Drug of Choice

Disclaimer: I don't own any material contained within this story. All copyrighted content remains the property of the person, people, or organization that holds the copyright. This story is solely for fun.

AN: My first Dragon Age fic.

The two remaining Grey Wardens and their various companions and followers were in the process of setting up camp a couple of miles out from Denerim. While most of the members of their small band worked on erecting tents, building a fire and constructing a palisade wall around their temporary camp, four individuals had been selected to travel into the city and pick up fresh supplies. Sten, Leliana, Oghren and Shale made up this party sent to replenish the group's supplies.

Denerim was large, especially for a Ferelden city, with thick stone walls and towers which stretched to the sky. Nearly every building was multi-leveled, some containing as many as four usable floors, and the Estate homes were considerably larger still. In the center of the city's marketplace, the poorer merchants had setup temporary booths where they might display their wares. Many of the buildings that encircled this center area had been rented out or purchased by more successful merchants with larger inventories... and often higher prices. There was a certain majesty to this city, which was both the capital and heart of Ferelden.

And yet, Sten still couldn't keep his nose from crinkling up in disgust. Even here – in the most developed... 'civilized' city in all of Ferelden – the scent of wet dog was inescapable. Why were the Fereldens so keen on their hounds? Why did they insist on keeping them in their houses and letting them walk the city streets unchained and free? Why were they so content to roll around in the mud with such animals? The grey-skinned giant simply didn't understand it; and as he passed by a young boy playing with his Marbari pup, the giant's mouth twisted into a slight scowl.

The boy, noticing this, recoiled in fear; and this somehow made Sten feel a little better. Then the fur on the pup's back stood on end, and the young dog growled menacingly at the grey giant. Sten locked eyes with the creature for a moment and saw within its features a determination worthy of a Qunari. This boy was its master, its charge, and it would die to protect him from harm. And as Sten realized this he tilted his head slightly, in unspoken respect for the Marbari's dedication to its duty, as he passed by the pair.

Then his nose crinkled up again as the breeze shifted and he was once more assaulted by the stench of wet dog. Whatever the Marbari's other virtues might be, cleanliness was certainly not one of them. Their owners should've washed them better.

A subtle cooing, soon diverted the giant's attention away from the unpleasant aroma and to a flock of pigeons which were currently resting on the the top bar of one of the merchant's stands. He did not, however, seem to be the only party member to notice the flock of birds. From behind the giant's back he heard the sound of shifting stone as Shale lowered into an aggressive stance.

Turning his head, Sten found the golem eying the flock of resting birds much like he, himself, would size up a battlefield opponent. "Excuse me," the mound of animated rock drawled, "I must clean out this infestation of those fowl rats with wings. I'll meet back up with it once my mission has concluded." And with that, the lumbering golem took off after the flock of birds.

Sten sighed. Past experience told him that Shale would be spending the next several hours chasing, cornering and crushing each bird the golem could find. And that meant that not only had their number dropped to three, but the party had lost its strongest member. Thus the burden of carrying the bulk of the supplies would end up falling to him – and all so the golem could indulge in its peculiar bird killing obsession.

"So, any idea what we're getting?" Leliana asked in her usual upbeat tone.

"I could go for some ale," Oghren answered, his voice gravelly as always.

"I didn't mean getting for you personally. I meant what supplies we should pick up for everyone," The red-headed bard replied in a light, somewhat amused tone.

"Well, good. … 'Cause I wasn't talking about just me. I think we should just buy a dozen or so barrels of good ale and call it a day – make this shopping go much faster," the red bearded dwarf replied.

"That would not be wise," Sten cut in.

"And why not?" Oghren asked sounding somewhat offended.

"Because if all we had was ale, everyone in the camp would be as drunk and undependable as you."

"What?! You little nug-rutter, what do you mean? I'm not undependable! I slaughtered ten Darkspawn last time we ran into the uglies!"

"No doubt they got a whiff of that rotten, Ozammar swill on your breath and passed out."

"Alright, that's it," the dwarf growled. "It's one thing to insult me, but when you insult dwarven spirits you've gone too far." Oghren's hand reached over his head, and the dwarf drew his two-handed ax. "Take that back or I'll cleave you in two!"

"You? Please," Sten began as his own hand stretched to his back.

Luckily, Leliana stepped in between the two before things could escalate any further. "Oghren. Sten. Please, we're on the same team here, and our band has few enough members as it is. If we start killing each other over supplies and cultural insults we'll never be able to defeat the Arch Demon."

Sten exhaled sharply. As a member of the highly ritualized and ordered Qunari society, he found the often drunk dwarf's mannerisms distasteful and annoying. Yet he'd also taken an oath to help the Grey Warden's end the blight, and as much as he may have personally disliked Oghren, the beaded fellow did increase their chances of successfully slaying the Arch Demon. (He could be a suitable diversion if nothing else.) The giant's hand released the sword behind his back and slowly came back around to the front.

Oghren grunted. "Guess I can't kill a man who's not going to draw his weapon, eh?" He looked over at the red-headed bard as if waiting for either conformation of his statement... or permission to do just that.

"No, you're a warrior – not a murderer," Leliana replied with a light smile.

Oghren chuckled. "Like there's a difference," he commented off-handedly but put his ax away nevertheless.

"Hmmm, perhaps it would be better if we divide up the money for supplies and each select what we think is best," Leliana commented, trying to figure out a way to avoid anymore trouble between the two.

"Works for me," Oghren replied.

Sten grunted, but otherwise failed to protest the plan.

And so, Leliana reached into her pouch and removed the six sovereign, gold coins they'd been given for supplies. She gave two to Sten and then two to Oghren, who promptly turned around and headed off – likely looking for the nearest tavern. And the last two, she kept for herself.

"You know he's just going to stagger back into camp, late at night, with a barrel of ale, right?" Sten asked, once he judged that the dwarf was out of earshot.

"If he manages to find his way back at all," the bard agreed and could've sworn she saw the giant's lip curl ever so slightly at her reply.

The two then continued on until a display caught Leliana's eyes. "Oooooh," she cooed, "look at all the pretty shoes!"

Sten turned to stare at the woman who'd been by his side a split second ago, but she was already over by the stand of a dark, long haired woman.

"No way these are from Ferelden," the bard commented with youth-like enthusiasm as she mentally compared the petite, fashionable, delicate shoes to the clunky, mud-stained boots she currently wore.

"No, I got a shipment in from Orlais last week," the shop-keep replied with a very pronounced accent.

"Oh, well that explains it. Footwear always has been one of the hallmarks of Orlesian fashion. By your accent, I'm guessing you're originally from Orlais?"

"Yes!" the other girl exclaimed. "My name's Liselle, and I moved here about a year ago. Forgive me, but do I detect a little Orlesian in your speech as well?"

The red-head nodded and smiled broadly. "Yeah, I came over here several years ago. And here I was worried that my time in Ferelden had completely washed away my Orlesian accent."

"No, not completely. … Also, your fashionable hairstyle and developed taste in shoes point to an Orlesian upbringing. Would you believe that other than one noble woman, no one's even looked at these shoes since I got them in?" Liselle complained.

"Oh, Ferelden have no appreciation for fine, elegant footwear. Just look at the boots they make here," Leliana replied as she waved her hand in a dismissive motion.

"Tell me about it," the other woman agreed.

"Oooh, look, this one's got tassels," Leliana giggled. "But... I thought they went out of style?"

"They did, but they're just starting to make a comeback."

"Oh, I've missed so much."

Were Sten a less reserved individual he would've shook his head at how easily his last companion had been sidetracked from their current mission. As it was, he simply let out a little, disapproving grunt at the chattering pair before moving on.

The grey giant had walked less than thirty yards when another shift in the winds brought a new scent to him. Only unlike the last shift, the scent that came with this one was unquestionably pleasant – sweet even. And Sten's eyes widen just a hair as recognition flashed within them. Someone was baking nearby, baking the only thing Sten had found (since coming to Ferelden) which he wished they had back in his home town.

"Cookies!" Alistair exclaimed as he opened one of the crates the grey-skinned giant had returned with. "First Shale comes back with a basket full of dead birds and now you bring us two sovereign's worth of cookies?! What are we suppose to do for food, slap a mashed pigeon between two cookies and eat the strangest sandwichs in existence for the next week?!"

"You better not," Shale cut in from halfway across the camp. "I didn't bring those pigeons back so you could eat the disgusting vermin – why the very idea is sickening. They're trophies. I'm going to keep them and scatter them about my feet as a warning to any other birds that might fly by."

"Oh, yes, that's a wonderful idea – pile up a bunch of decomposing pigeon bodies in our camp so that all the other birds will come to fear you as 'Shale, the Great Bird-Crusher'. I'm sure that distinguish will be well worth the smell," Morrigan sarcastically replied.

Alistair sighed then, ignoring the 'Witch of the Wilds' comment, turned back to Sten. "I don't suppose Oghren and Leliana got us any actual food?"

"I wouldn't know," Sten replied simply.

"Why not?"

"We got separated."

"Oh, that's just great. And I don't suppose you know where they are?"

"Oghren's likely in a bar trying to drink himself to death."

"And Leliana?"

"I'm right here!" A chipper voice hollered out from just beyond the camp as the red-headed bard approached the entrance. In her right hand a small box dangled loosely, and at first Alistair assumed that box contained the sole fruits of her trip to Denerim. However, as the woman drew nearer, the senior Grey Warden noticed a pair of straps running from her shoulders to her back. And as she reached the center of the camp, Leliana slipped a large basket of breads and cheeses from off her back and deposited them by the Grey Warden's feet. "Sorry I'm late. Decided I'd do a bit of shopping for myself, while I was in town, too."

"Food, real food! Oh, Leliana, I could kiss you," Alistair exclaimed.

"I'd think twice about that if I were you," the other Grey Warden warned in a joking tone.

And Alistair laughed. "Fair enough. You kiss her, and I'll make a cheese sandwich."

Well, there it is – my first attempt at Dragon Age fanfiction. I'd be lying if I said I was totally pleased with it. (I think I need to work a bit more on the characters to get them quite right.) But then, I can't remember ever being wholly pleased with my first fic in a new fandom. :P Anyway, hope it was humorous and enjoyable at least. ;)

Have a good day, and God bless.

Metropolis Kid.