« Back
Generated: Jul 09, 2019 7:59 AM
Post last updated: Jul 09, 2019 7:59 AM
for she, fire is her water
Azry encounters Blaze
Permalink Eye

Things at the camp were quiet. Leliana, nug in her arms, was curled up in her tent, reading aloud to Zevran, who polished his daggers. Morrigan and Anwen were set apart, whispering to each other and laughing, while vegetables cooked over their own fire. Sten stood sentry beside Eddie the dog, and Wynne was darning socks, humming under her breath. 

Azry herself was sitting by Alistair, watching him stir the broth for the night.
"Not much meat in that," she commented. 

Alistair smirked. "I heard that too much meat isn't good for elves," he drawled, giving her a wink. Azry threw a shoe at him.

Truly, it felt like a peaceful night. For once.

Permalink Eye

She isn't sure how long she's been running this time, just that she needs to keep going. (She isn't sure where the Templars are, but she thinks she can hear them, and she can't risk stopping.)

She had, really, stopped processing her surroundings properly a while ago, just runningrunningrunning.

She's definitely startled to stumble into a circle of firelight, and just...stops. (She's exhausted and shaking, and doesn't look at any of the camp's inhabitants because she knowsknowsknows she's in trouble, that she's caught.)

Permalink Eye

The girl stumbles into camp, and any semblance of peace is broken. Weapons are drawn, magic called to hands and Azry charges to the front of it all, Alistair and the dog at her heels. 

But it's just a girl- an elven girl...and pregnant, by the looks of her. Wild eyed, worn and terrified beyond words. Azry knows this girl. Not her personally, but she has seen her like tumble into the alienage, grief-stricken and desperate. She will not have this girl join a legion of the dead.

"Stand down! Everyone, stand down. It's okay." Azry holds her hand out to the newcomer, keeping her eyes and voice soft. "You're safe. You're okay."

Permalink Eye

She flinches and hunches further in on herself. "I-i-" she has no idea what to do, what to say. "S-Sorry," she settles on eventually. "M'sorry."

Permalink Eye

“Hey, hey. You’re okay. No one here is gonna hurt you.” Azry crouches in front of the girl, but keeps her distance, not wanting to startle her. Her hands stay up, where the girl can see them. 

“What’s your name?”

Permalink Eye

It doesn't, really, seem to calm her down any. She rocks slightly, wrapping her arms tight around herself. But-

There was a question. She was asked a question. She needs to answer that. It takes her a little while to remember what the answer is. (She isn't called by 'her' name very often.) "B-blaze, ma'am," she whispers.

Permalink Eye

“Nice to meet you, Blaze. I’m Azry. Are you hurt? We have a healer, she can make sure you and the baby are okay?”

Permalink Eye

"I-" she shakes her head, more helpless than negative. "I- I'm- fine, ma'am. Would just waste-" Except, except she doesn't know her baby is fine, and whatever price they want would be worth it to know that. She rocks again, not sure how to go back and change her mind, and not sure- "I- my baby? I-"

Permalink Eye

“She’ll just make sure nothings wrong. You can trust her. She will only heal you. We swear.”

she calls over her shoulder. “Wynne! We need you!”

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

“Hey, Hey! It’s okay. It’s okay. You’re safe now. You’re safe.”

 

Permalink Eye

“It’s all right, little one. Let’s check up on you,” Wynne says, hands glowing blue as she slowly reaches out to the young girl.

Permalink Eye

She's shaking, and flinches away slightly, but stays mostly still.

Permalink Eye

Wynne very gently lays her hands on the girl’s shoulders, letting healing magic pulse through her. She tuts quietly, her heart growing heavy as more and more injuries are revealed. 

“Plenty of bruises and a few bones that haven’t healed right. Some open wounds, they can be fixed now.” Wynne does so. “Malnutrition. But, your baby is fine. Once we get some food in you, and you get some sleep, you should feel much better.”

She tells Alistair to fetch some of the stew. 

Permalink Eye

"I- thank you, ma'am- I. You-" She wraps her arms back around her stomach. "I- I'm fine, don't need-" (the food) "I-" she rocks herself again. She doesn't want to think about the inevitable price.

Permalink Eye

“You definitely do, my dear. As does your little one. We don’t want either of you to starve.”

Wynne wraps an arm around the girl’s shoulders. “Now. Let’s get you closer to the fire. You need to warm up.”

Permalink Eye

She doesn't quite flinch when Wynne puts her arm around her shoulders, but goes briefly, completely still. But she will let herself be guided, pliant in a way that is more than just exhaustion. (There was going to be a cost, there always was, but... but it would be worth it. For her baby to be safe, and healthy. That was all that mattered.)

Permalink Eye

Wynne guides the girl to the fire, and sits her down by it. She directs others in the camp to fetch blankets, Zevran gets sent to the river for some water and Alistair hands her a bowl of stew, which Wynne accepts.

"Now, I want this whole thing eaten while I keep healing you. Bowl empty, all right?" 

Wynne begins to work on the bruises, hairline fractures and scrapes she missed before.

Permalink Eye

She's hesitant to take the bowl, but does, and curls around it, almost like she expects it to be taken away.

"I-" she looks at the bowl, at how much is in it, nods unsurely. "Yes, ma'am."

(It's an order, even if it's more than she's ever been given at one time before, more than she thinks she's capable of eating, but she doesn't know when she'll get another chance.)

Pauses. "You- I. I'm fine without-" (being healed). "You shouldn't waste-" (any resources on me).

Permalink Eye

“Nonsense, dear. We want you and that baby at your healthiest.”

She notices the way the girl is wolfing down her food. “Woah, woah! Slow down. No need to rush, we’re in no hurry. Take your time.”

Permalink Eye

(It's for her baby, it's for her baby, it's for her baby. The cost is worth it.)

She flinches, and freezes, "I- sorrysorrysorry."

And...waits, until she's certain no-one is about to take the bowl from her, to resume eating, a little slower than she had been before.

Permalink Eye

“There’s no need to be sorry, dear. You’ve done nothing wrong.”

Permalink Eye

Azry watches the girl, sees how she flinches and apologises, and bile builds in her throat. 

“Definitely signs of abuse. And humans say elves aren’t oppressed anymore,” she mutters bitterly. Alistair wraps an arm around her and squeezes, trying to comfort her. 

Permalink Eye

She blinks at down at the stew, not sure what to do with Wynne's words, and eventually just nods, continuing to eat slowly.

Permalink Eye

There's a sound of clanking armour, shouts and heavy booted feet. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze is still for a moment, closed in on herself, because nonono.

Then she scrambles to her feet, upsetting the bowl she was cradling, not even thinking about the mess and lurching away from the sounds because she needs to run.

Permalink Eye

Azry hears the soldiers approaching, and her mind reels. Can’t sense them, so not darkspawn. Loghain’s men? She thought her camp was well hidden-

And then Blaze stumbled away, face terrified, and Azry no longer cared who they were. They were going to die. 

“Everyone! Arm up, protect Blaze!”

Permalink Eye

The Templars clanked into the clearing, immediately fanning out and drawing swords. 

One stepped forward, in the armour of a Captain. “Surrender the girl,” he ordered. 

Permalink Eye

“No,” Azry spat, drawing her own swords. 

Permalink Eye

Wynne drew Blaze close to her, forming a shield around them both. Her instincts as a loyal Mage told her to hand Blaze over, but the way the girl arrived in the camp, the clear signs of abuse, the pregnancy-

No. These Templars would not have their victim back. 

Permalink Eye

She half tries to evade Wynne's grasp, but exhaustion works against her. But...

...they're...not just handing her over?

She's shaking against Wynne's side. "Please," she whispers, letting herself hope they'll protect her baby. "they'll hurt my baby." (She doesn't care if they hurt her, she deserves it, she knows she does, but her baby doesn't, and never would, and that was why she ran.)

Permalink Eye

“Don’t worry. We won’t let them touch you.”

Permalink Eye

“That girl is an apostate! We are carrying out Chantry Justice!”

Permalink Eye

“And I’m telling you. I’m not giving you back your victim. You have abused this girl and we will not stand for it!”

Permalink Eye

“Last chance. Hand over the girl.”

Permalink Eye

“Go to hell.”

Permalink Eye

She clenches her hands into fists. Ignores every part of her that's telling her she needs to just...go back, that she's not worth protecting, that she's wrongevilbad and deserves everything she gets. (She can't, a much larger part of her is reminding her that her baby needs her to not.)

Flames flicker around her hands, and she doesn't even seem to notice it.

Permalink Eye

“Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him.”

The Templars charge forward. 

Permalink Eye

Azry does the same, rolling past one, the springing up to take on another. 

Permalink Eye

The rest of the group springs into battle, defending Blaze, even though some harbour guilty feelings about killing members of the Chantry. 

Permalink Eye

This...doesn't make sense. That complete strangers would defend her. (No-one has ever defended her before.)

She's shaking harder, and the fire this group had set leaps. She won't let them get hurt because of her. (Even if the idea of attacking the Templars is terrifying, and she knows it'll just make things worse for her when they inevitably recover her.) Flames arc from the fire to one of the Templars.

Permalink Eye

The Templar screams as the fire envelops him. 

Permalink Eye

She flinches at the screams but doesn't relent. (She's not worth this, but she won't let these strangers get hurt because they thought she was.)

Permalink Eye

The Templar tumbles to the ground, screams cutting off as the fire consumes him. 

Permalink Eye

"That's enough, Blaze! He's dead!" Wynne catches hold of Blaze's hands.

Permalink Eye

It was always harder to stop. But she triestriestries. She can't extinguish the flames, but she certainly isn't controlling them any more. "Sorrysorrysorry," she says, rocking back and forwards, not quite trying to pull her hands away.

Permalink Eye

“It’s okay, it’s okay. You did well,” Wynne tries to soothe. The poor little thing hasn’t even been trained properly. What sort of circle did she come from?

Permalink Eye

The Templars put up a fight, but they’re no match for Azry and her team. She slices the throat of the last one, and they fall with a gurgle. 

“Right. We need to dispose of them,” Azry says after a beat. Alistair’s mouth drops open, like he wants to argue, but he closes it quickly, looking at Blaze. “Morrigan. Can you?”

Morrigan grins wickedly, summoning purple fire that quickly burns through the Templars. 

Azry returns to Blaze. “Are you okay?”

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head down, wants to wrap her arms around herself, but Wynne is still holding her hands. She twitches slightly at the purple flames, eyes drawn to it.

Her eyes dart back to Azry (her knees at least). "I- yes? M'sorry, I- you should've- I-"

Permalink Eye

Wynne lets her hands go, holding her shoulders instead, wanting to wrap the poor girl up. 

Permalink Eye

“Nothing to be sorry for, Blaze. They were bad men that needed to die. Now we can focus on getting you healthy and making sure your baby is born safely. If that’s what you want.”

Permalink Eye

Wynne calls Alistair over. “Once the fire is gone, check them for Blaze’s phylactery. That way we can be sure she can’t be tracked down.”

Alistair raises an eyebrow. “You want to flout Circle laws?”

Wynne gestures at Blaze. “In order to protect mages like her, I think such laws need to be broken.”

Alistair is quiet a moment. “I agree,” he says finally, and walks back over to the burning Templars. 

Permalink Eye

She immediately wraps her arms around her stomach, protective, scared, because she's not used to people asking what she wants, and she's never wanted anything so much as she's wanted the child she carries. She curls down as much as she can with Wynne's hands on her shoulders, and closes her eyes.

"I d-don't want to- be...a burden," she mumbles, doesn't open her eyes, just...waits.

Permalink Eye

Wynne walks around her, crouching in front of her. She tucks a piece of Blaze’s hair behind her ear. “You will never be a burden. Your life, your health, is not burdensome. Never again will you feel like that.”

Permalink Eye

“Hear hear. We will protect you, and the child. And thank you, for helping us fight,” Azry says. 

Permalink Eye

She's still for a moment, and then just...starts crying, rocking slightly. Because she doesn't know how to deal with this, no-one has ever done anything like this for her before (even with a price), and she's exhausted and doesn't know what to expect. It is not, entirely, distress that's causing the tears - there's relief there as well, even if she's still sure this can't be real, and they're going to want something eventually, because everyone does.

Permalink Eye

Wynne is quick to gather the girl into her arms, rocking her back and forth. "Shhh, now. It's okay. It's okay. It's all over. You're safe now."

Permalink Eye

Alistair does find a small vial, filled with blood that pulses when pointed at Blaze. He shatters it in his fist.

Permalink Eye

She flinches at the contact, still expecting pain rather than comfort, but let's herself be held and rocked. It takes a little while, but eventually her sobs subside, and she's just leaning against Wynne, worn out and pliant.

Permalink Eye

“There you go. It’s okay. Cry as long as you need.”

Wynne looks up at Azry. “She needs rest, water, and something filling to eat once she wakes up. I’ll keep healing her in the meantime.”

Permalink Eye

Azry nods. “Leliana and Anwen will go hunting in the morning. Zevran brought fresh water, so she will have that. And not a single one of us will let anyone close to her that means harm.”

She bends down, face to face with Blaze. “No more running. No more hiding. You are safe with us.”

Permalink Eye

Leliana retrieves a spare blanket, as does Alistair. Zevran hands over an old pair of boots, only slightly worn in. Morrigan offers a shawl. Anwen hands over, somewhat grouchily, an offering of the roasted vegetables. Sten offers nothing material, but he stands closer to the camp than he had before. Eddie the Mabari snuffles closer to the girl, sniffing her hopefully.

Permalink Eye

She keeps her eyes lowered (eye contact was a no). "I- as you say, ma'am," she murmurs. (She's not sure she knows what 'safe' is.)

Everyone bringing stuff confuses her, she has no idea what she's supposed to do. She watches the Mabari, a little cautious, but he doesn't seem to be a threat. She's not even entirely conscious of holding her hand out a little towards him (her eyes still dart around, watching for any indication of displeasure from the people around her).

Permalink Eye

Eddie sniffs the girl hopefully, tail wagging.

Permalink Eye

"That's Eddie. He won't bite."

Permalink Eye

She stretches her hand out a little further so she can stroke his ears.

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks playfully, and nestles close, placing his huge head in her lap.

Permalink Eye

She flinches a tiny bit at his bark, but settles some when all he does afterwards is put his head in her lap. She risks stroking his head some more, scratching gently at his ears. (She darts a nervous look to Azry, not entirely sure if this is okay.)

Permalink Eye

“Awww.” Azry titles her head, beaming in approval.

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks happily, cuddling closer to Blaze. 

Permalink Eye

She relaxes a tiny bit at Azry's approval, and-

She's exhausted. She wants to just- stop, for a little while.

She leans down to bury her face in Eddie's fur. Maybe she can just stay like this for a while.

Permalink Eye

Eddie makes a soft little whine, lying down to make himself a more comfortable pillow. 

Permalink Eye

“She’s exhausted. She should rest.” Wynne tucks a blanket around the young Mage. 

Permalink Eye

She flinches a little when Wynne tucks the blanket around her, but settles when that's all that happens.

Eddie's warm, and comfortable, and she'll likely drift off.

Permalink Eye

Eddie curls around the girl, doing his best to not disturb her. 

Permalink Eye

“Take care of her, boy.” Azry scratches his ears. 

Permalink Eye

“I’ll keep watch over her while she sleeps,” Wynne says, sitting next to the girl, eyes sharp and protective. 

Permalink Eye

“Okay. Let us know if you or Blaze need anything.” Azry heads back to the fire. 

Permalink Eye

And Blaze sleeps, exhausted, but restless, stirring at small noises, but at no point seeming to properly wake up.

Permalink Eye

Come the morning, while Alistair and Leliana are tending the fire, Azry watches over the sleeping form of Blaze.

Permalink Eye

Eddie gives a soft huff, not wanting to disturb the sleeping girl.

Permalink Eye

"Good boy," she croons to her dog.

Permalink Eye

She wakes abruptly, shooting up to sitting, breathing sharp and panicked. "I- sor-sorry, I-"

Permalink Eye

Eddie is quick to curl back around her, licking her hands.

Permalink Eye

"Hey, it's okay! It's okay. Good morning. I thought I should come wake you so you can have some breakfast. We've gotta keep moving soon."

She gives the girl a concerned look. "Are you okay to walk? Maybe Sten can carry you."

Permalink Eye

She stays curled in on herself, but after a moment, buries her hands in Eddie's fur.

"I- uh- g'morning, I'm- fine, don't need- breakfast, or- or carrying. Can walk on my own, ma'am."

Permalink Eye

Eddie huffs, pleased, and tucks his head into her chest.

Permalink Eye

"You absolutely need breakfast! Gotta fuel you for the walk, plus, we want that bub coming out healthy, don't we?" Azry says. She wants to reach down and hug the girl, but the way she's so closed in on herself- well. She reminds Azry of all the young broken things from the Alienage.

Permalink Eye

"I-" she does, want her child healthy, but- "As you say, ma'am," she agrees quietly.

Permalink Eye

“All right. Come on over to the fire when you’re ready. You can meet Alistair and Leliana!”

Permalink Eye

Wynne walks over. “Good, you’re awake. Let’s check you over, hm?” 

Her hands are already reaching to Blaze, glowing blue. 

Permalink Eye

She flinches away from Wynne's hands, mostly on reflex - people reaching for her has never been good before, always ended in pain, and- That

Permalink Eye

Wynne's gaze hardens, but not at Blaze. She's angry at herself. Abuses like this happened in the Circle, but Wynne let herself believe that it wasn't common. It was harder to believe her own lies when evidence in the form of a tired, broken little thing cowers in front of her.

"Just a check up, dear one. I won't even touch you. The magic will just make sure there's no lasting damage. Then we'll get some food for you, hm?"

Permalink Eye

"I- yes, ma'am," she agrees pliantly. (There's no point in fighting, they get what they want eventually, either way.)

Permalink Eye

Wynne, true to her word, does not lay hands on her. She sends pulses of magic through Blaze to make sure she's healed. Wynne's magic did it's work last night, the girl is in good physical health. And so is the baby.

"Well, well! Look at that. The little one is moving around a bit today," Wynne says, smiling. "If you put your hand on your belly you might feel them."

Permalink Eye

It takes Blaze a moment to draw her hand away from Eddie's fur. But she does, and rest her hand on her stomach-

Permalink Eye

There's an immediate look of wonder on her face, and it's pretty clear her attention is going to be elsewhere for a while. (There is, in fact, a small smile on her face.)

Permalink Eye

Wynne's smile is quick to her lips at that. The girl looks a little at peace and there is a lot to be said for a sight like that doing well for your own soul. She frantically and silently gestures at Alistair, who after several moments of frowning and cocking his head, finally gets it and quickly gets a bowl of stew and a hunk of bread, walking over to Wynne and Blaze. 

"Just leave it by her feet, we'll let her eat in her own time," Wynne whispers, not wanting to disturb Blaze.
"Will I get a chance to say hi? And everyone else?" Alistair whispers back, sounding very hopeful indeed.
"Later. Now, hurry along, you've got packing to do." Wynne waves him away, and he goes reluctantly.

Permalink Eye

It takes her a little while to notice that there's food been left for her, far too distracted by her baby.

She's a little hesitant to take it, but does - she needs to stay healthy for her baby - and eats quickly. (She considers the bread before eating it, but she has nowhere to hide it.)

Permalink Eye

Wynne nods approvingly. "That's a good girl."

Permalink Eye

She flinches a little at being addressed, but keeps finishes eating. (She can't finish it, too unused to eating that amount of food.)

"I- sorry, for the- waste."

Permalink Eye

"That's all right, dear. We'll build up that appetite slowly. We don't want to make you sick."

Wynne takes the bowl from Blaze. "I'll give this to Alistair to be washed. Are you warm enough? It's going to be cold today."

Permalink Eye

"I- I can wash it, ma'am?" she says immediately. "I'll be fine."

Permalink Eye

"Leliana's on dish washing today. We want you resting up right now, you've been through an ordeal."

Wynne frowned, seeing the girl tremble slightly. "You don't need to say you're fine if you're not, Blaze. If you need something, you must tell us. We want to help." Wynne puts the bowl down for a moment, to wrap a blanket around Blaze snugly.

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head, rocks slightly, flinches a little away from Wynne, doesn't exactly relax when the blanket is wrapped around her, but does twitch it minutely tighter. "I-" she closes her eyes briefly "Don't want to be-" (a burden, is fairly obviously how that sentence should've ended).

Permalink Eye

"You won't be a burden, or a problem, Blaze. We're a team here. We take care of each other. And that includes you."

Wynne hands the bowl to Alistair, who waves at Blaze, before heading away. Wynne holds out a hand to Blaze. "Now. Up we get. Leliana and Alistair are nearly done, which means we're nearly ready to head out."

Permalink Eye

Eddie stands, wiggling his tail furiously. He barks playfully.

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head instead of waving back, doesn't say anything about how much what Wynne's saying doesn't make sense. (It wasn't that the Circle hadn't taken care of her, it had, she just didn't want that life for her child, they didn't deserve that.)

She bites at her lip, and cautiously accepts Wynne's hand to help her get to her feet. She sways a little once upright, but finds her balance quickly. She doesn't flinch quite as badly when Eddie barks this time, manages a small smile even, and reaches down to scratch his ears.

Permalink Eye

Eddie pants happily, doggy face stretched into a grin. 

Permalink Eye

"Look at that, you've made a friend! Keep her safe, Eddie."

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks once, nodding.

Permalink Eye

"Ready to get going, Blaze? Eddie, Wynne, Sten and me will stick by you. We'll go at your pace."

Permalink Eye

She smiles a little down at Eddie.

"I- yes ma'am," she nods to Azry. "I- I'll be fine."

Permalink Eye

“Let us know if you get tired and we’ll stop. It’s a long way to Orzammar.”

She signals to the rest of the group, who head off in front. Azry smiles at Blaze, and nods. “Let’s head off.”

Permalink Eye

She nods obediently. "Yes ma'am."

She seems more inclined to follow behind them than actually walk with them - subservient in a way.

Permalink Eye

Wynne falls back to walk next to her. "Tell me, Blaze, what Circle did you come from?"

Permalink Eye

She flinches at the question. (She won't go back, she won't.) But... not answering wasn't an option. (And they'd killed the Templars hunting her...)

She whispers out the name of her Circle and flinches again, waiting.

Permalink Eye

"Ostwick!?" Wynne was shocked. To have come so far, starving, beaten and pregnant? "You are so strong to have made it so far, little one. You have been brave. Though I must ask, how did you evade capture for so long?"

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head and shrugs. "I- I managed to leave when they wouldn't notice I was gone for a while. And then- I don't know. I just- kept moving."

Permalink Eye

Wynne is quiet for a moment, studying the girl. So small. So slight.
So determined. 

"You are so strong. So brave. You've done so well to get away from them. They're the bad sort, the ones chasing you. Most Templars are good people."

Permalink Eye

She immediately starts to shake her head, because- "They would've hurt-" (her baby).

But-

But maybe they were? They'd only ever been trying to teach her discipline. And she'd owed them for everything they'd done to teach her that.

"...As you say," she agrees placidly. (It wasn't their fault she didn't learn quickly enough.)

Permalink Eye

"You seem in two minds about them, little one. You're right. They would've hurt you, did hurt you. And your baby. But they're dead now. They won't ever hurt you again."

At least, Wynne wouldn't let them hurt her again. Even if she had to betray her own principles.

Permalink Eye

She wraps her arms tighter around herself, hunches her shoulders a little more. "I- Yes. As you say." (That doesn't mean that other people won't try to hurt her baby, but Blaze won't let them.)

Permalink Eye

Wynne sees the protective way that Blaze hunches over herself, and a wave of fury comes over her. She may be safe from the ones that hunted her from Ostwick, but that did not mean she was done running. 

When this was over, Wynne was taking her to a Circle she knew was safe.

Permalink Eye

Eddie gives a curious whine, nudging Blaze's belly softly.

Permalink Eye

She rests her hand on her stomach, not quite pushing Eddie away, but protective. Her other hand rests lightly on Eddie's head, scritching his ears.

Permalink Eye

Eddie nuzzles the slight bump of Blaze's stomach, whining curiously again.

Permalink Eye

"I think he's wondering why the little one won't play with him," Azry laughed.

Permalink Eye

She gives a small smile down at the mabari. "She's not born yet," she explains quietly. "She'll play with you when she is I'm sure."

Permalink Eye

Eddie gives a disappointed quiet howl.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, stop that. You've got plenty of other people to play with."

Permalink Eye

Eddie made a noise that sounded so disappointed.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, would you listen to that? Suddenly we're not good enough for him, Blaze!"

Permalink Eye

For a second Blaze seems very confused and then-

She makes a quiet noise that might just be a giggle.

Permalink Eye

Azry relishes that sound. Finally, a bit of joy out of her.

Permalink Eye

Wynne laughs along too. 

Permalink Eye

Eddie harrumphs, before trotting off to the front of the group, knowing they were making fun of him.

Permalink Eye

"I fear we've insulted my dog."

Permalink Eye

Blaze looks genuinely concerned at that, and half starts to apologise.

Permalink Eye

"No, no, it's ok. He's just having a sook. He'll be right back, I think he likes you more than anyone else."

Permalink Eye

She doesn't look entirely like she believes that, but it does get a shy smile. "I- he's- nice."

Permalink Eye

"Mabari are good, loyal dogs. Bet there's not many animals like him where you're from."

Permalink Eye

She shakes her head. "Not many animals at all. Not that I- saw."

Permalink Eye

"What sort of animals did you see?"

Permalink Eye

"You forget, Azry, that Circle mages rarely see animals that aren't cats, mice, or chopped up for potions."

Permalink Eye

She nods to Wynne's comment. "Mostly mice," she murmurs.

Permalink Eye

"Your Circle needed a cat. The Alienage had one, Mister Whiskers. He was the finest mouse-catcher until he got too fat to chase them," Azry laughed.

Permalink Eye

"Kinloch Hold had one. Wiggums, I think his name was. One of my apprentices took quite the shine to him."

Wynne sighs. "I hope Anders is all right. We never saw him in the Circle."

Permalink Eye

"I think that's a good thing," Azry said gently. They had not found the Circle in a good state at all.

 

Permalink Eye

Blaze stays quiet - there doesn't seem to be any need for her input. She's still paying close attention to what they're saying though.

Permalink Eye

"I can't help but agree with you. We did not leave the Circle in a good state."

Wynne looks to the quiet Blaze. "How was your Circle when you left?"

Permalink Eye

She shrugs a little. "It- seemed much like it usually did? I- I'm sorry?"

Permalink Eye

"Bad situations always do."

Permalink Eye

"The Circle works when it's fair, Azry."

Permalink Eye

"Slavery never works, Wynne."

Permalink Eye

"I- no- they- they were- trying to help us...control it. So that we didn't- hurt people? Or- or fall to demons?"

Permalink Eye

"And how does keeping you separate from everyone else help you with that? Mages outside the Circle deal with the same things, and most of the time, better."

Permalink Eye

"Azry," Wynne says warningly.

Permalink Eye

"I- I- didn't know any- they were- the only ones who- wanted me."

Permalink Eye

"That can't be true. Surely you had a family."

Permalink Eye

"Azry!" Wynne chided, wrapping an arm around Blaze. "The Circle is a mage's family. They protect, teach, it is a good place!"

Permalink Eye

"That's why there was an uprising in your absence, I'm sure."

Permalink Eye

Blaze makes a low sound. "I- I don't know what you mean- They-" And maybe it had been good for her, but- but- "I- no-one- they only- only spoke to me if they- needed something?"

Permalink Eye

“Only if they needed something?” Azry says, disgust creeping into her tone. “Like a servant? Or a-“

Slave. 

Permalink Eye

"I- yes? I guess? Ma'am..."

Permalink Eye

“Oh, Blaze. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. You’ve come from an awful place. I don’t mean to take you back through the memories.”

Permalink Eye

“Dear thing. You are safe now.” Wynne wrapped an arm around Blaze carefully. 

To Azry, with narrowed eyes, Wynne said, “Are you quite done attacking an institution you don’t know anything about?”

Permalink Eye

“For now.” Azry frowned. 

Permalink Eye

...but she was safe at the Circle wasn't she? And- and Wynne seemed to think she should be and-

Blaze just nods. "I- as you say, ma'am," she murmurs.

Permalink Eye

"You can put the terrible place you come from behind you now. You have us. We will protect you."

Permalink Eye

The sun began to dim hours later, and the group veered off the beaten path to find a secluded area to camp. They had lost the river a while back, so they had to make do with the water they had left.

Alistair and Wynne began the evening meal once the fire was built, while everyone else set up tents. 

Azry called over to Blaze. "Can you give me a hand? I need someone to hold the pole steady."

Permalink Eye

Blaze has been looking around, wringing her hands, with no clue what to do, she's glad to have some instruction. "Yes, ma'am," she agrees, hurrying over to help.

Permalink Eye

"Just hold it here, keep it upright," Azry directs. She starts pegging down the sheet.

"Can...can I ask you something very personal, Blaze? You don't have to answer if you don't want."

Permalink Eye

"If you wish, ma'am," she says quietly.

Permalink Eye

"Do you know who the father of your child is?"

Permalink Eye

She freezes, and then a faint trembling starts in her shoulders. (She- she could make a guess. But-)

"I- sorry, ma'am," she says, flinching slightly.

Permalink Eye

"Hey, it's okay, don't be sorry," Azry said, low and trying to be comforting. Her hands itched to reach out to her but she had seen the way Blaze had flinched from touch before. "I guess that means you don't know?"

Disgust boiled in Azry's gut at the thought.

Permalink Eye

She shakes her head slowly. "I- no. They- I-" She shakes her head again.

Permalink Eye

"Was...was some of the possible among those we killed?"

Permalink Eye

She tries to remember who was there. She wasn't really looking at faces. But-

"I- yes? I- I think so?"

Permalink Eye

"Good. Then we got rid of a few terrible people."

Azry gives Blaze as much of a comforting smile that she can. "If there's anyone left, we'll get rid of them too."

Permalink Eye

She stares slightly blankly at Azry's shoulder. "I- as you say, ma'am."

Permalink Eye

"Unless...you like one of them?"

Permalink Eye

"...They weren't bad people." Which is not an answer, not really.

Permalink Eye

"What do you mean by that?"

Permalink Eye

She doesn't know how to explain, not really. "I- they- I owed them? It- they weren't- they didn't have to take me in?"

Permalink Eye

"You feel like you had nowhere else to go? Not even to hide with family? Friends?"

Permalink Eye

There's that blank, confused look, and Blaze slowly shakes her head. "I- it was- always the Circle?"

Permalink Eye

"...always? You...don't know who your parents are?"

Permalink Eye

"I- no, ma'am. Sorry, ma'am."

Permalink Eye

"No, Blaze, don't be sorry. I...I guess I just can't imagine a world where I didn't know mine. You were born in the Circle, then?"

Permalink Eye

She shrugs. "I- I think so? They- didn't really tell me."

Permalink Eye

"Did you have any friends in the Circle? Anyone you were close with?"

Permalink Eye

She shakes her head slowly. "I- no. I just-" She shrugs, shakes her head again.

Permalink Eye

"I kinda want to hug you. Is that okay? You can say no."

Azry pegs down the last bit of the tent and stands back. The structure remains standing.

Permalink Eye

...She blinks tiredly. "I- if you wish?"

It's not entirely clear whether she actually believes she can say no, if she's just doing what Azry wants, but...

But she does remember gaining some comfort from Wynne hugging her earlier.

Permalink Eye

Azry carefully wraps her arms around Blaze, being sure to not hold her too tightly so she has a way out if she needs.

"I hope that you come to see us as friends someday. We're gonna take care of you and the baby no matter what. We promise."

Permalink Eye

It takes a moment, but Blaze relaxes slightly into Azry's arm, and gives a quiet sob. It's not necessarily a sad sound, just a tired one.

Permalink Eye

Azry holds her a little closer, rubbing a hand up and down her spine, making soft shushing noises. 

“Hey, you’re safe now. You’re safe. You’re with us and no one is going to touch you again.”

Permalink Eye

Blaze lets her, not-quite-leaning against her shoulder. "As you say." It's pretty clear she doesn't believe Azry, hasn't ever been given any reason to have that faith in people, but equally she isn't going to argue that point.

Permalink Eye

Azry pulls away slightly when she can feel Blaze’s sobs slow. “Are you hungry? Tired? Let’s get you and the baby comfortable.”

Permalink Eye

"I- tired, ma'am, but- I'm fine?"

(They could probably guess that she's hungry as well, but asking to be fed is an imposition, sleep... sleep is probably less of one.)

Permalink Eye

"I'll check how far off food is. Why don't you sit down? Rest your feet." Azry goes over to the fire, still being built up by Alistair to ask him.

Permalink Eye

The qunari that had walked with her today walks over to her. His face is stern, but there is no anger.

"You don't know how to fight," he says when he reaches Blaze. It isn't a question.

Permalink Eye

She glances briefly up at him, and then slowly shakes her head. "I- uh, no sir, I- they didn't- I didn't need to. Sir."

Permalink Eye

"Unacceptable. You cannot rely on rage alone. You must learn to focus it."

Sten offers her a wooden sword. "You will learn first with this."

Permalink Eye

That gets him a confused look aimed at the hand with the sword. "I- I don't- understand, sir?"

Permalink Eye

“I cannot teach you magic. That will be left to the bas saarebas in the camp. I can teach you control.”

Sten offers the sword again, not forcibly, but with a surety of someone used to giving orders. 

Permalink Eye

She's quiet for a moment, thinking about what she's read of the Qunari, of their thoughts on magic. Supposes she should be grateful he isn't asking them to stitch her lips shut.

...and that...that feels like an order. She's still hesitant as she reaches out to take the sword.

"I- thank you, sir?" She wonders if she should offer more.

Permalink Eye

Sten nods in approval. “You hold it like this.” He arranges her hands. He’s not gentle, but not aggressive. 

“Stance is important. Not being balanced means your enemy will tip you over.” He draws a sword, a smaller one than he uses, and demonstrates the right stance. “You want to feel steady. Sure.”

Permalink Eye

She still flinches slightly from the touch, but lets him move her hands. She mimics his stance, not exactly, but very close, adjusts for her much slighter frame, still isn't sure she feels steady.

Permalink Eye

"Move your foot further back. Trust your body."

Permalink Eye

She follows his instructions, adjusts till she feels balanced.

Permalink Eye

"Your sword is an extension of your arm. Of your soul. She is as much part of you as your heart. You will learn to trust the sword as you do your magic."

Sten demonstrates a quick movement forward. "Copy."

Permalink Eye

She listens attentively, nods a little.

Her attempt to copy the motion isn't quite as quick as his, and she doesn't quite manage to accurately replicate it. She frowns and immediately tries again with a little more success.

Permalink Eye

"Good. Again."

Sten makes the movement again, this time slower, showing Blaze the way the arm was meant to unfold.

Permalink Eye

Wynne watches, making sure Sten isn't aggressive with the girl.

Permalink Eye

Azry watches too, except with a smile. Watching the concentration on Blaze's face is enchanting, and she hopes that she's finding it useful.

Permalink Eye

She replicates the movement again, with more success now that she's seen it slowed down. She moves through it slowly, checking her own movements, and then repeats it at a quicker speed.

Permalink Eye

"Again." Sten's face is impassive, though he does look like he approves.

Permalink Eye

The others in the group gather around too. Alistair, especially, seems invested. 

Permalink Eye

She repeats the motion, intent on getting it right.

She's a little unnerved by the audience, but does her best not to show it.

Permalink Eye

"Good."

Sten corrects her hands, moves the sword with them in a sweeping motion. "Follow through with the motion. Let your body follow through."

Permalink Eye

She follows the instructions obediently, and perhaps a little too enthusiastically, throwing herself slightly off balance.

Permalink Eye

Sten grabs her elbow, not gently, but not too forcefully either. Just enough to steady her, and he lets go immediately after. "Nearly. Steady yourself first. Then swing."

Permalink Eye

She flinches slightly away from him, but nods sharply, and tries again, this time with a little more success.

Permalink Eye

Sten frowns at her. “You’re afraid.”

Permalink Eye

She pauses, biting her lip. "I- Yes sir," there's no use in denying it. "I'm sorry."

Permalink Eye

“Do not be sorry. What is the cause?”

Permalink Eye

“Sten...” Wynne says warningly. 

Permalink Eye

Sten ignores the bas saarebas. “If you afraid of your weapon, you will not use it well. If you are afraid of your enemy, they will get the upper hand. If you are afraid of me, you have nothing to fear.”

Permalink Eye

"I-" she pauses, trying to figure out how to explain this. "You will- want repaid. And- I fear that."

Permalink Eye

Sten frowns at the girl. “Do not presume to know anything about me.”

He taps her foot with his sword. “Stance.”

Permalink Eye

"I- no sir," she murmurs, and resumes the stance.

Permalink Eye

Sten has her run through the two movements again and again and again until Alistair declares that the food is ready. The group around them disperses.

Sten holds out his hand for the wooden sword. “Adequate. We will keep working on it.”

Permalink Eye

She returns it immediately. And even if the compliment is barely that, her skin darkens slightly. "I- thank you sir."

Permalink Eye

Sten nods once, then leaves for his tent. 

Permalink Eye

Eddie nudges Blaze’s side once Sten’s gone. He whines, looking over to the fire.

Permalink Eye

She reaches down to scratch Eddie's ear, and then, a little cautiously, moves a little closer to the fire.

Permalink Eye

Eddie follows her, huffing at people to get out of her way. 

Permalink Eye

Azry hands Blaze a bowl when she gets close. “You looked good! Bit more practice and we might make a swordsman out of you.”

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head as she takes the bowl. "I, uh, thank you, ma'am. I- Thank you."

Permalink Eye

Eddie curls up next to Blaze, chewing happily on a bone Alistair gives him. 

Permalink Eye

“Would you mind if I checked the babe while you eat?” Wynne asks, kneeling next to Blaze. Her hands are already glowing blue. 

Permalink Eye

She might still not be entirely comfortable with this, but she nods.

Permalink Eye

“All right.” Wynne lays her hands very gently on Blaze’s stomach. She frowns. 

“Dehydration. Alistair! Fetch some water!”

Permalink Eye

“On it!” 

Permalink Eye

“Other than that, the baby seems fine. Now, onto the mother. How are you feeling?”

Permalink Eye

"I- fine, ma'am. I- it- I haven't hurt my baby have I?"

Permalink Eye

“No, I just think you could do with some more water. I doubt you got enough while running from the Templars.”

Wynne tucked some of Blaze’s hair behind her ear. “We must do something about this hair.”

Permalink Eye

She lifts one hand self-consciously to touch her hair. "Oh- I- as you say?"

Permalink Eye

"Yes, we don't want it blocking your eyes, dear girl."

Permalink Eye

A sweet, lilting voice sounds from behind Blaze. "I may be able to help with that."

Permalink Eye

She jumps a little at the voice behind her and starts to turn to look.

Permalink Eye

The red-haired human waves, smiling sweetly. She smells vaguely of flowers. "I'm Leliana. I would've introduced myself before, but I didn't want to startle you."

Permalink Eye

"I, um, Blaze, ma'am," she realises that Leilana probably already knows that, and winces a little.

Permalink Eye

"Nice to officially meet you, Blaze. Would you mind if I braided your hair? I promise to keep it simple." The longing look on Leliana's face shows that she very much would like to do something elaborate.

Permalink Eye

"I- if you wish, ma'am?"

Permalink Eye

Leliana retrieves a few things from her pack. Firstly, she rubs a lotion through Blaze's tangled hair. It smells lovely, and will help her comb through tangles faster and gentler. She then does just that, making sure not to tug on the poor girl's hair. Once the strands are all separated, her fingers work quickly to braid her hair into one long plait, tight enough to stay together mid battle, but loose enough that it doesn't pull at Blaze's scalp. 

"There we are. Though, if we were in Orlais, I would thread a blue ribbon through it. A girly touch," Leliana says, tying the end of the plait.

Permalink Eye

"Much better," Wynne says approvingly.

Permalink Eye

"I thank you, ma'am," she says quietly, smiling a tiny bit.

Permalink Eye

"You're very welcome. I love doing hair. I have to keep mine short, so getting to play with long hair is such a treat."

Permalink Eye

"You've never done my hair."

Permalink Eye

"You've never let me!"

Permalink Eye

Blaze quietly finishes her meal, and then starts to clear her dishes, looking for somewhere to clean them.

Permalink Eye

"Don't you worry about that, one of the boys will take care of it. You just get some rest."

Permalink Eye

"Would you like to use my tent? I'm used to sleeping rough."

Permalink Eye

"I- uh- no, ma'am, that- wouldn't be right."

Permalink Eye

“You must! I insist.”

Permalink Eye

“It would be better for the baby for you to be out of the elements, Blaze.”

Permalink Eye

"I- uh- if- if you-" (She can't, she shouldn't, but- but her baby. She needs to-) "If you- think that's best. Ma'am."

Permalink Eye

Wynne smiles graciously, but there is a knowing glint to her eye. Blaze will forgo any comfort for herself, but will do anything to keep the babe safe. Wynne will definitely exploit that.

 “Good, that’s settled.”

Permalink Eye

Azry smiles at the scene, very glad that Blaze is letting them care for her. Her attention is drawn back to the map spread out on the ground, and a few pieces of parchment held down under a rock. 

Permalink Eye

Leliana offers Blaze a smile, before going to Azry and kneeling next to her. 

“Anything I can help with?”

Permalink Eye

“Yes, this passage here, was it open when you came from Orlais?”

 The two women bend over the map and are soon lost in discussion. 

Permalink Eye

...Blaze is a little lost as to what to do now. She's not used to this, and it shows.

Permalink Eye

“Come sit by me, Blaze.” Wynne sits at the mouth of her tent, sewing holes in socks. 

Permalink Eye

She joins her. "I- can help with that, ma'am?"

Permalink Eye

“Finish your food. Then maybe you can help me with some knitting.” Wynne sees Blaze’s need to be useful. It makes her angry again, wondering why the Ostwick circle would dare treat a young girl that way. 

Permalink Eye

"Yes, ma'a," she agrees, and does that.

Permalink Eye

Once Blaze is done, Wynne gives her a ball of wool to untangle. “I don’t think we’ll have time to knit a jumper, would you like gloves or socks?”

Permalink Eye

"...Ma'am?"

Permalink Eye

“Gloves or socks? Do your hands or feet get colder? I imagine you’ve been wearing the same socks for a while, now I think of it. Some nice warm socks will do nicely. Help fill out those boots Zevran gave you.”

Wynne gently tugs one of the boots. “Let me see how big I need to make them.”

Permalink Eye

She obediently removes her boots. "I- my feet are- normally fine, ma'am? The boots are- strange."

Permalink Eye

“...you don’t normally wear shoes? But your feet! They’d be so cold!”

Permalink Eye

"I- not really, but- um. Whatever you think- best?"

Permalink Eye

“Hmm.” Wynne does not approve of a young, pregnant girl going around with bare feet in the freezing Fereldan winter.  But, on the other hand, Blaze is an elf. There are things about elves Wynne did not realise until meeting their own Dalish elf Anwen. 

“Well, you must do what you feel is right, but maybe just for camp, for sleep, something warm for your feet? If only just to ward of sickness.”

Permalink Eye

"I- yes, ma'am. That- yes, ma'am."

Permalink Eye

“Good. All right, let’s get started.”

Wynne shows Blaze how to feed her wool, while Wynne’s needles click away, the Mage herself looking up to check Blaze’s feet. The size must be perfect. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze is careful with following her instructions, making sure to get it just right.

Permalink Eye

"Lovely. We'll have these done in no time."

Wynne lapses into silence, only speaking to gently help Blaze.

Permalink Eye

Quiet falls over the camp, as everyone readies for sleep, making sure they knew the people on watch on different times.

Permalink Eye

A few weeks later, the group is setting up camp close to Orzammar. They are two nights walk from the entrance on Alistair's map.

 

Permalink Eye

Sten watches as Blaze moves through stances again. He frowns.

"Faster."

Permalink Eye

She's not much more relaxed, but she's getting used to Sten, and her response now is barely a flinch as she resets herself and pushes herself harder and faster.

Permalink Eye

"No, not fast enough you forget to watch yourself. Concentrate."

Permalink Eye

She tries again, but can't seem to get it the way Sten wants her to.

She purses her lips in frustration.

Permalink Eye

"Do not relax your stance just because the blade has followed through, remain steady or-"

The rest of Sten's instruction is cut off.

Permalink Eye

Zevran makes a tutting noise, stepping up next to Sten. "Now, now, you cannot expect her to throw her weight around like you! She is small, and not very strong. Not like you, all muscle and strength." 

He gives Sten a very long, admiring look, if only to throw him off balance.

Permalink Eye

Permalink Eye

"What young Blaze needs is a quick, agile form of swordplay, should her clever fire fail her."

Permalink Eye

"M'trying," she mumbles.

Permalink Eye

"I know you are, sweet thing. It's okay. Not everyone can lug around a sword the size and weight of an elf." Another flirty glance to Sten. 

"The sword you're using is fine. But you need quicker, lighter movements. We won't do anything too strenuous, of course."

Permalink Eye

Sten harumphs, folding his arms over his chest. "She was doing fine."

Permalink Eye

"Perhaps. But beings like us need to be able to dodge more than dig our heels in, no?"

Permalink Eye

"As you say, sir?"

Permalink Eye

Zevran frowns. "A little too obedient, aren't you? Never you mind, Zevran will fix that. There isn't a soul alive who I will obey," he says with a saucy wink.

Permalink Eye

She's obviously taken aback by his manner. "...as you say."

Permalink Eye

"You're frightening her," Sten's voice is nearly a growl.

Permalink Eye

"...yes. I am frightening her, over you. The hulking wall of muscle."

Zevran pulls out a knife from his belt. He's still in full Crow armour from the day's travel. He hands it to Blaze. "Have a feel of that. Light, yes?"

Permalink Eye

She takes it cautiously, hefts it thoughtfully. "Yes, sir?"

Permalink Eye

"Bit easier to swing around than that sword? Well. I suppose wood doesn't feel much like steel."

Zevran takes the wooden sword from her, replacing it with a second light dagger. "Now. Same motions that Sten ran you through, though try keeping your feet light. Like this." Zevran quickly demonstrates.

Permalink Eye

"Slower. She is not trained."

Permalink Eye

"Then what good were you?"

Permalink Eye

"He helped," Blaze flares, fire wrapping around the daggers she's holding. She jerks back. "Sorry."

Permalink Eye

A shadow falls over Zevran's face. "You have nothing to be sorry for. I'm sorry if I insulted you by implying you were not trained well. You have progressed remarkably for someone who had never picked up a sword before."

He turns away for a moment, taking a deep breath, forcing memories down, deep deep deep, deeper than even Azry could hope to unearth them.

When he turns back, his trademark smirk was firmly back on his face. "Shall we try again? This time without the flames."

Permalink Eye

She tries again, actually tries to copy his movements, hampered by the boots she's wearing. She almost-scowls, kicks off the boots, and tries again, feet surprisingly adept at the light movements now they're bare.

Permalink Eye

"Rude. Those are fine boots. Perhaps a little large, but." Zevran's pout is hampered by the laughter in his eyes. 

He shows her again, moving his feet along with his daggers. The same sword movements Blaze already knows, but doubled and ever moving. "Makes for a harder target to hit."

Permalink Eye

Sten watches on silently, making sure the assassin doesn't overstep.

Permalink Eye

She copies him again, focused and sharp.

Permalink Eye

"Take that away from the camp, please! I will not have anything on fire!" Wynne calls over. It had been common practice the last week to move training away from camp, but Sten had almost convinced Wynne that Blaze would be fine. She would not have fire, accidental or not, anywhere near the camp.

"And be careful with her, Zevran!"

Permalink Eye

"Wynne, darling, you know my heart belongs to you," Zevran says, blowing a kiss. 

He gestures out into the forest to Blaze. "Shall we?"

Permalink Eye

"I will accompany you." Blaze, Sten trusts fine. But the assassin-

Permalink Eye

"Sten! Can you come here? I need your input." Azry is bent over a map, scrutinising it.

Permalink Eye

"I-" He looks to Blaze.

Permalink Eye

"'Ll be fine, sir," she assures.

Permalink Eye

Sten is not assured, but he likes that she made her own decision. So he trusts her, and with a nod, leaves.

Permalink Eye

She looks to Zevran with a slightly tilted head.

Permalink Eye

Zevran leads the way into the clearing, taking a torch with them just in case they're out long enough after sun down.

Permalink Eye

She follows after him, a little cautious about being away from camp, but...

Permalink Eye

"All right. This seems far enough away. For cautiousness sake, can you summon ice as well as you do fire?"

Permalink Eye

"I've- never really tried, sir. I- doubt it?"

Permalink Eye

"I guess we'll just have to run, screaming, back to Wynne should something terrible happen." This is delivered with a smile. After so long travelling with Blaze, Zevran does not fear her. 

"So. Practice. I know it's different to what Sten taught you, but it will come easier to your smaller, lighter, more elven frame."

Permalink Eye

She nods. "The same motions, sir?"

Permalink Eye

"Please, sir is not necessary. My name is Zevran, Zev to my friends." He knows she knows this, but can't help a little bit of showing off.

"Yes. But as you do, keep moving. Learn to fight and move at once. That's the harder part."

Permalink Eye

And it is, although she focuses and tries, she occasionally stumbles, or fumbles. There does not, perhaps interestingly, seem to be a noticeable difference in which hand she favours.

Permalink Eye

Zevran stops her after a while. "Face me. Mirror my movements."

He begins a slow series of quick dodge-and-strikes. "Easier for you to pull off and escape afterwards. I don't deny that Sten meant well, but there was no way you would be able to fight like him."

Permalink Eye

She watches him for a moment before mirroring his movements. Nods to his words. Doesn't really act adversely to his mention of Sten here - can see the logic of his words.

Permalink Eye

Zevran beams. "That feels much easier, yes? And once the baby is out, you'll be even quicker."

Permalink Eye

"Perhaps," she agrees, pausing, and smiling down at her stomach.

Permalink Eye

"Oh, none of that now. You are a warrior in this moment, and we have work to do. Come. Again."

He has her run through it again and again, until finally a huge smile breaks out across his face. He grabs her shoulder good-naturedly. "You are such a fast learner! We will make a Crow of you, yet."

Permalink Eye

She goes briefly rigid and then-

Permalink Eye

Drops smoothly to her knees, hands reaching for his belt.

Permalink Eye

"Woah! Woah, Blaze, this-" He steps out of her hands quickly, heart thudding in his chest. "What are you doing?"

Permalink Eye

She flinches, drops her gaze and draws in on herself. "I- I thought- repaying you, sir?"

Permalink Eye

"...repaying?" Zevran feels sick. "You...you did this for Sten?"

He was going to kill the qunari.

Permalink Eye

"No! No. He- didn't want, but-"

Permalink Eye

Well. That was a relief. Though not for very long.

"Blaze, why do you think you have to do that?"

Permalink Eye

"I- every- back in- the Circle. They- I had to. They- they looked after me. I needed to- and- and you've all- given me so much more. And-"

Permalink Eye

"We want to take care of you, Blaze, we don't need repayment. Especially not-"

Bile rises in Zevran's throat. We take care of you, boy. Don't you want to show some appreciation?

"You don't have to give me anything you wouldn't want to give. I am a true believer in casual sex, it's true, but only when both parties are willing." Zevran's usual humour is brittle.

Permalink Eye

She- can tell she's messed up here somehow, doesn't understand how-

Hiccups a sob. "M'sorry. I- I don't- didn't- M'sorry."

Permalink Eye

"No, no, bambina, it's all right. It's all right." Zevran is careful not to touch her. He knows this, knows her, incredibly well in this moment. "You have nothing to apologize for. They- they were wrong. We do not owe them anything, much less our bodies. Those who care will not ask us such. They will respect us."

He doesn't even realise the change from 'her' to 'us'.

Permalink Eye

...Blaze notices though, and looks at him, confused through her distress. "I- us, sir?" Because that doesn't make sense. He's- so much more than her.

Permalink Eye

Zevran flinches. He hadn't even realised, hadn't heard himself admit something he hadn't in- Well. He could just deny it, bury it back down deep, pretend, the way he had for years. But Blaze's face, the way he knew she hoped there was something better, and the knowledge that he could tell her that, it was enough to break down a little of the wall he had built around those terrible memories.

"I...I had Templars like yours, of a sort. They believed I owed them something for rescuing me. But I was not rescued. I was bought. I was treated like property." Zevran sucked in a deep breath. "But I am not anyone's property. I am my own person and I will make my own decisions. I owe no one anything. Except maybe Azry. But people like her? Like us? We do not want repayment. We don't need to take advantage of innocent souls."

Zevran's gaze turned unusually fierce. "And we will never let anyone use you again. You are free, Blaze. Of them, of anyone who would be like them. If you would like to set them aflame, I will happily assist. Though I am no mage."

Permalink Eye

She wants to believe him, so badly, and it's obvious. But she can't, not yet. She shifts, a little closer to him trying to- signal something. She doesn't understand it, really, but...she wants the comfort Azry and Wynne's hugs have brought, but doesn't know how to ask, how to initiate. Wants to give comfort in turn, for Zevran having to suffer that...

Permalink Eye

Zevran puts his head in his hands. He feels sick. He feels ten years old again. He feels foreign hands on him, pushing and pulling and touching-

He shoves it all back down deep where it belongs. He is better now, stronger. And free of them. He turns a smile to Blaze. "It's getting dark. We should head back to camp, no?" He stands, grabbing the torch from the ground.

Permalink Eye

"I- yes, sir," she agrees quietly. Pauses. "We can- the daggers? Again? Please?"

Permalink Eye

Zevran regards her sadly, probably more than he intends to. "Of course." 

He leads the way back to camp.

Permalink Eye

She manages a smile. "Thank you. I- appreciate it. I do."

Permalink Eye

Zevran stops for a moment, the camp close by but far enough away that they could still have a private moment. 

"Blaze, I need you to promise me something." He turns to look at her.

Permalink Eye

"I- yes sir?"

Permalink Eye

“Don’t ever give yourself up like that. Not to me. Not to anyone. Ever again.”

Then, despite knowing he shouldn’t, and dread filling his heart for her reaction, Zevran pulls her in close, holding her.

Permalink Eye

She lets him pull her in, slightly tense, and then-

Sort of relaxes against him, hands coming up to cautiously wrap around him in turn. "I- I'll- try, sir?" she promises, not sure she can promise more than that.

Permalink Eye

Zevran cradles her head, thumb stroking along the part in her hair. “And no more calling me sir.” 

He pulls away after a while, cocky smirk back in place. “Come. If we stay away too long, Wynne will have my hide.”

Permalink Eye

That gets him a shy smile. "I- I'll try."

And then she'll follow him back to the camp, eyes still a little red from her earlier tears, but a little more settled somehow.

Permalink Eye

Sten walks up to them almost immediately. "You were gone some time." It's an accusation.

Permalink Eye

Zevran shakes his head minutely, enough that Blaze shouldn't notice. 

"What are you, her training nanny? We had things to practice." He gives Blaze a big, charming grin, before swanning off into camp to tease Wynne.

Permalink Eye

Sten nods as he passes, satisfied. 

"Did you find the training easier?" He asks Blaze.

Permalink Eye

-on the other hand, Blaze is very observant, and right now she's hyperaware of Zevran. She doesn't comment on it though.

"I- yes?" she admits. "It's- I- not that I didn't like- it just- felt better?"

Permalink Eye

"You would make a terrible qunari." 

And there is a slight twitch to his lips, an almost smile.

Permalink Eye

She giggles. "Probably."

Permalink Eye

Sten's lips curl in a small smile. Big for him though.

"Come. There is food for you." He leads her back to camp.

Permalink Eye

Azry sits by the fire with Alistair. She smiles at Blaze as she approaches, though pokes her tongue at her. "You could've said you were learning to duel-wield! That's my speciality too!"

Permalink Eye

"I- it was a little sudden. Ma-" Pauses, takes a careful breath. "A-azry." She still flinches as she says it, but she manages.

Permalink Eye

Azry feels little pricks of joyful tears, but is quick to blink them away. "You must make Zevran let me sit on a few lessons. He may be good at the whole sneaking thing, but I'm much better at real fighting." 

She sends Blaze a cheeky wink. 

Alistair hands Blaze a bowl of stew and a portion of bread. "That's the last of it till we get to Orzammar. Unless dwarves don't have bread. In which case, oh no."

Permalink Eye

Blaze settles down with the bowl and bread, a content smile on her lips - she's getting better at eating without looking like she's worried they'll take it from her, and she's eating more as well, as she gets used to regular meals, and larger portions. It doesn't look like she's ever going to have a massive appetite, but it looks less like she's one missed meal away from starvation.

Permalink Eye

Seeing brightness in Blaze's cheeks and a look of actual contentment on her face brings those pricks of joy back to Azry's eyes. 

"She looks so much healthier," Alistair whispers to her. Azry nods, a wobbly, ecstatic smile on her face. 

Permalink Eye

"Zevran mentioned he was training you in duel wielding?" Leliana says by way of greeting, dropping next to Blaze.

Permalink Eye

She flinches slightly, but it's far more reflexive than actual fear - a long ingrained habit that's going to take longer than a few weeks to erase.

She nods.

Permalink Eye

"I would've thought archery would be better. You already fight at range, no?"

Permalink Eye

"Leli, you also know how to fight hand-to-hand. We're teaching her in case she can't use her magic."

Permalink Eye

Leliana pouts. "But I am not as good as it as you or Zevran. What if I want to teach Blaze a skill?"

Permalink Eye

"What about singing? Or lute?"

Alistair chimes in. "Or shoe appreciation?"

Permalink Eye

Blaze looks down at her feet, scrunches her toes. "Shoes are. Uncomfortable."

Permalink Eye

Leliana's gasp is horrified. "Only because you've only ever seen these lumpy, Fereldan tragedies! The shoes we have in Orlais, oh, you would love them!"

Permalink Eye

"-perhaps," she agrees, twists her fingers together. "I- might like. To learn- something?" (She likes learning, she always has.)

Permalink Eye

"What would you like us to teach you? Zevran, Sten and I can help with swordplay, Morrigan and Wynne can help you with magic, Alistair could teach you to cook?"

Permalink Eye

Alistair snorts. "Badly. I can teach you to cook badly. But with enthusiasm!"

Permalink Eye

"Do you like music?" Leliana asks, shuffling closer.

Permalink Eye

The idea of learning more magic gets a momentary look of eagerness before she tamps down on it. She tilts her head at Leliana. "I- haven't heard much," she admits. "I- but what I heard- I- think I liked?"

Permalink Eye

The look of glee is not lost on Leliana. She shares a look with Azry. Magic lessons were something they should've thought about before, but things do fall by the wayside mid-Blight.

"Wait here, I'll be right back." Leliana melts into the dark, heading for her tent. She's back in seconds, cradling a lute. "I'll play you something while you eat, and then maybe I can teach you?"

Permalink Eye

"I- I'd like that?" she admits.

Permalink Eye

"Excellent." With that, Leliana arranges herself, props up the lute and begins to play. A soft song, a ballad.

There are lyrics too, but in Orlesian. Leliana doesn't know the King's tongue version, but she figures things that are pretty don't have to be understood.

Permalink Eye

Blaze listens, hums along absently as she finishes her meal.

Permalink Eye

Azry has curled up, half-dozing on Alistair's shoulder.

Permalink Eye

Leliana finishes the song, and offers Blaze a demure smile. "What did you think?"

Permalink Eye

"S'pretty. I- could never-"

Permalink Eye

"But you can! Here-" Leliana takes the bowl from Blaze, throwing it easily into the empty stew pot. She then tucks the lute into Blaze's lap, helping her arrange her hands.

Permalink Eye

Blaze is slightly startled, but let's Leliana help her arrange her hands, slightly eager now.

Permalink Eye

"First chord is here..." Leliana arranges her hands, has her play. Does the same for the next following notes, and then has Blaze play them in succession. 

Permalink Eye

She makes a few mistakes, but she shows as much focus with this as she has with learning how to fight.

Permalink Eye

Leliana leads her through the first verse and chorus, singing the lyrics softly to Blaze's playing.

"With a bit more practice, you will be easily accepted as a bard,"Leliana says.

Permalink Eye

Her skin flushes at the praise and she ducks her head. "I- thank you, ma'am."

Permalink Eye

Azry lets out an honest-to-goodness snore.

Alistair giggles. "Your playing was so soothing you put her to sleep, Blaze!" His grin is thrilled.

Permalink Eye

"See? You already soothe people with your song!"

Permalink Eye

She gives another quiet giggle.

Permalink Eye

"Want to go over it again? Just a few more times. Then I promise I will let you sleep."

Honestly Leliana likes being a teacher. She never realised how much she enjoys coaching others.

Permalink Eye

She nods. "Please?"

Permalink Eye

Leliana smiles beatifically. 

She helps Blaze go through the song a few more times, even helping her learn a few lyrics. "Car tu es celui que j'aime, ma chère âme," she sings sweetly, prompting Blaze to copy.

Permalink Eye

She copies, as relaxed as they've ever seen her.

Permalink Eye

"Your accent is terrible," Leliana teases playfully.

Permalink Eye

She starts to apologise-

Permalink Eye

And then recognises the tone, from the interaction of others, and giggles again, a strange warm feeling in her stomach.

Permalink Eye

Leliana can't help it, she laughs along with Blaze. What a delightfully happy sound!

Permalink Eye

Azry groans in her sleep, mumbling.

Alistair laughs quietly. "You've disturbed her!" He wakes her gently, and with some coaxing, they both head off to their tent to sleep, waving at Leliana and Blaze.

Permalink Eye

She doesn't get a chance to get the apology out that she wants to before they're gone.

"I- would you mind if I-?" she asks Leliana.

Permalink Eye

Leliana frowns. "Mind if you what?"

Permalink Eye

"Um, sleep?"

Permalink Eye

"Oh! Oh, of course, I'm so sorry. I got so caught up." She takes the lute back from Blaze. "I'm on first watch so I didn't even think. I'm sorry. Though not sorry you learned something! Unless you didn't like it. In which case...sorry?"

Permalink Eye

"I- no, it's fine! I just- hadn't realised how tired- I was."

Permalink Eye

"Oh, I get like that all the time. You get so excited about something sleep seems irrelevant! Though in your case, definitely get some sleep." Leliana smiled at Blaze's belly, and then at her face. "Off you go. There will be plenty of time to learn more songs. I will ensure it."

Permalink Eye

She smiles. "I- I'd like that."

And off she goes to sleep, barefoot, smiling, and with one hand resting contently on her stomach.

Permalink Eye

Leliana watches her go, smiling softly. Happiness was a welcome look on the young girl's face.

She takes her lute up again, this time strumming a soft lullaby.

Permalink Eye

The next morning Blaze wakes early as she has been known to do, and leaves the tent she's borrowed, quietly humming the tune Leliana taught her the night before.

Permalink Eye

Alistair smiles at her when she gets close. "Morning. Sleep well?"

Permalink Eye

Zevran's on the other side of camp, though offers a smile and a wave when she catches his eye.

Permalink Eye

She smiles back at Zevran, and offers a shy wave. "I- yes, thank you, sir."

Permalink Eye

"Good! I've got some jerky here, not much for breakfast, I know, but luckily we've only got two days of rubbish food before we get to see what dwarves eat."

Alistair hands her a strip of dried meat. "I don't suppose you have any idea what they eat?"

Permalink Eye

"Thank you," she says as she accepts the jerky, doesn't say it's still better than what she's eaten before. "I- no. I didn't much study dwarves. I'm sorry, sir."

Permalink Eye

Alistair shrugs. "Yeah, me neither. Like I met some, living in Redcliffe, but they were always traders and surface dwarves eat like us, and if they came from Orzammar, they don't like talking about it. No one has any time for curious, ten year olds anymore!" He pouts.

Permalink Eye

She gives a nervous laugh, and continues eating.

Permalink Eye

Alistair smirks. "Look at you wolf that thing down. If we had a house, I imagine you would've eaten us out of it!" He laughs, turning big bright eyes on Blaze.

Permalink Eye

She goes very still and then-

"I- I can earn it, sir? I- I'll make you feel very good. I'm good at that-"

She shifts towards him, eyes hopeless.

Permalink Eye

The change in mood was so abrupt, Alistair forgot how to speak for a moment.

He laughs awkwardly. "...ah...isn't magic not supposed to...alter my feelings? I'm not an expert, but I would consider anything Morrigan does probably not...right..." He is totally lost.

Permalink Eye

"I mean physically, sir-"

Permalink Eye

She stops talking abruptly, because-

She promised Zevran she wouldn't do this.

"I- I have to-" she gestures vaguely, doesn't wait for permission, and jolts away, searching for Zevran.

Permalink Eye

"Physically?" Alistair's jaw drops. "Why- I would never- not that you aren't- but-"

He cuts himself off, blushing furiously from both the implication, and just being plain furious at the very idea that Blaze would think she would have to-

Azry needs to hear about this.

Permalink Eye

Zevran is rolling up his belongings to stow in his pack, already dressed in armour. He did not see what happened between her and Alistair.

Permalink Eye

"I'm sorry!" she blurts. "I'm sorry! I forgot! And I- I tried to- I'm sorry! Please, I forgot."

Permalink Eye

"Woah, Blaze, it's okay, what- What are you-" He sees Alistair's look. It echoes his own from last night. 

He gathers Blaze close, hugging her fiercely. "You'll learn not to, I promise," he murmurs into her hair.

Permalink Eye

She clings to him, shaking and sobbing. "He said I was eating too much, and I-"

Permalink Eye

"Alistair? Alistair said that? Tall? Human? Terrible sense of humour?" 

He pulls away from Blaze to take her face in his hands, gently coaxing her to look at him. "What exactly did he say?"

Permalink Eye

She's trembling under his touch. "I-, um, he said that- that if we had a house, he, he would imagine that I would've eaten us out of it."

Permalink Eye

Zevran's face falls, and cold clutches his heart. "Bambina, he didn't mean anything by that. He has a terrible sense of humour. He is happy you are eating so much!"

Zevran tucks her back into his arms, rocking her gently. "Next time he says something like that, tell Azry. She'll punch him. He said that it was good she got a lot of exercise once and she's never let him live it down."

Permalink Eye

"-oh. I- I'm sorry."

She feels a little foolish for reacting so strongly to that now, but-

"I hadn't- no-one's ever-."

Permalink Eye

"I know." 

She doesn't have to explain. It took Zevran years to find his own sense of humour, his light-heartedness.

Permalink Eye

On the other side of camp, Wynne, Alistair and Azry are in conversation. Wynne looks heartbroken, Alistair guilty and Azry furious.

Permalink Eye

"Would you like an apology from Alistair? Would that make you feel better?"

Permalink Eye

"-I don't- it wasn't- him?"

Permalink Eye

"It wasn't you, either."

Permalink Eye

"-but I misunderstood?"

Permalink Eye

“He should know to tread lightly around you still. Though, he isn’t much more than a boy himself.”

Zevran tucks her head under his chin. “We’ll have to plan revenge on him. Maybe we’ll steal his clothes while he bathes? No, too childish. Oh, maybe we’ll leave something pungent smelling in his pack!” All he’s doing is trying to calm Blaze’s racing heartbeat.

Permalink Eye

She giggles slightly at the ludicrous ideas. "I- no. No, it's- fine."

Permalink Eye

“Are you sure you don’t want to convince Morrigan to turn into a spider and wait in his tent?”

Permalink Eye

"-she can do that?" That sounds far more like interest in the ability to do that than wanting to go with that idea.

Permalink Eye

“She hasn’t shown you yet? Oh, Blaze, bambina, you are in for a treat.”

He steps back, huge grin on his face as he grabs Blaze’s shoulders. “Not just a spider either. Wolf, crow, I think I heard her say a bear too!”

Permalink Eye

"-she won't mind?"

Permalink Eye

Zevran laughs. “You clearly have not spoken to Morrigan enough. She could compete with me for the most unrepentant show off.”

Permalink Eye

"Haven't really spoken to her at all. I- think I would like to see that?"

Permalink Eye

“Then we will go speak to the evil Witch of the Wilds and convince her to do a few party tricks for us!” He smiles. 

Permalink Eye

Azry was making her way over, already trying to school her face into something less furious. 

Permalink Eye

Zevran met her eye and without catching Blaze’s attention, and shook his head minutely. 

Permalink Eye

Azry stopped, raised an eyebrow, but listened. 

Permalink Eye

...She thinks something might just have happened, but isn't sure what. And they haven't drawn her attention to it, so she figures they don't want her to know.

Permalink Eye

“So! Shall we go see what Morrigan is up to?” 

Permalink Eye

"Yes please, si- um. Zevr- Zev?"

Permalink Eye

He grins. “Zev is perfect.”

He wraps an arm around and her leads her to the edge of camp.

Permalink Eye

Morrigan sees their approach.

“Zevran. What do you want now? Are you finally bored with your little witch?"

Permalink Eye

“That, dear Morrigan, will never happen.”

Permalink Eye

...Blaze tries to not be too uncomfortable with that interaction, reminds herself that these people seem...comfortable with this kind of thing. She stays tucked tight against Zevran's side.

Permalink Eye

“Blaze was just informing me that she has yet to see your special talents. The eight legged thing in particular.”

He gently squeezes Blaze’s shoulder, comfortingly. 

Permalink Eye

“Hmmm? I suppose you would like a demonstration, for me to teach you all I know?” Morrigan asks Blaze, raising one eyebrow. 

Permalink Eye

"If you don't mind, ma'am? Uh, the spider thing that is."

Permalink Eye

"What are they teaching you? I suppose I could give you a show. Just this once."

--and with that, Morrigan is engulfed in golden light, and in her place is a huge, monstrous, purple spider. 

Permalink Eye

An awed smile from Blaze. She doesn't seem even slightly phased by the spider, more fascinated.

Permalink Eye

Zevran turns his nose up at the spider, but grins at the look on Blaze’s face. 

Permalink Eye

Another flash of light and Morrigan uncurls her body, standing upright. She smiles languidly.

“I trust that was sufficient?”

Permalink Eye

"Oh, yes, more than, ma'am. Thank you!"

Permalink Eye

Morrigan half-smiles, then turns away to continue whatever nefarious thing she was doing before. 

Permalink Eye

“We’d best leave her be, lest she turn us to toads,” Zevran says, wrapping an arm around Blaze to lead her back to the middle of camp. 

Permalink Eye

She lets him, leaning into his side a little, surprisingly content with the easy contact.

Permalink Eye

Zevran can’t help but be pleased with that. The little thing needs plenty of affection to combat all those dark thoughts in her head. 

Permalink Eye

Azry meets them in the camp, Alistair and Wynne hovering a short distance away. 

She smiles quickly at Blaze, but turns a stern look on Zevran. “We need to talk.”

Permalink Eye

Zevran doesn’t let his smile falter for a second. “Of course, my dear Warden. But, perhaps, somewhere out of earshot? We mustn’t air our dirty laundry in public.” All of this is said in a cheeky, light hearted way, but all of it designed to not worry Blaze. 

Permalink Eye

Azry catches onto this quickly, mentally kicking herself. “You are completely incorrigible,” she says to Zevran. 

To Blaze: “Would you mind giving Leliana a hand? I’ve got to steal our resident assassin for a moment.”

Permalink Eye

"I. No, ma'- Azry, that's fine."

Permalink Eye

“Won’t be long. We’ll get moving soon.”

With that, Zevran and Azry walk off, Alistair and Wynne following. 

Permalink Eye

Leliana doesn’t seem to be struggling with anything, but she offers Blaze a smile.

Permalink Eye

Blaze smiles back, and then looks around to see if anyone does look like they need help.

Permalink Eye

Sten appears to be having a serious conversation with Eddie.

Permalink Eye

She moves a little closer, not trying to intrude.

Permalink Eye

Sten growls ferociously at the dog.

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks back, growling, haunches raised.

Permalink Eye

Sten roars.

Permalink Eye

Eddie leaps at Sten, knocking him to the ground, snarling in his face.

Permalink Eye

"You are a true warrior, and worthy of respect."

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks happily, licking Sten's face, before lying down across his body.

Permalink Eye

Blaze giggles quietly, because that is adorable.

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks happily at Blaze, starting like he means to jump of Sten to go to her, but whines. He does not want to give up his victory. 

Permalink Eye

“We did not disturb you, Blaze?” Sten asks by way of greeting. 

Permalink Eye

She shakes her head a little, moving closer so she can scritch Eddie's head. "No."

Permalink Eye

There is a slight lift to his lips. He is pleased that she no longer startles so easily. 

Permalink Eye

Eddie stands up, trying to push his entire head into Blaze for additional pats. 

Permalink Eye

There is a slight wheezing sound from Sten. 

Permalink Eye

"Hey," she chides gently, shifting so that he doesn't have to be stood. "Don't stand on Sten's stomach like that, it can't be comfortable for him." She snaps her fingers lower to try and get the mabari to lie down.

Permalink Eye

He sits, depositing most of his small-pony weight onto Sten’s stomach. He cocks his head at her curiously. 

Permalink Eye

Sten groans. “I did not come to Ferelden to be a seat for large dogs.”

Permalink Eye

"Oh! I'm sorry! Eddie, here." She snaps her fingers firmly at her own side.

Permalink Eye

Eddie happily leaps off Sten, trotting to Blaze to stare up at her lovingly. 

Permalink Eye

Sten sits up, staring suspiciously at the mabari. “It seems I must take you more seriously as an opponent.”

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks in the affirmative. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze giggles again, petting Eddie. "He's crafty?"

Permalink Eye

Eddie looks offended that she doesn’t think so. 

Permalink Eye

“More than we give him credit for.” Sten’s eyes narrow at the dog, as if trying to examine him for weaknesses. 

Permalink Eye

Apologetic strokes and scritches. "Yeah, he's a good boy."

Permalink Eye

“A devious boy.”

Permalink Eye

Eddie whines pathetically and buries his head in Blaze’s side. 

Permalink Eye

“Hmmmph.” 

Sten stands, stretching out his arms. “Will you be continuing your training with the assassin?”

Permalink Eye

"I-I think so? The knives...make more sense. Not that I don't appreciate what you did to help me!"

Permalink Eye

“There is no point appreciating something that did not work for you. A fisherman does not appreciate a mill, for it does not help his work.” 

He turns a serious look on Blaze. “You will need help building strength. I can still provide assistance. If you wish.”

Permalink Eye

"I would like that."

Permalink Eye

"Even cowardly, dodging tactics require strength." He doesn't actually seem to be against them, he says this more like a statement of fact. 

Permalink Eye

She shrugs a little, nods, and continues fussing over Eddie.

Permalink Eye

Eddie's eyes are closed in bliss, and his back leg starts thumping on the ground.

Permalink Eye

"You are spoiling him."

Permalink Eye

Blaze pauses for a second, thinks. "Yeah. But that's my choice."

Permalink Eye

A smile. An actual complete smile.

Permalink Eye

Gone very quickly. 

"A foolish choice. He is a wardog."

Permalink Eye

-she noticed that smile.

"Perhaps," she agrees. "But mine to make."

Permalink Eye

"You would make a terrible qunari, kadan," he repeats, but sounds unbearably fond.

Permalink Eye

Her smile turns shy and she ducks her head. "Maybe a good thing I'm not then."

Permalink Eye

A derisive snort. Sten stands, going back to his pack, ensuring everything is together.

Permalink Eye

Azry and the rest are coming back, still talking. Azry is talking furiously at Zevran.

Permalink Eye

Who seems just sad. Maybe Azry isn't yelling at him.

Permalink Eye

Blaze bites at her lip, not sure what to do now, concerned about the interaction between Zevran and Azry, but not sure whether that's her fault or something else.

Permalink Eye

Azry seems to finish her tirade at the each of camp, just far enough away to be out of earshot.

Permalink Eye

Zevran replies, holding her shoulders, like he was apologising.

Permalink Eye

Azry softens, and hugs him.

Permalink Eye

Wynne places a gentle hand on the back of Zevran's head.

Permalink Eye

Alistair joins the hug, eyes closed and hugging both of the elves fiercely.

Permalink Eye

When they part, Azry gently cups Zevran's face, murmuring something. Then she and Alistair head back to their belongings, readying themselves to leave.

Permalink Eye

Wynne does the same, walking past Blaze and touching her shoulder gently as she does.

Permalink Eye

Zevran remains, one arm wrapped around himself, the other bent, hand tucked under his chin. His pack is still where he left it.

Permalink Eye

She pauses, and then goes and fetches his pack, taking it over to him, stopping still a little way from him, looking a little awkward.

Permalink Eye

He doesn't notice her at first, but when he does, his trademark smile is back on his face.

"Blaze, thank you. That's very kind." He takes his pack and swings it on. "Ready for another thrilling day of walking?"

Permalink Eye

She nods. "I- it's- better than being. Stuck."

Permalink Eye

She wasn't supposed to know- she was supposed to be out of earshot-

Permalink Eye

He quickly squashes that line of thought.

"True. Nothing worse than stagnation."

Permalink Eye

She smiles shyly. "I- can I walk with you?"

Permalink Eye

"Bambina," Zevran says, incredibly fondly, giving her a hug. "That would be lovely, but I've got to scout ahead with Anwen. We're the quickest and the quietest. I'll see you when you stop for lunch."

Permalink Eye

"Oh- of course. Yes, see you at lunch."

Permalink Eye

Anwen walks up near him, never next to him (he would never dream she stand near a flat ear) and he takes that as their cue to leave.

He presses a quick kiss to Blaze's hair. "See you later."

With that, both of the elves are darting off towards the horizon.

Permalink Eye

...Is Blaze slightly wistful as she watches them go? Maybe, but she hides it well.

She looks around the others, to see if they're ready to move on as well.

Permalink Eye

Sten is ready to go, Eddie beside him.

Permalink Eye

Leliana is in quiet conversation with Wynne, but they also seem ready to move.

Permalink Eye

Morrigan is staring at Sten admiringly.

Permalink Eye

Azry and Alistair also seem ready, but are in quiet, fierce conversation.

Permalink Eye

After a moment of thought, she drifts back over to Sten and Eddie, figuring if nothing else, she can play with the mabari.

Permalink Eye

Sten looks at her, acknowledging her approach, but says nothing else.

Permalink Eye

Eddie barks and bounds in front of her, tongue panting and tail wagging furiously.

Permalink Eye

She smiles, and leans down to give him a quick pat.

Then: exciting walking?

Permalink Eye

Exciting walking!

Permalink Eye

Azry leads the way, Wynne falling back to walk with Blaze and Sten. They make good time, stopping just after midday.

Permalink Eye

Zevran spots them. "Hail, Wardens!" he says, tossing a knife easily.

Anwen is nowhere to be seen.

Permalink Eye

"Did you lose Anwen?" Azry calls.

Permalink Eye

"More like she lost me, Azry. She got bored two hours in and took off on her own. Ah, youth."

Permalink Eye

Blaze smiles shyly, and waves a little to Zevran, before seeing if there's anything she can help with, even if they aren't stopping for long.

Permalink Eye

Alistair looks like he could use some help, but looks away quickly when he catches her eye.

Permalink Eye

Leliana has dumped her pack and is spread out like a star on the ground. She looks like she's muttering something under her breath.

Permalink Eye

Wynne smiles widely at her. She doesn't look like she needs help, but the way her eyes keep going to Blaze's belly, she clearly thinks Blaze needs hers.

Permalink Eye

...Except she needs to apologise to Alistair for her earlier response, and also wants to prove to herself that she can talk to him without...

That happening again.

She moves over. "I- would you like a hand?" she asks timidly.

Permalink Eye

"Blaze!" He promptly drops his whetstone mid sword-sharpen, onto his foot. "Ow."

He tries three times to pick it up, fumbling it every time Blaze comes into his peripheral vision. "I'm...not usually- Oh, who am I kidding. I am usually this clumsy."

Permalink Eye

...She can't help a quiet giggle, and ducks down, a little tense in his space, and picks the whetstone up, stepping back immediately and straightening up, holding it out to him.

Permalink Eye

"Th- Thank you." Alistair half-goes back to sharpening his sword, but stops. Sighs. Slides his sword back into its scabbard and tucks the whetstone into his pack.

"Blaze...about this morning," he starts.

Permalink Eye

She cuts him off. "I- I'm sorry that I put you in that position. I- I'm not good at knowing when people are joking, no- no-one ever did before. Not to me. Especially not about- about how much I was eating."

Permalink Eye

Alistair softens entirely. He looks so much younger in that moment. "Blaze, you have nothing to apologise for. We didn't- Well. I suppose you would've told us when you trusted us. I'm sorry we found out this way. But please, know this. I am an idiot. I say a lot of dumb things. And when that happens, you have every right to set me on fire. Azry sure would if she could," he says with a crooked smile.

Permalink Eye

She looks down, winds her fingers together, more for something to do with them than anything else. "I- I don't think you need- setting on fire?" she says, hesitant, but- almost teasing. "Maybe the tips of your hair?"

Permalink Eye

Alistair gasps in mock horror. "No. No! Anything but the hair!" He laughs.

Permalink Eye

Blaze ducks her head, but giggles along with him, still not entirely relaxed, but looking much more so than she had when she came over.

Permalink Eye

Alistair makes a pleased noise once his laughter ceases. He feels a lot better. 

"Hungry? It's just more jerky, but sometimes Anwen will kill something while she scouts so we might have fresh meat tonight?" He goes to his pack.

Permalink Eye

She takes a breath, reminds herself he was joking earlier, meant nothing by it. "Please, thank you, sir."

Permalink Eye

Alistair furrows his brow. "There is no one alive beside you that has ever called me sir. I don't look that old, do I?" 

He brings out some food for them both, grabbing some extra to pass around to the others. "I would actually call Azry 'ma'am' if it wasn't for the fact that since there's only three Wardens, chain of command doesn't particularly need to remain intact." 

Permalink Eye

"I- I'm sorry, it's habit. I'll- try not to. Just- hard." (It's not really scared, just- a report of the fact that it's a habit.)

Permalink Eye

Alistair smiles good-naturedly. "Well, few more weeks around us and you'll forget all that formality. We're the least formal people you've ever met. And that's coming from me!"

Permalink Eye

She laughs, although it's a little confused. "As you say."

Permalink Eye

Alistair grins charmingly, and then starts handing out food around the camp. 

Permalink Eye

She smiles back and looks around, partially to see if Zevran is busy.

Permalink Eye

Zevran is eating his own share, but his head is pressed to Azry's while they go over a map. He's tapping a portion. Azry says something that makes him laugh, so he slings his arms over her shoulders, hugging her.

Permalink Eye

She considers, and then approaches them.

Permalink Eye

When she gets close enough, Zevran sees her, grins, and lets go of Azry to wrap her in one arm.

Permalink Eye

Azry does the same.

Permalink Eye

Zevran turns big, happy eyes on Blaze. "Snow," he says seriously.

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head a little, but lets them hug her.

She tilts her head at Zevran. "Snow?"

Permalink Eye

“Snow!”

Permalink Eye

“What he’s trying to say is, by tonight we’re going to be high enough into the mountains to hit the snowfall. Luckily after that we should get to Orzammar fairly quickly tomorrow.”

Permalink Eye

“Snow,” Zevran agrees. 

Permalink Eye

"-I've never seen snow before."

Permalink Eye

“Either have I! This is going to be exciting!” Zevran, indeed, is practically vibrating with delight. 

Permalink Eye

“What’s to get excited about? It’s cold and wet and makes you feel eight times as tired.”

Permalink Eye

“Do not ruin the magic of this for us, Tabris,” Zevran says, flicking one of Azry’s pointed ears. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze giggles quietly.

Permalink Eye

Zevran smiles warmly at Blaze, squeezing her.

He then turns his attention to Azry. "Are we good for water? I know where the river is, I can start taking people?"

Permalink Eye

"Good plan. We want to make sure we don't have to stop tomorrow before we hit Orzammar. I'm looking forward to being warm, for once."

Permalink Eye

"All right."

Zevran goes to pull away from Blaze, to start rounding up the others.

Permalink Eye

She makes a quiet sound of loss, quickly covering her mouth with her hand - she doesn't want to get in the way.

Permalink Eye

Zevran doesn't notice. As she makes the noise, he is already calling across the clearing to Leliana, teasing her.

Permalink Eye

Azry is concerned. "What's wrong? Is it- is it the baby?"

Permalink Eye

"I- no. Just." She shrugs, not sure how to explain that she's still getting used to friendly touch, and not sure how to explain that Zevran in particular feels safe. Because he understands.

Permalink Eye

Azry's not a mind-reader, but she's gotten good at reading faces. Blaze's look after Zevran is longing, but sad. She's not sure the intention of those feelings, but trusts Zevran. 

"He's not going far. And he'll be with us all day tomorrow. I don't like splitting the group when we get close to a town."

Permalink Eye

She relaxes a little, and nods. "O-okay," she agrees.

Permalink Eye

“He told us. This morning. What happened.”Azry rubs her hand up and down Blaze’s shoulder. “You are so brave. And I promise you’ll never have to feel powerless again.”

Permalink Eye

She flinches a little, she never wanted them to know, didn't want them to-

But Azry isn't scorning her for it, is telling her she's brave and-

"I- I didn't have a choice," she mumbles. "Before. I-"

Permalink Eye

“No. And we’re going to make sure that you always will have a choice.”

Azry looks up, eyes going to Zevran as he leads Alistair and Leliana down towards the river. “The both of you.” 

Azry wonders if mentioning Shianni was worth it, but finds not knowing what happened after hurts too much to think about, so she keeps it to herself.

Permalink Eye

"...Yeah." She agrees, looking across to Zevran. He might not need help, but she's going to anyway.

Permalink Eye

Zevran and the others are close to the tree line, about to disappear into the woods beyond. 

Some of the trees have already shed their leaves, testament to winter’s harsh grasp up here in the mountains. 

Permalink Eye

“Why don’t you sit down for a minute? I know Wynne would like to look you over.”

Permalink Eye

"...Okay," she agrees, and looks around for somewhere to do that.

Permalink Eye

Wynne is sitting on the ground nearby. Unfortunately, the clearing is very clear; the high altitude and cold weather making it quite sparse. 

Permalink Eye

She crosses over to Wynne, but isn't sure what to say.

Permalink Eye

Wynne’s hands are already glowing blue. “Quick check up?” She offers, wiggling sparkling fingers. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze nods, a little talked out.

Permalink Eye

Wynne notices. “All right. Two taps on my wrist if you want me to stop.” 

Wynne lays her hands gently on Blaze and lets her magic flow through her. 

Permalink Eye

She doesn't need Wynne to stop, but she does appreciate being given the out - even if she doesn't entirely trust it.

Permalink Eye

Wynne finishes up as Zevran, Leliana and Alistair return. 

Permalink Eye

Zevran trades quick words with Azry, blows a kiss to Wynne and Blaze, and then is darting back up the road, into the distance. 

Permalink Eye

“All right folks, let’s get moving!”

Permalink Eye

Blaze moves immediately, back on her feet and ready to follow.

Permalink Eye

Azry leads them along the highway for some time. The air gets colder, the path gets a little steeper, and just a little ways in the distance, snow can be seen. 

A few hours until dark, Azry stops the group. “Someone’s coming.”

Permalink Eye

Before anyone can ready weapons, Anwen comes into view, running faster than any horse. She slows upon reaching the group, her face disgusted. Though that was the norm. 

What was not, was the arrow sticking out from her shoulder. 

Permalink Eye

“Anwen! What happened?!” Azry exclaims. 

Anwen yanks the arrow out of her shoulder, frowning at it like it inconvienced her. “Bandits.” 

“Bandits? How far? How many?” Azry questions. 

“Ahead. Maybe ten.” She pauses. “Zevran is still there.”

Permalink Eye

Blaze lurches forward, she doesn't know where Zevran is, but-

But she can earn her keep this way, repay him his kindness...

Permalink Eye

“Well then. We’ve got an assassin to save.”

Azry draws her swords and charges ahead, following Anwen. The rest of the group follow. 

Permalink Eye

The scene, once they get there, was as Anwen barely described. Ten bandits, all circled around one elf. 

Zevran is dodging weapons, arrows and magic in a fashion that makes the acts look easy, though it is clear from the way he grips his side he is wounded. 

“About time you all showed up!” He calls, spinning under a bandit to stab up at his arm. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze doesn't even pause, calling on the flames and attacking the nearest bandit with them.

Permalink Eye

He screams, completely overwhelmed, stumbling away from battle. 

Permalink Eye

Leliana takes the chance to fire an arrow straight into his neck.

Permalink Eye

The rest of the group springs into action, evening out the fight for Zevran. 

Permalink Eye

She stays back, even if instinct tells her to get closer. Uses her fire with brutal efficiency to help.

Permalink Eye

It seems like the fight is going well in their favour. The last three bandits are fighting furiously, but it is clear that the Wardens will win this. 

The last archer, as a final act of defiance, raises her bow, to point an arrow straight at Blaze. 

Permalink Eye

Zevran has been steadily moving closer to her, ducking and weaving (grimacing slightly), to make sure someone was close by. 

He notices the archer, and as they loose the arrow, he does a very stupid thing, that he will never regret. 

He thrusts his arm into the path of the arrow, and the arrow pierces it straight through. 

“Ah...fuck.” 

Permalink Eye

The archer is taken down seconds later, and the battle is over. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze immediately half-lunges for Zevran and his injured arm. "I- you- you didn't- why?"

She's fussing over him, trying to figure out the easiest way to get the arrow free.

Permalink Eye

“Well, one never passes up the chance to be the daring hero, no? Especially with your ever so fiery rescue.” 

Zevran groans. “...you would not believe how much this hurts.”

Permalink Eye

Blaze snaps the arrow on one side of his arm and carefully pulls it free, before setting about healing him, brow furrowed in concentration.

Permalink Eye

“Ah!” The arrow hurts as much going out as it did going in. “Careful-“

Blaze’s look of concentration stops his words. “Blaze, it’s all right, Wynne is a talented healer. She’ll have me right in no time.” 

He takes the chance to pull his hand from his side. His palm is sticky with blood. “Oh dear. That isn’t good.”

Permalink Eye

“Step aside, Blaze, I’ll take it from here.” Wynne’s voice is kind, but firm. She rolls up the sleeves of her robe and kneels beside Zev, her hands glowing blue. 

Permalink Eye

...She could've done it. She would've done it. (She ignores the way she's swaying very slightly.)

Permalink Eye

Sten grabs her elbow in a steadying gesture. 

Permalink Eye

Wynne gets to work, one hand on Zevran’s wrist, the other on his side. 

Permalink Eye

“That was stupid.” Azry sheathes her swords, walking over to Zevran. 

She crouches next to him. “Brave though.”

Permalink Eye

“I aim to please,” Zevran says, almost automatically. His eyes are on Blaze, and worry is steadily gathering. 

“Wynne, my love, if you’re quite sure I will survive, there is someone else who does not look well.”

Permalink Eye

"I- I'm fine," she says, aware of his eyes, leaning very slightly into Sten.

Permalink Eye

Eddie makes a concerned whine and cuddles up on the other side of Blaze. 

Permalink Eye

Wynne doesn’t even look up. She sends a stamina spell Blaze’s way, a rune lighting up beneath her feet, and then goes back to closing Zevran’s wounds. 

“Anyone else bleeding? Now’s the time!”

Permalink Eye

There’s a soft chorus of no, thank yous. 

Permalink Eye

-she murmurs her gratitude anyway, even if she didn't need that, and rests her hand on Eddie's head.

Permalink Eye

Wynne finishes her work with Zevran in another few minutes, settling back onto her feet with a sigh. “There we go, good as new. You’ll be back into your old tricks before the sun sets.”

She accepts the bottle of Lyrium Leliana digs out from her bag, drinking it quickly. 

Permalink Eye

Zevran rotates his wrist around a few times, nodding in satisfaction. “Wynne, you are a wonder and a fine example of both magery and womanhood.” That gets him a scoff. He rises up, pressing a kiss to Wynne’s cheek, before heading to Blaze, brows furrowed in concern. 

“Are you all right?”

Permalink Eye

"I- yes, I'm fine, are- are you?"

Permalink Eye

He pulls up the sleeve of his tunic, showing her his wrist. There is only the tiniest scar left behind, and he seems to have no problem moving it. 

“Back to my charming self,” he grins. 

Permalink Eye

She seems relieved at that, and nods slowly. "Yeah," she agrees.

Permalink Eye

"Thank you, for coming to my rescue so quickly. Twice," he wraps his arms around her shoulders (Sten steps back, frowning).

Permalink Eye

Morrigan raises a hand, and these bodies burst into purple fire too.

Permalink Eye

"We'll move up a little further, and try and get off the road, though I'm not sure how successful that endeavour will be." 

They are on a mountain.

Permalink Eye

Blaze leans slightly into Zevran, but is ready to move, and will follow obediently.

Permalink Eye

They find a spot, only just off the side of the road but with enough space for the camp. People start setting up straight away, well used to the routine at this point.

Permalink Eye

Once camp is set up, Zevran heads back to Blaze. "Feel like training? Unless you're too tired. Wouldn't want you overextending yourself."

Permalink Eye

"No, I'd like to! Please."

Permalink Eye

"Ah, the spirit may be willing, but the body..." He gives her a serious look, imploring her to consider herself.

Permalink Eye

"I- I think I'm okay?" she says, trying to be reassuring, but it comes out sounding more like a question.

Permalink Eye

"Hmmm." He doesn't want to keep pushing her to answer, especially not if she's telling the truth. So instead he claps his hands together.

"All right. We'll...well. We'll go as far from the camp as we can, which is not looking like quite enough distance, but caution for caution's sake."

Permalink Eye

"I'm coming with you."

Permalink Eye

"Really? After all our time together, you don't trust me?" Zevran pouts at Sten.

Permalink Eye

"Obviously not. You are an assassin."

Permalink Eye

Zevran shrugs. "True enough."

Permalink Eye

"A failed assassin."

Permalink Eye

Zevran gasps with complete horror.

He turns to Blaze, eyes wide, mouth an 'O'. "Can you believe the slander levelled against me?"

Permalink Eye

...She doesn't seem to know how to respond to that.

Permalink Eye

"I agree, Blaze. I am too aghast at the falsehoods that spill from Sten's mouth. For shame." 

He nods out to the side of the camp. "Over here." He heads off.

Permalink Eye

Eddie follows too, panting happily.

Permalink Eye

She gives Eddie a quick clap as they walk.

Permalink Eye

He nudges up into her hand, whining.

Permalink Eye

"I think this is as far as we can get. All right."

Zevran hands her his twin daggers again.

Permalink Eye

She scritches Eddie's ears, almost apologetically, and takes the daggers from Zev, waiting for his instructions.

Permalink Eye

Zevran runs her through the steps again, correcting her hands and feet as he goes, but for the most part, she's picking it up remarkably quickly and Zevran is very happy.

Permalink Eye

Sten watches on, outwardly impassive.

Permalink Eye

Zevran calls an end to it an hour later, taking the daggers back from Blaze and congratulating her. He leds the little group back to the camp, where Alistair announces dinner is ready. As he predicted earlier, Anwen had made a kill, though it had caused an argument between her and him ("A deer!? An entire deer!? What in the name of the Maker are we going to do with an entire deer just before we get to Orzammar?"), but it means the stew might actually have a taste. 

Zevran grabs a bowl for himself and Blaze, sitting down close to the fire and offering it to her. "You did very well. We'll have to see about getting you daggers of your own."

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head shyly. "I- you don't- have to." (There's the part of her still expecting to have to pay back this kindness.)

Permalink Eye

"Ah, but here's the kicker. I want to. Very much. You should have a set of weapons all your own, in case anyone gets too close."

In case your magic doesn't work, he doesn't say.

Permalink Eye

-She obviously doesn't know what to say to that.

"I- thank you." (There's a moment where it looks like she's going to say something else, probably an offer to repay him, but she visibly stops herself.)

Permalink Eye

Zevran notices. He’s had to do it himself. 

He plays it off. “Think nothing of it. You’re paying me back by keeping me trained to! Nothing gets an assassin killed faster than lack of practice.”

Permalink Eye

"I- then. You're- welcome? I guess?"

Permalink Eye

Zevran grins hugely at her. “Truly, you are a saint, Blaze.”

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head further, skin flushing, no clue how to respond to that.

Permalink Eye

Zevran smiles at that, but lets her get back to eating dinner, so he can do the same. 

Permalink Eye

Well, she finishes her dinner then.

Permalink Eye

Leliana plays her lute softly, singing along to it.

Permalink Eye

Wynne is setting up hers and Blaze's bedrolls inside the tent, humming along to Leliana's song.

Permalink Eye

Blaze hums quietly, looks to Zev. And then ducks her head, not sure how to ask what she wants to ask.

Permalink Eye

Zevran’s taken out a whetstone and is sharpening his knives. He raises an eyebrow at Blaze. “Something the matter?”

Permalink Eye

"I- no. Just-"

Permalink Eye

Zev puts his knives down and gives her his full attention.

Permalink Eye

-That's not unnerving at all, she winds her fingers together.

"I- just- Wynne's being- I- too much?"

Permalink Eye

"Is it the touching?" He asks gently.

Permalink Eye

"Some," she admits. "And some- just-" She makes a small hand gesture, trying to capture things she doesn't quite have the words for.

Permalink Eye

Zevran nods like he understands. “Would you like me to have a word with her?”

Permalink Eye

"I- don't know. I just- I." She shrugs a little helplessly.

Permalink Eye

"Hey, it's okay. Maybe things will be a little clearer in the morning, once you've had a good night's rest."

Permalink Eye

"-I- yes. As you say."

Permalink Eye

“I feel like I may have said something wrong. Is there something you were hoping to hear?”

Permalink Eye

"I don't- it doesn't matter. I'm just- I'm tired."

Permalink Eye

"Ah, me too. Time for a rest I think."

He packs away his knives, and holds out his hands for Blaze's.

Permalink Eye

She hands them over.

Permalink Eye

"Let's head back to camp. Time for sleep."

He stands and leads the way.

Permalink Eye

She follows close behind him, one hand resting absently on her stomach.

Permalink Eye

"Zevran. A word?"

Wynne motions to one side.

Permalink Eye

"But of course, my love!"

He turns to Blaze. "Sleep well. I'll see you in the morning."

Permalink Eye

She nods to him, and goes to sleep.

Permalink Eye

Zevran has his conversation with Wynne, and eventually retires to his own tent, a frown heavily set in his forehead.

Permalink Eye

Soon the morning comes, and Wynne is gently nudging Blaze awake.

Permalink Eye

She wakes quickly, as she always does.

Permalink Eye

“We’ll sleep in a proper bed tonight, however small it may be. And we’ll get a proper meal.”

Wynne keeps up a steady stream of dialogue as she takes down the tent and packs up their bedrolls. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze nods, helping where she can.

Permalink Eye

Once things are packed up, Azry gathers everyone together. “We shouldn’t be too far from Orzammar, so we’ll keep the group together. No, Anwen, don’t give me that face. We don’t know what’s waiting for us. I also don’t want to leave anyone to fight a group of bandits alone.”

Permalink Eye

“Oh, come now, I was holding them off fine,” Zevran says, appearing from seemingly nowhere. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze makes a quiet, slightly amused sound.

Permalink Eye

“All right. Let’s get moving.”

Azry and Alistair lead the way. 

Permalink Eye

And Blaze follows along.

Permalink Eye

It’s a quiet walk, though the path does lean steeper in places. During those times, someone always drops back to assist Blaze. 

Permalink Eye

Zevran watches, but doesn’t come close enough to touch. There’s an almost sad look on his face. 

Permalink Eye

She tries to assure them that she's fine, but will accept their help.

Permalink Eye

About half the day is gone when the path levels out, and the sounds of a market can be heard in the distance. 

But Azry seems suspicious. 

Permalink Eye

"Something wrong?"

Alistair can't sense anything, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything there.

Permalink Eye

"Something feels...off."

Permalink Eye

Wynne casts a protective charm over everyone.

Permalink Eye

Blaze readies herself, look around, alert.

Permalink Eye

"Nothing gets by you lot, ey?" A man appears from behind a tree, tossing a knife in one hand. He seems very relaxed for someone so outnumbered. "Was told you'd be tricky, but here you are, walking right into a trap, and then realising it was there."

He catches the knife one last time, and then whistles. 

More bandits (are they bandits appear), one of them holding a staff. They raise it-

Permalink Eye

"Alistair!"

Permalink Eye

Alistair digs deep, and casts a wide Silence.

Permalink Eye

The mage's spell sputters, and even as they try again, nothing comes to the staff.

Permalink Eye

She can feel what that is, is glad that it seems to have missed her, and spins fire up around them - it'll give anyone pause for thought before attacking. (She'll panic later, worry later. She can feel the edges of it now, but she'll ignore it, she can't afford to let it incapacitate her right now.)

Permalink Eye

Alistair charges forward, Azry on his heels. 

Permalink Eye

Leliana and Anwen remain back with Morrigan and Wynne. 

Permalink Eye

Zevran dances between foes, keeping one eye on Blaze the whole time. 

Permalink Eye

She's...okay. Holding her own.

Permalink Eye

Once their foes are down, Azry kicks over the leader, who is still gasping. 

“How did you know we were coming?”

The leader spits out blood. “Didn’t- Just...been here, waiting.”

Permalink Eye

“A sound plan,” Morrigan drawls. 

Permalink Eye

Wynne busies herself going between all the party members, healing minor hurts. 

Permalink Eye

After a moment, Blaze joins in. (If she's busy she won't think.)

Permalink Eye

“There’ll be more like him,” Azry says darkly. 

She then bends down, and cuts the man’s throat. 

Permalink Eye

“Loghain doesn’t even need to send men to do his bidding.”

Permalink Eye

Azry wraps a hand around Alistair’s neck and tugs him down to kiss him. 

“We’ll end him. I swear it.”

Permalink Eye

Alistair wraps his arms around her and holds her close. 

Permalink Eye

Wynne watches Blaze heal with fondness. “I can show you how to do that better. Leliana! Come here.”

Permalink Eye

Leliana jumps a little, but comes as requested, holding a small wound in her side. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze tilts her head in question.

Permalink Eye

“Lay your hands on the wound like so-“ Wynne demonstrates. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze follows the instructions.

Permalink Eye

Wynne is impressed, especially since Blaze clearly wasn’t trained as a healer. 

Permalink Eye

“That feels much better, Blaze. Thank you.”

Permalink Eye

Shy smile.

Permalink Eye

“We’d better get moving. I can’t wait to see what Orzammar looks like!”

Permalink Eye

Azry and Alistair have detangled, but their hands have linked. 

“Ready to keep moving?” She calls out to Blaze and Wynne. 

Permalink Eye

Blaze nods.

Permalink Eye

“Then let’s keep moving.”

She and Alistair lead the way. 

Permalink Eye

Zevran drops back to walk with Blaze. 

“Was that the first time you’d seen Alistair use his templar skills?”

Permalink Eye

She doesn't want to think about this. "Yes."

Permalink Eye

Zevran sees the look, and quietens. It doesn’t stop his concern for her. 

Even with what Wynne said last night. 

Permalink Eye

She ducks her head, focusing on putting one front in front of the other, on her baby.

Permalink Eye

After a moment, Zevran holds out an arm to help her. 

Permalink Eye

After a second, she takes it.

Permalink Eye

He smiles at her, comfortingly.

Permalink Eye

She manages a smile back.

Permalink Eye

He tucks another hand over hers, squeezing gently.

Permalink Eye

Wynne frowns, but says nothing.

Permalink Eye

In the distance, though not to far, a great set of stone steps can be seen, and in front, a modest market, brightly coloured tents noticeable against the white snow.

Permalink Eye

"We may actually get something good to eat. And yes, I'm fully aware I'm mocking my own cooking."

Permalink Eye

Blaze half-giggles, but cuts herself off.

Permalink Eye

"We'll leave you lot in the market, Alistair and I will figure out how we get in."

Permalink Eye

"I'll keep an eye on everyone."

Permalink Eye <