Tomas blinked against the sunlight as it broke through the clouds and stabbed into his skull. He spat a wad of phlegm into the gutter and took a swig from his wine bottle before leaning his head back against the tenement wall and sneering at the guard. "So tell me, shem, the king needs foot soldiers to run out in front of the dogs? Mabari too expensive to waste as monster fodder?"
The human soldier shifted, face flushed and perspiring slightly. Tomas wondered if it really was so hot under all that armor, or if he was that unnerved by the large crowd of irritable, though technically unarmed, elves that had gathered to hear his plea. "No, of course not." He cleared his throat. "Any elves signing up with the army would not fight on the front lines, but be used purely in support roles."
A bitter laugh swept through the crowd, adding to the soldier's anxiety. "I assure you, support roles are very important, particularly in an army the size of King Cailan's!"
Tomas grinned viciously. "Yeah, I think I know what those are. Hey, Pol, wasn't your dad in a 'support role' back when he was in Loghain's army?"
Pol nodded, picking up the thread. "Oh, yeah, he was! Yeah, sheml- I mean ser, we know what those are."
The soldier nodded in relief, "So you understand how vital they are to the proper function of the army."
"Oh, yeah," Tomas nodded sagely. "So, Pol, when your dad came back stuck full of arrows and your uncle with a lance through his throat, what 'support role' do you think they were fulfilling? Target practice? Or just protecting the dogs from the Orlesians?"
The mocking laughter burst forth in earnest at the soldier's dumbfounded expression. "I'm sorry for your loss..." he tried to say over the laughter but was soon drowned out by jeers of "Well, to be fair, the dogs are better fed!" and "Maybe you'll actually get to find the brave soldier who stole your dad's wages!" and he gave up, stumbling and shoving his way through the crowd and back through the gates to the Market District.
Tomas chucked his now-empty bottle at the soldier's retreating form. His aim was off, and it shattered against the cobblestones. "Wanker," he sneered.
Pol crouched next to him. "Hey, it wasn't a total waste of time," he winked and dropped a few coins in Tomas' lap, "Soldier boy was loaded."
Tomas laughed. "You're gonna get caught one of these days, if you're not careful."
Pol shrugged. "So, what do you want to do? I heard Soris was having a few people over...'
Tomas snorted. "That jackass? No thanks, I'll skip the whine party."
"Alarith said he wanted to have some kind of meeting."
"Meeting about what? I don't want to get involved with his stupid 'cause' or whatever it is he's up to in that shop." Tomas counted the coins. It was enough for three bottles. Four, if he really pressed his luck. "Nah, I think I'll just stay here."
Pol rolled his eyes. "You're gonna rot if you don't shift yourself sooner or later."
Tomas shrugged. "I can think of worse fates."
Tomas blinked against the sunlight as it broke through the clouds and stabbed into his skull, trying to make out the silhouette. It was oddly familiar. "Yeah, I'm uh... I'm a veteran. Yeah. Crippled."
Darrien frowned. "You were at Ostagar?" he asked, disbelieving.
Tomas nodded, attempting his best "haunted" look. "Yeah, I was assistant dog keeper. Real bad there. Got bit by... something. Now my leg don't work right."
Darrien's expression grew pained, and Tomas tried to not let his exultation show. He bought it! "Here," he said softly, pressing a few silvers into his hand. "Get yourself a hot meal."
He managed to hold in the snickers until the Warden was out of earshot. "Pol! Hey, Pol!" He called to his friend across the street.
He sighed in irritation and jogged over. "I'm Puck, remember? Pol ran off with the Dalish."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Tomas waved him off. "Check it out, Tabris doesn't remember any of us and is a soft touch," he laughed. "Here, wait with me until he comes back. Come on, let's think of a good story."
Puck wrinkled his brow and stared at his ragged shoes. "I could tell him I'm a... war veteran!"
Tomas shoved him. "No, you dolt. I told him that. Think of something else. I got it! You're an orphan."
"But I have both my parents!" he protested.
"Shut up and just go along with it. You think your parents are going to die just because you lied about it? Superstitious twit."
Tomas took a swig from his bottle and blinked against the sunlight as it broke through the clouds and stabbed into his skull. "Why would I ever want to go to a parade for Tabris?"
Puck crossed his arms and glared at Tomas. "I dunno, maybe because he saved all of Ferelden, which includes your worthless hide."
"Pah," Tomas spat. "Where was he when I needed him? Off riding his high... griffon."
"What, just because he saw through your 'Oh, woe is me! I'm a crippled, drunken veteran!' act? A one eyed nug could see through that, Tomas. And maybe you should show some respect. You know, you could have gone off to fight with everybody else. You're perfectly able."
"Listen to you, all high-and-mighty since your parents died. You think I believe this whole 'pride' routine? Give it a week, you'll be back here with me." Tomas curled his lip in derision.
"You don't get it, do you? Tabris has changed things. For all of us! Andraste's sake, Shianni is a bann! And you want to sit here and have us all feel bad for you because your dad died in a war?" Puck threw his hands up. "I'm done with this! I'm going to make something of my life, ok? I'm not going to end up like Pol. Or you."
Tomas watched as Puck stalked off, head held high, shoulders thrown back. "Wanker," he muttered to himself as he drank the last of his wine.