|There Are Other Paths
Author: Annwyd PM
In four different worlds, Morrigan looks back on the events of the battle against the Blight and forward to the future. Takes several versions of the game into account and includes spoilers for Witch Hunt as well.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Morrigan - Words: 2,072 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Published: 09-30-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7424556
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The witch sits on the mountainside high above the reaches of the city, where the nobles are too lazy to reach and the desperate not skilled enough. Denerim is spread out before her, still burning from the last attack of the Blight in some places, but to her distant view, seemingly mostly restored. She does not have a campfire of her own. It's almost warm here to her, even high above the topmost reaches of Fort Drakon. After all, she grew up in a coldness that even Fereldans consider intimidating.
She last saw the newly-named Hero of Ferelden through wolf's eyes, a single blurry glance as she fled the site of her rejection. It came to her as a bitter madness then. She had come to see the Warden as a sister, and still Amell could not trust her in the end. Still she put her faith instead in the possibility of her own death, or the noble martyrdom of a man who had spent months trying to kill them all. The bitterest part of all is that the Warden was right. She lives now, a celebrated hero still despite Loghain's sacrifice, that pitiful Chantry fool at her side.
Angry thoughts nest like vipers in her brain. Let her betray you for her meaningless little god, my friend; let her leave you even as she lies with you, and then in truth one day on a flight to some pious adventure. Did you cast me aside because she would have disapproved? Then may she pleasure you while you have her, for 'tis all she can do for you I will not; I would have kept you in my heart no matter the distance between us.
Now Morrigan unclenches her hands from around the golden edges of the little mirror and looks down into it, to look at not the friend who threw her aside but herself. She sees a face she's not sure she recognizes any longer. The eyes are too hurt, the line of the mouth too soft. And she is alone: no mother to use her and no friend to guide her. She looks upon the strange woman in the mirror and lets herself fall still to marvel at the differences.
A stray hare nudges at the glinting bauble to wake her from her reverie, and Morrigan swiftly grabs it by the neck. She makes dinner for herself each night now that she is back on her own.
"'Tis not what I would have chosen," she tells the struggling creature as she stands. "But perhaps there are other paths than once I dreamt."
They march to Denerim at a speed that leaves the army breathless. But it's not a problem for one who can turn into a wolf and run fleetly alongside the ragged men trapped in their single forms, or become a bird and take wing on the breeze above.
Morrigan does not play at being a beast the whole journey, however. She takes moments to shadow her companions of the last several months in her own body. Alistair in particular gives her great delight when she watches him straining himself not to show a hint of weakness in front of those he's so foolishly let himself be trapped into leading.
"And here I thought Grey Wardens were said to have great prowess and endurance," she says at his side.
"You said you wouldn't mention that," he says far too quickly, far too defensively, with the color rising to his cheeks. "Ever again, in fact."
"Did I, now? I can recall no promise to keep silent on your fatigue in our travels."
"Oh...oh. Right. Why can't you go away now, again?"
She laughs and leaves him. Morrigan is in great spirits today. It is not because the impending battle beckons to her, though she's sure the Warden will take her into it and let her test herself once more against the darkspawn. It is certainly not because making use of Alistair's body last night was so enjoyable. She does not dwell on why it is at all.
But the old woman is there too, like a fresh cold rain giving way to foul and muggy air that no one asked for, and she keeps up the pace of the march without complaint, knowing when to rest and when to push herself. She has learned some things in her undeservedly long life, after all. But she has not yet learned not to pry into Morrigan's affairs. She catches the younger witch preparing to take flight as a bird once more, and she binds her with unwelcome conversation as surely as with rope.
The latter, at least, could easily be burned or cut away.
"I could wonder what you were doing with the Warden and Alistair last night," Wynne says with her usual disapproval.
"You could," Morrigan agrees. "And I could wonder why you do not simply die already. Useless questions, both. Meaningless."
"Do you seek to bend them to your will even more now that they will rule this land, Morrigan?" Wynne knows nothing, yet she keeps speaking.
Morrigan laughs. "You question me, but not the sorry fact that your Ferelden lies now at the utter mercy of a foreign order that cares nothing for it?"
"They are more than Grey Wardens," Wynne says. "And I trust them. That can hardly be said for you."
"Then know this, old woman," Morrigan says. "'Tis for my own sake I offer my aid now, but your future queen accepted it without question. I would have left had she ever told me to."
"You deny responsibility as always," Wynne begins, but Morrigan is already turning away. And she wonders: why is it that her words and not Wynne's linger fretfully in her head?
My own sake, my own sake, my own sake.
It is a lie, that's why. The child that will grow in her belly was never about her; it was about Flemeth's desires first, and now it is about helping the Warden. And she still does not know how that came to be. Was she not meant to find her own desires in the middle somewhere?
But she will be free, when this battle ends. She cannot let herself doubt that she will find her own fate then.
Beneath the shadow of the trees, lit only by her little fire, the witch draws her shoulders together as if cold. She isn't cold, of course, despite how little she wears in the Fereldan chill. But maybe it would be better if she were.
She speaks without allowing any weakness into her voice. "Did they send you to kill me for taking my leave, whilst the rest of you stayed like dogs baying over a departed master? You are doing the poorest job of it."
He laughs, and she hates him for still being able to, hates him for it even as she hears and recognizes the hollowness behind it. "Had they sent me to kill you, my dear, I would have taken the coin and left north in the morning to find a new job. I am not such a fool as you might imagine."
She turns to face the assassin, as half-shadowed as she is, and as used to it. "You were all fools," she says, "and he the greatest."
"You speak of why I came to find you before you'd gone too far, Morrigan," he says. "I wish to know one thing only, before I leave this Ferelden and come back no more."
"Do not try my patience, elf," she says, "for I seem to have misplaced it."
"With your heart, perhaps?" He speaks too quickly, too bitterly, for her to cut him off before he continues. "Did you try to save him?"
She stands still in the dark, the flames casting the faintest of light on the frosted plumes of her breath. "What are you asking, Zevran?"
"You know magics I've barely heard spoken of," he says. "Surely some spell could have shielded him from the archdemon."
Morrigan turns away to expose her back to him like a taunt. "And you know nothing, not a thing at all. Have you even the right to ask? I think not."
His next words come too fast and without the defensive polish he so paints on everything he says. "You know why I ask. I cared for him too."
She does not face him as she lashes out at the vulnerability so exposed. "So you claim, but can you even say love?"
"I—" His voice hitches.
She swoops in. "What you had with him meant nothing. A few moments of pleasure. 'Tis no wonder he gave you up in a trice."
More laughter, this time low and defeated, far too awkward and unskilled an attempt at covering up pain. For a man who's spent his life learning to sink a blade in others' weaknesses, he has an absurd number of his own strewn about unprotected. "He did choose you, my dear."
She twists around to look at him again, unable to believe what he just said, wondering if he's trying to hurt her, as she tries to hurt him. She can't tell; he merely looks pathetically ashamed. "You are more of a fool than I thought," she says, "if you believe he chose either of us, any of us, anything but his own selfish glory. He was a fool, and he betrayed me. Had I not tried to save him, I would have been entirely right, and he would have deserved it all."
"Then you did try," Zevran says.
She's still not sure, seconds later, whether she meant to admit it. Usually she is sure of all she says, knows the impact of every word. What state has this Warden left her in? "And so are we all the fools," she says. "'Tis a fortunate thing I have such an advantage over you and the rest."
"And what say you is that?" He dares to regard her with eyes more sympathetic than curious now.
She wills herself not to look away from him again. He is pitiful, mere debris left behind by Tabris's passing. He cannot make her flinch. "I know better than to mourn him."
The assassin has the wisdom to leave before she starts crying. She tells herself she would have killed him if he hadn't.
His hand in hers as he climbs up to the portal before them is rough from the hilts of countless blades. She thinks perhaps it is rough enough to hold the future now, where hers still feels too soft to her imagination, despite the years of grasped staves and tricky thorns brushed aside. How is it, how is it possible that she found fingers that would twine with hers like his do? Her path has always been solitary. She asked herself often enough in the past: is this wretched thing called love not a new cage she builds for herself?
When she kisses him with the mirror swirling in front of their waiting steps, she finally decides that it is a new freedom. He has never asked her to cage herself the way everyone else in her life has. Would she even have found that self at all without him?
"Then come, my love; we shall face the future together."
They go. Morrigan does not question whether this is the best path to set her feet on with his. She only knows it is the one she walks.
A dark bird with its feathers gleaming in the moonlight flashes through the skies. No one below can see the shard of the mirror caught in its talons.
High above the land, with her future about to unfold before her, for the first time intertwined with that of the entire world, the witch flies. The magic she grasps speaks to her of different ways it all could be. She will not listen to it.
She has chosen one, and so have those around her. For just a moment, Morrigan does not know which one it is. As she flies, she will remember, and she will have made herself once more.