Alrik pointed northeast as thought it was obvious.
"Yes, need supplies. But then-- how re-approach mission?"
The question was directed at Ghil and Thaedrin.
Ulrin looked to Ghil, he didn't care what Theadrin had to say on the matter, "Can we? Didn't you say they'd kill us on sight?" He thought for sure they'd get their supplies and leave this forsaken quest behind them.
Thaedrin's mouth twisted into a sneer at the elven girl's scolding, "Are you suggesting I ought have less faith in your abilities? Done."
"So we go back to the mountain fortress. Talk to the Commander, tell him we are needing more Wardens. More gear."
"No. We cannot return to Vorenus empty-handed, no more than we could've brought Komnenos' corpse to him. There must be an alternative, some other army to recruit. The other Alamarri tribes--"
"They will not listen to you. The other tribes have not had the success of Ciraine in their fighting of the Tevinters. They hate, and will not trust."
"Someone else, then." Thaedrin turned, regarding the horizon sternly, "...Either way, we must find the river and a town in which we can rest and restock. Tantervale is along the bank, to the east. We will not know how far until we find it."
The voice she heard was right. Thaedrin displayed absolutely zero remorse for nearly killing the Wardens under his command. Or was it her voice? She was still foggy on that. What was clear to her was that the blood mage was an ass to say the least. Sulahn'nehn was beginning to believe that he was born with the sole purpose of being horrible to everyone.
Oh, piss off you pompous, -
"-Haughty, self-righteous son of a-" Sulahn'nehn stopped her muttering once she'd realized she began speaking aloud. She folded her arms and kept quiet.
Diocles eyes went wide. His hand snapped to his mouth, feeling his lips. He gave Sul a horrified look.
"Did you just say-I'm infectious!"
He was sure this would get a laugh.
Ulrin shook his head, there was no reasoning with Theadrin. Perhaps Ghil was right and this was a suicide mission they had been sent on to clear them out.It must have been through blind luck that they survived. He muttered under his breath, "Walking all night wounded and restless, yes this is a marvels plan. So glad we have him hear to continue to make our living nothing but a curse."
And now the archer was joking again. Ulrin reasoned he was just trying to make the night less stressful, but who could honestly join in his comical banter at a time like this?
"I-" Sulahn'nehn's face when blank as she looked at the archer. Did he really just say that? Alright, it was kind of funny. She cracked a smile right before she gave into laughter. "Yes, I believe that is all your doing. I'll be washing my mouth out for a week before my language improves." she shook her head. "At any rate, we won't be getting any close to town if we don't set out."
And now two of his team were whispering and snickering together like teenagers. Wonderful.
Ghil let Ulrin lean on her and turned northeast to find the river, and this town called Tantervale. It was slow going without horses, but every step at least put them that much farther from the lands of the Ciraine. She didn't know how that meeting could have gone any worse, unless their throats had been slit as soon as the tents had come down. In the back of her mind, anger still boiled over Thaedrin's use of blood magic on her own people. It was not unlike the day she'd been captured.
She glanced down at Ulrin, nudging him after a time of silent trudging, "You are still coughing. Why?"
Thaedrin trailed behind the rest, lacking the energy for a steady hike but having no choice but to participate.
The elf looked up at her clearing his throat once more, his cough had become regular to him in such a short amount of time he hadn't noticed he was still doing so. "I think my lungs are just exhausted." He put his hand over his stomach. "My whole body is... I remember horn through my middle, before I blacked out." He visibly shuddered a bit, "I just still feel ill thinking of it. I'm afraid I'm not as durable as you."
He looked up at her with a nod. It was just weariness. Weariness of this night, this mission and fighting. Normally it would be the weariness of living, but he had to admit even to himself, for now he was glad he was alive.
Sulahn'nehn walked along side the archer, occasionally glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. She had many questions for him, though some of which she didn't want to ask right away. Like what it was like while he was 'gone' among other more personal things. Instead, she chose to comment on his appearance.
"Does it still hurt? I know it's closed up now but,- I hope that's not a silly question. It's just- I was certain you were not getting back up and here you are."
Diocles hiked with a reserved and tired smile, but a sincere one nonetheless. He kept rank with Sul, speaking with her quietly.
"It's a bit sore, but... Mostly I just feel drained. ... I'm glad you found your voice. You shouldn't hesitate to speak your mind. That said, maybe.. Go easy on Thaedrin right now. He did the wrong thing, but if he hadn't, I'd.."
He trailed off with a frown.
With just a glance at that face, she was defeated. "I know... I am without a doubt thrilled that his plan actually worked. Only...well, I am sure you understand why it is a little upsetting. 'Little' may be an understatement." she mulled over his request for a moment. "I will try not to be so harsh. Unless he does something irritating. He's very good at that."
Sulahn'nehn thought back to just moments before the duel. "You are very brave to have done what you did."
Diocles' smile returned.
"Considering the way things turned out, perhaps I'm simply an idiot. I really thought I'd win."
"You will be well," Ghil attempted reassurance, "Once we are getting to town, you will be well."
She eyed him a moment longer, waiting to see if he would speak further; when he didn't, she took her hand from his shoulder and continued in silence.
"Maybe it is a little of both." she teased.
Sulahn'nehn pondered for a moment, fiddling with her fingers. Her voice dropped, "If it is alright with you, I would very much like to do that again. A-At another time. Where I am less..." she tugged at her singed and bloodied uniform.
Ulrin nodded slowly at Ghil's words. The barbarian was good at reassuring him. He never expected that from a human. He almost felt like he'd fall over without her hand to hold him steady, but he did his best to lift his head high and keep walking. Only occasionally stumbling or coughing as he went. Hopefully they'd reach the town before they all collapsed from exhaustion.
Diocles grinned at Sul, fighting not to laugh. She seemed genuine. She was adorable.
"Less.. Clothed? My heart, Sul, you're forward!"
"Diocles." Sulahn'nehn attempted to keep a stern look on her face and failed to not crack a smile. She slapped Diocles' arm lightly, pointing her finger at him. "You are so bad. You know what I meant."
One could almost hear the 'although...' in her tone.
Diocles nodded, and for once he seemed sincere. Still very pleased with himself, but sincere.
"Well.. I'd be delighted to fulfil that request for you, Sul."
Alrik fell in next to Thaedrin.
"Not much like Imperial Legion," he said, watching the recruits. "More like pack of Mabari."
He glanced over. "Not much blood in your body. Okay for walking?"
"I don't see that there's much of a choice, unless you'd like to build me a sedan chair. I'm sure the elves would adore that." Thaedrin shook his head dismissively, folding his arms, "I have no hope that Tantervale will be anything more than a smoking ruin, but perhaps we can scavenge enough supplies to continue our journey. It was situated on the river, surely there must be one boat left in a usable condition?"
Alrik nodded. "Darkspawn not usually very focused. Would not destroy boats."
More quietly: "Cannot just use magic to steal little blood from another body?"
His brows raised in surprise, "Are you volunteering? I wouldn't have expected that from a brigand."
Alrik shrugged. "Have plenty of blood! Never seem to stop coming out when wounded. Or Diocles; you save life, he owe you blood anyway."
Thaedrin looked forward of the line, at the archer and his elven girl. He murmured something, she giggled. Death, it would seem, had not made the man any less impertinent.
"No," he said lowly, "I imagine I ought save that favor for a later time. Here, give me your arm."
His knife was in his hand swiftly, and the cut made the moment later. Blood spurted from the deep gash, suspended itself, and twisted around Thaedrin's hands. With a murmur and a gesture, the power inherent in blood sacrifice rejuvenated his exhausted body. Spent, the blood spilled to the ground, splattering his sleeves and boots. He flexed his hands, nodding approvingly.
"You should sterilize that."
Alrik seemed unperturbed by being cut, but sighed when he realized that they had virtually no supplies for disinfecting his wound: no alcohol, salt, or even any easy means of making a fire.
He wistfully recalled an occasion when he'd used a substantial quantity of fine Tevinter brandy to clear out a sword gash on his leg; he'd gotten a lot of funny looks from the Imperials that day.
He wandered away from the group for several minutes without explanation. When he returned, he had a a beehive in one hand, several angry bees still buzzing around it. Alrik was busily rubbing honey onto his cut.
Thaedrin cleared away from the man, swatting the insects away from his head in irritation. Even Ghil walked a little faster when she noticed the hive. It didn't seem to bother the big man any.
After hours of hiking through the plains, following the banks of the river, the party reached Tantervale. Or, what was left of it. As the Constable had predicted, with the bridge burned out the Imperial army had not been able to prevent the Darkspawn from laying waste to the city. 'Though they couldn't have saved them, anyway,' he thought. There didn't seem to be any hurlocks patrolling, but then, what was left here that would be of any value to the creatures? The buildings were burned out husks, the majority collapsed in on themselves. Few had more than one wall left standing, and even those left with roofs were still too unstable to suggest taking cover beneath them for the night.
"Fan out, search for anything that may be useful. The Darkspawn may have looted weapons and armor, but there may be medicine, food, materials to build a shelter for the night. And a boat. Someone find a damned boat."
Sulahn'nehn ventured off as told. She cautiously tiptoed through the ruin as she searched for anything useful. What she found was a lot of ash and things so charred that they would be of little to no use. At least a first. In the corner of what used to be a bedroom there was a chest and inside were neatly folded blankets that suffered only minor damage to them from the fire. That, at least could keep some of the cold at bay.
On her way back she nearly fell over, tripping over fallen planks. Some of which didn't look too bad off. Maybe they would come in handy. The elf gathered the few she could carry and began finding her way back to the others, peaking over the top of her pile as she went.
"It isn't much...but this is about all I could find."
Ulrin set to work scavenging what he could find. He didn't think there would be much, but right now he was thankful for anything. Even if all he could find were a few sturdy boards and old blankets spared from the fires and destruction in what he presumed was once an inn. they were scattered about, here and there from where it looked like the floors had collapsed causing the contents of the rooms to be strewn about.
The elf gathered what he could and brought it back to the group, "I think this should help us make it through the night."
Diocles split off from his elven companion, searching the remains of what had once been a trading post of some kind. He managed to dislodge a pile of rubble concealing some goods that had survived-Lucky, considering their flammability. He made his way back with difficulty, rolling a barrel of whiskey. A sack of rice was thrown over his shoulder.
Sulahn'nehn was sitting and awaiting the return of the Wardens by the time the archer arrived. She perked up seeing that he had found something a little more useful than what she had.
"You found food and water? Thank goodness! I'm surprised there is anything left at all."
"Good. Ulrin, help me with the planks. Sulahn'nehn can craft some sort of crude bedding on the floor, there."
With the elf's help, the Constable found a corner of a building still standing, though the walls had been brought low and crooked, ranging from Thaedrin's shoulder height to the top of Ghil's head. He instructed him to lay the boards diagonally across the gap left by the two walls, providing a low and slanted roof that would at least be preferable to one that would collapse atop them all. Barrels and chests were stacked at one end of the opening, to form some additional enclosure. He would have preferred an Inn, of course, especially one with a clawfoot bathtub, but luxuries such as those would need to wait until they reached their next destination.
Ghil called from somewhere in the distance, grunting; there was the sound of wood against stone, scraping, "There is a boat! It does not have holes like the others!"
Diocles assisted as best he could with the construction. The shelter would do, unless it rained quite heavily. He was absolutely delighted to hear Ghil's exclamation.
"Excellent! We should celebrate."
Ulrin followed Theadrin's instructions, if only because they needed to survive the night. The food Diocles had brought was reassuring that they would be in better shape tomorrow, though he did not think getting drunk tonight was a wise idea.
"A boat, food, and a half decent roof... I suppose we will make it after all. Though I don't think celebrating too much is a wise idea in our shape."
"Spir- Oh! Well. I suppose beggars can't be choosers."
In all fairness, they all probably did deserve a good drink. It couldn't be all that bad if people made a habit of drinking it. She'd done what she could with their sleeping arrangements. It wouldn't be comfortable at all, but at least they could be fairly warm.
A boat? "Oh, wonderful! We might have more luck than I thought."