Prompt was Zev celebrating a holiday - this is a bit off target but it was fun to write anyway.
The yellowed pages crackled under his fingers, out of place on the delicate mahogany desk, the dry scent of old paper and ink a sharp contrast to the musky perfume of the madam's office. He skimmed the cramped script outlining the day to day business of an Antivan brothel, searching for the entry he hoped would be there. There, a single line 9:02 Dragon, Summerday, male elf child named Zevran born to Zora. The Grandmaster of the Crows continued his perusal of the page, stopping again after only a few more lines 9:02 Dragon, 1 Bloomingtide, Zora dead of opium overdose, child to be raised by Melissand.
"I believe it was an accident. Candice was very young and she was the only one able to attend Zora on a busy festival day." The years has added weight to Melissand's frame, her rosy girl-next-door features had not served her for many years in the oldest profession, but her sharp intellect and keen eye had been invaluable to the brothel and, eventually, had earned her the position of Madam.
The golden head lifted at her words. "What was she like?"
"Zora was very young and her unbending Dalish pride had not earned her many friends. She loved you though, even before your birth she would sing to you. I suspect she planned to run away, to take you back to her people. It was not a suicide."
"Do you know…?" Zevran's voice trailed off, as if afraid of the question.
"You arrived seven months after she was sold to pay her husband's debts; she was pregnant when she came. Madam Estebella was furious when she found out. I wish I could tell you more; she was with us such a short time. Take the book. And Zevran, happy birthday." Genuine affection for the child she had nursed at her breast was tempered by wariness of the man he had become. Her smile reflected both as well as a bit of cold calculation for the business his patronage could bring.
He stood, lean and graceful as a cat, his features cool as if they had simply been discussing the cost of services; he paused before he reached the door, turning back to the aging Madam. "Melissand, thank you."
"My place is here." She answered his unspoken question. "This may not be the most exclusive establishment in Antiva City, but it's certainly not the worst, and I take care of my girls." She grinned. "But I would not take it amiss if you would come visit me from time to time."
"Ah, using me for my reputation already." He laughed. "Of course I'll come."
In the parlor, he gathered two of the Crows who had accompanied him; then stepping outside, took his horse from a third who had waited near the entrance. Zevran pulled the bay stallion's head sharply away from the Crow before the animal could sink his teeth into the man's arm.
"I don't know why you put up with him." Rafael said, mounting his own horse.
"The same reason I put up with you, no one else would take him."
"Careful now, we can't have the Grandmaster going soft."
Zevran snorted, "No we can't have than now, can we." But the words held a bitter echo.
The music and laughter of Summerday festival surrounded them as they rode through the crowded streets. Two squealing children nearly darted beneath the horses' feet, only to be captured at the last moment by their scowling father, a sturdy dwarf who drew them out of harm's way with an apologetic bow. The incident reminded Zevran of another dwarf father and another birthday.
Oghren passed the flagon of ale around again, pushing his friends to refill their cups. "A toast to my Felgren on his name-day."
The companions dutifully raised their cups in salute to the sturdy dwarf lad now celebrating his first birthday. Oghren had explained that the Shapers did not record a child's name in the records until they had survived to their first birthday – thus it was celebrated as their name day. On the surface, there was no Shaperate and no official records, but name-days were still celebrated as a special birthday.
Leliana laughed as Felgren chopped at his cake with the little wooden axe his father had carved for him as a birthday gift. "I always loved birthdays as a child, we always had cake and my mother would give me a small gift – usually a doll of some sort. What about you Oghren?"
"Pretty much like my lad here, sweets and a toy sword or axe, only proper for warrior caste."
"And you, Aithne?"
"The Dalish are a bit more practical, a new cloak or boots, sometimes we would have a special dessert."
Leliana had turned to Alistair then. "What about you?"
"Raised by dogs, remember. They don't keep track of the calendar much."
"Seriously Alistair, I can understand if Eamon never celebrated it, but you must have done something for your birthday."
"I don't know when it is."
Zevran had been surprised to feel a twinge of pity as the big man shifted uncomfortably next to him.
Alistair's candid reply had given Leliana pause for only a moment before she declared, "Well then, since we are all here, we'll just have to celebrate today. A toast to Alistair on his birthday." She had raised her mug and drained it in salute and all the companions followed suit.
The Orlesian bard had then turned to Zevran to continue her line of enquiry, but had stopped with the question framed on her lips at his expression. Leliana had slipped out shortly after that to see to formal arrangements for the king's birthday. Zevran had thought no more of it until he found a fine bottle of Antivan red wine in his chambers later that night, and each year after that on Alistair and Felgren's shared birthday.
Returning to the present Zevran made a mental note to tease Leliana about giving him birthday gifts on the wrong day for years.
Author's note: Celebrating a name-day for the Shaperate's official recognition of a child is my own invention and not part of official Dragon Age lore.