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Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
281
#1
((Wintermarch, 9:41; Outside Denerim; Sofia di Castelbuono ))

The sun was shining in a cloudless blue sky, but the air was frigid and the snow that blanketed the ground would not even begin to melt for another month or more. The breaths of human and horse alike billowed in the air as Cauthrien rode with Sofia along the West Road. The Antivan had grown no fonder of Fereldan winters, but being cooped up indoors for months on end suited her even less, so they had made a circuit of the communities just outside of Denerim, with the mage offering healing to anyone in need and the Warden-Constable ostensibly checking for any reports of darkspawn (there had been none; their presence had been decreasing each year as the Thaw progressed) and actually providing assurance that no templars would interfere with the Warden mage.

Technically, since the College of Enchanters had voted to separate from the Chantry, the templars no longer had authority over any mages, but technicalities mattered little these days. The tension between templars and mages had boiled into open war, with circle after circle toppling after Anders had blown up the Kirkwall chantry, and the discovery that the mage who had murdered Grand Cleric Elthina and scores of others had been a Grey Warden, albeit a deserter, had added greater fuel to the antipathy that a good many templars bore for the Wardens.

But thus far, most of the chaos had bypassed Ferelden, which was likely why Divine Justinia had chosen to hold the Conclave meant to bring the conflict to an end in Haven, at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. The unease about the Wardens that had swirled in the populace in the weeks following the events at Kirkwall had been dispelled as the Grey Wardens of Ferelden had remained at their posts, fighting darkspawn, providing magical healing and assisting the local guards in dealing with bandits and raiders. Even the dissolution at Kinloch Hold had been relatively peaceful, with many of the mages taking refuge at Redcliffe as they awaited the outcome of the Conclave.

This run had been a good one: a few broken bones and sprains mended, a few coughs treated with herbs and one widow's cow delivered of twins that had been turned wrong. Cauthrien had actually handled that last, and if it had stirred up memories of Natty's death, it had still been satisfying to see the spindly legged calves staggering to their feet and moving to nurse, knowing that their sale when grown would likely give the woman and her children enough to live on for several months. More than one person had asked about the Conclave, and the Warden-Constable had been quite content to tell them that she knew nothing about the matter.

Dragon shied suddenly, shaking his head and dancing sideways. “What was that?” Cauthrien drew back on the reins, pulling her mount to a stop. She’d felt … something: a ripple in the Fade, like water disturbed by a stone’s throw. She looked inquisitively at Sofia. “Did you feel it?” After more than five years, she still struggled to sense the Fade most days, and using the templar skills that she’d learned almost always led to a skull-splitting headache a few hours later. And while Dragon was sensitive to the presence of magic and mages, as most horses seemed to be, he generally had to be in close proximity. She glanced around, saw nothing, and the air was still; any sounds of combat would carry, if templars and mages were locked in combat nearby, but silence reined. Even the birds that had been calling moments earlier had gone silent, she realized uneasily.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
52
#2
It was cold once again, but Sofia could get through it with a minimal amount of complaining these days. She had prepared herself for the winter and while her attire occasionally drew some amused glances – striving for a marriage between Antivan style and the Fereldan love of heavy furs had created some interesting results – she was warmer than she had expected. Of course, staying indoors would be warmest, but after so many years in the Circle, it had not taken long for the freedom of simply stepping out of doors to come with a dizzying tang, and subsequently she was not eager to spend half the year inside.

A ride around the towns surrounding Denerim was just the thing to get her out in the open air and to keep her distracted from the increasingly depressing reports of rising tensions between mages and templars. Sofia had been staunchly against the idea of the Circles disbanding, but as a Warden she had no voice in it, and she felt sorry for the mages who were now running for their lives because of something that had happened entirely at the behest of others. Some sort of holding plan should have been put in place first; but panic and fear, exacerbated by the events in Kirkwall, had won out.

But fortunately it hadn’t seem to touch Ferelden too much yet, and it was hard to be in a poor mood, with the blue sky so clean above them and the soft crunch of snow beneath their horse’s hooves. They had healed a few people, both with magic and non-magic methods, and Sofia was satisfied that she had gone on her way causing a few people to be slightly less scared of mages.

When the apprehension came, trickling like cold down the back of her neck, she was confused, initially sensing no source for it. She sat up in the saddle and scanned the road, wondering if she had picked up on a darkspawn – but no, the feeling wasn’t right for that. The feeling was familiar, but deeply…wrong.

Dragon and Garwain shied and pranced, whinnying in distress, and Sofia was aware of something approaching, fast, but no matter where she turned, she couldn’t see it.

“What was that? Did you feel it?”


Sofia only barely heard the words as the universe let out the breath it had been holding in one, powerful blast.

When she reached for the Fade, she had often likened it to dipping her hand into water; there was very little in textural difference between one side or the other initially, but you started to feel the small eddies around your fingers when you concentrated. In places where the Fade was weak, it was like placing a limb into a strong river.

This wasn’t a body of water – this was a deluge, the power of the Fade suddenly all around, as overwhelming as if she’d been shoved under a waterfall, and she fell forward, clinging to the reins with as hard a grip as she could manage to keep herself from toppling from the saddle altogether. She gasped for air, as completely afraid as she’d ever been in her life.

Then it receded, not all around but she could still feel it as raw as an open wound beneath her clothes, and it was with shaking limbs that she managed to straighten up. It took a few garbled noises before she finally was able to speak.

“Cauthrien…I think…something’s happened to the Veil.”
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
281
#3
Sofia’s cry pulled Cauthrien’s attention from the eerily quiet landscape that surrounded them; she turned to see the mage sagging forward in her saddle, her face gone ghost-pale.

Templars? The thought was enough to have the Summer Sword out of its scabbard in the space between one breath and the next, the silverite blade gleaming in the sun as the Warden-Constable wheeled Dragon about, her teeth bared in a snarl as she searched the area once more, still seeing nothing but trees and snow. An attack by templars was the only thing that she could think of that would affect Sofia so, but to be close enough to do that, they would be in view.

“What is it?” She tapped her heels to Dragon’s ribs; the horse’s ears were pinned back in response to his rider’s agitation, but he obeyed, taking her close enough to Garwain that she could reach out to steady Sofia, still trying to look everywhere at once. “What happened?”

The Antivan struggled upright, but Cauthrien could feel the tremors running through her, and the fear in her expression sent a chill of foreboding through the warrior. They had faced down darkspawn and bandits aplenty together, and while the mage was never reckless, neither had she ever shown the terror that clawed at her features now as their eyes met, her mouth working, fighting to form the words that finally made it out.

“Cauthrien…I think…something’s happened to the Veil.”

“The Veil?” Cauthrien stared at her stupidly. She might as well have suggested that something had happened to the sky overhead or the ground beneath their feet. The Veil … just was. “What do you mean? How is that even possible?” She could feel something, like a sound just below the register of human ears. She gathered herself and reached out, trying to catch the sensation that hovered just out of reach. Lucien had said, not completely in jest, that a brick would be more sensitive to the Fade than the Warden-Constable. If she were a member of the Templar Order, she would be consuming lyrium to boost her abilities. Lucien had confirmed that aptitude varied between individuals; certainly, King Alistair did not experience any real difficulty in utilizing templar skills without lyrium, nor did Lucien, though he admitted that his powers were not so strong, and did not come so easily as they had when he was consuming lyrium.

But as far as Nathaniel and Cauthrien were concerned, the harm done by the substance - the addiction and the loss of memory with prolonged use - outweighed the benefits; any templar who joined the Grey Wardens was allowed to cease using it if they wished, and given support as they fought their way through the grueling process of withdrawal. To date, most had chosen to quit lyrium and most of those had succeeded. The ongoing arrangement with Orzammar kept those who continued to use lyrium supplied, along with the Grey Warden mages.

Cauthrien was not among that number and never intended to be. The headaches that she dealt with after facing down a darkspawn emissary were annoying, and occasionally enough to keep her abed for a few hours if they faced more than one, but that had been increasingly rare as the Thaw advanced. The idea of surrendering control of her will to a substance … well, that was why she seldom allowed herself to get drunk. Damned if she was going to use something that would steal away her mind, bit by bit. As the advance of years began to make itself known in the aches and pains that had begun to slow her reflexes ever so slightly, her ability to think on her feet would become ever more vital.

But she had to acknowledge that lyrium would have helped now, as whatever was affecting Sofia drifted from the edges of her questing awareness like smoke in the wind. The Warden-Lieutenant was more than her second-in-command at the Denerim compound; in the years since her arrival, she had become Cauthren’s closest friend in the Wardens, apart from Nathaniel. They made an oddly matched team on the surface: the fashion-conscious and undeniably feminine mage and the warrior who could count the number of occasions that she had worn a dress on one hand with fingers left over. But their strengths and weaknesses complemented each other, their personalities meshing in an oddly satisfying way, and each of them was equally dedicated to the Grey Wardens.

And friendship aside, any templar that attacked a Grey Warden mage would be dealing with a very pissed off Warden-Constable. Cauthrien had killed more than one of that order since the Chantry’s control of mages and templars alike had begun to fray, and she would do it again without hesitation. But if templars were the cause of this disturbance, they were using an ability that Cauthrien knew nothing about. She could cut off a magic user from the Fade, but to disrupt the Veil itself?

A high pitched, ululating scream rose on the still air, followed by a man’s shout, and Cauthrien twisted in her saddle, trying to pinpoint the direction it had come from as Dragon danced beneath her in agitation and chills of nameless dread chased down her own spine. “Can you ride?” she asked Sofia, loathe to simply leave the mage. She looked steadier now, but still shaken.

“Papa!” A girl’s voice, shrill with terror, and another of those unearthly screams. Cauthrien spurred Dragon off the road, and the roan plunged into the banked snow without hesitation, plowing forward and churning up white fans to either side of his path. He would still nip or step on Cauthrien in an idle moment if she was not paying attention, and she would cuff him in response, but there was a rough sort of affection in the exchange now, and when it came down to fighting, the two of them had become a near seamless unit.

What they found when they rode into a tree-ringed clearing, however, was neither darkspawn nor bandits. What the shimmering patch that hovered about ten feet off the ground was, Cauthrien did not know, but the handful encounters with demons she’d had in her life made the identification of the shapes beneath it certain, if far from welcome. Two glowing, vaguely humanoid shapes drifting just off the ground and two gangling figures striding about on sticklike legs.

And one man lying dazed where he had apparently been thrown against a tree, with a girl of perhaps eight tugging on his clothes, trying desperately to rouse him as one of the gangling demons stalked toward them.

“Get them out!” Cauthrien shouted to Sofia, gathering her will and releasing a wave of protective power that would shield horses and humans alike, just as the demon opened its mouth and emitted another of those screams. Fear tried to roll over Cauthrien: the scream that she heard was Natty’s as she fought to deliver the babes that had killed her, the broodmother as the Grey Wardens attacked what had once been a woman. But the effect was muffled by the protective aura, and while Dragon shied briefly, he recovered and charged in at his rider’s urging, putting them between the demon and its prey. Another mental push, and the Summer Sword flared with energy in the instant before her sweeping strike connected. The demon screeched in pain and fell back, but a bolt of energy from one of the glowing green shapes struck her. The aura protected her from the worst effects, but Cauthrien still felt a brief wave of nausea and weakness try to take hold before she shook it off, giving a challenging shout, drawing the attention of all four of their foes to herself.

One meat shield, ready to give her mage the space and protection to do some damage.
 
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Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
52
#4
Sofia had been in many battles over the last few years. Not always versus darkspawn. Templars who resented her freedom, opportunistic bandits who fancied their odds against Wardens, demons. She had accepted the fear that came with these confrontations as only natural, given that she was fighting for her life or that of others. But right now, there was no overt cause for the terror that swamped her, and that in itself made it worse. By the time she figured out the root of it, the realisation of what it meant rendered her nearly insensible. Small wonder that Cauthrien simply gaped at her.

“What do you mean? How is that even possible?”


“I don’t know. I don’t know!” In the wake of the ripple came the incessant voices, calling for her to succumb, offering power or relief from this unknown nightmare. As a young girl, Sofia used to clamp her hands against her ears, not knowing that it wouldn’t help. Now she was full grown, and she found herself doing it anyway, desperate for a few seconds of respite that didn’t come.

Breathe. Breathe.

She’d been commended for her behaviour and her control before. She could pull herself back together again. Sofia inhaled, exhaled, and slowly started to section away the temptations from her own whirling thoughts.

A scream broke her concentration, but simultaneously provided distraction. A child’s voice, raised in distress, was impossible to ignore, and Sofia jerked upright in the saddle as Cauthrien addressed her. “Can you ride?”

A simple nod sufficed. Sofia clung to the reins and spurred Garwain after Dragon. Her horse was far better-natured than Cauthrien’s, but even he was acting strangely. When they tore into the clearing, Sofia couldn’t blame him. Her mouth gaped at the huge, unseemly rip in the air, an open doorway straight through to the eerie green-and-black world of the Fade. And demons. Four of them.

Off to one side, a girl was tugging desperately at her semi-conscious father’s arm, her thin voice tight with shrieks as the fear demon prowled towards them. Here was something she knew how to deal with. Sofia was pushing Garwain forwards even as Cauthrien bellowed and shielded them all from the worst of the influence.

Sofia threw up a ward of her own, and the demon bearing down on the stricken pair bounced off it, screeching angrily. By the time it recovered, Sofia was out of the saddle, staff at the ready. She needed to get both of them on horseback and get them out of here, but the man was too heavy for her to move alone. Some quick spellwork was required.

The close proximity of the Fade, while daunting, also poured power behind Sofia’s spell, as she called forward rock, stone and earth into a giant fist, and put as much force behind it as she was able. The demon was knocked backwards twenty feet, and even as it howled its rage Sofia was crouching beside the man, passing her hands over his head.

She had made some headway with her skills as a healing mage over the last few years, and after many long, gruelling attempts, had finally forged an alliance with a Spirit of Learning. It helped her focus at the most critical moments and she used it now, knitting fractured bone and injured flesh back together far more quickly than she would normally dare. The man screamed - magical healing was not painless - but when he opened his eyes again, they were a little more clear.

“Get on the horse!”

Sofia would say it was fear as much as her healing abilities that got him back on his feet so quickly; whichever it was, he had seized the girl and thrown her into the saddle first, before climbing up himself. Cauthrien was managing to keep the demons at bay for now, but it wouldn’t be long before one or another broke past her.

Sofia wasn’t going to either put the pair at risk by making them stay while she and Cauthrien fought, and nor would she leave Cauthrien to face this alone. She delivered a resounding slap to Garwain’s backside; the horse whinnied sharply, reared, then bolted away amongst the trees.

Back to the demons, then. Sofia turned, and gathered her focus again; doing the ward, the stonefist and healing all in quick succession was draining, but she still had some energy left for the fight. Spreading her arms, she cast two glyphs ready for unwary demons to stumble into, and then started to hurl one stone after another at the monsters.
 
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