warning: implied child abuse, major character death, bigotry, AU medieval setting.
fandom: mass effect
pairring: kaidan/mshep, implied; miranda/shep, jack/shep
The next day when Kaidan came to help Shepard outside, he found the cell empty, puzzled he started to make his way down the dark hallway, and halfway he saw Shepard, awkwardly leaning in his crutch, cradling his broken arm across his chest. “Shepard.” Kaidan said softly, “Don’t strain yourself; you should have waited for me. What if you fell?”
“I am a soldier Brother Alenko.” Shepard hissed out between gritted teeth.
“I know.” Kaidan said, “I am here if you need me.” Then he just walked slowly next to Shepard until they were outside. “You wanted to go down into the settlement?”
“Yes.” Shepard said panting slightly. “I might need your arm to lean on.”
Kaidan smiled but did not laugh. “That is what I am here for.” He held his arm out for Shepard to lean on.
“So last night, I spent a long time thinking about some of the things you said yesterday.” Shepard said, “About the filth and constant death.”
“I know that when you set up a military camp, one which you know you are going to stay at for a while, maybe months. You make sure that there is a specific place where people go to shit.” Shepard frowned as the stink of the settlement hit him full on. “I know this is not a military camp, but still…”
“So what would you suggest?” Kaidan asked, nodding as he greeted some of the people of the settlement.
“I suggest getting every able bodied person to dig two holes for the people to go shit in, so it’s not, well here.” He nodded to the muddy path they walked on. “I have seen this on the battlefield; rotting corpses and poor sanitation have brought armies to their knees with disease.” Shepard said.
“Your words sound wise, and I will take the suggestion to the Senior Priest today.” Kaidan said.
“Knight-Commander!” Someone called, Shepard looked up and saw four men standing in front of him, “We heard you were dead, Ser.”
“I’m not.” Shepard just stated. “Why are you here?” He asked puzzled.
“I was left for dead at the battle with the chieftain, and I made my way here, as for the others, I think that is their story to tell.” The soldier said. The three other men looked down at the grime on their feet.
Kaidan leaned in and whispered, “They are probably deserters all of them, if you must discipline them, I would that you did so elsewhere.”
Shepard looked at Kaidan for a moment, and then turned to the soldiers, “I care not why you are here, let us just be glad to be alive.”
“Bless you Ser!” the soldier sighed happily, “Come share our food if you are not too busy, Knight-Commander.”
“I would not impose.”
“You are not.” The soldier said, “Come please, it is the least we can do.”
“Very well.” Shepard said, Kaidan letting go of his arm, and the soldier stepping in where Kaidan had been.
“I shall come find you later.” Kaidan said with a genuine smile before he turned and walked up the hill again, he had heard tales about Shepard’s cruelty, his uncompromising leadership, and yet he had forgiven these men so easily. Kaidan’s smile widened, maybe this place was really a place of spiritual change and healing, and maybe Shepard really was fate-sent? He could honestly say he had not expected a lot of Shepard, but he had shown to be so much more than what he had thought.
Later that evening Kaidan went to the Senior Priest who was in the main room of worship in the temple, arranging some of the candles and offerings that people had left for the shard of Sovereign. “Forgive me your holiness; can I interrupt you for but a moment?”
“Alenko.” The Senior Priest sighed. “If you must.”
“I spoke with the Knight-Commander, and he wished to make some improvements to the settlement, I believe he knows what –“
The Senior Priest turned to look at Kaidan in the light of the candles, “Is he well enough to travel?”
“No, Ser.” Kaidan said. “His arm has not mended, and he needs aid to walk.”
“Alright.” The Senior Priest nodded, “He can do what he sees fit to improve the settlement, as long as it does not harm the people, or us.”
‘Our noble cause, of self-serving’ Kaidan almost muttered under his breath, but just nodded, “Thank you your holiness.” He said softly, bowing courteously before he exited the hall, he went in search of Brother Tiber whom he shared a room with, eager to set things into motion.
The next day when Shepard leaned a little less on his crutch, feeling strength returning to his legs, it took him much shorter time to get outside to the courtyard than it had the previous days. What met him though, he had not been prepared for. There stood Alenko with another Brother, and around twelve men, some Shepard knew, and some he had never seen before. Some of the men were fidgeting more than the others.
“Knight-Commander Shepard.” Kaidan said with a victorious grin, “I took your words to the Senior Priest, and he said that you could make whichever improvements to the camp as long as it didn’t harm anyone. So we collected all able bodied persons we could to aid you.”
“That is… that is magnificent!” Shepard lit up in a happy smile, “Thank you Brother Alenko and… uhm…”
“Brother Tiber.” Tiber said.
“And thank you Brother Tiber.” Shepard said politely, and then turned to the dozen men lined up. “My name is Knight-Commander Shepard, and before we start todays work, I will have you know that I care not where you came from, if you once were friend or foe. Today we work for this encampment to be a better place to stay, and I expect you all to fall in line and accept my command.”
“Yes, Ser!” The men who used to be soldiers bellowed and the farmers just muttered yes or nodded.
“Grand.” Shepard walked over carefully sat down on a piece of the wall that had broken off. “I want you four to dig a hole, big enough to fit a cow. You must dig it at least twenty strides from the outmost tent. Then I want you to spread the word that everyone who needs to relieve themselves, should use a bucket and empty it once a day, or just use the hole as is. Tell them it will cure anything from scurvy to warts if you must, I care not, just see to it that they understand it is important that they use that hole. When it’s almost full, we will dig a new one.”
He pointed at the next four men, “And you four will go to the outmost tent to the east and walk no less than ten strides from it and dig a hole big enough to fit a cow as well. And you will then take a cart and remove as much filth as you see on the muddy paths, take it to the hole and when you are done, you cast the dirt back on it.”
Shepard looked thoughtful for a moment, “Are there any locals here? A hunter maybe?”
“I used to have a farm close by, Ser.” A man said carefully raising his hand.
“Do you know if there are any animals left to shoot around?” Shepard asked.
“I don’t believe there is, most the animals around here both wild and domestic died from some odd sickness, not like the one people die from, but none the less they would start to act strange like were they drunk, and the keel over dead.” The man said.
“Hmmm.” Shepard scratched his matted hair. “Very well.” He pulled a small leather string over his head, which held three rings. He snapped the string and gave the one of the four last men it in his hand. “I charge you with going into town and trying to procure a cow or a horse, or just anything which is large and we can slaughter and cook up as soup for everyone.” He tied the leather string back together and tucked it in under his shirt.
He looked at Tiber and Alenko, “I would like to bury the dead instead of inhaling them with every breath I take, but I also agree that people are just dying too fast for us to bury them at this time. So I think I will go aid the people at the fire pits, and see if we can catch up.” He then tore a piece of his shirt at the bottom and tied around his nose and mouth so it fit like a mask, pulling it down again, he stood from his seat, only to find Kaidan at his side.
“I will accompany you.” Kaidan said, “Have to keep an eye on my charge, don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
Shepard had slept better that night than he had since he had in a long time, he had worked hard, ignoring Alenko when he had told him to slow down, there had been a job to do, and he had done it. This morning he woke by Alenko flinging the door to the cell open. “Shepard, Ser. You need to come see this.” He cheered.
“Alright.” Shepard rubbed his face and got to his feet, he reached for his crutch, he might not lean on it as much anymore, but he still needed it. He did not know why it hurt so to walk, he had not broken his legs or hip. He followed Alenko outside to see a pile of meat, and four very smiling men standing about.
“It’s a horse.” One of the men said, “We bought it off a miller, it had gone lame, but was healthy otherwise.”
Shepard just stared at the perfectly cut meat, and the men standing there waiting for him to speak. “That is…” Shepard looked up and split in a huge grin. “Perfect!”
The men nodded and relaxed some.
“I suppose we could cook some gruel that would feel everyone.” Kaidan said looking the meat over.
“My thought exactly.” Shepard agreed, he addressed the men again, “Does any of you know how to cook something like this so it will feed everyone?”
The men shook their heads.
It had not taken long to find some persons who could make the horsemeat stretch so everyone would have a full belly for tonight. Shepard sat on a rock overlooking camp, listening to the women behind him laugh and talk, they all sounded less listless than before. He knew that one day of food would not go far, but it was more than they had yesterday.
“Shepard.” Kaidan said softly, sitting down next to him, fresh bandage in hand. “I have been forgetting to change your bandage, tightening your shins,” He held out a hand, palm up. “Can I have your arm please.”
Shepard held out his arm, letting Kaidan take off the dirty bandage. “I can’t save them, you know that.”
“I know.” Kaidan said, “But you are trying your best.”
Shepard laughed softly, “Trying isn’t good enough.”
“You know, when you were first brought here, I did not know what to expect. And I do not mean, if you lived or died, but you, when or if you woke.”
“Oh?” Shepard turned to look at Kaidan, “In which way?”
“I never thought you were compassionate, humble and, accommodating.” Kaidan said, his cheeks flushing slightly as he admitted his private thoughts, embarrassed to admit to them now, but he still felt it was important for Shepard to know.
Shepard on the other hand just shrugged, “You only heard the stories I take it. How I would bathe in the blood of my enemies and so forth.” He actually laughed at this, “I will not lie, to command a garrison does require a good portion of authority, and the willingness to go first, and follow through with punishments. How else would you get the respect needed?”
Kaidan just listened and nodded. “Still, I always took you for a spoiled noble who had fortune on his side, enough so that he could walk through life entitled and rich.”
“You thought me a noble?” Shepard chuckled, “I am not.” He hesitated for a moment as he turned to look out over the settlement, “My mother was a prostitute, my father I – He could have been anyone. I never questioned it, but sure I harboured dreams about my rich father would come and take me with him.” Shepard looked down at his hands, idly scratching mending arm. “When she discovered she had fallen pregnant she went home to her parents in disgrace, she stayed long enough to give birth and then soon after she left for the city once more… She never came back.”
“I’m…” Kaidan whispered, shocked that he could have misjudged Shepard’s origin so.
“I stayed with my old grandparents on their farm till they died. When they had died, I had nothing, the Earl owned the farm, and – A long story short, I was fifteen winters as I arrived in the city. Maybe I had at one point hoped to find my mother, I never did. She was probably long dead.” Shepard chuckled bitterly to himself, “Black Annie. That was her name.”
Kaidan placed a hand on Shepard’s shoulder. “I am sorry to hear that your life started so rough.”
“It was nothing.” Shepard said, “Anyway it ended with then Prince James’ wet-nurse took me in, and that is how I ended up at court.” He finally turned to Kaidan, “You were born noble, yes?”
“I was.” Kaidan said, “I had a wonderful childhood, big mansion, adoring parents, siblings to play with in the garden, servants to bring me whatever I wanted.” Kaidan echoed Shepard’s bitter smile, “You might have met my sister, Lady Ashley of Sirona.”
“The name rings familiar, I believe I might have been introduced to her once.” Shepard nodded, “But I am afraid that I don’t really remember her.”
“There is not a whole lot to tell,” Kaidan said, “I presume she still lives with our parents.”
“Does the temple prohibit that you contact your family?” Shepard asked.
“No.” Kaidan said, “They don’t exactly condone it either, but if I really wanted to visit, I suppose I could.” He got up with a heavy sigh, “Very well, I should return to my duties, I have been neglecting them for too long, and you seem like you are able to get around on your own now… So, I will be in the temple if you need me.” He nodded courteously at Shepard and left.
Shepard watched him leave, thinking that he must have struck a nerve for Alenko to literally run off like that. There was not much he could do about that, so he returned to soaking up the sun. He listened to the ladies behind him as they stirred the giant iron cauldron with the meat gruel.