Do you remember
The night that we were lost
In the shade of the blackthorn
And the chill of the frost
They each of them go to her, stand in front her and say their piece, words of thanks, of farewell.
Zevran waits until the last of them has gone. Waits, until he is the last who has not spoken, until she turns toward him with worry tightening her mouth.
He wishes to make this moment last, the last moment here in the market district, with the smell of blasted stone and darkspawn blood and agony all around them. He waits until he cannot wait any longer, until one moment longer and he would truly be dawdling.
Then he goes to her, and speaks.
He does not remember what he says. Something about the Black City, about wanting to go with her. What he wants is to tell her, stay. Let Alistair do this. Stay at the gates.
But she could not, because she is not that woman. And she will not allow him to accompany her, because she is not that woman either.
"Whatever else happens, know that I love you."
The admission plunges a cold knife into his chest. As does the look in her eyes.
"Cruel to the end," he says, and turns away.
My apple tree, my brightness
It's time we were together
For I smell of the earth
And am worn by the weather
They fight darkspawn.
He kills, and kills, and kills, for this is battle and this is murder, and if there is one thing Zevran has always been good at, it is taking life from the protesting clutches of what does not wish to die.
They all hear the dragon's scream as the tiny manikin on it slits a great hole in its wing and then falls bonelessly to the earth. They hear the cracking rumble as it crashes into the top of the fort.
They must be almost there. Two Grey Wardens, one healer mage, one archer, and all the armies that they could summon. He is a blade, and he has never fought better in his life. It is a bitter thing that his Grey Warden is not here to see it.
The enemy rushes the gates, and the defenders move to bottle them in the gap.
The darkspawn flee before the light, and he knows she is dead.
She took with her Wynne, who above all things knows her duty, and Leliana, who above all things loves a good tragedy. And Alistair, who must live, because he will be king.
He has seen the cold equations in her eyes, the decisions of who lives and who dies, and this time she has come out the cipher.
I still would be your shelter
Through rain and through storm
And with you in your cold grave
I cannot sleep warm
He cannot grieve.
He buries her away within him, though he thinks he might go mad with the pain. He keeps his silence, and his solitude. This has happened before, after all.
At least this one was not at his hand.
The funeral is splendid. The people of this land do her great honor, as if it were for them that she died. He knows the truth—that she was what her life had made her, the blows falling over and over again, the iron becoming steel.
The quiet line shuffles by her body where she lies in state, covered in rose petals. When it is his turn to step to the bier, he cannot look at her face. Instead, he looks at her hands. Scarred. Silent and still in death as they never were in life. The last joint on her fourth finger missing.
He tucks a pair of blood-spattered gloves into the crook of her arm, and walks on.
That night, he is repacking his bag, preparing to leave. When he shakes out one of his shirts, the soft blue one she always liked so well, something small and metal falls out and clatters on the stone floor. He stoops to pick it up.
It is not one thing, but two.
A jeweled earring, one that she wore every day—except the day of the battle.
And a vial attached to a chain, scratched and battered. A Warden's Oath, and in that vial is blood that will never congeal, never clot or dry. He clenches his hand around it, feels the metal bite into his flesh. He knows the apology it is, and the admission.
And the request.
He is gone before sunrise, and he speaks to nobody before he goes.
I am stretched on your grave
And will lie there forever
If your hand was in mine
I'd be sure we would not sever
There is a place in the Korcari Wilds that he has never been, but her description of it is easily enough to guide him. It is an eerie place, empty but for trees and wind; the darkspawn stripped the place of every living thing that might possibly be construed as edible. There is a place near the entrance where a hill rises to look over a small lake, she'd told him. It has a single blackthorn tree on it, and a deadfall makes a bridge over the path.
He finds it easily. Then, in the roots at the base of the tree, he begins to dig.
She was standing here when she killed her first darkspawn. He can almost see her with her bow, scrambling to the high ground, focusing on the maws of what follows. Above him, the leaves of the blackthorn whisper in the breeze, I remember, I remember.
He lays her Oath in the bottom of the hole, coiling the chain around it neatly. He tucks the earring into a loop of the chain, and then fills the hole in with the dark loam of the wilds.
Bury me where I died, Zevran. Bury me where my life ended.
She became a thing of blood and darkness, in the end. It all started here, by this thorny tree overlooking a stagnant lake, where a woman died and a Grey Warden was born in her place. Now she will never go to the Deep Roads, never break her heart over children she cannot have, never poison herself with thoughts of the life that will never be hers.
He will never forgive her.
Nor himself, for loving her.
Cruel, to the end.
Author's Note: This is what happens when I listen to Irish dirges. "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" is a translation of a 17th century poem that has been set to music a number of times. This is completely unconnected with my Zevran/Amell story found elsewhere; on my second playthrough, things sort of fell apart between my PC and everyone's favorite assassin right before we headed out, because she elected to leave him behind. And then she told him she loved him and he proceeded to break my black little heart.
Then, a few days ago, this little story ambushed me. So, here. Have a little spot of bitter depression, on me.