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Sati Adaar

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#1
[[OOC: 29th Wintermarch, late morning, the Chantry]] Josephine Montilyet

Sati had never really considered the fact that conducting a revolution involved a lot of meetings. People had to be brought together, decide a strategy, agree on it, and then go away and carry out the respective tasks needed to get it rolling. And this was a revolution, of sorts; although the focus was on sorting out the Breach, they were going to have to kick sand in the Chantry’s eyes the whole way.

They’d succeeded at stage one. A few people had been brought together and some discussions had been had about what to do next. And that was where they had stalled. More power was needed to close the Breach, but where to get it from had been a point of argument, and there was still Chancellor Roderick hanging around wanting Sati’s head on a stick – or at the very least, her to be carted off to Val Royeaux in chains. If that happened, she wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Seheron of getting back out alive.

If there was a chance of some sort of truce, she’d go along with it, if only to make the job easier. But for now with everybody squabbling, they had settled on a course of action which made little sense at all; they were sending Sati to the Hinterlands to seek out a Chantry sister – or mother – or something, whose words apparently had some weight in the organisation. Sati was dubious at best about this. If it was true, why had she not been at the Conclave in the first place?

But nobody else had a better idea, so it was off to the Hinterlands she’d be going.

Not right away, fortunately. There were apparently a few other useful tasks she could carry out while she was there, so she was waiting on that information, and she would be taking Varric and Solas along with her and they needed to prepare. So did Cassandra, who appeared to have been appointed her minder. It was irritating, but as Cassandra had snubbed Chancellor Roderick on every occasion they’d been in the same room, Sati had decided she could withstand her company for now.

The other members of the council had been surprising. Sati knew Leliana by reputation, and the Commander had caught her off guard; she hadn’t been expecting an ex-templar. Most of those tended to have lost their minds along the way, not an ideal trait in a general. But his seemed to be fairly active. And then there had been the Inquisition’s ambassador, Josephine.

Sati had been quietly amazed that anybody would willingly serve as their representative at all, let alone somebody who evidently could be doing a lot better elsewhere. The woman had been clad in silks and jewellery that collectively must have been worth a fortune – not to mention totally inadequate at keeping out the Ferelden winter chill. And yet, she had offered several options in an adroit fashion, and it was clear she had skill as a diplomat. So how had she ended up here?

With little else to do before saddling up, Sati resolved to find out. She wanted as much information on this inner council as she could get. Especially so she could gauge the likelihood of them turning on everybody else.

Josephine had set up her office just off the main hall of the Chantry, and after being informed that the ambassador was not in any meetings at the moment, Sati knocked on the door. She didn’t just stride in, though. Manners. “Lady Montiliyet? It’s Sati Adaar. Do you have a moment?”
 

Josephine Montilyet

Ambassador of the Inquisition
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#2
This was not how it was supposed to be.

Josephine sat at her desk, sorting through the papers that had already been neatly organized on the oaken surface, nor really seeing anything that was before her, though she knew the content of each piece of paper. A schedule of meetings that would never take place. Lists of names of people to be coaxed into supporting Justinia’s vision that would have reshaped the Chantry and circles across the southern kingdoms; those named were all dead now, including the Divine, and her vision -

What had seemed an exhilarating possibility when Leliana had first approached her in Val Royeaux was now ashes, in a devastatingly literal sense. The architect and driving force of that vision was gone, but the need for it was more imperative than it had ever been. And so, the Inquisition of old had been declared reborn, not as a bold redirection of the Chantry by its leader, but as a rebelling splinter in defiance of what remained of its leadership.

And it would fall to Josephine to forge the connections and alliances that would be needed for the Inquisition to succeed. To reach out to rulers and nobles across Thedas to convince them that this fledgling power offered the best hope of quelling the chaos of the mage/templar war and countering whatever evil had torn the sky asunder and loosed demons on the world.

And that the one survivor of the explosion was not the murderer of Justinia and countless others at the Conclave, but rather the only one with the power to close the rifts that had opened across the land. The only one who might be able to seal the Breach in the sky, though as yet, that seemed to be little more than speculation and desperate hope. Cassandra and Leliana had confirmed the power of the mark where the smaller rifts were concerned, and those who had witnessed Sati Adaar literally stepping out of the Fade swore that they had seen the shape of a woman behind her. ‘Herald of Andraste’, while not a title that Josephine would have bestowed, was at least one that she could make use of in her efforts, so long as the bearer of that title comported herself in a manner that supported it.

It would help if she considered herself a follower of the Andrastean faith.

Maker, it would help if she were human.

A knock at the door brought her head up. “Lady Montiliyet? It’s Sati Adaar. Do you have a moment?”

“Of course, Your Worship.” Josephine stood as the door entered to admit the towering and scarred mercenary who was now the Herald of Andraste. Whether the title was accurate or not, it must seem to be, which meant that she must be treated as such, in private as well as in public, by those within the ranks of the Inquisition. “How may I be of service?”
 

Sati Adaar

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#3
Sati had thought the title ‘Herald of Andraste’ was bad. It had been even worse finding out that the apparent address for that name was ‘Your Worship’. As if they were deliberately smacking the Chantry in the face with claims of divinity which Sati, for one, was definitely not making. She winced a little at it as Josephine opened the door to admit her. “How many I be of service?”

“You’re fine to just call me Sati. I’m not really a ‘titles’ person.”

The office was just tall enough for Sati to stand upright without scraping her horns on the ceiling, which was a nice change in a human dwelling. Most than once she’d got stuck on something hanging from the ceiling in some hut or another, and it had never been particularly dignified getting free.

There was a desk that was as sturdy as anything made by a Fereldan, but had a swathe of silk draped over it, piles of books, paperwork, ink and quills. No window, though. The candlelight was going to cause a strain on the ambassador’s eyes if she did all her work in here. Hopefully she’d be smart enough to go outside and rest her brain every once in a while. Although she wasn’t smart enough to abandon this ship while it floundered against the rocks of Chantry opposition. Unless she was being coerced into staying here, in which case, Sati would cut right through that particular knot. They’d picked up a mess of trouble and anybody who fought in their corner had to be there by choice.

She turned as the door was closed, taking the measure of Josephine properly for the first time. She was well-presented, and not in the least bit armoured – although it was impossible to tell under all the ruffles. She had a handsome face, and there was little sign of the worry she had to be feeling in it. She’d have to be mad not to be a bit worried.

“I came to ask about you, actually. Why have you chosen to align yourself with us? From what I gather, you could do a great deal better.”
 

Josephine Montilyet

Ambassador of the Inquisition
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#4
Josephine had not yet gotten accustomed to how very tall the Herald of Andraste was. She had to duck to get through the door, and when she straightened, towering over the ambassador, her horns nearly touched the low stone ceiling. And she did not look pleased.

“You’re fine to just call me Sati,” she told Josephine. “I’m not really a ‘titles’ person.”

Titles were as much a part of Josephine’s work as her parchment and quill: kings, empresses, comtes, viscounts, dukes, barons, teyrns, arls, banns. She had long since mastered the subtle differences in rank, and now her job was to make the Herald of Andraste supersede them all. But it was the job of a diplomat to make people comfortable, to find compromises. She craned her neck to look up, studying the face that would increasingly represent the Inquisition, trying to determine the words to use. Sati did not look angry, despite the harshness that the scars gave her features - the one that slashed across her face from left forehead to right cheek had to have been agonizing when it had been received - but the discomfort in her expression had little to do with insecurity over her appearance. She seemed to take that in stride; likely, such scars would be considered impressive among other mercenaries, rather than the cause for stares, pity, and - regretfully - mocking among the upper classes, where appearances were paramount.

“I understand that this is new to you,” she began, choosing her words with care, “but the Inquisition - and you - must command respect if we are to have any chance of achieving our aims. Those within our ranks must be seen to show you no less respect than we ask of those outside, or they will come to regard you as nothing more than a puppet.” She paused, then added, “But when we are alone, I will gladly call you by your name, if you will refer to me as Josephine, or Josie, to my friends.” Whether she would be considered a friend or not was a choice that she would leave to Sati. If her story was to be believed, she had been given no choice at all in her current situation, and while Cassandra and Leliana had told her that she was free to leave if she wished, Josephine could not imagine either of Divine Justinia’s closest confidantes allowing the one individual with any chance at all of ending this insanity to simply leave. And Sati had to know that, as well.

“I came to ask about you, actually.” The blunt statement surprised Josephine, and she used the time that it took to settle herself back at her desk to compose her features.

“What is it that you wish to know?” she asked, looking up at the Vashoth. Perhaps sitting had been a mistake; it drastically exacerbated the difference in height, and she gestured to an empty chair in invitation. Her eyes were a lovely shade of violet, she realized; nothing like the ominous crimson irises that she had seen in some of the mercenaries.

“Why have you chosen to align yourself with us? From what I gather, you could do a great deal better.”

Josephine blinked, a frown touching her lips in spite of herself. “I was the Antivan ambassador to Orlais when Leliana approached me on behalf of Divine Justinia,” she began, sounding a bit prim even to her own ears. She tried to smooth it out. “The Most Holy knew that drastic measures might be needed if the mages and templars could not be convinced to cease their hostilities, and she was prepared to declare the Inquisition of old reborn, if needed.”

She leaned back in her chair, her eyes growing distant. “It would have been challenging, to be sure, but the Divine was a charismatic and intelligent woman, and I believed in her vision, in her determination to right the wrongs of the past and create something better.

“Now -” she shook her head helplessly. “She is gone, but the need for her vision is greater than ever.” Her eyes cleared, meeting Sati’s directly, her words earnest now. “The world is in chaos. People are dying, suffering, and it will only grow worse if we do not intervene. For me, there is no ‘better’ cause to align myself with, although -” she allowed herself a wistful sigh, “I could wish it were not quite so cold.” And remote, and primitive. The Conclave had been slated to last only a few weeks at most, but it was looking as though their presence in Haven would be indefinite. With spring approaching, perhaps the cold would improve, though western Ferelden would never be so warm as Antiva, or even Val Royeaux.

“Does our cause seem so unworthy to you?”
she asked Sati, folding her hands together on the desk and deciding to meet directness with directness. If it did, she might be coerced into staying for a time, but she would never be able to feign the conviction needed to convince potential allies.
 

Sati Adaar

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#5
As expected, the ambassador seemed perturbed by the idea of dispensing with titles. She also had a well-crafted argument in favour of continuing to refer to Sati as ‘Your Worship’, and Sati couldn’t think of any holes to poke in it other than simply not wanting it. She’d learned a lot about etiquette from Ser Lehmann, and if she’d achieved her childhood goal of becoming a knight, she would have been referred to as ‘Ser’ at the very least. Then the other woman surprised her. “But when we are alone, I will gladly call you by your name, if you will refer to me as Josephine, or Josie, to my friends.”

Sati sized her up a moment to determine if this was a genuine offer or simply one made to placate her, then decided she didn’t much care. Either way it made her a little less uncomfortable, and she smiled approvingly. “A solid compromise. Very well.”

Josephine – ‘Josie’ would have to wait until they knew each other better – had demonstrated her ability for tact, which only increased Sati’s curiosity about what had drawn the woman so far south. Josephine took a seat, and Sati did the same at her invitation as the ambassador told her story. True, few people would have refused a request from the Divine, even if they weren’t part of the faith. Power was power and earning the respect of the most powerful woman in Thedas would be worth more than gold.

Although it didn’t appear that had been Josephine’s reason for accepting the offer. “It would have been challenging, to be sure, but the Divine was a charismatic and intelligent woman, and I believed in her vision, in her determination to right the wrongs of the past and create something better.”

Sati kept her view to herself. She had expected the Conclave to turn into a bloodbath; all it would have taken was one mage or templar acting out and the whole thing would collapse. She hadn’t realised how accurate she would be, though.

“Now…” Josephine sorrowed, “She is gone, but the need for her vision is greater than ever.” The dark eyes that met Sati’s own were intelligent, earnest, and serious. “The world is in chaos. People are dying, suffering, and it will only grow worse if we do not intervene. For me, there is no ‘better’ cause to align myself with, although – I could wish it were not quite so cold.”

Sati let out a soft chuff of laughter. “I can sympathise. Most of my time has been spent in the north. This is not the most comfortable of climates.”

It was surprising that nothing had been done to better equip Josephine’s wardrobe against the cold, but maybe she had her own standards against which she set herself. Nonetheless, it would be worth having a fur-lined cloak sent along. Perhaps one with a pretty pattern, to fit with her style.

She would act on that later. Josephine was studying her directly. “Does our cause seem so unworthy to you?”

“You misunderstand me.” Something a great many people tended to do around here; however, Sati’s tone was not harsh with her as it had occasionally been with others. There was simple confusion, and wilfully being obtuse. “I think the Inquisition’s purpose is more worthy than many others. We are the ones simultaneously trying to solve the issue of the Breach and mitigate the scrapping between the mages and the rogue templars, while keeping the-” she stopped herself before swearing. “Preventing the Chantry from breaking us apart before we even get started. Or rather I should say you and the rest of the council do. I just hit things.”

She steepled her fingers. “I meant that you could be living a much more comfortable life elsewhere. With your skills there’s no doubt a Marcher or Antivan royal would reimburse you well, and in a warm climate, at that. I find it quite admirable that you’ve chosen to stay with the Inquisition, despite the opposition we face.” Sati canted her head. “Are you Andrastian? Does the current position of the Chantry bother you personally?”
 

Josephine Montilyet

Ambassador of the Inquisition
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#6
Violet eyes regarded Josephine thoughtfully when she stressed the need for the use of titles in public and offered greater familiarity in private, and the ambassador had time to worry that she had caused offense before Sati smiled - the first one that Josephine had seen from the serious warrior. It made her look considerably less forbidding, and Josephine returned the smile, feeling a small surge of relief.

“A solid compromise. Very well.”

“Excellent.” A small victory, but an important one, and a first step toward building the trust needed. She settled behind her desk, prepared to answer questions about the Inquisition, but to her surprise, the first queries were about her and her own reasons for joining. She was honest in her reply; she could bluff and misdirect as well as any diplomat when the need arose, and in those circles, it was an expected part of the dance that was engaged in. To a woman this frank, however, such tactics would only sow the seeds of distrust. That she sincerely meant the words that she said only made it easier: yes, it would have undoubtedly been simpler if Divine Justinia were leading this endeavor, but her death only made the need for the Inquisition that much more imperative. Any other duties paled beside it, and if they did not succeed in closing the Breach and ending the influx of demons into this world, any other duties might well be rendered moot in a few years. It was definitely more than she had bargained for when she had accepted Leliana’s offer, but abandoning her post now was simply nothing that had ever occurred to her.

It was cold here, though, and her somewhat plaintive bemoaning of that fact was met with an understanding chuckle.

“I can sympathise,” Sati told her. “Most of my time has been spent in the north. This is not the most comfortable of climates.”

“The natives do not seem to mind it,” Josephine observed, “but then, they wear so much fur that I’ve mistaken more than one for a bear in poor lighting.” What was that thing that Cullen insisted on keeping around his shoulders? “I suspect that my fashion sense will soon have to yield to practicality, however.” She could not stay beside a fire all the time; guests would soon be arriving to see the truth of the Inquisition for themselves. Its ambassador could not hide herself away … but neither could the one who had unwittingly become its symbol be seen as disdainful of its cause.

“You misunderstand me,” Sati responded to her cautious question a great deal more gently than she had anticipated. “I think the Inquisition’s purpose is more worthy than many others. We are the ones simultaneously trying to solve the issue of the Breach and mitigate the scrapping between the mages and the rogue templars, while keeping the-” She broke off, and Josephine regarded her in surprise, not for the obvious near profanity, but the words that had preceded it. “Preventing the Chantry from breaking us apart before we even get started. Or rather I should say you and the rest of the council do. I just hit things.”

She pressed her fingertips together, the light from the mark on her left hand illuminating the right. “I meant that you could be living a much more comfortable life elsewhere. With your skills there’s no doubt a Marcher or Antivan royal would reimburse you well, and in a warm climate, at that. I find it quite admirable that you’ve chosen to stay with the Inquisition, despite the opposition we face.” She cocked her head, regarding Josephine curiously. “Are you Andrastian? Does the current position of the Chantry bother you personally?”

“I am Andrastean,” the ambassador confirmed, hesitating a bit before going on as she rapidly restructured her assessment of the woman before her, most of which had so far been based upon reports from Cassandra and Leliana. A Vashoth, meaning that she had never been obedient to the Qun, a mercenary by trade and a skilled and courageous fighter. Others had chosen less kind descriptions. She-bull. Heretic. But there was more to Sati Adaar than any of the words had led her to believe.

“I cannot say that I am surprised by the Chantry’s response,” she admitted with a sigh. “Most people resist change, and the greater the change, the greater the resistance. In declaring the Inquisition reborn, the Right and Left Hands of Divine Justinia have followed her wishes, but they have also pushed back against an institution nearly a thousand years in the making. Convincing Thedas to accept these changes will take more than military prowess or subterfuge.” She was not so naive as to believe that those things would not be just as vital, mind you … only that they would not be sufficient. “It will require diplomacy, the forging of alliances to secure aid, supplies. If comfort and money were my sole concerns, then I agree that I would have little difficulty in securing other employment, but this is where I choose to be. The Inquisition needs my skills.” A bit arrogant sounding, perhaps, but one did not become the chief Antivan ambassador to Orlais before the age of thirty by sleeping ones way to the top. Or perhaps some did; there certainly had been no shortage of offers, ranging from subtle to appallingly brazen … but Josephine Cherette Montilyet had not.

“It will need you, too,” she told Sati. “And to do more than hit things.” A faint smile at the dismissive way that the warrior had spoken of her skills. “Perhaps not so much at first, but once word spreads that you can indeed seal the rifts, interest in you will grow, and dignitaries will wish to speak with you … and to be seen speaking with you.” She grew more serious. “I will warn you now: you will be nothing more than a curiosity to many of them, particularly early on. They will see your horns, your size, your scars, the mark -” Her eyes flicked briefly to the glow from Sati’s left hand. “They will not hear your words, but you must use them anyway, because some will listen … and if we are successful, more will listen every day.”

She studied the Herald, letting a bit of her interest show. “You have been trained in more than weapons and tactics, have you not? You are quite well spoken, though I will admit that I have not dealt with many mercenaries to know if that is common.” It certainly fit nowhere into the archetypes she had heard tales of. She paused, then pressed on carefully. “We know little about you apart from your presence with the Valo-Kas. Would you be willing to tell me of your past, please?” No demands. Knowing such things would make Josephine’s job easier. Beyond that, she was intrigued by this harsh visaged woman who seemed to have more than a bit of oratory skill, but she knew that alliances were not often formed immediately, but rather over time as trust was built. “I would be willing to trade information, if you like,” she offered with a slight smile. Information about herself, about the Inquisition. She had a good store to barter with, and knew which tidbits were not hers to reveal.
 

Sati Adaar

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#7
Sati’s lips quirked as Josephine commented on Fereldan fashions, suspecting they were both thinking of the same person in that moment. Cullen’s ruff, or mane, whatever it was intended to be, certainly had the benefit of being arresting, and probably kept the back of his neck warm quite adequately. It was still quite strange to look at for long, and thus far Josephine had resisted following suit. “I suspect that my fashion sense will soon have to yield to practicality, however.”

Hopefully the Chantry would do much the same, although Sati kept that thought to herself.

She didn’t spare words in reassuring Josephine that she thought the Inquistion’s cause was worthy, however. While unnerving to find herself its – mascot seemed to be an apt name – she would certainly rather be part of it than one of the factions working against it currently. That one faction meant so much to so many was worthy of concern, and she decided to address that concern head on in Josephine, asking the other woman if she believed.

“I am Andrastean.” She sighed. “I cannot say I am surprised by the Chantry’s response. Most people resist change, and the greater the change, the greater the resistance.” Sati nodded along with this. It would take a lot to persuade people not to dig in their heels out of sheer habit, and force of arms could not do it alone. “It will require diplomacy, the forging of alliances to secure aid, supplies. If comfort and money were my sole concerns, then I agree that I would have little difficulty in securing other employment, but this is where I choose to be. The Inquisition needs my skills.”

Sati decided definitively that she liked Josephine. There was evidently a steel backbone under those ruffles. And it was clear she had at least the inkling of a plan already, as she laid out how Sati would be of use in the long term for more than just fighting. But it would be the long term; there were prejudices that needed to be overcome first. Sati had known from childhood how people saw her, and what they would assume. She had seen plenty of that on the faces of Haven’s residents as Cassandra had dragged her, still half-dazed with pain and confusion, through the village not quarter of an hour after she’d woken.

Perhaps Josephine might have been one of those faces, but she’d come to a different conclusion by this point. “You have been trained in more than weapons and tactics, have you not? You are quite well spoken, though I will admit that I have not dealt with many mercenaries to know if that is common.”

“It varies. Some mercenaries are so by necessity, and used to be people of education before they fell on hard times. Others knew nothing other than fighting. Most are intelligent enough to count up their coin and read a message, or they’d be broke and jobless before long.” Sati knew what question was coming up, and she was deflecting, a little. “But yes, I received further training.”

Josephine studied her. “We know little about you apart from your presence with the Valo-Kas. Would you be willing to tell me of your past, please?” A smile was offered. “I would be willing to trade information, if you like.”

She wouldn’t mind knowing a bit more about Josephine. Sati sat back in her chair; she was probably going to have to tell this a hundred times. “A Marcher knight by the name of Ser Lehmann took me in. His lands didn’t yield much in money or rent, so when he wasn’t serving his lord he made money competing in tournaments. He was very good.” Which made the cause of his eventual demise even more of a bitter pill to swallow. “I saw him compete when I was a child, and begged him to train me. He had to have been surprised, but he accepted me as a page and trained me up to squire for him. I got a full education beyond combat; history, geography, politics, etiquette, the finer points of chivalric behaviour. I hoped even to be made a knight in my own right one day, as misty a daydream as that might seem for someone like me.”

She decided to jump further questions. “He was murdered by one of his other squires eventually. A heated argument that got out of hand. He received justice, but none of his peers wanted to take me in. I was seen as his folly. It is probably out of respect for him that I was simply asked to leave rather than arrested on some charge or another and quietly disposed of.”

Onto happier things. The memory of Ser Lehmann’s face, with his crinkling, kind eyes, always caused a painful weight in her chest.

“I drifted around for a while, doing solo mercenary work, but I was lucky. The Valo-Kas found me. Being around so many others of my kind, all living proof that we didn’t need the Qun to prevent ourselves from running wild, felt like a miracle.”

She had to steer herself away from that thought, that many of them were likely dead now, and she was very alone here. “Your turn. Tell me a little about you.”
 

Josephine Montilyet

Ambassador of the Inquisition
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#8
Sati listened attentively as Josephine spoke. She did not interrupt, nor did she seem surprised - or bothered - by the warning that few would consider her more than an oddity to be gawked at. Presumably, it would be far from the first time in her life that she had been required to endure such rudeness.

As much as Josephine did not want to seem one of the gaping horde, there was too much that she did not know, and she could not represent the Inquisition effectively if she remained ignorant. Her first query was couched in the form of an admission of that ignorance. Cullen and Cassandra had handled the negotiations that had brought the Valo-Kas company on as security for the Conclave. Prior to that, there had been even less opportunity for her to interact with professional sell-swords. She had little beyond rumors and common knowledge, and she knew from her own experience how inaccurate either one could be.

“It varies,” Sati confirmed Josephine’s own opinion that there was as much difference between individual mercenaries as might be expected in any population. “Some mercenaries are so by necessity, and used to be people of education before they fell on hard times. Others knew nothing other than fighting. Most are intelligent enough to count up their coin and read a message, or they’d be broke and jobless before long. But yes, I received further training.”

The Vashoth had not asked to be in this position, and had been given no real choice in cooperating. Demanding information on her would likely not be well received, and in any case was not Josephine’s preferred approach. Diplomacy was about balance, equity, give and take, and the ambassador thusly accompanied her request for information about just who Sati Adaar was with the offer to satisfy the Herald’s own curiosity where she could.

Sati agreed, and the tale that she recounted was … quite remarkable, actually. A Free Marches knight had accepted her as his student and given her a training far beyond martial skills: history, geography, politics, etiquette, chivalry. Josephine took no notes; her memory was quite keen. She would write down her impressions after Sati had departed, and would provide Ser Lehmann’s name to Leliana, who would be able to swiftly confirm the details of what had been said. And if it were true, perhaps her friend would be heartened, because it seemed to Josephine that the Maker Himself had set out to prepare Sati for the role that she would play.

It was not an observation that she would make to present company just yet, however, particularly as the story did not have a happy ending. “He was murdered by one of his other squires eventually.” Sati’s features remained impassive, simply stating facts, but a slight tightening about the violet eyes indicated how deeply the loss of her mentor had affected her. “A heated argument that got out of hand. He received justice, but none of his peers wanted to take me in. I was seen as his folly. It is probably out of respect for him that I was simply asked to leave rather than arrested on some charge or another and quietly disposed of.”

“I am so very sorry,” Josephine told her gently. “He must have been an exceptional man.” The responses of the other knights were far more typical of the prejudice that they would be faced with. If a Vashoth could not be accepted as a knight, how much less as a messenger of a deity that she did not even seem to believe in, a deity that most of Thedas believed did not intervene in this world’s affairs? And yet, she must be accepted, if the Inquisition was to succeed.

“I drifted around for a while, doing solo mercenary work,” Sati went on, “but I was lucky. The Valo-Kas found me. Being around so many others of my kind, all living proof that we didn’t need the Qun to prevent ourselves from running wild, felt like a miracle.”

And she had lost them, too. Those that had been stationed within the Conclave itself had been killed instantly in the explosion. Others had been patrolling the outskirts of Haven, but little thought had been given to them at this point; certainly, none had reported back in. Which, given the early reports that one of their number had been behind the explosion that had killed Divine Justinia and countless others, was worrisome.

“Your turn.” Sati was plainly ready to change the subject, and Josephine did not want to offer hope that might be dashed, though she resolved to ask Leliana to have her agents investigate. She readied herself to answer questions about the Inquisition, but the Herald surprised her again. “Tell me a little about you.”

“I am from Antiva,” she responded smoothly. A good diplomat never showed that they had been taken off guard. “My family has for many centuries been involved in international trade, and at one time, our fleet numbered in the hundreds of ships. We are not so prominent as we once were -” A vast understatement, but the woes of the Montilyets were her own responsibility, and not something to tax the Herald with, “but we are still well known for our wines. I am the eldest, with three younger brothers: Lauren, Antoine and Roberto and a sister: Yvette.” Dear, sweet, infuriating Yvette.

“I became interested in diplomacy when I was quite young, and after a few minor postings, I was appointed chief ambassador from Antiva to Orlais. I was in this position when Leliana recruited me to aid the Inquisition.”

Judging that to be a sufficient response, she posed another question of her own: “Do you believe in the Maker at all, do you follow another religion, or do you consider yourself an atheist?” Forcing her to pay lip service to the Andrastean faith if she did not follow it would be ill advised, but knowing her beliefs would put Josephine in a better position to counter the rumor and speculation that was even now swirling that the Herald was the vanguard of a Qunari invasion meant to convert the whole of the south to the Qun by force, if need be.
 

Sati Adaar

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#9
As Josephine expressed sympathy for Ser Lehmann’s death, Sati realised that she was one of very few people to actually do so before. She’d mentioned him before to other members of the Valo-Kas, but while those she had shared her story with had agreed it had been a bad situation, the conversation had usually moved on quite quickly in order to prevent it dying altogether. On the anniversary of his death, she had placed a cairn for him out of a need to mark the day, and Kaaris had caught her doing it; on hearing the reason, the other woman had helped her balance the stones and sat with her while she kept vigil. It was a ritual they had kept together since.

Next time, she supposed, there would be two piles of stones.

“He must have been an exceptional man.”

Sati nodded, her voice soft. “He was. When I grew older, there were certain aspersions made about the nature of our relationship, but he was never anything other than my mentor. I could not have asked for a better teacher.”

Onto happier things, for a moment, as she gave a brief outline of the Valo-Kas, and left the sad conclusion unspoken. Sati did not like to reflect on it for long, and claimed the trade that Josephine had offered.

That she was Antivan, and from a wealthy family, was clear in her accent and her clothing. “We are not so prominent as we once were, but we are still well known for our wines. I am the eldest, with three younger brothers: Lauren, Antoine and Roberto and a sister: Yvette.”

There was a touch of tenderness in the other woman’s voice. Her siblings evidently meant a great deal to her.

“I became interested in diplomacy when I was quite young, and after a few minor postings, I was appointed chief ambassador from Antiva to Orlais. I was in this position when Leliana recruited me to aid the Inquisition.”

Sati was willing to bet that there was more to it than that – jumping from ‘minor postings’ to the chief ambassador role meant Josephine must have displayed an exceptional knack for the work. Before she could probe further, Josephine turned the questioning back on her.

“Do you believe in the Maker at all, do you follow another religion, or do you consider yourself an atheist?”

Sati suspected she wasn’t going to like the answer. “I don’t really believe in anything. Either a god or the absence of one. On the one hand I’ve not seen enough proof of the Maker to lean me that way, but there’s more than what we see. The presence of magic alone proves that. I just admit that I don’t even think I know what the answer is.” She tapped the arm of the chair. “Ser Lehmann was Andrastian, and I read the Canticles as part of my training. It didn’t speak to my heart the way it did his, but I found some of the words moving. And quite apt, later on.”

Words rose from the pit of memory; ones she’d hung onto, wandering directionless away from the estate that had been her home for years.

“The deep dark before dawn’s first light seems eternal,
But know that the sun always rises.”


She shrugged off the past. “I will not pretend to believe I am Maker-chosen just to try and draw people to the Inquisition’s side. But-” discomfort stole across her face. “I imagine you and Leliana may need to…make use of that narrative on occasion. I won’t stand in the way of that, as long as it’s to help people.”
 

Josephine Montilyet

Ambassador of the Inquisition
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#10
Ser Lehmann had been a rarity in his willingness to accept a squire who was not human; few knights that Josephine knew of would have done so, but then, most that she knew were Orlesian, and their arrogance was well known. Even humans who did not possess a noble lineage were seldom accepted in the ranks, and those that were faced open disdain and insult unless their martial skill was significant … in which case the scorn was delivered behind the person’s back. Antivans were not quite so haughty, but an elf or dwarf would hardly be considered, and a Vashoth … never.

Small surprise, therefore, that wagging tongues had contrived some ulterior motive. “When I grew older, there were certain aspersions made about the nature of our relationship, but he was never anything other than my mentor. I could not have asked for a better teacher.”

Josephine pursed her lips disapprovingly. “Gossips will always delight in seeing things in the worst possible light,” she sighed. “I am sorry that you were subjected to such malice so young.” And then to be cast out after her mentor’s murder without any sympathy at all … that she seemed to bear so little malice to those who had abused her was both remarkable and a testament to Ser Lehmann’s teachings. And nothing at all like the violent, barely leashed savages that the Antivan had heard tales of all her life. Years at court had taught her how little truth often lay behind such rumors, but it was still a humbling realization to know that she was surprised to discover it was so in this case.

One thing, at least, the rumors had right: Sati Adaar was not of the Andrastean faith. “I don’t really believe in anything,” she stated calmly, no hint of apology in her manner. “Either a god or the absence of one. On the one hand I’ve not seen enough proof of the Maker to lean me that way, but there’s more than what we see. The presence of magic alone proves that. I just admit that I don’t even think I know what the answer is.”

Josephine nodded her acceptance of this. Agnostic would be easier to work with than an adherant to another religion, or an outright atheist. “The official doctrine of the Chantry is that the Maker has turned His back upon this world and will not return until we prove ourselves worthy,” she explained. “Thus, no demonstrations of His presence are expected. It is one of the reasons they resist the idea of a Herald of Andraste so strongly; that you are not human plays only a part in their attitude, and perhaps not even the largest part. That you exist at all challenges some of the most deeply held traditions of the Andrastean faith.”

“Ser Lehmann was Andrastian,” Sati mused, fingertips drumming lightly on the padded arm of the chair, “and I read the Canticles as part of my training. It didn’t speak to my heart the way it did his, but I found some of the words moving. And quite apt, later on.” Her eyes grew slightly unfocused as she recited:

“The deep dark before dawn’s first light seems eternal,
But know that the sun always rises.”


“A verse that many likely seek comfort from in these days,” Josephine agreed softly, feeling considerably more heartened than she had before she had opened the door a few minutes earlier. “I pray that in this case, it proves as true as the dawn.”

“I will not pretend to believe I am Maker-chosen just to try and draw people to the Inquisition’s side,” Sati cautioned her. “But- I imagine you and Leliana may need to…make use of that narrative on occasion. I won’t stand in the way of that, as long as it’s to help people.” That she did not care for the notion was plain in her expression

How to respond to that? The trust that it entailed was nothing that Josephine had done anything to deserve as yet, though she certainly had no intention of betraying it. “It … is my preference not to resort to outright falsehood,” she began, weighing her words carefully. She had already spent no small amount of time pondering the problem of how to present the Herald of Andraste to Thedas, but a solution had begun to suggest itself.

“I think that the most prudent course will be to say nothing at all,”
she suggested. “Those who do not believe will not be swayed by our words, and those who do are unlikely to be dissuaded by the words of the Chantry. People believe the things that support what they already want to believe. Your reputation, and that of the Inquisition, will be based upon actions and results.” And after this conversation, Josephine dared to believe that both might be favorable to their cause. “The more rifts that you close, the more folk that we aid, the more people will believe in us and support us. As we gain influence, other influential groups and individuals will consider it advantageous to align with us, which will further increase our influence and our ability to reach the people and places that we need to reach.” She was unsure just yet how far outside Ferelden the rifts might extend, but any borders crossed involved matters of national sovereignty, which meant -

She caught herself and smiled sheepishly. “Forgive me. This is where my training was focused, and for the first time since the explosion, I believe that I see a path forward that holds both hope and honor.” She drew a slow breath, feeling the truth in her words, and offered her guest a warm smile. “Thank you, Sati. I promise that I will do my best not to misrepresent you in my dealings on behalf of the Inquisition.”
 

Sati Adaar

Prominent member
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107
#11
Josephine surprised her again; her face didn’t drop when Sati explained how she saw the world. Instead she explained how the teachings of the Chantry and the vital role the Maker’s total absence in it played made Sati’s title even more dangerous in the eyes of the clergy. Sati wondered if they would have been so opposed if she had been an ordinary, Andrastian human. At least she wasn’t a mage, or Chancellor Roderick might have spontaneously combusted by now.

That didn’t seem such a bad thing, come to think of it, but it didn’t seem prudent to voice the thought aloud. Instead she reflected on the parts of the faith she did have use for; the encouraging words within the Chant itself. Josephine seemed soothed a little by it, although she did not immediately leap on the offer of making use of the ‘Herald of Andraste’ rumours.

“It…is my preference not to resort to outright falsehoods,” she stated, immediately earning her further respect from Sati and passed on the interesting fact that, Andrastean or not, Josephine did not consider her to be the Herald at all. Sati sat back in her chair as the ambassador explained that she would let people fill in the gaps for themselves as the Inquisition did its work. “Your reputation, and that of the Inquisition, will be based upon actions and results.”

Sati nodded. If they did well in these opening weeks, more people would be inclined to trust them, and offer exchanges of favour and trade. Funnily enough, the Inquisition might often operate as a mercenary group on a grand scale, offering security to those who were willing to pay for it. But they would have to at least match that with acts of charity, or they risked becoming no better than any other option for people too poor to afford help.

Josephine had stopped speaking for a moment, her eyes fixed on a point behind Sati’s shoulder, her mind obviously elsewhere. Sati took the opportunity to take the measure of the woman again. She was so pristinely put together that a casual observer might take her to be more focused on outward appearance than inner thought, an opinion disproved by this entire conversation. There was a sharp mind behind those gleaming dark eyes.

“Forgive me.” Josephine had come back, and Sati did as well. “This is where my training was focused, and for the first time since the explosion, I believe that I see a path forward that holds both hope and honor.”

She smiled then, more broadly than Sati had seen before. Sati returned it with a more restrained version, no less warm, but still a little careful. Kaaris had used to tease her about how quickly she could get soft on somebody just for being nice. There was too much potential for disaster to consider flirtation. “Thank you, Sati. I promise that I will do my best not to misrepresent you in my dealings on behalf of the Inquisition.”

“I trust that you won’t. Your words have reassured me immensely; thank you.” Sati rose from her seat. “I won’t keep you any longer, but give me a shout if you need to talk to me.” She was going to head to the training grounds, and damn any glaring eyes; she needed to swing Ruin around for a while.
 
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