The whole camp had noticed the difference in their dwarven leader the closer they got to the mountains. She had always taken first watch, sending the giant mabari hound off to wake the next guard when she finally felt the need to sleep, but it had been getting later and later into the night the past couple of days and last night they'd woken to find her still sat at her post, mabari dosing fitfully at her side.
Instead of the subdued exhaustion they'd expected to appear, they found only a restless energy, an almost tangible current of unease flowing through her veins.
Alistair had stopped his jokes, Zevran ceased his flirting and even Morrigan had broken from her usual characteristic disinterest in her companions to shoot occasional worried glances the dwarf's way.
Wynne remembered a conversation with the youngster one night at camp not long after leaving the Circle of Magi, Bludwyn had brushed aside questions about joining the Grey Wardens with comments more suited to Alistair than the dwarf and Wynne had just resolved to respect the warden's right to privacy when she'd sighed and admitted quietly: "This life suits me, I sleep far more peacefully now then I ever could in Orzammar."
The words rung in Wynne's head as she watched the dwarf trudge up the snowy mountain path, whatever awaited them in those underground halls she knew would be far more than the usual disdainful issues 'deep-downers' had with surfacers.
Bludwyn broke her silence with a sigh. Everyone was gathered round the fire for the evening meal, best to get it over with in one go before Morrigan slunk off back to her own part of the camp.
"We're a day or two at most away from Orzammar, and... there's something you should know before we enter." Her comrades looked up, a mix of expectation and apprehension in their eyes. She'd left it too late she knew, let her own negativity fester out to the rest of the team.
"My exile..." She began.
"My father..." She attempted again. No wonder Alistair had found it so difficult.
Staring into the depths of the fire she steeled her resolve and charged her way through the admission.
"I was the daughter of King Endrin, my older brother was killed in the Deep Roads and I was framed and exiled for his murder." She paused awaiting their reactions. Leliana looked somewhat shocked but sympathetic, Morrigan merely completive. Sten was his usual blank statue while Alistair's face contained mostly confusion.
"Why didn't you say anything?" He whined.
"Alistair... We're both cursed with royal blood but you're lucky enough to be a bastard." It was the wrong thing to say she knew, but before either of them could respond Zevran interrupted.
"So..." He was idly fingering the hilt of a dagger, "do you know who really did it?"
"Fairly certain." She wanted to drop the conversation. Of course she knew. The entire time in Orzammar she'd known, but never once revealed the culprit. Even while professing her innocence she never once stepped over the line.
Her companions were all looking at her. Waiting. Soldiers needed trust she knew, and they were going to be stepping into that den of poisoned spiders with her soon enough. They deserved to be prepared. She exhaled softly and in a whisper gave voice to the secret for the first time.
"Bhelen. It was my brother Bhelen."
The former bard was quiet in her approach but not enough to have escaped Bludwyn's attention as she kept watch from the camp perimeter.
"You didn't eat earlier." Leliana proffered a bowl towards the dwarf, putting it down beside her when there was no response. She stood in awkward silence for a moment before turning to leave, stalling after a couple of steps and looking back. The internal struggle evident in her face, torn between doing what she thought her friend wanted and what she felt her friend needed.
"If you want we could always..."
"No." The dwarf cut her off.
"But you don't have to..."
Leliana sighed. Certainty had returned to the dwarf's voice and she knew there would be no arguing, no compromise. Bludwyn would see her duty through. No matter what.
"At least have something to eat. Sleep is one thing but you need to eat."
"Hmm? Oh..." It was as if she'd only just noticed the bowl. "Right, thanks".
Surely she noticed? Leliana thought in shock as Bludwyn picked up the bowl, merely cradling it as she continued to watch the darkness beyond the trees. Ignored me perhaps, that's fine, but she can't have not even noticed.
Aware of the bard still hovering uncertainly, Bludwyn finally motioned for her to sit. Not a request or a command, merely a resigned gesture of 'if you're staying you might as well'. The silence grew more comfortable the longer they sat there. Bludwyn slowly working her way through the now almost certainly cold stew.
"At least consider a code phrase." The warden glanced over in surprise at the sound. "If it all becomes too much you could say something and we'd know to let Alistair take over the negotiations, or to leave or... well, whatever you think would make a good contingency plan". It was Leliana's turn to look surprised as instead of arguing the dwarf gave a single curt nod.
"OK..." There was a further moment of silence before Bludwyn deliberately sought out the bard's eyes once more. "If you hear me say: 'I'm going to kill the bastard'..." She paused, holding the redhead's gaze so there could be no doubt about the intent and seriousness of her next order.
Author's note: Thanks for reading. This is just a little one shot I found in the depths of my computer from years ago. Unlikely to continue unless I get requests to. Mostly posting in the hope that posting something, anything, will help beat the writer's block I'm currently suffering.