Chapter 7- Climbing over Rocky Mountains
They spent a month in the Hinterlands, sleeping in tents and eating rations paired with whatever they caught. It soon became evident that Miranda and Elariel were far more suited to the nomadic lifestyle.
Cassandra was far more used to seeking shelter at inns whilst Varric was a city dwarf born and bred. When at last they turned their sights to Haven again, Cassandra couldn’t help but feel relieved. Miranda had become irritable during the day and exhausted during the nights, claiming that the constant noise of battle everyday was making her stalks ache.
Now they rode back through the mountain pass, Haven nearly in their sight, their horses seemed tired but not nearly as bad as their riders. Even the ever-energetic Miranda slumped a little on Aitheria’s back.
The air grew colder and they wrapped themselves in wool and fur, gloves coming out to defend the hands against the chill of both the mountains and the encroaching dusk. “Here,” Miranda’s voice broke into Cassandra’s tired musing. She looked up to see Miranda leaning between them with a large silver flask.
She took a sip and a warm syrup like spirit spread over her tongue. It tasted like spiced bread that she remembered eating in her childhood during the winter festivals, thick and sweet as it slid don her throat, leaving a burn of cinnamon and honey behind.
It faded into the taste of alcohol that lingered in her mouth. She pulled back from the flask and looked at it. It was bright silver inscribed with intricate geometric designs that encircled it around the top and bottom. In the middle, scenes of a curving tree that held tiny scenes of people among its branches. It was also slightly battered. Small scratches and dents decorated its surface and the screw cap was attached with a metal hinge.
“What is that?” She asked handing back the flask. Miranda took a sip from the flask and let out a sigh of contentment.
“Kripnikas,” She answered, rolling the r and holding the word in the front of her mouth.
Cassandra frowned and cocked her head to the side. “I’ve never heard of it. What’s it made of?” She asked as Miranda grinned.
“Honey, and a collection of spices” She replied simply. Cassandra looked at her and saw a reminiscing smile on her face. They rounded the bend and Haven rose into view. The tent city before the walls of Haven had swelled and a score of horses now milled around the improvised pastures.
Miranda flinched a little at the sound of the blacksmiths but soldiered on. “The Herald has returned!” A scout cried and people gathered round. Murmurs and mutters swept the crowed but they still welcomed them back heartily.
Cullen, Leliana and Josephine pushed through the crowd as they dismounted.
“Welcome back to Haven,” Josephine told them with a smile. Cullen who was sporting a rather magnificent black eye stepped forward after a glare from Leliana.
“Mistress Starsinger,” He began before stopping and shuffling his feet. “I believe we may have started on the wrong… foot,” He said and Miranda gave him a bemused smile. “It has been… pointed out to me that my behavior towards you has led to some… dissension among the ranks and as such I offer a.. formal …apology,” He told her.
She smiled and inclined her head. It was a nice apology, if it hadn’t looked like it was being pried out of him with forceps. Nonetheless it was an apology.
“Thank you, Commander,” She replied politely. Cullen started to turn away only for Leliana to give a loud sigh. Cullen frowned before turning around and woodenly offering her his hand. Miranda swallowed her chuckle and took it, shaking hands firmly. Once his hand was free, he turned almost hastily to the troops who had returned with them.
Miranda smiled and turned her attention to the young stable boy who was looking at Aitheria uncertainly. The hind, for her part, was currently staring at the boy so hard Miranda wouldn’t have been surprised if the hind developed a perfect x-ray of his insides. Seeing her eyes on him the lad made a stumbling bow. “I’m to care for your…Mount milady,” He stuttered out turning red.
Miranda smiled kindly at the boy and turned to Aitheria. “Now “theria, be nice to the poor lad and NO biting,” She informed the doe with a smile that was belied by her commanding tone.
The stable lad gave a muffled whimper and Miranda leaned down to whisper to him. “She likes pears and having the base of her antlers scratched,” She told him and the boy nodded furiously.
She straightened with a smile and strolled over to where the others waited. Aitheria looked imperiously down at the boy before giving a huffing sigh and leaned her head down to nudge him. He automatically brought his hand up to her forehead and remembering Miranda’s advice began to scratch at the base of her antlers. Aitheria’s eyes went a little glassy and she pushed her head into his hands harder.
The lad took an uncertain step back, Aitheria mirror it, keeping her head firmly in reach. He did this all the way to the stable and after settling her in a stall took one of the curry combs one of the other lads handed him and began to clean the silver fur.
The travel party gave their reports to the main council before they fled to clean up. Whilst they had been gone, more repairs had been made to Haven allowing for greater access to baths and other things. Unfortunately, baths were reserved for visiting nobles and Elariel.
So while the young she elf splashed happily in a tub of hot water, Miranda stood next to the fire in her cabin heating water and using a large bowl to wash herself with a cloth. It was fully dark out by the time she was done and sitting tiredly on her bed dressed in a clean pair of Star Wars pajamas wearily cleaning her stalks.
There was a knock at the door and she tiredly bid them enter. A young elven maid stood in the doorway with a loaded tray. Miranda looked up blearily to focus on the maid. “Lady Montilyet had us bring you some food milady,” The young girl mumbled, shifting uneasily.
Miranda nodded and gestured to the small table. “Please leave it there. You have my thanks,” She instructed. The she elf obeyed hurriedly and Miranda continued to clean her hair. As the maid began to leave, Miranda spoke.
“Out of curiosity how did you end up bringing me my food?” She asked and the maid froze, turning to look and Miranda with startled eyes.
“I…I don’t know what you mean milady,” She stuttered and Miranda smiled. “Was it a coin toss or did you draw lots with the loser bringing the demon her food?” She elaborated her face not unkind.
“Lots,” The elf maid mumbled looking down, her face flushing.
“Ahh, well then, my thanks miss…” Miranda trailed off and the maid shuffled a bit before answering.
“Hannah milady, just Hannah,” Her voice had the tell tail sound of someone unsure with how their news would be received and Miranda nodded. The girl was a bastard and now worried that Miranda would deride her for the circumstance of her birth.
“Then thank you Hannah,” Miranda told the elf.
Just before the door closed she added, “You can choose your own name you know. I did,” She informed the girl who gave her a small smile before exiting. The door closed and Miranda heaved herself up from her spot in the bed and stalked over to the tray.
On the plate was several large pieces of grilled meat. Miranda gave a small smile. Trust Leliana to notice she was a pure carnivore and trust Josephine to ensure that she was appropriately fed. It was something she had become accustom to.
With her conversion to Zerg, she had lost her ability to function on an omnivorous diet. True she could eat a small amount of bread, cheese or plants but they usually made her sick to her stomach. She was luck that she had kept her sweet taste receptors but that was about it.
Alcohol and teas were fine somehow but heaven have mercy on her if she ate a salad because her guts certainly wouldn’t. She happily ate the grilled venison that had been cooked and seasoned wonderfully considering that they had few resources to season with. Once her belly was sated, she settled back on to her bed with a rather gripping sci-fi novel she had ordered and received and settled down for the night.
She woke well before dawn and dresses in brown wool pants, a white linen shirt and a forest green wool vest. A woollen sash sat around her hips and she pulled a long brown wool frock coat. As she dressed she mumbled a little poem to herself.
“When Anne Boleyn the Queen was sacked.
She had her bags already packed
And neatly marked in letters large”
The Bloody Tower by Royal Barge”.
Her friends admired her savoir faire
Until they missed their underwear,
For Anne Boleyn was no one’s fool.
There is no substitute for Wool!”
She grinned to herself at the poem, she knew dozens of such rhymes. She slid out into the still starlit streets, still silent with early burned down torches and made her way up towards the Chantry. Snow fell softly through the air, dusting the ground and her shoulders. She was intent on climbing to the top of the Chantry to watch the sunrise.
As she passed by the tent Leliana used as an office, she heard a voice. Curious, she peeked into the opening of the tent. In the dim light Leliana knelt near a pile of crates, her hands held in front of her in prayer.
“Blessed are the peacekeepers, The champions of the just. Blessed are the righteous, The lights in the shadow. In their blood the Maker’s will is written.” She paused, her voice turning searching “Is that what you want from us? Blood? To die so that your will is done?” She straightened. “Is death your only blessing?” She demanded softly.
She caught sight of Miranda who stood in the tent entrance. “And What do you think?” She demanded, her voice louder and angry. “Do you as an outsider have a fresh perspective? Can you figure out the Maker’s game?” Her voice was bitter, her eyes glinting angrily.
Miranda entered the tent and sat herself down on the crates near the still kneeling bard. “Sometimes there is no game, just the actions of mortals,” She answered sadly.
Leliana sneered at her. “You probably don’t even worship the Maker. Lucky. He asks a lot,” She told Miranda, her voice thick with bitterness.
“Most gods do,” She observed quietly. Leliana was not done though. She stood and began to pace. “The Chantry teaches that the Maker abandoned us. He demands repentance for our sins. He demands it all. Our lives. Our deaths. Justinia gave Him everything she had, and He let her die!” She ranted, her chainmail robe swishing with her abrupt movements.
Miranda continued to watch quietly, letting the Spymistress vent. “If the Maker doesn’t intervene to save the best of His servants, what good is He?” Leliana demanded, her voice cracking before she sat down hard next to Miranda looking shattered.
“I used to believe I was chosen. I thought I was fulfilling His purpose for me, working with the Divine, helping people but now she’s dead. It was all for nothing. Serving the Maker meant nothing,” She spat out the last words as if their taste offended her.
Miranda sighed softly and placed her hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “Nothing done to aid means nothing. The small act of rendering help to those in need is in itself a worthy and noble cause. I never met this Justinia but from what I have heard she was a remarkable woman,” She smiled at Leliana who looked at her, a still vulnerable look dominating her delicate features.
“How can you be sure?” She asked quietly and Miranda smiled softly at her.
“Creation is a marvelous, frightening and humbling place. Never question your place in it. Each action has a reaction. It is the nature of reality.” She squeezed Leliana’s shoulder before she stood up. “Come with me, I think you need a moment of peace,” She told the Spymistress.
Leliana shook her head. “I have far too much to do, I shouldn’t have let anyone see me like this,” She replied, turning away and standing, making her way towards the trestle table that held her work.
“No, I’m taking you to see the sunrise,” Miranda told her stubbornly. “I know just how stressful this work can be but trust me you need to take breathers. Step out of the mindset and simply enjoy peace. Even if it’s only for a few minutes,” She informed the bard.
Leliana glared at her. “I have duties. I will not leave them,” she responded coolly and Miranda sighed.
“Look either come with me willingly or I’m going to carry you. So choose, come with dignity or be hauled upside-down to the top of the Chantry,” She informed the reticent Spymistress. Leliana pursed her lips, her blue grey eyes hard.
“No,” she said again.
Miranda sighed. “I did warn you,” She told the Bard before gesturing at the red headed woman. Leliana a startled yelp as she floated off the ground. Miranda turned away from her and began to stride in grey light of pre-dawn towards the Chantry.
“Oh and if you call for help everyone will see the supposedly invulnerable and untouchable Sister Nightingale floating helplessly behind me,” She tossed back over her shoulder.
She felt a flash of warning and ducked her head to the left neatly dodging the dagger that was spinning towards her head. Her hand snapped up and caught the blade. “Now that was just rude,” She informed the red head behind her. She continued her stroll, happily ignoring the cursing from her captive.
She reached the stone and mortar of the Chantry wall and dug her fingers into the tiny cracks, hoisting herself up and scaling the wall like a spider. Leliana clenched her fists in anger as she floated behind the Zerg. How dare the woman kidnap her! She thought.
Her anger was quickly forgotten as she watched Miranda swarm up the wall quickly and easily. Leliana merely floated up behind her. Miranda climbed up the front until she reached the two alcoves that sat high above the arch that held the doors.
She nestled herself into one and set the now sulking bard into the other. Leliana was irritated, she could be doing any number of things but instead she was being held captive on the Chantry.
She was under no illusions that if she tried to climb back down Miranda would simply drag her back up. She settled into her alcove with a huff and began to look around. The air was still, not a breath of wind disturbed the scene. Beneath them Haven sat, sleepy and dark. High above them the fading stars twinkled in a cobalt blue sky.
The stillness invaded her senses, slowly calming the torrent of plans and schemes that constantly swirled through her brain. The sky grew lighter and streaks of pink began to cross the sky, the horizon hidden by the mountains.
To the east, the shadows at the foot of the peaks grew deeper as the sky behind erupted into a fanfare of colours. Soft roses danced with magentas. Amber and gold twined sensually around crimson and vermilion. Fiery oranges and pastel peaches stretched out into the shy that was fading into a soft azure.
This symphony took place in slow motion and filled the sky above the mountains. A bird chirruped hesitantly and the faint smell of smoke from the cooks’ ovens began to swirl through the air. She could hear the town stirring to life beneath her and she watched as the night watch stumbled to the tavern for food before heading to their tents.
She saw Cullen emerge from his domain and stalk over to the cook tents for breakfast. Cassandra emerged from her den, armed and armoured for the day ahead. Golden fingers began to light the tips of the roofs and it slowly crept down them, bathing the buildings in the deep light of the sun. From where she sat, Leliana felt the warmth permeate her robes.
She leaned out of her alcove and looked at Miranda. The Zerg was tucked neatly into her alcove, arms wrapped around her knees and chin resting on top. She looked over the scene with a soft expression and a small smile.
“This is what we are protecting, who we are protecting,” Miranda remarked, her voice musing and form unmoving. Leliana looked back over the town and felt a small smile pulling at her lips.
“Sometimes one needs to take a step away and breathe. Down there you can feel their needs, their worries, hear their voices. But up here, it gives a chance to breathe, and look at the greater tableau without the clutter,” Miranda murmured, her words drifting to Leliana on the wind.
“I hear most of what goes on in Haven. Did you know that?” Miranda told her and Leliana jerked in shock.
“Everything?” She asked and Miranda nodded, her eyes far away.
“Every step, whisper and word, I can hear your heartbeat and the cooks cursing the back that the kindling is slightly damp. I tune a lot of it out but sometimes the silence and distance is needed,” Miranda spoke calmly, as if discussing the weather.
Leliana frowned. “So you heard about the shipment I was expecting just before you left,” She remarked and Miranda made a hum in affirmation.
“I applaud your sensibilities. Though I believe that a shipment of expensive wool and fur clothes going missing from a noble’s shipment and ending up with us is hardly damning,” She told the Bard. Leliana sniffed. “Then I thank you for your discretion,” She said before they lapsed again into silence.
The sun had fully risen when Miranda stirred. “Well then, back to the grind stone as they say,” She remarked cheerfully. She swung out of her alcove and began to climb back down, pausing and looking up at Leliana. “I assume you can climb down yourself,” She said and Leliana smirked.
“But of course,” She replied, swinging out of her niche and easing down.
Miranda grinned. “Race you,” She challenged before she began to climb down like a spider, clinging to the walls with ease. Leliana gave a small smile and began to speed her decent. She lost, badly, but then again, she couldn’t compete with someone who jumped fifteen feet to the ground. Miranda grinned at her when she reached the bottom.
“Well that was wonderful. Have a lovely day Sister Nightingale,” She told Leliana.
The bard gave a small smile. “Thank you. You as well,” She answered.
Miranda gave a beaming smile and skipped away, literally skipped, singing fast paced song full of runs with the words. “Climbing over rocky mountain! Skipping rivulet and fountain, passing where the willows quiver!”
She vanished into the crowds who were rapidly becoming used to the Zerg’s antics. Leliana smiled in a slightly bemused fashion after her and strode back to her office tent. She stared down at the reports and realized with a jolt that Miranda’s seemingly random actions had left her with a smile on her face and a slightly more peaceful heart.
Miranda happily chewed on piping hot strips of roast venison that she pulled from the small bowl in her hand as she meandered out to the training field. Her bow and arrows were on her back and her sword was at her side. Men looked up at her in uncertainty before they shook themselves and threw themselves back into their training. Miranda found her quarry easily.
Cassandra was slashing furiously at the unfortunate training dummy before her. The manikin bore the marks of previous attacks, large chunks were missing from its wooden limbs and the canvass padding that filled out it’s body was more repaired seams than whole cloth. “I’m sure what ever the poor dummy did he is very sorry about it!” She remarked drily as she approached.
Cassandra looked up from where she was frowning at her wooden opponent and gave a sigh. “I suppose that you are here to pry as well,” She remarked with a resigned look on her face.
Miranda walked over to her and offered some of her venison. “Not really. I was actually looking for a sparring partner,” She replied. Cassandra refused the food and Miranda shrugged before quickly devouring the last few pieces and setting the cooling bowl down in the ground next to a tent.
“Spar?” Cassandra asked and Miranda nodded.
“I think that you should, if only to give the poor dummy a break,” She laughed. Cassandra looked at the battered training tool and sighed and shrugged.
“Why not,” She acquiesced. “Lovely.” Miranda chirped and skipped over to the dummy and took off her coat, draping it over the manikin.
She walked over to a more open space and drew sword holding it diagonally across her body with both hands, feet settling into the ready position and turning her body perpendicular to her opponent. Cassandra rolled her eyes and joined her.
She held her blade in a low opening pose, the tip pointing towards Miranda. They were still, each running their eyes over the other, gauging their body position and breathing rate. Cassandra moved first, her blade darted up and forward in a move designed to pierce down from above.
Miranda’s blade spun up, diverting the stab and sweeping around to slash at Cassandra’s unprotected side as the seeker recovered from the over-extension. They began to circle each other like a pair of tigers, eyes sharp and ready to pick up on the slightest misstep.
Miranda leapt forward, launching an attack that resulted in her jumping and spinning to whip her sword towards Cassandra.
The seeker parried the blow and pressed forward, raining solid and economic blows on Miranda. The Zerg woman danced around the blows, her curved elven blade slithering in and out like a snake. Cassandra parried them away neatly and countered. It was a dance, elegant and deadly. The two were focused solely on each other, ignorant to the fact that their battle had drawn a crowd.
Cullen pushed through the knot of soldiers to see a sight that was both beautiful and terrifying. Cassandra and Miranda trading blows at full speed, the pure sound of steel ringing on steel filling the air.
They were a study in contrasts. Cassandra was economic, solid and strong, her sword moving in broad strokes and sharp parries. Settling into tight guards when she wasn’t attacking.
Miranda was a spinning vortex, her blade moving in a flowing dance, long curving swipes and moving jabs. Each move joined the next never simply stopping in an extended position. While Cassandra halted blows, Miranda diverted them.
Both women moved with the grace of predators on full prowl. As he watched, Cullen couldn’t help but admire their style. It was clear that both were masters of their respective styles. Gold was exchanging hands and the men began to react to the various plays happening on the field.
Cheering when their favoured fighter made a particular dangerous move and hissing when the opponent countered. Miranda smiled at Cassandra, the Seeker was good, very good. If it wasn’t for the fact that Miranda had a few years on her in terms of experience, she wouldn’t be on par with the Seeker. Miranda’s foot hit a small patch of ice and she slipped, throwing off her parry.
Cassandra’s blow struck hard, vibrating the blade in her hand harshly. Miranda dove to the ground to avoid the next blow and rolled into a hand spring, putting room between her and Cassandra. They stood apart, breath coming in quick pants. Cassandra eyed the taller woman warily. It was a new experience to fight such an unusual sword style and she was relishing the challenge.
Amber eyes met Ice and Cassandra bared her teeth in a warrior smile rushing Miranda. Miranda echoed the movement and they clashed, locking blades between their bodies. They heaved and struggled against each other, both trying to overpower the other. They pushed back and forth before the broke apart and lunged forward clashing and returning to the deadly dance.
The crowd was mesmerised, unsure if they wanted a winner. Miranda lunged low and came up inside Cassandra’s guard and her blade ended at Cassandra’s throat. She grinned only to realize that the Seeker’s blade sat in a similar position, a draw. They stared at each other hard, both panting hard and their instincts screaming at them to end the threat.
Slowly, as if waking up they pulled away and relaxed. They sheathed their blades and shook hands, wiping their sweaty faces that were cooling rapidly in the chilly mountain air.
Miranda grinned at the Seeker before they both noticed the ring of people around them. “Oh for Heaven Sake!” Miranda told them looking exasperated before her eyes lit with an unholy light.
“Right who spotted the difference in our two styles?” She demanded. The men began to shuffle but Miranda fixed them all with a hard stare. “Hands up if you did or I’m going to let Cassandra use you as a practice dummy,” She informed them.
Even Cullen looked a little perturbed by this thought and before he could stop himself his hand was rising along with most of the others. “Good” Miranda told them before pointing at a young-looking recruit.
“You there, can you state the pros and cons of using Seeker Pentaghast’s style?” She asked and the man began to stutter and shuffle. Miranda waited patiently as he finally realized that she wasn’t going to let him go and he mumbled out his answer.
“Seeker Pentaghast didn’t need to move much. Her style is less tiring but relies a lot on strength.” Miranda nodded encouragingly at the man before turning to Cassandra.
“Seeker Pentaghast how was it using your style against mine?” She asked.
Cassandra blinked before considering. “It was different. I had to adjust, go on the defensive until I could discern a pattern,” She replied.
Miranda grinned and launched into a lecture that turned into a training session. She, Cassandra and Cullen began to create a training regimen to incorporate both styles.
Miranda stumbled into the tavern later that evening. She was fit sure but there was something to be said for the effort that needed to be expended to train hundreds of soldiers. She and Cassandra were working to combine the conflicting styles to use against their foes. She slumped into a table in the corner. One of the maids came over to her warily and Miranda looked up at her blearily.
“C…can I get you anything miss?” The girl asked with only a minor stammer.
“Meat and mead please, no vegetables or bread,” She told the girl with a weary smile. The girl scurried off to get the order and Miranda stared at the table in front of her. Truly there was something about wood-grain that was fascinating and it had nothing to do with the side-wise looks and whispers.
Idly she reached up and scratched around her silver head piece, picking at it a little before she realized what she was doing and returning her trace the grain of the heavily scarred table. Footsteps walked near her but she wasn’t paying attention. A man cleared his throat near her “‘scuse me miss?” He asked and she looked up, a little startled. A tall soldier stood at her table, scratching at the back of his neck.
“Yes?” She asked curiously and the man shuffled a little. She looked beyond him and saw a group of other soldiers who were watching nervously.
“We, that is to say my mates and I want to thank you for what you did at the Breach. You helped save a lot of men there and we know that you’re no demon. No matter what the Chantry says we know that truth,” The man spoke hesitantly but firmly. Miranda smiled gratefully at him.
“Thank you. It means a lot to hear someone say that,” She told him.
The man smiled hesitantly at her and gave a short bow before he retreated to his friends who saluted her before going to their table. Miranda smiled to herself and sat back a little and ran a hand through her stalks, which were currently contained in a low ponytail. Life was good.
“Ahh Mistress Starsinger,” Josephine called as she saw the Zerg woman strolling through the snowy streets. She was like a cat walking through a flock of birds, people moved out of her way, some looked fearful while others were beginning to look at her with more awe than fear.
Not the same as what followed the Herald but it was a start. “Lady Montilyet, what can I do for you?” Miranda asked coming over to the ambassador. “Will you come with me to my office?” Josephine requested. Miranda nodded and followed the Ambassador through the Chantry. “Could you give us a minute Mineave please?” She asked the rooms only occupant.
The elven mage looked up and saw Miranda standing behind her in the doorway. “Of course, Ambassador,” She replied, gathered her notes and leaving.
Josephine closed the door behind her and settled herself and gestured to the chair that sat on the other side of her desk. Miranda sat elegantly, crossing her legs neatly and steepling her fingers, looking completely at ease.
Josephine observed her. She didn’t seem that different from human except for her small pointed ears, much less noticeable than an elf’s almost as if a set of human ears had been given a delicate point and her hair.
Under those differences, it was clear that Miranda Starsinger was very beautiful. She was in an outfit that looked like a dress until she crossed her legs revealing that is was a travelling dress. It was made of cobalt blue wool, functional and elegant at the same time. “You summoned me ambassador?” Miranda asked raising a delicate brow.
Josephine brought her mind back to the present. “I feel I must ask how you are settling into Haven, Mistress Starsinger,” She told the other woman.
Miranda nodded. “You have all been very accommodating. I’m thankful for everything you and the others have done,” She replied and Josephine smiled a little.
“You are too kind. I was wondering if you have at any point felt unwelcome,” She asked seriously.
Miranda shrugged, nothing truly worth note. “I am different. It’s natural that the people would be wary around an unknown. The looks and whispers don’t bother me,” Miranda told her calmly.
Josephine sighed and made a few notes on her to do list. “Perhaps you could tell me about your people so that I may ease their fears,” She requested.
Miranda smiled. “Of course, what would you like to know?” She asked and Josephine had a sense of Deja vu from her conversation with Elariel. “Where were you born?” She asked, an easy question. Miranda cocked her head to the side and considered.
This was actually a tricky question, technically she was born in Canada but that was from her Life-Before. The closest thing she had to a birth in her current employment was when she had hatched after her capture by the Zerg during her second tour. She had been Zerg for a very long time so she decided to use that, though she still kept her Life-Before birthday.
“I was born on the island of Char. A hot place, lava flows and an inhospitable surface. We made our dwellings below the surface. Though it does have its own hellish beauty,” She told the ambassador. Josephine nodded and made several notes.
“Any family?” She inquired and Miranda grinned.
“Dozens though many of those are the ones I’ve chosen. Zerg have a system where we choose our own family,” She smiled, she was mixing her terms and making the title of Zerg synonymous with the people of the bureau to make it easier to label herself. She cocked her head and added. “Though I do have a hatch sister. According to our swarms sequence spinner, we were clutching each other so tightly that we didn’t separate until almost three days after our hatching.” she had a small smile on her face. “Sarah and I used to race over the volcano fields, and try to push each other down crevasses when our brood wasn’t watching” she remembered, describing the true scenes of two fully grown Zerg Queens wrestling among the volcanic glass to something a little more innocently then the actual ground destroying play fights they had participated in.
Josephine looked up at her curiously. “Where is she now” She asked curiously and Miranda shrugged.
“truthfully I don’t have a clue. Sarah and the swarm are probably busy finally unravelling the mysteries of the Xel’naga” Miranda replied airily.
Josephine blinked and scribbled some notes on her papers. “What are the Xel’naga?” she asked and Miranda grinned. “The closest thing to gods in our homeland, but I’ve found others since I left” she answered.
“What other Gods?” Josephine wondered and Miranda laughed.
“Oh far too many to name, there are literally millions of Gods running around, some good, some bad, some neutral. In fact, it is a curse among many people, ‘May a God answer your prayer.'” Miranda shook her head ruefully. “I know too many stories where a God or Goddess answered a prayer. There is no such thing as a granted prayer. Its’ always a transaction. I don’t see Gods as beings that should be worshipped but more as over powered neighbours,” She told the Ambassador.
It was true. In the bureau, Gods were regarded as meddlesome at best, problems at worst. Sure, there were good ones who would lend a hand or not, true Miranda had made friends with a few Pantheons but there was still the majority of jerks.
Josephine considered her note. “Perhaps you can tell me about your training as a Jedi?” She asked and Miranda smiled and began to give a slightly edited version of her two times training as a Jedi. Later that night she snuggled into her bed, her mind spinning back to her previous tours.
Solas stalked through the fade. It was so familiar, yet so alien to him. The landscape was warped and twisted by the effects of his veil, spirits wandered close to him and only vaguely recognized him. Those who did were truly ancient. A wisp spun around him like a happy ribbon, blue light glowing happily. He smiled and ran his finger along it’s silky texture and continued his wanderings.
“Solas,” A voice called and her turned to see a green human woman watching him with glowing eyes.
“Wisdom. It is good to see you,” He greeted walking closer and embracing the woman.
“I am also glad that you have come old friend. There is something you should see,” She told him, walking deeper into the green landscape. Solas followed her until he saw what wisdom meant. Before him was a swirling vortex of energy. It glowed the silver of moonlight and a glowing purple while it filled the surrounding air the scent of pine and the fire that made up the earth’s blood.
“What is it?” He asked Wisdom.
The spirit shrugged. “I do not know, but I must leave. It is uncomfortable near her,” She told him before fading. Solas frowned and pressed closer to the vortex. As he approached the outer edge, he saw that it wasn’t a solid wall as he had assumed but layers of purple light and silver mist swirling around in a wind. He pressed against the currents, slowly easing into the storm. The winds buffeted him on every angle but he pushed forward suddenly bursting into a clearing.
Looking around he couldn’t see any sign of the storm he had fought through. A soot streaked sky arched high above, plumes of smoke streaking across it from dozens if not hundreds of fires. Around lay the shattered remains of buildings demolished as if a giant and stomped through in a temper tantrum.
The remains of a large tower with a circular design on its face stood somehow relatively unscathed despite the destruction around them. He heard voices shouting in jubilation and followed the sound through the twisted metal and rubble that filled the ground.
He stumbled into a clearing with sheets of metal and tarps stretched across to form shelters and tents. A large bonfire sat in the middle and around that sat a hoard of strange and alien beings. What appeared to be blue women with short crests on their heads sat speaking in a flowing alien language with hulking beasts with large humps that answered in harsh growls and guttural grunts.
Boney birdlike aliens squawked and chittered next to a pair of suited beings who seemed to be singing back. Interspersed through this strange collection were humans laughing and talking though in a language he had never heard in his life.
All were dressed in strange, smooth armour that covered them in strategically placed segments, covering far more than any armour he had ever seen. They were in all colours of the rainbow though all were scarred and dirty. The people were no better. Many were wounded or sporting bruises and cuts. A woman stood from near a suited creature and walking bird. A large crude cup was held in her hand and with a start he recognized the hair stalks on the woman.
“A Toast!” Miranda cried in what was clearly a gesture of celebration. The others lifted their drinks. “To the end of the Reaper war and the survival of the Normandy ground team!” They gave a cheer but Miranda was not done. “And a toast to our crazy ass Commander, without whom the cycle would never have been stopped!” The group looked at a heavily scarred human male with a shaved head and several bandaged wounds. He was sitting next to a being in a purple suit, his arm around her waist.
“To Shepard!” Miranda cried and everyone echoed the cry.
The man smiled and held up his mug in reply. “And a toast to Miri, the one who held back the tide long enough for me to set off the crucible before pulling me back to Earth!” He told them. They cheered Miranda who grinned widely as Solas watched. They had obviously won a great battle against a terrifying foe and now they celebrated their life.
A stunning dark haired woman who had her arm wrapped around the waist of a heavily tattooed woman smiled and raised her glass. “To the end of the cycle and the ones we lost,” She told the group in a strange accented voice and the others nodded a little more solemnly before drinking again.
“You know what? Fuck this let’s drink” The tattooed woman cried out and threw back her glass. and pulling out her arm. An orange gauntlet appeared and a strange rhythmic music emanated from it. The tattooed woman began to gyrate and sway t the beat and the others joined her, dancing around the fire and laughing.
Miranda smiled at her companions before running her eyes over the group. The icy orbs stopped in him and she frowned. “You’re not supposed to be here,” She spoke in common. She pointed a finger at him, her eyes glowing with purple light. “Begone,” She incanted, her voice multi layered and forceful. A wind picked up and he found himself stumbling back out of the mist into the fade once more.
He shook his head to regain his bearings before trying to re-enter. Unfortunately, the wind howled and threw him bodily from the dream it protected. He hit a rocky outcropping with a crack that knocked him to the world of the living.
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