i wanted this to be less of a summary and more of an idea that was expressed along in the story. however, doing the latter would involve a lot more scenes of stopping to camp, meeting more npc townspeople, and probably three months worth of the story not going anywhere! yeah, i know you hate it!
so this got turned into something half and half.
As the Grey Wardens moved further away from Ostagar, Alistair’s nightmares seemed to diminish. Yet for Bannon, they only grew worse. Every night, the visions tormented him. Darkspawn hunted him relentlessly, and the unseen Archdemon called to him. People he hated taunted him; people he loved turned on him. They drove him mad, mad with rage. He’d thrash about, screaming in his sleep.
Alistair would try to drag him awake, risking the elf’s fist across his face. The Templar tried switching watches with him, waking him up before the nightmares. But afterward, Bannon would have to return to sleep, knowing the dreaded claws were waiting to seize him.
His lack of restful sleep made him viciously short-tempered. Even Morrigan had to complain to Alistair about it. Bannon turned to drink to help him sleep. Alistair could only watch helplessly as the elf staggered into his tent (rented from Bodahn) and tried to pass out as quickly as possible, perhaps in a stupor so deep, even the dreams couldn’t find him. It didn’t work. And the hangovers didn’t improve his disposition any.
Bannon sat at watch on a large rock near the center of camp. His companions lay sleeping quietly in a circle around the dying fire. The night was black, not a star shone in the sky. The embers cast a red glow. Bannon’s head hurt. He raised his wineskin to wet his throat, but it was empty. Again. Damn.
He looked over his companions, sleeping peacefully. Not a care in the world, no. He did it all. Keep watch, Bannon. Protect us, Bannon. Buy supplies, pitch the tent, find our way, get us money, cook the meals, wash the dishes. What was he, their damned elven servant? He raised his wineskin to wet his throat, but it was empty. Again. Damn.
Damned shems. And damned big, grey, horned stubborn shem, too. They were all alike. Bannon’s head hurt, and it was getting hot. He raised his wineskin to wet his throat, but it was empty. Again. Damn.
He pitched the wineskin to the ground and drew his sword. The metal was soothingly cool to his hand, his forehead. For a moment, anyway. He lowered the blade and started sharpening it. The rhythmic glide of whetstone on steel sounded quietly through the camp.
Bannon looked over at Alistair. The former Templar lay on his back, spawled comfortably, his chest rising and falling slowly. Peacefully. Bannon grit his teeth in jealousy. He had to be careful. The last time Alistair had shaken him awake, the elf’s eyes had snapped open. He recognized Alistair right away, realized where he was. Half a blink later, he’d slugged the shem right in the face. Bannon didn’t think Alistair realized he’d done it on purpose. He was a bit slow. But it had felt so good, unleashing his frustration on the hapless shem. He should do it again.
Bannon froze. His head snapped up. There was a faint sussuration at the camp’s perimeter. As if something large but infinitely stealthy circled them. Bannon didn’t sense anything. No darkspawn. The air was just getting hotter, growing redder from the smouldering embers of the fire.
Bannon found himself standing over Alistair, looking down at the sleeping human. His constant, nagging companion. I can’t lead, I can’t cook, I can’t count. I can’t make any decisions. Help, I can’t tie my bootlaces by myself. Slugging the whining shem had felt really good. But not as good as this.
Bannon rammed his sword down, punching the blade through Alistair’s unprotected chest. The human twitched once, then his last breath escaped him with a small wheeze. Blood spread out from the body in a dark pool, glinting red in the crimson light.
Then his heart started hammering. He looked over at Morrigan’s sleeping form. No no no no, NO! The witch would kill him, could kill him with a snap of her fingers! Bannon lunged and thrust his sword into her soft body. She jerked, a gasp bringing a spatter of blood to her lips. Her body collapsed back with a thump.
That had been a bit noisier than Alistair’s death. Leliana and the qunari began to stir. No no no no, NO! Sten was much bigger than he was, he could crush Bannon in his bare hands! The elf sprang at the qunari and started hacking desperately at the tough hide. The blade jarred against thick bones as Sten raised his arms to fend off the blows.
“Bannon, what are you doing?” Leliana screamed. “Stop it! Stop!”
His blood burning, his head splitting, he couldn’t stop. He had to fight for his life. Bile rose in his stomach as the darkness came to life around the camp. Bannon roared in triumph. His brothers would save him!
No! Darkspawn inundated the camp. They’d rip him to shreds! Claws tore into him, and he screamed….
“Bannon! Snap out of it!” Someone was shaking him. Alistair. Alistair was yelling. Bannon’s eyes flew open. Alistair flinched back, reflexively throwing his hands up to ward off a punch to the face.
The elf slumped, his eyelids drooping tiredly. He was knackered. He fumbled around for the wineskin he’d dropped.
Alistiar turned back to the others. “It’s all right,” he told a worried Leliana and frowning Sten. “Go back to sleep.” He turned back to the other Grey Warden. Bannon was trying to catch the last drops of wine on his tongue when Alistair grabbed the skin from his hand. “Have you been drinking again?”
“Goddammit, Alistair,” the elf snarled raggedly.
“You fell asleep on watch,” Alistair snapped, starting to lose his patience. He shook the wineskin. “This is not helping.”
“You’re not helping,” the surly elf growled. He ground the heel of his hand against the bridge of his nose.
“I’m sorry,” Alistair said, relenting. “I don’t know how any of the others learned to block out the nightmares. I don’t know why they don’t affect me so badly.” Bannon muttered something insulting to the Templar’s intelligence, but Alistair ignored that. He did harden his voice, though. “It’s just something you have to work through. It’s part of being a Grey Warden, along with the shortened life span and not being able to have children.”
“What?!” Bannon’s head snapped up and he regretted the movement instantly. Still, he fixed the Templar with a glare.
“Well, it’s not that you can’t have children,” the Templar explained. “It’s just difficult for a Warden. Nearly impossible for two Wardens to conceive tog–”
“Not that!” What the hell was he prattling on about? “What is this about a shortened lifespan?”
“Oh, didn’t they mention…?” Alistair backed up slightly. Mention? Oh, no, nobody mentioned these things! Bannon stood slowly, his brow creased in anger. “I guess there wasn’t time,” Alistair said hastily. “Well. You know in the Joining, you drank darkspawn blood — Tainted blood.”
“Duncan said,” Bannon growled slowly, “I mastered the Taint within me.”
“Ye-e-es,” Alistair replied, still backing away slowly. “But it’s still there. Eventually, your body won’t be able to fight it off any more, and–”
Bannon cut him off with a curse. They’d killed him! He’d joined the Wardens to escape death and they’d just bloody killed him! Even after he’d survived their damned Joining! “Andraste’s Tits! I didn’t sign up for this!” He shoved past Alistair. “I quit!”
The Templar stood blinking a second, then turned and caught up to him. “But you can’t quit!”
“Watch me!” He didn’t stop to gather any of his gear or supplies, he just started walking off. He didn’t care where he went or if he survived, he just needed to get out of there!
Alistair trotted after him. “Bannon. Bannon! You can’t quit!”
The elf turned on him. “I did not agree to any of this! Duncan–”
“Don’t you say a word about Duncan!” Alistair cut in viciously.
“You’re telling me he told you all this before he handed you that chalice?”
Alistair bit his lip. “Maybe,” he hedged. “Look, all I heard was ‘get out of the Templars’ and I didn’t care about anything else.”
“Andraste’s Ass!” Bannon raked his hands back through his hair on either side of his head.
“Look,” Alistair told him seriously. “Even if you do quit, even if you run away…. That won’t stop the nightmares. Or anything else. It’s in your blood, now. If you go and suffer….” He gesticulated, trying to find the words. “All this? And don’t fight to stop the Blight, the Archdemon? It will all be for nothing!”
Bannon sighed, his whole body slumping. “Shit.”
“No matter what happens, I’m with you.” Alistair moved closer, putting a hand on Bannon’s arm. His voice was weighted with sincerity. “We’re Grey Wardens. I’m your brother. I’ll never abandon you.”
Bannon looked up into his friend’s face. “We’re stuck in this together, hm?”
“And how long until I die of the Taint?”
“What, that? Oh, decades.” Alistair waved it off airily. “Fifteen, twenty years, maybe. There’s no sense worrying about it now. First, we have to survive that long. And the odds of us even living through this year alone are… what?”
Bannon tipped his head. “A million to two?”
“There, see?” Alistair brightened. It seemed nothing could quench the spark within him for long. “Nothing to worry about!”
The elf sighed, and trudged back towards the camp. “Thanks, Alistair. You should get some rest. I’ll take this watch since I missed mine.”
“That’s all right; I’ll sit up with you.” He fended off a sharp glance from the elf. “No, it’s just that I’m not tired right now.”
Bannon nodded. “Thanks. Again.” He sat and propped his back up against the boulder. Alistair crouched by the fire, stirring the embers and adding another branch. Bannon had to admit, whatever the man may lack in smarts, skills, tolerance for witches, and abilities with cooking and bootlaces… he more than made up for in loyalty. Bannon grimaced. And he hadn’t exactly treated Alistair very well. He would have to try to make up for it.