Natia never had cause for want of a bath. That was Rica's priority, both then and now. Oh, Natia occasionally found herself embedded in soapy brown and gray water, and this happened only after someone commented on her smell. She never admitted it to anyone; she could never live down the blow to her pride that she had a sense of vanity.
On the surface, she was hardly better. Morrigan's complaints were often directed at the trio of Natia, Alistair, and the mabari, and Natia always figured, eh, three to one. And then Leliana tagged along, and then Sten, and the odds were suddenly turned against her when it was time to get to Redcliffe and Natia found out that Alistair did do a fair job of keeping clean. Four to two, and she was to meet with a human noble, an arl, so she figured she might as well. The humans treated her better than the dwarves ever did; she could at least show some courtesy back.
However, she had left the mabari well alone. Someone had to keep up the stench.
Still, her baths were sporadic at best, and often only after Wynne handed her a bar of soap and pointed her towards the nearest body of water. But tonight, in the Frostback Mountains, Natia wandered towards the nearby pond on her own accord.
Nobody questioned it. They all stared, but no one stopped her, or challenged her, or mocked her. She just rummaged through Wynne's pack, found the soap, and left the camp behind her without a word or second glance.
Natia came upon the pond, the moon waving in the ripples. She tossed aside her daggers and pulled off her boots and dipped in a toe. She hissed and recoiled; now she was surprised that Wynne or Leliana or someone hadn't pointed out that the water here in the mountains would be freezing.
Maybe they assumed she just wanted to be alone and used a bath as an excuse. She'd show them. The Temple of Andraste had been colder. She was going to return to the camp, soon, and squeaky clean.
Why did she have to be alone, anyway? Natia finally paid her sister back for all her kindness. Rica was the new king's concubine, and her son would be the next king. Bhelen did not look upon Natia with any hint of contempt that the other nobles shot at her, and he seemed to truly care for Rica. Rica was happy, and not even Kalah could mess that up.
Natia scowled as she ripped off her gauntlets. This was cause to celebrate, and with family and friends, not mope about in solitude.
And yet, Natia realized, she was not happy, not really, but she knew she was not the only one who was disturbed by what she learned in the Deep Roads. Hespith, the Broodmother, and Branka and Caridin, and the truth of the Anvil, all of this shook the group dearly. Considering Branka's fate, it should be Oghren everyone was concerned with, not Natia. He had begun drinking the moment he found Bodahn's stash and clumsily swiped the brandy from him, and while Bodahn protested no one else found reason to complain or stop him. In fact, Alistair grudgingly handed the merchant a few silvers to compensate. "I have a feeling I'm going to regret this," he had murmured before helping Leliana put up a tent.
She pulled her armor over her head and her hands found the clasp of the amulet she had received in the Gauntlet. Natia froze. Leske. They thought she was still upset about Leske?! That had been over a week ago and more important things than just her... her... feelings had preoccupied her mind. Did they really take her for a lovesick fool?
Natia moved her hands from the clasp to the amulet itself and tore it off. That sodding Gauntlet. First that Guardian attacked her for leaving her sister and friend behind, and then that illusion of Leske had been just real enough to catch her off guard, just real enough to send her flying back to Orzammar with barely a care about what happened to Arl Eamon, for fear of Leske's safety. But the Gauntlet had lied to her about his fate, had lied to her about his forgiveness, and she had not been prepared for Dust Town.
Her fingers trembled as she fondled the thin silver chain and caressed the warm etching on the front of the amulet. Natia knew what she would see when she flipped the amulet over, and she had little interest in seeing his bright-eyed and smiling face again. She did not want to remember his laughter, his playful nudges into her side, his firm hand on her shoulder, the way that his smirk always caused her to falter, just for the briefest of moments...
Natia squeezed her eyes shut and closed the amulet in a tight fist. No, no, she can't do this now. She did it once, in Rica's embrace, and that was enough. That should have been enough.
By the Stone, why was she thinking about this? She came here for a bath; she would not let the others be right.
Her hands refused to let go of the amulet, and she glared at her fist. This was no gift from Leske. This was a gift from who she wished Leske was, the one who would never crawl to Jarvia and bed her just to get back into favor, the one who would have warned her away from Dust Town, or at least offered to stay at her side as she took Jarvia's life. The one she would have brought with her to the surface with promises that the sky was nothing to fear, that nobody cares that he has no caste, that he could be a part of a quest more worthy than any task Beraht or Jarvia ever sent them to do.
This amulet was a gift from a Leske she wished existed. Natia only regretted she let her surface friends know anything about the duster. Now, they all pitied her, and she could not stand it.
Natia stepped back and brought her arm behind her, and she threw it forward, releasing the amulet from her grasp. She watched as it flew over the pond and arched down towards the center, making a satisfying plop as it penetrated through the shimmering surface. Natia found herself heavily breathing and she collapsed to the ground.
"Take that, you sodding, nug-licking bastards," she whispered. She realized she was crying, now, and the only way she could possibly save face was if she just went into the water already, soaped up, and went straight to her tent and to sleep.
She climbed back to her feet, but before she could pull off her underclothes she heard the last voice she ever expected to hear behind her: "My, my, but I half-expected you to duck just your head in for appearances and throw your armor back on. All this undress... it is unlike you, my dwarven captor."
Natia pursed her lips. "Zevran," she stated. She thought Alistair would have been the one to follow her, for he had been the one to gently shake her out of her trance when she had stood over Leske's bloodied body. Or Leliana, who had experience a similar loss back in Orlais. Not the assassin she had spared, an elf who tried to kill her and she let live, when she could not give her best friend the same mercy.
She hated Zevran, then.
"Did you need something?" she asked curtly, not bothering to turn around to face him, nor making any movements to fix her state of dress.
The Antivan laughed. "Oh, no, I just thought that perhaps you might need some company."
"I don't need help to bathe myself."
"Oh? That is disappointing, though your history and the state of your hometown suggests otherwise. I was beginning to think that perhaps you were trying to repel me, but I have to warn you I have been with others and in places that would make you smell like a queen's perfume."
In spite of herself, Natia let out a snort. "A queen's perfume? How is that better?"
"Oh, it is potent, do not get me wrong," said Zevran, "but it is a much more pleasing scent than a barnyard in the heat of the sun and surrounded by livestock, I assure you."
"So I smell better than nug vomit on my worst days?" She considered this. "I'll take that."
He laughed again. "Let me rephrase that for you: you smell better than Oghren on your worst days. But if you would rather continue with your bath, please, do not let me interrupt."
"And let me guess: you intend to watch?"
"Only if you do not object."
Natia said nothing for a long moment. She knew she was supposed to object with a witty one-liner, casual enough that Zevran would laugh it off, say, "As you wish," and walk away without further consequence. She knew that she was upset enough that she did not even need to be witty, that she could be as rude as she wanted, and not Zevran, not anybody, would be wounded by her words. But she did not want to object, and a realization sunk into her gut: she did not want him to leave. She did not want to be left alone, after all.
She hesitated too long, and Zevran spoke up with humor lacing his voice. "I take it your silence is an invitation to stay, no?"
Natia wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand and turned to face the elf. She forced a smirk. "Only if you join me in my tent afterward."
Zevran's eyebrow shot up, and he matched her smile. "Oh? Is there something in your tent that needs assassinating? It is my specialty, or so I'm told."
"Not specialty enough to get two Grey Wardens killed," she said. "But I bet you're good at a lot of things."
At the very least, Natia thought, he might just be good enough to assassinate memories.