Three for love.
His warden was named Tabris, and to her commands he yielded. He faced great beasts called darkspawn, understood their subtle distinctions as he felled hundreds of them under his blade. He scouted the countryside with his leader, slid on their bellies towards the enemy camp. They exchanged recipes of various balms and salves, and she was eager to learn of the art of the Crows. She showed him how to lay traps that would explode in fire at the enemy's touch or cast little metal balls to slow their advance. He showed her how to tread lightly and disappear into the terrain, to pick out this root and that leaf for mixtures with a darker intention than her healing poultices.
So the time passed, and the autumn country he came into started to wear a thin cloak of frost. There were more to reveal about his companions, stories that each of them told by the intimacy of a camp fire. His own Warden with her future cut down on her wedding day, her horror and her shame when her own people were tortured and murdered before her eyes. His mother, burned at the pyre, reduced to ashes…
The other members warmed to him in time, his loyalty was always to Tabris, because it was she who made the final choice, who pulled him from death into life. He offered her his services, the intimate pleasures that he could share with a woman, knowing what brief diversions could lessen the evils that they saw day after day. They saw so many terrible things, with the future tightening around their necks, the Blight upon Ferelden -
And his warden, to his surprise and delight, accepted.
She became beautiful to him, in time, as affection grew with familiarity. He thought that he would be the ever faithful servant, her bondsman tied by his oath. He would not falter from her cause, would share her bed with devotion and wield her weapons with fervor. He thought that it would be like any other vow, but Taliesen arrived upon the steps of an alleyway in Denerim, and his world once again, unraveled.
He held his lover's dead body in his arms, knowing that he had to be the one to strike that final blow. Taliesen had aged these few months, lines at his eyes and deep grooves at the corners of his mouth. My love, if I had known that she haunted you as well...
Tabris was the one who led him away, who helped him burn the body and scatter the ashes. It was there, looking out at the waters of the Amaranthine Sea, that he told her of his story and his ghosts.
He shook with the force of it, the anger that had crashed over him like a tsunami towards the shore. The senior warden had to be lying and he demanded another way. She could not sacrifice herself for the archdemon. All this talk of souls and ancient gods, it did not matter. He would damn the world twice over if it meant she was safe, ushered away somewhere without the Blight.
He began to plead, earnestly, his most passionate performance for the most important prize of all: His warden's life. He began to despair, when she refused, stating her obligations, her ties to this country and to her people without hope in the alienage.
"They left you to rot on your wedding day!" Zevran said, voice low with his fury. "The nobles and their ploys, their bids for power and the crown. Leave the lot of them to drown or to burn." He would sacrifice the bastard prince, the swamp witch, the qunari. He would climb over their bodies if it meant she would survive. He never questioned her, never disobeyed, these past few months of war and destruction. He was always ready to carry out her commands, but she ignored his counsel.
He tried anger, tried to coerce that spark of rage that he knew simmered underneath, when she dashed Vaughan's skull against the walls of the dungeon. When that did not work, he attempted seduction, but her beauty was in her force of will, because she lived through the alienage and the slaughter.
"Come with me," he begged then, lost the ability to craft lines of poetry and persuasion. His words became broken glass, cutting him open when he spoke. "I will take you to the forests where I lived when I was a child."
"No more, Zevran, please." She shook her head.
"Kallian…" The first time he has called her by name, and it made her pause in surprise. "You will love it there. The forest is so thick and it smells of life. We will wake up listening to birdsong, and our lives will be simple."
"I will buy our fares with the gold and silver you gave me." He would no longer need to hoard treasures, to prepare for the unknown. They would live like his mother and father, a woodcutter and his wife and child. "The Dalish will love you. How could they not?"
He loved her. He realized it fully and painfully, with his gem mocking him from her ear. He loved her, and she would leave him to die.
Zevran fingered the gloves that were a gift from his warden, the night's sleep lost to him as he wondered about the crossroads he stood on. Once he traversed a place between Now and After, and once he chose life instead of death. He always ran, in the end. When he first lost his mother and his sale to the Crows was sufficient punishment. From the Dalish when they offered him refuge, a kindness he felt was undeserving. Would he run now? Away from his Warden and her searching eyes, how she seemed to look into him, forced him to bare all of himself?
He felt tossed about in a tempest, hovered between the two possibilities. To leave would be unbearable, but he would survive. He always did. To stay, and watch her kill herself…He brought the gloves to his nose and inhaled.
Besides the smell of the leather, he scented something rich and familiar, something like -
"Rinna?" He whispered to the night.
She was there. She was still just as beautiful as when he first saw her on the Master's arm, and he had nudged his friend Taliesen to look at her in appreciation. Or the first night she was naked before him, her skin glowing like a pearl.
He braced himself, for the pointed finger and the accusations to build again, for his mind to crumble with the madness. But she only stood there, looking more serene than she ever was in life.
The moonlight shimmered again, shadows changed peculiar until they formed another familiar figure. The thick legs corded with muscle and strength, the broad chest that he used to kiss roughly, and enjoyed the way his hands played further…down. But Zevran could see through him to the windowsill, the moon high in the distance above Denerim. Taliesen regarded him with an assessing gaze, and Zevran felt his heart catch somewhere on the brambles of his personal history.
Three of them laughing at danger, creating a chaos of violence in a circle around them, bodies falling as they reveled in life.
"You bested me, Zev." The smile was exactly Taliesen, slow and all the more perfect because of its rarity.
"You forced my hand." The sadness crept in, blurred his vision for a second so that Taliesen's face wavered like a pebble tossed into a still lake.
Sneaking in the shadows on the way home from the latest job… three of them, eyeing the merchant's fat purse, Taliesen's eyebrow raised in a dare.
"You have something to live for now." He looked at the form behind Zevran on the bed, and there was regret there. Tabris, humming as she stirred a poultice, with bells in her hair…
Rinna came up then, touched Taliesen's shoulder lightly. A touch that Zevran would never feel again, and he ached with the longing.
Taliesen glanced at her, the trace of guilt still worried at his brow, but her face was raised up to him, open and free of blame. They both looked at him. He felt torn by his conflict. His warden, awarding him with the first of many gifts, and his delight at receiving them.
"Farewell, Zev," Rinna said, with only a slight curve of those lips, and he felt a rush of emotion that threatened to overwhelm. The answer that he sought and found, forgiven by both of his ghosts.
"You will think of me?" His voice was thick with tears. He loved them still. She merely chuckled, and it told him everything. He will join them eventually, at the twilight place where they will sleep, with his mother and his father and all those he cherished.
His closest friend, his lover and more, Taliesen simply graced him with a nod. Rinna and Taliesen joined hands and turned their backs, the moon high above their heads like a lantern, lighting the way. In the distance, the open sea widened in a path destined for Antiva.
He had nothing there waiting for him now. Mother, beside him gathering branches, while he played with the toy bow. He knew he would stay, because his warden was alive and could still live to see the morning after. Tabris, stroking his jaw with a tender caress, driving him mad with desire. He would gamble for that slim possibility, that he could still take her to the forest of his childhood, after this was all done. Rinna, feeding him chilled grapes while he lounged on the bed, a bet made and won.
Two figures in the dark expanse of the sky, moving away from him.
The tangy sweetness exploding on his tongue, the taste of summer with the slight whiff of salt lingering in the air…
Zevran sat at the window, ignoring the chill, stared out at the indigo sky until the dawn.
Thank you to NuitNuit for the beta!