Morrigan walked forward out of the tree line, with her sassy walk that was so like her. She re-attached her staff which was one that I’d acquired for her. I’d forgotten when she left she had also taken all of the equipment that I had acquired or purchased for her…acquired meant stolen in most cases or taken off of someone’s dead body; it had become a running joke. I had spent so much time rummaging through the belongings of the dead that the blight might have been over long before it actually was if I hadn’t stopped to do my rummaging. Granted Alistair and I were the only ones who could rummage through darkspawn belongings. However, my rummaging had kept all of us feed, shelter over our heads, and the coin for even better equipment to be purchased.
I’d also outfitted an army with my ill-gotten gains and I was slightly richer than I’d ever been in my entire life. I also had loads of equipment that could now stock The Vigil when I got there. So I wouldn’t be without supplies to get started with. I also had a slew of equipment at Soldiers Peak in my magical little chest there and it was loaded and wouldn’t hold anymore. Hmmm, I could probably open my own shop if I needed too or sell the excess to Fergus that I had, which was a lot. I’d done this for all of my companions so should I really be that much of an indian giver and ask for the fine mage staff back?
This did seem slightly churlish of me. All in all her staff was of excellent quality. The staff she was using was the one I’d found at Soldier’s Peak, err uh I should say I killed several fade demons to gain it. It was heavily ruined with frost and silverite ruins that I had also purchased. Held in the hands of a mage who wielded the primal school of magic this staff really packed a punch. It was made of a very light-colored wood and was white in color. With the upper ends being entwined with one another; there was a very fine bit of small black leather circling the staff from the bottom all the way to the top. This slight attention to detail gave the staff an appearance of a black and white candy stick. The opening at the top had a gold stone in it, which was very large and the stone was suspended in the air within the top with the appearance of nothing holding the stone in place, obviously magic held it in place. There were feathers decorating the top. I couldn’t for the life of me recall if this was a Morrigan addition or not. The feathers did seem to match her saucy outfit.
I wasn’t a mage and had no idea what the stone meant or represented. I had no idea how mages staves were crafted. This was something that had never entered my mind – to find out about, or even have any knowledge of. I knew how daggers and fine blades were crafted, and what to look for in leathers for fine armor to be made and the best quality flasks for bomb making, so no fluids would leak out, you had to have an excellent cork for the top. I knew how to seek out the best lock picking tools also. I was always eagerly seeking the finest materials for my rogue equipment. Leliana could shop for shoes, I was happy shopping for ruins. I had found a second staff that had seemed custom-made for Wynne also. Morrigan had more primal spells than Wynne. Even though, Wynne had been the healer of our little merry band of misfits. Her focused had been on the creation school and healing with specialized mage spells and Wynne’s unique gift of a spirit healer. I’d taught Morrigan the specialization of an arcane warrior. Sometimes I’d wondered if I should have taught this to Wynne since she was a circle mage and Morrigan was not. I had no idea if Morrigan even knew other mages.
Her hair was still knotted upon her head just like before and as black as ever. Her golden-colored cat eyes shimmered and she once again had her eyes done up with her signature purple eye shadow, and heavy on the kohl lining her eyes as usual. She had returned to her usual form of dress, from when I’d first meet her. Her cheeks had always had the rosy glow to them, just like mine. The burgundy cowl framed expensive jewelry around her neck, which was very nice for a Witch-of-the-Wild. Her winter clasp circlet and the fine pearls were at her neck. She was a jewelry hound, no doubt about it – her arm and ankle bracelets also in place. The girly side of me which was rare to make an appearance also liked fine pieces of jewelry. I’d had my share as the daughter of Bryce Cousland.
The little black onyx chain was the only thing holding her top together as usual showing off her – I’m sure many men would say – her fine feminine features. The silky smooth fabric of her lacy black breast band was easily seen beneath. Her black leather fringed skirt was back in place with her black tights and her little black leather high-heeled buckled ankle boots. Her thick black leather belt was also firmly in place. All of it with the strange symbols etched within the leather. She was a temptress no doubt about it. She had flung off the really nice Trevinter mage robes I’d found for her. Hmmm, bet she sold those. Surely for gold and to show off her fine attributes back in her original clothing. Her come hither look really grated on me at this exact moment. Before I had found it amusing given what I’d seen in Orlais.
Aneirin was just a few paces behind her. He as well looked much the same with his flaming red hair, the Dalish tattoo markings the elves were known for. He was also dressed in armor very much like the Dalish. He’d gotten through the battle without a mark on him. He nodded another greeting. I returned the greeting.
I was still dripping with darkspawn blood and gore. Everyone was slowing coming together to create one large mass of living breathing beings in this very small clearing, with dead darkspawn at our feet. Since I was still dripping blood and gore I made a beeline to the stream all of us had come across what seemed like ages ago, in reality probably no more than ten or fifteen minutes ago. I didn’t speak or acknowledge anyone making my fast exit from the small clearing.
I was in the process of liberally splashing ice-cold water all over myself when I heard light nearly barely discernible footsteps behind me. As if I didn’t know who they belonged too. The one person in all of Thedas I’d rather not speak too and here she was.
“Well, well, who have we here?”
I rolled my eyes.
“Really Morrigan, can’t you be more original than that.”
“My, my, aren’t you just a wee bit cranky for me having saved your life again.”
I whirled around so fast I made myself dizzy.
“You saved my life again? You’re rather full of yourself; oh forgive me in forgetting this is the true Morrigan, the lying scheming one. I guess my own skills had nothing to do with it.”
“Your skills are noteworthy, or you wouldn’t have defeated the blight.”
“Truly, Morrigan, you offering a compliment; I’m shocked to hear it.”
“Do you truly hate me so much?”
“Recently, I’ve been busy hating the whole world, not just you, so don’t feel privileged.”
She snorted. “Oh yes, how I could forget the idiot who is now our king, dropped you like a hot potato out of the fire, once you put that gold crown on his head. By-the-way has he started drooling yet?” I hear Ferelden kings are known for that.
“I don’t know Morrigan why don’t you go see for yourself? I’m sure he’d love hearing from you, since you are going to be the mother of his only child and what a way for a woman to talk about the man who will be the father of her child.”
“His only child, you say, she laughed loudly, I think not.”
“You think, well that is a good laugh, the only time you think is to scheme to get your way, and what do you mean you don’t think you’re and Alistair’s child will be his only one, what makes you say that?”
“You know very well what I’m talking about.”
I shrugged my shoulder, “Whatever do you mean I smile sweetly.”
“Don’t take me for a fool Bellavalia, I’m not Alistair.”
“You know that old saying don’t you Morrigan, birds of a feather and all.”
She narrowed her eyes at me.
“Careful my backstabbing, scheming, witch-of-the-wilds, least Leliana and Zevran hear you.”
“I’m sure they already know and most of the others.”
I inhaled sharply, “they all saw you leave his room didn’t they?”
I stalked toward her, “answer me, damn you.” Rage firing in my eyes.
“Perhaps, they did, but it was not meant for them to do so, was purely an accident.”
She said this with so grating a show of nonchalance that it was the last straw for me. Like my feelings meant nothing to anyone. As long as nobody else knew what Alistair and Morrigan had done, I could have handled this situation better, all of my rage over the whole bloody situation boiled to the surface.
“You bitch, you fucking bitch.”
I lunged toward her but before I could lay hands on her, Zevran plucked me out of range and Leliana was holding off Morrigan by singing a lovely bard tune that stunned an enemy in place.
I was cussing a blue streak and trying my best to get free of Zevran’s hold. I was kicking and screaming; trying my best to bite him so he’d lose his hold on me. Amazing, Zevran was a lot stronger than I ever thought possible. Given I was a few inches taller than him.
“Let me go Zevran, right now.”
“Not on your life or mine.” He stalked with me further into the forest.
I continued to struggle which seemed to be having no effect whatsoever on him. Blast and damnation, my stamina was spent from the ogre. If I had full stamina no way could he best me?
“Put me down now or I’ll carve you up when you let me lose.”
“Oh you feel wonderful in my arms as I knew you would; you smell divine, your scent has always excited me.” He inhaled deeply smelling my hair which was dripping wet, must be a Dalish forest thing.
“Oh, oh, let me go Zev I wailed.”
He laughed and kept walking deeper into the forest.
“You think putting distance between us will make any difference?”
“She can fly remember.”
“She will not, I assure you.”
“How do you know that?”
“We all told her if she harmed you and we learned of it we’d all hunt her down and kill her and take great pleasure in the fact. Sten especially, got right in her face.”
I was stunned. I stopped struggling.
“Because all of us love you, that is why and you saved all of us, in your own unique special way, giving all of us new lives with hope for a future at the expense of your own.”
“Will it help to know even Alistair?”
“Him no, the rest of you….I don’t know what to say.”
“I don’t believe you about Alistair.”
“We all thought you left Redcliffe that night leaving us with the idiot; which we all surmised we didn’t have a chance in hell of winning against the arch demon without you.”
“Well that idiot is now the king, and if you all don’t mind I’m the one who by rights should be allowed to call him that.”
“I see your point, fine, the fool then, and he isn’t my king, at least not yet.”
“You will cool off or I won’t let you lose, Mi Bella, face it she is not worth it.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying Zev, it would be worth it.”
“He is only a man and she only a woman.” “No more, no less, and you will find someone truly worthy of you, forget them.” “If he had loved you as he claimed you would be at his side right this moment instead of here doing whatever this is to save his miserable life once more.”
He had let me go, and I whirled around to face him.
“Just like seeking revenge for Rini will be worthwhile, so revenge is allowable for you and not me?”
Zevran put his finger under my nose which I waved out of my way. My temper was sparking like red-hot coals.
“I will forgive that statement this one time because I know that you are upset; and rest assured Warden, I will not overlook it the second time. Rini is dead by my own hand, and all for a lie to keep me in line with the Crows. I loved her with my whole heart and soul. I wanted you to kill me, if truth be told; I felt I deserved it, this is the reason I took the contract to kill you and Alistair both, it was a suicide mission and I knew it. Imagine my surprise when you spared my life and our talks since. You’ve given me hope that nobody has in a very long time.”
“I’m going to say these things just like you did for me. Time will heal your wounds over what has happened. I have faith love will find you again when you are ready and when the Maker decides it is the right time for you. I’m willing to bet all I own, maybe even a greater love than Alistair. I know this is not what you want to hear right now, but hear it you must.”
“Alistair is correct; you are too important a person to all of Thedas for who and what you are – being a Warden. Tis, truly noble, and if I could get past the aversion of body fluids I’d be happy to join, but I love life and all it has to offer, too much to join the famous Grey Wardens. Once I deal with the Crows, then I’ll think about joining then. I will avenge Rini or I won’t be able to live with myself otherwise.”
“Whatever happened between the three of you it is by pure chance that the rest of us know about it because Leliana and I came to find you and Alistair both seeking our orders on what to expect for the battle of Denerim and if we needed more equipment and supplies from Bodhan before we marched. I know I was not meant to see what I did, but it can’t be undone. Leliana feels the same way.
Leliana and I both were in stealth being on the second floor when we saw her leave Alistair’s room. We went to the room we figured had been assigned to you since it was just down the hall from Riordan. Imagine our surprise of seeing Morrigan coming out of his room and not you and then we couldn’t find you. Leliana and I both didn’t know what to think then Alistair came to the door in just his small-clothes and she was tying her clothes back on when he handed her something and he…..”
“What did Alistair do?” I whispered.
“He kissed her on the cheek, I’m sorry to say.”
I knew it, I didn’t want to believe it but I’d always known in the back of my mind. The conversations both of them had had with each other, they had been off for some reason. It had always been in the back of my mind that somehow Alistair and Morrigan might have known each other once upon a time. Redcliffe wasn’t all that far from Flemeth’s hut if one thought about it. I’d been so foolish to think he had really loved me.
“So you see, he truly wasn’t worthy of you, so don’t waste your tears and energy over her or him, go on and live your life to the fullest and take your pleasure when and where you can. Live, really live Warden because you more than anyone else has earned it. Your revenge will be in becoming the biggest legend all of Thedas has ever known. With each new threat put down and each and every city, town, and village you save will be your revenge on them. They are limited by what they can do, you save humanity from itself every time you step on the battlefield. So very few have that ability.”
“Alistair may become a well-known and remembered king one day and Morrigan will always be the Witch of the Wilds being Flemeth’s daughter; but, you Warden will become a living legend greater than either of them. Your legend will live forever; both of theirs will soon fade from time. Yours will live in the hearts and minds of all because you saved all of humanity. Those in Ferelden will not soon forget it. The Couslands are not fully destroyed as your enemies tried to kill you. They did not succeed. All of us will tell your story to all of Thedas; we’ve all had the pleasure of knowing you and calling you our true friend. Even Alistair and Morrigan will have to do the same.”
I shoved away from Zevran and let the tears roll down my face as I watched the clouds drift in the sky and they proclaimed my feelings of the terminal inside me. As my tears flowed, I heard the crack of thunder like it agreed with Zevran’s words and the heavens let loose and the rains I’d feared all day long finally started to pour down drenching everything within the forest.
Zevran took me in his arms, rocking and cooing to me.
He finally lifted my face to his bringing his lips to mine in a gentle kiss.
“I love you Warden, for just being the truest friend I’ve ever had and no this isn’t a kiss of love the way I’d like it to be, this is just a kiss to let you know that you are loved and will not be forgotten no matter where life takes you next.”
“Come lets us find some shelter, it grows cold.”
He took my hand and we moved on within the forest. We finally found a grouping of low hung rocks. We crawled under them, Zevran on his knees removed his cloak and laid it on the ground and I unclasped mine. We sat down and I wrapped mine around the both of us. The space was tight, but we managed. Droplets of rain dribbled down here and there; at least we were out of the main downpour. We just held each other in silence, for comfort and warmth waiting for the rain to stop each lost in our own thoughts.
I’d always known out of all of my companions that Sten and Zevran would be the most loyal. I’d mistakenly thought Alistair would be also. How very wrong I was.
“Mi Bella.” I looked at Zevran as he spoke my name.
“When a man kisses a woman whom he has just…does not always mean anything. It normally means, thanks for the fun, now be a good lass and be on your way. I say this to lessen the hurt of knowing about the kiss. It was not the way I’ve seen him kiss you.”
I really had nothing to say, what could I say, it truly didn’t matter anymore.
Both of us returned to our own reflection and watched the rain falling from the sky.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the forest a short distance away, others were having a similar conversation.
“Truly Morrigan was it really necessary to hurt her even more with your hateful words?”
“It wasn’t enough that you sleep with Alistair, you had to rub it in her face also?”
“That was not my intention.”
Leliana huffed in exasperation.
“So it was a spur of the moment kind of thing, he ends their relationship and you waste no time and waltz right in to save the day and keep the future king from despair over his lost love. What a selfish bitch you are.”
“I am not a selfish bitch as you seem to enjoy calling me.”
“I had her permission to sleep with him.”
Leliana fell down flat on her arse in stunned disbelief; as if her legs couldn’t believe Morrigan’s statement either.
“You’re lying,” Leliana hissed as she looked up at Morrigan.
“Ask her yourself when she comes back?”
“Oh trust me I’ll do just that.”
“Why Morrigan, why did you do it.”
“You’ve said time and again Bellavalia has been the only friend you’ve ever had, so how could you do it?”
“I know all of you don’t understand and I truly wish I could explain; however, was for her that I did.”
“Oh Morrigan, how can you stand there and say such a thing.”
Leliana put her head in her hands.
“Have you no idea what you have done to her?”
“Yes, I know, and how it appears to others; but, what I did was to help her, not hurt her.”
“I promise you, t’ was.”
“How was sleeping with Alistair for her own good, I don’t understand Morrigan and I’m trying too?”
“I truly can’t tell you, I didn’t want her to die, I wanted her to live.”
“Please,” Morrigan stretched her hand toward Leliana, trying to beseech Leliana to believe her, for some reason it mattered to Morrigan. Morrigan pressed her lips together. Damn you Bellavalia Cousland for making see the goodness of friendship. Damn you. I saved you because you are my friend.
Morrigan crossed her arms and give Leliana her holier than thou look.
“Do you honestly think him so noble?” “Even if he hadn’t set her aside, she can’t give him heirs?” “He will be forced to be unfaithful to her, so its better this way, don’t you see that.”
“What I see, is both of my friends are miserable without each other, this is what I see even though Alistair hides it well.”
“Love is for fools Leliana, you and I both know it.”
“No, Morrigan that is what you think. I don’t think that at all.”
Morrigan crossed her arms and looked shrewdly at Leliana.
“How do you really feel about Bellavalia killing your lover?”
“She was trying to kill me and she would have killed all of you if you’d gotten in her way.”
Morrigan laughed. “Her kill me, hardly.”
“We four women had no problem whatsoever dispatching Marjolaine’s little band of merry makers and we didn’t even have one of the men with us. Our fearless leader made that a woman’s mission on your behalf Leliana and do you know why? So Oghren wouldn’t go on and on about such vulgar displays of affection. Bellavalia didn’t really want to hear it. She did that for you also.”
“Shut up Morrigan or so help me.”
Morrigan looked on with smugness at Leliana.
“You thought you’d have Bellavalia for yourself.”
“It didn’t work out that way did it little bard.”
Leliana jumped up, I said shut up Morrigan.
“As you wish.”
Morrigan walked away and settled herself on a large boulder nearby and started to clean the blood off of her clothes from the darkspawn exploding near her. She looked down and realized she’d have to replace a few straps to her skirt; those stains would never come out of the black leather. Blast it.
The crack of thunder echoed and the heavens opened up and poured their heavy load out on the soil, bringing nourishment to the lush foliage of the forest.
“Come, my shelter is this way, all of you follow me.”
Morrigan had waved to all of them to join her.
The small group walked into the forest where Morrigan had entered the clearing. Leliana, with the six Dalish elves, and Aneirin followed Morrigan. They walked a slight distance. Finally Leliana could see within the trees Morrigan’s lend too which she had set up at camp away from the rest of their party. Leliana had never understood why Morrigan had always kept her distance from the rest of them.
Morrigan took a kettle and poured out hot tea for each of them. There weren’t very many places to sit down, so they all crammed themselves together under the shelter out of the rain. Aneirin saw to the injuries of the Dalish with Morrigan’s help. Leliana had a few deep cuts but for the most part was none the worse for wear.
The rain continued to fall from the sky. After a time Morrigan spoke.
“What is she doing out here in the forest anyway?”
“Shouldn’t she still be in Denerim healing?”
“What do you care?”
“Don’t presume to tell me what I feel or don’t feel this is your last warning Leliana.”
“She needs to go to Gwaren for some reason, she didn’t tell me why, I think Zev knows more than I do. I didn’t want her to come by herself. I knew she had asked Zev for his help and I volunteered to tag along.”
“She has no business being out here, she is still injured and I don’t think she would have felled that ogre if I hadn’t come upon all of you.”
“How do you know of her injuries, didn’t you leave as soon as you gained your feet on top of the fort; you left her Morrigan, being the first to come to and you just left her bleeding. Turning yourself into a bird and flew away and left her.”
“I’m not a healer like Wynne.”
“I checked to make sure she was breathing before I left and Wynne also.”
Leliana’s eyebrows rose in disbelief.
Morrigan sighed, “I knew if Wynne was alive she had a chance.”
“You still left her, why did you leave so soon after the battle?”
“You of all people ask me such a question, listen to yourself.”
“What does your precious chantry do to people such as me?”
“They would haul me off and lock me away inside their fool towers for the rest of my life?”
“Why should I be imprisoned for being a mage?”
“Magic is dangerous.”
“Did either Wynne or I turn into horrible fade beast before your eyes; did we both not save all of your lives a time or two with our magic?”
“That is the point Morrigan, you’ve never had proper training, and you’re not a circle mage.”
“Proper training, I’ve had my mother’s training and her magic is older than the circle itself. Did you see any fade beasts or creatures around my mother’s hut or anywhere nears us at our camp? No, for I was trained by one of the most powerful mages known to all, my mother, the famous Flemeth of legends.”
“Bah, you are all fools, all of you who follow the chantry.”
“We’re not going to agree on this so let us leave it.” Leliana snapped back.
“Fine, have it your way.” Morrigan waved her hand in the air, cutting off anymore that Leliana would have said. Leliana scrolled and just sat and looked out into the forest watching for Zevran and Bella to return. Morrigan shuffled around her little small camp putting more wood on the small fire that had been hissing with the rain droplets that were falling into the fire. Dark grey smoke from it drifted up into the sky. The rain for a time came down in a downpour. All of the occupants of Morrigan’s little camp were saved from the worst. All of them still drench from the start of the rain. At least they had some shelter, Leliana thought. They’d all dry out eventually. Hopefully, this wouldn’t keep up all night.
Morrigan went back to one her little work tables she had set-up. Leliana watched as she picked up two rabbits and skinned them quickly and cut them up putting them into a stew pot. Next she cut up vegetables and chopped them up along with some herbs. She poured water over all of the mixture in the pot, from a stone earthen jar, and stirred. Finally Morrigan seemed happy with her concoction and she placed the pot over a tripod which was hanging over another smaller fire closer to Morrigan’s bedroll and was under the shelter out of the rain. It was smoky here with a woodsy smell to the air, yet fresh and clean with the scent of fresh herbs. Under the shelter it was relatively dry.
At least Morrigan was being hospitable. Which was so unlike her Leliana thought, or had all of them always read her wrong? Leliana didn’t know what to make of all of this; but, she was going to discuss this Zevran and see what he thought of this whole situation. There was something wrong here and it did involve Bellavalia, Alistair, and Morrigan. I just don’t know what all of this means thought Leliana but there is something all of us are not being told. All of this had happened that night at Redcliffe. I need to find out.
Suddenly Morrigan turned and asked her.
“She knows there are soldiers at Gwaren?”
“Yes, she knows.”
All of them settled down on the ground under Morrigan’s shelter and waited for the thunderstorm to pass, waiting for their fearless leader to return to see if she was still going to sneak into Gwaren tonight or wait for tomorrow when the weather might be clearer.