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Kerin Valar

"My choices were not easy ones... But I'm learning to live with them."

777 views · last seen in Thedas
a character in “Dragon Age: The Undoing”, as played by Talisman

Description

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"Is it so hard to understand that, for once in my miserable life, I want to hold the reins!?"



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Name: Kerin Valar
Pronunciation:KEAR-rin vae-LAR
Age: 27
Race: Dwarf
Sexuality: Bisexual
Height: 4' 6"
Build: Stocky- but curvy
Class: Warrior
Specialization: Berserker
Master Class: Breaker
Warden? Yes

Appearance:
Kerin has the same short stock as your usual dwarf, but the most interesting features about her are her steely gray eyes and snow white hair. She is really quite beautiful for a dwarven casteless. She has feminine curves, while at the same time carrying an air of strength about her. Her muscles are tightly banded and defined and could easily put a human to shame. Too bad not many have seen this as she wears a thick sheath of armor almost constantly. The only piece of her armor that manages she manages to take off consistently is her helmet.

Thanks to the thick armor, she doesn't have many scars. There is one, a deep nasty scar on her side and the exit wound on her back. An old scar with an unhappy story behind it. She refuses to show it to anyone. Apart from that, there is little else that blemishes her skin. Aside from the prominent casteless tattoo under her eye. She walks with a purpose, her chin held up high, and her eyes set firmly on the horizon. Kerin has an indomitable air about her.


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Demeanor:
Kerin's words are blunt and straightforward, none of this sugarcoating or dancing around the subject at hand. Her words may even be considered rude, which is probably true, but she speaks what's on her mind. She is brutally honest. While her attitude may seem to be serious at times, she knows the value of a good joke and will always manage to crack a smile at the clever ones. She has a berserker temper when push comes to shove, can become a true maelstrom of unbridled fury. Though Kerin has a good grasp on her emotions and doesn't simply fly in to rage at the drop of the hat.

Kerin is take-it-as-it-comes and doesn't over think things. She seemingly has an obsession of disproving fate, that the strings of her life are hers to pull, and hers alone. She fiercely independent- a quality that has served her well enough in Dust-town. Of course, the little dwarf has all the attributes other dwarves have. She is fiercely loyal, proud, and she has the temper of a hellion. She can laugh hard if the mixture of ale and jokes are just right. She loves a good ale, she won't back down from a competition, and she won't scurry away from a fight and instead throw herself head first into the brawl looking to prove that fate doesn't decide her actions, she does.

Fears: Water, losing her free-will.
Hangups/Quirks: She has a habit of not listening to explicit orders. Suggestions are fine, and if tactically sound, she'll follow them. Being told to do something however... She is also as subtle and blunt as a hammer, with the tact to match. She tends to call matter's as she sees them and will not spare anyone the barbs of her tongue.

Opinions:
The Chantry: "That's the bunch that worships some broad that was burned, right?" She never had much experience with the Chantry. In Orzammar, it was always "The stone this," "The stone that," "The stone has forsaken you, you casteless cretin."
Magi: "Creepy nughumpers. Throwing around fire and lightning with your mind just isn't natural." She'll... Tolerate them. Loudly. Being a dwarf, one doesn't have the uncanny ability to melt things with her mind. She has to do it the hard way.
Templars: "As long as they don't hole me up like that do the mages, then we have no problem." Big guys in thick armor who keep the mages in line apparently. She's not a mage, so she doesn't have a problem with them
Elves: "The twiggy knife-ears? What about them? Long as they keep their itchy fingers away from my silvers, we'll get along fine." Twitchy, twiggy people. She's cautious around them.
Dwarves: "I hold no illusions of my kind. Some of us are pompous, holier-than-thou assholes who deem us casteless as useless baby-ferries. Some of us are just trying to survive the day-to-day."
Humans: "Eh, what about them? They're just like the rest of us. Some good, some bad, some in dire need of an axe in the throat."
The Grey Wardens: "The fellas we see marching into the deep roads? The biggest bunch of badasses I've ever seen. Maybe one day I'll sign up?"
The Mission: "They say that it's a suicide mission, that it can't be done. I don't like it when someone puts a limit on what I can do..."


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Weapon of Choice: A dwarven great axe and a shortsword at her side
Armor/Apparel:Kerin dons a set of dwarven armor made from steel, leather, and a bit of nug-fur for fashion.
Mount: A small tawny pony for a small dwarf

Level: 17
Skills:
Master Class: Breaker: Broken (1), Relentless (1), Determination (1), Warpath (1)
Berserker: Endless Berserk (2), Adrenaline (1), Barrage (1)
Two-Handed: Shattering Blow (3), Giant's Reach (1), Reaper (2), Whirlwind (1)
Warmonger: Bellow (2), Tremor (1) Pommel Strike (1)


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ImagePlace of Birth, Nation of Origin: Dust Town, Orzammar
Social Status: Casteless
Personal History:
Kerin was born in Dust Town. She never knew much of her mother, and nothing of her father. For all she knew she could be a Princess. A dream she often entertained as a young girl. The one constant in her life was her big brother Marl. Marl was the one who looked after her, took care of her, and was generally more of a father than a brother; despite being only six years her senior. Life in the slums was hard for both of them, and there were more hungry nights than there was nights when they ate. Once Marl was old enough to hold a sword, he signed up as some muscle for a smuggling cartel. Things became easier, if a bit more dangerous. They no longer had wonder where their food came from...

Despite his love for his sister, he knew the only way that she was going to get a comfortable life was to find a noble. With her unique white hair and steel colored eyes, it wouldn't have been difficult for her to find a promiscuous noble. The only thing that was holding her back was her tongue. Much to her brother's chagrin, she had no qualms about ripping her potential suitors to pieces. "Your eyes are too wide, mouth too small, nose too bulbous," if there was a flaw, Kerin pounced. The only thing Marl could hope for is to find a noble to find these qualities endearing, in the mean time though, she'd have to serve another purpose.

Marl allowed her to join him as muscle for the Cartel, letting her pick up an axe and deal with Cartel troublemakers. Despite being groomed as a noble hunter by her brother, Kerin began her tendency to buck expectations upon her and following her own path. Instead of finding her skill with seducing nobility as another woman in her position would, she found herself quite the warrior considering she was just a mere worthless casteless. Marl adjusted his goals and hoped that her unique beauty and skill as a fighter would endear a noble. Looks and protection- all in one. What more could a pompous dwarf want?

A lot more apparently. Marl often found his sister beside him during his assignments rather than on her dates of nobility. In fact, she seemed more interested with the warrior caste than the nobility caste. Kerin... Survived life, if not exactly enjoyed it. The work was often dark, assassinations, blackmail, assaults, and such. If it wasn't the only way for her to survive, she wouldn't have done it. She got fed up with everyone saying she couldn't do anything because of her station. She grew tired of the tattoo on her face that mocked her. She was useless, a nobody, and would always be a nobody no matter how hard she fought. It made her sick. She could easily crush many of the nobles and even some of the warriors, but wasn't allowed to participate in the provings. Anger welled, and she began to show signs of a berserker. She began to lash out at the nobility- which ended her career as a noble hunter when one managed to sport a black eye.

ImageNo action without consequence however, as the noble returned with a unit of warriors from his house. The dishonor at being struck by a casteless- and a woman at that- stung. However, instead of striking out at her, they targeted her brother. It wasn't much of a fight, with much of the cartel defeated under the guise of "cleansing", they had Marl at their mercy. He would be unharmed under one condition; she come with the noble quietly. An easy question to most, but Kerin wasn't most. Tired of being told what to do, told she was worthless, told that everyone was better than her, she took hers- and her brother's fate- into her hands.

She fought her fate and said no. And the reward for her insolence? Marl received a sword through the heart. Next thing she knew, she was cradling Marl's lifeless body in her arms while all around her was the blood and destruction of the noble and his warriors. She was bathed in blood, her's, her enemies', and Marl's. She had to leave. She had to leave Orzammar and it's forsaken castes. And so she did. She would shed the title "casteless" and forge her own way. Never again would she be labeled, and never again would fate try to hold her back.

Professional History: Being trained by her brother, who had trained himself, Kerin's training was pragmatic. A simple "do what works" style that's unpredictable and relies on instinct over control and finesse. It wasn't as if a warrior could train the casteless, and even the Cartel had refrained from teaching either of them. Luckily, she managed to show natural instinct for fighting with an axe and become an accomplished fighter beside her brother. Kerin's training consists of "on-the-job" training and learned how to handle herself whenever the Cartel's enemies acted up.

When she began to harness a berserker's rage, a controlled fury, she really came into her own. A warrior lost in instinct and anger incarnate. Her feelings of oppression fuels her rage and makes her a dangerous foe in combat. If you get mad enough, you become a decent warrior. It's her indomitable will and need to show that she isn't restricted by the mark on her face that makes her a dangerous foe.

Idea for a Personal Sidequest: She enjoys the idea of becoming a Grey Warden. They never get looked down upon and are honored. Something she lacked in her life.

So begins...

Kerin Valar's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Rivera Hawke Character Portrait: Elpis and Caracoc Character Portrait: Kylar Stern Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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INK

She turned the letter over in her once more as she rested her lips on her pint. The courier who had dropped it off in this pub was ordinary, and his clothing unassuming, but the letter, the letter was extraordinary. She had read it numerous times now, and had memorized the Warden-Commander's name. One mister Malik Hastan, Commander of the Gray. She knew of the Gray Wardens, what dwarf didn't? Those men and woman who marched into the deep roads to die taking as many darkspawn as they possibly could with them. True and irrevocable warriors with an equal to none. She had entertained thoughts of becoming one once. To escape the Casteless life and to replace it with a Warden title. Life had all but crushed her dreams by now.

She had escaped Orzammar by a different means. Some called it murder, she called it retribution. They dared put themselves above her, they believed they could bend her to their will. They had threatened her with her brother's life. She still refused, and for it, lost he brother. But they had lost much more. Turns out, a dwarf in the throes of rage is a match for a couple of nobles and their guardsman. Kerin Valar would not and will not bend to anyone's will but her own. Fate and destiny could go sod off, the only one who had any say in her life now was her. Now that she was on the surface, her life was her own to live. Though, at what cost?

Kerin tipped the pint and swallowed some of the ale. It was stout for a human ale, but paled in comparison to the bootleg lichen spirits Dust Town could provide. That stuff could pickle a dragon's liver. Kerin drank as she read the letter once more:

Malik Hastan wrote:To Miss Kerin Valar, formerly of Orzammar, the Grey Wardens at Weisshaupt offer their greetings.

It has come to our attention that you are possessed of talents which may prove valuable to a particular task being undertaken by the Wardens in cooperation with certain skilled outside parties who know the value of discretion and secrecy. If you are willing to face difficulty greater than most will ever understand for the sake of saving people who will never know of your deeds, your presence is requested in the Grey Warden encampment at Kirkwall, in the Fee Marches. If monetary compensation is your requirement, you have only to name a figure.

Should you accept, please meet the courier of this letter at the docks in three days’ time for your transport.

With respect,
Malik Hastan,
Commander of the Grey



The front was business-like, very official, very impersonal. In fact, Kerin had almost crumbled the note up and tossed it when she read it. It sounded as if they were trying to buy her services, and she wasn't for sell. Money was nice and all, but it alone would persuade her. She had her pride and her principles. However, the back of the letter is what really caused the stir in her heart. A personal note from the Warden-Commander himself. She flipped the letter to remind herself of what it said.

Malik Hastan wrote:Kerin,

If you’ll forgive the informality, I’d much rather put this another way. This mission is vital, but some are already calling it impossible, a fool’s errand. A friend of mine, long since departed from Orzammar, has told me that impossible tasks are something of a specialty of yours. To be frank: the odds aren’t good, but the deed must be done.

I can’t say more here, in case the courier is intercepted, but I wanted you to understand what you’re getting into. I’ll be more forthcoming in person.

-Malik



This sounded much more like a plea. That he understood her worth to her team, and had the wherewithal to write to her like a person instead of a nobody. This was better than the official crap on the front. Words such as "impossible", "odds" and "a fool's errand" had already managed to endear her to the cause. She sighed heavily and cocked her head to the side. What did she have to lose? Her life? Her life was hers to spend anyway she wanted. With that, she crushed the letter between her hand and stuffed in her pocket, and downed the rest of her pint. She'd need to travel to the docks. She'd need a pony to do that. She'd have to spend what little of the noble's coin she'd picked off of his body to do that.

A fair price for freedom.




The trip was uneventful. The boat ride was horrendous, as expected. It wasn't natural for a dwarf to go sailing across the water like some sort of fish. She'd spent most of her time under the deck hugging tightly to a post and using her helmet for an impromptu bucket. She'd made sure she'd scrubbed the hell out of the helmet afterward... She had met the warden commander, and atypically for Kerin, she managed to keep her tongue around him. The man was the Commander and that fact alone managed to gain him immense respect from the dwarf. He briefed her on the mission and she took all the information in stride, ending the meeting in "Just point me in the right direction."

When night had fallen, she found herself on the pony approaching the meeting spot for the rest of her team. The first person she seen- their captain- was this so-called "Dreamer" a right stringy looking elf. She had managed to stand straight up with all of her height.

Kerin wasn't impressed.

She removed her helmet (exposing her casteless tattoo in the process) and leaned forward on her pony, staring at the elf. "So... You're the captain, huh twig-bean? I'd expected someone bigger. You look like you're about to jump out of your skin- would save the darkspawn the trouble of doing it for you," she said with all the finesse of a hammer. Kerin dismounted her pony and lead it towards the wagon- taking a seat in the back as she waited the rest of the team. "As long as you don't get us all killed twig-bean, then I've got no problem with you. Hell, even if you do, I still won't hold it against you. It was my choice to be here."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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INK

The lone raven perched on the cart watched with slightly narrowed eyes as the slim elven girl made her way to it, and waited. She appeared pitifully small... but Suicide supposed he had little reason to boast at the moment. After all, he was just a bird. The elven girl's legs looked like tree trunks compared to his at the time. But when he chose to reveal his presence to her, he would tower over her by nearly a foot and a half, and he didn't doubt his natural body had twice again her weight.

But as Suicide had learned since leaving the Wilds, size was not always important. These northern folk were, almost without exception, smaller than his people, but in the last few months he had seen valor and prowess among them like he had never witnessed among his own people. These Grey Wardens, as they called themselves, often made up in strength and skill what they lacked in sheer size. They were a fascinating group to Suicide, warriors that had devoted their lives to a company, condemned themselves to death so that others might live a while longer. They were admirable qualities, but Suicide had turned down Malik's offer to join them. The Path demanded that he fight alongside those who were worthy, but Suicide's death would be on his own terms. This taint these warriors took into themselves would eventually destroy them, whether they were ready for it or not. Seeing no guarantee that his Path could be followed to completion by the time the taint took its toll on his body, Suicide had been forced to refuse.

But that hadn't stopped him from joining the Wardens' cause. The darkspawn needed to be destroyed, this much was indisputable, and a small company of skilled individuals could do something to achieve that. It didn't require that he join their ranks, and it gave him an opportunity to fight alongside others of his caliber, against odds that were largely considered insurmountable. It was perfect.

Or it would be perfect, if Suicide could come to value those he fought with. As for this first one, he wasn't sure. He could smell the nervousness about her. He could see it in the way she stood, the way her hands shook ever so slightly. And in her face, which appeared so innocent... childish almost. She was their leader? She did not look a warrior in the slightest. This led Suicide to believe that she was likely hyper-intelligent, perhaps skilled in magical arts, or otherwise more dangerous than she looked. Wisdom was acquired through experience in the Wilds, and Suicide had learned the hard way that many things were far more dangerous than they appeared.

He cocked his head slightly to the side when he heard her reassure herself. The first of their group was arriving. She hid her shaking hands. She was ashamed of her fear? There was little point in trying to hide it... it would be easy to see either way. Suicide couldn't help but wonder why this little one had been chosen to lead them. Perhaps she had hidden skills, and was more dangerous than she appeared, but she wasn't inspiring in the slightest. She appeared as though she would make a far better follower than a leader.

The one who approached, though... Suicide approved of her. She was even shorter than the elf, but not nearly so thin. She had muscle on her, there was power vested in those stocky limbs. And she spoke strongly, immediately calling out the fact that their leader was as thin as a leaf. Twig-bean, she said. It earned a laugh from Suicide, which came out as a single caw from his raven form. And yet she did not disapprove of the twig-bean's presence, stating that it had been her choice to be here. Spoken well, he thought.

Figuring it was high time to reveal himself to his new companions, Suicide cawed loudly to draw their attention to him, hopping off the side of the cart and gently flapping his wings to settle lightly upon the ground. A brilliant flash of light later, and the raven had been replaced by the crouching form of Dekton Hellas, the Chasind shapeshifter. He rose slowly to his full height, towering over both of the women before him, a mountain of muscle beside the twig bean. They would both be able to examine his powerful physique quite well, as he wore no shirt at the moment. The climate here was quite temperate, at least compared to the Wilds. His lower body was covered by simple garments of fur and leather, ending in boots of bear skin and fur that were quite clearly fashioned by hand. He exemplified the savage appearance, actually. Much of his skin was tarnished by scars from countless struggles against the wild. Dark tattoos striped diagonally across his face and eyes, and his hair was fashioned in a short cut mohawk. His posture was poor, slightly hunchbacked, meaning that he could have appeared taller if he'd tried. The only thing that was not distinctly barbarian about him was his complete lack of any weapons. No massive axe or maul was slung over his shoulder, no ludicrously large hammer that only a Chasind could dream of wielding.

He gave a nod of greeting, first to the elven girl, and then to the dwarven one. "I apologize if I've startled either of you," he said, his deep voice steady and level, "I often spend time in the form of a raven. Few are the given the opportunity to have wings, and I don't mean to squander the gifts I receive along my Path. I am called Dekton, formerly of clan Hellas, though in recent years I have been known as Suicide. You may call me what you wish." Suicide turned to speak more directly to the twig bean. "The one called Malik offered me a place in the mission that you are to lead. I accepted. I offer you the strength of the bear, the speed of the wolf, the sight of the raven, the bite of winter, and the grasp of the earth. If you would have me, I am yours to command."

His face showed remarkably little emotion as he spoke, and his entire form was remarkably still, a contrast to the slight trembling of the girl who he had just offered his services to.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman
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INK

Lethargic and lumbering was the sight of the man, with a faltering hand using the nearest cobblestone wall for support, in vain. The figure finally lost balance and his body landed rather undignified on his own bottom, a look of stupor and addled thoughts evident upon his face. His bright eyes were glazed and unfocused as their lids inevitably made their way south to curtain his fleeting vision. He’s been fighting it for too long without proper rest, either consciously or unconsciously, and now his body demanded at least a moment to lie still, to catch its breath. In that moment his weakness bared down on him, as he began to surrender without realizing it.

And for an instant everything was gone, he was at peace and his mind dulled ever closer to unconsciousness. At last he gave out, and his eyes closed. In the instant of this his mid was flooded with images of horror and despair. Some from his past and the remembrance of one he had lost to the horrors, with twisted images of a mangled corpse of his dear sister long since taken by the Fade. The other images were of the machinations and deeds of demonic presences, seeking to corrupt and to control in their insatiable appetite for domination.

His eyes split open and a sharp inhalation filled his lungs, he quickly scanned his vicinity and found no trace of what his minds eye had seen. At this point, it was hard to tell whether or not these vision were product of his own mind, or the torturous intents of the Fade dwellers in an effort to erode the mental fortitude of their prey. A quivering hand reached for a pouch and grasped a small vial, Lukas purchased this earlier this day, the merchant promising him that this concoction would keep him alert and awake. It wasn’t long before a violet colored and rather distasteful liquid slid down his throat, and he forced himself onto his feet.

By now he would be late to the gathering, and this mage was never known to be late for appointments. As he neared Lukas could feel the effect of the potion taking effect, and indeed he became more alert, stronger, and a wry yet enthused smile graced his lips in this small victory in his ethereal adversary, for the moment he’d bought more time for himself. He could now see the camp and those gathered around it, his smile now extending ear to ear as he broke into a mad sprint. When he reached them, in a boisterous unapologetic display he leaped into there midst, garnering their attention, whether they wished it or not. He boomed, “Oh yeah! Time to get down to business, am I right?”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman
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INK

It didn't snow enough in the Free Marches, and she hated its insects. They weren't large enough to pose an actual threat like the beasts from her homeland, oh no. They were small, buzzing and buzzing around excitedly to see revealed flesh tanning under the sun's heat; then perching, suckling, spitting or vomiting or whatever the hell they did to make one itch like a flea-ridden mabari bitch. If she had more free time (and a little more madness), she would have personally undertaken a quest to murder their queen. All their queens. Drive them to extinction, claim their little antennae for the glory of the Mountain Father. It was the mountainfolk way of dealing with nuisances.

Other than that, the journey was relatively painless, and the company she kept was well enough. Solvej was a good girl, but arguably not the best sort to be alone with for hours on end. But then, who was? Their third comrade lingered enough to have his presence felt and share some choice words, but otherwise seemed to make himself scarce in conversation (which she boiled down to either a distaste for human contact, a neurotic need to scout ahead, or frequent chamber pot breaks). And Blathnat herself? Why Blathnat, when she wasn't noiselessly grumbling about bugs and slapping her forearms, was humming in the manner of a bear in a feathered hat stirring a pot of stew. That is, with her roughened throat, chin higher than usual as though sniffing a whiff of something alluring (or trying not to fall asleep at the reins), and pleased just enough. No more than was necessary. It wasn't her idea of making merry, though she'll admit her Avvar tribespeople are known hummers and feet-tappers. She remembered those long nights when they had enough wood to make a fire great enough to lick the Lady's ankles above them; the melodies carried in unison between men tending their weapons and wounded; and the girls quietly whispering so as to not interrupt them, whispering from the brush of betrothals and arrangements, chortling in silence as they pushed, shoved, teased each other. Grandfather once told her he'd heard them even as a boy on flatter lands: barbarian music, the constant hum that was carried by the wind, latching into the very mountain and its stones like a clawed ribbon. It warned strangers and other, less combative tribes to steer clear of their current home, told them of their sheer number--hers was well over a hundred strong. Needless to say, the weaker tribes kept to silence.

But today, she hummed for the sake of one horse. It was a creature that preferred being spoken to and reassured constantly (or else it would stop, stomp a bit, then begin pacing in circles like the baboon it was at heart); Blathnat was not about to tell bedtime stories and let her breath go dry for the sake of the clomping animal, so she hummed, and it took no issue.

She was cautious to dismount, as she was literally on unfamiliar ground upon arrival. The ground was something of a saturated gold, made up of grounded pebbles and flecks of... sand that sunk under thre pressure weight in copious amounts. She'd seen sand before collected in vials and tipping glasses, but never an entire landscape composed of the stuff--nor what it was all collected to border:

The great blue that buffeted shore in heaving waves.

She had to admit she was almost unnerved by the sight, but found her attention drawn by the gathering just before them. Just in time to see a charge and dive in their midsts from an ally, at that. "Take care not to slide off the side of a cliff face, boy," she chided quietly--more as a note to herself (and perhaps the templar) to watch out for that rather than an actual scolding. An impressive range of heights surrounded Lukas, and she wondered if she should have been amused. One dwarf--female, and so not the familiar face she'd been half-heartedly expecting. That Seeker was likely here already, somewhere. Lurking. And then there was...

Ah, the Chasind mage, towering over the lot like a sacred boulder. The barbarian woman cocked her head (which bobbed as the horse took its time settling), and inquired, "Wasn't I there when you showed up muttering your admirations for the Wardens?" She might have spoken for him a little if so--normally she would be aloof towards tribes not her own, even viewing them with the same distaste with which most flatlanders viewed all tribes at times, but after waltzing through Ostagar and being making friends with its inhabitants, she couldn't help but feel a certain kinship for her outertribe family. But perhaps she dreamt it after too many mugs of ale and Malik regaling her with the tale. Like Suicide, she was dressed more lightly--not shirtless, though it was terribly tempting. Blathnat did not forget the last time she stripped off her top in a Grey Warden camp. Apparently exposing one's breasts wasn't something "ladies" did in "civilized" settings; she didn't get the why, but she consented that it tended to make non-tribals uncomfortable.

She dismounted, cupped the beast's cheek for a moment, and moved on. She found her sight drifting slightly downwards. "And you're the one the Commander spoke of, are you, girl?" She said, hand on her hip, fist to her pursed, appraising lips. Then, rather abruptly, Blathnat gave Ethne a few pats on the shoulder, saying little more than "Worry not" before folding her arms and meagerly trying to get a better glimpse at the view.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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INK

Solvej had spent most of the return journey in an uncharacteristic silence, for what was there to say? She found herself in the unusual position of being caught between two parts of her life that she had thought to keep separate. Here, she was Solvej the Warden, valued if not entirely-reliable ally and proven time and again to be worthy of her place among the skilled ranks of the Grey.

But now, enter a figure from a past she would rather not remember, an exchange brief and terse and to the point, for truly, he was but peripheral in her torment, and it was better that way. Easier to ignore the fragments of memory, stirring ephemeral on the edges of her mind, like relics of a half-remembered dream from long ago. It was fortunate, that he did not often feature in these memories, that he was, in the grand scheme of things, not at all at issue.

It made it possible to tolerate his presence.

Still, were she not to set off immediately on this little death march of theirs, she would have had a few choice words for Malik about his appreciation for irony. And surely, the man would have heard her, that light smile on his face that meant he was actually considering something with all due gravitas, but knew that, regardless, he was right, and then of course he would have asked her if indeed her practicality had failed her after the intervening years. It had not, of course, and she would have conceded the point, but only after a parting shot about trusting her enough to inform her.

Ah, but if I had informed you, would you have gone? The answer, they both knew, and the bastard (affectionately called, for in truth she was most hostile to the people she actually liked) would have kept on smiling that roguish half-tilt and things would have been no different than when they started. Except, perhaps, that Solvej would have felt better about it. Unfortunately, simply knowing how the conversation would proceed was not enough to produce the attendant effects, and in the end, she was uneasy, in the way that one who does not know if she is guilty is uneasy being watched.

Still, it was easy enough to conceal, and none would know how deep that feeling ran, regardless of their perceptiveness. She had great practice with this, and by the time she approached the group by the wagon, she practically radiated confidence and casual ease, with just a hint of something unnamable with any word other than trouble. Not quite danger, not quite mischief, but something indefinably in-between. It was Solvej’s default affectation, for all of those awkward situations like this one.

She might have remained mounted, but it occurred to her that this was hardly the impression to make upon such a frankly ridiculous collection of people. Most, she knew; one was bloody well missing, and if he didn’t show up soon, she’d have his head herself, the sot. Those she didn’t were easy enough to pick out based on Malik’s information: she was half a mind to whistle and quip at the sheer size of the shapeshifter, but Blathnat was already saying something to him, so she didn’t bother.

The shortest member of their group, Solvej already knew she would like. Unapologetic-looking and heavily-armored, she had a feeling they’d be spending a considerable amount of time together on the front lines of things and possibly drinking like fish afterwards. The bombastic mage, she ignored, though not from disrespect: she’d known his sister, once upon a time, and their circumstances were similar enough that she generally avoided speaking to him. He might not know that this was why, but she didn’t much care about that one way or another.

The Seeker, she assumed was skulking. She didn’t know exactly where, but he was not the type to either wander away from the mission or to make social niceties with people. He’d have to break himself of that at least a little if he wanted to work in a team setting, but she’d leave that for him to figure out.

In the ends, what she did was dismount for a moment and peer at their leader. Though it was not common knowledge, Solvej was aware of why the girl was picked, and though having someone else waltzing around in your dreams was very strange, it had also given her something of an odd regard for the diminutive elf. She looked quite like a youngling still, but in the Fade she was something else entirely.

“You’ll do,” was all she said, with that understated pronouncement, the Black Templar swung once again astride Wagner, himself taller than their leader, and took point at the caravan. There was just that useless fop of a mentee, Rhapscallion, left, and if she knew him (and she did), he’d be along in all due time, frantic apologies and foolish gallantry firmly in tow.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman
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INK

Comfortably nestled between stacks of homemade pillows and itchy blankets, the Rogue was reminiscent of a curled-up mudsplasher snuffling softly, so silently, one would think that he appeared more a corpse than a sleeping man. If it weren't for the thin line of dribble pooling across his curled thumb, pillowing his face like a lover's hand. Breezy, crusty-eyed and completely unhinged from worries. That is, until he'd been assigned the mission alongside his Grey Warden companions and several other excitingly ruffled comrades, brambly convoys – the type of mission that guaranteed death and anguish and the loss of important, imperative limbs. He needed all of his limbs, respectively. It would be his undoing. So, Rhapscallion slept rather peacefully, gripping the folds of his blankets tightly in his fists while further tangling his legs.

It would've been perfect if the lady-barkeeper hadn't bustled in, huffing heatedly about how he hadn't already left this damn establishment already – and there were weary travellers downstairs who needed the room, right this instant, so get the hell out. He didn't rouse, didn't even flutter his eyelashes. She gripped the hem of his blankets and pulled them off in one felled, dramatic sweep. It was ridiculous pretending to sleep, pretending that for a few moments he could forget all about the responsibilities set across his shoulders – and he wasn't the only one, so at least he wasn't going to be alone. Electric shivers landscaped his spine, swiped it's claws across his neck and pebbled his forearms with goosebumps from the warmth that escaped in that simple cape-throwing-blanket-trick. Then, there was Solvej: his Grey Warden mentor who'd most likely roast his behind across the coals for making her wait while he snoozed. It wouldn't be in her exasperated eye rolls, it certainly wouldn't be her nervous finger tap she performed for a few seconds when she animated her thoughts without voicing them – it'd be in the slight twist of her lips as she beckoned you closer, so close, that she could slap you upside the head or grip your earlobe to reprimand you properly.

A lump bobbed disconcertingly at his throat, threatening to choke him. The lady-barkeeper hadn't budged from the foot of the bed, hands placed sternly on her waddling hips as she tapped her foot, impatiently, clearly irritated by his lack of a response. His mind wandered stridently from subject to subject, searching for a way he could tire his head and drag himself from the comforts of the dingy, dusty tavern he'd become so quickly acclimatized to. He wasn't a hero, so why the hell did they even want him on board? Inevitably, the woman tip-tapping her feet exhaled loudly, through flaring nostrils and twisted lips, reminding him that this was the last-straw before something large and heavy rounded across his head. “Woa-woa-woa, fine, Molly. I'm up, I'm up, so stop looking at me like you'll flip the bed.” He crowed solemnly, bobbing his head like a forlorn turkey, as he drug his limbs from the mass of tangled sheets and threw his legs over the bedside like anchors he wished he could keep aboard. There wasn't any avoiding it any longer. Molly's head reared forward intimidatingly, causing him to throw his hands up in defence with a chortled yelp. By Maker's tits, women scared him! She simply smiled and pranced away, immediately gratified with the results. She hadn't even been fazed that he was completely naked. Terrifying women. Terrifyingly busty women.




Oh, for the love of Andraste—” He grunted sourly, gently squeezing his stallions ribs to egg him on. The damnable beast eyed him sideways, as if to say what-the-hell-are-you-gonna-do-about-it, and continued to munch the clovers he'd been so intent on gorging himself on. “You know, if you don't keep going, she's going to kill me and you, she'll roast you. Yum, yum, roasted horse!” He proclaimed, throwing up his hands. The Grey Warden's broad shoulders twitched, stress lines forming in his back when Conquest merely snorted, clearly unimpressed by his idle threats. His shoulders arched, then slumped down in defeat. He dreamed of a moon and of stars, of a lake, and a garden. He dreamed of lilac bushes, and of roses. He dreamed of lavender. He did not, however, dream of seating a stubborn horse who refused to listen to anything he said. His body was decorated with scars, the remnants of dozens of quests and hundreds of battles and still, still, he couldn't even manage to appear anywhere on time or bully his faithful steed into bringing him anywhere he needed to be.

Sheer miracle would have it that Conquest smelled something much more delicious than the clovers and broke into a steadfast gallop in the right direction, leaving Rhapscallion clinging to the saddles' curved horn like a flapping piece of seaweed gripping a rock's face. His eyebrows creased when he first sighted the rolling wagon – they wouldn't be impressed. Blathnat would offer him sympathetic winks, hardly masking her amusement. He didn't even want to think about what Solvej would say to him. It wouldn't be pleasant. It wouldn't be full of hair-mussing delight or gentle arm punches. What would he say? What could he possibly come up with for an excuse? They both knew he was a terrible liar. He couldn't keep a straight face, damaging as it was to his roguish temperament – couldn't even fib if his life depended on it. He was naive. In many ways, he was still the innocent, unchanged, young lad Solvej had met years ago. The same mentee who'd fumbled through his joining ceremony like a coltish horse who'd just discovered how to walk properly, without stumbling over his own legs and announcing constantly that he was a Grey Warden: thus, a magnificent hero and saver of maidens.

His heart hammered like something completely apart from him. Useless as a soggy piece of parchment paper, right now. If he just quietly clopped behind the churning wheels of the waggon, perhaps he wouldn't be noticed by anyone. Only Ethne would forgive him for his untimely absence. He hadn't forgotten that he'd been the one chosen to guide her through Tevinter, ever since their fateful meeting on the battlefield – as unlikely and unsettling the idea was for Commander Malik to digest and accept. He was looking forward to seeing her again, and hopefully, would go about enlisting her aid when shielding himself from Solvej's disappointment. Refusing to whistle foolishly as he neared the straggling line of the caravan, Rhapscallion dipped his head low and leaned forward in his saddle, trying desperately to make himself appear smaller: not be seen, not be seen. Though, he watched them, owlishly, through his eyelashes. Mismatched and strikingly laughable. The sight made him smile: Elves, humans, dwarves, alike.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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INK

Flashes of colors and sounds surged through Revaslin’s perception as he glided through the city, unseen, and unheard. He did not need the night, not now, though it was thrust to him. Today he had not felt the effects of the fade, even in the least, and consequently, his strength in silence was such that he sifted through the crowd unnoticed, though in their midst. From alley to street to roof he slid, unwaning in his speed. As he looked back to the forest from which he left his companions, the two Wardens, he thought of the long way he had traveled in his life, and how it was all converging on this one last mission. If he somehow came out of this alive, the chains that the Chantry had bound him in wound dissolve, as though made of sand. Perhaps he’d even return to his family, if he still had a family.

The solitary state of the city, firmly unchanging in the constant movements of its denizens, even at this late hour, made it rather easy for the Seeker to place his body in automatic movement, without the need of his conscious effort. His thoughts wandered in the deepness of the path he took to get to this point. He may not come back from this mission, afterall. It was worth reflecting upon.

.



You killed another templar!

My lady, he was not undeserving of it.

That doesn’t make a difference! You’ve been accepted as a templar less than a fortnight, and you’ve already killed a fellow Templar! I… I don’t even know what to say…

Your holiness, he was harboring bloodmages by taking bribes to look away. When I confronted him about it, he tried to shun me. Needless to say, he failed.

That is a bold accusation! The Knight-Commander will have your head for this deal!

I would not come here without proof, holiness, here is Sir Jorvik’s personal ledger, which I had taken from his body-

Looting off a body!

-that contains transactions of his dealings with these maleficarum. I also have two of these mages in custody, willing to testify. The rest were not as willing to cooperate.

My word, Lenny, I… I’ll look into this at once… Ah… Good job. Next time, though, make sure to go through the order first.

I crave your pardon and acceptance, milady, and I will do my best to follow these directions.






As his thoughts wove around his mind, and threatened to overtake his very being, his eyes drifted on their way to a Tevinter girl. The act of noticing her broke his chain of thought completely, and reminded him that he had other things to do than reminisce. This was the girl, the “Dreamer”, he was informed about, the girl that was to be their leader. She looked rather frail, almost glass like, but she moved on with rather ease. He would have laughed at the staff at her back, and how someone so small and child-looking could wield a weapon, especially a staff such as that one. He did not, however. He sensed her magical ability, and almost shrunk back at what he had discovered.

The Dreamer is a Dreamer? Certainly the Wardens are subtle in their naming conventions. Nevertheless, it is to be expected. I will have to be careful with this girl.

He followed her on the way to the rendezvous, observing her. He was like a shadow, always there, but always silent, disappearing and blending with the other shadows. He was now running on top of the various roofs that the city of Kirkwall had to offer. The sky was black, as befitted his temper, and allowed him to be more liberal with his steps.

His mind almost slid back to thoughts of the past, when suddenly he heard the howl of a wolf behind him. As he turned around he saw large yellow globes of eyes staring at him, but as his eyes focused on the apparition, it disappeared, with not even the smallest semblance of it left to vouch for its existence.

The vision sent shivers down Rev’s spine, and almost lost the girl. She was in no hurry, though, and he easily caught up to her.

These visions will be the end of me.





Eventually they finally reached the cart that was assigned as the rendezvous. Rev stood atop a roof and peered down below. There he saw the Dreamer looking about, almost nervously, waiting for any signs of new arrivals.

A raven sitting on the cart almost escaped Rev’s notice, but for its solemn countenance. There was something odd about that bird that warranted further investigation. It could have been a spy. Upon a more detailed study of this creature, he realized that it was a mage.

If that girl weren’t there, he would have known immediately. There was simply too much fade around her to make clear the more insignificant (by comparison) magic of a small bird. If this mage was truly one of the people invested in this mission, why was it that he had not made an appearance yet?

Rev quickly trained a bolt at the bird’s head. He stuck out his tongue to get a feel for the wind and readjusted his aim accordingly. If that mage tried anything unusual, or left the scene without introduction, he would die.

In almost no time at all, however, a dwarf in full armor made his appearance and addressed the leader. When the new arrival took off his helmet, or rather, her helmet, Revaslin’s eye locked on to the tattoo on her cheek.

A casteless. Is that the reason she’s going on a suicide-mission?

As he looked back at the raven, he saw it was no longer a bird. With a flash of light it was now a muscular man, who was rather barbaric in appearance. A wilder, no doubt, and an apostate to boot. Already there were two mages in the group, and as if that weren’t enough, another one came running like a buffoon. There were going to be a lot of encounters with the fade, no doubt, especially given the somniari.

Rev lowered the weapon tied to his left arm, and set the safety back on. No use in shooting someone by accident; though if a mage left the group by such a turnout, Fenlen certainly wouldn’t complain.

The two wardens he was already acquainted with soon came, the dark one looking around, to spot our Seeker most likely. Solvej followed, and Rev could see dark clouds of thought on her brow, though as she approached, that cloud seemed to dissipate. Well, certainly a question had been answered there, and the Seeker understood that she was not cold-hearted after all.

The last straggler came, looking more awkward than any others, especially on the horse he was on. At last, the group was assembled, and having made his judgments, it was time the Seeker made his appearance.

He slid from the roof onto the floor, and disappeared into the shadows. It was rather easy to wind his way about the streets, as there were many stalls and alleys that were unpopulated during the night. He reappeared behind the newest arrival, and gave a grunt of greetings.

Looking to the sky, he noticed that their time of departure was long passed.

“We’ve lost enough time,” he noted, “It is best we start moving.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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INK

Ethne did not have to wait long to discover the source of the rustling. As she watched, tension writ into the lines of her posture, someone approached, mounted on a pony. The beast was a hardy thing, compact and dense of musculature. The rider, she noted, was no different, encased head-to-toe in formidable armor, dwarven make, judging by the simple, sturdy lines of it. Well, that and the fact that it was hard to imagine a dwarf wearing armor made by anyone else.

The warrior removed their helmet, and Ethne noted with some surprise the features of a stalwart-looking female with a shock of white hair and a facial tattoo. Those had some significance, but she couldn’t remember what it was. The elf was subjected to the impression of being scrutinized, and she stood stock-still, clasping her hands gently at her waist. Her eyes were fixed resolutely on the middle distance, at least until the woman spoke, but then looked down at her in surprise. "Captain? No, no, you must have me mistaken for someone else. I am to lead, but only in the most literal sense,” she explained, but the rest of it withered in her throat with the dwarf’s blunt proclamations.

"I will-” Ethne was cut off by the sharp call of the raven she’d noted earlier, and she must have jumped about two feet in the air when its form shifted into that of an enormous man. The unexpected action had shocked her pulse into the frenetic beating of a jackrabbit’s feet on the ground as it ran from a swooping hawk, and she could not deny that the metaphor was appropriate.

She certainly did not expect the first words from his mouth to be an apology, and her wide-eyed shock transitioned seamlessly into a warm smile, and though she swallowed thickly, it was genuine as it could be. "Any of those would be quite the offering on its own, and all of them deserve more thanks than I can give,” she replied amicably, shifting into the more formal court-speak that she was used to. The phrasing did not make the sentiment a lie, after all, and it was simply her natural diction.

The Tevinter woman took an abrupt step backwards when another man broke into the clearing, this one more normally-sized for a human and also practically overflowing with energy. She felt his connection to the Fade, and knew that he, like the shapeshifter, was a mage. Her mouth opened, but she realized she had no reply, and closed it again with a clicking of her teeth, blinking rapidly. “Um…”

But the tide of people was coming thick and fast now, and she noted the approach of the Wardens with slightly-awestruck eyes. The one, she did not know very well, beyond that her name was Blathnat and that Malik had humor in his eyes when he spoke of her. Ethne didn’t really know what to make of the obliging pat and murmured reassurance, and it wouldn’t have mattered much, anyway, she was sure.

Solvej was a figure of no mean intimidation herself, encased in all that black armor and lugging around a spear. It wasn’t for this reason that Ethne respected her though; she’d walked in the woman’s dreams, and seen therein more evidence of strength than she’d thought possible. To endure what she had… well, it put things in perspective anyway.

There were two others yet due, and no sooner had she thought as much than she noticed Rhapscallion at the edge of the gathering, and grinned at him with enough brightness to light a dingy cave. "Scally!” she greeted her former guardian with a mirth-infused nickname before remembering her decorum and refraining from skipping over to him with all the childish delight of someone who has just seen an old friend for the first time in too long.

Another appeared from her friend’s shadow, murmuring something about delay, and she nodded resolutely, trying not to squint to get a closer look at his valaslin. She’d always found the Dalish so… puzzling, but now was hardly the time for that.

Clearing her throat, she did her best to gain everyone’s attention, then realized that even half this many pairs of eyes on her was far more than she was used to or comfortable with and colored slightly, a pale pink stripe dusting her cheekbones and nose. "I imagine most of you have been briefed to an extent, so I’ll keep this short. We are to ride west for a day, whereupon we will rendezvous with a ship bound for Val Royeaux. Orlais is our first destination, and the first Darkspawn general is there. If you’d rather not ride, feel free to use the cart. Oh, and for anyone who does not know but cares to, my name is Ethne Venscyath. I’m to find the Darkspawn in question, and lead you to them, but please… if you feel at any time that there is something I should know or consider with regards to anything else, you will find me a willing listener.” So saying, she flashed her teeth in a quick smile at the lot of them and mounted her horse, settling into the saddle and guiding him to the forefront of the group. Producing Malik’s map of Thedas from one of her saddlebags, she double-checked the place he’d marked and pointed her steed’s nose due west.


The group had been on the road half a day, the journey punctuated by talking here and there, and Ethne could also have sworn that someone laughed at one point, though she couldn’t say who, when they ran upon the first hint of trouble.

A fresh corpse lay on the ground, the sand stained red by the blood that had seeped steadily from an arterial wound in his throat. His clothing indicated him to be a member of the upper class, though a few of his garments were threadbare in places. Ethne immediately hopped off her horse and dashed forward, checking the man for any signs of life. Her eyes darted to the horizon, squinting to see if anything unusual was visible. The body was still warm, which at this time of year could only mean that he was freshly dead.

Biting her lip, she examined the man for anything more unusual, and then noticed that one of his hands was still formed into a fist. What healers called rigor mortis had not yet set in, and so it was not difficult to pry his fingers gently apart, and she was rewarded in a small manner when a piece of parchment slipped from his grip.

Smoothing it out carefully on her leg, Ethne read it over and frowned.
My dearest brother Jorundr,

I know that the magistrate has been most unhelpful with the recovery of your stolen property, but I must urge you not to take matters into your own hands. There is a war on, after all, and though I do not know the extent of what was stolen, surely a few dozen sovereigns and some equipment you can’t even use is not worth dying over. You are a scholar, not a warrior, and you have no idea what those highwaymen will do to you. Please, I beg of you, just come home!
-Astrid

Standing quickly, she turned to the others, the half-formed warning on her lips morphing into a strangled gasp when an arrow struck her shoulder from behind, pitching her forward.

Several bandits emerged from cover, among them the archer who’d shot first, wearing a triumphant grin. He and four of his fellows were accompanied by three massive warriors, and a good half-dozen or so dual-wielding rogues, four of whom immediately disappeared under the cover of stealth. Perhaps most worrying, though, were the two apostates bringing up the rear. One had already sliced into his own hand, and the other was readying an area-of-effect spell that rained fireballs down on the group, forcing them to scatter if they wished to live.

Rolling onto her side, Ethne retaliated with a Chain Lightning spell, aiming for the archers, who were clustered nicely. She was exposed out here in the open, though, and they’d be upon her in seconds without some swift assistance.

The Mission Briefings have been updated.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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INK

Kerin guided the horses of the cart with a sturdy hand, though the horses hardly needed guidance. They were more than happy to follow the trail led by the rest of her party. Riding shotgun beside her was her helmet and axe-- in quick reach if things turned sour. Her pony trotted along side the cart as well, tied up. She had offered to drive the cart since none of the others seemed to be interested. Well, she didn't so much as offer as she told. "I'll drive the cart," she had said, "I'm not going to spend the entire trip dodging the long legs of your horses," indicating their height differences. No, she was much more comfortable on the cart where she could directly look at her companions without looking up.

The trip thus had been easy going. Except for the apprehension she felt about crossing the water. "Another sodding boat?!" She had asked, irritated. She hated the water of the seas, and the rocking it did to these boats. She already saw herself hugging on to the mast with a bucket beside her. It was not a pleasant thought. As she pondered the grim idea of the sea, their caravan came to a stop as Ethne bounded from her horse. Kerin stood, grabbing her helmet and axe as she rose, and looked to find the source of this interruption.

Even from her distance, she saw the poor smear on the road. Poor fellow, probably never even stood a chance, though it was his fault for wandering these roads alone. She watched in grim curiosity as Ethne searched the poor sod's body. She seemed to have found a note and had just turned to them when the arrow bit into her shoulder. Kerin slammed her helmet on her head and yelled an admonishment at the elf as she hopped from the cart. "Dammit twig-bean! You should have had one of us up there with you!" She yelled, meaning either herself or Solvej. Already, the fires of the berserker were being stoked.

However, Kerin wasn't the first into the fray. That honor belonged to the man called Suicide. She had arrived just as the large man froze someone solid. Taking the gift as it came, she scythed past the frozen statue with her axe outstretched, shattering the man into pieces. Once the deed was done, she swung her axe around to the front, giving an intimidating show. "Step up and face death!" Kerin bellowed at the bandits, and followed it with a snarl. With that the berserker fires within her raged.

After giving Rhapscallion the scolding his tardiness warranted, smacking his shoulder with her mail-gloved hand and shaking her head, Solvej had sped Wagner up until she was near the front of the line, muttering things under her breath in Ander that sounded vaguely like admonishments. At least they were off at last, there was somehing to be said for that.

She didn't share the dwarf's dislike for boats, but the short woman's complaint did cause her to exhale a short bark of laughter. "I think you'd best get used to boats, my friend. I doubt the archdemon was so kind as to plant all his most important flunkies in Orlais. I wouldn't; chewing on bloody decadent Orleians would make them fat and lazy." Her lips pulled back from her teeth in an expression between a grimace and a fox's own grin. If there was a culture with which Anders did not mix well, it was certainly the Orlesian one, even counting Tevinter. She knew better than to class them all as fops, of course, but it tended to be the default opinion until they poved otherwise. She'd always wanted to fight a Chevalier, though.

After about half a day, Solvej was looking with bored eyes at the landscape, still alert as possible, when their little leader's shoulders tensed and she became very fixated on something ahead of them. The group crested a hill, and Ethne dismounted, running forward to a body that was clearly already dead. Solvej narrowed her eyes at the horizon, but still nothing was visible. She filed her observations away, noting that the elf-girl was most likely a healer of some kind, if her first instinct was the suicidally-stupid one to-

"Bandits!" Solvej shouted, but she was nowhere near close enough to stop the arrow she saw from puncturing Ethne's shoulder, knocking the frail thing to the sand. The big mage and the dwarf were the first into the fray, and she was not long after them, jumping from Wagner and drawing up alongside the stalwart berserker. In all likelihood, they'd make the best front line, and with this in mind, Solvej twirled her spear, brandishing it at the remaining warrior, a reaver by the looks of the nasty things he was doing with blood. Her first blow met his shield, the force of the impact resounding up Solvej's arms. His sword came around to her side, scoring a narrow wound in her abdomen, but she turned to divert the worst of the blow, using her momentum to whip her spear around and deliver a devastating cleave to his weapon-side arm, the pointed end of her polearm finding a chink in his armor and biting deep.

The man staggered backwards, dazed, but retained the presence of mind to cover himself with his shield. Solvej, however, just grinned, a feral light flashing in her eyes. He was presenting his back to Kerin quite nicely. "Hey short, light, and angry: I got you a present!" She called irreverently, laughter infusing her tone. Ah, but there was nothing like a good knock-down, drag out!

Kerin snarled in response, but understood her Warden companion. She wound up her axe and swung it in a downstroke. The upstroke brought the axe painfully into the crook of the bandit's groin, lifting him up off of the ground and sending him flying. The Stone would feast on blood today! Kerin then turned around to intercept another bandit, this one brandishing a pair of blades and thought he'd sneak up on her while she was occupied.. Kerin cursed her luck at having to fight such a cowardly slip-fish. Her axe granted her a reach the bandit's steak knives couldn't hope for, and she caught the torso of the man in the crook of her axe head.

She yanked hard, pulling the light man in and then swung, throwing the bandit into Solvej's path, "Your turn Warden! And I ain't light!" She called. She turned to face the rest of the bandits and let out another taunting bellow, "Who's next!" readying her axe. She also made conscious decision to step backwards towards Solvej. There were rogues about, and Kerin was not about to be done in by an errant stab to the back. "Dammit! Someone handle those bloody mages!" She called.

When the dwarf hooked her axe around the next man's torso and heaved, the unfortunate rogue tumbled to the ground, dancing to his feet immediately in that lightfooted way they tended to have. Glancing around sharply, he shook off his dizziness and tried to get his bearings.

The first thing his eyes locked onto was the savagely-grinning face of Solvej. The Black Templar seemed to have earned her name- for her brutality, while nowhere near as overt and rage-based as Kerin's, nor as bear-shaped as Suicide's, was a cold, hard thing in the pit of her stomach, and she saw precious little need to check it. If they wished to attack without question, without mercy, than she would indulge them in their base need to die. The dagger-wielding fellow, close enough that she could smell garlic and liquor on his foul breath, staggered backwards with a small yelp, disorientation yielding to the panicked realization that the business end of a spear was inches from his gut.

He didn't make it very far before Solvej took a long stride forwards, fulfilling the sharp promise with a deft shove and a painful twist. There was a hint of mercy left in her yet, it seemed, for she quickly removed the weapon, plunging it up from under his chin and sparing him the indubitable agony of a slow death by exsanguination.

Just in time, too, for the mage's spell came to fruition just then, and fire rained down on their location. It was no good to stand and wait to get hit, and perhaps it was time she put her abilities to good use. Inhaling deeply, Solvej charged. With both warriors down and the majority of the melee fighters engaged or hidden, it wasn't terribly difficult to reach the back ranks of the bandits, and she supposed that the technique her mentos had called turning the blade worked just as well on arrows, for most of the ones aimed for her glanced off her armor. One stuck in her belly, having found a weak link in her chain, but she ignored it and summoned forth the holy smite, planting herself to the ground. It was something that would affect a relatively-narrow area, which as why she had to be close enough to the mages to hit them. Neither fell, but both staggered backwards, casting temporarily interrupted.

"Oi Seeker! This is what you're good for, isn't it?" She was pretty sure Revaslin was around somewhere, at any rate.

The rain of fire did nothing to sooth Kerin's anger. She looked up with irritation and roared in the face of the fire, as if daring it to try and burn her. With the leave of her Warden companion, Kerin felt it was best to vacate the area as well, else the dare be fulfilled. Kerin streaked forward out of the area of effect of the fiery rain and charged into the next fray with wild abandon. There were many more corpses that did not know yet they were dead. She let howl one last taunt before diving in, axe blazing. "Know your fate at the hands of the Fatebreaker!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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INK

Yes, the Seeker was around indeed. He had been on the scene even before Ethne took a glance at the corpse. He was scouting ahead, as befit his nature. As soon as the group had departed he had slipped back into the shadows, making a quick mention of it to the general area of the party. If anybody had listened, they would know. He doubted the fact, though, as he was usually ignored. His opinions didn’t matter; after all, Revaslin was an elf, a mere subservient creature only allowed his position for the divine’s amusement.

He found comfort apart from the group, in the songs of the birds and the jitters of the night-bugs that roamed the area. He heard the notes sung from that orchestra of the land, crickets, cicadas, all kinds of little critters, and he felt bound to their song. With every beat he took another silent step, adding to the rhythm of the sound.

His separation from the group had more purpose than simply leaving society once more and partaking in the sylvan symphony. If the Seeker was to be useful, he’d need to be away from that Dreamer. Sensing magic would be doubly as difficult when trying to differentiate it from her stench. The Fade stuck too close to her, clinging like wet fabric. And besides, he wasn’t on this mission to exchange pleasantries.

The sun rose from the east once more, and the party moved on. Fenlen looked on from the rocky outcrop on which he was situated, and as the sun illuminated his figure, he closed his eyes and let the rays graze his face. If anyone were able to see past his concealed form the Seeker would have almost seemed a guardian angel, were it not for his black visage. When he opened his eyes, the black-within-black orbs gave away a red tint. He felt a soft breeze from the ocean side, and his cloak rustled in term. It was hard to imagine that such a serene scene would be just a prelude to a bloody and very likely fatal adventure.




Rev continued on his way, glancing back at the party he was supposed to be travelling with every now and then. When the sun was soon at its zenith at the sky, he reached a flat piece of land, flanked by hills on all sides. The Seeker’s attention had been brought there by the stench of magic, and indeed, a large group of bandits were leaving the scene into the hills above. They left behind a man, who had fallen and perished. No doubt he was their victim. He smelled two distinct connections to the fade, both of which were fastly evaporating.

There were only about a dozen and a half of them, nothing to worry about for our eight young and intrepid warriors. Rev quickly noted the different positions that each of the bandits took, and what their role was in the party. It did not take much reasoning skill to assume that the victim was ambushed from those very hills that the bandits now hid from. It also stood to reason that the party was about to be ambushed as well. Looking back towards the path, he estimated that he was about ten minutes’ way ahead of the group, and now would be a great time to prepare for the battle. Though he could guess at the tactics the highwaymen employed from the position he left in, his group was a different matter. Rev did not know how they would work together, and it was vital to the mission that he, and indeed everyone, knew how to hand such a situation. That is, such a test of skills would be great for revealing each others' skills. It would be prudent, therefore, to let the group get ambushed; they couldn’t get too hurt, after all.

Fenlen prepared a few bombs from the ingredients in his belt, and fitted such an explosive to the second bolt loaded in the concealed mechanical bow on his left arm. He coated the various blades in his arsenal with a poison made of deathroot that he learned from Antivan assassins. Later chronicles would call this poison “Concentrated Crow Poison”, for the assassin’s guild of the same name.

Lastly, he whistled softly to the horizon, and a bird came swooping down. “Ah, Da’mi, you still remember to follow me, even in your old age.” A rare laugh escaped our Seeker’s lips as he extended his arm to the bird. It landed complacently, perched on the man’s forearm. It was a black hawk, with red tipped wings. Rev scratched the bird softly, and it began to coo gently. “A battle will begin shortly, I’ll need you to try and help in any way you can, alright? Don’t be too reckless, I don’t want to have to patch you up again like last time.” The hawk cawed in reply, and stuck out its left talon.

Revaslin tied a few of his acid flasks to the bird, and saw it take off and circle his head. “Don’t do anything,” he warned, and pointing to the bandits, he continued, “until I fire my first arrow. Then we will have set up an ambuscade for those who lie in wait, there.” The hawk cried once more, though this time in a higher pitch. Then the hawk took off, and taking the habit of its master, it went out of sight.




The sands of time did not stop trickling down with the departure of our newly acquainted hawk, Da’mi, however. Eventually the cart approached the body, and stopped to a halt. Their leader bent down to examine the body, rather recklessly, in Rev’s eyes. No one bothered to examine for signs of an ambush, besides the barbaric mage who went by the surname “Hellas”, but even he was too entranced in the forest, that he did not see the individual trees. So when the ambush finally erupted, needless to say, it was the side of the Seeker that took the first hit.

Ethne was hit in the shoulder with an arrow, and quickly retaliated with a lightning attack. Hellas saw the attack and dove into a fast reply. He froze an incoming attacker after turning back into the Chasind he was, and began grappling with another. Meanwhile, the casteless and the black templar he was already acquainted with joined the fray and began to work together in a dance of blades.

A powerful stench pulled his attention. Blood magic. One of the mages from the attackers was preparing a dark spell, and the other, judging from the light and smell of that particular spell, seemed to be a fire-rain spell. He began to train an arrow on the bloodmage, but saw a group of three concealed rogues surrounding the dwarf and the templar, and saw that they would be ready for a perfect backstab.

A Thwack! and a Thwick! later, and one of the rogues fell to the ground, a bolt lodged in his forehead. The rest dispersed, knowing that they were discovered. Rev whistled loudly and slid into the middle of the battle, navigating between the various combatants.

Da’mi flew from the sky and circled the battle, as if a vulture anticipating his nourishment. It sought out the group of archers that was hanging back and loosing arrows aimed at the defenders. It slipped its talon from the flasks that were attached to it, which came crashing down, and exploded in the middle of the tightly knit group.

Cries could be heard from their direction, as they quickly scattered from each other. Though they were not down yet, they had terrible burns to complain about, not to mention that they lost their organization.

’Ere’s a good girl!” Rev muttered under his breath. He drew a dagger from his thigh in his left hand, and knocked the hidden blade in his right wrist. He headed towards the two mages, feeling more feral with each step. When he was only a twenty paces away, he aimed his second bolt at the group of mages. He was too late to stop the firestorm mage, however, as a rain of a thousand flames poured on the entire battlefield. A reckless move, as it hit many of the fighters on the side of the mages, some of whom were already burned!

Rev’s aim was disrupted as he was forced to jump out of the way of an incoming bolt of fire. He felt a rush of adrenaline, and began to rage inside. Trying to calm himself did him no good, as evidenced by his shaking arm. He could not get a clear shot at either of the mages, as his whole body shook with the cry of “Rip their throats out! You have two blades, why not use them?”

The Solvej, however, took to the problem herself, and used the Templar-taught Holy Smite. Both apostates were staggered by the attack, and left their spells uncast. “Oi Seeker!” She yelled, almost mockingly, “isn’t this what you’re good for.”

I was saving your arse, dammit! he muttered under his breath. He pulled the trigger as they were pushed back, and his rigged shot flew forth. A piece of fire hit it before it landed, however, and it exploded right in front of the two, fueled by the flame of the spell. Though they had been staggered before this, they were now on the ground, trying to get up.

The urge to run and fight directly was too strong at this point, especially given the fact that his cover was now blown. He rushed forward with the two blades, a dagger in his left hand, another jutting out of his right. They glowed in a brilliant flash of blue, as he recited a verse from the Chant of Light:

“The Veil holds no uncertainty for her,
And she will know no fear of death,
For the Maker shall be her beacon and her shield,
And her foundation, her sword!”

He swung the blades together, as if they were one, and as he quoted the last line, he launched himself on top of the bloodmage, and cut the throat of his enemy with a complementary Holy Smite. There was a fire in his eyes, one that would not be expected from him on usual occasions. The mage had cast his spell, however, and three Sloth Demons bubbled from the ground, surrounding the two ex-templars.

He stood from his kill and sheathed his dagger, replacing it with his sword. His left gauntlet glowed bright black, but his eyes had a fire in them even brighter.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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Ethne forced her breathing to steady, inhaling through her nose and holding for a split second before her lungs expelled the stale air through her mouth. Unarmored as she was, the pain was splitting, and she knew she needed to get the arrow out before she could heal it properly. Narrowed as her world was to her pain and her breathing, she almost didn’t notice the large shadow fall over her until she felt the familiar tug of magic being performed, and she pressed both palms into the sand, trying to get some leverage. She swore she could hear someone talking to her, and it was almost certainly dear Scally, the playful Warden she considered the closest thing to a friend she had out here, but she couldn't make out what he was saying and tried to wave him off. I'll be fine, I'll survive, please go help.

Her shoulder muscles screamed with the effort of righting herself, but she scarcely had the time to notice when a massive form in armor landed, his shoulder digging into her lower back. Agonized tears sprang to Ethne’s eyes, and she would have screamed, save that the breath was squeezed from her with the impact, and all she managed was a halfhearted wheeze, biting down on her own tongue by accident. The blood that welled up there filled her mouth with the taste of iron and shame, and how useless was she, that she could do nothing but squirm here.

It was, in fact, the sand that saved her life. The ground had just enough give that when her soft form was pressed into it, it absorbed a large portion of the impact so that her spine didn’t have to. A pitiful sound, something between a whimper and a soft keening, escaped her as the pressure was relieved. Neither of them was in much of a position to know it, but Suicide’s grappling had rolled the other warrior off her, rendering her able to move again, at least somewhat.

In the intervening time, Blathnat and Rhapscallion had noted the damage the archers were capable off and taken off, the latter disappearing from sight almost immediately with a skill any of the bandits could envy. He reappeared behind the first archer in the line, withdrawing the long knife suddenly protruding from the man’s chest. The ensuing chaos enabled Blathnat to get close without injury, and the two rogues made short work of the bow-wielding bandits.

Lukas, meanwhile, had jumped right into the fray, fearless and energetic as always. Though common sense dictated that magi should stay behind the lines and cause their damage from afar, there wasn’t really a line to speak of here, and his force magic was quite adept at keeping two knife-wielders at bay simultaneously.

Ethne spat blood out of her mouth and tied to concentrate. That arrow needed to come out or she couldn’t heal properly. It was an awkward reach, but she managed to get her uninjured arm behind her head so as to grasp the shaft of the projectile. Gritting her teeth so she wouldn’t bite anything soft again, she took a deep breath. One chance. I can do this. I can.

Not really sure if she believed herself or not, she summoned all of her meager strength and pulled, a harsh sob barely contained behind her clenched jaw. The pain was agonizing, but the arrow came out, and she tossed it away, summoning her magic for the requisite heal spell. The wound closed, most of the pain abating, and she blinked several times to clear her vision. The pull of familiar but unwelcome magic made itself known to her, and the elf’s blue-green eyes went wide.

Someone was calling demons from the Fade.

Scrabbling to her feet, Ethne took stock of the situation. The last archer dropped, but two more rogues appeared from cover and looked about to surround the bombastic Lukas. From her place on the rise, she could see that Suicide was in bear form, Kerin was just finishing someone off, and Solvej and the quiet Dalish man were facing down three sloth demons and a mage.

Thinking fast, Ethne projected her voice as loud as she was able. “Scally, Miss Blathnat, please help Ser Mage! Ser Solvej and Ser Dalish, the last caster!” That left the demons, and with a steadying intake of air, Ethne started forward. “Ser Dekton, Miss Berserker, please help me!” She lamented that she didn’t have all the proper names, but since half of them had ever introduced themselves, she couldn’t possibly know.

Whether or not anyone else followed her suggestions, Blathnat and Rhapscallion moved in to aid Lukas, the combined force of the two rogues and mage wiping out their remaining opposition with little difficulty. She hoped the other would listen, but this way something she could handle, would handle, one way or another. It would just be… easier, with help.

With each step, the aura of the Fade surrounding Ethne grew, and she held one hand at either side, having lost her staff back on the ground. She’d asked for Kerin and Suicide because the former was much more resistant to the Fade than anyone else here would be, and the latter would know what he was dealing with. Striding across the field, Ethne stared down the sloth demons, eyes narrowing to slits, her childlike face hardening in its expression until she almost looked her meager twenty-one years.

“You do not belong here.” The air in front of her shimmered and distorted, dancing around until the demons were shrouded in Fade, and she brought one hand up in front of her, twisting it and forming it into a fist clutched in front of her chest. All three demons staggered, but it would take much more than that. Her other hand launched a stonefist spell, and the pocket of Fade-energy around the middle demon dissipated as it was hurtled backwards, smashed against an outcropping of rock and killed as its ribcage caved in with the force of her spell.

It wasn’t a full-scale banishment, but she did not have the stamina for such a thing right now, so she’d settled for weakening them for her allies, which should do.


When the battle concluded, Ethne cast a quick group heal and picked her way carefully back to where she had fallen. Her staff, she saw, was broken, either under the weight of one of the two battling giants (for to her they may as well have been), or else just stepped on by someone during the course of the fight. Sighing a trifle sadly, she retrieved the pieces anyway; perhaps there was someone along the way who would know how to fix it. The focus stone was valuable, so it might at least get them a night’s rest and some food somewhere along the road.

Curiously, the note she’d been reading earlier was relatively undamaged, and she stooped to retrieve it, glancing it over once more. Either there were a few more bandits, or else this cache of theirs might be somewhere nearby. She flicked a hesitant gaze over the others, all of whom seemed to be in much better repair than she had been, and she tried very hard to ignore that her face still burned with embarrassment. “I, um.” It had to be worth a try. Surely, they would be willing to help, right? “This note, from the dead man. It says that there is some kind of cache somewhere nearby, possibly guarded by more bandits. They’ve been terrorizing this place. I mean, we might run into them anyway, so it just seems-” she cut herself off mid-ramble. “That is, I think it might be a good idea to hunt down these resources, and helping the people here does not seem bad either. Should we?”

Lukas was quick to throw in his beatific consent, and Rhapscallion agreed as well. Blathnat seemed to have no opinion, simply shrugging and looking around at the others, interested as to what their opinions might be.

Ethne just hoped that she didn’t sound like an incompetent fool, but then it might already be too late for that. She shifted her weight uncomfortably from foot to foot, looking anywhere but at their faces. Scally, she had sort of expected support from. He was kind that way. Lukas just seemed eager for adventure as far as she could tell, but she was glad at least two people were in some kind of agreement. She didn’t want to order anyone anywhere, and she wouldn’t. If it came to that, she’d just as soon abandon the option and continue forward without a large argument.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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"It's Kerin, twig-bean!" The dwarf called from atop the bandit she had just tackled. She stood, straddling the bandit with her axe raised high above her head, just waiting for the finishing blow. She then bellowed, "Kerin Valar, casteless no more!" bringing the axe down heavy in a killer blow that split the head of the bandit in twain. A spray of gore colored her dwarven armor a shade of crimson, but she seemed to hardly notice. She stepped off of her victim, shouldering her axe looking for the next contestant. Thankfully, due to Ethne's call, the next corpse was obvious-- Even if it was a strange sight. "Demons?! What are demons doing here?" she said, irritation filling her voice. As if a roving band of bandits weren't enough, they had demons? No matter, whether it be from this world or the next, none would stand against the casteless berserker.

Kerin hefted her axe by the neck and ran to meet catch up with Ethne and Suicide. Kerin had no idea what kind of demons these were, as life in Dust Town didn't have such excitement. The dwarven resistance to the fade meant that they could not contact the demons, though she always heard stories about the malefic creatures residing in the deep roads. Who knew she'd face one so soon-- Among a group of the common bandit rabble. Certainly not her. Looked like she'd pick quite the exciting mission for herself.

She arrived just as Ethne did something to the air around the demons. Kerin ventured an approving glance at the girl. She might have been tiny, but she could take an arrow like a champ. As the demons staggered, she took the opportunity to strike along side Ethne's stone fist. Much like the spell, she threw herself at the demon, throwing all of her weight and muscle into her shoulder. The impact might not have been as strong as a fist of stone, but still. The berserker growled, jabbing the head of the axe into the belly of the demon again and again. Her barrage was relentless and the demon was steadily being beaten back, though not without getting some hits in itself.

The demon managed to rake the chest of the berserker, but that only served as fuel to the fires. She shrugged off claws as if they were nothing and followed up with a headbutt to the creature's chest. She then bashed with the head of her axe once more, this time putting distance between herself and the demon. Now with room to work, Kerin spun to gain momentum with her axe and came down with all the fury of the stone itself. The axe easily cleaved through the demon and didn't stop until one side was completely buried into the dirt beneath.

With the battle nearing it's end, Kerin exhaled deeply. She was tired, being in a state of near frenzy took a lot of energy.




Kerin leaned on her axe, helmet under her arm, as Ethne caste a group spell. Kerin grumbled, not taking too kindly to the spell, but otherwise kept her mouth shut. She wasn't the one who got pelted by an arrow after all... Though the rain of fair did manage to scorch a bit of fur on her armor. Blood ran freely down her armor and a drop was making it's way down her cheek, bringing attention to the tattoo she bore. Whether the blood was hers or anothers was open to debate. If it was hers, she didn't seem like she was injured.

"Calm down hopscotch," Kerin told the flighty rogue. He had been following Ethne and pestering her... Well, maybe not pestering her per se, but it was sure bothering Kerin. "You're irritating me," she said in no kind terms. Though she did agree with the man on one thing. They should go clear out the bandits, though perhaps not for the same reason. "Let's go then. I hardly got any blood on my axe and I'm itching to see that problem fixed," she said with an evil grin. "Besides, we need something to fill this wagon, and ill-gotten gains from bandits sounds like it'll do the trick," she added.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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Demons.

Suicide had some experience with them, being a mage as he was. Despite what many Templars would likely think, however, Suicide had never made any dealings with them. He was satisfied with his power, and didn't wish to shackle himself to some demon in order to acquire more.

The shapeshifter heard the Dreamer's orders, even despite him being in bear form and being more than a little clouded by his natural bloodlust. He turned his head to see her standing once more, despite the battle he and the bandit warrior had had more or less on top of her. And she appeared... alright. She'd removed the arrow, and the wound was healed effectively. She had more strength in her than she seemed. He'd expected as much, considering that the Warden-Commander wouldn't have chosen her to lead the mission if she was weak, but it was still reassuring to see firsthand.

Two arrows thudded into his side, causing Suicide to snarl and turn his head back towards the fight. He was a big target like this, especially standing still. The archers responsible were being cleaned up by some of the others, however, so revenge wouldn't be possible. One struck just under his ribcage, the other burying itself high up in his rear leg. He still needed to deal with these demons, as Ethne had requested his help, and he meant to give it. Before he reached one, however, the girl had cast a spell to weaken them, and then launched a fist of stone hurtling into one, crushing it. The berserker, Kerin Valar, tore into another one.

Suicide launched himself upon the third, his weight crashing down upon the staggered sloth demon. Sloth seemed a poor choice, as they relied on thoughts of lethargy and were not all that adept in straight combat, preferring instead to subdue their opponents by infecting their thoughts. Still in bear form, Suicide pinned the demon down upon the sand with his claws, sinking them deep into the creature's chest. His teeth closed around one of the demon's arms as it struggled, and with a single violent jerk of his head, the arm was torn from its socket. He tossed it aside as the the demon slashed at him with the other arm, his claws digging into the flesh of Suicide's shoulder. He snarled, and wasted no further time, tearing apart with his claws already in the demon's chest, ripping the creature open and ending its existence in the mortal realm.

Once the fight was concluded, Suicide walked with thumping footfalls over to where the group was gathering, his own blood dripping from his side, rear leg, and front shoulder, and the blood of enemies dripping from his teeth and claws. Ethne was nervously suggesting to the group that they pursue these bandits to a cache they had stored somewhere, for the purposes of both acquiring the supplies within the cache, as well as ridding the locals of the bandits that plagued them. Suicide strongly wished he was back in human form at moment, as he would have attempted to reassure the girl that the group was hers to command. They had all willingly joined the group with the knowledge that she would be the leader, and that they were all still here was proof that they were willing to follow her lead. She needed to give herself more credit.

But as it was, all Suicide could do was growl, and so he bobbed his head in the direction of the two arrows stuck in his side and rear, growing in an annoyed manner. He hoped someone would get the message and remove the arrows for him, else he'd have to simply transform back and hope for the best. He'd learned the hard way that shifting forms whilst shot by arrows could have unpleasant effects.

But he had no objection to hunting these bandits down. Helping the locals was not necessarily a primary concern of his, but the prospect of more battle so soon was not one he wished to pass up. They were bound for a ship, at which point they would have plenty of opportunity to rest. It seemed wise, and wholly tempting, to indulge themselves in further bloodshed while they had the chance.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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Scally was fussing again, and though it did give Ethne a nice dose of the warm-fuzzies, now was probably not the best time for it, especially if the irritation Kerin was expressing was not hers alone. Turning, the mage reached up and placed an index finger to his lips in an attempt to shush him. “I’m fine Scally, truly. Thank you, though.” She smiled and lowered her hand, pivoting again so that she was facing the group, several of whom had considerable things to say regarding the choice before them.

What the Seeker- for that was what Solvej had called him, and it sounded perhaps less crude than the Dalish, which was the only thing she’d known about him until now- said troubled her perhaps the most, though the ex-Templar’s rejoinder was quick in coming. Both of their arguments carried the ponderous weight of logic, but… she wasn’t exactly sure what she was supposed to do here. For most of her life, all of Ethne’s decisions had been made for her, regardless of her own personal opinions on any matter from the clothes she wore to how she used her gifts. She certainly did not want anyone here to feel the same way, least of all because of her.

“Well,” she pronounced slowly, drawing out the vowel just a little longer than normal, “this technically falls outside of the parameters of the mission, which means that each of you is free to act as you choose. Therefore, serah, if you do not desire to come, you need not do so. Indeed, if you think the most prudent course of action would be to find the ship and convince it to sail off without the rest of us, I certainly will not impose upon you to do otherwise.” There was the faintest note of humor in her tone, but she was not mocking him, or if she was, it was so gentle it could hardly be considered mocking.

“As for anyone who wishes to find these bandits, whatever your reasons, I’d welcome the company.” With a nod, Ethne took up her horse’s reins and started forward, this time listening intently for any possible ambush, though she couldn’t say she’d hear one if it was there.



As it turned out, Revaslin need not have worried, for the bandit encampment was on the way to the rendezvous point, and what was more, all the bandits left in it were dead, bodies strewn about the ground in the grotesque patterns of some demented child-artist with blood-colored fingerpaints. Armor plating was torn open, entrails spewed about the sand, limbs resting ripped free of their trunks. Some even looked gnawed-upon, rents torn into exposed flesh of a more razor-edged kind than Suicide’s bear-jaws would produce.

Of course, there was scarcely time to note any of this, for the much more prevalent observation was that the camp which had once belonged to bandits was now overrun by the sickly-white forms of Darkspawn, hurlocks and genlocks to be precise. The spawn were a bit too numerous to count in one glance, and they certainly did not spare the travellers the time to make an accurate poll by numbering heads.

“Be careful!” Ethne shouted, though perhaps unnecessarily. What she really meant was if you’re not already a Warden, you might get the Taint, but there wasn’t really much choice but to expose themselves to that possibility.

Attempting to be a little smarter about her tactics this time, she immediately fell behind the lines created by her comrades, aiming a Tempest far enough back that it would hit only the oncoming darkspawn with its bolts of white lightning. This battle, rife as it was with foes, was likely to be a bit more dragged out than the first, and she immediately switched her focus to healing, shooting off raw spellpower from her hands while she waited for someone to become injured.

As of yet, however, everyone was still hale and whole, and none of the Darkspawn had broken through to reach her. A tingle traveled down her arm as she attacked again, lobbing the white-violet magical energy over Kerin’s head to hit an incoming Hurlock. Her attacks were less effective without a staff to channel them through, but as long as she conserved her energy for healing, everything would be all right.

Ethne kept herself low, wary of arrows, and cast an arcane shield for good measure, not lingering too long in the same spot for fear of making an easy target of herself. She could not drop into stealth, nor bat away arrows with her large weapon, so this would have to be good enough for now. A few Darkspawn dropped under the sheer tenacity of her attacks, unable to reach her to retaliate, and she refocused her attention on the archers after that.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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Suicide sent an annoyed growl in the Seeker's direction as he argued against "going out of their way to meet another fight." It was exactly what they should be doing! Well, it was what the shapeshifter wanted to do, anyway. Darkspawn, bandits, demons and blood mages... what difference did it make, really? There was still the mission, of course, but Suicide hadn't really signed on for that purpose, exactly. It was merely the prospect of meeting foes alongside worthy companionship that lured him. The foes didn't actually matter, only the fight.

He cared nothing for the locals. He'd never met them. He never would. Maybe focusing their efforts on stopping the Blight would help them more. Maybe if they didn't deal with these highwaymen now they'd be dead before the darkspawn reached them. Maybe Suicide didn't care either way. An enemy was here, right now, and they had the opportunity to meet them and stain the sand with their blood. It wasn't a decision that needed much argument, in Suicide's mind.

The spear armed woman, Solvej, came to his side, understanding the meaning of his growl, and asking him not to maul her when she removed the arrows from his side. She needn't worry, however, as Suicide relaxed his body when he felt her hand close around the first arrow shaft. All he gave was a low growl when they were ripped out. The Dreamer was quick to heal his wounds when the arrows were removed, further proving her worth. Once fully healed, he shifted back to human form, and rose to his full height.

"If a fight awaits us, then we should meet it," he said, trying to find a way to word things so that the others might become more agreeable. "And we would be wise to better learn how to battle as a group, before we encounter the true threats further down the Path." He rolled his head around on his shoulders, sending out a few audible pops from his neck. This first fight only ignited his appetite. It hadn't come close to sating it.

Huh. Had he always been so tall? She must not have noticed from the back of her draft horse, but now that she was standing right next to him, listening to the bass rumbles that constituted his voice, she came to the amused realization that he really wasn’t that much smaller as a person than as a bear. His sentiments were after her own heart, besides.

“No time like the present,” she added with a shrug, trailing after the elf with a lazy stride. Wagner would follow on his own. He always did.

The little one’s handling of her erstwhile mentee produced genuine laughter in Solvej, but she constrained it, leashing the mirth until it was only a constrained smile. She would perhaps not bother ordinarily, but perhaps it was best to avoid further delay. There was a certain kind of worthiness to Ethne, after all, even if it wasn’t the kind of thing most people made much of. Anyone who could get Rhapscallion to stop fretting without physical confrontation deserved a bloody medal, as far as she was concerned, and she shot him a sly look. “Someone’s got you all figured out, eh?”



Solvej could sense the Darkspawn long before they revealed themselves, but they were upon the encampment before her warning would have held any relevance, and she didn’t wait for the enemy to make the first move this time. Her spear was in her hand, held out and to one side as she charged, letting her momentum disembowel the first fiend as she crashed into the line. The sound of metal puncturing leather followed by the tear of flesh and several wet pops was an old one to her recollection. She vaguely heard Ethne’s entreaty towards caution, but she was a Grey Warden, Tainted already and made for this.

There were no happy endings for people like her, only bloody ones. Until she found hers, she’d keep on bathing in the ichor of the foulest beings in Thedas, without ceasing.

Refusing to allow her forward progress to tear her weapon from her grasp, Solvej pivoted gracefully, extracting her weapon from its flesh-sheath and blending the movement into a smooth slice across the throat of the next. The less wasted movement, the better.

Kerin found herself drawn to the naked chest of the shapeshifter... It was so large and muscled. What did these surfacers eat to grow 'em like that? And his words-- his need for the coming battle merely served to further endear the man to Kerin. Alas, her appreciation for the fine physique and bloodlust of this marvelously sculpted human would have to wait, as there were more corpses that needed buried. These ones however came in darkspawn flavor. True, while the foe didn't matter, she could have thought of better enemies to face than darkspawn. Kerin merely grunted her displeasure and slammed her helmet on to her head again. Once more into the breach.

"I'll keep my mouth shut twig-bean," Kerin answered Ethne's caution. Darkspawn and their taint were well known in Orzammar. She knew better than to get their tainted blood in their mouth, else suffer the side-effects. Unfortunately, that meant no battle cries as this battle waged. Which meant she'd have to get their attention in... Another manner. She charged forward, growling all the way, along with her companions and crashed into the line of darkspawn. Instead of whipping her axe about madly, she used the back handle to kneecap a nearby hurlock, dropping him into a kneel. Without hesitating Kerin vaulted on the creature's shoulder and used it as a springboard to launch herself into the air.

Kerin lead with her axe as gravity took effect, completely pulverizing the genlock under her and sending out a tremor from the point of impact, staggering those darkspawn nearby for her companions to take advantage of.

Suicide refrained from shifting into an animal form upon seeing the darkspawn. He figured he would end up chomping down on one and ending up with the Taint. He had other tools at his disposal, however. He rushed into the fray behind Solvej and Kerin, the two he felt most drawn to fight directly alongside. It seemed perhaps unwise, considering that he was unarmed, and unarmored, but it was acts like these that Suicide was known for. His name hadn't been earned for nothing, after all.

He came up behind one of the genlocks Kerin had staggering backwards, placing one powerful hand around the creature's chin, the other on the back of its head, before twisting violently, snapping the darkspawn's neck and letting it collapse to the ground. He sent a slash of ice magic at the nearest hurlock, carving its chest open. Its armor proved to be of little use against his spells. As Solvej was slicing across the throat of a darkspawn, Suicide caught sight of a Shriek hurtling its way towards her, to attack her from her blindside. Suicide blasted a cone of cold in its direction, hoping to freeze it in place, but it evaded the spell, which froze a pair of hurlocks instead.

"Behind you!" was all the warning Suicide was able to give her, as he shattered one of the beasts he'd frozen with a Stonefist.

A tremor rocked the ground, issuing a shockwave that stunned several nearby ‘Spawn, and Solvej grinned. That was Kerin at work, or she was an Orlesian whore. Steadying her own feet wasn’t much of a problem, and she slid her left foot backwards, about to whirl on the next fool Taint-creature with a laugh when she heard a warning over the din.

Truncating her movement, Solvej brought the haft of her spear parallel against her forearm, point behind her, and jerked backward. The exhalation of fetid breath and a raspy cry informed her that she’d struck the intended target, and a grim smile lifted her lips as she twisted the polearm, yanking it free and letting the shriek hit the ground. That left her free to shatter one of the frozen Hurlocks, an opportunity she took full advantage of. Long strides carried her forward, muscles bunching beneath her as she jumped, her height sufficient to add extra clout to her aptly-named mighty blow. The ice sculpture broke like so much glass, the Darkspawn within crunching under her weighted boots.

A glance over her shoulder informed her that though both of the others were holding court in self-made graveyards, there were yet more fools eager to test their luck. One such Darkspawn was sneaking and vanished just a few yards behind the mage. Well, only one thing for it then.

“Oi Suicide! Duck!” she bellowed, then hefted her spear in her hand. It wasn’t really made for what she was about to do, but she knew from much more desperate situations than this that it would work. She had no more than three running steps and a hop to make it work, but it would work.

With a perhaps inappropriately-gleeful “Yah!” Solvej hurled her spear with as much strength and finesse as she was able, bending to scoop up a discarded darkspawn shield while she was at it. Not the best weapon-situation to be in, but she liked to think of herself as flexible.

The thrown weapon did in fact collide with the stealthed Darkspawn as it was preparing to backstab the mage, but Solvej found herself surrounded by at least four more for her trouble. “Oh Fate, I’ve missed you, you sodding bitch,” she murmured with a dark chuckle.

Kerin growled, not risking opening her mouth for a true berserker roar. Her little stunt may have stunned the darkspawn, but it also catapulted her into their line. She quickly pivoted completely around to meet the exposed back of th darkspawn she had used as a springboard. He was still stunned due to the entire stock of a dwarf dancing on his shoulders. Kerin strode forward as she hefted the axe behind her. She approached the hurlock with cold steel eyes. She growled, "Kneel before the axeman," and brought the heavy axe down upon the spine of the beast, coating the weapon and armor with a fresh layer of blood.

She walked past the dead beast, ripping the axe free and approached the next victim. Rather, next pack of victims. Solvej managed to find herself surrounded by a group of four darkspawn. The ever present snarl painted on Kerin's face did not diminish in the least and she quickly dove back into the fray. She set her foot and held a loose grip on her axe. She then held the axe out and began to spin, the blades becoming a whirlwind of devastastion. She felt the cut of two darkspawn fall beneath her axe and stopped to find herself back to back with Solvej. An unarmed Solvej at that.

"No fate," she muttered so that Solvej could hear. She then used her free hand to quickly grip the shortsword in her sheath, pulling it free and presenting it to the Warden. "But what we make," she stated plainly.

The shapeshifter did indeed duck as Solvej hurled her spear where his head had formerly been. He heard it plunge through the chest of the darkspawn behind him. He turned to see the creature crash in a heap to the ground, before he ripped the spear from its chest in one swipe of his powerful arm. The dwarf had taken care of two of the creatures that now surrounded Solvej looking for an easy kill, but two remained. Suicide ran towards her, tossing the spear back at her before throwing his hands into the air, petrifying the darkspawn that had been closest to striking the woman, leaving it encased in stone, its sword arm hanging above its head. The other was a genlock, and that one's attention was fixated away from the charging shapeshifter.

He bowled into it, leading with his shoulder, smacking the smaller darkspawn to the ground, flat on its back. He then angled himself around the side of the creature, and with one swift thrust of his foot he brought his heel down upon the genlock's skull, caving it in with a sickening crunch and squish of bone and brain matter. He heard Solvej and Kerin trade comments about fate.

"The Path ends when we are finished with it," he said. "Not here."

Solvej’s spear thudded into the ground a few yards from her location, and she grinned even as the two nearest Darkspawn fell to Kerin’s onslaught. She accepted the shortsword, hefting the shield and shoring up her position back to back with the dwarf, deflecting an incoming swing with the shield even as dwarf spoke. “Ah, an optimist. My favorite kind of crazy.”

Fortunately, she didn’t have to block the next attempted strike, because the offending Darkspawn was petrified by an incoming Dekton. Shrugging, Solvej struck first with the pommel of the shortsword at one of its joints and then followed up with a heavy kick to the same location. It was the final blow from the shield that did it though, and the thing lost its arm and its structural integrity simultaneously, crumbling.

“The path, eh? Well, as long as it keeps leading me to the blood of my foes, I suppose I can’t complain.” Solvej took the opportunity to retrieve her spear, spinning and throwing the shield like a discus into a random cluster of ‘Spawn and sliding the shortsword into her belt before wrenching her trusty companion from soft, sandy earth in which it had landed. She was a little banged up, but the battle had only just begun.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman
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Lukas flung himself in a great bound almost recklessly into the thick of the fight, but found himself preoccupied with a couple of rouges mistakenly assuming the half-elf would make for easy enough prey as well as eliminating a mage that could give them trouble. Perhaps if they had blades longer than there forearms, they could have reached the force wielder, but as things stood it would take less effort on the mage’s part to keep them at a distance.

One of them became brazen and dove toward Hoffman, not unlike a wild-cat pouncing from the high grass, iron teeth ready to gash and knaw through muscle and marrow. In response to this Lukas jutted his fist at the rouge, which would seem odd and premature to the onlooker now that it was merely an extended and vulnerable limb. Except only a second later did that rouge find himself a careening pile of flesh sailing to a trunk of a tree, spine bent beyond limitations and repair. Soon after his partner met a similar fate. Unbeknownst to him at the time another couple of rouges were to take advantage of his current attentions, however they were dealt with by his companions, to which he was truly grateful.

After all was said and done, they regained their bearings and tended to what wounds they received. Their mouse like leader proposed to following information she had found on a note, pertaining to another bramble of bandits. Naturally Lukas whooped, “Yeah! Killing these bastards is just oodles of fun!” Most of the others were either just as excited, or content to follow it through. There was an objection with legitimate concerns, but it seemed that everyone’s minds had already been made up.




He felt a rumble in the back of his skull, and whatever bright smile he wore lessened into a near frown.

Darkspawn.

In no time at all they had another battle on their hands, not against mere bandits , whose bodies already littered the area, but against the beastly Blighters for which this team was assembled. Without being told, three of his comrades already pushed themselves into the front, and were dispatching foes with great tenacity. Regaining a bit of his grin, Lukas off-handedly commented, “Now why do they get to have all the fun?” And soon enough he went to join them, halfway to his comrades he did give them a gift. Expelling some of his magic anyone wielding a weapon now would find such tools aflame, an extra edge in the fight.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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Rhapscallion stopped doggedly in his tracks, leaning precariously forward as Ethne shushed him with a finger to his lips. His words died off, trailing off into nothingness. His ghostly blue eyes widened, then squinted off into the beginning of laughing crow's feet. He was satisfied by her answer. He understood well enough that she'd tell him if she were hurt, or at least, he hoped she would. His shoulders were meant to be lent on. The bloody – albeit, adorable – munchkin leaned heavily across her grounded axe, tucking her helmet under her armpit and looking every bit as exasperated as most felt when in his company. He'd seen those looks before. Still, Rhapscallion couldn't help but grin and sidle up beside her, unruffled by her unkind words. “I was worried about you, too, y'know.” As if predicting some kind of repercussion for his comment, the half-breed skipped away and folded his fingers together behind his head. His mouth folded into a straight line, serious. “With that axe, you're nearly as frightening as Suicide.” It was the sort of compliment Kerin would accept. It was better than whisking his fingers through her snowy white hair – looked as soft as rabbit's fur, and he bet they felt the same. He'd probably lose an arm in the process. Worth it.

His mouth worked as if he were tasting something particularly sour, moving it to the corner's of his puffed cheeks. Who'd disrupted their jolly accession? Rhapscallion's eyes roved across the group and landed squarely on the naysayer – the Seeker. The quiet one who'd preferred the company of cicadas and crickets. Unlike the rowdy scallywags he was used to dealing with, the Seeker responded calmly, gently, without malicious intent. As if he were piecing something out by himself. Passion threatened to take hold of his tongue, and make him say something truly foolish. The half-breed buried his swilling feelings, tipped his chin forward. “Without Ethne, we can't continue on with the mission. As soon as we finish off the bandits, then we can continue on – won't take long with our abilities, would it?” Would they have been willing to turn a blind eye on all those who suffered for the greater good. He knew that Ethne could never shutter her eyes and ignore any suffering people, regardless of race, gender, or her own well-being. Would the ones' who suffered understand their need to fulfill their duties, ending the Blight, when their loved ones died in their arms? He did not think so.

Without Ethne, they could not continue onwards. It was simple. Rhapscallion smiled brightly as she turned towards the beast-formed Suicide and cast another spell across the sluggishly bleeding wounds where Solvej had extracted the arrows. Solvej – always the first to do away with dirty, bloody business. Always the first to volunteer her services. Initially, Rhapscallion had reached forward, then flinched away, fingers retracting away from his matted fur, when Suicide's growling ursine voice tumbled from his curled lips. He hadn't meant to. He was still grateful that Solvej had stepped forward, filling in his place without hesitating and hoped, wryly, that Suicide hadn't noticed his tremblings fingers. When had he been so afraid of someone? Never. Never. Even when Suicide had returned to his original form – he would've said less frightening, but he wasn't so sure – Rhapscallion couldn't help but inconspicuously glance in his direction and flicker his eyebrows up across his forehead.

You would certainly make a great knight.

Squinting eyes regarded him for a few more moment's before he finally nodded, clearly satisfied with some sort of mental conjunction that he'd pieced together. Ginormous puzzle completed. Rhapscallion's shoulders rolled upwards, then slacked down again when he noticed Solvej looking at him – mirth and amusement clearly pinned and displayed on her lips, in the corners of her eyes. “Figured me, the splendorous Hopscotch, out?” He parroted softly, scrunching his face, placing his hands across his chest in an act of obliviousness. Well, the half-breed was oblivious. “I don't know what you're talking about, Captain.




There is no glory in battle, even when you're facing terrible foes like bandits who prey on the innocent. Rhapscallion had never felt the steely sensation of justice pulsing through his veins as smooth and right as water, as positively good as unselfish righteousness. He did not feel guilty for the bandits, but he did feel a certain wrongness licking as his wounds. How could people like this even exist? The price of battle – depending on the situation, on the unfolding events – was always the end to cruelty by the means of spilling blood. Certainly, some could be bought with coin, but the half-breed very much doubted that any of the group wanted to reduce themselves to charismatic banter. He'd already noticed Kerin's fingertips dancing across the blade of her axe, affectionate as if she were cradling a lover and antsy as a youngster who'd been given the chance to prove himself. She did not need to prove herself. She simply, in all of her entirety, yearned for battle. It sang through the air, loud and clear. For now, Rhapscallion wasn't sure whether or not he admired these traits or disagreed with them.

Hasty, long-legged limbs slowly halted. His feet scuffed through the dust, kicking up small cyclones at the abruptness of his pause. His eyes, his spectral orbs, slowly, excruciatingly slow, took in the brutality of the situation. Everyone had been slaughter, strewn across the encampment like discarded dolls. Muscles jumped in his jawline. There were entrails shlepped across abdomens like fat worms seeping internal juices and who-knows-what else. Protruding ribs glistening wetly in the sun, baring themselves like jagged ruins. Their faces were contorted in awful angles, lips twisted and tongues lolling from the corner's like a slaughtered animal. What could've done this? His stomach gave an unpleasant lurch, threatening to spill it's contents across his leather boots. His nice leather boots. He swallowed thickly, looked away and busied himself by looking at the others.

How hadn't he noticed the stoop-backed creatures filling their mouths with organs, slurping back entrails and wiping their hands across their faces like messy children? Rhapscallion's lips trembled, curled slightly. Disgusting creatures rippling with lean muscles and bony structures, fingers digging and diving and falling back from their smacking lips, slick with blood. He nodded sluggishly when Ethne called for caution, trying to still the tremors of fear quaking through his body. They'd always terrified him. Needlepoint teeth flashing through a mouth so dreadfully wide he thought they'd be able to gobble him up or tear his arm clear off, ripped straight into it's mouth like a whale. He initially stepped in front of Ethne, throwing his arm out wide before fading into a puff of camouflaged ripples. The archers would have to be dealt with quickly, efficiently.

Rhapscallion had found himself lagging behind with Lukas, throwing an invisible grin that flickered in a heated ripple, a desert illusion of sorts. A momentary flash of teeth. He jovially slapped a hand on the mages' back as he leaned precariously forward, limbs bent like curled coils, until he unbound, throwing himself forward with the easy grace of a healthy Halla. His focus strayed across the Seeker's battle trained hawk. Her beautiful wings stretched through the fleeting spots of sunlight, reflecting muted colours and her eyes, most notably, seemed to dictated the outcome of their battle. So peculiar. He'd have to ask Rev about her later – if it was truly a her, Rhapscallion was admittedly not very well educated when it came to the avian variety. He was all about horses. Even if they'd previously disagreed when discussing their course of action, he had to admit that the Seeker was not someone to be trifled with if you were on the opposite spectrum of acquaintances. He would not want to make him his enemy.

His blades flashed through the air. They sang a terribly haunting song. They sliced through the fabric of his stealth as if he were cutting through interwoven sheets of silk, only noticeable if they were focusing their eyes on the location the blood had come from. Where it'd initially thrown it's wide arc. Spurts of blood spattered from errant legs, knees, shins: felling the archer's in a tangled sweep of limbs. Their arrows flashed by him, unaffected. He could still feel them whizzing past, snatching at strands of hair if he wasn't paying enough attention. One barbed arrow scored itself through the collar of his shirt, terrifyingly close to the pulsing veins in his neck. It sent him reeling backwards, tripping clumsily over a corpse. In this moment, his heartbeat heaved into a maddening staccato. His world exploded, or else, it seemed like it did. Billowing clouds of dust swirled everywhere, obscuring the entire landscape. His vision blurred, flashing hot with tears. It swam back in place after a few seconds, when he realized he was no longer on his feet.

Rhapscallion couldn't piece together what had happened. He felt something wet slide across his neck like a snake and pool in the hollow of his collarbone, dripping sluggishly down his chest and blossoming unforeseen colours across his shirt. He touched his fingers there, quickly. Then, dropped them away when he realized they'd come away wet and bright red. Half of his tunic had been sheared away, as if someone had lit a match and burnt half of it – like an unwanted love letter. Pushing himself to his legs, still trembling, Rhapscallion attempted to right himself. His stealth wavered uncertainly, then faltered altogether. When he took a step ahead, trying to circle around one of the remaining rogue's, his legs nearly folded under themselves. The dust became thinner. He could see. He could see.

Then, a snarling face – belonging to a particularly ugly Hurlock – ripped through the remaining cloud of smoke and sand and dirt. It's clawed fingers swiped through the air as Rhapscallion flexed his empty hands.

Where had his blades gone?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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For the most part, the others seemed to be doing well, and perhaps it was foolish of her to assume that they would have needed her assistance so soon. Between the deadly harmony of the three most directly-physical fighters on the field, tearing through the Darkspawn lines with a seamless efficiency so impressive it was a finesse of its own, the shadow-dance and flitting lines of the three rogues, slicing at backs and planting explosives at choke points, or even Lukas, commanding raw kinetic force with an aplomb usually reserved for the most experienced enchanters, the ‘Spawn stood little chance, and Ethne altered her strategy, dispensing her mana a little more freely, the harsh press of stone and the crackling electricity of white lightning the occasional heavy pulse-beat or staccato rasp added to the music of the battlefield.

When Scally was downed, Ethne’s response was immediate. A blast of ice from winter’s grasp flashed from her fingertips and slowed the hurlock’s progess, and a healing spell immediately followed with a sharp flick of her wrist. A stonefist ripped free of her arm, taking the last of her mana with it for now, but she’d have an opportunity to recover, hopefully. It certainly finished the ‘Spawn off, and just in time.

The rhythm was inexorable, and the Darkspawn unable to keep up with its demands. One by one, they fell, and it was then that Ethne understood something: it may well be the case that they were not expected to succeed, but Warden-Commander Malik had given them the best odds he dared simply by putting them together. They were not a perfect unit, but if their prowess here was anything to go by, they had at least the potential to rise to the occasion. It was in the rage fueling Kerin’s axe-swings, the deft precision of Solvej’s spear, the raw feral ferocity of Dekton in either shape. It was the Seeker’s dead-eyed efficiency and the waver in the air as Scally disappeared from her sight. It was in the sheer energy Lukas exuded whilst throwing enemies in every direction and in Blathnat’s graceful blade-swipes.

She had never enjoyed battle, but for once she could understand why others did.

The Seeker appeared then, and spoke to her in Arcanum, handing her a marred piece of wood. The tingle it produced in her fingers upon contact was an almost sickly thing, and the sluggish, smoldering magic in the staff was the furthest thing from her own. Still, a staff was a staff, and for now, it would serve her purposes.

"Gratias mea,” she replied, her own Arcanum smooth and lilting. "Nos loqui post hoc.” She had no idea about what he wished to speak, but now was clearly not the time. Then he was gone, and the other sounds of a fight replaced the voice in her ears.

She cast her eyes back out over the field in enough time to see the last Darkspawn fall beneath Blathnat’s hand, and the relieved smile was only halfway across her face when it vanished as though it had never been there at all. Ethne’s eyes went wide, and her hands were out at her sides as the tremors in the ground began. The terrain was mostly sand, and so she was able to keep her footing, but what in the world…?

A feral roar sounded from somewhere in front of her, and another answered behind. It sounded like no animal she’d ever encountered, or even heard of, and the air became thick with the same kind of wrongness the Darkspawn impressed upon her Fade-sense, and she glanced swiftly at Blathnat.

"You’d best be over here, girl,” the Warden volunteered, whipping a blade through the air to clear most of the residual blood from it.

Approaching the center did seem like a fair idea, as whatever was drawing near appeared to be doing so from all sides, but scarcely was she even ten steps forward before a massive form went barreling straight past her, the wind of its passage knocking her off her feet.

Rolling into a crouch, Ethne noticed two things immediately: firstly, it was perhaps the largest Darkspawn she’d ever seen, and secondly, it was not alone. Three in total, massive, hulking things with wicked black horns curving back from their foreheads over their skulls. No such thing existed in any tome she’d ever read or story she’d heard, and she’d grown up in the most learned country in Thedas.

This was going to require some serious strategy, and she only hoped their skill would hold up against such monstrosities. The first to strike did so at Solvej, aiming a massive fist straight for the Black Templar. The two others seemed inclined to fight Kerin and Dekton, respectively, and Ethne held a healing spell at the tip of her tongue in case one of them was hit.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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Time dragged it's hind quarters slowly, so agonizingly unreal – if he hadn't known better, he might've thought that the Fade had dropped all around him like a curtain. The Hurlock's spittle splashed from the corner's of it's gaping mouth, flashing it's teeth as it lurched forward. Hollow-eyed, beady-eyed, empty. He could hear his heart thumping loudly, drumming uncomfortably loud against his eardrums. Could they all hear it? His shallow breath caught in his throat, and he reeled backwards, trying to gain some distance from the beast when a blast of ice funnelled over his shoulder and stopped the creature in it's steps. He silently gave thanks to her, a quiet, unheard prayer, for Ethne's helping hand. If it hadn't been for her – Rhapscallion didn't want to think about it. His quivering shadow skin rippled, renewed itself like chords twisting together. There were still the aches and pains and a rouge rawness to the burns on his chest. He was not-quite-healed, but it was bearable. For her, Rhapscallion flashed his thumb into the air and twisted back into the terrain's background, rippling free from his corporeal appearance.

Synchronized breaths. Graceful, deadly movements. Each and every one of them spun with the precision of a killer – even if they didn't agree with each other, even if their reasons were vastly different – they still killed easily, and often. They danced on each other's killing grounds, skipping over corpses and retrieving their anchored blades from undulating backs and spinal chords, thick necks and careless limbs. No longer was he dead weight on springs. Rhapscallion's movements breathed new life, not only because of Ethne's healing touch, but because a distinctive sense of camaraderie filled him like an empty container as he cat-called opponents and was met with willing alliances: shortly accompanied by a fellow blade, destructive spells, or talons, or an overly willing axe. His spectral gaze registered their movements, regarding them with a childish awe.

A sudden twitch of the ground caused Rhapscallion to stop abruptly in his tracks, dancing backwards on the balls of his feet to regain his composure. It sounded like thunder, felt like a hundreds of hoof beats beating in unison. The half-breed whipped his head around, searching fervently for the origins of such a sound – for whatever it belonged to, because earthquakes certainly didn't bellow like a broken animal. It twisted his insides unpleasantly. He kept to his feet, bracing himself. Whatever it was, it was approaching. Trees and vegetation, from the treeline, whipped around like shouldered clothes draped across a laundry-line, creating a cacophony of loud crunches and the substantial resonance of branches snapping underfoot. Or trees, honestly, it was that loud. He glanced in Blathnat's direction, watched as Ethne began to cut a path across, then – that thing swept from the trees and nearly barrelled into her, it's muscled arms tucked tightly to it's body and thick rivulets of drool dripping from it's open maw.

Ethne!” Rhapscallion called breathlessly, before dragging his gaze back onto the Darkspawn-creature recovering a few paces away. Slowly paying it's massive hands against the ground to turn itself around. Hadn't he read about these things? An ogre. Tepid creatures who's appetites were renown. Brutish beings with single-digit intelligences. Weren't they easily distracted by shiny objects? He tried to retrace the origins of his dubious information – whether or not he was just grabbing at straws, or if the nanny had told these stories to keep him from playing in the woods. Whether or not it was true, Rhapscallion still gracefully danced around the sluggish creature, fished a shiny coin from his pocket and threw it against it's back. It skipped like a stone skimming the surface of water, plopped in front of it's piggish eyes and was promptly ignored – though, it did illicit another mean growl. His nanny was a bad woman. “No, no, definitely not a fairy-tale Ogre, then.

"They sound pissed," Kerin deadpanned to Rhapscallion. The roars from the creatures would have humbled ordinary men, but Kerin was neither man nor ordinary. Instead, she seemed irritated. While the ordinary darkspawn were good sport, these beasts sounded too large to be ordinary darkspawn. Now instead of sport, it'd be a chore. The first beast charged for Solvej. Had she had time to think, she'd feel offended that the beast would attack Solvej first. But in short order, a hulking beast of her own charged her.

Kerin wasn't the fastest person on her feet, and she had no time to get out of the thing's mad charge. She did all she could to hide behind her axehead. A large muscled mass threw itself against her axe, bashing the weapon into her chest and taking her off he feet. She flew back a number of yards, helmet flying off and a couple of ribs snapping under the force. Upon landing, she bounced and slid to a stop. She lay unmoving for a moment before rolling over and coughing hard. Blood ran freely from her mouth and dripped on to the ground before her.

Normally, this would be demoralizing for a warrior, to be slung across the field of battle like an after thought and to taste their own blood. But for a berserker, this ignited the deep rooted flames of hatred. Kerin got to her feet, completely ignoring the pains in her chest and roared-- easily matching the fercioty of the ogres'. It had no form or diction, just blood rage in sound form. Once her blood roar subsided she snarled, "I. Will. Bury. You."

The ogre, unaffected by the rage of his opponent, followed up his massive blow by crouching, knuckles to the floor. Two deep puffs of breath later, and he was barrelling forward, heedless of Rhapscallion and Ethne in his path, intent upon the dwarf.

For her part, Ethne sucked in a breath when the first blow connected, readying another healing spell. All the same, it would be a while before she could use it, her mana reserves still depleted from the first half of the battle. In an effort to do something, anything, to help Kerin, she slung bolts of magic at the giant, diving out of the way when it passed and flinging yet more after it with desperate speed. It was enough to cause her some physical pain, as the magic leaving her arms so apruptly stung at her skin. She knew from her lowest moments that if it was not properly contained, her power could actually tear wounds in her skin, much like blood mages inflicted voluntarily, though she refused with a determination that had often surprised her to use that life-liquid as they did. On the more positive side, the staff was helping somewhat, and though the creature tore up the ground it passed over, leaving great rents in the sand and soil beneath, its path appeared to be completely linear, and she doubted something that big moving at that speed could possibly adjust its angle of approach. If Kerin could stay out of its way, all three of them might have a chance to lay into it from behind.

Pissed – more like, starving.” The half-breed elicited sombrely, eyeing the Darkspawn's heaving chests, their rounded bellies. How many people writhed in it's stomach? It was a thing of nightmares. Initially, Rhapscallion had turned towards the first beast that was hankering for Solvej – his mentor, his companion, his fellow Grey Warden – but then, one of his own, lurching massively towards Kerin first, barrelled it's way in his direction. It lifted the her clear off her feet, slamming her beloved axe into her chest and sent her flying through the air, or tumbling, rather, until she slid to a stop. Rhapscallion had enough time to scamper out of it's path, sweeping his blades in a wide arch so that he could catch the Darkspawn's elephant-esque heel as he passed.

Immediately, Rhapscallion moved towards Kerin, who's body gave a mighty twitch. The snarling beast impeded his path, knuckling the ground and tossing it's head into the air. Thankfully, she was on her feet again, though a little worse for wear. He could see blood dribbling from the corner's of her lips. Internal damage, surely. He'd seen the same injuries dealt to fallen horses who'd crushed their ribs. Nothing could be done right now. Her eyes spun wildly, uncontrollably. Even if he'd called out to her to ask if she was okay, if she needed help, if she needed to get away from the beasts' insatiable rage, or enlist his help in the way of a distraction – he doubted very much that she'd hear him. There was a violence singing just behind her irises, wickedly blazing. She was on fire. Or else, she was the fire. He could not tell which was more correct.

The Darkspawn's shuffling pause, huffing breaths, and lifted knuckles, all indicated that it about to charge once more. Drenched in a light layer of sweat, Rhapscallion disappeared from sight, capering around the Ogre's maddening run until he coiled down and wrenched himself up into the air, springing with the alacrity of a sprightly hoofed animal. “Take out it's legs!” He walloped, slamming his dual blades into the creature's chunky shoulder blades. Thick like a blubbery substance that only slightly gave way under his blades – so strong, so goddamn stocky. What was this thing made out of? His eyes, for once, were hard, focused in a deadly gaze with the massive beast's shaking head. It's knobby fingers sought purchase on his clinging form, constantly missing, but nearly, nearly touching. When it couldn't grab onto it's rider, it began thrashing wildly, attempting to buck him off, while still tromping dangerously towards Kerin. He numbed himself to the emotions that flooded through him. They could move in from behind while it was momentarily busied, momentarily consumed by the task of ejecting him from it's back.

His fingers, slick with sweat, clung on.

The ogre bucked haplessly, trying with all its considerable might to divest itself of its painful burden, but alas, to do so was a matter of finesse, not of raw strength, and this was something the creature knew precious little about. Its motion seemed only to sink the shamshirs deeper into its shoulders, and the strength of its arms was fading fast.

"What?" Ethne breathed when he called out to them, her heart in the throat and making it uncomfortably-difficult to breathe past her mounting anxiety. A cold tendril crept up from her belly, winding itself around her heart and lungs, the chill of fear seeping into her very bones. Still, she forced the beath for this, because it needed to be said. "Scally, if we do that and it falls on its back, you'll be crushed!" Perhaps she was woefully underestimating his agility and ability to get himself out of the way if that happened, but she knew he was still injured. There was no way a simple healing spell had fixed all of that damage, not by a long shot. Her worry threatened to close off her windpipe entirely, but she forced the bile down and hoped that Kerin would know what to do.

Speaking of the dwarf, Ethne at last felt the rush of relief that was her abiility to cast another heal, and seeing that Scally was up and moving, Kerin definitely needed it more. A flare of the somniari's fingers sent the spell right for the berserker, and it should be enough to reduce the damage, knit the bone back together and stop the internal bleeding. They'd still be bruised and tender, but it was all she could do at the moment.

"Then we bring it to it's bloody knees!" Kerin barked, branishing her axe wildly. She pushed forward, her offhand hugging her close to her chest for support. While the pain was pushed far back into the recesses of her mind, her body took automatic measures to protect itself. She surged forward as fast as her stout legs could carry her, looking to meet the charge of the beast. Though enflamed, she was not foolish. Despite the rage carrying her, she would not be the victor in a head-to-head charge against the beast. Instead, she shifted her body heavily, sliding across the sand and into the side and began to make her way around the beast while it was preoccupied with a couple of blades digging into it's shoulder.

Then Kerin's anger surged again. The beast would fall to her axe, there was no doubt in her mind. She pressed her charge at the back of the creature's legs. So focused was she on her enemy, she didn't even notice the bones knitting back together in her chest. Once in range, she hefted her axe and with both hands gave a mighty lumberjack swing towards the back of the knee, looking to bring the beast to a kneel. Hoping this would work all to the berserker's simple plan, Kerin pivoted and followed on to the back of the other knee, letting another chop meet the soft spot behind the knee, and then added another to the lower back-- hoping it would be the blow to send the ogre forward to the sandy beach below.

Nothing else could be done but cling to the Darkspawn's hardened back like a sea urchin clutching to the rocks, evading the creature's swiping hands as if he were tiptoeing away from the ocean. This certainly was not like riding the green, unbroken stallions on his homestead – he wasn't going to let go unless the creature's brains were splatted on the ground, either. These were not hooves that would scrape across his back, possibly giving a few boo-boo's or bruises. One stomping step from the ogre's massive foot and it would all be over: lights out. He needed the creature to be preoccupied with a more severe injury, giving him enough time to plunge his shamshir's into better purchase. They would attack like a pack of wolves, if they must. His muscles ached from being whipped back and forth, clutching the leather grips like a child. At least, it must've looked that way from the sheer size difference.

Through the turbulence, Rhapscallion might've huffed jarring words, broken into fits of winded breath: “Then, make sure that doesn't happen!” Honestly, he hadn't been thinking about that – Solvej could attest that he often didn't think. The possibility that he might be crushed under the ogre's immense girth hadn't crossed his mind, he'd merely acted. He wanted to protect them. White knuckled, blistered palms, aching forearms. He tried to think of something else, anything else: daffodils sweeping forward like a mass of vibrantly coloured arms, a crow's fingered wing beats and flickering penny-eyes, and certainly not, the droning dullness shooting through his arms like strained accordions.

The ogre's position shifted, and even though Rhapscallion couldn't see where Kerin had gone, charging towards the back of the Darkspawn, he could tell that she'd done some damage. His muscles tensed, readying themselves for the ogre's lumbering fall.

The beast, far too distracted by the man on its back, did not even notice the dwarf come barreling towards him. Perhaps, if he were intelligent enough to form the thought, he might have reminded himself that in the end, it was always the little things that changed everything else. Kerin's consecutive blows to his knees staggered him, and he tottered, swaying like a drunken harlot for several long, agonizing seconds. The final blow from the woman's axe tipped him forward, and for a moment, he seemed to be perfectly in-balance, able to fall not one way or the other for the exact evenness of forces.

And it was always the little things. Ethne, guessing that he was going to try stepping backwards, froze the ground there into an ice-slick, and his foot could not find purchase, sliding out from under him until he at last crashed into the sand, facedown, leaving Rhapscallion not only relatively unscathed, but with access to the unprotected area of its neck, between the horns that were as much helmet as decoration. Unlike its companion, however, neither of this ogre's legs were broken, and though its injured shoulders violently protested the maneuver, the creature fought to bring its arms to brace itself on the sand and try to leverage itself up once more.

They would have to act quickly.

Kerin hopped onto the beast's leg as it was grounded and began to chop down at it's thigh. While the dwarf knew very little of the body, she knew that there was an artery somewhere around there. If she chopped away enough surely she would find it eventually. Even if she didn't find it she perhaps could buy Rhapscallion some time to finish the beast off himself. She heaved with her axe and went to work on the beast's thigh, chopping away as one would chop wood for the winter.

"Slit it's bloody throat Hopscotch! End it now!" She wailed.

How close was Rhapscallion from releasing his death-grip on those shamshir blades? Close enough. Beads of sweat fell from his neckline like pebbles, stinging. The slightest attempt to lift himself up the creature's back, kicking his feet against the uneven ridges, to gain a better foothold ended in shooting aches electrifying through his fingertips. As if someone were whipping his hands and arms with a wooden stick – an ornery teacher who was beginning to lose her patience. His fingers were beginning to grow numb with the thrashing, violent, unpredictable bucking. The world tipped forward, jerking Rhapscallion away from the daffodil fields he'd been thinking about. The little dwarven lass had done it! The ogre's clumsy steps, swaying from side to side, rocked Rhapscallion like a stubborn leech. Thin wrists slick with the creature's sluggishly oozing blood. Then, they stood very still. So still, the half-breed wondered what was happening. The Darkspawn's hunched back stood stock-straight, as if a rod had been injected into his spine.

Fate – or the little things, always the little things – interjected and sent the ogre slipping backwards, flipping himself over on his face. He'd been ready for the impact, watching as the trees rushed past in a green patterned blur. It would've been beautiful if he hadn't been so dizzy. It would've been graceful if he hadn't flipped over the ogre's back, now clutching only one of his shamshirs and cradling the creature's thick neck between his legs, now, more than ever, like a horse. The creature's horns proved to be capable footholds, so Rhapscallion immediately pushed himself back, bolstering himself against those curved racks and drove the shamshir's tip into the soft flesh of it's exposed neck.

Moments before the Darkspawn's head whipped around and sent him sprawling on the ground, finally ejecting it's rider.

Though the ogre's reflex may have divested it at last of its burden, the job was done. Between the three of them, they had successfully managed to end its life, and it thrashed no longer. Straightening her posture, the relatively uninjured Ethne went to see to the other two, offering a hand to pull Rhapscallion to his feet and checking Kerin over for further injury. Fortunately, the hit she'd suffered at the start seemed to be the only major damage, and so the elf breathed a relieved sigh.

At least until she heard Lukas's entreaty.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Revaslin "Rev" Fenlen Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Lukas Hoffman Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell Character Portrait: Adalberto Garza
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Footnotes

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INK

As Adalberto felt the brackish breeze caress his face, he considered how the world had a way of pulling little jokes on its inhabitants. He didn't know whether to account coincidence, fate, or luck for the stirring turn of events, but he couldn't help be unnerved regardless. It was almost funny, the fact that the potential possible probable end of his career as a Grey Warden would begin with a salty voyage to Orlais, considering the reason he'd become one in the first place was due to that exact same voyage so many years ago. It was unsettling, in a lot of ways. Just the idea seemed too ironic not to serves as grim foreshadowing, but the actual reality of being here- on a ship- ruffled up his feathers and conjured memories he wished he could forget. He was not at peace, that was for sure. He was practically an anxious mess, really, yet it seemed he was just a burly man glaring at the beautiful sky for whatever reason. Probably thinking about anchors and beans- you know, all that manly stuff.

He left the railing and clomped to the center of the ship, lacking all elegance whatsoever. Malik had him waiting here on the ship for his future companions- Berto assumed it to be because he had a past with such settings- and the crew had proved to be quite the characters. Berto liked them rather a lot but they...

Well, frankly, they sort of scared him.

Berto would have probably been intimidated by strangers just due to the fact that he'd be making a first impression (Man, did he hate those. There were plenty more to be made in the near future, too!) but the Captain and his... er, babysitter... were both so commanding. He spotted Jack and cautiously, oh so cautiously, squirmed his way over to her. He cleared his throat again once she was close enough, shifting his eyes from side to side underneath his furrowed brows. Was it... was it getting hot in here? "Er, ah..." he began, voice a deep bass that resounded even as he murmured, Just be cool, Berto. Be normal. These are friends. Just... just speak. he ordered himself, a deep frown forming on his face as he thought. "Jack," he began again, locking eyes with her now, Was that... was that weird? Does my voice sound weird right now? Am I allowed to call her Jack or is that just reserved for her frien- "when, ah... when will we be leaving?" he sputtered, the question finally trickled out into the air. He had his arms crossed over his chest and his stance wide, yet a droplet of nervous sweat trailed down his forehead. Berto was a lot like a walking contradiction.

Jack leaned bodily against the mainmast, chewing on a dried date and trying not to think about how irritated she was with the Captain right now. Swallowing, she let her eyes fall half-lidded as the rest of the crew scurried about, making preparations for departure. They'd sailed into this nameless, woebegone port yesterday, and frankly she was glad to be leaving. Not even any wenches to be had in the sad-sack town, and was it wrong to want to sail to Orlais for no other reason than the whores?

Probably.

Not that she cared much, mind. Reaching into her burlap sack, he pawed around for another date and frowned. Empty. Andraste's ass, it figures. Huffing softly, for she was not typically an emotive person, much unlike the captain, she tossed the sack to a cabin boy and jerked her head towards the entrance to the galley. They could reuse that.

Ponderous footsteps, slower than any sailor worth his salt, heralded the approach of their civilian passenger, and Jack's left eyebrow climbed her browned forehead with admirable tenacity. His speech was as slow and awkward as his gait, but for all that, he knew how to move with a vessel at sea. "That's a question for the Captain, laddie." Her eyes flicked to the bow of the ship, and she raised a hand to her temple, massaging with the air of one long used to ardent migraines.

The Captain, shaggy-haired and wild-eyed, was standing at the fore of the ship, and for the love of the Maker, he was wearing a bloody cape Long, red, and swishy, which was doubtless top-notch for the dramatic whip-back of the wind but completely useless for everything else. She shouldn't be surprised anymore; at least he'd abandoned his recent fetish for hats with enormous feathers. "Oy, Rhuddy! When the hell 're we movin'? That pickup job ain't gonna take care of itself!"

Captain Bryland looked back over his shoulder at the pair of them, and Maker save them all, he was grinning. Never a good sign if you were Jack, because it meant he was up to something. "Never fear, my lady love! We shall depart this place at once, and sail to where destiny awaits us!" Jack rolled her eyes as the captain held up a single hand and snapped his fingers.

Apparently, he'd drilled the entire crew on this ridiculous display beforehand, for at that single signal, the mainsail unfurled and the helmsman spun them eastward, the ship pulling out of the bay with standard snapping proudly in the breeze. Jack closed her eyes and counted to five, slowly. Opening them again, she gave Berto a sidelong glance. "Just... ignore him. He's always like this, and no, it never stops."

The NPC Dossier has been updated.



Unsure exactly how many parties were injured in the wake of the attack, Ethne played it safe and cast a group heal. It was rapidly becoming obvious, however, that for at least one of their number, this would not be sufficient.

Solvej was laying prone on the sand, next to the body of the beast that she and Lukas had felled. From the angle of one of her legs, Ethne knew there was at least a full break. She could only hope that the bone was not completely shattered. If the woman’s ragged breathing was anything to judge by, chances were she had more than a few injured ribs as well. “Okay. Keep as still as you can, Ser Solvej. Anyone else who is injured, please have a seat; I’ll be with you as soon as I am able.”

Okay. Ethne stilled, bringing herself into the Fade. The scenery around her, no longer bound to the laws of ordinary perception, took on the faint appearance of bleeding watercolors, fogged at the edges. She must be tired, if it was this difficult to see clearly. At least she could spot what she was looking for. Several Fade spirits, blue-white in color and soothing in aura, were at her side nearly immediately, and each laid a hand on her shoulder or her crown. Mercy, Patience, and Compassion. Vitality and Love weren’t around, but the three currently present would suffice. She could also feel the rumblings of demons- close, but held at bay by her friends for now.

As spirit healers were trained to do, Ethne opened herself up to the foreign magic, channeling it as though it were her own. The soothing warmth rushing over her skin smoothed away her own trivial injuries nearly instantaneously, but Solvej was going to require much more work than that. Luckily, the woman’s leg had only snapped in one place. Taking the limb in both hands, Ethne set it as gently as possible, murmuring quiet phrases in Arcanum perhaps as much for her own comfort as the Templar’s. The magic knit the bone together, then repaired the blood vessels and muscle around it. The limb might be a bit tender for a while, but it was perfectly useable.

The woman’s ribs were a mess; one had come dangerously close to puncturing a lung, and there was still heavy internal bleeding. It took the elf about ten minutes to put the arrangement to rights, and she wobbled slightly when she closed off the flow of magic and stood. “I hope that was enough magic moonbeams,” she told Lukas, the barest of smiles appearing for just a moment.

Of course, her work was not done, and she insisted on seeing any other injured parties before she backed off. Scally definitely needed some more work, but he was nowhere near as badly-off as Solvej, and it took her half the time. Between her two earlier spells, Kerin was almost good as new, but a couple of her ribs were still bruised, so Ethne dealt with that, too. The woman’s mangled axe, she could do nothing about.

“Ah. There we go!” The soft exclamation belonged to Blathnat, who had surreptitiously wandered away from the others, being uninjured herself, and found what they’d come for. The cache, for all it was worth, had a rather poor locking mechanism. Inside the oblong trunk, she found a sizeable pouch of sovereigns, several knives of various makes, one which she took for herself, a simple bladed staff, and one rather large, double-headed axe. The coins, she handed to Solvej, the staff to Ethne, and the axe to Kerin. The rest, she didn’t much care about, as she’d managed to recover one of her own blades from the dead creature without difficulty, so she left the other rogues to sort out who got what.

[b]Level Up!
The Mission Briefings have been updated.



The group was soon once again on their way to the rendezvous point. The half-day of travel passed without notable incident, and it was on the evening of the day after they departed that Blathnat’s sharp eyes first picked out the ship on the horizon.

It was a grander ship than any Ethne had ever seen, though admittedly, that wasn’t saying much. The polished wood gleamed in the ocean spray, four masts rising proudly to challenge the clouds overhead. The standard was red and black, as Malik had promised, the emblem upon it resembling a bird in flight. The group drew up to the shore and waited as the massive vessel slid expertly in parallel to the small sliver of beach. They were even now just skirting the edges of the forest, and most of the sand had given way to rocky drop-offs.

A large board- a gangplank- descended from the side of the ship, thudding dully onto the sand. Two men and a woman climbed down. The first man was dressed in the garb of an ordinary sailor, and immediately began boarding the horses and the cart. The woman had a no-nonsense, hawkish look about her, as though she were always keenly watching something. The set of her mouth gave nothing away of her thoughts for the group or their task, but her eyes flicked back to the second man every couple of seconds.

Ethne was frankly in awe of this fellow. Tall (though not enough to rival Dekton) he nevertheless had a presence about him that demanded attention. The black leathers and linens, stitched with his own crest, probably helped, as did the impressive-looking crimson cape that rested on his shoulders. The grey and white osprey perched with dignity on his shoulder seemed to eye them almost as keenly as the woman did. The knives at either hip were of the finest make, if one knew anything about smithing, and the scars bisecting his left eye and the right side of his mouth spoke of a great deal of past trouble.

In marked contrast to his imposing stature, his hair was shaggy and his face set into what could only be described as a trickster’s grin. “Ah, and here they are! Welcome, adventurers, Wardens, and seekers of most indelicate fortune, to the Scarlet Tide. I am Captain Bryland, King of Pirates, and this lovely creature is Anthea Jaconelli, the most astute first mate a man could ask for.” He swept a low bow, somehow not dislodging his osprey, but the one called Anthea only snorted and rolled her eyes.

“Don’t mind the captain. You’re free to call him Rudhale, and I’m just Jack, thanks. Well, time’s a-wastin’, and you lot have to get to Orlais, so climb aboard.”

Looking for all the world like a reprimanded child, pout and all, the Captain shook his head and waved them onto the gangplank, leading the way up with an easy grace that gave the lie to his bombastic demeanor.

One, however, did not follow. ”Malik needs to know about those… things,” Blathnat put in with certainty. “And that story’s going to take more than a letter to tell. If there are more where those came from, Kirkwall might be in for a surprise. There’s another Warden aboard this ship; consider him my replacement. Try not to die, girls and boys.”

Ethne couldn’t say she was pleased to see the woman leave, but she admitted that Blathnat had a point, and so followed the sailors up the gangplank with only a nod. The helmsman turned the ship shortly after the gangplank was withdrawn, and their voyage to Orlais was underway.

The Codex has been updated.



Chapter One: Morpheus, The Dreamweaver
"The first of their foes lay waiting in Orlais, a Darkspawn of greater intelligence than the average man, and no mean power. Unbeknownst to any among them, much of Val Royeaux was at that time held under its insidious sway. In order to survive the fight, however, they would first have to endure a challenge almost as great: surviving each other."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Blathnat Ashling Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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Footnotes

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INK

"The hell did this happen?" Kerin asked outloud as she rubbed her chest. She knew that a couple of ribs had snapped and were jostling around in her, but now the only thing she felt was a little bit of tenderness and bruising. Still, she was breathing heavily, and her axe was embedded in the thigh of the monsterous ogre next to her. Once she was satisfied that bones weren't floating around in her chest cavity, she patted the leather hide of the ogre as a hunter would to a prized game animal. A bloody grin splayed across her face, she taunted the dead creature, "Well big boy, you're way too big to bury. I'm sorry I can't hold up my promise." She then grabbed her axe and ripped it free.

Her grin was shot all to hell. The head of the axe was massively dented and the top quarter of one of the blades was completely missing. Chips and cracked etched all through the axehead. It functioned more like a blunt device more than a hacking one. The only reason it was able to dig into the monster at all was the force of all of Kerin's anger behind every swing. The same anger that was beginning to well up inside once more. "You nugfucking son of a bitch! You broke my damn axe!" She yelled giving one last chop with the axe before storming away, her grin replaced by a scowl.

She approached as Ethne was playing healer. That would explain why her ribs weren't swimming around in her lungs, but the sight of all of the injuries reminded her of the blood she spat up moments ago. She walked towards the group rubbing the dried blood from her mouth. She did a poor job as crimson flakes still remained at the corners of her mouth, but she would worry about that later. Ethne was busy tending to a mangled looking Solvej, but if the Twig-bean could heal broke bones during battle, Kerin had enough faith to believe that she could heal the Warden.

Once Ethne finished up with Solvej and moved on to Rhapscallion, Kerin took this time to poke a little fun at the Warden. "Isn't that spear of yours supposed to keep enemies at a distance?" She said with a half cocked grin. "Last I checked, getting grabbed does not count as 'Keeping your distance'," Kerin teased. Though it may have been blunt, Kerin had taken a liking to the Warden. This was her way of showing it. By that time, Ethne had finished with Rhapscallion and began to harass her about healing.

"Dammit Twig-bean, I told you, I'm fine! Go see to someone else!" Despite her protests, Kerin allowed her to dispense what little healing she wanted too. It was one battle wasn't going to win. She turned to the other Warden's, Blathnat, exclamation and grabbed the axe that was handed to her. "That's a bit of luck, isn't it?" Kerin said, holding both axes in her hand and looking at each. Either way, the new axe was in better shape so she tossed the old one. Now all she needed was her helmet. She spent the next moments searching for it and once she had found it, they left the battlefield, the blood of the Darkspawn bathing the sand in taint.




While she was unshakable in the presence of the Darkspawn and Ogres, the sight of the ship lazily rocking on the shore inspired dread in the heart of the dwarf. The head that was held high during the battle now sunk into her shoulders and her fiery steel eyes turned dark. While she was afraid of no mortal being, the water was did not bleed, it did not die, and could not be frightened. She hated the water, and she hated the floating coffins they called boats. Her sudden dejected demeanor was obvious to all those around her-- all they need was to look at her.

Kerin hesitated at the gangplank, the gate to her own personal hell. The appearance of the pirate and his first mate completely escaped her notice, as she was too busy talking herself into crossing that border. She needed to get on to that ship in order to continue this journey. If she did not find the courage then her companions would fight this battle by themselves. Kerin did not want to do that to them, she wanted to fight, but in order to do that, she had to cross the gangplank. She looked up to her companions with an expression on her face closest to fear, looking for some kind of support. She really did not want to get on that blasted boat...

But she forced one heavy boot on the lip of the plank. Then another step. And another. Her eyes were closed and she was imagining herself walking down the solid hallways of Orzammar. Those grand hallways would never give out, and they wouldn't break and send her to a watery grave. No, she was safe her. All she needed was a few more steps... And she was on the deck of the ship.

It began to rock. She froze like a frightened nug. It was no denying it now, she was on the ship. The solid ground beneath her had turned into a couple of wooden boards. They were the only thing between her and the watery hell below. Kerin then moved-- or rather ran-- to the nearest, most solid object she could find. The mast. There she sat and wrapped her legs around it along with her arms. The rocking was still there, but at least the threat of falling overboard was no longer an issue. The thought of what she looked like to her companions came to mind...

"If any of you so much as bloody chuckle, I will murder you the next time we hit land, and I'll make it look like a bloody accident!" She warned.

Without much fanfare, the ship left the shore (much to Kerin's dismay) and began the weeks long journey to Orlais. Kerin watched in sorrow as the solid land began to shrink before her eyes. It was a sad sight, but she stayed clutched to the mast. Now that the journey was under way, the only thing left to do was to finish it.

Before long, she was joined on deck by one certain Dekton Hellas, Suicide... She could only imagine what she looked like to the large man.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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INK

The shapeshifter was in a state of something remarkably similar to bliss. He was grinning darkly as he surveyed the crushed, ruined bodies of darkspawn, bandits, and these three massive creatures that had valiantly attempted to turn them into smears on the ground. It had been a brutal and bloody fight against a worthy enemy, surrounded by allies that, so far, seemed very much worth fighting alongside. Suicide couldn't remember the last time he'd enjoyed a day like this.

The woman who had armed herself with a spear seemed to have not fared so well, however, lying in a heap as she was. The healer quickly set to work on her. Suicide had a feeling she would pull through. She had seemed certain her Path would end here, but Suicide had not been so sure. She was a capable warrior. She had a purpose here. She would carry on. It was not her time yet.

Seeing as he was not in need of healing, Suicide began to search around the battlefield, eventually finding an intact staff still in the grip of the darkspawn emissary who had wielded it. It was a vicious and crude looking weapon, but made of a sturdy, if blackened, wood staff. One end was adorned with a lovely looking spiked ball that would serve as an excellent mace, while the other was fashioned with a crude, but sharp blade. He had never actually wielded a mage's staff before. The other mages he had encountered typically did, though. Perhaps he should try it. He ripped it from the darkspawn's grasp, feeling an electrical energy pulsing along its length. It would do.

"The Path led us to an excellent battle. We are better for it," the shapeshifter commented upon returning to the group. They soon left for the ship, Dekton choosing to remain in his human form, and walk with the others.




The seas did not daunt the shapeshifter, though he had scarcely experienced them before. There was little to fear from water when one could simply turn into a bird at a moment's notice, and put as much distance between themselves and the water as they wished. He had thought of spending the hours as a raven, at least for a while, but he remembered that he had done this already. The battles of the day had proven to Suicide that these people were indeed meant to accompany him along the Path, and as such, it demanded he speak with them about... various things. The actual fighting was only the half of it.

Making his way onto the deck, thumping the spiked end of his new staff into the deck as he walked, to the displeasure of the crew, Suicide peered over the side. The waters rushed below them, violent and beautiful. The occasional spray of water left him more or less glistening, though he did not mind. Nothing here was so cold as the Wilds had been.

He eventually turned away from the sea, to find a peculiar sight: the dwarf, Kerin, the berserker as she had been referred to, was... hugging the mast? Her arms and legs were wrapped around it as though she would perish should she let go. Suicide titled his head slightly at her, before taking a few steps towards her, and crossing his arms over his chest, attempting to understand. The Path took him to peculiar encounters, sometimes. Perhaps something would come of this that he could not yet see.

"What are you doing?" he asked with an entirely straight face, not seeming to find humor in Kerin's position, but rather appearing to simply want to undersand what he was looking at.

"Trying to make the boat stop swaying," Kerin answered in complete deadpan. "As you can tell, it's not working," She finished. The act of just speaking these words sent her stomach into knots which were jerked about by the waves slapping the hull of the boat. Her face turned green and she reached for her helmet beside her, which she then unceremoniously vomitted in. Finished expelling what little food she had eaten, she wiped her chin and set the helmet back down in close reach. She was bound to need it again soon. She hated the water.

She looked up to Suicide with weariness on her face. Despite the trip only starting, she was wishing it was over. Then she answered the why. "Have you seen a dwarf swim? Yeah.... Neither have I. We don't get many ponds down in the slums of Orzammar," she said in her typical blunt manner. "I don't see how you all can handle this rocking, and the water... But especially the rocking. Actually living out on the blasted sea?" She said, pointing at the pirates around them, "They must be insane."

"And they must think the dwarves insane," Suicide countered, "to live their lives without seeing the surface, let alone something like the sea." Suicide glanced around at the pirates as Kerin pointed vaguely towards them. "I cannot yet understand why one would live upon an empty expanse such as this, but if they find fulfillment in this life, then it is their Path, and they are right to follow it."

He shrugged. "Personally, I suspect I am not bothered because I can grow wings if I wish. The water holds no threat for one who can fly." The shapeshifter then decided to take another step forward, and take a seat, perhaps five feet from the dwarf, his darkspawn staff resting across his criss-crossed legs. "You fought well against the darkspawn and the others," he commented, changing the subject. "I expect we will encounter greater battles further along the Path. I will be glad to have such a warrior beside me in the bloodshed."

"Heh, thanks for that. Believe or not, I wasn't always this warrior," Kerin said, "I used to be quite the little duster. Scrounging around the heels of the higher castes for scraps to get through the day-to-day. Well. Used to. It turned out that life wasn't in my Path. My Path had a lot more blood in store for me... A lot more." She said in a hint of a wistful tone. It must have been the combination of the sea and rocking that made her talk like this.

Yet, there that word was again. The Path. Honestly, Kerin didn't fully understand the phrase that Suicide used. It was a curious thing, the way he spoke of it. She tilted her head and asked the inevitable question. "Hey, what is the Path anyway? You speak of it as if it's destiny. Fate," She said with a squint, trying to read the large man. As she asked her question her hand unconsciously went to the brand on her face. It had been a long time since she talked to anyone about fate. In fact, the last person she probably talked about it with was her brother...

Suicide had heard enough about the dwarven caste system to know that it disgusted him. They tried to determine the fates of their kind by birth. They were fools. Everyone had to find their fate for themselves. Those that submitted to such a system, and believed their fates were chosen for them, were truly blind to the Path. From what Kerin said, however, Suicide could be reasonably sure that she was not as blind as others of her kind.

"Forgive me if I make incorrect assumptions about your life," Suicide began, "but it sounds as though you follow your Path already. You see that the life your supposed betters deigned you fit for will not provide any meaning, and so you turn away from it. You seek something that gives you purpose, you make your actions have meaning. You seek out your Path. Your fate is not something that others can explain to you, but something that you must find. It is..."

He frowned slightly. The only other person he had spoken of this to was the Warden-Commander, and it was a difficult concept to put into words. "The Path is a feeling, more than anything else. A feeling that you are satisfied with your life and how you are living, enough so that should your death come upon you, you will not regret, you will not wonder what other roads you could have traveled. You are doing what you decide you are meant to do. We cannot know where the Path ends, should we find it. We can only know that when it does end, it will be our choice. We chose to follow the Path, and thus chose its end, a death that completes us."

He fell silent, holding Kerin's gaze for a moment, before looking down at the staff he'd acquired. Perhaps she would understand, perhaps she would not. He could sense that she was willing to search for the Path, but he could not tell if she was willing to accept it.

Suicide didn't even need to finish the statement. Kerin knew exactly what the man was talking about. She nodded along in understanding, she knew his words echoed her own heart. "Freedom. To decide for myself. To choose my own Path. I suppose I did know about the Path. This brand says I don't exist, that the Stone has forsaken me. We have a score of bodies behind us that tells a different story and hundreds more ahead of us that will come to the same end. True, I don't know where the Path leads... But I choose how to to travel it," she said in acknowledgement... Then her face turned green and she reached for her helmet once more.

When she sat her helmet down feeling a bit lighter she grunted. "I just bloody wish it didn't take me over the sodding sea. That was something I could do without," she complained. "You and I are not so different Suicide," she added, wiping her mouth. "Next time we're in a town-- If I survive that long-- I'll buy the first round, aye?" She said. As it stood, she doubted she could even hold a pint of liquor, much less enjoy it. She ventured a glance at the man once more. She wondered what kind of life would lead to the concieved notion of a path. Much like hers perhaps? Or was it similiar, but completely different as well. She didn't know anything about the Chasind people. Were they as free as the notion of the path led her to believe?

Such curious people, these surfacers. Though she found herself more kin to them than her own people.

"If the Path leads us there, then so it shall be," Suicide said with a hint of a smile. He was glad to have found someone of a similar mindset. Yet another sign that this was where he was meant to be.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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INK

A night's sleep, even packed into quarters with several other members of their happy little adventuring party, had allowed Solvej the chance to regain some of her more typical composure, though there was no mistaking the fact that she was highly aggravated at the Seeker and would not be engaging him in any kind of interaction whatsoever unless the mission called for it. Still, a washbasin and a change of clothes from the cart supplies later, she was feeling considerably more at ease. Certainly, there were trials ahead, but if the Templar-turned-Warden was used to anything, it was having her mettle constantly prodded, hit, and otherwise tested for its strength and durability. She was sure the story was similar for many of them.

Armorless but armed, Solvej climbed up onto the deck of the ship, inhaling the morning salt-air and trusting the sun and sea-breeze to dry her shoulder-length hair, presently wet from washing. Sailors moved about here and there, adjusting the rigging or keeping themselves busy-looking as the first mate yelled out th occasional order. She could appreciate the woman's businesslike demeanor, and even if the Captain struck her as a fop, she was assured of his competence by both Malik's recommendation and the efficiency of his crew. Appearances could be decieving, sometimes intenionally so.

Kerin the dwarf was still beneath the mainmast, and Solvej wondered if she slept there. Approaching the berserker, the templar crouched beside her and offered her a waterskin. "Dehydration'll take you faster then the ocean does," she supplied, a grin the only sign that she might be a trifle amused by her comrade's predicament. "Have you eaten anything?"

Kerin had slept beneath the mainmast, her stocky legs in wrapped around the pole like a vice. Yet, at some point she did manage to shed her dwarven steel armor, and exposed the soft linen shirt and pants underneath. Last she had seen of it, she had told a sailor to pack it away with the rest of their belongings somewhere under deck. Her axe was still nearby and she still wore her empty sword sheath on her back. She wasn't going to venture away from the safety of the mainmast quite just yet, plus she had heard that the seasickness was worse when one went under the deck. So for now, she was quite content to stay her ground-- as it were. However, it wasn't all bad. She enjoyed watching the sailors go about their morning business, fiddling with the pullies, tinkering with the masts, and all the little things sailors did. They were a disciplined lot, and she respected that.

What she didn't like was the ease they strode across deck with. It almost felt like they were mocking her. She had already glared at a couple of sailors for chuckling, but there really wasn't anything she could do about that right now. By this time, the Warden had made her approach. Kerin took her waterskin gratefully and drank heavily from it. She was too busy trying to keep the contents of her stomach down to think about adding to it. "Aye. If it's going to take me then it needs to bloody well hurry up. I'd rather not suffer like this," she replied lightly rapping her head on the mast. "Not yet," she continued, "Though I have a feeling where it'd end up if I did," she finished nodding towards a now clean and empty helmet.

Pity the poor soul who she enlisted for that job...

Solvej nodded her understanding and shrugged, leaning back a bit into a sitting position instead of going for more food. "At least it smells better than a city out here. Or the Deep Roads. Damn, the Deep Roads stink." She scowled just remembering the last time she'd been down there. Bloody near-empty, with the Blight raging on the surface as it was.

Kerin wasn't going to argue that. "Ozammar smells just as bad. You put a bunch of short, hairy bastards in a pit with a sprinkle of nug ass, it's not going to smell like roses. But it's better than Dust Town. You can smell the desparation in the air there," all of this talking about smells sent Kerin's stomach rumbling, but she grabbed her belly and denied the exit. If she lost any more fluid, then she'd dry up like a prune. She had defeated bandits and darkspawn, she was not about to give total victory to the water.

There was silence for a moment, then the templar seemed to remember something, and her fingers worked deftly at her belt for a few seconds before the shortsword came free. Flipping it over in her hand, she held it out hilt-first to Kerin. "I figured I oughta return this. I have to admit, I was quite close to using it to gut someone last night, but... well, it's yours, anyway." From a pocket in her trousers, the woman drew what appeared to be a small satchel of nuts, loosening a drawstring and emptying a few onto her hand. These, she popped in her mouth, tilting back her head for a second. The crunch was nice, and she had always preferred salty to sweet.

"You're welcome to some, though I'd understand if you'd rather not, given your present state of despondency." She raised an eyebrow and grinned rakishly, though of course it was all in fun.

Kerin took the blade in her hand and turned it over examining it. It didn't look any worse for wear and nodded her apprectiation. "Wondered where it got to," she said before slipping it into the naked sheath. "Gut someone huh? Sounds fun," Kerin added, working out in her mind who it could be. Not Suicide, obviously. Twig-bean was too soft-spoken to want to gut, and same thing for Hopscotch-- unless the fellow doted on the Warden too much. The elf though... Kerin didn't know a lick about him, his name, his profession, nothing.

Upon her offer of nuts, Kerin raised her hand in decline. "Any other time, but now. Now, I'd prefer a hard drink..." She muttered. Alcohol sounded like a gift from the Stones themselves. She'd rather drink herself unconscious during the whole sea-trek than spend a moment feeling the rocking of the waves on the keel of the boat. She had to suppress another heave just to get through that thought.

"Hn. Sorry, fresh out. I'll see what these sailors have later, bring some up if it's any good. No promises though." Solvej chewed over another few nuts and a dried apricot, squinting at the horizon distantly. She'd known a few sailors before, and frankly, the bastards could drink anything with alcohol content, up to and probably including the medical stuff. The captain looked a bit like a dandy, though; maybe he'd have something nice. Some days, she'd almost kill for a nice Anderfels brandy or whiskey.

"We won't have to cross the water anymore after this... Right?" she said with hope in her tone.

The Templar gave her fellow crusader a sidelong glance. "Dunno," she answered truthfully. "Depends on what the girl sees in her dreams, I expect." She was a little wary for the whole somniari thing, mostly becuase nobody in their right mind trusted something Tevinter had invented without damn solid proof, but she was certain that at least the little elf herself meant no harm. If she'd wanted to pull any of that weird dream-stuff, she'd had ample opportunity before and also last night, when all of them had fallen off into slumber. The exact nature of what Ethne could do wasn't something Solvej knew, but apparently killing a body in the Fade seriously messed up their heads or something.

"So here's a question, if you don't mind. Orzammar... what's it like? I've never been, but I hear it's pretty much a standard in the Grey Warden retirement plan. Call me hasty, but I'd like to know what I'm in for if this doesn't kill me first."

"Orzammar..." Kerin monotoned. Even her best memories of that hole wasn't necessarily happy ones. The best ones were where they managed to survive the day with little incident. She didn't especially like talking about the place. Sure, she could dance around the issue, change the subject, but Kerin was not the one to shy away from the difficult questions. She wouldn't allow herself that weakness. It was her past, her history, and trying to run away from that wouldn't just make it go away.

"It all depends on whether you have this brand on your face," Kerin said, pointing at the tattoo under her eye. "And considering your pretty face doesn't and you're a Grey Warden to boot," she said, saying the word with what sounded like... Envy? "You'd be more welcomed than I ever was," Even despite her being born there. She sighed, and leaned back, looking at skies above. Even despite all of her time on the surface, the lack of a stoned ceiling still surprised her. She had gotten over her intial fear of falling up of course, but still. It was different. Almost... Liberating.

"You'll be treated like a honored guest. A sister-in-arms of sorts. If you wish it, they will throw you a banquet and hold a proving in your name before you set off on your walk into the deep roads," Kerin told Solvej, envy still present in her voice. It was the sort of celebrations she'd never gotten to see, much less participate in. She was usually the one mugging drunkards returning from such things for the Cartel. "It's... I don't know how to explain it. The city proper is big and elegent, Large stone buildings, palaces, all the stuff you'd expect in a large city. I'm more familiar with Dust Town. And I barely survived it all," she added before leaning forward and placed her head on the mast, resigned. The churning sea had managed to wear at the dwarf's stoney exterior.

"Sounds like I'd hate it," Solvej replied flatly, but there was a tinge of derision in her tone as well. Did there have to be bigotry everywhere? Mages catch flak for magic, elves get abused for having pointy ears, and apparently the dwarves decide to tattoo your face and then pretend you don't exist. Honestly. She hated fanfare anyway, and the whole 'feast in her honor' thing sounded like the kind of event she'd rather gatecrash than participate in.

She shifted her head and looked at the Warden. "A question for a question?" She entread. "What's it like being a Warden?"

"Fair deal," the other woman answered. "Being a Warden... well, it's exactly what you think it would be, until it's not. Huh, now there's a completely useless answer. Let me try that again." Solvej shifted, cinching the drawstring on her snack and setting the small satchel beside her. Pulling her legs into a criss-crossed position, she thought about how she wanted to phrase the answer for a few seconds before she tried speaking, tilting her head this way and that as though trying to decide the balance of something.

"Well, it's shit work for shit pay, and the end result is always getting killed by a darkspawn. You have horrendous dreams in which the archdemon speaks to you, but most of the time you can't understand it. If you can get past all that, though, it's not so bad. Grey Wardens are all kinds of people, from everywhere. The only requirement is loyalty to the cause and the chain of command. Everything else is negotiable. We've got former criminals, apostates, beggars, liars, thieves, nobility, farmers, and even the occasional templar," she executed a self-mocking seated bow, then staightened. "But I think the draw to being a Warden in the first place is that, invariably, it doesn't matter what you were before. I've taken orders from elves and knocked around the sons of lords, because nothing like that matters once you're one of us. Sometimes, the friends you make are good enough that getting killed by a Darkspawn doesn't seem like the worst way to go anymore. Still shit pay, though." Solvej smiled wolfishly. "Why so curious anyway? Thinking about Joining?"

The dwarf gave the woman a coy smile, "Maybe. It can't be that much worse than what I came from. Shit pay is better than no pay and it's work I know." The Cartel didn't so much as pay her as it made sure she survived until she became a Noble's trophy wife and a baby ferry for his son. The idea of being a Warden, owing alligence to no one but the Cause and to each other appealed to her, as both were things Kerin lacked. No cause but to survive, and no one but her brother. Perhaps all along all she really wanted was a reason to fight. A reason to live. To mean something.

"First thing's first though. We got to kick these Darkspawn's asses and end this bloody blight," she stated with a hint of optimism. Still, it was comforting to know that maybe, just maybe there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Oh, how she hated tunnels... "Perhaps my Path will lead down that road?" She said with a wry grin, alluding to their own Dekton Hellas. Then the moment ended when Kerin suddenly snatched her helmet and heaved... Before that, she'd first have to survive the water. She hated the water a lot more than tunnels.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Ethne Venscyath Character Portrait: Dekton Hellas Character Portrait: Kerin Valar
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INK

The Chasind shapeshifter had been standing at the bow of the ship for the better part of an hour, watching the sun come up in the early morning. It was quite a sight to witness from the sea. The way the fiery orange reflected off the waters ahead, but it was almost more of a feeling than anything. A feeling of something on the horizon. The feeling of the morning air against his skin, warm by his standards, but of course, Suicide came from a land where frozen tundra was considered normal, where it was a good day if the freezing rain came lashing straight down rather than sideways. The ship heaved gently on the waves beneath his feet, and though it was a new experience for him, he didn't react in the way Kerin had. It was exhilarating, to experience something he had never felt before. Like a new door opening before him. The Path was nothing if one did not occasionally stop to enjoy the sights.

There was also another reason Suicide had come here, though. He thumped the mace end of his darkspawn staff into the wood of the ship, as though that might make it more willing to display its power for him. It seemed a decent enough weapon. Versatile, at least. He could bash in a darkspawn's skull with the mace end, skewer one with the blade end. He would also be able to blast away at foes from a distance... if he could just figure out the trick. He could feel the magic inside of it, like lightning coursing underneath a thick stone, present, and powerful, but out of his reach. It made him frown at it, as though the staff denying him power was a personal affront, and that it should be intimidated into serving him if nothing else.

Though he would of course not speak of this to the Seeker, or probably the Templar-woman, power was not something Suicide shied away from. In fact, he actively sought it out. So long as the power's price did not impede his ability to live his life as he saw fit, there was simply no reason he should not acquire it. Possibilities opened with power that were closed to the weak. Thankfully, this did not extend to the realm of blood magic. The amplification of his power in such a way was tempting indeed, but to work with a demon so would restrict him in ways he was not willing to accept. This staff, however, was no threat to him. It was simply denying him another method by which he could dispatch his enemies, and he meant to pry it out one way or another.

Judging simple experimentation to be the best method for drawing its power out, Suicide began to thrust the staff forward, slash it horizontally, squeeze it with varying levels of intensity, flip it over and try it again, for a few minutes. More than once he accidentally smacked the mace end against the ship, only to receive rather dark looks from those attending the ship. It wasn't as though they really were going to do anything about him. He'd slept in the hold as a bear the last night, after all. Of everyone on board, Suicide was perhaps the most physically imposing, and outright dangerous looking, if only for how he seemed to embody the spirit of the Wilds from which he originated.

Getting impatient with the staff, Suicide spun in a rather graceful circle, snarling, before slamming the mace end of the staff into the deck. A small blast of lightning exploded before him, arcing up in front of his face, the force generated knocking him back onto his rear and sending him sliding a few feet before he skidded to a halt. He looked at the staff in surprise for a few seconds before erupting into laughter, a deep, growling chuckle that coupled with Kerin's laughter, still at the mast as she was, Suicide's laugh carrying a sense of pure amusement.

With each knot drawing them ever closer to their destination, Ethne's dreams grew increasingly troubled. Never mind that she, unlike most, was in full control of herself and much of her environment during them, for in the end, this only seemed to be making it worse. Desire and Pride pulled at her constantly, attempting to lure her with sweet, honeyed promises of the power she needed to achieve her aims, the power to protect the others, and the peaceful end she sought, the lovely piece of a golden world that she'd set aside for herself in the center of all her aspirations. She'd confessed that small thing to Scally, which meant it was now more than fair game for the beasts that tormented her when her spirit slipped into the Fade. Oh, but if only she were as inured as Kerin, or as strong-willed as proud Solvej!

But if she were, she'd be no use to the cause at all. So she'd done what she always did: focused her mind down to a single stream of thoughts and summoned them to her, those little pieces of happiness that she held close, her assurances that she needed nothing other than what she had, and perhaps Mercy had seen her and sighed knowingly, helping the fledgling summon her sanctuary to her until her dreams were fields of flowers and laurel crowns and happy songs on distant breezes. Either way, she rolled from her cot as nautical dawn encroached on the darkness outside, aware of the time even if she couldn't see the light. Setting herself to rights, she thought wistfully of days when hot baths were easy to obtain and she'd never been for wont of fresh clothes, but this was better and she knew it. A cage, however gilt and beautiful, was still a cage, and the glitter wore away to stark iron everywhere but nostalgia anyway.

Taking staff to hand, the mage picked her way around sleeping bodies, comrades and sailors alike, and ascended the stairs to the deck above. She was about halfway up when she heard a rather impressive thud, and alarm pulled her eyebrows aloft before the sound was joined by rolling laughter. Now more confused than concerned, she pushed open the door at the top of the stairs and squinted against the bare light for a few seconds before her eyes adjusted. Sunrise was scarcely half-begun, but it was so dark down below that her pupils had dilated considerably, it seemed.

Outside, she was met with a rather puzzling sight: the first thing she noted was that Kerin was still at the mast, likely having slept in just such a fashion. What was perhaps slightly odder still was the fact that Dekton was seated as well, not against anything in particular, but rather in a sprawling fashion, and also laughing. Still, if it was a surprise, it was not an unpleasant one, and she grinned without needing to know the reason. "Good morning," she greeted the both of them amicably. "It seems I've missed the fun."

"Hardly," the shapeshifter said, maintaining his grin as he rose to his feet. "I may end up blasted on my arse several more times before I figure out how to tame this thing." He tapped the sturdy wood of his darkspawn staff, before thumping it lightly on the deck. He seemed pleased by the weapon, even though most would no doubt be put off, or even repulsed, by the thought of wielding such a wicked looking tool, one that had no doubt taken the lives of many innocents over its life. Emissaries were no common troops among the spawn. But Suicide seemed to have no qualms whatsoever about using one's tool for murder.

"I have actually never used one before," he commented, shrugging. "The only other mage among my former clan was an old crone. As far as I was aware, her staff was nothing more than a simple walking stick. I certainly never witnessed the power of the elements being cast forth from it." He smiled to himself slightly, recalling the old woman. Hardly able to cast a spell without breaking a bone, and yet she still taught him the things he would need to know to survive on his own as a mage. The wild taught him the rest, once he came to know it like few others did. It was a rather sad thought. The crone had not lasted long when the warband had found them. In fact, she hadn't resisted whatsoever. She had seen the end of her Path, and met it with a smile.

"Never used..." Ethne trailed off, a fair shade of disbelief coloring her tone before she reconsidered and shook her head slowly. No, perhaps it made sense. What need would someone like Dekton have for a staff? Shapeshifting magics were an art unto themselves. Why bother with a simple piece of wood when one's whole being was a weapon, anyway? It was nothing like they taught in Tevinter, what the Chasind could do. The small woman looked first at her feet on the smooth wood of the deck and then at the smooth steel implement in her own hand, apparently pondering something, if the way she chewed her bottom lip was anything to go by.

There was no mistaking the fact that, try as she might to be otherwise, she was afraid of him. It wasn't his fault, really, it was just that he was very large and very male and very much not of her world. Ethne had been quite well-conditioned to fear all of those things, to varying extents, and overcoming those instinctive barriers was an accomplishment that came only with time and ample justification. But... that didn't make it acceptable to refrain from assisting if she could. "Um." A small pause, and she collected herself before smashing headlong into that first mental roadblock. "I can, well... I might be able to help, that is." She chanced a glance upward, well-aware that even at this distance, she had to crane her neck somewhat to meet his eyes. The humor of the previous few moments had been enough to banish her reservations for just a little while, but this was considerably more serious, and once again, she was conscious of how far out of her element she was. If her allies could intmidate her so, her enemies had half the task completed before they even began.

Suicide's face brightened once more at Ethne's mention of help. "Indeed? I would be most glad for any assistance you can offer me." His tone was serious, but certainly not unfriendly. Typical fare for the shapeshifter, really. He picked up on the fact that the girl was intimidated by him to some degree. After all, it was not the first time he had evoked such a reaction from younger and physically smaller individuals. That said, he wasn't really sure what the best way to put her at ease would be. He wasn't capable of making himself smaller while remaining in human form, after all, and he was quite incapable of conversing with her if he changed into his wolf, bear, or raven forms. It was debatable if his wolf and bear forms were any less scary, actually. Although, fur did tend to help matters. If Suicide was any judge, he would make for quite a magnificent pelt in some noble's house.

"The Seeker dealt with the Emissaries before I could study them much, and as such, I have had little to go on. I have been experimenting since first light, but I have only just produced any kind of force. The staff has the power of storms within it, I can feel that much, but I am blind as to how to bring it forth, or give it direction." He left out that he had woken so early because... well, sleeping in the company of others was still something he was getting used to. He'd spent years alone in the wild, finding caves to claim as his own in bear form, places where he alone was king. Here, there were dozens within a few steps of him.

His only choice had been to sleep as a bear. Only that way did he trust himself to sleep, as he had figured the crew would not be eager to bother a sleeping giant with wicked claws and teeth that could crush their bones with little effort. He also just simply slept deeper as a bear, for some reason. The shapeshifter still remembered that one glorious occasion in which he had eaten far more than usual one day before winter, gone to sleep in his cave, and woken up in spring.

In truth, probably without intending to, Dekton had presented Ethne with one of very few situations in which she'd be able to lay her misgivings aside: a quandary, involving a subject she actually knew something about. Peering at his staff, she decided it was not so very different from the one she'd used temporarily the other day after hers had broken. The magic had felt sickly to her, but that might well have been her natural aversion to the source than anything, and she suspected the problem lay elsewhere. It was almost funny, how different their educations must have been; the very nature of a stave made it an idea tool for teaching younglings without quite enough development to summon recognizable spells on their own. As a result, it was one of the first things any mage in Tevinter learned how to do.

"Well," she offered kindly, "From the way you talk about it, it sounds as though you expect the staff itself to produce the lightning. That's... well, it's technically true, I suppose, but misleading." How best to explain? It had all been very intuitve to her, in the way she supposed changing shape to mimic wild things must have been intuitive to him. Putting such concepts into words was difficult by nature. Huffing softly, she gave it a try anyway.

"It's like... hm. When you're a bear, you scratch things, right? It's like that. The staff will technically do the magic, like your claws do the, er... scratching. But really, you have to put the power and direction behind it, like your whole body does when you scratch or fly or what have you. Treat it like part of your body. A little bit of raw energy will do the trick; the wood is enchanted to do the rest." Unsure if the explanation even made sense, she leveled her own over the railing on the boat and swished it just a bit, launching a shard of ice into the ocean. "I suppose it's more a finesse thing than a strength thing," she mused thoughtfully, rocking back on her heels. "Which is probably a good thing for me, anyway. Try again and see what happens?"

Like a part of his body. That Suicide could understand. More so than anyone else in this group, he fought with weapons that were a part of him. Although, he personally would not have used the word scratch. It was so... pitiful. Suicide ripped, tore, shredded, or rended. He did not scratch. That was something a cub would do. It sounded almost playful. Word choice aside, however, and her explanation had made some degree of sense to him. The staff was not literally attached to his body, but he had to think of it as an extension of its being in order to draw its power forth, and to give it direction.

He wondered just how much mages like herself understood about the magic he could perform. Surely she could not recreate it. She had not lived in the wild as he had, she had not come to understand the bear, the wolf, the raven enough to assume their forms. But he was no doubt not the first to do so; perhaps it was documented somewhere. She seemed to have a decent grasp of things, from the way she had explained the staff. This puny little girl had proved her worth several times over already. Not to mention she was the reason he currently had direction. He would see to it that she did not end up a stain on the wall in Val Royeaux.

Finesse. Wolf and raven had taught him enough of that for him to understand. He did not always wish to emulate the bear, after all. He relaxed his grip on the handle of the staff somewhat, and thought of it as though it were his claws, his wings. Or perhaps his tail. As a wolf, it tended to act without his knowledge. A part of him that served a function without him thinking about it. Yes, perhaps that was the best way to think of it. He checked that he had sufficient room about him, before taking the staff in both hands and swinging forward, not thinking about the exact motion, but rather letting his subconscious do the work. There was a hiss as the electricity snaked forth from the weapon's tip, straight and true. He roared in approval.

"And there it is!" he said with a satisfied grin, before firing off several more blasts. His precision was lacking, the arcs of lightning not following the same path with each shot, but it was certainly progress. "It seems I was thinking too much about it, when it is a far more natural and instinctive process than I expected." He then turned to Ethne and gave her a respectful nod. "You have my thanks. I look forward to turning this tool against its makers in Val Royeaux, at your command. You are worthy of the leadership you have been given."

Ethne, who had never managed to be wholly either detached scholar or speciously-present vitally-involved compatriot, was surprised to find herself more the latter than the former in this moment. Whatever the compulsion that led her to it, she was duly proud of Dekton's easy mastery of what she'd said, and not for the fact that she'd managed to say it in a way that made sense to him. Instead, then, of doing what her own tutors would have done and recording the use of idiom and verse that did the trick, or the approximate trajectory of the result, she bounced up and down on the balls of her feet as the first collection of bolts skidded from the end of the staff and out over the water, cheery smile creeping over her features without her conscious input into the matter. She felt a little bit like clapping, but that would be silly and her staff was still in one of her hands besides.

His own enthusiasm was perhaps infectious, and that might well have been the cause, but the moment he was once again disposed to solemnity, she was turning several progressive shades of red and looking at the deck again. Worthy, was it? That seemed far too strong a word for what she'd just done, but she wasn't about to argue the point. Compliments were lovely things, only those entirely lacking in grace chose to turn aside the kindness demonstrated by contesting them. Modest deflection was one thing, but she wouldn't ever say aloud that she thought him wrong. How impolite that would be!

So instead, she cleared her throat softly and dipped herself into a shallow curtsy, more from habit than anything. "You're most welcome."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Solvej Gruenwald Character Portrait: Kerin Valar Character Portrait: Rhapscallion Linnell
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INK



The sun dipped behind the horizon, pulling the light of day with it. To Solvej, it had always seemed as though those last few rays went kicking and screaming, streaking purple and pink defiance across the darkening canvas of the sky like a child torn away from his finger-paint, or else a mage-student who wanted to finish just this one spell, I know I'll have it soon Ser Templar can't lights-out wait for one more hour? She never had been able to say no, for while there was no magic under her skin, she recognized drive and dedication when she saw them. Those things had always resonated with her, striking some unheard chord in her soul that she could feel more acutely than she could comprehend.

It was moments like those in which she'd always wondered if it was the right thing to do, trap the mages in their iron-barred cages and watch the life bleed from them in stages. Truly, the windows in the Anderfels Circle were barred. Maybe it was a mercy; the outside world did not look quite so lovely punctuated with cold, dark metal. And it wasn't, but maybe it was unfair that they never got a chance to know that.

Solvej knew something of cages, and maybe that explained why she recruited magi almost exclusively when it was her turn for that sort of thing just a few months ago. There was no denying that they were necessary, and there would be no denying it if they succeeded, for three of them were magic-users, and had they been locked away in Circles, she had no doubt that they wouldn't even know where to find what they were looking for, much less be able to conquer it. Snorting, she rapped herself sharply across the cheek. Melancholy reflection ill suited her. Perhaps it was just something about a damn sunset that made her such a sentimental fool. Bracing her hands on the ship's railing, she leaned over a bit, staring into the choppy water below. Hadn't it been smoother this morning? The sea was a mystery to her.

She'd have to tell them soon. They were within two days of Orlesian port and they had the right to know what they were facing. She couldn't help but want to stretch out the respite for as long a she could- even if Kerin was hardly getting any rest. The thought brought a lopsided smile to her face, and she glanced back over her shoulder towards the mainmast. She was well away from it, but it was the tallest thing on the bloody boat. And the dwarf the shortest. Which was true. There weren't even any rats aboard, and the one dwarf she'd seen on the crew was just a few inches taller than Kerin. But really, damn sentiment anyway. It seemed to demand that she spare them the bad news, let this calm before the storm last as long as she could make it. Now there was a maritime metaphor that she understood perfectly.

The air was getting cooler as the afternoon slowly transformed into evening. It had always been a beautiful transition, with it's heavy clouds laced with golden washed textures, and bright pastels strewn unevenly across the retreating sky, sun slowly submerging behind the horizon. The stars were beginning to come out, tiny pin-pricks of light in the vast expanse above. Dusk held promising prospects of new beginnings, unfurling closer Ethne's dream garden. Vibrant pinks metamorphosed into wine-coloured lilacs, fruit capsules bobbing. Chromatic purples burst into lovely orchids, spreading it's petals wide like a hawks feathered wings. Kaleidoscope of colours swirled and bled into one another. Unfortunately, certain colours looked off. Pale, or revered, or mixed up. It did not, however, lack it's luster. The sun's warmth slowly leeched away, replaced by a fresh, rejuvenating chill. He listened hard, and never stopped listening, even if it was subconscious. Sounds were as beautiful, or even more so, then actual sights. The occasional soft squawks belonged to the seagulls flapping and busying themselves in the waters, seeking refuge in the choppy waves, dipping their heads in search of fish. It was the constant shifting of the ship, rhythmic rocking offering it's own hum. Gentle breath-beats obviously coming from the mast's direction. He'd seen Kerin's silhouette still wrapped around the mainmast, clinging on for dear life, it seemed, though he'd taken precautions to remain unnoticed. It was one thing he was actually good at. His heartbeat seemed the loudest, adding it's own crescendo to the breathtaking soundtrack eventide offered.

There were no marbled songs, two octaves too high, within the ship's belly. Not anymore. Everyone else had drawn back into their own quarters, pulling itchy blankets tight around their shoulders and drifting off into snuffling, wheezing, snorting sleep – unless he counted his own in their ranks. He wouldn't have been surprised if many of his companions stood vigilantly awake, far too concerned with their thoughts, with their worries. Rhapscallion cupped his empty hands, placing them gingerly in his lap. He regarded them seriously, squinting. It was ridiculous, but he wished, desperately, that he had a goblet of apple cider. Sun-bellied, sun kissed liquid of warmth and fallen leaves and a familiarity that did not leave you when you blinked or looked away. Overripe apples that left your hands smelling sweet, sticky. This was his vulnerability at his greatest; at his strongest. Hope fluttered in his chest at dusk, leaving him completely, utterly open. He closed his fingers, curling them towards his palms. He missed something.

Rhapscallion's legs crossed smoothly, retracting from the safety of the wooden rails, where he'd been kicking his legs back and forth like a thoughtful child. It was only then that he noticed, while leaning precariously backwards, inches from letting the back of his head touch the planks, Solvej leaning across the railing a few paces away. How hadn't he noticed her before? The half-breed was an inky smudge of shadows against a background of darkness, dusky skies hardly offering any light in the form of stars or it's half-moon – easily missed, easily overlooked if one was so focused on their thoughts. There was something etched across her face. Perhaps, she was worried? He stifled a small chuckle, pressing his knuckles to his lips, when she rapped her knuckles against her cheek, obviously reprimanding herself for a silly thought. Finally, Rhapscallion pushed himself to his feet, silently, quietly, and approached his companion from her left side, sidling beside her. “From the looks of it, I don't think Kerin's gotten a wink of sleep.” He commented breezily, arching his eyebrows, then knitting them together. He suddenly looked contemplative, etching lines at the corner's of his eyes, as if he were gathering something within himself. A flooded balloon growing larger and larger. He tapped his fingers against his elbow, scratching behind his stubby ear with the other. Like Solvej's unbidden melancholy, it did not suit him. Then, it spluttered out in one long string: a babbling sentence of truth. “I'm afraid, you know? Of going home. Of doing all this, Sol. Will there be an after all this? There. I said it, I'm afraid.” Her gardens, his bakery, their lives.

He needed to talk to someone about this. Who better, then, to abolish his fears than his Mentor?

Solvej actually jumped a bit when Rhapscallion appeared out of the umber-dark shadows of the ship. Normally, she wouldn't react so even when someone got the drop on her; she had grown quite adept at shielding herself from expressing disadvantageous feelings. At present, however, she was distracted enough that she simply forgot to steady herself. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at him, and she was halfway through some guttural admonishment in the language of her forefathers (and mothers) before her tongue stilled in her mouth and she turned abruptly out towards the ocean again.

He was afraid. And why shouldn't he be? She was quite certain she was not leaving this journey alive. The realization would not dim her cold ferocity, only feed it, for she was not quite ready to consign the rest to the same death she had predicted for herself, and that would keep her fighting harder, watching more carefully, and sleeping with one eye always open. Her bare-knuckled grip tightened on the railing, though she eased her face into a half-cocked smirk, the kind of reckless expression that fit her like she'd been born wearing it. Grey eyes sparked dangerously, and she tossed her short mane back in a careless gesture, ridding her face of the few copper hairs that had been plastered against it by the wind. Her breathy laugh was soft, a raspy chuckle from the back of her throat more than the pit of her belly where it should have been.

She glanced at him askance, that gloriously-dishevelled, half-rabbit protegee of hers, and one of her hands left the railing, curling into a loose fist before she knocked him in the shoulder with it. "Afraid? Afraid? Where's that would-be Chevalier they promised me? The gallant hero of women and children everywhere, the fearless Grey Warden who'd face down the whole horde with his hands alone, bare as the day he was brought into the world he was meant to save?" Her tone was flippant, irreverent, and entirely unconcerned, but the dark circles beneath her eyes and the unconscious crease in her brow spoke differently.

"Besides, if you're going to protect that ladyfriend magelet of yours, you'd best stiffen that jelly-spine, you bloody lout." She was certainly teasing him now, if the sly slant of her mouth was anything to go by. It had always been like this between them, some effulgent mix of stern advice and acerbic mockery, but she'd never, never, dream of making him other than he was. Solvej wasn't an optimist. Hell, she was a cynic, jaded-green as they come and entirely unapologetic about it. But the world needed people like him, and people like the Dreamer, more than it would ever need people like her. Cynics were a dime a dozen; true optimists, with real ideals and the innocent hearts to follow them without reservation, those were precious gems worth protecting.

He reminded her so much of her brother that it hurt, sometimes.

"You'd be ignorant of the danger or too stupid to value your own life if you weren't afraid, Rhap. It's not about preventing fear; never has been. It's about conquering it instead." Her voice was quiet enough that it was almost carried away on the ocean's breeze.

He smiled apologetically, lifting his hands as if to say he didn't mean to frighten her. Her thoughts musthave been fluttering through the winds, like ash on a breeze, for him to startle her. Usually, whether or not Rhapscallion's footsteps were masked or dampened, she would have immediately spun on her heels to flick his forehead, grinning widely. She always seemed to know he was coming. Perhaps, even before he'd decided to step towards her. He joked about it, often. As if she had telepathic abilities, or the fact, that just maybe, he was just too easy to read. Like fluttering pages whipping through the wind, outlining his personality, his bubbly thoughts, and all of his emotions that, usually, swept into one rampaging typhoon. Her glare was half-assed. So, Rhapscallion didn't cringe away like a pup who's snout had been taped. She'd turned so quickly, back towards the ocean, that he couldn't help but follow suit. It really was beautiful. There was a wildness, an uncontainable freedom, that frothed in it's gushing swells. If they were in the ocean, surely, they'd be swept away under it's currents, swept clear from the ship, where they'd be alone in it's depths. Still, even though that particular thought scared him, Rhapscallion couldn't help but think that the inky ripples, reflecting the pinprick stars and half-moon, was radiant, divine, breathtaking. Unapologetic, pure.

With sights like these, it was easy to forget what they were doing, where they were heading, and what hardships they'd have to face. It was easy to shuffle everything under a rug and leave it for a rainy day. Things were easier in moment's like this. He wished, fervently, that they'd freeze in time, and roll along like ponderous slugs. It was a childish wish. Rhapscallion had never been careful, had never understood why he'd have to sleep with one eye open, or ever be cautious, when he was surrounded by reliable people like Solvej, like Blathnat, like Ethne. He believed, wholeheartedly, in people. It showed in the way he slept around people, with his blades settled away from his calloused hands, regardless of the company he kept – and he was a heavy-sleeper. His assurance and confidence in others kept him from pessimism, whisking it away, promptly, from his mind. He watched Solvej as he always did when searching for reassurance, inspiration, support. Sometimes, Rhapscallion watched her because he was worried. Even in the darkness, he'd seen her hands tighten on the railing. He could imagine white splotches blossoming near her knuckles. But, like always, Solvej surprised him in the most pleasant of ways. Her expression transformed. She tossed her head as if ready to face the world, laughing. She, like the sea, was beautiful. He believed she didn't know this.

The half-breed had been peeking at her, and caught her glance, before arching his eyebrows, in awe. Her ineffective fist buffeted his shoulder, as if to say stop that, honestly, what's wrong with you. It was her next words that touched him, dipping deep in his chest to pluck, loosely, at his heartstrings. He couldn't help but smile, sheepishly. A fearless Chevalier? It'd never really occurred to him that anyone had truly, honestly, taken him seriously when he spoke of becoming one of Orlais' most devoted knights. It was a fleeting dream – nothing like becoming a baker, but still, even still, Rhapscallion wanted to do great things and become as strong as he could to protect those he cared about. It was the most precious: his companions. Even if Solvej's tone was flippant, carelessly silly, there lied some truth there. She believed in him, didn't she?

Ladyfriend magelet. His ears flattened immediately. Thankfully, because of the nightfall's gloom, she wouldn't be able to see them burning. Nor could she see the blush faintly painting his cheekbones, hopefully. Rhapscallion flapped his hands, indignantly. Ethne's strength came from a sunny brilliance that shimmered in every direction, banishing the shadows back to their corners. Perhaps, he was one of those shadows, waiting and watching from the sidelines. It was filled with kindness and generosity. Things that people often lacked. “She's strong, you know? Wouldn't need me, the great fearless Grey Warden, to protect her. Definitely not.” He playfully bumped her shoulder with his own, clearly embarrassed, before brushing his fingers through the fringe of his cropped hair, settling them at the scruff of his neck. Even in the darkness, you couldn't miss the dazzling flash of teeth peeking from between his lips, stretched into a toothy grin. They heckled each other, constantly, but even so, he knew that Solvej would always be there for him if he needed help.

Solvej just chuckled, a surprisingly-mellow sound, and shook her head with the air of one long-used to this sort of exchange. She couldn't see his face or his ears, but she knew from that tone, sheepish and bashful, that she'd struck home on that little thought. "Of course she is," the Templar replied sagely, though the gravity was what her levity had been before: just a shade false, for the benefit of the exercise. "But even the strongest among us couldn't achieve this alone." That was just a fact. She reached up to tousle his hair with her fingers, for no other reason than the simple fact that she could. It was not often that Solvej made friends, mostly because there just wasn't time under the present circumstances. Before, there hadn't been a need.

She was willing to acknowledge, perhaps only since she met Rhapscallion, that she'd always had need of friends, but hadn't known how to name that hollow feeling in her heart. Whatever the case, the time since had made her even more fiercely adamant on behalf of those she saw as hers: her comrades, her allies, and her friends all.

His fingertips slipped away from his neck, dipping quickly to dash the tears brimming at the corner's of his eyes. Quickly, and perhaps, unnoticed. Rhapscallion heaved a dramatic yawn and stretched his arms up above his head, curled fingers entwining together before he dropped them down over Solvej's shoulders, pulling her into an angled hug. It would've been a comical sight given their height difference. “Thank you.” It was a whisper, equally muffled. He released her, clearly rejuvenated. Maybe, just maybe, they'd be alright after all.

The woman responded to the half-hug by elbowing him in the ribs, then surrendered and reached up, patting him on the back. "Nonsense, you blighter. I did nothing at all."