Someones Knocking At the Door. [complete]

Alessandra assured him that she’d not been offended. It let him square his shoulders better as they continued their trek, watching out for the spiders that could have made the webs they had to destroy to get through, even be cautious of.

"I can't even begin to imagine how a cute boy like you would have been such a pest." He could recognize being teased well enough, and gave a good natured chuckle. "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."

He wasn’t sure about that. Alistair developed a penchant for mischief at the monastery, and sometimes provoked fights, irrespective of if he thought he could win them or not. He was the first to admit just how much of a pain in the ass he’d been to the Grand Cleric, and he’d done it out of some misplaced spite at his situation.

His confidence, though, had improved during the Blight, though not through anything Aedan did. The other companions, particularly Leliana, had been paramount to that growth. That had been another reason for not wishing to be king: he worried it would have meant giving up the friends he’d made along the way, and no one on the Maker’s earth would take them from him so long as he breathed.

"Just so you know, if i had been part of all that,” Alessandra continued, “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."

Well, that was the point, wasn’t it? I thought I had,” he said with a genial laugh. She was really trying to be amiable, and he appreciated the efforts. It certainly made traveling easier when the person you traveled with didn’t seem to resent you at every turn. Not that Aedan had, but they’d also never been particularly close.

Without warning, more so because of the oppressive darkness around them preventing him from seeing her actions, she leaned up and kissed his cheek without missing a stride. She didn’t miss a stride. So thrown was Alistair that he nearly tripped over his own feet. Alistair had only ever been kissed once before, and never when he did not expect it.

She continued on like nothing had happened. "I think i saw something flicker down that tunnel." She gestured, and sure enough he saw the diffused glow of a far off campfire. He led them down the tunnel toward it, cautiously. There was no telling what they were about to find.

As it turned out it was a small group of Legionnaire Scouts. He was unused to finding them this far out in the tunnels, but it was a welcomed meeting. They greeted them with a robust welcome, and offered to share their meal. Alistair wasn’t one to say no to a meal, and they did. While they did, Alessandra asked after the smiths from Orzammar, but the Scouts had not seen any. They were on their way again quickly, not wanting to waste any time.

"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 ." She withdrew something from her pack, broke it in half, and offered him a half bar of chocolate. "Orleasian, friend of mine got me it when he last came back from Orlais."

Thanks,” he said with a nod and took a moment to enjoy the way the first bite melted on his tongue with a sweetness rivaled by nothing. He definitely had a sweet tooth, and it was nice to have it satisfied by something other than a cake that had been pinched by his dog when they weren’t looking.

Maker he missed Barkspawn, and probably should have brought him. He just did not expect to be gone this long.

Hopefully we won’t have to go that far,” he told her. “I don’t relish the idea of having to run errands for Bhelen again.” None of the help they’d acquired during the Blight came without a price, but Bhelen had taken an extra mile of their desperation for his own use. Alistair was not quick to want to find himself in that situation again.

Another hour passed with no sign of the smiths, only the telltale signs that the Legionnaire Scouts had traveled this way, the little nicks in the stone that he’d only learned to recognize with Oghren’s help. “You know, if I was a bit more of a pessimist, I might think something was wrong,” he said, his voice heavy. “I was assured they were—

A skittering of loose stone stopped his words in their tracks, followed by a quick pattering of feet. It wasn’t enough to stop him from stepping forward, and with a poof of stale air, he found himself wound up in a massive web of spider silk, wrapping him tight. Far off was a hissing that only one type of spider could make.
You know, if I was a bit more of a pessimist, I might think something was wrong,” Lessa heard the tone change in her companions voice, almost as if he was starting to believe something had happened to thier smiths.  “I was assured they were—

Lessa stepped back and her head jackknifed up as Alistair was suddenly, and quicker than you could blink, caught up in a cocoon. She closed her eyes a moment as she heard then hissing and turned to see the biggest spider she had ever seen in her life. "Makers Breath." She muttered and pulled her visor down, she tossed her lantern to one side and readied her shield and her sword and stood between the spider and its would be meal. 

The thing was horrendous as giant spiders went. Dark in colour from all the tainted meals it had had for itself. From what she had been told about this things Genlocks were thier favourite meal, and as this was the deep roads she doubted there would ever be a shortage of the corrupted dwarfs. No wonder it was a giant monstrosity of walking Taint. 

She raised her shield and deflected a strand of webbing swinging her sword at the same time to cut it off so her shield didnt go flying with it. last thing she wanted was to loose her shield, if that happened she was going to end up trussed up like Alistair. All playfulness gone now she got down to business. If she could push it back enough she could start to cut the bottom of the cocoon, but the spider wasn't having any of it. This thing was preventing it from getting to its meal and its ferocity went up a notch. 

Lessa moved to one side as it came at her probably intend on cutting her in half and carrying Alistair off to its lair to feed on him at leisure. taking a small dagger from her belt she threw it and watched as it moved blade over handle and imbedded itself in its back causing it to hiss and move back.

He would have to cut himself out before it got any tighter and she would try and keep it at bay. Warden Stamina or not, this was going to be a hell of a fight. "I  have a real bad feeling about what happened to those smiths.....

She wasn't given a chance to move as the thing launched at her and had it not been for her shield she would have been cut to ribbons within moments as it was she was struggling with the beast and her pain cries were real as it beat relentless on her shield and tried to get through to her face through her helm. With a cry born of desperation she pushed her shield up and pushed the thing off her, scrambling to her feet she reached for her lantern only to have it grab her leg and start coiling its web around her legs..

She was not going to end up a spiders meal, that would be embarrassing. opening her lantern and with the last of her strength she threw it at the spider praying to the maker and Andraste that the thing would either run from the fire or burn. 
So, fun fact, it was impossible to see around you when you were encased in a cocoon of spider silk. The stuff was strong, too. Alistair fought against it, trying to push against the wall of it, only to get further embedded in the sticky substance that seemed to coat it. It was the Blight all over again, with him stumbling into every trap ahead of everyone else. Frankly, it was embarrassing.

What it didn’t block was his hearing, and he listened to Alessandra outside the wrappings as she reacted to what he imaged was a very large spider. The thing made a lot of noise for a spider. He’d always wondered if the regular-size ones made noise like the big ones, only they were too small to hear.

While Warden Howard struggled outside the cocoon, Alistair wiggled as much as he was able. His sword was out of the question, but if he could just reach enough to get his knife, he might stand a chance of getting out to assist.

Stretching, his fingers scrabbled at the handle of the dagger, able to touch it but just not enough to grasp it. The sounds he was hearing outside were not promising, and he let a very not-manly sound as he pressed just a little more than his shoulder wanted to move.

"I have a real bad feeling about what happened to those smiths....."

Alistair had thought it, briefly, but tried not to dwell on it, choosing to be optimistic that they were just delayed. He did not have that luxury now.

Dagger in hand he pressed it against the spider’s silk as he drew it. Once he penetrated the cocoon, the structural integrity loosened, and he was able to move more freely. By the time he was able to cut himself free, he could already smell the fire that Howard had used to attack the spider. Smart of her, as it drove it back.

Once he was free he had weapon and shield in hand, smashing against the flaming spider with all of his strength. It reared up, the fire beginning to engulf it, and he called for Alessandra to drive her sword into its underbelly where the carapace did not protect it. Once she did, he was able to do the same, and between the two of them, they fought it off, yellow goo oozing from its wounds until it ceased to move.

Panting from his effort, Alistair said, “Well, that was bracing.” He chuckled as he wiped his sword clean and sheathed it. A few steps past the spider led to a small cavern that was draped in spider silk, cocoons dotting the area in an ominous way that did not make him feel very confident that Alessandra was wrong.

Alistair drew his knife again and approached one that was more shriveled than the others. There was evidence that it had been punctured. He carefully sliced through the silk wrapping and revealed a dwarf, shriveled and long dead, drained of all his blood.

Help me cut these open,” he said with reverence for the dead. “There might be survivors.” He hoped there were survivors.

“Is someone there?” A woman’s thready voice called to them from the far back of the chamber. “Please help me! I think I’m the only one left.”

He hurried to follow the sound of the voice and began sawing at the cocoon where it originated. Another dwarf, this one looking weakened but very much still alive, spilled out and into his arms. “Thank the Ancestors,” she said as she all but collapsed against him. He helped her over to a rock where she was able to sit.

Are you from Orzammar?” he asked. “We’re looking for a group of smiths.

The woman burst into tears, nodding. “We were ambushed by spiders.”

Spiders, plural?” Alistair asked, suddenly having a very unsteady feeling about their success over the one they’d killed.
Her chest hurt, it felt like a hundred Mabari charges at once had danced on her chest and only when the spider was dead did she rest against the wall to draw in a painful breath. She sucked it up, as Alistair began cutting into the cocoons Lessa pulled a face at the desiccated corpses. She was counting the cocoons when a little voice called for help and to her surprise there was one survivor. Still the number of cocoons bothered her. 

Are you from Orzammar? We’re looking for a group of smiths.” Lessa listened as Alistair spoke to the shaken Dwarf, she couldn't blame her for her reaction. It could not have been easy to see or hear those sort of sounds. 

“We were ambushed by spiders.” The Dwarf sobbed and Lessa groaned, and this time it wasn't from the pain in her chest. 

"Makers Breath" Lessa muttered as Alistair looked at her. 

Spiders, plural?” 

"Have you seen the amount of cocoons here?" Lessa pointed "We need to leave. Now, i can't take another fight like that." She wasn't afraid of fighting if she had to, but she suspected that had a cracked rib or maybe a couple of broken ones. Her Warden strength would keep her upright, well that and her sheer determination, but even Lessa knew she would need to see a Healer as soon as they got back and, if there were more of the creepy crawlies that looked like the size of a fricking bear then she was going to be meeting her calling sooner rather than later. 

Lessa got drew her sword anyway and readied her shield, the blacksmith was going to be having words with her about the damage done to this she was certain of that. As if on cue more hissing could be heard and if they didn't leave now, then they were going to be surrounded "Which way?" she asked the dwarf a little more harshly than she wanted to but, it was either that or the spiders that moved fast would be upon them. 




"Have you seen the amount of cocoons here?" Alessandra pointed to indicate the cocoons around them, likely full of gruesome remains. "We need to leave. Now, i can't take another fight like that."

It was only then that he took assessment of the situation. While he’d been trying to escape the cocoon himself, she’d taken on the spider alone. He noticed the way she winced when she gestured, how she favored a side. Likely a cracked rib that would need attention. Even if he was in top shape, if there was more than one, they could not take multiple spiders alone with a civilian to protect.

Still, despite her injuries, she drew her sword, readied her shield. "Which way?" she asked the dwarf, an edge in her tone that spoke as loudly as her injuries. Warden Howard was not okay.

The sound of more hissing made the decision for him. “Quickly, back the way we came,” he said. If he was expected to lead, it was clear he was going to have to do what was best for the group. He indicated the right direction with a point of his chin and urged the increasingly frantic dwarf on ahead of them. “That way is already clear.

He brought up the rear, the skitter of feet behind them, and hurried them along, not relaxing the pace until they were well away from the chamber where they—he’d—found the trap of cocoons.

We can stop here,” he said, the tunnels behind them and the air fresh around them once more. He took a potion from a pouch on his belt and offered it to Alessandra. “It won’t do everything, but it will help.” She’d need a proper mage to see it when they returned to the Keep, but the pain could be alleviated with a simple elfroot tincture.

As for the tunnels, they would need to send a proper party to clear it out, and Alistair dreaded having to make the report that would suggest as much. One more fumble that caused more work for everyone around him. First the lyrium smugglers, then the failure to fix the doors, and now a cave of spiders that had eaten almost every smith he’d summoned.

We’ll make camp here again for the night.” He nodded to the dwarven woman. “I think you need some time to recover, and I know Alessandra needs the rest.” Decision made, he returned to the pit they’d used for the fire previously, and readied it to be lit again. “What’s your name?” he addressed to the dwarf.

“Indra,” she said.

He noted the way she trembled, and offered her a blanket from their supplies before he returned his attention to Alessandra. “How are you holding up?
One forced and very painful march later, and both her and Therrin with Indra found thier way back to the relative safety of thier previous camp. Relative being a matter of perspective, you were never safe down here and if you thought you were, then just look at the Dwarf and what had befallen her and her caste. 

It won’t do everything, but it will help.” 

Lessa looked up as Alistair held out the concoction and nodding her thanks with a short gesture she knocked it back, he was right, after a while the pain subsided to a dull ache. Once they were back top side and on thier horses it was going to flare up again, but for now this would have to do. 

We’ll make camp here again for the night.” Alistair told the Dwarven woman and to Lessa's surprise he could be quite commanding when he so chose. “I think you need some time to recover, and I know Alessandra needs the rest.” It would be a start if they knew her name, which, without skipping a beat Alistair asked.  “What’s your name?”

"Indra"  came the shaken reply, 

Lessa turned her attention to the road they had just emerged from while Alistair made the Dwarf feel as comfortable as he could. The guy was a peach, really and if she wasn't in so much pain, she might have taken the preverbial out of him, but the spiders had killed any good mood she had when they set off down here. 

Lessa help me, i'm here.

Her best friends voice rang in her head and Lessa screwed her eyes shut. not again, not here, not now. When she opened them again there was no voice and no one else but her, Therrin and the Dwarf. 

How are you holding up?

Alistair's voice broke into her thoughts and, they were a welcome diversion. Her father had warned her there might be residues. No one told her about the nightmares though, and not the normal ones associated with being a Grey Warden either. 

Some nights she would dream of Ostagar seeing all the carnage but each one was super imposed by her best friend being dragged down to the Deep Roads by those things. Other nights she would dream of the tower and the mages and cutting Henri into little pieces laughing as she did and invariably she woke in a cold sweat. She may not be keen on the guy but she would never wish that kind of harm on him. So needless to say she was not sleeping well. 

"I feel like Barkspawn and his buddies have done a doggy tango on my chest." Lessa replied attempting to inject some humour into a humourless situation "Alistair, you know the commander can't blame you for this, this is the Deep They should have had a Legion escort at the very least, shit happens down here and he knows that. You did good handsome."  Lessa looked at the shaking Dwarf "So which one of us tells her she is going to have to go topside for a bit?"

Everyone knew that Dwarfs looked at going topside as one might face a nest of broodmothers, sheer terror. Dwarfs had this strange belief if they left thier mountain home then they would loose thier stone sense. 


By the time he got to check on her, Alessandra seemed far away in her thoughts. She came back to the present at the sound of his voice, and he did his best not to frown in concern.

"I feel like Barkspawn and his buddies have done a doggy tango on my chest." At least she hadn’t lost her sense of humor, wherever her thoughts had taken her. She moved on from the topic of her injuries swiftly. "Alistair, you know the commander can't blame you for this, this is the Deep They should have had a Legion escort at the very least, shit happens down here and he knows that. You did good handsome." He flushed again at the diminutive and pushed through it. "So which one of us tells her she is going to have to go topside for a bit?"

Hopefully their party knew they’d have to, eventually.” Maker’s sake, he forgot about that. With the ordeal she’d been through, and now being topside, it was a wonder she was sitting upright. As Alistair looked over, she was gazing at the sky with a wariness he’d only ever seen in the Dead Trench. She shuddered inside the blanket, gripping it tightly, as if it was anchoring her to the log where she sat.

“It… it just keeps going,” Indra said.

Don’t worry. You’re not going to fall into it, I promise. I haven’t yet, and if there is a way to fall into something, I'll find it.” He broke out some of their rations—grateful to Alessandra for packing more than they needed for two of them—and offered her some. Some food would help her, or at least he hoped it would.

He passed some along to Alessandra as well, and sank on to the ground beside her. “I know the Commander can’t really blame me, but he’ll find a way.” Not that he was cruel or unreasonable, just that this had been Alistair’s assignment some months now, and he’d failed again to follow through on a strategy.

He chewed the dried meat thoughtfully, wondering at how the entire party had been overtaken by giant spiders. Alessandra was right. They should have had an escort, at least by warriors for protection. Of course, he didn’t know they did not, and there was only Indra left to answer their questions. She was not in a place for him to do so at the moment.

Thank you for your help back there,” he said, more to break up the quiet than anything. She’d done what she was supposed to as a Warden, and he was grateful to it. Leliana was not going to let him live down tramping into yet another trap. “Though, maybe it was for your own good,” he said with a hint of wry humor. “If I die, I bet they’ll saddle you with the doors next.” His smile broke out further.
well, Lessa thought watching as Indra stared into the sky all around her at least she's alive thats something. Not that she was going to voice it, inner voice only as Revered Mother Vanessa used to say. 

Don’t worry. You’re not going to fall into it, I promise. I haven’t yet, and if there is a way to fall into something, I'll find it.” Alistair told the wide eyed Indra and even Lessa snorted at that one. 

"He's not kidding either. They send Alistair ahead to see if there are any traps, chances are he will find it." She heard a little giggle from the Dwarf so realised she might relaxing a bit. 

Maker that air smelled so sweet, why after going down there did the air up here smell sweeter? she didn't know but she took a long inhale then a slow exhale, filling her lungs with the serenity of the air and dispelling the dank evil that clung to the deep roads. She did wonder if the Deep would ever be free of the spawn, there were thousands upon thousands of them. Then pushed it aside as that little voice in her head chuckled and said not in my lifetime

I know the Commander can’t really blame me, but he’ll find a way.” 

"Well if he wanted them done that urgently, he would have made sure there was an escort in place our end for the Smiths then." Lessa didn't understand Orric, sometimes he seemed about as detached as the First Warden. Other times, like that stuff with the Chantry a while back he was like a Bronto in a bull pen. Very strange dwarf he was. "Although making him wait this long was probably not a good idea, but then the others could have volunteered. I am sure Velanna and Henri would have helped....in thier own ways." Her lips curled in a slight smirk and twitched as the thought of those two helping Alistair, anyone really, made her want to burst out laughing, although to do so would hurt so she contented herself with a swig of water. 

Thank you for your help back there, Though, maybe it was for your own good, If I die, I bet they’ll saddle you with the doors next.” There it was, his humour to hide his embarrassment at a compliment. 

She waved the thanks off, there was no need and she was sure her ribs were going to forgive her, eventually. "I wouldn't worry about that so much." Her face deadpan "I would worry about someone telling Leliana you were spider food. That scares me more to be honest"  She arched an eyebrow "Pretty sure she'd find a way to make new shoes from thier skins if you were thier main meal." Her lips curled into a beautiful smile and she looked at the ground once more. 

Reaching into her pack Lessa took three bottles out, the last of her ale reserves that she had convinced the quartermaster to let her take. She passed one to Indra "If nothing it will help you sleep." She smiled quickly "and my way of apologising for getting snappy back there." She hoped it would work, she really wasn't that harsh a person. 

She handed Alistair his and raising her knees she draped the arm that was holding the bottle over it. The silence was nice and for a moment, she listened to the night birds and the insects.Then in a quiet voice asked "So, tell me about yourself, not the crap everyone knows, just you."
Alessandra waved away his thanks, as if she were attacked by giant spiders every day and it was no big deal. He didn’t argue with her over it. Some people were just good like that. "I wouldn't worry about that so much." Her expression deadpan, she added, "I would worry about someone telling Leliana you were spider food. That scares me more to be honest" Her brow arched as Alistair let a chuckle. "Pretty sure she'd find a way to make new shoes from thier skins if you were thier main meal."

Now he laughed outright, though he rubbed at the back of his head in an abashed manner. “I don’t think it’s the spiders who have to worry.” He’d let his guard down and had walked into yet another trap, unawares. It was more likely she’d have something to say to him about being so reckless. “I’ve always had a habit of finding traps before anyone else.” And, as was pointed out to him, that was not his job. “I’m supposed to be more careful.

Next he knew, Alessandra was pulling bottles out of her bag, handing one out to each of them. Not exactly the road supplies he’d asked her to collect, but he wasn’t about to complain. Especially when she handed one to Indra, who looked like she needed it as much as anything.

"If nothing it will help you sleep." A quick smile paused her words. "and my way of apologising for getting snappy back there."

Indra grasped the bottle like it was life. “We were all a little tense,” she said by way of accepting both the ale and the apology.

The last bottle she handed to Alistair before she draped an arm over her knees and dangled her bottle from her fingers. It was a pleasant night, not too warm or cold, and birds broke up the quiet, blissfully unaware of the terrors that dwelled far below them. How lucky, a bird, to never have to traverse the Deep Roads. Though, Alistair knew he wouldn’t give up this life for anything he could think of right then.

The quiet grew too much for Alessandra. "So, tell me about yourself, not the crap everyone knows, just you."

Just me?” He sat up a little, one arm hooked over his upright knee, the other leg crooked beneath him. “I don’t think there’s a lot people don’t already know.” Thanks to the Blight, he was possibly the second most famous Fereldan. “I became a Warden instead of taking my final vows. There was this little thing called the Blight and I fought in it. Now I can’t get a set of doors to be functional.” He sighed.

I guess,” he started, since she’d asked and he wasn’t rude enough to ignore her request, “if I wasn’t a Warden, if I wasn’t the bastard of a king, if I hadn’t lived my whole life hidden away like some dirty secret, I would have liked to have a family of my own.” He shrugged, taking a long drink of his beer. “It’s silly to wish for things you can’t have, but even as a boy I wanted to be nobody, just left alone to do normal things.” Grow up, fall in love, father half a dozen children with that person. “But I can’t change that without giving up the things I have now.” The friendships he treasured. If all of that hadn’t happened to him, he wouldn’t have Leliana in his life, or the other companionships he’d forged over the Blight, Aedan notwithstanding. “And nothing I could wish for is worth not having that.

Leliana was his dearest friend, and the Blight had given him that. Even if some tiny, secret part of him occasionally wondered what it would be like to have more, to follow through on that single, spectacular night they’d passed before the Battle for Denerim, there was no force on Thedas that would convince him to change a thing.

How about you?” he reciprocated. “If you weren’t a Warden, what would you want for your life?
I don’t think it’s the spiders who have to worry. I’ve always had a habit of finding traps before anyone else.” he sounded like he was used to being the bait, wether it be by accident or design. “I’m supposed to be more careful.”

"Meh, Spiders like leaving thier traps, anyone could have walked into that." Lessa remarked "even the more famous members of our order or a bunch of seasoned Dwarf warriors. Not easy to see, i don't care how good you are at spotting traps." 

Hell she was going to be 26 soon and she still couldn't spot a spider trap, see the webs stay away was usually a good clue, see the cocoons and definatly back up was another. Spiders didn't bother her that much, she was not a screaming hysterical girly girl, no there were worse things down here, some not many knew about either. Maker forbid a rookie walk into a Broodmother nest, a harvester nest or maker forbid the children and she only knew about them because one of the Mages had told her about what was running around Amaranthine when the Wardens took over the land.  So, whilst her chest might have told her different right now, there were things that were infinitely worse than a Genlock or a Ogre or giant fricking spiders. 

She raised her bottle at the dwarf acknowledging her words but didnt drink yet, when she got back to the Vigil she was going to have to drink some foul concoction that the healers gave her so, as this was the last bottle she was going to take it slow and steady. Maker, who knew they had hits like a Ogre on them? She watched as Alistair got comfortable before he answered her question, and cantered her head a little as she heard a Nightingale off in the distance. 

I don’t think there’s a lot people don’t already know.” Well that was true, most everyone knew who he was and what he could have been “I became a Warden instead of taking my final vows. There was this little thing called the Blight and I fought in it. Now I can’t get a set of doors to be functional.” a resigned sigh from the younger man made Lessa listen more. 

I guess, if I wasn’t a Warden, if I wasn’t the bastard of a king, if I hadn’t lived my whole life hidden away like some dirty secret, I would have liked to have a family of my own.” A shrug and a long draught of ale “It’s silly to wish for things you can’t have, but even as a boy I wanted to be nobody, just left alone to do normal things. But I can’t change that without giving up the things I have now.” There was a bit of a pause and a wistful sigh, as if he was living a memory that he wasn't prepared to let go off, she understood that one.  “And nothing I could wish for is worth not having that.”

A comfortable silence and then, what do you know he turned it back on her.  “How about you? If you weren’t a Warden, what would you want for your life?

Now there was a loaded question what would she have wanted out of her life? the fantasy or the reality? Lessa furrowed her brow and this time took a long swallow from her beer and sniffed a little. 

"Well, if there hadn't been, a tiny thing like a blight or a civil war, i would have stayed with the Guard i think. In an idea world i would have been raised by my fathers family, maybe even have become a Templar like him, but in reality i would have remained with the guard, i would have been married by now." She hadn't thought about Craig in a while and a hint of sadness flashed across her eyes. "I was engaged to a member of Anora's royal guard. He died in Drakon when the Spawn overwhelmed it, but if there hadn't been a blight and egos beating up the status quo, i'd be married. I'd like to have been a mother one day, one of each.

She would have been a damn better one than the mother who abandoned her that was for certain. Funny how you never think about the things you'd like until something happens that prevents you from that. The moment she became a warden, then any dreams of children or a family life went out the window. She allowed a slight smile to cross her face and she rubbed her eyebrow with her index finger. "I suspect I would have been giving My best friend who was also my C.O a few headaches, but out of uniform i think we both would have ripped up the city on a weekend. Although Andrea liked spending her free time in the Pearl. I think she was sweet on someone there, she'd have made a Guard Captain by now i should think and i'd like to think we would be keeping the "undesirables"." She made quote marks "out of the market." 

She was good at being a guard, on occasion she helped the Amaranthine guard if she happened to be in the city and there was something going on. You could take the Warden out of the Guard but you could never take the Guard out of the Warden. It had got her in trouble with a couple of senior wardens here and there but she wasn't them, and they weren't her. She did her duty, what she did in her free time was her business. 

Lessa set her bottle down and gave a half smile "When i was a kid i had a fantasy that i was the lost child of a Bann or a banns son but who knows in another life i might have been, but i wouldn't change this life. The Maker put me on this path and i'll walk it until i can no longer walk it. Not sure about going into the deep to spend my last moments but i think by that time i won't care." She looked at the label on her bottle "for whats it worth, you would have been a good King, you have a common touch, you know the hearts of the common man." She looked at him an winked "and i might have been assigned to guarding your body...." she put the bottle to her lips, her sense of humour returning "all in the name of duty of course.

She meant no harm by her comments, he was a handsome lad and he deserved to be flattered, even if he didn't think so himself. It was nice to just spend some time with someone, who knew in a sense where she was coming from, and have a conversastion, didn't matter where the talk lead, it was just refreshing to be able to talk to someone as an equal and not feel like you were bothering them by merely existing. 

Just as Alessandra listened to him, Alistair gave her his attention as she told her story, shared her thoughts. Her story sounded too familiar in Ferelden. Loss, war, strife. It was all there.

"Well, if there hadn't been, a tiny thing like a blight or a civil war, i would have stayed with the Guard i think.” A decent life, he expected. Guards had stable income and shifts that allowed them to have family lives. “In an idea world i would have been raised by my fathers family, maybe even have become a Templar like him, but in reality i would have remained with the guard, i would have been married by now." There was a sadness there that told the story before she explained it to him. "I was engaged to a member of Anora's royal guard. He died in Drakon when the Spawn overwhelmed it, but if there hadn't been a blight and egos beating up the status quo, i'd be married. I'd like to have been a mother one day, one of each."

A wistful smile crossed his lips. One of each. Alistair would have had twice that many and begged for more. But it wasn’t to be, and there was little use in crying about it, a sentiment Alessandra seemed to share as she moved on.

"I suspect I would have been giving My best friend who was also my C.O a few headaches, but out of uniform i think we both would have ripped up the city on a weekend. Although Andrea liked spending her free time in the Pearl. I think she was sweet on someone there, she'd have made a Guard Captain by now i should think and i'd like to think we would be keeping the "undesirables"." Her fingers formed air quotations, "out of the market."

He chuckled, dry and respectfully for what he suspected was another loss. Alistair hadn’t really had any friends prior to the Wardens. Even then, he’d been too new to them to really have forged that particular bond with them. They never made him feel left out, but there’d not really been time to find confidants among them.

"When i was a kid i had a fantasy that i was the lost child of a Bann or a banns son,” Alistair tried not to wince, knowing that not everyone had the experiences he did, “but who knows in another life i might have been, but i wouldn't change this life. The Maker put me on this path and i'll walk it until i can no longer walk it. Not sure about going into the deep to spend my last moments but i think by that time i won't care." She studied her bottle, as if the next words came from the paper label carefully attached to it. "for whats it worth, you would have been a good King, you have a common touch, you know the hearts of the common man." She gave him a pointed look. "and i might have been assigned to guarding your body...." Humor turned her lips as the bottle met them. "all in the name of duty of course."

Of course,” he managed to eke out in an embarrassed chuckle. “Thank you, for what it’s worth.” He didn’t really have a better response when people told him this. Told him that he’d have made a good, or even a great king. Some, like Alessandra, had reasons beyond his name and lineage.

He took a drink from his bottle, and let his mind follow that line of thinking, just for the moment. It got Warden Howard’s mind off of what happened in the Deep Roads, and he noticed Indra come closer to the fire to join them. “I was almost married off,” he said, “sort of. Aedan wanted me to marry Anora.” Aedan hadn’t been the only one. There had been quite a bit of pressure until he put his foot firmly down. “I couldn’t—wouldn’t—do it. If I marry, I want it to mean more than a grab for power.” Anora wanted his name and nothing more. Prince Consort. Not that the title bothered him so much as the audacity to use him in such a way. Anora was hardly alone in that. Aedan, and even Eamon had supported it, as well as some of their companions. “I didn’t think anyone was going to listen to me.” He gave her a square look over the top of his bottle. “That’s why I didn’t want to become King. I’m tired of being used as a tool. They thought I’d be easy to handle.” Because he always had been, until he went to the monastery. There, he’d picked so many fights out of spite that he was surprised his nose was intact and recognizable.

It’s hard, hearing all the regrets,” he admitted. “I’ve let people down. I’ll continue to do so as long as I live.” His face hardened, his brow creasing sharply. “Ending a Blight isn’t enough. Somehow it’s a great tragedy that I didn’t want a crown that I was told, in no uncertain terms, I was never to aspire to.” Dodged the crown he might have, but he still felt the weight of it in the voice of people. “Maybe it’s selfish of me, to fight so hard against it. Against even doing it by marriage. I do wonder if I made the right choice, sometimes. Again, not that it was really up to me.” He laughed, bitterly, into his beer bottle, letting the drink slake his internal agony as well as his thirst.
Of course,” There it was, that embarrassed chuckle again, “Thankyou, for what it’s worth.” 

Coming from him it was worth a lot. Alistair always seemed to hold himself in line with the other rank and file, and Lessa suspected it was nothing to do with wanting to fit it, she suspected it was because it was where he wanted to be. She could be wrong but, it said a lot more about him than maybe even he realised. As they sat in silence for a few moments, Lessa was surprised she had even said as much as she had about herself, she was not a closed book, just no one had ever really asked her before. The last time she had spilled her guts to a stranger had been her father and then before that Leliana.  She saw Indra come closer to the fire, and hid her smile behind the bottle lip, Dwarfs, as grumpy and hardy as they could be, they did love stories and who knew, it might take her mind off all that sky up there and that wasn't a bad thing. 

I was almost married off,” Alistair announced. which got both womens attention. “sort of. Aedan wanted me to marry Anora.” Sounded like the former Warden Commander was not the only one, she could tell that by his tone.  “I couldn’t—wouldn’t—do it. If I marry, I want it to mean more than a grab for power.

There was a truth in that, everyone knew that Anora was not going to let go of the Throne, Just as Arl Eamon was not going to let go of the Therrin bloodline, which made what he said all the more poignant.

I didn’t think anyone was going to listen to me.” Thier gazes locked for brief moment and for the first time in a long time Lessa's heart skipped a beat. Wether that was how he told his tale or.....something else, she was not sure and she was not about to assume it was anything. She cleared her throat a moment and took some dried rations and popped it in her mouth. Now who was embarrassed? . “That’s why I didn’t want to become King. I’m tired of being used as a tool. They thought I’d be easy to handle.” 

What could someone say to that? what could anyone say to that? he had been hidden away told he was never to approach the throne, oh everyone knew the story, she doubted by now there was no Ferelden bard or minstrel that didn't tell that story when they retold the events of the Blight. The bastard son of the former King and a serving maid. Hidden away so as not to embarrass the son of said King and his mother, who was a cult figure in her own right. Lessa had forgotten the tales she had heard from Brother Bernard about Queen Rowan. Actually it was hard not to hero worship the woman after hearing those tales. 

"Well all you have to put up with is Henri and Velanna now, actually given who she was recruited by, she should know better." Lessa murmured against the rim of her bottle.  Come to think of it, she actually wondered if thier attitude to almost everyone else in the keep was just them, or them keeping everyone at distance, than realised she didn't want to think about it too much, because them and some others like them, were so wrapped up in thier own selves they were blind to the word "camaraderie." Velanna and Henri were not the only ones to give those like Alistair a hard time, but they were the ones who didn't hide it Even mentioning his name got an eyeroll or a huff and if she thought about it too much it gave her a headache, Lessa already had a headache from the spider attack, she didn't need another. 

It’s hard, hearing all the regrets,” Bet noone heard those words before. Alistair always seemed to have a joke to cover his actions, it made him endearing but also hid the real man behind the role of Keep joker.  “I’ve let people down. I’ll continue to do so as long as I live. Ending a Blight isn’t enough. Somehow it’s a great tragedy that I didn’t want a crown that I was told, in no uncertain terms, I was never to aspire to. Maybe it’s selfish of me, to fight so hard against it. Against even doing it by marriage. I do wonder if I made the right choice, sometimes. Again, not that it was really up to me.” There was the bitter laugh and she let him have his drink. 

How could she even begin to understand just how many layers this man had? To be told he would never aspire to the throne, to be told he had no hold on anything that really was his blood. Until they needed him as leverage to keep a bloodline on the throne he had been denied all his life. She could understand that and she gained a new deep respect for Alistair after this. 

"Actually, its not selfish at all." She almost whispered "You are who you are, and if you can call the Left Hand of the Divine one of your closes friends and confidants, then there can't be much wrong with the choices you have made. Besides." Lessa gestured her arm a moment "you stayed, the Warden Commander didn't. That says a lot too."

Lessa glanced at Indra who had been watching Alistair as he spoke. Looked like she was totally enthralled with what he was saying and she allowed her mouth to quirk a little in a light smirk. 

She raised her dark hazel eyes over the lip of her bottle and said "You are in no ones shadow anymore Alistair, You said yourself you wouldn't change anything, so if the Queen, or the Guerin's like to harp on about it, thats thier hangup not yours. You do good work here, I know the recruits look upto you. even if you don't see it. You are a far better man then some i could mention. And better looking." She added with a slight teasing tone, although wether she was really teasing or not, Lessa would not reveal. Lessa shifted a little and clutched her side a moment as a slight jab of pain shot up, to her credit she didn't wince, but by the maker that hurt. 

"Still, how are WE going to tell the Warden Commander he still won't have his doors fixed?" There was no way she was letting him give that report on his own. 



Indra was handling the death of her traveling companions well, or she was still in shock and the full of it had not settled yet. She sat and listened as Alistair spun his tales of woe in answer to Alessandra’s questions, with a comfortable silence falling among them over sips of the ale they shared.

"Actually, its not selfish at all." Alessandra’s voice dropped to a near whisper, the sound of the fire nearly swallowing the words. "You are who you are, and if you can call the Left Hand of the Divine one of your closes friends and confidants, then there can't be much wrong with the choices you have made. Besides." His fellow warden gestured toward him. "you stayed, the Warden Commander didn't. That says a lot too."

I suppose,” he partially agreed with her. That Aedan shirked his duty as Warden Commander was no secret amongst those who remained. It put Alistair in the awkward place of having to explain his disappearance, both to Weisshaupt and at home. While he begrudged Aedan a good deal of things, he couldn’t find it in himself to fully fault his leaving. The Blight took a lot from them. Maybe Aedan just wasn’t up to the task of being the celebrity Warden. Now that pressure all fell on Alistair, and he wasn’t sure he wanted it.

"You are in no ones shadow anymore Alistair, You said yourself you wouldn't change anything, so if the Queen, or the Guerin's like to harp on about it, thats thier hangup not yours. You do good work here, I know the recruits look upto you. even if you don't see it. You are a far better man then some i could mention. And better looking."

“It’s the hair, right? I’m terribly fussy about my hair.” If recruits looked up to him, it was news to him. If asked, he’d have to guess that most of them shared Barrows’ opinion of him. A man who almost but never quite amounted to anything and whose sloping shoulders let it always slide to someone else. He tried to pretend it didn’t bother him, and his seemingly foolish demeanor did well enough to hide it.

Thank you,” he said, because he lacked anything more meaningful to add. Alessandra had a knack for making it hard to say much. But there was one thing he had to say, because he felt like it was his duty as a bastard and former contender for the crown. “Just maybe downplay the wishing I’d been king when you talk to the others.” The matter was serious but his tone stayed purposefully cheerful. He caught her square in her hazel eyes with his brown ones and the smile half dropped from his face. “The last thing I need is anyone thinking I’m raising a coup.

That would be something, and he was in no hurry to see it.

But that was something that was going to need to wait for later. Alessandra winced, clutching at her side, and Alistair guessed the potion he’d administered was wearing off. Those broken ribs were going to need to be assessed by a proper healer, and they still had a ways to go before they were back in the Keep.

"Still, how are WE going to tell the Warden Commander he still won't have his doors fixed?"

Lifting a sandy brow, Alistair shook his head. “This was my responsibility.” He waved a hand. “You can add your account, but the rest of it is mine to handle.” He did offer a smile of appreciation.

If there was arguing to be done over it, then it would have to wait. The solid thunk of Indra’s bottle hit the ground as she wavered. “I’m not feeling so good.”

Shock, then, and he the fool who hadn’t anticipated exactly this scenario. He was on his feet and at her side in an instant, barely catching her in time to keep her head from hitting the ground. He gave her cheek a hardy pat, trying to keep her conscious. “We need to get her lying down. Grab my bedroll.
It’s the hair, right? I’m terribly fussy about my hair.”  Lessa smirked and pushed herself to her feet. It hurt like hell but she wanted to get some feeling back in her backside. “Thank you,” he said, . “Just maybe downplay the wishing I’d been king when you talk to the others.  The last thing I need is anyone thinking I’m raising a coup.”

Lessa raised her hand in acknowledgement and turned her face to the sky letting the evening breeze wash over her. "Not a word" She promised "whats said in the wilderness stays in the wilderness, unless you happen to be a sylvan or something."  Two could play that game. However on the subject of a joint report to the Commander about the doors or lack of them she arched a brow when he contradicted her offer. 

"This was my responsibility. You can add your account, but the rest of it is mine to handle.” If she was going to argue the point she didn't get a chance because one moment she was gearing up to explain why she thought they should both do it and the next the dwarf was in Alistair's arms. 

She moved to his bedroll as he ordered. “We need to get her lying down. Grab my bedroll.” 

"Now theres an offer you don't get everyday." She muttered and grabbed his roll although to be honest it was like red hot fire searing through her at that movement. She dropped it down and kicked it out so he could lay Indra on the roll and reaching behind her she chucked him her blanket "Keep her warm too," Lessa knelt down by the Dwarfs side and ran a gaze over her.  This couldn't be just shock could it, yes she had been held in a cocoon for a few hours or days and yes she was now under the big sky but.....Lessa's gaze ran down the shorter woman's body looking for any sign of the taint, you didnt need always swallow the blood and there it was, where the spiders webbing had caught her legs to haul her up so it could feast on her at leisure.  "Makers Breath," she muttered. 

What was that spider that had attacked them? she shook her head a little a corrupted spider, not just poisonous but a bellyful of taint from all the little tainted dwarfs it had been feeding on. On the front of her leg was a bulbous mass about the size of a small mushroom, "better see if you can find some elfroot" Lessa told him "should be plenty round here and anything that counteracts poison." elfroot was about the extent of her knowledge "Hey, hey Indra stay with me, need you to stay awake." Lessa put her hands either side of the dwarfs face "I need you to tell me, apart from that on your leg, did it bite you? did it do anything else other than wrap you in that cocoon?

She had seen it happen with another recruit on one of her first jaunts in to the Deep, he had been dragged along the ground before being hauled up for later consumption, they had got him back but the poison had rendered him sick for days. He was lucky to have survived Grey Warden or not. It wasn't just the poison that bothered Lessa though. They had been attacked by a Corrupted Spider and right now she was more concerned about a poison worse than anything a spider could give. Lessa wasn't that up on spotting signs of the Taint 101 hidden, usually she could tell when they had the black lines or the slightly gaunt look about them. Short of stripping Indra off she wasn't sure if it was just poison or something worse. Alistair would know though but she needed to keep Indra awake. 





Alistair heard Alessandra’s distant mutter. "Now theres an offer you don't get everyday." Once she kicked it out flat he laid Indra down, and helped her get her feet up. Alessandra tossed him a blanket. "Keep her warm too." She looked the woman over as Alistair tried to make her comfortable. "Makers Breath,"

He saw it too. On her leg, a welt the size of a sovereign. Angry and red. "better see if you can find some elfroot" Alessandra said. "should be plenty round here and anything that counteracts poison. Hey, hey Indra stay with me, need you to stay awake." She gathered the dwarf’s face in her hands. "I need you to tell me, apart from that on your leg, did it bite you? did it do anything else other than wrap you in that cocoon?"

Meanwhile Alistair retrieved his pack, pulling out an elfroot poultice. It was the best he could do, given the situation.

“No, I don’t remember.” Well those were two different answers. Alistair applied the poultice, wondering what kind of pain it must have been causing her. She cried out in pain.

It was obvious that she’d been bitten, but the question remained by what, exactly. Alistair hadn’t thought to stop and ask the spider if it was tainted, and it hadn’t captured him so much as he’d captured himself. No need to inject him with a paralytic.

I don’t sense any taint,” he said, for whatever relief that was. That was a problem he knew how to solve. It had a gruesome solution, but it was straightforward. Indra seemed strong, and was a smith. She’d be useful to the Wardens, but hopefully this would not come to that. He’d seen too many joinings go sour. Other than nearly passing out, she had none of the other signs.

There was something about the welt, though, that did not sit well with him. He pressed on it, watching his finger make an indent that moved back into shape after he took it away. Creepy. But that wasn’t the creepiest part, and he had a bad feeling about the wound. Something like a stiff piece of hair poked out of it, and when Alistir pulled on it, a spider’s leg came free. The wound wiggled and moved, and Alistair pressed the poultice hard against it, feeling something within it wriggle.

We need to lance and cauterize this. Quickly.” He moved enough to lay the blade of his dagger in the fire.

Some time and much screaming later, the wound had been cleaned, and the thing that crawled out of it squished and thrown into the fire. Now Indra slept, the wear on her body pulling her deep into the Fade.

So,” he started, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb the dwarf. “I bet this isn’t what you thought you signed up for.” He wished he had more ale to offer her. “How is your pain? Do you need another potion?” He looked at the stars. “We’ll be able to stop in Highever proper and see about a healer. I am sure the teyrnir has at least one.