Leliana had changed a lot since the last time Zevran had seen her, at the Hero of Ferelden’s celebration and wedding to King Alistair. The Hero’s companions mostly parted ways after that, with Leliana returning to Orlais and Zevran once again on the run from the Crows.
Zevran could have stayed in Denerim. The Hero and her beloved had offered him protection from the Crows, but he politely turned down the offer. He hadn’t wanted to burden the new King with his personal troubles. He’d lived up to his end of the bargain with the Hero and he had felt that it time to move on.
Unfortunately Zevran hadn’t thought how long he’d be running from the Crows at the time. There had been times he’d regretted not staying in Denerim. Alistair had offered to hire him to help train new soldiers to replace those lost during the Battle of Denerim. He could have been safe, protected and well paid.
However, if he’d stayed he may have never met Fenris or Dorian. His heart thrilled at the memory of their time spent together aboard Isabella’s ship on their voyage back to Minrathous, but then it quickly broke again when he remembered that it was, at least in part, his fault for the death of Dorian’s mother.
Inevitably whenever he allowed himself to relax, to take comfort, to enjoy someone’s company for a time, either they or someone close to them would die. All because he dared to fail a mission and leave the Crows. All because he dared to be free.
Zevran’s instinct was to run. Run fast and far and leave Fenris and Dorian behind before anyone else got hurt, or killed. However, he was so very tired of running, and he knew if he did he’d hurt Fenris and Dorian immeasurably as well. They might even try to come after him, putting themselves in even more risk. Zevran felt … trapped.
Having Leliana back in his life was also rather odd. They had never been lovers, but they had flirted with each other openly during the Fifth Blight. They were both a couple of roguish flirts and they slipped into their old banter as easily as slipping on an old pair of favorite boots.
Now that Leliana was the Divine, she commanded power and influence all over Thedas…well everywhere except in Tevinter, where she had to remain disguised. If the Tevinter Chantry ever got wind of her in Tevinter, they would try to capture her and drag her before the Black Divine here in Tevinter. She had no doubt the Black Divine would love to force her to show devotion to him and to end the schism between the two Chantries by putting the Black Divine in power over both.
In Tevinter Leliana and her agents had to be more cautious, but her influence in Antiva would prove very useful if she had meant what she said about a Holy War against the Crows. Not an Exalted March – that would be too much and the Crows would see it coming. No … with the Crows they would have to be much more subtle, and subtlety was Leliana’s specialty.
As trapped as Zevran felt, he still allowed himself a small flutter of hope. To finally be able to rid himself of the Crows, to be able to stop running…the thought alone made his breath catch in his throat.
However, the most pressing thing was to first rescue Dorian’s father. They didn’t have much time to plan, but thankfully one of Leliana’s agents in the Crows ranks was keeping an eye on the elder Pavus, making sure he was not unduly harmed. The agent had instructions, if it became necessary, to give Halward Pavus a quick, clean death if time ran out and the Crows decided to use torture. Zevran prayed to the Maker that it wouldn’t have to come to that. It pained him enough to know that Dorian had lost his mother because of him. He didn’t want Dorian to lose his father as well.
They had gone around and around in the past hour as to the best course of action, but in the end it seemed that Zevran’s idea of self-sacrifice was actually the best approach…with a few changes suggested by Leliana.
They headed out to where Halward Pavus was being held and took up their positions. At the appointed deadline, Zevran would seemingly give himself up to the Crows.
The hour struck and Zevran took a deep, shuddering breath and came out from his place of concealment, walking dejectedly towards the Crow hideout, completely unarmed. If things went according to plan, he wouldn’t remain so for long.
“I am Zevran Aranai and I surrender myself to the Crows in exchange for Halward Pavus’ life,” Zevran said quietly to the guards outside. They immediately forced him to his knees, bound and gagged him before dragging him inside, leaving the front door temporarily unguarded.
“Fools,” Leliana breathed “they are getting soft. No wonder Zevran keeps one-step ahead of them.”
Leliana, Fenris, Dorian, and several of Leliana’s Tevinter agents quickly slipped from the shadows and slipped inside the building. Leliana knew the interior layout of the building from a crude map her agents within the Crows managed to get to her.
The interior was laid out much like a maze, with corridors that twisted and turned, designed to confuse those not familiar with the layout. Unwitting infiltrators always were found and killed long before they ever reached their intended target, becoming hopelessly lost. The Crows seemed confident that this was enough of a deterrent and that explained the almost complete lack of of patrols and guards they encountered. The few they did come across were quickly dispatched.
When they finally reached the chamber where Halward was being held, and possibly where Zevran had been taken, if they got lucky, Dorian and Fenris were to stay in the hall until Leliana and a couple of her rogue agents could stealth into the room and assess the situation. Leliana had instructed them on various signals she could use after she’d assessed the situation, and she insisted they swear to follow whatever the signal she gave instructed.
If the signal was the call of an owl, they were to come into the chamber and help dispatch the remainder of the Crows. If instead it was the call of a wren, they were to remain outside, dispatching any Crows that may try to flee. Finally, if they heard the call of a Raven, then all was lost and they were to run and try to escape.
Dorian and Fenris dreaded hearing the call of the Raven and hoped that signal wouldn’t be given. They waited in the hall with baited breath as Leliana and her rogues disappeared into the chamber. Dorian’s hand found Fenris’, intertwining his fingers with the elf’s, and giving a comforting squeeze.
Leliana could hear the Crow master, and the crack of his whip, before she saw him, as she slowly slinked her way around the chamber, fully cloaked in stealth. Zevran was on his knees, still bound but no longer gagged, and stripped bare. His back was already bloody from the lashes he’d received.
“You will be made an example of Zevran Aranai,” the Crow Master sneered. “After I am through with you, no Crow will ever dare try to leave our organization again.”
Zevran didn’t cry out as the whip struck him again. He had been trained not to and he wouldn’t give the Crow Master the satisfaction. He had known they wouldn’t waste any time punishing him, although he hadn’t shared that when they were making their plans. He hadn’t wanted to worry Fenris or Dorian.
He also knew that the whipping was only the beginning of what they’d planned for him, and he hoped Leliana would arrive before they moved on to the next part of his punishment.
Leliana scanned the rest of the room quickly. Halward Pavus was tied up to a chair on one side of the room, in full view of the Crow Master and Zevran, visibly flinching every time Zevran was struck.
Besides the Crow Master, Zevran and Halward, Leliana saw only 4 other Crows visible. She knew there could be some stealthed throughout the chamber as well, but the chamber wasn’t large enough for there to be too many. She checked to see if there were other access points to the room, and as far as she could tell the door they came in through was the only one, which was also what her map indicated.
Based on that assessment, she slinked out from where she concealed herself, remaining stealthed until she was almost upon the Crow Master, as he raised the whip to deal Zevran another blow. Leliana’s blades quickly sunk into the Crow Master’s flesh and he let out a cry of alarm before Leliana slit his throat, and made a hoot like an owl.
After that, it was a blur of activity – Leliana and her agents taking down whatever Crows remained in the chamber while Dorian and Fenris charged in and assisted. Once all the Crows seemed to be taken care of, for the time being, they set about freeing Zevran and Halward. Once freed, Dorian embraced his father, sobbing with relief.
“No time for that now Dorian,” Leliana hissed. “Help Zevran and let’s get out of here!”
Dorian did as he was told, and rushed to Zevran’s side. He still wasn’t very adept at healing, but he managed to reduce the worst of the gashes on the elf’s back and completely heal the smaller ones. It was enough so that Zevran was able to stand on his own. His clothes had been cut off of him in pieces and there was nothing for it. He could fight naked, and he quickly grabbed a couple of blades from one of the dead Crows in the room.
Using the map again, Leliana quickly guided the group back out, although this time they met heavier resistance. Zevran was unrelenting in his fury as he personally took down many of the Crows they encountered along the way out.
As they finally reached the hall leading to the outer door, they ran into a magical barrier. They quickly turned and Leliana was scanning the map, looking for another exit when another barrier appeared behind them. They were trapped.
“Kaffas!” Dorian cried, shooting a fireball at one of the barriers, only to have it nearly singe a couple of Leliana’s agents.
From beyond the barrier a Crow emerged, followed by what looked like a Tevinter Magister. Halward recognized the Magister immediately, one of his most bitter rivals in the Magisterium.
“Urathus,” Halward spat. “I know you and I never agreed on Magisterium policy, but to stoop to this?”
“My dear Halward, I grew weary of trying to discredit you through politics,” Urathus sneered. “When this opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance.”
The Crow next to him stepped up to the barrier. “The naked elf must be our elusive Zevran. You didn’t think you could slip so easily out of our grasp again, did you?”
Zevran glowered at the man, and then dropped his daggers, walking towards him. “Take me then. Let them go. It is me that you want. It is me that you need to make an example of. Don’t hurt anyone else on my account.” Zevran spoke the words calmly, standing proud, looking the Crow fearlessly.
“No!” shouted Fenris. “You can’t have him!”
“Don’t worry elf, we still want you as well and your … talents,” the Crow said, raking his eyes over the younger elf.
“If you take either one of them away from me, you will feel my wrath!” hissed Dorian in anger.
“From inside that barrier? You’re more likely to feel your own wrath,” the Crow laughed mercilessly.
“Enzio,” the Magister began, “what do you wish me to do with them?”
“Bind them all magically,” the Crow replied. “Then drop the barrier so we can take Zevran and the other elf. Then you may do as you wish the rest. However, I would prefer they end up dead.”
The Magister began weaving his binding spell when suddenly a “Crow” behind him cast a Smite, while another “Crow” attacked Enzio, stabbing him repeatedly before slicing his throat. The Magister was similarly cut down.
As soon as the Magister lay dead, the barrier dropped. Zevran staggered back in shock, while Fenris, Dorian and Halward gaped, not quite understanding what had just happened.
“Good work, men,” Leliana said as she walked out in front of the shocked group. “Now, is that all of them?”
“Yes, Your Eminence,” said the one who had cast the smite on the Magister, bowing his head respectfully.
Leliana turned around, “We had anticipated that this would be a trap to get both Zevran and Fenris, after what you boys pulled off in Antiva City,” she offered in explanation. “I also knew that Enzio over here, the now former Third Talon of the Crows, was meeting with Magisters in secret. That’s why I placed a former Templar agent here in the Crows ranks, because I knew they were definitely up to something.”
Zevran walked over to the Third Talon’s body and began stripping him, and soon was clad in his armor, only slightly scuffed from the attack. As he was pulling on the boots he winked at Leliana, “you know I could never resist a lovely pair of Antivan Leather boots!”
Leliana giggled and then led everyone back outside and towards the Pavus estate.