Fandom: Dragon Age Inquisition
Relationship(s)/Character(s): Sera/Dagna, Male Adaar, Original Characters
Word Count: ~2,800
Content Notes: violence, injuries
Summary: Sera gets selected for a special side mission by the Inquisitor, then makes new friends, and meets some awful birds along the way.
Author's Notes: Written as a treat-turned-assignment for worstcommander for Black Emporium Exchange 2016. Originally posted at AO3. Title from the song Side Pain, by Sea of Bees (because of course!). Sorry, not sorry Rodney fans. Many thanks to storiofmylife for betaing.
"You shitting arse. You're joking."
"I'm not, I'm afraid." Adaar sips his beer and tries a look he probably thinks is apologetic. Sera doesn't buy it for a second.
"No. You're friggin' kidding, right?"
"I'm not, Sera. You've proved yourself simply indispensable. You're the best archer we've got, bar none. It has to be you."
"What about Leliana, eh? She's no slouch."
Adaar shoots her a withering look. "You're going to make me say it? Okay, Sera," he says with an overly dramatic sigh. "You're the best archer we have that I can also boss around without worrying I'll piss my pants mid-conversation."
Sera glares, but it only lasts a second before she bursts out laughing.
"Aw, sweet talker. Fine. Fifty gold pieces and I get to kick you in the nards when I get back."
"Absolutely not, but let's pretend I agree and you can drink free for the rest of the night."
The little traveling party is assembling by the gate, but as Dagna runs through another one of her lists, she notes that their archer companion is missing. "Has anyone seen Sera?"
Significant looks are passed between a few of the people standing around.
"Last we saw," says one man, jerking a thumb at his friend standing a few feet away. "She was drinking with The Inquisitor, Bull and a few of the Chargers. They were just starting in on the Qunari drinks and all the weird shouting when we went to bed. That was, what Bill? Just four hours ago?"
"So you're all so hungover you can't see straight, and she may be dead now, is that what you're telling me?" Dagna rolls her eyes. She'd told The Inquisitor how vital this mission was if she was to have any chance repairing the crystal, and asked him to put together a party for her that reflected that. That Adaar…
"I'm not dead," says a cloaked figure coming towards them from the stairs. "My luck ain't good enough."
"Thanks for joining us," Dagna says, putting too much volume behind her voice. "Oh, sorry, was that loud?" she asks when Sera winces visibly.
"Let's get on with it, yeah?"
There's some minor scuffling and rearranging when the horse they point Sera to moves it's head a little as she tries to mount it. Sera retreats across the courtyard and refuses to come back until someone leads the ‘clearly bloodthirsty’ beast back to the stable.
Soon settled on a much more relaxed mule, Sera seems happy enough. Dagna is annoyed beyond reason at all the delays, but they finally head out.
"Why are we going all the way there?" Sera asks once they've been on the road for a few hours. With Sera as the forward lookout, the rest of the small group rides behind. Dagna rides beside her most of the way, occasionally making notes on something she sees or carries on soft conversations with her horse.
"What do you mean? Did The Inquisitor not tell you anything?"
Sera shrugs. "Just some lies about you needing me along and that we're going all the way to Adamant. Again. Damn creepy shit."
"Well, we do need you and we are going to Adamant. No lies there."
"But why all the way? Don't we have some guys at that other whatsy? The Griffon Wing place? Can't they get the shite you need and meet us halfway?"
Dagna sighs. "Trust me, I wish. But they don't know what I need. I barely know what I need."
They lapse into silence again. "All right," Sera says finally. "I guess. I'll get to shoot something though?"
"Probably a few things," Dagna assures her. "Some of the caravans going past Adamant to Griffon Wing Keep have reported flocks of kreold birds all over Adamant."
"Oh ew, that's those big, grey, skin eaters?"
"Eugh, the little beady eyes on those thingies. Great, just great."
"Not great at all, actually," Rodney says, piping up from behind. "Did you know they can actually strip the flesh right off a cow in --"
Sera turns in her saddle and flips him off. "Sod off, Rodney, you're not helping!"
Day ten of their journey is as uneventful as day one, and it starts to wear on everyone's nerves. They expected some kind of trouble by now, but everywhere they went, they were ignored as some band of mercenaries or traveling performers, or welcome warmly as Inquisition forces. No hostility or even a raised eyebrow. Hell, not even some bad weather.
When they stop and make camp for the night, Sera has a chance to talk to some of the men; getting to know everyone a little better in turn. She and Dagna are the only women, more's the pity, but the boys seem all right. Marcel has even brought a bottle of some warm, spiced Orlesian booze and everyone gets a nip before they settle down for the night.
Sera likes her turn at watch the best. Between the six of them, it's not a long shift every two nights, and she's always hated sleeping on the road. The stars are nice, the nights are quiet, and Muddy's rattling snores remind her she's not alone out here. Maybe Adaar hasn't stuck her with such a terrible assignment. She breathes deep and smiles to herself in the dark.
"Worst. Assignment. Ever."
"Shut up, Rodney," Dagna hisses. "They've got very good hearing."
Outside the cave, the kreold birds howl for more blood. Their noise melds with the scraping of their claws on the stones and sets Sera's teeth on edge. The smell of blood fills up the hot air around them and she bites down on her lip to stop from swearing or worse when Dagna dabs the poultice against her wounds again.
"I hate them," Sera whispers.
"You can say that again," Dagna whispers back. "I'm sorry, I know this stings."
"Bloody right," Sera says. She lets her head hit the stone wall next to it. Rodney's right, this is the worst. Dagna keeps working on the wounds on her ribs, soft touches a counterpoint to the sharp sting of the green ooze touching her torn up skin.
"I can't believe it got straight through your coat."
"Inky made this coat for me, all yellow like I like and everything. Do y'think he'll be mad?"
"I'm sure he'll just be thankful you lived."
"You know, he has these potions, when we're out on the road, little red bottles, and they fix you up right quick. We don't have that?" Sera whisper-hisses to Dagna when the stinging gets worse.
"Do you know what those things cost? The flasks alone are more expensive than sin, and he just tosses them over his shoulder when he's done."
Dagna seems annoyed, so Sera doesn't mention what else they sometimes do with the bottles once the potion's been drunk. Her and Blackwall have some funny games.
"Shh!" hisses Rodney. Dagna elbows him in the head.
They wait six hours for the kreolds to finally take off and scatter. There's still the occasional screech to let them know the birds haven't gone far, but they might be able to make a break for it without someone getting gouged up again.
"We need a decent plan, not just a run out into the night and hope for the best plan," Dagna says.
"I'm ruddy starving," says Bill, not for the first time.
Dagna tells him to shut it, also not for the first time. "Sera, how's your side? Do you think you can still shoot?"
Sera does a few tests draws with her unloaded bow and nods. "Some, yeah. Not all day though. How many sods out there, y'think?"
"No way to know," Dagna says. She, like most of the men, carries a short sword and a dagger. Not effective for killing most birds, except maybe the really brainless ones.
"We'll go out yelling," Bill says, clapping Rodney and Marcel on the back. "Draw them all nearby to each other, maybe? Would that make it easier."
"Sure," Sera says, not sure it would work, but maybe if the birds were busy picking at the boys, they'd be less like to take a swipe at her again.
"Great," says Dagna. "Because if they're on the ground, I can hit them with this."
Bill lurches back. "Maker's balls, Miss Dagna, I won't be anywhere near if you're going to start throwing that stuff around."
"It's not Antivan Fire," Dagna assures him, holding the vial closer to the light at the end of Muddy's staff. "I know it looks like it, but it's something else I've come up with. It'll slow them down, gets all sticky and hard when it touches stuff. And I've got a great solvent that takes it right off if it does get on you. Just keep your eyes closed, okay? You don't want this stuff in your eyes, trust me."
"What, you mean really?" Sera is fascinated, taking it out of Dagna's hands and turning it over. "Like pitch then?"
"Only so much better. Dries instantly, locks everything up. It's great, I'll make you some once we're back in Skyhold." Dagna takes it back, but then pauses for a moment and offers it over to Sera. "Your throwing arm is probably better than mine, even torn up."
Sera beams. "Let's get those pisser bastards!"
They're all still alive, so that's a good thing. Dagna's hardening mix works beautifully and it gives the advantage over the first flock of birds that swarm Bill and Rodney the minute they run hollering from the cave.
The huge second flock that arrives is a bit trickier.
Soon, Sera's entirely out of arrows, reduce to covering her face and kicking out wildly and she tries to find some unbroken arrows on the ground. Her boot connects with one of the big, awful birds and she hears it squawk in pain, which is immensely satisfying, until it turns around and pecks right through her boot into the thin skin on her ankle. She brings her weight down on it as she stumbles.
"Maker shitting fucking thing!" she shouts at it. She can hear similar curses coming up from everyone else, too. At least she isn't the only one about to be murdered by a bird.
"Hey!" Sera hears Dagna shout, very close, and when Sera whips around to make sure she's not in immediate peril, something heavy crashes into her injured side, knocking her sprawling onto the broken rocks and bird corpses.
Sera feels a twinge and a snap, and her vision goes white with pain. She cries out, words or wordless, she's not sure, and she curls down into herself.
Soon, there are hands on her shoulders, trying to force her out of her ball, a soft voice speaking above her, but Sera doesn't quite hear it. She can barely breathe, or barely wants to because every breathe feels like razors and her wounds from the first kreolds have opened up again. She can feel the blood seeping out slowly.
"Sera, unclench, seriously. Let me see." It's Dagna, pressing again on her shoulder.
"Fuck," Sera whispers, and even getting one word out seems like it's setting her lungs on fire.
"I know," Dagna says. "I'm sorry. Let me look."
Sera doesn't know how she manages to roll onto her back, but once she does, the breathing gets a little easier. Tears sting her eyes worse than Dagna's poultice stung earlier and she hates everything; the kreold birds, the desert, damn Adamant Fortress, and the damn Inquisitor for sending her here.
"I'm sorry," says Dagna. Sera opens her eyes for the first time to glare. She doesn't say anything -- talking fucking hurts -- but she glares. Bill and Rodney are leaning heavily against one another, poking wounds and slathering each other in the vile green goo. Muddy is very slowly picking up Sera's arrows, and Marcel is piling all the bird corpses in one corner of the dirty stone courtyard. The wind is whipping up, blowing sand all around. No one looks happy.
Dagna too, Sera notices, while she tries to peel back Sera's clothes to look at her wounds. Her hair is pulled out of it's bun everywhere, flying around her bloodied face. There's a bruise blooming on her chin, deep blue already.
"There's no more?" Sera manages to grind out.
"Muddy went down, poor guy, and when he did some freaky shit happened, it was awesome. He says he'll tell me about it later, but basically I think there was a small explosion? Some major spell, I guess. Last level of protection in case of templar attacks, he said. All the birds nearby just… dropped dead.
"Why didn't he do that to start?" Sera whispers.
"Would you liked to have seen it?" Dagna counters.
That's true. Sera had made it very clear to everyone everywhere that she didn't want to see any magic, hear about magic, or feel the effects of any magic. Ever again in her life, for preference.
"Broken ribs?" Sera asks.
Dagna nods. "I'm really sorry." She waves her hands in front of Sera's face until Sera reaches out and smacks them away. "No concussion though, so that's good, right?"
The smell of burning kreold bird is almost literally vomit inducing, so Dagna hauls Sera to her feet to they can make a hasty retreat.
Muddy hands Sera a fistful of arrows wordlessly, and Marcel and Bill carry the stupid stone tablet that Dagna dragged them out here for. Rodney carries Sera's pack for her while she limps along, leaning on Dagna for help until they make it back to the horses (and mule).
It's a miracle, a bloody damn miracle, that the trip home is shaping up to be as uneventful as the trip to Adamant.
There's a cold wind tonight, while Sera sits propped up against a rock. They'd gone easy on her, letting her sleep the first five nights without having to take a watch, but she argued that she was fit enough to serve now. The chill is making her work for every breath though, and she looks at her sleeping comrades and kind of hates them for a minute or two.
"Hey," Dagna says, barely over a whisper. "How you doing?"
"Fine," Sera whispers back. Dagna settles next to Sera and pulls the blanket from her bedroll around their knees.
"Aw, well… thanks," Sera says, stopping her protest midway through.
"You're feeling okay?"
"Not great, but yeah, better. I'm so kicking Adaar in the nards when we get back. He'll know what it means."
Dagna giggles. "Yeah, that's fair. Look, I'm really sorry."
"Yeah, you said that a bunch. It's not really your fault though."
"Isn't," Sera says again, shooting Dagna a withering glare. "I like you, Dagna, you're a bit of alright, but you can't blame yourself for every time someone gets hurt, yeah?"
"No, I mean it's literally my fault," Dagna says. "But thanks, you're more than a bit of all right yourself."
"I mean, I'll admit, when Adaar caught me staring off after you and told me to go for it, I thought he was crazy, even after he told me you like girls…
"Not that, we'll come back to that -- what's literally your fault?"
"Well, I was the one who pushed you. One of those birds was going for your neck and I shoved you out of the way."
Marcel grunts and rolls over. Sera immediately drops her voice. "Pisser," she says again. "Really?"
"I'm sorry," Dagna says, with an apologetic shrug. "I was worried it was going to rip your throat out. You know what it did to your side, even through your leather coat. I didn't want to have to explain to the Inquisitor why you were missing a head when I brought you back."
"Frig though. You hit hard."
Dagna giggles. "Sorry," she says immediately.
"Yeah, okay, fine. Forgiven. Don't do it again, yeah? I don't think I'd survive you saving my life twice."
Dagna nods. "Fair enough."
"Now, go back to the part where I'm right fit and you've been caught staring and all that?"
Dagna laughs again and raps Sera on the knee. "Yeah, yeah, and you've never stared?"
"Oh sure, loads, but I never got caught."
"I'll be on the lookout for it now," Dagna warns.
"Maybe I won't be hiding it anymore," Sera counters. She likes the warmth and barely registers the twinge of discomfort when Dagna huddles right up to her sore ribs.
"Sorry you got stuck out here with us on my mad errand," Dagna says after a few minutes and one bravely venturing hand up Sera's thigh later.
"If you think I'm going to complain now, you're the mad one," Sera says. She weighs her options and their possible risks, then presses a kiss to Dagna's forehead. It pays off like any good gamble should, and Dagna sighs and drags Sera down by the collar of her torn up coat for a long, exploratory kiss.
"Ow, damn frig! My ribs!" Sera says, tugging away after the thudding pain overrides the warm, delicious temptation of the kiss.
"Oh, get a tent, please," Rodney calls out to them.
"Frigging shut it, Rodney!"