Warning: contains foul language.
After supporting Harrowmont successfully in the provings, the Grey Wardens and company finally get to meet their candidate. He is grateful for their help, of course, but he believes he needs more to be successful in swaying the assembly in his favor. He tells them of the dwarves latest, living paragon: Branka. She led her house into the Deep Roads on some expedition and has been missing for two years. If the Wardens can find Branka and get her to support Harrowmont, well…. why not?
The weary elf and his companions return outside to their camp to rest before this expedition.
“It seems to me,” Valorien said, “if we could find this Branka, she would make a more sensible Queen than any of these men scheming for the throne.”
“You want my opinion,” said Alistair; “she only said she was heading into the deeps, then she done a runner for the surface and is living happily as some anonymous tavernkeep somewhere — just to escape all that fawning and pampering Brother Genitivi was talking about in his book.”
“Because that is what you would do?” Valorien asked him.
“Hey…!” Alistair grinned craftily. “Good plan. I’m going to file that one away.”
“The dwarves confuse me,” the elf admitted. “Their names are difficult to remember. Their architecture is… jarring.”
“You did get lost. There’s only two directions to go! And you got lost.”
Valorien nodded. “There is no sky. And the angles… it’s all different, yet all the same.” He frowned at Alistair’s chuckle. “Perhaps you should lead.”
“Shutting up now.”
“I really do not understand this need for servants. Do people not have any pride in being self-sufficient?”
“There are just some things people don’t like to do,” Alistair replied, holding out his empty dinner bowl so Tarroth could lick it clean. “Like washing socks. or some things that you’re just bad at. Like when I’m king, you can be my cook.”
Valorien whirled on him. “What did you say to me?”
“I–” He felt a dagger pierce his heart as he realized his mistake. “Nothing! It was just a joke. I was babbbling; running my mouth off without thinking again.” He withered under the elf’s gaze. “I didn’t mean it that way. I wasn’t — Look, it was a really, REALLY stupid thing to say, and I’m sorry…. Please don’t kill me?”
With nothing more than a cold narrowing of his eyes, Valorien turned and walked away in disgust.
Alistair shook his head at himself.
“Oh, Alistair,” said Leliana sadly.
With a grimace, he went after the elf. “Valorien! Wait.” He caught up as Valorien turned. “I didn’t mean that like it sounded. I didn’t say that because you’re an elf. I would have said the same thing to Shale, except he doesn’t eat, so he can’t cook…. Or Morrigan, but when she cooks, I’m always afraid of finding toadstools or newt eyes in it…. Well, what I meant was that since I don’t want to be king, we could just be miserable together.”
Valorien only gave him a hard look. Alistair dropped his gaze in shame. He forced himself to look up, and thought that he could make things right if he could just promise to liberate the downtrodden city elves of Ferelden. But when he looked into Valorien’s eyes, he could not say the words. Even as king, he could not undo what society had wrought for generations. Giving such a promise would make him a liar and an oath-breaker. And Valorien did not ask him for anything; the elf was pragmatic enough to know it would be to no avail.
Alistair took a breath. “Look…. If you’re mad at me, I’d really rather you just slug me now and have done with it.”
“Slug you?” Valorien gave him a puzzled look.
“You know… hit me. Kick my ass.”
Valorien’s look only grew more puzzled. “Why?”
“Because I feel bad for saying such an utterly ignorant shemlen thing, and it would make me feel better. Plus, well, maybe we could skip the decades of elven vindictiveness. Just… get it over all at once.”
“You want me to punish you?”
“Uhh….” Alistair had to think about that a moment. “Yeah.”
“And this will make you feel better?” Valorien sounded dubious.
“Yes. And you’ll feel better, too. You’ll see! You should try it.” Alistair swallowed nervously.
Valorien gave the matter serious consideration. “Very well,” he said finally. “Give me your sword.”
Alistair hesitated, a feeling of dread creeping over him. Who knew what this elf might do to him as ‘punishment.’ They were a strange, alien race. Mentally, he kicked himself. Here he was doing it again — on purpose this time — thinking of Valorien as some strange outlander, and not as a trusted companion and Grey Warden. He handed over his sword.
“And your shield.” Valorien tapped his palm three times against his leg as Alistair worked the buckles. Tarroth padded over and sat by the elf’s side.
“Oh no,” the knight said as he surrendered his shield, “you can’t be serious!” He stared, eyes wide, as Valorien crouched and started whispering to the war dog. “You couldn’t,” Alistair insisted. “You wouldn’t!”
The elf looked up at him. “You should start running.”
“Oh, you wouldn’t! Would you!?” He looked at Tarroth, and the dog opened his jaws in a toothy canine grin. “Oh… SH–!!” Alistair took off.
Valorien straightened slowly, then looked down at Tarroth. “Get him!”
With a deep-chested growl, the war dog sprang after the fleeing Warden. In less than three strides he caught up and slammed into Alistair.
Wynne ducked out of her tent at the sounds of yelling and barking. “What’s going on?”
Without turning, Leliana said, “Alistair was a bit careless with his words to Valorien.”
“Opened his big fat mouth and put his foot in it that time,” Morrigan clarified.
“Augh! Get him off! Get off! You slobbering, mangy mongrel! Help!”
“And Valorien sicced the dog on him?” Wynne asked, aghast.
“He asked for it,” Morrigan told her.
“I don’t care what he said, I hardly think it deserves –”
“No, he literally asked for it,” the witch explained. “‘Kick my ass’ I believe he said.”
Leliana nodded. “Those were his exact words, indeed.”
“Help! Stop! Oh, stop! I swear, I’ll never do it again! Call him off!”
“I don’t believe this!” Wynne shook her head.
“I don’t either,” said Morrigan. She turned to the bard. “Do you see that? Or am I hallucinating?”
“Nay, I see it as well.”
“What?” said Wynne. “Alistair being slobbered to death by that hound?”
“Nay, that Valorien is smiling.”
“Really?” Wynne forgot about Alistair and looked at the elf.
“Alistair has told me that he once saw Valorien laugh,” Leliana said, “but I scarce credited it.”
“I certainly never have,” said Morrigan.
“Help! Get him off! You can be king! Ack! I’ll be your cook! I’ll be your valet! I’ll wash your socks — anything! Just call him off!”
“Down, Tarroth,” called Valorien. “That’s enough.”
Leliana went to him. “You should not cover your mouth when you smile,” she told him. “It suits you well.” She smiled at him, and he ducked his head in embarassment.
He bent to pet Tarroth. “Good boy! Good dog.” Ruffling the dog’s neck, he couldnt help but smile, though this time he did not seem to notice it.
Alistair tromped over, his face dripping with dog drool. “I have an announcement,” he stated. “Never, ever piss off an elf. Their revenge is a real bitch!” Tarroth barked sharply. “Not that kind.”
Valorien rose and returned his weapon and shield. Alistair took them and said in a low voice. “I’m going to get you back for this.”
The elf’s brow wrinkled in puzzlement. “You said this would make you feel better.”
“Oh, don’t you worry about that! I no longer have any feelings of guilt or remorse. That makes me feel a lot beter! Don’t you feel better?”
“I… suppose,” Valorien answered slowly. “I do not feel angry any more. I am concerned, however, about this promise of retribution.”
“Don’t worry about that, either.” Alistair started wiping his face. “It just means you were successful in trouncing me thoroughly.” He paused. “I really am sorry,” he said seriously. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“It is all right, Alistair,” the elf replied. “I accept your apology.”