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[A letter found in Varric Tethras's desk at Skyhold.]

Varric,
It's been a long time since I told a story. And there's not many people left I would want to tell one to. I have some journals written by people I knew during the Fifth Blight. They serve me no purpose, yet I kept them for too long. Do what you want with them. Read them, ignore them, burn them, use them for one of your books. It doesn't have a happy ending. Maybe you can give it one.
- Leliana

...

[From the diary of Grey Warden Alistair of Ferelden.]

Day 47:

So, I forgot to update this, but while we were on our way down to Redcliffe, we were ambushed by an assassin. Loghain actually sent a Crow from Antiva after us. The good news is that the Crows really aren't as formidable as rumor would have you believe. The Crow went down as fast as any other elf. The bad news is that now the assassin is now part of our group.

What was Amell thinking? I thought she was supposed to be the smart one. That elf tried to kill us. I beat him half to death, and he has a change of heart and wants to join us now? That's insane and bringing him along is insane. How desperate do we have to be to recruit the assassin that tried to kill us? He was flirting with Amell while lying in a pool of his own blood, for the love of Andraste. Worse, Amell gave him cooking duty today. He is currently making a rabbit stew and humming to himself.

Well, just because I have to accept him in the group doesn't mean I have to like him. I won't eat his food, no matter how good it smells. It probably has eighteen different kinds of poisons in it, anyways. That's what's making it smell so good, I bet. Delicious smelling poisons. It's a trap. A delicious-smelling trap.

[There are water stains on the page that may or may not have had salivary origins. The ink on "delicious" and "trap" is smudged.]

Day 47 Update:

I am going to die tonight, once the poison takes effect. Please scatter my ashes at Ostagar.

Day 48:

Turns out either I am immune to poison or the stew wasn't poisoned. Not sure which. I still have no idea what the assassin did to the stew, though. It was better than any camp food I ever made. Maybe it was the salt. I can't recall ever having used that before.

...

[A letter found in Varric Tethras's desk at Skyhold.]

Nightingale,
I know who these people are. But I had recently remarked to Dorian that I wanted to write a good romance—better than my last attempt. (You're listening in on my conversations, aren't you?) So, hypothetically speaking, if I decided to write something based off these things you gave me, how should I go about this? One of them has an army at his disposal, and the other is an assassin. It might be bad for my health to do anything with this….
- Varric

V.,
Change the names.
- L.

...

[An excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter One.]

Zeandre frowned, his hand still outstretched. "Is something troubling you, my friend? You do like food, yes?"

Alaric studied the piece of cheese Zeandre offered him. "I like food just fine. But I'm on a strict diet. Nothing poisoned by Antivan assassins. I'm trying to watch my girlish figure."

"Nothing girlish about your figure, my friend. Not with those marvelous shoulders." Zeandre took a bite of the cheese. "Still don't trust me, mm?"

"I know it sounds odd, but I tend not to trust people who tried to kill me only a week ago. I'm just a paranoid sort of fellow, I suppose."

Zeandre laughed, loudly and heartily, his slim shoulders shaking and his golden hair shimmering under the firelight of the camp. Nothing seemed to faze him. He wasn't like most of the elves Alaric knew. Which admittedly wasn't many, but Alaric had seen elves. Most darted around, hunched their shoulders, tucked in all their knees and elbows, as if trying to hide themselves in plain sight. They were quick to serve and then to disappear. They kept themselves apart from Alaric, eyeing him warily, as if they expected him to rip their arms out of their sockets at any moment. But not Zeandre. He stood with his shoulders back, elbows thrust out to either side of him, his smirk too wide for his narrow face. He spoke loudly and regarded Alaric with the same sort of expression Alaric had seen on nobles trying to determine which bolt of Orlesian silk to buy.

"It is certainly the safer and perhaps even the wiser path to avoid food offered by assassins," Zeandre said, taking another bite of cheese, "but without risk, you never get to enjoy dining upon cheese."

Alaric scowled. "Where did you even get the gold for that?"

"Oh, I have my ways of acquiring the things I need."

"So you stole it."

"Again with the slander and lies!" Zeandre leaned down and studied Alaric. He had a sharp, pointed face, like most elves, but with broader features than Fereldan elves. They were pleasantly arranged, but what really distracted Alaric was that long blond hair. Elven hair always seemed a richer color than anything a human had, and it caught the light rather nicely. It was all a bit too much. It took Alaric a moment to realize Zeandre was still speaking.

"Would it bother you if I had stolen it?" Zeandre asked.

"Depends on who you stole it from, I suppose." Alaric leaned away, keeping his gaze trained on Zeandre.

Zeandre also leaned away, though his gaze seemed to grow even more intense. "What an astoundingly friendly man you are. Do you always exude such warmth to your companions?"

"Rest assured that out of all the people who've tried to assassinate me, you're the one I'm friendliest towards."

Zeandre laughed again. "A funny Fereldan! Will wonders never cease? I'm sure you must charm everyone around you into a swoon."

"Yes, that's me. A charmer. Can't beat the ladies off with a stick."

"I see. And that's what you fancy, then? Ladies? Tall, pretty human women with wide hips and long legs, I expect?"

"Well, they don't have to be tall."

"Human women generally seem tall to me, so perhaps I'm not the best judge." Zeandre lowered his gaze. "I imagine a man your size finds them small, no?"

"Well, elf women are smaller. And dwarf women even smaller."

"And you like those, too?"

"Why not? A woman's a woman, I suppose."

"Oh, they all work a little differently, I believe."

"I… suppose." Alaric frowned. He wasn't entirely sure how women worked. He had a vague enough idea of it, but he realized if this conversation went any further, he would desperately be out of his depth. He glanced about for Amelia, hoping for a rescue, but she was currently speaking with Leah. They kept touching hands a lot. Alaric found that almost as distracting as Zeandre's hair.

Zeandre sighed. "Ah, well. I suppose that answers that, as they say." He finished the cheese and walked away.

Alaric blinked, watching Zeandre saunter off, not entirely sure what had answered what at all.

[A series of notes found in Varric Tethras's desk.]

Varric,
The romance is acceptable thus far, though I'm pretty sure you're going to need to change more historical and geographical markers. Anyone with two brain cells will know this is about the Hero of Ferelden's companions during the Fifth Blight. One question, though: What's with all the cheese?
- Dorian

Sparkler,
I'll change the setting when I get to the first draft. As for the cheese, well, my source material mentioned it once, and I decided to run with it and make it a thing. Is it a problem?
- Varric

Varric,
Not exactly, though I do wonder for our poor muddled Alaric's digestive health. Have him eat some vegetable stew later on or something. It will make me worry less for Ferelden's current monarch.
- Dorian

...

[A letter to a publisher in Kirkwall.]

I don't think it's for a niche audience. It's a period drama and a romance. And I'm not making the elf a woman. He's a man. They're both men. If you don't like it, I'll find another publisher to send a query letter to.
- Varric Tethras

[At the bottom is a drawing of a butt and the words "EAT MY ENTIRE ASS" scrawled under it in a childish hand. Beneath that, written with excessive flourishing: "Art by Sera. Sentiment co-signed by Dorian Pavus."]

...

[Reconstructed excerpt from a tattered, burned journal.]

Having apparently realized that one Warden is more interested in Leliana than him, the elf has moved on to the other. Alistair even accepted the cheese the elf personally stole for him. He truly is dumber than the dog. At least the dog sniffs the food before eating it.

Why must everything in my life be so difficult?

...

[Next Chapter ======>]

Chapter Text

...

[From the diary of Grey Warden Alistair of Ferelden.]

Day 82:

Is being interested in all the tattoos on another man's skin a weird thing to be interested in? I mean, it's normal, right? It doesn't mean anything?

...

[An excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Two.]

Hot springs were a rare treat, and one nobody was going to pass up when discovered in the northern outskirts of the Brecilian Forest. The women took their baths first—no one wanted to argue with three mages who desperately wanted a bath. The men trickled in after, one by one. By the time Alaric got a chance to enter the hot springs, Zeandre was still there. He sat with his back against the rock face, his hair bound up, his eyes closed. Alaric decided he didn't care and stripped down for his bath. As he undressed, he could not help but notice how black tattoos swirled across Zeandre's skin, accentuating the lines of his body. Down just beneath the waterline, Alaric noted the swirling tattoos ceased. Instead, all he saw was a line of numbers across Zeandre's stomach.

Alaric sat down on a rock and studied Zeandre's chest, noting the dips and curves of black ink over coppery skin, and the dark brown nipples peeking out over the water. Alaric thought of the last time they had been in Denerim, when Zeandre had disappeared with Amelia, Leah, and the woman pirate. Of all the things Alaric could contemplate in that mind-numbing entanglement, he had to wonder if the women found those tattoos as fascinating as he did.

"Is it polite to stare at another man in the bath in Ferelden, hmm?"

Alaric started and realized Zeandre was studying him back through slitted eyes. "I, uh, I wasn't staring. I was… er. Watching." He winced. That didn't sound any better. Why did awkward things always come out of his mouth so easily?

An eyebrow arched its way up. "Watching me?" Zeandre asked, his tone light as ever. "And I'm not even putting on a show at the moment."

"Aren't you?" Alaric scowled. In for a copper, in for a sovereign. "Didn't you get those tattoos so people would look at them?"

Zeandre threw back his head and laughed, a rich sound that Alaric didn't hear nearly often enough. "It wasn't my precise reason, no. Consider it a side benefit. I actually prefer it when people touch them."

Alaric studied Zeandre's face. He didn't understand Zeandre at all. Zeandre had begun this journey trying to kill them, but seemed to have swiftly forgotten that plan in favor of helping them. Only a week ago, Zeandre wound up in some sticky foursome which Alaric could barely imagine—and one of the four had been Zeandre's former target. Zeandre seemed to have swiftly fallen in step with the rest of the group, and Alaric had come to worry about him far less than he did Sten or Shale. He was part of the group, for better or for worse. Alaric dropped his gaze down to Zeandre's stomach, just beneath the water line, and studied those numbers. He made out the first number: four.

"I…" Alaric sighed and studied his own stomach. He had always worn his armor into a fight and though he bore various nicks and cuts on his arms and neck, there were none on his stomach. It was clean and unmarked. "What do those numbers on your stomach mean?"

Zeandre's smile waned. "Nothing special."

"If you want to say, 'None of your business, Alaric,' then go ahead and say it."

"You don't want to know, my friend." Zeandre leaned forward. "Trust me."

"I do want to know. But you obviously don't want to tell me. Fair enough. Just be honest about it."

Zeandra sighed and looked away. He leaned back again, the numbers becoming more visible. Alaric also saw a one and a two. Four-one-two. "The Crows put them on the children they buy at the slave blocks," Zeandre said after a few moments. "Many don't survive, and they want to know which ones will and for how long. The masters can't tell us apart, so they tattoo a number on our stomachs. It cannot be removed, else they won't be able to identify the body when we die."

Alaric said nothing. There was nothing he could say to something like that. Zeandre hunched forward after a moment, still refusing to look Alaric in the eye. Alaric had thought Zeandre wasn't like the other elves, who shrank into their own beings and did little more than cower when humans hurt them, but he had been wrong. Zeandre was just like the other elves, no matter how he squared his shoulders and thrust his elbows out.

"I'm sorry," Alaric whispered as Zeandre exited the bath.

Zeandre glanced back as he dried himself off, smiling as the cloth slid over his copper skin. "If I was ashamed of who I was, I would have made up some silly story about getting a tattoo while drunk and on a bet. So don't be sorry, my friend. You wanted to know, remember?"

Alaric watched him leave, stunned a bit by his words.

...

[Reconstructed excerpt from a tattered, burned journal.]

There have been discussions of tattoos. And suspiciously hungry looks, more from Alistair than Zevran, oddly enough. I doubt anyone has ever paid that fool Alistair even a drop of the attention the elf is paying him now. I could attempt to compete, but I have no desire to. In any case, I think it unnecessary. Alistair will agree to my offer when the time comes, elf or no elf. His life depends on it.

...

[From the diary of Grey Warden Alistair of Ferelden.]

Day 100:

Is being interested in another man inserting ink under your skin with needles weird? I mean, it's less weird than just being interested in looking at another man's tattoos, right? Or is it more weird?

And if you accidentally wind up staring at other parts of a man while looking at his tattoos, that's perfectly normal, right? What about if you accidentally get hard while looking?

Oh, why am I asking you? You're a page in a book.

Day 107:

I asked Zevran about getting a tattoo today, and he started talking about some sort of ritual involve rose water and massages. It sounded a bit weird, and I turned him down. It had to be some kind of joke. But now I can't stop thinking about it. Maybe I'm the weird one.

[Beneath the 107th diary entry is a crudely drawn picture of a naked elf with long hair pinned up and dozens of black tattoos swirling across his body. The numbers four, one, and two are written across his stomach.]

Day 108:

Zevran didn't talk to me all day. He had laughed yesterday, after I asked about the tattoos, but today he just kept teasing Leliana until she sent him off. I watched him all day, but he ignored me.

I keep watching him. I can't stop. I'm watching him now, in between writing. He's making stew again while he hums some Antivan tavern song to himself. He has very pretty hair, even if he does take too long in the morning to groom it. I like the look of his coppery skin, tattoos or not. And I like the way he cricks his neck and rolls his shoulders sometimes, like when we're stuck waiting around for Amell to finish something. And all those stupid jokes he makes, they're actually kind of funny. (I had to pay him five silvers for having Morrigan on, but so worth it.) Everything about him is too much, and maybe that's why I can't stop thinking about him.

It's not like he's the first man I've ever thought of like this. But when I had asked Brother Feren back at the Chantry about it, he had told me that I was going through a phase and to not think about other boys like that anymore. I had tried to stop, I thought I had, but now I can't. It never went away and no matter how much I've tried, I can't make it go away.

Stupid assassins and their stupid hair and stupid clothes and stupid delicious-smelling poisoned stew.

...

[A letter found in Varric Tethras's desk at Skyhold.]

Hey Nightingale,
Just got back from Denerim with your scouts. Met King Alistair. He's kind of pissy, yeah? It's easy to understand why, though. Never seen a man spend more time alone than he does. He walks alone, trains alone, eats alone, sleeps alone, talks to himself alone, and sometimes when he thinks he's alone, he takes some sort of earring out of his pocket and stares at it.
Is that what you mean by how the story doesn't have a happy ending?
- Varric

[Underneath, written in a clean hand with no embellishment, is a single word: "Yes."]

...

[Next Chapter =====>]

Chapter Text

...

[A discarded note found in the Skyhold library.]

Sparkler,
I was thinking of trying out writing the story from Alaric's first person point of view, closer to my source material. So I wrote Chapter Four as a sort of experiment. Tell me what you think.
- Varric

[A discarded draft of "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Four.]

I never thought I would regret joining the Grey Wardens until we got to the Deep Roads. But I felt an alarming amount of regret when we ventured in after Amelia to search for Paragon Brekka. Amelia still doesn't seem to trust me much because of my templar training, but I guess she prefers me to handle her frontline before a convicted giant, a hunk of talking rock, and the most disgusting dwarf I've ever had the displeasure of meeting. I guess I'm also the most useful against darkspawn, being the only other Warden. I really hate being useful right now, though.

Naturally, Amelia brought Leah along—the Maker himself couldn't keep those two apart now. I thought she would bring Ogdarr at first, but she asked him to wait until we've made progress in finding Brekka, and asked Zeandre instead. Zeandre's dual dagger fighting style is a tactically sound choice with me and Leah along, but Oghren Ogdarr does have Deep Roads experience. I think Amelia might just hate Ogdarr. Not that I blame her. So it's just the four of us down here. Shame I forgot to bring a container for my joy.

Nothing I've seen, not even in the Circle of Ferelden, prepared me for the Deep Roads. As dark as Orzammar was, it seems bright in comparison. All the darkspawn constructions and shrines make my skin crawl. I'm always hearing something in the distance, even if I don't sense darkspawn close by; nothing stays still down here for long. It's either always too hot when we're close to the magma flows or too cold if we go too far into the dripping caves. I'm pretty sure my nose is ruined—I'm going to spend the rest of my life smelling half-rotten flesh and offal. Even the Blighted surface is better than this. This is like a punishment for something I don't remember doing wrong.

But I'm not the only one suffering down here. Zeandre doesn't even smirk anymore. He looks rather pale, actually, and he seems to always be sweating, even when it's not hot. After a darkspawn skirmish near Caridin's Cross yesterday, I saw his hands shaking around his daggers. The moment he noticed me watching him, he tightened his grip until his knuckles went white and his hands stilled. The grin he flashed me was all white teeth and lies.

After that, Zeandre couldn't even pitch his tent. His hands shook too bad. I knew he was bad off when he didn't even make a terrible joke about me pitching his tent for him. It was his turn to cook, but he had trouble chopping the deep mushrooms, so I did it. He didn't put anything in it like he usually does. No herbs, no salt, nothing. Tasted like something I would make. He didn't eat it, though. Just went and hid inside his tent.

After a while, I heard noises from inside his tent. And not the private alone time kind of noises. The sounds reminded me of one of my old bunkmates in the Chantry, after he almost drowned in Lake Calenhad (I didn't know he couldn't swim when I pushed him in, I swear). It sounded like Zevran Zeandre couldn't breathe. I tapped on his tent, but he didn't respond. Just kept gasping for air. The more I heard it, the less it sounded like almost drowning in a lake and more like how I felt right before the tourney where I met Durglan. Nobody had helped me then, but I wish they had. So I pulled Zeandre out of his tent and carried him a little ways out of camp.

Zeandre didn't fight me. He was having so much trouble breathing that I felt like I was holding a rather large rag doll. I took him to the lip of a little cliff overlooking an underground grotto filled with lyrium veins. There weren't any darkspawn here, and it was almost pretty. Plus, it looked like there was more space. I tried to loosen the laces of his tunic, but the knots wouldn't budge, and he needed to breathe, so I just ripped it open. Then I waited next to him, holding him. It was kind of awkward, but couldn't be helped. After a while, he seemed to catch his breath. Or at least he didn't wheeze and gasp anymore.

"Is it the darkness? The smell? Being in these tunnels for so long?" I asked him after a while.

Zeandre cleared his throat and swallowed before he spoke. "It's a long story, my friend. I'm sure you wouldn't want to hear it." He didn't look me in the eye.

"You keep telling me that. I wouldn't ask if I didn't want to know."

Zeandre gave me a pathetic smile. "Perhaps we could discuss instead your technique of ripping at clothing?" He fingered his torn laces. "There is a way to be aggressively sexy that doesn't leave your partner having to re-lace their clothing. How many women's wardrobes have suffered at your hands by now, hm?"

I knew I had to change the subject then. Aside from my own on a bad day, Zeandre's clothing was the only clothing I had ever torn. "I wasn't trying to be sexy. I was trying to help you breathe."

"Ah, yes. Well, thank you." Zeandre rested his head on his knees. "Your concern is appreciated, even if it has cost me a mildly expensive garment."

"Well, now that it's torn, maybe you could flash those tattooed collarbones at the darkspawn. Distract them and then knife them in the kidneys."

Zeandre laughed, but it sounded hollow. "I'm hardly running out of distracted darkspawn to knife in the kidneys—do they even have kidneys, I wonder? Once you wade into their numbers bellowing at them, you're all they see. Which is just how I like it."

"Yeah, well, thanks for having my back. Or rather stabbing the darkspawn around me in the back. Makes this trek a bit easier." I studied him, noting how pale he still was. "But maybe you should head back to Orzammar. Send back that drunk dwarf that tried to come with us, what's his name, Ogdarr."

"No. I swore I would help the Grey Wardens, and that is exactly what I am doing, yes? I do not break my oaths so easily, my friend, even if you may believe otherwise. Warden Amelia asked me to come, so I came." Zeandre snickered, sounding almost like himself. "Unfortunately, not in the fashion I'd prefer to come, alas."

"Maker's Breath," I swore. "Everything is dirty with you, isn't it?"

"Listen, you try to make the best of a bad situation with sarcasm, and I do it with sexual innuendo. Is that so wrong, hm?"

"Well, at least I know you're feeling better."

"All thanks to you." The glow of a nearby lyrium vein caught Zeandre's eyes and made them seemed bright gold right then. He really is a bit too much, what with all that long pretty hair that seemed better suited to a noblewoman and his fancy Antivan clothing. And those eyes. Maker, why do elves all have such pretty eyes?

I cleared my throat. "Well, I think I'm going to head back to camp. Try to sleep." But when I turned to leave, Zeandre grabbed my wrist.

"Don't go," he whispered. He didn't have any of his usual Antivan smugness about him. He looked like a little kid, and his hand felt clammy.

So I sat back down beside him. He leaned against me again, his head resting on my shoulder. It was super awkward, almost romantic, but at least Zevran Zeandre didn't say anything weird. It actually wasn't so bad. Kind of a warm feeling, like back when I was a boy at Castle Redcliffe, sleeping in a pile with the elven servants' children in front of the stoves during winter.

When Zeandre finally fell asleep, I carried him back to the camp and put him in his tent. Leliana Leah was still awake, watching me the whole time. But she never said a word, so neither did I.

The next day, we headed back to Orzammar to drop Zeandre off and collect Ogdarr instead.

[A discarded note found in the wastebin near Varric Tethras's desk.]

Varric,
I don't think it works. It doesn't reflect the voice that you built for "Alaric" in the previous chapters. And I don't think he'd be that observant. You're better off with the point of view you were writing before.
- Dorian
P.S. I caught a few instances of wrong names. I crossed them out for you and put the names you should be using if you wish to avoid spending the rest of your days in a Fereldan prison for causing a royal scandal.

...

[An excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Five.]

Everyone's spirits rose when they finally returned to the surface. Zeandre was back to his old self, and his food smelled good again, which was a welcome return to form considering his cooking had become the camp favorite. Alaric glanced up when Zeandre sat down across from him, holding two bowls of vegetable stew. He looked back down, trying to ignore both Zeandre and how delicious the food smelled. It was all too much again. But it was soon beyond his power to ignore when one of the bowls was slid in front of him.

"Come now, Alaric. You must eat. We can't have you losing your strength. Someone has to take the heat off our delightful magic-wielding leader. And me. I do my best work when my opponents are distracted by large human men holding towering shields and roaring insults at them."

Alaric sighed and took a bite of the offered stew. It was surprisingly delicious for its lack of meat, filled with parsnips, onions, carrots, and something like what Alaric imagined grass would taste like, if grass were delicious. "I don't roar."

"You prefer the term 'yell', perhaps?"

As he continued to eat, hunger speeding his bites, Alaric pondered the question. "No, might as well go with 'roar'. Sounds manlier."

Zeandre cackled. "My dear friend, haven't we already established that with those shoulders, no one will question your masculinity?" His smile grew oddly sharp as he ate some of his stew. "You should throw those magnificent things back more the next time we visit the Pearl, I think. The whores will fight over you. You'll get an incredible bargain."

"I'm not interested." Alaric took another bite of stew and considered Zeandre. The nearby firelight cast sharp shadows on Zeandre's features, but they only added to his allure. It made him seem like one of those street performers who swallowed fire.

"Oh? Someone else caught your eye? Some fresh-faced curvaceous temptress in the Denerim markets? Or a delicate and rare beauty in the Dalish camp? Or perhaps a buxom dwarven noblewoman in Orzammar's Diamond Quarter?"

Alaric sighed and focused on his stew. "No, none of those." The only person that could be said to have caught his eye was Zeandre himself. Alaric's daily challenge wasn't killing darkspawn—that was becoming disturbingly routine—but trying not to let Zeandre capture his every waking thought. Alaric had long since conceded his dreaming thoughts to Zeandre. Everything about his Chantry-upbringing railed against his growing desire for another man, but he had railed against his Chantry-upbringing before. Why should he continue to let them control his thoughts? He was a free man now.

"Well, my friend, it is a great shame to waste shoulders that broad. I'm sure someone would enjoy hanging off of them. I hope you find that someone." Zeandre stood, holding his empty bowl, and turned to leave, but Alaric grabbed his wrist.

"There is this one elf that caught my eye," Alaric whispered, a cold pit of fear opening in his stomach. "But I'm not sure it's a good idea."

Zeandre glanced back, his gaze smoky. "Perhaps you could test the idea out. Elves are fantastic kissers, you know. Even better lovers, but I think with someone like you, it's better to start with kissing first."

The cold pit dropped into Alaric's abdomen and grew warm. He stood and pulled Zeandre away from the camp, his hands sweaty around the slim but surprisingly calloused fingers.

...

[A series of notes found in Skyhold's library.]

Sparkler,
Here's where I need your help. I've been doing research on this, as I don't want to fall into the same pit trap I did with "Swords and Shields". But I'm having trouble finding good material for inspiration. Too many flowery metaphors for swords and sheaths and rosebuds awaiting kisses (that last one is exactly what you think it is). This would be awkward to ask in person, but could you write down your thoughts on what this kiss would feel like? And anything else. I want it to feel authentic.
- Varric

Varric,
I don't claim to be an expert, but what would give you the impression that a kiss with a man would be much different from kissing a woman? Especially since Zeandre is an elf. No beard, so you don't even have to worry about the facial hair tickle.
- Dorian
P.S. There is nothing wrong with kissing rosebuds, and that's all I'm saying on the matter.

Sparkler,
I meant about kissing an elf. I've never kissed an elf. I assume you have. You seem the type. I don't need you to explain what kissing a man is like. Aside from the facial hair tickle, you're right, it's not any different.
- Varric

Varric,
You have to lean down a bit with an elf. And who did you kiss that had facial hair??? I'm dying to know more.
- Dorian

Sparkler,
Don't die on us just yet. The Bull might get lonely.
- Varric
P.S. If you legitimately believe Bianca is the only crossbow I've ever kissed, then I have a palace or two in Halamshiral to sell you.

...

[Reconstructed excerpt from a tattered, burned journal.]

I found Alistair and Zevran kissing while pressed against a tree. Hands tangled in hair, tongues practically sewn together, both making disgustingly wet noises. I walked up behind them and cleared my throat, and neither even noticed my presence.

One has to admire their dedication, if nothing else.

...

[A note found on Ser Cullen Rutherford's desk, bearing a ringed coffee stain on it.]

Curly,
Hope you're enjoying the Antivan coffee I sent you. I heard that your men are helping an elven assassin named Zevran Arainai out of the Marches. He's a friend of mine. Tell me where he goes in Orlais, all right? And have someone search his belongings. Let me know if he's got a rose in there.
- Varric
P.S. Don't tell Nightingale. Our little secret, yeah?

...

[Next Chapter ====>]

Chapter Text

...

[Excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Eight.]

After the chaos of the Landsmeet, Arl Earric's estate seemed quiet and empty. Most everyone had retired for the evening, but Alaric couldn't sleep. He wandered the stone halls decorated with the banners of the Gunaeral family, through the courtyard with the Orlesian fountain, and past the kitchen filled with some of Arl Earric's men gossiping about the Landsmeet as they ate. Alaric found an empty couch in one of the halls and sat on it, a little overwhelmed at the thought that all of this belonged not to his former guardian, but to his new subject.

"I should be calling you 'Your Majesty' now, yes?" Zeandre asked, appearing from around a corner. He sat next to Alaric on the couch. "Or do kings have special titles in Ferelden, perhaps?"

Alaric scowled. He avoided looking at Zeandre, instead studying his hands. A bit of dried blood remained under his nails, even though he had scrubbed his hands until they hurt in the bath. It was Lomeer's blood. Killing that bastard hadn't made Alaric feel any better. It hadn't brought back Durglan. It hadn't brought King Caethran back to sit on his throne. It hadn't accomplished anything. Much like Alaric himself.

"I'm not king yet, so no," Alaric said. He should've stayed in his room instead of coming out to sit in the common room. Yet, he hadn't wanted to be alone anymore, either. He could only stand the four walls of the room he had been given for so long. And maybe he was a fool for thinking Zeandre's kisses meant anything, but he had hoped Zeandre would come and speak to him. Zeandre was all he had.

"At what point should I address you as king, then?" Zeandre tilted his head. "And, ah, when should I make myself scarce, as they say?"

"You don't have to call me anything special." Alaric glanced up and studied him. "And you don't have to leave unless you want to."

"Ah, well, if it doesn't change anything between us, I can live with that." Zeandre leaned a little closer. "Do you want to be king, mi rey?"

"No. Maybe. I mean—" Alaric sighed and trailed off. "I don't, but I also feel like maybe it was the best choice. Lomeer's daughter couldn't be trusted. Landsmeet turned into open battle. This is the best that could be done. I'm going to be King, and I have no idea what I'm doing."

"Not many people do, actually. The trick is to pretend like you do, I think." Zeandre leaned close to him, face tilted up, his gaze surprisingly soft. Alaric hesitated, then cupped Zeandre's cheek. He felt warm beneath Alaric's palm.

"What does 'mi rey' mean?" Alaric whispered.

Zeandre chuckled. "I think it's more fun if I don't tell you."

"More fun for you, maybe." Alaric sighed and stood up. "Follow me." He took Zeandre's hand and tugged on it gently, pulling him upward. Zeandre followed without complaint. Once they arrived in Alaric's room, he half-opened one of the curtains for a little moonlight and fetched a box out from beneath his bed.

"Oh, I hope there's something kinky in there."

"Not really." Alaric pulled out the rose inside. He had a whole explanation for it, a flowery little speech, but he didn't want to say it. It was a script, something an imaginary prince would say to some noble lady. But he was the bastard son of a king who had earned his throne by killing a man, and Zeandre was an assassin with a tattoo on his stomach that reduced him to a three-digit number. And both of them were practically drowning in darkspawn thanks to the Blight. But as ugly as everything around them was, Alaric still thought maybe there was something beautiful between them. "This is for you."

Zeandre took the rose and cradled it in his hands. He seemed almost confused. "Ah… a rose?"

"Yes, you're so clever. A rose. Nothing gets past those sharp assassin eyes, I see."

"Usually, I am the one throwing flowers around. Never tried it on a man before, though. I usually don't have to bother." Zeandre held up the rose. "It's a bit sentimental, yes?"

"Yes, well." Alaric sighed. "Never pretended I was a difficult man for anyone to understand."

"Ah, mi rey, sentiment has its place. And so do you." Zeandre tugged at his belt, drawing him closer. "Incidentally, your place is on that bed over there, with me riding those fine hips of yours," he whispered.

Alaric was rendered speechless for a moment. Heat spread like wildfire through his abdomen, and his breeches felt remarkably tight all of a sudden. "Maker's Breath, the things that come out of your mouth."

"Well, if you stop playing hard to get, we can see what sort of things come in my mouth, no?"

Again, Alaric could not speak. His brain seemed to go as blank as a fresh sheet of vellum. He almost didn't notice Zeandre shoving him back onto the bed. He fell with a loud thwump, disoriented for a moment before Zeandre leaned over to peer in his face. Alaric always had certain ideas about how sex was supposed to work. Most of which had come from the few romance books the Chantry had allowed him. None had been too racy, and all of them had been about the courtly love between a man and a woman. The Chantry had no recommended decorum for two men.

"Still nothing?" Zeandre frowned. "Should I leave then?"

"Of course not." Alaric cleared his throat. "Just put the rose on the bedside table first. There's certain places I'd prefer not to get stabbed by its thorns."

Zeandre laughed and did as he was told before joining Alaric on the bed.

[A series of notes found in Varric Tethras's desk.]

Sparkler,
Another awkward question for you. I don't know who to put on top and who to put on bottom. My source material doesn't go into detail. And I mean, Zevran Zeandre's clearly the more sexually aggressive one, but I don't think that matters (especially since my source material suggests Zeandre might not care). If I put Zeandre on top, it will feel like I'm pushing boundaries in depictions of elves, but also Alaric is much bigger and has a lot of Chantry ideas that might have him wanting to top. Just sounds awkward either way. I could avoid the matter altogether by simply not writing sex scenes or just writing them finding something else fun to do. But my readers are going to infer far too much about them and me no matter what I write.
- Varric

Varric,
Exactly what is your question?
- Dorian

Sparkler,
Guess that's my answer, huh? I certainly had that one coming.
- Varric

You certainly did.
- D.

[From a slip of paper inserted into the diary of Grey Warden Alistair of Ferelden, written in an excessively embellished hand.]

Roses are red,
Leliana's new satin shoes are blue,
The Deep Roads sucked,
And so did I, mi rey.

[Reconstructed excerpt from a tattered, burned journal.]

Do they think I can't hear them? I could be standing outside Arl Eamon's estate in a bloody thunderstorm, and I would still hear them. Must they carry on so while I'm in the room next to theirs? Some people would like to sleep!

[From the diary of Grey Warden Alistair of Ferelden.]

Day 138:

I really want to know what "mi rey" means. I'm pretty sure it's not Zevran telling me he's a ray of sunshine. I asked him if it was a backwards version of "do re mi" and he laughed so hard that he started crying.

I suppose this means I need to learn Antivan.

[Excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Ten.]

Alaric stared at the small jeweled earring dropped into his hand. "What's this?"

"I thought you were an educated man?" Zeandre crossed his arms. "It's an earring. Obviously."

"My ears aren't even pierced."

Zeandre sighed and looked around, as if to ensure they were alone. Apparently seeing no one approaching the small wooded area they stood in, he stepped closer to Alaric. "It's… special to me. I've had it a long time. I acquired it from a Rivaini merchant prince. You probably don't want to know how."

"Let me guess: you assassinated him."

"You are most perspicacious, mi rey. It was my first job, you see. I thought the earring very beautiful, so I took it afterwards. And the moment I took it in was a powerful one. He died, I lived." Zeandre's eyes glittered in the waning sunlight peeking through the tree canopy. "I want you to have it now."

Alaric smiled and brushed a stray lock of hair from Zeandre's face. "I see."

"Do you? You and Amelia killed Taevarin. I am a free man for the moment, at least until the Crows find out I'm alive. Don't make too much of it, yes? It's just a thank you. Think of it as an exchange for that ridiculous rose of yours."

"My rose was sentimental, I remember?"

"Yes, I remember." Zeandre rolled his eyes skywards and clucked his tongue. "Now you're making me regret this. Do you want it or not? If you don't, I'll take it back."

Alaric closed his fist around the earring and held it to his chest. "You can't have it back. You gave it to me. It's mine now." He smiled and leaned down to kiss Zeandre, but Zeandre suddenly twisted the tip of his nose. "Ow! What did you do that for?" Alaric screeched, clutching his stinging nose with his free hand.

"The look on your face!" Zeandre laughed, then pulled Alaric closer by the belt. He brushed Alaric's hand aside to kiss his nose. "Ah, if only you weren't so good at looking pathetic. You make it so difficult to be difficult." He kissed Alaric's jaw, somehow spreading warmth all the way down to Alaric's abdomen.

Alaric closed his eyes as Zeandre's lips trailed over his jaw, soaking up the warmth. He felt light-headed, and his breeches had grown tight. "If it's any consolation, I still think you're plenty difficult."

Zeandre started unbuckling Alaric's belt. The familiar sound of the metal clinking under Zeandre's fingers made Alaric's cock twitch. "Me? Difficult? But I am always told how very easy I am."

"Okay, can't carry this conversation any further. Not enough blood in head," Alaric moaned.

"It's all right. I believe we are done talking, yes?" Zeandre asked with a laugh, and pulled Alaric towards their tent.

...

[A letter bearing a ringed coffee stain on it found in Varric Tethras's desk.]

Varric,
My men tell me that Zevran Arainai is heading to Serault. After searching through his things "for his safety", they found a dried rose pressed between the pages of "A Study of the Fifth Blight, Vol. 2" by Sister Petrine. Zevran became agitated and nearly killed one of my men when he touched it. His belongings were returned to him, and we released him. I hope you had a good reason for harassing him.
- Ser Cullen Rutherford
P.S. Thank you for the coffee.

...

[Next Chapter ===>]

Chapter Text

...

[An exchange of notes found on a barrel on the second floor of the Herald's Rest Tavern.]

I drew pictures for your book. You better like them.
- Sera

They're beautiful, Buttercup. Too beautiful for something as plebian as my book.
- Varric

Liar. You're not gonna use them are you?
- Sera

Oh, I'm using them. I slipped them into Cullen's clipboard instead.
- Varric

If you were a woman, I'd marry you.
- Sera

Stop it. You're making Bianca jealous. (Don't stop.)
- Varric

...

[A transcription of a Skyhold conversation found on Leliana's desk.]

Cullen: Leliana won't say it was you, but I know it was you, Sera. I was at a very important meeting, and instead of the paperwork I needed to give, I passed out pictures of badly drawn erect penises to three chevaliers before I realized what they were. Do you realize what you've done? My reputation has taken a blow, and now one of those chevaliers keeps asking me to dinner. It's awkward, to say the least.
Sera: That's amazing. I wish it had been me. I wish I could have seen the look on your face.
Cullen: It had to be you. I recognized your art. This means war, you realize.
Sera: Everything's war with you, yeah? Fine. If I win, you have to have dinner with the chevalier. And write me a letter that says I win, so I can show it to everyone.
Cullen: And if I win, you have to have dinner with the chevalier instead.
Sera: Either way, I win. Is she cute?
Cullen: He is... handsome enough, I suppose.
Sera: I definitely have to win now. For two reasons. One of those being that the Inquisitor will be jealous. Or would that be a good thing?
Cullen: She's a horned magic-casting giant with the power to control Fade rifts. It certainly wouldn't be a good thing for the chevalier.

...

[Excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Nine.]

Beneath the snow covering Ostagar slept thousands of corpses. They had been people once. People Alaric knew. He wondered where Durglan lay. Where King Caethran lay. He wondered how he could walk through its ruins knowing this was where he had lost what mattered to him.

Then Zeandre slipped his hand into Alaric's, reminding him that he was no longer alone. Alaric squeezed his hand, took a breath, and followed Amelia into the place where it had all started....

...

[A note found in the wastebin near Varric Tethras's desk.]

Varric,
Is this a tragedy? Are you writing a tragedy? So help me Maker, if this is a tragedy, I will kill you and then summon a spirit to possess your corpse so I can kill you again. You realize I can actually do that, right?
- Dorian

[An exchange of notes found in the main hall of Skyhold.]

Buttercup,
Really sorry about you catching it for my prank. Glad Solas knew a spell to take care of all that tree sap. (Also, the fact that he can regrow hair strikes me as a bit ironic, but I digress.) Forgive me?
- Varric

Don't worry, I got this.
- Sera

Um, that wasn't forgiveness. I'm still in trouble, aren't I?
- Varric

You catch on fast for a guy with such short legs, yeah?
- Sera

...

[A note found on Josephine Montilyet's desk]

Lady Montilyet,
The costs for repairing the Commander's desk, door, and bed are itemized below. The labor costs for removing all of his breeches from the banners are also included. The arrows that pinned them have been confiscated. But I'm not touching the worms in the Commander's coffee supply. There's not enough coin in all Thedas. Just tell him to throw it all out.
- MacCorrath

...

[Excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Eleven.]

Alaric stood at the doorway, but didn't look inside the room. Instead, he glanced down the hall, where Zeandre's room was. Perhaps Zeandre was waiting for him. Alaric looked away. It was better if Zeandre didn't know about this. Explaining it would be too hard. Alaric didn't want to know what Zeandre's face would look like when it was explained to him that Alaric had to sleep with someone else just to survive destroying the Archdemon. Whether he looked heartbroken or uncaring, either way, it would hurt. Alaric preferred not to risk it.

Morganna also waited for him inside her room. She pulled two potions filled with glowing purple liquid from her bags and turned to him. "The elf seems quite attached to you. I doubt he would prefer your death," she said, her tone surprisingly gentle. "Just drink this, undress, and lie back. You can think of him during the ritual, if you like."

Though he took the potion and drank it, Alaric did not think of Zeandre. Every time he did, he felt as if something black were eating away at his heart. Zeandre couldn't know. Alaric couldn't tell him. And he couldn't think of Zeandre, not if he was going to do this. He licked his lips, tasting the cloying sweet of Morganna's potion, and started to slide his tunic off.

Neither of them looked the other in the eye that night.

...

[Reconstructed excerpt from a tattered, burned journal.]

It is done. Alistair agreed, as I thought he would. I... regret that it had to be him. And not so much because I found him distasteful—he was surprisingly gentle—but because I know he was unhappy. But I needed his seed, and he needed to live. It had to be done. For him, nothing will change. For me, everything will.

...

[As posted on the front of Sera's door in the Herald's Rest Tavern.]

Sera,
You win.
- Cullen
P.S. Dinner was surprisingly pleasant, so I'm not sure you actually have. Ser Michel de Chevin is quite charming, actually. Please tear this postscript off before posting this.

[The note bears no sign of tearing.]

...

[A discarded note found in the Skyhold library.]

Sparkler,
Here's the next chapter. Don't kill me. I'm too beautiful to die.
- Varric

...

[Excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Fourteen.]

They were finally alone, but Zeandre kept walking up the stairs, away from Alaric, ignoring him as he had since the final battle. Alaric had thought perhaps he was distracted by the endless celebrations or Alaric's impending coronation, but it was clear by now that Zeandre was avoiding him. Alaric ran up the steps and grabbed Zeandre's wrist. "Hey!" Alaric swallowed. "Didn't you hear me calling your name?"

Zeandre paused, his back still to Alaric. He said nothing and leaned away. His long blond hair hung in his face, obscuring his expression.

"Please say something, Zeandre. What did I do wrong?"

Zeandre leaned his head back, his hair rippling across his back, but he didn't turn. "You're truly going to ask me that?"

"I don't understand."

"I went looking for you the night before the battle, Your Majesty. And I found you. In Morganna's room."

Alaric swallowed hard, that same feeling of something black chewing on his heart suddenly returning from that night. "Zeandre, I—I have a good explanation for that."

Zeandre tugged his hand free and turned around. He smiled brightly, though his gaze was as sharp as one of his knives. "Ah, but there is no need for one. I well understand such desires, having given into a few myself in the past. I admit, it was a bit of a surprise that you were the one to give into temptation, but you needn't explain anything. I understand perfectly. She's a beautiful woman, no?"

"That's not it. I swear, Zeandre, I had to—"

Zeandre turned around. "Don't bother finishing that statement. I'm not interested. Keep the earring, if you like. It doesn't really mean anything."

And as swiftly as Zeandre had come into Alaric's life, he left the same way. Alaric sagged against the stone wall. He was alone again, and he had no one to blame for it but himself.

...

[From the diary of Grey Warden Alistair of Ferelden.]

(Undated)

The Blight's over. I'm now King of Ferelden. Zevran left.

[There are no subsequent entries in the diary.]

[A note found on Ser Cullen Rutherford's desk.]

Curly,
Can you arrest Zevran Arainai for me? Asking for a friend.
- Varric

...

[Next Chapter ==>]

Chapter Text

...

[A series of notes found in Varric Tethras's desk.]

Varric,
Are you quite serious? Zevran helped us. On what grounds am I to arrest him? Your "friend" is asking an awful lot.
- Cullen

Curly,
He needs to come to Skyhold, is all. It's not a real arrest. It's just really important he come here.
- Varric

Varric,
He works freelance, so why don't you ask Josephine to pay him to come here instead? I have only just recovered my dignity, and I would like to avoid further injury to my reputation.
- Cullen
P.S. I know you had something to do with that fiasco with Sera.

Curly,
Oh. I guess that would work, too. I thought an arrest would be funnier.
- Varric
P.S. And I noticed you keep having dinner with Ser Michel. He's even prettier than you are. Good for you.

Varric,
If this winds up in one of your books, Seeker Pentaghast will be the least of your problems.
- Cullen

[A letter on the Inquisitor's bedside table.]

Inquisitor Adaar,
I felt I ought to bring these financial matters to your attention. Varric has requested that I pay Leliana's assassin friend, Zevran Arainai, a handsome sum merely to come to Skyhold. Dorian has requested I invite King Alistair to Skyhold, which isn't a bad idea, but his last correspondence with us was asking for an alarming amount of money to help offset the costs of sending so much support to both the Inquisition and to Orlais (at Briala's request). Please let me know how to proceed at the war table.
Sincerely,
Josephine Montilyet

[A letter lying on the Skyhold War Table.]

Inquisitor Adaar,
Thank you for your continued support of Ferelden, especially after all that happened. Your funding will certainly help me recruit more soldiers for our underdeveloped army, so I can protect my borders in case Gaspard gets ideas. Briala may be running the show, but he's clearly not happy about it. I am uncertain why you require me to visit Skyhold to discuss the matter, but I suppose a visit is in order.
…. I still think this sounds like a terrible idea. Let's hope the Inquisitor is done gaining the attention of powerful darkspawn. With my luck and her luck, I go to Skyhold and another Blight will start with two archdemons at once. Having us together in one spot can only—
Wait, are you writing that last part down? You're not writing that down, are you? I was thinking out loud! Can't you tell the difference?
Sincerely,
King Alistair Theirin

[A letter on Leliana's table.]

Leliana,
Your friend is here. He went straight to the tavern and started flirting with the Iron Bull, which offended Dorian until he started flirting with him, too. That elf is more of a menace to public decency than Sera. And that's quite something given the noises she makes in the Inquisitor's bedroom at night. Also, you ought to know your friend's putting his drinks on your tab.
- Josephine

...

[A report on Leliana's desk.]

As per your orders, I kept an eye on the King of Ferelden. He encountered the Antivan elf you asked about inside of the tavern. They both stared at each other for a while before the elf fled. The King called his name several times and followed him to the door, but the elf did not return. After that, the King retired to his room with a bottle of dwarven whiskey.

...

[A note found atop the rough draft of "The Griffon and the Crow" on a bed in one of the Skyhold guest rooms, written in a childish scrawl.]

For Zeandre Zevran.

...

[A series of notes found in Varric Tethras's desk.]

Sparkler,
Have you seen my draft of The Griffon and the Crow? I was going to edit it some, but can't find it anywhere. C'mon, you can't hold it hostage just because you don't like the ending.
- Varric

Varric,
I am still not speaking to you. And no, I don't have your stupid novel.
- Dorian
P.S. Did you know they're both here? And Zevran is shameless. They met in the tavern, but Zevran walked out before anyone spoke.

Sparkler,
But you're still writing to me, good to know.
- Varric
P.S. Do me a favor, and the next time Zevran is acting shameless around you, name drop Alistair and let me know what he does.

Varric,
He went real quiet, finished his brandy, and left for another table.
- Dorian

...

[A conversation transcription found on Leliana's desk.]

Zevran: You wrote this book, yes?
Varric: Who gave that to you?
Zevran: I think that part is far less consequential than what's in it, yes? Perhaps you thought your paper thin name changes were an effective disguise?
Varric: Well, not exactly, it's just a first draft, and I was going to—
Zevran: [slams the book on the table and stabs it with a dagger] Let us cut to the chase, as they say. How did you know?
Varric: Why does everyone keep stabbing my books?
Zevran: I highly recommend that you tell me who told you, my friend.
Varric: So, did you read the ending?
Zevran: Why bother? I already know how it ends. Who told you?
Varric: [gives him a battered diary emblazoned with a Grey Warden griffon] Alistair did. After a fashion.
Zevran: How did you get this?
Varric: I have friends in high places.
Zevran: Listen, you are a good friend to Isabela, and making threats is something only amateur assassins do. So why don't you tell me why you are doing this, and I'll stop myself from killing you in your sleep.
Varric: Look, Antiva, I get it. And I'm sorry. The only explanation I have is instead a suggestion to read Day 412 in that diary.
Zevran: Excuse me, did you say 412?
Varric: Sure did. At the top of each diary entry is the day's number. Day 1 is the day he woke up after being injured at Ostagar. Ends right after the Blight does.
Zevran: But... the Blight took less than a year. There's not enough days for a Day 412.
Varric: But there was still a Day 412. In between Day 265 and Day 289, actually. Guess you'll have to read it to find out why.
Zevran: I... see. To be continued, then. [leaves with the diary]

...

[A note found in Sera's nook in the Herald's Rest Tavern.]

Buttercup,
IT WAS YOU, WASN'T IT? YOU REALIZE YOU ALMOST GOT ME KILLED TODAY?
- Varric
P.S. Does this at least mean I'm forgiven for the prank war with Cullen?

...

[A letter found in the Skyhold library.]

Dear Dorian,
I'm still not certain why you asked me to tell King Alistair what "mi rey" means, but I did as you asked. He grew an odd, thoughtful expression. In answer to your own question, it means "my king" in Antivan. It's most often used as a term of endearment for a male lover if the relationship is serious enough.
- Josephine

...

[A note found in Varric Tethras's desk.]

Varric,
They talked! I saw them on the battlements, flapping their gums and sound coming out and everything! Zevran had a book in his hand and was making word sounds at Alistair! By the time I got close enough to hear the words, they left. But they left together! Is this good? This better be good!
- Sera
P.S. Ha ha, now you're the one in trouble. Sure, you're forgiven. Why not?


[Art by NoisyKid.]

...

[Excerpt from "The Griffon and the Crow" Chapter Fifteen.]

It had been ten years.

Zeandre looked good. He seemed to have barely aged, though the sun seemed to have left him a bit weathered. His hair had grown alluringly long, now messily pinned to the back of his head. Strands of it covered his face tattoo. His clothes were travel-worn, but bore the same Antivan flair that Alaric had once thought was all a bit too much. It seemed just enough right then.

"Zeandre," Alaric whispered, reaching out, but Zeandre walked away, the spell broken. Alaric couldn't let it end there, not like he had the last time. Not after ten years of bitter loneliness and tasteless dinners eaten at empty tables. He followed him out of the hall, into the rain. Fereldan autumns brought cold rain and vicious wind that cut through whatever clothing a man wore, but Alaric barely felt it. Zeandre headed into the abandoned tower and stood in the center, staring up. Part of the roof had fallen in, and rain dripped all the way down, forming a puddle in the center. Zeandre held a hand out and let the rain pool in his palm.

Alaric stood in the doorway, watching him, waiting. Why had Zeandre returned? Alaric had never thought to see him again after he left Fereldan a decade ago, but he had returned. Seeing him again made Alaric's chest hurt in ways it hadn't hurt since he left. He took a deep breath.

After a long moment, Zeandre glanced back. "I never told you why the Deep Roads were so difficult for me, no?" He turned his face up again to stare at the broken ceiling. Above, the stormy sky offered them only a gray light inside. The wind whistled above, and the rain gave a light drumming rhythm. "When the Crows first purchased me and seventeen other children, they locked us in a basement together for a month, you see. They didn't give us enough food and water. Only two of us survived. And now only one still lives."

Alaric looked down. "I'm sorry."

"Why? I'm not. I was the one who lived."

"That's not what—"

"I know what you meant. No one ever bothered to help me then. When you helped me in the Deep Roads, I was… surprised. I never expected anyone to ever help me." Zeandre turned fully around. "Leah mailed me your diary. I read it all, despite myself. Including why you… and Morganna…"

Alaric stepped inside, his heart leaping into his throat. He felt dizzy, as if he were to fall off the edge of a high cliff at any moment, but he didn't care. All that mattered was this moment. "I only wanted to make sure I could come back to you. I swear. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I should have. I should have told you before I even went into her room." He held out a hand. "I only had one rose, Zeandre. And I gave it to you."

It was so quiet for a moment that Alaric could hear every drop of rain splash into the pool of water, the drum of it on what remained of the roof, the trickle of it across stone. Zeandre stared at his hand, his long lashes obscuring his eyes, his lips slightly parted. He looked as if he stood upon the same precipice Alaric felt he stood upon.

"I read your entry for Day 412, you know." Zeandre looked up, blinking slowly, his gold-brown eyes dark in the gloom. Alaric longed to see firelight play off them again.

"I meant every word, Zeandre. All three of them."

Zeandre gave Alaric the first smile that mattered in a decade and took his hand. It was cold and wet from the rain, but quickly warmed under his touch.

"I missed you, mi rey," he whispered.

[A note found on the Inquisitor's bedside table.]

Dear Inquisitor Adaar,
The meeting with the King of Ferelden will have to be postponed. He is currently indisposed and may continue to be so for the next day or two, it seems. I will not repeat what the servants have said about his indisposition. I do recommend avoiding the guest wing for the moment, however. On a related note, Leliana's friend Zevran apparently no longer requires use of his own room.
Sincerely,
Lady Josephine Montilyet

...

[A note found on Leliana's desk.]

My Dearest Leliana,
I am certain you had a hand in what seems to be a largescale Inquisition conspiracy involving me and Alistair. I wanted to thank you. And while I find your offer of steady work in the Inquisition's service tempting, I must decline. I am heading to Denerim soon. I have many things to do there, as it turns out. Namely Alistair.
With Affection,
Zevran Arainai

...

[To Epilogue =>]

Chapter Text

...

[A series of notes found in Chancellor Eamon's desk.]

Alistair,
Are you quite certain about this Antivan elf? I know he helped us during the Blight, but, well. He might cause you a scandal.
- Eamon

Eamon,
One of the few joys of being both king and a hero to my own people is that I can weather a scandal or two. I'm very sure about Zevran. That's his name, by the way. I think you should use it.
- Alistair

Alistair,
Well, at least he's fun at parties.
- Eamon

...

[A series of letters exchanged between Denerim and Skyhold.]

Varric Tethras,
I'm less concerned about the scandal and more concerned about my privacy. There's already too many people who know way more about me than I like. The only way I'm letting you publish that book is if you change not only the names, but the dates, the setting, all the characters' identifying features, and the entire plot.
Sincerely,
King Alistair Theirin

Your Kingliness,
That's basically the whole book.
- Varric Tethras

Tethras,
Indeed. And I would like the original draft sent to Denerim right away. Or I must insist upon arresting you. Be glad I'm dealing with this. Zevran's suggestion for dealing with you was far more creative.
Sincerely,
King Alistair Theirin

Your Fereldanliness,
Fine, I've sent it, dagger hole and all. No need to make threats. I even wrote you a bonus chapter as a peace offering.
- Varric Tethras

...

[A letter with a reply written on it found in Zevran's bedroom in Denerim Castle.]

My Dearest Leliana,
I must ask you something important. Morrigan visited Skyhold, yes? Did you see her son? What was his name? Was he healthy? Happy?
Yours,
Zevran Arainai

Z.,
Yes, she visited Skyhold with her son. His name is Kieran. He seemed in good health. I think he's happy. I think they both are.
- L.

My Dearest Leliana,
Thank you. That was all we needed to know.
- Zev

...

[A pair of notes found in Skyhold.]

Nightingale,
Sorry I couldn't finish the book, but it turns out I gave the story a happy ending anyways.
- Varric

V.,
I knew you would.
- L.

[The End.]