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A Gift Fit for a Warden

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Zevran eyed the distant vaulted ceiling of the hall, years of Crow training sending wary memories of daggers from above and hails of arrows slicing out of shadowed rafters skittering down his tense spine. Almost on instinct, he angled himself towards the open air in the center of the room, shoulders brushing the wall with each step. He hadn’t been at Vigil’s Keep long. Even Reyja’s proximity, the promise of which had kept him pushing through his quest for justice, couldn’t temper the assassin senses that had kept him alive.

But Vigil’s Keep, despite the new Wardens and those who had chosen to help them swarming the fortress, sang with a different energy than Zevran had felt across Antiva or the Free Marches, or even the last time he’d walked through these cold rooms. He returned as often as he could, though not nearly as often as he would like. This time, he’d been gone for over a year, the remaining Crows casting him across Antiva like fishing line, luring him to hideout after hideout. He couldn’t resist such fine bait. In his absence, Reyja’s Wardens nearly doubled in number and their conviction suffused the stones of the keep itself, ringing out with each clash of practice swords in the courtyard and the steady chip of dwarven pickaxes in the quarries.

Zevran reached the corridor that led up to Reyja’s chambers and felt himself relax. The letter that she’d sent him when she first arrived at Vigil’s Keep reporting the assassination attempt on her, again at the hands and blades of Crows, had sent him into a near-frantic worry, desperate to find and destroy those responsible though she'd assured him that no lasting harm had been done. That he wasn’t there… Even now, years later, walking through that entrance hall still made him bristle. Reyja was a competent and capable warrior, more than worthy of being named Warden-Commander. She was the Hero of Ferelden, the Warden who ended the Fifth Blight, the only slayer of an archdemon who survived to tell her tale, after all. But she was his. Before anything else, she was Reyja, and she was his.

“Zev?”

The door to the Warden-Commander’s study was solid, oak planks banded with leather and iron studs. She had left it open, propped against its own weight with a leftover stone from the reconstruction of the walls. Her cluttered desk sat beneath a window, one of the largest in the keep, overlooking the portcullis and road winding up to the gatehouse. Roaring flames contained behind a sooty iron grate kept the chill at bay in the back wall. Reyja’s black dragonbone armor, the same suit she’d worn to fight the archdemon, reflected firelight into diffused shapes across the rough walls no matter how brightly the sunlight streamed in. Zevran paused at the threshold and smiled to himself as he caught his reflection in the polished breastplate aimed at the hall.

“A prudent setup, my dear,” he said by way of greeting, nodding at the armor.

Reyja returned his smile as she turned around in her chair. “I thought you’d like that. Pays to be a little more cautious these days, I guess, although so far it’s only served to warn me that I’m going to be annoyed for the next however-many hours by nobles or meetings or paperwork.”

“Or your handsome lover, returned to you from across the sea at last?”

“You have a free pass to annoy me for as long as you like, whenever you like.” Reyja beckoned him over and Zevran scrambled to respond, pulling her out of her chair into a tight embrace and spinning her slowly, gracefully, around the room.

After several moments, Zevran moved his hands from her waist to her neck, caressing her jawline with the pads of his thumbs. “Mi amora, I have something for you,” he said, his voice low and soft.

Reyja blinked up at him. “You didn’t need to— I mean, thank you, but—”

Zevran cut her off with a gentle kiss, swallowing her stuttered objections. “I know I did not need to,” he murmured, sliding his fingers down her neck. “You did not need to give me Dalish-made gloves or real Antivan leather boots when we were traipsing around Ferelden. I did not need to give you my earring.” He paused, touching the golden hoop that hung from the shell of Reyja’s left ear reverently, stroking her hair as he passed. “But I wanted to. And I want to give you this as well. Will you take it?”

Words caught in Reyja’s throat. She pressed closer, burying her nose in the crook of his neck and squeezing her eyes shut. Zevran had asked her the same question the night he offered her the earring, when they were shut up in Arl Eamon’s Denerim estate before the Landsmeet during the Blight. He’d stumbled over himself then, confused and treading ground he’d never walked before, but certain of one thing: he wanted to stay with her, when all this was done. Will you take it? Will you have me? She herself had hesitated, not out of reluctance to commit but rather the specifics of what he was asking. Is this… are you asking to get married? It was the only thing she knew people did if they stayed together. Looking back, she winced at her own naivete, but she’d been young. And scared. And it didn’t matter, because he’d looked at her and folded her hands in his, the earring clasped between them, and assured her that whatever she wanted, and nothing more, they would do.

“Of course I will, Zev. Thank you.” Reyja disentangled herself and smiled, brushing strands of hair away from Zevran’s eyes before leading him over to the fireplace and taking one of the chairs. “Is it from Antiva?”

“Tevinter, actually.” Zevran reached into a pouch tied to his belt and removed a small package wrapped in silk. “From the son of one of the magisters. He said it was a prototype for something larger he has been working on. Please, open it.”

Reyja felt the smooth fabric slip through her hands to reveal a small amulet, a stormy gray cabochon with swirls of lyrium just visible beneath the surface of the stone, set in silver and dangling from a chain. Intrigued, she pressed a fingertip against the sleek surface, startling when the lyrium leapt to her touch, turning the stone alive with glowing blue. “What is it?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Watch.” Zevran pulled an identical stone up from where it had been concealed beneath his shirt. The threads of lyrium inside it shone like stars, mirroring the light of Reyja’s amulet. As she watched, the lyrium began to dissipate, fading back into the depths of each one until it could barely be seen. Then Zevran pressed his thumb against his stone and both flared to life again, twin lanterns. “They will do this no matter the distance that separates us.”

Heartbeats passed. Tears tingled in Reyja’s eyes, threatening to spill over. “It’s beautiful,” she choked.

“The magister’s son gave several other instructions, for making them give off heat instead of light and only responding to one person and —”

“I love it, Zev. Whatever else they can do, it’ll be like having a piece of you with me all the time.”

Zevran smiled, almost bashfully. “I am sorry I must be away for so long that such a thing is necessary.”

Reyja shook her head and climbed out of her chair to resettle on Zevran’s lap, clasping the chain around her neck as she sat down. “Some day, we’ll both be done with everything we have to do.” She rested her arms on his shoulders. “And all the time we spent apart won’t even matter because we’ll be together, just like we promised.”

Once more, Zevran reached for the earring he’d offered her, his face softening as Reyja leaned into his touch. Her movement jostled the amulet resting on her chest and sent it knocking into his. The two stones met with a tone like a bell, small but echoing strangely as if trapped in a cavern far beneath the surface. “Just like we promised,” Zevran repeated, shifting the necklaces to the side to draw Reyja in for another kiss, the lyrium ring fading into the crackle of logs in the fireplace.