Update 2015-05-17: The new story "As the witch joined the Game" is now starting; first chapter released today (s/11254219/1/As-the-Witch-joined-the-Game).
Versión espanola: s/10754527/1/Una-Excepción-A-Las-Reglas
Update 2014-10-28: The sequel "Speak the words" is completed and online (s/9232142/1/Speak-the-words).
A word from the author: Okay, this is my first fanfic. No idea if it is any good at all, but I had the idea in my head for quite some time and thought that the best way to get it out was by actually writing it down. Well, and after I had done THAT, I thought putting it online can't do much harm.
The whole thing contains implications of sex and violence – well, and some actual violence, too (You know: Morrigan being in it and all…). None-explicit stuff, though. Still, there is the matter of the rather unsettling implications going along with Leliana's past (you know what I mean), so be sure to check your age before reading it anyway.
Oh, and it IS a love-story (and by that I mean actual romance, not a sex-story) of Morrigan and Leliana, so if you don't like this idea at all, do yourself a huge favor and don't read this one – or at least don't say that I didn't warn you…
DISCLAIMER: You know the drill. Most of the cool stuff in this story – persons, places, events – is under the copyright of Bioware (so I just borrowed it for this). Some characters are of my creation – you can easily distinguish them from those mentioned before by their most important features of having virtually no impact to the actual story – and (by a strange coincidence) always being male.
So, basically: every entity of significance is courtesy of Bioware, which is why I declare that this is just some imaginary story, with which I do not make any profit whatsoever (Hell, I don't even know if it is any good) and which is set in a universe created by the DA-developers.
"Enter: the Witch"
The sweat constantly dripping in her eyes wasn't the most annoying part of this. True, she wished she would be able to wipe it away every now and then, but that wasn't the problem. It wasn't even the way her back was aching and how she could feel her every muscle at work. Though, truth be told, a Witch of the Wilds shouldn't be carrying some heavy load around for hours – even less a person.
No, the most unnerving thing about the whole situation was that everytime when Morrigan looked down into that face of the woman she was carrying, she was unable to find any rational explanation for what she was doing here.
Doesn't make sense. None at all.
A look at the girl's wound didn't show much blood dripping out. Well, but it wasn't the wound that was killing her now, was it?
Still: No reason for all of this. Where was the rationality? Why not just let her die here and now?
Morrigan gave a sigh. If rationality fails, just follow your instinct for the time being. It usual takes you home. She straightened up and steadied her pace. Better not think about it too much and just go on. Before she stops breathing again.
Because that – as well – was really annoying.
The Korcari Wilds seemed to stretch out endlessly, even from this high perspective. No end in sight whatsoever. In the afternoon light they didn't even look that frightening to Tarejian. Not that he had any intentions of going in, though. Not if it could be avoided. Dreamily, his eyes wandered over the vast forest, the little road leading to the keep, the forest again…and then he started back from the beginning. Just like he had done countless times before during the past few hours. Duty on the watchtower was just as dull as that.
But whom was he kidding? Tarejian liked dull. And at least out here he would avoid getting into some real battle. Getheir's Keep had been isolated even from a Ferelden point of view. The rest of the world didn't seem to care about the men here.
Well, they had cared when Loghain's men had come to recruit soldiers for King Cailan's army before Ostagar. And they had found enough volunteers here who had just waited for an opportunity to escape from the monotony of Getheir's Keep. Tarejian had not been one of them. He had been too young back then – his luck. None of those brave volunteers ever returned. And the world had once again forgotten about the Keep after the Blight was finally over. That was almost four years ago – and still the numbers of soldiers here hadn't increased significantly. Tarejian could count those who had come here after the Blight on both hands.
If it had been any of his choice he would never even have considered himself wearing a soldier's uniform. He was not one for battle, but he had an impressive stature that made people think twice before they would cause any trouble in his vicinity. To make matters worse, his father had discovered his talent at sword-fighting very early. And since that was a talent which could earn a few silver in service – well, the decision had been made for him. He sighed. Well, at least Elara had made it easier. Oh, Elara. Just the mere thought of her was enough to raise his spirits. They had known each over since their early childhood and to him she had always been the most beautiful girl in town. And it had been clear for both of them that they would marry some day. She was so proud of me when she heard that I had been accepted. Even though it meant they wouldn't see each other for a long time.
According to her letters she was proud of him still. She had no idea that duty at Getheir's Keep wasn't any more exciting than what a shepherd might do each day. He was a soldier! That was what mattered. Well, if it brings me back to her in half a year, I guess I could have found a worse profession. With his pay, he and Elara would start a life somewhere – in a bigger city, as she had decided. Elara always dreamt of moving to Denerim one day. Maybe they would be able to afford that. He could easily find work at the city watch there – being a soldier and all – and they would finally have their own life. Just as it was meant to be. I wonder if we will…
The thought vanished abruptly when he noticed something odd. There was someone on the road. Had he been there all the time while his mind had wandered around? Or had he just appeared? And if yes: from where? Out of the Wilds? Who would…? Again, he had to interrupt the thought as he saw something else: the person out there was holding something – or rather someone. Carrying someone around like that, stumbling towards the keep like…Like a wounded soldier! His eyes widened as his mind caught up. Someone wounded! He was on his feet at once, racing down the stairs of the tower. The lethargy had left his bones in a fracture of seconds. Someone might need his helps. No time to waste.
When he reached the yard, he almost ran over a fellow soldier. "Ho, easy now what's going…?" The soldier stopped in the middle of the sentence, obviously realizing that Tarejian was not listening at all. He raced towards the gate, shouting. "Healer!", he barked at the bewildered guardsmen at the gate. "Wounded on the road!" In the corner of his eyes, he saw one of the guards turning around, running into the keep, the other one followed him. No time to waste. "Healing! We need help!" he heard the voice of the other guard behind him, while he dashed toward the man on the road – when he saw that it was not actually a man. Just seeing a human silhouette from up there, he had naturally assumed it to be a man who was carrying the wounded person, but now, drawing closer, it was clearly a dark-haired woman. For an instant, time seemed to stand still. A woman! Tarejian was taken aback. That was the least thing he had expected. And a strange one at that. She wore ragged, blood-stained clothes, which – at first glimpse – gave her the impression of one of those poor women living near the Wilds…or even in there, if those some of those old stories could be trusted (the thought of those made Tarejian shudder). On the other hand: her hair was pinned up like that of some noblewomen and her appearance, that way she held her head up high and her body upright, supported that latter impression. And her cleavage was… He shook that thought away. There was no time for something like that. And he could even feel a guilty blush when the image of Elara flickered in his head. Really no time for that.
"Everything alright there?" he heard himself shouting as he and the other guard approached. He recognized him to be Feleth, a senior soldier he knew almost nothing about. Except that he liked to keep to himself – and could be rather irritated when someone disturbed him during lunch….
The woman stared at him blankly through strange reptilian-like eyes, then answered in a sarcastic tone: "Alright? Why, of course. What does it look like? We're just going for a stroll here, you fools." Tarejian glimpsed at Feleth. Admittedly, that question had been rather foolish.
"I – I am sorry…," he hesitated before adding, "…mylady." Better save than sorry. "Don't worry, a healer is on her way. Mistress Wynne will be able to help. May I…" He stopped as the woman gave a humorless laugh. "Mistress Wynne? Are you kidding me? What is going on today – some kind of family reunion? Say, will our Beloved King join us for tea?"
Tarejian was perplexed. What was she talking about? Again, he looked sideways for help, but Feleth didn't seem to understand it either. "The – the king, my lady? Why would King Alistair come here?" (And in what manner could that woman possible related to the king?)
"Forget about it." The woman rolled her eyes. "I wonder, though," she said acidly, "With two strong soldiers in front of me, wouldn't one expect that at least one of you had the decency to ask me, if he should take the girl? Not that I'm complaining. 'Tis not that I had something better to do than carry her around all day…"
'Her'? 'The girl'? Once again, Tarejian was surprised how his mind just ignored major details of this while being focsed on the strange woman. Now that he saw the soft features of the red-haired woman in the arms of the noble(?) woman, there was of course no doubt: it was a girl, alright. And a rather pretty one at that (again, the image of Elara seemed to pop up in his head like a warning sign). From the distance, her boyish haircut had given him another impression. And there was another thing about the wounded woman he just realized. His eyes widened. That robe! "Is that a – a Chantry Sister?" Feleth, obviously having noted just the very same thing, cried out in disbelief.
The woman seemed indifferent. "Well, who can tell nowadays? Chantry Sister, bard – could even be an Orlesian spy – who knows? Now will someone take her from me or are you just here for the mindless chatter?"
Tarejian moved his arms to take the girl. "Maker protect her", Feleth murmured. The eyes of the dark-haired woman flickered at that. "Oh yes. Protect. 'Tis exactly what 'He' tends to do. Quite good at keeping this one out of trouble, 'He' is!", she sneered. Nevertheless she handed the girl over, when Tarejian saw something shiny falling down. His eyes followed the object, but the woman had already bend down and taken what looked like a silvery amulet or necklace. Where did that come from? Had it been in the Chantry girl's hands? Quickly, the other woman grabbed the amulet. "I am taking that", she said resolutely.
"Of course you do. No good deed without a reward, right, Morrigan?" Tarejian spun around, but recognized that voice even before the woman came into his sight. Mistress Wynne. Thank the Maker!
"Wynne," The dark-haired woman gave a cool smile toward the Keep's mage. "Still alive, I see? Good for you." Her tone certainly didn't imply that, but Mistress Wynne ignored it and took a look at the Sister in Tarejian's arms. From one moment to the other, the girl suddenly felt way heavier than before.
"Her." Wynne stated in a matter-of-fact way, which was even more confusing to Tarejian. "What happened?"
The woman named Morrigan waved her hand beside dismissively. "Well, I might enlighten you with the whole story if you wish. But right now, the only thing you need to know: Antivan poison. She got it from a dagger about one or two hours ago. Hit her in the left shoulder." – "Antivan poison?" Mistress Wynne raised an eyebrow suspiciously while she eyed up Morrigan. The woman crossed her arms before her chest defiantly. "Don't look at me like that. 'Twas not my doing." – "Of course not. You just happened to be there."
Morrigan rolled her eyes. "Why, yes, Mistress Wynne. You have me there. Of course 'twas I who poisoned the girl, then carried her around for hours and brought her right here, just to…to…to do what exactly? There might just be a tiny mosaic piece in that logic, that I just cannot seem to find." Wynne didn't even look at her, alls concentrated on the wound. "We'll talk about that later. Guards," she looked up at Tarejian, "Please bring the girl inside the keep. And could you bring Lady Morrigan to a guest room in the tower. I'm sure the commander will not decline hospitality in this case."
"You are not seriously trying to arrest me, old woman, are you?" The mysterious woman asked icily.
"Of course not". Again Mistress Wynne didn't even bother to look up. "You said you wanted to tell me all about it and I intend to listen when I've done everything for her. Besides: I am sure that you might need some rest yourself."
Morrigan looked at her, then sighed. "Well, I do suppose you might be right at that, at least." When they moved on to the keep, Tarejian noticed for the first time that she was sweating and, despite trying to keep straight, she looked exhausted. Carrying someone all the way like that – it must have been very hard. That was a very brave thing to do. He could not help admiring it. It was what heroes would do. And though that woman behaved nothing like a hero of one of the old stories, she might actually have saved that girl's life. But why was she acting so hostile about it? And why did Mistress Wynne – usually a friendly and benign person – seem to dislike that woman? True, she seemed rather odd to him, too. But obviously, they knew each other. Other than that… Tarejian had no idea. It didn't matter right now. They had to get the girl into the keep. But as they hurried inside, he couldn't stop wondering. Mysterious strangers out of the Wilds. A Chantry Sister in danger. Antivan poison. That was far too much trouble for Tarejian's liking. Certainly not a dull afternoon. Not at all.
Morrigan didn't think that she would ever be able to move again. Her body ached, her muscles seemed to burn and her joints…well, at least now she knew they were there. All of them. Carrying the bloody girl all that way – what was I thinking? Was I thinking at all?
She had slumped on the soft bed in the keep's tower-room just second after that nervous guard had closed the heavy wooden door after him – and she hadn't moved since. The girl wasn't actually heavy, but that had made no difference. Morrigan wasn't used to this kind of exercise. It hadn't really helped that the bard's breath was so weak that she had to stop every once in a while to check if she was breathing at all. She had given everything in her repertoire of Healing: magic, whatever more or less useful herbs she could find on the way – but she wasn't at all familiar with this kind of poison. Admitting that her own abilities would not suffice in this case had slightly hurt her pride, but she had been concentrated enough to remember the keep. Soldiers tended to have some sort of healer around, usually some circle mage. That had been the girl's only real chance.
Still: I could have just let her lie there, couldn't I? It still didn't figure. There had been absolutely no reason to go through the trouble of saving her. The bard meant nothing to her – even less now that there was no Blight and no mutual task in which the girl could have proven herself useful. So: Why did she even bother? People got into trouble and had to face the consequences all the time. Sometimes those consequences were fatal. And Morrigan never cared. Why now? Some sentimental nostalgia of the old days? Or had she just been too surprised to see the girl again – here! – to think straight?
Well, however foolish the reason, the reward was adequate: muscle ache. How long had she lain here, just staring at the stone ceiling? Minutes? Hours? It felt all the same.
And it hadn't changed when the door opened with a creak – after a careful knock. Wynne surely never forgot her manners. Her face was expressionless, as she entered the room. Well, not exactly expressionless: there was always that humble calmness that she wore like a mask.
Morrigan sat up straight in the bed – silently cursing that movement in that very same instant. Without breaking the silence she watched the old mage as she took a stool and sat down before her. Let her start this.
"So," Wynne stated. "I believe you wanted to tell me the story behind all this?" Damn her. If I were any other person she would have told me about the girl's condition first. But not with me. She wants me to ask. See if I actually care. Well, I won't give her that.
"That I did say. And you shall hear it." Morrigan replied, not taking the bait. "But I fear you might be disappointed, Wynne: I did not, in fact, poison the girl."
"You keep saying that."
"'Why, because 'tis true."
"Then who did?"
It was only the faintest movement of her jaws, but Morrigan saw it. You didn't expect that one, old woman. Morrigan leaned back with relish. "Yes, that is right, Wynne. That would be the very woman you and the Cousland girl let escape a few years ago…after, you know, her last attempt to kill the girl." Even if Wynne didn't give away any sign of guilt, the witch knew it was there. With a cold smile she added "…and look what a great decision that turned out to be."
"It was not my place to decide Marjolaine's fate. Elissa did."
"Oh, yes. The almighty Warden. And I am sure that you strongly objected." Morrigan sneered.
"I didn't. But neither did the person whom it concerned the most: Leliana."
"Well, that would be because the girl is – and always was – an utter fool. One couldn't expect her to see a rational decision if it jumped straight to her face and screamed 'Here I am!'"
"So you are saying that it is basically my fault that we didn't kill Marjolaine that day...?"
"An interesting angle, isn't it?"
"...because I was the only one capable of rational thinking who was there? Sounds like a compliment..."
Wynne sighed. "Since when do you even care about Leliana, Morrigan?"
"I'm sorry? This pointless conversation might have somewhat affected my memory, but I can't really seem to recall saying any such thing."
"You saved her life."
Morrigan didn't have a reply ready for that. I did, didn't I? But why? What's so different now? "Well, I also seem to remember you came here for a story," she evaded.
Wynne nodded. "I am glad that we can agree on that at the very least."
The witch took a breath. Not too deep of course. We wouldn't want to let the old woman know that she caught us off-guard there now, would we? Well, at least that would keep her away from wondering.
And so she remembered…