The fire cracked as a couple logs collapsed further into the white-hot embers. A large, fawn dog rolled around on his back nearby as a second fawn colored dog, this one with white back legs, looked on with an expression of boredom.
She tossed a stick into the fire. Her green eyes shifted from the flames to the woman sitting two logs away. Her light brown hair was twisted into a tight knot; her amber eyes stared down at their map with such intensity it was as if she was studying the grain in the paper. She frowned, and felt her knotted dark brown hair.
not that this silence isn't fun, but
well it isn't." Silence. "How do you keep your hair so groomed? Is a perk of being a Grey Warden that blood and gore act as conditioner?"
"I travel well."
"Thank the Maker, she speaks at last! I was starting to worry your hearing gave out."
"Just because one has the ability of speech does not mean one should use it. How you ever managed to speak to the Arishok and survive is beyond me."
"How I managed his respect must really boggle your royal mind. I forget you have far more knowledge of qunari. After all, you traveled with the one while all I did was head up negotiations with a small faction."
"Sarcasm, of course. Is that the only language you speak, Keena?"
"With a snarky dialect, Theirin. Oh, forgive me; you rather go by Cousland now that you ran out on your adoring husband. No, no, wait, Jae. That's right I'm to call you Jae so no one suspects you are the Hero of Ferelden. That's why you insist on using my first name even though we are nothing more than acquaintances. I get more of a conversation from your hound."
The mabari with the white back legs turned towards the conversation. He showed more interest now that he had been mentioned.
"We have important matters to see to. I am studying all paths, all options, to ensure success. You would benefit the group more by spending your time working on your backstab rather than seeking idle conversation."
"I can talk and fight at the same time."
"How else am I supposed to get to know you without an idle conversation here or there? Do I just rely on the stories? I know stories get changed with each telling. How am I supposed to trust you with my life? And why in Andraste's name would you trust me without knowing me?"
"I am a good judge of character. I have weeded out enough of the truth in your tales to know you are moral enough that you won't stab me in the back. I know that you earnestly joined my quest because you, like I, just want things to make sense."
Jae turned her full attention back to the map. The two mabari were now both watching their mistresses. Jae's mabari dropped his head as silence fell over the small camp once again. He gave a slow whine as he slid into the dirt.
"What happened to you, Jae?"
"Does the name Anders ring any bells for you?"
"It is the name of the people from the Anderfels, where Weisshaupt Fortress is located. But my guess is you are talking of a specific person, one who named himself after the origin of his family? A mage, perhaps, that you killed?"
Keena turned her gaze to the fire. She took a couple deep breaths before turning back to the former Warden-Commander.
"He was my friend. I never wanted him dead."
"He was my friend as well, and I believe you. I would have done the same thing."
"Praise the Maker, we agree on something."
"We agree on many things. I just don't announce it to all of Thedas each time it happens. Now why bring up Anders? If I am not mistaken there were sparks between you and that Chantry brother, not you and Anders."
"The stories only talk about sparks? Well, Varric did an excellent job."
"I cannot tell if that's more sarcasm or if you're serious?"
"I brought up Anders because he told us stories of you. He said you were fun, a girl who could take a joke and throw half a dozen back. You used that silver tongue of yours to bend Amaranthine to your will, and in doing so you saved it. When I joined you I thought that was who I was traveling with. Not this woman who obsessively strategizes to the point she's predicted every time her dog lifts his leg."
"Anders knew me at a different time."
"As a newlywed?"
"My principles are the same. They are the same now as they were when I planned a future in service to my father and brother, the same when I joined the Wardens. That is what matters. Not my demeanor."
"No one will care about your principles if they can't stand to be around you."
"I don't care. It is better to see me as cold than to see me as a woman hiding behind a snarky remark."
"Better to hide behind a snarky remark than to be a complete ass to everyone. You said you wanted my help, but any normal person would've tossed you aside after the first underhanded remark."
"Lucky you are not so normal."
"Progress at last! You finally deliver a quip. There is hope yet." Jae scoffed. "I take it you aren't going to suddenly open up and tell me what changed you?"
"You don't consider time?"
"Not at all. Having fun is part of our nature. Time doesn't change that. So, serah, will you indulge my request to hear your principles? I could take a shot at guessing. I have a good imagination."
"What of your principles?"
"I asked you first."
"Immaturity, how refreshing."
"Maker, that was sarcasm! I never thought it would get so old so fast. You must be out of practice. Why are you so miserable, Jae? Do you just live to drag down everyone's mood, or is it just me? Why bother living if you don't enjoy it? Why bother fighting each time an enemy comes at you if you don't enjoy your life?"
"I live for the memories. I live for the memories of all those I lost, all the good and bad times I've had, and for the memories of all the experiences to come. I fight for a future. A future for myself, for Alistair, for every person I cross. And I will die not for misery, but for Ferelden. Do not forget that."
Keena fell silent. That was the most fire she had seen from the Hero of Ferelden. She watched Jae's mabari rise and go to his mistress's side. He slid into the dirt, resting his chin of her boots. She saw his head bounce a little as Jae moved her foot up and down, giving her hound a smile. Keena felt a smile tug at the corners of her mouth. She called for her mabari to join her, resting her hand on his head.
Traveling together would not be as easy or fun as she first hoped, but it would be rewarding all the same.