A Black Rose
When she younger, before the Circle, Violet Amell vividly remembered a series of dreams she had had that consisted of her traveling the Fade as though it was her own personal fantasy realm. Looking back now, the fully Harrowed mage realized how foolish she had had been but at the time she had been fascinated at the odd world beyond the world. The wisps, the shadows she later learned to be demons, even the neutral spirits had all been odd characters in the grandiose story she made up.
In one of her trips she had literally run into a spirit who personified justice. Violet had spent a short time speaking with the spirit, learning of the virtue it embodied. Somehow, the idealistic view of justice imparting a feeling of good and accomplishment had stayed with her since then.
Justice was what Alistair had termed the death of Loghain; a lawful execution of Ferelden's famous war-hero because he quit the field at Ostagar, a betrayal in its own right. Only, Violet bit her lip, trying to stop the thought, the Landsmeet hadn't felt like the justice she had romanticized when younger. She slowed her packing for a moment, the thought almost echoing around her, taunting her despite her refusing to voice it.
Nothing could excuse Loghain's actions that day; that knowledge was resolute in her mind. The man that had been called Ferelden's greatest general made a tactical decision that not only cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and Grey Wardens but death of the King. It had been betrayal. Loghain may not have been the darkspawn that had slaughtered the men and women on the field that day but he was responsible for the murder nonetheless.
Violet sighed, dropping the spare shirt she had been folding onto the bed and moved toward the vanity. Sitting she removed the journal she had carefully hidden under the bottom drawer. During their travels to garner allies against the now free-roaming Horde, they had been presented with the opportunity to return to Ostagar. Emotions had run almost violently rampant that day.
Alistair had his grief awaken anew and threw himself into the fighting; recklessly charging at the darkspawn as though he'd miraculously find the one that had killed Duncan. Wynne was nostalgic, looking at the ruins, ghosts of the past playing across her face and the old mage had fallen into a solemn silence.
Zevran had been her saving grace that day, something Alistair seemed to hate remembering. The witty elf had at first been respectful, sorrowed to see the devastation left behind and grim at the understanding of how close to death Violet had been.
He had been the only one to connect how that might have affected her, a seventeen-year-old mage who hadn't been out of the Tower in more than a decade; the only one to notice Violet's magic wavering; how her control over the elements was becoming unstable the longer they were there.
The first joke he cracked had stunned them all; the second had been more of a glib comment; by the third Violet had chuckled under her breath, earning a murderous glare from Alistair. Zevran's misplaced levity had been the only thing that kept her from losing control of her magic.
She and Alistair had the first major fight of their relationship that night.
Violet had let the warrior have his space to mourn the deaths of the Grey Wardens he had known, Duncan, even his half-brother, taking the time to read through the papers Loghain and Cailan had locked away in the camp. She had been startled what she discovered, not only about the King and his correspondence with Orlais but a rather foully penned journal entry of a confrontation between Cailan and Loghain.
Alistair had little interest in the pages, plainly stating that it didn't matter why Loghain did what he did, wrong was wrong. When she had pressed, trying to show that Loghain might have had a reason to betray Cailan, Alistair had exploded in anger, accusing her of agreeing with the man that murdered Duncan, demanding if she would betray him as well.
Then Zevran had defended her in his own flirtatiously sarcastic way, which had simply made things worse. Alistair never liked having the elven assassin along and Violet would go as far as saying he hated how often Zevran attempted to seduce her. She had always refused, more amused at what later became a playful banter between them. Alistair, in his grief stricken anger, had latched onto his jealousy over her friendship with the elf.
He demanded to know if she would stab him in the back herself or if she would simply let the elf she played whore to do it for her. Alistair's words had left a tension between the two of them for days. Even the thoughtless warrior had realized he had gone too far and had spent those days attempting to grovel, begging for forgiveness, siting turbulent emotions from Ostagar as an excuse. When Violet finally relented, the two of them picked up the relationship where they had left off, quickly falling deeper and deeper in love.
Violet never brought up the papers again. Alistair's firm statement that the why behind the wrong didn't make it any less wrong had stuck with her all this time. Even now, after all she had fought through; all the struggle to place Alistair on the throne to rally the country to fight the Horde, Violet was less sure.
Turning back to the journal, Violet unclasped the latch and immediately took the loose papers from the back. There was no need to hang onto the papers any longer.
The fact Cailan had considered setting Anora aside and seeking an heir elsewhere was immaterial to Alistair. Violet hadn't made it any better when she tried to show Alistair that Cailan had actually debated about whether he should simply get rid of Anora through an unfortunate accident, exile her for a nonexistent crime, or seek an heir elsewhere while keeping Anora as a figure head.
Violet fingered the pages, part of her knew that Alistair was right, no matter what reason Loghain had to betray Cailan; nothing excused the deaths on the field that he had caused by abandoning the battle; part of her recognized that action was called for, that something had to be done to make Loghain atone for the betrayal.
The problem was that a small seed of doubt still squirmed in her mind. They were about to head into a battle against the Archdemon; a battle that, if lost could wipe Fereldan off the face of Thedas. She, along with the friends she had picked up along the way, had spent the last year traveling all over Fereldan to gain enough allies to fight the impending Horde. Betrayal aside, Loghain had been the best general in the country's history. Tactically speaking, he would have been an asset when planning the strategies of how to win.
Riordan had suggested as much, even offering to make Loghain a Grey Warden to strengthen the man's resolve in fighting against the darkspawn by appealing to the old general's sense of duty. Though she would never admit it to Alistair, Violet had actually considered it, realizing, like Riordan, the benefit of having Loghain on their side.
It had been the first time Alistair had fully accepted and attempted to step into his role as the future King. There had only been one moment of hesitation when he declared that Loghain had to die, one moment that Alistair seemed to stall and almost looked at Violet for guidance like he always had done. But he hadn't, after refusing to bestow what he saw as an honor on Loghain, he swiftly beheaded the man.
Blowing a strand of dark brown hair out of her sharp blue eyes, Violet shook her head, trying to rid herself of the thoughts that weighed heavy on her mind. Dropping the papers on the vanity's table, she latched her journal and went back to packing.
Things were finally going right, for once. There was little need to focus on things she couldn't change. Alistair was taking his place as King of Ferelden as soon as the Horde was defeated, not to mention finally acting like the ruler he had to be. Anora had stepped aside, albeit somewhat forcefully, but was fully aware that if Alistair fell she would rule anyway. The army she had raised was already awaiting them at Redcliffe and her group would be leaving as soon as possible to join them.
It had been almost a year and a half since she had gone through her Harrowing at seventeen. The future that had been planned for her, the future she had studied and worked so hard for had been shattered when Jowan dabbled in blood magic. Violet had gone from the Head Enchanter's protégé to a Warden recruit to being one of two Grey Wardens left alive in all of Ferelden. Instead of leading other mages in walking the fine line between power and demons she was readying to lead an army against the worst form of walking evil she could imagine.
A light knock on her door caused Violet to instinctively reach for her staff. Shaking her head at herself, mildly amused, she looked to the intruder. A petite elven boy with dark skin and equally dark hair hovered in the doorway.
"Can I help you?" she asked eying the small box in his callused hands.
"Master Turner sent me, serrah." He thrust the item forward, his eagerness almost causing the box to fall. "After hearing of your victory in the Landsmeet and how you'd be leaving soon, he rushed to finish it,"
Understanding dawned on her and she reached for the box. When they first passed through Denerim she had found a little jewelry shop out of the way. After finding Alistair's mother's amulet at Redcliffe she had the idea of finding some way to preserve the rose Alistair had given her. The jewelry smith, Isaac Turner as he had introduced, had informed her he could make it into a charm but he would need time to work on the rose seeing as it had been picked some time ago.
Her breath caught as she saw the charm, awed by its beauty and simplicity. Hanging on a thin chain was a tear-drop shaped adornment. The artisan had folded one of the petals of the rose Alistair had given her into a mini bud, sealing in a clear substance that was as hard as rock. She was amazed to see how he had enhanced the color of the red rose by placing it on a backdrop of her namesake. The question of how he had known her name escaped her as she was overcome by the beauty of the piece.
"Thank him," she whispered, fishing out the payment. "He did an amazing job." Violet pressed the coins in the boy's hand, plus several extra. "Thank you," The boy nodded and then darted away.
Walking to the full length mirror, Violet clasped the necklace, unable to stop the smile from spreading on her lips. The reflection of a strong, confident woman stared back at her instead of the girl she remembered.
As always her skin was pale and rosy around the cheeks, causing her dark brown hair to appear almost black in comparison. Her hair had grown and now reached her shoulders, hanging in loose spiraling curls that framed her high cheek-boned face and seemed to slim her slightly rounded cheeks. The blue of her eyes that had been the cause of her name shone from beneath thick black lashes, enhanced by the flower pressed into the necklace.
Resting just above the leather of her tunic she touched the charm, admiring how the violet behind the rose allowed her to wear red without it blending into her pale skin tone, especially since her skin was prone to a rather pronounced pink-red flush.
Violet never would have thought herself the type to wear jewelry. Growing up she had frequently gotten in trouble for refusing to wear the robes the mages donned, opting instead to walk around in a pair of trousers and a loose shirt. She had finally gotten used to wearing robes when she had left the Tower and was presented with the opportunity of wearing light leather armor. Something Violet had taken full advantage of, which turned out to be quite advantageous while trying to avoid notice in the process of gathering allies. No one would look twice at what looked like a rogue carrying a quarter staff. That type of anonymity was dashed whenever Wynne joined them as the older mage had refused to wear anything but the standard issue Circle robes.
Chuckling to herself, Violet took the necklace off, determined to keep it safe until she could find something sturdier than the chain it came with. She hadn't even reached the bed before someone cleared their throat behind her.
"Forget something?" she asked expecting to see the elven boy again. Violet loved how her heart skipped a beat when she saw Alistair standing there instead. "Oh, I was going to come find you in a minute," she said with a smile. "I'm almost done packing. I was wondering if you knew if there were enough horses for all of us. If not I figured we'd trade-off who rode," Violet hesitated, staring at him.
Alistair stood in her doorway dressed in shining plate armor looking awkward and solemn. "We need to talk," his words offered her no comfort.
Trying to ignore the bubble of concern that was forcing its way up, she looked at him quizzically. "About?"
Alistair shifted. "I won't pretend to understand why you did what you did." He began. "I never wanted to become king and you knew that," Violet opened her mouth to explain, object, something only Alistair brazened on. "But it had to be," he said dismissively. "Being king it, raises question about us."
Heart hammering in her chest, Violet's mind raced at all the possibilities. The reason she had fallen in love with Alistair was how often he joked, always avoiding being serious. She could only come up with a handful of reasons why he was so serious now. "What do you mean?" she asked, her hand clenching around the necklace she held.
Taking a breath Alistair began to recite something as though he had practiced it. "First there's the fact that you and I are both Grey Wardens, it's not just a question of obligation but of blood." Violet blinked, her confusion written on her face. "You remember how Grey Wardens don't usually live to become old, right?" he didn't wait for her to answer. "As king, I'll be required to have a child," Violet froze, unsure if she heard him correctly. "Even more so because my death is assured," Alistair shook his head. "That's assuming someone with the taint can and even should have a child,"
She reeled. She was only eighteen, true many girls her age were already married and had kids but all her life Violet had never expected to be one of them. Procreation was not permitted in the Tower; any mage found pregnant would be immediately taken away. Some rumors of death floated around to scare the younger ones but Violet had learned from the First Enchanter that the mage was sent to a special Tower near the Divine until she gave birth. Then the mage would be sent to a different Circle, the child would be placed under a foster system in the Chantry, carefully watched for signs of magic.
"Are you asking me to have your child, Alistair?" Violet's heart raced with excitement and terror at the same time. Was this his horrible way of proposing to her? She had known he was bad in romantic situations but that was terrible.
"No," his despondent words were barely audible. "No I'm not, Vi."
"Then what are you saying?"
Alistair took a breath, his amber eyes full of resolve and sorrow. "Both of us have tainted blood, both of us will die young," He straightened, his voice growing firmer. "I will need to find a wife, one who can bear a child, who will live to raise it,"
The sensation that she was falling was beginning to overwhelm Violet as she became both hot and cold at the same time.
"I don't relish it," he thrust out his chin almost regally. "But I will have the duty as the king,"
Her heart sank in her chest as she stared at him; trying to comprehend the words he was saying. Blinking, she tried to think past the air rushing by her ears. Reflexively she swallowed and then did it again, as though she could rid herself of the pain knotting itself in her gut.
"What," uncharacteristically her voice broke, wavering, betraying her. Swallowing hard and clearing her throat she tried again. "What are you saying Alistair?
His voice softened and he took a step toward her. "I love you," he whispered, emotion trembling in his voice. "More than I ever thought possible," Alistair suddenly stepped away, moving toward the window that looked out over the courtyard and Denerim. "But I have to face what being king means, Vi." He shook his head. "I can't run away from it anymore,"
Desperate to stop the world from crashing out from under her, Violet turned sharply to face him, unaware of the frost now haloing around her feet. "Nobody can force the king to do something he doesn't want to,"
"Meaning what?" Alistair suddenly demanded, looking at her. "I could be married and a father and still see you on the side?" he practically spat the words at her. He shook his head. "No, I couldn't do that. It would be very unfair." The steely look in his eye melted for a moment; giving way to the gentle loving man she had thought she knew. "I'd find it much too hard to tear myself away from you," Unconsciously he reached toward her, their fingers tangling together for a brief moment. "Impossible even," Alistair whispered.
"Then don't," Violet begged, gripping his hand.
Pulling away, Alistair took a step back. "If this is what has to be," he bowed his head. "I have to do it now."
Violet felt everything in her go numb as she stared at the man she loved. The man who was telling her that because of a decision she made to save Fereldan he could no longer be with her. The man who was saying the very reason they had met was why they could never be together. The man whose words were heavy with the implication that everything he had ever told her was a lie; that she was some fling and was not good enough for him now that he was going to be king. The man whose actions were screaming at her that he didn't love her.
After what felt like eternity she finally looked him in the eye, the empty feeling filling her. "What now? Are you remaining here to rule?"
"No." he said firmly. "We still have our duty as Grey Wardens to fulfill. That hasn't changed," Walking toward the door; he seemed oblivious to the fact that Violet hadn't moved from where he left her by the window. "Arl Eamon arranged horses for all of us, they are saddled and waiting. Most of the others are packed, so as soon as you're ready." For a brief moment he hesitated at the door. "The Blight awaits us, right?" his failed attempt at levity left him hovering in the doorway where she could feel his eyes on her before he left.
The world around her seemed to have stopped. A sharp pain in her palm caused her to look down, staring at her hand as though it was someone else's limb. Uncurling her clenched fingers she looked at the amulet that was covered in sharp shards of ice, several of which had splintered off, cutting into her palm, bubbles of red blood pressing through.
Her breathing increased as she stared at the blood, the power that was softly calling to her. For one quick moment the Fade screamed around her, demons tantalizing her with promises of strength, power, the ability to get Alistair back. Abruptly she closed her hand over the charm again and stalked over to the bed.
She reached for the box to pack the necklace away but stopped, unable to let it go. Sitting down before her legs gave out on her, Violet stared at the charm. Her emotions stormed around her as she gazed down at what had only minutes before brought her such joy, unaware how it was affecting her magic.
The blanket beneath her had become stiff, frozen with the mist of ice coming from her. Veins of ice were twisting down the bed posts and across the wooden floorboards. The fire in the hearth which had started as dying embers was burning bright, the orange flames flickering dangerously. Arcs of purple-white lightning were spiraling along the bedframe and the planter in the corner suddenly had all the earth turned to stone, cracking and reforming again and again.
Alistair had been so sweet, innocent almost. His childhood in the Chantry had left him with little to go on for relationships; something Violet had always found adorable. His clumsy way of flirting with her that lead into a beautiful albeit awkwardly gifted declaration of his feelings. Evan when they had shared their firsts with each other, how caring and shy Alistair was when they made love.
Despite living in what was essentially a prison for mages for most of her life, Violet had always known the mechanics of relationships. Whether that was because of seeing many a teenage mage fall for another, which always ended either with the two barely able to keep the other's company or being found out by Templars which resulted in one of the mages being sent to a different Circle; or because of her stumbling upon more than one tryst of horny mages desperate to be satisfied before being caught by the Templars. There had been one mage she remembered vividly who joined the Tower who frequently joked about how robes made for easy access. He was the one caught the most by the Templars as well as the one mage who had the most successful escape attempts, despite always being recaptured later.
Nothing in her life had ever prepared her for Alistair's horrible attempts at romance, how his bashful smiles and boyish glances would melt her heart. Violet could never pinpoint when she had fallen for him but she could remember when he told her that he loved her. Her hand clenched around the charm again, unaware of how the ice dug deeper into her skin. Like a fool, she had believed him.
In the hearth the flames flared and turned yellow.
She had believed that the rest of the world didn't matter. Violet closed her eyes, her hand shaking. Her world had unraveled once again around her. A tear escaped and trickled down her cheek, falling off her chin and turning to ice before it hit the ground.
The first time everything she thought she knew crashed, the man she thought of as a brother gave into his fear and learned blood magic, taking her and the woman he claimed to love down with him; Duncan helped her pick up the pieces giving her a new destiny. The second had been after Ostagar where she was faced with the pressure of saving Ferelden, Alistair's stumbling flirtation had been her only salvation between Morrigan's bitter wit, Leliana's Chantry prejudices, and Sten's silent disapproving judgment.
Air rushed in her ears as her emotions raged. The reassurance that Alistair was there, that he loved her had given her strength. Every decision she made, every step she took had been worth it for him; for him Violet pretended that she was strong, for him she acted brave. Their duties to the Grey Wardens would never end but so long as they were together it didn't matter. All that mattered in the end was that they had each other.
The fire blazed, the flickering flames shifting to white and growing larger.
Only it was all lies; Alistair's promise of forever; his declaration that the rest of the world didn't matter. Another tear streaked down her face, leaving a trail of ice crystals on her cheek. She had trusted him, given herself to him, offered him everything she had and it wasn't good enough for him. She wasn't enough for him.
Behind her there was the sound of glass exploding. In a haze she looked, trying to comprehend what happened. The lamp on the wall had shattered, the candle remains burning with a white-hot flame. Slowly she shifted her gaze to the fireplace and studied how the metal of the screen was red, melting into a puddle on the floor. A coiling sun pattern of ice and frost stretched from beneath her, streaking across the room.
All at once the implications of how her magic was pressing out hit her and with an audible snap it flooded back. The fire suddenly extinguished; a crumbling crash occurred when the planter's dirt fell back to the ground, breaking and tumbling down. The only evidence that remained was the frozen design on the wooden floor.
In the place of the crushing emotions a strange cold numbness spread. Alis—The King was correct. As one of three Grey Wardens in Ferelden, she had responsibilities. Standing she made to grab the box again only to find she couldn't bring herself to put the necklace down. The small cuts on her palms had healed when her magic recoiled back leaving no evidence that they had even been there.
Staring at the charm again Violet wondered abstractly how it was she couldn't feel anything. If she couldn't feel anything why couldn't she put the amulet down? Why couldn't she tuck it away, pretending it didn't matter?
Reaching for her gloves instead, she pulled the fingerless leather protection on. Buckling the two straps in place she was amazed at how well it was able to hide the small charm; almost as though it didn't exist.
With an abrupt shake of her head, she shoved the last of her things into her pack and latched it. Pulling her hair back into a ponytail away from her face, she tucked the few strands of hair that never stayed tied away behind her ear. Staff and knapsack in hand, she practically marched down the hall toward the stairs.
Her friends were loitering by the stables, all acting very much like themselves. Wynne was talking with the horse she seemed to have claimed, an almost all golden animal with one stripe of brown that covered one of its eyes. Morrigan was eying the black mustang with equal distemper. Shale was sitting on the back of Bodahn's wagon, ignoring Sandal's fascination with the gems attached to her. Leliana was attempting once again to explain that the large mare in front of Sten could indeed hold his weight while Oghren was yelling at a stable hand over the donkey he had been given. Zevran was leaning against the stable wall, watching the dwarf with an amused expression on his face.
He was the first to notice her arrival. "Ah, our fearless leader," the elf greeted, straightening and taking a step toward her. "All ready to go then?" Violet glanced at him as she brushed by him, barely noticing as concern followed by worry flashed across his face. Lowering his voice, Zevran stopped her by gently grabbing her by the elbow. "Mi flor," his nickname for her caused her to stop short. "What is wrong?"
For one moment her mask cracked and all the heartbreak was written on her face, tears springing to her eyes. She physically shook with emotion. Violet opened her mouth, wanting nothing more than to tell him everything, to weep until her heart no longer ached.
"My liege," a stable hand's words caused her to freeze.
Her eyes flickered behind Zevran and saw the King hesitating, looking at the bowing worker with uncertainty. Closing her mouth, the numbness spread through her once again. Turning away before the King looked at her, she pulled out of Zevran's grasp. Leading the horse chosen for her out of the stable, she barely spared a glance at the others, who had all fallen silent watching her.
"Warden, did you see what they stuck me with?" demanded Oghren pointing at the donkey irritably.
"Kadan, this beast will not hold my weight," Sten said, the hints of a smile twitching at the corner of his lips as he watched Leliana's exasperated expression.
"It intends me ride on the back of the wagon like supplies?" Shale questioned.
"No horse would be strong enough to carry you on its own, Shale." Wynne reasoned with a smile at the golem.
"If we mean to get to Redcliffe before the end of the week, we best head out immediately, if you can get the children to quit squabbling." Morrigan stated giving her horse one final glare before turning her attention to Violet.
Mounting her horse, Violet gently steered the horse toward the gate, pausing as the others scrambled to follow her. She clenched the reigns tightly in her hand; the almost painful pressure from the charm was a small but welcome relief from the numbness she felt.
Her heart pounded audibly in her ears as a horse and rider came up on either side of her; Zevran to the left and the King to the right both staring at her, trying to get a read beyond her emotionless mask. When the gates slowly opened nudged her mount forward, answering the questioning gazes with six words.
"We have a Blight to defeat."
Zevran had always prided himself by living by one simple code: 'Take your pleasures where you can'. Life as an assassin was never a safe one and there had always been moments when it was luck and not skill that came to his aide. His encounter with the Grey Wardens had been no exception; the Antivan rogue had been over confident and, despite having nearly twenty mercenaries to help, had come very close to losing his life that day.
Looking back now, Zevran could vividly remember the first time he saw his Warden. The rough description he had had to go on didn't do her justice. She was younger than he had expected. With the hate and frustration exuding from Loghain, Zevran had envisioned a pair of hardened warriors, two people who looked every bit the part of the supposedly villainous survivors.
They had looked more like the part of armed refugees than fighters. Capturing or killing two Grey Wardens traveling alone in the country had seemed like a challenge; after all the Wardens were supposed to be the best of the best. Only they hadn't been traveling alone; what Zevran had planned on only being two, ended up being two mages, one rogue, a warrior and a Qunari with a greatsword that had literally cleaved one of the mercenaries in two.
A smile traced on the elf's lips as he laid on the bed in the room given to him, staring at the ceiling as he thought back, remembering how quickly her group had slaughtered his; how, when he awoke, he was bound and staring at two impossibly blue eyes.
Violet Amell was merciful and in a situation where Zevran had expected to lose his life, she had let him live. Alistair had had a tantrum over that decision and the elf still enjoyed poking fun at the boyish man, always seeking out those blue eyes to watch how they sparkled with hidden laughter.
Zevran wondered when it was he had started falling for her. Emotions were always dismissive for him in his line of work. They complicated things needlessly and in the end, he had always reasoned, everyone was out for themselves.
Violet was different.
She offered friendship, not servitude.
In response, Zevran was almost ashamed to admit, he tried to seduce her. Death and pleasure, it had always been how his world turned. Somehow, though, she was different. The flushed embarrassment over what he was proposing, her shy smile and sweet laughter had been the beginning.
Soon he had actively befriended her, trying to see that smile that seemed to be just for him on her lips again. Wondering what she had done to change him all while secretly hoping that she would turn the loving gaze on him instead of Alistair. He made little secret of his feelings, though he actively tried to hide how deep they truly went.
Restlessly, Zevran got up, unable to sleep. The army was leaving at first light; desperate to make up the time they lost by camping at Redcliffe, assuming that the Horde would head there. Instead, the Horde was headed for Denerim, spreading up through the Bannorn. It had taken their group three days to ride from the capital to Redcliffe after the Landsmeet; now they were joining the march back, hoping that they could make it in two.
Death had always been in the cards for Zevran at some point; to live as an assassin he had accepted that long ago. Somehow, the elf never quite expected to die like this. Before he had met his Warden, there were times he had imagined what his death would be like, because that's the sort of morbid thing you do when you're constantly confronted with death, and Zevran had varying plots where he kicked the bucket due to jealous husbands, an amazing battle where he lived just long enough to defeat everyone else before heroically collapsing and dying from battle wounds, and the one that had almost happened, him dying from attempting to take out a target far too strong for him.
Strapping his weapons on his back, Zevran slid out of his room. A year ago, had he had this problem, he would have found someone to share his bed, someone to give him a pleasant but meaningless diversion for the night, a way to relieve the stress over what was to come. Part of him wanted to do just that, sex was just sex, a pleasure to take and give, no strings attached but he couldn't.
Whether he liked it or not, his heart belonged to another.
That thought alone unnerved him. His attachment to Violet was something he never experienced before; Zevran had found himself actively finding ways to make her smile, laugh, even counting the number of times she playfully nudged him when he made a lewd comment. She had become the one thing in his life that no matter how much he tried to force himself to think realistically, he couldn't stand the idea of losing her.
His practical side warred against that concept. People died, it was a part of life. They were in the middle of a war and his Warden was at its forefront, luck was not on their side. Thinking pragmatically, Zevran fully realized that any one of them might die in the upcoming battle, Violet and himself included. But the rational he had always balanced his life with seemed to fly away when it came to her.
It bothered him, if he was honest. How could one girl have caused such changes in him, especially when they never had any sort of relationship beyond friendship?
As he was pondering that particular question, the blonde elf was forced to stop in his tracks as the door to his right flew open and Morrigan almost ran into him. Zevran grinned at her, starting to make a light-hearted remark when he saw the anger and frustration written on her face, the sorrow in her eyes. She hesitated for a moment, looking at him as though searching for something.
"Watch her back," Morrigan ordered softly. "She'll need it." The mage said before brushing by him, heading for the stairs.
"I always do, but then again, her back is a piece of art," Zevran teased, his smile fading when Morrigan looked back, regret in her eyes. "But that is not what you meant, si? You protect her front, my Raven, and I'll happily stare at her back."
"I won't be there." She stated and then disappeared down the stairs.
Zevran raised his eyebrows, confused. Glancing from the stairs to the room Morrigan just exited and then back he shrugged. Peering into the room he spotted the familiar staff leaning near the bed and the unopened pack abandoned on an overstuffed armchair. The doors to the balcony were open, curtains blowing gently in the breeze.
Slipping into the room, Zevran wondered why Morrigan had acted as she did. Morrigan and Violet had been friends and, while not overly close, it was clear they cared about the other. Violet had even slayed Flemeth to try and protect Morrigan. So why in Thedas would Morrigan say she would not be at the upcoming battle?
Looking onto the balcony, Zevran took in the almost theatrically picturesque scene. Violet was standing with her back to him, silhouetted by the light from the room behind her. Her stance was stiff and filled with all the tension of wood ready to snap. Thunder rolled on the horizon with occasional flashes of lightning streaking across the sky, threatening a storm.
"I do hope it does not rain," he said, idly leaning against the doorframe, watching her. "Traveling in wet clothes is quite unpleasant. My hair will never survive it."
Violet turned her head slightly but didn't look at him and didn't respond.
"Though," Zevran moved toward her. "Wet fabric becomes remarkably clingy," he said flirtatiously. "Seeing yours hug those delectable curves would be worth the sacrifice," To his surprise there was no reaction from her.
Zevran's brow furrowed, studying her the way he had the last few days. She had been unusually stoic on their trip from Denerim to Redcliffe and seemed even more so now. If it was anyone else he would dismiss it as nerves from the impending battle but Violet had never been like that for as long as he had known her. She enjoyed the levity, adding her own in an attempt to lighten tension.
"I saw Morrigan storm out of here in a huff," he mentioned, casually leaning on the railing, watching her out of the corner of his eye. Her breath seemed to catch but again she didn't react. "Let me guess, mi flor; she offered you the Witch of the Wilds version of an Antivan massage and you refused?"
Violet bowed her head, her right hand clenching. "She left."
Confused by the emptiness in her voice, Zevran shrugged. "She went downstairs, possibly to torment the soldiers and kick stray puppies. You and she will have two days of bonding time in the march back to the capital." He wagged his eyebrows. "Perhaps I could watch,"
Abruptly she looked at him, an emotionless mask on her usually expressive face. "She won't be joining us."
Zevran frowned. "Meaning it will just the two of us bonding," he grinned suggestively. "Or that she left for good?"
Something dark flickered across her face before she turned away from him.
"For good then," Zevran mulled the concept over; unsure what would cause the two of them to part ways at this time.
Violet's sigh captured his attention, her hand tightening again, and looked back at him. "She knew a secret of the Grey Wardens and waited until now to inform me." Violet's words seemed to be chosen carefully. "She," her voice caught. "She was unhappy with my decision and decided that she would not join us in the fight,"
"Perfect!" he teased, hoping it would bring life back to her and was severely disappointed when it didn't. Nudging her lightly, he dropped all pretense of joking. "Mi flor," Zevran's worry increased when the light that normally sparked in her eyes when he said his nickname for her didn't appear. "Talk to me,"
Violet trembled, he was now positive she was holding something in her right hand hard enough to turn her knuckles white. "I can't." the words were laced with more emotion than he had seen on her in days.
Reaching forward to brush a strand of hair out of her face, he stilled when she recoiled, dropping her gaze down. "Mi flor, what is wrong?" Zevran struggled internally for a moment before speaking again. "Do you wish me to find Alistair, perhaps you can speak with him?" He was stunned when she visibly flinched at the mention of her lover. "Yo nunca te vea así, hablar conmigo, mi flor." Zevran said, partially wishing that she actually spoke Antivan. "You can speak to me about anything, you know that."
Swallowing hard, she looked at the horizon. "The Grey Wardens have always kept it a secret," her voice was so soft he had to strain to hear her. "How to defeat the Blight, to kill the Archdemon," Violet bit her lip, closing her eyes. "New Wardens usually aren't on the front lines against the dragon," she hesitated, another shiver running down her spine. "We didn't know until Riordan told us."
"Told you what?" Zevran tried to understand.
Her blue eyes locked onto him with a gaze so intense that even if he had wanted to, he wouldn't be able to look away. "That the only way to defeat the Blight requires a Grey Warden to slay the Archdemon and take its essence into themselves."
Zevran's stomach dropped. "That cannot be healthy for the Warden, no?" he said in a vain effort to joke his fear away.
"The Warden will die, ending the Blight."
All the air rushed out of his lungs. "Eso no puede ser verdad." He whispered in shock. The reality of the situation crashed down around him. "It does not have to be you," He grasped at the one hope he had. Without meaning to he grabbed her by the arm, desperate for her to deny the horrific thought. "Mi flor, it does not have to be you."
"Riordan will attempt it first and if he fails, I will be next." She sounded so calm talking about her death as though it was nothing.
"He will not fail." Zevran's mind raced, concocting all sorts of elaborate plans to smuggle Violet away, to save her from this fate. "He will not fail and you will live." His grasp on her arm tightened for a moment. "You will live." He practically ordered. "Once the Blight is ended you and," his voice caught. "Your Alistair will ride off into the sunset." For once his terror at losing her to death overrode any jealousy in his heart. "No, mi flor," he insisted. "No, you will not die."
She looked away, her hand twitching in its clenched fist again.
Zevran looked behind him toward her room, the forced light-hearted smile still on his lips. "And where is your strapping Chantry Boy, hm? He should be here with you."
"The King is in his rooms." She said hollowly. "Awaiting the morning when he will lead his army into battle,"
The elf felt his heart skip a beat, a dark seed of understanding beginning to grow. Hoping, even praying he was wrong, Zevran stepped away from her. "Well what is he doing there, mi flor? I shall go fetch him and you and he can spend the night forgetting darkspawn exist." He said as light-heartedly as he could. One small flicker of heart-wrenching anguish flashed across her face before she abruptly looked away confirming his worse suspicions. "No." he whispered, not wanting to believe Alistair had been that callous. "Mi flor,"
He became acutely aware that her right hand was shaking, her grip on whatever was in her palm so tight he was uncertain if blood was even flowing to her fingers. Reaching out, he took her by the wrist and gently uncurled her hand. Sitting in the center of her palm was a necklace, a silver chain snaking into a knot away from a charm.
Zevran lifted the necklace up to the light to get a better look when he saw the small bruise in the center of her hand. The chain had made an imprint the lead into the bruise exactly where the tear-drop shaped charm had sat. She had gripped the amulet so hard that she harmed herself.
Understanding followed by sorrow came a moment later when he saw the charm. She had told him of her jewelry request, of how she had wanted a way to preserve the flower that had started her relationship with Alistair.
"What happened?" he asked gently, unconsciously running his thumb over the bruise on her palm as though he could rub it away and the pain she felt with it.
Violet trembled, tugging the necklace out of his hand. "The King requires a queen who can birth him heirs. Seeing as we are both tainted, he thought it best to seek a wife elsewhere."
Zevran's blood ran cold. "What?" the tone in his voice was deadly.
Numbly she looked at him. "The King ended our relationship before we left for Redcliffe. He has responsibilities to his kingdom that I cannot fulfill."
"Mierda." He spat. "What was he thinking? The whiny little coward. ¿Cómo podia ser tan jodidamente cruel? Voy a matarlo." Zevran growled, unaware that he had completely shifted into Antivan as he marched toward the door, intent on beating some intelligence into the idiotic man.
Violet stopped him with a weak grasp to his arm causing him to look back. She shook her head, the weight of the world almost tangible on her shoulders. "It is done, Zevran. He," her voice caught and the first sign of tears shined in her blue eyes. "He does not want me."
Zevran drew in a sharp breath. "Then he is a bigger idiot than I thought, mi flor."
His lips pressed against hers, his hand tangling itself in her hair at the nape of her neck. For one moment the world around him stopped as he kissed the woman he loved. Hesitantly she returned the kiss, her own arms wrapping around him instinctively but there was no emotion behind it; while his world was exploding in color, hers was empty.
Zevran broke the kiss, cupping her face with his hand, begging the Maker for her to be able to return his feelings even in a small way. "He was an idiot to leave you. Do not abandon hope because of him," he begged. "Do not give up." He gently wiped away a stray tear. "You will survive this battle and become a hero." Another tear escaped her blue eyes. "You will have so many suitors, that that boy of a man will be nothing but a distant memory. I will be right there beside you as you beat off the suitors with a stick, mi flor."
Violet snorted, tears pressing in the corners of her eyes, a small bittersweet smile was on her face. "Why couldn't I have found you first?" she barely seemed aware she had spoken.
Zevran felt his heart skip a beat. "I am yours." He whispered.
She closed her eyes, lightly pressing something into his hand. "I only wish my heart was still mine to give,"
The two of them stood there a moment, close enough to feel the other's body heat yet seemingly miles apart. She took a step back and then disappeared into her bedroom, leaving Zevran standing on the balcony, boiling with emotion. Looking down he felt something wrench painfully in his chest as he realized what she had given him.
In the center of his hand was the necklace with the charm she had specially made to preserve the red rose Alistair had given her; the same one that, unbeknownst to her, Zevran had gone and altered the order to so that the flower would sit on her namesake.
Closing his hand around it, Zevran fought to control his raging emotions. That fool of a man had the heart of the woman he loved and he had thrown her aside instead of treating her like the treasure she was.
"Te amo, Violet Amell." He murmured. "I only wish that he did too."
It seemed pointless now. All the work, all the struggle, it all seemed worthless. Of all the outcomes that might have occurred, all the ways ending the Blight might have happened; this was never one he had fully considered.
She was dead.
Internally Alistair raged at the unfairness, the impossibility. This was not how any of it was supposed to happen. The Horde was supposed to be defeated at Ostagar, the Wardens were supposed to have the upper hand and easily defeat the Archdemon; Alistair and the new recruit would never be on the front lines in the final battle and they were supposed to come away scraped and bruised but strong and alive.
Yet none of it happened that way. The few Grey Wardens in existence in Ferelden were slaughtered at Ostagar. The Horde marched unimpeded north, destroying everything in their path. The truth of the Grey Wardens was revealed to be much darker than Alistair had ever imagined; leaving only three Grey Wardens to end the Blight before it spread beyond Ferelden's boarders.
It should have been Riordan. Being the eldest Warden, he should have been able to defeat the dragon but he hadn't. Violet had.
Violet Amell, the recently Harrowed mage that Duncan had had such high hopes for, had sacrificed herself for the world. Violet Amell, the fiercely brave Warden who rallied Fereldan around her, had taken evil into herself to save the rest of them. Violet Amell, the young woman he loved, had slayed the Archdemon at the cost of her life.
Alistair stalled in his pacing, looking at the cold stone building where they had moved her until transportation for Weisshaupt arrived. He had barely made it through the ceremony, someone else had handled the details; the eulogy he gave had been written for him, the armor he wore for the service chosen to display his status not mourn her passing, even what she was dressed in had all been chosen by someone else; someone who never knew her.
He managed to get up two more stairs before stopping and beginning to pace again, unable to finish the journey. His mind rebelled against the truth, part him still desperate to believe that she was still alive; that somehow she'd sneak up behind him and throw her arms around him shouting "Surprise!" in her cheerful voice.
Why was she dead? Why couldn't it have been him instead? Even as Alistair's mind demanded answers, a seed of anger at Violet burned. Why had she left him behind at the gates? He should have been there with her. Even if it wasn't as a Grey Warden, as the King he should have been there!
His hand reflexively clenched around the bouquet of roses he was carrying. Instead of killing the Archdemon himself or even being by her side when she passed, he was left to defend the gates. Violet had taken the elf instead; that blonde assassin who constantly attempted to bed her had been with his love when she died. An elf, a Qunari, and a fucking golem were with her and he was not.
What had she been thinking? What if she had failed? The darkspawn would have destroyed Denerim and who knew where the Archdemon would have gone. The frustration he felt ebbed away again, leaving the overwhelming heartache in its stead.
Violet was gone.
Alistair would never see her smile again, how when she was happy her eyes would sparkle. He would never be lost in those expressive blue orbs again or be able to tease her at how she was named after her eye color and what her parents would have done if her eyes had changed like most babies' did. He would never be able to apologize for his stupidity, explain that he had been overwhelmed by the pressure of his new responsibilities and had a moment where all sense had left him. He would never be able to tell her how much he loved her.
Closing his eyes, Alistair took a deep breath and began climbing the last of the stairs. The processional to take her to Weisshaupt would be there in the morning. It would make the trek to the fortress, stopping twice for smaller ceremonies until it reached its destination. He had already been informed that his schedule was far too busy to take part in the final service reserved only for Grey Wardens when she was put to rest in her tomb.
If he didn't say goodbye to her now, he never would have the chance.
Pushing open the heavy door, Alistair couldn't help but shiver at the emptiness of the crypt. A long solemnly decorated hall lead to the room where they were keeping her body. Gathering his courage, Alistair stepped forward only to stop, his blood running cold and then burning hot a moment later.
"Get away from her!" he shouted, striding across the room to the stone table in the center. Alistair grabbed the blonde elf by the shoulder, wrenching the assassin to his feet and away from her. "How did you get in here?" Alistair demanded fiercely.
Zevran arched his brow at him. "A few guards keeping the great Zevran Aranai out? Not possible." He said idly.
"You…you killed my guards?"
The elf made a face, mocking him. "Of course not," he gave a derisive half bow. "King Alistair," The name sounded much more like an insult than a title. "They will awaken in a few hours with a headache and wondering exactly what they did last night with each other."
Alistair frowned, some of his stunned anger dissipating. "Oh." At any other time, he might have found Zevran's actions humorous. Looking away his ire returned when he remembered exactly why he had almost attacked the elf. "You violated her corpse?" he snarled, wishing that he had thought to bring his sword.
Zevran glowered at him. "Necrophilia is not my thing, yours perhaps but not mine," he stated, eying Alistair. "Whoever was in charge of her service, evidently knew little about our girl."
"She was never your girl." Alistair bit.
Something flickered across the elf's face and he inclined his head. "True." Zevran admitted. "Nevertheless, they dressed her in robes and I sought to remedy this for her eternal rest,"
Alistair looked at the adorned blue mage robe crumbled on the floor and then Violet, who now was clothed in her standard armor consisting of light grey pants, leather boots and jerkin, and a white short-sleeve shirt. To compare the two garments would be like comparing royal robes with a servant's uniform; one fancy and ornate, the other simple and understated.
"She was a mage." Alistair fumbled, still disliking that Zevran had been touching her, dead or not. "Mages wear robes." Even as he said it, he knew it wasn't true. Violet herself had admitted many times her distain for robes as a fighting garment.
Zevran's face darkened. "She wasn't just any mage."
Sighing, Alistair nodded. "I know." He brushed by the elf to stand over the woman he loved. "She was so much more than that,"
Violet had been lain flat on the stone table. Her dark brown hair left loose, the curls that his hands had always got tangled as lifeless as she was. The paleness of her skin lacked the pink-red flush she had while she lived, her lips still; trapped without the smile he loved. Her hands were placed atop each other just below her breast, three violet flowers; stems twisted together had been tucked under them.
Setting his bouquet of roses down beside her, Alistair gently cupped her face, leaning down and kissing her forehead. As he straightened he realized Zevran was still standing there watching. "Leave." He demanded.
The word caused Alistair to jerk, looking sharply at the elf. Zevran was standing with a dark glare on his face, arms crossed in front of his chest.
"Excuse me?" Alistair couldn't believe what he had heard. The bloody assassin was refusing to let him mourn her in peace?
"I said no." Zevran ground out firmly. "The last time you were left alone with her, you broke her heart and it destroyed her. Dead or not, I do not wish to see what you should do should you be left alone with her again."
Alistair bristled, scowling furiously at him. "How dare you!"
Zevran stepped forward, one hand dropping down to the hilt of his weapon. "How dare I? How dare you!" he shot. "What did you think would happen? Did you think that you could break her heart and she'd be all right with it? That she could still march into battle and fight to live when her reason for living had just declared her unworthy of him?"
"She died to save us." Alistair shouted clenching his fists. How dare the assassin claim it was somehow his fault Violet was dead!
"She died for you." Zevran retorted. "Or didn't you know that everything she did was for you." He shook his head, eyes narrowing. "And you threw it back in her face,"
Alistair swung at him, letting out a cry of frustration when the elf swiftly managed to dodge the blow. "You know nothing!"
Zevran sidestepped his other fist. "Nothing? How wrong you are, King Alistair," once again the title was spat as an insult. "I know everything." He evaded another attempted punch. "I know how you wooed her," The assassin began to block the attempts to hit him rather than avoid them. "Bedded her," Alistair let out an animalistic growl, frustrated that his very attempt to strike the man was being thwarted. "Beguiled her with lies of your love," Suddenly Zevran hands clamped down two steely grips on Alistair's forearms, preventing him from continuing his assault. "And then told her that she wasn't good enough to be your wife,"
"I never said anything of the sort!" Alistair tried to pull free but was amazed at the strength the elf had.
"You told her that because of the taint you could no longer be with her." Zevran sneered, giving his arms a sharp yank, forcing Alistair to stumble forward. "That because of the responsibilities that were only made possible by her, the two of you could no longer be together," The elf leaned in closer to Alistair, his voice lowering. "You used her in your battle against Loghain, took advantage of her in your war against the darkspawn, and when you had your victory, you threw her away."
Alistair roared in fury at the accusation. Without warning he struck out with his left fist, finally hitting the elf, connecting with his chin and forcing him to take a step back to regain his balance. Launching himself forward, Alistair tackled Zevran to the ground, straddling him while raining punches down.
Zevran deftly blocked the attacks and in one swift movement, was able to reverse the position, pinning Alistair to the floor. Alistair froze, his ire changing to fear when he realized that the assassin was pressing a dagger to his throat, murder shining in the elf's brown eyes. The two of them stared at each other, a whirlwind of emotions storming in the other's gaze.
"I loved her." Alistair whispered.
The elf scowled, the dagger pressing harder on Alistair's throat. "You don't know the meaning of the word, gilipollas." spat Zevran. He stood, sliding the dagger back into the sheath in his boot.
He glared at the elf. "What would you know?" Alistair demanded getting to his feet. "You sleep with everything on two legs and probably a few on four." The blonde raised an eyebrow at Alistair. "You know nothing of what it means to love anyone but yourself."
"Is that so, King Alistair?" Zevran challenged, the title was now making Alistair's skin crawl. "What would the high and mighty King of Fereldan define love as?"
Ignoring the mocking tone, Alistair glowered. "To care deeply for someone else, enough to risk everything for them, to think of them before yourself because their happiness matters more than anything,"
A sardonic smile spread on Zevran's lips. "And you would say you loved our Warden, yes?" he asked tilting his head to the side, almost like a predator setting a trap.
"Of course I did." Alistair responded hotly. "I would have died for her."
Zevran shook his head making a tisking sound. "We can get to who would have died for whom later." He said almost dismissively. "Your first stipulation is unarguable as any one of her friends could claim to 'care deeply for her'. So let me ask you this, what did you risk for her?"
Alistair blinked his rage at being questioned by the elf set aside by confusion. "What?"
"I have no doubts that she loved you." Zevran said gravely, one hand absently fiddling with something on a chain. "She chose to risk everything for you."
"What is this about, elf?" Alistair snapped. "Are you still jealous that she chose me?"
"And what did you choose?" Came the retort. Alistair's brow furrowed his mind racing. Zevran shook his head at him. "By your own definition of love, you shouldn't have cared about the taint. By your own definition, you should have risked everything just to see her smile, just to see her happy."
Alistair swallowed hard, trying to rid himself of the lump forming in his throat. "I have responsibilities as king," he fumbled with the same excuse he had used when he ended it with her.
"Ah, but in your own words, should you not have 'risked everything for her'?" Zevran corrected contemptuously.
"Shut up." Alistair bit out, unwilling to hear any more.
Zevran clenched the item in his hand. "You never deserved her."
Alistair looked sharply at the elf, hate churning in his aching heart. "And you did?" He barked. "You the assassin whore who tried to kill her?"
"Yes I tried." He admitted. "But where I failed you succeeded, no dagger or sword I could ever have wielded would have cut her as deeply as you did." Zevran looked at what Alistair was now certain to be some sort of necklace in his hand. "Our Warden was a special woman, changing the hearts of even the most hardened."
"Am I supposed to believe you actually cared for her?"
Zevran frowned. "I do not care what you believe, King Alistair."
Alistair grimaced at the title. The elf fell silent for a moment, indecision written on his face. Finally he looked up, his hand dropping to his side, holding whatever was in it as though if he let go it would disappear forever.
"Do not demean what she did for you," Zevran said quietly. "She loved you to the end." The elf's brown eyes lingered on the corpse behind him, a longing written on his face that Alistair refused to acknowledge. His attention flickered back to Alistair coldly. "Have the courtesy to rule the world she bettered for you well," And with that he turned to walk away.
Alistair looked at Violet, his mind a jumble of thoughts and emotions, confusion over the confrontation mixing with grief and anger. "I really did love her."
Zevran stalled near the door and spared a glance over his shoulder. "Tell her that."
Mi flor—my flower
Yo nunca te vea así, hablar conmigo, mi flor.—I have never seen you like this, talk to me, my flower.
Eso no puede ser verdad—That cannot be true
¿Cómo podia ser tan jodidamente cruel? Voy a matarlo.—How could he be so fucking heartless? I'm going to kill him.
Te amo.—I love you..