"No duels, not no practice. You might try unarmed, open handed-No one gets hurt, but you learn dodging and reading opponents movements. Or sticks, but I'm certain you could kill someone like that."
"My preferred form of combat is rather easy to practice. Which is one of the many reasons I'm so good."
Ghil's lips quirked into a smile, then she chuckled lowly. The man's idea of practice, to her, was adorable. Six months of fighting for her life in the coliseum, a decade before that of leading her tribe into combat against their own kin, and he thought she ought wrestle. Still, it was better than standing still.
"Which is... what?"
Ulrin silently hoped anyone foolish enough to accept Ghil's sparring offer would know where to find the closest healer. Certainly the barbarian's idea of sparing would still result in her opponent being injured whether she meant to or not. she towered over most everyone in the room.
"Food does sound like the best option for the moment... Sulahn'nehn, are you alright to eat with us?"
"Hahah, Ghil, I'd love to fight you, but I'm afraid I'm your senior, and I'm afraid we're too good of friends, and finally, I'm afraid."
He grinned up at the big woman, giving no indication of shame whatsoever.
The barbarian nodded, pleased. "Good."
Thaedrin emerged from down the Hall; he was impeccably groomed, though unusually simply dressed. "Komnenos. Come, it's time." He turned on his heel and strode down the corridor, past the mess hall to the Commander's suites. Though he chose to say nothing, his irritation at bringing the archer to the meal was evident on his face.
"Hm?", she turned her head to the other elf. "I am fine. Only tired and sore. As I am sure everyone else is. It would be foolish not to eat."
Eating with them was still up in the air. If she felt welcome nowhere else, she could always sit herself next to Ghil instead of Ulrin. Sulahn'nehn could not help but notice he'd been nicer to her. Greeting her in the morning and staying by her side not too long ago. Either Ulrin had forgotten the nasty words he'd spoken to her the night before or this was his way of making up for it. Either way, she had not forgotten the lack of a proper apology. One she expected would never come from the curt man.
Diocles spoke just too loudly.
"Excuse me, friends, Thaedrin has invited me to dinner."
He leaned close to Sul, whispering in her ear.
"If I don't come back, you were right about me getting strung up after all, one way or another."
Giving his companions one last grin, he turned to follow after Thaedrin
"Of course, Constable!"
Ulrin frowned slightly as Diocles left the trio alone, "His personality turns faster than a tide. I think I prefer him when he is more focused."
His ire rose in the back of his throat, he could taste it. He didn't know what it was about the archer that enraged him in such a way. It was probably that stupid face. His hands gripped into fists at his sides, as though trying to keep his own blood from spilling out the wounds in his palms.
"Must everything be a joke to you?"
The elf just barely contained a giggle. A bit too telling with Thaedrin around. The human had a talent for lightening the mood, she managed not to tense at least this once when constable appeared. How Diocles managed to stay out of trouble or continuously bounce back from it was something to wonder about. Hopefully, with the commander around, the archer was in no danger of hanging from his feet.
Hungry like the rest, she went to take a seat in the mess hall.
Diocles turned to Thaedrin, ready with a snappy comeback, but he bit it back as he walked alongside his commander. His grinning fašade dissipated, and he looked almost pensive for a moment. When he spoke, it was softly, not intending to be overheard by any but Thaedrin.
" ... No. Not in battle. Other than that, though, it's better to laugh than to cry, isn't it? I mean... If you had to choose one or the other, it's not a difficult decision, right?"
"Is that the reason? To keep yourself from weeping?" Thaedrin's voice had lowered as well. However little respect he had for Diocles, the mage's words now were stern and sincere, "Do you think you are rescuing them with levity? You make yourself out to be an incompetent fool, joke with them, make them feel relaxed. Make them feel safe. You do them a disservice when you lower their guards."
He paused, casting him a glance before turning his attention forward again, "Although I suppose it serves some purpose in weeding out the simple-minded. Some of us, you never fooled for a second."
"You know nothing of soldiers, constable. You are a mage, an aristocrat. Morale is important, harmony is important. Soldiers that like each other do not desert, and a solid formation is a thousand times stronger than one with a single runaway soldier. Keep them on their toes, ready for combat constantly, and they will be too tired to fight a real battle when it comes."
Diocles had clearly forgotten his place now. Thaedrin had asked for sincerity, and he was receiving it in ample doses, uncensored and unrefined. The mage rubbed him the wrong way entirely, and he was now beginning to tell his antithesis exactly what he thought, chain of command be damned.
"And aside from that, have you ever even tried having fun, Thaedrin? Gambling, joking, other pursuits? Afraid you might actually enjoy yourself, or is it just that your mage's stick has been rammed too far up your backside?"
Alrik rounded a corner and nearly walked directly into Thaedrin and Diocles. He raised an eyebrow at their raised voices, but declined to comment.
He turned and walked the final few feet down the hall, swinging open the door to Trajan Vorenus' dining room.
The large table could seat 12, though only four places are set. Each plate is accompanied by the overwhelming array of silverware used in formal Tevinter functions, and no fewer than half a dozen slaves are moving about the edges of the table, carrying out various tasks. A woman with a lute stands in the corner.
Alrik walks in and takes a seat on the right hand of the head of the table.
"This is not the army you left behind--!"
Thaedrin stopped short of a lecture when Alrik rounded the corner, frozen for a moment in equal parts surprise and embarrassment. The brigand's presence, at least, was enough to keep him from screaming, or slapping the archer full in the face. There were a hundred other things he could think of to say, but he chose only one, and whispered it harshly.
"You will address me as 'Constable Davinius', or not at all."
Entering Trajan's personal dining room, half of his stress melted away on the spot. He was relieved to be among the comforts of home for the hour.
"Commander," he said, giving a casual salute.
Trajan Vorenus, having just entered, nodded to Thaedrin.
"Constable. Please, fellows, have a seat."
An elf scurried to pull Trajan's chair out for him, but did not get there in time; Trajan seated himself, seeming oblivious to the slave. Others began to appear with covered plates of food.
"Music, please," he said, waving his hand at the bard. She smiled and began strumming the lute.
Diocles breathed deeply before he entered. He let the breath fill him, then visualised all of his anger and frustration seep into the air and exhaled slowly. Putting on his calm and professional facade, he followed Thaedrin in.
"Commander. It is an honor."
He smiled weakly at the slaves as he took his own seat.
Thaedrin took the seat beside the archer, if only because it was the only setting left to choose from. Even if he could have moved the plate to the other side of the table without seeming overly impolite, he doubted he could finish the meal without the massive barbarian's elbow catching him in the throat a few times.
It was a strange meal. The courses were served formally, but several were brought out at a time so that the table was crowded with dishes. Trajan seemed to select his silverware at random; Alrik eschewed it entirely. Several slaves seemed to be there solely to refill wine goblets from large bottles.
Trajan smiled at his guests as he sawed open a roasted quail stuffed with sauteed mice.
"I admit, I did not mean to send the recruits into such danger. I am glad that you led them through it safely. Please, gentlemen, give me your appraisal of the battle, the Darkspawn, and the new recruits."
Diocles had waste no time in beginning to eat, and now made an effort to swallow his food before speaking. He idly played with his cutlery as he spoke, the dinner knife twirling around his fingers.
"If you'll allow me to begin.. They are each individually powerful, but lack in teamwork. Ghil is courageous, resilient, and exceptionally strong, with a mild talent for swordplay. However, she lacks caution, trust, and prescience. Trust will come in time, but the other flaws require another to look out for her. Sul is a very potent mage, but uncontrolled. One of her spells backlashed on the rest of us, albeit mildly. That said she is a quick learner. She also lacks courage, but a capacity for loyalty that will mitigate that. Ulrin is the most balanced. He does not have the raw power of the other two, but takes instructions well, does not fear death, and avoids unnecessary risks."
Thaedrin looked appalled at what was set before him, perhaps even moreso at the lack of a similar reaction among his fellows. He was ravenous, but the sight of the mice and the mere imagining of the crunch of their bones under his teeth was enough to make his stomach turn.
He did not eat, but he drank--and drank copiously, hoping no one would tell him what was in the bottles.
"On the topic of the elf girl, her inability to control her power is a liability. Perhaps Komnenos thought the damage mild, but it cannot be allowed to continue regardless. The Fade is the best place to teach her control, but going beyond the veil requires lyrium. Lyrium, which is in short supply with the dwarves closed up in the Thaigs amidst the darkspawn." He gazed blankly down at his plate, barely concealing his revulsion. "Which is why I would like to request a sacrifice, from among the ill and dying."
Trajan nodded as a new array of courses were brought out. He sighed as he poked at a pork loin with his knife; what it might be stuffed with could not yet be said.
"We haven't managed to get any decent camel meat shipped out in ages. Taking the vows does have its sacrifices, I suppose."
He looked up at Thaedrin. "Speak to the doctor. If he has any who are sure to die within a week or so, it would be acceptable to sacrifice them. One hopes we might find a steady supply of lyrium soon, however. Do pay special attention to Sulahn'nehn. She only volunteered out of fear, and though she will fight, she is of weak will. If she walked into a city she would be bound in irons again in a nonce, and she would do nothing to stop it. She is no good to us so meek."
Diocles frowned, blanching himself-Not at the food, but Thaedrin's callous disregard for the sanctity of life.
"She distrusts blood magic, and will be more focused if it is not involved. As for her will.. Camaraderie will strengthen her. I already have seen her grow."
Uncomfortable with the topic, Diocles took a calculated risk. If Trajan laughed, he should be in the clear. If not, well.. He'd just have to do a good job of the delivery. He looked over at Thaedrin, then to his plate, then back to the man himself once more. His face remained serious and his voice rang with sincerity.
"Constable? Are you ill, or do you subsist wholly on the blood of virgins?"
"If I did, Komnenos, I would surely starve since there is nothing left within these walls that you've not put your cock in." Thaedrin's words were sharpened by his dour mood and held the edge of inebriation, "And on that subject, I find it darling that you care so deeply for the elf's comfort, you are correct, I ought not to push her so. In fact, she should not be required to face the Darkspawn at all, lest the experience offend her delicate sensibilities. I wonder, if I wait until after you've bedded her, if your levels of concern will taper off entirely and you will finally allow her to be of some use to someone else. She will join me in the Fade, she will learn to control this devil inside of her, she will experience fright and hate and misery--and then she may truly understand what it means to be a Grey Warden."
He turned to fix the archer with a hateful gaze, "And if you disrespect me again, I will do the same to you."
Trajan blanched and stared at the two, but the silence was broken by Alrik, who began to laugh uproariously. Just what or who exactly he was laughing at was difficult to determine.
Trajan sighed. "Oh, quiet, you ox."
The bard, in an effort to ease the tension, jumped into a bawdy song about a prostitute. Trajan grabbed a slave by the sleeve. "Bring Constable Davinius some bread and water to help clear his head, please."
Clearly in a less pleasant mood than a few minutes ago, he addresses the men again. "Tell me about your dreams. Civilly."
Diocles sat quietly, quite outraged but extremely flabbergasted.
"Yes, Commander." Thaedrin pushed his plate aside and accepted the bread and water provided. Once he had finished chewing a mouthful, he spoke again, "Most nights I do not sleep at all. When I do, the... song... of the Archdemon keeps me from the Fade. It says, Ghislain must burn. Vol Dorma. Caimen Brea. It tells the hurlocks to sack the cities and take the women. The women, they..." The blood mage paused, hands clenching into fists in his lap, "They do terrible things, and by the end of it..."
Trajan seemed almost hypnotized by Thaedrin's words.
"Dumat knows our minds," he said softly.
His eyes snapped into focus as a course of jellied eels was set out in front of him.
He went at it with his fork; for the moment the others would be relied upon to make conversation.
Alrik seemed to be listening intently to the bard's current song, which was -also- about a prostitute.
" ... Actually this one sounds familiar. I think I met the inspiration once."
Thaedrin's eyes widened, left quietly perplexed as his Lord and Commander slipped into and out of conversation. He had thought the man did nothing but dwell on the threat of the Blight, but here he was as though he had not been covered with blood an hour ago. He looked down at the table. Suddenly the settings and silverware seemed a mockery. A moment more of the unbearable music and the muted slurping of the eels, and he stood abruptly.
He turned on his heel and strode as quickly out of the room as he could without running.
Diocles only waited long enough that Thaedrin would not be outside to run into, then stood himself, bowing slightly.
"Please excuse me as well. I apologize for the.. Ruckus."
Trajan watched him go curiously, though not appearing particularly surprised. He began cleaning off his hands with a napkin and nodded to Diocles.
"Well. It has been a pleasure, but I suppose duty calls. Unless you have anything you need to bring to my attention?"
".. No, Commander."
Diocles left swiftly, still full of rage. Perhaps he'd try some target practice, or sparring, or.. Sleep. He just needed sleep.
Ghil sat astride the bench, ready to get to her feet quickly if it came to that. It wasn't another Darkspawn attack she was expecting (though that was just as likely), but rather challengers among her own brethren. Word had spread she was eager to spar, but as of yet, no one had taken her up on the offer.
Finishing off her second bowl of stew, she waved a chunk of soggy bread at the elf across the table from her, Sulahn'nehn. "You ought try your hand."
Ulrin watched the barbarian eat, he was only halfway through his first plate off food while Ghil seemed to be to be drinking her soup as if it was water. "...Try her hand at sparing? Not against you I hope."