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Sofia di Castelbuono

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#1
[[OOC: Haring 9th, midday, somewhere on the route between Amaranthine and Orzammar]] Cauthrien

One of the upsides of being a Grey Warden was guaranteed breaks for meals. If their group had been required to ignore midday sustenance in order to keep up their pace, everybody would have been fighting within a couple of miles. It was better for everyone for them to sit, eat quickly, and then get back on the horses rather than trying to eat and ride and consequently lose a third of their party’s tongues.

It had been cold and grim since leaving Amaranthine and Sofia was already feeling the lack of a regular bath. She had washed in freezing streams every night they had camped, which had helped, although it had not warmed her disposition towards Fereldan’s climate. She hadn’t complained, though, simply taking opportunities to smarten herself up whenever she could. Noon was such an occasion, and after the essentials of food and checking over the horses had been done, Sofia used the time that the weapon-wielders spent making sure their blades were not frosted into their scabbards to touch up her appearance.

She carried a small handmirror, and dug in Garalei’s saddlebag for the few small pots she kept aside for her personal use. With a sweep of colour over each eye and her cheeks freshly reddened, she started to feel more like herself. A fistful of snow to the back of her neck made her feel less sticky from the exertions of the ride. The damp air was causing her curls to explode, so she wound a pair of silver clasps in it to keep it back.

The mirror also revealed that her lipstick had started to fade from the morning’s application; opening her mouth slightly, Sofia began to apply the carmine. Very carefully, as it was quite expensive and she didn’t know how much access to makeup the dwarves might have. Perhaps the ones that actually lived beneath the stone had more of an interest in it than the surfacers she’d met previously.

She was aware that she was getting some strange looks, but ignored them and focused on finishing up. She would not hold up the group over her appearance; but she would take whatever time she did have for it.
 
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Cauthrien

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#2
It was far from Cauthrien’s first winter march, but it was her first on horseback, and thus far, results were mixed. On the one hand, it was much easier to let the massive beasts plod through the mud on the road and the drifts off of it, and they made significantly better time than they would have on foot. They should be at Lake Calenhad by nightfall, and Cauthrien was weighing between the temptation of sleeping under a roof and the potential of trouble from any templars who might drop into the inn on the lake’s shore and decide to take offense at not one but three mages not under their thumbs. Not that a brawl would be unwelcome in her current mood, since she couldn’t very well beat her horse, much as she wanted to.

Dragon had discovered that the snow offered new and entertaining ways to make his rider miserable and was in the process of discovering each and every one of them. If her attention wavered on the road, he would plunge enthusiastically through the drifts on either side, ostensibly to claim a dead leaf clinging to a branch. If a snow laden branch overhung the road, he would do his damnedest to bump the trunk of the tree with his shoulder or hip, sending a mini-avalanche down on her head.

He’d done that first thing this morning, and the snow that had made it underneath her armor and down her collar had melted, making for a thoroughly uncomfortable ride that was not going to end until they stopped for the night and she could strip down. And now, as she went to remount after stopping for lunch, he waited until she had one foot in the stirrup, then side-stepped ever so nonchalantly. She jerked her foot free in time (barely) to stay upright, glared at him and tried again with the same result.

“Dammit,” she growled under her breath, trying to rein in her rising temper. She hadn’t spent much time around animals since leaving her father’s farm, and this contrary creature had been a spectacularly unsuitable choice to renew her acquaintance with the four-legged world. She’d given thought more than once to trading him in for a more biddable mount, but the same stubbornness that had pushed her from farm girl to commander of Maric’s Shield kept her from it. She stepped toward him again, lifted her foot, and this time he stepped away before she had settled in the stirrup, sending her stumbling forward into his side … and no way was it her imagination: the bastard was smirking at her.

Problem, boss?

She pushed herself back, feeling like a royal ass and thinking seriously about Loghain’s tales of dining on Orlesian horses during the rebellion. She was not going to eat her horse, damn it. She was not going to lose her temper, and she was not going to let this infernal beast make an utter fool of her. She turned in a slow circle, willing herself to calmness; agitation from her would just rile him further. Her eyes fell upon the new arrival from Antiva, who was freshening her makeup … again. In the middle of sodding nowhere.

“You do realize there’s nobody out here to impress but the squirrels?” she demanded irritably. “Why do you waste time with such nonsense?” She was aware that wasn’t quite fair; Sofia had yet to delay them with her preoccupation over her appearance, and if breaking the ice on frozen creeks every night to bathe in frigid water seemed outlandish, it inconvenienced no one but herself (unless she caught pneumonia, but that hadn’t happened yet). But it was easier (and saner sounding) to bitch at another person than at her sodding horse.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

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#3
Applying makeup was a meditative act for Sofia. While it didn’t completely distract her from her surroundings – Cauthrien’s struggle with her horse had not gone unnoticed, for example – it helped to refresh her face and thus enter the frame of mind she required for whatever situation she was in. Even ankle-deep in snow (snow! She’d been delighted when it started, although being hemmed in by it for a couple of days had been a bit much), she felt more prepared for the future when she had a bit of colour to her face that wasn’t brought about by the cold.

A few of the Wardens were still busy getting ready to leave, which was why the whip-crack of Cauthrien’s voice jolted Sofia as sharply as it did. “You do realize there’s nobody out here to impress but the squirrels? Why do you waste time with such nonsense?”

Sofia looked about. Some of the Wardens were still in the trees, attending to calls of nature. Still eithers were tightening harnesses and bridles. By no means was everybody else ready, which meant Cauthrien had no real reason to be aiming her ire at Sofia in such a fashion. It was a shame. Sofia had thought quite well of the other woman up to this point. Hopefully she did not make a regular habit of venting her spleen on her subordinates when she was frustrated. Still, the fact that there was no reason for it gave Sofia reason enough to respond in equally sharp fashion.

“As far as I can see, I’m wasting nobody’s time but my own, messere.” Manners had been drummed so firmly into her bones that even out of irritation, she couldn’t quite be actually rude, but she wasn’t going to hold her tongue and just take it. “And I don’t consider it a waste. Do you mock warriors who apply war paint? How is this any different?”
 

Cauthrien

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#4
Sofia’s self-confidence had been quite plain from the moment she had arrived at the gates of the compound in Denerim treating the two templars who had been trying to corral her like an honor guard, so Cauthrien wasn’t overly surprised when she didn’t so much as flinch at the acerbic query.

“As far as I can see, I’m wasting nobody’s time but my own, messere,” she parried crisply, blue eyes grown flinty. “And I don’t consider it a waste. Do you mock warriors who apply war paint? How is this any different?”

Cauthrien blinked, then snorted. “That served a purpose,” she countered, lingering irritation defying the quiet whisper of common sense suggesting that she was being an ass. “You’re certainly not going to scare anyone … or is it intended to make you feel brave?” There had been a few that she’d fought with over the years who had applied paint to their faces, either imitating the designs of the Chasind clans or creating their own. Such things served one of two purposes: to intimidate the enemy or to bolster courage by putting on a mask and becoming something besides a frightened boy with a sword. It wasn’t the first time she’d heard cosmetics equated with war paint, but she’d never understood the comparison.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

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#5
Cauthrien seemed taken aback, but not convinced by Sofia’s rejoinder. “That served a purpose,” she commented of the war paint. “You’re certainly not going to scare anyone…or is it intended to make you feel brave?”

The tone was derisive, almost mocking. Sofia met Cauthrien’s gaze squarely. Let her be amused or think her frivolous. Sofia had nothing of which to be ashamed. She could open a fissure at their feet right now, or with an application of stitches and magic bring an almost severed limb back to full working order again. She didn’t lack for power. “Yes. It makes me feel brave.”

She rested a hand on Garalei’s neck, the warmth of the horse helping to soothe her temper a little. “To survive – to succeed - in the Circle, you have to be beyond perfect. Just following their rules isn’t enough. You must be well turned out, polite, respectful, know the Chant inside and out, have such control over your magic that it never fails. Putting on this ‘nonsense’ helped me face each day even when I was scared of the new challenges, even when my heart was breaking because a friend had been moved to another Circle or made Tranquil.

“I wore it all to meet the Wardens the first time. And I, with my cosmetics, stayed and fought the darkspawn charging at me while my armoured escort fled for his life. I had never fought anything in my life prior to that day, apart from the occasional demon. It helps me into the right frame of mind to tackle any problems that might come my way, and it may not be necessary, but it is a ritual, and it is mine. I’ll thank you, Constable, to not mock me for it.”
 
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Cauthrien

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#6
Cauthrien had known even as she spoke that her words were churlish at best, cruel at worst. She had served under officers who mocked and berated those that they commanded, and had always considered their behavior as an example of what not to do. It had seldom had any beneficial effect on those it was directed at back then - including herself - and it certainly did not have a beneficial effect upon Sofia now.

But the mage didn’t back down as some had done then, or cry, as others had, or sulk. She stood tall, her eyes clashing defiantly with Cauthrien’s. “Yes. It makes me feel brave,” she replied, the words even and measured, the current of emotion running through them growing stronger as she continued.

“To survive – to succeed - in the Circle, you have to be beyond perfect. Just following their rules isn’t enough. You must be well turned out, polite, respectful, know the Chant inside and out, have such control over your magic that it never fails. Putting on this ‘nonsense’ helped me face each day even when I was scared of the new challenges, even when my heart was breaking because a friend had been moved to another Circle or made Tranquil.”

No tears shone in the blue eyes, but passion and pain laced every word, the struggle that was described not so very different from that of a too-tall girl who rose before the sun every day to drill relentlessly, because simply being as good as the men around her wasn’t enough to gain their respect.

“I wore it all to meet the Wardens the first time,” the mage pressed on. “And I, with my cosmetics, stayed and fought the darkspawn charging at me while my armoured escort fled for his life. I had never fought anything in my life prior to that day, apart from the occasional demon. It helps me into the right frame of mind to tackle any problems that might come my way, and it may not be necessary, but it is a ritual, and it is mine. I’ll thank you, Constable, to not mock me for it.”

Cauthrien stared at her. Opened her mouth, then closed it, not trusting that anything she could say right now would be the right thing and feeling like a first class bastard. She managed a nod, turning away and tugging lightly at Dragon’s reins -

Then bit off a strangled yell as a steel shod hoof landed on her instep and, for the briefest moment, the full weight of her horse rested atop her left foot.

It was gone by the time she raised her fist. If he’d still been standing on her foot, she would have belted him in the jaw without hesitation, but beating him in a fit of pique was nothing she would allow herself to do, even as she wondered if she would be pouring blood out of her boot when she pulled it off.

She closed her eyes, drew a slow breath through her nose, let it out and opened her eyes, her gaze finding Siali, who, she hoped, had taken note of this entire sorry episode as an example of what a leader should not do.

“Get them moving,” she ordered quietly. “I’ll catch up.”

Letting the reins drop, she limped toward a fallen log so that she could get her boot off and wrap the foot, fire lancing up her leg with each step. It wasn’t broken, she told herself. She’d pack it in snow for a few minutes, then wrap it, and -

Her foot hit a stone beneath the snow; stars danced in her vision, and she staggered the last two steps to the log, sitting down heavily.

Damn it.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

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#7
In one of the many conversations Sofia had had with her peers in the Circle, she had been introduced to a theory that the energy sent out into the world was paid back in equal measure. Of course it was easy to draw that parallel with magic; magic used for ill tended to have immediately poor consequences for mages who tried it in the Circle, and those who used their gifts conscientiously were usually rewarded. But it had been harder to apply to the actions of the templars, and Sofia had only been intrigued rather than convinced.

However, if the theory was correct, it was proving itself now. After finding no comeback for Sofia’s diatribe, the Warden-Constable turned away from her without an apology and immediately suffered a hoof to the foot. As annoyed as Sofia was with her, she couldn’t help a sympathetic wince. That would have hurt.

Cauthrien almost punched her horse but he had danced away again. She was evidently badly hurt but managed to swallow it back enough to issue an order to the Warden-Lieutenant, who had been silently watching the whole scene unfold. Siali’s unsettlingly pale eyes showed no censure or approval. The elven woman nodded and turned to attend to the rest of the group.

Sofia had half a mind to ask Mysaria to tend to Cauthrien. After all, had she been paying more attention to her mount than to rebuking Sofia over nothing, she might have avoided the injury. But on her way to a nearby log, Cauthrien tripped, the already damaged foot snagging on something beneath the snow. By the time the Constable reached the log, Sofia was next to her, although not in time to help ease her to sitting rather than half-falling with a thump.

“Let me look at it.” Sofia’s voice was softer, but it was not a request. Warriors could be painfully stubborn about accepting healing, especially if their pride had been injured at the same time. She was hoping that Cauthrien would prove that the most recent bout of unreasonable behaviour had been a fluke.
 

Cauthrien

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#8
“Let me look at it.”

Cauthrien wasn’t fool enough to ignore the quiet command in that voice, though she was more than a bit surprised that it was Sofia who had moved to aid her so swiftly. She had certainly done nothing to deserve such solicitude, and her current predicament was entirely the result of her own carelessness. The mage would have been well within her rights to let her superior reap the consequences of such stupidity, or at least to step back and let another healer deal with it.

But then, it was just as likely that Mysaria had signaled to Sofia that she should be the one to respond. Healers - magic or otherwise - tended to want to fix things in general, but Cauthrien’s eyes were currently watering so much that she would have been hard pressed to tell if the entire party had been sitting atop their horses naked.

“My own damn fault,” she said gruffly, more to herself than Sofia, who would undoubtedly concur with that assessment. Gritting her teeth, she caught her leg nd hauled the throbbing foot up onto the opposite knee. Sofia assisted her in loosening the laces and easing the boot off; she was careful, but the pain still set white spots dancing again before Cauthrien’s eyes, and she knew even before she saw the bloody sock that she was in trouble. The mage helped her roll the sodden wool over her foot, and she sucked her breath between clenched teeth at the damage her demon horse had wrought.

The nail on the big toe was split and bleeding, which was messy but relatively minor. The real concern was the foot itself, which was already swelling up and turning a mottled mix of reds, purples and blacks. Another few minutes and the boot would have had to be cut off. Worse yet, wriggling her toes confirmed what she hadn’t wanted to accept: two bones in the instep broken, maybe more.

Which meant that snow and a wrap wouldn’t cut it. It was going to require magical healing if she was going to be of any use.

“Well, shit.” She chuffed out a sigh and lifted her gaze to Sofia, a hint of resigned humor touching her expression. “Would you, please?” she asked politely, her voice tight with pain. “The apology you’re due will sound better if I’m not swearing at the same time.”
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

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#9
Together they managed to extricate Cauthrien’s foot from the boot before it swelled to an extent that Sofia would have to cut the footwear away. Nonetheless, the damage was immediately evident; besides the swelling, Cauthrien’s foot had more colour than a drunkard’s nose after his tenth whiskey. In some places the skin was already turning black. Before Sofia could gently feel along the bones herself – not that it would have hurt less, mind – Cauthrien wiggled her foot and the resulting expression confirmed that she was feeling quite a bit of damage.

“Well, shit.” The agony had apparently cut through the irritation of earlier; now when she looked at Sofia it was with an expression that strongly suggested that she knew she’d had it coming. “Would you, please?” The cords in her throat were standing out a little. “The apology you’re due will sound better if I’m not swearing at the same time.”

“I don’t know, it might amuse me.” Sofia’s tone wasn’t tart, and she allowed the smallest curl to her lips. She was still going to get that unreserved apology, no question, but she wasn’t feeling quite as chilly towards the other woman now. She tucked the hem of her robes under her knees and opened her satchel, pulling out a small jar.

“This is a numbing ointment. I’m going to apply it while I feel for the break.” She rested Cauthrien’s foot in her lap and started gently working the ointment over the skin, eyes on the bruises but mind following what her fingers traced beneath the flesh. She found the breaks. Without magical healing, Cauthrien might have needed a reset, a long time in bandages, and possibly a stick to learn on. Not ideal for somebody who made their living fighting.

“I’m going to shift the bones back into place now, and then I’ll start to encourage the mend with magic.” Without thinking, her voice had dropped into the lower, calming tones she adopted in the infirmary. “Yell as much as you need to.” She smiled again. “I won’t take anything you say personally. This time.”

With that, she started. Fortunately the breaks were clean and it took little to line up the bone. Focusing, she opened herself to the Fade, and allowed the magic to use her as a conduit towards the injury. Nothing ever made her feel quite as good as the sensation of it rushing through her, lighting every part with the possibilities of what she could do – and better yet, the choices she was making for its use.

“I would think that your horse was possessed by a rage demon,” she commented, keeping her eyes on her work, “But he seems less angry and more of…correct me if I use the word wrong…a prick?”
 

Cauthrien

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#10
“I don’t know, it might amuse me,” was Sofia’s response to the prospect of a profanity-laden apology, but there was no malice in her faint smile, and the hands that lifted Cauthrien’s foot to her lap were gentle. “This is a numbing ointment,” she said, breaking the seal on a small clay pot. “I’m going to apply it while I feel for the break.”

Cauthrien nodded and propped her weight on her hands, fingers digging into the damp bark a bit as the mage applied the ointment to the skin, her gaze slightly unfocused as her fingers moved over the bruised and swollen flesh. The ointment was cold, but it did dim the pain somewhat, though the deeper throb of broken bone was unabated.

“I’m going to shift the bones back into place now,” Sofia announced at length, her voice slipping into the lower register and soothing cadence that Cauthrien had heard skilled healers use, “and then I’ll start to encourage the mend with magic.” Blue eyes lifted to hers, the mage’s smile broader but still free of the mockery that she would be quite justified to indulge in. “Yell as much as you need to. I won’t take anything you say personally. This time.”

The rebuke was gently given, and Cauthrien nodded tightly, though she had no intention of making much noise. Conal MacLean had never had any patience for tears and for a young woman training as a soldier, surrounded by men, either crying or crying out was taken as a sign of weakness, regardless of the severity of the injury. She let her own focus turn inward and began the breathing exercises that she had learned from Beorlic: in deep and slow through the nose, out through the mouth, letting the pain roll through her. She’d been healed by magic a few times, but never a broken bone. She’d talked with those who had, however, and they all agreed that it hurt like a sonofabitch.

They were right.

A grunt escaped her and sweat popped on her forehead as the gentle pressure of the broken ends being pulled back into alignment was followed by several weeks worth of healing ache compressed into the space of seconds. She pressed her uninjured foot hard against the ground, fighting the reflex that demanded that she jerk away from the source of the pain.

“I would think that your horse was possessed by a rage demon,” the healer remarked without looking up. “But he seems less angry and more of…correct me if I use the word wrong…a prick?”

“You got it right.” Cauthrien took the offered distraction gratefully. “He’s the sodding archdemon in disguise,” she growled, glancing over her shoulder to where Dragon stood, placidly nibbling at some dead grass that his antics had uncovered, “and we seem to bring out the worst in each other,” she admitted with a rueful sigh, sucking a sharp breath as the sharpest pain yet pulsed in her foot, then letting it out in relief when the pain immediately began to fade, warmth suffusing the foot as the rest of the healing began.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

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#11
Cauthrien took the pain well. Sofia remembered all too well the burning in her blood as the Joining had finished the transformation the blight sickness had begun; anyone who went through that and lived came out the other side with a higher pain threshold. Of course, that also meant that a lot of Wardens were stubborn about being healed properly, because they didn’t register pain the same way they used to. Thankfully Cauthrien did not appear to be that iron-headed.

Nonetheless, a distraction would help her cope, and Sofia opted to comment on Dragon’s nature. She had been watching the horse as he took Cauthrien off the trail into drifts, placed himself in her way, shifted whenever she was just about to mount him, and she had come to the conclusion that while he was a magnificent looking animal, he was also extremely wilful. It was testament to Cauthrien’s resilience that she hadn’t simply swapped him out for another steed long ago.

“He’s the sodding archdemon in disguise.” Cauthrien’s growl pulled a smile from Sofia, and they both glanced at the topic of their conversation, who was currently taking happy advantage of the break to eat. “And we seem to bring out the worst in each other.”

The distraction had done its work. The bones finished knitting, and Sofia gave the site of the former break one last push of magic to ensure the work was done, before she began on the far less painful work of healing the bruising and the cracked toenail. Healing in any instance was something she enjoyed doing, but it was even more pleasurable when she could actually see the effects of her work. Slowly the blackened skin faded to purple, the purple to lilac and then yellow. “I’m just amazed you didn’t actually punch him in the head. Not that I would condone such an action against an animal…but I wouldn’t have been surprised by it.”

When she was done the skin was still a little reddened, but it was almost as good as new. “There. Flex your feet for me? It will likely still be a little tender from the speed of the healing.”

She straightened up, flexing her neck from side to side. She tended to focus hard when she was working, and forgot to move around.
 

Cauthrien

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#12
Sofia looked briefly toward Dragon before turning her gaze back to her work, but her magic never faltered. “I’m just amazed you didn’t actually punch him in the head,” she remarked. “Not that I would condone such an action against an animal…but I wouldn’t have been surprised by it.”

Cauthrien snorted softly. “If he’d still been standing on my foot, I’d have done it to get him to move,” she admitted, then shook her head. “But beating a beast in retribution is wrong … even if I’m pretty damn sure this particular best knows exactly what he was doing.” She was quiet for a moment, her breathing deepening and slowing as the pain eased, watching in bemused wonder as the bruising faded, the swelling reduced, the split in the toenail healed without a mark. It was quite easy to understand the benefit this could have if offered more often to the broader population. She remembered all too well from her childhood the devastating impact that such injuries had on folk that depended on physical labor to put food on the table and wood in the fireplace.

The magic trickled away like the last sands slipping from an hourglass, and Sofia withdrew her hands, inspecting the foot. “There. Flex your feet for me? It will likely still be a little tender from the speed of the healing.”

Cauthrien complied, gingerly at first, then with more force as she went through the full range of motion. The pain barely qualified as such, compared to what had come before; it wouldn’t hinder her movement.

“Thank you,” she told the healer. She eyed the bloody sock, then turned it inside out and tucked it away in her belt pouch before pulling the boot back on over the bare foot and lacing it up. It would do until they stopped for the night.

She stood and faced the mage. “I am sorry for the things I said,” she said. “You had done nothing to warrant it, nothing to delay us, and what you do with your own time is no one else’s business. I took out my frustration with my horse on you. He -” She caught herself, shook her head. “The failure was mine, and I apologize. I give you my word that it will not happen again.”
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

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#13
Cauthrien snorted and admitted that Dragon remained on her foot, she might just have struck him. Although Sofia doubted that would have made the animal move. Not only was Dragon tall, he was burly even for a warhorse, and she doubted he went anywhere he did not fully intend to go in the first place. One punch, regardless of how strong the woman was who dealt it, seemed unlikely to budge him. “But beating a beast in retribution is wrong … even if I’m pretty damn sure this particular best knows exactly what he was doing.”

“It’s a good philosophy to have. I’ve met quite a few people since joining the Wardens who think nothing of kicking out at an animal hindering their path.” Her lips curved slightly. “Of course, one of the joys of being a Warden mage is having the freedom to cause a bit of retributory hindrance of my own.”

Nothing too vicious. Just a tiny crack in the road where there hadn’t been one before, so they fell over. Or a quick blast from her head to disorient them during a critical moment of concentration. She wasn’t malicious enough to warrant a templar bearing down on her, but she wasn’t above making somebody uncomfortable if she felt they deserved it. And people who abused animals were near the top of that list.

They reached the end of the healing process, and Cauthrien moved her foot without further issue. They’d lost a little bit of time behind the others, but the main group hadn’t moved off at an especially fast pace. They didn’t have to dash off, which gave Cauthrien time to tie on her boot firmly, and then offer her apology.

“I am sorry for the things I said. You had done nothing to warrant it, nothing to delay us, and what you do with your own time is no one else’s business. I took out my frustration with my horse on you. He - The failure was mine, and I apologize. I give you my word that it will not happen again.”

Sofia dipped her head, accepting it. “Grazie, Cauthrien. I am aware it appears strange, doing something focused on my appearance when there is nobody around to appreciate it. What most people overlook is that it’s not for them. It’s for me. ”

Garalei shifted a little, and Sofia petted his neck, deeply glad he did not share Dragon’s temperament. As she hooked her foot into the stirrup, she glanced over at Cauthrien. “I have to ask – was he called Dragon when you took him on? Or did the name come later?”

And if the former, why had she not heeded the warning?

The words were amused though, rather than sniping, and she waited for Cauthrien’s answer curiously.
 

Cauthrien

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#14
“It’s a good philosophy to have,” Sofia replied when Cauthrien voiced her dislike of abusing animals. Her horse outweighed her by a hundred stone or better, and in a head-to-head contest, she would do what she needed to do to preserve her own hide, but beating him for nothing more than vengeance was the act of a coward and a fool. “I’ve met quite a few people since joining the Wardens who think nothing of kicking out at an animal hindering their path,” the mage went on, and Cauthrien nodded. She’d seen them aplenty. Rendon Howe had kicked dogs, cats, servants who didn’t move out of his way quickly enough, or with sufficient subservience. “Of course, one of the joys of being a Warden mage is having the freedom to cause a bit of retributory hindrance of my own.”

A faintly mischievous smile curled her mouth, and Cauthrien chuckled.

“Warning taken,” she said with no heat. That she would not use her magics capriciously in that manner was clear from the simple fact that she hadn’t taken advantage of having a certain ass of a Warden-Constable at her mercy to exact any revenge. She had, in fact, behaved with admirable professionalism, which made Cauthrien’s apology both easier to offer and more important.

Sofia accepted it with a gracious nod. Grazie, Cauthrien. I am aware it appears strange, doing something focused on my appearance when there is nobody around to appreciate it. What most people overlook is that it’s not for them. It’s for me.”

Cauthrien nodded thoughtfully. “I can understand that, even if I’ve never truly understood the point of makeup.” At least Sofia didn’t apply it in garish amounts, as some of the women in court did. She didn't really need it at all, inasmuch as looks were concerned, but that hadn't been its purpose. “Your skill with magic should be more than sufficient to garner you respect.” She paused, then lifted one shoulder in a shrug, mouth quirked into a rueful half-smile. “But we both know that’s not how it works.” Being as good as the men had never been enough; she’d had to work until she could pound them into the dirt, never showing any hint of weakness the whole time. A mask of sorts, if you looked at it that way.

She turned toward Dragon, turned back. “Do as you feel you need to do,” she told the mage seriously. “But here in Ferelden, your skill will be enough. You will be enough, as you are.”

Dragon watched her warily as she approached, and she sighed as he sidled away. “Enough, you bloody great brute,” she murmured, fishing in her belt pouch for the carrots that she should have thought of before now. “You’ve made enough of a fool of me for one day.” He was quite susceptible to bribery; her own stubbornness kept her from using it as much as she probably should, but perhaps that needed to change. He snatched the carrot from her greedily (she knew enough to keep her fingers well clear), and a haughty flick of his good ear as he munched giving her permission to mount.

“I have to ask –” Sofia called as she swung easily onto her own mild-tempered gelding, “was he called Dragon when you took him on? Or did the name come later?”

“He came from Orlais,” Cauthrien replied, “with a name in that tongue as long as his tail that I would have tied my tongue in knots trying to say aloud.” She could understand Orlesian fairly well, but she’d never managed to speak it. “According to Warden-Commander Howe, he’d never answered to it anyway, so I renamed him.” She grinned wryly. “I thought that ‘Urthemiel’ might be poorly received in certain company.”

Her gaze sharpened as it shifted to the bank of clouds rising from the southeast. “Looks like our luck with the weather is running out,” she remarked, thinking on the map that she had reviewed during their stop. “We should be able to beat it to the inn at Lake Calenhad; I hope he’s got enough room for us.” Asking for shelter at Kinloch wouldn’t be her first choice, but depending on the strength of the building storm, it might end up the only choice. “Ever been in a whiteout?” she asked as she turned Dragon back onto the trail and urged him to a quick walk in the direction the rest had gone.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
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#15
Cauthrien still did not quite get the point of makeup generally, but it seemed they were in accord now over Sofia’s use of cosmetics.

“Your skill with magic should be more than sufficient to garner you respect.” Cauthrien pulled a wry expression. “But we both know that’s not how it works.”

Of course she had used darker eyes and redder lips to occasionally sweeten a person who needed a little nudge, but if they had been hoping for more than a promising look, they had been disappointed. Sofia paid her way with her skills; the makeup was merely a shield. “Indeed. And I have found that being both a powerful mage and somebody who takes care with her appearance pays off well, whereas if I have one without the other it can cause some – unfortunate notions about myself.”

She knew she looked good, even without makeup, but why settle for less?

“Do as you feel you need to do. But here in Ferelden, your skill will be enough. You will be enough, as you are.”

She still didn’t quite get it, then. But Sofia smiled regardless; in this, the circles of their experience would not overlap, and Cauthrien was attempting to sympathise anyway. “I appreciate the statement, Cauthrien. Trust me that I would never put the life or health of a Warden beneath my appearance.”

Cauthrien turned back to Dragon, tempting him to stay still with a mouthful of carrots long enough for her to get back in the saddle. Sofia had had reservations about the name since meeting the beast, and now she asked about its origin.

“He came from Orlais, with a name in that tongue as long as his tail that I would have tied my tongue in knots trying to say aloud. According to Warden-Commander Howe, he’d never answered to it anyway, so I renamed him. I thought that ‘Urthemiel’ might be poorly received in certain company.”

Sofia laughed out loud this time. “I think he would have stepped on you again just for calling him that.”

They turned their steeds in the direction the other Wardens had gone; in the distance, clouds billowed liked whipped cream on a summer pudding, but considerably less welcoming. There was nothing of summer about those clouds. “Looks like our luck with the weather is running out. We should be able to beat it to the inn at Lake Calenhad; I hope he’s got enough room for us. Ever been in a whiteout?”

Sofia shook her head. “Snow is not entirely new to me, but even in my travels after joining the Wardens, I never saw more than a light dusting. The snowfall in Denerim was the first time I saw a proper blanket of it, and it was delightful. I am assuming it will be less so if we do not beat it to the inn.” Her lips curved. “If they don’t have room for us, we could always sleep in the stables. I am sure that Dragon would happily keep you warm. While he’s unconscious.”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
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314
#16
Cauthrien had learned early on that being a woman meant that being good enough was simply not … good enough. She had to be better, faster, stronger, harder than any man that she was measured against - and by a clear margin - to simply be considered his equal. And she had done it, pushing herself relentlessly, molding herself into the consummate soldier at the expense of anything remotely resembling a life outside of her duties. Women who were mages dealt with similar pressures, it seemed.

“Indeed,” Sofia agreed to Cauthrien’s remark on the subject. “And I have found that being both a powerful mage and somebody who takes care with her appearance pays off well, whereas if I have one without the other it can cause some – unfortunate notions about myself.”

The Warden-Constable nodded. She could guess what those notions might have been and doubted that the other woman cared to rehash them. Instead, she offered the same promise that she gave to any under her command: in the Fereldan Grey Wardens, her worth would be judged on her skill alone.

“I appreciate the statement, Cauthrien,” Sofia replied with a smile. “Trust me that I would never put the life or health of a Warden beneath my appearance.”

“That actually had never concerned me,” Cauthrien replied with a shake of her head. If there had been any hints that the new arrival had been that self absorbed, she’d have been left in Amaranthine with Nathaniel.

The question about Dragon’s name surprised her, and her answer clearly amused Sofia, whose laughter rang in the cold air.

“I think he would have stepped on you again just for calling him that,” she suggested, to which Cauthrien had to laugh herself.

“Him?” She leaned down to give her mount a rough pat on the broad plane of a shoulder. He would have worn it as a badge of honor.” There was an odd sort of pride in the admission. He was a stubborn bastard … but so was she. “But the memories of the Blight are fresh in Ferelden memory, and I thought that few outside of the Wardens would appreciate the joke.”

Her attention shifted to the clouds on the horizon that threatened much more than the flurries and light snowfalls that they had experienced so far on their journey. Fortunately, shelter was not too far away.

“Snow is not entirely new to me,” Sofia remarked, “but even in my travels after joining the Wardens, I never saw more than a light dusting. The snowfall in Denerim was the first time I saw a proper blanket of it, and it was delightful. I am assuming it will be less so if we do not beat it to the inn.” A hint of a teasing smile touched her mouth. “If they don’t have room for us, we could always sleep in the stables. I am sure that Dragon would happily keep you warm. While he’s unconscious.”

Cauthrien snorted as she turned Dragon back to the road. “I’d have to get him drunk to get him that unconscious,” she said dryly. “It would be easier to row across to Kinloch and ask the Circle for shelter.” Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that; after Nathaniel’s recent visit, her reception inside Kinloch would undoubtedly be nearly as chilly as the weather outside. “Let’s move.” The quicker they reached the lake and the inn, the more time they would have to size up their options.
 
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