Preparing the Battle
Ostagar – Quartermaster Camp, one week before the battle of Ostagar
Nessa was happy. As she had left the Denerim Alienage with her parents after that bloody Shem evicted them from their small shack, she had expected the time in Ostagar to be awful. And that incident in Lothering nearly had proven her to be right. But then this old soldier stepped in.
At first she had been careful around him, expecting him to suddenly show his true face and try to have his way with her. Sooner or later, she had supposed, he would demand her 'to be thankful'. And his true face he had shown: grim, demanding, pushing Nessa to her limits, but also experienced, helpful and careful if needy. But the most important: he had treated Nessa as … no, not an equal, because she was his underling, but as an adult with her own opinion.
After testing Nessa's abilities for a few days he had changed into giving the elf her own tasks, demanding that they were fulfilled competently but allowing her to choose her own way in doing that. He had no problems in scolding her and she remembered more than one occasion with her ears getting crimson because of his cusses, but it had nothing to do with her being a female or an elf. He had spoken the same to his male, human underlings and that had been such a change from other Shems' behavior. And in the few cases he had nodded in approval she had been happy, a single sentence of satisfaction giving her energy for another day of back-breaking labor.
Carefully Nessa grinded her short swords Serge had given her. Her leather harness was already cleaned up after the weapon training session. Father had not been happy about her training with Pik in front of all those Shem, but somehow Serge had been able to convince him to allow it. She was getting better by the day especially after …
Three days before
She was exhausted. Serge knew these signs, knew that she must have been force marching for some days and not very used to this type of exertion. Young she is, at most a year older than Nessa. And you can see that she will blossom into a beautiful maiden in the next years. Not very tall and with a slender body, the sword at her side seemed a bit too large for her to handle. What she wore for armor could not really be called so and the boots had certainly seen better days. Good boots of soft leather not meant to be worn in mud for days. The sword seemed to be valuable and ancient and her hands were small and too soft to be used to constant hard working. A noble maiden on bad luck, that for sure she was.
The maiden obviously noticed his scrutinizing in spite of her exhaustion, a good sign as Serge noted to himself. "It is not stolen, if you think so." A nice voice educated and not like the one of a city scoundrel. "I never assumed otherwise, Milady. May I be of any help?"
For a moment she froze, wondering how he could detect … surely she didn't look very noble in the moment. Allowing himself a thin smile he watched her eying the daggers in front of her. Most of them were in good working order but nothing he would offer her to pair with her sword. Walking around he silently put a long dagger on the table, crafted from red steel and with a grip of the right size for her small hand.
While she examined the blade he rummaged around until he found bracer, leather jerkin and boots for her, all used but in good and careful groomed condition. "I … I can't buy them. I only have money for the weapon," she declined regretful.
"Who's your commander?" Who could be so uncaring in sending that girl into the fighting without proper armor?
For a moment she pondered about his question. "I suppose you mean Duncan. I'm one of the new grey warden recruits." Did he believe her? Surely grey wardens were expected to be … different. She sighed as he took away the armor. Seconds later her eyes went wide as he placed newly crafted leather armor and boots in front of her. "But take the used boots for the battle; it is better than getting your feet sour in the new ones. About paying …" he pointed at Nessa. "I expect you to do at least three training sessions with her. She should have some experience with a dual-wielding opponent. Is this okay for you?" The woman simply nodded. "That's okay. By the way: I'm Alyssa." She offered him her hand and he pressed it with great care. "Nice to meet you, Alyssa. By the way: if possible do something great in the future. I would like to tell my grandchildren later how I met 'that famous grey warden'." Alyssa smiled at him: "I'll try my very best."
Ostagar – Grey Warden Camp, five days before the battle of Ostagar
"Tomorrow morning you'll leave with Alistair at first light. You have to collect …" Neither Duncan nor his recruits knew how long that hulky man had been standing there, watching the group as the warden-commander instructed them what to do in the Korcari Wilds. At last Alistair noticed him and warned the others with a slight cough.
With a sigh the man strode forward, smiling shortly as Daveth tried to hide behind Jory's back. "Sorry to interrupt your meeting, warden-commander, but this man and I have something to talk about." With an approving nod Serge addressed Alyssa: "Much better now. But you should wear an old shirt under the jacket for some days else you chafe your skin with the fresh leather." Alyssa smiled and watched Serge.
His face changing to a growl he turned to Daveth: "You have something that doesn't belong to you." While Duncan stayed silent Daveth only shrugged: "That elf was quiet eager to give me the weapon." Serge snorted with disgust: "Sure he did after you tricked him into believing that you're the rightful owner. Have you no other way to get a decent weapon?"
"Look, I'm a grey warden and all and I needed a proper sword. Won't it be better to use that sword than have it lying around worthlessly?"
"Humph, you think that you're able to do other things than harassing the women in the camp?" Serge's remark caused a low laughter from Alistair and Alyssa. "You think you can use that weapon? Show me." As Daveth shot a quizzical look at the soldier, Serge added: "Try to hit me, my breast, shoulder, leg. Come on, show me your famous skill and persuade me not to shove its grip into your point of no sunshine."
Relaxed he awaited the attack, but Daveth was unsure. Drawing his newly 'gathered' sword he watched carefully the older man, unsure what skill he had to expect. Suddenly Serge burst forward, directed the sword away with his left forearm and slapped Daveth twice in the face. Instantly retreating he scolded the younger man: "Is that all you have to show? I'm not impressed. Perhaps you should better play with a spoon."
Anger showed on Daveth's face and he leapt forward, swinging his sword wildly. Despite his fast attacks the old man seemed to have no problems in batting the sword away every time, more than once reacting before Daveth really started his move. At last he gripped Daveth's arm and with a swift turn of the hand disarmed him, the sword landing in his own grip.
"Next time: new weapons have to be drilled instantly to get used to. Second learn to hide where your next attack is targeted at. And lastly: never get angry in a fight." Serge turned to Duncan: "Is he really a new recruit? And going into the wilderness with the Lady and the others?" On Duncan's short nod Serge tossed the sword to Daveth. "Next time I'll expect you to do better with it. In the meantime: speak with the Kennel Master. He needs herbs from the wilderness for his Mabari. If you collect some for him and an additional patch for me, I agree the sword to be paid. Have you any objections? I hope not. See you later." Exchanging a very quick smile with Duncan he walked away. Perhaps he will not be killed tomorrow.
Ostagar – Kennel Master Camp, one day before the battle of Ostagar
"What a stupid plan it is. I really expected something better from Loghain," Serge hissed angrily. The Kennel Master only smiled about the anger in Serge's voice. "Have you told him what you think about it?" Serge growled at his friend: "I should have. The few times I spoke with him he was quiet reasonable, sure it has to do with his commoner upbringing. But this plan … no palisades, no trenches and the mass of the archers in the second group. As if a child made that plan."
"Perhaps it has. I heard that Cailan had the idea, you know with him and the wardens in the middle and all that."
"Who had allowed him to play General in the first? A King should play statue and be nice to look at, everything else is only disturbing. And what about you and your Mabari?"
The Kennel Master looked content: "All in good health, thank you for sending this warden to collect the herbs. I only hope that Loghain's troop will attack before all my Mabari are killed. They are meant to frontal attack the advancing horde."
Unimpressed Serge mentioned: "That sounds great, for the darkspawn at least. Anybody thinking about Mabari flanking attack? No? Too bad. Dumbasses all around."
"Where will you be, Serge? Not at the front I hope."
"No, I prepare the signal fire at the tower. When the battle begins I'll support in the camp with organizing the infirmary."
"That's good to know, Serge. So at least one of us will be quiet secure."
"Mm, yes, old men to the rear."