Darkspawn blood tastes as bitter as failure. It's a flavor Loghain knows well. Bitterness and unshed tears and lifetime of giving everything up only to have it blow up in his face. There's a part of him that prays the Joining will be fatal. Even as the blood sits in his mouth and slides down his throat, greasy and black and tainted, he prays for death.

He doesn't remember falling, but suddenly he's on his knees, his bare hands against the cold stone and his heartbeat like thunder in his ears. A earth shattering roar explodes through his head. His eyes are closed, but he doesn't remember closing them. Behind his eyelids the archdemon writhes, screams, breathes fire. Blue and violet and orange, and it burns. Maker's breath -- the fire is all around him; it's the entire world. It consumes him.

Prayers to die become screams – Holy Maker, save me! – and then nothing. Darkness. And Loghain realizes it's just that his eyes are still closed. The light filters through his lids, red like blood. His blood. His heart still thrums a cadence in his chest. He lives; and Maker knows he's not sure if he's grateful or not.

His eyes slide open. He's on the floor, on his back. He doesn't remember that either. That damned Orlesian is standing in the corner, his arms folded across his chest. He looks pleased and disappointed. Loghain doesn't know what to make of that.

He manages to move his eyes. The Warden is kneeling on the floor beside him. Young enough to be his daughter, angry enough to want him dead, but Grey Warden enough to know what has to be done. Her brows are drawn together over her steely blue eyes. She's pale as milk and her expression is a mix of ice and fire. She offers him her hand and she yanks him up to his feet.

The world wobbles a little. Then steadies. Loghain wonders if he's managing to hide how strange the world feels; if he's hiding this new horror as well as he's hidden everything else for all these years. The Warden cocks her head at him, and touches his temple with a gentle finger. She looks at it quizzically for a moment. A drop of his blood on her finger.

As if she hadn't been covered with it when she struck him down, and then spared his life.

Loghain feels the touch of her magic and he touches his own temple. His hand comes away clean. He stares at the not-blood on the tip of his calloused finger. He looks up at her. He hopes his eyes looks as cold as he feels. He's dead already; he just doesn't have the sense to lay back down, even if she would let him lay down and die the traitor's death he knows he deserves.

"It is over," she says finally, her voice too quiet. He can't tell if she wants to kill him or, oddly enough, kiss him. "Welcome . . . brother."

Loghain doesn't know what to make of that either.