Flavor: Humor, Drama
Nudity: shirtless elves (m)
Sex: some innuendoes
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.
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.
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?”
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.”
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.
“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!”
“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.”
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–?”
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?”
“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.”
“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.