Fandom: Dragon Age Origins: Awakening
Theme: #27, splash
Characters and Relationship: Nathaniel Howe/Moira Cousland, eventually romantic
Rating: PG for violence
Summary: He really shouldn’t have been as intrigued by her display of swordsmanship as he was.
Note: And here is where you can see what specializations I gave everybody in-game and that action scenes are my least favorite things to write.
“You going to stare at those swords all evening, or are you going to pick one already?”
Moira looked up from where she knelt on the floor, her hands on the edges of the storage trunk. “Sorry,” she said, her lips quirking upwards in a smirk. “I don’t have the elements at my disposal any time I want them, unlike some of us here.”
Anders grinned. “Truly, I don’t know how you lesser people even manage.” He looked over her shoulder and pointed at a curved sword. “Why don’t you take that one? It looks pointy enough.”
“I thought you said that there were darkspawn to kill,” Nathaniel said in a bored sounding tone, pitching his voice so that it carried from the pillar he was leaning against. He turned the arrow in his hands, inspecting it and setting it back inside his newly acquired quiver when it met his approval. He stretched his arms – the drakescale armor he had been provided with had fit him almost as if it had been custom made to his specifications, which was odd, seeing that the cloth padding underneath still carried a faintly lingering trace of lavender, letting him know just who the suit had belonged to.
Moira’s back stiffened and she plucked two longswords out of the chest before shutting it. Nathaniel lifted an eyebrow; he had only seen her wearing the lone dagger at her back and he honestly didn’t think that her arms were strong enough to heft even one of those swords with a single hand, let alone two at the same time. Their sparring sessions in the past had always involved daggers, not anything as heavy as the blades she was currently fixing to her back.
“Just you wait,” Oghren said, announcing his presence at Nathaniel’s elbow with a belch. “She’s gonna prove you wrong.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Didn’t have to. That look you were giving her said it all.” He wiped his mouth after taking a swig from the pouch at his side. “Word of warning: stay at least three feet away from her if you don’t want blood in your eyes. She gets messy when she starts hacking away at the bad guys.”
Nathaniel didn’t know what to say to that, so he remained silent as they walked as a group towards the basement. He stayed silent until he felt the most unsettling…pull at his chest.
“What in the Maker’s name is that?” he whispered, rubbing his hand along his breastbone.
Moira pressed one of her hands against a nearby wall. “Darkspawn,” she replied, her voice so quiet that he had to strain to hear her. “It feels odd at first, but you eventually get used to sensing them.”
“Kind of tingly, if you ask me,” Anders commented, his lips curled into an unpleasant grimace.
“Remind me not to go near the Deep Roads ever again,” Oghren said, hefting his axe in both hands. “If this is what three darkspawn feel like, I don’t want to know what hundreds do to me.”
“There’s more than three behind that door,” Moira told them, both of her swords making the faintest hiss as they escaped their sheaths. “There’s a magic user somewhere in there, can you feel it?” She could practically taste the feel of magic running through her body and she tried to place the Emissary. Experience told her that it would have to go first, but that it would more than likely be heavily guarded and difficult to get to. “Anders, I want you to spread out an area attack to distract the others while I take care of the Emissary.”
“I’ve got your back, Warden. Just like old times.”
Moira had to grin and she was grateful that there was at least one person there that she had fought extensively with before. While she and Oghren weren’t as in tune with each other as she and Alistair were, they had always worked well together. Oghren usually waded into the fray first, leaving Moira to sneak up and stab their opponent in the back.
She felt something settle around her that made her look down. “This is new,” she commented, moving her arm so she could see what looked to be a barrier in the torchlight better.
Oghren shrugged. “Told ya I’ve got your back. I picked up a couple new tricks staying topside.”
“A Berserker and a Guardian. I’m impressed.”
He looked pleased, but hid the expression in his beard. “Just don’t make me haveta use it that often. I’m still workin’ all the kinks out.”
“What would you have me do?” Nathaniel asked, reaching for an arrow. He was tense. This sensation in his chest was completely unnerving, but if Moira could stand there and seem unaffected by it, then he would do his best to do the same.
She turned her head towards him. “Pick off the stragglers and help out anyone that may need it.” She didn’t give him a chance to say anything else; she snapped her foot out and kicked the door open. Nathaniel had a brief second to assess the room before everything erupted into a flurry of activity. Oghren let out a bellow as he rushed in, his axe sinking into the unprotected side of a Hurlock. Anders dropped his sarcastic demeanor and looked deadly serious as a cone of ice flared from the end of his staff, freezing a Shriek in its place.
And Moira…the hair at the back of Nathaniel’s neck rose up on end at the sight of her pressing her way further into the room, her target clearly the darkspawn channeling magical energy. Not only was she fully capable of swinging each blade with one hand, but she was clearly good at what she did. Oghren might have said that she crudely hacked her way through her enemies, but her movements looked more like a deadly dance instead, her body moving with a fluid grace he’d never seen before. Her left blade sank into a Hurlock’s chest while her right blade cut into its neck, severing its head as easily as a hot knife would run through butter. She turned towards a new opponent in her way, the braids framing her face swinging with each movement as her arms shifted from one attack to another.
She was beautiful, even as her face was spattered with dark blood from her kill.
“A little help here would be appreciated,” Anders muttered from Nathaniel’s left, pulling him out of his dazed stupor. Nathaniel shook himself, taking aim and letting an arrow fly.
Moira heard the arrow whizz past her ear and she turned, both her swords at the ready to defend herself from the Hurlock that had snuck up behind her while she had been busy dispatching its partner. Fortunately for her, her would-be attacker was already falling to the ground, an arrow lodged firmly in its eye. She jumped over the corpse and rolled to the right, her back hitting a large crate that was serving as cover while she caught her breath and her bearings. All the Shrieks were dead and the remaining Hurlocks were either getting roasted via Anders or hacked into bits by Oghren, leaving only the Emissary to deal with. Moira hugged the nearby wall and tried to pinpoint just where it was. One false move and she could easily wind up on the wrong end of a deadly spell.
“Straight ahead and to your right!” Nathaniel yelled, letting another arrow sail over her head. Moira used it as a tracking device and sprung up from her hiding spot, a cry spilling from her lips as she lunged forward. Whatever spell the Emissary had been preparing had been interrupted by Nathaniel’s arrow and it struggled to free its leg from where it had been pinned to the floor. Swinging both her blades in unison, she brought them down in a deadly arc, severing the Emissary’s arm from its body and sending a splash of blood against the wall. It howled in agony and reached out with its other hand to send a blast of raw energy towards her.
There was a dark flicker at the edge of Moira’s peripheral vision and she was jerked to the side, the blast missing her completely. She pivoted on her heel to see just what had attacked her, but there was no one there. Another dark flicker in the corner of her eye had her turning back to her original enemy; with a yell, she made a move to plunge her sword into the Emissary’s chest, but stopped at the last second. Something wasn’t right.
“I should thank you for not running it through,” Nathaniel said sarcastically from behind the Emissary, the dagger he held imbedded deep into the darkspawn’s neck until the tip was visible from the front. Moira had to try to focus; she could clearly hear Nathaniel in front of her, but it was difficult to see him against the shadows that the sparsely lit room threw. If she had put her sword through the darkspawn like she had wanted to, she would have surely gotten Nathaniel as well.
“And I should thank you for pulling me aside,” she replied, wiping her blades on the now dead Emissary’s clothes before putting them away. Adrenaline was coursing through her veins and she fought to keep her voice from sounding unsteady.
“You did say to help anyone that needed it.” For the first time since he had seen her again, he dropped the cold tone from his voice. “You’re quite skilled; did I detect a hint of Dualist training?”
She smirked. “Perhaps.” She had finally picked him out from amongst the shadows. “It seems as if Oghren isn’t the only one to pick up new talents.”
Nathaniel stepped around the corpse on the ground and into the light, seemingly materializing out of thin air. “Shadow skills do have their uses.”
“However did you get caught in the first place?” Moira wondered, the words coming out of her mouth before she could stop them.
He gave her a rueful smile. “Plain dumb luck, apparently.”
“Remind me never to get you angry while you’re around sharp objects,” Anders said, coming up next to them. “Any injuries?”
Moira rolled her shoulders and shook her head. “No.” There was a slight pull to her left arm that would more than likely need liniment afterwards, but the blood on her armor was not her own.
“All that politicking you’ve done at the palace has made you soft,” Oghren said critically, crouching down to collect a few silver pieces from another corpse. “You’re running a little slower than usual. Your timing was off; it didn’t use to take you nearly this long to cut up the bad guys.”
“So says the man who’s been enjoying the quiet married life since the Blight ended.” Moira sighed and rotated her right wrist. “But you are right; I am a little rusty.” While she hadn’t exactly stopped training while taking up residence in the palace, she could have used a little more time in the practice ring.
If that was rusty, Nathaniel thought, then I would hate to have seen her in top condition. “Somehow I have a feeling that these weren’t the only darkspawn left,” he said instead, moving around the room to pick up discarded arrows to refill his quiver. His eyes casually read the years on several dusty bottles of wine nearby and he made a mental note to revisit the cellar when everything was all said and done.
“You’re right,” Moira said. “We can’t afford to linger here. Are you ready to continue, Anders?” While Morrigan had never admitted it during their travels, Moira had noticed that the mage had needed a brief rest to recover mana without having to resort to lyrium potions. Wynne had been the same way after doing any heavy healing, so Moira assumed that it was the same for all mages.
“Ready and able to zap baddies into oblivion,” he told her cheerfully, letting out a low whistle as he also scanned the labels in the wine racks. “The Arl had good taste.”
“Most of these were my grandfather’s,” Nathaniel agreed. He had a feeling that Anders was also thinking of revisiting the cellars after the threat was taken care of. Quiver finally restocked, he walked back over to Moira. The feeling in the center of his chest was back again.
“How many do you think are left?” he asked.
“It’s hard to say. How deep do these cellars go?”
Nathaniel shrugged. “I have no idea. We weren’t allowed to go down very far when I was younger.” The only thing that had stopped him in his youth was the fact that the doors leading deeper into the cellars had always been locked, but try as he might, he had never been able to pick them open.
“You do realize that we’re having a civil conversation. We haven’t said anything scathing to the other for at least twenty minutes. It could be a record.” Moira practically kicked herself for saying anything; she had been secretly pleased at the fact that Nathaniel had been impressed with her fighting skills. Why did she have to ruin the moment?
Nathaniel tensed at her side. “If it makes you feel any better, I could sneer at you and say something vaguely insulting right about now.” He ran a hand through his hair and looked at her. “I just figured that I’d spend all my energy trying to stay unharmed instead of wasting my time being angry with you.”
“I…” she didn’t know what to say. “I appreciate that, Nathaniel.”
“It doesn’t mean that I’ve forgiven you for what you’ve done, but I thought that if we’re going to be fighting together, the least we can do is be polite towards one another.” He gave her a sidelong glance and she could have sworn that the corner of his mouth quirked up, but it was too dark to tell. “Besides, I’ve now seen what an axe can do while a dwarf in full berserker mode swings it around. You were right; it isn’t pretty.”
She let out a relieved sounding laugh, realizing that the knot that had settled in her chest had loosened. “I told you that it wasn’t.” She flexed her fingers and walked towards a closed door. “Are you ready to continue?”
Nathaniel nodded, fitting an arrow against his bow. “Lead the way, Commander.”