Anders was standing on the balcony of a Keep and watching glorious city of Amaranthine
The young mage loved Ferelden. As much as he would disagree and never admit it to anyone, but he often fell home-sick in Kirkwall. Free Marches was warmer, and ocean air was also very good for health, but
Ferelden and Vigils Keep had its own magic the breezy autumn evenings, the cold thick mountain mist, the dreary howling of night wind
Knowing no one sees him Anders took another deep breath, feeling soothing breexy wind on his bristeled face and as his palms leaned on the old wooden handrail he closed his eyes, remembering his own vigils as that he often had to perform back then a new recruit
A light smile touched his lips as her recalled his time as a Warden: it was difficult and tiresome, but he felt he was doing something real, something important! Now
he wasn`t so sure
"Do you think it`s worth it, Justice?"
'It was never a matter of worth, but of need!' whispered hollow cold voice in his head, 'Justice MUST be served, and injustice must be eradicated! There is no compromise and you know it the Templars want your kind elliminated, while you want to live: either we win or die trying, but we`ll never give up! We dare not, we have no choice!'
Anders sighed shaping his long hair back on his nape, Justice`s logic was flawless as always, the only problem was that it didn`t make him feel any better since the one he loved more than his life still was angry with him
It was already late night but Maeve still was awake she barely could sleep anymore: not with those visions of horror she saw back there, in Kirkwall
So many dead, so much blood, it was like Lothering once again! It took a bottle of wine to ease the horrors and help her sleep, but Hawke knew this could not continue forever or she`d simply become drunkard!
So she came to the keep`s internal yard and trained, trained all the day and night until her body could not hold anymore and she fell asleep of exhaustion
It was very difficult, but the young woman gladly paid the price for calm and serene sleep
So it was now as well, her mighty great sword danced in veilder`s hands with sharp whistle cleaving the air and imaginary enemies. Maeve imagined the Templars as her opponents it was much easier
to kill and not to see the faces!
Another swing, and new enemy falls, mighty rollover and the two Templars behind her lost their heads, block and swift blinding scythe separated three more soldiers` upper parts from lower
It was easy, surprisingly easy to splash heavy massive sword, to cut through imaginary enemies, to feel hot sweat sliding down your body, to head your own heart beating as loud as it was put in your ear
Exhausting, difficult, tiresome, and painful but surprisingly easy!
And only when she accidently slipped on some flat stone and fell on the ground cold night Maeve understood that she cannot get up. The mighty sword clanked nearby to her right, but her body felt like every vein was filled with melted iron, not blood. She wanted to move her hand but couldn`t, tried to turn her face but didn`t find strength needed, she looked into deep black void of night sky feeling how difficult it is for her to even breath
Maeve closed her eyes and sighed she had reached her goal, and now she`d finally fall asleep with no horrors, no fears, no pain and grief
She`d finally fell into the embrace of deep as void sleep and rest even if tomorrow she`d wake up with nasty flu, she didn`t care about it right now!
But the next moment she heard someone coming, Maeve barely opened her eyes and looked at the man standing above her. It was too dark and she could barely see his shape left alone face; mysterious stranger lowered on his knee before her and gently raised her exhausted body. Holding Hawke with his left arm he took something out of his belt pocket and the next moment Maeve felt cold glass neck on her lips, she instinctively swallowed the liquid feeling its tart taste.
It was a stamina tincture, she knew the feeling very well the second after she felt the burst of energy waving through her body and giving strength she lost. She sighed with relief and tried to move with certain attempt her body responded.
"Help me up
Stranger stood up and helped her raise as well, holding young woman by her forearm gently. He then helped her go to the nearby bench and sit down.
" Maeve run her palm over her forehead and sweeping thick sweat away and feeling calming coldness of an armored gauntlet.
"You are very determined, my lady!" the man took a seat next to her and lit the torch, as warm amber light fell on his face Maeve smiled of surprise.
"Nathaniel? Nice to see you again, my friend! But what were you doing here at this hour?" Hawke gathered her disheveled sweaty hair and screwed it into knot on her nape.
"Likewise, my lady! I was just returning from my usual patrol when I saw the gleams of your sword on the moonlight
" The Warden took off his quiver and put it on the ground, "Can I ask what happened, my lady? I have seen such
attitude before, something bothers you!"
"It`s nothing serious!" Maeve sighed and tiredly pinched her nose bridge, "I`m just trying to improve my technique
I`ve had the most unpleasant experience recently and I won`t let it happen again!"
Nathaniel accurately reached her chest plate and aligned the red wrap on her metal "collar" but as he moved soft fabric his sight fell on the large bruise on her left cheek, he instinctively reached, but this time Maeve stopped his hand and averted her face.
"Don`t! Just don`t
? Who did it?"
The answer came with a pause.
I wasn`t ready and he
If it wasn`t for Anders I`d already be dead!"
Nathaniel narrowed his eyes and brought torch closer to watch the mark better.
"Was it an archer?"
Maeve turned to him with round eyes.
"How did you know?"
"I recognize familiar trace
" Nathaniel took off his leather glove and showed Maeve his bare hand, "See the knuckles and gaps between them, and look at the finger`s folds
Maeve nodded and then he showed her his left arm completely different: the truss was normal no sign of any flaws or
"This is a mark of any archer the arm changes significantly of the constant trainings and the effort needed to stretch the tight string
But why did he do that?"
Maeve looked down with a heavy sigh.
"It doesn`t matter
The fact he almost killed me does! And it really annoys me! I have defeated hundreds of enemies, but never had I been beaten by the archer ARCHER before!"
"Many brave and mighty warriors fell to the archers, my dear lady
"But NOT in the hand-to-hand fight!"
"Exactly in the hand-to-hand fight!" Howe chuckled and shook his head, "Skilled archer is all but helpless in the melee, that common delusion had cost many brave men and women their lives
He stood up and gave Maeve his hand.
"But this is not the time for that now
This lesson is for another time, Champion!", Hawke took offered hand and with heavy sigh stood up, Nathaniel took her by her waist giving the exhausted woman additional support, "For now you need good rest, my lady!"
"Will you teach me how to defend myself in the future?" Maeve looked at him as they were making their way to the keep gates.
Nathaniel returned the sight and smiled to her.
"It will be an honor, Champion! But it is not the time now
You need a good rest! Come back here tomorrow at the sunset, and you have my word - I will teach you all I know! Just... please do not exhaust yourself anymore, you`ll need all your strength, my lady!"
By the time Maeve awakened the next day only a VERY lazy and late rooster would sing! When she opened her eyes and looked in the window it was already afternoon if not later
All her body ached from recent exercise: hands, legs, back, chest, even hair were blaming her for such a rude treatment each with its own painful aftershocks! With a few far from the pleasant sighs young woman made her up a bit and sat on the bed she felt like she was chewed by Archdemon
"Maker!" She drowned her face into her palms, hissing of few dozen shades of pain even from such simple task. Despite VERY deep dream she still didn`t feel herself rested, what she really felt at the moment was the enormous hunger!
Knowing she`d regret that she tried to stand up and it was surprisingly easy. She managed to raise not fell, though her legs really trembled making her stagger it was more than she expected from herself at the moment!
Maeve moved to her mirror unsure of wish to see her face after yesterday
, but when she did her eyes became larger than nature allowed she was beautiful! No traces of tiredness, no pouches under the eyes, not even that bruise
Hawke closed her eyes and hissed with fury, feeling sharp necessity of kicking some ass, someone's in particular!
"ANDERS!" Her mighty cry echoed through the entire Keep scaring birds and servants equally.
The door to her room slowly opened with VERY annoying squeak revealing arretted mage. Anders was leaning the doorpost with his hands and legs crossed, his face showed such delight, as he just saved a Queen Anora from the bunch of ogres and was promised the title of Teyrn!
"You called, love?"
Maeve turned to him with a sly grin and leaned on the mirror table, allowing short nightgown reveal enough to get his attention, and seductively lured him with her finger. Needless to say poor fool was near her in a moment, and it was a VERY big mistake! Barely had his hands reached her she grasped his right palm in the lock and averted it so Mage could barely breath!
Anders howled of sharp pain, grasping her by the forearm with his free arm, but Maeve didn`t ease the grasp! She looked into his eyes and hissed:
"Did you do that?"
"No!" Anders squeaked like a mouse.
Hawke`s sapphire blue eyes sparked and narrowed even more, her press became even stronger.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAA! YES! YES! IT WAS ME!" Anders fell on the knees before her forcing himself not to cry of pain it was REALLY unpleasant!
"Did you touch me?" Maeve was speaking slowly, separating every word. She held him tight not enough to actually harm, but MORE than enough to cause pain he won`t soon forget!
A few times
" Anders ground his teeth, making puppy eyes, "Please dear, I need this hand! How will I caress Sir Pounce-a-lot? It`ll brake poor kitty`s heart!"
With condescending contempt Maeve unclenched her fingers and Anders fell on the floor grasping injured palm and groaning of pain.
"One more time you touch me without permission, and I`ll aim for something more vital!"
She came past him to her changing room to find some clean clothes, and when she returned fifteen or so minutes later she saw Anders standing on her doorstep with a silver tray full of different tasty meal. Maeve felt her mouth filling with saliva, but she didn`t allow a single emotion on her face
The only thing she couldn`t control was her stomach however, and it treacherously roared.
Anders burst laughing, and Hawke couldn`t hold herself as well: they both giggled like idiots, Anders even had to put the tray on the bed table not to lose it
When Maeve managed to wrestle her laugh, she looked at her lover sarcastically.
"What a toady!" She came by her bed and took a seat near the table; Anders squatted near her and smiled watching his love eagerly devouring meal.
"Shtop shtering ash me, you ashhole!" She mumbled with full mouth, she then hungrily swallowed the food and gave him another sly smile, "If I choke I`m blaming you!"
"Don`t worry, dear!" He playfully kissed her knee, "I know how to make artificial respiration!"
Light painless cuff on the nape was Hawke`s respond, but the Healer only smiled on that comparing to everything else it was a gentle kiss! When Maeve finished her late lunch she exclaimed with great relief and pleasure.
"Good Anders" she playfully tousled his blond hair, "Now maybe I won`t hit you for five minutes!"
"Am I forgiven now?"
"NO!" Maeve stood up and mopped her lips with a cotton napkin, "But
you deserve certain
She offered him her hand and when he raised as well, hugged and kissed him tightly, like she did in the Gallows before the final Battle with Meredith
She grasped him hard pressing her body to his in the fit of passion, feeling his hands around her waist as well! The kiss was so hunger and passionate, that it seemed the two lovers merged together, became one entity one soul!
And when finally their lips unweaved and both could catch their breath Anders spoke:
invigorating!" His hands slowly started to make their way down her back, "Shall we proceed to the more
Hawke`s eyes narrowed again and Anders understood that it was a big mistake
, but he could not stop the inevitable! Before he could even try to apologize her knee smashed between his legs good, causing young Healer to bend in half with plaintive moan.
"Uuuuuuuuuuhhhh, right in the plums!"
Maeve looked at him with already common sly smile, crossing her hands.
"I warned you, eager boy! Sit-up a few times, they say it helps!"
The young warrior collected her jacket and went out heading down the stairs she had some meeting to come to!
The sun just begun its way down when Maeve stood into the internal yard of the Keep: all the recruits were long gone by this time; the square was free for the lesson. The only thing disturbing evening quietness was constant sharp whistle every few seconds followed by the blunt sound of pierced wood.
Nathaniel Howe stood in the centre of yardage and shoot the farthest wooden stake that was used to tie horses, fortunately for them all stallions were now resting in the stables
Maeve came closer to Warden watching true marksman at work: it was magnificent the way he took his arrows out of quiver, the light rustle of quills under his fingers, the pleasant knack sound of a bending wood as he stretched the string, and of course the shrilling whistle of another arrow loose
True what they say: there are two things that are always pleasant to look at the fire and when someone else works! Nathaniel released the last of his arrows and turned to her.
"Hello, my friend!"
"My lady!" Howe gave her respectful nod, showing his aristocratic upbringing.
"I`m ready for a lesson!" Maeve took off her great sword and flourished it in her arms as it was light as quill, "And by the way you can call me just Maeve!"
"Very well, Maeve!" Nathaniel flourished his curved wooden bow as well and stood back, "Attack me!"
"The real attack?" Hawke hesitated, "You sure?"
"Well, don`t try too hard! We don`t need fatalities here, do we?" Young Howe smirked and took defensive position putting his legs wide and leaning to her.
Maeve nodded and with a deep breath rushed forward as she did countless times before! Her sword carved sparks out the stone beneath her as she approached her opponent and stroke him with a mighty swing. The first hit didn`t reach the target Nathaniel simply dodged it, but Maeve didn`t count on the first strike either it was just a destruction allowing her to collect enough centrifugal force!
With mighty sharp whistle she ripped the evening air and finished her deadly combo with fierce splash. But to her greatest surprise she missed and not just missed, Nathaniel intercepted his bow as a whip and deflected her attack with no effort at all! The inertia dragged Maeve further and her sword hit the cold square stone, the next second she felt something cold near her throat, it was a sharp dagger Nathaniel held I his right arm.
It was over the fight was over: two seconds and he defeated her; the Warden removed the blade and stood back! Maeve sighed and relaxed her muscles getting up from her knee.
"Very good attack, Maeve!" Nathaniel praised her honestly, "That combination was a clever trap, I confess I couldn`t defend myself without certain luck. But still
You defeated me!" The warrior sighed and looked down with disappointment, she didn`t realize she was THAT clumsy
"My father used to say: he is lifeless who is faultless! He was a wise man bad, yes but wise! You are right to count on your weapon: in the combat your superior reach gives advantage, but in melee it may not be enough... Let`s repeat the whole move again to see where you were wrong
Maeve nodded and started the combo again but this time slowly.
"First of all look on my bow see that steel coating over its shoulders?" Maeve looked closer and nodded, "They serve two purposes: first gives the weapon additional durability and stretching power, second allow deflecting slipping strikes, remember that enemies bows may not brake on impact those things are VERY durable if properly made!"
"Understood!" Maeve couldn`t help but smile this was getting interesting, they repeated the whole combat once again.
Here, you see my bow the main weapon, and you expect the danger from it, but you do not know of the hidden dagger in my right sleeve!" Marksman slowly deflected her blow once again and showed his right arm, with swift finger move he extracted relatively short bud very sharp knife from the hidden sheath. It was tied to the owner`s wrist with a thin leather strap.
Nathaniel stood back and easily hid the dagger so it couldn`t be seen again.
"The main danger is not a weapon, but the enemy him or herself! So you must expect danger from everything: hand, foot, elbow, knee and so on
Maeve attacked him again with full speed and this time she didn`t allow Nathaniel close, as soon as he tried to approach she punched him with her right leg and young Howe was forced back. But barely had she smiled she felt something crushing her neck. Some invisible halter wrapped her throat not allowing to breath. Young woman let go her sword and clung to her throat trying t breath, but she couldn`t ease the invisible fetters.
Nathaniel moved his hand and she fell on her knees coughing and desperately for air, it took a minute or so for her to recover.
"You foresaw my attack, but you didn`t count my bow this time and as you see it is as dangerous as dagger in close combat. I easily gird your neck with the string, and if I`d rotate the bow even tighter it`d crush your neck."
Maeve coughed once again touching her throat it was the most unpleasant experience.
This time avenue of attacks was longer Hawke did as Nathaniel toughed her: was careful, counted her strikes better, tried not to let opponent near her using her superior reach given by blade length, and she actually started to press Howe! More and more often her blade stopped near his neck or chest, more and more often he had to stand up after being thrown on the ground with another splash.
But the last time, when Maeve already wanted to end the lesson he suddenly rushed right on her blade: he used his bow as a anchor and "grasped" her sword, he then stepped on its blade and kicked Hawke with his left leg, forcing her to let go the sword hilt.
Maeve didn`t retreat and charged the opponent with her bare hands after all Nathaniel wasn`t the only one skilled in hand-to-hand. One, two, three strikes and she suddenly felt already common invisible grasp on her right arm: Howe moved to her back so she tried to hit the Warden with her left fist but a second later it was tied as well!
Howe twisted her hands behind her back with bow string and as the final insult he threw the wooden carcass on her neck. Maeve Choked once more feeling crucified: her hands were tied behimd and she couldn`t even move without strangling herself.
Nathaniel turned her to him and smirked.
"And the last lesson today NEVER underestimate your enemy, my dear Champion!"
"Ah, fine, fine! You win, cool guy!" Maeve forced herself to smile, "Now let me go, it really hurts, you know?!"
The Howe smiled and with a swift accurate move cut the string setting the captive free.
The empty bow fell on the ground and Maeve could finally breath freely.
"Hey!" She looked at him picking up his weapon, "Why did you do that? Couldn`t you free me without
damaging your weapon?"
Maeve rubbed her stiff shoulders, but Nathaniel only smiled to her.
"Not with you still breathing, my friend! Don`t worry, I can easily replace the string!"
Maeve took another deep breath and bent down picking up her sword as well she felt tired, and some parts of her body gave her painful echoes she could not even describe
But she was happy, in small thing but happy!
"Thank you, my friend!" she came closer and gently kissed Nathaniel`s cheek, "Thank you for the lesson and your time!"
"It was a privilege, Champion!" he gently took her palm and brought to his lips returning the gesture, "Thank you for your trust! I`m sure you`ll put my knowledge to good use!"
The night already started to cover the Keep with its breezy dark blanket when two friends parted and headed to their rooms for the night.
"I will be ready!" Maeve closed her eyes and sighed, feeling cold way with her spine, "The next time we meet Sebastian, I WILL BE READY!"