He was bored. His armour and daggers were sparkling like diamonds because of the many times he cleaned them. Leliana was trying to get a few hours of sleep before her watch, Alistair was avoiding him because of his teasing earlier – honestly, one would think that the Chantry boy would get used to it already – and Sten was about as funny as a heap of dung. Even the dog ignored him, shooting suspicious glances when he tried to approach him, before trotting away to continue chewing some old bone.
At least if Airam was here… even his nosy questions would be better than this. But the crazy kid was probably reading again. Of course, he had to learn new spells to be ready for any occasion… But that didn’t mean he should spend all his time reading them and neglect his friends, yes? And it’s not good for the eyes, to read long hours by the light of candles. Or so he was told. Not that he did it himself.
Determined to drag the crazy kid away from the books by force, if necessary, he got up and walked to Airam’s tent.
“My dear Airam, may I interrupt you for a moment?”
No reply. It wasn’t like the boy not to reply, so he opened the flaps and entered the tent.
It was empty.
His whole body tensed immediately. Where was he? When was the last time he saw him? He closed his eyes and took deep, slow breath. The last time… that would be when they had dinner… two hours ago. What happened then? Think! Remember, damn it. I was keeping an eye on his tent the whole time. How and when could he get out of the tent without me noticing? He’s not that good at sneaking.
No. And that meant the crazy kid had to have left when he wasn’t watching… there was one minute when he left for nature’s call, shortly after the dinner… and then, some ten minutes ago, when he tried to play with Rask.
Rask. Of course, the dog could easily find its master! He almost ran to the creature, which earned him suspicious glance from Alistair. The dog gave him annoyed look, that was clearly saying ‘didn’t I make it clear I don’t want you to bother me today?’
“I know. Sorry, but I have to.” Did I really just apologize to a dog? The things that the crazy kid made him do. “It’s about your master. He’s not in his tent. Can you bring me to him?”
The dog snarled. The meaning was quite clear. ‘Maybe he doesn’t want you to bother him, either.’ Damn these Fereldan monstrous dogs! Why they can’t be normal cute puppies like anywhere else?
“And what if he is in danger, hm? If something happens to him it will be all your fault, you know.” The dog immediately got up. Good to know he was still cleverer than a dog.
“Do you really think he could be in danger?”
He turned around to find Alistair standing next to Airam’s tent. Tch. Did he think he stood up just to take the dog for a walk?
“How should I know? He could be, if some darkspawn appear. But with Rask I should be able to find him quickly.”
“Perhaps I should go as well –”
“No need to,” he snapped. If his little Warden really was in trouble, the last thing he wanted was to have Alistair in his jingly armour that would warn enemies of their presence long before they would see them.
Luckily Alistair realized it as well, and did not argue. “But if you’re not back in half an hour…”
“Of course. I count on it. Come, Rask. Take me to your master, pronto.”
They didn’t go very far. In fact, the dog took him down to the tiny mountain stream where they filled their flasks before the dinner.
He was ready to see pretty much anything. If he had found Airam in a friendly chat with some strayed mountain bear, it wouldn’t surprise him. But this – this was too much even for a Crow.
There he was, sitting on a fallen tree, surrounded in the creepy greenish light from a wisp. Only half dressed – no complaints there – his robes neatly folded nearby. He was holding what looked like a big, old-fashioned razor.
With his left hand, he pulled up one strand of his hair, and then, in one swift move of the razor, cut it.
Then he repeated it. And again. And again.
It was… terrifying. Airam’s hair was always horrible, but he supposed the boy suffered some kind of head injury and his hair had to be cut. But this – this was unnecessary, this was cruel. He already knew that Airam hated his looks, but that he would go this far…
It was good he managed to stop Rask from bolting right into the boy – he wouldn’t like the boy to lose his ears. At best. Quietly waving the dog to follow him, he retreated a bit, until he was sure the boy wouldn’t hear him whispering.
“Good boy. Return to the camp now, yes? I will come back with him in a while.”
“You will play with him later,” he promised. “But now you have to go and let Alistair know that your master is fine.”
He watched the dog run away, then slowly walked back to where Airam was sitting, deliberately making as much noise as possible.
“Who’s there?” Airam was immediately on foot, hands glowing with what he recognized as the boy’s favourite ice cone spell. Tch. If he was an enemy, the crazy kid would be already dead.
“It is just me.” He walked in, with hands lifted, trying to sound cheerful. “I was just wondering where you were. You should not leave the camp without telling anyone. What if something happened to you? Alistair would have to be a leader. Which means the Archdemon would soon rule over Ferelden.”
Airam relaxed. “I just needed some time in private,” he said, picking up the robes, “but now I’m done. We can go back.”
“May I ask what were you doing?” he asked, curious at the boy’s behaviour. Everyone would notice it tomorrow, so why make it a secret?
It seemed Airam realized it as well. “I was just trimming my hair.”
“Trimming your hair? Why?”
“Because it needed trimming?” The boy pulled on his robes, and picked up the razor. “All right, let’s go.”
“No,” he snapped, standing in his way. “I want to know. Why were you cutting it here, when it’s dark –”
“I summoned a wisp. Can we go now?”
“-all by yourself, and without a mirror?” He finished, ignoring the boy’s interruption.
“Because I prefer it that way, all right? I always cut it by myself.” Airam was starting to be really annoyed.
He hesitated. What was it to him, anyway? If the crazy kid liked it that way, who was he to stop him? No – he knew the boy didn’t like it that way; if he did, he wouldn’t want to keep it secret from the others.
“What? Is it some secret mage haircut? Does it grant you some ancient magic? Makes you irresistible to women?” He was pleased to see that the boy was now trying to suppress a smile. He went on.
“It’s not nice of you to keep it just for yourself, you know. You could at least tell it to your friends. Or at least to me. I can not imagine Sten interested, and it would not help Alistair, anyway. But I could be tempted to try it, you know.”
By now, Airam was grinning openly. “I don’t think you’d need it, Zev. You’re already irresistible enough as you are.”
“And glad I am to hear that. Now that you have confessed, perhaps we do not have to return to camp quite yet,” he said, with the most lecherous smile. “We could… play some games…”
Airam just chuckled. “Sure. I suggest hide and seek. You’re it.”
But still, he thought as he followed the boy to the camp, he thinks I’m irresistible? Well now, that’ something I can work with. But something should be done with that haircut, as well.
The next morning was very interesting. It started with Leliana. When she got out of her tent and saw Airam, she immediately noticed the terrible change.
“My dear friend! What is that? Did someone attack you in your sleep?”
Airam blinked, confused. “What do you mean?”
“Your hair! What happened to it?”
“Did Zevran put you up to this?” Airam narrowed his eyes and shot an angry look at him.
He laughed. “You wound me, Airam. Why would I do such thing? Leliana is not blind, you know. She can see how terrible it is without me telling her.”
“Thank you so much. And here I thought you wanted it yourself?”
“That was because there was poor light and I did not see it well. Besides, you said I am irresistible enough even without it, yes?”
The boy was just going to reply with something when Alistair tumbled out of his tent, to see what all the ruckus was about. Then he noticed Airam.
“Maker! What happened to your hair?”
“Just drop it, all of you, all right! What does it matter? It’s just stupid hair.” Airam was now positively furious.
“But – but it looks like – ”
“Al. Don’t. Continue. Enough already.”
He tried to sign to Alistair to stop, not to say it, but the silly Chantry boy did not understand. “It looks like… someone dropped a sparrow’s nest on your head,” he said, and perhaps he would survive it without consequences, if he didn’t add “and whoever heard of violet sparrow nest? It’s ridicu-.”
Poor Alistair never finished that sentence. There was a flash of light, and –
– and –
Even Sten was stunned. Leliana was the first one whose ability to speak returned.
“Airam! How could you!”
“What? He shouldn’t have insulted sparrows. They’re my favourite birds,” said the crazy kid haughtily, but quickly relented under her glare.
“Don’t worry, it’s not permanent! He’ll unfreeze in a while,” he added hastily.
“In the meantime, we could have a little party, no? We already have an ice statue. And such masterpiece it is, as well. It would be such a waste to miss this opportunity.”
That probably wasn’t the wisest thing he could have said.
For the rest of the morning, Leliana was scolding them like little kids, and they tried their best to look repentant. But when Alistair finally unfroze and tried to join her, one look at him was enough to make them burst in a fit of laughter.
“That was not funny!”
“No… no, Al, it… it wasn’t. I’m sorry.” The crazy kid tried to stop laughing for a moment, but it was impossible. “But… but your hair!... It… is…” He burst into laughter again.
If Airam’s hair looked like a sparrow’s nest, then Alistair’s looked, right now, like wet straw stack.
Throwing his hands into the air in despair, Alistair left to change his clothes, murmuring about crazy kids and silly assassins and what had he done to deserve to travel with lunatics. Soon after, Leliana also left them alone and went to pack their tent.
When they were finally alone, Airam looked at him. “Thanks for taking the blame with me,” he said. “I know I shouldn’t have lost control… but… I promise it won’t happen again.”
“Oh, I do not mind. As long as you do not use it on me,” he laughed. “But the next time you want to trim your hair, it would be easier if you would just let me or Leliana help, yes?”
“Why is it so important? It’s just hair, for the Maker’s sake!”
“Of course it is important! You are a Grey Warden, yes? You cannot walk around with, as Alistair so accurately put it – with a violet sparrow –”
“Zevran. What did I say about sparrows?”
“I am quiet. I am quiet.”
This was going to be more difficult than expected…