|"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.
He doesn't, does he?
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.|
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.|
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.
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.|
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.|
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.|
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.|
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...|
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):
INQUISITOR: I don’t think of myself as different from anyone.
SOLAS: Perhaps not in the form of your body, no.
INQUISITOR: Sorry to disappoint.
SOLAS: It’s not disappointing, it’s… (sighs). Most people are predictable.
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.|
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:
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).
|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.|
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:
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...|
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.