A/N: Many have asked if this story was going to continue. Originally I had planned to continue it but, after much thought and helpful advice, I have decided that this seems an appropriate place to end this particular part of Leonie's story. I will be starting a sequel, The Lion's Den, which takes place shortly after the events in this story. I should have the first chapter posted by tomorrow. I hope you will continue to enjoy Leonie's journey.
I want to thank everyone who has supported me, encouraged me, reviewed, lurked and bookmarked Leonie's story. I can't tell you how wonderful an experience it is to have people enjoy what I write. Special thanks to icey cold, Enaid Aderyn and Arsinoe de Blassenville for their ideas, creativity, help and support.
Comes the Gloaming
Comes the Gloaming
Stiff and sore, Leonie woke slowly. She was confused at first to find herself huddled in an overstuffed chair in Loghain's room until her mind caught up with her. Her eyes went to the bed where Loghain was sleeping, his breathing deep and restful. She clasped her hands on her lap, the need to touch him, to reassure herself that he truly was alive, powerful within her.
"No longer molesting sleeping men I see," Loghain remarked, eyes still closed.
"If I thought there was some place safe to do such, I would," she retorted. He was more colorful then any sunset she had ever seen. Some bruises were pale lemon and lilac, some were deep violet and harsh pink, while others looked inky black, edged in deep blue. They all ran together in intricate patterns.
"I believe there is a spot just above my right brow, if you've a mind," he rumbled.
Leonie leaned forward and carefully rested her lips there. "It is a foul day indeed when the great Loghain Mac Tir cannot even manage a scowl," she teased as she settled back in her chair.
"Just so," he responded and drifted back to sleep.
There was work to do, so much of it that it staggered her mind, but for the moment she stayed in the chair, watching the slow rise and fall of Loghain's chest. Soon enough she would have to find Varel and inspect the damage, console the living, plan the funeral pyres for the dead, but for this moment she was content to draw comfort from Loghain's presence.
Anders came in, as quiet as a cat, and cast a healing spell on Loghain, who didn't wake. "Wow, he looks like a painter's palette doesn't he?" he whispered.
"I would suggest my palette never had so many colors," she argued just as quietly.
"Your shoulder is still oozing, Lion. You need to come to the infirmary and let me put a poultice on it. Bites can be very nasty things."
"It is of no consequence, Anders. Save the poultices for those in greater need, yes?"
"No. Don't be a stubborn child," Loghain's voice broke in, implacable as ever. Even as tired and sore as he was, he managed to find the energy to order her about. She hid a smile.
"There are times, my dear Loghain, when the only sensible thing to do with you is beat you black and blue," she said and then snickered as he was, indeed, black and blue. And pink. And yellow and lilac and now she noticed some green as well. Anders hid his laughter no better than Leonie did.
"Madam, should you even attempt such a thing, you would be the poorer for it," Loghain threatened and then emitted a grunt of pain as he tried to sit up. Leonie came quickly to help him but then stood helplessly by as she had no idea where she could put her hands to do so.
Anders bent and examined Loghain and then cast another spell. "I suppose telling you to stay in bed for at least another two days would be like telling Lion she needs a poultice on that bite?" he remarked with a long suffering sigh.
"I suppose you'd be right, mage," Loghain agreed and Leonie saw his lips tighten with the effort of moving.
"As your commander, I shall give you a choice, Loghain. Stay in bed the rest of today and I shall go with Anders to have a poultice applied to my bite, or get up out of that bed and have me faint from blood loss," she compromised with a bright smile. "Choice is a wonderful thing, is it not?"
Loghain growled but Leonie suspected it was more for show. "I shall be down there in a minute, Anders," she said quietly and when the door was shut, she sat on the edge of the bed as carefully as she could.
"I love you, Loghain," she whispered, tears forming. "I ask that you take some time to mend, for my sake, if not for your own. Besides, the sooner you are better, the sooner I can kiss more than your brow, yes?"
Loghain reached out and placed his hand over hers. "There's no need for tears, Leonie. It's over. The Architect can't hurt you any longer. We can finally get to the business of rebuilding the Ferelden Order now," he remonstrated gently. Leonie sniffed and nodded, the tears continuing to slide down her cheeks.
"It is as you say and yet these tears do not wish to stop," she apologized, swiping at them with the backs of her hands. "He has been my enemy so long I do not know how to let it go," she explained softly. "That is an odd thing to admit," she finished sheepishly.
"And yet, I understand it better than most, don't I?" he responded, a hint of bitterness flavored by irony coloring his voice. They sat for a long time, quiet and companionable, sharing the silence between them like a rare gift.
When she was sure he was once again sleeping, Leonie left Loghain's room and made her way to the infirmary. She was staggered by the amount of people, as many helping as were wounded, and her tears stung at her eyes again but she blinked them away. The people had worked together to save the Vigil and those same people were now working together to save their friends and families.
Aura came up, giving Leonie a tight hug. "Thank you, Lion. I don't think I've ever felt this useful," she whispered and Leonie smiled as she stepped back.
"You are as much a part of our family as any Warden, Aura. Never doubt it."
Leonie unlaced her shirt and pulled it down over her shoulder. Aura carefully removed the bandage that Leonie had hastily wrapped around her wound. The bite area was red and raw, still oozing and open. Aura called Anders over.
"Maker, Leonie, you didn't tell me it actually took a bite out of you," Anders remonstrated and proceeded to pour a viscous green fluid over her wound that had Leonie hissing with pain.
"That is precisely why, Anders. It stings," Leonie bit out, gritting her teeth.
"Well yes, because, well, there isn't any skin there anymore," Anders explained with a frown. "I can pull the skin together but it's been open long enough to leave a scar."
Leonie sighed. "Add it to my list, yes? Some day the Wardens can have a contest to see who has the most scars," she replied with a dry laugh.
"Oh no fair, I don't have a mark on me," Anders complained, but with a certain amount of conceit in his voice.
"Then you must get started while there is still time, yes?"
After her shoulder was bandaged in clean cotton, she made the rounds, visiting with each of the injured and their families, thanking them for their service. Amaryllis was there, sitting next to Handrin, who was swathed in bandages but cheerful enough. Amaryllis hardly seemed like the gaunt, worn woman she had taken in. Her cheeks were fuller, her eyes less haggard.
"How are the children? Has Ethan finally lost that tooth?" Leonie asked and Amaryllis chuckled.
"Aye, that he did, young miss. You ken he had Samuel's help," the woman replied with another chuckle.
Tamra and Nathaniel were in the dining hall when she found her way there, her stomach reminding her of how little she'd eaten in the past few days. They were sitting close together, discussing their adventures and Nathaniel was holding on to Tamra's hand like it was the most precious gem in the world. Had her stomach not chosen that moment to growl, Leonie would have turned and left them to enjoy a moment of peace.
"Is it true, Leonie? You played the Grand Game against the Architect?" Tamra asked in somewhat awed tones.
"I merely let him believe something which was not entirely true," Leonie replied, filling a plate and sitting across from them.
"Lion, you and Duncan were married, so does that mean Grey Wardens are allowed to marry each other?" Nathaniel asked, his voice serious but there was a quiver in it, of excitement or nerves, Leonie couldn't determine.
"There has always been a belief that they do not allow such things. It is not forbidden, merely discouraged because no children can come of such a union," Leonie said, and for a moment, she rubbed her ring, her mind on Duncan. What would he think of her now? Would he be proud of her? She missed him with that sudden sharp longing that made her ache.
"My belief is that you must always follow your heart, yes?" she added with a gentle smile. Having something so good come out of all the carnage brought a certain joy to Leonie. Nathaniel met her eyes and nodded once, a small smile gracing his austere face.
"Then you can be the first to offer congratulations. Or condolences," he added with a proud gleam in his eyes. Tamra was blushing and laughing.
"Felicitations," Leonie said and came around the table to hug them both. Her tears, still so ready to fall, made their desire known but Leonie blinked them away again.
"The Vigil and the Wardens are at your disposal for the event," she added over her shoulder as she made her way out of the dining hall.
Leonie spent several hours with a very tired Varel, who was sporting a most impressive black eye and various cuts. They decided on which repairs were to begin right away and which could wait. She asked him to prepare the funeral pyres for the following evening and her tears came again, hot and abundant, unwilling to be blinked away.
"I am tired, forgive me, Varel," she mumbled thickly and then he surprised Leonie. He put his arm around her and let her lean against him as she cried, comforting her much as a father would. It made her tears come faster. Finally, when even she was sure she had no more tears left, she straightened up and thanked him, kissing his weathered cheek softly before leaving, her mood greatly improved.
Sigrun was in her room and when Leonie saw what she was doing, her heart dropped to her stomach. "Sigrun, where are you going?" Leonie asked, moving to the young dwarf.
"Dead woman walking, remember?" Sigrun said, thumping her chest with a grim smile. "I need to get back to the Deep Roads now."
Leonie was speechless, her mind whirling. "You cannot go, Sigrun. You have a duty to your fellow Wardens," she began but Sigrun shrugged, returning to her task.
"Do you not recall saying 'dead is dead' when you agreed to stay?" Leonie asked and the woman blushed under her tattoos.
"Well sure, Lion, but come on, you have plenty of people here now."
"Oh Sigrun, we do not have nearly enough Wardens yet. I cannot do this without your help," Leonie argued and knew it was true. Sigrun was the sparkling laughter on a rainy day, the one who unfailingly knew how to make her feel better. She was one of the few female friends Leonie had ever had. Explaining this to Sigrun made the young woman's blush deepen.
Sigrun went to her pack and began to remove items. "I was right, though. Dead is dead," she said.
"Dead women walking," Leonie agreed as she left Sigrun's room to the music of Sigrun's laughter.
Alistair was sitting in his room, staring at Duncan's portrait but seemed happy enough to see Leonie. She came and sat beside him on his bed.
"I called him my Rivaini pirate," she said softly, staring up at the smile lurking on Duncan's lips.
"He called you his sweet Lion. Whenever he said your name is was always that way."
"Do you know my ring exactly matches his earring?" Leonie asked, holding her hand out so Alistair could examine it.
"Do you still miss him?" Alistair asked hesitantly.
"Every day, as I said before. I did not say that for your benefit, Alistair, I say it because it is true. But I can think of him now, remember our time together, without that sharp knife of pain lodged in my heart."
"I still don't know that I can work with Loghain," he said and she smiled at him.
"Perhaps in time you will be able to, yes? If not, we shall find a happier home for you within the Wardens. I would hope you stay. You are a piece of Duncan's history and I rather like that," she said and then stood, walking to the door.
"You are a fine, brave warrior, Alistair. As Duncan said, you have only to believe in yourself," she added quietly before softly closing the door behind her.
Loghain was sleeping when she came back to his room. She curled up in the chair, tucking her feet under her and watched him. He was such a proud, strong man, stubborn and taciturn, given to bouts of anger and yet he had a tenderness in him, a dry wit, and as much as he frustrated her at times, she could not imagine him any other way. She smiled and, closing her eyes, fell asleep.
"Come to bed, Leonie," Loghain said some time later, his voice a low rumble. She blinked. The room was dark. Somehow she had fallen asleep for hours. She stretched and yawned.
"I do not wish to hurt you, Loghain. I am fine where I am," she assured him.
"Come to bed," he said again more firmly and she smiled in the dark. He was such an autocrat. But she stripped out of her trousers and shirt and slid into bed, trying to stay far enough away from him not to cause him pain.
"I don't imagine I'll break should you decide to move closer," he said dryly.
"Are you not afraid my snoring will be too loud should I move any closer?" she teased.
"Ah, perhaps I should reconsider," he agreed, reaching out to pull her to him with a low hum of pain.
"Good night, my dear Loghain," she murmured, dropping a kiss on his right brow.
"I believe my lips are not quite so sore now," he said and she found his lips in a long, sweet kiss. They fell asleep in each other's arms.
Leonie sat on the very edge of the battlement, legs dangling over the side as she watched the day begin to fade from golden blue to dusty grey. She watched as the men and women of the Vigil began to gather in the far field, where thirty six funeral pyres awaited. It was time for the ceremony to honor those who had died defending the Vigil. She stood slowly as the scene unfolded below her, reluctant in that moment to leave the peace she had found sitting alone at the top of the Keep.
Pulling her gray cloak loosely around her, she stood for another moment, letting the wind whisper promises of better days to come. Thirty six. She was lucky, she knew that. Had Loghain not been leading the forces at the Vigil, she suspected the death toll would be much higher. But thirty six was a large number to one who had never lost more than half a dozen at any one time.
From her vantage point, she watched as Loghain and Varel went down the steps of the Keep and made their way to the field. Loghain was moving slowly and Leonie was sure it was only his stubborn pride that demanded he move at all without assistance. She couldn't help the smile that came to her at the thought. Stubborn, stubborn man. She made her way out to stand with them, the chill wind of autumn a refreshing caress. When Varel nodded, signaling that all were in attendance, Leonie stepped forward.
"A hero is a person of distinguished courage, who puts the safety of others above themselves, who does not waver in the face of their own fear. These thirty six souls who perished are all heroes and they will be remembered by every one of us whose lives they touched.
"Comes now the Gloaming,
Creeping sweetly nigh,
Gentle winds do take my soul,
To dance upon the sky.
"Those words were written by en elf on the eve of battle. His name was Garahel and he wrote them in 5:24 Exalted, on the eve of the Battle of Ayesleigh. The next day he fell, slaying the Archdemon, Andoral, in personal combat. I can think of no more fitting words for our heroes," Leonie finished and stepped back.
She watched as the pyres were lit. Voices rose in quiet tribute, a song of sorrow and hope. She heard Nathaniel's rich baritone join the others. Her Wardens drew nearer until they formed a single unit. She looked at them and then let her eyes travel; first to Varel, to Aura, to all the families and soldiers. The tears once again formed in the corners of her eyes, a silent acknowledgement of the brave men and women whose souls were taken by the gentle wind that welcomed the twilight.
This was her home, these people gathered around her were family; the past was a memory and the future yet to be written. Loghain took her hand in his and held it tightly, lending her his strength.
And in that moment, with the sound of voices lifting to dance upon the sky, and Loghain's rough and callused hand in hers, she found a perfect moment in time and knew the peace of a full and whole heart.
A/N: As far as I know, Garahel was not, in fact, a poet warrior. The words are my own. But I can certainly imagine him saying them.