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Smell The Sea And Feel The Sky [Closed]

Celeste Monroe

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198
#1
((28 Haring, early evening, after this thread; Nicolette O'Hara ))

The sun had dipped well below the rooftops of Lowtown by the time they emerged from the Hanged Man, and the moons and a first sprinkling of stars were visible in the spreading darkness of the western sky. The chill in the air had deepened - or maybe she’d just been too fired up to notice it earlier - and flurries of snow eddied around them, though the sparse clouds made any real accumulation unlikely. Celeste cast a jaundiced eye skyward nonetheless and slipped an arm around Nicolette’s waist; neither of them wore cloaks. She’d been a child of the sun from her earliest years, and while she had been charmed by her first encounters with the white stuff, the appeal had quickly worn off when she discovered that it was inexorably linked with cold. That Daniel had gone over in a blinding snowstorm that had kept them from searching for him had only increased her aversion, and her policy since becoming captain had been to be north of Wycome by Firstfall.

Until now.

They walked in silence, Celeste’s mind turning over the details of the plans and contingencies that had been laid in the impromptu council of war, but her eyes staying in motion, the wandering gaze seemingly casual even as it probed every shadow. Barrett Orland had not flinched at ordering a disobedient son to be killed; he’d have even less trepidation where those who had led his daughter astray were concerned. That there seemed to be nothing only raised the worry that he was venting his wrath on Addie alone.

It wasn’t likely, not yet, but they would have to move fast when the Tevinter ship tied up, decide which of the strategies they had laid out would work and carry it out. Once Orland discovered that his plan to sell his daughter wasn’t going to happen, he might resort to even more drastic measures.

Kalindra met them at the bottom of the worn sandstone steps that led to the docks. “No activity,” she reported. “He’s got a brute squad of eight patrolling the exterior, with at least two more inside. They’re beating the bushes every time a bird lands in them, but nobody is looking up.” She rolled her eyes scornfully. “An archdemon could land on the roof and they’d never notice.”

Not surprising; the average person never looked up. It was the reason that the rooftops of any city of size were a veritable highway of illicit traffic.

She nodded. “Keep two people on it.” They’d stay separate, each able to see the other. If one got caught, the other could get away and report. “Let me know if it looks like he’s trying to move her. Any word on the ‘Vint ship?”

“Not in port yet,” she confirmed, then smirked, “but the Knight-Commander has given orders that word is to be sent to the Gallows as soon as any Tevinter ship passes the harbor mouth.” The welcome wagon, Kirkwall style.

“That’ll buy us some time,” Celeste remarked. But not much, particularly if word of the templar interception reached the Orland house. Hopefully, Josc was able to connect quickly with the friend who would be sneaking aboard. “I want all hands on deck at first light. Find Charade. Tell her I need more eyes … and only eyes for now.” Charade headed up Red Jenny activity in Kirkwall - as much as anyone did, anyway. She’d know of a few who could restrain their urges for mayhem, particularly with the promise of open season on a rich prig as a carrot.

Kali nodded and vanished into the night. “Not likely that any ships will be docking at night,” she explained to Nicolette as they continued onward. The minstrel might be new to this semi-legal lifestyle, but she absorbed information like a sponge, and the more she knew, the more likely she would stay safe. “The entry to the harbor is tricky if you’re not familiar with it. We’ll pull everyone together in the morning and start planning.” Whether it was the fake Tevinter delegation or a straight up snatch and run, they’d need to be ready to move.

Along the docks now, music and voices spilling out of the cheap bars that catered to the soldiers, the stench of the harbor thick in Celeste’s nose. Arriving in a port was almost always exciting, but within a few days, the noise, the crowds and the stink of the refuse that nobody seemed to be able to resist dumping into the water had her itching to be back on open water with the crisp tang of salt water in her nostrils.

Ahead now, her ship: both masts back in place, rigging set and sails furled atop the booms, ready to raise and billow with the wind, propelling the Wicked Grace across the waves like she was flying.

And just as stuck here as she had been when she was mastless.

“Dammit,” Celeste muttered under her breath.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
128
#2
They were quiet as they left the Hanged Man. The silence continued to reign as they found their way back to the docks, fortunately without confrontations or fights; the denizens of Lowtown left them alone. Even Thibault, trotting at her side, did little more than let out his usual series of low noises when she rubbed his head. Part of it was the cold. Snow had started to come down and they leaned into each other for warmth, conserving energy with their silence.

But mostly Nicolette was turning over the events of the ‘council’ in her head. While there was no damping the fear she felt over the idea of deliberately inciting guards to chase Edwin and trapping them, most of all she could not help imagining what Addie was going through. The young noblewoman was brave and resourceful beyond doubt, but the fact she had had to resort to a note meant she had not been able to find a way out; which meant she was stuck in that house, not knowing how long she might have or even if help was on the way. Nicolette could become agitated if she spent an hour in one room unless she was sleeping or had a companion. Skies knew how she would take being captured, with the knowledge that she was going to be sold.

The thoughts made the walk seem longer than usual, and she was shivering by the time they reached the docks. Kali was already there with a report on the guards, and fortunately the Tevinter ship had yet to actually dock.

“That’ll buy us some time. I want all hands on deck at first light. Find Charade. Tell her I need more eyes … and only eyes for now.”

Kali vanished, and Celeste explained the reasoning for the light surveillance. “Not likely that any ships will be docking at night. The entry to the harbor is tricky if you’re not familiar with it. We’ll pull everyone together in the morning and start planning.”

Nicolette nodded, taking in the information and storing it. She did not know what the chances were of them having to keep eye on an incoming ship again, but it was good to know that most of them would be hampered by a night-time arrival.

Past the qunari compound and the slums came the dockside bars. Each one was heaving with sailors and other exciting people, with music, laughter – and the occasional sound of a fight breaking out – riding on the night air. It would be easy to turn ever so slightly towards one of them, let herself be drawn into the chaos, and drown out everything in her head.

She remained firmly by Celeste’s side, close enough as they arrived at the Wicked Grace to hear Celeste’s muttered curse. The ship was finished and ready to go, another few days and they might have already been laded and out to sea – and then Addie’s note would have gone nowhere. She would be sitting in that room with almost no hope of rescue at all. So it was no bad thing, but at the same time she felt a strong tug of sympathy for Celeste. Like her lover, she yearned to be away from the city at last, looking for something new.

Nicolette looked up. There were still specks of snow falling, and it was still freezing, but the clouds were thin enough that moon managed to break through them at points, spilling light out onto the inky water. She wound her fingers with Celeste’s, hoping her idea would not come across as foolish in this weather. “Can we go up to the crow’s nest?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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Posts
198
#3
Celeste could wait, but that didn’t mean she liked it. And now, after over a month of waiting for her ship to be seaworthy, to be forced now not only to have to wait to sail away from this shithole to warmer waters, but also to wait to spring Addie from the clutches of her shitstain of a father, had a caged restlessness chasing beneath her skin. If she’d been alone, her cabin would have been the last destination on her mind, but Nicolette was with her, and she’d felt the steadily increasing shivers rolling through the minstrel as they’d walked, and time spent in her company would soothe a good deal of the turbulence in the sailor’s blood.

But Nico surprised her with a gentle squeeze from the hand that held hers. “Can we go up to the crow’s nest?” she asked, amber gaze tipping upward.

Celeste smiled at her, affection tinged with wonder. “You read my mind,” she murmured, slipping her hand free from her lover’s as they stepped onto the deck and raised it to her lips for a quick kiss before letting go. “Wait here.” She ducked into her cabin, still smiling and enjoying the flicker of warmth in her chest too much to be unsettled by the way the minstrel seemed to be so closely attuned to her at times. The differences were there, and enough to create some interesting sparks, but in moments like this, the gentle warmth appealed more than she would ever have thought possible.

She snagged a couple of cloaks from the hooks on the wall: oilcloth over wool, they would block the winds aloft and not get soggy with snowmelt. A silver flask of Antivan brandy went into a vest pocket. She debated losing her shoes; she preferred bare feet in the rigging, but ultimately the temperatures settled the question.

Back on deck, she offered one cloak to Nicolette and tossed the other over her shoulder. “He can snooze in my cabin,” she offered, nodding at Thibault, who was ill equipped to be monkeying about aloft … and would have made for a tight fit in the crow’s nest besides.

“You first,” she invited her lover, nodding towards the shrouds. If Nico slipped, Celeste was fairly confident of her ability to keep them both from falling if she were below her … and the view wouldn’t be bad, either. She looked up to the crow’s nest atop the mainmast, a part of her heart taking flight at the prospect of finally being back up there after so long. It wasn’t as good as being back at sea and sailing north, but it would do for the moment.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
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Posts
128
#4
A little of the chill was chased away by the warmth of Celeste’s smile. Nicolette still did not always know how her lover might react to some of her suggestions – in fact, it was one of the things she liked about her – and it always gave her a little frission of pleasure when she said something that appealed. Celeste bade her to wait, after a quick kiss, and Nicolette obeyed, tucking her arms around herself to keep the worst of the cold away once the captain had left her side.

Celeste did not keep her waiting long. Within moments she was back out, holding out a cloak which Nicolette took but did not don yet as it might tangle in her feet on the climb. Celeste gestured to Thibault. “He can snooze in my cabin.”

Nicolette patted her dog’s back. “Aller à l’intérieur, Thibault.”

He did not need telling twice. Thibault shot through Celeste’s legs, evidently glad to be back in the warm. He was a hardy dog, and used to the cold, but that did not mean he would not make himself comfortable where he could. Nicolette chuckled, before turning towards the rigging – which looked a little higher than she had made note of originally.

As usual, curiosity overran caution, and she went ahead as Celeste indicated she should go first. Climbing the rigging was a little more difficult than she had imagined. The wind blew harder towards the top, and cut sharp enough that her fingers almost went numb, so instead of the sway with which she had intended to climb, in order to give her lover the best view, she went up the last few yards as fast as she could so that she could get to the top and tug on the cloak as fast as possible, before rubbing her hands together to try and get out the cold.

But oh, the view was worth it. The water stretched out to the horizon, the edge of the sky so dark it was impossible to differentiate it and the water; but there were two moons, one high, one rippling on the ocean. The clouds closest to them had the yellowish tinge she associated with snow, and a few flakes were still drifting past. The ship creaked slowly and even from this height she could hear the soft lap of waves against the sides.

Ouah. This…is amazing.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
198
#5
Thibault wasted no time in following his mistress’ instructions, nearly knocking Celeste over in the process. She couldn’t really hold it against him. Standing on deck shivering wouldn’t have been high on her list of Shit To Do, either, and he’d spent enough time in the cabin unsupervised that she trusted him not to make any messes. He’d actually started growing on her a bit (the rest of the crew adored him, except for the Thing, who tolerated him as long as he didn’t get too close), and when he nudged his burly head beneath her hand, she generally obliged with an ear scratch.

Nicolette readily accepted her suggestion to go first, but while the sway of the minstrel’s hips was definitely worth watching, most of Celeste’s attention was on watching her hands and feet as they sought purchase in the rigging and keeping herself in position to break a fall. The wind off the water cut to the bone, though there had not been enough precipitation to ice the ropes, and Celeste breathed a sigh of relief as Nico scrambled up the last little bit and over the railing, then covered the remaining distance herself while the other woman hurriedly donned her cloak.

Ouah. This…is amazing.”


The softly wondering exclamation curled pleasantly beneath Celeste’s ribs, and she turned to follow her lover’s gaze, leaving her own cloak draped over the railing as she drank in the view.

“Never been aloft?”
she asked with a smile. “It’s even better at sea. I made it up the first time when I was six … and I’d been trying for two years at that point.” She laughed softly at the memory. “Caused quite the ruckus on deck, with my father ordering me down and my nanny screeching that it wasn’t her fault. The sailor who came up to get me down smelled of tobacco and tar, and he told silly jokes to make me laugh. What do sailors play when they’re bored?” she looked sideways at Nico with a smirk. “Cards, because they always have a deck."

“He got me down, but there was no keeping me on deck after that, and eventually they let me alone unless the weather was dicey … except for the time I managed to smuggle some rotten eggs up and started dropping them. It was my favorite place in the world until I learned to man the helm, and I still love it.”


She lifted her head into the wind and closed her eyes, heedless of the chill. Up here, the smell of refuse was almost lost beneath the salt tang coming off the water, and she could hear the waves rolling in outside the harbor, feel the slight swaying of the deck amplified by their height above the deck. “I’ve missed this,” she murmured.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
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Posts
128
#6
“Never been aloft?”

Nicolette shook her head. “Oh, I tried. But I was chased away from the rigging more than once. Apparently if I fell in the sea they would not get paid for taking me as a passenger.” Her mouth twisted in an amused smile. There had been more concern than that, but she did not doubt that a loss of income on had been on the minds of those who discouraged her adventures aloft.

“It’s even better at sea. I made it up the first time when I was six … and I’d been trying for two years at that point.”

Nicolette chuckled with her. They had talked enough about their pasts by now for her to have built up a good mental image of Celeste as a child, and ‘willful’ was definitely a favourite adjective. Nicolette had pushed the boundaries of the rules as well, but never to the degree that Celeste had.

"Caused quite the ruckus on deck, with my father ordering me down and my nanny screeching that it wasn’t her fault. The sailor who came up to get me down smelled of tobacco and tar, and he told silly jokes to make me laugh. What do sailors play when they’re bored? Cards, because they always have a deck."

Nicolette responded with an attractive snort. “Terrible.”

“He got me down, but there was no keeping me on deck after that, and eventually they let me alone unless the weather was dicey … except for the time I managed to smuggle some rotten eggs up and started dropping them. It was my favorite place in the world until I learned to man the helm, and I still love it.”

Celeste dropped her head back and closed her eyes. At the moment the clouds were thin enough that the moon could shine through and illuminate her face with a soft white glow. For a moment, watching her, Nicolette felt exactly the same sense of wonder as she had gazing out at the sea. The softening sensation beneath her breastbone was back, and she felt as though she could have looked at Celeste tasting the nearness of her freedom for a long time.

“I’ve missed this.”

Nicolette stepped behind Celeste, slipping her arms around the other woman’s waist and resting her chin on her shoulder. “I love to see you like this. And I cannot wait to see you when we finally cast off.” She would likely be calling orders to her crew in that commanding tone Nicolette found so thrilling, but that was only part of it. “Once we are out of the docks, heading towards the horizon – I imagine it will be as watching a bird that had injured its wing finally taking flight again.”

The moment had rendered her even more poetic than normal in her speech, and she silenced herself with a kiss to Celeste’s cheek.
 

Celeste Monroe

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Posts
198
#7
It was a bit surprising that someone as adventurous as Nicolette had never made it up to a crow’s nest, but it had not been due to lack of effort. “Oh, I tried. But I was chased away from the rigging more than once. Apparently if I fell in the sea they would not get paid for taking me as a passenger.”

Celeste snorted. “And they’d have to send someone in the drink after you,” she added. “Maybe.” Some ships would just keep sailing. The Wicked Grace tended to be more relaxed with passengers as long as the seas were calm, but there had been more than a few that Celeste had ended up ordering in no uncertain terms to keep their boots on deck, because she wouldn’t just sail off and leave someone in the water, and she didn’t like risking the lives of her crew to rescue some fool with chum for brains.

But she’d learned to recognize the same yearning that had tugged her upward as a child and tried her best to accommodate those whose eyes burned with it, remembering the kindness of those who had allowed a restless hoyden of a girl to reach for the sky.

Her lover made an indelicate sound when she shared her favorite of the jokes that Uriah - yes, that had been his name, hadn’t it? Her father had preferred hiring ships to maintaining a fleet, so the names and faces had changed all too often, but a few stood out in her memory. Like Uriah and his jokes.

“Terrible,” Nico opined with a gentle smile.

“Says you,” Celeste smirked. “To a six year old, that was the height of humor.” And to the woman that she was now, it was a reminder of all of the ones who had helped her to grow into someone unafraid of defying convention and reaching for what she wanted. The crow’s nest had been her refuge throughout the turbulent years of adolescence, and even after she’d been grown and sailing with Daniel, it had offered her a place between sea and sky, where she could let her thoughts drift with the wind or think of nothing at all if it suited her. Not having it to retreat to these last few weeks had been very nearly as frustrating as being landlocked, and even with the chill wind and swirling snow, she felt as though she could stay here all night.

Warmth at her back as Nicolette edged between her and the mast, arms wrapping around her, and she covered the hands at her waist with her own. “I love to see you like this,” the minstrel said softly, her breath warm against Celeste’s cheek and the scent of cinnamon that nearly always touched her skin blending with the salt air with surprising rightness. Or perhaps not so surprising, given the one that it was associated with. “And I cannot wait to see you when we finally cast off.”

“Won’t be long now,” Celeste promised, to herself as much as her lover. Even just knowing that they had the ability to haul everybody on board and cast off if things really went to shit was a load from her shoulders. She was no longer trapped here; she was staying by choice, and that realization made all the difference, even if her soul still yearned seaward.

“Once we are out of the docks, heading towards the horizon – I imagine it will be as watching a bird that had injured its wing finally taking flight again.”

Celeste opened her mouth, closed it again. Her minstrel had a way of seeing her as she had never seen herself, and though it was sometimes puzzling - and occasionally unnerving, more often than not, a bit of reflection would prove revealing. She had never thought of herself as an injured bird; the connotations of helplessness that the image first conjured were intolerable. And yet, her ship was as much a part of her now as her arms and legs … perhaps even more so, because her own limbs could not take her unaided to where she most loved to be. Being stuck here, unable to sail … she had felt helpless, trapped, even if she had refused to acknowledge those feelings by those names.

Lips pressed a kiss to her cheek, and she turned her head to seek their softness, trying to convey the feelings that she would never be able to put to words as well as her lover could. “Sing something for me?” she murmured when their lips parted. “Please?” She had enjoyed her lover’s music many times over the last few weeks, but this was the first time she had asked for a song. She wasn’t even sure what to request, but a part of her trusted that her minstrel would know.
 

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
128
#8
Nicolette had felt lines of tension in Celeste since they had first met; it had not taken long to discover it was the result of being trapped in a city she did not even enjoy with her ship all but ruined. Wrapped around her now she could still feel it, taut as a bowstring, almost trembling with the anticipation of knowing they were almost there. At least this time it was her choice to stay a little longer, rather than the happenstance of a shipwreck or the wrong masts arriving. The thought of Celeste’s joy when they finally did set sail rendered Nicolette poetic, although because she did not see the other woman’s face she could not tell if the remark had been well accepted or not.

For a moment she just enjoyed the wide sway of the mast, and the warmth of Celeste’s hands over hers, before her captain turned her head fractionally into the kiss she laid on her cheek.

“Sing something for me? Please?”

Nicolette was startled for a moment. Celeste had not made such a request yet; in fact, it was quite rare for people to request that she simply sing for them alone, away from the brawl of a tavern or an organised performance. In fact, the last person she had done it for had been a previous lover, now long since gone.

And yet instead of making her wistful, it pleased her. For a moment she thought of a shanty, but it did not seem right for the moment. After a few seconds of reflection, it came to her, and up here she did not have to try hard for her voice to carry clear and soft. It was almost a lullaby, and unconsciously she rocked the other woman slightly in time with the music.

“Speed, bonny ship, like a bird on the wing
Onward the sailors cry.
Carry me far from the lands I know
To where the sea meets the sky.


Loud the wind howls, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air.
Behind, our woes stand on the shore,
Follow they will not dare.


Though the waves heave,
Soft will you sleep, ocean’s a captain’s bed.
Rocked in the deep, I will keep
Watch by your weary head.


Speed, bonny ship, like a bird on the wing
Onward the sailors cry.
Carry me far from the lands I know

To where the sea meets the sky.”

As the last note trailed away in the air, Nicolette pressed a little closer to Celeste’s warmth. She should not be feeling suffused with contentment as she currently was, not when they were all still so concerned about Addie, but there was no denying that singing for her captain left her inexpressibly happy. “Did that please you, my captain?”

[[OOC: Nicolette's song is a revised version of the Skye Boat Song.]]
 

Celeste Monroe

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DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
198
#9
There was enough of a hesitation after her request that Celeste had time to be concerned that she had put her foot in something. Maybe private performances weren’t Nico’s thing, and maybe asking made her seem needy, and why was she even concerned about that, and maybe she should just laugh it off and say she’d been joking -

And then Nicolette started singing and all of that just drifted into the wind.

It was nothing like listening to the minstrel perform in a tavern or on the street, or even on the deck of the ship below them. The minstrel had a gift for connecting with her audience, meeting their eyes and smiling as she played and sang, by turns playful, joyful, sensual, wistful. She loved her music, she genuinely cared about the people that she performed before, and that combination was an alchemy that Celeste never tired of watching.

She couldn’t see her lover now, but the intimacy of this audience was entirely new. Wrapped in the minstrel’s arms, she could feel the vibrations of Nicolette's voice against her back as the sweet soprano, pitched for her ears alone, wound its way into her soul. The song was not one that she had heard before, and if she’d been told that Nico had composed it on the spot for her, she would have believed it. Every word - the wind, the waves and thunder, the allure of the far horizon - felt as though it had been drawn from her dreams. Her eyes drifted closed, and she allowed herself to be swayed back and forth in time with the tempo of the song, the restless yearning in her breast shifting in another direction.

The song ended, and Nicolette cuddled into her back. “Did that please you, my captain?” she asked softly.

Celeste opened her eyes, drew a deep breath and turned in her lover’s arms, pressing her back against the mast and pouring everything that she had into the kiss.

“That’s putting it mildly,” she breathed when she drew back, her fingertips tracing the delicate curve of collarbones, drifting upward along Nicolette’s neck to the contours of her cheeks, drinking in the sight of her. “It was incredible. You’re … incredible.” She bit lightly at her lower lip, brushing a few stray hands of hair away from Nico’s face. “You’re a big part of the reason I haven’t gone stir crazy,” she admitted with a faint smile, “so thank you for that.”

She leaned in, her parted lips finding the hollow beneath one delicately curving ear, teeth nipping at the soft skin before letting the tip of her tongue flicker out for a taste. “My turn to please you, my minstrel,” she murmured, kissing a slow path along her throat as her hands slipped downward.
 
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