Chapter Five – Playing games
Daveth climbed to his feet and returned to the tent in which Jory was lying. She saw Alistair pull an injury-healing kit from his pack. Something else fell out with it that he did not seem to notice, though she did. She strained her eyes to catch a glimpse of it but without much luck.
“So, Alistair,” said Neria, “what do you Templars do when you aren't hunting us down and swotting over the Chant of Light.”
“I actually wasn't very good at memorising the Chant,” confessed Alistair, ignoring the faintly mocking tone in her voice. “Got sent to the kitchens to scrub the dishes more times than anyone else in Chantry history for forgetting my lines.”
“Maybe you just had a poor memory?” she suggested.
“Oh I'm sure that was true too,” chuckled Alistair. “I never remembered which shoe to put on which foot either.”
He was reaching out to stoke the fire. In a moment, he would have seen the thing that he had dropped. With a snap of her fingers she made the fire flare up just about enough to force Alistair to shut his eyes. A quick dart of her hand and she had the object in her hand. She opened her first to look at it just as Alistair opened his eyes. It was a bronze soldier – a replica of Cormac, one of Ferelden’s ancient heroes, if she recalled correctly.
“Hey! Give that back!” he protested.
“A little too old to play with dolls, I'd have thought, Alistair.”
“It's a figurine, not a doll,” he replied, colouring.
“So that's what Templars do in their spare time – play with dolls?”
He made a swipe for her hand to reclaim it, but the elf was too quick for him, rolling to her other side, out of his reach.
“Cormac was a real hero. He killed the evil witch Flemeth, who used to live out here in these very wilds,” said Alistair, making another unsuccessful swipe, “and you'd better return that if you don't want me to forget I'm not a Templar anymore.”
She tossed the figurine back at him.
“Oh yes, that's right, Alistair. Once a Templar always a Templar, isn't it? Fight the newly-harrowed mage over a doll. Make your Revered Mother very proud of you, I'm sure, when you take home my corpse and lie that I tried to possess your mind using Blood magic out here in the Wilds.”
“I have no intention of doing that, elf!” he replied, bristling with anger. “I just do not like having my things taken from me or made fun of.”
“That – figurine – means something to you, then?”
“I found it in the stables at Redcliffe when I was a child. Never knew who it belonged to, but it was the only toy I had after – well, it doesn’t matter. The Templars are not a bunch of bloodthirsty mage-killers as you seem to think. We – they - exist to protect the common people from the threat posed by Abominations and Maleficarum and to that end take our vows -”
“Don't tell me about your vows. I've known enough Templars only too willing to 'forget' their vows for a few minutes. In fact, apart from Cullen, I can't think of any of the other initiates who really took that vow of chastity seriously when it came to me.”
“Cullen? I know Cullen, actually. An exemplary Templar if there ever was one.”
“How do you know him?” Neria knit her brows. “I don't remember seeing you at the Tower.”
“Knight-Commander Gregoir visited the Redcliffe chantry a few times, he used to often bring along the Templar-initiates or of course, the full Templars. Cullen accompanied him quite often. I always found him a little…odd.”
“He's odd all right,” said Neria, allowing herself a laugh. “I do think he had a huge crush on me. He would try to flirt with me and then run away when I showed any signs of reciprocating.”
“So you're the one he was talking about!” Alistair said, chucking the now-empty bottle at the fire.
“Cullen spoke to you about me?” she asked, surprised.
“I had to take him to Owen the blacksmith in Redcliffe village once – something about a sword - and we ended up sitting there for quite a while as the drunken sod - ”
“Cullen is a drunken sod?” asked Neria, quite surprised. “It’s always the ones you least expect, isn’t it?”
“Not Cullen, I mean the blacksmith,” said Alistair, irritable. “He is a drunken sod. Any way, Owen drank himself into a stupor. And once the old smith had passed out, Cullen and I got to talking while his daughter Valena served us tea and cakes…”
“I assume that you are speaking about the blacksmith again?”
“Obviously – anyway after she had left us alone, I mentioned that she was a pretty lass, and he asked me if I loved her…”
“And did you?”
“Me? Oh no, of course not. I hardly knew Valena at all, or any other girls for that matter, so no, I was not going to fall in love with her or anything. Anyway, what I was trying to get to, is that Cullen then confessed his 'dirty secret', about his deep feelings of undying love for a dark-skinned, blonde elf mage on whose perfection he dwelled for nearly a half-hour. Something about how your every move was like a provocation sent by the Maker to test his faith and your every feature a creation of a desire demon to corrupt his mind. I never did understand how you could be both at the same time, but the poor fellow had managed to reconcile the two concepts in his mind somehow. It was pitiful after a while, really. Quite pitiful.”
A shadow passed over her face.
“I never realised that he had such strong feelings. I might have been…more careful in his presence at least. I mean I always noticed that he looked at me differently from the other Templars and mages but didn't think it was anything beyond a young man's lust until the last few days before my Harrowing when he seemed almost frightened about being present at it.”
“Ah. Well, you have to understand lust is a very powerful motif for a Chantry-bred man like Cullen who takes the self-flagellation bit of the Templar training very seriously. Maybe it wasn't more than that.”
“When I think about all the times I -” she stopped short.
“All the times you what?”
“Nothing, nothing really. I think I shall go get some sleep now. You can play with your dolls, I mean, figurines. Wake me up when you want me to take over the watch.”
As it turned out, she woke up on her own, the sound of the raven’s beak tapping on one of the spikes that held the tent down leading her to awaken. She came outside again to find Alistair had not moved from where she had left him, though a couple of hours, at least, must have passed.
“You can lie down now,” Neria offered. “I'll take watch.”
“If the lady's taking watch, I'm giving her company,” came Daveth’s voice, and she turned to see both Daveth and Ser Jory emerge from their tent.
“Not that I wouldn’t like it,” replied Neria smiling, “But I wonder how alert we'd be.”
“Oh I don't know about that,” he laughed. “I can think of a number of things we can do to – remain alert, as it were.”
Alistair groaned. Ser Jory advanced towards the fire and began to heat what was left of the rabbit-stew. Out of his armour, he still looked like a big man, with his shirt’s sleeves rather short at the wrists. Daveth looked rather small, though she could see he was lean and sinewy rather than just skinny, not unlike herself. It was Alistair who was the really well-muscled one, though, his frame compact but clearly chiselled by long hours in the training yards both as a Templar-initiate and in the Wardens.
Neria sat again, staring into the fire. On a venture she held out her hand and tried to command the flames, making them dance back and forth in tune with her wishes. She had heard of certain senior enchanters being able to imbue flames into a weapon for a short period of time. It was a spell she planned to learn soon after completing her Harrowing, and had in fact read how to do it, but not had the opportunity to practice it before now.
She turned to look for Alistair, to find he had wandered several yards away and was standing near the edge of the encampment, looking towards the stream of brackish water that passed behind another Tevinter-era archway. Rising, she went to him.
He was holding the figurine in his right hand, his left cupping it almost as if to protect it. For a moment she thought she saw the hint of a tear in his eye.
“Not that I want to interrupt your play-time with Cormac, but I wanted something,” she said, her voice cutting through the air.
“What is it now?” he asked.
“Give me your sword,” she said finally. “I want to try something.”
“Take it,” he said with a surprising vehemence bordering on anger, throwing the sword on the ground, “and go away.”
“Right, I'll just…” she picked up the longsword, struggling with its weight, “trying out a new spell – I'll just go now.”
When she came back to the fireplace she found Jory polishing his armour while Daveth had opened another bottle.
“Been paying a visit to our experienced hand? Not trying to curry favours with him are you?”
“Don't be silly. I don't think he's the type to let people curry favours with him anyway,” she said.
“Well, Jory's turning in shortly, but I'm here to give you company for a couple of hours, and then Ser Jory will take over from us until morning, at which point you may choose to join me in my tent.”
Neria laughed as she sat down on the opposite side of the fire from him.
“Should I be surprised that you are even waiting for me to join you in your tent and not suggesting something more - open?” she grinned.
“On the contrary, my elfish friend, as soon as this great lout of a Knight leaves us alone, I assure you our clothes won’t stay on for very long.”
“Not that she’s wearing much to begin with, the little…” she could almost hear the implied whore before he switched to, “coquette.”
“What can I say, Ser Jory? I'd be glad to have your company inside the tent too, but as I'm on guard duty with Daveth, our options are limited,” she said.
He had no answer for that, and continued to fester in silence, though if looks could kill, both she and Daveth might have been in a spot of trouble. Neria turned to examine the sword carefully. It was a fairly generic longsword with few distinguishing marks, light enough to be wielded with one hand by a strong soldier so that a shield could be carried in the other.
“Oh I don't know. You'd be quite scrumptious under the open sky, I'm sure.” Daveth said as he un-stoppered the bottle, “Care to try some fine Nevarran wine?”
“I don't know…what's it like?”
“The wine or being taken under the open sky?”
“I haven't experienced either, but I was asking only about the wine. I'm not sure yet about letting you do anything to me, inside or outside of a tent,” Neria clarified. She placed a hand over the blade of Alistair’s sword, carefully repeating the spell she had learned and concentrating on the fire before her. Nothing happened.
Alistair had returned to them now, and was beginning to gather his things.
“The wine is beautiful. And who would you allow to – do things to you?” he offered the bottle to her.
She took an appraising sip and nodded.
“It IS good. We weren't allowed sprits in the Tower you know – whether from the Fade or in liquid form. Kester did sometimes smuggle in ale from The Spoiled Princess though. I never liked it much, but wine has a rather nice taste,” she said, thinking of the two bottles she had stashed among her own belongings.
“Well, the Quartermaster had kept it locked up for a reason – this stuff is worth a gold coin at least in the Denerim black market. And you didn't answer my second question.”
“Let me see,” said Neria. “Well…King Cailan.”
“What? You'd want to get it on with the King of Ferelden?” asked Daveth.
“Isn't he also the handsomest man in Ferelden,” she countered.
“Well, if you like your men fair, blonde and stuff I suppose he fits the bill. But back in Denerim, you should speak to the girls down at The Pearl and ask them if they'd rather have Daveth the cut-purse or - ”
Alistair's sword burst into a bright flame at that very moment, causing him to stop short and gape in shock. Neria leaped to her feet.
“I did it! THIS will do some serious damage to those darkspawn! I can do it to your daggers too, Daveth! Isn't magic fun?”
“Ah. Yes,” he replied guardedly.
“Now can the queen do that for Cailan? Can she?” her eyes twinkled.
“I'm pretty sure she can't, not being a mage,” he replied, laughing. “On the other hand why would you want to waste your talents on a King when I'm right here!”
“Doesn't every little girl dream being a Queen,” she smiled, twirling on her feet, as though pirouetting before an appreciative audience.
It was Alistair who responded with a short laugh.
“You're an elf,” he said. “At best you'd be his whore and even then I’d doubt that would go down well.”
The smile fled from her face to be replaced by a scowl.
“Yes, you're right. I forgot elves aren't good for anything else,” she said, picking up her staff and tossing Alistair's sword aside. The flames on it died down too.
“That's not what I meant, Neria,” Alistair said.
“I'd rather not talk about this further.”
“He’s right. They’d never let an elf…” began Jory.
“Ser Jory, I think it would be best if you return to your tent now.”
Alistair shrugged and disappeared into his tent. Jory followed soon after.
“A small village – a tiny speck you won’t even see on a map. I’d say it was located about a day’s ride from the fortress. Left it as soon as I was able to outrun my father and didn’t stop until I’d made it to Denerim. Never looked behind me either.”
Daveth and she had been talking for what she estimated must have been the better part of an hour. He was an easy man to talk to, asking no questions she was not willing to answer, and witty without being offensive.
“So what did you do in Denerim?”
“Why, I was a cut-purse. The very best. Never got caught, for years together. I had the fastest fingers in the city, I dare venture.”
“And yet you did not make enough to settle down with a nice fortune?”
“It’s not as lucrative as you might think, and a man has expenses too.”
“The girls at the Pearl?” she asked, laughing.
“Among other things,” he chuckled. “It’s an expensive establishment, what can I say!”
“And you are a man with expensive tastes?”
His face turned a little less jocular at that.
“There are other establishments where a village boy who filches pockets for a living could have gone, I guess. But they were more…sordid, somehow. The girls never seemed to feel safe there, there was a touch of sadness, even fear…no, I preferred the Pearl because you could see they took care of their whores. The worst you got there was a girl who was bored.”
Neria shrugged and continued to look at the fire.
“There was an alienage girl who worked there. No one liked her much, said she put on airs. But the ones who worked at the other places were always drunk, so…”
“Ah yes, drunk elven women…much like you at this moment, perhaps?”
She had to guffaw at that.
“What do you think will happen after we find these Treaties?” he asked, as the fire began to burn low.
“We return to Ostagar and officially join the Grey Wardens, I guess,” she replied. “They will put us in the middle of the King’s forces to face the horde as and when it attacks.”
“Do you think there’s any additional tests? Will we all make it to the Wardens or do some of us get to go home?”
“Do you have a home to go to?”
“I didn’t tell you how Duncan found me, did I? I finally got caught, you know. Cut his purse and ran – and he, old bugger that he is, caught me. Would you believe that?”
“If you’re telling me it happened, I suppose it did,” she said.
“The Sergeant was about ready to dance with joy and have me hanged right there in the Marketplace. Would have too, if not for Duncan. He’s a good sort in his way, I guess. Saved my life, but that means I’ve got nothing to go back to either.”
“Well, it isn’t like I could either,” admitted Neria. “But that is a long story to tell…”
“And our watch is about to end. I’ll go wake up that lout in a bit,” said Daveth, groaning as he moved to get up.
“No, I’ll do it,” said Neria, jumping to her feet before he was even to his knees. “He and I have some unfinished business.”
She could move very silently when she wished, and Jory remained asleep as she slipped into the tent. He was not snoring since he had eaten, though his breathing was heavy. Her eyes could see nearly as well in the dark as in the light, and she crawled her way over to his side. Heavyset, thick-lipped and balding, Ser Jory’s huge arms lay by his side, and one leg was half-bent. She rested on her side, left elbow to the ground, head perched on her hand. Then she reached out with her right hand and placed it on his breeches, delicate fingers on his thick thighs. He stirred a little, but did not wake. Her fingers pulled at the knot and loosened the garment, allowing the hand to slip inside and caress the shaft. She closed her eyes and savoured the feeling for a few moments, then raised herself up a little, bending her head towards it, even as her left hand pulled his breeches down.
Maybe it was the cold air on his thighs or her warmth next to him, or simply his body’s response, but Ser Jory was awake. Wide awake, in fact.
“Hush,” whispered Neria. “You don’t want to wake up Alistair, do you? What would he think?”
“Get away from me, you…you…this is utterly...unspeakable…”
But her hand was stroking, and his cock was speaking, loud, clear and hard. Neria grinned, baring her teeth.
“Leave right now, elf. You misunderstand the kind of man I am!”
“Oh but I know exactly the kind of man you are, Ser Jory. The kind who has wanted to have me since the moment he set eyes upon me.”
“I have a wife in Highever waiting for me to return after the Blight, elf. She…she…”
“Is someone you have not even thought about until just now, have you?”
“She is with child, elf, she awaits my return, as a celebrated hero and a decorated Grey Warden…”
She shrugged, and closed her mouth around his shaft, moaning a little as it hardened further, pressing against her tongue.
“I do not…desire you, whore!” he said, but the voice was weak, reluctant.
She raised her head.
“Oh yes you do, Ser Jory. You who have looked at my legs and imagined them spread for you, my breasts and wanted to press them until I screamed with pain and begged you to stop, at my arse and wanted to fuck that too, whether I would or not…you wanted to take me brutally and mindlessly.”
“Yes,” he said, his nostrils flaring, “yes, yes, you bitch, yes!”
“You are going to be taken by me, Ser Jory, and you will know yourself to be an adulterer and a base wretch, a man who saw me in battle, who saw me respected by your betters and still held me to be no more than a whore. You are pathetic, Ser Jory. Pathetic, because you hate me, you deem me unworthy of you, and yet your body – your…pecker here can’t stop raging, twitching, agonising, eager to yield to me.”
She bared her teeth once more, knowing he could see them by the fitful light of the fire coming in through the tent-flaps, and lowered her head to work again. Before long, he was holding the back of her head and trying to pull her off, but she would not, and as he whimpered, his seed spilled into her mouth and out of her lips onto himself.
She spat out the rest.
“Get out now and take watch,” she said. “Tomorrow morning, if I feel so inclined, you will get another taste of Neria Surana.”
He staggered to his feet, struggling with his breeches, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
Neria followed him out and walked over to the edge of the encampment to wash herself in the stream. She smiled to herself as she rinsed out her mouth. It was hardly the best taste in the world, but she had grown to like it over time – somehow she did not like Ser Jory’s. A glint in the water made her pause and walk a few steps into the chilly water, and reaching for it, only to find it was the little Cormac figurine. It seemed as though Alistair had dropped it into the water – or thrown it there.
Strange, she thought. He'd seemed to like it so much.
She wandered back to the tent, to find Daveth lying down on one side of it already.
“I don’t suppose I get the same treatment he did?” he asked, as she lay down at the spot where she had taken Jory.
“Oh no, Daveth,” she replied. “You see – I rather like you!”
[Anything you might recognise from playing Dragon Age: Origins is (c) BioWare. This work is not intended to earn any profit or make any money.]
[Anything you might recognise from playing Dragon Age: Origins is (c) BioWare. This work is not intended to earn any profit or make any money.]