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Wardens At The Gate [Group 1, Closed]

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
216
#1
((14 Haring, 9:35; Mid-day; Alongside Into The Underground ; Niamh , Sofia di Castelbuono , Cordelia ))

The skies were clear overhead, but the towering pine and spruce trees of the Gherlen Pass blocked enough of the sun that they no longer needed to wear the slitted leather goggles to prevent snow blindness. The snow-laden boughs above did have an annoying habit of releasing their burdens on the trail below, and enough had melted down the collar of Cauthrien’s winter gear that she was thoroughly uncomfortable. Breath of Warden and horse alike billowed in the chill air as they rode single file through the narrow path that had been broken, snowbanks rising to belly height on either side of the horses. Away from the shelter provided by the trees, the snow was deeper, and twice since entering the Frostbacks, they had heard the rumble of an avalanche, one unnervingly close.

Winter was a fact of life that every Fereldan learned to deal with, but most folk dealt with it by staying inside where it was warm as much as possible. Even military campaigns were traditionally halted in the winter months, armies and militias hunkering down in their camps or dispersing to their homes. Loghain and Maric had broken with this tradition in the rebellion against Orlais, leading their forces through the snows and falling upon a camp of chevaliers by night, scattering their horses to be gathered up for slaughter by the hungry rebels and leaving the surviving Orlesians to slog their way to the next camp on foot, grumbling about the ‘barbarism’ of the Fereldans, who had eaten much better than their foes for several weeks.

“Best you remember that,” Cauthrien warned her own mount, who flicked his askew ear at her to indicate his lack of concern.

Kill me and you walk home, boss.

“Yeah, yeah,” she grumbled. Dragon had actually behaved the last few days, likely because, like the rest of them, he was too damn cold to do anything but keep going forward, but the first few days, he had taken the chance to plow through every snowdrift and bump every available tree with his shoulder or hip, sending snow showering down onto his rider. They’d been lucky with the weather; the only significant storm had found them at the northern end of Lake Calenhad, and they’d spent a wary two nights at the Spoiled Princess, waiting for it to blow over. Fortunately, the denizens of Kinloch Hold seemed no more eager to brave the weather … or perhaps they didn’t want to risk another conscription. Either way, no templars or mages looked in on them during their stay.

Ahead, the path widened as it joined a road coming in from the north: wagon traffic to and from the port at Jader, wheel ruts sunken into the frozen ground, and Cauthrien carefully guided Dragon onto the comparatively smoother path between the ruts. Soon enough, they emerged into the loose enclave of merchants, traders and vagrants that clustered about the entrance to Orzammar. Eyes turned to follow them, voices raised as their uniforms were recognized:

“Fine weapons, Wardens! Genuine dwarven craftsmanship much cheaper than they’ll charge you below!”

“If you’re huntin’ darkspawn, you’ll be needin’ good armor t’ cover yer arses!”

Cauthrien ignored them. Wade’s skill was a match for Orzammar’s finest, and well beyond anything these hangers-on would be able to offer.

“Oi! Big ‘un!” This was directed toward Aerion. “How’d you manage to rate six?” Cauthrien leveled a flat stare at the speaker, who gave her an unrepentant - and mostly toothless - grin. “If the Wardens be givin’ out harems, I might join up!” he quipped, then yipped as the Summer Sword left its scabbard. Dragon pawed the ground, ears laid back.

“I don’t think you could handle one of us,” she warned him. He swallowed hard, wide eyes fixed on the silverite blade.

“Jus’ havin’ a joke, m’lady,” he mumbled, backing away. Leaving him to the jeers of his mates, she turned Dragon forward again, sheathing her sword.

“Nicely done,” she congratulated him, patting his neck. He snorted and shook his head lightly.

All part of the service, boss. Picking on you is my job.

The guards at the massive stone and steel doors saluted respectfully as they drew their mounts to a stop. “Wardens,” the captain greeted them. “King Bhelen is expecting you. We’ll see to your horses.” He nodded toward a stable that looked to be half built of wood, half carved into the mountainside.

Cauthrien nodded and dismounted, untying her pack from the saddle and handing the reins off to the hostler who approached. “Careful, he bites,” she warned before turning to her companions. “Leave the horses, take everything else.”
 
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Niamh

Active member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
31
#2
Niamh pulled her cloak in closer, shielding herself from a small but biting burst of wind. She wasn't the only one who bristled at the weather; beneath her, Daisy gave a sort of annoyed whinny, tromping along careful atop the packed snow. The sweet-spirited mare had soldiered on admirably, only offering the occasional complaint or unwanted rearing. Niamh was not the most competent rider yet, but she got along well with her horse. If anything else, it was good to have another companion she got along well with. Especially since Pads was not joining her for this trip. He was simply too young and too jumpy to carry into the Deep Roads, at least for now.

She kept close to Siali, enough so that she might reach out to her partner if necessary. The trip was calm enough, with idle chatter that felt comfortable. Niamh reckoned that everyone was glad to finally be out doing something after getting snowed in for two days. She'd treated it mostly as a chance to sit by the fire with Siali but there had been an undercurrent of impatience to the affair. Well, except for that little mage girl. Poor kid seemed caught between putting on air and probably throwing at the mere sight of darkspawn. The thought made her look at her finger, where the hurlock had snapped down and torn bone and sinew. More than anything else, it filled here with a sense of determination. Not this time, she decided, and not to any of them so long as she had breath.

“Fine weapons, Wardens! Genuine dwarven craftsmanship much cheaper than they’ll charge you below!”

The shout of merchants, hunters, refugees, and more snapped the elf from her reveries. Niamh looked around her to see a surprisingly well stocked but nevertheless makeshift market unlike anything she'd seen. It was caught somewhere between a proper city market and an Arlathvenn, where craftsmen and women would freely trade their wares from one clan to the other. The elf could help but grin at it all. She didn't know what was going to wait for them in Orzammar but if this was any indication, it would be plenty busy and exciting.

“Oi! Big ‘un!” Clearly meant for the burly Warden. Aaron, was his name? “How’d you manage to rate six? If the Wardens be givin’ out harems, I might join up!” Niamh raised an eyebrow, shooting a knowing look to Siali. She was about to speak when Cauthrien beat her to it.

“I don’t think you could handle one of us,” she said. Was that her sword as well? It certainly looked like her sword. The man noticed.

“Jus’ havin’ a joke, m’lady."

Niamh wasn't going to leave it entirely at that. She scowled at the man, tilting her head in faux wonderment. "It were a right shite joke then, aye?" Not a question that she really needed answers to. "Jog on!"

Her taunting done, Niamh was amused to see a group of dwaves offer a sort of formal salute to the hodgepodge group of Grey Wardens. It brought a sly smile to her face. Maybe Cauthrien was the type of person you saluted to but everyone else? Probably not. Niamh did her best not to let her amusement show lest she cause some type of diplomatic fuss, but she definitely would laugh about it later. Instead, she guided Daisy to the stables and happily dismounted. Riding was not her particular pleasure.

“Leave the horses, take everything else.” Cauthrien's words were swift and Niamh quickly gathered her supplies and pack. Turning away from the group, her gaze settled on the massive mountain and strange stone doorway at its center. Orzammer lay right behind it, and so did a trip further and further underground. Her mind balked at the notion.

"How'dya live under rock what dun show the sun what not go batty?" A fair question, doubly so that she was still sometimes afraid that the Grey Warden compound roof would fall on her head. Better to sleep in a tree or inside an aravel than under crusts of rock. "We really goin' under all that?"
 

Sofia di Castelbuono

Member
Grey Warden
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
17
#3
Sofia had sampled Denerim’s delights for only a week before she found herself once again trekking to unfamiliar lands. This time, at least, she had the benefit of travelling on a surface that did not lurch about as much as a ship deck, and she was properly attired against the cold. Although she would not need it so much once they got to Orzammar, she had been immensely grateful for the furred cloak she had picked up in the capital. Still, it was hardly a situation she was unused to. Healers were in high demand everywhere and she had spent about as much of her time as a Warden in a horse’s saddle than out of it.

She had been lucky with her mount. He was a lovely grey creature, a little dappled around the hindquarters, and reasonably well-behaved. Garalei would probably run for the hills at the first sign of a fight, but for simple transport, she could not have desired a better animal. Not all Wardens had such luck, she had thought, as she observed Dragon’s snappish behaviour.

Apart from getting snowed in at one point, their journey had been peaceable. She had made a point of being friendly with the other mages from the outset, particularly Cordelia, who was a new recruit; admired the figure of Aerion, while never letting her thoughts stray beyond distant appreciation; did much the same with Cauthrien; and made an effort to get to know the elven women who were also with them. Niamh was the more outgoing of the pair. Siali said little, but Sofia had caught the small gestures of affection between the pair and thought it adorable. Not that she would be so foolish as to say that out loud.

She had done better than the dwarf merchant currently making a ribald comment in Aerion’s direction, apparently under the belief that all these armed and armoured women surrounding him were his consorts. He was swiftly corrected, and Sofia snorted at how quickly his bravdo had deserted him – as well as Niamh’s comment.

They were greeted by the guards, and dismounted. In amongst the flurry of everybody picking of their possessions, Sofia picked out a small hand mirror from her satchel and made a few touch-ups to her appearance. This done, she turned to fully appreciate the sheer scale of the carved columns that supported the entrance to Orzammar. For a short people, dwarves knew how to think big.

“How’dya live under rock what dun show the sun what no go batty?” Niamh seemed a little perturbed by the prospect of going in. “We really goin’ under all that?”

“Dwarf engineering is second to none.” This pitched just at the right volume for a nearby guard to hear her. You never knew when it was worth flattering somebody’s ego, even indirectly. It was not that far different from spending time in the Circle, anyway. While there had been windows, they were usually high up, and it could be difficult to find a patch of sunlight to stand in. “And it will be well-lit in the city itself, from the lava flows.” She had been reading about Orzammar in preparation for the journey. Although she was being a little cavalier, she was excited. She had participated in numerous underground missions with the Antivan Wardens but this would be the first time she saw a proper dwarven city.
 

Cordelia

Active member
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
27
#4
All things considered, Cordelia decided that traveling was not the worst thing. Yes, it was rather the culture shock to someone who had lived inside of a tower for the majority of their life and, yes, horses stank more than she recalled but the chance to truly see the world was undeniably intoxicating. For two nights, that had meant looking at the tower she'd called home from accross Lake Calenhad. A strange thing, if ever she'd experienced one. More often than not, it had meant roads and camps but there was enough variety in the sights and she was in good enough company that whatever anxiety she felt was quickly replaced by comfort.

The company was crucial, she decided. While she certainly felt the outsider of the group, she had held herself with due propriety and managed to supplement conversations with a dutiful relaying of historical facts and the occasional question that seemed to amuse the group. Sofia had proven her quick favorite, perhaps because they were both mages but also because she seemed to hold herself with the most grace. Cordelia was nothing if not silently judgmental and had not yet acquired a taste for her fellow Wardens jocularity. Sofia was both someone she could relate to and also someone she might aspire to emulate in some ways. They had talks about their experiences as mages, but the Antivan sometimes found ways to be brash and somewhat salacious in a way that amused her.

Niamh and Siali mostly came as a pair, the former launching into long stories and boasts without much prodding. It was nice to see how Siali's eyes lit up when Niamh talked; enough so that even Cordelia understood they were affectionate with each other. Cordelia did her best to offer them space, knowing full well from her time at the Circle how much could be accomplished with a few minutes solidtude. Of course, she had never engaged in such activities but she'd seen plenty of acolytes and students leave for five minutes and return pleased. If the two elves wanted to hold hands or kiss or whatever it was you did in such situations, Cordelia was happy to leave them the privacy.

Instead, she had kept close to Cauthrien. The Warden-Commander was resolute and stout in a way that kept the young mageling feeling safe. Each step on their journey was a step towards prospective danger. Cordelia has trained as much as possible but could not hide her worry. Cauthrien's steady presence and amiable, fact focused conversation was much to the young woman's liking.

They had ridden for sometime before coming to the apparent market and combination shanty camp that rested outside Orzammar. Cordelia knew enough from her history reading that many dwarves were exile to the surface or otherwise left to strike out on their own. She had not expected so many to leave and then immediate set up shop a few yards away. Between the dwarven merchants and traveling tradesfolk, there was a workman-like quality that the mage had not been expecting. When some ruffian yelled suggestively at the group, she simply held her chin up high and allowed her peers to excoriate the man.

By the time she'd dismounted her horse—a sable haired and reliable steed with the dubious name Blanket—Cordelia had finally truly grasped the sheer scale of the large, dwarven chiseled escarpment in the mountainside. Excitement swelled within her. What this was adventured were like? Was this what all those heroes in stories felt when they arrived in new lands? Still, whatever excitement she had was evidently not shared by all of her peers.

“How’dya live under rock what dun show the sun what no go batty?” Niamh said loudly, with clear concern. “We really goin’ under all that?"

“Dwarf engineering is second to none.” Sofia had stolen Cordelia's answer right from her mouth. "And it will be well-lit in the city itself, from the lava flows.”

Cordelia thought of all the dust and gloom that awaited her in the Deep Roads and frowned before dismissing it with a shake of her head. There were other things to think about. "Perhaps instead of jerky and such, we might find time for a proper meal?" The young Warden was not accustom to her newfound hunger. "There's time yet for us to appreciate the culture before whatever duty we must embark on, yes?"
 

Cauthrien

Warden-Constable of Ferelden
Staff member
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
216
#5
It took Aerion a moment to figure out the dwarf’s meaning, but when he did, the look on his face added a bit more haste to the hasty retreat. Niamh barked a sharp rebuke at the dwarf, and the looks that he got from the rest of the group were anything but warm.

The greeting of the guards was respectful enough, and there was a stable outside for the horses. "I do hope it's as warm as expected inside the mountain,” Mysaria remarked as she gathered her belongings from her horse.

“Some parts are,” Aerion replied. “Others feel colder than this mountain.” His rugged features were shadowed, tense; it was not hard to figure out why. Along with a group of Marcher Wardens, he’d spent weeks in the Deep Roads on a mission. He wasn’t eager to return, but he’d made no protest when he’d been selected.

“How long were you in the Deep Roads before, Aerion?”
Siali wanted to know. It would be her first trip below, and while Cauthrien had suggested that all of the Wardens do what research they could in the library, both on Orzammar and the Deep Roads, there was no substitute for experience.

Cauthrien turned her head as Roland and Lucian finally arrived. The pair had been bringing up the rear, the former templar giving the young warrior instruction on the theory of templar abilities. Roland likely wouldn’t have picked up enough to use on this mission, but hopefully he’d show a better aptitude for it than Cauthrien had. At some point, she was going to have to resume her training and damn the headaches; the Wardens needed the skills, and trusting volunteers or conscripts from the order was not a viable option.

“We’ll leave the horses out here,” she called to them. She did a double-take at the sight of Sofia whipping out a small mirror to primp, then resolutely clamped her mouth shut. Since she’d questioned the need for cosmetics on their second day out, the Antivan had made a point of checking her makeup regularly. She seemed steady enough apart from this quirk, and thus far, her fussing hadn’t slowed them down, but Cauthrien did wonder how she was going to handle the grime and gore of the Deep Roads.

"How'dya live under rock what dun show the sun what not go batty?" Niamh asked, eying the massive gates and the mountain looming overhead, doubt writ large on her features. "We really goin' under all that?"

The captain chuckled. “How d’you live out under this sky without fallin’ into it?” he inquired good naturedly, tipping his head upward with an expression of exaggerated concern. “It’s all in what you’re used to, but I think you’ll find Orzammar itself to your satisfaction.”

“Dwarf engineering is second to none,” Sofia stated confidently. “And it will be well-lit in the city itself, from the lava flows.”

“Indeed,” the captain agreed with an approving nod, pride strong in his voice as he continued. “A marvel two-thousand years in the making.”

"Will we be getting rooms,” Mysaria asked as she approached Cauthrien, “or will we be going straight to an audience?"

“Your audience with King Bhelen is at the eighth bell tomorrow morning,” the captain said in response to her questioning look. “He has reserved a block of the best rooms at Tapster’s for the duration of your stay.”

"Perhaps instead of jerky and such, we might find time for a proper meal?" Cordelia suggested hopefully. "There's time yet for us to appreciate the culture before whatever duty we must embark on, yes?" The newest Warden had spent the journey absorbing everything that she saw and heard, and was currently staring at the massive gates with an undisguised wonder that made her look even younger than she was … and made Cauthrien worry anew at the advisability of including her on this mission. She was a formidable fire mage, true enough, but the Circle had kept her from learning any combat skills that might aid her if she did not have her magic. Cauthrien had assigned Roland to stay close to the mages - and Cordelia in particular - during combat.

“Nug jerky is better than beef any day,” the captain told Cordelia, "but the meals at Tapster’s are excellent, and there is to be a banquet in your honor at the palace tomorrow night.”

Cauthrien nodded, her expression pleasantly neutral as she inwardly sighed with resignation. It was far from unexpected, and Maker knew, she was quite able to hold her own at state affairs, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.

The massive doors swung open without even the faintest creak, and two of the guards led them inside. The warmth was almost immediate, wrapping about them like a blanket as they passed between the rows of massive statues in the likeness of the greatest of the dwarven Paragons. The ceiling was low in this corridor, but when the next, smaller set of doors opened just as soundlessly, Cauthrien let out a low whistle; the books had described it, but seeing it -

The cavern was immense, the upper reaches lost in shadow, while before them and to either side, the streets of Orzammar spread out. The architecture was all precisely cut angles and highly stylized sculpture, and instead of water, the fountains churned with molten rock glowing an incandescent orange that, along with massive braziers that somehow burned without smoke, provided more than adequate illumination.

And heat. Twenty steps in and Cauthrien paused to pull off her cloak and drape it across her pack. Forty steps and she was beginning to sweat, but taking off more was going to have to wait until she got to her room. It was all very orderly, very clean. No mud marred the stone pathway or obscured the detailed mosaics that had been laid every few meters, and no beggars sat in the shadows of the houses and shops.

Murmurs of surprise rose in the wake of their passage, and wide-eyed children waved eagerly. Grey Wardens were greatly respected in dwarven culture, and this was the first visit that had been made since Aedan Cousland and his companions had been instrumental in placing Bhelen Aeducan on his father’s throne.

Tapster’s was much like any other tavern Cauthrien had visited, albeit the first to have stalactites drooping from the ceiling. But the smells of ale and food and the sounds of raucous laughter and singing were familiar enough, and the smile of the dwarven woman who approached seemed genuine.

“Wardens, welcome,” she told them warmly. “King Bhelen has provided for your stay. Your rooms are on the second level,” she gestured to a set of stairs that led downward, “and a private dining area has been reserved for you. Meals and drinks are on the house.”

Paid for by Bhelen was likely more accurate, Cauthrien reflected. The Grey Wardens had put him on his throne, and he would not miss an opportunity to remind his political rivals of his ties to the order. “Everyone get settled in your rooms and get cleaned up,” she told the other. “We’ll meet down here for dinner in an hour.”
 
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