Someones Knocking At the Door. [complete]

((OOC 14th Draconis, 9.35  with  ))

"He wants me to help with what?" Alessandra stared incredulously at the huge doors that kept the Vigil protected from the rest of the Deep Roads, or they did, until now it seemed. 

"The Warden Commander has so ordered and figuring you might need a bit of peace and quiet after your last excursion into the deep roads." Warden Gray, shrugged "and Senior Warden Therin asked for you to come and help him." 

"Oh right, ok well, where is he then?

"On his way." 

Lessa was about to ask something else when Gray raised a hand in farewell and headed back up to the keep. Heaving a sigh and looking around her she decided to make herself some what useful, although how useful she was going to be when it came to fixing a door, she had no idea, she had fixed the odd door before, like in her quarters when she was a lowly guardswoman, not doors that stood taller than a giants armpit. 

After a few moments pacing and pondering she decided it might be best if she just waited for the former Prince...no, no he did not like to be known as a Prince of the realm and it was irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Besides this might not be so bad, after dealing with that that thing down in the deep a few days ago fixing a door might be just what the doctor ordered. She still got jumpy whenever she heard something near the walls. Although it was reasonable to assume it was a spider or the wind, she didn't think she would ever get that chittering noise out of her head. 

Leaning against the wall and folding her arms she was not wearing armour, Gray had told her not to bother with her armour, so she was just wearing trousers and a vest that did little to hide her figure or toned arms, her black and white hair was tied into a ponytail and one of her boots beat a tattoo on the wall as she waited, and while she waited she whistled an old army tune under her breath.
Alistair had a headache.

It started in the base of his skull and rounded about to his temples, like someone had put a crown on him and cinched it tight. Not that he knew what a crown felt like, thank the Maker. He’d had it near on a week now, and having Commander Berlra breathing down his tense neck about the doors to the Deep Roads was not helping. He was out of excuses. The doors needed repair and they needed it now, not in the time it would take to summon smiths from Orzammar to come and assist. It was something he could only hope the other Senior Warden would be able to do on his fun jaunt to the Dwarven city with her. Alistair shuddered, not at all disappointed that the new Dalish elf was elsewhere and not glaring at him, giving Morrigan a run for the trophy of knocking him dead with a stare.

It left him with few choices, one of which was one of the newer wardens, Alessandra. Lessa, he heard others call her. He sent Warden Gray to inform her that she’d be assisting. He didn’t know the woman, beyond the remarkable hair marked with premature white that stood her apart from others her age. At least he could pick her out of a crowd.

When he reached the entrance in the bowels of the Keep, he found her leaned against a wall, not armed or armored. His face twisted in confusion. “Warden Howard?” he started. “I thought you might prefer to be more appropriately attired, given the situation.” He frowned, though it wasn’t of anything more than the remnants of his headache. He pinched the bridge of his nose, hoping for some relief and finding none. “Unless you mean to just flex at the darkspawn, should we find any.” He tried for his normal insouciance, finding it just out of reach. “Either that, or I’m overdressed and at the wrong party.
Lessa straightened up when she heard Alistair's approach and arched an eyebrow when she saw that he was fully armoured. Now who looked an idiot? He was a handsome enough chap but right now, she was feeling underdressed.

Warden Howard?” he started. “I thought you might prefer to be more appropriately attired, given the situation.” He frowned, and that made him look boyish, almost like you wanted to just tweak his cheeks and says some silly stuff, but this situation was hardly that at the moment, still the urge was there.  “Unless you mean to just flex at the darkspawn, should we find any. Either that, or I’m overdressed and at the wrong party.

Before Lessa could answer or find way to make a less than graceful exit to go and change she heard Gray return sniggering to himself at what was apparently a grand old jape. "I'm sorry Lessa, couldn't resist it. Just wanted to see how Alistair reacted to an attractive woman, cause theres bets running round he might turn tail and run." Gray shrugged "No hard feelings? You're armour is upstairs and your weapon." 

Lessa turned her hazel eyes onto the other warden. She was not a raw recruit but she was, by thier standards anyway, still new. So pranks and hazing were all part and parcel of this she supposed, but, she did find it a little cruel that he would do that at the expense of a senior, and somewhat famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) warden. 

"Such a good joke too," Lessa pushed herself off the wall and cricked her neck "Deserves a special prize for that. You know that Amaranthine has a house of shall we say relaxation?" She looked at Alistair and tipped a slow and deliberate wink as Warren Gray nodded "Go there and ask for Elena the mistress of Antiva, i guarantee you will get something you will remember for a life time. Now if you will excuse me I'll go get changed.

Gray flashed a grin at Alistair as Lessa went to change "Come on Alistair, you have to admit you do leave yourself open to these things man." When Lessa returned a short time later adjusting her sword belt and hefting her shield onto her arm Gray told her he would do just what she suggested and walked off with what looked like a spring in his step. 

"And when he does get there and, gets down to whatever business he wants, he is going to have the surprise of his lifetime." Lessa muttered to Alistair, The walls around here were thick and echoed, and she wouldn't want Warren Grey to hear "For Elena is an Antivan Lady boy, the top half all woman and the bottom half all man, that'll teach him."  Now turning her attention to Alistair fully she inclined her head "I apologise for my tardiness, Warden Howard at your service. Where are we going?

She suspected they were going into the deep roads, always the fracking deep roads, why couldn't they take a jaunt through the countryside or go climb some trees? Escort a merchant or two, oh right that was not in the job description. Lessa had a feeling the Warden Commander was making a point. She didn't like coming down here most people knew that. It gave her the serious creeps, especially after the last time she was down here.  However that being said, the cute boyish Warden with her couldn't be any worse than the last couple she went down here with, one with a chip on her shoulder it seemed, as large as the Keep and the other with a sense of superiority that would make a Vint look the better option.  She lowered her arm, less the urge to pinch his cheeks become too much, wouldn't be fair either after that not funny joke Warren played. 



Alistair wasn’t the only one suddenly uncomfortable. Gray had a penchant for pranks that made him less than everyone’s favorite warden to be around. "I'm sorry Lessa, couldn't resist it. Just wanted to see how Alistair reacted to an attractive woman, cause theres bets running round he might turn tail and run." Gray rolled his shoulders in a shrug, but offered Alistair no such courtesy. "No hard feelings? You're armour is upstairs and your weapon."

Alistair rubbed at his eyes, careful not to scratch them with his gloves. Alessandra seemed unfussed by the ordeal, offering Alistair a wink and cracking her neck. "Such a good joke too. Deserves a special prize for that. You know that Amaranthine has a house of shall we say relaxation? Go there and ask for Elena the mistress of Antiva, i guarantee you will get something you will remember for a life time. Now if you will excuse me I'll go get changed."

Great. This was turning into a great day. Alistair looked to the ceiling and tried to pretend he hadn’t heard everything he’d just heard as Alessandra went to get her things. Gray addressed him directly. "Come on Alistair, you have to admit you do leave yourself open to these things man."

There was no sense in arguing with the man. It would only further fuel the fire that he liked to light under him. Alistair learned long ago to pick his battles, and earned more than his share of beatings for it. He flashed a grin back, as guileless as he could make it. “I can’t deny that,” he said, wanting to deny it outright but biting back a sarcastic reply. “Hazards of that monastery upbringing, I guess.

Gray accepted that, and walked off, passing Alessandra along the way, looking pleased with himself, to say the least. But Warden Howard had a smug look of her own. Alistair didn’t even get a chance to inquire when she offered up her explanation. "And when he does get there and, gets down to whatever business he wants, he is going to have the surprise of his lifetime." She dropped her voice for only him to hear. "For Elena is an Antivan Lady boy, the top half all woman and the bottom half all man, that'll teach him." Alistair thanked the low light for concealing the flush in his cheeks and tried to cough over his discomfort. He hated that Gray was right about him. "I apologise for my tardiness, Warden Howard at your service. Where are we going?"

Right. Well, now that we’re all here,” he nodded his head at the doors, not relishing going into the tunnels with a warden he knew to be skittish. This was for her own good. After what she’d seen down there, it would take some time and experience for her to get her confidence under her again. That sounded almost wise in his own mind. “We’re going to have the doors open, but first we need to make sure the immediate area is cleared. So, first we’ll do a sweep."

The other wardens gathered heaved the doors enough for the pair of them to slip through. The ominous clank of the metal on the doors behind them was not the sound for instilling confidence.

He led them along in relative quiet, their boots and armor providing a backdrop for their exploration. “There’s regular patrols down here, ever since Leliana and I found the smuggling ring,” he explained. “We’re unlikely to find anything.” His warden’s senses detected no signs of the taint beyond the woman at his side. Still, he had his sword and shield at the ready. “All the better, since we want to get to the real fun.” He said the last with a drollness that rivaled the best deadpan comedians. “Those doors are getting to be a pain in my ass.

After a few moments he couldn’t take the quiet, his ears ringing fiercely with nothing to distract him from the sound. “So… sounds like you had quite the adventure with our two most genial wardens.
Right. Well, now that we’re all here,” he nodded his head at the doors,  “We’re going to have the doors open, but first we need to make sure the immediate area is cleared. So, first we’ll do a sweep."

Lessa didn't say much she was too busy keeping an ear out for the sound of something other than the doors clanging shut, which made her flinch when she heard them, it always made her flinch when she heard them. Many people were not aware of the day they would die, Lessa knew all too well that she would probably end up dying down here and those doors just enforced that, in her mind anyway. 

She was usually a practical type of woman, not prone to bouts of nerves, but after that trek with the wonderful company of Henri-Julian and Velanna, coming down here just made her claustrophobic thoughts about the place seem, worse somehow. 

"Join the Grey Wardens, be blessed with speed strength and stamina as if gifted by the Maker himself," She sighed "bed, board, good pay when you can loot it and all you can eat, literally because you never gain weight. Shiny armour, camaraderie, and the catch...oh in twenty years or so you head to Orzammar when you start looking like a ghoul and the singing in your head gets louder and die in battle, but thats for later, sign here."  the sarcasm in her voice was evident. 

She wasn't ungrateful to the warden who saved her, she just wished there had been some other way to rid herself of the taint that now sat happily in her bloodstream and all the gods no matter who they were, no one told her there were things down here that made even the Darkspawn run, she was pretty sure the Dwarfs kept that quite too. Wouldn't want to let on about the head detaching monster that lurked down here.

There’s regular patrols down here, ever since Leliana and I found the smuggling ring,” he explained. “We’re unlikely to find anything.All the better, since we want to get to the real fun.” He said the last with a drollness that rivaled the best deadpan comedians. “Those doors are getting to be a pain in my ass.” 

She had heard about the Lyrium smugglers that had, foolishly decided to use the deep as thier base of operations, actually come to think of it maybe that wasn't such a bad thing, who was going to chase them down here?

"Yes," She replied in the same tone he used "Such a clever way to hide ones illegal gotten gains." She arched an eyebrow at him "and how long has it taken you to get to work on those doors? tsk tsk the dwarfs gonna be mad if they not done soon, but don't worry Alistair, we'll save your ass from getting warden commander roasted.

So… sounds like you had quite the adventure with our two most genial wardens.”

Lessa didn't hear his question for the moment, she too was listening for other tainted things down here, when she felt the silence she realised he had actually asked her a question. 

"Oh you mean moody and grumpy?" Lessa shrugged, maybe that was unfair to the Elven lady, but she never seemed to crack a smile and she did have a way of looking at you as if she was looking right through you "Velanna is...different i suppose, and don't even get me started on mister I am so much better than you eye rolling champion of the world." she snarked then heaved a sigh "The Warden Commander didn't even bat an eyelid when i handed my report in about it, i mean why on the makers earth did they think leaving those things to breed and roam was a good idea! so much for the Aedan Cousland clearing it all out...ah sorry."

She glanced at Alistair, she wasn't privy to what his relationship with the Hero was like, but she knew he didn't much like being reminded of it. She fell into silence for a moment, her head turning a bit as she heard something, but when she saw a rat scurry out she exhaled and gripped her shield a little tighter, she didn't much like rats either, but at least they didn't detach thier heads from thier bodies and run off.

"I remember you actually." She changed the subject a little, "In Denerim, i was in the group that was covering your entrance into the prison." She looked at him "Nice take down of that Ogre by the way, bet no one knew how...athletic you could be," 

At least she hoped it was him, that might lead to another embarrassing silence if it wasn't. Unlike other Wardens, Lessa was not into the cult of the Hero of Ferelden, sure he did a great thing and all, but he was not alone when doing it, she just wasn't as enamoured of him like some of the others around here. 



It took Alessandra a few moments to answer him. Not that he was counting, because that would have been weird. "Oh you mean moody and grumpy?" He nodded, biting the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. "Velanna is...different i suppose, and don't even get me started on mister I am so much better than you eye rolling champion of the world." A heavy sigh forced its way out of her, and he laughed at the other Senior Warden's expense. "The Warden Commander didn't even bat an eyelid when i handed my report in about it, i mean why on the makers earth did they think leaving those things to breed and roam was a good idea! so much for the Aedan Cousland clearing it all out...ah sorry."

Alistair offered a grim smile, not knowing what else to do. She wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t like they were willingly defending the creatures they found in the Deep Roads. As to Aedan? He never felt like he could be honest about Aedan, not with anyone who wasn’t Leliana, and no one else was Leliana. Instead, he said, “There’s only so much that can be done, I suppose. We do the best to find the threats before they happen, but things slip by. That’s why we’re always vigilant.

"I remember you actually." The subject changed, though not abruptly to a different one altogether. Instead she brought up the Blight. Everyone brought up the Blight. "In Denerim, i was in the group that was covering your entrance into the prison." She looked at him, appraisingly. "Nice take down of that Ogre by the way, bet no one knew how...athletic you could be."

Alistair coughed softly into a closed fist. It wasn’t that it bothered him to talk about the Blight, it was just that other people could do it better. Like, maybe a bard who was there to record the story for all of history. He was, as Aedan had once pointed out, a human-shaped battering ram.

Well,” he offered with a bit of forced laughter that underscored his discomfort, “I wasn’t recruited for my intellectual acumen.” He smiled crookedly. “Duncan probably just thought I was quick with a joke. The Wardens tend to be downers, really.” He also didn’t like taking credit for everything the way it was heaped upon him. “I didn’t do it myself,” he quickly added, “but thank you for noticing.

He turned them down a tunnel he knew looped into a dead end before leading them back out. Other than the occasional vermin, there didn’t seem to be signs of any darkspawn activity that he could detect. But his head was pounding, so he wanted to be sure. “Do you sense anything?” he asked, assuming she’d learned how to use that refined sense that came with the gargle-but-don’t-spit Joining ritual. “I think we’ve about cleared things here.

This wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was going to be the actual work on the doors. “We have smiths from Orzammar coming,” though Alistair couldn’t say when they would actually arrive. They’d sent word expecting to be there two days ago, and they’d yet to have made it. He’d sent a runner out that morning to see if they could be tracked. “They’re going to do something called welding.” He hoped he had that right. “It sounds like magic to me,” he admitted, though he knew it couldn’t be. “Somehow you just make pieces of metal stick together. Wow.” If only his bones healed that well.
Well,” lessa knew forced laughter when she heard it but she was not rude enough to call him on it. Abandoned Chantry raised street rat she may have been, but the Revered Mother insisted on manners, one didn't forget that lesson and if they did? well she had a few rapped knuckles to say otherwise, Who would have thought that the Revered Mother, as aged as she was, could swing a switch that high and that fast. “I wasn’t recruited for my intellectual acumen.” He smiled crookedly. 

Now that was a fib,, actually an utter lie, she didn't know him that well but she was pretty sure the former Warden Commander did not recruit dumbasses, and you didn't survive a year in hiding from every force the former Arl of Amaranthine and Tyern Loghain threw at you by being thick.

Duncan probably just thought I was quick with a joke. The Wardens tend to be downers, really.” Well that was true and she muttered an affirmation to it.  He did seem to cover most things with humour and some of the more senior wardens, did seem to thrive on all doom and gloom. 

I didn’t do it myself, but thank you for noticing.” 

"Oh, i always notice the exceptional ones," She muttered and carried on looking around, flinching a couple times when she heard the chitter in the walls or something else.  "Especially with all the swords swinging, you have a big...swing." Lessa hid her smile behind her helm. If he thought she was going to be shy and retiring, then they told the wrong warden to get with the programme. 

Do you sense anything? I think we’ve about cleared things here.”  

Lessa listened then shook her head, one of the first things she learnt from her former, instructor if such a word could be attributed to the warden who was given the task of teaching you about your new wonderful filled two maybe three decades of life, was listen to the damn song. It would tell you when the Spawn were around and if a warden was around. You were royally fragged if you could no longer sense your brother or sister wardens. 

"No nothing here, rats in the walls maybe." She offered as way of a reply.

We have smiths from Orzammar coming,” Alistair told her, finally,  so they were supposed to be waiting for the dwarfs to arrive? that was a novel idea, most dwarfs she had known, and admittedly there weren't that many tended to be punctual, the idea of a human waiting on them was amusing. “They’re going to do something called welding. It sounds like magic to me, Somehow you just make pieces of metal stick together. Wow.” 

Lessa was leaning against the wall now, the thought that the Dwarfs had not announced their presence yet was, worrying and she was waiting by one of the side caverns listening for footsteps. Small as they were Dwarfs made enough noise to wake the dead sometimes. 

"Yeah one of the Dwarven smiths in Denerim's Barracks told me about it once back in the days of being a lowly guardsman." She shifted a little "Something about placing a strip of metal in a gap yay big, or between two strips and heating them till they join." She heaved a sigh "Frankly i thought it was a load of hooey and told him so. He just muttered something about humans being not up on the way Dwarves did things."  She removed her helm and set it on her belt. "Told him if the dwarves weren't so secretive maybe we could all share in the bounty." She sighed "I swear sometimes they are like the bloody Chantry when it comes to hoarding things that could benefit everyone.

Lessa rubbed her eyes, being careful not to scratch them with her armour if all they were going to do was stand there and wait then it was going to be a very boring assignment "How long do we give them before we go look?" She did think Alistair was right  It was Dwarfen smithy magic. "Or i can regal you with stories of the day Arl Howe got caught in the pearl with a known elven prostitute and two burley thickheads of his personal guard." She glanced back towards him and began a slow walk around more to stretch her legs. 
Alessandra didn’t sense anything either, which Alistair already knew, given that his senses didn’t pick anything up. Funny thing about being tainted during a blight. He turned them around as he explained what they were waiting for. Welding sounded enough like magic to prickle his interests. He wanted to see how it was done, how they could fuse metal together and make the Keep’s doors like new.

Apparently, Alessandra had heard of it too. She stopped and leaned against the wall. "Yeah one of the Dwarven smiths in Denerim's Barracks told me about it once back in the days of being a lowly guardsman." She shifted her posture. "Something about placing a strip of metal in a gap yay big, or between two strips and heating them till they join." A heavy sigh found its way into the air between them. "Frankly i thought it was a load of hooey and told him so. He just muttered something about humans being not up on the way Dwarves did things." She took her helm off, resting it against her belt. "Told him if the dwarves weren't so secretive maybe we could all share in the bounty. I swear sometimes they are like the bloody Chantry when it comes to hoarding things that could benefit everyone."

With a snort, Alistair agreed. The Chantry did like its secrets, and its control, no matter who it helped.

"How long do we give them before we go look?" She’d read his mind, as he was asking himself the same question. Surely Commander Berlra wasn’t going to be satisfied with an excuse that the Orzammar dwarves never showed. "Or i can regal you with stories of the day Arl Howe got caught in the pearl with a known elven prostitute and two burley thickheads of his personal guard."

Alistair coughed. “No, no. That’s quite alright. Some things are better left to gossip.” He smiled to let her know he wasn’t offended, but lifted a brow enough to let her know he’d prefer not to hear about Rendon Howe’s exploits. Ever. “I think we should head back to the Keep and. If they’ve not arrived yet, we may need to investigate why.

He led the way, even though he was sure that she could find it just fine. He put his shield on his back, but kept his sword ready. Tainted creatures were not all that existed in the Deep Roads, as Alessandra had already pointed out, noting the rats. Large rats though they were.

When they reached the blasted doors, Alistair was disappointed to hear that the dwarves had not shown, but so far the Commander wasn’t out for his head just yet. Certainly he had his hands full with all that had happened over the past weeks.

I think we’re going to need to go look for them,” he grumbled. Nothing was ever easy, even though this should have been a simple assignment. “I’ll ready the horses and we’ll start with the route by which they were expected.” If he had to ride to Orzammar itself, he was going to get these doors fixed. “Make sure we’ve got supplies for a couple of days. Hopefully no more than two.” Though how often had ‘hopefully’ ever given him what he asked for? “Meet me at the stables.
I think we’re going to need to go look for them,” Alistair grumbled evidently he too liked things simple. “I’ll ready the horses and we’ll start with the route by which they were expected. Make sure we’ve got supplies for a couple of days. Hopefully no more than two. Meet me at the stables.


Lessa did as he asked but instead of a couple of days, and knowing how the best laid plans blah blah blah, she grabbed supplies enough for a week. She had packed them on the horses and was mounted and ready for Alistair when he arrived and rode out alongside him. 


Riding with Alistair was, a breath of fresh air. He wasn't as tense as some of the other wardens and although he was young, he still had a better grasp than most had about the Darkspawn, shame he didn't get listened to by those who saw him as nothing more than a poster boy for the Grey Wardens, or perhaps more unkindly, living in the shadow of the Hero of Ferelden. She had heard the odd whisper, indeed when she was waiting for the supplies, one of the other wardens had sniggered at her that she would need to be the decision maker as Alistair never seemed able to make a decision. What Lessa had said to the other female Warden had the others ears ringing in the quartermasters halls. She could not abide bullies and the other warden was left in no doubt about it. 

She didn't mention it to her companion, seeing no need to bring it up, instead she enjoyed the ride along the coastal road. Stopping to answer the call of nature or get thier bearings. Alistair had said something about finding an entrance to the Deep Roads that would take them to the fabled Dwarven City, or have them meeting up with the smiths. She doubted they would have come topside, from what she knew about Dwarves, and admittedly it was very little, they viewed coming into the Sky with as a Nobleman might discovering he had the clap after a visit to a brothel,  terrifying. 

She was looking for one of the Warden Outposts usually built near a deep roads entrance. They didn't have that many here in Ferelden, unlike Orlais, the bulk of this order was in Amaranthine. She had heard mutters about some Wardens going to Soldiers Peak, but she didn't pay it much attention, unless she had to that was. The Vigil was fine enough. 

Lessa looked at the coastline and her brow furrowed a little. Craig had brought her here to propose to her, just before the crap hit the fan and the Darkspawn rose from the depths of hell, and everything else went to hell. She quirked an eyebrow for a moment and nodded to the north "Maybe they are under Highever?" She offered as way of a conversastion "I'm pretty sure someone said there was a staging area there for Wardens coming up from patrol to get thier bearings

They were mounted and off within the hour, their horses packed to carry them a week, something Alistair was impressed with. Who knew what they would come across on their travels? It was better to be over-prepared than under.

They rode along the coast in relative quiet to start. Alistair didn’t know much about the other Warden apart from her name, and that she’d particularly rankled the other Senior Warden. That alone endeared her to him, and he tried to make light conversation as they rode.

He didn’t know many of the Wardens well. His status as second to the Hero set him apart in an odd way, as did his formerly royal blood, and it was hard to just be casual with people who did not understand these things as he did.

Alessandra looked out toward the sea, her brow creased in some far off thought that he did not dare interrupt. After a few moments she came back to their purpose, and offered her insight. "Maybe they are under Highever?" He tilted his head in consideration. "I'm pretty sure someone said there was a staging area there for Wardens coming up from patrol to get thier bearings.

There was wisdom in that. “You’re right,” he said. “There is. It would make more sense to find them below ground if we’re able.” It made little sense for Wardens to look for Dwarves above ground when they had access to the tunnels. “The Keep doesn’t connect, but the tunnels from Highever do.

He altered their course slightly, taking them toward the heart of the teyrnir. The horses would not be able to handle travel with them below ground, so he sought out a stable where they were able to barter for keep of their animals. After rearranging their supplies to their backs, they set off to find the entrance to the Deep Roads.

It wasn’t a long trip as far as foot travel went, and they reached the entrance within the hour. As reluctant as he was to slow, knowing that Commander Berlra was hot to get the doors repaired, they needed to stop at camp for the night.

We can camp in the tunnels or just out here. Whichever you prefer.” He looked up toward the sky, the stars starting to make themselves seen, knowing it might be some time before they saw it again. “My preference is to be under the sky a little longer.” He frowned crookedly. “After a being as far into the Deep Roads as I have been during a Blight, it’s harder to go back,” he admitted. The taint burned stronger, the headaches worsened, and the song intensified. He was in no hurry to subject himself to it any sooner than he had to. “That Archdemon sure does a number on you.” He tugged at his ear and laughed awkwardly.
We can camp in the tunnels or just out here. Whichever you prefer. My preference is to be under the sky a little longer. After a being as far into the Deep Roads as I have been during a Blight, it’s harder to go back,”   Lessa wouldn't know about that one, she had fought on the surface, twice and if you counted the skirmishes with Howes men in Denerim, well despite the horror facing the Hord was refreshing and they were at least honest about what they were.  “That Archdemon sure does a number on you.” He tugged at his ear and laughed awkwardly. Lessa arched a brow and allowed a smirk to tip the end of her mouth, he did look cute when he was awkward. 

"Looks fricking scarey up close too." She added 

She got up while he set up camp and returned a short while late with two rabbits that she skinned, gutted and beheaded and set on a spit. Why the rations when you can have what nature provided, even so she kept her ears open. The Darkspawn rarely travelled here but there were other creatures that they had touched that might. Blight Wolves, Blight Bears or whatever they were called. She didn't think they would have a problem but you never knew and, well fire should keep any wild beastie normal or otherwise away. 

"I was born in Dragons Peak." She offered as way of a conversastion breaker and her gaze took her to the distant where she knew those beautiful and strangely formed peaks sat "But was abandoned as a babe on the Kings Road, found by a kindly merchant i was raised in Denerim by the Chantry." She turned the spit and soon the smell of cooking meat rose enough to make any mouth water. "I've been a Guard, a soldier at Ostagar, a guard again and now a Grey Warden, could be worse," She allowed that slight smile to cross her face once more and it made her beautiful eyes light up "i could be a preachy cleric or a ley sister or even a Templar, no after meeting Henri...no." She shook her head "No offense intended." She directed a little as she as aware Alistair had been a Templar, however brief.  "What on the makers green earth made you want to become a Warden?

He could have been anything he wanted and he didnt want to be King most people knew that. Lessa had been on Guard at the Palace the day of the Landsmeet before she ended up fighting the darkspawn in the city. Although she was not by nature a nosey person it always perplexed her somewhat. 

"And if you don't mind me asking, why didn't you take the throne?" she prodded the meat with her dagger and taking a plate cut some off and handed it over to her fellow warden "There were a lot of us hoping you would, by us i mean the lowly guardsmen and women who had to deal with Howes crap day in day out. By the way you look really cute when you are embarrassed or awkward." 

Decision made, Alessandra left Alistair to set up the camp while she went out hunting. She came back a short time later with a pair of rabbits, cleaned and ready to roast. A fresh kill beat road rations any day, and Alistair was disinclined to complain.

Alistair liked to fill silence, usually with humor. It seemed Alessandra enjoyed small talk. "I was born in Dragons Peak." He recognized this as an attempt to start a conversation, and gave her his polite attention. "But was abandoned as a babe on the Kings Road, found by a kindly merchant i was raised in Denerim by the Chantry. I've been a Guard, a soldier at Ostagar, a guard again and now a Grey Warden, could be worse." She recounted it all with an inarguably pretty smile, but Alistair wrinkled his brow, trying to determine if he’d ever met her before, as he’d been raised up in the Chantry in Denerim as well. "i could be a preachy cleric or a ley sister or even a Templar, no after meeting Henri...no." A shake of her head explained her feelings on that. "No offense intended." He raised his hands to indicate that no offense was taken. He hadn’t really wanted to be a templar, either. "What on the makers green earth made you want to become a Warden?"

I wanted out of the Chantry,” he said honestly. “I wanted a chance to do something good. Something worthwhile.” After observing his first Harrowing, he knew he wanted nothing to do with the job he would have been given. “I also didn’t really get a choice. I was conscripted, you know.” By only the most technical of definitions. He’d been selected out of the competitors in that tourney. “The Grand Cleric didn’t want to let me go.

He often wondered if it was his royal status that had bent her against his joining the Wardens. He’d never know for sure.

"And if you don't mind me asking,” she said, which Alistair knew never meant what followed was something he did not mind, “why didn't you take the throne?" Deeming the rabbit roasted, she cut a portion for him and passed it over. Even if it hadn’t smelled delicious, he was hungry enough to eat two rabbits himself. "There were a lot of us hoping you would, by us i mean the lowly guardsmen and women who had to deal with Howes crap day in day out. By the way you look really cute when you are embarrassed or awkward."

Ah, thank you, I think,” he chuckled, ducking his head and willing the blush to stay from his cheeks. “I blame my father. I hear the charm is as much an heirloom as this nose.” Which dovetailed into answering her question. Many people wanted to know; few actually asked him. “It came down to Aedan’s choice, you know. Everyone thinks it was mine. No one was actually asking me what I wanted.” Which made it sound like he’d been denied the chance, and that was not true either. “I don’t know the first thing about being a king,” he said, guilelessly. “Even if I think I could have done some good, I couldn’t risk the fact that I could do more harm. I’m a bastard, and Ferelden was torn apart enough.” He shrugged. He didn’t like Anora, really, and knew that she’d just as soon have his head on a pike than his bastard ass out free, but he knew she was better at politics than he would ever be. “Ferelden had a strong ruler already. Let the Theirin line die with my brother. It was never really mine to take.

He frowned at his plate, his appetite dimmed by the topic. He rubbed the back of his head, which became a tug on the curve of his ear, a nervous habit he never noticed he did. “Either way, I was going to let someone down. I guess I figured this was the path of least harm.

Sighing, he picked the meat apart with his fingers. “I’m just a man who was raised in a monastery who had the bad luck to be a royal bastard. And I like the Wardens. I feel at home here. I never had that before.

Desperate to get the conversation away from his traitorous blood, he flipped the question around. “How did you come to the Wardens, then?
I wanted out of the Chantry,” Lessa chuckled at that, she would be forever grateful to the sisters and brothers who raised her, even Revered Mother Martina funny as that might have sounded but she was happy to get away from the Chantry as soon as she was able. 

I wanted a chance to do something good. Something worthwhile.”

Didn't every Chantry raised brat? she thought, a chance to give something back for a life that wouldn't be short or violent or...abusive. Maker knew she had heard of a couple of the girls and boys she was raised with ended up in brothels or slaves to a Tevinter somewhere. 

I also didn’t really get a choice. I was conscripted, you know.” 

"Huh, never knew that" She remarked, she had all but forgotten the Grey Wardens were allowed to conscript during times of the Blight.

The Grand Cleric didn’t want to let me go.” 

Considering who he was and who his father was, that was hardly surprising, but Lessa knew that many of the Chantry paid lip service to the Wardens, unless it was thier necks on the line or they were under threat of loosing everything to the zombie creatures that had decimated this land, then, then they were only too happy to help the Wardens. 

Ah, thank you, I think,”

Lessa allowed a slight smirk to cross her face at Alistair's attempt to hide his blush. Ok it was mean she supposed but if it helped him loosen up a bit and not act like the caged bird always held up as a cautionary tale, then she was happy to do that.

I blame my father. I hear the charm is as much an heirloom as this nose. It came down to Aedan’s choice, you know. Everyone thinks it was mine. No one was actually asking me what I wanted. I don’t know the first thing about being a king,”

"I dont believe that anymore than you do." Lessa raised her gaze from her food "you had the where with all to bring together the races, you had the strength of will to carry on the fight when all around you was going insane. Its not the blood that makes a king Ali, its the man."

Even if I think I could have done some good, I couldn’t risk the fact that I could do more harm. I’m a bastard, and Ferelden was torn apart enough. Ferelden had a strong ruler already. Let the Theirin line die with my brother. It was never really mine to take.” 

Again Lessa disagreed but kept her own council on it. If anything and what she had learnt by simply listening to talk around the barracks, Anora was a savvy woman who ruled much more than even Calen had, but she was also aware of how much the people would have wanted a son of Marric, bastard or otherwise on the throne. She suspected some sort of backroom deal had been made but again, what did she know? 

Either way, I was going to let someone down. I guess I figured this was the path of least harm.” 

"You only let someone down when you do something that lets them down." Lessa picked her bag up and handed Alistair a bottle of ale and opened one for herself. 


 “I’m just a man who was raised in a monastery who had the bad luck to be a royal bastard. And I like the Wardens. I feel at home here. I never had that before. How did you come to the Wardens, then?”

Lessa choked on her ale for a moment and cleared her throat a couple of times. No one had ever actually asked her that. Most of the Wardens she knew had volunteered to be Wardens in the wake of the Dog Lands euphoria at having Wardens who survived the final fight with the Archdemon. Whatever else he might have been, the former Warden Commander was a charismatic bastard. 

"Um i was escorting a merchant from Denerim to Amaranthine. In light of what happened in the city after the blight no merchant wanted to travel unaccompanied. This guy was wealthy enough to pay the captain to get an armed escort. We were," She scrunched her brow recalling where she was "about halfway between Denerim and Amaranthine and were attacked by Darkspawn. They came out of nowhere and the warden who kept me alive said they were remnants of those that had attacked the Vigil. I don't know about that but i was struck down, took the bastard with me but i got some of its blood on my face and, as you do, you wipe your arm across your face and voila, taint in my blood. I had a wound too so either way i was fragged." Lessa finished her meat and cut some more, bloody Warden taint, made you hungrier than a hog in the morning. "I was saved by a warden, taken back to the Vigil and joined, the other two guards with me didn't survive the joining. The Merchant didn't survive the fight.

Lessa's hand moved to her pendant and her fingers stroked it for a moment, it was her own nervous thing. she seemed to draw comfort from it, even if she didn't know where it came from or which one of her parents it belonged to. 

"I went back to Denerim and saw Revered Mother Martina and Sister Vanessa, to say goodbye i think being a Warden doesn't give you much time for family get togethers. Kind of sets you apart. Yes you are the warriors who fight the darkspawn but oh no cant have one of you in the house, you make us nervous. Brother Bernard didn't survive Denerim so i stood by his urn where they had placed it. I still think he was a Templar in a former life." Lessa sighed "The Revered Mother passed into the Makers hands last summer and Sister Vanessa is now Revered Mother Vanessa Howard, i took her names as my middle name and last name. She writes to me every now and then." Lessa finished her food and moved down onto her bed roll. "Maybe we should get some sleep? Looks like we have a long trek ahead of us," 

Alistair was a likeable fellow, not so sure of his role in the world it seemed. She suspected had he been given the chance to be King then he would have been a damn good one. He had a love for the land, the country he was born into and he was someone the common folk could relate too. She made her mind up that if she heard anyone else bad mouth him for being, the late Duncan's favourite pet project then they would feel her boot up thier arses or in thier faces. He needed someone who didn't make him feel set apart by dint of his blood. She hoped she might be able to be that. She hadn't felt this comfortable around anyone since Andrea died at Ostagar and her beloved Craig in Denerim. Lessa had those who called her thier friend but she was, by her nature, cautious around those ready to call her such without knowing her. 

"Goodnight Ali
In Alistair’s experience, Wardens liked talking about how they became Wardens. Almost everyone had a story, and everyone liked to believe their story would be listened to. It was something he’d learned as a Warden, but also from Leliana, who instilled in him the importance of committing things to stories.

Alessandra was no different, though she hadn’t been expecting the question. "Um i was escorting a merchant from Denerim to Amaranthine. In light of what happened in the city after the blight no merchant wanted to travel unaccompanied. This guy was wealthy enough to pay the captain to get an armed escort. We were," her face scrunched up as she recalled the memory, "about halfway between Denerim and Amaranthine and were attacked by Darkspawn. They came out of nowhere and the warden who kept me alive said they were remnants of those that had attacked the Vigil. I don't know about that but i was struck down, took the bastard with me but i got some of its blood on my face and, as you do, you wipe your arm across your face and voila, taint in my blood. I had a wound too so either way i was fragged."

It was, sadly, too common a story. He didn’t need to tell Alessandra how lucky she was. Becoming a Grey Warden wasn’t a cure for the Taint, or Blight sickness, but a prolonging of the effects. And that was if you lived through it. There were no guarantees with the Joining.

"I went back to Denerim and saw Revered Mother Martina and Sister Vanessa, to say goodbye i think being a Warden doesn't give you much time for family get togethers. Kind of sets you apart. Yes you are the warriors who fight the darkspawn but oh no cant have one of you in the house, you make us nervous.” Wardens were not always warmly welcomed, it was true. “Brother Bernard didn't survive Denerim so i stood by his urn where they had placed it. I still think he was a Templar in a former life." She sighed "The Revered Mother passed into the Makers hands last summer and Sister Vanessa is now Revered Mother Vanessa Howard, i took her names as my middle name and last name. She writes to me every now and then." Alessandra finished her food, and made a quick change of the subject, giving him no time to respond. Perhaps he’d hit a nerve he’d not meant to. "Maybe we should get some sleep? Looks like we have a long trek ahead of us," she said.

Alistair didn’t badger her with more conversation, and he felt a little bad for the sour direction he’d turned her mood. He hoped it didn’t stick. Traveling the Deep Roads was bad enough, let alone with someone who didn’t want to speak to you. Aedan had been bad enough.

He cleaned up dinner, burying their rubbish and hanging the remaining food from a tree to prevent bears from invading their camp. He took the first watch, and found that he didn’t mind the quiet, sitting up much later into the night than he likely should have.

In face he only woke Alessandra a couple of hours before dawn, just long enough to catch those same hours with rest so he wouldn’t go the whole day without sleep.

They descended into the tunnels early in the day, saying farewell to the sun. It wasn’t long before the fresh air gave way to the dank mustiness of the underground. He let the quiet go as long as he could stand it, which wasn’t long by any normal person’s assessment.

If your Joining is a sore subject, I apologize for bringing it up,” he told her. “It’s something we have in common, so it was the first thing I thought of. I won’t bring it up again.” He offered her a tight smile, mostly obscured by the shadows thrown by his lantern. “I didn’t know Sister Vanessa, well, Revered Mother Vanessa, I suppose. Lucky her,” he laughed at his own expense. “I was something of a pest to the Grand Cleric, which meant I spent most of my time in her direct supervision until I started my vows.

The tunnels hadn’t been traveled in some time, given the spider webs they had to clear to get through, which meant the dwarves had not reached Highever yet. Interesting.
There was always the feel of claustrophobia down here in the deep roads. It wasn't the roads they were, what was left of them anyway, still wide enough so that you were not scrunched together like sardines in a net, but it was the cloying darkness that seemed to permeate every part of you. the tunnels too, the webs they had to burn or cut through only hinted at the size of the spiders down here. Good thing she wasn't an arachnophobe or she would have refused to go any further. 

They had travelled in silence for a bit mainly because Lessa was looking out for things other than Spiders and not just Darkspawn either. She hoped that those harvester things hadn't made it up this far but considering how fast they moved, well she wasn't going to take a bet on it. 


If your Joining is a sore subject, I apologize for bringing it up, It’s something we have in common, so it was the first thing I thought of. I won’t bring it up again.

Alistair started and was apologising? for what? he hadn't offended her, oh right the change of subject, hmm.

"You didn't offend me" She replied turning her head to look at him "I doubt anything you could say would offend me, i was tired was all no harm no foul Ali" She flashed a quick smile which was warm but tight, being down here always put her on edge. The Warden Commander knew that too hence, why he made her come down here as often as he could yay lucky her.

"I didn’t know Sister Vanessa, well, Revered Mother Vanessa, I suppose. Lucky her,” 

Lessa joined in the chuckle and held her lantern up to peer through the next tunnel, wondering why they hadn't seen camp fires yet or at least the remains of them,

"I think she would have liked you." Lessa grinned "She has a way about her that endeared her to a lot of us kids. She did what any Chantry Sister does, instill in us a love of the Maker and the Sacred Bride, but she also invited discussion into the whole religion. She was always one for allowing us to form our own opinions on the matter, Revered Mother Martina was, not so liberal." Lessa laughed a little "I have forgotten how many times i felt the switch on my knuckles for asking what and saying but that can't be right."

It was true enough, although Lessa's cheeky smile often got her out of more serious trouble, when she had driven the Revered Mothers patience to her limit then she felt the switch and damn that old woman could swing.

I was something of a pest to the Grand Cleric, which meant I spent most of my time in her direct supervision until I started my vows.” 

Lessa scoffed a little "I can't even begin to imagine how a cute boy like you would have been such a pest." She was teasing, and hoped he took it as such. "Vanessa would have encouraged it, said it marked the personality and to be fair, had they known about you then they wouldn't have treated you any differently. She and Brother Bernard would have let you grow and maybe instill in you a bit more confidence then you have." 

That was her observation anyway, she supposed being aware that you were the bastard son of a bastard king and travelling with the only other Grey Warden left in Ferelden who was not known for his camaraderie might make a huge dent in your self esteem. 

"Just so you know, if i had been part of all that, I'd have made you laugh, tell a few dirty jokes here and there, maybe a story to make you blush redder than you have so far, You never need apologise to me Alistair, unless you have done something to me you need to." 

Maybe it was the atmosphere or maybe it was just the company but before she put her helm on she leaned over and kissed hissed his cheek then put her helm on pointed "I think i saw something flicker down that tunnel." She pointed with her lantern. 

Even if it wasn't one of the dwarfs they were supposed to meet, if it was a Legion scout then they might know where thier errant smiths were. Makers Breath why was it Dwarfs only hurried when there was something in it for them. Approaching the flicker she heaved a sigh, it was a camp and it was indeed one of the Legions and when she asked them if they had seen a group of Dwarfs headed for the Vigil they shrugged and said no. 

"From what i have heard of Bhelan, i wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't sent them and is wanting us to go do some running around for him ." Lessa took a chocolate bar from her pouch and broke it in half offering half to Alistair "Orleasian, friend of mine got me it when he last came back from Orlais." She grinned