Rhodri walked through the streets, wide-eyed, trying to stand his ground against the people who pushed and jostled him from all sides. He didn't think he would ever feel comfortable in a city. Where was the space, where were the trees? Why were all the buildings so tall? And the noise! “Fine Dwarven crafts, fresh from Orzammar!” “You're it!” “Adela, come back here this instant!” “Thief!” “Healing potions, get your healing potions here!”
He ducked into a side street, unsure whether it was the one he sought, but knowing he had to get away from the crush, if only for a moment. As the crowds thinned, he took a minute to breathe again and regain his bearings. His gaze came to rest on a sign bearing a golden amulet, and he smiled. It seemed he had chosen the right road after all.
A bell tinkled as he stepped through the door of the shop, and a small, wiry man hurried out of a back room to stand behind the counter. He looked Rhodri up and down.
“Can I help you?” he asked, the twist of his mouth suggesting that he very much doubted he could, while his hand rested on the dagger at his belt. Rhodri suppressed a sigh. It was true that the Dalish had made unfair assumptions about humans, he was willing to admit that now. But there were clearly just as many false beliefs on the other side.
“I hope so,” he said in answer to the man's question. He removed the earring from his pack and placed it on the counter.
“Hmm.” The jeweller picked up the earring and held it up to his eyes. “A beautiful piece. Very fine craftsmanship,” he murmured as he examined the rubies embedded in the gold. “I have a few customers who would pay a great many sovereigns for this.” He glanced at Rhodri again, his eyes narrowing. “How did you acquire it?”
“It was a gift,” Rhodri replied, unable to keep the defensive note out of his voice. “And I don't want to sell it. But I can't wear it at the moment.”
“I see.” The jeweller gazed at him a while longer as if trying to decide whether to believe him. Finally, he shrugged. “Five silvers.”
Rhodri handed over the coins and watched apprehensively while the jeweller picked out a needle and held it over the fireplace. He gritted his teeth as the needle touched his ear, but it was just a tiny pinprick. Nothing compared to what he had faced over the last year. He unfastened the clasp on the earring, his hands shaking a little with excitement, and passed it through the new hole in his earlobe. There was a small mirror on the wall, and he examined his reflection eagerly. The gold ring twinkled in the light from the fire, and he noticed with delight that the rubies matched his hair almost perfectly. He thanked the jeweller enthusiastically and left the shop.
He would have run back to the Arl's estate if he could, but he had little energy these days so he kept to a leisurely walk. He found Zevran in the courtyard, sharpening his daggers, and decided to try to sneak up on him. The assassin didn't turn around as he crept forward, and he threw his hands over his lover's eyes with a triumphant laugh.
“My Red Wolf is feeling playful today, it seems,” Zevran remarked.
“Maybe a little. Turn around. I have something to show you.”
Zevran did as he asked, and Rhodri brushed back his hair, grinning slightly as he revealed the earring.
There was a long pause.
“You don't like it,” Rhodri surmised.
“No,” Zevran said quickly. “I do like it. It... suits you very well.”
His voice was cold, flat, empty. Rhodri looked into his eyes, hoping for answers, but Zevran's face was a closed book. “Is something wrong?”
“I do not wish to talk about it.”
Rhodri could feel his happiness ebbing away with every word, but made one final, desperate attempt to break through the walls that Zevran had suddenly put up.
“Well, if you don't want to talk,” he began, forcing a smile and reaching for Zevran's hand, “I'm sure there are other things we could–”
“No,” Zevran interrupted, his expression still unreadable. “I... no. I mean no offence, I simply... no.”
“Zev?” Rhodri heard the pleading note that had entered his voice and hated it, but he couldn't help himself. “Please? What is the matter?”
“Enough!” Zevran exclaimed. “I said I am not interested. Can you not understand that? There are other things for you to focus on besides me, I am certain. Do those.”
Rhodri shrank from his lover's angry words. Fool, he berated himself as he walked inside. You drove him away. It was the only explanation he could think of. He had tried to make their relationship into something more than it was, and now he had ruined everything.
His legs felt leaden as he climbed the stairs to his room. Suddenly, his whole body was flooded with weakness, and he clutched the banister for support, the staircase swimming before his eyes. No, he thought desperately as he fell to his knees. Not here.
The darkness was almost upon him now, but he was vaguely aware of running footsteps. “Fetch Wynne!” someone commanded. “Where's Zevran?” someone else asked. Not Zevran, he tried to reply. He doesn't care for me anymore.
Did he ever? The new thought caught him off guard and buried itself in his heart like an arrow shot from the shadows. The darkness closed in further until slowly, painfully he gave up the fight and let it carry him away.