tagCelebrities & Fan FictionThere and Back Again Ch. 089-090

There and Back Again Ch. 089-090

byElyssaCousland©

Chapter Eighty-Nine: *Arming and Disarming

After making love on and off all night, we finally fell into an exhausted sleep in the early hours of the morning. Someone pounding on the door woke us sometime later; the room was pitch dark, and I had absolutely no idea what time it was.

Alistair slipped out of bed and fumbled for some trousers, swearing as he banged his shin in the dark. "This better be an emergency," he growled as he opened the door, while I hid under the covers.

I heard Zevran's voice. "It's always an emergency when Grey Wardens haven't eaten all day, no?"

"We ate earlier. Sometime. What time is it, anyway?"

"Mid-afternoon, sleepyheads. Time to get up! There's an armourer here to measure Sierra, and Duncan wants her to go talk to some weaponsmith about a weapon idea she had?"

I swore. It did need to be done, but did it have to be done today? "So why are you standing there instead of Duncan? You offered, I bet. Hoping to catch a peek at something, you pervert?"

"I'd say I already caught a peek at something, Bellissima, but it isn't you."

I heard Alistair mutter something uncomplimentary, and I laughed. "Go away and let me change, Zevran!"

He laughed. "I very much doubt you have anything on that needs changing, but I suppose you might want to get dressed."

Alistair slammed the door behind him, and then fumbled for the arcane lamp we'd left beside the door. Bluish light blossomed, and I crawled out of bed to see Alistair standing near the door with only low-riding trousers. I gave him an appreciative once-over: mussed up hair, hickeys, fingernail marks...oh yes, Zevran got an eyeful, alright.

"Do we have to get out of bed?" I whined.

He was looking at me naked, and his eyes darkened. "If you don't want me keeping you in until tomorrow, you better put something on quick," he teased.

"Eep!" I scrambled for a pair of panties and a bra, getting a whiff of myself as I struggled into them. "Oh, ugh. I need a bath. What I wouldn't give for a shower! I smell like stale sex and unwashed human. Though I suppose that's better than wet dog."

Alistair came over and pulled me into a hug, sniffing me as he did. "Smells good to me."

"That's because I smell like sex with you! That poor armourer..."

"He'll live. He's probably worked with Oghren before, after all."

"Point. Even stale sex smells better than that!"

Finally ready, I headed out into the main room with Alistair on my heels. I wore the clothes I usually wore under my armour, trousers and a shirt; Alistair was dressed similarly, though his were looser fitting, since he didn't need new armour. There was a dwarf waiting impatiently for us, ignoring the chaos as people came in and out around him. He was neatly dressed, with carefully coifed hair, a neatly groomed beard, and a waxed moustache that rivalled that of any villain from a 1920's silent film on Earth.

He looked...prissy. If there was such a thing as Orlesian dwarves, he would be one.

Mistress Leta introduced us; his name was Paider, and he was not pleased to meet me. He followed me to the library, since I wasn't about to take him into my room, which smelled of sex and looked like a hurricane had landed there. Solona was sitting with a book in her lap, and she watched in amusement as the man measured me, almost without speaking at all. He pushed or pinched when he needed me to move something, had me bend over and twist, and then asked a few terse questions about my fighting style.

"And what is this you are wearing?"

I looked down. "This? I put on what I wear under my armour. I thought that would be helpful."

"This? You wear this under armour? Do you not have proper arming clothes?"

"Um..."

"Ach! I cannot be expected to work like this." He paced and muttered to himself; for a prissy sort, he swore like a sailor. Must be a dwarven thing. "I shall make new arming clothes as well. And I suppose the rest of your...friends, need arming clothes as well?"

"I suppose? They all wear the same as me, more or less. Half the time, Alistair wears pyjamas."

Solona started laughing outright at the dwarf's outrage.

"I must do measurements. Go! Go! Send the first one up, while I measure this one."

He stomped over to Solona, demanding she get up.

"What? But I don't wear armour! I don't need arming clothes under my robes." Solona looked decidedly less amused now that the dwarf's attention was on her. "Hey, stop pinching!"

I laughed all the way to the dining room, where I organised those present into a lineup to get measured. I did a mental head count: Zevran and I both needed new leathers after the Deep Roads, and Leliana could use some as well. Duncan needed an updated set of mail, and Faren's plate was mostly scavenged crap, though I wondered how the prissy little armourer would deal with measuring a Casteless. The others mostly needed new arming clothes, apparently, but I thought that Sten and perhaps Bel and Oghren might benefit from new gear too. In fact, Alistair and Aedan, plus the mages, were possibly the only ones who didn't need new armour. I briefly felt sorry for the armourer, until one of the bruises where he'd pinched me started to ache.

When I got everyone organised, I realised one was missing - my brother. "Zev? Where's Aedan?"

"The Warden, shall we say, overindulged last night. He is...resting, I believe."

"Resting? You came and woke me this morning, but Aedan's still resting?"

I turned and headed to their room, ignoring Zev's protests. I didn't knock, but just barged in; the door wasn't locked. "Aedan?" I spoke loudly, teasing the poor hung-over fool.

"Fuck off." The mumble came from underneath a mound of blankets on the bed. I reached over and pulled, making Aedan scramble to catch one and hold it over himself like a shield. "What are you doing here? Get out!"

"Your boyfriend woke me from my well-deserved sleep; you can blame him."

"Sierra, seriously, get out. I'm naked!"

"I gathered. You have a blanket, so just relax."

He flopped back on the bed, groaning theatrically. "I hate you."

I sat on the edge of the bed. "I told you, blame Zev. He even tried to get a peek at me naked, I think. Got an eyeful of Alistair instead."

He groaned again. "I didn't need to know that!"

I laughed. "If I can handle the thought of you and Zev, you can cope with me and Alistair. Hey, at least we're going to be legitimate, one of these days..."

"Zev and I are as legitimate as we're likely to get."

"I know. Stupid. Why won't the Chantry let two men marry? No one else gets their knickers in a knot about it here, why should they?"

"Could we not discuss this now, while I'm, you know, naked?"

I chuckled. "Fine. Look, I just wanted to see how you're doing. We haven't had a chance to talk much lately."

He sighed. "You mean, am I okay with you and Alistair and the whole marriage thing."

"Well, sure, that, but also just in general. With Duncan like..." I just couldn't continue that sentence. "Well, a lot more responsibility is falling on your shoulders again."

"I'm fine. Really. It's not the first time I've had to lead, and it won't be the last. I'm even trained for it. And, for the record, I'm fine with you and Alistair, though I will murder him if he does something stupid to hurt you again. As long as you don't share the details about your sex life, I'm good." He sat up, taking my hand. "I'm happy for you, sis. You deserve to be happy."

I hugged him tightly and then stood. "You need to get measured for arming clothes, I've been informed. So get your ass out of bed, will you? If you don't, I'm sending Sten in here next."

He threw a pillow at me that bounced harmlessly off onto the floor. I stuck my tongue out at him, and he laughed. "Fine, fine. I'll be down in a few minutes."

I left him and went to find Duncan, who'd pulled rank, been measured first, and was waiting for me. "Sereda told me the name of a weaponsmith who might be able to make a - what did you call them? Bola launcher? If you're agreeable, we could go now."

I agreed. "But I need to change first. I'm fine with everyone here seeing me in this, but I'm not going out in stained tight cotton trousers. Two minutes?"

He nodded, and I headed to my room, stopping to grab a bucket of warm water to wash up with on my way. I scrubbed myself down, changed into a clean, if not fancy dress, put my hair in a ponytail, and met up with Duncan in the dining room. He offered me his arm, and we left together after I received a quick kiss from Alistair. Aedan was at the back of the line for being measured, and waved as I left.

The weaponsmith, a dwarf named Dallard, was quite possibly wider than he was tall, and he had a shop just off the main market. There were crossbows on display in the front area, but when he showed us unto the back, I stopped, amazed. There were a variety of ballistae, essentially giant spear launchers, as well as trebuchets and other siege weaponry in various states of assembly. And behind that was a range for testing weapons. The place was huge.

Dallard looked at Duncan, ignoring me entirely. Duncan explained the problem - bringing down a flying dragon so it could be killed on the ground - and then gestured to me. Dallard looked at me skeptically, and I sighed.

"Where I come from, there's a weapon called a bola. Essentially, it's a couple rocks tied together with rope. When thrown, the rope will tangle around the legs of a creature and make it fall. I'm wondering if a ballista or something like it can be altered to launch a bola hard enough to tangle around a dragon's wings."

He looked somewhat intrigued, but still confused. He found some rope somewhere, and a variety of what looked like small stone cannonballs. I didn't even ask what they were normally used for. He handed me the rope, which I stared at in shock. I hadn't the foggiest idea how to make a bola, really; I'd only seen them in National Geographic television specials about South American aboriginal cultures.

"Um, okay well, keep in mind I've never made one of these before. I've only seen pictures. But if you can tie a rock to the end there? And I'll tie one here..."

It turns out that tying a rock on the end of a rope is harder than it sounds. In the end, I tied two loops, forming a little basket to hold the rock. Dallard did something similar on his end.

"Okay, so if I remember correctly, you hold the rope in the middle," I hoisted the heavy rope, "swing it around like this, and then throw it in the direction you want it to go."

I tossed the rope towards a practice dummy, missing entirely; Dallard laughed, and even Duncan chuckled.

"Fine, smarty pants, you try." I retrieved the weapon and handed Duncan the rope.

He spun it a couple of times, testing its weight, and then launched it towards the dummy. One of the rocks struck the thing dead on, and the other pulled the rope off to the side. He collected the bola and tried again, finally getting the rope to tangle around the dummy like I'd predicted.

"I've heard you can make them with three or more balls, though why that's better than two I'm not sure. I think, if you add a third rope here," I pointed at the centre of the rope being held by Dallard, "you spin it with the third rock in your hand. Though I could be wrong. And apparently they alter the weight of the rocks, sometimes using uneven weights to make it tangle better. But I thought that if you could somehow load two rocks into a ballista-type thing, and fire them simultaneously, you might be able to bring down a dragon."

"And it would need to be mobile, unlike a ballista. Perhaps mounted on a cart, or carried by hand. Maybe more like a crossbow than a ballista?" Duncan added.

Dallard was nodding, but by the vacant look on his face, I could tell he wasn't listening. He was thinking. He fiddled with one of the rocks, lifting the rope to test its weight, maybe; I wasn't really sure, he could have just been fidgeting. Finally he turned to me.

"How much do you want?" he asked, his voice rough and gravelly.

"Uh, pardon? How many of them do we need? I don't know. I guess it depends how hard they are to make, and how big they are-"

"No. How much do you want to sell me this idea? Exclusively, obviously. I won't pay for something you're going to sell to others."

"I, uh, Duncan?"

I turned to Duncan, confused; his expression was amused, and he appeared to be holding in a laugh. "I forget you've never dealt with dwarves before. Would you like me to negotiate for you?"

"Please?" I don't even know what you're negotiating for.

Duncan turned to Dallard. "How much do you think you can sell a unit for?"

"Well, that depends on the demand, I suppose. Won't be that much need - Nevarrans, maybe, and Grey Wardens, obviously; might be able to adapt the design for more conventional uses as well, I suppose."

"Come now, my friend. How much?"

"Perhaps...ten sovereigns per unit?"

"So twenty, then." The dwarf grimaced, and Duncan smiled. "And that means at least fifteen of that is pure profit. I'd say twenty-five percent of the profit might be a reasonable starting place..."

I tuned it out as the men haggled. I wasn't trying to make money on the deal, I just wanted to increase the chances of my family escaping a battle with the Archdemon alive. I examined the other weaponry mindlessly while they debated. Finally Duncan came over to me.

"You have a choice. You can take a lump sum payment now of two hundred fifty sovereigns, or you can take three sovereigns per unit he is able to sell for perpetuity. It's up to you." He dropped his voice and whispered, "If I were you, I'd take the three sovereigns per unit. It'll take a while to get the same amount of money, but based on how hard he's pushing the lump sum, he knows he can sell much more than that."

I was shocked. Two hundred fifty sovereigns was an enormous fortune. That was probably the equivalent of millions on Earth. And some dwarf was going to hand me that much based on an idea alone? How did a random weaponsmith even have that much coin? But then...if I took three sovereigns per unit sold, that could provide me a solid income for years. I'd be less likely to lose it, have it stolen, or use it all and be left poor. And I might make more in the long-run...

How does telling someone else about an idea that wasn't even mine make me rich? This isn't supposed to be that sort of fairy tale.

"Throw in a handful of the launchers for the Grey Wardens, and I'll take the three sovereigns per."

Dallard grimaced, but nodded. "I'll do you one better, missy. Instead of giving them to the Wardens, I'll sell them to her Highness Queen Sereda for her army, and even train some of her men to use them. She can bring them to the surface when the army leaves to combat the Blight, and you and I can make a little profit off it while we're at it."

I laughed. Duncan nodded, so I agreed as well.

"Now remember, we have an exclusive deal. You can't sell this idea to anyone else."

That was an easy promise to make. As long as the Archdemon was defeated, the rest was just gravy.

The measuring had all been done by the time we arrived back at the estate, and we had a surprise guest: Sereda. She was wearing fine clothes - trousers and a jacket that looked surprisingly feminine while still being more practical than a dress - and was lounging in the dining room, talking to Aedan and Gorim while everyone ate dinner. Duncan joined them, while I cornered Leliana and began stuffing my face.

I gestured to Sereda. "Leli, could I pull off that outfit?"

Leliana, sitting with an armful of rather smug-looking nug, inspected it critically. "If the design was altered for your slighter frame, I suppose. You want something like that?"

"Eventually, I think. Everyone keeps telling me I have to accept being a noblewoman, but I hate all those stinking dresses. I need something different, something still stylish, but not so...girly."

"I'll work on it, my friend."

"Thanks, Leli." I stopped, looking around. "Hey, where's Solona?"

As one of so few female companions, her absence stuck out.

"I think she and Anders are talking. Up in the library."

"Oh, Maker, I'd better go check that she hasn't lit him on fire."

I kissed Alistair briefly, then headed upstairs. I walked down the hallway, listening intently for voices. I didn't want to interrupt if the discussion was going well, but I wanted to be able to intervene if things got ugly.

No one was in the library when I arrived, however; deciding against looking any further, I grabbed a book on griffons and curled up on a chaise in the back corner. There was a little alcove, lit by an arcane lamp similar to those at Soldier's Peak, and a comfy chair. I could almost believe I was on Earth, sitting in my tiny spare room surrounded by my books.

My mind wandered as I flipped through the griffon book. My ring caught the light and sparkled brilliantly, and got me thinking about my wedding. Which was sort of surreal - how did one even plan a wedding in Thedas? We haven't discussed dates, and I assume we'll wait until after the Blight, but perhaps Alistair wants to do it sooner? I daydreamed for a little while, about a time when the darkspawn were quiescent, and Alistair and I could live quietly, with our friends and whatever new Wardens we could acquire, just being normal for a brief time.

Who am I kidding? We'd get bored in a minute. Still, the concept held a certain appeal, to be sure.

As I sat not really reading, I heard raised voices, but couldn't make them out until they were right outside the library door.

"...trying to protect you, 'Lona," Anders was saying.

"Protect me? I fail to see how this story has anything to do with me." Solona was in tears, I could tell, and my heart ached. They came through the library door, but hidden as I was in the alcove and dwarfed by the chaise, they didn't notice me. I debated - should I stand up, announce my presence, and try to sneak away unobtrusively? I didn't want to - the two were finally talking, after Maker-knew how long, and I wasn't about to interrupt. I decided to slump down even further and breathe very, very quietly. If I get caught, I'll pretend to be sleeping.

"Danielle would have done anything to protect me. It was the same for me with you. Do you really think the templars would have hesitated to use you to get to me? They'd have threatened you, maybe thrown you in solitary, maybe tortured you...do you really think they'd have hesitated to make you Tranquil if they thought it would get me to cooperate?"

His voice wavered. "I wanted to find a way for both of us to get out of there, Solona. But I couldn't do that without escaping. And if the templars knew how I felt about you, they'd have used you to trap me. I'd have been made Tranquil, and maybe so would you, or maybe you'd just be trapped still. But I was too selfish to stay away from you...so my only alternative was to make them think you were just a casual fling. Like everyone else."

"I was just a casual fling to you, Anders, don't you see? If you loved me at all, you'd have told me what you were up to, and we could have found a way. Together. But it was always just about you, wasn't it? You wanted out, you wanted me, you wanted free reign to have sex with whoever caught your fancy...I heard the stories, you know, from the other girls. Even some of the boys. About Anders and his marvellous technique, or his magic tongue. You left a string of broken hearts behind you every time you escaped, and mine was only one of many."

"Solona, I-"

"Just stop, Anders. Stop. I can accept that you thought you loved me. All that means to me is that you don't know what love is. And I don't know what's worse."

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