Marielle wasn't sure where she was getting the strength to still stand. Riordan had dropped a bomb into their midst. Only Grey Wardens could kill an Archdemon. And in doing so, a Grey Warden had to die….
And then he'd said the stupidest thing…."Get some rest."
In her room Morrigan was waiting and Mari was immediately wary of the mage. And for good reason… "Convince Allistar to lay with me…..Archdemon soul…Old God attracted to unborn child…"
Everything in her screamed no. And then the mage called her a fool and left. She didn't know how long she just stood there. It could have been seconds. It could have been hours. And then strong arms were enfolding her and she turned to bury her face against a familiar neck, felt callused hands running over her arms and back.
"I would like to give you something," he said.
No more words… Mari knew Zevran loved her even if he couldn't say the words. She had one final gift she could give the man she loved. He still didn't believe he was worthy of love, especially after Rinna. She moved to close and lock the door before returning to him. Never taking her eyes from his, she slowly began removing her armor and finally stood naked in the soft candle light. Never once did Zev's eyes leave hers.
Acting on pure adrenalin, and absolutely scared to death that he would reject her, she crossed the room to the elf and pressed her lips to his….
Zevran felt the barrier give, heard her sharp cry of pain. With an iron will gained over a lifetime, he held perfectly still.
"Surprise…?" she said in a very small voice when she could speak again.
"Why me Mari?"
Zev's head was spinning. She was a virgin… Mari was a virgin…and he…he was the most jaded, cynical man, totally undeserving… Why? Why him…and then the doubts jumped him. Why him? Why now? He replayed everything Morrigan had said. A dark ritual…convince Alistair to lay with her… No one had to die. And here she was laying with him… A Grey Warden would die tomorrow…
A virgin…a noble human. Maker she could have been Queen, but she chose him over Allistair. Why? That one word burned through his brain and he didn't even know he'd said it aloud until she reached up and touched his face, her palm cupping his cheek.
"Because I love you," she simply said, her fingers now moving to slide a lock of hair behind his ear.
"Ssshhhh," she placed a finger on his lips. "No questions, no doubts, no regrets… just make love to me Zev. Please…"
Bodies moving, sighs, gasps, and finally completion. Over and over that night they came together and shattered in the sun only to fall back to earth to begin again. In the early light of dawn Zev cradled a sleeping Mari against him and whispered into her hair… "I love you." He'd never been so scared in his life.
The Archdemon was down. Riordan had fallen attempting to slay the dragon. It was up to Mari and Allistair now.
"Allistair, Fereldon is in your hands. You must become king and heal the land."
"But I never wanted this. I never wanted to be King. I could best serve Ferelden by dying."
"You will do your duty and I will do mine. We don't always get what we want." She grabbed him in a final hug and whispered in his ear, "Promise… Take care of Zev for me, please…" and then she was running towards the great beast, her heart beating so fast she expected it to burst even before she reached the dragon.
The pain was intense, it burned and she thought her skin was melting off the bone. It was nothing though compared to the Old God entering her mind, her soul. There was anger, rage, and fury. Soon the physical pain faded away and her final thought before the Old God roared one last time was of Zev, every smile, every touch, every glance they're shared….and she said a simple prayer of thanks to the Maker for allowing her to love him, for taking away the loneliness and hate Howe had caused. "Please bless him and care for him…" and then the world shattered and she knew nothing else.
The blast knocked everyone down, the percussion dazing them all. Zevran climbed slowly to his feet and shook his head. He couldn't accept that Mari was gone. She hadn't even said good bye, hadn't even glanced at him before leaping on the beast.
Already Wynne and Alistair were bending over her body, but he, Zevran, couldn't move. His chest hurt so much…. And then he was running to her and collapsed beside her. Gently he gathered her broken body into his arms and rocked her as he could a child, tears streaming down his face unchecked.
Wynne knelt beside him and reached to take her hand. The daughter she'd never had….
A pulse…faint, thready, but there…
"Zevran," she finally had to shout to get through to him, "She'd got a pulse. Help me get this healing poison in her and then we need to get her off this roof." She uncorked a vial and held it to Zev to touch to her lips.
Between them they managed to get her down and back to the palace. Zev carried her the whole way and never left her side as Wynne and the royal healers worked throughout the night. It was early morning when the sky was turning the faintest shade of pink. Wynne, Alistair, Leliana, and Zev kept vigil. Mari's breathing had become more and more shallow and tremors now wracked her slender frame. Zevran was where he'd been all night, sitting beside her, her hands in his.
He'd never been a prayful man although he knew about the Maker, the Chantry, Andraste. His life had been one of self only. If there was a maker he'd never lifted a finger to help him, but now he prayed. Maker give him back his love… take him instead. She was a good person, he was worthless. Save her, take him instead…
"Zevran Arainai," a strange voice whispered on the wind, soft but heard by everyone in the room.
Lelianna was the first to gasp as a light surrounded Mari and Zev. It grew in brightness until the room was as bright as the noon day sun. Inside the light was a presence that said again, "Zevran Arainai."
"Maker's breath," Alistair gasped as a form took shape in the light.
Zevran grasped Mari's hand tighter, refused to take his eyes from her. The light grew more intense, although there was no heat. The form took shape and a hand was laid on his shoulder.
"She is staying in this world because of you. She cannot leave until you release her. Tell her you don't love her and she will be finished here and free to cross into the Fade."
When he refused to respond, the form said, "I have seen your heart Zevran. You question your heart. You question her love. Just tell her…tell her her love means nothing to you and her suffering will end and she will cross into the Fade…"
"NO!" he shouted, every muscle in his body tense.
"Why? If you question, then you don't really love her…you"
"But I do. I do love her," he said on a broken sob.
"Do you love her enough to take her place Zevran Arainai?"
"Yes. Take me instead..I cannot go on without her…"
"You would willingly give you life so that she may live?"
The light grew even brighter until it was blinding and then the form solidified.
Lelianna gasped and fell to her knees, followed closely by Wynne and a stunned Alistair. Standing beside Mari's bed with her hand on Zev's shoulder was Andraste. "Peace of the maker be with you, Zevran Arainai. You have proven yourself worthy of her."