Work This Week and Last Week (Sorta?)


 

Okay, it’s inevitable, B&Z is going to be late. I’ve tried to work on it, I really have. My Brain, however, is not cooperating.

Instead, my Brain has absconded to Tiajuana to write an Arrow Fanfic. That’s what it did all last week. Eight to twelve hours a day! How? –you may ask– How could this happen?

Well…. it’s my fault. :/ Somehow, I missed a week of Arrow, watching it online. (Cuz I don’t have a TV, you know.) So I watched the 2nd-to-the-last episode, and then at the big cliffhanger ending, I didn’t go right on and watch the last episode. I mean, you know, I kinda enjoy a bit of cliffhangeryness. Now and again.

This was my first mistake. My second mistake was asking my Brain, “Gee, what do you think they will do next?” To which my Brain replied, “They are going to have a little conversation.” It then proceded to write that ‘little conversation,’ and dozens of other ‘little conversations’ that they and the other characters had, and… um… well….

The next thing I know, I’ve invented a new AU, and my brain is trying to write a whole series for it.

STOP THAT, BRAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Cripes, I don’t have enough writing projects already? B&Z is going to take ten years at this rate. Dragon Age: Torchwood **S T I L L** is not out. The first episode is **S T I L L** messed up. Don’t forget my Dr Who/Torchwood story. Now my Brain is going to start messing with this? Why ME????

 


The Candy Incident


 
CONTENT:
Rating: Teen
Flavor: Humor
Language: some
Violence: a little scuffling
Nudity: artwork
Sex: none
Other: none
 
Author’s Notes:

This was previously released as a teaser on the Bioware boards. This version contains more content. Enjoy it all over again! (Or for the first time.)

As a reminder, I’ve made Sten the ‘new’ grey, horned type of qunari. Just to avoid the whole mess of clashing canon.


The Candy Incident

 

 

Those of the elven race make ideal slaves. They can subsist on very little food while making up for it in more hours of sleep. Therefore, it is recommended their rations be halved during the fallow season.

Food will never be wasted on elven slaves, for they do not run to fat. Instead, all they eat will be converted into energy. A small ration of rich or sugary food will go a long way to producing longer work hours from an elf.

— Tevinter Treatise on the Races of Thedas

Some elves from the city have an over-developed sweet tooth. Note: giving sugar to a city elf may be hazardous to your health. — BG

(A note scribbled in the margin)

 

 

Wynne got to know her new companions a little better on the road that afternoon. She first tried to talk to the qunari, whom she hadn’t met in the Tower. He hadn’t been with the Wardens when they’d fought the demons and Uldred. She didn’t often get to see the tall, grey, horned race; certainly not up close. She greeted him politely enough, but his stony face creased in a snarl. “Do not come near me, beast,” he growled. He turned away. “Why must we bring these uncollared saarebas with us?”

The elf Warden, Bannon, was there to handle the qunari’s question. “Sten, what do you do with your sarry-basses when there’s a battle?”

The giant grumbled something incoherent.

“Mages are good in a fight. And we’re going to be doing what?” The elf waited for a reply, like a teacher with a particularly slow student. Sten just glowered. “Fighting a lot of darkspawn,” Bannon finished. “And Wynne is a healer. So if you plan on getting shot full of crossbow bolts again, you might want to be nice to her.”

Vashedan!” the giant spit. He brushed past the elf and strode up the road, looking as if he planned to leave them all behind.

Bannon didn’t seem to care. He smiled apologetically at Wynne. “Sorry about that. Though maybe you don’t want to talk to him.”

“I suppose not,” she agreed.

Alistair came up beside her. “Have you got everything?” he asked for the thirtieth time at least. “Do you need me to carry your pack?”

“Honestly, Alistair; I’m fine. I’m quite the accomplished traveler.” Wynne settled her pack, gripped her staff, and started out. It was good to be outside the Tower walls again.

The young man turned to Bannon a moment. “You really ought to rethink this strategy of annoying Sten.”

“I’m not annoying him. He wants to follow his logic, he’s going to get logic.”

“Still, maybe a peace offering of some cookies or sweets would go a long way.”

The blond elf called to Bannon. He had a flavorful accent; Wynne wondered where he was from. Bannon went off and started arguing with him, up ahead. Alistair fell in beside Wynne. The young woman, Leliana, was a few steps behind them, but that other woman, the dark-haired one, seemed to be absent.

“Have you done much traveling?” Alistair asked Wynne.

“Yes, I have. I’ve spent some time in Amaranthine and Denerim.”

“I’m from Redcliffe.”

“Ah, you are a local boy, then,” Wynne said with a smile.

“Yes, mum.”

“Oh, there’s no need for that. It’s just Wynne. No need for ‘ser’ and ‘mum’ out on the road, is there?”

“I guess not, mum. Er, I mean, Wynne.”

She chuckled. “You remind me of the Templars.”

“I was in Templar training,” he said. “Before I was recruited into the Wardens. I didn’t really become a full Templar,” he was quick to explain. “I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Really, I’m just… mostly harmless.”

“You don’t make me uncomfortable. Really, Alistair. I’ve known a fair share of good Templars in my life.”

“Oh.”

Wynne got the feeling there was a whole lot behind that little syllable, but didn’t think now was the time to pursue it. Alistair seemed uncomfortable enough. “I’m curious about the other Grey Wardens,” she said. “Where are they? Off securing your other allies?”

“Uh… we’re… it, actually,” he replied uncomfortably.

“What do you mean?”

He took a breath. “The Grey Wardens died at Ostagar. All of them. Except me and Bannon. Us two.” Then his words started to tumble out. “We weren’t in the actual battle. Just put aside, out of the way. We… actually, we would be dead now, too, except…. Um, well, I’m not sure really. I was told that Flemeth turned into a giant bird and rescued us.”

“Flemeth?”

“That’s Morrigan’s mother.”

“Like the woman in the legends?”

“Hmmm….” Alistair thought a few moments. “Actually, it might be her? I don’t know, is it possible for a witch to live that long? Extend her life, somehow?”

Wynne contemplated it. Before she could form an opinion, there was a scuffle up ahead.

The two elves raised their voices, arguing about something. A moment later, it turned to fisticuffs. They careened back and forth across the path, flailing.

“Oh, knock it off!” Alistair called. He went ahead to pull the two apart. “Shouldn’t you guys be scouting ahead?”

“I thought Morrigan was doing that,” Bannon said.

“Sten is doing that,” Zevran said almost at the same time.

“Maybe you should go far, far, far ahead,” Alistair insisted. By this time, Wynne and Leliana had caught up with them, so the elves had to get moving again, grumbling and complaining all the while.

Alistair fell back beside the women again. To Leliana, he said, “Next time, it’s your turn.”

“My turn? Alistair, I thought you were the appointed elven babysitter.”

“Oh-ho no! You are not sticking me with that job.”

“Surely your chivalry and valor will not allow you to dump this sort of job on a young, virtuous Chantry Sister?”

“I… well… you….” Alistair frowned. “That’s cheating.”

“Surely you exaggerate,” Wynne said. “They’re two grown men.”

“Oh, are they?” Alistair quipped. “I couldn’t tell.” Leliana laughed.

Wynne shook her head. Then she recalled their argument about pie, back in the Tower. That was only the beginning of her doubts. But she’d learn, soon enough.

 

 

They caught up with a dwarven trader and his son as eventide was nearing. Wynne was introduced to Bodahn and Sandahl (and Toby!). She learned that he usually followed the Grey Warden group on their travels and shared their camp at night. Alistair fetched some tents from the donkey cart. Wynne recalled Bannon talking about trying to procure one of their own, and she quickly saw the wisdom in that. Not only did the merchant provide a tent that she didn’t have to carry, but he also gave her a folding cot that fit in it. Although ‘gave’ wasn’t the exact term. Bannon was apparently renting gear from the dwarf. She recalled him mentioning that he handled the group’s money.

Better him than her. She wasn’t that well-versed in current prices and the value of a coin. She was simply happy to have a cozy tent, a cot, a stool, a crate that doubled as a shelf and a small table, and an oil lamp. Alistair and Leliana helped get her set up, then started erecting the other tents. Morrigan was already there at the campsite when they’d arrived. She had her own tent set up in a corner of the clearing. The elves were setting up a fire, and Wynne waited nearby to see if she could help with the dinner preparations.

 

 

“Hey!” Bannon stomped over to Zevran and swiped a bag out of his hand. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Eating,” the Antivan said with his mouth full.

With an angry frown, Bannon peered into the bag. “How many of these did you eat?”

“Not quite a whole dozen,” the other elf replied. He chewed a bit more, swallowed, then made a swipe at the bag.

Bannon jerked it out of his reach. “Oh, that’s it! You are standing watch tonight!”

Alistair came over from where he and Leliana had been getting their tents set up. “He can’t stand watch,” the Templar said nervously. “Not by himself! What if he decides to finally kill us?”

“He ate half this bag of candy–”

“–Barely one third!–”

“Do you have any idea what that much sugar does to an elf?” Bannon finished, ignoring the Antivan, and shaking the bag meaningfully at Alistair.

“Uh… he’ll get a tummy-ache?” the human guessed.

“We should be so lucky!” Bannon threw his hands up in a frustrated gesture. “He’ll be awake for three days straight!”

Over by the fire, Wynne gave Leliana a worried look. “What’s going on? Why would that young man kill you?”

“Zevran is a Crow Assassin,” the Chantry sister explained calmly. “He was hired to kill the Grey Wardens.”

“But he’s here, now?” Wynne turned to look at the elves, her brow creased in puzzlement.

“That is a long story. I can tell it to you while we prepare the stew, yes?” Leliana went to fetch some carrots and a leg of mutton from their stores. Wynne followed hesitantly, stepping backwards as she watched the drama unfolding between the two elves and the Templar.

Zevran’s ears perked up at the mention of food. “Dinner? Splendid!” He turned to offer his assistance– but Bannon collared him.

“Not a chance!”

“But a handful of candy is not a proper meal! My mother used to tell me so all the time!” He yanked himself free from Bannon’s grip.

The Denerim elf growled. “First my pie, now my candy! That’s for emergencies!”

“Your pie?” the assassin sputtered. “It was everybody’s pie! We share, do we not?”

“You were supposed to have one piece of pie. And I did not say you could ‘share’ my candy!”

Alistair threw his hands up in surrender and walked over to give the women a hand. Sten just watched stoically from his post guarding the path to the campsite. Leliana gave Alistair the meat, and he busied himself shredding bits of it into the stewpot. She handed Wynne a basket of peas for shelling, and she herself set about cutting up some carrots and a turnip.

The bard then began to relate the tale. “You recall that Loghain retreated at Ostagar, leaving the King and all the Grey Wardens to be slain by the darkspawn.”

“Yes,” Wynne said quietly. “I was there. But the mages were evacuated before the troops pulled out.”

“More of Loghain’s machinations, no doubt,” Alistair growled bitterly.

Wynne looked up with a curious tilt to her head. Leliana stepped in to explain. “It is Alistair’s belief that Loghain planned this desertion, and is a traitor to his King and country.”

The mage’s jaw dropped in shock. “But why? Why would he do such a thing?”

“Well, he has claimed power in Ferelden, yes?” Leliana explained, her voice ever calm and soothing, like a cool stream. “Whether he planned to usurp this power or not, the fact remains he has benefited from the King’s death. It is also true, as told to us by Zevran himself, that Loghain and a man named Rendon Howe hired the Crow Assassins to finish off any surviving Grey Wardens.”

“That makes no sense!” Wynne insisted.

The bard paused in her cutting to meet Wynne’s eyes with her own frank, blue-grey gaze. “Perhaps not to us, who believe this is a true Blight. But many folk believe in Loghain and follow him.” She returned to her cutting, and her story, ignoring the raised voices of the arguing elves a few feet away. “Zevran ambushed us on the road outside of Redcliffe. We fought him and his mercenaries, and we had thought Alistair and Bannon had killed him. However, it turns out he was only knocked unconscious. When we were interrogating him, he explained how he was a slave to the Crows and wished to join us in order to be free of them.”

Wynne twisted her head again to look in the elves’ direction. “And you believed him?” she asked incredulously.

“Not even Alistair is that stupid,” Morrigan supplied, carrying up another cut tree stump to serve as a stool near the fire. She handed Leliana a few small packets of spices, and the bard added them to the stew.

“No one in their right mind would believe such a story,” Leliana said smoothly, “coming from an assassin hired to kill them, who was in imminent danger of losing his own life. But freeing someone from slavery, that is a deed blessed by the great Andraste herself, yes?”

Just then the two elves came up to the campfire. Zevran was saying, “After all this time, you still do not trust me?”

“One week!” Bannon interrupted. “It’s been one week!”

“Eight days, actually.”

“Seven and a half!” the Denerim elf conceded.

“Am I not part of your group? Have I not proven myself?” the assassin insisted, spreading his hands, his brows raised in disbelief at this unfair treatment. “After all this, do I not deserve the same status and consideration as anyone else here?” He looked around, beseeching the others to see his side. They looked skeptical. “Well, Sten there trusts me. Do you not, Sten?”

“No.”

The assassin let his hands drop to slap against his legs in defeat. Bannon went around to the supplies and pulled out the spade. “Here,” he said, handing it to the fuming Antivan. “Go do your job, Ser I-want-to-be-a-part-of-the-team.”

My job!? How is this my job, yet again?” Zevran’s voice spiraled up in outraged disbelief. “Surely it is someone else’s turn!”

“It’s your turn.”

“How do you figure that?”

“Because I said so!”

Stubbornly, Zevran folded his arms, tucking the spade under one bicep. “And who put you in charge?”

“Alistair!” Bannon yelled, gesturing at the Templar.

The Antivan rolled his eyes over to the indicated Warden. He gave a sniff of disdain. “Well, who died and made you King of Ferelden?”

Suddenly, almost all the noise in the camp stopped. Only the fire crackled quietly, and Wynne stopped shucking peas a moment later, looking up at everyone else. They stared at Zevran. Alistair’s face slowly fell, like a great mountainside succumbing to an avalanche. Without a word, he tossed down the shank of mutton, stood, and walked off.

“What?” Zevran looked around, bewildered. “What did I say?” The only answer he got was a reproving look from Leliana. He shrugged back at her.

Bannon shook his head. “Just go dig the latrines!” He went off after Alistair.

“Fine, fine,” the assassin grumbled. He walked off in the other direction.

Wynne looked at Leliana. “What was that all about?”

“That’s another story, entirely.” Leliana tipped her cutting board over the pot and carefully shoved the cut carrots into the stew. “So far,” she said, returning to her original thread, “Zevran seems sincere in his pledge to aid us. He has given no indication he wishes to do otherwise.”

“Just like the viper that wants to ride in your coat while it’s cold out,” Morrigan said. “Then bites you when you get it to where it needs to go.” She shot a glance towards the object of conversation, then got to her feet with a huff of irritation. “Not there!” she yelled, striding towards the elf digging with the spade. “That’s much too close to the camp.”

The Antivan pitched a spadeful of dirt viciously at the ground. “You want me to go further away, witch?” he snapped. “See if I come back!” He turned and stalked off further.

Wynne winced. “Do I want to ask about that, or is this another story for later?”

“Morrigan styles herself a Witch of the Wilds, like her mother before her.” Leliana began paring a large turnip with her knife, without the slightest bit of concern. Wynne, however, looked at her with alarm.

“I am an apostate, as you so quaintly call it,” Morrigan said, returning to their company. She gave Wynne a scathing golden glare. “All you need concern yourself with, Circle Mage,” — she sneered the title– “is that I, too, am here aiding the Grey Wardens. And believe me, they can’t be picky about the company they keep.”

Wynne turned yet again to look towards the departed Crow assassin. “I see what you mean,” she said. Shaking her head, she scooped up the shelled peas and handed them into the stewpot. She moved around to Alistair’s vacated spot and saw to rescuing the mutton from the dirt.

The former Templar came back into earshot, walking with Bannon. He seemed recovered from whatever had shocked him, though his demeanor was much subdued. “Well,” he was telling the elf, “eat the rest of the candy. You said you’d watch him.”

Bannon groaned. “All right, but after some real dinner first.” He sank down onto one of the stumps.

“Oh, here,” Alistair said, hurrying to assist Wynne. “Let me get that. Sorry about that.”

“It’s all right,” the mage said gently. They fussed a minute over the discarded meat. They got the salvageable bits into the stewpot along with the turnip slices from Leliana. The bard took up the long spoon and stirred.

As Wynne settled back into her spot, Bannon asked her, “How is everything? Settling in okay?”

“Oh yes,” she said with a smile. “I feel like the little girl in the story, who’s gone amongst mad people.” Bannon and Leliana chuckled, and Alistair even cracked a grin. “Don’t worry,” she assured them; “I love that story.”

“Do I want to ask where Zevran went?” the elf said.

Morrigan replied, “I told him to go dig the latrines further afield, and he threatened to run off.”

“We should be so lucky,” Bannon muttered.

“Are you seriously going to stay awake all night?” Wynne asked him.

He nodded. “It’s an elf thing.”

“And you won’t be tired in the morning?” Alistair added.

“Nope.”

“Man, I wish I could do that.” He got a speculative look on his face. “Do you think if I ate half that candy, that I cou–”

“Not a chance!” Bannon’s hands shot protectively to the pouch containing the precious candy.

“Well, I could try,” the Templar grumbled underbreath.

“Get your own candy,” the elf growled back.

 

 

The assassin did return. Alas. He whined so badly about being hungry, Bannon gave him half his stew. The Denerim elf finished his meal by munching on the rest of the candy, shooting the Antivan dirty looks all the while. Zevran, for his part, didn’t seem to mind.

“Just leave the dishes and the pot,” Bannon told the others. “We’ll take care of cleaning up.”

Alistair grinned. “Bonus!”

Zevran frowned at his patron. “What do you mean? We have to do work?”

“I don’t want to be bored out of my skull all night,” Bannon growled back at him. “We need something to do.”

The Antivan smiled dreamily. “I can think of a great many things to do with a handsome fellow such as yourself.”

Bannon shared an uneasy glance with Alistair. Then he said firmly, “I like girls.”

“I like girls, too,” the irrepressible assassin retorted. “Do you see any volunteering to stay awake and entertain us?” He fanned his hand towards the women. Morrigan rolled her eyes. Leliana was used to the lewdness and didn’t even bat an eyelash. Wynne had that look again, like she had landed amongst mad people. Zevran grinned wickedly at her, mainly because the other two were learning to ignore him.

Bannon put a hand to his face, slowly drawing his fingers down. “This is going to be a long night….”

Chores didn’t really last that long. They washed the dishes and the stewpot. They swept and raked around the camp. Soon the others settled into their tents for the night, save for Sten, who eschewed a tent for sleeping under a tree. The two elves went for a patrol around the camp perimeter. Now that they were finally alone, and before the talkative Antivan could dominate the conversation, Bannon said, “Hey, I wanted to ask you something about that dream.”

“Ah, of course,” Zevran said, his expression souring. “I was wondering when this would come up.”

So he’d been thinking about it. And, Bannon mused, he remembered the Fade dream well enough, though the others– and even Bannon himself– claimed it was all hazy and mostly-forgotten. Bannon opened his mouth to reassure the assassin, but closed it quickly as Zevran continued without prompting.

“What you saw, yes, was more or less what it was really like in the Crows.” Bannon held his breath. He never expected Zevran to just tell him the truth. Looking at the ground before their feet, Zevran continued. “When they raised me to the status of apprentice, I had to pass a test. A test of endurance, if you will.” He casually flipped one hand up and spoke as if explaining nothing more than the proper way to tend a garden. “The Crow apprentices are broken. Twice, actually. The first time is to make sure you are tough enough to become a full Crow. They see how much it takes to break you. The weak, they die in those dungeons.” His voice carried the venom of scorn in it. “As for me, I endured several days.” Now his voice rose with the usual self-aggrandizement. “I don’t recall exactly how long– it was of course difficult to keep track, especially when unconscious– but it is the longest that any apprentice survived without breaking.”

Bannon saw a particular flaw in the concept of this ‘test.’ Wouldn’t the weak ones break sooner, and thus survive? It would be the strongest that held out until they died. He dared not voice this to the assassin. “The second time?” he murmured, his curiosity getting the better of him. He didn’t expect Zevran to answer this either, so he got another shock.

“Oh, the second time, the Crow Master breaks you to his will, so that you become completely and utterly obedient to him,” Zevran said offhandedly.

Bannon didn’t know what to say to that. Zevran sounded like he just didn’t care, as if it were nothing. Bannon only felt anger. If some stinking shem ‘Master’ ever tortured him, he’d… well, he’d never be a loyal and obedient slave, that’s for sure. Or maybe… maybe he wouldn’t have a choice in the matter. Tortured until he pledged his loyalty and obedience? Broken until he meant it? And Zevran had survived that.

“Did that answer your question?” the Antivan asked lightly.

Bannon took a breath and imitated his blase’ attitude. “Actually, I was going to ask you about those two elves. There are Dalish in the Crows?”

Zevran laughed. “No, no, my friend. Some of the elves get tattoos on their faces. They wish to look scarier to the shems.”

“That’s illegal in Ferelden.”

“It’s illegal in Antiva, too, but,” he grinned with a wide, open-handed shrug; “we are assassins. What do we care for laws, eh? Now my tattoo, that is different. Not something to mark up and hide my most handsome face, but something with a rakish air, something alluring, a subtle accent.”

“Really?” said Bannon. “I thought your Crow buddies got you drunk one night and took you to get it while you were passed out. But then, halfway through, you woke up and ran away screaming.”

“What?” Zevran glared at him, taking affront at his smirk. “Why you!” He aimed a punch at Bannon’s head, but the thief ducked and danced back. “I’ll have you know,” the assassin told him, “that there are many lurid and exciting tales of how I got this tattoo, and that is not one of them!”

“Probably because it’s the only true one,” Bannon quipped back. He fled.

Zevran growled and ran after him with murder in his eyes. Bannon stopped and turned suddenly, a finger to his lips. “Shh!” He tilted his head towards the sleeping giant, only a few feet away.

Zevran mouthed imprecations as they tiptoed past. Then he whispered, “I will get you back for that.”

“Not tonight,” the thief whispered back.

“Not on this side of the camp,” the assassin clarified. “If there is to be no fighting, and no sex, then what, precisely do you propose we do? The night is still young.”

“Oh, we’ll think of something.”

 

 

 
First Hour:

“Are you alive or dead?” asked Zevran.

“Dead.”

“Are you sexy?”

Bannon frowned. “I don’t know!”

“How can you not know!? If you don’t know, you can’t pick that person!”

“Oh, fine! Considering it’s you who’s asking… yes!”

“Are you Andraste?” Zevran’s face lit up in triumph. “Hah! You are Andraste!”

“No I’m not!

“People are always Andraste. Wait… do I know you?”

“No.”

“Then how am I supposed to guess!?”

 

 

 
Second Hour:

They crept over to Bodhan’s wagon. Bannon crouched low and popped the lock on a chest on the ground by the wheel. Zevran hovered close by, watching his technique. “Don’t you have a key for that?”

“What for? It’ll only get lost.”

“Oh.”

Bannon opened the chest and set about sorting the accumulated stuff inside. Zevran’s ears perked up as he heard a familiar thick clink of glass. “You have liquor stashed in here?”

“Yeah– oh no! That’s for emergency purposes!”

Zevran snorted. “You and your ’emergency purposes.’ This is an emergency, is it not?”

“I don’t see how–”

“Look,” the assassin explained reasonably, “if we get drunk and pass out, then we will be asleep, no? Our problem will be solved!”

Bannon frowned in thought a minute. “That… actually makes sense,” he said hesitantly. “Why do I think it’s a bad idea?” This last bit was wasted, because Zevran had already nabbed a bottle out of the stash and run off with it.

 

 

 
Third Hour:

The sounds of elven two-part harmony drifted through the night:

 
Through the forest wild and free
Comes our Dalish melody!
Ever dancing as they say
None so merry and none so gay…!

 

 

 
Fourth Hour:

The full, epic length rendition of all twelve verses of the dirty limerick “There Once Was a Man from Orlais.”

 

 

 
Fifth Hour and Beyond:

Things after that got a little fuzzy. However, much to the relief of the rest of the companions, they were at least quiet.

 

 

Morning light was done filtering through the trees; it had its heart set on piercing the tent walls with light. Alistair groaned and finally had to surrender. It was time to get up. Groggily, he climbed out of his tent and looked around. He half expected the camp to look as if a tornado had blasted through, but it actually looked neater than any camp had a right to look. He spotted Bannon and Zevran sitting near the banked fire, hunched intently over a hand of cards. Cautiously, he moved away from his tent. His foot clanked against — he looked down — his helm? Wait, why were pieces of his armor lying near the fire?

“Hey, why is my armor out here?” He picked up the helm and turned it over in his hands. “Gah! And why is there a hideous clown face painted on my helmet?”

“That was for the puppet show,” Bannon answered mildly. “Do you have any threes?”

“Go fish,” the assassin told him.

Alistair muttered and rubbed the helm with one corner of his shirt. “Puppet show,” he muttered. At least the makeup came off easily.

“Do you have any threes?” Zevran asked Bannon.

“No. Go fish.”

With a muttered Antivan curse, Zevran drew a card from the pile between them.

Alistair glanced over towards the path that returned to the main road. Sten, as usual, was patrolling there impatiently. Looking in the other direction, Alistair saw Leliana in front of her tent, getting ready to make breakfast. Behind her, on the tent, was a large cartoon drawing of her. It was actually quite good. Then Leliana bent to pick up something, and more of the drawing was revealed– the absolutely nude drawing. “Gah!” Alistair gaped like a stunned fish.

With a quizzical wrinkle in her brow, Leliana stood and turned to see what he was staring at. “Oh my!” She tilted her head, appraising it for a minute or two. “That’s very artistic,” she said generously. She turned back around to the two elves. “Which one of you drew that?”

“I did,” said Bannon with a proud smile. The effect was somewhat marred by the fact he had on pink lipstick and green eyeshadow. Not to mention the word ‘LOSER’ written across his forehead. “Do you have any threes?”

“Go fish.” Zevran, for his part, had on red lipstick, blush, and gold eye shadow. Across his forehead was the word ‘AWEZOME.’ “I did the one of you, Alistair.”

Alistair opened his mouth to say something, but then realized what the Antivan had just said. He turned around. “Oh! Um….” He gulped at the stick figure. It could have been worse. “That’s… not bad. But if I’m brandishing my sword over my head, how do I have a red sword in my other hand?”

“That’s not your sword. Do you have any threes?”

“Mn mm. Go fish.”

Alistair’s brow twisted up into a full question mark shape. He tipped his head sideways, peering intently at the stick figure. “Not my…? OH!” His eyes popped open wide. It was worse! “Striking tent! Right now!” He ran forward, discarding his armor, and started yanking at the tent pegs and guy lines, trying to collapse his tent and the ‘glorified’ Templar drawing on it, even though all his stuff was still inside.

Leliana approached the elves. “Where did you get tha– my makeup kit!” She quickly knelt before the pilfered makeup to make sure it was all there.

Wynne walked over from her tent. “What on Thedas is painted on my tent?” she demanded.

Zevran said, “It is a picture of you smacking a hurlock over the head with your cane. Er– staff! I meant staff!”

The older woman scowled at him. “Why were you painting graffiti on people’s tents?”

Bannon answered that one. “Well, we put everyone’s name on their tent, but you couldn’t really read it from that far away, so….” His explanation sort of petered out under her withering glare. “It seemed like a good idea at the time?”

Leliana looked over at the elves’ tents. There were drawings on the front, but these were scribbled over viciously. They seemed to be elven stick figures, and the brown-haired one’s comparative anatomy was conspicuously smaller than the blond-haired one’s. The rest of the canvas of both tents were covered with a variety of blond and brunette elf stick figures killing each other in imaginative and gory ways.

Wynne came to a stop beside her, viewing the carnage. She gave an annoyed huff. Then she rounded on the elves. “Where did you get these paints?”

“Oh, we improvised,” Bannon said. “We, um, were sorting our supplies.”

“They’re not permanent, are they?” Alistair asked, returning from his mission to dismantle the artwork on his tent.

“No,” Zevran said. “At least, not most of them.”

“That’s good, at least.” Alistair hoped. “Zevran, why do you have the word ‘AWESOME’ written across your face, with a backwards S?”

“Because I am ridiculously awesome!” he beamed proudly.

Bannon snorted. Leliana said to him, “Do you know you have the world ‘LOSER’ written across your forehead?”

“What? Oh!” The elf rubbed at his forehead.

Leliana shook her head. “No, it’s still there.”

“Wh–!?” He glared at the Antivan. “You used the stuff that stains on my face!?” He threw down his cards without waiting for an answer, and sprang on the other elf. The two went down in a heap, thrashing in the dirt. Leliana and Wynne had to jump back to avoid being bowled over.

“Alistair!” Leliana cried after a moment, when the Templar didn’t immediately wade in to separate the two.

“What? I think they need a good thrashing, this time.”

The Chantry Sister glared at him, so with a put-upon sigh, Alistair went to haul Bannon off the assassin. He didn’t get that far, however, before a voice rolled like thunder over the whole camp: “Just Who Painted A Pornographic Picture On My Tent!?” Everyone froze as Morrigan stalked over. The two elves scrambled to their feet. Bannon pointed at Zevran.

“It’s not pornographic,” the Antivan began. “It is an artistic rendering–”

“It’s a picture of TWO GIANT BOOBS!” the witch roared.

Wynne rounded on them. “That’s it! No more candy for you two!”

Bannon gaped at her. “But Wyyyyyynnnne! He started it!”

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

“Enough!” Wynne yelled. “Now go wash that stuff off Morrigan’s tent this instant. Both of you! And then clean up Alistair’s armor and give Leliana her makeup kit back!”

“But he did it,” Bannon insisted.

And you can both dig new latrines!” Wynne was in fine form now. Alistair gave her a look that was half admiring and half fearful.

“We did that already,” Zevran said.

“Yeah, we were kinda bored,” Bannon added.

Wynne pressed a hand to her forehead. “Maker’s Mercy, I’m too old for this!”

 

 

 

 


End Notes:

if you really MUST peruse dirty dragon age limericks, i have drafted the cheeky monkeys of dragon age into writing some verses. i’m not responsible for ANY content!! “There Once was a Man from Orlais” challenge.

 


Afterwords


 
CONTENT:
Rating: Teen
Flavor: Drama
Language: some
Violence: no
Nudity: no
Sex: no
Other: none
 
Author’s Notes:

And now for the really long part… the talky bits! (Topping 18 pages! Don’t worry, it’s divided into segments.)

My Brain makes up for not meeting Owain on the trek through the Tower. Some things are settled amongst the boys. Some things are unsettled amongst the ladies and Bannon. Finally, they’re ready and set up for the next chapter.


Afterwords

 
Awakening

The next thing that permeated Bannon’s consciousness was warmth. He seemed to be wrapped in blankets, his head resting on a deep, soft pillow. Oh no. He squeezed his eyes shut tightly. Was he still trapped in a dream? After all that hard work and fighting? Did he only dream that he’d escaped from the dream?

He cracked his eyes open, just barely, and blurred light flooded his vision. Was that sunlight across his bed? Were there crimson velvet curtains? No. He blinked and opened his eyes further. He was in some kind of dormitory, facing another row of beds and stained glass windows. He also noticed a dull pain spreading across his back and shoulders; his head hurt out to the tips of his ears, and his scalp itched. He wriggled a bit to free his right arm, and pain flared along the limb as well.

“Ah, you’re awake,” came the smoky tones of a familiar Antivan voice.

“Zev…?” Bannon tried to say, but it came out a little more than a hoarse rasp.

Zevran came alongside the bed. “Here, amico.” He turned, and Bannon heard some water pouring. The sound was a bit distant, scratchy. Zevran brought him a goblet and wrapped and arm around Bannon’s shoulders to help him sit up.

Bannon was parched and tried to gulp the cool water, but Zevran wouldn’t tip the goblet far enough. “Easy,” the Antivan murmured. “Slowly.” As if Bannon had a choice. He drank the whole thing down at the assassin’s tortuous pace. “There,” Zevran said, laying the goblet aside. Bannon leaned back again. He had an ample pile of pillows that left him propped up. Zevran helped arrange them so he could sit up further.

Bannon frowned at the bandage around Zevran’s head and covering half his face. “What happened to you?”

“Ah,” he said, touching the offending linen with his fingertips. “It seems a demon took exception to my most handsome face and tried to rip it off.” He grinned. “I thought it would give me some rakish scars, to go with my exotic tattoo, but alas.” He sighed in mock disappointment. “The mages say it will heal without a trace.”

“What a shame,” Bannon replied in the same tone. He found his left arm a bit easier to move than his right, so he freed that from the blankets and reached to scratch his head.

Zevran said, “Though you ought to see yourself.”

Bannon’s questing fingertips didn’t find his hair, but a thick wrapping of bandages. His eyes flew wide– Uldred had set him on fire! “My face?” He dared not touch it– was it melted? “Wh-what about my ears? Oh, Maker, not my ears?”

Zevran chuckled, his eyes glinting with mischief. “Oh, how vain you are,” he scolded.

“Zevran,” Bannon growled, not amused in the slightest.

The blond elf leaned over him and placed his hand against Bannon’s cheek. “Do not worry about your handsome face,” he said as he stroked his palm down the cheek and let his fingertips brush lingeringly down the Denerim elf’s jaw. “The mages have been working on your many wounds. You will be fully healed.”

Bannon felt heat building up under his blankets. Maker! Had anyone seen the elf touch him like that? He scowled and hoped he wasn’t blushing in embarrassment.

The Antivan prattled on, oblivious to the affect his odd proclivities had on a staid and ordinary Fereldan. “You should have seen yourself when they brought you down. Or perhaps it is better you were unconscious. Some feared you would not survive the night.” Zevran looked down, his mouth set in a serious straight line for once. Then he shook it off with a grin. “Well, they do not know how royally tough you are to kill! You will make a complete recovery, my friend. Oh– except for one thing.” The look of sympathy he wore now was so theatrical, he had to be winding Bannon up.

Still, he felt a small amount of trepidation. “What?”

“Alas, my friend, they cannot heal hair.”

“Hair!?” Bannon’s left hand shot to his head again. “Maker, am I bald?”

Zevran laughed, and Bannon wished he had something to throw at the Antivan. “It will grow out fine, I am sure. Although to start, it will no doubt be styled… creatively.” He grinned.

“I’m beginning to sympathize with that demon,” Bannon grumbled.

“Tcha! You wound me, amico.” Zevran affected to look wounded.

“I’d like to,” Bannon shot back. “Did you kill Uldred?” he asked, more seriously.

“As much as I would like to claim that kill– alas, no.”

“Who did kill him?”

Zevran shrugged. “I don’t think anyone actually knows. It was quite chaotic. I do believe the popular version has it that the Senior Enchanter killed him.”

“That works out well for the Senior Enchanter.”

“Perhaps it will mitigate the fact he allowed a Blood Mage to rise to such power without his knowledge, or the ability to stop him,” Zevran said.

“I thought that was the Knight Commander’s job.”

“Tower politics. Who can say?” Zevran spread his hands. “At least some of the healers have survived. Had there been more healers– or perhaps fewer wounded– you would have marched down from the battle in the triumphant parade.”

“Was there a great deal of parading, feasting, and wenching?” Bannon asked.

Zevran quirked a thoughtful brow. “What the hell, that sounds good.”

Bannon chuckled. “Though come to think of it, I’m rather glad not to have had to do all those stairs again.” Zevran groaned, and Bannon chuckled again.

“Speaking of healers,” Zevran said, “I believe it is time for another session with mine.” Bannon followed his gaze to a plump young mage. “There is no shortage of magical bosoms one can rest one’s weary and aching head upon.”

The young woman looked over– Zevran hadn’t bothered to keep his voice down. When she saw the two elves looking her way, she turned pink.

Bannon snorted. First Zevran was touching– Maker, caressing!— his face, then he was going on about ample bosoms. He couldn’t understand that elf at all. And I still haven’t paid him back for… patting my bottom! Bannon felt his cheeks warm again, and pushed that thought aside.

“Don’t worry,” Zevran said, clapping him firmly on the shoulder. “I’ll put in a good word for you.” He winked and sauntered off.

Bannon managed a friendly grimace until the Antivan was out of earshot. Then he let out a strangled groan. Damn, now his arm was really hurting.

A few moments later, Alistair came by. “Oh good, you’re awake.” He shuffled closer to Bannon and looked around guiltily. “Here, I smuggled this in for you.” He lifted a satchel. “I keep telling them Grey Wardens heal faster with–”

“Food!” Bannon sat up further, his stomach suddenly growling at him.

“Shh!” Alistair gave him the bag while he rearranged the pillows into a higher back rest.

Bannon grabbed an apple in one hand and a cheese wedge in the other and was alternating bites. “Food,” he reiterated between chomps. “Thank the Maker!”

“You’re welcome,” Alistair quipped with a little grin.

“Oh, Alistair, is that…?” The elf’s nose twitched.

“Uh huh.”

“Is it?”

“Mm hm.”

Bannon put the cheese in his hand with the apple and dove into the bag. “Bacon!”

“Yes it is!”

He pulled out a strip of bacon. It was no longer hot and dripping, of course, but cooled and coagulated. Bannon slowly took a bite, closing his eyes as the salty, meaty, fatty, crispy, leathery goodness melted on his tongue. He groaned and chewed slowly. It was so good.

He was still starving, so he gobbled another bite or two of cheese before he went back to the savory stick of bacon.

“Don’t let the mages catch you with that,” Alistair told him. “Oh, and if they do? Tell Wynne I was never here.”

Bannon chuckled, but made note. He tucked the half-eaten apple, and two of its fellows he found in the satchel, down the left side of his bed, and the other wedge of cheese down the right. The waxed-paper parcel containing the bacon went straight down the middle, tucked between his thighs. Nobody was going to take that off him without a fight.

“You look all right,” Bannon told Alistair, once he was able to slow down a bit on the food. “Not hurt bad, were you?”

“Oh, nah! I was just a bit cooked, a little electrocuted, and my left leg was rendered into a block of ice….”

“But compared to some,” Bannon clarified.

Alistair sobered. “Yeah, compared to some. You know, I’m thankful you’re alive.”

“Me, too. Let’s not get mushy about it, though.”

“Oh, no; never that.”

“Everyone else? Is everyone…? Did they make it?”

Alistair nodded. “Morrigan is… Morrigan. Wynne, now she’s a tough old bird.” He looked around quickly and hunched, lowering his voice. “And I never said that. Leliana had some bumps and bruises, but she’s healed up by now. Zevran’s around here somewhere, refusing to stay in his bed and trying to get into everyone else’s.”

“Good, good.” Bannon nodded. “What about Niall?”

“Niall?”

“The mage? The one who was with us in the Fade?” Bannon frowned. “The mouse,” he clarified.

Alistair looked uncomfortable. “You know he didn’t make it back with us. There was a demon already in his body.”

Of course Bannon remembered that. Niall hadn’t really recognized them, or Bannon’s quip about looking like a mouse. It could only have been the demon, the one Niall said he’d traded forms with. Suddenly, Bannon felt chilled. “You killed him?”

“I….” Alistair looked away guiltily. “He was an abomination.”

“He was alive and well in the Fade! All we had to do was….” Bannon gestured vaguely a moment. “Like Morrigan and Connor.”

Alistair squirmed and shrank in on himself more. “Well… if we had mages… and time. If we weren’t all fighting for our lives. Look, there really wasn’t time to try to tie him up and, and… and ask the demon, ‘Could you please wait here?’ and–”

“All right, Alistair! Easy.” Bannon took a breath, both for himself and the Templar. “You’re right. There was nothing else that could have been done.”

“I’m sorry,” Alistair said quietly.

Bannon felt the backs of his eyes prickling horribly, and he wondered why he was so upset about some shem mage he barely even knew. He rubbed his face, trying to erase whatever memories or feelings were bothering him. “It’s all right,” he told the Templar dully. It wasn’t so hard. “So… everyone else? Um, Sten is still here?”

“Yeah,” Alistair reported, the joviality gone from his demeanor as well. “He’s complaining, of course. No darkspawn to kill, and mages still alive. The Senior Enchanter is alive and well– of course, or we wouldn’t be here, would we?” Alistair scratched his head.

“And the treaties? The mages will uphold their end of the bargain?”

“Uh, I haven’t asked.”

Bannon rubbed his eyes again, so the former Templar didn’t see him rolling them.

“Er, they kinda want a big meeting, once you’re better,” Alistair said sheepishly. “They did stock us with some provisions– actually, the money to buy them, being as they’re all out of healing potions and everything.” Bannon only hoped no one had gone through his pack and discovered the items he’d rescued from the Greed Demons. “Oh, Bodahn is in town. He’s wondering where we’re heading next. Do you have any idea?”

Bannon shrugged, not having given it much thought. “I don’t even know where we are in relation to where we need to go. I’ve never been outside Denerim.”

“Actually, we’re just about smack dab in the center of Ferelden,” Alistair said. “We could head anywhere.”

“I’m sure the mages must have a map,” Bannon said. “Actually, see if you can get a map of Ferelden, and any more detailed maps they have of where we need to go. Like the forest where the Dalish live?”

“Well, I don’t think anyone has that. But a map of the mountains and directions to Orzammar would be handy. I’ll ask about that.” Alistair thought a moment. “Maybe I can ask that fellow who was helping Brother Genitivi.”

“That scholar? The one who was searching for Andraste’s Ashes?” Alistair nodded. “Does he have any information?” Like where the legendary ashes were hidden would be good.

“No… he’s kinda in a bad way since the battle. He tends to faint a lot.” Alistair frowned.

“Was he one of Uldred’s thralls?”

“Oh, no,” Alistair said quickly. “They’re much worse off.”

“Some survived the battle?”

Alistair nodded. “There were three. But one’s already managed to take his own life. The other two, they’re being watched carefully. One’s asking to be made Tranquil. They’re not sure it’s safe, though.”

“Tranquil?”

“Mages have a special connection to the Fade,” Alistair explained. “It’s what gives them their magic. There’s a method by which this connection can be severed.”

“Then they won’t have magic?” Bannon frowned in thought. If mages could become ordinary people, why didn’t they? Sure they had power, but magic was feared by nearly everyone. Mages were so dangerous, they had to be kept contained– that’s what the Tower was for. But if people didn’t have magic, they wouldn’t have to go there. Or hide all the time, like Morrigan. They could stay with their families, lead normal lives.

“They wouldn’t have magic, or at least wouldn’t be able to use it,” Alistair confirmed. “But they also wouldn’t be able to dream. It also does something to their minds.” He frowned. “They can still think, but it’s like they can’t feel anything. They never get angry or scared, but they are never happy, either. They just turn cold. They don’t care about anything.”

Bannon’s lips twisted as he contemplated that. “Sounds awful. Why would anyone want to do that?”

“Mostly to be sure they can’t be possessed by a demon.” Alistair’s face darkened. “In this case, though, I think that what they’re feeling, from being Uldred’s thralls…. He made them… he made them do things. To themselves, to others. I couldn’t stay and listen to it.” Alistair broke off and rubbed a hand over his face. “I don’t understand it. I mean, I understand wanting a slave, to have someone to make your tea, to fetch your slippers, to scrub your floors, to do your laundry. I even understand wanting a slave you can order into your bed whenever you want. To do whatever you want. I get that.” He sighed and looked at Bannon almost pleadingly. “But I don’t understand doing something– torturing someone– just to be cruel? Why? Why would anyone do that?”

Bannon chewed thoughtfully on his lip. He remembered the thralls he’d seen in the battle. Apparently, Uldred liked young male elves. He shivered. Then he recalled Vaughn, and the times the bastard would set his dogs on elven children, just to watch them run, to hear them scream. “Some people are just evil, Alistair.” The Templar nodded dully, his head down. “Why won’t they make the guy Tranquil? If that’s what he wants.”

“Well, it’s a magical ritual. They’re not sure how the residual Blood Magic will affect it.”

“But Uldred’s dead. Shouldn’t they be free of his spells?”

“If it was a simple mind control spell, they would. That sort of spell? They cut themselves, they cast it on you. If you’re strong, if you have a strong will, you can resist it. A Blood Mage can only control you as long as the spell’s power lasts. But this, the thralls….” Alistair looked away, his voice distant. “He takes their own blood to use against them. There’s rituals that bind them. They–” he broke off and looked at the floor. “They say it might be permanent.”

“Maybe they should do this Tranquil thing on them, then.”

“It might kill them.”

Bannon couldn’t shake the sight of that elf’s bloody eyesockets searching him out, of his whispered gratitude as he died. “It might be the best thing for them.”

Alistair gnawed at his lip, but he didn’t argue the point. Bannon’s stomach turned and he rubbed his belly. Alistair looked at him. “Do you need the chamberpot?”

“Wh–? No,” Bannon said quickly. “No, I’m fine.” Grey Warden iron stomach and all. He hoped.

“Oh, good. Well, I better go see about those maps, then.”

Bannon nodded. “And tell Bodhan we’ll figure out where we’re going… um, later today or tomorrow or something. If he has to leave before then… I don’t know, maybe find out where we can get our own cart?”

“Refugees have been through,” Alistair said. “They’ve likely not left a wheeled conveyance of any kind.”

Bannon grumbled. “Maybe there’s a cartwright?”

“I think there’s still a leatherworker. And as soon as you’re on your feet, I’m taking you to buy a helmet.” Alistair pointed a no-nonsense finger at the elf.

Bannon thought it prudent. He unconsciously tried to touch his left ear, but only winced. “Zevran needs one, too.” Alistair made a frowning face. “What?”

“Bannon, seriously? There’s no way we can tell what his real intentions are. He could be biding his time–”

“Alistair.”

“–No, hear me out. Yes, he could be telling the truth, but he could also change his mind as soon as the wind changes and these other Crow assassins catch up with us.”

Alistair’s concerns were valid. Bannon raised a hand to placate the Templar. “Listen, do you remember that dream you had, in the Fade?”

Suddenly, Alistair looked uncomfortable. “Um. Sort of. It’s all a bit fuzzy. Like a dream after you wake up. Do you remember it?” Bannon nodded. “Oh. I… sort of remember telling you some hideously embarrassing things about my childhood.” He grimaced as Bannon nodded again. “Well, look… you’re not going to tell anyone about that… are you?”

“Of course not, Alistair,” Bannon said. “You trust me, don’t you?”

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

Bannon waved that off. “It’s all right. But I also saw Zevran’s dream.”

“What was he dreaming about?” the former Templar asked. Bannon just gave him a long look until he fidgeted. “All right; I was just testing.” He looked down sheepishly.

“I can tell you without a doubt, Alistair. Zevran wants to be free of the Antivan Crows. All we have to do is help him. He’ll never give us up to them. He’s on our side.”

“But… how can you be sure?

Bannon sighed. “Alistair.”

“It was just a dream.”

“No, it wasn’t,” the elf insisted. “The demons read our minds, our deepest fears and desires. You said that you trust me, Alistair. You have to trust me on this. I know.”

Alistair nodded slowly. “Well, all right. I trust you.” He looked down the length of the infirmary. “Just don’t expect me to like him.”

Bannon followed his gaze to the far doorway. The plump young woman had apparently given Zevran the slip, because the Antivan was now animatedly chatting up a tall, bald, harried-looking man. “No, I have no doubt he’ll continue to be his usual annoying self.”

“And you’ll… keep an eye on him?”

“Yes, I’ll watch him,” Bannon promised.

The mage escaped as Zevran turned his attention to Leliana and Morrigan, who brushed him off as they came into the infirmary. Leliana’s eyes alit as she saw Bannon talking to Alistair.

Alistair said, “I best be going, then. Don’t want to tire out the mages’ prime patient. Oh, and remember, if anyone catches you with that food, I wasn’t here.”

Alistair made his way out, and Leliana took his palce at Bannon’s side. Morrigan sauntered along more slowly, coming up opposite the Chantry Sister.

“Thank the Maker you are all right,” Leliana said, taking Bannon’s hand gently between both of her own.

“I am, believe me.”

“I must tell you this,” she said, her eyes sincere. “That was the bravest, noblest, and most heroic thing I have ever seen. You saved my life.”

Aha, so short, dark, and handsome elves weren’t bad heroes after all. Bannon was about to smirk and say something smug, but before he could, Leliana leaned over and kissed him. It was on the cheek, where it emerged from the bandages; chaste, but lingering. Bannon’s snappy response flew out of his head on whirring wings. “Um,” he managed.

“Shadows at night can fool you,” she told him softly. “Things in the darkness may not be what they seem.”

“Are you talking about…? The dream?” Bannon looked at her, confused. He didn’t recall seeing anything in the darkness around the dream Chantry.

She blinked, and clouds behind her eyes lifted. “I owe you my life,” she said gravely. “As do many people here. Someday, all of Ferelden may owe you their lives.”

From your lips to the Maker’s ears, Bannon thought.

“I must go.” The eerie Sister took her leave abruptly.

Strange woman. Bannon glanced towards the door, but Zevran had disappeared. Maybe he could entice another kiss out of Leliana, when the assassin was around to see it. That would knock the wind out of his sails.

A smug smile spread slowly across his lips. It fell off as soon as he noticed Morrigan watching him with hawklike intensity. His back started to itch horribly, right between his shoulderblades. Bannon squirmed. “Uh, Morrigan,” he said, when it seemed the witch didn’t have any scathing remarks to deliver to him at the moment. “You look well.”

She blinked, finally, and tucked her forearms across her midriff. “I am. I am pleased to see you are alive as well.”

“You are?”

She arched a brow. “You think Alistair can handle this job by himself?”

“Oh.” Bannon plucked at the edge of his blanket. “Thank you.” He squirmed back against his pillows.

“Is something bothering you?”

“It’s my back; it’s itching like crazy.”

“Allow me.”

Did he have a choice? Morrigan didn’t pause to give him one. She snaked her arm around his back and leaned close, bringing her cleavage to his nose level again. He quickly found somewhere else to look as her fingernails lightly drew down his back. “Here?”

Bannon gulped. “A little higher.” Maker, were the witch and the nun fighting over him? He felt like a bone that had caught the interest of two mabari.

“The mages should have you fully healed by tonight.”

“How long have we been here? After Uldred, I mean.”

“One and one-half days.”

“Well, they’re not kicking me out of this bed before tomorrow morning.”

Morrigan chuckled softly in her throat. “You know, most non-mages have difficulty recalling their dreams.”

At last, what she was really here for: fishing for what he might remember, and if any of it was about Morrigan and her… relationship with her mother. “It’s all fuzzy and far away,” Bannon lied. “I do remember you were a great help to us. Thank you, Morrigan.” He looked up into her eyes as he said this, so she would know he was sincere. He should have stopped there. “I remember a mouse mage.”

“He was a fool,” Morrigan said coldly. “He practically handed his body over to a demon.”

Bannon looked away quickly, struck again by Niall’s death. He pulled away from her hand. “Thank you, Morrigan,” he said flatly. “I think I need some rest, now.”

“Of course,” she said, straightening. “Just don’t forget what they say about scratching one’s back. You owe me.”

Bannon sank sullenly into his pillows. Dammit, now what had he gotten himself into?

 

 


 
Healing

Bannon had an hour or so to devour his illicit snacks before the healers came to work on him. He felt stronger after eating, but also a bit… bloated. He tried to sneak out of bed to find a garderobe, but he was thwarted by a balding mage with a bland smile. Bannon tried his best bullshit on him, but nothing worked. Instead, the mage calmly pulled out a bedpan and tried to slip it into position.

“Hey!” Bannon yelped, trying to scramble away. “Look, seriously, I can walk!”

He was rescued by the healers, led by Wynne. “Owain, what are you doing?”

“I am assisting the patient with his eliminatory functions.”

“I don’t need assistance,” Bannon assured them.

“If you were still weak and barely conscious, you would be more appreciative of Owain’s help,” Wynne told him. Bannon shudderd to think of this eerily bland human touching him while he was unconscious. Wynne said to the mage, “Owain, go draw a bath for the patient. He should be ready for one when we are finished here.”

“Yes, Senior Enchanter.” Unhurriedly, Owain replaced the bedpan and then walked away to attend to the bath.

“He’s not going to try to help me wash, is he?” Bannon asked nervously.

“You should be more grateful for the services the Tranquil perform without complaint or resentment,” Wynne scolded again. “Now lie down so we can perform the healing on you.” She and the plump young woman from before began removing Bannon’s pillows.

“That’s a Tranquil?” he asked, scooting back down properly in his bed.

“He is, yes.” Wynne put a little emphasis on the pronoun.

Bannon decided that his earlier assessment of the Tranquil, as described by Alistair, was too conservative. That… man, if he could still be described as such, made the hairs of his neck prickle. If he still had hairs on his neck. “Will my hair grow back?” he asked anxiously. “Will I have scars? What about my ears?”

“Just relax,” Wynne told him. “You’ll be fine.”

There were six mages with her, including the two younger ones who had been guarding the children with her, a somber elf of indeterminate age, a young woman with a bandaged arm, and a dark-skinned human with short-cropped hair. They gathered around the bed, three on each side with Wynne at the foot.

The older man said, “If you’re not quiet and still during the healing, you’ll come out all crooked. Especially your face.”

“Jago!” Wynne scolded. She seemed to do a lot of that.

He shrugged. “I thought you wanted a good patient. Don’t blame me, then.”

“Just lie still,” Wynne told Bannon in a softer voice.

He had no intention of making things difficult for his healers. The mages bowed their heads as if in prayer. The air seemed to grow darker as they slowly extended their hands towards each other. Then a blue light sprang up around the circle. The mages turned their palms towards Bannon, and he closed his eyes as the light flooded into him. It was not cold, but warm.

All the pain and aches and horrible prickling and itching in his scalp and down his body suddenly ceased, replaced by a pleasant tingle. He may have moaned softly at the sensation. He floated in a warm, pain-free wash of light.

He didn’t know how long it was until it ended (all too soon), when he drifted down and blinked his eyes open. The healing light dimmed and extinguished. The mages folded their hands, heads bowed. For a moment all were silent and still.

And then, just like that, the mages all bustled away. Wynne stayed a few minutes longer, readjusting his pillows. “Here, let me help you with the bandages.”

“Did you bring a mirror?” he asked her. Wynne just rolled her eyes. “Um, I didn’t get a chance to tell everyone thank you.”

“We don’t do this for thanks, or for money.” The older mage unwound the bandages from his arm. There was no indication it had ever been hurt.

“The Chantry does it for money.”

Wynne stopped as she reached for the bandages on his head. She looked at him a long moment. “I suppose it does, at that.” He winced as she tugged at the wrappings. “Considering what you have done for us, it is we who should be thanking you.”

“You think I only did it so we could have allies to battle the darkspawn,” he mumbled.

“Why did you do it?” she asked plainly.

Bannon shrugged and picked at the knots holding the bandages on his chest and back. “Fighting the Blight is important.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Mages are particularly useful in battles.”

“Yes, they are.”

“Then I guess it must be true,” Bannon said. What did she want him to say? That he felt sorry for the mages, trapped in a Tower with no way out? He felt pity for those awaiting slaughter? How could he say that and not sound like a smiling charlatan trying to get the mages to do what he wanted?

She looked at him again. Her blue eyes seemed soft. “I suppose it is true, at that.”

Bannon reached up and rubbed a hand over his head. His hair was clumped and brittle, and quite short. “Ugh.” At least his ears seemed intact.

“Yes, we’ll have to get Owain to give you a trim.” Wynne looked up. The Tranquil was just returning, carrying a folded robe. “Well, I will let you get dressed in peace. Owain, when he is ready, please take him to the bath. Oh, on the way there, show him to the lavatory facilities.”

“Yes, Senior Enchanter.”

“Thank you, Wynne. Um, and Owain.”

“I’ll see you later, at the meeting,” she told him.

“Meeting?”

“After you’re refreshed, the Knight Commander and First Enchanter would like a few words with you and your companions.” Wynne patted his hand in a grandmotherly fashion, then took her leave.

 

 


 
The Tranquil

Owain let him visit the lavatory alone, but remained on hand in the bathing chamber. Living in tight quarters in the alienage left Bannon anything but shy. Nevertheless, the placid, staring human disconcerted him. He suggested the man go sit outside, but the Tranquil seemed content to just stand there. Bannon gave up and decided to just get on with his business before the water got cold.

“Why were you made Tranquil?” he asked, to keep his mind occupied. “Do you know?” He didn’t know if such a question was considered rude or not, but if they had no feelings, they shouldn’t be bothered, right?

“I asked to be made Tranquil.”

“Why?”

“I was afraid to attempt the Harrowing,” Owain said calmly. “I feared demons. I used to have terrible nightmares.”

“Nightmares about what?

The man didn’t answer for a while. His eyes were unfocussed, as if reviewing old memories. “My family,” he said at last.

Bannon didn’t want to pursue that avenue of discussion. “Being Tranquil is better than being dead, I guess. Do you remember… how you were before? Are you happier, now?”

“Before, I was confused and afraid. Now I am not. It is better.”

“Weren’t you afraid when the fighting started? All the killing? And the demons running loose?”

“No.”

“What did you do when all that started happening?”

“I tended my stockroom.”

The elf looked up at him. “You didn’t hide?”

“No.”

“But… other mages were being captured, taken to Uldred for that Harrowing thing– having demons put inside them– the same thing you were afraid of. You didn’t help them?”

“It was my duty to tend the stockroom.” He didn’t even sound guilty or evasive.

“You didn’t do anything?” Bannon pressed.

“I cleaned the stockroom.”

In the face of Owain’s unshakeable calm, Bannon became more angry. “You didn’t even care? Didn’t you care what he was doing to the mages; the people he hurt? The people he killed?”

“It did not concern me.”

“What if they had come to take you away? To put a demon inside you?”

“That is not possible with a Tranquil.”

“So Uldred could have taken over, started a new empire, enslaving everyone inside the Tower and out, and you would do what? Just keep sweeping?”

Owain blinked placidly. “Yes.”

“Did you even think about the captured mages?”

“It was not my concern.”

“Well what do you think now?”

The Tranquil lowered his eyes, searching his thoughts. “I think… they must have felt fear.”

“You don’t feel fear.”

“No.”

“They must have felt pain, too. Do Tranquil still feel pain?” How could this guy be so calm and uncaring?

“Yes.” The man looked to Bannon again, answering his questions directly.

“Well, they felt all that, and a lot of people died. You don’t feel the slightest bit of guilt?”

“That is not possible.”

Bannon growled in frustration. “You could have done something! You could have helped them, let them hide in your closet. You could have saved someone!”

Owain considered this, his lips pursed in thought. Then he said, “It is likely that I would have been killed had I interfered. So, in the end, it would have been futile anyway.”

“You don’t know that for sure.”

“No. I don’t.”

“And you still think this is better than being dead?”

“Yes.”

“Well… I’m not so sure any more.” Bannon looked for a towel. The bath had grown cold.

 

 

Healed, well-rested, and well-scrubbed, Bannon was given a fine new outfit to wear. It seemed the Tower had a sudden surplus of clothing and other personal items. These fit him well, though he wasn’t sure about the long robes over the pants. He hoped they hadn’t belonged to one of Uldred’s thralls. The thought made his skin itch, so he shoved it aside. His scalp itched, too, but that was from the short, bristly hair. Owain had given it a trim, to even out the singed ends. It ended up looking scarily like Alistair’s hair, though a bit longer on the front. Bannon hadn’t worn his hair short since he was little. His ears felt a bit drafty, and he couldn’t wait for it to grow back in.

Owain led him to the Knight Commander’s antechamber and then departed. Sten was waiting there. He looked… well, the same as always. Bannon went over to him.

“You are alive,” the grey giant stated flatly.

“Surprised?”

“Yes.”

Bannon huffed in dry humor. “Maybe you should learn to listen to me.”

“Your skills in leadership are without reproach.” Bannon barely had time to feel smug before Sten continued blithely, “The wisdom of your judgement is severely lacking.”

“Well,” Bannon grumbled; “We’ll see about that.”

 

 


 
The Meeting

Bannon, Alistair, Sten, and Leliana were ushered into Knight Commander Greagoir’s office. Morrigan was wisely absent; she’d found herself a room in town. As for Zevran, they hadn’t looked for him. Bannon just hoped the assassin didn’t get them all kicked out.

The Knight Commander stood at the left of his desk and formally introduced the Wardens’ party to the others in the room. The last Templar to hold out against the demons was Ser Cullen. Ser Lightning Mage was Senior Enchanter Erwin; Wynne they knew; and of course, the First Enchanter Irving. The First Enchanter looked like hell. He was an older human, wrinkled. He had dark bags under his bloodshot eyes. His sallow skin seemed ready to slough off, to reveal a misshapen demon within. But when he smiled, his humanity shone out like a beacon.

“I am very pleased to be able to at last personally thank our savior,” he said in a warm, rich voice. He stepped forward and extended his hand. Bannon took it; the mage’s grasp was firm. “Warden Tabris. Thank you.”

Bannon felt he should have bowed, but he couldn’t exactly manage that while shaking hands. “It is an honor, ser. And I couldn’t have done it on my own,” he added. “My companions and a great many people fought Uldred and the demons.”

Irving nodded. “Still, we owe you a great debt. Do not hesitate to ask the Circle for anything.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ve heard about the Grey Warden treaties and the Blight.” He waited for Irving to nod before going on. “I know the Tower is still reeling and needs to heal and build up its strength. Don’t worry,” he reassured the First Enchanter; “we’re not anywhere near ready to go to war against the darkspawn horde.”

“We will make every effort to be prepared,” Irving said.

“The Templars will, as well,” Greagoir added.

“Knight Commander!” the young Templar, Cullen, blurted. “You can’t be contemplating an alliance with these–” he bit off the words, shooting a scathing glare across at the mages. “When the Right of Annulment gets here….”

“That’s enough, Ser Cullen,” Greagoir snapped. “You have made your opinion on the matter thoroughly clear.”

“Please!” In desperation, the knight turned to Bannon and Alistair. “Try to convince him to see the danger. You know what was happening up there! You know it is impossible to tell if a mage is possessed, if the demon goes deep. They could rise up and slaughter us all!”

“I agree,” said Sten.

“We saved the mages,” Alistair insisted.

“Look,” Bannon said, “any Abomination there attacked us and was killed. They’re gone.”

“And if a Blood Mage clouded your mind?” Cullen argued. “You would believe anything.”

“The Litany of Adralla protected our minds,” Leliana said. “It freed everyone from Uldred’s control.”

“You can’t know that for sure.”

“It even worked on the thralls,” Bannon said.

Cullen raked his hands through his hair. “Knight Commander, can’t you see? You’re risking the nation of Ferelden– the whole world!”

“I trust the judgement and word of the First Enchanter,” Greagoir said levelly, though his brows lowered like a threatening stormcloud.

“He was probably the first one possessed!”

“That is enough, Captain! Wait outside. I will speak to you later,” the Knight Commander growled.

“Yes, ser,” Cullen bit out. He pressed a fist to his chestplate and walked out.

“You foolishness will doom you all,” Sten said.

“This is not your homeland, Sten,” Bannon told him. “We don’t enslave anyone here in Ferelden, and we’re not about to change.”

“The beasts who wear the faces of men–”

“Are not your concern.” Bannon went to the giant and lowered his voice. “I think you should go back to town. Find out if there is a cartwright, and a leatherworker, and see if he can make leather armor for an elf. Since there have been refugees through, supplies might be short, so take a look around in different places.” That, he hoped, would keep the huge anti-mage proponent out of their hair.

Sten’s lips drew back slightly, revealing small, even teeth. Then he said, “You are correct. It is not my concern if you allow your saarebas to destroy your people.” He turned and walked out without another word.

Bannon glanced at Alistair again, as he spoke to the Commander. “I understand that what provisions– or coin– you could provide, you have done so.” The former Templar nodded. Bannon smiled charmingly at Greagoir. “Then I hope it’s not too much to ask to have some guest quarters for the night?”

Irving chuckled. “Fear not, we have rooms for your friends, and of course yourself, since you’re now out of the infirmary.”

“Thanks to your healers.”

Irving waved that off. “The least we could do, Warden.”

“Actually,” Wynne said, speaking up; “there is something else we can do.” She looked between Alistair and Bannon. “I understand the Wardens are looking to have a healer accompany them.”

Bannon glanced at Alistair. The elf had almost forgotten the most important request! Good thing Alistair had been chatting with these folks. Bannon made note to give Alistair some bonus pay.

Erwin said, “Do you have someone in mind, Wynne?”

“Yes. if the First Enchanter and Knight Commander will grant my request, I would like to go.”

All the men in the room were taken back by surprise. Leliana said, “We would be honored by your presence, Senior Enchanter.”

“Of course we would,” Bannon said quickly. “But we are traveling a great distance, and sleeping rather rough.”

“And you’re worried an old woman wouldn’t be able to keep up?” Wynne asked him candidly.

“We wouldn’t want to be any trouble for you,” Bannon replied smoothly. “And we do seem to attract a lot of danger.”

“Then you will need an experienced healer,” she countered. “And I have studied other branches of magic. I am not useless in a fight.”

Bannon thought back. She had been very useful in handling those demons. He looked over at Alistair who looked as if he’d swallowed a bug. Clearly he was uncomfortable at bringing along an old woman, but was trained to be too polite to say so.

“I am not that old,” Wynne was saying to the Knight Commander. He appeared ready to retreat. “I have a dozen years of travel left in me, at least.”

“Ah, well, if the First Enchanter thinks it best,” the knight hedged.

Irving nodded, recognizing that he’d been left with the decision to defy the Senior Enchanter or not. “If you really do think it best, Wynne…?”

“I do.”

“Very well, then.”

“Thank you, First Enchanter, Knight Commander,” she said graciously.

“Welcome aboard,” Bannon said with a bemused smile. Leliana and Alistair echoed his sentiments, with disparate levels of reservation. “I’m sure Leliana can assist you with provisions and necessities you’ll need to pack.” The bard brightened at the prospect. Before the meeting could break up, Bannon wanted to ask one more thing. “First Enchanter? I have another question….”

“Yes? What is it?”

“When we were trapped in the Fade, a mage named Niall helped us escape.”

The old mage’s look turned somber. “Niall is among the dead, I’m afraid.”

“Yes,” Bannon nodded. “He didn’t make it back with us; there was already a demon that was inhabiting his body. But… what’s going to happen to him?” Bannon wrinkled his brow, trying to figure out the metaphysical implications. “His spirit was trapped in the Fade.”

Irving spread his hands. “He will be free to go beyond the Fade, into the Light of the Maker.”

“But… he was trapped in a mouse’s body. I mean, his spirit was stuck in a mouse form.” Bannon just couldn’t believe Niall’s spirit was dead. It wasn’t even in his body when it was killed. “Couldn’t he still be there? Somehow?”

“I’m sorry, Ser Bannon,” Irving said gently. “But there is just no way to know for sure how things work in the spirit realm.”

Alistair put a hand on the elf’s shoulder. “Bannon, he’s gone.”

Leliana touched him lightly on the other arm. “Do not fear. He will not be forgotten.”

“He was, uh,” Bannon blinked and cleared his throat of a sudden frog. “He was a hero.”

“We will raise a toast to him at the feast,” Irving said.

“Feast?” Bannon’s pointy ears perked up. “Now that sounds good.”

The old mage smiled gently. “I’ll have Belanna show you to your rooms.”

The informal meeting broke up, and the atmosphere became more relaxed. Leliana went to converse with Greagoir and Cullen. Bannon was thankful the meeting was so short and relatively painless. He and Alistair went to the Senior Enchanters. Alistair was trying to recommend things for Wynne to pack. Although his first bit of advice was to travel lightly, his list was rather long.

Bannon looked up at Erwin. “I want to thank you for protecting us, Ser Lightning Mage.”

A grin split the mage’s beard. “It was you, Ser Grey Warden, and your faithful companion, who were protecting us.” He offered his hand, and Bannon took it with growing confidence. He could get used to this admiration from humans. Again he was faintly surprised at the softness of the man’s hand, but he supposed mages didn’t really do any heavy work, and their staves were not for hand to hand fighting.

The guide arrived, so Bannon and Alistair took their leave. “I’ll see you at the feast,” the elf called over his shoulder at the mages.

“I’m looking forward to your speech,” Erwin said, still smiling.

Bannon smiled and nodded back. Outside the door, he and Alistair looked at each other. “Speech?” they said in identical trepidation.

 

 


 
The Speech

Belanna was a blonde elven woman. It always took Bannon by surprise to see elven mages in a Tower he still thought of as a human institution. She was a bit older than he, and she sported the plain cropped hair and contemplatively vacant expression he’d come to recognize as the mark of the Tranquil. Such a waste.

He walked behind her with Alistair. It was good to be a hero, Bannon mused, thinking about the feast. But those fateful words ‘a speech’ loomed over his head. “All right, Alistair; you’ll give a Grey Warden speech, right?”

“What, me?

“Yes, you. You know Templars. And you know mages. Didn’t they teach you speech-making in Templar training?”

“No!”

“Well don’t look at me, I certainly never gave a speech in the alienage,” Bannon pointed out. “What about that… that schoolmarm you had? ‘A good Tem-plah has good pos-chah while giving a spee-chah,'” Bannon mimicked in a high-pitched voice.

“We don’t give speeches,” Alistair insisted. “Just… you know– ‘Halt, Apostate,’ and ‘Die, Maleficar,’ and ‘Taste the steely wrath of my blade, demon.'”

“See? You’re a natural.”

“In a hall full of mages? Those will go down well.” Alistair rolled his eyes. They turned down another hall. “You’re the Warden Commander; you have to give the speeches.”

“I’m the what?” This was the first Bannon had heard.

“Well, we agreed you were in charge, right? You’re in charge of all the Grey Wardens in Ferelden; that makes you the Warden Commander.”

“Because I’m in charge.”

“Yes.”

“Of all two of us?”

“Yep!” Alistair smiled smugly. “That makes you the Commander.”

“Then I command you to give a speech,” Bannon demanded.

“Oh, no!” Alistair warded off the very thought with emphatic gestures. “Noooo, no. Hey, I know! Get your friend Zevran to do it. He likes flapping his lips.”

The two men stopped in the hall and looked at each other, brows quirked as they contemplated such a scenario. A moment later, they both said simultaneously, “Naah!”

“What about Sten?” Bannon offered. That’s what they needed, especially if the speech was going to come before the food. Short, succinct, then get to the grub.

“Can he even manage five words at a time?” Alistair asked doubtfully.

“Um… ‘You’re all going to die’?”

“Oh yes, that will work out so much better than ‘Die, mage scum!'” Alistair resumed walking.

“No, I know what we need,” Bannon said. “Leliana!” He turned down the hall, calling for the bardic nun. “Leliana…!”

 

 

Bannon explained the predicament to Leliana on the way to his quarters. He desperately needed a bard to make a sound, stirring speech. “Or a song! A really uplifting and inspiring song.”

“I have not had time to compose a song about the plight of the Tower.”

“Well, can’t you just take a popular song and change the words to fit the situation?”

Leliana turned and looked at him aghast. “Steal another bard’s work? Plagiarize their words and twist them for my own purposes?”

“Um… yeah?”

She just gave him an icy, scathing look and continued on.

Bannon sighed and scratched his head. This short hair was driving him nuts. How was it that mages could heal flesh, mend bone, leave no scars, and yet they couldn’t make his hair grow? Surely someone must have thought up a spell for that. They couldn’t study fireballs and lightning and other spells of destruction all the time. Where were the helpful spells like healing, and making crops grow? And making hair grow.

And changing its colour. He always wondered how he would look as a redhead like his cousins. But he didn’t have the right eye colour to match. What he really wished for was truly black hair. Black like a raven’s wing, not this plain brown. It was a dark brown to be sure, with a nice sheen, but what was more plain than brown hair? Something exotic would be better.

Bannon looked at his borrowed clothes, which were accented with rich purple. Now there was a dark colour that might work with his eyes. He wondered if purple hair would look rich and alluring or just stupid, as if he’d fallen head first into a wine vat.

Meanwhile, Leliana was escaping. Bannon trotted to catch up. “Well, but you can give a speech?”

“You should give the speech, Bannon. You’re the hero.”

“Well….” That word distracted him as he tried it on. He shook his head to clear it. “Well can’t you write me a speech?” he begged.

She sighed, in that same put-upon manner he’d heard so often from his father and hahren Valendrian. “I will help you write it,” she said, emphasis on who was helping and who was (supposedly) writing.

 

 

“Now, what do you wish to accomplish with your speech?” Leliana sat perched on a stool by the writing desk in Bannon’s guest room. She held a thin stick, singed on the end for charcoal, and bits of paper scrap were scattered on the desk.

Bannon sat on the soft armchair, one foot propped on the round table in the center of the room. He was busy polishing off the fruit that had been in the bowl on it. “All right, we really need to boost morale and tell these mages how they’re ready to defeat a Blight.” He paused to spit some grape seeds towards the bowl. “And we need to throw the Templars a bone. They really got their–” He stopped and looked around. There weren’t any Templars here, nor outside guarding the door, but you never knew when one of those Tranquil were hanging about, imitating statues. Bannon didn’t want them eavesdropping either. He couldn’t bring himself to believe they didn’t congregate after hours and gossip. “They clearly screwed up on their watchdog job.”

“This battle has been like fire,” Leliana said. “The Templars and mages are followers of Andraste. We can liken it to her trial by fire.”

Bannon nodded. “Like forging a sword.”

“I believe a crucible would have more meaning for the mages.”

“What’s a crucible?”

“It is a vessel subjected to great heat to galvanize its contents.” She tilted her head. “Somewhat like a kiln, for firing clay.”

Bannon shoved some more grapes in his mouth, making his cheeks bulge as he chewed. “Erm, pottery breaks. I like swords better. We are going to war.”

“Forge it is, then,” Leliana said, scribbling a note on a piece of paper.

“I want to tell the story of Niall. He should be remembered.”

“There were many mages who fought bravely, and died,” she said cautiously.

“Niall the mouse mage defeated that big hulk, Sloth. It’s like us going against the Blight. Only two Grey Wardens, the Circle of Magi decimated. But the mages can handle this battle, even if our enemy is bigger than they are.” A seed cracked between his molars, and Bannon grimaced. He probed it out with his tongue and spit it into the bowl. He saw Leliana staring at him. “What?”

“You’re rather shrewd with this,” she said. “Writing speeches, I mean.”

“So I’ve been told.” He shrugged uncomfortably. “Niall inspired me,” he said with a flippant air.

“You became close,” she said, her gaze not wavering.

Bannon looked away. “No. I barely knew the guy. It was, like, what? Less than one day.” Damn, was something wrong with these grapes? His stomach felt leaden.

Leliana looked down and idly rearranged the scraps of paper on the desk. “It was a short time, true,” she said. “But a lot happened, and much of it was before I–” she gulped and flushed slightly. “Before I met him.” Before she mistook him for the Maker. Bannon suppressed a smirk. “Will you tell me the whole story?”

“Now? Don’t we have a speech to write?”

“If I knew the whole story, I could weave it into the speech better.”

Bannon frowned, getting the sense she was trying to play him. “I only want to tell the part about defeating Sloth,” he hedged. “You should have seen him when Sloth first tried to stop us.” He put both feet on the floor and leaned forward in his chair, gesturing animatedly as he described the scene. “Niall could only do those mouse-sized spells, right? So after I poked Sloth in the eye–”

“You did what!?”

“I poked him in the eye.”

Her brows shot up. “You didn’t!”

“I did,” he insisted with a grin. “And then Niall shot ice at him, just this little patch, and then Sloth stepped on it and whomp! He fell right on his face!”

Leliana laughed with him and then regarded him with a soft smile. “You really were fond of him. I’m sure you would have made fast friends.”

“It doesn’t matter; he’s gone now.” Bannon felt a lump closing his throat, and his eyes prickled again. Niall was dead, and he’d never get to know him as anything other than ‘the mouse mage.’

“Bannon, it’s all right to grieve for your friend.”

“I told you, I barely knew him.” He rubbed his face in annoyance. “Can we just write this blasted speech?”

 

 


 
Aftermath

 

 

The speech went over well, and the food at the feast was plentiful. Even the Grey Wardens managed to get stuffed to the gills. The wine flowed freely, and there were a great many toasts to the dearly departed and heroes alike.

Bannon went to bed with three nimble elven beauties, blonde, brunette, and redhead. They were all very grateful to him for being such a hero and rescuing him from Blood Mages, demons, and Templars.

Until Alistair ran into the room, chased by a horde of magic-casting mice. They ran around and around the bed, tiny sparks hitting the furniture, drapes, and rugs and smoldering. Then Alistair ungratefully started beating Bannon over the head with a washboard.

“Bannon? Bannon!”

“Whurg?” the elf said blearily, peeling his sticky eyes open. “Stop hitting me.”

“I’m not hitting you,” Alistair said with maddening calm. Still the pounding continued. “But it’s getting late. You should get up.”

“Bleargh.” His mouth felt as if he’d been eating his pillow.

Alistair helpfully poked and prodded him, and pulled him out from under the covers. “Had a bit too much last night, did we?”

Bannon tried to fix him with an evil glare. With at least one of his eyes. “Templars…,” he mumbled; “something… insulting.” With a drawn-out groan, he untangled himself from the sheets and staggered towards the chest to put on some clothes. “Did you see those three women?”

“What three women?”

“If Zevran asks, you did.”

“Riiiight,” the Templar drawled. “Do you need help getting to breakfast?”

“Nah’mfine.”

 

 

Breakfast was a quick and blessedly quiet affair. Alistair suggested going to Denerim to pursue the lead on the Sacred Ashes. Bannon agreed, and tried not to examine too closely his feelings about returning home. He should be more concerned with avoiding Loghain and his troops.

Alistair insisted that taking the North Road was faster than trying to cut through the Bannorn. Bodahn later confirmed this. Heading straight east through the Bannorn looked to be a shorter route, but the small roads and trails through the countryside were not conducive to speedy travel. The North Road was a stretch of the ancient Imperial Highway; faster and more direct.

Bannon introduced Wynne to their system of shared finances. Except for her allowance from the Tower for traveling supplies, she gladly donated. The elf parceled out shares for a last shopping trip in Laketown. He made sure that those deserving got a bonus, and that Sten’s pay was docked for bowing out of the Tower battle. Zevran finally got a share, to his glee. Bannon and Alistair forestalled him from heading to the nearest whorehouse by dragging him off to get a helmet. As for everyone else, they would meet after lunch to head out. They should catch up with Bodahn by nightfall.

 

 

They were unable to find any elf-sized leathers in town. Bannon could make do with human-fitted guards and bracers if he tightened the straps. He had to settle for a cut-down leather cuirass that was clearly a rush job. He hoped they wouldn’t get into any battles on the North Road. It wasn’t like there would be any darkspawn, though bandits and other unsavory types were always a possibility.

He and Zevran got helmets from the leather-worker. Zevran pronounced them sad monstrosities that he wouldn’t be caught dead in.

“Well, that’s the point,” Alistair told him. “They’re supposed to keep you alive.”

The assassin sighed dramatically. Bannon had to silently agree with him. He, himself, looked like a shoddy patchwork job. This was nothing like the Grey Warden uniform he’d dreamt of in the Fade. The elves secured their helmets to their belts and left the leatherworker’s shop with Alistair to find some lunch.

On their way to one of the smaller taverns, they crossed paths with that Templar who had been guarding the ferry to the Tower. “Oi!” he said, his brows knitting together as if trying to knock each other out. “Aren’t you those supposed ‘Grey Wardens’ who stole my boat? You dumped me in the lake and stole my boat!”

Before Bannon or Alistair could say anything, Zevran shoved forward between them and leered at the Templar. “My poor, dear, handsome fellow! Are you quite all right? Do you require aid and attention?” He darted towards the man, his hands outstretched as if to embrace him, or feel him up, or whatever it was the assassin planned to do.

“Gah!” The Templar fled as fast as his armored boots and draped skirting allowed.

Zevran grinned back at the staring Wardens. Bannon turned to Alistair. “I told you he’d come in handy.”

 

 


 
End Notes:
 
He wondered if purple hair would look rich and alluring or just stupid, as if he’d fallen head first into a wine vat.
—::waves the the purple-haired one:: you look fine! ;)

 
Outtakes:
 
Morrigan: Is that a slab of bacon between your legs, or are you just happy to see me?

 
Author: That should take the wind out of the sails of the Good Ship Cockiness.
(okay, it’s a modern fantasy and all, but that was just too… real-world reference-y. though i think i will save it up for the dragon age: torchwood crossover…!)

 


Late This Week


 

As of this morning, I’m starting page 16 of the chapter that is due this week. Uh, well, today. And it’s STILL NOT DONE. There is ONE small scene that isn’t done, but my brain is ready to quit for this week. Maybe I will be able to eke something out over lunch.

Most of what is done is typed in, but it isn’t even proofed yet. Although I realized just a while ago that there is a slight plot inconsistancy with the next chapter that needs a little adjustment. You know what happens with products rushed out the door. Right?

So… maybe I will post this week’s chapter this weekend. Or, uh, next Friday? :X We will see how it goes, but it is definitely going to be late.

 

In other news, I’ve gotten wind of another 3d app I want to try, 3D Coat. If I can sculpt with it as quickly and easily as I can with Sculptris… If it can make symmetrical morphs that are not FUBAR… I will quite happily shell out 350 bucks for the sucker. Hey, it even does UVMapping and painting.

I adore Sculptris to death, but it’s limitations…. ::shakes head sadly:: That, plus I think Pixologic bought it out just to bury it. I really, really do. Hey, I tried the ZBrush demo again! It Does Not Work For Me. I’m sorry; ZBrush is really great, but I can’t use it. Not like I can use Sculptris. Or could use Sculptris. If, you know, Sculptris did the morphs right and the UVmapping stuff….

::sigh:: Anyway, I suppose the quest for the perfect 3D Modelling… oh, I can’t call it an app any more, those are for i-thingies. Program. The Quest for the Perfect 3D Modelling Program continues.

Keep your fingers crossed. I could finally maybe finish Jack’s head. Hey, I could even make Zevran look more like Zevran…!