Zevran stood solemnly as they carried the Warden…the Hero of Ferelden…and laid her upon the pyre. Elissa Cousland had sacrificed herself to save them all. It had been the noble choice, sacrificing herself for both her king and her country.
Zevran had seen how Alistair had tried to push her out of the way and deal the killing blow to the Archdemon. Clearly Elissa had foreseen that possibility and she had been prepared for it. She managed to stand her ground and trip Alistair up, giving her the time she needed to plunge her great sword into head of the great beast, killing both it and herself.
The elf stood back as the soon-to-be appointed king approached the pyre, sinking to his knees before his beloved. “It should have been me. How am I supposed to do this without you? You promised…you…promised…” Alistair’s body heaved as he was wracked with sobs. Everyone in attendance gave him the time to grieve that he needed.
Once Alistair had seemingly cried himself out, he took several deep breaths and stood, wiping his eyes. “Light it,” he commanded as he stepped back to a safe distance, right next to Zevran. The assassin had schooled his features into a mask of stoicism, but he felt every bit as much grief for Elissa that Alistair did. For a brief time, Zevran had allowed himself to care for her, until he realized her heart belonged to Alistair. So, he stepped back, allowing the love between her and Alistair to blossom.
Letting her go had hurt, but Zevran knew it had been the right choice. She would have made Ferelden an excellent queen. She had impeccable leadership skills and would have guided Alistair well.
As the pyre began to burn, Zevran couldn’t help a tear or two that rolled down his cheeks. It was merely from the smoke, yes? But then Alistair reached out and placed an arm around his shoulder. Perhaps he needed the comfort as well, but Zevran couldn’t deny it helped ease the ache in his heart just a little as well.
Several hours later, the fire kept burning but it was clear the corpse was nothing but ash. Alistair finally took his leave. Everyone else had slowly left, one by one. Only Zevran remained.
“Will you join me a for a drink?” Alistair asked. “I…I don’t want to be alone right now.”
“Of course, Your Majesty,” Zevran agreed.
Alistair huffed in annoyance. “Just Alistair, please. Especially when we’re alone.”
“As you wish, Alistair.”
Zevran followed Alistair inside and was led to the future King’s study. They both sat on the large couch before the roaring fireplace and Alistair poured them each a generous helping of Antivan brandy.
“I had no idea you had such exquisite taste in spirits,” Zevran complimented.
Alistair shrugged. “It was part of Cailan’s private collection, so technically he was the one with good taste, I suppose.”
Alistair then raised his glass. “To Elissa.”
Zevran clinked his glass to Alistair’s. “To Elissa.”
They sat in companionable silence for a while, sipping their drinks. Zevran couldn’t help but think back on some of the flirting he had done with the strapping man next to him. It all felt so long ago now, although only several months had passed.
“So, what do you plan to do next?” Alistair asked, breaking the silence.
Zevran shrugged as he took another swig of his brandy. “My obligation has been fulfilled and the Crows still want my head. I imagine I should be moving on from here, soon.”
“Yes, that’s right. I forgot for a moment you were once a Crow,” Alistair said. “A shame really, that you have to leave.”
“Why do you say that?” Zevran asked.
“Weeeelll,” Alistair drawled out. “I was going to ask you to stay on as one of my advisors. Maker knows I’ll need all the help I can get, especially now with…Elissa…gone.” Alistair barely choked out the last two words before a sob escaped his throat.
Zevran put his drink down and placed a hand on Alistair’s shoulder. “I am so sorry, my friend. You know that we all cared for her. I…loved her as well,” Zevran confessed.
Alistair looked at him. “I know. I always meant to say thank you. For stepping back and letting Elissa get closer to me. She did care for you a great deal as well.”
Zevran’s heart clenched at hearing those words. He had always known she did, but still to hear it from Alistair. The elf took a moment to reign in his emotions and school his features.
“Yes, but you were better suited to her and I knew she would have made a wonderful queen,” Zevran recalled. “That is why I let her go.”
Alistair took a deep breath to steady himself again. “So, what do you say? Will you stay? I’ll make sure you’re protected from the Crows.”
“So, you really wish me to stay? To do what exactly?” Zevran asked.
“I can’t do this alone,” Alistair confessed. “I know I have Arl Eamon, but I’ll need more help than that. You’re a skilled assassin, surely there are things you could help advise me on?”
“I suppose I could help train your guard to know how to better protect you from assassination attempts,” Zevran mused. “I also know a thing or two about politics. I had to be well versed on many subjects to woo and eventually kill my targets.”
“So, are you saying yes?” Alistair asked hopefully.
Zevran picked up his glass and took another slow sip of brandy before looking back at Alistair. Some part of him knew that it was foolish to stay, but if truth be told, he also didn’t want to face the future alone. At least, not yet. “Si. Yes, I’ll stay. For as long as you have need of my services.”
Alistair looked relieved and a small part of Zevran felt happy to still be needed, if nothing else. That same part had dreaded going on the run from the Crows.
Arl Eamon did not approve of Alistair’s new choice of advisor. Not one bit. “He’s an assassin! He was hired by Loghain to kill you and Elissa! You told me so yourself. You cannot make him one of your advisors!”
“He also helped bring down the Archdemon and end the Blight!” Alistair argued. “He was faithful and loyal to the oath he swore to Elissa. I trust him to be just as loyal to me!”
Zevran really didn’t wish to be in the middle of this argument, but here he was, so he may as well settle the matter.
“Arl Eamon,” Zevran interrupted. “If I may? I do understand your concern regarding my past and what danger I may post to your future king. If it would ease your mind, please feel free to place your own personal guard to watch me. They can make sure I do nothing but my sworn duty to his Royal Highness. That will suffice, yes?”
“I was going to do so regardless,” the Arl huffed. “However, yes. It does ease my worry that you would even suggest such a thing. As long as you are never left alone with Alistair, then I will put this matter to rest.”
“Now, I do believe Alistair should be readying himself for the coronation, no?” Zevran suggested.
Alistair sighed. “Alright, let’s get this over with. Oh, before I forget, I had the tailor make you some new clothes. Something more befitting a Royal Advisor. They should be waiting in your quarters.”
“A gift? Why Alistair, you shouldn’t have,” Zevran teased. “You go get ready and I will meet you back here at the appointed time.”
As Zevran turned to go, Arl Eamon rang for the servants who were to help Alistair into his new set of armor that had been crafted especially for the coronation. Alistair looked particularly miserable and Zevran chuckled to himself.
The former Crow made his way back to his quarters. Alistair had moved him to one of the rooms in the Royal Wing of the palace. His room was now next to Alistair’s own chambers. Zevran had often enjoyed such accommodations before, back in Antiva. However, this was the first time there was no planning or anticipation of a kill.
Zevran found the new clothing lying upon his bed. It was a rich red brocade, with golden accents. Cut in a Ferelden style, but it was still quite fetching. Upon closer inspection, built into the garments were various slits and leather straps, perfect for concealing daggers. Zevran approved.
Since he still had an hour before he had to meet Alistair again, Zevran chose to take a quick bath. After bathing and dressing, Zevran checked himself out in the full length mirror that was in his room. He was amazed at how well his new clothing fit, despite not having been measured by a tailor. Had Alistair guessed his measurements so accurately?
Regardless, he was quite impressed.
Brushing out his long hair, Zevran decided to change up his normal style for the occasion, and braided it into a single braid in the back. His hair had grown quite a bit longer and he hadn’t had the opportunity to trim it. Satisfied with his appearance, Zevran made his way back to Alistair’s study, followed of course by the Arl’s ever present guards.
As Zevran rounded a corner and approached the study, he noticed a shadowy figure lurking behind one of the braziers lining the hallway. Zevran paused, pulling out one of his daggers. He foolishly forgot about the Arl’s guards as they came barreling after him with their clanking armor. The racket they made caused the figure at the end of the hall to flee, rushing out one of the open windows.
The Arl’s guards disarmed him and dragged him to the study, informing Alistair and Arl Eamon of what they saw. “He was sneaking down the hall with his dagger out. Looked to us as if he were planning to assassinate you, Your Highness.”
“Zevran? Is this true?” Alistair asked, his voice sounding shocked.
Before Zevran could respond the Arl interfered. “Of course it’s true! I told you he would try to finish the job he came to Ferelden for. Guards, throw him into the dungeon. We’ll deal with him later.”
As the guards grabbed him again Zevran shook his head. “No! Wait. That was not my intention! I was stalking another assassin!”
Alistair stepped forward. “Wait! Give him a chance to explain.”
“There is no time Alistair! The coronation is about to begin!” the Arl argued.
“No!” Alistair insisted. “If I am to be your King, then I will be obeyed. Now let him go! Zev, what happened?”
Zevran shrugged off the men as they loosened their grip. “I was just returning to you, when I noticed a figure lurking behind a brazier outside of your study. I drew my dagger and I was trying to sneak up on them when these fools came crashing after me. Whoever it was, they slipped out through the window.”
“We didn’t see anyone, Your Majesty,” the one guard said. “We only saw this one sneaking towards your study with a dagger.”
“Why would I be sneaking from all the way down the corridor?” Zevran sighed. “That would be a ridiculous waste of time, no?”
“I believe you, Zev,” Alistair said. “Give him back his dagger and keep vigilant. There may be an intruder on the grounds.”
“Alistair! You can’t let him be armed!” Arl Eamon protested.
“I can and I will,” Alistair insisted. “If there truly is an assassin on the loose, Zevran may need a weapon in order to protect my person.”
The guards returned Zevran’s dagger, which he promptly slid back into its hiding place. “I must compliment your tailor. The cut of these clothes is absolutely perfect.”
“After watching you fight for so many months, I had a pretty good idea what your measurements were,” Alistair shrugged.
“Also let me compliment you on your new armor,” Zevran said. “You look resplendent. Every inch of you looks like the king that you are.”
“I just wish it were a bit more comfortable,” Alistair whined. “I’m going to requisition something else for after the coronation. If I’m not out there fighting Darkspawn every day, I don’t see the point of wearing heavy plate armor.”
“Alright enough chit-chat,” Arl Eamon interrupted. “We need to proceed with the coronation before everyone thinks you’ve already abdicated.”
“Alright, alright,” Alistair sighed. “But I want Zevran at my side to keep an eye out for that intruder.”
“I will be more effective from behind the scenes,” Zevran said. “I will go ahead and make sure no one lurks for you between here and the throne room, yes?”
“Good idea,” Alistair agreed. “And keep your noisy guards away from Zevran,” Alistair said to the Arl.
Zevran slipped out then, working his way quietly along the path Alistair would take to the throne room. A few times Zevran also doubled back, making sure no one slipped in behind him either.
The path to the throne room remained clear, so Zevran slipped into the crowd, keeping his eyes open for anyone suspicious. He slowly made his way towards the dais, keeping to the shadows. Alistair made his entrance moments later and the musicians announced his arrival, playing the coronation march as he made his way down the aisle, towards the waiting Mother Superior.
Zevran saw no sign of the earlier figure, but just to be sure, he slipped through the crowds and made his way around through the shadows until he was behind one of the pillars on the wide dais. For a moment Zevran watched as Alistair made his way up the steps towards the Mother Superior and knelt before her on one knee.
That’s when Zevran saw them. They slipped out from behind the opposite pillar from where Zevran hid, the glint of a blade in their hand. Zevran had to admit to being impressed that someone would be so bold as to assassinate someone so publicly. Clearly they weren’t a Crow. The Crows prided themselves on their stealth and cunning. They would never dare attempt a public assassination like this.
Zevran knew the moment the assassin would strike. It would be after Alistair was crowned and he would stand, turning and raising his arms to greet his people. His back would be to the Assassin then, and one of the vulnerable points in his armor, below his arm, would be exposed.
Due to Arl Eamon’s suspicions of him, Zevran needed to time this perfectly, and stop the assassin in full view of the gathered audience. He wanted to save his friend, but he also wanted the Arl off his back. Saving the new king publicly like this would solve both problems.
The coronation ceremony was slowly drawing to its close, as the Mother Superior said her final blessing and reached out to place the crown upon Alistair’s head. Zevran watched the assassin closely, knowing he would have to be swift to act.
As Alistair stood to the applause of his new subjects, the assassin crept forward. Zevran’s heart hammered in his chest. He had to time this perfectly.
Just as Alistair began to turn, raising his arms, Zevran shot out of hiding at the same precise moment the assassin lept towards the new king. Zevran caught them off-guard, their weapon clattering on the ground as Zevran pinned them down.
A gasp came from the audience and Alistair shouted in alarm. “Zev! What’s going on?”
“I do believe I caught your would-be assassin,” Zev said, loudly enough for others to hear. He pulled away the shroud that had hidden the assassin’s face. She was human, but Zevran did not know her.
“Gaspard de Chalons sends his greetings!” the assassin spat. Ah, an Orlesian. Zevran should have known.
“Guards!” Alistair called out. “Take her away. Throw her into the dungeon until I can decide what to do with her.”
The guards clasped the assassin in irons and hauled her away and Alistair came over to give Zevran a hug. A rather uncomfortable one seeing as he was wearing all that heavy plate armor. “Oh, sorry,” Alistair apologized.
Alistair then stood before his subjects. “As my first act as your King, I declare Zevran Aranai both my principle advisor and my personal champion and protector. He fought alongside me and the Hero of Ferelden. He helped us end the Fifth Blight as much as any one of the Hero’s companions. Now he bravely put himself into danger to protect my life, as well. May he always be welcome within these halls.”
A loud cheer arose from the crowd and Zevran blushed at the very public praise. He preferred to work from the sidelines and shadows. He had no desire to be thrust into public view like this, especially knowing that word of this would certainly reach the ears of the Crows.
However, it was too late to change that, so Zevran stepped forward and humbly bowed towards the crowd.
Later, after the celebrations wound down and they made their way finally to their chambers to rest, Alistair stopped just before Zevran was about to enter his chamber.
“Zev, I just wanted to say thank you, again,” Alistair said. “I knew I could count on you.”
“Si, I promised you my services and my loyalty,” Zevran said. “Now get some rest, Your Majesty. I believe you have a busy schedule tomorrow, yes?”
Alistair nodded. “Don’t remind me. Good night, Zev.”
“Good night, Alistair.”