“Two sword and shield warriors and two rogues; and supplies for two weeks, to be on the safe side. Have them ready and at the main gate in an hour.”
“Supplies for six?”
“How does four plus one equal six?”
Solberg blinked at the blond as he turned from the door. “Warden Fenris-”
“Will be staying here. Do not take him with you, either,” Anders said, his voice holding an unmistakable note of command. She raised an eyebrow. “He has not been tested in the Deep Roads since his Joining, and this is not a good mission for him to cut his teeth on. Leave him in the fortress, it’ll do him some good. The amount of wardens around right now have been giving him headaches as he gets used to the feel of the Taint around him.”
“I see,” Solberg said, nodding. “I will have everything you need ready within the hour. The troops will be about a day behind you.”
Anders turned away again and opened the door.
“Commander?” He hesitated and glanced back at her. “Thank you.”
He shrugged and left her office, making his way back to his room. He’d fallen asleep in the hall the night before, curled into a corner; and had been woken by Pounce. The cat had apparently gotten out of the room he shared with Fenris and had found him. He had gone to the mess hall and curled into a corner with the cat, eating something before deciding to go to Solberg. He’d stopped in the Infirmary first, making Connor promise to watch over Pounce while he was gone.
Now he stood outside the room he’d been sharing with Fenris, hoping that the elf was not there. Anders took a deep breath and opened the door, finding Fenris sitting across from the door directly, his arms crossed and his lips a long, thin line. The mage ignored him, going to the bed and pulling one of the packs out from under it, he started to pack.
“Where are you going?”
“I accepted Solberg’s mission.”
“So we’re going-”
“I’m going. You’re staying here.”
The elf didn’t seem surprised. “Why?”
“Because your markings. I don’t want the mission to be compromised because you’re listening to a song and can’t concentrate. I know you’ve been walking around with a migraine since we got here.”
He saw Fenris twitch out of the corner of his eye. “It’s not any other reason?”
“What other reason would I have?”
“What your brother said the other night comes to mind.”
Anders’ heart was thundering in his ears, but he continued his packing, deciding not to reply to the elf. Partially because he didn’t know what to say, and partially because he could feel his face turning red again. He picked up the bag when he was finished and turned to the door. “I should be back in a few days.”
“You shouldn’t go alone.”
“I won’t be alone.”
“I know what you meant. Stay here Warden, it’s an order.”
Fenris stiffened in his seat and pursed his lips. “Yes, Commander.”
Anders set his shoulders again and left the room, going down to the courtyard to meet his unit.
They were hard to miss. Mainly because his brother was among them, waving at him as he came out. Perhaps he would have to go back in and set fire to Commander Solberg.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked as he walked up to them.
“Yes, yes. All ready,” Jens replied cheerfully. He had a shield strapped to his back and a sword at his side. Of course.
“Introductions. I assume you all speak Trade?”
Jens nodded and began the introductions. Anders’ shield warriors were Jens and a dark-haired woman named Kara; a blond male elf named Casmir was his dual-wielding rogue; and finally a dark-haired female elf named Eila, who appeared to be an archer.
“This is Commander Raghnall Skovsgaard - he is the Spirit Healer, and my broder,” Jens said proudly, patting Anders on the back. “We are just waiting for Fenris, no?”
“No. Move out.”
Jens blinked in surprise as the others all picked up their packs. “You joke, yes? You would not leave him behind?”
“He is not needed on this mission, he would be a hindrance,” Anders replied stiffly.
“He is not my lover, Jens,” the mage snapped, causing his brother to step back. “He is not my babysitter, or my bodyguard. I am a grown fucking man; a mage; and a Grey Warden Commander. I can take care of my own Maker-damned self!”
Jens had stumbled a few more steps backward, but Anders had stopped, realising that everyone in the immediate vicinity had fallen quiet and were staring. Anders turned away abruptly, embarrassed at the outburst, and started toward the gate, letting the others scramble as they would to catch up with him.