To Sister L -
V.R. remains quiet. Knights in spire identified as lower-ranking soldiers. No officers within miles - anticipate the H. will have easy time recruiting them. Mother Hevara has been preaching in the city square each day. Unless you want us to knock her out and gag her (please?), we scouts are doing nothing but patiently awaiting the H.
Charter has the Val Royeaux scouts in place. Templars ripe for the plucking. Herald and Cassandra should be able to gather them quickly.
“Ripe for the plucking?” “Gather them?” You make it sound like the templars are apples. It’s somewhat disturbing.
I prefer plums, actually. By the way, have your soldiers found the artifact at the blast site yet?
Keran and his men have been scouting the temple ruins for days and found nothing.
While I entirely agree that a powerful artifact must have been involved in the Conclave explosion (nothing short of a kingdom’s worth of sacrifices and 7 magisters could tear the Veil open otherwise), it would be helpful to have some idea what we were looking for. Wasn’t it Solas who suggested that a foci was involved? Ask him about it, would you?
Also, templars are not like apples or plums, thank you very much. We’re like guard-hounds, if anything. Actually, don’t use that metaphor either.
I can’t recall if Solas suggested the foci or if I did. We spoke of the explosion, and concluded that an artifact must have been used.
As for the nature of the artifact involved, I don’t know what I would look like, but I assume it would stand out in the blast crater. Look for anything that’s not made of red lyrium or ash.
And I would ask Solas for clarification, certainly - but if you recall, he is protecting the Herald as she ventures to Val Royeaux. To get the plum-templars.
Oh, right. And do stop comparing the templars to fruit, if you please.
Cullen, do you know why Leliana is asking for plums to be included in our food order? They aren’t available this time of year, even from Antiva.
Can we get apples instead?
To Sister L -
The H. arrived at the V.R. docks. Shadowing her progress to the Grand Cathedral. Will send updates as often as possible.
SER COLON. WE WENT TO VAL ROYO LIKE YOU SAID TO. BUT A TEMPLAR PUNCHED A CLARIK IN THE FACE. I DON’T THINK HE SHUD DO THAT. THE HAROLD YELLED AT HIM. THEN THE LORD SEKER CAME AND TOOK ALL THE TEMPLARS AWAY. LADY CASANADRA WAS MAD. THE HAROLD WAS MAD. VARRIC MADE JOKES AND THEN LADY CASANDRA WAS MAD AT HIM, TO. THE BALD ELF DIDN’T SAY ANY THING. THE HAROLD TRIED TO TELL THE TEMPLARS THAT YOU WERE WITH THE INKWASISHUN. THE LORD SEKER SAID ‘SER COLON IS A TRAYTOR’ AND THE HAROLD TURNED ALL ICY WHEN HE SAID THAT. SHE HAD SNOW ON HER AND EVERY THING. THEN THE TEMPLARS LEFT. THEN AN ELF NAMED FEEOWNA SAID SHE WANTED TO JOIN US. ANOTHER ELF WANTS TO JOIN US, TO. HER NAME IS RED GINEE AND SHE SENT US ON A TRESHUR HUNT AFTER SHOOTING AN ARROW AT OUR FEET. SHE HAS A BAD HAIR KUT AND SHE SAYS I’M A LAFF. THE HAROLD WENT TO A FANSY PARTEE TONITE AND WHEN SHE COMES BACK WE’LL TAKE THE BOWT HOME.
YOR FRIND, MORRIS
Thank you for forwarding the message from Morris, Leliana. Also, thank you for instructing your scouts not to laugh overmuch at his phrasing.
Of course, Ser Colon.
I am never going to live that down, am I?
To Sister L -
Madam, I apologize. The situation in V.R. went sour, and I accept full responsibility. I understand, of course, if a termination of my contract is in order. The good news is that the H. is unharmed. The bad news is - well, it’s still a bit unclear what happened, exactly.
First, you must know that the Lord Seeker managed to get past our scouts without being seen. None of us have any idea how he did this. We were monitoring all the major routes of the city, paying off the guards, and I even had a couple of scouts watching the sewers. Absolutely no one saw him arrive. It’s like he popped up inside the White Spire out of thin air. Then, suddenly, he and the templars were marching on the square, just as the H. arrived. Uncanny timing.
We got into place around the square as instructed, ready for an ambush on the H. However, said ambush never took place. Instead, the Lord Seeker allowed a templar to punch the prattling Mother Hevara (I would have cheered at that, only it would have given away our position). It seemed like there would be further conflict, but the templars grew reluctant to engage once Morris reached for sword and placed himself in front of the H. Lord Seeker hastily denounced the H. and marched away. That was all. The H. and Seeker C. tried to persuade the templars not to leave, but it didn’t do any good. The templars followed the Lord Seeker out of the city and set sail on a ship bound for Gwaren. I was not able to get anyone stowed away aboard that vessel (again, the sudden arrival of the Lord Seeker had us all scrambling). However, I have sent two scouts to follow after at a safe distance. You may, perhaps, wish to send scouts to South Reach to track the templars. They should be easy enough to follow. They sound like a bunch of pots and pans clattering down the road.
Unfortunately, in all this confusion, we lost sight of the H. for a few hours. (As I said before, I accept responsibility for this failure.) One witness said he saw the H. speaking to a dark-haired elf in a robe. This was immediately following the templar incident, but we cannot confirm or deny that such a conversation took place. A dark-haired elf would match the description of Grand Enchanter Fiona, however. We understand that she landed in V.R. that morning and left again that evening. We also received reports that a nobleman known to harbor anti-Inquisition sentiments turned up dead in an alleyway, along with several dead men without pants. (?) Signs of battle all around. Unclear if H. involved. Cannot confirm her movements, however, not without leaving cover to speak to the H. directly. And you did instruct us not to do that, ma’am.
The H. reappeared again after nightfall, checking into her inn as expected. She immediately went out again, taking Morris with her. We trailed them to Duke Bastien’s town home, where the H. went inside for only an hour (leaving M. outside, naturally) before returning to the inn.
The H. and company set sail from V.R. docks this morning. A blond elf (unclear if this is the same elf as before or a new associate) boarded as well. She signed the ship’s log as ‘Lady Bits in Lady Pants.’ As we have no record of this alias (if it is an alias), we can only assume she wishes to remain unknown. On the other hand, First Enchanter Vivienne (could spot her a mile away with that horned helmet of hers), also boarded with the H. She loudly announced that she was joining the Inquisition to anyone who would listen. All are on their way to West Hill.
So, mission cocked up, but at least no one died. Awaiting further instructions, ma’am.
Well, that escalated quickly.
Indeed. I’ll plan a debrief with Charter when she returns. And don’t worry, Josie. I won’t terminate her.
You mean terminate Charter’s contract, correct?
Oh, of course. I won’t terminate her contract, either.
You meant terminate her life, didn’t you?
Maker’s breath! Templars punching clerics? The Lord Seeker showing up in the Spire and taking control of the templars? Elves popping up out of nowhere and I can only assume that ‘FEEOWNA’ is, indeed, Grand Enchanter Fiona, leader of the mage rebellion. I see she showed up as soon as the templars were out of the picture. And ‘RED GINEE’? Surely Trevelyan didn’t make contact with an actual member of the Red Jennies. I thought they were a Denerim myth.
How did all this get past your people, Leliana? I swear, Morris is better at reconnaissance than your scouts are.
Come now, Ser Colon. That was uncalled for.
No, that was uncalled for.
You’re just annoyed that the templars took off to Maker knows where and the mages are the now willing to negotiate with us. Admit it.
I’m not — Fine. An alliance with Fiona and the rebels will be problematic, especially in light of what just happened in Val Royeaux. We will further upset the Chantry by siding with the rebellion, and I don’t have nearly enough templars to deal with any problems that might crop up with the mages. Besides, I hate to abandon the templars to the Lord Seeker’s dubious care. Maker only knows what he’s up to,
plucking recruiting the templars like that. I worry for the younger knights especially.
Please have your scouts find out where he’s taking them, Leliana. This won’t end well, I fear.
Don’t worry, Cullen. My people are already tracking the templars. We’ll watch the entire situation carefully, and make a decision about which group to approach when the Herald and Cassandra return.
“Make a decision,” is it? I think we already know what she plans to do.
By ‘she,’ are you referring to the Herald or to Lady Cassandra, Cullen? Because if you can anticipate Cassandra’s decisions and moods, please let me know how you managed it. I can never determine what that woman is thinking.
That makes two of us, but no, I meant Trevelyan. I’ll start preparing the soldiers for an influx of mages in Haven. Maker help us all.
She hasn’t decided anything yet. And the mages may surprise you with their competence, commander.
I notice you didn’t reply to my earlier note, Cullen. I’ll not read into that.
I also notice that neither of you seem to think that the disappearance of the Grey Wardens is suspicious. I still say we should look into it.
Wardens are wanderers. Everyone knows that. Besides, Ruvena said she saw a Grey Warden just last week, passing through the Hinterlands.
If you’re that worried, I suggest that we ask the Herald to track the fellow down when she gets the chance. I’d send my own people after him, but the Herald is a bit more persuasive than the foot soldiers are. Hard to argue with the mark on her hand, after all.
Good idea, Cullen. I’ll send word to West Hill and see if she’s willing to track down that warden sooner rather than later.
This just arrived, along with an empty mustard jar:
I’m on my way to join your party Because it sounds like fun And the sky’s got its trousers down. Best not tell anyone I’m with you But they wouldn’t know me anyway. I’m thinking jars of…bees?
Does this make sense to either of you?
Well at least this next letter makes sense. You recognize the name, Leliana? At last, someone with connections.
We can build on this, I am sure of it.
To Ambassador Montilyet, Sister Leliana, and Knight-Captain Cullen:
Greetings to you all. My name is Vivienne, First Enchanter of the Montsimmard Circle (position pending), Enchanter to the Imperial Court, and Mistress to Duke Bastien de Ghislain. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.
I just finished speaking with your charming Herald. She was kind enough to attend my little soiree just now, and I must say, she is a treasure. I was inclined to think well of her, as my dear friend Senior Enchanter Lydia of the Ostwick Circle always spoke so highly of her protege. But now, having met Lady Katerina Trevelyan, I am quite impressed by the young woman on her own merits as well. She clearly knows how to navigate the social waters with grace and decorum. (Though really, I would suggest that the Inquisition employ a better tailor for her as soon as may be arranged. The Herald is quite striking on her own, but a bit of help in the form of more imposing armor would do wonders to further the Inquisition’s image.)
The Herald and I enjoyed a lengthy discussion of the situation in Thedas these days. While I am a touch troubled by her youthful optimism (she is less wary of the mage rebellion than she ought to be, I believe), I have no doubt that Lady Katerina is more concerned with closing the breach than furthering any particular political agenda of her own. That is so refreshing a thing to see, especially to one as deeply involved in the Grand Game as myself. Your little Herald really does you all great credit.
As such, I have agreed to join your cause. I fear that magic cut this hole in the sky and thus, I strongly feel that magic may be needed to close it. As the Monsimmard Circle has fallen, I bring no mage but myself to your aid. However, I am an enchantress of no small talent, and as a further advantage I know a great many people in Val Royeaux and, well, nearly everywhere. I require no compensation for my help, except for a little room to set up a proper magical study. I would prefer to be in a non-flammable building with a high ceiling, if you please. Alchemy has a tendency to be a bit dangerous. But then, all magic is, as you well know.
I will meet you all shortly, and send my fondest affection and regards.
First Enchanter of Montsimmard (position pending)
Enchanter to the Imperial Court
Mistress to Duke Bastien de Ghislain
(dictation taken down by Tim, undersecretary to the Ghislains)
Is that woman serious? Who introduces themselves as a mistress? I can’t tell if she’s joking or what.
That’s just Vivienne, commander. She’s always like that. You get used to it.
In Orlais, a consort is a respectable position, Cullen. And thank the Maker that our Herald held her own at an impromptu Orlesian party, without us to coach her through the evening. She may not have gotten the templars on our side, but at least she can manage simple diplomacy. That is a great relief.
A great relief indeed. Because even if we have no templars or mages to close the breach, perhaps we can talk it shut.
I didn’t mean it like that. You are in a foul mood today, aren’t you commander? Is it another headache?
Yes. It is. And…thank you for asking. And for the tea.
To Sister L -
Copying the message that just arrived here at West Hill for the Herald. For your records, ma’am:
So, this is Coll, leaving you a message because all this merc business is taking longer than I expected. Also, getting into the lovely lieutenant’s bed is taking longer than I expected, too. Ah, sweet anticipation.
First things first. Why didn’t you remind me that I hate the outdoors? The outdoors is bollocks. There’s a reason the ancient elves lived indoors and it’s because roofs are the best invention since roofs. This camping-out shite is for the birds. And speaking of birds, they’re noisier from inside a tent. Owls waking me all night and tweeting birds waking me in the morning. Makes me want to blast them all with fire. And I did, actually. Krem and I had a roasted owl one morning for breakfast. Not as bad as you’d think, either. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
We found the horn-head. He was fighting horn-heads. Not other qunari, mind you, but Tevinter mages with the stupidest helmets you’ve ever seen. It’s like they wanted to grow up to be unicorns, and this was the best they could manage. Anyhow, the Chargers are pretty amazing. Even I was impressed. Krem’s a wonder with sword and shield, that ‘Bull’ fellow uses an axe that’s taller and heavier than me. Alright, that’s not saying much, but still. He’s also a walking gray-muscle pillow with his titties hanging out and a complete pain in the arse. We were trading insults within a minute of meeting each other, so you know he’s alright. Krem says I fit right in, which is a laugh. If this Inquisition thing doesn’t work out for us, I think we can get a job with these mercs. What do you say to that, Kate? Yeah, I don’t think so either.
By the way, Iron Bull is Ben Hassrath - a qunari secret police spy. You remember learning about them in history class, right? Makes sense, really. Why else would he want to join our merry band of loonies? Turns out the Qun wants to keep an eye on the breach. That means they want to keep an eye on you while you seal the breach. But it’s not like we could stop the Ben Hassrath from spying on us from afar, right. Might as well let them get up close. I figure the Nightingale already knows about all this though. Come to think of it, she’s probably going to get a copy of this letter, isn’t she? Alright, Nightingale, if you’re reading this, keep the bit about me wanting the bed the shem lieutenant to yourself, will you? Right. Thanks.
Alright, so we took out the Vints, Bull’s a right weird one, Krem’s beautiful when he’s got rain pouring down his face (Again, Nightingale, keep that to yourself), and then everything went fecked. We got a message that some of the Inquisition scouts went missing. Now, you know I really don’t like trouble, Kate (except when pretty people are involved), but I thought to myself, ‘Now what would Kate do if she was here?’ And knowing you, you’d go off running to save those people, no matter how long you were out in the rain and muck or whatever. So I thought, ‘Ah, shite, Kate. Why do you have to be so noble? I hate that about you.’ (But not really, Kate. You’re lovely.)
Anyhow, me and the Chargers off and went to look for the Inquisition scouts, and that’s why we’re not gonna meet you at West Hill for a boat ride to Haven. Not to worry though. I’m sure we’ll see you in a few weeks time and it will be all lovely. Hopefully by then, I’ll have gotten Krem to share my tent. Wish me luck and a good bedding!
Ben Hassrath? Seriously?
And this is the person Trevelyan sent to recruit the mercenaries? Maker’s breath.
The Ben Hassrath already sent us the payments, Cullen. I set up the accounts last week.
Also, that Dalish concerns me. She has no history prior to showing up in the Ostwick Circle. But I’m working on it.
So long as we’re working on things, can we work on finding some more room for out soldier’s tents? The shore of the lake is getting crowded. I’d like to use that clearing near the healer’s hut, if we can manage it.
And that means Lady Dummar will need to move out of said healer hut, yes? Of course it does. Alright, I’ll see what I can do. All she does is complain about the cold, so I don’t understand why she insists on this extended pilgrimage.
I would happily move our troops to some other location if I could. Corporal Vale has a handful of recruits that I need to go inspect soon, so perhaps the Crossroads would do?
You know we can’t do that, Cullen. That brief altercation with the duRelions aside (which, thank the Maker, was easily handled), Haven is the only spot in Thedas that ‘belonged’ to Divine Justina. This is holy ground, and therefore neutral ground.
If we move our base of operations into either Ferelden or Orlais, we will be seen as an invading army. The political scandal could well end us - not to mention, any troops sent to remove us.
So the banns of Ferelden and the lords of Orlais will allow us to patrol their outlying farms, to close their rifts, and save their peasants, but Andraste forbid that we actually live on their land somewhere safe and central and sane?
And you wonder why I get so exasperated with the nobility.
Fine. It’s not like vacant, neutral-ground fortresses are just lying around, waiting to be occupied. We’ll make do with living on this mountain ridge, even if it is like setting up camp on a knife’s edge.
But I will remind you: winter is coming. If you don’t like Haven now, you’re going to hate it when a Frostback blizzard rolls in.
Oh, stop, you two. You know we need to stand our ground here, if only to show the world that nothing - not even the Chantry - can expel us from this spot.
And speaking of that, we have a situation, commander. This was delivered by one of my scouts. It bore the note, ‘Only the Eyes of the Sky-Tearer and the Commander of her Sky-Armies may view this letter.’ Naturally, I read it at once. It complicates things, as you will see.
To the Sky-Tearer and the Commander of her Sky-Armies (Lady Katerina and Commander Cullen):
You have offended the Lady of the Skies with your claw-magic (they blame you for the breach). I, the Hand of Korth (the Avvar chieftains’ son) challenge you to a shield-reckoning (duel) on behalf of our Lady (his goddess, I presume). I have taken your Shield-Sister (Ser Lysette of Ostwick) and her War-Makers (Sword Regiment One). They reside with us in the Mire of the Dead (the Fallow Mire) at the Rotting Keep (several miles past Fisher’s End was where they ambushed us. This looks like a Grey Warden outpost, could probably find it on an old map).
Your shield-siblings are as yet unharmed (that’s true. Don’t worry about us). So long as you answer our challenge by the Lady’s Day (I don’t know what this is. A week from now? A month?), we will let them go (doubtful. don’t listen to him).
But because I am a proud warrior (he’s a posturing oaf) I will not fight a weak, spirit-siphoning augur (a mage?). I demand that the Sky-Tearer appoint the Sky-Army-Commander as her champion (meaning Commander Cullen). I will fight him and kill him while she looks on with salt-tears. (Lady Kate, and Commander Cullen, too, we’re fine. Don’t risk your safety over this idiot. We’ll find a way to break free. I just have to keep writing so he doesn’t get too suspicious)
As the Hand of Korth does not deal in the bewitched letters of the heathen lowlanders, this message has been recorded by Ser Lysette of Ostwick. (Thank the Maker he doesn’t read.)
I think my headache just became a migraine.
You must do something! We can’t possibly leave our people to die in the mire. Regardless of if the templars or mages join us, we must protect our own. If we abandon our own people, we may as well tears ourselves apart from the inside out.
This will require a delicate touch. Commander, when you have a moment, meet me in the Chantry and we can discuss the best way to approach this.
Of course I’m not going to abandon these soldiers in the mire, Josephine. For the Maker’s sake, what do you take me for? Leliana and I have decided on a way to handle it. Send a message — Never mind. I’ll send a message to the Herald, and hope it reaches her in time. If we can intercept her at West Hill, this rescue will go a great deal more quickly.
Kate Lady Kat Herald
I know you just returned While not an official soldier
We have a situation. It seems your friend, Ser Lysette, and her regiment were taken by hostiles. To add to the complication, their captor demands that
we you and I must both be present to rescue them. I am including a copy of the Avvar’s letter for your review. As you will see, it is nonsense bears dealing with. At this early venture, we cannot risk our people falling into enemy hands. It makes us appear weak, and it hardly recommends us to potential recruits. Also, our people are counting on me you us.
Leliana and I have formulated a plan for rescue. Time is of the essence.
Meet me Please join me I will be at the Crossroads in the Hinterlands. When you arrive, we will set out at once. Likely gone a week. C Commander Cul
“More bad news, Duchess?”
Kate glanced up from Cullen’s letter to find Varric looking at her warily. Varric sat on a crate, as did all the rest of Kate’s companions. The Waking Sea churned beyond the docks. Kate’s short hair was whipped by the wind, and she blinked against the spray that splashed into her eyes.
Solas stared out across the water. Cassandra watched Kate with an unreadable expression. Their new companion, Sera, had acquired an entire armful of meat pies. How the young elf had managed that in so short a time, Kate did not know, but Sera was sharing her bounty with an eager and appreciative Morris. While the two stuffed their faces, Enchanter Vivienne lounged atop her two trunks of luggage, managing to look impossibly regal and unaffected by the wild weather around her.
“Must be bad news,” Sera said, around a mouthful of pie. “Look at that puckered face she’s got on.”
“Did you get mustard?” Morris asked Sera.
“Pfft,” the elf snorted. “‘Course. What, you think I’d forget something like that?”
“What are our instructions?” Cassandra wanted to know.
“Looks like a lot to do, from all that paper in your hand,” Varric added. “And here I was hoping for a nap.”
“Such wild daydreams you have, Master Tethras,” Solas said, amused.
Kate looked at the last message once again, holding tightly to the paper as the wind threatened to rip it from her hands. This note from Cullen troubled her - troubled her in far more ways than the most obvious one - but she refused to let that show. In the past week, Kate had realized something rather alarming: these people trusted her. For whatever reason, they expected Kate to lead them.
They had expected her to speak with the sailors and, since she had the money purse, they had expected Kate to pay for the ship’s fees. Then Cassandra gave Kate the map and expected Kate to navigate the streets of Val Royeaux. Obviously, everyone had expected Kate to speak to the clerics and the templars, though that had been a complete mess. Then, as they had all stood around, staring at the now-empty city square, Morris had said he was hungry and everyone looked to Kate to decide where they ought to have lunch. Since that time, Kate had taken the lead on everything - from chasing after the elusive Red Jenny (who turned out to be Sera), to meeting with Enchanter Vivienne, to helping everyone get settled in their rooms at the various inns along the way.
It was like she was playing tour guide, Kate mused. The only difference was that she and her fellow travelers got attacked at random intervals along the journey. And after a week of this, everyone was looking to Kate for their instructions. It was a very foreign feeling, but Kate wasn’t about to let them down.
“So?” Varric prompted Kate. “What’s next?”
“Well,” Kate said, shuffling through the letters again. “It seems Coll is taking the long way home, so we don’t need to wait for her.”
At least Coll was having some fun, Kate mused, looking over her friend’s wild scrawl. Even though most of this note was of a complaining tone, Kate could tell Coll was loving every minute of it.
“We need to speak to a Grey Warden,” Kate added, holding up a note from Leliana. “He’s somewhere in the Hinterlands.”
“Ought to be easy to find him,” Varric mused. “Didn’t we run into darkspawn up by that old dwarven thaig? I’d start looking there.”
“And let us not forget that we must speak with Fiona and her Redcliffe mages” Solas put in.
“Must we?” Vivienne asked, dryly.
Kate ignored her remark. Enchanter Vivienne’s disdain for the rebel mages had been evident to Kate from the first. But, at the same time, Kate wasn’t about to turn down help from an experienced Circle mage. Kate didn’t feel she was in a position to turn down help from anyone. Besides, Vivienne’s attitude toward mages was quite familiar to Kate. At least one knew what to expect from people like Madame de Fer - as opposed to the greatly unexpected and always inappropriate Sera. As Kate had mentioned to Varric, “Madam Vivienne reminds me of my Great-Aunt Lucy. Only she’s better dressed and can kill people with a thought, “To which Varric had replied, “And this recommends her, Duchess?”
Kate scanned the other notes - simple status reports and a few requisition requests for the nearby area. Then she looked up at everyone with a grim smile.
“And,” she said, with false cheer, “it looks like a group of our soldiers got kidnapped.”
“What, again?” said Varric. “Don’t tell me its Keran this time. That kid ought to get a tab on bailouts.”
“No,” Kate said, wanting to smile at the joke, but not quite able to. “This time it’s Ser Lysette.”
“Another templar? Geez. You’d think they’d give up the heavy armor, since it makes them such easy targets.”
“One would think,” Kate agreed.
“She is your friend, is she not?” Cassandra asked.
“Uh…” Kate hedged. “She’s a templar from Ostwick who saved my life.”
“So yeah, a friend,” Varric said.
“I guess so,” Kate mused.
Huh, she thought, distantly. She had a templar for a friend. How strange was that?
“Anyhow,” Kate went on, “it looks like Lysette’s troop got taken by avvar —“
“What-var?” Sera wanted to know.
“Barbarians,” Cassandra filled in, while Solas clarified, “A human mountain tribe.”
“Right,” Sera nodded. “More human problems.”
“And let me guess,” Varric said. “You need volunteers. Alright then. Anyone else up for a rescue mission in a swamp filled with the undead?”
Everyone fell suspiciously silent. Somewhere nearby, a frog started to croak loudly. Morris looked around, eyes wide, then raised his hand.
“You’ll go?” Varric asked him.
“Go where?” Morris said. “I have to report back to Haven.”
“Ugh, you’re all daft, you are,” Sera said. She shoved the last of her pie into her mouth and picked up another pie from the heap in her lap. “Bauf-fing amba wamp ouf fummich.”
“What?” Kate asked her.
Sera chewed and swallowed. “Dead things and swamps are rubbish,” she announced. “You lose arrows in a swamp. And undead? Can’t hit a proper body part on that. Whole point is to stick a baddie with a pointy thing. But undead just keep going. Archer’s nightmare, right?”
“She is right,” Varric said, grimacing. “Both the dry and rattling kind of undead and the boggy, squelchy kind of undead are a pain in the ass. Arrows work better on things with…innards.”
“I know, right?” Sera agreed. “Send the shield.” She hiked a thumb at Cassandra, whose lips thinned. “Let her give ‘em a good bash”.
“I will come with you, of course,” the Seeker said.
“Thank you, Cassandra,” Kate said.
Inwardly, Kate breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t want to admit it to the others - and she hardly wanted to admit it to herself - but the thought of spending a week with Cullen made her very uncomfortable. If Cassandra was with her, Kate felt she ought to be able to avoid the former knight-captain.
“I will go with you as well, my dear,” Vivienne put in.
“Oh,” Kate said, blinking. She took in Vivienne’s gorgeous white-and-silver gown, the woman’s high boots and fancy headdress, and forced herself to simply nod. “That’s…great.”
“Gonna get yourself all muddy, are you Viv?” Sera teased. “Bog-slime’ll be a good look for you.”
Vivienne regarded the elf with a frown. “I can handle anything, darling. Besides,” she added, flicking a speck of dirt off of her dress, “there are spells for keeping oneself clean. You might consider trying it sometime.”
Sera stuck her tongue out at Vivienne, and Kate groaned inwardly. This was what she got for recruiting such different sorts of people to the Inquisition. She only hoped they all managed to remain civil until the breach was closed.
“Alright,” Kate said. “Cassandra and Vivienne will go with me. Morris, we’ll drop you off at the Crossroads…”
“And what of the Redcliffe mages, Herald?” Solas interrupted, mildly.
Kate had anticipated this question. She also found it a trifle frustrating. She couldn’t very well be in two places at once. But then, Kate supposed the templars were out of the picture now, so the mages could wait a week. She hoped so, anyhow.
“We’ll have to send someone to explain the situation to them,” Kate said. “Care to act as mage-ambassador?”
“Him?” Vivienne said.
“Unless you’d like to do it,” Kate said to her.
“Grovel to Fiona?” Vivienne snorted. “Not a chance.”
“I would hardly call it ‘groveling’,” Kate said.
“Fiona asked for you by name, Herald” Solas reminded Kate.
“And I hope she can understand our predicament. We can’t leave our people to die in the mire. They wouldn’t want to ally with us if we would, right?”
As soon as she said this, it struck Kate that Cullen had written almost the exact same thing in his letter. Shaking that thought off, Kate pressed on.
“Solas, if you could speak to the mages and let them know what’s going on…”
“Oh, and I’m sure they’ll listen to him,” Vivienne said, glancing at her fingernails. “Because every Circle mage has been taught to trust apostates implicitly.”
“Then their ignorance is on their own heads,” Solas replied.
Vivienne shot him a dirty look.
“And people wonder why no one likes mages,” Sera said, around a mouthful of pie. “Get a room, you two.”
“Wait,” Morris said, his eyes wide. “The bald elf and the horned lady are mages?”
“Ugh,” Cassandra said, rolling her eyes.
“Solas,” Kate said, trying to get everyone back on track. “Can you speak to Fiona for me?”
“I will endeavor to do so, Herald,” Solas told her.
“Thank you,” Kate said. “As for the Warden…”
“I’ll take that on,” Varric said, holding up a hand. “Talked with enough Wardens in my time. I think I can handle it.”
“And Sera?” Kate asked, “Where will you go?”
“Uh, to get a pint?” the elf suggested. “To prank the grand enchant-whatever!” When Cassandra snorted angrily, Sera raised her hands and said, “Fine! Fine. I’ll go with the dwarf here.”
“Good,” Kate said, glad that she now had everyone settled. “Right then. We sail out tonight.”
“What, tonight?” Sera whined. “But we’ve been traveling since we started traveling.”
“There are people in a mire, Sera,” Kate said. “They’re in trouble and they’re far less comfortable than we are.”
“Right then,” Sera groaned. “Right. Back onto the boat we go.”
“Thank you,” Kate said. “I’ll go speak with the sailors and see if they can set out at once.”
Kate left her companions behind, headed for the rain-logged hut where the dock master was set up. And as she walked away, Kate allowed herself to look down at the letters once more. She shuffled to the one written in a bold, thick scrawl - read Cullen’s signature - and then shoved the wad of them into her pocket.
It was alright, Kate decided. She was uncomfortable about working with Cullen, but the soldiers needed rescuing. And really, she didn’t need to talk to Cullen beyond the mission. Surely Kirkwall would not come up in casual conversation. So there was nothing to fear here. Well, Kate amended - nothing to fear but the undead.
But that wasn’t nearly as frightening as templars.