Return to Denerim, Part Three: The Pearl


CONTENT:
Rating: Mature
Flavor: Action/Adventure
Language: yes
Violence: yes
Nudity: just a little skin
Sex: discussed
Other: takes place in a brothel
 
Author’s Notes:

I blame Isabella for all the trouble I’ve had with this chapter. Or part of a chapter. ::sigh:: Then I edited it to be better and accidentally erased all my edits. And can’t remember what I wrote :X


Return to Denerim Part Three: The Pearl

 

 

The Grey Pearl was a rambling estate, with two wings in the back with upper storeys. The front had a broad, corniced facade overlooking a paved yard that was concealed by tall hedges. The companions went up the walk and into the front reception room. The floor was laid with thick woven-rag rugs, and a row of boot-scrapers stood off to one side, to reduce the tracking of mud and snow into the brothel proper.

“This place reeks of desperation,” Sten complained.

“Nonsense, my friend,” Zevran said. “It smells of happiness! Ah, just like home, where love can be had for the simple price of ten silvers an hour.” He beamed. Clearly, he was in his element.

Bannon left them to fend for themselves. He went through the doorway into a barroom. A human woman in a beautiful gown smiled at him. “Welcome, traveler, to the Grey Pearl. I am Sanga, your hostess. We are a professional establishment.” She paused to eye his worn leather armor and weapons. “Please be advised we do not take credit, and insist on payment up front.” Well, at least she didn’t call the guards to haul him out, so he must have barely passed muster. “All our workers are true artisans, and I’m sure we can find something to suit you. All of you,” she added, as the others filed in behind him. “Although we do not currently have any rooms large enough for a group of your size, if you wanted to all go at once.”

“All bah-wah?” said Alistair.

Bannon shook his head. “Actually, I was wondering if there were any elves working here.”

Sanga’s mouth turned down sadly, but her brow remained unwrinkled. “I’m afraid we cannot offer you any elves at this time. You must be from out of town. The Alienage here is under quarantine, so I don’t believe you can find elves in any brothel here. Would you care to look at some of our more petite human artisans? Would you prefer women or men?”

“Actually, I was trying to find out some information on the quarantine,” Bannon explained. “Do you have elves besides the, ah, artisans? Working here, doing cleaning or laundry, maybe living here?”

The woman shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. There was a curfew, and they had to return to their homes. And then the quarantine.” She spread her hands.

He couldn’t tell if she seemed sad because she was upset about the plight of the elves, or just about losing her workers, or if she were just trying to play to his own emotions. “Thank you,” he said neutrally. “We were told we should meet some of our friends here?”

“What sort of friends?”

“Friends of the grey.” He smiled naievely. “At the Grey Pearl.”

Now a line did mar her brow. She made an effort to erase it. “They won’t be here until dark. You’re welcome to come back later.”

“Can we wait here?” Bannon looked around at the nearly empty barroom. “We do have coin.”

“We can perhaps sample the pleasures of the house?” Zevran butted in hopefully.

“My friends and I would like a round of ale,” Bannon clarified. “While we wait.”

 

 

Alistair went to find a shadowy corner to hide in. Sten and Leliana sat at the bar. Before Bannon could join them, Zevran was in his face.

“Quick, give me ten silvers.”

“Not a chance.”

“What? Why!?” Zevran waved his arms. “We have two hours til full dark. I assure you, I will only take up one!”

Bannon shook his head. “I need you focused on fighting.”

“I would focus a lot better if I had a hot little–”

Just then, there was a ruckus in the far corner. The elves turned to see three men closing in on a dark-skinned woman. They looked like house guards in quilted gambesons and boiled leather cuirasses, and each bore a sword. In contrast, the woman wore an immodest short dress, tall boots, and a great many trinkets. She was armed only with a pair of curved daggers.

Bannon started to move forward, then felt Zevran’s hand on his arm. Of course, they couldn’t get involved if they wanted to remain inconspicuous.

The men charged; someone yelled a warning; there was a flurry of movement and the flashing of blades; and a moment later, one of the men was lying on the floor, writhing and bleeding, while the other two clutched at their arms, now divested of weapons.

Madame Sanga rushed from behind the bar to the scene. Two burly men, who had been guarding the inner door, also went over. They began yelling at the woman. Sanga cut them off, and instead berated them for not doing their job of protecting the clients from harassment.

The dark woman made her blades vanish, then tossed Sanga a gold coin. “Sorry about the mess.” She took a long-legged stride over the fallen man, while the Madame ordered her bouncers to clear out those men.

Bannon had never seen any shem move so fast as this woman had in the fight. It wasn’t even a fight, it was over so quickly. Plus, he saw disaster looming as the dangerous minx headed in Alistair’s direction. The Templar looked as if he’d swallowed a frog. Then Zevran started over there, and Bannon couldn’t let the lascivious Antivan get to her first.

“Isabella,” Zevran called, his accent caressing the syllables. And just how did he know her name?

The woman turned, her bangles faintly jingling, her eyes flashing. “Well,” she drawled, “if it isn’t that murdering elf who killed my husband.”

Oh, this was bad. Bannon didn’t need his assassin gutted. “Oh, no,” he said quickly; “I’m sure you’ve mistaken him for some other tattooed elf. This is actually my brother, Pik. From Highever. He’s a little slow. Ow!” That last was due to Zevran elbowing him in the ribs while he was talking.

This Isabella laughed throatily, a rich dark sound that matched her caramel skin and the night cloud of her hair cascading to her shoulders in untamed ringlets. Her eyes were green, such a startling shade against her skin, they seemed to glow like emeralds.

They only glanced in Bannon’s direction a moment. “I think not. There’s no mistaking this one.” Those gems returned to Zevran.

The elf chuckled. “I gladly claim the kill. Now… do you not owe me at least another dozen barrels of Antivan Brandy?”

Half a dozen,” Isabella snapped. “And I’m sure I delivered on most of them already.”

“Ah well, how would I carry such a prize off, anyway?” Zevran’s amber eyes gleamed. “But you could at least buy me a bottle.”

“Very well. Done!” Isabella signaled to Sanga.

This is terrible, Bannon thought. Zevran seemed to be overly familiar with this minx! No, not a minx, he amended. A panther. He could see the artful curve of her muscled limbs, especially her strong thighs, as each step had them sliding in and out of the slit up the side of her dress. And the flat plane of her stomach, below the globes of her breasts. Bannon had only ever seen shem women with such endowment, and those supported by a laced bodice and heavy cloth. Not like this, their dark curves nestled in the stark white. Yet they didn’t look heavy. If only he could find out….

Fortunately, Alistair interrupted the elf’s wayward thoughts. “Wait a minute….” He’d come up on Zevran’s other side and frowned in puzzlement between him and the woman. “You know her. She knows you. But you killed her husband. And… everyone’s okay with this? Did I miss something, here?”

Isabella unleashed another throaty laugh. “Don’t worry, it was the best thing to happen to the drunken old lout — at least for me! And for The Siren. She is in much better hands since I inherited her.” She smiled warmly at Zevran.

He gave a flourishing bow, and Bannon resisted the urge to knock him over. When the Antivan straightened, he motioned to his companions. “This is Alistair. And this is my very good friend, Bannon. Allow me to introduce to you Isabella, Mistress of Blades.”

Isabella tipped her head, making the multiple rings in her ears chime faintly together. And that spot of bright gold below her mulberry lips — was that pinned through her skin? She smiled slowly, and Bannon could see no other way it would stay there. “Is he a special friend?” she asked Zevran.

“Hm, well…,” the Antivan temporized. He gestured vaguely with one hand.

Bannon was worried about what exactly they meant, so he decided to take the rudder. “I’m a Grey Warden,” he said. “Pleased to meet you, Captain, is it?”

“I like him!” Isabella showed her strong white teeth.

Bannon shot a glance at Zevran, quirked a questioning brow. Zevran flipped a hand in a noncommittal shrug. Well, what did that mean?

Isabella’s attention was diverted as Leliana walked up on Bannon’s left. “And who is this beauty?” she asked, her eyes wandering fearlessly over the bard.

Leliana’s cheeks reddened. “Leliana, mon capitaine.

“Oh, I do just love a lady with an accent.”

Now Bannon shot Zevran a blatant raised-brow look, but all the useless Antivan could do was shrug with a sheepish little grin. He seemed to lose interest in pursuing the woman when one of the serving girls brought him a bottle of honey-gold liquid. “Alistair,” he called to the gawking human; “do you remember that little bet we had?”

“Bet?”

Zevran grinned. “Let us go to the bar to settle it.”

Bannon said to Isabella, “We were just admiring your fighting skills.”

“Your bladework is quite elegant,” Leliana added.

“I call myself a duelist, because I honed my skills in duels against many men,” Isabella said, with a glint of hidden humor in her eye. “It is a skill of finesse and precision, rather than brute force.”

“Do you teach others?” Leliana asked. Bannon was wondering the same thing — and how much it would cost. He didn’t think he could ever become as strong as Zevran, not without working too hard. But speed and finesse sounded like just the thing he could learn and put to good use.

Isabella said, “Oh, I don’t give my secrets away to just anyone. I’ll have to test you. See if you are worthy. Are you interested?”

“Just what kind of test?” Bannon asked.

“Do you know Wicked Grace?”

“Who?”

Leliana laughed. “It is a card game.”

“Do you play?” Isabella asked her.

“Of course.”

“I could give it a shot,” Bannon said, hoping he wasn’t totally out of his league.

“Let’s get a table,” said Isabella.

 

 

“In principle, it’s not that difficult,” Leliana explained to him. “You are dealt two cards face up on the table — these are your hold cards — and one face down, which is your hole card. Not to be confused with your hold cards.” She dimpled with a silly grin. “Then you get four cards dealt to your hand. You may draw another card on your turn, or take one from the discard pile. Then you discard one from your hand.

“The object of the game is to build a pattern. There are many advanced patterns, but as a novice, you should concentrate on the basics: collecting a set of the same number or icon or colour, or a sequence of numbers of the same icon. Just like most card games, yes?”

“Poker is more my speed, but all right.”

Isabella handed him the deck. “Why don’t you shuffle?”

He took the thick deck and began to shuffle methodically. He almost dropped the cards, knocking a few into his lap. “Sorry,” he said. “Small hands. I’m not used to such big cards.”

He needn’t have bothered, for the two women were staring across the table, paying him no mind. It was quite odd, and not a little ego-deflating. He usually gambled with other men, but he could see how a female partner could be useful for distracting the opposition.

He’d only ever played against one woman. Fiona had liked cards and gambling; most elven lasses didn’t seem to care for it. Come to think of it, he seemed to lose a lot more to Fiona than when he played with the guys. Of course, she didn’t play him for money wagers. Bannon smiled to himself in memory. Fiona was a lot of fun, but ultimately, she still wanted what every other elven maid wanted: a home, children, and a husband breaking his back to support them all.

He brought his mind back to the present and squared up the deck on the table.

“I’ll cut,” Isabella said, deftly handling the deck. “And you can deal, my dear.” She passed the cards to Leliana.

“Thank you.”

The women chatted idly as they played. Leliana told Bannon the meaning and value of his hold cards, and offered to give advice on how to play his hand, but he demurred. “No, no. I’ll work it out. I wouldn’t want you ladies to take advantage of me.” He smiled in jest, and they giggled. Bannon wondered if this was how Zevran felt most of the time. The Antivan had more stamina and perseverance than he’d given him credit for.

At the end of the round, the ladies showed their hands and compared scores. “Well,” Bannon said, “I’m afraid none of my cards match.” He sighed and laid down his hand, then pulled his hole card back and flipped it over.

“Hrmmm,” Isabella said. “You seem to have built The Silver Queen’s Court.” Leliana just gave him a penetrating look.

“Is that good?”

Isabella chuckled. “It’s very good. But not the best hand in the game.”

“Well, beginner’s luck,” he said with a grin. Isabella chuckled again, but Leliana just stared at him all the harder. “What do I win?”

“Oh, this is just a friendly game,” Isabella said with a tiny smirk. “We wouldn’t want you to lose something you can’t afford.”

Leliana said, “I do believe the ultimate prize is a lesson in dueling with the lovely captain.”

“A worthy goal,” Bannon agreed.

Next, it was his turn to deal. He couldn’t return the cards in his lap to the deck with the bard staring at him, so they’d have to do without. He did manage to get some back into the discard pile when the women started chatting again. Isabella won handily, with Bannon managing to beat Leliana by a few points.

Then it was the captain’s turn. Bannon was talking to Leliana, and appearing not to look at Isabella, but he was pretty sure she was bottom dealing. His cards were atrocious. That was it, the woman definitely had it in for him. Every card she threw out was useless to him, and each time he drew from the deck, he only got something worse. The only way he could score any points would be if his hole card was Black Death. Which, at this point, he seriously doubted.

Finally, he couldn’t take it any more. His hand snaked out as Isabella drew her card. He seized her wrist and twisted her hand up. She tensed and her eyes flashed, and Bannon was instantly reminded that this human, this woman, could probably kill him in the blink of an eye — Grey Warden advantage or not. He directed his attention to the two cards that had fallen from Isabella’s hand. “Oh, look,” he said amicably; “There’s the card I was looking for.” He let go of her and claimed the black skull card.

She laughed lightly. “Well, it’s a good thing this is a friendly game,” she said without remorse. “And a test. You, my dear Bannon, seem quick and perceptive enough to learn my techniques.” Were her eyes glittering at him?

Then Isabella smiled at Leliana. “Not to deny your beauty, wit, and charm, my sweet siren.”

“I understand, mon capitaine,” Leliana replied demurely.

“Perhaps after your business is finished here, you’d like to see my ship.”

“I would like that very much.” The bard rose from her chair. “But I think we will not have time for such dalliances.”

“A shame.”

Bannon picked up the cards and squared up the deck for Isabella, as the two women kept chatting. He gave it to her as they got up and ambled towards the bar.

Isabella was extending a standing invitation to Leliana. “I have many ports of call. You can look for me anywhere close to the sea.”

“Do you have a trade route that you follow regularly?”

“Oh, no. I like to spice things up with some variety.” Her teeth flashed. “It keeps the pirates from predicting your moves,” she said with a wink.

At the bar, Alistair had his head buried in his arms. “I’m not listening….”

Zevran turned from annoying the Chantry boy to poke Bannon. “Alistair owes me ten silver. Hand it over.”

“Your chances are exactly the same as last time.”

“So–”

“No!”

“But–!”

“Isabella is going to teach me dueling. You stay on guard. Pay attention to who they let go in the back. Those are no doubt our ‘friends.'”

Zevran groaned loudly and slouched on a barstool like a petulent child denied sweets.

Au revoir, mon capitaine,” Leliana said to Isabella.

The dark woman raised Leliana’s hand to her lips. “May the wind swell your sails.” The nun blushed furiously. Isabella turned, her bangles chiming, her skirt flaring. “There is a small courtyard outside,” she said to Bannon. “I’m free now, if you are.”

“Yes, indeed.”

He followed her out, mesmerized by the rhythmic sway of her curves. He’d never felt so attracted to a shem woman before. She was everything he desired — strong, fiery, beautiful. Taller than he to be sure, but that had its own advantages he thought, salivating. Don’t forget ‘dangerous,’ he had to add to the list. Settle down! he thought sternly in the direction of his belt. We’re not going to make a good showing of agility and finesse, if we’re all stiff and awkward!

He really wished he’d been able to ask Zevran if it was safe to make a move on Isabella. He really didn’t want his liver and gizzard skewered by those daggers of hers. Of course, with Zevran being in such a mood, he probably would have lied anyway.

Isabella turned, and drew her daggers from the back of her belt. “Show me your weapons,” she invited.

A bit self-consciously, Bannon drew his sword and long dagger. “Zevran says it’s better to keep both sides balanced. But I haven’t found a good second sword yet.”

“I find the shorter blades are easier to control with pinpoint precision.” She moved close to him and touched his cheek with the point of one dagger. “Do you find me attractive?” she asked as she gently drew the cold steel down along his skin, down the side of his neck, to the leather of his cuirass.

Bannon kept his gaze level. Keep looking at her face. Despite other portions of her anatomy looming at eye level. “Actually, I do,” he admitted. “I would guess your crew — in fact, most people — are in awe of you.”

She smiled. “Women find it easy to get close to their targets,” she said, now sliding the dagger down the front of his armor. He held very still. “Men, on the other hand….” She reached out and tapped her blade against his sword with a ting. “Need to rely on length to get their point across.”

“Heh,” he laughed softly in deprecation. She touched his arms, directing him to hold his blades out level at arm’s length. He swallowed, hoping it wasn’t as loud as it sounded in his ears, as her fingers ghosted along his limbs.

She appraised his stance a few moments. He concentrated on holding the weapons steady. It wasn’t as easy as it looked. “You need to practice control of your blades in order to achieve precision.” Then she drew her dagger down the length of his sword, making a high-pitched metallic ringing sound. He felt it straight down his spine, as if it were her fingernails on his skin. “Stamina helps keep your aim steady.” He licked his lips and gripped his weapons more tightly.

Isabella stalked around him slowly. “Keep your points level, now,” she chided. “To disarm and neutralize your opponents, strike at the wrists,” she began touching him at the places she mentioned, “the inside of the elbow. Fortunately, all the weak points are not so well protected by armor. That’s why I don’t bother wearing any.” She came back around in front of him, and stood, one hip cocked, her breast nearly touching his swordpoint. “It takes a lot of brute force to strike against armor and pierce it,” she said. “But I don’t have to be the biggest and the strongest to penetrate unprotected skin.”

“Just the fastest, and most precise.”

She smiled. “Exactly.” She shrugged, and Bannon wondered if this was another test of poise and stamina, as he watched the decidedly un-armored bare skin of her breast move dangerously near his sword tip. “To maim and kill, strike here, at the neck,” she demonstrated, running her hand slowly down her own body, “the heart, the stomach. These are usually covered by armor, but with control, you can aim for the weak points, the seams.”

“Do you strike men in the groin?”

She laughed. “You’d be surprised as to what lengths men go to protect themselves there.”

“I can understand that. I can’t imagine fighting without any armor. Aren’t you afraid you’ll get hit?”

“Less armor means less weight, which means I can move more quickly and more agilely. I just stay out of the way of trouble.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“All right, perhaps that was a poor choice of words.” She smiled tightly and sheathed her daggers. “I’m afraid we can’t practice with steel. I might damage you. You should work with targets, try to land a blow on a small surface area. If you get practice sticks in a similar weight and length of your blades, you can use those against a partner. Practice with Zevran. Poke him in the joints while he tries to attack you.”

“That should be fun,” Bannon said, imagining the soaring annoyance level of the assassin.

“I’m sure he likes it when you poke him,” Isabella said with a leer.

Bannon choked and nearly dropped his weapons. “Er…”

She laughed and moved away from his sword. “I’m sorry that’s all we can do here today,” she said, looking disappointed.

“Oh no, you’ve been a great help. Thank you.” He lowered his blades.

“It was my pleasure.” She sauntered back towards the Pearl’s front door.

“Isabella!” He looked over his shoulder at her. “These ‘friends’ that we’re meeting here….” He shrugged. “We expect things to get ugly. Would you like to join us? We could use a fighter like you. And you seem to thrive on excitement,” he added with a wink. “What do you say?”

“Hmmm….” She pondered it, one finger resting lightly against her chin, stroking the golden disk. “That’s tempting, but… getting banned from the best whorehouse in Denerim?” She shook her head with a softening grin. “Not worth the risk.”

“Fair enough.” He watched her return inside, then let out a sigh.

 

 

“I do not understand,” Sten said, a tone of annoyance making his resonant voice thrum. “Why is there no broth served here?”

Alistair blinked. “Oh! That’s… something Leliana is going to explain. I’m going back to my nice quiet corner.” He took his mug and fled.

“Why am I always–?” Leliana started. Not fast enough. “Actually, Sten, this can best be explained by Zevran. Alistair, wait for me.” She followed the ex-Templar.

Zevran sighed, then he looked up at the tall, grey qunari. He narrowed his eyes. “Surely even you cannot be that dense. You are having us on, si?

“No.”

“And that. That is a joke, is it not?”

“No.”

“It must be!” the Antivan insisted. “That is the qunari form of humor.” He peered up at Sten’s stony face. It didn’t budge. Not one twitch. “You are having us on. I am sure of it!”

The qunari grumbled and turned back to his mug of ale. “I do not understand you people.”

“Believe me,” the elf said, “the feeling is mutual.”

 

 

Bannon cooled down a bit by himself, outside. He went to the tall hedge and tried stabbing his sword into specific gaps in the foliage. He was terrible at it. The sword went to the wrong spot; it smashed through leaves separating the gaps. Isabella had been right; he had better results with the long dagger, even with his off hand. Any minute change in the position of his right hand translated to a broad motion along the length of the sword to its point.

He sighed again and wondered if he’d ever have time to master this technique.

 

 

Evening came on quickly, and The Grey Pearl grew rather crowded. Sanga sent word with one of the young runners that their ‘friends’ were ready to meet them. Bannon gathered his crew, plucking a grateful Alistair from the attention of a pair of whores. Zevran was seething, because they’d avoided him as if he had the plague — which perhaps they thought he did. Bannon noticed this, too. Not just the usual suspicion and hostility many shems had towards elves, but also a taint of fear, of contamination.

The friends’ room was at the back corner of the lower floor, down a quiet hallway. “All right,” Bannon said, “be ready for anything.” He tried the knob; it was locked. He knocked on the door.

“What’s the password?” a voice growled from the other side.

“I don’t know,” Bannon admitted. “Um, I’m new.”

“Sod off!”

Well, this was ridiculous! How did they expect to find new people? He hammered on the door again. “We’re friends of the Grey,” he insisted, and was told to sod off again.

“Try ‘sausages,'” Zevran suggested with a snigger. Leliana shushed him. “Well what is more appropriate n a whorehouse, hm?”

“If this is a trap, it’s the stupidest one I’ve ever seen,” Bannon complained. “Except yours,” he couldn’t resist sniping in the assassin’s direction. He ignored the resulting tirade about how incredibly awesome Zevran’s ambush was, and hammered on the door again.

“What’s the password?”

“Sod off?”

“Sod off!”

Then Alistair intoned: “The Griffins Shall Rise Again!”

Everyone looked at him.

“What? That’s what it says on the poster.”

There was a commotion behind the door, that sounded something like, ‘What are you doing?’ and ‘They don’t know the password,’ then ‘That means they’re not one of us, not that you don’t let them in, you overgrown oyster.’ The lock clicked, and the door swung partway open. A dwarf peered out at them, half his face obscured by thick black tattoo lines. “You Friends of the Grey?” he asked gruffly.

“Yes, we are,” Bannon said.

The dwarf’s eyes roved over them a moment. “You best come in, then,” he said, licking his lips. He pulled the door open further and moved back. Inside was a short hall with a washroom to one side, then a large, open bedroom. There were several people there, all armed, of course. A dull-eyed qunari with sawed-off horns looked down at the dwarf. He must be their doorkeeper.

Bannon pushed in past him, his companions following. The dwarf turned and went into the big room. “Hey, Karina,” he said to an elven woman, “here’s some more ‘friends’ for us.” She turned with a quirked brow.

Bannon went quickly to her. “They said there weren’t any elves here. Are you from Denerim?” Maybe she knew what was going on, how to get a message into the Alienage!

“You’re an elf,” she said in surprise. She looked past him and noticed Zevran as well. “A dark-haired elf,” she mused, “and… a scruffy-looking human!” She smiled brightly as she spotted Alistair.

“Who’s scruffy-looking?”

But Karina ignored them. “These aren’t just friends, Gorram my dear, these are the Grey Wardens themselves!”

“Oh!” Sparks ignited in the dwarf’s eyes. “Howe is going to pay triple for these heads! Get ’em, boys!”

He and his cohorts charged into the narrow hallway, weapons out. Bannon froze a moment, then ducked instinctively as the elf’s sword flew towards his neck. It slashed open his cheek and knocked him to the floor. Before she could follow up, a knife blossomed in her chest and dropped her backwards.

“Get up!” he heard Zevran’s voice from above him, amid the yelling and battle cries. Leliana was trying to be merciful again, but that couldn’t be going well. The floor shook as something heavy thudded into it.

Bannon groped for his dagger. He saw the elf woman, Karina, struggling to reach her fallen blade. He lunged at her, planting his dagger next to the first that had struck her. She gasped in pain, light going from her eyes.

Bannon snarled and left his dagger where it was. On his knees now, he drew his sword and grabbed hers in his left hand. He turned and swept both at the back of the dwarf’s legs, and Gorram fell in a heap. Zevran finished him off.

The fight was short and bloody. Bannon stood, with a helpful yank on his arm from Zevran. “Everyone all right?” he asked his companions. They all were, thankfully. “Good. Let’s get out of here before we get stuck with the laundry bill.”

Sten, Leliana, and Alistair filed out. Zevran paused a moment to retrieve his throwing knife and Bannon’s dagger from the elf woman’s chest. The thief relieved her of her belt and scabbard as well. Before the could follow the rest, Zevran stopped him.

“What happened there?” he asked, critical of the Denerim elf’s handling of the situation. Bannon was usually faster than that.

He glanced down at the dead woman. “I… just thought she could help me contact my family.”

Zevran said nothing, just gave a disappointed frown and shake of his head. He walked out.

Bannon followed, sheathing his weapons and wrapping the new belt above his old one. He could adjust it later.

Leliana waited in the hall for him. “You’re hurt,” she pointed out.

He’d barely noticed the blood on his face. “It’s nothing.” His cheekbone throbbed, but it was no matter. He was a Warden; it would heal before morning. He brushed past the concerned Chantry Sister.

The others were trying to surreptitiously leave, but Bannon marched straight to the bar to confront Sanga. “You’re part of this? Luring people here for those vultures?”

Her eyes darted past him. “I– no! No, they just rented the room. They paid; I didn’t ask questions.”

Bannon motioned for Leliana to give him the poster. “Then when people show up asking for these ‘friends of the Grey,’ you just point the way, is that it?” He took the poster and placed it on the bar, turning it so she could read it.

Sanga glanced at the paper. Then she looked up and her eyes hardened. “You need to leave.”

Bannon half turned; he could feel the burly shem brothel guards at his back. He looked up at them with contempt. “We just killed nearly a dozen armed mercenaries. What do you think you’re going to do?” Nervously, they looked at each other, then at Sanga, and finally they eyed Leliana and her sword, Alistair and Sten looming nearby. Zevran was not in evidence, but that only meant he’d probably be the first to land a killing blow on them. “Go back to your post,” he told the shems.

They slunk away like dogs, making Sanga grind her teeth.

“Give me something to write with,” Bannon said. Leliana produced a quill and ink vial. He turned the poster over and began writing on the back. “From now on,” he told Sanga in a hard voice, “when people come here looking for these ‘friends,’ you show them this.”

We are the Grey Wardens.

We are fighting to save you and all of Ferelden.

Loghain is a traitor to the King.

Howe is trying to stop us and killing anyone who would aid us.

Spread the truth to the people.

The darkspawn are rising. Only the Wardens can stop them.

He pushed the paper across the bar and leaned forward. Blood from his cheek dripped down and spattered the poster. “And if anyone asks, you found this on top of that pile of bodies in the back room. You got that?”

Sanga went white and nodded.

 

 

Later, on the road, Alistair walked beside Bannon. “How many people do you think they caught in that trap?” The elf just shrugged. “Well, it must have been a good number?” The Templar insisted. “Or else they wouldn’t have stayed there, doing it.”

“What’s your point, Alistair?”

“Just that… we must have some friends out there. Some people who believe in what we’re doing.”

Bannon sighed, releasing some of his tense anger. “Yeah, I guess so. The whole world isn’t against us.”

“Right. So that’s good to know.”

They didn’t think about their allies being captured and rotting away in Howe’s dungeon, or being executed. They couldn’t, not if they wanted to take heart from the situation. The Grey Wardens had friends. They may be few and far between, but they existed.

It would have to be enough.

 

 


 
End Notes:

you can have 500 Bloodsong Points for each Star Wars quote you spotted:
“Sorry about the mess.”
“Who’s scruffy-looking?”
and if you think
“The men charged; someone yelled a warning; there was a flurry of movement and the flashing of blades; and a moment later, one of the men was lying on the floor, writhing and bleeding, while the other two clutched at their arms, now divested of weapons.”
sounded a lot like “No blasters, no blasters!” etc, then good on ya!

Alistair did more Lion King, so 500 Bloodsong Points if you noticed
“You know her. She knows you. But you killed her husband. And… everyone’s okay with this? Did I miss something, here?”

 
Yes, 1000 Bloodsong points for noticing Gorram is named after a curse from Firefly/Serenity. I was too lazy to look up his fool name in the game, and ‘Gorim’ was already taken.

 

 


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