Author's Note - Important, you will probably want to know this stuff (sorry about the length). I've been working on this fic for a while, and it's probably going to be updated in large chunks, with gaps between updates - particularly since there's another fic I'm working on as well. So if you are the kind of person who doesn't like long waits in their reading, you might want to hold off until it's complete. I will probably update more than one chapter in each instalment, since I'm dividing chapters by character perspective (when this happens, I will include an author's note summarizing recent events in previous chapters, and referring/marking the 'update point' for readers). Origins have been assigned default names, with the following decisions made on my part: The mage is an elf, Cousland, Brosca, and Surana are all male, and Mahariel, Aeducan, and Tabris are female. Personalities are basically extrapolations of what seemed kind of likely to me, with a bias towards everyone not being total jerkass monsters.
Full Summary: What if Duncan had recruited all six possible Wardens for Ostagar? What if there were seven Grey Wardens who survived, rather than two? How would that change the story and events of the game?
Pairings: M!Cousland/Morrigan, M!Surana/Zevran, F!Tabris/Leliana, F!Aeducan/Alistair, some others ala F!Mahariel/Tamlen, etc. Obviously, this story contains het, slash, and femmeslash. People who would prefer not to read from the perspective of a character engaged in slashy behaviour should look for chapter titles with the names of either Surana or Tabris (depending) and skip them. Since most events will be summarized in author's notes, you could probably actually just pick one origin character and read the whole fic through from their perspective, if you wanted to (although it would be a much shorter story that way).
I'm not really looking to just rewrite the game here, so scenes and dialogue which aren't substantially different from the source material will probably just be glossed over or summarized. That said, I would like to dedicate this story to the lovely people who leave reviews - you guys are awesome - and hope at least someone out there enjoys this!
"I know not what dark power held you, but it nearly bled the life from you."
She was almost too small to remember it, the first time the clans came together.
Paivel had her up on his shoulders, his then-blond hair tangled beneath her fingers as she saw the aravels from the hilltop, spread out far and wide, a vast collection of clans that almost made the forest look like a shemlen city at a distance. She had stared and stared, drinking in the sight of it, the white dots that were halla and the far-spreading ants which were truly elvhen.
"Look!" she had exclaimed, for lack of any better word, and her seat had rumbled as Paivel and Ashalle laughed.
"Yes, da'len," Paivel said. "This is the Arlathven, at last. You will play with many children you haven't seen before in the days to come."
The idea had seemed both strange and exciting all at once, but despite his words, both Paivel and Ashalle had kept a close hand on her when they had descended amidst the crowds of aravels and the faces of unfamiliar elves. Eventually her twisting around, trying to see everything all at once, had gotten her lowered from the storyteller's shoulder, and her perch had been replaced by Ashalle taking firm hold of her hand.
"We will settle ourselves, and then you may explore," she had said, when Lyna had begun to tug at her fingers. "I do not want to lose track of you in this bustle, da'len."
She had wanted to go and see everything, to meet everyone, but it had been hard to sulk because even from Ashalle's side there was so much to look at. Halla were everywhere, elves running to and fro to keep the herds settled, and craftsmen had erected tents filled with wares that caught her eye, and all around there were people, people talking, laughing, embracing, crying happy tears of reunion, clapping one another on the shoulder or scooping children up off of the ground. The scent of food and cooking fires had filled the air as well.
"There is going to be a great feast," Ashalle had told her, and then her face had lit up in happiness as she spied something over her shoulder. "Oh, Dirinin! Lethellan!" she had called, spying a round-faced woman with her same straight hair, and the markings of Ghilan'nain upon her face.
"Ashalle!" the woman had called back, seeming just as pleased as she suddenly rushed forward, and the two embraced. "I've been looking for your encampment since morning! Our clan is nearly on the other side of all this," she'd exclaimed, before pulling back and looking the other woman over. "You would not believe the fuss Alamric is making over his pottery. It was enough to make me abandon him." Her face had been smiling, though, and fond as she said that.
"I think I would believe it, in truth," Ashalle had replied, and Lyna had taken the opening of her distraction to wander off, following the shine of some trinkets hanging from a wide-mouthed tent. She had not felt afraid at all when she looked at them, and then wandered further, staring at the strange faces of unfamiliar elvhen and their varied styles of clothes. Some of the elves she didn't recognize looked to be more or less like the members of her own clan. Others had oddly woven clothing, or different styles of craft, or an even broader variance of blood writing on their faces.
There were lots and lots of children about as well. Most were older than her, although there were some her own age about, and younger ones were bound up in bundles against their parents' chests. She had walked and wandered and looked until she came upon a fenced enclosure of halla, and then she had slipped through the slats in the wood and gone to pet them, as she often did.
They were not halla that she knew, but they were just as friendly, their white coats soft beneath her hand and the grown ones very tall, with their horns elegantly carved and gentle dark eyes that watched her move. She had let them nose her palm and chew lightly on her hair, giggling and happy when one of the baby ones strode up to her on skinny legs and let her feed him sweet grass from her pocket.
She had always loved the halla.
But eventually she'd grown bored with even them, and more interested in the goings-on beyond the pen, and so she had clambered back out with the intention of wandering off anew.
"Now what were you doing in there, da'len?" an unfamiliar voice had asked, and she had blinked up to see a tall, fair-looking woman regarding her curiously, her arms burdened by baskets of feed. She had smiled, and Lyna had liked the warmth in that expression. "Did you get lost? Or wander off?"
"See the halla," she had replied, mumbling in a fit of shyness. A man had come up, then, with a boy tucked underneath one arm.
"Hmm?" he had followed the line of the woman's sight, even as she knelt in front of Lyna, still smiling. "Another one wandered off I see. Children know no fear." He'd laughed.
The woman's eyes had glittered with the same mirth. "Someone's probably worried for you, small one. How old are you?"
Looking between the two – and curiously at the boy, who had his fingers stuffed in his mouth and seemed just as interested in her – she had held up one hand, three fingers outstretched. "Three?" the woman had noted, lowering her basket. "Well, that's just a little bit older than my Tamlen, then. Do you know where your mother is? Or father?"
"Behind'a veil," Lyna had replied, because it was the truth. She was a little surprised at the way everyone's expression fell at her proclamation.
The man had sighed. "Shemlen, no doubt."
"You don't know that for certain," the woman had gently chastised, before extending her hand towards Lyna. "Who is the person who takes care of you, then?"
Unhesitatingly, Lyna had taken her hand, and told her, because even if these weren't people she knew well she was fairly used to having a wide range of adults look after her. The woman had picked her up after that, and she'd found herself at eye-level with the little boy, who had grinned around the fingers still firmly lodged against his lips.
"Ananishan," he had mumbled at her, before burying his face against his father's chest.
"Andaran atish'an," the man had smilingly corrected, before the sounds of Ashalle's frantic calling had reached their ears.
"Da'len," Paivel said, running his fingers over the ridge of his brow. "Our people did not flee the dales because the shemlen unleashed a hoard of fire-breathing bears upon us."
There were a few snickers around the story fire, and Lyna painted on her best, most earnest look, tilting her head a little bit for emphasis. "Well, you said yourself most of the lore has been lost, hahren," she replied. "How do we know for certain that fire-breathing bears weren't involved?"
Merrill elbowed her in the side, at that, giving her a sharp look which implied that she was ruining the story. Which wasn't exactly fair, since they'd all heard it before, and really, fire-breathing bears could only serve to make a story better. Like ghost-wolves. And dragons. And demonically possessed bunny rabbits.
"We know," Paivel said, persevering despite the staggering odds against him. "Because there are no fire-breathing bears anywhere to be found, and I believe such creatures would inevitably draw attention."
"Not if they were sneaky about it."
Maren finally cracked at that, dropping her face into her hands as she tried to stifle her giggles.
"Sneaky, fire-breathing bears," Merrill replied, shaking her head. "What is wrong with you? Did… I… what is wrong with you?"
Paivel sighed at them. "Now, now," he broke in, raising his hands in a gesture that called for peace. "There is no fault in a… in an abundance of imagination." He turned a stern eye towards Lyna. "Though there are some tales to which it should not be applied."
Lyna spread her arms in a universal gesture of 'who, me?' and blinked hugely. "Hahren. I'm sure you told me about those bears last time."
Maren fell over.
With another huge sigh, Paivel shook his head, and pointed to the edge of the circle. "Enough," he sternly intoned. "If you are only going to persist in misbehaving, Lyna, then you may sleep, and we will carry on without you."
She gave him a wounded look. "If that's how you feel. I'll just stay quiet, then."
For some reason, no one looked terribly convinced.
It was the second Arlathven of her life, and she watched the trees pass as she perched atop Ashalle's aravel, resting her legs and feeling her heartbeat speed in her chest. Already they had met up with three other clans, and the air felt like it had been sparked with a flint and encouraged to burn. The wildlife had anticipated their coming, clearing from the forest before them, but a few little brown birds still swooped and darted through the air. It was beautiful.
"Da'len, you are far too high!" Ashalle protested, and she winced, realizing she'd been caught clambering up to the very top of the stacked tents and supplies. "Climb down before you fall and break your neck!"
"What was that, Ashalle? I can't hear you up here!" she tried, tucking her legs firmly against her perch as she raised her arms in an exaggerated shrug.
Her guardian frowned back up at her. "Lyna, please, please do not stop my heart with fright before we have even reached our destination!" she beseeched. "Once we are there I am certain you will cause more than enough trouble to kill me from shock, so can you not do me this one kindness and behave until then?"
Why did she have to sound so forlorn about it? With a sharp pang of disappointment, Lyna shifted some of her balance to her hands, and carefully clambered down from her scenic perch. When she dropped to the ground Ashalle wrapped her arms around her shoulders and pressed a kiss to her temple. "Thank you," she said, giving her another brief squeeze before letting go.
Lyna sighed and scrubbed a hand against the side her head.
"I can keep my balance, you know," she pointed out under her breath, but Ashalle just smiled, and so she rolled her eyes and walked ahead. Maybe she could find Merrill or Maren, and actually do something fun for a while.
It wasn't easy going. The clans had merged upon their travel routes, the keepers migrating towards the center of the convoy to better control the aravels over rough patches of terrain, and already there were more of them than she could easily recognize. She couldn't exactly spot Merrill, or Maren, or any of the other children she knew – or any children close to her own age, from her clan or not. For a moment she thought she spied Maren's father, but when she followed him she realized that it was just a man who looked similar from behind.
That was when she spotted the boy. Frankly, by that point, he was close enough to her age and she was tired enough of searching that he could have had green ears for all she cared.
"Aneth ara, boy," she chirped, coming up from behind him – where he trailed after a small aravel – and making him jump.
He spun around, pale blue eyes widening, and fumbling with something in his hands before he shoved it behind his back.
There was a pause, as they both realized at the same moment that he had erred, and that it was blatantly obvious he was hiding something. He knew that she knew, and she knew that he knew that she knew.
She tilted her head at him, smelling mischief. "What was that?"
"What was what?" he took a step back from her, glancing over his shoulder to make certain no one was watching him from that angle.
It made her grin. "That thing in your hands," she persisted, taking a step closer to him. He was round-faced and a little awkward-looking, the shortness of his sleeves and pants implying that he'd just gone through a growth spurt not long ago.
"There's nothing in my hands. I don't know what you're talking about," he insisted, and when she craned her neck to try and see behind him, he moved to evade her. "I don't even know you."
"My name is Lyna," she told him, pleased to have found something interesting to do. "What's yours?"
He frowned. "Tamlen."
Her grin widened. "Tamlen? That's strange. I always thought that 'Tamlen' was a girl's name!"
With an affronted sound, the boy's nervousness immediately turned to temper, and he narrowed his eyes at her. "It isn't!"
"I'm sure it is."
"Well I'm sure it isn't, seeing that I am a boy named Tamlen!"
As he glared and loudly proclaimed this, she managed to reach behind him fast enough that she grabbed what was in his hands and pulled it away. He let out a gasp, and she only just had time to realize that it was a packet full of dyes – the kind used mostly for painting pottery – before it burst in her too-tight grasp. Bright orange and vivid blue liquid exploded across her in a messy spray, coating her shirt and arms. Some of it got onto Tamlen, as well, though not nearly as much.
Lyna stared flabbergasted at her hands, which had been stained mottled orange and blue, and brown where they mixed.
Tamlen's eyes widened to the size of plates, and he gave her a frightened glance.
"Um," he said.
She couldn't help it, really. She was covered in dye, and he was just staring at her, and it was all so unexpected and bizarre that a moment later she started laughing, the burst packets still clutched between her palms.
A moment after that, Tamlen snickered, and then wholeheartedly joined in, the both of them standing there and giggling like mad. Lyna felt the air cool the dye against her, sticky and itchy and stinking. "What were you doing with a packet of dyes?" she asked, as Tamlen reached over and sort of swiped at her arm, obviously trying to brush the dye off but only staining his fingers with it.
"I was…" he paused as a few more laughs overcame him. "I was just going to hide them from Alamric! It was supposed to be a joke!"
She smirked at him. "Well, it's still a joke, I think. Just a different kind."
He raised a hand, reflexively, to wipe a tear from the corner of his eye. She caught his wrist and stopped him before he could use his dye-covered fingers to do it, and probably hurt himself. "Careful."
"Oh. Right. Ma serannes," he replied, blushing in embarrassment.
Of course, it wasn't long before the state of them caught attention. A male voice called towards them, and Tamlen suddenly shifted her grip on him, so that they were holding hands instead. "Quick! Before we get in trouble!" he advised, dragging her around to the other side of the aravel.
Internally, she was pretty certain that they were in trouble no matter what – they both had enough dye on them that they couldn't possibly hide it – but she let him drag her along anyway, weaving around aravels and avoiding adults until her legs started to protest her running, and she was too breathless to laugh anymore.
Poor Tamlen looked more distraught over the prospect of his fate. "My parents are going to kill me," he said with feeling, as they walked alongside one of the outer parts of the convoy, moving slowly to catch their breaths.
Lyna looked him over carefully. Most of the dye was on his skin – there were a few specks at the hem of his shirt, but she didn't think anyone would notice them if they weren't looking to find them. "We need water," she decided. "And soap."
Tamlen gave her a skeptical look. "This can't possibly wash out. It's dye," he replied.
She gave him a look, and then winked. "Still worth a try, right? If you can find the soap, I can find the water."
For a minute he just gave her a long, rather embarrassed stare. Then he shrugged and nodded, and with an agreement to find the same aravel again and meet back there, they both set off once more. Lyna ducked around two halla, weaving her way closer to the center of the convoy, and to tarps and halla she recognized. It was somewhat easier to avoid being seen in that most people were either distracted with one another, or the trip, or too tired to pay much notice, and most of the children were still running around and caught up in their games.
It still took longer than she thought it would to find Ilen's aravel, and then to sneak away with a full waterskin and retrace her steps back through the ever-shifting convoy.
She still managed to complete her task more quickly than Tamlen, however, who left her waiting in nervous impatience for almost an hour before he turned up again with a rough bar of soap. She grinned at him, dragging him into the trees at the edge of the convoy, letting the progression pass them for a while as she scrubbed at his arms and hands with the soap bar.
"This isn't going to work," he said, even as the dye started to come off, only to coat the soap rather thoroughly instead.
"Shh," she replied, pouring some water from the skin to wash most of it away, and then starting the process over again. By the time the soap bar had run out the both of them smelled of lime, and her hands and his arms hurt, but most of the dye was gone from his skin, too. He still looked a little stained, though.
Lyna sighed and tied the empty waterskin to her belt. "Well. We tried."
Tamlen seemed a little more impressed. "You almost can't see it anymore," he said. "If I change to a long-sleeved tunic before anyone notices, it might actually work."
She grinned at him, not having thought of that, even as he turned to her and frowned.
"But what about you?"
Negligently, she waved him off. "It's alright. It was my fault to begin with, and I'm always getting into trouble anyway. I don't mind." Ashalle would probably make that disappointed face of hers, and loudly wonder how someone so small could cause so much wanton destruction, but that didn't bother her so much. Not enough to look the way Tamlen had when he'd though his parents might catch him, anyway.
It felt like the right choice when he looked at her like she was the most amazing person ever, too.
"I'll make it up to you," he promised. "My mother helped me fletch arrows to trade with when we get to the Arlathven. I'll trade for something pretty for you."
She couldn't help but smile at him for that.
The trees were burnt. The aravels were burnt. The ground was blackened to ash in large, barren patches, and arrows dotted the ground, next to still forms of rags and unrecognizable flesh. It was almost enough to make her regret following the scouts down through the southern forest, past the feet of the mountain and closer towards the shemlen settlements.
But she'd had to. Ralven Clan often traded with shems, and traveled through that area. They had many ties to her own clan.
They were Tamlen's clan.
She almost forgot herself, almost forgot that she had followed the scouts in secret, and she would have run straight out there to see if any of the crumpled forms was a blond-haired boy, not quite a man yet, with light blue eyes. But fear stopped her from running out, and also stopped her from giving herself away until she heard the scouts talking again.
"-must have gone north again," one of them said, voice quiet as she looked over the carnage spread before them. "There are only shemlen dead still here. That means they didn't get all of them, at least."
Relief crashed into her. It didn't mean Tamlen was still alive, but as she looked, she realized that all of the bodies were big, and oddly dressed. That they had Dalish arrows dotting their forms. It was more hopeful, at least, than the idea that the shems had slaughtered the whole clan.
She had heard stories about them doing that.
"We shouldn't stay. They'll come for their own dead, won't they?" one of the other scouts asked.
His fellow shrugged. "Who knows? But there isn't much reason to remain either way. We can say a prayer for the fallen when we find the rest of their clan."
They moved on after that. Lyna waited, let them get further away before she moved again, recalling the elder hunters' admonishments about stealth and patience in her training. She supposed they had never meant for her to use them to hunt their own scouts, but there it was. The smell on the air was the worst part, she decided, glancing back towards the fire-scorched clearing. If atrocity had a scent, she suspected she knew what it would be.
The scouts followed the small, hidden forest paths, and she followed the scouts, tracking them as best she could. Halfway through the day her efforts were impeded somewhat when it started to rain, the sky opening up and just pouring buckets down into the trees around them. It didn't take long for it to muddy the earth and soften the already-light tracks which the scouts left behind.
Needless to say, it drenched Lyna, as well, until she was chilled through to her bones and actually starting to regret her recklessness. A little.
It would be worth it once she found out what had happened to Tamlen.
By the time evening fell she was fully regretting it, as the rain hadn't let up – if anything, it had gotten worse – and so she hadn't been able to stop to eat or rest properly. The scouts would have brought gear for the weather, but she hadn't thought to. She hadn't thought of much except following them when the scouts reported the signs of fire from Ralven Clan's campsite, to find out what had happened. But as the light faded she lost their trail, and she thought she might have been very foolish.
In the end it was two of Ralven Clan's scouts who found her, a pair of stern-faced young men that held bows to her until she spoke up, and then their expressions softened a little. They were quiet as they guided her to their campsite, situated in a very small clearing, with the aravels cramped between trees and their numbers much diminished.
The scouts from her clan took over the duties of scolding her.
"Da'len," said Irthamel, who was family to Paivel and therefore permitted some kind of authority over her. "What were you thinking? What did you see?"
"Burnt forest and bodies," she replied, too numb to curb her tongue, and then she was wrapped up in a warm blanket and thrust towards the large fire, circled by several raised canopies. The rain tapped as it bounced off of them, and hissed when it hit the flames. "Tamlen," she remembered to ask, her teeth chattering as she grabbed Irthamel's arm. "My friend Tamlen should be here."
Irthamel sighed, prying her fingers away and making her sit. "Then I will find what has become of him," she promised. "Now get warm. If you take ill none of us will hear the end of it from Ashalle."
Lyna didn't need to be told twice to move closer to the warmth emanating from the fire. There were already several figures huddled around it, grim and silent with grief. She looked at their faces, but none were Tamlen, or his family.
When Irthamel came back, the look on her face made her heart sink into her chest.
Since the Arlathven where she had befriended Tamlen, their clans had crossed paths once, and they had sent one another long letters between the craftsmen and wandering storytellers and scouts who sometimes moved between the elvhen. Ashalle had learned of it, and when she'd asked and Lyna had only reddened, mumbling about him being funnier than Mirrell or Maren, she had hugged her so tightly she thought she might stop breathing.
Because, really, it was obvious – and Tamlen couldn't be dead, because she didn't want him to be.
"He's alive," Irthamel said, and she remembered how to breathe. "His mother and father have crossed the veil with Falon'Din."
Lyna didn't know what to say to that. She thought she might go look for him, but Irthamel told her not to, and so instead she simply huddled to the fire until she was guided to one of the bigger tents to sleep. Then she stayed up half of the night, listening to the rain.
Her own mother and father had died before she could recall. No one spoke of it, though she tended to imagine it like an accident, as if they had been walking along the forest paths and then simply tripped and fallen through the veil one day. It was probably because of how it had been described to her when she was small. So even though she was motherless and fatherless, she didn't know how to relate to the loss of a mother and father.
She tried to imagine what it would feel like if Ashalle died, and her chest ached.
"Da'len," Irthamel whispered to her, surprising her away from her thoughts, voice quiet in the still of the tent as the scout leaned over. "Listen to me. This clan is much diminished. When we send word of what has happened, it's likely they will come with us back to the mountains."
It took her a few moments to absorb what was being said. "They'll join our clan?" she whispered back.
"I believe so," Irthamel agreed. "Some will go to other clans, where they have more friends or kin. But what I mean to say is that if this Tamlen of yours is so important, do not worry. You will have time to help him rise from his sorrows."
The thought was comforting, and also a little terrifying. "I know very little about sorrows," she admitted, surprised to feel tears prickle at the corners of her eyes.
In the dark, Irthamel smiled. "Just stay his friend," she said. "That will be enough."
"Ow. Ow, ow, ow," Tamlen chanted, spread out on his back in the clear span of earth next to the halla pen, off-white bandages wrapped tightly around his face. Lyna smirked at him and lay down next to him, unbothered even if she smelled like she'd just dragged a fresh kill into camp. Which she had.
"Are you sure you're an adult?" she asked. "I mean you're making a lot of noise."
Reaching over, Tamlen jabbed her in the arm with his index finger, and she snickered again. "You only have to be quiet during the blood writing. Afterwards is fair game, and you know it, or did I just imagine you whining like a little girl when this was you?" he asked, before closing his eyes and letting out a hiss.
She turned her head towards him. "Imagined it. You definitely imagined it."
Tamlen wrinkled his nose. "Did you come here before washing? You smell like the wrong side of a boar."
She raised her arm, wafting it rather pointedly until he snorted and caught her wrist. "I'll have you know that this stink is the stink of a job well done."
He rolled his eyes. "Killed something, did you?"
"Mhmm. You stick with me, lethallin, and you will never go hungry."
That got her another jab in the arm. "I'm a fairly decent hunter too, you know," he pointed out a little petulantly, although the tone was far from serious. Still, she tried to wrestle her wrist out of his grasp – just for the point of it – and jabbed him back, until he finally relented and let her go. "So what did you bring down this time?" he asked, raising his hands to tug lightly at the corners of his bandages.
"A buck," she replied. "It had eight points. Master Ilen promised to craft me something from the antlers." Turning a little, she took a closer look at his face. The swelling had gone down, by the looks of it, but she knew he was still miserable enough and too distracted by it to do any of the things that normally held his interest.
"Eight points. Ha. I'll top that by the end of the week," he assured her.
"Oh really?" she asked, curving an eyebrow at him. "Well, I didn't just bring down the buck, you know." Lifting herself up a little, she rested her chin on her palm and regarded him solemnly. "There was a wild drake with his eye on it as well. I had to fight it off, first."
Tamlen sighed mightily and rolled his eyes. "A drake. And let me guess, it had two heads and eighteen rows of teeth?"
"Don't be ridiculous. There were twenty rows of teeth."
"Not to mention the claws. A dozen, three on each foot, and every one of them sharper than a Dar'Misaan – I almost lost my head!"
"Little did the drake know that you have already lost your mind, so it wouldn't have been a great injury for you."
Dramatically, she raised a hand up to her chest. "You wound me, lethallin! Here I am fighting off horrible monsters-"
"Horribly imagined monsters, you mean."
"-Horrible monsters, and risking my very life so that I might bring back a worthy meal to ease your suffering, and the only gratitude I receive is mockery." She sniffed rather forlornly for emphasis.
He sighed heavily and turned towards her at that, staring at her from beneath all of the gauze. "Fine. Thank you for hunting today, lethallan," he told her, and she beamed at him in return, only noticing a few seconds later how close their faces had become. Any closer and their noses would be touching.
Her breath caught, and she saw the moment when he realized it to, his shoulders going rather abruptly still. Her heart pounded in her chest, like it wanted to burst out of her ribcage and into his, and she knew she must have gone a little wide-eyed.
The sound of a throat clearing had them both jump in surprise.
Maren was standing by the circle of the halla pen, arms folded over her chest and looking like she was doing a poor job of fighting back a smile. "Not in front of the halla, you two. Don't you know these are pure and sacred animals?" she asked, a teasing tone to her voice.
"Maren!" Lyna protested, feeling her cheeks heat up. Tamlen groaned and flopped down again, so that he was lying spread-eagle on the grass, wincing as the careless act pulled against his bandages.
"Halla. Blood writing. I think I might hate sacred things," he muttered jokingly.
Lyna hadn't even realized that she'd started a fight until the young warrior took a swing at her head.
She ducked underneath it, of course, eyes wide with surprise as the inebriated youth made another attempt, and wound up with Tamlen's fist in his mouth instead. There was a solid thwack and then a kind of sickening ripping noise as his teeth broke the flesh on the back of Tamlen's hand, bloodying it before the warrior staggered back, spitting and cursing.
Of course, his own friends took offense to that, once they recovered from their surprise.
She tackled the first one as he made to hit Tamlen from behind, grabbing him by the waist and flinging him around to the other side of the fire. The sounds of a scuffle from behind let her know that the others had moved, and she caught a punch aimed at her jaw before knocking her assailant soundly on the head, and turning to check on Tamlen again. The first warrior had recovered enough to try and kick his knees out from under him, while his third friend had succeeded in grabbing both of his arms.
It felt like she bruised her fist when she smashed it against his cheek in retaliation, freeing Tamlen but losing her balance in the process. Her feet scuffed the earth, her senses still a little fuzzy from her own drinking, but not so much that she failed to notice the kick before it impacted her gut.
The wind got knocked out of her, and she grasped the offending leg, swinging around and sending the warrior sprawling towards the campfire. Which was right about when she realized that she was going to pitch him head-first into the flames, and changed her trajectory.
Well, it wasn't like she wanted to permanently maim him. She wasn't even sure why they were fighting one another.
He wound up putting his arm in the fire instead, which was better but still bad, and right about when he started howling Tamlen knocked out a couple of his friend's teeth, grabbed Lyna by the arm, and dragged her towards the tree line.
"Get to your tent," he hissed, breath smelling like wine.
"What about you?"
Turning a little, he gave her a slight push. "I've got this one. Just go," he encouraged. She hesitated, but after a moment decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and moved through the shadows along the edge of camp until she reached Ashalle's tent. Then she climbed in through the back, a little dizzy and her stomach still throbbing from that stupid kick.
Ashalle stirred in her sleep, turning over and then sitting up.
"Where have you been?" she asked.
Lyna rolled her eyes in the dark, dropping to her hands and knees and patting the floor until she found her bedroll. "I was with Tamlen," she replied.
There was a moment of oddly heavy silence.
"What were you two doing?" Ashalle then asked, her voice tense and surprisingly awake, and Lyna let out an internal curse, because how did she always know when she'd done something wrong?
"…Nothing?" she tried.
A moment later there was a distinct rustling as Ashalle – to her surprise – got up, and briskly checked her over, looking at her closely for some reason. "You two didn't…" she trailed off, and then sighed. "I know you are an adult now, da'len," and that was rather contradictory, calling her an adult and a child in the same breath, "but you must be patient. There are ceremonies that should be observed, promises that should be exchanged before the gods before such things happen."
Lyna drew a blank for about two solid minutes.
Then she figured it out, and lowered her face into her hands with a muttered oath. "Ashalle, we did not do that," she protested.
Her assertion was greeted with a rather skeptical sound. "I was not born yesterday, da'len. Your clothes are rumpled and the hour is late."
Pulling away, Lyna pointedly yanked off her boots and climbed into her bedroll. "We were just drinking and talking, Ashalle, that's all. Tamlen hasn't even… we've not so much as spoken of such things. Do you honestly trust me so little?" she couldn't help but wonder.
Her guardian sighed, dropping her hands to her sides before making her way back to her own sleeping place. "I trust you, da'len," she said, and Lyna knew she'd hit the right note. "But I also know how reckless youth and fondness can make a person. It may feel like there is some urgent need to your feelings, but if they are true then time will not change them. Patience was the virtue of our people in ancient times, and it is a path we must attempt to walk even when the stirrings of our hearts or bodies seem to compel us against it…"
Grabbing one of her blankets, Lyna pointedly balled it up, and then pressed it over her head to block out the rest of the lecture.
When she woke the next morning, she stared at the inside wall of the tent for several long, quiet minutes. Ashalle was still asleep, and her gentle snores filled up the air. She wondered if Tamlen had gotten in trouble for the fight she had – sort of – started.
Then she heard Ashalle's voice from the night before, reciting about feelings and urgings into her skull, and she let out a sigh. The trouble was that she knew she had such impulses towards Tamlen. She was also fairly certain that he had them, too, and was aware of hers, but there was always this sense that they should wait for something.
She wasn't even sure what. They were both adults. They were both accomplished hunters. For all of their lives the elders had been filling their ears with caution and patience, and yet, why so ardently? It was true that there was no hurry, but it was also true that there was no point in waiting without a reason to, as well. She felt like she was crouched within the undergrowth, quarry in her sights, bow notched, and no reason to stay frozen in place any longer.
With a slight frown, she pushed herself up onto her elbows. Well. That was just foolish. One should either take the shot or else return to camp.
Right. Whatever Tamlen was doing that day, she decided, she'd go with him. She was supposed to be doing chores at the craftsmen's hut, but she could probably bribe Fenarel into doing them for her. Then she and Tamlen could… speak, at least.
It was with a sense of anticipation that she rose and dressed for the day.