Kathryn quietly entered the tent. Wynne looked up and smiled but just barely.
“How is he? Any better?” Kathryn asked. She looked past Wynne to where Alistair was laying. He was sleeping but a restless and tortured sleep. His body was constantly shaking and he was in obvious pain.
“I... think... maybe...” Wynne sighed and looked back to Alistair and then said “...no change.” She turned back to Kathryn. “You sure you’re alright? That was quite a fall.”
“Morrigan has impressive skills as a web weaver. It’s actually rather creepy.” Kathryn said.
“How did you know the boy wasn’t under the mage’s control? That you could trust him?” Wynne asked.
“He never attacked us and we didn’t kill him. I think that in the chantry, he was trying to warn us, as best he could with the corruption affecting him. I figured he may be the only one who knew what was actually going on and besides he was just so sad.” Kathryn’s eyes had not left Alistair.
“I hate to bring this up but... did you find the mage?” Wynne said.
“I had that thought too, but yes, we found him. Burnt him to ash and then divided the ash into four parts burring two, putting one in the river and throwing one to the wind, just to be sure.” Kathryn said.
“Good. How is cleansing the village going?” Wynne asked.
“Burning everything to the ground takes a while. The taint makes this odd red and black smoke. It gives everyone something to do while we’re waiting on...” Kathryn said.
“I have this sneaking suspicion that someone threatened Morrigan.” Kathryn said.
Wynne looked up at her and innocently said. “What would ever give you that idea?”
“Because she hasn’t said anything besides ‘yes’ or ‘no’ since the fight and on more than one occasion I’ve seen her think about speaking and then stop and be silent. That’s not like her.” Kathryn said with a small smile.
“Well, I can see that since Morrigan has been known to say things that are sometimes not the most... appropriate... and given the situation... someone might have mentioned that now was not a good time for her comments and observations and that... if she did make such there may be repercussions that she might not like.” Wynne said.
“I see. Well, tell that ‘someone’ thank you.” Kathryn said.
“I will.” Wynne looked back to Alistair. She didn’t want to broach the subject but knew that she had to and she had run out of other topics. She turned back to Kathryn and took her hand.
“Kathryn, you know he may never... Lyrim is dangerous and the effects of exposure for a non-mage, even a templar, are nearly always... permanent.” Kathryn looked to the ground. Wynne continued. “Dear, there hasn’t been any improvement... at all. I’ve done all I can, all I can think of, but he can’t continue like this... the lack of sleep alone will...”
“I’ll sit with him for a while. I brought some food too, in case he can eat. Why don’t you get some food and get some rest.” Kathryn said. Wynne held her hand for another moment and then with a hand on her shoulder and a quick look back to him, she stepped out of the tent.
Wynne walked over to where Oghren was sitting. “She knows someone talked to Morrigan and is grateful and no, I didn’t tell her it was you.” He nodded but didn’t look up.
She made her way to her tent and sat down. Leliana appeared with a bowl. “Here. I made that horrible lamb and pea stew.” Wynne took the bowl. Leliana didn’t move. “He isn’t going to get better, is he?” Wynne meet her eye but didn’t say anything. Leliana turned and walked away.
After some time, Zevran came up to her. “May I have a word, my dear Wynne?”
“Zevran, I’m not in the mood for your...” Wynne started.
“She cannot be allowed to be the one that does it.” He said with conviction. “And it cannot be allowed to continue to its natural end. You know this, yes?”
Wynne looked at him, not being able to process what he was saying or not wanting to. “I... don’t...” she said.
“Then I will spell it out for you.” Zevran said. “He will die, maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe weeks from now, but he will succumb. Now either she will stay by his side and watch his death or she will decide to end it, either way it she will not survive it, not really. And given the importance of the mission and that she will be the last warden left, we cannot allow either of those things to happen.”
Wynne knew he was right and nodded.
“Now, given my professional experience in such matters, well, no doubt we are beyond the spelling out stage but I will rely upon you to tell me when is best for her.” Zevran said.
“For her?” Wynne asked.
“Yes, for him it matters little, only that it is quick and it will be but I doubt that there is much I could do that is worse than what he currently suffers. But for her the timing will be quite critical, she must be ready to let go, as it were.” He said.
“Yes, I see.” Wynne looked to him, suddenly angry. “How can you speak of this, so... casually, like it is no more to you than lacing up your boots?”
“You misunderstand. To be sure, I...” Zevran stopped and then though his expression didn’t change, his voice had a different quality about it. “To be sure, I do not consider saving another, especially one I consider a... friend immense pain to be a matter equal to the lacing of my boots.”
Wynne looked away, ashamed of herself. Zevran continued “...and if there was a way I could... but that is not within my power, and the Maker only answers the prayers he chooses to, even if I am willing to forgo the goose-down bed and six of the beautiful women.”
“Zevran, I’m sorry. I heard about what you did in the market. It was terribly unkind of me to say that.” Wynne said. Zevran smiled, himself again.
“Do not concern yourself with it. Just tell me when.” He turned and walked away. Wynne stepped into her tent, she had much to consider.
Kathryn continued to watch him, then unexpectedly he jerked violently and opened his eyes. “It’s okay.” She said trying to reassure him. “You’re safe.” He looked around in a near panic.
“Where... not supposed to be here... sisters don’t like it if you sneak out...” He said.
“No, we’re in camp. You’re supposed to be here.” Kathryn said. He looked to her questioning.
“Camp? The king’s camp... there’s a battle tomorrow... have to get ready... where’s Duncan?” He said.
“He isn’t here.” She said.
“But... he said I could compete... he said I could be a Grey Warden... he left without me...” He said crushed and nearly in tears.
“No...” Kathryn said, not sure how to respond to him. “You are a Grey Warden.”
Alistair closed his eyes, trying to think, trying to remember.
“Grey warden... she’s alive... I’m not alone...” He said with great relief.
“Please, just calm down. It’s alright.” She said.
“Alone... all alone... going to send me away... I don’t want...” He said.
“No one is going to send you away.” She said.
“Want to... I want give her... something... show her... I feel...” He said.
“Alistair, please.” At the sound of his name he looked at her, his gaze steady but his eyes lost.
“Do I… I know... you?” Kathryn felt her heart break, but her voice was calm.
“Yes, you know me. I’m a... friend.” She said.
“What... happened to me?” He asked.
Kathryn took a deep breath. “You... did an... incredible and brave thing and saved all of us. But now you’re... sick...”
“I… I’m going to... get better?” He asked, she could hear the desperation in his voice.
“Yes. You will.” She said with as much conviction as she could fake. “You just need to rest and eat.”
“I can’t eat... can’t sleep... the dreams... dreams are bad... but this is worse...” He calmed as the exhaustion tried to take over. He looked to her and then grabbed her hand and held it as best he could in his shaking ones. He closed his eyes and was quiet for a moment and she knew it was taking all his will to get his thoughts together.
He opened them. “I... I know you. I don’t... remember you but I... I know you... in my... heart and... but... I… I can’t... remember... I... I want to... I want to remember... you, more than anything... I... just... can’t...” She touched his cheek.
“It’s okay. You will... soon.” His eyes lost focus again and he laid back exhausted from the effort. In a moment, he was again sleeping. Kathryn began to cry.
Wynne pulled back the flap of the tent. They were both sleeping. Kathryn was quiet and still but her eyes were puffy. Alistair slept his tormented sleep.
‘Poor boy,’ she thought. He wouldn’t make it much longer. He was too young to be her son, for that to have ever been a possibility but in her heart she wished... wished that wherever her son was that he was half the man that Alistair was.
Any mother would give their life for their child. His mother had died giving him life, a life he had given to save others, to save those he loved. A life that she might be able to give back to him tonight.
She put her hand gently on his head. She could feel his pain and her own sorrow and also the presence of the spirit. She knew that each time she called forth the spirit, its hold on her weakened and that the more she asked of it, the more it weakened.
She had finally worked out how it might be possible to heal him, what would be required, the steps she must take, the specific things that must be done, but even if it was possible, it would take an immense amount of power. In fact, it might take it all. All she had and all of the spirit’s help. And she understood that it might be the last thing she ever did... and that was acceptable to her.
She had also determined that if it was impossible, if she couldn’t bring him back completely, to what he was before, she would not leave him like this. She could do this and she would do this for him.
She knew that it was love, one so powerful and terrible, the love of a mother for their child. And if she did this, no matter the outcome, he would in some small way be her child too. She smiled and then closed her eyes and said. “Please.”
Kathryn watched the flames and the ominous red and black smoke coming from the pile of bodies. The village was safe, scorched and leveled but safe. The fort that held the bodies, burned now. All that could be had been reduced to ash. Slowly the smoke turned from red and black to a dark gray. It was over.
She turned to the others. “That’s all we can do here. We’ll pull up camp in the morning.”
“But is he...” Oghren said. They all knew that Alistair was too sick to travel but they also knew that he wasn’t getting any better.
Kathryn turned and without answering started back to camp. She couldn’t answer him. She had watched Alistair and knew that his mind and body couldn’t handle too much more. She had been worried all day.
This morning when she woke up, he hadn’t been shaking but sleeping peacefully. She wanted to be encouraged, wanted to believe that he was getting better, that he was healing and not that he was... dying. But she was afraid... terribly... horribly... afraid.
They entered camp. Wynne was next to the fire stirring the cooking pot. When she saw them approach, she looked up at Kathryn and tried to smile. She looked as though she had been crying. “Wynne, what is it?”
“Hello!” came a voice from the other side of the camp.
Alistair and Leliana appeared from the brush. He was carrying something big on his shoulders. They all hurried to meet them. As they approached, he threw down in front of them a wild boar. Leliana had several game birds, a bag full of winter berries and a bunch of wild fennel in her arms.
They looked to him, astonished to not only see him up but looking strong and healthy. Finally Zevran broke the stunned silence “You bagged that!”
“Yes.” He said “Don’t sound so surprised.”
“The truth of it...” Leliana said. “... is that he was tracking a deer when it attacked.”
“I killed it, didn’t I? Still counts.” He said. “So, now, we have a feast.”
“Oh, no.” She said to him. “Not touching this with any of your Ferelden cooking. This one is on me. Sten, I need your butchering skills.” Sten grabbed the animal and started back to the fire.
Leliana discretely got the attention of the others and indicated that they should follow, leaving Alistair and Kathryn alone.
Alistair waited till the rest were out of earshot. Then he looked to her, cocking his head to the side and with a questioning look said “It’s Kathryn, right?”
She wanted to say something clever or meaningful or funny or beautiful but found she had no voice at all. She just nodded.
“And, I think you have something of mine.” She took the amulet from around her neck and held it out for him. Instead he took her hand in his and then with a quick tug pulled her to him. He put his arm around her, much lower on her hip than was respectable and kissed her.
The rest of the group had been watching but trying to be discrete about it. Now they turned and stared, smiling in relief and approval.
“I guess at least you get your wild boar... have to wait on the rest.” Oghren said.
“Oh, well.” Zevran said, as he watched the two wardens. “Right now, I believe me and the Maker are about even.”
“Yeah.” Oghren agreed. “Although, if you do ever find...”
“...with a deep seeded lust for... bearded dwarven warriors? You shall be the first to know, my friend.” Zevran said.
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