Actions

Work Header

Epistulae Quia Non Mentior

Chapter Text

i.

On fine parchment paper, affixed with three seals–one of the Tevinter Imperium, one of the Legion, and one that is the Commander of the Perivantium Legion’s personal seal:

Commander Cullen,

       I have given much thought to your request, and of the offers Ambassador Montilyet’s proxies have discussed in person with me.
       You may think us far-removed from what’s been concentrated in the southern portions of Thedas, but the events at Haven did reach us all the way here to the Imperium; despite what I’m sure many southerners might believe, the vast majority of people here were not pleased to hear of such tragedy. While it is true that our mages do not have the same social dynamic that yours do south of Nevarra, I’m sure you can understand why many–and many non-mages–were nonetheless shaken.
       That, and there have also been reports of rifts opening in the sky across the borderlands near Nevarra, and even further north and into our lands.
       I believe it to be in our best interest, as the Perivantium Legion, as part of the same world, to aid the Inquisition per your request. Thus, I am making the necessary arrangements to come south myself. Though this is not a universally enjoyed opinion, being a non-mage myself, I feel it to be a great enough situation to merit the establishment of an alliance–perhaps even a partnership, to some degree–between the Inquisition and, at the least, the Perivantium Legion, which is under my command.
       I am sending this immediately back with the same raven as flown to me, while I prepare to travel. As such, I should arrive not long after it has been delivered to your desk.
       I cannot bring the requested amount of troops–it will only be a small contingent of legionnaires to ensure safe travel–but I believe my experience and expertise in tactics and military strategies will outweigh the lack of legionnaires I bring.
       Let us hope that this alliance will bring swift closure to these tears in the sky, and a definitive end to those who would threaten the entire world itself.
       I look forward to meeting you, Commander.

                                                       – Legator Legarem Varovelo

In a separate letter on very similar parchment, in the same hand and affixed with the Perivantium Legion wax seal:

Legator Faustus:

       Will be taking time to investigate a growing organization in the south, believed to be directly related to the appearance of the rifts we’ve been getting reports on. I’m leaving Axivor Vidicus in charge during my absence. Unsure how long I will be, but expect it to be at least several months, if not longer. Anticipate regular reports from me, at the least.

                                                                            – L. L. Maretus

On a different paper of medium quality, merely folded in half without any seals, but still in the same hand:

Vidicus–

       Keep noting what you learn. I expect bi-monthly summaries of what you have compiled. Practice the style of note-taking I’ve shown you for your observations. No need to waste the good parchment, either; use the rough pulp.

                                                                                         – LLM

 

Chapter Text

ii.

On fine parchment paper, written in dark reddish black ink. The letter is folded, not meant to be sent long distances, and sealed with a metallic bronze wax, bearing the seal of House Julianus.

My dearest Lady Tiberius,

     Only you are not quite Lady Tiberius anymore. How easy it is to forget, even after I have had plenty of time to adjust to your new title, Lady Valeri. I am certain you will not begrudge me the slip-up—you have always been most kind to me. When I heard the Archon had asked you to go South I was quite shocked. I thought it would doubtlessly turn out to be an empty rumor, but your letter tells me otherwise.

     I will be honest, as I always am with you; I do not savor the thought of you being so far from Tevinter. You are still relatively newly married, fully settling into your new estate with Lucius, and I am sure there are many things that need tending to. Is there no one else that could be sent in your stead?

     There is only bad news from the South, whispers of terrible, unnatural things happening, and I do not see how you being there as a diplomat will do anything. It will not make the South see us in any better light, nor will it somehow ease diplomatic tension between the Imperium and the rest of Thedas.

     But I know you will not heed my pleas. Who would say no to the Archon himself? This very well could be the making of you. Imagine the glory when you return successfully. Everyone will know your name; you shall have to fight them off.

     As your oldest of friends, I implore you, be cautious. There is no telling what you might find in the South, nor can we be certain what this Inquisition is really up to. Tread lightly, keep your head clear as you always do, and trust no one. You cannot be certain what their Nightingale is up to when your back is turned.

     There will be no time for us to say goodbye in person, I hear you are set to depart in a few days time, so I wish you the best of luck. You will handle it all admirably, as you have handled your time in Tevinter. Be safe, dear friend, and I shall keep my eyes trained on the horizon.

                                                                    Safest travels and a swift return,

                                                                                  Octavian Julianus

 

On a small roll of fine parchment, penned in black, flowing script and closed with gold wax stamped with the seal of House Valeri. Attached are the seals of the Magisterium, House Tiberius, and the personal seal of Lady Valeri.

Lady Montilyet,

       I hope this letter finds you doing well. It has been a pleasure working with your emissary, and I am glad to hear that the Inquisition and the Imperium can work together for the greater good. No matter the physical distance or shared history between us it is clear to the Archon and the rest of Tevinter that this Corypheus is a threat to all of Thedas, not only the Inquisition.

       As the Imperium’s official ambassador, I am pleased to know that the Inquisition has the aid of someone as capable as you to champion your cause. They could not ask for a wiser, more well-spoken counselor. I am convinced that they would be unable to find anyone better than yourself.

       In accordance with the wishes of both the Archon and yourself, I will depart with utmost haste. I have enclosed a list of personnel that will accompany me, along with an estimate of luggage so that neither yourself nor the staff will be surprised upon my arrival.

       I look forward to working with you and the Inquisition, Lady Montilyet.

                                                                               Sincerely,

                                                                                   Lady Vanora Valeri

Affixed is a list written in another hand, the lettering small and deliberate.

             • 10 personal attendants

             • 20 personal guards

             • 2 cooks

             • 5 hunters

             • 6 stablehands

             • 2-3 carriages of personal luggage and belongings

             • 1 carriage for personal effects of the entourage

             • 1 carriage for food and practical equipment

 

On a roll of fair parchment scented with lavender, written in flowing, elegant script with no seal affixed. The letter is folded in thirds and set on a table.

Dearest,

    By the time you awake I shall be long since departed. In order to make good time the carriages were packed last night and our journey began well before sunrise. I cannot be certain the exact duration of the trip to Skyhold, but I am told it shall be in the realm of months, not weeks. Fear not, Cato is with me, along with a contingent of guards he has hand selected. I shall be well protected, and the Imperial Highway is well traveled.

    Julia and Felix are attending me as well, I hope you don’t mind. You know how fond I am of them, and they make for good company. Cato and his guards do not provide good conversation. I have left a list with one of your personal attendants with an exact count of the staff I have taken with me, but it should be no-one you will miss. The friends of ours I have employed are listed on a sheet tucked into one of the towels in the bathroom.

    Though I cannot be sure how often I will have the chance on the road, I shall keep in touch as best I can. Be careful while I am gone, and try not to have too much fun with the other Magisters. Enjoy your time with the estate to yourself, and remember: I may not be there, but I am always watching over you.

                                                                       Yours,

                                                                           Vanora

Chapter Text

iii.

In a well-worn, soft leather book, a hand that is succinct; with large capitals and few flourishes, it is the same that penned the military correspondence:

    2035 Cl. 19 — Two weeks, no incidents. Bandits, second night of third week, crossing through northwestern Orlais. Guerrilla Nevarrans still tracking us–small group. Not worth dispatching soldiers to dispense.

    2035 Cl. 28 — Had to stop in southeastern Orlais for warmer clothing. Did not sail—crossing the Waking Sea too expensive, might bring too much notice. Horseback is longer, but less conspicuous. Will also prove worthwhile for traversing Frostbacks.

    2035 Bl. 20 — Trek through the mountains more treacherous than expected–ambushed several times by bandits. Surprised Inquisition hasn’t ensured safer passage—

The handwriting cuts off abruptly, then becomes less pristine, slanted and taking up more space, as if written hurriedly:

    2035 Bl. 24 — Another ambush, but not bandits, it was— There is a smudge of ink before it continues — Creatures, demons, abominations—pouring from a tear in the sky, a tear in the sky. They erupted from beneath the ground, even. We were taken by complete surprise. Lost Herrin and Refys—wish we could have stayed to burn their bodies (just in case—I do not want to think what those creatures would do to them, or worse, with them), but we were forced to run. There was no stopping them. I couldn’t lose any more to those things. We retreated deeper into the mountains, came across a cave system.

The penmanship steadies again:

    2035 Ju. 7 — It only set us back a few days, which was still well within my accounting. I have seen some terrifying and magnificent things done by magic in my life, but never have I seen anything like that. If the Inquisition can truly do something about those… those rifts, then I know that I have done the right thing in deciding to ally with them.

    This goes well and beyond any political posturing or maneuvering any Magister back in the Imperium can imagine.

    Tomorrow we reach the stronghold of the Inquisition, and meet with its leader and advisors.

 

In fine cursive, with long and irregular flourishes at the beginning and end of several capitals on medium-quality parchment:

Varovelo!

    You cannot imagine just how difficult it was for me to wait to write and send you something. What a grand journey you’ve gone and left me out of again—three months without you barking orders at us has turned into the longest boring stretch of time in my recent memory. No, no, stop frowning at the paper—I can feel it all they way in Tevinter. I thought you might like my barking pun, being in Ferelden and all. Is it true each and every person has a dog that follows them closer than their own shadow? Even the children?

    I have to say, you really got saddled with an Axivor exactly like you—are you certain you didn’t have some altus replicate you before you left? He’s just as unforgiving as you are, it’s almost unbelievable.

    But. You must tell me of everything there. The weather, the women, the wine—I think that should cover everything important. Send a few things back to your less worldly, bereft friend, Maretus: some select vintages, possibly with a beautiful escort…

    Perhaps you might even find some entertainment yourself down there—who knows? Anything is possible. Things are strange in the south. It could happen. If I feel the earth shake beneath my feet, I’ll know that you cracked a smile outside of your duties.

    Speaking of strangeness, I do hope you know what you’re doing, going all the way yourself for some upstart group halfway across the world. I’ve never known you to act on a whim, so hopefully that means you’re confident. But—be careful, Maretus. Some Magisters might take your act of goodwill for the sake of what’s right as skirting the edge of disloyalty to the Imperium. I’ll do what I can to keep my ear to the ground, and you know Vidicus would sooner die that see your name dragged through the mud, but… Just be careful.

    Enough seriousness. See? You’ve only been gone three months and already I’ve had to start filling the lack of your sternness. Hurry back (with some good wine in tow, mind, don’t come back without it), in one piece. At least enough of a piece to share a toast. I’d hate to have to draft a eulogy instead of a leave of absence for carousing.

                                                                             Otho

 

On a small, tightly wrapped scroll, wrapped securely around a raven’s leg and sent from Skyhold’s mews:

       V.—Local superstition heard: a scythe sharp enough to cut clouds.—M.

Chapter Text

iv.

Written on high-quality parchment dyed a pale pink color in particularly elaborate cursive, sealed with the crest of House Julianus.

Vanora,

     I am so pleased to hear that you have finally arrived in Skyhold. Octavian tells me that you had a relatively dull journey. Surrounded by soldiers and slaves I can hardly expect it to be anything but dull. How you survived without anyone to have an intelligent conversation with is beyond me. Knowing you I’m sure you brought a small library with you for the exact purpose of keeping yourself busy. For you certainly have not been writing to me to tell me of your travels.

     You have barely been gone three months and already it feels as though an entire age has passed. Silvia is, as per usual, not particularly good company. The woman never stops finding ways to talk about herself. It is one thing to celebrate an achievement and another entirely to brag at every opportunity. A lucky thing she has such a well-known family, else she never would have gotten married.

     Beyond that, I am afraid you have missed very little. Tevinter politics have been much the same now as ever before. There have been no great power plays or changes since your departure, and I hope there will be none before you return. It would be a true tragedy to have you miss out on such excitement. Then again, you do have the excitement of being the Archon’s chosen diplomat to the Inquisition. 

     Even if that does mean being so far South, surrounded by uncultured laymen.

     Hopefully, that ambassador of theirs is good enough company. There ought to be other diplomats, surely, who can entertain. Otherwise, I know not what you’ll do to pass the time. It is so grim and their fashion is so horrible that you absolutely cannot go shopping to pass the time. I swear on the Maker, Vanora, if you come home wearing some Ferelden monstrosity smelling of dog I shall never speak to you again. Don’t bring any of those terrible Orlesian things back either. Why they are so obsessed with ruffles is beyond me.

     With any luck, this will be something enjoyable for you to read amidst whatever other business matters you have to attend to. I expect you shall receive plenty of letters from my brother as well, and if he had any sense Lucius will be writing you frequently as well.

     Do keep me up to date on all the juicy details, darling, and come home soon. I might die of boredom without you here.

                                                 All my love,

                                                       Lavinia

 

Written in heavy, high-quality parchment in flowing cursive, the seals of House Valeri, House Tiberius and Magister Valeri’s affixed.

Darling Octavian,

     With so much distance between us, I will be settled into Skyhold over two months by the time this letter reaches you. You will be pleased to know that the journey was rather uneventful. There were a few bumps in the road, but they were all minor and not worth mentioning in any detail. I believe that my entourage and rather substantial number of guards and personal attendants rather scared off any bandits who may have had their eyes on our little caravan. 

     The South is, as predicted, rather chilly, and the climate is generally disagreeable. Although the sun does shine, Skyhold is so high in the mountains that it feels positively arctic. Though you thought it unnecessary, I am glad to have the furs I bought before my departure. They have come in handy with this inclement weather.

     As for the people, I can say that I am, also predictably, unimpressed. Ambassador Montilyet is quite agreeable and pleasant to speak with. She is well educated and has a sharp mind, but alas, that means she is often with the Inquisitor or guests of the Inquisition. Since I am, apparently, more of a fixture than a guest, her attention tends towards the dreadful Orlesians visiting. The women titter and hide behind their fans and masks like school girls, and although the men are not prone to giggling they have no issue staring blankly. Honestly, with so much talk about The Grand Game one would think them better at controlling their emotions. This mask business is absolutely ridiculous.

     Your sister wrote to me to tell me how you and our friends fare, and I am doing my best not to be too upset you are all a world away enjoying yourself while I am stuck in this castle very much alone. But, as per your request, I have been even more cautious if you believe that possible. Surrounded by strangers and people with dubious intentions and machinations one cannot be too careful in making friends. Though I doubt I shall be making any friends here, out in the middle of nowhere.

     Alas, there is work to be done and other letters to write, and I have spent much too much time writing my complaints to you. Give my love to your sister, and stay safe. With luck, I shall be home before you know it.

                                                With love,

                                                    Vanora 

 

Written on simple paper in small, straight letters and folded into a small, square and sealed with wax.

My lady,

     The guards have all settled into the rooms assigned to us by the Inquisition. I have, as you asked, taken stock of everything and found nothing missing. Each guard is as fully equipped now as he was upon departure from Tevinter. I have looked into the guard schedule posted for Inquisition soldiers. While it appears sound I would prefer you have a guard nearby at all times. There will be at least one guard stationed at your quarters at all time and, if I cannot accompany you, another guard will be assigned to ensure your safety at all times.

- Cato

Written in tiny letters on thin parchment rolled into a tight cylinder, tied with string and sealed with wax.

                V - all is clear on the horizon, no clouds darken the sky.

 

Written in simple cursive on medium quality parchment, rolled into a tight cylinder, sealed with wax but void of any seals.

               Watch for storms the clouds might not tell. 
               Sometimes the most dangerous weather comes from within. - V

Chapter Text

v.

A thickly-pulped cream color paper, with familiar, succinct handwriting, rests on an organized desk:

Otho–

     Still unable to procure that extra ration of wine, I see. I might have to approve a bonus for Vidicus upon my return.

     The weather here is cold. Colder than you’ve ever been. The rumor about the dogs isn’t true–I haven’t seen a single mabari since arriving, in fact. They don’t have much wine here–at least, not the kind that you would enjoy. Mostly they have beers, but they’re all on the bitter side; if you’d like one of those, I will see if I can arrange a keg to be sent to you via Ambassador Montilyet. You can put it on display as a curio from the south.

     As for the matter of strangeness, all I’ll say on it is that you’re partially right: I don’t do things lightly, but this isn’t an act of goodwill. I’m not entirely certain what it is, or exactly how it will be seen (nor can I control that), but I know it’s more important than worrying about what a handful of altus think of my decisions. The Perivantium is my prerogative, and they can bluster at me all they want. Remind Vidicus of this fact as well as yourself. They do not intimidate me.

     I haven’t yet given–

Abruptly, the letter stops mid-sentence.

 

“Oh–do pardon me, I did not mean to intrude if you were busy.”

Maretus sets the quill back in the glass ink reservoir and lifts his full attention to the visitor at his door.

“Lady Montilyet,” he says, standing and giving her a shallow bow, one hand coming up to press fingertips against his chest. “You didn’t have to come to see me yourself.”

“Nonsense. It is my personal pleasure to welcome guests of your station to Skyhold,” she tells him primly with a smile.

He straightens again, years of standing at attention bringing his posture up in near-perfect lines. “To what do I owe the visit, then?”

She raises an eyebrow and glances to his desk. “It can wait, if you were in the middle of correspondence.”

Maretus’s mouth twitches a bit in amusement, but doesn’t move into a true smile. “It’s personal; I’ll come back to it later.”

The Inquisition’s Ambassador nods and flashes a warm smile at him. “Very well, then.” Walking over to his desk proper, she draws a folded piece of parchment stationary out of a pocket and holds it out to him. As he takes it from her she continues. “Your arrival at Skyhold was quite fortuitous, as it coincided with several other dignitaries and other people of higher statuses. As such, the Inquisitor has decided to invite you all to an informal dinner to formally welcome everyone to the Inquisition’s halls and make proper introductions.”

Ah–Maretus knows exactly what this is, no matter what she calls it. He’s been to enough state dinners and Magisterium feasts hosting top-raking Legion officials to recognize it. So, he politely inclines his head without opening the folded stationary.

“Of course. I am happy to accept the Inquisitor’s invitation.”

“Most excellent. You’ll find all the details you need within the invitation itself.” She smiles at him again as if she hadn’t earlier. “It’s been a pleasure speaking with you, Legator Legarem Varovelo. I look forward to seeing you there.”

Maretus watches her leave and waits for the door to close shut behind her before he unfolds the seal and scans the invitation for the time and date and exact place, skipping over the honorifics and pleasantries that litter it. His eyebrows go up–the Inquisitor certainly wastes no time, as the dinner is scheduled for that evening, in the throne room. Both of those things are bold moves, but Maretus will wait and see how it plays out to decide if he’s impressed or not. Then again–he’s not here to be impressed. He’s already been working with the Commander of the Inquisition on a number of things, and it’s very clear he is no dignitary. But, he knows how to play this game, and will play the part as he needs to. Maretus doubts that the Inquisition will be anything like Tevinter, so perhaps this isn’t as much a power play as simply what the Ambassador said it would be.

Alone in his suites, he lets out a quiet laugh. Imagine that–a formal dinner being just that, and not some multi-faceted and calculated maneuver to get the upper hand over others. It’s a good thing that he had prepared for such a possibility and brought along a few formal uniforms to choose between–the dark red, he thinks to himself as he looks thoughtfully up at the closed doorway. Always his best color.

 

The sun is setting when he arrives in the throne room, golden beams of light cascading through high windows and tumbling in through the open doorway, accompanying the hundreds of candles brought it and lit for the occasion. The giant iron chandeliers all have fresh candles in them, and the sconces on the walls flicker brightly. Where normally there would be milling people, a long table has been set out, adorned with several tall candleholders at regular intervals, and places already set. Some people are already here–none of the usual folk who haunt the hall on a daily basis, they have all been cleared out for this–talking with one another and lingering around their seats. The low hum of conversation doesn’t even hiccup at his arrival, nor does he expect it to, but all the same he is greeted by a primly dressed Inquisition attendant and shown to his seat. He’s not particularly near the Inquisitor, nor is he terribly far, a very suitable position for his status. Mentally, Maretus commends the Ambassador a little more; he knows she must have orchestrated this entire thing.

Tugging subtly at the cuff of his jacket, Maretus is glad he chose the less extravagant of his uniforms–the jacket is a deep red and made of a sturdy silk weave that has subtle metallic brocade throughout, with slight epaulettes to sharpen his silhouette. It was bisected around his waist by a broad cloth and belt, ending at his knees. On his left breast he wears the insignia of his rank and Legion, and on the longest finger of his left hand, his signet ring. Maretus isn’t one for extravagance, though he could, with his station, but he doesn’t care for it. It’s enough for him to be precise and looking exactly like what is expected of his job rather than to be superfluously flashy. He rests one hand on the back of his chair as he sweeps his gaze of the rest of the guests already gathered, taking in brief details about their appearance and demeanor as he waits for everyone to arrive and the dinner to officially begin.