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Nobody Expects The Dalish Inquisition [Closed]

Vamaya Harel

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#1
[[OOC: 18th Drakonis, 9:41]] Varric Tethras

The trees had been thinning for the last mile. Each gap in the canopy widened Vamaya’s view of the sky, and with it, the vortex over the mountains. Against the pale blue, the green light surrounding it looked like a disease. In the distance she could see columns of smoke leaking upwards from various campfires and chimneys, and then as she began to emerge from the wood, she could see Haven itself. The settlement’s brown and greys sat in ugly contrast to the snowy backdrop, and from this distance she could make out the people, attired in drab clothing or blockish armour, milling around and treading more of the snow into slush.

All in all, it was about as she had expected. Few shemlen settlements she had seen had ever demonstrated a willingness to work with and complement the environment around. They attempted to tame nature the way they did everything else – forcefully. It was going to be hard, working in these surroundings. And she was not altogether convinced that the faith Keeper Suriah had placed in her would be repaid. She could lie to her own kind well enough, but could she be convincing enough for these people?

She wanted to return to the safety of the forest, but there was no question of turning back. Besides the shame that would come with returning empty-handed, she wanted to understand what the Breach was for herself. Besides, if she saw any indication that the Inquisition might be hostile towards the Dalish as a whole, she wanted to get that word back in time for her clan to get to safety.

To that end, Din was with her, although at the moment he was soaring overhead. Not for the first time, Vamaya wished she could do the same. To get a sense of the layout of this place ahead of time would be a huge advantage.

No point delaying. She left the treeline, heading for the camp, and received her first surprise; she wasn’t challenged. Wearing an open, if slightly nervous expression, she strode with the air of somebody who knew where they needed to go and that was apparently enough to avoid questions. There had been scouts in the forest a little while ago, but she hadn’t wanted to be seen by them. So she hadn’t been.

She couldn’t just wander around in the hope of eavesdropping on something useful, though. She needed to make herself valuable, so that people would tell her the useful things directly. Once through the gates, she cast around for a friendly face.

There weren’t many. Admittedly it was an improvement on what she had expected, which was to be shot, stabbed, or told to piss off, but there were still a fair few human faces souring at her appearance. And slightly to her left, a dwarf, wearing silks.

She didn’t really quite know what to do with that information, but he wasn’t human and he wasn’t scowling at her, so she made a beeline for him, a smile already on her lips.

“Hello! Um…is this where I join the Inquisition?”
 

Varric Tethras

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#2
Varric had stopped trying to tell himself that shit couldn’t get weirder; it just seemed to be an invitation for the Maker to say ‘Hold my beer’, and he was a mean drunk. Redcliffe … had been off the scale in terms of strangeness, and he’d evidently missed the really freaky happenings - sort of. From where he’d been standing, they had Alexius cornered, Nightingale’s infiltrators cutting down most of his minions and Lucky about to renegotiate the terms of the rebel mages’ assistance in closing the Breach. Varric had been there with Cassandra, the ‘Vint mage, Dorian, had sauntered in fashionably late, and then Alexius had started in on the ranting exposition that literal villains evidently shared a weakness for with their literary counterparts.

Then? Well, that depended on who you asked. Alexius cast a spell, and there had been a flash of light that had temporarily blinded Varric, and when his vision had cleared, Sati, who had come in no more worn than the rest of them, had been bloody and battered and in general looked like shit - if shit were seven feet tall, horned and seriously pissed off. Her eyes had been more than a little wild, and if Dorian hadn’t backed up the story she’d told, word for word, her sanity would have been very much in question.

The future they had seen made their present problems look like a mild case of indigestion, and apparently, he had lived through all of it. One of him had, anyway. He was still trying to wrap his mind around that part. Writing down the story of his own heroic self sacrifice - alongside Cassandra, of all people - had only heightened the sense of unreality and given him a bad case of the heebie-jeebies to boot. But Sati and Sparkler believed that what they’d seen was real … a real possibility, at least, which meant that the stakes had suddenly gotten higher than anyone had ever expected.

So, things in Haven were … a little tense, to say the least. Dozens of frightened and weary mages wandered about, eyeing the few templars who had joined the Inquisition like mice watching cats. The templars were no less suspicious of the mages, and Cullen had been required to speak sharply to a couple that had thought to pick up where they’d left off as jailers. And the common, non-magical folk of Thedas, after centuries of such tensions being kept hidden in towers, now found themselves tossed into the mix. And then there was this as-yet-anonymous ‘Elder One’ that Alexius steadfastly refused to name and turned into a quivering mess at the mere mention of. The creator of the Breach and the potential author of the end of the world, if that possible future came to pass.

So yeah: tense.

So the appearance of a Dalish elf - the first that Varric had seen since coming to Haven - wasn’t exactly the cue to roll out the welcome mat and polish the good silver. Most of the folk bustling around ignored her and the rest glowered at her suspiciously. Varric had heard at least one conspiracy theorist claiming that the elves had caused the explosion at the Conclave, but nobody had seemed to be giving him any credence, so it was probably just good old fashioned human prejudice. She spotted him and headed over, a smile on her face, and Varric felt a wistful twinge at the thought of Daisy. This one’s smile was more open, less shy, and her facial tattoos were a different pattern and white, but he hadn't met many Dalish, and he missed Merrill. Hopefully, she was safe where she was.

“Hello!” Her greeting was affable enough, unaffected by the cool reception she’d been given on her way in. “Um…is this where I join the Inquisition?”

“Well, you’re definitely in the right general vicinity,” he assured her. He could take her to find Sati or Cassandra or somebody. “Is your clan all right?” He’d learned that much from Daisy; Dalish didn’t go about alone unless they had to, either because they were following orders or because they’d been kicked out.
 

Vamaya Harel

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#3
Either the dwarf didn’t feel the cold or he was defiant of it, judging by the generous amount of chest on display. He stuck out in these surroundings, but more noticeable than the silk tunic or the gold looped through one ear was the affable smile that split his broad face when she asked him if she was in the right place. He was an unknown, so she kept her guard up, but was privately relieved that she would not have to weather the flurry of insults she had steeled herself to expect. At least, not right away.

“Well, you’re definitely in the right general vicinity. Is your clan all right?”

She nodded quickly. “Oh yes! Our Keeper has done a good job in keeping everyone away from the demons. We only encountered them one or two times, and they were quickly finished off. I even managed to take one down myself,” she added, tone carefully placed in the region of bashful pride. “But we don’t have any idea what that is.” One finger pointed up towards the Breach. “Other than a thing that needs to be sealed up quickly. We had word from other clans that the Inquisition was doing something to close it, so I volunteered to come and help.”

Better eager willingness than reluctantly following orders. She wanted to come across as keen, maybe a little naïve, but useful enough that they wouldn’t turn her away. Although she didn’t think they would. She had seen that more than a few of the soldiers training out front barely knew how to hold a sword yet, despite being full-grown; there was no doubt the organisation was desperate for more people. If they could survive the wrath of the Chantry, they might succeed in that, but Vamaya needed more time, and a chance to meet the leaders, before she could form an opinion on whether they would get that far.

“I’m a good hunter, and I can fight well. I know I don’t look it, but I can prove it, I promise. Oh!” She snapped to attention, one fist over her heart. “Vamaya Harel. Sorry. I forgot to introduce myself.”
 

Varric Tethras

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#4
Nobody moved to join them, but Varric could see the side-eyes being cast their way. Dalish had been scarce since the explosion; a few found that ominous, but most people shared Varric’s opinion that anybody with good sense would want to be as far away from this shit as possible. Except as far as he knew, there was no place far enough to get away from it, and maybe this woman’s clan had found that out the hard way.

“Our Keeper has done a good job in keeping everyone away from the demons,” she replied to his question. “We only encountered them one or two times, and they were quickly finished off. I even managed to take one down myself.”

“Nice job,” he congratulated her. Taking out a demon, even with help, was nothing to sneeze at.

“But we don’t have any idea what that is,” she went on, pointing up at the Breach. “Other than a thing that needs to be sealed up quickly. We had word from other clans that the Inquisition was doing something to close it, so I volunteered to come and help.”

Varric followed her gesture, but not for long; looking directly at it for any length of time made his eyes feel funny, like they couldn’t quite focus. “It’s called the Breach,” he told her. “Nobody knows what caused it, but it’s a tear in the Veil that lets demons come through from the Fade.” He shrugged. “That’s what they told me, anyway.” This kind of stuff was definitely not his specialty. “The smaller rifts were all caused by it. While we try to figure out how to close the big one, we find the little ones and deal with them. Help is definitely welcome.” For his money, she could bring her whole sodding clan along.

“I’m a good hunter, and I can fight well,” she told him eagerly. “I know I don’t look it, but I can prove it, I promise. Oh!” She jerked up and saluted smartly; Varric turned, fully expecting that Curly or somebody else official had walked up behind him. “Vamaya Harel. Sorry. I forgot to introduce myself.”

Nope, nobody there, and he turned back with a chuckle. “Pleased to meet you, Vamaya,” he replied. “I’m Varric Tethras … and I’m definitely no one that you need to be saluting, but I can definitely point out the ones who are. You heard of the Herald of Andraste?”
 

Vamaya Harel

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#5
“It’s called the Breach.” As soon as the dwarf said the word, it fit perfectly; an almighty breach in the sky, leading right into the world of spirits. And demons. Technically there were no demons, only corrupted spirits, but when one was charging at her with the intention of tearing her head off, Vamaya wasn’t going to argue over what the right word was. “Nobody knows what caused it, but it’s a tear in the Veil that lets demons come through from the Fade. That’s what they told me anyway.”

His shrug told her that he knew as much about the cause or nature of it as she did. Perhaps the Keeper might have been able to expound upon some theories, but not being a mage, Vamaya didn’t really have the first clue. Really, they should have sent a magic user along to this, but the First was too valuable to the clan – and also nowhere near as good at lying as Vamaya was.

“The smaller rifts were all caused by it. While we try to figure out how to close the big one, we find the little ones and deal with them.” They had a method for that? Interesting. “Help is definitely welcome.”

Vamaya took that as an opportunity to explain what she could do, with just the right air of supressed excitement, before saluting and introducing herself. She almost laughed when the dwarf turned around, clearly unused to being saluted at. Fortunately, he laughed as well. “Please to meet you, Vamaya. I’m Varric Tethras… and I’m definitely no one that you need to be saluting, but I can definitely point out the ones who are. You heard of the Herald of Andraste?”

Now that was one impressive – and somewhat alarming – title. A few whispers had reached the clan, but nothing solid until now. “Well, I heard something, but we dismissed it.” Apologetically – “my people did not respond well to the idea of a saviour with a Chantry bent to them. Do they truly claim to have been sent by Andraste?”

If this person was claiming that, and could close rifts, they were going to become powerful quite quickly, and if there was one thing Vamaya wanted to avoid it would be being around somebody who had an active interest in promoting Chantry ideals. If whoever it was proved to be dangerous, she might have to take matters into her own hands.

After all the rifts were closed. Obviously.
 

Varric Tethras

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#6
Varric prided himself at being a good hand at reading people, and if any Dalish had a hand in the explosion and the Breach, that knowledge hadn’t been shared with Vamaya. It was always possible that she was as good a liar as he was, but not many people were, and from what little he knew of the Dalish, dissemblance was not a particularly valued skill. And that particular rumor had never seemed all that plausible, anyway. The Dalish were good at remaining unseen in the wilderness, but sneaking through a jam-packed human settlement to do whatever had been done. No, that particular piece of fuckery almost had to have been the result of human interference.

Nor did the term ‘Herald of Andraste’ seem to ring any bells. “Well, I heard something, but we dismissed it,” she told him, adding, “my people did not respond well to the idea of a saviour with a Chantry bent to them.”

Varric snorted. “Neither does the Chantry,” he informed her with a humorless smirk. “They pretty much declared us all heretics at the outset. Since we’ve started getting results, they’ve quieted down about that, but we haven’t gotten any fruit baskets from Val Royeaux lately.”

“Do they truly claim to have been sent by Andraste?” she asked him curiously, and with more than a hint of skepticism.

“Sati? No.” He shook his head firmly. “She’s a Vashoth: a Qunari that doesn’t follow the Qun. She was part of a mercenary company that was hired to keep order at the Conclave. She doesn’t remember what happened, and she’ll say that up front, but after the explosion, she literally fell out of a hole in the Fade, and witnesses said that they saw a woman standing behind her.” He shrugged. “Between that and being the only survivor, Andraste and the Maker got brought into it pretty quickly, but she doesn’t even consider herself Andrastean. But she’s got a mark on her left palm -” he tapped a finger into his left hand to indicate the spot. “Glows like the Breach, and the magical types say that it is connected to the damn thing, but she can use it to close up the smaller rifts - we’ve been doing that for weeks: kill off the demons to let her get close enough and she lifts up her hand -” The storyteller in him couldn’t resist demonstrating, “the mark flares as bright as the sun, and the rift closes.

“A few more days, and we’re going to try to close the big one,” he went on. Maybe he shouldn’t be divulging this, but it was nothing she couldn’t learn from listening to five minutes of the gossip around Haven. “We made a deal with the rebel mages; they’re going to add their magic to boost the mark’s power.” He spread his hands; that was as much as he understood about that part of the plan. His part would be to stay close and deal with anything that came through while Sati was focused on the Breach. “If it works, maybe the smaller ones vanish on their own. If they don’t, we get to keep running around and closing them, which will keep us busy for a while.” All reports indicated that the rifts grew fewer and further apart the farther you got from Haven, but they had been reported as far north and east as Rivain. “Join the Inquisition, see the world,” he invited her with a wry grin. It was better than the recruiting pitch he'd gotten, which as he recalled had been more or less, "You will come with me, or I will drag you before Divine Justinia in chains." Cassandra did have a way with words. A lousy way, mind you, but still a way.
 

Vamaya Harel

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#7
If Vamaya were being honest – which was entirely contrary to her whole reason for being here – she’d admit that much of her trepidation about the Inquisition stemmed from the fact that it was, on its face, a Chantry-based organisation. Except it wasn’t, judging by Varric’s remarks. That could make it better, or worse, depending on the people running it. Vamaya knew enough of history to be aware that a misaligned zealot could be a thousand times worse than the original thing they were supposed to represent. Claiming to be a god or god-adjacent was usually the first sign of that.

The first surprise was that the Herald wasn’t even human at all. “She’s a Vashoth; a Qunari that doesn’t follow the Qun.” Vamaya adopted a wide-eyed stare of puzzled innocence rather than the quizzical frown that would have better suited her inner thoughts. She knew little of the horned giants of the north, except that they hated magic and were widely regarded as savages.

Although, given what humans typically said about the Dalish, Vamaya was willing to be sceptical about the ‘savages’ part.

Varric spun out the story in a way that reminded Vamaya of her clan’s storyteller. While succinct, he didn’t spare detail where he could, and had she been hearing the tale while sat around a fire, with shadows flickering about the aravels around them, she would have applauded his skill without believing a word of it.

Given the current situation, it didn’t seem likely that he was lying.

“A few more days, and we’re going to try to close the big one.” Vamaya’s expression of surprise was not feigned this time, as she turned her gaze up towards the swirling rift. It was impossible to imagine how much magic or how many people that would take. How would this Herald even reach it?

“We made a deal with the rebel mages-” there was another interesting tidbit to explore later – “they’re going to add their magic to boost the mark’s power.” Varric made a gesture indicating that asking him for further details on that would be pointless. “If it works, maybe the smaller ones vanish on their own. If they don’t, we get to keep running around and closing them, which will keep us busy for a while.” He grinned. “Join the Inquisition, see the world.”

There was a sardonic air to his words, but Vamaya straightened her shoulders and returned the smile. “Okay. I’ll join! Will you really be going all over Thedas? I’ve not seen much beyond hunting grounds and forests; I’d like to see more. I’ve heard so many wild tales of human civilisation; surely they can’t all be true?”
 

Varric Tethras

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#8
Vamaya was an attentive audience, listening intently - and frequently with wide eyes - as Varric spun out the short version of the tale of Sati Adaar and the Inquisition’s plans to deal with the Breach, as well as the smaller rifts. And that was without any bullshit whatsoever; he wondered what she’d do if he started improvising … but the sad fact of the matter was, he was no longer sure that he could make up anything weirder than what was really happening.

“Okay. I’ll join!” she exclaimed with considerably more enthusiasm than Varric generally heard from new arrivals. “Will you really be going all over Thedas? I’ve not seen much beyond hunting grounds and forests; I’d like to see more.”

“Not sure,” he admitted. “We’ve been to Val Royeaux.” And come back with a prankster elf and a snooty mage in a really weird had. He wondered briefly what Vamaya would make of Sera; her response to Vivienne - and vice versa - didn’t need much imagination. “Right now, we’re pretty much focused on what’s right in front of us,” he tipped his head slightly in the direction of the Breach without looking at it, “but after that -” He shrugged. “Our scouts go out ahead of us: get the lay of the land, spot out the rifts, get a feel for what the local issues are besides the demons." She might fit in well with Harding and Vandi. "We try to help out people when we can: food, shelter, chasing down lost animals, killing whatever’s killing them … that sort of thing.” The damn druffalo that had led them into a nest of demons and wandered out without a scratch while they were trying not to get their asses kicked had been the crowning point in the goodwill building crusade. Varric had been ready to carve some steaks out of its shaggy ass, but Sati had just wiped off the blood and demon bits and herded the damn thing back to its owner.

“I’ve heard so many wild tales of human civilisation,” Vamaya said, “surely they can’t all be true?”

“Depends on what you’ve heard,” Varric told her. “Humans can definitely be strange, and the general rule of thumb is that the more money they have, the stranger they are. Take Val Royeaux, for example. The nobles there wear masks everywhere. It’s like a costume party every day - except that instead of bobbing for apples, they’re trying to stab each other in the back.”
 

Vamaya Harel

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#9
Vamaya knew the name of Val Royeaux, sure enough. It came up with relative frequency in Dalish tales relating to the loss first of Arlathan, and then the Dales themselves. The name had connotations of humans grasping for all they could get, and ones who considered themselves literally holier-than-thou, at that. She wouldn’t mind getting to go there, and attempt to ruin as many lives as possible in the process. Although it would require a better understanding of how human society worked first in order to do that. Even she knew that she’d need more than a few lies to get near the really influential ones.

That was a way off, anyway. “Right now, we’re pretty much focused on what’s right in front of us,” Varric indicated the Breach, “but after that…our scouts go out ahead of us: get the lay of the land, spot out the rifts, get a feel for what the local issues are besides the demons." Vamaya adopted an eager grin that was only partly feigned. Wriggling her way into that position would put her ear closer to the ground than most. Although she had no intention of getting close enough to get stomped on. "We try to help out people when we can: food, shelter, chasing down lost animals, killing whatever’s killing them … that sort of thing.”

“That sounds so good.” Her voice was almost dreamy. “I honestly thought when I came here that some people might throw stones at me. But your leaders wouldn’t allow that if they’re dedicated to helping people.”

That was a good jumping off point to start her education in how humans actually worked. She asked Varric for confirmation about whether they were as wild as heard (she knew they could be. The occasional skirmish had more than proved that).

“Depends on what you’ve heard. Humans can definitely be strange, and the general rule of thumb is that the more money they have, the stranger they are. Take Val Royeaux, for example. The nobles there wear masks everywhere. It’s like a costume party every day - except that instead of bobbing for apples, they’re trying to stab each other in the back.”

“That sounds like an awful party,” Vamaya said, instantly taking note of it. How did they not get stabbed all the time, if they couldn’t see each others’ faces? It was like they were asking to be assassinated. “And like it’d be really easy for assassins to get in. Why do they do that?”
 
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