|Happiness is a Warm Blade
Author: Kylenne PM
Zevran Arainai, master assassin, is called to perform his first service for the newly-crowned King of Ferelden. But this mission is about more than mere state security. Mostly Gen Fic, but there's references to a poly Warden/Alistair/Zevran/Leliana OT4.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Suspense - Zevran A. & Alistair - Words: 2,769 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 7 - Published: 06-09-10 - id: 6038095
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Zevran sighed deeply, his fine leather boots-Antivan, of course-propped up on the divan, idly flipping a silver coin between his fingers. Life was good enough at the palace, but it was a bit boring. And the food was terrible-truly, did these Fereldans not believe in seasonings or spices? After a steady diet of boiled this and that, he was certainly missing the rich and decadent food of his homeland.
Food was not all he missed, though. He missed her, most of all. Naturally, she had her duties. Was the Lady Gisele not the legendary Heroine of Ferelden? Of course she had better things to do than tarry around the palace, laying in bed with him all day. There were wrongs to be righted and such, yes? But he should have been with her. Was he not her bodyguard?
That was a task Zevran relished greatly, incidentally. After all, it was such a lovely body to guard. All soft, luscious curves and supple flesh, tantalizingly smooth and warm-
Zevran coughed lightly. Perhaps a change of thought was in order. Because that one led nowhere good, not with his pretty dove away on Grey Warden business, and Leliana skulking about the bowels of the Frostback Mountains somewhere. He would have to content himself with Alistair. Zevran had grown quite fond of him over the course of their adventures, to be true, but the fellow was still sort of prickly around him. He seemed to be adjusting to his new role on the throne well enough, but perhaps he was not quite so satisfied with this...arrangement they had, with the women. The man was utterly ridiculous sometimes, but his throwback morality was rather quaint and adorable. Still, Zev would corrupt him soon enough. No king could resist such tempting delights for long, not even a stuffy Fereldan one.
"...how many times must I protest." Zev glanced at the doorway to see a courtier bow, and gave another weary sigh. "Please, call me Zevran, if you will. I am no knight or noble lord, merely a man of questionable virtue who is occasionally useful to the King."
Zev wished it would be more than occasionally. But that would take more wine. Alistair was so stubborn.
"My apologies, ser," the messenger said. "Chancellor Eamon would like to see you. He said it was urgent."
"Ah. Thank you, my friend, I shall be right there," Zev replied, gracefully hopping to his feet off the divan. He followed the man to one of the smaller meeting chambers in the palace, on the second floor. It was a cozy little room in the King's private apartments that Zev and his friends often used to discuss more...delicate matters, things that were not necessarily for public consumption.
When he was shown inside, Chancellor Eamon was waiting for him-and Alistair. Zev blinked. Normally Alistair was the one who sent for him when they had business to discuss. Curious, Zev bowed deeply.
"Your Majesty," Zev said politely, but Alistair shook his head in annoyance.
"I told you not to do that, Zev. It makes me feel...weird. I mean, I know you've got to do that in public but we're among friends here."
"Ah, but you are the king, my strapping friend. It's only right that I pay you the proper respect for your exalted station. Perhaps I should genuflect in some other manner? I could always...kneel before you, but I'm afraid we are not alone." Zev flashed him a wicked grin, and Alistair turned bright red, going straight for his water chalice.
Eamon, for his part, chuckled in genuine amusement. "Zevran. You are always quite the character. Thank you for joining us."
"It is my pleasure, Chancellor."
"Well, now that I've been thoroughly embarrassed I suppose we can begin. Eamon, you can cross off 'Embarrassing the Pants Off of the King' on the agenda."
"Oh, but I beg your Majesty's pardon," Zev snickered, the glint in his golden eyes ever mischievous. "We can't bear such falsehoods in the official record. It would set a bad precedent, no? Clearly, as all can see, the king is still wearing his pants. Either that motion be stricken, or I shall have to rectify this situation. With a great deal of emphasis on the rect-"
"Will you knock that off, you walking erection?" Alistair grumbled, after taking another long swig from his chalice. "And-I can't believe I'm saying this, so savor this moment while you can because it's not likely to happen again any time in the next Age-can we please be serious for a moment? I didn't call you here so you could make a fool of me in front of the man who's basically been my father."
"All right, all right," Zev surrendered with a tragically exaggerated sigh, and sunk into a chair. "I apologize to you both. What is our actual purpose here, then?"
"No harm done, Zevran," Eamon chuckled, and for his part, he appeared rather amused by his antics. The light expression of mirth soon faded, however, when he glanced at Alistair, who coughed quietly and went to drink more water only to find his chalice empty. Alistair sighed, looking about, and put the cup down.
"Half the time the servants trail me like lost puppies, but they're never around when you actually need one. Oh, well-look, Zev, the truth is...we need your help with something. It's really important, and, well-we can't leave this up to anyone else."
"Oh?" Zev raised a blond eyebrow, his curiosity so piqued that he completely ignored the opening for another innuendo-laced joke.
"It's come to our attention that there's an extremely dangerous criminal on the loose," Eamon elaborated. "Someone's been murdering innocent mages. A former templar that's gone rogue, as it were. We need you to hunt him down."
Now this was getting interesting. For Zevran Arainai, there was nothing quite like the thrill of the hunt. It was almost as good as sex, to be honest. Sometimes, it was even better. He leaned forward in rapt attention. "Go on."
"He started the spree inside the Circle Tower, not long before the Battle of Denerim," Eamon continued, handing Zev a carefully folded sheaf of parchment tied with a ribbon. "Perhaps he sought to use the commotion of the impending march as cover for his misdeeds. Three apprentices, all found strangled in their beds, with their tongues cut loose. Since then, several more mages have been found dead in the area surrounding Lake Calenhad."
Zev's face darkened when he unbound the documents and skimmed their contents, confirming Eamon's words. "So, what's his angle? Surely there must be some kind of twisted logic to how he chooses his victims. Murderers like this don't generally strike at random, killing for killing's sake."
"That...we're not entirely sure about," Alistair said, though his body language-nervous and a bit twitchy-suggested to Zev otherwise. "We were hoping you'd be able to find out, and quickly. The Chantry's been furious about the whole thing, and this would give them just the excuse they need to send the Templars back in-'for the Magi's own protection', or something. I made Gisele and the First Enchanter a promise and I intend to keep it."
Zev's eyes narrowed. "Why not just get Gisele to handle this, then? This seems like something she'd take personal satisfaction in dealing with." He answered his own question when he reached the last document.
All the victims were Elven women, most with very light hair. Every single one.
"Beyond the physical traits they have in common, the only connection they held was their position in the Circle," Eamon said, even as Zev's eyes scanned the templars' account of the victims. It was...deeply unsettling to him. A long glance at Alistair revealed that the Antivan was not alone in his feeling of dismay. An all too personal feeling, for Zev's comfort.
Was it mere coincidence that all of these unfortunate women resembled Gisele, the woman they both loved so much? Surely this could not be so-all of Zev's professional instincts and training as a Crow suggested otherwise. "Do we know who this rogue templar is?"
"Greagoir and Irving both have their suspicions, but it's difficult to say," Eamon answered with a sigh. "There are still templars who are unaccounted for, from all that previous turmoil at the Tower. And there are many in the Chantry who are deeply unhappy with the Circle's newfound independence-to put it mildly." The old chancellor gave Alistair a rather pointed stare with that last remark.
"Eamon, I won't argue about this again," Alistair said with an uncharacteristic sternness. "Gisele wanted it, and that's the way it is. And, frankly, they earned their independence with their blood here in Denerim. They were loyal, and brave, and fought with honor, just as everyone else did. They deserve to rule themselves."
"If only it were that simple, lad." Eamon shook his head slightly. "I respect your decision, but this may prove to be difficult, politically speaking."
"Doing the right thing often is. You taught me that."
Eamon smiled faintly in defeat, and Zev grinned. Perhaps the old man got more than he bargained for when he put Alistair on the throne. Zev had seen such things play out many times in Antiva. Of course, those never ended very well-relatively speaking. They always ended marvelously for the Crows. Fortunately for Chancellor Eamon, Zev rather doubted that Alistair would require his services. At least those services.
"What we have here, gentlemen, is a very delicate situation, no?" Zev mused aloud, drumming his expertly manicured fingernails on his thigh. "One fraught with all kinds of messy implications for Circle, Chantry, and Crown alike. Perhaps what's required here is an...Antivan way of looking things? Thus, you need me."
"I would rather you bring this madman back alive," Alistair cautioned. "But, well...I suppose if there were a sort of accident, few would mourn him."
"And it would solve things rather neatly, yes?"
"It's imperative that you proceed with caution, Zevran," Eamon warned. "Whomever this templar is, he's extremely dangerous."
Zev flashed a wicked grin. "So am I."
"Fair enough." Eamon smiled, but Alistair-who'd appeared unusually pensive- exchanged a long glance with Zev. In turn, the Elven assassin responded with a slight, imperceptible nod.
"Eamon...would you mind leaving us for a bit? I'd like to discuss some things with Zev...ran in private, if you don't mind."
"Would it matter if I did? You're the king, lad," Eamon chuckled. He clasped Alistair's shoulder fondly.
"Oh, right. I seem to have forgotten again-maybe the crown's too tight? I should get that adjusted, really, it's terrible for my circulation."
"Behave yourself, Alistair." Eamon smiled as he left the room. Maybe the old wolf was even more cunning than Alistair gave him credit for.
"I sincerely hope not," Zev muttered under his breath, with a quiet snicker. When the door shut behind Eamon, Zev rose to his feet and crossed the small room to sit on the edge of the table by Alistair's seat. "You know something, don't you?"
"That might well be the first time anyone's ever accused me of that," Alistair snarked. "Can I have a moment to savor this? I'll treasure it for the rest of my days, Zev."
"Tch, be serious for a moment. You're hiding something," Zev pressed. "It's all over your face."
"Maybe that's why I'm so terrible at cards," Alistair said with a wistful sigh.
"Alistair." Zev's eyebrow quirked, and Alistair sighed a second time, saying nothing in response. "...you know who he is."
"What?" Alistair blinked.
"This templar. You know him, do you not?"
"...really bad at cards," Alistair grumbled quietly. "Anyway, I...think I do. I can't be certain, but I honestly don't know who else it could possibly be, given the circumstances."
"Who, then? Someone from your past?"
"No. Gisele's." Alistair's eyes lowered to stare at his hands. "It was before you met us, when the Circle Tower was overrun by demons and we were trying to save the mages. When we got near the stairs to the fourth floor, we found a templar trapped in a magical prison and completely off his rocker. The demons and blood mages had broken him from torture, and he begged us to kill all the mages. He was-paranoid, I mean well and truly unhinged. It took a fair amount of fast talking to even convince him that we were really people and not demons."
"Charming fellow-pity I never met him," Zev muttered. "What makes you think it's him though? Aside from the obvious, of course."
Alistair paused, his expression turning grim. When he continued, his tone was flat. "He was in love with Gisele. She said he'd been pining over her for years. And apparently, the demons used that to torment him. They drove him utterly mad by taunting him with the one thing he always wanted but could never have."
"A templar smitten by a mage, driven to madness," Zev remarked, with a tragic shake of his head. "That's the stuff of lurid, tragic romances-present company excluded, naturally, since you seem relatively sane a fair amount of the time. Did she ever humor him?"
"She never got the chance, from what I understand. Duncan recruited her to the Grey Wardens, and that was that. But she spoke fondly of him, and was-she was really shaken to see what had been done to him."
"I see." Zev nodded, and sighed, letting his eyes trace the lines of worry etched in Alistair's brow. There was something unspoken that passed between them, then-an assassin and his king, yes, but more crucially friend to friend. Companion to companion. And in that moment, Zev's thoughts turned to Rinna. Sultry, delightful Rinna, who died for little more than a cruel object lesson. He could not let Gisele bear the same kind of regret, even if the man she once cared for was a hollow shell of the one he once was. This was something he would do for her. And she could never know.
"...thank you, Zev," Alistair answered his unspoken thought. "I mean that. She's been through so much already. I couldn't bear to let her..."
"You're not the only one, Alistair," Zev said simply. "I love her, too. You may not believe it sometimes, but...I do."
"Maybe I'm starting to come around, on that." There was the faint twinkle in Alistair's eyes, and Zev smiled. They really were gorgeous, especially when he gave that barest hint of a lopsided grin. He was quite a handsome man, certainly, and Zev understood why Gisele was so madly in love with him. He was suddenly feeling quite impish, then, and leaned down to place a hand on Alistair's cheek, his eyes narrowing, with a smirk upon his full, pouting lips.
"...it's a shame your growing sense of open-mindedness does not extend to...other areas, no?"
To Zev's complete and utter shock-not to mention, delight-Alistair did not flinch or pull away from him. Instead, he returned the smirk with one of his own. "You'd be surprised at what's extending around here, lately."
He rose from his chair then, and looked down at Zev. "Do be careful, Zevran. If it is this Cullen fellow that's the culprit, he'll be completely insane and have nothing left to lose. And I don't want to have to explain to Gisele how I got you killed."
"And that's the only reason you are concerned for my welfare, yes?"
"...maybe. For now. Well, don't just sit there preening like you've got nothing else better to do, fly on little crow. Get a move on, chop chop, hop to it. Daylight's burning, and all that rot."
"Oh, of course, my liege," Zev laughed, stole a kiss from Alistair's cheek with his usual speed and deftness, before he could react, and dashed out the door.
This was proving to be a most exciting day!