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Carved In Stone [Closed]

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
91
#21
Sofia nodded at Cauthrien’s enquiry over the milk. “Si. It coats the tongue and counteracts the spice. Water simply spreads the spice to every area of the tongue.” A corner of her mouth curled in slight amusement. “A rookie mistake, we would say.”

Ever since their confrontation on the journey here, Sofia hadn’t been too sure how well Cauthrien might take to any sort of familiarity, but it seemed safe enough to tease her a little over her lack of experience with spicy things. Cauthrien’s reasons were, as ever, practical. Introducing a new element into the rations of an army on the march would have poor consequences. However, she wasn’t completely untested.

“I got used to odd dishes while I was captain of Maric’s Shield. The nobles were always trying to outdo each other with exotic foods. Maric would eat whatever he was served, but if Cailan didn’t like it, he’d pass it back to us to get rid of … which generally meant eating it, unless there was a potted plant nearby to dump it in. Not a lot of spicy foods, but - snails cooked in garlic butter, fish eggs served on crackers. But I can eat anything if I’m hungry enough … or if royalty is shoving it at me.”

Sofia chuckled, both at the description and at the curl of Cauthrien’s nose. “Snails were not something that ever tempted me particularly. And the Circle wouldn’t have wasted food that exotic on us, anyway.” Most of the spices and flavourings had been grown by the mages themselves, although it was likely of better quality than anything that could have been bought. “So I have been spared, I think. Quite possibility it would have been expected of me to partake had I followed the path I originally believed was laid out to me.”

She’d likely be a merchant’s wife by now, or rather a merchant herself married to somebody who could bring money to the business, and wining and dining potential investors or her competitors. As it was Antiva, she would have been involved in some political machinations. She might have had a few children by now, even. Sofia thought about that life in moments of idleness, but pangs of wistfulness rarely followed. She was doing good with her talents, and that was what mattered.

Conversation returned to their mission. “We should leave tomorrow. Do you have everything you need?”

“Yes. I replenished a few things soon after arriving, and I’ve picked up some of the local medicinal lichen. It can be applied to smaller wounds to seal them temporarily; no substitute for magic but in the event we have skirmishes before we reach the thaig itself, we’ll be able to preserve our stocks of lyrium as long as possible.”

“How much time have you spent in the Deep Roads?”

“I’ve been on several missions into the Roads, while I was stationed in Selemy.” One of which would rank at the top of her most terrifying life experiences, but that wouldn’t help Cauthrien to know. “There’s an old thaig almost directly beneath half of the town and the support structures sometimes start to collapse. I and a few other Wardens used to accompany some engineers below the surface to reinforce the supports.” Sofia mopped up the last of the sauce in her bowl before nibbling delicately at the bread. “The furthest I went in was on a rescue mission. A village was just about wiped out by darkspawn but we followed their trail back to the Roads just in case they’d abducted anybody.”

She wouldn’t give further description, not in public, but Cauthrien would know that the importance of trying to rescue anybody went beyond a sense of chivalry. Besides sparing the women a horrific experience, thwarting the darkspawn on that front denied them new Broodmothers.

That hadn’t been an easy mission. They’d heard the screaming start shortly after making their way into the tunnels, and the sound had reverberated around the walls, making it sound as though a hundred women were trapped down there. It had inspired a desperation in the pursuing Wardens that affected their caution - they’d moved too quickly into a cavern that had been crawling with darkspawn.

Not all of them had made it back out alive.

Sofia wiped the thought from her mind. “What of you? Have you been down there before?”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
325
#22
Sofia confirmed that milk would ease the burn from the peppers. “It coats the tongue and counteracts the spice,” she explained. “Water simply spreads the spice to every area of the tongue.” A faint smile touched the carmine lips. “A rookie mistake, we would say.”

Cauthrien had long since learned to distinguish friendly teasing from cruel taunts. “Far from my first,” she admitted wryly. “Or my last, most likely.” Her mistakes were what kept her awake some nights, but she had never allowed them to keep her from moving forward, learning from them, doing her damnedest not to repeat them. She shared a few of the stranger foods she had been exposed to as part of the royal guard and got a laugh from her companion.

“Snails were not something that ever tempted me particularly,” Sofia agreed. “And the Circle wouldn’t have wasted food that exotic on us, anyway.” No bitterness touched the words; simply stating facts. “So I have been spared, I think. Quite possibility it would have been expected of me to partake had I followed the path I originally believed was laid out to me.”

“Marriage?” Cauthrien guessed, then snorted. “My father was negotiating my dowry with a neighbor when Loghain recruited me.” Never giving a damn that Ewan Brodie’s first wife had been Cauthrien’s older sister, or that Nattie had died trying to birth Ewan’s twin sons while Cauthrien had struggled to turn them. She scooped up a big spoonful of the stew, barely felt the burn as she chewed and swallowed. “Saved me the trouble of running away,” she concluded with a terse smile. It was more of her past than she generally offered - she owed the Antivan that much for treating her unfairly on the journey here - but it was as deep as she cared to delve.

She turned the talk to more practical matters, and was pleased to discover that the mage had obtained traditional healing supplies to conserve magic. The other Warden mages of her acquaintance were similarly practical, but Sofia spoke of the hazards of the Deep Roads in a manner that suggested some degree of familiarity.

“I’ve been on several missions into the Roads, while I was stationed in Selemy,” she confirmed when Cauthrien asked. “There’s an old thaig almost directly beneath half of the town and the support structures sometimes start to collapse. I and a few other Wardens used to accompany some engineers below the surface to reinforce the supports.” She paused to finish her stew. “The furthest I went in was on a rescue mission. A village was just about wiped out by darkspawn but we followed their trail back to the Roads just in case they’d abducted anybody.”

The bleakness in the blue eyes made it clear that the memories of that mission were not pleasant ones. “What of you?” she asked, her tone all brisk business. “Have you been down there before?”

“Just once,” Cauthrien replied, accepting the redirection. “This early in the Thaw, most of the activity is still at or near the surface, but about six months ago, women started going missing around Redcliffe. The Wardens were summoned to investigate, but when another group was taken, we followed. We managed to save a few.” She pushed a bit of tuber around the bottom of her bowl with her spoon, shrugged. “Some we didn’t. I got this down there.” She traced her thumb along the line of the scar at her throat. “I’d have been dead if not for the mages.” Come back. Maya’s voice in the mists of the Fade, Loghain’s stern, sad visage … she still didn’t know if any of it had been real. She likely never would.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
91
#23
Cauthrien had been down to the Deep Roads before, which was a comfort. After a fashion. “This early in the Thaw, most of the activity is still at or near the surface, but about six months ago, women started going missing around Redcliffe.”

Sofia’s mouth hardened slightly. Nothing associated with the darkspawn was pleasant, but this already promised to be quite a grim story.

“The Wardens were summoned to investigate, but when another group was taken, we followed. We managed to save a few.” And hopefully finish off the rest before they underwent the full horrifying process of becoming Broodmothers. “Some we didn’t. I got this down there.” She thumbed the scar along her throat. Sofia looked it over with a healer’s eye. It had mended reasonably cleanly, but was visible enough that the initial wound should have killed her, something that Cauthrien confirmed. “I’d have been dead if not for the mages.”

“Good. That there were mages there to save you, I mean.” Sofia took another mouthful of her stew, savouring the tang, and considered what lay ahead of them. “As I’ve not had much of a chance to practice alongside you and the others yet, I’ll be keeping back a little so as not to be an impediment. Please don’t take it for cowardice; I’m no use to you if I get in the way of one of the archers. I’ll be close enough at all times to provide aid, you have my word.”

Also, somebody who was cowardly enough to hide all the way at the back would quickly learn that it was very easy to be picked off from back there.

She used a little of the spongy bread to make a clean swipe of the last trace of the stew. “Perhaps we should return to the others, with what we have learned? And I would like to make a further study of what I gained from the Memories before we go down.”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
325
#24
Sofia listened as Cauthrien gave the bare-bones account of Redcliffe, her lips pressed into a somber line. There was no need to go into detail; any Grey Warden with experience knew the intended fate of women taken by the darkspawn, and Cauthrien had more than one reason to not to want to delve too deeply into the memories of those few hellish days. Blue eyes examined the scar at her throat with clinical interest; it didn’t require extensive medical training to know what the result of such a cut would have been.

“Good,” the mage pronounced, adding for clarification. “That there were mages there to save you, I mean.” She finished the last of her own meal, looking thoughtful. “As I’ve not had much of a chance to practice alongside you and the others yet, I’ll be keeping back a little so as not to be an impediment,” she said. “Please don’t take it for cowardice; I’m no use to you if I get in the way of one of the archers. I’ll be close enough at all times to provide aid, you have my word.”

Cauthrien nodded. “We generally have the mages back with the ranged fighters, anyway,” she told the Antivan, adding with a faint smile, “and the rest of us know not to ask questions when you tell us to get down.” Fighting alongside ranged magic was tricky, but the advantages more than made up for it.

She grew serious once more. “If you find yourself at close quarters with a darkspawn, sing out and someone will get to you,” she promised. She’d observed Sofia in the practice yard before they had left Denerim, and the mage was quite proficient in using her staff in a martial manner, but the lighter armor that mages had to wear made it risky for them to engage in melee combat. “We take care of each other.” Applying the lessons learned in a lifetime of military training to the Grey Wardens: everyone had a role. Heavily armored warriors on the front lines; stealthy fighters picking at the flanks and rear; ranged weapons striking from afar and mages providing healing as well as potent ranged offense. A prudent commander knew to value no one skill set over another, because it was in working together that they were the most formidable.

“Perhaps we should return to the others, with what we have learned?” Sofia suggested, popping a last bite of bread into her mouth. “And I would like to make a further study of what I gained from the Memories before we go down.”

“Sounds good,” Cauthrien agreed, finishing the last of her water, leaving more than half of her ale in the mug. Standing, she left enough coin to cover tab and tip, then headed for the door. Time enough in the day to give her weapons and armor a final, thorough inspection and still get to bed early. Best to take advantage of a safe place to sleep while she could; the Deep Roads were not known for such amenities.
 
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