Leliana stifled a yawn, placing her hand over her mouth. “Maker, I think I could sleep for a week at least. Oh look at what a pretty pattern my bruises have made.”
“I can’t believe we’re all alive, it’s a miracle.” She giggled.
“Indeed” said Zevran, stretching and giving Leliana’s lithe body an appreciated glance.
“Did Wynne give you any healing balm for those bruises, if not I have some left over that she gave me.”
“She was too busy tending to Bell, I thought I’d wait and ask her later. If you have some that would surely help.”
“I do. I’ll help you with the balm when we come back, provided you return the favor in kind, yes?”
“I’d be happy too.”
“Good, I’m sure I’ve got a few of my own.” Zevran stretches and yawns himself.
“At least we had a nap.” Before Leliana could stop herself another yawn sprang from her mouth and she giggled.
Zevran walked over to one of the low bunks and shook Oghren awake.
“Err, what….hey, you’re interrupting my beauty sleep,” grumbled Oghren.
“Sorry my friend, alas we have been called to duty once more. Wynne just came in and woke us up; she said that Alistair had need of us on the roof.”
“Again?” Groaned Oghren.
“Yes, my stout little friend, come, up and at it.”
Oghren finally sat up, blinking the sleep out of his eyes.
Zevran realized that Sten was already up and putting his armor on.
“Zev, I never realized that you had tattoos on the rest of your body, they’re beautiful.”
“Ah, so you thought I just had the one on my face, my beautiful Leliana, no I have a couple more, in a few hidden places.”
“I’d love to see them,” purred Leliana.
“Well, I think the best room in a fine inn would set the mood which needs to be just right for their unveiling, instead of a prison, would you not agree?”
“Oui, I fully agree,” she giggled.
“I see candlelight, a fire glowing, with fine wine and soft sheets; fine foods to gorge ourselves will heighten the pleasure of their unveiling.”
Leliana’s eyes twinkle at the thought.
“I see this scenario suits your tastes my fine Orlesian friend? I’ve always been curious how you obtained that scare near your delicate bellybutton.”
Leliana absently rubbed the scar at Zevran’s mention of it.
“Perhaps we can swap stories on how we obtained these markings on each of our bodies. It would be a pleasant way to spend an evening, no?”
“Oh, that sounds divine, clean sheets, silks to lounge in, a hot bath with rich scented oils, and of course a deep rich burgundy wine. You provide all of this and I might take you up on your offer, yes.”
Zevran laughs deep and rich, “ah, a woman after my own heart, it will be as you say, Mi Bella.”
“I can see you in a tub full of bubbles; a beautiful vision is forming in my mind.” Zevran pointed to his head with a dreamy expression in his eyes.
“A bubble bath, that sounds wonderful,” Leliana softly replied.
“The Gnawed Noble Tavern is out, that was utterly destroyed,” said Zevran. “With luck ‘The Pearl’ survived. We’ll see about booking a room, I think we all deserve a celebration.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” chimed in Oghren with a belch, “I’m low on brew, need to restock.”
“I imagine it will be one of the first places to be rebuilt; can you imagine Denerim without a place for the nobles to enjoy themselves?” Said Leliana.
“Yes, I can see that happening, it was a nice inn to bad it got destroyed.” Zevran added.
“I imagine we’ll be moving to the palace once it has been secured. Alistair will be taking up residence there since he is to become king.” Leliana offered.
“I guess all of us need to determine what the future holds for each of us now that the blight is over. We’ll all be returning to our own lives now.” Everyone was quiet for a few moments as they all thought ahead to the future and what it might hold for all of them, at Leliana’s suggestion.
A haunted look had come into Zevran’s eyes. He slowly set down on his cot, weak in his knees, he’d never admit to such a thing. He reached down pulling a pair of warm hose out of his backpack. Hose that Bell encouraged him to wear since he wasn’t used to the coldness of Ferelden. In Antiva one didn’t wear hose on their legs under their armor. It had been a touching thought to him that someone had thought of his comfort. Bell had bought the warm clothing for him, he started getting dressed. Lying beside his backpack were the Antivan leather boots that Bell had given to him. Another gift that showed her thoughtfulness to those she felt important in her life.
Leliana walked up to him and lightly touched his arm, “Zev, what is it?” She sat down beside him and started getting her own hose and armor on as she listened to him. Oghren was doing the same after a healthy gulp of his home-brew to get him moving. Sten was already in his armor. The giant was the fastest at getting dressed than any of them had been, even when they were in camp. He rarely took his armor off except to wash.
“For all my training as a Crow and the destruction of lives that I’ve witnessed, what we came upon in the market district was truly frightening. I thought we were going to die for sure, it is not easy to admit such a thing.” Zevran paused taking a deep breath. “We had to fight five ogres at once, with two darkspawn mages before we ever found the generals of the Archdemon. That was the first time in my life ever that I knew that I was going to die and I welcomed it.”
“Bell was in a blood lust as if she welcomed her death, I was so afraid for her yet we keep on fighting. This is not like her; we all know that she is cool and level-headed in battle. I sensed it, as did we all. I contributed it to her being a Grey Warden, I’ve never seen anyone fight like that. It went downhill from there; the battles became more intense the closer we got to the fort. We were able to stop and catch our breath before coming inside the fort.”
“Alistair would have been there to draw their attention to him while the rest of us picked them off and helped him fighting them from behind. Since Alistair wasn’t there, attention of the darkspawn was all focused on Bell; they went right for her, since she’s a Grey Warden. I keep thinking to myself if she dies, and we survive to get back to Alistair, he will run all of us through before he sounded a retreat. Why do you think she didn’t take him with her? It’s a question I keep asking myself.”
“I’ve had the same question,” said Leliana.
“I remember stopping for just a split second to watch her as she fought three ogres at once with Wynne and Morrigan backing her up. The sight is one that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. She was almost down when Wynne cast a spell to strengthen her. I was trying to fend off the other two when another emissary came on the scene. I was trying to get them to chase me. At this time, Morrigan pulls out her sword and shield and goes to work with Bell, slashing the ogres. I’ve never seen anyone fight like that in my life.”
“Leliana, you couldn’t even see her daggers they were swinging so fast. We realized that we had to get those ogres down before we could start on the second emissary that came around the corner on us. The emissary kept healing the ogres. Wynne was finally able to knock the emissary back, causing the darkspawn mage to fall and stun it, giving us enough time to take down one of the ogres. Morrigan finally killed the first emissary with a backward slash of her sword, by accident really, and Bell finally felled a second ogre. Then we were able to pick them off. The battle as hard as it was was nothing compared to storming Fort Drakon to even get inside the fort.”
“No, this isn’t like her,” agreed Leliana, looking extremely sad for her friend as she thought of Bell. She is in a great deal of pain over their breakup; I’m sure of it.”
“Braska,” hissed Zevran under his breath.
“We all thought Alistair would ask her to marry him, and I think we’re all still in shock that he didn’t, instead he ended their relationship,” spoke Leliana.
“She didn’t even cry.”
“Ah, this is not true my beautiful bard, she did cry; I could hear her from inside her tent.” She has cried every night since the Landsmeet, in private.”
“It appears that Alistair used her,” said Zevran in a quiet whisper.
“I think there is more to it than what we know. We can’t interfere in this Zev, even though I felt like punching Alistair at the time, for hurting her like that. You know Wynne rarely disapproves of anything that Alistair says or does, yet she disapproved of his decision, even though she never said anything.” Said Leliana.
“I have a sneaky feeling this Arl Eamon is behind this,” replied Oghren.
“Yes, I had the same thought.”
Everyone in the room nodded their agreement to Leliana’s statement.
“I don’t understand Alistair’s loyalty to a man who allowed his wife to be as cruel to Alistair as she was to him as a small child, I don’t get it.”
“Nor do I, I don’t think I’d have kind feelings for people such as this, if they had done this to me as a small child.”
“One of my official acts as a Crow was to stop by and pay the former whore house where I grew up a visit and the Madame who sold me into slavery is no longer among the living for what she did to me.”
“You know as well as I, that they will kiss his ass now, that he is King.” Said Oghren.
“Yes, they will try to manipulate him; I firmly believe this, and I think many will be in for a surprise.” Zevran chimed back in.
“I think Alistair is starting to wake up to the realities of life, he has changed since all of us have banded together. I don’t see him being pushed around like he was before.”
“I agree Leliana, he has changed over the past year.”
“I think we’re starting to see the King that has always been inside of him.”
“I think Bell always knew it was there.”
“She told me after Ostagar when her and Alistair survived that Alistair was totally out of it, they both witnessed Loghain’s retreat on the battlefield, which we all know caused his brother’s death and the death of their mentor — fellow Grey Warden Duncan.”
“It changed the course of Alistair’s life.”
“Being a witness to such events changes people.” Leliana nodded at Zevran’s remark.
“She said that Alistair would seek his revenge against Loghain with or without her help, she could tell by the way that he talked.”
“Sten, Morrigan, and I were with them the longest in our journey to battle the blight, she told me of these things our first night in camp, we had just made camp a short ways from Lothering.”
“Alistair was grieving something awful and she got him to talk about what happened and when he finally went to sleep she filled me in before we got to sleep, since Sten had first watch that night.”
“I’m sure in ways all of us will be changed by what we have all lived through and witnessed ourselves.” Zevran said.
“Zev, is it really true that she was actually dead?”
Zevran looked off in the distance to a time that had happened just a few short hours ago. Turning to look Leliana in the eye he nodded his head in the affirmative.
“Yes, she actually died; we all saw her spirit returned to her body.”
“I don’t fully understand how she is alive. I have no explanation on what I witnessed.”
“Then the Maker must have more plans for her life.”
“I will never forget what she did when she finally killed that dragon, never in my life will I forget it.”
“I will respect the Grey Wardens to the end of my days, if I continue as a Crow; I’ll never accept a contract on another Grey Warden ever again.”
“I’ve always been curious, why did you accept the contract on Bell and Alistair in the first place?”
“That is a long tale my friend and one best left for another evening to tell by a fire.”
“Bellavalia already knows the answer to your question my sweet Leliana, and one day my friend I will tell you the same tale, such is not the time right now.”
“We’re all in agreement that Arl Eamon is behind their breakup?”
Once again all heads nodded in agreement.
“There are a few Grey Wardens in Antiva; I’ve never heard it mentioned that a female Grey Warden can’t have children. I know that they can marry.”
“I’ve never heard anything like that in Orlais either from the tales and old stories that I learned long ago on Grey Wardens.”
“I remember hearing about a mage who helped King Maric once and it was said that she had a child and she was a Grey Warden.” Oghren spoke up. “Tales of them being in Orzammar long ago. King Maric was with them. There is a record of it in the Shaperte.”
“I remember hearing other Wardens in Orlais talk of their adventures in a tavern once and the female Grey Warden was from Orlais.”
“Female Grey Wardens are few and far between, there aren’t many female Grey Wardens come to think on it.” Oghren piped in.
“What we found in the deep roads could be the reason there aren’t many female Wardens.”
“None of this makes sense and I’m sure Arl Eamon is behind this.” Said Zevran.
“I don’t understand why Alistair is listening to him over Bell.”
“I believe he thinks she is too powerful, Bell is a noble woman of Ferelden and one who is higher ranked than Eamon himself, it could be nothing more than jealously and that Alistair would listen to her more than him and he decided to block her from access to the throne in a way.” Leliana commented.
“I don’t fully agree, I think Arl Eamon wants those in the Kingdom to see that Alistair can rule on his own, without Bell behind the throne, political maneuvering at its finest.”
“I believe Arl Eamon advised his King, but it was Alistair who made the final decision,” replied Zevran with a touch of malice to his voice.
“Zevran, get those thoughts out of your head this minute, you can’t do what I think is in your mind to do, she will never forgive you if you do such a thing, she loves him.”
“He deserves to die for his disloyalty to Kadan, not to be rewarded as King for her efforts.” Sten said stoically.
“It is because of Kadan, that I haven’t already killed him. He is a weak man to not fight for her, in my country we fight for our women; if he loved her he would never have removed her from his life.”
“No” cried Leliana. “We can’t do this, it would be wrong.”
Sten snorted at Leliana’s outcry.
“I see my friend that Qunari and elves can have an understanding of such things.” Zevran eyed the Qunari warrior with renewed respect.
“I was hoping to beat the snot of out him; I never got the chance once his royal guards took up residence at his side,” replied Oghren. “What he did wasn’t right. I like Alistair, but what he did to the boss wasn’t alright in my opinion.”
“You like him because you beat him at ‘diamond back’ my stout little friend, don’t lie,” sneakered Zevran.
“Aye,” chuckled Oghren. All of them laughed. Sten just nodded.
All of the men in the room seemed to be in agreement, much to Leliana’s dismay.
“Don’t you understand Leliana, that men everywhere will hear that Alistair had her and they will think she is a loose woman.” Zevran informed them all.
“They will try to force her into a physical relationship, or just take it by force, and they may try to use her against Alistair.”
“Aye, I’ve heard of such things,” said Oghren. “Happens alot in Orzammar.”
“This is why he is a fool and I can’t understand his reasoning in letting her go.”
“Some of these men will be cautious since she is a Grey Warden and one heck of a fighter and some will look at her as a challenge.”
“It is as you say,” spoke Sten.
Thor barked his agreement, which made them all laugh.
“I…I understand, I don’t want to think of her in this type of position.”
“How, could he do this to her?”
“I don’t know,” replied Zevran. He was putting the finishing touches on his hair pulling it back and fixing the ponytail.
“Actually, Alistair has been clever in a way, he has effectively made it so she will have to live a celibate life to prove she isn’t this type of woman.” spoke Oghren. “It’s a matter of he set her aside for whatever reason, yet it’s obvious he doesn’t want her to be with another man.”
“He has backed her into a corner.”
“The boss will do one of two things, she will get into a relationship on the rebound right away, or she will have to live a celibate life for a time.” Oghren spoke up.
“Maybe giving Alistair the time he needs to set his kingdom in order.” Said Zevran.
“This still won’t stop other men from nagging at her; if the boss was a dwarf — I would have already got started on getting her into my bed, just to say I had the Hero of Ferelden.”
“Trust me; other men will try to get her into their bed.” Said Zevran.
“Right now, she is a woman protected under the future king; but, this won’t last long.”
Sten, Oghren, and Zevran all nodded in agreement with each other.
“We’ll just have to do what we can to keep her out of these situations while we’re still around to help her.”
“Are we all in agreement?”
Everyone nodded that they were in agreement with Zevran.
“Come my friends; let’s go help the bastard prince burn the dragon that she killed.”
All of them filed out into the hall, once they did, they all saw the said bastard prince turn the corner into the hall. Alistair was accompanied by the Arl of Redcliffe, Bann Teagan, and his royal guards.
Zevran wondered upon seeing Alistair if the new King of Ferelden would still consider all of them friends if he knew what they were just talking about inside their room.