Chapter 1: Making Camp
“Alistair, that is the most ridiculous excuse for a tent I have ever seen.”
“Well you didn’t have gale-force winds blasting at you when you put yours up!”
Morrigan and Alistair always seemed to argue whenever it came to organising anything of minor importance. The group had been travelling companions for over three moons now, yet they still could not manage to establish camp with any sense of calm cooperation. Smirking to himself not too far away, Zevran was crouching low by the campfire, listening to what was a rather entertaining conversation. In the evenings Zevran mostly kept to himself, unless his companions wanted to hear about another of his many bizarre experiences in Antiva. Locked away in his mind were stories for every mood, for every type of person, but most were rather inappropriate and ended with him fucking the protagonist. As he warmed his hands by the fire, his thoughts drifted back to Antiva, to the crashing of waves against Rialto Bay, but he was broken from his reverie by the sound of quiet footfalls crunching on the bracken behind him. He knew who it was without having to look.
“Ah, the beautiful Grey Warden returns,” he jested. Mi’harel sank down next to him with a weary sigh.
“Your flattery has no effect on me, trust me,” she replied, eyes busy scanning the tattered map she was holding. Having finished their business in the Brecilian Forest, Mi’harel now intended to lead the group onwards to the Circle of Magi. This was by no means going to be a short journey, and they had not even reached the charred outskirts of Lothering yet, but Mi’harel remained adamant that the mages would prove to be a valuable resource once persuaded.
“Oh? Perhaps a massage would change your mind,” said Zevran, finding entertainment, as usual, in making his captor feel as awkward as possible. In truth, Zevran would have paid a good few sovereigns to see what was underneath the infamous Grey Warden’s leather garments. Unlike many of the women he encountered in Antiva, of which the group had heard him spin tales of for hours on end, this Grey Warden was proving impossible to woo. Still, Zevran continued the chase with single-minded persistence.
“Don’t you have better things to do? I’m busy here,” Mi’harel said, carefully tracing their route along the map with her index finger. Zevran said nothing, only watched her steely expression as she deliberated over something dull and Grey Warden-ish. With a heavy sigh, Zevran reclined back onto his elbows to stare up at the myriad of stars that glittered brilliantly above them. It was only then that Mi’harel turned to face him. She had not meant to offend him. Over the weeks she had become accustomed to brushing him off like this, but it occurred to her now that perhaps she was bringing down morale that Zevran had merely been trying to raise.
“Do you miss Antiva?” she asked plainly. A feeble attempt at conversation, but it was a start nevertheless. At first Zevran stared at her as if she had spoken in a different language.
“I miss the warmth, of that I can be sure,” he said eventually, “And the flowers. They were always in bloom, lining the streets with every colour of the rainbow. It truly is a beautiful place.” As he gazed up into the moonlight Mi’harel noticed that his eyes held a sort of wistfulness, and all of a sudden she felt responsible for it.
“You know I’m not holding you captive, Zevran. You can return home whenever you like,” she said, her voice much gentler than usual. Zevran was not used to this tone.
“I know,” he said, “But I swore to help you. I want to help you. Even if I did want to go back, the Crows would probably slit my throat at the border.”
“What about you? Do you not miss your home?” he said, swiftly changing the subject to her.
“Technically we’re camped right outside it,” she said, gesturing to the black expanse of forest that lay not far to the east. “But my clan has lived in many places besides this. They have moved on from here now, over the Waking Sea, I think.”
“And your parents?” he asked, with genuine interest.
“My parents are dead. You’re not the only orphan here, you know,” she said with a wry smile. Zevran’s lips curled to smile back at her, though not in his usual impish way, it was an honest sort of smile paired with tender eyes. The rare glimpse of this side of Zevran soon vanished into the night air with a rude interruption from Alistair who was urging everyone to get a decent night’s sleep. Easier said than done, thought Mi’harel, who often had poor prospects of a restful sleep thanks to her persistent nightmares.
* * *
When morning broke, Mi’harel stumbled out of her tent into the blinding light, realising that everyone was already up and ready for the day ahead.
“Well, his skill is admirable,” Morrigan was saying. Everyone appeared to be watching Zevran engaging in some sort of playful duel with Leliana.
“There’s no need for all the fancy moves,” grumbled Oghren. “A simple blow from a longsword would get the job done simple enough.”
Once Mi’harel could see clearly through her sleepy haze, she stumbled over to join the spectators. Zevran’s slender form was swerving and lunging, parrying Leliana’s moves with ease, his tanned arms twisting as he spun his blades around gracefully. Mi’harel had no idea just how long the pair had been fighting for, but Leliana gave up with an indignant huff not long after her arrival. The red-haired rogue stormed off to resume her packing, cursing something under her breath as she went.
“Well, the Crows certainly did teach you one good thing,” said Mi’harel, ambling over to the smug faced elf.
“My dear Warden, they taught me many good things,” he replied, giving her a strange look.
“Well that remains to be seen,” she said, eyeing Zevran's body up and down critically. He was handsome, there was no denying it, but Mi’harel refused to give in to his charm. There were more important matters at hand; getting distracted by such flirtations would be foolish. Despite this, she had a request for him:
“Zevran,” she started.
“Can you… teach me to fight like that? Like a Crow.”
“Well,” he said, moving closer towards her as he did so. “I swore to the Crows the things they taught me would remain a secret… but for a woman as beautiful as you, perhaps I can make an exception.”
The pair of them agreed that the training would start that very evening, after their long day of westward travelling had been halted by the setting sun.
“It will be fun,” he said cheerfully, excited to be of use for once. “I will make it fun!”
“Fun, you say?” she said, a crude smile spreading across her lips. Turning on her heel, she sauntered off to resume her professional duties, leaving Zevran with more questions than ever before.
Chapter 2: Assassin Training
The party was in a foul mood when evening came. Torrential rain had carved murky pools into the sludge covered roads, and everyone was plastered up to the knees in the dry, cracked mud. After endless hours of trudging through the raging storm, the sky must have thought it amusing to clear up as soon as the group stopped to make camp for the night. It seemed the Maker was playing games with them today. The few clouds that presently remained were neatly lined by fervent shades of pink and orange, the birds dancing here and there in recompense for a day they had lost to the storm.
It did not take the absence of sun to prompt everyone in to bed that night. Oghren’s guttural snoring was already rumbling from within one of the tents and Leliana had collapsed by the fire like a sack of potatoes. The others were simply nowhere to be seen - apart from Zevran and Mi’harel, that was. They had been excited for their training session all day, and despite their initial exhaustion, it was nothing a hearty lamb and pea stew wouldn’t remedy.
By the time the sun had disappeared behind the verdant boughs of nearby oaks, Zevran had already managed to teach the Warden an entire week’s worth of Crow training.
“If you can backstab like that in battle,” said Zevran, spinning one of his knifes playfully, “Our group awesomeness rating will surely increase tenfold.”
“I don’t really know where I’m aiming for,” Mi’harel admitted. “I’ve just been making lucky guesses.”
“But I told you,” he said between his teeth, trying to remain calm. “You look for the weak spot, which is right here,” said Zevran, merging into the shadows for a moment, before reappearing behind the Warden with the tip of his blade pressed firmly into her back. She carefully fingered the sharp tip, trying once again to make a mental note of where it punctured the back of her leather cuirass.
“Do not forget it this time,” he said in a low, soft voice. The warmth of his breath tickled at the pointed tip of her ear.
“I’m sorry, Zev. You know I’m tired,” she said. The firm pressure released from her back all of a sudden, causing her to sway backwards in its absence. Mi’harel had expected him to return to the silvery pool of moonlight in which they had been practicing, but all that could be heard was the hissing of oaks in the nocturnal breeze and the occasional hoot of an owl.
“Zev…?” she called, all of a sudden feeling alone in the darkness, and rather foolish for not bringing a torch.
“Scared?” came a voice from the shadows.
“No!” she lied. Although initially fun to begin with, Mi’harel was growing rather tired of Zevran’s creative teaching methods.
“Are you sure?” he said, his voice now coming from the other direction. He sniggered a little at Mi’harel’s involuntary gasp. “With the advantage of stealth,” he explained, “An assassin’s movements become even more of a concern.”
Before Zevran had the chance to slither his way back into the shadows, Mi’harel reached out and heaved him into the moonlight, managing to hook a threatening blade underneath his chin.
“Scared?” she teased from behind him, pressing the metal into his tender flesh. His resulting laugh was a mixture of amusement and fear, leaving Mi’harel with an odd feeling of satisfaction.
“It seems I have taught you well,” he said. “Must I beg for you to spare me once again?”
“Perhaps,” she said, nudging his chin towards hers with the knifepoint. Before he had time to comprehend what was going on, he found his lips were locked with hers. Mi’harel thought his kissing was surprisingly gentle for someone who had once tried to kill her, though perhaps it was the knife that was prompting this.
“Before I decide your fate,” she said, pulling away breathlessly, “I think an interrogation is in order.”
“And where would this… interrogation… take place?” he asked, lips still forcefully pointed towards hers.
“My tent,” she replied. “And as a matter of importance I insist it is conducted immediately.”
Chapter 3: Sanctuary
Zevran has been invited into the Warden's tent.
We all know what that means.
It took longer than expected to locate the tent. Where the fire had been previously lay nothing but a few mere embers, and the moonlight was barely sufficient as a light source thanks to the trees that encircled their camp. Blind and confused in the pitch darkness, the two elves had to hold onto each other, trying not to laugh as they tripped over various pieces of campsite paraphernalia. Upon finding the tent, they collapsed between the canvas flaps like a pair of drunkards, falling clumsily onto a floor of sumptuous furs. The Warden was by no means materialistic, but she refused to sleep like a Lothering refugee when her pack was practically bursting at the seams with extra coin. This Archdemon wasn’t going to kill itself – Mi’harel argued that a comfortable tent contributed to the war effort by ensuring her energy levels remained high. Oh, how Alistair had laughed at this seedy excuse for luxuriance.
“Mmmph,” came a muffled sound from Zevran, who had his face pressed firmly into the inviting softness of the bedding. “I want furs in my tent…”
“Zev, you’re crushing me,” said Mi’harel, her free hands fumbling for a candle. It had not been Zevran’s intention to fall on top of the Warden, however a day’s worth of travelling had finally caught up with him and he now had no desire to move.
“Zevran!” she hissed, gasping and struggling beneath his considerable weight. She noticed, now that he was pressed up against her for the first time, that he had his own distinctive smell. It was a pleasant concoction of leather and spice that had a somewhat exotic flavour to it, evoking fanciful ideas of the sweltering hot lands he called home.
“For the love of Andraste, Zev!” she said, trying to push her chest off the floor, squirming and bucking her hips back against his.
“The mighty Grey Warden, crushed beneath a sleeping Crow,” laughed Zevran, who eventually shifted the weight onto his forearms. The elf lying limp beneath him heaved a large sigh of relief.
“If I remember correctly, this interrogation is under my command,” she said, embarking on another determined attempt to clamber to her knees.
“Tsk tsk, not so fast,” said Zevran, pinning her back to the ground with his hips. Something was pressing up against her, and if Mi’harel recalled correctly, Zevran carried his blades on his back, not at his belt. Leather creaked on leather as he playfully pressed up against her behind.
“I can’t,” he said. There was a soft thud as his weapons were cast aside, and a frantic clinking of various fastenings. Taking this as a sign of freedom, Mi’harel hauled herself up, but only found her efforts hindered by a pair of firm hands at her waist. They spun her around and helped her shed her gear, unbuckling and unthreading until they both knelt against each other, unclothed and shivering in the cold night air.
“I want to look at you,” she whispered, reaching for a candle. When she managed to set it alight, that single flame was sufficient enough to allow for a full, albeit dim, physical inspection. It was not long before they found themselves entwined in a passionate embrace. Mi’harel’s hands wandered south as they kissed, until she located his hardened length. When the Warden’s fingers grasped him, Zevran bit hard at her lip with a slight noise of pleasure, then pulled away, furrowing his brow as he looked at her.
“You have no idea how much I’ve wanted this,” he said, staring at her with a strange sincerity. His hands now cupped her face instead of her breasts, and for a moment he knelt silently, just staring at her, lost in thoughts he did not understand enough to share.
“Are you okay?” asked Mi’harel, nudging a strand of golden hair back behind his ear. Zevran nodded rapidly, shaking himself back to reality, and gently guided her shoulders back onto the mass of furs. Turning his attentions back to the task at hand, Zevran began peppering kisses down her body, biting playfully at her flesh and kissing between her thighs. For all the vain boasting he had done of his sexual prowess, it soon became clear that he had not been exaggerating. Before she reached the point of no return Zevran stopped, leaving her painfully lusting for more. With a cruel smirk he knelt over her waiting for some sort of plea. Once satisfied he had received it, Zevran proceeded to climb on top of her, his breath hot on her neck.
“What if the others-”
When he slid into her she found she could not finish her sentence. Whatever she was going to say dissolved into a sharp moan. What are you doing to me? she asked herself. Mi’harel did not like being submissive in any aspect of life – she was a leader, a survivor, but now she was willingly losing herself to someone who had been advertising himself to her for months on end. She felt like a valiant mabari war hound, distracted by the temptations of old scullery leftovers. That’s what Zevran was after all, a leftover from the gutters of Antiva. Alas, it was too late to save her virtue now; she accepted that she was just part of his game, a meaningless soul in his long line of lovers.
She could not have been more wrong.
“You were saying?” Zevran breathed, grabbing at her thighs as he pushed into her again. His eyes were locked on his prize, intent and determined to please the only woman he had waited this long to make love to.
“What if they hear us?” asked Mi’harel, her hips now moving to match his. Zevran shook his head dubiously, amused at her last minute concern for dignity.
“It’s inevitable,” he said.
After continuing their activities for a good while longer, they both became doubtful that their companions were achieving any sort of restful sleep. Come the morning, there was sure to be a bombardment of questions and irate complaints.
Mi’harel was finding it difficult to remain silent, especially with Zevran’s now quickening pace. That uncontrollable feeling was growing deep inside her, and when she finally shattered beneath his contracting torso, his groans began to warn her he was of a similar mind. Holding himself, he drew back and released onto her stomach, breathless from pleasure.
“Well, I think that concludes our interrogation,” laughed Mi’harel as the exhausted Antivan collapsed at her side. It had been a long day, to say the least.
“Don’t make me leave these furs,” he pleaded drowsily, burying his face in the bedding. His bronze skin glistened in the candlelight as his back moved to the rhythm of his breath, and his once carefully braided hair was now an unruly shock of blonde.
Placing a sleepy kiss on his shoulder, Mi’harel gave in to his request and wrapped them both inside a furry cocoon of warmth. The tent was their sanctuary; the problems of the world did not seem to exist outside these canvas walls. Legs wrapped around legs, arms twined here and there, hearts beating in unison – they were one.
Naked, unarmed and descending into the vulnerable state of sleep next to a notorious killer, Ashalle would have been horrified at the amount of potential risk this posed for her little Mi’harel.
Fortunately Zevran was a changed man; if anyone was a threat to the Warden now, it was most certainly not him.
Sexual intimacy often brings a degree of trust, an immediate bond, but for Zevran this never happened. Tonight, however, had been different. It had awakened emotions that he never knew were within his capacity. The suicidal assassin that had fought the Warden three months ago was numb to the world, to others and to himself, but now he felt more alive than ever. Whether he would allow these feelings to blossom remained to be seen.
Mi’harel woke to the sound of voices. At first she thought she was dreaming, but soon discovered that she had overslept and that everyone else was wide awake. Blinding light flashed through the tent door as it flapped open in the breeze, wafting in the tempting smell of breakfast. She was not used to waking up after the others; on most days she woke early enough to watch the sun bleed its colour onto the morning sky. Although having completely lost her sense of time, what she did know was that there had been another person lying beside her not long ago. She caught the faint smell of him as she rolled over into the warm indentation he had made in the bedding. With a hand clapped to her throbbing head, she gradually began to revive the memory of the night before.
Andraste’s ass, what have I done?
Plans for the day had been ruined beyond doubt, and the travelling schedule skewed, so she pulled a teal coloured tunic over her head and staggered out into the light. There was no point in going through the rigmarole of getting strapped up in all that armour. When she left the tent she was relieved to see that the others had not bothered either.
“Did you have a good… er… sleep?” said Alistair, trying to contain his amusement. Voices seemed to quieten at her arrival, and a suspicious silence greeted her. It didn’t take her long to realise why they were sniggering amongst themselves. They all knew what she had done with Zevran. They had heard it.
She tried her best to ignore them and grabbed a small loaf of bread from one of the nearby food sacks. Its crust was stale but she gnawed at it anyway to satisfy her grumbling stomach. Shooting a defensive glance around at her friends, she noted that one in particular was missing.
“Where’s Zev?” she asked.
Morrigan raised a jocular eyebrow at the question. “Oh? Missing him already?” she teased.
“I’ll tell ya where he went,” slurred Oghren, who was cradling the pungent smelling spirit Mi’harel had found for him back in the Brecilian Forest. “He said… he was goin’ for a walk. Almost sneaked off without us noticing.”
Mi’harel rolled her eyes; she knew full well why Zevran had made himself scarce. In fact, she was now contemplating avoiding the ridicule herself. Someone had to set things straight though, to defend her controversial and embarrassingly public love affair. Damn you Zev for leaving this all to me.
“If anyone has a problem with me sleeping with Zev, say now."
“If you keep the noise down next time, it’s fine with me,” said Leliana, twirling a fiery lock of hair between her fingers. “You do have good taste, it must be said. He’s an attractive one.”
“Good taste?!” said Alistair. “He tried to kill us, Mia! How do you know this isn’t all part of his plan?”
Mi’harel remained silent for a while, daring her bare toes to stoke the fire in a disgruntled bout of recklessness. The fire flickered a little brighter and Alistair watched as a dozen tiny embers danced past his face. He was not at all pleased with how careless his friend was being of late. Instead of marching onwards to end the Blight, they had all been sat idly waiting for her to wake up.
“Zev is our friend now. Don’t you think he’s proven his worth to us already?” she said. Realising she was right, Alistair looked down at his boots and nodded solemnly.
“They are just having fun, Alistair,” Morrigan added, eager to oppose him as usual. “Blights are not exactly the most cheerful of times. I say let them enjoy themselves.”
“I’m inclined to disagree,” mumbled Wynne. Her pallid complexion looked tired and drained. Mi’harel felt bad at first, thinking her adventures last night had deprived an old woman of her sleep, but on second thoughts she decided Wynne always looked that way. “Just look at us, sitting here laying waste to the day. You have become distracted, Mia. You are a Grey Warden – you have responsibilities. Don’t neglect them.”
Mi’harel stood up defensively.
“Grey Wardens are people too! We don’t need to be celibate to fight darkspawn,” she said.
“It just seems as though he only ever has one thing on his mind. Are you sure it’s wise to waste time with someone… someone like that? It’s certainly not fitting for a Grey Warden,” said Wynne.
At that, Mi’harel snapped. Tossing the remains of her breakfast into the fire, she stormed off into the woods wearing nothing but her thin, thigh-length tunic.
Moss between her toes and above her a canopy of green: this was what home felt like to her. It wasn’t often that she longed to return to her carefree Dalish existence. If anything, being a Grey Warden gave her a purpose that had been absent in her previous life, but today she wanted nothing more than to break away from it all.
Contrary to Wynne’s beliefs, Zevran was more than a means of entertainment. Making love to Zevran had not felt how it had with Tamlen. She had loved Tamlen undoubtedly, and still mourned his disappearance, but while lying in Zevran’s warm embrace last night she had been glowing with a feeling more intense than that: an overwhelming feeling of certainty.
She pressed her palm up against the bark of one of the grand, old oak trees. The forest was never going to leave her heart, and she was certain this was a feeling that would remain forever – it felt right. This was just the same with Zevran. She did not know how deep her feelings for him would grow, nor whether there was any future for them. She only knew that she was irrevocably drawn to him, that instinct told her this was right.
Mi’harel wandered beneath the trees for some time, climbing over logs and pushing through the undergrowth. It wasn’t exactly the Brecilian Forest, but the wooded areas of Ferelden were actually quite pleasant. After a short while she came upon a charming little steam that wove between the trees like a silver thread. There she found Zevran sitting cross-legged, a book lying open in his lap. It must have been a gripping read, as he did not seem to acknowledge her arrival.
“Uh, good morning?” she said, poking at the back of his shoulder. Prising himself away from the joys of fiction, he plucked a thick blade of grass to mark his page and snapped the book shut.
“Finally awake, I see,” he said cheerfully, turning to face her as he stood. Zevran studied her interesting choice of attire with a bemused smile. “I take it we’re not doing much walking today.”
“A day off won’t hurt,” she shrugged, still feeling defiant of Wynne’s lecture on her 'responsibilities'. There was plenty of time to get to the Circle of Magi. The mages could surely wait.
“An entire day to spare… just what are we going to do with all this time?” he said with feigned enthusiasm, tugging flirtatiously at the hem of her tunic. Mi’harel suddenly felt the adrenaline kick in again, heart racing beneath the thin piece of fabric that concealed her from him. For reasons she could not fathom, Zevran knew just how to make her uncontrollably lust for him whenever he pleased. It wasn’t just her own natural hunger for sex – she was convinced it was more than that. It had to be. He only had to look at her like that, and before long she found herself nudging his hand under her skirt. It was happening all over again.
Edit: I know that technically in-game you don't meet Wynne before the Circle of Magi quest, but it fits my chapter plan to have her appear in the story here.
Chapter 5: Tamlen
“Thank the Maker,” said Alistair. After pushing on across the Bannorn for over two weeks, the party almost fell to their knees when the distant silhouette of Circle Tower emerged from beneath the evening mists. Mi’harel had been pushing everyone to their physical limits to get this far, as if to make them regret ever criticising her for waking up late that one morning. There was never a day when she hadn’t woken before dawn, and was somehow sat fully clad in armour when the others woke, tent packed and ready to go. Wynne had to grit her teeth and avert her eyes from the smug expression Mi’harel enjoyed directing at her.
They had set up camp not long after reaching Lake Calenhad, as it was dark and the journey was not yet complete, and it was not likely that there would be anyone to provide boats at this hour. Spirits were unusually high now that the possibility of real food and proper beds loomed on the horizon. Leliana had even treated everyone to a beautiful elven ballad. Her voice was otherworldly, like a siren or a nymph – a single lyric was enough to send everyone into a sleepy trance beside the campfire. Zevran could feel Mi’harel’s skin prickle to the tune as she sat on his lap, listening. With his chin propped up on her shoulder, he kept his eyes focused on the glowing core of the fire, but the music was making his eyelids heavy and his arms limp. Every so often Mi’harel would have to wrap them back around her as they gradually slid away. The party had grown to accept the relationship between the two elves now, rarely batting an eye to public displays of affection, which were more or less a guaranteed daily occurrence.
Zevran had almost completely drifted off by the time Leliana reached the final verse of In Uthenera, but soon came to his senses when Mi’harel suddenly stirred in his lap.
“What is it?” he whispered, trying not to interrupt the song everyone was so absorbed by. Mi’harel leant to kiss him on the cheek, and as she did so, Zevran noticed her hand was wrapped firmly around one of her small, precautionary belt-knives. Heeding the agitation of her mind, he frowned into the nearby shadows, thinking for a moment he might have seen it too.
“Something’s here,” she said in the quietest voice she could manage. “Don’t alert the others, just be ready.”
The song was not so relaxing after that, and the moonlight much less enchanting. There was danger in the air, and caution in their embrace. Zevran chewed at his lip, not once removing his eyes from the darkness. Just as Leliana was about to begin another song at the others’ insistence, a wicked screech echoed across the lakeside and bounced between the trees in every direction.
“I’ll check it out, stay here,” she said, sliding off his lap and stealing away into the night. She managed to disappear without alerting the others, who had simply shrugged at the strange noise. Zevran’s curiosity got the better of him however, and he couldn’t help but follow. Instinct told him that the noise was clearly something worse than a mere animal of the night.
“Shrieks are coming! Defend yourselves!” Mi’harel called back, prompting the sound of a dozen unsheathing weapons.
It was not a difficult fight, and in fact Zevran was relatively pleased to hear that they were only shrieks. They had encountered much worse over the past few months. When the air stilled and the threat appeared to have been defeated, another strange creature came forth from the shadows, although this time it was not a shriek.
“Wait!” yelled Mi’harel, rushing over to the thing Oghren was about to crush beneath his axe.
“Are you crazy?” he replied, legs braced, ready to slaughter what he thought had been a genlock.
Mi’harel stared down at it in horror as she watched it scramble to its feet, and it gave her a look that was equally as horrified.
“Lethallan… don’t… come near me,” it said, staggering off towards the lake. Zevran tightened the grip on his blade as he watched her run after it. The creature did not manage to get far.
“Tamlen?” she called. The group shrugged at each other, not familiar with the name. It looked as if Mi’harel was having a conversation with it. Alistair found this highly disturbing - darkspawn were not supposed to talk. He shot an anxious look at Zevran, who nodded and headed with him over to the creature.
“Always… loved you… I’m so sorry…” it was saying when they came into earshot.
“We have to help him!” she said tearfully, turning around to beg her friends for mercy. As soon as Alistair and Zevran had managed to faintly discern the elf-like features of ‘Tamlen’, it lashed out at Mi’harel from behind, knocking her to the ground with a bare fist.
As Zevran rushed to her side he felt a swift arrow hurtle past his face, which thankfully penetrated Tamlen’s instead.
“Is she alright?” said Leliana, jogging over to inspect the success of her arrow. She smiled down at the bleeding skull with pride, but adopted a more serious expression upon realising that this ‘thing’ had been an elf. Alistair was quick to guess at who this person was – Duncan had mentioned the eluvian situation to him before the last Joining.
“It was a mercy to kill him,” he said solemnly as they led her back to the tents. It was safe to say that the mood of the evening had been dampened. They each tried to offer a few words of consolation to Mi’harel, assuring her that Tamlen would be given a proper Dalish burial when morning came, but she only nodded and slunk off into her tent. The others retired soon afterwards.
Zevran was unsure as to whether he would be as welcome in her tent as he had been over the past couple of weeks. For a moment he had lain in his own, but insomnia soon overcame him. Usually he was not at all concerned by the grievances of others, and so was quite confused when he found himself lying awake, troubled by the faint weeping he could hear in the adjacent tent. With a sigh, he rocked to his feet and crept over to her tent, moving with the silence that came so easily to Crows.
“Mia…” he whispered, unlacing the tent door a little. A candle was still burning beside her, reflecting a pair of tear-stained cheeks.
“Not tonight, Zev,” she quavered.
“I’m not here for that,” he said. She could only see half of his face through the gap in the canvas, but it was clearly awash with genuine concern. “I just… don’t like to hear you cry.”
He pitied her as she lay curled up there, as he saw in her a sadness that lay within himself. In a slightly different situation, Zevran had once killed someone he loved, and so understood that there was no pain greater than the pain of watching the one you love die before your eyes. Taking Mi’harel’s nod as a sign of admission, he crawled into the tent and lowered himself carefully beside her, not entirely certain of what one does to comfort the mourning.
“Have you ever heard Antivan poetry?” Zevran said cheerfully, trying to break the ice.
“Yes, and I never want to again,” she said.
“There once was a man named-”
“Shut up, Zev,” she said, although she couldn't help but laugh at him. “Just… hold me or something.”
And so he did. Nothing was more comforting to her than the warmth of those arms holding her close, wrapping her in that endearing Antivan scent. For all she knew Antiva could smell worse than halla dung, but being the only part of Antiva she knew, Zevran had advertised it well.
“You’re all I have now,” she said, marking his chest with a trail of tears. Holding her tighter in his almost possessive embrace, Zevran came to the dismal realisation that her words would also have been true had they come from him.
Chapter 6: Zevran's Nightmare
The sloth demon has sent the party into a deep sleep. Mi'harel wanders the Fade alone, until intruding on the nightmare of a certain Antivan elf.
This should have been a simple task, but where magic lingered, nothing was simple. Things had gone from bad to worse, and now the Warden was stuck on a path that felt as though it was going to twine through the Fade for eternity.
After weeks of looking forward to finally reaching Circle Tower, it was beyond annoying, almost comical in fact, to be greeted with this complete and utter nightmare upon their arrival. Mi’harel let out a frustrated scream, kicking hard at one of the dark, rocky crags that lined the path. Perhaps a mage would think Fade a peaceful sort of place, but Mi’harel was no mage, nor someone particularly fond of spirits. Whispers from forgotten memories, from other places and other times circled through the eerie purple haze in unending symphony. It was driving her insane. Most of the Fade was like this, warped and oppressive, unless twisted by a dream. To make matters worse, it was almost impossible to navigate without the assistance of a Circle mage. How long had she been there? Minutes? Hours? To her it felt like years. There was no way out; she was a prisoner to not only the sloth demon, but to the impenetrable barriers of her own mind. It wasn’t the environment of the Fade that disturbed her most, however – the most disturbing thing of all was the overwhelming urge to submit to the illusion, the feeling of reality slipping without notice between her blood-flecked fingers.
“Nothing is real, nothing is real,” she repeated over and over to herself, until she eventually came across a portal framed by dark, black stone. At first she was delighted, for the road had come to an end, but after offering her body to the pulsating abyss she found that the path looked no different. Mi’harel collapsed to the ground in despair, cursing elvish words into the lyrium tainted rock.
As she lay there, her mind drifted to better places, to the deep and forgotten forests, to scenic mountainscapes and rolling green hills. She fantasised about the exotic corner of Thedas her clan had ventured to. What do the Free Marches even look like? Gods know.
Her mind was soon dragged back to the dark reality of the Fade when a familiar voice began to echo strangely around a sharp bend in the path. When it spoke again, the rich Antivan timbre was as clear as day. Listening to her heart instead of her conscience, she hastened along the path until she came to a craggy slope that led down from the bend. Now there was no doubt in her mind about who this was. His voice sounded strained, as if in pain.
“No, it’s not real,” she told herself. “It must be a trap.”
Understanding that there was unfortunately no other option, she proceeded cautiously down the path. The shards of rock crumbled beneath her boots, sending her into a clumsy downward stagger that steadied at the sight of three people. Perhaps this trap was not intended for her.
“Zevran!” she called, shocked to find her favourite elf strapped firmly to a torture rack, limbs bound and straining in opposite directions. Two men were standing over him, revelling in the great pain they were administering.
“Hey, let him go!” she demanded, storming over to them in her most threatening Warden-like manner. Zevran glanced up at her in a muddled state of agony and incredulity.
“Wh- what are you doing here?” he said, groaning under the strain. “You’re not supposed to… be here.”
“Zev, snap out of it, I’m going to get you out of this thing.”
“No!” he protested, screwing his eyes up at the increasing tension. “I need to stay strong – this is my test. I’m going to be a Crow!”
Mi’harel sighed, eyeing up the pair of torturers, who at present seemed largely unconcerned by her interference. She took a cautious step closer.
“Look at me,” she said, cupping his face in her hands and shaking it until he opened his eyes again. “You’re already a Crow. You wouldn’t know me if you weren’t.”
“What?” he said, arms trembling a little. The ropes holding him in place had gouged deep gashes into his wrists. “So… what is this? A bad dream? A memory?”
Zevran’s shifting perception on reality had stirred something in the spirits that had deceived him. In a sudden spell of hostility, the man on the other side of the rack whipped out a dagger and began to trail it along the curves of Zevran’s facial tattoo.
“Oh, I think he’s questioning us,” he sneered. “That’s a very, very bad thing to do.”
After coming to the realisation that this dream could still cause limitless amounts of physical pain, Zevran began to writhe and pull against his bonds in a sudden fit of panic. Mi’harel was quick to remedy this however, neatly stabbing her first victim in the small of his back, then clambering onto the rack to slit the other’s throat. The bodies dissolved into the air, confirming to Zevran that this was indeed an illusion, and that he was in fact a Crow.
“Remembered what?” asked Mi’harel, realising she was sitting on him.
“The correct place to backstab,” he grinned.
She considered this for a moment, tried to mask her pride, then leant forward to gently saw at Zevran’s bonds. This put Zevran in a rather interesting position, which Mi’harel hadn’t realised until she felt his breath condensing on the top of her breasts.
“I suppose there are worse ways to be suffocated,” he jested.
“Sorry,” she said, sitting back to examine the nasty looking wrists she had set free. Despite being well aware of the Fade’s tricks, it still saddened her to see him hurt. The pain had been real, after all. Lacing her fingers between his, she placed a kiss on the torn flesh of each wrist.
“Did the Crows really do things like this to you, in real life?” she asked, climbing off his lap and slicing free his legs.
“They did many things,” he said vaguely, forging a smile. Mi’harel never understood how he managed to remain positive, considering his upbringing and the amount of trauma he must have experienced in his time. It was as if he had grown immune to life’s cruelties. Zevran winced, rolling back his aching shoulders, then relaxed at the feeling of Mi’harel’s leather cuirass pressing up against his. He gladly reciprocated, folding his arms around her, but then noticed something odd about his surroundings.
“Where are you going?” he said, struggling to hold onto her fading form.
“I’m not going anywhere!” she cried. “You’re the one who’s going!”
And before she could say goodbye, he was gone, leaving her to face the endless road of despair once again.
Chapter 7: Taliesen
Denerim was not the most pleasant city by any stretch of the imagination, but it was civilisation, and the party felt more than glad to have returned to it. The city itself had been built with a noticeably clumsy structure, creating filthy back alleys that wove between the crooked timber houses and served as convenient rat-runs for the common people. The Market District was a place that displayed these traits quite clearly. This bustling trade hub was located right in the heart of the city – not too far up the hill, for that was where the elite lived, but it was not quite as far down as the alienage either. Brightly coloured banners flashed here and there, hoping to entice people over to their corresponding stalls. Surface dwarves would often sell their wares here, along with traders from as far away as Orlais and Antiva, who sold trinkets and fine clothing, leaving many citizens of Denerim longing to visit lands they would never have enough coin to visit.
The Warden and her allies, however, came eager to spend part of the enormous pile of sovereigns they now boasted. The traders in the central tent could almost smell the affluence as the party walked past, and made a special effort to lure them over with food samples and questionable claims of the rarity of their goods. After seeing everything the main market had to offer, Alistair led the group through the crowds, making straight for the disturbingly literal sign of the Gnawed Noble Tavern.
* * *
“This good enough for you, eh Mia?” teased Alistair as he swung open the door of her newly booked room. “Or will you be needing your expensive furs?”
“I think I’ll be just fine,” said Mi’harel, beaming up at him. “This bed and I are in a very serious relationship.”
Having lived as a Dalish nomad for most of her life, Mi’harel had never slept on a real bed until her involvement with the Wardens began.
“Zevran’s renting this room too, I take it?" said Alistair, noticing that two sets of armour were draping over the bathtub. "Do try to leave the bed in one piece.”
“Alistair!” she scolded, throwing a pillow at him. Alistair blocked it with his forearm and tried to act apologetic, though his laughter did him no favours.
The party remained in the tavern for the rest of the evening, spending the majority of their time glugging down cheap ale, playing endless rounds of Wicked Grace, and trying to bribe the bartender into letting them in on some of Denerim’s darkest secrets.
* * *
Mi’harel came to severely regret participating in that drinking contest when morning came. The fierce white light that filtered in through the shutters felt like it was burning into her very flesh. With a sleepy grimace she slunk back under the linen sheets and took solace in the bodily warmth that she found there. After wriggling into a comfortable position against Zevran’s chest, she was soon abandoned and left with an empty mattress. It was not unusual for Zevran to shy away from morning cuddles, but the way he leapt out of bed just then was a little out of character, so she emerged from beneath the sheets to see where he had disappeared to. To her surprise, Zevran was stood peering out between the slats in the shutters as if he was waiting for the morning courier.
“What’s the matter, are the Crows after you?” she joked, although Zevran did not seem in the mood for fun.
“You know what?” he said, staring down onto the backstreet in horror. “That’s exactly it.”
“What?! Are you serious?”
“Hm. He’s been throwing stones at the window all morning to try and coax me down there. Could you not hear it?”
“Me? Hear a little stone? Are you forgetting just how much Oghren made me drink last night?” she said, hands on hips. “And… who is ‘he’?”
After listening to Zevran’s frustratingly vague briefing of the man in question, Mi’harel slunk off into the hallway to urge everyone out of their beds and into their armour. There was a short opportunity for breakfast, of course, although Zevran barely ate a single thing. Mi’harel had to practically spoon-feed him.
The moment they stepped out into the early-morning market, Zevran took a sharp turn and led everyone down a narrow alleyway, hot on the seemingly invisible trail left by his fellow Crow.
“Zevran, mark my words, if this is one of your traps…” warned Alistair, who was visibly nervous. The Crows were the last people he wanted to get tangled up with.
“Set a trap? Me? Why would I do such a thing?” replied Zevran with sarcastic innocence, but Alistair was not impressed. Eventually Zevran stopped at the sight of a wider back alley they had come to. “There he is. Come with me.”
“I don’t like this…” said Alistair, shaking his head up at the Maker and wishing he was back within the safe boundaries of the market square. Law never seemed to exist in the back alleys.
Taliesen smiled when Zevran strode into view, along with his mismatched looking pack of companions. When his eyes met with those of the petite Dalish elf that stood at Zevran’s side, he knew at once that this was the Grey Warden. It was rare to see a Dalish elf away from their clan, and so she was not exactly hard to spot, especially considering the detailed profile the Crows had built up of her back in Antiva.
“When I heard the great Zevran had gone rogue, I simply had to see it for myself,” said Taliesen, smirking down at him from the top of a set of stony stairs. He was alone, or so it seemed.
“Well here I am, in the flesh,” said Zevran. Taliesen then put on his most hospitable sounding voice and tried to assure his assassin friend that there would be no harm in returning to the Crows after his ‘mistake’. There was a tense silence as Zevran considered the situation; Alistair nearly bit his tongue in the apprehension. Even Mi’harel was concerned at what Zevran might have to say about this offer. She thought she had known him well, but now she questioned this knowledge. What if he doesn’t need me anymore? Was it wrong to have trusted him? Oh Mythal , make him say something!
“Zevran belongs with me now!” she blurted out suddenly, then blushed at how soppy that had sounded. As she stared down at the cobbles she could feel Zevran’s eyes upon her.
“I’m sorry Taliesen, I’m not coming back,” said Zevran, placing a gentle hand at Mi’harel’s waist. That simple gesture was enough to give her the reassurance she had desperately needed. She made a mental note to kill him later for making her so anxious.
“What?” said Taliesen, utterly horrified at the intimacy Zevran was implying. Once upon a time, Zevran had made him feel loved, but now it seemed the tables had turned, and Taliesen was now facing the same fate as Rinna. Taliesen felt so betrayed, so angry. He could almost feel the hatred boiling beneath his skin. He wanted to tear Zevran’s new relationship into a million tiny pieces. If it wasn’t for the Warden, he could have whisked Zevran back to Antiva there and then, and everything would be just as it was before. In a spiteful attempt to stir things up, he wanted to tell the Grey Warden what Zevran had done to Rinna, to tell her how cold-hearted Zevran could be, to make her question Zevran’s loyalty and affection.
But he refrained from such actions, as he knew he held no place in Zevran’s heart. It had always been Rinna, never him. He was just someone Zevran particularly enjoyed having sex with. And how could he expect anything more than that? The Crows were not supposed to think about love. Loyalty however, was something Taliesen expected, and was outraged at the thought of Zevran throwing away his life for a savage, tree-hugging knife-ear.
“Have you gone soft in the head?” spat Taliesen. “The Crows will make you pray for death, you fool!”
“You should have stayed in Antiva…” said Zevran, accepting the painful reality of what he knew he must do. When Taliesen signalled an attack, Crows descended from all angles, swooping down from rooftops and dark corners, eager to be the one to have slain Zevran Arainai, or even better, the mighty Grey Warden. Fortunately, Zevran had anticipated the numbers that Taliesen brought with him. He had predicted the numbers not long before breakfast, picking up on subtle signs from the tavern window and on the way to the back alley. The party now realised why Zevran needed them.
The Crows put up a good fight, but sadly they all perished under the Warden’s forces. When the battle was over, Zevran knelt beside Taliesen to shut his lifeless eyes for him. Satisfied that there were no more assassins lurking about the shadows, everyone else headed back to the Gnawed Noble to clean themselves up. Mi’harel, of course, stayed.
“You know it would be possible for me to leave now. The Crows will assume me dead along with Taliesen, for a time,” he said solemnly as he knelt in the blood of his former friend and lover.
“And… do you want to leave?” she said, slightly irritated that Zevran was considering leaving at a time like this.
“That’s what I’m trying to ask you! Do you want me to go? Do you need me here?” asked Zevran.
“That decision is yours to make, not mine,” she replied, wishing she could just simply command him to stay, but she knew that Zevran had to learn to make his own decisions, to do what he wanted for once instead of having his life dictated by others. Had he ever had a single moment of free will in his lifetime? He had not even been allowed to keep the gloves of his deceased Dalish mother – the Crows just simply did not allow such liberties. Sentimentality was off limits. The Crows told him what to do and where to go, then unless he wanted a lifelong price on his head, he would have to return to them for the next contract. It was no wonder he had wanted to die; he was nothing but a pawn in a game where the prize was the continuation of his life. For as long as he had lived he thought he never had a choice, but it was not until his final contract that he realised there had been one all along. Death.
Now it seemed he had a million different choices, and Mi’harel was determined to guide him through the first of many crossroads his life would now present.
“I… I am not sure how to respond to that,” he said, chewing at his lip. “Uh… then I suppose I shall… stay? Is that… good?”
At his hesitant response, Mi’harel could feel her eyes stinging with tears. Not wanting to look a fool in front of him, however, she clenched her jaw to hold them back.
“Well, you wouldn’t want to miss our little meeting with the Archdemon,” she said, with a voice that wavered almost too much for her witty remark to have impact. Zevran laughed nevertheless, though he sensed the emotion. He could not understand why she would care so much about whether or not he stayed. He also couldn’t understand why the fact she cared touched him so. It made his heart flutter like a teenage girl discovering their first love, so he suppressed the intrusive feeling immediately and pretended it had never surfaced.
“I am thoroughly looking forward to it,” said Zevran, prying his sullen eyes away from the body beneath him. After that, the pair of them made their way back to the tavern in silence, leaving a trail of bloody footprints in their wake.
Chapter 8: Fort Drakon
Zevran pondered for some few days after Taliesen's death just why he had been so loyal to the Wardens. He could have returned to his old life, to the rainy streets of Antiva, patching up his little diversion with a well-crafted story. He and Taliesen could have taken midnight walks along the promenade, laughing about work and throwing pebbles as far as they could across Rialto Bay.
Maybe it was the adventure that made him betray his own. Maybe it was the freedom, the possibility of a new life.
Maybe it was her.
Of course, Zevran was still in denial about this. How could he let himself believe he killed his dearest friend all because of this little flirtation? Somewhere deep down, however, he knew Mi'harel was more than a mere flirtaton. He knew this because he was afraid. He was having to constantly hold himself back, stop himself from fully reaching out to her, remain numb to the unstoppable, ever-growing feeling that had haunted him over the past few months.
Mi'harel had always meant something to him - that much he would admit, at least. It was not until she was taken from him, however, that he realised she had meant everything.
When Anora had the audacity to double-cross them at Arl Howe's estate, Mi'harel and Alistair were bound, gagged and dragged off to Maker-knows-where. If Zevran's limbs had not been pinned to the ground by five steel-plated soldiers, he would have darted out after them and shed some more blood.
Zevran could remember peeling his cheek away from the cold, tiled floor. His eyes had met with Mi'harel's, and what he saw in them was both fear and despair. From that moment he knew that this was a dire situation indeed. Mi'harel never truly had reason to be scared. Neither did he, in all honesty, but now they were seperated by an unknown distance, and his world was beginning to feel dark and empty once again. He remembered how angry he had felt, how he had wanted, and still wanted, to strangle Anora to death in a sudden vengeful outburst. The walk back to the Arl of Redcliffe's estate was beyond awkward, especially for Anora, but Zevran managed to regain his composure and curb his blood-lust. A brief side-eye from Morrigan was enough to assure him that vengeance would be taken when the time was right. Anora could sense the hostility anyway; all she could do was hope that her father was playing his cards right.
Once though the doors of the estate Zevran marched straight to Oghren, prised the bottle of liquor from his stubby fingers, then downed it completely on his way to Eamon's study. After a brief discussion, it was concluded that Ser Cauthrien had most likely taken the Wardens to Fort Drakon - an ancient fortress that towered high above the city.
"I'm waiting for a reason not to slit her throat and toss her in the river. I haven't heard it yet," said Zevran, repulsed by Anora's every breath.
Eamon rapped his fingers on the edge of his desk, too shocked to respond and too courteous to bear any resentment towards Anora. Zevran discreetly eyed the noblewoman up and down, noticing her swan-like neck, how plump her breasts looked atop that ribbon corset, how delicately she folded her dainty hands together. Such features he always found attractive in women, though when he looked at Anora he felt sick to the stomach. He wanted his little Dalish elf back, for he was not sure how life could go on in her absence.
"Getting into Fort Drakon will be no small feat," said Anora in her annoyingly immaculate Ferelden accent.
"Indeed," mumbled Eamon, stroking his beard. After this there was a long silence, which was broken only by a creak at the door and a terse greeting from Morrigan. Then silence, stillness, more contemplation and beard stroking. Zevran clenched his jaw. With every passing second Mi'harel and Alistair were sinking into greater danger, and nobody was expecting Loghain to be kind when he paid them a visit.
With a quiet nod to excuse himself, Zevran turned on his heel and hooked Morrigan's arm at the elbow, transporting her backwards out of the door with him.
* * *
Fort Drakon was impossible to miss, partially because of its tremendous height, but also because its architecture had a quaint, antiquated feel to it. No time was wasted in locating this place. Zevran had thought it would be a good idea to jog uphill through the city, though Morrigan was finding it hard to match the stamina of her elven friend, and thus spent the whole journey cursing at him from behind.
"I hope you know what you're doing, elf," Morrigan panted as they finally reached the front gate. The fort was well guarded, with men positioned at every door, window and battlement.
"This, my friend, is what we Antivans like to call... 'improvisation' " he said, eyes scanning the entrance. Morrigan rolled her eyes and sighed. She could see plainly that he had no idea what he was doing, though she had no better ideas to offer. After few moments of silent thought, Zevran poked Morrigan with his elbow - her skeptical gaze was becoming rather distracting.
"I am a master of subterfuge, no?" said Zevran, wishing that Fereldens would stop doubting him for once. "Let me do the talking. All you need to do is play along and marvel at how wonderfully persuasive I am."
Before long, Morrigan was pleasantly surprised to find herself sat on a red cushioned bench inside the fort's lobby. They were under the pretence of bringing a special delivery to the commander of the fort, a simple but effective idea that she could not fault Zevran for. When the guard came back Morrigan joined in with the fun, blagging the both of them passage into the main hall. Things were not so easy from there; a great deal of blood was split, though thankfully it was not theirs. As the pair of them edged their way down the stone-walled passages of the fort, they came past a horrific number of torture devices, and corpses that were content to be free of their suffering. The walls reeked with the stench of death. This was a place designed for pain and misery, not justice. It was nothing Zevran hadn't seen before - he was in fact guilty of administering worse cruelties back at Velabanchel. Regardless of this, a knot of anxiety was beginning to tighten in his stomach. Hopes of finding Mi'harel alive and well were fading rapidly.
"Blast and damnation! Where are they?" whispered Morrigan, turning over a corpse with her foot. She watched expectantly as Zevran wove between the cages and racks, then when she saw what he was looking at, she summoned a swirling ball of frost in her palm of her hand.
Zevran led them through a stone doorway into a hall lined with cells. Once inside they were greeted by two jailors, who were not at all pleased to see them, although a quick frost spell from Morrigan stalled them long enough for Zevran to reach them with his blades.
After the jailors were well and truly dead, a familiar voice called out to him. Zevran was quick to react, slicing a ring of keys from a dead jailor's belt and rushing over to the nearby cell.
When the door finally swung free, Zevran was happy to see that Mi'harel was unharmed, albeit crumpled and shivering in the corner wearing nothing but her undergarments.
"Ah, my dear Warden," he said with a smile, barely noticing Alistair's presence. "Did you miss me?"
"Zev!" Mi'harel called, scrambling to her feet and racing over to him at full speed. She flung herself at him with such force she almost knocked him to the ground. He laughed, swinging her round to lessen the impact, kissed her forehead when her feet found the ground. It felt good to have her in his arms once more. Everything was in its place again.
"You are so cold," he said, rubbing frantically at her pale arms. Zevran opened his mouth to say something else, but before he could utter a word, Mi'harel cupped his face in her icy hands and kissed him a thousand times.
"Oh for the love of-" said Alistair, rolling his eyes. "Can we save all the happy reunion stuff for later? I'm standing in the middle of a dungeon in my pants."
"A sight I'll not likely forget," muttered Morrigan, thrusting his salvaged armour at him.
Chapter 9: The Earring
After their escape from Fort Drakon, Zevran decides to give the Warden a little present.
[Note - This chapter is inspired by the in-game dialogue.]
Arl Eamon’s estate was oddly quiet when the four returned from Fort Drakon. The torches on the walls burned dimly and the hallways smelled faintly of roast mutton from the evening feast. Arl Eamon was relieved to see his guests had returned safely. The four were soon ushered into the dining hall where they were treated to a wholesome meal.
As the four of them gobbled down their food, Morrigan and Alistair found themselves in yet another lengthy debate. Eamon leaned back in his chair, chuckling to himself after each snide comment. Mi’harel cupped her head in her hands in-between forkfuls of food, feeling utterly exhausted by the whole day. She glanced out of the window and was scarcely surprised to see that the sky was beginning to lighten. So much had to be done, yet the next day was soon upon them and the four of them were completely sleep deprived. Mi’harel glanced wearily up at Zevran. He was worlds away, staring blankly at the empty silver plate in front of him. There were dark circles under his eyes and blood on his skin – physical reminders of what he had done for her.
“I’m exhausted,” Mi’harel said eventually. “Anora wants us to sort out the Alienage tomorrow – we should get some rest.”
“Yes, sir!” said Alistair, saluting at her in jest.
When Mi’harel stood up to leave, Zevran followed. Although their relationship had thus far been based on lust alone, they still enjoyed each other’s company when only sleep was on the menu. They almost felt uncomfortable sleeping alone.
The room they had been given was lavishly decorated, with silken bedsheets, a fireplace, and plenty of room for duelling. The pair of them collapsed on the bedsheets next to each other, lying there for a few minutes in silence, too tired to begin removing their armour.
After a while, Zevran sat up with a serious look on his face.
“Eh, Mia?” he said, poking her in the arm, “It seems an appropriate moment to give you this.”
Mi’harel rolled over sluggishly, noticing the earring he was holding out to her in the palm of his bloodstained hand. When questioned about the meaning of his gesture, Zevran launched into a lengthy tale of how he acquired the thing. Mi’harel tried to feign as much interest as possible, but her eyelids felt incredibly heavy, and the low, soothing timbre of his Antivan accent almost sent her to sleep.
“That’s… very kind of you, Zev,” she said, wearily. “But…”
“Don’t get the wrong idea about it,” he interrupted. The golden ring glistened in the light of the fire as he rolled it between his fingers. “You killed Taliesen. As far as the Crows are concerned, I died with him. That means I’m free, at least for now.”
“Mmmh,” Mi’harel groaned, hauling her weary body upright. She began to unfasten her boots.
Zevran removed her hand from her boot and pressed the earring into her palm. “Feel free to sell it, or wear it… or whatever you like. It’s really the least I could give you in return.”
For a brief moment, Mi’harel stopped and studied his face carefully. It was evident he was trying to be affectionate – it was not just her that helped to kill Taliesen, so why was he rewarding her? Zevran had never acted this way towards her before, so naturally, she was compelled to enquire.
“So… this is just… a friendly reward for helping you? Not a token of affection or anything – just something to sell if I so wish?” she asked, suspiciously. “You know I don’t need money, Zev. Why are you really giving me this?”
At that, he began to get rather flustered. “I… look, just… just take it. It’s meant a lot to me, but so have… so has what you’ve done. Please, take it,” he said, closing her open palm shut again and pushing it firmly towards her.
It was then that Mi’harel realised he had never once said anything even slightly romantic to her. Their relationship was openly sexual, but she knew there was a mutual feeling that extended beyond lust and into the realms of love. Zevran had done things for her over the past couple of months that he would never have done for someone he merely liked to sleep with. If there was ever a perfect occasion to admit to this, it would have been now. Alas, the lingering feeling remained unaddressed.
“I’ll only take it if you admit it means something,” she said bluntly, handing the earring back to him. Zevran huffed and paced over to the door with clenched fists.
“You are a very frustrating woman to deal with, do you know that?” he said, raising his voice. Mi’harel’s stomach began to fill with butterflies; he had never been angry with her before. “You don’t want the earring? You don’t get the earring. Very simple.”
And with that, Zevran stormed off to sleep elsewhere, leaving Mi’harel feeling rather anxious and awfully alone.
Chapter 10: Before the Storm
It's the night before the darkspawn are due to attack. Mi'harel decides to settle her affairs before the battle.
The golden crown sat proudly on its red velvet cushion, gleaming in the candlelight. Alistair sighed, having still not processed the situation. A week had passed since he had been crowned the King of Ferelden – a week that had been full of sleepless nights and frantic pacing around his fancy new chambers. The crown had not merely fallen into his hands; his new role was largely due to Mi’harel’s scheming. She had somehow managed to garner a great deal of political influence, and unfortunately, an incredible talent for persuasion. Alistair wondered just what Mi’harel would convince him to do next.
“You’ll be fine,” said Mi’harel, squeezing his shoulder. Alistair’s eyes scanned his new quarters. He was not used to possessing such wealth. It was all much too sudden for him.
“We should have given the crown to Anora,” he said, wringing his hands together. “Things would have been easier that way.”
Mi’harel snorted. “I’d rather die than have that bitch as my queen. Besides,” she said, sitting on the desk in front of him, “We have a war to win. It won’t be long before the horde is here.”
“I know,” Alistair said solemnly. Mi’harel noticed the eerie silence of the palace, knowing it was the quiet before the storm to come. The fire in the fireplace crackled softly, providing a little bit of comforting ambience. With a sigh, Mi’harel remembered the reason she had approached her new king in the first place.
“Alistair…” Mi’harel began. This was not going to be an easy conversation. She prayed to her gods that she was making the right decision in trusting the witch. Alistair inhaled slowly, looking at her with distrustful eyes.
“I need you to… sleep with Morrigan. Tonight.”
Alistair stared at her for a few moments, then burst out laughing.
It took Mi’harel almost an hour to convince him to go along with Morrigan’s little ritual. They managed to come to an agreement that Alistair’s pride and dignity were far less important than either of them losing their lives to the archdemon. At any rate, Alistair was not too pleased about losing his virginity to Morrigan, of all people. Whatever Morrigan was planning to do with her resulting child was a thought neither Mi’harel or Alistair wanted to entertain. When all was said and done, Mi’harel left Alistair to prepare for his romantic night with Morrigan, and moved onto her next errand for the evening – finally settling things with Zevran.
* * *
Zevran had been avoiding Mi’harel’s graces for days now. At first, she was angry at his stubbornness, even considered never talking to him ever again out of principle. Tonight, however, was the last night before the darkspawn were due to arrive. With the knowledge that either of them could be dead come tomorrow, she wanted to at least die with a clean conscience. Pacing through the torch-lit corridors of the palace, Mi’harel found her way to Zevran’s shabby quarters near the kitchens. Weaving her way through wooden shelves and rows of beds, she finally found the elusive assassin. He was lying on one of the single beds, legs crossed, sharpening his blades in preparation for the battle. When Mi’harel called his name, he glanced at her briefly, then lowered his eyes back to his blade. His blade hissed louder as he tried to ignore her presence.
“Zev,” she said with a sigh, sitting on the end of his bed. “Something’s changed. You seem different now.”
“Hm,” he said, rubbing his face with grubby hands. “I thought that this might be it. Are you certain you wish to talk about this?”
“Yes.” Mi’harel stared at him with cold, amber eyes.
“I really do not know what to say,” he said, placing his equipment on the bedstand and folding his arms over his chest. Mi’harel clenched her jaw, feeling sudden waves of emotion welling up inside her. With the knowledge that today could be their last day together, she was unable to deal with Zevran acting like this at the end of all things.
“Are you having second thoughts about us?” she said, raising her voice a little. Voices murmured behind bookshelves and lines of drying linen, eager to hear the latest gossip from the famous Warden’s scandalous and not-so-secret love affair.
“I…,” Zevran started, looking a little uneasy all of a sudden. He sat up. “No. This… I am acting like a child. I realise.” He drew in a deep breath and sat closer to her. “I apologise. Let me try to explain.”
The night grew ever darker as Zevran tried to explain the woes of being an assassin. Ever since he was sold like a sheep to House Arainai, he hadn’t known how to be anything but an emotionless killing machine. Mi’harel almost felt sorry for him. He sat very close to her now, his thighs almost touching hers, his yellow eyes nervous and vulnerable as he opened up to her. She could see he was confused, feeling something intense for her, but with a conscience that was trained to tell him it was wrong.
“Do you think there might be some future for us? Some possibility of… I do not know what,” he said.
“I hope so,” Mi’harel said, thinking about the coming battle. She looked down at the floor, not altogether sure that talking this out had made her feel any better.
“I… still have the earring. I would like to give it to you… as a token of affection.” He gripped Mi’harel’s forearm to seize back her drifting attention. “Will you take it?”
“Is this some kind of proposal?” she asked, trying not to blush.
“Not unless you wish it,” he said softly.
Mi’harel stared at the jewel in his palm for a time, but her heart forbade her to refuse it. She took the earring and curled up on her side, wishing the morrow would never come. As if he had read her thoughts, Zevran lay next to her, wrapping his arms around her from behind. He ran his dextrous fingers over her cheek, curling wispy strands of hair behind her little pointed ear. In silent unison, they watched the candle flicker on his bedstand. It had burned low and the wax was beginning to harden on the wood. In that moment, Zevran felt more complete than he had ever felt in his life. It felt so unfair that he might only live to enjoy one more day of it.
“Promise me you’ll be careful tomorrow, Zev.”
“For you, I will,” he said, blowing out the candle. “But for you also, I would die gladly.”