Maker, grant me the strength of thine heart. A foolhardy request.
Maker, give me the peace of thine presence. A pointless petition.
Maker, give me...by the Flames, just send me a sign! A love-starved plea.
Morning and night, Leliana fed the Maker’s gluttonous ears with words of desperate supplication, not for her own satisfaction but for the safety of her soulmate. The Chantry taught her not to wish for selfish pursuits, but only to pray for the improvement of another. The purity of her appeal would win the wayward devotion of the Maker, this formulaic faith a miraculous cure-all to her quiet sufferings.
Yet no hushed desire or whispered plea had turned the Maker’s gaze towards her. No matter how much she begged on bended knee before Him, she received no answer to her prayer. Her Warden remained missing, her intercession unrequited. Groveling had given her naught but chafed knees and a calloused heart.
If the Maker refuses to save me, Leliana vowed, then I will be my own Messiah.
One by one, the birds disappeared from Skyhold’s rookery and dispersed into the a world without silent statues and muted gods. Each returned with a letter in clasped talons, a chance at resolution. Yet each missive only amplified her frustrations.
Soon, scouts - human and animal - scoured the coasts of Fereldan, eavesdropped on every murmured rumor in Orlais, infiltrated Tevinter, invaded Nevarra, climbed the slave-crafted cage of Kirkwall, assimilated into Antiva unnoticed. All set out with an assurance of answers, and returned with only empty promises. The whereabouts of her beloved remained ambiguous at best.
Having reached the end of mortal capability, Leliana surrendered the matter to eternal aptitude instead. One last time. One last prayer. One last chance for the Maker to prove Himself true.
Leliana bowed before the makeshift shrine of the Maker. The visage of Andraste mocked her from within, arms wide open but ears closed to her requests. Leliana glanced once, twice, about the Rookery - a habit she had not broken. No one dared interfere with her. For now. With a sigh, be it of relief or frustration, not even she herself knew, Leliana communed with the Maker. And in doing so, opened her to heart to disappointment, only to find it spilling out too soon for her to stop it from escaping.
“I am here, Maker. Again. But I suppose you know that. You watch me, don’t you? You watch me suffer. We are both watchers, I suppose. We watch the world burn before us and send our messengers to do our dirty work. Yet at least I am willing to speak to my servants. You will not even listen to me.”
“You failed Justinia at the conclave. You failed Thedas then, too. But You failed me most of all. My faith has dwindled, Father. I do not know whether it is worth rekindling if You only intend to snuff it out once I burn too brightly for Your liking. But I will give You one last chance to show Yourself.”
“Give me a sign, Maker. A word, a rumor, a lie - anything to prove You hear me! Anything to prove my Warden still lives...”
And then the raven came.
Leliana need not even look behind her to recognize the sound. The fluttering of ravens had become a comfort to her, despite the dark words their wings carried more often than not. Like children, even their most troublesome antics made her smile, so long as they returned home to nest.
“Ah, so you have returned,” the Raven Mother remarked without turning round. She rose from her penitent position to assess the merit of this supposed sign. The ceremonial ashes still clung to her chainmail, the last signs of Andraste remaining despite her rebellion. “What word do you bring me?”
“One of advice,” her messenger responded with a voice that shot like lightning through Leliana’s veins. “’Twould be most unwise to leave yourself open for uninvited guests. Were I you, I would lock my heart - and my windows.”
Leliana need not lay eyes on the speaker to see her in her mind’s eye. A set of predatory eyes that gorged on fear, a pair of lean legs that swayed with the seductive confidence of a Desire demon, a mane of dark locks to crown the untamed queen of the Wilds.
When Leliana turned at last, she discovered Morrigan perched atop the windowsill. Still half an animal in her movements, she plucked a single feather from her side with the grace of a swan and the strength of an eagle. One swift flick of her wrist and the feather fell discarded beyond the window’s ledge. All these wasted years had not stolen the enchanting allure of youth from her features, but she bore the haunting weight of those who had endured the unforgivable heists of life all the same.
Leliana loathed her all the more for it. How had the Maker not taken even that from Morrigan, but withdrawn all from Leliana instead? It isn’t fair.
“You disappear for a decade,” Leliana started, swallowing the ice that attempts to sharpen her tone, “yet you return only to mock me?”
“Not quite.” The corner of Morrigan’s lip slithered upwards ever so slightly. “Although I do not mind the mockery.”
“Enough games!” The intensity of Leliana’s tone stunned Morrigan for but a moment before she recovered her composure. Morrigan knew only the stupid girl stumbling about Lothering, singing of pretty shoes and fanciful dreams. That Leliana had laid herself to rest long ago. Morrigan would not recognize her now. “You have had ten years to play. Speak truly with me, Morrigan: why have you come here?”
“Because you and I share a particularly insatiable appetite.” Morrigan rose from her resting place. She’s taller still, Leliana realized, but I am intimidated no longer. Her heels clicked like newly-picked locks against Skyhold’s stone floors. “A hunger for answers. Answers we cannot, despite our best efforts, discover on our own.”
One last click of Morrigan’s heels and her meaning clicked in Leliana’s mind. “You would search for the Warden?”
“I would,” Morrigan confirmed, “had I not already done so. To no avail, of course. Our dear Warden does know how to disappear when she wants to.” The admission twisted Morrigan’s sneer into a snarl. “My travels have taken me through Thedas and beyond, but still she eludes me.”
It is then Leliana understood: Morrigan has lost the Warden, lost the world’s savior. You never did like to lose, she thought, but neither do I.
“For what purpose do you search for her? Do you intend to leave her all over again?” Leliana knows the words sting, sees the aftershock of toxin spreading across Morrigan’s paling flesh, but she does not retract her scorn. Morrigan’s personal poison had tainted their adventures together, once upon a blighted time. Morrigan had yet to taste of Leliana’s venom, but now she would either swallow it or choke on her own malice.
“I search for her because the world requires a hero,” Morrigan said. Her gaze glazes over, a temporary memory painting over her vision with shame, before it is stowed away with the other unspoken traumas.
Leliana knew that look. Leliana lived that look. I have lost my hero, too.
“As for my leaving,” Morrigan continued before Leliana could interrupt, “I fulfilled what I set out to do. My purpose accomplished, I left. She knew it would come, one day, whether she wanted to admit it or not.”
Leliana scoffed. “Is that what you tell yourself so as not to feel ashamed?”
“No,” Morrigan barked back, teeth bared. For a moment, Leliana feared she might bite. But no. For all her superficial arrogance, Morrigan would rather run than confront. That fact Leliana remembered well. That truth had driven them to this moment, as Morrigan’s rage gave in to guilt. “No...but it is what I told her.”
“You made a promise, Morrigan.”
“I promised her my power, but never my presence. With the ritual done - by Alistair, might I remind you, not her - our contract came to a close.”
“And what of your friendship, Morrigan?” Leliana’s outcry rattled the raven’s cages above, stirring them from their slumber. She searched deep within Morrigan’s eyes for a lingering trace of remorse, but the witch denied her entry. “Did she mean nothing to you!?”
Morrigan retreated. Leliana knew her words had struck a chord within her, that she had drawn the strings so tight they might just snap if Morrigan were to play one more dissonant note.
Morrigan nibbled her bottom lip, her form no more than the frightened girl caught glimpsing into a golden mirror. “’Tis irrelevant. Whether or not I thought her important, it would not have changed the part I had to play.”
“Maybe so,” Leliana acquiesced. “But you changed the part she played. Because of you, she lives to tell the tale: of a hero, of a dragon, and of the witch that saved the world.” An unexpected kindness to lure the enemy in, she thought, and a cutting truth to slice through a lowered guard. “Had you not left, you would have seen how important you were to history...and to her.”
Morrigan turned without a word. She balanced her arms against the railing of the Rookery, overlooking the goings on below them. One finger raised to rub her temple, but Leliana swore she spied a teardrop dripping from its tip.
“...I take it you have not found her either, then?”
"Afraid not.” Leliana shrugged before leaning on the rail beside her. “We kept in touch, for a time. Her last letter to me mentioned a new mission, one even my ravens cannot seem to follow.”
“Then perhaps,” Morrigan said, with the suggestion of a smirk on painted lips, “you need something bigger than a bird.”
Leliana raised an eyebrow. “What do you suggest?”
Morrigan drummed her fingers against the railing in thought. From this distance, Leliana could feel the surge of magic that stirred in anticipation of the coming proposal. Each tap of flesh against metal brought with it a pulse of unseen excitement. “An alliance,” Morrigan offered, “or at least a truce. For now.”
“And what would this alliance benefit the Inquisition?”
“This is not about your precious Inquisition,” Morrigan hissed. “It is about our Warden, and those of us who care enough to find her.” She sighed then, a hand raising to tuck a stray strand of hair back into its proper place. “But, if you insist, I suppose I might offer my services to your Inquisitor. I believe she may find herself in need of my...expertise soon.”
Leliana could only imagine what that meant. So many secrets.
“But, in return, you must offer me shelter.”
A laugh threatened to bubble out of Leliana’s mouth. Morrigan must never have bargained before, or else she be a terrible merchant. “If that is all you require, you could have simply asked.”
“Not for me,” Morrigan corrected. Her hand drifted to her stomach, fingers tracing gentle circles on her skin. “...for my son.”
A joke. A jest, surely. Morrigan, with child? Whose? When? How? Ten thousand questions surfaced in her mind, then, each incalculable, and even more unspeakable. She understood how Morrigan worked - questions did not come free, and she did not wish to waste her bargaining chip on what she could discover for herself elsewhere. For now, a promise would suffice. “He will have a home here - and someone to watch over him from the shadows.”
Should Morrigan ever have known gratitude, it shone through her eyes then. “Thank you,” she whispered, the suggestion of a smile manifesting for but a moment. “Then your Inquisitor will have an advisor, my son will have a home, and you will have wings better than that of any raven or dull-witted scout.”
Leliana nodded. “And when this is all over, I am to expect you will leave once again?”
“Perhaps,” Morrigan shrugged off the intended insult. “Only this time, I will return: with the one who has left us both.”
Leliana relaxed, her back leaning lazily against the guard rail, arms folded across her chest. “As mysterious as ever, I see.”
“And you are just as suspicious.” Morrigan could not help but roll her eyes.
“The Inquisition has taught me a great many things, Morrigan. More than maybe even the Chantry ever could.” The words came without thinking, but she could not deny their truth.
As if on cue, the Inquisitor strode through the lower quarters, Solas and Dorian hot on her heels. The weightless giggle of a girl unfettered by destiny’s endless burdens floated through the chamber to meet Morrigan and Leliana up above.
“When life would force me to hate, to steal, to begrudge, the Inquisitor challenged me to love, to provide, to forgive. I have watched her struggle with grief, deal with death. But above all else, I have watched her judge the most treacherous of men, only to find them worthy of a second chance.”
A snorted response. “How eerily familiar.”
“I thought so, too.” Leliana hummed with laughter. “If I am to follow in her footsteps, then perhaps it is time I forgive old grievances, too.”
“I did not ask for forgiveness.”
“I know,” Leliana said, “but you wanted it.” Her hand clasped an exposed shoulder. To their mutual surprise, Morrigan did not shrug it off, shove it away, nor place a hex upon it. Her flesh quivered at the contact, but no reaction surfaced otherwise. “And now I would ask it of you.”
Morrigan surveyed her, eyes narrowed. Scathing, scanning. “For what?”
“For failing to understand that I was not the only one hurt.”
Morrigan mulled over her words. Yet even as she spoke, her stare never softened. “Consent to this alliance and I will...consider it.”
Leliana removed her hand, folding both in a neat pile atop the railing to appear professional. “I will bring it before the Inquisitor, but I make no promise that she will agree.”
“Let us hope you are more persuasive than she is merciful”. Free at last of Leliana’s grasp, Morrigan fled to the window. One foot already atop the sill, she cast one last, long glance in Leliana’s directions. “Until then, I have my own matters to attend to. Best not keep me waiting for long.”
“Don’t worry,” Leliana assured her. “You won’t wait half as long for me as I had for you.”
A laugh sprung up from deep within Morrigan, rising from her throat and releasing from her mouth. The mirthful cry morphed into a caw as her features donned feathers, fingers curling into claws, and the raven flew out from her temporary nest.
Leliana followed her trail until she disappeared once more where none could follow her. When she could not longer discern the blackened coat from the graying clouds, Leliana wondered whether their reunion had been but a trick of the mind, a demon in disguise come to tempt her volatile reverence for the Maker.
As she dwelt on this thought, a single black feather fluttered down from the skies and towards the open windowsill. Leliana lunged forth from the window, hand outstretched to catch the memento before it evaded her grasp. She drew the feather to her chest. A sign, she realized, a sign to prove what you believed was true.
It was then that Leliana returned to the Maker’s shrine, prostrate before the Bride. Prayers of repentance poured freely from her lips, but the feather never left her clutches. In the midst of maddened gratitude, one sole phrase remained constant:
“Thank you, Maker, deliverer of the desperate.”
They say that the Maker works in mysterious ways. Perhaps a prayer could be answered, even if only in a form so completely unexpected - and even, at first, unwanted. For Leliana, the way ahead still seemed dimmed by uncertainty. But for now, her hunger had been sated, although her questions remain unanswered. The Maker had responded to at least one request:
The Maker had given her a sign - the Maker had given her Morrigan.