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Harmon Cabot

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#1
(( 18 Firstfall 35 Dragon, Night, @Celeste Monroe ))

“Tell it to me one more time, Harmon.”

“I’m a traveling apothecary from Tantervale, but I’ve been on the road with my family since I was young. My family was killed by thieves and so I decided to hire a mercenary as a personal guard. I’ve decided I’m tired of traveling and I’m going to settle in Kirkwall to start a shop,” Harmon’s eyes lit up at that part, “and I’m going to -”

“You’re going to say nothing else.” June’s words were sharp, like a yank of the reins of a horse.

“Right, right.” Harmon nodded as he adjusted the crate strapped to his back. It jingled and clanked and rattled with all the little bottles and supplements stored within. The sound was convincing enough to him considering it was barely half full. That didn’t make his shoulders any less sore from the weight of it all, though. They’d spent weeks traveling, winding their way through the wilderness in June’s paranoid way of deterring any would-be followers.

Harmon looked over at her and felt that same twinkle of something from Hope in the back of his mind. Ever since she was assigned as his escort years ago he still couldn’t make heads nor tails of what exactly Hope felt about the woman. She stood perfectly still, solid like a tree, but there was a tenseness beneath the surface like a bow pulled taut. Any mage worth their salt would know that sallow, cold look in her eyes, but most people weren’t mages, and most people didn’t pay attention to June, not unless she wanted them to. Harmon had spent so much time paying attention to her that he knew exactly what was going on with her now.

Impatience. Not for the meeting, no. Not to get inside the city and finally have a soft bed to sleep in. She was hardier than that, built of the toughest stuff Harmon had ever seen. No, she was impatient because this was it. This was her plan all along, the plan she’d spent weeks, months, years coming up with - she’d never told him exactly how long it’d been, but he could guess all he wanted - and the past few months finally executing. An ex-Templar like her knew the value of a Spirit Healer, and she was about to deliver him to the place where he could do the most good. She’d sacrificed so much. She was almost done. So close. So tense. So impatient.

“I feel like we could embellish it more,” Harmon said to break the silence. “Throw in something more interesting, like a big bear or a dra-”

“Hush!” June’s eyes focused on a figure not too far away, one Harmon hadn’t picked up on as his imagination almost took him somewhere else. She took a cautious step forward, making sure to place herself slightly in front of Harmon. There was a little burst of joy from Hope at June’s little protective gesture, enough that Harmon let it warm and calm whatever anxious nerves his companion had tightened within him. They were going to be alright. June always made sure they’d be alright.

“All things in the world are finite,” June called out to the figure. Harmon gave her a questioning look, but it was a look that would remain unanswered as June waited for...something. She still looked calm and steady on the surface, a tree rooted to the sands of the coast. Waiting. Harmon knew that slightly turn of her heel, though, the way one shoulder was further back than the other and her head turned just enough so one ear was angled more towards her valuable little mage. The image of the bow came back to his mind, taut and creaking and ready to spring.

Harmon turned his questioning gaze to the newcomer. Whatever this was about, June had been stingy with the details. We’re going to Kirkwall. You’ll be useful there. It was all she ever told him whenever he asked. Now that he was standing with her just outside the city, he had to wonder what exactly she meant by useful.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#2
The messenger had arrived at the Wicked Grace at mid-afternoon, after Nicolette had left the ship to ply her trade within the city. Evidently, the Mage Underground was so pleased that she hadn't gotten herself killed or arrested on the last halfassed mission they'd sent her on that they wanted to take another try at getting her killed or arrested.

It hadn't taken Celeste long to convince the man to relay the message to her, rather than go in search of Nico, and even less time to decide to undertake the requested task without the minstrel. The target this time was a runaway mage who was trying to sneak into the city; the job was to meet him and his companion at a cove along the Wounded Coast and see them into Kirkwall and the safe house in Lowtown where he could begin his new life.

In a city that hated mages. Celeste didn't want to know how bad things had been wherever he had run from. She'd been given a bare bones description of the pair, a sign-countersign lifted from the Chant of Light and the location of the rendezvous.

That was it. He could be a blood mage or an abomination or have half a Circle's worth of templars on his ass. Kalindra had given her a look that meant that she thought it was a bad idea, but she hadn't argued when Celeste had announced her intention to leave Nicolette out of it. She'd taken Dax with her; aside from Gideon, he was the best to have along if a fight broke out. Her right hand was still bruised from the asshole pounding it into the floorboards, but Brannigan's smelly salves had gotten her most of the function back. And as an added precaution, she'd donned the inscripted armor that Daniel had gotten for her; she hadn't worn it since they'd tangled with the demons in Darktown. Hopefully that wasn't a bad omen.

They'd been walking for hours; no way were they going to make it back before Nico returned to the ship, and Celeste had begun turning her mind to a story that would explain her absence. A caper for the Jennies should do the trick, and Celeste made herself ignore the twinge of unease at the idea of lying to Nicolette. What she didn't know wouldn't hurt her, while shit like this very much could.

They could hear voices ahead, and a gesture from Celeste rooted Dax to the spot while she moved forward until she could see the speakers: man and woman. He was tall, dark eyes, brown hair slightly mussed, pale skin and an affable face even with the wary apprehension in his eyes. The woman was attractive enough, but her expression was all suspicion and readiness as she placed herself squarely between Celeste and the man, body poised for battle.

“All things in the world are finite,” she intoned, her eyes intent on Celeste's face.

“What one man loses, another man gains,” Celeste responded. Just enough of a change that someone familiar with the Chant wouldn't accidentally hit on it. Unless they inadvertently got the verse turned around, but the odds of that happening out here in the asscrack of nowhere were probably small.

She kept her hands open at her sides, within easy reach of her daggers, and didn't signal for Dax to reveal himself just yet. They didn't look like abominations, but blood mages weren't so easy to pick up at first glance.
 
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Harmon Cabot

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#3
“What one man loses, another man gains,” came the response. Harmon lifted a brow. That wasn’t how the verse went, but there was no mistaking June’s sudden change in demeanor. The stiffness left her shoulders, and he could hear her finally exhale the breath she’d been holding. Even if the verse was wrong, the answer seemed to appease her well enough.

“You must be our contact,” June said as she stepped forward, beckoning Harmon to follow. “How is the plan looking now?”

“Plan? What plan?”

“Harmon, not now.”

“We’re going to the city. It’s a simple thing. Just walk thr-”

“It’s not so simple as that.” A fist clenched at June’s side. Harmon took that as his cue to back off the subject. He’d spent enough time to know that clenched fists meant clenched teeth which would eventually mean unhappy June, and a stressed June made more clenched fists than usual. He was better off not irritating her tonight.

“Well, in that case,” he stepped up beside June and gave a big smile to their newest companion, “I’m Harmon Cabot, Emissary of Hope and- “

“He means he’s a spirit healer.”

“Right, and this is June Beaumont, ex-”

“Guardian. Just guardian of Harmon here.” The warning glare Harmon was expecting from June never came. Maybe she was relaxed, or maybe she was more concerned about the new person standing before them. She’d been touchy the past few months, always on edge and quick to pull the leash on him for anything out of line. While he understood her paranoia, it was still difficult to stifle his own personality for the sake of….what had she called it? Self-preservation. Something like that. She kept telling him he needed to work on that, but why would he need to do anything of the sort when he had her around?

“And you must be…” Harmon left his sentence hanging in the air, waiting for their new companion to fill in the blank.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#4
Celeste listened bemusedly to the back and forth between the man and woman. Not like an old married couple bickering; more like a mother and son, though they were close to an age. There was no doubt that the woman was running this show, and there was a definite babe in the woods aura to the young man that likely accounted for her weary vigilance.

She had no idea what an Emissary of Hope was, and spirit healer sounded … odd. The ‘guardian’ part was easier to figure out, however.

“And you must be …” Harmon trailed off, regarding her expectantly after they had introduced themselves.

“Puzzled,” she drawled, her gaze shifting to June, then back to him. “I’m new at smuggling mages. Do you normally bring your own templar?”
 

Harmon Cabot

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“I’m new at smuggling mages. Do you normally bring your own templar?”

Silence filled the air for a moment as June struggled to find a proper response. Just as she opened her mouth to give a hastily cobbled together excuse, Harmon exclaimed, “Oh! She’s a smart one! I like her!”

June shot him a sharp look, one that was met with a shrug and a little grin.

“What? Would you rather have a dunce getting us in the city?”

“No,” June replied through clenched teeth. Harmon watched as she took a deep breath and shook out her arms to get some of the tenseness out of her shoulders. One more deep breath and the frustration was gone, replaced with a more serious, focused demeanor.

“You answered the cipher well enough, but you’ve yet to tell us who you are.” She crossed her arms over her chest, leaning her hip out to leave the hilt of her blade more prominently exposed. Harmon had seen that subtle threat before and took a step back. While he knew her habits well enough by now, he also knew better than to stand near her while she was putting on her tough face. Something about maintaining the proper strength in her stance and him not breaking her illusion - whatever that meant. He was quite sure she knew nothing of illusion magic, but leaving her to do whatever it was she was doing always seemed like the best option.

“I’d like to know who was officially sent to guide us before we follow you anywhere.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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The kid’s face lit up at Celeste’s query, but the sound of sphincters slamming shut was all but audible from the direction of the guardian.

“Oh! She’s a smart one! I like her!” Harmon’s enthusiasm was quelled only slightly by the glower that June directed at him. “What? Would you rather have a dunce getting us in the city?” he asked with a shrug and a sheepish smile.

“No.” The single word ground out between gritted teeth was followed by some deep breathing and arm shaking before the incipient anger gave way to an I Mean Business expression.

“You answered the cipher well enough, but you’ve yet to tell us who you are.” She crossed her arms authoritatively and shifted her stance to be sure that Celeste could see that she had a Big Sword and knew how to use it. Harmon took a quick step back, his own expression not really fearful but suggesting that he’d seen this display before. “I’d like to know who was officially sent to guide us before we follow you anywhere.”

Celeste looked her up and down, her own expression profoundly unimpressed. “Looks like I’ve found somebody even newer at this than I am,” she remarked, seating herself on a fallen log, because this was looking like it might take a bit, and she might as well be comfortable. “You can call me Delia.” Only a handful of people knew her middle name, and only Daniel had the stones to call her by it. “I was sent by a bloke who looked to weigh seven stone soaking wet and had a face like a rat. No idea what his name was, because names get people arrested or killed on business like this. He told me where I needed to go and a general idea of who I would be meeting, because written instructions can also get people arrested or killed.

“There is no ‘official’, as far as I can tell,” she went on. “I was picked because I was willing to do it. If you don’t like that, I can go back and see if they have somebody more official to send, but I hope you’ve got plenty of food if you’re planning on waiting on that.” She tipped her head back the way she’d come. “It’s about a four hour walk thataway from here to Kirkwall, if you’re wanting to do it on your own. I’d recommend getting the stick out of your ass by the time you get there.” This was delivered casually to June, “Because while he doesn’t stand out much, you’ve practically got ‘templar’ written on your forehead. Might want to pose as a married couple; you ordering him around might pass better that way, since you’re too young to be his mother.”

She shrugged. "Or I can show you the way, maybe give you some advice on blending in better while we walk. Your choice." And she really didn't give a damn which they chose at this point.
 

Harmon Cabot

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“Looks like I’ve found somebody even newer at this than I am.” Harmon glanced over at June to see if the comment had drawn any ire from her, but the woman’s face remained stern and steady. “You can call me Delia.”

“Right. Delia.” Stern. Steady. There was a slight narrowing to June’s eyes that sent a hint of suspicion Harmon’s way, but he hadn’t the foggiest clue what she was concerned about.

“I was sent by a bloke who looked to weigh seven stone soaking wet and had a face like a rat,” Delia explained. Harmon nodded along to everything she was saying - a fascinating tale, to say the least. So much intrigue and danger. June had cautioned him on the risks when they left Ansburg, but until then they’d had hardly any trouble. It seemed the final leg of their journey was going to be the most challenging.

“It’s about a four hour walk thataway from here to Kirkwall, if you’re wanting to do it on your own. I’d recommend getting the stick out of your ass by the time you get there.”

“Excuse me?” June snapped. Harmon knew that tone well enough to take a step back.

“Because while he doesn’t stand out much, you’ve practically got ‘templar’ written on your forehead.”

“It took a Templar to get him this far,” June rebutted through gritted teeth.

“Might want to pose as a married couple; you ordering him around might pass better that way, since you’re too young to be his mother.”

“Oh!” Harmon bounced back on his heels, a big grin across his face. “Oh, we can do that, right June?” The woman sighed as she put a hand up to her face. “Come on! Just one more time! You’ve been so good at it!”

June remained still for a moment. Harmon watched her carefully, keeping his gaze focused on her shoulders. It was always her shoulders that gave her away. Soon enough they relaxed, tension dropping away along with the hand from her face. She wore a neutral smile now, one that would fool most people into believing she was calm and generally happy. Nothing to see here, just a plain woman.

“Do you still have the rings, Harmon?”

“Of course!” Harmon pulled his crate in front of him and fished around in its contents until he pulled out a simple pair of metal rings. “Catch!” He tossed one ring to June. It flickered in the air before being smothered by a deft catch. In moments the two had their rings on the appropriate fingers.

“Alright, now that that’s settled,” June turned back to Delia. “I do believe my husband and I are ready to enter Kirkwall.” Harmon beamed beside her. “Lead the way.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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June was decidedly less than pleased to be informed that she was a bigger sore thumb that her - charge? Friend? Celeste wasn’t sure what the dynamic was there, but she’d bet her ship that they weren’t lovers. They did, however, have a distinct resemblance to a few old married couples that she’d met over the years.

Harmon’s face lit up when she made the suggestion. “Oh, we can do that,” he exclaimed enthusiastically, “right June?” June dropped her face into one hand, presumably not to conceal tears of joy. “Come on! Just one more time! You’ve been so good at it!”

Celeste opted not to add her encouragement to Harmon’s, and after a moment, the hand lowered to reveal a placid face and a smile that might have passed as mildly pleased, if one hadn’t seen the expression that preceded it.

“Do you still have the rings, Harmon?”

“Of course!” The mage dug into his belongings and came up with two rings, donning one himself and flipping the other in June’s direction. “Catch!”

“Alright, now that that’s settled,” June said after slipping her own ring on. “I do believe my husband and I are ready to enter Kirkwall.” Her groom wore a goofy smile, and Celeste had a sudden vision of a half-grown puppy running circles around a long-suffering cat. “Lead the way.”

“One moment.” Celeste turned, thought better of it and turned back. “Adding one more to our happy band; he’s a friend, so I’d take it as favor if you didn’t draw that sword on him.” Turning again, she gave a low whistle that was quickly answered, followed by Dax making his way through the trees. “This is Clyde,” she introduced him, using one of his usual aliases. Dax gave the happy couple a noncommittal nod; strong and silent was his specialty. Beating the crap out of assholes was his other specialty, so he took point as they started back toward Kirkwall.

“So, how did you two crazy kids meet up?”
she asked, not really expecting an answer. “Do they just draw names from a hat when you get to the circle?” She probably wasn’t supposed to ask, but doing what she was supposed to do had never been her strong suit.

The night was clear, and they made good time, the moon shining down through the leaves that remained on the branches overhead to illuminate their path. They’d been walking for about an hour when Dax faded back, a finger to his lips warning them to silence, then tapping the side of his nose.

Celeste lifted her head and sniffed. Wood smoke. She’d heard plenty about the inhabitants of the Wounded Coast: bandits, wolves and, since the Qunari had parked in Kirkwall, bands of Tal-Vashoth who didn’t seem to care much who they attacked. She motioned the newlyweds closer. “Someone is camped close by,” she whispered, nodding in the direction the light night breeze had carried the smoke from. “Probably no one we want to run into; we’ll sneak around to the west. Quietly.” She looked between them, her gaze resting longest on Harmon.
 

Harmon Cabot

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#9
“One moment.” Delia turned away from them long enough for Harmon to see June’s jaw tense. “Adding one more to our happy band; he’s a friend, so I’d take it as favor if you didn’t draw that sword on him.”

“I can’t make any guarantees,” June muttered. The mask of the doting wife dropped in an instant, replaced with the same grim intensity from before. Harmon saw her twitch at the whistle, watched her eyes dart around until they settled on the newcomer. Her hand hovered over the hilt of her blade.

“This is Clyde,” Delia explained. June gave the large man one look up and down before dropping her hand back to her side and linking her other hand around Harmon’s elbow. Her grip was light, and one glance from Harmon told him she was back in wife mode: eyes soft and expression gentle. He gave her a big grin, one that made her smile a little bigger in return.

“So, how did you two crazy kids meet up?” Delia asked as they started making their way towards the city. “Do they just draw names from a hat when you get to the circle?”

“Oh, nothing of the sort! June was assigned to me, and-” He stopped himself, expecting June to interrupt him like she always did when he was about to start talking too much. The air hung silent for a moment, but no sharp remark came.

“Go on,” June encouraged. “They already know what we are. Not much harm they can do with our story now, can they?”

“R...right.” Harmon’s brows furrowed in confusion for a moment, but only for just a moment. Hope burst in at the back of his mind, somehow more enthusiastic about telling his story than he was. “Some mages in the Circle get assigned a Templar or two to watch over them. June had only been in Ansburg a few months, but the Templars saw fit to assign her to me once I’d bonded to Hope - something about me being a danger to the other mages and huge risk factors and necessary precautions and lots of things June knows a lot more about, right?”

June nodded along, keeping close to Harmon as they walked side-by-side. She was playing her part well, but Harmon knew part of what made her so good at being an attached spouse was her need to guard him. It was all in the subtle movements - a little tug to guide him away from a ditch, a quick glance at an odd shadow, the reassuring rub of her thumb at his elbow.

“I wouldn’t have picked anyone else if I had the choice.” That statement made a small smile light up June’s face, a genuine one, not the kind that she’d wield like a tool whenever it was necessary.

They followed the other pair, Harmon telling story after story of the little things at the Ansburg circle. Scarves and wisps and sunny days outside the Circle’s walls - all of it left his heart feeling heavier and heavier. Even Hope’s light was dwindling in the back of his mind, but now that he was talking about it he couldn’t help the homesickness that was settling down upon him. He’d have a new home - he reminded himself of that just enough to keep Hope’s attention from drifting too far away, but it weighed him down nonetheless. Soon enough his voice drifted off as he found himself growing reluctant to tell his stories.

It didn’t matter, though. June suddenly tightened her grip on Harmon’s elbow just as Delia lifted her nose to sniff the air. The pair stepped towards their guide as she motioned them over, June making sure she was a half step in front.

“Someone is camped close by. Probably no one we want to run into; we’ll sneak around to the west. Quietly.” Delia’s gaze settled pointedly on Harmon just as June’s eyes did the same.

“Did I do something wrong?” he asked the pair, but June only shook her head and turned him westward. “Right, okay. Quiet. I can do that.”

The silence wasn’t the silence Harmon knew. A silent library. A silent city street. A silent night under the stars. Those were all different kinds of silence, silence he was familiar with. This silence was….odd. Strained, like it was being forced into existence. Of course, it wouldn’t be sneaking about without some muffling, but it still felt wrong. Hope had huddled into a tiny spark in the back of his mind, and Harmon clung to her as best he could while sending a silent prayer that no other spirit would try to find her when was obviously so nervous. Nervous about what, though?

Harmon halted just a second before June stopped. Their eyes took in the darkness around them, but June was already pulling out her sword and pushing the mage behind her. Harmon pulled his staff in front of him.

“Don’t use it unless you absolutely have to, Harmon,” June whispered back at him. Her head snapped over to the sound of a snapped twig on her left, and she raised her blade in front of her, poised for an ambush. Harmon clung tightly to his staff, its steel cold and familiar in his grip as he held his breath and waited for whatever was hiding just out of sight.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#10
The dynamic between this odd couple was hard to pin down, and damned intriguing. Not lovers … Celeste would bet her ship on that, but definitely more than guardian and guarded. No mistaking who wore the pants, though. Harmon began to prattle on happily when Celeste asked how they had come to be paired up, only to catch himself with a chagrined expression and went silent until June gave him permission to continue.

Unsurprisingly, the circles weren’t matchmaking services; she had been assigned to him after he’d gotten friendly with Hope … who, judging from what he said about Templar concerns, was what put the ‘Spirit’ in ‘Spirit Healer’. Celeste exchanged a glance with Dax; he’d been there when the abomination had nearly killed Sorcha.

“I wouldn’t have picked anyone else if I had the choice,” Harmon proclaimed in conclusion, getting the most genuine smile out of June that Celeste had seen yet. She remained vigilant, though, guiding him around obstacles in his path as he told tale after tale of the Ansburg circle. Ansburg … she had heard something about that some weeks back, hadn’t she? Damned if she could remember what, though. Something about mages …

Her attempt at recall was interrupted by Dax’s silent warning and the scent of a campfire on the breeze, and she fell back to let Harmon know that storytime needed to be put on hold for the moment.

“Did I do something wrong?” he blurted anxiously. “Right, okay. Quiet. I can do that.”

Celeste had her doubts, but he did indeed go silent as they changed course, angling away from the woodsmoke smell through still more trees, and while Celeste didn’t hate being in the forest as much as she did being underground, there wasn’t a great deal to recommend it, as far as she was concerned. You couldn’t see a damn thing for all the tree trunks and bushes, and she didn’t need to be a woodsman to suspect that the sudden cessation of the sounds that had been surrounding them - crickets chirping, night birds calling in the trees overhead, tiny feet scuttling through fallen leaves - was not a good sign.

June alerted first, stepping in front of Harmon and drawing her sword as a twig was snapped off to their right, then another. Celeste drew her daggers and Dax bent to retrieve a stout branch from the forest floor as horned shadows rose up in the moonlight. Tal-Vashoth. Just fucking wonderful, and if the asshole who had brought the message regarding this little nothing of an errand had succeeded in his aim, it would have been Nicolette out here. That pissed Celeste off more than the fucking ambush.

“Kadanshok defransdim vashedan!” she called in the direction of the four - no, five - hulking shadows before ducking into the shadows. Regardless of race, angry opponents were easier to fight.

“Cover your eyes!” Celeste obligingly squeezed her eyes tight, knowing what was coming. A moment later, the flash-bang that Dax had hurled lit up the backs of her eyelids and left her ears ringing, but the bellows of pain from the direction of their opponents indicated that they had been caught fully off guard. Hopefully, June and Harmon had listened.

Opening her eyes, Celeste found darkness reigning once more, her eyes quickly adjusting and picking out the nearest adversary stumbling about and lashing out blindly with the sword that he held. She came in low, then up, and by the time he realized that she was close, it was done, her dagger slicing across his throat to release a hot spray of blood. She spun away, hissing in pain as his thrashing caught her with the tip of his blade, drawing a line of fire down her left arm.
 

Harmon Cabot

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“Kadanshok defransdim vashedan!”

“Kadan-what?”

“Harmon!” June leapt back in time to throw a hand over his eyes and squeeze her own shut. The burst of light faded just as quickly as it had come, and before Harmon could fully register what happened June was already off in the direction of a dazed shadow. His ears rung and he blinked his eyes a few times as he settled back into the moment.

Right. Tal-Vashoth. June had made it a point to warn him of the dangers of the lands beyond the cities, and Qunari had definitely made that list. There was little time to reminisce over their discussion, though, as Hope pulled his attention in the direction of Delia. Even in the darkness he could make out her swift movements and the even swifter slice of a blade down her arm.

Hope welled up within him, setting his palms aglow before he could stifle it by squeezing the cold steel of his staff. If June had sensed what Hope had almost made him do, she made no sign of it as she slapped the flat of her blade across her adversary’s face before giving him a solid kick in the groin. Harmon tore his gaze away, suddenly a little nauseous at seeing his guardian so...dirty. A choking sound that was swiftly cut off told him all he needed to know about that fight.

Harmon took a step back. Then another. Hope’s spark dwindled in the back of his mind, drifting off like an ember. Another step. Another. Anoth- no, something big was behind him. At first he thought he’d bumped into a tree trunk, but trees didn’t have hands to wrap around his arm, nor could they growl. Iron bit at his throat just as he realized he hadn’t actually, in fact, bumped into a tree.

“Harmon!” June called out, but all he could do was remain still. His breath was frozen and his eyes were wide. Think. Think. June was already dropping her sword, her expression once full of rage now that of submission and calculation. Calming words, negotiating words were coming out of her mouth, but they didn’t register in Harmon’s ears. His pulse pounded as his mind shuffled through every page of every book, every potion, every spell, every anything to get himself away from this tree trunk of a being behind him.

He knew he wasn’t supposed to use it, but even as it came to mind he could feel Hope bristling with energy. June would surely scold him for it later. Even so, a scolding was far better than a slit throat, so he closed his eyes, clung tightly to his staff, and thought of heat and fear and fire. The creature at his back suddenly released him with a yelp. Harmon spun quickly and whacked his temple with the top of his staff, knocking the Qunari to the ground with a dense thud.

“Harmon, what did you do?” June snapped as she rushed over to him. She wrapped him in a warm embrace, a much gentler warmth than the kind he’d just unleashed on his foe.

“Flashfire,” Harmon managed to mumbled between heaving breaths. “Just enough -” huff “- to scare him.” June glanced down at the down Qunari to see the edges of his clothes singed. She winced involuntarily at the urge to subdue him, but there was nothing there to subdue, just a tired mage and an unconscious adversary.

“It’s alright, Harmon,” she murmured in his ear as she slowly worked his fingers off his staff. It dropped to the ground beside them, narrowly missing the foe he’d knocked out. Better to be safe than sorry with a mage, but even as she calmed and steadied him she gave Delia a pointed look before turning her gaze to the unconscious shape on the ground. He was still breathing. Safe didn’t include him still breathing. As she waited for the other woman to get the message, she pulled Harmon closer and took a few steps back, giving her some distance to let her do her work.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#12
There were Tal-Vashoth … and then there were Tal-Fucking-Vashoth, and it was quickly apparent that these were of the latter sort: driven mad by the restrictive regimentation of the Qun, yet with no idea how to think for themselves after they had broken with its control, they lashed out at anything that came within reach, fighting with no tactics or strategy. It didn’t make them any less dangerous, but it did make it easier to beat them, and the flash-bang provided an additional thumb on the scale. Fair fights were for dead men.

Celeste’s opponent dropped like a sack of meat, blood spurting from his throat. Dax had charged another, taking a couple of hits before driving a beefy fist full-force into the gut, then clubbing him none-too-gently over the head when he folded over. Two down, but how many left?

Maybe just one, and June was putting on a show of dirty-fighting tactics that she surely hadn’t learned in the Chantry. Or maybe she had. Either way, as soon as he bent over from her boot to his balls, her blade cut off his strangled oaths along with his head. Messy, but damned effective -

“Harmon!”

Well, shit. A fourth had possessed enough sense to keep to the shadows and now had the mage’s arm gripped in one massive hand, the other holding a blade to Harmon’s throat. June … dropped her fucking sword.

Sonofabitch!

As the templar … former templar … whateverthefuck …tried reasoning with the giant, Celeste was maneuvering into position and reaching for one of her throwing daggers while Dax circled from the other direction, ready to pounce, because while fear had overtaken the rage in the Tal-Vashoth’s amethyst eyes, there was still nothing remotely resembling reason in the mix. Just a cornered animal that was missing half of the fight or flight response.

Fwoosh!

Celeste jumped back reflexively at the sudden gout of flame, and by the time her eyesight had adjusted, the Tal-Vashoth was down and June had Harmon in an embrace that surely was not Chantry sanctioned.

“Harmon, what did you do?” she demanded, somewhat needlessly from Celeste's point of view. She was rapidly erasing the points she had earned with the nutcracker.

“Flashfire,” Harmon panted. “Just enough - to scare him.”

Which didn't explain why his attacker was still on the ground. “You don’t try to scare when you’re fighting for your life,” Celeste advised him, approaching to inspect his handiwork. The goose-egg over the left ear must have been from the staff … so of course June relieved him of that while murmuring reassurances. How the fuck this pair had managed to survive this long was a rapidly growing mystery. Maybe they hadn’t had to fight yet.

As June guided Harmon away from his vanquished opponent without so much as an ‘Atta boy!’, she looked down at the Tal-Vashoth, then back to Celeste, her expression significant.

Celeste felt her eyebrows climbing halfway up her forehead. Firstly, she didn’t take orders from anyone, least of all tin cans who seemed to take it for granted that she would without even a please. Dax had crouched beside the one he’d dropped, fingers at the throat seeking a pulse. He looked up at her and nodded, his face serious.

“Come on.” Celeste jerked her head in roughly the direction they’d been headed when they’d been ambushed. “If we’re not around when they wake up, they won’t give chase.” Secondly, killing in self defense was one thing; killing someone who was out on the ground … well, she’d do it if she needed to, but it was too damn easy to see Gideon in the broad shoulders and curling horns. They’d been fucked over by the Qun and hadn’t been lucky enough to have someone help them out. Gid said that some of this kind would get over the madness, given time. Maybe these two would.

She set a brisk pace, her head turned up until she could see enough of the stars overhead to get her bearings. Land or sea, the stars were always there, and if she could see them, she could find her way. Her arm was burning and sticky with blood, and Dax was walking with a care that suggested a broken rib or three, but that would keep until they were well away from here. Direction found, she looked to Harmon with a faint grin. “I’ll teach you how to swear in Qunlat as we go,” she offered, knowing full well that would chap June’s ass.
 
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