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Steady as We Go, chapter 2

Title: Steady as We Go, chapter 2
Rating: PG-is for violence (argh, action scenes)
Summary: Still in the Korcari Wilds, hunting down sidequests and getting swooped upon.

The morning dawned cold and foggy. Moira rubbed the last remnants of sleep from her eyes and rose. Alistair had a small map rolled out over his knee and he, Jory and Daveth were leaning over it trying to decide where they should head to next. After a quick breakfast of biscuits and dried fruit, It was agreed upon that they should venture out to the west and attempt to find Rigby’s possessions before continuing on their way to find the Warden outpost. They came across a few pockets of darkspawn on their trek there, and it seemed as if they were intelligent enough to form an ambush along a choke point in the path. Daveth provided cover fire with his bow while Alistair and Jory plowed through the thick of them. Moira had found a small path leading upward to where the darkspawn archers had situated themselves, so while her two heavier armed companions drew their enemy’s attention, she quickly climbed up and took her target by surprise. Unfortunately, their battle drew the attention of the darkspawn that had been investigating Rigby’s former campsite and the four of them had to quickly regroup and focus their attack on the approaching mob.

“At least these seem to have lousy aim,” Daveth muttered, quickly bending to pick up arrows to supplement his own quiver. Jory only grunted his agreement, staying behind to defend their archer from any rogue darkspawn.

Moira didn’t have much air left in her lungs to waste talking, but she did notice how Alistair was putting himself in the lead role. He was good with his shield, using it defensively to block attacks as well as offensively to bash his enemies in the head, but Moira absently noted that his footwork needed some improvement. The insight made her chest squeeze painfully tight as she thought of Rory and all of the times that he had instructed her to move her own feet during practice. Pushing aside the grim way he had looked at her that last time in the Great Hall, she thought instead of the years spent training side by side. The practice had finally served a practical use: Moira eased into a familiar stance and felt comfortable fighting alongside someone using the same techniques that Ser Gilmore had often applied himself. I never thought that I would be using the things he taught me in an actual battle, she thought, using her boot to push against a hurlock’s chest for leverage to pull her sword out from where it had gotten tangled in the creature’s armor. She might have been teasingly labeled an unholy terror in the practice ring by her father’s guards, but the closest that she had gotten to actually killing anything before two weeks ago had been ripping the stuffing out of the garrison’s training dummies. She blocked a sword attack with her own blades, the shock of metal hitting metal making her arms shake. Since fleeing her family’s home, she had killed many people in order to stay alive. Granted they had been Howe soldiers attacking her, but she was still uneasy with taking the life of anything, even monsters such as these.

She had a feeling that killing was going to become a near everyday occurrence from now on. If she was to survive, she would have to get used to it.

“Is this the outpost that we’ve been looking for?” she asked after the battle, hissing in pain as she flexed her arm. She had wrenched her shoulder pretty badly, but luckily all that the injury had needed was a quick drink of a healing draught she had in her bag to cure it.

“No. The outpost that we’re looking for should have been bigger than this,” Alistair said, looking around. “The ruins around here haven’t fared well, but Duncan said that it had once been a great tower of stone. Surely there is more left of it than this.”

“The good news is that we’ve recovered the vials of blood that Duncan wanted us to gather,” she said optimistically, capping her vial and placing it in her pack. “I’m certain that this pocket of darkspawn won’t be the last that we’ll run into here.”

“You’re right,” Alistair said, shading his eyes with the flat of his hand as he surveyed the horizon. “I feel a reasonably high concentration of them further to the east.”

“How high?”

“Nothing huge; it’s not the horde that we’ll be fighting in the upcoming battle, more like a small scouting party.”

She furrowed her brow. “What does sensing darkspawn feel like anyway? Is it the same for all Wardens?”

Alistair nodded. “It’s difficult to explain unless you’ve felt it yourself. The best that I can describe it is to imagine that you have a rope tied around your chest. Normally you don’t feel it around you, but when darkspawn approach, they take the loose end of the rope and tug on it. Depending on the number present, that tug can be faint or it can feel as if someone is putting all their weight into pulling you towards them. I’ll admit; it isn’t the most pleasant of sensations, but at least you’ll never be caught unaware.”

They both seemed to look at the fire pit at the same time. “Something doesn’t look right here,” Alistair mused, kneeling down to inspect the wood. His fingers brushed the ashes away and the two of them quickly uncovered the corner of something rectangular shaped.

“One lockbox, hidden where many wouldn’t think to look,” Moira said, helping Alistair pull the box out of its hiding space. It wasn’t heavy, but it did take up a bit of space in Moira’s pack. “At least we can give this to his wife.”

“Not the least bit tempted to see what’s inside?”

She quirked an eyebrow. “You know what they said about curiosity and cats. Besides, what’s in there isn’t for us.”

“Hello,” Daveth drawled, pulling out a battered looking journal from a nearby bush. The cover and several of the first pages were ripped, as if the darkspawn who had discovered the find before them had flung it to the side once they realized it didn’t have any use. “What do we have here?” He flipped through the pages, his lips pursed as he tried to decipher the thin, spidery script. “The Wilds are full of treasure chests. Rigby has several entries about how the Chasind used certain landmarks to mark out a trail to a weapons cache. It could be worth looking into.”

Following the Chasind trail was easy once they all knew what to look for. It was eerie; they hadn’t run across any more darkspawn, but they hadn’t run across anything else, be it man or wildlife either. The silence that surrounded them was only broken by the sound of their armor jingling as they walked. The air was thick with the feeling of unease, and everyone admitted to feeling a sense of dread, almost as if they were waiting for something to strike and break the bubble of stillness that had fallen over their party.

“Wait,” Moira finally said after they had reached an area that they hadn’t come across before. There was a bridge ahead, but something was not right. She put an arm out to stop Alistair from taking another step. “There are traps in the area.”

“And darkspawn, who probably set those traps.” Alistair drew his weapon and shaded his eyes with his free hand. “Damn, and there’s another emissary. Leave that one to me and take out any of the others that are bound to be with it.” The emissary noticed them, letting out an inhuman roar as it lobbed a green blob of magical energy towards them. Alistair clapped his hands together and while Moira didn’t see anything, whatever Templar training that he possessed caused the blob to dissipate before it even reached them, his powers creating a breeze that blew Moira’s hair back away from her face. Not wasting any time, she ran ahead of them and knelt at the bridge where she had thought she had seen the outline of a spring trap. It was crudely fashioned, but the teeth attached to it were wickedly sharp and would have done great damage to someone’s leg should they have gotten their foot stuck in it. She grabbed a handful of rocks nearby and threw them ahead of her, listening as two more traps were triggered.

“To your right!” Daveth yelled, firing an arrow over Moira’s shoulder. A genlock growled as it jumped towards her and Moira only had bare seconds to raise her dagger up to block its attack. It didn’t have any manmade weapons, but rather came at her with its teeth and jagged claws. She shifted the grip on her dagger and plunged it into the creature’s eye, twisting and trying not to gag at the feel of metal scraping against bone. Before she even had a chance to move away from the body, another genlock seemed to come up out of nowhere.

“Try to use stealth on me,” Moira panted, gritting her teeth. Her boot came up and hit the genlock below the belt. She had a brief thought towards Fergus, who had taught her that move himself when they had been younger but then later on regretted it when they sparred because it never failed that she would try to use the unsportsmanlike maneuver on him. Thus incapacitated, the genlock offered very little resistance when she shoved it backwards straight into the teeth of yet another spring trap. It howled in pain, but was quickly silenced when Moira swung her sword down and decapitated it.

“Tricky little monsters,” Daveth commented, pulling arrows out of dead bodies and picking others off the path.

“Agreed,” Moira said, crouching down and collecting a handful of copper pieces from a hurlock. She frowned when she rolled a darkspawn over and uncovered the body of a fallen soldier. “What’s this?” she wondered, prying the young man’s fingers off of the leather pouch he had died holding. A quick glance inside the pouch showed that there wasn’t anything in it except for what looked to be ashes from a fire. A cursory look through the soldier’s meager belongings brought up a tattered piece of parchment bearing an entry about a spirit encased in these very parts that was supposed to be freed when someone sprinkled a pinch of ashes over the area it had been imprisoned in.

“Do you want to give it a try?” Alistair asked, holding one of his gauntlets underneath his arm as he wiped at his brow with his bare hand.

Moira looked up at him from where she was kneeling near the man’s body. “Do you really think that it’ll work?”

“There’s only one way to find out. That area up ahead looks like it matches the description well.”

Jory rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. “Do you really want to risk waking a ghost? And what of this Chasind cache that we were looking for before we had gotten attacked? Don’t you think that we should complete that quest before starting up another one?”

“He’s right,” Daveth said. “I have a feeling that we’re probably not that far away from the end of the trail; why don’t we see if we can find all these goods that we’ve been promised first.” Alistair looked at Moira, who shrugged back. They backtracked a little ways away to where they had been before the battle, finding yet another trail marker. It was pointing in the direction that the battle had happened and Jory pointed out a little copse of trees that looked suspicious. Sure enough, with a little bit of investigating, the trunk of one tree was found to be hollow and it contained a small sized chest. Unfortunately, the contents were more suited for either a mage or someone that was trained to use hefty two handed weapons. Jory hadn’t wanted to exchange his greatsword for the one that was in the trunk, but they brought all the items with them, thinking that they would trade them in to the Quartermaster in return for either money or other items of equal worth.

That side quest completed, they returned to the ruin that Alistair had pointed out. Moira felt a chill go down her spine and her bare arms were quickly covered in gooseflesh the moment she stepped close enough to inspect a pile of rubble. Taking out the dead soldier’s leather sack of ashes, she scattered a single pinch over the area.

The effects were immediate. Instead of a spirit, the four of them were faced with an ash wraith named Gazarath who was not all that pleased with being woken up. It was a rough battle, but Moira’s party came through victorious. For their efforts, they were rewarded with a pair of Enchanter’s Footing boots. Unfortunately no one could wear them because they were, as the name implied, made solely for mages. “There’s an awful lot of gear around for mages,” Alistair commented, stuffing the boots in his pack. “Keep an eye out; the Chasind folk are said to harbor apostates fleeing from the Circle. While I don’t think that they would attack outright, it never hurts to remember that there are other things in these Wilds besides darkspawn.”

“It doesn’t seem that way, does it?” Daveth sarcastically asked a little while later then they came across the scouting party that Alistair had sensed earlier. They were harder to defeat – many of them were wearing heavier armor and there seemed to be a leader among them. Alistair had taken it upon himself to draw its attention away from everyone else, but Moira was quick to fight beside him. Between the two of them, they managed to bring it down before moving on to another target.

“I dearly hope that this is the outpost that we’re looking for,” Moira said, holding onto her arm as blood seeped between her fingers.

“It most certainly is,” Alistair replied, winding a bandage around her bicep. “Maker, I hope that this wasn’t poisoned,” he mumbled.

“I don’t think it was,” she replied, trying to see if she felt any symptoms that might suggest otherwise. The cut had merely been a glancing blow; she had moved away before the darkspawn who had attacked her had an opportunity to do anything more serious. It was shallow, but besides the bleeding and stinging hurt, it didn’t seem to be anything to raise any sort of concern over.

“Good. I’d hate to have to drag you back to camp otherwise.” He looked up from his bandaging and gave her a respectful, if not curious glance. “You fight well, for a girl.”

She smirked. “Didn’t I tell you to not think of me as a girl?”

He chuckled. “It’s somewhat hard to do so, my lady. You’d be the prettiest man in our group otherwise.” It was an awkward joke, and Alistair’s cheeks colored slightly as soon as the words were out of his mouth. “Anyway,” he continued, clearing his throat. “I wanted to say that it looks as if we make a good team.”

She had thought the same. He fought in nearly the same style that she was used to fighting with and she had instantly felt comfortable trusting him to watch her back even as she watched his. “I trained with someone that fought much like you did. Rory…” she looked away. “He didn’t make it out of the castle.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I am too. Before the attack, I had tried to convince Duncan to recruit him instead. He was the best knight in my father’s army and probably the best knight that we had to offer in all of Highever.” She looked away. “He was my dearest friend. I loved him as if he had been a brother.” She blinked several times before wiping her hands on her knees. “Talking like this isn’t going to get us to those treaties or back to Duncan any sooner. Come on, we’re just about there.”

The four of them cautiously entered the ruins of the outpost. Moira thought that it felt strangely peaceful once they were inside the ruin. She carefully picked her way through the debris until she found what looked to be a broken chest, calling the others to her.

“This doesn’t make sense,” Alistair said, putting aside the broken fragments and frowning once they discovered that the chest was empty. “It’s almost as if…”

“Well, well. What have we here?” The voice from a floor above made all four of them quickly pivot around, their hands on their weapons. A woman began to slowly descend the crumbling stairs, her step graceful and sure. She was dressed in a strange assortment of leather and feathers, her face painted with cosmetics that leant an exotic look to her features. “Are you a vulture, I wonder? I have long since watched your progress through these Wilds of mine. Who are they, I wondered, what do they seek?”

“We are Grey Wardens, here to reclaim property that belongs to our order,” Moira told her, straightening up to her full height. This woman was the first person that they had seen so deep in the Wilds that was still alive, which told Moira that she was either incredibly resourceful or so powerful that the darkspawn hadn’t thought to trifle with her. Either way, she felt it was in their best interest if they treated her with the utmost courtesy.

“She looks to be Chasind,” Alistair said a little too loudly, moving to stand partially in front of Moira on reflex. “Where there’s one there is sure to be more.”

The woman laughed. “What is the matter? Afraid that barbarians will come swoop down upon you?” She threw her arms in the air for emphasis.

“Yes,” Alistair drawled. “Swooping is…bad.

“She’s the Witch of the Wilds, she is,” Daveth whispered, looking afraid. “She’ll turn us all into toads!”

The woman crossed her arms over her chest. “Witch of the Wilds. Such idle fancies.” She eyed Moira. “You there. Women do not frighten as little boys do. Tell me your name and I shall tell you mine.”

Moira moved out from behind Alistair and took a few steps towards the woman. “My name is Moira. It is a pleasure to meet you.”

“Now there is a proper civil greeting. You may call me Morrigan.” Morrigan looked down at the ruined chest. “As for that chest, what it once contained is no longer there.”

“I knew it!” Alistair cried. “You stole those documents, you sneaky….witch thief!”

Morrigan rolled her eyes. “Call me names if you wish, but it will do nothing to retrieve that which you are seeking. And for your information, ‘Twas not I who took them out of there.”

“Could you tell us who did take them out then?” Moira asked.

“It was my mother who did.”

“Would it be possible for us to meet your mother, Morrigan?”

The woman gave Moira an odd look. “That is a reasonable request. You seem to be the most level headed one in your little group; I like you.”

Alistair snorted. “Sure, now she’s all I like you. Just you wait; you make one move that she doesn’t approve of and zap, Frog Time.”

Daveth winced at that. “She’ll put us in a pot, she will,” he said. He stepped behind Jory to put himself out of the direct line of Morrigan’s sight, almost as if he wasn’t aware that he was doing so.

Jory tisked and looked over his shoulder. “Well it would be a welcome change if the pot’s warmer than the weather is now. I say that we go with her.”

“Very well,” Morrigan told them. “My mother’s home is this way. Do try to keep up.”


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
Oh how I love the first encounter with Morrigan, especially playing as a woman. I love doing the super polite greeting just so I can stick my tongue out at Alistair for being such a scardy-cat (and then I'd give him cuddles for being so damn cute about it.)

And I loved the bit of "We should finish this quest first." I swear my guys must hate how much time I waste running around starting multiple quests then forgetting what else I need to do.

Also, everytime I read Moira now all I can think of is the crazy fever-dream idea I had with our Couslands as sisters. I still might have to write bits of it and e-mail it to you for lolz.
Nov. 20th, 2010 06:13 am (UTC)
I know what you mean about sidequests. I'm all "okay, we have this this this and this to finish." and the rest of the group is all "OMG WOMAN, WHY CAN'T WE JUST KILL THE ARCHDEMON ALREADY?!"

Morrigan is becoming incredibly fun to write, especially the snippy Alistair moments she has. :D

Oooh, write it! You have my email, don't you?
Nov. 21st, 2010 07:28 am (UTC)
Yeah I never delete e-mail so I know I still have your address. If I stall on my NaNo I'll start writing it in November, otherwise I think I'll have to play with it as soon as I finish. ^_^
Nov. 21st, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
Finish NaNo first! *cheers on*
Nov. 19th, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
*giggles* Seconded! I really like Morrigan anyway. The guys are all scared and twitchy so it serves them right to see some proper manners XD
Nov. 20th, 2010 06:15 am (UTC)
I've always liked Morrigan; I think that she's the type of person who knows that her rep scares people a bit so she hams it up because it amuses her to see big men scream like little girls whenever she's around. :D
Nov. 21st, 2010 11:06 am (UTC)
Ahahaha exactly! Well, she and Victoria were bff's. As much as you can be with Morrigan. But yeah. :D
Nov. 28th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
That first meeting with Morrigan has always been one of my favorite parts of the game, and Morrigan herself is definitely one of my favorite characters :D
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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