It wasn’t until the dust cleared that Cassandra realized their prisoner was no man.
Until they had carried him back to Haven, until the Breach had finally been stabilized, she hadn’t noticed just how young he looked. She could have waved it off earlier, when his face had been contorted with the pain stemming from his marked hand, but now it was clear as day.
The answer she thought she knew—that he was guilty —had never seemed so wrong as it did now.
“He is so young…” Cassandra says, her voice barely above a whisper as she watches Solas check on the young man. He barely looked old enough to be considered an adult by most in these parts, though she was sure growing up among the Dalish would make him more mature than humans the same age. “I… I had not realized…”
"You had not realized when you were threatening him, you’re trying to say?"
Part of her wishes desperately that she could clap back at him, snap at his thinly veiled hostility. But how could she when it was so obvious that he spoke the truth?
The prisoner had suffered with the mark, only to awaken to demands that he fix what he hadn’t broken, threats that if he didn’t give result he couldn’t reasonably promise, he would meet the end of her sword.
"Yes," she admitted, owning up to what she had done. "Now that the Mark is stable…"
"It is clearer now, I agree," Solas says, though he does not turn to look her in the eye. Whether he is angry or simply focused on his charge, she cannot say and would prefer not to, lest she makes a fool of herself again.
"After all of that, he is only a child."
"Not precisely. Among the Dalish, Vallaslin—the tattoos on their faces, that is—is a symbol of adulthood."
"And a single gray hair makes me a frail, old woman, too, I suppose?"
To this, Solas laughs. Whatever bad blood exists between them after what had transpired, it was reassuring that it wasn’t near enough to keep him from being civil , at least.
"I cannot argue with that. His youthfulness is… unnerving, but his skill is clear."
That much she had noticed, even if she had misliked his propensity to refuse anything and everything she told him to do, whether it be to drop his weapons or to stay behind her.
An easy silence falls between them as she watches Solas work, though the peaceful slumber of his charge bodes well for his general well being from the start.
"I am sorry, for what it's worth," she says, but Solas still doesn't face her.
Instead, he poses a challenge.
"What for, Seeker?"
Ah, he was going to make her work for it, then. He wouldn’t allow her to make a simple apology and go on about their lives. Solas wanted her to put into words her wrongdoing, to fully acknowledge them.
"For demanding results that you could not guarantee. You could not know what was going to happen, yet I expected you to.”
It’s only when she finishes speaking that he turns to look at her. Relief washes over her as she meets his gaze and finds little evidence of a grudge there. At least she would not need to worry herself over an angry companion in the thick of battle.
Not this one, at least.
“You were looking for someone to blame.”
“I was, but you were not the one to direct that at. And it seems neither was our prisoner.”
Eyebrows furrow at the word. It’s foreign, certainly not one she’s ever heard. Was it perhaps Elvish? It certainly sounded closest to what little she had heard spoken between the two of them out on the mountain pass.
Whether it be an aside meant as an insult or something else, Cassandra wants to know what it means. So she asks, without a beat of hesitation.
“What does that mean?”
“His name is Illaise.”
“He told you his name?” she asks, incredulous that they had found the time for proper introductions after the brief one that Solas and Varric had offered to him. Amidst the chaos of closing rifts and stabilizing the breach, even saving the lives of scouts that had been pinned down by demons along the way, Cassandra was struggling to remember if she had introduced herself to him . But their prisoner—Illaise—had been the one rushing forward, quick to cut conversations short in favor of pressing onward, so when had...?
“It surprised me, as well. Many Dalish that I have met have been… unaccommodating.”
That didn’t sound favorable.
“I have not seen many, but I have heard the stories. They do not take kindly to outsiders, but this Illaise—”
“Illaise,” Solas interrupts her to correct her, giving her pause. Maker, these Elven names were so comparatively complex , not that she would ever claim such around either Solas or Illaise. She was certain the latter would make no secret of his disdain for her in the aftermath, presuming he didn’t make an attempt at stabbing her for it.
“... He is not what I expected,” she says finally, opting not to attempt the name again. She could practice it later, when there was no one to witness her botched attempts.
“We cannot claim to know him just yet,” Solas says, lifting his staff from where it rests against the wall, signalling that he has done what he can to quicken Illaise’s recovery. “But I accept your apology.”
This time, he offers her a small smile. It was a far cry from the one that he’d offered to Illaise when they’d closed that first rift. Which, she wondered, was the insincere one?
The room stills as he departs, silence pervading in his absence, interrupted only by the occasional deep intake of breath from the young man in bed.
He was so young, yet she had tried so hard to accuse him of something she now knew him to be more than just innocent of. He had tried to help the Divine; she had called out to him and he had been marked by the Breach for it.
She would have to come up with a better apology than the one she offered Solas.