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The Raven in the Tree

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“After all this time, I was still naive enough to actually believe you would stay.”

 

She regretted it, the moment the words escaped her mouth. She couldn’t fight the tears anymore, not when they were so strongly forcing their way out. Not after saying that, not after being hurt so many times. She’d thought that the ache would have been gone by now. This wasn’t the first time the beautiful woman holding her slipped away into the night, after all. She was wrong again. Morrigan would come and go, never making any promises to return. Sometimes it was a raven watching over her on the windowstill, sometimes it was a stolen kiss in the lush backrooms of Orlesian palaces, and sometimes it was a damp letter containing a single sentence: “I miss you.”. Often she’d wonder if everything would be easier if she just let go. Accepted the fact that it was simply impossible for them to be together. All the silent confessions to the void would always stay there, wouldn’t they? Neither of them ever dared enough. They couldn’t afford to. It was almost funny, how Leliana hoped that this wasn’t their last goodbye.

“I do love you, you know. I... I’m sorry, for not doing enough.” , the witch hardly ever stumbled upon her words like that. Leliana had that effect on her.

 

She always knew she wasn’t destined to be happy. The moment Flemeth took her in, her life was doomed. She never learned how to love, not even after she fell for the innocent looking songstress when they thought the world was ending. It was simpler back then, they didn’t have time to worry about being in love with someone who had another calling. Days and nights would go by, fighting creatures from the darkest corners of the world. And the rare moments they were able to share by a barely lit campfire were their safe haven. The bard’s soft whines when they were lost in pleasure were the most beautiful sounds Morrigan has ever heard. Even then, deep down, they knew. They knew this could never work. The chantry would always have a stronger grasp on Leliana, and Morrigan didn’t have the luxury of following her. The shadow of Flemeth always loomed on her, even on the brightest of days.

“You don’t need to do anything. Just don’t go, Morrigan. Not this time. Let us be happy for once.”, Leliana traced her fingers softly on her cheek as she spoke. The tears were falling in the snow by now, and Morrigan didn’t know who they belonged to anymore.

 

“I can’t.”

Her voice was weak, barely audible even in utter silence except the bard’s silent whimpers. It hurt, every bone in her body threatening to shake violently if she let herself go just for one second. She hadn’t planned this conversation to go like this. They were going to embrace, say their farewells, and drift apart like the strong winter winds of the mountains. Again.

 

“I’m tired of losing you. Tired of watching you leave.”

She was. Life has never been kind to Leliana, but nothing was even close to how hard this was. She couldn’t find the courage to meet the witch’s eyes. It was hard to decide which was worse: the unyielding yearning no matter how many times her hopes had been shattered, or that she had been as scared as the witch all this time. She never took the leap, either.

 

“Leliana…”

Morrigan leaned in to wipe away her lover’s tears in an attempt to comfort her at least a little. Or maybe she just wanted to touch her, feel her warm skin on her hands one last time. She wasn’t sure which. Her hand never reached the redhead’s face, met with rejection as the woman pulled her face away from the somber touch.

“ ‘Tis too dangerous. I drank from the well, Leliana. I can’t risk it, I can’t risk you.”

When she realized what it had meant to truly be under Flemeth’s control, Morrigan’s heart had sank deeper than the bottom of the ocean. Her life had been over then and there, with no chance to live on her own terms anymore. The first thing to flash before her eyes was the Orlesian’s beautiful face, even with eyes that had been darkened by the bundle of tragedies they called life.

 

“I’m not as weak as you see me. I never was. This should be my choice, not yours.” Morrigan thought that the thing she would miss the most would be that lovely music coming out of the bard’s mouth every time she opened it.

“My sweet songbird…” Leliana couldn’t understand whether she was talking to her, or to the far away mountains. “We are all weak when faced with true darkness.”

 

The witch had always tried to protect the bard, sometimes against her wishes. Leliana didn’t need it, but it was soothing to have a guardian watching over her. What Morrigan couldn’t accept was that her bard would throw everything away if it meant being able to spend their lives toghether. She never did before, why would she do it now? Why would someone risk their life just to be with her? Surely, no one had such devotion. Not even her nightingale.

 

Leliana slumped with her arms around herself. She looked small, vulnerable, defeated. Their eyes met for the first time, getting lost in each other. And then she kissed her, putting her arms around the crying woman’s back. They stayed there in silence, time has lost all measure. There was nothing else. No scarred pasts, no bleak futures, just two people in love, embracing each other in the snow.

 

Leliana was the first one to pull away, turning her back to the witch but unable to let her hand go. She drew a few small circles on her palm before her arms and legs gave away. Morrigan gazed softly at the crouching woman’s back with tortured eyes, one last time.

 

“You are worth far more than you think, my love.”

Without waiting for a response after letting her eyes linger for no longer than a heartbeat, the woman left and the raven came. The sound of wings flapping filled the silence.

And then it was over.

 

When Leliana was finally able to get up and turn back, she didn’t see the raven hidden on the tree behind her. She didn’t know if she would be able see her again, or if her heart would ever stop aching. Neither did the raven in the tree.