A reply to this week's Zev prompt, Zevran as the rescuer in the dream in the Fade. :o This popped into my head almost immediately after seeing the prompt. Since the entire premise is AU, so is the story, although up until this point, it can be assumed to fit into the Well-Woven Net storyline. X3 More notes at the end~
This pretty much poured out once I got started. Hooray for prompts that light a fire! XDA Comfortable DelusionAuthor: jenovaWord Count:
It hadn't been easy to break out of the peculiar dream/nightmare he'd found himself in; the scenario had seemed far too real, and, as often happened in dreams, logic and reason were weakened by the mind's familiarity with what was happening. Zevran had found himself being tested — tortured — much as he had been as a young Crow-in-training, and his determination to pass the test had nearly trapped him there.
Only sharper, more vivid memories had saved him. He had seen one of his dream-torturers mortally wounded in the assault on Prince Azrin, years ago; by the time the attack was over and the clean-up team had come through to recover any fallen assassins, he had bled out. The other had died a gruesome death — poisoned, the young trainees had been told, by one of his own daggers. Zevran knew firsthand that that was a half-truth, if not a complete lie. He'd killed Meshan with the older elf's own poison, delivered by a pair of silver pins; he'd had to work quickly to make it look like an accident before the really violent seizures started, but Meshan was in no condition to stop him.
The Crow fledgling had only allowed himself a few satisfied, gloating moments to watch the beginning of the other elf's death before sneaking out as carefully as he'd come. He'd never been accused of the crime — most of the apprentices were glad to see the trainer gone, even without knowing what sort of replacement they'd have to face, so there were far too many suspects, if one believed that foul play was truly involved. When he was older, Zevran realized that the higher-ups had also let the matter slide because it had been so neatly done. Meshan had never been a great
assassin, and was easily replaceable, but whoever had removed him was, perhaps, worth rewarding, even covertly.
Remembering all of that had finally prompted Zevran to challenge the dream scenario, and he'd been forced to fight the two not-Crows before breaking out of the scene into some peculiar mazelike place. He'd found a lost Circle mage who told him a few things about this little slice of the Fade, and then he set out to find the others. It didn't seem that he'd be able to leave without them, and anyway, he owed the Warden that much.
It was the Warden he saw now as he stepped into a new portion of the sloth demon's realm. It looked like an alienage, though somewhat brighter
than any he had seen, open and clean and almost pleasant. He found it hard to believe that the Denerim Alienage was like this in reality, but in a homesick elf's dream, perhaps it was only to be expected.
Alessar had his back to Zevran, walking towards the door of a modest little house. Curious now, the assassin held back for a moment to see exactly what had trapped the Warden here.
The dark-haired elf wore a work belt and carried a bundle of what seemed to be gardening tools; coming home from a day of labor, probably. Before he reached the door, an elven woman came from around the side of the house and greeted him with a happy exclamation and a quick kiss. The two stood for a moment with their foreheads together in some sort of quiet, intimate exchange before the woman laughed merrily and turned away, as if Alessar had said something charming and perhaps a bit suggestive.Hmm. A calm life, as it was before he became a Warden? A pretty girl to come home to? I suppose that is a dream for some,
Zevran thought, a little surprised. It was so... ordinary,
but he figured that was probably the point. Deciding that he'd seen enough, he strode forward, hailing the Warden by his given name.
"Zevran?" Alessar said in surprise, turning quickly. He smiled, though, his mind probably reconciling the other elf's presence somehow or other, as happened in dreams. "I wasn't expecting you. Come to visit, have you?"
"Ah... yes, of course," the assassin agreed quickly. If the Warden recognized him, perhaps he could prod Alessar's memory enough to jar him out of the dream, just as he'd done for himself. Before he could say anything, though, the younger elf began making introductions.
"You've not met my wife, of course," he was saying, gesturing for the woman to step forward. "Nesiara, this is Zevran."Wife? Surely he wasn't married before. Some sweetheart from the Alienage, perhaps?
lovely, he had to give the Warden credit for that much. "Charmed, my dear," he said smoothly, bowing slightly from the waist.
Nesiara giggled at his courtliness and nodded in return. "It's nice to meet you, Zevran."
The Antivan elf grinned at her before turning to Alessar, his expression more serious. "If you can stand a moment away from this lovely creature, I need to speak with you. It's rather important, my friend."
The Warden looked puzzled, but nodded, handing his "wife" his tools before stepping off to the side with Zevran. "What is it?"
Before the assassin could begin his argument, the door to the house opened, and another woman stepped out. This one was older, and her resemblance to Alessar was striking: black hair, angular features and those bright blue eyes. She looked at the two of them and scowled for just a moment before her countenance cleared.
"Alessar, dear, supper's almost ready," she announced, and Zevran realized what the real trap here was.
Surely, this was the Warden's mother, dead now for almost a decade, from what Alessar had told him. Indeed, she looked too young to be the mother of someone Alessar's age, but the Warden's memory has probably recreated her just as she had looked when he'd last seen her. He felt a momentary sting of envy — Alessar had known his mother, had memories of her, even if she was gone now — but it was quickly replaced by anger.To use his most cherished memories in this way — this is... This is vile.
It took a lot to offend a Crow, Zevran thought. They practiced layers and layers of deceit, blackmail, fear tactics... They knew how to manipulate desires and grant wishes with the earthly power they had at their disposal. But what this demon was doing — taking memories and trapping people in them — was invasive, and using pleasant
memories was truly perverse. This fantasy wasn't even possible
... and perhaps that was what made it so powerful, so tempting to the normally clear-headed Warden.
"Zevran," Alessar said with a slightly sheepish smile, "won't you stay for supper? It's not much, but..."
"Ah... I would love to," the assassin said slowly, "but we really must talk first. I—"
"Can't it wait until after the meal?" the Warden said wistfully. His lack of any sense of urgency was alarming, and Zevran found himself grabbing the other man's wrist as he began to turn towards the house.
"It cannot, my dear Warden," he said firmly.
"Warden? What? Zevran, you're acting awfully strangely," Alessar said with a nervous laugh. Behind him, his mother and wife were moving closer, both glaring at Zevran with daggers in their eyes.
"Alessar, my friend. Do you remember how we first met?"
The younger elf opened his mouth to reply, then frowned thoughtfully. "We were—"
"At the palace, of course," Nesiara said from Alessar's side, taking hold of the arm Zevran hadn't grabbed. "You told us all about the wonderful fellow you'd met in the gardens while you were working that day."
Before Zevran could refute that, the Warden shook his head. "No, that's not... There was a battle, and you—"
There was a real flare of fear in Alessar's eyes then, and he backed a half-step away from the assassin, his hand going to his throat as Zevran released his arm.He remembers!
"Yes! I very nearly killed you, my dear Warden, but Alistair stopped me rather neatly, if you recall."
The younger elf closed his eyes tightly for a moment, visibly trying to concentrate. "You attacked us... We..."
"Yes, and why
did I stage that little ambush? Think, my friend!"
"The... Wardens, you said to kill the Wardens..." Alessar looked up quickly at him, then at the two women on either side of him, eyes wide. "What— how are you two—"
"Liar! Assassin! You cannot take him from us!" the thing wearing the face of Alessar's mother hissed, clutching onto the Warden's free arm just as the false Nesiara tightened her grip. "He is ours!"
Zevran reached for his daggers, but before he could bring them to bear, Alessar let out a hoarse, enraged shout and tore free of the two dream-creatures, wheeling to strike at his "mother" with the short blade that had been tucked into his boot.
"Demon! How dare you!
" he howled in a fury Zevran had never seen from the mild-mannered Warden. He couldn't spare much more attention for Alessar, though; the other dream-creature was upon him, newly-grown claws marring Nesiara's slender hands.
It wasn't much of a fight, even when an older man (Alessar's father, most likely, Zevran thought) burst out of the house to join the fray. In a few moments, they stood alone, Alessar breathing harshly as he stared at his daggers.
"A dream... A trap.
I can't believe I..."
"I was caught up in a similar fashion," Zevran informed the Warden, trying to mitigate his obvious chagrin. "I believe we will find the others in comparable situations."
"I... I see. How do we—" Before Alessar could finish his question, his form began to flicker.
Alarmed, Zevran said as quickly as he could, "We're still trapped in the Fade! Find the others!"
"But where are you going?" Before the assassin could insist that he
wasn't the one going anywhere, the Warden had faded from sight completely.What does that mean? Is he awake now? Or just free of his personal nightmare and wandering around in the maze, as I was?
With no answers forthcoming, Zevran had no choice but to make his way back to the maze and continue the hunt for the others. He wondered if the Warden would remember this once they returned to the waking world, or if it would simply seem like any other dream, a nonsensical patchwork of images that was more puzzling than upsetting or dangerous.Forgetting it entirely would probably be a mercy,
he thought, sighing as he found himself in a chamber in the dream-Tower again. And for that reason, I suspect that we will remember everything...
I suppose this steals a bit from Alistair's dream in the Fade, but I can't help it if Alessar's desires, so early in the story, are so very prosaic. XD; If this happened later, it might be quite different...