“Oh wait - what about this Red Jenny note we found yesterday?”
Rathein was looking at the red-colored objects in her hand over breakfast the next morning. Cassandra, already dressed in her Seeker armor with the large eye on the polished chest piece, nodded and took the note from the Herald’s hand. “Yes, it seems like they give us the location of a meeting place. Should we go? We need to return to Haven as quick as we can.”
Athena, who was nursing quite a hangover from the sweet wine the night before, swallowed the piece of fruit in her mouth and nodded to both of the women. “It wouldn’t hurt. Who knows, it could be another ally like Lady Vivienne. At this point we’re too young of an organization to turn away people, right?” The table seemed to be silent in thought but then slowly showed their agreement. Cassandra’s accented voice came in between bites of whatever light meal she had. It seemed like she always ate the least and that was saying something considering Solas ate like an elven bird with his fruits and breads. “We also don’t want to appear desperate. That would attract unwanted negative attention from potential allies.”
It was Athena who nodded this time, finishing off the cucumber-water that the bathhouse had provided. It left a crisp cool taste on her tongue as she pushed back from the table and stood. Varric looked up from his porridge and letters, a curious expression on his face. “Where do you think you’re going? Off day-drinking again?”
A blush came quickly to her cheeks while she tucked a loose piece of hair behind her ear. “I had a rough day, yeah? I missed a chance to go to a book shop yesterday and wanted to see if they had anything that could help me in my teachings.”
Solas and Rathein both looked up from their meals. The Herald, always the energetic one, spoke first. “Well we should really help you. Do you even know what you’re looking for?”
She sheepishly shook her head, rubbing one hand up the other arm in a gesture of anxiety. The two mages caught that and stood from their seats, Solas wiping his mouth with a napkin before turning towards his room. “I’ll meet you at the front of the building in a few moments then?” Athena hummed and waved in reply as he left, a small blush coming up to her cheeks as he did. He was so hot and cold to her it was nauseating. In the game he said things were always easier in the Fade. Perhaps that’s why he was so nice to her there while cold and calculated outside of it.
She was torn from her thoughts by a smack on the back from Rathein. “Come on, now. Let’s go grab your coin purse and get going!” The two girls stopped by their suite and met the elf at the front of the building. She quickly sidestepped from them and ran to Prince’s side, giving him head butt while stroking the side of his face. He stirred from a nap, opening one eye at her. He gave a satisfied head butt in response before returning to his snooze. Kain had decided to come with her from the suite. It was obvious he was anxious to get outside. His tail was a nonstop almost propeller behind him. He weaved in between her feet as she walked, teeth occasionally nipping at the bottom of her boots.
When she returned to the pair they both looked down at her pup with nervous glances. Solas spoke, his voice calm, steady, but obviously lined with trepidation. “Do you think he will behave in the market?”
Kain acted like he heard him, standing in a confident position and growling at the elf. This brought a cheerful laugh from Athena who picked up the pup and nuzzled his nose with hers. “I think he’ll be fine. I’ll take responsibility for him, I swear.”
He actually stayed within her shadow, almost acting like a guard. He sniffed every person who walked by and came closer to her legs when there was someone with a noticeably dark aura. The creature had great insight and was somehow inherently linked with Athena as they walked into the book store. The air was full of dust and the smell of old books. The leather bindings on the books were wrinkled from use and there was a serene feeling in the air which brought a pleasant hum from her lips. It reminded her of an old library.
Upon entering the store, she stopped and took in a deep breath, wanting to spin around in glee but keeping it to herself. Rathein pinched her arm, gesturing with her head to follow Solas through the store. He seemed to know what he was looking for, a hand sliding over the tops of a few books before going “ah” and picking one up. The book was titled “Mythology of the Shapeshifter” and the author was unnamed. The book appeared older than the rest and untouched for some reason. It had an earthy smell to it and the cover was a forest green, dyed and crafted from some animal pelt. The pages were hand written in a cursive writing, like they were almost a journal. While she was slowly browsing through the pages he dropped another one on top of it, obviously not looking paying attention but focused on his own list.
“Hey!” She nearly dropped the second book which was “Glyphs and Runes: Volume 1” by a Magister Quilius. Rathein took the books from her hand and gave her a small shrug with a “what can you do” look on her face. She was more drawn to the section she knew Cassandra would like. It was filled with tales of romance, the colors of red and maroon popping up on the shelves. Athena tapped Solas on the shoulder to let him know she was following the Herald before stopping in front of the first chapter of “Swords and Shields” . . . .written by Varric Tethras himself.
“No way.” She took the book off the shelf and flicked through some of the pages. Instantly a blush came to her cheeks at some of the chapters, eyes still glued to the parchment as Rathein came to her side. “Oh!” There was no hesitation when she stole the book from her hands, her own blue eyes attached to the words as she began reading the first lines of the first chapter.
Solas approached them from behind with a few books of his own in his hand. He quickly glanced at the cover then made a tisking sound with his tongue, turning to go towards the shop keep to pay for his goods. Athena called out for him in a jesting manner, “Oh come now, Solas, not everyone can be so lucky to get their entertainment from the fade.” She gave him a playful wink which only made him shake his head and give the shop keep coin before leaving.
Athena whispered under her breath to the Herald, “Don’t waste your money, I’m sure Varric has a copy we can read. Or someone else might read it too that we know, who knows?” She knew that Cassandra had read every chapter and probably had the books hidden in a chest somewhere in her lodgings back at Haven. They both checked out with the shop keep before meeting up with Solas outside. He looked down and gave them a nod, his eyes suddenly glued on her hand.
“Yes? Do I have something on my hand?” She lifted it up and saw he was looking at the barrier ring she bought yesterday. The silver caught the light and nearly glowed, it bringing a warm sensation to her hand. He reached out with his own hand, a smile teasing the corner of his eyes. “May I?”
She nodded, her breath and words stuck in her throat while her heartbeat pounded in her head. He took her hand gingerly examining the ring with a careful eye. “Barrier ring?” In response to his question she flared her barrier, the now enforced flames dancing along her skin in unison with her breaths. He looked up at her and nodded before dropping her hand. “Wise choice for a novice mage. Let us return to our lodgings and prepare to meet this mysterious ‘Red Jenny’.”
They all returned and while they were walking Rathein gave her an elbow in the shoulder. When Athena looked over the Herald was wiggling her eyebrows and motioning towards Solas, whose back was facing them. She instantly made a face that neared disgust, shaking her head in response while waving a hand between them. The short-haired mage arched a brow as if to press further but then scoffed and looked down while shaking her head. This drew a look over the shoulder from Solas, which only caused them to give each other awkward glances while looking at something really interesting on the ground to avoid his gaze.
By nightfall they arrived at the location marked on the papers and Athena was already on guard, her staff drawn in front of it with mana charged in it. Her eyes were looking for the archer that would appear up top so none of her party members would be surprised from the attacks.
Already ready to battle her gaze found the archer and she snapped her staff in front of her, launching a small burst of fire towards the archer. He was knocked a step back but still had his arrow drawn, looking for the prime target as the party spread out. Her barrage of small attacks continued, her staff and body taking in the rhythm that the other mages possessed. Snap, snap, snap, stab into the ground. It took one round of attacks for the archer to fall, her eyes moving to the next target.
Cassandra gave her a small gesture of thanks while taking down the mercenary in front of them. They made quick work of the group and as they walked through the gate Athena cast a barrier upon them all. It was just in time for the noble on the other side to attempt to launch fire at them. While the noble gloated his ego and tried to make himself seem bigger than he was she looked around the area, keeping an eye out for Sera. Sure enough the dirty-blonde short haired archer came from the side, her voice breaking through the grandstanding. She had her bow up and an arrow drawn back to her cheek, the string taught and ready to fire.
“Just say: What?”
The noble turned, repeating the exact word that would bring his life to an end. Sera chuckled madly, walking over to the body to pull the arrow from it. Athena giggled to herself, receiving a disapproving gaze from Solas. As the group approached the new elven archer, Athena looked to her and smile: “You did warn him. We all heard it.”
Sera gave a crooked grin in return, “Yeah, right? Well good to see you followed the notes.” Her gaze flicked to Rathein and down to her left hand where the green mark of the Rift glowed. “You glow, yeah? You’re the Herald thingy?”
Rathein gave an uneasy step back while ungloving her hand to show her. “Yeaaaah why?”
The red-clothed archer smiled while pointing to some boxes to their left. “Name’s Sera. This is cover, get around it. For the reinforcements. Don’t worry, someone tipped me on their equipment shed.”
The soldiers broke in from the other side of the courtyard and Athena couldn’t help herself from laughing as they did. As intimidating as they were on the top half, they were pants-less on the bottom. Their pale thighs nearly glowed in the moonlight as they ran towards them swords drawn. She reinforced her barrier and kept her staff parallel to the ground, her eyes seeking out the best target. There! A man ran towards her with a one handed sword and shield.
Using one of the glyphs she had seen in her newly purchased book, she drew the symbol quickly and sloppily upon the floor then flicked it a few feet in front of him. He ran over it with a war cry but then was instantly covered in flame. It burst like throwing flour on top of a small fire. His body fell to the ground without any further fight.
“No breeches!” Sera yelled from atop the crate she was standing on, firing her arrows and finding their true mark effortlessly.
It didn’t take long for them to finish off their pants-less enemies. Athena started to actually feel bad for them. What a way to go out. Sera then approached them while sheathing her bow and quiver on her back. “So, Herald of Andraste. You’re a strange one. I’d like to join.”
Rathein almost scoffed but rubbed her chin in consideration. Almost like it was habit she looked to the rest of her party members before focusing on Athena. Athena looked to Sera with a giddy smile, knowing how foolish and lighthearted the rogue was, before nodding. “Wouldn’t hurt to have more people out there.”
Sera tilted her head to the side before asking, “Wait, who are you?”
Athena took a step forward and extended a hand to shake. “Athena, friend of the Herald’s. I don’t glow so don’t worry. I’m just people people.” The familiar phrase seemed to ease Sera’s mind as she shook her hand in return. The group seemed tense but accepting of the new Inquisition and handshakes going around. There was an odd stillness between Solas and Sera as they were introduced, Sera taking a look at his ears and making a disgusted noise. He rolled his eyes before turning back and leading the group from the manor.
Sera and Athena fell into step with one another, the elven archer leaning over and whispering not so softly to her: “He’s soooo elfy. How do ya’ stand it?”
She smirked, sheathing her staff on the back of her armor before shrugging. “Ah he’s not so bad. It’s this one you gotta worry about.” She jested, pointing an accusatory thumb towards the Herald who laughed and pushed the pair over. They were an odd bunch heading back to their lodgings but somehow the Inquisition began to feel more complete and almost like home.