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Through Thick and Thin [Closed]

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
80
#1
[[9:41, Wintermarch, three days after ‘The End of the World As We Know It’, morning]] Cauthrien

The compound was not a good place for convalescents right now. A manic energy had followed Sofia and Cauthrien’s return to the city, as the city guard was scrambled and a detachment of templars and Wardens were sent with them to pick off demons from a distance while frantic missives were sent off to the Circle tower begging for a solution. With Cauthrien confined to her room, Sofia had given herself little recovery time before rising the next morning and attending to the requests for help that had poured in. Technically the Wardens should only be getting involved in matters of darkspawn, but to borrow a charming Fereldan idiom, bugger it. She might even have headed back out herself if Muriel hadn’t threatened to relieve her of command if she did.

And all the time it was going on, she was worrying over Cauthrien. They’d both been exhausted upon the completion of their mad flight back home, but Sofia’s injuries amounted only to a few bloody scratches along her face. Cauthrien had many broken bones, bruising, and Maker knew what she’d done to herself when she’d tried to turn a smite on the rift. Sofia had wanted to check in on her as often as she could, but everything else that needed doing had kept her away, and Muriel had been tending to the Constable in her stead.

This morning, however, the tide of requests and queries had ebbed. For now, the city and outlying farms were being kept safe, and there was nothing more that could be done until the mages of the Circle came back with a solution.

Sofia was still exhausted. A day previously, a rider had spread the news throughout the city; the source of the rifts had been a massive explosion at the Conclave. The meeting of mages and templars, which Sofia had been thinking of with cautious optimism, had ended in calamity, and the Divine was dead. That had felt like the end of everything. There would be no peace between the warring factions now, and the Divine - oh, that had ripped at Sofia’s heart. Divine Justinia had been somebody she deeply admired, who had actually tried to come to an agreement that didn't end with all mages totally supressed, and now her peaceable presence was gone. Sofia had spent most of that night in the chapel, praying for the souls of the departed, and allowing herself the space to weep.

But a new day dawned, and the dead needed nothing from her now. The living still very much did, and she wanted to focus on one in particular. In the kitchens, the servants were preparing the tray of food for Cauthrien’s breakfast. Sofia took charge of it, stating that she would deliver it to the Constable’s quarters herself. Nobody argued. She could see some of them watching her cautiously on the periphery of her vision. Perhaps her eyes were still a little reddened.

No matter. She had other people to focus on beside herself.

Tray loaded with food and a potion that should wipe away any lingering pain in Cauthrien’s head, Sofia headed upstairs. When she got to Cauthrien’s door she knocked gently, then stepped into the darkness of the room.

“Cauthrien? Good morning. I brought you your breakfast.”
 
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Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
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DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
310
#2
‘Patient’ had never been an apt description for Cauthrien during any type of convalescence. When sick or injured, she had always pushed herself relentlessly, generally returning to duty days ahead of schedule. The headaches that resulted from her use of her templar abilities had presented a frustrating exception; trying to force herself to recovery all but guaranteed a relapse very nearly as agonizing as the initial episode. The most recent had been the worst by far, and it had taken nearly two days before she had been able to raise herself from a prone position without feeling as though her head was going to explode, with the sounds of booted feet echoing on the stones of the corridor outside an added agony on two very different levels.

The pain had mostly receded now; Cauthrien could still see the bright spots of light dancing at the edges of her vision, warning her not to rush things, but she was on the verge of doing it anyway, perched on the edge of the bed and forcing herself to look up at the faint light that filtered around the edges of the heavy curtains over her window. She’d had no visitors apart from Muriel, but after she had threatened to get up and go in search of information, the healer had agreed to provide her updates (while also calmly informing her that she would be sedated if she tried).

None of the news was good. The rifts were widespread, evidently caused by a catastrophic explosion at the Conclave that had opened a massive breach in the sky above Haven and killed Divine Justinia and countless others. Nobody knew what had happened or who caused it. Mages blamed templars, templars blamed mages, and the demons killed without regard to faction. At least those fighting the demons had learned to engage them well away from the rifts, keeping them from being overwhelmed and slowing the pace at which more demons emerged.

It was a holding action at best, even with the assistance of the templars. And if she was going to end up flat on her back for three days after every fight -

Gritting her teeth, she pushed herself to her feet and stood swaying in the darkness, feeling the pain pulsing at the base of her skull, reaching fingers around to press threateningly at her temples, the flares of light growing brighter and reaching farther into her field of vision. She sank back to the bed with a groan, elbows resting on her knees, head drooping in defeat. Adding to her vexation were the assortment of lingering aches and pains in the rest of her body, ruthless reminders that she no longer healed as quickly or as completely as she had at twenty. Or thirty. The memory of Beorlic, sitting in darkness with only his memories and an old hound for company, haunted her thoughts every time she was forced to recuperate from one of these headaches, but it had never loomed larger than these past days.

She did not lift her head at the knock on the door, resigned to being scolded by Muriel and sent back to bed.

“Cauthrien?” She looked up in surprise as Sofia entered, nudging the door closed with a hip. “Good morning. I brought you your breakfast.”

“Good morning.” She sat up straighter. “How are you doing?” Muriel had assured her that the mage had recovered from her injuries, but Cauthrien still felt guilty knowing that her second had likely pushed herself in order to see to the duties that should have been fulfilled by the commander of the compound.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
80
#3
Sofia was not altogether surprised to see Cauthrien sitting on the edge of the bed rather than lying down. In fact it was more of a surprise not to come in and find her trying to escape out of the window. Judging by the slump of her shoulders, however, it appeared to be regretting the attempt at movement. Not altogether healed, then.

She sat up a little as Sofia approached. “Good morning. How are you doing?”

Her voice sounded a little hoarse and she was still somewhat pale. By now Muriel’s magic would have mended the worst of the more vicious wounds, but three days wouldn’t be enough time for even the most skilled healer to make a complete job of it. Sofia put the tray down as quietly as she was able on the bedside cabinet, attempting to cause as little noise as possible.

“I am as well as I could be.” Despite her injuries, Cauthrien had been briefed a little on what had happened - she would therefore likely be aware of what Sofia had been dealing with over the last few days. “No demons have made their way to Denerim so far, so there’s hope that they can be kept at bay long enough for somebody to find a solution.”

She sat on the bed by Cauthrien - a move that might have been overly familiar, if she hadn’t already patched up the other woman many times over the previous years, and had her return the favour on a few occasions - and pulled free the stopper on the potion vial. “But I’m not going to go into much detail about that yet. First things first.” She handed it over. “This won’t cure the last of the pain completely, but it’ll numb it for a while. And give you a little respite. I’m sorry we weren’t able to give it to you earlier, but it would have interacted badly with some of the other potions Muriel was giving you.”

Her manner to this point had been orderly - first reporting as Cauthrien’s second, then concentrating on her role as physician. Now, as her friend, she took a moment to squeeze the other woman’s hand gently. “How are you doing?”

She didn’t mean just physically. The damage the other woman had sustained would traumatise even brave warriors and could leave them wary of ever lifting a sword again. Sofia sincerely doubted that would ever happen to Cauthrien, but it couldn’t have been a good experience, regardless.
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
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DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
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#4
“I am as well as I could be,” Sofia responded quietly to Cauthrien’s query, but her steps lacked their usual briskness as she moved to set the breakfast tray on the nightstand. The scents of ham, eggs and butter wafted in the air, and the Warden-Constable felt her stomach give a faint gurgle of interest. For the last three days, she had subsisted on broth and porridge; anything more substantial or aromatic would trigger the nausea that always accompanied the worst phases of the headaches. Muriel had evidently decided with her usual deftness that it was time for a real meal, but hunger was a distant second in Cauthrien’s concerns at the moment as she watched her second-in-command. Her friend.

“No demons have made their way to Denerim so far,” Sofia reported, “so there’s hope that they can be kept at bay long enough for somebody to find a solution.” She sank to the edge of the bed beside Cauthrien, and even in the dimness of the room, the warrior could see that her eyes were swollen and reddened from tears and shadowed from lack of sleep. “But I’m not going to go into much detail about that yet. First things first.” The mage pulled the stopper on a small bottle and gave it to Cauthrien. “This won’t cure the last of the pain completely, but it’ll numb it for a while. And give you a little respite. I’m sorry we weren’t able to give it to you earlier, but it would have interacted badly with some of the other potions Muriel was giving you.”

Cauthrien nodded and tipped the vial up, letting the cool liquid roll down her throat. The taste was faintly bitter, but she would have taken it without complaint even if it had not promised a relief from the last nagging pain in her skull. Sofia did not need the burden of a recalcitrant patient added to the other difficulties that she had been dealing with. The coolness pooled in her belly and spread outward; almost immediately, the pain eased up, the flares of light faded further back in her peripheral vision.

She loosed a sigh of relief. “Thanks.” At the height of the headaches, the normal painkilling potions were like pissing on a bonfire. Anything strong enough to touch the agony made her feel drunk and out of control, a condition that she found even less tolerable than the pain. Sleep had been her only escape until time did its work.

“How are you doing?” Sofia asked, reaching for her hand.

“Besides feeling as useless as tits on a bull?” Cauthrien grumbled, then shrugged. “Feels like I’m on the backside of this one. Should be gone by tomorrow.” She glanced sideways at Sofia. This close, the marks that sorrow and fatigue had left were even more plain. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly, turning her hand in Sofia’s and lacing their fingers. “Muriel told me about the Conclave.” The mage was a devout Andrastean, and Justinia’s death had to have hit her hard. Cauthrien was agnostic at best, but she had respected what she knew of the Divine. The woman had seemed both practical and compassionate, willing to admit to the past errors of the Chantry and to work toward solutions. The Conclave had been the best hope for ending the conflict between templars and mages, and Cauthrien hadn’t needed Muriel to tell her that the death of the Divine and countless others in the explosion that had occurred would make that schism well-nigh unmendable. And that wasn’t even the worst of their problems.

“How long since you’ve slept?” Cauthrien asked, already knowing the answer. If both of them had been up and about, they’d have kept watch on each other for signs of overwork, switched out when needed, but with Cauthrien out of commission, Sofia had done what the Warden-Constable would have done, had it been her. Frustration gnawed at her, along with the first nibbling of what she refused to call fear. Up to this point, the aftermath of her use of templar abilities had been nothing more than an occasional inconvenience, but with demon-spewing rifts scattered across Ferelden, those skills would be called upon more than had they had ever been. Sofia had put her own life at risk to save her when she’d been incapacitated in the midst of battle and exhausted herself to provide leadership to the Grey Wardens in Denerim while Cauthrien had been bedridden. She couldn’t allow that to happen again.
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Prominent member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
80
#5
Sofia had mixed the potion herself, in the few spaces she’d had to breathe over the last few days, so she knew it would work. Nonetheless she still watched Cauthrien closely as she took the medicine, and let out a soft sigh of relief as some of the tension gradually dissipated from the other woman’s face. The last few days had been difficult, and hadn’t been helped in the least by not being able to check in on Cauthrien. Her imagination had taken too great a freedom in imagining her commander in pain. Not to mention, knowing Cauthrien as well as she did, being aware of how several days trapped in the same room would be affecting her. At least now she could ask.

“Besides feeling as useless as tits on a bull?” Cauthrien’s mildly pungent language was enough to raise a smile from Sofia. If she was using similes then she had to be feeling better. “Feels like I’m on the backside of this one. Should be gone by tomorrow.”

“Good.” The mental structure of support Sofia had built for herself over the last few days started to waver. She’d kept herself upright because she’d had to, but knowing that Cauthrien would be all right - there was no evidence she’d lost any of her facilities - allowed her to relax, only to be made aware of how fragile she felt without the armour. It had clearly shown on her face, as Cauthrien gently squeezed her hand.

“I’m sorry. Muriel told me about the Conclave.”

A hot, uncomfortable thing was trying to hatch in Sofia’s chest. She knew if she let it she might instantly start crying. It was easier to hold it back by looking at their joined hands rather than meeting Cauthrien’s eyes. “It’s…” She stopped the lie. It wasn’t ‘fine’, and she wasn’t going to pretend it was. She and Cauthrien rarely tried to pull the wool over each others’ eyes. “It’s hard. I know the chances were slim of an agreement, but they were all trying, and that gave me hope, and...oh, Cauthrien. It’s all such a waste. There would have been so many good people there, trying to find a peaceful solution.”

And somebody, or multiple somebodies, had deliberately ruined it. There was no chance that given the location, the timing, and the size of the explosion, that it had been an accident.

Sofia tried to pull herself together. “Reports are - still muddled. Apparently one possible culprit’s been found but it seems unlikely that anybody could have done it alone.”

“How long since you’ve slept?”

Cauthrien’s words saved her from trying to work out what to say next. Exhaustion had lain over her since their escape like a damp quilt, heavy and inescapable, and it wouldn’t be long before she started making mistakes. Each thought seemed to stroll slowly from her mind to her mouth, meandering the whole way, and she often lost the sense of it before she could even say anything. Direct honesty was best. “Not since I woke up following our return.”

She’d been unconscious in the infirmary for about four hours, and in any other circumstances she would have confined herself for longer (or Muriel would have), but with Cauthrien out of action and herself the only other direct eyewitness in the compound, she’d hauled herself off the cot and into work.

Now she leaned against Cauthrien, her eyelids drooping. Despite the friendship that had grown between them over the years she normally would have never taken the liberty she did now, of leaning against the other woman and resting her head on her shoulder. “I can manage one more day,” she murmured, “until you’re fully well. Then I fear I may have to take a day to rest myself.”
 
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