For Aroihkin Silverblade, the Zevran exchange challenge
One for sorrow.
Her lifeblood cooled on his fingers, the stain soaked in the creases of his palms. She slipped through his hands, suddenly heavy, yet smaller than a body that used to contain her. When she struck the earth there was almost no sound, except for the quiet rustle of fabric, a lost breath.
She dressed herself always in silver, said that it shone against her skin, veiled her like the moon she was. If you are the moon, he teased her, you are a crescent, your tongue so sharp that it could cut a lesser man. She only laughed because it was their game, that for her lack of womanly virtues it did not stop him from his nightly visits.
It was Taliesen, in the end, who cut her. Zevran the one who gave consent, the nod before he pressed his lips to the pale skin of a bared shoulder, a brand that labeled her betrayal. Like it always was, the three of them, Rinna pressed tightly between them as she struggled and shuddered. So many times she found release between two bodies, and this final time her last sound was a whimper, not unlike the end of one of their joinings.
She died thinking she had their forgiveness, that there were no secrets between them. They would be Three again, having found one another in the streets of Antiva, rotten with the stench of those dying of starvation or disease.
You're the knight, I'm the maiden. She touched Taliesen's chest and then tapped her own. What about me? Zevran asked. You're the jester, of course, she grinned.
He proved to be the fool for believing love could happen to a gutter rat.
He saw her first by moonlight, where it scattered by the window, forming the shape of a woman. She was even more beautiful in death, translucent and ethereal. He wanted to beg her forgiveness, his mouth open and dry but no words could possibly be enough. If you wish to kill me, he finally managed, syllables harshly uttered like a knife scraping tongue.
Beside him, warm under the sheets, Taliesen muttered and turned away in sleep.
Not enough. She only smiled, and in it he saw retribution.
You will suffer, Zevran Arainai. His sentence was set. I will make you remember me.
He wandered the streets of Antiva, a madman. He smelled her scent everywhere, even as he rubbed his face in the perfumed bosoms of Antiva City's finest whores. Drenched in the sweat and blood of his latest mark, he felt strangled by the perfume that she wore, the musk and essence gagging him as sour bile rose to his throat.
He carried it home each day, to the one who should have understood, weighed so heavily by their shared mistakes. But she used to be the mirror, played off Taliesen's darkness and Zevran's light. Where one brooded in sullen silence, she joked. Where a flippant remark was taken offense, she soothed. She was no longer the tie that secured them. She became the knot, squeezing, the constant memory of their private guilt. They fought in what used to be a haven, tore it apart with their wild anger and accusations.
The door slammed shut with a finality. Zevran stood naked in the room, his face swollen where it was struck.
He felt the slow slither of his blood down one leg.
There used to be Three.
He saw the glint and shine of her eyes in the dark. She approved.
When Taliesen left, Zevran made his decision. Rinna assisted in her own way, appeared at inopportune times when he had his eye on the mark, made him spin around in the middle of a crowded street. He was certain, all those times, that she flitted just out of sight. My ghost girl, my once lover. He cannot kill her again.
Her eyes struggled to remain open, thick lashes trembling like moth wings as they plunged towards the flame-
He bargained, flirted, promised, bared all for his final flourish. Her ghost hands pressed cold against the back of his neck as he stood there. The Master frowned at the paltry sum offered. Yes, he could spare this one assassin, punish him for his recent lackluster performances. A backward little country called Ferelden.
If only he could call them mercenaries, but they were only peasants, driven to do anything for coin. He did the best he could, wrapped himself in smoke, crafted poisons that blinded briefly or acids that shredded and burned skin. His daggers wore down defenses, his jabs certain, but they had a mage that sent waves of healing magic, closed the wounds that he opened. He should have prepared better for the mage, having been warned previously. Two Grey Wardens traveling the countryside, human warrior, elven rogue. One dog, mabari. One mage, human witch. There was no room for could-haves in his profession, but he thought it unimportant for his final errand.
Mother, I promised you I would keep on living…
He felt his knee shatter as the arrow struck it, and he stumbled, then fell forward into the grass. Fire ate at his leg, up his arms, and he wasn't sure if it was a mage's spell or if he was wounded more severely than he thought.
He was dying. Rinna's laughter rang terribly in his ears, like the shattering of a bell.