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Pirates Are a Pain in the...[Complete]

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
[[26th Wintermarch, morning]] Celeste Monroe

Nicolette had rarely been more happy than she had been over the last few weeks. Although she missed performing in taverns to a rotating crowd of regulars, the crew of the Wicked Grace were more than supportive of her performances, and she had food and drink laid on. Not to mention that instead of a violently wobbling hammock below decks, she had a place in the captain’s cabin, and therefore enjoyed both a good night’s sleep and thorough exhaustion before she got to that point.

It was also still a novelty to wake beside Celeste every morning. Celeste tended to rise earlier than she did, but Nicolette stirred from slumber when the captain moved, and they usually greeted each other in an affectionate, lazy fashion before Celeste went up on deck. It was a touch of sweetness that had Nicolette skimming on her toes for the last few days. Even with the lingering fear that pierced her gut every time Thibault went too close to the rail, it was easy to forget within moments of him returning to safety.

Still, she had come on as a member of the crew, and she wanted to do more than play music when things were going well. The incident on their first day out had highlighted how little she knew about the workings of ships, and whenever the others were not engaged in actively helping run the ship, she begged lessons. Most seemed only too happy to help, although for the moment, with the weather getting warmer each day, her second favourite task after performing was being up in the crows nest. Not only did it bring back happy memories, but she could simultaneously remain alert while letting her imagination wander.

Now a savoury scent was drifting its way up from the deck; the noontime meal would likely be served soon. And just in time for it, Sorcha was making her way up the rigging to relieve Nicolette of her post. Just as Nicolette was leaning over to greet her, however, she was distracted by a flash off in the distance. A sail, but not a white one. It was red, with a black sigil on it.

“Is that one we know?”

Sorcha shook her head, and Nicolette called down. “Captain! Sail off the port bow!”

Hopefully it would be nothing, but Nicolette doubted anybody with sails like that meant well.
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Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Celeste was on edge and doing her best to keep it from Nicolette. It was impossible to sail out of the Waking Sea without passing Brandel’s Reach; north was safer than south, as the cove that housed the single town (which was a generous description of the ramshackle collection of taverns and whorehouses that existed to serve the pirates, smugglers and raiders who took shelter there) was on the southern side of the island, but there was always a high risk of encountering a ship either entering or leaving. She had the token that Daniel had earned, a bronze medallion stamped with a skull over two crossed sabers, that would guarantee safe anchorage in the port, but she never used it unless forced by inclement weather, and it gave no protection at all when they were at sea.

Speed was the Wicked Grace’s best defense; she could outrun most pirate ships (and customs patrols, for that matter), and while the crew could fight if need be, it was definitely a last resort. So, she’d been hugging the Free Marches coastline to the north with an eye toward ducking into Ostwick if trouble arose. But they were past that point now, halfway between Ostwick and Hercinia, and too far from either to reach them quickly, when Nico called down from the crow’s nest.

The minstrel loved being aloft, and while she spent a good part of each day learning lines and sails and knots, she never turned down a chance at lookout duty. Celeste seldom gave in to the temptation to join her; the memory of what had nearly happened when she had let herself be distracted was an effective deterrent, and it was enough to see the other woman’s confidence blooming more every time she ascended and descended the rigging on her own, her face glowing with joy. Celeste could get as distracted as she wanted (and did) when they were alone in her cabin each night, but on deck, on duty, she kept her mind on business.

Mostly. Stealing a kiss here and there didn't hurt anything.

That had gone a long way toward soothing any ruffled feathers among the crew; Celeste had been more amused than dismayed to realized that the others had been pissed at her, rather than Nico. It was as it should be, after all; it had been her oversight that had put Thibault in harm’s way, and her brazen stunt that had them pulling a coldwater rescue in the middle of a storm. Thibault had learned his lesson, at least. He kept toward the center of the deck, edging occasionally toward the rails when the seas were smooth, but scampering back quickly at the slightest tilt of the deck.

She turned her head to port, squinting across the waves, then slipped the brass spyglass from its leather case and raised it to one eye, focusing in on the approaching ship. Black sails. Shit. She glanced at her own billowing sails, gauging the wind and not liking the conclusion she was reaching.

She passed the spyglass to Isabela. “Any chance they’re friends of yours?” The red sigil wasn’t one that she recognized, but an outfit that blatant was either very good or very new.

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
It was good to be back at sea! The creak of the timbers, the waves slapping against the hull, the lifting sensation as they surged over a wave and away from bitter, dusty Kirkwall, and the shouts and jokes of a crew in motion. As she wasn’t captain of this vessel, her usual rules of not messing around with the sailors didn’t apply, so she was walking a little sore this morning, but in such a delicious fashion. When Bailey made his appearance that morning she’d winked at him and practically seen the steam pouring out of his ears. He wasn’t going to forget any of that in a hurry. Younger men had the benefit of energy but didn’t tend to know what to do other than keep banging away, so she’d taken a lot of pleasure in teaching him. She considered it a gift to the next woman he slept with. Now he’d have a bit of technique.

Plus now he was going around the deck with a grin that stretched ear to ear, which was quite pleasing to see.

She’d also joined in a couple of times with Celeste and Nicolette, evenings so indulgent that to be honest it was a shame she couldn’t commission a tapestry of the three of them. They could hang it on the outside wall of a Chantry somewhere, right before being run out of town. But she didn’t always join them as it was clear there was something going on there which neither woman was talking about, although after the whole Thibault going overboard thing they were practically shouting it from their eyes. So last night she’d left them to their own devices.

Yes, she was in such a good mood this morning, ready to put her back into doing some proper sailing, that it seemed only natural that the universe chose to shit all over it at that point. They were passing close to Brandel’s Reach - a fun town, if you were known, and a really bad one to be in if you weren’t - and were hoping to avoid attention, but Nicolette’s voice calling down from the crow’s nest indicated they hadn’t been so lucky. She came up alongside Celeste as the other woman was peering through her spyglass, and took it when it was offered.

“Any chance they’re friends of yours?”

Isabela peered through. Red sails, black sigil - looked a bit like dagger with a lot of elaborate flourish on it. She sucked air through her teeth. Shit. They were heading in their direction as well. “Nope. I’ve raided their ships a few times. They’re the Sea Reavers. Pretty decent in a scrap, and not kind to the people they take.” She’d taken great pleasure in sinking a few of them, usually with as many crew on board as she could lash to various bits of railing. And even with that, they made her look like Andraste. “Your guys should be able to take them, but we’ll need to fight clever.”

Up in the nest, Nicolette tried to see if she could get a closer eye on the ship, but Sorcha tapped her shoulder, looking grim. “Whatever it is, you should be down there. Just in case.”

If a fight was coming, Nicolette knew where her place was. Well away from everything, so she didn’t accidentally hinder the others. Which was all very well to say, but as she nocked her foot in the first step of the rigging, the other ship started to barrel directly towards them. Nicolette scrambled down as fast as she could, but wasn’t sure if she was going to make it to the bottom before the other ship caught up with them.

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
The possibility of the fast approaching ship being allied with Isabela was slim; rivalries among the various crews generally meant that any alliances ended the moment a shared objective was achieved … assuming one side didn’t betray the other mid-fight. “I’ve raided their ships a few times,” Bela remarked, peering through the spyglass. “They’re the Sea Reavers. Pretty decent in a scrap, and not kind to the people they take.”

“Surprise, surprise,” Celeste muttered, casting her gaze upward. Sorcha had urged Nicolette out of the crow’s nest and deckward; she’d have her bow up and trained on the approaching ship in matter of seconds. Celeste flicked an eye towards the sails; the wind was in favor of the newcomers. They’d chosen their approach well, or just gotten lucky. “Get ready for a fight!” she called down to the deck. No Téo to watch out for, but no Gideon and his bigass maul; on the balance, not good. “Nico, you and Thibault get to the cabin.” Now was not the time to teach her the dance that was fighting on the deck of a ship at sea.

Isabela lowered the spyglass. “Your guys should be able to take them,” she told Celeste, “but we’ll need to fight clever.”

Celeste nodded, but her eyes were on the ship, which was closing fast on their port side with all sails flying. “Those stupid fucks are trying to ram us!” she said incredulously. “Hard to port!” she roared, spinning the wheel. The Wicked Grace heeled over onto her port side as she curved, then righted on a course that took her alongside the Reaver ship in the opposite direction. Grappling hooks flew from the other ship, snagging the rails of the schooner just as half a dozen crossbows fired broad-bladed bolts that shredded the mainsail and stopped Celeste’s heart for the few seconds that it took for her to confirm that Nicolette had not been hit during her descent.

Then she got pissed. She’d just replaced that damn sail. “Take it out of their asses!” she shouted, pulling the lever that locked the wheel, drawing her daggers and moving to engage as the first of the raiders swarmed over the rail. Young and cocky, but not too good; she ducked beneath the sweep of his cutlass and sliced across the back of his leading leg, hamstringing him, then drove the second dagger up beneath his ribs to his heart. He dropped hard, eyes wide and mouth working soundlessly in the instant before he went limp.

If they were all this stupid, it might not take long at all.

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Nicolette wasn’t even halfway down the rigging when Celeste confirmed what Sorcha had suspected; a fight was coming. In her haste to get down her foot snagged in the rigging and she wasted precious seconds freeing herself. Thibault was bounding around at the bottom and baying, clearly aware that there was trouble on the way, and Nicolette wasn’t going to argue with the order to get back to the cabin. She had applied herself to learning about the ship but she was still barely more than an adequate fighter, and had not even begun to practice defending herself in as close-quarters an area as this. As soon as she reached the bottom, she bolted for the cabin.

Her path was disrupted again by Celeste spinning the wheel hard to port; Nicolette tried to compensate for it and managed, just about, but her steps had taken her wide of the door and then she flung herself on the floor just in time for a crossbow bolt to go whistling through the air she had been occupying not moments ago.

Another crash, as the ships locked together, and then the other crew started to board them.

“Take it out their asses!”

Nicolette got up just in time to see Celeste finish off her first opponent – something that helpfully immediately imbedded itself in her mind - then had to duck again as Isabela jumped from the stern, sailing over her head to land directly amongst the first wave of attackers, ululating like a warrior goddess as her blades flashed white, then red, in the sunlight.

She needed to get to the cabin. Thibault was by the door already and was pawing at the handle, and she had about ten feet she needed to cover to get to safety –

There was such a lot of them! She had to duck and weave through the chaos, feet slipping on the do not think about it, do not look surface, and then she was there, right up against the door, and yanked it open for Thibault to run ahead of her.

A loud curse turned her direction back outward. One of the raiders had managed to land a cut on Isabela, but she didn’t seem too hampered by it; in fact the injury only seemed to fuel her on. The rest of the crew, who only a few minutes earlier had been in the most relaxed state a sailor at sea could be, were tearing through their enemies with grim determination. Inexperienced as she was, Nicolette could see that although the other crew certainly looked fearsome, they were doing badly. Quite a few were whimpering on the deck already – others were already still.

There was one man who was causing problems, built tall and swinging an axe around. Nobody could get near enough to deal a cut and he was proving a little too quick to be hit by a crossbow. Nordstrom and Bailey were running around him trailing a rope, which hopefully in a moment they would be able to pull tight around his ankles and send him toppling.

All this happened in seconds, and she did not want to watch; she turned back towards the door –

A flash of light off pointed metal caught her attention again. One man had broken free of the fray and was aiming his crossbow towards Celeste.
Nicolette looked around frantically; most of the rest of the crew were engaged in their tussles, nobody would be able to break free in time, and the man engaged with Celeste was turning them, slowly, so her back was towards the man with the crossbow, and she wouldn’t be able to defend at all.

The man’s mouth curled in a triumphant grin as his finger tightened on the trigger.

Nicolette’s brain was a long way behind the rest of her body; even as her mind curdled with fear, she was throwing herself across the deck, hands out, and crashed into Celeste, knocking her sideways and her first assailant over the rail into the sea.

The bolt meant for Celeste took her like a hammer to the ribs. At first there was no pain, just the hard sensation of being pushed against the rail. Then a hot pulse of agony burst through her, the somehow senseless intrusion of the bolt piercing her side, and from the rail she fell to the floor, hands clutching at the wound as she cried out, trying fruitlessly to prevent more of her blood from spilling.

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Isabela was always up for a fight, and the bloodier, the better. She launched herself off of the bridge into the middle of the first wave, whooping with glee and sending blood spraying with each slash of her blades. Celeste preferred barroom brawls herself, but if her ship was attacked, she’d damn well give better than she got. From the corner of her eye, she saw Nicolette running toward the cabin, and then the fight swept around her in a blur of blades and fists.

They were outnumbered, but far from outclassed, and their attackers fell with a speed that had to be embarrassing the shit out of the captain. Celeste found herself striking to wound when she could; better than half of them didn’t even look old enough to be shaving yet, with the exception of one big, bearded bastard that was striding about roaring and swinging a massive axe in wide arcs that connected with nothing but kept everyone ducking out of the way. Nordstrom and Bailey came in low, a rope slung between them, and Sorcha’s arrow from the crow’s nest buried itself in his foot. He dropped the axe and bellowed with pain, hopping about on his good foot, trying to pull the arrow out; Nordstrom and Bailey ran forward with the rope, sweeping his one foot from under him and sending him crashing to the deck.

Assured that she wouldn’t be at risk of decapitation from a chance swing, Celeste turned her full attention back to her current opponent: a blonde kid sporting a crop of peach fuzz on his cheeks and wielding a cutlass in a clumsy, two-handed grip, his terrified expression suggesting that he was having second thoughts about his career choices. He hadn’t required more than half of her focus in the first place; the trick was going to be disarming him without killing him -

Someone slammed into her hard from behind, sending her stumbling forward into the kid, and the kid stumbling backward over the rail with a wail of terror. Shit. Probably couldn’t even swim. She actually felt a little sorry for him, right up to the point where the cry of pain behind her registered on her awareness.


She spun, her horrified gaze falling on the minstrel, lying on the deck with a crossbow bolt jutting cruelly from her side and blood - too much blood - flowing from the wound, then sweeping to the crossbowman, who was trying frantically to draw the string to reload. Ice frosted her veins, and she launched herself at him, all thoughts of mercy swept away. His eyes widened, and he dropped the crossbow to grope frantically at the dagger on his belt, but she buried one blade in his chest to the hilt before he’d gotten it more than half out of the sheath, then swept the second across his throat in a spray of blood, not bothering to watch him fall.

Spinning, she sprinted back to Nicolette, hitting the bloody deck on her knees beside the minstrel, her hands hovering fearfully over the bolt without touching it.


The healer had been wielding a saber with surgical precision to disarm most of his opponents; the fight was winding down, cries of pain and pleas for mercy rising in the air as he hurried across the deck and knelt beside Nico, setting his sword aside to prod carefully at the bolt where it entered the minstrel’s side.

Celeste couldn’t watch that, peering into her lover’s face instead. “What were you thinking?” she scolded her in a rough voice, brushing hair away from her cheeks, her fingers leaving smears of blood on the pale skin. “I told you to get below!” Far better that she had taken the bolt; it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Brannigan lifted his head, his expression grave. “Help me get her to the infirmary,” he ordered Celeste. “Do not disturb the bolt.”

Celeste nodded, feeling something unfamiliar and unwelcome gripping her chest, stealing breath and speech. “Kali -” she managed.

“I’ve got this,” the other woman assured her, looking around the deck and sheathing her daggers. “Take care of her.”

Celeste nodded, sliding a careful arm beneath Nicolette’s shoulders, lifting the upper part of her body as Brannigan supported her legs, both of them trying not to jar the bolt as they rose and conveyed her to the infirmary, depositing her as gently as possible on the single cot.

“Get some water,” Brannigan instructed Celeste. The sailor nodded and raced to the galley, returning with two waterskins, passing one to the healer and holding the other to Nico’s lips.

“Drink,” she urged her gently, trying to keep the tremor from her voice and hands. It couldn’t replace the lost blood, but it would help a bit. It had to help.

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Oh, Skies, it hurts!

Celeste’s face appeared above hers, eyes wide with shock as she cradled her head. Brannigan touched the bolt in Nicolette’s side and darkness opened up below her, an inviting escape from the fire that was burning its way through her flank. She wanted so badly to fall into it, and grabbed Celeste’s hand tightly so she would not. Being conscious seemed better than not.

“What were you thinking? I told you to get below!”

Breathing moved the bolt, speaking made it even worse. Nonetheless, she tried. “I - could not - let him shoot you…”

“Help me get her to the infirmary. Do not disturb the bolt.”

Nicolette braced herself. Regardless of how gentle they were, she knew it was about to get worse, and when they lifted her she pressed her hand between her teeth and bit down, which at least helped muffle her, although she could do nothing about the tears of pain now coursing down her face. At least it was over quickly, then Brannigan sent Celeste away to get water, before tending to his task. Nicolette fought every urge she had to kick and swat him away. She was soaked in sweat - or blood - and her mouth was so dry, and each new lick of pain raced through her body like flames on tinder. Celeste reappeared, pressing a waterskin to her lips, and Nicolette dragged at it desperately.

“There’s good news.” Brannigan’s voice was distant. “The bolt hit bone. It hasn’t gone far in as a result. It’s still going to hurt when I take it out, mind. We’ll need to clean her up quickly and get her bandaged as soon as possible once it’s out. Celeste - cut that part of her shirt away, so we can see what we’re doing.”

Consciousness was proving harder to keep hold of, and Nicolette only resurfaced when Brannigan leaned over her again. “We’re ready. I’m going to pull it free now; keep your tongue from between your teeth.”

Nicolette readied herself; even so, as Brannigan started to carefully extract the bolt, her voice lifted in a hoarse scream.

Few feelings matched being in the thick of a fight. While Isabela marginally preferred the sort of grapple that took place between the sheets (or whatever dark corner would have her and her companion as a guest), this was living, second to second, with every one of her senses brought into play; now over here, her blade sliding beneath a man’s guard to drag up between his ribs; ducking a blow that could have taken her head off then sliding her dagger home, throwing back an elbow to crack into another man’s face as she lashed out with her foot and neatly caught a set of balls on the steel-toed tip. She tasted salt and copper, smelt blood and sweat, reveled in the cries of her opponents as they fell before her and the sheer joy of knowing just how damned good she was at this. Every since she’d picked up a pair of sticks on Llomerryn and fought with them the first time, she’d known.

And with the joy came the hunger. She wanted to see the men scream. The look of terror in their eyes as they started to realise that their victims were not as helpless as they’d thought was something she savoured more than a good brandy. She wanted them to occupy the exact same position they’d planned to put her in, and to realise that she would show them as much mercy as they would have. Her lips pulled back from her teeth as she drove her blades through a young lad and then kicked him backwards, leaving him still grabbing at his wounds and howling.

The air was filled with the sounds of the injured and dying; Isabela had long since become used to the sound of death cries. But when Celeste’s voice rose, tight with panic, the scream cut through the battle-lust and Isabela broke away from the scrum she’d immersed herself in, trying to see what could have made her fellow sailor make that noise.

The sight of Nicolette, lying in a pool of her own blood, answered that question. A crossbow bolt was embedded in the minstrel’s side, and Celeste was bent over her, saying something that was lost in the surrounding noise; the minstrel murmured something back. Within the next few moments, Celeste and Brannigan had ferried Nicolette below decks.

Well, shit. The bolt didn’t look like it had gone too deep, but it wasn’t pretty, and Isabela had seen strong men go into shock from similar injuries. She hoped nothing happened to Nicolette - she quite enjoyed the minstrel’s company, but more importantly, she’d have to have been blind not to notice how much Celeste cared for Nicolette, and it’d gut her friend if she lost her.

There wasn’t anything Isabela could do about it now, though. Except take it out on these scum. A wail from the water below drew her attention downwards; one of their would-be attackers had fallen into the sea, and was clinging to a trailing length of rope left behind by their grappling hooks. He wasn’t strong enough to pull himself completely free of the water, and his cries were choked off by the spray. Even then, he pleaded.

Isabela leaned forward, pressing her knife to the rope, and his screaming redoubled. She started to saw -

Then got yanked backwards by Kali. “They’ve surrendered. No need for more deaths, now.”

“If they’re still alive I’d say there is.” She resumed her task, only for Kali to pull her back again. The other woman’s eyes were blazing in an expression not dissimilar to one Isabela had seen Celeste wearing a few times.

“That’s not your decision, though. You’re not captain.”

Isabela didn’t flinch, even though the words stung. She wasn’t captain, no. And she wasn’t likely to be for a long time. Instead she stashed her blade, mood dashed against the rocks of Kali’s mercy. “Fine.” She turned away as Dax and Bailey came forward to start helping the boy out of the water. “We’ll see what Celeste says.”

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
“I - could not - let him shoot you…” Nicolette struggled to get the words out, her features drawn in pain, her skin a ghastly shade of grey that frightened Celeste as much as the blood that was spreading across the minstrel’s blouse.

“I’ve been shot before!” she growled, her voice rough but her hands gentle as she helped Brannigan lift the injured woman and convey her across the blood-slicked deck to the infirmary.

“There’s good news,” the healer reported after a brief examination. “The bolt hit bone. It hasn’t gone far in as a result. It’s still going to hurt when I take it out, mind. We’ll need to clean her up quickly and get her bandaged as soon as possible once it’s out. Celeste - cut that part of her shirt away, so we can see what we’re doing.”

Celeste obeyed, sucking in a harsh breath at the sight of the shaft jutting cruelly from the lower ribcage on the left side, blood still flowing out around it. “Why is she bleeding so much?”

“You know that blood always looks like more than it is,” Brannigan reminded her before admitting, “it may have nicked the spleen when the rib deflected it, but I don’t think it went deep enough to have hit any of the bowels.” But his expression said that he wasn’t positive, and Celeste felt her stomach yawing in dread at the prospect. Gut wounds were feared above nearly every other for the slow, agonizing and almost inevitable death that resulted.

She glanced to Nicolette’s face; the minstrel’s eyes had drifted shut, and she seemed unaware. “What if it has?” she whispered fiercely.

“I can try to operate,” he said without pausing in his ministrations, but his eyes said what she already knew about the chances of success. “This close to Brandel’s Reach, I think that would be our best chance.” The pirates and raiders that sheltered in the harbor of the island redoubt frequently had apostates among their crews. “We’re ready.” The pain-hazed eyes opened at Brannigan’s words, but Celeste couldn't tell if Nicolette understood. “I’m going to pull it free now; keep your tongue from between your teeth.”

Celeste slipped her hand into one of Nicolette’s. “Squeeze tight,” she urged her. She was ready for the grinding pain as the minstrel’s grip tightened on her fingers, but the ragged scream that escaped her lover tore at her in an unguarded spot that she’d all but forgotten about, and she very nearly howled in frustrated sympathy with the agony and fear in that cry.

Brannigan pitched the bolt aside without ceremony and immediately began cleaning the wound and examining it through the flow of blood. “Help me lift her,” he ordered. Nicolette was unconscious, or close to it; Celeste slipped her arms beneath the other woman’s slender frame, lifting her up enough for the healer to wrap the bandage to hold the compress in place. “The bleeding has slowed,” he reported, “but I can’t say with certainty that it will stop, and if there is even the smallest tear in the gut -”

He didn’t need to finish, but before Celeste could respond, Kalindra entered the infirmary.

“We’ve got a problem,” she announced, looking annoyed. “Isabela wants to kill the ones that surrendered. They’re kids, Celeste,” she went on, seeing the expression on her captain’s face, “and the big one is simpleminded, from the look of him.”

For the briefest moment, that didn’t matter; all Celeste wanted was to take revenge for what these bastards had done, but one glance at Nicolette’s pale, still face, and she knew what the minstrel would want, and what her reaction would be if she ordered the slaughter of the survivors of the fight.

Kali followed her gaze. “Will she be all right?” she asked, knowing that the answer to that question would tip the balance one way or the other.

“Yes,” Celeste replied without hesitation. She wouldn’t let herself consider otherwise. Bending, she smoothed the hair away from Nicolette’s forehead and pressed a tender kiss to the cool flesh before striding back onto the deck, reining in the urge to lash out.

One glance confirmed that her earlier observation, and Kalindra’s, had been correct. Some of them were sullen and defiant as they stood at swordpoint, some frightened, a couple in tears, but none of them looked a day over sixteen, and most of them younger than that. The big man wept openly as he cradled his foot, and above the unkempt black beard, his brown eyes held the betrayed confusion of a small child whose grand adventure had suddenly turned frightening.


“Pull up anyone still alive in the water,” she ordered Dax and Bailey before turning to the pirate. “We’re not killing a bunch of stupid kids,” she told Isabela curtly. “We may need to go to Brendel’s Reach to find a mage to heal Nico.” That at least was a practical reason that the pirate would understand. She turned, fixing the oldest of the kids with a flat stare. “Your name, and the name of the captain that you stole this ship from,” she demanded without even a hint of softness in her voice.

“I didn’t steal it,” he shot back, his eyes flashing defiantly. “My father’s the admiral of the Sea Reavers.”

“And he sent you out with a bunch of beardless boys to try your luck?” she inquired, knowing the answer. The youth flushed and looked away sullenly. “You’d better hope he’s willing to pay to get you back. Tie them up,” she ordered. “Cut the sails on their ship and leave it adrift. The damned Reavers can retrieve it themselves.”

“They’ll likely keelhaul us when they do!” one of the other lads blurted miserably. “I tol’ ya we shouldn’t’ve done it, Rand!”

“Shut up, you lily-livered coward!” Rand snarled.

“You’re damn lucky I don’t keelhaul you on the way in,” she informed them flatly. “Set a course for Brandel’s Reach,” she told Isabela, waiting to see if there would be any pushback.


Prominent member
Canon Character
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Isabela prowled slowly about the deck, restless as a lion in a cage. She made no further move to prevent Celeste’s crew from saving the survivors, but neither did she help, and her gaze flitted again and again to the entrance where Brannigan and Celeste had gone down, impatient for her friend to resurface.

This wasn’t really about Nicolette getting hurt, for her at least. She would have been filled with the same restless need even if the minstrel remained unharmed. The harrowing screech that seared up from below decks didn’t help, though.

She paused to look one young lad in the eye. The group had been herded into a corner of the deck, most frightened, a few less scared than annoyed that their plan had gone awry. One dirty-blond boy was actually studying his nails; she lifted his chin with the point of her dagger, and his eyes widened, although there was more self-righteous annoyance than fear in the expression. “Your captain’s second said not to hurt us!”

“She isn’t my captain.” She let that sink in, and all the confidence had fled his expression. There wasn’t time to savour it, though. Celeste came back above decks, and Isabela lowered the blade; as she did, she noticed Dax and Bailey fall back. Likely had she made a move to slit a throat or two, they would have tackled her to the deck.

Celeste glanced around at the prisoners, and swore, before relaying orders for anybody who hadn’t drowned yet to be pulled back up. “We’re not killing a bunch of stupid kids.”

“They’re men enough to sail a ship. Aren’t they men enough to face the consequences of their actions?”

Under other circumstances, she might have congratulated the boys on their moxy. But she wasn’t in a generous mood right now, not with the reminder that she was not the one in charge of what was to happen. These boys would become men, and they would go on to terrorise other ships in the future.

Even if Isabela didn’t really care about that from a moral point of view, why encourage the competition?

But Celeste had other things on her mind. “We may need to go to Brandel’s Reach to find a mage to heal Nico.”

Shit. That bad. All the more reason to get rid of these idiots - at the very least it’d remove some weight. And the attitude of the boy who turned out to be the son of the Sea Reaver’s leader wasn’t helping. Isabela closed her eyes a moment, but was unable to tune out his bleating. It only got worse after Celeste passed her sentence.

“Tie them up. Cut the sails on their ship and leave it adrift. The damned Reavers can retrieve it themselves.”

Maker damn it. Isabela opened her eyes again as Celeste turned to her. “Set a course for Brandel’s Reach.”

“So we’re sailing into Brandel’s Reach, where likely his illustrious father or some of his hangers on are likely to be docked, with them tied up on board, and just keep them quiet in the brig until we’re back out again, is that is? Or are you hoping that once they’re down the gangplank that the Reavers will just let the matter go?”

Isabela respected Celeste as a fellow captain. But she wasn’t her captain, and damned if she was going to be held back from talking some common sense just because of their friendship. “You should dump them back on their ship, then cut the sails and send them drifting out. They want to be sailors? See how they’ll fare against that. Without food stocks, either.”

“The other Reavers would never reach us in time! We’d die!”

Isabela pulled her teeth back from her lips as she turned on the boy who’d spoken. “And what would you have done to us if you’d won, hm? Would you have explained it was all a game, and let us go politely, and apologised oh-so-nicely to the woman currently bleeding below decks that you didn’t mean an arrow to the side, not really?”

She turned her head back to Celeste. “I’ll set the course. If your minstrel didn’t need the help, this’d be a longer conversation.”

She turned on her heel, heading for the helm.

Celeste Monroe

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Celeste and Isabela had been friends for years … since well before Isabela had been Isabela. They were kindred spirits to a large degree in their love of the ocean and adventure, but the lives that had shaped each of them had been vastly different. Celeste had long ago stopped wondering what Naishe would have been like if she had been married to someone more like Daniel instead of that pig Luis. She hadn’t, and by the time she had been freed by his murder, she’d been like a caged animal desperate for freedom, determined that no one would ever control her again. If Celeste had been there, she might have convinced her to throw in with them, sail the Siren’s Call alongside the Wicked Grace while she learned how to sail.

But Naishe had fetched up in Llomeryn instead, and by the time they found her once more, she was calling herself Isabela and had decided that the best way to keep from being hurt was to do the hurting first. It had been a stormy period in their relationship, and while Celeste had refused to give up completely on her friend, they had been at odds - savagely at times - for a good many years. Once Bela had secured her reputation, she had lost the sharpest of her rough edges, but some of the choices she’d made still haunted her, though that only showed when the two of them were really deep into their cups. Drunk or sober, she was always up for shenanigans, but she was, without doubt, more ruthless than Celeste in most situations.

“They’re men enough to sail a ship,” she protested angrily now. “Aren’t they men enough to face the consequences of their actions?”

Celeste found herself in an odd mental stalemate. She had been young and stupid and eager to prove herself once, and while she hadn’t tried to kill anyone, her impulsiveness had nonetheless led to bloodshed. She’d been given a second chance; that might have inclined her toward mercy, given the drubbing they’d already administered to the would-be pirates if there hadn’t been any serious injuries.

But there had been, and it was Nicolette who was unconscious in the infirmary. The memory of the minstrel’s pained cries and pale face had tied an unfamiliar knot in Celeste’s gut, and the temptation to take it out on the ones who had hurt her was strong. Holding her back was the sure knowledge that Nico would not want unarmed prisoners killed on her behalf, but the final weight in the balance was more practical in nature.

“So we’re sailing into Brandel’s Reach, where likely his illustrious father or some of his hangers on are likely to be docked, with them tied up on board, and just keep them quiet in the brig until we’re back out again, is that is?” Isabela demanded irritably. “Or are you hoping that once they’re down the gangplank that the Reavers will just let the matter go?”

“I’ve still got the truce medallion,” Celeste replied. “They can’t start anything in Brandel’s Reach. And since I’m guessing that this whelp -” she jerked a thumb at the sullen youth, “didn’t ask before taking the ship, odds are good that his admiral will be more concerned with disciplining him and his mates than any payback.” If he was worth anything as a commander, he would be.

Isabela wasn’t happy and made no bones about it, pointing out, not incorrectly, that were the tables turned, their prisoners would not have shown them similar mercy. “I’ll set the course,” she growled. “If your minstrel didn’t need the help, this’d be a longer conversation.”

Celeste watched her stalk toward the helm. If Nico weren’t wounded, the conversation wouldn’t have taken place. Without the need to tie up in Brandel’s Reach with a minimum of resistance, she’d probably have agreed to set them adrift in their disabled ship, albeit not without food and water.

“Patch up the worst of their wounds,” she instructed as Piotr and Bailey set to hauling up buckets of water to wash the decks. “Don’t bother Brannigan with it. He’s looking after Nicolette.”

“She all right, Cap’n?” Piotr looked as though he agreed with Bela, glowering fiercely at the bound prisoners.

“She will be,” Celeste promised. Ducking into her - their - cabin, she went to the desk, opened a drawer and withdrew a cast bronze medallion as broad as the palm of her hand. On its face, two sheathed swords crossed over the face of a skull. The Wicked Grace wasn’t a pirate ship; Quinton had drawn that line firmly, and Daniel and Celeste held it. But that token, won by Quinton Monroe over thirty years ago, gave them safe harbor at the raiders’ redoubt in storms or other dire circumstance, so long as they never aided any of the navies that tried to take the place from time to time. It didn’t protect them at sea, but most experienced raiders knew that the ship was far from a soft target and chose to seek easier prey.

The rest learned the hard way.

Tucking it into her pocket, she returned to the infirmary. “Hey.” She crouched beside the cot, cupping Nicolette’s cheek with a careful hand, peering worriedly into her face before glancing to Brannigan.

“I’ve given her something to help with the pain and blood loss,” he advised. “Might make her a bit woozy.”

She nodded. “We’re headed for Brandel’s Reach.”

He nodded. “Been a while,” he observed in a tone that suggested that he’d have preferred if it had been a while longer yet.

“If you know someplace else I’ve got a chance of finding a mage quickly, I’m all ears.” Kirkwall and Harmon were several days’ sailing behind them, with the risk of storms added to the mix. “I’m not planning on lingering.” Open conflict between the crews in port wasn’t permitted, but there was skullduggery aplenty in the alleys and shadows. They generally kept to the ship or the Screaming Goat, the least disreputable tavern on the island.

He nodded. "It's our best option," he agreed gravely. "I just hope those young bucks out there don't turn into more trouble than they're worth."


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Celeste had gone, and eventually Brannigan’s face had swum into focus above hers, as a glass rim was pressed to her lips. Nicolette had taken it, thinking it was more water, then almost spat it out again as a vile taste filled her mouth. Brannigan had persisted, and she wasn’t strong enough to fight for long. She’d choked down the liquid and felt it burn down to her stomach, then not long after some of the pain in her side had ebbed. She fell into a strange waking world where the walls shifted around her, and memories played before her eyes, then sank back into her mind. She felt each pitch of the ship, the low aching throb where the bolt had connected with her side, and distantly the sounds of clashing, shouting, and even further off, Thibault howling.

He would be scratching up the inside of the cabin door at the moment, she realised vaguely. She had to tell Celeste somehow before he broke something. Where did Celeste go? She thought she had only thought the words, but Brannigan patted her hand and reassured her that her captain would be back soon.

A few slow blinks later, and she was. Golden, wavy hair framed Celeste’s face, more vividly than Nicolette was used to noticing, and as a warm palm pressed against her cheek, she reached up to wind a curl of hair around her finger, staring at it in fascination.

“You have the sun in your hair.” Her voice was a low murmur, wondering murmur. Celeste was talking to Brannigan, something about a mage. Nicolette was vaguely aware that would pertain to her somehow, but her fingers had crept over from the lock of hair to Celeste’s cheek as she tried to remember the message she was meant to give her. “Celeste. Celeste. Thibault. Door.” Was that enough? The lack of ability to find words was annoying, although the annoyance was lost as she stroked Celeste’s skin. It was much more pleasant to concentrate on that sensation than the one at her ribs. “Do not go again?”


Isabela was still cursing to herself at the helm. In normal circumstances, she’d be delighted that they’d be heading to Brandel’s reach. Back when she’d commanded the Siren’s Call, she’d had enough of a reputation that she could walk into any bar in town with a swagger, knowing that anybody who didn’t know her reputation would quickly learn it at the edge of a blade - or better, after losing all their money to her during a bit of gambling. Everybody was dishonest there, but it was an open sort of dishonesty, unlike the sort that fancy-pantses Thedas-wide employed. They all liked to keep their hands clean by employing others to do their dirty work. Whereas in Brandel’s Reach, you knew full well what you were walking into.

But now she had no ship, no crew, and while nobody would dare breach the unofficial rules of conduct in port by trying to collect Castillion’s bounty on her head, neither would they be affording her the adequate amount of respect. In fact it would probably be better if she just stayed on the ship - but damned if she was going to be ashamed to show her face. She was going to hole up at the bar and drink until she hallucinated she had her ship back and at any moment her crew would come tumbling through the tavern doors, ready to lay waste to the supply of booze.

Really for Celeste’s sake she should just keep them steering right towards Antiva. Celeste would get over Nicolette eventually, and it’d save everybody the hairy ride into the Reach, not to mention keep their prisoners out of the way until they decided on something better to do with them. Quite simply, though, she wasn’t complying with Celeste’s orders because she had to.

She was doing it because Nicolette, despite going about it in the daftest way possible, had saved her oldest friend’s life. If the bolt had caught Celeste in the back, it might not have killed her but it could easily have severed her spine. Taking the bolt to the ribs wasn’t the best method of preventing that, but it had been ballsy, and not something Isabela would have expected from the minstrel.

So out of respect for that, she said nothing else to the crew, and concentrated on steering them towards Brandel’s Reach.

The port, fortunately, wasn’t much busier than usual when they arrived. There was no such thing as a port master anymore, because the position had been so corrupted over the years that there was no chance of anybody taking it without immediately being either threatened or bribed, so Isabela simply barged into the first available docking space. It wasn’t the cleanest arrival, but they were here. She left off the helm, and strode towards the gangplank.

“I’m off to the Screaming Goat,” she told Kali. “If I spot a mage in there, I’ll send them over.”

And if not? There was brandy needed drinking.

Celeste Monroe

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In spite of Brannigan’s assurances, Celeste’s heart beat a rapid tattoo beneath her breastbone the whole time she was on deck, with her stomach doing slow rolls below. Not until she returned to the infirmary to find amber eyes hazed with pain and medication blinking owlishly at her did the fear settle somewhat, though it refused to recede completely. Not while her minstrel was still in danger. She crouched by the bed to touch her cheek, feeling the warmth of the soft skin, and an unsteady hand lifted to thread fingers into her hair.

“You have the sun in your hair,” Nico murmured, regarding the golden strands in a dreamy wonder before moving her touch to Celeste’s face. The sailor covered the hand with her own, turning her head to press a kiss to the palm, but a confused urgency suffused the pretty face suddenly, and the minstrel’s mouth worked in a silent search for the words that finally came.

“Celeste. Celeste. Thibault. Door.”

“It’s all right,” Celeste soothed her. She could hear the hound kicking up a ruckus in their cabin, but letting him out and risking him getting washed overboard again was not a chance she intended to take. “Nothing in there he can hurt.” It was just stuff, things that could be repaired or replaced. All that mattered was the woman on the cot beside her and getting her the healing that she needed. Her words seemed to allay Nicolette’s worries, but then her brow creased with a new concern.

“Do not go again?”

“I won’t.” The promise came to her lips without hesitation, and Celeste settled in beside the cot, slipping one arm beneath the minstrel’s head and stroking her hair with her free hand. “Not until we get to port.” Normally, she would be at the helm as they passed into the harbor, alert for any sign of trouble, but for now, she would trust Isabela to steer the ship and Kalindra to alert her if things were looking dicey.

Her attention remained with her lover, but as always, a part of her awareness followed her ship. She felt the change as the Wicked Grace left the waves of the open ocean for the sheltered waters of the harbor, heard the rough shouts from other boats growing louder as they neared the docks, smelled the rising stench of the sewage that was dumped wherever human habitation found itself adjoining any body of water. The sense of motion ceased as Isabela brought the ship into dock as carefully as if she’d been the Siren’s Call.

Celeste rose, disengaging gently from the embrace. “I’ll be back soon,” she promised, bending to press her lips to forehead and nose before bestowing a more lingering kiss to the soft lips. “Brannigan will stay with you.”

Isabela was already striding down the gangplank when she emerged onto the deck; the pirate was well enough known that she wouldn’t be challenged, but a small but growing cluster of onlookers was gathering on the dock, eying the Wicked Grace. Celeste dipped her hand into her vest pocket, curling her fingers around the medallion as the crew began pushing the bound prisoners to their feet and toward the rail.

“What the fuck is this?” A big, broad-shouldered man with a bristling beard shoved his way to the fore, glaring up at the captives. “Where’s my sodding ship?”

“Adrift about an hour north by northwest,” Celeste told him flatly as she descended the gangplank and pulled out the medallion. “They attacked us … made a piss-poor showing of it, but I’ve got a crew member in need of healing; your whelp put a bolt in her chest.”

The man didn’t seem to hear him, icy blue eyes searching the row of fearful looking youths until they settled on the ringleader. “Where’s your uncle?” he demanded in a roar, his expression thunderous. “By the Maker’s hairy balls, Rand, if you got him killed -”

“I’m awright, Danny!” The big, simpleminded fellow limped to the rail, supported by Dax and Bailey. “They shot my foot, but they patched me up, an’ a pretty lady sung to me!”

The tension left the set of the shoulders, and if the look that he turned on Celeste was far from friendly, it was considerably warmer than the one he’d given his prodigal son.

“I’m in your debt,” he muttered grudgingly. “The young fool stole one of my fastest ships … and there’ll be snow in Seheron before he commands another.” This last was delivered loudly enough for the boy to hear; his face flushed an ugly shade, but he evidently possessed enough sense to hold his tongue. “My brother’s my cabin boy … he never should have been fighting.” He drew a slow breath, let it out. “You could have killed them all. I likely would have, if it had been me.”

“Don’t think I wasn’t tempted,” Celeste retorted, “but I’m not much for cold-blooded murder. Just get them off my ship.” Piracy wasn’t considered a crime in Brandel’s Reach, but mutiny would carry a punishment just as severe. “I need to find a mage who can heal; you know anyone in port who has an apostate on their crew?”

He nodded. “Clancy Jones, captain of the Black Wyvern, has one. Ugly wench, but she can heal well enough. Think he’s drinkin’ at the Screaming Goat.”

Relief washed through Celeste and she turned to head for the tavern as the admiral began ordering his crew to take the captives back to his fleet, balefully promising that they’d be wishing they had been killed in the fight.


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Isabela was three fingers of brandy in and feeling considerably less furious. She was woman enough to admit that some of her anger had been less about being attacked and more to do with the fact that she wasn’t the one giving orders on the ship. It had been a long time since she’d been subject to a course other than one of her own devising, and she didn’t like it one bit. Didn’t mean she wasn’t going to not sulk about it for a bit, though.

It was hard to stay grumpy here for long, though. While it was possible to be one of the people lining the walls with drinks in their hands and hats pulled low enough to suggest they weren’t worth approaching, there’d already been two fights break out and a group in the corner were bellowing a lusty song so filthy that she started taking the time to memorise it. She smiled, one heel tapping the floor. She could have just been killing time waiting for her own crew to return from their carousing, her ship out in the dock, true freedom only steps away -

But she wasn’t. And while being known here meant she wouldn’t be attacked on sight, she would have to keep a lower profile than usual. Nobody would claim Castillion’s bounty here but she could do without ensuring the Wicked Grace had to outrun every pirate ship between here and Antiva.

Isabela stumped up to the bar to claim another drink. Those thoughts needed drowning, fast. But a beefy arm rested itself on the bar, barring her from service. She swung around, ready for a fight, and found herself facing an ugly but amiably grinning man. “Clancy! You rotten excuse for a sailor, I’d heard you were terrorising the Marches!”

“And risk running into you? Not a chance. Her drink’s on me,” he added to the barmaid. Isabela wasn’t going to look that gift horse in the mouth, and quickly ordered a triple. “How’d you end up here, anyway? Heard what happened to the Call.”

He wasn’t pitying her and she would have trod on his foot if he had. It could happen to the best sailors. “I’m up here on a ride with a friend. We thought we’d see if we could find some sunbathing Antivan beauties who needed coaxing away from their husbands.”

Clancy laughed. “Save some for me! A few might be desperate enough.”

Isabela joined in his laughter, but the sound died quickly. Even though the brandy was giving her a distinctly warm glow and the edges of existence were rounding off nicely, she couldn’t really forget why they were in Brandel’s Reach at all. “You don’t happen to know a mage, do you? One of our lot got a bit roughed up. Or a lot. Crossbow bolt to the ribs.” Clancy sucked his teeth in pained sympathy. “She needs a bit of extra help.”

“Sure. It’ll cost, though. Old Magrid knows she’s worth a lot and charges accordingly. Best damn healer I ever came across. Suspicious as anything of strangers, though.”

“I’m pretty sure we can work something out.” The door of the tavern opened again, and Celeste walked in - Isabela nodded her head towards her, and waved her over. “That’s the captain. I probably shouldn’t negotiate on her behalf,” she added, half muttered into her drink. Clancy gave her an odd look, but then turned to greet Celeste.

“Hey. Heard you’re in need of specialist healing? I’ve got somebody available, if you’ve got the gold to spare.”

Celeste Monroe

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Brandel’s Reach was no place for a lone woman; Celeste had had that drilled into her from her first visit there with Daniel. Overt attacks were forbidden by the centuries-old truce that governed the outlaw redoubt, but covert action aplenty took place in the shadows and back alleys, and anyone who vanished on a solo stroll was rarely seen again.

But she was in a dangerous mood right now, and as she stalked away from the docks on a course to the Screaming Goat, she almost hoped someone would be stupid enough to try to intercept her. She wasn’t exactly regretting her decision to spare the survivors of the fight, but the sight of Nicolette lying in the infirmary, face pale and drawn with pain, had her hungering to hurt someone. That was undoubtedly writ large on her expression, and combined with the way her hands never strayed far from the hilts of her daggers, it was evidently enough to make any would-be predators lurking in wait decide to seek easier prey.

She wasn’t overly worried about Isabela; the pirate was a regular visitor to the Reach, and her skills would be known. Sure enough, when she walked through the door of the Goat, she quickly spotted the blue bandanna and the gleam of jewelry at the bar behind the smoke and sickly light given off in approximately equal amounts by the guttering torches. Normally, this was the type of dive that she enjoyed: crowded, rowdy and plenty of cheap booze; today, however, the sea of unwashed faces was just something she was going to have to wade through to find what she needed. She started working her way in Bela’s direction, ignoring the groping hands and lewd suggestions from the tables that she squeezed past. The pirate would know at least some of the other regulars, which would hopefully speed her search.

As Celeste reached the bar, the bloke who Isabela was talking to turned to her. Celeste tensed, but while his face had the look of one who’d been in more than his share of fights, his expression seemed affable enough, even with the missing teeth and the slight cast to his left eye.

“Hey. Heard you’re in need of specialist healing? I’ve got somebody available, if you’ve got the gold to spare.”

Celeste spared a glance and a quick nod of thanks to Isabela before turning her attention to the man. “You’re Clancy?” She stuck her hand out. “Celeste Monroe, captain of the Wicked Grace.” Name your price. The words hovered on her lips, but she did not let them fall. Brandel’s Reach was not the place to bare your belly. “How much?” she asked instead, putting on her haggling expression and steeling herself to reject the first number.


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Isabela returned Celeste’s nod with one of her own, and then turned back to her brandy as the negotiations started. Between the bloody dog going overboard and then this diversion, her return to the waves hadn’t been quite as hoped. But it was still better than freezing her ass off at the Kirkwall docks, and avoiding the qunari that seemed to pop up glowering every few feet. Gideon was the finest of that lot she’d ever met and if they’d got their hands on him they’d have killed him as a deserter or bundled him off to one of their re-education camps. What was even the point of being alive if you spent the whole time trapped in a box made of rules?

Her thoughts were sliding sideways a little with the brandy, but she was still keeping an ear on the conversation. Clancy was a good sort, but a pirate he remained and while he would be sympathetic towards the need to get Nicolette’s injury patched up, it wasn’t going to go over cheap.

“Yeah, I’m Clancy. Or Captain Fleetfoot, of the Free Virtue.” He grinned and rapped his leg. “A name given in younger times. But at least I still have a leg, and that’s mostly thanks to Magrid.”

“How much?”

The tone in Celeste’s voice was clear - there wouldn’t be any haggling. Without even turning around, Isabela knew that Clancy’s eyes would be lighting up. “Right to business, huh? Good. Normally I’d be setting down a bunch of rules for how we’re going about this, but Isabela vouches for you. That said, if you turn Magrid into the templars I’ll harry your ship right onto the Blackknife reef.”

“Hurry it along, Clancy.”

“Fine fine. Ten gold.” It was an outlandish price for healing and Isabela actually turned around, ready to protest, then saw Clancy’s shit-eating grin and realised he knew he had them over a barrel. “I’ll find Magrid and tell her to head to your ship. Better that than move your sailor. She’ll be there in a few minutes. I’ll be with her to take the payment up front, and leave with it before she starts healing. No money, no healing.”

He stuck his hand out. “Deal?”

Celeste Monroe

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Celeste prided herself on her ability to bargain almost as much as her ability to steal, and between them, she generally managed to get what she was after. But one of the first rules of haggling was that value was relative. If you had something someone else wanted, you had the advantage when it came to negotiations. And if you had something someone else needed: something they couldn’t get anywhere else … well, that was what they called a seller’s market. It wasn’t a situation that Celeste found herself on the wrong side of often, and she’d had her fill of that back in Kirkwall, getting the masts replaced on her ship.

But that was the situation now, and Clancy - or Captain Fleetfoot, or whatever the fuck he wanted to call himself - knew it. After a needless warning about tipping off the templars - an action that would violate the conditions of the truce medallion and lose her access to Brandel’s Reach as a safe harbor - he got down to business.

“Ten gold.” Celeste saw Isabela pivot on her barstool and shook her head slightly, keeping her expression impassive. Clancy’s smug expression made it plain that he knew that he had the advantage and wasn’t feeling any urge to be generous. Maybe she’d have done the same in his place and maybe not, but she was the one who had gone looking for help in a den of cutthroats. He went on as though her response was a foregone conclusion. “I’ll find Magrid and tell her to head to your ship. Better that than move your sailor. She’ll be there in a few minutes. I’ll be with her to take the payment up front, and leave with it before she starts healing. No money, no healing.”

He offered her a grimy hand that was missing two fingers. “Deal?”

She took it, indulging a brief fantasy of kneeing his balls up between his ears. “Deal.” No smartass remarks; nothing that might cause him to double his price or change his mind altogether. She could pay it from her own purse without touching the dwindling coins in the strongbox. She’d have done the same for any member of her crew, but the cold knot of fear in her chest was something that she hadn’t felt in a long time. Two years, in fact.

She waited until he was gone before leaning toward Isabela. “I owe you,” she said in a low voice. “He’d probably have asked for the damn ship if you hadn’t been here.” And that would have left her in a spot, because there were some things that she just couldn’t do, and she wasn’t even going to think about that further without a bottle of something strong close at hand. “We’re casting off as soon as she’s healed up,” she warned the pirate. “I’ll send Bailey here to let you know when it’s done.” She had no intention of leaving her friend behind, but if Bela decided to go barhopping, she wouldn’t have the luxury of hunting her down.

Back outside, the stench of smoke and unwashed bodies was exchanged for the stench of dead fish and shit wafting up from the harbor; Brandel’s Reach was not anyone’s idea of a vacation spot, after all. Celeste headed back toward the docks, keeping her pace to a walk and her demeanor businesslike, wondering inwardly why the awareness that she wouldn’t have given up her ship should gnaw so uncomfortably.

Nicolette O'Hara

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Magrid was used to interruptions. It came with the life she’d chosen; no matter how carefully she picked her time to settle in her cabin and go over the latest correspondence from the Guild, she would always be distracted by one of her crewmates hammering on the door because they’d gotten themselves stabbed in a barfight, or needed a hangover cure, or something to cure the dreadful case of itchy crotch they’d contracted a few days previously. At times it was irritating, but then she reminded herself of years previously when the interruptions would have come from templars, and she barely knew what the wind on her skin felt like after so much time trapped behind stone doors.

So she didn’t grumble too much when she’d barely settled in with her latest literary acquisition only to have a flurry of knocking interrupt her thoughts. She was a bit put out when Clancy pushed the door open before she could get to it herself. “Captain, whatever it is, surely it can wait long enough for me to answer my own door?”

Clancy was in a good mood, which was surprising given the urgency of his entrance. “You’ve got a job waiting on you, Magrid. Guaranteed payment of five gold for you. I’m keeping the other five as a finder’s fee.”

That was intriguing. Normally Magrid would have shown some annoyance and taken her time getting up, but normally she wasn’t paid for her healing abilities beyond a share of whatever pot the crew had claimed from their latest raid. “Who and where?”

“Don’t know the patient’s name, but they’re onboard the Wicked Grace. Their captain didn’t even haggle, so it’s pretty bad. Crossbow wound.”

“On a strange ship? And you didn’t even get their names? Sounds like a trap.”

“I’ll be close by. Payment up front, and if they sail off with you still on board, I’ll come haring after you. You’re worth too much to me.”

It’d be nice if that had been meant as an admission of friendship, but theirs was purely a business arrangement. In exchange for keeping her safe from templars, the Free Virtue’s crew got healing. Even after so many years together, she wasn’t particularly close with anybody on board. It was just easier that way. Magrid nodded, and swung her cloak about her shoulders before picking up her staff and surgical bag. “Lead the way.”

The Wicked Grace was a well kept ship. It looked as though it had had some work done recently, judging by the different colouration on the masts, and the crew milling about didn’t look like the feckless lost some ships sported. It was immediately evident, however, that there was an air of tension, and as they mounted the gangplank Magrid noticed that a couple of sailors were scrubbing away a dark stain evidently caused by a spill of blood.

“Cap’n Celeste!” Clancy bellowed, cheerfully. “My associate, as promised! Payment, if you please.”

Magrid kept her voice dispassionate, a counter to Clancy’s clearly inappropriate grin. Whoever the injured party was, their condition had left a pall over the crew. “Show me to the patient.”

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Dax was waiting for her at the top of the gangplank, and Celeste felt her stomach twist up in foreboding, but he simply held his hand out to her.

“We took up a collection, Cap’n,” he told her. “T’help pay for the healing. You find someone?”

“Yeah.” She felt an irrational urge to refuse the offering, ignored it. Their choice, their right. “They’ll be here soon.” She opened her hand to accept the coins. “Thanks.” From the weight, she knew it wouldn’t cover even half of the ten sovereigns that Clancy had demanded, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. She’d pay the rest. She glanced around the deck, seeing none of the prisoners they’d docked with. “They give you any trouble going off?”

He shook his head, smirking. “Most of ‘em looked like they were shitting their pants. Pretty sure all of ‘em but the big simple bloke’ll be on the wrong end of a cat before the day’s out.”

“Most likely,” Celeste agreed without concern. Lashes with a cat o’nine tails was a brutal form of discipline - and one never used aboard the Wicked Grace - but mutiny was a serious crime. She doubted she’d have the stomach to apply the lash herself, but damned if she would waste her pity on the little bastards who had attacked them and nearly killed Nico.

She ducked into their cabin and had to spend a few minutes trying to calm Thibault, with little success. The hound was nearly beside himself with concern, and after snuffling at the sailor’s hands and clothes, resumed his pawing at the door and whining, ignoring her words and petting. Giving up, she went to her desk and unlocked the drawer where she kept her own coin. It was barer than usual - she’d tapped into it to keep the crew paid in Kirkwall when no jobs were in the offing - but still more than enough to cover the healing. Counting out enough to supplement the crew’s contribution, she pocketed it and wormed her way past Thibault, whose frantic whines rose back into howls as soon as she closed the door on him. No help for it; if he thought the healer was hurting Nicolette and attacked, things could get ugly fast.

She returned to the deck just as Clancy arrived, accompanied by an older woman whose wizened and wary features bepoke a life of harsh experience.

“Cap’n Celeste!” Clancy greeted her as jovially as if they were old friends newly reunited. “My associate, as promised! Payment, if you please.”

Celeste spared him enough of a glance to let her deposit the coin into the grimy hand that he thrust before her. Most of her attention was focused on the crone, trying and failing to detect any hint of power in the countenance beneath the stringy grey hair. It had always seemed odd to her that it should be thus, but if it were that easy, she supposed the templars wouldn’t be needed.

The woman wasted no time on niceties. “Show me to the patient.”

Celeste was just fine with that. “This way,” she replied, leading her to the infirmary without bothering to see if Clancy was following.

Brannigan was crouched beside the cot, encouraging Nico to sip from a pewter mug. He stood as they entered. “Madam.” He greeted the woman with a polite bow, but his blue eyes were wary, likely more due to the fact that she was a pirate than a mage. “I’ve had her drink water to compensate for the blood loss,” he told the newcomer, “and given her extract of elfroot and spindleweed.”

Celeste crouched beside Nicolette, taking one of the minstrel’s hands in her own. The skin felt cool and clammy, and her cheeks were still too pale for Celeste’s liking. “Found a healer,” she murmured encouragingly, reaching up to stroke the hair away from her lover’s cheek, feeling a tightness in her chest. “It’s gonna be all right.”

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
From a distant place, Nicolette heard Brannigan extorting her to be brave. She was trying, but everything was so muddled. Liquid was pressed to her lips and the pain receded a little but was reduced to an aching throb that pulsed so strongly she could barely think. Sweat poured over her head, but it was cold, and she kept trying to curl up to preserve the little heat she could feel only to be jolted back into place by a fresh spike of agony. Now and again, when she had the voice, she called for Celeste - no answer came. The wooden walls and ceiling rolled into one another, and a candle in a glass jar flickered distractingly in the corner of her vision. She tried to close her eyes to it, and felt herself slipping downwards into some dark pit of the mind, but strong fingers pinched at her, forcing her back into waking.

She was not sure how long it was before Celeste swam back into focus again. A few times, she had reached for a vision of the captain, only to find her fingers pass through it; this time, Celeste caught her hands, and Nicolette gripped instinctively to the warmth. “Celeste…”

“Found a healer. It’s gonna be all right.”

An unfamiliar face appeared alongside Celeste’s, eyes narrowing. “Away now. Give me space to look at her.”

Something jabbed at her side, pulling away material that had adhered to the wound; Nicolette trapped a shriek behind her teeth as she gripped the sides of the - bed? Pallet? - she was not altogether sure where she lay - as the voice mumbled above her. “Nasty. Not poisoned, though. You’ve made a good job of holding her on this long, chiurgeon.”

That was not especially helpful to hear. Even in her addled state, Nicolette wanted to be brave, but she could not help the fresh tears of pain as the stranger examined the wound, mercilessly pressing together the torn flesh. “Hm. Yes. I can heal this. You two, hold her ankles and her shoulders, make sure she doesn’t whip her head back against the frame.”

A few moments later, Nicolette experienced a sensation she could only describe as like being cauterised from inside. Every instinct screamed to pull away, she was not even sensible as to how she was reacting to it because she could not get free, and the pain was pulling out, and out, a hundred times worse than the bolt going in…

And then suddenly, it was over. She was damp with sweat, and the woman had both hands above her wound, a cool tingling sensation now pushing its way inside the skin, offering relief. Nicolette slumped back against the table, limp with fatigue, but immensely grateful that all the pain had fled.

“Normally I’d have gone a little more slowly.” The healer was wiping down her hands now, and the alien coolness had receded. “And ease the pain, but there wasn’t enough time for that. You’re pretty lucky to be alive, girl.”

Nicolette reached downwards, probing at the site of the injury, finding nothing but some raised scar tissue beneath her fingers. It was baffling to have been in so many pain and then...not. Letting her head fall to the side, she reached for Celeste; still beyond actual words, she mouthed, “Thank you.”

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Cold … Nicolette’s hands were so damn cold, and the distance hazing the amber eyes wound icy tendrils about Celeste’s heart. She looked to Brannigan - it had to be the drugs he’d given her, right? - but his expression only made the claws of fear dig in deeper. “You stay with me, girl!” She turned back to the minstrel, putting a hand to the pale cheek and patting it none too gently, willing her gaze to come into focus. “Stay with me, damn it!”

The mage pushed her aside without ceremony. “Away now. Give me space to look at her.”

Celeste bit her tongue and complied, feeling her nails digging into her palms at the anguished cries that Nicolette could not hold back as the crone probed at her relentlessly, bright eyes intent. That the wound wasn’t poisoned was a relief, but did she have to be so sodding rough?

“Hm. Yes. I can heal this,” the mage announced at length. “You two, hold her ankles and her shoulders, make sure she doesn’t whip her head back against the frame.”

Almost, Celeste’s courage failed her. Almost, she called for Dax, who was undoubtedly stronger, though that wasn’t why.

What are you afraid of?

If she named the dread that was crushing her chest like a vise, it might come to pass. Squaring up, she directed Brannigan to the foot of the cot with a jerk of her head, then stepped up and settled her hands on Nicolette’s shoulders as gently as she could. That didn’t last long. As the first words of magic left the crone’s lips in susurrant syllables, Nico arched up with a wail of agony, and Celeste had to press her back down, putting more and more of her weight behind her hands as the spell wound on and on, and the minstrel thrashed and struggled in an instinctive attempt to escape the pain.

“Hang on,” she murmured desperately, looking down into a face nearly unrecognizable in its torment: eyes screwed shut, lips peeled away from teeth in an agonized rictus and bright beads of sweat standing out on the skin. “Hang on, querida. Almost done.” It had to be. She wanted the scream at the bitch to hurry the fuck up, feared to interrupt her focus at a critical instant.

Abruptly, the slender body stopped straining against her and went limp beneath her hands. Celeste’s heart lurched beneath her ribs, but in the next instant, she realized that Nicolette was still breathing. Great, shuddering gulps of air that were almost sobs, but breathing. A bit more color touched the minstrel’s cheeks. Her features had smoothed, free of pain, and the glorious eyes were wondering as they opened, casting downward to her side, exploring the place where the wound had been with an unsteady hand that then reached for Celeste.

“Thank you.”

The words were inaudible, little more than a breath, but she was talking, she was alive, and Celeste caught up the hand, kissed the palm and pressed it to her cheek, savoring the new warmth seeping into the flesh as she watched Brannigan step in to examine the spot and nod in satisfaction.

“What are your recommendations for convalescence, madam?” Something more than his usual impeccable courtesy infused his words now: the respect of one healer given to another.

Brushing a final kiss across the knuckles, Celeste laid Nicolette’s hand down and stood. “I paid Clancy ten, in case he tells you any different,” she told the mage, dipping a hand into her pocket. “These are for you alone,” she said, holding the woman’s gaze as she pressed the additional coins into the weathered hand. “Thank you.”