"Do not be alarmed. 'Tis only I... I have a plan, you see. A way out. A loop in your hole." Morrigan's eyes flicker in the firelight as she turns and walks toward me. "I know what happens when the archdemon dies. That a Grey Warden must be sacrificed, that it may well be you."
"And you found a loophole in that?" I ask, eyebrow arched in blatant skepticism.
"Indeed. I offer a way out for all three of you, that there need not be a sacrifice."
My gaze flits toward the hall, where Alistair lingered to talk with Riordan. "What kind of way out? Running away? Alistair would never do that, and neither would I."
"No." She shakes her head, pauses. "A ritual. Performed on the eve of battle, in the dark of night."
"What sort of ritual?" I press, suspicious of the way she keeps stalling with details.
"Old magic, from before the Circle." She hesitates again, swallowing her words and rephrasing. "Some of the more narrow minded might deem it blood magic, but that is only because they do not, cannot understand it."
"So what, exactly, do you want?" I step further into the room to keep this private.
"For the moment? Simply hear me out, my friend."
So I do. Even though my mind is made up before she's halfway done presenting her offer. "No."
Morrigan scowls. "No?!"
I let out a short, harsh laugh. "D'you honestly think Alistair will agree to this? To impregnating you with a demon baby? I can't--and won't--ask him to do that!"
"'Tis not-" she sighs and shifts to a new angle. "If you care for him as you seem to, you must. Should Riordan fall, do you think Alistair will hesitate? Would you?"
"Morrigan, I- Why are you even offering this?" I demand, fully aware she's right; neither of us would hesitate.
"'Tis what my mother wanted, why she sent me with you in the first place. Though now I offer in not as a furthering of her ends, but because I cannot bear to watch you walk willingly toward what may be your demise. If you will not reconsider-" I shake my head- "Then here is where our ways part. Fare you well, my friend." She moves toward the door, biting off one last parting shot. "I hope you do not regret your choice..."
I stand frozen at the head of the path, staring at the Eluvian and the witch who waits in front of it. The memories are overwhelming. Wistful golden eyes, lips twisting in a slight smile as she calls me 'Sister'. A warm amber smile as calloused hands help me out of my armor, their owner kissing the back of my neck because he knows it turns me on like nobody's business.
"I think... she's expecting you," Ariane prompts, breaking my daze. I nod absently, walking forward in stiff-legged silence. "Remember to ask her about our book!" the Dalish warrior stage-whispers behind me.
My hands start shaking before I've covered even half of the distance, though whether from nerves, adrenaline, or something else entirely I'm not sure. Fade, however, has no qualms about barreling down the path with a joyful bark and greeting Morrigan with the requisite dancing, face-bathing, and tail-wagging. She seems happy enough to see him again, which is a good sign.
As I draw closer, however, she holds up a hand in warning. "Not one step more, or I am gone." She backs toward the shimmering Eluvian. "I have gone to great lengths to find and activate this portal. One false step on your part, and I shall be beyond your reach for good."
"I'm not here to to attack you!" I protest.
"I did not think you were," she replies sadly.
"I just want to talk," I explain. "Get some answers." And closure on maybe the single biggest choice I made in my life...
"Answers," the witch laughs. "We all want answers. I offered you a deal, you threw it in my face. What remains to be said?" Her eyes narrow. "Unless you have come to regret your decision?"
"I-" I grit my teeth against surging memories thick with emotion. Not like it can be changed now..."I did. Off and on for months after Denerim. For pragmatic reasons, for emotional, intensely personal and selfish ones, yes, I would suffer pangs of regret. There were nights that the loneliness mocked me to the point I begged the Maker to turn back time and let me choose differently. But there was a question, one that nagged at the back of my mind on the bad nights, one I never figured a good answer to. And that one question was enough to keep me satisfied I made the right call: Why did you want the archdemon's soul?"
Something flits through her eyes before Morrigan crosses her arms. "Does it matter? You denied me, and survived even so. Well done."
The dry sarcasm grates on wounds I'd long thought healed. "Yes, I survived. Barely. Because Alistair died in my place! Because the man I loved with every fiber of my being couldn't bear the thought of living without me, and so made me live without him!" Fire and blood and sanest thing I've ever done fill my mind.
"'Twas not my doing," Morrigan retorts. "I offered you a plan that would benefit us both, but you denied me, no doubt imagining some sinister plot." She shakes her head, looking almost sad. "My plans are not half so villainous as Chantry fear-mongering would assume. Whether you believe it or not, I offered because I... I wished to see you live. I cared."
"Cared?!" I repeat incredulously. "Then why did you betray me?"
"I did not betray you," she snaps, spine rigid and eyes flaring with indignation. "I left, just as I said I would. If any betraying was done, 'twas by you, not me."
"Betr-- you abandoned me when I needed you! Friends don't do that!" I growl, hardly able to believe she actually said that.
"No, you abandoned me!" She's bristling, just as angry as I am. "What I did was not done lightly! I needed you, and thought to help in return. But you refused me, and that was the end of it. So do not speak to me of betrayal!" She steps backwards, as if to leave in a huff.
"Wait!" My hand shoots out in an instinctive gesture I know is useless, but she does pause. "I just have one more question, something that's been bothering me for years now. Do you... have the ability to influence dreams?"
"Do I- What?!" She looks confused more than angry, which is a good thing.
"After we killed the archdemon, I had some strange dreams," I explain, raking my fingers through my hair. "You were there, sort of, acting as a guide down a 'what could have been' tangent."
"No, I possess no such ability," Morrigan frowns. "Who or whatever you saw, 'twas not I. Which begs the question; who was it?"
And why did it choose to look like you? I feel a chill dance up my spine. "I haven't had one in over a year, anyway. I only brought it up because I was curious."
She smiles slightly. "As always, my friend. Before I go, allow me to provide you a warning. 'Tis Flemeth you should beware of, not me. Hunt her, if you hunt anyone."
"Pretty sure I killed her for you already," I remind the witch. "Can't hunt what's dead."
She gives a dark smile. "And you think her truly dead? Alas, Warden, my mother is full of surprises. I thought I knew what she had planned. I thought what she craved was immortality. And yet I was wrong. So very wrong." Morrigan actually looks worried as she continues, "She is no blood mage, no abomination. She is not even truly human. You may have denied me the ritual, but that does not change what is to come."
"What are you talking about? What's going to happen?" I demand.
She gives an enigmatic smile. "Change is coming to the world, Warden. Many fear the change, and will fight it with every fiber of their being. But sometimes change is what they need most. Sometimes change is what sets them free."
Understanding hits me. "Is that what you want? To be free?"
"What I want..." She sighs, eyes sad. "What I want is unimportant now. I can tarry no longer. The time has come for me to go."
"Will I ever see you again?" I can't help asking as she turns to face the mirror.
"Not if you are fortunate," Morrigan replies, so quiet I barely hear her. She rests one hand against the surface of the mirror, then pauses, glancing back over her shoulder. "One last thing. I left you a gift." She nods towards the remains of a campsite. "The Dalish book is there, undamaged, and something you will find of great interest. Goodbye, my friend."
And with that, she's gone. Vanished through the Eluvian, which goes still and dead behind her.
I stare at the mirror for a few seconds after it's gone still before turning to approach the campsite. True to her word, the book Ariane is so desperate to retrieve lies there atop a second tome even thicker than some of Jowan's spellbooks. I flip open the "gift", but can't make heads or tails of half the terms on the pages, even though it's written in the King's Tongue. I page further back, but the handwriting changes--as does the language. A good chunk of this book is written in Tevene. I give up with a sigh. I'll see if Jowan can make anything out of it when I get back to the Vigil. I gather both book and leave. Ariane and Finn meet me halfway back up the path.
"Do you have it?" the warrior demands hopefully.
"Right here," I nod, handing her the green-bound volume. "Now let's go home."