Chapter 6Mature

I circled the bandit, keeping my swords firmly out in front of me to block any of his blows; he tried to threaten me with weak taunts. I ignored him and listened out for any other dangers. The bandit flew at me, thrusting his sword at my stomach. I sidestepped him and hit him on the nose with the pommel of my blade, blood streamed from his nose. I quickly jumped back into my original stance. The bandit screamed in frustration and lashed, out in a frenzy, slicing at the air. I had to duck and spin to keep from getting hit. I rolled behind him, quickly stood and wrapped my arm tightly around his throat. He choked and tried to kick out but I swiftly drew the blade across his throat, and pushed his dead body to the floor. Grinding my teeth, I ran at the bandit who was locked against Alistair's sword, I kicked out at the small of the bandits back; he buckled down in a heap. I thrust my sword into the bandits back with a crunch. Alistair stared at me in wonder. I grinned encouragingly.

"I didn't need help." He grumbled playfully, he pulled me forward just as another bandit flew at us; Alistair's sword cut the guy's head clean off. He looked at me and grinned. "See." We circled round to face an angry mob of about ten bandits, content on avenging their friend's death. Remembering my companion's status, I stood defensively in front of King Alistair. "What are you doing?" Alistair muttered angrily.

"Just run Alistair. Don't forget who you are." I growled under my breath. As I expected, Alistair stayed put, like the stubborn king he was. I rolled my eyes. One bandit flew at me; I threw out a loose blade that hit him between the eyes. The other bandits roared in frustration. They all charged us, I was secretly pleased by Alistair's stubbornness. Swords sliced out at us. When they aimed at Alistair, I pushed him back. In my haste shield Alistair away a sword cut me inches beneath my right eye. From how it stung and the fact I wasn't dead, I could tell it wasn't deep. Clenching my teeth, I lashed out with both blades. Alistair protectively pushed out his shield around me, as a field of swords bared down on us. We defiantly weren't winning this fight, and if we didn't get out of there now, were could only hope for a quick death. I pushed back at Alistair who pulled me up, he swung out and hit one in the jaw; I recoiled in horror as the guy's jaw hung slack from his face. Alistair had to pull me along as we ran back to the main group. When Zevran noticed us running, he gabbed at Alistair and me, then Cassandra joined us. Zevran eyed me, worriedly, as Alistair supported me. I ground my teeth in agony as the pain finally registered. Cassandra summoned a mage forward to help me. The mage's power surged through me, as her fingers healed my wound. That will leave a scar. I could hear the roar of the bandits who attacked us. Alistair pulled the mage and me further back into the camp; the soldiers beat down on the bandits. In the distance, I could hear Zevran's voice shouting out death threats.

When the mage was finished, she ran off to help anyone else who may be injured. Alistair helped me to my feet. Because of the mage's healing, I felt powerful. Powerful enough to take on a large group of bandits. Alistair realised my intentions and threw out his arm, to stop me. "Forget it." His face was inches from mine as he growled. I glared at him from under my eyelashes, but I knew I could never win over him. The jealousy that raged through me, made it impossible for me to watch the fight, but on top of that I couldn't watch because Alistair was in front of me. Even through the blood-matted hair and the blood sprayed across his face, he looked brilliantly handsome. His face was serious but I could see the half amused smile in his eyes as I tried to push past him.

After what felt like forever, the fighting ended, then Alistair let me pass. The camp was full of injured soldiers being treated by mages. Cassandra was pacing angrily, clearly confused at the large group of bandits. I had never seen such a large group of bandits, , at least not ones so well trained. I spotted Zevran amongst the injured, and felt guilty for thinking of 50 ways to make him scream like a woman. I noticed Riona was at his side, tending to his wounds in a motherly way. A thought came to mind, but I shook it off just as quickly. I glanced back at Alistair who was also looking at Zevran and Riona, his eyes narrowed in curiosity. He noticed me watching and raised his eyebrow questioningly; I shrugged in response.

Cassandra spotted us and stalked over. "We can't stay here, as soon as those injuries are treated …we're leaving." She left us bewildered, but we knew our orders. By the time everyone was ready, we packed up everything we could. I stood, awkwardly, behind Alistair as he told everyone the plan. His tone was inspiring, influenced by so many years as king. Everyone was listening, they all took in his words, in those moments I saw the King of Ferelden, and I felt proud of him.

The night was cold as we lay down for the night, over five miles from where our camp was attacked. No tree's lined the camp as we were camped by a cliff's edge; stars filled the sky. I noticed someone standing over me, gazing up I saw the long legs of Riona Cousland.

"May I join you?" She asked, lying down before I could refuse. As we lay side by side, I focused again towards the stars. "How's Alistair?" She asked, quickly breaking the comfortable silence.

I shifted uncomfortably. "He's fine, why?" I asked defensively.

"He seems so distant. Lately, you're the only one he talks to. And I heard you the other night back at the palace. You must know what's wrong with him." She kept pushing. I felt embarrassed that she had overheard us. However, I was more confused at why she thought something was wrong.

"Alistair is fine. Even if he wasn't, it wouldn't be my place to tell you." She was irritating me already, I knew she was just concerned, but why couldn't she just go to Alistair herself. Why drag me into it?

Riona sighed. "I didn't mean to pry, I just can't help but worry about him." She hesitated. "I heard that Anders is here somewhere." She sat up and look at me, curiously. "I knew him before back in Amaranthine, before Justice took over." Did she want to talk about it? I raised an eyebrow at her.

I sat up too; I held my legs against my chest. I took in her features for the first time. Her blue eyes were perfectly shaped and seductive, her nose long yet petite, her mouth formed a stupid heart shape that any guy would love to kiss, including Alistair. Her hair deep black still tied into a tight bun. I wondered what I must look to her, my auburn hair hung messily down my back, a scar was forming just below my eye. My lips were perfectly rounded but covered in cuts.

"I know; Anders told me." I said bluntly. I didn't know where she was going with this. I really hoped she wasn't expecting us to be friends. Riona didn't look surprised that I knew, but she did look hurt at my bluntness.

"Cameron, I understand your loyalty to Alistair, but I'm sensing you have other problems with me." For once, she seemed uncomfortable,.

"Oh, of course I have problems with you. Like I spent the past 14 years fretting over what you do and do not do. Oh, and just 'cause you're the Hero of Ferelden means I'm going to fall at your feet…Look Riona, yes I'm loyal to Alistair; I do think you're a great person and I'm grateful you saved us all. However…"I hesitated. What was I going to say? That I was jealous of her? That I only hated her because Alistair used to love her? In my mind and at this moment I finally realised I was a petty, jealous 35 year-old woman with only two friends to my name.

Riona looked upset by my tone. "I'm sorry you feel that way." She stood up to walk away; in my guilt I rose to stop her.

"I'm sorry Riona. I'm…Jealous." I hung my head in embarrassment.

"Of what?" She was clearly bemused. I raised my head to see her confusion. Surely she knew or even sensed what I was talking about.

I looked away from her, disgusted with myself. "Your gorgeous, you know it, everyone knows it. How can I compete with you?" I bit my lip. Riona raised her eyebrow still confused. Ok, she might be a Hero but was she really that dumb? "I have no chance with you around." My shoulders sagged just as realisation came to her face.

"You mean…you and Alistair?" She tried a reassuring smile. "There is nothing between myself and Alistair, not anymore. I did love him once upon a time, but I've since moved on. I'm sorry if you feel I'm stealing your limelight. But do you think so low of yourself? If I may be so bold, you're a gorgeous woman and I've heard the guard's talking about your amazing, butt…" She smiled, with a playful wink. I began to feel a liking for this woman. Her words rang with truth, and I felt I needed to repay her for my childish behaviour.

"Thank you, Riona." I reached out and hugged her; she didn't hesitate to hug me back. "Tell you what; to show you I'm not always the childish woman you just saw confessing her jealously, how about I treat you to the finest lunch of all. Wolf soup." I pulled back and winked at her. She giggled under her breath, as I pulled her back toward camp.

I woke to find that it would be another sun-filled day. I rolled over to find Riona only a few feet away, sleeping soundly. Last night had been full of gossip and stories. I had learned the full truth behind her family's death. Once or twice I cursed Arl Rendon Howe's name under my breath. I sat up to meet the curious eyes of Alistair, who had risen from his tent on the other side of camp. I smiled at him, graciously, and then I picked myself up and walked over to him. I gave him a warm hug, and another blush immediately crept onto my cheeks. It was like an alarm sounding, that I was clearly attracted to this man. Alistair laughed as I pulled away. "Have a fun night?" He asked, nodding towards Riona who was still asleep. I grinned widely.

"She's great to talk to. I do not understand how you could ever have let her go." Alistair frowned but didn't comment, as I imagined slamming my head against a brick wall. "Sorry, it's just hard to think of her betraying you like she did."

Alistair shook his head. "Don't fret, Cam. She is a great person. And I'm glad you two finally got acquainted." He smiled down at me. I felt the need to kiss him. I ducked behind him and into his tent. "Cam?"

"Come here." I called out. He crawled into the tent. Kneeling in front of me, I shifted forward to plant a kiss firmly on his lips.

"What was that for?" He breathed as I leaned back onto my heels.

"Let's just say, I got a kick in my ass." I winked at him; I knew there was a long way to go before we could be official, but life is short, Alistair's was even shorter than mine, so I had to take every chance I got.

The End

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