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Steady as We Go, chapter 7

Title: Steady as We Go, chapter 7
Rating: G
Summmary: Alistair and Moira have a quiet moment in camp.


“Ow!” Alistair yelped, wincing as Moira helped him out of his armor.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby,” she softly scolded, unbuckling straps and setting everything neatly aside. In spite of having two injured people, they had made good progress along the road before stopping for the night. Luckily, they hadn’t come across anything that would have forced them to fight either. Moira knelt beside Alistair and attempted to help him strip out of his shirt with her one good arm. Morrigan had come over as soon as they had set up camp for the night and forced Moira to sit down long enough for her to get a good look at the damage. Morrigan’s lips had thinned out in disapproval when she caught sight of what the leather armor revealed before she dug into her bag of herbs, ordering Moira to begin chewing elfroot.

“Mash it up well,” she had instructed. “After you get it worked into the consistency of a paste, you’re going to spit it out and place it on these bites. They look as if they might get infected otherwise. I don’t want to have to waste thread continuously sewing you up after each battle, so this method is going to have to suffice.”

“And I thought you said that you weren’t a healer,”
Moira had teased.

Morrigan stiffened. “I am no healer in comparison to my mother, but I do know a bit.” She had busied herself with folding and unfolding some bandages. “I know enough to keep you alive; between the two of you, I don’t know who is more prone to accidents, Alistair or yourself.”

Moira had held out her hand. “What I meant to say was that I thank you for everything that you’ve done. I thought that you were selling yourself short back at your home; you have a large knowledge of potions and healing lore; I don’t know what we would have done had you not been a part of our group.”

Morrigan snorted, but looked oddly pleased with herself. “More than likely died five times over, if not more,” she said, winding the bandage over the injury. Moira noticed that she used a lot more care than she had the first time, taking the time to make sure that everything lay flat and wasn’t too uncomfortable. Finished with her work, Morrigan had gotten up and retreated to her solitary fire, where she remained now.

You try having a bunch of old wounds suddenly brought back fresh and then tell me not to be such a baby,” Alistair grumped, bringing her back to the present. She winced when the first dark purplish stains of a bruise came into view.

“What did this come from?” she wondered, running her fingers lightly over his skin. There was a portion right over his ribs on his left side that was so bruised that it was almost black. The same sorts of marks were near his collarbone as well.

“I broke three ribs and my collarbone in two places in a fall as a boy. I was playing in the hayloft above the stable when the floor gave way. I should consider myself lucky that all I did was break a few bones and that I didn’t fall on top of the area where the stable hands kept their pitchforks.”

“How old were you?”

“Nine.” He glanced down at her hands where she was spreading out a thin layer of red healing paste onto the bruises. “It was before I was sent to live in the Chantry.”

“So you’re an orphan?” she asked.

“You could say that, yes.”

“Where are you from, originally?”

“Actually, I spent the first ten years of my life in Redcliffe. So I guess that this is going to be something of a homecoming of sorts.” He could see that she was going to ask him something else, and honestly, he wasn’t quite ready to answer what she had in mind just yet. Thoughts were jumbled up in his head and he knew that there was something important to tell her before they reached their destination, but he didn’t know how to say it in a way that didn’t make him look like a bumbling fool. He was used to looking like a fool at times, but what he had to tell her had to be said right.

Besides, he dreaded the idea that she would think of him as an idiot.

“Hey, that tickles,” he said, squirming out of the way as she gently spread the paste over his ribs. He couldn’t stop his cheeks from blushing as his fingers brushed against hers when he took the jar of ointment out of her hands. “I can get the rest from here.”

“Broken bones do hurt,” she told him. “I broke my leg when I was a girl.”

“Oh? And how did that happen? Surely not from falling out of a hayloft.”

She laughed. “No, not quite, although it was close. I was playing with some friends in the woods surrounding the castle and I fell out of a tree.” She had been eleven at the time; she, Fergus and Nathaniel were in the middle of an intense game of Black Fox and she had climbed the tallest tree she could find to act as their base of operations, much like the folk stories that she had heard said that the real Black Fox had used. She had been careless; the branch that she had stood upon hadn’t been strong enough to hold her own weight and had snapped under her, sending her flying face first several feet below. Fergus had been panicked – he had spent the entire trip back shifting between worry that he would be blamed because he was the oldest and therefore responsible for her and frightened out of his mind at the sight of bone sticking out of his little sister’s leg.

Nathaniel had been much calmer. He had picked Moira up and taken over the duty of carrying her back to the castle, quietly talking to her in order to keep her mind off of her pain until they could get her to a healer. She smiled fondly, remembering that it was only after her leg was encased in plaster and she was safely resting that he had gone to pieces, sitting beside her bed and making her promise that if she was going to do something as foolish as that ever again that she would check to see if it was safe first. She had been so woozy from the painkillers that Nan had given her that she had agreed and the two of them had spent the rest of the day in her room, Moira laying in bed with her foot propped up on a mountain of pillows while Nathaniel dragged a chair to her bedside and read aloud from her favorite storybook until she fell asleep.

She grinned; as soon as her leg had healed, she had gone off running barefoot through the trees, intent on climbing the same one that had sent her homebound just to prove to herself that she wouldn’t be beaten by a dumb old tree.

“I didn’t think ladies actually knew how to climb trees,” Alistair said, noticing the way that Moira’s eyes had softened at whatever memory she was thinking of.

“Oh, we know a wide variety of things,” Moira said, plucking his shirt off the ground and inspecting a large tear at the sleeve. “For example, I might be a novice darkspawn slayer, but I do know my way around an embroidery needle.” She shoved her hand through the tear and waggled her fingers. “If you have needle and thread, I can fix this for you before it gets too dark.”

Alistair dug through his pack until he found the required tools. “You sound like you were a little tomboy when you were younger, though I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. When I first saw you, I thought…” he stopped. “Never mind.”

“No, I want to know.” She threaded the needle and began to sew, her stitches small and delicate. It would take a lot of thread, but the end product would look as if it hadn’t even been torn in the first place. “What was your first impression of me?”

“It’s not my first impression of you, but I had feared that you would have been like the other nobles I grew up watching, especially the noblewomen.” He waved his hand around and grabbed a piece of his armor so that he could start cleaning it. “You know, prissy to a fault and more worried about the state of their hair than other important things.”

Moira laughed and touched the ends of her hair with her hand. “You don’t have to worry about the state of my hair; I know that it looks a burnt mess.”

“Whatever happened to it?”

“I had it in a braid when the castle was attacked and a mage threw a fireball at me. I ducked, my hair didn’t.” She touched the ends again. “All in all, it’s a small price to pay for avoiding getting injured. Hair is just that. It will grow back eventually.”

“I have shears in my kit,” he offered. “If you’d like, I can trim it for you.” He shrugged at her questioning glance. “We Templars had to cut our own hair. I tend to have a minor obsession with mine, so I always make sure that it looks its best.” He gave her a wicked smile. “I promise not to cut too much off or give you an absurd style, if that’s what you were worried about.”

She thought it over. While her hair no longer smelled burnt, it was still crunchy in places and uneven with others. Besides, they were going to see Eamon soon. He was a family friend, but it didn’t hurt to look her best to try to impress him. “All right. Do your worst, and by that I mean don’t shave me bald.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, my lady.” He set his armor aside and sat down behind Moira. His fingers carefully undid the tangled knot of a braid she had worked around her head. “You don’t happen to have a comb handy, do you?” She dug in her bag and wordlessly handed him one that she had purchased in Lothering. He got to work, silently working out snarls and knots.

“This must seem strange to you to have a man cut your hair,” he said, starting to snip away at the burnt edges. He had to take a lot off from the back to get it to even out with the sides and he moved over when Quinn loped up to them to investigate, his nose sniffing at the discarded wads of hair next to his mistress.

“No,” she said. “Actually, the last time I had my hair cut, a man was the one to do it.” She smiled. “My father and I were touring the countryside when I was a girl and he allowed me to get a piece of candy from a shop in Highever. I don’t recall what it was called, but it was extremely sticky. Somehow it got into my hair and no matter what we tried, we couldn’t get it out.” She laughed. “Mother was more upset about it than I was and Father refused to let anyone else cut my hair, saying that it was his fault that it had happened in the first place. He wasn’t very good with scissors, I’m afraid, and I wound up with a very short cap of curls that barely went over my ears as a result.” She smoothed her finished needlework with her hands. “I hadn’t thought of that in years.”

Alistair frowned. “And now I’ve gone and made you sad.”

“No, quite the opposite. Papa…” she swallowed hard. “Papa and I had many little adventures of that sort and they’re all happy memories.”

“I wish that I had known my father. You seemed to have a good relationship with yours.”

“I loved him very much. I still do.” She was ashamed to realize that while she mourned the death of her mother, sister-in-law, and nephew deeply, the loss of her father cut through her the worst. “And that is why Rendon Howe will meet his end by my sword and my sword alone.”

Alistair worked his way around until he was sitting in front of her. He hadn’t known her for very long, but he knew her long enough to surmise that the cold, flat look in her eye was something new for her and he wanted to try his best to make certain that it didn’t become a permanent feature. “They will be avenged,” he said quietly, leaning back to check his work. “And now you look a little better. I mean, you looked fine before, but…”

She let her mouth quirk upwards into a small smile, knowing that he was trying to take her mind off of things that she couldn’t change at the moment. Thank goodness there’s someone out here that can do that, she thought, putting her hand to the ends of her hair. It was shorter than what she had done; the tips hardly brushed her shoulders at all now. “What do you think?”

She shook her head, feeling little pieces of cut hair slip down underneath the collar of her shirt. “My head feels lighter,” she said. “I’m sure that it is an improvement to my hacked job.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t call it a hack job.”

“I literally sawed at my hair with my dagger, Alistair.”

“Ah. Then yes, I would call it that.” He took his shirt from her, thanking her for doing such a fine job on the repairs. “Better watch it, or else I might recruit you to darn my socks next.”

She laughed. “I am but a humble servant, my lord. I shall be happy to mend your socks, granted that they’re washed first.” She yawned, the day’s events finally catching up to her. “We’d better get some sleep,” she said. “I think that the three of them have watch duty worked out, but I still want to help if I can.” She stood and went over to her bedroll. It would have been nicer if they had purchased tents, but they hadn’t had the extra money to spare after buying Sten and Leliana suitable armor. Bodahn Feddic was right about traveling in the same direction. He and his son had caught up with them a little ways after they had parted Lothering and it only seemed right that she extend an invitation to share a campsite. Much of his goods were a bit too expensive for Moira’s taste even with the so called discount he gave them for allowing he and his son to enjoy the relative safety of their camp, but what interested Moira the most was Sandal’s ability to enchant items. They didn’t have any runestones at the moment, but it was a good thing to know that they could get whatever gear they had enchanted should they ever run into any.

Moira stretched out on the thin blanket spread out on the ground and pillowed her hands under her chin. Quinn came down to curl up next to her in his customary position behind her back, his head resting on the curve of her hip. She tugged the portion of cloak that he wasn’t laying on closer about her to ward off the nighttime chill and allowed sleep to claim her.

Alistair watched across the fire as Moira thrashed about in her sleep. She had rolled to her back, her head moving from side to side as she mumbled something. Then all at once, she sat up, her eyes wide and her breath coming out in harsh gasps.

“So you saw it too?” He had woken from a similar nightmare only moments before and he was still shaken. It didn’t matter how often they occurred, seeing the archdemon in his dreams still filled him with the same sort of fear that left him rooted to the spot, unable to protect himself.

“What was that? I’ve never had a dream that vivid.”

“Actually, it wasn’t a dream. Well, it was, but not. We have a connection to the darkspawn. We can sense them and to an extent, they can sense us. As far as I know, they don’t share the same sort of everyday dreams that we have, but then again, I’ve never gone up to an ogre and asked if it too was frightened of making a speech in public only to realize that they were wearing only their smallclothes.”

Despite herself, Moira giggled. She pulled her knees up to her chin and hugged her legs. “So, when we dream about them, we’re actually sensing them in our sleep?”

“That about sums it up, yes.”

“What was the dragon? I’ve had dreams of it before, when I took the Joining.”

“That would be the archdemon. Many older Wardens say that they’ve actually gotten the hang of listening to its song, that they could understand what it was saying. I’ve never done it and frankly, I don’t wish to.”

She stood and went to sit next to him. Quinn was still sound asleep on her blanket and she didn’t want to wake him. The nightmare, or whatever it had been, had left her cold and craving some sort of contact. “So, we have tingly Warden Senses and dream of archdemons. Any other nifty talents that I should expect to pick up?”

Alistair shrugged. “Well, there’s an increased appetite for one.”

She frowned. “Huh. I haven’t experienced that?”

He laughed. “Are you sure? I was afraid that you were going to inhale your meal tonight at supper, plate and all.”

She sniffed. “Healing must take a lot out of me. I’m not usually that hungry.” As if to prove her a liar, her stomach growled loudly just then, making her jump.

“Absolutely. And then there’s…”

“There’s what?”

He looked away. “I don’t know how to break this to you, so I’m just going to come out and say it. Being a Warden and living with the Taint in our bloodstream means that we have a shortened lifespan. The bright side to this is that we’ll never have to worry about dying old and decrepit.” Moira blinked at him. “Well? Say something.”

She tilted her head thoughtfully. “How shortened of a lifespan are we talking about here? I mean, are we going to drop dead at any given moment?”

He held out his hands. “No, nothing as drastic as that. We have roughly thirty years, give or take a few. Some Wardens have been known to live well into their sixties or early seventies, depending on how old they were when they underwent their Joining. And we get warning signs too; the nightmares increase and we start to feel a certain pull that draws us to Orzammar.”

“Why there?”

“The entrance to the Deep Roads is there. It’s a tradition for Wardens who have heard their Calling to go there for one last battle. The dwarves grant us passage through their city out of respect for what we do.”

Moira sat back and tried to absorb all that information. “So basically I’m going to be around for thirty more years; that is if I don’t get killed by darkspawn or bandits or anything else before then, and then I have to travel underground in order to fight darkspawn that will certainly kill me then?”

He looked at her. “I know it sounds bleak.”

She looked down at her hands. Thirty years. I’ll be fifty four. “It’s such a long time away; I guess you could look at our fate as being bleak. That is,” she stared into the fire, “unless we wind up getting killed tomorrow, which kind of puts things into perspective. We all die, whether it be thirty years or thirty seconds from now. My father used to say that it didn’t matter how long one lived, what mattered was what one did with their life. I don’t know about you, but I intend to live mine to the fullest.” She shivered and pulled her cloak tighter around her. Still shaken from her dream, she leaned against Alistair, sighing at the sound of his heart beating so close to her ear.

Alistair fought not to flinch, lest he disturb this moment. “I don’t know how you do it,” he confessed, reaching up to tentatively put a hand on her hair. “I don’t know whether I should run towards Loghain or run away screaming, yet you sound so collected and composed.”

Moira’s brows knitted together. She felt anything but collected or composed, but she guessed that she was just good at hiding her emotions from other people. “We have two options,” she started, staring at the fire again. “One is to remain sitting in the dirt where Howe and Loghain have shoved us and the other option is that we stand up and fight. I’ve never been one to stay down long before; I have so little left to lose that I’m not going to start doing so now.” It sounded better in her head, but now that she said the words aloud, she realized just how reckless her plans sounded. What plans, she thought bitterly. All you’ve come up with is gaining some support from nobles, if you’re even able to do that, and then storming Amaranthine while demanding Howe’s head on a pike. There are a lot of blanks that need to be filled in that scenario, which doesn’t seem all that realistic to begin with. If she went with what she was planning, she was likely to get herself killed, and then who would avenge her family? You’re going to have to come up with a Plan B. Unfortunately, nothing came to mind. Feeling a cold that had nothing to do with the night air, Moira huddled closer to Alistair and tried to find some sort of comfort.

Neither of them slept for the rest of the night.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
liltxangel83
Nov. 30th, 2010 08:37 am (UTC)
Awwww! Their relationship is so cute!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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