Moments of Ned Cousland's relationship with Morrigan, focusing on its development. Morrigan's PoV

In between the chapters, happens While the Candle Burns

Chapter 7: Spring Is in the Air

Chapter 8: In Uthenera

Chapter 9: Insomnia II

Leliana is singing… again. Unsurprisingly. When not in fight or under pursuit, there is hardly an evening when the bard does not at least strum her lute. More often than not, she sings.

More often than not, she produces at least one nonsensical song about love, which leaves her misty-eyed and exchanging doe eyes with Alistair.

No-one except Morrigan seems to mind.

The singing Leliana has a pleasant voice, and the melodies are pretty; it's the topic that Morrigan finds most annoying.

Especially of late.

And today is no different. The edge of the Brecillian Forest – the curse, the deaths, the suffering – have provided the oh-so-romantic setting the Orlesian bard ravels in so much.

Morrigan sighs. Really, instead of cheering them up with some jolly topics and melodies – preferably such as make Alistair blush all over – the bard is keen on boring them to death.

Though, death itself might still be better than pondering over accepting death. Death is the end of struggle, the ultimate failure; death is what happens to those less powerful while victors move on.

Morrigan shakes her head: Leliana is simply hopeless – a perfect match for one like Alistair.

Yet, it may be due to the Elvish words that the song sounds… different; and Leliana's voice, crystal clear, cuts deep, sending waves of heat and chill down Morrigan's spine.

hahren na melana sahlin
emma ir abelas
souver'inan isala hamin…¨

Morrigan shakes her head again, to push aside the feelings that respond to the song. Watching the red-haired bard stand before Ned, singing to him, she finds herself choking with an unfamiliar emotion, welling from within.

'Is this… love? That way I feel…drawn to you? Wanting such… closeness? For if it is, I want to be sure that you do not feel the same!'

'And if I do?'

She sees Ned, intent on listening to that silly song, and Leliana's voice, rising into heights, makes her tremble.

''Tis a weakness! You – you must end this, and I'll – I'll be grateful.'

'I don't want this to end, Morrigan.'

'You selfish bastard!'

You selfish bastard, you… I hate you for making me feel like this.

Does the stupid song never end?

vhenan him dor'felas
in uthenera na revas

Sitting on her heels, Morrigan clenches and opens her hands, trying for deep, controlled breathing.

'Tis only a song, she reminds herself, only a song

he's only a man


I cannot let this continue. I cannot.

I cannot succumb to that feeling, 'tis

'Weakness. Pursued by those who are weak by their nature, and further weakened by dwelling on useless emotions.'

The memory of her mother's voice, brimming with contempt, makes her involuntarily cringe even now.

You're dead. You're dead for now, you old crone. You have no power over me.

And I am not weak. I am not. I will overcome this. It will pass… it must.

vir sulahn'nehn
vir dirthera
vir samahl la numin
vir lath sa'vunin

'We love one more day…'

Why is it that everything seems to come down to this 'love'?

Damned song.

Damned feeling.

How did it happen to her? When, where? Why did she never realize it was happening?

It should have occurred to her long ago that something was amiss. When she started seeking his company for no particular purpose. When she adopted the habit of falling asleep next to him.

Morrigan slams her shaking fist into the ground. Even there in Redcliffe, when she realized that she wasn't interested in seducing that handsome Bann Teagan, she still suspected nothing.

And how rational she was about it. 'One does not swap a pair of fitting worn shoes for new ones, after all.' And the soft bed with silken sheet seemed pleasant enough even without a male to warm it.

And it wouldn't have been fair to Ned who was out there, in the Korcari Wilds, fighting the ancient dragon that Flemeth was.

Fair to him, if she was the one to set the rules? How did it not strike her that she was acting strangely?

Yet, she started to suspect only when Ned returned, the scars of the dragon fire still visible, and gave her Flemeth's grimoire, and she realized that having the man back actually pleased her more than having the book. She quickly dismissed the thought as a result of the lonesome nights at first, but it kept recurring during their way to the Brecillian Forest, until she ventured to talk about it in the old Tevinter ruins.

'Is this love?'

The feeling which makes her ache within, like in those stupid songs of Leliana's? That drives her to think of him, to seek his look, his touch?

The feeling that everyone so adores?

The feeling that undermines her strength and resolution, leaving her unable to deal with it, to end this humiliating dependence?

And he would have it continue!

Morrigan is sure that she would master her mind again, if only he let her… If only he left her alone.

Which is not about to happen, she realizes with a pang of despair.

Soon enough, with the tones of Leliana's song still hovering in the memory, Ned appears at her fire. She has not heard him come – yet another proof of what he does to her; when have her senses become so dull? – and she abruptly raises her head, startled. She does not know what it is that he sees in her uncontrolled face but he immediately kneels to her, cupping her face with a swift move, kissing her –

and it feels so incredibly good, being kissed so gently, his hands slowly trailing down her throat and shoulders

– and she almost chokes as she realizes how much she craves to be touched, by him, and to touch in return –

Morrigan pushes with her hands against his shoulders. "No… leave me. I don't feel like…" her voice is tiny and squeaky, not like her voice at all, which angers her. "Leave me be!"

For a moment, Ned looks dumbstruck but he still holds her. "What's wrong?" he asks softly, raising his hand to her cheek.

Morrigan jerks away from the touch, before he can entangle her again. "Must something be wrong with me because I do not appreciate your charm? You must forgive me if I refuse to dance like a tame mabari!"

His hand freezes in mid-air. "I certainly don't expect anything like that – never wanted anything like that." He takes a deep breath. "Morrigan. What is it that you want?"

"I – " her voice breaks.

What do I want?

to touch you, to kiss you – "Leave me be," she gasps. "Just leave me be." And don't look at me like this, I can't

I can't let this continue.

Ned hesitates, and she is not sure which outcome to expect, or hope for. "As you wish," he says at the long last. Before she can avoid the touch again, he brushes his lips against hers. "I'm still here," he whispers, and then he lets go and disappears into the night.

The absence of his touch is almost like physical pain. Morrigan embraces herself and helplessly feels her eyes well with water: all her strength spent on the effort not to call him back.

Even as she chokes with silent sobs, her lips move of their own accord: Ned.

Oh, how she hates him for making her feel like this, and she hates herself, and hates her helplessness above all, as she keeps sobbing, hunched pitiably on her knees.

This cannot be allowed to continue.

And the thought hurts.

A sudden touch startles her again, as well as a flash of hope that he has returned; however, the panting and the smelly breath reveal the nature of the intruder well before she raises her head.

Wolf gently pokes at her with his wet nose, whining sympathetically. He keeps whining until she reaches her arms and embraces his thick neck – an insufficient replacement. The thought makes her giggle hysterically, until she breaks into sobs again, realizing how needy she has become.

Finally, her sobs subside and Morrigan shakily straightens. She sniffs and wipes her face, frowning at her wet hand. Then she eyes Wolf with suspicion. "Did he send you?"

The dog sits on his hinds and barks expectantly, with an air of excited satisfaction about him.

The meaning of the bark is more than obvious.

Morrigan laughs, still with a shade of hysteria, and rises to produce the desired object from her pouch.

The cookie disappears in the mabari's maw with one swift munch and she rewards him with another.

"Don't tell anyone," Morrigan mutters, "either thing."

Wolf issues an assuring bark before he scuttles off.

Morrigan sits down and leans against the tree: she feels exhausted, utterly spent. She hasn't cried ever since she was very little, and she has forgotten the vulnerability it produces. She didn't even know she could still cry.

Puzzled, she frowns as she recalls that she did cry, once.

For the mirror.

For something precious that was shattered to pieces.

How could she have forgotten that?

Deep within, she feels the urge to cry resurrected, but it seems that for the time being, she has spent her ration of tears. Or maybe she is simply too exhausted even for that.

With cold reason, she knows what she should do, at once.

Morrigan reaches for her pack and produces the mirror out of its wrapping. She traces the wrought frame, runs her fingers over the cold surface.

She should shatter it, break it into pieces. Sever that tie that restrains her so.

She stares long at her reflection.

Then she carefully wraps the mirror again and hides it at the very bottom of the pouch.

This cannot be allowed to continue.