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The Tenth Companion

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“Remind me why I should bother caring about the merchant princes of Antiva,” Partha grumbled, glaring at the marker on the map as if it personally offended her. She braced her weight on the table and leaned her head on her hands - she really wished the humans in the room would have thought to get a table at a more comfortable height for her, but nooo.

“Because their good grace will give us political sway with Orlais and Ferelden, as well as carry our influence to the north.” Josephine’s voice was gentle, but Partha noticed how the ambassador’s oh-so-perfect posture sagged slightly. They’d been standing in this room dealing with information, requests, and general paperwork since before noon. The sun set long ago and they did their work now by the light of candles. She wasn’t the only one itching to get out of that room - once or twice she’d seen Commander Cullen’s head bob only for the man to snap himself to attention. “Besides, we could profit greatly from such an arrangement.”

“Or we could get trapped in some stupid contract that binds us to them for all eternity. I’ve worked with Antivans before and they’re a slippery lot - no offense, Josie.”

“Have no fear, Inquisitor. I have full confidence in our Lady Ambassador and her diplomats,” Leliana said. The spymaster, shock of all shocks, was the only one unaffected by the lateness of the hour. Typical. Did the woman ever sleep? Partha doubted it.

“Fine,” she ran a hand over her face and sighed heavily. “Josephine, send your finest diplomats to negotiate with the merchant princes, and if they accidentally end up selling them our souls I am holding you personally responsible.”

A small smile pulled at Josephine’s face. “I can work with that, Inquisitor.”

“Now, if there isn’t anything else..?” She prayed there wasn’t anything else. Just let this night end.

“Everything else can be dealt with at a later time-”

Praise the Ancestors-

“-except for this one final matter.”

Fuck you too, Leliana.

Partha didn’t vocalize her misgivings because Leliana still scared the shit out of her. She’d been in the Carta long enough to know that some people are dangerous even when you’re on their good side. So the dwarf took the letter Leliana handed to her without complaint.

“This was passed to me from one of the refugees who arrived here yesterday morning.”

Partha scanned the letter before reading it aloud for the council to hear, since she was fairly certain that Leliana was the only one who’d already read it.

Greetings, Inquisition.

I hope this message, along with it’s carriers, arrive to you swiftly and safely. You do not know me. I would not expect you to. Be that as it may, I believe I may be able to offer the Inquisition, more specifically the Herald, my unique skillset.

I am a mage of considerable talent specializing in the healing arts.I wish to pledge my gifts to protect the Herald in the field, if the Inquisition is amiable to have me. I offer this information I have gathered on my own in a show of good faith and with hopes that your people will be able to put it to good use.

I have my own group of specialized contacts through which I gathered this information. I would be willing to use my contacts for the benefit of the Inquisition. I am now heading to Jader with the rest of the refugees who were too weak and injured to cross the Waking Sea with the first group.

I will await to meet the Herald in Jader.

Amelina

“So, an offer for another mage to join the Inquisitor’s inner circle? We already have three,” said Cullen.

“True, though none of them are truly specialized healers,” Josephine added, “Madame De Fer and Solas both have a basic understanding of the art, but if I’m not mistaken they are better with barriers and the like than repairing wounds, and Dorian focuses only in offensive magics. In fact, mages that focus in powerful healing magic have been nearly impossible to find since the Circles fell. This could be a rare opportunity.”

“I can’t take a non-combatant mage with me in the field to fade rifts or fighting Venatori. Healer mages don’t learn offensive magic. I’ve been fine so far with the support Vivienne and Solas can provide,” Partha said, setting the letter on the war table in front of her.

“While that is true for the most part, you can’t ignore how useful a skilled healer would be. You’re still limping a bit from the wound you suffered in the attack on Haven, and I know you’ve had a number of close calls in the field. Your safety is paramount - you’re the only one who can close rifts,” Cullen said, his expression grim. Partha scowled - he was right, but that didn’t mean she liked it. “If I understood that letter correctly, it seems that this Amelina is claiming to be a spirit healer.”

“Interesting and useful as her magical capabilities may be, that is not the primary reason I’m bringing this matter to your attention.” Leliana flipped through the sizable stack of documents she had produced from her cloak earlier. “This is the information this Amelina sent along with the letter. It’s quite… staggering in it’s detail and volume. Locations of Venatori and Red Templar encampments in the Free Marches, details on Qunari troop movements that even Iron Bull has not provided to us. Identities of Corypheus’ agents spread all across southern Thedas. Letters and supply manifests that implicate that Duke Antoine of Wycome has been smuggling red lyrium into the city.”

Each document was passed around as Leliana listed them off. “Duke Antione? I can scarcely believe it,” Josephine mumbled, lingering over the supply manifest. “Perhaps this warrants looking into. I can have Lady Volant attend his next evening party, maybe do some prying.”

Partha frowned cracking her knuckles idly as she though. “The letter mentioned a ‘specialized group of contacts.’ At first I thought maybe Jennies or something similar, but Jennies don’t really do military movements and reports on cult campsites in the middle of the Vimmark Mountains. ”

“Indeed not.” Cullen said in agreement. “Any idea what network she could be a part of, Spymaster? They’re clearly professional.”

“No,” Leliana said. The room fell silent for a moment as three sets of eyes turned to stare at the Nightingale. The woman bristled in an irritated sort of way. “The only network I am aware of that has such a wide reach as this one is the Ben-Hassrath, but I feel it extremely unlikely Amelina falls in line with the Qun given it’s stance on magic. Whatever group she is a part of is good - I’m not sure we can pass up an opportunity to get ahold of contacts like this.”

“Fine. It can’t hurt, at least. I’ve recruited on less,” she said, thinking of Sera in particular. “Jader isn’t too far. I can gather a group and head out tomorrow.” Partha folded the letter and stuck it in the jacket of her coat. “Dismissed.”

All she wanted to do at that point was crawl up the stairs of her tower and sleep, but she needed to get a group together to head out. She mulled over who to take with her to Jader - Varric was an easy choice. He’d had experience working with a spirit healer before and may be able to tell if Amelina was any good. Of the mages, Vivienne would be best to evaluate the spirit healer. Cassandra, in case it turned out this mage was a psycho abomination.

Vivienne was most definitely asleep at this hour, so Partha simply left a note on the First Enchanter’s desk on the balcony. She wasn’t sure about Cassandra, but she could count on Varric to still be in the tavern.

Partha stepped out of the main hall into the brisk night air and followed the already familiar path to the Herald’s Rest. They’d barely been moved into Skyhold for a week and the tavern was the first place fully rebuilt, aside from the main repairs to the walls.

She supposed it showed where there priorities were.

Though it was well into the night, still the tavern was bright and full of noisy patrons. Maryden stood in her usual place, currently singing a song dedicated to Sera. It wasn’t hard to spot Varric - he sat at a table with Bull, a handful of Chargers, and several random soldiers Partha didn’t recognize.

“…and so Hawke said, ‘If that nug gives you any further trouble, I have a soup-er solution to your problem.’” The punchline for what Partha assumed was a hilarious anecdote was met by all those seated at the table with uproarious laughter. Bull spotted her first.

“Boss! Good to see ya,” He said, waving her over. “Glad you’re joining us.”

“Care for a drink, Blush?” Varric asked, already waving to Cabot without waiting for her answer.

Partha rolled her eyes. “Is there nothing I can do to get you to change that nickname?”

“Nope.” Varric said, “You turn bright red at the slightest thing. See? Even right now. You practically match your hair.”

“It’s not my fault. Not like I can control it.”

“I think it’s adorable,” Bull teased.

“Watch yourself, my threat to feed you to Cassandra still stands.” She gave Bull a half-hearted glare. “Speaking of, have any of you seen our resident stabby-Seeker?”

“She turned in a couple hands ago. Why, something up?”

“We’re making a surprise weekend trip to Jader and I want her along. You’re coming too, Varric. And Vivienne. I want to head out sometime tomorrow afternoon.”

“What’s happening in Jader?” Bull asked. Partha passed him the letter from her pocket and watched as he read over it and she gave a brief rundown of the intelligence that came attached with it. “It was enough to make Leliana almost visibly twitchy.”

Bull’s brow rose rapidly. “Sounds big.” He passed the letter to Varric, “If it’s got Red worked up, it must be detailed stuff. Any idea what network this healer’s a part of?”

“No, and neither did the others. That’s the biggest reason why we’re going. We can’t afford to pass up on connections like this.” Partha looked to Varric as he finished reading. “You worked with a spirit healer for years. I’m bringing you and Viv along so you can assess her ability and Cass in case it turns out she’s some possessed freak.”

Varric passed the letter back to her. “Blondie was a damn good healer, that’s for sure. And his combat magic was nothing to sniff at - they made him a Warden for a reason. If this mage is anything close to the caliber he was before he went nuts, I’d say she’d be worth it. You’ve nearly died so many times it’s ridiculous.”

“Pfft. Please. I’ve never almost actually died.”

“Really?” Iron Bull mused, “Then maybe I imagined how you broke your arm and three ribs fighting that Avvar in the Fallow Mire.”

“Or when you slipped and fell down a cliff and almost drowned in the Storm Coast,” Varric added oh-so-helpfully.

“How ‘bout the time she took on three bears in the Hinterlands and nearly got mauled to death?”

“Yeah, and then she literally crawled through a snowstorm after taking an arrow to the knee, getting a concussion, and falling down a mine shaft.”

“Oooh remember when she-”

“Okay, okay! You’ve made your point, I get it.” Partha huffed, slumping in her chair like a pouting child. “Maybe you should’ve nicknamed me ‘Accident’ if I get hurt so much.”

“It was a close runner-up, believe me.” Varric grinned.

“In all seriousness, you should be careful about this. Spirit healers in particular have a reputation for being possessed easier than other mages.” Bull said, suddenly somber.

“Really? Why?”

Varric set aside the deck of cards he’d been shuffling and sighed. “From what Blondie explained to me, spirit healers interact more closely with the spirits than almost any other, since they use their energy to power their abilities. Or something along those lines anyways, it involved a whole bunch of spirity nonsense. You know, typical weird mage shit. When the Circles fell, just about every spirit healer was killed because they were possessed or the Templars were afraid they would be. That’s why they’re so hard to find these days. It didn’t help their case that the guy who blew Kirkwall’s Chantry sky-high was a possessed spirit healer.”

“Oh. Wow. Shit.” Partha muttered. “You’d think that one of my advisors would have mentioned all that.”

“They may have thought you already knew.” Bull shrugged. “If they’re pushing you to go they must think it’s worth the risk. Honestly, I agree with them. Some day you’re going to do something spectacularly stupid and we’ll need someone who can stitch you back together.”

“Oh, don’t you start again.” Partha sighed and stood from the table. “I’m going to turn in. See you tomorrow; Jader awaits.”