Thanks, Ventisquear, for reviewing the previous chapter!
Just a little to keep the updates moving along…
She felt more than a little out of sorts. Velanna was currently tending the tiny herb garden she had started, and, with her hands plunged firmly into dirt, the former First was far easier to tolerate.
However, Lyna could not abide the acerbic woman's company, not at this time.
Moss green eyes scanned the courtyard, coming to rest finally upon the figures of her fellow Wardens as they practiced. She watched as Nathaniel ran his fingertips along the bow he held in his hand, raising it and sighting down the arrow to the target many yards before him. He pulled the bowstring back, his eyes focused, hand steady, before releasing the missile. She took another moment to admire his stance before turning her gaze to the others.
Jowan and Anders were at the moment practicing their hand to hand combat techniques. The Dalish hunter approved greatly the mages' desire to learn how to protect themselves and fight armed with something other than their magic. Her clan had many experiences with Templars in the past, and, many times, the only reason they continued to have a First and a Keeper was due to their knowledge of weapons and combat.
A slight pang erupted within her breast, and she loosed a sigh, a hand rising to clutch reflectively above her heart. Normally, thoughts of her clan would bring about a melancholy, but this was a physical discomfort she had not experienced since the attack those months prior. She held a hope that some had survived and were able to join another clan. She was certain it was a false hope she held onto, but had made the decision that false hope was better than no hope. Taking a deep breath and expelling it slowly, she stepped to Nathaniel's side, who turned a small smirk to her, eyebrow raised as the Dalish archer took up her own bow to match shot to shot with the human archer.
Paperwork threatened to escape the confines of the box Jowan had placed them in, hoping to secure them in a safe place, perhaps allowing himself to forget about them, even for a moment. A deep sigh escaped his lips as his dark eyes settled upon the stack again and, resignedly, he settled back into his seat, pulling a packet of parchments free of their confines, and began reading another request for soldiers from Bann Esmerelle.
Were these nobles really that dense? The mage sighed, scowling as his picked up his pen, dipping the sharpened tip into the inkwell, to scribe a short note, reminding the bothersome wench…ah, noblewoman that they had already had this discussion and troops would be patrolling the farmlands for the foreseeable future. He made a suggestion that perhaps funds could be allocated from the beautification fund for extra soldiers. With a flourish, he signed his name, title and all, and then sat staring blankly at the response he had just written.
He remembered his days from the tower, when Irving's desk would likewise be piled high with papers – tasks for newly harrowed mages; class assignments for apprentices; even a few requests from parents seeking contact with their stolen children. In a rare flash of sympathy, Jowan realized that it was those letters that Irving had always taken the time to respond to before any of the other daily administrative duties he had to attend to. The mage wondered if any of those letters had been from his father.
Heavy lids closed over violet eyes as he recalled the sad expression upon his father's face when he had given in to his mother's demands that he take Jowan - that thing as she had begun to refer to him as once his magic had manifested – from her sight, and deliver him to the nearest chantry. His father (and damn him for not remembering his father's name! All he could recall was 'Pa') had been heartbroken, unwilling to give up his only son, his child, to never see him again.
His father – his Pa – had, however, given into his wife's pressures. Packing up the boy's clothes, making certain his favorite toy – a stuffed bear – was tucked securely under his five year old's arm, Pa picked up little Jowan, and walked the day's journey to the nearest chantry to deliver his mage son.
Tears formed around the edges of his eyes as he recalled the glimmer within his own father's eyes as he carefully handed his child over, trying in vain to explain Jowan's fear of the dark, how only Teddy and a specific song could soothe the child's nerves. The Templar who had taken control of Jowan had merely waved his Pa away, explaining that as a member of the circle, Jowan would no longer be spoiled with such childish nonsense. Pa had reached over, to try and take Jowan from the Templar's firm grip – maybe to give him a final hug, maybe to try and take back his actions of bringing him there - only to be shoved back, stumbling, the scape of a blade unsheathing echoing through Jowan's memories as his Pa looked stricken, ashamed and unsettled with the decision he had been pushed into.
"I love you, Jowan!" his Pa had called out as the small boy was pulled away, dragged into the Chantry, never to see his Pa again.
"Damn it," the blood mage muttered, wiping at his eyes as he pulled himself free of the painful memory. His father had not wanted to give up his child, had been threatened with bodily harm should he try to retake his own child. Violet eyes opened and settled once more upon the seemingly endless paperwork sat upon his desk.
Yes, he wondered if Irving had ever received a letter from his father, asking after his son. Damn that the old First Enchanter died during the Blight.
Scowling, he pulled another packet free of the pile, his eyes widening slightly with concern. With a nod, he rose, taking the packet with him as he left to call the wardens to the throne room.
"The Blackmarsh?" Anders quipped, amber eyes narrowing as his face crinkled in distaste. "Who, in their right mind, goes into a place called the Blackmarsh?"
"Idiots, like us," Jowan offered with a smirk of his own, "However," he straightened from his position over the chest, scanning the room's contents. "this gives us a clue as to where our missing Warden could be."
"They couldn't have called it the Kittenmarsh?" Anders asked, smiling as a small purr rose from his pack. At the incredulous stares from his companions, the mage shrugged, "Flowermarsh?"
"Doesn't help," Lyna said with her own smile and a slight shake of her white-blonde head as she replaced Kristoff's journal on the table. "You can have the prettiest word in the world first, but follow up with 'marsh' and it kind of negates it."
Tilting his head, the smirk softening to a small grin, Anders replied, "Hmmm…Lynamarsh," the elf blushed slightly even as Nathaniel scoffed. "I dunno. Still sounds pretty to me." He practically purred this last out.
Nathaniel's face darkened slightly but Jowan merely chuckled. "Rein it in, Anders," he said to his flirtatious warden as he flashed a grin at the still blushing elf. "Knowing the woman and her skills, sounds even more ominous."
Flushing deeper at the compliment, the Dalish archer turned in a show of studying the map tacked to the wall. Jowan smirked back at Anders before turning his attention to the map.
Kristoff, a Grey Warden from Orlais, had been out on a mission since the time of the Darkspawn attack upon Vigil's Keep several weeks prior. They had received no word from the veteran warden and Jowan, concerned for the man's safety, had taken most of the wardens to Amaranthine to search for clues to the man's location. Searching his room at the Crown and Lion had revealed that he had gone to the Blackmarsh to scout out a report of strange occurrences deep in the wilderness.
A glance out the window told the mage that darkness would be falling soon. "Well, then, we should get rooms here and then head out in the morning," he frowned, turning away from the window. "I'll have the innkeep send a messenger to the keep advising them of where we are heading."
"I am certain Varel would appreciate that," Nathaniel offered with a nod.
Twisting slightly to look at the former noble, Jowan asked, "Did you know Varel from when he served your father?"
Nathaniel's dark eyes darkened slightly, a slight frown forming upon the flat planes of his face. "I did. But, only barely." The man shrugged slightly. "I remember his fierce loyalty to the citizens of Amaranthine, as well as deep sense of honor and pride." His features darkened a bit, showing the temper that lay just below the carefully held surface. "It was no surprise to me to learn that Varel had fallen ill of my father."
Turning, Jowan led the others from the room to acquire additional rooms for the wardens. "I know," he offered in his quiet voice. "I like the man, too."