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Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
67
#1
[[16th Haring, 9:35; morning]] Cauthrien

The audience with the king hadn’t gone horribly wrong, and Sophia had quite enjoyed all the diplomatic pleasantries. It brought back memories of the etiquette lessons of her childhood – although her enthusiasm for official events had largely lain with how much she could get away with eating before anybody noticed. Dwarven ale might be a sin against the name of alcohol, but they knew how to cook meat until it was so tender it almost fell off her knife, and she had enjoyed discovering that yesterday.

Frankly she had indulged so much that even her Warden appetite had struggled to keep up. It had made a nice change from the roasts made over campfires in the days preceding, and Sofia wasn’t the sort of person to say no to a pleasure once it was offered. She had gone to bed with a full stomach and happy heart, although something (likely the proximity of the darkspawn in the Deep Roads below) prevented her from a proper rest.

Consequently she had woken early, and decided to wake herself up properly by going for a wander. She and Mysaria had visited the Shaperate the day before, but one afternoon had not been enough to have a decent look around, and she wanted to go a little more slowly through the Diamond Market this time. Yesterday they had gone through in a formal procession that hadn’t left much time for having a proper stare.

Most markets on the surface were roughly the same in what they offered, although the quality varied drastically. Sofia would always favour the markets of home the most, with the bright silks and the sweet, soft fruits that gleamed gold-pink in the sun and made a mess of whoever ate them. But she had enjoyed the tumult of the Denerim markets too. The Diamond market had something of both; the stallowners were more boisterous in vying for her attention than she was used to, but she allowed herself to be drawn into the clamour for a while, eventually emerging with a few examples of dwarven cloth draped over one shoulder and a pauldron that was assuredly more about style than practicality. At least it might be useful if somebody tried to shoot her specifically in the upper arm.

Smiling a little ruefully over her impulsive spending, she turned her steps towards the Shaperate, and noticed that she wasn’t the only Warden out and about yet. Cauthrien was making her way through the throng, upright and dignified, and apparently on the same heading as Sofia. Sofia wriggled her way through the crowd and caught to her. “Good morning, Cauthrien! Are you going to the Shaperate? I’m just heading there myself.”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
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297
#2
Ghosts from her past were far from new, though it had been a few months since the last time that Cauthrien had encountered one. Her prior interaction with Shale had been limited to a single encounter, and no words had even passed between them. But it had been during what remained the worst moment of her life: the confrontation outside the Landsmeet, and the massive stone and crystal construct looming behind Aedan Cousland and his other companions had been impossible to miss.

The golem had not been overtly hostile during their meeting before King Bhelen, but the lack of any visual cues from facial expressions or body language had been unsettling, and combined with the memories stirred to life had been enough to have her at the Proving Grounds much of the afternoon, drilling in solitude. She had declined offers from those wanting to spar; Niamh, Siali and the others had acquitted themselves admirably on that front, and she had nothing to prove and no wish to take it easy on an opponent. She had reduced three training dummies to piles of splinters and scraps of leather before she had judged herself sufficiently wearied to sleep.

She seldom remembered her dreams; those triggered by the proximity of darkspawn were the exception, but when she had awoken from restless slumber, all that she could recall was a sense of urgency and malaise, shrouded in shadow and stone. After the fourth time, she had given up and risen, downed a hearty breakfast and set out for the Shaperate.

The merchants in the Diamond District were nothing if not persistent, however, and she found herself sidetracked by the armor and weapons vendors. Wade remained one of the best smiths in Thedas, but dwarven smiths were also renowned, and Cauthrien purchased two more maces to tuck away, suspecting that it might not be easy to find her backup weapon if she dropped it in a dark tunnel or cavern. Then the healers’ stalls, and while the Wardens had come prepared to care for their own, the additions to their number made it prudent to add some more poultices and potions. Shale would need no healing, but Dirthon showed every sign of being an utter disaster on an expedition of this type. Unfortunately, it had been quite clear that leaving the hapless dwarf behind was not an option, though she had gotten the decided impression that Bhelen didn’t really care if he made it back. That mystery she intended to unravel before they left tomorrow, and with her purchases secured in a light pack, she had resumed her progress toward the Shaperate, ignoring the merchants’ importuning calls and trying her best not to be bowled over by a tide of determined shoppers with much lower centers of gravity.

“Good morning, Cauthrien!” She turned to find Sofia working her way through the crowd, evidently having completed her own shopping. “Are you going to the Shaperate? I’m just heading there myself.”

“I am. I see you got the necessities.” Said with a bit of a smile, hoping that the other woman understood that she was joking. After shoving her boot into her mouth to the knee while they’d been on the road, she was taking pains not to cause further offense needlessly. Growing up around Anora and spending time with Breanna had left her accustomed to the lure that pretty fabric had for some women, and the awareness that her own preference for steel and silverite over satin and silk put her very much in the minority. They were well stocked for their excursion already, so there was no harm in indulging personal tastes, but -

“What is … that?” she asked, nodding at the ornament that the mage wore on her upper arm; fabricated from shiny metal and bright feathers, it looked as though one of the tailors for noblewomen had decided to take a stab at making armor after hearing it described and finding it entirely too drab.
 
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Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
67
#3
Cauthrien was heading to the Shaperate, and she cast an amused eye over Sofia’s purchases. “I see you got the necessities.”

Unlike her comment about Sofia’s cosmetics, there was no barb in her words, and Sofia accepted the wry observation with a chuckle. “I am something of a magpie. And merchants always seem to note my interest in shiny things, to the chagrin of my purse.” Not that she ever lacked for money - the Wardens paid a stipend, and she augmented it with the occasional piece of magical healing or surgery as needed. She’d never charge somebody who was desperate and destitute, but a rich man who needed help hiding his case of the clap was usually only too happy to pay handsomely for both the cure and discretion.

“What is...that?” Cauthrien nodded towards the new piece of ornamentation. It had been a folly, and while it might provide some protection in battle, any attempt at stealth would be out of the question if the decorative parts caught the light.

“Something never to be used in battle,” Sofia promised. Unless she was caught short, which was always possible. “I don’t believe it is actually intended to serve as real armour. It is rather like those massively overdone weapons some people with more money than sense have hanging on their walls.” She’d lowered her voice a little at this point, well aware that several of the people perusing the stalls in this area and not very subtly eyeing the pair of them might be exactly the type she was describing. “But I thought it might look impressive on diplomatic occasions.”

She wasn’t going to play down the fact that she liked it, or that’d just make it seem even more like she’d squandered the money. “You never know what might please people.” She grinned. “And it pleases me.”

Sofia adjusted the fabrics on her shoulder. “Did you need to get anything first?”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
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297
#4
Sofia accepted Cauthrien’s jest with an easy laugh. “I am something of a magpie,” she admitted with no trace of self consciousness. “And merchants always seem to note my interest in shiny things, to the chagrin of my purse.”

“They’re good at that,” Cauthrien agreed. The weapons and armor merchants in Denerim never tired of trying to entice her, but most of her purchases were made for the order. She’d spent too many years traveling light to begin accumulating frivolous possessions now. Books, perhaps, but the library at the compound was well stocked. Certainly nothing like the gaudy creation that the mage was sporting. Perhaps it was enchanted?

“Something never to be used in battle,” Sofia assured her, which would seem to indicate no enchantment. “I don’t believe it is actually intended to serve as real armour. It is rather like those massively overdone weapons some people with more money than sense have hanging on their walls.” Cauthrien arched an eyebrow at that, but the Summer Sword, while undeniably large, was not an ostentatious weapon … at least, not to her own way of thinking. Certainly not in comparison to some of the axes and swords she’d seen more than a few of the dwarven warriors sporting, which made the sudden drop in Sofia’s tone only prudent. “But I thought it might look impressive on diplomatic occasions.”

“It’s … shiny,” Cauthrien conceded, then offered a wry smile. “Not quite my style, but it suits you.”

“You never know what might please people,” the Antivan informed her with a smile. “And it pleases me.”

Which was all that really mattered, was it not? She certainly didn’t need her commanding officer’s permission for a personal purchase, and any further discussion risked inadvertently causing offense again, so Cauthrien simply nodded.

“Did you need to get anything first?” Sofia asked.

“I have what I need,” Cauthrien replied, patting the pack that she carried, then hesitated as her eyes fell upon a stall that was offering what looked like yarn. She approached and picked up a skein, fingering it curiously. “What’s it made of?” she asked the vendor. Not wool or silk; the texture was wrong.

“Lichen fibers,” the dwarven woman told her, eying her curiously. “Warm, and it sheds water. Here.” She held out a knitted glove and Cauthrien studied it: surprisingly soft, but strong, and the muted blues, greens and reds were not like anything she’d seen before.

“How hard is it to dye?” she wanted to know.

“It’s tricky,” the merchant admitted, adding with pride, “but my great-grandmother developed the technique that lets it take up the color better.”

Cauthrien nodded, selected three skeins in differing hues of blue and paid the woman. “I knit,” she explained to Sofia as she tucked her purchase into her pack, then shrugged. “Not well, mind you, but if you’re ever in the market for an ugly hat, I can set you up.” Roland and Tessa had accepted theirs with good grace; Roland had even worn his in public.

“Your thoughts on the audience yesterday?” she asked as they resumed their progress toward the Shaperate.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
67
#5
Sofia took it at face value that Cauthrien wouldn’t be impressed with the frivolity of her purchase, but to her surprise the other woman accepted her reasoning and conceded that it suited her. Sofia beamed in response, then decided it would probably be best to be about her actual business. Manners being important, however, she asked Cauthrien if she needed anything before she went striding off into the distance.

She had what she needed, but clearly not everything she wanted, as the Warden-Constable halted by a stall and, at the merchant’s invitation, fingered some of the fabric. Lichen thread. Sofia wondered at how that had come to be, whether it had been the work of a lone genius or a long period of refinement over generations. As with most things, it was probably a combination of both. Good ideas rarely came out of the clear blue sky; there was always something that birthed them.

It was good fabric regardless, capable of shedding water but also of taking on dye. Cauthrien selected a few. “I knit,” she offered as explanation. “Not well, mind you, but if you’re ever in the market for an ugly hat, I can set you up.”

Sofia chuckled. She was never in the market for an ugly anything, but she appreciated the offer. “Given Ferelden’s weather, I may well take you up on that at some point.”

They moved away from the stalls, and Cauthrien’s mind turned to other matters. “Your thoughts on the audience yesterday?”

“Intrigued.” Sofia loosened the collar of her dress slightly; the further they went in, the warmer it got, and while it was welcome after the journey, the clothing she had bought for purpose was now a little on the heavy side. “I have heard rumours about King Bhelen, and his rise to power; yesterday’s meeting was not proof as to his ascension, but it did show he plays his games carefully. There was no reason not to tell us that a venture into the Deep Roads would be necessary - in fact, it would have been smarter to, to ensure we came well prepared.”

A moot point, as the Wardens were always ready for a fight, but still.

“So I wonder why he did not. If he was unsure whether we would call it all off and leave his men to fetch the records.” That was likely it - Bhelen would probably prefer to keep more dwarves alive and not care too much if a Grey Warden or two died in their place. It was their purpose, after all. “And offering Shale as our companion was a practical choice, but you’d think he’d want to keep a guardian like that around at all times.” Sofia mused quietly as they ascended the steps. “I wonder if there’s something else there he might want us to pick up from the Memories. Although I could be overthinking it.”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
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DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
297
#6
Cauthrien rather doubted that the fashion-conscious Antivan would ever wear a hat that looked like a misshapen mushroom (and was still a vast improvement over her earliest efforts), but Sofia’s laugh was not unkind.

“Given Ferelden’s weather, I may well take you up on that at some point.” She had not complained overly much, but she had quite plainly been unimpressed with the deep snow and bone-cutting winds during their trek. Cauthrien accepted this with a nod, then got back to the business at hand, asking the mage for her impressions on the previous day’s events.

“Intrigued,” Sofia replied, tugging the laces at the neckline of her dress. It was definitely warm in the vaulted cavern, and Cauthrien had realized that there was a practical purpose behind the high ceilings. Without a place for the hottest air to rise, temperatures at ground level would be truly stifling. “I have heard rumours about King Bhelen, and his rise to power; yesterday’s meeting was not proof as to his ascension, but it did show he plays his games carefully. There was no reason not to tell us that a venture into the Deep Roads would be necessary - in fact, it would have been smarter to, to ensure we came well prepared.”

She kept her voice discreetly low as they walked. Cauthrien stayed close, listening attentively even as her shifting gaze took in their surroundings. The statues that were on display outside of many of the noble houses they passed had caught her eye the previous day, simply because they had borne no resemblance to the stylized dwarven shapes that adorned the rest of the city. They had seemed familiar, and after the encounter with Shale, she was sure: they were golems, albeit quiescent ones, standing motionless and dark.

“So I wonder why he did not,” Sofia went on. “If he was unsure whether we would call it all off and leave his men to fetch the records.”

“Don’t think I didn’t consider it,” Cauthrien snorted, “but he’s likely right about how thinly their lines are stretched, and distracting the darkspawn to give us an opening has its own dangers.”

“And offering Shale as our companion was a practical choice,” the mage observed thoughtfully, “but you’d think he’d want to keep a guardian like that around at all times.”

“I got the feeling that he doesn’t have a great deal of control over what Shale does,” Cauthrien suggested wryly. “The Shaper, on the other hand …” She trailed off, shook her head. “Keeping that one alive down there is going to be a trick,” she predicted. “Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s hoping that one or both of them doesn’t come back.” The golem’s lack of subservience would undoubtedly grate on Bhelen, but why would he be so interested in getting rid of Dirthon in such a roundabout way? From the rumors she’d heard the previous day, he had no reservations about disposing of those who displeased him, and a number of ways to do it in such a way that made it quite clear that his wishes were bing carried out, even while no direct evidence could be linked to him.

“I wonder if there’s something else there he might want us to pick up from the Memories. Although I could be overthinking it.”

“No,” Cauthrien disagreed as they climbed the steps to the Shaperate. “I’m wondering the same thing.” Accurate maps of the abandoned areas of the Deep Roads would be valuable, but the manipulations that seemed to be going on suggested another, hidden motive.

Inside, robed Shapers offered them respectful nods as they moved among the lyrium-inscribed Memories that were reputed to contain records of dwarven history dating back to the founding of the first thaig. “What were you wanting to research?” Cauthrien asked Sofia as her eyes fell upon something that had not been there the day before: Shale, standing against one wall, as motionless as the golems elsewhere in the Diamond Quarter, though a faint light rippled through the crystals embedded in the golem’s body. The Shapers ignored the golem, walking past it without a second glance, as though it were a part of the decor. Odd; she would have expected more curiosity, though perhaps it had been present long enough that all their questions had been answered.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
67
#7
Sofia smiled as Cauthrien snorted. That they would take on the darkspawn as requested had never been in dispute - but it was nice to know that their current leader would consider saying no if the request had been ludicrous. Of course, to some people descending into a thaig overrun with darkspawn accompanied by a scholar and a golem to get some stone rubbings from possibly long since degraded carvings would sound ludicrous, but they were Wardens. And therefore, well versed in dealing with the ridiculous.

Speaking of golems, Sofia had been surprised by the offer of Shale, although she wasn’t arguing how useful she would be in the Deeps. The fact that swords and arrows would likely have little effect beyond chip marks was a plus. Cauthrien pointed out that it might not have been as generous as it seemed. “Wouldn’t surprise me if he’s hoping that one or the other of them doesn’t come back.”

That was a grim take, but not beyond possibility. Sofia also pointed out that in terms of ulterior motives, Bhelen might be hoping that the Memories they were to record would contain something of use to him as well. Failing that, they’d be clearing out a section of the Deep Roads for him, which could only benefit his standing.

Cauthrien agreed, then the conversation ceased as they walked into the Shaperate and Sofia drew in a breath. Along the walls was line after line of writing, inscribed in lyrium, and shelves stacked high with stone tablets. Sofia enjoyed libraries, and even though the books here might be more solid than those she was used to, she smiled with the prospect of all the knowledge that they offered. She headed for the nearest shelf, fingers hovering, when Cauthrien interrupted her thoughts. “What were you wanting to research?”

Yes, she had come here for a purpose. “I wanted to look up anything that is known about the thaig to which we’re going. Just because it was lost doesn’t mean all records of it were. What are you looking for?”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
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DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
297
#8
All of the mages in the group had gravitated toward the Shaperate the previous day, so Cauthrien hadn’t been surprised to find that was Sofia’s destination today. “I wanted to look up anything that is known about the thaig to which we’re going,” the Antivan explained when she asked. “Just because it was lost doesn’t mean all records of it were. What are you looking for?”

“Much the same,” the Warden-Constable replied. Yesterday, her curiosity had been of the more generalized sort, and she’d dug into the records on darkspawn. Unsurprisingly, the dwarves did not hold to the Chantry’s opinion on the origins of darkspawn, but she had been surprised to discover that there was no corresponding dwarven tradition, beyond some speculation on the existence of a First Mother deep in the bowels of the earth - a prospect that made her quite glad that she seldom remembered her dreams.

Today, with a destination laid out for them, it seemed prudent to seek out whatever information could be found on Cadash Thaig and the Deep Roads that lay between it and Orzammar. With the golem here and apparently originating from that thaig, there was potentially a chance to gain firsthand information.

“Good morning, Shale,” she greeted the golem politely as she approached. “I was wondering if you would mind answering some questions?”

The golem remained motionless and silent, not even a change in the slow rippling of light through the crystals to indicate awareness, much less a response. Did golems sleep? Or hibernate? Or whatever living stone did?

She cleared her throat, tried again, a bit louder but still polite, as was only prudent when addressing something eight feet tall that could crush you like a bug with a single blow. “Good morning, Shale.”

“It won’t talk.” Dirthon, the nebbish and harried Shaper who had apparently been designated the golem’s keeper, informed her as he approached.

She looked to him, then back to Shale in puzzlement. “It spoke yesterday.”

A resigned shrug. “It speaks when it pleases,” Dirthon said, sounding peevish and aggrieved. “It goes where it chooses.” He seemed ready to say more, but cast a cautious glance upward to Shale’s face, the stone carved into a rough approximation of features, and closed his mouth, lips pressed tightly together. That squared largely with the written accounts that Aedan Cousland had left of his exploits during the Blight; when not extolling the advantages that the golem had provided in combat, his words had frequently borne a distinct edge of exasperation at Shale's intransigence.
 
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