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Then Perish!

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In Haven, security wasn’t always very tight. The Inquisition there was still young, led only by the hands of the Divine, perhaps a diplomat, maybe a commander. She slipped in without much hassle. Aries had been a waif of a woman, though she was nearly thirty summers old; you could undoubtedly have counted her ribs and the bones of her spine.

All she carried was the clothes on her back - a worn cloak for travelling, a tunic and pair of pants, and a comfortable but also worn pair of leather boots - and a knapsack with a small amount of food and several bundles of the rarest herbs she owned. Aries didn’t even have a staff, as she would have had to deal with far too many attacks by templars because of it. As it stood, she had been harassed on the road multiple times and was somewhat injured. Bruises on her face and a split lip were all that remained, however.

Aries was a skilled healer, after all. The only reason she’d left herself at all injured was to save energy and herbs. There would surely be wounded at Haven, she reasoned, and she was all too correct. She walked carefully and lightly, but knew she would eventually have to find someone in charge . . . ugh. A voice cut through her thoughts, though.

“Oi! You, elf, what are you doing here?” The voice was coming from one of the guards by the gate, and Aries nearly froze in place. It had been a long time since anyone had dared refer to her as ‘elf’.

She turned around to look the man in the face and strode over, back straight as a rod. Aries was going to get what she wanted. “I’m here to join this Inquisition, of course,” she said, lifting her chin and crossing her arms. “I assume you’re not going to cast away a healer, especially not one so skilled as I. If you’d be so kind as to escort me to whomever handles healers . . .” Trailing off, she stared the guard down. He was younger than her; couldn’t be more than seventeen. The steely glint in her black eyes was dangerous, and he undoubtedly knew it well, from his superiors. Possibly from his mother.

He bent his head slightly, breaking eye contact, and Aries nodded. An elf had probably not addressed him in a manner as she had, but everyone had to learn sometime. When he gestured for her to follow, she fell into step beside him, and they walked briskly to a makeshift tent, pitched over a few tables. A number of women stood under it, all going about separate tasks, and the guard pointed out one in particular before leaving without a word.

Aries made her way to the woman, who was wearing what she deemed to be quite a strange hat (though, having spent most of her life in Orlais, she wasn’t sure if she could judge other people’s fashion choices as being ridiculous), and tapped her shoulder gently to get her attention.

Before she could get a word out, the woman was already talking. “Elf? Okay, head to the kitchen, they can use all the help they can get. If anyone calls you a knife-ear or a rabbit, come to me; we don’t tolerate harassment here,” she began, but Aries was giving her quite a look, and eventually she stopped.

“Thank you for assuming I’m a servant,” Aries said, hands on her hips and looking quite put out. “My name is Aries. I’m a very skilled healer.” She neglected to mention being a mage, perhaps, but it didn’t need to be common knowledge.

The woman blinked a time or two before regaining her train of thought. “Oh! I apologize. I’m Threnn, our quartermaster. We’re quite painfully short on healers, at the moment, and none we have are particularly skilled. You should head over to the middle cottage, up those stairs - you see where that bald elf is standing? - behind him, it’s where our healers have set up,” she explains, pointing in the correct direction. “Solas - that’s the elf - has been in charge of them, but he’s needed for the fighting, and healing isn’t his specialization anyway. If you’re as skilled as you claim, I’m sure they’ll appreciate some direction, and Solas will appreciate not having to watch them all the time.”

“Thank you, Quartermaster,” Aries said, voice still somewhat frosty from the offense. It seemed that although they seemed to be kinder to the elves, here, they were still mostly servants. How nice. She strode over and up the stairs, then hesitated, unsure whether she should head directly inside, or explain her directions to this elf - Solas.

The choice was made for her, though, in the form of Solas approaching her. As she got a closer look at his face, Aries determined that he was fairly attractive and quite tall for an elf. He had no vallaslin, but his foot wraps and choice of clothing indicated a life outside of city walls. Her study was interrupted by him talking. “You’re new around here,” he said, seeming quite calm about it. Judging by his eyes, he seemed to be doing his own study of her.

Aries looked somewhat unusual for an elf, after all. Her eyes were pitch black except for the whites, and her hair was also black, shaved on one side. Pale skin didn’t match the darker tones of the Dalish or Vints. And she was frighteningly thin after all of her travelling. “How astute of you,” she answered, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve been told you’re Solas? I’m a healer; the Quartermaster sent me to find the others. She’s of the opinion they likely aren’t as skilled as I am. Fourteen years of experience tend to make one pretty good at something, yeah?”

“Indeed,” Solas agreed. “I’m sure she also informed you that I’ve been in charge of them so far? I’m a mage and I know some healing, but my time is better spent studying the Breach than trying to herd a few humans that don’t want me to teach them how to set bones.”

Aries laughed ruefully at that, but she remembered her first clinic, just outside the alienage of Val Royeaux. It had attracted some poorer humans, but they quickly got rude. Her bedside manner had never been great, and it only went downhill when she was having to deal with snide comments about how surprising it was that an elf had such extensive knowledge of healing. “I understand. I’m almost concerned about how they’ll react to having to learn from another elf, especially if it’s humans,” she responded. This Solas had a nice voice - she really wouldn’t mind standing there and talking to him for longer, but she had things to do, and likely he did as well, if ‘standing around looking bored’ was what he needed to do.

“Threnn likely gave you the spiel about coming to her if someone bothers you,” Solas began, looking Aries up and down. It was likely he thought that such a small woman couldn’t take care of herself. “But if the healers give you trouble, feel free to let me know about it. Now, I’m sure you’re in a hurry.” It was a clear dismissal, and made her wonder just how powerful Solas was, in Haven.

He carried a staff. He was a mage. Aries tensed and only just caught herself, refusing to flinch. She’d completely overlooked it in her haste. If he noticed, he didn’t indicate it, and she moved swiftly to the door of the cottage, already hearing women’s voices. As she entered, she took in the cots, along both walls, and the tables where herbs and tools sat, waiting to be used. It was suddenly so familiar that she desperately wanted to think it was her own.

As Aries walked in, though, three pairs of eyes shot up to examine her. Human women. “Do you need healing?” one asked. She had red hair, Aries noted, hoping that would help her remember the woman’s name later.

“No, actually. I’ve just arrived. The Quartermaster sent me,” Aries said, setting her bag beside one of the tables. “I’m a healer, and I’ve been doing it for fourteen years, longer if you count my training period. Solas spoke to me on the way in. What have we been dealing with so far?”

The redheaded woman squirmed slightly under Aries’s gaze. “How . . . great. I’m Tess; I’ve been healing for a year or so now. Emma and Ruth have just been here since they joined, neither has professional experience,” she said, clearly annoyed but unable to do anything about it. None of the women looked to be as old as Aries. The eldest, Tess, was maybe in her mid-twenties, and the youngest, Emma, barely eighteen. They were quite possibly the wives or daughters of soldiers.

Tess continued, debriefing Aries on the situation. “Demons were pouring out of the Breach until that other elf showed up. According to the rumors, she was the only survivor of the explosion at the Conclave. Solas has been tending to her, but if you’re skilled, it may get passed to you. We have lots of wounded soldiers and not a lot of room, so here we have the men that need the most care. Less severe injuries are elsewhere,” she explained.

Aries was already at home in the small clinic, and walked down the middle of the rows, inspecting injuries and how they’d been cared for. “So far, you’ve been doing fairly well,” she said, finally, despite knowing that hearing something like that from an elf would rub all three women the wrong way. Perhaps there was no point in antagonizing her new coworkers . . . but it was fun. “Tess, you should stay here and keep an eye on all the patients. Come get me if anything happens or you find yourself unsure of what to do. Ruth, Emma, you two can accompany me to the rest of the men that need care. A little more training never hurt anyone.” Her orders were clear and calm. Emma scrambled to get supplies, and Aries helped her; by the time they walked out the door, they had plenty to attend to anyone that needed attending.

“None of you are mages, right?” she asked, as the trio passed Solas again. His eyes skipped over her, then came back to give her a raised eyebrow. Both girls shook their heads, and Aries sighed slightly. “Great. Okay, that was more sarcastic than I meant it to be. Lots of soldiers are scared of mages, especially ones not in a Circle . . . oh, here we are.”

She looked out over the rows of makeshift cots and bedrolls. The Breach was sealed, maybe, but she had a lot of work to do. And she hadn’t even been assigned quarters yet.

Aries nodded and made her way over to the first untreated man she saw, both of her new students in tow. “Now, this isn’t a very complex injury, so Emma, how about you treat it? I want to get an idea of where you’re both at. If we get to something you don’t know how to do, or you’re doing incorrectly, I’ll help you.”

The rest of the day went like that, teaching the younger healers and doing a fair bit of work. They broke for lunch and then dinner, but the work of healers never really stopped, so Aries ended up working late into the night, until Emma was yawning more than actually working. Then she forced them all to bed and returned to the main healer’s cottage, where she retrieved her bag. During their healing, she’d been found by a messenger and given the location of her quarters.

As soon as she was there, she noted the small pile of clothes and other necessities that were provided for her, but fell asleep nearly as soon as she was horizontal. Tents weren’t very comfortable . . . but it was better than the ground.