But I've Got a Gun
The reason Eleanor kept the bedroom on the lower floor of the house was because it was the one with the full bath. Upstairs there was a shower, but down here, the full left corner of her bedroom was taken up by a bathroom with an old, claw foot tub and a sink with a giant vanity mirror.
Eleanor had dumped the better part of a jar of bath salts into the water and ran it hot, despite the summer temperatures. The sky had opened up on the way home from the store and Eleanor had run the Civic through the mud to take the soldier’s supplies out to the barn. She dropped him off there and had taken the rest of the things into the house herself, her shoes and jeans becoming slick with mud with each successive trip. She’d left her shoes on the porch, mopped up the mud, and thrown her jeans in the hamper, and now slipped down into the deep, warm bath to wash it and the already-long day off of herself.
The windows were covered with heavy drapes for privacy but the panes were open, and they let in just enough of the rainy light and wind and rain sound to soothe Eleanor into a sort of waking sleep. She let her long hair slip down into the water, let it cover her up to her chin.
She’d either closed her eyes or lost track of time because the next thing she knew, the sun had gone almost entirely down, the only light left in the room a sort of hazy blue twilight, and the water was not cold, but it was tepid, and there was a pounding on her bedroom door.
“Eleanor! Ellie!” It was Cullen’s voice. He pounded again.
“Cullen!” She sat up in the bath, and hoped he could hear her voice between a room and two doors. “I’m in the bath! Gimme just a minute, okay?”
“Bad news, Ellie; hurry!” he called back.
She sighed, yanking the plug, the opaque water swirling down the drain. She wanted to wash the salt off of her skin, out of her hair, but apparently there wasn’t time for that. “You can come in the bedroom,” she shouted, standing and reaching for the towel. The room seemed chilly, too chilly, and she couldn’t tell if it was from the bath or the storm or something else entirely, and she quickly dried off, listening as Cullen swung the bedroom door open and closed. Eleanor wrapped the towel around herself tightly and went into the bedroom to meet him, and to find some clothes.
“What is it?” she asked him, barely casting him a glance as she went to her dresser for garments.
Cullen was propped up against the door frame, half in his armor and half out - knee guards over his jeans, cuirass and spaulders and pauldrons, sans fur, over a dirty t-shirt. His worn leather gloves were shoved in his front pocket and he was picking anxiously at a thumbnail. He looked up at her, biting his lip, and said, “I’ll give you two guesses.”
“God damn it,” Eleanor groaned. She figured it had to be darkspawn, but for Cullen to be kitted out meant his troops needed reinforcements. “Let me dress,” she said, skillfully wiggling underwear up without lifting her towel. Cullen averted his eyes but there was no need; Eleanor clasped her bra over the towel and when she let it fall to the ground, she was covered as much as she cared to be.
“You don’t need -”
“This is my fucking farm,” she said sternly, hiking her jeans up to her hips and zipping then violently. She pointed at Cullen, “And I may not have all that, but I’ve got a gun.”
As she yanked a shirt from her drawer and tossed a pair of socks onto the area rug, Cullen said softly, “I don’t want to put you in danger.”
Part of her wanted to smile. Part of her wanted to shout at him. But there wasn’t time for either, so she pulled the shirt over her head and said, “Tough luck, Commander.”
Her boots sunk into the mud, and Eleanor steadied the shotgun on her shoulder.
Just because she hated the gun didn’t mean she didn’t know how to use it. She and her father had picked off empty beer cans from a few hundred feet when she was young, and she had been good. She’d only stopped when he’d tried to get her to hunt rabbits with him - rabbits that had, admittedly, been chewing the shit out of their lettuce - and when Eleanor saw the blood and guts sprayed across the field she cried until she threw up. She hadn’t shot the gun since then, and she didn’t know how much of her skill remained, but she could at least say confidently that she knew what she was doing.
The rain rolled down her back. It had splattered her glasses too badly for her to put them to any real use, so she pushed them up on her head to keep her hair out of her eyes. They did more good there than they had on her face, but ahead she could only make out blurry shapes, her bad eyesight, the distance, the night, and the rain colluding against her. She couldn’t take a shot until she knew she had a shot, and with the soldiers - and Cullen and Dorian - fighting the darkspawn in such close quarters so far away, she didn’t have anything like a shot she could take. But Cullen had demanded if she were going to fight, she was going to stay well away from the actual fighting. So far as he was concerned, she was protecting the house, but from back here, she just barely make out the actual battle at all.
But she could hear it. Clashes and clangs, metal on metal, a buzzing zap, not unlike the one that had opened the Breach - the Breach that had dwindled to a pale, green speck in the sky except for when it was being used - that she assumed was the sound of Dorian’s staff in action, and screams. So many screams.
Very rarely, it was the men and women who screamed. Much more often it was the darkspawn, howling like demons with otherworldly fury and pain. Eleanor hoped that this was a good thing, hoped that this was a sign of their imminent defeat, but as cold rain streamed in rivulets down her spine and into her jeans, she was feeling pretty defeated herself. She felt like she had been standing on the lawn for hours, arms growing tired from holding the shotgun against her hip, the sight up to her eye, and she was no longer sure it would fire in such heavy precipitation. She held it anyway.
There was a large burst of light, and then silence. Silence, except for the rain.
Eleanor stayed frozen, still holding her gun, in case this was the very moment she needed it. Then, unable to bear the stillness any longer, she flicked on the safety, held the gun by its barrel, pointed it at the ground to keep the rain out, and ran headlong toward the battlefield.
She reached it more quickly than she had expected to. What had seemed so far away when Eleanor was waiting, forced to hold her ground, she now came upon quickly, the combatants growing rapidly in height as her perspective changed. When she was only a few yards away, she called out, “Cullen! Dorian!” She couldn’t see anymore fighting.
“Ellie!” she heard the commander’s voice. “I told you to stay near the house!”
She jogged up to him, dripping wet, glasses askew on the top of her head, and said breathlessly, “I saw a light. It got quiet.” Eleanor surveyed the troops, and saw Dorian being held up by his arms between two soldiers who looked almost as wiped out. The exhausted mage smiled weakly, and gave Eleanor a wink.
Dashing over to him, she put a hand on his forehead first, then his chest, and said quietly, “Are you alright?”
“Fine, I’m perfectly fine, Ellie. A bit winded, is all. I’ll just have a nice rest now, if these two strapping young lads wouldn’t mind taking me back to my room…”
“Be careful with him,” she told the soldiers, and they smiled up at her, sensing her tentative levity.
She turned back to Cullen, who was surveying the scene. On the ground were dead darkspawn. Maybe a dozen. The most they’d seen out of the ravine so far. And they were so close to the farm. So close. A few soldiers were inspecting the bodies; a young woman picked up what looked to be some kind of amulet before she tossed it back down onto the corpse. “Nothing, Commander,” she called over the sound of the rain.
“Son of a bitch!” he cried, and threw his sword flatly into the mud, grasping his hair with his gloved hands and shouting wordlessly at the sky. As he stretched, Eleanor caught a glimpse of red on his shirt. Bright red. Even she now knew that darkspawn blood was more red-black, not at all light the bright stain she could even make out in the midnight haze.
Eleanor reached out, as though to touch him, and said, “You’re bleeding.”
Cullen looked down at his own shirt, pulling it out and away from his body. “I’m…” it was almost a question at first, then his resolve strengthened again. “It’s fine, it’s nothing.” He took a long, deep breath and, letting his head hang a bit, he pointed back to the house, before bending down to pick up his sword. “Come on. Let’s go.” They followed the two soldiers that carried Dorian, and the rest of the troops followed behind. All of them walked in silence.