He was still worrying about Rica. A few hours—by the Stone, had it only been a few hours?—wasn’t even close to enough time for him to lose a habit that had been with him his whole life. Sure, Lucan knew that Rica had always worried over him just as much, and she’d been thrilled to see him become a Grey Warden. Sod it, he was thrilled himself. But it just didn’t sit quite right with him, walking out into a whole new life and leaving his big sister behind, new noble patron of hers or not. Lucan didn’t know much about nobles, but he was pretty sure they were about as reliable and likely to keep their promises to a duster as your average Carta boss. But Leske would be there to look after her, and he knew Rica would be just pleased as a nug in a rug, imagining him performing all kinds of great deeds and shit up here on the surface, a heroic Grey Warden, and that had made the decision easier.
Haha—a duster like him, heroic. It was still tough to wrap his mind around the whole damn business, let alone really believe it. That he’d be good at fighting darkspawn, yeah, that he could buy. That a Grey Warden himself would want him in the ranks, brand and all, that was a whole other trip round the tunnel. Apparently there was a lot more to humans than he’d thought or been led to believe, and suddenly all those surfacers didn’t seem quite so lyrium-touched as they had before. Join the Grey Wardens, kill endless hordes of darkspawn, see the world … it didn’t sound half-bad compared to running busy-work errands for a cave-tick like Beraht.
He was surprised at the wrench he felt when he waved one last easy salute at Leske and Rica and followed Duncan up and out. He knew better than to show it, of course—though this Duncan seemed damn decent, not the sort who’d take your last coin off you while you slept or anything—but he was still trying to work through the unexpected ache deep in his chest when they stepped out onto the surface and the doors of Orzammar swung shut behind him.
Lucan’s first impressions of the surface were that it was bright, and huge, and fucking cold. He jammed his teeth together to keep them from chattering and looked up—and up—and up—and nearly fell on his ass he was craning his neck so far back to see if it ever stopped.
He caught himself just in time, surprised and embarrassed at the hand Duncan had put on his shoulder to steady him. He scowled, more at himself than at Duncan, but Duncan just smiled and patted him on the shoulder before withdrawing his hand.
“It really does just go on and on,” the man said. “There’s no end to it.”
Lucan stared at him. “You mean it—” he started. “No end to—but how does everyone—” he took a deep breath—you’re making an ass of yourself already, salroka—“How’d you know what I was going to say?” he finally settled on.
“There are quite a few dwarven Grey Wardens,” Duncan said. “This isn’t the first time I’ve seen that particular reaction.”
Lucan crossed his arms over his chest, half just to warm himself up, and cast another awestruck glance up at the sky before finally managing to tear his eyes away. “It’s a pretty typical one, I’d just bet,” he said. “Stone, it’s … big, though. How does everyone not fall up into it?” It seemed to go on forever. It almost made his skin crawl, and he wasn’t sure if he hated it or thought it was amazing, or maybe both.
Duncan shrugged. “It’s never happened yet,” he said. “We manage not to worry about it.”
That made a fair amount of sense to Lucan, despite the echoing gray expanse of nothing above him that was the sky. It didn’t seem likely at that very moment that no one had ever gone simply tumbling off into it, but likeliness hadn’t had more than a passing acquaintance with anything that’d happened in his life lately anyway, and if had never happened—well, better not to ask for trouble, especially since trouble was more than likely to find them, considering what it was he’d been recruited to do. “Right,” he said, nodding more to give his head something to do rather than tilt back to stare up at the sky again, resolving right there that he wasn’t going to give the sodding thing any more of his attention than it deserved, and that he’d get used to it looming up there and this freezing, blowing air all around him before they got wherever they were going if it was the last thing he did. Sod it. He ground his teeth to keep them from chattering and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably as he followed Duncan down the stairs.
“Are you in need of further equipment?” Duncan asked as they continued away from Orzammar, distracting Lucan from his fascinated perusal of the ground beneath their feet, which was covered in cold white stuff that puffed up around his boot when he scuffed it with his foot kind of like gypsum, except that gypsum wasn’t cold.
“Nah, I’m set,” he said, fingering the new mace strapped to his back. Foral Aeducan’s mace. It was the finest weapon he’d ever seen, let alone held, even better than the sword of Everd’s he’d used in the Proving. A thought occurred to him then, though, and he hesitated. Sod it, he finally decided, just come out with it—“But is it always this cold up here?” he asked. “Cause if it is—you humans are a damn sight tougher than you look, I’ll say that for you.”
Duncan gave a low chuckle. “We’re high in the Frostback Mountains at the moment,” he said. “It’s a bit colder than normal. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be difficult to acquire a coat.”
“Aw, well, you don’t gotta do that,” Lucan said hurriedly, embarrassed by the offer. “I ain’t no nug-humping noble. Not about to fall over dead from a little cold.”
“It won’t be any trouble,” Duncan said easily, and so Lucan let it go, not quite sure what to make of the offer. Or of Duncan in general, really. It was damn strange to be treated as an equal without having to fight for it every second or kill anyone to get a little respect, and Lucan wasn’t sure if this was more of the same, or if he was being offered charity. He figured that he should just forget it and treat Duncan like he’d treat Leske or any other Carta brother-in-arms until further notice. Except for the part where Duncan was a lot … taller. And probably wouldn’t appreciate the fart jokes.
“Right,” Lucan said. He was more than ready for this, he decided. Hadn’t he been saying he was gonna make something of himself his whole life? And here he was, right in the middle of doing it. “So, where these darkspawn at?”