It seemed to be Morrigan’s lot, to be plagued by sly old women whose appearances were nothing if not deceiving.
The woman from the Tower was not Flemeth, but she was familiar to Morrigan in the few ways her and her mother were not dissimilar. She was powerful, and she was deceptive.
More than that -- and Morrigan’s instincts screamed the truth of this more than the rest down to her marrow -- Wynne was dangerous.
She could not tell the Warden these things, even if she had any real desire to warn her. They were birds of a feather, Morrigan knew, from the same gilded cage that was the Circle. The Warden was powerful, too; strength borne of destiny grander in design than any mortal who had come before, and most who would come after.
But Wynne? No, Morrigan did not know what ferried her, what wound its fingers with the force that thrummed beneath her skin. She only knew that she did not trust it, and that she was right not to.
Wynne would sit with her, for one, for hours at a time every other night they made camp, hands only unfurling from her lap to spurn the fire when Morrigan was too preoccupied to realise it had dimmed. Sometimes she would read, sometimes she would rest, but always she would be close, her robes fanned around her, her smile soft, her shoulders swooped.
“I know not your game, woman,” Morrigan snapped at last one night, stabbing at the embers of the campfire, “but you do not have me fooled.”
“No,” said Wynne, “I suppose I don’t.”
For no amount of prompting did she say anything else.
The Warden was hands, always hands, fingers hooking on Morrigan’s shoulder, knuckles brushing her arm, palms cupping elbows. She touched not in hunger but in confirmation, that whatever was beneath her reach was there and real.
Morrigan had learned not to jerk out from beneath it like a startled stray. She had learned to give thanks. She had learned to smile, even, if only for the Warden, whom the due was owed to, perhaps, in duty or-- friendship.
Morrigan did not give thanks to Wynne, who stoked her campfire, who brought her a share of the evening meal. She did not steady her skitters when their knees bumped, or their fingers grazed. She did smile for her, though she liked to think they were all knowing ones, wry pulls of her mouth that said she had not forgotten the tempest beneath the woman’s breastbone, the danger Morrigan tasted on the air around her. That she was not fooled.
When Wynne returned her smiles, though -- and she always did -- Morrigan became less and less assured that her expressions were telling the tales she wanted heard.
Morrigan had found the entire ordeal pathetic from the start, from the trek, to the cultists, to the spirit’s trials. To her, the most trying part of the whole excursion had been removing her clothes; now, she was bitingly irritable and ready to slit her arm over the urn herself if it meant leaving the ruins.
She told the Warden as much, to take what they needed and ruin the rest, and had hardly cared at all for the gravity of it until she had seen Wynne’s face.
Morrigan hadn’t heard her reply, only seen the curl of Wynne’s tongue and the contortion of her features beneath the surge of her fury. She felt the burn of a challenge lick up her back like struck tinder.
She took the stairs in strides, two, three at a time, lightning coiled in the basins of her palms. Bared her teeth like a beast, and revelled in the flash of triumph and titillation as Wynne degraded herself in turn, her eyes and staff aflame as she charged.
Morrigan didn’t know how the Warden got there first, but she did, the elf’s body wrenching them apart with the burst of her presence. Morrigan took a step back, then two more, her boots skidding on the stone. Wynne simply stilled.
The ashes remained intact.
Wynne avoided Morrigan for an age, and for as long as Morrigan remained dishonest with herself, the absence was not an agonising one.
No, Morrigan did not care. The Warden returned with Flemeth’s blood on her armour and her prized spellbooks in her pack and Morrigan only felt slighted that she could not be there to watch her mother’s blood run into the dirt. That she had been denied the very pleasure of plucking those books away herself.
Her’s was the last laugh, and theirs the better world without Flemeth in it.
No, Morrigan did not care. Not when the Warden squeezed her shoulder so tightly her nails marked the flesh. Not when Alistair nearly bit through his own tongue in the rush to afford her some ridiculous peace for her supposed grief. Not when she heard Wynne’s scuffing footsteps, much later, when the moon was high and the fires were out and Morrigan was not sleeping.
“I am sorry,” Wynne said, with an honest sadness that made Morrigan want to laugh. Whatever was she sad for? The Ashes? For killing Flemeth? For being a righteous wretch that had burrowed under Morrigan’s skin and taken root? The laugh she wanted ripped up from the depths of her chest, at that very last thought, cut short when Wynne’s hand cupped around her mouth to muffle the shriek of it in the night. Morrigan snarled out a breath of protest against her palm, but felt the wisp of fight die out as quickly as it had tried to come to boil.
“You do not have me fooled,” Morrigan hissed when the gag of Wynne's hand fell away, nearly choking on it, throat tight.
“I know,” said Wynne. Morrigan felt one of her hands come to rest on her hip, the other fanning between her shoulderblades.
She did not need to care to be comforted, and so, she did not shy from Wynne’s hands, and she did not count the minutes that passed in the embrace, and she did not question the press of lips to her cheek before they parted.
It was knowledge Morrigan had never sought, when she had first stolen Wynne's secret for her own mirth. It was knowledge Morrigan resented having.
She had never imagined seeing Wynne again. Morrigan had never imagined being seen again.
“I suppose it is so,” Wynne said.
"You found me," Morrigan accused, equal parts rash and harsh.
Wynne spoke so swiftly in turn that it felt more like a recital than a reply. "You must have sorely wanted me to, then, given I wasn't looking at all."
She smiled warmly. Morrigan's traitorous tongue clicked wetly in her mouth, and for all her trying, would not work itself around a retort.
Wynne held out her hand after a heartbeat of a pause, unhurried, the heavy weight of it brought to bear in the gap between their bodies. It looked as sure as a snare in wait to be sprung.
Morrigan, for lack of anything else she desired to do, stripped herself bare of hesitation and took what was offered. In the silence that answered her choice, she brought herself to Wynne's side, laced their fingers, and squeezed.
For one moment, one glorious and grave moment, as a reckoning rose around them, Wynne squeezed back, and Morrigan was whole.