Elena sighed and finally gave up the pretext of trying to focus on the book she’d recently liberated from the Tower when she and her merry band of misfits had “stormed” it. Not even her favorite magical theory text could distract her from the fact that Morrigan was standing just at the edge of the ring of light from the main campfire with this air of unease about her.
“Morri, I don’t bite, you know,” she chided, lifting her eyes from the book to stare at her fellow mage. The apostate abruptly straightened and sniffed as she turned her head aside, reminding Elena of an upset bird with its feathers ruffled.
“May we speak? In private?”
Elena frowned and flicked her eyes around the camp, seeing no one else around but them. She knew Wynne was long asleep for certain and Alistair’s light snore was directly behind her from their shared tent. Oghren was probably out cold drunk in his tent (at least she hoped he was in his tent this time) so that left Leliana and Zevran as their only likely eavesdroppers but their tents were far enough away they likely weren’t to hear much.
Morrigan must have noticed her glance because she said, “Tis not the sort of things one wants to be overheard.”
Elena frowned but slipped a scrap of ribbon she’d gotten from Leliana into her book to mark the page then rose to her feet to follow Morrigan. To her surprise, the apostate led her not back to her personal fire but some distance away from the camp into the woods and then stood there nervously for a moment before she blurted out a question that made Elena’s heart skip a beat or two.
“Are you aware that a Warden must die to kill the Archdemon?”
It seemed like her mouth forgot how to connect for her brain as she couldn’t immediately find any words for a response or even say them if she had any. Then Elena thought of the motto of the Wardens – in war, victory; in peace, vigilance; in death, sacrifice – and managed to choke out, “I didn’t know that.” She swallowed, took a deep breath to center herself, then added, “But given the motto talking about sacrifice, not really surprising. How do you know this?”
She didn’t ask if it was true; she trusted Morrigan.
“Mother, of course,” answered Morrigan and Elena nodded. That was exactly the answer she’d suspected. “Tis possible that neither you nor the fool need to die to kill it.”
Part of Elena wanted to jump at the opportunity and grab it with both hands because Alistair…Alistair was special. She wasn’t any blushing virgin by any means – the Tower didn’t exactly give a lot of privacy – but she’d never been allowed a real relationship. Anything more than a friendship in the Tower was a quick tryst in a dark corner with both parties looking out for the Templars and ready to run at first sight.
The logical part of her brain sent up an immediate red flag. If a Warden had to die to kill the Archdemon, there had to be a specific reason. What twist, then, would this spell put into that required circumstance? And what would the spell cost?
Elena fiddled with the ragged end of the ribbon dangling from her book for a moment then said, “What’s the catch, Morri?” She looked over, meeting the other mage’s yellow eyes and seeing what she could only describe as a need for her to say yes. “Spells that twist something as big as that seems…they generally cost you more than they’re worth.”
Morrigan nodded slightly and licked her lips. “A Warden must die to keep the Archdemon’s soul from simply jumping into another darkspawn after the dragon tis slain. This spell t’would create a child and, upon its death, summon the soul of the Archdemon to it. Tis the true soul, the soul of the Old God, not the darkspawn.”
“An Old God in the body of a child,” breathed Elena, barely believing it. Yet it came from Morrigan and through her from Flemeth herself. Even if she weren’t the Flemeth of the old legends, the woman had been a formidable opponent and had known the soul of a dragon enough to turn into one.
Then Morrigan added, “Tis a simple working to save you and your fool.”
A laugh burst out of her at that and Elena was reminded of how different her friend’s upbringing had been from her own. “Children aren’t simple, Morri.”
“They have always seemed so to me.”
“Trust me, I’ve been dragged into caring for the Tower littles enough to know how complicated this whole thing is.”
Morrigan merely arched an eyebrow and Elena smiled sadly.
“I’d love to tell you yes wholeheartedly, Morri, that I’d do anything to save Alistair and I, but I don’t know what will happen between now and then. I don’t even know if we’ll survive to make it to that fight.”
Yellow eyes flickered with disappointment – just a flash enough for her to see – and Elena added, “I’ll keep it in mind though. Thank you, sister, for offering.”
Morrigan smiled ever so briefly and then bid her goodnight. Leaving Elena alone at the edge of camp, staring up at the stars with the possibilities of death, life, and a child that wouldn’t be a child flitting through her head.