Chapter 1: On the Shores of Lake Calenhad
As Sten watched the boat vanish into the mist surrounding the Circle tower, he heard a plaintive whine emanating from somewhere near his knees.
He looked down. "You fear for your mistress, mabari?
The warhound looked up - and up - and issued a single bark.
Sten's gaze returned to the hazy lake. "She travels into a tower filled with unchecked saarebas. She will most likely die quickly, and her sufferings will be over. Such an end is not to be feared."
Bane pulled his lips back from his teeth and growled deep in his throat. Then he turned his back on the qunari and pointedly relieved himself on a nearby tree as he walked toward their small campsite. Sten's brow furrowed as he watched the dog's departure. Then, as he made to return to the camp himself, he found his lip twitching in what very few people would consider a smile.
When Sten arrived at the campsite, he noted that the mabari appeared to be deliberately ignoring him. His lip twitched again. "Your loyalty to your mistress is admirable, Bane. I hope that she will prove me wrong." He saw Bane's muscular forelegs tense, as though he had almost begun to turn in Sten's direction, but had stopped himself. "Come, I believe she removed a few of those bone-shaped mabari rations from her pack before she left."
Bane turned and barked happily as the unspoken promise of snacks crumbled the last of his resistance.
A short time later, Sten heard a musical voice behind him call, "Sten, what are you doing?"
He turned towards the fiery-headed Chantry girl as Bane ran up to him and dropped a slobbery stick at his feet. "I am exercising the Warden's hound."
Leliana's grin almost split her face in half. "You were playing fetch!"
"I do not know this term. I am working on the beast's reflexes to better prepare him for battle. There is little else to do at the moment."
"As you say, Sten. As you say." Leliana's eyes sparkled with merriment.
Sten looked beyond the annoying woman, but saw no sign of the others. "What has happened? Are you the only survivor? I am surprised you would outlive them all."
"No one is dead, Sten. Yet." Leliana's smile faded. "One of the tower mages has joined the others to guide them through the tower and help fight the abominations. Her knowledge of magic and healing will benefit them far more than my archery and pickpocketing skills."
"No doubt. Why would this Circle mage want to help them? I can see the adder-tongued one having no qualms, but one would think this mage would object to slaughtering her brethren."
"They don't intend to slaughter them. Well, the abominations of course, but they hope to save as many innocents as they can."
Sten made an exasperated noise. "And I was just beginning to think only one of these Wardens is a fool."
Leliana bristled. "Melisande is no fool! She simply does not believe that someone deserves to die for what they might possibly do."
"Perhaps if they leashed their mages as we do, the events at hand would not have occurred."
"If they - what? Leashes? How could you - I..." Leliana shock sputtered into stunned silence.
"Parshaara. We will know soon who is correct."
Bane chuffed softly. Leliana looked down to find the mabari sitting on his haunches, stick in mouth. He placed the stick at her feet and cocked his head expectantly. Leliana's smile returned. "Of course, you sweet, smelly dear, I would love to play fetch with you." Bane barked happily and raced away.
As she walked away to find a clear spot, Sten muttered, "Not playing. Exercising..."
Chapter 2: Outside Redcliffe
While you were gathering your army to defeat the Blight, did you ever wonder what was going on back at camp when you weren't around?
BioWare created and owns the brilliant world of Dragon Age, and I'm grateful to be able to play in it...
Wynne stared into the campfire, her forgotten bowl of stew held loosely in her lap. Again, her mind flashed to the awful moment when she and the rest of the Warden's party entered the Harrowing chamber and witnessed Uldred torturing a fellow mage – Florian, an intelligent, soft-spoken man who had worked tirelessly to inventory their magical texts. Uldred's voice, once high-pitched and nasal, was now much deeper and carried a sickening melody.
Do you accept the gift that I offer?
They had been too late to save Florian. The pain had hammered away at his soul for too long, until he agreed to become an abomination if it would only stop. As she watched the horrible transformation, for a moment, or perhaps an eternity, Wynne was certain that she would share the poor young man's fate.
But then she felt the essence of the benevolent spirit that had saved her only hours before, and she knew that it would never permit such a thing, that the spirit would help her to help the Warden destroy Uldred and the rest of his foul creations. Then the pride demon within Uldred revealed itself, and she knew another eternal flash of terror before the spirit's quiet faith renewed her determination to annihilate this evil that had corrupted her home.
A snuffling noise brought Wynne back to the present with a start. She glanced to her right to find that her dinner had slid from her lap to the ground, and Bane had seized the opportunity for a second course.
Abruptly, the warhound tensed. He looked up, across the fire, and growled softly. Wynne followed his stare and jerked in shock. Another mabari sat there, resting calmly on its haunches. It was nearly identical to the one at her side – only this one had golden eyes.
Bane growled again, louder, and Wynne smiled and reached down to gently scratch his ears. "It's quite all right, Bane. I don't believe she means us any harm." She looked at the other dog. "Do you, young lady?"
She watched the process with fascination, though the transformation happened so quickly it was difficult to truly see. A blue haze of magic shimmered over the other warhound, then it winked out and the Wilder witch knelt in its place, her fingertips grazing the ground where the forelegs had been.
Morrigan looked amused. "'Tis remarkable how alike your expressions are, when you are not even of the same species."
Coolly Wynne replied, "As a fellow mage, I am very interested in your shapeshifting abilities, Morrigan. Though I was not aware that the mabari form was part of your repertoire."
"I see no reason for you to be familiar with my 'repertoire,' but in this case, you are correct. 'Tis a form I have only recently attempted and have yet to fully master." Morrigan rose fluidly to her feet and stretched languidly.
"I see. I must say, I'm surprised to see you making an effort to assume the shape of a – how did you put it – a filthy mongrel. One would think you considered yourself above assuming such a form."
Bane issued a single bark in agreement.
Wynne blinked in surprise as something entirely unexpected flitted across Morrigan's features – Maker bless me, was that... remorse?
I believe I may have been... harsh. I have observed Bane in battle – he is strong, ferocious, and absolutely without fear. Given our motley band's tendency to find ourselves fighting for our lives almost constantly, it seemed prudent to... expand my arsenal, as it were." Morrigan's nose wrinkled in distaste. "I have not, however, revised my opinion of the beast's hygiene. He is absolutely filthy!"
Bane whimpered sadly, then snorted as he inhaled a bit of stew. He then sneezed a good bit of the spilled meal onto the hem of Wynne's robes.
Wynne sighed. "I must agree with you on that point."
Morrigan's eyes narrowed. "And I must disagree with you on your earlier statement. Mages we both are, but you are certainly not my 'fellow.' I am not one of your cowed magical cattle. The thought of being walled up in that infernal tower of yours curdles my blood like month-old milk."
Wynne rose to her feet and met Morrigan glare for glare. "You saw what happened there, Morrigan. Can you not see the devastation that might have been wrought if the Templars had not been there to keep them contained?"
"Indeed I can. I can see the entire sorry mess never happening, as it was this Uldred's determination to break free of his Chantry oppressors that led to his foolish decision to seek demonic assistance in the first place!"
"And who is to say he would not have sought that power anyway? There is no way to know for certain. What we do know is that any mage can become an abomination, and we must –"
Morrigan's yellow eyes glinted. "Yes, we do know that. Don't we? How fortunate you joined with the Warden and left the tower, before they could discover your little secret."
Wynne's stomach dropped. "What do you –"
"Spare me your dissembling, old woman. I have an affinity for Spirit magic, and I can sense the being within you. I can feel your death being held at bay." Morrigan's brow quirked. "Do not fear, I've no intention of revealing your little friend. But do not presume to lecture me about abominations when you yourself are the next best thing to one."
"If you believe that, why not inform the Templars before we left the Circle?" Wynne asked.
"Because I am not one of your infernal Templars. Nor am I your mother, nor your nursemaid. 'Tis your choice to live with what you have become, and I will not gainsay it. If you become a threat to me, I will kill you. Otherwise, do as you please."
"I wonder that you speak of choice. Are you not here at your mother's behest, and not of your own volition?"
"I am here because the Blight must be stopped, and my skills are valuable. Do not speak of my mother, you know nothing of her."
"Perhaps not, but I do know that walls built of emotional manipulation can be just as confining as those built of stone."
Morrigan's lip curled in derision. "My, how incredibly profound. I suddenly desire to unburden myself of the sad story of my lonely childhood. Should we hug?"
"I doubt it." Wynne sighed. "I believe I will retire. I find myself without the energy to continue this conversation."
"Yes, fatigue can descend so quickly at your age," Morrigan smirked. "I believe it is my turn at watch." The blue haze enveloped Morrigan again, and an owl launched itself from the center of the glow and began to circle the camp.
On the outskirts of the camp, Sten spotted the owl overhead and returned to his bedroll. Too many mages. Not enough leashes.
Chapter 3: Near Haven
While you were gathering your army to defeat the Blight, did you ever wonder what was going on back at camp when you weren't around?
Shale watched the retreating backs of the two Wardens, the sister and the elder mage and heaved a mountainous sigh. Hearing the sound, Sten looked up from polishing his armor and locked gazes with Shale. "Are you unwell, golem?"
"I am a construct of stone animated by lyrium. I am neither well nor unwell."
"Of course. I have observed, however, that when the humans make a noise such as you did it is often followed by some sort of complaint."
Sten felt the barest tremor in the earth as Shale stepped towards him. "I spent a countless, interminable time rooted to the spot. Now I am finally free, and what am I doing? I am standing here and waiting some more. I was merely wishing that the Warden had chosen me to accompany it."
Sten grimaced. "For once, I am glad to remain behind. Our goal is to stop the Blight. I fail to see how locating a jar of burned-up dead woman will further our objective."
"Yes," replied Shale, "the Warden's reasoning escapes me as well."
Zevran smiled at the pair and gestured grandly as he crossed by them to his tent. "Politics, my large companions! We cannot hope to defeat the Blight with Teyrn Loghain attempting to thwart us at every turn. Our dear Warden knows that she is more likely to succeed at eliminating him politically than with strength of arms. In order to do that, she needs Arl Eamon. And to get Arl Eamon, she needs the burned-up dead woman." With a bow, Zevran backed into the tent.
Now it was Sten who sighed. "The darkspawn do not care for politics. They care only for corruption and death."
"I believe the painted elf has a point," Shale said. "I recall my former master speaking to his horrible little wife about Fereldan politics. It bored me silly and made me want to squish something, but it was apparent that politics can be quite effective at allowing nothing to be accomplished."
"You killed your former master, did you not?"
"It seems I did, though I do not remember actually doing it. Such a shame, really. I pictured myself crushing his annoying little head so many times, I'm sure the reality of it must have been incredibly satisfying."
"I do not remember murdering the family that took me in. I am uncertain whether to be angry or – grateful."
The space around Sten brightened almost imperceptibly as Shale's eyes widened. "Why would the qunari be grateful to be missing a memory? My own memory covers less than the swamp witch's sorry excuse for a tunic, and it is rather maddening."
Sten's gaze turned distant. "I slaughtered innocents in a blind panic. It is not an act I care to remember."
"Curious. It obviously regrets its actions. But how does it regret that which it cannot recall?"
"While I have no memory of the act itself, I do remember what followed. Standing amongst the bodies, waiting for the guard to arrive and arrest me. The bloodied child lying at my feet. I had already lost my soul, and now my honor as well. I regret anything that would lead me to such a state."
"I see. My dilemma is the opposite. What memories I have, prior to my period as statuary, are so few and disjointed that I cannot place them in any context. I do not regret actions I cannot remember, I regret that I cannot remember at all. It leaves me with no… foundation on which to build my future."
"Yes. I would feel the same, in your place. It seems that we both follow the Warden for the same reason."
"And that is?"
"Purpose. She gave me the opportunity to pursue mine, and she gives you the chance to find yours."
"I suppose it does." With a thump that shook the campsite, Shale lowered to a seated position next to Sten. "It may be able to assist me in that as well, qunari."
"Tell me more of this 'Qun' that you follow. I wish to learn more of a philosophy that produces those such as itself…."
Some time later, as the sun gave way to the horizon, Morrigan approached from her solitary campfire. "Since the two of you appear quite engrossed in your conversation, and the assassin is already abed, I shall take the first watch. I will inform you, Shale, when second watch approaches."
Shale fixed a level gaze on Morrigan. "I understand the swamp witch possesses the ability to magically mutate into various animal shapes?"
Morrigan threw her shoulders back in pride. "I do indeed. Why do you ask?"
"I only thought to advise the swamp witch not to assume the form of any winged creatures. Unless, of course, it wishes its flesh to be rendered into a lumpy paste."
Chapter 4: In the Shadow of the Frostback
While you were gathering your army to defeat the Blight, did you ever wonder what was going on back at camp when you weren't around?
Zevran looked across the campsite to the isolated corner where Morrigan had built her own fire. The Wilder witch stood rather closer to the blaze than Zevran would have been comfortable with – he preferred his extremities unsinged – but then he supposed that her magical control over the elements would enable her to stand even closer to the flames without injury, if she wished. Zev couldn't blame her, really; it was unpleasantly chilly here at the base of the mountain – Leliana had actually brought the mabari into her tent to help her stay warm.
Not that he would rather be inside the mountain. No, Zevran had been quite happy to be left behind for this particular mission. The thought of venturing into the underground dwarven kingdom was quite stifling. Just thinking about it made him want to take a deep breath. Several, in fact. However, when he tried, the chilled air made his throat clench in protest.
Again, Zevran's gaze strayed to Morrigan. She really was a striking beauty; he had a very creative list of things he would love to do with her lower lip alone. It was a pity that her personality was equally striking – in the manner of a cobra striking at a mouse. Ah, but you are no timid prey to be devoured, Zevran thought. And even if you were – what a way to go!
After all, there were far worse ways to try and keep warm. But this required some thinking first – his usual innuendo-laden banter was usually met with rejoinders dripping with scorn. A change of tactics was in order….
The damned assassin was looking at her again. One might actually find it flattering, Morrigan thought, if he did not gaze at everyone in the camp the same way. Even Sten, when the qunari isn't looking. Not that she didn't give Sten the occasional glance herself. Morrigan knew well the attractions of power, and the barely-contained strength in that muscular giant …. Cease this foolishness, she thought to herself, he has made his opinions quite plain. Even if he were interested, he would sooner bed the mabari than a mage.
Now, Zevran was a different story. There was power there, too, Morrigan had to admit – in his lean, athletic grace, and the keen intellect that he tried to hide behind his insouciant attitude. She had watched him closely at first, when Melisande had accepted his oath to serve her, waiting for the inevitable betrayal. But it had not occurred, and her suspicions had gradually given way to a grudging acceptance of his word.
Morrigan rubbed her arms vigorously. Even her magically enhanced fire was insufficient to fully ward off the cold in these accursed mountains. While she normally derived a wry pleasure at the discomfiture of those who disapproved of her clothing, she did sometimes wish that her top had sleeves.
Zevran could tell the moment she realized that he was approaching her campfire – the slight tensing in her shoulders, then deliberately relaxing as if preparing for battle. He crossed to her side, then seated himself next to her, but not so close as to put her further on her guard. "Did you get enough supper, my lovely wilder witch?"
Morrigan looked at him warily. "I did. And do not call me that."
"Call you what? Lovely? I could call you a hideous accursed maleficar, but that would be a shameful lie. My turn of phrase can be a truly dizzying dance at times, but the steps are always true."
"I have no wish to dance with you, elf."
"Yes, I have come to realize that you prefer plain, straightforward conversation. Which I am here to provide."
Morrigan eyebrows raised in disbelief. "Truly? Zevran, talking plainly? This I simply must hear. Speak what you will."
"Very well. I wish to share your tent this evening."
Morrigan stared. "Plain enough indeed. Why?"
Zevran met her level gaze. "Because it is quite cold and we will both be warmer if we can share our body heat. And because you are a beautiful woman that I find incredibly desirable. Although if you do not wish to have sex, I will settle for the warmth."
Crossing her arms, Morrigan snapped, "And what makes you think I would want to share my tent, or my body, with you?"
"As I said, it is very cold." Zevran gave her a slow, sensual smile. "And if you weren't interested, you would have crossed your arms over your exquisite bosom, not underneath in such a beautiful display."
Morrigan's eyes widened, then looked down as she bit her lower lip (oh, that lip!) in consternation. Zevran pressed his advantage. "Morrigan, whatever may happen between us tonight, I give you my oath that I will never speak of it to any of our companions. Or even to you, if you do not wish it. Just don't send me back to my tent to freeze my shapely Antivan ass off. What say you?"
Their eyes locked. After a few moments, Morrigan's lip twitched. "You have a point, Zevran. 'Tis cold, in my tent, all alone…."
When Alistair entered the camp the next morning, everyone was surprised to see that he was alone.
"Alistair!" called Leliana. "Where are the others?"
Alistair grimaced. "Things in Orzammar are… more complicated than we'd hoped."
Leliana let loose a peal of giggles. "No surprise there. When are things ever less complicated that we'd like?"
Zevran joined in her laughter. Sten lifted an eyebrow. "Very true."
Alistair shrugged. "Well, it looks as though we'll be here for a while, so I've gotten us a few rooms at the tavern in the common area. Let's start breaking camp, shall we?"
Bane barked enthusiastically and ran over to the bag of belongings that Melisande had left behind. Alistair smiled. "I'll help you with that, boy, don't worry."
"But Alistair," Leliana asked, "why did you come back alone?"
"It appears that our band of jolly misfits has acquired a new member. Oghren, I think his name was. Melisande is going into the Deep Roads to search for his wife, and he insisted on coming along. She sent me back to fetch you all before you freeze to death out here. I'll tell you all the whole story when we get to Tapsters." Alistair glanced around." Hey, where's Morrigan? She didn't decide to leave, did she? I might cry."
"She is still in her tent. I don't think she slept very well last night." Zevran kneeled down to dismantle his tent – and hide his smile.
Alistair walked to Morrigan's tent and shook one of the poles. "OY! Morrigan! I know you're in desperate need of beauty sleep, but we're breaking camp. Up and at 'em, sunshine!" He jogged back to the rest of the group as her voice split the air with curses. "Just, er, let me know if it looks like she's going to set me on fire, would you?"
Late that evening, Zevran entered the room he and Alistair were sharing and was surprised to find the Warden still awake. "Have you been waiting for me, my friend? This would be an excellent time to confess you've been harboring lusty wrong feelings for me."
Alistair spluttered, "No! I mean – yes, I've been waiting for you, but – there are no wrong feelings. Or right ones! No feelings, no feelings at all! Well, not about you, but – oh, sod it, what was I thinking, trying to talk to you…."
Surprised, Zevran held up a hand. "Calm down, my dear Warden. So you do wish to speak to me? Very well, here I am. What can I do for you?"
Alistair glared. "Well, to start with, you can try not to make any jokes."
"Ever again? That I cannot do. But for this conversation? I will do my best."
"Well, it's about Melisande." Alistair squirmed uncomfortably.
"Yes, yes, I has assumed as much. Do go on."
"Erm. All right. Well, you know she and I have been…."
"Keeping the camp awake at night with your exuberant lovemaking? Indeed, it is hardly a secret, to us or the surrounding wildlife."
"Damn it, I asked you not to make – wait, are we really that loud?"
Zevran chuckled. "Oh yes. If I might suggest, perhaps at your next engagement you could make a game of how quiet you can be, so the rest of us can sleep?"
Alistair carefully studied his boots. "Actually, suggestions were just the sort of thing I wanted to talk to you about."
Zevran's eyes lit up. "But, my dear Alistair! Did I not try to give you advice already? I believe your response was to plug your ears and sing to yourself until I desisted."
Exasperated, Alistair stood and began to pace the room. "Andraste's pretty pink pantaloons – we were in the middle of the Denerim market district, with Melis standing three feet away! Of course I didn't want to talk about it then…."
Zevran sighed dramatically, "Ah, you Fereldans – secretly whispering of your pleasures behind closed doors. Very well, you have your privacy now. What would you like to know? Do you have a journal? Perhaps you wish to take notes."
"Trust me, I think I'll remember this conversation."
"As you wish. As a favor to our companions, I will begin with the particulars of the 'quiet' game…."
Chapter 5: Within the Brecilian Forest
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
As Oghren mechanically stirred the contents of the stewpot, a lilting voice penetrated the miasma of his thoughts. "Oghren? Are you all right? You look a bit under the weather."
Oghren lifted unfocused eyes to the bard and grumbled, "You bet your shapely arse I'm under the sodding weather. I'm directly under it. How do you surfacers deal with," he waved aimlessly towards the sky, "all that going on over your heads every day?"
Leliana giggled, "We surfacers have been 'dealing with all that' since the day we were born, so we are quite accustomed to it. I am sure it will get easier for you soon."
Oghren set down the ladle and shifted uncomfortably on the fallen tree that was serving as a makeshift bench. "Eh, it's not so bad right now. All these trees overhead – they make a sort of ceiling. It almost blocks out that Ancestor-cursed sun."
"Ah, so this cloud you are under, it is more of the mind than of the weather, yes?" Leliana asked as she sat nearby him on the tree.
"Heh. Yeah, I guess you could say that, if you can call losing everything a sodding 'cloud,'" Oghren harrumphed.
"I am sorry. You are right, I am sure calling it 'a cloud' is quite the understatement," Leliana said as she smiled kindly at him.
Oghren knew she was trying to be nice, but somehow it just made him angrier. "And just what would you know about it, girlie? When was the last time you had to kill someone you loved, that was supposed to love you?" he asked, and took a hefty swig from his hip flask.
Leliana's smile wilted. "Not too long before we arrived in Orzammar, actually."
Oghren, taken aback, swallowed heavily and coughed as the brew burned its way down his throat. "Come again?"
"It is a long story. Let me just say that you are not the only one here that knows of betrayal and loss," she said as she plucked the flask from his hand, "but then again, neither am I." Leliana took a long pull from the flask, issued a single delicate cough, and handed it back.
Suddenly amused, Oghren slapped his knee and declared, "By the Stone, girlie! You sure know how to knock it back." He held it up and wiggled it. "Care for another?
Leliana's eyes widened. "Maker, no! That may be the vilest thing I've have ever tasted! What do they make it w – no, no, never mind, I do not want to know."
Oghren laughed, "Nah, you probably don't." Just as quickly as his mood had lifted, it fell again. "How do you cope with it, girlie?"
The kind smile returned, this time accompanied by distant eyes. "As soon as I figure it out, my friend, I will let you know."
"I'll hold ya to that. In the meantime, I'll stick with booze."
A growl from Bane drew their attention to the outskirts of the camp, where an unfamiliar figure approached. It was a young Dalish woman, clad in robes with a staff strapped to her back. She knelt and held a hand out to the mabari, and said gently, "I mean you no harm, noble beast."
Bane approached cautiously and sniffed the proffered hand, then sat on his haunches and issued a single bark of acceptance.
The elf smiled and rose to her feet. "Greetings. I am Lanaya, First of Keeper Zathrian. I have come to extend the hospitality of our clan. The forest is not safe for a small group such as yours."
Sten glowered, "What do you mean, 'not safe?'"
"There is a great danger in this land. Your Wardens have agreed to assist us, and our Keeper has granted the rest of you shelter while your comrades seek… the source of our troubles. Please, allow me to explain once we have returned to my clan. There is safety in numbers."
Zevran, who understood a bit more than the others the rarity of such an offer, stood and smiled. "We accept your hospitality, lovely Lanaya. Come, my friends, let us break camp. One should never keep such a beautiful woman waiting!" He winked saucily at Lanaya as Morrigan rolled her eyes.
As the group began to gather their belongings, a loud belch echoed through the trees. Morrigan snapped, "Control yourself, you disgusting little dwarf!"
Oghren shrugged. "Wasn't me, boobs-a-plenty. And you know me, if I'd shown it, I'd own it."
Leliana, wide-eyed, hid her grimace behind her hand and said, "Excuse moi, s'il vous plait." She then hissed at Oghren, "I told you that drink was vile…."
That evening, the entire group was able to spend a congenial evening around a well-built fire – even Melisande and her team, who had returned shortly before nightfall with a wounded hunter they had found in the forest. Upon hearing of the werewolves that were endangering the clan, everyone was relieved that Zevran had accepted Lanaya's offer of hospitality, and not at all surprised when he ended up retiring early – to Lanaya's aravel. And since no one in the party needed to sit watch, everyone awoke feeling more refreshed than they had in weeks.
Leliana was already awake and seated by the firepit when Melisande and Alistair emerged hand-in-hand from Melisande's tent. A wistful smile touched Leliana's lips at the sight of the two Wardens as they spoke quietly to one another, foreheads touching, before breaking apart to prepare to reenter the forest. Bending to rummage through the pack at her feet, Leliana withdrew her lute and began caressing the strings thoughtfully, her eyes dreamy as she silently committed phrases and stanzas to memory.
An hour later, after the Wardens had departed again with Wynne and (to Lanaya's disappointment) Zevran, Leliana's reverie was broken by a disdainful voice:
"No doubt you are composing an epic tune destined to live through the ages."
Leliana's gaze refocused to find that Morrigan had deposited herself by the firepit with her breakfast. She greeted the challenge in Morrigan's eyes with a wry chuckle. "That it will be epic, I have no doubt. Whether it lives through the ages, well, that is for others to decide, yes? But people always enjoy a grand tale of enduring love found amidst grave peril – perhaps it will last longer than you think."
Morrigan scoffed, "Enduring love? You are writing a fictional piece, then?"
Leliana frowned. "Certainly not. Do you not see the way Alistair and Melisande look at each other?"
"Indeed. Like they are pondering the most expedient method of removing each other's smallclothes."
Leliana giggled, "Well, they certainly do have that look often enough, but that is hardly all that lies between them. Where one is weak, the other is strong. They complement each other quite beautifully, I think."
"That would imply that Alistair has strengths, a point I am not willing to concede." Morrigan stood and began to pace restlessly. "Their relationship is foolhardy and Melisande would be wise to end it. I've no wish to see her hurt."
Leliana said gently, "Of course you don't, Morrigan. You love her."
Morrigan stopped dead and stared at Leliana as if a darkspawn had suddenly burst from her skull. "I… beg your pardon?"
"Oh, I don't mean romantically, of course. She is your friend. After the way Flemeth kept you isolated, she is probably the only friend you have ever had. So, you want to protect her. You do not want her to be hurt because it would hurt you, in turn."
Morrigan's eyes flashed – not with anger, but with fear. "Do not be absurd, you empty-headed chit. Love is a weakness. One that I cannot – and will not – suffer. Do you understand me?"
Leliana caught Morrigan's eyes with her own and held their gaze. "Yes, Morrigan. I understand. Perfectly."
Morrigan opened her mouth as if to speak, then snapped it shut again. Then she lowered herself down, next to Leliana, and trained her gaze on the firepit. "Not all of the Grey Warden's secrets have stayed within their ranks, Leliana. When the time comes…." Morrigan turned her face away.
Alarmed, Leliana laid a hand on Morrigan's arm. "When the time comes… what?"
Morrigan yanked her arm from Leliana's touch and rose again to her feet. "No. I cannot speak of it." A blue glow appeared at her fingertips. "And mark me, bard – you will not speak of it either, lest you find your tongue frozen in your mouth. You would do well to forget this conversation ever occurred." Morrigan marched into the trees until she was hidden from view. Moments later, a hawk launched itself into the air and began circling the camp.
Leliana shivered. "Not speak of it – certainly. Forget? I think not."
Aaaaand that's all I've got so far. Yes, I know, it's been over a year and a half, but I am going to finish this eventually, I swear! I had only planned for two or three more chapters anyway - outside the Landsmeet, back at Redcliffe, and after the archdemon's defeat - and then I got distracted by a couple of one shots, and then the dreaded Real Life bitch-slapped my muse and sent her into hiding. If anyone has suggestions on who or what they'd like to see, feel free to message me!