Just west of the heart of Orlais, deep within the Nahashin Marshes...
In the heat of summer, the insects buzzed in her ear and feasted on her flesh. For what seemed like the hundredth time that day she wondered why she had chosen such a secluded spot for the meeting. A tavern in Val Chevin would've been sufficient, or a nice cozy cabin in Montfort. Even a back alley in the lower levels of Val Royeaux would've been better than this. What was she thinking?
She brushed the drying mud from her boots and waited by the dead Oak tree, her ears attuned to the natural sounds of the area and on guard for anything out of place. The leather she wore, always for protection, seemed suffocating; the sweat from her skin forcing her to shift uncomfortably. It was hot, too hot, and the humidity from the marsh didn't help matters. One more hour she'd wait and then she had to get out of there. The murky water, shadowed by some florescent green substance, was becoming dangerously appealing.
A twig snapped under the weight of someone behind her, and she spun around quickly, daggers in hand, nearly striking the elf where he stood. He grabbed her wrists, spun her around so her weapons and arms were behind her, and whispered in her ear, "my dear Leliana, so delicious and all alone, tsk tsk. Whatever shall I do with you?"
Leliana brought his arms and hers over her head and spun around, reversing the move on him. Now both of her daggers pressed against his spine and she leaned into him. "Zevran, I told you to stop sneaking up on women. One day you will press your luck and it would be such a shame to lose you!"
She released her hold on him and he turned around, her arms immediately around his neck in an embrace. Zevran reached around her waist and allowed a moment of old friendship warmth to wash over them before grabbing her rear and forcing her to shriek. "You haven't changed a bit," she said playfully smacking him on the arm when he released her.
"Change is a good thing, however it is not for me," Zevran admitted as he leaned against the large Oak tree, folding his arms. "I imagine you didn't send for me because you missed me, especially knowing what I have been up to. So tell me my deliciously deadly bard, what is so urgent that you must drag me to the dreaded marshes of Orlais?"
"I guess that means you have learned nothing new then," Leliana questioned as she secured her weapons.
"A few rumors, some leads, nothing with any real substance," Zevran replied. He dared to have a little hope. "Why, do you know something?"
Leliana sighed. "Next to nothing I'm afraid. Not as far as she is concerned. But something else has happened and I believe it may all be connected."
"Do tell," Zevran demanded, his sudden serious demeanor surprising her.
No, she shouldn't be surprised. His heart, his love, the Hero of Ferelden, had been missing for months. He tirelessly retraced every step of hers, and he hated himself for not being by her side when she disappeared. The Crows had endangered them both, and Zevran fled to Kirkwall to keep her safe. But upon his return news spread that she was missing, and he hasn't stopped searching since.
"Two more have gone missing since Neria," Leliana told him, seeing the pain in his eyes when she mentioned her name. "I come to you because one of the missing is a colleague of mine, Cassandra Pentaghast. She is a Seeker, the Right Hand of the Divine, and the Hero of Orlais."
Zevran rubbed his chin, ideas already flooding to his mind. "Someone would have gone to great lengths to capture someone of her stature," Zevran mused.
"Indeed," Leliana agreed. "She was taken during a return trip from Kirkwall. The seekers and templars that were with her have no idea what happened. I was with them as well, and I can recall nothing out of the ordinary that would explain her absence. Cassandra just...disappeared."
"Just like Neria," Zevran stated, lost for a moment in the vision of his love; her long brown hair with highlights of gold under the sun's rays, her hazel eyes that always had held an extra spark just for him. He missed her warmth, her innocence, her laughter...
Leliana's voice pierced through his remembrance, and he apologized. He ran his leather gloved hands through his hair and then posed a question to Leliana. "Your Cassandra...what was she doing in Kirkwall before she was taken?"
"Ah, the rest of the story," Leliana responded. "We were both in Kirkwall investigating something for the Divine. After Neria disappeared, well, some assumed she just went into hiding with you. But then after the destruction of the Chantry in Kirkwall, it seems another hero went missing as well."
Zevran's eyes widened. "The Champion?"
Leliana nodded. "Three defenders of Thedas, now lost. This is no coincidence Zev. Neria, Marian Hawke, Cassandra...someone must be behind this."
Zevran nodded, agreeing with her. "What is it you wish me to do," he asked her. "My only concern is Neria, but I agree we may all be searching for the same thing."
Leliana sighed. "My hands are tied Zev. The Divine is prepared to march her armies on whoever is responsible for Cassandra's disappearance. But we don't know who that is, and she will not allow me leave to find out on my own. It would be easier for someone of your skill to slip into places I cannot with an army at my back. I know you have already been looking, so I wondered if this new information could help."
"It does," Zevran nodded.
"I'm afraid I am unable to assist you further," Leliana said sadly. "If the Divine knew I told you all I already have, she would throw me in prison for divulging Chantry secrets. I wish I could go with you...I can't imagine this has been easy for you, going it alone."
"No need to worry that pretty head of yours," Zevran smiled. New ideas and strategies were already forming in his mind. More missing women meant more leads, other options to explore, areas to search...all beneficial in helping him get one step closer to Neria. "I will do what I can to bring this Cassandra back to you. And as far as being alone, that may change as well." Zevran thought of the time he was in Kirkwall, of the day he met Marian Hawke and her friends. "If the Champion of Kirkwall is missing, I know exactly who to ask for assistance."