The pitter patter of a throbbing beat bounced across the top of his head. Consciousness. It drifted back in a heavy fog thick with dizziness and uncertainty. Where was he? Had he lived?

Eyelids fluttered open slowly; the motion made tentative and weary. Focusing upon a single object proved difficult until the familiar met his groggy gaze, Zevran.

Their meeting had been unconventional.

The second son of one of Ferelden's most influential nobles, William Cousland was thrust into a fight he did not consider his own. Dragged from his home on the night of of his greatest tragedy, he found himself conscripted and pushed into the service of the Grey Wardens. All around him, his world crumbled, his family dead, slaughtered at the hands of Arl Howe. The worries of the rest of Ferelden were of little matter to him. Duty, honor, the burning need for revenge, all fell upon his unprepared shoulders.

The Grey Warden dies here...

A little travelled stretch of road, the cry of a maiden in distress, William and his companions went to provide aid and instead fell into ambush. The fight had not been a long one -- the two Wardens, mage and rogue well seasoned in their combat experience. The traveling band of assassins proved little challenge.

And as it all ended, he approached the body of a blond elf -- the leader presumably.

Flowery language rich with bravado and arrogance creased the elf's mouth in speech. But it was not the promises of loyalty or even the declaration of the elf's skills that brought William to grant mercy. He had recognized something within Zevran -- something he saw in himself whenever he glanced in a mirror. Despair. Masks could be worn -- a facade of happiness sported like the greatest of actors. It was impossible, however, to hide the hollow bruise of hopelessness within in the eyes.

Friendship blossomed into something more, an intimate entanglement wrapped up on their mutual understanding of one another. Confessions were made -- Rinna, a father and mother abandoned. What justice could be meted out was done together -- Taliesen and Howe.

Zevran shall stay at the gates..

The words burned his throat to speak them. There were others that should have been spoken, but William's tongue would not allow them to be uttered. They had fought together, side by side, since that day on the Imperial highway. But on this day, he would have Zevran step aside -- stay safe.

The archdemon had been defeated; William struck the final blow. Blinding light and searing pain his most recent memories until his eyes once again opened and took in the honeyed amber gaze of his friend, his lover, his Zevran.