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The Canticle of Fate: Silver Lion Stanza


a part of The Canticle of Fate: Silver Lion Stanza, by AugustArria.

The largest and most powerful nation in Thedas, Orlais sits in the continent's southwest corner. An absolute monarchy, the region is ruled by Emperor Lucien I and Empress Sophia.

AugustArria holds sovereignty over Orlais, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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Orlais is a part of The Canticle of Fate: Silver Lion Stanza.

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The largest and most powerful nation in Thedas, Orlais sits in the continent's southwest corner, bordered by Ferelden to the east and The Anderfels and Nevarra to the north. An absolute monarchy, the region is ruled by Emperor Lucien I and Empress Sophia.


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Character Portrait: Evelyne Lafleur
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"Here kitty, kitty, kitty," Evie beckoned, but the cat proved stubborn, and continued to stare at her like she had something on her face. She huffed after the calls had no effect and inched closer to the feline on top of a roof she absolutely did not trust. About twenty minutes prior, she had been safely on ground level, practicing her forms on the legs of a broken table she had found and propped up next to her door. She had just taken a break when a young girl, no more than fix or six, had wandered up to her. From her clothing Evie could guess that she was another resident of Riverside, just like her, a neighbor perhaps. The girl had tears in her eyes, and when Evie asked what was wrong, she had pointed at the cat that stared down on them from her roof.

The same cat that stared at her like she was a fool now. The roof of her house was not the sturdiest and already she had put her foot through a rotted corner-- she was going to have to find another bucket to catch the water when it rained. From then she had taken her time to crawl across her room, careful to stay on the crossbeams that held the roof up in one piece. Less likely for her to fall through on those, though not impossible... "Come here sweetie, someone misses you," she pleaded with the cat. Nothing, just more blank stares. She grumbled with herself and too another movement forward as she crawled ever closer.

She had given up trying to reason with it by that point, and instead focused not causing any more damage to her roof or even worse, taking a nose dive off of the side. Eventually, she did manage to reach the cat, and fortunately it appeared friendly enough to allow itself to be picked up without clawing at Evie's face. That was good, and slowly but surely she made her way back and began to climb down the side of her house with the precious cargo under her arm. Almost reminds her of her brief stint in the Academie, except the climbing exercises there required her to do in her full plate and gear. In comparison, carrying just a cat was a breeze.

Eventually, she reached the ground and the waiting child. "Kitty!" she said as Evie deposited it into her arms. "You know better, mommy told us to stop climbing houses," she chastised the cat. Evie agreed with the mother, if the other houses roofs were anything like hers. "Thank you miss!" the child said to Evie. She nodded her head and crouched to better see the child. She smiled and ruffled the fur on the kitty's head as she spoke, "You're most welcome, just try to keep this troublemaker out of trouble," she said playfully.

She hadn't quite made it back to standing before a familiar voice called out to her. "Evie-girl!"

The speaker wasn't exactly unexpected; he showed up with a military sort of regularity to check in with her, though little trace of the same could be found in his appearance now. Marcel, her older brother, was dressed neatly enough, and the sword at his hip probably never left it, but the bright orange scarf wound around his neck was assuredly not regulation, nor was the length of his dark hair—longer than she kept hers, actually, and pulled into a queue at his nape, bits and pieces escaping the discipline as always.

He grinned, flashing bright teeth, stepping up to where she and the little girl stood. "Making new friends, I see." He offered her neighbor a gallant bow, more than a little overblown quite on purpose. "What might our new friend's name be?"

The little girl's eyes lit up at Marc's timely appearance and seemed rather taken by his panache, but before she could give them her name, it was yelled at them from down the row of houses. "Christine!" the voice called, and looking behind Marc, Evie could see that it belonged to an older, portly woman. She stood in front of a house a couple down from Evie's own, but most notably [[[she had her eyes were stuck]]] on Marc, even as she spoke. "Come on home now," she said, and the little girl nodded.

The girl, Christine apparently, looked back to Evie and said, "Thanks again miss!"

Evie smiled again and nodded, "Anytime, just take care of our furry friend," she offered, and watched both child and cat wander back home, where undoubtedly the mother shuffled her back inside the house. Evie watched for a moment before turning to Marc, "You know, something tells me the mother doesn't like you," Evie noted, and she had a feeling she knew why. The lower classes she found did not trust the Chevaliers, and though it probably wasn't immediately apparent that Marc was an officer, there was something very obviously military about him, plus the sword at his hip probably didn't help.

He shrugged, obviously unconcerned. "Perhaps not. More importantly, Evie-girl, are you going to invite me in, or will we be having our conversation in the middle of the street?" He quirked a brow, tilting his head towards her front door.

"Had I spent a few more minutes up there, I don't think there would've been much of a difference," she said with some consternation as she looked toward where she had put her foot through her roof. Turning back to Marc she nodded, "But sure, let's move this inside," she offered, leading the way toward her door. She paused a moment to retrieve the estoc she had left leaning against the desk and then moved in, leaving the door open behind her for Marc.

The inside was much like the outside. Plain and uninspired. The first room they were in was a sitting room in the front, with a pair of chairs and an old fireplace and a kitchen in the back, with a counter and a an even older wood burning stove. Another door led off to the side where her bedroom was. There wasn't much in the was of decoration, aside from a single sword hung above the fireplace-- the sword she had taken from her uncle's house back when she had first accompanied Cor and Lia.

"I would've baked you something, but... my ingredients are running low," as they always were these days.

Marc sighed quietly, taking one of the chairs. It creaked almost alarmingly under his weight when he did, but held steady for now. "No need to worry about that." He smiled again, though it was a bit more strained this time. "With no war on and no field duty, I might actually have to start minding what I eat!"

The smile faded; his eyes landed on the sword over the mantel. His brows furrowed for a moment, but it was hard to tell exactly what he was thinking. He shifted his attention back to her, deftly untying something from his belt with one hand. When he set it on the table, it jingled—clearly there were coins in it. "There's the usual allowance in there, plus a bit from mother, and a bit from me. Maybe hire someone to get this roof patched." He couldn't hide his displeasure at having to say that, but he tried.

Evie frowned herself. She wasn't fond of having to have an allowance, but the fact remained that without it, she would probably go hungry. The jobs from the Lions were few and far between, and went to other things like armor repairs. At this point, her breastplate was probably more patch than original metal. Then she moved to the hole in her roof-- or holes, rather. There were more than the one she just made. She shook her head and took the seat opposite of Marc and began scratching at her hairline. "Maybe," she said with the same level of enthusiasm Marc had. In all honesty, she didn't like to dwell on her current lot, and would rather be doing things that took her mind off of it.

In that vain, "How is mother, anyway?" she asked.

"Same as always." Marc hummed, mostly to himself. "We're... talking to father, she and I. About you. I think part of him regrets what's happened, and after all this business with Uncle Jean—we might be able to bring him around." He leaned forward slightly, bracing both his forearms on the table and ducking his head slightly so they could meet eyes directly.

"This isn't forever, Evie. Just... try to keep your head up, okay? You won't have to live like this forever."

"Yeah, that's the plan," Evie said, a little more resigned than he had. She too had leaned forward, her elbows resting on her knees. "One foot after the other right?" she said. She wasn't so sure about it herself. Her father had been very... Firm on his decision, and he was never the type of man to go back on the things he decided on for no reason. However, Marc was right on one thing. She would not have to live like this forever-- though that relied more on her than them. She would have to improve her situation somehow.

Easier said than done. In essence she was starting from the beginning, and she had no idea how to begin again. She supposed helping out Cor and Lia was a start, but that was sporadic, and never felt focused. She was there to give aid when they needed it. Thinking about it made her feel lost and and threatened to drag her back out of inaction. It was why she always felt like she had to be doing something, moving, training, something other than laying in bed and relying on the allowance from her family. But to do something more? She didn't even know where to start. She shook her head slightly, thinking about it too hard made her feel trapped.

Marc cleared his throat, as if to remind her of his presence. "Anyway, tell me more about how things are with you. What keeps you busy these days, Evie-girl?" He must have sensed at least some of her unease, for he showed no inclination to linger on the topic of their father.

She wanted to spill everything to him, and almost had before she reined herself in and bit her lip, both metaphorically and literally. "A little mercenary work here and there, but other than that," she said, glancing at her uncle's sword. "We're trying to look into what Jean had gotten himself into..." She admitted. Between them, Evie had the closer relationship to their uncle. She wasn't blind, she knew how her uncle's actions had turned the opinion against him, she could see it in his eyes. What he did was horrid and irredeemable, but despite herself, she could only see the man who had taken it upon himself to train her to be a Chevalier. Clearly, that too had failed, but she would always appreciate the effort.

"He definitely got in over his head," she said, with a look at Marc that stated the obvious. She refrained from mentioning the Ashfingers however and the Venatori involvement. Both because she did not want him to worry-- and letting any information about the Ashfingers slip would invariably not be a good thing. Kess was a woman of means, she she'd rather not have it turned against her.

Her brother did indeed furrow his brow a little at the mention of their uncle, but since he'd brought up the topic himself earlier, it probably wasn't just that. "Who's 'we'?" There was evident curiosity in his tone—clearly he hadn't expected her to be part of any such investigations.

"A couple of Argent Lions," she answered, "And a rather unique Antivan fellow." She frowned after that and crossed her arms. "The Lions were the ones who found Jean, they've been investigating ever since. I asked to tag-a-long because... well, he was our uncle," she said shaking her head, "Feels like the least I could do is try to clean up his mess."

That brought something to mind. She glanced back up at Marc and asked, "How's father and you handling it? The Order hasn't been too hard on you because of the relation, have they?"

Marc shrugged. "Nothing especially difficult. Of course the Emperor prefers his knights with clean noses, but he is not the type to condemn a family for one member's... indiscretions." It was difficult to read his tone. Marc had always been of the view that soldiers ought not express their political inclinations one way or another if at all possible. They were the blades of the Empire, not its philosophers or politicians. It wasn't the most common view, but it wasn't exactly fringe in the ranks either; enough people thought the same that he never lacked for agreement on the point.

He waved the matter away, however, refocusing his attention on Evie. "But Argent Lions, Evie-girl? Is that really entirely... necessary?"

"Marc, I don't exactly have a lot of resources to call on here," she said, gently motioning toward their surroundings. "And besides, they were the ones who uncovered what Jean was doing first, it's technically more their investigation than mine," she said, leaning back in her seat. Maybe if she had visited more or been with him more, she could have seen what he was doing and steered him elsewhere. Jean had always been a difficult man to move, but maybe she would've had a shot. Instead she failed out of the Academie and spent the following months pitying and feeling sorry for herself. Still sometimes did, it appeared.

She shook her head and looked back at Marc. "And I'd rather not involve you and father if I can help it," she said. "You two still have your honor and image intact. I'd rather you not risk it by rooting around in the mud with me," she said with a self-deprecating smile. It was one reason, the others involving Ashfingers and Venatori. She'd rather they didn't find themselves a target for either group.

"Don't worry about me Marc," she said, her smile warming up, "I may not be a Chevalier, but I was raised by them. I'll be fine." At least, she hoped. She didn't exactly measure up then, and she hoped that she would not find herself wanting again on down the line.

The shuttered expression on his face, while difficult to interpret, suggested that her persuasion had not been especially effective. Marc sighed almost under his breath, then dredged up a smile. "Well... I'm sure the official inquiry will conclude soon regardless. Whatever else the mercenaries are doing won't have much to do with you, no doubt." He shrugged, patted her hand, and then reached down to his belt, untying another pouch.

This one, though, looked to contain a deck of cards. "You still know how to play corners, I hope?" That was clearly teasing, and his whole face brightened with it, boyish grin flashing and lighting his dark eyes.

"One way to find out," she answered with a sly grin.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lia Tael Character Portrait: Corvin Pavell
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Lia slept the sleep of the dead, undisturbed for the rest of the day and night after she arrived.

Well, mostly undisturbed. She was woken briefly shortly after collapsing into the bed, as Vito informed her she'd need slightly more extensive healing on her wound than a simple potion could mend, even the strongest he had. Lia found she was too tired to put up any argument. As it turned out, she fell right back asleep, and any further magic after that didn't wake her again.

When she finally did wake up again, it was to the uncomfortable twisting of hunger in her stomach, piercing through the general grogginess. She'd only removed her armor and her boots, preferring to sleep with the rest of her clothes on. Had she not been so tired and still in need of healing she would've never allowed herself to sleep in another person's house, but the circumstances demanded it. And while she was always wary, Vito had proved himself a friend, enough that she could trust him to watch her back while she slept rather than fearing anything from him.

She sat up slowly, pushing her mess of hair out of her face and lifting up her shirt halfway to get a look at her new scar. It was a few inches long, starting just below her lowest rib on her left side and running down about a third the length of her abdomen. Probably the worst one she had, actually. In all the action she'd seen with the Lions and then the Inquisition, Lia had somehow avoided all but minor injuries.

She should've known better than to attack someone like Leta alone. She'd given her an arrow for the trouble, but it probably only slowed her for a moment.

"Thought I heard you stirring." Lia looked up to find the girl Marisol in the doorway. "Good morning. There's some food left downstairs if you're hungry."

"Morning?" The storage room they'd put her up in didn't have so much as a window.

Marisol nodded. "Mhm. You definitely needed the rest. I thought Vito was going to have to knock you out to keep working on your side, but you're a heavy sleeper."

"Not usually." She mumbled the words more than anything, before shaking her head. "I'll be out in a minute. Thank you." She'd missed a whole day, which meant Cor had been left to report to Julian without her. By Marisol's relaxed demeanor she assumed nothing else had happened in the meantime, but still... she pulled on her boots and started fastening them. She needed to get moving.

She tried to make a quick escape once she was ready to leave, but Marisol was an effective host, and the lure of breakfast food could not be ignored. "Papà's off at the markets," she explained. "We saved you some, though. Seriously, you should eat. You must be starving." Lia couldn't argue with that, and found herself shrugging off her bow and pack again, and helping herself to the still warm scrambled eggs and toast.

About halfway through the process of polishing off the food, the front door jingled, just loud enough to hear from the kitchen upstairs. "Marisol?" Cor's familiar voice followed almost immediately, pitched to carry but not to startle.

"Come on up!" she called, recognizing the sound. "Thought you might be by."

With permission to enter the 'home' portion of the building, Cor obliged, the stairs creaking slightly with his ascent. He rounded the corner into the kitchen a moment later, face lighting in a smile. "She wakes," he said it with a light tone, but did a pretty terrible job of keeping the actual concern at bay, his expression considerably more serious.

Taking up a spot in the doorway, he leaned a shoulder against it. No armor today, which could be good or bad depending. "Feeling better?"

"Good enough," was her answer, and it was honest. She'd need a few hours to get up to full speed again, and it was a good thing it didn't seem like they had a job to do today. And while Vito did an excellent job with the healing, he wasn't a miracle worker. She'd known one before, and this wasn't that. But she was alive and relatively well, and that was a much better outcome than what she could've ended up with.

She noted Marisol's somewhat speedy exit from the room, heading back downstairs to keep an eye on the shop and give them some privacy. "Did I miss anything worthwhile?" she asked. She wasn't really sure what to expect from Cor, honestly, but then, Lia hadn't really processed what she'd done, and what it could mean, just yet. That was going to take some time.

He'd eased a bit at her answer, but Marisol's departure and the question seemed to return a bit of the tension to him—he wasn't really all that good at hiding things, in general. "Not really," he replied, shifting uneasily. "Vito filled me in on the parts of the story I didn't get earlier, and then I made a report to Julien. Unsurprisingly it's going to be a while before he can get back to us with anything useful."

He almost looked like he went to cross his arms, then decided consciously against it, hooking his thumbs into his belt instead. She could just see the hilt of a shortsword behind him that way—it was just his everyday sidearm. "You took a shot at her," he said plainly. He offered no more than that, regarding her expectantly.

"Of course I did." She couldn't help but let her tone become slightly defensive. She wasn't mad at him, though, nor was she surprised he'd want to bring it up. She was more frustrated at herself. "Should've been the only shot that was needed. But I screwed up." She should've been more careful, she should've waited for a better moment, she should've anticipated Leta's movement and adjusted for that. She should've been better.

"If I'd killed her, everything would've fallen into place. The Venatori would have no one left, Braven would fold to Kess or be destroyed, and everyone here could start moving forward again."

"Maybe," he conceded, though he didn't sound as certain as she was of the fact. "But you also could have died." His brows knit, a troubled frown settling onto his face. "Not that that's new, half the things we do could kill us, but—" He expelled what was left of his breath through his nose.

"Just... we're in this together. I wish you'd come back and let us plan something. Then it could have been my problem and yours, right?" A flicker of frustration pinched his features before it faded, but it didn't seem directed at her.

"I said I screwed up, didn't I?" She thought it was just a little hypocritical of him, given some of the things she'd seen him do, and other things she'd heard about and knew to be true. But she wasn't going to bring that up. "I saw a chance to make a difference right then and there, something I feel like we've barely been able to do here so far. And I took it." All she could think of was how hard Ithilian and Amalia had to work for every shot they got at Marcus, and how likely they'd be to pass up a chance like that if it fell into their laps.

But she wasn't either of her mentors. And Leta wasn't Marcus, no matter how much she'd learned from him. It was foolish of her to put Leta in the same light, and foolish of her to forget her own limitations. She sighed, not really feeling like finishing the food in front of her anymore. "It's everyone's problem now, I guess."

Cor nodded carefully, pursing his lips. "Right. I—never mind." His eyes fell just momentarily to his feet before he pulled in a deep breath and straightened. "I'm glad you're okay, anyway. It's been a really crazy couple of days." And the vacillation between the high of Arielle's birth and the low of basically everything after that had been extreme. He offered an almost-tentative lopsided smile.

"We'll work the rest out as we go. Which, uh, I guess I'm going to do. Are you heading back to the barracks?"

She shook her head. "Not yet. I'm going to stop by the Alienage first. But I'll head there right after." He'd know by now that if he was welcome to come along, she'd have offered it to him. But this was definitely a conversation she needed to have alone, and she figured Cor wouldn't really want a part in it anyway.

"Thanks, by the way," she added. "For coming by. And I'm sorry if I scared you. I'm, uh... still trying to figure how to do all of this." If her history was anything to go off of, Lia had a tendency to be rash. But that was something she thought she had in common with Cor.

He relaxed a little more at that. "You and me both. I'll see you later, then." As good as his word, he pushed off the doorframe and departed without further fuss. She could hear him say something to Marisol downstairs, though not exactly what. Probably just a farewell or something. Then the door jangled again, and the shop went quiet.

She picked at her food a little more, some of her appetite returning now that the conversation was more or less salvaged. She was glad he didn't seem to have a problem with making the attempt to eliminate Leta for good, at least. Just the manner in which she'd done it. Lia didn't know if she could accept someone like Leta going back into a dungeon to rot. Somewhere she could still have power, somewhere she could get away again. No, she needed to end, and the Venatori needed to end with her. While she lived, some trace of Marcus still flittered in the air, and that was something Lia could not ignore. Could not allow.

She cleaned up after herself a little, though Marisol was quick to return and help. It was a little awkward, with Lia getting the sense that Marisol didn't really want her to hang around but absolutely not willing to say it. She could understand that. Lia and Cor had brought Vito some significant income recently, but it came at the cost of a lot of trouble, and some dangerous people knowing their names where they otherwise wouldn't have cared.

Lia bid Marisol farewell and took her leave before anyone else could show up to delay her. She'd have to thank Vito later. For now she headed towards the Alienage. Contrary to what she'd told Cor she didn't actually go inside, instead taking up a spot along a side street where it was relatively secluded and quiet, even during the daylight hours. She knew Arrin took it on his route, which at this time he'd probably be in the middle of. She just had to be patient.

It took a while for him to appear—carrying messages and deliveries was an irregular job, and where he was when often depended on who'd paid him to do what on a particular day. But after about an hour and a half of waiting, her patience bore fruit. Arrin approached from the west, tucking a bundle of parchment envelopes into a ratty, but well-patched, canvas bag slung over one shoulder. He did not initially seem to notice her, which was odd. He was far from as practiced an observer as she or even one of the other Lions, but he wasn't usually oblivious to his surroundings, either.

He finally picked up on her presence just before he would have passed her, head snapping up to blink blearily at her. Shaking himself slightly, he plastered on a smile. "Oh, uh... morning, Lia."

She wasn't surprised he'd be a little off from his normal self. No doubt he'd caught wind of some of the recent events from other Ashfingers. There had to be plenty of turmoil and doubt around with the organization essentially splitting in two. At least they weren't likely going to enter open conflict, since they did ultimately want similar things, even if they'd have very different ways of going about it. Attempted assassinations or no, Kess wasn't likely to want them all dead. Just the ones necessary to bring back the rest. Lia was hoping for something similar.

"Hey. Don't mind the look, I'm fine." Blood blended in pretty well with maroon, especially once it dried, but he'd probably notice when he got closer. "Just had an unfortunate run-in with some angry former members of a certain faction here." She glanced around one more time to make sure they had privacy before she patted the spot next to her on the bench she'd chosen. "I'm assuming you've heard some things recently?"

Arrin grimaced, but sat down without further prompting. "Yeah. It's been—it's been tense. Last couple days, the lines are really getting drawn. Word is Braven laid an ambush for Kestrel, but someone else sprung the trap." He looked pointedly at one of the patches of dried blood. "Guess you'd know more about than than me."

He expelled a breath and leaned back, raking a thin hand through his hair to pull it back away from his face. "Everything's starting to separate. Informants are choosing sides, and the ordinary members like me. No one's died yet that I know of, but there's a few places some people aren't all welcome anymore, you know? It's like they're dividing up the city for now." Probably with at least some intent of clashing once the lines were in place.

Lia hoped it wouldn't come to that. The last thing they needed was the elves killing each other over a disagreement. That said, the current predicament was not as bad as the thought of Braven winning the confrontation, and having the Ashfingers absorbed into his Vhenallin. That kind of power in his hands would do nothing good for anyone.

"Braven's in league with some Venatori remnants. Very dangerous people. Guess he sees them as a means to an end, but I doubt he really knows what he's getting into." Whatever sympathy an elf such as Leta had for her people had to be overshadowed by her hate of other things. Clearly she didn't care if elves died to help her get what she wanted. She met eyes with Arrin. "I'm going to take care of this, but I can't do it on my own. Information is what I need most right now, and I don't have a lot of ways to get it. You, on the other hand..." She shrugged lightly, though her tone was quite serious. "I'm not asking you to get mixed up with Vhenallin, but if you can put yourself in the right place at the right time, and you hear something I can use... we can't let this get worse, you know?"

Arrin hunched his shoulders, features pinching, almost like a drawn-out wince. "I dunno, Lia. I was thinking about trying to... kind of sit between the two, see what I could see, all that. But—Braven doesn't mess around. Neither does Kestrel, come to think of it. I'm not sure how well I'll do, you know? If someone catches me—I can talk my way out of a lot of things, but I'm not sure that's one of them."

She wasn't fond of doing this. Like many city elves, Arrin didn't have the most confidence. She was much the same once, as there simply wasn't any reason for it. No reason to believe things would turn out okay. But unlike Arrin Lia had seen that they could turn out okay, and consistently too. It was just a matter of effort and skill. She knew Arrin had the latter, more than he gave himself credit for. But sometimes the former had to be forced before it would roll on its own.

"There are a lot of people in your position right now, though. Caught between the two, and forced to choose. Both of them have to know that, and they have to respect it. If they pull too hard, they're going to lose. And I know you can do this. Start with whatever you're comfortable with, and go from there. Anything helps." And if the time came where he absolutely had to pick a side, he could always fall in with Kestrel. Whatever their disagreements, she was absolutely the lesser of the evils here.

He pressed his lips together, but slowly nodded. "Okay. I—yeah. All right. I'll give it a shot." Shifting, he stood, brushing down his trousers and curling his mouth in a small smile. "We've all got to do our parts, right? Between you and my mom, I guess I'm convinced." No doubt Riris wouldn't especially approve of this, but like the rest of them, she had to work with what she had. Arrin had often expressed a desire to help her, even if he did it in ways she would never have asked him to.

"I guess I'll keep you updated, then. Take care of yourself, Lia."

"You too. I'll check in every few days for now."

She expelled a breath that had been pent up in her when he was gone, and she was alone again. She hadn't really been aware of it. She waited another few minutes before she started back for the barracks. The work was done for the moment, but somehow Lia felt she wouldn't really be able to relax for a long time yet.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Corvin Pavell Character Portrait: Vitorio Sansone
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Corvin tugged his tunic down, making sure it lay properly before winding his belt around his waist. The shortsword attached lay comfortably across the small of his back, unobtrusive but there if he happened to need it. He wasn't looking forward to summer, when layering would prove to be less convenient. Flexing his hands, he felt the scar tissue on his arms pull slightly and grimaced. No use thinking about it now.

Satisfied that he'd stick out as neither particularly well or poorly attired for his plans, he left the barracks quietly, tracking the by-now-familiar route to Vito's. The shop was closed by now, of course; it was about an hour after sundown, and, he hoped, late enough that the Antivan wouldn't still be working.

He knocked on the shop door to be polite before he opened it—that it was still unlocked was somewhat promising. "Hey Vito? You around? It's Corvin."

A full head of dark hair appeared popped up from behind the counter, but it belonged to Marisol rather than Vito. Her expression wasn't the easiest to read. Forced politeness, perhaps, indicating she wasn't entirely happy to see him. "Hello, Corvin. He should be down in a minute." She took in his appearance, noting the shortsword but also the overall lack of armor. "Did... something happen?" No doubt she'd started associating him and Lia's arrivals with imminent trouble.

It wasn't hard to put two and two together there, and Corvin hastened to reassure her. "No, no trouble. We're actually just going to the tavern to grab a couple drinks, is all." He half-smiled. "I can't promise he'll be home at a decent hour, but I swear there won't be any fights."

A laugh echoed down the staircase; clearly Vito at least found this thought amusing. He appeared a moment later, dressed in his usual fashion, with his curved knife at his belt. It would seem that Corvin wasn't the only one who went armed as a matter of habit. Probably for the best, considering how dangerous it could still be to make one's magic known, even if the Circles weren't exactly operational at the moment.

"You'll see to that, will you? I do believe I've acquired my very own bodyguard. Charming fellow that he is, I suppose I'll be the recipient of much misdirected envy." He winked at Corvin, such an obvious, over-the-top one that it could only have been meant in jest, and bent to press a brief kiss to Marisol's temple. "I'll be back later, caro. Don't forget to lock up behind you if you go out as well. And leave me a note so I know who you're with."

"Yes, yes, fine. Do have fun."

He grinned, ruffling her hair slightly before using the same hand to gesture towards the door. "Lead on, my friend."

Corvin grinned at that, and nodded. Time to blow off some steam, then.

Really, it hadn't been that hard to decide to invite Vito along; he seemed like the kind of person that wouldn't mind the fact that the company's favorite bar wasn't upscale. Not to mention the kind that knew how to have a good time. Donny and Hissrad were plenty busy running the actual company these days, and aside from Lia, Corvin just wasn't that close with any of the Val Royeaux Lions these days. Too many years, too many faces moved on or brand-new to him.

The Smiling Lion might not have been a fancy place, but it was clean, and the location included a pretty nice view of the harbor, something its second-floor balcony took plenty of advantage of. When they entered, Svalda—the tavern's heavily-freckled dwarven proprietor— ushered them promptly to the best seats in the house, so to speak. In this case, a table right at the edge of the balcony railing, providing both the crispness of a night breeze and an excellent command of the scenery.

Once their initial orders were taken and delivered, Corvin sighed and eased back in his chair, tipping onto the back legs and resting his tankard on his knee. There was easily enough space between themselves and the closest others—a trio of elves playing cards—to give a sense of privacy.

"So, stop me if I'm overstepping here, but uh... Marisol didn't seem too happy to see me. She worried about you?" It made perfect sense to him that she wouldn't have the highest opinion of the near-strangers who kept dragging her dad into dangerous situations.

Vito smiled; clearly the question did not count as an overstep for him. "Oh, no doubt." His reply was unusually soft, but then he cleared his throat. "I really do need to talk to her about this; I think part of the issue is perhaps how suddenly it happened, and how little I consulted her about it." He shook his head, setting the thready ornaments at his ears to jingling lightly.

"It is not long we have lived as a family; I think I'm still getting used to it."

There were a lot of things that could mean, but Corvin wasn't quite nosy enough to ask which. At least not without a little more lubrication. Taking a deep draw from his tankard, he sighed heavily and nodded. "It's probably not really the same, but my family got pretty concerned when I took up mercenary work. At the time I thought they were just worrying too much—mom especially. I didn't think it'd be that much more dangerous than just living in the Alienage could get."

He'd been wrong of course, but in fairness to his original thought, it wasn't exactly most mercenaries that found themselves opposite things like dragons and Red Templars and whatever else. In his actual case though, he had to admit his mom had been right to worry. Probably why he didn't tell her half the truth about what he did.

"Do you have a lot of other family, back in Rialto?"

As if the mention of it had set him to seeking the place, Vito looked out at the water. It took a moment and a large swallow of his ale before he replied. "In a manner of speaking. We are... estranged from most of my family. We came here so that they would not bother us, for the freedom to live apart from them." Knitting his brow, he shifted his focus back to Corvin. "Nothing so noble as the beckoning of duty, I suppose, but then we aren't very noble to begin with." He finished off what was in his tankard, setting it down gingerly just before the next arrived, along with their food.

Corvin thought for a moment of his own father, then grimaced. "Yeah, I can understand wanting to not see someone again." The thought was extremely unpleasant, though, and he really didn't want to dwell on it. He doubted Vito did either—it wasn't exactly the stuff of a fun night out. For that reason and a few more to boot, he avoided asking after Marisol's mother, though he did wonder.

"But, uh... I dunno that there was really anything all that noble about me coming here, for the record. Don't get me wrong, I think the Lions do good work, but in those days I'd have followed the Commander anywhere. Still would, honestly, but it's... different. I was a kid. Wanted to see more of the world, maybe get a little of that greatness to rub off on me." Maybe find something he was missing, hard to name but keenly felt. A little less keenly when he leaped into battle beside Lucien and his friends.

It wasn't the worst motive in the world, but it was still pretty selfish, in a way.

"You'll forgive me for saying so, I hope, but I find it difficult to believe that it hasn't." Vito smiled, pausing a moment to tuck into his food. He was actually quite precise with his table manners, if considerably more relaxed than people in actually formal settings. Careful, was the word. Or something like it. "Perhaps it doesn't look like it from so close, but from where I'm standing, you're really quite extraordinary—you and Lia both. There's the Lions, of course, but I recall mention of the Inquisition as well?"

It was clear that he knew the answer to his own question when he continued. "Between the uprisings in Kirkwall and all that, well... it's quite a bit beyond an ordinary man's reach, to say the least. Close enough to greatness to look like it to me, at least."

Corvin cleared his throat, unsure whether he felt more amused or embarrassed. There was something about being complimented in such a matter-of-fact way—either Vito was genuine, or he was a hell of an actor. "The Inquisition part was mostly other people," he said in the end, half-smiling and leaning back in his chair. "But... I mean, I definitely feel good about having had any part of it."

Pausing to chew over some of his food, he admitted something he hadn't planned to. Honesty invited the same, maybe. "It's kind of messed-up, actually, but I don't feel... exactly right unless I'm caught up in something big and dangerous like that." His friends called him reckless, and they were right—but the decision to be that way wasn't itself a careless one, really. "I guess that's hard for other people to understand. Most of them try really hard to be safe, and risk and danger are trade-offs they have to make for doing the right thing. But for me, it's like—" he paused, trying to find the words.

"I can't really explain it, except to say I want that. Risk. It feels right."

Setting his utensils down, Vito leaned back a bit into his chair, shifting so that his elbow hung off the back of it. It gave his posture a few slants, so that he wasn't quite square-on with Corvin anymore. "I've known more than a few reckless people, but none I think who had thought so carefully about it." His smile had the same ironic suggestion to it as his words did, but he didn't seem inclined to admonish, nor to claim that his own personality shared the thread. It probably took at least a touch of something like that for anyone to regularly put themselves in danger, but from what Corvin had been able to observe, Vito could hardly be considered careless in any way.

He turned to study the water, spare light catching on the metal at his ear. "I almost hesitate to ask what you do for fun."

Corvin half-smiled, the expression a little more subdued than he'd meant it to be. Fun had used to be this—only generally with more people. A night of drinking, telling stories, playing games, making fun of Donny, and probably winding up following someone home for something easy and uncomplicated, if he happened to strike someone's fancy. He liked to think he often did; at least he'd never had trouble finding those amusements when he wanted them.

But all of that was more or less gone now, parts of the regular group sacrificed to the split, then the Inquisition, then the kinds of responsibilities that kept them from indulging so often. And death, of course—the Lions had lost no few of their number to missions, either. As for the other bit, well... he didn't really do that anymore, either.

He pressed his knuckles to his sternum, easing a tightness there and shrugging. "What, you mean getting shot at and stabbed on the regular isn't enough fun for you?"

Vito chuckled. "It's certainly more than enough excitement." Glancing down at his tankard, he frowned slightly. "Few more of these, and I might have some stories to contribute, if being shot at makes for good fun. Next round's on me."

It wasn't the first time Corvin had gotten the sense that there was a lot more to Vito than there appeared, but no doubt he wouldn't get much if he pressed, and he didn't want to do it anyway. There were things he wasn't that comfortable talking about himself.

So he nodded instead. "I'll take you up on that."


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Character Portrait: Vitorio Sansone
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Vito hummed rather tunelessly under his breath, reaching up to rub idly at his goatee with his free hand. The other was currently occupied holding open a book. This one was a recent acquisition—his contact had it on good authority that it was stolen from the Circle in Montsimmard sometime during the mage rebellion. But the river of illicit goods flows parallel to the legitimate, and like all things in Orlais, it was drawn eventually to Val Royeaux. The price was a bit dear, and two months ago he'd never have considered the purchase, but with recent work he found it to be worth the investment.

Unfortunately, it was proving somewhat difficult to crack, as the recipes were buried within dense theoretical notation that he simply had no reference for. A shame, since the formulas would provide him with several new and useful products if he could just figure them out.

"Mari, do we still have the red book, or did we lose it to the fire?" His few textbooks on potion lore all had interchangeable and pretentious names, so he tended to refer to them by the colors instead.

"Well..." Marisol paused from her work of sorting new arrivals to their shelves to crouch down behind the counter a moment. She rummaged through books stacked away for a moment before she popped back up. "We still have some of it."

The cover was less red than it was a charred black now, and clearly at least the outer half of almost all the pages had been eaten away by the blaze as well. It was far from the only thing they'd lost in the fire, and sorting through all of it to see what was salvageable was a laborious, time-consuming process that had a way of wearing on a teenage girl. More often than not Marisol had been in charge of the shop, at least since the fire and all the outside work that came after it.

She rounded her way over to him and set the tome down on the table beside his chair. "I'll let you decide if there's anything worth keeping in there."

He grimaced, pinching a dried-out page between his thumb and forefinger with as much delicacy as he could muster before turning it. There might be something of use still in here, but the constant reminders of their own rather striking poverty were more frequent since the fire. He'd never been a rich man, not even in Antiva, but he hadn't struggled this much to make ends meet since he was a boy.

Marisol had straightforwardly never had this problem. Not before she lived with him, anyway. Vito sighed softly, closing over the new book and the old alike before setting them aside.

"Would you like to go for a walk, Caro? It's warm enough, I think."

She took a glance at the work remaining to her, but it obviously didn't have much pull, as she soon threw her hands out to the sides, letting them fall back until they slapped against her legs. A shrug of sorts. "Sure. I could use some air."

Vito nodded slightly, standing from his spot and flipping the shop sign so that it read CLOSED. They'd not had a customer in hours, and frankly probably wouldn't for the rest of the day, anyhow. That was the pace of business around here, most of the time. Most of what they made came from the reliable, intermittent large orders, like the one they made up for the bordello a few blocks over.

The midafternoon light was bright overhead, weak in the manner of winter sun in the south, but though the air was crisp, it wasn't too chilly for the slightly-thicker linen he was wearing today. Vito held the door for Marisol and locked up behind them, slipping the key into his pocket and striking off in the direction of the docks. He tended to seek the sea by instinct, but if Marisol wanted to go some other way, he certainly wouldn't protest.

He just... didn't want to be inside the shop for this conversation. It was too small, the space too personal. It was where they lived and where they worked, and he didn't want this tangled up in there as well, especially if it didn't go well.

He waited a few minutes, for them to settle into a steady pace and get clear of their immediate neighborhood. All the while, Vito considered how to put his question, and found himself frustratingly unable to think of anything but the obvious. He'd never had trouble talking to people until Marisol, something he thought was probably due to her importance.

He'd never really loved anyone until Marisol either, after all. Well, no one barring his mother, but that was quite a different situation.

"Are you happy?" The question, when it finally escaped him, did so almost too quickly, the words run together in a way that conveyed his discomfort with them rather more effectively than Vito would have liked. He felt like he knew what the answer was, but also wasn't prepared to hear it. "Here, I mean. With me, and... this."

"Me?" she looked up from the street in front of her. She walked with her hands in her pockets, her posture a little lacking. Her normal gait wasn't a saunter, exactly, but Marisol had never lacked for confidence. "I'm fine. This was my idea, remember? And I knew what I was getting into." She'd been fourteen when they came here, and already she knew all about the world, and all about its ugly parts. For better or worse, she knew how to handle just about anything she ran into.

Her mother's doing, that.

But clearly she knew that didn't really answer his question. She listed sideways until their arms bumped. "I'm more worried about you. We're not living in luxury, but we had a pretty good thing going, even with all the troubles we've had getting started. I thought this was the sort of thing you wanted to be doing, but now..." She glanced back over her shoulder, perhaps checking if anyone was in earshot. "Now you're running off to fight insurgents and getting into ambushes. So unless I'm wrong, you're the one that isn't happy. Or at least not satisfied."

As usual, her insight was exceptional. Vito pursed his lips, easing an itch on the side of his nose with the roughened pad of a finger. "I thought I would be." It had certainly been Marisol's idea to leave Rialto behind, but he hadn't said no. Hadn't even considered it, once she'd shown him that the logistics of it were possible. He'd wanted something else for his life, a new start that took him far away from the person he'd been—and perhaps worse, the specter of the person he was becoming. The journey to wickedness had been an incremental one, for Vito; whether or not he'd ever reached the destination, he knew he was well on the way at one point.

This was supposed to be his chance to backtrack a little, maybe find some grey area that was comfortable enough. Do no harm, even if there was no real compensating for the things he'd done.

But perhaps he was more like Corvin than he'd initially suspected.

"The ambushes, though, and the fighting—it feels like doing the things I'm good at again, but for the right reasons this time." And there was something very alluring about that combination.

"You're good at a lot of things," she countered, "most of which have nothing to do with killing and sneaking and criminals and all of that. And if you tried more things, I'm sure you'd find that you're good at them too." They made it within sight of the docks before long; it got a little more crowded than the sparse streets of Riverbend, but they still weren't in danger of being overheard so long as they didn't shout.

"You're a healer in the biggest city in Orlais." She lowered her voice somewhat. "I know you don't like people knowing you're a mage, but it's not a crime anymore to practice outside of Circles. You could be doing so much good without needing to dodge arrows every other week. Might not be as exciting, but..."

She shrugged, relenting a little both in her expression and her tone. "I don't want to tell you what to do. And I like your new friends well enough, they're obviously good people, it's just... I worry, that's all. Just because I could get by fine on my own doesn't mean I want to." She forced a smile, the humor an attempt to cover up the grim nature of the scenario she was suggesting.

Vito sighed softly through his nose. In one way, she was right, he supposed. But he was not the kind of healer that would be put on retainer by nobility, or invited to scholarly events and inducted into the more prestigious—and profitable—circles in the profession. He was a poorly-educated foreigner who got by on scavenged textbooks decades out of date and the best his intuition could do. He didn't think that made him any lesser, but he knew he'd always be perceived that way. The most he could hope for on that front was what he had now: a very modest business that earned enough to scrape by, and helped a few of the people in his proximity.

He would cure no diseases, and save few lives. It wasn't nothing, but it wasn't the kind of good he most wanted to do, either. Perhaps it was wrongheaded of him to think about the good he wanted to do, but there it was. Being a better person was still a work in progress, so perhaps he could be excused for his desire for something that was good and lucrative and interesting.

He reached out sideways and laid a hand on Marisol's head, ruffling her hair only gently, and only for about as long as he figured she'd tolerate. Admittedly it was usually a gesture reserved for younger recipients, but maybe part of him would always think of her as the girl she was when they first met: brave, smart as a whip, mature, and so very, very young.

"Perhaps you're right to." He'd certainly been closer to death in the last few weeks than he'd been for several years. He couldn't see that as an advantage, even if there was a certain excitement to it. "And I promise I'll never forget that you do. I don't know if there will be more of this in my future, but if there is, I'll be as careful as I can." He smiled himself, only slightly more naturally than she had.

He couldn't promise more than that, not at this juncture, and he certainly wasn't going to lie to her.

"Thank you," Marisol answered earnestly. She didn't seem overly disappointed with his response; perhaps she'd expected it, or simply needed to air her discomforts, make sure he acknowledged them, was aware of them. "I'm glad you're... finding purpose in it, I guess." It sounded like she was about to say enjoying it, but thought better of the word choice. "And I'm glad your friends have you watching out for them. Maker knows they need the help."

She walked in silence a few more steps, and then suddenly stopped, hesitating before she spoke again. "You don't think... the way you do things, it's sort of unique, you know? How you're self-taught and all. We've been laying low for a while now... but they're never going to stop looking for us." It looked like she wanted to say more, but then shook her head with a frustrated sigh. "Ugh, I'm sorry. I'm worrying too much, and you already said you'd be careful."

It was definitely one of the reasons he wasn't too keen to practice magic in the open, but he had at least one thing going for him in this respect. "I wasn't too open with my magic, even then. Not too many of them would know what to look for, or know one mage from another." They weren't exactly commonplace in the family, either, but her caution was understandable. "As long as I don't go announcing things to everyone I fight, it should be a minimal risk. We've done well so far, and they know I'm a self-taught alchemist, too."

"Okay." It seemed to conclude her worries, or at least push them down temporarily. There was always something or other to worry about for the two of them, and ever more since that fire. "Should we get something to eat while we're out here?" she resumed walking. "You'll need to keep up your strength if you're going to be a big hero around here."

He laughed. "If I'm ever a 'big hero' anywhere, please smack me. But I could eat, regardless. Shall we see how well the Orlesians can do Antivan food?"