To all my faithful readers… I have decided to move this story to  You can read it (and my other stories) there under the pen name MirandaBasilisk.  Thank you for reading and for your support.

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I returned to the kitchen where Morrigan was folding her things.  She didn’t look at me as I entered the room.

“Do you wish me to go?”  Morrigan asked.

“No. I came to apologize.”

“Very well.”  She continued with her folding.

“I am sorry I yelled at you.  It was wrong of me.”

“Yes it was. Apology accepted.”

I looked around at Morrigan’s folded laundry and piles of personal belongings.

“Were you planning on leaving?”

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

“Please don’t,” I pleaded.

“Would you prefer I be a silent companion then?”

“No.  I prefer you speak you your mind.”

Morrigan studied my face.  She nodded.  “Very well.”

“Will you stay then?”


“Thank you.”


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The next morning, Wynne woke me from a deep sleep.  She laid a hand across my forehead.  “You feel warm.  Are you ill?”

“I was stabbed but we cleaned the wound.  I was hoping you could heal me.”

“Of course.  You should have woken me last night.”

With a wave of her hand, I felt the wound close and the fever dissipate. “I didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Nonsense, young lady.  Next time, wake me.”

“Yes ma’am,” I replied abashed.

“By the way, did you know there is an elf teaching dagger technique out in the courtyard?”

Alistair must have awoken at the sound of our voices for he interjected.  “Who let him out?”

Wynne had a puzzled look on her face.  “Let him out of where?”

I reluctantly crawled out of my bedroll.  I went outside to see what was going on.  Sure enough, Zevran and Lelianna were fighting – training was more like it.  I watched for a few minutes.  Zevran stood beside Lelianna with his hand on her hand showing her how to twist for the right angle.

I could tell Alistair was angry.  He started forward, but I grabbed his hand.  “Either Lelianna let him out or he broke out.  Either way, he seems to be proving himself harmless.  You heard his oath last night.”

“Yes, but I don’t believe it.”

“Alistair, we have to give him a chance.  We need all the help we can get.”

“All right.  If there was ever a sign that we are desperate, I think it just walked up and knocked on the door.”

I giggled.  Then I stood on my tip toes and kissed Alistair on the cheek.  “It will be fine, you’ll see.”

“If he ever tries to hurt you again, I will kill him.”

Lelianna and Zevran walked over to us.  “Good morning,” chirped Lelianna, perky as ever.  “I found Zevran playing solitaire in the great hall when I awoke.  After introductions, we came out here.”

“Alistair, my friend!  So sorry about the chair but I don’t like being trapped.  It gives me the urge to escape.”  Zevran winked at me.

I saw a muscle in Alistair’s jaw twitch.  “So you can pick a barricade after all.”

“No, no.  I picked the lock.  Then I broke the barricade.  You should have used more chairs.”

“Who’s hungry?  I want breakfast,” I interrupted.  I turned around and went back into the fort.  Knocking on the door to the kitchen, I found Morrigan sorting berries.

“Ah, so you have returned.  You didn’t have to leave in order to take him to your bed, you know.”

“I didn’t take him to my bed.”

“Where did you go then?”

“Highever. Personal reasons.”  Someone had clearly thought about breakfast before me because there was a pot of water nearly boiling on the fire.  I found some oats in the kitchen and started cooking them.

“I thought perhaps you went to find your own elf,” Morrigan smirked with amusement.

“I don’t feel that elves should be slaves like most humans do.  We had some at the castle, of course, but I thought Nan treated them abominably.  Mother didn’t care much for elves, but Father was kinder to them.”

“Are you much like your father then?”

“Yes.  We were very close.  He doted on me.  I miss him greatly.  And my mother.  And Fergus…” I choked back a sob.

“I am sorry for your loss, Elissa.”

I dug my fingernails into my palms to keep from becoming emotional.  I needed to change the subject.  “Do you ever miss your mother, Morrigan?”

“Flemeth?  No.  But I miss the Wilds.  All this traipsing about the countryside with no clear goal is annoying.  We should take the fight to this Loghain.”

“We can’t take him on alone.  We need the support of the nobles.  To gain that, we need Arl Eamon’s influence.”  I sighed.  “I guess it’s time to return to Redcliffe and see if he is any better now that the demons are gone.”  I stirred the oats.

Morrigan harrumphed. “You are assuming the Circle did their job correctly.”

Something inside me snapped.  “I have to assume that!  Just as I have to have faith in all of you!  I don’t know what I am doing any more than anyone else.  Yet it feels as though others are always asking me for more.  Elissa, what do we do next?  Elissa, where do we go? How do we get there? Well, I don’t know!  Everything I knew is gone!  I have no idea where we are going or how we are going to get there so I have to make assumptions and have faith in everything.  Oh Maker, I don’t want this job anymore!”

I fled from the room, pushing my way past Alistair who nearly blocked the doorway.  Out of the corner of my teary eyes, I saw Wynne and Lelianna behind him.  I ran up the stairs and out onto the bridge leading to Avernus’ tower.  Once I slammed the door behind me, I embraced the blowing wind and screamed with frustration, my voice swallowed by the howl of the wind.  I was beyond caring who heard me.  I was beyond caring if I froze.  I was beyond caring about anything and yet I cared about everything.  I knelt on the bridge and rest my forehead on cold stone surface.  Maker forgive me. Maker help me.

I don’t know how long I knelt there.  It felt like an eternity and yet only like the blink of an eye. My tears ran dry and froze to my cheeks. I didn’t hear the door open behind me, but I felt a strong, warm hand on my back.  Alistair knelt beside me.

“Elissa,” he spoke my name softly as he enfolded me in his arms.  My tears started flowing again, hot and salty, as they streaked down my cheeks.  I rested my head on his chest, and he stroked my hair, making soothing noises.  I cried all the harder for his kindness.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

I shook my head no, but I grabbed his shirt in a death grip as if I never wanted to let go.  And I didn’t.  If I let go I might as well fall off this bridge and into the rocky mountain tips below.  I was so overwrought with emotion it never occurred to me what transpired below after I left.  It also never occurred to me how much courage it took on Alistair’s part to come outside and be with me.  I remember him telling me once that he did not know what to do with crying women and yet that was what he had on his hands: a weepy woman.  A broken woman.  Our task was so overwhelming, so grandiose, as to be unbelievable.  We had only been at it for two months.  Was it only that long?  It felt like a year.

“Alistair…” I whispered.

He leaned back a bit so he could look at me.  “Yes?”

“I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“For everything.  We run around with no clear purpose, pick up strays, and we’re about as cohesive as a pot of stew.  I don’t know what I’m doing.  Why are you even following me?”

He stroked my cheek with his thumb, wiping away a tear.  “You don’t need to apologize.  You are doing a fine job of leading us.”

“Morrigan was right.  You are the senior Grey Warden.  You should be leading us.”

He shook his head.  “No, I’m not the leadering type.”

“You are; you just don’t know it.”

Alistair gave me a skeptical look.  “Are you trying to push this job onto me?”

“I believe in my heart that there is a leader inside you.”  I paused.  “If you would take over for a little while I would be grateful.”

“Dearest Elissa, you are stronger than you think.  This has not been easy for you.  I think we just need to stay put for a few days and let you rest.” I frowned, but he continued.  “I swear I will always be here to help you and support you.  I’ll not hold back my opinion, even if it’s not what you want to hear.  And I will make sure you take a break every so often.  Will that help?”

“But you won’t be leader?”

“Second in command,” he offered.

“That implies I can take a holiday and leave you in charge.”

“In that case, we are doomed.”  He grinned and I smiled weakly in return.  Alistair kissed my forehead.  “It will be fine.  You’ll see.”

“That’s what I said to you this morning.”

“I know.  And I have faith in you.  So have faith in yourself.”

I hugged him tightly.  He was a tether to my sanity.  I didn’t want to let go.

“Uhm, is there any chance you are willing to go back inside?  It’s really cold out here.”

I nodded and he helped me to my feet.  I took a deep, steadying breath of the crisp air and headed back into the chaos that was my life.

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It was very late when we arrived back at the fort and everyone was asleep.  I guess they had given up on watches.  Lelianna and Bodhan had returned, and the former was curled up in her bedroll.  I guess Bodhan and his boy were in one of the other rooms.  My side was aching from being stabbed and I didn’t think I could manage my armor alone.  Since I had helped Alistair out of his, I had him help me out of mine.

Once he unbuckled the vest I could breathe again, but as the armor peeled away I heard Alistair gasp.  I looked down and saw that the entire left side of my under tunic was covered in blood.  The wound had been opening repeatedly while we were walking.

“You told me you were fine!” he hissed.

“I am.  It looks worse than it is.”

“I’m going to wake Wynne.  She can heal you.”

“No, all I need is a health poultice and I will be fine.”

“Did I do that, my dear lady?  I am so sorry.  I was aiming for your kidney,” remarked Zevran.

Alistair’s temper flared again.  “You! Stay away from her!”

“Keep your voices down gentlemen!  People are asleep in here.”

“I’m waking Wynne,” Alistair informed me.

“No,” I protested.  “All I need is a bit of water to cleanse the wound.  Would you get me some?”

“And leave you alone with him?”


“Fine.”  Alistair handed me a dagger.  “Keep an eye on him.”

I looked down at the dagger in my hands.  It was magical and had a faint glow about it.  I considered thinking about the sensation associated with a dagger sliding between the ribs.  Fortunately, Zevran’s dagger didn’t sink that deeply.  I looked up to see him studying me.

“You could simply kill us all in our sleep.  No one would be the wiser.”

“No, there is no point.  The Crows know things.  They would know that the ambush did not work because all of my associates are dead.”

“Maybe they know you are still alive.  They might come after you.”

“Perhaps, but now I have you to protect me, no?”

The twinkle in his eye told me he was teasing.  “How do I know you will be loyal to us?”

“I happen to be a very loyal person.  Up to the point where someone expects me to die for failing.  That’s not a fault, really, is it?  I mean unless you’re the sort who would do the same thing.  In which case I don’t come very well recommended, I suppose.”

“So what do you want from me?”

“I like living.  You offer me the chance to keep living.  This is good. I owe you my life in such a case. But I ask that in the future, should you no longer have need of me, I be allowed to go on my way.  Until then, I am yours.  Is that fair?”

“That seems fair.”

Zevran got down on one knee and took my hand.  He bent his head over it.  “I swear an oath to serve you until such time as you choose to release me from it.”

“How touching,” Alistair said sarcastically, setting the bucket down.  “But I’m still locking you away in your own room for the night.”

Zevran laughed.  “You know I can pick locks?”

“Yes, but can you pick barricades?”

“Gentlemen, please,” I pleaded.

We got to work on my wound, pouring some water from the bucket into a bowl and more into a glass for me to drink.  I hissed as Alistair cleaned the wound and Zevran watched, offering bits of advice which were largely ignored by the templar.  Alistair handed me a flask of whisky, saying it would help me sleep.  I agreed and drank some.  True to his word, Alistair locked and barricaded Zevran into Sophia Dryden’s office.


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Alistair and I were nearly back to Soldier’s Peak when a young woman ran up to us begging for help.  She said their caravan was being attacked by bandits.  We rushed in to help her and found ourselves caught in an ambush!  Five against two. A mage stood on one hill, two archers on the other. Alistair took the mage down quickly, while I returned fire on the archers.  That left a rogue and a thug who surrounded me quickly.  I was stabbed at repeatedly until Alistair came to my rescue and gave the thug a new target.  The blonde-haired rogue still came after me and I had to run and dodge him, pausing only momentarily to shoot him with an arrow.  Alistair killed his opponent and then bashed my attacker hard enough to knock him unconscious.  Lastly, we concentrated on the archers, dispatching them easily.

“Are you all right?”  Alistair asked as he walked back towards me.  I was bleeding but not badly.  My armor had taken the brunt of the beating.  I would be bruised tomorrow.

“I’ll be fine.  You?”

“No damage.” He grinned.

Just then we were interrupted by a groan from the man at our feet.  I looked down and noticed he was a blonde elf.  He opened his eyes and fluttered long eyelashes in my direction.  Handsome fellow.  Sharp elven ears peeked out of his long flaxen hair, which was held back from his face by two braids.  His eyes were an unusual shade between amber and gold. Two long curvaceous tattoos along his cheekbones marked him as Dalish. Too bad he just tried to kill me.  Alistair raised his sword to fell him.

I held my hand up to Alistair.  “Wait. Let’s see what he knows.”  I kicked the elf’s ornate yet wickedly sharp knives out of his reach and addressed him directly.  “You are no simple bandit.  Why did you ambush us?”

The elf sat up, but Alistair still had his weapon trained on him.  “Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Zevran of the Antivan Crows.  I was hired to kill any surviving Grey Wardens.  Although I didn’t do a very good job of it, did I?”

I was in no mood for idle chatter. “Who hired you?”

“A rather taciturn fellow in the capital. Loghain, I think his name was?  He paid the Crows a fair sum for my services but he did not get his money’s worth did he?”

“Loghain,” Alistair growled.  “We should kill him now. We don’t want him reporting back.”

“I won’t be reporting back.  I failed in my task so my life is forfeit.  The Crows do not look favorably upon failure.”

I frowned.  “Who exactly are these Crows you speak of?”

“We are a group of assassins from Antiva, well known for getting the job done.  But you have proved to be more than a match for me.”

“And now the question is, what do we do with you?”

“Well, you could kill me, it would be within your right, but I would like to offer you my services instead.”

I gave him a skeptical look.  “Why would I want your services?”

“Well, I am skilled at many things: stealth, picking locks, that sort of thing.  I could warn you if the Crows attempt to come after you again.  I also know a great many jokes, twelve massage techniques, six different card games. I do wonderful at parties, no?”

“We aren’t interested in parties,” Alistair snarled.

“How do we know you won’t finish the job later?”

“To be completely honest, there would be no point to me killing you now.  I have failed in my task and the Crows will know.  Even if I kill you in the future, they might just kill me on principle for failing the first time.  Honestly, I’d rather take my chances with you.”

“I’m not sure we can trust you.”  I looked up at the sky.  We were losing daylight.  I looked around the caravan and spotted some rope on the wagon.  “We will tie you up and take you back to the fort with us.”

“What? Have you lost your wits?  He just tried to kill us!”

“I know that but maybe he can give us more information if we had more time.  It’s nearly dark now and we are still a few hours away.”

Alistair grumbled as I handed him the rope.  While he tied the elf up, I held my bow at the ready.  When Alistair was done, I picked up the assassin’s daggers and tossed them into my backpack.  I drew my own dagger and held it to the elf’s throat.  “You try anything and I will kill you myself.”

“Understood, Grey Warden.”

With prisoner in tow, we headed back up the path to Soldier’s Peak. Walking between us, Zevran was chattering.

“Alistair, this is very nice knot work.  I know my knot work.  Both professionally and recreationally.”

Alistair lost his temper. “Will you shut up?” he shouted over shoulder.

Suddenly, Zevran was a blur.  He shook off the ropes and whirled around, grabbing the dagger from my belt and throwing it.  I followed the trail of the knife as it landed in the throat of a man.  Zevran walked over to the body and withdrew the knife, wiping the blood clean on the man’s clothes.

“Ah Chez.  You should have kept running.  No witnesses at least.”  He turned around and handed the dagger back to me, hilt first.  I took it and put it back in my belt, feeling slightly shocked but less so than Alistair.

“You… just…?” Alistair stumbled over words.

“I said it was very nice knot work.  I did not say it was very good knot work.” He picked up the rope and turned to face me.  “Perhaps you would like to try?  Ladies know how to make good knots, no?”

“Oh what’s the point?” Alistair exclaimed then turned back to the path.

Zevran had a self satisfied grin on his face.  I grabbed the rope out of his hands and turned him back around.  “Just go,” I said with a little shove.

And so we trudged up the mountain with our new companion.

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We spent another day cleaning up around Soldier’s Peak.  There were still numerous things to do but Morrigan and Wynne used their magic to put a lot of it to rights.  Who knew a blizzard spell would be so good at clearing cobwebs?  The worst of the mess was gone now and I intended to hold Alistair to his word that we would trek to Highever to see what had become of my home.  I approached him with the idea when we were out of earshot of the others.  I found him walking along the ramparts.

“Alistair!”  He stopped and I jogged to his side.  “I want to talk with you.”

“Okay,” he said, drawing out the word.  He looked at me askance.  “Am I in trouble?”

I laughed. “No.  It’s just that we are here at Soldiers Peak, which isn’t that far from Highever.”

“Oh.”  His face fell.

“Would you rather be in trouble?” I teased.

Alistair frowned. “Maybe,” he sighed.  At my confused look, he continued.  “What do you hope to accomplish by going to Highever?”

“I thought we discussed this already. I want to see my home.”

“It’s probably still crawling with Howe’s men.”

“Unless Fergus came home with his contingent.”

“And what if he didn’t?”

I could read between the lines.  “I’m not daft.  I know Fergus could be dead.  Most likely…” my voice trailed off as emotion choked me momentarily.  I looked Alistair in the eyes.  “I won’t give up hope that my brother is alive.”

“I’m not asking you to give up hope.  I just think that it’s likely Howe’s men are still in control of your castle.  And we have our own duties to attend to as Grey Wardens.”

Duty!  I had a duty to my family as well as the Grey Wardens.  I had a duty to myself. I set my jaw. “Fine, I’ll go alone.  Meet me in Redcliffe.”  I started to walk away.

“Elissa… don’t.  Please.”  He caught up to me in a few strides and took my arm.

“I’m going with or without you, Alistair.  You decide.”

He searched my face for a long time.  Finally, he relented.  “I told you I would go and so I will go. But I think that this is a very bad idea.”

“Oh thank you, Alistair!”  I threw my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.  “This means so much to me.”  He tentatively hugged me back before I broke off the embrace.  He looked as uncomfortable as I felt.  I think we both knew we had feelings for each other, but neither one of us really knew what to do about it.

We left before dawn the next morning.  I spoke to Levi the evening before and asked him to relay a message to the rest of the group that we would be gone for a few days.  We traveled quickly and light, avoiding the roads and well populated areas, sleeping just long enough to refresh ourselves.  The darkspawn had not made it this far north yet so we encountered little resistance.  I chattered about my home and Alistair said little.  I don’t know if this was because he had little to say or didn’t know what to say.  I could tell he still had reservations about this journey but we kept going anyway.  It was nearing sunset on the second day and I pulled us out of the forest towards the sea.

“Look Alistair! Isn’t it beautiful?”  I pointed out towards the water and the setting sun.  You could see the Vimmark Mountains off in the distance.

Alistair smiled for the first time on our journey.  “I can see why you love it here.”

“We’re only a few hours from the castle. I used to ride my horse out to these bluffs and eat a picnic lunch. I think it’s so beautiful here. When this is all over, we’ll come back here and you can see it properly.”

He took my hand and kissed it.  “I look forward to that day.  However, for now, we should get back under the cover of the forest.  We still have a ways to go.”

We reached the edge of the forest late in the evening. We were lying on our stomachs peering over a small rise. Torches were ablaze all over the castle.  I couldn’t tell from where we were who was in command of the castle.  “We need to get closer,” I whispered.

“No, it’s too dangerous.”

“But I can’t see from here.”

“Wait, let’s just watch.” Alistair rested his hand on my back with the slightest pressure,  too light to keep from standing should I really desire to, but enough to remind me of the danger we were in.

And so we watched. We saw patrols come out and cover the grounds.  I tried to look at the banners but I couldn’t tell in the dark.

“We’ll have to come back at dawn,” I said.

“Elissa, this is a bad idea.”

“You’re right.  We can take the secret path to the pantry.  The entrance is in a cave by the water.  Let’s go while we still have the cover of darkness.”  I rolled to my side in preparation for standing up.

Alistair grabbed my wrist.  “We aren’t going to sneak into the castle.”

I wrestled my wrist out of his grasp.  “If the castle belongs to Fergus, then we’ll have a hot meal and a soft pillow.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Maybe we could take it back,” I proposed hopefully.

“Think, Elissa!  There’s only the two of us.”

“We’ll go back for the others.”  I made moves to stand up when Alistair sprung into action.  He grabbed my arms, flipped me onto my back, and pinned me to the ground.

“It’s not enough.  I’m sorry.”

“I have to know, Alistair,” I whispered.

He sighed heavily.  “Let’s go back into the woods.  We can make a cold camp and wait for dawn.”

We crept back into the forest.  I knew of a small hollow less than a half an hour away.  We crawled into the hole, which was just big enough for two.

“I’ll take first watch,” said Alistair.

“We don’t need watches.  We’re safe here.”

“I’ll take first watch,” he insisted gently.  I was too tired to argue.  Cramped quarters as it was, I put my head in his lap, a chain mail pillow.  Removing his gauntlets, he gently stroked my hair.  I fell asleep immediately.

I awoke a few hours later.  I suspected Alistair may have fallen asleep, so I crept quietly from our lair.  I spotted a break in the trees and went to look at the star patterns.  It was nearly dawn.  I turned to go back for him, but he was there beside me.

“Promise me,” Alistair started.  “Promise me you won’t do anything foolish.”

I smiled.  “It’s my home, Alistair.  It’s probably Fergus returned from the war.  You’ll see.”

We re-traced our steps until we found a ditch at the edge of the forest.  From here, you could look out and see dawn breaking over the castle.  It was a magnificent sight.  I wanted to run down and claim my home, but I felt Alistair’s firm grip on my arm.

Puzzled, I asked, “Alistair, what’s wrong?”


I had been so enamored by the sunrise that I hadn’t looked at the banner.  I hadn’t looked at the livery.  They were Arl Howe’s colors. Suddenly, all I saw was red. “No!”

“Elissa,” Alistair hissed.  “Look at me!”

My whole body shook with rage.  “No.  I want my home back.”

“Now is not the time.  We have to go!”

“That traitor!”  I stood up quickly, but Alistair was quicker.  He clamped one hand over my mouth and pulled me back into the woods with the other arm wrapped tightly around my waist, lifting me off the ground.  He pinned me up against a tree, but didn’t remove his hands.  I wanted to bite him, but a layer of thick metal lay between my teeth and his hand.

“Elissa, we have a duty to stop the Blight.  Once we are done with that, we can take back your castle.  We’ll find Fergus by then and he will help.” His voice softened.  “I know you’re angry, but we can’t do anything about it now.  We’re Grey Wardens.  The last of them.  It’s up to us to stop the Blight.”

I saw compassion and determination when I stared into his hazel eyes.  I had to admit he was right.  Headstrong and stubborn I might be, stupid I was not.  Defeated, I nodded.

He withdrew his hand from my mouth and placed it in my hand.  “We should hurry.  It’s a long trip back and I want a proper nap and a proper dinner when we get there.  I’ll cook for you,” he winked.

We headed back to Soldier’s Peak.


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After the veil was sealed, Avernus returned to his tower and the rest of us assessed the damage.  The barracks were a mess and the beds were made of moldy straw. Cobwebs clung to the corners and a layer of dust covered everything. There was a lot of work ahead of us.

We ventured back down the hill to get the remainder of our party.  With everyone involved, we made the decision that Bodahn would go to Denerim and get supplies for Soldier’s Peak while the rest of us would begin the cleaning process.

“I don’t want to go all the way to Denerim just the boy and me.  What if we should run into bandits or darkspawn on the road?

“Someone will go with you,” I replied.

“Great.  And who will go?” asked Morrigan.

“I’ll go,” offered Lelianna.

“You just don’t want to clean,” remarked Morrigan.

“It’s not that!  I can help in the negotiations and I know my way around cities.”

“I’ve been to Denerim before.  I should go,” said Alistair.

I turned to Alistair. “No, I need you here to help with the heavy lifting.”

He frowned, but said nothing.

“I’ve been to Denerim before,” commented Lelianna.  “A long time ago.”

“Wynne, do you have anything to say?”

“I will stay here.  I don’t mind cleaning.” She was looking a bit tired and I was concerned for her.

“Lelianna will go with Bodahn. Now is that settled?”

I had found a bit of parchment and a quill in Sophia’s office.  With a little water, I was able to reconstitute the ink and we made a list of the necessities.  I gave Bodahn most of our money for supplies, on his solemn promise to get us a good deal and not spend all of it if he could help it.  I trusted Bodahn, but he was a merchant after all.

Lelianna and Bodahn left around noon.  The rest of us spent the remainder of the day cleaning.  Levi and Alistair piled the undead corpses out in the courtyard and burned them. I grabbed a dustbin and broom from the pantry and began sweeping the barracks.  I found a mop and made a pail of soapy water to clean up the rest of the barracks by evening. I’ve never done such physical labor in all my life!  How sheltered I was.  A year ago I would never have thought to dirty my hands with such tasks, believing they were beneath me.  Today, with no home, no family, and no servants, I was sweeping and scrubbing floors that were hundreds of years old.  My life changed in a single night – my world was uprooted and a new on supplanted – one in which I fought, killed, bled, and scrubbed floors.

We didn’t dare sleep on the straw, but we moved our bedrolls into the barracks to rest for the night.  Wynne and Morrigan had cleaned up enough of the kitchen that we felt it was safe to cook dinner.  It was nice to have shelter for a change.

After dinner I found Morrigan browsing the entry hallway.  She was reading a sign near the door.  It was a list of all the Grey Wardens that defended the fort against Arland’s forces.

“Chair-Thrower Lopez, Langley the Nefarious, Farrell the Feral, and my favorite, Ebenger of the Bovine Brethern.  All it needs now is Alistair the Dimwitted.”

I had intended to thank Morrigan for her support, but the dig at Alistair rubbed me the wrong way.  “Why are you always so hard on Alistair?”

“Because I dislike him, obviously.”

“Are you sure?”  I wish I had bit my tongue before that question had escaped it.

“What an odd question to ask.  When I like someone they know.  When I dislike someone they know.  I don’t play fool games like most humans.”

“I’m sorry I asked,” I said, turning away before I embarrassed myself further.

Morrigan put her hand on my arm.  “You I like. Alistair I dislike.  The others don’t interest me one way or the other.  Why are you so curious?”

“No reason.”

“Are you jealous?”

“Why would I be jealous?  Alistair and I have no commitment.”

“Ah, but you are fond of him and wish there were.  I don’t understand you.  You are an intelligent, brave and strong woman.  Why waste your time on Alistair?”

“Because he is kind to me.”

“Has no one been kind to you before?”

“Not without wanting something in return.”

“And how do you know what Alistair wants?”

I pondered the question.  “Well, I don’t.  He’s kissed me so I assume…”

“Don’t assume anything.  If you want my advice, ask him directly before you get your heart broken.  I don’t want to see you freezing in battle again because you are too full of angst to fight.”

“You are ever the romantic, Morrigan.”

“Romance has nothing to do with it.  Either you both want to be together or you don’t.  If I want a man, I will take him to my bed.  If I do not, then I will not.  It is simple.”

“It’s not so simple for me.  I’ve never been with any man.  I’ve only had one romance in my entire life and that was cut short by my mother because he was far below my station.  Nobles don’t marry for love. Nobles don’t have romance unless they are very lucky.  It is how I was raised.  With my family gone and my house overrun, all I want is a little something that others have – someone to love and be loved by.  Maybe that someone is Alistair, maybe it isn’t, but I have to give him a try.  I find I am attracted to him and I think he is attracted to me.  That is enough for now.”

“Is it?  If that is the case, then why do you worry over that rose he gave you?  I’m surprised all the petals haven’t fallen off yet.  In fact, give it to me.”


“Your vehemence betrays your emotions.  Give me the rose.  I won’t harm it.”

Reluctantly, I snuck into the barracks where Alistair and Wynne were talking.  I grabbed the rose out of my pack and tried to sneak out into the hallway.

“Alistair, why is there a sock in my bedroll?”

“I don’t know, Wynne.  Does it need mending?”

“As a matter of fact, it does.  Is this your sock, Alistair?”

“That depends.  Will it get mended?”

“Oh Alistair!  You’re a grown man.  Learn to mend your own socks.”

I returned to the hallway and handed Morrigan the rose.  It was a poor, misshapen thing, wilted beyond saving. She waved her hands over it and it was restored to its former beauty.  She handed it back to me.  “There. It should last a while longer now.  Be careful with it, it is fragile.”

Just like my relationship with Alistair.  “Thank you.”

“You are most welcome.  If you do not mind, I will turn in for the evening.”  She turned away towards the kitchen.

“Wait, you’re not staying in the barracks with us?”

“No.  The kitchen is clean and I value my privacy.”

“But we are setting up watches in case the demons return.”

“The veil is fixed now; there will be no demons.  But if you wish to lose sleep over a useless worry then it is no concern of mine.”  Morrigan turned into the kitchen and after a few moments I saw the fire flare as if it had been stoked.

I looked down at the rose.  It was still beautiful, but frozen in perpetual bloom.  The petals would not wear off but it was not like the rose Alistair gave me – worn and dying.  I had mixed feelings about it.  I don’t know what magic she used to make it like new again.  I stroked the petals – they were still soft to the touch but it didn’t feel right.  Morrigan meant well but I shouldn’t have let her do it.


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