W/N - Thank you so much, roxfox, EE and Padawan Mage! I like to take a tidbit from the game and really try to flesh it out and put background to it. I've been itching to do a battle scene again, but I keep wanting to put some backstory to it. There's a term I learned in my training called 'shaping the battlespace' that I want to fictionalize so I hope to write how a battle unfolds. Let's begin with a little bit of intrigue.
The tidbit on the Chanter's Board seemed to be just what the "rebels" needed to turn the tables on Teyrn Loghain. Leliana chuckled inwardly at the term, "rebels" as they had been dubbed by Arl Rendon Howe. It brought back memories of the days when she lived on the edge, playing the Orlesian Game. Now, the Warden had sent her into a new game to gather critical information on the enemy, disrupt their efforts and weaken their position in Fereldan. It was exactly the sort of thing that Leliana had hoped to put behind her.
She had gotten the tip from Liselle, the florist in the market, a coded note hidden on the inside of a stuffed animal that held a bunch of lilies in its paw. Leliana bought the floral arrangement and took it to her room in the Gnawed Noble where she carefully undid some of the stitches of the smiling toy bear. She pulled out a tiny slip of paper and looked at the seeming gibberish written on it. To the untrained eye, it was nothing, but only Leli and Liselle knew the code and the bard quickly transposed symbols and numbers into a readable message.
The Board is in need of attention. Our enemy is on the move and desires to finish off all rivals. My contact in the Chantry has more for you.
Leliana then swallowed the paper and retied the stitching. She put the lilies in a vase that sat on the window sill and put the bear in her pack. It would make a nice gift for little Amethyne back at the keep. Nothing that was left behind could possibly be used by Howe's agents that had kept a tight grip on Denerim for months. In the chaos of the civil war and the Blight however, Howe's iron fist was becoming increasingly shaky as food shortages and riots became increasingly common. Holes were appearing in Howe's net over the city, and coin from Orzammar, Redcliffe and now, Soldiers Peak were paying off the increasing number of Warden sympathizers as well as those just looking for hope. Still, every step in this new game was fraught with danger as Leli knew by the number of heads and limbs that adorned the battlements and towers as a warning to any traitors or spies.
In her room, she donned her lay sister robes and made her way to the Chanter's Board where she read about supply wagons heading for the Bannorn – timber, rope, mules, dried fruits and vegetables, gold and silver, potions and herbs as well as personnel. All of this could only mean one thing – an army was on the move. This was too big to ignore, but where exactly were they heading? The Bannorn was a large area and having the Warden's forces at the wrong place at the wrong time would spell disaster.
Leliana made her way into the Chantry past the grand bronze doors that bore imposing bas reliefs of Andraste and the Exalted March. It was an image that had always gripped the bard since her vision of the Maker. She dipped her hand into the bowl of blessed water and anointed her forehead to receive the sanctity of the Maker and then pressed on into the great temple, bowing to the sisters and mothers as she passed. The excitement of the game grew in her heart along with a shadow of fear – victory or death hung in the balance of her skills at subterfuge.
The bard glanced around, wondering who Liselle's contact was, but no one stood out at the moment. All she knew from previous operations was that, when she found this person, she would talk about the gray morning sky and would be answered with complaints about too much rain. Then, she saw a vase full of lilies outside the door of a chamber. That must be a signal. Resisting the urge to quicken her pace, Leli kept her strides even, making her way to the door. Acting as if she belonged right there, she pressed the latch and slid into the room.
As she shut the door behind her, a woman's voice called out, sweet and sultry. "Welcome, my pretty thing."
Leliana's blood ran cold in her veins. "Ma…Marjorlaine…."
"I thought I taught you better than that. You grew sloppy, ever so sloppy…using the same craft that we used in The Game. You think I wouldn't detect your little messages and signals? You and that flower seller? I owned The Game, remember?"
"I thought you were dead. I saw the Warden kill you."
Marjorlaine walked slowly towards Leliana, her hips swaying seductively under tight leather breeches that accentuated the woman's ass. Leli remembered that movement and that curvaceous shape and the touch of Marjorlaine's fingers on her lips. Leli sighed, feeling a warm tingling sensation trickling down between her legs and she began to feel weak and vulnerable. She fought with every ounce of her being to let those days go. At one time, Leli worshipped Marjorlaine, and she would do anything…yes anything for the Orlesian master spy.
"Ah yes, the power of illusion, Leli. I have learned many things and have gained many new allies since our days of playing The Game. Rendon Howe has found my services quite useful and his patronage provided me with coin and loyal followers...far more loyal that you, my dear. My double, poor thing, she played her part well until the Warden butchered her. I am disappointed that you, of all people, could not tell the difference. Hrmph, after all, we knew each others' bodies so well."
Leliana furtively searched about the room and could now see hidden assassins, poised to strike at Marjorlaine's command. Her breath rattled for a moment and she cursed herself for being so easily led into this trap. The temptation to kneel and beg her former mentor's forgiveness grew in her heart, which hammered like Master Mikhail's forge. Maybe she could still escape torture and death. There had to be a way out.
The bard exhaled deeply and lowered her head in submission. She slowly began to take a knee and looked up for a moment to see Marjorlaine smile and relax. That was all Leliana needed to see and she leapt back and tried to yank the door open. If she could get out of the chamber and into the grand hall of the Chantry, she would have a chance at escape. Just as the door opened, a net fell upon her, dragging her to the ground. She fought her way back up only to have the back of Marjorlaine's hand knock her flat.
"My poor, poor pretty thing. Your head will make such a nice trophy for Arl Howe and I will live in splendor. This new game has been ever so kind to me."