|For What Binds Us
Author: MLoreley85 PM
No one told Evelyn Amell what it would mean to be Warden-Commander; between driving out the remnants of the Blight, running into old friends, and struggling with a larger war than she realized, Evelyn will have to learn quickly.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy/Romance - Amell & Alistair - Chapters: 11 - Words: 42,838 - Reviews: 25 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 12 - Updated: 09-01-12 - Published: 06-06-12 - id: 8190141
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
For What Binds Us
Chapter Six: The Healers
"I still don't like it," Alistair pouted as he helped load more of the bodies onto the wagon. Despite the grim nature of the task at hand, he was struggling to stay focused.
"I can't imagine why you're uncomfortable with another man clearly intimately familiar with the woman you've recently betrothed yourself to getting to spend time alone with her without your much needed supervision," Loghain remarked, making sure that the corpses were stacked as compassionately as they could be; to help rid the keep of the taint, and to prevent it from spreading, the only remedy was to send those who fell that evening to be burned, away from the keep. This was the largest kindness they could grant both the dead and those who still lived.
Alistair scoffed. "She doesn't need my supervision, Loghain; I'm just not comfortable with someone I don't even know cozying up to her so quickly. I mean, sure, she knows him...obviously, I mean, the way she trusted him immediately, even though he's also clearly a gigantic arse-"
"She's never trusted anyone you consider to be an arse, that's true," Loghain continued, heading back to collect more of the fallen.
"Would you stop making me sound unreasonable?" Standing alone by the wagon now, Alistair threw his arms wide, irritated that Loghain had turned his perfectly legitimate complaints around to somehow sound hollow, whiny, and jealous. He didn't actually sound like that... did he?
"Oh, Pup, you don't need Loghain to do that for you." Helping a man with an injured leg cross the grounds to where the wounded were being tended to by the two resident healers, Siobhan had wandered close enough to catch Alistair's pouting.
"Oh, right, ha, ha, Siobhan," Alistair crossed his arms. "Look, is it really so wrong of me to be uncomfortable with this? He's been a right arse to her several times already!"
"Twinkletoes, if you don't move your arse and keep helpin' out, I'm gonna wedge my axe where the sun don't shine, and then you'll be really uncomfortable!" Oghren grumbled as he stacked two corpses on the wagon- admittedly haphazardly, but he would argue that at least he wasn't standing around whimpering to anyone who would listen.
"Fine, I get it, Alistair's concerns are never important, message received, back to work," Alistair grumped out in frustration, stalking back off to his assigned task... though not without casting a glance towards where Siobhan was taking the injured soldier.
"There you are, lad," Siobhan assured the soldier as she set him down on the bench, propping his leg up for him gently. "One of them will be with you in just a moment. Hold on tight until then, alright?"
"Yes, Arlessa Cousland," the soldier replied dutifully, looking up at the beautiful woman with stars in his eyes, his youth all the more readily apparent. "Thank you!"
"Aw, lad, you just take care of yourself," she bent to pinch his cheek. "You did good. Just keep it up, okay!"
"I will, Arlessa Cousland!" He nodded vehemently.
She patted him on the head, then turned to face the two mages standing a ways off. With each tending to their own patients, standing back to back, they were lost in concentration for the moment; Evelyn was trying to close a hole in a young man's stomach, while Anders was cleaning the gash on a woman's temple. Still, both were smiling to their respective patients, and Siobhan was struck at how the same gentleness she'd always known Evelyn to have manifested, even momentarily, in this apostate as well. She wondered if it wasn't a trait that all healers shared, or if perhaps their friendship was predicated on such a mutual kindness.
"That's the last of them for now, Kiddo. Let me know if you need anything; I'm going back to collecting wood for the pyres," Siobhan sketched a salute.
"Thank you, Siobhan. If you wouldn't mind, actually, we could use more bandages. I believe there are a few more injury kits in Loghain's packs, somewhere, and that would help us out." Evelyn didn't take her gaze from her patient, and even while she addressed Siobhan, her voice was soft and lulling.
Siobhan hesitated."But you're doing the magical healing thing, why do you need bandages?"
"Because magical healing can only do so much, bandages help keep things closed so that people can heal naturally, and because eventually even we mages get tired?" It was Anders who responded to her question this time, also not taking his eyes off of the wound as it slowly knit itself together again.
"Right then, I'll go ask Grumpypants for whatever he's got available," Siobhan shrugged, grinning, before heading off to leave the mages to their work.
Silence fell over the temporary 'clinic' they'd set up as the mages worked their magic; a comfortable silence, with each properly in their element. Many of those who were injured had already been given healing potions and some medicine that made the pain seem a lot more distant than before, and were content to relish the temporary peace.
"So..." Anders broke the silence, though managing to keep it from being startling. "You keep very interesting company these days, Lynnie."
"I certainly do," she replied calmly, though her fingers flexed mildly. "Siobhan is a darling. Don't let the way she acts sometimes fool you; she's as big a softie as you always were, underneath it all."
"Calling me a softie is like calling Jowan masculine; it just doesn't ring true once you get a good look at us," Anders deflected, though his brow furrowed in delight.
"Say... whatever happened to our good pal? Was he... I mean, the way things went down in the tower..." Anders asked, both trepidatious and curious. When Evelyn gave no immediate response, he finally turned from his patient to look at her. "Lynnie?"
With a tremulous sigh, she smiled sadly down at the healing wound beneath her hands, and wondered if the emotional puncture Anders was poking would ever stop bleeding. "Jowan wasn't at the tower at the time, actually. He... he escaped the tower before then."
Anders actually stopped what he was doing, shocked as he was. "Jowan escaped the tower? How?"
"Well, he had help from a newly harrowed mage, and his initiate lover."
Anders whistled. "That dog! How'd he get himself involved with that?"
Evelyn rolled her eyes, still not facing Anders, which prompted him to return to helping the woman- this time with her wrenched elbow, from having hid in confined conditions. Evelyn let out another sigh. "I honestly don't know. He only told me about her the day he escaped."
Catching the morose note to the way she spoke, Anders asked, "Lynnie, what happened?"
Another long pause. "It started when I was called for my Harrowing, actually."
Anders gulped; so, she had been put through that useless trial. Recalling his own experience being forced into the Fade and facing a demon, he shuddered what they must have put the girl who was supposed to be the First Enchanter's apprentice and protegè through.
"I passed, of course," she smirked at Anders. "And with me being Harrowed, I had certain privileges that I didn't have before. Jowan decided to take advantage of this to enact his own plan. See, his little initiate girlfriend discovered the paperwork calling for Jowan to be made Tranquil-"
"Woah, woah, woah, wait- Tranquil? Jowan?" Anders reeled at the idea; Jowan might have been annoying, but he certainly wasn't the sort to step that far out of line... well, not without encouragement from Anders himself.
"They suspected him of dabbling with blood magic." The dark, bitter taste in her mouth turned to a coldness in her eyes that, fortunately, her patient missed- blissed out as he was on the soothing sensation of the magic healing him. "As it turns out, they were right. When I helped him to destroy his phylactery- long story, don't ask- we were confronted by several templars. Cornered, Jowan resorted to blood magic, and after knocking us all off our feet, he ran."
"I had no idea the kid had it in him," Anders admitted thoughtfully, patting the woman on the shoulder when he felt that her arm had mended. "Alright, milady, I believe you are set. If you still feel a little off, feel free to seek out a nice bottle of wine."
"Th-thank you, Ser," the woman nodded quickly, having difficulty meeting his gaze. He wondered if the subject of their conversation hadn't unsettled her so. Either way, she hurried off to leave him to his business.
"It was a shock to me, too," Evelyn said, closing her eyes. "As it was, he left me to shoulder the blame for the entire thing. You know how Greggy-Poo never really liked me that much, how he always had it in for me?"
He swallowed the rising dread. "...Yeah?"
Her eyes opened again. "He seized the opportunity to try and have me made Tranquil. He finally had his 'proof' that I was a problem mage that needed tending to, declared it outright, and had me hauled off to the Harrowing chamber before anyone could stop him."
His eyes went stark wide at that, and he went to her side, resting his hand on her upper arm to catch her attention. "He had the balls to do that? What did Irving have to say about all of this? I can't imagine he would let his protegè go quietly into the night like that, no matter what I thought of him!"
"He couldn't do anything to stop it," she sighed. "He wanted to, don't get me wrong. But I had helped a blood mage to escape, and had destroyed his phylactery, making it nigh impossible to track him down again." She gave Anders an extremely pointed look, one that made him recoil. "Never mind that I was considered an accomplice to your escape only a few years prior, and could never really clear my name of that- at least in Greagoir's mind."
Realization hit Anders over the head like a hammer, causing a thudding ache to sprout. He'd spent years planning for his escape, looking for an opportunity to pry the gates of fate wide open and leave; but his plans had always included taking Lynnie with him, freeing her alongside him. When the circumstances changed, and escaping with Lynnie was no longer possible, he'd had to improvise. His head muddled, his heart confused and hurt, he'd only pinched an opening wide enough for himself to leave... and hadn't thought until just now just how that would backlash against his only friend in the tower.
"Oh Maker, I... Lynnie, I never meant..."
"I'm sure." The abrupt cut off stabbed him straight through the heart.
He cleared his throat. "But here you are, Not-Tranquil. So how did that happen?"
The man under her care sighed contentedly as the hole she had been healing finally closed, and she smiled to him. "There you are. Feel free to rest for a moment. When you're up to it, you're welcome to head off to another part of the keep."
"Thank you, Hero of Ferelden," the man breathed happily.
Before Anders could press Evelyn again for a reply, she turned to start working on the next injured guard- a man with several stabs across his body. Frowning, she knelt to examine the stab marks; the edges of each wound showed darker lines streaming away, and was pallid. Checking his eyes, blotches were already forming underneath them... and a faintness to his eyes, far too familiar to her by now.
"I know," he confirmed, a tear sliding down his cheek. "I can feel it. It wouldn't be long now anyway."
Evelyn nodded, standing straight again. "Would you like me to end it quickly for you?"
The guard's face twisted in a grimace of anguish, and more tears fell. "My wife. She lives in Denerim. If someone can send word to her, I would... I would be eternally grateful."
"I will arrange for that, Ser," Evelyn promised, tilting his gaze up to meet hers with a gentle touch to his chin. "What is your name, soldier?"
"Gavin Narkwith," he replied softly.
"Are you ready?"
"Then let us away from the others."
Anders watched in shock as Evelyn helped the man to his feet, letting him lean on her, before leading him off to a place just beyond the line of sight of the others in the clinic. She set him down, and pressed her hand to his forehead in a soft caress. With a burst of mana, she severed his tenuous connection to life, and let his spirit free from his failing body. The last expression he wore was one of gratitude, of relief. Even so, she let her hand fall, closing his eyes as she did.
"Lynnie, what was that?" As soon as she was back in sight, Anders confronted her.
She breezed past him, leaving a chill in her wake. Finally stopping a few paces past him, she let her eyes meet his again in a slow turn. "He was dying of the taint. Instead of letting him endure that pain, I... I had to..."
Anders was floored. Not that it was easy for her- the pain shimmering in her eyes now made that heartbreakingly clear- but that she was capable of taking someone's life, so calmly and capably, was so beyond what he thought Lynnie could do.
"I am a Grey Warden, Anders. I am the Warden-Commander of Ferelden. It is my responsibility to stop the Blight, and to be vigilant of the darkspawn." She held out her hands, palm up, in front of her, and stared down at the calluses that had risen in the last year. "The attack on the keep was my responsibility to prevent, and I failed. All I can do now is try to stop the pain from being worse than it is."
Unable to bear the deep sorrow in her tone- a sorrow that he knew all too well from their years together in the tower- Anders wrapped Evelyn in a hug, refusing to let her ruminate on what she believed to be her fault.
"You saved him, Lynnie. If you hadn't shown up when you did, more would have been lost. I know I'm profoundly grateful that it was you charging in that door, and not some other Grey Warden. Don't you dare feel guilt over any of this."
"I see you two have made up." A voice more than slightly frosted with accusation cut through the tender moment between the two old friends. Anders immediately released Evelyn, who spun to face the one who approached; Alistair.
"Alistair, what's going on?" Evelyn immediately closed the distance between them. "Are you done with collecting the fallen?"
"I wanted to check in on my favoritest mage ever, Love," he answered lightly, a smile coming to his face despite the jealousy still flooding his veins.
"Already? Why, I'm touched!" Anders fluttered dramatically. "I had no idea you felt that way!"
"Oh yeah, I have no idea why I haven't bedded you yet," Alistair smirked. "Let's do it, then; right now, right in front of Evelyn. I'm sure she'd love the show."
Evelyn only had time to pinch her lips together in amusement at what she knew was coming before Anders slithered up to Alistair and gently brushed one finger down his cheek, the most seductive smile he could muster curling his lips. "That sounds great. Let's get you out of that heavy armor and put your sword to the test!"
The effect on Alistair was alarming, as he launched backwards, hands going up to stop the mage from advancing on him again. "That- that's not, I didn't mean that seriously-Ow!" He stumbled over a crate, crashing to the floor in a mess of limbs and armor.
Having been laughing so hard as to squeeze the tears of sorrow from her eyes and replace them with warmth and mirth, Evelyn went to Alistair's side when he fell, still giggling madly. "Oh, Love, I never got the chance to warn you about Anders. I'm so sorry, but you really walked into that one."
"Aw, does this mean I don't get to play with him tonight, Lynnie?" Anders asked with a pout.
"No, that's my job," Evelyn returned, smirking. Even as Alistair flushed bright red at the conversation, Anders was taken aback by her retort; she... she was comfortable with this? She wasn't flustering like she always used to.
"Yeah!" Alistair added as he got to his feet. "That's her job! You know, the lady I'm actually with? The, the lady, you know?"
"Oh yes, of course you're with a lady, Mister Manly Man!" Anders feigned innocence. "Can't have you challenging your masculinity with the notion of experimenting with someone a little closer to home, can you?"
"Maker's Breath, he's as bad as Zevran!" Alistair hissed through his teeth.
"What's a Zevran?" Anders tilted his head curiously.
"That's a good question, now isn't it?" Alistair returned thoughtfully. "Sharper minds than mine have contemplated the answer to that, and still come up with nothing substantial."
Evelyn cackled. "He's an elf from Antiva. He traveled with us during the Blight. He also tends to come on very strong when he's interested... and he's almost always interested."
"Ahh," Anders nodded. The mention of the Blight had tied his stomach in knots again, realizing again that he knew nothing of what Evelyn had been through since he'd left. She'd met so many new people, important people, and become one of those important people. Hero of Ferelden, his mind whispered to him. She was no longer just a fellow mage from Kinloch Hold.
"Anyway, Love..." Now that he had some respite from the jokes at his expense, Alistair put one arm around her waist, smiling down to her. "I believe that you were told to take the night to relax, were you not? Even though I'm sure your help here has been appreciated, I can't help but feel that your friend here can handle it on his own. Right?" He asked of Anders, who nodded.
"Alistair, I need to-"
"You need to nothing, that's what. I was dismissed from body-stacking duty because Loghain felt my effort would be better spent making your evening better. I happen to agree," he added, stooping to press a tender kiss to her lips, deliberately stopping another protest forming there. Indeed, it had the intended effect; she melted immediately, eyes closing.
"We were able to clear out at least a few of the rooms, and much has been cleaned. Everyone here should be able to rest well enough tonight without taint or blood to disturb them. I say we settle in to our own bed chambers for the night," Alistair suggested quietly, running his thumb across her cheekbone, adoring the happiness that lit in her eyes at the gesture.
"I..." she meant fully to say that no, she wasn't done yet, she had much work to do, so many left to heal, to take care of. Instead, what came out was, "I think I do need some rest, Love. And I need your help with that."
"So, how did you two meet, anyway?" Anders asked, his voice pitched a little higher than he intended it to be. The way Alistair's face fell to disgruntlement, Evelyn shot a questioning look at Anders.
"We met when I was recruited. Are you really going to be alright here on your own?" Evelyn replied, sinking her head against Alistair's chest.
"Oh no you don't- I want to hear the story!" Anders pressed with a smile so fake he wondered if his face might split from the effort.
"Longer version, then; Evelyn showed up at Ostagar, was beautiful and charming and kicked Darkspawn butt, and then the Blight happened. Somewhere in the middle, we ended up together." Alistair wasn't even bothering to mask his irritation now.
"Anders, I promise, you'll get the full story when I'm not about to fall asleep on my feet," Evelyn sighed, putting her hand on Alistair's chest just inches from her nose. He couldn't feel it, of course, but the gesture still sent thrills through both of them. "Just take care of the injured for tonight, alright? I'll be back a little later, when it's time for your Joining."
"Joining?" Anders squeaked, then crossed his arms over his chest. "I mean, of course, Lynnie. You deserve some time to relax." He winked at Alistair.
Alistair deliberately ignored the attempt at 'bonding' with him, especially when it came at the expense of Evelyn's privacy when it came to their relationship. He turned Evelyn away, and began leading her off.
"Thank you, Anders," Evelyn called over her shoulder, smiling.
He returned the smile, which faded as she disappeared into the keep. For a while there, he'd been enjoying the company of his dearest friend. The same effect she'd always had on him, making him feel at ease, comfortable, like some part of him was actually a decent person and would take root and blossom, was now gradually draining from him again. He'd already long ago figured out that the only good part of him was with Lynnie, who always saw exactly who he was and loved him anyway.
He cringed, and headed back to the remaining patients, his heart clenching.
Laying her head on Alistair's chest, this time her cheek meeting flesh instead of metal, Evelyn sighed in contentment. Their armor, shed nearly the moment the door had latched shut, lay beside the bed they occupied. Alistair was already long asleep, snoring softly. Truly, while both had half-heartedly sought a release from the stress of the day in each other's arms, neither had the energy to go much further than burying themselves in a loving embrace. Instead, they settled for simply being together, being a comfort in dark times. As always.
Suited Evelyn just fine. Her mind was miles away, flown to the ruins of Ostagar, when Duncan had held out that cup filled with darkness and evil, that sang with lyrium, and she'd put the cup to her lips and was pulled into the darkness forever.
And now she was going to do the very same to her friends. Her eyes closed again, one tear falling against Alistair's skin.