The smell of fire and devastation tickled at the nose. The darkspawn had laid waste to Redcliffe village earlier in the day – buildings set aflame, citizens murdered, the landscape corrupted black with a slick of demonic ichor. Leliana's chest rose in a deep breath, the scent of destruction filling her lungs. Fingers curled about the top of the balcony railing, offering balance as she peered down below. Corpses from earlier in the day were still being cleared, Redcliffe guards working frantic to detoxify the courtyard.
Dreams had brought Leliana to this place, standing atop a balcony at Redcliffe Castle. Visions in her sleep prophesized: Join and fight the Blight. And so she complied, inviting herself along with two unseasoned and still wet behind the ears Grey Wardens -- the noble rogue from a house destroyed by political strife and the bastard Prince sick with sadness over the loss of his mentor and father-figure. It had become her fight as much as it was theirs.
She watched as the pair, bound together by duty and sorrow, found comfort in each other. They were never quite as quiet as they may have thought. Muffled moans, laughter and sounds of contentment breached the soft canvas confines of their nocturnal retreat on many an evening, much to the amusement of those sitting outside the tent.
A small smile – bittersweet -- managed to pierce the sullen expression encroaching upon her fair features. It was a nice memory, to think back to those times at camp when it seemed the world was theirs for the taking. The true reality of their mission had yet to sink its claws in deep, to rend the very fabric of their souls with a sense of impending tragedy and doom. Leliana could see the horror in the horizon. She had not been meant to overhear, but she had.
The Warden that slays the archdemon will die.
Leliana had always found comfort in song, a byproduct of her training as a bard. Tears glazed her eyes, as she began to sing.
She sang of friendship.
She sang of heroes.
She sang of honor, grace and duty.
But most of all, she sang of love.
And as the song came to an end, she raised a delicate hand to wipe away the moisture coating her cheeks. Her friends would need her. She would put on her pretty face – all smiles and warm expressions. She would offer comfort as they needed it and an ear should they require it. It was her unspoken duty to her Grey Warden companions.
Posture was straightened, resolve touching her spine. She turned to walk back into the castle only to stop in mid-step at the sight of Sten. His stoic guise was softened, compassion and kindness touching the usually sharp and hawkish features of his face.
"Kadan," Sten said, his head dipping in light nod.
"Oh Sten, I did not know you were there." Shocked and a bit embarrassed, Leliana managed a small smile for Sten. Her singing this night had not been meant for an audience so much as it had been for her own well being.
"Your song, it was quite beautiful." And though his tone employed the usual flat timbre, it was not hard for Leliana to sense the complimentary intent in those words. Sten meant what he said, but then again, he always meant what he said. He was not a man to mince words. What you saw was often what you got. "Would you seek comfort?"
The question struck Leliana as a particularly odd one. It was asked so matter of factly as if Sten had just asked her if she would like some butter for her bread or to pass the salt. Her head tilted to the side, curious and inspective. "Why would you ask such a thing?"
Sten's lips pressed together, an all together common gesture for the man. "You seem as if you are sad and would seek comfort. As I do not expect you would seek such from the painted elf or the drunken dwarf, it falls upon me to offer it."
Never had Leliana been propositioned in such a way. For surely this was a proposition, was it not? The qunari had always been an odd duck; however, she had caught him playing with that kitten once. String dangled from Sten's thick fingers, a tiny smile tugged at the corner of his lips. It was a precious moment really – a snapshot of something soft and chewy at the center of a stone giant. A softie, she had called him. Did he intend her to play the part of kitten to his string?
The slender body of an eyebrow inclined inquisitive. "No, no I would not seek it in them. You are correct." Would it be so horrible to find solace in the arms of such a man on the eve of a great battle that might end both their lives? "Yes, I do believe I require comfort, Sten."
No, it would not.
Quietly, they left the solitude of the balcony and found privacy in Leliana's room. The metal hinge of a lock was snapped into place ensuring they would not be disturbed.
Crossing his arms over the wide expanse of his chest, Sten asked, "Would you prefer the bed or the floor? Perhaps by the fire?" Would you prefer the red or blue string?
If someone had earlier in the day asked Leliana if she would be having this conversation with Sten, she would have laughed and giggled, the idea all together too strange to even consider. But yet, there he stood, awaiting her response. "The bed will be fine." She moved to the bed and took a seat atop it. One foot pushed into the other, nudging boots off her feet. She patted the spot next to her, motioning for Sten to join.
His own boots are shucked aside as he makes his way to the bed. The mattress sunk at Sten's weight as he sits next to Leliana. "I will disrobe now," he announced, already moving to lift his shirt over his head.
Leliana's eyes widened slightly, still a bit off put by Sten's rather clinical tone. It didn't dissuade her, however. Her own garments are removed and neatly placed in a pile at her feet, upon the floor. And strangely as she turned her gaze back to Sten, she did not feel the awkward. What had been stoic had softened, Sten's eyes belying a tenderness she had witnessed only one before.
Rough fingers feathered across the silken slope of Leliana's cheek. Her head inclined, leaning into Sten's hand, welcoming his touch. It was far softer than she had expected – gentle and sweet, not at all rough as she had imagined given his conversations with Morrigan.
Her hand raised to guide Sten's to her mouth. Lips brush light against the calloused flesh. "I knew you were a big softie," she teased, a delicious smile creasing her mouth.
"Yes, so it may be." Commanding movements ushered Leliana to lie upon the bed, Sten hovering above her. "But after tonight, we shall never speak of such things again."