To those who've read Arlyn, I do believe I promised another story. I actually finished my second playthrough a while ago, but...I don't know, this one is a lot harder to sum up than my first Warden. Even here I haven't mentioned everything I wanted to. But this is about my sixth attempt at writing about this guy, and it's the only one I've finished, so it'll have to do.
It's written in a similar style to the last one. And again, this is how I played the game.
Disclaimer: I still don't own Dragon Age. That hasn't changed since the last fanfic, you know.
I do what I must, the Warden once said.
That phrase defines him. Everything he has done, he has done because he had no choice. Even his Joining: from gossip you have tricked from Alistair, the head Grey Warden – Duncan, was it? - had dragged him more or less kicking and screaming from his Dalish clan. Even sickened by the lethal darkspawn taint, he had refused, and refused, and relented only when his options were to proceed with the Joining, or die on Duncan's blade. But Duncan's actions had been necessary, Alistair had strenuously insisted. Duncan was a good man, a noble man.
That was perhaps why the Elf went out of his way to not be noble, to be vicious and unfeeling and everything a Grey warden should not be. I do what I must. And yet there have been times, numerous times, which have ended in bloodshed even when a more peaceful solution was available. Your Warden has a silver tongue; he is quite capable of talking his way out of trouble, He has used that coercion to intimidate, but never persuade, and he almost always seeks out a fight. I do what I must frequently translates to I do what I want to.
Destroying the ashes, for example. Your Warden doesn't believe in human gods, and neither do you; how divine can a jar of dust be? But...perhaps there was something holy, something that should not have been violated. Your Warden was certainly darker afterwards, his morals and mercy dwindling away until he was as ruthless as the darkspawn he faced. Or perhaps it was the Dragon's blood that did it – you saw something flicker behind his eyes after he consumed it. And then there was bloodlust, a yearning for violence and pain and death, and I do what I must became more of an excuse than a reason. He didn't even attempt to lie to Leliana when she asked about the urn. Didn't flinch when she, in tears, departed the group forever.
You said nothing, of course. You were hardly the person to lecture, were you? If anything, you were the only one who comprehended the pleasure and power of ending a life, though he toed the line of morality far more than you ever did.
Such as...ah yes, killing Connor. Or rather, forcing his mother's hand. He took no pleasure in it, but no pity: his eyes were cold, his expression unreadable. And, as you recall, he was decidedly unresponsive that night. Of course, Alistair yelling himself hoarse might have also done that too. Alistair – valiant and righteous and everything a Grey Warden should be, everything your Warden is not. And yet you can't help but think, when Alistair's arguments enticed neither sorrow nor remorse from your Warden, that this was his revenge against Duncan, against the duty he had never wanted.
Alistair had calmed down eventually. Your Warden even put that odd charm of his to some use at last, toughening and shaping the boy who would be king. Their relationship was a volatile one, veering between comradeship and grudging respect to absolute blinding hatred of one another, different as they were. Like night and day. Even their appearances – Alistair, with his healthy glow and warm, kind smile. Your leader, with his inky hair and empty expression. He'd look like a corpse were it not for his purposeful stride. Even his skin is cold, though you do try to amend that as often as possible.
Warmth. You make me feel warm, your Warden had said. And of course you teased him about it, said something about illness and the immediate requirement of a full-body examination. And he even agreed, that seriousness melting away into a playfulness only you ever got to see, and you savoured it like the rare delicacy it was. Then light banter became low, throaty moans as your ran your hands then lips then tongue over every inch of creamy skin, warming the body beneath your own.
You never did find any sign of illness. Eventually you diagnosed him with a bad case of Zevranitis and told him to revisit your tent for regular check-ups.
But the words never truly left you, even though you turned what could have been a hefty confession in a skirmish between the sheets. You make me feel warm. The sentence defined him almost as much as I do what I must, though the latter was far more commonly heard. Your Warden was a dead man walking during the day; at night, he was as alive as a living thing could be. That second side to him is the reason he became so much more to you than a pleasant diversion from the Blight. It is the reason you opened up to him as he did to you, and the reason a jewelled ring hangs from his left ear
It is the reason you remain by his side even now, when all the others have gone their separate ways, and even Alistair has forsaken the Grey wardens to co-rule with his new queen. Throwing Loghain to the archdemon may have spared your Warden in the literal sense, but he is still here, sacrificing himself day after day for a cause he never wanted to take up in the first place. You asked him once, why he was still fighting darkspawn if he despised his duty so. It was a silly question, really, because you already knew what his answer would be, and even mouthed it along with him.
Somehow the task of rebuilding the Grey wardens is even more draining than ending the Blight; you see the weariness in his movements every day. And so you help in the only way you know how, stealing kisses when you can, trying to memorise that rare smile, because you know it won't be around forever. If not by how recklessly he throws himself into battle, or by the knots of stress you must work out each night before he'll even think of touching you back – then by how quickly the taint eats into him, because you can see him wasting away before your very eyes. But you try not to think about that too much.
You haven't told him yet; you meant to just before the final onslaught against the archdemon, though you were too busy asking, with your heart in your throat, if the two of you would ever see each other again. You've written it down somewhere so you won't forget to mention it one day:To be at your side, I would storm the gates of the dark city itself.
And when the time comes, you will.