20.

"Warden Rebound"

The Warden's recovery was more difficult than Morrigan's…perhaps because she was a mage, perhaps because her potion was not the same as Flemeth's, perhaps because of the Taint. She thought maybe her potion was more abrupt, harsher than Flemeth's, and the sudden destruction of the dragon's cells might have been a shock to his system. She had taken it within hours after she drank the blood and had recovered fairly quickly, but it had been a month for him…he was more tightly bound.

Morrigan did not know the reason for his slow recovery, but she worried for him. Every night they had camped, they had kept a roaring fire burning and she had pulled him close, trying to warm him. When he opened his eyes and saw her, he would mumble something she didn't understand about 'the One that matters' before drifting back into unconsciousness. It was hours next to the flames before his body would calm enough to sleep, before the shivering would cease. And then they would break camp to continue their journey, and his discomfort would begin anew. He was still weak…in and out of consciousness when they arrived at the Keep a week later.

Mercifully, his eyes had begun to clear. He looked less like a demon now and more like Oghren after one of his binges…more bloodshot than bloody. His rage seemed to be fading as well, Morrigan thought gratefully. In his conscious moments, he seemed less angry, though still disoriented, still unsure of his identity, of his whereabouts, of the faces around him. Morrigan was the only one he seemed to relax around…that he seemed to trust, even in his confusion.

Morrigan and Atlas stayed by his side during his convalescence, sleeping when he did, watching over him, caring for his needs. This mutual concern for Dekker strengthened the strange bond between shapeshifter and animal that they already possessed. "He will be alright, Atlas, this will pass," Morrigan said softly to the mabari, giving him one of his favorite herb treats and scratching him absent-mindedly between the ears. She was not sure if she had just lied to the hound, but she wanted to believe her words so she said them out loud. Atlas whined quietly and placed his head on the Warden's bed to keep vigil.

The Warden's body recovered more quickly than his mind. The madness was gone but the damage remained. He awoke one day, some two weeks after his return, as if from a long and groggy dream that he could not recall. He saw Morrigan sitting next to him, slumped onto his bed, sleeping an exhausted sleep, her head resting on his arm.

His stirrings made her head snap up, wide awake. "Dekker?" she asked tentatively. He seemed more awake, more alert than she had yet seen him.

"Morrigan?" he asked uncertainly.

She offered him a brilliant smile. He remembered her!

Maker, she was beautiful. "I…you said your name was Morrigan?" he asked, hoping for clarification.

Morrigan's face fell. She had thought…

"You are the One…I think…I…you are…important to me?" he stammered, not knowing how to phrase his words…to find out who she was and why she was the only one he felt any connection to.

He thought she would cry then. Tears welled in her eyes, and though she struggled not to release them, he was not sure she would win the battle. "I…am sorry. I did not wish to upset you. I…cannot…my memories are…vague…confused. But…when I was serving Valruin…always I saw your face…in my mind. And I knew somehow that you mattered to me…that you were important. Is it not so?" Dekker asked her gently.

She nodded, unable to speak for the emotion rising in her.

Dekker gazed at her. Not a sister. That was not the sweeping emotion he had felt when he thought of her. "You are…my wife?" he asked tentatively.

Morrigan swallowed hard, and shook her head.

"My lover then…" he said with certainty, pinning down the feeling and the relationship at the same time.

Morrigan paused before answering, collecting herself. It was not his fault he could not remember. All that he had suffered was because he loved her, because he was willing to risk everything for her. She would not make things more difficult for him because she could not reign in her feelings. "Yes," she managed finally.

Dekker sighed with relief. So, that was one thing he knew…that this woman…the dark-haired witch that haunted his thoughts when he was with the cult…was his lover. It was why he had not been able to erase her from his mind…why he had not been able to slay her in spite of Valruin's orders and the subsequent burning. She was truly the One that mattered most. Perhaps she would help him then. "Would you…help me? To remember? I know it is much to ask, but…"

"I would be grateful if you allowed me to," she said, smiling vulnerably.

Dekker smiled back.

Atlas whined, pushing his nose up under Dekker's hand, startling him.

"Forgive me, Atlas. Dekker, this is your mabari hound since childhood. Faithful, intelligent, courageous, and an excellent fighter," Morrigan said.

Atlas barked and jumped, spinning and landing in a playful crouch. Dekker laughed. "Oho, how could I forget you?" he asked, amused at the dog's antics. Atlas issued a series of woofs, as if to chastise the Warden for doing so. Dekker grinned and patted Atlas on the head vigorously. Then he felt Morrigan take his other hand in hers, and he turned to face her, his smile softening at the look in her eyes.

"You are Dekker Cousland, Teyrn of Highever and the Arl of Amaranthine, son of Bryce and Eleanor Cousland, Commander of the Grey Wardens of Ferelden, friend and advisor to Queen Anora, and…though you hate the term…you are also called the 'Hero of Ferelden' for having rallied the entire country of Ferelden to fight together and defeat the darkspawn and for slaying the archdemon of the latest Blight," Morrigan said proudly.

Dekker was startled. "Me? I am…I did…all that? It's like I'm some kind of God or something…" he said in jest.

Morrigan looked at him with admiration, "I always thought so," she said softly.

He looked at her smiling, expecting her face to reflect the joke he was sure she was making. But what he saw was complete sincerity, a burning passion in her eyes. The smile ran away from his face and he wished desperately at that moment he could remember her…what they had felt for each other. Perhaps…in time…

It distressed her greatly that he remembered so little. She had not struggled with memory loss, but she had not begun the descent into madness as he had, and she did not bear the Taint. He seemed to know she was important to him, but he could not remember why or even how he knew her. She could only pray it would come back to him over time.


Weeks passed, and except for vague remembrances and familiarities, the Warden made little progress. Alistair had taken over command of the Grey Wardens, though he hoped it would only be temporary. Morrigan was with Dekker always, guiding him, helping him to understand his role in things, except when she sensed he needed to be alone. She had told him everything of his past as she knew it, and Alistair, Oghren, Anders, and Velanna filled in what she did not know of his history. He had spent time with friends he had known and stories were told to him of his exploits, but he only nodded graciously to be polite, not in acknowledgment of any real memory of them. Anora had come to Amaranthine especially to see him, bringing in her best physicians to consult, but they only shrugged their shoulders in bewilderment, baffled by his unique situation. Frustration was becoming second nature to the Warden and, in truth, to Morrigan as well. She feared he was becoming overwhelmed with information and not gaining cognizance from it.

Morrigan began to get discouraged. She had vowed not to pressure him, but she was not a patient woman…and this was nothing if not an exercise in patience. He did not know her, not really. The Warden seemed to have retained his skills, and basic functioning, but he couldn't remember anything else. Anything personal. He had occasional images swim through his head, misty and pale and unrevealing, but nothing concrete. But every time she found herself becoming frustrated, she reminded herself that if it was she in this position…she who could remember nothing, his patience would be infinite. And so she would draw a deep breath and start anew.

She began to think it was not enough to tell him of things. He needed visual and aural reminders of his past. She thought perhaps it was necessary to take him to those places he had been, to those places where his memories might be stirred by things that had transpired. There were many such places in his eventful life.

For several weeks they traveled in search of his memory. She took him to Highever, to his Cousland family estate, to Denerim where he slew the archdemon, to Lake Calenhad and Orzammar. He showed flashes of recognition, but nothing dramatic. Then, she thought that perhaps she had to go south. That perhaps his strongest memories were of her. And she set out for her Korcari Wilds. She took him to Ostagar, to the Tower of Ishal, and then to Flemeth's hut, long since abandoned, its destiny for dust and cobwebs fulfilled. He did not remember.

Morrigan felt she could avoid it no longer. She had not wanted to go back there…not ever. So much misery there. But, for him, it was not so. It was where he had found her again, if not as he expected. It was on that beach she had admitted her love for him. Perhaps it was a strong enough memory to bring everything back. It was worth the long trip and the unpleasant memories for her if it succeeded in its purpose. They continued south to the coast, toward the burned out manor house and the abandoned lair of Naursul.

There was nothing but charred remains, of course, when they arrived on the bluff. She took his hand and led him down the path onto the beach. The lair itself had been sealed by debris, from Flemeth's spell-induced earthquake and the fire that had destroyed the mansion. It was just as well, Morrigan thought. She had no desire to go back into the caves. Morrigan explained everything that had taken place there as they stood on the beach, but he shook his head sadly. There was no spark of recognition in his eyes. He was silent.

Morrigan turned away from him to hide her disappointment and sighed deeply. She did not know what else to do. She had taken him all over Ferelden trying to ignite his memories, but to no avail. She looked out over the Frozen Seas. The sea had given her a few moments peace when she had lived here. The gentle rolling of the waves, the repetitive, but relaxing sound of the surf crashing on the shore. It was in stark contrast to the dark, dank, musty cave just a few feet away. She had greatly valued those moments when she could step away from her high priestess duties and go out onto the beach…when she could stare out over the water, letting her mind drift away, letting her hair blow free in the unpredictable breeze. For a few brief moments she could lose herself to the truth of it, to the fact that she was a captive. Of course, she had no privacy…there was always an armed escort sent out to protect her. She was after all high priestess to Naursul. But she always tuned them out, and reveled in her imagined solitude.

Morrigan closed her eyes and lifted her chin skyward, feeling the warmth of the sun beat down on her face…different this time, without the dragon blood running through her veins, but more welcome in its heat. She reached up and let her hair down to feel the wind whip through it again.

It was as though he had been struck. Seeing her standing on the beach, looking out over the water, the wind tossing her hair about wildly…a memory came back to him of another time. It was a strong memory with a strong emotion attached to it. A genuine memory, not something he had been told about. It was farther away before, looking down on her from the bluff. She had worn a black and red robe then, but she looked the same as now…pensive…sad. He remembered being entranced by the vision of her. Maker. A surge of an old familiar feeling rushed through him. Suddenly, his head was filled with images and sounds. The memories came flooding back. The Warden grabbed his head as if to control the flow, but it was over before he knew it. And he remembered. He came up behind her, overwhelmed with love for her…with relief that it was finally over. He slid his arm around her waist, pulling her to him, clutching her tightly. "Morrigan," he whispered into her hair.

She was stunned. He had not touched her since the cave of Valruin and then, not like this. He nuzzled her neck. "Dekker?" she asked tentatively.

"I remember…everything…everything…Morrigan…I love you," he said softly, his voice thick with emotion.

Her eyes welled with relief. She turned to face him. "Dekker…" she started, searching his eyes. At long last, she saw him there…the man she knew…the man she loved…the man who loved her. She caressed his face, bringing his lips to hers.

"I've missed you," she murmured, before kissing him deeply.


They had returned to Vigil's Keep earlier in the day, greeted warmly by the Wardens…Velanna among them. And Dekker felt the need to bare his soul to Morrigan…to finally reveal the truth to her. "Morrigan…there is something…I…should've told you before…" Dekker started uneasily.

She smiled slightly. I knew he would tell me. He believes in the truth.

"I…you must know how much I love you…that I have always loved you…but…after you left, I was…one night I…" he struggled mightily to admit to his perceived wrong…to tell her in such a way that he did not hurt her any more than he had to.

His struggle pained her so that she decided to end it. It was more important to her at that moment to ease his burden than to hear his confession. She knew why. She knew the grief she had caused him. "It is alright, Dekker, I know of Velanna," she said softly.

"You…you know?" he asked, dumbfounded. She did not seem angry…or even hurt. "How…?"

"I suspected Velanna was the one and I approached her on the matter. She told me everything, though she did not actually reveal the deed to me initially. I knew it the moment you lied to me of it on the way to Cumberland…you are not skilled at deception, my love…'tis something I would avoid in future, were I you. Should you have need of such talents, I will be the one to put forth the lie. Though…I…would be grateful if there were no need of such skills between us. I…have come to believe that there should be only truth between us. I have told you lies for which I am grieved, but I wish to make amends. I will make the effort, and I would ask that you do the same. I would know this complete trust you have spoken of, and I wish for you to know it also," Morrigan said, genuinely.

The Warden dropped his head in shame. "I…should not have lied to you, but I wished to tell you when I could look into your eyes, and you would know the truth of my words…of my regret," he said.

"I do not fault you for being with someone else when I had abandoned you…but I would know if it is as Velanna said. The fact that you lied of it gives me pause. There is one thing I must know and then we will never speak of it again. Do you…have feelings for her?" Morrigan asked tentatively.

Dekker gazed at her intensely, and this time he did not hesitate. He did not select his words. "No. I love you and it has always been only you. She was there when I was most grieved by your absence and I…gave in to my need," he said solemnly.

Morrigan returned his gaze and satisfied by his answer, said, "Then it is done. I have made many mistakes and you have forgiven them all, so we will speak no more on it." Then she smiled wickedly, and added playfully, "But…lie to me again and I shall turn you into a cellar rat and let Atlas chase you for sport."

He grinned ear-to-ear, the burden he had carried these many months, lifted from his shoulders by his 'One that mattered most'.

Morrigan threw her arms about his neck and gave him a mischievous look.

"So…now that I know there is no other for you, when is this wedding to take place? Tomorrow? Perhaps the next day? You are well enough, I think. 'Tis a Binding of a different sort, but one to which I am agreeable," Morrigan said coyly.

He smiled broadly. "You want to marry me, too? So quickly? Maker, you are the most impatient woman I have ever met…both of you," he teased, referring to Flemeth's recent occupation and insistence on an immediate wedding.

"What?! You were willing to marry my …Flemeth. I see no reason you should not be equally as eager, if not more so, to marry me. Am I not more fetching than she? More desirable? Surely you can tell the difference, can you not, my Warden?" Morrigan said impishly, knowing the discomfort she would cause him.

His jaw dropped and his eyes widened. This was most definitely dangerous territory for him now. He must answer swiftly and carefully, without hesitation or contemplation. He took her in his arms. "It is said that there are none more beautiful or more desirable in all of Thedas than my Morrigan. Do you not think that I can tell a rotted weed from a rose in bloom… a rancorous imitation in Morrigan-guise from my beloved, sweet-tempered flower?" he said with syrup in his voice and a sparkle of mischief in his eyes.

Morrigan laughed, "Well done, my Warden! Your wits have truly returned, I see. But do you not think you laid the compliments on rather thickly? I have been called many things, but sweet-tempered flower does not strike my recollection. Perhaps you wish for some return benefit?"

"I can think of a few things, but I'll save that conversation for later," he answered, a brilliant smile on his face.

She looked at him seriously then, eying him for his reactions. "I...wish to be forthright with you now. If we are to be wed, do not expect that I will make my will subservient to yours. I will walk beside you, not on your leash," she declared.

"I expect no such thing. Your will is the strongest of any woman I've ever met. It is something I admire. I have no wish to harness it," Dekker promised.

She cocked her head slightly. "Good. And do not think that I will be a wife who fawns and dotes and caters to your every whim. My days of bondage are over. I will do that which you ask, if it pleases me to do so, or if I think it necessary, but I will be no man's servant. You understand, do you not?" Morrigan said matter-of-factly.

"I have no wish for you to serve me. I will ask of you, not order you, and I will respect your wishes in all things, even if we do not agree. We will be equal partners and we will find ways to work out our differences. It will be as it has always been between us. I have no desire to quell the fire in you. It is neither my intent nor my desire to change you. I love you as you are," he assured her sincerely.

Morrigan looked at him emotionally with a mix of relief and gratitude.

Dekker gave her a look then, and sighed. "So many demands…I think you are going to be a lot of work," he said smiling mischievously.

She smiled back. "I cannot say 'tis not true. I will try your patience and give you pause on more than one occasion, for I am capricious in nature, and stubborn in my ways when I believe I am right…which is always," she added playfully.

Dekker's eyebrows rose.

Morrigan laughed and put her arms around his neck. Then the smile disappeared, replaced with an earnest look. "But I will always love you completely, my Warden. I will be by your side in all things and I will do all that I can to be well worth the trouble I give you. This, I promise," she whispered emotionally, her eyes shining. Then she kissed him.

"Do you…still wish to tie yourself to me, then? Even with my 'demands'?" she asked tentatively, releasing him from her grasp.

"Do you not think that I love you hopelessly? Do you not think I would marry you yesterday if I could?" he murmured emotionally.

"Then perhaps you should ask me," Morrigan said softly.

It startled him to realize she wanted him to propose.

"That…is how it should be, is it not?" she said uncertainly, allowing the vulnerable innocent to slip through.

"That's exactly how it should be…wait!" he said and he ran to his dresser and rummaged until he found the ring he had originally picked out for her. Then he returned to her and fell to one knee. "Morrigan, I love you. Tell me you want to be bound to me as I am bound to you. I will do everything in my power to make you happy and I will love you the rest of my life," he said, his eyes searing into hers.

Morrigan found she could not speak then. She had not expected his words to be so…she was overcome.

"I…want nothing more, my Warden…than to be with you," she managed awkwardly.

Dekker smiled joyously and placed the ring on her finger. "I…picked it out for you, and tried to give this to you before…when…Flemeth hated it, and bought her own," he said clumsily. "If…you don't like it…"

Morrigan had been looking at the ring. She stopped him. "'Tis beautiful, truly. I will wear it always," she said smiling, her eyes glistening. Then she put her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately.

When she released him from her embrace, he whispered, "Tomorrow."

"That will be soon enough, I think, my Warden," she murmured into his lips and kissed him again.

THE END

Author's note: Hope you enjoyed it! If so, let me know your final thoughts about the overall story!