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Walk The Prank [Closed]

Isabela

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#1
[[OOC: 4th Bloomingtide, morning, somewhere in the Waking Sea]] Celeste Monroe

It was good to be alive.

It was a thought that Isabela had entertained at least once a day since she had finally managed to procure a ship worth of living up to the name of Siren’s Call, and even more frequently since she had started to develop the fleet. It had started with capturing one ship that was just too pretty to sink after they had relieved it of its wares, and with the crew of it mightily sick of not getting a decent share of pay, it hadn’t taken much to make them swear to her command. And with two ships it was even easier to capture a third, and easier still to capture a fourth. When they’d got number six, Isabela had filched the captain’s hat and coat after a pitched battle that had left the former owner only fit for shark chum. After she’d got the blood out of both, it had been quite pretty, and sat on her well.

She was a Maker-damn admiral now, and when the odd dark thought floated across her head – what Hawke might be up to these days, was Varric okay, memories of ten long sodding years in Kirkwall with only the odd sniff of the sea – it was easy to beat back just by standing up at the helm and gazing out over the splendid deck to the horizon beyond.

The fleet didn’t always travel close together, as that would draw too much attention, and today even the nearest one had disappeared over the horizon a few hours previously. Likely they had spotted a ripe prize somewhere and gone haring after it. Isabela was happy to allow her sailors that leniency, as long as they brought back a juicy portion of the spoils. For the moment she was considering a course towards Wycombe, to offload some of the bounty from the last haul, but they were still running a little light, and it wouldn’t go amiss if they ran into something else on the way.

So the call from the crow’s nest, that a ship had been spotted to the east, was welcome. Isabela pulled a small but powerful brass telescope (another gift from a surrendering captain) from her pocket, and scanned the horizon.

When she saw the shape of the ship in question, she grinned.

“Are we going after her, Admiral?” Her bo’sun, a dwarf with a voice that seemed to have burbled up from a bog, was hovering by her elbow. As wide as he was tall, he was also an astonishing acrobat on the rigging and more than one attacking sailor’s last sight had been Rukhor descending on them.

“She’s a friend.” It was the Wicked Grace, all right; no mistaking those lines. Rukhor shrugged and turned away, when Isabela pinched his jacket. “So we’re going to have some fun.”

Most of her crew had a sense of humour, and even those who didn’t weren’t going to speak out against Isabela playing a prank on a friend. She directed the Siren’s Call towards the Grace, and then went up in the rigging, positioned so the sails hid her from view. “Here we go!”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#2
“Ship off the starboard bow!”

Celeste shaded her eyes with one hand, squinting against the sun reflecting off the water. The seas were choppy, so she’d only just put eyes on the distant sails when Bailey called down again from the crow’s nest:

“She’s turning toward us!”

“Shit.” It might be coincidence. It might be that they were low on food or supplies and looking for help. It might be that they were a floating Chantry looking to make converts. But in general, having another ship on an intercept course with yours was not a good sign.

“What is it, Cap’n?” Charlie stood at her elbow, watching everything she did. Barely a week on board, she was still green enough to be more of a hindrance than a help on deck, but she practiced her knots every night, scrubbed pots in the galley after each meal and emptied the thunder mugs every morning without complaint. It was the first time that the Wicked Grace had had a cabin girl, but so far, Celeste wasn’t regretting the decision to keep her on after finding out that she’d lied about being a boy to get taken on.

Celeste didn’t answer, pulling the spyglass from a pocket in her vest and focusing in on the ship. Three masts under full sail, not low enough in the water to be weighted down, she was closing the distance between them rapidly, and … yes, that was a fucking black flag that had just been hoisted.

“Get below deck,” she told Charlie tersely, pocketing the glass and looking up at the sails.

“But Cap’n -”

“That’s an order!” she snapped without looking around, and that was enough. She’d let the lie go, but the rest of the terms remained unchanged, and were the same as they’d been for every other urchin that had been taken on over the years: follow orders or get ashore. Some had obeyed, some hadn’t, but to date, they hadn’t had to bury any cabin boys at sea because they hadn’t followed orders, and Celeste didn’t intend to break that tradition for a cabin girl.

“Torgun, all hands!” she called out, and a second later, the bo’sun’s whistle pierced the air, blasting out the signal that brought every able-bodied member of the crew on deck - which meant all of them, as even Stubby could set himself in a chair and wield a crossbow.

“Pirate ship coming up from starboard,” she told them, and all eyes turned to where the sails were just becoming visible from deck.

“Just one?” Dax wanted to know.

“Just one,” Bailey confirmed as he slid down the rope from the crow’s nest, and Dax’s lip curled in a predatory grin, knowing what Celeste was going to say.

“We fight,” she confirmed. Weighted down with a load of Nevarran steel and with the wind against them, they weren’t going to be outrunning anyone, and unlike most of the sitting ducks on the Waking Sea these days, the Wicked Grace was more than capable of defending herself, at least from a single ship. The wolfpacks they’d heard reports of were another matter; that would require them to dump the cargo and run. Without the steel, the Grace could leave just about any other ship her size or bigger trailing in her wake. But the Inquisition had need of the metal to forge weapons and armor for its growing forces, and since they were the only ones trying to fix the tits-up state of the world right now, she made sure they got what they needed. They paid pretty well, too.

As the crew scattered to grab weapons and armor, Celeste spun the wheel until her ship’s bow was pointed directly at the pirate ship, wishing she’d given in to the impulse to put a ramming spar on the prow. Maybe next time they were in port.

“Let’s dance, fuckers,” she muttered as the sails of the other ship grew clearer across the waves. The black flag was intended to strike terror into the hearts of sailors, but after four months of fighting demons, pirates barely qualified as an annoyance.
 

Isabela

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#3
Isabela’s formal education hadn’t begun before Luis bought her, but her learning had begun at her mother’s knee. And she had learned that whether putting on a show as a distraction or staging a con, timing was everything, and it was no less true of pulling a prank.

Particularly when this all had the chance to go pear-shaped quite spectacularly. All it would take was one of Celeste’s crew firing at hers and hitting their mark, and she could forget about amusing herself and instead concentrate on trying to prevent a bloodbath. At least all her guys were in on the joke. Quite a few had met Celeste and her crew before, and no doubt were looking up to making up for some gambling losses with this.

As they came closer to the Wicked Grace, Isabela’s crew moved away from the rails, positioning themselves behind the various crates scattered around the deck which were used to give the impression that they were a merchant vessel from a distance. O’Malley, her first mate, had taken on steering duties, and was guiding them closer with careful ease. Isabela, obscured by the billowing sails, caught only brief glimpses of the Wicked Grace’s crew through the canvas, but what she did see made her grin.

Everyone looked so damn serious! Celeste was probably justified in giving her a punch for this, but was it ever worth it.

At a signal, grappling hooks were fired towards the Grace, aimed to only curl around the rails and not bury themselves into the wood. Isabela liked to avoid damaging ships unless it was life or death. Even if there was nothing worth much on board, the vessel itself could be a prize, and that practice now meant that Celeste wouldn’t be running her through for doing the same to her ship.

As the vessels closed together, Isabela indulged in her flair for the dramatic. A few tapers were stuck beneath the hat, and now she lit them; with a gesture to her crew, she indicated that the sail obscuring her from the others below be pulled back to reveal her, and she bellowed at their ‘victims’.

“All right, you swabs! Surrender all your booze and booty to me!”

The cross-beams were close enough that she could leap from one to the other; knowing the Wicked Grace as well as she did, she knew just which rope to grab that would allow her to descend to deck level. She did so, coat billowing, and landed in front of Celeste, grinning. “Or just booty would do, but if you don’t have booze on this ship, your name isn’t Celeste Monroe.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#4
The other ship was closing fast, and Celeste could feel anticipation dancing along her nerves as she gripped the wheel. For months now, they’d been fighting demons, blood mages, renegade templars. And truth be told, these days, she liked fighting … maybe too much. More than pranking assholes and prigs, which was definitely a first. When she was fighting, it gave her a place to put the frustration and anger and left no time for the fears that haunted her in the quiet watches of the night.

So yeah, maybe they were going to fight when they maybe could have run, but if this bunch thought they had stumbled on easy pickings, they would be in for a nasty surprise. Compared to what they'd gotten used to battling, pirates would be a breeze. She could see them on deck now, crouching behind crates and barrels, and she eyed the sails, weighing the risks of a flaming crossbow bolt or three, but flames like that could get out of control too easily, and they were already closing to boarding distance. Grappling hooks sailing across the narrowing expanse and tightening on the rails, drawing the two ships together.

“Get ready!” she roared. She could see Stubby propped up in the galley with his crossbow; Gid with his ginormous, hull-crushing maul; the rest of them similarly poised to pounce as soon as the first attacker boarded. Celeste secured the wheel and stepped away, hands dropping to her daggers.

“All right, you swabs! Surrender all your booze and booty to me!”

Celeste stopped, staring upward as the mainsail furled to reveal a very familiar set of curves beneath a grand looking hat, smoke from lit tapers swirling around as the form leaped nimbly from one yardarm to the next and caught a line.

Son of a -

“Hold fire!” Celeste shouted, just in case any of the others hadn’t recognized this fucking lunatic.

“Or just booty would do,” Isabela announced, landing on the bridge with a stylish flair of her admiral’s coat and a very self satisfied grin on her face, “but if you don’t have booze on this ship, your name isn’t Celeste Monroe.”

“You fucking bitch!” Celeste strode forward, grabbing the pirate and kissing her hard.

Then she punched her.

Hard.

“Get those fucking hooks off my rails, O’Malley,” she bellowed, spinning toward the Siren’s Call, “and if I find one scratch, I’ll be using your ballsack to polish them out!” With him still attached.

“Aye-aye, cap’n,” Bela’s first mate called back with his own version of his captain’s shit-eating grin. Tensions evaporated and catcalls flew back and forth between the ships as everyone emerged from cover and set about securing the two ships together in a way that wouldn't damage the woodwork.

Celeste turned back to her friend, relief getting caught up in the surging adrenaline that was still spoiling for a fight. “You know how close you came to getting shot?” she demanded. “Or getting your sodding sails set on fire?” But the smile was winning out and the urge to fight subsiding; friendly faces were in short supply these days.
 

Isabela

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#5
Everybody ran around on the deck of the Wicked Grace as she descended, fast enough that none of them could draw a bead on her. The look on Celeste’s face as she landed in front of her was worth every second of the wait, and Isabela topped off her arrival with a swirling bow.

“You fucking bitch!”

“Ooh, foreplay already?” Successfully riled up, Celeste grabbed her and kissed her; Isabela surrendered no dominance at all, and they might have dragged each other to the deck right there if Celeste hadn’t pulled away enough that Isabela was able to see the punch coming. She turned her head to catch it on the cheek; still smarted like buggery, but didn’t knock her out. She could take her licks but she didn’t want anybody on either crew to actually see her chew dirt. Planking. Whatever.

“And return volley on the fucking bitch, dear. I almost got a tiny little bruise there! Maybe you should work on your fighting some more.”

Both crews had started to cross the rails to each other; most of the veterans knew each other well and the old hands were comforting the newer folks who were startled to see their Admiral take a punch and not immediately throw the other person overboard to the sharks. Isabela grinned as she saw Gid loom into view. Living proof that not all qunari – Vashoth – whatever – were stone-faced bores, she’d climbed him like a tree on a few occasions and thoroughly enjoyed herself. Although it had to be said, not as much as she did Celeste.

Who was still pouting at her, a bit. “You know how close you came to getting shot? Or getting your sodding sails set on fire?”

“Oh, I know, darling, it was a big risk. But absolutely worth it for the look on your face.” Celeste was smiling now, which Isabela took to mean meant it was safe to draw her into a proper bear hug, pulling back suddenly as the smell of singing filled the air. Wetting her thumb and forefinger, she removed the tapers from her hair, and then pointed out the small ember smouldering at the collar of Celeste’s shirt. “I see you’re hot for me already.” She pinched it out before it could go any further, then grinned. Her face was almost hurting but she couldn’t help it, it was so damn good to see her. “So what do-gooder stuff are you up to these days? Not too much, I hope.”

She noticed, with a little surprise, that she couldn’t see Nicolette anywhere. It wouldn’t be surprising that she’d be sent below decks in anticipation of a fight, though. Maybe she was just being cautious about coming up again.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#6
Bela returned the kiss with interest - more interest than Celeste was really feeling, to be honest. The punch was much more in line with her mood, but the pirate ducked away from the full force of the blow. “Ooh, foreplay already?” she taunted with her grin still firmly in place, not put out in the least. “And return volley on the fucking bitch, dear. I almost got a tiny little bruise there! Maybe you should work on your fighting some more.”

Celeste snorted. She’d done more fighting in the last few weeks than in most of her life to this point, but it was the kill-or-be-killed type of combat. She hadn’t been in a good, old-fashioned barroom brawl in forever. Her crew was riding the same ragged edge, and it had been mostly luck that the Wicked Grace had held off on any retaliation against the perceived attack before Isabela had been recognized.

“Oh, I know, darling,” the pirate acknowledged with no concern at all, sending Gideon a smile of greeting and getting one in return, “it was a big risk. But absolutely worth it for the look on your face.” Which, Celeste had to admit, had probably been amusing as hell, so she let the smile that had been trying to rise come out and accepted the rib-crushing hug that the Rivaini gave her.

“I see you’re hot for me already,” Isabela quipped, drawing back, pulling the smoldering tapers from her hair and pinching out a bit of ash that was trying to spark to flame on Celeste’s linen shirt. The pirate had never been one for simply doing when overdoing was possible, but Celeste was more than a bit prone to the same tendency, so she simply shook her head with a smile and brushed away the ashes, feeling oddly detached from the other woman’s playful mood, even as part of her yearned toward it like a plant turning toward the sun. The Wicked Grace would never be a gloomy ship, but moments of true joy had been few and far between lately.

“So what do-gooder stuff are you up to these days?” the pirate inquired casually, glancing around. “Not too much, I hope.”

“Oh, you know,” Celeste replied, her tone light, but her smile fading. She knew who Isabela was looking for, but she couldn’t make herself say it. “Fighting demons, transporting people who’ve lost everything, fighting more demons, moving cargo when we can, fighting more demons, fucking up the assholes that are trying to take advantage of the people who’ve lost everything, fighting still more demons -” She trailed off with a shrug. “It’s never boring, I’ll give it that.” But her smile didn’t quite make it to her eyes this time.

“You?” Reaching up, she tweaked the fancy hat off and examined it critically. “I seem to recall rumors of a fleet.” Which was part of the reason she hadn’t recognized the Siren’s Call sailing alone.
 

Isabela

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#7
Isabela and Celeste had known each other a long time. They’d had their differences, but they had far more similarities, especially in their taste for life. Normally they’d be shoving each other around the deck by now, calling for booze and food, maybe setting up a competition or two to test their crews and themselves against each other while getting so drunk that there was an ocean for each of them by the end. So when Celeste responded to Isabela almost setting on her fire by simply patting out the ashes rather than calling her fifteen new curse words invoking Isabela’s mother, she knew something had to be wrong.

She suspected the reason when the minstrel didn’t pop up in the minutes after the all-clear, but she didn’t want to ask. Neither of them did emotions, dammit, it cost too much and hurt too much. But Celeste’s answer about what she’d been up to didn’t leave a lot of room for extracting either innuendo or fun.

“Fighting demons, transporting people who’ve lost everything, fighting more demons, moving cargo when we can, fighting more demons, fucking up the assholes that are trying to take advantage of the people who’ve lost everything, fighting still more demons – it’s never boring, I’ll give it that.”

Celeste’s usually lively eyes were as bright as a dead frog right now, although she went through the motions of stealing Isabela’s hat. “You? I seem to recall rumours of a fleet.”

Isabela played along, dealing out a twirling bow. “Admiral Isabela, at your service. Terror of the Waking Sea, Amaranthine Ocean, and whatever else you care to name. My dogs are all off chasing plump morsels at the moment, and when I saw your particular plump morsel I couldn’t help but go after you.”

Maker damn it. It was clear that something had happened to Nicolette - Celeste looked like something had been yanked out of her. Hadn’t she learned not to get attached, after losing Daniel? Apparently not. Although maybe Isabela was reading too much into it. Giving up on levity for the moment, she met Celeste’s gaze square on as the sounds of the two crews greeting each other faded into the background.

“What happened?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#8
Isabela put up a convincing front as the consummate bloodthirsty pirate who didn’t care about anything but getting rich, getting drunk or getting laid, but the golden eyes missed little, and she’d known Celeste since they were both barely out of girlhood. She’d seen her after Daniel had been taken by the sea, and while she hadn’t said it out loud, her opinions then were clear: don’t get that attached to anyone. Don’t fall in love. And Celeste had agreed with her, tried her damnedest to enjoy life to the fullest, taking whatever pleasures came her way and letting them go just as easily. She wasn’t getting Daniel back, and she’d never see the likes of him again.

And then she’d gone and fallen for someone who was as different from her late husband in nearly every way as night differed from day, save for the joy in life that had burned so brightly in them both that she couldn’t help but be drawn to it. And then she'd lost it again, and unlike the incontrovertible finality of Daniel’s death, this loss hit her anew every time that they made a new port and their searches came up empty, every time that they raised sail and departed still one short, every time that she drifted up from sleep and reached out to find an empty bed. She tried to put up her own front, keep with the rough-and-tumble that was their custom, but she could see Isabela seeing through it, even as they played it out.

“Admiral Isabela, at your service,” she announced, reclaiming the hat and setting it back on her head at a jaunty angle as she dipped a flourishing bow. “Terror of the Waking Sea, Amaranthine Ocean, and whatever else you care to name. My dogs are all off chasing plump morsels at the moment, and when I saw your particular plump morsel I couldn’t help but go after you.”

Celeste snorted, but couldn’t manage a smile, and the pirate sobered, watching her closely.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Celeste admitted, feeling the pain that she kept tied down tight during the day trying to break free. “That’s the whole fucking problem.” She dragged her fingers through her hair, taking the bandanna with it. “Nico was away from the ship when that happened.” She jerked her head in the direction of the Breach, which from their current position was a malignant green glow on the southern horizon. “We had to go. Demons were attacking and if we’d had any more people climb aboard, we’d have capsized.” And she had gone with it, instead of going ashore to search for her minstrel. She saw Gideon watching her from the main deck, waved him off. She was fine. She was the captain, so she had to be fine, even though what she wanted to do was punch the mainmast until the pain in her hand was enough to distract her from the white-hot coals that had taken up more or less permanent residence in her chest. But that wouldn’t exactly inspire confidence, so -

“Haven’t seen her since,” she concluded with a shrug. “Don’t know if she’s dead or alive or -” It was the ‘or’ that haunted her in the night, one hellish possibility after another presenting itself until she was driven on deck in search of a distraction, pushing herself until she was exhausted enough to sleep for a few hours. “Anyway. That’s my life. How about a drink?” Booze helped, too, but normally, she would only allow herself to indulge when they were anchored or tied up in a safe port, which was rare these days.

But with two crews to keep an eye on things and her favorite drinking buddy on board, maybe it was time to lighten the fuck up. Or black the fuck out. Either would work. “C’mon." She jerked her head and headed for the main deck. “Take over,” she instructed Gideon as she strode to her cabin, ignoring the others watching her. She realized her mistake as soon as she was inside. She’d never been much for decorating, but Nicolette had been adding her own touches for years now, and Celeste hadn’t touched any of it: the dried flowers and silk scarves tied here and there; the brightly colored pillows scattered on the bed and rugs on the floor; the stained glass set into the panes of one of the aft windows that Celeste had surprised her lover with a couple of years back, catching the light of the setting sun in rainbow hues that danced across the bed and floor; the flowing skirts and blouses in the wardrobe. “Maybe we should drink in the galley,” she suggested, snatching up a bottle of whiskey and two pewter tumblers. “Pick your poison.”
 

Isabela

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#9
Isabela wasn’t great at comforting people. Scratch that, she was great at distracting people from their discomfort; a few drinks, a few jokes and a roll around with her was usually sufficient to put most people back in a good mood, never mind that in eight cases out of ten she’d lifted their coinpurse on the way out. But saying nice things to make a situation seem less bleak was not one of her fortes, when in her experience shitty things just happened and you had to either get yourself out of that situation or persuade a handsome Antivan assassin to help you.

Maybe that last part wasn’t universal.

She might have made that joke if she hadn’t known long ago that Nicolette had become important to Celeste, and she just stood there, expression twisting in sympathy while her friend unwound the sorry story – she didn’t even know where Nicolette was, or what state she might be in. “That’s the whole fucking problem. Nico was away from the ship when that happened.”

She jerked her head towards the Breach. Isabela had got used to the perpetual greenish glow in the sky, even found it kind of beautiful when set against a backdrop of stars and the inky night. Didn’t mean she was getting any closer to it than necessary though.

“We had to go. Demons were attacking and if we’d had any more people climb aboard, we would have capsized.” And if the Wicked Grace had been big enough to do so without rolling over, Celeste would have taken the entire town on board. Couldn’t have been an easy decision for her even without factoring in the missing minstrel. “Haven’t seen her since. Don’t know if she’s dead or alive or…”

Both of them had seen enough of life to know at the myriad horrors that ‘or’ could contain. Isabela liked Nicolette, for all she found her a bit too sweet-natured sometimes, and the thought of the soft-hearted woman suffering made her even more uncomfortable.

“Sorry.” Too brusque. Too gruff. But the hand clapped on Celeste’s shoulder was sincere. “We’ll keep an eye out on our raids.”

Best warn the fleet. Isabela didn’t trade in slaves anymore and woe betide the captain who thought he could get away with a little like trading under his admiral’s nose, but there was always the chance one of her lot might spot the minstrel and take a shine to her. It’d be smart to let everybody know that there was immediately a don’t-touch policy in place.

“Anyway. That’s my life. How about a drink?”

“Abso-sodding-lutely.” The Breach numbered low on the list of Isabela’s problems, but she didn’t like how long it’d been since she’d seen Hawke, or Merrill, or Varric. Particularly now Varric was apparently part of the bloody Inquisition, somehow. He was always too good for his own good.

They went into Celeste’s cabin and Isabela, in any other circumstances, might have immediately started making fun of her. Celeste liked shiny things as much as most sailors, but she’d usually kept her cabin space fairly plain, the bath being the only exception. Nicolette’s touches were all over the room and it would have been so easy to tease her about being whipped. The pretty lengths of coloured silk wrapped around the bedposts would have provided so much material. Except it must be fucking agony to walk in here every day and see all that, with no idea if the other woman would ever reappear again. Frankly it was amazing Celeste hadn’t stripped it all bare.

“Maybe we can drink in the galley.” Celeste’s voice didn’t quite hide her pain. “Pick your poison.”

Isabela adopted the smile she would have worn in response to that offer in normal circumstances. “Ooh, darling, you’re too kind.” Her fingers flitted over the available bottles and settled on a particularly appealing orange brandy. “Now this looks fun! Let’s get hammered.”

They weren’t the only ones with the same plan. Those crew members not currently engaged in keeping both ships upright and not bumping into each other were swapping flasks – a couple were already swapping spit, they must have had a good meetup last time – but Isabela trusted O’Malley to keep a sensible eye on things. It was the only eye he had, after all. And no sailor with half a brain would mess with Gideon while he was in charge.

In the galley, Stubby was already throwing some food together, and Isabela gave him a cheery little finger waggle before sitting astride one of the benches and pulling out the cork from the bottle with her teeth. “Now then! Physician Isabela prescribes four good swallows before you say another word. Because I’m a good physician, I’ll take the medicine with you.” She tapped the bottle against Celeste’s. “Go!”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#10
Isabela might be deeper than most people gave her credit for, but that didn’t mean she didn’t suck at offering comfort. Which was fine with Celeste; that wasn’t what she was counting on her old friend for. The pirate listened as she told about being separated from Nicolette in the chaos unleashed by the Breach, and if Celeste had been a disinterested observer, the other woman’s awkward expression would likely have been hilarious.

“Sorry,” she grunted at last, her hand gripping Celeste’s shoulder briefly, speaking more loudly than words. “We’ll keep an eye out on our raids.”

“Thanks.” That promise meant more to Celeste than any sympathy. The more eyes searching for the minstrel, the better the chances of finding her. The term ‘raids’ didn’t quite sit well with her, but she had long since accepted that she and the Rivaini did things differently. Bela was nowhere near as ruthless as she had been in those first years after escaping Luis’ dominion; she didn’t traffic in slaves, and she didn’t tolerate rape, and she counted Nico as a friend, which meant that she’d be kept safe if the pirate’s fleet came across her.

Unless their admiral wasn’t with them and they thought they could get away with it. Celeste was under no illusion that Isabela was recruiting choirboys, but she also knew that she cracked down hard on anyone who defied her authority. And if she let her mind rabbit-trail down all the potential what-if’s, she really would go crazy.

Instead, she proposed drinking, because that was where Isabela was really useful when there was a shitty problem with no real solution; she was always up for getting drunk and blowing off steam, and the current situation definitely called for both.

“Abso-sodding-lutely,” the pirate agreed without hesitation, trailing behind Celeste to the captain’s cabin. Any other time, she would have ragged Celeste to the moons and back for the sheer number of touches that Nicolette had made to the decor, and Celeste would have let her. The cabin was comfortable, and that had always been pretty much all the thought that Celeste gave to it; decorating a space where she slept and did the bare minimum of paperwork had never really been a priority. But for Nicolette, the Wicked Grace had been the first place in many years that the wandering minstrel could call home, and she took such delight in bright colors and baubles; Celeste would have put up with far worse to watch her humming happily as she added the latest adornment … and it did look nice. And sometime in there, the cabin had stopped just being the place where she slept and did paperwork and had gone back to what it had been when Daniel was alive: a home within a home, and a place where she actually wanted to spend time in, though that had less to do with the decoration than it did with the decorator.

These days, it was sodding torture, but the vague urge to tear everything down was more than counterbalanced by the fear that doing so would jinx the search, so she compromised by spending less time than ever within.

Isabela, bless her, gave no hint that she noticed either the cabin or Celeste’s reaction to it. “Ooh, darling, you’re too kind,” she crooned in response to the invitation to select a bottle, perusing the racks and pulling one out. “Now this looks fun! Let’s get hammered.”

Fraternization of all sorts was in full swing on deck, but with the respective first mates keeping an eye on things, Celeste wasn’t going to object; it had been far too long since anything remotely resembling fun had been had on this deck. “Now then!” Isabela dropped onto a bench and uncorked her brandy. “Physician Isabela prescribes four good swallows before you say another word. Because I’m a good physician, I’ll take the medicine with you.” She reached across the table as Celeste seated herself to clink the bottles together in toast. “Go!”

It sounded like a reasonable prescription to Celeste, so she pulled the cork and tipped the bottle up. It wasn’t Daniel’s favored vintage; that wasn’t for getting hammered on, but it was well aged and the four swallows went down as smooth as silk, catching fire at the halfway point. Brannigan peered in, but if he had any objections to having his title usurped, he gave no sign. He disappeared, probably to brew up his hangover remedy … and that put Celeste in mind of the morning a few years back when she, Nicolette and Isabela had all been dosed with the concoction after getting rip-roaring drunk, trying to steal a ship and inadvertently given Nico a dunking in the frigid and filthy water of Kirkwall’s harbor.

The memory was enough to add two more swallows, and she set the bottle of the table with a thunk, feeling the first burn of a fire that would hopefully sear away thought for a few hours. “You seen Varric lately?” she asked Isabela. “He’s with the Inquisition now, believe it or not. Didn’t think anything would ever get him out of Kirkwall.” He'd more or less indicated that leaving hadn't been his idea, but he seemed to be staying by choice.

Movement at the galley door caught her eye: wide blue eyes under a mop of red hair that had been cut too short to curl. She held out an arm and Charlie scuttled to sit beside her, staring at Isabela in awe. “Isabela, this is Charlie, our cabin girl. Charlie, this is Admiral Isabela.” Proper emphasis on the rank. “Also known as the Queen of the Eastern Seas.”

“You’re really a pirate?” she asked Bela, reaching for the whiskey bottle in what was meant to be a nonchalant manner. Celeste slid it smoothly out of reach, and Stubby set a mug of cider before her. The girl rolled her eyes, but took a drink, still watching the Rivaini in wonder.
 

Isabela

Prominent member
Canon Character
DAO/DA2 Timeline
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63
#11
If there was one thing in this world that helped crush feelings all the way to the bottom of your stomach so you could ignore them entirely for a while, it was booze. True, for some people it blew their problems out of proportion, but Isabela would still always prescribe one of three things for the blues; a drink, a fight or a fuck. Or if you could wrangle it, all of them in the same evening. They’d almost had a fight and she got the impression Celeste wasn’t in the mood for the last thing on the list, so drinks it was, and when the captain downed six swigs in one go, Isabela grinned approvingly. “Now that’s how a real woman drinks!”

It certainly seemed to have distracted Celeste from the main thing on her mind; she went straight to the topic of their favourite author. “You seen Varric lately? He’s with the Inquisition now, believe it or not. Didn’t think anything would ever get him out of Kirkwall.”

“Oh, yes, I got a nice letter from him at one point that was the most beautifully-written sequence of curses about his situation I’ve ever had in my life,” Isabela chuckled. “I gather it wasn’t really his choice to begin with, but he’s in on it now. I told him he should pick out a nice chestplate and leave his arms bare; if he flexes those half the enemy’ll faint on sight.” It was criminal that one of the best looking dwarves she’d ever met seemed to be in love with his crossbow, but you couldn’t have everything.

A kid was peeking around the doorway at them; not one Isabela recognised. Another stray like Piotr, maybe? Either way, the kid was staring at them until Celeste beckoned for her to join, at which point they were over like a shot. “Isabela, this is Charlie, our cabin girl. Charlie, this is Admiral Isabela.” Isabela shot off a lazy but cheerful salute at the girl. “Also known as the Queen of the Eastern Seas.”

“I’ve yet to get my crown for that, but I think this hat’ll do nicely until then.”

“You’re really a pirate?” The girl was trying to make a play for the whiskey bottle, only to be thwarted by Celeste and Stubby. Isabela smirked at the pout on Charlie’s face – she’d have pulled exactly the same expression. So would Celeste, for that matter. Isabela leaned forward, one elbow on the table as her other hand remained curled around the neck of the brandy.

“I sure am. Been raiding up and down this coast and beyond for years now. I started out as a humble sailor and now I have my own fleet.”

Technically not true – after stealing Luis’ ship with only rudimentary knowledge of how a ship worked, she had immediately been ‘voted out’ as captain and unceremoniously dumped in Llomerryn. By the time she got back on ships again, there wasn’t a damn thing humble about her, and long that would stay the case. “I mostly target assholes, but I saw the Wicked Grace floating here all pretty today and couldn’t resist playing a game of chase.” She grinned at Celeste. “The look on your face, I swear. Priceless. My nose still hurts, though.”
 

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
261
#12
The extra swallows earned Celeste an approving comment from Isabela and - more importantly - a near immediate softening of the hard edges of the world and a slight loosening of the knot that had taken up permanent residence in her chest. Why hadn’t she done this before now? Never mind; lost time to be made up, and she tipped the bottle up again after asking the pirate if she had known that Varric was with the Inquisition now. It seemed an odd choice, but the end of the world made for strange bedfellows.

Or no bedfellows, in her case, a thought that meant that she needed to drink more.

“Oh, yes,” the pirate replied with a smirk and wicked chuckle. “I got a nice letter from him at one point that was the most beautifully-written sequence of curses about his situation I’ve ever had in my life. I gather it wasn’t really his choice to begin with, but he’s in on it now.”

Celeste nodded. “We ran into him in Jader back in Guardian, gave him and that Herald a lift to Val Royeaux back in Guardian. Seemed like he was planning to stick around, and she wasn’t anywhere near the prig that I was expecting. We’ve been bringing in supplies; they actually pay fairly well these days. Got a load of Nevarran steel in the hold now.” And some lyrium tucked into the smuggler’s holes, but that wasn’t for general knowledge. Relations between the Inquisition and the Chantry might have thawed marginally, but that didn’t mean that the high and holies were going to turn loose of their lyrium, which meant that the Inquisition had to find their own sources to supply the mages and templars that joined up.

“I told him he should pick out a nice chestplate and leave his arms bare; if he flexes those half the enemy’ll faint on sight.”

Celeste nearly spit out her mouthful of whiskey. “And cover up that chest of hair? Have you lost your mind, woman?” The dwarf wasn’t Celeste’s type, but she could appreciate a natural wonder when she saw it. Charlie had come out from below and was peering in curiously, so Celeste brought her over and made introductions.

“I’ve yet to get my crown for that,” Bela observed of the ‘Queen of the Eastern Seas’ moniker, “but I think this hat’ll do nicely until then.”

“It’s neat,” Charlie agreed, nodding vigorously. She made a grab for the whiskey, but was smart enough not to protest when she was restricted to cider, quite enraptured at the notion of meeting her first pirate and not wanting to risk banishment … and Bela was quite happy to play the role to the hilt.

“Been raiding up and down this coast and beyond for years now,” she bragged. “I started out as a humble sailor and now I have my own fleet.”

“Mostly true,” Celeste agreed with a wink, “but she’s never been humble.” Even as Naishe, she’d had attitude to spare and a determination to be more than a rich man’s plaything - both of which had quickly outstripped her skillset for a time.

“I mostly target assholes,” Bela confided in the girl, “but I saw the Wicked Grace floating here all pretty today and couldn’t resist playing a game of chase.” Her smile held no trace of repentance. “The look on your face, I swear. Priceless. My nose still hurts, though.”

“Serves you right,” Celeste snickered, taking another deep swallow, enjoying the way that the worries that had been weighting her down were just sort of drifting away. Maybe she should stay drunk for a while.

Charlie looked back and forth between them. “Bet we coulda beat ya,” she proclaimed at length. “Nobody can beat Gideon!”

“Charlie, could you come here, please?” Kalindra stuck her head into the galley and beckoned. “Brannigan needs some assistance.”

“But I wanna learn how t’be a pirate,” the girl groused.

“Brannigan can teach you how to have two grown women begging for mercy in the morning,” Kali promised her. Charlie eyed her suspiciously, interested in spite of herself, and at Celeste’s nudge, she took her cider, slid off the bench and followed.

“Must be the hangover remedy,” Celeste told Isabela. If she stayed drunk, would she need to drink it? But she couldn’t stay drunk; she had a ship to captain, so she might as well make the most of the moment. “Good kid,” she informed her drinking companion, taking another deep swallow. “Found her in Highever, tryin’ to sneak aboard. Says her da was a sailor, but I don’ think she knows. Betting her mum was turning tricks to pay the bills. She got sick’n died just before the Breach popped. She was pretendin’ to be a boy, ‘cause some asshole was tryin’ t’ catch her and put ‘er to work in his brothel.” She made a sour face and set the bottle down heavily. “People like that … y’start wondering if the world needs to just go ahead and end.” His world had, at least, but there was no shortage of more where he’d come from.

Fuck it. She’d kill them, too.”So, what’ve you been doing?” she asked Isabela. “Seen anything of Josc?” Lady Hawke had made herself scarce in the aftermath of the shitstorm at Kirkwall, and Varric had gotten cagey when she’d asked him.
 
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