• Hello Guest, the Post-Trespasser timeline is open to all characters now. If you want to play your DA:O/DA2 timeline characters in the Post-Trespasser timeline, please check out the thread below. It will give you all the information you need to get up and running in no time:

    Getting your DA:O/DA2 Character ready for Post-Trespasser!

The Chase Is On [Solo, Ongoing]

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
When the sky had first torn open, it was almost beautiful. The blue of the sky faded slowly into the green light circling around the white centre, a slow swirling like a whirlpool. Many other members of the caravan had fallen to their knees and started offering prayers to the Maker. Nicolette had remained on her feet, entranced by the miracle, until Thibault had pressed himself into her side with a low whine. He was trembling. Nicolette had felt an uncomfortable premonition, but not voiced it; she noticed that not all the prayers were being uttered with wonder. She was not the only one suddenly afraid.

One of the guards had been the first to notice the bolts falling to earth. The merchant leading the caravan had consulted his maps and decided to steer them generally away from the places they appeared to be landing, causing Nicolette to feel an uncomfortable scraping in her chest. When she had joined the wagons in the last city, trading her music for the safety of company on the journey, she had worked out she should make it to the connection point with the Wicked Grace with about a day to spare. But she let it go; better to be safe than sorry, and if she missed the ship she could catch up with it at one of the arranged points later. It was not as though it was the end of the world.

Until it was.

A bolt came hurtling towards them, and there was no time to change direction before it struck the second wagon in the train, reducing it to flying splinters. As those around it tried to blink the shards of wood and metal from their eyes, the nearest guard was immediately cut down by the demon emerging from the wreckage. It was tall, with a single nightmarish glowing eye, and fingers that tapered to sharp points; fingers that were thrust through the man’s chest with no more effort than waving a hand. It tossed aside its corpse and charged the next man in a heartbeat.

Nicolette watched it all from further back, frozen in uncomprehending horror.

One of the other guards, a tall man wielding an axe, sliced through it before it could go any further, and silence as the demon collapsed into the grass and disintegrated. The man wiped his forehead with his arm. “Is everyone else all-”

The next bolt hit him directly. Chaos erupted; suddenly everybody was screaming as the fiery form pulled itself up from the grass where the guard’s charred remains now lay. The oxen, out of their minds with fear, charged in all directions, carrying the contents of the wagons and trampling those who were in the way. More demons were appearing now, and the guards were trying to form themselves into a cohesive unit but kept being disrupted as some burst through the ground right in the middle of their ranks.

Nicolette obeyed her instincts at last, and bolted, until a large arm grasped her about the shoulders. She twisted, trying to reach the dagger at her waist and also trying somehow not to see, she did not want to see a demon up this close –

It was Alvard, the burliest of the merchants. He’d dismounted his horse and now he shoved her towards the animal. “Get on! You can’t outrun them otherwise!”

Nicolette obeyed without thought, then held out a hand to help him up. Instead he lifted Thibault and deposited the wriggling hound right over her lap. He lifted his hand and Nicolette suddenly realised what he was about to do, but she could not stop him, she was having to hold with all her strength to the reins as the horse frothed and danced, torn between its training and the need to flee. “Wait! Wait, you will die!”

He knew it, and he brought his hand down hard on the horse’s rump. It reared, and then ran, and Nicolette had to hold the reins tight in one hand as she gripped Thibault with the other. There was no question of guiding the horse properly; she just let it gallop, and tried to concentrate on remaining on.

It felt like a long time later before the horse finally slowed to a halt by a stream, and she could let herself slip to the grass, boneless with fatigue and terror.

There was a hole in the sky and demons were coming out of it and she had just seen a man impaled through the chest and another disintegrated. And somehow the demons had been even worse than that. When the one with the single eye had swung its head in her direction, suddenly every fear from children and quite a few from her adult life had bubbled up all at once. She had barely been able to move. She did not want to move now. Lying on her side in the grass, she could not see the tear in the heavens.

But the bolts might fall near to her again, and if she was prone she would not get back in the saddle again before she was struck. She needed to keep moving. She had been fortunate in that she had been wearing her vielle and her daggers as she walked, but everything else was gone – exposure was also a risk. But she still had time to make it to the next city, and once there she could make straight for the docks and warn Celeste that they needed to get out of here, right now.

Thibault had managed to squirm down from the horse and pushed himself under her arm, whimpering softly before licking her cheek. The grey hairs around his muzzle grew more pronounced every time she noticed them. This was more than he should be dealing with at his age. He could not ride on the horse the whole way, and he would not be able to keep up if she galloped. They were just going to have to keep going at a steady pace, no matter how much she itched to race back to her lover.

When her legs stopped trembling enough for her to stand, she clambered back into the saddle, turning the horse in the direction of the city. No more deviations; it would be a straight line from this point onwards. Pressing her heels into the horses’ side, she set off at a steady canter. They were only a day or so away.

She pushed through the night, thinking of the welcome that waited for her on the Grace. Once they got to the city she could find a good stables to take on the horse and then she would walk as fast as her legs could carry her to the docks. She always yearned for Celeste after these separations but now she wanted to see her so badly it was as though her flesh was peeling back from her ribs, leaving her heart sore and exposed.

So it came as a shock when the sun rose the following morning, after a cold night in the saddle, and she saw smoke billowing on the horizon. Forgetting caution, she spurred the horse on faster, but she did not need to get close to confirm what she had feared. The city was ablaze, and she could hear terrible screams from within its walls. Not all of the screams were of human provenance.

Neither could she see the masts of the Wicked Grace jutting up anywhere beyond the flaming rooftops. Whether that boded well or not, she could not tell, and getting closer would be foolish. She was hungry and half-frozen, scared and aching all over. But there was nothing else to do but turn her steed away.

The next point of contact was a town some twenty leagues along the coast. It was away from the hole in the sky, which could only be a positive sign, but the roads would grow more craggy and the way more dangerous as she travelled. The horse would also need to stop and rest eventually, and they would all need to eat.

One problem at a time. First, she wanted to stay alive, and remaining anywhere near this city would do her no favours. Except heading out into the wilderness with only what she had was also tantamount to suicide. There were farmsteadings near the city; she would approach one and ask for their aid.

The house she found appeared to have been abandoned. The remains of a meal were scattered across the table as though the people who had sat to it had left it halfway through; Nicolette, without pause, tore into what she could, and Thibault wolfed down anything he could reach as well. She left some silvers on a corner of the table, just in case, although a creeping sensation up her spine told her that it would be a long time before anybody was back here again.

There was a shortbow propped up against a wall and a quiver of arrows. After wrestling with her conscience for a few minutes, Nicolette took it, and a blanket lying crumpled on the floor. She had never stolen from anyone, except when helping the Jennies, and depriving a family of a weapon now felt wrong. But they were not here, and she was, and she needed it if she was going to be able to hunt on her way to the next city.

She desperately wanted to sleep, but she needed to be as far from the city as possible in case the demons within started to roam further afield in search of fresh victims. Having ensured that both the mount and Thibault had eaten and drunk their fill, she climbed back up and set off a steady pace towards the next city.

And when that one was filled with demons as well, the next.

And the next.

And the next.

She was having to stop in at small villages from time to time in order to resupply and trade her music in order to afford those supplies. Each delay meant she was less likely to catch up to the Grace, and while she attempted to send messages, who knew if those were getting through in the midst of all the chaos?

The one thing she would not allow herself to consider was that Celeste and her crew had also been struck down by the demons. The numbers of monsters became lesser over time, and Nicolette picked up every scrap of gossip she could get along the way relating to the Inquisition. But in the place of demons came civil war, wild mercenaries, slavers, bandits. She had to avoid so many places in order to avoid them.

But she was still going.

I will catch up, amante. I promise.

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
[[OOC: 9:41, Drakonis]]

Nicolette had travelled alone at numerous points throughout her life, and she could entertain herself during those times, but she vastly preferred having people around. Skies, these two months had been hard. She had never been so keenly in need of company now, nor so nervous about seeking it out. The chaos had made opportunists of most people, and more than once she had nearly been robbed. Joining the flanks of refugees towards cities that were not flattened by demons or war was a necessity if she wanted to reach a dock, and sometimes she had found companionship in those columns of the desperate, but she could not deny that turning away from them when she did not find the Wicked Grace was also a relief. The fear was contagious and she breathed a little easier away from the crowds.

Now she missed them again. It had been five days since the last town, and while she had seen evidence of homes along the way, she had not attempted to approach and ask for shelter yet. Those people who had managed to cling to their lands in this area tended to be proactive in defending it, as the new, slight dent in her ear testified, courtesy of an arrow she had not even seen coming. It was better to steer clear unless her supplies were running low and the hunting was poor.

The path she was following curved and joined a wider track. This road saw greater use, but there was no evidence of anybody else at the moment. On either side, hills rose away from the path, thick with trees. It was a good place for an ambush and Nicolette nervously pushed her heels into Armino’s sides.

Time passed and the sun was beginning to slip downwards again when they finally came free of the hills. Nicolette breathed a sigh of relief, only to freeze as an ear-piercing howl split the air.

It had not come from Thibault; her hound was stiff at her side, growling, and Armino started the slow shifting of his hooves that indicated that he was beginning to get nervous.

You and me both.

She either had to keep going towards the noise, or turn back towards the hills and take her chances. She looked back at the thick trees, now more ominous than ever in the dimming light, cursed under her breath and urged Armino onwards. If all went to the bad, she could always gallop off again.


The forests opened onto fields, evidently the edge of a small farm. The air smelled like lightning and the small hairs on the back of Nicolette’s neck stood up. Something was desperately wrong, and she picked up the pace a little as she saw a low house beyond the crops. An urge stronger than she could resist called her towards it, although her mind rebelled against the idea. It was with only a tangential sense of being connected to her own body that she drew level with the gate, and tied off the now snorting Armino to the fencing. Thibault had grabbed her sleeve in his mouth and was tugging, harder than he had ever done before, and Nicolette realised with acute horror that she had little control over her limbs.

The realisation seemed to shift the spell, enough to turn away from the gaping black entrance to the farmhouse, and she heard a low chuckle right in her ear. She turned –

“What do we have here?”

The rush of light into the chest made it difficult to see the faces above; she shielded her eyes with her hands, and two strong grips caught her wrists, hauling her out of the makeshift hiding place. Metal clashed and the copper tang of blood filled the air. Gaiden was nowhere to be seen – neither was Maman. They’d said stay in the chest, wait until we come for you, but neither of them was here. Instead there were two full grown men, grinning at her in a way she did not recognise but did not like. “Let go!”

“He’ll like her. Come on, leave the others to it.”

This was not happening, this was a memory – the bandit attack when she was thirteen, Gaiden had burst out of nowhere to rescue her and then she had sped into Maman’s arms, still covered in the blood of her would-be captors. He would be along any moment…

They had pulled her into the treeline as she screamed and kicked, and she could hear Maman’s answering cries but Gaiden did not come. And still the men kept pulling her along, until the sounds of battle had faded. Until they were long gone.

No, this was not how it had happened, this was not real. This was not real.

Something released, then gripped again, and she was underwater, her lungs suddenly burning. Not a memory this time, but a now-familiar nightmare. She was sinking and a familiar form was swimming downwards through the murk, fingertips skimming hers in an effort to grasp her hand. Nicolette cried out her lover’s name and only a stream of bubbles escaped – and then they were the other way around, she was trying to reach the other woman as Celeste sank deeper and deeper into the dark.

“Stop, please, stop-”

Pain lanced up her leg and then she was back on the farm, in a yard in front of the house that was strewn about with the remains of a family, their faces rigid still rigid in horror. Nicolette looked down to find Thibault had sunk his teeth deep into her calf.

Skies, that hurt, but it had broken whatever horrible spell she had been under, and she had a moment to be grateful before a hissing cry split the air and a demon rushed out from between the stalks, bearing down on her.

Nicolette ran for Armino, and Thibault ran at the demon, which swatted at him and knocked him aside. It lifted its hand above her hound and Nicolette’s scream froze in her throat, a moment before an enormous hairy shape – a different one – flung itself at the demon and sent it off course. Thibault was back on his feet again and by the time the monster righted itself, two enormous dogs were growling at it.

She did not have time to mount up and flee, not without leaving Thibault to his fault. They had come so far together and she would not – could not – do it. She ran for Armino, grabbing her bow, shakily nocking an arrow. The first shot fell limp as she failed to draw back even a quarter of the way, but the second buried itself deep in the demon’s chest. It shrieked and rushed by the dogs, charging directly at her.

If she turned to run now it would kill her on the spot. Nicolette squared her feet, and sighted along the bow, holding her breath. She loosed.

The arrow hit the demon square between the eyes. With a squeal of pain that caused her ears to give up entirely for a few seconds, it crumbled into the ground.

Very carefully, Nicolette set her bow down on the ground, pinched herself sharply to check that she was not still caught in the creature’s nightmare – although the toothmarks in her leg did more than enough to testify to that – and then let herself crumple. If Thibault had not been with her, the demon would have been able to come right up to her while she was ensnared and murder her at its leisure. Her hound bounded towards her and she wrapped her arms around his shaggy neck, uttering soft affections at him as she rubbed his ears and tried to convey how good a dog he was. He was the very best, he truly was.

When Thibault had stopped trying to worm his way right into her, he flopped on her lap. Nicolette took that to mean that all danger was passed, and that he had made the decision that they were not going anywhere for the moment. Nicolette wanted to get out of the yard as soon as possible, but her hound deserved a moment.

As did the other one. A handsome dog, shorter but broader than Thibault, with pointed ears like a wolf’s and splashed about with black and tan and white, was currently pressing his nose into the side of one of the corpses, whimpering softly. He turned large brown eyes on her, and whimpered again.

<<I am sorry, boy. I cannot help.>>

It was possible he understood Orlesian commands, although there was no reason to believe he could actually understand her specific words. Nicolette could not revive his master or even offer much comfort. All she could do was reach into her pouch for the treats she kept for Thibault, giving some to her dog before holding out a palm to the other.

The dog edged towards her slowly. As he moved, Nicolette could see where the demon’s claws must have caught him at some point; a livid cut ran across one of his shoulders. “Poor boy. That will leave a scar.”

He approached and swept the treats out of her palm with one swipe of the tongue. Nicolette, edging out from beneath a clearly reluctant Thibault, tried to have a look at the cut. It was wide enough that would invite infection. Out here, he might be able to survive off hunting, but the climate would not be kind to his wound. It might even kill him eventually. Given that he had just helped to save Thibault’s life, Nicolette was reluctant to just leave it at that.

She returned to Armino, stroking his nose to soothe him as best she could before reaching into the saddlebags to pull out a poultice. “Here.” Miraculously, the dog did come; Nicolette crouched as she emptied the jar onto her fingers. “Please do not bite me.”

He bolted the moment the first dollop went on, running in a circle for a moment in an effort to sniff his own shoulder. Despite their surroundings, Nicolette felt a sudden urge to laugh at the indignant expression his wolfish face was capable of mustering. But the soothing effect seemed to work almost as well as it did for humans; after a few moments he returned to her, and when she applied more he whimpered but did not run.

She needed to be on her way again. Nicolette doubted that sleep would come tonight, and even if it did, she wanted to be a long way from the farm before it came. She did not even venture inside to search for supplies. She waited for Thibault to take his place at Armino’s side, then ruffled the other dog’s ears again. “Thank you.”

What would happen to him, she did not know. It would be his decision, but she would not take him away from his former masters by coercion. He might remain by their side to grieve. Nicolette saddled up, and she and Thibault left the nightmare behind. The dog remained in the yard, watching them go.

But when they came to camp that evening, he was circling just beyond her firelight. When she rose from restless sleep the next day, he was curled up next to Thibault. He pulled back from them again during the day, and returned at night. Over the next few days through the fields, he repeated the pattern. Nicolette simply let it happen, hoping he would be comfortable with her presence in time, leaving him whatever she could spare from her hunts.

Until the day she climbed onto Armino and Thibault took up his usual place at her right. On her left in exactly the same position, was the new dog.

This would be a story for Celeste.

Nicolette O'Hara

Prominent member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
[[OOC: Late Drakonis, afternoon]]

Nicolette had heard it said that one tavern was much like another. Perhaps it was, to the traveller who only desired a meal and a place to rest his head, but while every place had similarities to a dozen others, the people who populated it differed each time. For somebody who liked to collect stories, each public house was a goldmine. There were family tales, local myths, personal adventures, and most people enjoyed talking about themselves. Nicolette was always happy to listen, and gather the most interesting titbits for later use; in payment, she shared her own adventures.

Of late, though, she was beginning to see the similarity. She had rarely covered so many places in such a short space of time, and most places near the coast were full to the rafters with people outrunning the demons, or civil war, or even the casual cruelty their neighbours had proved themselves capable of. There was a lot of pain. But some heroism too, small acts of bravery that inspired. Nicolette leapt on these crumbs when she found them, desperate for a familiar detail in the stories. Was the hero of the hour a woman with sun-blonde hair, and eyes that glittered like the depths of the dark sea?

So far, the answer had been no.

The Wicked Grace still sailed. In every town she came to, Nicolette went straight to the dock and asked the harbourmaster if he or she had seen the elegant ship, and eventually she had finally found some hope. Frustrating, as she had missed the vessel by only a week, but she had found out where they might be docking next.

She might have made it, had she still had Armino. Feeding one mouth was difficult enough during these times, let alone two dogs and a horse, and with a regretful pang she had sold him on two weeks previously, to a couple heading north. Hopefully they would take him well away from danger; he had been a good horse, and she had shed a few tears over their departure. But the skin was pulling tighter over her cheekbones than it used to and while Thibault and Oscar were adept at foraging, she still needed to spare some of her coin to feed them.

As it was, she had no horse, and she arrived into the town to find she had missed them again – by two days, this time. Nicolette rarely drank to alleviate a poor mood, but after that discovery she had felt fully justified in finding a tavern and a bottle of whiskey.

Both were turned up in short order, and Nicolette tucked herself into a corner of the room by the fire. She would wait until the alcohol had warmed her belly, and then she would play for a little while; the combination was usually enough to snap her out of it. She would catch up with Celeste again, somehow. For now it seemed her best bet was turning around and heading towards Val Royeaux, to see if her family was weathering the storm. Maybe she needed to stay in one place, for a while.

She had just settled in when a man, dressed in clothes that were finely made but were starting to fall apart a little, stomped up to the bar and barked at the barman. “Any messages today?”

The tense set of the landlord’s jaw caught Nicolette’s attention. This was obviously a repeat, and problem, customer. She was surprised he would be in here; his accent smacked of Orlesian nobility. Apparently the rich were not immune to the recent hard times either. “No, serah. Just like yesterday.”

The man spat a curse that was far sharper than the answer had deserved.

“No need for language like that. You’re lucky you’ve got a roof over your head.”

“I have many places with a roof! What I need is money to get to one of them!”

“Speaking of which, you need to pay your bill from last night.” The landlord held up his finger before the man could finish framing a word. “No tab.”

Another curse, and the man threw some coins on the bar with exceeding ill-grace. One bounced across the woodwork and curved back around, landing on the floor by the man’s foot. He made no move to pick it up. “There. You’re paid. Now get me a drink.”

Nicolette was not nearly interested enough in his strange state of clothing to consider it worth putting up with a personality that would almost certainly be odious. She glanced around the room to assess whether the current clientele would be in the mood for music, then realised that the man was focusing on her. An attempt at a smile spread across his face. Nicolette looked away. She was not in the mood.

Clearly he was, as he picked up his drink and crossed the floor towards her. “Well, now. You clearly don’t belong here either.”

Celeste would not gift the man with even a polite smile right now. Nicolette thought of her and met the man’s gaze with a stony expression. “I actually spend a great deal of time in taverns.”

“Better ones than this place, I’m sure,” he sniffed.

“There are better ones to be had in the city. I am sure a man of your evident wealth could afford it.”

That had been a mistake. Instead of interpreting the words as a biting comment, the man seemed encouraged to keep speaking. “Mademoiselle, I could buy every tavern in this stinking dump. If I hadn’t been robbed blind and nearly drowned, I would have been back in civilisation weeks ago.”

He sat down heavily in the seat next to hers, propping his foot up on another nearby chair. “You’ve got to be careful in these parts. You never know when a pirate – Andraste’s breath!”

Thibault had taken his time to wake up, but was now sniffing at the wide target the man had presented for him. Oscar’s nose joined in and the man tried to bat at their heads without actually touching them. Nicolette hid a smile behind her fingers. “Are these your – mongrels?”

“They are my dogs, yes. They serve as very good protection on the road.”

“So I – get off, mutt – see.” The man managed to persuade the dogs to get their faces out of his crotch, and the pair returned to their dozing positions – but now two sets of eyes were focused on the man, besides Nicolette’s own. The man smoothed his ruffled feathers and crossed his legs, which appeared to give him a different sort of discomfort for a minute. “Well. As I was saying, you have to be careful. Pirates don’t just hunt their prey on the sea. They also lure them in from land.”

Had Nicolette not been frustrated to learn the narrow margin by which she had missed Celeste, she likely would have continued the conversation as minimally as possible until the man got bored and left; instead, she asked for more details, hopeful but not particularly expecting to hear anything new. “How so?”

The man snorted. “This putain of a captain promised me safe passage to the next point of my journey. It was an outrageous cost, but I paid – and then I learned that not only was I expected to tolerate another man in my berth, but that he was not having to pay at all! When I argued, she threw my money, and then me, overboard!”

“That is truly horrendous.” Nicolette gave every indication of paying full attention. “What was the captain’s name?”

“I didn’t take her name. And to be honest, I doubt she was even the actual captain. She had one of those giant horn-heads with her.” Gid? “He seemed more the type. Maybe she just used her feminine wiles to control him.” The man sniggered. “Not that she had many, mind you. Messy hair, lots of scars. Probably angry about being born a woman. Anyway, once my father sends me the money to get out of here, I’ll be hunting her down, and then we’ll see who’s laughing. She caught me off guard once, she won’t be doing it again.”

It had to be Celeste. And Nicolette doubted this man would actually dare tangle with her again. It seemed deeply unfair that she had missed the chance to see her captain again whereas this fool had, and had clearly not appreciated the chance enough. Nicolette slipped her hand into her pouch, finding one of the vials inside. The pouch had been a gift from Celeste and there were a lot of interesting items in there.

“She sounds simply awful.” Nicolette leaned forward, flicking off the cap of the vial with her thumbnail. The man’s eyes followed the line of her cleavage down, leaving Nicolette entirely free to deposit the vial’s contents into his drink. “You must have been having a dreadful time of it.”

“Well, it’s certainly better now.” He affected what he probably thought was a charming grin. It sounded like he had been horrible to one of Celeste’s other passengers, and he had been rude and overbearing with the landlord, so Nicolette did not feel particularly guilty about using one of Celeste’s party tricks to make him go away. He took a swig of the drink and rested his hand on her knee. “Perhaps we could come to-” his voice suddenly climbed an octave, disappearing almost entirely. “-An arrangement?”

Puzzled, he coughed, and cleared his throat, but his next words still came out very high-pitched. “Sorry I don’t – I can’t make it stop-”

He cleared his throat again, and the sound was accompanied by a bone-rattling fart that had everybody else looking up and laughing. Nicolette was not able to contain her giggles as well. “Monseuir, I would rather not have an arrangement with you, if this is your idea of sweet talk.”

He was burping as well now, and his voice still coming out high and squeaking; as she laughed, he started to get angrier, his face reddening. He began to shout, but this had the unfortunate effect of increasing both the shrillness of his voice and the various borborygmi rattling his body. Eventually she could barely hear him at all, and now Oscar and Thibault were looking up, their ears pricked at such an angle it started Nicolette off all over again.

The man swung his hand back to strike her, and then leapt in the air with an ear-piercing squeal as Oscar leapt to the defence of his mistress. He was lucky the dog had misjudged the angle of his bite and ended up headbutting him in the crotch, but Oscar still managed to seize the material at the front, giving the fabric a good shake.

“Get him off! Get him-” the man stumbled backwards with an audible ripping noise; his formerly pretty breeches were now torn and gaping, making it very clear that he was not the sort of man to bother himself with smallclothes.

Nicolette’s head hit the table as she gave in to her laughter. She had not asked Celeste what was in the vials; they had been a ‘surprise’, non-lethal but to be discussed at a later date. She had had no idea that it would affect him like this, let alone that Oscar would add to the entertainment.

Perhaps realising it would be futile to stay here any longer, the man sped off, hands cupped over himself and cursing.

It took a while before Nicolette recovered herself. When she did, she noticed that the landlord had replaced her drink with a fresh one. The atmosphere in the tavern, formerly tight with tension, had eased somewhat. Nicolette sipped at the fresh glass, tucking away the memory for later use, realising with a pang that she did not know when she would be able to share this story with Celeste. She wanted so badly to be back with the other woman that it ached, and rarely more so than when something funny had occurred – a rare occurrence with everything that was going on. Had she been here, Celeste would be roaring with laughter.

Enough, now. She would not stop looking, and Celeste would not want her to spend an entire evening brooding. It was not her way. Nicolette plucked her vielle out of her case and made for the centre of the room, drawing the bow across the strings once to get the room’s attention. A local folk song, to make them smile, then a jig, to get them to dance. As she played, she improvised a little, imagining with no little enjoyment Celeste kicking the man overboard – and the tales they would trade, when they were back together.