This story introduces a new character to my collection and is set an alternate version of Ferelden represented by the Warden's Vigil Role Playing community (WV). I play two characters over there, Leliana and Andrew Banvard. I hope to publish more stories about these characters as I spend a fair amount of time playing them and they have engaged my imagination.
This story is about Andrew Banvard. Only his mother and select nobles call him Andrew, everyone else calls him Andy.
In the current timeline on WV, Andrew is nineteen years old and has spent the last ten years of his life training to be a knight of Edgewater. Edgewater is a fictitious bannorn located on the northern tip of Lake Calenhad and is held by Bann Malone Kincade. This story is set ten years previously. Andrew is aged nine and he's about to hear the news that will change his life.
Andy swatted the mosquito as silently as possible. The heat of the day had made the insect lazy and the slow rise and deliberate fall of his hand had caught the blood sucker unaware. Andy smeared the resultant mess across his arm, watching in fascination as the droplets of blood beaded along the fine hairs and then he flicked the corpse away and turned his attention back to the brackish water in front of him. The barely nine year old boy squatted down in the rushes and cattails, heedless of the water seeping into his boots and lapping at his ankles, and reached carefully forward to part the brown stalks. There his prize sat on a broad leaf in the middle of the stagnant water, a spotted brown frog. Holding his breath, Andy darted forward with his hands outstretched. His fingers grazed the leaf and he could swear he felt one leg slip through his grasp and then he lay face down in the puddle of brown water coughing and spluttering.
Pushing himself upright once more and shaking the moisture from his hands, Andy grasped the hem of his shirt and scrubbed at his eyes, clearing them of water. He sloshed forward, chasing after the frog, his young voice sounding out above the waving tips of the slender foliage that marked the marshy swamp along the side of Lake Calenhad.
"Wait, come back!"
Andy stopped still and turned his head about, trying to determine the direction of his brother's voice. "Pat?" he called in return. "I'm over here." He stuck up a hand and waved it over the tops of the reeds.
His older brother's dark head appeared through the cattails, followed by his taller yet stockier body. "What're you doing?"
"Trying to catch a frog."
Pat grinned and shook his head. Andy didn't take offense at the gesture. His brother had a good and generous nature and would only laugh with him, not at him. "You'll never catch one making all that noise."
Andy dropped his shoulders and sighed. Pat had brought home a truly beautiful frog just the week before and Andy wanted to do everything his older brother did, even if four years separated them. Casting his eyes sideways at his brother, he said, "Will you show me how, Pat?"
"Sure. I'll tell it all to you once and then we have to stop talking, or they'll hear us coming. So just follow me, alright?"
"Right!" Andy realised he might have said that a little loudly and he clapped his hand over his mouth and grinned.
Pat slipped an arm over his shoulders and bent down to talk more quietly. "Stalking frogs takes a lot of patience. Not only to you have to be quiet, but you have to be very, very still. Can you do that?"
"I can try," Andy used his softest whisper and Pat squeezed his shoulder in approval.
"Right, let's go this way." Pat pointed in the opposite direction to where Andy had been going, to where the spotted brown beauty had gone and Andy opened his mouth to protest, and then thought the better of it. Pat would know what he was doing.
The two boys sloshed quietly through the marshy swamp for a few minutes and then Pat stopped still. Andy bumped into him; he'd managed to start daydreaming in the short space of time it took them to get there, his young mind imagining that they stalked a creature of legend living in the depths of Lake Calenhad which had decided, for some unknown reason, to take refuge in the profusion of reeds and swamp grasses clustered along the shore just north of the old docks. The boy made a small sound as his head abutted his brother's shoulder blades though it was muffled in the folds of Pat's shirt.
Pat put out a hand, palm down, to indicate silence and Andy swallowed and leaned around his brother's arm. And there it was, a brown spotted frog, bigger than the one he had lost, sitting on a rotted log that just cleared the surface of the water. Pat crouched down and Andy squatted behind him and then tried to inch forward through the water without making any noise. Pat's hand steadied his shoulder until they were side by side and then they simply watched the frog for… hours? Days? It felt like months and Andy's mind began to wander. He had just figured out what colour the sea serpent's scales were when an elbow nudged his ribs. Andy blinked at his brother and Pat slowly and deliberately inclined his head towards the frog. His mouth opened, but no sound came out. Andy squinted as he tried to make out the silent word: Ow? Wow? Oh, now!
Andy turned to study the frog and then he drew in a long, quiet breath and sprang. His hands closed about the firm and oddly cool and moist little body and he squealed with delight. He hopped up and down and he spun in a circle and he danced.
"Look, Pat, I got it, I got it!"
"Yes, you did. Let's take it home to show dad."
Andy nodded and carefully adjusting his grip splashed out of the reeds and climbed the shallow slope to the grassland that bordered the lake. He followed Pat across the narrow field and up the lane that led to the main road through town. One right hand turn and they had arrived at the smithy. The fire burned, but the hammer was silent. Andy checked the angle of the sun; surely they were not late for supper? No, they had a couple hours yet. Why did the forge lay silent? Perhaps the injuries his father had sustained during the battle with the bandits the previous week had caused him to take another of the naps he seemed to like lately.
In deference to Andy's full hands, Pat pushed open the back door, the one that led from the side of the forge directly into the small mudroom behind the kitchen and Andy followed him, his prize held carefully out in front of him.
He stepped proudly into the kitchen and held up his hands to show off the brown spotted beauty and his mother took one look at him and shrieked.
"Andrew Banvard! Why are you so wet? Did you fall in the lake? You have ruined that shirt, is that… blood?"
Andy's smile faltered and he looked to his father instead and offered his full hands. "Look dad, I got one!"
Opening his hands a bit he showed off his catch and the frog, sensing freedom, made it's break, leaping from his hands to the kitchen floor. Mae Banvard's voice rose a further octave and she screamed and leapt onto a chair.
"Clifton!" she shrieked.
Andy scrambled after the frog, as did Pat and their father sat in his chair with his stiff leg stuck out awkwardly in front of him and laughed quietly. Pat caught the frog and Andy grabbed a jar off of the counter and held it out. The frog got dropped into the jar and Andy's grimy hand fell across the lip, sealing off its escape. His mother yelled from the chair.
"No, not that… Oh, Andrew! Not one of the canning jars." She clutched her breast and stepped down from the chair and pointed towards the door. "Out! Take it outside and then come straight back in here. Your father and I want to talk to you."
Andy cringed and stalked towards the door. He did not like the sound of his mother's voice. What did they plan to talk to him about? He couldn't help feeling disappointed that they hadn't appreciated his frog. His father might normally have praised such a find, but Clifton Banvard had been somewhat subdued since the bandit attack. Andy understood that Bann Kincade had died during the raid and that his father had been wounded whilst defending his lord and that his leg might never heal properly.
Andy had been in the root cellar with Pat, his sisters and mother. Though his older brother had threatened to go out there and take up a sword, Andy had seen the fear reflected in Pat's blue eyes, the same eyes shared by his father and himself. For his own part, he'd been glad Pat had stayed with them, the girls had been hysterical and their whimpers had set his nerves on edge. His older brother, while only thirteen, had been a staid and stolid presence, someone for Andy to model himself after instead of cowering like one of the girls.
When he reentered the kitchen Andy noticed that Pat had been dismissed and that he stood alone with his parents. He tried to think of what awful thing he might have done to warrant such a serious meeting and came up blank. He fidgeted, moving from foot to foot and his teeth found his lower lip. Why were they looking at him like that? The expressions on their faces defied interpretation. They didn't look mad; they looked – excited, nervous, sad? And they weren't talking. Holy Maker, he'd done something so dreadful they couldn't even speak.
His father leaned forward in his chair and spoke in his deep and quiet voice. "What do you think you'd like to be when you grow up, Andy?"
Andy gulped. He had to decide now? "Um," he shifted his foot across the kitchen floor and looked at the slight trace of mud the boot sole left in its wake. He glanced up, expecting his mother to make a clucking sound and scold him for the mess, but instead she studied him with a new expression, one he'd not seen on her face before… well, except maybe that time she'd finished making the huge quilt that now adorned his parent's bed? It had taken her nearly a year to make.
"A blacksmith like you?" he finally said quietly, sure this would be the right answer.
Clifton Banvard had already started teaching him how to make simple things, horse shoes and nails. Andy looked forward to the day he'd be able to make a sword. Pat had started making one…
His father smiled kindly at him and beckoned him over. Andy walked across the floor, heedless of the boot prints he left in his wake, and stood in front of his father. The older man laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. "But what if you could be anything, anything at all?" His father never sounded like this. Daydreaming was strictly Andy's territory.
Widening eyes, Andy shuffled and asked, "Er, you mean like, um, a dragon slayer, or a sailor, or a… a knight?"
His mother made an odd sound and Andy looked over to notice that her eyes glistened. Holy Maker, he'd said something stupid, he should have said a fisherman, or a… a soldier. Dropping his gaze to the floor, Andy wondered when he'd be able to go back outside and play; he didn't really like this conversation.
The elder blacksmith's quiet voice interrupted his wondering. "And why would you want to be a knight?"
Because he'd get to wear shiny armour? Even at nine, Andy knew this answer was not the one his father looked for. Drawing his brows together in thought, he chewed on his lip thoughtfully. "Well, because they are best kind of soldier. Anyone can swing a blade, but knights are brave and honourable and they protect their lords and," and here he started to warm to his subject, espousing a daydream he had often entertained, "and they get to travel and do quests, finding lost treasures and rescuing people."
His father was nodding and smiling and Andy smiled in return.
"Do you think you'd like to be a knight, Andy?"
"Well, of course!" Why wouldn't he?
Mae Banvard burst into tears.
"But, but I'd rather be a blacksmith, um, or a fisherman?" he stammered quietly, horribly confused and flushed because of it. He darted his eyes back and forth between them.
His mother held out her arms and Andy walked reluctantly into her embrace, his imaginings now casting this scene as his final farewell with his family, they had no use for someone who indulged in daydreams and they would be sending him away to work for someone awful, maybe the grizzled old fisherman with one eye who lived beyond the cliffs that looked over the lake to the south of Edgewater.
"You are such a good boy, Andrew," she murmured and Andy eyed the muddy marks he'd left on the floor.
"Do you want me to clean the floor?"
In answer, she hugged him more tightly. With a little sigh, Andy hugged her back, hoping this would end the exchange, it had worked before. Then she started kissing his hair. Maker's breath.
Just he managed to extricate himself from his mother's grasp, his father began talking again. "Andy, the Bann visited us today, and he had an interesting offer to make."
"Oh?" Andy could not fathom why this would be of interest to him.
"He offered to take you on as a page. Do you know what that is?"
A weird swishing sound began behind his ears and Andy opened his mouth and closed it. The look on his father's face told him quite clearly he did not jest. The young boy knew his father's facial expressions quite well, he thought. He knew the looks that said, 'you are trying my patience', or 'you are amusing'. And he knew the disappointed face. He didn't like that face. Trying not to shy away from the intense blue gaze, Andy said quietly, "Well, that's how you start, as a," he paused. "Um, a knight." The word seemed to echo about the room and boy winced, somehow certain he'd got it wrong, that it couldn't possibly true, that he'd made a mistake, or his father had made a mistake.
But his father simply nodded his head and his mother sniffled.
Andy's mouth dropped open. "Really?" A grin started to pull at his face and he tried to squelch it, sure it wouldn't be a knightly expression. Then he frowned. "But I don't know how to be a knight!"
"That's what you'd learn. That's what being a page is all about."
Andy felt like he might be bouncing, excitement thrilled up and down his limbs and he'd lost his fight with the grin.
Clifton Banvard placed a steadying hand on his shoulder and chuckled. "Your mother is right, Andrew, you are a good boy, but you will need to be your best if you go up there. You can't daydream your way into a knighthood and you won't have as much time for yourself. It will be hard work."
Andy wrestled his features into a serious expression, a look he would practice and perfect and come to call his serious face. He nodded. Unfortunately, he still bounced lightly on his toes.
"You will need to practice a lot more than your swordsmanship. You will need to learn manners and they'll teach you how to read and write more than your name. You will have to be very patient."
"I can be patient!" He didn't sound patient and he didn't look it either. Andy wanted to pack his bags and head up the road to the keep now. But that wouldn't be patient. He chewed his lip a moment and tried to remember what he'd been doing the last time he'd exhibited patience. His face lit up as he remembered. "Like when I am stalking frogs!" he said.
His father's eyebrows raised and his mother blinked and then his father laughed. "Like that, son, just like that."
"When will I go?" Andy tried to make his question sound slow and not as if he'd already mentally chosen which things he would take with him.
"Not until next week," his mother answered, her tone resuming its more business like clip. "I'm going to have to make you some new clothes and you will not be chasing any frogs in them, you hear? I can't have you going up to the keep looking like, well," she gestured his current ensemble and Andy looked down at his wet, muddy, ripped – Holy Maker, when had he done that to his pants – clothes and dirt crusted boots.
"And you'll be needing a proper pair of blades," Clifton put in thoughtfully as he stroked his chin.
Andy grinned in response, nodding and bouncing and looking from one parent to the other, carefully checking their expressions, making sure this wasn't just an odd sort of joke. They both looked somewhat thoughtful and he slowed down his shuffling and fidgeting and thought about frogs.
"So I'll really be a knight?" What did they call knights? Ser! He'd be Ser Andy… no, no, he'd be Ser Andrew! That sounded… really grown up.
"It won't happen next week, Andy." His father gave him a considering look. "It takes years of study and practice. But I know you'll do your best."
"I will." His new serious face crept back into place and Andy nodded and said, "Thank you."
His parents both looked bemused and his mother chuckled softly and replied, "Well, you'll be wanting to save those words for Bann Malone." With a warm smile she gestured the floor. "Now why don't you go tell your brother all about it and let me clean up this mess."
Andy didn't have to be told twice. He ran for the door and nearly careened into Pat coming around the corner of the blacksmith. "Pat, Pat! I'm going to be a knight!"
His brother grinned. "How about if I be the knight and you be my squire."
"No, really, up at the keep, mum and dad just told me. Bann Malone asked for me!"
Pat's smile was slower to come this time and he nodded and reached out and clasped his little brother's shoulder and squeezed tightly. "Well better you than me, mate."
"Maybe we could ask for you to be one too?"
Pat shook his head. "Nope, only room for one knight in this family. Besides, who will make your swords for you if I'm up there wearing shiny amour and being all brave and the like?"
Andy nodded vigorously, the future coming together in his head… he a knight in service, his armour, with a helm, his sword and dagger, or would he have to learn to use shield, one with the est… est… estoile? on it? Or maybe he could learn to use one of those awesomely huge two handed swords like Bann Malone himself! Clifton Banvard had made that sword! He made all the weapons for the Kincades and Pat would carry on the tradition. The Banvard blacksmiths were known through the region for producing the finest weapons.
"Well I'll only get my weapons from you, Pat. Because they will be the best, I just know it. And when I quest and save the King he'll see my sword and think it's amazing and I'll have to give it to him as a gift and…"
Pat's hand lifted from his shoulder and his laughter brought Andy back to Thedas. "Come along, Ser Andrew, I saw a green striped toad down at the lake, let's see if we can't catch it before dinner."