Two Swords


 
Content:
Rating: Teen
Flavor: Drama/Humor
Language: bad
Violence: yes
Nudity: none
Sex: Zevran keeps hoping, but no
Other: none
 
Author’s Notes:

My brain came up with a poignant, dramatic scene to go here. Uh, which I pushed off in favor of chickens. And so our heroes’ journey will be delayed another day. Since, you know, this is fanfic, and I don’t actually have to throw any scenes out. :X

 


Two Swords

 

 

By morning it was raining. Breakfast was a miserable, soggy affair, but the Wardens insisted on heading out despite the weather. When asked why — a reasonable question — Bannon told Zevran there was a Blight spreading across their homeland and they were rather in a hurry to stop it.

“But Blights last decades,” Zevran rationalized. “You need to pace yourselves. There is no need for us to continue into this unseasonable weather today.”

Bannon just scoffed. “Unseasonable? It always rains in the spring.”

“In Antiva, it only rains in the winter.”

“That’s funny,” Alistair said. “Winter is the only time it doesn’t rain here in Ferelden.”

“How can it not rain in the rainy season?” Zevran asked incredulously. “What kind of backwards country–?”

“It’s because we have snow.”

“Snow?!”

“Ferelden isn’t a desert,” Bannon reminded him. “We have normal weather like rain and snow.”

The assassin sighed. “Whereas my beautiful Antiva has warm, balmy weather year-round. It certainly beats your Ferelden in that department.”

“And yet Ferelden wins, because we don’t have slavery.”

Zevran glared at the insufferable Denerim elf. Still, he followed Bannon as he went to procure some rain cloaks. Zevran took one eagerly, to protect his bowstring from getting wet, he said.

The rain pattered so noisily on the hood, it might have been wiser to just let his hair get soaked. There was some relief as they passed through a wooded section of the road, but after they had traversed the tunnel of trees, the rain came down with renewed vigor. They pressed on, not having much of a choice. Shortly, they spotted a farmstead and headed across the fields as thunder rumbled ominously in the distance.

Alistair halted. The others, heads bent against the rain, hurried past him. “Stop!” he called. “Something… something’s not right.”

“Like what?” the witch demanded.

Bannon came up alongside Alistair. He raised his head and squinted, peering around at the farmyard. Zevran blew out a loud breath of impatience. Then the two Wardens looked at each other. “It’s the Taint,” Bannon said. The Wardens pulled out their weapons, and the others followed suit more hesitantly, looking around.

“Where’s it coming from?” Alistair said.

“Cows!” yelled Bannon.

And that was the most bizarre attack Zevran had heretofore ever had the misfortune to suffer. There were three cows in the field. They might have been black and white at one time, but now they were a sickly grey, mottled with fleshy crimson. What appeared to be shards of bone stuck out of their hides, from their ribs, shoulders, and hips. They charged the group, aiming for the Wardens. Zevran and the others scattered.

The Tainted cows were slow and clumsy, easily avoided, but they were big and bulky, and difficult to kill. Zevran mused that with his bow — his long white yew — he might’ve been able to put a shaft through the heart of one of the beasts, but as it was, he had to settle for feathering their necks, and just generally pissing them off. Ah well, as long as he appeared to be helping with the cause, si?

The cows were at last messily dispatched. Was that the end of their troubles? Oh, no. “I sense some darkspawn,” Bannon warned, looking about the field again.

“Where?” the qunari wanted to know.

The Wardens looked confused. “Here,” Alistair said. “They’re all around us.”

“This field is empty! Just like your head,” Morrigan growled.

There was another rumble of thunder, close enough to make the ground tremble. Alistair’s eyes flew wide in realization. “They’re tunneling under us!”

“Get to the farmhouse!” Bannon yelled. The group broke and ran, heading for the more defensible position.

Chunks of sod collapsed under Zevran’s feet. He leapt clear and put on a burst of speed. He didn’t want the darkspawn to catch him– he had no weapons to defend himself!

He made it to the porch and turned, putting an arrow to string. From that vantage, he picked at the ragged line of genlocks chasing the party.

Sten and Alistair turned in the yard to meet the attackers. Bannon and Leliana fell back to support their flanks. Morrigan joined Zevran on the porch. They were seriously outnumbered, and Zevran again cursed his lack of blades. He was a much more efficient killer with them. But the Wardens fought like demons, and the dead creatures began piling up.

Zevran moved forward to a better vantage. He spied a crude darkspawn sword lying in the dirt. If there were a bit of a lull in the chaotic battle, he might be able to dart in and snatch it. He picked off targets nearby, careful not to hit the bard or elf who moved swiftly through the melee.

Then came the moment he’d been waiting for. The darkspawn press seemed to melt back. Zevran ran forward, heedless of Alistair’s warning shout. The mud of the yard shimmered and grew deeper, even more slick. His lead foot skimmed over the ground, unable to find purchase. Arms wheeling, he pitched over into the muck. Nearby, he heard Bannon cursing. “I hate magic!” The other elf was on his knees, trying to get carefully to his feet. Zevran scrambled backwards, more eager to get out of the grease pit than to get upright.

A low crackling sound spread across the yard, and the mud froze solid. Bannon cursed again as his rain cape got stuck in the ice. Zevran tore loose his own cloak and yanked his legs free. He stood, shivering in the wet and cold. He started to ready the bow, still his only weapon.

Before be could even grasp an arrow, a darkspawn suddenly appeared and sprang at Bannon’s throat. Zevran didn’t see where it came from. Just one instant it wasn’t there, and the next it was. He got a fleeting impression of long, skinny limbs, dark skin, and sickle claws. Bannon screamed as it bore him down and bit at him, tearing his hood to shreds. It was blindingly fast. It reared back with a growl, claws raised.

Zevran took two steps without even thinking and kicked it hard in the face. It shrieked in indignation. Then it occurred to Zevran that he had no weapon with which to fight this thing. He took a wild swing at it with the bow and yelled, “Give me a blade!”

Bannon tossed his long dagger up, and Zevran snatched it out of the air, too preoccupied to complain that it was the smaller weapon. Anything was an improvement! He dropped the bow and thrust the blade at the creature. It slashed at him, and he fought the impulse to jump back. Grease or ice, the footing was too chancy. He caught the creature’s flashing claws on the blade, or more often his forearms. He backed until he found his cloak, then stood on that.

Meanwhile, Bannon cut at the darkspawn’s belly and rolled out from under it. He tore free from the rest of his cloak and attacked again. He raked the creature’s ribs. It shrieked in fury and leapt away from the two elves.

Just then, a fireball detonated nearby. Zevran blinked at the sudden light, but could only be grateful for the wave of warm air that blew out from it. Alistair and Sten were closer to the blast and cried out, but they remained standing. Alistair looked singed. The qunari looked peeved.

The ice melted away, and the mud returned to its normal consistency. Another wave of darkspawn flooded into the yard. Zevran fought at Bannon’s side, determined not to let his patron get killed. No, that would not be good for Zevran’s own health.

 

 

At last, all the darkspawn were felled. The Warden’s group stood panting in the rain, bloodied, muddied, and wet to the core. “We could have avoided all this,” Zevran complained, “if we had just stayed lounging around in our tents all day, as I suggested.” Bannon shot him a glare as they headed towards the porch. Zevran bowed and held out the dagger, hilt first. “And what was that thing that attacked you?”

Bannon took his weapon back. “Never mind that, where is it?” He looked back across the farmyard.

“You didn’t kill it?” Alistair asked, also stopping.

“No. It disappeared when the fireball hit.” Bannon described it to Alistair.

“Sounds like a shriek,” the Templar said with a frown. “Very fast; very dangerous.” He looked around again. “It must have run off.”

“Must be smarter than your average darkspawn, too,” Bannon griped. “I hope it isn’t going for reinforcements. He came up the stairs to the porch, to where Morrigan was rationing out healing potions. “And what were you thinking?” he snapped at her. “Getting us stuck in that ice?”

She looked up at him coolly. “You have no idea how flammable that grease is, do you?”

“Uh….”

“Is true,” Zevran put in. “That fireball could have set the whole yard ablaze in an instant.

Bannon looked sheepish. “Oh. Uh. Good job. Thank you, Morrigan.”

“That’s better,” the witch said, putting her potions away without offering the Wardens any.

Bannon escaped into the farmhouse. Unfortunately, they soon found it uninhabitable due to the farmers and their families having died from the Taint inside.

Alistair wanted the bodies burned, the Taint destroyed. Despite the friction earlier, Bannon was able to get Morrigan to agree. Alistair and Leliana prepared the bodies and said prayers and such frippery beforehand. Zevran didn’t believe in bothering with such nonsense, so it fell to him and Sten to haul the darkspawn bodies in to be burned. And those damned cow carcasses.

At least the rain would keep the fire contained to the house. The barn was still intact, and the group made its way there. Zevran should not have laughed as a band of Tainted chickens attacked Alistair’s shins. But honestly, between the Chantry-boy’s unimaginative cursing, his ungainly dancing around, and the evil clucking, how could one resist? But that’s why, Alistair claimed later, that the rooster went after Zevran.

The damned thing flapped down from the rafters, and its spurs cut into Zevran’s cheeks and forehead before he managed to grab ahold of it and beat it to death against a beam. He took the corpse to the door and punted it all the way over to the burning pyre.

When he turned back around, the others were staring at him, biting their lips in a supreme effort at restraint. Zevran glowered. “This incident is not to be mentioned ever again!”

“Agreed!” Alistair said heartily. The others though…. They dispersed quickly, their snickers and laughter echoing through the barn.

 

 

There were troughs for washing up. They couldn’t risk a fire in the barn itself, but it had an attached stone room for slaughtering pigs and smoking ham. It made for a pleasantly hot drying room. The Wardens were too jumpy to enjoy it to the fullest, more the pity. The question came up whether to wait out the storm here, where that one escaped shriek could bring back more attackers; or to head out to the next farmstead that was likely nearby. Where, Zevran pointed out, the darkspawn could be lying in wait for them. Thankfully, they saw reason this time. Better to be attacked where they knew the layout and had prepared defenses. The Wardens’ senses would alert them to any darkspawn approaching.

They took turns on patrol while the others rested. No one was idle, however. Zevran was busy cleaning muck from his leathers, and checking the bowstrings to make sure they dried properly and were not weakened — both ‘his’ and Bannon’s bows. The Denerim elf had cheerfully dumped that task on him, along with his own muddied armor to clean. Zevran closed his teeth firmly, but did not actually grit or grind them. No, no; he was made of sterner stuff. There was a time and a place for everything. Even in the Crows, there were ways to get back at one’s superiors. Safe ways….

 

 

“Hey, Alistair…!” Bannon waved the other Warden over to the side door, so he didn’t have to go out in the rain to talk to the man on patrol. Alistair was mostly sticking close to the barn, under the eaves. “So, that darkspawn mage today…?”

“Oh, yes, good; I wanted to talk to you about that.” Alistair flicked rain out of his hair.

“Did you try the Templar thing on it? And did it work?”

“Well, he wasn’t close enough to smite. But I did try a small technique for cleansing an area of magic.” His hazel eyes sparkled, but he reined in his exuberance. “Well, that was about the time the grease pit and the ice all melted and went away.”

Bannon cocked his head and frowned. “Did you do that, or did it just wear out right then?”

“That’s hard to say,” the former Templar admitted. “But I think it’s worth it to try again. Actually, maybe I should practice some more, when we stop for camp.”

“Like…,” Bannon ventured, “during the time we’re usually making dinner?”

Alistair grinned. “Now you’re catching on!”

 

 

The first patrol was uneventful. The elves’ patrol was, too. Their leathers were clean by then, but could use a good oiling. Fortunately, Zevran had the right kind of oils in his kit. This time, Bannon worked on his own armor. He must’ve been bored.

“I notice you use a sword and dagger to fight,” Zevran commented a while later. “You know, if you do some wrist-strengthening exercises, you could wield two swords.” He sat back a little, head slightly tilted as he regarded Bannon.

The other elf just gave him a flat stare in return. After a minute he said, “Is this another lead-in to one of your lewd comments?”

“No!” Zevran looked aghast. “I am quite serious! I only wish to help my newfound comrade to improve his skills. Two swords are much more balanced. You will find, I believe, this will help you fight better.”

Bannon got up and went to the pile of stuff where they kept the assassin’s things. He pulled out Zevran’s two blades. “Like these?”

“Those are mine.”

The Denerim elf walked back with a sword in each hand, swinging them casually in a loose grip. “I believe the word you are searching for is ‘were.'” Zevran curled his lip in a silent growl. “They were yours, before you tried to kill me,” Bannon said, needling him.

The Antivan elf sighed dramatically. “That again? How long are you going to hold that one little thing against me, hm?”

“Oh, let’s see…” Bannon struck a thoughtful pose, relaxed with one hip cocked. “How about until I try to kill you, and fail? Then we can call it even.”

The assassin plucked at a few strands of inoffensive hay and flicked them away in ire. He kept his voice level, though. “You know, technically, you already have. When I tried to kill you, you tried to kill me. And,” he emphasized, “you failed. If Alistair hadn’t been so gentle clobbering me with that– that–” he gestured in annoyance– “that oversized tin washboard–”

“Or your skull wasn’t so thick,” Bannon interjected.

“– then I would not be here now. No?”

Bannon shrugged. “You’ve got a point.” He tossed the sword in his left hand to Zevran.

The move was so sudden, the assassin was caught off guard. He scrambled to catch it, but the point bit into the hard-packed floor before he got his hand wrapped around the hilt. Still, he was on his feet, the blade in his hand, in a trice. He’d jumped into a guard position, expecting Bannon to attack and try to kill him again.

Bannon just looked at him, the other sword still loose and dangling in his right hand. He made no threatening moves, but he was prepared should the assassin lunge at him. He quirked one brow.

Suppressing a sheepish look, Zevran stood up out of his ready stance and relaxed, lowering the sword.

“Show me these exercises,” Bannon told him, gesturing towards the sword.

“Well, normally, I use both at once,” the assassin said. “It is more balanced, as I mentioned.”

“I need to strengthen my left hand, don’t I?” Bannon countered. “Show me the left.” He pointed with his chin this time.

Zevran narrowed his eyes a fraction, but with a slight shrug, he switched the sword to his left hand. “I’m sure you know how to swing a sword,” he said, slowly rolling his wrist to trace a large circle with the blade. “The left is simply the same as the right, only a mirror opposite.” He drew the blade across his body in a smooth figure-8. “Simple, no?”

“Turn around,” Bannon told him, causing him to look up sharply. “So I can see from the other side.”

Zevran turned his unprotected back to the Warden. He looked over his left shoulder as Bannon moved up behind him. “I don’t want to accidentally stab you,” the assassin said. “The others would take it in completely the wrong light.”

“Heh.” Switching the blade to his left hand, Bannon moved out a little, then mimicked the assassin’s moves. For a few minutes, the two elves stood moving in unison, blades gleaming in the waning light.

Then, watching out of the corner of his eye, Zevran began to speed up the pace and vary the moves. The Denerim elf rose to the challenge, watching with hawk-like intensity. Faster the blades flashed, and Zevran started grinning. Wickedly, he added a few foot moves and weight shifts. Now it was more like fighting, and that damned elf just would not admit defeat.

Finally, panting a bit for breath, Zevran stopped and turned. He could not resist one more flashy move of spinning the sword hilt over the backs of his knuckles and catching it in a reverse grip. Bannon still watched intently, but didn’t try to imitate the move. Zevran grinned more cockily. “We should spar,” he said, still a bit flushed and breathless. “It would be most invigorating, I think.”

“My companions definitely would take that in the wrong light,” Bannon said dryly. He held out his hand for the sword.

“Ah well.” Zevran gave the sword a small toss upwards and deftly snatched the blade. With a respectful bow of his head, he proffered the hilt to Bannon. “Perhaps when they grow to trust me more, no?”

“I look forward to it,” Bannon said, taking the weapon. The corner of his mouth curved in a smile.

Zevran’s grin turned bloodthirsty. “I think you are not the only one.” He flicked his eyes past Bannon, and the thief turned.

Leliana was there, watching them. Her cheeks flushed slightly at their scrutiny. Alistair had also just walked up behind her.

“What’s going on?” he said, looking with concern between the two elves and the Chantry sister. He eyed the two swords with suspicion.

“Zevran was just showing me some techniques,” Bannon said. He moved to put the blades away.

“You let him have a weapon?” Alistair asked, brow creased in worry.

“Look, Alistair; how are we going to find out if he can be trusted with a weapon, unless we give him a weapon?”

“Um…?”

Bannon nodded as if expecting that answer. “My point exactly.” He sheathed the two swords. Alistair just sighed and went to take another turn on patrol.

Meanwhile, Zevran had approached Leliana. “See anything you desire, my dear?” he asked in his most seductive voice.

“I was simply admiring your technique,” she replied levelly.

“Ah, yes — I am told it is very good.” He grinned even more. “And I know how difficult life can be in a Chantry cloister. Should you have any need to assuage your aesthetic urges, please do not hesitate to call on me.” He swept a chivalrous bow. “I am at your service, lovely one.”

“I shall keep that in mind,” she said slowly. She turned away. “I should see to dinner preparations.”

“I’m sure it will be delectable,” Zevran said, mouth watering as he watched her go.

“Oh yeah, that’s going to work,” Bannon told him drolly.

“Shut up.” Zevran puffed himself up. “I’ll have you know, I have performed many such services to the sisters of the Chantry.”

“Mm-hm.”

Bannon didn’t sound the slightest convinced, and Zevran shot him an evil look. As they headed to sort out bedrolls and sleeping arrangements, Zevran asked him, “So can I sleep with you tonight?”

Bannon heaved a put-upon sigh. “We’ll see what the coin says.” He lugged his bedroll towards one of the stalls. Suddenly, he stopped, slapping a hand to his face. He turned back. “In any case,” he clarified, “not in that sense!”

Zevran laughed. “I almost had you, there!”

 

 

Dinner was vegetable soup. Again. Zevran lamented the lack of roast chicken. That got Alistair all ruffled up. “I thought we were never mentioning that again!”

“I wasn’t mentioning that! I was mentioning perfectly normal roasted chickens!”

Afterwards, it was ‘walkies’ once more, with the vast luxury and privacy of a proper outhouse. It was far enough away from the farmhouse that it did not burn. Then Bannon won (if you asked Zevran) or lost (if you asked Bannon or Alistair) the coin toss again. The assassin was secured to the wall in the Warden’s stall.

Bannon sat cross-legged on his bedroll, turning the knot of wood over in his hands. It was starting to take form. After looking it over with a critical eye, he took out his carving knife and began carefully whittling.

Zevran at on his own bedroll, leaning against the back wall, watching in boredom. It was his own fault — he could be entertaining himself with washing up the dishes, but he’d once again threatened to coat them all with poison. So now he was stuck, tied up with nothing to do.

“Back in the Crows, being their very best assassin as I was…,” Zevran began.

“Mm,” Bannon replied unencouragingly, his attention on his work.

“I was accorded great luxury and ease.”

“I thought you were a slave.”

Zevran huffed slightly at the reminder. “A very pampered slave, as I believe I mentioned. Whores, drink, fine foods. Never did I have to, say, wash dishes.”

Bannon raised his head and turned. “Who did all that while you were chasing after us from Denerim?”

“Ah, well,” the assassin admitted; “mostly the mercenaries.”

“What’s your point?” Bannon went back to whittling.

“My point is, that once free of the Crows, I expected to be free of slavery as well. After all,” his voice hardened to a point; “you do not have slavery in Ferelden. Or so I am told.”

“You’re not a slave,” Bannon insisted.

“Then who is expected to clean up that mess you are making there?”

Bannon frowned, then looked down at the wood shavings littering his blanket. He twisted to look back at Zevran. He was very handy for digging latrines, striking tents, cleaning armor, and… oh. Bannon snorted. “It’s my bedroll, I will,” he said, as if that had been his obvious plan all along. It wasn’t as if he’d threatened to kill the guy unless Zevran did what he told him to. It was Zevran’s idea to pledge his service and all that. “Everybody in the camp pitches in for chores,” he explained further. “I thought you’d be eager to prove how loyal you are to the group by being helpful. It’s not my fault you’ve disqualified yourself from all the easy jobs.”

The only reply was a muttering growl.

 

 


End Notes:

 

Alistair: “Sounds like a shriek. Very fast; very dangerous.”

–And they enjoy pod-racing, as well. :X

 

Outtakes:

 

Bannon: ::in a mysterious, spooky voice:: “The Cows are Not What they Seem.”

–1000 Bloodsong points if you recognize that quote!

 

Zevran: “Madre de Dios! Es el Pollo Diablo!”

–I can’t hand out Bloodsong points for this one, because I never actually played it.

–The demon chickens were also in hommage to Terry Goodkind, who set out to prove that in the hands of a very powerful writer, even chickens can be scary, demonic-seeming creatures. Um, I could have done that, too, if I had taken the time. :X

 

 

 

Answers:

 

“The Cows are Not What they Seem.” Launchpad McQuack in the Darkwing Duck episode “Twin Beaks.”

 

El Pollo Diablo is from Lucas Arts’ Monkey Island game series.

 


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