at this point is the wonderful quest "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts." Now, this is optional—it can also occur after Adamant, which means that it would occur after the balcony scene, not before. But for me it's more effective for multiple story reasons for "Wicked Eyes" to have occurred before.

For one thing, experiencing "Wicked Eyes" before Adamant and "Here Lies the Abyss" means that you'll recruit Morrigan before Alistair (or whoever did the Dark Ritual, if your Warden or another character did so) in DAO, providing you with an additional potential scene in the courtyard between Morrigan, Kieran, and the father of her child that is surprisingly poignant.

But my favorite part of "Wicked Eyes" is how it also provides a subtle, enjoyable new flash of insight into Solas, and it's a more natural escalation, for me, into the balcony scene. To understand this, please check out my post here on what I think Solas was actually up to throughout this quest. It's really fascinating to consider, and to me it provides a fun explanation for why he's so odd, blithe, carefree, and unlike his usual rebellious self.

And then he's odd again after Halamshiral, not quite his old self again. As if he's trying to re-don the suit of the apostate and it no longer quite fits. I'll be analyzing that conversation later, so more on that to follow.

Nevertheless, whether before Halamshiral or after, Lavellan goes to talk to Solas, and he's jittery and odd, off-balance.

And then we talk to him and he shows up IN HER QUARTERS.

Sorry. It's just a big deal. Solas never does that. Bull does, sure (wait, wait, headcanons collide AND IT IS GLORIOUS)!

Okay, sorry. Now I'm back.


When we go talk to Solas, triggering the balcony scene, he's quite different, yet again, from his usual cool calm. He is instead uncertain, on edge.
Off to the Balcony

First, let's address the timeline. Since we can skip around in quests and accomplishments, there's a pretty flexible order in which all this stuff can occur.

While some players have encountered this quest immediately after Solas's loyalty quest, for me, I suspect that the canon order in which the story flows is that Solas goes to see Lavellan after the events of Adamant and the Fade. I say this because the interlude in the Fade seems to both awe and exhilarate Solas. Not that this is a shock. I mean, let's face it, Solas loves the Fade more than anyone, anywhere, anywhen. Bless his little ancient elven heart.

So that's the scene, at least as I see it playing out.

And then we go talk to Solas, triggering the balcony scene, and he's quite different, yet again, from his usual cool calm. He is instead uncertain, on edge. The presentation of Solas in the scene here is that he looks almost sad, and openly confused:

SOLAS: Inquisitor, I was… do you have a moment?

They walk together out onto the Inquisitor's BALCONY (I know, I'll stop yelping about this, but it's a big deal!).

And then he turns to her.

SOLAS: What were you like... before the Anchor? 

The Inquisitor looks down at her left hand, trying to remember her life before the Mark.


SOLAS: Has it affected you? Changed you in any way? Your mind, your morals, your… spirit?


Note the slight pause there. I've mentioned this before, but I think it's key. And since I overanalyze everything, I do think every one of Solas's pauses here is scripted, deliberate, and important.


Solas's question of the Inquisitor is all the more tragic and epic because he sees and loves her beauty, her courage. And he sees and loves her actual spirit. So he suspects that love, tries to write it off as a side effect.
A Question of Spirit...

So let's look at that pause: He pauses, hesitates, because spirit is the thing that means most to him in the world. The spirit. More than anything. And I actually believe that Solas, if he is in fact a former spirit, may even have some ability to see into the spirits within those he meets.

Which makes it all the more tragic and epic, his love for the Inquisitor: He sees and loves her beauty, her courage. And he sees and loves her actual spirit.

And I think there's something more complex happening here too. For me, his trip to the Fade has triggered his loneliness, his deep wish to find companionship, a kindred spirit. He's seeking additional connection. Which is why I believe Solas also yearns for the possibility that perhaps her spirit was changed, enhanced, transfigured by her contact with the Orb of Corypants (revealed to be Solas's).

In some respects, it's a slightly unpleasant, even narcissistic idea... but I think the key here isn't that he's looking for himself in her, I'd say he's more seeking every additional excuse he can to maintain proximity, even beyond the Mark. He knows he should not be romancing Lavellan. He knows he should remove himself... unless... there are reasons he MUST maintain contact. For her safety. For her spirit.


Solas is genuinely torn, and this is one of the key moments when he must choose—caught between, love, lust and an open willingness to deceive himself.
Finding Excuses

And story-wise, we've also entered the 'maybe' that he's even wondering frantically if this is why he's drawn to her, if it's instinctual, something he cannot help... because of this connection, because of the Mark, and because she touched his Orb (I know, I know, let your dirty little mind run free—mine already did).

My take: Solas is genuinely torn, and this is one of the key moments when he must choose—caught between, love, lust and an open willingness to deceive himself. On the one hand, he's searching for an explanation. Imagine the relief—he's not in love! She just absorbed a little magic and now he feels connected to her spirit! Just a by-product of sorts. Annoying, but not insurmountable. But still... the feelings are so strong. So he's also desperate to hold onto that idea that he and the Inquisitor may now be, irrevocably, spiritually connected.

But he's wrong on both counts, and she lets him know that very, very quickly. He doesn't get off that easily. If he's in this thing, he has to admit that love is involved. Nothing magic, nothing ancient or external. Just love, the deadliest thing of all.


 If Solas is in this thing, he has to admit that love is involved. Nothing magic, nothing ancient or external. Just love, the deadliest thing of all...
Back to the Balcony

So let's go back to where Solas asks his question, and the Inquisitor answers. (Please note that, unusually for me here, I will be including most potential response variations here, since they are so different, and show different potential sides of both Solas and the Inquisitor.)

Here we are, back on the balcony. And I love that we can hear the faint howl of the wind through the mountains here. The visual and aural design of this entire scene is so beautiful.

SOLAS: What were you like before the Anchor? Has it affected you? Changed you in any way? Your mind, your morals, your… spirit?
INQUISITOR: I don’t believe so.
SOLAS (disappointed): Ah.

Another telling pause. And this is a big one, and something I forgot to mention in my previous version of this post until reader Mia Monza pointed it out. She noted, and I agree, that Solas appears visibly disappointed here, as if he wanted her to acknowledge some visceral, real change in herself after the Mark. Mia noted that she believes this is due to Solas grasping for explanations on why Lavellan is so special to him and—specifically—on her "personhood" for him: If she has absorbed something from the Orb, this might provide him with a facile explanation for why she matters to him and allow him to continue on, guilt-free, with his plans to drastically change or even destroy this world without having to see its inhabitants as "people." (Remember, we later learn his vision of the living world was, for a long time, like "walking through a world of Tranquil.")

But this is one of the many times Felassan's words will echo back to him, in irony and bittersweetness, even as they did in the very beginnings of the romance: If she's real—if he accepts that she's real—then everyone here is real, and he is, in fact, a monster. 

INQUISITOR (among options): Why do you ask? (Alternatives are where she asks if he thinks she'd notice, or simply where she asks what he thinks is going on there)
SOLAS (answering in a rush): You show a wisdom I have not seen since… since my deepest journeys into the ancient memories of the Fade! You are not what I expected.

This part is charming because it's another of those rare moments where Solas is effusive and emotional, unguarded. And then there are some more dialogue options (I usually go with Option 3):

Option 1:
INQUISITOR: I don’t think of myself as different from anyone.
SOLAS: Perhaps not in the form of your body, no.

Option 2:
INQUISITOR: Sorry to disappoint.
SOLAS: It’s not disappointing, it’s… (sighs). Most people are predictable.

Option 3:
INQUISITOR: What have I done that’s so surprising?
SOLAS: You have shown subtlety in your actions, a wisdom that goes against everything I expected. If the Dalish could raise someone with a spirit like yours… have I misjudged them?

The Inquisitor answers—either for the Dalish, disparaging them, or stating that she is a product of her own choices. I typically support the Dalish:

INQUISITOR: I don’t hold the Dalish up as perfect, but we have something worth honoring... a memory of the ancient ways.
SOLAS: Perhaps that is it. I suppose it must be. Most people act with so little understanding of the world. But not you.

One thing I especially love about this moment is that Solas is basically declaring his love for Lavellan's mind—her actions, her decisions. And he is also showing himself as fallible, as vulnerable, that he can rethink entrenched points of view he has nurtured for millennia. He can see her as a person. He can see the Dalish as people. He can care for his companions. 

He is beginning to see how beautiful, and how fatal, simple love can be. 

Once again, for readers of The Masked Empire, the ghost of Felassan is very present here. As he should be.


The kiss and approach is an interesting staging choice—to me it seems to offer a slight nod to Solas's earlier implied bedroom preferences, in which she seems to be both relinquishing and yet wielding power.
"It would be kinder in the long run."

A pause as they face each other, the rays of the sunset falling gorgeously upon both their faces. They lean in toward one another but do not touch. Yet.

One of my favorite things about Solas as a character—both in how he is drawn and presented, and in how he's written and voiced—is this almost tangible representation of the fact that he is not quite fully there. He could run at any time. He wants to run; he needs to run. He doesn't want to give in.

So it's again a lovely detail that we see this so many times. So many times, he backs away, says "I shouldn't... we shouldn't..." and yet he's a passionate man. He is alive and still young even if the world is on fire. He has been desperately lonely for millennia, and here is perhaps is one and only chance at love, and at a moment of real happiness.

INQUISITOR: So what does this mean, Solas?

He smiles. Solas also likes controlling the moment, don't forget (see also: Indomitable Focus).

SOLAS: It means... I have not forgotten the kiss.

It's a big deal, and the Inquisitor faces him. She can either tell him to forget it, or agree to resume/continue their romance. Of course, my canon Inquisitor agreed with him:

INQUISITOR: Good.

Another key little moment. She walks right up to him and into his space. The romantic "Companion Kiss" music comes up in Trevor Morris's score. Then the Inquisitor leans close to him and clasps her hands behind her back. It's an interesting staging choice—to me it seems to offer a slight nod to Solas's earlier implied bedroom preferences, in which she seems to be both relinquishing and yet wielding power. And he gets that she's teasing him, and they almost kiss, the Inquisitor openly taunting him with what she knows he wants. But Solas resists and turns away.

She touches his arm and pulls him back.

INQUISITOR: Don’t go.
SOLAS (still facing away from her): It would be kinder in the long run.

Another "I should run right now" moment for Solas. "I should run far, far away from this."

SOLAS: But losing you would…

He can't run, or resist. They kiss again, at last. And it's as passionate and beautifully presented as always, and with the setting rays of the sun falling upon them both (if, of course, you aren't running my grimmer mod). And I mean, it's, like, a THIRTEEN SECOND KISS. (Compare that to our poor Bullmancing Inquisitors, who got a 1-second peck outside the tavern, darn it.)

And then they end the kiss, and it's as if a pact has been sealed between the two of them. Solas says the words every Solasmancer has loved and dreaded since time immemorial:

SOLAS: Ar lath ma, vhenan.

And then he leaves. Dropping a mic as the Inquisitor just looks pleased, dreamy, and thoughtful as she watches him go (as do we all).

DAMMIT SOLAS.


And then they end the kiss, and it's as if a pact has been sealed between the two of them. Solas says the words every Solasmancer has loved and dreaded since time immemorial... DAMMIT.
Parsing the Language

Meanwhile... not to diminish the charm or power of the final declaration, I only have one minor gripe here, which is that Gareth David-Lloyd's love declaration is phrased as "Ar lath, ma vhenan." Which has led, unfortunately and predictably, to a zillion tropes and memes in which people think he says "I love (you), my heart" here. And that's not quite accurate.

What Solas actually says is, "Ar lath ma, vhenan." To break it down in elven:

Ar: I
Lath: love
Ma: you
Vhenan: heart/home

Despite the insistences of much of the fandom, in other words, "ma" (while it can certainly stand in for either "my" or "you") is much more likely to be used as the object "you," especially here.

As for me, I always take GDL's phrasing here more as, "Ar lath ma vhenan. Not that he's misplacing the comma but rather that he's emphasizing the word "love."

(Sorry. I'm a nerd.)


Solas leaves... Solas, who is ALWAYS on the verge of leaving, simply because he is terrified of limits, terrified of feeling too much, lusting too much, of giving in to feelings he has bottled up for centuries upon centuries...
Final Observations from the Balcony

Don't you love the view up here? I always do. So much!

There are some very interesting, key and unique things happening in these final moments for me, so just a few additional observations as we enjoy the fading light of sunset.

First off, it's both in-character and absolutely appropriate that of course, Solas declares love in this very casual yet intense way... it's as if he is simply speaking aloud something understood by them both. She already knows he loves her. He already knows she knows. But he gives her that gift by speaking the words aloud. Even her reaction isn't joy or glee or anything huge; she simply smiles thoughtfully, watching him leave (BECAUSE OF COURSE HE DOES). She's okay for now because he's given her a gift.

I've thought a lot about the timing of this "I love you," and it's worth examining. For other romances, the "I love you" is the culmination, a separate arc. But I would argue that, as Solas's romance plotline is so deeply tied to the main storyline of DAI, its timing is not actually all that sudden. DAI takes place across approximately 1-2 years according to canon. By the siege of Adamant, Solas and the Inquisitor have spent at least 9-12 months together, by my reckoning. I further headcanon a few months beyond the Fade Kiss (seriously, so unfair to poor Lavellan) as they navigated their potential burgeoning relationship and its boundaries.

So they've been good friends and companions, and that romantic "something else" for almost a year now. It's just that now is when it's finally out in the open.

It's not about the Inky admitting it to herself. But about the milestone for Solas. And his relinquishment of doubt or uncertainty. Against all his inner warnings, he loves her, and he must act. And it must be a relief, certainly, to do so here. To give each of them this moment.

But let's compare this to all of the other declarations of love in the game. Out of all of them, all of them, Solas's is the only one that pointedly does not lead to or arise from sex (beyond the kiss, I mean). (As I noted, I am a die-hard believer in "They did not have sex," so I incorporated a lot of this behavior into my DAI AU fanfic—a Solas who is always on the verge of leaving simply because he is terrified of limits, terrified of feeling too much, lusting too much, of giving in to feelings he has bottled up for centuries upon centuries.)

The moment is given, yes, but the moment ends.

Solas says "I love you"... and then he leaves. It's a gorgeous presentation of subtext and metaphor in a single moment. It encompasses all of the passion, warmth and sexiness of the character... as well as his potential for coldness and expedience... and even cruelty.

It's who he is. It's what he has to do. It's what he will always do, both now and in the future.

That's what you get if you love Solas. Twelve-second kisses that may or may not taste ever so slightly of the tears ahead.

I still think they're worth it. Most replays. How 'bout you?

Note: I updated this post to address a missed (and vital) element in the dialogue 3/18.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Dances With Dread Wolves: Solas's Secret Mission at Halamshiral

Perhaps the most surprising development of "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts" is to discover a Solas who's drunk,
amused, relaxed, and even secretly celebratory (and by all appearances very much at home).
SOLAS: I do adore the heady blend of power, intrigue, danger, and sex that permeates these events.

Ah, Halamshiral, the masked ball, and the Inquisitor's entrance to the stage of the impeccable and complex movements of the Great Game. Where a single pair of shoes can betray a family's financial woes or hopes for greatness; where a single gesture can gain the approval of the aristocracy, or doom generations to disgrace and dishonor; where a dance can mean instant success or failure on the very grandest scale

Lies or truth, love or loss, acclaim or disgrace. In Orlais, in the Great Game, there is no in between. It all comes down to life or death in the end.

And it's all there in the Dragon Age: Inquisition quest "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts." So loathed by some. So loved by others.


For me? It's the best quest in Inquisition. I love that so little of it involves fighting, and that so much of it involves statecraft, conversation, and trickery. I also love the atmosphere, the exotic Orlesian setting, the location design, and Trevor Morris's tense, delicate and evocative music, with its main theme a variation on the "Empress of Fire" bard song. I especially love jumping into the quest as a lowly Dalish Inquisitor, one who is instantly loathed and distrusted by the Orlesians present (and who are so befuddled at the sight of Solas that they simply announce him as a semi-nameless elven servant).

But my favorite part of "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts" is how it provides a subtle, enjoyable and essential new flash of insight into Solas—who isn't really there as an Inquisition party member, in my view. He's not there to take down Celene, or Gaspard, or even Briala. He's there for reasons of his own.

Or so I think. So gird your loins and prepare for tinfoil hats galore, as I share my 2 cents on Solas's situation at Halamshiral! And since I think the romance adds some necessary and vital subtext, this is definitely a part of my series of analyses on Solas's romance, as well. But it's also probably my biggest "headcanon" piece to date, so of course, as always, I may be utterly, totally wrong here.

It's all supposition. But it's fun.


Gaspard's capacity for brandy is either horrifying or laudable depending on your POV, but it still cannot remotely forgive his open racism at the Winter Palace. (Choose Briala as the evening's victor and watch him spit the word "Rabbit.")
The Vermin at the Palace

The first time I played Dragon Age: Inquisition, I figured I knew exactly what I was going to be faced with when I took Solas to the Winter Palace: A tense, humorless, angry and resentful man. Solas would have ample reason to be that way, but let's face it, I wasn't expecting to see my favorite elven apostate at his best.

Especially after our arrival, when it became crystal-clear to me just how unwelcome my Lavellan really was. The nasty little comments by the Orlesians. Their disbelief that she was actually not just an elf, but a "Dalish savage." Even Gaspard's not-so-subtle delight at the fact that her presence was an exotic and hilarious insult to Celene and the entire evening.

The funny thing is, for that first playthrough, and even a few after, I actually found Gaspard oddly charming there—because he was so honest, so forthright. I really got a kick out of Gaspard, I did—until I realized that he wasn't actually enjoying the frisson of walking in as a disgraced rebel Duke with the unexpected escort of an elven Inquisitor. Rather, he was enjoying the idea of himself walking in beside someone who was not even a person to him—just one of the Dalish "rabbits" he liked to hunt in his spare time (which is why, it's strongly implied by partygoers, Gaspard has so many hunting dogs).

You get an added dose of this reality if you play WE&WH through and support Briala at the end. In that final scene, Gaspard is spitting mad there, all courtesy abandoned, and he's blatantly and repeatedly calling her "rabbit" through the entire final scene. It's pretty gross stuff. Let's just say I've never found him remotely charming again.

The Hidden Question

But... where's Solas throughout all this? 

His absence is, needless to say, notable.

Because, meanwhile, my favorite resident rebel is nowhere to be seen outside the Palace, or in the earliest scenes at the Vestibule. Which is probably for the best, as very, very quickly, playing this segment of the story as an elf, you really feel the sting of the racism and bigotry. It begins to feel less like a game and more like, well... the world.

Then the Orlesians actually have the temerity to introduce Solas as "The Lady Inquisitor's Elven Serving-Man, Solas!" and in my very first playthrough, I basically full-body cringed and waited for the guaranteed explosion to follow.

Except the explosion never happened. 

Then I realized why: This night is a culmination. For Solas, it's a notable victory. Let the shems ignore him, humiliate him, call him disrespectful names. No matter. Their prejudice only empowers him and his victory is all the sweeter for it. Because tonight he has achieved a task that gives him—and his people—potential dominion over them all.

Instead of consoling the Inquisition's resident rebel, my Inquisitor found herself facing a decadent, slightly drunken elven mage viewing the worst Orlesian racial and class excesses with nothing more than a slouch and a half-smile.
The Trickster in the Corner

After entering the ballroom, I wandered my Inky around for awhile, trying to get used to my terrible Nutcracker formalwear and the feeling that everyone hated my heroine for the shape of her ears, then eventually located most of my companions and advisors around the ballroom or in the vestibule. But I couldn't find Solas.

Then I headed out toward the garden, and as I entered the antechamber between the main vestibule and the garden, I looked off to the right... and there was Solas. Amused and relaxed, and lounging in the shadows, leaning against a pillar and by all appearances very much at home.

Well, you could've knocked me over with a feather. Or, rather, a fluffy Orlesian fan.

Instead of being faced with consoling or soothing the Inquisition's resident rebel, I was facing a decadent, slightly drunken elven mage happily viewing the worst Orlesian racial and class excesses with nothing more than a slouch and a half-smile.

And then he practically stretches and purrs in his delight at his situation:
SOLAS: I do adore the heady blend of power, intrigue, danger, and sex that permeates these events.
ME (plotzing slightly): What the hell happened to you?!
You okay, buddy? I want to ask. But I do not. Even if I might be dying to. Because, well, this is awesome. And... um... hot. Fine, yes, I said it. Surprisingly hot. Still, I do continue the conversation, where we're given the chance to have our Inquisitors respond at the change in him:
INQUISITOR: You seem more comfortable with a grand Orlesian ball than I’d have expected.
SOLAS: I have seen countless such displays in my journeys in the Fade. The powerful have always been the same. Only the costumes change.
ME (upon replay): OH MY GOD You're lying. Again.

I do not think it's an accident that there are elven servants just steps away from Solas, whispering in the shadowed corner.
I smile as my Inquisitor edges forward, taking in the scene. Solas is still there, just hanging out, looking loungetastic and slinky in his subversive elven corner. It's important for me to note here that there are elves all around us, including just to the Inquisitor's right, in the corner proper, just steps away from Solas.
INQUISITOR: Have you seen anything useful?
SOLAS: No. Sadly... I do not have the look of one of the elven servants, or I might well be invisible... (another pause)
But wait... let's look at this. Because: Really? Really? If Solas wanted to go undercover, he'd just need a switch of a jacket and hat. Boom. He wears no vallaslin, no identifying markings. He'd be just another elven servant making his way quietly between rooms. So he's dissembling, and deliberately so.
SOLAS: I wonder how masked men live their lives without ever seeing that servants have an entire society of their own? If you want to find something useful, I would pay attention to what the servants do.
INQUISITOR: Have you encountered any trouble with the nobles?
SOLAS: The Orlesians do not quite know what to make of me. I have kept to myself, for fear of giving them some purchase to cling to. 
He says all of this with such satisfaction, and Solas voice actor Gareth David-Lloyd makes the most of each carelessly aristocratic syllable. We can practically see Solas grin in the moment here, as he takes a breath.
SOLAS (continuing): The food and drink are excellent, however, and the servants have been happy to refill my glass.
I'm sure they have, I think when viewing this scene now. Considering that I am pretty certain at least some of them work for you.
INQUISITOR (romanced): Do you have any interest in dancing?
SOLAS: A great deal… although dancing with an elven apostate would win you few favors with the court. Perhaps once our business here is done?
Our female Inquisitor voice actors are especially lovely here. Sumalee Montano is more kidding and defiant in her delivery, with that slight edge of humor she often brings to the Inquisitor, while Alix Wilton-Regan is more yearning, openly wishing simply to take a moment to enjoy the spectacle for herself.

The disparities here are so fascinating. Solas is again calm, delighted, relaxed, and hyper-aware of the racist, genuinely creepy setting in which he finds himself... and yet it's all fascinating and amusing... and doesn't seem to touch him at all. He's happy to call upon the elven servants, to be waited upon. 

If I analyze this moment, to me there's a touch of nostalgia to Solas's attitude here (and afterward, in the Rotunda conversation). He's transported back to a time when he was one of the chosen, one of the special few, to be respected, flattered and adored. A prince at court, one of the Evanuris.

In other words, the rebel apostate is gone. In his place is the amused god for whom all of this is nothing more than spectacle.
INQUISITOR: I’ll be back.
SOLAS: Hunt well!
One of the little details I love about this dialogue between Solas and a romanced Inquisitor is the fact that Solas wishes her well as she heads into the danger and intrigue of the evening's investigations. He doesn't tell her to be careful, he just smiles and bids her to "Hunt well!" It's wonderful, subtle and empowering for those playing a female Inky.

But why is Solas so relaxed, so out of character here? Is it just a little wine and a little Orlesian decadence, a reminder of his youth in millennia past? Or is it something more?

Me, I think it's something more. I think he's celebrating a private victory.


It's my belief that Solas effortlessly navigates the eluvian network the night of the Masked Ball,
and that he does so, potentially, with the help of Merrill's eluvian.
Solas's Secret Mission

As I outlined in my recent overview of the eluvian network, I believe Solas has had an entirely different agenda at Halamshiral: That of reacquiring control over the entire eluvian network.

And let's note: There have been other signs in Inquisition that Solas is focused on the eluvians. If we hit the Emprise du Lion, kill Imshael, and recruit Michel before the Winter Palace events, we are told outright. In the War Table mission "Assigning Michel de Chevin" Solas is revealed to be working actively on the eluvian situation, and Michel can be assigned to work with Solas and the Inquisition's scholars on the eluvians of Orlais. If chosen, Leliana confirms that Michel's memory of the paths between eluvians is excellent, and that he is already providing much information.

Come on. This is the best thing ever. Solas is researching the eluvians for the Inquisition. Because of course he is.

Meanwhile, here we are at the ball. And while the Inquisitor, advisors and other party members have been fixated on the Great Game, on the worrisome politics of the evening (and how it all might go terribly wrong), I believe Solas has been solely focused on his private and different mission... and that he's already accomplished it within the first hour of the evening, in fact. Before we ever confront him in the vestibule, in fact.

The wolf has already been on the prowl.

A wave of the hand? A flash of the eyes? A little magic, and either way, the eluvian network is now Solas's.
Through the Looking-Glass

Here's what I think happened: While everyone else was focused on Gaspard, and the Inquisitor, and Celene, and on the stakes and steps of this all-important evening, Solas took a short walk and accomplished his greatest victory yet.

Let's imagine it:

Solas arrives at Halamshiral, then swaps his hat and jacket in seconds for those of an elven servant. He uses magic to access the room in the Palace housing an intact but dormant eluvian. This may be Merrill's restored eluvian, in which case Solas simply slips into the garden from his corner a few steps away, ascends to the library on the second floor, enters the library using his magic, and then does the same to the storage room/study housing the Veilfire off the library's upper back room. If it is not Merrill's eluvian, I think Solas simply goes to another, in a different storage room, with the same result (an eluvian he is already aware of thanks to his own elven spy network in the Palace).

Either way, he activates the eluvian in a smooth rush of ancient magic, then being both elven, magical, and experienced, he travels to the Crossroads and beyond at the super-fast travel speeds available only to elves. Knowing the network intimately, Solas does not need to travel a long series of entrances and exits as Briala and her companions once did; he simply has to choose the right eluvian to get him to the central chamber. Which he does.

Once there, Solas uses his magic to access the labyrinth, and then walks it smoothly, reaching the center. While I believe it is possible for Solas to have stolen back the Keystone in his previous year before the Breach, Solas's words in "Trespasser" make me think he did not do so: 

SOLAS: You remember Briala from Halamshiral? For a time, she controlled part of the labyrinth. One of my agents was supposed to take it from her, but he did not succeed. I had to override the magic personally.
Solas isn't just referencing Felassan here (one of several heartbreaking direct references to my favorite Masked Empire character throughout "Trespasser"). He's also admitting point-blank that he did not have the Keystone and instead overrode the magic on the fly.

Although, since I've noted previously that as Briala's passcode was simply "Fen'Harel enansal," or "Fen'Harel's blessing," the most likely occurrence was that Solas stood at the center of the labyrinth, ascended the pedestal, and guessed the words, with or without another rush of magic, that would give him control of the entire network in perpetuity.


The Inquisitor faces the missing piece of the puzzle, and yet simply moves past in her investigations this evening. Ironically, Merrill's eluvian is an object of nothing more than mere curiosity.
The Slow Arrow's Echo

As I mentioned in my examination of the eluvians, the irony and sadness of Felassan's death at Solas's hands is that, to me, Felassan had already done the work assigned to him. In teaching Briala as his da'len, in focusing constantly on Fen'Harel in his tales, and especially in hinting to her of Fen'Harel's far more likely real complexity, he had already primed Briala subconsciously to be an agent of Fen'Harel, and to choose one of the ancient phrases his guardians and agents would have used in those long-lost days.

So Felassan dies for not giving Solas the passcode... a passcode it surely took him seconds to guess. Unless he simply waved a hand and magicked himself a new one.

Either way, it's done. And Solas has just won a silent victory on his path to tearing down the Veil and restoring his world.

The Secret Victory

Solas then makes his way back through the Crossroads, directly to the Halamshiral eluvian, emerges in the Library, and (with a quick switch of coat and cap) returns to the Vestibule.

I'd argue that this was all doable within 30-60 minutes. If that much. And easily accomplished well before the interminable list of attendees were even completely announced to the gathering.

And all thanks to the racism and blindness of the Orlesians, which made it laughably simple for Solas to achieve, since their prejudices ensured that he was basically invisible the entire time. It's a beautiful irony that Orlesians, when confronted with the most powerful being in Thedas, simply saw a lowly and despised elven servant with pointed ears.


When we look back at the Winter Palace, it's fitting that Solas has never appeared quite so wolfish as he does here.
The Subtle Celebration

Now let's revisit that scene again. The Inquisitor endures the wait outside the gates, the mingling and insults in the courtyard garden before her entrance, and then there's the pause in the outer vestibule before the ballroom doors open. She is announced, and then walks the long, slow, terrible distance to Celene. She banters as well as she can, beginning the Great Game. 

Then she locates her advisors, her companions. Makes chit-chat. It's entirely possible that all of this takes an hour or more.

Finally, she goes to find the rest of her companions—Bull, Blackwall, Solas or Dorian, etc. Only to find Solas in that darkened corner, relaxed and cynical, a little drunk, smiling and curiously lighthearted.

Dance with Me

The evening ends, in intrigue, in truce, or very possibly in Celene's murder thanks to our tacit support of Florianne's assassination, or of course, in the equal potential for death for any one of the other two primary movers (Briala, like Gaspard, can be executed here).

And then the Inquisitor is out on the balcony after welcoming Morrigan to the organization, and she's very possibly facing the realization that she's no longer a good or defensible person—and now she has to live with that knowledge. 

As Morrigan exits the balcony, Solas enters.
SOLAS: I’m not surprised to find you out here. Thoughts?
The Inquisitor can respond with a number of reactions here. With satisfaction for achieving her goals, with remorse for Gaspard's, Briala's or Celene's deaths, or (my choice) with a simple admission of tiredness and general sadness:
INQUISITOR (sighs): It’s been a very long day.
SOLAS: For everyone, I’d imagine. It’s nearly over now. Cullen’s giving the men their marching orders as we speak.
He's still buoyant, pleased by the day's events. No matter what happened here, he won. He leans forward in a courtly bow and offers her his arm:
SOLAS: Come, before the band stops playing, dance with me.
She has a number of options here—to dance with him, to ask him to simply be with her there for a quiet moment, or for her to tell him she simply wants to leave.

Among the options and potential choices, I want to spotlight one of Solas's most important comments to Lavellan here (said if she expresses remorse over her actions, especially if they resulted in death): 
SOLAS: Remember what happened; do not dwell on it. You cannot save people from themselves.
I know everyone hates Solas's Winter Palace hat, but I adore it, when it's not clipping horribly (as here). But I just love what it does to his face; it frames his angular cheeks and jawline in a really interesting way.
Hindsight

"You cannot save people from themselves."

One wonders if Lavellan thinks of this comment, in the months and years to come. Or if she ever reexamines those early, charmed moments in the Vestibule, when Solas was unmasked—the Prince of the Fade, decadent and amused, satisfied with the day's victories.

"I'll be back," she says, poised to hunt the evening's secrets, thinking her night has just started, never ever aware that the greatest secret of all is standing before her, both god and man, wolf and hunter. And that, for him, the evening is nothing more than spectacle. Everything he needed to do is already done.

No wonder Solas is pleased and secretive, possibly charmed by her beauty and courage, and most of all, by the prospect of his future victory... His path is not yet that of the din'anshiral. He still thinks what he wants to do is both possible and defensible. So for now he can observe, and drink, and watch the pageantry of human frailty before him, untouched by any of it, and knowing that when it comes to the Great Game and these racist, rather silly and shallow Orlesians, that he has already won.

"Hunt well!" he answers. 

And he smiles.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Through the Eluvians: Recaps, Overviews, Explorations with Artifacts...

Merrill's eluvian is an important plot point in DA2. It may prove to be an even more important plot point if my suspicions about DAI are correct...

[Felassan] leaned over and poked at the stones. “It’s not the Fade. The runes are elven … If I had to guess, I would say that our ancestors actually created some sort of tiny world between the eluvians.”
—Patrick Weekes, The Masked Empire


As I move my quest and romance analyses toward the pivotal events of the Winter Palace and "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts," I thought it would be useful to recap what we know when it comes to the ancient eluvians as of the world post-Trespasser—and what I suspect. Because for me, the eluvians are the heart of the entire situation of "Wicked Eyes" for Solas—and the pinnacle. The endgame. I realized I couldn't address his odd and fabulous demeanor at the event (or what I felt it meant) without dealing with the eluvians first). So, darn it, here we are. 

And... yes... bring on the wall of text!

The Ancient Eluvian Network: A History

Created and used by the ancient elvhen people during the heights of Arlathan, the ancient eluvian network has existed for millennia, even as it has also eluded the understanding of most who have attempted to discover its secrets.

After the raising of the Veil and the fall of Arlathan shortly thereafter, we know that the network remained largely locked and inaccessible, hidden away, and that Tevinter was only able to use a few eluvians, at some point, simply for communication (but not travel) across distances. During the Dalish elf origin in Dragon Age: Origins, Tamlen and Mahariel discover an ancient eluvian that has been tainted by the Darkspawn. Tamlen vanishes, only to reappear later, doomed and Blighted, and Duncan destroys the mirror to protect others from the potential Taint.


There's a curious and fantastic vindication for Merrill fans to seeing her completed eluvian either at the Winter Palace or in the Crossroads. It's a singular moment.

Dragon Age II companion Merrill, however, retains a tainted shard from the shattered eluvian, which she purifies through blood magic learned via a Pride Demon within Sundermount, and she begins to attempt to restore the mirror bit by bit, this time in a pure and untainted form. Merrill's choice to pursue this path means that she must abandon everything, both for ethical reasons (she needs to minimize the potential danger to her clan), as well as for political ones, as her Keeper Marethari actively opposes her choices. So Merrill, recognizing that there is only one option that satisfies all requirements here, leaves her clan and pursues her research on her own.

I'll be addressing Merrill's choices (and how unjustly maligned I think she is as a character) separately, but in the meantime, let's just say that ultimately, there are varying potential levels of both success or tragedy here. Either way, depending on our choices in Dragon Age II, the mirror is destroyed or fully restored by Merrill.

And if restored, we will later see it, or mirrors like it, in the Crossroads as well as potentially at Halamshiral. My question here is whether it's simply a repeated element (which sometimes happens in Dragon Age or pretty much any game) or whether it's a deliberate and meaningful object choice. 

Me, I vote meaningful choice—and that the eluvian is presented as intact, unshattered, and potentially active and usable. I think it is used, in fact... the night of the Masked Ball at Halamshiral.

But more on that in my post to follow.


And here, friends, is Merrill's completed eluvian, on full display at Halamshiral, stored away not far from an ancient elven artifact and Veilfire. Let fly the intrigue!
Meanwhile, Morrigan herself is obsessed with the secrets of the ancient network. Through research and outright theft from the Dalish, Morrigan discovers both an ancient treatise on the eluvians, and an intact eluvian she is able to activate.

Although the network remains largely dormant, she exhibits an ability to travel through at least a few eluvians on her own (specifically, the one in the Dragonbone Wastes, and later on, via a different eluvian that she brings to Skyhold).


Morrigan doesn't acquire her knowledge of the eluvians by honorable means, but it is an intriguing and potentially rich character element.
The Eluvian Network and The Masked Empire

But there are greater efforts to control the eluvians taking place elsewhere within a matter of years. 

As we learn in Patrick Weekes's beautiful and complex Dragon Age novel The Masked Empire, the Dalish Vernehn clan actually summon a Desire (or self-named "Choice") demon, Imshael, to attempt to reactivate the entire dormant eluvian network. Imshael has created a Keystone, a mysterious jewel like a huge ruby, that will lead its bearer to a central location connecting all eluvians across Thedas, and where the eluvian network can be activated and the password reset by the bearer (in a series of words or phrases they choose).


Nobody in Thedas has been as influential or as important in the modern history of the eluvians than Briala, especially via the events of The Masked Empire.
Imshael eventually tricks Ser Michel de Chevin into freeing him, and promptly massacres most of the clan, then almost casually gives the exiled empress Celene the Keystone in gratitude. 

The story moves along for several characters, them culminates after a series of exciting fights, intrigues, crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses. All of which I'm basically convinced were part of Patrick Weekes's kindergarten years somewhere in Orlais as he brilliantly acquired the basics of the Great Game as well as how to wring maximum fan-tears from required plot points (LOVINGLY! I MEAN IT LOVINGLY!).

Then Celene, Briala, Felassan, Mihris, and Michel flee with their party from Gaspard into the tombs, intriguing and ancient chambers of magic or ritual, and through several eluvians, traveling in and out of the Crossroads, and eventually reaching that crucial central chamber. The journey reveals concretely that the eluvians are connected via the Crossroads, and that the Crossroads itself is a pretty exciting realm that is wholly separate from the Fade, a sort of pocket universe created by the ancient elves. 


The Crossroads is unpleasant for non-elves, but for elves it isn't just a pocket universe; it offers a tantalizing hub for connecting to worlds and locations across Thedas and—perhaps—beyond.
Navigating the Crossroads

While the Crossroads are colorless and physically sickening and disorienting for non-elves, they are comforting and filled with color for elves who travel them (a detail delicately and gloriously captured in "Trespasser," depending on the race of your Inquisitor). The story here also notes that elves can also move through the eluvian network at speeds that are near-supernatural, almost as if they are tessering through shorter ways much faster than a horse can gallop, for instance, on the surface of the actual world. This will be an important aspect I'll note later, relating to Solas's evening and potential actions at the Winter Palace at DAI's masked ball in Halamshiral.

Meanwhile, Briala's journey with Felassan, Celene, Mihris and the others takes them through countless tombs and mysterious rooms that reveal ancient and terrible crimes as typical then as now, in which class targeted class. They discover the brutal murders of the ancient elves while defenseless in uthenera, as well as the callous abandonment of ancient elven servants who were trapped and left to cruel lingering deaths (and terrible resurrections due to the protective spells on the tombs) by their so-called noble employers and masters.

In Masked Empire, once they reach the central chamber and defeat the ancient varterral guarding the pedestal, Briala takes the stage in a gorgeous bit of drama (after sexily stealing the keystone during a kiss with the empress) and reveals her knowledge of Celene's betrayal, as well as that the woman she loves colluded with Mantillon in the murder of Briala's own parents, then uses the jewel to traverse the labyrinth and take control of the eluvian network herself, speaking the passcode she has created: "Fen'Harel enansal," or "Fen'Harel's blessing."

Although Felassan dies shortly after, executed in the Fade because he will not reveal the passcode to Fen'Harel (who we now know to have been Solas), the irony is that Briala's passcode probably took Solas all of 60 seconds to guess, tops (if he even required it at all, given the extent of his growing powers as of DAI). (But more on this later...)


Inquisition takes it slow, but eventually eluvians show themselves as deeply important to the events in which we take part.

Eluvians and Connections in Inquisition

First off, I hardly hear anyone talk about this, but it's so interesting to me that we meet Mihris again in Dragon Age: Inquisition! The last of her clan, formerly possessed by Imshael himself (and freed by Felassan, who simply told the demon "Something bigger is coming"), Mihris is an important figure from The Masked Empire.


Mihris was a fantastically complex character in The Masked Empire, and it's a treat to encounter her again in Dragon Age: Inquisition.
And here she is, just quietly wandering the Hinterlands, looking for the very first of those elven artifacts that Solas loves to go around and activate (starting the "Measuring the Veil" quest series), triggering that phrase we will hear over and over again from Solas, sometimes almost comedically, in the adventures to come: "I can sense one of the artifacts of my people." Note the specificity of this particular phrasing—remember, Solas doesn't think that anyone is "his people," and he in fact denies this connection over and over again during the first half of DAI (he may soften on this subject if romancing a Lavellan who calls him out on his unfairness to both the Dalish and to Briala). But the ancient artifacts are a nice, subtle clue: The ancient elves are who Solas truly sees as his people. At least this far in the story.

Mihris is friendly, but also slightly insulting (she calls Solas "flat-ear," a slur for city elves). If the Inquisitor is Dalish, she'll tell us about what happened to the Vernehn clan during The Masked Empire, but if they are any other race, she'll say she was trying to research the Breach in order to help. If this happens, Solas does this amazing thing—he says, "Ma harel, da'len," or "You lie, child," and at that point Mihris quickly ends the conversation.

If she joins us to go fight the demons and activate the artifact (it is entirely possible for us to be antagonistic to Mihris, and to kill her at this point), Mihris then also discovers an amulet of power that she desires to keep for herself. We have the option to ask Solas to help, and when he says to her, "Ma Halani. Ma Glandival. Vir Enasalin" (which I translate as "(You) help me. You owe me. It will lead us on the path to victory.") she hands it over.

What I think is interesting here is that Solas knows everything about Mihris, and she knows nothing at all about him. Further, it's worth noting that Mihris is only one of a very few people across Thedas who possesses the password to the eluvian network given to her by Briala. And here she is, showing a lot of interest in these ancient elven artifacts...

Artifacts of Power

So. Is Solas just seeking the elven artifact here? Or is he seeking Mihris? Or is it possible that the elven artifacts aren't just about strengthening the Veil (you already know why I think he would want to do this) but are also a potential power source for Solas himself—and possibly the eluvian network?


A digression: What if elven artifacts are actually somehow part of this twisted web and woof?
What if every ancient elven artifact that is activated is actually empowering... SOLAS?

Because... I'd argue that Solas's primary mission throughout Dragon Age: Inquisition actually boils down to three very simple and important tasks:
1. Regain and unlock the Orb
2. Retake control of the eluvian network once and for all
3. Power up
It would therefore not surprise me at all to learn that the ancient artifacts are both empowering Solas and the Veil... and that, if desired, that Solas can also turn them into pretty daunting weapons if he chooses. 

Think about it. There are 25 artifacts that can be activated across Thedas, as well as, interestingly enough, three that cannot be activated (two in the Winter Palace, in separate storage rooms, and one in the study at the Darvaarad).

But let's get back to the eluvians.


Want to feel lonely at Halamshiral? Play a romanced Lavellan. Viewed as a 'rabbit,' an inferior, and vermin for hunting by Grand Duke Gaspard.
The Eluvians in Inquisition

Things get interesting in Inquisition... eluvian-wise.

Because... for a little while, there's a lull. We don't hear about Masked Empire, or eluvians, or anything like that. We're preoccupied with archdemons and Corypants and stuff, and whoever we're romancing who may or may not be falling at our feet or (of course) ignoring us. DAMMIT.

But it's quiet about eluvians, let's just say. For awhile. And it's brilliant misdirection.

For instance, when we finally end up at Halamshiral in DAI for "Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts," we don't hear crap about them. It's certainly a subtle and interesting story choice. But the best part of this is, once at the Winter Palace, we may—depending on our choices in Dragon Age II—discover Merrill's finished eluvian in one of the palace storage rooms (specifically, the one off the Library, with the Veilfire).

This discovery really thrilled me because it's always really special when the previous chapters of the game are echoed in the latest.

And also, because, dammit, it means Merrill was right. And that she did indeed finish her eluvian. As she deserved to do.

I'll stop there, for now. In the glow of something small achieved, even amidst a tapestry of impossible and magical and terrifying events.

I have more to say about the eluvians and their mysteries. But to do that, I'll need to take us back to our arrival at the Winter Palace... and we'll be looking closer at Solas's activities there on a specific night, as well... 

When—I think—he takes them back. For all time.

Ar Lath Ma, Vhenan: Solas's Romance, Part 4

"Has it affected you? Changed you in any way? Your mind, your morals, your… spirit?" asks Solas. Big questions, and not always e...