Title: Spider Lilies
Rating: M for Mature
Warnings: blood, romance, alcohol, tragedy
Summary: The time has come for the two grey wardens to descend into the Deep Roads. Ava Mahariel feels reality slipping into dreams as she tries to forgive her one true love at last for leaving her all those years ago to become king. Mahariel/Alistair
Author's Note: One shot. Thank you for reading. Dalish background in case you can't remember. Review please.
(The italics are memories, non italics are present)
Oh, I need the darkness, the sweetness
the sadness, the weakness
Oh, I need this
I need the lullaby, the kiss goodnight
Angels sweet, love of my life
Well, is it dark enough, can you see me?
Do you want me?
Can you reach me?
Skin, Natalie Merchant
"Watch! Left flank, left flank!" she screamed, ducking as the sharp end of a waraxe whirled past her head. A genlock roared in fury as it missed her again, and then in pain as she sank her dagger into its side. She was panting hard. The genlock screeched but didn't fall. So she cocked her head back and busted her forehead against its rotted face. It stumbled before falling, and she turned to another one. The hurlock roared, psyching itself up for a battle. She snarled and, ducking a blow from another one of the monstrous creatures, rammed the same dagger into its skull. Placing her foot on the creature's chest, she put all of her force into a kick that sent the already dead body crashing into a line of genlocks that fell like dominoes.
Zevran was a stealthy man, but he couldn't move through the forest in quite the same way she could. In fact, he sounded like a lumbering elephant compared to her. Being able to move so silently came with the territory, she supposed, having grown up in the forest. She heard him pause by the shore of the lake and stood up in all her naked glory, letting the light from the moon capture her beauty, silver drops falling from her porcelain skin, staring straight at his hiding spot amongst the shadows.
Chuckling softly, he stepped from them. "I must say, that is a marvelous amount of artwork, my dear grey warden."
She grinned, but it didn't touch her eyes. Having recently procured the assassin, she didn't yet trust him. Her daggers were not far away, and she was much faster than him. There was no doubt in her mind that she could reach them before he could gain any advantage. "Why, Zevran, you have a few rather delicious pieces yourself, do you not?"
"True, my dear," he winked slyly. "But I sense that yours hold a greater personal meaning than mine do for me."
One of the beastly things caught her around the throat, roaring with something that sounded like laughter. Twenty or so genlocks and a mage raised their knives and swords and staff as she struggled, clawing at the bloodied, fleshy arm of her captor. It cut into her neck with a knife, a half-rotten tongue flickering out of the slavering mouth to lap at the blood. Bacteria stung; she barred her pointy, elven teeth and screamed, "Alistair!"
Alistair whirled around, a hurlock catching him in the back. He stumbled, turning his back on her for his sword to clash with another, bloodier one. Growling, she threw her head back rather violently, catching the thing in the mouth and potentially breaking its jaw with a crack like a bullet. It released her, staggering. Syn, her mabari hound, crunched down on the darkspawn's leg and yanked, snapping the bone. She grasped a sword in her hand and, using momentum, cut its head off. Panting, she realized that the kill was only a small victory as the other darkspawn descended on her.
"I had a rather enlightening chat with Zevran a few moments ago, actually," Alistair said whilst combing her wet, silvery hair. He said the assassin's name like a curse.
She hummed, smiling to herself as she read a particularly funny passage from the book she was just about to give to Wynne as a present. It seemed good enough for the grandmotherly mage, and Alistair thought it was a rather endearing gift. "Did you now?"
"He seems to think that your tattoos are quite beautiful. Especially the ones, um, near your chest and stomach," he said, blushing.
The book closed with a soft thump and a rush of cool, spring air. The tent was dark save the lantern that splashed orange light across his disgruntled face. Of course Zevran would spread news about him watching her bathe. Living in such close knit clans as she had growing up, it wasn't such a scandalous thing for a young man to see a woman bathing. They often bathed together, in fact. She'd always bathed with Tamlen.
"Ah," she breathed, turning around in his lap to loop her arms around his neck. "He hasn't seen them like you have, though. By only the light of the lantern or moon? While we breathe deep the musk of our love making and whisper sweet nothings in one another's ear? While I am covered in sweat and crying your name, my love? He doesn't quite know their beauty as you do."
Alistair's eyes had widened slightly, his breath paused. "I, um," he laughed, "I guess he doesn't, does he?" Relaxing noticeably, he put his arms around her waist and pulled her closer.
"And he never will," she whispered in his ear before claiming his lips and pushing him slowly backwards.
It was later, after the darkspawn had finally grown tired of throwing themselves at their defenses, that both grey wardens found a depression in the rocky stone to make a camp fire. She and Alistair were far too skilled to be taken out in one day, but there was no food and little water. Soon, they would both weaken and succumb to the blades of their enemies. Meanwhile, Ava pulled off her bloodied armor and placed it by the fire, rubbing at her eyes and combing her fingers through her soiled hair. Leaning against the cool cave rock, it was hard to fall asleep with the sounds of darkspawn tearing apart the members of the Legion of the Dead and the crawlers shrieking at one another.
"It is...rather creepy down here, isn't it?" Alistair said uneasily, echoing her thoughts.
"Yes," she chuckled darkly. "I don't know how the Legion manages to sleep." Her eyes were still closed, and he wished she would open them. But she wouldn't. She hadn't looked at him in the eyes since he'd become king, all those years ago. Elves were...beneath the royalty.
"I suspect they don't, actually. They always look rather haggard," he replied.
She did not answer but instead began humming to herself. It was a familiar tune, the song that Leliana had once sang to her at camp. Dalish in origin, the language itself had never made much sense to him, but the tune was lovely. He couldn't find it in his heart to stop her. Sooner rather than later, perhaps the toll of the day finally beginning to drag on her, her breathing slowed, and she fell into a fitful sleep. Alistair watched over her, sword at the ready, humming the soft, melancholy tune even though he didn't know the words and soothing her nightmares though he wasn't aware.
"You got a new tattoo, didn't you?" Alistair asked. "That's why you wanted to go the Dalish camp."
"I did," she said, not bothering to deny it while folding her bed clothing carefully into her backpack. The sword at her side gleamed malevolently with dried blood. It hadn't been long since they'd been to Arl Howe's. The scent of blood and rust and torture was still fresh in her mind. All those people he had hurt…
"It was for him, wasn't it? For Howe?" Alistair pressed.
She turned around, fingers finally steadying. Flecks of blood still colored her hair. Howe had succeeded in slicing the muscle in her left arm. It hung limp and painful at her side. "Why do you care? What does it matter?"
Alistair sighed. "I know only a bit about the Dalish, Ava. I know that when you get tattoos, it's not a fanciful thing. Every symbol or brush stroke or vine means something. I simply want to know why you decided to get one to remember Howe by. He was a monster." There was no judgment, simple pleading to understand. She smiled, relaxing slightly but still on her guard. Alistair had been distant since the prospect of becoming king had reared its head. She longed for a talk like the old days but feared it as well.
"Hunters, what I am, often get tattoos to commemorate…good kills. Howe…was a good kill," she explained simply, afraid that he might be abashed by her savage nature. Still, she didn't look afraid. There was a defiant glint in her eye, challenging him to tell her it was sick or stupid.
"I guess he was," Alistair said, and she was once again startled by the hardened nature of her lover. Turning her back on him, she smiled and heard him whisper once more, "I guess he was."
Two days in the Deep Roads was starting to mess with her mind. Ava started at tiny noises and was constantly trying to wash off her hands in the streams they found in various nooks and crannies. She nearly cut off Alistair's head when he put a hand on her arm to get her attention.
"Whoa, whoa, not a darkspawn," he breathed, cold metal against the hollow of his throat.
"Sorry," she said, eyes wild. Something shrieked in the distance; the crumbling of rock rang in he silence following. She took a deep breath. Syn whined and licked her hand, hot breath soothing her nerves.
"We should move on," Alistair said, eyeing the mabari.
"I can't believe they haven't swarmed us yet," she said, sheathing her sword. "I thought this would be a quick, clean death." He held up his hands as if she were accusing him.
"You're too good. The darkspawn can't take you down, apparently," he smiled.
"Likewise, my king," she muttered. A compliment with the strings attached. He accepted it without wincing, half proud of himself and handed her her backpack. She hadn't known he was carrying it.
Leliana splashed her with cold water from the bucket, snapping Ava from her gentle musings. She gasped and glared at the young bard before breaking out into a grin and swiping the water from her eyes. "What was that for?"
"You were drifting off, silly," Leliana smiled, rinsing her pink priest outfit in the river. "You fall asleep in the strangest of places sometimes. I didn't want you to topple into the water." Leliana was wading in the placid river that, if one looked at it just right, could reflect the moon like a mirror. Darkness had long since cloaked the trees in shadows. Flickering in the distance was the campfire, and the distinct clash of blades as Zevran and Alistair went at it again was slightly comforting. Ava ran a hand through her hair. Creeping down to the bank, she splashed some water over her face and wiped it from her eyes at once.
"You love him, don't you?" came a ghostly whisper from the winds. She looked sharply up to see Leliana's pretty face in view, kneeling wet and naked just in front of her. Leliana had no tattoos. She was not marred by her past mistakes, and it seemed to make her much less beautiful. Not at all like the Dalish. Not at all like Alistair, who carried his past mistakes in his eyes.
Glancing down at her tiny elven hands, spiraling tattoos glaring up at her, she whispered, "Yes."
"Damn it!" she screamed, bloodied, broken fingernails digging into the soft earth as Alistair threaded the needle through her flesh again. She reached clumsily for the bottle of wine and took a generous swig. Dirty tears were in her eyes. The gaping wound in her leg bled into a puddle beneath it, and Alistair fought to keep his hands from shaking. "Taken out...by a grunt! Of all things!"
Alistair grabbed her shoulder sharply, pinching the flesh there until she barred her wild, Dalish teeth at him in fury. "You are not going to die! So shut up!" he roared in a panic.
The broodmother had been horrifying—startlingly, painfully horrifying—and she wanted to cry with the truth that one day that...that thing could be her! That thought was enough to keep her from turning on them in a fit of rage and pain as the witch bent above her and tried to heal her shattered hip bone. Just as she'd slit the creature's thick, fat throat, one of the tentacles had come crashing down on her body as it collapsed after she had fallen off. The pain was unreal, and she clawed at Zevran and Alistair's wrists as they held her down while she squirmed and bit into her lip. They were all covered in the macabre creature's blood. Alistair's face was haunted by the same shadows hers were. He knew. He knew what he could become as she did. Duncan's face suddenly seemed cruel. Why would he thrust her into such an awful life with a fate worse than death. Die or become the enemy. What a choice!
"I'm sorry I was such an awful patient," she whispered later as he applied more wax to the makeshift cast he'd made for her. He'd managed to staunch the bleeding, but he had a feeling both of them weren't going to last much longer. The elf was amazingly thin and sometimes appeared to be mad when fighting. Like she couldn't tell who she was anymore. Like she couldn't figure out who the enemy was. He felt himself slipping into madness and prayed to the Maker his death would be swift. "Do you think this...this is how we will die? In pain? Haunted by the prospect until we go mad?" In a moment of fragility, she wrapped her arms around one knee—as she could only bend one—and placed her chin atop it, staring at him.
"I don't know," he answered. "I really expected our deaths to be quick. I didn't think we'd last this long at all. The dreams...--"
But she finished the thought for him, "Are unbearable now." He nodded.
They sat in a silence, her leg twinging every now in then as a mild annoyance. She watched his face as he stared at the small fire they'd dared to build. Shadows were deep under his eyes, mirroring her own no doubt. An accepted defeatist attitude seemed to surround him. They both knew they were going to die. They'd come to Orzammar accepting that. She'd hoped the second they entered the Deep Roads some unbeatable opponent would just leap from the rocks and kill them instantly. But it was much harder, especially when she had so much to live for, so much to miss.
Her mind wandered to her elven lover in the Dalish clan that was in the East last she checked. Talia was the keeper in her absence. Ava hadn't told her love that she was leaving but had simply left. The goodbye...would have been too painful, too cold. She would have reminded herself too much of Alistair, and that thought haunted her. That Talia would grow to resent her and never forgive her was too much to bear. She couldn't do what Alistair had done to her. Not without betraying herself.
"You're thinking about it, aren't you?" said Alistair from across the campfire. She started, looking just past him. To look into the eyes of anyone was to signify trust with her soul, her heart, her mind. She trusted Alistair with her body but with nothing else and avoided meeting his eyes.
"What am I thinking about?" she asked, a slightly amused tone coating that lilting accent of hers.
"That day...in the feast hall with everyone around. After I became king. You always have a crease in your brow and your eyes have this glazed look when you think about it," he accused. She noticed that he wouldn't say, 'the day that I ended our relationship.'
Tossing a bit of tinder on the flame, she smiled darkly. "You watch me too much, your Highness. One would think it was inappropriate."
"Maker! You still haven't forgiven me for that day? Truly? It's been fifteen years!" he cried, angry now. She felt a boiling rage explode in her own chest. Everything became fuzzy as adrenaline shot through her veins. She seemed no longer in control of her mouth. The cold, calm, and distant mask of a Dalish wanderer slipped, and he caught a glimpse of the savage elf that could drag shem children off into the night and sacrifice them to the gods.
"You left me that day, shem! You left me after everything we'd shared! After I let a---a filthy human have my heart, you took it and smashed it on the ground, Alistair! You were the only man I have ever loved and duty came first for you! Yes, I am still angry! Yes, I still feel the rage I felt then! And no, I have not forgiven you yet!" she shrieked in a fury, attempting to stand but wobbling on the spot. He caught her as she fell forward, on his feet in an instant and held her in his arms as angry tears glistened on her cerulean orbs. The scent of him—human, not elven and manly, not the perfume scent of Talia, mixed with blood and musk and death—had her head reeling, and she struck him with the palm of her hand on his chest, angry at herself for carrying a grudge, for hating him so after such a long time, for being so childish, and for the simple unfairness of having to die just when she was starting to feel alive.
His kiss was light, tender, teasing, and very inexperienced. She still held the thorny rose in her hand and was slightly startled when the scent of blood became known as she clutched it so tight in her tiny, tattooed fingers while he kissed her, feeling hope and joy explode in her chest after so much darkness and disappointment. He pulled away, so close, so warm, so alive, and she touched his face with her hand, feeling the alien, scratchy hair on his chin and smelling something besides the scent of the forest. He was so Ferelden and human and positively foreign. She drew him in for another kiss.
Alistair had never been able to watch her cry. His heart broke into a thousand pieces as she whimpered in his arms, 'I loved you, I loved you, you idiot!' while he held her. Finally the barriers he'd worked so hard to break down before only to watch them be built back up as he denied her that day crumbled as he felt her cool skin beneath his fingers and tilted her head back for a breathtaking kiss he'd longed for for too long.
She was so alive in his arms, hot and breathless and so wonderfully beautiful. He ran his hands over her tattoos as she bobbed up and down on his hips, moaning and throwing her head back as her silver hair caught the dull light of the lantern and shone brighter than the moon. He pulled her down for a kiss that was so chaste and loving, he felt tears on her face mixed with the sweat. Whispering an 'I love you,' in her ear, he quickly switched their positions and thrust into her warm, inviting body. She clawed at his arms and squirmed under his ministrations, arching as he drove into her.
The hard, cold ground of the deep roads was hardly the place to make love to a woman he cared so much about, but he wanted her right then and there and knew they wouldn't be alive much longer so he pushed the thought from his mind. He divested her of her armor and kissed at trail down her taut, flat stomach, over a bursting spider lily and rose, across a skull, over Howe's tattoo and Tamlen's memoir. She plunged her fingers into his hair, moaning his name as at last he slipped his tongue inside of her. The lovemaking was so bittersweet as he laced his fingers with hers that she wanted to weep all over again for the lost chance at a happy life together. She wanted to have his children and cry out his name every day, to spar with him and even suffer the indignity of being his mistress. Whatever it took to keep him in her arms, she would have, should have, done it.
She threw a tome at his head, cursing him in her own language, backing away from him father into the woods. He held up his hand and approached, trying to explain, to part on better terms. The archdemon was dead, and she knew when to leave.
"Please, Ava, just let me explain! I don't want to leave it like this," he pleaded, watching as she adjusted the pack on her shoulders and bared her teeth.
"Then you should never have instigated it, your Highness!" she spat and spun on her heel, disappearing into the woods.
"Ava!" he cried, but she disappeared into the woods as if she was a part of it simply returning. Alistair fell to the ground in despair, the King of Ferelden but completely alone.
Finally slipping his own trousers off, they both groaned when he pushed inside of her, the only sound their panting echoing off the close walls.
Talia wasn't like him. She was sweet and innocent and female and definitely not a grey warden. Talia was too young to know what love was, but she felt she was falling for her master, the Keeper. Ava welcomed her interest, and one night managed to get the girl into her bed. Afterwards, she sat by the lake simply shaking, the barest hints of betrayal flickering in her mind. Talia stumbled from the tent wearing nothing but a blanket which she slipped around Ava's shoulders.
Then, her tiny voice echoed in the silence, "Why did you call me Alistair?"
Memories mixed with the present made her mind spin in and out of a state of pleasure and consciousness. She cried out as she finally felt completion, Alistair burying himself deep within her before he was spent and muttering her name over and over like a litany. He collapsed on her bloodied chest, and she was suddenly very aware of the pain throbbing in her leg, but she ignored it and simply held him to her naked torso, listening to his heart, faster and warmer than any lover she'd had after him.
She was at Tapsters in Orzammar, waiting for him. The note was sent from a Dalish camp in the East nearly four days previously. When he got there, she was even more beautiful than he could have thought. Her elvish features had aged perfectly, like fine wine if at all. She was still the same twenty year old elf he'd met before, and he felt a cold piece of ice jab his heart when she simply stood and nodded curtly at him.
The darkspawn came in large numbers. Hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of them. She knew as they continued crawling from every crevice and crack and cranny that there was absolutely no way they would survive. They had been lucky so far, but it was giant hordes like the one she fought through now that killed off Legion members. Mere stragglers before that had wounded her seemed like the grunts in the battle during her fight with the archdemon. Her leg made her slow and awkward. Alistair couldn't watch her back all the time and when he heard her guttural cry as a hurlock shoved his blunt sword through her tiny belly, Alistair knew they were dead. He roared in fury, cutting hundreds of them down in his wake to get to her, lying there in a pool of her own blood. Even the blood seemed silver in the poor light. They were ignoring her, perhaps understanding respect for the dead or simply focusing on Alistair.
In a moment of pure glory, she tore off the stone around her neck and whispered a few words. It exploded in moments, shattering the bones of every enemy around. They were thrown into lava and against walls and most definitely against one another. But before that, the same hurlock, of great skill and definite speed, had sunk his dagger into Alistair's back so deep it nearly poked through the other side. Blood collected at the corners of his mouth. She lifted a bloodied hand and touched the side of his face. With a whispered, "I love you," she went to join her Gods, and he went to the Maker's side with smiles on their faces. No haunting nightmares plagued them there, and they were sure to see each other again in the next life.
Perhaps it was on the verge of consciousness that she remembered a particular conversation that had always stuck in her mind. It was after their lovemaking for the first time, Alistair holding her in that special way of his, as if she were glass that could shatter with too much pressure. He traced his fingers over her belly and wondered aloud, "I know this flower."
"Do you? It's part of a Dalish legend," she answered, covering his fingers with her own and flattening them against the tattoo she'd gotten after Tamlen's death. Alistair shocked her by knowing what they were.
"Spider lilies, right? But, isn't that a rather dark legend? People only get it when they're supposed to meet a sticky end, right? Or they make really bad choices?" he asked uneasily.
She hesitated, then plowed through, "Yes," she said, "it is said that spider lilies...cover the path to hell."
Rather sad and tragic, no? I was playing this game and wanted to do a death in the deep roads thing as soon as I heard that the grey wardens inevitably died in Orzammar. Also, I was pissed when Alistair dumped me after I made him king. Oh, and listen to Skin by Natalie Merchant while you're reading this and you'll cry. Marissa guarantees it.