Part 4: Battle on the Tower

You must understand my dear; we all thought you were dead.  None of us expected to live to see the sun set that day but you surprised us all.  When we heard Wynne gasp out those two very welcome words, ah!  I tell you it was if the sun had risen for us all.

“Zevran, I need you to get that armor off her,” Wynne said.  I looked at her but she was already busy at her waist, drawing out lyrium and health potions.  “Oghren, I need you to fetch the pack she left by the doors that brought us here.  She’ll have bandages and medical aid in there.”

“On it,” Oghren grunted as he sprinted away.  Putting a rather large lyrium potion to her lips and throwing her head back, Wynne drank it down in one gulp, a feat I am sure would have impressed our dwarven friend had he been around to take note of it.  Drawing my dagger I began cutting at the ties of your armor and gently peeling the pieces off you, wincing as I saw the bone shards poking through the flesh of your arms and legs.

Soon I had you naked but for your smallclothes and spread-eagled on the stone to better tend you.  Just by looking at your limbs I could tell they were broken in more than one place and it was hard to tell where the blood ended and your wounds began, so covered in gore you were.  It was then that Oghren returned with your satchel and Wynne delved into it to bring out a needle and suturing thread.

“I need to sew her chest wound close before she bleeds out completely,” Wynne said to us as much as to herself as she threaded the needle.  She nodded to the health potions that were still lying at her side as she bent over you.  “Get her to drink those Zevran.  Pinch her nose shut and pour them down her throat, gently tilting her head back.  It will force her to swallow.”  She pushed the needle through your flesh.

The surviving dwarves had gathered around us as we worked over you.  They watched us for a few moments before one of them finally asked “Is there anything we can do to help mistress Wynne?”

“You mean aside from fluttering around me like a flock of restless pigeons?” she asked wryly, her gaze never leaving her work of sewing you back together.  “Yes, there is. Both arms and legs are broken.  We’ll need to splint them before we move her so I need anything you can find that’s stiff and straight.  Broken swords, axe handles, pole axes, anything.  I’ll also need more bandages and potions, as many as you can find.  Clean, hot water to wash her wounds, a room to tend her properly, and something we can slide under her to move her there.”

“And someone should send word to Alistair and our other companions,” I interjected as I poured the potions slowly down your throat as Wynne instructed.  Wynne’s eyes flickered over me, as much to take measure of my work as to question me about my instructions.  “Are you sure that’s wise?  He may not want to see her like this.”

“But if she wakes, she will want to see him.” See what I good friend I am?  Wynne pressed her lips together and nodded, turning back to her work.

“Right then,” Oghren declared as he turned to the dwarves.  “You heard her you nug humpers!  I don’t care how you do it, just get it done!”  The dwarves nodded grimly and scattered across the tower rooftop. Most disappeared down the stairs, while the rest scoured the dead for whatever they could find that would aid us in keeping you alive.

“Anything you need me to do healer?” Oghren asked as he turned back to us.  Wynne began to shake her head before stopping herself.  “Oghren, have you set broken limbs before?”

“Aye, a few,” Oghren nodded as he knelt down beside us.

“Good.  You and Zevran do what you can to splint her limbs, and be careful.  It looks like some of her bones have shattered.  There’s nothing I can do about that until I get this closed,” Wynne instructed as her reddening hands moved the needle rhythmically through your flesh.

I put aside the potion I had just opened and helped Oghren to straighten and splint one arm with some bandages from your bag and broken swords that the other dwarves had scavenged.  It was slow, painstaking work for we feared worsening your wounds or doing something to you that Wynne could not heal.  Thankfully however, once we had done the one arm, Wynne was finished sewing your wound and prepared to cast some sort of healing spell over you.

“I need you boys to stand back now, and don’t interrupt me.  I’m going to attempt to fuse the shards back together so they don’t cause any more damage when we set the rest of her bones.”  Wynne wiped your blood off her hands with a bit of spare cloth.  Tossing back another lyrium potion, Wynne closed her eyes and held her hands over you, one at your head and one at your heart.

Splaying the fingers of her hands as wide as she could she bowed her head and a faint blue glow began to emanate from her, slowly spreading across her body and down across yours.  Oghren and I stepped back from her casting and joined the dwarves a few paces away from where she worked over your still form.  One of the dwarves approached us with news of their progress.

“Sirs,” he said with a deferential nod.  “We’ve found a room at the base of the stairs that we’re preparing for the lady and my men have found a mostly intact table that should serve well enough to transport her once mistress Wynne give us the go ahead.  Any medical aides we’re finding are being put into that room, and there’s also a small kitchen a few floors down where I have some men stationed heating water.”

Oghren and I nodded at his report and I for one was quite please by their progress.  Dwarves always seemed taciturn creatures to me and from our days in Orzamarr they seemed quite introverted and petty as well, but I must admit when united in a common cause they are quite determined and efficient.

“What about the others?  Any word on them?” Oghren asked the fellow.  But before the gentleman could answer, there was a commotion by the doorway leading to the interior of the fort.

“Where is she?” I heard Alistair’s voice call out anxiously.  “Where is the Grey Warden?”  We looked up in time to catch his eye and Alistair made straight for us, followed swiftly by Leliana, Sten, Shale and Kiché.  I even saw Arl Eamon step onto the rooftop before my view was overtaken by Alistair’s breastplate.

“Where is she?” your lover demanded of me.  But catching the blue glow of Wynne’s work saved me from having to answer and when he made as if to move towards him I stepped in front of his path, holding my hands up in a pleading gesture.

“Out of my way Zevran,” he growled.  Alistair’s face was covered in a light sheen of sweat and his blonde hair was sticking up at odd angles.  I could tell that he was favoring his shield arm as well.  He must have knocked one too many Darkspawn back and strained something.  There was a small cut under his left eye, and he along with the others were spattered in the expected blood of our enemies, but like myself and Oghren they seemed to have fared well in the fighting below.

“I cannot do that my friend,” I shook my head sadly.  “Wynne asked not to be disturbed while she cast her healing and I can only assume it would be for good reason.”

“Is she alive Zevran?” Leliana asked me in her soft, sweet, Orleasian accented voice.  Her blue eyes were wide with worry for you, and her heart shaped face looked at me pleadingly.  She always seemed the most tender hearted among us despite the fact that she was a superb marksman and the best archer I have ever seen.  I could see her bow peeking over her shoulder alongside her now-empty quiver.  I knew without asking that every arrow she fired found its mark in a Darkspawn eye or throat.

“She lives for now,” Oghren replied grimly for me.  “She drove a sword into the skull of the Archdemon, and then there was this bright light and an explosion that threw her into the wall of the turret behind her,” I quickly filled in our companions on your injuries.  “Many bones are broken, some are even shattered.  Wynne is fusing the shattered pieces together so we can move her without further injury.  But beyond that…” I shrugged my shoulders helplessly.

Leliana gasped and covered her face with her hands, and her shoulders began to shake gently with her quiet sobs.  Alistair looked grief stricken as he gazed beyond us all to you and Wynne, one hand on Kiche’s head to keep him from running over and disrupting the casting.  Your hound was most distraught, wriggling and whining in place but he seemed to know enough not to leave Alistair’s side.  Our stoic Qunari friend Sten was staring at the great bulk of the Archdemon during all this before turning to us.

“The kadan killed the Archdemon,” he stated more than asked.  “Aye,” Oghren said, eyeing Leliana as he awkwardly patted her on the back in an attempt to comfort her.  Sten nodded once, his pale grey skin and blank features giving nothing of his emotions away.  “Then if she is to die, it is a good death.”

“I find myself gladdened by the prospect that it is not as squishy as it appears,” Shale rumbled in her gravelly voice as she crossed her arms across her broad chest.  The augmentation crystals you found for her seem to have fared well in the fight, as our stony friend still glowed and sparked.  I think that would be the closest she would ever come to saying she was happy you yet lived.

“What do we do now?” Alistair asked seemingly to himself and it was with those words that we noticed the blue glow from Wynne’s healing spell fade away and we all turned to see her slumped over you with fatigue.

“Now you can help me finish putting her back together.”  Wynne called out to us wearily.

Well of course at that we all surged forward eager to help the hero who stopped the Blight.  But thankfully Wynne had enough strength to issue orders, a trait that she undoubtedly learned as a teacher among the mages but was honed by watching you.

“Not all at once unless you want to suffocate her!” Wynne cried out exacerbated.  “Alistair, Zevan, and Leliana, I need you to set and splint her limbs and bind her chest tightly.  Sten, Shale, and Oghren, find us something to move her with once we get her bound up.  And the rest of you,” she passed a stern eye over the dwarven defenders and knights that had assembled on the tower.  “Stand back and let us work.”

There was a flurry of activity as we set about our appointed tasks.  Wynne and myself reset your broken limbs, admittedly a much easier task now that there were no longer shards of bone sticking out everywhere while Alistair gently cradled you in his arms as Leliana wound bandages tightly around your chest.  Kiché was lying on the blood soaked stone next to us, licking your hand and searching your face.  He seemed puzzled that you would not respond to him.  By the time we were finished, Oghren had arrived with Sten and Shale bearing a very battered looking wooden table top between them.

“Alright let’s get her on the platform.  Do we have a room ready for her?” Wynne paused to wipe the sweat from her brow.

“The dwarves seem to have finished setting up a room at the base of the stairs,” Sten remarked.  “I suggest we take her there.”  Wynne nodded.  “Alright then Sten, Oghren.  If you could get her on the table please?”

“No, I’ll do it,” Alistair interjected quickly and Sten and Oghren set the table top as close as they could next to you.  Alistair looked down into your pale, drawn face and brushed aside a lock of hair that had fallen onto your forehead before sliding one arm under your shoulders and the other under your knees.

Slowly, carefully, he lifted your battered and broken body just enough for us to slide the wooden platform beneath you before he gently set you down again.  He stayed kneeling at your side for several moments before Wynne stepped forward and placed her hand upon his shoulder.

“We need to move her Alistair,” she said to him softly.

“What?  Oh right, of course.” Alistair shook his head as if waking from a dream as he stood up and motioned for Sten and Shale to take up opposite ends of the platform and carry you down the stairs.

It was a somber and anxious procession that followed the tightly winding stairs down to the highest level of the fortress.  It was tricky to angle the platform just right to get it down the stairs and not spill you off it but Sten and Shale were able to accomplish the job and bring you safely to the room the dwarves had prepared.

Sten and Shale held the platform level with the bed as Alistair shifted you to the mattress and got you settled.  You had not stirred during the course of our ministrations and transporting you to the room you woke up in but I had noticed that you seemed to breathe easier once Wynne was finished casting and now we could all see the gentle rise and fall of your chest as you slept.

There was much shuffling and manoeuvring once you were on the bed as we all tried to fit in that once small room.  Alistair was practically lying on the bed next to you, Wynne was doing a final examination, Kiché had jumped up on the bed between you and Alistair, and then myself, Sten, Shale, Oghren, Leliana, Arl Eamon and several knights and dwarves tried to fit themselves all into the same room.  I tell you it was quite the sight.  But thankfully Arl Eamon stepped forward, he had been kind enough to give us our space and allowing us come to terms with this tragedy and quickly ushered out those hangers on.

“Alright, everyone out and let us help the Grey Warden,” he directed his knights.  Even though Alistair had survived the battle, he had not rescinded his order that the arl be the regent until all was settled.  I think even if he had stopped to clear things with Alistair his words would have been for naught.  Our new king had eyes and ears only for you then.

“Gather the survivors and form patrols,” he ordered.  “I want each section of this city scoured for Darkspawn twice over before dark.  Start gathering our dead and injured and take them to the Chantry.  Any Darkspawn dead you find, pile them up and burn them once the patrols are done.  The light will help us catch any stragglers who try and sneak out after dark.”  I must admit he cut quite the striking figure in his red leather armor emblazoned with the hill and tower that was Redcliffe’s emblem, his steel grey hair and beard, and his eyes dark in a face set and determined.  If only he were a decade or so younger…

“At once my lord,” the knights bowed and left with those dwarves who had followed us down swift on their heels.  We all watched them go until our attention was drawn to Wynne as straightened from your bedside, placing both hands at the small of her back and wincing as she stretched out the kinks that had undoubtedly formed.

“That’s all I can do for her now,” she said wearily as she began packing the unused bandages and poultices into a bag.  “But we’ll want to give her a bath soon and clean off some of that blood.”

“Wait, what?” exclaimed Alistair, scrambling off the bed and coming around to confront Wynne.  “How can you say that?  You haven’t healed her broken bones, that gash on her chest is still bleeding, and she’s not even awake!  How can you say you’ve done all you can for her?”

Wynne stopped and stared at Alistair and I’m sure if he wasn’t in an uproar about your well being he would have wilted before her gaze.

“I’ve done as I promised,” Wynne said firmly in her soft, matronly voice.

Alistair shook his head and ran his hands through his hair.  “What are you talking about?”  I could tell he was growing increasingly frustrated.

“Before we stepped into the top of the tower, Lurianna pulled me aside,” she explained.  “‘Keep us alive Wynne,’ she said to me.  ‘None of us want to die today.  Do what you can to keep us alive, and move on to those who need you more.’” Her voice grew stronger with each word and I could see our matron healer draw strength from her words and yours.

She glanced over to your still form.  “She won’t die today, not from her wounds.  So now I honor the promise I made to her and I leave to tend those who need my talents the most.”

Alistair seemed to deflate at her words, but slowly he nodded his understanding.  “Do you know when she will wake?” he asked at last.  Wynne shook her head.

“That’s between her and the Maker now.”

None of us moved.  We all seemed frozen in that one moment of time looking at you, at each other, as Wynne’s words sank in.  I think we all believed that you would wake sooner rather than later and those words were the crack in the armor of our faith in you.  It was then that we first even remotely considered the possibility that you might not wake at all.

Alistair scrubbed his face with his hands and took a deep breath before squaring his shoulders.  “Then I won’t keep you from your promise,” he said gravely.  “But could I ask something of you as well Wynne?”  Wynne cocked her head questioningly at our young king.

“Could I put you in charge of the wounded at the Chantry?  You have my full authority to get whatever supplied you need to tend our people.  Round up some other mages if you have to.  And if the Templars want to get in your way, put them to work helping you at the infirmary.”

Wynne smiled at his brash tone.  “I will speak to the Reverend Mother about that, but I don’t think it would be too hard to convince her that we need to come together at this time.”  She inclined her head to Alistair and turned to take her leave.

“Wait Wynne,” Leliana called.  “Can I come as well? You could always use and extra pair of hands.”  Wynne smiled gently at our headstrong young bard.  “Of course my dear, but you will have to keep up.”  And with that our two lovely lady companions disappeared to start their mission of mercy.

Alistair turned to the rest of us.  “I know the only thing that holds you here is lying unconscious on that bed,” he gestured to you as you spoke.  “But myself and the people of Denerrim would greatly appreciate your help right now.”

Sten crossed his arms.  “Until the kadan wakes, I will stay,” he rumbled.

“Aye.  The Warden promised me we’d talk of honor once all this was done and I ain’t leaving till I get my pint from her,” Oghren declared.

“I am curious to see if it will wake, so I shall remain,” added Shale.  Alistair nodded his gratitude at their declaration.

“Then can I ask you to join in the patrols that are sweeping the city, and aiding them in whatever else they are tasked to do?” he asked.

“Ha ha!  So long as I get to crush some more sodding Darkspawn I’m happy!” Oghren said jovially.

“You mean I can make more heads go squish?  Yes, I would enjoy that.”

You know I think Shale actually smiled when she said that?

“Come one then you nug humpers!” our red bearded dwarven friend roared as he charged out of the room and down the hall.  “Last one to kill a Darkspawn has to kiss an Archdemon!  Ha ha!”  Sten and Shale followed him at a more sedate pace with one last look back to you lying on the bed.

Your lover turned to his regent once they had left.  “Eamon, can I ask you to look after things for a few more days?”  The arl graciously nodded and with a smile he simply turned and left, closing the door behind him.  Quite a perceptive man that Arl Eamon.  Alistair chose well in naming him regent.

Soon it was just you, myself and Alistair left in the room.  “What job would you have of me your highness?” I asked jovially as I sketched a quick bow before him.

But Alistair…well…he was not in a jovial mood.  Ah!  I tell you my dear if looks could kill we would have been able to send Alistair against the Archdemon and save ourselves a lot of trouble.

“I don’t like you much Zevran.  I never have and I never will,” he slashed a hand through the air to emphasis his point.  “And I don’t much trust you either.  But…” his voice trailed off as once again his gaze was drawn to you.  After a moment he sighed and turned back to me.

“But you are the only one I can trust to keep her safe when I am gone.  You know we’ve stepped on a lot of toes to get here, and I’m sure there’s more than a few who would take advantage of the chaos of the next few days to eliminate what they consider to be a problem to whatever plans they are concocting.  So I want you to stay here and make sure nothing happens to her whenever I am called away.”

I must admit I was rather taken aback by this declaration.  I for one would never have imagined that he would in essence put your very life in my hands!  And willingly so!  I would have defended you to the death either way, but it was rather humbling to hear him admit both his dislike and his need for me in the same breath.

Now what could I say to that you ask me?  And I would reply with ‘nothing’.  There was nothing to be said after that, for we both knew what was at stake should anything happen to you.  So we said nothing to each other.  Instead he took up the washcloth and water that was left and began to gently wash you.

And I, I too took my leave of you.  I left you to your lover and your hound as I stalked the halls of the fortress, your silent protector while you slept.

Part 6: The Assassin and the King