Adventurers of the Inquisition: A Dragon Age RP (started)

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"Its fine. The hunt went well, though it did lead to this. We were wearing the beast down, when I ended up directly in front of it. It decided to try and eat me, but I guess between my size and the others hacking at it, it couldn't down me in one gulp."

Ash simply paid attention as Kari told her story. It made his trip to the fade to face the demon so much less dramatic, though he had to admit he quite liked to keep it as it was.

It was dangerous enough.

Still, fighting a dragon. He wondered if it had made her a lot stronger, if something had changed within her.

She doesn't look-- oh.

She pulled the tabard she wore open on one side and showed him a scar that seemed to have resulted of a deep gash. She didn't wear anything underneath, but Kari was just a friend, so Ash didn't really think much of that part. Instead, he looked at the scar. It was fresh and very visible still.

I wonder if I could do anything to that. A healer must have looked at it, but I know of something else that could help.

"Instead, I ended up half way into its mouth, and Nola makes some damn fine armour, but getting chewed on by a dragon is a bit much of any armour. Well since I wasn't exactly keen on play the role of 'lunch', I started to head-butt the inside of its mouth...you know, jam the tips of my horns into the top? Well any ways, the dragon wasn't a fan of that as you can imagine, so it spat me out. Broke my left horn on the landing. Once I got back, I figured I may as well get Nola to do the both of them to keep the weight even. Oh and Nola say 'Hi' by the way."

"Oh, I should've said something more to Nola too, shouldn't I?" he started, looking towards the door. "I didn't really think about that..." he sighed, but then he looked at Kari's horns again. "I suppose it's better when they're like that. I mean, you could have kept that one short, or even just cut off both, but then you'd look like Saarebas. And that's not a good look." He chuckled, then thought of something else and chuckled even more.

"You know, it's a little funny that I find it disturbing that your horns are different now. I have faced nightmares that not many could even imagine, I've gone days in a haze of horrible events all around me, to the point where I've felt numb and cold inside. But now the demon's out, and I get freaked out over your bloody horns!" Ash laughed again, as if it was some sort of punchline, not even expecting Kari to laugh with him. When he dried his eyes of laughter-tears, he looked towards the place where her scar was.

"To be slightly less of a fool..." he pointed at her tabard. "If you want the scar to heal more cleanly, I know how to make a salve that allows it to do so. I should have all I need for it too. Of course, if you want to keep it for bragging rights, I also know how to make it more visible, though that's not very fun. Requires you to keep opening it every time it starts healing again for like, weeks."

"Oh, I should've said something more to Nola too, shouldn't I? I didn't really think about that..."

"Well you were a bit flustered, and anyways, she's probably got her head buried in her forge right now. If you wanted to wait until she came up for food and drink I don't think she'd be offended." As Ash started to talk about her horns, and first chuckle, then dissolve into laughter, she couldn't help but join him.

"Well to be honest," She replied once she could actually speak again. "I've sort of been planning on doing this since I started mercenary work. I mean, chances were good I'd break one in a fight someday, so may as well have an idea for when it happens." As he mentioned 'options' for dealing with the scars on her midriff, one way or another, she simply shrugged.

"The thought of it leaving a scar doesn't bother me; I have plenty of others. On the other hand, I'm not one of those knuckle draggers that need to show them off to prove how much of a badass I am. The healing potion took care of the most immediate damage, and that Dalish that came with us...Arrya...turns out she's a fair hand with healing poultices, so those helped too." As she said that, she made a mental note to go talk to the elf and see if she could teach her some of what she knew. By necessity Kari knew a bit about stuff like that, but it was obvious Arrya knew much more. Most be a Dalish thing...

Berund approached the smithy with his armor packed and slung over his shoulder. He gave a heavy sigh. He approached each day of training eager and determined, as demanding as they were. But he couldn't help but hesitate now, knowing he would have to speak to Nola. He hadn't spoken to her since he arrived at Skyhold. And he'd unconsciously avoided it with his training. However, the time had come. It was unavoidable.

The dwarf walked to the smithy door. He paused to give to pair of Qunari a nod. Then he stepped inside.

Nola was working with the leather on Kari's armor, toying with the idea of studding it too. If the woman was gonna be running around fighting Dragons, she was gonna need all the help she could get. She took less care about her self when it came to leather, after all, a small cut wasn't nearly as bad as a burn from hot metal or a crushed hand.

That was why when the door opened and she heard footsteps, she jumped a little and then grunt in pain as she felt the tip of the knife prick her thumb. "Ow! Sodding..." she grumbled shaking her hand before sucking away the drop of blood. She looked up and raised her eyebrows in surprise. Berund was the last person she expected to see walking into her forge. The dwarf was looking good all things considered. Must've been training extra hard since coming back. She set the the armor aside and grabbed a clean rag, wiping away the grime from her hands as she spoke. "Hey Berund. Need somethin?" She asked cautiously. She figured the other dwarf probably still held some animosity towards her, best do this slow and business like.

"I do," he answered succinctly. "A couple of things, actually." There was a pause. He walked over to a nearby chair, set his armor down beside it, and sat down. "There was...when I was young, years away before the first hair on my chin, there was this boy. A mite younger than I. We weren't close as kin, but ye could say we were good friends.

"We'd laugh an' play, chase each other around the markets, lookin' fer trouble where we could find it. I remember in particular the time we had our first taste of plum pie. Old Mama Leja, she was a witherin' widow. She'd sometimes look after little ones. She was good at that. But she was even better at makin' pies. Nug an' mushroom, brandied bronto...sweet, savory, you name it she could bake it. We caught wind that she was cookin' up the sweetest pie she ever did. She got her hands on some plums, just came in to the markets. So we sat an' waited while she cooked up a storm. The scents were extraordinary, we were mesmerized. Then the time came for her to take pie out from the oven an' leave it on the sill to cool. An' that was our time to act.

"So this boy, he goes up to the window, an' I'm right behind him with a burlap sack," Berund paused, grinning as he tried to keep a fit of laughter at bay. "An' he was so excited he tried to grab the pan with his bare hands! He was yowlin' and dancin', wavin' his hands like a madman trying to cool 'em off...I'm standin' there, tryin' to get the pie into the sack an' keep my sides from burstin', when all of a sudden the door swings wide open an' out comes Old Mama Leja. She had a wooden spoon in her hand an' it wasn't the one she used for cookin' 'cause this one was much bigger. We scrambled, I grabbed him by his collar an' threw him ahead of me. Don't know how he kept on his feet but we ran. Ran so frantic, by the time we stopped the pie was practically a cobbler. We knew we were in a mess of trouble but it was well worth it. That was the sweetest pie we ever had."

Berund was looking at the floor. His eyes were starting to mist but he blinked them back. He looked at Nola smile faltering as he did. "That boy. He grew to be the man ye killed. I'm tellin' ye this because I want ye to know he wasn't a bad person. There was goodness in him. An' it waned as he grew, I could see that. Though I know it was still in him. But I also know he wasn't entirely undeservin'. He made a series of unwise decisions that would turn him into the man you saw. An' he payed for it dearly. That doesn't make it hurt any less. But I understand ye did what ye felt ye had to. To protect yerself. An' I won't hold that against ye."

Nola set the rag aside with a sigh. "I understand Berund. Again I'm sorry. I...." She spread her hands on a near by table. "I wasn't a warrior when I came to the surface. I knew enough about weapons to not stick myself with the pointy end. I barely survived my exile. When I killed him...." She shook her head. "I was horrified. I acted on instinct but I still regretted my actions. After years to get used to it, I stopped regretting. Knowing this now though...." She was quiet for a moment as she thought. "I still don't. But I do regret taking the life of your friend, of the boy he was before his life turned him into what I killed. I am sorry I killed him Berund, and if there had been another way I would have taken it." She stood up to her full again. "Chances are that'll be somethin I take to the stone with me. But it makes me feel better knowin ya don't hold it against me." She sighed again and sat back down again. "Now I hope ya don't mind me sayin, but let's get to what I can do for ya with my hammer. All this mushy stuff was never my thing." She said with a weak smirk. "I already got a bit o' work ahead of me as is after all."

"Right, couldn't agree more," Berund began, sighing with relief. He felt like a big weight had been lifted. He got to his feet, grabbed his packed panoply, and presented it to Nola. "My armor. It's, uh. Well, it's gotten a bit roomy for my likin'. Just needed a refitting. Shouldn't be much trouble, I'll wager." He set?a pouch of coins on the table. "I believe that should cover everythin'."

Nola nodded and took the armor setting it on the able before her. She looked over the armor, noticing a few weakened spots in the plate. Things she could easily fix, especially if she were adjusting to make it fit better. She looked back to Berund, eyeing the other dwarfs new figure. "Hmm yeah that shouldn't be too tough. I might have to do some quick adjustments next time you put it on though, just to make sure I get it right." She said with a smirk and a nod. She looked at the bag of coins, and was half tempted to turn it away. Then she thought better of it and came up with a compromise. "Well, judging from everything it wouldn't feel right takin your coin, but somethin tells me you'll insist. So how about this? After I'm done, part o' this'll go to a few rounds between us." She said tossing the bag in the air and catching it again. "I feel like I owe ya at least that."

"Adjust all ye need," Berund welcomed, briefly putting his arms out wide for emphasis. "Won't do much good without a proper fit. And I'll hold ye to those rounds. I feel I'll be needin' a cool drink after today's regimen..."

As the weeks went by and the group underwent their training, studies, and personal ventures the Inquisition also made progress. It was steadily expanding into various regions of Orlais now, according to some preparing to arrange a meeting with the Empress as well as investigating into the Warden's involvement in the Western Approach. While the group had their time to rest and improve themselves the time had come for the Inquisition to set them to task once again.

They were called to meet in the upper levels of Skyhold's tavern, as they trickled in one by one (save for Von, who had been dispatched along with some other Templars to Tevinter to provide aid to one of the few political allies the Inquisition had there) they began to notice that Calien was suspiciously late. Once they were all gathered an unfamiliar member of the Inquisition, a tan elf woman with a nasty burn scar on one arm.

"Calien won't be coming," she said brusquely "he's currently working on an assignment elsewhere, you'll be expected to select one of your own as leader, Calien left a list of recommendations but I don't know him or you well enough to decide for you."

She cleared her throat "that can wait however, before that we should address your mission," she pulled out an envelope and placed it on the table "We have reason to believe that the Venatori are smuggling Red Lyrium across the Waking sea. We were courting an alliance with the Qunari to handle the issue but the Inquisitor made a botch of that so now it'll be your job. You're to travel to Highever, there you'll meet with a captain, or rather smuggler, he'll take you across the sea. We don't have the naval power to hunt the Venatori ships so you'll be looking to track down the holds and hideaways the Venatori are using to offload and store the lyrium."

She took a deep breath, having talked without pause for the entirety of her explanation "The letter contains these instructions, a writ of passage you will give our smuggler contact, and our most recent reports on the matter. I'd recommend deciding on who will lead before you depart Skyhold, were it up to me you'd just be given proper ranks but as it stands you fall a bit outside the organization of our rank and file."

She paused for a moment, taking in their reactions and then added "Any questions?"

Ash felt as if he had matured a little during the break between missions. He had certainly gotten more cheerful, humming songs and even drinking a little, trying to socialize more without having to be distracted. Everything felt great, and even when he got sad, that sadness at least felt better, it flowed out of him as quickly as it appeared, allowing him to feel better as opposed to just feeling less. And everything should be great, he had done a lot. He had gotten rid of the demon -his greatest achievement by far-, visited his mother and even gotten time to talk more with Gregor. The senior enchanter helping him understand his own abilities a little better.

Comparatively to other mages, Ash had a stronger body with a stronger tie to the fade, which could be both good and bad. The elf had admitted he had never seen a qunari mage, and he was unsure of if Ash's abilities was tied to that. Ash had been unsure, though noted that Qunari were supposed to dream less than humans and elves. Without telling the other about the demon or the blood magic, somehow, the enchanter seemed to know something. But he never held it against Ash. Instead, Ash learned more about what he had used in the fade, the Mana Clash, where the trick was to expel just enough mana without spending all of it. It was a rather ideal spell for Ash, all things considered. He thought of this as he walked towards the place they had been called too. A new mission, for sure. A chance to show what he had learned.

I almost hope I won't have to use it against a mage, just... something magic.

He wasn't working under the illusion of that there was no bad mages. There were plenty of them, he was sure of it. However, a lot of them had been like him, and that made it a little too easy to empathise to his liking. Especially now that everything seemed so much real.

Then again, I've killed people who probably were worse off. I've always had to fight to survive, but that doesn't mean they didn't have to as well.

It was with a confused expression he entered the room and saw that Calien was nowhere to be seen. He had expected Von to be gone, the Templar had been sent to be with the other Templars on missions -though there was a rumour about the unofficial reason being that he had become insane and the Templars were better at dealing with that, a rumour Ash was inclined to believe- but Calien? Perhaps he was just late.

"Calien won't be coming, he's currently working on an assignment elsewhere, you'll be expected to select one of your own as leader, Calien left a list of recommendations but I don't know him or you well enough to decide for you."

Or perhaps not. Ash wondered if Calien had wanted to go elsewhere, he couldn't really blame him after what had happened, but he had hoped they got along well enough for that to be okay. Especially now that Ash was fine, and Von was gone. No more crazy people. He held back a chuckle at the thought. Perhaps he should've told more people, so Calien was sure to know.

I'll see when we get back. He'd be happy for me, right?

The lady had mentioned that they would have to find their own leader, and Ash glanced over at Nola for a moment, not sure why. Probably because she was the calmest person there. Well, the calmest person who actually spoke to someone, Jarrett didn't seem like a people's person. He then felt a pang of guilt, and awkwardly looked towards Kari, was he a betrayer for not wanting her to be the leader? She was so... well, she was a little intense, and didn't seem like the planning type. Besides, if she wanted something done, who would contest her? Who'd tell Kari to calm the fuck down, and actually choose something sensible?

Not me.

Now he felt even more guilty, thinking something like that about his friend. He went back to listening about the mission, not wanting to get close to red lyrium. It sang so loudly, he wondered if it would mess with his mind the same way the demon had, if he let it.

But we're probably going to destroy it, right? Then... then we'll not have to actually touch it.

That was good.

"Any questions?"

Ash looked at her, surprised. She allowed questions? He smiled, friendly, more confidently than he had. "Well, perhaps... who are you? And why don't we have a rank? I mean, I'm a mage, right? Don't they have a rank? Isn't a mage a mage?" He wasn't sure he wanted the answer, he'd probably be something different because of the blood magic.

Maleficar, isn't it? Is that how they see me too?

The mages had been welcoming enough, though there were those who didn't talk to him, either out of fear or prejudice.

Kari picked her way through the tavern, humming softly to herself. The past few weeks had been good for the most part; she'd gotten a formal reprimand from Commander Cullen after she'd gotten a bit too enthusiastic in a 4-on-1 sparring match with some troops which ended with her putting two of them in the healers care with badly broken limbs. She still felt pretty bad for getting that carried away, but other than that hiccup, her ongoing training was going quite well.

Greeting the others, she was surprised to find that Cailen was absent, though the woman that was there in his stead quickly sorted things out. As they got their mission, she sat forward propping her elbows on her knees. She wasn't exactly heartbroken that the Inquisitor had ended up cancelling an alliance with the Qunari, the less of a toe hold they got outside of Par Vollen the better.

"Any questions?"

"One big one leaps to mind." She said. "How reliable is this 'Capitan' considered? No smuggler is going to be as pure as Andraste's virgin cunny, but can we at least expect him to not drop us off right into an ambush?" The idea of throwing her hat into the ring, so to speak, for lead of the group echoed in the back of her mind; but she decided to hold her tongue until, or if, somebody else spoke up about it.

Without a sound, Jarrett made his way to the tavern for his group's briefing. As his party made their way one by one, Jarrett considered not bothering to reintroduce himself until the briefing itself. However that felt inappropriate for a reason he wasn't sure of and made and effort to at least approach some and shake the hands of his closer friends. He dismissed his worry about being inappropriate, telling himself that he was maintaining friendly relationships so he could stabilize the group various eccentricities. To his disappointment Calien and Von did not show up, despite already knowing the latter wouldn't show. Giving out a sigh he turned his quiet attention to the woman briefing

"Any questions?"

"I want you to tell us every advantage and disadvantage relating all parties known by you, even if they seem miniscule. That's not a question, but I don't wish to deal in uncertainties ma'am." No holding back, no waiting for an opportunity to dig for information. Jarrett had a feeling this mission would require delicate hands and he made it a priority in the past that when a mission was like what this one would likely be, you don't skip details.

Nola made her way to the upper floor of the tavern, whistling happily. She had finished putting on the finishing touches on her Dragon Scale Armor this morning and she couldn't be happier. It felt light as leather, but her own tests with a few scraps proved it was just as good as her old plate. By the Ancestors she loved Dragon Scales. She was going to have to talk with the Reaver Elf at some point to see if she could get more, maybe set up a little reward system with her and her students. She happily greeted everyone who was already there, taking her own seat.

When Calien didn't show she began to grow curious, but the elf who came to meet them instead relieved her worry. She leaned on the table, listing closely to what their new job was. From what she had heard of the Qunari, missing out on their military might was going to be a problem, but if they would cause major rifts in moral, it was probably for the best.

"Any questions?"

She shook her head as other's chimed in. They had asked anything she could have, so until she heard answer to theirs, she didn't have any herself. Instead she turned her thought as to who could lead their group. She wouldn't nominate herself, on top of being incredibly rude she wasn't sure she was the best to lead.

Berund took a seat in the tavern, dressed in his plainclothes with a cool, wet rag around his neck. Even more refreshing than the rag was the cold ale sitting before him. He was halfway through it when the scarred elf began to speak up. The dwarf wondered what reasons were for Calien's reassignment. He couldn't help but consider that the dust-up Kari made might have shaken the man.

His pondering aside, she made it clear they were without a leader and needed to put someone forward. Berund felt he could comfortably say he had the most military experience of the group. But he was tentative to put himself forward. For the time being, he considered the mission. "Are we to destroy the holds when we find'em, includin' the lyrium inside? Be best to leave no cracks for'em to slip through, wouldn't it?"

"Well, perhaps... who are you? And why don't we have a rank? I mean, I'm a mage, right? Don't they have a rank? Isn't a mage a mage?"

"You may call me Neira," she said "as for the matter of rank you weren't a member of any circle and you were recruited as adventurers not as soldiers or even members of a mercenary company, so you have no formal rank. While this does cause difficulties as in this case it also means you are a more adaptable and flexible force than a military squad."

"How reliable is this 'Capitan' considered? No smuggler is going to be as pure as Andraste's virgin cunny, but can we at least expect him to not drop us off right into an ambush?"

"I'm told he's a friend of a friend of one of the Inquisitor's companions," Neira said, raising an eyebrow at the colorful language "apparently he comes recommended by some sort of pirate admiral, take that as you will. If it helps he volunteered for the job, apparently he's got no great love for the Vints."

"I want you to tell us every advantage and disadvantage relating all parties known by you, even if they seem miniscule. That's not a question, but I don't wish to deal in uncertainties ma'am."

"Neither do I, but unfortunately I don't have much to offer," she said "the captain should be as reliable as any pirate, though given his background its fair to say he'll have a fast ship and a solid knowledge of the hideaways you'll be looking for. For defenses on the holds you can expect to see venatori, likely in small numbers and possibly in disguise to maintain secrecy. Mages are a certainty, and given the Free Marches you can expect to be closer to Kirkwall than say Starkhaven. I doubt the red lyrium will pass into the city itself though, these hideaways will be tucked away on coastal caves most likely. I doubt your captain will be eager to fight on the seas, but it might do to be prepared for a naval battle all the same."

"Are we to destroy the holds when we find'em, includin' the lyrium inside? Be best to leave no cracks for'em to slip through, wouldn't it?"

"Our... resident arcanist has requested that samples be gathered if at all possible," Neira said, clearly uncomfortable with the thought "but you are only required to destroy the lyrium, and if possible the Venatori's ships and operations. The lyrium itself is the priority though, its far too dangerous to be allowed to make it back to Tevinter."

"I'm told he's a friend of a friend of one of the Inquisitor's companions, apparently he comes recommended by some sort of pirate admiral, take that as you will. If it helps he volunteered for the job, apparently he's got no great love for the Vints."

Pirate 'Admiral' eh? That's a new one. "It does a bit, though nobody really like the Vints...not even other Vints." Kari replied with a chuckle. Maker I hope the crossing is calm...ships are way too crowded to fight on. She mostly just sat quietly while Neira answered questions, though it took some self-control not to shout when she answered Berund.

"Our... resident arcanist has requested that samples be gathered if at all possible, but you are only required to destroy the lyrium, and if possible the Venatori's ships and operations. The lyrium itself is the priority though, it's far too dangerous to be allowed to make it back to Tevinter."

"Maker's hairy arsehole! If that little nutter wants some of that shit she can come along and get some herself!" She swore. "Inquisition pays good, but you people don't have nearly deep enough coffers to pay me to touch that shit...not after what I...we say it do to folk!" A visible shudder ran through her body.

Nola's eyebrows shot up when Neria mentioned possibly getting samples of Red Lyrium back to Skyhold. Dagna was....eccentric sure, but if she wanted samples of that stuff than she hadn't a clue what she was messing with.

"Maker's hairy arsehole! If that little nutter wants some of that shit she can come along and get some herself! Inquisition pays good, but you people don't have nearly deep enough coffers to pay me to touch that shit...not after what I...we saw it do to folk!

Nola nodded in agreement with Kari. "The giant's right, I dunno what it is or how it's made, but Red Lyrium is far too dangerous to be allowed to get back here." She said with her own shudder. The memories of the half mad half dead dwarf rushed back to her. Somethings weren't meant to leave the Deep Roads, and that wasn't Dwarven pride talking. "I can't speak for everyone here, but I don't mean to see even a grain of that shit get back here." She liked Dagna, but if the girl wanted to risk her life with Red lyrium, then she could track it down herself.

"You may call me Neira, as for the matter of rank you weren't a member of any circle and you were recruited as adventurers not as soldiers or even members of a mercenary company, so you have no formal rank. While this does cause difficulties as in this case it also means you are a more adaptable and flexible force than a military squad."

"Well, it's nice to meet you Neira, I'm Ash, and that's all kinds of unfair, I want to have a rank too," he pouted, though he let it go, no sense in taking up precious time arguing over titles. Besides, he had a feeling he was pretty far down on the list of who should be in charge of it all, so his rank would probably have been low too.

And that's not fun.

Not that he didn't have the feeling of that his youth made him less likely to get people to listen already.

I suppose my behaviour hasn't helped.

His whimsical nature wasn't very fit for any sort of responsibilities either. Ash realized he'd not been paying much attention to Neira, but the things he did catch up towards the end wasn't very promising.

"Our... resident arcanist has requested that samples be gathered if at all possible, but you are only required to destroy the lyrium, and if possible the Venatori's ships and operations. The lyrium itself is the priority though, its far too dangerous to be allowed to make it back to Tevinter."

Uhm. No. Nope. Never, we're not bringing that stuff with us.

He thought, though both Kari and Nola spoke up before he had a chance.

"Maker's hairy arsehole! If that little nutter wants some of that shit she can come along and get some herself! Inquisition pays good, but you people don't have nearly deep enough coffers to pay me to touch that shit...not after what I...we say it do to folk!"

"The giant's right, I dunno what it is or how it's made, but Red Lyrium is far too dangerous to be allowed to get back here."

"They're right," Ash added. "It's not worth it. Besides, Normal Lyrium is already difficult enough for me to handle, I'm not going close to this stuff, let alone bringing it back." He shuddered at the thought, it seemed like a risk not at all worth taking.

"Did Calien know about this? What did he say we should do?" he asked, reaching for the letter on the table, hoping to find a different mission inside.

She did said we don't have to, though.

Hopefully it wouldn't affect their pay. Calien would've known what to do.

Listening to Neira, the mission detail were worrying to say the least. Jarrett could only chuckle at what a dangerous scenario this could be.

"It's not worth it. Besides, Normal Lyrium is already difficult enough for me to handle, I'm not going close to this stuff, let alone bringing it back."

"Ash raises another good point, if an mage as... previously unstable as he finds doubt about retrieving the red lyrium, it may be better not to. To actually want to retrieve the stuff I'd need to see a metal crate the size of the Iron Bull meant to house this stuff, with a frequent guard shift schedule for it and whoever's foolish enough to study it. Otherwise, I cannot guarantee my efforts to keep the lyrium from meeting the ocean's depths."

Dagna, it was a name Jarrett had heard muttered in Skyhold occasionally. He knew of some of her eccentricities, which didn't bother him. After all who here didn't have their own? But this sounded like little more than a kid in Darktown thinking they can usurp a peddler. The only silver lining being Dagna's scientific and benevolent intentions, if they could survive red lyrium.

Berund looked around the table. There seemed to be an almost unanimous refusal to retrieve any of the red lyrium, and considering their previous mission it was no surprise. But the dwarf felt there was potential for good in gathering samples. He wasn't a man of science by any means, but if there was a chance to get an upper hand he wanted to take it. He sighed then gulped down what was left of his tankard.

"I'll do it," Berund tersely proclaimed, looking at Neira. "I'll collect the lyrium and see that it makes it back safely." He looked at each member of the group firmly, resolute in his position. "I know just as well as any of ye how corrupt, unstable, an' dangerous that blighted rock is. I don't take this lightly. But what happened in the Roads an' at Haven makes it very clear we need a way to fight it. If that means bringin' it here to be studied, then I'm willin' to take that risk. If it means safeguardin' against more of those red lyrium soldiers, if it means bein' able to turn back the corruption, then gettin' some of that rock back here is the right thin' to do."

Kari was glad everyone was on the same page with regards to the red lyrium...until Berund spoke up. As he voiced his acceptance of the task of transporting a sample, she let out a long low sigh. If only the Maker had given that man the sense he gave a Nug... His downright refusal to try and work with the team down on the Deep Roads still got her blood up, but she still felt he deserved fair warning if was determined to undertake this monumentally stupid task.

Shifting in her seat, she caught the ex-Legionary's attention. "Fair warning to you then. If you bag a sample, and start to go 'weird' on us on the trip back, I will drop you and the rocks over the side. Met a fellow that was in Kirkwall, told me a bunch of strange shit he saw involving glowing red stones; at the time I thought he was just some drunk making up stories, but after the shit I was with my own eyes..." An involuntary shudder ran though her body.

"Ash raises another good point, if an mage as... previously unstable as he finds doubt about retrieving the red lyrium, it may be better not to. To actually want to retrieve the stuff I'd need to see a metal crate the size of the Iron Bull meant to house this stuff, with a frequent guard shift schedule for it and whoever's foolish enough to study it. Otherwise, I cannot guarantee my efforts to keep the lyrium from meeting the ocean's depths."

"Previously unstable?" Ash said, a bit insulted. "I've had my fair amount of difficulties, yes, but I was never unstable," he crossed his arms. "If you'd seen what I've seen because of being a mage... I wasn't unstable. I was distracted, sometimes." Ash huffed to Jarrett. "I get that it might look familiar, but I'd never have tried to hurt any of you, and I never was a danger. Not like..." he trailed off, hoping the other would get it.

"I'll do it, I'll collect the lyrium and see that it makes it back safely. I know just as well as any of ye how corrupt, unstable, an' dangerous that blighted rock is. I don't take this lightly. But what happened in the Roads an' at Haven makes it very clear we need a way to fight it. If that means bringin' it here to be studied, then I'm willin' to take that risk. If it means safeguardin' against more of those red lyrium soldiers, if it means bein' able to turn back the corruption, then gettin' some of that rock back here is the right thin' to do."

Ash closed his eyes, he had been hoping that everyone would agree on this one. Berund offered to take it and guard it himself, but that wasn't the point, that wasn't why Ash had objected.

I'm not going to force his hand. But he can't force mine either.

"Then I don't want to go," Ash said. "I don't want it on the same boat as me, I hear it in my head if I just as much as get close to it. I'm not sharing a boat with the stuff, and I don't want to lose a team member to it either, but if I can't chose the latter, then at least let me choose the former. You didn't hear it the way I did, you don't sense it like I do. It sings, I hear it so clearly, and it feels like it shuts out everything else. I don't know what I'd do if I had to hear that for days, unable to leave or sleep or have a quiet moment for myself. And I know I hear it from a distance, I did so in the tunnels."

I don't want to go back to a state like that. I don't want something like this singing to me, even if it's only for the trip back.

"I understand the need for it, I really do. But I don't want to sacrifice the second chance I got at feeling well." He looked at his feet. "I'm sorry. I think I'll sit this one out."

"Fair warning to you then. If you bag a sample, and start to go 'weird' on us on the trip back, I will drop you and the rocks over the side. Met a fellow that was in Kirkwall, told me a bunch of strange shit he saw involving glowing red stones; at the time I thought he was just some drunk making up stories, but after the shit I saw with my own eyes?"

"D'ye think I've forgotten? D'ye think I don't remember seein' what it did to my own kin?" Berund had to restrain himself from jumping to his feet, almost insulted at the idea. He scoffed and shook his head. Did she think he was eager to do the task? And after Ash had voiced his concerns he only felt worse for volunteering. But the dwarf was set in his belief that it was necessary.

"I understand the need for it, I really do. But I don't want to sacrifice the second chance I got at feeling well." He looked at his feet. "I'm sorry. I think I'll sit this one out."

The dwarf sighed and rubbed his temples as he thought. There was a sinking feeling in his gut. He understood their concerns. He knew he was asking a lot from them for something it seemed that he alone felt was right. "No. We need ye. I'll..." he hesitated. He knew he'd be put in greater danger for what he was about to suggest, but it would mean keeping the others from danger. "I'll carry the lyrium alone. I'm a seasoned scout, I've still got my wits about me. I'll find my way back."

Nola listened as Kari grudgingly accepted Berunds offer to grab a sample. Then as Ash refused to even go, back to Berund saying he'll come back alone. Splitting up the group was a bad idea. They needed both of them, Ash was too valuable just as a mage for him to not come. Berund was too skilled, and a heavy hitter, they needed his strength. Missing either of them made them less effective as a group. On top of that, despite their recent troubles, they were both friends. She would sooner trade in her hammer than lose another group of people she cared about. "No!" She said slamming her fist on the table. "No one is staying behind and no one is coming back alone!" She said looking around at the group. "Either we all bring back the sample, or it doesn't come back at all. This shit is too dangerous to deal with other wise." She looked at Ash. "Ash, I understand your concerns, but believe me, we hear it too, Berund and I probably better than anyone besides you. But he's also right, this shit ain't goin away until we find a way to fight it." She turned to Berund.

She sat back in her seat and looked at Neria. "If..." She started her mind racing. "Give me a few hours, I can make...a container or something, a case big enough to hold a sample. With some magical help from you, Ash, or maybe one of the other mages, maybe we can put some barriers on it to block out some of the singing. Maybe put some runes on top of that?" She offered. "If that all doesn't work...if you still hear the voice loud and clear, we'll smash the damn thing,throw it over board or something. Get rid of it." She shook her head. "Either way I'm not losing anyone cause of this shit."

Neira listened as the group discussed what to do regarding the lyrium, frowning as they turned on each other in their arguing. She sighed and then cleared her throat to get their attention.

"Firstly, Calien is not aware of your current mission or the subject of recovering samples," she said "and I will say that the Inquisitor brings back samples from time to time, as do patrols returning from skirmishes with the red templars. You needn't bring back anything larger than small fragments or shards, most of it gets processed and destroyed in Arcanist Dagna's experiments."

She glanced over at Berund "if you don't feel comfortable transporting the stuff then you are not required to recover any samples, same goes for the rest of you," she said "the hope is to find better ways to destroy and fight the stuff by studying it, but I can certainly understand your reluctance regarding it."

Then she turned to Ash "However I will say that it is your duty to undertake this mission in service to the Inquisition," she said "we are at a war for Thedas itself here, we don't have the luxury to reject missions as we might like. Besides that the Venatori have a number of mages, making your presence on the mission more important to handle them. If you do collect samples and they start to trouble you then by all means pitch them into the Waking Sea, but the Inquisition has enough troubles without you deciding to drop the responsibilities it entrusts to you."

She turned back to the group as a whole "At any rate, perhaps you should elect a leader to make the decision," she said "if you'd prefer to vote confidentially that can be arranged."

Kari let out a sigh as Ash spoke up; she rarely worked with mages, so she kept forgetting that they reacted to being near lyrium, and given what she'd felt with that red shit, she really didn't want to know what Ash had experienced.

"No. We need ye. I'll...I'll carry the lyrium alone. I'm a seasoned scout, I've still got my wits about me. I'll find my way back."

"No, that's al-" Before she could finish her thought, a loud bang from Nola made her jump.

"No! No one is staying behind and no one is coming back alone! Either we all bring back the sample, or it doesn't come back at all. This shit is too dangerous to deal with otherwise. Ash, I understand your concerns, but believe me, we hear it too, Berund and I probably better than anyone besides you. But he's also right, this shit ain't goin away until we find a way to fight it."

Maker damn that woman for being right...the more we can find out about that the better...still don't like it though.

"Give me a few hours, I can make...a container or something, a case big enough to hold a sample. With some magical help from you, Ash, or maybe one of the other mages, maybe we can put some barriers on it to block out some of the singing. Maybe put some runes on top of that? If that all doesn't work...if you still hear the voice loud and clear, we'll smash the damn thing, throw it over board or something. Get rid of it."

"If we're going to get that crap, I think Nola has the right idea." Kari wasn't exactly enthusiastic about the whole plan, but if Nola figured she could contain that creepy shit, then she would go along with things. Neria went on to say that returning with a sample wasn't required, but Kari shook her head. "Maker knows I don't like the idea, bu-but Berund is right...we should get a sample if we can. The more the 'Thinkers' know about it the better chance of dealing with it permanently." That said, that crap is going over the side at the slightest bit of weird shit happening. "As for the vote? I think private ballot is probably the best way to go."

"Give me a few hours, I can make...a container or something, a case big enough to hold a sample. With some magical help from you, Ash, or maybe one of the other mages, maybe we can put some barriers on it to block out some of the singing. Maybe put some runes on top of that? If that all doesn't work...if you still hear the voice loud and clear, we'll smash the damn thing,throw it over board or something. Get rid of it. Either way I'm not losing anyone cause of this shit."

Ash shook his head. "No, don't bother, it's not going to work. Besides, surely one of the other mages are available, who cares if it is me?" The more people agreed to bring it along, the less he wanted to be there. Of course they weren't going to throw away valuable resources if they first had them. Even if he had said he didn't want to bring it back. It was understandable, they needed Red Lyrium for research.

"However I will say that it is your duty to undertake this mission in service to the Inquisition, we are at a war for Thedas itself here, we don't have the luxury to reject missions as we might like. Besides that the Venatori have a number of mages, making your presence on the mission more important to handle them. If you do collect samples and they start to trouble you then by all means pitch them into the Waking Sea, but the Inquisition has enough troubles without you deciding to drop the responsibilities it entrusts to you."

"I get it. I don't get a choice," he responded, both feeling defeated and miffed. Was there nothing else he would be useful for? No other mission he could depart on?

Even here I'm not really a "real" mage, and they clearly don't trust me.

He felt a knot tighten in his stomach, Ash wasn't used to being forced to do anything, and it made him feel uncomfortable. His opinions and thoughts felt like they were worthless. A silly thought, to be sure, but he also knew he wouldn't be made leader. People didn't really listen to him.

"At any rate, perhaps you should elect a leader to make the decision, if you'd prefer to vote confidentially that can be arranged."

"As for the vote? I think private ballot is probably the best way to go."

Ash smiled a hollow smile, he knew very well that what he said would matter little at this point. "To be completely honest, I don't care who leads us anymore, so I abstain from voting. You guys decide what to do. And there's no need to bother with throwing it from the ship either, I'll just deal with it. Somehow. I mean, I've watched the people I love butchered and slaughtered and hurt in a billion different ways, and there has to be something like half a year all together that I can't tell if was real or not, so it's not like the Red Lyrium can make me feel any worse, right?" While his tone was casual, there was a sense of hurt as he spoke. However, Ash wasn't going to elaborate on it, if they didn't get it, then it wasn't worth it.

I don't want to be here. I don't want to be forced into doing this.

Crossing his arms, he stepped a little away, showing that he was distancing himself from the situation. Both figuratively and literally. His eyes were firmly set on the ground.

Nola fixed Ash with a hard look. She knew the guy could be a little childish at times but this.....this was going beyond what was acceptable. She was going to have a talk with the mage after this little meeting was over, regardless of how the vote went. If he really thought he was the only one who had lost friends and loved one's in horrible ways, then he was more naive than she had originally thought. Whatever he said though, she was still going to make the container, if nothing else then to give herself her own peace of mind.

"At any rate, perhaps you should elect a leader to make the decision, if you'd prefer to vote confidentially that can be arranged."

When Neria said that she nodded. She really didn't care if the others knew who she voted for, but if that's what they wanted, she was fine with it. "Private works for me."

"Let's get this vote over with, perhaps it'll even help with how we deal with the lyrium. What you guys want isn't any of my business, but I vote for Berund." Jarrett announced in a somewhat irritated manner. Maybe that'll get things moving along. Jarrett thought the lyrium discussion was taking too long considering the few options he thought they had. It bothered him that it was still a 'sensitive' issue with some. What annoyed him the most was Ash's attempt at apathy. He looked at Nola and rolled his eyes, seeing that she might've had similar feelings. Despite his annoyances Jarrett had to remind himself that nobody was perfect, and Ash was no exception.

"If you want to abstain fair enough, I understand just don't complain if our leader isn't someone you want it be. I think we all know your pain so don't feel like we want or are trying to force you to do something." Jarrett sighed, hoping this would lift Ash's spirits, though not for the best of reasons.

Ash wasn't exactly oblivious to the looks of the people around him, but he tried to ignore it. He'd managed for a short while, but then Jarrett addressed him.

"Let's get this vote over with, perhaps it'll even help with how we deal with the lyrium. What you guys want isn't any of my business, but I vote for Berund."

Ugh.

He didn't mind Berund, he really didn't. But right now he felt as if the other was the reason he had to risk going insane again, and that sucked. Not to mention, Kari and Nola had both expressed a hesitation towards the Red Lyrium, while Berund seemed to value its retrieval to a further extent.

"If you want to abstain fair enough, I understand just don't complain if our leader isn't someone you want it be. I think we all know your pain so don't feel like we want or are trying to force you to do something."

Of course you know my pain. Not like my pain is something only a mage can get, right? A mage who happened to sell his sanity for survival. No, no, you know my pain so well.

Ash had to bite his tongue not to reply with something as sarcastic as Jarrett did. At least he assumed it was sarcastic, because they clearly didn't understand -or care about, he wasn't sure- his pain, and he clearly had a knife pressed against his neck at this. If not, he would've never had gone, he had been out of the room already and let them do what they wanted to do. Ash didn't like being pushed around, he was the youngest, sure, but he wasn't a child. Instead he closed his eyes, he'd seen the look Nola had given him and he was sure she wasn't the only one angry with him.

Come on Ash. Think about the fact that you'll have to share room with these people. And... I dunno. I'm sure they wouldn't want you to feel hurt, even if you do.

However, they tried to tell him what to do, the same way his mother had when he was a small child. Sure, they buttered it up, but it didn't feel like they meant that either. Why did he have to always follow others?

Didn't you just want a rank a few minutes ago? You do know people with ranks have to take orders, right?

He was quiet for a while, just mulling it over in his mind. Pushing down the hurt feelings and the anger and, to be completely honest, the small amounts of fear that had gathered just at the thought of having to be close to Red Lyrium. He sighed, he still felt upset and somewhat stabbed in the back, but he made an attempt at giving them the benefit of the doubt.It wasn't easy, and there still was a sense of pettiness to his choice to vote, not wanting Berund to get chosen because of the Red Lyrium. And because he'd upset Ash.

"Fine, I'm sorry, I'll vote, but I don't see the point of a private ballot." He said, uncrossing his arms and stepping forward. "I mean, I think everyone's upset with me either way," he looked away again, that was the feeling he'd gotten from the room. "I vote for Nola. I think Nola being the leader and Kari being second in command is the best combination for leadership, because Nola thinks of solutions and has a calm presence, while Kari lets people know if she doesn't agree. Putting Kari as the leader would feel a little overpowering, but she's strong and experienced, so her opinion is valuable too." He coughed, nervously.

"Anyhow, that's a vote if you want it. I just want to go lie down now."

She let out a long, and rather annoyed, sigh as Ash made his opinion known. "Andraste's ass..." She muttered. You signed on with this outfit, that means when they say 'jump' you jump. She thought. She was really tempted to say something to Ash, but public dressing downs rarely had the desired effect one was hoping for.

Nola voiced her favour of a private vote, but the elf had a point that they need to get this sorted, though she nearly choked on her drink when he voiced his support for Berund. No way I'd follow that fool, he'd get us all killed with his thick-headedness. Ash spoke up again, still pitching a bit of a snit, which didn't do much for her opinion of him at the moment, but he did nominate Nola to lead...and her to second...

That caught her off guard. She replayed Ash's words in her head a few times, staring blankly across the room as she fiddled with her mug. She could see his point, out of everyone Nola was probably the most level-headed; Maker knew she was a bit of a blunt instrument at times...the recent dealing with those Dwarven nobles came to mind.

Eyes re-focusing on the room around her, Kari sat up a bit and downed her drink. "Since we seem to be forgoing the secret ballot, I vote for Nola..."

"The vote is appreciated, friend," Berund said, patting Jarrett on the shoulder. "Though I'm more than okay with Nola takin' the lead. But I have my disagreements with Kari bein' second in command."

"Though I'm more than okay with Nola takin' the lead. But I have my disagreements with Kari bein' second in command."

Unfortunately, any thoughts about her being more level-headed were stamped out by her temper as Berund spoke up. "What?" She scoffed. "Can't stand the thought of two people with more brains than you in charge? Afraid you might actually have to listen to me in a fight because I'm not trying to get everyone killed? Does the Legion always pick 'em as dumb as you or were you a special case?"

She'd seen too many good men and women killed by glory or death 'seekers' to feel nothing but utter contempt for that kind of person. Somewhere in the back of her mind, old memories tried to surface, but another long pull from her tankard buried them under more alcohol.

Nola listened as her name came up again and again. This was.....strange to say the least. She was just a girl from the merchant quarter turned exile. She never expected to be leading her own group for an organization who's whole shtick was to save the world. She blinked when all was said and done, a surprised look on her face. "Wow...I...certainly wasn't expecting that." She said with a chuckle. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not so boneheaded as to not accept, just a surprise is all. Not that it matters anymore but my vote goes to Jarrett." She said with a shrug. She liked Kari, and thought she would make a fine second. But she knew other's would have a problem especially Berund. The was evident enough when the two started squabbling at the table.

"But I have my disagreements with Kari bein' second in command."

"What? Can't stand the thought of two people with more brains than you in charge? Afraid you might actually have to listen to me in a fight because I'm not trying to get everyone killed? Does the Legion always pick 'em as dumb as you or were you a special case?"

Nola shot Kari a look. "Hey! Remember that's my people you're talkin about too. Now enough, from both of you. Who I do or do not choose for my second is my decision. Berund you should know better than anyone the importance of the chain of command. And Kari insulting someone for not liking you is just childish." She flicked her eye between the two of them before turning to Neira. She drew herself to her full height in her chair. "I'll get us moving out soon. No matter what happens with the sample we'll get the job done. The Inquisition needn't worry about that."

Neira nodded "Well now that that's settled I expect you to make whatever preparations you see fit and get heading out by the morrow," she said, standing up nodding to Nola and then making her way out of the tavern.

The notes left behind told them that the smuggler they would be looking for went by the name 'Captain Rumsfeld' and was said to captain a ship called 'The Golden Halla'. The captain was described as 'an extravagantly mustached man with a penchant for feathered hats'.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The trip was relatively uneventful, though there were places they passed where the devastation wrought by the foes they were up against was visible. Ice and fire scarred the roads in places, evidence of the damage from skirmishes with the venatori, or perhaps lingering scars of the mage rebellion.

Once they had arrived finding the captain proved surprisingly easy, his ship stood out among the others with a carved Halla painted gold and adorned with a brilliantly colored (if somewhat ragged looking) hat. Its captain wore a similarly vivid headpiece and greeted them with a broad grin and outstretched arms.

"Ah greetings! You must be from the Inquisition, seems they take in all sorts," he said, then gave a flourish of his hat revealing a bald and burn scarred head beneath it "I am Captain Rumsfeld of the Golden Halla, and you are?"

Nola nodded at Neria as she left, before turning to the rest of the group. "Alright folks, you heard the lady. We're leaving at dawn tomorrow, do what you need to. Sleep, drink, train, find someone to keep you warm tonight, whatever. As long it doesn't affect your ability to do your job, I don't care. Meet me at the front gate about a half hour after sunrise and we'll get moving." She said before standing up. "I'm going to get to work on that case. Even if it doesn't really do anything, It'll give me peace of mind." She said before looking to Ash. "But first Ash, you and me need to talk. Follow me." She told the Qunari, leading him up to the third floor of the Tavern. The strange young human, Cole she thought his name was, was thankfully absent. "Alright Ash." She said, crossing her arms over her chest. "What was that down there?" She asked, her voice calm.

Ash followed Nola, somewhat hesitantly. He knew what was waiting, and he'd meant what he said about wanting to go lie down. Even so, he had helped make her the leader, and it could be worse.

It could be Kari.

Walking upstairs, he wondered just exactly she would say, though her crossing her arms were always a bad sign.

"Which of it?" Ash asked, crossing his arms as well, taking a defensive position.

"Don't try that with me Ash, you know which part I mean." She said, furrowing her brow. She looked up at the taller man fixing him with a stern stare. "I know you've been through some hard shit. But that wasn't right Ash, and you know it. What I saw down there wasn't the same friend I've gotten to know over the past few months. That was a spoiled child throwing a fit because he was told he needed to take a bath. Do you really think so badly of us to think that we wouldn't help you if you did hear the singing? That we wouldn't do anything to help a friend?" She asked, letting a little hurt creep into her voice.

Ash frowned, both feeling a little guilty, but also a little slighted. "Madness isn't a bath," he started. There were so many things he wanted to say, but he doubted they'd help, not unless he found the right way to say it. Instead, he looked at her, directly this time.

"And I'll answer that if you can answer why you couldn't just have gotten another mage to do it. There's mages available, skilled mages who aren't as sensitive to the fade as me. Most of them aren't as sensitive to the fade as me. Why me? If you're willing to do anything to help a friend, why not honour my request and let me skip this mission, have another mage to take my place, and then I'll do a different mission? Someone else certainly were allowed to do so. And no; "we're friends" thing, I get that, I like you too, but I'm not the right person for the mission, so why not switch? Why do you guys always decide what's best for me?"

Nola frowned at that. They were all good points, but he still wasn't getting it. "Because we don't want anyone else Ash. We want you, We trust you. Despite EVERYTHING you've been through, whatever you had to do to survive on your own, whatever anyone might say when they're mad, we trust you. Getting another mage isn't the same as having you. We've been working together for months. We know how you fight, we know what you're capable off and what you're not. You're as much as part of the team as I am." She explained uncrossing her arms. "We're not trying to decide what's best for you Ash. We just don't want you to leave. Despite what you may think, we can't do this with out you."

"That's not true," Ash protested. "You could just ask the mage what they can do. And you don't know what I'm capable off, you just treat me like a child. I'm not stupid, why don't people ask me about stuff? Why did I have to have my opinion ignored down there, while Berund managed to talk everyone into taking the Red Lyrium? No one thought it was important before he said it was. And you say that you'll throw it off the ship, but when the time comes, it'll just be; "Sorry Ash, can't you just deal with it for a couple of days? I promise that if it gets bad we'll throw it off" and "It can't be that bad, you seem fine", and it'll continue until it's been delivered to the Inquisitor personally." He rubbed his arm.

"Just ignore that. It doesn't matter either way. My point isn't that you don't care, or that you're horrible people, you're not. But I'm... I'm not very good at telling people when something feels bad, I've tried to do it more often, but somehow I always word it wrongly, and people'll just say I'm complaining too much, or acting like a child. And then I get frustrated, and I get louder, and then... It's not easy, I don't know what you expect from me. But I don't want to feel like I'm just expected to throw out spells and follow orders."

Nola sighed. This certainly wasn't going as she thought, but she wass starting to understand why Ash acted the way he did down there. "I'm not going to just ignore it Ash. You elected me as team leader and I'm not just going to ignore when one of my team mates, one of my friends, is having trouble with something." She rubbed her temple, trying to put her own words in order. "We jumped on Berund's side cause we realized he was right. None of us want to, but if we don't try to do it, someone else will. And someone else may screw it up." She shook her head. There was no way to make it sound better than that. "As for what I expect...I expect you to have my back. Just like I'll have yours. I WANT you to trust me to know what I'm talking about. If I ask you to throw out a spell, I want you to know that there's a reason for it. That's not just something we can ask another mage." She sighed again, rubbing the back of her head.. "I'll say this at least, regardless of what happens. If there's something wrong, come and talk to me. I'll listen until you find the words."

He looked at her. He knew what she meant, he didn't want to just go with another team either, but sometimes that happened, besides...

She doesn't want to hear about that, Ash.

However, she'd said she would listen. Ash bit his lip. "Okay, just... wait a little. I need to think of what to say." He went quiet, it had to have been several minutes by the time he spoke again.

"I think... perhaps... I'm not very good at trusting, because I never really knew a lot of people, and... and I've never been in a situation like that. Like this. Besides, no matter what happens, at some point the inquisition will be over, whether it's defeat or success, and then... well, I'm a Vashoth Blood Mage. I'm going to have to disappear again, and I'll be all alone, just like before, just like with my friend. And I don't want that, but everyone's going to leave. I think..."

He trailed off a little more, swallowing, though his throat didn't stop feeling like something was stuck there. His voice was vulnerable and hurt, making him sound a lot smaller than he was.

"It's probably stupid to say, but I think I'm still a little lonely. No, probably not just a little lonely, probably very lonely, because there's no one like me, because the demon kept telling me you guys would all leave, and with the way Von acted, and now, with no one listening to me... it feels like that, everyone's going to just leave me when it suits them. It feels like no one's really listening and seeing what I'm talking about when I say it's difficult, and I get that, you wouldn't know, but that makes me feel very alone. And that hurts.
And then everyone wants me to consider how they feel, with why they'd want me to go or want me to vote, and it's already difficult enough just knowing what I want, because everything's different now. It's so much brighter, and more vivid, and I don't want to let go of that, because even if everyone in the world left me, I'd still have that. I won't go insane anymore. And I don't know why I act so childish and why I threw a fit, I just... I just felt so ignored, even if I know you care. It's just difficult to feel it, and to see it, because I'm so... afraid. I think. I mean..."

She'll probably feel like I'm a burden now.

Ash certainly didn't want that. He swallowed again, wiping his eyes. With a sudden smile, he shook his head.

"No, no, just ignore that too." He chuckled, forcefully. "It's not like that, I'm just in a bad mood. Wrong foot and all that."

Nola frowned at that. "Again, No. I'm not just going to ignore when someone I care about is in trouble. Ash, I an't promise we'll never leave. Our lives may take us all to opposite ends of Thedas. That's just how things work. But I can promise that while we're working together, people are going to try and understand what you're talking about. But only if you stop this "ignore me when I'm trying to be serious." crap you've done three times now." She said pointing at him. "If you see we're not getting something, make us get it. You're huge, the only one of us you're not gonna be able to hold down at this point is Berund and Kari, and that's because they're both to damn stubborn to let you hold them down." She let her hand fall, her own smile forming. "Now, no more of that, We're a team, and we're gonna stick together as long as possible. Hell if Berund an get over me killing his childhood friend, you can get over this little slump. C'mon, I'll buy you a drink before we split to get ready." She said gesturing down the stairs.

He looked at her, ready to decline, tell her it was all fine and that he wanted to be alone. But Nola wasn't going to let him leave, was she? Besides, wasn't that part of the issue, his issue? Ash nodded, though he didn't walk down just yet, only looked at her. Then he leaned down and embraced her, giving her a big hug. He made sure to get low enough to not have to lift her.

"Thanks."

He wasn't going to stop being worried about it, but at least he had someone he could talk to now, who wouldn't be disappointed with him if he tried to talk.

Nola was a little surprised when Ash knelt down to hug her. She certainly hand't been expecting that. "Heh, no problem big guy." She said returning the hug. As he stood up she led him back down stairs, happily paying for whatever drink he wanted. She didn't get herself anything, she had plans first that he wanted to be sober for. After a short time just making small talk, she excused herself. "Alright Ash, I gotta go. If ya need me I'll be in my forge, makin that case for the sample. And remember, at the gate by dawn." She said with a smile. She proceeded outside and back to her forge. Over the next few hours, she made a reinforced container, she was even able to find a made to assist her in carving a few mind protecting runes onto the surface. Would it protect her team from the effects of the Red Lyirum? She wasn't sure, but it was better than carrying it in their pockets.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When Morning came, she was first to reach the front gate, waking even earlier than the rest. Thankfully she didn't have to wait long, everyone showed up roughly on time. They set out quickly, just as planned. The trip was fairly boring, but boring in such dangerous times wasn't a bad thing.

She wasn't expecting to find a smuggler with such a.....noticeable ship. But what better way to hide then in plain sight? "And greetings to you as well, Captain." She said with a smile. "You may call me Nola, this is Ash, Berund, Jarrett, and Kari. As you guessed all under the employ of the Inquisition. A pleasure to meet you."

Ash was one of the last ones to show up at the gate, and he was quiet as he did. Not because he was in a bad mood, not at all, but he felt nervous regarding it all, even if he had been reassured it would be fine. He didn't exactly mind the boring trip to the ocean, allowed him to take in the views. There was a mixed feeling in him as he saw the scarred landscape, the damage inflicted by magic almost still glowing.

He simply took to following the others, though the ship they would be travelling was the sort that stood out. He wondered how a smuggler could afford such a ship, and why the captain had chosen such a... flashy one.

"Ah greetings! You must be from the Inquisition, seems they take in all sorts, I am Captain Rumsfeld of the Golden Halla, and you are?"

I must be the one standing out the most.

A smuggler had probably seen a Qunari before, but he didn't think he'd seen a Qunari dressed as a mage.

"And greetings to you as well, Captain. You may call me Nola, this is Ash, Berund, Jarrett, and Kari. As you guessed all under the employ of the Inquisition. A pleasure to meet you."

Ash gave a nod as his name was mentioned, he'd already decided to let Nola talk. Instead, he took a closer look at the ship, taking in the size, wondering how long it would take, and how much room they would have each on it.

He's probably going to have some cargo on it as well.

Ash remembered being hidden among cargo when he was younger. Paying someone to quietly bring his mother and him had happened several times when he was a child.

But this time we're going to travel as passengers.

Right?

"Hey! Remember that's my people you're talkin about too. Now enough, from both of you. Who I do or do not choose for my second is my decision. Berund you should know better than anyone the importance of the chain of command. And Kari insulting someone for not liking you is just childish."

I don't care if that nug fucker likes me, I just don't want his idiocy to get somebody useful killed. She thought. She'd almost voiced her reply out loud, but the look Nola had given her made her hold her tongue. With the meeting wrapping up, she headed off to have another drink, then go get her gear together for the trip.


The trip to the coast was uneventful, though signs of fighting were scattered here and there; she was kind of disappointed at the lack of venatori...beating a few Vints into the dirt would've done wonders for her mood. As they reached the ship, she surveyed it with a wry smirk.

"Ah greetings! You must be from the Inquisition, seems they take in all sorts. I am Captain Rumsfeld of the Golden Halla, and you are?"

Maker preserve me, and Falon'Din guide the way... She thought, starting to chuckle quietly. When she heard Nola say her name, she did the same as Ash and just gave the Captain a nod. The ridiculousness of their supposed 'smuggler' was just a bit too much for Kari, and her chuckle turned into a laugh. "We're so dead..."

Showing up at the gate unenthusiastically, Jarrett barely gave a wave to his companions before resting up against what surface he could find comfortable. He kept quiet until the group was ready and left. "So, we're all in on this? 'Cause we should consider this the point of no return now, like entering the deep roads. No foresight of what'll happen on the trip." He didn't want to worry the group, especially after certain members made their sensitive natures very noted among their adventures. But it was better to worry now and resolve their minds now he thought.

---

Arriving at the smuggler's ship, Jarrett raised a single surprised and baffled eyebrow at the state of it. It was strange seeing a ship belonging to what he expected to be a scoundrel be so extravagant. As introductions were had, questions were raised in Jarrett's mind. ' How could he afford this for a smuggler? Could he really just be successful? Is this a trick? Could they trust him? ' But looking over the ship once more he could only get out one simple question. "...Seriously?"

Had Berund been in his youth, he would've challenged Kari right on the spot. But years of discipline taught him it wasn't worth the trouble. Least of all for Kari. The woman was a hothead. He reckoned it wouldn't take long to fry a cut of beef between her horns, given her temper. What does she know, he wondered, shaking his head in disapproval. Any of the Dead is worth ten of her; a mercenary who mistakes her height for merit. Fortunately, before the dwarf could further entertain the idea of speaking his thoughts aloud, Nola stepped in to nip it in the bud. And it looked like that would be the end of the meeting.


The trip was uneventful, even if the scenery was not. Though as striking as the landscape was, their designated ship and its captain was more striking still. Berund nodded, as the others, when his name was called. He offered Rumsfeld a smile before looking over the vessel. The dwarf hadn't much experience on the water, but the ship was apparently seaworthy at the very least. Even so, as gaudy as it looked, he couldn't help but wonder if the Captain wasn't beyond putting its form over function.

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