Chapter 8- Too much gold
Miranda looked around the scenery as it sedately passed them by. Beneath her Aitheria huffed and mumbled sleepily to herself. They had stayed in Haven a week to resupply and go over their battle plan to meet with the Chantry. Miranda had made it a point to kidnap Leliana three more times and spar with Cassandra every day. She had even taken to fighting Cullen and giving lessons to the inquisition mages on how to fight with their staves, working with Harrit the black smith to design a staff that would be used as both a melee weapon and a focus.
She had begun meeting with Josephine for tea in the afternoon, discussing everything from the political situation in Orlais to strange negotiations they had experienced. Even meeting with Varric in the evenings, he taught her diamond back and wicked grace whilst she in return produced a pack of battered cards and taught him poker, blackjack and Skyllian five. She avoided Solas after she found him intruding into her dream and she had been forced to step up her evening meditations to include psionic techniques to keep him out of her mind.
Elariel had been harder, the young elf had been keeping to herself this past month and Miranda could hear her crying herself to sleep every night. She worked hard to include the girl and she was pleased to see her slowly emerging from her shell.
“So why are we up this early?” she asked Cassandra who rode at the head of their column of soldiers and the four in the ground team.
“Because it will take eight days to reach Val Royeaux and we need to get there as soon as possible” the Seeker informed her stoically. Miranda sighed and stroked Aitheria on the neck, wincing as she listened to what Aitheria was saying at Cassandra. Some of those swears were truly quite creative but she felt that the Seeker wouldn’t appreciated Aitheria’s particular brand of creativity.
A few days after their departure from Haven it was clear that Miranda had become sluggish and pale, not cracking as many jokes and simply staring at the scenery as it passed. She fought listlessly and preferred to use her bow and remain on Aitheria during fights.
It was five days after they left Haven that the reason was revealed. Cassandra watched as Miranda slid away from the camp, her steps quiet and her bow in her hands. Aitheria’s head lifted to watch her rider’s departure before turning to stare at Cassandra. The dark pools held a challenge that though the Warrior could not understand the hind as Miranda did, read clear. Judge her and I will kill you.
Cassandra frowned as she looked in the direction Miranda had gone. The Zerg woman had become a friend during their time in the Hinterlands. Cassandra had watched her as she spoke with the large group of orphans they had found hiding in one of the destroyed huts that littered the area. That day had changed how Cassandra viewed the Zerg woman.
They had spent three days with the children, gaining their trust so they would follow them to the Inquisition or the crossroads. Out of all of them Miranda had spent the most time with the children. Once camp had been made she had settled herself on the ground in a cross-legged seat and begun to tell a story about two girls who had become knights by pretending to be boys and how the eldest became the king’s champion.
The children had approached her cautiously but she never paused in her story, looking for all the world as if she had been telling the story to a flower that sat before her. As the story progressed the children came closer and closer until one little girl had reached out to touch the Zerg’s stalks.
The other children froze but Miranda had smiled and told the girl to be gentle with them before continuing with her story. Slowly the children had reached forward to touch the strange appendages, one young boy had yanked on them but Miranda had simply looked at him reproachfully. Though she later confessed that hurt like hell and in fact still ached hours later.
Cassandra had watched the fearsome features change as she allowed the children to play with her stalks, letting them weave little skeins of string around them and loosely braiding the stiff stalks. The Seeker had smiled a little when one elven girl had presented Miranda with a flower and the Zerg had smiled as she let the girl weave it into one of the braids.
The others had watched as the soft side of the rarely serious warrior came through and she gently brushed and braided the children’s hair. Weaving beautiful and complex braids even as she wove her stories. That night in their shared tent Miranda had let Cassandra see another facet of herself.
The long scars of a flogging on her back and the marks of someone who had been gripped in the jaws of a massive creature that wrapped around her right hip and under her left breast to encircle her torso. Emerging from her memory, the warrior woman made up her mind and stood, following where her comrade had gone.
She heard the familiar sound of a bow twanging and hurried her pace. She came into a clearing and stared at what she found. Miranda was on her knees her knife working quickly and far more roughly than was necessary. Then she rocked back on her heels, her sharp teeth tearing into the leg of a recently killed nug.
I’m a carnivore the memory of a portion of Miranda’s rant at Roderick came to mind as she watched. Miranda was facing away from her, so focused that even her excessive hearing didn’t detect Cassandra until the Seeker accidentally stepped on a twig.
The sound was sharp and clear, like an explosion in the suddenly still air. Miranda turned slowly, as if resigned. The leg was still clenched in her hand and speckles of blood adorned her lips. “What are you doing?” Cassandra asked quietly though her hand still sat on her sword hilt. Miranda flinched a little but swallowed her mouthful.
“I didn’t want you to see this” she said, a defeated look in her eyes. “Its hard enough to clear my name of the demon mark around friends when your diet is almost cliché demon behaviour” She sighed and looked down mournfully at the leg in her hand, swallowing a mouthful of saliva at the sight.
“You need to eat your food raw?” Cassandra asked, her voice not giving anything away. Miranda straightened and nodded. “I can’t process food like you. Vegetables and fruits are almost completely useless to me. I’m designed to gain all my nutrients from my prey. Blood contains the necessities I need and I haven’t really had a chance to eat well since I joined up. I figured that the trust I gained was enough to sneak away for a meal” Miranda admitted and Cassandra stared at her.
“You’ve been starving yourself since you came here?” she demanded and Miranda shrugged.
“We always hunted in pairs. I’d fill a flask with blood and grab pieces from our kills when no one was looking but its not enough to keep me going.” she admitted and Cassandra frowned before she came to a decision.
“That will not do” she informed Miranda. She strode over to the pair of nugs that Miranda had prepared and picked them up in one hand before hauling the Zerg to her feet and dragging her back towards camp. Miranda for her part was uncertain and only gave a marginal resistance. They stalked into camp and voices quieted when the Seeker’s face came into view.
Sufficient to say that a thunderstorm would have looked more inviting. Miranda was pushed into a place in a log and the nugs placed next to the fire. Miranda looked up at her uncertainly but Cassandra glared at her pointedly “eat” she commanded with a glare. Miranda held her gaze for a moment before she turned her attention to the leg still in her hand.
The others watched uncertainly but Cassandra glared at them. “What’s going on Cassandra?” Elariel asked uncertainly, her eyes flicking between the Stoic seeker and the carefully eating Miranda.
“Miranda has been starving herself to keep from drawing out attention to her diet” Cassandra informed her tersely.
“But I’ve seen her eat” Varric told her “she eats more than most of us” he added, looking uncertain.
“Just because I was eating doesn’t mean I was getting much out of it” Miranda told him from where she sat.
“Explain this to us please” Elariel asked a note of a command in her voice.
Miranda sighed but launched into a biology lecture that left her audience reeling. Many of the soldiers were nearly cross-eyed from the mnemonic overload but in the end they realised that they really had no choice but to humour the new addition to the weirdness that was Miranda. The glare from the Seeker informed them quite clearly that they had no choice. After that night Miranda ate with them.
She heard Val Royeaux long before they saw it. A city that size dominated the auditory landscape and she hurriedly grabbed her stalks and wound a long cord around them, binding them together into a long tail. “What are you doing?” Cassandra asked and Miranda looked up from where she was fumbling with the tie.
“Plugging my ears, I can hear Val Royeaux from here” she told the Seeker tying a knot in the bottom around the end.
“But why bind the hair?” the Seeker wondered and Miranda settled a little better into her seat of Aitheria’s back to explain.
“My stalks work by picking up the vibrations in the air. When allowed to hang free they are at their most sensitive. When I stop their ability to vibrate I dampen their ability to pick up sound. So binding them is the equivalent of putting cotton in my ears, except my normal ears can still hear. To me everything sounds flat and muffled” she told the warrior.
Cassandra looked considering but remained silent as they made camp next to a river to clean up. After all it wouldn’t do to show up in the capital of the Empire covered in the dust and grime from eight days’ travel. Freshly scrubbed they cleaned and donned outfits that would gain them apathy rather than automatic censure in the Capital. Varric and Elariel bother wore armour covered with long leather coats while Cassandra wore freshly polished armour and clean tabard. Miranda was clad full Jedi attire, with her hair wrapped more neatly and covered with the hood of her brown robe. Thus clean and ready they headed for the gates of the gleaming city. The handed their mounts off to their soldiers at the gate of the Bridge that lead to the central city.
Elariel lead them with a determined stride with Miranda and Cassandra flanking. Varric took up a position behind them, a perfect formation to deal with an attack. Varric could put distance between him and his enemy while they two women used their swords or staff to hold of their foes. Miranda winced at the high pitched sounds that rang from the bells that were tolling in the various towers that dotted the city. Large red pennants and awnings decorated the city and everyone they saw was decked out in their frilliest finery.
“The city still mourns” Cassandra noted as they grew closer and Miranda raised a brow, apparently being more ostentatious than normal was a way to mourn in Orlais. A man and woman walked towards them until they caught sight of their party. The lady gave a very dramatic scream before she fled back towards the centre of the city.
“Just a guess Seeker but I think they already know who we are” Varric muttered to them.
“Your skills of observation never fail to impress me Varric” the Seeker deadpanned as they entered a statue lined avenue just before the gates to the main centre of the city.
A scout dressed in teal accented armour ran up and fell to her knees. “My lady Herald” she greeted with a salute.
Cassandra frowned before recognizing the woman “you’re one of Leliana’s people, what have you found?” The scout shifted uncomfortably “the Chantry mothers await you. But… so do a great many Templars” she reported, looking a little shaken.
“Oh yay another wrench thrown into what should be a relatively simple plan” Miranda sighed rubbing her forehead.
The scout shuffled a little “people seem to think the Templars will protect them from… from the inquisition” the scout told them sounding scandalised at the very thought. Miranda made a resigned sound and the scout continued. “They’re gathering on the other side of the Market. I think that’s where the Templars intend to meet you” she finished her report and Cassandra nodded to the scout who stood.
“Only one thing to do then” the Seeker sighed and strode forward “return to Haven with then news, let them know what has happened if we are…delayed” she commanded, her eyes now firmly focused on the market beyond. The scout saluted and vanished from the avenue into the many alleyways that twined behind the gleaming streets.
They passed through the gleaming gilt gates that currently stood open. The square was sunlit and drenched in gold. Everything from gilt statues to gold leaf embellishments, truth be told it was blinding. Elariel looked around with barely hid disgust, all around her she saw humans in ostentatious outfits and gleaming metal mask staring at her and judging. She felt exposed at the front of the party, but the solid presence of Cassandra and Miranda were a wonderful comfort.
She reached the edge of a large crowd gathered around a knee high platform on which stood a woman in red and white robes similar to those she saw the other human priests wearing. “Good people of Val Royeaux. Hear me” The woman cried “together we mourn our Divine, her naïve and beautiful heart silenced by treachery!” Elariel frowned, from what she had heard in Haven, Divine Justinia was no fool. In fact, she was remarkably worldly for a holy woman.
“You wonder what will become of her murderer?” the woman continued and Elariel frowned. “well wonder no more” she told the crowd and pointed dramatically at Elariel.
People turned and gasped even as the mother kept speaking “Behold the so-called Herald of Andraste! Claiming to rise where out beloved fell!” the mother cried and people began to mutter “We say this is a false prophet!” the mother told her flock “The Maker would send no elf in our hour of need!” she declared.
The voices rose, angry and accusing. Elariel shrank back before their ire before something in her snapped. She would take this no longer! “I make no such claim!” Elariel called angrily “I wasn’t sent here by Andraste or the Maker! I am simply trying to close the breach, It threatens us all!” she told them all, she was frustrated, she was tired of being shoved around. And she was tired of others using her misfortune against her. She too had lost her own twin at the conclave and spent the nights after waking alone in her cabin mourning his loss.
She would not let them continue to walk all over her. Cassandra made a move behind her but Miranda stopped her with a look and a shake of her head. Elariel was on a roll now “while you all quarrel and argue, the inquisition fights to restore peace and order in a world gone mad! We came here simply to talk and you turned this into a spectacle.”
Elariel was breathing hard, she was unleashing weeks of frustration and grief on the mother. “If you had your way you would stick your heads into the sand until its too late and the demons and beating down your golden Chantry doors and slaughtering your people!” she snarled at the mother, her eyes blazing and hands balled into fists.
The Mother took a step back, paling a little in the face of Elariel’s rage before she heard the tramp of armoured boots and stood straighter, confidence filling her once more.
“It is too late for you Heretic!” she screamed pointing to a group of approaching Templars. “The Templars have returned to the Chantry! They will face your Inquisition and the people will be safe once more!” The crowd looked at one another, some in hope, some in confusion. The leader stalked up to the young Templar guarding the mother but a captain behind him lashed out at the mother. Metal gauntlet striking soft skin and knocking the Mother to the ground.
The crowd gasped while the leader halted the guard from going to the Mother’s aid. “still yourself, she is beneath us” he commanded and the young man fidgeted uncomfortably before bowing his head in submission.
Miranda snorted loudly “Behold the noble Templar order!” she called, gesturing dramatically to the Templars. Eyes turned to her, in her dark brown robes with her raised hood and staff she looked like a mage. “See now how they treat those they deem unworthy!” she told the crowd and many began to shuffle uncomfortably.
The leader turned to her with a sneer “you are beneath us mage” he told her, hissing the last words but Miranda was unmoved. “As are the Chantry mothers and the civilians apparently.” She remarked calmly before her eyes hardened “you would burn the world to hunt mages.
Who is the danger? The inquisition or the once trusted order that has now gone mad and destroys those they swore to defend?” she replied her voice like the crack of a whip.
Whispers stirred through the crowd and Cassandra stepped forward “lord Seeker Lucius, it is imperative…” she began but the Lord Seeker cut her off viciously.
“You will not address me” he snarled and Cassandra recoiled as if she had been burned.
“Lord Seeker?” she asked and the Lord Seeker stalked past her before turning, eyes burning with rage.
“Creating a heretical movement, raising up a puppet as Andraste’s Prophet. You should be ashamed” his eyes swept the milling crowd “You should all be ashamed!” he bellowed at them “the Templars fail no one when they left to purge the mages!” He glared at Elariel “You are the ones who have Failed! You who would sheath our righteous swords with doubt and fear!”
Miranda sneered at him but it was Elariel who stepped forward and interrupted him. “And who deems your cause righteous? How many innocent lives have fallen to your swords?” She demanded, taking another step forward “I have seen the Hinterlands. I seen the innocent brutalized and their lives destroyed by your so call righteous war!” she clenched her hands into fists “I saw the mutilated bodies of those the Templars tortured and murdered because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Women raped, children slaughtered and men dismembered. You claim this is righteous?’ She took a step back, quivering in rage “if that is the work of the righteous than I want no part in such blood shed.”
Dead silence rang across the square as Elariel stared down the Lord Seeker. Behind him some of his men shifted uncomfortably and the crowd watched in horror. “Templars, step back from this madness. Do not follow orders that would turn you to darkness. Join us, aid us in the destruction of the breach and the return of order” Miranda’s voice was soft and pleading, yet they were heard by the entire square.
The young Templar who had been guarding the mother took a step forward “lord Seeker, what if they’re right. What if the order has strayed?” he asked but the captain who had struck the mother cut him off.
“You are called to a higher purpose. Do not Question!” he commanded.
The lord Seeker glared at the young knight “You will fall in line or you will perish” he snarled before straightening. “The inquisition has not the power to deal with the threat. I will make the Templar order a power that stands alone against the void!” He called, his voice ringing with conviction. “We deserve recognition, Independence!” He turned to glare at Elariel “You have shown nothing, your words are hollow and useless. Just like your Inquisition” She straightened and addressed the Templars gathered in the Square “Templars! Val Royeaux has proven it is unworthy of our protection! We march!” he ordered before striding out. Some members lingered, trying to remain only to be forced onwards by their brethren.
The crowds watched in silence as the armoured host marched out before turning to look back at Elariel and her party. “That fool” Elariel said sadly and Miranda nodded.
“He would tear this land apart at the seams to achieve his goal. What it is, I cannot say” she mused and the silence around them was broken as people began to whisper, then mutter. The sound built up to a low roar of a crowd.
The inquisition party pulled away to the edge of plaza. “A rather charming fellow wasn’t he” Varric observed running a hand through his hair in uncertainty. “Has the lord Seeker gone mad?” Cassandra demanded looking hurt, confused and furious simultaneously.
“Perhaps, there are many factors. Perhaps he is mad, or perhaps he is seizing what he views as an opportunity. We will not know” Miranda answered.
Cassandra stared at her with a deadpan expression. “you’re not helping” she told the Zerg.
Miranda shrugged and smiled at Elariel “Nice, speech, its nice to see that there’s some fire under there” she told the girl. Elariel blushed and ducked her head. A masked woman with a high lace ruff peaked around the edge of the stall they were behind and caught Elariel’s attention.
“Excuse me, but… is what they’re saying real? The inquisition is going to fix the hole in the sky?” she asked uncertainly. Elariel walked over to her nodding.
“That’s the plan” Elariel told her. The woman made a sound but Elariel could determine if it was in relief or frustration. The fact that the woman was up to her nose in lace with a silver mask covering the rest made it had to determine a facial expression.
“No one is doing anything! That Chantry is useless, and the Templars… Andraste I never thought they’d abandon us” Ah so it was frustration. The woman reached out and grabbed Elariel’s hand “listen your camp will need food. I have contacts, we could have deliveries there within days” the merchant told Elariel.
“Why” Miranda asked simply and the woman shrugged.
“Never been part of something this big before, but… if your inquisition is going to seal the sky then I want to help” she declared and Elariel looked behind her uncertainly.
Cassandra met her eyes and nodded, giving her approval. Elariel turned back to the merchant and smiled. “We will never turn down help we need people willing to aid us. Haven is a mess and we’d welcome any good people who want to join” she told the Merchant.
The woman might have smiled as the lace around her chin moved. “Can’t say if I’m that, but it will be go to see” she told them and returned to her stall, settling herself down and hastily scribbling out things in a ledger. Miranda smiled at Elariel and turned to observe the plaza they had left.
“I will say this for Orlesian architecture… they like using gold” she remarked hands on her hips.
Cassandra snorted “this is considered understated by most Orlesians, a show in modesty and restraint” she remarked drily.
Miranda gaped at her “please tell me you’re joking; I don’t think my eyes can take much more” she pleaded but Cassandra merely shook her head looking a little amused.
The Zerg woman sighed before turning back to Elariel who was giggling at the pair. “Oh sure laugh it up now, but just you wait till they ask you to dress in this frillery. You won’t be laughing when they bring out the corsets” Miranda informed her.
Cassandra stared at Miranda with an slightly amused expression “you wear corsets” she reminded the woman and Miranda mock glared at her.
“These aren’t corsets…they’re… Well ok they are. Touché Seeker, touché” she admitted. Elariel shook her head in amusement and pushed past the two bickering ladies and made her way across the plaza the trio following, Miranda and Cassandra still going at it whilst Varric chuckled and made notes. Elariel was heading across the plaza to where a robed man was waving, beckoning her closer.
They had nearly crossed the open space when she was roughly shoved to the side. She looked up from where she had fallen to see Cassandra standing near her with her shield out and a view as Miranda did the impossible.
Miranda caught the sounds of an arrow being fired and lunged, knocking Elariel out of the way. The world slowed down and she reached out snatching the projectile from the air. The smooth wood burned her fingers as it attempted to continue its forward journey.
She saw the letter wrapped around the shaft and tore it free before she pivoted, bringing the arrow up and whipping it back the way it had come like a javelin using the force to propel it forward and up.
It was a move she called “return to sender”. The arrow whistled through the air and she heard it connect with mortal and brick, most likely a chimney as well as a screech of “Fuck!” from the archer. Miranda smirked, she missed on purpose after all.
Elariel pushed herself up from the ground and tried to get out from behind Cassandra who still had her shield up and her eyes roving for threats. “Clear” Miranda told her and the Seeker lowered her shield a little, letting Elariel leave its protection.
Elariel looked at the pair in uncertainty “what in the Creators name was that?” she demanded looking at the pair who now appeared to on a hair trigger.
“Heard an arrow, pushed you to the side and returned it to sender, missed by the way” she informed the trio.
Varric snorted “you threw and arrow more effectively than a bow. Am I the only one freaking out over this?” the dwarf demanded and the women looked at him with amusement.
“I’m just classifying it as another thing Miranda does when she feels like it” Elariel admitted with a shrug and Cassandra made an agreeing noise. Miranda grinned unrepentantly and held out the crumpled piece of note paper she had removed from the arrow.
“This was tied around the shaft” she reported handing it to Elariel. The she-elf carefully pulled the crumpled edges apart and unfurled the note. The note was covered in doodles and had a crude map scribbled at the bottom. The message itself was written in a neat, if large, looping hand and read:
People say you’re special. I want to help, and I can bring everyone.
There’s a baddie in Val Royeaux. I hear he wants to hurt you. Have a search for the red things in the market, the docks, and ’round the cafe, and maybe you’ll meet him first. Bring swords.
Friends of Red Jenny
Elariel frowned at the note and handed it to Cassandra. The Seeker looked over the note carefully “who ever wrote this had formal penmanship training” she observed.
Varric held his hand out for the note and the Seeker grudgingly gave it. The dwarf ran his fingers over the back of the note feeling the depth of the writing. “cheap feather quill, no nib” he sniffed the paper “ink is high quality. With this quill I would say stolen. Also the handwriting is Ferelden based. Each region has a specific hand that they teach. From this I would say our mysterious Friend is from Denerim” he informed them.
The note was handed back to Elariel who shrugged “might as well see what that messenger wants then hunt for the red things I guess” she told her crew with a sigh. They made it to the messenger who bowed slightly. “You are the Herald of Andraste are you not?” he asked politely.
Elariel nodded, though she felt incredibly uncomfortable accepting that as a form of address. It made her feel like she was lying to everyone. “I have an invitation for you” he told her and held out a sealed envelope. She took it and before she could say anything else he departed, vanishing into the throngs of people. She weighed the envelope in her hand, the paper was thick and no doubt expensive. A seal of ice blue wax the emblem of the mages circle was pressed into the wax.
She carefully peeled it open and pulled out a heavy piece of card-stock embossed with flowers and other Orlesian designs. The note was brief and to the point. She was cordially invited to a salon held at some duke’s chateau. She looked up at the others who were watching her with curiosity “I’ve been invited to a salon” she told them and Miranda cocked her head.
“You know, no matter how many times I go to a social even with that title I always feel like I should be expecting to get my hair done” she remarked.
“What hair?” Cassandra asked drily and Miranda placed a hand on her heart.
“You wound me Seeker, you really do” she informed the warrior woman with a pained expression. Varric cackled and Elariel giggled as she tucked the invitation into her pocket.
“When is this lovely salon?” Miranda asked having recovered from Cassandra’s burn.
“Tomorrow night” Elariel answered turning towards the docks.
“Ah… and we are doing what now exactly?” Varric asked and Elariel held up the note from Red Jenny.
“Looking for red things” she informed them.
As they made to leave the market they were stopped by a soft Orlesian accented voice. “If I might have a moment of your time.” They turned to see an elven woman in fur trimmed dark blue robes with short black hair.
“Grand Enchanter Fiona?” Cassandra asked, looking slightly perplexed.
“The leader of the mage rebellion” Varric muttered to Miranda and Elariel who were unaware of the woman’s status.
“A Little risky for you to be here” Miranda noted and the woman nodded.
“I hard of this gathering and wanted to see the Herald of Andraste with my own eyes” she replied nodding at Miranda’s assessment. “If it’s help with the breach you want, perhaps you should look among your fellow mages” she told them looking at Elariel with shrewd eyes.
Elariel met her gaze calmly “Why now?” she asked and the grand Enchanter shrugged “I want to see the Templars brought to justice for their actions against the divine” she told them, her eyes glinting with anger.
“So you believe that they were behind the divine’s murder” Miranda clarified and the Enchanter nodded.
“It would be something they would do, kill the divine in the hopes of turning even more people against us” she took a deep breath and continued “Consider this an invitation to Redcliffe. Come and meet with the mages, an alliance would help us both after all” she told them.
As she turned to leave Miranda spoke up “can we get that in writing for paperwork’s sake please” she requested and Fiona turned back.
“I don’t know why you would need such a thing when my word is enough” she remarked sternly but Miranda smiled thinly “indulge us. So we can show it as proof.” Fiona looked thoughtful for a moment and Varric handed her a sheet of paper from his notebook and a pencil.
“If it will reassure you then I will” she informed them and wrote out the invitation and signed it with precise and economic movements. Varric took back the paper and pencil with a nod and Fiona smiled at them, though her expression was tight. “I hope to see you there. Au revoir my Lady Herald” with that she turned and vanished into the ally ways of the gilded city.
“Come on, we have a scavenger hunt to finish” Miranda told them glumly.
After what was probably supposed to be an easy treasure hunt for red handkerchiefs but what turned out to be a seven-hour long trek across the city of Val Royeaux everyone was feeling rather cranky. It was lucky then that the last note had left them near the final destination near the edge of the high class residential areas.
It was night now, with torches being lit at certain places by household servants “When I find this red Jenny I’m going to introduce them to my staff” Miranda was muttering as they approached the side gate they had been given the key to.
“Its not that bad Ice” Varric reassured her and Miranda gave him a steely look.
“sure its not bad. Except we have been touring the bloody city with less instructions than to follow the red things” he informed him frostily. “Knock it off you two” Elariel informed them. With her outburst in the market she had taken charge with a vengeance. Perhaps the shock and exhaustion combined with a worthy target for her anger had freed her from her crippling shyness. Either way Miranda was glad that Elariel was finally taking charge.
They let themselves in through the side gate. They snuck in and peered around the corner into the secluded courtyard.
“Three guards” Miranda told them. She turned to Elariel “say the word and they’ll be unconscious in under a minute, no muss, no fuss and no blood” she told them. Elariel looked at Miranda and then to Cassandra and Varric.
“Saves us from having to explain why there are three new dead bodies lying around” the dwarf remarked and Cassandra nodded “Not to mention the paperwork it saves me from having to explain to Josephine why we killed off a lords guards whilst trespassing on their property” she added.
Elariel considered her options before nodding to Miranda. “Go” she commanded. Miranda almost seemed to melt into the shadows, becoming little more than a whisper amongst the darkened crates that littered the courtyard. The first guard vanished into a swirl of shadows as Miranda appeared behind him and dragged him into the dark with only the sound of moving cloth to denote her actions.
The second tripped and never rose, Miranda having grabbed is legs whilst holding his jaws shut with the force. The third on she decided to show off a little. To Elariel and the others she materialised above him and leapt from the ledge she had been clinging to in order to land on the guard’s shoulders and jabbing her thumb into the base of his neck, knocking him unconscious.
Targets eliminated she rose from her prey and beckoned them forward. As they moved through the courtyard they say the first two guards bundled away behind crates so their unconscious bodies would not draw attention. Miranda was in the process of rummaging through her final victim’s pockets when they arrived and she smiled up at them “loot” she chirped happily holding up a small coin pouch.
Cassandra sighed deeply and shook her head while Elariel was forcefully reminded of a cat that hung around her clan. Every now and then it would strut into camp with a dead mouse or bird and set it down at her feet and sit back with a nearly identical expression as the one Miranda currently wore. She echoed Cassandra’s sigh and smiled at Miranda before she continued deeper into the estate.
They found a set of tall blue double doors and Elariel cautiously eased one door open. When it was fully open she took a step forward only hastily throw up a barrier as a fireball flashed towards her. She pressed forward and dodged another making room for her companions. The second fireball impacted Cassandra’s shield and splashed off the metal surface.
A short, rather weedy looking noble in a puffy sleeved outfit and copper mask strutted forward. “Herald of Andraste! How much did you expend to discover me?” he demanded puffing out his chest like a peacock “it must have weakened the Inquisition immeasurably!” he bragged.
Miranda looked at her companions “anyone have a flying clue who this puff pastry is?” she asked and the others shook their head.
“Not a clue Ice” Varric added.
“You Don’t fool me! I am too important for this to be an accident!” The man cried and began pacing “my efforts will survive in victories against you elsewhere!” He cried striking a rather silly pose and lifting his hands high.
“Seriously do these types practice these speeches?” Miranda demanded shaking her head a the noble.
“Shut your mouth bitch” he snarled and Miranda grinned at him.
“Oh poor widdle rich boy doesn’t like how so unscared of him we are” she mocked sticking out her lower lip in an exaggerated pout.
“Why you” the noble began only for the sounds of arrows striking flesh to interrupt him. The entire assemblage turned as a guard fell to the ground revealing his killer. A blond female elf dressed in tight red and black stood with a drawn bow. Arrow pointed at the noble.
“Just say “what”” she commanded pulling back the string.
“What is the…” the man demanded only for the elf to loose her arrow, sticking him in the face. He fell and a pool of blood began to spread from his head. “eewwww” the new elf groaned as she picked through the blood to get her arrow “Squishy one but you heard me right? “Just say what”” she snorted “rich tits always try for more than they deserve” she told Elariel who had approached up close it was obvious that this new elf was much taller than Elariel, nearly the size of a human.
The elf reached down and put her boot on her targets shoulder “blah blah blah! Obey me! Arrow in my face!” she snarked yanking her arrow free and shaking off the viscera that clung to the broad head. Even Cassandra looked a little unnerved at how causally the elf did it. She straightened and hopped out of the blood and wiped her boots off on the guard she had killed in her entrance.
“So you followed the notes well enough. Glad to see you’re” she began only to trail off as she actually looked Elariel over “aaaaand you’re and elf… great. Well, hope you’re not “too elfy”” she sighed sounding annoyed at the prospect.
The inquisitor group looked at each other and Miranda shrugged “don’t look at me” she told Cassandra who was glaring at her like she was expecting Miranda to translate and the Zerg was not delivering.
“I mean, It’s all good, innit? The important thing is: you glow? You’re the herald thingy?” the new elf demanded at Elariel who blinked.
“Ummm I am being called the herald and my hand does glow?” she responded hesitantly before returning to the main question. “what exactly is going on here?” she asked uncertainly and the new woman gave a shrug,
“No idea, I don’t know this idiot from manners. My people just said the inquisition should look at him” she replied in a blasé tone.
“Your people, as in a network” Miranda asked and The woman nodded .
“Too right yeah, the little people hear more than those rich tits think” she crowed and everyone save Miranda blinked, uncertain if they understood what the woman meant. “Anyway, name’s Sera” the newly named Sera informed them before gesturing at a pile of crates “this is cover, get round it” she instructed them.
Miranda dove for the crates and the others looked between the two of them “for the reinforcements” Sera added. Everyone’s eyes widened and joined Miranda behind cover.
“Don’t worry though, someone tipped me their equipment shed” Sera told them before snickering “they go no breeches.” The others turned to stare at Sera with confused expression while Miranda looked toward the door and let loose a cackle that would have been more appropriate from a hyena.
The others turned to look and saw a group of seven soldiers rushing in naked from the waist down. “What the hell this? It’s like the time we had tea with Merrill!” Varric demanded even as he let loose a bolt from Bianca. “And let me tell you! It wasn’t tea” he informed them between shots.
Miranda and Cassandra emerged from cover and sprinted to engage the soldiers listening as Sera cackled and taunted “no breeches” at the unfortunate men.
Cassandra smashed forward and backhanded a man into one of the crates that littered the area and it exploded. Miranda darted past her and whirled her staff around to knock her foes into sword reach of Cassandra or knife reach for her.
She was laughing madly as she tore through their enemy like they were made of paper. “will you stop that!” Cassandra demanded as Miranda cut another enemy down whilst laughing hysterically.
“I can’t help it!” Miranda chocked out as she kicked another into Cassandra’s reach. The fight ended and Miranda bent double trying to stop the laughing “wha’s up with her?” Sera demanded and the others looked at each other rather uncertainly.
“We don’t know, but apparently it involves no breeches or a fight” Varric remarked, looking back at the snickering Zerg he amended “or both”. Cassandra made a disgusted noise and reached down to slap Miranda upside the head.
“Ow! Fuck!” Miranda straightened up “Watch the stalks Cassandra, that was light me smacking your ear, it hurt” she reprimanded and Cassandra looked a little chagrined.
“Sorry” she told the Zerg, “but it did shut you up” she added and Miranda gave her a look of affronted dignity before turning away.
Sera shrugged “well, friends really came through with that tip… no breeches” she chortled and Miranda let out a chuckle before silencing herself at the sight of Cassandra’s raised hand. Sera took a seat on one of the nearby crates and propped her chin on a fist “so Herald of Andraste… you’re a strange one” she declared and Miranda shook with silent giggles under Cassandra’s disapproving glare. “less strange then that one at least” Sera added pointing at Miranda “but then all them magey types are cracked anyway.”
Miranda straightened to defend herself only for Cassandra to clear her throat and Miranda ducked her head muttering “not a mage” Cassandra let out a long suffering sigh.
“Any way I want to join” Sera told the group at large. Elariel blinked in confusion. Between Miranda laughing and this elf’s unusual way of speaking she was more than a little confused.
“Could someone explain… Miranda?” she asked as if Miranda were a child who hadn’t been paying attention in a lesson.
The Zerg woman straightened up “K look at it like this. Sera has a network among the common folk. They use it to get back at nobles…. I think. I also think there was a name in there somewhere” she mumbled out as she fought to get her breathing under control.
“Yeah, the friends of red jenny. There are lots of us, I’m one and there are a few others around. But yeah giggles has the most of it” Sera answered. Miranda made a choking sound but held her silence.
“Other than that if you let me help with your inquisition, I’ll make sure you don’t get too big, that tit we just killed? He had all these plans and guess who gave him up? A house boy who don’t know shite but knows a bad person when he sees it. You listen to me and I’ll keep you from loosing your breeches” she informed them and Miranda let loose another strangled giggle.
“If you can’t be quiet I’m sending you back to camp” Cassandra informed her exasperatedly and the others laughed at Miranda who was clutching her staff and nodding her head rapidly.
“Well? Whatcha think?” Sera demanded and Elariel cocked her head “sure why not” she answered.
Sera did a fist pump “Yes! Get in good before you’re too big to like! That’ll keep your breeches where they should be!” she exclaimed and ran off only to return hauling a sack “You got merchants where you are right? Cause I got a shite ton of breeches” she informed them and Cassandra sighed, putting her face into her hands as Miranda made a valiant effort to hold it in.
She succeeded, barely. Elariel looked at Varric who shrugged “I honestly don’t know” she answered and Sera shrugged “don’t matter, I figure it out” she informed them and they wandered back to their camp outside the city.
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