I Work for the Bureau of Original Characters. Thedas file

Chapter 15- A song for a song. You never forget.

They were holed in Haven for another week after they were ready to go due to a blizzard that blew through the mountains that surrounded them. It was the first of the beginning of winter and the heavy wet snow coated the village and clogged the passes around them with the thick white powder.

Leliana was driven inside the Chantry and had taken over half of Josephine’s office when the cold and wind overcame the meager abilities of her office tent. Villagers and soldiers huddled themselves in their cabins or in the cavernous Chantry, waiting out the howling winds.

Miranda was one of the few who dared to venture out into the white out, usually dressed in heavy silver fur and with a curious set of silver goggles over her eyes. She would venture out and often return with extra food and kettles of snow. In the evening, the children gathered round her and begged for stories. Miranda would smile and settle herself on a stool and spin fabulous tales about heroes and monsters, gods and spirits.

Even the adults would gather round and listen to her stories with rapt attention. Varric often sat next to her with a notebook that he was steadily filling with Miranda’s stories. He secretly intended to get them published and share the profit with Miranda. Cassandra paced like a caged tiger and snarled at the weather. Only Elariel ad Miranda could approach her and Miranda had taken to working hand to hand with the irate seeker, teaching her a martial discipline called Mok’bara. Cassandra had taken to it with a vengeance with Bull and Blackwall joining in when they also got bored.

Elariel, Vivienne, Dorian, Solas and the other mages sat debating the differences in teachings with Miranda occasionally drawing them out and forcing them to work on hand to hand combat as well, teaching them how to defend themselves without magic. “We are training you to survive!” She had barked at them as she paired mages against soldiers. “This will teach you all how to make it out of battle alive. Enemies will not expect you to know where an armours weak points are!” She received wary nods from the leaders and continued her drilling. Even the villagers and regular soldiers got lessons in styles she called Krav Maga, taekwondo and karate.

Soldiers were forced to train in the cramped quarters with smaller weapons in their hands. Cullen developing a rather disturbing grin as Miranda drove them in new and strange ways that were showing results. They would fall asleep with deep exhaustion after these sessions, giving them things to focus on rather than allowing the boredom of waiting to take over.

It also prevented small grudges from blowing out of proportion as they were often too exhausted to get annoyed at each other. Cassandra watched Miranda teach Josephine and a group of children and servants how to properly form fists and had a small smile on her face. Elariel walked up next to her and watched with a smile. Miranda had been going harder than all of them combined. She didn’t seem to sleep and lead the classes with a drive that was astonishing to see.

“She is really passionate about this,” Elariel observed and Cassandra nodded at the statement.

“She is very knowledgeable about unarmed fighting,” The Seeker observed. She was a sight with a black eye and a split lip that was a result from a brutal fight with Miranda that she had initiated. Cassandra was a woman of action and being cramped up in a small space was driving her mad. Miranda was one of the few that Cassandra could truly let loose on without actually hurting her. Elariel was another godsend in terms of distraction.

The young elf and she had sat and discussed everything from religion to the best way to sharpen a blade. Cassandra found that she enjoyed spending time with the young mage. She was so vivacious and full of life, but in a much more innocent way than Miranda’s cynical vivacity. “I’m beginning to believe that she may have more experience than is normal, especially for her age,” Cassandra added and Elariel grinned and nodded. “But that’s just another mystery to add to the list of what is Miranda,” The elf told Cassandra cheerily. Cassandra gave a disgusted snort and walked over to the large barrel of melted snow water that stood in a corner for people to drink from. The light didn’t really change from night to day. Miranda was the one who called the hour, usually after consulting a small circular devise on a chain that looked like a large locket.

Elariel could hear it making a soft rhythmical ticking sound when it was opened but she still didn’t know what the device was called. Miranda would only give an enigmatic smile before snapping the front shut and tucking it into her pocket and telling her the time. It was driving Leliana crazy if the spymistresses twitching was anything to go by. Between the Zerg’s training sessions that she led, sometimes five or six at a time as she moved between groups, her discussions, her outdoor excursions and story-telling Elariel was wondering if Miranda was actually sleeping.

It was dark and the fires burned low in the hearths that lined the Chantry. Shadowy forms huddled on the floor as the villagers and soldiers slept. Outside the sound of the wind continued, roaring and howling as it poured down in a torrent from the mountain tops into the valley below. The massive doors creaked and shook a little under the onslaught and the roof would rattle occasionally as a roof tile was blown away.

It was times like this that Leliana thanked the Maker for the sturdy construction of the Chantry by the villages original inhabitants. The spymistress sat near the fire, listening to the wrath of nature and watching the shifting embers in the hearth in front of her. There was little she could do for the moment. The blizzard had halted her lines of communication, silencing the whispers that reached her ears from around the world. She had finished all the paperwork she could nearly three days ago and now the inaction was beginning to make her antsy.

She had participated in the class Miranda was teaching and had even learned a few new tricks from the Zerg who had clearly some form of assassin training as well as warrior. Everyone had eaten their meager evening rations including Miranda who ate small amounts of meat combined with a water skin that was apparently filled with what she called a, ‘protein slurry that the less you knew about the more normal I will seem,’ to quote the woman directly. Now everyone had fallen into an exhausted slumber that came from the classes and boredom. It was silent now, other than the sounds of breathing and nature, just the way the more reclusive spymistress needed to calm her frazzled nerves.

A faint sound tickled her ears, causing her to look around. It was the faint sounds of a stringed instrument being picked gently and quietly. She looked around the darkened hall trying to find the source but saw nothing immediately obvious to the sound. A tiny trickle of dust in the corner drew her attention up to the rafters. A figure sat with their back against a joist and a leg dangling down the rafter they were seated on. They had what looked like an oddly shaped lute in their hands as they continued to play what sounded like a haunting and sad melody.

“The stars are very beautiful above the palace wall, they shine with equal splendor still above far humbler halls,” a voice sang softly, barely audible and rang with a soft melancholy. “I watch them from my window, but their bright enchanting glow. Reminds me of the freedom I gave up so long ago,” Leliana focused up at the figure and recognized the stalks that hung around their head. Miranda. She sat quietly and listened as Miranda sang quietly about the weight of command. Her sorrow for those who died on her orders and found herself agreeing with the sadness of the song. She sat in silence as Miranda played, some with words and others with the stringed instrument. They ran the whole gambit of emotions, from sad to angry to joyful and mysterious.

Lines of poetry like, ‘far over the misty mountains cold,’ and, ‘A wandering Minstrel I, a thing of shreds and patches,’ reached her ears. It was clearly a calming thing for Miranda and the peace of the Zerg’s songs soothed Leliana’s mind as well. Names passed through the air: Boromir, Tom Bombadil, Nimrodel, Kerowyn, Dovahkiin, and many more. Some songs were sung in languages that Leliana had never heard and filled with every emotion know to the soul. She paused for a moment as if in though before she began a new tune. A slow waltz with a darker aspect

“She walks on light

And leads the fight

Her cry can wake the dead

With dark her prey

She makes her way

on starlit path unmarked.

Oh Lady bright

Oh Huntress dark

I know you’ve wandered far.

Tell me what you’ve seen and done

Oh singer of the stars

Taken from death

She drew new breath

And took up sword and spell.

Her life anew

Her conviction true

She walked through tides of light.

Oh Lady bright

Oh Huntress dark

I know you’ve wandered far.

Tell me what you’ve seen and done

Oh singer of the stars

With hope and fear

Her death drew near

But change took her instead.

Born of rage and fire

She loosed her ire

On world’s bright and dim.

Oh Lady bright

Oh Huntress dark

I know you’ve wandered far.

Tell me what you’ve seen and done

Oh singer of the stars

Her light returned

And spirit burned

With regret for all she’d wrought.

With form now changed

And rage restrained

She took up life again.

Oh Lady bright

Oh Huntress dark

I know you’ve wandered far.

Tell me what you’ve seen and done

Oh singer of the stars

Now she fights and rides

At heroes’ sides

And leaves when all is well.

With blades of light

And clearer sight

She hunts the dark of worlds.

Oh Lady bright

Oh Huntress dark

I know you’ve wandered far.

Tell me what you’ve seen and done

Oh singer of the stars.”

There was silence before Miranda spoke just enough for Leliana to hear. “The lay of a Starsinger, a friend wrote it for me a while ago,” She murmured. Leliana looked up and saw that Miranda’s eyes were faintly glowing and looking down at her. “It was beautiful,” Leliana replied, not looking away from the glowing eyes in the shadows.

“Your turn, I’m curious as to what songs you know,” Miranda informed her. Leliana raised an eyebrow up at the Zerg. “I’m very out of practice,” She said, trying to get out of it. “You never forget songs, they stay with you forever. It just sometimes takes a little effort to pull them out again. You always have songs, I can tell. You just need to remember how to sing,” Miranda replied her eyes showing understanding and support. Leliana cleared her throat and began one of the easier songs she knew.

Her voice was a little rough from lack of use but her training reasserted itself and she found old muscles remembering their dance. She felt a little surprised but a small smile began to grow on her face as she continued to sing. It felt like another chain around her heart loosening just a little. Not removing the burden, but enough to let her heart to beat a little freer.

“High ho, high ho, it’s off to work we go,” Miranda sang happily as they marched up the mountain. Elariel ignored her while Cassandra looked like she was inches away from throttling the Zerg woman. Behind them the lines of Mages, Soldiers and the inner circle of warriors trudged behind them. They had no idea what would happen when they opened the rift this time but they weren’t taking any chances with safety.

As Miranda had chirped cheerfully, “It’s better safe than waking up in a deadric realm with no clothes and a pack of wolves, armed only with a wheel of cheese.” Not that anyone had understood the specifics of that statement but the sentiment was clear. When they entered the ruins the air became somber.

Even Miranda became silent save for her buzzing hair. The rattling had drawn looks from the uninitiated and caused them to shift in worry, uncertain as to why the sound was occurring. They neared the epicenter once more and began to arrange themselves in the formations that had been decided upon during the blizzard. The mages arranged themselves on the upper tiers with the soldiers settling around them in a defensive formation. The inner circle, save for Miranda, Leliana and Cullen formed up around Elariel. Miranda had taken a place in the back of the mage formation and was now floating in a cross legged posture. Her stalks waved around her face as if she were underwater and her eyes glowed and smoked with icy light.

Gold light emanated from her and enveloped the assembled troops. Leliana and Cullen stood on either side of her, weapons out, ready to defend her when she was in this vulnerable state. Elariel took a step towards the epicenter where the first rift had been. She could feel the same comforting strength and confidence she had felt the last time she had been here, but this time it was stronger. She heard Solas call something and the sensation of energy began to swirl around her.

The mark in her hand drank greedily from the excess of energy, pulsing wildly and growing brighter. She saw the silver light of Miranda’s quarantine struggle to hold the mark back from her arm, acting almost like a mirror and reflecting the power away from Elariel herself. She lifted her hand up and pushed the mark with her will.

The waves of power were strained as the Mark latched itself onto the Breach. Elariel grit her teeth as the feeling of red hot razor blades ran along her palm and the line that was the mark burned like she was holding a coal in her hand. She felt the mark finish connecting and then the true battle began. The two edges of the breach twisted and writhed under her will. It wasn’t until she tried to close it did she realize just how big the Breach was. It stretched for miles to the north and south, higher than birds or even dragons could fly.

She screwed her eyes shut and wrestled with the torn edges of the veil, dragging them closer and closer together before she could begin to seal them edges back together. Some parts slipped through her fingers and she growled, tightening her grip on the veil. Behind her the mages were beginning to waver. They could feel their strength being consumed by the mark. They shivered at the feeling of the fade so raw and unfiltered near them. Miranda had the beginnings of a frown on her face as she felt Mages beginning to weaken and drop.

She poured more of her own strength into the pool to make up the difference. Her floating form slowly lowering as she focused more effort on loaning strength to Elariel but even Miranda had her limits. Her hair was merely shifting. No longer the medusa like mass it had been in the beginning and the light in her eyes was dim. Only tiny amounts of vapor left her eyes now and the golden light was flickering. With a final heave of effort Elariel forced the edges of the breach closed and dropped to her knees. Behind her mages collapsed, some unconscious and others winded, all breathing hard as if they had just run a marathon.

Miranda landed on the ground with a thud and would have keeled over if Leliana hadn’t caught her, balancing her upright in a sitting position while Cullen and the soldiers turned and assisted the weakened mages. Cassandra was at Elariel’s side, carefully picking the weakly protesting elf up and looking back at the mages who were either being picked up to be carried back to haven, or were shakily leaning on soldiers. Miranda’s head was lolling on Leliana’s shoulder and her lids fluttered. Leliana somehow managed to prop Miranda up before levering the Zerg woman to her feet.

Leliana supported the taller, swaying woman with an arm around her waist and Miranda’s arm over her shoulder. It was times like this that Leliana blessed her height, it made it easier to support Miranda as she helped the Zerg woman shuffle down the mountain towards Haven. Cassandra looked down at the weakened girl in her arms and felt of surge of protectiveness overtake her. She adjusted her charge so her armour wouldn’t dig into Elariel’s unprotected sides and began to pick her way down the mountain path after Leliana and the swaying Miranda.

As they trudged back down the mountain Miranda began to frown. It will happen tonight. Up till now she had been content to let the plot follow canon but no more. She would be damned to Tartarus before she allowed the colossal loss of life that was coming. It was time to kick Canon in the shins and take charge.

“They will come tonight,” She told Leliana quietly. The spymaster looked at her uncertainly. “Who will come tonight?” She asked, confused. Miranda turned to look at her and made her eyes flare weakly, giving the illusion of a prophesy. “In the dark among the celebrations a lost soul will come too late. On his heels will march the red tide, thirsting for the blood of their rival.” She whispered it, allowing her voices to be heard layering her voice.

Leliana blinked and grabbed Miranda’s arm, swinging the exhausted Jedi to face her. “What do you mean Miranda?” She demanded.

“They will come tonight,” Miranda whispered again before letting the glow fade and blinking confusedly at Leliana as if she were waking up.

“Leliana?” She asked with a hint of uncertainty. “What’s wrong?” She questioned, looking at the spymistress, whose face was now draining of color. “What in the Void was that Miranda?” She demanded and Miranda blinked, feigning uncertainty. “What was what Leliana? Why are you looking at me like that?” She asked, tugging on her well-honed acting skills to bring about the desired effect.

“Your eyes turned blue and you said that a lost soul would come too late and a red tide would seek the blood of their rival. What happened?” Leliana demanded a little louder, her eyes showing a slight amount of panic and uncertainty.

Miranda looked at her blankly and Leliana shook her head violently. “Have you ever given prophesies before?” The spymistress asked sharply and Miranda blinked.

“Some Jedi masters have been known to see the future. I have never had a great ability at foresight, my gifts tend to lie in the more combat oriented direction. I once knew of a psionic who could occasionally glimpse the future but that was a one off deal backed up by a rather in depth fact hunting crusade,” Miranda began to ramble, thinking back to the prophesy involving Amon the fallen Xel’naga.

Leliana held up her hand. “Never mind,” She told Miranda, cutting off the Zerg woman’s ramblings but Miranda grabbed the Spymistress’ shoulder.

“Leliana, if I spouted a prophesy then we should not ignore it. If I said that something is going to happen tonight, then we had better be prepared. If nothing happens then we just looked paranoid. If something does happen then at least we save more lives. Maybe we should gather some provisions together in the Chantry in case they are needed,” Miranda told her seriously.

Leliana looked up into Miranda’s eyes and nodded. “Very well but if nothing happens then maybe you should see a healer,” She told Miranda who shrugged and agreed. The convoy arrived at the village and Miranda grimaced at the sight of the hundreds of tents sitting outside the city. This was going to be harder than she thought. She turned her eyes to the trebuchets and swore to herself.

There were only three and one of them was undergoing routine maintenance. This was bad. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, still leaning on Leliana. She was going to have to pull out the stops if she was going to pull this off.

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