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

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"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."

"We're so dead..."

"...Seriously?"

"Well at least one of you has some manners," the captain said, chuckling to himself "Not to worry though, she's plenty seaworthy and I've seen her through storm and battle alike, I daresay she's one of the finest on the Waking Sea!"

"Now you may board if you like, your quarters will be below-deck, though I've seen to it you'll have space apart from the rest of the crew," he said "We'll be set to cast off soon, feel free to introduce yourself to the crew in the meantime."

While many of the crew looked no different from simple sailors (though perhaps particularly well armed ones, almost every man had at least a sword or axe on his person) there were a few that stood out. A heavily tattooed dwarf, bearing both a casteless brand and several tattoos of the sort sailors tended to acquire paced the deck with an irritable look and a crumbled map in one hand. A bald Qunari with horns cut short nearly at his skull stood by the mast checking knots, a bundle of Qunari throwing spears strapped to his back. Finally a portly man could be seen ordering sailors about as they moved cargo around, he wore an odd blade on his belt with a long handle that after some inspection seemed to be the bladed end of a mage staff that had been broken down to a third of its usual length.

"Ah one moment," Rumsfeld said to Nola "I would like to discuss your mission, I was given the details by my Admiral but she, ah, tends to exaggerate, so I would like to ask what sorts of dangers you expect to see on this mission. If you think there is any aid my crew might be able to lend I would be happy to hear it, this Corphish fellow is a threat to everyone even us smugglers eh?"

With the Captain giving his permission to board the ship, Kari gathered up her kit and made for the gangplank. As she passed Rumsfeld and Nola, she overheard him asking for a bit more 'clarification'. "Just so long as you and yours don't bugger off on us, and leave us on the beach." She said with a dangerous smile. Smugglers and pirates always looked out for themselves first.

Once on board, she hand one of the crew point her towards the party's accommodations. Snagging one of the two hammocks that were obviously intended to fit a Qunari, she stashed her kit out of the way, then lay down. She'd never done much shipboard work, but she knew enough to stay out of the way of the professional sailors, unless they needed all hands.

Nola pinched the bridge of her nose as she listened to her companions remark on the ship they were gonna be taking. Sure she had been thinking the same thing, but she had kept it to herself. At least the captain was good natured about it. Nola made sure everyone got on first, staying on shore with the captain. It certainly wasn't cause she was nervous about sailing, no sir. She eyed the sea apprehensively for moment. Despite seeing the dwarf among the smuggler's crew, she still felt like she didn't belong on the sea. She pushed her unease aside when the captain spoke.

"I would like to discuss your mission, I was given the details by my Admiral but she, ah, tends to exaggerate, so I would like to ask what sorts of dangers you expect to see on this mission. If you think there is any aid my crew might be able to lend I would be happy to hear it, this Corphish fellow is a threat to everyone even us smugglers eh?"

She chuckled at that. It was good to know that the man wasn't afraid to lend a hand beyond transport. "Well then I'll try to keep it down to the bare bones of the mission then. Vints have been smuggling in Red Lyrium across the Waking Sea here. Now we got troops and supplies, but we lack the ships to fight them on the open waters. So, we're hunting them down to where they store the cursed stuff. Thankfully this should just mean it'll be men with swords, maybe a mage or two. But I've learn to expect the worst of enemies. They could have a few of the 'weaker'demons." She crossed her arms looking over the ship and her crew. "Really all we ask is transport, and to help us find their hideouts along the coast. As you said this 'Corphish' is dangerous to everyone, I can give you my personal assurance we won't be spilling any secrets after this. I won't ask you or your men to help us to fight though."

She looked up at the human, a smirk forming on her lips. "I won't turn down the extra blades if you folks wanna crack some skulls though." She let her smirk drop. "I'll warn ya now though, if you've heard the rumors about Red Lyrium, don't believe them. Chances are it's worse, we're gonna try and destroy every last bit. Now, if, and this is a dragon sized if, we get the chance, we want to try and get a sample of the stuff. Have the egg heads back home try and figure out to destroy this shit for good." She gestured at her pack over her shoulder. "Don't worry about it causing any trouble if we do get a piece though, I personally saw to the construction of something that'll keep it's effects under wraps till we get back home."

"Well at least one of you has some manners,"

Jarrett winced at that statement. He wasn't sure why, but he'd let his guard down and spoken his emotions out loud. Jarrett wasn't opposed to making a joke, having a laugh, or anything like that, but the mission would come first and even this slip of the tongue during introductions was unacceptable to him. For the time being he decided that he would appear as light-hearted as possible in the presence of their host, and defer to Nola when possible.

"I'll warn ya now though, if you've heard the rumors about Red Lyrium, don't believe them. Chances are it's worse, we're gonna try and destroy every last bit. Now, if, and this is a dragon sized if, we get the chance, we want to try and get a sample of the stuff. Have the egg heads back home try and figure out to destroy this shit for good. Don't worry about it causing any trouble if we do get a piece though, I personally saw to the construction of something that'll keep it's effects under wraps till we get back home."

"Uh, yeah, that sums it up. All bases covered." He said patting Nola on the shoulder, trying to reassure the captain that they knew what they were doing. Truth be told, though Jarrett agreed with Nola, he wasn't sure if there was any lingering opposition.

Ash didn't have much to say on Nola being praised for her manners. Sure, he hadn't said anything, but it was Kari and Jarrett who have made arses of themselves, if he had heard them, then certainly the captain had. Regardless, there didn't seem to be much hostility in the man, either he had expected their reactions, or he simply had the confidence to dismiss their statements with explanations of his ship. Of course, Ash sort of doubted that was what they had reacted to.

Nonetheless, Ash followed Kari on board. The people there were among the odder he had seen, as odd as some of the people hanging around the Inquisition, but he kept an open mind, he was odd himself. That said, he had to keep himself from touching his horns when he saw the Qunari with them chopped off all the way down to his skull, or nearly so. He did wince a bit, but not after he had looked away, he knew how Kari had felt about his reaction to her metal horns, and he had to make an effort to have an open mind.

Horns cut off though... the Qunari do that to those they deem dangerous, right? Usually mages, but he doesn't seem to be one.

A portly man passed without the man catching much of Ash' eye, at least not before he noticed what looked to be the bladed end of a mage's staff, though if that meant the mage was a mage or if he had killed one -or perhaps kept it to honour a loved one- was beyond Ash. He decided not to question it. He was going to be on the same ship of these people, after all.

Berund grabbed his gear and boarded the Golden Halla. He didn't say much as he walked past the crew and managed to find the group's quarters well enough. He was hoping just to get to the next landing as soon as he could. He never quite got his sea legs on the very few times aboard a boat. The experience was just as fresh as his first breath of air on the surface. He'd spent some time getting used to the lack of rocks over his head. Having none beneath his feet was another thing entirely. One he wasn't sure he could get used to. Though that sour-faced dwarf he'd noticed seemed to handle it well enough. Berund supposed it was just a matter of time.

When he reached their designated quarters he didn't say a word to Kari who was already busy getting comfortable. He claimed a hammock for himself and tossed his gear in. He fished for some of his supplies then walked to a nearby bench. There was the clacking and jingle of buckles as he removed his armor. Now in his plainclothes, he sat down and began to give his armor a thorough cleaning and fresh waxing. He didn't know how much time they'd be on that boat. But he was going to make certain that his time aboard wouldn't ruin his armor.

"Don't worry about it causing any trouble if we do get a piece though, I personally saw to the construction of something that'll keep it's effects under wraps till we get back home."

Rumsfeld nodded "Sounds a bit over my head, but so long as it doesn't bring any harm to my crew we won't have an issue," he said "As for extra blades I'll likely want to keep most of my men on the ship, wouldn't want to get stranded after all, but there might be a few willing to go stab a few Vints with you."

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All in all the captain seemed to take the news of red lyrium in stride, and once the party was aboard he went back to overseeing preparations to cast off. Soon enough the ship began making its way out of the harbor and onto the Waking Sea, the passage to the Free Marches would take time but soon enough the weather proved determined to keep it from being uneventful. The waves grew rough, and rain spattered the deck in torrents while thunder rolled overhead. Still the ship held itself together well enough, cutting through the churning sea with only mild creaking and groaning of its hull.

After three days of intermittent weather, frequently stormy but sometimes dying down to a light rain, the captain called the party together in his cabin. His expression was rather serious.

"I'd like to 'pologise about the way the weather's been," he said "but the sea can be a harsh mistress, and unfortunately I fear we have larger problems. My lookout Tenaraad, the Tal Vashoth, says he's spotted a ship that appears to be following us since we entered the storm. Can't tell much about it, its been using the weather as cover quite well, and while we'd normally have little issue outrunning it the storm is making things hard for us."

He glanced over to Nola "We've no way of knowing who the ship belongs to or what their intentions are," he said "I need to be sure its not something to do with the Inquisition firstly, and secondly I'd like to know what you'd like to do about it. Normally I'd just try to lose them in the storm, or at least keep pace until it breaks and we could run, but they seem a determined sort and for all I know they might have some intent regarding your mission."

It wasn't the worst sea crossing she'd even been on, but it was certainly no noble's pleasure cruise. During the last three days, she'd done her best to just keep out of the way of the professional sailors; though on a couple of occasions she did lend some muscle when it came to line handling during the worst of it.

Now, standing with the others in the Captain's cabin, as he explained the potential threat, she leaned a bit closer to Ash. "Hey Ash," She said, keeping her voice low, as to not intrude on the Captain talking to Nola. "What sort of distance can you get with that lightning magic of yours? I'm thinking if you could give those other guys a good zap or two, if the start getting unfriendly, they may just piss off."

Ash had spent most of the trip reading. What else to do? Certainly not stand and look at the sea when there was a storm. He'd been aboard ships before, and didn't get very unwell, but something about standing outside in a storm seemed like a bad idea. Besides, he'd get wet, and maker knew these clothes took a while to dry. Sure, he was a mage, and could probably use some of that fire-magic to dry himself, but the sound of the creaking wood and the wind blowing outside was a good background sound when it came to reading, at least in his opinion.

The trip seemed to go well, at least until the captain called them all into the cabin to give them bad news.

"I'd like to 'pologise about the way the weather's been, but the sea can be a harsh mistress, and unfortunately I fear we have larger problems. My lookout Tenaraad, the Tal Vashoth, says he's spotted a ship that appears to be following us since we entered the storm. Can't tell much about it, its been using the weather as cover quite well, and while we'd normally have little issue outrunning it the storm is making things hard for us."

Tal Vashoth, so the same as mom.

A ship having followed them through the storm could mean two things. One, someone was looking to hurt them, or two, someone was following this ship in hopes it would be able to get them through the storm safely. Ash felt like it could be both, but he supposed the former was more likely. Especially if someone had heard them mention Red Lyrium or the Inquisition.

We shouldn't be in much danger though.

The other ship's captain would be stupid to attack them during the storm. Besides, they'd have the benefit if the other ship thought they didn't know.

"What sort of distance can you get with that lightning magic of yours? I'm thinking if you could give those other guys a good zap or two, if the start getting unfriendly, they may just piss off."

He wrinkled his nose, partly joking, partly serious. "I have to go outside?" he asked, whispering. "I'll get wet. But I should be able to get them from a significant distance, lightning magic has a decent reach. Besides, the weather..." he didn't know how to explain it. Lightning magic didn't exactly get its power from the weather, it was the fade like any other magic, but it did have an influence. It also made it more difficult for their possible enemies to notice that it was a spell. "It'll help. Someone else is going to have to keep an eye out though, I'll not attack any old ship and I have a book to finish. And, of course, do note that if they have a mage, they could do the same to us, so, you know. Keep an eye out. Should be fine though." It was clear that Ash didn't seem to worry much about some ship. He was a mage, after all.

"But let's see what the others say," he added, still keeping his voice down so that only Kari could hear him.

Nola nodded with a chuckle. "Sounds fair, Captain." She said with a smirk before taking a deep breath and boarding the vessel herself. She had been hoping to postpone this experience, but they had a mission. She'd sooner give up her hammer than back down cause of her own fear.

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After three days in a stormy sea, Nola decided she hated sailing. The constant rocking and rolling of the waves against the hull had all but glued her to a bucket, all color drained from her face save a sickly green. It brought her no amount of shame that the dwarf among Rumsford's crew was able to to get along just fine. She had prided herself for years on her endurance, but a few days at sea had brought her to her knees. It took all of her willpower to hold down the contents of her stomach when the captain called them to his cabin.

We've no way of knowing who the ship belongs to or what their intentions are, I need to be sure its not something to do with the Inquisition firstly, and secondly I'd like to know what you'd like to do about it. Normally I'd just try to lose them in the storm, or at least keep pace until it breaks and we could run, but they seem a determined sort and for all I know they might have some intent regarding your mission."

She swallowed before speaking up, holding down her seasickness. "Well....we were told we didn't have the ships to make the trip ourselves Captain. And even if another group was sent, I'd assume they were sent somewhere else, to look for other smuggling hideouts; not the same route." She squeezed her eyes shut and shuddered, taking a deep breath. "I'm out of my element here captain, I know little of sailing or navel warfair." She looked over her group, noting the two Qunari whispering to each other. "So unless anyone else has ideas..." She said, looking at them both, before turning back to Rumsford. "I'll defer to your judgement."

The trip was fairly boring for Jarrett. He'd only travelled by sea illegally before and he quickly learned that while he didn't live for excitement, it was a helpful drive in his life. Even a week long march would be better than this. When chatting up the crew grew dull to him, he hoped to find some relief by asking Berund and Nola for sparring, assuming it would be allowed on the ship.

---

When the captain called the party to his attention, Jarrett assumed it was related to their business. What he learned was interesting enough.

"I'd like to 'pologise about the way the weather's been, but the sea can be a harsh mistress, and unfortunately I fear we have larger problems. My lookout Tenaraad, the Tal Vashoth, says he's spotted a ship that appears to be following us since we entered the storm. Can't tell much about it, its been using the weather as cover quite well, and while we'd normally have little issue outrunning it the storm is making things hard for us."

"...I'd vote for diplomacy, but we'd have to get close to them for that. Though if we did, I could maybe sneak aboard, I could stand ready to dispatch any idiots trying to fight us... I hope anyway. 'Course that plan could be modified if you don't wanna try the kind angle, but I'm just offering my best techniques." Jarrett said somewhat proudly, trying to impress the captain. He seemed jovial and the type to enjoy drama. Thinking about it further, he hoped both ships would be open to diplomacy, that would allow the party to twist things to their favour perhaps. And it'd be more interesting anyway.

"I have to go outside? I'll get wet. But I should be able to get them from a significant distance, lightning magic has a decent reach. Besides, the weather..."

Kari found herself struggling to hold her tongue in response to Ash's whinging; before seasickness had gotten too tight a grip on Nola, they'd had a little 'talk' about Kari's attitude...and she'd promised to try and behave. So, instead of snapping at Ash she kept her comments to herself and made to with an annoyed glare at the mage. Tough shit princess, you may actually have to get off your ass and do something you don't want to do...

Nola made a comment about ideas, and pointed looked at her and Ash, but Kari just shook her head; this wasn't an idea, just contingency planning.

"Though if we did, I could maybe sneak aboard, I could stand ready to dispatch any idiots trying to fight us... I hope anyway."

Turning away from Ash, she stared at the elf for a moment or two then laughed. "Didn't realize you such a keen swimmer." She said, shaking her head. "Maker knows I'm no sailor, but I'm sure the good Captain here will agree with me that going for a swim, mid-sea, from a moving ship...during rough weather I might add...is a profoundly foolish idea."

Berund considered the situation. He didn't know much encounters at sea. But he knew what it was not knowing if it was a friend or foe on the approach. You could learn shapes in the dark and that'd give you clues, but in the end you could never really know. Not without some kind of signal.

The Legionnaire cleared his throat. "What about a signal? Obviously they can see us. They should know we can see them. There must be some way to communicate, ask their intentions. Right?"

"What about a signal? Obviously they can see us. They should know we can see them. There must be some way to communicate, ask their intentions. Right?"

Rumsfeld considered this for a moment "Mm, we've some semaphore flags in the hold, I'm not sure the signals will be visible through the rain but its a better idea than letting your friend drown himself."

He gave a few commands and soon enough Tenaraad stood on the stern of the ship moving flags on poles longer than Jarrett was tall in particular motions. He signaled out a short message and then began repeating it, all the while Rumsfeld watched the tailing shit through a spyglass. The storm had calmed compared to how it had been earlier but the rain was still unrelenting and thunder rumbled in the distance ominously.

"Hm, either they aren't seeing it or none of them know the code," Rumsfeld said with a frown "we've slowed ourselves a bit to try and give them a better chance of seeing the signal and I daresay they're gaining on us now."

He paused for a moment then swore loudly "Andraste's tits, they're Qunari," he said "or at least Qunari are among them, I can see the horns, odd that their ship doesn't look like a Qunari vessel, not any I've seen at least, hmm, Vashoth maybe? Either way the Admiral is not going to like this."

He turned to Nola "If you lot have a better way of signalling to them we can attempt it, otherwise we could try to hold and let them catch up to us then hail them, or make a run for it," he said "Qunari don't tend to attack without cause and we haven't given them one yet but Tal Vashoth can be unpredictable."

Tenaraad grunted.

"Ah, no offense Tenny," he said.

"I was agreeing with you," Tenaraad said simply, then turned to Ash and Kari "If they are Qunari we should get out of sight, they will mistrust us."

Kari stood quietly out of the way, watching the other vessel, while Nola and Captain Rumsfeld discussed the new arrival. Bearing down on us in foul weather, and ignoring hails...if they're friendly, I'm a Vint noble. If Nola or the Captain had any sense they'd have Ash and their own mage blast the other ship as soon as the range closed enough. They may not be Venatori, but even common pirates could damage their plans if the bastards were determined enough.

"If they are Qunari we should get out of sight, they will mistrust us."

The thought of 'cowering' below decks did not appeal to her in the slightest. Ignoring Tenaraad, she turned away from the ship and towards Nola and Rumsfeld. "Is that an order, Sir?" It was his ship, so it was his call.

"Hm, either they aren't seeing it or none of them know the code, we've slowed ourselves a bit to try and give them a better chance of seeing the signal and I daresay they're gaining on us now."

Ash looked towards the sky. Having his own magic blend in with the weather would definitely be possible like it was now, with thunder rumbling in the dark distance. It would probably even be easy. However, he never got the order to do so, and they were getting closer.

"Andraste's tits, they're Qunari, or at least Qunari are among them, I can see the horns, odd that their ship doesn't look like a Qunari vessel, not any I've seen at least, hmm, Vashoth maybe? Either way the Admiral is not going to like this."

Uhuh. I don't like this. Either we kill them now, or I don't want to be standing around.

"If they are Qunari we should get out of sight, they will mistrust us."

Ash gave Tenaraad a nod, the other's perspective appealed to his. Besides, Ash was a mage as well, which couldn't make it any better. He dressed like a mage now too, and that certainly had its flaws, one of them being that he was easily identified as such. He knew that his abilities could be a useful tool as well, though.

Of course, I don't particularly mind hiding right about now.

Kari however, didn't seem to agree.

"Is that an order, Sir?"

"I want to get out of the way," Ash said, his hood up to avoid some of the rain. "I don't want to interact with Qunari, especially not if they follow the Qun. They're not going to like a Vashoth mage," he said, nervously, and grabbed the staff on his back. "I'll be ready to fight if they try to hurt you guys, though, I promise. I'm not hiding, I'm just..." he chuckled. "Concealing myself for the benefit of everyone else."

"Mm, we've some semaphore flags in the hold, I'm not sure the signals will be visible through the rain but its a better idea than letting your friend drown himself."

"For the record, no ocean can be more fearsome than the bays and sewers of Kirkwall." He said unironically but accepting the criticism. For now at least he'd listen to the captain's orders.

"Andraste's tits, they're Qunari, or at least Qunari are among them, I can see the horns, odd that their ship doesn't look like a Qunari vessel, not any I've seen at least, hmm, Vashoth maybe? Either way the Admiral is not going to like this."

"...Qunari? Oh today tastes ripe with nostalgia." Contemplating all he remember of the Qun and Tal'Vasoth Jarrett turned his Kari, Ash and Tenaraad but addressed everybody. "The giants didn't care for the greedy, thieving and lying scum of Kirkwall. I get hidin', really I do, but if they're Qun proper, my bet is they'll like a bold and honest approach." Not that ever could give anyone there that. He mumbled into his hood.

Nola closed her eyes as she listened to the captain, muscling her way through the seasickness to think. She had to admit, being open to the air was helping. Qunari wasn't good, Tal Vashoth wasn't either. Both possibly spelled trouble for everyone.

"If you lot have a better way of signalling to them we can attempt it, otherwise we could try to hold and let them catch up to us then hail them, or make a run for it, Qunari don't tend to attack without cause and we haven't given them one yet but Tal Vashoth can be unpredictable."

"Is that an order, Sir?"

"I want to get out of the way. I don't want to interact with Qunari, especially not if they follow the Qun. They're not going to like a Vashoth mage. I'll be ready to fight if they try to hurt you guys, though, I promise. I'm not hiding, I'm just...Concealing myself for the benefit of everyone else."

"The giants didn't care for the greedy, thieving and lying scum of Kirkwall. I get hidin', really I do, but if they're Qun proper, my bet is they'll like a bold and honest approach."

She listened to everyone's thoughts, Berund was silent on the matter but that wasn't a surprise. His training helped him to stay silent when he wanted to be. "We all hide." She said clearly, opening her eyes. "Sorry Kari, I hate it too, but frankly, if we were on good terms with the Qunari, we wouldn't have needed the good Captains services in the first place. " She looked at Rumsfeld. "If they are Qunari, they might not like seeing Inquisition soldiers on here, honest about it or not. If they see you as just a merchant vessel they should let everything go with little fuss. If they cause trouble, or if they are Vashoth Pirates, send out a call to arm, we'll leap in and assist." She said before turning to the group. "Below decks everyone, but stay at the ready, should things go sour we're gonna make sure we pull our weight in the fight."

Kari acknowledged Nola's order with a nod and an annoyed grunt, as she didn't trust herself to speak right then. Heading below deck, she positioned herself close to the passageway she'd just come through and didn't best not to fidget as she waited impatiently. She hated hiding and waiting, it reminded her far too much of the Blight; hiding from Darkspawn patrols so they didn't bring greater hordes down on the town.

The only reason the place even survived was that it was far enough off the beaten track that the bulk of the Darkspawn forces never got to close. The makeshift barricades, and the terrified townsfolk that had manned them, had barely held against a small group with a single ogre; heck it was only by chance that her company had been passing through the town when the warning about the 'spawn had arrived. If the Iron Hand company hadn't been there, those townsfolk probably wouldn't've made it.

Without realizing it, Kari began to nervously drum her fingers on her thigh.

"We all hide."

That's... not what I meant.

However, upon listening to the other, he understood what she meant. The Inquisition wasn't on the best terms with the Qunari, and though he doubted certain members would be recognised as part of it easily, being careful was still the best.

"Below decks everyone, but stay at the ready, should things go sour we're gonna make sure we pull our weight in the fight."

Ash nodded and went downstairs as well, making sure to stand somewhat away from Kari. He didn't want to know what she thought about what he'd said, especially not if she thought he was part of the reason why Nola had chosen as she had, which was possible. Not that Nola had decided everyone should go down because of Ash, of course not, but perhaps Kari thought so. Instead, he started treating his clothes with a soft fire, drying the clothes almost instantly and humming some song he'd heard at the tavern to himself. He doubted anyone else could hear much of it, and no one would be able to hear it above deck. He kept going over his clothes.

This feels great.

The small fire didn't take a lot of effort to create at all, but it was warm in his hand and he was getting dry, and that was a really nice feeling. It made him feel more at ease. And more prepared. A lot of the magic was, after all, in your head, and feeling better made it easier to fight. At least that's how he justified his somewhat vain use of magic to himself.

The Legionnaire nodded at Nola's orders, making his way down below the deck. He used a rag to dab at all the water droplets he could. It likely wouldn't matter if they were needed above again, but he couldn't stand the wet armor. It also acted as something he could do while he waited. Waiting was always the hard part. Being still, his weapon stayed. But he knew it was necessary. With any luck, they would get out of this with undue bloodshed and be on their way.

The dwarf looked to Ash and hmm'ed as he watched the mage conjure a fire to dry himself. Seemed they were like-minded, at least when it came to the rain. If anything gave him hope for a peaceful resolution, it was Ash's nature. A stark contrast to the loud and crass Kari. With Qunari so vastly different, there was a chance the two vessels could depart amicably. However small that chance may be.

The group and Tenaraad made their way belowdecks, down there little could be heard over the stomping of boots and the pounding rain. Indistinct shouting could be heard, and after a time those with sharp hearing could make out the sound of a board hitting the deck, the ship lurched with the waves sending an unsettling motion through the groups stomachs.

"Shanedan!" Rumsfeld could be heard shouting over the storm, accompanied by heavy footfalls stomping onto the deck.

"Yes, you will," a deep rumbling voice could be heard, it was not overly loud but it seemed to resonate such as to be heard through the storm "We have been tracking an Abaan-ataashi, it may be drawn to the surface by the asaaranda."

Rolling thunder blocked out Rumsfeld's reply, save for the words "-y're a myth."

"The Qunari do not chase myths."

"Well whatever the case I don't care about your snake," Rumsfeld said "seems we've no quarrel."

"If we did we would not be talking," the Qunari said "the Sten merely wished to warn you, the Aban-ataashi is ours."

"Then why have you been tailing us for so long?"

"Your ship is small, it may attract the Aban-ataashi's attention."

"Ha, well if your snake tries to make a lunch out of the Golden Halla she'll not find it an easy meal," Rumsfeld paused "if we happen to kill this myth of yours how much would it be worth to you?"

"You are blind with greed, someday your kind will all know the weight of the Qun."

"Thanks, but I like the weight of gold just fine," Rumsfeld said, one could feel the grin in his tone.

"If the creature attacks and you manage to survive and triumph over it, then perhaps a figure could be reached."

"Excellent, now how do you say it? Pandara?"

"Panahedan."

"Right, now get off my ship."

The heavy footfalls could be heard again, and soon enough the hatch creaked open once more. Rumsfeld grinned down at the group.

"Well it seems we've traded one problem for another," he said "how much of that did you all catch?"

While she was gratified to see that she'd been overly pessimistic about the Qunari ship's intentions, she was still of the mind that it would've been better to just sink it with a surprise attack for safety's sake. She was still mulling these thoughts over in her head when the hatch opened, and she found herself looking up at Rumsfeld.

"Well it seems we've traded one problem for another, how much of that did you all catch?"

"Most of it." Kari replied. "I understand Qunlat better than I speak it." Turning about, she looked at the rest of the party. "For those of you that don't, it seems the other ship is out here hunting a Cetus of all things." She grimaced, not overly thrilled at the possibility of meeting one of those monsters.

Ash followed the conversation above, though only half-heartedly so. The moment he had realized that all the Qunari wanted was to use the boat for bait to catch an abaan-ataashi, he had relaxed a bit more. He doubted one would actually try to get them, and that meant the Qunari would leave them alone. No fighting, no need to stand outside in the storm, he could go right back to his books and wait for the ship to reach the shore. Still, it was kind of interesting that the Qunari sent people out to hunt sea-monsters at a time like this.

Abaan-ataashi. A sea dragon. What was the equivalent in common tongue again? The name we call it... Cetus. Still feels more right calling it a sea dragon.

Ash remembered the times before his magic had started surfacing, back when his mother spoke as much Qunlat as common language to him, if not more. She'd spent the rest of his childhood making sure it was no longer native to him, but a lot of the words were familiar, terms he knew the idea of, but not the translation for. Back during those blissful days before of his nightmares, his mother would tell him tales about creatures and ideas. Once, when they had been hiding on a large ship, much larger than this, she had told him the tales of the sea dragons, told them about those who were sent out to hunt them. Back then, it had seemed fantastic and exciting, with Qunari heroes, stoic and determined. At some point, his young mind had admired such traits.

Now he just wished they'd drown and leave him alone.

"Well it seems we've traded one problem for another, how much of that did you all catch?"

All, I think. All I paid attention to, that is.

"Most of it. I understand Qunlat better than I speak it. For those of you that don't, it seems the other ship is out here hunting a Cetus of all things."

"Well, to the Qunari it's a sea dragon," Ash chimed in. "So are they chasing for some sort of honour thing? It is supposed to be drawn to the storm, so I don't think they're lying at least. What does this mean to us, though? Nothing, I hope," he said, not stepping closer to the hatch. He'd hate to get wet again, after all.

Listening into the conversation above him, Jarrett rolled his eyes in annoyance, losing track of what they discussing because of the Qunari language. His grasp on the language was basic at best, mostly knowing only a few terms in military and respect from Kirkwall. When the Qunari left Jarrett eagerly stretched, almost frighteningly loud cracks coming from his bones. With that done he hoped one of his Qunari allies could fill the group in.

"Most of it. I understand Qunlat better than I speak it. For those of you that don't, it seems the other ship is out here hunting a Cetus of all things."

"Do we need to be "proactive" in dealing with it? Luck dictates it'd either sink us or the red lyrium, so while I'm willing to gamble, are the rest of you?" Jarrett stood with confidence. So much he didn't bother facing the others discussing the danger, just continuing to stretch.

Nola strained to hear Rumsfeld and the Qunari. She wanted to hit the man for taunting the giants, but she had known what she was getting into when she left him to talk. She didn't really understand most of what they were talking about, but she picked up enough to know that the Qunari wasn't after them.

"Well it seems we've traded one problem for another, how much of that did you all catch?"

"For those of you that don't, it seems the other ship is out here hunting a Cetus of all things."

"Well, to the Qunari it's a sea dragon..."

"Do we need to be "proactive" in dealing with it? Luck dictates it'd either sink us or the red lyrium, so while I'm willing to gamble, are the rest of you?"

She would be the first to admit she was grateful to count a couple of giants of her own as companions. She hadn't understood a word of Qunlat, and even the Cetus wasn't something she knew much about. Ash's description told her enough though. "No, we do not need to be 'proactive'. We let the Qunari have their hunt, if they want to commit suicide by sea monster, let them. If it does come for us, we'll drive it away." She said, climbing out of the the cramped room. "We should move as quickly as possible Captain. I have no desire to fight this creature on the open sea." She said taking a deep breath. The rain felt good against her face and the air helped quell her rolling stomach. Now if she could bare to look at the steel grey waves over the railing. "You're all free to keeping doing whatever you were doing. Ugh, I'm going to find a bucket again." She said miserably, her face going a little green again.

" What does this mean to us, though? Nothing, I hope."

She had to grit her teeth, as Ash spoke, and resist the urge to slap him. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew she was being unfair to him; after all, due to the fact he was a mage, he had lead a somewhat sheltered life...but even so, his tone of voice and general attitude on this voyage so far had reminded her far too much of a spoilt Orliseain fop. The leather of her gauntleted hand creaked as she made a fist; taking a few deep, quiet breaths, she turned to look towards him. I'm sure you'll be able to get back to your reading soon, princess. The edge in her own mental 'voice' caught her off guard.

What the fuck...who pissed in your oatmeal? She thought bitterly; maybe the rough seas were getting to her more than she thought. "We should be fine." She said out loud. "With any luck we'll be far away before the horn-heads find their dragon." With any luck it'll win.

Letting out a small sigh of relief as Nola agreed with her sentiment about leaving the Cestus to the Qunari, her mood improved a bit; she was all for a good fight, and had no qualms about going after a beast that big...she'd just much rather do it from dry land. It was a lot easier to kill a beast like that when you didn't have to worry about it drowning you because it'd just smashed your footing.

"You're all free to keeping doing whatever you were doing. Ugh, I'm going to find a bucket again."

"Shouldn't be too much longer until we get ashore." She said sympathetically to the rather green looking dwarf. Silently she thanked both Ghilan'nain and the Maker for not being subject to such queasiness; she hated to think how bad it would've been trying to use her father's old contacts and try and operate out on Antiva City if she got that seasick every time she went out. Focusing back on the present, she stowed the bits of her fighting gear that she'd grabbed when the other ship had been spotted, and were no longer needed, before heading forward. Now that that bit of excitement had passed, she was sure to find a game of Wicked Grace or Dead Man's Trick going on up in the crew's quarters in the bow of the ship.

"Well with luck the beast will never surface," Rumsfeld said "I'd rather not risk my ship against it. I'd wager that our ballistae wouldn't do quite as much damage as the Qunari cannons might."

"Shouldn't be too much longer until we get ashore."

"We've got another day before we'll reach our destination," Rumsfeld said "maybe less, though I doubt the storm will be breaking anytime soon, we're in the wrong season for that."

He turned and shouted at his crew, giving instructions to pick up the pace. The storm winds were strong but for now they were pushing the ship along, speeding it towards its goal over the rough waves. The mast creaked overhead as the crew ran about in the rain, which had begun to pick up again.

The tattooed dwarf approached Rumsfeld, handing him a scroll case sealed with wax.

"Ah excellent, I can't believe it took so long to find," Rumsfeld said.

"Storm disorganized things," the dwarf said with a shrug "now, if you had it carved in stone it wouldn't be so easily shaken about."

"I'm not lugging a ton of granite on my ship just so you don't have to worry about losing your page," Rumsfeld said, shaking his head before turning to the group "I knew I had a map of the cave systems we think the Venatori are hiding out in, took a while to find them but if you'd like to look over them to formulate plans well, here you are."

He passed the case to Nola. The maps were for three different cave systems, though each was suspiciously similar with a single obvious entrance fit for a larger vessel and a smaller hidden entrance (or perhaps exit) fit for much smaller craft. The Golden Halla was too large to enter the hidden opening though it had some rowboats on board that could be used to access the hidden entrance. The main entrance for each cave had a trap of some sort to repel unwanted vessels. It seemed that if someone were manning the traps they could drop rocks or something else onto a vessel, and there were positions were men could keep lookout or take up firing positions. The hidden entrance meanwhile was only accessible at certain points in the tide, which could change quickly enough to leave one trapped. Beyond that it had no traps in place, though the passage leading from it to the rest of the cavern was narrow enough that a group would likely have to proceed in single file.

"To be honest I'm not sure why we keep multiple maps," Rumsfeld said "all the caves in the Free Marches look too much alike."

"You're all free to keeping doing whatever you were doing. Ugh, I'm going to find a bucket again."

Ash looked at her with an empathising smile. "Would you like me to use some healing magic? It could help with that," he offered, waiting on her to reply and possibly helping her out before he went back to his book. He was eager to get underneath the blanket and keep reading about plants in the southern parts of the Free Marches. However, regardless of what she did answered, his attention was drawn to the captain and his men as he heard talk about caves and maps and Venatori.

"I'm not lugging a ton of granite on my ship just so you don't have to worry about losing your page,"

Wait, what? Wouldn't you have to use some sort of spell to get a granite ship to float?

The suggestion puzzled him a little. Wouldn't the ship have to be extraordinarily built to be made out of rocks and not sink?

Perhaps it was just a joke.

He honestly could not tell.

"I knew I had a map of the cave systems we think the Venatori are hiding out in, took a while to find them but if you'd like to look over them to formulate plans well, here you are."

He bent over to look at the maps, following the paths with his eyes and making note of all the little details.

"To be honest I'm not sure why we keep multiple maps, all the caves in the Free Marches look too much alike."

Ash raised an eyebrow at the thing with several maps, but only kept looking towards the maps. He saw several possible places where he could be standing, hidden yet close enough to cast spells. The traps could be well used if timed correctly and he already had some ideas in mind for the water. However, he wasn't the boss, and instead he just looked at the map, then at Nola, and then back to the map, saying nothing.

"Would you like me to use some healing magic? It could help with that."

Nola thought on that for a moment before nodding. "Yeah Ash, go for it. Can't hurt to try at least.. She said, letting the magic wash over her. She heaved a sigh as she felt her her stomach settle, she didn't feel like she was going to lose her lunch now. "Thanks Ash, dunno why I didn't ask for that sooner." She said with a smile.

"I'm not lugging a ton of granite on my ship just so you don't have to worry about losing your page,"

She chuckled when she hard that. The dwarf was right of course, having the map carved into a stone would make it much easier to find, but it certainly wasn't travel friendly.

"I knew I had a map of the cave systems we think the Venatori are hiding out in, took a while to find them but if you'd like to look over them to formulate plans well, here you are."

"Thank you captain, this will help greatly." She said taking the scrolls. She rolled them out over the table, looking over the sketched out caves systems. That captain was right, every cave looked nearly identical, from the maps at least. How the smugglers were able to hide anything was beyond her. "Hmmm....the Veantori are smart, not your average bandits. They'll have sentries posted. And mages to set of the traps, and through whatever else they can at us." She mumbled, her finger tracing over the line that marked the cave entrance. "But the side entrance..." She traced of the little tunnel. "Too small for us to go as a group, let alone let Kari, Berund or Jarrett to fight properly...." She frowned. Thinking of the best course of action. "We should go through here." She said pointing at the hidden opening. "I don't want to risk the Halla unless we have to, once the cave is clear we can either carry the smaller vessel through the cave, or wait till the tide allows us out. If the Venatori haven't found it, we can sneak in behind and catch 'em with their pants down. If they have...." Well if they have it wouldn't matter, it would be just as difficult through either entrance. She looked up at Ash and the others who had gathered around her. "Unless anyway one else has any ideas?"

"Ha!" Kari exclaimed, sweeping the pile of silvers, crowns, pennies and bits towards herself. "Four Angels." The crowd of off duty sailors she was playing Wicked Grace with groaned as she collected her winnings, while some of their companions who were merely watching laughed.

"Bloody Maker-damned Qunari..." She heard one of the loosing sailors mutter. "Horn-headed cunt..." The rest of his quiet tirade devolved into unintelligible mutterings. "Easy there 'friend'," She said out loud as she organized her winnings. "If you couldn't afford to lose the coin you shouldn't 've bet." A few of the observers laughed, while offending sailor just glowered. It was her deal, so she scooped up the deck and began shuffling. "Alright, who's in for the next hand?"

"Well, 'f ye don't mind me sayin', I think there's few tunnels to small for me to tussle in," the Legionnaire remarked, a brow cocked as he looked over the map. Though depending on how accurate the maps were, it would be tight nonetheless. He was confident, but he preferred not to be overly so. The dwarf set his helm on the table and leaned over the splayed maps, his hands flat on the wooden surface as he thought. He hummed audibly and chewed on his lip before muttering his thoughts aloud.

"Through the front or the back, we go one way in full we'll have the numbers," Berund remarked, a gloved finger idly sliding across the marked passages of one of the maps. "But say we take both? Jarrett an' I slip through the narrow, the rest comin' in the front? We'd be divided, but so would their attention. Dunno what sort of forces we'd be dealin' with. Might be they're not expectin' unwelcome guests. Might not. Whichever it is, I think it best we take 'em split."

"To be honest I'm not sure why we keep multiple maps, all the caves in the Free Marches look too much alike."

"At least it makes them easier to, ahem, 'clear out'." Jarrett casually said, reflecting on his time working in the free marches. The average person spent their daily lives hoping for consistency so as to have easy peace of mind in their lives. Loved ones and work contributed to this effort. With only the latter involved in his life Jarrett believed reassurance in his path in life came easier. Having his system of work be made easier by the simplicity of navigation was a plus. But still...

"Even if isn't the most exciting thing." He frowned before falling into the background.

"But say we take both? Jarrett an' I slip through the narrow, the rest comin' in the front?

"I actually agree. Berund and I are fairly self sufficient and the other group would share a fair balance. Things take a turn for the worse, we should be able to retreat easily. Relatively."

"Unless anyway one else has any ideas?"

"But say we take both? Jarrett an' I slip through the narrow, the rest comin' in the front? We'd be divided, but so would their attention. Dunno what sort of forces we'd be dealin' with. Might be they're not expectin' unwelcome guests. Might not. Whichever it is, I think it best we take 'em split."

"I actually agree. Berund and I are fairly self sufficient and the other group would share a fair balance. Things take a turn for the worse, we should be able to retreat easily. Relatively."

Ash frowned. He didn't like Berund and Jarrett's idea at all. "Is that a good idea though? To just approach them from two directions and allow their placement to decide where we end up fighting? They have mages too, right? And rogues... they could easily surprise us if they know the area better than us, they'll be able to easily drive out the ones entering from the main entrance. Besides, by going to their position, we could end up somewhere none of our close range attackers can fight, or where I cannot use magic effectively." Ash looked at the maps, leaning over and taking another look at it, pointing towards the areas Nola had mentioned.

"I think we should take the secret entrance as a group, then split up and part into the smaller caves and tunnels, find a place where a fight is better for us, that we can use for our own benefit, and then have someone lure groups into that area."

Ash started going over the map. "There's traps as well. We should at least try to take them, given that there could be someone manning them. And I'm better off in a lookout area where I can cast spells over a wide area, and then the wider areas we could..." he trailed off, realizing that he had started muttering.

"My point is that by trying to surround them, we're still letting their group decide where a fight happens, and we'll fail to take any traps into account. And we're not gaining that much from having two people surprise them from behind, you only get some hits in before they know you're there. However, by taking the entrance they won't expect, and moving in a group, we have the time and opportunity, as well as numbers, to pick our positions and lure them in a few at a time. There is the downside of us not being able to retreat, of course, or they surprising us while using the hidden entrance."

Ash crossed his arms. "I don't think I could do anything about the retreat, but if I go first, I'll be able to handle whoever comes our way, we'll see them from a distance and my magic can be very potent indeed, especially against individuals. And don't worry about me and the caverns, I spent a depressing amount of my childhood hidden in cupboards and crates, so I know I'm very flexible."

"We should go through here." She said pointing at the hidden opening. "I don't want to risk the Halla unless we have to, once the cave is clear we can either carry the smaller vessel through the cave, or wait till the tide allows us out. If the Venatori haven't found it, we can sneak in behind and catch 'em with their pants down. If they have...."

"Hmm, it sounds a bit risky," Rumsfeld said to Nola "And it sounds like your fellows have some suggestions of their own, but it'll be your call in the end. If I might make one of my own perhaps some method of signalling the Halla would be ideal, that way if you get caught in a bind you can hail my crew and we can try to swing in to pull your arse out of the fire."

Rumsfeld grinned at the suggestion "The Halla's got a fair bit of firepower with the ballista after all, though I have to say I agree with you in that I'd rather not risk her if possible."

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

"Alright, who's in for the next hand?"

"I'm done," one of the sailors said "won't have anything left to spend at the Rose at this rate."

"As if you had enough to begin with," another sailor teased.

The first shrugged "A man can dream."

"I'm done too," another sailor said "ought to get some shut eye before we reach the cave, anyone who wants my seat can take it."

"Please I'm not nearly drunk enough for that," a sailor who had been watching said "I already lose enough money to Tenaraad, and I've nearly figured out his tells."

"Tennie doesn't have any tells."

"Just shows what you know."

The other sailors trailed off, debating among each other how you could or couldn't read a qunari or simply making their way to their cots to catch some measure of sleep before landfall. When the table had too few players for a proper game Tenaraad approached.

"You aren't of the Qun," he said pointedly "nor have you ever been."

He was silent briefly then spoke again "But you have purpose, I can see it in how you hold yourself. Mad purpose like all Bas but purpose all the same. I wish to know where your purpose comes from, what keeps you from being a simple beast."

Another pause.

"I will elaborate. I was of the Qun once, it provided me purpose and without it I struggled to be anything," he said "the small one, he said his people keep records to retain purpose. I have thought to try the same."

One of the few lingering sailors spoke "I think that is the most words I've heard out of him in ages."

A glare from Tenaraad quickly shooed him away.

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