Two Elves, Both Alike In Irritability [Closed]

[[OOC: 17th Wintermarch, morning, 9:35]]
 
Siali let the arrow fly, and didn’t pause to watch it smack an inch from the bulls-eye before she was drawing again. The second thudded into the straw not far from the first, but she still grumbled as she nocked the next arrow.

Training with Nathaniel and Niamh, as well as practicing on her own, had started to make up for her deficiencies as an archer. It was different from throwing knives, and she didn’t like how she had to angle her torso to use a bow effectively. Her swords were extensions of her arms, whereas bows tended to make her feel clumsy. Time had helped resolve that, to a degree, but she was still lacking in combat archery. She could take down a distant enemy but if she was drawn into fighting while she still had a bow in her hands and needed to get a distance away before she could switch to her blades, she would be in trouble.

So she’d been trying to improve her speed, but had hit a wall. What she needed was to watch somebody who could shoot fast while moving. There had to be a trick to the grip, or to how the arrow was nocked, to explain how some archers could fire three arrows in the same heartbeat. But Nathaniel had been banished to Weisshaupt, and Niamh had been transferred south, which went a way to explaining both her performance and her bad mood.

At she hadn’t had to try and run things at the Keep before the replacement Commander showed up. Lizbeth seemed nice enough and had a good handle on the paperwork, but her skills didn’t lie towards archery and there was nobody sufficiently advanced at the moment to help Siali with the technique she wanted to refine. She would just have to keep practicing, and hope that eventually another archer would show up.

She positioned herself at one end of the yard, and then ran to the other, attempting to fire an arrow into each target as she went. Most of them hit, but not towards the center; one or two landed well, and at the end of the run the final arrow went right over the target. Siali pulled up short and glowered at the offending mannequin.

“Damn it.”

As far as shems went, the new Warden-Commander could have been much worse. Velanna was not certain how much the new woman knew of circumstances when she arrived, but to her credit she appeared to have made the choice to form her own opinions. The first couple of days in the Keep, beyond greeting them in the mornings and insisting upon an accountability call in the evening, she stayed distant.

Lizbeth Shaughnessy did not look like she would be commander of anything, let alone an elite military order dedicated to ending Blights. She stood an inch shy of Velanna’s height, cornsilk hair pulled high into a ponytail which enabled the length of it to swing in time with her strides, and, Dread Wolf take her, a pale blue satin ribbon tied at the base of it. Only the sword and shield she carried gave any hint that she was here to do otherwise than weave flowers into their hair while they sang Chantry songs.

“Warden Velanna.” Her voice was as small and high but she used it with the full confidence of her position. Velanna made no verbal response, arching a groomed brow at the woman in indicate her attention. “There’s supplies needing picked up from the city. I’d like you and Warden Siali to get them and bring them back, since you’re the most senior and know the area best.”

“An errand. How delightful,” she said with a droll monotone, and nothing further. She nodded her head, accepted the appropriate records from the Commander Lizbeth, who offered nothing more than a pretty smile better suited for a circus, and left for the grounds straight away.

She found Siali on the shooting range. Not an unusual place to find her these days, since the rearranging of the Order, so to speak. She watched for a moment as the woman fired off several arrows in succession, each of them going a place Velanna had to assume was not where they were intended, given Siali’s cursing.

“Would I be better to stand behind the targets? I would hate to be riddled with arrows, and that seems the safest place to avoid them.” She folded her arms across her breasts. “The Commander would like us, Senior Wardens, to run an errand.” She swung a hand around with the poise of a shemlen queen, “I am to believe that we alone are qualified for such a mission.”
Siali was not the sort of person to give up out of frustration. Having a bull-headed level of stubbornness when it came to training had served her well in the past, and she was not about to stop of her own accorded – but she couldn’t help but welcome the interruption as Velanna suddenly drifted into her view and took it upon herself to comment.

“Would I be better to stand behind the targets? I would hate to be riddled with arrows, and that seems the safest place to avoid them.”

Siali snorted, accepting the criticism; a decent shot while standing still, she was a borderline hazard while moving. While Velanna might be cutting, Siali had rarely seen her say anything that didn’t have a kernel of truth in it. “I’d advise standing in Denerim, if you don’t feel like doing an impression of a hedgehog.”

“The Command would like us, Senior Wardens, to run an errand.” Velanna swept her arm around in a graceful gesture that meant, as far as Siali could see, nothing at all. “I am to believe that we alone are qualified for such a mission.”

Siali set the point of the bow on the ground, resting her hand on the top like a walking stick, which was not the right way to treat a bow. She didn’t particularly care at the moment. Even with the armguard on, the string had skimmed the inside of her wrist a few times and her fingers were tender from the snap. Right now, she personally hated whoever had invented the damn things. “Would this ‘errand’ happen to involve killing a lot of darkspawn, preferably from close-quarters? Or taking down a plot to remove the Wardens from this country again?”

Definitely not, judging by Velanna’s sarcastic tone when she had delivered the message. Although she wouldn’t be surprised if there was something going on against the Wardens. Not everybody liked having them around now that the Blight had been successfully seen off for another hundred years or so.

Siali leaned on the bow, propping it on one end against the hard-packed ground. Velanna had seen archers in the clan kick the bow out from under young hunters who treated their bows in such ways. Not that Velanna was going to do any such thing. She cared not.

“Would this ‘errand’ happen to involve killing a lot of darkspawn, preferably from close-quarters?” Velanna waited for her to finish listing out her dream task for the day. “Or taking down a plot to remove the Wardens from this country again?”

Her question seemed to be answered in her mind. Velanna had not given any indication it would be interesting. “No. It shan’t.” Deeming the question answered, and what was required of Siali conveyed, Velanna spun on the toe of her boot and strode quickly for the stables.

Word had been sent ahead, it seemed, as the cart was being hitched to the ox for the trip. The stable hand looked to Velanna as if she would have some sort of input or request as to how the cart and animal were arranged. She stared at the boy blankly. No, she had no idea what was required in the driving of an ox-drawn cart. She’d never even had to handle an aravel in all her years in the clan. “Well do not look at me! I certainly do not drive ox carts.” She looked to Siali. “I presume you can drive one of these into the city?”
“No. It shan’t.” As expected. Siali rolled her eyes and followed Velanna as the other woman headed for the stables. Perhaps this was some sort of badly planned out attempt of the Commander’s to see how biddable her Wardens were. She might be in for a nasty shock if she pushed it too far, though. Being a Warden wasn’t all slaying darkspawn and saving civilians, and Siali acknowledged that, but there were only so many errands she would run before she started getting annoyed and wanting a real fight.

Speaking of, there’d been something on the Chanter’s board in Amaranthine a few days back about bandits on the smaller roads. Few people would be stupid enough to challenge anyone on the path between the city and the Keep, but Siali found herself hoping that somebody fell under that banner today.

The errand turned out to be driving a cart to the city. And not with horses, but with oxen. What was the new Commander thinking? The boy who had prepared the cart looked at them expectantly, then flinched a little at Velanna’s rebuke. “Well do not look at me! I certainly do not drive ox carts.” She glanced at Siali. “I presume you can drive one of these into the city?”

“Never tried. I’ve only ridden my horse before.”

“It’s easy, messeres,” the boy offered, which made Siali wonder if it was easy why anybody else – particularly somebody who had experience in driving carts – hadn’t been assigned to do this. “You pretty much just hit them with the stick and pull the reins in the direction you want them to go. They’re placid animals, not much bothers them.”

They looked like big, heavy animals that could cause a lot of trouble if they decided to bolt suddenly. Siali shrugged. “Alright then.”

She hopped up into the driver’s seat. She already wished she was on Max; at least she knew how to steer him, and watch for any signs he was panicking. Siali picked up the reins and readied the switch. “So what’s in this thing?”

“Arms for the city garrison. Wade has an arrangement with them.”

“Best get on then. Maker knows they don’t know how to fight empty handed.” She waited for Velanna to climb up as well.

Warden Siali seemed equally pleased as Velanna at the sight of the oxen hitched to the cart, which was to say not at all. Horses being a novelty, at least to Fereldan shems, an ox yoked to a cart was not an uncommon sight. That did not mean the women had any experience with them. Or driving carts, for that matter. Well, she certainly did not. Siali had the look about her that perhaps she might be the type to have experience.

“Never tried. I’ve only ridden my horse before.” Well that certainly answered that, as well as the question as to how useful she could expect her to be.

“It’s easy, messeres,” the stable boy explained. “You pretty much just hit them with the stick and pull the reins in the direction you want them to go. They’re placid animals, not much bothers them.”

“Certainly not being lashed with a stick, it would seem.” She couldn’t help herself. Halla pulled aravels because they wanted to help in exchange for the care the clans offered them. She could not imagine smacking one in so brutal a fashion. He was right, however. The oxen sniffed and snorted, and did not seem at all troubled to be shackled to the cart in such a manner.

“Alright then.” The women swung up into the seat of the cart and set on their way into the city with arms for the garrison. For whatever reason that was their job today.

The oxen plodded on, the cart following with a great lurch forward, resignedly turning towards the road as if they knew the way out of the Keep by instinct, and had no trouble being steered towards the road. Not one for idle chatter, Velanna watched the road, the animals, the passing trees with an impassive expression, having very little to contribute. At least one thing could be marked in Siali’s favor: she did not engage in pointless chatter for the sake of disturbing the quiet.

They stayed off the smaller back roads, the oxen taking up a fair amount of space, double wide as they were, and they wouldn’t want to throw a wheel by veering off the side of the road or become entrenched in mud from the snow if the roads were not well worn. The day spread on, cold for how clear it was, and Velanna pulled her cloak snug around herself.

They’d made slow progress, but progress all the same, and almost an hour passed in the quiet, lulling Velanna to believe that this would not be a complete pain after all. Which was exactly the moment the cart shook wildly, and snap of something large and evidently important, and the wheel flying off the rear and rolling away. Unfazed by it all, the oxen continued along, dragging the cart and its newly broken axle.

“Oh, Creator’s sakes,” she swore.
Siali was aware through the odd overheard snatch of gossip amongst the maids that Velanna had a few faults. Irritability, a tendency to lapse into silence, blunt speech. Siali honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d overheard them talking about her instead and heard exactly the same description. While she had softened considerably on the subject of idle chatter, she wasn’t one to be the source of it, and it was actually quite pleasant creaking along on the cart with only the rattle of the wheels to fill the air.

Right up until a sharp crack made her jump and reach for her sword, only to lurch sharply to the side as the cart tilted to the left. Siali wound her arm tightly in the reins on instinct, as she would to remain seated on Max, only to realise a little belatedly that this was a bad idea. The cart continued with the oxen, shuddering hard over every bump in the road, and Siali felt the vibrations reverberate all the way up to her shoulder. She whacked at the oxen with her stick, with little more effect than if she’d decided to lash out at a rock, bellowing for them to stop.

Eventually, either heeding her or simply because they felt like it, the oxen stopped. Or maybe it was because she finally gave up hitting them. Maybe their natural state was being motionless.

Velanna had sworn, fairly mildly. Siali’s response as she freed herself from the reins and went to inspect the damage was somewhat more vitriolic.

The wheel was not just off, but the axle had snapped, making it impossible for either of them to repair without a cartwright. They could maybe jerry-rig some sort of skeleton for the wheel in order to –

Siali admitted to herself she didn’t know what the fuck to do about the cart.

She turned to Velanna. “Only thing I can think of is using the coverings as saddlebags and getting the oxen to carry the weapons. Or one of us goes off and gets somebody to help.”

Which might be the better thing to do, even if it involved getting somebody else involved, something both of them tended to be keen to avoid.

Although, judging by the yell that echoed up from the trees a moment later, it didn’t seem like they had much choice.