Chapter 5- What the hell did you do to my ears?!?!?
Elariel felt light and warm, like a leaf drifting on the wind. She was surrounded by ribbons of calming silver light swirled around her, gently bearing her along towards…something. She felt the light getting closer to her destination before it began to fade.
Suddenly she was drifting in darkness, no light was in sight but she still felt like she was moving. A deep ruby glow began to fill her vision. It flickered and the distant sound of flames slowly made itself known to her ears. “…er you sure? She still hasn’t opened her eyes yet,” A male voice accused as it faded into existence.
“I’m sure.” A woman’s voice replied. “Her body is slowly transitioning back to consciousness. This takes time. I can’t just snap my fingers and instantly wake her up.” Her voice was familiar. It brought to mind pale blue eyes and black…hair? She frowned, feeling her muscles contract.
“Did you see that?” Demanded another voice, this one with an accent. She struggled for a moment before opening her eyes. Warm firelight greeted her as she emerged from the shroud of sleep.
Over her hovered a man in robes with a sour expression and, “Miranda?” She croaked, her throat feeling dry.
“That’s me!” the pale eyed woman responded with a smile before reaching behind Elariel’s head and picking something up. She brought her arm back revealing a clay cup. With her free arm, she helped Elariel sit up and gently pressed the cup into her hands.
Elariel drank deeply, the moisture a welcome relief.
“Welcome back to the land of the living Elariel” Miranda told her, a large smile still on her face. Elariel found herself staring at the woman’s teeth, or more accurately the large fangs that sat in her upper jaw.
“Good to be back,” She murmured uncertainly her eyes still riveted on Miranda’s fangs. The taller woman seemed to notice her gaze and quickly pulled her lips over her teeth, still smiling.
“You gave us quite the scare.” A red headed woman she vaguely recognized told her. Miranda sat down on the edge of the bed and put a hand to Elariel’s forehead.
“How are you feeling? You’ve been out for some time,” She asked.
Elariel shifted uncomfortably. “Weak and sore,” She admitted as her muscles protested.
The robed man stepped forward and pushed Miranda out of the way. The tall woman stood gracefully from the bed and stepped back towards the door. “Your mark has become stable thanks to Miranda,” Cassandra told her seriously.
Elariel looked to Miranda who gave a small smile. “I used a technique to keep you from losing your arm to it but I will have to reapply it every two days.” The taller woman informed her sadly.
Elariel looked around at the gathered humans and frowned. “Did the Breach close?” She asked remembering the reason for her collapse.
The humans looked at each other with somber faces before Miranda spoke up from the wall. “Unfortunately, no. Its stable now but still open. This will give us time to plan.” She informed the elf.
Elariel’s face fell and she looked down. “I’m sorry” she told them dejectedly, no doubt the humans would either kill her or abandon her, it was stupid to mope about that but she was on her own. The hunters who had accompanied her would have perished. The thought made tears gather and a lump form in her throat.
Her twin Enarel had accompanied her to the Conclave. Now he was gone. Never again would they race each other to climb the nearest cliff. Never again would he bring her a bag of herbs she needed or come to her with scrapes and bruises gained from the hunt.
The tears began to trickle down her face and a hand placed itself on her shoulder. “Its just hitting you now isn’t it” Miranda asked, her face kind. Elariel nodded and Miranda smiled at her softly “It won’t go away but it will get better” she promised. Elariel closed her eye and breathed in deeply. Now was not the time to let go. There were things she needed to do first.
She turned her eyes up to the humans watching her “I’m sorry I was unable to close the Breach” she told them.
“None of that!” Miranda told her firmly. “You did the best you could. No one can expect any more from you than you have already given.” Miranda’s eyes swept over the council who looked a little uncomfortable under her challenging gaze.
Elariel watched as the humans nodded in agreement though the man in heavy armour looked like he had bitten a lemon. The man in the heavy robes behind the armoured humans cleared his throat loudly. “If that’s all then I would appreciate if you left so I can tend to the Herald,” He commanded them in a gruff voice.
Elariel frowned. “Herald?” she asked in confusion as the party filed out.
“Oh it’s nothing to worry about. You’ve just been labelled the herald of Andraste, prophet sent to save the faithful. Ta now Darling!” Miranda told her with a broad smile before skipping out the door.
Elariel turned her wide eyes to the Healer. “What?” she squeaked as the door closed.
“Maker’s breath.” the healer muttered rubbing his forehead before he began to explain.
The group stood out in the snow looking at each other before Cullen broke the silence. “I need to return to my troops.” He informed them before striding away through the village gates. Josephine gave a short bow before she too hurried off to her office. Miranda, Leliana and Cassandra looked at each other before the walked towards the Chantry and the planning room.
“A Bard, A Princess and a Huntress walk into a Chantry. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this joke before,” Miranda told the other two quietly with a smile as they entered the cavernous building.
The other two looked at her with unreadable expressions. “Who is who I wonder,” Leliana asked, her eyes sharp.
Miranda gave a chuckle. “Take your pick. I have a feeling that all three of us could fit the descriptions” she told them hurrying through towards the door.
“And just how do you know that we do?” Leliana asked her as the door to the war room closed behind them. Miranda strode to the map and looked down at it in consideration.
“They call you Sister Nightingale out there, usually the title of Nightingale only goes to those who have wonderful voices. That and I heard someone call Cassandra the seventy eighth in line for the Nevarran throne. Even if you are no princess Leliana you have probably been called it even of it was as a tease. As for huntress, do we not all seek the truth or the secrets around us?” She informed them mildly, running her fingers over the map, tracing her finger over several roads and landmarks.
Cassandra joined her at the table and began to shuffle through several reports while Leliana wandered to where a pitcher of dark red wine. She and a tray of cup sat on a sideboard. She poured a measure into three clay cups and handed one to Miranda and Cassandra each, keeping the third for herself. Personally, the spymistress was wondering why she was being so accommodating to the newer woman.
But now watching as the tall woman bent over the maps Leliana could admit that they needed all the help they could get and Miranda was clearly experienced. They stood there sipping their drinks while Miranda asked questions about the map, things like the travel time between places, population densities and political systems of the different regions. Leliana noted that her questions were intelligent and succinct but also betrayed a lack of knowledge of what to most people was basic.
They had just finished describing the hierarchy of the Chantry and the importance of the Conclave when the door slammed open and Chancellor Roderick stormed in accompanied by two heavily armoured Templars.
“There she is! Seize her!” he cried pointing at Miranda who looked up from the map with a bored expression. Cassandra’s head snapped up and she scowled.
“Disregard that.” She commanded before turning to glare at the Chancellor who was nearly purple with rage.
“It is a Demon, and as such It is the duty of the Templars to execute it before it can corrupt others!” he cried his hand jabbing at Miranda who still looked bored. Leliana was about to step in when Miranda straightened to her full height and looked at the two Templars.
“I recognize you from the valley,” She said to the one on the left. “You stood next to me when the pride demon appeared. I pulled you out of the way of its lightning,” She told him. The Templar shuffled a little looking uncomfortable behind his helmet. She looked to Roderick and her expression became annoyed.
“You have in this town beings who have long pointed ears and strange facial structures. You have a sentient population who barely come up to my shoulder and who don’t dream and A race who stand at an average of six to seven feet and have horns, yet I’m weird?” She demanded and then huffed leaning over the table at the Chancellor.
“I am a Humanoid Zerg,” She told them fiercely. “I am an intelligent sentient who just happened to be hatched rather than born. I happen to have a collection of sensory organs sheathed in keratin in place of hair and I happen to have an enlarged set of upper canines because I am a carnivore. How does this” She waved at her stalks “label me a demon when pointed ears, horns or height don’t label don’t.” She demanded listing the traits off on her fingers and glaring at him.
The chancellor puffed himself up, preparing to argue his point. She held up her hand to silence him. “Don’t label me” she snarled before turning to look back at the map “Just don’t” she sighed.
The Templars looked at each other uncertainly. “Leave us,” Cassandra commanded them and they obeyed gratefully.
Roderick looked furious. “You walk a dangerous line Seeker,” He snarled.
“The breach is stable but still a threat. I will not ignore it,” Cassandra informed him through gritted teeth.
“And Elariel is not a suspect,” Miranda added from where she stood not looking up.
Leliana stepped forward from where she had been lurking in the shadows. The emergence of the Bard caused the Chancellor to flinch as he had not known she was there. “Someone was behind the explosion of the conclave, someone Most Holy did not expect,” She told him, her voice cool and her eyes hard. “Perhaps they died with the others,” She mused. “Or have allies who yet live,” She added pinning the Chancellor with her stare.
Roderick squirmed under the look before what she said penetrated. “I am a suspect?” He demanded his chest puffing up in indignation.
“You, and Many others,” Leliana confirmed her voice harsh.
Roderick stared at her in near apoplectic fury. “But not her or the Prisoner?” He demanded pointing at Miranda accusingly.
Miranda pushed herself up from the table and stalked toward him, Cassandra and Leliana joined him and they stared at the Chancellor. “I didn’t even know what the conclave was until it was explained to me, nor did I know who or what the Divine was. Elariel tried to stop the explosion and wound up blasted into the fade as a result.”
The door quietly opened and Elariel silently entered. She was still pale but looked much healthier now. She was dressed in an undyed wool shirt that was a little big for her. Brown homespun wool pants were cinched around her thin waist and a pair of slightly oversized boot sat on her feet. Elariel looked at the scene in the room before her in uncertainty.
The human priest she recognized from the valley stood facing Miranda, Cassandra and Leliana. He was an unhealthy shade of purple while the three women stared him down. Miranda looked over at her and gave a small smile before turning her attention back to the man.
“Your suspicion and stubbornness will tear this world apart. Only by allowing the differences of others can this world be repaired,” She told him vehemently. Leliana and Cassandra caught sight of Elariel out of the corner of their eyes.
The Chancellor noticed their shift in focused and turned. He glared at Elariel. “So, the mark on her hand, her survival and this creature’s appearance are all just a coincidence?” He demanded gesturing at Miranda and Elariel.
Cassandra stepped forward and Miranda placed herself next to the she-elf. “Providence.” The Seeker declared vehemently and Miranda frowned.
“The Maker sent them to us in our Darkest hour” Cassandra declared. Elariel looked up at Miranda in confusion before turning back to watch the battle of wills taking place. At Cassandra’s declaration, she opened her mouth to protest only to stop when Miranda put her hand on her shoulder. The elf looked up at the taller woman who faintly shook her head.
“Later,” She whispered so only Elariel’s elven hearing could detect the words.
The gesture was caught by Cassandra who inclined her head. “I know that the two of you do not believe as we do. But no matter your beliefs you two were exactly what we needed when we needed it.” She told the pair sternly.
Leliana nodded turning away from her examination of the Chancellor to focus on the two outsiders. “The Breach remains and Elariel’s mark is still our only hope of closing it.” She told the rooms and Elariel clenched her hand nervously.
The mark gave a brief fizzle as if sensing her emotions. Though now instead of flashing pure rift green it was highlighted with pure silver light.
“This is not for you to decide,” Roderick snapped his posture rigid. Cassandra had walked to a chest and pulled something from it. Now bearing it in hand, she stalked back to the table and slammed what appeared to be a heavy leather bound book on the table.
The markers on the map jumped at the force of the blow and the thunderclap of sound made Miranda’s tendrils twitch. “Do you know what this is?” she demanded and the chancellor shook his head. “This is a writ from the Divine,” Cassandra told the Chancellor, her finger stabbing down at its cover. “This gives us the authority to act.” She glared at the chancellor and took a step forward, bracing herself. “As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn!” She declared, her voice full of conviction. She then turned and advanced toward Roderick.
The chancellor retreated but she followed jabbing her finger into his sternum. “We will close the breach, we will find those responsible and we WILL restore order. With or without your approval,” She told him, punctuating each statement with a jab. There was a moment of absolute stillness as Cassandra stared down the Chancellor. He broke beneath her gaze and retreated from the room with a scowl.
As the door slammed shut behind him Cassandra brought her hand up and ran it through her hair as she turned away. Her face carried a look of self doubt. Leliana strode to the table, giving her old friend time to compose herself. “This is the Divine’s directive: Rebuild the inquisition of old. Find those who will stand against the chaos.” She read before looking up at Miranda and Elariel.
The young she elf looked uncertain as she looked at the Spymistress while Miranda had a somber expression. Her ice blue eyes met Leliana’s and the Bard took the support the Zerg woman offered. She looked down, the enormity of the situation hitting her like a ton of bricks. “We aren’t ready,” She murmured looking from the writ to the map and back before lifting her eyes to room once more. “We have no Leader, no numbers and now no Chantry support,” She told them.
Cassandra rejoined them at the table as they gathered round, their eyes going from the writ to each other. “We have no choice,” She told them sternly. “We must act now,” She looked up at the Miranda and Elariel. “With you two at our side,” She spoke it as a statement but Miranda could see the desperate question in her eyes.
“You want to start a holy war,” Elariel said quietly realisation striking her. She was being Named their new prophet. History told how well the elves faired during holy wars. She feared for her people it this turned sour.
Miranda shook her head. “There is already a war. This is merely the growth of a new side. One that is neither mage nor Templar.” She told the elf her eyes looking down to the writ and her brow furrowing. “This will be no small task,” She told the room. “Starting with so little we will have to fight an uphill battle. We will be beset on all sides by those who fear what our rise will mean for the status quo.” She looked up and nodded. “I am willing to fight with you,” She declared and the two women bowed their heads in thanks.
They all looked at Miranda pulled out a simple dagger. It had a straight blade and an unadorned cross guard hilt. She held it in a reverse grip and lifted it high. “With this blade as my witness, I shall fight for the Inquisition. I shall lift my blade and voice in its defense so long as it stands as a force of unity. On this blade of steel and the blood in my veins, I so vow. In the name of my sister in Spirit Phoebe Artemis and my Patron Pallas Athena, I so vow. By the love I shared with those who have gone to their final rest, I so vow. I swear this upon the river Styx and the Scales of Justice. Storm and Star, Home and Hearth, Love and life, Fire and freedom, Powers that Be hear and accept my Oath.” She intoned.
Oath complete she plunged the blade into the table between the two maps of Orlais and Ferelden. Just missing the vellum on either side. The others stared at her and she bowed her head to them. “That oath is sworn by all I consider holy and sacred. Let that tell you of my loyalties. So long as you work for order and justice I shall fight with you.” They looked at each other in uncertainty before rallying. Leliana and Cassandra considered her before they nodded their heads accepting it.
Elariel looked at the three. “Do I have to?” She asked and Cassandra shook her head. “No. You may leave and we would fight on without you. Unfortunately, that also means we would have no chance to close rifts. But we will not force you to fight for us.” She declared. Elariel looked at the map then at Miranda who watched her with a look of understanding.
The other two women had similar expressions. She closed her eyes and thought. She thought of her clan, her family who had sent her to find a way to improve her clans place in the world. Her mind conjured up images of a rift appearing in camp. Demons leapt out and her clan fought them. It didn’t close and though they fled she saw her family cut down, the keeper executed as she tried to close it. Her eyes snapped open and she stared at the map, at the place where she knew her clan resided.
She then looked up at the trio. “I’ll help,” She told them. “If this is the way I can protect my clan from these rifts, then I will.” The three smiled and Elariel shook Cassandra’s hand firmly. It was no fancy oath like Miranda’s but it was binding to her all the same.
After that more maps were brought out. The four of them poured over lists while runners brought Cullen and Josephine to the War room. Miranda repeated her oath to the last members of the council and the began to plan.
Elariel had no knowledge of the intricacies of such an endeavour but Miranda made up for it. However, in matters of moving groups of people cross country, Elariel was invaluable. She traced out routes her clan had taken and routes that other clans had spoken of, giving them ways to move their troops off the main roads.
In the small hours of the morning, they stood around the table each ready to face the enormity of what they were about to do. A document lay before them and Josephine picked up the heave silver seal Divine Justinia had left them.
A large blob of dark purple wax was poured over a blood red ribbon and the ambassador pressed the metal into the cooling wax. When she lifted it away the eye of the inquisition stared back at them. Beneath the wax, their signature sat boldly, each agreeing to act as founding members.
The document was the declaration of the Inquisition. It detailed their formation on the orders of Divine Justinia and their intentions towards the breach and the Mage-Templar Conflict.
Elariel was yawning and they all had large circles under their eyes. “Let us retire and set this out in the morning. At noon, we can unfurl the banners.” Miranda offered and there were weary nods of agreement. “I’ll begin making copies in the morning,” Josephine yawned and Leliana nodded.
“I will send out requests for aid to the mages and Templars right away.” The Bard informed them, making for the door. The spy mistress made for the door only to be stopped by a hand on her shoulder. She followed the arm to its owner and met Miranda’s stern eyes.
“No. We will sleep and then get to work. There will be more than enough work for all of us soon enough. We need sleep for the gauntlet we will have to walk in the coming weeks.” She told the Bard firmly.
They stared at each other, and the others in the room held their breath. As the two stubborn women engaged in a silent battle of wills. Finally, Leliana nodded. “There is some wisdom in that,” She admitted. Miranda nodded and walked over to the drowsing she elf.
“Does she have a cabin?” She asked and Josephine nodded. “A small one near the gates. It is already set up for her.” Miranda nodded and put a hand on the elf’s shoulder. “I’ll take her there. Meet you here in the morning?” She asked them.
There was some grumbling and the others nodded grudgingly. There was a general shuffling as they tidied up the area and doused the candles before filling from the room. Leliana produced a bevy of keys and used six to lock the door. Miranda led the stumbling Elariel through Haven until she reached the door of what Josephine had told her was Elariel’s cabin.
She opened the door and was met with the sight of a spacious cabin twice the size of hers. A fire smoldered in the hearth, giving a little light. Miranda pulled Elariel in and practically carried her to the bed.
She shoved the tiny elf into the plush mattress and removed the boots. This done, she bundled the little elf under the feather duvet before putting a few more logs on the fire and leaving.
She followed her echolocation back to her house and let herself in. Leliana stood in her tent observing the Zerg woman’s progress. In the darkness, she moved with the grace of a cat, deftly avoiding the various tripping hazards that littered the ground.
In the dark, Leliana noticed the faint silver glow that clung to her. It could have been confused as moonlight, except neither of the twin moons were out.
Leliana had not noticed it before but now she wondered at its cause. Putting the thoughts from her mind, Leliana stalked to her room in the Chantry that she shared with Josephine and Cassandra. The trio readied themselves for bed and looked at each other uncertainly. “It is done” Cassandra murmured and the other tow looked at her.
“We must succeed. Failure is not an option” Leliana acknowledged and Josephine nodded. “Maker have mercy on us all” the ambassador prayed. Leliana and Cassandra bowed their heads in agreement before the three climbed into their beds and fell into a deep exhausted sleep.
Miranda sighed as the door closed behind her and carefully lit a fire in the hearth. Once the small snapping sounds of a growing fire filled the room, she wearily pulled off her clothes and slipped into a pair of midnight blue pajama bottoms decorated with tiny stars and a loose silver t-shirt that had the outline of a stag emerging from mist on the front. She slid under her thick quilt and joyfully leapt into slumbers realm.
Dawn came too soon for Miranda. The soft grey beams of pre-dawn light crept across the room from the crack in the shutters and drew their ethereal fingers across her eyelids. The faint sounds of someone cursing to themselves about their oven knocked on her ears and she cracked open her eyes.
“Fine I’m up,” She muttered sourly. She threw back her covers and but back a curse as the chilly air swept over her thinly clad body. She hastened over to the hearth and quickly stirred the embers.
Tiny coals glowed in the white ash and she quickly began to feed tiny pieces of kindling to the embers. She gently blew on them, ignoring the fluff of ash that she stirred with her breath. The embers flared brighter and the shavings grew darker as the heat began to crisp them.
Then with a soft rushing sound a flame caught as she paused to inhale. She fed the tiny flames until they grew bigger, nursing the flames until it was a small blaze.
Heat began to fill the room and she straightened. There was a pitcher of cold water on the table. She pulled out a face cloth and finally cleaned the dust and ichor that she had accumulated from the fight in the valley.
She sat on her bed afterwards and reached into her bag of holding and pulled out what looked like a wooden tooth brush with a longer head then was usually found.
She began to draw the stiff bristles of her hair stalks, cleaning them of dust and dirt as well as polishing the pieces. She had to contort her arms at times to reach certain strands. As she did this her mind drifted to the times that she had needed help to clean her own hair.
“I give up,” The young girls voice echoed through the spartan quarters. A long-handled brush with stiff bristles flew against the wall and fell with a clatter.
A young girl sat on the low bed with beige sheets. She was dressed in a sandy coloured undershirt and loose pants. Tendrils of long stalks adorned her head to her waist and her ice blue eyes were filled with frustration. Another girl with coal black hair and bright grey blue eyes walked into the room dressed similarly and looked at the frustrated girl.
“What do you give up?” She asked and the sitting girl scowled.
“I can’t reach my hair,” The girl complained. The standing girl saw the fallen brush and picked it up.
“Miranda, you know what the masters say about letting your anger getting the best of you,” She chastised lightly her blue grey eyes holding a sympathetic expression.
Miranda sighed and flopped back onto her bed “I know Satele. It’s just my stalks itch and feel dirty but I can’t reach them,” She told the other girl. Satele came closer and sat next to her and rested her free hand on Miranda’s shoulder.
“Here let me,” She offered giving her friend a smile. Miranda sat up with a huff and Satele moved so she sat behind her and began to using the brush to scrub the stalks gently. Miranda’s eyes drifted closed and a low rumbling, multi toned purr began to emanate from her chest.
Miranda awoke from her memories by her fingers brushing against something that shouldn’t be there. Frowning she but down the brush and brought her fingers back up to the anomaly.
“They didn’t,” She hissed as she lunged for her bag and yanked out a hand mirror. She held it up and tilted her head to the side to get a better look.
“OH they DID!” She snarled slamming down the mirror and digging for her journal. On either side of her head sitting demurely as if they had been there since birth were a set of neatly pointed ears like one would have seen in Middle earth.
She practically tore open the book, “What the hell did you do to my ears!?” She demanded at the book, her face furious.
The blank paged sparkled for a moment before a messy hand scrawled itself out. “Latent mutation?” It asked and she snarled at it.
“Bullshit! What the hell did you do?” She demanded again.
“Orders from up top… said that She-who-must-be-obeyed was bored….You know how she gets,” The book told her.
She glared at the page. “Change them back.” She commanded it. There was a pause before the answer came.
“Can’t… Sorry…Please don’t hurt me,” It begged and she slammed it closed before hurling it at the opposite wall. It hit with a light thud before it slid down and landed on the ground the wall where it glittered reproachfully at her.
She stood up and made her way over to the wall and to thud it gently against the thick pine. “Stupid,” thud, “Bloody,” thud, “Powers,” thud. She chanted and began going into graphic detail of where the powers could shove their pointy ear fetish, interspersing each word with a knock of her head.
Rant over with, she slumped back over to the bed and threw herself down, allowing herself a violent, if silent temper tantrum. Complete with foot stamping, pouting, jumping up and down, and screaming into a pillow.
Finished, she picked up the brush again and began to re-clean her stalks. Once done, she put the brush on the table, shaking her newly cleaned stalks out. She changed out of her sleep ware and began to don her outfit for the day.
In the end she opted for formal but casual. A high necked under robe that touched the ground with long loose sleeves made of dark silver linen covered her body. Over this she pulled a wool tunic with short pointed sleeves of midnight blue that fastened up the front with silver clasps.
A low neckline showed the silver under robe collar and the tunic was cut to come to a point in the front and back just below the knees it was edged with subtle dark grey vine embroidery. She wrapped a silver linen sash around her waist twice, tying the ends neatly so they hung down her left side.
She slid her tight boots on underneath and sat on her bed. She pulled a hand mirror from her bag and levitated it at head height, glaring at her ears for a moment before she pulled the top of her stalks back and gently twined them into a very loose braid as the pieces were not very flexible.
She bound the braid with a length of leather that she wound snugly around the end before tying it off. She still managed to stash a respectable number of blades on her person and placed the extras in her bag which she attached to her sash at the small of her back, opting to carry her staff and a few hidden daggers.
It was still barely dawn out as she wrapped a charcoal wool cloak around her shoulders and fastened the plain silver clasp at her throat. The Chantry was mostly empty but the back room already had one occupant. Cassandra stood there in full armour, the suit had been cleaned and a less battle scarred tabard sat over top. The Seeker looked up at her and raised an eyebrow.
“Where did you even find that outfit?” she demanded curiously as Miranda closed the door behind her.
“I have a few things up my sleeve dear Seeker,” Miranda replied with a smile.
“I didn’t think you would be able to do anything with you…hair,” The Seeker observed and Miranda grinned.
“It is a challenge. I can’t braid it tightly like humans can but I can do a loose braid.” She told the Seeker as she settled herself in one of the chairs.
The Seeker nodded then did a double take. “What in the Maker’s name happened to your ears?” She demanded and Miranda face palmed.
“Latent mutation.” She mumbled into her hands. Cassandra stared at her and Miranda sighed. “Think puberty, only not related to my sexual maturity and merely a result of stressful environment,” She answered her head still in her hands.
Cassandra nodded cautiously and settled in another chair. The two sat in silence after that until the door opened again. Josephine entered dressed in her usual in her gold and purple ruffles, though Miranda could see by the position of said ruffles that this was a different outfit. Idly she wondered how many outfits in that colour scheme Josephine possessed.
“Good morning,” The ambassador greeted and the two women nodded.
“Same to you,” Miranda answered. Cullen followed and his hand gripped the hilt of his sword reflexively at the sight of Miranda. “Morning Commander,” Miranda greeted and he nodded stiffly to her. The door opened a few moments later to usher in the form of Leliana in her chain mail her hood down.
Beside her was the thinner form of Elariel who was dressed in a knee length jacket made of dark grey leather with metal clasps. Under that she wore tight pale grey shirt and pants with high boots. A belt wound around her waist holding a few pouches and a book.
The door quietly closed and they looked at each other. “Morning you two,” Miranda greeted them and leaned her head against the wall behind her. The elf yawned a greeting in return and they all pulled chairs to the table where they sat down and began their discussions and paperwork.
As Miranda sat at the table Elariel spotted her ears. “Creators! What happened?” She demanded staring at the delicately pointed appendages.
Miranda sighed and dropped her head to the table, her cheeks flaming red. “Latent Mutation,” She groaned still not able to believe that was the excuse she was going with.
At the blank looks around the table she repeated the explanation before begging them to keep it quiet. “Just tell everyone I’ve always had them. Since they are nowhere near as prominent as an elf they can just believe that they missed them,” She begged.
The rest of them exchanged looks before nodding. “Oh thank Eru.” She sighed before she clapped her hands over her mouth looking shocked. The others stared at her as she lowered her hands and closed her eyes. Next to her Leliana and Elariel heard her mutter. “Sneaky little bastards.”
When her eyes opened once more she was calm. “Can we forget about my mutation and just get to work,” She pleaded. The others nodded looking slightly confused but turning their attention to their tasks. Cassandra and Miranda had been drafted by Josephine to help write out copies of the formal declaration while Elariel and Leliana wrote out a pair of letters to be sent.
Cullen was glaring down at a list of materials and training rosters as he tried to figure out a way to train and equip the soldiers they would need to field. Dawn peeked over the horizon and the heard the Chant of Light being sung outside the door.
The Chant finished and they all stood, work finished. “We ready?” Leliana asked everyone, they nodded and Cullen picked up the declaration, nail and a hammer and walked out of the war room.
The masses had left but there were still a few lingering outside the Chantry door. Cullen strode forward purposefully and with two hits drove the nail into the door, pinning the declaration in place. Leliana slid to her tent and fastened her letters to the legs of a pair of ravens.
She stroked their heads whilst she whispered to them. The intelligent birds seemed to nod before she cast her arm up and the pair took flight. Roderick watched all this with a glare before storming off.
The council stood on the steps before the Chantry. Miranda and Cassandra flanking Elariel while Josephine, Cullen and Leliana stood a little behind them.
“People of Haven!” Cassandra cried and the people looked up before gathering slowly to hear what the Seeker had to say. “Seven Days ago, the Conclave was destroyed,” The Seeker told them and there was awash of mutters. “Four days ago, we fought our way to the breach and stabilized it.”
“Maker bless the herald!” A young man’s voice cried out and others took up the call.
Cassandra held up her hand for silence that the crowd grudgingly gave. “Two days ago, the Chantry declared us Heretics and blasphemers and declared the Breach unimportant,” She continued.
There was a wave of angry voices that silenced instantly when Cassandra glared at them. “Yesterday, a declaration was made on the last orders of Divine Justinia. We have reformed the Inquisition of old. We will seal the breach and bring the ones responsible to justice!” She told them all.
Silence reigned as everyone considered it. “As our first act as the Inquisition, we declare war on the one who killed our Divine and tore open the sky!” She cried.
There was a pause and then a soldier unsheathed his blade. “Damn the Chantry! If they can’t realize the danger of the Breach, then Void take them. I will stand with the Inquisition. I will fight for the Herald!” The man declared before he brought his sword down point first to the ground and knelt. “I swear myself to the inquisition,” He vowed.
There was a moment of silence before the other soldiers copied his movements. More people began to kneel as well and Elariel glanced at Miranda out of the corner of her eye. The Jedi had a somber expression and a thread of sadness twisted in her gaze. “And so it begins,” She murmured.
Miranda stood on the wall that bordered Haven and looked out over the camp that sat outside its walls. It was a bustling hive, full of activity. To the near right, soldiers trained under the watchful eye of Cullen. The ex-Templar stood in the middle of the chaos calling out instructions and criticisms as swords clashed against shields. An archery range sat to the edge of camp, filled with recruits trying to master the ranged weapon.
The forges sat to the left, smoke billowing from its numerous chimneys and the sounds of the smiths hard at work below rang in her ears. It had been four hours since they had declared the Inquisition reborn. Already the new pennants snapped from the towers and decorated the front of the Chantry. Miranda had been silent among the crowds, watching the story unfold, an island of calm in the chaos.
Now she looked out and pondered what was to come. It had been sometime since she had overlooked such activity. In fact, it had been several centuries since she had interacted with mortals. She spent much of her time in a place where time didn’t exist or going on smaller hunting missions after monsters that breached the world barriers.
When she did interact with major story points she tended to go for decades if not more. She had even had herself de-aged multiple times to better fit in to the story. Her stalks swayed in the light wind and her cloak fluttered. Her hands, now clad in leather gloves were tucked behind her back as she observed everything from her perch.
The guards on the wall watched her nervously and glanced away quickly when she looked at them. Her stalks gave a twitch as they caught the sound of stealthy footsteps coming towards her and the faint clink of chainmail sewn to leather.
The purple hooded figure of Leliana appeared in her peripherals but she didn’t acknowledge the Sister, patient to wait the woman out. Leliana for her part was studying Miranda. The woman’s face was calm, even serene as she looked out over the camp below. Her pale eyes taking in the scene and her cloths the only sign of movement.
“What do you think when you look out at this?” The spymaster eventually asked.
Miranda didn’t move but her gaze turned considering. “I worry for them. They are so few against so many,” She said simply. “Though I feel in my heart that we shall grow I mourn the cost that such growth will demand of us. War never changes, no matter how it is fought,” Miranda sighed her gaze far away. Leliana watched the woman speak and wondered at her statement.
“You have done this before,” She noted and Miranda nodded.
“Several times. I am well versed in the art of building one’s organization from the ground up. The idea of overwhelming odds does not phase me but then I know my own limits. These men and women will bear the brunt of our success or failure,” She spoke quietly but firmly.
“The Herald will be journeying to the Hinterlands soon to meet with Mother Giselle,” Leliana noted, changing the subject to step away from the sad thoughts. Her gaze was still fixed on Miranda as she spoke, waiting for a response.
The taller woman nodded. “So I heard,” She answered.
“She also hopes that you will accompany her. She seems to trust you,” Leliana added, her eyes shrewd.
Miranda turned her eyes from the field and looked at the Spymistress. “She does, but my question is do you?” Miranda asked, a serious expression on her face. Leliana cocked her head to the side.
“I don’t know. Your actions in the valley speak well of you and your vow gives a degree of comfort. There is no denying that you are a talented warrior as well as a useful asset but do I trust you? I don’t know,” She replied honestly.
Miranda nodded and looked back over the valley. “That’s fair,” She replied. “There is little I can do to assure you beyond my actions,” She told the Bard.
“Though would you take my advice? One spymistress to another,” She asked ignoring Leliana’s slight start. “Spymistress?” Leliana demanded of her and Miranda waved a hand.
“Retired now, but the experiences one gains in that line of work stay with you forever,” She placated.
Leliana nodded carefully in agreement. “What is your advice?” She asked cautiously. Miranda’s face settled into a subtle frown. “Watch out for Solas. He knows far more than he is saying. He plays the Game of Thrones very well, do not underestimate him.” She paused thinking before continuing. “I believe we have three main factions at work here truly.
The inquisition, our enemy who tore the sky, and one that we know nothing of yet,” She informed Leliana. “Soon we will know our foes name, but the third one will not allow itself to be seen before it’s time, nor will they allow their plans to be sussed. Be wary of the third faction.” Miranda warned Leliana turning to make eye contact with the Bard again.
Leliana watched her carefully. “And to which faction do you belong?” She asked calmly.
Miranda smiled faintly. “The side of Elariel. She is caught up in this and she will need friends.” Leliana nodded turning her eyes to the valley, seeing Miranda doing the same.
“She reminds me of someone I knew once,” Leliana admitted quietly. “He was a mage caught up in things far bigger than anything he had ever experienced. But somehow he prevailed through every obstacle thrown his way.” She remembered sadly. Miranda nodded. “You too have walked in the train of heroes.
Remember then that they need true friends lest the burden they are forced to bear overwhelms them.” Leliana looked at Miranda and met her pale gaze. “How do you know that?” She asked sharply. Miranda smiled. “I know the look, once you have seen and aided a true hero you are never the same. There is a fire that they leave behind. If they do it right it will burn for the rest of your life or consume you. I believe that Elariel can become a true hero. But only if she is allowed to grow and change not be constrained to fit a particular Ideal.” Leliana’s face became thoughtful and she turned back to the view.
They stood like that for almost an hour, the silence occasionally broken by comments from either of them. When noon came and the Chantry bells rang Leliana came back to herself. “Thank you, Miranda,” She said to the woman who turned and smiled at her.
“It was a pleasure Sister Nightingale,” The taller woman replied. “If your burden becomes too much then speak with me. My ears are willing to listen,” She told the Bard.
Leliana smiled back before turning and walking away. “My bloody pointy ears,” She heard Miranda mutter and Leliana withheld a giggle
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