My Love?

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DarkEchani's avatar
By DarkEchani
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Literature Text

The Gauntlet

As it happens, I am fairly talented with riddles. That shall be my contribution to the quest for the Urn of Sacred Ashes, and no one can say I didn't help. There were these ghosts, or visions, in the Gauntlet, people like Maferath and the mother of the phrophet, Andraste. And they asked us things like, the smallest bird may carry it, but the strongest man might not. Of what do I speak?
Zev thought it was a disease. He's an idiot, and probably infested with disease.
Esole Couland, my fellow Grey Warden, is quite clever, as well as beautiful, and ravishing and resourceful... I've completely lost my train of thought.
Oh! There it is!
All the riddles I knew were ones I learned from the chantry. For instance, I knew the riddle about what a bird can carry, and I knew it because Andraste could sing. Esole knows things simply because she knows things. So, when she lead us into circular chamber with a big pit between us and the next room, and it takes three of us to stand on certain points so that this path will appear, stone by stone, I trusted her.
"So, who goes across?" She asked.
"I vote Morrigan," I said at once, and she shot me a look that would've melted the skin off my face, had I not been snickering. As Morrigan started to call me a coward, and I wasn't volunteering Morrigan because I was afraid to go, I was volunteering her because I was hoping she would fall-- Esole stepped in.
"I will, just bear with me. We'll figure this out," Esole held up her hands to silence our bickering and started to stare at the points upon which we were standing. "Zev, take the left side of the room. Try the first point--"
And, boom, like magic-- I suppose it was magic, actually-- the first chunk of the bridge appears, but it's sort of only half-there. It wasn't sturdy enough to walk across.
"I'm listening." Said Morrigan.
"Step forward one pace. Zev?"
"What is your desire?" Asked Zev, in that slimy voice that makes me want to punch him.
"Zev, come back, that one doesn't seem to be doing anything."
They moved, and the bridge changed. Another step appeared, another disappeared, another became more solid, another became less solid. And it sounded like this: Zev? Hmm? Move here. Morrigan? Yes? Move there, please. Alistair?
"My love?"
It just slipped out.
And it hung in the air, awkwardly, just like those half-existing steps spanning the chasm.
I called her my love. In front of everyone.
And I froze. So did they, I think, I'm not sure, my eyes were sort of bugging out of my head but determinedly pointed at the ground. I could feel them staring at me. It didn't matter how cold it was, in the mountains above Haven, my face, my ears, the back of my neck, were burning bright red.
"S-stay right there," Esole said after a very, very long moment of utter silent nothingness.
"I can do that," I muttered in my suave voice, the one that sounded more confident than I was. The bridge was complete, all four solid steps. Zevran is on one important point, I'm on the second, and Morrigan holds down the last as Esoleigh starts her walk across the gap.
And I realize if these people move an inch, the bridge would fall right out from under her feet.
She's trusting her life to me, and Zev... and Morrigan.
Why does she trust these people?
And this is the woman I love!
Zevran tried to kill her once already. He's a paid assassin. Morrigan is just evil, and even though she and Esole seem to get on just fine, I don't trust her any more than I trust the elf! Less, even! I trust  her significantly less than I trust the Archdemon. At least, I know what the Archdemon wants. More or less.
And Esole does not hesitate.
I lift my face, glowing pink though it might be, to stare around the silent room just to make sure the others aren't on the edge of their positions about to hop off. Not that I could stop them, or save Esole if they did. Everything was suspended oddly and until Esole reaches the other side of the chasm, safely, I felt a gnawing tension eating away at my chest.
Andraste, the bride of the Maker, had faith in her friends. So does Esole, and I whisper a little prayer of thanks when it's not misplaced, at this time. I still don't trust Zev or Morrigan.
In the next room, a wall of fire seperates us from the Urn. An altar tells us to have faith, to strip out of our equipment and walk through the fire. I have faith in the Maker. Though I didn't want to be a Templar, or be raised by the chantry, I do have faith in the Maker. It's the getting naked in front of these people that bothers me.
I did not need to see Morrigan in her smallclothes.
I really... did not need to know that Zevran does not wear smallclothes.
"Maker's breath," I muttered to myself. I hung back in the threshold, torn between keeping my clothes on at the risk of not seeing the ashes of Andraste for myself, and actually disrobing. But Esole does not shy away from any challenge. I get to admire her armor-less, at least for a moment, before she strides bravely through the licking tongues of flame.
"Alistair?" Once they've already passed through, she turns back and looks for me, finds me cowering in the doorway, still very much clothed and gawking at her.
... It was better than my last answer. Still feeling quite the fool, I wiggle out of my armor, go from a timid shade of pink to full on tomato red blush.
Morrigan does not keep her eyes to herself.
For that matter, neither does Zev.
But there is the Urn.
In it, is the remains of the Maker's Bride. Faintly, I thought I could hear Andraste's beautiful voice singing in the distance as we approached. I could feel the power of this place, and if it weren't for the Arl,... I'd never dream of disturbing the sacred ashes. I could see it, in the way her hands moved, Esole felt the same.
I was relieved to have my armor on again, more relieved that some of my companions did the same. No one spoke as we tiptoed past the High Dragon. Esole had mentioned that maybe we'll come back for it before we take on the Archdemon, but the day is not today. Once we made it back into the caves, Esole started to hang back near me.
We've travelled together for weeks now, every moment on the move since Ostagar. Most days, we could chatter back and forth for hours, but we can also just walk together, comfortable in silence. It was different then, and I knew why.
My big, stupid mouth.
... I was raised by dogs, I thought weakly, but the only person that would appreciate that, would be Esole, and it was too awkward to speak.
On our way through the temple, we thoroughly emptied it. All the cultist are dead, leaving it very, very quiet, and more than a little bloody. Our boots crunch through the snow, and our every breath freezes in puffs of vapor in front of our noses. Except Zev's, who is a mouth-breather.
"Will you two go on ahead, check on Brother Genitivi?" Esole asked suddenly, and the three of us had to turn back to see which two she meant. The other two. Leaving us alone. She took my hand, stepped over a body as though she didn't see it-- I so admire that about her-- and lead me back to one of the chambers of the mages.
I could hear Zevran and Morrigan whispering together as they make their way back down into the main temple. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. The mage quarters are about the size of a broom closet, but it is, by comparison, warm, well-furnished, and there are no corpses lying about.
"About what I said earlier," I drawled out every word, because I had no idea how to excuse it, how to qualify it, how to make it less awkward. Be awkward, Alistair, it's endearing. Stupid Leiliana.
When we were in Lothering, and Duncan's death was still heavy on my heart, Esole had taken time... not just to comfort me, but to make me laugh, too. She'd teased me about my table manners, and called me handsome and I asked her if she'd ever licked a lamp post. I've thought, I've imagined... I've fantasized that there could be something between us. But nothing has ever happened.
Maybe that was because I had yet to make it happen.
"I've come to care for you..." I lifted my eyes up to her from where they were, sheepishly on the ground. "So deeply. It might sound strange, I don't know, maybe it's because we've been through so much together... Do you think you might... ever...?"
And her lips were on mine.
I heard the clunk of her armor as it bumped into mine. I felt my heart lift right out of my chest, took wings, and I never saw it again. Ever.
I almost missed it, I was so surprised. Esole was about to lean away from me when I caught her in my arm and pulled her back to me. When I kissed her again, her fingers threaded through my hair before the rested at the nape of my neck. I wanted so much to hold her against me, but there was silverite and drakeskin between us. I cursed it, even as I thought up prayers of thanks.
"So I fooled you, did I?"
Alistair narrates about his experience in the Gauntlet, the last stages of the hunt for the Urn of Sacred Ashes.
© 2012 - 2021 DarkEchani
anonymous's avatar
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IceQueenofMitera's avatar
This is very well written. I had a few giggles.

"I felt my heart lift right out of my chest, took wings, and I never saw it again. Ever." I just love this line. And you captured Alistair's personality and awkwardness perfectly
DarkEchani's avatar
Thank you so much! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and you're feedback absolutely made my day :D
IceQueenofMitera's avatar
:) I'm glad I could make your day. Everyone needs feedback that does that :)
Nolanie911's avatar
D'awwww. Cute little Alistair :3 So cute, definitely faved ;)
DarkEchani's avatar
:D thank you so much!
DanielleND's avatar
Bloodsong13T's avatar
i don't usually read fics on here, but i thought if it was alistair and the gauntlet it would have to be funny. well, it was funny, and sweet, and touching, and everything alistair is. fantastic work. this is really brilliant.

and i love how you wove in the game elements, but made it so real. and alistair's opinions of morrigan and zevran. a mouth-breather!? omg! ah, alistair gets to zing zevran (at least in his own mind!) ; D only one slightly little weird thing: usually only zevran's friends call him 'zev.' with alistair mistrusting and hating him so much, i wouldn't expect him to use the shortened version.
DarkEchani's avatar
About the "Zev", you are absolutely right! He starts to call him that much later in the game, but as this seems to be early on, I think I shall change it, and thank you for pointing it out!

Also, thank you so much for your feedback, it made my day. Literally, I'm reading it aloud and absolutely glowing! Thanks again!!
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