We Are the Dalish
When the Grey Warden invited Zevran into her tent the first night after sparing his life, Zevran thought he understood. She was Dalish and beautiful and none of her companions were of her race. Zevran was quite a handsome elf. If warming his new mistress' bed was the price he paid for his life, well, Zevran could think of many worse things. In fact, he might consider it a bonus.
But when he pushed the tent flap aside the Warden was still wearing her armor, and seemed unlikely to remove it anytime soon.
Zevran counted her weapons and scanned the tent for signs of more, then assumed that he'd missed at least four for good measure. If she meant to kill him now, then he would strike back hard and make his escape before her companions could react.
He'd sworn an oath to her, and he'd meant it at the time of swearing, but as he'd said before - his loyalty only went to a certain point. Specifically, the point when his master expected him to die for no reason that he could understand.
The Warden sat against the far wall of the tent, her legs folded in a meditative pose. Her armor was of Dalish make, a series of interlocking leather straps that formed a beautifully complicated whole. Her hair was long and golden, though not as light as Zevran's own, and contrasted nicely with the deep wooden brown of her skin. With the pearlescent tattoos on her face, she looked as if she had been carved from a tree bathed in sunlight, or else sprung fully formed from amongst the branches.
Her name was Lenya Mahariel, but Zevran found it difficult to think of her as anything but the Warden.
There was something otherworldly about her, at least to him. Whether it was the flash of her green eyes or the manner in which she held herself, he could not say. It was not just that she was Dalish, or Ferelden. She was other, as different from him as one of the long lived elves of the old tales.
She held her hands out to him, palms up, to show that they were empty. "Andaran atish'an," she said in a voice that brought to mind the sound of rushing water.
Zevran had heard this Dalish greeting before, when he was but a lad. It had a peaceful meaning as far as he could remember.
The Warden indicated a place on the ground across from her, and Zevran sat, easily mimicking her pose, uncertain whether or not such a sitting position was customary. It would not do to give offense. Until he understood more of this woman and what moved her, he would be cautious.
Well, at least until he got impatient.
"Hamin. Ar'din nuvenin na'din," the Warden went on. "Emma isala him falon." She smiled, her lips like a knife blade. "Him harellan."
Zevran reflexively returned the Warden's grin. "Truthfully my lady, I have no idea what you just said. I was not raised amongst the Dalish, and so I know only a few words of the language."
The Warden frowned, little wrinkles forming between her upswept eyebrows. "You do not know Vhen? This has been denied you?"
"Not denied, precisely. More so, it is rare for any outside the Dalish clans to know the language. I spent some time with a Dalish clan as a boy, but it was only a fortnight before the Crows came to reclaim me. I went with them willingly, rather than see the clan slaughtered. And truthfully, the reality of life amongst the Dalish did not live up to my boyish fantasies. But that is neither here nor there." Already forgetting his silent resolution to give no offense, Zevran let his limbs unfold in an elegant sprawl. It was more comfortable, and it showed the lines of his body off to better advantage. "May I ask what you said?"
The Warden nodded, pursing her lips. "Welcome. My safe place is your safe place. Sheathe your knife, for I have no desire to kill you. I am in need of one who would become my friend. One who would become my friend who is as tricky as the Dread Wolf."
"Beautifully spoken," Zevran said, meeting her eyes. "I am sorry only that I did not understand it the first time. You wish to be friends, then?"
Perhaps his first thoughts were not so far off the mark. Perhaps Dalish ladies went about these arrangements differently.
If the Warden noticed the particular emphasis Zevran had put on the word friends, she did not show it.
"I do not trust the shemlen. Not even those who call themselves my allies. Two of their kind killed my parents for no other crime than being Elvhenan. They are at each other's throats even in the face of a Blight. Had you been a shemlen assassin, I would have slain you where you fell."
Zevran tilted his head. "But I am not, as you say, shemlen."
"No." That dagger of a smile made another appearance, peach lips peeled back to reveal white teeth, the canines filed into unnatural points. Zevran was captivated. "You are not shemlen. And you wear the Vallaslin."
She reached out with one graceful hand and lightly traced her fingers over the tattoo on Zevran's cheek. Zevran shivered, his blood churning with a surge of passion and something else that he could not immediately put a name to. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
"Do you know what it means?" the Warden murmured, leaning closer still.
In spite of years of training and watching for daggers in the dark, Zevran had to fight to keep his eyes open. "I do not."
The Warden had an archer's calluses . Her breath ghosted across Zevran's face, and it should have been uncomfortable, but it was not.
"Would you like to know what it means?" she whispered. Her eyes were heavy lidded, her tattoos glowing in the lanternlight. Grasping Zevran's wrist, she pulled his hand up to place it against the tattoos on her own cheek, forcing him to shift his weight so that they knelt across from each other in what could be a lover's clench. "I can teach you the ways of our people, our skills, tell you our stories and sing our songs. I ask for only one thing in return."
Zevran tensed, understandably wary. She already had his loyalty and his blades, and did not appear to want his body, at least not at the moment. What more could he give?
"What is it you would have of me?"
They were so close now that Zevran's lips brushed the Warden's and he was tempted to claim a kiss. Only the electricity of otherness that hung about her stopped him.
She stroked her thumb over his cheek. "It is said in the tales of Arlathan that no Elvhenan may lie to another in the tongue of Vhen. I do not know if this is true, but I have never been given cause to doubt. One may misdirect, one may omit, but a direct falsehood… You have already sworn to me once in the language of the shemlen. Swear to me again in Vhen and I will believe you. Swear that we are lin, promise we are blood, and we shall be clan, you and I."
She stroked his cheek again. "I must have someone I can trust absolutely, and you would do well to form such a bond, I think. We will be clan, and clan may always rely upon one another."
Zevran resisted the urge to shake himself. Somehow this beautiful Dalish woman had hypnotized him, and she hadn't even taken her clothes off to do it. He was not so certain that she wasn't a mage. Or a demon.
Could she be a demon?
"And is clan all we will be?" he heard himself ask. The question was barely a thought before it tumbled from his lips.
Now the Warden laughed and it twisted something broken and beautiful in Zevran's chest. "I will gladly take more from you, if you wish to give it, da'mi. But it is only if you wish to give it."
Zevran smirked, relieved to be back on familiar ground. "Oh, I wish."
The Warden (his Warden) brought their lips together before he could manage it, and she kissed as she did everything else: precisely, gracefully, and with purpose. Zevran moaned and pushed his hands into her hair, threading the strands through his fingers. Pulling his Warden closer, he dominated the kiss, showing her that she was not the only one with things to teach the other.
When they broke apart, his Warden was panting and Zevran was deservedly smug about it.
"Swear to me now," his Warden demanded. "Swear to me, and then we shall seal our oaths with our bodies."
Zevran nodded and pressed their foreheads together, quick fingers already working at the armor buckles he could reach. "Tell me the words, my Warden."
She smiled against his cheek, and it was something softer this time, filled with more warmth than wicked edges. "Of course, lethallin."
We are the Dalish,
Keepers of the lost lore,
Walkers of the lonely path.
We are the last of the Elvhenan,
And never again shall we submit.
Notes: I'm replaying the Dalish Origin and decided to romance Zevran, and this scene just kind of came to me, idk.
Special thanks to the folks over at the Dragon Age Wiki for the Dalish phrases.
lethallin = clan brother
da'mi = little blade