Laresa kicked the Hurlock off her blade in time to see Alistair run towards the demon, his sword upraised, she screamed for him to stop knowing full well that he wouldn't. As he plunged the sword into the Archdemon's head she sank to her knees and a keening wail escaped her mouth. Her Alistair, her love, teeth gritting as he writhed in agony.
Zevran saw that she had stopped fighting all together, her daggers simply laid on the ground on either side of her as her screech got louder and louder. He rushed to her side and prevented any Darkspawn from harming her, not noticing the light that had started coming from the Archdemon's wound.
They were suddenly knocked backwards and everything went black.
She woke up with Zevran kneeling next to her screaming for Wynne. She knew something was very wrong, she couldn't seem to move and she felt very cold. She hoped that perhaps she would die after all, and really that would be for the best.
Wynne rushed over and asked her to try to sit up. She flicked her eyes to Wynne but didn't move. Zevran reached out to help her sit up, Wynne snapped at him. "Don't move her, let me check her injuries." A cool blue light surrounded Laresa and Wynne closed her eyes. She sighed heavily "She's broken her back, we can't move her yet."
Wynne checked Laresa's other wounds. There was a large pool of blood next to her, Wynne finally spotted a dark patch on the young elf's armor. "Zevran, carefully cut this part of her armor away."
Zevran with uncharacteristically shaky hands cut the leather away then hissed as he saw the wound. He moved out of the way looking plaintively at Wynne. Wynne leaned forward and saw the shard of metal in the base of Laresa's neck, the blood was flowing from the wound at an alarming rate.
Laresa looked up at Zevran and he had gone very pale, she could tell just from his face how badly she was injured. She rasped to him. "Let me go, just let me go." A strangled sob escaped her followed by a gasp of pain. "This is how it should be; I can't do it without him."
Tears welled up in her eyes. "Stop talking querida." Zevran's voice sounded strained; Laresa closed her eyes and let the tears fall. Zevran took her hand and nodded to Wynne.
Wynne reached forward and pulled the metal shard from Laresa's neck before sending the cool healing over her. Laresa tried to scream for Wynne to stop but it came out in a hoarse whisper and the mage ignored her. Before Laresa could try again all turned black again.
She awoke in Zevran's arms as he carried her down a set of stairs. Despair flashed in her eyes as she realized that they have kept her alive. She shot a pained and angry look at Zevran. "I hate you." She said with a shaky breath, then again louder. "I hate you."
Zevran nodded, not looking at her "I know, I know querida." She slipped back into unconsciousness as they left Fort Drakon and Zevran wondered if she would ever truly heal.
She awoke in a bed and looked around; she realized she was in her guest bedroom back at Redcliffe. She closed her eyes and tried to will herself into Death's embrace. She would even have been happy with sleep. There the pain would have only been agony instead of the soul crushing weight tearing at her heart. In sleep she could have searched the fade for Alistair.
She was still struggling to return to sleep when Zev walked into the room carrying a tray. He placed it on the bedside table and settled on the edge of the bed. "You have to eat." He stated plainly. Laresa didn't respond. Zev sighed heavily "I know you're awake." again, no response. He reached out and pulled her upright, prepared to force her to eat if necessary. It had been days since the last time she had eaten anything.
Laresa let out an angry scream and shoved hard against Zevran's chest trying to get free of him. She couldn't even scream any words. She screamed hysterically and continued trying to push him away and pull out of his grasp. When he didn't release her she started hitting him and even scratched him.
Zevran held her as she raged and screamed, patiently waiting. He would have bruises and scrapes to tend to, but he hoped she would at least work through some of her pain. Finally, she leaned against him while huge sobs wracked her body. Zevran, flustered, just held her not knowing what else to do. Her sobs trailed off to quiet weeping and she hung limply in his arms.
Once she had calmed Zevran gently told her again that she must eat. She grudgingly ate the soup but would not look Zevran in the eye. He made her finish the food and take several sips of weak wine before he took the tray and headed for the door.
"Yes, Querida?" Zevran was hopeful, at least she was speaking.
"I still hate you."
Zev smiled weakly. "That's alright, hate me if you have to, just get better." There was no response, he sighed again and left closing and locking the door behind him.
She had started to lay down when she noticed a sealed letter. She picked it up and saw the Warden insignia pressed into the wax. Laresa gave an angry scream and threw the letter away from her without opening it.
She didn't care about her duty to the Grey Wardens. She had gathered an army and led the fight against the Archdemon, ending the Blight. She had faced the Archdemon, she did her duty, she owed the Wardens nothing. The Darkspawn had taken everyone she had ever truly cared for away from her. They took her best friend Tamlen from her, took her clan from her, took her first and only love from her.
And the Wardens were no better. They took years of her life away. Because of them she would never bear children. All she had ahead of her was years of nightmares and a gruesome death at the end. Let others come to pick up the pieces; she was tired and alone and had enough of the damn Wardens.
Zevran was there, day after day making sure she ate and gauging her recovery. At first he stayed with her all day. Everyday he would pick up the letter from the Wardens off the floor and place it on the bedside table. Everyday he made sure she ate and drank.
He had tried repeatedly to get her to accompany him on walks through the corridors but she refused to leave her room and seldom left the bed itself. She was angry at Zevran for making her live and was not kind. She did not know why he stayed; she wanted him and everyone else to just leave her alone. Eventually, he came for a few hours a couple times a day but left her to her own devices otherwise.
They were keeping her in her room, 'for her own good'. She wanted to get away from them all and so she waited patiently for Zevran to make a mistake. She even stopped fighting him when he came to feed her, or make her take a bath.
Weeks had gone by and Zevran was always careful and vigilant. Laresa grew tired of waiting and decided on another option. There was a guard that roamed the halls; she could hear him walk by her room. She grabbed the stone statuette of Andraste off the mantle above the fire. She stood behind the door and screamed when she heard his steps in the hall.
The guard rushed to the door, he unlocked it and quickly moved inside. "My lady?" he started to scan the room looking for her. Laresa hit him in the head with the statuette. The guard stumbled but did not go down. He turned and looked at her blearily. Laresa yanked his helmet off and tried again.
This time the statuette broke and the guard fell to the floor. She pushed the door shut and started yanking the guard's armor off. It was going to be a bit big but she was going to have to make it work. She pulled the armor on and looked at the helmet, there was a bit of a dent but it was serviceable. She put the helmet on, making sure her hair was not sticking out anywhere.
Laresa grabbed the guards keys and headed out the door. The armor clanked loudly and she had to make odd shuffling steps. She was glad she didn't run into anyone on her way down to the first floor. She headed to the basement entrance as soon as she could. When she heard someone coming she would stop walking and nod her head in greeting.
No one stopped to talk to her and she was able to get into the basement. She used the secret tunnel to make her escape. She left the armor on in case someone was near the windmill when she came out. Laresa's luck held out and there was no one near the Windmill. She pulled the ill fitting armor off and ran out of Redcliffe as fast as she could.
She kept running, before getting too far south she started coming across blighted pieces of land. She wondered vaguely how bad it would be at Flemeth's hut. She was sure it was empty, they had killed Flemeth and Morrigan had left before the final fight. She stopped a few times to drink from clear streams on the way but did not bother to look for food.
She found the hut and was amazed that there seemed to be no blighted land anywhere near the hut. Laresa's eyes flicked to the hill where they had slain Flemeth. She was glad that she had had Wynne incinerate the body. She stumbled into the small one room hut and passed out on the cot.
Laresa awoke; her tongue felt cracked and sore. She needed to find water. She looked around the cabin and found a small sharp knife and a water skin. She took both with her and left the hut. After a few minutes she heard a stream.
Once the water skin was filled and she had slaked her thirst directly from the stream she headed back to the cabin. She climbed back into bed the knife and water skin clutched in her hands and fell asleep yet again. Her search in the Fade had become frantic, she called Alistair's name. She ran as far as she could trying to find him.
She awoke sobbing again. She couldn't understand why she couldn't find Alistair. She was confused because she often felt him around her, felt him, or something that felt like him watching her. She understood that killing the Archdemon had killed Alistair, but why could she not find him in the Fade. She spent most of the first three day searching the Fade.
On the third day she had found him. He was sitting in a room that looked like the room they had shared in Redcliffe. Laresa sobbed happy tears having finally found him. She crawled into the bed he was sitting on and clutched him. He stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. "It's okay luv. I am here now; I was looking for you but couldn't find you."
Laresa nodded, she understood but did not speak. She laid down with her head in his lap and sighed as he stroked her hair and rubbed her back gently. She was comfortable and relaxed for the first time since before the Landsmeet.
After a while she moved back and pulled Alistair down to lay down next to her. Alistair gave a short chuckle. "I miss you too." He whispered.
"I can't do this, I don't want to. I want to stay here with you."
"Not yet, but soon." He said cryptically.
Laresa enjoyed cuddling with him so much that the words didn't sink in at first. "Wait, how soon?" Her heart sped up, she wanted so very much to stay with him. She ran her hands over as much skin as she could find. She looked into his eyes, and then blinked a few times in surprise before she jerked away from him.
"Laresa, what's the matter?"
Laresa felt her world slant hard to the left. She thought she was going to be sick. She slid backwards and jumped off the bed. She stared, pain gripping her again. Her chest felt like it was being squeezed in a vice. This wasn't Alistair. The eyes were wrong. There were no green flecks in his light hazel eyes.
All her time franticly searching for Alistair had drawn the attention of a demon, a desire demon if she was to guess. She looked at the demon. "I know you're not him. I know you're a demon."
The demon wearing Alistair's face shook its head as it slid back into its normal form. "You're never going to find him. I can help you."
"Why? I'm no mage."
"Your desire to find him is intoxicating; needy and sharp, so powerful. What does it matter the reason. You want to find and to be with him. I am offering to help you do that."
Laresa gave a sharp bark of laughter. "If I find Alistair with a demon's help, he would never forgive me. He wouldn't want me anymore. So, no I am sorry, I cannot."
The demon huffed. "Then you're useless to me." It flicked its wrist and Laresa found herself wide awake all of a sudden. If she had had anymore tears she would have cried. She sat on the bed rocking herself throughout the night.
She sat on the bed hugging her knees to her chest. She was cold and her mouth was dry. She was still clutching the small knife she had found. Her hand was numb from the force of her grip. She slowly forced herself to relax. She climbed out of the bed and took a deep pull off the water skin. She would need to get more today.
Laresa went almost a week without a decent sleep. Every time she closed her eyes the demon was there waiting. She was convinced Laresa would change her mind. When Laresa refused she was expelled from the Fade unable to fall back to sleep.
Sitting on the floor in a corner of the hut she had drawn her knees to her chest. She had removed her blood stained leathers, they lay piled in the far corner. She was getting much weaker, but made it to the stream for water when she needed it. Night after night had taken its toll on her. Her pain over missing Alistair was as bright as ever. She had come to question her choice of refusing demons. Refusing help was what had caused her all this pain to begin with.
If only she had accepted Morrigan's offer, she could be curled around Alistair in a warm bed right now. She hadn't even given him a chance to decide for himself. She had not told him there was another option. She didn't deserve him if she wasn't even willing to let him make his own decision. She had become just like all those people she had cursed for trying to run Alistair's life. No wonder she could not find him in the Fade, if he was even there to find.
Laresa did not care if she lived or died, but was not willing to put others in danger because of her weakness. She would not take the demons offer. She would not give her body over to the demon, even in exchange for Alistair.
Thinking about Alistair brought tightness to her chest, she pressed against the wall still huddled in the corner. She had long since become too dehydrated to shed tears. It was just as well. She needed a way to protect herself from the demon. As the days stretched out she felt her resolve faltering.
She looked to her hand to see the knife still in her hand. She vaguely wondered if she had let go of it since she found it. She sliced the symbol for strength, endurance and defense into her thigh. Laresa suddenly felt a bit lightheaded but the pain that she thought had set up permanent residence in her chest had calmed to a dull roar.
A choked and dry sob tried to escape, but was too weak, it sounded more like a cough. She quickly started carving the figure into her thighs over and over until there was a band at the top of each of her thighs. The symbol was simple, a straight vertical line with a smaller line decending from the top of the line at an angle to the right and a line same as the lane ascending from the bottom at an angle to the left.
The symbols barely bled. Laresa knew it was probably a bad sign but couldn't bring herself to care. Grateful that the pain in her chest was waning and comforted by the symbols she drifted into a deep and dreamless sleep, knife still clutched in her hand. The blade was her deliverance.
When she was awake she spent the time fighting against herself. She felt like a coward for not being able to simply end her life. And the next moment she felt like a coward for not wanting to live. So she struggled through the purgatory of her mind.
She waded into her anger, the waves crashed over her, each stronger than the last. She was angry with Alistair for making her love him. She hated herself for not taking Morrigan up on her offer. She cursed her pride, that she had refused to share Alistair for even one night.
She seethed in rage at Alistair for leaving her, for taking her last reason to live away. More and more frequently she hated Wynne and Zev for not letting her die on top of Fort Drakon with Alistair. She was angry that they had cremated Alistair in Redcliffe and Laresa had missed it, she had slept right through her lover's funeral.
Zevran stalked through the swamps. He was wet, cold and exhausted. He hadn't been sleeping well for almost two weeks. At first he had thought the dreams of Alistair were just his guilty conscious. He had let Laresa sneak away after all. He had promised Alistair he would look after her, and in less than a month he had failed.
So, dreams born out of guilt right? He began to doubt it when Alistair kept telling him to go to Flemeth's old hut. When Alistair had told him how to get there, he realized it wasn't a dream. Zevran wasn't with them when they had met Flemeth. He also had not gone back with them to slay her. How would he know where it was?
As Alistair became more frantic and demanding Zevran slept less and less. He pushed himself to keep going until he was too exhausted to walk. He had to get to her. She wasn't dead yet but…Alistair made it seem like it was a close thing.
He was close, he should get there today. He wasn't sure what exactly he would find, Alistair was frantic and vague. He would have to deal with whatever it was when he got there. As dusk settled in the sky he saw the shape of a roof. He sped up trying to be careful of his footing but wanting to get there as soon as possible.
He opened the door and scanned the small room. He let out a small gasp then turned around and closed the door behind him. He took a few deep breaths trying to compose himself before re-entering the hut. His mind tried to argue about what it had seen; he turned and walked back in.
She was still there, crouched in the corner. She didn't seem to even notice him. Her hair hung in limp dirty strands. In her hand was clutched a small knife. On the floor at her feet was a water skin. But she, she looked terrible.
He wasn't sure what was worse, all the weight she had lost, or her skin. Her skin clung limply to her, evidence of starvation. It looked pale and ashen. Well it did wherever you could see the skin color. Blood was smeared across most of her skin. And under the blood there were cuts.
She had carved some sort of symbols all over her body. Some were older, some were newer, but they were everywhere. She had even carved them on her face. Her eyes were glazed and a little cloudy, showing signs of terrible dehydration.
She was sitting on the floor in her smalls. Her knees pulled to her chest, teeth chattering. It wasn't particularly cold even. Her bra band was missing and the strange symbols were branded across her chest as well as the rest of the skin he could see.
He shuddered. Why would she do this? He understood if she wanted to die, but this was so much worse. She had starved herself; it appeared she had been drinking some, but not nearly enough. And her skin, he shuddered again, it was sliced everywhere.
Her lips were moving and he slowly moved forward, wary of the knife clutched in a death grip in her hand. Slowly he advanced on her until he could hear her. "My fault…My fault…My fault…My fault." Zevran winced. She was blaming herself, probably for Alistair's death, but he wasn't sure why.
Although, people who become mad do not always make sense. And if she was anything right now, it was clearly mad. He sat on the bed watching her, not sure what to do. It was awful seeing her like this. Seeing her in so much pain, he wasn't sure how to reach her.
He determined he had to get the knife away from her before she could hurt herself anymore. He walked slowly to her and crouched in front of her. She didn't seem to notice. He spoke to her. "Querida, I am going to take this knife now. You don't need it anymore." She didn't respond.
He reached out to take the knife and she screamed. It was feral sounding, rasping from a throat that was surely sore and abused. He had never heard anything so terrible in his life. Not even the screams of the dying sounded like that.
As if she had heard his thoughts she stopped screaming and turned to look at him, or through him, he couldn't tell. "Not dead, worse, so much worse." And then she was back to mumbling "My fault" over and over again. She had started rocking back and forth.
He tried talking to her for the rest of the night but she never looked at him again. He tried approaching her a few times only to have that awful scream come keening out of her. That sound broke his heart. He came to realize that he knew that sound, even though he had never made it out loud. His mind flashed to Rinna, indeed he knew that sound after all. It held guilt and pain and self loathing. It held the desire to die.
When Zevran felt tears prick his eyes at the sound of that scream he pushed them away, pushed the feelings down. She had saved him from that pain. Now he must find a way to save her. He must find a way to lead her back to herself.
He waited until day break and eased the water skin away from her. She didn't scream or make a move for it, he sighed in relief. He went outside and followed the sounds of water until he found the nearby stream.
He refilled the water skin and pulled a vial from a hidden pocket. He pulled out the cork and let a few drops of the dark liquid fall into the water skin. He would have to drug her. It was the only way he could think of to safely subdue her as quickly as possible.
She would not live much longer without help.
He walked back to the hut. He placed the water skin near her and sat back down on the bed to wait. He reclined back and watched her, waiting for her to drink the water and drift off to sleep. She still seemed disinclined to acknowledge him. Which was admittedly better than attacking him as he had originally feared. Hours passed slowly, and Zevran stayed still waiting while her blood trickled from the newest slices.
When she picked up the water skin and took a deep pull from it, it was all he could do to hold himself still and wait. He need to get her warm, her skin had taken on a bluish hint probably as much from blood loss as the cold. And the wounds needed to be tended, some were clearly already infected. He had no idea how to get her to eat.
She fought the drug the whole way, clinging desperately to consciousness. When she was finally completely out he took the knife out of her hand before picking her up and setting her on the bed. He pulled poultices from his pack and quickly went to work treating her wounds. He bandaged as much as was practical and covered her with the blanket.
He started a fire with the wood still piled inside the small hut. Once it was going he took some dry meat and herbs and started on a broth, hoping she would at least eat that when she woke. He hid the knife along with his daggers. He trekked out to the stream to quickly fill his own water skin. Zevran looked around the hut to see what else they might need while they were there. Laresa was obviously in no condition to travel and he had no idea how long it would be before she could.
Zevran watched her sleep for a few hours, making sure she was sleeping soundly. He eased himself to the floor and leaned against the wall. He fell into a light doze waiting for her to rouse. It was nearly a day later she woke up looking a bit startled at her bandages and seeming to notice Zevran for the first time.
She watched him warily as he rose from the floor and came to sit next to her on the bed. He reached slowly for the bandage on one thigh. When she didn't flinch or scream he was encouraged. He pulled the bandage off and carefully and placed it aside to be cleaned. The skin looked better but still red and angry. He removed the rest of the bandages and used clean water to clean the crust from her skin.
Laresa was quiet and sat patiently while he tended her ravaged skin. Zevran piled the bandages to take to the stream to clean later. He would boil them so they could reuse them if necessary. He reapplied the poultices and layered on fresh bandages.
Once he was finished bandaging her back up he went to the fire and got a cup of reheated broth for Laresa. She took it without a fight, taking small sips. Once she finished the broth she curled back up on the bed and dozed back off.
After he had been taking care of Laresa for a week, only napping occasionally, Zevran was exhausted. Laresa's health hadn't made much progress and he worried again how long they would be there. Laresa never ate more than the broth and she never spoke. Her skin healed slowly and her infection was slow to pass.
Zevran curled on the edge of the bed watching Laresa fall asleep again. He felt like he was continually yawning and his exhaustion soon overtook him. He fell asleep curled around Laresa hoping any movement would wake him up.
Zevran walked along the white sand beach as the serf pounded the shore. He shuddered as he felt the breeze kiss his skin. It had been over a year since he had felt truly warm. He saw a figure walking towards him and realized he must be in the Fade.
Alistair strolled up to him nodding before he looked around. "I see why you miss it so much, a bit too warm, but beautiful."
"Why are you here, friend?" Zev felt sick to his stomach.
Alistair looked past Zevran's shoulder and Zevran tensed and was back in the hut lying on the bed. Laresa was on the floor, back in the same corner she had been crouched in when he had shown up. There was a flask clutched in her hand.
"No!" Zevran jumped off the bed and picked Laresa up carrying her to the stream. He submerged her in the cool water trying to wake her up. He held her afloat in the water until he was shivering from the cold.
Teeth chattering and heart heavy he pulled her from the water and sunk down on the shore. He had failed them all. His love truly was a poison. He had let Talisen kill Rinna, and he had let both of his beautiful Wardens die.
He took a deep breath before picking Laresa up and carrying her back to the hut. He would wrap her in the blankets and take her back to Redcliffe. They could cremate her there and mourn her properly. He took a deep shuddering breath before picking Laresa up and carrying her back to the hut. He felt the faded scar on his heart ripping open as he set her on the cot. Pain pricked behind his eyes as he started wrapping her in the blankets.
He built a litter, tasting bitter ashes in his mouth as he placed her on it. He would bring her back to Redcliffe, they could cremate her there and mourn her properly. He could spread her ashes over Lake Calenhad as he had done for Alistair. He hoped that in death his sweet Wardens could find the happiness that life had denied them.
As he dragged the litter back towards Redcliffe he decided he would return to Antiva. There was nothing left in Ferelden for him anymore. Besides, there was a certain Crow Master who needed to become intimately acquainted with The Rose's Thorn.