The route back home from the Inquist offices took Lily through the older part of Kirkwall, little blue smoke chimneys peeking over terracotta tiled roofs, shutters hiding away little apartments over mom and pop stores. She passed by a little corner store, a small antique store advertising original Dalish works. They were tourist traps– expensive tourist traps. The sunlight became dappled on the pavement as she turned down another side street that was shaded with old, tired oak trees.
A stick cracked behind her and Lily cautiously peered over her shoulder, her breath hitching as she saw two men tailing her by a few feet. Not good. Very not good. She scolded herself for not paying proper attention and reached for her pocket, gripping the tiny tube of pepperspray. The men continued to follow her.
She crossed the street, turning down another small alley way before realizing her biggest mistake yet. The alleyway that she thought had been a way into the catacomb like passages of Lowtown was a dead end. She looked around nervously, dashing through a dark partially open door into the only open store.
The bell jingled happily as she shut it quickly behind her, blinking in the darkness. It was a book store. A very old bookstore. Cracked leather covers sat on dusty shelves, some of them so thickly coated it seemed that they hadn’t been touched in the last century. She shivered, even in the afternoon heat.
“Can I help you?”
Lily jumped, shrinking back against one of the bookcases, gasping in surprise. “N-no” she stammered. She looked up at a very tall man, bald but impossible to date. He frowned.
“Usually people come into a bookstore with a purpose. What brought you in here today?” the man pondered, reaching up and plucking a thick tome off the shelf. He flipped it. “Don’t worry. I see them,” he said quietly, flashing her the smallest of smiles. “You can stay here as long as you would like to, and use the phone to call for a ride if you have need.”
“T-thank you,” Lily stuttered out, exhaling graciously. “I thought I was on Assan Street. I must have taken a wrong turn getting home.”
“It would seem so. Assan Street is three blocks away if you turn and go back the way you came. This is Fen’hahren.”
Lily blushed slightly looking at her toes. “Thanks.”
The man looked up at the window again, frowning. “Well, Miss. You seem to have caught their attention. Why don’t you follow me towards the back. You can call someone to pick you up.”
Lily gripped the pepper spray in her pocket. She followed him slowly, relaxing when she saw security cameras pointed around the back of the store, and the phone in clear view. She picked it up and dialed her aunt quickly, still shaking.
“Lily? Where are you? You were supposed to be home ten minutes ago!” Fenara lectured her, sounding worried.
“I got lost, and ducked into a little book shop. Can you come pick me up?” Lily explained, looking over at the man. “Hold on– where am I?”
“Eolas Books,” the man told her, nodding slightly. He had taken down a tin of what seemed to be tea, and was fidgeting with an electric kettle.
“Eolas Books on Fen’hahren Street,” Lily repeated, glancing at the window.
“I’ll be there in ten minutes. Hold tight, ma’assan,” her aunt said, the jingle of keys echoing over the phone. Lily smiled and hung up the phone.
“Someone is coming to fetch you?”
“My aunt. Thank you for letting me use your phone Mister–“
“Please, call me Solas.” He smiled widely at her.
“My name’s Lily Lavellan,” Lily answered, sticking out her hand. Solas shook it gently.
“Do you like books, Lily?”
“I do. My aunt works at the Kirkwall Public Library,” Lily said, smiling. Her previous fear had eased, and she liked Solas’s demeanor, leaning up against the wall as he stirred the cup of herbs and boiled water, the liquid turning a vivid pink. “I’ve never seen these titles there though.”
“I very much doubt you would. I deal in only the rarest of books,” Solas laughed. “Some of these are over three ages old.”
Solas chuckled and pulled a worn tome off of the shelf behind him, flipping it open to a page. “I lay in dark and dreaming sleep, while countless wars and ages passed,” he recited, smiling as he shut the book. “Do they teach about Fen’Harel in schools still?”
“Not much,” Lily admitted with a shrug. “Elvhen History isn’t very thorough. Most of what I know I learned from my Aunt. She did her university concentration in it.”
“Really? I should like to meet her then,” Solas laughed. The bell tinkled at the front and Lily peered around the shelves, spotting her aunt.
“Well, you can. Nara! Back here!”
Fenara looked back towards Lily and sighed with relief, walking to the back of the store. “Thank the Creators, Lily,” she laughed, breathless, brushing her hair out of her face, fingers idly tracing the lines of her vallaslin. “What happened?”
“Some men started following her,” Solas said, straightening and putting down both tea and book. His expression had become strained, but polite. “She came into my shop to avoid them.”
“Well then thank you,” Fenara said, smiling politely at Solas. “Fenara Lavellan.”
“Solas.” They shook hands. “Lavellan is a Dalish name? I would have never guessed–“
“Lily’s mother is from Rivain,” Fenara said quickly, her expression souring. “Why, do you have a problem with Dalish?”
“…Not on principle, no,” Solas sighed. “Well, I’m glad I could be of service, Ms. Lavellan,” he finally said, “Lily, please take care.”
“Thank you Solas!” Lily called back as Fenara threaded her way through the store. Solas looked at the book he had put down on the counter.
“Wait! Miss Lily!”
Lily turned and looked at Solas curiously as he held the book out to her. “Yes?”
“Take it. You can return it when you finish it.”
“I couldn’t– I mean, I don’t–“ Lily stammered. Fenara walked back towards the pair.
“The Annals of Fen’Harel?” she said with a smirk, looking at the cover. “You’re letting her borrow it?”
“Educating the young should be our first priority in everything,” Solas muttered, handing Lily the book. “Bring it back whenever you finish.”
“Thank you, Mr. Solas,” Fenara said, ushering Lily out towards the Vespa that sat in front of the store.
“Bye! Thanks for letting me stay here,” Lily called as the door swung closed, settling onto the seat of the scooter. Fenara pulled on her helmet, revved the engine, and sped off down the cobbled streets towards Darktown.