Work This Week


 

The writing is not going. I have figured out the scenes that have to happen before they get to Lake Town/Circle Tower. The first thing is, they have to get attacked by darkspawn. But the scene just isn’t coming through from my brain. Perhaps the chapter will just start in the middle of them being attacked :X

 

In visual news, I created Zevran’s head version 8, 8.5, and now 9. And… omg, I think I’m happy with it. I think it looks nice, and it also manages to look much like him. I’ve tried replacing this new version into some of the scenes I did where he looks horrid (Best Buds, for example ::shudder::), but that hasn’t seemed to really help much. :/

And the clothes that would not convert to M3… I finally got converted. But for some reason the t-shirt didn’t keep its morphs. So DA:Torchwood-Zevran currently has boots, jeans, jacket, sunglasses, gun, and no shirt. I haven’t heard him complain.

This is a quick render of Zevran v9, no post work. I was adjusting the glasses in the face cam view, and he just begged me to put that smirk on his face. And I still have no idea why the eyebrows and eyelashes won’t bloody well render right.

 


Burdens


 
Content:
Rating: Teen
Flavor: Drama/Humor
Language: bad
Violence: none
Nudity: none
Sex: none
Other: none
 
Author’s Notes:

I have a fondness for dream imagery and nightmares. I bet you could tell.

 


Burdens

 

 

“A strong woman will be good for you.” Cyrian smiled blandly and patted Bannon on the shoulder.

“Dad, I don’t need–” Bannon tried to back away, but he was hemmed in by something. Cyrian slipped a bridle over his head. Mother Carson came up on Bannon’s other side and helped his father fasten a harness around his chest. “But–!” Bannon’s protests were in vain.

Nesiara appeared, beaming radiantly in her fine wedding dress. She tugged at Bannon’s bridle until he was bent double, then she climbed up on his shoulder. “A fine husband,” she said, sitting in a demure sidesaddle. “To support our family.”

Bannon didn’t have time to protest as more people crowded around him. Soris staggered up and laid a gallows frame across Bannon’s back. The heavy timber pressed him down. He struggled to keep his balance.

“Help me!” Shianni cried. She was lying at his feet, her dress torn and bloodied. She reached up towards him. “Bannon, please, save me!”

“Shianni!” He moved to reach for her, but how could he lift her? People were piling more things on his back.

Alistair ran up. “I need you to take these cheeses–”

“Furniture for your new home,” Cyrian said, lifting a newly-carved chair.

“–to Redcliffe–” Impossibly large wheels of cheese came out of the Templar’s satchel. Alistair started stacking them on the chairs.

“You need to take this loot,” said Leliana, producing a lute of solid gold, “to Orlais–”

“–to the Mages of the Circle–”

“–the Empress will help you, yes?”

“–to the dwarves of Orzammar–”

“You must be made presentable, with ribbons and bows–” Leliana started strewing him with frippery.

“A cradle, for the baby.”

Bannon staggered. “I cant–!” With supreme effort, he managed to avoid falling to his knees.

Sten said, “You must keep the Qun in balance.” He solemnly placed a thick book on Bannon’s head.

“–to the Dalish–”

“–and these boots will never do–”

“What about our family?”

“Help me!”

“Get me out of prison!”

“–and save them all from the Blight.”

I’m trying!” Muscles screaming in protest, Bannon shuffled forward one step. Another. The piles on his back creaked and swayed. The Qun was sliding off his head, Shianni wouldn’t move out of the way, and no one was helping him! They all stood back, watching. Nesiara kicked her heels impatiently against his chest.

Duncan strode forward, the crowd parting before him. “Is this what you’ve learned?” he sneered, bending to look Bannon in the face. “To make the Archdemon laugh itself to death?”

“I’m trying!” Bannon craned his head so the Qun fell against his right shoulder and wedged there precariously. “Help me! Where are the Grey Wardens?”

“You’re it, you sniveling little knife-ears!” It was Vaughn’s voice. Duncan’s hair began to turn from raven black to ginger. “Ferelden is doomed because of you! And where’s my rent?”

“Bannon, pay him,” Nesiara cried in panic.

The beleaguered elf fumbled for his money pouch. Vaughn, having completed his transformation, snarled in contempt. He drew back his fist to hit Bannon’s upturned jaw, and there was nothing Bannon could do to stop him.

Nothing, that is, that wouldn’t cause him to drop something. So Bannon pitched himself forward and got to enjoy Vaughn’s look of shocked surprise a split second before the whole huge pile crashed down on them both. Nesiara screamed as she went tumbling.

Bannon lay pinned under the crushing weight, struggling to move. Panic burned inside him, making his heart race. Get up get up get up GET UP! With a roar, he pushed up on his arms and gathered his legs under himself. He heaved upwards again, toppling lumber and cheeses. Lips drawn back in a snarl, he looked for Vaughn. Nesiara stomped up to him. “What have you done? You’ve ruined our lives!” He lashed out and tore her face off. She spun to the ground.

Shianni stirred underfoot. “This is all your fault! Why didn’t you protect me? Why didn’t you save me?” With a growl, he swept her aside, sickle claws snatching her from the ground and flinging her away.

“You didn’t save me, either, you selfish bastard!” Soris held the end of the rope around his neck and shook it angrily at Bannon.

Bannon lunged.

“You always took after your mother,” his father said sadly. “Why couldn’t you be a good boy?”

Bannon whirled and tore apart the old man, too. Rage burned inside him, building up heat. The scattered wood around him suddenly burst into flames. Bannon cast about, clawing and kicking aside debris, looking for his enemy, Vaughn.

All he saw were broken bodies. The area had become a battlefield. No, the alienage. The buildings were wrecked, bodies strewn everywhere. What had happened? His family, his friends, torn asunder. Who did this? Bannon stumbled a bit further. There was Duncan’s body, soaked in blood. And Alistair, his chest torn open, his armor ripped apart like stiff paper.

The heat at his back grew, but no light came with it. Or, rather… something cast a huge shadow. Bannon froze, panting. He could sense the immense weight behind him, but he dared not turn around.

FEED.

“No….” His voice trembled.

NEED.

“…no…” His whole body shook. Heat seared his back.

KILL.

He felt his claws — hands — flex. “N-no.”

THEN BURN!

There was a roar, felt more than heard, a rushing of air, and of fire. It roiled over Bannon, stripping his flesh, crisping his skin. Bannon screamed. He clawed his way out of bedroll and tent and ran madly through the camp.

Alistair scrambled to his feet from where he sat on watch and grabbed the elf before he ran headlong into the fire. “Easy, whoa!” The Templar held onto the squirming elf.

“The cheeses! The cheeses are melting!” he screamed in panic. “The greyspawn cheeses!”

“Calm down!” Alistair grunted as the elf nearly pulled him off-balance. “You’re not making sense!”

“Cheeses! Dark Warden cheeses! Treeses!”

“The Grey Warden treaties?”

“Are melting!” Bannon shook his head. “Burning!”

Gingerly, Alistair let him go. “All right; easy… easy.” Bannon seemed to be getting ahold of himself. “You’re awake now? That must’ve been one doozy of a nightmare. Did you see the Archdemon?”

Mutely, Bannon shook his head. He shivered. Alistair took him by the hand and led him to the tent. He ducked inside and nearly had a heart attack when the assassin said, “What is going on?”

“Gah! Just… nothing! Go back to sleep.” Alistair dug up his satchel and brought it back outside to show Bannon the treaties. “There, see? Everything is all right.” He patted the stricken elf on the arm. “We’ll have a good laugh about this in the morning.”

“Sure.”

“You want me to stay up with you a bit?” Alistair bent his knees, trying to peer into the elf’s face, but Bannon wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“No. No, I’m all right.” Bannon waved him off and turned away, rubbing his forehead.

“Are you really sure? Because I haven’t been able to sleep very well,” Alistair said. “There’s an assassin in my tent.”

“He’s tied up.”

“Well, yes. It’s the ‘what if he gets himself untied’ part that worries me.”

Bannon scratched his head, rumpling his hair. “All right, bring him out here. I’ll watch him.”

 

 

Bannon went to pull on his armor and weapon harness. Alistair thanked him profusely and went to fetch Zevran. He had to call Bannon for help a minute later, because he’d tied double knots and couldn’t get them undone. Too weary to grumble, Bannon helped get the assassin and his bedroll out by the fire.

“Just go back to sleep,” he growled at the talkative Antivan. He sat morosely staring at the flames, trying to forget the nightmare, trying to banish worries about his family, and the stench of charred flesh.

“You know,” Zevran said, idling in his blankets, “you should sit with your back to the fire. Then it will not blind you to attackers sneaking in from the dark.”

Bannon bit his lip. Damned know-it-all assassin. It made sense, though. He shifted position, but made sure to keep Zevran in sight.

“Tell me about your dream.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s a little trick I have,” Zevran said cheerily. “To retell a nightmare as a grand adventure, where you win in the end. Makes it much more pleasant, no?”

“Don’t think so.”

But the Antivan persisted. “Do I understand you had a nightmare about cheese?”

Bannon groaned and rubbed his face. There was no getting around it, so he told Zevran parts of the dream: Alistair giving him giant wheels of cheese, his father piling furniture on his back. “Then that bastard, Vaughn, showed up, laughing, and demanding rent money. I could barely move with this giant stack of stuff on my back, and when I didn’t cough up the coins fast enough, Vaughn went to hit me.” Bannon’s mouth curved into a satisfied little smile. “That’s when I said to hell with everything and dropped it all on him. You should’ve seen the look on his face just before he got squashed.”

Zevran chuckled. “Remind me not to make you angry at me. You are quite vengeful. Not,” he was quick to add, “that I have any intention of angering you. And it seems you hardly need my help in the matter of this nightmare, mi patrone.”

Bannon’s smile turned sour. “Yeah, well, then the Archdemon showed up and destroyed everything.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.” Bannon lowered his head, pressing his fingers that aching spot above his eyes. The cheerful assassin wasn’t daunted for long, however. He wriggled to sit upright, cross-legged in his bedroll, while Bannon watched him warily.

“But you are a mighty Grey Warden, si? You shall slay this Archdemon when you meet.” Zevran grinned cockily. “Is what Grey Wardens do.”

Bannon stared at him a moment. He decided sitting that way was a really bad idea for a guy who disdained pants in favor of a short leather kilt. And what in Thedas was he wearing underneath? Bannon squeezed his eyes shut. Maker, he didn’t want to know. He looked off to the edge of camp, but kept the assassin in his field of vision– just in case. “Have you ever even seen an Archdemon?”

“Uh, no. It is a big demon, is it not?”

Bannon looked sidewise at him. “Have you ever seen a darkspawn?”

Zevran nodded. “Si. Several chased us in Lothering.”

“Have you ever seen a dragon?”

“Hmm. Only in paintings.”

“The Archdemon is a Tainted dragon,” Bannon said, looking him in the eye. “Think really big. Really pissed off. And quite insane.”

“Oh.” Maybe that would finally shut him up. But oh no. That hope was in vain. “Well, I could slay such a thing.”

Bannon snorted in disbelief. “You?”

“If I were a Grey Warden? Surely! And,” Zevran continued, ignoring Bannon’s further noises of incredulity, “since you defeated me, it follows that you can kill it easily. So you see? There is no cause for concern. This Archdemon should be having nightmares about you.”

Bannon had to laugh, albeit dryly. This guy’s ego knew no bounds. “All right, you win. Now go to sleep.”

“I am not tired. Besides, two pairs of eyes on guard are better than one, no?” Zevran leaned forward. “We should go on patrol, around the edge of the camp.” Bannon narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Or not, as you prefer,” the assassin hastily added, seeing his look.

The Denerim elf gave it some thought. I seemed like a ploy– get him alone, out on the fringe of the camp, do away with him quietly. But if they kept a tight leash on the assassin all the time, he’d just keep waiting for the opportune moment to strike. If Bannon could give him the opportunity now — or at least appear to — while he was on guard against it…. He could discover Zevran’s true colours. Hopefully without dying. Something told him there was a major flaw in this plan, somewhere. His head was just still too muzzy to see it.

Perhaps a walk would help clear it. “Do me a favor, would you?” he asked, moving around behind Zevran to untie him.

“What is it, mi patrone?”

“When you turn on us, kill me first.”

The ropes slipped free, and Zevran turned, looking at him in confusion. “I have no intention of killing any of you,” he said. “I pledged my loyalty to you, did I not?”

“You were serious?”

The Antivan drew himself up indignantly. “Of course I was serious! Do you think I pledge my service to just–?”

“All right, all right,” Bannon said, motioning for him to keep his voice down.

Zevran huffed and settled for seething in silence. That lasted all of two seconds. “Out of curiosity,” he said, “why would you wish me to kill you first?”

“It’s my fault you’re here,” Bannon said.

“Believe me, no one is more grateful than I.”

Bannon gave him a look. “No one is grateful,” he pointed out. “If I made a mistake…. If you kill me first, the others will have a chance to take you down, and continue with the mission.”

“It means that much to you?” Zevran tilted his head, his amber eyes assessing Bannon.

The Denerim elf shrugged uncomfortably. Maybe this was a burden he couldn’t put down. “I don’t know,” he said, looking away. “But it would be terribly embarrassing if I got any of the others killed by being royally stupid.”

Zevran moved to face him squarely. Bannon could not escape his scrutiny as the assassin studied his features. “If it is of concern…,” he said slowly, his voice low. “I am unarmed, without armor. You have your weapons.” He held his hands out, slowly raising them away from his sides, palms forward. “You could dispatch me, here and now. Your… ‘problem’ would be solved.”

Bannon clenched his teeth. He didn’t like being baited like this, and he had a strong impulse to skewer the cocky elf just on principle. But he took a breath. “I’m not going to kill you for no reason,” he growled.

“Ah well, you see?” Zevran relaxed and grinned. “Already you are much better than my previous employers. Why would I throw that away, hm? And go back to them?” He made a sour face. “No, no, mi patrone; you are stuck with me.”

Bannon tried to suppress a groan. He dragged the assassin out on patrol. Zevran, of course, pestered him for a weapon. “It would make me marginally more useful to you, should we be attacked.”

“I think it would be more meaningful if you threw yourself in front of my enemies with no hope of survival,” Bannon countered.

“Hmm. Perhaps I will simply run back to camp, screaming, to raise the alarm?”

“Yeah… unless they think you killed me, and it’s some kind of trick.”

Zevran just sighed heavily, and Bannon counted that as a point in his favor.

 

 

The two elves walked the ragged edge of the camp, their steps naturally light as they subconsciously avoided making noise. The moon was full, but patches of clouds were moving in from the west.

Bannon wanted to learn more about the elf he’d let into their midst, but so far, that had proven difficult. It wasn’t that Zevran didn’t like to talk about himself — in fact he seemed to be his own favorite subject — but when asked specific questions, he deflected them, and when he spoke in general, it was always some self-aggrandizing bullshit. So he decided to try a different tack, to stick to more neutral subjects. “Tell me about Antiva.”

“Ah, Antiva,” Zevran sighed wistfully. “It is a tiny desert nation, clinging to the coast and the banks of the mighty Antiva River. A rich, golden prize surrounded by three nations — Rivain, Tevinter, and the Free Marches — all crouched over it like hungry lions. Did you know, Antiva does not have a standing army?” He chuckled. “The biggest organized military presence is actually the Crows.”

“You don’t have a royal guard?”

Si, to be sure! But the royal family is quite large, with a great many branches– not all of them are allied to the same causes, you see. Most of the political power is wielded by the Merchant Princes. In Antiva,” he explained, “one can acquire great wealth, and with that wealth, build one’s own network of allies, and raise one’s own small army of guards.”

“So to become a nobleman in Antiva, you just need money?” Not that any city elf could amass that much wealth, but it sounded easier than being born into or marrying into a noble family.

“Well, not ‘noble’ in the purest sense of the term. But as powerful as one? Si. More powerful than many of the poorer noble houses.”

“If Antiva is so rich, and there’s no army… how is it they aren’t conquered by these other nations?”

Zevran grinned brightly. “Ah, you see, our greatest enemies are our most powerful allies. Should any one of these Great Lions seek to stretch out a paw and snatch the golden prize, the other two would spring upon him and kill him.” He demonstrated with a swipe of his arm, a toothy snarl, and a pantomime with claw-hooked fingers.

“Enemies as allies, huh?” Bannon mused. “Then it’s not just you. All Antivans are crazy.”

Zevran laughed. “Crazy like a crafty desert fox, my friend!”

“But what’s it like living there?” Bannon pressed, closer to Zevran’s home. “What city are you from?”

“I am from the capitol, Antiva City. It is a sparkling jewel built on the delta of the great Antiva River.”

“Overlooking Antiva Sea?” Bannon asked dryly. “Whoever named this place didn’t have much of an imagination.”

“Tcha!” Zevran scolded him. “Antiva was founded ages ago by our first queen.”

“Queen Antiva of Antiva, residing in Antiva City on the Antiva River, overlooking the Antiva Sea?”

Zevran slugged him in the arm. “If you were a powerful queen, you would no doubt name quite a bit of geography after yourself, too!” Bannon could only chuckle in response. Zevran continued. “At night, the sultry breeze wafts over the streets; lanterns are lit, twinkling like stars. Ah, and the festivals! A riot of colours! Music and revelry… laughter and sparkling wine….”

The bronze-skinned elf’s face relaxed into a genuine smile. Perhaps Bannon’s ploy was working, though it all sounded too good to be true. “What about the alienage?”

“Oh,” Zevran said, coming back to the present. “We did not live in the alienage. My mother was a high-class whore, you see. We lived in the Southwest district, at the brothel, close to the marketplace.”

“You’ve never lived in an alienage?”

“No. Of course, when the Crows bought me, they housed us in the warehouse district, near the tannery. The brothel was much nicer.” A shadow passed over Zevran’s features, but was quickly banished. “What about you? You are from Denerim, Ferelden’s capitol, no? Is it not a bastion of your country’s beauty and strength?”

Bannon snorted. “You’ve been to Denerim. I’m from the alienage there. Trust me, it’s no jewel and certainly not a bastion of anything, except maybe stench.”

“Ah, well.” Zevran shrugged, having to concede the point. “But in all honesty, Ferelden doesn’t actually smell like wet dog.”

“What?”

“Oh, si. That is what everyone who’s ever traveled to Ferelden says. That the country smells like wet dog. They exaggerate. Truly.”

“Well. Good to know.” Bannon gave Zevran a narrow stare, wondering if the assassin were having him on. For his part, Zevran seemed to be biting the inside of his lips to prevent them from smirking. “What does Antiva smell like, then?”

“Ah, sweet orange blossoms.” Zevran smiled.

Bannon narrowed his eyes further. “Except the tannery.”

That knocked the smug look off the Antivan’s face. “True. And the fish market. And… the slave market.” His expression darkened again.

“They really have slaves in Antiva? I mean… that seems so ‘ancient Tevinter.'” Bannon had a hard time picturing it. Slavery seemed like something out of the histories, or lurid tales.

“Oh, Antiva is much more enlightened than Tevinter,” Zevran said sourly. “Tevinter has human slavery, as well as elves of course. In Antiva, only elven slavery is legal.”

Bannon snorted in disgust. “Fucking shems.”

“Tell me about it. Fat bastards, living off the labor of the ‘lesser race.'” Zevran sneered. “If they ever had to do real work a day in their lives, they’d keel over dead.”

The Denerim elf chuckled in agreement. “Hey, did you ever try to learn to speak Dalish?”

“Every city elf child tries to learn Dalish,” Zevran said. “For that day when they will run away and join the wild elves, no? Ah, but then things come up and other pursuits catch your interest.” He shrugged. “No one uses Dalish speech, so eventually you forget it. No?”

“Yeah, that’s the truth,” Bannon said. “But I do remember, when we worked down on the docks, we used to tell the shems….” He frowned, trying to remember. “Ah, ‘matraen shallotte, ir din.’ We told them it was a respectful form of address to one’s betters.”

“What does it mean?”

“Eat shit and die.”

Zevran burst out laughing. “Quiet!” Bannon shoved him. “You want to wake everybody up?”

The Antivan slapped a hand over his mouth, bent double to try to stifle his laughter. It took him a minute or two to regain his composure. “That is so funny! They thought you were greeting them with rspect, and you were telling them to eat shit?” He sniggered again. “How did you keep a straight face?”

Bannon grinned. “Oh, it’s a talent we Denerim elves have.”

“Tell me again, so I can learn to say it!”

Matraen shallotte, ir din.”

 

 


 

End Notes:

Matraen shallotte, ir din

— Before you go yelling this at people, you have to realize Bannon’s translation is quite faulty. What do you expect from a kid sneaking a peek at the hahren’s terribly scanty dictionary?

Matraen (changed from the Elvish Lexicon at Pandymic): to eat

Shallotte (made up by me and used by my Dalish elf): an exclamation without any actual literal meaning. just something to say when you are mad.

Ir (DA canon): with

Din (DA canon): not, isn’t; or someone who has died.

— So literally, it means “To eat, an exclamation, with some dead guy.”

 

“Well, it’s a little trick I have,” Zevran said cheerily. “To retell a nightmare as a grand adventure, where you win in the end. Makes it much more pleasant, no?”

— He stole that from me. Of course, in most of my dreams I’m kicking butt on nazis anyway….

 


Writing Work


 

This week’s post is done being written out. But it isn’t being typed in. Instead, I got out my good ol’ Rite Pen handwriting recognition software, and I’m… writing it in. My left elbow is still very sore and swollen from the typing session 3 Sundays ago. That’s right, three weeks and it still hurts! Remind me to take breaks!

Writing the work into the computer takes a lot longer than typing. And the correcting…! Oy vey. I think my handwriting has gotten better, though…!

For your amusement, some of the “Handwriting Recognition’s Greatest Misses” for this session:

arolswayeol.
(and swayed.)

Oj attired his M, war himself.
(gathered his legs under himself.)

why conldrityonheagovdbigj’
(why couldn’t you be a good boy?)

In semi-related news, I was writing in a short Torchwood bit, and it kept insisting on calling Ianto “farto.” Honestly, what kind of name is that? ::sigh::

 


Work This Week


 

Two weeks ago, I strained my elbow typing a lot on Sunday afternoon. It still hurts like heck. Last week I reined my brain in, as it was running too hot on a bunch of different stories and heading to burn itself out. This week, it’s still on vacation, I’m afraid.

Meaning, yes, I do not have a B&Z post for this week. BUT, the post I posted last week was technically a week early, so I’m not falling behind. Exactly. Next week, the next part should be out, which is two weeks from the last post, which is also technically on time.

In other news, I have two Torchwood works I’ll be posting on FanFiction.net this week and next. These are straight Torchwood (or Torchwood/Dr Who), not the Dragon Age: Torchwood.

Speaking of the Dragon Age: Torchwood, first, there’s a poll on my FFnet page about when to post that work there. It’s currently tied at Post It Now! and Don’t Post It Yet! This is not helpful. If you have an opinion, and a second, please put in a vote.

Secondly, I’ve started putting together the wardrobe and props for the Dragon Age: Torchwood promo poster. I’ve got Bannon finished, except I hate his coat. It’s made from the original Victoria Trenchcoat, converted with Wardrobe Wizard. I have a better coat for M3 (or was it M4?) from SickleYield over on Renderosity that I want to try.

Here’s just a quick render, of Bannon doing his Neo impression:

Bannon Does his Neo Impression

 


Of Demons and Templars, Of Bards and Assassins


 
Content:
Rating: Teen
Flavor: Drama/Humor
Language: some
Violence: none
Nudity: partial (m), implied (m)
Sex: none
Other: none
 
Author’s Notes:

More bits of business amidst the companions. Zevran’s second night.

Typos squashed by spellcheck.net.


Of Demons and Templars, Of Bards and Assassins

 

 

The next night saw them camping out once again. Bannon sent Zevran off to dig the latrines — by himself this time. He had to do something to get rid of the other elf. The Antivan hadn’t shut up all day, and he was very friendly. With everyone! Bannon glanced at the qunari and shuddered. He had to be joking about Sten!

His thoughts were interrupted by Alistair. “I’m worried about Morrigan.”

“More than the assassin?”

“At this point, I’d have to sit down and think about that one. But I don’t think Zevran can actually talk us to death. If Morrigan made a deal with that demon….”

“What exactly would happen?” Bannon understood the concept of demonic possession being A Bad Thing, but other than that, he knew next to nothing about it.

“Either she’s in control of the demon and can use it to enhance her powers — at least until it breaks free. Or… it is already in control and just biding its time until it’s ready to slay us.”

Bannon rubbed his neck, noticing how long his hair was getting. “Look, I’ll talk to Morrigan.”

“Maybe I should talk to her.”

The elf’s brows went up. “You want to talk to her?” That was unusual. Not to mention a recipe for disaster.

“I have training as a Templar. I’m not a full Templar, but I know how to deal with mages and demons….”

“You’re enough of a Templar that she’ll spook if you try to talk to her. Let me at least go first. I’ll let you know if I notice anything strange.”

Alistair looked unhappy. To distract him, Bannon said, “See if Leliana will give you another trim. That wild bear-man seems to be lurking nearby.” The spot of humor seemed to cheer Alistair up. Bannon walked over to the little corner of the clearing the witch had staked out for herself.

 

 

“Need any help?” Bannon asked her cheerily. She didn’t say ‘yes’ of course; that might imply some weakness or neediness on her part. But she wasn’t shy about ordering him around. He collected brush to cushion her bedroll, and got her fire started. Not a bad job for a city elf.

“So,” Morrigan began their conversation; “not stabbed in the back yet?”

Bannon chuckled dryly. “No, but I haven’t allowed Zevran a blade yet.”

“Hence the possibility that you will die a foolish and useless death is still a good one.” Vehemence laced her tone. What would she have to be angry about? Unless she wanted to be the one to kill the Wardens. Though she’d had her chance, many a time.

“Why Morrigan… you actually sound as if you care.” He said it softly, careful not to goad her. She did not reply. Also uncharacteristic. There was no way this was the effect of a demon. In Connor, the thing had been insane. Out of control. “What would you do if that happened?” he asked, referring to his foolish demise.

“Leave Ferelden.” She met his eyes. “Since it would soon be devastated by the Blight, having no Grey Wardens to defend it.”

“That could still happen. Even with two whole Grey Wardens here.”

Morrigan pinched her lips shut and busied herself with her pack, moving and rearranging things; setting out a few pouches. “Where’s Bodahn and his infernal cart? I’ll need more potion flasks.”

“He’ll be along.” Bannon sat on the ground near the fire, pretending to tend it until it was well-established.

Morrigan sighed and turned to face him, idly fiddling with a small packet. “Why is it you are here?”

“To check up on you.”

“Worried about me?” she asked archly. “Or worried about yourselves?”

Now seemed as good a time as any to broach the subject. “Alistair is worried that you didn’t actually defeat that demon. That you made a deal with it, or… are already possessed.”

Her golden gaze didn’t waver. “And what do you think?”

He spread his hands. “Like I say, I’m just a backstreet city elf. I don’t know anything about demons except what’s in the stories. I don’t think you’re possessed. That demon was much more insane.”

“It was impulsive,” Morrigan clarified, half-questioning. “Flighty. Childish, even?”

Bannon frowned, chewing at the inside of his lip. “You mean, because it was inside a boy’s mind?”

“The spirits and demons of the Fade can only view our world through our perceptions.”

“That’s why the demon thought Eamon was its father?”

“‘Twas a young demon, as such things go. Naive about the real world. Living vicariously through her host’s mind.”

Bannon frowned harder. Morrigan wasn’t exactly denying having made a deal. “Connor told Alistair that the demon promised to keep Eamon alive. That if we fought it, took Connor away from it, it would… I don’t know, release it’s hold on Eamon’s spirit? Let him pass through the Fade and on into death.”

“But…?”

“But, he didn’t die. After you… removed the demon from the boy.”

The witch smiled faintly. “A reasonable assumption might be that I made another deal with that demon. To keep the arl alive. What would you think of that?”

Bannon sat back, leaning on his hands. He puffed out a breath. “Well, Alistair seems to think this Arl Eamon holds the key to ousting Loghain. Bann Teagan himself told us no one else mattered; we had to save Eamon at any cost.” He looked over at her. She slowly raised one brow. “Alistair also says — keep in mind, he’s the only one trained and educated in these matters, which is why I have to rely on him — he says a strong mage could control a demon. Use its power to enhance her own.”

“Would you consider that a good deal, then?”

“Keep Eamon alive… become a stronger mage to help us fight? Sure.” He shrugged, sitting upright again. “But… Alistair also says the demon would still try to escape control. And eventually, it would destroy us all.”

Morrigan picked up the little packet of herbs she held. She looked at it, turning it over in her hands. Then she leaned and put it away neatly back into her pack. Bannon waited quietly, until she faced him again, her gaze steady. “Do I seem the sort of woman to you,” she asked, “who would relinquish control of herself to some demon?”

“No. Definitely not. But,” he returned her gaze frankly; “you do seem the sort of woman who would feel strong and confident enough to try to control one.”

She smiled slowly. “I see. To answer your unasked question: No. I did not bargain with the demon for power or for the arl’s life. I defeated her in combat and broke her hold on the boy. As for how Eamon yet lives, I do not know. Perhaps his hold is tenuous. Perhaps he has already expired, or will do so soon.”

“Or,” Bannon mused cautiously, “you could just be lying.”

“About any or all of it,” she agreed cheerfully. “‘Tis always an option.”

“You don’t exactly instill people with confidence.”

“I try to be honest.” She tilted her head. “What would it take for you to trust that I am not harboring a demon?”

“I don’t know.” Bannon prodded the fire. This resulted in some of the sticks collapsing, so then he had to fuss with it further to keep it from smothering itself.

“Perhaps if I gave my word? That’s how the assassin gained your trust, is it not?”

“I do not trust him,” he told her firmly. “He’s full of bullshit. All those stories about being chained up in crates, or hanging down wells, but that wasn’t him because they paid too much for him or some nonsense?” The assassin seemed flippantly careless when speaking about his enslavement. Could that all be a lie? A bid for sympathy? But why wouldn’t he have bothered to at least make an effort to sound sincere?

Morrigan took the stick from Bannon’s hand and thrust it into the fire, expertly twisting it so enough air got in under the base to keep the flames alive. She wedged the stick into place and began adding more, building a new foundation. “What would it take for you to trust him?”

Bannon wondered that himself. “I guess… some outside confirmation of his story. We don’t even know if he’s really in danger from these other Antivan Crows.”

“They need to show up and kill him?”

“Or, I suppose Zevran would have to save me and Alistair from certain death.” Bannon looked at Morrigan. “What would it take for you to trust him?”

The witch snorted. “I trust no one. Not completely.”

“You’re here with us,” he pointed out. Then he glanced at her little campsite, deliberately separated from the Wardens. “Sort of.”

“There are different levels of trust,” she said. “Trusting someone to work with you as long as it achieves their own ends? That is not a problem. Trusting that someone would never turn on you? ‘Tis asking a bit much. Especially when they’ve already tried to kill you.”

“Trust, but with reservations,” Bannon mused. Then he nodded. “That seems the wisest course and the best use of resources. For now, I’ll trust you aren’t harboring a demon — or at least that you are in complete control of it. And if that proves wrong, it will be dealt with, swiftly.”

Morrigan frowned, her head lowered as if not expecting the conversation to turn on her. He got up to leave. “Wait,” she said. “Bannon, I’d like to ask you something. If you’ll allow.”

Curious, he hunkered back down.

She did not look at him, but she said, “That woman, Isolde. She was willing to give up her life for her child. Do you find that… unusual?”

He blinked. “No.” With a shrug, he said, “That seems normal.”

“Would your mother die for you?”

He flinched, not expecting the sudden stab of pain. He hadn’t thought about his family for a few days. They all seemed so distant, unreachable. And his mother — she was long dead. The witch’s question dredged it back up. Adaia hadn’t died for him. But would she have? He and his mother had been close — he took after her so much more than his father. It hurt him to think of her dying for him, because of him, but…. “Yes,” he said softly. “I think she would have.”

“I see. Thank you.” Morrigan stared thoughtfully at the small fire.

“You don’t think Flemeth–?” Her sharp glare cut off his words. “But mother bears protect their cubs. Even a city elf knows that,” he said, trying to mollify her.

“There are some creatures who eat their young,” she replied tartly. “Some who would let their offspring starve in order that they, themselves, may live. After all,” she said, “they can always have another litter.”

Bannon really didn’t know what to say about that. “I suppose that is so.”

“It is. Thank you for talking with me.”

He stood up again, rather relieved at the abrupt dismissal. “You can talk to me any time, Morrigan,” he assured her. “I’ll send Bodahn over with your things as soon as he arrives.”

 

 

Leliana was busy trimming Alistair’s hair, so Bannon was on cooking duty. They hadn’t spotted any deer that day, so it was vegetable soup again. When Alistair was bristling like a newborn hedgehog, Bannon took a turn sitting for Leliana’s ministrations. Alistair took over stirring the soup.

Zevran reappeared, shirtless again. He’d also been bathing. He’d let down his warrior braids and had his wet hair tied back in a single ponytail. He stopped suddenly as he saw them. “What are you doing?”

“Making soup,” said Alistair. Rather exaggerating his role as cook.

“I’m cutting the Wardens’ hair,” Leliana said.

“But I like you with long hair,” the assassin said to Bannon.

The Denerim elf rolled his eyes. Instead of answering, he said to Alistiar, “It’s your turn to watch him tonight.”

“Oh, no,” said the Templar. “We can flip the coin again. In fact, I think it’s my turn to flip it. Give it here.”

Bannon grumbled to himself, and Leliana paused while he fished out a silver. He gave it to Alistair. Zevran, meanwhile, hunkered down near them. “Is this what is so heavy in your pack?” he asked Leliana, peering over into her makeup kit. “Perhaps you would like to help me braid up my hair again this evening?” The opportunist gave a grin.

“Perhaps your assigned guardian tonight will do that,” the bard deflected smoothly.

Bannon groaned, and Alistair said, “Oh, please don’t give him any ideas!”

Too late. “Ah, it would be marvelous to have such handsome men running their fingers through my hair.”

“Don’t think so,” Alistair said.

“Just flip the coin,” Bannon told him.

Alistair did so. “Call it.”

“He– no, tails!”

The Templar caught the coin and trapped it on his forearm, but he didn’t lift his hand. “Well, which is it?”

“Tails.”

Alistair peeked under his hand. “Blast.”

“Yes!” cheered the elf, raising a fist.

“Hold still,” Leliana chided him.

Bene!” the Antivan said with a smile. “I look forward to spending the night with you, my strong, handsome captor.” He leered hungrily at Alistair.

“Gah!” Alistair flushed uncomfortably. “You are going to be tied up very securely!”

“Ooh! Bondage!”

“Oh for Maker’s Sake!” Alistair’s face reddened further as the Antivan wound him up. “And you,” he said to Bannon; “you’re still taking him ‘walkies’ beforehand!”

“All right, all right,” the elf chuckled. The assassin started making eyes at him, but Bannon ignored him. Let Alistair make a fool of himself, Bannon wasn’t going to fall into that trap.

 

 

After dinner was washing up. Zevran had found a small pond for water, but it didn’t leave much room for privacy. The Wardens let the ladies go first. Then Bannon had Leliana watch the assassin while he and Alistair took their turn. Sten would continue his evening watch and then bathe later.

“Morrigan says she didn’t make any deal with that demon,” Bannon reported, when the two of them were alone. He started shucking his armor.

“Do you believe her?”

He shrugged. “I don’t have any proof if that’s what you’re asking. Do the Templars have any fool-proof way to determine if someone is possessed?”

Alistair puffed out his cheeks as he released a breath. “No,” he replied glumly.

“Well, for now we’ll have to presume Morrigan is fine, and she’s still on our side. If she ever shows any definite sign otherwise….” The elf sidled a little closer to the human, glancing around for any birds lurking nearby. “Take care of it.”

“Me?”

“You’re the Templar, Ser ‘I’ve been trained’ and blah blah blah.”

Alistair rubbed his face, then moved off behind a clump of reeds to finish disrobing. “There is something about the training I didn’t mention.”

“Oh?”

“Templars are trained to control and fight mages. So we do have these techniques for cancelling and suppressing magic.”

Now that sounded handy. “Can you teach it to other people?” Bannon stepped down into the pond. The water was chilly and the bottom was muddy. He grimaced as it squelched between his toes.

“W– no. I mean, these teaching are only for the sacred order of Templars.”

Alistair didn’t sound completely sure about this conviction. “Does that mean you shouldn’t be using it? Since you’re no longer officially a Templar?”

“Well, I can’t unlearn it,” Alistair protested quickly. “And if we come across any of those hurlock mages…. It’s my Grey Warden duty to fight them with everything I’ve got.” Good to know he held his Warden duty as more sacred than his former allegiances. “Anyway,” he continued, splashing water over his chest, “I don’t even know if these techniques can work without lyrium.”

“Lyrium?”

“It’s a mineral mined out of Orzammar, and refined into a potion. In mages, it replenishes their magical energy.”

“Templars use magic?” Bannon asked. Wait, all you needed to do magic was some potion? He wouldn’t mind some of that!

“No,” Alistair said firmly. “It’s not magic. It’s… well, it’s willpower, basically. You focus that and… you know, smite with your mind.”

Now Bannon just stared at him, trying to imagine Alistair with the brainpower to knock a mage over.

“Hah-ha,” the former Templar said. “I see that look.”

“No, I was just–”

“Yeah, right.” Alistair’s voice lacked heat. “Anyway, I’ve practiced it, but only on inanimate targets, and without lyrium. My instructors said I did well, but I really have no way of knowing.”

“So how can we test it?”

“Ah, well, we need an evil mage to attack us. Next time that happens, I’ll try it and let you know how it works.”

“Pfft.” Another brilliant plan, there. Bannon got out of the pond, swishing mud off his feet before climbing up onto the muddy bank. He grabbed a towel and dried off.

“Before you go, would you mind holding the mirror for me?”

Bannon looked back at the human. He was contemplatively rubbing his sandpapery chin. “Oh! Sure.” The elf went and found Alistair’s razor and polished steel hand mirror.

“Uh, could you bring me a towel first?”

Shems! Bannon did as Alistair requested. Finally, the pair were perched on a stone, the elf holding the mirror steady while the human wet his bristles and coaxed them to stand out. Bannon watched in morbid fascination as Alistair slid the honed steel against his skin, mowing down the little hairs.

“What if we get you some lyrium?” Bannon asked, careful to do so between strokes of the blade.

“Well, the Chantry controls all lyrium trade.”

“We are heading to the Circle Tower. There’s a lot of mages and Templars there; they must have some stocked up.”

Alistair grimaced. “Look, the thing about taking lyrium… it’s addictive. And lyrium itself is poisonous — deadly in its raw form. The potion… it takes longer, but — I just don’t want to go through any of that. It’s why I got out of the Templars.”

“And into the Grey Wardens, where at least the darkspawn blood isn’t addictive,” Bannon quipped darkly. “But you’re still poisoned and going to die.”

Alistair grimaced. “Well, see, the lyrium destroys your mind.” He tapped his noggin. “Don’t have much up here, I’d kinda like to not lessen it any.”

Bannon chuckled darkly.

 

 

The freshly-scrubbed Wardens returned to find Leliana and Zevran sitting cross-legged in front of his pack, the contents of which were laid out in neat piles. The assassin had his hands bound securely behind his back, but was grinning all the same. Sten loomed nearby.

“What are we doing?” Alistair asked.

“We’re playing a marvelous game called Guess the Poison!” Zevran said. “Leliana is using her skill and extensive knowledge to identify the poisons in my possession, and then determine the antidote that goes with each. I have offered a kiss as forfeit each time she is correct, but alas –”

“Why don’t you just feed him some poison,” Bannon cut in; “then ask him which antidote he wants?”

Leliana suppressed a snicker as Zevran’s face fell. “Well,” he said defensively, “I have built up quite an immunity to poisons. I can probably get away with cheating.”

“Uh huh.”

“All right, fine. I have been telling her what everything is, and she has been deciding whether to believe me or not.”

“Maybe we should just dump it all out,” Alistair suggested.

“No!” the assassin yelped. “It is not all poison! I have a great many healing supplies, a miraculous muscle ointment, massage oil — my Antivan brandy!”

Bannon saw where his frantic eyes alighted. “What, this?” He bent and scooped up the flask. He sloshed it around teasingly.

“That is m–! Grr.”

“Be careful,” Alistair said. “That’s probably the worst poison.”

The assassin sputtered. “You, ser, how dare you insult my beloved homeland’s greatest elixir?”

“I believe I can help, yes?” Leliana stretched a hand towards Bannon. He handed over the flask.

She opened it and took a cautious whiff. “Whew! It is certainly potent liquor. Though that can mask many a poison.”

“Let’s give it to him,” the Templar said eagerly. “Then he can be passed out tonight in my tent.”

“Drunken debauchery in Alistair’s tent tonight! Wohoo!”

“No!”

Bannon rubbed his face and tried to ignore the escalating squabble. “Leliana, can you tell what all these things really are?”

“Oh yes,” Zevran jumped in. “As an assassin herself, she is quite proficient with the tools of the trade.”

Leliana gasped. Alistair said, “What?”

“Did you not know?” Zevran replied smoothly. “Bards in Orlais are assassins.”

The Wardens both gaped at Leliana.

She flushed. “No, I’m not a bard. I- I’m a minstrel.”

“Oh please, don’t be modest, my dear,” Zevran scoffed. “With your knowledge of poisons, of tying people up, weapons-play….”

“You lied to us?” Alistair yelled. “The Maker didn’t send you! Who sent you? Was it Loghain?”

“No!” Her bright eyes pleaded. “I… yes, I was a bard in Orlais. But I left that life; I left that country. I came to Ferelden, my mother’s homeland. I sought refuge in the Chantry. I sought peace. I pledged to do the work of the Maker.”

Alistair ran a hand back over his damp hair. “Is there anyone here who isn’t lying to us?”

“Please,” Leliana said, her eyes growing wet. “That is the truth. My vision is true; my mission from the Maker himself is to aid you in your struggles. I am loyal to the Grey Wardens, an enemy to the Blight.”

“All right,” Bannon said. “Alistair, calm down.”

“Everything I have told you is true,” Leliana insisted. “I have changed my vocation.”

“That is against the Qun,” Sten said, having been drawn nearer by the commotion.

“Qunari never change?” Bannon scoffed.

“No.”

The elf tossed his hands up. “You can’t ever change jobs? What if you find something more suitable to do?”

Sten shook his head. “The Tamassrans determine each child’s strengths and assign them a vocation to which they are best suited. That cannot be changed….” Suddenly he looked off. “Unless one loses one’s asala.”

“A what?” Alistair asked.

“The asala is the symbol of the Qunari’s spirit. The soul, you would call it in your tongue. To lose one… is to forfeit your life.”

“That’s not the change I was thinking of,” Bannon said.

Agitated enough to drop the argument, Sten walked off.

“Bannon, please believe me,” Leliana said. “I am here only to help you.”

The elf rubbed his face, taking a moment to think. “I believe you,” he said. He grimaced wryly. “But either way, it’s not like we’re picky.” He shot the assassin — the other assassin — a glare. Zevran grinned. “At any rate, whatever it was you did before joining the Chantry, your skills are most valuable to us.”

The worried creases on her face smoothed over, and a smile lit up her features. “Thank you, Bannon. Your faith means a great deal to me.”

Bannon smiled back and determined to keep a closer eye on her. Perhaps she wasn’t as crazy as she seemed — only very clever.

 

 

Sten took his turn washing up, then claimed first watch as usual. The others, except for Morrigan, spent some time around the campfire, playing Guess the Poison, cleaning armor and weapons. Bannon found a gnarled knot of wood and started carving it. Not with any design in mind, just to give his hands something to do. He had to admit, the familiar feel of metal shaving against wood did soothe him.

Then it was ‘walkies’ with the assassin, and a double-check of Bannon’s retying of his bonds. Then Zevran was turned over to a trepidatious Alistair. The Antivan elf leered at his captor, making the Templar even more skittish. Bannon sighed. “Alistair, just tie him to the tent post.”

“I’ll be really good,” the assassin said with sultry breathiness. “I promise.”

“Gah! Leliana! Can’t we gag him, too?”

“All night, while he is trying to sleep? Alistair, that would be cruel.”

The knight looked tempted anyway. Zevran made big eyes at him and said, “You wouldn’t do anything cruel and unusual to me, would you?”

“Uh….” Alistair got stuck on trying to figure out which answer to that wouldn’t please the elf. Which was probably a hopeless cause. A smile spread slowly across Zevran’s face. Alistair scowled. “All right you, one more word, and I swear you will spend the entire night with a sock stuffed in your mouth!” Zevran’s eyes went wide. Hell, Bannon and Leliana’s eyes went wide, too. The Templar pointed towards his tent. “Now go to sleep!”

Slumped in defeat, Zevran trudged to the tent. Alistair followed, lifting the flap.

Bannon and Leliana looked at each other. “Didn’t know he could do that,” the elf murmured.

“People can do surprising things when under duress, yes?”

“I guess so.”

 

 

 


Zevran’s First Night


 
Content:
Rating: Teen
Flavor: Humor, Drama
Language: some
Violence: mild
Nudity: shirtless elves (m)
Sex: some innuendoes
Other: no
 
Author’s Notes:

The next few parts are going to be less story/plot development and more character development. Less action, more talk, while Zevran settles in.

Extra proofreading by spellcheck.net.


Zevran’s First Night

 

 

It was getting a bit late to be looking for a good campsite, but the Wardens and the witch insisted in pressing on. It was a bit later Zevran found out they had but paltry camping gear, and that the dwarven merchant he’d met carried the tents in his donkey cart. He only hoped the Black Wolves hadn’t slain the dwarf, his son, and their mule, and taken the goods. He’d left orders for them to warn off the traveling merchant and anyone else coming along the road to Redcliffe, but what they had done while he was gone on his scouting mission….

“The crossroads are just up here,” Alistair said.

“Then how far to this town?” Bannon asked.

“About a mile.”

“It will be dark by then,” Leliana complained.

“But if we make it, we won’t have to set up camp,” Bannon pointed out. “And we can sleep in real beds.”

Zevran licked his lips, thinking that a fine idea, but alas, it was not to be. As they came to the crossroads, they saw a fire nearby, and that, in turn, revealed the donkey cart.

There was a warm reunion with the dwarven merchant, Bodahn was his name. A great sharing of gossip and news of the road, and the plight of Redcliffe transpired. Alistair introduced Zevran, warning Bodahn not to trust him or sell him anything, as he was an assassin and their prisoner. The dwarf did a startled double-take, and Zevran smiled pleasantly at him. Bodahn was no idiot. He decided it wouldn’t be politick to say how he’d given all the details of the Wardens’ strength and numbers to their assassin.

The companions began sorting out their camp. Zevran was grateful to return Leliana’s pack to her. He’d been speculating all day what in Thedas could be so heavy in it. She either collected rocks, or was one of those daft people who liked to cart around books everywhere.

Nobody wanted Zevran near their tents, or the food — wisely — so he dogged the Wardens’ footsteps, watching them work while he himself remained smirkingly idle. Finally, Alistair said, “Why don’t you go collect wood for the fire?”

“Oh, I can help you get wood,” he replied with a leer. That was once again lost on the Fereldens. Zevran sighed inwardly. “I would be most happy to, but then I might put some powder in it that would release a soporific smoke that would knock you all out and allow me to kill you while you slept.”

Alistair looked alarmed. Zevran grinned slyly. “So you see, my sexy Grey Warden, I’m afraid there is nothing I can do to help set up camp that I could not sabotage in some manner. Not,” he was hasty to add, “that I wish to! But you are trying to be careful, no?”

Bannon said, “You can dig latrines.”

Zevran’s face fell. “But…!” No, try as he might, he couldn’t see how one could sabotage a hole in the ground. “I will have to go some distance away from the main camp. I could perhaps slip away and escape, no?”

“I’ll go with you,” Bannon said unexpectedly. He went to fetch a pair of spades from the dwarf. Curious, Zevran followed.

Behind them, he heard Alistair speaking to empty air. “Did he just call me sexy?”

Oh yes, these Fereldens were going to take some work.

 

 

They found a bare spot out of sight and hearing of the camp. Zevran unbuckled his armguards and started shucking his cuirass.

“What are you doing?” Bannon asked him.

“If we are going to be straining and sweating out here, this is more comfortable.” Zevran looked directly at him and smiled slowly.

The Warden stared. Ah, this time he noticed the leer! Zevran peeled his sleeveless shirt off, turning slightly to show off his tawny muscles to advantage. Bannon just shrugged and unbuckled his own armor. Now they were getting somewhere! The dark-haired elf frowned at the large slice in the left sleeve of his cuirass.

“Sorry about that,” Zevran said.

“No you’re not.”

Zevran quirked a brow and tipped his head. “I suppose you are right,” he admitted. “Though I know how difficult it is to repair leather.” He watched avidly as Bannon pulled his own shirt off. He was at least as well-muscled and lean as Zevran himself. Very handsome. “I don’t suppose you’re sorry you stuck your sword in my leg?”

The other elf just gave him a pointed look. Zevran chuckled. “Normally, I don’t allow a man’s weapon that close to that part of my body — not an edged weapon, anyway.” Was he taking the hint? “It’s lucky I don’t wear pants.”

Bannon shook his head and bent to pick up the spades. “I said I’d give you a hand, not do all the work for you.” He tossed one of the small shovels to Zevran. The assassin sighed and started digging.

“So you were in Denerim?” Bannon asked after a minute. “Do you have any news from there?”

Now the elf’s ulterior motive became clear. He’d said he was from Denerim. Zevran shrugged. “Probably the same you’d hear on the road anywhere.” The dwarven merchant had already gossipped about the grand political meeting and the civil unrest amongst the nobles.

Bannon frowned and started digging beside Zevran. “But what about the alienage?”

Zevran didn’t think it was wise to mention the Purge. What could the Warden do about it, anyway? “I did not go there,” he said. “I spent less than half a day in the city. I visited the Arl of Denerim’s estate, and then the castle.”

“You saw the Arl of Denerim?”

“Yes, that fellow I said hired me. Howe.”

Bannon frowned. “He’s the arl, now?”

Si. Some new fellow, from up north, I heard.”

Brow still wrinkled in thought, Bannon attacked the earth with his spade. “Were there any executions?”

“No….” That was an odd one. “Why do you ask?”

“My cousin was taken prisoner by the city guard. I thought… I’m worried he’ll be executed.”

Zevran shrugged. “No, the only talk going around was about the defeat at Ostagar, and the king’s untimely demise, the number of nobles and troops in the city, that big meeting of all the nobles.”

“Maybe they’re too busy with that to worry about one elven prisoner.” He didn’t sound very hopeful, though. It made Zevran glad he hadn’t mentioned the Purge.

They finished digging in silence, then washed up in the stream nearby and returned to the campfire for dinner. The women stared at the damp-haired, shirtless elves, until Zevran leered at them. Alistair said he’d been worried about them, but Bannon brushed it off.

 

 

At last, it was time to bed down and set the watches. The qunari was exempt due to his need for rest and recovery.

“Who’s going to watch the assassin tonight?” Bannon asked, looking to foist the duty off on Alistair.

“You said you’d watch him,” the Templar pointed out.

“I think we should take turns,” the elf explained. “That way, no one will get tired and let down their guard.”

Morrigan said, “Oh, I’ll watch him.” They all looked in her direction. “I’ll watch him until he stops twitching, and then we won’t have to worry about it any longer.”

“Morrigan is exempt,” Bannon said quickly. “She already said she wouldn’t help.” The witch smirked and went to her own tent.

“I don’t think it would be seemly for him to be in Leliana’s tent,” Alistair said.

Zevran put in, “I certainly wouldn’t mind!”

“I have to agree with Alistair on this one,” the Chantry Sister said.

“All right, so it’s between you and me,” Bannon told the Templar. He fished a silver coin out of his pouch. “Heads I win, tails you lose.” He flipped the coin into the air.

Hold it!

Bannon made a snatch for the coin, but Alistair’s outburst made him flub it. The silver flew off and landed in the dirt. “Dammit, Alistair!” He went to retrieve it. A whole silver! At least they were big.

Alistair dogged him. “Don’t go making the new guy think I’m stupid. I’m not that stupid!”

So much for that plan. “Come on, I was just joking!” Bannon found the coin and stood up. “So call it.” With a flick of his thumb, he launched the coin into the air.

“Heads!”

Bannon caught the silver in his palm, then showed it to Alistair. “Tails. I win.”

“No,” the Templar insisted. “That’s not right! You have to catch the coin, then slap it over on your other arm. See, if it’s tails in your hand, that would make it actually heads.”

Bannon sighed. “You’re just saying that because you lost.”

“I am not!”

Zevran sidled closer to Alistair. “I wouldn’t mind sleeping with you. I’m sure it will be most pleasurable.” The assassin leered up at the human, while Alistair’s face showed only bewildered horror.

“But… I’m a guy!”

Zevran chuckled throatily. “Such a tall, handsome one, too.”

“You like men?” Bannon asked incredulously.

Zevran turned his honeyed gaze on him. “I like women and men,” he said with a smile.

“Both?” Alistair squeaked.

“I was born and raised in a whorehouse,” the assassin explained. “The whores, both men and women, all knew that the art of pleasuring both sexes would give them more opportunities to earn coin. So… I learned to appreciate broad tastes, shall we say.” He grinned.

Alistiar gaped. Bannon found himself gaping, too. Only Leliana didn’t seem surprised. “Uh…,” Bannon said when he got his jaw working again. Men together? Men? Together? He shook his head and turned to Alistair. “So you lost the coin toss–”

“Oh no!” Alistair wasn’t buying it. “We’re going to do a proper coin toss.”

Bannon sighed. Well, he still had a 50/50 chance. “All right. Heads again?”

“Yep.”

The coin spun in the air. Bannon caught it without looking at it this time, afraid to know. He slapped it over on his forearm and they all gathered around to look. He lifted his hand and swore underbreath. Heads.

“I win!” Alistair crowed. “He’s sleeping in your tent tonight!”

Bannon suppressed a groan. He didn’t want Alistair rubbing it in, after all. “All right, turn around,” he told the Antivan elf, “so we can tie you.”

“Ooh, kinky!”

Maker’s Breath, how did you deal with someone who enjoyed being tied up? Bannon got the rope and started wrapping it around the assassin’s wrists.

“That’s not a very good job,” Zevran complained. “I’m sure I could wriggle out of these — ow!” This last as Bannon vengefully yanked a knot tight.

Leliana stepped over. “Allow me.” She took the rope from Bannon’s hands and began re-tying. “You want to bind one hand first, then tie the other to it.” She finished a few more loops, then tested the slack with her fingers. “How is that, Zevran? Not too tight?”

“It is a masterful job, my dear,” he said over his shoulder. “You’ve done this before.”

“Well, I wasn’t always a Chantry Sister, you know.” Leliana cleared her throat and stepped away as the three men stared speculatively.

Then Zevran said, “There is only one problem.”

“Now what?” Alistair asked.

“I have to take a leak.” His captors moaned, and Leliana continued moving away. “No, no, no,” Zevran assured them. “You don’t have to untie me. Just reach under my kilt, Alistair;” he cocked his hips at the Templar; “and gently gra–”

“Augh!” Alistair fled.

“Oh come on!” Bannon shoved the laughing assassin towards the path to the latrines.

Zevran staggered along. “Did you see the look on his face?” He snickered. “At the mere thought of touching another man! You Fereldens are so funny!” Suddenly, he sobered. “You wouldn’t, would you? I mean… you are going to untie me?”

Bannon just snorted noncommittally and took the opportunity to give the guy another shove.

“Because I was joking about that, you know.”

Bannon smirked. “I thought you liked men.”

“Oh, I do! And I like them touching me there. But for sex,” the assassin was quick to point out. “Not for… you know. That would just be embarrassing.”

Bannon chuckled to himself as he loosened the rope. This guy was so full of hot air. He left one end tied to the assassin’s left wrist and played out the rest like a leash.

“Would you mind turning around?” Zevran asked him.

“What, so you can sneak up on me. Not a chance.”

“I won’t! I’ll be far too occupied.”

“All right. If you sing.”

“Sing?” Zevran seemed aghast at the idea.

“If you sing, I can tell where you are at all times,” Bannon pointed out.

The assassin pouted. “I do not sing.” Then he brightened. “Oh! I know, I shall recite poetry! ‘There once was a man from Orlais–‘ Are you turning around?”

“Yes,” the thief insisted, shuffling his feet on the grass.

He endured two stanzas of the Orlesian’s erotic misadventures. Then Zevran turned back around. “I thought you had your back turned!” he yelped.

“I thought you were finished!” Bannon countered.

The assassin grumbled, but he didn’t make any smart remarks on the way back.

 

 

Bannon got his hands retied; the assassin approved of the job he did with that. Then he unrolled Zevran’s bedroll at one side of the tent.

“If you lay that out next to yours, we could–”

“Not a chance!”

Bannon found another length of rope and tied Zevran’s bonds to the center post of the tent. “Just lie down and go to sleep.” He blew out the lamp and rolled up in his own blanket.

“Bannon….” The assassin’s voice drifted through the darkness.

Bannon groaned. “Now what?”

“I was just wondering… you said you would tell me later, about why the Grey Wardens recruited you.”

Bannon shifted onto his back and pursed his lips in thought. “You can’t mention this to the others.”

“Of course not, mi patrone.”

“I told you Soris — that’s my cousin — was taken by the city guard. They were going to arrest us both for murder. Duncan got me out of it by conscripting me into the Grey Wardens.”

Cloth rustled as the assassin shifted. “Who did you kill?”

“The son of the Arl of Denerim. A pissant little bastard named Vaughn.” The familiar heat of anger burned through the elf at the thought of that shem. After all that had happened since, he wouldn’t mind killing the bastard all over again.

“A nobleman? You set your sights quite high indeed. Why did you select him as your target?”

“He was always coming around the alienage, treating it like his own personal playground,” Bannon snarled. “He took some women, to be his whores, he said. He took them right from their wedding. He took my cousin, Shianni, too.” He fisted his hands in the blanket. “Soris and I got some weapons to rescue them. No one else would. We snuck into the estate, killed a bunch of guards, then Vaughn and his friends.”

“How many were there?”

“Umm… three noblemen besides Vaughn.” Bannon flicked back through his memories of fighting through the estate. “And seventeen guards.” He flinched as the assassin suddenly sat bolt upright. Bannon twisted to face him.

“Twenty-one?” Zevran’s amber eyes glittered in the near darkness. “That is an impressive kill-count, my friend!”

Bannon flushed with pride. He tried to shake it off. “I didn’t kill them by myself,” he insisted. “Soris helped.”

“Still, for two men? Even the Crows would be impressed. How many people have you killed before then?”

“You’re joking, right? We didn’t go around killing people.”

“It was your first mission? Damn!”

“Keep your voice down,” Bannon shushed the exuberant assassin.

“Damn,” Zevran said again, more quietly. “On my first mission, I only killed one guard. Well, three, really, but those others weren’t confirmed. Of course, I was quite young, then.”

Bannon swelled with pride a bit more — hell, an assassin? Impressed with him? He ignored Zevran’s puffing up of his own prowess.

“How many of the nobles did you kill yourself?” he asked, eager for more of the story.

“Vaughn,” Bannon said. “And a lordling’s little brother. Soris killed one. The other guy, Vaughn killed him by accident, while he was fighting me.”

Zevran nodded in the darkness. “I have misjudged you, I think. You are truly as worthy an opponent as an Antivan Crow.”

“Thanks,” Bannon said. “I think.” He still wasn’t too sure about this guy, with all his hot air and flattery. “Now go to sleep.” The assassin lay back down, and Bannon shifted around in his own bedroll.

“Someday you must tell me all the details of this adventure of yours,” Zevran said. “I would truly like to hear the whole lurid tale.”

Bannon rolled his eyes. “Maybe if you’re good. Go to sleep.”

 

 

Zevran lay back, then grimaced as his tied hands poked into him. He shifted to one side. He tried to sleep, but his eyes wouldn’t stay closed. He’d gone along all day without thinking, contemplating; just reacting from moment to moment. Now that everything was quiet… thoughts intruded upon his mind. Some thoughts of the future, some memories of the past. He didn’t want to deal with any of them, so he resisted.

A free man. These words finally percolated to the surface. He rolled them around experimentally, tasting them. Fear. That’s what the words engendered. He bit down on his tongue. It was only the slave mentality talking.

But never once had Zevran ever contemplated leaving the Crows. Probably because no one ever did. Any who tried to leave the guild were slain. If they had even a sliver of success, they were hunted down mercilessly. So it was all unexpected to Zevran, this crazy idea that had gotten into his head: escaping from the Crows. And living!

Well, for as long as that lasted, anyway. There was no doubt the Crows would come for him. But not tonight. First, it had to become clear that Zevran failed in his mission, and then that he still lived. Then assassins would have to be dispatched. They’d have to find him. And then manage to kill him. With his new allies — whom he planned to stick to very closely — that would be difficult.

For now, he was alive. No sense worrying about being killed sometime in the next few months. Hell, a darkspawn could eat him tomorrow. Zevran had learned young to enjoy life to its fullest. You never knew when a day might be your last.

He finally drifted into sleep.

 

 

failure

“How is it,” Master Farkus rumbled like thunder, “that you have failed in this mission assigned to you, yet you still live?” The mountainous human sat behind his desk, his fat fingers interlaced on the surface. The skull of the Master’s signet ring glinted on his left hand.

Zevran didn’t recall moving, but he found himself on his knees on the Master’s plush carpet. “I have not failed, Master.”

“You failed to kill your marks!”

“But they did not kill me, Master. They have taken me in, taken my word–” he sneered at the thought of words having the power to bind– “that I am now their ally. Once they drop their guard, it shall be easy to slay them!”

The Crow Master did not seem convinced. “You lying, dirty little whore-son knife-ears!”

“No, I–”

“You know the penalty for failure.”

Dark figures detached themselves from the shadows around the room. They surrounded him, looming larger as they approached.

“I did not fail!”

The rug was gone from beneath his knees. Couldn’t stain it with dirty elf blood.

“I will not fail!”

Weapons dangled from the dark figures’ hands. A coiled whip, a barbed flogger, a cudgel. This beating wasn’t going to end.

I cannot fail!

A scream ripped through Zevran’s nightmare, casting it to the floor in shreds. He didn’t know where he was at first. He was bound! He yanked at the rope; it was fastened to something. He scrambled to get at least to his knees as another scream tore through the darkness. No echo; no wood, no stone; were the walls swaying? Tent!

Zevran twisted towards the screams. Another figure leapt up; just a shadow. Its head whipped towards him, then the figure reached down and a blade was in its hand.

“Warden! You had a nightmare.” Zevran groped for the words that would save him. “I’m–” He didn’t think ‘I’m the assassin who tried to kill you yesterday’ would work. “– a friend!”

The figure, the elf Warden, slumped, panting. He ran a hand down over his face. “Just another nightmare.”

“Yes.”

From outside came the other Warden’s voice. “Bannon? You all right?”

“Yeah.” Bannon’s voice was loud in the small confines of the tent. More quietly, he said to Zevran, “Sorry I woke you.” He grabbed his armor and weapons and went outside.

Zevran lay back, cajoling his heart to slow down. “I’m not.”

 

 

He must have dozed off again, for he was awakened by something rustling in the tent. “Wh–?”

“Shh.”

Zevran looked around. Bannon was rifling through a pack. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Warden business.” He seemed to have found what he was looking for. It appeared to be a bundle of cloth, with one long bit hanging loose. “Go back to sleep.”

“Are we under attack?”

“No.”

“Then what ‘Warden business’?” Zevran demanded. He squirmed around til he faced the tent flap, so he could see.

“If I tell you I’m playing a joke on Alistair, will you shut up?” the Warden hissed.

“Oh ho! Of course, mi patrone.” Zevran grinned. This was going to be more fun than the Crows!

 

 

Bannon, Zevran, Leliana, and Sten sat around the morning’s campfire. Zevran and Leliana kept exchanging glances and shooting looks towards Alistair’s tent, where the former Templar still slumbered. Bannon prodded the fire with a stick while Sten merely stared at the pot, waiting for it to boil. The dwarves were still abed. As for Morrigan, she kept to herself. Bannon didn’t think it wise to attempt to engage her in the mornings.

“Alistair,” Bannon called; “breakfast is almost ready!”

The bard and assassin turned their attention back to Alistair’s tent. Bannon remained nonchalant until the knight started screaming. Then he leapt to his feet and whirled to see Alistair struggling to stand upright while wrestling with a horrid paisley shirt that was draped over his head.

“Oh no! The Paisley Monstrosity has returned!” Bannon ran over. “Hold still, Alistair, while I beat it off with a stick!” He raised the one he was holding.

Almost instantly, Alistair stopped struggling, his arms at his sides. Slowly, he reached up and pulled the shirt off his face. His brows lowering into a straight line, he looked at Bannon.

Bannon froze with the stick upraised to strike. He and Alistair stared at each other a full minute, each waiting for the other to crack. A muscle in Bannon’s cheek twitched.

Alistair shifted his eyes to the stick. Then back at Bannon. Bannon swiftly put the stick behind his back with a sheepish grin. Alistair broke and shook the shirt in his fist. “How the hell did this get here?”

“Oh! It must have slain that family of chipmunks and followed you.”

Alistair gave him another long, hard stare. Bannon didn’t twitch an eyelash. Frustrated, the human stomped towards the fire, where Sten was doling out porridge. “I don’t understand how come I can’t get rid of this thing!”

“You are cursed, no?” Zevran piped up. Alistair just glowered at him.

Bannon said, “It is a curse. I told you, it won’t rest until you wear it.”

“Wear it? But look at it!” The knight held it up in demonstration. “It has huge — gigunda — cuffs. With dagged edges!” He grasped an edge lined with little triangles, like banners on a castle wall, and shook it emphatically. “And it’s paisley. In purple! Who would wear it? I’m serious! Tell me when this ever would have been fashionable in Ferelden. Or anywhere!”

Bannon, Zevran, and Leliana stared at the shirt. Sten blew on a spoonful of his porridge to cool it. Then Bannon said, “You think Flemeth did a clown?”

Alistair cocked a brow at the shirt and held it slightly further away from himself. “That… actually makes sense.”

“All you need now,” said Zevran, “is a pair of huge purple pants.” They all looked at him. “To complete the ensemble. Oh, and those giant floppy shoes.” He nodded sagely.

“Right,” Alistair said, balling the shirt in one fist. “I’ll take care of it.” He headed off towards the edge of camp.

Bannon returned to the fire, dropping his stick back on the woodpile. He grabbed a bowl and slopped a heaping portion into it. Zevran looked at Leliana, his brows raised questioningly. She just shrugged.

 

 

A little while later, Zevran was packing up Bannon’s tent. So glad to no longer be a slave, he thought acerbically. He was beginning to realize why he still felt like one. He took the folded tent to the dwarf’s cart. Bannon was there, talking to Bodahn and arranging for payment.

The Warden turned to Zevran. “How are you at hunting?”

The assassin shrugged. “You mean… chasing animals about in the wilderness? Not so good. I am, after all, a city elf.” Quickly he added, “Now, stalking a mark through the streets and alleyways and killing him? This, I can do.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty much the same,” Bannon said. Zevran wondered how much practice the Denerim elf had with either method. He was forestalled from asking by Bannon handing him a longbow. “Here’s your bow. If you see any deer, we should go after them.” He also handed Zevran a quiver of dark-fletched arrows.

“This is not my bow,” the Antivan said.

“Yeah, it is.”

“No, my bow is bigger, a white yew–.” Zevran stared as Bannon pulled the very bow from the supplies.

The Denerim elf smiled faintly. “I believe you’re thinking of my bow.”

Zevran ground his teeth. That little–! He smoothed his brow and managed a bit of a chuckle. “Ah, of course, mi patrone.” He bowed, mainly to hide the murderous glint in his eye.

Bannon didn’t offer him any melee weapons. Not even a dull little belt knife suitable only for eating. It was a sound strategy, Zevran grudgingly admitted. A bow would be next to useless in close quarters, so the Wardens would be relatively safe as he traveled with them. And, if there was an attack, Zevran could at least be marginally useful in picking at the enemies from a distance. Perhaps such a happy event would occur, and he could prove his loyalty. Then he could have his blades back.

Zevran clenched his teeth. If that damned thief didn’t keep them!

 

 

They passed Alistair as the knight was bringing his tent to Bodahn’s cart.

“Alistair, what happened to the Paisley Monstrosity?”

The human stopped. “Oh, you know what? It followed me to the latrines and I accidentally mistook it for an arse-rag. I don’t think it’s coming back from that one.” With a clearly fake moue of sadness, the Templar shook his head and carried on.

Bannon watched him go a second. “Come on,” he said to Zevran; “help me find that shirt.”

“I am not fishing that hideous thing out of the latrines!” the assassin hissed. But he followed his patron as the Denerim elf headed in that direction.

“No, no,” Bannon assured him. “If that’s really what he did with it, forget it. But he probably just hid it around here somewhere.”

 

 


End Notes:

“All you need now,” said Zevran, “is a pair of huge purple pants.” They all looked at him. “To complete the ensemble. Oh, and those giant floppy shoes.” He nodded sagely.

Zevran’s quip inspired by Aimo’s artwork of Gaider’s quote about Zevarn messing with Alistair.

 


Writing Work


 

Writing continues apace. This week’s post is ready to go. The next post is at least 1/2 written. Um, possibly all written; I might need to divide the sections up further. A lot of bits of business need to go on between Redcliffe and the Circle Tower, with Zevran settling in. I may switch to publishing every Friday, with shorter segments. For a while, at least.

I was reading a book review, and it was pointed out that one should never include scenes that do not advance the plot. Well, I can see the wisdom in that. But that is one reason I like fan fiction. The ‘pros’ may have to rush everything, keep the action going, cut dialogue and scenes so they fit in the time frame (for TV shows)… but not us. You know, just sometimes, it would be nice to just hang out and chill with the characters, doing ordinary, everyday stuff. Well, at least I think so. Um, but then again, I suppose I’m thinking that most often when I’m bored and doing ordinary, everyday things.

However, these little bits of business all contribute to the story in some way. I’m trying to rein in Bannon and Zevran’s tendancy to argue and wisecrack for hours on end. ::ahem!::

 

In other news, I’ve written a very short Torchwood clip. Which means I now have two Torchwood stories that are, in fact, not Torchwood/Dragon Age crossovers. Which is completely unexpected. Once I’m done editing/polishing them, they will go up on Fanfiction.net. There isn’t really any place for them here, or on Bannon & Zevran’s forum.

As for the Torchwood/Dragon Age crossover, I’ve written two of the 4-5 parts of episode one. The writing for part 2 went slowly and awkwardly, so I’m concerned it isn’t very well-written. A friend of mine commented that I’m supposed to edit it. Normally, I don’t have to do that, as I do all of my editing in my brain. My brain churns it around, then spits it out in more or less complete form. While writing longhand, I make some adjustments. Then when typing it in, I make some more. On reading it over, I fix typos and awkward passages. That’s pretty much it for me and editing.

When the Torchwood/Dragon Age crossover is ready, that will go up in the Cutting Room Floor section of the forum, and on Fanfiction.net. Although my FFnet poll is currently deadlocked between publishing the crossover now, or waiting for an indeterminate amount of time, due to it containing spoilers of the main Bannon & Zevran story. Considering the crossover takes place between Excursions and Witch Hunt, which is five years in the future from the Blight, and lord knows how many years it will take me to actually write it all…! — Considering all that, I’m not going to wait the whole time. :X

Perhaps I will wait until I have some decent cover art. Considering how unhappy I am with Poser Zevran and Poser Captain Jack… that could take longer than the actual writing. :X