Blood stained the grass as I wiped my sword against it, free hand wiping my brow clear of sweat. Around us lay twenty or so Darkspawn, some headless, others simply gazing at the sun will cold, lifeless eyes. I noticed how the creature's eyes were no different to that of a live one. Their eyes were cold, soulless, filled with nothing but an evil desire to spill the blood of the innocent. Even in death you couldn't wipe the evil grin from their faces… those that still had their faces anyway.
I glanced around my travelling party; Alistair too was cleaning the blood from his sword whilst our accompanying magi and apostate tended to their wounds. Zevran, however, seemed to be having a bit of trouble getting his sword out of one of the Hurlocks.
"Zevran." Morrigan's cool tone mocked Zevran even before her words could, "'Is it not expected of a Crow, an 'expert' in the art of assassination, to have mastered the ability to kill and flee into the shadows unnoticed? However, you appear to be floundering like an unblooded babe."
Zevran laughed through gritted teeth, still trying to work his sword from the body, "Ah, Morrigan… you are truly as witty and droll as you are beautiful."
"Yeah," grinned Alistair, "and as beautiful as she is kind, selfless and compassionate."
"My, Alistair, what a big word," said Morrigan, unphased, "for a moment you almost seemed… not a complete imbecile."
"What can I say? I aim to please." Alistair shrugged, giving her a goofy grin. My heart melted.
I found it unusual that Wynne had not scolded them for such childish behaviour, as she called it. I turned around to find her examining the creature of which Zevran could not remove his sword from. "This is most unusual…" she murmured, more to herself then us.
"What? That a band of Darkspawn would attack a Grey Wardens' party or Alistair is not an imbecile?" Asked Morrigan, voice dripping with sarcasm, "Personally I find the latter nothing short of-"
"The armour…" Wynne ran her withering fingers around the area the dagger was embedded, "… Alistair? What do you notice about this?"
Alistair bent down beside her (after giving each of us a thoroughly confused look), and he too ran his fingers along the breastplate, "It's definitely Darkspawn made, Wynne. Nothing out of the… wait…" Suddenly Alistair gripped the pommel and gave it an almighty tug, nothing happened. He tried again, and again, but the dagger would not budge. "Maker's breath…" he whispered, "I should have known…"
It was Zevran, Morrigan, and my turn to exchange confused looks.
"What's the problem?" I asked, "What's wrong with the armour?"
Wynne rose from the ground, leaning against her staff, "It's been enchanted." Her voice was grave and worried, "I remember the battle at Ostagar… when a blade pierces the steal it almost immediately… heals itself, sometimes around the blade. Giving dead, cold metal the ability to heal as a living thing could… very dark magic, indeed. The Darkspawn would enchant their armour with this spell before battle and only then… but to enchant the armour with such a dangerous, difficult spell for a wood patrol?" She shook her head slowly, "Not even the Archdemon would waste blood magic in this way."
"Clearly, they're not just a simple patrol sent to kill anything they find," explained Alistair, "They're in these woods for a purpose. A dangerous, important purpose."
"I fear our encounter with these particular creatures was no coincidence." Said Wynne, "A group of Darkspawn on an important mission which crosses the path of two Grey Wardens, also on a mission directly within these woods?"
I considered what she had said for a moment, "… You think that they had been sent just to kill us?"
"It's a possibility we can't rule out," agreed Alistair, "remember the Darkspawn and the Archdemon can sense us just as much as we can sense them. If they can pinpoint our exact location like this…" his voice trailed off, his eyes filling with worry.
"We may be leading a horde of Darkspawn right to the Dalish." Said Wynne.
Morrigan stepped forward suddenly, "If I may share my opinion on the situation…"
"You? Wanting to give your opinions whether we asked for them or not?" Alistair feigned shock, "Whatever next? Birds flying? Grass growing? Zevran flirting?"
Morrigan ignored him, "It seems that whatever is pursuing us will surely be on much higher alert after the botched attempt made moments ago. If they plan to strike again it will be with much more stealth… we may never see them coming until it is too late. So I propose we continue on our way as before. When our pursuers see we are in the mists of a Dalish clan, they will either retreat or attack. If they attack whilst we are within the clan, our chances of victory are almost certain."
"Yes…" Alistair spoke up, "all very well and good, Morrigan, but what about the Dalish? We cannot lead a horde of Darkspawn into their camp whilst they are so unprepared, innocents will die."
"Forgive me, but I assumed we were in a Blight, are we not?" Morrigan returned his glare, "Innocent people have and will perish long before this is over, and many more will unless we have the Elves on our side. It really is the only reasonable option."
Alistair opened his mouth to protest, but he knew it was futile- we all knew Morrigan was right. "Alright… I just don't like the way you talk about the lives of the innocent, as if they're not imp-"
"Hang on!" Suddenly, something hit me. Morrigan was right; they had made a total mess out of their ambush. If they knew where we were, and were here for the soul purpose of killing us… they would have been prepared. They howled as they spotted us, fumbling with their weapons as they ran towards us. Even a group of Darkspawn know how to spring an ambush. No… killing us wasn't the real reason they were in this woods. Wynne was right; crossing paths with them wasn't a coincidence. They were on the same path as we were, with the same intentions. To find the Dalish clan.
"Of course!" Breathed Alistair as I explained my idea, "They were following the path to find the Dalish, spotted us and thought it was their lucky day! They'd surely know that the Dalish would aid us in battle, they always had!" he punched his own palm in enthusiasm, "They planned to ambush them before they could expect it, so we'd be less prepared for battle!"
"This certainly is the only explanation to all the evidence." Agreed Wynne, "The armour, the botched ambush, the chance crossing…"
"We must find the Dalish before the Darkspawn, to warn them and help defend them." Nodded Alistair. "Doran, you beautiful man, I could kiss you!" he laughed, swinging his shield onto his back and setting back on the path, Wynne and Morrigan following in tow. I travelled at the back, my face blushing and my heart fluttering like a moth trapped in an ale glass.
Then from behind us, "Erm… Wardens? Dear Mages… I still need my dagger!"
A few nights later we made camp within the forest, as far away from the Dalish as we could get. As it turned out another horde of about thirty-forty Darkspawn were on their way to ambush the Dalish. Fortunately, we warned them with just enough time to spare. We had our own ambush; archers hid in the tree tops and showered them with arrows before the rest of us tore down the remainders. They too were wearing enchanted armour. That, however was not the only problem facing the Dalish…
I didn't want to think about the ordeal… the death, the betrayal, the suffering… I was just glad it was over. We were one step closer to defeating the Blight for good.
It was dark before we had finished setting up camp; the cluster of trees that shielded us from view also shielded the moonlight, so we were as good as blind if not for the burning fire which illuminated the camp with its orange glow. I was on my knees, just adding the finishing touches to my own tent when I noticed a shadow looming over me,
"Such excellent handy work, my friend." Zevran's shadow nodded in approved.
"Thank you, Zevran." I muttered in reply. I wasn't in the mood to talk to him right now, or to anyone really.
That didn't stop his hand grazing softly against the back of my head, "Maybe… tonight we shall retire to your tent instead, my little Grey Warden." Came his soft, seductive chuckle, before he walked away. My stomach twisted, I felt extremely nauseous. That night… when I had been ravished within Zevran's tent… it was not Zevran who ravished me. In my mind Zevran's hands had been Alistair's hands, Zev's lips were Alistair's lips, Zev's manhood was… well… I suppose I was feeling… guilty, in a way. Is there a shoddier way to insult a person than to think of another whilst making love to them? None came to mind… I felt like I had betrayed the man I had saved on that fateful journey to find the Urn of Sacred Ashes.
Dinner was served, but I had lost my appetite.
One by one, everybody retired to their tents. Except for me… I offered to keep watch (much to Zevran's almost well hidden disappointment), and Wynne.
She took a seat beside me as I prodded the burning fire with a large stick, wearing the grandmotherly expression I'd seen her give Alistair and Morrigan when they quarrelled like children, "… You know, I've seen a lot of suffering in my time." She spoke softly, "but there is no sight which breaks my heart more… then to see a young man tortured by love."
I stared at her, my heart doing back flips. "What… wha-what…"
"Now dear, I've seen it. The way you look at him… the way you blush when he compliments you… the way your heart breaks when you realize he doesn't look at you the same way… and he never will."
There was no point in trying to argue with her, so I stayed quiet, hanging my head in shame.
"Oh, Doran… I'd be lying if I tried to tell you that a love like this will fade over time… and an even worse person if I told you there was hope between you and Alistair." She sighed softly, "I cannot pass judgement right now, nobody can ever be certain when it comes to love, especially an old fool like myself." She chuckled, and I couldn't hide a smile. "But I urge you… control these desires. One cannot hope to defeat a Blight when one's heart is heavy with heartbreak. Now is not the time for such risks, young one. I'm afraid you must accept the fact that you and the Warden Prince will never be more than an idle fantasy. Even if Alistair could feel the same about you… he has a kingdom to run. He cannot run it with you by his side, my child. A man… and an elf. I am sorry, Doran, but we are dealing with issues far greater than yourself, than any of us. You will either have your heart broken, or will force Alistair to choose between you and his responsibilities as Grey Warden… and heir to the throne. Do you understand, dear?"
I understood… I'd always understood… I just refused to believe it.
I was in love with a man who couldn't ever love me back, either because he simply didn't or couldn't afford to. My love for him was cursed from the start… never to be come true. A child's fantasy… no, a fool child's fantasy.
I didn't know I was crying until the tears dripped from my cheeks to my lap.
"… I just love him so much." I whispered, my voice broken and croaky.
"I know you do…" Wynne whispered back. She gently pulled me into her and allowed me to cry, to sob like a baby into her shoulder. She patted my arm gently, whispering soothing things. Like the mother I had lost…
When I was done she handed me a clean rag, which I wiped my face with.
"There now, child. Now, I know this is hard but you must be strong, for all of us." She rubbed my shoulder, "Go to bed, now, I shall take watch."
I sniffed, "No… you really don't have to…"
"I insist, Doran, you clearly need a good night's sleep more then I."
I paused, and then nodded; crying had left my eyes heavy, "Thank you… Wynne… I mean it."
"I'm sure you do, and you need not thank me. Now goodnight."
"Goodnight…" I retired to my tent, and passed out almost as soon as my face hit the pillow, sinking into sleep and Darkspawn filled dreams.