Chapter 4- No one expects the Inquisition!
She crept down a hallway, drywall painted a soft blue grey. Dark hardwood flooring, smooth and cool, under her bare feet. Black frames containing bright photos lined the walls, but she paid them no mind.
Sounds echoed from ahead of her, indicating her quarry was just ahead. The spitting of oil in a pan, the clack of plates and glasses. The smell of bacon and eggs filled her nose and the faint aroma of tea and coffee.
She crouched low, her feet soundless as she inched forward around the corner. The room was sunlit and warm, clearly a regular kitchen from 2016. Matte black IKEA cabinets and black appliances against a deep copper backsplash.
At the stove with his back to her, stood her prey. A tall man with broad shoulders and messy brown hair. He was dressed in a pair of green plaid sleep pants and a white t-shirt. He was humming softly to himself as he busied himself with his task, unaware of his fate.
She slid closer and just as he stepped away from the stove to grab something, she struck. She leapt at him with a cry and he gasped as her smaller frame slammed into his.
“Jesus Miranda!” he cried as she clung to him, wrapping her legs around his waist as she clung to him in a piggy back.
“Morning!” she greeted him, a wide unrepentant grin on her face.
The man chuckled, the sound reverberating through her body. With almost no effort he grabbed her arms and pried them from his neck, twisting her so they were face to face. He had warm brown eyes, the colour of teak that smiled out of a square face with a strong jaw and rather aquiline nose.
“Morning love” he told her leaning forward to press a kiss to her lips. She smiled as he broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to hers, a look of tenderness on his face.
The bacon on the stove crackled loudly, breaking the moment and he reluctantly pulled away.
She took that as her cue and let go of him, landing on her feet and walking over to the counter. Two mugs sat ready and she smiled to herself at the sight of the tea pot sitting next to the one on the right while the coffee Maker stood on the left. She poured a mug of each, snagging some sugar cube into the tea and dosing each cup with cream, stirring each briskly.
“So any plans for today?” She asked her companion as she turned and handed him the coffee, keeping the tea for herself.
“Nothing much. Though I think one of us needs to go shopping. We’re almost out of bacon.” He told her, sipping from his mug and humming in pleasure as he dished out the food.
“I can do that. I have to meet with mum for lunch anyway. She wants to discuss some of the details for the wedding.” Miranda told him as she grabbed cutlery and followed him to the table.
The man laughed. “She still razzing you about the timing?” He asked and she smiled at him.
“Of course. It doesn’t help that she keeps calling it our shotgun wedding.” She told him before directing her attention to her food.
“Yeah, she isn’t exactly wrong though.” The man told her jokingly.
She looked up at him in fond exasperation “James!” She admonished. “You proposed before we found out I was pregnant. That does not make it a shotgun wedding. It just means that you had excellent timing.”
He waggled his brows. “So you’ve said” He smirked and she rolled her eyes.
“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response.” She told him primly, sipping her tea as she ignored his puppy eyes. James smiled at her as she pretended to ignore him and they finished their breakfast in companionable silence.
They went about their morning, getting everything they needed to start the day. As she went towards the door he stopped her and gave her a deep kiss. “I shall count the seconds.” He told her dramatically, tucking a stand of her curly brown hair behind her ear and she laughed happily.
“And I shall weep until we meet again.” She answered, equally as dramatic. It was one of their things, they loved the overly dramatic phrases of love and devotion. It was what had sparked their friendship and it was how he had proposed.
She smiled and kissed him lightly on the lips before leaving, closing the door gently behind her as she walked to the car.
She stood in line at a gas station for a pack of gum when it all went to hell. The man burst in through the door. He was in a black ski mask, wearing a faded and stained grey hoodie and ripped jeans. In his hand was a gun.
She froze as the man yelled something unintelligible gesticulating wildly with the weapon. She like the other patrons threw their hands into the air dropping their purchases at his command. But then the man did the unexpected. Instead of pointing his gun at the cashier he grabbed her and thrust the black metal against her temple. “Everything from in the till now or I blow her head off!” He growled. This close she could feel the man shaking, the barrel trembling against her skin.
Her eyes went wide, and her heart stuttered. She felt tears welling up in her eyes but she didn’t dare do anything. The cashier was white as a sheet, but still complied, their hands trembling fiercely.
She swallowed, trying to keep her terror down. Inevitably her mind turned to James, how much she loved him, of their wedding in a month, of the still fragile life that she now held within her.
The cashier handed over the cash and the man growled. “That all of it?” He demanded and the poor teenager nodded furiously. The man nodded and shoved her forward the gun still to her head. He snatched the cash ad shoved it deep into his hoodie pocket.
“Right I’m going to walk out of her here, no one is going to…” Outside a car door slammed. The thief jumped. His hand tightened and Miranda had a brief impression of a bang and a flash of pain before everything went dark.
Miranda jerked awake, sitting bolt upright with a strangled gasp, her heart hammering. She looked wildly around her surroundings. She was in small cabin on a cot with thick wool blankets. A small fire crackled merrily in its hearth, filling the cabin with its warm glow.
The movement caused her hair stalks to click against each other softly and she brought up a hand to them. Running her fingers through the sensitive appendages, feeling their smooth and hard texture, far cry from her once curly locks.
With a sigh, she leaned forward pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on her knees. She hadn’t had that dream in centuries. It was from her Life-Before. Most agents of the Bureau were there because they were not ready to face death. She, like many of her colleagues, had her life brutally and senselessly cut short. Her thread had been severed before the Fates had decreed.
There were actually many like that and it was from these souls that the Bureau gained their agents. It had taken decades of Counseling and therapy during her training to get over her first death but she had made her peace with it, able to accept that her old life was no more. She loved her life now and wouldn’t change it for anything. She had lived some absolutely amazing lives and even been married several times.
She reached a hand up and caressed the collection of rings around her neck. Absently she traced her finger over the bands, some were intricate and bejeweled and others were plain. Some had inscriptions and others spoke only in the love they had been given.
But each represented a love unlike any other, a triumph of souls finding each other. With a smile, she swung her legs over the edge of her cot and stood. Someone had removed her dress, corset and boots, leaving her in only her black tank top, leggings and socks.
The removed clothes sat neatly folded on a chair near the fire, while her boots rested next to her cot. On the table at the foot of her cot rested her weapons and armour with her staff leaning against the wall.
Her things were all neatly laid out and cleaned of ash, mud, and blood. She smiled at the fact that someone had decided to trust her enough to look after her gear, though she knew that one of their agents had no doubt search her things thoroughly.
Not that they would have found anything as all her specialized gear was locked to her genetic signature. She stood and found her belt with its small bag of holding. She reached in and concentrated, pulling out a new set of clothes. Quickly she changed, sliding into brown wool leggings, a wool navy blue wide sleeved shirt with tight cuffs nearly to the elbow and a lace up front that would not have looked out of place on pirate ship. Over this she slid a front fastening underbust corset made of dark brown leather. She then stalked over to the table and strapped on her hidden blades over her wrists, forgoing the bracers in favor of the basic mechanism.
Her mass of knives found their homes once again, sliding into hidden sheaths in her boots, belt and corset. She slung her sword belt around her hips, positioning the blade for a quick and easy draw. Her hands reached out and picked up the two-foot-long engraved cylinder running her bare fingers over the ridges of the engraving, following the pattern that was at once like flames and flowing water. At either end four scalene triangular fins guarded the circular mouths of the emitters. With a quick sonic ping, she checked the area for spy holes and through the cracks to search for eavesdroppers. Satisfied that she was alone she held the hilt vertically and pressed the activators.
With a humming snap a pair of brilliant sapphire blades sprang from the ends, extending the weapon into six feet of death and beauty. She grinned wickedly. This was her emergency weapon, her ace in the hole. She reveled in the soft hum of the blades that varied as she moved them slightly remembering many a duel and battle with it in her hand. After a few moments, she grudgingly pressed the power button once more, returning the blades to their homes once more.
The hilt was fastened to her left hip and she turned her attention to dressing. A hooded double breasted outdoor tailcoat made of very dark brown almost black wool with silver buttons was settled over her frame to ward off the chill she knew was outside. her head piece and kohl were permanent and did not need her attention so she left them as they were. Sitting on the bed she slid her high boots on, buckling them into place with efficient movements. The final piece was a small cuff made of multiple, two-inch-long, one centimeter wide bars of metal held together with strong elastic polymer cords and held closed with a clasp. She unclipped it and held it in her teeth while she carefully gathered her hair stalks up into a high pony tail.
A pair of smaller tendrils near her hairline escaped and hung over her brows and one escaped near her left ear. The stalks were then confined by the metal cuff, holding itself in place with rubber pads on the inside to prevent sliding. This style often made her hair look a little less alien, and helped reduce discomfort in the people around her. Though it did deaden her echolocation somewhat due to a portion being unable to move freely.
The mass had reached her waist before and now confined as it was it barely reached between her shoulder blades. Shorter pieces stuck out at various lengths, causing the tail to be jagged and uneven as the less flexible stalks tried to obey the call of gravity. She shook her head to test the strength of the clasp, satisfied that it wouldn’t slip she strode over to the door and opened the heavy wooden door.
Haven was small and, dare she say it, quaint. Steep roofed wooden cabins clustered tightly around the looming structure of the stone Chantry like chicks around their mother. The streets were packed dirt mixed with snow, worn stone steps so old that the dip worn into the flags by generations of feet eased the transition to the various tiers of houses. A high log palisade encircled the outer edge of the town, the based firmly set in stone and mortar while the tips gleamed the faint silver of weather-beaten wood.
All about the denizens of this mountain town went about their business, though outside the walls the clang of metal on metal and the shouts of warriors could be heard. Within the walls, she heard the motions of the town. Sounds bombarded her from every side. Hammers on wood and hammers on anvils, the whinny of horses, the creak of bellows, shouts of laborer’s, the grind of a mortar and pestle, the twangs of a lute, laughter, shouting, murmurs, sighs, moans. The clank of cutlery on plates, moving liquid, stone on stone, leather on stone, creaking wheels, chants and crackling fires.
She shook her head, attempting to clear her head of the barrage of sounds. In a way, she preferred the noise of battle to the sounds of a prosperous town. In battle the sounds were less varied, once she knew what she was hearing she could tune it out. But in a town, there was always something new to be heard, some new sound clamoring for her attention. She was glad now that she had put her hair up. The sounds would have been deafening to have it loose like it had been previously.
Shaking her head again to regain her focus, she followed the sound map she had gathered to the Chantry. As she passed the people stared at her, their whispers audible to her but ignored. Words like demon, creature and spirit followed her and prayers to the Maker to drive her out or save her soul reached her ears. Their eyes were filled with mixed fear and awe and she sighed. She hated it when she was stared at like that. It usually led to unpleasant memories of labs and scientists with less than humane intent.
She moved purposefully through the streets until she approached the Chantry. It loomed disapprovingly over the people of Haven, its multi tiered roof holding a light burden of snow. Even thirty feet from the door she could hear the grating voice of Chancellor Roderick arguing bitterly about the fact that they were treating “the prisoner” as he still called Elariel. She could hear other voices against his less than dulcet tones. Leliana and Cassandra were the easiest to identify, though she could hear the sound of a man and woman, who she assumed were Josephine Montilyet and Commander Cullen.
The front doors stood nearly ten feet high and were made of heavy iron studded wood. “You know the door is too big when you need a door within a door” she muttered as she heaved open one of the massive guardians. She to staggered back a few feet as her sensitive nose rebelled. The cloying scent of sandalwood, patchouli, rosewood, frankincense and myrrh rolled out of the now open doorway and stung her nose. She coughed and gagged a little at the overpowering stench, gaining more stares from the various worshippers, clergy and soldiers hanging around the Chantry. She dragged a handkerchief from a pocket and wiped her streaming eyes wishing she had such a problem for her nose.
The smell had dried it out almost painfully so the back of her sinuses felt raw from the assault. She shook her head, trying to rid her senses of the pain, gaining a modicum of control over her abused olfactory senses. Slightly more ready, she took a deep, cleansing lungful of air and braved the temple again. Once inside it was clear as to the reason for the overpowering smell. Large bunches on incense burned everywhere, bundles of sticks as thick as her wrist were scattered amidst seas of candles at the foot of benches and statues that lined the carpeted center. Torches burned in their brackets, illuminating the cavernous space decorate with pillars and carved rafters. Clergy in red and white robes turned to stare at her as she walked toward the small wooden door at the end of the large hall.
One brother took a step forward, as if to stop her but a mother next to him grabbed his arm and dragged him back. “Don’t you know who that is?” She demanded to him in a harsh whisper. The brother when he shook his head and she leaned in closer. “That’s the demon who aided the Herald and lady Cassandra!” She hissed and the brother’s eyes grew wide. Miranda withheld the desire to roll her eyes at that. Demon indeed, if that’s what they were calling her then she was going to have a stern word with ambassador Montilyet before this was over. She reached the door having endured a gauntlet of whispers about her supposed powers.
Though if she truly was able to grow to twelve feet in height and back hand a pride demon into a mountain side, it was news to her. The voices of the inner council had reached a crescendo as she approached the door. Cassandra and Roderick were screaming at each other, though from the sounds of it Cassandra was being held back from the chancellor if the sounds of armour on armour were anything to go by.
Miranda placed a curious expression on her face and casually opened the door. The sight inside was just as she thought. Roderick was cowering on one side of an enormous table strewn with maps and reports while Leliana and a man in heavy armour and russet fur struggled to hold back and enraged Cassandra. An olive-skinned woman in an outfit of gold and purple silk ruffles was tucked into a corner, clipboard clutched to her chest and her eyes wide as she observed the struggle.
The group froze at the sound of the opening door and the chancellor looked to the door with hope in his eyes. That hope died a ruthless death as he caught sight of Miranda’s raised eyebrow as her pale gaze swept the room.
“I feel as if I’ve stumbled upon some kind of scandalous affair.” She remarked drily, a smile beginning to tug at her lips and her eyes gaining a glitter of mirth. Her words broke the spell and everyone began speaking at once.
“Who are you” “How did you get here” “What are you” “You’re awake!” “Can I touch your hair?” They all stopped and everyone turned to stare at the dark-skinned woman who blushed a deep scarlet and ducked down to look at her notes. “Sorry, that just slipped out.” She apologized, pretending to scribble something.
Everyone’s heads swept back to Miranda when she burst into laughter. She bent over, clutching her sides as she fought to breath though her guffaws. After a few moments, during which the council and Roderick had broken the tableau and were more presentable, she straightened and wiped a few tears from her eyes.
“Sorry, you should have seen your faces.” She cleared her throat and continued with a broad grin. “In order: I am Jedi Master Miranda Starsinger. I followed the sound of shouting. Let’s just call me a Zerg right now for ease of classification. Yes I am, thanks for the bed. And I’d rather you not, it’s a bit of a personal thing.” She answered, pointing at the originator of each question as she answered it.
There was a general shuffling and verbal confusion as she entered the room and leaned casually against the wall next to the door. In the confusion Roderick managed to bolt, fleeing the room so quickly that he almost left a negative imprint in the displaced air where he had been standing.
Miranda shook her head ruefully and raised an eyebrow at Leliana’s penetrating gaze. The door swung closed and she pushed off from the wall. Striding deeper into the room and bowing her head to them in greeting.
“Well then, now that the wind bag is gone, shall we introduce ourselves and get down to brass tacks?” She asked jovially crossing her arms and shifting her weight to her left leg, cocking her hip out to the side.
Cassandra smiled slightly and nodded, pointing at the ruffle clad woman. “This is Lady Josephine Montilyet, our Ambassador and chief diplomat.”
Josephine bowed her head. “It is a pleasure. I have heard about your actions in the Valley.” She greeted cordially.
Miranda returned the gesture and smiled. “Likewise ambassador, though unfortunately I Haven’t had the same opportunity.” She answered politely.
Cassandra waved at the armoured man who was watching her with a borderline hostile expression. “This is Commander Cullen Rutherford, leader of our forces.” She told Miranda.
Cullen grunted and Cassandra shot him a look that read behave! The man continued to glare but let go of his sword hilt.
Cassandra sighed and pointed to Leliana. “And you’ve met Sister Leliana, she is our… scoutmaster.” She finished with a slightly uncomfortable expression.
Miranda smiled at Leliana cheerily. “Well met again Leliana.” She greeted before turning to Cassandra. “Thanks for that, though you may want to work on your introduction for Leliana. You may as well tell the world that she is your spymaster.”
Cassandra’s head fell into her hands “I know.” She groaned. Leliana hid a smile expertly and Josephine gave a small giggle. Cassandra looked up and her stormy eyes lightened a bit while Cullen continued to watch her warily.
Miranda looked over at the blond man and snorted.
“Relax blondie, I’m not going to go on a demon fuelled rampage and bath in the blood of virgins.” She paused then cocked her head, “Mostly because I think Cassandra would be put out that she had to find a new commander.” She winked at him and his jaw dropped while Leliana smothered a laugh.
“That, and the whole bathing in blood thing is not all it’s cracked up to be, ’cause it itches when it dries. So, it’s really ineffectual.” She informed the room at large. Everyone stared at her with wide eyes and she snorted. “Wow, you guys really don’t take a joke well.”
She shook her head. “Let’s just get this over with. Ask your questions, just know that the moment you start talking about invasive tests I’m out.” She told them seriously, bracing for the coming inquisition. The though made her snicker a little she was going through an inquisition by the future inquisition.
Leliana raised an eyebrow at the outburst but she started the questions, Josephine transcribing everything. “Why were you in the valley?” The red head asked, her eyes like gem stones.
Miranda met her gaze evenly. “I woke up there. After I meditated to find out where I was, I was told by the Force that my help was needed. So, I followed its guidance to the one being able to set this world to rights.”
The others looked at each other and Cassandra spoke. “You mentioned this ‘Force’ several times in the valley, you said that it was the power of life?” She looked at Miranda questioningly. Miranda extended her right hand and using the Force plucked the pen from Josephine’s grasp.
The ambassador gasped and everyone’s eyes became riveted on the spinning writing utensil.
“What magic is this?” Cullen demanded, his hand reaching for his sword and his eyes flicking between Miranda and the pen.
“This is not magic Commander. This is the Force. It is life and death. It permeates everything and everyone in the universe and beyond. In the universe, where my Order is from, there is a way for beings to interact with this ability, but not with magic. As such it is a completely different power. I am the only user in the world.” She informed them. Leliana looked at her sharply. Miranda had a far away, almost dreamy expression as she watched the pen, her hand still outstretched.
“How do you know that?” She demanded and Miranda’s eyes drifted to her.
“Because I looked. When I first found myself in the valley I sent out a pulse in the Force, much like a beacon. Any force user would have felt it and I in turn would have felt them. It was like shouting into an empty room.” This was a lie, the bureau had informed her that the local biology was incapable of being Force sensitive, and by local she meant universally local.
Everyone stared at her in shock. “Then how did you get here?” Leliana demanded and Miranda smiled like a Cheshire cat. Flicking her fingers, she returned Josephine’s pen and strode over to a chair in the corner, settling herself and crossing her legs neatly.
“Your Fade is part of your universe, but it sits closer to the boundaries of it than your reality does. When your veil was torn, the shock waves were felt even beyond. I happened to be at the boundary of another in an unwise experiment to see how deeply I could mediate.” She looked down a little abashed. “I may have lost my body. Next thing I know my soul is getting sucked through some kind of stress fracture and it seems that my body came with it. So, I have the breach to thank for reuniting me with my body again.” She told them a small smile on her face.
She was using the explanation she had received from the bureau. It was technically the truth. She had been extruded through a crack in the outer edge of this universe, through the Fade, and out into the mundane world.
Saying that this experience was excruciating was an understatement. She had little memory of her trip through the Fade other than wash of green light and terrifying sounds.
“Anyway, I woke up here and immediately sensed the wrongness of the breach. Then as I said I followed the Force to you.” She watched their reactions carefully, calmly exuding an aura of peace and cooperation. It was more of a way to sooth the council and give their subconscious some reassurance.
It was Josephine who spoke next. “You said that you are part of an order in
your…. Universe.” She spoke the final word oddly, as if it did not fit in her mouth.
Miranda grinned and nodded. “I am a Master of the Jedi order. I follow the consular path. This means that I am both diplomat and warrior. We are a monastic order of peace keepers acting as leaders in both war and peace. Here I feel there is much conflict and so in accordance with my vows that I took when I was knighted, I offer you my skills to bring peace once more to your world.”
Cullen jerked and stared at her. “You were knighted?” He asked and she nodded.
“One must be a knight before one may become a master. As a knight, I had to train my Padawan or squire to knighthood themselves as well as prove myself as a Jedi. Now, shall we get on with the Inquisition?” Everyone flinched and she continued on.
“I do believe that you have a few more questions. Though I would like to add that you let Solas fiddle around your camp and you know even less about him then you do me.” The others looked at her in shock.
“There is one more question.” Leliana told her seriously. “During the battle you and our soldiers glowed with a golden light. What was that?” She asked her eyes sharp.
Miranda nodded a bemused expression on her face. “Huh so it causes an aura here, fascinating.” She murmured her eyes drifting before she snapped her mind back. “What you saw was a Jedi technique called Battle meditation. With enough concentration, the user can inspire their side, giving them a burst of strength, endurance, purpose and cohesion. On the other hand, it does the opposite to our enemies, weakening their resolve, destroying moral. It is a game changer in the field of battle. This is usually done with the practitioner secluded away from the battle so they may slip into a deep meditation to achieve the focus necessary. However, a skilled user may be able to use it to a lesser extent whilst they are fighting, though they must do it with a smaller group. The use of Battle Meditation has been known to alter the outcome of battles. I was often called upon to use it during my tenure as both knight and master.”
Cassandra stared at her and Cullen frowned in thought. “Is there a limit to how many you can inspire?” He asked thoughtfully. The commander knew how important moral was in a fight.
Miranda cocked her head to the side, thinking. “Not that I know of. The only really limiting factor is the focus of the Jedi employing the technique. As my old master would say, there is no limit. Size means nothing to the force.” She narrowed her eyes in consideration.
“Though I believe that the mind of the wielder can only handle so much before they burn out like a like a roman candle. It happened once to a Padawan…” she drifted off, her eyes glazing over until she forcefully shook her head as if to banish something from her mind.
“Anything else?” She asked them with a crooked smile.
Leliana shook her head and grabbed Cassandra’s arm pulling her back away from Miranda, the other two following. They turned their backs to Miranda and Leliana looked at Cassandra with a serious expression.
“Can we trust her?” She demanded of the Seeker in a low voice. Contrary to what most believed Cassandra was incredibly intuitive, often sensing things in people that Leliana missed.
Cassandra frowned in thought. She was a firm believer that battle showed you a person’s true self. That the raw and unfiltered soul could been seen in a person’s eyes as they fought.
She had seen Miranda in the battle at the breach. Now, away from the adrenaline and blood she thought about what she had seen. Miranda’s eyes were old. So incredibly ancient that she was sure that they had seen centuries if not more.
They glittered with mirth and life but beneath that laughter there dwelt a tightly shackled rage, something held chained that should it escape it could destroy worlds. But somehow she knew that Miranda would never allow that rage free.
There was honour in her gaze, paired with a will of steel. They were the eyes that had seen the true face of ultimate evil up close, a gaze that had seen the abyss and now work to ensure that others never had to see that darkness.
She looked up to see the others staring at her intensely. She nodded firmly. “Yes, I do believe we can trust her.” She told them seriously.
The others nodded to each other. “Maker save us all.” Cullen prayed quietly and they turned only to freeze with their jaws on the floor.
Miranda sat there holding a pair of knitting needled and a bundle of fine dark lavender wool. She was in the process of knitting a scarf. Her needles were nearly a blur and the swift but soft sound of their clicking made themselves know in the utter silence. For a moment, Cassandra wondered how long she had been lost in her thoughts as there were already three inches of completed rows.
Miranda also appeared to be quietly humming to herself. For all the world like someone who was simply sitting at the fire after a long day as opposed to a warrior waiting for judgement.
The pale eyes looked up from her work and she smiled broadly at them. “Ah, so what’s the verdict?” She asked them cheerily, her fingers still knitting furiously.
Leliana shook her head to free herself from her surprise. “We accept your offer. Welcome to our cause.” She told the knitting woman with a small smile tugging at her lips.
“Excellent!” Miranda cried, leaping to her feet and stuffing the wool work into a small leather case that sat on her belt. “Now, where is little Elariel? Shall we see how she’s doing?” She asked the assembled council.
“Elariel has not woken yet. Our healers have not been able to do much, though her wounds are healing.” Casandra told her, a serious atmosphere settling over the room.
Miranda looked at her blankly for a moment before slamming her hand into her forehead. “Idiot!” She exclaimed “Not you, me! Take me to her. I can fix it” she told them at their baffled expressions.
Bounding forward and grabbing Casandra’s hand and dragging her out of the room and into the Chantry proper. The others followed with bemused looks on their faces and watched as Casandra managed to extricate her wrist from Miranda’s grasp as they reached the outer door.
Adan stared down at the unresponsive elf that lay on the bed and scowled. He had tried everything to wake her up but nothing had worked. He knew that sometimes a person could go to sleep and simply never wake, though their bodies still functioned.
But he prayed to the Maker that this wasn’t the case. This young she-elf was needed. Then like a hurricane the door burst open and admitted a blast of cold air and the council as well as the tall woman with the demonic hair that he had examined earlier.
“Adan, this is Miranda Starsinger. She says she can help the Herald wake up.” Sister Leliana told him calmly. Adan turned to stare at the woman who was now sitting on the edge of the bed. Her staff had been thrust into Cassandra’s hands and her right hand rested on the young elf’s forehead.
Her strange hair shifted and clicked against each other in the up do it was confined in, as if it was subjected to a faint breeze. Cassandra watched Miranda in apprehension.
For a long time, no one moved and all that could be heard was the faint sounds from outside and the sound of Miranda’s hair. Then like the breaking of a tableau Miranda leaned back with a deep sigh.
She looked up at the council and Adan with a troubled expression. “Ok I have some good news, bad news, worse news, better new and yet to be determined news. Which do you want first?” She asked them turning and bringing her hands up to massage her temples.
“Whichever way you want to tell it.” Josephine told her calmly. Eyes still closed, Miranda nodded, her fingers still rubbing small circles on her temples.
“K the good news is the mark has stopped spreading.” She told them and they sighed.
“That’s a relief.” Cassandra told her. “But what is the rest?” She asked.
Miranda opened her eyes and dropped her hands, her eyes flicking to the sleeping Elariel. “The bad news is that the Mark is connected to her life force now. It’s like a leech or a parasite, though currently not life threatening it can become so.” She sighed and shook her head.
“The longer the mark remains on her, the higher the chance of her losing her arm or dying if the mark becomes unstable again. Worse news is that the more she uses it, the more entrenched it will become in her body.” The others stared at her in shock, horror also beginning to make itself known now.
“Better news is I can quarantine the mark to her hand and hopefully prevent it from absorbing more of her life force and hopefully keep it from consuming her hand over time.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose and sighed. “The undetermined news is that I will have to reapply the quarantine every two days to keep it from degrading.” She finished and looked at them.
“I currently have her in a healing trance to keep her subconscious from essentially picking at the mark and aggravating it as well as allowing her body to heal.”
The council looked at each other and Leliana spoke. “Would she still be able to close the breach?” she asked uncertainly and Miranda nodded.
“It’s a modified version of a force shielding technique developed to protect a person from a force plague that sapped at the will and mind. Though not identical I think I can modify the technique to defend her. I can tune the shield to act more as a filter, allowing the energy from her to feed the Mark but keep it from entrenching itself into her body.” Leliana and Cassandra considered it while Cullen looked at Elariel’s still form with a frown. Josephine’s eyes were wide as she stared at Miranda.
“How would the creation of such a shield affect you?” Cassandra asked Miranda looking at the woman with concern. Miranda sighed.
“It would take a little of my strength to maintain the shield, though not enough to make a large difference. I have the strength to spare to maintain this but I would need to do it before I wake her up and I would need to reapply it as I said every second day.” She looked at them with a blank face and waited for their answer.
They withdrew with Adan outside and began to confer amongst themselves. Miranda ignored their conversation and settled on the floor next to the bed in a cross-legged position and turned her senses back to Elariel. The mark was a strange thing indeed. It was linked to her body and mind in an unusual way. It sucked at her strength in such a way that she wouldn’t notice it unless she used it often, but currently she could see it attempting to grow from body into soul.
She concentrated and settled to meditate. If she was going to try this, then she needed to begin modulating the technique she had begged from the Barsen’thor during the cold war.
She fell deeper into the warm arms of the force as she tinkered with the ritual in her mind, following the subtle nudges the Force gave her as she altered and manipulated the needed actions to achieve the desired results.
Distantly she felt the others reach their conclusion and enter the room once more. She rose from her meditations and looked up at them as they entered and looked at her. “Do it.” Cassandra told her, eyes hard.
Miranda nodded and stood. “I need room, please stay back.” She told them. They nodded and retreated to the edges of the small room and continued to watch.
Miranda turned her attention to Elariel and held out her hands. She closed her eyes and pressed the tips of her fingers together, as if she were cupping a sphere between her palms and began the technique.
She breathed in deeply before sinking deep into the force and extended her mind toward Elariel. In this state, she could clearly see the mark as it twined like a snake around Elariel’s hand and forearm, reaching for the pulsing light that was Elariel’s life force and magic.
She forged the force with her will and brought it to the top of the pulsing green light that coiled around the she elf. The force wrapped around the limb and she began to push the disk down towards Elariel’s hand. It was like scraping mud off clothes. She pushed harder, maneuvering the sickly magic of the Mark away from Elariel’s bright core of energy.
Cassandra watched as Miranda held out her hands and bowed her head. Bright ropes of silver light began to swirl around her, highlighting Miranda’s form and lopping lazily around to embrace Elariel as well. On the bed, Elariel made a fain keening sound and twitched in pain as the light began to focus on Elariel’s left arm. It encircled the limb at the bicep the began to slowly work its way down.
From where she stood, Cassandra could see Miranda’s face. The light glistened off sweat as it gathered along her brow and a bead ran down her face. Her hair was shifting in a nonexistent wind and a blue light glowed beneath her closed lids. Trickles of glowing ice coloured vapour began to escape from her eyes as well as her eyes shuttered back and forth rapidly beneath her lids. Slowly the light grew closer to Elariel’s hand eventually stopping at the wrist.
Once there the ribbons of light began to weave and twist tighter, ceasing to orbit Miranda’s entire body and coalescing instead at her hands and the target. The light formed a thick cuff like band around Elariel’s wrist and flashed once brightly before vanishing.
When the light vanished, Miranda bent double panting heavily, as if she had just sprinted up the mountain. They remained where they were, watching Miranda warily. Still breathing hard Miranda straightened. “Right, it’s contained. It won’t be that hard the next time.” She told them, still looking a little shaky.
Cassandra took a step forward and handed her back her staff. Miranda took it back gratefully and turned back to Elariel. “I’m going to wake her up now.” She told them. She reached out her right hand and laid it again on Elariel’s forehead. She was surrounded by a heat haze once more and Elariel stirred
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