Chapter 1: singing the songs of angry elves
Mahariel despises her, Leliana knows.
It is not the absolute dismissal Mahariel has for Alistair, whom she doesn’t speak to, despite him being the sweetest, most awkwardly charming boy in the world. Nor is it the indifference she regards Morrigan with—we can coexist, you and I, but don’t expect me to acknowledge you, her demeanor reads.
It is not even the condescension with which she looks at the humans they meet on their travels. Her lip curls imperceptibly, but she manages an even enough tone and doesn’t make them feel (too much) that she considers them shit on her shoe.
Mahariel dislikes all humans on principle, but for Leliana, she reserves a special sort of spite.
She refuses to so much at look at her, but when Leliana speaks, she can feel the Warden’s hatred, pinning her down. With every word she says, she can feel the blade of the other woman’s loathing tracing her body and flaying her open.
“She’s just reserved,” Wynne says, after Leliana confides in her. “Our cultures are very different, after all, and she has very, very little reason to trust humans.”
“No, she despises me, and I do not know why.”
But, Leliana thinks, I will find out.
In the end, though, it is Mahariel herself who tells her.
“Why are you here?” the elf says bluntly, one dawn as they pack up camp.
“…I am folding my bedroll.”
“No,” Mahariel says, and Leliana can almost hear, stupid shem. “Why do you accompany us?”
Here it comes. Leliana takes a deep breath.
“I had a vision.”
“I know it sounds strange and, and crazy, but I…” Leliana trails off, and then gathers her courage again.
She lays it out as clearly and factually as she can, but she knows how fantastical it seems, even for people in the faith, which Mahariel is very vehemently not.
“—but everyone knew that rosebush was dead, and then it was alive,” she finishes. “And I cannot help but believe that the Maker sent me this dream to tell me to accompany you, be with you. Help you defeat the Blight.”
“This Maker,” and Leliana didn’t even know it was possible to insert so much disdain in a single word. “You say He loves us all?”
“The Chantry says He turned his back on us, but I believe He is in every part of nature. In the birds, in the trees, the sky,” Leliana says. She is fully aware that she sounds insane, but she lived on lies years ago and that is a life she swore to leave behind.
Mahariel puts away some clothes into her pack, her face in profile so that Leliana cannot read her expression. Still, she forges on.
“He is here and all He wants is for His people to believe in Him once again, for He never stopped loving us.”
Mahariel turns around, green eyes pinning her into place.
“And does He,” she says, enunciating every word, “steal the homeland of those who don’t?”
“Or is it perhaps,” and Mahariel stalks closer, “just the Orlesians who do that?”
Then she turns, sharp as a whipcrack, and Leliana knows that the thick brown braid that slaps her on the mouth was entirely intentional.
Chapter 2: if you're looking for love, you're in the wrong place
Lyna wakes screaming.
Alistair is up in a moment, reaching out to her in a vain attempt to soothe. But Leliana, just as instantly awake, gasps, “No, Alistair, don’t!” and he withdraws his hands, shrinking into himself.
Instead, he stands up and moves closer to the fire.
Lyna is shaking, eyes wide open and unseeing—she grabs at her hair, which is all a-tangle. Blindly, she takes out the leather tie and begins to braid it in her customary style.
“Nightmare?” he asks.
Her fingers slow, and she turns to look at him. He almost wishes she didn’t. The green eyes are cold as ever, cold as winter, and—he has prayed many times for her to just look at him, look at him and acknowledge his existence, but this is not the way he wanted her to look him in the eye. Never like this.
“Was it the Archdemon? I get them too, you know. It’s a Grey Warden thing, Duncan told me. It’s, uh, it’s part of what helps us sense them, it’s the, it’s in the Joining, you know, uh…”
He trails off, because Lyna has turned away again, finishing her braid and tying it off.
“Lyna?” he ventures.
“Don’t call me that,” she snaps. “If you must speak to me, call me Mahariel.”
It’s like she drenched him in ice water. He tries to save the moment, says in the most joking tone he can muster, “Wow, uh, ice-cold. That hurts, you know. I let you call me Alistair.”
“I could always call you Templar.”
“Oooh,” he fake-shivers, “anything but that,” despite his heart dropping to his feet.
“Fine. Go back to sleep, shem.”
Did he say his heart dropped to his feet? Right now it feels shattered underfoot.
She lies down on her bedroll, her back turned on him, and he drops his face into his hands.
When he looks up, Leliana is gazing at him.
Sorry, she mouths, and the pity in her eyes hurts him almost as much as Ly—Mahariel’s words did.
I know, he mouths back. Sleep is a long time in returning.