Frustrating Friday: Frustrations, Chapter 2

It seems the ancestors insist on my bringing an angry mage on my journeys. We did find much of interest regarding our Darkspawn dilemma but we also found a furious elf who went from trying to kill us all to becoming a Warden the better to join us in bringing down The Architect, as he calls himself.

Velanna has definitely proven herself adept in battle. I only hope that she does not harbor some secret agenda, like Morrigan, that will require so painful a decision. Thus far she seems focused solely on saving her sister. We encountered some of her clan mates and discovered that she had been exiled, much as I once had, but apparently she has no mythic mother that needs destroying. Her sister certainly does not seem able to turn into a dragon or crush us with a glance, though I fear she must be tainted and on her way to becoming a ghoul after so long in the company of the Darkspawn.

It turned out that Velanna had been the one terrorizing travelers along the trade route. She’d believed false evidence planted by the Darkspawn and thought that humans had kidnapped her sister and slaughtered her friends. Not only did the idea that Darkspawn could bait such a trap stun me but her inability to see through such a near-obvious ploy made me concerned. I’ve come since to believe that her guilt and grief that everyone else who had joined her in exile had died had made her easy to fool. Though curt and quite private she has shown intelligence enough to counter that first impression.

But in that whole visit to yet another set of ancient elven ruins it was The Architect who shocked me most. It began with our having been poisoned and imprisoned. I’d woken briefly to some horrific face melded to a sort of metal finial gently apologizing to me but knew nothing more until I came to to find us all in a prison cell dressed in ragged clothes. Velanna’s sister released us but then fled before we could question her. We pulled on what armor we could pry from the creatures we killed along the way thinking that the scant and smelly protection would be better than none. As we searched for a way out of the dungeon we encountered proof that the missing Wardens had been kept there. Sadly, we discovered bodies but no living victims.

Research notes lay scattered about various rooms and it became clear that the Wardens had been taken dead and drained of their blood for some purpose rather than kidnapped alive tortured for information. Though I was relieved to read that they had not suffered overmuch the notes perplexed me. We recovered our things from the creatures to whom they’d been given and I pledged a thorough scrubbing of armor and person when we finally made our way from the pit. We all stank by then and my beautiful new armor made my eyes water until I became accustomed to the fumes.

We caught up with The Architect as he prepared to flee but were unfortunately not near enough to attack effectively. His garbled but precisely-enunciated explanation of what he had attempted to do cleared up very little for me and the sight of her sister at the thing’s side nearly drove Velanna mad. She requested that we allow her to Join on our way back to Vigil’s Keep. I believe she thinks it will help her when she finally confronts her sister’s captor. I tried to explain that, once tainted, she would forever be a Warden, sentenced to an early death and drawing the attention of any Darkspawn she should happen upon, and that simply undergoing the Joining could be fatal. My warnings fell on deaf ears. Our ranks are so depleted that I cannot justify turning down a willing recruit, and happily she survived that first test. She rests back at the keep while I solve a small bandit problem in the city, Anders ever at my side.

Ah, I cannot remove myself from his company. I seek him out almost unconsciously in my wandering at the Keep and find myself in earnest conversation with him as we travel. Ohgren sends me piercing looks from time to time. He must see what I have been ignoring: I’ve come to care for the apostate more than I could have foreseen. I still find so much of Alistair in him that his presence is comforting but the differences run deep enough that I’ve begun to look forward to our talks even when not thinking of my darling.

I found a kitten wandering the grounds and remembered how Anders had said his only friend at the Circle had been the cat. I am embarrassed to recall how excited I was to give it to him. His reaction has been quite endearing, I fear. I find myself imagining how similarly Alistair would have behaved.

I do pride myself on my ability to find just the right gifts for people and I give them often not only because I enjoy doing so but because it creates loyalty. My diplomatic training as the only woman in the royal household serves me well in picking out a companion’s preferences from casual conversation. I was trained to listen and file away these details as a way to smooth relations between houses and castes in Orzammar. I find that the delight my companions show when I recall a passing comment more than makes up for any inconvenience in obtaining the trinkets.

But was my motivation with the mage as shrewd as all that? I confess that the kitten and Anders make a deadly combination when it comes to drawing my attention. As he keeps the thing in his pack or his robes I keep finding myself in very close contact with his body. He’s rather more fastidious than most of the folks with whom I travel, which means that his robes are relatively clean and that during our stays at the keep he smells not of sweat and blood and road dust but of something like fresh bread.

Alistair, too, had his own smell, more of a spicy autumn-leaves scent that I came to know so well during my time at court. I’d never smelled anything like it before my time on the surface and apparently each year the forests will torment me with the scent until I return to Orzammar or head to the Deep Roads for good. That I’ve been close enough to another man to know of what his skin smells disturbs me. That I keep returning for another deep breath concerns me. And that I cannot have him is making me insane. It isn’t that he doesn’t flirt and play but he’s made no move beyond mere teasing. I cannot tell if he’s truly interested or this is simply how he behaves with women.

I’ve been so long without that I find myself giving passing consideration to almost any man. The few dwarves that we’ve encountered have appealed to me very little and the elves most often seem cowed servants that it would be wrong to so abuse. That leaves a fair number of humans to remind me of what I have had to give up in Alistair. I’ve mostly grown accustomed to having my face at belly level but it does leave me considering codpieces rather more often than my restraint was intended to handle.

At least Anders is not so clearly delineated. I can hardly speak to Nathaniel when I am at my most physically frustrated. Now that he has moved past his bitterness and come to regard me as a friend he treats me with a gentle respect and kindness that I’ve not experienced since Gorim left my side so long ago. Naturally, Nathaniel’s friendship cannot compare to what I had with the man who served me in so many ways from the first blush of my adulthood.

I do like to talk to him when new information comes to light, however. We discussed The Architect and the research we found at great length. He’s not much of a strategist, clearly, or he’d not have been in the keep’s dungeon when I arrived. But he makes an excellent sounding board, adding new ideas and helping to puzzle through conflicting points. When we sit about the fire in the evening we talk as friends and compatriots. When I stand before him, however, even while we discuss a curious or disturbing new clue, I cannot ignore how the strips of leather tantalize just where my gaze naturally happens to strike.

I must find myself some relief soon or I fear I shall embarrass myself badly by touching hand or nose to one of them in a wholly unambiguous way. I keep reminding myself that Anders and Nathaniel are fellow Wardens and friends, that neither was trained as Zev was to delve into such pleasures as a way to pass a pleasant evening. And I try to remember that I was not raised to fling myself onto any passing male like a rutting nug. But as the night’s fire fades and I ready myself for sleep I sometimes find it difficult to cling to my dignity in the face of my continuing deprivation.

Ohgren, of course, is out of the question.

0 Response to "Frustrating Friday: Frustrations, Chapter 2"

Post a Comment