Part 1: The Nothing

I blinked my eyes rapidly, my sight fuzzy and unfocused at first.  But soon I saw great blocks of grey stone above me and the edges of my vision caught the rich brown color of wooden bed posts.  That softness I had felt around me was that of the bed I now found myself lying on, as well as the sheets that covered me.

I looked down at myself slowly for everything hurt.  The sheets only covered me from the waist down.  From the waist to armpit I was covered in tightly wrapped bandages and nothing else.  My bare arms lying atop the covers were crisscrossed with angry red weals and lines.  Wounds I had sustained in battle I guessed and well along the healing process by the looks of things.  Soon enough they would fade to silver and blend in with the multitude of other scars I had that told the story of my life by the sword.  But upon seeing them I feared how long I had been asleep.  I looked around the stark, barren room, taking stock of my surroundings.

The room was moderately sized, big enough for the bed I found myself in as well as a chair and desk to my right, both empty of anything save a lone lantern on the worn table top with space enough for two abreast to walk around all items comfortably.  Everything was clean if worn, patched and faded and I could have sworn I smelled the faintest hint of smoke in the air.  I guessed it was about midday if the light coming through the window to my left was any indication.  But the room was suspiciously empty and the air had an unquiet stillness to it, like an overlarge beast holding it’s breathe.

“Kiché?” I tried to call out, my voice coming out instead in a cracked and broken hiss of air that ended in a terrible coughing fit.  The spasms wracked my body awakening the pain to new heights.  Gasping for air in the aftermath I blinked the tears away and licked my dry, chapped lips as a dark form rose up at the end of the bed.

Two large, dark, liquid brown eyes looked back at me worriedly, the face they belonged to seeming to hold far more intelligence than any creature should.  It was Kiché.  I smiled at my faithful hound.  He had been keeping watch at the foot of my bed.

“Hey boy,” I whispered, careful not to strain my voice.  I winced as I opened a new crack or two on my already sore lips despite my caution.  Kiché cocked his head questioningly at me, emitting another small worried whine.  His ears, large, sharply pointed things that normally stood tall and proud on the head were drooping slightly with his worry.

“I’m alright boy,” I whispered again, my voice growing a little bit stronger with each use.  I patted the empty bed bedside me, and with a soft chuff of air Kiché climbed up lay beside me, his back along my side, my arm curled under his head.

I remembered when he was just a pup we would curl up in bed together like this at night despite my parent’s insistence that he sleep on the floor.  It had been many years since I held my hound like that.  Mabari hounds are born big boned, and grow large with muscle.  There was not often a bed big enough to hold the both of us once he was fully grown and though there was enough room for two people on this bed, I was laid out more to the middle so one human and a Mabari was a bit of a tight fit.  But at that moment I didn’t care.  I was back from the dead and fully intended to take what little joys I could.

We lay there together for a few moments with me stroking his fur and whispering soothing nonsense to him.  I reveled in all the sensations my battered, aching body took in.  The texture of my hound’s fur, the dusty smell of his skin, feeling the rise and fall of his chest beneath my hand as he breathed.  Things I would not have noticed before became glaringly obvious now.

Soon enough I felt my hound relax under my touch reassured that I was indeed back, alive, and I was going to be ok.  But then suddenly Kiché pricked his ears and looked over at the door.  My eyes followed his movements as he turned around and raised his head, sniffing the air.

Gritting my teeth I pushed my arms underneath me as I tried to sit up and looked for a weapon to arm myself with.  Something was coming.  Kiché did not seem worried but I had not lived as long as I had in these times without being cautious.  I would not meet whatever was coming lying down.

I heard footsteps approaching my door and braced myself for the worst.  The black iron latch shook slightly as whoever was on the other side engaged the mechanism to open the thick wooden door wide.

I let out the breath I hadn’t been aware I was holding when I saw the familiar face.  It was the Elvin assassin Zevran, one of my companions.  He was carrying a tray bearing a simple clay mug, bowl, and square of white linen.  His eyes widened slightly when he caught sight of me half sitting, half lying on the bed.  Closing the door behind him he swiftly crossed the room, placing the tray on the desk with one hand, using the other to gently push me back down.

“Ah, my dear Warden friend!” he exclaimed jovially as he settled me back onto the bed.  “As happy as I am to see your beautiful green eyes again, we must not overexert ourselves no?”  A shiver went down my spine when I heard his Antivan accent.  His voice was warm with an exotic burr to it that never failed to make me blush despite being dedicated to another.

Zevran’s pale blonde hair, cut shoulder length with half of it pulled and braided back to show his pointed ears was a stark contrast to his dusky skin.  Slender like all elf folk, he was shorter than me by a few inches.  His face was slender as well with dark brown eyes, a slim nose and high cheekbones and he had a dark, elegant double curved line tattoo on the left side of his face.

But what he lacked for in height he made up for in character.  Zevran was witty, charming, practical, and deadly.  Born into an Antivan whorehouse, bought by the assassin guild known as the Crows and trained to be one of them, Zevran had not had what one would call a typical childhood.

Our paths first crossed shortly after my journey to stop the Blight began.  He had been hired by Loghain to kill me and Alistair and thankfully he failed.  We defeated the ambush he had set up and with his failure his life was forfeit to the Crows, so he pledged it instead to me.

Few were happy with my decision to include an elven assassin into our ranks but I was not about to turn away any willing to join me in my fight.  And I stand by my choice to this day.  Zevran has more than once saved my life or the life of another of my companions traveling with us, and he was fun having around despite –perhaps even because of- his constant attempts to get into the pants of any female he crossed.  And a few of the men.

“Zevran-” I started, when another fit wracked my body.  Zevran gently lifted my shoulders, letting me breathe easier through the attack before setting me down once more.  Reaching over for the clay mug he supported my head and brought it to my lips.

“Slowly now my friend,” he whispered.  I sipped at the cool, life giving water the mug held, holding each mouthful for a few moments before letting the sweet moisture slid down my throat.  Too soon Zevran pulled the mug away and I couldn’t help but let out a small whimper.  Zevran chuckled.

“Soon my dear Grey Warden, you have been asleep for a long time.”  Zevran settled himself on the bed next to me, leaning over to give Kiché a quick scratch behind the ears.

“Your hound has been most worried,” Zevran commented as Kiché panted heavily and leaned into his nimble fingers.  “He has barely eaten or slept since the battle, and would not let us near you at first to tend your wounds.  A true and loyal friend you are Kiché,” Kiché barked happily and wagged his tale before looking at me one last time and loping off the bed.  Mabari hounds always were too smart for their own good, and I had no doubt that Kiché knew there was much Zevran and I needed to talk about.

“What-” my voice broke.  I coughed once to clear it and tried again. “What happened?”

Zevran grinned at me.  “Why, we won of course!  The horde was brought low after you killed the Archdemon.  It was rather strange that you wanted to take a nap so suddenly after the battle, but with everything that we had done I assumed-”

I lay my hand on his knee, stopping him mid-sentence. “You know that’s not what I meant,” I said softly.  The grin melted from his face, and his eyes grew dark as he nodded.

“Yes, I know.” He sighed.  “We did win; I did not lie about that.  You did kill the Archdemon.  The Darkspawn horde was left leaderless with demon and generals dead, and the masses that we did not slaughter in the city quickly scattered.  Our allies suffered minimal losses, thanks to you.  We’re still hunting down the odd stragglers, but for the most part the city has been cleared.  After the battle, you-” he paused and looked away from me before meeting my eyes. “You were gravely wounded.  If you had not taken Wynne up to the tower with you…”

I said nothing, laying there watching the play of emotions across his handsome face.  I already knew what had happened to me.  The pain I felt in my body, the new scars, seeing my parents, I think I already knew how badly I had been wounded, but it lightened my heart to hear how well our allies had done.

“How long?”Zevran didn’t answer at first, staring instead down at my hand on his knee.  I felt my mouth grow dry again.  Zevran was not usually the quiet one, and his reluctance to answer me filled me with no small amount of dread.

“How long Zevran?” I asked more forcefully.  He looked me in the eye and said deadpanned, “Almost two months.”

My mind reeled.  No wonder those marks on my arm were so healed, my voice so broken.  I had lost two months of my life.  I frowned and looked down at myself.  But after two months, with such an accomplished healer as Wynne tending me with potions and salves, I should have been up on my feet by now.

I swallowed twice to clear my throat.  “How bad.”  I felt Zevran’s hand upon mine.

“As far as Wynne could tell, most of the bones in your body were broken.  When you drove that great sword into the Archdemon’s skull, there was this pillar of light that grew brighter and brighter before it exploded, throwing you into a turret and knocking us to the ground.  The force of your collision shattered your bones.”

I nodded as I listened to the monotone of his voice.  He was trying to hide just how scared he was.  It must have been frightening for them all seeing that, seeing me broken and bleeding on the top of that tower.  I could only imagine what everyone, especially Alistair must have gone through, waiting all this time to see if I would live or die.

The pain I was in made more sense as well.  My body had been ripped, shattered, stretched, torn, shredded, stitched back together, and then laid inert for almost six weeks.  As a result most of my muscles had atrophied, and I doubt Wynne would have anything in her extensive healing repertoire for that.  The only thing I could do now was quaff some potions for the pain and get moving as soon as possible.

“What of the rest of our companions?  Where are they, are they ok?”  My heart pounded in my chest at this question.  Oh Maker, let Alistair be alright, I prayed.

“Oh of course, of course!” he said with a chuckle, patting the air with his hands.  “Just your average, run of the mill cuts, scrapes and lacerations, all healed up by now.  The worst was a nasty gash Wynne caught from a Genlock blade when my back was turned, but she’s alright now.  She and Leliana are tending the wounded at the Chantry.  Sten, Shale and Oghren are helping with all the heavy lifting such as burying the dead and moving the rubble and your fellow Grey Warden Alistair is off doing some kingly business.  Morrigan however-” I held up my hand to stop him.

I knew Morrigan was gone.   She told me as much the night before the battle.  She would stay, she would fight, and when the battle was done she would leave, carrying Alistair’s bastard child.  It was the deal I had made with her to save both our lives.

We had discovered that in order to slay an Archdemon, a Grey Warden had to die.  Darkspawn are soulless creatures.  And when an Archdemon dies its soul enters the nearest body bearing the darkspawn taint.  If that creature is another darkspawn, the Archdemon lives on and is essentially immortal.  But Grey Wardens share the taint as well.  The initiation of a Grey Warden is to drink darkspawn blood and willingly infect themselves with their taint.  If the initiate lives, they are a Grey Warden.  And if a Grey Warden is the one to deal the death blow to an Archdemon, then that soul enters the body of the Grey Warden drawn by the taint it bears.  But since a Grey Warden already has a soul, the soul of the Warden and the Archdemon cancel each other out and both are eliminated.

It was a death sentence to kill an Archdemon and it was between me, Alistair, and an Orleasian Grey Warden named Riordan who were to give up our lives and try to slay the demon, but Morrigan came up with a solution.  She would lie with Alistair, he would get her with child and that child, bearing the taint as well, would call to the soul of the Archdemon when it was killed and absorb the Old God soul, cleansing it of its taint.

It was a deal I had made without the knowledge or consent of any of my other companions.  I considered myself a good and honorable woman, doing what I felt was right no matter the circumstances.  Sometimes, though, the circumstances were not ideal to say the least and so the choices I had to make were hard.  But I had already given up so much, seen so much death and destruction I could not pass up that chance to save us.  We would live I decided.  We would live now and deal with the consequences later.

Zevran and I sat quietly in the room together for a few moments.  We had never shared a bed or more than a few flirtatious words, but I often felt that I was closer to him than any other barring Alistair.  His calm and easy acceptance of me and my choices made it easy in turn for me to talk to him.  I did not fear being judged or condemned by this surprisingly complex man.  It was not a quality most other people possessed and I had long ago learned to nurture and cherish the friendships that blossomed with those few who did.

My mind was abruptly torn from my musing by an odd growling noise.  At first I thought it was Kiché and made to call him, but another chuckle from Zevran stopped me and I looked at him curiously.

“But of course,” he said with a smile.  “With all this talking I almost forgot why I was here.”  He motioned to the bowl still on the tray.  “We have been feeding you broth and water by placing linen over your mouth and letting it flow down your throat.  I was not expecting you to be awake, so I am afraid I have no spoon for you.  But from the sounds of it, you could use to have something in your belly, no?”

I laughed weakly and nodded.  It was hard to stay serious around such an infectious grin.

“But please Zevran, help me sit up first? I don’t feel like dribbling broth all down my front,” I started to ease myself up slowly.  Zevran moved to help me, supporting my back and propping pillows behind me till I was reclining.  The sheet, however, had remained in place when I moved and very little was keeping me modest.  I did my best to ignore it, for to fix I would have had to bring attention to it.

Zevran tsked at me once we were done, and shook his head sadly.  “As happy as I am to make you comfortable my beautiful friend, I am sorely wounded that you would so harshly take from me the opportunity to give you a sponge bath!” He grinned lecherously at me as he reached for the bowl.  I grinned back at him but weakly waved his hand away as he brought the bowl to my lips.

“Speaking of baths why are you tending me?”  Why wasn’t Alistair doing that? “And if I’ve had Wynne working on me for two weeks, why am I not healed yet?”

“Ah, see now there is the tale.  I am too pretty to work hard, too hard to tend the wounded gently, and all the foreign ambassadors were getting nervous having an assassin around, so I was delegated nursemaid.  Wynne has visited you when she could, but as soon as it became clear you weren’t going to die from your wounds she tended to those who needed her more as she knew you would want her to.”  He looked at me and saw the unspoken question in my eyes, answering it before I needed to give it a voice.

“Your love did not leave your side for days,” he assured me.  “He waited here for you, hoping you would wake.  Duty eventually called him out, but as soon as he can he comes back here and waits by your side.”

Tears filled my eyes at those words, and a tender part of my heart that I did not know was hurting was soothed.  I blinked them away quickly as Zevran boldly raised a finger to gently stroke my cheek.

“He is a very lucky man, your Alistair,” Zevran whispered to me.  I couldn’t speak.  I could only stare into his eyes as his warm palm cupped my face and he leaned in, pressing his lips softly against mine.

The kiss was there and done in a moment but my lips still burned.  Zevran pulled away as if nothing had happened and moved the bowl to my lips again.  Stunned, the small part of my brain that still functioned at that moment tried to order my hands to take control of the bowl and drink so Zevran would not have to feed me like an infant.

It worked at first.  But atrophied muscles don’t often work the way you intend or want them to and my arms did not even have the strength to hold up a simple bowl of broth.  I almost dropped it as soon as Zevran took his hands away.  But he was quick and caught it before anything spilled on me.

“Blood and damnation!” I swore.  A curse I had picked up from our Orleasian bard friend Leliana.  Zevran said nothing, just smiled patiently at me as he put my hands on the bowl again, cupping them with his own.  I controlled the bowl while he lent his strength to hold it up.  I looked at him, grateful for his understanding and was struck all at once by his duality.

He was an assassin, a thief, a man whose hands were covered in the blood of the people he had killed for money.  But now those hands, those quick, deadly, bloody hands, they fed me.  They were kind, gentle, and had cared for me for weeks.  I had always known there was another side to this charming charismatic rogue and I was glad he was letting me see it at last.

But I was still so full of questions!  I guess being asleep for months would do that to a girl, so I continued to pepper Zevran with them between sips of the lukewarm broth.

“Where are we?” I asked as I let my eyes roam around the room again.  It was not a place I recognized, although I had to guess that I was a few floors up from the ground by the look of the light.

“You my dear Lurianna are still at Fort Drakon.  It was not safe to move you much further at first, and when it was safe, Wynne was against it.  She feared she had missed something that kept you sleeping, and that moving you would only make things worse.”  Zevran’s eyes were locked on my face as he watched me sip at the bowl we both held.

“There has been much talk of moving our companions to the currently vacant Arl of Denerrim’s estate, but few are willing to actually do so.  Wynne and Leliana are staying with Arl Eamon, but only to be closer to the Chantry where they are most needed at the moment.  But for the rest of us, we are here, waiting for you to wake.”

I nodded slowly, all my concentration focused on taking one slow sip after another.  I would only make myself ill if I drank too much, too soon.

“Why am I still bandaged up?” I glanced down at my bound torso as I took another sip.

“The worst of your flesh wounds was where one of the dragon’s talons rent your armor and gouged you from belly to breastbone,” he said grimly.  “Thankfully it wasn’t bad enough to spill your insides out so to speak, but it was deep and a stubborn infection set in quickly preventing it from healing properly.  Last time the bandages were changed, it looked to be doing much better.  Wynne said that with luck sometime this week they can be taken off entirely.”

“I take it you’re to report on my condition when you leave here?” I pulled away and leaned back, belly full for now.  Zevran put the empty bowl back on the tray and brought the mug to my lips again.

“Indeed.  I will first go to Wynne for she will want to see for herself that you are alive and well once again, and then I will find Alistair, providing of course he doesn’t find me first and decapitate me for not telling him right away,” he said dryly.  I chuckled at that, waving the mug away.

“I thought you could handle yourself Zevran?” I commented slyly.

“Oh my dear Lurianna, I can.  You can be rest assured of that,” he replied.  “But I know how much it would wound you if I harmed even the tiniest hair on his fair head, so I choose to spare you that pain and be about my business as quickly as I can.”

With that he stood up, resettling everything on the try.  My eyelids began to feel heavy.  Maker, I was so tired already!  I tried to slide down into a more comfortable sleeping position, but I moved the wrong way and felt something pull deep inside me in protest.  The pain wasn’t the worst I had felt in my life, but it was enough to make me gasp.

Zevran was back to me in an instant, and seeing what I was trying to do he sat down on the bed again and wrapped my arms around his neck.

“Hold on tightly my lovely lady,” he whispered in my ear.  “I will see you are at ease before I leave you.”

He began clearing the pillows from behind my back, and I was just so tired I lay my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes.  I breathed deep and was oddly soothed by his scent of warm leather and spicy male.  I felt his arms wrap around my back, his hands splaying over my shoulder blades as he leaned forward, lowering me down onto the bed.

It was at that moment of course that I heard the handle of the door rattle again as someone else came into my room.

“Well.  Isn’t this a lovely surprise?” drawled a wondrously familiar voice.  My eyes flew open in shock and surprise as I raised my head and looked over Zevran’s shoulder to the doorway, our arms still wrapped around each other.  I gasped and felt Zevran’s arms tense possessively around me for the briefest of instants when he recognized the voice.

“Alistair!” I cried.

Part 3: Lovers Reunited