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Wild Embrium

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“What do you mean you’re joining them?” Her sister gawked at her from behind the linens she just hung up. “You’re not serious, are you?” She pressed, her fingers wrinkling the fabric nervously.

“I am serious. I am joining the Inquisition. They need any help they can and I want to join their ranks.” Vanni straightened out her sheet and blew a strand of hair out of her face.

“They won’t take you!” Her younger sister crossed her arms, eyebrows knitted into a frown.

“And why wouldn’t they?” Vanni imitated her.

They looked nothing alike. Vanni’s younger sister was petite and had rich golden brown curls, that often hid her sharp ears. Only her large almond shaped green eyes gave away that she was not a human. Vanni had a lean but not very feminine figure, her hair was a dark shade of brown that grew in straight dense strands. She had a plain face, sharp nose and colourless cheeks. If it was not for their eyes, it would be hard to see any family resemblance.

“You’re an elf. They’d assign you to cleaning and serving around. You may aswell stay here to do that.” A smug smile appeared on her lips.

Vanni looked down at her feet and picked up her basket of laundry. “I can still try.” She answered defiantly after a moment.

“Why do you even insist on joining them? What are these shems to you?” Her sister followed her carrying her own basket, then she stopped and laughed. “It’s because of the handsome commander of theirs. Is it not?”

Vanni’s cheeks flushed at the memory of the commander marching men through their village and she walked on, not answering.

“It is! Oh, but Vanni, being his maid might bring you closer to him than being a recruit. As a recruit you might not even come close to him. But as a maid, cleaning his quarters…”

“By the dreadwolf! Ayleen, that is not why I want to join. Can’t you see the hole in the sky? Have you not heard of the templars and apostates fighting in the forests?” Vanni turned sharply to glare at her sister.

Ayleen paled for a moment, then shrugged and walked ahead of Vanni. “They still won’t take you as a recruit. Elf women are probably given brooms or ushered into the kitchens. Besides, you’ve never held a sword in your life.”

---

The sun was long gone but a green light still illuminated the world behind her window. The hole in the sky had stopped growing, but it was not getting any smaller, and a few times a day she still could see it flicker as if threatening to expand again. Vanni turned her head to look around the room. Ayleen was deep asleep, murmuring something under her breath and the rest of the house was silent. Carefully, Vanni slipped out of her bed and opened the chest at its foot. The leather armor she had exchanged for a week’s worth of hunt looked beaten and used, but it would have to do. Slipping into it she stood in front of the mirror on Ayleen’s side of the room and sighed. The armor fit her, but she looked awkward in it, like a child playing pretend. The plain girl that stared back at her did not look ready to fight demons. Ayleen was right, they’d just assign her to cleaning duty. Steadying herself he shook off the doubts and grabbed her travelling pouch.

---

Vanni arrived at the camp in Haven with sunrise. Luckily, the roads leading from her village to Haven were clear and the Inquisition soldiers were already stationed along it. She received odd looks from some when she asked for directions, but no one had questioned her motives.

When she finally reached what was left of Haven she was overwhelmed by the amount of people already gathered there. With little difficulty she found what seemed to be a line of people who have also just recently arrived, waiting to talk to the uniformed man holding a stack of papers. While waiting, she took a moment to finally look around properly.

Haven was smaller than she had anticipated. People from her village who returned from their pilgrimage to the Temple of Sacred Ashes made it sound like a majestic place, somehow inspiring and enlightening. Yet what she saw was a makeshift army camp sprawled over a small settlement that circled a simple chantry. She felt nothing but anxiety. The green hole in the sky was much closer here than back in her village. And green light occasionally flickered through the dark clouds that covered the sky.

The noise of an argument directed her attention back to the chantry where crowd had gathered. And from where she stood she could see a division in the crowd.

People wearing robes and men in templar uniforms stood opposing each other, and standing in the middle of the conflict she caught the glimpse of the very man that had caught her attention in her village. Commander Cullen stood his ground and made attempts at calming the situation, being mostly disputed by a man dressed in the chantry’s robes. Just as Vanni thought he was about to lose his temper, a horn sounded through the shouting and with the sound of hooves a silence settled over the crowd. All eyes were on the group that arrived on horseback, fixating on the elven woman leading it.

Vanni herself stared in silent amazement. The elf was dalish, her vallaslin decorating a freckled face that she could only be jealous of. The serenity of the woman’s presence was contrasted by the wildly vibrant ginger hair tucked into elaborate braids.

“It’s the Herald of Andraste.” Someone in the group she stood with whispered.

“An elf as the chosen of Andraste? Nonsense!” Someone else protested.

“It is true. She stopped the tear in the sky for growing bigger. I saw it with my own eyes.” The first voice insisted.

“See the markings on her face? It means she believes in the dalish gods. She cannot be the Andraste’s chosen.” A third voice interrupted.

Vanni watched the elven woman, taken by her foreign appearance, and she gasped slightly when she noticed the staff on her back, but had no time to contemplate about the woman being a mage because a man dressed in an Inquisition uniform was approaching them.

“Names?” He barely looked up from a stack of papers he held. One by one they listed their names, and only when it came to Vanni, the man looked up at her.

“Not on the list. Who do you serve?” He looked her over and shuffled through the papers again.

“I don’t serve anyone in particular ser, I come from a village east from here. Came to offer my service to the Inquisition.” Laina felt her knees grow weaker and palms sweat. He looked up again, measuring her for a moment.

“Go find quartermaster Threnn, she will give you instructions and equipment. Tell her Corporal Tally sends you.” The man pointed her towards a tent. Vanni’s excitement threatened to break through her serious face as she nodded and followed his directions.

Soon she reached a woman whose face was sharp and cold, she barely looked at Vanni and started talking, “If you’re here to clean, Hess can get you a bucket and a broom. Anyone calls you a knife-ear you come to me.” Her voice was flat and sounded as if she had said that sentence too many times.

“No. I was sent by Corporal Tally to pick up equipment.” Vanni protested.

“Yes, I assumed that much. Hess. Broom and bucket.” The quartermaster looked impatient, gesturing to a young man standing by a pile of equipment.

Vanni sighed defeated and nodded, willing herself not to let the tears stinging her eyes flow, her sister’s voice taunting her in her mind. She had to find a way to convince them she could be of more use than as a servant. If they’d only give her a chance.