Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, Dragonage or anything else I may reference
Magic and the Inquisition
Chapter 28 City Plots
Val Royeux, capital of not only the most powerful nation on Thedas but also home to that of the Chantry lay before the young curious eyes of the young wizard. Thick high pale grey walls surrounded it on each side enveloping the heart of all Orlesian culture, and politics in a firm and protective embrace that dared any and all to attempt and tear down its walls, even now Nat watched as he drove closer how what appeared to be several thousand men and women strode across the battlements, his sharp eyes managing to work out the shapes of bows and the armour brightly glimmering in the late morning sun that these soldiers wore as they prepared for some kind of battle. Around the tall walls, Nat observed how a series of large and grandiose towers dotted in perfect series dotted all over the walls giving those on top a clear view of all that was around.
Surely Nat thought as he still kept driving down the stone road that led to the ancient city, that the view from up there must have been a rather grand one. The ability to peer both within the confines of the great city where towers and tall buildings rose out in the distance showcasing the wealth and power of the elites as well as to gaze upon the endless flat fields for as long as the eye can see watching as farmers went about their business tilling the fields must have been an excellent one.
There was no forest to look upon though yet he was more than aware that in such an age where castles were indeed defensive fortifications rather than artefacts of a long lost time where life had been so much more dangerous. There would be no children or tourists who would be walking amongst the ruins he knew, in fact, such areas were likely to be highly restricted though out of security rather than concern for a persons health in case the several hundred-year-old structures collapsed upon them due to a lack of maintenance. Not even Diagon Alley had held such an effect on him for with the ending of the last war and a vast majority of the old blood families on both sides wiped out, it left little debate for the new blood to modernise what they could even when accounting for the fact that electricity did not work around magic. Even so, it was no longer common to see the old cloaks of witches and wizards time immemorial but instead for most to wear more muggle clothing of t-shirts and jeans.
As his attention focused on the castle walls the sight of thick and heavy stone making itself readily apparent that again he felt a small amount of joy in his heart whilst at the same time a small smile graced his lips.
"Stone" he thought gladly, what a wonderful material it was, strong, resistant, natural, the amount of time that had been put into simply making these walls something that compared to other things in the city would be considered less important next to a home of a rich family was all the same still very beautiful to gaze upon. To see the contours, the way it fitted together in such a way was a very nice experience especially when he compared it to home. Modern Architecture will skyscrapers that towered over the people reaching hundreds of metres skywards and formed of seemingly endless glass walls that reflected the harsh light of the sun on a summers day onto the denizens below cooking them as though they were in an oven, were utter horrid things. He despised them with his every being, they were ugly, unnatural, a disgrace to art and city design an affront to architecture itself and that was with the more modern buildings rather than the older takes and the utter barbarity that had been Brutalism.
Were it his decision and within his power to enforce, he would destroy every single modern building, being low the skyscrapers of old, wreck the buildings of steel, smash those buildings of glass and lay low the concrete blocks turning it into ash and then blasting it into the void of space where it could never trouble the human eye again. Such hideous things did not deserve to exist and all those who propagated such designs should have been stripped of their positions and some like those who had done the worst offences like brutalism should have been executed for such a vast crime.
With such thoughts in his mind, Nat felt himself almost relax as he approached the walls of the castle, now he was close enough to start noticing some of the incredible detail that was depicted on the large great gate to the city. It was utterly beautiful and had an appearance more of the greatest murals then that of a fortification as though he was in a church staring at the great stained glass windows, so much so that he couldn't help but feel a small amount of sorrow fill him as he realised that with the civil war and Corypheus that such intricacies could very well be destroyed in the coming months if not years. Such beauty lost, old art destroyed never to return, it was something that he could not truly bear to suffer, not when as when humanity would advance with technology that the result of architecture was not beautiful and rich but rather dull and ugly towers of concrete and glass.
What was there not to love about this city, he liked the way that the many golden lions that had long since been gilded onto al sides of the fortress seemed to stare menacingly at all those who approached, informing all that this was not only the grandest city on the continent but that it was home to the most powerful nation on the continent. He didn't agree that Orlais should be in charge of the continent, he was British after all and the Orlesian's were obviously Discount French wannabes but all the same, he was not blind and could appreciate the beauty of cultures not his own depending on what they were.
Yet despite this beauty that his eyes beheld he could not help but see past the veneer that Orlais attempted to showcase to the world, past the initial skin and to the true measure of the city. Orlais was beautiful, yes, but this was the capital of a nation and where the Empress of said nation reigned, located in her gilded palace though in truth such a place, beauty was only a disguise for the truth of this city. The ugly truth would be something one could only spot when they had either grown up long enough in such a place or like himself knew how politics worked to a certain extent that they could see every little move that had been made.
Every lion made of gold was a symbol to others, warning them of the richness of their nation that should they challenge them they could destroy their economy as they had the recourses to waste on such frivolities that others would not. The intricate carving of the doors that depicted scenes of not only past glories but that of the Chantry indicated that those craftsmen perfect in their beauty could at a moment's notice be turned to weapons of war where they would devise how opponents would meet their death. As for those grand statues of Andraste that flanked the main gate on both sides covered in more casual firm fitting appeal stated the power of the Chantry as well as the position of women in this world. After all how could it now, Andraste had been a warrior, a woman who had led armies against Tevinter, smashing them upon the field and leading her fellows to victory before her death, yet despite this, all depictions of such a woman were always in form-fitting beautiful clothing that showcased her just before she died, as though she were an angel sent by some kind of god. In truth Nat felt that such an individual should have been dressed more appropriately, in armour with her weapon in her hands and a stern expression on her face, a shield should have also leant against her leg as a symbol that not only was such a woman of strength but also one who protected.
Idly as he pulled the car in behind those other wagons that had started a long queue as they waited for those at the front to check whether they were attempting to smuggle things in, he wondered what Lelliana and Cassandra thought of these statues. No doubt Lelliana like himself saw the political message that these old statues sent from the time they were made but for the dark-haired warrior of the Seekers, did she instead see the purity that was her supposed Prophet and believe it was the correct choice or did she like him instead think that her strength should have been showcased. It didn't matter much as before he could delve too deeply into such things he noticed that the Inquisitor sat beside him turned with a serious look on her face and spoke.
"So this is where they're hiding, do you have any idea where in the city we need to look?"
"No, But I have a map, we merely need to follow it to its location. I simply hope that it doesn't bring us anywhere difficult to enter".
"Difficult to enter," The inquisitor said quirking an eyebrow as she gave a boring look to the walls, her mind flashing back to the last time she had come here. It still looked as peaceful as ever, yet she couldn't help but feel some trepidation at the idea of entering the base from where the rest of the Chantry operated. Even here outside of the walls she could make out the large towers that made up part of the Grand Cathedral and were she closer she would hear the music that would play as a myriad of bards plucked their instruments whilst the Sisters would ply their beautiful voices as they sang the Chant endlessly. Leliana had told her once that the only time they stopped was to eat, sleep or shit and even then whenever they would they had a replacement ready at hand.
"I believe it best if we don't arrive to close and not in such a large group lest we draw attention, after all, it is becoming common knowledge that when abroad we travel in a group of four. Also, I would believe it best not to enter the abode of some lord or noble, that would only create difficulties"
"That makes sense, in that case, we should look around first, the last thing we need to do is piss off the Orlesian nobility" Nat agreed, hiding his sense of uneasiness as he moved the vehicle forwards towards the main gate.
Would he even be able to make it in here? He had told the Inquisitor easily enough that he couldn't use raw force to get his way here, but it was another thing to put it into practice. He kept his head straight hoping not to show any kind of weakness even as he began to doubt his ability, magic was one thing he was a prodigy of magic he had always been, but politics, the art of reading people and coming up with vast complex strategies of dealing with the social and political world was something that he had no experience in, and yet even with that he knew that the Inquisitor was relying on him to guide her swiftly through this snake pit. Taking in a deep breath he nodded and drove the car forwards until he then reached the guards. Thankfully the queue to get in was rather short at the moment.
"Name?" The guard said not at all noticing the powerful illusion that had been placed around the car giving it the form of a normal carriage.
"James Hood" Nat replied quickly as he ever so slightly drew his wand into a more favourable position.
"And your business" The guard continued not noticing the slight giggles that erupted from Valeyna's mouth. Nat knew why of course, thanks to the illusion the man was looking more upwards then he was and as such the guard appeared to be talking to a ghost or invisible person.
"Very well, if you could just stay seated whilst we check the contents of your cart for any contraband" Nat's illusion nodded towards the guard, as such with an obviously bored and tired look on the man's face a result that was likely due to the fact it was cold and he hadn't had much sleep or food given his still red face and sluggish movement, the guard rounded down to the back of the car before then having a quick inspection with his eyes upon the entirely nonexistent goods before he then came back around his halberd in tow.
"Very well, move along" Without any father complaint and the pathway clear of any more main obstacles, Nat accelerated the vehicle once again and drove into the actual city itself. As they progressed at a slow space lest they cause any suspicion or worse get some kind of traffic violation, the group watched as the denizens of the city went about their business in front of them.
Back and forward they ran often with their arms filled to the brim with all sorts of goods, a group of craftsmen moved at a quicker pace through the crowd their tools hanging from their hands as they spoke loudly in common congratulating a boy around Nat's age for progressing to a certain stage in his apprenticeship as a stonemason, telling him that the tools they had bought was a symbol of both respect and responsibility before then telling him they would get him drunk and head to the local brothel when the day was done. Another individual carried a few loathes of bread in one hand whilst the other, they carried a wicker basket that had a few fruits and vegetable sin that they no doubt planned on using for dinner. A different person this time, a young woman was clutching a small vial close to her chest and with such intensity that it looked like she was afraid of the thing getting destroyed in her hand though he could not see what and neither could he be bothered to search the mind of the girl to learn of whatever secrets she carried.
Instead, as he continued to drive the car forward through the throng of people, making sure that he didn't crash into anyone he refused to keep his eyes on the path ahead of him and instead of the local surroundings such as buildings and high places. Already he had noticed more than a few individuals who appeared to be spies, they looked fairly innocent enough, an elf servant who was picking up food for their master whilst also searching for any blackmail or other important information. Not too far away, a group of four bards who were playing in the middle of the street a small hat in front of them to collect money were far more interested in one relatively old nobleman who was making his way through the crowd with a walking stick close at hand. In other places, there were even a few soldiers who seemed to be paying too much attention to certain traders, with one or two approaching likely to discover more and report that information on.
"Keep your eyes out, I'm going to move use father into the city, once we've done that we'll dismount and head gradually towards our agent's base of operations. Hopefully, they'll have a rough idea of what's going on in the city before we start exploring" Nat said calmly as he continued to observe in a small amount of surprise just how many people in this place were paying close attention to every little thing that went on. It was peculiar he couldn't help but think, while he knew that those like him back home who were politicians and those who held keen eyes jobs like detectives and policemen would constantly be searching for any clues, it appeared that in this place that practically everyone was looking for that week point to exploit. Young, old, male, female, elf or human it didn't matter absolutely everyone was watching everyone else with a keen eagled eye yet not out of a desire for politics, or at least not for everyone, instead it appeared that there was more concern for the idea of finding a traitor within their midst.
Gaspard had spies in the city that anybody could guess but who they were and what roles hey had was unknown to perhaps anyone bar the spymaster of the Empress and even then one could not expect to know every spy who was within the place. Nevertheless after pulling out of another man's mind repeating the process several other times on random individuals he could see clearly that there was concern of Gaspard attacking the city at some point, something that was only made worse as Winter would be over in little over a month giving forth to spring and the battles and sieges that would follow it into the new year.
Nat hid a concerned look as he thought back to his plans for winter. His initial plan by now was that the soldiers would have been familiar with their weapons now, that he would have even created the first sets of cannons and had artillery crews practising constantly on some poor hill as they practised their aim. Instead he was yet to place the weapon in their hands, to see their fear when a gun went off for the first time, to see the myriad of concern and also excitement that Cullen would gain at the prospect of a normal soldier being able to smash through plate mail of nobility giving them a major advantage and the disapproving look of Blackwall as he recognised the beginning of the end of close quarters with swords and spears being the mainstay weapons of war. There was simply too much work he knew, so much work with politics, logistics, finance and other things that he often found himself working for several days straight simply to keep track of all the paperwork, that and the fact that it also took time for the blacksmiths to create enough of the muskets and musket balls as well as the alchemists to create black powder in such quantities that barring some major battle or disaster that they would have a constant supply of the stuff, let alone training.
As he looked over to a set of guards holding a bundle of piles over their arm as they shuffled it up to the main walls of the castle, he started to wonder if he should hire more people. He shook his head. No, it was a bad idea and not only because the Inquisition could not afford such expenditures no matter how useful, but also because he had to think about this intelligently. He was fighting a war against demons for Merlin's sake, what did it matter if the weapons were produced by either blacksmiths or other means, the fact remained that with Orlais gripped by civil war, the Grey Wardens missing and the other nations building up their respective militaries to prepare for the worst, there simply was a labour shortage, something that could be solved were he to introduce industrial means far earlier then he meant to.
It would be required he thought as he looked at the glum and dark faces of those citizens as he passed them, though the city was open and trade was flowing, there was a very high import tax something that he had only managed avoid via some very swift illusions. All of it was to fund the war and all of it again was why he and Josephine were struggling to get the tradesmen, they could offer jobs as much as they wanted, but the Empress was not stupid, she could not afford to lose so many people and hence had ensured that very few people could leave even stopping the recruitment of her citizens into the Inquisition lest it leave her armies under strength and under-equipped.
Slowly an idea came to mind.
"No, forget that we'll split up when we stop, explore the city, for the most part, make it look like that we are merchants, if we head straight towards our base we'll be spotted the instant we arrive"
"You want us to go shopping" Dorian teased in a mirthful manner, whether the man actually liked the sound of exploring this city and go looking for some souvenirs to bring back home if he ever did go back or if instead, he was curious about other peoples buying habits, Nat had a pretty good idea that it was both though the man leaned more towards the former.
"One or two things, nothing large, we have to blend in" Nat replied easily ignoring the grown man.
"And the best way to do that is via shopping" Dorian's grin grew even larger and for a moment Nat swore the Tevinter's eyes physically twinkled.
"Very funny Dorian, but yes, if we're seen shopping then we're garnering less attention especially if it appears that's all we're going to concentrate on, also keep away from the more expensive area, we need less noble eyes on us for this not more"
"What if we do get caught" Valeyna finally asked hiding a slight smile as she saw the playful banter between the two mages.
"That depends, if we're revealed as who we are, then give some excuse about us following a lead from an unreliable source that Corypheus has implanted assassins to kill the Empress and we're here to investigate even if it's unlikely that such a thing will happen."
"And if they don't know who we are?"
"Go by the story that we're a bunch of young merchants who only just got together and we don't know any better"
"Right," Valeyna said slowly not at all believing that she could pull off such an act was she placed in a position that she had been captured by Orlesian nobility. It was bad enough that she was an elf in this city, already when she last came here she remembered the sneers, jeers, sniggers as well a the lustful looks that had befallen her when she had last arrived here many months ago. Only back then she had been heralded as the prophet as Anrdaste, with what Nat was saying he wanted her to pretend that she was just some random elf no worse than that a Dalish elf and as such she would be treated poorly. "Are we going to split up individually, or are we going to go in groups of two?"
"Two would be best, having a person to watch each other's backs could be vital. Dorian, you'll be with"
"Cole" Valeyna blurted out suddenly. Nat paused mid-sentence and turned to her.
"I was going to say be with me, but you're in charge. So yes Dorian go with Cole, and for the love of Merlin Cole don't say anything creepy the last thing we need to do is alert the entirety of Val Royeux that there's a Tevinter mage running around its streets. And the same goes for you as well Dorian the last thing I want to do is sit down only to discover that half the city is burning down because a woman is wearing the wrong shade of blue.
"I would never do such a thing" Dorian sniffed indignantly and pulled himself to his max height As though to dismiss the rumours. It didn't work much to his annoyance as Nat only blinked behind his glasses and once again hoped to a long-dead wizard that somehow his companions would manage to stay sneaky. Cole, he knew for a fact could handle such a task, the boy's ability to wipe away memories was bloody useful but Dorian? Nat shook his head internally, good man, knowledgeable but not exactly... discreet.
"Please don't fuck this up, if the Empress were to learn what we've been up to we might lose the entire bloody war. We need invites to her party at the Winter Palace, though why on earth she would host a party at the winter palace when it isn't winter or late autumn/ early spring is beyond me." Muttering the last part out loud Nat soon drove the car for another few metres into the city only occasionally turning before after finding a relatively large plaza that had several different alleyways stretching off from every other side aside from where four roads meet. None the less he was grateful for the upgraded the illusion spells on the car as he could only imagine for the life of him what the muggles would have seen when they saw a wagon with horses reversing. Was such a thing possible, as dumb as it sounded, he had no clue given how everybody drove and horses were only for special events and that given the imagined weight they were carrying it should have appeared impossible for such a thing?
"Now remember this is a stealth operation, so the last thing I want to here is about how you've gotten into trouble and how we have to rescue you from the dungeons or anything" Nat repeated this time with a bit more strain, just why he was doing so could only be explained by a rising feeling in his gut, one that indicated something bad was going to happen, just what or who he had no idea but it was just how it had been when he first saw that dammed orb back in Egypt all those months ago only this time it was far fainter indicating that if something did occur it was not going to be the end of everything.
"Yes dad," Dorian said as he closed the door behind him before then escorting Cole forwards into the crowd as it passed by the alley. Nat sighed deeply again and turned to Valeyna his own outwardly calm face meeting that of a nervous one.
"Am I the only one who can feel something bad is going to happen" She inquired slowly her eyes trailing on the two men before they slipped out of view.
"Nope, let's just hope that whatever they do it's not something we can't sort out" Valeyna nodded both of them more than aware of the fact that the current party composition of those two held an advantage one that Nat had recognised when he had assembled the teams originally but was now playing front and centre.
"Well at least they're not known yet," Valeyna said before she grinned at her wizard friend a mischievous look becoming very clear as she wiggled her eyebrows. "So what are you going to disguise us as, you know I could play a very good wife if you wanted me two. I could hold your arm closely and get upset every time you leave me while scorning you out in public for being naive with money"
"No, we're not going to roleplay and especially not as husband or wife"
"Well, I could be your mistress" Sighing loudly Nat covered his face with the palm of his left hand and then shook his head.
"No" He repeated slightly more sternly this time "There are no advantages to roleplaying in such a manner," Nat said hiding his derision at the simple prospect of calling that woman "honey".
"It would be fun, there's no problem with having an innocent bit of fun whilst we're on the mission, besides it will make our story much more believable if I the only woman amongst out little trading group was at least in love with one of my fellow companions" Valeyna spoke in a loud dramatic manner stretching her back outwards as though she was about to faint before then almost rushing towards Nat with the intention of pretending to hug him and hold him close while in her mind he would accept and whisper sweet things in her ear after having taken in her scent. But that was the intent because before she had even opened her eyes from her dramatic play-acting Nat had already opened the door to the car and gotten out and was now waiting at the end of the alley waiting for her to join him. Valeyna rolled her eyes but got out of the car and joined him all the same. "Just go ahead and spoil everything, why don't you?"
"Come on, let's go find our murders"
"Who do you think is responsible," Valeyna asked as she caught up to Nat's rather quick pace. Quickly he threaded in and out of the crowd of people, easily managing to avoid brushing people even when he passed within a hairs width distance of them all the while avoiding the running and screaming children, dancing around them as though he had done it her whole life. In contrast, she was finding it far harder, so many people, far more then she was ever used to and they all moved in different directions with no way to predict them and it was only made harder by the leering faces of passers bye.
"It could be any number of people, we've made several enemies and we're bound to make more. As for the attack, though it's very likely somebody with money, the amount of skill required and get away with it as they have would be a rather rare commodity and one that's highly sought after. Without any trace left it leaves those who would track down the killers in a very hard position, or it would do were it not for attacking our supplies. Not to mention everybody makes mistakes and it can only be the smallest thing which brings even the mightiest of empires crumble to dust, in this case, it was a rather large mistake"
"The dagger," Valeyna said knowingly.
"Yes, had our killer decided not to use such an ornamental weapon it would have been far harder to rack down thankfully for us they did and even better that such a large piece snapped off in the attack. We'll soon find them Inquisitor"
"But how do we even know that this dagger is even related to the murderer, for all we know it could have been placed there afterwards or it might have been sold as soon s the owner realised what had happened. This spell of yours how can you know it will take us to the killer"
"It doesn't have to" Nat answered simply as though the answer to this whole conundrum was like taking a casual stroll, there was no worry or doubt on his face that the Inquisitor could see only that cold emotionless mask that seemingly unnerved everyone as he passed. Just what the others saw under his illusion she didn't know but given how none dared to ask him questions and those who nearly bumped into him were quick to either gasp, sucking their breath in as though to hold back some terrible monster or instead to run away, she could guess he was terrifying under that visage.
"You think you can track it through some type of seller. Even if you could it would take days to do, getting people to talk could be-" She froze suddenly her breath hitching in her throat as her mind drew to a terrifying thought. "You don't plan to ask do you" Her tone became harsh and her eyes stared at him in an accusatory tone, Nat simply turned and gave a bored look before once again returning to the traffic in front of her.
"Should they answer within a swift time whether bribed or not then I shall leave them in peace, on the other hand, if they continue to holdout whether out of fear or loyalty or even pay then I can assure you that they won't do so for long"
"You want to torture them?" Valeyna asked aghast her fingers quaking at her side. He couldn't be serious, yes she knew that Leliana got up to some unsavoury stuff but Nat? She had always considered him quiet, efficient but quiet doing his best to avoid the scenarios like those Leliana would best prefer.
"I understand your aversion Inquisitor, if it needs to be done I shall give you some moments to leave the premises before I start any interrogation, but the fact remains we have over two hundred dead men and women, killed in mysterious circumstances with nothing but a dagger to go off. I don't have the time to be playing with niceties if I can avoid them, I have other work to accomplish and if people insist on delaying me then I will simply remove the obstacle."
"But you're still talking about torture, wouldn't it be better to investigate properly, my tracking training will-"
"Accomplish nothing Inquisitor. It is one thing to read some footprints and knows just where that Squirrel hides it's nuts and another thing to be able to convince a man to give a confession or to reveal dark secrets." Nat stopped and turned towards the Inquisitor his own eyes meeting with that of the woman's.
Briefly, Valeyna noted that he had grown since coming here. Before he had been shorter, but now a few months later and he was at the same height as her and likely to grow even further with tine. Who knew perhaps by the end of this war he would tower over. "Nonetheless if we do find ourselves dealing with those who hold political power amongst other things we will need that shrewdness." Nat looked her up and down his own dull Violet eyes inspecting her for every detail.
Valeyna shivered in response at the unseen but very much felt piercing gaze, she did not know why but unlike other looks she had given this one chilled her to her bones, Nat was not inspecting her like a piece of meat that she had grown up with like other humans with disdainful loathing or even apprehension or fear, but instead it was meticulous as though he was looking for every single point on her body analysing it assessing it and mentally working out where he would be best to strike her down should a fight occur and they were to engage one another. Valeyna gulped her eyes doing their best to meet the stern gaze of her friend and not run away, she doubted she would survive such an encounter.
"You've not been attending Josephine's lessons," He said accusatorily.
"So do it matter?, I have other things to do then listen as Josephine lectures to me about dresses" Nat shook his head neither denying or agreeing with her argument instead he picked up the pace and continued to lead them through the busy streets of the city carefully avoiding the gaze of politicians as well as starting and stopping at random stalls where he would then in Valeyna's eyes anyway took a look at random products on sale.
As they waited at a store this one selling a set of nice thick winter clothing, Valeyna couldn't help but chuckle slightly to herself a small smile on her lips. Noticing the strange behaviour Nat came out of his inspection of the nearby area for the moment, he cared not for the clothing, they were of adequate make but instead he was more interested in the individual seven stalls back dressed in bright yellow that even though in normal conditions would make him stand out instead allowed him to blend in with the other nobles that dotted the market as they looked for something cheap or make rude remarks about the peasantry.
"We look like we're together don't we" Valeyna answered with a slight smirk when she felt sure that Nat's attention no matter how fleeting it was landed on her for even the barest of moments.
"Hardly, a male and individual are capable of holding friendly relations with one another that does not lead to more intimate moments, no doubt all the others see are simply two individuals standing next to one another, there is no need to jump to such conclusions" Valeyna frowned angrily causing her forehead to scrunch up, suddenly a small smirk came on her face as she went to hit the seemingly unaware wizard. Raising her fist she threw it into the middle of the air expecting to feel as it hit his back, instead, before she could blink she felt as something warm yet deeply firm gripped it mid-strike and held it there and then. With a grunt, she tried to pull back and release her hand only for it not to budge in the slightest; confused she glanced up only to see the unamused look of her friend staring down at her in again an emotionless expression.
"Oh come on" she complained loudly. "I was joking, couldn't you at least humour me. Would it hurt you simply to imagine that we were lovers"
"There is no reason to. Attempting such a thing achieves nothing it is best if we behave in a normal and appropriate fashion rather than whatever fantasy you had cooked in your head" Valeyna's sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Great I bet you were the greatest friend in that school, I bet the girls teased you, Mr Ice King"
"They attempted to" Nat admitted honestly though his attention still directed firmly on that yellow dressed man. Seriously who in Merlin's name thought it was a good idea to dress like a fucking rainbow and then subject everybody else to such a fate by making them look at their awful palette choice. "I ignored them easily enough"
"And when they attacked you" Valeyna leaned forward though unlike before where her face had been teasing and happy at the idea of wandering the streets of Val Royeux where she would be able to look at some of the nicer stores and think about what she would buy were she ever to have the money, now she instead glanced up in trepidation. Was this asking too much she thought to herself, Nat was a very private person and yet she had just asked him how others had treated him, was he like her ostracised at some point, called names and unable to play with the others boys and girls because he had responsibilities or was there something else.
"I put them in the hospital" Nat grinned ever so slightly at the memory.
It was the last mistake they made.
"You hurt them" Valeyna leaned back slightly disturbed. "You didn't bother to tell an adult or anything"
"A teacher" Nat leaned back and chuckled darkly for a bit. "Please Inquisitor we were all kids back then, kids would have only respected strength. I could have told the teachers all they want but it would have done nothing, it never does no matter the school. Instead, if you want to deal with it you must either choose to ignore it or fight back. I chose the latter"
"You didn't have to have them see some kind of healer though" Valeyna remembered the term hospital, Nat had explained it once as a building here healers would heal the sick and wounded in one large building. Typically it was reserved for more dangerous injuries, it was a strange thing she had told him, after all, wouldn't it be more efficient to have the healer come to you.
"Inquisitor I don't make attempts on my wellbeing very well, in fact, I'm rather dynamically opposed to it. Word's can do very little unless they're ordering another man to fire a rifle out of the barrel of a gun. I could have potentially taken out my attackers in a less powerful manner, but it would have left me exposed and in potential injury and for what gain, yes knew I was seriously hurting mu attackers far more then they would have done to me, but I was outnumbered and I was also confident in our local nurses ability to bring them back to normal condition after a relatively short period of time"
Valeyna went to argue again, voice her complaint, but she realised it was helpless and Nat seemed to be in no mood to give specifics instead simply speeding up his pace.
About an hour later of constant twisting and turning her eyes roving around shimmering like stars as she took in every little artefact and toy and declivous looking treats making her feel like a little girl again did the majesty of this city start to wear off as they reached a different area. Hammers clanged harsh against steel, metal scraped against the stone and the constant wail of strange devices that she had seen before used by her clan yet had never learned the name of pumped air into the glowing furnaces that were scattered all around her.
Blacksmith after blacksmith had the past, so many in fact that it seemed absurd. While they did not number in the hundreds, already they had seen over thirteen each of which was hard at work as strong powerful men with muscles like rock hard mountains kept working hard as a constant stream of sweat pooled down them in a beautiful display of human beauty. Valeyna marvelled at the sight around her, for some reason though she likely suspected the civil war to be the main culprit, all of the blacksmiths had been gathered up their entire armouries as well and then moved to this area where guards were then sent to keep a careful eye on them to ensure that no blacksmith fell too far behind on their work of preparing weapons. Everywhere she looked she saw young and often handsome young men her age or older though there was also the occasional younger apprentice was hard at work. Most were put to making simpler weapons, crafting the swords, spear tips and arrowheads while the man in charge of the forge made the ever loud ruckus as they created thick heavy plate armour for man and horse alike.
There were racks and racks of weapons and armour already completed and assembled neatly in a pile in the centre of a road where a large wagon pulled by some of the larger horses she had ever seen and this time guarded by a set of no less then six Chevaliers all of whom were again dressed in their armour, their feathers handing from their helmets as they watched in a bored manner. For a while, they watched her, powerful strong faces though and hideous by the snarls and dirty looks they sent her as she carried on her path making towards wherever Nat was hurrying towards.
She wiped her brow and gulped quietly instead switching her eyes onto one of the blacksmiths where she could watch for a few moments the rhythmic movements as the blacksmith boy forged a new sword out of molten steel before then gripping it with his tools and dousing it in a bucket of cold water, erupting a loud hiss as it struck.
She nodded allowing herself to marvel at the work in front of her for a few minutes more the blacksmith entirely oblivious to her continued to work on what was a large order that had been made by the Empress. For a moment Valeyna felt incredibly tempted, to walk up and ask if the boy would like to come down south to Skyhold and work for the Inquisition making weapons and the like. The gods knew they could use the extra blacksmiths with how much Cullen complained about them, it was every time she thought grimly. No longer was the cute handsome blonde man such an easy individual to toy with in regards to personal intimacy, instead, his mind always seemed elsewhere onto a distant battlefield his eyes never seemingly focusing on her in the way she wanted, instead always being about how he needed to protect her.
He was just like Nat, all serious and no play, only unlike Nat, he seemed to have time to speak with her about things when she wanted even if it was limited, unlike Nat who sent her away if matters were not urgent.
If she were to recruit this blacksmith, it could help solve problems with Cullen, even if it were only two or three of them. Just before she took another step forward though she grabbed her face and sighed again, such a plan wouldn't work she realised. Yes, she might help Cullen, but then she would have only made a problem for Josephine who would be the individual responsible for explaining to the Empress why the Inquisition had stolen their blacksmiths. It would not go down well and the reputation to the Inquisition would be immense. Exactly how she could not see, yet remembering what she had been taught and how Nat so often seemed to think of the world she could tell that were she to do such a thing that he would be angry.
Speaking of which, she turned away from the blacksmith and turned back to where Nat had stopped. Another blacksmith headed by an older man heavily grey and appeared to be at the point that in only a year or so would be forced to quit his job lest he kills himself or injures his back even more then it appeared to be. She blinked, why would Nat want to talk to a blacksmith of people, was it for these guns he talked about, these elusive weapons that could punch through armour and change the art of warfare?. She doubted it, the blacksmiths were already hard at work making the weapons as she had last been told, so there was no need for the other blacksmith, Then again perhaps he was there to break the news that somebody had died recently, it wasn't uncommon according to rumour that he was forced to make the march into the mages part of the Inquisition and inform somebody when a family member had been killed.
She shook her head, not she knew him if he was here then he had decided to ignore his own edict of waiting until later and instead had headed directly to where his magic had led him which was why he was there speaking to one of the old blacksmiths. She sighed quietly as she approached hearing the conversation between the two of them, more specifically about how Nat was asking about how designs for daggers and what could be made and how much it would cost to be produced. His first trip to the city and he was only ever focused on work, such a shame.
"So if I wanted to commission a weapon for my master, how much would it cost," Nat asked politely. The weapons that the blacksmith had created and displayed before him were of a superior make, not to the same standard as he had seen as those who worked on armour for royalty like he had glanced when he had visited King Alistair, but it was or more than high enough quality to be fashioned and equipped by one of the many members of Orlesian nobility that would require such weaponry.
"That would depend, you mentioned something decorative, do you have anything in mind"
"Silver and emerald" Nat answered after a while giving off a small amount of hesitation as though he was trying to think of the right combination.
"I see, yes I think I know what you want I believe I have something I can show you, just wait here and I'll get it" Nodding Nat watched as the blacksmith quickly turned around and headed straight into his store. For a few moments the sounds of bangs, rustling and a few cries of pain as the old man seemingly whacked his head on something other made them clear, however, it was all worth it when the man came back a lone dagger that was sheathed in a scabbard in his hand.
"Here have a look at this, this is the type of stuff I can do" Nodding Nat drew the blade out with a well-practised motion, feeling the weapon in his hand he twirled it twice in his palm feeling not only the weight but more vitally the magic that flowed through the blade.
"A fair blade" The wizard commented earnestly as he brought the blade to eye level and inspected it. The blade was indeed a fine one, forged from silver and inlaid with swirls and patterns of gold often in the shape of flowers though it was dull in places and more vitally he could see where a piece of metal had seemingly been grafted on to where a pretty sizable chunk had been taken out, a chunk that Nat recognised instantly as the piece Dorian had found earlier that day. "But what happened here" The blacksmith winced.
"I don't exactly, all the customer said, was that it got broken off, I don't know how though I told her explicitly that the weapon was for decoration, but she ignored that"
"That's odd, even if it's just for decoration then the blade should have been able to take a few blows," Nat said knowingly. The man agreed.
"Yes strange girl I thought she might be covering for one of her fellow-servants, she seemed rather nervous and when I asked about the blood you should have seen her pale" Nat chuckled lightly at the remark though secretly his mind whizzed with theories. So a servant had last had the blade, that did explain a few things especially why such a weapon had been used, with decorative weapons more than likely it wasn't used that often enabling this girl to steal the blade away and give it to somebody else, but who would that be and why would they do such a thing.
"Poor girl probably cut herself and dropped the weapon on accident, in all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised if she was panicking about her master finding out"
"Tell me about it, I've seen it happen so many times before. Men are slightly worse when it comes to weapons, they see the daggers and like to play pretend but the girls are the ones who I see more often, they see anything pretty pick it up and like to pretend that their the nobility" Nat quirked an eyebrow, he wouldn't have thought such a thing would have been too common, one or two incidents were bound to happen especially with younger servants, merlin the number of times he had seen even the older years play around with knives and scalpels as though they were sword was still absurd, but to do such a thing in the modern-day that was Thedas with their lives on the line for theft, he doubted that many would be so foolish.
"It's probably the jewellery, if it's a sword the noble will likely have another one spare that the servant can compensate with until they can steal the coin, but jewellery, I have heard that women can know every little thing about their jewellery" The man laughed loudly a thick guttural noise echoing as he smiled at the young Wizard.
"Aint that the truth, despite never touching the dammed thing my wife can remember every fancy necklace, tiara and everything else she's come across same with my daughter, but my son, on the other hand, can't remember shit about a sword, even when I asked him what he wanted to be made as a present"
"The son of a blacksmith and he can't remember shit about a sword," Nat said in a jokingly mocking manner. For a moment Valeyna winced thinking that the blacksmith was about to take offence instead however she could only watch slightly confused as the man then roared in laughter again almost as loud as a wild beast before then openly insulting his son in a loving yet also mocking manner.
"Indeed, I didn't want him to use that shit that the army gave him. A man needs a real sword, something that won't let them down in the middle of combat, I could have given him that but he refused states that they weren't allowed to bring their weapons. Utter rubbish, he just didn't want to get bullied by the others for having his shit"
"Well, I hate to be rude, but I'm afraid I don't have that much time to spare, unfortunately, so if you could give me some sort of list of what I could get perhaps when the best time is to speak to you that would be appreciated" Nat clapped his hands together and offered a warm friendly smile as he looked at the blade. He had gotten what he wanted, the location of the dagger and more vitally an idea on who had given it to them, he had to hunt a servant now, not something unexpected but not again too helpful.
"Yes, of course. probably be best if you came round in two days early in the morning, I'll have this dagger finished by then, I'll show you before the girl comes to pick it up. Just have to get the gold to do the highlights" The man let out an exasperated breath. "Difficult work, expensive, I'll warn you. Though price aside it'll be quite a wait, months likely. With this civil war and the demons, it's getting hard to get enough supplies in to make anything that isn't for the army"
"Well I wish you good fortune friend and thank you for your help", I'll see you in a few days hence" Without another word Nat returned the dagger to the man and then gave a nod of his head before spinning around and joining the Inquisitor who had remained silent the entire time as she watched silently from the side.
"We don't know who it is," She said sternly.
"No, but we do know it's a servant, more importantly, we know it's a very rich lord, the amount of detail on that blade is beyond what most nobles would pay so we're talking about either the incredibly rich, nobles on the poorer front or ones who really like to splash out and are hiding their financial difficulties. I have a strong feeling we're dealing with the wealthier lot"
"How come"?" Valeyna said choosing her words more carefully as she glanced around. Was it just her or did there seem to be several people watching them she turned to Nat about o ask only to suddenly stop and realise. Of course, he noticed them, she could tell by the ever so slight way he had manoeuvred himself in frond other and turned his more casual stance to one where he could strike out should the be attacked.
"The cost to repair that dagger would be immense, I would likely even say it would be cheaper to manufacture one from scratch but with the lack of materials that means the cost simply to repair the dagger has gone up. Add to that the way the guy had said girl, the servant is young most likely in her teens or early twenties, then there's the fact that the servant is very likely an elf"
"How do you know that?"
"When he talked about the servant his eyes subtly flickered over to the elves in the local area. And we have the amount of gilding that's gone on the blade, I'm no expert in Orlesian politics, but if it's anything like the masks these people wear then there would be a hierarchy and rules about how fancy a blade can be. Combine all that and you get a picture we're dealing with the higher members of the nobility, the most powerful individuals which just slims it down even more. All we have to do is inquire what types of servants the different nobles have and we'll have our answer."
"You got all that from one conversation," Valeyna said stunned.
"My father was an Auror before his death, aside from acting as guards and soldiers in times of war they were also detectives, they were trained to think about everything and how to be observant more so than other police and detectives since when magic is involved all the things that normal police use to solve crimes just don't appear. Naturally, when he taught me politics he also taught me how to solve puzzles and more importantly how to read people" Valeyna's face softened her attention diverted away from the individuals who hid in corners around the plaza for just a moment.
"You don't talk about your father much, did something happen?" Her voice was gentle, one of deep concern Nat recognised. He rolled his eyes in response.
"You mean other than the fact that he's dead, killed in the war and I'm the last of my kind still alive, there's nothing special to talk about, what about yours?"
"My father's dead," She told him sullenly. "I don't remember him at all"
"And your mother?" Nat pressed though in truth he wasn't entirely sure why. He had seen inside her mind, bore witness to her memories, he knew why she acted the way she did, the reason why she seemed so weak-willed at times, why she was so often in the bed of some random man or woman. He had seen her as a child playing with her friends and the way that had changed when she had magic and was taken to be the first of her clan, the pride her parents had felt their loving smiles and then the prompt blackness of her memories as something like a black hole struck and seemingly decimated everything regarding to an event that not even he could see.
"The same, they died when I was young, I only have faint memories of them and I can't even remember their faces. The Keeper said I forgot them to protect myself but I don't know, I wouldn't have thought that I could forget my parents not when I missed them so much"
"It's a coping mechanism" Nat replied. Valeyna turned not quite believing her friend on the matter, she went to ask but before the words escaped her lips Nat had already begun talking once again. "I'm no psychologist, but from what I can gather when a person goes through intense trauma a person can force themselves to forget things in order to protect themselves from the pain., It can depend on the severity, apparently some can entirely forget an incident and others can blot out key points, others, on the other hand, might change the memory entirely to make it less painful. I don't know, the matters of the mind are not my forte, but all the same, it does sound that in whatever pain you were in, that you forced yourself to forget what happened."
"But I was there, the Keeper said I watched everything that happened, she said I screamed and screamed, the others can remember it I remember them comforting me but I can't remember"
"It's natural, you were a child, after all, one who had watched your parents die before your eyes. It was either that or likely living with survivors guilt" Nat repeated softly, as he did so he brought a tentative hand towards the back of the girl gently laying it on her shoulder, for a moment he considered bringing his hand up and brushing the hair of the girl like he would a small pet. It was quite beautiful he thought like his own it was bright gold and had been well maintained allowing it to cascade down her shoulders allowing it to fan out, only where his kept straight and ever-practical (well as practical one could get for long hair) down his back unmoved thanks to his use of spellcraft, the Inquisitors moved with hers bobbing about and moving as she thought or how she moved.
Valeyna hummed quietly as she felt the soft hand on her shoulder, suddenly and without meaning to she found herself leaning into him feeling his body support hers as they moved along. She smiled slightly as a warm feeling washed over herself. She felt comfortable for a few moments as though when she was in this position that she was safe, secure that nothing in the world could harm her, not Templars or Darkspawn or Corypheus, the might of the world itself could be flung against her but so long as she had her advisors she could take them all on. Closing her eyes she breathed in slowly ignoring the scent and bustling noise of the city instead just focused on the past and the smell of grass after it had freshly rained and that of a fast-moving river with its white bubble froth that was simultaneously beautiful but also deadly.
"I like this," She told him snuggling her head which at some point had rested on his shoulder. It was comfortable, relaxing, soothing, she had felt this way before with Bull with her friends with every other time she had been with another person, her clothes stripped from her body as she felt their body on hers, warm, safe, loved. However this time she felt her heart quicken and her stomach almost flip. And then Nat pulled away suddenly his face one not of remorse or pity she saw, but of disgust she noticed.
"As I was saying, Inquisitor, what you experienced was normal, but unfortunately there is no time to discuss it at the present, we have to leave lest our observers decide to attack us out here in the open" Anger washed over her, once more her relaxation had been spoiled again by others, was it too much to ask for a few moments of peace and privacy in this city, she had thought Nat had put the spell around them to achieve that yet instead she was interrupted by these rude individuals.
"I don't care, let them attack now I'll kill them either way" Nat shoot her a look.
"No, best that we lead them to a place where we can ambush them and then dispose of their bodies, A fight here will only attract unwarranted attention" Growling menacingly Valeyna acquiesced though despite this as Nat quickened their pace allowing them to move far quicker through the throng of Orlesian's Valeyna kept glancing as subtly as she could directing angry and hateful stares towards individual ones when they weren't looking or had made an attempt to hide themselves amongst the peasantry.
"Who are they," She asked her companion.
"They have some Templar's amongst them, but they also have a large number of mage also"
"No" Nat stated calmly. "As odd as it sounds their all elves" Valeyna blinked on confusion.
"Elves, why would elves be tracking us, what have we done that would upset them"
"No idea," Nat said. In truth, the only thing that came to mind was when he had curbed that elven rebellion down in Ferelden however thanks to his spy he knew that the elves hadn't learned of his and the Inquisitions involvement leaving them on pretty good grace.
"Do you think they know who we are?
"If they do it isn't me, I've been suppressing my power before we even hit the city but you on the other hand" Valeyna turned her face slightly angry.
"Are you saying I'm the problem here"
"Well that depends on how they've tracked us, if they're using some kind of magic like the Templar Phylacteries to keep an eye on mages who are coming and going into the city then it might explain it, otherwise, we're dealing with someone who managed to see through our little disguise or perhaps whoever's in charge of this lot left spies to keep an eye on the blacksmith"
"In that case let's lead them into a trap, turn on the third left, there's a tight alley that we can ambush them in. Once we're there we'll see if they follow us in" Nat said nothing instead drawing his wand using the illusion around him and Valeyna to make it appear to the others that he was simply holding a book. His observers he noted those elves some dressed in servants gear and others in long cloaks that had their hoods on stayed still though they followed their movements closely watching like a pack animal that was about to ambush their prey.
"Can you think of any groups that would employ this many elves?" Valeyna asked suddenly. It was disturbing feeling all those stares that were watching her intently, in the background she saw one young elf with a dagger on his belt seemingly sizing her up as though he was debating where the best place would be to thrust that dagger into her and kill her there and then, another a woman this time equipped with a longbow of all things who were doing their best to hide on the edge of a throng of others played at the string of her bow, the final one, on the other hand, was by far the most dangerous one.
Obviously a mage even if they did try to disguise the staff in their hand as a walking stick, the flaps of fabric that rested on his shoulders clearly demonstrated that the man had come from the circle, this was only compounded by the fact when she watched the man push a hand into his purse withdraw a slowing blue potion and then down it quickly. A lyrium potion she noted, the man as getting ready for a fight.
Checking around the area for more of these possible attackers she counted much to her growing shock and trepidation that there were at least thirty of them and the number was still growing. Concerned she turned to Nat hoping that he would continue the conversation and put her at rest.
"Assassins, bandits, spies, anti mages, deluded individuals perhaps even a few religious zealots"
"Zealots, who of"
"The Chantry maybe? Perhaps some old religion that has only recently gained popularity once again, who knows? What I can tell is that these individuals are not random thugs, their skilled, dangerous, they've done this before."
"I noticed that as well, they move too swiftly. I think we should move our ambush area, somewhere that isn't so confined"
"Agreed" Nat stated firmly his own eyes constantly flickering between the ever-growing numbers of assassins and mages that lurked in the area, it was a rather telling amount he thought especially in how much it informed them of the ones responsible for the death of their guards. Locking gazes with one of them subtly he ver quickly peered inside their minds and took a peek at their memories seeing what they were here for and why they wanted them dead.
Just as he approached the first-person mind, he detected the first attack. Moving with expert grace he pulled his wand up instantly forming a powerful shield around himself as a blast of fire came hurtling towards them only to crash into the shield with a mighty roar.
Fire blasted around the side of the shield, racing around them for a few metres blasting the stones off the very ground apart sending them up into the air at incredible speed turning them into small missiles that sped first upwards and then down as gravity took a hold of them pelting and instantly killing a few of the nearby locals.
There was no time to delay however as straight afterwards the next series of attacks came racing towards them, first a series of arrows that were let loose from the quick draw and aim of the elven assassins at they threw off their cloaks and took a shot at them, this was then followed by the feeling of magic smashing through the area as a hail of spells came hurtling towards the two members of the Inquisition.
Loud devastating crack followed after powerful hisses and bellowing roars as all around them the surroundings of the once neat and tidy floor of the city of Orlais exploded around them in a cacophony of elements. Fire, ice, lightning, earth, and even raw force rushed to meet them blasting, tearing, burning and freezing the entire plaza turning it so many colours and into different forms that within only a few seconds all those who had been within the area lay dead their bodies broken and shattered in a million different ways as spells arrows continued to race towards the centre.
More heavy blasts followed and the same was with the wind, old stone houses were ripped asunder, the pieces of stone being flung into the area as though a giant had picked them up with his own hands and hefted them into the sky like a catapult. The winds upon crashing against the centre had gained such a ferocious speed and force that after turning the other spells that had fallen upon the Inquisition members into a whirling hurricanes that span and span around them suffocating the air, lifting the stones and very floor off the ground itself as the air howled with a righteous fury.
It did not end there as blast after blast of fire and ice combined with the occasional spark of blue lightning forced it's way through the howling swirling wind, leaving gaping holes for but a movement only tot hen close up as it hammered towards where the wizard should have been.
Moments passed at first then minutes until after a span of five whole minutes of endless cacophony of magic of all forms had ripped apart the centre did the mages having expended so much magic so rapidly finally relax loosening their connection to the fade no longer calling upon it as they began to breathe heavily as they gained their breath back from the exertion.
Smiling as they did so, they smirked amongst themselves victory obvious. Nothing could have survived that sudden bombardment, not even a grand enchanter even with all their power and experience had lost so much of their speed due to age that they could have won, or at least that was what they thought.
Without any warning or notice the whirlwind still howling was cut silent as it died a sudden death the once harsh fast winds that could easily shred a person's skin or lift a person up spinning them at such high speed that the force alone would have killed them, just vanishing. Their breath caught in their mouth suddenly the elves gaping as the moment the whirlwind vanished allowing them to bear witness as instead of a destroyed piece of land, their bodies smashed and broken or obliterated and burnt leaving no trace remaining or even yet a large crater from where they would have stood and the land blasted apart by such magical mastery, there in front of them stood Nat.
His wand as his side lowered casually not even glowing, his hair as always impeccable and neat and his glasses n his face were undamaged, in his left hand was wrapped the body of the Inquisitor who he was now swiftly letting go out of a once-tight grip as he had pulled her close to his body her chest pushing against his, her head on his shoulder the concern on her face vanished and replaced with an angry look as she spun her staff around a few times her eyes glowing with ethereal power and a promise of pain contorting her normally beautiful features. Slowly sensing the trepidation and fear on the elves faces she summoned up a small flame in her hand, inspecting it for any flaws though she knew there not to be any. She smiled cruelly, her eyes fixed on one particular young mage only a few years older than her who seemed to be gulping loudly. Amused she changed her movements turning them into slow sensual movements causing a few chuckles from her as she watched the thing blush awkwardly and then move his hands downwards to cover a sudden bulge.
"Well, I must say I'm terribly disappointed" Nat's calm and measured voice rang throughout the area, sending shivers and scared looks down the spines of the non-mages. "None of you can keep a bombardment up for longer than five minutes" He shook his head a merciless chuckle rising out from sending quite a few of the elves sprawling backwards in fear. "No pardon me it's worse than that, none of you could keep it up for over five minutes and that was with the use of potions" He shook his head again forming over him. "I feel so sorry for your lovers; I guess that must have been the reason for your attack. Get rid of all the people who are better than you and then they have to settle for second best. "Nat let out another sigh and shook his head as though he was a disappointed teacher who was telling of some kids in reception. "What to tell your teachers?, how about what a disappointment you are, no that won't do the inability to keep a single intense barrage up for over five minutes is a massive failure on your part, frankly I'm just shocked at how pathetic your attempt on my life was."
"Shut up" One of the voices finally rang out. Nat turned his head in a slow exaggerated manner until he met the eyes of the one who had decided to speak. The one who had yelled was in their mid-thirties, they were average looking, bald, and equipped in typical servant builds they helped to emphasise their more slender but also weaker forms compared to humans. The man was experienced, Nat could see a man hardened by many previous battles yet he saw the rivets of sweat the man was trying to hide, obviously that "intense bombardment" had tired him out.
"Now that is just not on form" Nat replied mockingly. "I try to talk in a nice respectful way to you and yet you respond in such an in-eloquent manner. What would your enchanter say" The man visibly bristles at the tone some of his hair standing on end as he dust and ice that had been flung around settled in it giving the man a rather smoky and unkempt look?
"Shut up, you're supposed to be dead" The man demanded angrily.
"Dead" Nat turned slightly towards Valeyna his face holding a fake confused look. "Did you hear that Inquisitor I'm supposed to be dead" Valeyna grinned at the act and put on her own surprised look as she looked him up and down inspecting him as closely s she could on this rare time she had been given permission.
"But you look alive, how can that be so?"
"I know, I very much feel alive but this man says I should be dead. I don't understand though, that attack if that's what they want to call it did absolutely nothing. It's a shame really, all that magical expenditure for nothing" He shrugged his shoulders and turned back to the elves who still watched them closely. "I'm so very sorry, I didn't get your name, is there a problem you have with my or the Inquisitor, I can very much assure you that if there is you can always voice it to our head of customer complaints Josephine, the address is the Holy Inquisitions headquarters, Skyhold, Ferelden."
"Inquisition" One of the men muttered suddenly very fearful their skin paling whiter than even the snow, so much so in fact that before he could even get another word out the man fainted there and there dropping to the floor in a loud heavy thump.
"Well, I've heard of people fainting when they met celebrities but I always had assumed it to be false" Nat said giving the man a comforting look before then turning his gaze towards the others greeting them with a small happy face as though he was one of those celebrities on the red carpet who was actually happy to meet their fans instead of like him absolutely despising them. "Well I'm Nathanael Tempest the second in command of the most holy Inquisition and this marvellous example of beauty and feminine charm as well as magical martial prowess in the Lady Inquisitor" At the mention of her name Valeyna gave a deep low curtsy a radiant smile on her face that helped emphasise her hair as it seemed to shine like the bright light of the sun cut a swathe through the gradually setting smoke of the destroyed buildings. "Now how may I assist you"
"Tempest, as in the butcher Tempest? The one who massacred the Templar's?" One of the elves muttered fearfully their legs shaking and their breath heavy as their hearts began to beat incredibly quickly their eyes only widening as the illusion that Nat had put around them faded in a spectacular manner revealing the two for who they were.
"Yes that would be me, it's a pleasure to meet you, may I have your names please" Behind him, Valeyna did her best not to laugh as a sudden dark silence took over the group. Nobody dared move, not the oldest of the mages that were gathered around them to the youngest newest hopefuls who had lowered their bows their faces full of fear, all of them were turning pale their eyes flickering to one another begging silently for any idea on what they should do. Most froze their breaths too caught up in their throat. In front of her she caught Nat's grinned as he bowed deeply his left-hand placed on his chest firmly, he stayed there for a moment leaving a very clear opening for anyone to attack but they didn't.
Valeyna stood there her mind whizzing at the scene, others she knew would not have hesitated to attack her but the palpable fear in these people's eyes, the way that some of the attackers just collapsed to their knees their first hand brushed against what remained of the ruined floor their heads brushed against the stone as they silently begged the maker to lend them strength. Was this the reputation Nat had gained she asked to herself.
She and the others had heard about how Nat had massacred the Templar's, she had even heard the soldiers speak about it in hushed tones their eyes glancing fearfully at Nat as he walked past them seemingly oblivious to the rumours that followed his every step. It was disturbing she guessed such information, but she hadn't thought of it much instead she had been happy with the news, some as no small amount of vengeance had been enacted against their enemies, the blood that was lost at haven avenged by their young mage. But for these assassins to fear him, for their knees to visibly shake as they battled internally to seemingly grasp control of their bodies and make a decision on their next course of action, it was absurd, as though these people believed Nat was a demon, only worse and far more deadly. The concert of silence that had surrounded the area was only cut off by one fell cry.
"Kill him" One demanded.
"Are you crazy" A panicked voice resounded back. "That's the Templar butcher, he killed every Templar in Thedas in under a week, he tore down the Templar's fortresses and mutilated their corpses and put them on spikes. How in the Makers name do we stand a chance if not even the fucking Templar's could do anything"
"He's just one kid what can he do" Not waiting for any further refusals the owner of the voice went to move only for the sickening sound of something like steel tearing through flesh and bone and blood to sound out only then followed by a heavy thump as the man's vertically sliced corpses landed on the ground in perfect symmetry.
"I would heavily advise you not doing that, doing so would be very... painful" Nat chuckled darkly his eyes quickly glancing to all of the assembled people who simply watched from the side their fearful expressions fixed on the man who now lay dead."
"Did you see that" One asked
"Didn't even move" The other replied their head-turning so quickly back to the person who had just lain their leader.
"Now ladies and gentlemen I'm going to politely ask you a question and you are going to respond, failure to do so and I will kill one of you understand" The would-be killers nodded vigorously. "Good, who are you?"
"We're part of the Antivan crows" A man cried out only to be quietened to the horror of the others as a silver spear appeared and slammed through his chest impaling the man through the head and then slamming several metres away from the man still attached into a wall where his body lay limp. Nat turned to them a neutral expression replacing the fake cheerful one.
"I didn't think I would have had to mention this rule, but no lying, do so and well" Nat gestured his head towards both the dead impaled man and the man split apart by a lone cutting curse. A muttering of horrified and shocked faces looked at one another and then back to the wizard, perhaps they had thought that this kid hadn't been the real deal, after all, he was younger than all of they were and unlike most of their more physically strong friends, the clothing he wore gave nothing away about the physique of his body. Yet the way he had so easily held of their assault and then dispatched their leader and another member without even looking or caring had shown them off.
"We don't know" One of the others admitted. Nat turned his head towards them forcing the speaker to gulp down as they realised that the full attention for their possible murderer was now fully upon them and there was nothing they could do, not even with the weapons at their disposal. "We only ever met an agent, dark cloak, wore a mask had a young's man voice"
"And where did you meet this individual, were you a group before all this" The elf shook their heads not once daring to look at Nat fearing that doing so would unleash some form of anger that would kill them there and then.
"No, they sent invitations to all of our weeks ago, had private meetings with groups of us until we all came together. We met in the Empress's whore" Nat resisted the urge to spit in disgust at the name of what he was going to presume was some form of a tavern or worse whore house. How in Merlin's name a woman like Celene would allow for such a building to stay up he didn't know, but more than likely he had a feeling the name was not done out of respect for the woman.
"It's location, and why did you attack us"
"It's in the east, nearby the docks" The voice squeaked nervously. "We weren't told to attack you, just watch that blacksmith and report back on anyone who spoke to him, our leader attacked you I don't know why" Nat turned his attention to the corpse he had split in half only moments ago giving it a dull and unimpressed look. That had been their leader, he tsked that bastard hadn't even been able to raise any sort of shield before he'd cut him up, it was truly pathetic especially for a group of assassins.
"And aside from a mask, and that it was a woman's voice, and that she wore a dark cloak, what did this woman look like, how did she sound" The voice quivered again stopping as they took in a gasping breath of air, as Nat's stare continued to spear him deeply as though he was skewing a wild boar. "Practical clothing, she carried a set of knives and she had some lock picks on her left belt, she wasn't foreign though. had a native accent"
"I see, and could she be found there now" The defeated mage shook their head tears starting to pour out from her eyes as she felt he gasping breath become painful as though somehow Nat had grasped her by the throat and began constricting.
"No, she said she couldn't be found even if we wanted, told us to leave notes in the whore if we saw anyone, she said we'd know if we have done our job"
"And where was this box placed," Nat asked his voice low and quiet his stare hard and ruthless as he glanced at these defeated individuals.
"Under a desk, the whore's owner said she put them in a safe"
"I see," Nat said softly his harsh glare vanishing in an instant. Free of the strange pressure the mage took another deep breath allowing the sweet taste of oxygen even if it had been filled with dust and other particles from the battle fill his lungs.
"Mercy sir I beg you, please grant us mercy. We only did what we were told, please let us live" The mage begged.
"Mercy" Nat said slowly his eyes sweeping across the terrified bunch of individuals, they couldn't run away even if they wanted, in their haste to blast him and Valeyna into nothing they had not noticed as he had very carefully applied a powerful sticking spell forcing them to stay stuck the floor something that as a few of them tried to back away nervously only noticed as their feet sunk into the ground forcing a horrified scream from them. "You beg for my mercy after you and your compatriots here just attempted to take my life as well as that of my companion, you beg for life when you so easily cut down the lives of all those men and women up north. You ask that I spare you"
"Please" One of the voices cried out. "We didn't know it was you if we had, then we would have"
"You would have spared me?" Nat said darkly hiding his disgust. They were at his mercy now and unable to move or escape he took advantage of it, silently peering into their memories watching the most recent things that had occurred looking for a very specific incident. The death of those men and women concerned him, that had been no natural death, not by mortal hands, and certainly not by this lot as despite their previous experience in killing the memories of victim after victim falling by the wayside like the cascade of waterfall down a steep cliff, he could not help but feel his irritation grow as he saw nothing that he wanted.
These were not the ones responsible for the death of the men, they were another set of pawns hired on what they had assumed to be a safe mission of killing anyone who dared speak to the blacksmith. It was an easy mission but one that had caused resentment due to what they believed to be lacklustre pay as there were far too many of them to do one simple job when only a few of them had been needed.
They would pay for that failure.
"Yes, if we had known that the inquisition" One of the voice began to speak but was cut off when with a quick and sharp movement Nat launched a spell at the owner of the annoying and grating voice, decapitating the head of the body in a single clean stroke.
"You would have told your employer" Nat finished the sentence for him his eyes eerily calm as they locked onto the faces of all of these elves, he smiled cruelly. "Well I can't have that now can I" With a harsh movement Nat thrust his wand outwards in a circular form a long leash of golden flames extending from the tip extending several metres before then bringing it down with a long extended slash moving his body in a spin as he did so.
As the whip of blazing fire melted it's way through the flesh, clothing and armour that the group had worn, melting and killing the-would-be assassins instantly as the group were split in half leaving a very fine and quick molten line from where their body had been cut in two, Nat let out a bored sigh before then ending the spell in an instant where he turned back to the inquisitor.
"Well that was rather dull" Nat said again his voice entirely casual once more as he flicked his wand a number of times vanishing the corpses of everyone around them one by one which was then followed by another flick which like how she had witnessed back at Skyhold initiated a repairing process of the destroyed part of the city sending rubble, timber, stone, food and everything bar the living organisms back to the state that they had been in leaving the city in a near-perfect state. With another flick, Nat then vanished the blood of the wall and then returned his wall and smiled at the Inquisitor. "Seriously, twenty-two mages in that group and not one of them could cast a spell for over five minutes even with potions, utterly pathetic they'd never make duellist level" He tsked and turned back towards the blacksmith. "What a shame though, it's going to make that person far harder to track now"
"Why did they attack" Valeyna interrupted her eyes furrowed in thought. "It sounds like they only attacked in alleyways or places that they could hide their victims, so why attack here in the open where everybody could see?"
"That is an excellent question, though one to be answered later, our first concern has to be leaving this place before the Empresses guards come" Nat answered as he turned once more to look at the chaos and destruction that had been inflicted upon the area. No small amount of damage had been done in their failed attack and enough had been dealt in such a short and well-planned attack that the roup did deserve what professional ranking it had, of course, that only meant their services hadn't come cheap.
"Right, I'll lead I've been here before" Nodding in agreement, Nat quickly followed Valeyna as she left the two of them out of the destroyed then repaired square, taking them through all kinds of back alleys and streets before then rushing onto a major road where with thanks to a reapplication of the relevant illusion spells, the two of them blended into the crowds of people and began heading their way towards the other side of the city.
Unfortunately for them however, while they moved swiftly, the large throng of screaming civilians as they raced through old streets, the short amount of peace and respite they had initially gained from escaping the destroyed area was lost as they became aware of the large group of soldiers who all began marching towards them in the distance.
Clad in heavy armour that reflected the bright suns light from the distance, it became increasingly obvious what the guards' main job was, something that only caused screams from the locals as they formed a disciplined line before lowering their pikes forwards ad began to march at a slow but consecutive pace towards them.
"They're trying to trap us," Valeyna said her eyes moving quickly over to the far end of the city, where another group of soldiers were beginning their march. Soon enough everyone would be pushed together so tightly in this road that they had found themselves on that nobody would be able to mount an attack or more importantly escape.
"Of course they are, those mages just blew up an entire square."
"Well can't you do something?"
"Like what exactly"
"Cast some type of illusion, distract the guards, anything" Nat looked at the guards carefully. Now that they were closer he could see the discipline in their eyes, the strong and steady rhythmic march that they had when they approached with their pikes brought forward. There was not a single fault he could see within the ranks, they were experienced and the constant observation from them all as they looked for any trouble makers only cemented the wizards position that these were veteran troops, men and the odd woman here and there that had served in battle and better yet than that, had killed more than their fair share of their enemies, taking their lives and ending them quickly or brutally.
"No, they're too well trained"
"They can see through it" Valeyna exclaimed. Nat shook his head.
"No, they can't see our proper appearance, but with what's happened they very likely have orders not to let anyone pass, not even nobility. If we were to approach we would only be sent back or attacked or worse. Our better chance is to escape, quietly, where no one's looking"
"They'll go through every house, we couldn't hide" Valeyna rebuked.
"We don't need to, see the positions of the guards," Nat said quietly as he pointed to where all the guards and soldiers were positioned. "They're in the alleyways and on the roofs but even then they're looking down at us, if we can get out the back into a different street we should hopefully be able to come up behind them and make our way elsewhere"
"And the other streets that are being rounded, up, do you have a plan for how to deal with them" For a moment Nat considered telling the truth to the Inquisitor, that he could very easily escape their notice and without any issues whatsoever. He very likely knew what her reaction would be were he to tell her he could turn them invisible or put a muggle repelling charm around a house so that while the guards when out arresting people left, right and centre for conspiracy, they could sit down, kick back and relax, perhaps even play a game of cards or read a book in some random person's house, or at least do so until everything blew over. It would rather humour or so one might think were it not for the other consequences.
"I can easily get us through them, but we have more serious concerns. With the blacksmith dead"
"The one who hired the assassins is going to run the moment they hear about it" Valeyna added in a concerned voice. Nat nodded. "Why don't you disguise us as guards, that way we can move around the city freely and nobody would suspect anything".
"Can't, we're surrounded, the moment our clothes change out of nowhere people will notice, not to mention the city is likely about to go into lockdown, if any other guard meets us and we can't explain why we're not where we're supposed to be, they'll just attack us".
"Then what do you propose we do, if this mission was supposed to be stealthy, you've failed at that" Nat chuckled slightly.
"No plan survives first contact with the enemy is how the phrase goes. Don't worry though I have a plan, this morning when I was driving Dorian and I discussed where we should regroup in Orlais should we ever get separated and we can't make it to our agency office" Valeyna raised an eyebrow before she nodded at him. "We said the best place to meet would be at the university, it's an obvious place to get too, I can pull off a convincing noble impression and Dorian is nobility"
"You think they'll just let you in because you can pull off being noble"
"Of course not Inquisitor, don't take me as a fool. I can pull off being a young genius who has recently been sent to the school to take my lessons at the greatest academy of learning in all of Thedas"
"And me, the university doesn't accept elves"
"They will accept my elven servant after all however could I Nathanael Tempest heir to the noble house of Tempest ever be expected to perform such menial tasks as washing my own clothing or preparing my own food, that is the work of servants" Nat said quickly his voice rising and taking on a far more regal tone then he ever spoke with, in fact as he spoke Valeyna could only watch as his entire body position moved, instead of his ever casual but calm appearance as denoted by his jacket and trousers, he instead seemed rich, powerful, mighty, his eyes while still kept hidden from her she could easily imagine were full with contempt for the others around him and his relaxed expression was now tight and rigid as though he was sneering at the mere peasantry that surrounded him. But what surprised her most, however, was the brief moment when he seemingly locked eyes with one of the upcoming guard captains, a wave of defiance seemed to wash over him daring to challenge the guard to dare tell him what to do. Also at that moment, the way his arm ever strapped to his waist seemed to become far more deadly as the wizard placed the hand on the handle of the blade firmly and gripped tightly with his fingers as though he had been incensed and was about to cut down an elf for daring to speak back with him. Yet all that vanished as just as quickly it appeared it vanished as Nat's small act vanished and he gave a comforting look. "Come on let's go"
Quickly he grabbed her hand in his holding it tightly lest he let go and lose her in this ever-growing and constricting crowd of people. Just as she had said, Nat saw how people were being forced together into a large and larger pile, while individuals pursued by guards brought other groups of people and pushed them all into their pile. Through all this pushing, however, nobody noticed as under their illusions Nat dragged his companion to the side and came across a door to an average-looking house.
With not even a word said, he used his magic casting the basic first yea charm on the locked piece of wood forcing it to open to his will where wit a gentle hand he pushed the door open and pulled the Inquisitor inside before then closing the door and locking it again.
"Okay now what, guards are going to be crawling around the roads and those that aren't will be posted on roofs to make sure people don't try to escape that way, not to mention they'll have guards in the sewer systems so don't even think about taking me to a damp smell black place" Valeyna asked her voice growing louder as she felt safer within the confines of these walls.
"Well it's the sewers or I strap you to a rubber band and fire you across the city" Natr quipped sharply as he conjured a map of the city layout and placed it on a nearby table before then with another spell he set alight the small number of candles that had been placed there giving the two enough light to see.
"They're likely rounding everyone u into these areas," Valeyna said pointing to several paces on the map. "We've likely been cordoned off so quickly because we're near a few guardhouses and we're close to the explosion, had we been somewhere else we would have had more time."
"Good hopefully that gives Dorian enough time to meet us at the university"
"And if not," Valeyna said questioningly.
"We leave a note and continue on our own"
"Is that wise, wouldn't it be better to wait for Dorian and Cole to catch up. I mean Cole could be useful, with his ability to read minds"
"Very useful" Nat admitted. "But as I said we're on the clock and we may only have hours at most before our target manages to find out whatever happened and manages to leave without a trace, and if that happens there's nothing that I can do" That was false of course, he knew who he was looking for and that person was not going to leave his sight, but he couldn't just tell the Inquisitor that he had already seen the person, he needed to act more concerned then he actually was.
"Then why don't we head to the Empresses whore"
"Because if they're intelligent then they would have been able to roughly work out where the explosion came from and if that's the case, they'll move away from the place and take any information with them just to make sure that nothing is revealed"
"Then what's to stop them from taking a ship"
"Regulations" Nat answered. "The Orlesian guard here is surprisingly competent, the moment that explosion went of they would be under orders not to let anyone leave which means that if anybody did try to board a ship or a boat and especially so soon after the explosion, they're likely to be detained"
"How do you know all this?"
Leliana, during our lessons she instructed me what to do, should something occur when I was in the city in the chance that I was performing a job for her. She told me how they deal with problems and where the best places are to hide"
"The university" Valeyna realised with wide eyes. "That's one of the best places to hide in the city, I would have thought a nobles house or somewhere else" Nat shook his head.
"Surprisingly, the university has somewhat more lax security measures, especially when they want to get more nobles in to join so they can get more money. They even offer walk-in demonstrations, all you need it the ability to look rich, sound rich and be able to showcase knowledge of certain things"
"You think they can disguise themselves well enough to get into the university" Nat shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know in all honesty, the fact is that our thief has gone running and it will take too long to catch up with them if we can at all. They could be hiding anywhere and we wouldn't know which makes me think that the captain had orders to on purposely make as loud an explosion as possible. Draw attention to the place to get the guards out and their employer at the same time can escape likely with a predetermined route"
"You don't know do you," Valeyna said her disappointment showing. "I thought"
"I' don't know everything, but what I do know is that we need a safe place to hide and rest in the city, something that we've lost. Should the city go back to normal then we can go to the tavern later and track down clues if we have too, all we'd need would be some small thing, gold, ripped fabric may be a gem. All the things we might be able to get out of the manger of the place, but until then we have to remain undetected."
"But why, you're powerful enough to beat anyone who comes against you and your illusion spells could easily hide us as a horse or wagon. Why not go straight for the tavern" Nat sighed and looked at the Inquisitor, while she did have a point, even with his limited self-imposed skill set he could get us to the tavern, the fact of the matter was that he didn't want to rush things as odd as it sounded.
"Because despite the warning, our person will not simply retreat without knowing who was investigating. With those mages and anybody else who was nearby or within earshot dead, the mercenaries employer will have no clue who was responsible"
"Oh, I get it," Valeyna said suddenly. "If they're trying to work out who's investigating they're going to need to come back or send somebody else to find out what happened, especially since the mages are dead. When that happens we can find their employees and tail them back to the employer" Nat nodded glad the Inquisitor was finally starting to learn how to strategise and make sound logical arguments or better yet at least have an understanding why he did what he did.
"Exactly, were we to rush into the tavern, not only will we miss them and it be made harder trying to track them down due to the chaos and panic making it harder for people to recall, but it also makes it harder for them to learn who we are as we didn't arrive within only a short time of the explosion. Instead we go to the university, hide their as potential students and don't visit the office for Leliana's spies, once there we'll then casually investigate the scene ask what happened and perhaps over a the span of a few days create a normal scenic pattern of walk which will make it look entirely natural for us to pass by the area" Valeyna squinted her eyes not sure of the plan, slowly she glanced towards the map recognising the layout from a time that she and a friend had snuck into the city when they were younger in a desperate attempt to have a look at the "stupid shemlen" They had used the sewers to do so and she still remembered the rank and horrid smell that had taken weeks to come out of her clothing.
Since then she had visited several more times even if only at the outer layers of the city lest she drew too much attention to her clan resulting in them having to fight for their lives against hostile humans.
"Okay we'll need to go down here," She said pointing towards a few routes. "The most obvious route is faster, but we can't afford to show that was our destination, the guards will know that a mage was responsible and the moment we start knocking people out down there they'll track us. So we need to come out early and sneak the rest of the way, the only problem is getting to the sewers, the nearest entrance is a few streets that way." She shook her head uncomfortably at the thought of entering that dark and rather disgusting place again, in fact, the more her mind imagined the place the more she felt her stomach churn until it got to the point that it was trying not to lurch.
"No we don't," Nat said helpfully. This place we're in is part of the inner city which should mean that these houses are connected to the sewer network."
"Yeah, but would only be a short" She froze suddenly and shuddered in realisation. "You're not serious, you want us to go down the-"
"I'll cast spells on us, Inquisitor, don't worry you won't have to deal with whatever horrid things are down there, all we need is a path" Valeyna looked doubtful at that, yes Nat could do some incredible feats of magic, not an hour ago he had repaired the broken piece of a shattered city, making everything look brand new as though nothing had happened, there was no blood now, something that would confuse the soldiers, but there would also be no blacksmiths and several other people something that was bound to lead to suspicions of blood magic. But that had been relatively simple stuff, not particularly foul and rank as the idea of wading knee-deep in the faeces of other people, as thick slimy pieces. She gripped the table hard again and shuddered pausing only to give Nat a quick but stern warning.
"It better work"
"You doubt my skills"
"If I come out of this smelling like shit you are single handily, washing the smell from my body, replacing my clothes and becoming my personal servant for a month" Nat shrugged his shoulders, not at all bothered by the thin threats of the Inquisitor, this would be an easy job, a few simple spells and it would instead be like dancing in a meadow of bright and nice smelling flowers as though they were in the middle of spring rather than going that route.
"And should it work, what do I get"
"Me, as your servant for a month" Valeyna responded without any hesitation before she then took on a sultry grin. "And as your servant, it would naturally be my job to"
"No," Nat said immediately "I don't need a servant, I have magic for that"
"You're no fun," She said dejectedly.
"How about you spend more time on your duties then your... other activities shall we call them," Nat said before then muttering quietly. "That should earn me a favour from Cassandra"
"You're no fun, I know Bull would have taken me up on my offer"
"I'm not an 8-foot tall grey-skinned bull-man with a bunch of horns that have no other purpose then drying the laundry and likes getting hit with a stick to clear his mental problems" Nat rebuked.
"No you're much sterner" Valeyna joked. "And you don't have the muscle I mean compared to him I bet your arms are like a toothpick"
"And what does that make you Inquisitor, a porcelain vase, so delicate and fragile that with one misstep Bull will smash you into a set of shards to be discarded and thrown away. Or that you simply crack and split at the merest touch"
"Wouldn't you like to know" She smirked daring him to come over and grab her firmly and see how his strength compared to the tough man. Unfortunately, as always, Nat saw through her ploy and simply turned around as he headed to where he assumed to be the location of the nearest hole in the floor that these savages counted as a fucking toilet. It didn't take very long, all he had to do was follow his nose, open the door and then he was met with a pungent odour that vanished the moment he flicked his wand removing not only the smell but then replacing it with the scent of lavender.
"Come on, we've wasted enough time, let's get to the university before Dorian get's there. " Shuddering once more Valeyna approached and took in a deep breath of the fresh-smelling air allowing herself to relax for a few seconds in her own world as Nat allied the necessary charms on the both of them that would ultimately leave them free of what was surely bound to come and tray and ruin their day. When that was accomplished, Nat with another click of his wand vanished the contents of others bowels from the long dark thin walls and then lifted the lid again with magic lest he touch something though nothing existed. With that done he exchanged a look with the inquisitor, stepped into the hole and allowed himself to slide down.
"You so fucking owe me Nat" Valeyna whispered before then jumping down after him.
They landed with a splash, a horrible putrid, splash that though their protected senses couldn't sense, Valeyna thanked Nat even if the bubble of pure air that surrounded her mouth and nose felt extremely weird they could detect was still incredibly foul. What made it worse, however, was that no manner of spells was able to save her from the hideous sight as she watched this slow-moving river of raw filth to the side and slightly lower them, move past and away from them as it headed towards where the sea was from. Again Valeyna shuddered and vowed never to fall into the water nearby the port.
"Well this is pleasant" She muttered as she looked around, the bright ball of dazzling white light that she assumed Nat had conjured hovering above them illuminating the entire area allowing her to start navigating their way.
"I don't know what's worse in all honesty, the fact that I'm actually in a sewer system intentionally or the fact that modern filtration has not been invented yet so all this shit goes into the sea rather than be recycled"
"Say what now," Valeyna said turning a horrified face towards her companion. "You don't seriously mean"
"Yep, we recycled our filthy water. Don't worry though it was perfectly safe, the number of safety precautions and machines we used purified the water to an amazing degree, in fact, the water we drank is far safer you'll find anything in Thedas unless it's made of magic, but all the same it' something I didn't particularly like thinking about"
"You still drank piss water, should I be concerned" Nat face palmed.
"I just said"
"I know I'm joking. Anyway let's leave quickly I don't want to be in here any more then you do, the area the university is in is this way"
"Lead the way then" Not wasting a single moment and thus allowing them to stay in this place any more than was absolutely needed, Valeyna rapidly led them through the twisting and turning dark passages that made up the underground sewer systems. As they did so Valeyna was very much pleased to discover that Na had not been fucking around with her since once she had nearly lost her footing and thought she was going to slip, even though Nat caught her before she did so, she saw as the actual filth that clung to the tunnels down here actually parted before her very eyes, seemingly repulsed by her presence and staying as far away from her as was physically possible. When asked Nat just simply smiled telling her that it was a mix of spells that would automatically clean the area that they were in and a few other spells that would repulse less than stellar things from approaching, something that was again appreciated when she noticed the glowing beady eyes of what she knew to be larger than average rats as they tracked her every movement.
Nonetheless, however, they were again made aware of the presence of these horrid creatures when as they crossed a river, made possible as Nat again showed his worth in her eye's by conjuring a nice bridge protecting them from the filth. Once they crossed, however, it went on only to reveal the half-eaten corpse of some poor woman. Valeyna winced at the site, one of the woman's eyes had been eaten entirely and the other was left dangling out of its skull. Most of the head's flesh had been cleaved off showing nothing but the pale cream colour of the woman's skeletons, but the worst part was the knees where they could see visible notches int the bone where the rats had no doubt chewed the woman upbringing her down so they could then gorge on the rest of her dead corpse.
"Lovely place" Nat muttered before vanishing the corpse from existence entirely. He would have set it alight, given the woman's likely religious beliefs and custom, but given the fact that he was in a sewer, he would prefer not to potentially set the whole thing alight by accident and instead simply muttered a quick, rest in peace before moving on.
"If I die, give my body back to my clan, they know what to do," Valeyna said her eyes a mix of sorrow as she glanced back to where the dead woman had been and revulsion at the poor state she had been in. Nobody should be forced to a fate where they were eaten by rats, it was cruel and unusual especially for that woman who had likely died alone.
"Certainly" Nat agreed. "And If I die, destroy my corpse. Don't just burn it once, don't bury it, destroy it entirely, I want absolutely nothing left of me whatsoever."
"Why, don't you want people something to remember you bye, would t burial be better" Nat shook his head disturbed by the mental image of the idea of his dead body being lowered into the earth by some type of rope while he lay in a wooden box. Merlin that was a horrid thought, to be displayed in such a fashion, it was hideous.
"Merlin no. Destroy my corpse, the last thing I want is some asshole using my body for something. I mean with inferior, undead skeletons, demons and everything else, I refuse point blank to be some shmucks tool in their fucking plans. No destroy my corpse and allow me to tell all that would defile my corpse that they can fuck right off."
"I guess that's understandable I wouldn't want to come back either, nor would I want to fight a family member who had been taken over by a demon"
"Yeah because it's the emotional trauma of other people that I'm concerned about," Nat said sarcastically trying to imagine anybody whether in this universe or his other universe who would care in the slightest about slaying his undead likely shambling corpse. After a few minutes of half intense thinking, he shook his head and came to the correct conclusion that nobody would care if he died.
"Come on men this way, you heard the captain, they're likely going to escape down the sewer" A loud voice from a fair distance away echoed down the halls. It was a powerful one Nat noticed, and one that was nevertheless filled with that Merlin awful French accent, how anyone in their right minds found it sexy especially the females in Hogwarts when they had met and visited Beaubatons during the Triwizard tournament was utterly beyond him, none the less he simply moved forward and when he believed it best he undid the light spell before then disguising Valeyna and himself as some old barrels that had been left behind and were now coated in the horrible material that ran by the side of them.
"Sweet Maker, who would be so stupid enough to escape down here, I mean the smell"
"Stop complaining" Another man shouted his voice obviously done with the other two. "We were told to get down here and look and that's what we're going to do"
"But commander, there not going to be down here, besides you heard the rumours, a mage was responsible, how are we supposed to fight the mage"
"Or the rats" One added in helpfully turning around and revealing themselves to the two members of the Inquisition.
"I count seven" Valeyna whispered.
"Let them pass, they shouldn't detect us"
"And if they do" Valeyna whispered slightly more concerned.
"I know a spell to attract rats"
"Do I want to know why?"
"I have thousands of spells in my head Inquisitor, some for combat, some for housework, some that were simply part of the book I was reading and I decided to memorise because I was bored. Suffice to say I can get the rats just as easily as I can repel them" Valeyna chuckled grimly.
"Should I call you the rat king then?"
"Hardly, it was a more common spell a few hundred years ago though it's fallen out of favour, especially after the Pied Piper decided to turn up and tarnish the spells entire reputation"
"Stole a bunch of children several hundred years ago. it's believed to be a fairy tale by most, an allegory of something else that was happening at the time."
"And in truth"
"A major dark ritual, It was stopped, but not before every single child had to be put down. Nasty business"
"Why were the children killed" Nat shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't know," He said keeping his voice down honestly his attention occasionally catching on the odd rat that might pass.
"What do you mean you don't know, I would have thought if children went missing for some kind of dark spell that answers would be demanded"
"They were Nat admitted. "But seeing as how the government never once gave any clues other than the apology for the dead children it, it can very likely be assumed that whatever was being attempted was something best lest people wondering Most likely it was so bad that admitting the truth would be so demoralising it would cause a huge despair and obviously any sort of lie would get found out quickly enough so they just closed the records off to everyone" Valeyna nodded understanding the motive, she could very easily see her Keeper doing the same thing were they to encounter something so utterly evil. True there would be those who went out to investigate what happened as people always allowed curiosity to lead them, but on the other, it was very likely for the better that nobody ever found out. Still, she could not help but wonder.
"What do you think it was?"
"No idea, demons are my first guess but there could have been other things at work and in all honesty, I would prefer not to think about the cause behind a story and a threat defeated centuries ago".
"Do you think Corypheus could do something similar" Nat raised an eyebrow at the question. "I mean when it comes to getting to the Black city again" There was silence for a few moments as Nat considered the subject matter, it had been something that had crossed his mind when he first learned of the identity of their foe and once again when he had shown Cullen and the others the Architect still hung in its trap only to be looked upon by authorised eyes only.
"I would suspect he would certainly try," Nat said finally his pale skin seeming to shin as the bright light hovered over the two of them. "Though I would suspect it would be far more difficult this time seeing as he has neither the dead elves, servants, magic, safe location and his fellow Magisters with him.
"So he plans to win the war then, beat us and make it safe to do the ritual. Well, tat's a relief, at least we don't have to worry about him ripping giant holes into the fade" Valeyna said content happy to know that the likelihood of having to deal with some kind of all-powerful Corypheus would be limited.
"Are we not going to mention the hole in the sky?" Nat said sarcastically.
"I closed that"
"For now that is true, but that does not mean it won't reopen. Who knows how long your solution will still be viable, how do we know that you closed that rift for certain or instead merely sutured the wound for a while giving us time to recover before it becomes active once again. Then again who even knows if it's possible to properly solve the rifts in the first place?
"Seriously," Valeyna said in a concerned manner. Nat sighed loudly and kept walking, his pace was incredibly fast almost as though he was jogging and a few times Valeyna herself had been forced to speed up her movements lest she be left behind in the darkness.
"I don't know" Nat spoke truthfully again not seeing much point in hiding his thoughts on this matter. "Corypheus can be defeated through force of arms; it's why he has his army. Even if we can't kill him we can still immobilise him, but these rifts? I would have liked to believe that once the big one was shut the pace that the others would appear would either slow or stop entirely, the fact that they do not indicate that there is still something at work. What that maybe I can only speculate, should it be done via some servant of the enemy then we may again be given victory via the strength of arms, but should it be natural" There was a lingering silence for a moment as Nat paused his mind racing with terrifying possibilities. "After the last war, my people learned to be more careful"
"Care to tell me more about the war" Nat shook his head.
"It was a small thing really, not much happened. I would bore you were I to tell it" Valeyna scowled.
"Oh come on you can tell me a little, at least whilst we're walking to keep our eyes of this place" And Valeyna was very grateful it was just her eyes getting violated by this place. She could only have imagined what it would have been like had she smelt the filth that flowed like a great horrid river that flowed beside them, and neither would she like to imagine the amount of time she would spend bathing simply to remove all the little drops and spots that would have landed on her from where some of the holes that led to peoples home met the sewer depositing their contents nearby.
"Short version is a man called Archie Duke shot an ostrich because he was hungry."
"What's the long story," Valeyna said doubtfully. Nat almost burst into laughter when he heard that.
"Inquisitor to give you a full account would require a good few hours in a safe location with maps, history books, and a whole load of lessons in politics and the state of world affairs. For now, let's just say a man got shot which brought in alliances of different factions which spiralled out of control and caused at the time, the single worst war the country had ever seen in its history"
"Fine, but I want an answer someday" Valeyna demanded. "And a full one not some short vague thing" Nat nodded in agreement, perhaps he would tell her how the first world war started, then again he wondered he would ever get chance, he knew for dam sure that when he found the one responsible for the attack on the men of the Inquisition their life span would be made very short indeed.
None the less the two continued down the sewers using a mix of the map Nat had and Valeyna's previous visit to the city to navigate their selves around until eventually after a few hours of hiding, talking and the occasional rat killing they found their desired exit shining a few small creases of light shone through the dark void above them.
"You first," Nat said. Valeyna sneered at him about to complain about the filth on the staircase that led down however she had no chance to as before she could realise what had happened her feet were floating in the air and she was rising steadily upwards until she just squeezed through the hole and landed on the cobblestone path outside. Nat followed soon after and moved the manhole cover back to where it was before then recasting their illusion charms and giving the two of them a good few cleaning spells for good measure.
University of Orlais
"I'm sorry Sir we can't just let anyone through these gates. This is a respected institution, we can't just let any type of vagabond walk through it simply because they say from Tevinter "The guard said rudely sneering as he took in the sight of two individual before him.
"Vagabond," Dorian said in outrage. "Have a look at me you cretin I am not some mere peasant. I am Tevinter nobility, hailing from the house of-"
"Yeah yeah you said already, but here's the thing, no self-respecting noble would prance around Val Royeux looking like some type of whore" The second guard snorted. "What did happen to your clothes, by the way, got ripped off by a qunari customer, did he make you squeal"
"How dare you" Dorian shouted again as he attempted to pass off his offended tone to the guards only for them to laugh again and call him some cheap whore looking to get a small but of pay from some of the nobles in the area. "My father shall hear of this, you shall lose your heads for dispersing such a powerful Tevinter house"
"So what Tevinter doesn't have any influence here, go back home you trashy whore and take that thing with you," The guar said pointing a rude finger at Cole who for the past half an hour had been spending his time peering up into the sky staring unlinking at a lone white tower.
"Trashy whore" Dorian's face turned between an offended one and a snarl. "I would have you southern savages know that this is made of the finest leather, cut from the-"
"Whatever just shut up and go back to where you came from"
"All right what's going on here" Off put by the presence of a new speaker Dorian with Cole following him twirled elegantly on their heel to face the new arrivals. It was a bit of a normal sight or at least the guards obviously thought so as they glanced at the two newcomers, one was obviously some type of noble, made obvious by the pale skin and ark yet rich shoulder-length hair that rand down his aristocratic face that helped to fame those bright blue almost electric eyes. He was human, unlike his obvious elf servant who as Dorian had long since noticed since coming to these southern lands, seemed to wear only slightly better clothes then the average elf, enough to make her stand out amongst elves he knew and give her somewhat of an elevated position, but not enough to arise suspicion something that was made obvious as the guards behind him straightened up.
Slowly the young man likely only a few years younger than Dorian himself has turned his attention onto those men that guarded the entrance a soft smile on his lips, though one that didn't meet his eyes.
"May I have your names please" The man's voice was soft and gentle, relaxing like listening to the rain pour down at night giving it a rhythmic yet also sleep-inducing tone to it setting the guards into a more natural stance forcing them to lower the pears that they had previously raised when Dorian had attempted.
"I'm sorry, nobody is allowed to enter the university sir, we've been given strict instructions," The guard said a small amount of sorrow in his tone.
"That is fair enough, I suppose when incidents like the one that has just occurred happen, it is the prerogative of the Empress to ensure the safety and sanctimony of her city and most treasured valuables." The man smiled at the guards again setting that ease entirely before then turning to his servant slowly holding the same look.
She was a cute thing Dorian guessed, like all elves she had a lither frame than humans, losing some of their muscle for speed and acrobatics, her body was a pleasing one to look at the noted, not perhaps to the same standard as the Inquisitor or even some of the younger human nobility who had only recently gained their forms that would soon be lusted after, but enough certainly for a man of noble birth to happily indulge themselves in.
"Hestia I'm sorry to ask this off you, but would you know anywhere that we might stay in the meantime" The man then turned back to the guards offering an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry it's just that I came from far in the north near the Tevinter border. You see my mother was actually the one who insisted I come here, she believed it would help me when it comes to taking over the family estate only it appears that I've arrived at the wrong time" He chuckled and glanced back in the direction of where the explosion had occurred. Hereupon this higher elevation he could see all the people as they were rapidly rounded up and then marched in columns down the roads that made up the city moving them in rather ordered formations making room for the larger contingent of soldier as they rushed on both for and on horseback to join another group that had already arrived and was now obviously investigating.
Very competent, the man noted, incredibly so.
"Yes, I can imagine" One of the two guards chuckled as they followed his gaze. "I wonder what happened"
"Probably one of the mages" The other replied. "You heard the rumours, apparently the Empress accepted some mages into the city so she could protect the blacksmiths. Fat load of use it does now seeing as that was where the blacksmiths were being kept".
"Ahh, increase the productivity," The man said with a knowing smile. "An interesting strategy though one that has unfortunately ended in disaster" The other guard shook his head.
"Nah, the empress is grouping them all together, but she's not stupid enough to put all of them in one place if the city was attacked it would be too easy to have them all killed"
"I see that is indeed a good thing. Now I hate to bother you fine gentlemen, but it would appear that with the state the city is in I will not be able to either find board and room or even get back to my carriage where I may sleep. I do so hate to request this of you so especially when you are only trying to perform your jobs, but is there any way that I could speak to the one in charge of this institution, my servant here as lovely as she is, does not have the greatest constitution with horses and though a brave face she may put on, I can tell she will soon need a place that she can evacuate the contents of her stomach if that would be possible. Which out of respect for her privacy, is best to be done somewhere private"
Dorian blinked once then again at the elf, She didn't appear to be so pale that she might throw up yet a closer inspection did reveal the young thing did look uncomfortable and though trying as subtly as she could, she was moving behind her master her face somewhat revealing a mix of fear as she glanced at the tips of the spear. Dorian winced in sympathy at the sight, obviously, the girl was afraid and was trying to do her best not to show it.
"I hate to intrude," The Tevinter said suddenly pushing himself forward t meet the well-spoken and handsome young Orlesian. "You said that you're from nearby the border, may I ask where from exactly" The man smiled at him gently causing much to Dorian's surprise, a small blush on his cheeks at the almost beautiful expression that radiated off this perfect visage of nobility. It was like something he had read in a book, some type of noble prince who would come in and sweep the maidens off their feet with their sword skills and amazing chivalry.
"Oh you must be from Tevinter, truly a pleasure to meet you, I am Alexander, are you trying to enter the university as well? I wish you good fortune" The man not waiting an instant snatched Dorian's hand in his own surprisingly delicate ones and for a moment the Tevinter noble could only wonder what he used to moisturise his hands to make them feel so soft and smooth, perhaps he should ask later if they got the time or better yet managed to make their ways into the university.
"Well yes, but these gentlemen refused me saying that I am of no proper dress" Alexander turned back to the guards and made a sour face.
"No, no my fine gentlemen, this man is obviously Tevinter, look at the quality of this leather, the features of this face and the sharpness of his eyes. Then look at his youth and his swagger, he is obviously of fine noble blood how could you reject such a perfect specimen of Tevinter nobility. Shame on you" Dorian addition know what had done it, whether the Orlesian was some kind of mage hiding his powers or he just had some natural knack for charisma, but after he finished the guards to his shock actually did look guilty, so much so that after lowered their heads and offered an apology to the men. "Better" Alexander said as he seemingly stood up properly towering over both these far older men as he then grabbed the hilt of a nice looking sword on his waist. "Now to apologise to him and before I shall have to raise this issue with the Empress when I next have the pleasure of attending one of her balls I would suggest allowing us through"
"Do not worry, I shall not seek juncture against your fine selves, let us leave this matter in its current state and start afresh. Normally I would understand the situation but I know my Hestia and aside from feeling ill she is also very tired and so she will very likely need a good night's sleep before she begins her responsibilities in earnest tomorrow"
"Inquisitor" Out of nowhere the name-dropped unexpectedly both because of the current situation at hand and also because it was Cole who said it. Confused Dorian looked at his strange companion on the fade only to see him staring at the elf who now seemingly spooked by the strange by had taken to hiding behind her master taking quick and careful looks at the boy as though he might step forth and eat her like some monster.
"I'm sorry, what," The guard said turning his plain face to that of the boy. "Inquisitor, what Inquisitor" Dorian acted immediately.
"I'm sorry," He said apologizing to Alexander. "My friend here is just a bit simple you see, he must have seen your servant and thought she looked like the Lady Inquisitor" Alexander chuckled loudly.
"You hear that Hestia, you're being mistaken for the Lady Inquisitor herself" Bowing to Cole the man smiled. "Thank you, young man, it is always an honour to hear the members of my house praised in such a manner. Please do excuse her anxiety, Hestia has always been nervous ever since she was a child, but I trust her well enough and to hear her complimented does bring me great joy" Behind him Alexander allowed a small comforting smile rest on his face as he felt the elf servant pull herself close to in obviously asking for a hood.
Disgusted one of the guards went to pull a face only to stop suddenly at the harsh and menacing glare of her master punched through him and shook him to the core resting on his heart with such a ferocity that Dorian had almost believed he was a mage in hiding. Then in a far sterner and less warm voice, one that had lost all that relaxation and was instead replaced with a deep bellowing tone as though the drums of war were echoing behind him and ten thousand knights were about to charge he demanded in a commanding tone. "Make a comment and I swear it shall be your last"
The men glanced at one another and then at their spears then at the two men in front of them, one was obviously a mage after all how could a noble that hailed from the land of Tevinter be not a mage if they were a noble, something that obviously marked him as a Magister, a person who wielded great power and could kill them both without thinking and the other, well he appeared normal if alien for his care of the elf servant. How could a noble truly do such a thing after all, elves were beautiful and elegant things yet, they made good servants all pretty and dressed up and if the rumours that were passed down correct, then the servants would often have a bed partner with the nobility and often passed around as a way to curry favour. Alexander, on the other hand, was fiercely protective risking his entire public persona to protect this one knife ear, they sneered somewhat but another glare had them shut up and their scowling sent away as the man threatened to kill them then and there for insulting his honour in the manner that they just had.
Finally it was decided if only reluctantly by the gate guard to allow the four of them to enter. They could warn the one in charge soon enough and have them kicked off-campus.
With their way finally cleared, the four of them stepped through, just as they were out of sight and Dorian was about to thank them, however, his breath caught in his throat as the entire appearance of Alexander, rich dignified, handsome, vanished like a cloak drifting in a strong wind as it was instead replaced with the ever more familiar version of Nathanael Tempest and the Inquisitor.
Dorian sighed and rubbed the front of his face "I should have seen that coming"
"Yep," Nat answered as he continued up the pathway to the grand university ahead of him. "It was made pretty obvious when Cole recognised the Inquisitor. I would have thought you would have cottoned on soon enough afterwards, but all you cared about was my hair".
"Well in my defence you had very good hair, and a handsome face and that ass" Dorian ended with a grin enjoying as he watched the tips of Nat's eyebrows moved indicating that he was rolling his eyes.
"Very funny Dorian, but we need to get on to business. I assume you heard the explosion"
"How could I miss it, you sent the entire city into a panic. I assume you're going to tell me what happened?"
"In short" Nat asked, Dorian nodded. "Mages. We found the blacksmith who was repairing the dagger and asked him a few questions, once we left a bunch of mercenary mages attacked us in the attempt to kill us"
"I assume they failed or do we have to look out for mages trying to hunt us down as well, what about any dragons, is there anything else we need to ask to the list of things that want to kill us"?"
"Oh please Dorian it's us, everything and everyone is always trying to kill us, it's simply part of the job" Dorian snorted, wasn't that the truth. When he had joined the inquisition he had expected to fight demons, Templars, maybe even a few rouge mages, all of which would make some interesting tales when he arrived home and perhaps he could share some interesting encounters he had shared with some of the more interesting men he had encountered down here. The first two had been easy, he had fought and killed and the second ad also been met, there were more than a handful of interesting men in Skyhold, it was just a shame that none of them was interested in him.
Poor Cullen as handsome and cute as he was especially when he was attempting to brood had blushed bright red when he had merely suggested the thing and Varrick had laughed it off and joked about not losing track of time and Backwall had given a horrified look and walked away whilst Bull that handsome yet also aggravating qunari had more than shown him what it meant to "bite the pillow". And then there was Nat who at first seemed to be very uncomfortable with what he teased at but then it was revealed that he just didn't like anything to do with that so it was nearly impossible to tease him ruining the good old fashioned fun.
"Dorian pay attention stop daydreaming" Snapping back to the sound of fingers clicking in front of his face the man shook his face and brushed his hair back before carrying on. "Anyway, as I was saying, mercenary mages, however, given the amount there was and the fact that somehow managed to sneak into this city then we can deduce that their employer is both rich and has connections to the right people indicating that we're likely going to be dealing with a lot of politics which then leaves the question, of do we reveal ourselves or stay undercover."
"Well, I would have assumed undercover given the advantages that it would give us in catching the murderers, though on the other hand if we were to reveal who we were we might find better assistance in those nobles who would seek to curry favour with us".
"Exactly," Nat said. "I think we need to stay undercover, while I did expect an attack, I can say i wasn't expecting it to be so out in the open instead I would have thought a more secluded spot"
"So would I" Agreed Valeyna. "On the other hand the attack has drawn the attention of everyone onto what we're investigating, we likely won't be able to get close without either revealing ourselves or landing in some kind of trouble."
"You're correct, on the other hand, the added suspicion and different actions investigating this will allow us to hid ourselves better"
"What, but I thought with everyone looking"
"Of course they will know it's us if we reveal ourselves, but we don't have to, all we need to do is be able to hunt down whoever is investigating the attack, no doubt they will try to infiltrate every group to discover what they know. Were they to do it to use they would learn we're hunting down the money and then go back to report to their boss. We can use that, act normally and when they go to tell follow them back to the next person in the chain and carry on from their" Valeyna frowned.
"Maybe, but it's a bit too risky don't you think, we're relying on one person turning up and we don't even know if that will happen, wouldn't it be better if we investigated ion other ways like ask the servants if they knew anyone who might try and do such a thing"
"Do you have a better plan?" Nat asked quickly. Dorian stayed still for a minute thinking as clearly as he could in what the best way to proceed with this investigation could be. On one hand, he knew his friend was right after the sudden and rather noticeable attack whoever was in charge of this group of attackers was bound sooner or later to send somebody out searching if only to see specifically who had triggered the attack. He knew that for sure because it would be what he would have done and what anyone with any decent amount of common sense would do, one could not defend against an enemy if they didn't even know who that enemy was. Yet at the same time and the certainty of the enemy investigating, there was no way to say that they would find this spy let alone be able to capture them and learn what secrets they posed. Spies especially Orlesian ones were trained to resist poison and interrogation and even torture considering the dangerous role they placed in the great game these southern lords were up to.
"If they don't talk," He asked a slow feeling of dread building in his stomach as Nat moved his attention to the quietest of their companions with his short and somewhat scraggly bright hair the colour of wheat when freshly harvested.
"They don't have to"
"Cole, interrogate?" Valeyna cried realising in an instant just what her advisor meant to do. "Do you think he could do it?"
"He can certainly read your feelings well enough and very likely your minds, even with knowledge of his abilities you are unable to mount a defence against his type of assault, a spy who knows nothing of magic stands an even worse chance. Of course, that relies on him being able to do it on command" Nat turned and looked at Cole. Though he was calm outwardly he narrowed his eyes behind his glasses on the entirety that took the form of the young man in front of him.
"Can you do it, Cole?" Dorian asked uncomfortably. "If we find this person could you" Dorian shivered. "Could you look inside their mind and tell us what you find out"
"I could," Cole said in that strange accent his eyes still appearing as though they were staring into space.
"Cole that disappearing thing you do where you make people forget, do you think you could do it for all of us," Valeyna asked softly. Cole went silent and looked down the floor seemingly peering past the dirt to where ants or worms that squirmed under the cobbled stone that they now walked on lay beneath going about on their bases.
"I think so, it would be hard though, I could not do if often and not form many people" He admitted
"Great" Valeyna admitted with jubilation "that means that we can get past the guards and make them forget we were even there"
"I would not be so sure, the enemy managed to get a magical mercenary group under their command and a quite expensive one going by their skill"
"Skill" Valeyna snorted disbelievingly. "You beat them easily" She turned to Dorian a smug look on her face. "You should have seen it, Dorian. All those mages fired constantly at us with all these powerful spells, I didn't see anything coming but then whose Nat had this shield around us and nothing that they launched against us even touched me, it was amazing. "Dorian turned towards his friend with an interesting look.
"It's nothing," Nat said. "Most mages are entirely unused to the idea of fighting other mages down here, place them against a person who has done so and they'll fall quickly enough" Valeyna snorted disbelievingly.
"Oh please, there's be more to it than that. I have fought against that many mages but I've done it yet I couldn't have held that shield" Dorian chuckled and interrupted.
"He isn't wrong Inquisitor, most of the mages in Tevinter would rather easily beat our southern friends, we simply have more experience fighting one another and if you account Nat's previous wartime experience then it doesn't sound so farfetched. Competent" Dorian admitted at the end. "Definitely a fast learner but prodigies in Tevinter aren't considered such unless they can fight to a certain standard. Something our young friend is rather familiar with" Valeyna went to argue with Dorian but seeing how the man was simply smiling and Nat was agreeing with him she decided not to as there would be no point. Despite this though she glanced at Nat giving both a respectful look and one of thanks, perhaps she should ask him to teach her to fight like that, if she was going to be fighting more mages in future it would be an idea to have some kind of expert show her what to.
"Okay, so what will our first plan of action be," Nat asked as he focused his attention onto the large ornate building that they were heading to.
"I thought we would look at the university, see what these Orlesian believe they understand" Nat raised an eyebrow at the arrogant tone of Dorian. He liked the man yes but did he seriously believe that Tevinter was more knowledgeable than the one lone country that had bothered to set up a university. In magic he could believe that, but in normal science, he had heard Leliana mention something about some type of circles that showed the very hand of the maker, it was ridiculous notion, no amount of shapes and colours indicated a god, but if what he had heard, if the style of these shapes, found in so many different things were correct then the professors here it appeared had stumbled upon the Golden ratio.
"We're here to investigate a thief and murderer Dorian, not read books"
"Oh, I would have thought that you of all people would have like to spend more time here" Dorian commented knowing Nat's proclivity for reading his books. Everywhere the second in command of the Inquisition went there was always a book with him, whether it was on noble houses, politics, history, technology or something else Nat always had at least one book on him and would regularly read if given a chance to something that was considered all the more impressive given his duties..
"I would that is true, the ability to wander through a university, to sit on lessons and hear how this country is advancing would indeed be an experience Dorian, perhaps one I might do once the war is over, but for now I have people to track down" Valeyna hummed quietly to herself at the prospect hiding both her amusement and silent horror at the idea of what Nat and Dorian were proposing. She may not have been as anti book as Sera may have been what with her constant complaints of reading and wasting too much time in paper and ink rather than spending it in the real world where they could do something with their time, but she wasn't so off the mark that she would enjoy spending an inordinate amount of time simply sitting down just so she could read.
"How can you bear to sit down for so long just reading, doesn't it ever get boring, don't you ever want to go outside and do something? Go out for a run maybe, take in the sights, smell some roses, maybe even catch some food or practise with a bow and arrow" Nat quirked an eyebrow.
"A run," Nat asked amused. "I do that already but it doesn't mean that I enjoy it"
"You don't? but you go running every day" Dorian commented noting how often in the morning Nat would leave the warm confines of the castle and instead proceed to run in the wind and ice swept mountains that they were stranded in. He was never in much danger as he preferred to stick to well-known paths lest he comes under attack or anything occur thus allowing people to easily find him.
"It doesn't mean I enjoy it, Dorian, it's something that I have to do to stay in top form, and it's the same with my sword or magical training. I get no joy out of it but nonetheless I do it, and the same is for the paperwork, I do it because it has to be done and I can lessen the pressure of Leliana and the others, but it doesn't mean I attack it with some great enthusiasm, it's simply work"
"Then what do you enjoy, other than reading" Valeyna inquired.
"Combat" Nat answered easily. "Proper combat mind you, not the mock training or anything I mean combat where your life is on the line, where every decision you make has consequences, where you can feel the atmosphere in the air and when you're close to death should you do something wrong"
"Don't you enjoy anything else" Valeyna sounded with alarm. "Some sort of sports, perhaps" Nat laughed slightly and turned to the Inquisitor though he didn't break his quick stride.
"Well, apart from duelling I don't care for sport in any manner. I neither watched or attended it, I found it rather dull, football, rugby, basketball, quidditch, it doesn't matter what it was other sport has just never interested me, as odd as it sounds"
Dorian blinked. "Why would it be odd" Nat smiled at the question.
"Well sport was quite big at home, in fact, it was often considered a religion especially a football so when I told others that I didn't support any team whatsoever and never once bothered to turn on a channel it shocked to them, some even ostracised me for it though I didn't really care. I have no interest in talking about how a group of people kicked a ball around a field for an hour and a half" He smiled again. "It's why I like the idea of visiting the university, had it been under different circumstances I could easily see myself stopping for a few days and asking questions, reading books... getting into debates. Unfortunately, we have business to attend to"
"Well we could always delay finding the thieves," Valeyna said slowly. Nat turned and levelled a stern glare at her but before she could talk Valeyna pushed her hands out in front of her defensively indicating that she should be allowed to speak for a little bit longer. "Not by much, of course, we have to find the thief, but while we're here I don't see a problem with looking into a few lessons at least when we return from our investigations"
"You hear that Nat, we can spend our free time in the library if we want, just make sure our work is done" Dorian cried hoping to see some kind of small excited look anything so long as it would take his friends mind's of the problem of Corypheus, yet much to his silent dismay Nat simply shook his head and stated that it was fine if they did so but in the meantime he would prefer to continue with the responsibility and not allow the enemy to recover and discover more than necessary about their identities.
"Oh come off it, they aren't going to send anyone immediately in after the explosion, it could be days weeks before we even get a hint. If it was me I would at least wait a couple of days until the investigation had dissipated, going in now is only going to raise suspicion. Besides we're at the university I'm sure there's bound to be something written down here that you could use, family lineages, politics, there are even all the young noble brats you could ask."
"Maybe" Came the stern and emotionless response of the young wizard. He did have to inquire more about these servants, most of the other rich kids here were bound to have elf servants who waited on them hand and foot, fetching books carrying them food and dinner, providing some kind of tension relief, whether through violence or other more repugnant means. Some of those servants were bound to have connections to other families and were he to gain their favour and allow him to inquire more about potential rebellions or other families then just maybe he might be able to get onto the right track that was if he didn't go after the true source.
"You're not planning on relaxing are you," Valeyna said recognising that look of concentration on her face. She sighed to herself, what would it take to actually get him to unwind, a shower perhaps, maybe a nice summers day, surely he couldn't be like this all the time, so strict so rigid and so focused on his work, he had to do something for fun that didn't involve sitting down and reading some dusty old tome about some random piece of knowledge or fictional story, he had to have a life. Yet as much as she liked to imagine him talking with others his age perhaps even enjoying a summers day she just could not see it happening, where she would relax perhaps if she was lucky as her clan had been in the past to simply go to a nearby sea and wade into the water cooling off, she could still see him going about his business as though the weather did not exist in the slightest.
"No, not with the war on, I can't afford to"
"Nat you have to take time off at some point, even f it's only a few hours if you keep working you'll work yourself into a grave"
"Better that then more people being killed because I decided to take a break" Valeyna recoiled at the small amount of venom in his voice, his tone had been commanding almost derogatory as though he was judging her for her more carefree life, saying that she was reckless for not working. She wanted to scowl for a moment, tell him that she was doing her best but that getting angry over things she couldn't control was not a good idea, yet even as the words came to her she could only feel a sense of pity rise in her chest. Quietly she went to lay a gentle hand on his shoulder and for a moment she actually managed to touch it, to squeeze through the fabric to the hard muscle underneath but it was only for a moment, one moment she was enjoying herself and the next she felt her arm gripped tightly before then violently thrown away and a hateful look directed at her that sent shivers down her spine.
"Nat it wasn't you're fault, you weren't in charge of those men you couldn't have known that this was going to happen"
"No, I wasn't in charge of those men" Nat admitted. "But I am responsible all the same, I was the one who agreed on the order with Leliana, it was y choice to put them where they were and they are dead. Tell me how that is not my fault, my responsibility"
"And how would that have changed, we both know that it doesn't matter who you put in that group they would all be dead anyway, it wouldn't have changed anything, there's no need to get angry"
"Angry," Nat said softly his voice almost a whisper like a gentle wind on a hot summer's day. "I'm not angry inquisitor; if I were... there would be a lot more bodies. I'm concerned, this threat needs putting down like the rabid animals they are and the same is Corypheus and that cannot be done if everyone is taking breaks when they feel a small amount of pressure every time a problem appears. Besides what does relaxing do anyway it doesn't solve the problem, by taking time off the enemy isn't going to sit down and be like "okay Nat's taking a break how about we leave him alone to recover" No they will attack and kill more people, causing misery, creating more widows, and orphans and everything else. Relaxing does bugger all" Nat didn't shout but it was clear from his words that he was still getting irritated Valeyna noted in a concerted manner. Relaxing simply puts off solving the problem to another day; it's laziness a lack of responsibility."
"Woah Nat just relax, we'll get the thief we'll bring them to justice but we first need to be in the correct state of mind, you know perfectly that if you have emotion running all through you. You're going to make a mistake"
Nat span on his heel a retort ready to be lasted off, instead though he simply sighed accepting that he would not win any further argument. With that done he raised his head and sped past the others racing towards the gates of the university.
He had enemies to butcher.