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NaNoWriMo Week 2

In an attempt to kick myself in the rear and get back to writing, (because if I have the document OPEN it would actually help, right?) here's a couple of excerpts. None of these have been edited, so beware of misplaced commas and other oopsies. These are also the same snippets I posted to iceprincessd if anyone is coming over here from my main journal.


They walked for a considerable distance until the sun began to set low over the horizon. “We should probably set up camp,” Morrigan suggested. “It isn’t wise to travel these lands at night; there are a great many things besides darkspawn that like to hide in the shadows and snatch away any prey foolish enough to brave the darkness.”

“It would be a relief to sit and rest,” Moira agreed, setting her pack down and sitting down on the ground beside it. She had been feeling nauseous all day long but hadn’t said anything, lest her complaints tacked on extra time to their trip. “How long do you think it would be before we get to Lothering’s gates?”

“We’ve made good time today, so if we get an early start, then we should reach the town before mid-morning.” Morrigan claimed a tree with bare branches as her camping spot and began gathering as much fallen wood as she possibly could. “I’d start thinking about making a fire if I were you two,” she cautioned.

“I thought that was what you were doing,” Alistair said.

She snorted. “I am building a fire for myself. I said that I would go with you and I said that I would show you to the nearest town. I never said a word about babysitting the both of you.”

Alistair mumbled something under his breath, but even Moira couldn’t decipher what he had said. She attempted to stand, but fell back on her butt as the world did another one of those interesting dips again.

“Your head is still not healed, is it not?” Morrigan suddenly asked, setting aside her pile of firewood and coming over to Moira. “You should have said something earlier.”

“If I did, then we wouldn’t have made as good time as we have,” Moira said, holding onto the side of her head.

“Mother certainly saddled me with the best companions, one stubborn as a rock and the other just as dumb.” She took out a glass vial from a small sack tied to her belt and handed it to Moira. “Drink this slowly. If you swig it all down at once you’re likely to throw it and everything else up soon after.”

“What was it?” Moira asked, sipping the contents. She could taste something vaguely sweet that cut the heavy medicinal aftertaste and her headache quickly vanished.

“It’s the same ingredients that you use for a potent health poultice, but in liquid format. It’s something that I’ve been working on perfecting for a while now.” She stared at Moira’s face as if to try and see if the potion was working. “No hives,” she mused to herself. “It seems as if this batch was a success.”

Moira drank the rest of the potion down and handed the empty vial back to Morrigan. “You should be fine to move around now,” the witch informed her, going back to her own little space. Moira watched as Morrigan arranged a small amount of the firewood into a circle, then as she flicked her fingers at the wood. A second later, smoke began to curl into the air and the mage had a pleasant looking fire burning.

“Handy, having a mage around,” Moira muttered, getting up and dusting her palms off. She joined Alistair and the two of them managed to gather enough wood nearby to feed their own campfire for the rest of the evening. Alistair didn’t say anything as they worked, and he was silent while Moira lit the fire. For her part, Moira took stock of their little party. Morrigan was busily grinding herbs with a stone mortar and pestle while softly humming to herself as she worked, paying no heed to either of them. Alistair might have been sitting near Moira, but he was worlds away, his arm resting on his knee as he stared intently into the fire. Quinn curled up next to her and set his head on her thigh, giving a great doggie yawn as he did so. He rolled his eyes up to look at his mistress, who obliged him and scratched the middle of his back where he couldn’t reach. Quinn panted his thanks, snuggling even closer to Moira’s leg to help ward off the growing nighttime chill as best as he could. Moira gathered the edges of her traveling cloak together and huddled underneath, listening as the Wilds finally came alive with nocturnal sounds. She had thought that it had been eerie spending the night where everything was so still as they had gone out to look for the abandoned documents, but it was even more unsettling to listen to the strange noises that came out from the darkness beyond their fire. Once during the night, they all heard a loud shriek of some sort of bird – or at least Moira thought that it was a bird – and then the rustling in the grass as if something was struggling, then nothing. Quinn had raised his head off of Moira’s leg to growl in the direction that the noise had come from, but he soon put his head down and resumed his previous nap, letting Moira know that if he hadn’t been worried about the commotion that it wasn’t something that was a threat to them. She fell into a fitful sleep soon afterward, still sitting upright.

When she opened her eyes next, Moira noticed two things. One, she had a horrible crick in her neck from where her chin had fallen to rest against her chest as she slept and two, Morrigan was nowhere to be found. “Just our luck,” Alistair grouched, kicking at the fire to extinguish the last of the hot coals. “We’re stuck in the middle of nowhere without any knowledge as to where we’re going. I knew she was going to do something like this.”

“You have very little faith,” Morrigan said, coming up out of a tall patch of grass behind them. “I was merely taking the opportunity of a pleasant morning to gather a few herbs that I had been lacking. The two of you were sleeping so soundly that I thought I would have been able to return before you woke.”

“Well, we’re up now,” Moira said diplomatically. “And it is indeed early. Shall we move along?” Her stomach growled loudly, but Moira knew that they didn’t really have anything to eat. She made a note to visit whatever bakery or store in Lothering that offered food first.

“Here,” Alistair said, handing her something. “I had a little extra in my pack.”

Moira looked down at the chunk of cheese and strip of dried jerky Alistair had offered her. “Thank you,” she said, tearing the jerky into pieces to hand to Quinn, who gobbled it up hungrily, sniffing at her fingers when it was done to see if she had any more to share. “Applewood cheddar,” she noted, nibbling delicately at the cheese. “There is a dairy in Highever that makes something similar to this.” The dairy was on the outskirts of Highever, close to where the farmlands began so that the cows had plenty of pasture to graze in. She recalled the trip she and her father had taken when she had been a young girl. The farmer who owned the land had seen how interested she had been in the whole process and had taken the time to allow her to sample the core pieces that they used to test the aging of certain wheels of cheese.

“I haven’t tried any from Highever, but this comes from the monastery close to Redcliffe. They have a unique aging process for several of the other cheeses that they’re famous for, one where they deeply pierce the rind and actually encourage mold to grow. It smells like feet, but the finished product tastes delicious.”

“You’re quite the cheese connoisseur, aren’t you?” she asked, smiling. If anything, Alistair was in great need of cheering up.

“Aspiring aficionado, more like. Now Duncan…” Alistair stopped, the tiny smile that he had worked so hard to attain vanishing from his face. “Duncan was quite fond of it himself.” He seemed to draw into himself and Moira’s heart went out to him. She had been in the same place that he currently was. In many ways, she was still in that same place, though she had forced herself to set her feelings aside for a later date when other pressing things weren’t present.

She put a hand on his shoulder. “I know you haven’t known me long,” she said, echoing his words from earlier. “But if you ever have a need for a sounding board, I’m here.”

“Thanks,” he said, his eyes looking a little less haunted. “I don’t know when, but I just might take you up on that offer.”

“Whenever you’re ready, I’ll be here to talk.” She gave his arm a final pat before whistling for Quinn, who came back from investigating the area they were walking in order to stay near her side. Moira looked over her shoulder and saw that while Alistair was still deeply mourning those companions that he had lost, at least he didn’t look as lost as he had yesterday.

***

Clearing her throat, she turned back to the bandits. “Gentlemen, there has been an awful mistake.”

The leader of the highwaymen tilted his head. “Mistake? What sort?”

“Well, I feel absolutely dreadful about taking your money. Here, please take it back.” She tossed the silver coins to the nearest bandit, who fumbled as he tried to catch them all. The coins that he had missed clattered to the ground and rolled about on the bridge’s stonework.

“Not to sound ungrateful, but what prompted this change of heart, my lady?”

Moira crossed her arms over her chest. “You see, I just didn’t feel right about taking your profits away without taking some of those ill gotten goods that you’ve accumulated as well. And I can’t just leave you here to continue business; the logical solution would be to cut you all down and take whatever I pleased once you’re all dead.”

The goon standing beside the leader blinked. “Well, that makes sense…” His mind seemed to catch up with Moira’s words and he narrowed his eyes. “Wait, she said…”

“Yes, my friend. It seems as if this little lady has a death wish.” The leader reached behind his back and brought out a dagger. “Attack!”

“Oh, I was waiting for this to happen!” Morrigan exclaimed, stepping back away from the main fighting range.

“Getting a little wordy, aren’t you?” Alistair asked, blocking an arrow with his shield.

“What can I say? I tend to babble when I get nervous.” Moira kicked up a big cloud of dirt to use as a weak screen before slipping into her stealth mode. She knew that her stealth skills were weak, allowing her to sneak down the corridors of her home without being detected, but she hoped that she would make herself a smaller target until she got rid of the two archers. The tactic seemed to work, because everyone’s attention was currently focused on Quinn and Alistair.

The tang of ozone filled the air and a flash of light made one of the bandits scream. Morrigan laughed soon after and she pointed her staff at another target, lighting crackling around the tip. Moira lunged towards the archer closest to her before he could fire at Morrigan, quickly shoving her dagger deep into the unguarded area between the bandit’s arm and side. He went down with a pained moan and Moira finished him off with a slice of her sword.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t good enough in the stealth department to actually continue hiding while she fought, so her position was given away to the rest of their foes. She had to quickly jerk her sword out of the dead archer’s body and dodge to the right to avoid getting hit with the remaining archer’s arrows. There was a loud growl and Quinn jumped onto the archer, his jaws clamping over the man’s throat.

“Hey ugly!” Alistair taunted, banging his sword against the side of his shield. “Yeah, you, the big stupid fellow!” Alistair visibly gulped as the large goon charged at him, and he wound up having to use his shield to deflect many of the bigger man’s attack. He wasn’t fighting with any weapons besides his bare fists, but the impact of them against metal was enough to make Alistair’s arm ring with each blow. His boots skidded backwards until he braced his legs and began his own attack, using the shield as a weapon. He lashed out in a quick flurry of attacks, hitting the goon three times in the face with his shield. The first and second hit made the other man stumble backwards, but the third, which Alistair aimed square at the bandit’s chin, sent him reeling until he stumbled to the ground. Alistair had a brief moment of pity for the man as he lay there with his arms thrown up in defensive gesture, but then he caught sight of the body of the Templar laying there and steeled his resolve to bring his sword down. For such a big bully, Alistair thought, he certainly screamed like a little girl when he went down.

“Wait!” The leader cried, throwing his dagger to the ground. “We give up! Please, we surrender!”

Moira was breathing heavily, her sword dripping with blood. “I thought you’d see things my way.”

“Please! Don’t kill us! We’ll give you everything that you want!” The leader of the bandits pointed to the chest that was partially hidden by their makeshift roadblock. “There’s a hundred coins in that chest, take them all! It’s all we’ve collected, I swear!”

“And if I let you go?” Moira asked, grabbing onto the neck of his leather armor. “What will you do then?”

“We’d leave here and never come back! Just let us escape with our lives!”

“It would be most foolish of us to believe him,” Morrigan said, kneeling to rifle through the pockets of the dead bandits. “What’s to say that they won’t set up their little operation somewhere else?”

“I hate to say it, but I agree with her,” Alistair told her, glaring at the three other surviving bandits who glared right back.

“They’re both right,” Moira reasoned. “I can’t have the rest of you wandering around Ferelden unchecked. I will take you with us into Lothering. I’m certain that the authorities there can deal with you however they wish.”

“There aren’t any authorities,” the leader spat out. “They’ve all fled with the majority of the people.”

“Then I shall leave you to the mercy of the people that you’ve stolen from that happen to still be in town.”

The leader seemed to think back at all the people that he had swindled out of their hard earned money and blanched. Moira didn’t know what other sort of evil the group had done to those that had resisted, but it must have been severe, because the man’s eyes hardened. “I’m not going down without a fight!” he cried, pulling a second dagger out from behind the small of his back and lunging towards Moira. She had anticipated him doing something like that, so she was already moving, her sword coming down on his forearm, slicing through leather and bone. The leader howled and sank to his knees, holding onto the bloody stump of his arm. Moira used his position to quickly behead him. It all happened within a matter of seconds, but to her, time had seemed to stretch out. She turned around to see how the rest of her companions were faring and it seemed as if they had done the same. Smoke curled out from one bandit’s chest as he lay sprawled on his back, Alistair was wiping his blade on the clothes of another man, and Quinn stepped over the third, licking his chops and looking pleased with himself. Moira looked down at the ruin that they had just caused and her gorge rose, making her clench her jaw before she wound up retching over the side of the bridge. She was no killer; she didn’t enjoy doing what she had just done, but they had left her with little choice. She stared down at the leader’s head, which had rolled about a foot away from his body. You’re getting too good at beheading folk, she thought, wiping blood off her chin with the back of her hand. Her legs were shaky as she stared into the dead man’s eyes. Why were they attacking the bridge in the first place? Did they have families that were dependent on the money that they brought, no matter how illegal the means were? Did this man have a wife or a child who would forever wait for him, wondering why he never came back home? What…

“Don’t think too hard on them,” Alistair said, putting his hand on her shoulder. “They were bandits and murderers; what they were doing was wrong and we put a stop to it before they could hurt other innocent people.”

“It was that obvious?”

He gave her an odd, lopsided smile that looked vaguely sympathetic. “Only to those who tend to go through the same thought process.”

She glanced down at the dead bodies again. “I don’ think that I’ll ever get used to this,” she confessed.

“Good. The moment you do is the moment I start to worry about you.”

***

“That didn’t get us anywhere,” Morrigan complained once they were out of the chapel and back onto the street. “All it did was give me a tremendous headache from all the incense they were using and wasted a good deal of our time.”

“It also proved that there are people that are willing to doubt Loghain. It might not be much, but it’s a crack in his defense that we can work on widening.” Moira looked to the bridge, where a little boy was standing and looking worried.

“Have you seen my mother?” he was asking anyone who happened to be close by. If anyone heard him, all they did was shake their heads or ignore him completely.

“What does your mother look like?” Moira asked, crouching down to his eye level.

The little boy gulped. “Mama said not to talk to strangers.”

There was something in the boy’s voice that reminded Moira sharply of her nephew. “My name is Moira Cousland and these are my friends. See? Now I’m not a stranger.”

“I…” He looked doubtful, but he finally gave in once Quinn came up next to them. “Is that your dog?” he asked, reaching out to pet Quinn’s muzzle.

“He is. I’d like to help you find your mother, if you would let me.”

He nodded. “Mama and I came here to find a place to hide from the monsters. There were mean men on the bridge. Mama told me to run as fast as I could into town and never look back. I didn’t, but now I’ve lost her.” His eyes misted up with unshed tears and he tried his best to remain stoic.

“Do you remember what she was wearing?”

“She has on a brown and green dress and a gold necklace. Papa gave it to her for her name day.” He face fell. “Papa…”

Her heart went out to the little boy. It was apparent that his father was gone as well. “I’ll find her, I promise.”

“She has red hair, just like me.” He looked up at her. “You’re a nice lady. You remind me of my Mama.”

“Go into the Chantry. When I find her, I’ll tell her where to look for you.” She brushed her knees off and glanced backwards at Morrigan.

“Oh, don’t give me that look,” Morrigan said, contemplating the Chanter’s Board nearby. “We might as well spend some time doing more good by taking on these requests if you’re so set on saving every single abandoned waif we come across. We need the extra money.” Without preamble, she tore all the notices down and handed them to Alistair.

Moira hid a smile from the witch as they made their way down the lane. Quinn went off ahead of them and Moira quickly ran after him when she heard a woman scream.

“I’m so sorry!” she said, grabbing onto Quinn’s collar. “He usually knows better. Bad dog!”

The woman had her hands clasped at her chest and her eyes were wide. “I’m sorry; I’m just so jumpy these days.”

“I don’t blame you. I heard that a few people are going to be forming a party to head further north?”

“Yes. I’m planning on being there, but I wanted to secure a few things here in my home before we left.” The woman eyed their group. “Would any of you happen to know anything about making traps?”

“I have a little experience,” Alistair said. He didn’t step forward because it looked as if the woman was most intimidated by him due to his size and bulky armor. “How many did you need made?”

She bit her lip and counted out on her fingers. “Probably not more than four.”

“We actually have some materials for making spring traps,” Moira said, reaching into her pack. “We’re not going to be using them, so I’m glad to give them to you.”

“Oh, thank you! I would be grateful for anything that you can give.”

“I’m going to be here for a little while,” Alistair said, kneeling in the dirt so that he could work on his traps better. “Why don’t you leave me here and then come back once you’ve scouted the area?”

Moira didn’t like breaking up the group, but she agreed. It seemed as if they hadn’t gotten very far when they were stopped by an elderly woman who asked if they could help out by creating a few health poultices. “That damned merchant is selling them for an arm and a leg,” the woman spat, glaring up the road in the direction the merchant’s wagon was. “We have a few people that need them and we can’t afford any.”

Morrigan heaved a dramatic sigh. “We have extra elfroot,” she said grudgingly. She sat down on a crate and dug out her mortar and pestle.

“Thank you, Morrigan,” Moira said, walking back towards her after wandering the area for a bit.

“If I had any idea that I was going to be put into a group of do-gooders, I would have refused to come along.”

“Then I guess you don’t want these boots that I found.” She held up a pair of good leather boots that were far better than the ones that Morrigan had on.

“Where did you get those?”

Moira shrugged. “There was a chest behind the house next to the river. No one claimed it, so I took what was inside.”

She raised an eyebrow. “And it was just out in the open.”

“Well…” Moira wrinkled her nose. “It was hidden pretty well, and I did have to pick the lock on it to get it to open.”

Morrigan handed Moira the finished poultices and took the boots. “I guess I pegged you wrong. You do have a little streak of bad in you.” She kicked off her boots and wiggled her feet into her new pair. “I like that.”

“What do you expect? I am a rogue, after all. Besides, I’ve never seen the world in black and white. There are all sorts of shades of grey to explore on any subject.”

Morrigan hopped off the crate she had been perched upon. “I think that the two of us might get along far better than I first thought. Knowing this about you makes dealing with all the distracting quests a little more bearable.”

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
phoenixblaze
Nov. 11th, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
Lmao, I got really confused when I saw this on my f-list when the boy and I got back from dinner. I was like "Wait a second, I commented! Why does it say.. oh... that's not Issa's regular journal..."

I'm your stalker, don't you know? XD
iceprincessd
Nov. 11th, 2010 02:25 am (UTC)
Some say stalking, others say love. :D I should have just posted a link on my regular journal, but oh well.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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