Part 3: Lovers Reunited

“Are you sure you wish to be up here my dear?” Zevran asked me as we walked out onto the top of Fort Drakon.  “We can probably find you some lovely gardens untouched by the Darkspawn, and with plenty of beautiful flowers for you to enjoy if you want to take a walk in the sunlight.”

I sighed at my companion as I hobbled further from the shadowy stairwell that had brought us up here.  It had been a week since I had awoken from my injuries and my days had been too busy for me to venture up to the top of the fortress yet.  The day after I woke Alistair had me moved into the rooms he had taken over on the top floor of the fortress and through no small part of encouraging and demanding on my part, he was spending more time acting the part of the king and rebuilding Denerrim than he was at my side playing the worried lover.

Besides it wasn’t as if I lacked for company those first few days.  Once Wynne had rescinded her threat to turn everyone into a toad if they disturbed me that first night they came to me en masse and we sat in the rooms I now shared with my love and we all ate, drank, and talked of everything and nothing, catching me up on the two months of their lives I had missed.

Reconstruction was well underway in the city of Denerrim thanks in a large part to my golem and Qunari companions Shale and Sten.  Their strength was invaluable in clearing the rubble and raising new structures.  Oghren and the dwarves that remained from Orzamar where helping with planning the reconstruction and the laying of foundations for new buildings.  Most of the wounded had been healed and sent home thanks to Wynne, Leliana, and the other mages from the Circle.  Only a few serious cases remained after so long and only my companions and a handful of mages remained behind to tend them.  Kiché hardly ever left my side except for a few hours each day when I bade him to hunt on his own.  It would do neither of us any good if he wasted away wandering the halls beside me. I discovered through these conversations that during my incognizance Alistair had appointed Zevran as my protector and nursemaid in his absence in addition to being messenger and errand runner for those between the tower and the rest of the city.

As for me, after insisting the city was more important and sending everyone back to their self appointed tasks my time after that was taken up hobbling around the top floors of the fort with Zevran by my side, building up the strength in my muscles again.  We all still remained on the uppermost level and the floor below us remained sealed off from the rest of the world, not only on Alistair’s orders but mine now as well.  Word had spread fast that the hero of Fereldan had awoken but I refused to let any other than my friends see me in the state that I was in.  I feared it would do the people little good to see what a toll the battle had taken on my body and decided to play the part of the hermit until I could walk under my own power again.

“I will not have the people seeing their hero so weak,” I reminded Zevran as I limped across the blood stained stone, leaning heavily on the cane someone had found and brought to me.  I grew stronger as each day passed but while my progress pleased and astonished Wynne, it felt agonizingly slow to me.

I looked around at the place where I had nearly lost my life.  So many died here.  Thankfully most of them were Darkspawn but just over two score of dwarves died here too, fighting the Archdemon and the Darkspawn.  Fighting for me because I was the one who called them from their underground home.  Though the bodies had long ago been taken away and the debris cleared the blood remained, baking into the stone as a stark reminder of what had happened a few short months ago.  The ballistae at the four corners of the rooftop were still trained towards the centre where the largest pool of blood called to me.

I limped over and looked down.  I could see the outline of the dragon’s skull in blood on the stone.  A large, dark scorch mark encapsulated the bloody outline.  I could only assume that came from the light everyone claims to have seen when I killed the Archdemon.  This was where the Archdemon fellThis is where I killed it.

Slowly I knelt on the warm stone, ignoring Zevran’s protest.  I traced both outlines with my fingertips and looked up to the sky.  It was a glorious day, the sky a shade of blue I had never seen before.  I wasn’t sure if that’s because we were so high up or I was just that happy to be able to see it.  The sun was shining down on us, it was just past midday and the heat would have been unbearable if not for the breeze that gently caressed my face as it blew past us.  I closed my eyes and breathed deep, taking in the sounds and smells of the healing city from so far above it.

“This is where it happened,” I echoed my thoughts from earlier as I opened my eyes once more.  My gaze was drawn to my left to one of the taller turrets between two ballistae where there was another rather large pool of blood at the base.  “Is that where I fell?” I reached my hand up to Zevran without looking as with his help I staggered to my feet.

“Yes, that is where you landed,” he replied grimly.  I nodded, my eyes never leaving the spot as I limped over and stared down at it.

“What happened?” I asked so softly I doubt Zevran would have heard it if he was human.  He came to stand beside me, staring at the blood.

“You don’t remember?” his voice just as quiet.  I looked at him for the first time since we had come here and smiled softly at him.  “I think so, but I want to see it through your eyes.”

Zevran sighed and scrubbed his hand over his face.  “Very well my dear.  Your wish is my command.  But what, might I ask, do you remember?”

“Bits and pieces.” My gaze swept across the battlements.  “I remember the fight to the gates, the battles at the marketplace and the Alienage where we killed the generals.  I remember the fighting to get to the fortress, and through it to reach this place, but after that…” I shook my head “All I can see are bits and pieces, all thrown and jumbled together.”

“Very well,” Zevran said nodding.  “I will start at the beginning, when we came through that door for the first time…”

***

We threw open the great doors that separated the rooftop from the rest of the fortress.  Charging out into the open, we stopped in our tracks at the sight that greeted us.  What I saw…only a man without a soul would have seen that and been unaffected.

The Archdemon had beaten us to the top of the tower and was making short work of the few human defenders who had sought refuge from the Darkspawn up here.  I could see the vestiges of great power, and even a certain grace and beauty in the ravaged form.  The dragon that the Archdemon used to be must have been quite the site before it was corrupted.

But whatever it was before now it was a dark, twisted thing.  Red patches that seemed to ooze like sores covered its body, showing through the sickly purple-red of its armored hide.  The front teeth of its upper jaw had grown too big for its mouth and hung down like fangs over the bottom jaw.  Thick, sharp spines ran from the back of its skull to the tip of its tail, and the head was likewise armored in matching bony spikes.  And its eyes were an evil yellow, glowing with anger and hatred.

As we watched, the Archdemon turned to look behind itself and seeing a few defenders gave one swipe of its club ended tail and sent them sprawling to the ground.  A pair of archer opened fire in front of him, peppering his head and chest with arrows but this did not even slow the great beast.  It reared up and lifted a foreleg as if to fend off the biting insects, then came down again and swept out its great neck, knocking one archer down and snapping up the other in its jaws.

I heard the crunch of bones as the Archdemon bit down on its hapless victim, before snapping its neck back and sending the archer soaring over the battlements to meet the ground far below.  The first archer had not regained his feet and was trying desperately to crawl out of the way, but the poor bastard wasn’t fast enough.  The Archdemon saw him and brought one huge clawed foot down on his back, crushing him and killing him instantly.

Facing the last four soldiers the dragon let loose a gruesome stream of billowing purple flames, setting those last few sword wielders afire.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the smell of their flesh roasting inside their armor.

It was then that the dragon caught its first sight of us.  It took a step forward and roared, spreading its wings wide, daring us to come for it.  It was then that we saw it was wounded.  When poor Riordan fell to his death he had dealt the Archdemon a crippling wound, ripping apart the membrane on one if its wings so it could no longer fly.  As dangerous as the dragon was on the ground it would have only been more dangerous in the air, able to attack us from above.

All this we saw in a matter of seconds, too late and too slow to save any of the poor bastards left alive on that tower.  And soon enough there were none but us left alive at all.

“Zevran!” you bellowed at me, grabbing at the front of my leathers to get my attention.  Your face was spattered with blood from the Darkspawn we had to cut through to get here, and in your eyes I saw a fierce determination the likes of which I had never seen from you before.  It was in that moment that I knew we would win.  You would not have it any other way.

But I was not so sure if you would live.

“Take Wynne and man the ballistae!” You pointed over to our right to the closest of the four ballistae that were stationed on top of the tower.  Shouting to be heard over the screams of the dying far below and the roars of the Archdemon you gave me my orders.

“Keep them trained on the Archdemon, they’ll do more damage and distract him as we harry his flanks and keep the Darkspawn off you.  Go!”  You shoved me away and I grabbed Wynne, running as if all the demons of hell were on our tail.  Behind me I heard the clear brassy notes of the horn you had on your belt ring out, calling for reinforcements, the sound followed swiftly by your war cry.

“FOR FERELDAN!” I heard you bellow.  Soon a contingent of dwarves came billowing out of all entrances onto the rooftop as you and Oghren raced for the Archdemon surrounded by his Darkspawn thralls.

I had little time to think of anything else after that.  I loaded the ballistae and fired it at the Archdemon, over and over again.  I watched out for Wynne as well, keeping the few Darkspawn off her that escaped you as she cast her spells.

But I wasn’t fast enough one time and it almost cost Wynne her life.  The Archdemon had leapt into the air and landed on the other side of the rooftop, too far away for the range of the ballistae we were manning but there was another one closer.

“Wynne!” I turned in time to see a Genlock raise its sword to take off her head.  “Behind you!” I cried out, drawing my blades and running to her, knowing I would be too late.  But something made Wynne turn at the last minute and the blade sliced through the muscle of her shoulder, lacerating the bone beneath.

As Wynne cried out and crumpled to the stone I leapt over her and drove my axe into the Genlock’s ugly skull, splitting that sharp toothed, lipless grimace in half as my dagger found that sweet spot between its ribs and pierced its heart.  The Genlock was dead before it hit the ground and I turned to our fallen comrade.

“Are you well Wynne?” I turned in time to see her drink deep of a health poultice, followed swiftly by a lyrium potion.

“I need to cast Zevran,” she gasped, her face pale from the pain.  I turned my eyes back to the battle watching for any coming our way.  I didn’t see you or Oghren in the writhing mass of bodies at the feet of the Archdemon but I heard your cry again and knew you were still well in the fight.

“Come Zevran,” Wynne’s voice brought me back to her.  “We need to get to that other ballistae and defend our friends.”  She had cast a spell to close her wound and while I saw in her face that it still pained her, her face was grim and determined.

The rest of the battle is as much a blur for me as it is for you, I’m sure.  There was no room to think of anything beyond where to place your sword and which way to lean to keep your head.  The fighting was fierce; Maker, I had never seen so much blood in one place before!  Every so often I would hear you calling out direction and encouragement over the din of screaming warriors and clashing swords and I even though much of your words were lost, I’m certain that the sound of your voice alone was enough to keep us all going.

And then, I saw something miraculous.

The dragon was not a quiet fighter, snarling, roaring and growling at those of us who tried to bring it down.  Quite rude of it, no?  You think after all we went through to get there and kill it, it would do the decent thing and die quietly.  It let out especially high pitched screams whenever the ballistae bolts I fired hit their mark.  But then the dragon made a new noise, one that could not help but draw all of our attention.

I had been loading another bolt onto the ballistae when I heard it.  Not so much a scream, but an otherworldly shriek of pain that sent shivers down my spine.  I froze and looked up from the ballistae to see the Archdemon on the stone, sorely wounded but still alive.  There were no living Darkspawn to be seen and I saw gladly that you, Oghren and most of the dwarves you had called upon yet lived.  One of those dwarves made for the Archdemon when your call stopped him.

“No!” you shouted to him, to all of us.  “The last blow must be mine!”

Wynne and I sped down the ramp of the ballistae tower just as the Archdemon stirred.  You ran towards the fallen beast, ripping a great sword out of the body of a fallen dwarf as you passed it.  The dragon raised its head and opened its mouth to strike you, but you were too swift for it.

You ran under the arch of its neck and dropped to one knee, sword raised high and still sliding forward.  Your momentum caused the sword to bite deep into the dragon’s throat, splitting its neck open.  Blood and gore rained down upon you as the Archdemon collapsed to the stones with a bellowing cry.

You paused a moment looking down at the fallen creature, before using both hands to raise the sword above your head.  Wynne and I were close enough to see the look on your face; you bared your teeth in a grimace of pure hatred as you screamed and drove the sword deep into the Archdemon’s skull.

As soon as you did a great pillar of light appeared, holding you fast.  Whether it came from the heavens or the body of the Archdemon I could not tell.  But I could see you as you continued to scream soundlessly, writhing as if you were trying to let go of the blade but were unable to do so.  Wynne and I looked on helplessly as you struggled.  We were unable to get close to you, there was…this… force…keeping us back.

But then the pillar exploded into a resounding flash of light, the shockwave throwing all who stood to the ground.

We were all stunned for those first few moments and it seemed as if the entire world had stopped with the explosion.  I could not hear anything of the battle below us nor could I hear the breathing of Wynne lying so close to me.  I found myself face down on the ground but fully intact.  Pushing myself up I looked about me and saw most of the others starting to stand as well.  I got shakily to my feet as Wynne sat up beside me, clutching her wound and groaning.

“I’m getting too old for this,” she moaned, rubbing her shoulder.  The blast had knocked her on her back, aggravating her wound.

“A woman as beautiful and courageous as you is never too old for anything she sets her mind to,” I said as I reached out a hand and helped her up.  Sensing movement out of the corner of my eye I turned, expecting to see you but saw Oghren instead, covered in blood and rubbing his head.

“By my ancestors,” he growled as he stomped towards us.  “Those things pack a meaner punch than a bronto beast with a Darkspawn up its arse!”

Looking at our companions I had to admit we made quite the sight.  The back of Wynne’s robe was torn and bloody from where she was wounded, and her normally fashionably styled hair had come loose of its matronly bun to leave strands of her hair wafting about her face in the late afternoon breeze.  She still had hold of her enchanter’s staff and in her weariness was leaning quite heavily upon it to remain upright.

Oghren was bloody as well, but apparently unharmed.  It seems his dwarven berserker rage served him well in the battle.  His close cropped red hair was matted with sweat from the helmet he bore under one arm as he approached us, and one of the braids of his mustache had come undone to intertwine with the hair of his beard, but otherwise he seemed whole.

I could only imagine how I appeared to the others as we looked with stunned gazes upon the dead creature before us.  I had sustained no real wounds in the fighting as you, Oghren and the rest of the dwarves had done a remarkable job keeping the Darkspawn away from the ballistae towers.  My leathers had a little spattering of gore from the few that got past you but the worst damage I had been dealt was the aching of my muscles from working the ballistae.  I admit I was a little disappointed in the fact that I was not able to bury my blades in more backs that day but if we all walked away from it then it was a battle well fought, no?

“Is everyone alright?” Wynne asked as I turned from them both and looked for you.

I had expected to see you rising from the ground like the rest of us, brushing yourself off and smiling that crooked half grin you have whenever we best a foe others think unbeatable.  But I didn’t see you.  I only saw corpses and for the longest moment I kept thinking that you were just beyond my sight, perhaps purposely so.  You always did so love to tease me.

But then I saw the blood on the turret.  The turret that was behind you as you drove the sword into the Archdemon.  The turret whose base was clear before the blast but now boasted a crumpled, broken form.

“No,” I breathed to myself as I moved towards the lifeless form.  I felt like I was dreaming as I ran towards the turret with Oghren and Wynne close behind me, my breathe coming faster as I recognized the glint of your armor even from so far off.

“Oh Maker,” Wynne whispered as we came upon you.

“By the stones,” Oghren muttered.

You lay on your back on the stone of the rooftop, still and pale.  One arm and leg were bent underneath you, clearly broken.  Your breastplate was rent in two by some slash of the Archdemon’s talons, and through the blood and glistening sinew I could see the white of bone.  There was blood everywhere and I knew you had to be hurt more than we could see.  I knelt by your head and gently brushed back strands of your fiery red hair, made even redder now by the matted blood.  Wynne knelt down in the growing pool of blood around you and gently felt at your neck for a pulse.

None of us believed it was at all possible for you to still be alive, who could live after receiving such a wound?  But Wynne happily surprised us all when she gasped out two words we never thought we would hear.

“She lives!”

Part 5: To Save a Hero

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