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Walk The Prank [Closed]

Isabela

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77
#21
Celeste was stone-cold, balls-out crazy sometimes, and that was precisely why Isabela was friends with her. As she straight up dropped herself into the arms of the yelling crew below her, she whooped, and Isabela roared with laughter at the exasperated expressions of the crew. As for her? She grabbed a rope and jumped, swinging herself across the deck before spinning in a ball and landing in Gideon’s arms. He was clearly unimpressed to have been used as a landing mattress twice in quick succession, but any protest was cut off by a quick kiss. She sprang out of his arms and towards her own men.

“Alright, yer swabs! We’ve got a prize idiot on the way who thinks we’re easy pickin’s. We thought, rather than scare-sing them away, we’ll give them a nasty surprise. Mr Adams, Ms Molley, and Mr Szari, make like you’re just a bunch of happy, cheerful merchants!”

The three designated to decoy duty were good at it, and the three of them were quick to hide their weapons below various artfully designed pieces of clothing that would look a lot more expensive through a telescope than they did up close. The three of them stood together as though they were gossiping, while the others blended into the background as regular members of the crew.

The cabin girl on Celeste’s ship had been ordered below decks, and Isabela stepped back a little from anywhere that she might be seen. She was supposed to be notorious, after all, and if the rapidly nearing ship spotted her they might turn about and ruin the fun.

At the right moment, her crew reacted as though they’d just seen the ship heading for them, and a carefully arranged sort of chaos broke out. For all intents, it was as though the ‘merchant’ ships were trying to detangle from each other so they could flee, but were doing a disorganised job of it.
The other ship came at them quick, turning smoothly in the water as several grappling hooks were thrown their way. Good helmsman on them, which was about all could be said for it. From her hiding spot, Isabela tsked to Celeste. “Look at the state of them all!”

The ship was clearly in dire need of repairs, some of them fairly basic in nature, speaking of a crew that was either inept or – worse – simply didn’t care. And while a liberal coating of general grime was expected, quite often the sea took care of the job of giving you a wash now and again even if you didn’t bother to anything. These people were dedicatedly dirty. “Don’t bite. You might get the plague.”

“Merchants!” A man on the deck of the other ship had stepped forward. He was a large sort, and carried a sword in one hand and a crossbow in the either. He was grinning, which didn’t make for a pleasant sight at all. “My name is Captain Tarquin Urquhart Callow.” Three names, clearly a dick. Nobody good was ever called ‘Tarquin’. “No need to be afraid. Just hand over your valuables and we might not kill all of you.” He cackled. “Some might get to join our little pleasure boat! I like the look of you,” he added, directed at Kali.

Isabela could barely suppress her glee. This guy had it coming.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#22
One-upmanship was as much a part of their friendship as drinking, so when Celeste simply dropped into Gideon’s reliable (if less than pleased) arms, Isabela had to top it with an acrobatic swing and tumble to the same destination. The first mate accepted the kiss of thanks, then ducked into the galley as Bela turned to address her crew.

“Alright, yer swabs! We’ve got a prize idiot on the way who thinks we’re easy pickin’s. We thought, rather than scare-sing them away, we’ll give them a nasty surprise. Mr Adams, Ms Molley, and Mr Szari, make like you’re just a bunch of happy, cheerful merchants!”

Obviously not the first time they’d utilized this particular ploy: the crew of the Siren’s Call immediately settled into their assigned roles as frantic crew and clueless merchants as the pirate ship angled in.

“You heard her,” Celeste called to her own people. “Let’s draw them in. Kali, Sorcha, Piotr, you’re the bait.” Even in her deck rags, Kalindra could project a haughty air that screamed ‘wealth’, while the two elves would be assumed to be her servants. Kali immediately began fluttering about on deck with Sorcha and Piotr in attendance as the rest of the crew feigned a desperate and clumsy effort to separate the two ships.

Celeste joined Isabela in the concealment of the aftercastle. “Look at the state of them all!” the pirate murmured in disgust, and Celeste nodded. The ship had once been a proud one; you could see it in her lines, but the bastards who sailed her now had let her go and badly. Her sails were tattered and patched; her rigging so sloppy that any attempt to quickly adjust the sails would end in a hopeless tangle of line, and the deck was cluttered with refuse that the crew had evidently been too lazy to even pitch over the rail. Said crew were in no better state: their clothes filthy and ill-fitting finery that had undoubtedly been stolen and was eminently unsuited to deck work, and the scent that the prevailing winds carried was beyond ripe. Even a occasional sodding bucket bath would have taken care of it. Rank amateurs at sailing; likely some fucking raiders who had managed to seize a ship.

“Don’t bite,” Isabela warned her as grappling hooks flew, attaching to the rails on the Grace’s free side, and a closer look showed the pirates to be even filthier than the clothes that they wore. “You might get the plague.”

Celeste grunted, anger simmering toward a boil in her belly. She’d had more than her fill of bastards like these the past few weeks: preying on folk fleeing the demons and fighting, taking what little they had left, maybe even taking them to sell into slavery or worse. Thoughts of Nicolette at the nonexistent mercy of these sorts haunted her even worse than the damn demons. “I need at least one alive for questioning.” The odds were long that they’d have any answers, and if they did, she wasn’t going to like them, but she had to know.

“Merchants!” A burly man in a tattered velvet coat, the gilt trim unraveling at the sleeves and neck, gave them a predator’s smile that displayed all four of his teeth. “My name is Captain Tarquin Urquhart Callow.” In spite of herself, Celeste snorted.

“Crossbow’s not even cocked,” she murmured to Bela contemptuously, hands settling on the hilts of her daggers, her eyes taking stock of the opposition. No other crossbows; the rest of the crew brandished cutlasses, swords and daggers that were as indifferently maintained as the ship. They likely did well enough against unarmed farmers and townsfolk.

“No need to be afraid,” he went on. “Just hand over your valuables and we might not kill all of you. Some might get to join our little pleasure boat!” he added with an ugly laugh, his greedy eyes lighting on Kalindra. “I like the look of you.”

“Please, Captain Tallow,” Kali simpered as Sorcha and Piotr cowered behind her. “You can have our cargo. Just let us go!” Celeste tensed, watching and waiting as the crew secured their sad wreck of a ship alongside the Wicked Grace.

Not yet. Not … yet. She didn’t want them getting away.
 

Isabela

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#23
Oh, this was a sorrowful lot of malcontents. One of Isabela’s many rules of piracy was that if you wanted to roam the waves and do a bit of plundering, you needed a damn bit of style. Why rob people if you weren’t going to spend the money on yourself? Even the captain, dressed as he was in finery, was all ragged at the edges. Isabela clicked her tongue. Any seaman worth their salt could use a needle. That was just lazy.
Celeste was muttering contemptuously alongside her, although she did have one instruction; at least one left alive. In the past they’d clashed a bit over what was considered a necessary level of violence, but judging by that remark she wasn’t feeling too merciful. “You got it.”

‘Alive’ had a lot of degrees to it, after all.

Up front, Kali was playing the part of shivering wimp to perfection. “Please, Captain Tallow. You can have our ship. Just let us go!”

The man swaggered forward, his men crawling over the rails. In Isabela’s position, she’d have had two rats up in the sails, bows or slings ready to rain down some hell, and a couple of archers further back. There was no sign of strategy whatsoever to this lot. They all seemed to be coming at once. Heh.

Kali was backing up, and Adams, Molley and Szari were fluttering about like a bunch of overfed pigeons realising there was a cat amongst them. The invading crew were eyeing them greedily, and calling out casual threats to the few crew members that had remained on deck. If this was actually real, Isabela knew that these louts would have no compunction with murdering absolutely everybody on board they didn’t intend to capture, and right now were simply toying with their food.

Tallow had swaggered his way onto the deck of the Wicked Grace, and with a nod two of his cronies moved to flank Kali and the others. Just a bit further…

As soon as he was far enough on that he couldn’t just throw himself back over the rail, Isabela lifted her blade up, the sunlight catching it. Immediately, four of her men raced along the side, blocking off any chance of retreat. She then stood up, turning her daggers lazily in her hands, grinning. “Well, hello boys.”

At the sound of a female voice, the captain turned about, still smirking; then it dropped off his face immediately. His mouth opened, his hand lifted to gesture wildly in her direction, and Isabela bellowed. “NOW!”

The two men who had been trying to surround Kali, Sorcha and Piotr were dead before they even realised what was happening. Isabela leapt over into the fray as carnage erupted, laughing as the first person she came up against folded like wet parchment. It was good to be the Queen of the Eastern Seas – people shit themselves before she so much as stabbed them.

“Keep the captain alive!” She bellowed over the sounds of clashing metal. “Everyone else can feed the sharks!” She didn’t much care if they surrendered; once they’d established themselves as possible slavers or rapists, they were chum.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#24
Still blissfully unaware of their impending predicament, the pirates toyed with their prey, taunting them with coarse threats as they swarmed over the rails with blades bared. Despite the slovenly look of the ship and their weapons and clothes, they had a well-fed look to them; the captain wasn’t the only one with a bit of gut overhanging his belt. Pickings had been good for bastards like these the last few weeks, and Celeste’s hands tightened on the hilts of her daggers until it seemed possible that the metal would bend in her fists. As always when they took on these types now, she was caught between two agonizing imperatives, hoping that Nicolette - or word of her - would be found with them and praying - real, honest, to-the-Maker praying - that she would not be. Not knowing was killing her slowly, but there were worse things than not knowing.

Isabela kept herself concealed, watching the advance with a predator’s anticipatory smile. The entire crew boarded, leaving the pirate ship with no reinforcements to be summoned; evidently, no one wanted to risk missing out on their share of the action. More proof that this lot was new to the sea; any captain worthy of the name had a share system in place to prevent this kind of feeding frenzy.

A bit further, and Isabela stepped out of their hiding place, daggers twirling in deft fingers and an insouciant smile curling her lips. “Well, hello boys.”

The captain spun, his face paling beneath the filth - evidently, he’d been around long enough to know the Queen of the Eastern Seas on sight, but before he could order his men to attack her en masse, she sprang the trap: “NOW!”

In the blink of an eye, the milling sheep on deck turned into wolves, and those who had concealed themselves burst from hiding to show the interlopers just what a feeding frenzy looked like. Gideon emerged from the galley, raising up to his full height with maul in hand.

“NO QUARTER!” he thundered, putting word into action with a swing that connected solidly with the midsection of a pirate trying to get back to his ship. His feet left the deck, and he flew about ten feet across the deck, crashing into the rail and collapsing into a bloody and motionless heap.

“Keep the captain alive!” Isabela ordered as she whirled through the fray, blades flashing. “Everyone else can feed the sharks!”

That announcement triggered panic among the pirates, but their desperation didn’t improve their skill, and the blood that slicked the deck of the Wicked Grace was mostly theirs. The captain was belatedly trying to draw his crossbow; leaving the rest of them to their fun, Celeste stalked forward, daggers bared, and lunged to cut the bowstring, nicking his fingers in the process. Oops.

He dropped the crossbow, swearing savagely, and lifted his sword to block her next attack … but not the one after, which bit into his hand, making him lose his grip on his remaining weapon. Or the one after that.

“Not so much fun when they can fight back, is it?” she inquired, prowling around him, lashing out every few steps, drawing blood with each strike.

He tried to run, slipped in a puddle of blood and went to one knee in the gore. “Y-your captain said to keep me alive!” he cried out desperately, his former swagger nowhere to be found.

Celeste shook her head. “She’s not my captain,” she informed him with a mirthless smile, blades flickering out again, the right scoring a line along his cheek, the left nicking a bicep. Nothing deep enough to be dangerous. Alive and unhurt were two different things, after all, and she wanted him to be very willing to talk when the time came.
 

Isabela

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#25
These pirates were cowards. They’d got used to preying on fat merchant vessels, too slow to outrun them, and while most such ships carried a contingent of guards, this lot was numerous enough to overwhelm them. They were in no way prepared for two ships worth of battle-hardened crew, and it didn’t help that most of them had apparently pissed themselves the moment Isabela made herself known. The pronouncement that none were to be spared killed most of the remaining spirit; while most continued fighting, it was sloppy and desperate, and some fled back towards their ship only to find the way cut off. One man clearly decided he’d rather go the way of the sea than on the edge of a sword, and jumped straight into the water.

He’d probably forgotten about the sharks.

It was a slaughter. Isabela vaulted through the scrapping crowd, lashing out with her daggers every which way. One bullish man tried to bowl her over by charging directly at him; she simply rolled under his legs and stuck his kidneys, before elbowing another one in the face and spinning the blade in her hand, slamming it into his gut. There was something exhilarating about a good battle, and she crowed as she ripped her way through the enemy. Every last one of these people was a copper-bottomed bastard, and tearing them to bloody shreds felt so good.

Celeste tended towards the slightly more merciful side of things usually, but it hadn’t escaped Isabela’s notice that she was taunting the captain. He was on his knees in the gore, begging for his life. It wasn’t hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have been merciful if their positions had been reversed, although he blubbered now. Isabela manoveured her way closer to try and hear what he said.

“Your captain said to keep me alive!”

Ooh, bad choice! Isabela grinned and kneed an upcoming sailor in the balls as Celeste slashed the captain with her dagger.

“Please...please! I’ll give you anything! I have gold...I have supplies! We’ve got some people below decks in the brig, good ones, beautiful ones! We’ll trade you! I’ll give you all of them, just please don’t kill me!”

Shit. If he’d made that offer to Isabela, he’d have died very slowly from a few choice gut wounds for the insinuation that she dealt in slavery. She didn’t give much for his chances now, considering what she knew must be on Celeste’s mind.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#26
The fight was winding down; from the looks of it, only minor injuries to the crews of the Wicked Grace and Siren’s Call. The pirates … well, they hadn’t fared so well, and the first of the dead bodies began hitting the water, the splashes not quite drowning out the screams of the couple who had jumped overboard to escape the merciless wrath of their erstwhile prey. Judging from the pitch and coherence of their cries, the sharks hadn’t found them yet, but with the amount of chum getting dumped overboard, it would only be a matter of time.

Nobody made any attempt to drop a rope. Six months ago, Celeste knew, one or more of her crew would have looked to her for permission, and she likely would have given it. Haul them aboard, tie them up in the hold, and drop them off with the law at the next port. But after months of dealing with bastards who thought that the end of the world was a splendid opportunity to get in a bit of theft, rape, and murder, none of them had much mercy left, Celeste least of all. She was no saint by any stretch: she stole, smuggled, lied … but she stole from those who could afford to lose it, and she had never killed anyone to get their possessions.

She’d never been one for torture, either, but evidently, that had changed, because she didn’t feel even a flicker of conscience pricking her as her daggers opened up one cut after another on the captain’s grimy skin, the blood mixing with sweat and tears as the reality of his fate set in. He had no doubt been a small time bully boy before the Breach had thrown everything into confusion, his crimes limited to the shadows of back alleys. Or maybe he’d been one of those guardsmen who had been only a half step away from the criminals that they arrested, crossing the line for good once law and order evaporated. She’d seen plenty of both types, seen what they were capable of. Maybe if Nicolette hadn’t been out there somewhere, alone and at the mercy of such wolves, Celeste’s hate for them would not have burned hot enough to sear away any hint of mercy. She wasn’t even sure that she wanted to know what he had to say; either he hadn’t encountered Nico, which meant that she was still lost, or he had, which most likely meant -

She struck again, perhaps a bit harder than she should have, and he squealed like the pig he was as the daggers bit deep. “Please...please!” he wheezed, sinking to his knees. “I’ll give you anything! I have gold...I have supplies!” He could see that she wasn’t taking the bait and grew frantic. “We’ve got some people below decks in the brig, good ones, beautiful ones! We’ll trade you! I’ll give you all of them, just please don’t kill me!”

Celeste stilled, hope warring with logic in her breast. Isabela had drawn close enough to hear the exchange, and Celeste didn’t need to look to know the expression she would be sporting. Pirate she might be, but there was one line that she would never cross again.

“Go,” she barked the order to Gideon. “Get them out and ask them about Nico.” She wasn’t going to let herself believe that Nicolette was in that hold; that would be too much to hope for, but perhaps some of them had encountered her. A place to start looking … that wasn’t too much to ask, was it?

As her first mate and others from her crew moved to obey her, Celeste faced the captain, who had been given enough time to appreciate that the rest of his crew was either dead or - in the case of the ones in the water - soon to be dead. “One chance,” she told him flatly, daggers poised. “Lie to me, and I’ll make your death drag out for hours. Tell me the truth, and we’ll patch you up and put you ashore with some food and water. I’m looking for a woman: a minstrel. Long brown hair that she wears in a braid. Amber eyes, plays a veille. Travels with a big, shaggy hound. Seen her?”

She waited for his reply, watching his eyes. No matter what came out of his mouth, the eyes would tell her what she needed to know. Beyond the rail, an agonized shriek announced that the sharks had found live meat. "Lie to me, and you'll be next," she warned him.
 

Isabela

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#27
Most of the fighting had died down by now. Anyone who sailed with Isabela earned their way onto the ship by proving they could hold their own against two or members of her existing crew for a measure of time, and whenever things got a little quiet she encouraged a bit of duelling. It was a good way to get in some practice, air any grievances, and let the crew enjoy a bit of cameraderie by betting on one another. Consequently she had one of the best drilled set of sailors on the seas, and they’d have taken a squadron of chevaliers without too much issue. Going up against this lot barely constituted exercise, although it did give her the usual thrill to see the previously leering men pleading and fleeing.

Only right that they experienced what they put any victims through, turnabout being fair play and all that.

The satisfaction died somewhat when the captain offered up a trade, mostly because she knew what’d be running through Celeste’s mind right now. The edge from the booze was almost gone now and the idea that they might find Nicolette in the brig and what would have happened to her if they did left her stone cold sober. It’d be better to find no trace of her at all, frankly.

Celeste sent Gideon to investigate and he obeyed quickly. Isabela jerked a head at Molley to follow him and assist; frankly, if she’d been held captive by this lot and she suddenly saw a qunari coming into the hold, she’d assume her luck had taken a turn for the even worse. Better to have a female presence about.

Plus, she wanted to stay up here herself and keep an eye on Celeste. Neither of them showed mercy to slavers but while Isabela enjoyed toying with her prey, her friend was usually more straightforward. Not so now; she wasn’t even trying to mask the gleam of satisfaction glinting in her green eyes as she drew blood and the man squealed like a piglet.

“One chance. Lie to me, and I’ll make your death drag out for hours. Tell me the truth, and we’ll patch you up and put you onshore with some food and water. I’m looking for a woman; a minstrel.” She proceeded to give a brief description of Nicolette, and her threats were given backing by the agonised screaming of the men now being torn to shreds by sharks. “Lie to me, and you’ll be next.”

Over on the other ship, Gideon had re-emerged, gently drawing a young woman up into the light. She had the skittish air of a doe scenting a wolf, as did the others who followed in their wake. Some six or seven of them came up. None of them were Nicolette. Molley was speaking to them quietly, and while a few of them drew horrified breaths at the state of the decks, none of them looked particularly sickened at the fate of their captors. One woman moved away from the group to lean over the corpse of one man, and spat on him.

Okay, the minstrel wasn’t in the brig, which was hopeful. Sort of. The same ‘sort of’ which was the captain shaking his head, which meant she probably hadn’t run afoul of this lot. “No. No, I promise! Trust me, if we’d seen somebody like that-”

Not the way she would have recommended him to prove his innocence, at least in this. He seemed to realise it too, as he slammed his mouth shut.

“If you’d seen somebody like that, what?” Isabela’s voice was silky. She didn’t care for Nicolette the same way Celeste did, but she still liked her. The idea that plunderers might whisk her away on a whim didn’t appeal at all.

“Doesn’t matter. I haven’t seen anybody like that. You could have questioned the rest of my crew, but I don’t think you’ll get much of an answer out of them now.” His voice took on a wheedling tone. “So...can I go free?”

Gideon was heading over in their direction, his expression curiously somewhere been hopeful and grim. “The women all say that nobody matching Nico’s description has been on board while they’ve been around. But one of them did see somebody matching her description a few weeks ago, in a tavern in Wycombe.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "The redhead. She says there was more than one dog running around, so she can't be sure either of them belonged to her. But she definitely had dark hair in a plait and light eyes, and was playing some sort of instrument."

Thedas was a big place, and half of the populace was currently running from something; it was entirely possible there was a woman of a similar description making her living through music as she fled a disaster. Better than nothing but still - not great. The subject they’d avoided during drinking shouted loudly into the silence; Celeste was unlikely to be the same again unless she found her minstrel.

When she found her.

Isabela turned away from Celeste and Captain Upstart Tallow, and started directing her crew. The remains were looted, and then swept into the sea along with the blood; the scrubbing down commenced in earnest. Two sailors brought up supplies from the hold and provided the women with food and water. Naturally, none of them seemed inclined to go back below decks right away.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#28
Gideon and a woman from Isabela’s crew moved to free the captives from the pirate ship, and Brannigan began to circulate among the crews of the Wicked Grace and Siren’s Call, checking for injuries. Nobody appeared to be seriously hurt, and the dead bodies were picked clean of any meager plunder, then pitched unceremoniously overboard. Buckets of seawater were drawn up from the less bloody stretches along the rails, and the business of swabbing the gory decks was set to.

All of this barely registered in Celeste’s awareness; her entire focus was on the pig of a captain, kneeling on the blood-slicked deck before her. Bela drew near, her expression as close to serious as it ever got as Celeste described Nicolette, feeling as though she was defiling her minstrel just by putting an image of her in this filth’s cesspool of a mind, but needing beyond anything else to know, even as she dreaded the answer.

The look of fear in his eyes turned to one of wild hope, and he shook his head frantically when she was done. “No. No, I promise! Trust me, if we’d seen somebody like that-”

He broke off suddenly, his eyes going even wider in his grimy face, likely at the expression that Celeste was wearing.

“If you’d seen somebody like that, what?” To someone who didn’t know better, Isabela’s tone might have sounded seductive, but the pig had a clear view of her eyes, which held as much mercy as the Frozen Seas at the height of winter.

“Doesn’t matter,” he muttered, his own eyes darting between them like a rat cornered by two cats. “I haven’t seen anybody like that. You could have questioned the rest of my crew, but I don’t think you’ll get much of an answer out of them now.” He chewed at his lower lip, beady gaze growing calculating. “So...can I go free?”

Celeste had paid little attention as the prisoners - mostly women, with a few young men and children among them - were being hoisted from the hold of the pirate ship. If Nicolette had been among their number, she would have heard it. She turned her head as Gideon approached, regarding him expectantly, but without any real hope.

“The women all say that nobody matching Nico’s description has been on board while they’ve been around.” That at least was good news. “But one of them did see somebody matching her description a few weeks ago, in a tavern in Wycombe.” Celeste looked in the direction of his gesture to where a redheaded woman was drinking from one of the waterskins that Kali had brought over. “She says there was more than one dog running around, so she can't be sure either of them belonged to her. But she definitely had dark hair in a plait and light eyes, and was playing some sort of instrument."

A possible sighting, weeks old in a distant port. It was a thread so slender that Celeste dared not put weight upon it, but it was marginally better than no news at all and vastly better than the worst she had been fearing, and she felt the tight knot of dread in her gut loosen a bit.

The captain seemed to consider the report to be nothing less than a vindication. “There, now, you see? She’s not on board my ship, and if I hadn’t been giving passage to that wench, you wouldn’t have known where your lady friend was!” Gideon’s expression turned positively murderous at the words ‘giving passage’, and the brigand paled beneath the blood on his cheeks. “I told the truth! Your captain promised me that if I told the truth, she’d let me go free, and on my own mother’s honor, I told the truth!”

There were so many clever opportunities for Celeste to spin that. She could have Gideon pitch him overboard alive to join the wretches that the first sharks had finally found. She could put him back on his ship alive, cut it adrift and set it aflame with him aboard. But the weight of disappointment and the ache of longing had dulled her taste for creativity in her vengeance. She just didn’t give a damn. He shrank back as she turned to him, reading his fate in her face, but found his path of escape blocked by Bailey and Piotr.

“No! You can’t! You promised!”

She easily batted his hands aside and plunged the dagger in just beneath the breastbone, angling upwards, looking into his wide eyes as the life drained out of him with the blood that gushed hot over her hand.

“I lied.”

She stepped back, let him fall, felt nothing.

“Everybody drop your loot here,” she called out, jabbing one dagger toward a clear spot on the deck before wiping both blades clean and sheathing them. Turning, she approached the freed captives, who were huddled together in a fearful cluster. “You’re safe,” she told them, forcing reassurance into her voice. It was no fault of theirs that they were not who she wanted to see. “We’ll get you to a safe port and give you whatever coin these pigs had. Are you all from the Wycome area?”
 

Isabela

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#29
The slimy git was as poor at defending himself as he was a sailor. He all but admitted that had his crew happened upon Nicolette, she would have joined the other unfortunate sods in the brig, and his pretence that he’d been giving passage to his prisoners was laughable. Even more so that he tried to claim credit for news reaching Celeste’s ears at all. Gideon, normally so amiable, radiated rage, and the idiot swiftly re-evaluated his position. “I told the truth! Your captain promised me that if I told the truth, she’d let me go free, and on my own mother’s honor, I told the truth!”

Isabela stood ready. Celeste usually did what she had to, but rarely would put down somebody who was defenceless. If it was needed, Isabela would allow Celeste to keep her promise by carrying out the deed herself - and with great pleasure, at that. She turned a dagger slowly between her fingers, but then Celeste turned back towards the whimpering wretch, and Isabela saw total resolve in the other woman’s eyes.

She stepped back. Partly out of respect that Celeste needed to do this, but also not to get any more blood on her blouse. It was going to be enough of a pain to get out the current stains as it was.

The man wailed a protest, and Celeste ended his life. A bit more swiftly than Isabela would have done, had their positions been reversed. Nonetheless, she rested a hand on Celeste’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. She was no good at reassuring words, but she had her friend’s back.

At Celeste’s orders, the crew started to drop whatever they’d found on an area of the deck for equal division. Isabela noticed quite a few of the ex-captives trembling fiercely. Likely they were unsure if they’d escaped one set of horrors to find themselves thrust into a brand new set. Isabela wiped off her blades as Celeste reassured them.

We’ll get you to a safe port and give you whatever coin these pigs had.” Relief blossomed on multiple faces, although some still appeared wary at the reverse of their fortunes. “Are you all from the Wycombe area?”

One, a fierce-faced young woman with fists balled by her sides, shook our head. “They hit about three ships before yours. We’re from all over.”

“Ours was fleeing the demons in our town,” a younger man piped up. “We didn’t have much coin for them to take, so the captain said he’d only take us who were worthwhile and then he killed the rest.”

A snarl was reasserting itself on Isabela’s lips. She wished there’d been more of the fuckers, so she could continue pulling them apart, but the threat had been quelled and there was nowhere for the energy to go, beyond turning on her heel and bellowing orders to her crew. It didn’t quite drown out the voices that rose behind her.

“Where are we to go?”

“My family, my husband...all gone…”

“I have nothing left, my home was burned to the ground…”

Once upon a time, Isabela would have shrugged. People made their own destinies and if they sat around waiting for some sign, that was on them. If she’d done the same, she’d still be under Luis’ bootheel, or more likely by now those of his friends. Bloody Hawke had made her soft. She turned back to the group.

“I have five berths unfilled on my ship. Any of you have a mind towards sailing, you can come with me.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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DAO/DA2 Timeline
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#30
If Isabela was surprised that Celeste wasn’t showing mercy to a defeated foe, she gave no sign, but she did stay close enough to deal the final blow if the other captain faltered. Even in normal times, however, lenience for this bastard would have been unlikely, and currently, Celeste’s levels of tolerance were all but nonexistent. She knew what would have happened to Nicolette if he’d gotten his paws on her: the same that had happened to the wretches that were now squinting fearfully in the sunlight on his ship’s deck. Perhaps it wasn’t fair to kill him for what he would have done, but there seemed to be scant fairness in the world these days. At any rate, his crimes would have earned him a noose at pretty much any port in Thedas, so all that she was doing was saving everyone some time.

It didn’t even feel good when she drove the knife in. It didn’t feel anything. Despite herself, Celeste had allowed a spark of hope to flare, only to have it snuffed out as it had been countless times in the last few hellish weeks, leaving that hollow void in her chest. That her minstrel might have been in Wycome a few weeks back offered scant comfort to cling to. This particular slaver would not be plying his trade any longer, but there were plenty more where he’d come from.

As soon as he’d fallen, Torgun and one of Bela’s crew each grabbed an arm and hauled him toward the rail. Celeste didn’t bother watching, barely felt the pressure of Isabela’s hand on her shoulder. Killing was easy. Too easy these days. Dealing with the living was harder. These people had lost everything but their own lives, and all she could offer them was some coin and a ride to a future that would never be the same as the past that had been lost. The dead would stay dead, the missing might never be found. Nico might never be found.

But Celeste still had a ship and a crew and now half a score of frightened women and children with nowhere to go.

Then Isabela surprised her. “I have five berths unfilled on my ship. Any of you have a mind towards sailing, you can come with me.”

“I will,” the angry young woman spoke up at once, stepping forward with the young man at her heels. The faces of the reminder showed expressions ranging from uncertainty to outright reluctance, and none of them moved to follow the first two just yet. Celeste glanced at her friend; the word ‘pirates’ had not been anywhere in her offer. Whoever went with her wouldn’t have to worry about being sold, but some of the other activities of the Queen of the Eastern Seas might come as a shock to these landlubbers.

Not her problem, Celeste decided, but neither could she match Bela’s offer. The only vacant berth on the Wicked Grace was one that could be filled by anyone in this group. “My ship is bound for Jader,” she told the others. “The Inquisition has an outpost there.” She could see the desperate hope flaring in their eyes; in the months since the Breach had turned life in Thedas upside down, the Inquisition and the Herald of Andraste had come to symbolize the chance of a return to order, an end to the demons. Tales of Sati Adaar and her miraculous mark closing the rifts had made it as far along the coast of the Waking Sea as the Wicked Grace had traveled, a good many of them straining credulity. But people needed hope. They needed heroes. And right now, Celeste couldn’t manage to be either of those. “They’ll be able to help you decide what to do next.” It might not be what they had been before. None of them looked to be fighters, but as the Inquisition continued to grow, it needed folk who could cook, sew, repair armor and patch up the wounded as keenly as they needed warriors.

“Get them all aboard and get anything of value off that floating turd, then cut it drift,” she told Gideon, then looked to Isabela questioningly. “Unless you want to try to salvage her?” The old girl had some life left in her, but it would take time and work to bring her back from the disrepair that the bastards had allowed her to fall into.

“Care to come to Jader?” she invited her friend. “Got a load of Nevarran steel for the Inquisition. They pay pretty well these days, and they’re always looking for help.” With rifts reported through most of the southern kingdoms and beyond, someone who commanded a fleet of ships could probably strike some kind of a deal.
 
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