tagCelebrities & Fan FictionThere and Back Again Ch. 077-078

There and Back Again Ch. 077-078


Chapter Seventy-Seven: Making Friends

I had entirely forgotten about Leske and the dwarf commoner being in the Carta's dungeon. I'd played the dwarf origins up to Ostagar, but never past; from what I remembered, Brosca should have been dead from self-imposed starvation, and Leske barely hanging on. And at no point was I aware of a problem that would cause one dwarf to actively want the other dead. I wrinkled my brow.

"Brosca? That sounds...like a last name. What's your first name? And why do you want to kill Leske, over there?"

"Aren't we demanding for someone trapped behind bars?"

I flushed. "Sorry! I'm sorry. I don't mean to be nosey. I'm just a little freaked out right now, and talking helps me stay sane. Please, tell me a story, then, or just...please, keep talking to me. I don't care what about."

Seemingly appeased, I heard the dwarf chuckle. "Faren. My name is Faren. And I, well, that's a long story, though I guess we've all got nothing but time, eh? Let's see. I worked for the old leader of the Carta, Beraht. He ordered me to try to fix a Proving. When I got there, Beraht's fighter was passed out drunk, so I put on his armour and won the Proving. Would have gotten away with it, too, except that the drunk bastard stumbled out into the ring. Leske and I were arrested, and Beraht paid the guards to bring us here instead so we couldn't implicate him in it.

"A while back, there was some sort of kerfuffle; something about the mages not buying Lyrium anymore. I don't know the details, but it had everyone in an uproar...I managed to grab the guard, knock him out, and steal the keys. Leske and I escaped, but on the way out we had to fight Beraht. We killed him, but before we could get away entirely, Jarvia found us. Then Leske here," I heard a fist slam against a metal bar in frustration, "betrayed me and sold his soul to the Carta. Offered to help Jarvia pick up the pieces after Beraht's death. Blamed me for everything, and she fell for it. Dumped me back in here, and Leske got to live the high life as Jarvia's second for a while. 'Til the moron got himself caught skimming or something, and now here he is, back in the dungeon again. They contemplated putting us in the same cell, for a while - I wish they had, so I could have killed the bastard. I don't even know what happened to my sister."

I jumped - of course, if he never made it out of the hideout, he wouldn't know. I thought frantically. "Hey, wait...Brosca...is your sister named Rica, perchance?"

"How'd you know that?"

"I knew I'd heard the name somewhere. I met her," I lied. I didn't want to get into the discussion about my origins. "She's doing fine."

"How'd you meet my sister?"

"Her patron is Bhelen Aeducan. She's pregnant with the heir to House Aeducan."

I heard angry grunting from the mysteriously silent Leske, and happy cursing from Faren. "Well don't that beat all! Rica made good! You hear that, Leske? You always did have a thing for Rica, but now she's practically a Princess!"

There was more grunting, and I finally had to ask. "Faren, why doesn't he talk?"

"Ah, that. Jarvia cut out his tongue, I'm guessing. He hasn't been able to talk since, and can barely eat. I don't truly know what he did to get on her bad side, so I assumed stealing."

I had a thought. In game, Leske hadn't been a total bastard, and he'd definitely had a thing for Rica.

"Leske? One grunt for yes, two grunts for no, okay?"

He grunted once.

"Did you steal from Jarvia?"

Two grunts.

"Something more personal, am I right?"

One grunt.

"Let me guess. You broke her heart."

One slightly hesitant grunt.

"Because she found out you had a thing for Rica?"

One grunt.

"You tried to rescue her from Bhelen?"

One very resigned grunt.

"You wanted her to be with you."

Two grunts.

"Not...oh. You were trying to protect her from backlash from Jarvia for Beraht's death."

One grunt.

Faren finally spoke softly. "You tried to protect Rica?"

A very tired-sounding grunt.

"I...I need to...lie down, for a bit." Faren sounded freaked. I couldn't blame him.

I heard shuffling, and then nothing. It was quiet.

I've never been particularly good at quiet. As much as I'd always had trouble with people - it tends to be off-putting when people realise you don't trust anyone - I didn't like sitting alone in the quiet. At home I always had the television or the radio on, or music from my iPod blaring; I never sat in the quiet. Even at night I had a fan to provide white noise.

And since I'd come to Ferelden, I'd never really had much quiet. There were always others around - others who I could trust, because I knew them before having to trust them - and the sounds of talking, or snoring, or whistling, in addition to the sound of nature. I hadn't sat with no noise much, and I wasn't thrilled to be doing so now.

No sounds conducted through the thick stone walls, and nothing echoed through the thick wooden door. There was no squeaking, fortunately - I was terrified of rats, overall, but figured any that tried to live in Dust Town would just get eaten. I crawled across the tiny cell and used the bucket for its intended purpose, wishing fervently for a cover to decrease the smell. I went back to sitting against the wall near the bars, and tried to relax.

I worried what Jarvia would be asking Solona to do, and whether Solona would do it. And if she did, what then? I'd still be in the dungeon, and they'd still have leverage to manipulate the Wardens even more. I wondered if I wished myself back to Earth whether I'd end up back in this stupid cell when I returned. Knowing my luck, probably.

I eventually fell asleep, and woke again an indeterminate amount of time later with a headache and a sore neck. I was hungry, but mostly thirsty, and there was no sign anyone had come or gone.

"Faren?" I whispered. I couldn't have said why, but talking loudly just seemed wrong somehow.

"How you holding up?" he replied.

"I'm thirsty. Will they come by with food or water soon?"

"Possibly. Never can tell - it's pretty random. They seemed content to let me starve to death, but now that Leske's back they come by with food more often. I'm guessing he made a couple of friends among the guards."

"How long have you been down here?"

"Honestly? I don't know. Lost track after a month, and that's since my unsuccessful escape. I don't know how long I'd been here before that."

"That's just...awful. I'm amazed you haven't weakened entirely."

"I exercise, as much as I can, when they feed me. Walk around my cell, do push-ups, that sort of thing. I don't think I've lost too much muscle. You should do it too, if you want to be able to walk when you get out of here. I just do it out of boredom."

"I would, but...well, I don't fit in here. I can't stand up, I can't lie down..."

"Oh, right. That's a problem. Hey, you got friends on the outside, though, yeah?"

"Yeah, some. Some have gone into the Deep Roads, though."

"Whatever for?"

"Oh, ah...to find the Paragon."

"Branka? I heard she was crazy. She'd have to be, taking her entire house into the Deep Roads..."

"Yeah, well, we need her to pick a King." I contemplated whether I should explain my unique situation to Faren. "It's complicated."

We stopped talking at the sound of the door's hinges squealing. A dwarf came through carrying a tray with three bowls on it, and a large water skin. He handed us each a bowl gruffly, without saying a word, and then stood there staring while we ate. There was some sort of stew in the bowl, thick with a few unidentifiable floaty bits that might have been meat. I closed my eyes, steeled my resolve, and tipped it back; as a Warden, I needed to eat when I could, and I didn't think they'd bring me anything else if I asked.

When all three of us had emptied our bowls, he went around and filled each one from his water skin before leaving the way he'd come in. I took as small a drink as I could talk myself into, and carefully put the bowl to the side where I wouldn't knock it over. I figured it might be the only water I'd get for a while, and I didn't want to end up desperate enough to lick the water running down the stone wall in my cell.

I was starting to get cold, so I curled around myself in fetal position, pulling my arms into the sweater I wore, trying to conserve heat. I heard shuffling next door, and I guessed Faren was doing the same.

"Goodnight, Sierra," came his voice softly, and I replied the same.

"Goodnight, Leske," he whispered next.

Leske grunted, and I smiled. What Jarvia had done was despicable, and I was happy to see that perhaps the dwarves' friendship would be mended.

The next day passed the same way; I alternated between sitting with my back to a wall and lying on my side in fetal position. I was getting a sore back from not being able to stretch out, and worried I'd be getting out of shape from too many days cooped up. I chatted a bit with Faren, telling him what little I knew about Rica, and surreptitiously sounding him out about Bhelen. He was surprisingly not opinionated about Bhelen - all he wanted was for Rica to be safe. If she could be safe with Harrowmont on the throne, he didn't care.

After a while, we ran out of things to talk about. Faren was a nice guy, but he didn't want to talk about his life, and I wasn't going to risk explaining my bizarre origins in a dungeon cell where others could be listening. I dozed, on and off, when I could get comfortable enough. I was starving and thirsty again; the bowl of water hadn't lasted very long, and no one had come back to feed us or bring more water. The light was dim - only one flickering torch lit the dungeon - and still no sound penetrated the wooden door. After a while I started singing, anything I could think of to keep myself sane. I figured eventually I'd disappear, and then I'd just have to hope that when I reappeared I was somewhere safer. Like the Deep Roads, as an example.

It occurred to me that if I did disappear, it could get Faren and Leske killed. The Carta would assume I'd escaped, and that Leske and Faren would know where I went or how I got out; when they truthfully claimed to have no idea, they could be tortured or killed. I decided I needed to warn them. Not that it would do them any good, but at least they'd know I didn't do it on purpose or escape while leaving them behind...


"Yes?" He sounded bored. Hardly a surprise...

"So...I have to tell you something. It's going to be confusing. And you completely won't believe me, but I'm going to tell you anyway."


"So I have this habit of...disappearing. I can't control it, before you ask, not really. It's some sort of magic that was cast on me at birth, though we don't know how or why, or even what sort of magic. When I do, I reappear sometime later, somewhere else. There's more to it, but it's even less believable than that, so I'll leave that out for now."

"Well, you're cracked, that's for sure."

"I'm aware that you'll think so, and from here there's nothing I can do to convince you."

"Why are you telling me this bat-shit crazy story?"

"Because...I'm afraid of what Jarvia will do to you if I disappear. When the guards ask you, you won't be able to tell them where I went or how I got out. And to apologise in advance, if it happens. If I possibly can, I will come back with the Grey Wardens and try to free you. I promise I won't leave you in here if I get out."

"...Yeah, okay, whatever you say." The disbelief was clear, and I sighed. At least I tried.

After another few hours of quietly, miserably curling up shivering in the cold stone dungeon cell, the massive door opened, revealing the same dwarf from the previous day. He took our old bowls, distributed new bowls of a thin, sort of grey, gruel that held some resemblance to porridge, if you squinted just right. Too hungry to complain too much, I gobbled it down before holding my bowl out for water.

Now parched, I still tried to limit how much I drank to save some for later; I was getting close to giving in and trying to lick up the water from the back wall of the cell. The food kept me from feeling sick with hunger, but my stomach still growled to let me know it wasn't satisfied. Still miserable, I tried to sleep, only to be woken every hour with darkspawn nightmares. I apologised to Faren and Leske each time, but couldn't seem to stop the screaming.

I gave up on sleep, sitting with my knees up, rocking slightly. I was getting paranoid - I'd expected to disappear already, not still be sitting and waiting. Just my luck - the time I'm stuck in Thedas is the time I'm in a dungeon. I was antsy from the stress and worry, and it felt like someone was watching me. Which was entirely impossible; the room was far too small for someone to hide, and Leske and Faren could no more see me than I could them. I put it off as claustrophobia, but it left me irritable. When Faren tried asking me about my nightmares, I snapped at him, and he stopped talking.

When the heavy door creaked open again, I looked up, surprised. It wasn't time to be fed again - I hadn't even finished my water - but I saw a pale-faced, fearful dwarf scurry through the door and slam it shut. Faren tried asking what was going on, but the dwarf hissed "Shut up, you fool!" and refused to say anything else. When the door started to open again, the startled guard backed up; I saw a muscular, hairy arm reach out from Faren's cell and grab the back of his armour, yanking him back against the bars of the cell; a sickening crack, and the dwarf slumped to the floor. It reminded me rather violently of meeting Riordan, in game, in Howe's dungeon before the Landsmeet.

The door creaked shut again before it had fully opened, so there was no outcry. I heard shuffling as Faren searched the body, and then jingling; I assumed he'd found the keys. As I waited for him to try each of several keys in the lock to his cell, my paranoia escalated. I almost turned around to see who was staring at me, even though I knew no one would be there. It was giving me a bit of a headache, actually, almost like...

"Darkspawn?" I wondered aloud. That doesn't make any sense. How would darkspawn get into the middle of Orzammar? But then I thought about it. "Grey Wardens! Solona!" I shouted.

I heard Faren cursing at me to be quiet, but suddenly I knew what was happening that had the guard scared. Solona, and probably Leli and maybe even Morrigan, were coming to get me.

"My friends are out there. It's okay. We want them to find us!"

"Another special power of yours?" He snorted. "Even if you're right, if someone in the Carta figures that out and comes in here to hold a blade to your throat, that's not going to help much, now is it?"

Oh. "Uh, right. Shutting up."

Finally Faren got the door to his cell open and then came over to open mine. He was fairly handsome, I supposed, for a dwarf, with curly dark brown hair, what had been a well-groomed beard at some point, and a tattoo that gave him the appearance of a perpetual black eye. He gave me a sly grin, and overall it gave him quite a rakish sort of appearance. I grinned back, before he turned and set Leske free as well.

I stepped out of my little cell, enjoying being able to stretch. The two dwarves shared a brief, awkward man-hug that I pretended not to see, and then Faren proceeded to search the guard's body. He had two swords, a table dagger, a handful of silver, and some armour that almost looked like it would fit Faren. Leske helped him strip the armour off the corpse and put it on; Leske himself was a little bit broader through the chest and shoulders, and would never have fit.

"Know how to fight, girl?" Faren asked, holding a sword out in my direction.

"Sort of. I'm useless with a sword. I'll take the knife, though, if you don't need it, and you guys keep the swords."

He nodded; I felt immeasurably better with a weapon in my hand, even if it was a dirty table knife.

"Now what?" I asked. "Do we go out there?"

Faren thought about it. "No, I don't think we should. We're not particularly well-equipped, and there could be guards or who knows what behind that door. I think we're best to wait. If your friends are out there," he sounded highly skeptical, and I grinned, "they'll find us; if not, we can defend ourselves better from in here. I can bottle-neck them at the door, keep us from being overwhelmed."

We settled in to wait for a few minutes; the sounds of combat started to filter through the heavy door, and then there was the sound of booted feet running. I tucked myself behind the door, where I wouldn't be seen when someone entered; Faren and Leske ducked into my cell. Just in time - the door hinges squealed as someone entered, shouting over their shoulder in what I assumed was Dwarvish.

He stopped abruptly at the sight of the dead guard, and I took the opportunity to put my blade to his neck. He shouted in surprise, and Faren stepped out of the cell, already swinging his weapon. Behind him as I was, I stayed mostly clean, but both Leske and Faren were sprayed with blood as the guard's neck split open. His corpse dropped to the ground, and I jumped back in alarm.

I strangled a screech, shooting Faren a dirty look; we didn't need to kill him. I sighed as he shrugged and turned back towards the door, which had swung partially shut in the chaos. I quickly stripped an extra dagger from the corpse, and Faren picked up the small shield he carried. Leske began stripping off the guard's armour, I assumed so he could don it himself.

I could hear the clang of sword-fighting moving steadily closer, and I gripped my daggers; we were probably out of luck pretending we weren't free, so I prepared myself to leave the room and have to fight. Faren stood at my side, and we waited for Leske. But before the mute dwarf could finish dressing, I heard a deep voice echoing down the hall. It was clearly an angry voice, but the British, or rather, Fereldan accent was unmistakable.

I darted past Faren and out the door, danger forgotten in my eagerness to get to the source of that voice. I heard Faren curse, the only word I caught being 'nug-humping', as he chased after me. I got a few feet down the hallway, when I came to an intersection; turning my head to the right, I saw the face I'd been wishing for, and dreaming of, for two days.

"Alistair!" There was no one left standing in the hallway except my lover, Leliana, Zevran, and Morrigan; I dropped my daggers and ran towards them raggedly, tears streaming down my face.

Alistair's smile could have blinded the unwary; he put out his arms just as I leaped, and caught me mid-air, crushing me to his chest. His shield, still on his arm, wrapped behind me as he held me. He was covered in gore and wearing full plate armour, and I hadn't bathed in two days; I didn't care. I wrapped my arms around his neck, squirming in delight as he pressed kisses to my face, over and over. I sobbed, and he kissed my tears away.

"What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in the Deep Roads."

"Rescuing you, you brat! I stayed behind with Zev-"

The elf in question interrupted us. "Perhaps this is not the time for explanations, yes? Carta to kill, and all that..."

I shook my head, and Alistair lowered me to the ground. "Right. Of course. Catch up later." I turned to hug Leli and Zev, and even Morrigan returned my embrace. I took Alistair's water skin, taking a long drink. "I don't suppose you brought my amour?"

Alistair gestured to a pack slung over his shoulder, and I pulled him down for a fierce kiss. "I love you."

I turned to find Faren and Leske, now both in armour, fully armed, watching with curious gazes. "Right. Faren, Leske, this is Alistair, Leliana, Morrigan, and Zevran. Guys, Faren and Leske. Leske doesn't talk much. They're coming with us, okay? Now make nice while I change."

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