Snippet #2781842

located in Orlais, a part of The Canticle of Fate: Silver Lion Stanza, one of the many universes on RPG.


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.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lia Tael Character Portrait: Corvin Pavell
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Guard Captain Bernard wasn't happy with how things turned out in Riverbend, but as far as Lia could tell she wasn't mad either. As guard captains Lia had known went, she wasn't half bad, able to remain reasonable and disciplined when she didn't get what she wanted, when the people she'd hired were forced to compromise with her enemy. But as crime lords went, Kotter wasn't half bad either. Obviously one was preferable to the other, but Lia was determined not to get involved again in the near future.

She was after bigger fish.

Winter was making its last feeble grasps on the city, and steadily losing to spring. Some parts of the city practically came to life when the weather warmed, flourishing green and every other color that flowers could have, but the ways in and out of the Alienage were always dull and dead. Inside the walls they did what they could, but it never shook the feel of a ghetto, where the people had more important concerns than aesthetics.

Lia waited hours sometimes for Arrin, every few days like she promised, and always in a different spot on his route from the last time. So far he hadn't brought her a thing, at least nothing useful, and sometimes their meetings consisted of a subtle head shake before they were on their way. But he seemed determined, confident he'd be able to help her soon.

Today she took a spot on a bench under a still-dead tree, eating lunch in the form of a sandwich. She'd taken to not wearing Argent Lion colors; better to be thought of as just another city elf. Granted, a city elf with vallaslin, but there wasn't much she could do about that.

Today it didn't take her particularly long to encounter him. Arrin always had a sort of energy about him, a lightness of step that made him suited enough for his job; he seemed like the kind of person that would fidget a great deal if he didn't get that energy out doing something else. At he moment he all but hummed with it, something that might've been harder to notice if she didn't seem him quite so often. There was a clip in his step, though, an abruptness to movements that were usually longer and smoother, and rather than the casual acknowledgment he usually met her with, he seemed to be actively looking for her. More subtle than he'd been a while ago, but still hardly all that difficult to spot.

He very consciously made himself not hurry to where she stood, it seemed like, actually slowing down a little and flipping through the few letters left in the bag at his hip. He stopped on the other side of the bench, taking out what seemed to be his delivery manifest and parking himself in a seated position, drawing his legs up so he could rest the manifest on them at an angle.

"I, uh... think I have something." He paused there, clearly waiting for some sign that it was a good time and place to speak.

Lia didn't see why not; she picked either quiet places or quiet hours to wait for him, and this was the former. His approach made it difficult for anyone to follow him without being spotted, at least from Lia's angle.

She didn't react much, because she wasn't too surprised. Arrin had talent that he was putting to use, and she didn't expect her enemies to sit around waiting for long before making a move.

"I'm all ears."

Arrin raised a hand to his brow, rubbing absently at one of his temples. "Q's got something planned, near as I can tell. Not sure exactly what she's trying to do, but I know it involves getting someone on the cast or crew of a play, of all things." He furrowed his brow, shaking his head faintly. "Some fellow named Tethras is casting for a show. I don't know who her people are or why she wants them there, but apparently she's pretty set on it."

Lia tried to hide disappointment, and probably did well enough stuffing it under her surprise. She'd hoped and sort of expected to hear something about the Vhenallin and Braven, maybe even something they knew or were doing for the Venatori. Q was... well, she wasn't an ally and she wasn't a friend, but as of their last meeting they weren't enemies, and at least a few of their goals aligned. Lia had no desire to have the Ashfingers on her back, but... this didn't sound good.

"Tethras?" she repeated. "Varric Tethras?" There really could be no other, if this was about a play in the city. She'd forgotten about it with everything else that had been happening. "He's from Kirkwall," she explained, for Arrin's benefit. "A writer and a friend of the Emperor and Empress. The play's about them, I'm pretty sure. They might even be there for the premiere."

They were a busy pair, obviously, but few things were as important to them as their friends, and Varric went way back with both of them. Lia knew they'd want to support him. The idea of Lucien watching someone play him on stage almost made Lia laugh, and she would have if the rest of the news wasn't so troubling.

"If they're there, any number of important Orlesians would show up too." She looked up at him. "You're sure about this, then? That she's trying to infiltrate the cast or crew?"

Arrin looked faintly put off for some reason, but it wasn't clear what was doing it. The frown was only a small one, in any case. He sighed quietly and shoved his ledger back in his bag a moment later, humming quietly. "She's probably already done it," he said, but it sounded like a guess. "Maybe you could just warn the guy, but I think she wants it done bad enough that she'd just find a way to get someone else in the second time, you know? I don't know who all she's got or I'd tell you. I'm not exactly in her inner circle or anything, but I know she has a lot of people. She's probably the only one left with much chance of swaying people away from what the Vhenallin are doing."

His tone was unusually hard to read, there, some ambiguity in it obfuscating Arrin's thoughts. Still, he seemed quite sure of the information, little as it was. He stood, dusting down his trousers and resettling his threadbare cloak forward over his shoulders. "I'll let you know if I hear anything else, but..." He shrugged.

"This is really good, Arrin," she said, standing, and trying to sound reassuring. "More than enough to go on, and Varric will trust it if it comes from Lions. Find out what else you can, but be careful. I'll be in touch as usual."

"Sure." Arrin nodded a bit, an indescipherable look passing only momentarily across his face before he mustered a faint smile. "I'll see you around, Lia."

Explaining everything to Cor was awkward. She started with the information itself, relaying that Kestrel was apparently going to infiltrate Varric's cast or crew for the upcoming play, for an unknown but certainly nefarious purpose. From there it didn't take much to convince him of the need to go and speak with Varric about it, and figure out the best course of action. Before long Lia had cleaned up and changed back into the company gear, and the two were on their way to the Castle District.

"This came from Arrin," she explained on the way, knowing she'd need to give him her source eventually. Cor was perhaps the only person she trusted enough to give the name to. "I... asked him to keep an ear out for me, see if he could bring me something useful on our enemies. Ashfingers aren't exactly that, but this is important all the same."

Cor fiddled with the fastenings of his mask; like her he wasn't inclined to wear it unless absolutely necessary. His face was telling in its absence. Contemplative when she'd mentioned Kestrel, resigned when the rest hadn't been clear, then ever so slightly skeptical when Arrin had come up. But, as always, he was willing to trust her intuitions about things, and so he let out a sigh as they headed for the Castle District gate.

"Definitely better to know what she's up to," he said, lips compressing into a thin line. "No idea what she'd want with a play, but I guess it's going to be a pretty important one, with big names around it."

She appreciated that, that Cor was willing to follow her lead on things when she wanted to take the initiative. For someone who often seemed prideful and bullheaded on the outside, she knew he was anything but. Whatever this was with Varric's crew, it was real. She trusted Arrin's word. All that remained was to figure out what they could do about it.

Lia didn't bother with her mask in the Castle District, simply carrying it as Cor did, and no one bothered them over it. Better things to pay attention to than two elves on their streets. The Grande Royeaux Theater was where Lia headed, expecting to find Varric at work there, doing... whatever it was one did this far in advance of the play. He was directing matters in addition to writing the thing, so he had to be busy.

They were allowed entry into the foyer, but there they found the doors barred, and they were forced to treat with an attendant, who needed some convincing that they should be allowed to speak with Varric, who was indeed somewhere inside. In the end they got the young Orlesian to pass a message along, a request that Varric come out and see them when he was able. She hoped the attendant would remember to mention their names.

Thankfully, Varric didn't make them wait long. He emerged looking a little grumpy, in a long leather coat with rolled sleeves, his shirt unbuttoned near to his abdomen as usual, the still lingering winter weather be damned. Lia supposed the fur on his chest kept him warm. For once he didn't have that strange crossbow with him. He looked a fair bit older than the last time they'd seen him, but he clearly recognized them both, judging by the way his face lit up.

"The Emperor's finest, in search of a humble storyteller!" He swept into a cheerful bow for them. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"It's good to see you, Varric," Lia greeted. "It's... a bit of a sensitive matter, actually. This might not be the best place."

He took that in stride, no doubt having some experience handling such things. "I've got some time, just finished for the day here. How about you show me where Argent Lions prefer to drink, and we'll talk there?"

The trip back to the Smiling Lion was a bit of a trek, but Varric had a way of filling time with anecdotes and jokes that was impossible not to notice. The dwarf had facility with words, and a penchant for knowing just which story would go best with which situation or surroundings. Probably good that Varric was that good with those things, as it seemed to be his profession these days.

The tavern was fairly clear at this time of day, and as they were accustomed, the Lions were shown to whatever seats they should want. Cor chose the ones on the balcony again—he'd confessed to like looking out at the water. Many of the Lions had at least a touch of wanderlust, but in him it seemed to be particularly strong, somehow, and he was drawn to things like that, sometimes it seemed without really being aware of the fact.

Once they were all situated and suitably provided with food or drink to their preference, Cor took a draught from his and leaned back in his chair. "You're uh... you're at least passing familiar with the Ashfingers, aren't you, Varric?"

"I hear lots of things, old habits dying hard I suppose." The dwarf half-grinned as he said it, looking relaxed as ever. "Not the most pleasant group to deal with, as I understand."

"Not the worst, either," said Lia. "But they're the probably we've got currently. I got a tip today that the Ashfingers are looking to infiltrate your play, either in the cast or crew."

"My play, really?" He seemed... almost amused to Lia, or perhaps more intrigued. She supposed he was the sort to react to these types of situations with anything but fear. At least on the surface. "And I take it they're looking to do more than sabotage the performance."

"I don't know what their goal is, but Kestrel doesn't aim small. Whatever it is, we need to find a way to stop it."

Varric hummed thoughtfully and took a drink from his cup. "I can double the checks on everyone we bring on still, and make sure those already hired get them too, but it's not like Ashfingers sign contracts. And I can't just refuse to hire any elves."

Lia imagined plenty of Orlesian nobles wouldn't have any problems with that, but even if it happened it would necessarily solve the issue. "Might not even be elves we're looking for. The Ashfingers have money and resources, they could easily hire outside help for a job they want done."

Cor leaned back in his chair, wearing an obvious grimace even as the front legs lifted off the ground. "I mean... I guess the other way to do it would be uh... watch the watchers, or something?" He shrugged, elaborating after another swallow. "I'm guessing it'd be hard to keep an eye on that many people, even for you, but if you had some help, we might be able to figure out who the likely candidates are and go from there? We could be stagehands or something, undercover ourselves." He sounded a little intrigued with his own idea—most likely he found the notion of out-spying a spy sort rather agreeable.

Lia thought it was an absurd idea. Her ability to be sneaky was largely limited to staying entirely out of sight, not actual spycraft. Her people skills were only marginally better than her dad's, a rather low bar to clear. Still... the right thing overheard, the right conversation eavesdropped on, and they could possibly put a stop to this before it started.

Varric seemed to be actually considering it, and didn't try to hide that some kind of ideas were brewing in that head of his. "I expect you'll be made quickly," he said, "if the Ashfingers are half as good as I've heard. You're both... well, even without the mercenary uniforms you're not going to look like many other elves around here." Lia's vallaslin were a painfully obvious identifier, and she didn't think Cor could make himself small if he tried.

But he waved his hand dismissively at that after another moment's thought. "Bah, but what does it matter? Having you sniffing around could easily make it hell for troublemakers to make trouble. I'd be glad to bring you on. Last round of auditions is in two days' time at the Grande Royeaux, we'll be filling out the rest of the team there as well. Stop by and I'll find a place for you."

"This should be interesting..." Lia made no attempts to hide her uncertainty about the plan, but Varric ignored it.

"Wherever you end up, I'll expect your best work on the play too. We're putting on a show for royalty, after all."

Cor seemed rather pleased with this development, from the rather satisfied smile that took up residence on his face. "Well I've never been accused of lacking panache, at least." He wasn't like to need it, if they were in fact going to be stagehands of all things, but it might at least help him fit in a bit with the crowd, so to speak. At least that seemed to be where his thoughts were heading.

"...and we've got a couple friends that might be a little more anonymous than us, I suspect. So if there's room for two extras, maybe we can be the obvious protection and they can hide behind that smokescreen."

"I'd be happy to meet any friends of yours. Should be able to find them places." His eyes darted between them for a moment, before Varric picked up his drink and lifted it with a grin. "Here's to your new careers in theater."

Lia rolled her eyes, but indulged the dwarf, lifting up her own cup. "May they have less drama than mercenary work."