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Cordelia

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#1
[29 Harvestmere, late morning. @Siali Arnith ]

Cordelia was content, or at least as content as she might be given the circumstances. Adjusting the Grey Wardens had prove difficult but it was helped along with aid from Carver and other comrades. She was still not accustom to some of the strange informality and jocularity that seemed to permeate the compound but she found everyone kind enough that her acclimation had been sufficiently painless. If anything else, she took a secret pleasure in being able to walk to the library or perhaps even practice a spell without the ever present eyes of the Templars. She had come to respect their dedication but did not comprehend the frequency of their impositions until she was free from them.

Following a light bout of calisthenics, she had wandered to her room to retrieve a book of Grey Warden history that was occupying most of her spare time. She expected to find it merely informative but had quickly fallen into tales of battles, archdemons, and even some respected mages. The prospect of her first actual trial as a Warden was still terrifying but it helped knowing that plenty of individuals had risen from backgrounds both ignoble and grand. If they could succeed, perhaps she would as well.

Having absconded with the book, she made her way to the mess hall. Her growling stomach was still an oddity but she was slowly accepting that would simply be the way of things. Besides, the food in the compound seemed considerably better than the Circle. Sitting with a bowl of porridge and a poached egg, the mage happily lost herself in her book while enjoying one of the best meals in her recent memory. The usual discomforts played within her Warden blood but the book helped dull them enough that this new life felt, if only for a few moments, acceptable.

Finishing her meal, she gather her things and carried her dishes over for collection, offering a kind thank you to the servant at hand. Wandering out of the hall, she made her way towards the courtyard, each step precisely placed and she walked. Even as a Grey Warden, there was no need to saunter or amble. The courtyard wore the sun's glow admirably and the young mage walked out to bask in its warmth. She was not quite accustom to it still, years in the Tower offering only the scant sunbeams through windows and occasionally permitted walks around the perimeter.

Searching for a place to sit and read, she spotted the redheaded elven women she'd seen walking the halls. Not the chipper one, Niamh, but the slightly more astringent looking one. Siana, was it? Serali? She held a book in her hand—a commonality that might be used to foster conversation. Gingerly, Cordelia walked over and cleared her throat weakly.

"May I join you?" she asked, holding her own book aloft.
 

Siali Arnith

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#2
Siali decided that it was time to treat herself. That morning she’d had the stitches from the wounds earned below the Arl’s estate redone after they’d broken, and she hadn’t been sleeping well the last few days thanks to the nightmares the whole experience had evoked. She was about as used to the ones about darkspawn as a person could get, but the whole event had left her with some newer horrors. She wasn’t going to forget the sound of Niamh’s or Llewella’s screams of pain for a while, and the broodmother-in-progress had added a new and very personal dimension to her sleep. Behind that was the overriding feeling that she’d failed the new recruits. Had she been more firm about getting them to train with her, or been more alert, she could have protected them better. Even though she knew that she’d done as much as she could do.

With the fresh stitches still stinging her side and firm orders not to undergo any strenuous activity for the next few days, Siali had spent some time tending to Max. The horse had been antsy around her for a few days after she returned from the cellars, presumably due to the stench of darkspawn that she’d brought back with her. Seeing her horse shy away from her had hurt more than Siali cared to admit, and it helped that he was a little more calm today.

But she couldn’t take him out riding, and she couldn’t train, and she’d been strongly advised to avoid going out into the city in case she ran into a certain guardsman who had a habit of (accidentally) earning her a few bruises every time they met. Frustration gnawed at her, but there wasn’t anything she could do – short of ignoring the healer’s orders and getting chewed out for it later.

So she decided to play the part of spoiled lordling with nothing better to do for a while. She heaped a plate with snacks from the pantry, helped herself to a small jug of wine, and took a couple of books from the library. She’d intended to settle in there but apparently other people disapproved of food around books and besides, it was kind of dark and dingy in there. Siali opted to take her spoils out into the sunshine.

The sun was at full strength for this time of year, warm but not scorching, and Siali found a seat on a bench against a wall directly in its rays. Pouring herself some wine, she began to read; it was something called The Pirate Queen’s Prize and it was pretty good, although some of the language was a bit fancy for her tastes. As she read she gnawed on a bit of the spiced chicken she’d swiped. This was actually pretty nice.

The book was increasingly engaging and even though there was the occasional paragraph or two that made Siali a bit hot behind the ears, there was a pretty decent adventure going on as well as the romance stuff and she was so engrossed that she only noticed the other woman approaching when she cleared her throat.

“May I join you?”

Siali looked up quickly, startled; less by the woman’s presence than her approach. It was the newest of the Wardens – a mage. Another of them. Siali eyed her for a moment, and then nodded. “Sure. S’a good spot to sit and read. Nice and warm.”

She moved her food and wine along the bench a bit to make room. “Just got here, right?” Well, she didn’t really know what else to say. Perhaps the woman wouldn’t be in the mood for conversation; hoping that wouldn’t be polite, though. Siali could be polite now. “I’m Siali.” She pointed at the tray. “Want some?”
 

Cordelia

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#3
Cordelia was unsure if the elven woman would allow her to sit and read as well. If there was anything she was learning about the Grey Wardens, it was that each one of her new comrades had very particular quirks and personalities. Some seemed to relish the attention of their peers, others were content to walk around in relative silence. Cordelia was certainly in the latter camp but needed to branch out to learn more about those who she'd be fighting besides. This elf seemed to value privacy but it was only proper to at least make some sort of introduction. But would it be terse or cordial?

"Sure," the woman said. "S’a good spot to sit and read. Nice and warm.”

Cordelia smiled, walking over to the bench and letting her eyes wander enough to look at the book the woman was reading. It appeared to be some kind of adventure story, although it was hard to say for certain. Cordelia had considered picking up such a book but decided against it given the amount of new knowledge she needed to learn as a Warden. Still, she made a mental note to consider that romance series she'd heard of. If this woman had time for adventure books, she might as well enjoy something light now and then as well.

“Just got here, right?”

Cordelia nodded. "Naught but mere days ago," she said. "I was a mage in the Circle before I was conscripted by the Warden-Commander." She took it upon herself to sit down beside her fellow Warden.

"I’m Siali,” the elf said before gesturing to a small tray of food. “Want some?”

"Cordelia Marie Lendon," the young mage offered with a slight bowing of her head. "If you are offering, I am rather hungry although I just ate."

It was such a strange feeling, to have a large breakfast and then immediately get hit with a new bout of hunger at the slightest morsel of food. She took a small scone riddled with raisins, eating far more quickly than propriety would otherwise allow. She smiled wide at the taste, food having taken on a new dimension ever since her Joining.

Content with her quick snack, she glanced towards Siali's book again. "What are you reading?" she asked. "It looks rather salacious."
 

Siali Arnith

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#4
The new girl smiled, gaze finding the cover of the book Siali was reading. Siali bore the scrutiny for a few seconds before asking if she’d just arrived.

“Naught but mere days ago.” Siali raised an eyebrow – it had been a while since she’d heard anybody use such a formal way of putting words together. “I was in a mage in the Circle before I was conscripted by the Warden-Commander.”

The girl took a seat and introduced herself as Cordelia before accepting some of the pastries. Even after two years, it still felt to Siali like she’d be reprimanded for taking so much. When she remembered her childhood, she remembered being hungry almost all the time, even though her parents had made an alright livelihood for elves. They just weren’t that great about remembering to feed her.

Cordelia nodded towards Siali’s book. “What are you reading? It looks rather salacious.”

Siali recognised the word, although she couldn’t remember having ever spoken to somebody who used it out loud. She quickly closed the book to look at the cover. Instead of a plain one, she’d gone ahead and got one of the few ones with an illustration on the front, showing the heroine of the story holding a sword and not wearing very much.

Oh, sod.

She cleared her throat. “It’s. Um. An adventure story. About a pirate queen. As you probably realised, from the title. It’s not as bad as the cover suggests, there’s some good fight scenes and the whole story is pretty fun. I’m skipping past the...naked...bits.” She was probably condemning herself even more with every second she kept trying to defend her choice of reading material, and she quickly turned it around on Cordelia, nodding at the book under her arm. “What are you reading, then?”
 

Cordelia

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#5
Cordelia dared to help herself to a small piece of cheese, hoping she might be forgiven for indulging her hunger. It was embarrassing to chomp and eat like some type of free range pig but all the propriety in the world would not last against the changes the Joining had wrought. The young mage took the cheese and quickly gobbled it up, all the while peeking at Siali's book. She hadn't seen anything like that in the library but perhaps she had not been looking in the right places.

Her fellow warden cleared her throat. “It’s. Um. An adventure story," she explained. Cordelia's face remained neutral, a skill honed into her from a young age. "About a pirate queen. As you probably realised, from the title. It’s not as bad as the cover suggests, there’s some good fight scenes and the whole story is pretty fun. I’m skipping past the...naked...bits.”

With the faintest smile, the young warden spoke up. "I see no reason why you should skip them," she said carefully. "The writer put them there to be read after all."

“What are you reading, then?”


Cordelia looked at her book, the rather plain bound cover looking dull in comparison to Siali's flamboyant story. "It's a history of the Order," she said with affection. Of all the things she loved, books were chief. "I'm reading about Neriah, who was a mage like me. I suspect there are versions of this story that as written as colorfully as anything else but I prefer fact to any sort of embellishment, no matter how fantastical."

The opened the book and pointed to her current page. "They tried to lead Zazikel into a trap at Starkhaven but were tricked," she explained. "Neriah leapt in front of an emissary's attack to save her beloved Corin, who then slayed Zazikel. I shan't wish for any such dramatics in my own service but don't you think it's marvelous that a mage could so protect the world?"

The mage paused once more, realizing that she'd let her excitement get the best of her. "I wonder if I could be that brave."
 

Siali Arnith

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#6
Cordelia looked amused more than scandalised by the contents of Siali’s book. “I see no reason why you should skip them,” she offered, kind enough to look past the obvious lie. “The writer put them there to be read after all.”

And Siali did read them, just not when she thought anybody else might be watching. Uncomfortable with the conversation, she quickly asked what Cordelia was reading. The cover alone marked it as a lot more heavy-minded than The Pirate Queen’s Prize and sure enough, it was a history of the Order. “I’m reading about Neriah, who was a mage like me. I suspect there are versions of this story that are written as colourfully as anything else but I prefer fact to any sort of embellishment, no matter how fantastical.”

The story in its own right sounded colourful enough. An attempt to trap an archdemon backfired, and Neriah sacrificed herself for her one true love. It could have been entirely made up, if it wasn’t written in an old Warden tome. “I shan’t wish for any such dramatics in my own service but don’t you think it’s marvellous that a mage could so protect the world?”

Sure, wonderful. Even though Siali’s personal opinion of mages in general remained firmly in the ‘approach with caution’ camp. Thankfully she didn’t have to justify an awkward response; Cordelia’s speech had picked up pace as she spoke. “I wonder if I could be that brave.”

“You’d be surprised what you can be capable of in a tight spot.” In both good and bad ways, but Siali was attempting to be encouraging. “Fighting darkspawn is scary, no question. But I’ve been brave more times than I can count since I joined the Wardens, because it was necessary. Helps to be fighting to protect people; makes everything feel right. At least for me.” She pointed at her back. “Got some stitches from my last run in with them; I was stopping a genlock from dragging off a woman. Wouldn’t have done that without being really well paid when I was a sellsword, but it’s different now.”

She eyed the other woman. From what she knew, Cordelia had been conscripted straight from the Tower. This all had to be a bit weird and new to her. “What sorts of spells do you do? Can you set stuff on fire? Or make lightning?”

If she had to have magical powers, Siali would definitely have liked to be able to cast lightning.
 

Cordelia

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#7
“You’d be surprised what you can be capable of in a tight spot.” Siali's words were nonchalant but held the ring of experience to them, something Cordelia noticed was the case with many Grey Wardens. The mage nodded. Perhaps she would surprise herself one day with a feat of heroism like in her books, although she rather would never have the need for such a thing.

“Fighting darkspawn is scary, no question," Siali said. Cordelia couldn't even begin to imagine. "But I’ve been brave more times than I can count since I joined the Wardens, because it was necessary. Helps to be fighting to protect people; makes everything feel right. At least for me.”

Cordelia looked down at her book once again. Neriah had been fighting to protect her lover; Cordelia didn't have someone to fight for, except Finley. Would that be enough? "I joined because they made me though I do not begrudge them their recruitment," she said quietly. "I do think I would have preferred to stay where I was. I don't know if I'm the most deft fighter."

The elf gestured towards her back. “Got some stitches from my last run in with them; I was stopping a genlock from dragging off a woman. Wouldn’t have done that without being really well paid when I was a sellsword, but it’s different now.”

"There were darkspawn so recently?"
Cordelia had heard of troubles but also did not know all of the specifics. Siali didn't seemed bothered, pressing on to another question.

“What sorts of spells do you do? Can you set stuff on fire? Or make lightning?”

The mage shrugged. "All of it," she said trying her best not to seem to arrogant. "So long as its primal magic, that is. Fire is the easiest of anything but I can spark lightning or create cold. I can even manipulate rock." She paused. "Healing and other matters elude me though, if that was your hope."

She took a moment to let a burst of flame flicker on her fingertips. "I used to be very afraid of it, you know," she admitted. "When it first happened, I nearly burned down our estate's library. The servants who answered by cries were so confused. I went from being groomed for nobility to the Circle and now to the Grey Wardens, all because of my magic." She looked at Siali. "You said you were a sellsword...?
 

Siali Arnith

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#8
Cordelia looked away. Maybe she just wanted to read her book instead of talking. But she wouldn’t have started a conversation if that was the case, right? “I joined because they made me though I do not begrudge them their recruitment.” Oh. Sometimes it was easy to forget that not everybody came to the Order voluntarily. Siali was happy with her place in life and couldn’t think of anything she’d rather do than be a Grey Warden. It brought honour and respect that no other profession could for an elf who liked to fight, and while there were downsides, she was proud to be one. “I do think I would have preferred to stay where I was. I don’t know if I’m the most deft fighter.”

Cordelia seemed troubled by the notion that there were darkspawn; Siali just nodded. There were always some of the buggers somewhere. She was more curious about Cordelia’s actual abilities.

Which turned out to be a lot, and effective spells for fighting, too. “Healing and other matters elude me though, if that was your hope.”

“Think we could do with a few more mages with – what did you say, primal magic? Healing’s important but being able to do some damage is too.”

Probably not the best thing she could have said. Cordelia lit a flame on her fingertips. Siali resisted the urge to edge away. It seemed unlikely that the other woman would set her on fire, at least not so openly. “I used to be very afraid of it, you know. When it first happened, I nearly burned down our estate’s library. The servants who answered my cries were so confused. I went from being groomed for nobility to the Circle and now the Grey Wardens, all because of my magic.”

“That sucks.” Well, what else was there to say?

“You said you were a sellsword…?”

Siali nodded. “I was brought up to it. My parents were both mercenaries, and they trained me young. I was part of the group pretty much from when I could repeat a message without getting my words jumbled up.” She scratched her scar. “They taught me to fight and I practiced every day. Used to get hired by smaller merchants, people who didn’t care about elves using weapons, that kind of thing. Then…” she blew out a breath. “I was an assassin, for a while. Not so proud of that. Never took contracts for kids, though. Then pretty much everybody I knew died, and I left. Eventually worked my way around to Denerim, heard the Wardens were recruiting, and joined up. Never looked back. That’s the short version of my history, anyway.”

Probably there would be some reaction to the ‘assassin’ part of that. People didn’t tend to respond favourably to her history whichever way she told it, so Siali preferred to get the ugly bits out of the way quickly.
 

Cordelia

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#9
If anything else, Cordelia was surprised by how amenable Siali was once she outlined her magic. She thought that the Grey Wardens might prefer a new healer but the elf seemed please enough at the notion of fire and lighting.

“Think we could do with a few more mages with – what did you say, primal magic? Healing’s important but being able to do some damage is too.”

Cordelia nodded. "Some mages are as natural experts with their fields," she noted. "I am but a novice in other areas but can weave the elements as easily as I might clench my fist. It will take time for me to accept that it will be used in combat. In the Tower, there was always supervision when practicing such spells." She frowned a bit, both at the memory and the reason. "A bold mage might attempt escape otherwise and that would be unacceptable."

Then came the matter of her upbringing. Of the many homes she'd left behind and the nobility she might have claimed. “That sucks," Siali said.

"It truly does," Cordelia agreed. "Although I'd rather you not cuss."

Siali disclosed her own past. Parents raising her to fight as a mercenary, hints of prejudice towards elves. She took a breath, perhaps as a means to push aside painful thoughts. “I was an assassin, for a while. Not so proud of that. Never took contracts for kids, though. Then pretty much everybody I knew died, and I left. Eventually worked my way around to Denerim, heard the Wardens were recruiting, and joined up. Never looked back. That’s the short version of my history, anyway.”

"I am sorry for your losses," Cordelia said. She did not know what else she might respond to without seeming rude. "Yet, you must be a skilled warrior. That's good, for the Wardens." She took a moment to pause before pressing with her next question. "You're injured? You said you had stitches from fighting darkspawn. If I might ask... what happened?"
 

Siali Arnith

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#10
“Some mages are natural experts with their fields. I am but a novice in other areas but can weave the elements as easily as I clench my fist. It will take time for me to accept that it will be used in combat. In the Tower, there was always supervision when practicing such spells. A bold mage might attempt escape otherwise and that would be unacceptable.”

“Sounds reasonable enough.” Siali still divided mages into Warden mages (acceptable), tower mages (acceptable even if she was uncomfortable with the concept of them never being allowed outside) and apostates (generally not trustworthy). Young mages having supervision made just as much sense as somebody new to the practice yard being overseen by somebody with more experience.

They moved onto Cordelia’s life, which had been privileged and sheltered up until the emergence of her magic. Siali offered sympathies, in her usual fashion. It sounded like a crap situation.

“It truly does. Although I’d rather that you not cuss.”

Siali frowned, searching back through the conversation. When had she cursed? It happened a lot so she might not have even realised she was doing it. She’d have to watch her mouth a bit more carefully. She didn’t see the big deal with swearing but she wasn’t the sort of person to go out of her way to make somebody uncomfortable, either. She offered a muttered apology, although she really was sure that she hadn’t actually sworn in the last few minutes.

As they were swapping life stories, Siali gave a potted version of hers. Even with most of the details cut out, it didn’t make for good conversation.

“I am sorry for your losses. Yet, you must be a skilled warrior. That’s good, for the Wardens.” A pause. Siali took the opportunity to snag another pastry from the plate. “You’re injured? You said you had stitches from fighting darkspawn. If I might ask…what happened?”

Siali nodded, swallowing most of the pastry in a go. “We were called out to deal with some darkspawn popping up under the Arl’s estate. They’d killed some of the servants and abducted one of the women. There were quite a few’ve them down there. Most of us got pretty mashed up.” She turned, lifting her shirt so Cordelia could see the marks on her back. “I got the girl off a genlock. It didn’t like that and gave me a good clawing before one of the others put the bugger – sorry. They put it down. I’ve had worse. Got kicked by an ogre once and was strapped up for weeks before my ribs healed. But we got the girl out and sealed up the route the darkspawn used to get through. Pretty successful mission, all told.”They hadn’t lost any Wardens and no civilians other than those in the initial breakthrough.

She wasn’t sure if she should mention the broodmother. When she’d first joined, she learned things as she came across them, and it helped divide up all the horrible things into easily manageable chunks. She didn’t want to overwhelm the new girl. So she waited for Cordelia’s reaction before continuing.
 

Cordelia

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#11
"We were called out to deal with some darkspawn popping up under the Arl’s estate," Siali said, starting her story. Cordelia felt the color drain from her face already. So soon after the Blight was finished, and darkspawn had suddenly decided to rise up below the city? It was horrifying to think of. "They’d killed some of the servants and abducted one of the women. There were quite a few’ve them down there. Most of us got pretty mashed up.”

She turned, lifting up her shirt to show off numerous scars and cuts. Cordelia scooted back a bit, the sight discomforting. She'd always found blood made her feel sick and yet, it was to be come in undeniable part of her life. As for the tale itself: "Someone was taken? Were you able to save her? I cannot imagine anything more dreadful."

“I got the girl off a genlock," Siali explained. As Cordelia understood it from her studies, those were the smaller darkspawn predisposed towards deceptive tactics and strange magics. "It didn’t like that and gave me a good clawing before one of the others put the bugger – sorry. They put it down. I’ve had worse. Got kicked by an ogre once and was strapped up for weeks before my ribs healed. But we got the girl out and sealed up the route the darkspawn used to get through. Pretty successful mission, all told.”

Cordelia was not so sure about that. She knew only bits and pieces of what happened but knew enough that the infirmary had seen plenty of use. Perhaps it was a success in relative terms—by her understanding, no one had died—but that did not mean it was a clean victory. The thought did nothing to ease her worry. If skilled fighters could not walk away from the darkspawn without injury, how could she ever hope to face them?

"It must have been terrifying, all the same," Cordelia said, shuffling in place before taking another piece of cheese and eating it. "I worry about facing such creatures, new as I am to combat. I'm learning to fight well with my staff but it has been a difficult endeavor as distasteful as it has been rewarding. I was not made for dirt and sweat and... blood."

She looked upwards at the sky. "This is all very new," she noted. "Even the city itself. I am not used to such noise nor do I know what to do with the fact that, provided I've an escort, I can walk where I please. It makes me worry that I shan't be ready when my time comes. For fighting, that is. I think I'd much rather keep to books."
 

Siali Arnith

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#12
Siali confirmed that they’d managed to save Alyssa, hoping to offer what little reassurance she could to the new girl. Cordelia’s brow was still knotted with concern. "It must have been terrifying, all the same. I worry about facing such creatures, new as I am to combat. I'm learning to fight well with my staff but it has been a difficult endeavour as distasteful as it has been rewarding. I was not made for dirt and sweat and... blood."

There was nothing Siali could really say to that. She’d grown up knowing she would take lives one day and it had started early on. Her parents had never put her carelessly in danger but they’d never shielded her as carefully as they might have. She sometimes wondered how she would have turned out if her parents had been ordinary, scraping a life out of whatever the humans would let them have, no fighting or deals or training. It was impossible to imagine herself with none of that.

"This is all very new," Cordelia continued. "Even the city itself. I am not used to such noise nor do I know what to do with the fact that, provided I've an escort, I can walk where I please. It makes me worry that I shan't be ready when my time comes. For fighting, that is. I think I'd much rather keep to books."

“A lot of fighting is instinct. If you’ve covered your footwork, you can usually improvise through the rest.” Siali searched for something else to say. “And there are Grey Warden scholars. People who focus more on finding out more about the darkspawn, keeping the histories, categorizing anything new that scouting Wardens have come across. Maybe you’ll get to focus on that more often than actual fighting.”

They couldn’t always get apostates who were used to using their powers in battle. Some of them would have to be eased into it. Hopefully a little more gently than Siali’s introductions to violence had been.

She rolled her shoulders. “I know Carver’s training you, and I don’t know much about magic. But if you want whatever help I can give – well, it’s open. Mostly I deal in stealth and poisons, and I wield two blades.” Probably that wasn’t going to make the other woman any more comfortable around her, but it was the truth.
 

Cordelia

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#13
“A lot of fighting is instinct. If you’ve covered your footwork, you can usually improvise through the rest.”

Cordelia did not know what to say to that. Siali's voice was so assured and confident, years of experience coloring every syllable into ease. The young mage was not too worldly but she could tell when someone was speaking authoritatively. The elf was speaking about fighting the same way Enchanter Clacher might have spoken about runes. Cordelia did her best to not seem overwhelmed at the prospect of fighting. The mere thought of it made her all but faint. Such an expenditure, only to end in blood and bodies. It was horrible. Thankfully, Siali seemed to grasp that she would likely not become a world renown duelist.

“And there are Grey Warden scholars," she said. Cordelia watched the elf with renewed attention. She'd already come to adore the books in the compound's library. "People who focus more on finding out more about the darkspawn, keeping the histories, categorizing anything new that scouting Wardens have come across. Maybe you’ll get to focus on that more often than actual fighting.”

"I would rather like that, I daresay," the young mage noted with a faint smile. Perhaps she could have a title of sorts to make up for the birthright she'd lost entering the Circle. Scholar Lendon. Archmage Cordelia. No, that was silly and far too prideful. "I thought perhaps there might be a need for diplomats. I can speak Orlesian and know a great deal of history. Young though I am, perhaps I could represent our interests to, well, interested parties."

There would be time to consider that possibility later. For now, she focused on Siali. The woman was stern and a bit intimidating but seemed eager to help, in her own way. “I know Carver’s training you, and I don’t know much about magic. But if you want whatever help I can give – well, it’s open. Mostly I deal in stealth and poisons, and I wield two blades.”

Cordelia shook her head. "All matters I know nothing of, although I do not think it would hurt me to learn to duel with a blade," she said, even as she felt it was horribly dangerous and, honestly, beneath her. "For now, I'd settle for any advice you might spare."
 

Siali Arnith

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#14
For once, it looked like Siali had managed to say the right thing. Cordelia actually smiled a bit, apparently taken with the idea of being a Grey Warden researcher or scholar over a fighter. "I thought perhaps there might be a need for diplomats. I can speak Orlesian and know a great deal of history. Young though I am, perhaps I could represent our interests to, well, interested parties."

“Not my wheelhouse, but I bet the Commander could make use of it. Certainly’d be better than sending me, at any rate. Don’t know the etiquette and I’m not good at being polite to nobility unless they’re friendly back at me. Grey Wardens aren’t meant to be involved in politics – although with the Commander being Arl as well, and us having a Warden King, it’s inevitable.”

Siali couldn’t help her out much there, or in the field of magic. But given that Nathaniel had encouraged her to encourage the new recruits, she thought it best to offer her assistance in ways she did understand. Stealth, sharp edges, poisons.

"All matters I know nothing of, although I do not think it would hurt me to learn to duel with a blade. For now, I'd settle for any advice you might spare."

Siali considered for a few moments. “Little that’s not common sense. Eat when you need to, not just at times you’re used to. Our blood burns food up faster than usual. If you’re struggling with sleep, take a draught. If you’re curious or don’t know something, ask questions. Oh, and when you go out, carry healing potions. Even if you’re avoiding the fight yourself, never hurts to have one to hand if you come across somebody else in trouble.”

Siali also habitually carried smoke grenades, a poison of ashroot and viper venom, and magebane. Cordelia might not be so keen on hearing about that. Better to stick with the stuff that wasn’t going to freak her out so much, at least to begin with.
 

Cordelia

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#15
“Not my wheelhouse," Siali admitted as Cordelia posited the possibility of acting as some type of ambassador for the Grey Wardens. It seemed a fit given her upbringing and knowledge, but it was hard to say if such a thing was necessary. "But I bet the Commander could make use of it. Certainly’d be better than sending me, at any rate. Don’t know the etiquette and I’m not good at being polite to nobility unless they’re friendly back at me."

Cordelia nodded. Siali seemed helpful but perhaps not the right fit for such a thing. "As I alluded to, I was born to a noble family," Cordelia explained. "Any life to that end was lost when the Templars took me away, understandably." She did not begrudge the Chantry's servants their duty. "But that does not mean I've lost my knowledge of etiquette or other lessons."

"Grey Wardens aren’t meant to be involved in politics – although with the Commander being Arl as well, and us having a Warden King, it’s inevitable.”


"I did not mean to overstep my bounds," Cordelia offered apologetically. She was not proposing anything so grand as meeting with the King. "I merely worry that I am an ill fit for the Wardens otherwise. Although I suspect I might learn."

To that end, she asked for whatever advice Siali could spare. The elf briefly mulled it over. "Little that’s not common sense. Eat when you need to, not just at times you’re used to. Our blood burns food up faster than usual. If you’re struggling with sleep, take a draught. If you’re curious or don’t know something, ask questions. Oh, and when you go out, carry healing potions. Even if you’re avoiding the fight yourself, never hurts to have one to hand if you come across somebody else in trouble.”

Much of the advice seemed practical. Cordelia had already taken to scheduling her meals to best combat her hunger, writing a checklist that she maintained throughout the day. It might have been easier to simply eat when she was hungry but the routine helped things feel normal and somewhat comparable to the life she'd left behind in the Circle. Her dreams had been fretful but she gather they were less so than other recruits. There were nights she woke with a start however, so a draught certainly had appeal. As for the potions, she hoped she would never need them. That noted...

"I've experience with potion-making," Cordelia said. "It was something taught in the Tower, although I had much more to learn. Perhaps that is another means for me to aid everyone here." She paused, another thought coming over her. "Siali, since I've arrived I've not had a chance to walk about the city," she noted. "I've never been to any city in my life and I cannot wander without an escort. Would you, perhaps, be willing to escort me?"
 

Siali Arnith

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#16
Cordelia referred to the fact she’d been born in a noble family again. Siali didn’t feel any particular envy towards her. The nobles seemed to always be dealing with some set of rules nobody else had to bother with, and while they had money, not all of them seemed all that happy in their lives. Now being a wealthy merchant seemed like it would be much more interesting. At least so far as living a pampered, easy life would be interesting, and while Siali might enjoy the trappings she doubted she’d be able to put up with much else that came with it. At least Cordelia didn’t seem like she was about to invoke her background to gain privilege, which would have had exactly the opposite effect of that intended. Instead, she seemed more interested in putting that knowledge to use for the Wardens.

Siali attempted to help her, a little. Diplomatic relations weren’t her strong suit, but she could give some basic, non-combat advice. Sometimes she forgot she’d been a Warden for two years – either it felt like it had passed quickly, or like she’d been one all her life. She couldn’t imagine being anything else, which was good, given the whole ‘until death’ aspect of it.

Cordelia mused over the information and thankfully sound something of use in it. “I’ve experience with potion-making. It was something taught in the Tower, although I had much more to learn. Perhaps that is another means for me to aid everyone here.”

Siali nodded. “It would certainly help. Even without darkspawn around, we can wind up getting roughed up more often than people think. In the training yard, and that.” She wasn’t going to tell Cordelia about her own misadventures. Sometimes her mercenary past came back to bite her, and sometimes people just ignored the Warden blues in favour of being outraged by the pointed ears. Neither of those would be relevant to Cordelia.

She hadn’t scared her off, at least. “Siali, since I’ve arrived I’ve not had a chance to walk about the city. I’ve never been to any city in my life and I cannot wander without an escort. Would you, perhaps, be willing to escort me?”

Siali shrugged. “I don’t see any reason why not. Sure. I used to live in Denerim, before I joined the Wardens in Amaranthine. Only for a few months, but I got to know it pretty well.” Although she wouldn’t be giving Cordelia a tour through the back alleys to start. “Now? Or another day?”
 

Cordelia

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#17
Cordelia did not yet have a good grasp on how she could contribute to the Grey Wardens. Her recruitment felt like a prank, a mistake of grand size. She was not suited for battle nor was she particularly brave. Both of those things were needed if her life was going to be full of caves and darkspawn. So she asked Siali about simpler options. Managing archives, aiding with whatever diplomatic concerns existed. It was not clear if those were necessary tasks, which left the young mage unsure what else she might do. Finally, she mentioned potion-making. She was not an expert herbalist but did know how to craft the supplies needed on an excursion Even if she’d never personally been on one.

“It would certainly help,” Siali said. “Even without darkspawn around, we can wind up getting roughed up more often than people think. In the training yard, and that.”

The mage nodded. She’d had the misfortune of getting a small bruise from training with Carver, which she found horribly distasteful. There were likely plenty of other injuries she could help with, although she’d always defer to a proper healer’s authority. Still, aiding with spare potions appealed to her. It felt like a much kinder task than swinging a sword.

“I ill-desire to see anyone hurt,” Cordelia offered. “Just because we’re warriors doesn’t mean we should walk about with scuffs and scrapes. We’re Grey Wardens, not hooligans.”

There would be plenty of time to worry about that, Cordelia decided. Carver alone would be a project. For now, there was another matter. The city. Cordelia had spent days within the compound, which she did not mind—she’d spent years inside of a tower—but her curiosity was starting to get the better of her. Wandering alone was out of the question, but if Siali could escort her…

“I don’t see any reason why not.”
Cordelia did her best not to grin. “Sure. I used to live in Denerim, before I joined the Wardens in Amaranthine. Only for a few months, but I got to know it pretty well.” Siali paused for a moment. “Now? Or another day?”

Cordelia’s response was instant, the young woman springing to her feet. “I see no reason not to head out today,” she said, voice bouncing with adventure. “I’m not sure where we might go but I imagine it’s all rather exciting. Parks and shops and streets. Horses and crowds and music. There’s so much to see!”
 

Siali Arnith

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#18
Just like that, Cordelia went from worried musings over her future as a Grey Warden to immediate excitement. It’d be nice if it was this easy to make people happy generally. Maybe that was what Siali was doing wrong. Instead of explaining how to mitigate the situation, she should just be distracting them. That didn’t seem right, though.

What did seem right was giving Cordelia a guided tour, though. The woman had never seen a city properly, and it made sense for her to get to know the place where she’d be living. “I see no reason not to head out today. I’m not sure where we might go but I imagine it’s all rather exciting. Parks and shops and streets. Horses and crowds and music. There’s so much to see!”

There was that. Siali made a mental note to avoid some of the rougher areas of the city for the first walkaround. Pointing out the harsh realities of so many people crammed in together would be a bit cruel on top of everything else. She nodded and straightened up. “Let’s go then. We’ll go to the marketplace first, it’s where you’ll be heading most times.”

The streets were as busy as usual. Denerim, being the capital, was always going to be a bit hectic, and the compound tended to have a lot of activity going on around it. The guards saluted on their way out and Siali indicated Cordelia should pause for a cart filled with bright rolls of material to rumble past. Once it was clear, she lead the way. “This is the quickest route to the marketplace. Sometimes it’s a bit crammed in with people trying to get there but they usually make way if you’re wearing your blues.”

A bit of watery sun had managed to struggle out from behind the clouds, giving the striped awning over the stalls some vibrancy. All around, the merchants yelled out their wares, offering deals, cursing out rivals, and customers called back, haggling, laughing at jokes, examining over inflated prices. With a quick sweep of her gaze Siali could see that three street performers were in evidence, each giving each other a wide berth. The nearest to them was a dancing girl with a tambourine, who spun about with trails of ribbons tied to her wrists. She had bells on her ankles as well.

Siali usually only noticed crowds when calculating how to use them to avoid detection. Now she was aware of how many people were around, and looked back to check that Cordelia wasn’t overwhelmed. “What do you want to look at first?”

If she started to get a bit panicky from all the people, Siali would just lead her into a shop until she could breathe again.
 

Cordelia

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#19
“Let’s go then," Siali said. Cordelia could hardly contain her grin. A chance to truly see city, alongside another Grey Warden. For all of her apprehension about the potential dangers and dirt, she was excited. Life in a tower made even the most mundane things shine with a particular light. "We’ll go to the marketplace first, it’s where you’ll be heading most times.”

"I'm not certain I'll frequent shops," she noted. "Even with an escort and allowance. But I will not turn down a chance to see the capital in all of its hustle and bustle. And I imagine you'll know how best to avoid any cutpurses or swindlers."

It was, perhaps a cynical take on city-life but the sheltered young woman had enough of an impression of cities as a sort of rough and tumble place, full of hard workers and common folks but still teeming with pickpockets and opportunists. Siali seemed the right sort for navigating away from such troublesome sorts. It took them mere moments to leave the compound and wind their way through side streets and pathways that Cordelia did her best to memorize. Once, a cart nearly rode right over her and while there was a little mud to content with, Cordelia was intrigued by the display. Back and forth and then forward and back again, the city was already living up to her expectations.

“This is the quickest route to the marketplace," Siali explained. Cordelia nodded dutifully. "Sometimes it’s a bit crammed in with people trying to get there but they usually make way if you’re wearing your blues.”

"I shan't expect too much preferential treatment, as fledging as I am," she noted. "But should I establish myself as a reliable Warden, perhaps I shall earn some of that gratitude. Although I suspect some may keep their distance should they realize I am a mage, lest they thing I'll turn them into a toad or some such nonsense."

Again, it was a somewhat uncharitable assessment but she knew common feelings towards magic were complicated. For the moment, she kept close to her escort, eyes wandering with curiosity at every awning and stoop. Yet, the crowd seemed to grow. It was, in fact, teeming and the young mage was not entirely sure how to content with it. She bumped with some and apologized in turn because starting to understand that such apologies were treated as unnecessary in the city. Still, the throng of people was unlike anything she was used to. It made her draw even closer to Siali, who seemed to understand her discomfort.

“What do you want to look at first?”

The mage bounced a bit with excitement. "The market!" In spite of her nerves, or perhaps due to them, she could hardly stand still. "I cannot imagine the exchanges and goods on display. And street food! It must be disgusting and base, but I am sure it will be unique. I wish to see those smaller touches. Quaint perhaps, but they must be such a departure from the Circle. Have you heard of these sweet bread twists that the city elves make? I forget the name but I'd rather like to see them or maybe procure some for the both of us. What say you, Siali?"
 

Siali Arnith

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#20
Cordelia already seemed sure that she would not do much shopping, but was excited to go exploring nonetheless. “And I imagine you’ll know how best to avoid any cutpurses or swindlers.”

“The uniform is usually a good deterrent, but I’ll show you how to watch out for any sneaky hands as well.” Siali’s reaction to pickpockets ranged in two directions. If it was a child, she let them know they’d been caught and would usually send them running – but with a coin in hand. If it was one of the city’s many professionals, they would have to have been stupid to try it, so she usually left them with a black eye for their troubles. Although ‘usually’ was a bit strong given it had only happened on a couple of occasions.

The uniform could open many doors, although thankfully she didn’t have to warn Cordelia not to let it go to her head. “I shan't expect too much preferential treatment, as fledging as I am. But should I establish myself as a reliable Warden, perhaps I shall earn some of that gratitude. Although I suspect some may keep their distance should they realize I am a mage, lest they think I'll turn them into a toad or some such nonsense."

“Some will.” Siali wouldn’t sugarcoat that. “But they won’t hurt you.” Which was better than a lot of apostates got. With that reassurance out of the way, she asked Cordelia what she wanted to see first, and the light came back into the young mage’s eyes.

“The market! I cannot imagine the exchanges and goods on display. And street food! It must be disgusting and base-” Siali jerked her head to the side, looking askance at the young woman – “but I am sure it will be unique. I wish to see those smaller touches. Quaint perhaps, but they must be such a departure from the Circle. Have you heard of these sweet bread twists that the city elves make? I forget the name but I'd rather like to see them or maybe procure some for the both of us. What say you, Siali?"

Siali brushed off the twinge of irritation. She wasn’t known for her manners either and she’d been out in the world far longer than Cordelia had. The young woman probably hadn’t intended to be rude. “Yes. Let’s do that.”

She led Cordelia towards the thrumming market. At this time of day, a lot of different types of food would be on offer; the smell of sizzling meat filled the marketplace, with a faint undercurrent of pastries from the baker’s stalls. People with tattoos and elaborate piercings from Rivain, bright silks from Antiva, gaudy heavy pieces of nonsense from Orlais and a general mishmash of furs and armour from everywhere else swirled about the square. In one corner, a young man in a yellow shirt was playing a small hand-harp.

The elves’ stalls were nearer to the alienage. Even after the work King Alistair had done, there would be a while yet before everyone felt safe enough not to feel the need to place themselves so they could bolt home if they needed to. Siali headed in that direction, receiving a few respectful nods as they arrived. She hadn’t done as much as she might have to integrate herself with the alienage, but she’d made it clear that she could be called upon to help with trouble when she was around.

The knotbread was at a stall off to one side. Siali purchased two, holding one out for Cordelia to take. “Here. These were my favourites, as a kid.” She looked down at the twisted skein of dough in her hand. “My parents used to buy me one every time I won a fight.”
 
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