This idea came about due to the Cheeky Monkeys Valentine's Day challenge. However, it is much darker than what they intended, with absolutely no fluffiness.

Darkness Paths

From the darkness, he had seen her, watched as she traversed the Deep Roads, entering into a darkness, a depth, she should never have known.

And so he followed, watching. At times, he even stopped an attack upon her party, but could not always do so. He saw her horror at the Broodmother, watched as she confronted the insane dwarven woman, applauded as she choose to never enslave a soul again into the unnatural forms of the golems. From his place, unseen, so deep into the shadows they could not sense him, he watched, stabbing out whenever possible, inflicting damage to the crazed Paragon, to slip once more into the deep shadows of the Deep Roads. Only there could he be safe, kept from any watchful eyes. And watch her.

When she and her party had returned to Orzammar, he knew he could not enter the grand city, and so slipped back into the Roads, using the egresses to the surface only his kind knew of. Not that the dwarves would ever seal them off. The more of the tainted ones, the darkspawn that rose to the surface, the better, in their opinion.

The sunlight burned his eyes, and he ducked, seeking out the not so deep shadows of the surface. He could feel her, singing in his veins, and it pulled at him, tugging him along in her wake.

The other warden, the tall one, he could feel in his veins, too. But it was her, her that called to him, that coaxed him along to seek the terrible surface, to face the onslaught of sunlight and open sky. It tormented at him, yet he continued.

They had emerged at different areas upon the surface, yet he managed to find her. They had camped for the eve, the blessed darkness marred only by the pin points of starlight above. A frown crossed his ragged face as he glanced up, shielding his eyes even from the dim light cast by the stars.

He approached, stealthy, unseen, unfelt. She sat, by the fire. The taller warden sitting next to her, speaking to her in low tones. On the opposite side of the fire sat an elven man, older than she, watching as the two wardens spoke. He could tell that both men cared for her, and that brought him some hope. But, also a sense of jealousy. She was, after all, his. He could feel her in his veins, the taint within her blood calling to him.

As he moved, seeking deeper into the shadows, the camp erupted into a surge of movement and action. Shrieks burst from the nether, erupting from the shadows, harrying the group, seeking to harm her! He shrieked out in outrage. She was his! Without a thought, he, too, erupted from the shadows, sweeping out with his own claws, killing a darkspawn that had threatened her. She did not notice as he slunk back into the shadows as she dashed off to face another foe.

Soon, all the shrieks were dead, and she stood, trembling, in the camp's center. Her fellow warden came up behind her, advising they were no longer safe in their chosen campsite. With a nod of her head, she ordered that camp be broken down. They would travel through the night, seeking shelter the following day.

She was leaving, yet again. He could not allow it. Not now. Not with her so close. He must have made a noise, despite trying to maintain his silence. Her fair head lifted, her sharp eyes seeking out the darkness. A frown marred her beautiful face, and her mouth opened slightly as she spotted him. With a cry of despair, he raced from her, shrieking out, "No! No! No!" as he went. She gave out her own cry, his name, and followed, the other warden close behind her, the elven man taking up the pursuit.

He stumbled, slumping to the ground. He could feel her hands upon him, grasping his shoulders, trying to turn him about. He struggles, knowing that he is too tainted, too far gone. He is not him any longer. His determination to reclaim her is waning. She is tainted, but she is strong, different, beautiful. A dark light fighting off a deeper darkness. He finds himself thrusting her away, forcibly, stumbling to his feet. He spins about, facing her, hearing her gasp as she takes in his appearance.

"Tamlen?" she says his name again, this time an anguished whisper, not the desperate cry it had been before. A hand goes to her mouth, a gesture he knows too well. Tears spring to her eyes, and he berates himself for giving her pain.

"Lethallan," he whispers back, trying to put every ounce of how he feels for her into that one word. But his voice is ragged, hoarse, his throat no longer used to making coherent sounds. It is difficult for him, but he does it. Has to do it. For her. For what they could have been had he not been so foolish all those months before.

If he had listened to her and left the mirror be.

Now, they are changed. Their paths have led them from their clan. He stands before the woman he had loved his entire life, changed, little more than a darkspawn tainted ghoul.

She stands before him, flanked by the tall warden - the shem. He notices that the other elf has slipped into the shadows. Does he not know that those are his home? His realm? If he hopes to take him by surprise, he is wrong.

"Tamlen," she whispers again, reaching out a hand to touch him. He jerks away, shaking his head.

"No, no!" he screeches, his hands rising to grasp his now-bald head. He is no longer Tamlen! Tamlen was beautiful, blue eyes, blond hair, healthy…hers. He is no longer Tamlen. He follows the song, the one that calls to him even more persistently than the call of the taint in her veins.

"Please," she beseeches as she closes the distance between them, only to have Tamlen reopen that distance. "I can help you," she glances back to her companions, who are both watching the ghoul in their midst, weapons ready. "We…we can help you." She looks back to her former clan mate. Her best friend. "We can put you through the joining…"

But he shakes his head, watching as the shem warden takes a step to the side, moving himself closer toward the ghoulish elf. He hears the other elf as he slips behind him.

Relaxing, Tamlen again shakes his head. "No, Lethallan, there is no helping me," his voice is a whisper, hoarse, tortured. His face ravaged with the Blight disease, yet from his eyes, tired, worn, red, he tries to let her see into his soul. That part of him that is still Tamlen, that part that will seek the Beyond, to pass through to where their ancestors await him.

For, he is certain he is to die. If her friends have any say of it, he will die.

He screeches, clutching at his head, as the song - that beautiful, deadly, callous song - again streaks through his head. He begs, pleads for her to release him, the song being too strong to ignore. She hesitates, shaking her head, but stepping closer to him. He hisses out, lashes with his claws, drawing a bloody path along her forearm. She clutches the bloody appendage to her, crying out for him to stop, but he does not.

He lunges forward, his claws raised, seeking to rend, to tear, at the very thing he loves most in this world.

As the blade - the shem's sword - sweeps out, he knows that he is not the only one who loves the woman now crying in their midst. Pain, blissful and welcoming, erupts in his chest, throughout his body, as the sword plunges deeply into him. She cries out, pushing the shem away, catching Tamlen as he falls, so slowly, to the ground. She is chanting his name, over and over again, and he finds the strength somewhere within in him to raise a hand, caressing her tear stained cheek tenderly.

"I have always loved you, emma lath," he whispers, watching as her eyes widened. A small smile crosses his ravaged face, and his eyes slowly close.

He can leave her, now. She is well watched over, by the shem and the elf. She never knew, never realized how he felt for her. Always, they had been playmates, clan mates…never lovers, never anything more than friends.

But he had always loved her.

He feels himself drift away, the cool drops of her tears upon his face, and then darkness descends, and takes hold of him.