Chapter 9- New friends. Or perhaps new Rivals
Dawn rose over the Inquisition camp outside Val Royeaux with a far gentler light than the thin early winter sunshine that had taken hold in Haven. Here the grass was still green and the trees were only beginning to garb themselves for fall.
Sera spat into the fire and scratched her nose, damn but she hated the country. All the dust made her nose stuffy. The Inquisitor soldiers watched her as they went about their morning duties. The elf who ran this whole mess wandered out of her tent, eyes bright and her hair tied back.
Typical elf all happy to be in this… this nature. Sera snorted as she watched the Herald talk to one of the soldiers who nodded and left. Sera watched as the Herald walked over to the pot near the fire and scooped out a dollop of porridge into one of the bowls stacked next to it. The Herald saw her and raised her hand in greeting. “Morning,” She greeted and Sera sniffed.
“Yeah, it’s morning,” She informed the elf grumpily hoping to get a rise out of the Herald. You could learn a lot about a person when they were pissed, using both definitions of the word. The big soldier lady exited her tent she shared with the mage all dressed up in her heavy armour and the dwarf wandered to the fire from his own tent.
“So, I was wondering,'” Sera began looking at them. “Rumour says you got yourselves a demon who’s not really as demony as the rest. That true?” She demanded and the others looked at each other. “Is that going to be a problem?” The Herald asked her a serious expression on her face and Sera’s eyes widened.
“Wha’? Seriously? That wasn’ just some horse shite from Chantry?” She exclaimed and Cassandra snorted. “The demon part is highly exaggerated. She is merely different… and insane,” She responded haughtily though the last part was muttered more to herself.
Sera looked around and noticed the other soldiers were watching her cautiously. Seems that the demon lady was not as unpopular as she had thought. “So, she hanging out at Haven eating babies or somethin’?” She asked trying to figure out what their reactions would be.
The dwarf gave a chuckle. “Hardly eating babies. She tends to help deliver them instead,” He informed her and the soldiers nodded and Elariel gave a giggle. “You won’t have to wait to meet her though,” She informed the elf who frowned and the warrior lady explained.
“I believe you called her Giggles,” The Seeker to her drily.
Sera’s jaw dropped and she gaped at them. “Wait you mean she’s that mage who threw my arrow at me?” She demanded and the others began to laugh and a smooth voice behind her spoke. “Not a mage.” Sera jumped a full foot into the air, hand going for her bow, and losing an arrow before she even had a chance to fully see what she was shooting at.
“SHITE!” She screeched as she tucked into a roll in an automatic reaction to put space between her and her target. The camp dissolved into chaos as weapons were drawn, spells summoned and the arrow simply halted in midair.
The camp froze and everyone stared at the hovering arrow. Miranda peered blearily at the projectile and blinked owlishly up at Sera. “It’s a little early for arrows, isn’t it?” She asked through a yawn, wandering over to the arrow and carefully plucking it from the air.
She looked over the camp and sighed. “Oh for heaven’s sake, put those away and let’s discuss this over breakfast, I’m starving,” She informed them. Sera still stood there frozen in disbelief as the soldiers and Herald grudgingly put away their weapons and sat down.
The demon/not demon was tall, easily the height of the men. When she smiled, a pair of fangs became evident. Tiny delicate pointed ears that were the same size as a human sat on either side of her head. Her weird hair/stalk thingies gleamed in the morning light and she moved with an otherworldly grace as she settled herself on a log next to the fire.
She talked like normal people and she dressed like normal people in pants, boots and a white shirt covered by a green vest, but she certainly didn’t look like normal people. Ice blue eyes looked up at her from where she was sitting and a smile curled at her lips.
“If it would help, would you like to touch them?” She offered gesturing to her stalks and the camp froze. It was something the ground party had been wondering about but never really dared to ask. Sera felt like she was being offered a test but she had to know.
“K.” She responded her voice a little harsher than it had been when talking to the others. She approached the demon lady cautiously but the lady didn’t move. Merely turned her head to look away and waited.
Sera felt like she was approaching a wolf or a bear, something so unbelievably dangerous that was merely letting her live because it felt like it. She extended her hand and very carefully ran her index finger over one of the larger stalks. It was black and gleamed like a polished obsidian bead she had stolen once.
It felt like the obsidian bead too only it was warm like a piece of metal held in the hand. She drew her hand back and the demon lady turned to smile at her.
“See? No big bad demon, just a nice Zerg who wants to have some breakfast. So please sit, I’m starving.” The Demon lady told her before holding out her hand. “I’m Miranda by the way. Pleased to meet you Sera,” She introduced herself and Sera eyed the hand before carefully taking it and giving it a firm shake.
“Sera,” She told the woman firmly and the woman grinned. Her teeth were kinda scary but Sera forced the thought down.
“Good. Now food,” Miranda said firmly and handed Sera back the arrow that she had shot earlier. Sera took it and sat down on the other side of the fire to watch. The soldier the Herald had spoken with earlier came back into camp holding a skinned and gutted nug.
The hairless pink creature was tossed to the not-demon who caught it and happily cut a slice of meat off popping it into her mouth raw and chewing. The others in the camp ignored this and continued with their meal as if this were normal. Sera stared at her in confusion mixed with fear and the Not-demon looked up from where she had been carefully dissecting and eating her prey to catch her eyes.
“Raw meat is something I need to maintain a healthy diet. I can’t extract vitamins or minerals from plant matter so If I want to have a balanced meal then I eat my meat raw.” She explained with a rueful smile at the elf who gapped at her not having understood a word the not-demon had said. The others shifted and a few groaned, remembering the when this particular quirk of their companion had come to light. Cassandra was already dreading the fallout once Josephine found out.
After they had realized exactly what carnivore meant, they just let Miranda catch and prepare her own food. Or they simply used the plentiful nug population as target practice and Miranda benefited from the training. Breakfast passed in silence as Sera watched the not-demon eat her raw food like it was normal but then with this lot maybe it was she mused.
The day was a lazy one compared to what they were used to. They stayed in camp, cleaning and repairing gear as they waited for evening. The Inquisition watched as Miranda worked with their horses and the ground team, training them in mounted combat. It was a new thing but, at the moment, only Aitheria and Astor, Cassandra’s war horse, were combat capable. Miranda wasn’t going to let that slide and had taken it upon herself to train both horses and riders in the art of mounted combat.
“How does this help?” Sera demanded as she watched Elariel try to form a spell on her cantering gelding.
“This way we can hit them on the run!” Miranda called out from across the field.
“Shite that’s creepy how she can hear us,” Sera informed Cassandra who shrugged but didn’t comment. The warrior woman was standing next to her war horse as they took a breather from the training. Miranda sat astride Aitheria and the pair were dodging the bolts Varric was sending their way, not that it was hard. Varric was grumbling as he fumbled with his crossbow, trying not to kill his pony. Aitheria let out a high-pitched whistle and Astor’s ears raised before he let out a high whinny.
“Aitheria that was rude,” Miranda chastised but a grin was on her face.
Cassandra made a disgusted sound and stroked Astor’s neck. “Don’t let her get to you,” She told her mount sternly who merely snorted and shook his head. Cassandra sighed and swung herself up into the saddle and nudged her horse over to where Miranda was showing her charges how to stay on when their mount moved unexpectedly.
Aitheria was directing the horses and indeed that was a very strange thing to find out, that through Aitheria, Miranda could converse with their horses. “Cassandra! Let’s tag team Elariel!” Miranda called and Cassandra grinned as she drew her sword and joined Miranda as they went after the Herald.
It had been decided that Elariel and Cassandra would go alone to meet with Madam De Fer whilst Miranda and Varric would stay in camp with Sera. Mostly because Cassandra refused to leave Elariel’s side in that nest of Vipers whilst Varric vehemently denounced the idea of going and Miranda wasn’t the subtlest of the party in terms of appearances.
Sera had been skulking about all day after Miranda had forcefully boosted the elf onto a horse’s back and gave her a riding lesson. Needless to say, only the promise to teach the elf to catch arrows had kept Miranda from suffering an unfortunate encounter with a nest of angry hornets.
Elariel sighed as she watched Miranda challenge the other elf to an archery contest before she left to cleaned herself up, donning a new shirt of royal blue silk brocade and inky black leather vest that hung to the knees. Cassandra joined her dressed in her usual armour with a clean tabard and chainmail. The sun was beginning to set as they mounted their horses and road out of camp towards the estate where the Salon was taking place.
Miranda watched as the pair rode out of camp. Before smiling and neatly splitting Sera’s arrow and turning away from the fuming elf. “I’m going hunting!” She informed the guards who nodded in acknowledgement as she left camp, ignoring Sera’s disbelieving curses. She returned a half hour later with a large stag slung over her shoulders. Aitheria pointedly looked the other way to avoid the sight but she understood. Miranda helped prepare the beast and sliced off a portion for herself as it was butchered and put into the large pot of stew that sat over the fire.
She waited for their meal to be cooked before digging in to hers in much the same way that the men did, though she did avoid the travel bread they had baked on the hot stones. Sera watched her in uncertainty as the Demonesque woman daintily ate her meal. When one thought of people eating raw meat, it was usually an image of a savage tearing into chuck with blood all over their face. This woman had the large slab of meat neatly sitting in a tin plate with blood pooling under the meal like gravy would from normal food. She was slicing off thin pieces with her dagger and spearing them on a camping fork, chewing on them in a way that was far more civilized than some of the men.
“So I’m wondering… are there more like you somewhere?” the she elf asked curiously and Miranda swallowed her mouthful before answering.
“Well, none quite like me but yes there are others like me. Though I will say that I am pretty unique among both my fellows and my species.” She told the elf. “It’s one of the perks of being a special snowflake,” She replied flippantly.
Sera gave a disgruntled groan. “No like do you have cities and kings, posh tits who run things and little people who stick to them? Are you like normal people?” Sera demanded and Miranda cocked her head to the side.
“I don’t know…” she mused thinking. “We have more settlements, places where we meet up and trade things but most of us are loners. I personally haven’t been to a settlement to trade in…. oh three… four cycles,” She responded humming in thought.
“You got a king?” Sera asked and Miranda grinned. “No more like a council. We call them the Powers-That-Be. They like to order us around and we usually obey but, when they’re not ordering us around, we usually do our own thing.”
The others watched her in uncertainty. “What do you do in your spare time?” Varric asked and Miranda grinned.
“I am a hunter. There are some right nasty critters out there and I am one of the best at tracking them. When I’m not hunting, I tend to join insane orders who go out of their ways to endanger themselves for the betterment of others,” She informed them and Varric chuckled.
“So that’s why you joined up. I was wondering,” He told her and she smiled. “Yeah you lot are par for the course. Still loving it though,” She told them before her grin grew into a smirk.
“How about a story Varric?” She all but purred at the dwarf who shook his head.
“Oh no Ice. You’re telling. I did it last night.” Miranda pouted and sighed before she brought out her knitting. Every time she did that it was a different color. This led to some bets as to if she was knitting multiple things or simply unraveled them once they were finished to knit some more.
Tonight’s set was red and gold. “Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy…” She began
Elariel slumped in her saddle and ran a weary hand over her face. “Please tell me we never have to do that again,” She begged and Cassandra sighed.
“Unfortunately, there is a high likelihood of such gatherings happening again,” She informed her companion. The Seeker was sitting up through willpower alone, fiercely denying her body a chance to rest before they had returned to camp.
They saw their scouts in the dark and they were waved through. The fire blazed high and a majority of the soldiers sat around it, their eyes riveted on the figure hiding behind the flames.
“At the Huntresses’ words she lifted the blade, ‘Despair and Die!’ She screamed and with that, drove her blade down into the woman’s chest. Blood fountained from the wound and the Huntress, the woman who defied the White Witch died upon the stone table,” Miranda’s voice spoke in the hypnotic fashion she had.
The crowd gasped and one of the female soldiers bellowed “No!” Cassandra and Elariel looked at each other for a moment before they spurred their mounts forward, eager to hear the story being told.
Miranda’s face was lit by the warm light of the fire. Her icy eyes seemed to be glowing with an inner light. Miranda looked up and noted her new audience members before returning to her story, three feet of a wide red and gold scarf sat over her knees as she continued.
“The witch withdrew her forces, leaving the bound and broken form of the Huntress where she had been murdered. From the dark came the two girls who had followed her on her walk of doom. The lion she had died for had returned to their troops, knowing he had to honour her wish that she die instead. They struggled with the ropes, pulling at them but the knots were so tight that they had cut into the Huntress’s wrists.
With nothing but horror and grief in their hearts they sat at her side, unsure of what to do now.” Her eyes drifted shut and for a moment Miranda was no longer there, but at the story.
She opened them and a small smile crept over her face. Elariel and Cassandra sat down in the circle their eyes riveted on Miranda. “Perhaps I should leave it at that for tonight so you can catch up our two new arrivals hmm?” she asked with a wry smile.
“NO!” Sera shrieked and lunged forward, wrapping her hands around Miranda’s vest. “You’re gonna finish it now! Or I swear by Andraste’s fucking Knickers I’m going to see how many bees I can cram into your tent!” She informed the Zerg woman with a wild look in her eye.
Miranda met the elf’s eyes and smirked. “Then I pity the bees. They know better than to sting me.” She smirked and pried Sera’s fingers from her front. “The cost of manhandling the storyteller is no stories for twenty-four hours. Everyone thank Sera for that,” she informed them all as she replaced her knitting and turned her attention to Elariel and Cassandra. “So how was the salon? Meet any interesting people, sample some nice wines?” She asked settling herself on her log.
Sera glared at her but noticed the others sending her dirty looks. Never manhandle Miranda when she was telling a story. She would stop after that, they had learned that lesson early. Elariel shrugged and sank down a little more onto her seat.
“Honestly I have no idea what happened there. All I know is that Madame de Fer has joined the Inquisition and volunteered to perform an exorcism to remove the ‘dreadful rumours that a demon fights with you’ to quote her directly,” Elariel sighed burying her face in her hands. “I think the more well-known you become, the wilder the rumours grow,” She informed Miranda pointing a finger at her in accusation.
Miranda sighed and gave a shrug. “Yeah that tends to happen. Want me to wear a hood tomorrow or scare the ever-loving daylights out of the good Madam with my weird demonic ways?” She asked, only half joking.
“Just be your usual otherworldly self, please. We leave at first light. Breakfast is on the road, Madam Vivienne is meeting us on the road,” Elariel told them before hauling herself up and dragging her aching body to the tent she was now to share with Sera.
“I’ll take first watch,” Miranda informed them and the other soldiers nodded gratefully, quickly drawing lots for the rest of the night shift. Miranda grabbed her bow and settled herself a little way from camp, fluffing out her stalks and setting herself to full sentry mode.
She heard the voices of the camp, their hearts beating in their bodies, the deep, heavy breaths of their mounts as they nosed their fodder or drowsed on their feet.
She slipped into meditation, letting the sounds of the surrounding area flow over her as she scanned them for their origin, tagging those that belonged so unusual ones would stand out. With this deep state of watchfulness, she knew the instant the next shift was woken and the moment the new watch drew near to her post. She opened her eyes to note the position of the two moons and stood, allowing the next guard to take her spot.
She snuck into her and Cassandra’s tent, silently slid out of her gear, into the tattered dark grey t-shirt whose logo had long worn away, and black flannel pants with tiny galaxies and nebulae swirling over the fabric. She set her sword and a few daggers within easy reach and a few more under her pillow and climbed into her bed roll. Out almost immediately, the soft sound of the camp breathing lulling her to sleep.
The snow was thick on the ground, the pine and fir bowed beneath its heavy weight. She was dressed in thick silver furs. The heavy wolf fur hood around her head and the silver knit face mask protecting her from the sub-zero temperatures. A pair of silver ski goggles covered her eyes from the driving pieces of snow, letting her have a clear view of the forest as it flashed past. Beneath her Aitheria’s flanks heaved as she bounded through the thick snow and behind her came the sound of sleigh bells and wolves. She bent lower over Aitheria’s neck and urged her faster. A flash of light blasted past her and the tree it struck turned to stone.
Aitheria sprang away and reversed direction almost instantly. Now she could see her pursuers. An icy white sleigh pulled by four white reindeer barreled towards them, the bells on their harnesses jingling harshly as they lunged forward. About it ran massive wolves the size of ponies, jaws open and slavering. Her silver bow came up and three arrows loosed in the space of a breath. Three wolves fell and the occupant in the sleigh screamed in fury.
In the sleigh stood a woman of almost seven feet in height. Her black hair whipping behind her and the tall golden crown on her head slightly askew. Her salt white face and blood red mouth were a rictus of rage. Her white hand pointed a long gold wand at Miranda and Aitheria as she screamed another incantation. Aitheria jumped to the left, weaving towards the witch through the dense brush. Miranda fired again several more times and hit the sleigh as well as one of the reindeer, the remaining wolves fell and she grinned viciously.
Those beasts were a disgrace to their species. They passed like jousting knights and Miranda grinned, checking over her shoulder to laugh at the furious witch. “What’s the matter Jadis? Having trouble aiming?” She called and the Witch screamed at her driver to turn the sleigh about.
It did, but ponderously, giving Miranda more time to gain distance between the two of them. ‘You know one of these days she’s going to wise up and ditch the sleigh right?’ The doe told her between her steaming breaths.
“Yeah but until then it’s fun to do this,” She informed her friend. They turned to the west, heading for the Lantern waste and losing the ponderous sleigh in the rocky terrain that did little to slow Aitheria. Though Miranda was sure that her last shot had also hamstringed one of the reindeer, making the blighted witch even slower. Taking a risk, she slowed Aitheria to a stop before she tugged off her hood and listened, Aitheria going still in the silent forest.
Several miles away she could hear the witch screaming and cursing her before ordering her driver to return to her castle. Miranda grinned and tucked her stalks back into the hood and pulled it back up, readjusting her face gear and goggles as she did so, before sliding her bow back into its holder on her back. “Come on ‘theria, let’s check the lamppost,” She told her friend who gave a nod, steam billowing out of her nostrils.
They ploughed through the thick snow as more began to fall. Miranda sighed, after thirty years of this she was getting sick of snow. They pushed through the firs that edged the clearing and came into the sight of a gas lit lamp post from earth sitting innocuously in the middle of the forest as if it had grown there.
The warm light of the flame filled the rapidly darkening clearing as the afternoon sunlight faded into twilight. After all it was winter, sunset came at four. There were faint tracks through the snow that were rapidly being covered up. “Looks like Tumnus has been through again,” She noted and Aitheria snorted. ‘He does that every fourth day,’ She informed Miranda waspishly.
Miranda nodded. “True but still, I’m always hoping I’ll find her tracks here soon,” She admitted.
‘You mean those tracks?’ Aitheria noted with an air of false innocence. Miranda’s eyes snapped to where Aitheria’s bronze hoof was pointing. Sure enough, there were a second pair of tacks that surrounded a trampled area like something had been dropped. Miranda hastily slid from Aitheria’s back her warm fur lined silver boots sinking into the deep snow and approached the tracks.
This close she could see the uniform pattern of machine stitching and smooth bottoms of leather shoes found in the nineteen thirties unaltered earth. The print was the size of a young girl, younger than ten but older than six. The prints joined with the distinctive hoof prints of the faun and led off to the north.
She looked back at Aitheria who had a rather smug expression on her face. “Not a word from you,” She instructed the Hind who blinked innocently at her. Miranda huffed and swung back onto the doe’s back and nudged her to follow the tracks.
‘Old age?’ The hind offered and Miranda scowled. “I said not a word.” She growled poking the hind with a mitten clad finger. They followed the tracks till they reached a heavy wooden door that was set into a cave entrance. They paused outside and listened.
Inside she could hear the frightened faun listing the things that the witch would do to her if she found out that he had a daughter of eve and let her go. Miranda slid from Aitheria’s back and waited for Tumnus to declare he would help before she knocked solidly on the door. There was dead silence within and Miranda sighed.
“Tumnus, the Huntress requests an audience with your guest,” She said through the door.
“Who’s the Huntress?” A young girl’s voice asked and Miranda smiled, that was her.
“She’s the one who defies the witch,” Tumnus told her, fear in his voice. “She hunts the secret police and has been searching for any children of Adam and Eve for a long time,” he told the girl and Miranda heard the sound of cloven hooves making for the door. It cracked open and she saw the wary faun peering out at her.
She inclined her head. “Well met. It is chilly out, may I enter?” She asked again. Aitheria grumbled and stamped her hooves a little.
“Yes… please come in,” Tumnus told her and she entered gratefully. Inside was wonderfully warm, the kind that only a blazing log fire could induce. She tugged off her hood and goggles and facemask, tucking those as well as her mittens into her pocket. The silver circlet on her brow gleamed in the light of the fire.
“I will be brief Tumnus. I know what you were just saying and I offer my expertise. I can take her back quickly and quietly with no one being the wiser. Is that agreeable?” She asked looking down to meet a pair of sky blue eyes that stared out of a dainty face framed by golden curls.
“Hello,” The girl greeted her in a remarkably charming voice. “I’m Lucy Pevensie, may I ask your name?” She asked and Miranda felt herself softening, truly spring would come with this girl as its Herald.
Miranda felt a flicker of hope for the first time in a decade. “I am Huntress Miranda Starsinger, Champion of Wisdom and Sister to the moon, I am pleased to make your acquaintance my lady,” She told the young girl who giggled.
“I’m not a lady, but very pleased to meet you Miss Starsinger,” Lucy told her and Miranda smiled.
“Well then let’s get you home miss Lucy. I believe we have a witch to anger,” She told the girl flippantly. The young girl watched as Miranda garbed herself again before she pulled out a heavy silver fur cloak which she swung around her shoulders. “Onward then shall we?” She invited and the young girl nodded. Miranda swept her up into her arms and nodded to Tumnus. “Keep safe, I don’t want to hear any news about you being made into a garden decoration you hear me,” She told him fiercely.
The faun nodded and let Miranda out into the snow once more. Lucy shivered in her arms as Miranda put her on Aitheria’s back. “Oh, what a beautiful stag,” Lucy told her, gazing at Aitheria in awe.
“Aitheria’s a doe but she thanks you for the compliment,” Miranda told her with a smile as she swung up and wrapped the heavy cloak around her front, effectively swaddling the girl in the thick silver fur. “Now I picked up your trail at the lamppost, is that where you belong?” She asked as Aitheria took off at a brisk walk in the general direction.
Lucy nodded. “Yes, I need to get back to the wardrobe in the spare room. I’m sure my siblings are frantic with worry by now,” She told Miranda.
Miranda made a hum of agreement. “Hopefully. Though in my travels I have never heard of spare Oom, or War drobe but I hope you find your way back safely.” Lucy made a cute huffing noise before trying to correct Miranda. For her part the Huntress purposefully butchered the name repeatedly as they went. They stepped into the warm light of the lamppost and Miranda looked down at her charge. “Can you find your way back from here?” She asked. The golden head nodded and Miranda slid off before helping the girl down.
“Before you go Lady Lucy I have something for you,” She told the girl solemnly. Lucy looked up at her uncertainly and Miranda knelt, her thick pants undeterred by the wet snow. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the tiny crescent moon charm necklace she had been hanging onto for this day. “Take this and remember that time is a funny thing. It doesn’t flow the same everywhere for everyone,” She told the girl with a sad smile that went unnoticed behind her mask.
Lucy took the silver necklace and carefully put it on. “Thank you Miss Starsinger, I hope you don’t get in trouble for this,” She said, worry shining in her eyes.
Miranda chuckled. “I live to get in trouble with that witch, I keep her young with our weekly chases.” She told the girl, ruffling her hair a little. “Now go little one, the cold will get worse soon,” She told the girl who was shivering hard in the chill air.
Lucy turned and hurried into a grove of thick pines that wasn’t all that big. “Huh, I always wondered,” Miranda murmured as she watched as the girl wave before diving into the thick branched and gave a smile before hauling herself onto Aitheria’s back.
“Shall we go home?” She asked and the hind nodded. ‘Let’s, I’m freezing my antlers off here,’ She informed Miranda who laughed and held on as the doe bounded through the underbrush.
She awoke to the sound of bird song with a massive grin on her face. She swiftly pulled on her travelling dress in a deep fall copper this time. Her armour strapped on and her weapons in their homes, she rolled up her bed roll and slid out into the early morning. The others began to crawl out of their tents and mumbled sleepy good mornings.
Cassandra emerged holding a similar bundle and they together took down the tent and distributed the materials between the two of them. Miranda took the ground sheet and half the poles and Cassandra took the rest. Miranda took her bundle and a set of saddlebags she had been issued over to where Aitheria stood.
She gave Aitheria a thorough brush down before she buckled the simple grey leather harness she had been issued onto the hind’s back. She slung the saddlebags over the back portion of the harness and attached them with long leather ties before she secured her bed roll and her portion of the tent.
The others were around her doing the same, Elariel showing Sera how to saddle and load her mare and helping to boost her up afterwards. The light was still young as they set out along the paved roads that led away from the capital.
Aitheria’s hooves making a slight chiming sound on the flags as she pranced. “Do you have to be so noisy?” Miranda grumbled to her mount who tossed her head. ‘Of course! It’s a beautiful day! The birds are swaying, the trees are singing!’ She replied with a happy voice.
Miranda blinked and shook her head at her mounts antics. “Ok, I’ll give you that one. It’s funny,” She informed the hind who gave a please snort.
“What’s got her in such a good mood?” Cassandra asked pulling up alongside her. Astor sent a half-hearted glare at Aitheria who pointedly ignored him.
“She thinks it’s a wonderful morning, which means either someone bribed her with honey or she has something planned,” She informed Cassandra looking suspiciously at Aitheria’s head. “I’m not sure which frightens me more to be honest. The thought that someone has discovered her weakness or that she has mischief planned today,” She admitted and Aitheria turned to give her an innocent look.
Cassandra watched the pair in amusement and shook her head. “You two fight like an old married couple you know,” She informed them and Miranda looked at her in shock while Cassandra got to see a deer’s jaw drop for the first time in her life. She had to admit the pair looked hilarious.
Aitheria looked at Cassandra, then to Miranda then back to the Seeker before shaking her head vigorously. “What she said,” Miranda added and Cassandra gave a small chuckle.
“If you say, but you know it’s true,” She told them and Miranda pouted. They approached the line that marked the end of the paved road to see a silver clad figure on a delicate coal black palfrey.
The silver horned hat was very distinctive and Miranda looked over at Cassandra. “That’s our newest addition?” She asked dubiously and Cassandra sighed, looking like she had just swallowed a hedgehog.
“Yes. That is Madam Vivienne de Fer, Enchanter to the Imperial Court,” She informed Miranda in a resigned voice. They drew closer and Vivienne spurred her horse forward. She was a competent rider, even if her seat was a little too heavy to Miranda’s expert eyes.
“My dear Herald it is lovely to see you again,” Her dulcet tones range out over the small distance that was left between them.
Miranda and Cassandra pulled back from Elariel who gave them a brief look of betrayal, before she turned back to the enchanter with a smile fixed on her face. “You as well Madam Vivienne,” She greeted and the enchanter pulled closer.
“I’m glad to finally meet the rest of your companions,” Vivienne informed them silkily and ran her eyes over their party.
“Yes this is Varric Tethras,” Varric bowed in the saddle. “Sera,” Elariel introduce and the City elf gave a disdainful sniff. “You’ve already met Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast,” She waved at Cassandra who, like Varric gave a slight bow. Vivienne’s eyes fell on Miranda and she froze.
Elariel had a rather smug little smile on her face as she finished. “And Jedi Master Miranda Starsinger a representative of the Zerg people,” She ad libbed a little towards the end and Miranda grinned widely, proudly displaying her fangs and twiddling her fingers at the mage in a cheeky wave.
“Delighted to make your acquaintance Madam,” She purred, sure that the slightly predatory edge in her voice had been noticed by the mage.
“I…see that the rumours were a little truer than I thought,” Vivienne remarked in what was an attempt to sound casual and Miranda’s smile grew a little wider.
“Zerg not demon. Remember that Lady Vivienne,” She told the mage.
Vivienne cleared her throat and gave a calm smile. “Pleased to meet you as well Jedi Master,” She replied a little stiffly.
Elariel cleared her throat, drawing all eyes to her. “And with that done, let’s head back to Haven,” She told them.
Miranda inclined her head before nudging Aitheria to follow after Elariel’s horse. ‘Please tell me I can bite her horse? Please, please, please? She’s a right bitch. Please!’ Aitheria begged her and she stifled her snicker with a cough before shaking her head. At Cassandra’s raised eyebrow she told her what Aitheria wanted and the Seeker smothered a chuckle.
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