The campfire flickered, patchily illuminating those who sat around it. It wasn't too long past sundown, and the air was just starting to cool off, a welcome relief from the overbearing heat of the day. Dappled shadows surrounded the clearing, painting the landscape with hues of deep blue. The watch rotation was set to start in a few minutes, but for the moment they simply relaxed. Leliana was softly strumming a lute she had purchased in the last town, Zevran was sharpening his daggers, and the others were talking quietly amongst themselves.
Lyna leaned back against one of the logs surrounding the fire and closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of the warmth on her face. She silently reveled in the fact that there weren't even mosquitoes to ruin her relaxation. It had been a long day of traveling, with a lack of battles with bands of darkspawn, or anything living for that matter. As a result, all frustration from the day ended up either being bottled up unhealthily, or unfairly vented upon their companions. It had taken all of Lyna's willpower not to choose the latter option, but she had come to terms with the fact that her command came with certain drawbacks.
Alistair was the first to sense anything amiss. He leapt quickly to his feet, almost tripping over said appendages. "Darkspawn are coming," he said, an edge of anticipation lacing his voice, and Lyna then felt it, the swift pulse of blood telling her of the danger as the other members of their circle began following the former Templar's lead.
(But Lyna couldn't help but be a little upset that Alistair had felt it before her.)
Lyna gestured for everyone to gather on the outskirts of the firelight. Morrigan had already strode over; Lyna assumed it was out of curiosity, although she would be at a loss if asked to find it on the mage's face. "Okay," she began, making a conscious effort to keep her tone from betraying her eagerness. "Anyone think that we shouldn't engage them outside of camp?" A quick glance across the circle revealed relative compliance, or, at least, no disagreement. She almost sighed with relief. Typically Lyna could not count upon agreement from even half, and her excitement at finally having something to fight meant that any arguments likely would not have been handled well.
"All right," she said, feeling the adrenaline kick in. She flexed her fingers with a mixture of anticipation and something else that she could not name, as her pulse began to race. "Alistair," she said, looking for him until she located him and could meet his eyes, "We're going to need to bank the fire; will you get some water to throw over it?"
Alistair nodded slowly. "Sure," he agreed, jogging over to the corner of camp, where they kept the buckets that they…acquired, beside Bodahn's wagon. The remainder of those in camp, with the notable exceptions of said merchant and his son, went to prepare themselves for battle.
She chewed on her lip as she thought, trying to ascertain that she wasn't forgetting anything that would end up being important. Deciding that she hadn't, or if she had then there was nothing to do for it then, she ran to go help Alistair with the fire.
The forest was alive with the teeming sounds of insects and wildlife for the first several minutes. It was a comforting sound to Lyna, reminiscent of long days spent hunting in the Brecilian forest. However, soon the noise subsided, slowly enough to go unnoticed for a while, but eventually it tapered off into an eerie silence. By then, both Grey Wardens were jumpy, being forced to rely upon their sense of their enemies rather than sight. Zevran alone seemed comfortable walking amongst the shadows thrown by the foliage above, as everyone else shifted uncomfortably, occasionally piercing the quiet with the sharp cling of weapons on armor. Lyna assumed that it must be an assassin thing.
She shifted uncomfortably as their pace slowed to a walk, hampered by the closeness of the trees. She readjusted her grip on the blades in each hand, and sent up a brief prayer to Mithal for them all to remain in one piece.
Suddenly Alistair yelled, and Lyna gasped, feeling like the darkspawn were right on top of them. The entered a small clearing, and Lyna froze as Zevran threw a dagger past her ear. The weapon embedded itself in a hurlock that had just charged from out of the trees, followed by its brethren. The dagger had flown true, nailing it just below its omnipresent grin. Lyna flinched in disgust. Not for Zevran's methods, as she would be the first to admit that it was an excellent shot, but more at how close it had come, spattering her armor with a macabre crimson design. She turned to thank Zevran, only to find that chaos had erupted whilst the hurlock had been dealt with. Morrigan and Wynne's magic threw the clearing into high relief, revealing that the darkspawn had surrounded them in the dark, forcing them to gather together in the center of the clearing.
Mentally, Lyna cursed the archdemon. She had thought darkspawn were supposed to be stupid. And she truly hated being outmaneuvered.
She fell back into a circle with the rest of her companions, trying her best to keep her back protected as she slashed her daggers in large arcs at the enemies who approached. Lyna saw the silver glint of arrows whizzing past, and yelled for Leliana, only to realize that the bard had already been returning the volley.
The darkspawn were steadily falling, and Lyna thanked the Creators that she had purchased full body armor in the last town, as their swords scraped uselessly against her breastplate and only scored superficial wounds along her arms. She didn't think that she would ever feel comfortable battling without it after this. That thought would have shamed her before the past weeks of exposure, which had taught her that there was no shame in appreciating something that was useful.
A shout brought Lyna's attention away from the enemies in front of her, and toward Leliana, who was running to Alistair. He stood stock still, almost as if he had forgotten that there was a battle surrounding him. In front of his large frame loomed an emissary, wielding both sword and shield. A lucky dagger throw from Leliana wounded the hurlock, distracting it from the man in front of it, and Leliana ran to slit the hurlock's throat as it stumbled backwards in pain.
Lyna, knowing that Alistair was out of immediate danger and therefore no longer required her assistance, glanced about to see how everyone else was faring. Copious amounts of blood painted the nearby trees and grass, but none, Lyna found with crushing relief, seemed to belong to anything but darkspawn. There were a few darkspawn remaining, but those that still walked were being skillfully picked off by Zevran or Morrigan. Sten strode about calmly, slitting the throats of those who were not yet dead.
She scowled and walked over to Alistair, who still had yet to move. She opened her mouth to tell him how incredibly stupid he had been and he could have gotten himself killed, and... Her mental tirade ended at the sight of the dead emissary. Dead darkspawn was never a pretty sight, but it wasn't the corpse that drew her attention.
There, on the ground, was a shield. The design looked familiar, and she tilted her head as she studied it. The herald in the center had wings, and even smeared with darkspawn blood it looked almost right. Suddenly it hit her, and she took a few involuntary steps backwards. Her gaze went back up to the Templar, and she patted his shoulder, the closest she could get to a reassuring gesture.
"It's not his," she said awkwardly, not knowing what else she really could say. "The herald is wrong; it's missing the claws." A part of her knew that she still should lecture Alistair about the consequences of being distracted in battle, maybe mixed in with something encouraging, but the words died in her throat.
And instead she simply turned away, glad of the shadows that hid her shame, and quietly gave the command to return to camp.
Alistair was crying, Lyna noted, as she spotted him standing watch on the outskirts of camp. She bit back her irritation, the vestiges that remained out of lack of verbalization. She knew who it would probably be about, and it had been a topic for them more than once.
She approached him slowly, much like one would approach a wounded animal. "Alistair," she said quietly, hating herself for hoping that he would not turn.
But of course he did, and she almost flinched at how raw his emotion was, tear tracks shining silver in the light of the moon. Alistair looked broken, and Lyna felt immeasurably guilty at the one part of her that whispered that he needed to toughen up, that he shouldn't need coddling like a child.
As much to assuage her guilt as provide comfort, Lyna carefully walked over to his post and laid a soft hand on his shoulder. The gesture, although she had not intended for it to really mean anything, caused Alistair to draw her into a hug and weep openly on her shoulder. His entire body shook with the grief he had withheld. Lyna squirmed, uncomfortable in his hold, but quickly stopped. Maybe if she just was there, then he wouldn't ask to talk about it, wouldn't require verbal comfort.
They stood there for several minutes as his tears subsided, Lyna wondering how comfortable it could possibly be to cry into an armored shoulder. She was glad that she had taken the time to wash the darkspawn blood out; she had a suspicion that it wasn't the sort of substance one would want their face anywhere near. However, in hindsight, if it would have prevented this…
Finally, he drew back, making a valiant effort at a smile. Lyna rotated her shoulder and shifted, stretching out the discomfort from standing in one attitude for so long. "Thanks," he rasped out, his voice raw. "It's just, if one of us had to have lived, it should have been Duncan. He had so much more experience in this; he wouldn't ever find himself stuck and not knowing what to do, or ever freeze in the middle of a battle...," He stopped his tirade bordering on a shout. Face lightly flushed from the intensity of his own words, he hung his head. Alistair bit his lip, as if trying to trap any further words before they could spring from his mouth.
At that, Alistair's eyes locked with Lyna's, and she knew that this was when she should contradict his words, tell him that he was doing a great job, tonight was just one slip-up, and how proud Duncan would have been of him for all of the battles where he had done well. The words were on her tongue, but then her throat closed up, and try as she might, she could not bring herself to spit them around the block, to give him pretty words for his comfort. Maybe it was the residual anger she felt from him putting them all in danger, even though she had tried to persuade herself that it hadn't done any harm, but she simply...couldn't.
Her mouth shut with a barely audible click; she hadn't even realized that she had opened it. Unconsciously, she found herself mimicking his pose, with her bottom lip clenched within her teeth.
And he must have seen those thoughts running through her eyes, or maybe he heard them in her too-long silence, or in the way she had closed her mouth. He turned away from her and his voice hardened, although it had not yet recovered from the waver from before. "You should go back to camp; I still have a few hours until it's your watch," he said, refusing to look her in the face. Lyna's chin instinctively jerked upwards at his tone, accompanied by a faint pressure at the back of her eyelids.
Yet for once she listened to him, without a word of dissent. She turned her back, and walked away from his sorrow and her empty words, with the wind in the trees whispering reproach for her cowardice in leaving him.
And when the sounds of his sorrow later split the night, she pretended not to hear.