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Chapter 11 Wynne

Despite the clear starry sky, the darkness behind her window seems darker than other nights.

"Me, of course, I'll be needed".

Facing the choice, she had been so self-confident.

Now, in the seclusion of her room, the self-confidence has wavered. Wynne's breathing is regular, controlled, but her heart simply won't comply.

Silly old bat. What do you know of sneaking?

Pretence, maybe – every teacher has to play a role from time to time, and every mage even more so, in the everyday small victories against the templar's watchful eyes.

Killing – she has done her share of that, too, and not just once, in an open fight and in an ambush.

It's the combination that scares her.

And the outcome if she fails her role.

I must get some fresh air, she decides in the end.

As she enters the courtyard, she finds out that, unsurprisingly, she's not the only one sleepless tonight. "Alistair? Is anything wrong? Why aren't you in your bed?"

It's disturbing how dark his eyes look in the dim light. "I'm waiting for Leliana, I can't sleep, anyway. Why aren't you in your bed?"

Wynne laughs softly. "Point taken. I cannot sleep, either."

Alistair shifts on the bench and Wynne sits next to him. After a while, Alistair says slowly, without the bitterness of the afternoon debate: "I should have been there, you know. We are used to watching each other's back in fight, I may have been able to prevent it. And I still should be there tomorrow, for him."

"Alistair –"

He shakes his head. "You needn't reason with me again, once was enough. It's just that I feel so… useless."

Being tied to a rack next to Ned would be no great use, either. Thanks the Maker that you weren't taken both.

She does not word her thought but Alistair still shoots a glance at her. "You think I'd have made no difference, don't you?"

Wynne keeps her voice neutral. "There's no telling what might have happened." Except that you'd rather have got yourself killed than allowed the capture. My dear boy.

They sit a while in silence, then Alistair asks, not looking at her: "How am I supposed to save a kingdom if I cannot save a single friend?"

Wynne sighs. No need to reason again, huh? All the reasons were laid out, reiterated and yelled while Alistair yelled back that he was not going to stay behind any more. Shouted down, he yielded only very grudgingly, and apparently not for long. Wynne certainly does not feel like going through this again. To her surprise, he doesn't press the issue, only stares into the dark corners of the courtyard. She sighs again and puts her arm around his shoulders. He slides his around her waist, and so they sit quietly until they hear the gate open for Leliana.

The matter of Alistair's sleep is thus resolved, though Wynne suspects that it might take a little longer before sleep takes its place in Alistair's bed; now it's time for her to find a way to subject herself to the Fade.

For a thousandth time in her life, Wynne is sorry she cannot cast a sleeping spell over herself, and so she has to turn to the only person here who could help her. Seeing the light under Morrigan's door, she is unsure whether she should be glad or not; hearty welcome is hardly on the way.

"What do you want?" As expected, Morrigan stares at her with all but open hostility. The fact that they will soon have to rely solely on each other is of little help.

"And I think Morrigan's company will be essential. Will you come along, Morrigan?"- "Of course."

Wynne does not bother with civility, given the circumstances it would hardly be appreciated. "I cannot sleep. Can you help me?"

Without a comment, Morrigan nods. She gets up from the table and pours a cup of liquid from a jug on the mantelpiece. Passing her eye over Wynne's skinny figure, she pours off a spoonful and hands the cup over. "This should be sufficient to help you fall asleep and yet let you wake up in the right time."

Only as Morrigan returns to her place at the table Wynne realizes what the young witch has been doing: preparing healing potions and salves. Strong ones. Way too many.

"Good that you've taken thought to this," she remarks calmly, "we have run low on our supplies. I suppose we should take some with us tomorrow – half a dozen should suffice."

Morrigan raises her eyes. "You think so?"

Mildly surprised, Wynne realizes that she actually likes the sarcastic, hostile tone better than the impassive one. "Yes, Morrigan. I will have to do most of the healing when we return, anyway, and this amount will do to get him out of there."

Morrigan stares at her a little longer, then without a word she starts putting the excess ingredients away.

Is it just me, or do her hands really tremble?

And so Wynne asks, even though she knows she shouldn't: "Any… news?"

Morrigan continues packing the herbs. "He keeps passing out. It cannot last much longer now."

Unless they get a healer to patch him up a bit so that they can continue throughout the night.

Oh, Maker.

I hope that concoction is really strong.

Even with the potion, though, the idea of sleep still seems impossible. Waiting for the desired effect is unnerving, and so Wynne again resorts to an activity: she decides to go and take a look at Riordan. Not that it is really necessary but she has always liked to see that her patients are well.

It would be nice to see that at least someone, something, is getting well today.

As she leans over Riordan, he wakes with a startle, abruptly sitting up and springing his arms in self-defence. Recognizing her, he visibly relaxes. Wynne places her hand over her heart: she has had enough shocks today. She certainly did not expect the effect of the drugs to wear off so soon. Curse the Grey Wardens and their stamina. "Oh. I take it that you are feeling better?"

"Much better than in a lifetime." His eyes turn to her questioningly. "Was there a purpose to your visit here in the middle of the night, lady?"

One would think that I came to rape him in his bed. "I was passing by and decided to check on you. I'm sorry I woke you."

"Certainly the best waking I have had of late," he mutters, shifting in the sheets so that she could remove the dressings. "I am honoured by your care but shouldn't you be getting some sleep? There is no easy task ahead of you tomorrow."

"I'm finally getting to it." She suppresses a yawn. Before I make an even bigger fool of myself. "Good night, Riordan."

"Good night to you, Wynne, and thank you."

Man, you have a very nice smile when you wish to.

His question stops her as she turns to leave. "That… Morrigan who is to go with you… can she be trusted?"

You do see a lot, Riordan, don't you? And Wynne gives the only reply that she honestly can: "Ned trusts her."

Chapter 12 Wynne

"You actually expect me to wear this?" Morrigan holds the Chantry robe in her stretched arm. Wynne has seen horse manure treated with greater respect.

Leliana nods. "There is a Chantry altar at the Fort. You can always claim that you were sent from the Chantry in the city as reinforcement, to bring the Chant of Light to the sinners." She clears her throat. "You just… you have to adjust your behaviour a bit to look more convincing. It would be good if you kept your eyes downcast," she tells Morrigan, and with a sidelong glance at Wynne she continues, "and a little display of… simple-mindedness… would be very convincing."

I bet you'll really love this, Morrigan – you playing a chaste, me an idiot. Maker certainly likes joking.

"Of course, you'll put these on later," Leliana continues, "we don't want to give them a clue as we leave the estate. I do not doubt that there are a lot of curious eyes outside." She flashes a smile. "I have already given some thought as to making our departure unobtrusive. They will never know that we're up to something right now."

"I hope your plan will work." Sten's velvety voice shows no emotion but Wynne would swear that he is all tensed: warriors are never at ease when it comes down to anything else but open fight.

As Leliana indulges in the details of her plan, the door opens and Alistair enters. Wynne sharply jerks her head to take a full look at him and Leliana chokes in mid-word.

Their valuable asset, the essential part of their long-term plan, is armed and fully armoured, apparently prepared to leave.

What strikes Wynne most, though, is the total absence of smile: very un-Alistair-like. He meets their eyes in silent challenge.

Wynne takes a sharp breath and raises. "What's the meaning of this, Alistair?" she uses her coldest tone, refined in the years of dealing with troublesome apprentices. "I thought that we have arrived at the conclusion that you cannot possibly go."

"No." There is something about him that bothers Wynne very much but she can't quite place it yet. "We have agreed that under no circumstances I should be venturing in Fort Drakon, and I respect the decision. However, if your plan does not come out as expected and there starts a pursuit, you will need every help you can get."

Leliana frowns. "Alistair, if that situation occurs, it will also be very risky. We cannot let you hold out against overwhelming odds just to allow Ned escape –"

"I do not intend to." The look, the expression – "If that situation occurs, I will get Ned to safety while you hold out." Finally, his lips twist but the grimace certainly reflects no mirth. "After all, isn't this what you want me to do? Stay safe and abandon friends for the sake of a greater good, greater gain?"

This is Ned's look, Ned's expression!

Oh, my.

"Par'shaara. This is nonsense. You will abide by your duty and by your commands."

"Commands issued by whom, I wonder? I can't recall anyone taking over Ned's position."

Sten grunts. "Certainly not by you."

Alistair gazes at him without a motion. "No, I do not aspire at this position… yet. And I'm not taking commands from you, either."

The giant hand falls on his shoulder. "You stay here."

Alistair makes a vain attempt to free himself, then another. "Oh, come on, Sten –" In desperation, he returns to his usual tones and Wynne feels almost disappointed –

– when Alistair unexpectedly moves quickly like a striking snake and the next moment, the Qunari staggers, his nose bleeding.

For a moment, no-one moves, Alistair standing in his battle stance, watchful for Sten's reaction. Wynne feels her heart throbbing in her ears.

Sten slowly wipes the blood. "So, you do have a spine. Pity you don't use it more often."

Maker, he is smiling. I will never understand these Qunari!

Alistair does not return the smile. "Just you never place yourself in my way again."

Wynne swallows hard. The last attempt. "Alistair," she says softly, "are you sure of this? Will you be able to retreat while we fight?"

He turns to her, the untypical graveness quickly peeling off. "My favouritest mage, frankly – I bet my luck that I won't have to. I hope that you won't fail me in this."

Yet, there is a shadow in his eyes that wasn't there before and Wynne realizes that nothing she can say will change his mind. "So do I." Because in the long run it would hurt you much more than simply staying back.

Oh thank you very much for making me feel even more nervous.

Then she frowns because everyone is looking at her with expectation, as if she was the one to have the final say. Mommy Wynne, can I go out? Well, my boy, you have grown up, it seems, so I can hardly hold you back. Just don't get your nose bleeding. And if you do, don't come running to me because all I'll say will be 'I told you'.

Alright, maybe I won't, not to you, not this time.

Provided that I live through this all.

"Very well," she says and turns to Leliana. "You were saying, my dear?"