Getting from Salle to Denerim in a hurry is difficult. The caravel Zevran picks is miniscule, and the captain has to be charmed into taking a passenger on board. Its hold is cramped, damp, and dark, filled nearly to bursting with barrels of wine and crates of porcelains. But Zevran had grown up in a Crow rookery, twenty slave and beggar children all packed in narrow bunks lining a single unwashed room. When the wind blew from the west, it stank of dog shit. When it blew from the east, it reeked of rotting fish. When there was no wind, the children marinated in their own stench, and those were the worst days of all. A slightly mildewed hold is nothing in comparison. So he makes himself comfortable on a sack of hardtack instead and stares into the distance as the ship pulls out of the harbor.
Taliesen must be waking up by now, back in the market-district room they’d found for their last job. It will take him perhaps an hour to notice something is off, and another half-hour to find the note pinned to the rickety table by a mug, so the ship will be long out of sight by the time he reaches the docks. He was never a morning person, and these ships leave so very early - particularly when they are well-paid to do so. It was more than Zevran could afford, truth be told. He had little enough to his name as things were, and the Crows were taking the entire contract down to the last maravedí. A glory bid, some would call it. The only payment the assassin could claim was the status of having made the kill. And a pair of Grey Wardens were a very unique mark. So it was not such a bad trade, as these things went. Besides, he would not need much in the way of coin where he was going. There are not many brothels at the Maker’s side, he imagines, and more’s the pity.
Perhaps he should have listened to Taliesen and stayed in Antiva. Or taken him up on his offer of aid. The Wardens are fearsome. Even a child knows their reputation. Fearless champions, slayers of darkspawn, warriors without peer. It would not make much of a difference for them to fight one Crow or two. Yet even now, he cannot bring himself to wish Taliesen dead, not truly.
Taliesen had been the one to cover for his apathy, signing Zevran’s name next to his own on every mission as if he had done anything more than keep watch. Taliesen had brought him food from the markets when he couldn’t find the will to leave whatever dismal inn their latest mission had brought them to and kissed him like it could drive away all the shadows on their hearts. Yet every time Taliesen had touched him, all he could remember was Rinna’s blood on his hands, her lifeless staring eyes, her body disappearing into the canal with barely a sound. Zevran had kissed back anyways. Taliesen had needed to forget as much as he thought Zev did.
Sometimes, when it’s quiet, he still thinks he can hear Rinna calling his name in the distance. Laughing, teasing, begging, pleading. Zevran knows it’s all just his head playing tricks on him. He looks every time. Like the idiot he is.
What would Rinna say if she could see him like this? He can almost see her, perched on one of the sailor’s empty hammocks. No, hanging from it with her head down, far too close to falling and breaking hundreds of andris in valuable merchandise along with her neck, strong legs twined in the cloth to keep her balance, her dark curls nearly brushing the floor. She’d never slip. In his mind’s eye, her grin is dazzling. You’re such a mess, Zev. Did you fall off a bridge again, Zev? Get up, Zev.
Zevran gets up.
There isn’t a lot to do in three and a half days on a small boat, even with his best efforts. He stakes out his corner near the galley, amongst the dry beans and bread. He sharpens his rapier. Then his daggers, all five of them. Twice. He paces the length of the hold. He eats, a little. He sleeps, rather more than he should. There is no Rinna or Taliesen here to wake him, and he can’t see the point of it in any case. He combs the tangles out of his hair, and braids it into something slightly more presentable.
On the second day, a mouse bites Zevran on the finger while he’s dozing. Out of retaliation and boredom, he hunts down three more, staking out a mouse hole with a bit of bread on a string, a dagger poised to strike, and more energy than he’s felt in months. The ship has a cat, it turns out, a tabby mongrel who presents him the uneaten half of a fourth mouse and bats around the corpses of his kills.
The ship docks at Estwatch to resupply. He doesn’t get off.
On the third day, Rinna’s voice dogs him until he finally climbs up the ladder to the deck. The noonday sun is blindingly bright, and warmer than he expected. The salty wind is bracing. He can almost see a hint of land to the south. Ferelden. Land of barbarians, and, apparently, of renegade Grey Wardens in need of killing.
What is he doing? A wave of nausea hits. Zevran almost wants to throw up on the splintery deck, and makes his way over to the side of the boat in anticipation. The ocean is bright blue and sparkling. It looks almost tempting. But no. Maybe when they were still in Salle, but it is a little late to jump off the side and start swimming back now. He grips the railing and wills his hands to stop shaking.
All he needs to do is find the Wardens. Even just one of them would be his match. But how? The contract hadn’t been any more specific to their location than “Ferelden”. Tracking down just two people in the entire blasted country? He needs a plan. He should have been planning this entire time, not sleeping the last days of his life away. Wardens are not mice, to be baited out of hiding with crumbs and twine. But of course he doesn’t have one. That was always Rinna’s part. He was just the pretty face, a charming voice, sneaking in through the paths she set and playing on the vulnerabilities she saw. He doesn’t know how to do this.
Still smarter than both you men put together, even rotting ten feet deep in a canal.
Zevran sees her sinking under the waves. For a single terrible moment, he imagines what it would be like to follow.
No. He pulls away from the side like he’s been burned and makes his way back down to the hold. He has a job to do. One last mission so he can die with honor. Find the Wardens, and all of this will be over.