To commemorate finishing Dragon Age for the first time, a story centred around my Gray Warden. Naturally, there are gigantic spoilers ahead, so don't read unless you've finished the game yourself. In fact, you'll probably understand this a lot more if you know how the game ends,
Also, guess who's POV this is from?
Disclaimer: I do not, of course, own Dragon Age or any of its characters.
After all these years, people still ask you about him.
And not so long ago, anyone who raised the question found themselves dead before they could finish speaking. You've lost more than a few right-hand men that way. But now you're simply too tired to be angry; it simmers still beneath your skin, and occasionally evokes gritted teeth or fingers curling into fists, but little more than that. So when they ask, eager to know all about the Grey Warden, you sigh defeatedly, and give brief answers that say as little about him as possible.
They ask what he looked like, and you tut and tell them to go and look at a painting instead of wasting your time. There are, after all, countless pictures of him, most striking some sort of heroic pose before a fearsome archdemon. One even had him in full armour, wielding a majestic sword; you slashed it to ribbons as soon as you saw it, tracked down the artist, slashed him to ribbons too. But even the better, more faithful portrayals of him don't get it right, too dull and lifeless. You think of him, and remember blue: blue tevinter robes, blue eyes, blue tattoo covering his face like a butterfly. But then, perhaps he was never so vibrant. Perhaps your memory has simply enhanced the colour, for he seems far more vivid now than he ever did back then.
And when you have dismissed that question, the askers say, what was he like? You answer that he was like a Grey Warden, but they persist in knowing his personality. Playful, you answer at last, and good at keeping people in high spirits. And you observe the wonderment in their eyes, some even nodding in approval, as these are qualities befitting a hero.
You could tell them a great many things that would crush that approval. That yes, he was playful, to the extent that it often bordered on cruelty. He took everything very lightly, including his Warden duties – though that is probably how he was able to deal with such responsibility – and he frequently dismissed the urgency of the Blight to wander off on some unrelated side-errand. Life and death also held little weight for him, and when he was in the position to do so, he decided someone's fate seemingly on a whim; including, quite possibly, your own. He delved into blood magic because he was not supposed to, and smiled pleasantly as his opponents twitched in agony, or turned against their own comrades. It was but a game to him.
Also, you said he was good at keeping people in high spirits. This was certainly the case, no-one could deny that. But he could also keep them in low spirits, or even medium spirits if he so chose. Not through his magic, but his words, a tongue more silver than even your own. A master manipulator, someone who effortlessly got his way, though you were just wily enough to evade most of that.
That's probably why he chose you, out of everyone – and he could have had anyone – to share his bed with. Even though you actually approached him... but he teased and flirted and smiled at you, but didn't do anything until finally, you were the one to ask. The fact that he did that deliberately didn't occur to you until much, much later, and you fumed for at least a week afterwards. Even you were not above being strung along; he may well have chosen you just for the challenge of it.
You could tell all this to those questioners, dissolve that perfect, heroic image they have of the famed Grey Warden – but of course, you do not. Because although you truly despise him sometimes, you still adore him so, enough to ensure his reputation stays untarnished. Funny, even after all these years, he still holds sway over you.
If anything, you cherish him even more than you did back then, during your travels together. Nightly you remember his silken voice, his ice-blond hair, the raven-feathers on his robes. The butterfly tattoo, ironically symbolic of his character – so spirited, so playful, so achingly beautiful. Carefree, careless, and most importantly, always just out of reach. You may have bedded him, fought beside him, seen the darker side of him that others managed to miss, but he was never truly yours.
And that...that is why you were not enough to keep him here. You would have tried, had you known just why he was marching off to face the archdemon without Alistair in tow. You would have dragged the damn templar along despite any protests, and thrown him in the way of the dragon yourself, if you had understood just what being a Grey Warden entailed. And you should have understood, when he picked you to fight by his side, when he spoke to you with that solemn, alien expression on his face, and his voice was so serious that it did not sound as though it belonged to him:
You know I love you, right?
You should have known. Of course he would never say that unless he planned to die. Those words held weight, responsibility, consequence, that one thing he cared so little for. Chances are, that was why he was able to say it so easily, because he knew he would not have to deal with the aftermath.
Yes...yes, I know that.
And had you known, perhaps you would have given a different response. Possibly. Definitely, if it would have changed his mind, but you doubt it. For whatever reason – because he did not want to live to see the consequences of his actions, because he wished to repent for his callousness, because the future king of Ferelden was more important than some mage-elf with a talent for killing darkspawn – he had already made up his mind.
So in the end, you were not given the choice. For all his sweet nothings about being free from the Crows, and the two of you wandering unshackled after the Blight, he did not let you choose, in the end. And so you returned to the Crows despite your oath, a far darker soul than you had ever been when you actually killed people for a living, and carved your way up to the top. You sit on a bloody throne now, but your accomplishments have not won you contentment.
Nor has any prospect of a new lover; there have been plenty of offers, and some you took, only to feel a bitter loathing afterwards, at them and you. You do not indulge in that anymore, for it can hardly be called an indulgence. You live in quiet solitude, but you cannot find peace; you don't think you ever will, not with the hundreds of memories and regrets and questions that burn through your mind each passing second.
You know I love you, right?
After all these years, you still wonder if he truly meant it.
Note that this is exactly how I played the game, from the appearance to the personality to the choices. I did romance Zevran, but because I chose the wrong dialogue option at one point (he has to be the hardest character to woo, say one wrong thing and you're screwed), he never gave me the earring or confessed his love. I'm currently playing re-do with a Dalish Elf; I might write a story about him as well, once I've finished the game. Would anyone be interested?