Ostagar was alive with activity.
Everywhere servants were moving back and forth on errands; soldiers were eating, tending to their equipment or training. There were tents everywhere, like a small cluster of mushroom that had defiantly taken root at the foot of the once mighty forest, the men and women within tiny ants, labouring to maintain their little island of civilisation in an ocean of wild and misty forest.
Carver liked it.
It wasn't the the way they defied the dark forest, or the Darkspawn within it, or even how they had managed to create a camp so permanent it might as well count as a town.
No, it was the fact that he had chosen to become part of it on his own, that he had decided to make something of himself. Not being a Freeholder or having been conscripted, Carver had no obligation to join the army, yet he had signed up with the Lothering militia, ready to defend his home and his family.
Back in Lothering Peaches had of course loved it...she was even more admiring of him after that...almost enough to forget about his brother.
Carver's nose twitched at the thought, but he chose to ignore it.
No, I'm here, I'm her boyfriend, not Garrett, I'm the volunteer ready to defend Lothering, he simply tagged along. He straightened as he walked, the thought encouraging, the hand holding the scroll he'd been given by an officer not a few moments ago closing tighter around it.
He was certainly an imposing sight, and was aware of it. Being a Hawke he was tall, a full six foot one, and his athletic build, hardened by long journeys through the countryside as well as countless hours of working at various farms, was one no man in Lothering could match. His rectangular face and distinct brow was as if carved out of rock, and looked disciplined with his dark hair cut short and his deeply set dark blue eyes.
As such he had towered above the rest of the militia, conscripted from the people that normally would call themselves fortunate to live so close to the village, but now conscripted because of it. With his father's greatsword, an odd thing for an apostate to carry, he hadn't even needed to be outfitted like the rest of the militia, save a light suit of leather armour Carver suspected was more for show than actual use. With that in mind, and that he displayed far greater skill than any of the others in the militia, one didn't travel through the breath of the land without encountering the odd wolf or even bandit, Carver had been a shoe-in for the position as captain of the militia...
Of course that hadn't happened when his brother had shown up...Carver couldn't stop himself from grimacing at the memory.
There was only one reason for Garrett joining. When Carver had announced his enlistment, hoping to at least be appreciated for wanting to defend their home, he had instead been met with shock and fright. Garrett and Leandra in particular had been vocal in their displeasure, Leandra out of simple motherly worry, but Garrett not only out of a wish to shelter, but also out of his usual idea of them hiding and escaping...why fight to defend what was yours when you could simply run away if the battle turned poorly? Sure, such thinking had kept the family with their apostate members safe for ages...but Carver was not about to let it happen again, not after all they had done to finally settle down, at some point one had to stop running and fight. Besides, if the Darkspawn conquer Ferelden...where would we go?
While the brothers were equal in skill, even though Garrett had to be outfitted with a standard sword and shield from the armoury before proving that, that had not decided things. Carver was more imposing and had made himself at least somewhat popular among the people at Lothering by often going to the Dane's refuge inn for a pint. But Garrett, despite being a bit of a mystery to most since he only came in for work before returning home, was respected. It was so stupid, he didn't speak when it wasn't needed, and as such people put such worth on when he did that they all fell silent as if it was the words of the Revered Mother herself!
And the bloody recruiters had seen that...which mean Garrett was now the Captain of the militia, a militia he didn't even want to be in! And not only had he been given a proper suit of Ferelden scale armour so as to stand out among the rest of the militia...but then there was the case of the bloody mutt...
He could see the militia now, huddling around a large fire as the cold evening wind poured through the ravine below the ruined fortress. The men were talking in hushed voices, speaking of what was on everyone's lips. When would the Darkspawn try another attack? Was it true the scouts had seen the largest force seen so far creeping closer? What would they do?
Carver's eyes naturally drifted to his brother, the man sitting among the ring of men. First Carver's eyes darted down to the brown Mabari lounging at the man's feet though, a twinge of jealousy in his heart. The dog had joined Garrett the day the militia had marched into Ostagar, he had jumped the fence to his pen, trotted over to the Captain and sat down next to him...and that had been it apparently, not a word had been spoken, not by the master or dog, not until the dog's trainer had exclaimed his wonder such an amazing thing, it had been enough to make Carver gag.
And it had only gotten worse when the rest of the militia had started to think of the dog as their mascot and cajoled the oh so annoyingly blasé Garrett to actually name the mutt. He had frowned for a moment...and then picked 'Maric' to the cheers of the men, surely it had to be a good sign that he had picked the name of their king's famous father? Which of course had been the reason why the man had picked it...he never did anything without an angle...
Yet despite the jealousy always rolling around in his stomach like a bad wine, Carver couldn't help feeling the affection of a brother that had protected him and the rest of the family for so long when looking up at Maric's master.
Like all the Hawke children Garrett towered over most Fereldians, though he was only three inches shorter than Carver, something Carver knew was a bit silly to feel proud about, but was unable to help himself from feeling. Garrett seemed shorter though, very much so due to his broad build, not just by the shoulders, but the entire body, giving him an exceedingly bulky impression despite the man lacking any fat.
The broadness continued above the shoulders with the man's bull-like neck, though like Carver he had inherited the rectangular shape of his face from their father, unlike Carver he had also gotten their father's dark brown eyes though, making him the child resembling their dead old dad the most. His dark hair was nearly cut as short as Carver's, yet for once he didn't sport a thick matt of stubble, in the army his usual forgetfulness about personal appearance was not allowed.
Except for the lack of magic, the man was just like his father, a man dedicated to his family to a fault, a scholar...and not to mention a bit of a bore...
As if sensing his gaze, the Mabari at the man's feet raised his head, calmly looking at Carver, making him shiver. Damn, that Mabari's just like Garrett...it's not natural for a dog to be so quiet... A moment later Garrett looked up, the same calm look as the dog on his face as he eyed Carver, the usual little smile reserved for family members gone now that they were with people. "Carver, you bring news?"
"Yes, brother." Carver curtly replied. I'll be caught dead before I call him Captain... Walking over until he could feel the heat of the fire, which he was thankful for given the cold dampness in the air, Carver handed over the scroll.
Ignoring the sudden silence around the fire, Garrett pushed a thumb into the scroll and broke the seal before pulling the scroll open. One hand carefully smoothed the signs of Carver's involuntary abuse while the other held it up before the fire so he could read, uncaring of the many men around him elbowing one another to get a glimpse.
"Hmmm...seems the Darkspawn are indeed massing for an attack." Garrett's calm words triggered a worried buzz among the men, though he ignored it as he continued. "We're to form up tomorrow at the rear of the king's forces, guarding two companies of archers within the ravine."
A brief moment of hesitation among the men, then one shook his head. "Damn, at the rear, again?" Carver grimaced, it was true, in every encounter they had had with the Darkspawn the militia had been in the rear, finishing off wounded creatures at the most, mostly walking over mangled corpses. Of course, in contrast to Carver the man was just putting up a show...
It was confirmed when a second man, Carver thought his name was Jeffrey, spoke up, eyes nervously darting left and right. "Yeah, when do we get some action?"
Carver straightened, snarling a far more eager agreement. "Standing in the rear is no way to get promotions, that's for sure."
There were many nods and low sounds of agreements from the nervous men...except for Garrett who shot Carver a sharp look of annoyance.
Then, when the militiamen were done echoing Carver's words and growl out their eagerness to fight, Garrett spoke, making them all go silent. "Putting the militia at the rear is a sound strategy, we are not professional soldiers or knights like the rest of the army, so if anyone is to be in the rear, it is us."
Silence. Then one man carefully eyeing the others, muttering. "I suppose..."
"Besides, by being in the rear we are in the safest possible location, which means we have little to fear." Garrett finished, eyeing the men around the fire with a level gaze, to Carver's annoyance many of them visibly relaxed, relieved at such news. Cowards...hiding behind others isn't for me.
Carver knew better than to say so though, making enemies with the other men was a bad idea, not to mention he would probably receive Garrett's 'scowl of doom' if he showed any form of eagerness to prove himself in combat...
Instead he elbowed himself a spot by the fire and turned to his brother, trying to sound casual despite his eagerness to know what would happen. "Any information on the battle plan?"
"Yes." Garrett replied with a nod, eyeing the parchment. "The king's banner, including us, will hold the ravine and camp and draw in the Darkspawn. When they are committed to us there will be a signal from the tower of Ishal that will signal Teyrn Loghain's banner to come in for a charge from the east, that's left of us for those that are confused, hopefully routing them."
A few men shifted, nervous. Then Martin, a man with a nearly crow-like nose, one that ensured he never got a dance at spring-festival if Carver remembered correctly, said what they all were thinking. "Splitting our forces? Against this horde? Is that wise...?"
Tim, a thin man with an already receding hairline, who actually was Peaches' brother, grimaced. Maybe I should tell him about me and his sister, I mean if anyone said he was dating Bethany I'd kill him, but I'm sure Tim is more reasonable...and less dangerous... "Yeah, I played dice with this Ash warrior that had been out scouting, lost my entire wage – damn cheater – and he said he'd never seen so many Darkspawn as there is now, all coming for us."
Or maybe I'll tell him after a game of dice, winning for once might put him in a good mood. Carver managed a chuckle. "Bah, the Ash warriors are just trying to make it sound like their work is more dangerous than it is, scouts...bah." Straightening he cocked an eyebrow at the others. "I wager each one of us is worth ten of those things."
There were a few chuckles at that, even a few grins, though the uncertainty still lingered in the air. Cowards...
Carver straightened even further, defiant of the atmosphere.
Garrett then spoke, his tone almost monotone. "The strategy is sound." Everyone blinked, looking at him as he looked into the fire. "By holding the ravine we can funnel the Darkspawn into a narrow passage where their numbers will be less important. A hidden force from the flank can then rout them, making the fight far easier, it's precisely what Andraste did at the battle of Spirit-vale against the Tevinters." He glanced up at the others, noticing their stares and no doubt realising they didn't know what he was referring to, the Chantry in Lothering might have a lot of books for reading, but few but Garrett exploited that. "She suffered nearly no losses."
"Well if the Maker's bride managed that, and we're fighting creatures he hates in a way he's already blessed..." One of the men Carver couldn't quite place, probably living at the other side of the village, spoke with a bright smile. "...how could we possibly lose!" Oh great, put your faith in the Maker, he'll solve everything...
Carver knew Garrett felt somewhat similar about that, but the man didn't say anything, and not surprisingly since everyone around the fire were nodding and muttering more confidently about their chances.
Instead the man carefully rolled the scroll up again, put it into his rucksack and began scratching Maric behind the ear, content to stay silent as the others boasted and joked about.
Carver was tempted to join him, to look equally beyond such things.
Yet he couldn't, he liked to be social.
As such he pulled forth a pouch with dice and moved over to Tim...
Thanks to Abydos Jackson for always being ready.