"I must admit, I am surprised."

"Oh?" Propping herself up on an elbow, she raised a playful brow.

Zevran's arm slipped round her waist, encircling her easily, pressing her hips again against his own. The grasses had been well and truly flattened, the nearby brook seeming louder in the sudden silence. Far beyond the camp they were, on the outskirts of the Brecilian Forest, but the woods were still now, almost… welcoming.

"About this? No. No, of course not. But I am… intrigued. Why here? Why now?"

"Why not?"

"A sensible answer. But always we have retired to your tent, no? Where there are blankets, comforts, other fine things. I wonder… This is truly a beautiful place. And we have done beautiful things to it." His smile turned wicked. "Are we supposed to be embracing our Elvish nature, perhaps? Wearing nothing but the moon as we frolic through the trees?"

Rolling onto her back, she laughed. "I don't know… maybe. Would that be so bad?"

"The frolicking, no. And yet you have been… distant since we left the Dalish."

She had to wonder at that, turning her head to him with narrowed eyes. His smile had softened, that gaze strangely knowing.

"It is not so strange, this feeling of being the same and yet different, of being welcome but never to belong. I suspect it is much the same for you, yes?"

Again she rolled onto her side, but this time she took a moment to look at him, propped easy there upon the grass. He watched her as well, the appreciation clear, but still that calm lingered, that piercing concern. Sliding closer, she traced a finger along his cheek. "Tell me, what do they mean?"

"Hm?" He blinked, honestly surprised at the question.

"The tattoos… I'd like to know more about them."

"You have not yet seen enough?" Her eyes flashed before she could help herself, tracing those whorls cross his neck and shoulders, following them lower still. He smiled.

"But they… mean something. The dwarves, they brand the faces of their casteless, to identify those without a place. For humans, they are symbols of clan or affiliation. And the Dalish… they mark themselves apart, wear their traditions, their freedom cross their faces for all to see."

"Ahh." He nodded.

"There were some… in the Alienage… who left to seek them out. They spoke as though things would be better if they could only join the clans." She shook her head. "I am not Dalish, but neither am I of that place… not anymore."

Brushing the hair back from her eyes, he let his fingers linger there. "You wish to make it official."

"But the Vallaslin… it can only be done by the Keeper." Again her hand traced along the patterns of his arm. "How did… I mean, how did you…?"

"Offer enough coin in Antiva and you will find yourself a Keeper, a king of Ferelden and Andraste herself, should you fancy her for the night." He laughed. "But, as you said, each land is different. In Antiva there are no such restrictions. I even learned a bit of the craft myself…" He smirked now, eyes narrowing. "…But this, I suspect you knew."

She could feel herself flushing. "I heard you speaking with Alistair."

"And so you thought to seduce me, use me in this plot of yours?" Again he wrapped his arms round, stirring against her.

"Would you object?"

"Hmm…" The grin faltered, that strange stillness returning. His fingers seemed to be tracing patterns cross her cheeks, lingering now above her right eye. "These designs of the Dalish are very delicate."

"I like yours, actually."

"Harsh? Bold?" He chuckled. "Perhaps a variation of both, then. Beauty, yes, but something… strong, something severe."


"A poor choice of words." Sweeping her hair aside, his eyes grew distant. "Yes, here I think." He leaned close now, tracing his lips across her eyelid. "Never again will they mistake you for that which you are not."

She smiled. "Thank you, Zev. Truly."

Nodding once, his grin returned. "Ahh, but we will have to wait for light, of course." He pulled her close. "And you had asked for meaning, yes? Did you know that there are patterns that can be drawn, parts of the body where tracing the curves or the musculature will lead to certain, shall we say, surprising enhancements?"

She smirked, hands already trailing cross his chest. "And if I said I didn't believe you?"

"Then I should say we have a long night ahead of us."