Chapter 1: Divine Intervention
"The world becomes such a dark and lonely place when the Gods are not ready for your death, but you are..."
How many times had he been there before? Different places, different people, sometimes different methods...Sometimes a blade held tightly to the throat, drawn across it slowly and evenly, to make a perfect slit for blood to ooze from, trickle down, seep through a white tunic like red ink splattered on parchment in haste...Sometimes claws that tear through flesh, leaving jagged marks, and stains on the fingertips that take days to wash away completely, though the stain left on the spirit only darkens...permanent...
Sometimes drawing from magic to paralyze the victim and slowly drain their life's essence, add it to his own, and as the last breath is taken and the life leaves the target's eyes, his own eyes begin to close, drinking in the power...Blades, bows and arrows, magic, fire and lightening... Pushing a mark off a very steep cliff...So many ways to kill a man...So many men, so many women, so many years repeating the same course of action...But all with the same outcome. Death.
And here he was again, singing the same tiring song.
In Tamriel they say the music of life is silence, and so begins the sweet melody of sorrow and lament through the silence of death. For an assassin, the song is sung every night, heard by their gradually withering spirit until they themselves draw their last breath, meet the pitch black orchestra of silence in their own death, and rest eternally in the Void. There is no other place for a murderer. There is no other oasis, no other water to drink but the waters that run red, for the unholiest of mortals that walk the twisted paths, through the darkest alleys of the cities on Nirn.
There would be no Moons calling his name, calling him back to the warm deserts and lush forests, with voices as sweet as a sugar tasting tongue. Only silence waited. But...perhaps there was peace to be found in silence. Peace that Ra'viin had prayed for, but was not granted, for he had yet to find a creature powerful enough to grant him death.
He stood over the woman he had stalked in the shadows, stood taller than most, nearly seven feet high, a giant compared to the small, trembling Breton woman that struggled behind his hand. Both of hers gripping his tightly, trying to wrench it away from her mouth so that she could scream, and alert the others in the temple of his presence. She had yanked on his fur, kicked behind her, trying to kick him, kick at anything she could reach, so he picked her up and pressed her against his chest, facing away from him, and more of her effort was now on trying to break free with her petite fingers from his grasp.
She was in not but a sleeping gown, her priestess robes discarded for the evening, laying down for bed when he snatched her up, and now she sweat, shook, and even tried to bite the palm of his hand, though not succeeding. The blade raised, poised at her throat, ready to be cut. She whimpered behind his hand.
He had heard the sweetest voices cry and beg him for mercy and never relented. He had heard men trade their fortunes, shining golden septims, homes, horses, even their own children if he would let them live, but he did not give in to them. Women had offered their bodies, as sweet and curvy as they were, but it was never enough to tempt him. Though he was tired. Tired of living, of not dying and being welcomed with blessed silence in the end. Tired of the sun, the Moons refusing to light his path, or look his way, tired of people, of things. Tired of life. And the trembling, pure and virginal Priestess of Mara that hung in his arms had offered nothing.
She would not bargain for her life, but fight for it, for a time, until she stopped moving all together, and was as silent as the grave, giving in to her fate, her death, as it was. He heard her sigh behind his hand, and muffled whispers. Praying. He loosened his hand to hear her words, so that he could whisper back how fruitless they were.
"May Mara bless your broken soul." she whispered behind his hand, and he dropped her.
She tumbled to the floor as he backed away, backed up against the wall behind him, for all intents and purposes staring in horror. A murderer, a foul beast of a creature who would get no mercy for the life he lived, and here was a woman praying for a Goddess' mercy, for him. She should have prayed for herself, that her guardian would save her from the evil that awaited her in death, but...No. She prayed for him. The very idea seemed so fantastical.
He had never broken a contract. For the oath of one was not written on paper, but in blood, a binding seal that could not be broken by any mortal. And yet he dropped his ebony dagger, hearing it clatter on the floor, as he himself sunk to it, watching the slender woman, breathless, prostrate on the floor, dark curls falling around her face, trembling, tears slipping down her sun kissed cheeks.
A beautiful human woman she would have been, had she not cast aside material things in service to the Divine. So instead of a painted face, and jewels hanging about her neck and arms, bright tones to contrast in color against her skin, she sat in a crumpled heap in plain, white, barren misfortune. The only ornate feature being the glitter of her tearing eyes, amber that shown like gold.
"Mercy for him, as he has shown me. Find a way to grant him peace." she whispered, and then she began to change.
...There was no light in the room save for a candle burning on a stand and it extinguished. In that moment, as she whispered her prayer, it seemed something had answered her. From the pitch of those few seconds that the room was engulfed in darkness, there came a glow. White, ethereal, glittering like a diamond against the twilight of the room, casting magical shadows across them like smoke. The woman paled, swallowed up by the glow that started at her eyes, then soaked through her form like crystal waterfall, tumbling down to her feet as she stood. She turned to him, but she was no longer a Priestess of Mara.
He had no words for the spectral form that slowly approached, each step as graceful as a prancing faun. Long twists of moonlight for hair, an aspect of the being the woman prayed to, floating to him like a dancer, reaching out to him with her hand as he inched away from the touch, then sat frozen in place, flat against the wall behind him, staring with wide yellow eyes for a moment as she laughed, her laughter sounding like a lute.
"You are so tired, Ra'viin, why don't you rest." Mara spoke to him, a sad smile forming on her features. "Put down your blade and sleep peacefully."
"How can this be?" he asked, his accent making his words sound like a drum playing lightly along with the lute of her voice. He wanted to sleep peacefully, he truly did. But what peace could come to an assassin, he wondered? If not the peaceful silence brought with death? "Why has Mara come?" he asked. "To Ra'viin of all people?" he wrinkled his brow, more confused than anything.
"To answer my daughter's prayer. To give you peace where you have found none." she said softly, knowingly, seeing the truth in his heart, hearing the prayers of the Priestess, and his own not spoken aloud. "To give you a reason to live. You've been slipping Ra'viin." she laughed. "The guards already know you are here. They will be here soon. Surely you do not want to die today, do you?"
"If this one is truly a Goddess, then she already knows the answer to that." he said coldly. Then he slumped back against the wall. "Let them come then." he said, already making his choice to give in, longing for the chopping block that awaited him. "Ra'viin is ready for them." he shrugged. "Let's hope they are strong enough to kill him this time." he narrowed his eyes as he spoke of himself.
Mara stepped toward him, blinding him with her light as she knelt down to ruffle the fur on his cheek. So odd to be touched by an aspect of a Divine. He had never doubted her existence, of course, but she was the embodiment of everything foreign and opposite of his nature. To think that one such as she would shine her light upon him. Moreover, to think that one such as her would have the power to speak to him through the flesh of her Priestess. That she would speak to him. And touch him now, as she did.
"There is another way, child, to find peace, than only through death." she told him.
"What other way then?" he asked, humoring the Goddess. She smiled.
"Love." she answered. And the Khajiit erupted in cold laughter. Of course, the Guardian of Love that appeared to him would say such things.
"Ra'viin is not capable of love." he spat. "What manner of creature would be insane enough to love Ra'viin?" he chuckled. "Foolish Goddess. Even Khajiit see this one as a monster. When a race made up of guiltless thieves and bandits fears Ra'viin? What does that say about him?" he smiled a wicked smile, though no doubt the Goddess could see the pain brought by that truth, hiding in his eyes. 'Twas a lovely thought at least, but wishful thinking.
"You do not think I know this? And you mock my favor?" she asked, drawing away, moving to stand tall before him, much taller than even himself, if that were possible. "You think it not possible for Mara to grant even the most pathetic of creatures, creatures like you, the chance to find love?"
He sighed. "Ra'viin thinks it's foolish to do so." he goaded.
There were footsteps then. Sounds of people coming up the stairs to the sleeping quarters of the temple, where he sat and conversed with the spirit of a Divine. The guards Mara spoke of. They were searching the quarters for the large, black Cathay-raht that broke into the temple and ignorantly left a trail. In truth, he didn't care. He'd run, he'd fought, for too long, and he'd half a mind to think he'd done it on purpose, and let them find him, simply so he didn't have to run anymore. Perhaps he did.
"They'll be here soon, child. But it isn't too late. There is another way. If you take my hand." Mara stretched hers out to him, beckoning for him to take it. He simply stared at her.
"This one is a fool." he told her, unmoving from where he sat, staring up at her unamused. She simply smiled at him.
"Says the murderer who let my priestess live. You have shown mercy, and now, mercy I will show you." she leaned her head, the footsteps and voices slowly getting closer, louder, as she spoke. "Are you not curious, mortal?" she spoke in a mocking tone. "Of what awaits you on the other side?...Take my hand, come with me before it's too late. You will not get another chance." All the while she smiled at him, a warm, beautiful smile, drawing him in. "Though I must warn you, Ra'viin, once you take my hand, you can never come back."
He was curious. What fate could possibly await him, what could the Goddess possibly have planned that didn't end in his death? Or maybe he was dead already, or this was only a dream. Perhaps a bit of both, and this was the in-between, what his kind called the Lunar Lattice, and he was merely a step away from the next life that awaited him, and if he took her hand he would go there, instead of to the bottomless pit of the Void. Given a choice, no, more like an ultimatum, the only alternative to an assassin's expected fate. And she still held out her hand to him, as he mulled it over. Silently begging him with her glowing orbs for eyes that he take it. He sighed. Why not? He asked himself this. When, indeed, he was far too curious. So he took her hand.
"There is nothing to come back to but an empty void." he said to her, feeling the power in the grasp of the aspect he clung to.
There was a flash of blinding light, filling the room, knocking back the Imperial guards that opened the door. It took several seconds for them to collect themselves, before they entered the room to find it empty, to their surprise, when they'd at least expected to see a dead Priestess of Mara on the floor. They scratched their heads in confusion, most certain that this would be where they found the assassin, as this had been his target, according to the tip they recieved. But she was no where to be found. There was not but an empty bed, and it seemed that the guards' new task would be organizing a search party...though this Priestess would never be found again.
And Ra'viin? The assassin himself transported elsewhere...pun most certainly intended. Though the 'where', of course, that was the key. Where he was, it was no place a Tamrielan had ever been. Some place new. Some place different, foreign, where an explosion occurred that ripped through the sky, tearing open the world, exposing it to another, where all manner of atrocities fell through, like eerie green lightening bolts striking the ground. A place where soldiers fought back the demons spilling through, though failing to do so. In desperate need of a hero; in desperate need of a miracle.
A place where a Seeker of Truth was completely convinced that the monstrous demon that took the form of a cat, a colossal beast of a creature, was sent there to destroy them all. For on its hand was a mark of power, believed to be connected to the Breach, through which the demons fell. The Seeker, Cassandra Pentaghast, at war with her conscience, for there was an Apostate, an elf that persisted in the theory that this mark could also close the Breach. That this demon could be the only thing standing between them and complete chaos.
This place, where Ra'viin lie unconscious in a cell, down in a Chantry dungeon...This place...A place called Thedas.
The year, 9:41 of the Dragon Age.
Chapter 2: The Demon At Our Door
There were no words to describe the survivor of the explosion at the Conclave. Seeker Pentaghast could give none. Never had such a creature existed in Thedas, and the most recent recruits to the Inquisition, that accompanied her to search the wreckage of the Temple for survivors, could only describe him as a demon. Supposedly he fell out of the Fade itself through a rift at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, just like the other monstrosities that plagued them, and many already believed him to be the Harbinger of the destruction. A shadow of the Forbidden themselves.
But if there was even the slightest chance that they could use the magic on the creature's hand to reverse the terror in the sky, the Inquisition had no choice but to take it. They were the only ones who could act, the only ones standing between what was called the 'Breach', and the innocent people of Thedas.
Lady Josephine paced in her borrowed office as her dear friend, and skilled infiltrator, Sister Leliana, stood downstairs with the Seeker, in hopes to interrogate the creature for information when he woke. The Antivan wrung her hands in her worry, her breath caught in her throat, and by the Maker, she was confounded.
Supposedly he looked like a cat, of all things, though, Josephine could only wonder what that really meant. She had yet to see him for herself. Had yet to venture down into the dungeon to see, and Leliana practically forbid it, by chance he could have powers they were unaware of, or should he attempt to attack them.
She had cried silent tears for days, trembling as they fell from her cheeks in light of the destruction. For the moment, Haven was far enough away from the onslaught, but it didn't stop anyone from shaking with fear, as they were still so close, praying ceaselessly to the Maker for those that armed themselves to combat the monsters that fell from the sky. And they would only get closer, as the Breach expanded in the heavens with each passing hour.
So much chaos, so much death, clinging to the air like thick rolls of smoke to suffocate the very spirit of a man. So many people died in the explosion. And Josephine couldn't bring herself to move, to be of any help to anyone, without her knees feeling weak, frightful that this was the end.
But when she did wipe the tears from her cheeks, and venture out of the cold and dusty room she was in, she heard whispers. Frightened whispers. But also whispers about the magic on the creature's hand. The possibility of it being able to reverse the Breach in the sky. Followed by the angry, screaming voice of the Seeker downstairs, and...what sounded like a lion's roar.
It made her curious. Hopeful that whatever this person was, perhaps he was no demon, but maybe, just maybe, was meant to help them. So she fought instinct, and against Leliana's suggestion, opened the door to the dungeon to listen.
The enticing Divine had lied to him, hadn't she?
That was how it felt, when Ra'viin woke to find himself in a cell, with thick iron bars, his fur wet from the damp floor he'd slept on, and his bones ached from the unforgivable nature of it. His natural skill at seeing in the dark quickly revealed that he was alone in the dungeon. No other prisoners but him. He was no better off than what he would have been, had he let the guards take him into custody at Mara's temple in Bravil.
So she had lied to him. Death was truly the only answer. Though...he was obviously not in Bravil. He'd seen the inside of their dungeon, knew every inch of it, inside and out. And this was no such place. Though dark, damp, and honestly...comfortable, for someone like him who had endured far worse. Perhaps...that was the answer. It was not death that awaited him, but a life forever locked in a cell, with peace and quiet. That was supposed to be the alternative?
There was a rumble, as he sat on the floor in thought, making him stand up and grasp the bars of the cell, listening. Somewhere, beyond this dungeon, there was an earthquake. And he could hear the faint sounds of fighting, screaming, crying even. Wherever he was, this city was at war, which would explain the empty dungeon, not so much as a guard in place.
Perhaps they'd forgotten about him, too busy fending a siege, and he had just the opportunity he needed to escape. To Oblivion with lockpicks, he didn't need one. He examined the lock to find the claw of his index finger would fit perfectly inside and it would be easy enough to...
The door to the dungeon opened. People appeared, human, from what he could tell, and curiosity overwhelmed him. He was surprised his curious nature hadn't killed him already and he'd lived as long as he had. Four figures approached and their armor was strange. Shining metal breastplates with no markings he recognized. Looked like a sword with an eye in the hilt, curvy lines extending, branching out around the emblem. Two of them, men, shaking in their boots, fearful, he could smell it on them. Fearful of him.
They flanked two women, one of which also had armor with this interesting seal, along with short black hair and scars across her features. Somewhat attractive, for a woman more akin to a man than any feminine form. Much like a Nord woman, who preferred swords and shields to silk sheets and frilly dresses. She was not afraid, so much as she was angry, though Ra'viin had yet to know why. The forth person, standing just to the right of her, a woman wearing a hood, hiding red locks of hair underneath, an emotionless expression, more curious than afraid, it seemed. The short haired woman drew her sword as she approached.
"Start talking!" she barked angrily. Ra'viin couldn't help but sneer.
"Ah, this one is the feisty one, yes?" he asked. He looked her over. "You'd be a lot of fun to play with, though..." he slowly turned his head to the other. "This one usually prefers redheads." he jeered coldly, with a twinkle in his eye. The redhead only slightly rolled her eyes at his remark, other than that, no response. The short haired woman rapped her sword against the bars of his cell, demanding his attention. He hissed at her.
"This is no game, demon!" she growled. "What have you done, and how do we stop it?!" she demanded. And she called him a demon. Very interesting. He had been called many things in Tamriel, but never a demon. It made him wonder why.
"You have to be more specific." he relented with a shrug. "Khajiit has done many things. All of which make him deserve to be right here." he smiled. The woman growled and lunged at him, but the redhead stopped her, by putting a hand on her shoulder.
"Khajiit...is that your name?" the redhead asked, with a peculiar accent, much stranger than human voices he was accustomed to hearing. He leaned his head to the side at her words. She'd never seen a Khajiit? Where the fuck was she from?! And how cut off from the world had she been?
"That is what Ra'viin is, not what he is called. Ra'viin is his name." he explained. "Mmm, what is yours, pretty thing?" he inquired, sticking his muzzle through the bars, bearing his fangs. Intentionally berating her. But still she didn't react, at least not much. She did not know what he was, yet she was not afraid, and neither was the other one, though she called him a demon. All very intriguing things. This was very strange. The men nearby swallowed nervously. He wasn't in Cyrodiil at all, was he?
"Enough of this!" spat the short haired shield maiden, growing irritated. Ra'viin sighed.
"Just what is it that you think Ra'viin has done?" he asked, but it only made her angrier.
There was no answer just yet from either woman, as they glanced at one another then back at him. There would be no answer for a moment still, as another earthquake shook the ground, and what sounded like lightening crackled in the distance. A storm brewing. As this occurred, so did something else. Something sparked on Ra'viin's left hand, searing it with immeasurable pain, matching in rhythm with the quakes outside the dungeon. It hurt immensely. He backed away from the door of the cell to stare wide-eyed at the awful magic on his hand.
"Fuck!" he cursed aloud. "What the fuck have you done to me?!" he raged, his words turning into a roar in his throat. He slammed against the cell door and roared again, making the two woman present jump back in alarm. The men behind them drew their swords, but they still looked as frightened as ever, like two small children.
"Hurts, doesn't it?!" the short haired woman spat. "It's killing you! You deserve nothing less for all that you have done!"
He reached through the bars to swipe at her with his claws in anger, but she avoided it well enough, and was about to swing her sword around and down ontop of him when the redhead pushed her back, holding her at bay, coaxing her into speaking privately with her at the far end of the room.
"Maker's breath." muttered one of the men, but Ra'viin ignored them, concentrating more on soothing his stinging hand, snarling and hissing, then pressing himself against the bars, desperately wanting to sink his teeth into the short haired woman and tear her apart.
"He's a monster!" he heard her hiss at the redhead, glancing back at him, eyeing him hungrily, itching to cut him to pieces, and it made Ra'viin smile a little. The feeling was mutual. "You heard all that he said!" she told the other.
"He doesn't know how the mark got there." the redhead whispered, ever so quietly, though Ra'viin could still hear her well enough with his fine-tuned senses. "He thinks we did it. How could he not know what happened? Unless he doesn't remember..." the woman's eyes flitted about in thought, and she rubbed her chin. "Or he isn't the one responsible for all of this, Cassandra." her eyes darted to the short haired woman's. Cassandra's.
"Mmm, Cassandra. Pretty name." he jeered quietly, making her shoot an angry glare at him. "Now we just need the redhead's name, so Ra'viin knows what to put on their gravestones." he glared back. Cassandra darted toward him, but once more the redhead held her back, shooting a glare of her own for a brief moment.
"He's toying with us, Seeker. Ignore him." she said evenly, then she placed her gaze on Cassandra once more. "Solas instructed explicitly that the mark could be used, but he must be willing to help us." Help them? With what? "It will not work otherwise." Cassandra huffed at this, breathing in and out through her nose, nostrils flaring like an irritated bull, about to charge.
"He expects us to negotiate with that...that thing?" she spat, her eyes shooting up to meet his. The redhead gave Cassandra a look, then approached him once more, keeping herself at a safe distance from his claws, but boldly standing before him, hands laced behind her back, head held high, looking him over with her crystal blue eyes, an expression of tranquility masking her uneasiness.
"Tell us what you remember." she said, more commanding than pleading with him. "Unless you'd rather spend the remainder of this life stuck in that cell." she smirked. "However short of a time that may be."
He snorted. "Ra'viin was in the city of Bravil." he admitted, humoring the redhead. "Nasty place, if you've never heard of it. This one can tell by your face that you haven't. Where is Ra'viin now, he wonders?"
Cassandra looked like she wanted to kill the redhead just then, for she begrudgingly relented the information.
"We are at Haven's Chantry. A safe distance from the Temple." she said.
"Temple? What temple?" he asked then, leaning his head, his curiosity evident in his expression. He'd never heard of Haven, much less did he know where it was. He knew quite a few things about Tamriel, but never heard this...So, he was not in Tamriel, then? Atmora? Akavir, maybe? No, there was no way there would be humans in Akavir. So where was he? Where did the Goddess dump him? For it was most certainly not the Temple of Mara they spoke of. Of that he was sure.
"So you don't remember being at the Temple of Sacred Ashes?" she asked. Cassandra grumbled behind her. "Interesting." the redhead mused.
"All this one remembers is escaping the guards in Bravil, then waking up here. Ra'viin wonders why. What is it that you think he has done, that he does not remember? Hmm?" he purred as he spoke, keeping outwardly calm. The redhead glanced back at Cassandra, who huffed at his response.
"He's lying!" she spat. "He admitted he's done things to deserve to be in a cell! Why would you think he would not lie, Leliana?"
He chuckled. "Cassandra...and Leliana." he said their names. "So, what do you two pretty little pigeons think I have done?"
"What makes you think we believe anything you've said, demon?" spat Cassandra. "That you can't remember causing the Breach in the sky? You expect us to-"
There was a noise behind them then. One that made Ra'viin lean his head to see what it was, making out a new figure in the dim light, coming through the darkened hallway, seeming to glow, almost like the Goddess that cursed him to this place. His eyes squinted to see the woman better, then widened when he could.
"Josie!" exclaimed Leliana. "You shouldn't be here!" she warned the woman that had entered the dungeon, staring at the Khajiit in the cell on the other side of the room.
"I had to see it for myself." said the woman. Ra'viin careened his neck to see her better, but Cassandra only growled at him and blocked his line of sight, perhaps...thinking he would antagonize, or corrupt this exquisite creature coming to gawk at him? But she moved closer still, and when Ra'viin could see her better...his heart dropped to his feet.
From her golden clad boots, to her ruffled skirt, trimmed with lace, to the royal blue overture that hugged her curves, to her full pouting lips that trembled, fearful, evident in her glittering brown eyes...the little freckles that dotted her nose and cheeks...this woman was worlds apart from the other two present. She was no warrior, no rogue, no soldier in heavy armor carrying a broadsword. She was a lady. The most graceful of women, it would seem, who stood with her manicured hands laced together in front of her, leaning her head to the side, staring at him in wonder. Not so much fear in that moment as it was fascination, though, Ra'viin detected she was certainly fearful of something, though it didn't appear to be him.
He always had a fixation on human women, but this one? This one was beyond beautiful, he had to admit.
Her hair...as black as night, pulled away from her face, though no doubt it stretched the length of her back, and a few loose curls fell down around her cheeks...He was certain that hair was as soft as any imported silk. Surely he was not in Tamriel anymore...surely he wasn't even on Nirn. Surely he reached an immortal plane of the Gods. For surely one so beautiful as this one could not exist in a mortal realm. He couldn't help but stare at her, just as she now apparently stared, entranced, back at him.
Josephine could hardly believe her eyes. In the shadows of the cell lurked a large creature, covered in black fur, standing upright on two legs, but from what she could tell, he certainly resembled a cat. So that was no jest, but truth, in fact. With long black braids, decorated with tiny golden rings, yellow eyes, and gleaming fangs. He was frozen in place when she approached, staring at her, as if she were a ghost. Confused by her, confused by everything, as if he didn't understand. Could he truly be a demon? Certainly strange, certainly monstrous in nature, but...a demon?
"What are you?" she couldn't help but ask when she neared him, ignoring Cassandra and Leliana's silent pleas for her to leave him be. She stayed out of arm's reach, but she got close enough to notice more of his features, and a long black tail that flicked.
"Khajiit." he said quietly. "This one is called a Khajiit. What are you, pray tell, princess?" he asked. She swallowed. His voice sounded eerily human, familiar even, as if he were a man once, but changed somehow into this thing that now stood before her. She managed a slight nervous chuckle.
"Human." she answered. "I'm no demon. I am Lady Josephine Montilyet, of Antiva." she answered, looking him over. "What...what is your name?" she asked him.
"Ravine." he answered, rolling his tongue, almost purring as he said his name.
"'Ravine'?...Like...like a canyon?" she asked, and he chuckled.
"Yes, princess, like a canyon." he answered. "Perhaps...this one will explain to Ravine what is going on." he said evenly, glancing at Leliana and Cassandra for only a second. Clearly they had gotten nowhere with interrogating him, evident by how flustered Cassandra was.
Josephine looked back at them for a moment, noticing the look on her friend's face. Leliana was calm, but wary. Forbidding her to speak with him, also believing he was a demon, perhaps. But what could it hurt? It wasn't like things could actually get worse, could they? When surely they would all die anyway if they couldn't find a means to stop the demons, or reverse the Breach. Perhaps if an angry Seeker, or an illusive spy couldn't get the job done, then maybe niceness could work where knives couldn't.
"Please, we need your help." she begged him, willing herself not to tear up just then, her heart pounding in her chest. "The Breach outside these walls is tearing this world apart, and the magic on your hand may be the key to stopping it. Please...please, if there is any chance you were sent here to help us, Ravine..." tears started to slip. This was pointless, wasn't it? She half expected him to start laughing at her.
"The Breach. What is it?" he asked, sticking his nose through the iron bars to inch closer to her, gripping the surrounding stems of metal with both hands...hands? He had hands. Not paws. But hands, like a human's. Though covered in black fur, and the nails were sharpened to a point like claws. Had he been human once, then?
"It is a hole in the sky, in which demons have been pouring through." she explained fervently. "It's killed thousands. And the magic on your hand may be the only hope of closing it, if what the elf said is to be believed." she glanced back at Cassandra.
"Is this true?" he asked Cassandra. "This Breach is a portal to a demon world? This is what your people war with outside?" he furrowed his brow. Cassandra sighed.
"You truly don't know, do you?" she asked.
"You really don't remember what happened." Leliana contemplated. "You remember nothing of it then? The Conclave? The explosion? Nothing at all?...Then you very well could have come into this world through the Fade, for all we know. Now the question is...are you a demon...or something else entirely?"
"Ravine knows not what you speak of, but if this magic is the key to stopping the chaos..." he jiggled the bars of the cell. "Then let me out of here. NOW." he spat. The three of them backed away a little, reacting to his angry display. "Well? What are you waiting for?" he barked.
"Bring me the key." Josephine said as she turned to Leliana.
"Josie, I don't think-"
"Just do it, Leliana. Please." she pleaded with her. "You can blame me for this later." she put her hands on her hips. "What other choice do we have? If it works, then thank me. If not, we're all dead anyway."
At that sudden revelation, hearing the cold hearted truth, Leliana motioned for one of the guards to give up the key. Though neither one of them would, slowly backing away, swords still drawn, trembling wildly. So Cassandra reached for the keyring on the guard's belt, wrenching it free, giving the cat a menacing look as she shooed him away from the door so she could unlock it.
He didn't burst through the open door, but in fact stepped out slowly, and Maker's breath, was he ever so tall. Josephine didn't realize he'd actually been ducking down a little to look at them inside the cell and was now at his full height, nearly seven feet. Almost as big as any giant, she wagered, with large fangs that probably ate Qunari for breakfast. Or looked like they did anyway. A terrifying, yet...magnificent sight he was. Barely resembling anything human at all, save for the pants he wore.
"Where are my clothes?" he asked, chuckling a little at the expression Cassandra gave him. "This one is Cathay-raht, little thing, he does wear clothes."
He glanced down at Josephine, who was still standing there, looking him over, trying to figure out what exactly he was and how he came to be, every inch of his large frame, lean muscle, covered in shining obsidian fur.
"Say a prayer for Ravine, princess." he winked, before leaving the dungeon with the others, leaving her there. Frozen in place. And but of course, what did she do?
She said a prayer. That's exactly what she did. Hoping and praying she was right about this...Khajiit.
Chapter 3: Enemy of My Enemy
The one called Cassandra stared at Ra'viin with mild interest as he buckled the straps to his black leather armor, then slung his duster over his shoulders. As if she found it humorous that he should actually wear clothes. Like he was nothing but a 'big talking cat' to her, and more beast than anything. The irony that most of his own kind sometimes wore clothes if only to appear more man or mer in nature, and less like beastfolk. Though he could admit to himself in earnest he was more beast than anything, and he very much enjoyed that about himself. This Cassandra, however, made it seem like an insult.
But they kept his clothes, clothes he most certainly needed upon the realization that it was bitter cold wherever he was, as cold as the most northern parts of Tamriel. All that he owned came with him. His armor, his coat, the pair of ebony daggers that he holstered at his hips, and even a small coinpurse. Apparently these were honest people, that they didn't keep the gold for themselves. The gold itself, the blood money paid in advance by the client that ordered him to kill the Priestess. Useless, at the moment, though he kept it for luck. And as a reminder of why he was there.
He wasted no time in following Cassandra through the large wooden door of the Chantry, as it was called, to see exactly what the Breach was. Off in the distance was the swirling green portal, spitting and crackling, in tune with the foreign magic on his hand, making it spark vehemently, matching the pain that erupted, making him wince.
"So that's it then." he muttered. "That thing in the sky is the Breach."
Cassandra nodded. "It is a massive rift into the world of demons called the Fade. The world you fell out of, right into our lap." she scoffed.
"So how does Ra'viin reach it, then?" he asked.
"Soldiers have been instructed to gather at the forward camp, through the pass. Leliana will meet us there. They will clear a path for us. But we must test the mark on something smaller first. We have yet to know if it can reverse what has been done." she explained all this to him, making him interested now, mulling over all of her previous words with new understanding.
"You assumed Ra'viin knew how it works." he speculated, and she nodded.
"We mustn't waste time." she said to him. "We scouted the nearest rift. Much like the Breach in nature, though smaller, portals that have sprung up in its wake. We must get to it soon, and attempt to close it. The soldiers garrisoned can't hold for long. If they're not dead already."
"Then let us stop talking and move then, feisty one." he purred, and without delay, merely a curt nod, Cassandra pointed him in the right direction and they took off. Out through the main gate, headed to the designated mountain top.
The pulses from the Breach came faster then, the closer Ra'viin and Cassandra got to it. Each time the Breach expanded, the 'mark', as she called it, spread further. And it was no lie, it was killing him, she said. Such irony. Perhaps, provided it could close the Breach, in doing so it would remove the mark and save his life. She was sure to mention that, as added motivation to help them all. No matter the real reason he decided to help. Never mind that he already wanted to die, never really cared if he did, and now, neither he nor Cassandra had a choice but to let him live.
Ahead of them was a bridge, and just when they crossed it, there was a flash of green lightening, spiraling down from the sky, breaking the stone beneath their feet, sending them tumbling down to the icy waters below. A sharp 'thwack' as they hit solid ice, Cassandra groaning a little next to him as she rubbed her shoulder, pushing herself to her feet.
"Demons!" she exclaimed. And but of course, something was coming at them, the things that crashed into the bridge. Oh yes, to be sure, they were demons. Had to have been, with their strangely morphed shapes, otherworldly sounds...like nothing he'd ever seen, not even the most unholiest of Daedra that burst forth from Mehrunes Dagon's plane of Oblivion could ever look so miserable and ugly. There were only two, but they were unnaturally fast, one of them popping out from under the ice, knocking Cassandra off her feet. She quickly recovered, though she was overpowered by the creature. Ra'viin had to act quickly.
There were few in Tamriel that had ever mastered the art of killing another without so much as touching them. Fortunately for Cassandra, Ra'viin was one of those few. Nevermind the details, the magic required for such feats, but only the most important detail that Ra'viin never so much as touched the demon when he swung one leg behind him, whipped his defined tail like a bullwhip, spinning completely around before coming back to push the air with an extended arm. The force push itself, the movement of energy from his hand to the demon's ugly face was what knocked it backwards, not Ra'viin physically, as the demon was several feet away. His hand was on fire, so to speak, as he used his magic. Odd.
The other demon didn't flinch, undeterred by the act, and instead lunged at him, giving him only the split hair of a second to duck, and move the thing over him, through the air, slamming it to the ice with the invisible energy that imbued. Both creatures were dispelled, sent back to whatever void they spilled out of, for all intents and purposes...dead. The both of them. Ra'viin and Cassandra were safe for the moment, and the feisty female was wide-eyed.
"Maker's breath, what was that?!" she asked him, breathing heavy in her surprise as she stood and brushed ice and snow from her armor. He sighed. Of course. So few in Tamriel had ever seen telekinetic energy used in combat, let alone anyone here in this land apperently. He was beginning to wonder if such magic even existed here. Wherever 'here' was.
"What?" he chuckled. "Ra'viin didn't want to dirty his blades." he shrugged, smiling at how that sideways answer made her groan. "Shall we get moving then? We're wasting time."
She sighed, and nodded a little. "You...saved my life, didn't you?" she asked then, tilting her head. "Tell me something, cat. You're no demon, are you?...Were you sent here to help us?"
He walked over to her, handing her the sword she dropped, then folded his arms, looking her over.
"Cathay." he corrected. "Where I come from, 'cat' is an insult." he scathed a little. "And yes, I suppose did save your life. Was I sent here to help? I've no fucking clue. Though I certainly intend to, if you'll let me." he admitted with a nod. "But...I have no idea where I'm going, and you do. So..." he stood there expectantly, waiting for her to right herself so they could get moving, and she squared her shoulders.
"Ha!" she spat. "I caught you! You have no trouble talking. I heard you speak plainly just now." she raised a brow, the tiniest smile forming at the corner of her mouth, and she folded her arms in triumph.
"Oye." he rolled his eyes. "The speaking in third person, yes? It irritates the shit out of you, doesn't it? That's why I do it." At this point, they started across the ice, headed the direction they would've gone, had they crossed the bridge, jumping over broken bits, slipping and sliding a little when they landed.
"So you do it on purpose?" she grunted as they climbed the bank. He shrugged.
"Some of my people talk that way. Humans expect all of us to sound like idiots when we speak. What does it matter when people think I'm a beast, nonetheless?"
"Says the 'cathay' who says 'cat' is an insult to his people." she commented. "What does that even mean?...I mean no offense to you, but you look like a cat to me." She looked him over as they trudged through snow. Ra'viin let out an exasperated groan.
"Cats drink milk from a saucer and lick their own asses." he spat. "Do you see Ra'viin doing that shit? Well, do you?" he flicked his tail in irritation. "I didn't think so."
"Point taken." she remarked, narrowing her eyes, as if it were a crime to speak so bluntly, clenching her jaw as she walked. Most likely regretting not killing him at first opportunity. "So if you're not a 'cat', what are you then?"
"Khajiit. 'He who walks the desert'. Khajiit come in many shapes and sizes, and not all of us look like...'cats'." he relented, then perked up suddenly. "Quiet." he said then, stopping her in her tracks, leaning his head to listen, instinctively flitting his ears back and bearing his fangs. "More 'demons' ahead." he warned. Cassandra simply nodded, readying her sword and shield, dropping their previous conversation. Though she did mutter under her breath after a minute or two.
"Enemy of my enemy." she murmured, and inside Ra'viin smiled.
"Is my friend." he finished, as they neared the next clearing where demons had fallen, and were waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting. Both of them crouched behind frozen, branchless shrubs, eyeing the enemy ahead, planning an approach.
"This doesn't make us friends." Cassandra whispered. "Just because we have a common enemy." she added.
"No. But maybe I would've been nicer if you had been." he whispered back. "You shove a sword in a man's face, of course he'll take it as an insult."
"Well, you aren't exactly a man." she countered. Ra'viin sighed.
"Why not simply say you needed my help?" He watched as she hung her head. "There it is. Feeling foolish now, are we?...Don't worry, we'll have plenty of time to kill one another if we live through this." he goaded, before motioning for her to flank the left side.
...Many demons later, they had reached the top of the hillside, where they could hear fighting ahead. It wasn't that difficult to ascertain the situation when the human and Khajiit pair rounded the bend and saw more demons, a few remaining soldiers, and two more unidentifiable figures, and...something. Similar to the Breach, yet smaller. The rift, Ra'viin assumed. A smaller portal, one that he could not reach at the moment, as demons blocked his path. But there was magic, he came to realize, similar to the kind wielded by scholars in Cyrodiil. One among the group wielded a staff, and cast ice magic on the creatures that tore through the soldiers. One of the demons ventured too close to the mage, who was distracted by another, so quickly Ra'viin drew a dagger and sent it flying toward the atrocity.
Funny, that these creatures didn't bleed. They weren't living things at all, it seemed. Just...things. Things that didn't die, just simply went back where they came from. Some likeness in aspect of Dremora, perhaps? Did being a demon mean the same thing, or similar? And Cassandra thought he was one of them? No wonder she didn't like him. Apparently she'd never met a real Daedroth.
With the demons dispelled, back through the 'rift' portal, Ra'viin retrieved his dagger, but then stood there, staring at the rift, mere feet away from him. It wasn't until the mage approached that he realized what was meant to happen.
"Quickly, before more come through!" he said, grabbing Ra'viin's left hand and aiming it at the portal. Within seconds, the magic activated, almost of its own accord, twisting and whirling, crackling like fire, closing the portal. The assassin let out a small sigh of relief, before turning to the magic wielding individual. Short, thin, small in stature, but a man. Wait...no. An elf? His ears were certainly pointed like Aldmer, but his features were more that of a human. Half-elven then? Wearing simple attire, no armor, barefoot, and a jawbone hung from his neck by a cord. A wildling, perhaps, like a Bosmer. But the most interesting thing about him, his brazen lack of fear. He was not afraid of Ra'viin, but he stared at him intently nonetheless.
"So it worked." Ra'viin remarked as he glanced at his hand.
"So it speaks." said the elf with a smile.
"It?" Ra'viin huffed, glancing at Cassandra.
"He's...not a demon." Cassandra informed the elf, who chuckled.
"I gathered that much while he was unconscious, Seeker." he looked Ra'viin over. "Though I have no doubt you are...worlds apart from us, nonetheless."
"That much is obvious, yes? So you studied Ra'viin?" Ra'viin asked, then he tilted his head. "He is now guessing this is the elf that knows about the Breach, and this mark. Ra'viin has heard of him." he held up his hand, once more assessing the magic staining it, watching as the elf nodded his head, conferring who he was.
"Well, shit." said a voice behind them. Ra'viin looked down to see a rather short man, shorter than the elf, with a crossbow, gawking at the Khajiit. "So the rumor's true. Demon, I don't know about that, Seeker, but a problem? Definitely. Where in the hell are we going to find a big enough litter box for this guy?" he chuckled.
"It's always the smallest ones with the sarcasm." Ra'viin rolled his eyes. "Tell Ra'viin something, little thing. Can you even see the Breach from all the way down there?" he smiled. There was a moment of silence between the four of them, before the short man finally laughed, and held out his hand to shake Ra'viin's.
"Varric Tethras, at your service." he introduced. "Rogue, storyteller, and occasional unwelcome tagalong." he shot Cassandra a naughty grin, before looking Ra'viin from top to bottom. "Ra'viin...wait, so that's your name? The way you talk, it's...kind of confusing. So, split personality, I'm guessing? Or are you just that much of a dick?" he asked. Ra'viin grinned and clapped his shoulder, accepting the handshake.
"Heh, both maybe." He rubbed his chin, glancing over at Cassandra. "I bet she thinks I'm a dick." he whispered. "Though most would call me...charismatic."
"Oh, I see why." remarked Varric.
"What is happening, Seeker?" muttered the elf.
"I think...they just became friends." Cassandra muttered back with a tone of disgust. "Well, Varric," she said louder then. "I believe we've finally found someone who's more of an ass than you are." she raised a brow. Then she lazily turned to Ra'viin, clearly not amused. "You two belong together." she scathed. "Neither of you are funny to me."
"I think my sense of humor is phenomenal, Cassandra. You don't?" he asked, all the while his tail flicking behind him, anxious to get moving, irritated at being stalled like this. But if this elf and this short man would be useful to them in getting to the Breach, they could certainly use the help. Why not strike an alliance?
"My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions." said the elf, leaning against his staff. "I must apologize. You would've been awake much sooner, but I was not able to heal your injuries sustained after the explosion. You had to heal on your own. Fascinating, I must say." The elf's gaze traveled to Cassandra. "As I said, not a demon, Seeker. But certainly worlds apart. I find it curious that he is able to wield power brought by the Fade at all. But indeed he can, and there is hope after all."
"Shall we get moving, then?" Ra'viin asked Cassandra. "This magic can close rifts, shall we see if it can close the Breach?" she nodded at his words. Then he glanced hopefully at Solas and Varric.
"I'm coming too. I don't wanna miss this." said Varric.
"No." Cassandra narrowed her gaze, but Varric only shook his head.
"We increase our chance of survival if we are together, Seeker." said Solas.
"Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker?" Varric asked her. "You're people aren't exactly in control any longer. You need me." he pressed. Ra'viin could already tell Cassandra didn't like the little man, almost as much as she despised Ra'viin himself. Interesting. He shrugged.
"This one says bring him." Ra'viin said to her. "We can use him as bait." he grinned and winked at Varric.
"Yep, he's just that much of a dick." Varric muttered, as the four of them started their descent, down a crumbling pathway, as the way through the watchtower was blocked. They'd have to go the long way around the hillside to the forward camp. Ra'viin liked the company he found himself in, for it just so happened the two people that joined them irritated the shit out of Cassandra. He found her discomfort amusing. Served her right for shoving her sword in his face when he woke up, and not even tell him why. No, he was no demon, he was certain, but he couldn't lie, little Varric was right. He was a dick. And proud of it.
But now was not the time to be caddy. He'd have plenty of time to irritate these people after the Breach was closed. If the Breach could be closed. For Lady Mara did say there would be no going back, didn't she? If he lived through this, he would be here for a while, he imagined. He was meant to be here, for whatever reason, and he was most certain that reason had to do with a raven haired princess in a golden frock. There could be no other explanation, he speculated, gathering in his mind Mara's words, taking them into consideration. He, without a doubt, quite honestly didn't give a damn about this world he had been sent to, or the people within it. What did he have to lose should he let it be destroyed?
Her. That's what he had to lose. The one named Josephine. He couldn't let her die. He had to try, at least. Try to use this cursed arcane power eating him away. Use it to close the Breach. Because of her. Because he desperately wanted to know if Mara was right. If it were possible. Possible for someone in this world, if not his own, to love him.
For it seemed evident that Mara had to send him to an entirely new realm, far from his own, where there was no such thing as Khajiit, and no such thing as Tamriel, in order to find someone who possibly wouldn't think he was a bastard waste of air. It sounded so silly in his mind, but...a fickle Goddess of Love did send him there after all. What could possibly be more idiotic than that?...And when he saw her, heard the words fall from her mouth, that this 'demon world' would end them all, including her...Perhaps it was moronic of him. That for the first time in his life, he actually wanted to live...so he could save hers.
...Ahead of them sat the remaining military force in Cassandra's possession, garrisoned near the Breach, menacing in the sky above, and the body count was unfathomable. The princess didn't lie. But Ra'viin was no where near the end of this little venture, for the most immediate problem reared its ugly head when they closed the rift before them, blocking the gate. Almost immediately soldiers poured out of it, swords aimed at them. Cassandra, confused, though not surprised, that soldiers of the same sigil should point their swords at her, withdrew her weapon, raising her hands in front of her defensively. Solas slowly set down his staff, a calm expression on his face, as if he knew this would happen, or it happened often for him.
Varric and Ra'viin simply stood there, briefly sharing a look between one another. Of course. These people thought he was responsible for the Breach. And apparently closing the rifts did not change that fact. Perhaps the fact that he could close the rifts meant that he made them appear in the first place.
Out of the gate came a human man, who donned a rather strange looking robe, and at this point, it was starting to come to no surprise to Ra'viin that it should look nothing like a Tamrielan priest pointing his finger at him. Odd clothing, red and white, and the most disturbing level of nazalness in his tone.
"What is the meaning of this, Seeker?!" he barked at Cassandra. "You brought the creature here?! He should be in chains! Awaiting his execution!"
Leliana was not far behind him, shooting an apologetic glance at Cassandra.
"I have tried and failed to make him understand, Cassandra." relented the redhead, confirming Ra'viin's suspicion.
"He's not a demon, Chancellor." Cassandra said slowly to the man, squinting at him. "Right now, he's the only one who can stop the Breach. He's the only way to end this."
A frightened, but brazen soldier came between Ra'viin and the one called Chancellor, brandishing his sword in Ra'viin's face, making him hiss in irritation. He snatched the blade and wrenched it out of his hand, flinging it sideways, too angry at the moment to care that his hand was sliced open from the act. This was followed by Ra'viin's boot kicking the soldier's chest, knocking him backwards, and Ra'viin stepping over him, as if he were no more than a piece of cloth, dropped at his feet.
Before anyone could react, he marched toward the Chancellor, aiming to snatch him up by the throat. The man gasped, flailing his arms for a moment before covering his head, cowering in fear. He heard the soldiers edge closer, probably gripping their swords a little tighter, waiting to strike him down should he touch the human.
"You have no time, and right now I have no patience for you!" he spat. "Make your choice, thjiziit! The lives of these people are now in your hands...Will you let me pass so that I may close the Breach that terrorizes you?" he leaned in close, mere inches from the Chancellor's face. "Or shall I rip out your throat?" he asked quietly, bearing his incisors for the man to see, gleaming in the afternoon light. "Quickly now...There is little time to dwell."
His ears flicked back as he heard Cassandra slowly approach, briefly drawing his attention from the man in front of him.
"Ra'viin, let him be...Please, Chancellor." she pleaded. "Wherever he has come from, it does not matter. Not anymore. The mark on his hand works. It can reverse what has been done. He can...and he will close the Breach." she glanced at Ra'viin, giving him a slight nod, and the look she gave him confirmed she believed it to be true. In turn he nodded his head, conferring the same. Standing up straight, withdrawing a little from the Chancellor in proximity.
Slowly the man backed away. "Maker save us all, for we are all damned souls." he murmured shakily as he put as much distance between himself and Ra'viin as he could to allow the Khajiit to pass though the gate. The soldiers withdrew at this, and he and the others pressed forward, Ra'viin ignoring the Chancellor altogether, now that he was no longer an obstacle.
They paused for a time to plan their approach to reaching the Temple above them, as there were two conflicting opinions, Cassandra's and Leliana's. As soon as Cassandra suggested they charge the main gate of the Temple, Ra'viin wasted no time in agreeing with her when he was asked. Almost doubled over in surprise that they should even ask for his opinion, though too focused on the task at hand to bother with jokes. There was no time. And there would be no time to take the mountain pass, while the soldiers charged as a distraction, in his opinion. There would be nothing left of this world if Ra'viin didn't do something now. His hand hurt like hell, and he was sure this would be the end, and he couldn't wait.
He almost wanted to laugh. Either way, it seemed he would get exactly what he desired. Either he would close the portal and see the raven haired princess again...of which was a very lovely thought, or...he'd die trying. Such a lovely option Mara gave him, compared to Tamriel. On pain of death, or death itself.
Then he laughed out loud, certain by the look that Cassandra gave him then, that she thought he was absolutely daft, for she had no idea what he was suddenly laughing about. Crazy, yes. He couldn't agree more. He most certainly was.
Chapter 4: The Shadow of the Forbidden
Slowly and quietly Josephine pushed open the door to the room where a large cat lie unconscious. None of the servants at Haven would venture near it, and none of the soldiers set in place outside to guard it would go any closer than ten feet from the door. These people believed that what lie on the other side was an abomination of a thing. Believed that the magic on Ravine's hand was further proof that he fell from the Breach, and that the mark could control it meant that he did cause it to appear in the first place.
Though there were those few at Haven, the few that now included Cassandra Pentaghast, that believed he might have been sent through the Fade to save them. Though he was far from humble, or...well, personable by any means. 'Cutthroat' was a word that was used. The only one among them that remained on the fence in regards to Ravine's existence was the elf named Solas, though as to the reasons why, he kept those to himself. But to everyone at Haven, one thing was certain. Though it was still in the sky, the Breach stopped growing, and it was because of Ravine.
Josephine received the report shortly before the Seeker, the Commander, Sister Leliana, and all that survived the battle arrived at Haven. They had made it to the Temple, and their suspicions had been correct, that the mark could close the rifts. However, at the Temple's remains, it proved more difficult to close the Breach there. It was too powerful, and it nearly killed the Khajiit that attempted to do just that. He had been taken back to Haven with them, and it was several more hours of worry, wondering just how the mark had affected him, but Solas confirmed that along with the Breach, the magic on Ravine's hand stopped spreading as well.
He would live through it. But questions remained. How were they going to close it? If it were possible that with more power added to the mark, a second attempt would bring complete success, how would they gain more power to do so? When outside that door, everyone there believed this cat to be a monster? And the Inquisition heretics for harboring him? Making it nigh impossible to gain the needed allies.
He was rather ruthless, and had the filthiest of mouths, according to Cassandra, but as for Josephine, she refused to believe he was a complete monster. She had been right about him, right in believing he would help them, and thus the reason he was not in a cell in the dungeon, but in a cabin. Because she tirelessly worked to convince Cassandra, Leliana, and Cullen that it was the best option. Though Cassandra was honest, and admitted the reason she wanted him in a cell. She couldn't stand his filthy minded attitude, to which Josephine huffed, almost in disbelief of the whole thing. It, for the most part, honestly felt like one long, terrible dream.
..."Imagine if you tried to help someone, only to find yourself back in a dingy cell." she had told them in the council room, through pursed lips, hands on her hips. "I doubt you would be very pleased to find such accommodations, and not so much as a 'thank you'."
"That thing is dangerous." Cullen remarked. "We've no idea what it is, or where it came from, and yet to know if we can actually trust it." he persisted.
"'He'. Not 'it'." she corrected. "But since you're so willing to believe he's no more than an animal." she huffed. "If you put an animal in a cage, Commander, what do you think it will do? Hmm?...But if you free the animal, if you show it kindness..." she raised a brow.
"We can't just let him go free. He admitted that he'd done something to deserve to be in a cell, Josie." explained Leliana. "Whether or not it had to do with the Conclave, it's evident he's a criminal, in some way. For all we know, perhaps he did it on purpose, let himself get caught. Guilty conscience, maybe."
"Or...he was merely toying with us when he said that." mused Cassandra. "Everything that falls out of his mouth is either sarcasm, or filth, from what I've seen. But...I do not think he caused the Breach, though I think we must take care in how we approach this. He's no innocent."
"Add that to the fact that he's dressed entirely in black and expertly wields two very sharp daggers?" Cullen raised a brow. "That's fairly suspicious, don't you think? And the abilities he possesses...I've never seen anything like that."
"Magic?" Josephine asked them.
"It could be." Cassandra answered. "It's certainly dangerous. And he's certainly no prophet that's come to help us. But why he was sent to us is the important question. If demons didn't send him, what manner of being would send a criminal to aid us?"
Josephine sighed. "Regardless, criminal or not, Ravine is the only one who can help us. We need him on our side, not against us. I've heard the rumors circulating. The people are calling him a...a Shadow of the Forbidden." she couldn't hide the sudden concern in her words. "Believing he was sent from the heart of the Black City, to tear this world apart. We must not let that spread. Keeping him in a cell will make things worse, make this rumor more believable. If the people of Thedas should think the Inquisition harbors a monstrosity..."
"I don't disagree with you on that matter, but what do you suggest we do with him when he wakes?" Cassandra asked. "Trust me, Lady Montilyet, he is no gentleman. He almost gutted Chancellor Rodric. The man disturbs me, true. He's nothing but a glorified clerk...But a Brother of the Chantry, Josephine. And Ravine was going to kill him had I not stepped in." The Seeker folded her arms, her sword clinking at her side. "What do you make of that?"
"Do you think it possible that not only does he know nothing of the Conclave, but that he knows nothing of Thedas?" Leliana asked.
"It's possible." Cassandra relented.
"He said the last thing he remembered was leaving a city called Bravil." Leliana continued her speculation. "I've never heard of Bravil. It would help if we actually knew where he was from."
"Perhaps he is from the Fade." Cullen remarked, curling his lip. "That thing is as monstrous as any demon, from what I've seen."
"He's not a monster!" Josephine practically stamped her foot in defiance. "I refuse to believe it. Do you not think that his behavior could be nothing more than a misunderstanding? After all, he was in a cell, with Seeker Pentaghast's sword pointed in his face." She made sure to give Cassandra her best disapproving look, the kind she usually reserved for her sister.
"Yes, well, everything certainly changed when you entered the room." remarked Leliana.
"You didn't see what we saw at the Temple." Cullen mumbled quietly.
"I wasn't pointing a sword at him, or threatening his life." Josephine stated evenly, responding to Cullen's and Leliana's observations. "Hostility isn't always the answer, you know." At that, Leliana rolled her eyes, to no surprise. How many times had they, just the two of them, had similar conversations to this one? She lost count. "You treated him like an animal, so of course he acted like one."
"Oh fine then." Leliana shrugged. "You go speak to him when he wakes. Perhaps you'll turn that beast into Prince Charming." she jeered. "Hide a dagger up your sleeve, though."
"You know what, I will speak to him." asserted Josephine. "As a matter of fact, I'll check on him presently." She stuck her nose in the air, and left the room, not noticing at first that Cassandra was following her out of it. She was surprised it wasn't Sir Rutherford relentlessly tailing her.
"I was joking!" Leliana called after her, but she didn't listen. Instead she marched proudly, until she saw Cassandra out of the corner of her eye, doing a double take, glancing at the Seeker.
"What?" Cassandra said, when Josephine noticed her beside her, keeping step with her as she crossed the large hall of the Chantry. "You think I would let you go alone? I don't completely trust him, Josephine. I intend to wait outside for any signs of trouble, sword in hand."
Josephine sighed as she pushed open the front door. "And yet, you are not attempting to dissuade me from speaking to him." she commented, shooting the Seeker a quick sideways glance as they walked across the snow ridden path. "Why not? If he's truly that dangerous?"
Cassandra stopped cold, blowing the slightest gust of air through her nose. Standing there, making Josephine turn back to her, as the Seeker searched the ground for the right words. Then she looked up, her expression changing. Something Josephine couldn't name.
"Leliana is right." she said. "He did change. The second you entered the dungeon. And I wonder why." she narrowed her gaze. "The real reason why. We could have said all the same things, behaved the same way, but I doubt he would have been so cordial with us, Lady Montilyet. I wonder why that is. And I wonder...if he will do it again. If...when he wakes, perhaps you could be the one to explain to him just what this world expects of him, because I think Leliana's right about that too. I think he has no idea. I think it is a miracle he was willing to help us at all. Simply because...he doesn't understand. And we don't understand him. Maybe...maybe you will."
This made Josephine search the ground herself, in thought, suddenly curious of all this. Was it not curiosity that made her enter the dungeon in the first place? Well, now it was curiosty that made her turn abruptly, and walk all the more quickly toward the cabin where he rested, slightly discouraged by the frightened guards posted nearby, but bound and determined, regardless...
...There he was, asleep, stretched across the bed before her, too big for it. In nothing but pants once more, as his clothing had been cast aside so that healers could reluctantly check for any injuries, any he might've aqquired while attempting to close the Breach. She had knocked, but there was no answer, cause to believe that he was still asleep, and it gave Josephine a moment to study him. In the daylight that seeped through the window pane, she was able to see him better now, much better than in the dungeon. See just how big he was, just how strange.
Every inch of him was covered in short, black fur, though it was smooth in appearance, and glistening in the light. Just the smallest spots covered the back of his neck and shoulders, blending in with the fur, like a panther. A man magically tranformed into one? Most intriguing. And his feet, much like his hands, resembled that of a human. Five toes on each, though the nails were rounded, less like claws, and the pads of his feet were also black. He lay with his muzzle buried in a pillow, arms tucked underneath, his long braids with their miniscule golden rings fanning out around him, covering most of his face. One leg bent, the other outstretched, hanging off the bed. His limbs and torso were certainly human in shape at least, his shoulders broad like the most physically fit of men, but it was hard to tell how much of him was a man, and how much of him wasn't, inside that mind of his.
For just a moment, a half a second maybe, the thought crossed Josephine's mind that he was actually...quite beautiful. And his tail...flicked just then.
"Ravine does not like pretty little princesses staring at him while he's pretending to be asleep." he said, making her step back in alarm, and suck in a breath. He didn't move, but he opened one of his golden orbs to peek at her.
"Apologies." she said nervously, when she gathered her wits, and found her voice once more. "I thought you were sleeping."
"So I noticed." he said with a...well, a smile, she supposed, as he rolled over onto his back, before stretching and yawning, opening his mouth to reveal those terrifyingly large fangs of his. "I did not mean to frighten you, I promise." he said. Then he winced, holding up his hand to see the mark was still on it.
"The...the Breach is stable, for the moment." she mumbled to him, wringing her hands. "We have you to thank for that. That the mark can manipulate it...it is more than what we could ever hope for."
"But it's still there?" he remarked, narrowing his eyes...frowning? Yes, frowning in dissapointment, perhaps. He slowly sat up and clenched both fists. "So it didn't work." he hissed. Josephine's heart pounded...perhaps coming here was a very bad idea. "I'm surprised I'm even alive. That your friends haven't killed me. I wonder why. Am I still useful to them then? Or do they still think I did it?"
"At the moment, it doesn't really matter." she assured him. "You helped us, regardless. We plan to try again. We must try again to close it. Solas believes the magic on your hand simply isn't enough for such a feat. But it's possible that with more power, the Breach will close completely." He looked up at her, then stood up, and Josephine practically bent backwards just to look up at him. She swallowed hard in nervousness. "We have several ideas, but..." He stared intently at her, making her lose her train of thought.
"You're frightened of me, aren't you?" he asked. At that question, Josephine held her chin a little higher. She was being foolish, wasn't she? One must never show another their fear, correct? After all, she firmly believed that he was not as frightening as the others made him out to be...didn't she?
"I am...curious of you." she said then, meeting his gaze. "You are...most certainly different than anything I've ever seen. I'm curious of where you are really from, curious of your...people. Surely there are others like you. You can't be the only one. Unless...were you a man once? Transformed into what you are now?" she asked. He chuckled. "And the way you speak. All...very curious things, I must admit."
He smiled and rubbed his chin. "Transformed, yes? That is what the princess believes?" he asked, raising a brow, humored by her words.
"I'm...I'm not a princess." she said to him. He laughed at her.
"And I'm not a 'cat'." he said, then he turned away from her, plucking his clothes from the chair nearby. Just what was that supposed to mean, exactly? Was it...supposed to be an insult of some kind, that he referred to her in such a way? Because she was of noble background? She didn't quite understand. Moreover, she didn't understand why he was so...well, so different around her. He had yet to make any crude remarks, or use foul language. Though, the way he looked at her with those gleaming yellow eyes was a bit unnerving, to say the least. But partly, Cassandra and Leliana were right so far.
"So, is it true, that you came from within the Fade? Or did you come from across the sea? Were you actually at the Temple when it...you know..." she absentmindedly bit her lip, feeling foolish for asking so many questions. "I'm curious." she added.
He laughed as he shrugged on his boots and began lacing them.
"This one has heard the expression, 'Curiosity killed the cat', no?" he chuckled. "Don't worry princess, Ravine is curious too. A bad habit of his. But he's not dead yet, so there's the proof that he's obviously not a 'cat'." he grinned. Maker's breath, he looked so devilish when he smiled. It almost made Josephine shiver, even though it was fairly warm in the cabin. This walking, talking panther was really what the Maker blessed them with? If, indeed it was possibly the Maker that sent him through the Fade, and not demons?
"I...don't understand whatever joke that was supposed to be." she confessed. He only smiled wider, standing once more, to his full height, folding his arms and staring at her for a moment. Looking her over. She cleared her throat. "You certainly have similarities to cats, surely you realize, unless...do cats look different where you are from? Here, in Thedas, they sort of look like you, though they usually don't talk." she rattled off nervously. "Unless 'meow' is considered a word?"
He chuckled a little. "I stand upright, walk on two legs, and speak the same language as you, princess. I don't...'meow' like a cat. 'Cat' is an insult to Khajiit." he said to her. "We are not cats. We do not 'chase mice', nor are we kept as pets...But you can pet me, if you want." he purred. Josephine put her hand over her mouth. Was he being serious?
"I'm...I'm not entirely sure that's...appropriate." she said behind her hand. He laughed, implying he was only jesting, and reached for his leather vest, pulling it on as he looked her over. Then he got serious, his devilish grin fading into a frown once more, as he worked to buckle the straps from his waist to his collar bone.
"I still do not remember anything." he said. "I saw something at the Temple ruins. This...magic, from the Fade. It made me see myself, there, at the Temple, before it was destroyed. And the woman...Justinia? She called to me for help, but I cannot remember any of it. I cannot remember how I got there, or why I was there. I cannot remember the creature trying to harm Justinia, ordering his men to kill me. None of it. Cassandra and the others saw it too, but they can't explain it either."
"That's certainly interesting information." Josephine commented, watching him flop back down on the bed.
"Solas explained that the barrier between worlds, this one and the Fade, is ever so thin in that place, and the magic...It could be an illusion. It could all have been the work of the demon world, twisting what we saw. I have no idea. I've never seen such magic in my homeland. I thought I'd seen it all, but this is new, even for me."
"Your...homeland? Where might that be? If you don't mind me asking." Josephine pulled up a chair to sit next to the bed, all ears, anticipant of the answer he might give. He propped his arms behind his head and stared at her for a moment.
"You have never seen a Khajiit before, have you?" he asked. "You have no idea what I am. You think I was a man once." he chuckled. "I am not a man. I am not an elf either. And I'm not a cat. What do you think of that?"
"I...I don't know." Josephine admitted with a shrug, baffled by his words.
"It means that I am very far from home, princess." he answered. "I know nothing of this place it seems, and it knows nothing of me. That people think I'm a demon from this...Fade?" he snorted and shook his head. "But I am not from the Fade, princess. I'm from a place called Tamriel. In Tamriel, Khajiit are quite common. Not all of us look like cats, though people think we are beasts, that is true, but they do know what we are. They are aware that we exist. All across the continent. It seems that wherever I am now, people assume I am a demon, simply because they do not know what I am, yes?" he thumped his tail on the bed. "If I'm in a land where Khajiit do not exist, I am very far from home then." he shrugged. "Which means that here, at least, I'm one of a kind." he grinned. "I like that."
"You...seem so relaxed about this. In fact, you hardly seemed surprised at all by being so far from home." she remarked, and he shrugged. "Do you know why you were sent here? The real reason?"
"I have an idea." he said, and then he just stared at her for a moment. Josephine couldn't, for the life of her, figure out why. He was a very confusing person. But...he was a person, though. Not a thing. Not a monster. Not a demon. He wore clothes, he spoke the common tongue, fairly well for someone who possessed large fangs. Though, she wasn't sure if he was really real. He could just be a mirage, a figment of her imagination. This could be a dream. Was it?
"So, little princess. How do we get more power to close the Breach?" he asked, changing the subject, though not taking his eyes off of her, still pouring over her with that unnerving look that she couldn't name. As if she were a mouse, and at any moment he would pounce, as if he really were nothing more than a housecat, tail quietly tapping the bed as he did so.
"Well," she sat up straight, "Right now, the Chantry is convinced you were sent here to destroy us, and no doubt that will complicate things for us. Threatening to kill Chancellor Rodric like you did, it was a rather foolish thing to do. We cannot make enemies with the Chantry, Ra'viin. Their political influence is spreading, quite rapidly, as of late. People are flocking to them, frightened, confused, that their Maker should abandon them, and then allow this terror to be set upon them. It keeps both the mages and Templars, factions that possess the power we need...out of reach, for the time being. The Conclave was our answer, our last attempt at negotiating peace between the two. And now..." she took a breath. "Though the Chantry may not march through the gates of Haven and attack us directly, they may act against us and gain the political power to have this Inquisition overthrown. And we will all be powerless to retaliate."
"I barely understood any of that." he admitted. "But I do love the way you sound when you talk." he purred, making Josephine grip the ruffles of her skirt in frustration for a moment, before he sighed. "It's all politics, and religion, yes? So it seems this place is not much different than where I come from. But...where I come from, little princess, you kill one person, the right person, and everything changes." he gleamed. "So who should I kill?"
Josephine gasped, and stood up from the chair. "No one!" she shrieked. "Violence is not the answer, Ravine." she chastised him, her heart feeling like it would explode suddenly, all while he just stared at her with those strange eyes. "We must make peace with them, employ diplomacy, make them understand you are no demon, and..." she clenched her fists. "Only a demon would think that murder is the just cause of action. I implore that you rethink that. Too many are dead already, Ravine. That is no way to secure peace." she affirmed. He slowly sat up, swinging his legs over the bed, rising to tower above her.
"Mmm." he purred. "Alright then. We do it your way. What does it matter to me? I want the Breach closed. I don't care how I go about doing it." he looked her over. "But if you wish for me to be...peaceful...then I will be. I will speak to whoever you need me to. I'll play the little political game of this...Chantry."
"When you nuzzle my nose, and pet my tail." he smirked.
"By the Maker!" Josephine's eyes widened. "Cassandra was right, wasn't she? You're toying with me, aren't you?" she huffed, every nerve suddenly on edge, and her first instinct was to slap him. But instead she let out a breath through her nose, and turned to leave the room, before she did something undoubtedly stupid.
"Ah, suit yourself then." he said behind her. "But I'm not leaving this room until you do." She turned around to see him smiling. Demon, perhaps not. But a scoundrel?
"I thought you said you weren't a cat?" she spat angrily before walking briskly to the door and stepping out of it, perhaps slamming it a little too hard on the way out.
Chapter 5: He Asked You to Do...What?!
"Can I kill him now?" asked Cassandra, startling Josephine. She'd almost forgotten she would wait outside for her. She clutched her chest for a moment, before running a hand through her hair, attempting to preen it back in place. The Seeker stood there by the door, shifting her weight to one side, one hand on the hilt of her sword, and the other placed on her hip, for all the world looking like she would soon say, 'I told you so.' Which Josephine didn't very well want to hear at the moment.
"What good would that do any of us, Cassandra?" Josephine asked.
"It would make me die a happy woman." Cassandra admitted, curling her lip. "So, will he continue to help us, then? Or will he cause more trouble for us than he's worth?"
"I don't know just yet." Josephine answered the Seeker, starting across the yard and up the steps, Cassandra following close behind her. She aimed to return to the Chantry, and perhaps have a moment to calm herself, time to think, plan her next move, perhaps figure out how she could possibly bribe the Khajiit into behaving, something of the like. But Cassandra motioned for her to follow her, turning right instead of left, leading her to Haven's tavern. She opened the door for Josephine, and set her down at a table in the corner, waving away the bartender that approached. Neither of them planned on drinking, though Josephine considered the idea, inwardly trying to brush off the odd feeling creeping over her. She forgot her manners for a moment, propping her arms on the table and burying her head in them, letting out a groan.
"How much of the conversation did you actually hear?" Josephine asked, a little muffled behind her hand.
"I was listening for screaming, Lady Montilyet, not eavesdropping." she heard Cassandra say. "Though I did catch some of it. He's no doubt an interesting sort, is he not?" Cassandra inquired, stocked full of sarcasm. Then she placed a hand on Josephine's arm, causing her to look up. "Perhaps I should speak to him. I've heard enough of his illicit mouth. It surprises me less and less each passing hour. I can handle it. You, on the other hand..." Cassandra let out a breath, giving Josephine an apologetic look. "You're too good of a woman."
"No." Josephine said, leaning back in her chair. "No, I am simply being foolish. How many men have I outmaneuvered in the Game that were not ten times worse than him." she admitted. "I can handle him, Lady Cassandra, it's just..." she fiddled with the votive on the table. "He's not a man...He's not merely an animal either. He's...both." she looked up at the Seeker. "And he certainly intends to help us, but..."
"Well, that's comforting at least." Cassandra scratched her neck. "...But?"
Josephine sighed. "But he does not understand Thedosian politics. Our religion, our culture. Which undoubtedly is the reason he behaves so...Well, you know."
"And you are sure of this?" Cassandra asked. With that question, Josephine perked up, suddenly confident.
"Undoubtedly sure." she told the Seeker with a nod. "But you were right. He's not exactly a gentleman."
"What did he do?" Cassandra asked, probably chomping at the bit for an excuse to smack him with the flat of her blade, or worse, kill him once the Breach was closed.
"Nothing too terrible, I assure you." Josephine amended. "He just...made an interesting request. And I'm not entirely sure of what to make of it. It's...rather confusing in nature, in truth."
"Well?" Cassandra raised a brow, entirely too curious. Josephine sighed, leaning forward as to be discreet about what she was going to say.
"He...said he'll help us if I...nuzzle his nose and pet his tail." she admitted with a bit of embarrassment. The Seeker's jaw nearly dropped. Then she covered her mouth with a gloved hand, making a snorting noise that Josephine was sure meant Cassandra was trying hard to stifle laughter just then. She quickly straightened herself, clearing her throat, trying to be more serious. "Go ahead. Laugh...I feel like I should be laughing as well. I feel like this is some sort of joke, and I am the butt of it." she huffed, folding her arms. "But the truth of the matter is, I am just as clueless of Khajiit culture as he is to Thedosian. I may have misconstrued the gesture. I can't give up my approach just yet. I'm certain there is more to this matter. I'm certain there is an explanation. A formality of his homeland and I simply overreacted."
The Seeker snorted. "I can hardly blame you. That doesn't sound appropriate in the slightest, Josephine." she laughed a little in disbelief. Then she shrugged.
"He could be toying with you. He swears that he is no mere cat that drinks milk from a saucer, yet he insists on behaving like an animal. I think he simply has a twisted sense of humor. How about I go beat it out of him? I think I'd enjoy it."
"Please Cassandra, don't make things worse." Josephine whined, shaking her head. The Seeker chuckled.
"Well, it was a nice thought, anyway." she shrugged. Then she looked as if an idea struck her. "What if...he likes you?" she asked.
"Likes me? What do you mean?" She had Josephine's full attention now. "Why would he like me? What did I do?"
"I think that's obvious. You are very kind, Lady Josephine, and very gentle in nature. Understanding of the fact that he is possibly very new to this country and it's customs. As you said you have yet to understand him much in the same way. Perhaps this is his way of trying to...make friends with you, I suppose?" she shrugged. "He made friends with Varric by insulting him. The two are both sarcastic fiends. It's a...guy thing, I think. Perhaps this is common for feline Khajiit. He said not all of his kind look like cats, but he does. Though he's no housecat, perhaps part of him is rather...feline. Perhaps it's instinct. To him, it's perfectly normal, perhaps."
"I suppose that makes sense. He's not human, after all. But...he's not merely an animal either, as I said."
"He's both." Cassandra finished with a nod. Josephine sighed. "Don't worry, I won't speak of this to anyone." she assured with a smile.
"You'd better not." Josephine warned. "If you do I'll tell Varric you've been reading all of his books, and want his autograph." she smirked, and Cassandra chuckled.
"I highly doubt he'd believe you." she reamed, as Josephine pushed aside her seat, taking a breath.
Immediately she made to push the chair back in place, folding her hands in front of her, finding renewed motivation to persist this fantastical quest of hers to 'bring out the gentleman' in the beastly Khajiit. It wasn't hopeless yet. After all, he did say he would help. Though she rolled her eyes when she was out of sight of the Seeker. He said he would be peaceful if she...nuzzled his nose and pet his tail? By the Maker, if she had to, she would do just that. It wasn't the worst thing she'd ever done. But why did she suddenly feel so shy to the idea of touching him? Perhaps she shouldn't give up on the idea of convincing him to see reason. After all, did she not say she'd dealt with men far worse than him? But then again, he was no mere man. He was something more.
In what life could Ra'viin ever deserve a woman like her?
Her? With her perfectly smooth skin and beautiful face, absolutely refined mannerisms and exquisite composure? Her voice, that sounded like a flute playing with perfect notation, perfect pitch in his ears. Perfect. Rahjiin's shadow, she was perfect. And still, as he reclined on the bed right where she left him, the Goddess' words resounded in his ears.
"There is another way to find peace, than only through death."
Josephine sounded like her. Believing he should talk to these people that claimed he was a demon, rather than rooting out the cause of the problem and dealing with it his way. The only way he'd ever known. Through death. But then again, she'd probably seen enough of her people die already because of the Breach, and couldn't bear any more life lost. Such a gentle hearted spirit she possessed. Such the passivism she clung to. Was it coincidence that she shared likeness to the Priestess he let live? He wondered if she was just as pure as well. She seemed to be. He'd bet his life she was far too good for him.
Did Mara not say he should rest? Set down his blade and sleep peacefully? He could not be that person anymore. If he was going to be here, in this land, with her...that version of Ra'viin had to stay behind in Tamriel. Though not physically, Ra'viin had to die, and be reborn anew, in a manner of speaking, just without the dying part, he supposed. That much he could accept.
But, now, how to make her not so very much afraid of him? How to stop her from trembling, and jumping at the slightest movement he made? How to make her understand that the last thing he would ever do was harm a single hair on her perfect head? Difficult things to accomplish, he imagined, considering she knew nothing of him, and he knew nothing of her. At least not yet. There were no Khajiit in this land, and for the most part, it seemed everyone there in this new land either thought he was a man turned into a cat, something of the sort, or thought he was nothing but a beast. A mindless beast. A demon. Except for her. She thought nothing at all of those things, but instead inquired from him as to what he actually was. Which was thoughtful. She wanted to understand.
It seemed if he were going to make her understand, he'd have to act more like a man, and less like a beast, until she wasn't afraid of him. That would be difficult, for never in his life had he ever been human, never wanted to be human, and did not know the first thing about behaving like one. Added to the fact that humans in this land behaved very differently than those that he was familiar with in Tamriel? Different people, different gods. Different everything, yet...so much was the same. Though, perhaps that's why she was frightened of him. She didn't know the difference between cat and Khajiit. She didn't know that he couldn't help but act the way he did in her presence because he liked her so much. Not because he would ever hurt her. Instinct took over as soon as she had entered the room. Perhaps it was a mean trick to play, pouting like a child until he got his way, but...he just wanted to touch her.
The sound of her bursting into the room almost made him fall out of bed.
"Rahjiin's shadow." he muttered under his breath after he finally caught it. Then he looked up, seeing a very dissaproving face mucked up into a scour, narrowed eyes, and folded arms. "Uh oh. Ra'viin is in trouble, isn't he?" he asked.
She rolled her eyes at his words.
"Ra'viin is not in trouble." Josephine assured. "But he will be, if we don't leave this room and discuss with the others a plan of action. Tension is very high, at the moment, and we must think of something soon."
"Well, I'm waiting then." he said to her, a cool smile forming on his features. She stood speechless for a moment, her eyes darting over him.
"Waiting for what?" she asked.
"For you to nuzzle my nose and pet my tail, little princess." he replied, flipping his tail against the bed for emphasis.
"Please Ra'viin. Take this seriously." she pleaded as she approached. "If you are going to help us, and get the Chantry to change their minds of you, surely you cannot do that simply by hiding in this room, can you?" she laced her fingers together, expectant of a response. He chose his words carefully.
"No, I cannot, I suppose." he agreed. "Though I could simply choose to do nothing, and it would make no difference to me. And I might just do that, if you don't give me what I asked for. I was being serious, princess. Pet me and I'll leave this room." He folded his arms and, for the most part, pouted like a child. It beat the alternative, which was grabbing the woman and ripping the clothes right off her. But she was a lady, after all. And he was trying to be a gentleman, right?
"And let Thedas and it's people tear everything apart while you are idle? I convinced the others you were more noble than that. That you would help us. For I very much thought you would. That you would not simply sit here and leave us all to the fate of the Breach, that you would not let us die." Josephine's gaze softened. "That is what will happen, Ra'viin." she explained. "Right now you are our only chance for peace. How can I make you see that?" she turned away from him, starting to pace a little, clasping her hands together, desperately searching for something to say, though he spoke for her.
"And continue to risk my life for a world that has offered me nothing in return?" he asked her, making her turn to face him once more. "To save the very people who call me a demon? That hardly seems fair."
Josephine sighed. "So that's what it is then? That you think no one will be grateful to you, for all that you have done, and will do? The others seem to think that your freedom should be enough for you." she told him. "But it is not?...I can't say I blame you, but...this is very childish, you must admit."
He shrugged at that, wondering just how far this conversation was going to go, before she would simply give up, or give in. Or drag Cassandra in there to threaten him, or something similar, since it seemed obvious Josephine didn't have a threatening bone in her body.
"What will you offer Ra'viin, little princess, in return for...'saving your kingdom'?" he asked. "Right now, you are the one between him and the rest of Thedas. You say I will let your world be destroyed if I hide in this cabin, but won't you do the same? Simply because you're too good to 'pet a cat'?" he chuckled. "Are you adverse to cats? Do they make you sneeze?"
"What?" Josephine wrinkled up her face. "No I...wait a minute." she placed a hand on her hip. "You are seriously asking me to pet you, and then you will leave this room? And not otherwise?"
"I am." he said plainly.
"Surely you are joking." she amended, shaking her head, giving him a look that meant it was perposterous of a thing to do. Completely flustered by him. He laughed a little.
"I am being quite serious, Lady Montilyet of Antiva." he stretched back on the bed, placing his arms behind his head. "Come now, surely you can do such a harmless little thing to help your people."
She groaned. "I could call in favors." she suggested. "Have someone pay you as much gold as you can carry, if you want something in return-"
"I'm not asking for money." he chuckled. "Come on, it won't make you any less of a Lady." he jeered.
"And then you will leave this room, and come speak to the others with me?" she eyed him carefully. He nodded.
"I promise. And I promise I will be on my best behavior." he confirmed.
"If I...nuzzle your nose, and pet your tail?" she groaned. "That just so...so...I thought you did not want to be compared to a cat, Ra'viin. But yet you...want me to...to pet you." she let out a sigh. "Fine." she said tersely. "For Pete's sake...Oh just fine then." she groaned again, almost growling a little, and moved to gingerly sit on the edge of the bed. "Of all the stupid things..." she mumbled.
"The tail first." he said, holding it up and flicking the end. Once more, the lady rolled her eyes at the thought of doing such a thing. But...she did. Slowly she reached out and touched his tail, hesitant with her action, as if it were a snake waiting to spit venom. It was just a tail. Lots of things had tails. She cupped her hand around it and drew her hand upward, careful not to rub his fur the wrong way, and it felt absolutely sublime. He withdrew his tail after a moment, playfully batting her hand away with it, flicking the end of it, the feel of her fingers still lingering for a time.
"Now the nose." he said, making her shoulders slump.
"If I must." she said with an air of contempt, scooting herself closer to his face, sighing right before she lowered her nose to his, pressing her hands to his chest. Then she withdrew for a second. "And you'll give us no more trouble?" she asked, and he shook his head.
"None." he said with a bit of a smile as he reached up to touch his nose to hers, drawing away just a little, waiting for her to meet him halfway, unable to control the way he purred, quite loudly, when she ever so softly grazed her exquisite skin against the pad of his nose. She even closed her eyes as she did so, giving him a moment to admire the dangerously long, dark lashes she possessed. Then he closed his own eyes, soaking in the moment.
By the sun, the Moons, and all the stars above, he'd never felt something so divine.
"Ra'viin?" she asked quietly. "I...er...have a question."
"Mmm?" he managed to say, distracted still by the feel of her so close to him, starting to slip his arms around her waist.
"Cats tend to purr when they like something, but...If you're no cat, then what does it mean when a Khajiit purrs like this?"
His eyes shot open when he heard the question, and noticed the level of alarm in her voice. She was not comfortable with this at all, he noted silently, withdrawing his hold on her, watching as she sat up, staring down at him. He cleared his throat and sat up himself, scooting across the bed to get out of it. Then he reached for his coat, throwing it over his shoulders, adjusting the collar, pretending to breathe steadily, though underneath the armor, a different story threatened to tell itself.
"Come, little one, we're wasting time." he said with a serious tone, holding out his hand to offer to help her up from the bed. Perhaps by instinct, used to being treated with such courtesy, she reached for his hand, allowing him to assist her, though her face still had that same alarming expression. Disturbed, perhaps 'worried' was the better word, as if someone told her that her family was missing. He was ready to leave the room, quite anxious at this point, but apparently she wasn't, as she still stood there, gaping at him, wide eyes and everything.
"Did I not say I would do things your way, princess?" he asked with a smile, and she seemed to snap out of whatever was disturbing her, focusing now on their previous conversation. "I have alliances to make, and fickle humans to impress. Me, of all people. Ha. That will take all the time we possess, wont it?" he joked. "We mustn't waste such little time then, must we?"
"Just like that? You're going to help now?" she folded her arms.
"I made a promise." he bowed a little, in respectful fashion. "I never break them."
She put her foot down in a manner of speaking. "I am glad of that." she said with a slight nod. "But now it's my turn. We're not leaving this room until you tell me what it means when a Khajiit purrs like that, Ra'viin." she said firmly. He chuckled, reaching up with his hand to stroke the curl that fell across her cheek. It startled her a little, and she froze in place, like a rabbit caught in a trap, as he slowly tugged on the curl, feeling how soft it was, and then stroked her cheek with his thumb, watching her blush.
"Why don't you tell me?" he asked quietly, watching her swallow the lump in her throat. "I swear by the Moons, Lady Montilyet, I will never hurt you. You needn't be afraid of me. But right now I have a promise to keep. How about we deal with that, and later...I'll tell you why you make me purr like a kitten with a new toy." he grinned.
His hand dropped to his side, and she started breathing again, as did he.
He'd have plenty of time to explain to her that yes, it was possible for a human and a Khajiit to be together, and he very much liked that idea, as long as he kept his word and dealt with the Breach first. That was the most important thing. He'd wasted enough time as it was, but surely, there would eventually be time to gently woo this woman that had never seen, nor heard of a Cathay-raht before. Would there? Though, could it really be possible? This woman who was so frightened of him, though convinced he was sent to help her and her people, could really fall in love with him? Every bit of her behavior said she was uncomfortable with being in such close proximity to him.
But it didn't matter. It was already too late. Already the very idea of anything happening to this woman completely terrified him. And for that reason he agreed to play along with this scheme of hers to involve him in politics. What should he care how he went about it? Shit, what should he care if she couldn't love him back?...It wouldn't change the fact that he didn't want her to die. And he'd go to Oblivion and back to keep that from happening, do whatever he had to. Do whatever she asked, and lay down his blade, but he'd most certainly kill himself if it meant keeping her alive. What did he have to lose? Her. That's what he had to lose. Already he adored her. Surely Mara wasn't tricking him, was she?
Chapter 6: The Taming of the Beast
"How can you not be freezing?" Ravine asked, shivering a little when he did, even under the thick folds of leather draped over him.
"I am." Josephine admitted. "This is a much different climate to Antiva. But I've been getting used to it over the months. We all have our prices to pay for the betterment of the world." she shrugged. "Mine is freezing to death in snow."
"Shall I offer you my coat?" he asked, quite serious, not sarcastic, by the look he gave her.
"No thank you. That is not necessary." she declined, feeling sudden heat on her cheeks. "Besides, I would get lost in such a big coat." she grinned, hoping she was doing well enough to hide her embarrassment at his sudden gentlemanly behavior.
Ravine laughed at her words. The two of them were making their way through the village, up to the Chantry, the Khajiit doing his best to ignore the looks recieved from passerby. He was rather rigid, Josephine noticed, and quite the opposite of his previous manner, the second they left the cabin and ventured out into the cold. The wind tousled his braids about, but other than that, he was perfectly composed, trapped in an air of seriousness, until he laughed at what she said.
And Josephine was confused. More so now than ever. Confused at how quickly he went from a sarcastic devil of a feline to...this. So fast. And now, he did not smile, didn't let his eyes wander, but stared straight ahead, focused on the present state of affairs. And one other thing confused Josephine, though she didn't know how to even begin to address it. Even silently to herself, she struggled to comprehend the meaning of it, let alone could she explain it to Ravine, who was the cause of it. So she simply ignored the confusing, fluttering feeling in the pit of her stomach and concentrated on more important things.
"Thedas had been in a terrible state long before the Breach." she commented, breaking the silence. "Perhaps it started when the Circle of Magi was annulled, and mages began their rebellion against Chantry control, and Templars began their war with them. Perhaps it was before that. Regardless, we've been in a state of unrest for quite some time."
"Why did these mages rebel? Were they taken prisoner?" Ravine asked. And boy was he right to say that 'curiosity killed the cat'. Oh...wait, now she understood the joke. He wasn't a 'cat', he was Khajiit, so curiosity couldn't kill him? Clever pun, she had to admit.
"Those that follow Andrastianism, the religion of the Chantry, believe that magic must serve man, not rule over him. When mages use their power they draw it from the Fade, and risk becoming possessed by demons if they are not vigilant. For this principal, mages have been carefully safeguarded within Circles, sanctioned by the Chantry, where they are safely taught magic, away from society, but they were watched by Templars, soldiers trained in ways to combat magic, should dangerous magic get out of hand. Some saw these Circles as not merely sanctuary from the outside world, but as prisons. And to make matters worse, not all Templars assigned to Circles practiced lawfully. Some abused their power over mages, and there has been unrest on both sides...
"When a Chantry temple in the city of Kirkwall was destroyed, it plunged Ferelden into rebellion as well. Divine Justinia attempted to negotiate peace with the factions at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, holding the Conclave. But that may have been our only chance at peace, gone, with her. And now we have demons, terrorizing the land, and not knowing who to blame for it, surely it has made everyone beyond these walls point their fingers at one another. No doubt, some of those fingers are pointed at us. And that, more than the Breach, is the immediate threat." she explained. "We're so few in number, and we cannot afford a march on Haven."
"And how could 'appealing to the Chantry' possibly change that?" Ravine asked. A reasonable question, one that Josephine was happy to try and answer for him, if she could, in a way that he would understand.
"The Clerics have powerful followers, with money, and armies, and religious fervor. Its the most widespread religion in Thedas. Including the favor of nobles in Orlais and Ferelden with a lot of pull. We can use the Clerics influence to leash the Templars, cease their fighting, and instead ally with us to use their power to suppress the Breach so that you can close it. Though, an alliance with mages would be most useful, I'd wager. Surely more magic added to the mark is precisely what is needed. Mages harness their power from the Fade, and the mark is connected to it. It's a logical choice."
"Provided we don't uncover that they were behind it." Ravine commented. "You say mages rebelled against the Chantry, yes? You don't think that they would conspire to murder Justinia at the Temple?" he conveniently lowered his voice, and quietly made his accusation, as many villagers were eyeing them warily as they walked.
"All very logical assumptions." Josephine agreed. "Though to simply assume makes only as much sense as assuming you were a demon, simply because soldiers said you fell out of the Fade." she remarked, and he relented at that. "True, that not all mages wanted peace, and some possess some dangerous magic, and they could have done it..." she sighed, and changed the subject. "And speaking of magic...I've been told you possess powers as well, besides the mark."
They stopped in front of the temple's wide wooden door.
"Have you been?" he asked with a smile, and she nodded. He sighed, knowing full well she was digging once more for information about him, still trying to figure out exactly what he was. She couldn't help it. "Such the curious little cat you are, princess." he chuckled, shaking his head before opening the door to the Chantry for her, and ushering her inside, away from the bitter cold.
As they made their way in, Rodric, of all people, made his way out, scrambling past Ravine, who stared blankly at the man leaving the hall, halting Josephine and Ravine's conversation. As he left, Seeker Pentaghast was trailing after him for just a moment before stopping and throwing her hands in the air, in defeat, shaking her head at the Cleric.
"What did you do to him?" Josephine asked Ravine, who looked a little sheepish just then.
"I...may or may not have...threatened to rip out his throat?" he admitted. Josephine gaped at this admittance. "Well, I obviously didn't do it, now did I?" he argued haplessly, as Josephine huffed, turning her attention to Cassandra instead.
"Where is he going?" she asked her, and the Seeker scoffed the question.
"Probably as far away from him as possible." she amended, glancing at Ra'viin.
"Should I apologize to him?" Ravine asked, quite serious about doing so, it seemed, but Cassandra shook her head.
"It would do no good." she replied. "His problem is no longer with you. It is with all of us. We've no leader, no numbers, and no Chantry support. A direct quote from Leliana. We're all hanging on a thread." she said to Josephine. "And we cannot waste time waiting for the Chantry to elect a new Divine to legitimize the Inquisition. We must make order for ourselves." she said firmly. "Rodric may claim that we are not, but I fully intend to act on founding principals, with or without Justinia."
She waved for the both of them to follow her to the council room at the back of the hall, where inside stood Leliana and Cullen.
"Lady Montilyet will act as our Ambassador." she informed Ravine when they entered the room, to which Josephine nodded in accordance. "Most likely she will be busy smoothing things over with all these rumors about you, should anyone crawl out of the woodwork to up-end us...You remember Sister Leliana?" she gestured to her.
He nodded. "How could I forget?"
"Ah yes, your...mild fascination with redheads?" she raised a brow, smirking, though squinting her eyes, making it evident she didn't find him amusing. To which Ravine lowered his gaze and smiled a little. Was he embarrassed by his former actions? Hard to tell with a being covered in fur and one couldn't see him blush. "My talents require a degree of..."
"She is our Spymaster." Cassandra explained.
"Yes, tactfully put, Cassandra." Leliana chuckled at Cassandra's bluntness.
"And you remember Cullen." Cassandra narrowed her eyes a little. Cullen, of course, had a firm grip on the hilt of his sword, and expressed the most disfavor towards Ravine, who instantly tensed as soon as he and Cullen made eye contact.
"Oh, I could never forget him." Ravine muttered, with a sour tone. "You're still alive I see, Commander." he commented, through gritted teeth.
"As are you." said the man. "So 'he's' on our side now?" Cullen asked Josephine, quite bluntly, who clenched her jaw a little, though remaining tranquil, for the most part.
"I promised the lady I would be on my best behavior." said Ravine, beside her, before she had a chance to reply. "Whatever discord between us, soldier, don't take it personal." he curbed. "I am here to help, I have no problem with you."
"Good." remarked Cassandra. "Cullen will be commanding the soldiers we manage to recruit to the Inquisition, and will act as our military adviser."
"And we will have a lot of work ahead of us." Josephine informed. "As I said, we must seek an alliance that can give us the power needed to add to your own, enough power to seal the Breach, permanently. It will be difficult if the world sees us as their enemy. Sees...you, as their enemy."
"They really don't care that I can reverse it then?" Ravine asked, slightly disbelieving of it still. "That means nothing to them?"
"There are those among the Chantry Clerics that see that as proof that you caused it." Cullen interjected. "They think we will do nothing to help them by allying with you. Supposedly the people of Thedas believe you are the Shadow of the Forbidden."
"The Shadow of what?" Ravine repeated.
"The Forbidden were some of the most dangerous, and formidable creatures from the Fade." explained Cassandra. "The Order I belonged to, the Seekers of Truth, recorded some of their encounters with these creatures. The people believe you were sent in their stead, that you are their harbinger, sent to destroy life as we know it...And your name only adds to the discord. Ravine? Sent from the blackened city of the Void?...Dare I say they believe it's a word play, like the ignorant fools they are. That you are a creature of the night...and your clothes don't help either."
"Void as in...Uh...mmm, well then." Ravine mumbled.
"If you're truly no demon, then prove it to them." said Cullen. "Unless there really is no decent person hiding under that fur."
Ravine chuckled. "That won't be easy." he warned. "I'm no demon, but I never said I was decent." he jeered. And once again, he and Cullen stared each other down, as if they were both merely seconds away from leaping across the table at one another. Maker, what in the world happened between them at the Temple? Cassandra's report never said.
"Ravine." Josephine chided quickly, and he moved his gaze from the Commander to her. "Remember your promise." she reminded him, as he glanced back and forth between her and Cullen.
"Oh I do." he said to her. "But remember that I'm here practically for free." he added, making her have to yet again concentrate on hiding the way she blushed, remembering their conversation in the cabin. And his inappropriate request of her.
"You're here because we need the magic on your hand, creature." Cullen spat. "You should be thanking Lady Montilyet you're not back in a cell right now. If not for her, you would be."
"Oh, is that so?" Ravine hissed.
"Tread carefully, the both of you." said Cassandra slowly, and quietly. Josephine's heart started thumping in her chest. Were they really going to fight with one another?
"Put me back in a cell then." Ravine said to Cullen. "Better yet, kill me right now, but rest assured that I will take you with me." he grinned, just as Cullen was drawing his sword, he in turn drew his daggers. "Go ahead, get it over with." he said, actually stepping closer to Cullen, touching his chest to the end of the Commander's blade. Cassandra slowly drew her sword, though looking not quite sure who she should stab at the moment. Surely she wasn't going to kill either of them was she? And all the while, through that long and strenuous moment of silence, Leliana simply stood nearby, watching, assessing all that was taking place.
"Maker!" Josephine exclaimed finally, having quite enough of this, breaking the silence, stepping between Ravine and Cullen, the Commander withdrawing his blade at little at her approach, and Ravine doing the same, though both were still breathing unsteadily.
"Whatever happened to cause such animosity, end it! Dammit, no one is killing anyone today!" she spat. "You want to kill something? Then go find a rift and slay the demons that fly out of it! But there is no need for this, and it will end here, right now!" she folded her arms.
Slowly the both of them withdrew their weapons, astonished by the fact that their newly appointed Ambassador should bark at them so. It took a moment for everyone to gather their wits, including the Seeker, but most certainly Josephine, who still trembled a little in anger, clenching her arms tightly as she tried to calm herself.
"Well, well." remarked Leliana. "That was certainly interesting. Now, back to business then?"
Ravine shifted is weight to one side and folded his arms. "I am most definitely ready for business. These problems wont fix themselves, now will they?" he squinted his eyes. "You have been awfully quiet so far, little spy. What's up your sleeve?"
Everyone turned to Leliana, who smiled coolly and answered the Khajiit quite plainly.
"My scouts arrived not long ago with a message from the Hinterlands." she told him. "There is a Chantry Cleric there, by the name of Mother Giselle, who has asked to meet with you. It's not far, a day's travel or so, east of Haven."
"I've heard of Giselle." Josephine said to him. "She's renowned for her good nature and charitable works. She is helping refugees of the war that continues there. She may help to convince the others to see reason, and help to quell this rumor that you are a demon."
"And she...wants to meet me?" Ravine looked surprised. "You don't think that will make things worse?" he smiled a little. Leliana shook her head. Cullen snorted quietly beside her as he stared at the floor, looking like it took everything within him to keep from lashing out at that statement.
"I have a feeling that Giselle is more concerned with forming her own opinion of you, rather than listening to rumor." Leliana assured. "She will certainly think you are strange, no doubt, but she'll see with her own eyes you're not a demon, at least. Though what you are..." she chuckled. "That's the question on everyone's lips. What shall we tell people you are?" she looked over at Josephine. "Shall we tell them he's a werebeast? And he only turns beastly under the full moon? Or that you were cursed by a witch?" she turned back to Ravine.
"What...are you?" asked Cullen quietly. The Khajiit sighed.
"Someone who wants to help." he mumbled, turning to leave the room. "I'll leave for these Hinterlands presently."
"I shall accompany you." Cassandra said quickly, following him to the door. "I can show you the way."
"Ha! Yes, and babysit me too, eh, feisty one?" he laughed. Then he turned back, facing Josephine, bowing quite low to her, with all the charm and grace as the most dignified noble, before walking through the door, the Seeker close behind him. And just like that, he was gone.
"I'm almost jealous." laughed Leliana. "He nips at everyone else, yet, he treats you like a queen, dear Josie." she poked. "And you..." she turned to Cullen. "You'd better get over what happened, Templar." she suggested. "He's on our side now, remember?"
"Do you see him getting over it?" he asked.
"What, exactly...happened between the two of you?" Josephine asked, once again, curiosity overwhelming. Cullen sighed.
"Trust me, Lady Montilyet, as honest and noble of a woman as you are..." he started to leave the room. "It should never reach your ears." he said on the way out the door.
...As soon as it was only Leliana there to see it, Josephine let out long awaited sigh, rubbing her eyes, flopping down on the nearest chair, with no grace whatsoever, slumping like the most uneducated serf, stretching her legs and cracking her neck.
"I think he likes you." Leliana said as she leaned against the table.
"Who?" Josephine looked up.
"Why, the cat of course." she said to her.
"He's not a 'cat'. To be called a cat is an insult to Khajiit." Josephine heard herself say without thought, fighting the urge to roll her eyes as soon as she did. "I was right about him, Leliana. He's no animal. But he's not human either. He's..."
"Something else entirely." Leliana finished. "That much I gathered on my own. But...I'm still not so sure he behaves so well in your presence simply because you're not pointing a sword at him." she raised a brow, leaning her head, giving Josephine a knowing look, though Josephine wasn't sure she knew why. "But, given that he's not human, I'm not quite so sure of his intent."
"What makes you think any of that?" Josephine sat up straighter. "Tell me honestly. What game do you think he's playing?" she asked, her tune changing to an urgent one. Leliana shook her head.
"Oh, I don't think it's a game. Or an act at all." she said, staring at the floor.
"What's not an act?" Josephine asked, scrunching her face up in confusion. "I don't understand you sometimes, Leliana."
The Sister simply laughed a little. "Oh Josie, I do love this about you." she sighed again, once more shaking her head. "Just...be careful." she warned gently. "He's willing to help us, and I think as long as he's willing to listen to you, at least, we'll do just fine, but...I will still keep an arrow knocked with his name on it, regardless."
Well, of that there was no doubt, at least. With the look Leliana gave Josephine then, both knew it was no joke. But...what exactly did she mean? And suddenly, it donned on Josephine, that Leliana made a good point. What...precisely...was Ravine's intent?
And what in Andraste's name did it mean when he purred at her before?
"You should never have disarmed him like that." Cassandra commented as she and Ra'viin walked out of the Chantry temple. "You humiliated him, on top of all the threats you made."
...It was interesting how that played out.
When they charged the Temple ruins to reach the Breach and close it, another rift lie ahead of them, blocking their way inside the Temple's main entrance. A smaller one, one that Ra'viin dispatched well enough, becoming quite profficient at it, according to the little mage elf, but the soldiers there...some of them had never seen Ra'viin face to face, did not yet know what he was. One of those soldiers was Cullen, Cassandra's Commander.
He knew that Ra'viin was suspected to have magic on his hand that could manipulate the Fade rifts, however, the man seemed to gather his own conclusions as to why. No, he did not think Ra'viin was a demon, but monstrous nonetheless, and he pointed his sword at him, not giving him an inch, much less a mile, as the saying goes. And Ra'viin was tired. He'd been fighting demons all the way to the Temple, exhausting his Magika, exhausting himself, dulling his blades, and his bones ached. Fatigue made him far less than hospitable. Add that to the fact that it hurt to use magic since he'd arrived in this place?
As soon as Cullen drew his blade, rather by instinct, Ra'viin used the last of his Magika to forcepull the blade from his hand, and then roared at him. Cullen was not afraid, in fact, quite angry at the Khajiit using telekenisis to disarm him, and in a not-so-nice way told him to piss off, and hoped the Breach swallowed Ra'viin up. To which Ra'viin not-so-nicely told him that if the Breach didn't kill them both, Ra'viin would finish the job for it, cut him to pieces, and feed his entrails to whatever animal he saw first. To which Cullen claimed that Ra'viin was an animal. There was also the snide remark about how Ra'viin was a 'talking cat', and he spat in his face.
Cassandra and Solas had to come between them both, and remind them of the big ugly Breach in the sky threatening to end them all. Of course, that was the short, edited version of the story, anyway. Varric said he planned on leaving a lot of that part out when he told Ra'viin, as they made their way inside the Temple, of the book he'd write about him...
"Well, obviously he's learned to hold onto his sword a little tighter." Ra'viin shrugged. "He'll get over it. He and I have bigger problems at the moment, don't we?"
"Yes, I suppose you do. As do we all. But Cullen is just like the rest of us. On edge, and has been since I recruited him. He's a good man, a good soldier, and we need him."
"So, in short, you're saying I shouldn't fuck it up for you." Ra'viin noted, then caught himself. He did curse a lot, didn't he? "...Shit. Apologies. Dammit. I mean...Ah...fuck. You know what? Just pretend I'm not speaking, and know that I agree with you." he said, though Cassandra's disapproving expression never wavered. He smeared a clawed hand across his face, then scratched his nose with it, sniffing a little, probably getting ill from the cold weather.
"That mouth will kill you one day, don't make it today." she said offhand. "Perhaps you misunderstood anything Lady Josephine explained to you, so I'll reiterate." she pursed her lips. "You cannot act so violently, and not expect hostility in return." she said calmly. "I have learned my lesson. I understand now that I misconstrued things in the beginning. I thought you knew what was going on, that you were only toying with us about not remembering, and I thought you were a scheming, lying, conniving-"
"I get the point." Ra'viin huffed.
"But I was wrong, wasn't I?" Cassandra asked, making Ra'viin stop and turn to face her. "And for that I am sorry. Whether or not you were responsable, I was...brash. I acted foolishly. I was angry, no...I was livid when I saw you in that cell. The explosion killed hundreds, perhaps even thousands on that mountain, and you were the only survivor. We had no idea what you were...I lashed out."
She hung her head a little, regretting her actions, it seemed.
"You owe me no apology." Ra'viin assured her. "All is forgiven, and I'd like to think that is mutual. Brash and feisty, yes." he chuckled. "But Ra'viin may or may not also be an ass...he is sorry. You...think I'm innocent, don't you? The vision, at the Temple, you believe it's true?"
"It's possible. But I can't pretend you weren't exactly what we needed, when we needed it. Perhaps the Maker sent you to us. Perhaps...this is your chance to redeem yourself, for whatever you did where you came from." she said quietly. "That placed called Bravil...Whatever you did there, Ra'viin...Perhaps this is a chance for all of us to redeem ourselves. And show this world exactly what we are made of."
Ra'viin sighed. "You could be right." he fidgeted for a moment, clenching his fist, going over everything that happened in his mind, everything that he did remember. Perhaps his behavior toward Cullen had been rash, but he didn't exactly enjoy the way the Commander looked at him. He'd seen that look before too many times in Tamriel. But of course, this place was new, was it not? It would take a while to reach a common ground with these people, and it would take a while to resist his nature to lash out violently, just as much as it would be hard to curb his cursing.
But these people acted like getting angry and frustrated was borderline animalistic. What, as if they never got angry? What were they? A planet of monks and priestesses? Seriously. So high and mighty, the lot of them. Cassandra was the only one who understood brash behavior, apparently. Funny, that the person who tried to kill him when he woke up was now the voice of reason. Though...he wanted to laugh a little. He would never have expected the little princess of all people to step between him and Cullen. Surprising.
"And yes. You are an ass." she agreed to his self observation. He sighed.
"Well at least I'm the helpful kind." he shrugged, and she mulled that over.
"True..." she sighed. "To ask all this of you, and not so much as thank you..." Cassandra lifted her head. "Thank you." she said to him.
...It was sometime later that Cassandra sang a different tune, and wasn't so thankful for Ra'viin. For he suggested bringing Varric and Solas. Cassandra couldn't argue, as it made perfect sense to bring Solas, who had useful knowledge of the Fade realm, knowledge that Ra'viin certainly lacked, as did Cassandra, who possessed no magic at all. Varric...well, Varric had a crossbow. An awkwardly large crossbow that he kept plenty of ammunition for. He said its name was 'Bianca'. More or less, Cassandra relented to bringing him because, like Ra'viin, Varric had also been under the careful watch of the 'Seeker', who wanted to continue to keep an eye on him.
He had no idea what crime Varric had commited, and didn't ask, but he very much enjoyed how much Cassandra seemed to despise the little man. It was entertaining.
Not much was said on the journey to the placed called the Hinterlands, down and out of the Frostback mountains, as Cassandra called them, and the blissful silence gave Ra'viin time to contemplate things. Cassandra had a point. That maybe this was his moment of redemption. Knowing the fickle Gods of Aetherius, it didn't surprise him in the slightest that there would be a price to pay, or a lesson to be learned, or a bit of both. He got exactly what was promised, no more no less. A reason to live, someone to love, someone to die for.
The price Josephine paid for the betterment of the world was freezing in the snow, she had said. But the price that Ra'viin paid? He could never go back to Tamriel, and if wanted to stay in this new world, he'd have to fight for it. He'd have to be...heroic. Sort of. A little decent, at least, bare minimum. And all that he knew, he would have to leave behind him.
They set up camp somewhere out of the mountains, where it was a bit warmer, on the edge of the province of Ferelden called the Hinterlands, where somewhere in that war ravaged region was a kindly woman named Giselle that wanted to meet him. Cassandra slept with her hand gripping the hilt of her sword, and Varric slept leaned against a tree stump, crossbow in his lap, snoring loudly. Solas was no where to be found when Ra'viin wandered away from the meager camp site, restless, ears flitting about, listening to the strange sounds of this new world he now belonged to.
It was strange, yet...so much was the same. So much of this world felt very familiar to him, but he couldn't put his finger on why. Perhaps it was the ignorance of men. Believing him to be something he wasn't, simply because they didn't know what he was. Elves, men, people at war...strange magic, and strange creatures threatening to tear the world apart. Somewhat familiar things to him. Though he had been but a kitten during the last days of the Third Era in Tamriel, he still heard the stories, of monstrous things waiting in Oblivion, trying desperately to crawl out of it and claim mortals for themselves. The devastation they left behind. It had yet to be forgotten by most, those old enough to see it firsthand, and lived to tell the tale.
"The Shadow of the Forbidden." said a calm and steady voice behind him, as he leaned against a tree, looking down at the valley, seeing fires burning in the distance, where people fought one another, and demons, in a ravaged landscape. The voice was Solas, who of course was smiling a cool smile when Ra'viin glanced back at him. He turned back to the night sky as the slender individual moved to stand beside him, his own eyes pouring over the impressive view as well.
"It's not the worst thing I've been called." Ra'viin commented on the way Solas adressed him, making the man chuckle a little.
"What could be more offensive than being believed to be a demon sent to us from the 'darkest depths of the Fade' to destroy us all?" Solas inquired, eyes glittering with humor in the moonlight. Ra'viin snorted.
"Plenty of things. A 'cat', for one." he answered. Then he sighed. "Where I am from, people are just as ignorant towards anything they don't understand. My kind do not exist here. It does not surprise me that a nation of frightened people should call me a demon, simply because they do not know what I am."
"And what are you then?" Solas asked, making Ra'viin lean his head to the side, then shake his head at such a question.
"Out of everyone I've met so far in this land, I was ready to believe you already knew what I am." he chuckled. "You certainly know I am not of this world, that much is obvious." he grinned. "So how could you tell?"
Solas hummed in thought for a moment, folding his arms, stepping closer to the edge of the rock they perched on, getting a better view of the land. He was an intriguing little creature, to say the least.
"My first clue was my inability to use magic on you." he stated. "When I first offered my aid to Cassandra and the others, the first task I was given was tending to you, after you were pulled from the Temple. Of course, it was obvious you bled the same as any other living creature, so clearly you were no demon." he smirked. "Call it the fallacies of the living that they should refer to you as such." he amended. "But what intrigued me was how I was unable to heal your injuries. No magic, no potions, or any other methods, common or...uncommon, I suppose...would heal you. It was fascinating, yet, also vexing, as with each day you lie unconscious, near death, the Breach was spreading, and so was that mark." he pointed to Ra'viin's hand. "Though I was able to stabilize the mark...which led me to believe it was connected to the Fade...but not you."
"So, why is it, then? That you cannot heal me?" Ra'viin asked, as he glanced at his hand. He already guessed the answer for himself, but found Solas' response most intriguing.
"It's simple, really. You see...This world was once apart of the Fade, and in equal sense, the Fade was apart of it. Just as real, just as physical of a construct as any other you might find. But now...the connection is only spiritual in nature. The Fade itself, separated by the Veil, nothing more than a spiritual realm to those living. But...everything in this world is connected to it. It is through this spiritual bond that mages are able to tap into the Fade, draw power from it, and harness magic. It is this bond that guides people into the belief that the spirits of the dead pass through the Fade upon death, before reaching the next life waiting for them. All are connected to it, except for you."
"So because of this, you believe that not only am I not a demon, but that I'm not from this world either. Simply because I am not connected to the Fade." Ra'viin mused, and Solas nodded at his words. "And here I thought my fangs gave it away." he grinned, making Solas laugh a little.
"Oh that too, I assure you." he said, then sighed. "The Fade is nothing but a spirit world to most, and the fact that you were seen physically entering this world from the Fade, through a rift, leads people to believe you are a corrupted spirit. A demon." Solas snorted in mild laughter suddenly. "I have a feeling that since you wear black, and have fangs, that is the Chantry's evidence that you are clearly a demon." he said with a thick layer of sarcasm.
"A malevolent spirit, praying upon the misfortunes of a misguided people. But you're not evil. Simply...rebellious." he gleamed, then sighed, shifting in his stance, still staring at the scene in the distance. The azure blue sky, offset by the warm amber glow of fire. "Had you been...say, a beautiful elven woman, for example, falling out of a rift, instead of an otherworldly feline, something natural to this world...something they could comprehend...no doubt people would praise you as a hero, believe that you are sent to save us all, rather than destroy us." he grinned. "Perhaps they'd call you the Herald of their Maker, and paint colorful imaginings of you riding in on a magnificent griffon."
"And, alas, I'm not an elf. I'm not a woman, and I'm not riding in on a...wait, what's a griffon?" Ra'viin wrinkled his brow. "I don't think we have those in Tamriel."
Solas laughed a little. "Neither do we. Sadly, they are extinct." he sighed, mourning the loss of some strange creature that died out of existence, a hint of sadness mixing with his mischievous smile.
"So it's all circumstantial. What, as if people fall out of a spirit world often, or something?" Ra'viin shook his head at such a thought. Not even in his world was that possible. Or, at least not likely. Not anymore. But then again, he wasn't in his world.
"No, they don't." the elf shook his head. "No one living has physically entered the Fade, nor come out of it, not since the dawn of mankind, according to the Chantry." he stated, raising a dark brow, intrigued by this information as much as Ra'viin.
"And they only believe I am the Harbinger of their destruction simply because I look like a monster to them." he snorted. "Beast, yes. Monster?...Only when someone rubs my fur the wrong way." he flicked his tail. The elf kin continued to smile, humored by Ra'viin's words.
"So I've noticed." Solas remarked. "But you are certainly no man, disfigured by the Fade, or any other form of magic, transformed into a sentient feline." he looked Ra'viin over with his tranquil gaze. "You are simply something different entirely. Or, more simply put, you...simply are."
"Eh." Ra'viin waved it off, shifting against the tree, rubbing against it to scratch his itching shoulder. "I'm just a big 'talking cat'." he shrugged.
"Cassandra informed me that 'cat' was an insult to Cathay." Solas commented. "So is it similar to referring to a wolf as a 'mangy dog'? Provided you have wolves in your world?"
"Hah!" Ra'viin bellowed, clapping Solas on the back, grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear. "Ah, finally! Someone who gets it!"
Solas made an 'oof' sound at Ra'viin clapping him, knocking him sideways, as he was so much bigger than him. He had to catch him before he fell completely from the boulder on which they stood, and plummeted to his death.
"Sorry about that." he amended as Solas caught his breath.
"No worry." Solas waved it off. "Though I must admit, you're very strong. Demon, no. But dangerous?" Solas grinned. "Dare I attempt to imagine what the females of your species are like." he shook his head.
Ra'viin laughed for the first time that night, out loud, loud enough to draw curious looks from the Inquisition soldiers posted near camp. No doubt loud enough to wake both Cassandra and Varric from their heavy slumber. His laughter died after a time, followed by tranquil silence for a minute or so. He let out a gust of air, noticing the way it fogged, crisp in the chill of night descending upon them.
"So, how do you know so much of the Fade?" he asked, a bit quieter, procuring an interesting expression from Solas, who rubbed his chin.
"As I've said, it is a spirit world, more or less, one that mages have a strengthened connection to. Though we cannot enter it physically, we can spiritually when we dream." he leaned in close. "But you didn't hear that from me." he murmured. "There are those who do not take kindly to talk of such things. Such as the most devout members of the Chantry. Here, there is a fine line between the indiscernible, and the dangerous sort of magic." he folded his arms. "But when practiced carefully, it is easy to slip past the Veil, through the eye of the needle, and see the unseen."
"And it's considered dangerous because of the demons waiting on the other side." Ra'viin noted, and Solas nodded. "It sounds just as dangerous as things in my world." he huffed. "Though there are monsters hiding in the dark, waiting to claim the living, there are also Gods, though we can never know for certain what waits on the other side until our timely, or untimely death. Where I come from, there's always some uneducated thjiziit trying to contact the Gods, and instead they summon Dremora by accident. The 'evil' of my world." he explained. "Magic is also feared in Tamriel. But if you meet anything from Oblivion, you see why."
"Hmm, yes, and here it's demons people summon by accident. Though, personally, I do take precautions." Solas assured. "That is what most live in fear of. Possession by a demon. But so many fear the Fade in its entirety, though there is so much beyond what we see with our own eyes. So much more than demons. At present, all that is taken into account is the horde of creatures that plague the land from another world. Physically falling through rifts, in the flesh, so to speak. They're threatened for it's not just a 'dreamworld' anymore. Their religious beliefs are at stake. But...the Fade is a world as full of life as this one. Just as dangerous...but just as beautiful.
"To me, the Fade is just as real as your own world is to you. Even if the others are not capable of seeing it. Of course, it doesn't make the Breach any less dangerous, because it stands to reason that with beauty...also comes danger." He eyed Ra'viin's dagger, strapped to his hip, for just a moment. "If I may ask, how is that you are able to use the powers that you possess? If not the Fade, what manner of energy fuels your abilities?"
"The kind from a world that is just as beautiful, but just as dangerous." Ra'viin quipped with a smile.
With a chuckle and a nod, it seemed the conversation wore thin, as Solas leapt from the boulder as nimbly as any Khajiit, ready to depart, and ready for sleep, tarrying back toward camp. Ra'viin nodded as well, bidding him goodnight, but lingered still, leaning against the tree. Such an interesting little elf-man. Quite intuitive, for as young as he looked. Perhaps he aged like the elves of Tamriel, very slowly.
Whatever the reason for the wisdom, Ra'viin was grateful for it, though it left him with more questions than answers. The most important questions being...if people had such a fearful and ignorant outlook on the magical Fade in this realm, choosing only to accept that demons were all that came from this Fade, then what in Mara's blessed name...were they going to think of Ra'viin?
But did he really have it that easy? When so many in Tamriel persecuted his kind, simply for existing, and he didn't mean because he was Khajiit. But because he'd been an agent of the Void until Mara delivered him. Ra'viin himself being a 'Shadow', even amongst his own people? A dread creature of night. A demon, yes, he was a demon. Just not a demon from this Fade. A world in which both beauty and horror fall aimlessly. As if Aetherius and Oblivion entwined completely, producing something new, reflecting of the duality of the mortal world. And he the monstrous creature that supposedly fell out of it.
In all things, he was the predator, never the prey. But in this world, the whole of it would likely hunt him, if he did not prove he was no threat to them. For though he was no creature from the Fade, his soul certainly belonged to black if he didn't change who he was. These people would shit themselves if they knew the ugly truth. But...at least in Thedas, the voice of Sithis, the dark Lord that guided his hand, could not speak to him. He was met with silence. Finally.
But he was still a demon. He couldn't lie to himself. A Shadow of the Forbidden, indeed. But he was finding peace.
(Sorry this was so lengthy, but I figured it would be nice to have that convo with Solas about why he believes Ra'viin's from a different realm, and have some philosophical discussion, mage to mage, about demons, and reflect on his own 'inner demons'. Note: my basis for Solas so willingly sharing information with Ra'viin, which is fairly OOC, is because he understands he's from a different world, and clueless of Thedas, and also unbiased. Ra'viin may become his arcane buddy lol)
(Thjiziit is Ta'argan, meaning 'fool')
"So what is he then?" Cullen asked Josephine, both he and Leliana staring at her, expectant of an answer. "You said not animal, not man, but both. So...what is he?"
Josephine sighed, rubbing her temple. For the last half an hour, the two other advisers of the Inquisition had berated her for answers, but it was hard to explain. She wasn't so sure of what he was either. But he certainly wasn't human. She could tell by his mannerisms, the more time she spent in his company, that he was simply not a man, and in very little way behaved like one. But a sentient being nonetheless, one that spoke, and wore clothing, same as they.
"Let me put it this way." she tried once more to explain, sighing as she did, standing up to pace for a moment. "...He did not say he was transformed into a feline. Which means he was born that way. And he spoke of others existing, others like him. He said in his homeland, Khajiit are quite common, easily recognizable all across the continent. As natural to the land as any other."
"An entire race of sentient cats?" Leliana raised a brow. "So he's not the only one?" Josephine shook her head. "So, where is he from, that there is an entire continent of 'talking cats'?"
"He said it is called Tamriel. But I have heard of no such place. Have you?" Josephine looked at them, and both shook their heads.
"So either he's lying to us," Cullen remarked, "Or he was transported here from some place elsewhere?"
"Do you think it possible?" Leliana asked. "Transported somehow, magically, perhaps, to Thedas, and having no memory of it? It's certainly not possible to teleport in Thedas, but in another plane of existence? Another world entirely?...Still, it would not explain what he was doing at the Temple, and how the mark got on his hand. Or why soldiers reported that he fell out of a Fade rift. Unless it's all purely coincidental, and he never came out of a rift. That it's nothing but rumor and conjecture."
"Despite all that, we are still left with the larger question. Explaining his existance to anyone." Josephine interjected, sitting once more in her seat by the table. "If we have no logical explanation for his existance, then we have no way to disprove that he is a demon. The people will not simply listen to reason. They are too frightened, too devastated to accept that he bleeds like we do, or has emotions...or a temper," she glanced at Cullen, "just like the rest of us. Even if..." she sighed. "Even if he does have fur, and we don't." she inwardly groaned at how ridiculous all of this was. "They flock to the Chantry, and the Chantry has no other explanation."
"Well, we could tell them the truth." Cullen said offhand. "That we don't actually know what he is, or how he got here, but that he has the mark on his hand that can theoretically close the Breach. It certainly couldn't be worse than the current situation."
"Yes, it could be." Leliana countered. "We might as well stick with 'mystical creature sent through the Fade to save us'. Eventually we will learn the truth from him, and if indeed he was transformed into whatever he is, perhaps we'll learn the trick to reversing it. Or...maybe that's why he was sent to us, to redeem himself and earn back his rightful form. Never know."
Cullen rubbed his temple, then gestured to the door. "I'll leave that between the two of you, then. I've got recruits to train." he mumbled through gritted teeth, and then left the room, obviously tired of fruitless conversation. Especially when it pertained to Ravine.
"I can hardly believe that anyone has actually come to Haven to join the Inquisition." Leliana remarked as she followed Josephine through the door, exiting the counseling chamber, then following Josephine to her office to the right of it.
"These are troubling times." Josephine remarked. "Though there is a strange creature among us that no one can explain, perhaps there are some who see that the Inquisition is the only collective that is trying to change anything. We may not have the Divine, but we have the Divine's directive...and a feline that can close rifts. Whether he did it or not."
"Yes, and perhaps some of them simply want to see him up close, and see for themselves if the rumors are true." Leliana smirked. "You've seen him up close. What is he like without a sword pointed in his face?"
Josephine flopped down at the desk, rummaging through the pile of letters accumilating. Sighing, then reaching for her quill as she considered her answer. She tapped the end of the quill to her nose for a moment.
"I don't know how to explain it." she admitted, leaning back in her chair. "He's...a gentleman, honestly. He's very polite. Very intelligent, cultured, albeit foreign. Though he makes the most outlandish jokes." she chuckled. "Feline humor, mostly. I wonder if it's a defense mechanism, because he looks so different from everyone else. I wonder if, in fact, all of his behavior is defensive. But...I think he's sort of beautiful, in a way. He's certainly unique." She momentarily fiddled with the papers in front of her, feeling a little shy just then. "You...you said before, that he likes me. What did you mean by that?" Leliana rolled her eyes. "Why are you making that face?"
"Because, Josie. I don't know how you can't see it. He behaves like such a gentleman in front of you, but nobody else. You are the only one to see this more civil side to his behavior. From the very second you entered the dungeon, it was like he became fixated upon you, Josie. You don't think there is some sort of ulterior motive at play here?"
"Alright, well, if there is, what is it?" Josephine asked. Leliana sat on the corner of the desk and fiddled with her glove for a moment.
"I'm not entirely sure, honestly. You said he is not, nor has he ever been human. So...well, I find it hard to gather whether his intentions are actually romantic in nature or no."
"Romantic?" Josephine blinked. Then she burst out laughing, covering her mouth, stifling her fit.
"What? I'm quite serious you know." Leliana defended. "Has he tried to be affectionate in anyway?...Josie? You're, um...you're blushing."
Yes, she was. Her cheeks were on fire. Affectionate? Well cats liked to be affectionate with their owners, wanted to be pet, and nuzzled. But...he wasn't a pet. He wasn't a housecat, he was a person...and he...Maker's breath. He'd touched her hair and her cheek when he spoke to her, and told her he'd never hurt her, but the way he looked at her was as if he would eat her. So intense, and the floor dropped from under them when he did.
The way it made her feel, for just a moment, was as if the world had disappeared around them, and there was nothing at all in the world to worry about, and though he was frightening, she felt safe knowing he was her ally, not her enemy. His touch was warm, and tender, and...Was that what the purring meant? But, dammit, he said he wasn't a cat. Surely if he were interested in her, he would...Andraste help her now. He wasn't even human.
"No." she lied. "No, he hasn't."
"And yet, your face is as red as a ripe tomato." Leliana smiled deviously. "You like him too, don't you?"
"Well, yes, I like him. I think he's very interesting, in truth. But...Heavens, Leliana, it's not like I...like him like him." she said. "He's, well...he's not human. I don't think...Oh bother." she became flustered, thinking about it. "I don't think that's appropriate. And it's...rather perverse, if you think about it."
"Isn't it." Leliana chuckled.
"And you find this amusing. I hope you enjoy your laughter at my expense." Josephine huffed, folding her arms. "I, for one, think it's all a misunderstanding. I think he simply needs a friend. One that isn't pointing a sword at him, or thinks he's a demon. He needs someone to understand him. Someone to guide him through this world. Hold his hand, metaphorically speaking, of course. He is a stranger to our ways. Regardless of what he is."
"And then, as Beauty charmed the Beast, they lived happily ever after." Leliana coined, shaking her head, smiling still. "I don't mean to laugh at your expense, love. I simply mean to understand all this. It's unbelievable, honestly. That he's just so altruistic, because of your influence, and no one else's. I just wish there was a way to discover who he really is. It might help to piece together his reasons. His intentions. I do have a theory, though."
"I'm all ears." Josephine gestured for Leliana to proceed.
"Well, his choice in clothing and weapons is the first clue. I highly doubt he dresses that way to stand out. More likely, it's too blend in. To the dark. And felines are commonly nocturnal, you know. I believe he's an assassin. Or, at the very least, he's a mercenary. I've seen what he can do with those daggers of his, and his magic. If he weren't on our side, no doubt he could kill us all in our sleep, and none would be the wiser. A trained combatant.
"And before we attempted to close the Breach, I sifted through his person. He had no other valuables but a coin purse. Not sovereigns, per say. Strange markings on the coins, but it was gold. Not silver. Quite a hefty sum of money in this land, perhaps fairly valuable in his as well? People don't carry such hefty purses without doing something dangerous to get them. Though what it was, he did in this Bravil, maybe? He said he deserved to be in a cell. Certainly he did something he's not proud of. That's why I advise you to be careful with him. He may not have caused the Breach, but that doesn't make him and innocent man...cat...er...Khajiit, I mean."
"Do you think he came here to start over some place new?" Josephine asked, after considering Leliana's words. "That he's attempting to make a new life for himself here in Thedas. Could it be that the mark on his hand was all a coincidence? All an accident? Or...do you think the Maker could have sent him to help us, as a chance to amend his previous wrongs? Would He do something like that?"
"It's certainly a possibility, no? And that this Shadow believes you're the key to his salvation?" Lelina raised a brow. "One can only wonder. But if he's here, now, with us, while the Breach looms ever above in the sky, I wonder. If he actually manages to close it, where will he go next?"
"That is a very good question." Josephine agreed. Growing even more curious of all this than she already was. If he did close the Breach, would he stay?...With her...er...with them? She undoubtedly meant with them. Or would he simply disappear as suddenly as he arrived? Or was it all an act and he was a murderer and he'd kill them all in their sleep? A concerning thought.
"So. He's sarcastic and he jokes. Tell me one of these feline jokes of his then." Leliana pleaded.
"Alright then." Josephine shrugged. "Curiosity kill the cat, no? Well, he is curious, but he's still alive, so that is the proof that he's obviously not a cat." she shrugged.
Leliana burst with a fit of light hearted laughter. "Oh that's genius, I must say." she cooed.
"Holy mother of Andraste, you're a...you're a..." the tiny woman stammered, the following morning, at first light, at the sight of Ra'viin and all his sharp teeth, he assumed. Backing up, frightened and confused by him.
"I know. I'm a 'talking cat'." he said dryly. "What else is new."
"I uh...um." Still, she gaped at him, with wide eyes, and of course the only thing Ra'viin was concerned with was the fact that there were more tiny people besides Varric. It was no accident that he was so short. Apparently, come to find out, there was an entire race of tiny people in Thedas, which Ra'viin found as comical as Varric found it funny that Ra'viin could talk. He knelt in front of her, not quite eye level with her, but not looming over her like a werebeast about to slice her open, holding up his hands a little in defense.
"Varric? Please explain to this tiny, adoring and delightful person that I'm not going to eat her." he dolled, glancing back at Cassandra, whose face was drawn into a scowl, and then at Solas, who was covering his mouth with his hand, trying to mask the fact that he found this encounter amusing. Varric sighed and stepped forward, and the tiny woman's eyes flitted back and forth between Varric and Ra'viin.
"Uh, Harding is it?" he asked her, and she nodded, casting a sideways glance at Ra'viin. "Huh...ever been to Kirkwall?" he asked then.
"Why?" she asked him.
"Well, you'd be harding in...ah, never mind." he shook his head.
"Ugh." Cassandra muttered behind him. He sighed.
"Uh, Harding? Look here for a second." he gestured for her to look at him, focus on him, instead of the large 'beast' that scared the shit out of her. "Look, he's not a demon, alright? He's just a bit prickish, that's all. But he's here to help. We're looking for Mother Giselle. We were told she's here in the Hinterlands."
"She's...at the Crossroads." she informed nervously, as she kept looking over at Ra'viin, assessing his appearance. "She's tending to the refugees. We were sent her to secure horses from Redcliffe's old horse master, but we couldn't get to him. The Mage-Templar fighting's gotten worse. I just got word this morning that the fighting has spread to the Crossroads too. Inquisition soldiers are doing what they can, but I don't know how long Corporal Vale will be able to hold them off...So, you're a cat?" she turned to Ra'viin. "Like as in, you have a tail and everything?...I mean...You know, it's just...I've never seen anything like you, and...um."
Ra'viin snorted and shook his head, then held up his tail from under his coat for her to see.
"Holy cow." she said again. "So can you see in the dark too?...Oh, uh, you...um, you should probably get going? Don't want to, you know, waste time, or anything. I'm sorry. I just...yeah." She shifted anxiously. Ra'viin chuckled.
"Let's get to Giselle." he said to the others as he rose to his feet. "Maybe we'll talk more of nighteyes and cats' tails later, yes?" he asked Harding, before bowing politely, and waving for them to leave camp, leaving the flustered little 'dwarf', as Varric said they were called, to stare after them in utter shock and amazement.
'Dwarves'. Ra'viin found that funny. In Tamriel they were known as the deep elves. Dwemer, in Altmeri tongue. They were extinct, but assumed to be a much shorter and stockier race of elves, and be that they were dwarven meant they navigated the depths of the earth in caves and tunnels. Varric said dwarves in Thedas were known for the same thing. The root word likely derived from the same source, which made him wonder just how long Mara and her kin had been aware of this realm, as dwarves in Thedas were a very old race, according to Varric. But here, they weren't elves, they were just obnoxiously short. And if Varric was any indication of what the rest of the race were like, Ra'viin was certain he would no doubt be quite entertained by this little species of tiny men.
It was no surprise to him that both mages and Templars would attack the Inquisition agents that approached the Crossroads. Neither Cassandra nor Solas could convince either side they had peaceful intentions. They took one look at Ra'viin and freaked, and his plan to refrain from violence went out the window. He managed to subdue some of the enemy attackers with magic, but they were outnumbered, as the Inquisition's soldiers were busy protecting the innocent residents of the village from the fighting. And it hurt every time Ra'viin used his magic. Worse than before. He was certain now, that he knew why. This mark of magic in his hand sparked vindictively every time he summoned Magika. The powers warred with one another, vied for control.
It made him weaker, though he could use his size and strength to his advantage against the small human mages and templars, and switching to his right hand to summon Magika lessened the burden. But that was a trying task of its own since he was left handed. He wasn't used to it, but he'd get used to it if he had to. In well enough time, the enemy numbers were quelled, and the village was secure.
But all eyes were on him. The agents sent ahead of them had never met him up close before, and neither had the unarmed villagers that gawked at him, slowly backing away in fear and confusion. Whispering fervently. 'So it's true, a demon came from the Fade', and 'Maker help us, he's a monster!' 'He's a...cat!'...Well, this was going to get interesting. He slowly turned about, eyeing the crowd just as they eyed him with caution, Cassandra still had her sword out, preparing for the mob to attack, Varric stood and gaped, and Solas glanced around, assessing the situation, just as Ra'viin did. Slowly he lay down his daggers at his feet, putting his hands up as if surrendering, all the faces staring at him, examining how strange he was in appearance.
"Please, we mean no harm." Cassandra said to all of them. "We are with the Inquisition. We are here to help."
This seemed to alarm people more, having heard that the Inquisition harbored a demon. Just when Ra'viin was certain the frightened crowd would attack, a figure stepped out of it. Dressed in similar clothing to Chancellor Rodric. He was certain it was Giselle walking over to them, to stand before Ra'viin and eye him carefully. She stood transfixed in his presence, and the crowd grew silent, curious to all end of what was happening, and probably curious of what Ra'viin intended to do to this gentle hearted religious woman that they so revered. Slowly she stepped closer, studying everything from his clothes, to his fur, his tail, and the two daggers that lie harmlessly on the ground.
"So this is the mysterious creature the people are calling a Shadow of the Forbidden." she said quietly.
"You must be Mother Giselle." Ra'viin spoke equally as quiet, before bowing respectfully to the unarmed woman that had approached him, sparking more interest from the crowd. "My name is Ra'viin." he introduced.
"Come, then, Ra'viin. And let us share words." she said, with an interesting accent. It was similar to Leliana's. He wondered how much more similarity the two of them shared. He glanced at Cassandra, who nodded, before turning her attention back to the curious onlookers. He turned back to see that Varric picked up his daggers and tucked them on his person, and resisted a laugh. He loved that little man already. He followed the soft spoken woman named Giselle away from the crowd, where the two of them could speak more freely, he imagined, and discuss things that these superstitious people would not care to hear.
"So," she said as she turned to face him, looking him up and down, "You are the one that my fellow Clerics are claiming to be a demon?" she asked, and he nodded, curious as to what was going through this woman's mind. "I admit that what sparked my curiosity was the fact that a demon could possess magic that can close the menace in the sky, and...use it to aid the people of Thedas." she explained. "What interests me is...why would a demon from the Fade seek to help innocent people, I wonder?"
"My knowledge of demons is limited, Mother, but from what I gathered, I don't think a demon is interested in helping any one." he raised a brow. She chuckled.
"No, perhaps not. And Seeker Pentaghast would not allow a demon to walk aimlessly among her people, either. Demons are creatures that suffer, and in turn, cause suffering in others. It is their way, to prey on the weak, not protect the weak. If it is true that you ally with the Inquisition to close the Breach, then perhaps what my brothers and sisters believe is simply a misunderstanding."
"It is. I am no demon. Well, at least not one from the Fade, anyway." he said to her, and once more she looked him over with a calm gaze, almost as if she weren't surprised at all by his appearance. Either that, or she was certain he was merely a man transformed into a cat, just like others had assumed of him. Who was to know?
"What are you then, Shadow? If not a shadow of demons, then what does your purpose reflect? Where are you from?"
He shrugged. "Where do you think?" he asked. "These people have never seen my kind before. I am certainly far from home, Mother."
"A creature from another world. But not a creature from the Fade." she speculated, though he couldn't tell by her expression if she believed him or not, she was too composed. "When I first heard the rumor that someone entered this world from the Fade, in light of the destruction, I thought perhaps you were a mage. Transformed, or disfigured somehow. Turned to an abomination, as often happens when mages are possessed by demons. Here, in this land, mages must carefully safeguard their spirits from corruption from the Fade, you see. For it is the source of their will, and so easy to manipulate them. Magic must serve man, but never rule over him. Sadly, my predecessors misconstrued this philosophy, and used it to fuel mistrust in magic, and chain innocent mages against their will."
"Hmm, because they are spiritually connected to a world that is both beautiful, and dangerous, yes?" Ra'viin asked. "And you thought I'd been a mage corrupted into this?"
"I did, until now." Giselle nodded. "So did many others, that assumed that only danger can come from the Fade. Which it does, but such is life. There is good and there is evil. The Fade possesses both. Spirits must wander the Fade in death, to find their way to the Maker's side, my people teach. But it is up to each person, the deeds that either corrupt or enlighten their spirit, as to whether they reach the gates the throne of the Maker, or instead find their way to a pit of black."
"Well, I didn't come from the Fade. Though this mark was placed upon me when I arrived, I come from some place else. My power comes from a world that is different from the Fade, you see."
"And what is this place, Shadow?" Giselle asked.
"Erm...Well..." He sighed. "It's called Aetherius. It was the people of Aetherius that sent me here, transported me from my homeland. Not demons."
"But you were sent to help us, you believe?" Giselle sighed. "I do not know if I am to believe this, but I can see with my own eyes that you are no demon. Such sadness, that people must see to believe, and we have no Maker to see, but yet we must believe. Such are the conflicts of faith. I am glad you met with me though, Aetherial Shadow that you are. My eyes are opened."
"As are mine." he smiled.
"And this." she looked him over. "This is permanent?" she asked.
"Yes. I was born this way. My people are called Khajiit." he explained. "I'm neither man, nor animal. I'm unique."
"I see." she remarked. "This path will be difficult for you then, Khajiit. These people are frightened, fearful of what is to become of them. And in their fear, they turn to their faith. But their Maker has...'abandoned them', and they believe they are all damned. But they are blind to what will truly save them."
"They fear what they do not understand, and it makes them ignorant, and foolish." Ra'viin lamented softly with understanding. "People are the same where I come from."
"And what do you do in your world when faced with a threat, and seen as the enemy?" she asked him.
"Fight anyway." he shrugged. "These people can be afraid of me all they want, but I still have a task I must accomplish. I must close the Breach, and that's what I will do. One way or another. As for what people believe in me, ever heard the expression 'sticks and stones'-"
"May break my bones." she finished with a chuckle.
"So you have that here?" he asked with a smile.
"Yes. But here? Words can hurt, when they are spoken to the faithful. Go to the Clerics. I will travel to Haven and provide Sister Leliana with a list of those who will be amenable to a gathering. They must see you for what you truly are, with their own eyes. If you truly mean to restore order, you will find a way to convince them of that. You need not convince them all, but just get some of them to...doubt. Their power is in their unified voice...I do not know if indeed the Maker may have played a hand in guiding you to us, Ra'viin, but...I am grateful the people of Aetherius did. You must thank them for me, if you are able."
"I can try, Mother, but...just like your Maker, they are something that most have to see to believe."
"And did you have to see to believe in them?" she asked.
"No, I suppose not. What you see gives you proof, but what you feel...gives you faith. I was cast in their shadow for a long time, you see, but I still believed, I think. They did not see me, but...maybe they believed as well. I was worthless in my own land, but here? Maybe I'm worth something. And one day I wont be a shadow."
"You were sent to repent for your life? Then I will pray for you, Shadow, that you become Light." Giselle smiled.
(I feel like Ra'viin is the douchy gamer who's been playing Elder Scrolls forever and just recently got a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition, and has to piece together a totally new fandom, and constantly remarks on how idiotic people are in the game, because he's a dick. Though, he likes Giselle, so that's okay. And he really is trying to NOT be a dick)
Chapter 9: The Most Illogical Logic...Ever.
More horrible cat jokes, more fluff and angst with Josie, and more of this 'logical' explanation of Ra'viin's existence. Turns out he's a scholar, and not as ignorant as Cullen thinks he is. But nobody believes this crap...do they?
"So, the cat's out of the bag, so to speak." said Varric. Cassandra snorted.
"You do know cat is an insult to his kind, right?" she asked. "Better you be the one to insult him than me. I've seen what he can do."
"Oh I think I'm in the clear. The cat and I? We have an understanding." Varric winked.
"Oh, so did the dwarf grow an inch or two in his head, then?" Ra'viin said next to him, and he chuckled, clapping Varric on the shoulder.
"So did Giselle believe what you told her?" Cassandra asked, changing the subject.
"Eh, who knows if Giselle believed a word I said, but at least she saw I'm not a Fade demon." Ra'viin said as he scratched his chin.
"Yeah but what you are exactly is still a little unbelievable." Varric admitted. "Did people really send you here from another plane of existance? Or...was that just the story you're spinning?"
Ra'viin shrugged. "All things are just stories being told, bishu liter. Some are history, and some are fairytales."
"Yeah well this one's got the makings of a good murder mystery with some supernatural elements involved." Varric remarked. "A best seller, I'm sure."
They were back at camp, and after a long day of traversing the wilderness and warzone that was the Hinterlands, they'd finally found Dennet, the horsemaster that little Lace Harding had spoke of. Ra'viin waited outside the farmstead while Cassandra spoke to a disgruntled Dennet about securing horses, and made arrangements to build watchtowers, and agreed to help them with their wolf problem.
The Hinterlands was also riddled with rifts, a problem that Ra'viin was indeed becoming quite proficient at dealing with. Though still confused as to how the magic on his hand affected his body. Solas had mentioned that the mark had been slowly spreading, along with the Breach, and was slowly killing him, when he first received it. He briefly wondered if reversing the Breach's chaos would also reverse the mark on his hand. If he would lose the ability to close rifts when all of them were gone. It made sense. Though, understanding how he received it would be useful.
He stared at it for a minute or two, after being bombarded with questions from everyone, including Harding, as to his existence. They hardly believed the concept that he was a new race of being, let alone could they believe he was from a new world entirely. But Harding overcame her fear of him and squealed with glee when he gave in and let her touch his tail. It seemed comical to him at the moment, how they simply didn't know what to make of him. For certain, Cathay-raht were an intimidating aspect of Khajiit, some of the larger of the bipeds, and looked nothing like humans, elves and sax-folk. But here? It was a new kind of intimidation for people, people that either feared him, or marveled at him like he was a Dwemer artifact. He didn't know which was worse.
But insofar, Varric joked about his appearance a lot to ease the tension, as well as because he simply didn't know what to think of him, so he took it in stride, enjoying their battles of sarcasm, making Cassandra huff at them. Solas was more interested in discussing Mysticism, rather than focus conversation on the origins of his race, to his relief, which proved to be an interesting topic to discuss with a fellow mage.
Solas found it interesting that Ra'viin had mastered many skills besides magic, as it was not common in Thedas for a mage to do so. Typically they depended solely on their magic, for it required too much focus and concentration, and was the most natural skill for them to learn. He said that magic for mages was like breathing, and it was inappropriate for them to wield a dagger or carry a sword and shield, other than for dire circumstances. As well as carrying a dagger usually implied they were a blood mage to most people.
Ra'viin didn't know what to make of his explanation of this 'blood magic'. It seemed an illogical sort of logic. Blood was one's life essence, and held untapped power, but to hear of how abhorrent it was to practice made him cock a curious brow. Not just sacrificial magic, which he understood that taboo, but any blood magic, including using one's own blood. He thought it was ridiculously superstitious of people. But then again, he came from a world where elves foolishly made deals with Daedra.
As for Cassandra, she had changed her tune. He wasn't sure if it was his discussion with Giselle that put her mind at ease, but she was more complacent that evening as they set up the last encampment for the Inquisition, ensuring the majority of the region was secure, and set down to rest with the setting of the sun, planning to make an early start to their journey back to Haven.
Of course, the 'Seeker' still corrected his ill use of language of course. He didn't admit out loud that he had perfect control over his cursing, but that he slipped up on purpose every once in a while just to get her going. She wouldn't take too kindly to that, he was sure, and likely word would get back to Josephine about it. Those were feathers he didn't wish to ruffle.
Eventually, near the end of the evening, Varric asked what he did in Tamriel, before he came there. He didn't answer. When Varric kept pestering him about it, he hissed, and sauntered off, and there went the revelry of the evening.
He found a ledge on which to perch his coat, tucking it out of the way, to escape the notice of any bandits that should happen upon it and run fast enough to escape his jaws when they were caught stealing, and then he scaled the large boulder he happened upon, sinking his claws into it, nimbly climbing to the top. He could see for miles up there. The sky was so open, and so different from his own sky in Tamriel. This was to be his home now. But there would simply be no letting go of Tamriel just yet, would there?
For every time he closed his eyes, he still saw their faces, and smelled their blood, thick, oozing, dripping from his hands. He'd see the fear in their eyes before the lights would burn out and the life would fade before his own golden eyes. He regretted it, but he'd been so good at it. So good. So good that he stayed alive much longer than he should have, much longer than what he deserved. He didn't attempt to go back to camp, curl up in a tent and sleep, for he knew what would happen if he did. He'd see their faces. And see these good people who needed his help scream in horror at the atrocities he'd committed.
And Josephine. Sweet Josephine. May she never learn of all the things he'd done.
Rumor had already spread throughout Haven of how Josephine 'tamed the beast', and curious whispers circulated the village. Half the people were convinced she was divine in nature, and the other half were convinced she was a witch.
That she could somehow convince a demon to side with the Inquisition and the fact that he was civil and respectful to her, among other false things that also circulated, very inappropriate false things that were muttered in the tavern over ale, which made them unaccountable anyway, were all things that reached her ears in her office, thanks to Leliana. People approached her, and she managed to expertly deflect some of these accusations with a measure of diplomacy, but most of it had her to the point that she was ready to lock herself in that room and never come out.
But she shared the office with the Inquisition's appointed researcher, and so therefore couldn't lock the woman in there with her. After some convincing, and a few coins passed from hand to hand discreetly, the researcher managed to dully explain to denizens of Haven of Ravine's physical properties that deemed him to not be a demon.
She compared samples of debris collected from the valley, traces of bodily residue left behind by the demons that physically manifested, to her own research into Ravine's nature of being. The healers could do nothing for him when he first arrived, so it had been Minaeve to actually conduct studies of the unconscious feline. If her explanation didn't serve to ease people, than her meticulous tone of voice when she spoke of her research drove people away.
She also helped Josephine to understand some things about felines that she didn't before, which helped her to understand Ravine's more beastial side. Turned out, Minaeve had an affinity for cats, which was interesting. She explained that cats had different social preferences than other species. And what that meant was they didn't socialize the same way as say a dog, or people. They were very particular about the sort of company they liked to keep, and didn't like being approached directly, but preferred being in the company of someone who was patient enough to wait for the cat to approach them.
Images of housecats never coming when called, and always popping up out of nowhere at the most inconvenient times sprung to mind. But of course, Josephine could not depend solely on Minaeve's information, for Ravine was not a housecat. But she understood more of his inhuman mannerisms and came to an interesting conclusion. He did like her. What that meant exactly, was lost on her, however.
When Mother Giselle arrived at Haven, providing Leliana with the names of the Clerics that might be willing to address the Inquisition, Josephine learned exactly what kind of impression he was leaving on people of the Hinterlands. He'd listened to her advice, and went with a diplomatic approach, though dealing with the mages and Templars that overran the Crossroads had proved difficult to deal with. Giselle noted upon his unwillingness to out rightly kill them, even to defend the innocent refugees taking shelter there. He tried to show restraint, it seemed, to be reasonable, though failed to do so.
He displayed some interesting abilities, possessed great physical strength, and seemed almost monstrous at a distance, but up close he was soft-spoken, an attentive listener, and very willing to listen to reason, though not completely convinced he would be able to change people's minds about him.
He seemed...weighted, she said. As if he shouldered a great burden, and was suddenly called to a higher purpose to rectify his mistakes, agreeing with Leliana's and Josephine's stance on that subject. Whatever or whoever he was before, he was now determined to unmake himself of it. And Giselle prayed for him in earnest.
After that it was less pleasant appointments to have, as a few dignitaries arrived to slake their curiosity of the Inquisition's plan of action, and this beast that allied with them. One such dignitary, however, was more concerned with upending the Inquisition's legal claim to Haven as a base of operations. The Orlesian emissary, Marquis Du'Rellion, attempted to convince her he had right to Haven by an ancient treaty between his wife's family and Ferelden, and though he could technically say he owned it still, he'd lent the property to the Chantry for pilgrimage.
By writ of the previous Divine, the Inquisition had amnesty, but he would not accept this without Justinia's sanction. He could try to take it to the Imperial court to be overturned, though she was certain Celine would care little about such a minor property dispute. But it was all she could do to convince him that the Inquisition did intend to act on the founding principals of the Chantry, and aimed to secure peace throughout Ferelden, and peace with Orlais as well. Their priority was the Breach, and he'd have to take it up with Seeker Pentaghast upon her return.
He flew out of the room, redfaced under his mask, flustered at the mention of having to deal with Cassandra.
She could only stand there for a minute or so with her head in her hand, then pinch the bridge of her nose. She was getting a head ache. And she'd only have more to do that day. She planned on penning to paper some of Minaeve's research to send to potential financial backers, so that she could convince them they did not harbor a demon, but in fact a newly discovered creature, with sentient behavior. She had a little in mind of what to write, but she was tired, and her throat was sore from talking people to death, though not literally of course.
This was different than court. Much different. She was not negotiating contracts, she was convincing people of make believe ideas. It was complete and utter insanity. She sighed, extinguishing the candle perched atop her itinerary for the time being, and set it on her desk. Thank the Maker she was alone and Minaeve had been called away from her post for some minor issue. She didn't have to have the woman fuss over her health. She got enough of that from Leliana.
But she felt the hair raise on the back of her neck for some reason. Soon she found out why. She jumped when she heard a voice behind her, coming out of the shadows of the doorway. She turned to see Ravine, clutching her chest.
"The princess looks tired." he said, closing the door, then he chuckled. "Apologies for startling you."
"It's quite alright." she amended. "I'm...I'm fine." She mustered a smile and a nod. "Is there something you can do for you? How...how was the Hinterlands?" Oh she wanted to smack herself for trying to make small talk with this feline. She sounded so silly.
"Warmer than up here in these mountains." he said with a sigh, folding his arms and leaning back against the door. "You should consider relocating. It's freezing up here."
He purred as he looked her over, his eyes like glittering jewels, resembling imperial topaz in the dim candlelight that flickered in the room. It gave her goosebumps.
"We've received reports that things are more favorable in Hinter, now that you have sealed the rifts and quelled some of the fighting." she commented, slowly striding over to her desk. "We've had a few more visitors to Haven, and I am to understand that you will be traveling to Val Royeaux?"
"Yes. Um, why was that man wearing a mask?" he wrinkled the bridge of his nose when he asked that, and...it was actually sort of adorable. She smiled.
"It's tradition in Orlais for people to don masks when they attempt to play the Grand Game." she explained. "To attend parties, masquerades, listen to gossip and politics, to...to decipher your opponent's intentions, to uncover secrets, assassinations, to do so under anonymity. Each mask bears the symbol of the noble house to which it belongs, though all else is a matter of chance and uncertainty. It is a dance of intrigue, seduction, and scandal. It's highly popular among noble houses."
"Seduction?" he purred with a grin. "It sounds interesting. They don't have such things in Tamriel. Have you ever played this game, little princess?" he asked. "Have you ever seduced others for their secrets while wearing a disguise?" She blushed at the way he asked that question.
"I have played the game before. I no longer." she admitted. "I much prefer my current position within the Inquisition to that." Of which she did, come to think of it. There were far worse things to deal with than convincing Thedas this person was not a demon. Perhaps her day wasn't so bad after all. "So, I must know, did you really lay down your blades and drop to your knees before a crowd of people in Hinter?" she asked, and he chuckled.
"I wasn't on my knees, but I did drop my blades." he said. "Unfortunately right in the mud. Ebony is not cheap. Where did you hear that?"
"I hear all of the strange gossip that reaches this village." she laughed.
"I should teach you Ta'agra." he said, most unexpectedly with a sigh. "I bet it would sound beautiful."
"What is Ta'agra?"
"My native tongue." he hummed. "The spoken word of Khajiit. 'Kiz kha'jay ete jer to balis, an jer wodra ete jer ali ja'fith khaja'."
"That's...beautiful. What does it mean?"
"It means 'May the Moons guide you at dusk, and your roads lead you to warm sands'."
"I like that." she smiled. "Ravine, I...I wanted to thank you. For doing what you can to be peaceful. I...understand it must be difficult for you, being in a strange land, with strange people, that do not understand your ways, or you theirs, but...You are doing well." she smiled, bleeding encouragement into her words.
"Tsin'ra jaji ahziss saj vaba dorr jer, ja'ro'aran." he said with a smile.
"And...what does that mean?" she raised a brow. He chuckled.
"It means I could not do this without you." he said. "You are a gift from the Gods, princess."
She snorted a little with laughter, covering her mouth with her hand for a moment. Blushing at how he complimented her so. She could overlook the fact that he was rather heathen in religious belief, and certainly not Andrastian, but the way he spoke so highly of her, it just...She didn't know how to explain how it made her feel. Somewhere along the same lines as the feeling she got when he touched her cheek. She felt her face get warm at the thought.
"I don't know about that, but you're welcome." she said. "Though you really must stop calling me that, Ravine. I'm not-"
"Yes you are." he argued, waving off her complaint as he turned to leave the room. "Would you like to come with me? The Sister Leliana will not leave me alone about where I'm from. And I think I found a way to explain it. Interested?"
"Oh. Yes. Yes, certainly." She rose from her seat, following him out the door he opened for her.
"So, what has you believing your from an alternate plane, exactly?" asked Cullen.
He was hardly enthusiastic about the discussion in the war room, as it was called, with Ra'viin, Leliana, Josephine, Cassandra, and Solas, who was capable of filling in the gaps where Ra'viin couldn't as Haven had no other arcanist with his level of knowledge and understanding, even though being in a Chantry unnerved him.
Ra'viin was well aware of the fact that mages were stigmatized by Andrastian religion, thanks to his discussions with him and the Seeker on his way to Haven, and well aware of the fact that the military Commander in the room was once a Templar, the order of soldiers gifted with abilities to combat magic and tasked with hunting mages and bringing them to Circles, as they called them.
He knew no one was comfortable with this discussion, most likely, but the discussion was not about Solas and his unsanctioned use of magic. The discussion was about Ra'viin, and where in the cosmos he hailed from. At any rate, Solas would not have to explain anything a Circle mage could not gather for themselves, he said, but those few that allied with the Inquisition would most likely think the whole conversation daft anyway.
"The sky." he deadpanned upon hearing Cullen's question.
"The sky?" he repeated, but Ra'viin was ignoring him and already reaching for scraps of paper, and turning to Josephine, who had a quill sticking out from her notepad.
"If I may, my dear." he said graciously and gestured to the quill. She handed it to him with a curious expression. After supplying it with ink, he sketched out a rather rudimentary sketch of Mundus' solar system.
"I was somewhat of an astronomical 'enthusiast' in Tamriel. I studied the stars. Mostly because a significant number of cultures associate their religions with them. Religion aside, I fancied myself a scholar in all things archaic in nature...I spent time studying the constellations while we were in the Hinterlands. This is Mundus." he said, dotting the paper.
"Mundus is a cluster of planets in which contains Nirn, Nirn being the realm in which resides the continents of Tamriel, Akavir, Atmora, and the like. It's night sky is much different than Thedas. It has two moons, however their size difference is not similar to the moons above Thedas. Different ratio. Different revolution even. Different constellations as well. No, I am not from a land across the sea, of that I'm certain. A different planet than this one? Most definitively."
"You fancy yourself an astronomer?" Leliana asked. "Where did you find the time?"
Her expression was blank, but he could tell she was making light of his knack for cosmology. The little spy had something up her sleeve again, he was sure.
"I fancy myself whatever I like, little spy." he said with narrowed eyes. "Khajiit, not a cat. I'm not uneducated."
"Alright, so...different planet. You expect us to believe that's possible?" Cullen asked. "That there is a...a planet in our sky filled with more of your people?"
"I don't expect you to believe anything." he shrugged. "But...not your sky."
"What do you mean?" Cassandra narrowed her gaze, disbelieving of this string of information, and probably confused as well.
"I mean that one cannot get to Nirn simply by crossing the sky, if such a thing could be done. It's not the same sky. It is a world parallel to this one. For Thedas is not apart of the Aurbis, in which my world, the stars, the planets, and the plane of Aetherius is contained. Essentially, it is a separate Aurbis."
"A seperate what?" It was Leliana's turned to be confused.
"A seperate cosmos. A different realm. An...alternate universe." He shrugged. "As separate as this world is to the Fade realm."
"And what's your evidence for this conclusion?" she asked. He turned to Solas.
"His disconnection to the Fade, simply put." he answered for him. "It's the most feasible evidence. Though he possesses arcane ability, it is not through the construct of the Fade, but a seperate source entirely. It was why I was unable to heal his injuries, even minor ones. Not a single scratch. His physical body is completely foreign. He's not in anyway natural to our world. Though there are some similarities, a similar evolution of society, similar language even, he is not naturally connected to our world. He is here through a supernatural occurrence."
Ra'viin chuckled. "And by that he means my Gods sent me here. In a way. Very powerful Aetherial magic had to be used to send me here. For it is no thing that mortals can do. So...no, I cannot say for sure if it was your 'Maker' that sent me to you, but something sent me here. And not to terrorize you all. Though...I think that's inevitable, considering there's no such thing as Khajiit in Thedas."
"Your...Gods sent you to us?" Leliana asked, folding her arms, glaring at him with icy blue eyes, probably disturbed that her soft malleable bubble of religion was being threatened.
All the while Josephine said nothing, which was surprising. No argument, no defense either of his story, or their questions. Nothing. She just soaked it all in on the other side of the table like a little golden flower soaking up Magnus' blaring rays of sunshine. Pad poised in the crook of her arm, her funny looking inkpen-thing in the other, shifting to the side, biting her lip, watching him as he discussed his origins to them.
Rahjiin's shadow she looked...gorgeous. His fallacy was always his weakness for soft, sleek human women, but none in Tamriel could compare to the likes of her. He wished he didn't have to be so civilized and could simply tear into that dress of hers and have his way with her. It was hard not to show how much he wanted to just then.
"Don't assume I promote some kind of heretical movement to turn you from your Maker, little spy." he said to Leliana, tearing his eyes from Josephine. "It's still possible, and probable, that your Maker exists, and that your world is more connected to mine than you can imagine. Otherwise, I cannot fathom how I could be here in the first place."
"Theoretically, he could have breached our world through the Fade from his own, and came into Thedas through the Breach in the sky, though the matter of physically entering the Fade is up for debate, of course." Solas informed them. "Regardless, his lack of innate connection to it could mean that he is completely immune to corruption by it." he added. "Though he is able to cast magic, we have no fear of him becoming an Abomination." He looked right at Cullen when he said that.
"So...if this is true, you truly are no demon." Cullen remarked. "You're just an ass."
"Yes, but I'm a useful ass." Ra'viin grinned devilishly at him. "One who needs to eat and drink, and possibly sleep, for he's very tired. Then, an ass who must learn very quickly in a short time how to keep from getting mobbed when he visits Orlais."
"Wait, so, how exactly are you able to use those powers of yours?" Cassandra questioned. "If you truly are in a world so separate from your own?"
"When you figure that out? You let me know." he shrugged.
('Bishu liter' means 'little brother'. 'Tsin'ra jaji ahziss saj vaba dorr jer, ja'ro'aran' actually means 'all that I do is for you, princess.' He's so fluffy for Josie, but won't admit it, will he?)
Chapter 10: One Bad Cat
Josephine followed Ravine out of the Chantry, curious of the information he just gave them. She didn't know how much she could believe, but he didn't lie. She was fairly certain he hadn't. Everything he just told them was what he honestly believed.
And even the Apostate confirmed some of what he said. That he could not use magic on Ravine meant that he was certainly worlds apart from any other in Thedas. He was truly unique. If it was to be believed, this information certainly interested her. And she wanted to know more. When Ravine noticed her following him through the large front door, he stopped, and turned to speak to her.
"Would you like to join me at that tavern down there for a drink, Lady Montilyet?" he asked.
"I, well, I don't normally drink," she said. "But I'll join you for a meal? I'm famished. And...I'd like to hear more about Tamriel, if you don't mind sharing with me."
"Of course, princess," he said with a rakish smile. She resisted rolling her eyes, and instead simply stared at him. He chuckled. "There are worse things to be called, little one. You should hear Varric's name for you."
"And what is that?"
"Oye. I'd rather be called a princess then."
"That's what I thought."
They recieved curious looks from passerby, but Josephine did her best to ignore them. People stared at Ravine, and some of them looked quite fearful of him, and any who were walking up the path they took down to the tavern either stepped out of the way, or went the other direction, afraid that they should cross paths with the large creature in black.
He looked a little different that day. His braids were pulled away from his face, brushed back behind his ears, and tied at the nape of his neck. He by no means smelled terrible, but his armor looked a little bedraggled, and Josephine briefly wondered if she should suggest that he ask the blacksmith about repairing it.
He looked tired. There was a slight swagger in step, though he put one foot in front of the other just the same, as they leisurely strolled through the village. His expression was undiscernible, however. He didn't smile, but he didn't look upset either, just...neutral. Though his eyes flitted about, watching the people that fled from his presence. Then his eyes narrowed, like a cat when the sun hit them.
When they reached the tavern, being ever so the gentleman, he opened the door for her, but then they both froze, just inside the doorway that he practically had to bend backwards to get through. Everyone froze, cups halfway to their lips, gaping in shock at them. The bard stopped playing music, and all the people in the room got quiet, looking as if they'd been caught doing something disreputable. But they hadn't. It was the fact that the Shadow had entered their place of rest.
"Shit," she heard him whisper beside her.
"Watch your language," she muttered under her breath.
"Apologies, princess," she heard him say.
They stared at everyone, just as everyone stared at them. A few people who had been standing even started to back away.
"Can you do me a favor?" he asked, as he slipped a small bag into her hand, drawing her attention to him. "I don't know how much is there, but see if you can barter with the mistress over there to buy everyone in here a drink, on me." He said this quietly and evenly, without looking away from the people present. "These people look tired, and some have lost loved ones. They should drink in their honor."
She nodded, clutching the bag of silver, slowly walking over to the bar, while Ravine still stood frozen in the doorway. The matron of the establishment, Flissa, had backed away from the bar upon seeing Ravine, wide-eyed, and looking as if she were one second away from screaming.
"He's...the...Shadow," the woman said shakily.
"Flissa, dear, would you be so kind as to help me?" Josephine asked her, grabbing the woman's attention. "The uh..." she cleared her throat and spoke just a touch louder for everyone else to hear, "The...gentleman everyone is calling the 'Shadow' is Ravine-er-I don't know your family name." She turned and mouthed the last part to him.
"I don't have one," he whispered back. Oh. Well then.
"Um...Ravine. This is Ravine, Flissa...He would like to buy everyone in this establishment a round of drinks. For their loss, and peace of mind."
"Y-yes ma'am," she stammered, as Josephine counted out the coin. He must've gotten it in the Hinterlands, and it seemed he did have just enough to buy everyone a cup of ale. That was a very kind thought he had for them. And hopefully it would help to gain their trust.
"Then, when you're finished, if you wouldn't mind serving the two of us some food, Flissa dear?" Josephine then asked, and Flissa nodded as she scooped up the coin and rushed to begin filling cups. As for the Antivan, she returned to Ravine's side and gestured for him to follow her over to the table in the corner, giving them some distance from the other patrons, who stared in shock as Flissa served them free drinks.
"That was admirable of you." Josephine said quietly across from him, trying not to burst out laughing at how uncomfortable he looked being too large for the chair and the table. She'd have to see about making a seating arrangement that would better suit him in the future. He'd removed his coat before he sat down, but he still looked so bulky, every bit of his frame sheer muscle under that fur.
"No one's going to say no to free drinks, even if they do come from the 'Shadow'." he said with a smile. "Might have to do something about that name. It's starting to stick, you know. Ravine may be a Shadow, but not one of demons, princess."
"Yes, perhaps instead you may become the Maker's Shadow to these people, in time."
"Giselle prayed in the Hinterlands that I become Light," he remarked. "But I think she has very high hopes. Ravine cannot possibly live up to such expectations." He raised a dark brow. "But he can try." She smirked.
"One can only hope. So...I'm to believe you come from another world, far beyond the stars, am I?" she cocked a curious brow. He shrugged.
"You don't have to. But...it is obvious I am different, yes? That is why I am."
"Well, yes, but...there must be more to this. Some explanation as to how you got here, precisely. If we could figure that out, we could figure out how to get you home, when this is over...if you want."
He dropped his air of gentlemanliness for a moment, propping his elbows on the table, leaning his head, his glittering eyes falling over her for a moment.
"I did not lie when I said I didn't remember how I got here." he said to her. "There may be no way for me to return to Tamriel."
"But...surely you desire to. Surely, there are people you care for that you left behind, and wish to see again," she amended. He sighed.
"I've already accepted the fact that this may be my ifa pana, Josephine. My new home. Might be good for others to accept this as well. That however I came to be, I'm here. If you turn back from the path the Gods provided, you will only catch the wind. They set you on the path that moves with it, not against it. To fight it is to only struggle against fate."
Well, that answered that question.
"So...what are your people really like?" she asked tentatively. "You said once that not all Khajiit look like cats. How is it that some of you resemble them, and some don't? Are you...still the same species, or...?"
He chuckled. "Yes, we are. There are many different Khajiit, with many different ways. It all depends on the moons." Her brow furrowed at that.
"What do you mean 'depends on the moons'?" she asked.
"Eh, well, they like to play tricks, you see. The phases of the moons determine what form Khajiit take. We all start as 'kittens', but like I said, not all of us look like 'cats'. There are many forms. Mine is Cathay-raht, which means I was born under two waxing moons, and I am larger than Cathay. Though, I'm a bit shorter than some Cathay-raht, but-"
"Short?" Josephine chuckled, covering her mouth in embarrassment when she snorted. He shrugged.
"I only look tall because you Thedas humans are so short," he said. "But...I like short." His eyes flicked over her. "Serush ba jer vara."
"I don't want to know what that means, do I?" she asked him. He laughed. "Alright, so...you are Cathay-raht. What does that mean?"
"Humans call us Jaguar men. We're not 'men', of course, but they call us such for we are those that look like Cathay but bigger. Cathay are Khajiit that resemble a feline. Whiskers, tails, and such. Fur. More beast than other races in appearance. Claws and fangs instead of tooth and nail. There are also Suthay, and Suthay-raht, and then there are Ohmes, and Ohmes-raht, among many others. Some look more like me, some look more like you, and some look nothing like either of us. Some walk on two legs, some walk on four, and some walk like they own all of Elsewhere," he chuckled.
"Elsweyrr," he pronounced slowly, rolling the 'r'. "My native country in Tamriel. You have no clue how many times I've spent answering this question for humans in Tamriel as well. It confuses them. And elves, orcs, saxhleel, erm...serpent folk, reptiles, along with many others. All the races who don't understand us. They are thjiziit. Idiots. And they're constantly at war." He shrugged. "Tis no different than Thedas, for that reason."
"That's...interesting," she said. "What's an orc?"
He laughed again. "Uglier than me," he said with a grin. She chuckled.
"You're not ugly, Ravine," she said, shaking her head. "In fact, I think you're...quite beautiful, actually. And your people really change at birth depending on the cycles of the moons? Do you stay that way, or..."
He didn't answer. For some reason, she didn't really know why, but his face changed upon her admitting she found him rather beautiful. He was just...staring at her, for another minute or so after she asked that question. Everything she just said sort of flew out the window as he stared, his yellow eyes transfixed on her.
"You're staring at me." Upon hearing this he looked away. Then cleared his throat.
At this time, Flissa arrived with food, and both were distracted momentarily by starving stomachs that longed for sustenance. He actually ate with a fork. Didn't chew with his mouth closed though. He had large fangs. It wasn't quite the same as having a human mouth. But he tried not to be disgusting with it. And she couldn't help but see the humor in it. How much he was trying to be civil. It was...adoring.
And for the moment, as they ate in silence, listening to the bard who'd picked back up with her song, the low rumble of whispers and conversation that had also resumed while they spoke, she didn't see at all the frightening monster that she had upon first meeting him. Nor did she see merely a beast with claws, fangs, and fur, but she didn't see a man. She saw...what did she see really? She couldn't put it into words in her mind. But utmost, she did see a friend, who promised he would never hurt her, and that, in itself, was promising.
"So in Tamriel there are other beings besides humans and elves and Khajiit, hmm?" she asked. He nodded.
"What do you have here in Thedas?" he asked her.
"Uh, well, we have giants," she said.
"We have those too."
"Our worlds are similar. Are you certain you are so far from yours?"
"As certain as your hair is silk," he said. She would have to take his word on that...Her hair was silk? What did that mean?...Eh, never mind.
"So, you're a scholar," she noted after a time. "What other things did you study besides the stars?"
"All things that I could possibly study. I was very curious as a child. I had no clan of my own, no...parents, like human children. I believe their word for it is 'orphan'? I was raised by monks on the outskirts of the city of Rimmen. I studied the history, the magic, and the religion of my people, but it wasn't enough. I craved knowledge of all things. I wanted to see more of the world. The war that started between Elsweyr and the elves of Valenwood sort of forced my hand. I had no desire to involve myself in the conflict, so I left and traveled east, to the capital province, planned to study at the Mage's college for a time, but Cyrodiil was just as bad. Everyone wanted the Imperial throne for themselves, and everything was chaos at the time."
"So, what did you do?"
"I became a sellsword for a few years. A mercenary. It was either that or become a thief or a smuggler. There was little else for Khajiit to do. We were shunned by human and elf-folk, seen as beasts. Most take to the streets, and so did I. I used my strengths to survive until I met a man called the Listener. He liked my curiosity, sparked it, and molded it into something useful. Then he taught me everything he knew."
"The Listener? Interesting. What did this Listener do, exactly? What was his profession?"
Ravine cleared his throat, suddenly nervous it seemed. This was new. He was always so confident, who knew he could feel anxious. But she was certain that's what it was. He fidgeted, and his ears flitted back as he picked at the table with his claw.
"I should stop drinking. Perhaps I have said to much. 'Tis no matter. Tell me of Antiva, little princess. What is it like?"
That quickly he changed the subject, and she was certain she knew why.
"He was an assassin, wasn't he?" she whispered, and then she watched as the Khajiit's expression changed. She didn't know what it meant, but he looked down at the table and refused to meet her gaze. "Leliana mentioned you...said you deserve to be in a cell, and not because of the Breach, but something before that. I thought you were joking but...well, the way you dress, the way you fight...everything...I." She took a deep breath. "Whatever you were before, Ravine, you are now an agent of the Inquisition. What you did in this Cyrodiil, this city of Bravil you spoke of, it doesn't matter now."
"Yes, it most certainly does, Josephine. Like you wouldn't believe. It is the reason why I am here," he hissed, and she leaned back in her chair, surprised by his sudden irritation. "You look at me like I am some strange new creature to be studied, poked and prodded, to figure out what I am, who I am, where I've been and what I've done. But there are simply some things you will not want the answer to. There is no light behind that curtain, ishana, only black. So don't touch it, and leave it be. All you need to worry your pretty little head about is that I intend to help this Inquisition, not destroy it. I'm not what you think I am. I promise you that. If you don't mind, I will speak of this no more."
He looked like he wanted to leave, so she placed a hand on his, stopping him. He was surprised by this brazen act of physical contact and he froze. But she had to have her say. She was not going to let him think she was judging him in anyway. It was not her place to judge, only administrate for the Inquisition and fight these rumors that he was a demon. No one was perfect, and there were worse things to be than an assassin. Like being whoever or whatever caused the hole in the sky.
"I would rather learn you were an assassin than learn you were responsible for the Breach, Ravine," she said. "There are worse things to be. Like a demon, perhaps? Or an Orlesian that plays the Game." She chuckled. "Now those...those are the snakes we must watch out for. They play it to the death, and they care little for who they cut down while climbing the social ladder. You, my dear Shadow, are nothing like that. You're not heartless. You actually care who you hurt. You regret what you've done in the past, I can tell."
"Just how can you tell?" he asked softly, and she smiled.
"Just trust me that I can," she said. "We all have regrets."
"There were many times I wished I'd stayed in the sands of Elsweyr, and never left my home. If I'd never left, I would never have started down the path that pushed against the wind. A bad path, one the Gods never intended for me to travel. But...had I not followed that path, I would not be here, would I?"
"This really is your second chance then?" Josephine asked.
He made no reply at first, but simply stared at her. She couldn't figure out why, but she imagined it was very hard to discuss the things he'd done to lead him there to Thedas, the things he did remember, that had nothing to do with the Breach. Her hand still rested in his and he squeezed it, speaking in a hushed, and quite serious tone.
"This is my only chance," he told her.
Chapter 11: A Cat in the City
Ra'viin gets his first taste of Val Royeaux, and is not impressed.
Hey guys! I'm so sorry for the wait, but I'm back online and have another chapter of everybody's favorite 'talking cat'! My laptop is out of commission and so I'm working from my phone, so I apologize that the format is different. Thanks for your patience and hope you enjoy!
Ra'viin shifted where he stood, inhaling the scent of the place; sand, water, seagalls, a bird that typically liked to hang around ports, and sqawked incessantly...People, human, the smell of fresh fruits and vegetation sold in the market square, spices, foreign in name, but not so foreign in smell. And the smell...why, it reminded him of his long forgotten home, so far away. The trading centers of Elsweyr.
But he did not see an old Suthay sitting on a rock, smoking a pipe, and he did not see fuzzy pointed ears, whiskers and tails, nor hear the familiar sound of Ta'agra spoken aloud. This was not Rimmen.
This was Val Royeaux.
Beside him, Cassandra absently gripped the hilt of her sword, ever present at her hip, Varric ran thick fingers through his hair, looking up at the statues and city spires, while Solas leaned on his staff, also taking in the lavish state of Val Royeaux. It was quite a city, loud and effervescant, bustling with activity, and at the far end of the bizarre, Ra'viin could just barely make out a crowd of people gathered from where they presently stood at the gate.
A woman had just finished shrieking at the sight of Ra'viin, and turning to walk briskly back the other way. Now they were alone, he, Varric, Solas, and Cassandra, and everyone was now aware of their presence, most likely. Aware that the Shadow of the Forbidden was in the capital of Orlais.
"This was a bad idea, wasn't it?" Varric asked.
"Likely," Solas told him.
"So this is Val Royeaux," Ra'viin remarked aloud. "Big place. Big as the Imperial City back home."
"This is only part of it," said Varric. "This is the Summer Bizarre. The trading hub of Val Royeux. You should see the rest of the city some time."
"Well, for now, this is where we need to be," said Cassandra. "Leliana said this is where we would be meeting the Chantry's remaining Clerics."
"Lady Pentaghast," adressed the Inquisition scout that approached.
"You're one of Leliana's people," Cassandra remarked, as the scout saluted.
"Shadow," she addressed Ra'viin, with a nod. Then she rose to her feet. "I was sent ahead to report any activity, and as expected, the Chantry waits at the far end of the market to address the Inquisition. But...so do a great many Templars."
"There are Templars here?" Cassandra asked, and the scout nodded.
Ra'viin let out a sigh. He doubted these Templars were there to strike an alliance to close the Breach. He could practically smell the animosity in the air. But he kept that thought to himself, as Leliana's scout saluted once more, and left them to face the crowd.
"Are you certain this is wise, Seeker?" Solas asked. "Allowing the supposed Shadow of the Forbidden to wander the streets, in public like this, with Templars about?"
"Are you worried I won't be civil?" Ra'viin asked him, and the elf shook his head.
"No, though I am concerned about how the rest of the people of Val Royeaux will react when they see you."
"So what's the plan, my furry friend?" Varric asked. Ra'viin shrugged.
"Well, Giselle said I should show them I'm not a monster to be feared."
"If only you possessed the ability to shift into a human being, friend," Solas lamented. "Wouldn't that be useful at a time like this."
"Funny, because where I come from, people use magic to change into beasts. Never heard of a werehuman, though."
"A where-what?" Varric asked with a laugh. Ra'viin rolled his eyes.
"Nevermind," he said, as he began removing his coat. "Hold this," he said to the Seeker as he handed it to her, hearing her make an 'oof' sound when the heavy leather weighed her down. "If you would be so kind," he said as he removed the straps that holstered his daggers in place and handed them to Varric. "And here you go," he said to Solas after unbuttoning his leather cuirass and handing it to him.
Within minutes, he was in nothing but boots and pants, shielding his eyes from the blaring sun, scanning the distance, hearing the voices ahead of them, the croud getting anxious.
"There are Templars here, armed to the teeth, along with a city guard, that doesn't pack light," Varric said. "And your answer is to remove your weapons?"
"I'm not completely unarmed," Ra'viin pointed out. "No Khajiit ever is. But yes. Remember the Crossroads?"
"Let's get moving then, shall we?"
"So...he is an assassin?" Leliana asked, and Josephine nodded.
"He all but practically said so himself," she told her.
"All but practically?" Leliana repeated.
"Yes...he didn't wish to speak of it. It was hard to get him to tell me as much as he did."
"Oh come on, Josie, I know you better than that," Leliana said, rolling her eyes. "You could've gotten him to tell you more, if you really wanted to. And the way he fauns over you, I bet he would've told you every gritty detail...And perhaps he ought to tell us, no? We are the Inquisition. Better we know what we're dealing with."
"We are dealing with a feline that speaks like us, has clearly been misunderstood from the start, and obviously means to help us close the Breach and restore order to Thedas. Though, in my opinion, he doesn't owe any of us a thing, Leliana. This is not his world. We are not his people. We are simply the ones who need him most, aren't we? And he obviously no longer wishes to cling to his past."
"Yes, it seems obvious," Leliana agreed. "But nevertheless, we deserve to know. And as much as he likes to encourage Varric Tethras, as much as he holds Solas' knowledge in regard, I can tell that you are the only one he actually trusts, Josie. Perhaps, if you would let me-"
"Whatever you're going to suggest, no, Lily. No, I will not allow you to play games with Ravine. That is not the answer."
Leliana groaned. "Then what do you suggest, hmm? What's your grand idea?"
"Well...if you want to know about his past so much, why not ask him yourself?" Josephine suggested. "Or...are you afraid of him?"
"Afraid? Heavens no," Leliana replied. "I'd stake my life on betting that underneath all that fur, he's not half as bad as he claims to be. He just likes intimidating everyone. After all, we did claim he was a demon. Perhaps, he just likes antagonizing us to get even." She shrugged, walking around the desk to lean on the other side of it, arms folded, most likely plotting a way to get Ravine to spill about his past.
While Leliana was adept at what she did, when what she did was get information, and no doubt she'd find a way to get every dirty secret of Ravine's out in the open...It wasn't right. Spending one's entire life 'knife in hand' was no way to live, and Leliana simply never understood this. Too many years spent serving Divine Justinia's interests. But Leliana just didn't have the same experiences with life that Josephine was blessed...and cursed...with having. There would simply be some things they would never agree on. The world was not going to end if they didn't learn about Ravine's previous employment. The world was going to end if they didn't close the Breach.
"Alright, so, different subject," Josephine suggested. "Are we really to believe this claim that Ravine is from some other universe, or what have you? Do you think it is possible?"
"I have no idea what to believe," Leliana answered. "But Solas was correct to guess that the mark on his hand would effect the Breach, and I saw for myself that his injuries could not be healed magically. Nothing worked. However he has that power of his, it does not come from the Fade."
"So, what can he do, precisely?" Josephine then asked.
"You're just that curious, no?" Leliana chuckled.
"Well, curiosity may kill the cat, but I am no cat. And I am quite curious, yes."
"You won't believe me," was her answer. "I hardly believe it myself."
Ra'viin shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers, hiding sharpened claws. He took his sweet time making it over to the plaza, where a group of Val Royeaux's denizens were rallied before a smaller group of women, wearing garb that resembled Mother Giselle's. These women were priestesses, unarmed, and their only threat was the words that flew from their mouths.
But words, when spoken to the right people, could be just as dangerous, if not more detrimental than a blade to the heart. And if these women did not see reason, their actions would cause all of the Maker fearing people of Thedas to turn against the Inquisition.
This was not a negotiation, this was a demonstration, he realized. And he was the evil they protested against. It hardly surprised him. But something that caught his eye was the lack of Templar soldiers present in the square. This was surprising, considering they had just been warned by Leliana's scout that they were present in the vacinity.
Perhaps they caught sight of him and fled the scene?...No, too easy. No, he was certain he knew what it meant. It meant there was a trap laid out for them, and he walked right into it.
"Keep your eyes on the rooftops," he muttured to the others, as he strode up to the crowd on the other side of the square.
To no surprise, people screamed at the sight of him, and some fled, but many guards certainly came to arms, drawing their swords at his approach. No. Too easy. This was not the trap he was expecting. It was still coming, he was certain.
"Fear not, people of Val Royeaux!" bellowed the Cleric from atop the stage. "In the Maker's light, we need not fear this murderous creature!"
Overzealous, she seemed to be, but she was not wrong. They had no reason to fear him. But convincing them he meant no harm? That was the real question in this affair. Slowly, he removed his hands from his pockets and held them up defensively.
"She is right," he said, and people gasped. Probably because he could talk, or because he had hands, not paws, or whatever? "You have no reason to fear me. I am no demon."
"Demon or no, you walk in their shadow, beast!" the Cleric argued, and more people gasped at her words, becoming flustered. "But the bride of the Maker, Andraste, will smite you, and shine His Light upon us all! She will expose your wicked nature! And she will avenge our Most Holy, Divine Justinia, whom you have taken from us!"
"I did not mean for all of this to happen!" he scathed angrily. "I only mean to make peace with you! To close this damnable hole in your sky, priestess!"
"It's true," Cassandra confirmed beside him. "The Inquisition only seeks to put an end to the Breach!"
There was a soldier beside the Cleric, who gripped the hilt of his sword, though unlike the others, he'd not drawn it yet. He stared confusedly at Ra'viin up until that point, and decided to pipe up, and ask an intelligent question. He had dark skin, and a shaved head. Spoke very similar to those from the country called Ferelden.
"If you are no demon, what are you then?"
Thank Mara! Ra'viin had been waiting to answer that.
"I am a cat," he answered, inwardly disgusted with himself for debasing his people, and himself, by saying such a thing. "I am just a big talking cat," he said exhasperatingly. "Nothing more. This I swear to you, friend. But I am a talking cat with magic. Magic that might heal your sky. Please let me help you all."
He looked up at the people on stage with pleading eyes, but he had no idea if it helped. Human expressions were different than Khajiit, plain and simple. Who was to truly know what he looked like to these people.
"Not a demon, but he admits he's an apostate!" the Cleric shouted, just as more soldiers were approaching. "The Templars will come to our aid! They will put you where you belong, mage heathen!!"
Oh, sure enough, these Templars arrived, more soldiers with the funny symbol on their chest marched up to the market square, making Ra'viin and his allies all wary. But a chilling wave of shock washed over Ra'viin, when one of the soldiers slapped the Cleric to the ground, and barked at her. "Shut your mouth!"
That was shitty.
The dark skinned soldier next to her looked offended by this, but it was too late for him to react, or anyone else, for that matter, as Ra'viin growled, launched himself at the stage, pounced onto it on all fours, then rose to snatch the offender, and hold him up by his collar, creating a wave of alarm, and gasps from the crowd. The man dangled, eyes wide with fear, as Ra'viin roared. They wanted an animal? Fine, they'd get one.
"This is how your Templars worship their Maker?!" he scathed. "Beating defenseless women?" He chuckled coldly. "Granted, she called me a murderer and a monster, but this is fucking pathetic!" He pulled the soldier closer and hissed in his face.
"Ra'viin!" he heard Cassandra call, the Seeker not quite knowing how to react, most likely. "Please put him down," she begged.
"This isn't quite helping your case right now," Varric added.
Ra'viin dropped the man and told him to 'shoo'. Tensions worsened when the other Templars drew their blades and looked as if they'd attack, but they were stopped by a man approaching, from the back of the regiment.
"Still yourselves!" the man ordered. "This is beneath us!"
"Lord Seeker Lucius?!" Cassandra exclaimed questingly when she recognized the man. He brazenly stepped onstage to face Ra'viin, looking him up and down with disgust, though surprisingly the man was unafraid. At first guess, Ra'viin imagined this older man was quite familiar with fighting actual demons, like the impressive thing at the Temple of Sacred Ashes called a Pride Demon. At first glance, maybe Ra'viin didn't seem intimidating in comparison. But...this man smelled funny. Smelled...off. Smelled familiar. And any Cathay knows to follow his nose.
"So, this is the thing that supposedly betrayed the Forbidden and came to help Thedas?" this Lord Seeker asked.
So, that was the version of the story he heard? Or, was this what the Inquisition was now telling everybody?...Curious.
Ra'viin leaned forward and sniffed the man.
"You smell foul, my friend," he said quietly with a sneer. "Leave these people alone, demon," he muttured. "And maybe I'll let you go back to the Fade in one piece."
The man chuckled. "No, creature, it is you who will be delt with. Not I. I will be revered as the protector of Thedas...Templars!" he shouted, causing Ra'viin to brace himself for an attack.
Ra'viin's ear flicked when he heard a click from far off. He knew not what it meant, but he turned to Cassandra, just when what sounded like a cannon firing could be heard. The loud bang scattered everyone present, and no one had time to react, much less Ra'viin, when a large net sailed through the air and landed on him, knocking him sideways, tangling him within it.
Fuck, this was the trap. A literal trap he didn't see coming. He'd been too distracted.
He fought with the net, growling and cursing the longest string of expletives, until he finally scraped free with his claws. People were shouting, and the market square became chaos. The net was replaced by another, and then another, and they just kept coming, weighing him down. He managed to force pull the swords from the hands of approaching Templars, only to find that several more fired arrows from a distance, too long of a distance to use telekinesis.
Then something he didn't see, and therefore couldn't evade, hit the back of his head.
He would never find out what it was, for when he was struck, eyes rolled to the back of his head, and everything turned black, as he fell unconscious to the ground in the middle of the square.
The whole city was chaotic upon the realization that Templars came for the sole purpose of capturing the Shadow of the Forbidden. Cassandra, Varric, and Solas did what they could to stop them, but it proved fruitless of an endeavor. Cassandra herself was knocked unconscious and woke later to find herself inside one of the shops of the Summer Bizarre, on a cot, and Varric and Solas were close by.
And Ravine was gone.
Varric sat hunched over against a wall, holding a cloth to his temple where he'd been hit as well, and Solas stood by the door, arms folded, staff leaning beside him. Likely the Templars drained his mana in the scuffle, and he'd been the first to be outmatched. Cassandra would bet her life that the city guards didn't even attempt to defend them, didn't want to be involved, and probably assumed the Templars had the right of it, disposing of the menacing black cat.
She attempted to sit up, was met with searing pain in the back of her skull, and growled. She had enough sense to keep from vocalizing her frustration, but now she understood why Ravine cursed so damned much. Varric and Solas looked up when they saw she was awake, and approached, along with another. The owner of the shop, who was kind enough to provide them with shelter from the chaos.
"He's gone," Varric lamented, to no surprise. "Dragged him out of the city like a limp quillback."
"The Nightgale's agents are tracking them now," Solas added, which gave Cassandra a bit of hope.
"They'll find him," she said hoarsely, clutching her aching head. "I...I just...I cannot believe that the Lord Seeker would do such a thing. I never saw it coming."
"None of us did, Seeker," Varric told her, surprisingly, as if to console her. With no smart remark to follow. Without Ravine, they couldn't close the Breach. Even Varric knew better than to make light of that.
"I never knew Lucius had become so..."
"So diabolical and evil as to kidnap our one shot at fixing the world?" Varric asked her, and rather than argue, she simply nodded.
"Lord Seeker Lucius has never been prone to this sort of behavior before, has he?" Solas asked, and she shook her head. "Well, it seems evident that your hopes of allying with Templars is lost."
"Maybe not," she shrugged. "Not all of them looked like they agreed with him, but their loyalty to the Order prevents them from acting against their superior. Maybe some of them can be persuaded to let him go."
"I have another idea," said a voice from the doorway. A feminine voice. Cassandra peered around Varric and Solas, who also turned to look at the new face in the room.
"Grand Enchantress Fiona?" Cassandra gasped, gaping in shock.
"In the flesh," she said with a nod. "I...witnessed the Shadow being taken away by the Templars this afternoon. I...heard the Inquisition might be coming to Val Royeaux. I thought perhaps if my mages could be of some assistance, perhaps aid in sealing the Breach, it would be worth the danger of coming. I saw what happened. Maybe there's a way we can help one another. But we can't discuss it here. If you're interested in an alliance, meet me in Redcliffe, at the Gull and Lantern inn."
Just as quickly and quietly as she entered the shop, she then left, pulling a hood over to cover her face, and her pointed ears, without even giving any of them a chance to inquire further.
"Well, that was a plot twist I didn't see coming," Varric remarked, and Cassandra let out a sigh.
"We need to find Ravine, as soon as possible," she said.
"Yeah, about that, Seeker. Quick question. Provided we actually find out where they took him, and they haven't killed him first, how the hell is the Inquisition going to stop an army of Templars?"
"I think the answer just left the room, Mister Tethras," Solas told him.
"I think it did too," agreed Cassandra.
"Oh great," Varric derided sarcastically, when he caught on to their meaning. "Fight an army of Templars with an army of mages... Aren't we supposed to be putting a stop to that nonsense?"
"He can move things with his mind?" Josephine repeated. "As in..."
"As in yes," Leliana confirmed. "He can use his powers to lifts things up, sling them around, manipulate them however he wants, all without touching them. I kid you not. A very useful tool to disarm a soldier, I've noticed. He pulled Cullen's sword right out if his hand and then pointed it at him. It floated in the air right in front of his face," she chuckled. "Wasn't funny at the time, but it's sort of laughable now. Whatever you do, don't tell Cullen I told you about it. He's still a bit embarrassed."
Josephine could hardly believe it. That was just unheard of. "What else can he do?" She excitedly asked, but she didn't hear the answer. A scout barged in on them with an urgent message for Leliana. She took the letter in hand, listened to the agent's fervent whispering, then turned to look at Josephine as if she'd seen as ghost, or the world just ended.
Leliana masked it well, but Josephine knew her well enough to see past that fragile facade.
"What's happened?" She asked.
Leliana dismissed the scout and turned back to her.
"It's Ravine," she said. "He's been captured by Templars. They're taking him to Therinfal Redoubt as we speak."
Josephine's pen and clipboard fell, then clattered on the floor.
And a lump rose in her throat.
Chapter 12: The Imperial Enchanter
Cassandra slumped in the chair at the café, staring at the scraps of paper in her hand. Across from her, Varric stewed over a cup of coffee, and to her left, Solas sat with his fingers laced together, anticipant of their next move. When they left the shop earlier, they were met with a strange message attached to an arrow, and an invitation from Madame De Fer to attend her salon that night to discuss a possible alliance with the Inquisition.
Cassandra considered the possibility that both matters were of little import, but deep down she wanted answers, and these people might know something of value. They had few options, and she'd just received word from Leliana's agent that Ravine was being taken to Therinfal Redoubt in Ferelden. The agent was not able to intercept the transport, and neither could they.
They were vastly outnumbered and any approach they might take endangered Ravine. It was pointless to do anything now. They were on their own. And they'd just spent the last two hours searching the market for scraps of red fabric, of all things. Maker's breath, did her feet really smart, and she felt ridiculous. "I say we cut loose and head back to Haven," Varric suggested. "Nothing more we can do for the furry bastard just sitting here in the city."
"I'm inclined to agree with Varric, Seeker," said Solas. "The longer we wait idly by, the longer it will take to to deal with the matter, and there is no telling what will happen to Ravine."
"This 'Friend of Red Jenny' might be a witness to his abduction. They might have more information. And Madame De Fer could be a useful ally. It might be worth our time."
"Seeker, do you remember what happened last time you were tracking leads on a missing person?" Varric asked.
"Don't remind me," she growled.
Varric threw up his hands in defense. "All I'm saying is this could be a complete waste of our time, Seeker. And for all we know, the fuzzball could already be working on an escape plan."
"It's not likely the Templars could silence his magic, Seeker," added Solas. "Without a connection to the Fade, he probably isn't vulnerable to their abilities. There is a chance he could evade them somehow."
"He is resourceful," Varric then said. "So are we just going to sit here and twiddle our thumbs? Or are we going to go after him?"
Cassandra grit her teeth. "No, we're not just going to sit here," she said, rising from her seat, tucking the ridiculous note and the party invitation into her armor. "But neither are we going to ignore this. We need all the help we can get, Varric. Now, are you just going to sit there? Or are the two of you going to accompany me to Château de Ghislain?"
Both Varric and Solas let out a dejected sigh.
But nonetheless they followed the Seeker, both keeping their mouths shut about how ridiculous she was behaving. Yes, she could admit this whole thing was a bit ridiculous, but it was certainly preferable to simply giving up and going back to Haven. And the Seeker really didn't want to go back empty handed, because it would be the same as admitting defeat. Admitting that she could do nothing to save Ravine.
If she ever rescued him, she knew she would never hear the end of it from the massive cursing 'fuzzball', as Varric called him. She just knew he would have something smart-mouthed to say about it. But at the moment, she would rather hear his filthy mouth than nothing at all.
They hired a carriage driver to take them to the Ghislain estate on the outskirts. They planned on attending the party that evening, then returning to Val Royeaux that very night, and hopefully by then the elusive Red Jenny figure would be waiting in the secluded courtyard hinted at in the scraps of doodles and messages they'd pieced together. After that, it would be a night stayed at an inn, then a journey to Haven in the morning.
So far so good, except for the fact that both gentlemen in her company had to complain the whole carriage ride. Solas complained of the bumps in the road making him ill, and Varric complained about the very thought of Solas throwing up on him if he did. Eventually Solas took up one half of the carriage and stretched across the seat, forcing Varric to squeeze in next to Cassandra on the other side.
To which he complained even more.
"Do you have to sit like that?! I feel like any second now your sword is going to ram itself up in my ass!"
"If you don't shut up, that's exactly what will happen!"
"Well, then kill me now, Seeker!"
"If one more word comes out of your mouth, Varric, so help me, Maker!"
Across the carriage, Solas groaned. "The two of you are more nauseating than the carriage!"
"Well, if all the two of you are going to do is complain, then why don't you walk, and I'll take the carriage!"
"You know what, that's a great idea."
At that moment both scrambled to shove out the carriage door while the damned thing was still moving, Solas looking as if he might be sick right then and there. "Damn you both," the Seeker cursed, rolling her eyes at the thought of Ravine rubbing it in at how she was cursing. "Stop the carriage!" she barked, as Varric and Solas were hanging out the door. Swiftly it came to a halt, and both men went tumbling out.
Cassandra cradled her aching head before stepping out of the carriage to see Solas hunched over, and Varric turned away from him, cringing at the retching sounds the elf made.
"We could've just gotten horses, Seeker," Varric told her.
"They were too expensive," she defended, placing her hands on her hips. "And besides, I would've had to purchase them outright. We wouldn't have been able to return them. And then we'd have no money for renting rooms at the inn, Varric! Unless you would have suddenly pulled sovereigns out of the ass I should be shoving my sword into!"
"You practically already did!"
"You miserable little-"
"Seeker," Solas barked, getting both her attention and Varric's. They turned to see him hunched over still, but pointing at something at the bottom of the hill. "We're nearly there already. We could just walk the remainder of the journey."
"I'm with Chuckles on this. Screw it, what's another hundred yards? At least it's all down hill."
"But how are we going to get back in time?"
"Oh, I'm sure the Madame won't mind accommodating, Seeker," Varric persuaded.
Cassandra groaned. "Fine. Just...no more talking. My head hurts enough as it is."
The rest of the journey was on foot, but the driver wasn't complaining. He'd already been paid, so it was no loss on his part. So he started the carriage moving again without them, turned it around, and rode away, as if nothing were amiss. But Cassandra just knew by the end of the night she'd have to hear it from both of them if this Madame De Fer they were meeting didn't secure their means of travel.
Some time later they arrived at Duke Bastien's estate, out of breath, but absent any nausea, headaches, or ceaseless conversation, though still quite moody. Cassandra peaked her head in the door when it was opened only to turn around and feel as if it were her queue to vomit. The interior of the estate was wall to wall with masked, perfumed Orlesian riffraff, and already she was panicking on the inside.
Just the sound of that harpsicord alone, wafting through the halls, was enough to turn her stomach.
She hated Orlesian politics. Well, truthfully, she despised underhanded politics of any kind, and preferred a problem she could deal with head on. She refused to partake in the mind games of most nobles. But if she wanted any sort of pleasant outcome for the evening, she would have to suck it up, put on a brave face, and venture inside. As she was steeling her nerves for just such a thing, Varric was poking his head in the door.
"That's a lot of masks, Seeker," he mumbled, not seeming too comfortable with the Orlesian nobility either. Well, at least they finally agreed on something.
"The two of you wait out here," she instructed, turning to look at Varric and Solas. "I will deal with this woman."
"Wait, so we're just supposed to sit out here on the stoop like a couple of jackasses?" Varric asked, causing Cassandra to angrily grumble under her breath.
"I want this to go as quickly and smoothly as possible," she scathed. "And I doubt that will happen with a rogue dwarf and an elven apostate at my side. The two of you would be more useful keeping an eye on things from a distance."
"And just what do you suppose might happen, Seeker?" Solas chose to ask, and she glanced his way again.
"I don't know, but I'm not inclined to trust this Imperial Enchanter just yet. So we will see." At those words she straightened her back, assuming a more confident stance, then barged in on the party in swing. She glanced about the foyer just as a herald approached, inquiring of her identity. "Seeker Pentaghast, of the Inquisition," she introduced, then followed him through the vestibule and into the main hall.
"Ze Lady Seeker Pentaghast, representing ze Inquisition," he announced, with such a thick accent. A few eyes, hidden behind ornately decorated masks, briefly glanced her way as she entered the room, where she immediately came face to face with a couple of chatting nobles. She wasn't paying much attention to them, as her eyes were busy scanning the scene for any signs of Vivienne De Fer, but she certainly caught their attention.
"Ah, Seeker Pentaghast, how lovely to see you here," said the woman, brimming underneath her ruffled dress. Maker, that collar of hers looked like it would strangle a person. Perhaps the Inquisition could somehow incorporate Orlesian fashion into their tactics against demons. Cassandra pursed her lips, nodded stiffly in greeting, while in her mind she imagined a rage demon being suffocated by a laced corset.
"A pleasure to meet you, my lady," said the gentleman. "Seeing ze same faces at every event becomes so tiresome. You must be a guest of Madame De Fer, or...are you here for Duke Bastien?"
"Are you here on business?" asked the woman. "I have heard ze most curious tales of ze Inquisition. I cannot imagine half of zem are true."
There was a pause after that, both people expecting Cassandra to say something to them, and the Seeker sort of clammed. Standing there and making small talk with these people was a waste of her valuable time, but she didn't want to be rude and stomp away. That would only make things worse.
"You can never know what people might say," she told the woman, and just when she was about to excuse herself, a podgy peacock of a man started coming down the stairs.
"Ze Inquisition, what a load of pig shit," he said as he descended the stairs. "Washed up Sisters, and crazed Seekers? No one can take zem seriously."
Eyes were on them then, as apparently it was decided Cassandra would be the main attraction of the party.
"How dare you," Cassandra guffawed, one step away from snatching the man up in that instant. "You call me a crazed Seeker?!"
"A crazed Seeker who defends a murderous beast," he scathed. "We all know ze Inquisition is just a bunch of corrupt heretics trying to seize power."
"I will have you know that the Inquisition is trying to secure peace!" she barked.
"Oh yes, yes, restore peace with an army?" he countered. "How logical. We all know what your Inquisition truly is. If you were really a woman of honor, Seeker, you would have slayed that murderous beast, but instead the Templars had to step in and restore the peace."
"That person you call a murderous beast is trying to seal the Breach that threatens us!" she exclaimed. "The nerve you have!"
He scoffed in disgust. "The nerve I have? Why don't we step outside and-"
He didn't get to finish that sentence, nor did he get the chance to draw his dagger from his back, for in an instant he was frozen in place, and Cassandra blanched in surprise, then looked up at the woman who froze him, coming down the stairs. A woman dressed in silver and purple brocade, with a horned head piece to match the ensemble.
"My dear Marquis," she said smoothly, "How unkind of you to be so rude in my house, and use such language before my guests." She slowly tapped her heels all the way over to where this Marquis was frozen in place. "You know such rudeness is intolerable."
"Madame Vivienne, I humbly beg your pardon," the man struggled to say. The woman in question, Vivienne De Fer, the Imperial Enchanter, merely smiled coyly, placing a hand on his cheek.
"You should," she cooed. "Whatever am I to do with you, my dear?" She then turned to Cassandra and placed her hand on the man's shoulder, eyes on Cassandra the whole time. "Perhaps I should allow you the chance to dual Lady Penaghast?" she asked. "After all, she is the wounded party in this affair, and she has every right to put you in your place, now doesn't she? Wouldn't you agree, Seeker?"
Cassandra scowled. "I have bigger problems than dealing with the likes of him," she stated. "I did not come here to toil with your loudmouthed guests, Madame."
"Of course not," she smiled, snapping her fingers and releasing the man from his magical prison. "Poor Marquis, issuing challenges and hurling insults like some Ferelden dog lord." The man coughed a little, as if being frozen was making him sick, or he was choking. "How embarrassing. And all dressed up with no one to bark at. Did you really think you'd outwit Lady Pentaghast in a dual just to get a little attention? Foolish Marquis."
Having suffered enough embarrassment the Marquis skittered away, leaving Cassandra and Vivienne to face one another with so many eyes watching.
"I'm delighted you could attend this little gathering, Seeker," Vivienne smiled. "Come, let's you and I get better acquainted." She led Cassandra away from the majority of the guests to a separate enclosure. To some relief, but also to Cassandra's chagrin, as she couldn't be sure just how a private conversation with Vivienne might go. The woman smiled charmingly the whole time, but she seemed more like a snake hiding in the grass.
"I don't want to waste your time, Lady Vivienne," she said tightly. "So I'll go ahead and just ask. Why did you invite the Inquisition to your estate?"
"Why, to discuss an alliance of course," she answered, to Cassandra's disbelief. "I was so looking forward to meeting this person everyone's calling the Shadow of the Forbidden," she said when they neared the window at the far end of the corridor. "I've heard the most interesting rumors about him. But, unfortunately the Templars prevented such a meeting, didn't they? I heard about what happened in the market today."
Cassandra wanted to scoff at Vivienne's nonchalant attitude about the whole thing, and had to fight the urge.
"I won't waste your time either, Lady Pentaghast. The Chantry is in shambles, and obviously any hope to reign in the Lord Seeker is fruitless. The Empire is already at war, rebel mages and Templars continue fighting, and now there is a Breach in the sky. And rumor has it that Thedas' last hope is currently detained and being carted back to Ferelden as the Lord Seeker's prisoner."
"What are you getting at, Lady Vivienne?" Cassandra asked, cutting right through the woman's banter.
"I'm saying that as First Enchanter of the Imperial Court, and one of the last loyal mages of Thedas, there is nothing more I can do simply sitting here and hosting such lavish parties, Seeker," she answered. "I'd like to extend the offer to assist your Inquisition. I could be quite invaluable to you."
"Is this some sort of political maneuver?" Cassandra asked.
Vivienne chuckled. "Thinking I'm out to use the Inquisition to gain some notoriety? Hardly, my dear. I don't need political advantage. If anyone does, it would be your Inquisition. I already have it. If anything, siding with an aberrant movement such as yours that indulges a monstrous demon would be a political disadvantage. But, from what I hear, the Inquisition might be the only thing left standing between Thedas and the Breach."
"So you expect me to believe you actually want to help us?" Cassandra asked. Still disbelieving of the whole thing.
"My dear, not only do I want to, but I can." She stepped closer, and though she'd already been speaking in an even tone, she dropped her voice a touch lower and spoke mutedly. "Rumor also has it that Grand Enchanter Fiona came to Val Royeaux as well, and offered an alliance." The Seeker would like to know just how this woman was so well informed. "And you and I both know of her possible part played in all this."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm merely suggesting you consider your alliances wisely, Seeker," she said. "You need the Shadow, but you haven't the means to approach the Templars. And you can't simply go to war with them either. You need aid. I can get you aid."
"I know from a reliable source that several certain noble families in Orlais refused to support the Inquisition. But they are also very displeased with the Lord Seeker's inaction toward the Breach. They might be convinced to pressure the Templars into sealing it, and an envoy of nobles will more easily slip past their fortress's defenses than an army of rebel mages...and you would have your opening needed," she added. "I would be happy to speak to those families, Seeker," she persuaded.
"What do you get out of this alliance?"
Vivienne eyed her incredulously. "Must you ask, my dear? The Inquisition may be the only hope to restore order in a world gone mad, and I would very much like to see order restored...wouldn't you?"
Cassandra sighed. "While your idea is...thoughtful, Lady Vivienne, I...I find it hard to believe that you would so willingly help the Inquisition. Help a supposed demon."
Vivienne laughed. "Oh please. A demon? I've seen plenty of them, Seeker. As you can imagine I'm quite familiar with the perils of the Fade. Whatever that creature just so happens to be, I highly doubt its a demon. A curiosity? Yes. A demon? Please." She rolled her eyes a little. "People will make the silliest claims, won't they?" she smiled playfully.
Cassandra studied her carefully. Wondering how much stock she could put into the Enchanter's words. She honestly couldn't tell if the woman was full of it or not, but she knew that at any moment that this 'loyal mage', as she called herself, decided to turn on them, her Seeker abilities could incapacitate her in seconds. Vivienne knew this as well. Cassandra had no doubt of that. She let out a sigh.
"It is a he, and his name is Ravine," she informed, and if Josie were there, she knew the Antivan would be gloating at that. "He is called a Khajiit." Vivienne arched an intrigued brow at that. As if to say, 'Oh really?' "I will accept your offer on one condition, Lady Vivienne."
"And that would be?"
"Well, actually it's...more of a favor, I suppose. My...associates and I were stranded here tonight, and must get back to Val Royeaux. I was hoping you would be able to assist us."
Another giggle escaped Vivienne. "'Associates'. You mean that laughable little dwarf and that homeless looking elf you wandered in with? How charming. I'll hire a carriage."
Cassandra completely deflated at that.
Chapter 13: Friends
After recruiting Vivienne, Cassandra decides to look into this friend of Red Jenny, and the plot thickens...
(Some of the dialogue with Viv is based on banter found in the game. Some of Sera's is of course based on her recruitment quest.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
To everyone's relief, it didn't take much to convince Lady Vivienne to lend them horses instead of sending for another carriage. As it turned out, the Duke was a very generous man when it came to his enchanter, and gave Vivienne practically anything she wanted. It seemed more evident as the night passed that the enchanter was running the household, not Bastien. Cassandra had questions about that, but she kept them to herself.
She stifled a groan at seeing the four white ponies that had been saddled and bridled for them, and stuck her foot in the stirrup. Yes, four horses, not three, as Vivienne intended to go with them to this secret meeting place. At first glance, it might seem everything would go perfectly well, considering the circumstances, but not ten minutes down the road and the mages in their company struck up argument.
No joke. Not ten minutes after their introduction and Solas and Vivienne were having some sort of magical debate that neither Cassandra nor Varric could make heads or tails of, and here she thought it would be Varric to irritate the Seeker further. But she and the dwarf shared a glance and she watched him shrug his shoulders in cluelessness at the discussion. She let out a sigh, and mused upon the best course of action to shut them up.
But then the conversation landed on her, and instead she then pleaded with the Maker to make Viv go back to arguing with Solas. "I'm curious, Cassandra, why we're you not at the Conclave?" she asked.
"I was delayed returning from Kirkwall," she answered. Vivienne hummed.
"Delayed interrogating a certain dwarf, specifically, from what I've heard," she remarked, and Cassandra spared a glance at Varric beside her. She caught the tail end of him rolling his eyes. "A rather fortunate delay, it turns out," the enchanter added, implying it was rather convenient she wasn't there, considering the turn of events. Had she been there, maybe she would've died as well.
"I'm not so certain," she heard herself say. "If we had only..."
She trailed off, not wanting to finish, and surprisingly she heard nothing from her companions at that.
She hadn't spoken much of the Conclave to anyone, at least, not her real thoughts on the subject. The Divine's death, and how she felt responsible for it. That she felt if maybe she had been there, she could've stopped whoever killed the Divine and all those people, if it wasn't Ravine. Then maybe things would've been different, a lot of things would've been different. Had she found Hawke, or...something.
But to her surprise, the enchanter finally opened her mouth, shocking her when she heard, "You must not blame yourself, dear. You have done all you could and more."
"Thank you," Cassandra managed, swallowing the lump in her throat. She was grateful to hear that. Suddenly the enchanter didn't seem so bad. Then she sighed. "But I suspect I will be telling myself that for years to come," she remarked aloud, and silence followed her words.
She kept her eyes on the road ahead, but cast another sparing glance to her right at the dwarf beside her. Oddly enough, her desision to persue Hawke's whereabouts did change a lot of things, didn't it? Had the Divine not tasked her with such a thing, she imagined neither she nor Varric would be in the position they were in now. Varric himself was silent, eyes straight ahead, and for once, he didn't have any smug twinkle in his eye.
Growing more anxious by the silence than by awkward conversation or flippancy, Cassandra asked, "So you are not from Orlais originally, Vivienne?"
"Neither are you, clearly," she answered.
"I ask because of your accent." And because the silence is mind numbing. "I would've thought, once you joined the court..." She shrugged. Vivienne huffed a little.
"You assumed I would conform to the characteristics of an Orlesian? That which makes you different can be a burden, or a source of strength, my dear. Which is up to you. No doubt your Shadow realizes this? For he is very different from what I hear."
"His differences are a strength at times," Solas remarked from the other side of Varric. "It allows him to remain remarkably impartial. He is a stranger to our world, and therefore possesses an unbiased opinion no one else ever could. He does not make decisions based on religious views, traditions, or any other social factors one might normally take into consideration. Though his appearance may seem disconcerting to some, because it vastly differs from that which has become the norm."
"And it's his appearance that has become the burden?" Vivienne asked, and Solas nodded. "So, he's not religious, not superstitious, nor does he harbor any grudges, or hold any loyalties?"
"And holds no prejudice, of any kind," Solas told her.
"He hardly sounds human at all," she said.
"He isn't human," Solas told her. "He's truly unique."
"But he's also very generous with his opinion," Cassandra added. Varric chuckled beside her.
"Yeah, that's one way of putting it, Seeker," he said, and she smirked a little.
"Interesting," Vivienne remarked. "I do hope I get the chance to meet him," she sighed, and Cassandra's heart flipped. Would she? Would any of them get the chance to see him again? Because hearing all this talk about Ravine not being prejudiced, even thought he was foul mouthed and temperamental, reminded her that Josephine was right, that there was some good in him, and how much they needed him right now.
The rest of the journey was largely marked by silence, with only the occasional banter, as they drew nearer and nearer to their destination. They would've left for Haven hours ago, but Cassandra being the woman she was, she was not about to drop the matter entirely, even though Vivienne presented a very sound plan for getting Ravine out of the Templars' hands. She just had to get to the bottom of this, and she couldn't stand not knowing something.
She had to seek the truth, as it were. And this mysterious figure tipped off by the Red Jennies, whoever they were, might know something they didn't, as to why the Templars apprehended Ravine in the first place. The group fell to complete silence as they neared the outskirts of the city and after securing their horses, wound their way through back alleys to the secluded courtyard.
She drew her sword, Varric pulled Bianca from her holster, and the mages readied their staves. They knew what to expect. The note mentioned an enemy of the Inquisition, and they had no idea what that entailed, so they stayed on guard. But Cassandra was about to meet the problem face to face all too quickly when she swung open the gate and was met with a group, armed to the teeth. They drew swords and charged almost immediately.
She was very grateful for Vivienne's assistance when the mage immediately threw up a barrier and an incoming arrow bounced right off of it, sparing the Seeker. A wash of shimmering magic glow danced over her form before she charged the warriors, while behind her Viv and Solas alternated between spells and Varric fired his crossbow. But she missed Ravine's ability to forcepull arrows and redirect them toward enemies.
She'd have to remember to tell him that when she saw him, and thank him for the many times he'd saved her life since knowing him.
Before too long, the fight was over, and all four of them took a moment to breathe. "I hardly believe that was the last of them, Seeker," said Vivienne behind her. "Far too easy, and far too simple of an endeavor."
"I agree," she told the enchanter, and Varric and Solas sighed.
They searched the courtyard and looted the bodies for information but found nothing, and so they shoved opened the door at the far end, to be immediately met with a blast of fire. Thankfully, Cassandra still had her shield at the ready and the fire glanced off the metal, dissapating as quickly as it came. Then they were face to face with the mage in question, Orlesian, mask and all.
"The Inquisition's Seeker," he remarked, his accent as thick as oil. "How much did you expend to discover me? It must've weakened the Inquisition immeasurably!" Vivienne rolled her eyes at that. But Cassandra didn't see it. She was too busy rolling her own.
"Tell us who you work for," Cassandra demanded. "Who hired you?"
He growled. "You don't know who I am? No, I am too important for this to be an accident!"
"My dear, you are so sadly mistaken that it's just pitiful," she heard Vivienne say. "You're as significant as a slug underfoot."
"What do you want with the Inquisition?" Solas asked beside her.
He didn't get a chance to answer, for one of the men with him was quickly shot down by an arrow, drawing his attention. Then a figure appeared, an elf with golden hair, covered in muck. She drew a second arrow. "Just say 'what'," she said.
"What is the-" Thwack! The arrow hit him so hard at so close of a range his head snapped backwards and he fell lifeless to the ground. Well, so much for questioning him. Cassandra growled a little, shaking her head and focusing on the elven woman that shot him down. She was cackling, wandering over to pluck the arrow from his head with disgust, wrinkling her nose at the ichor.
"Yeeeuck!" she said, inspecting the arrow. "Squishy one, but you heard me right?" She giggled. "Just say 'what'. Rich tits always try for more than they diserve. Blah blah, obey me. Arrow in my face." She looked Cassandra up and down. "So, here you are. Followed the notes well enough. So it's true, yeah? You've got a big talking cat thing that used to be a demon but now he's good and kills demons with magicky stuff, right?"
"He's not a demon," Solas sorrected.
"Whatever," she waved off. "Shadow, not Shadow. Demon, not demon, who knows. Who cares, yeah? But the important thing is he glows, right? He's got magic that closes rifts an' stuff?"
"Uh, who are you exactly?" Varric asked, scratching his head.
"And why did you kill that man?" Cassandra added.
"To keep him from killin' you. Duh," she said, with an eyeroll.
"Well, who was he? What did he want?"
"No idea," she answered. "I dunno this idiot from manners. My people just said the Inquisition should look at him."
"Your people?" Cassandra repeated. "The friends of Red Jenny?"
"Yeah," she said with a smile, and jerked a thumb at herself. "That's me. Well, I'm one of them. Name's Sera." She pointed at the crate. "That's cover. Get round it."
"For the reinforcements comin'," she said. "But someone tipped me of their equipment shed." She giggled. "They've got no breeches!"
As if it had been planned, within seconds the reinforcements Sera mentioned had arrived, and everyone ducked for cover. It was a frenzy for the next few minutes as fighting ensued, and the courtyard was chaos. And but of course, the men they fought had no pants on. Cassandra glowered. "You took their pants?! Why didn't you take their weapons?!" she screeched at the elf who cackled beside her.
When the fight was over, Sera sighed and said, "Friends really came through with that tip, yeah?" She chuckled. "No Breeches." She turned to Cassandra. "So, I want to join."
"You want to join the Inquisition?" she asked, needing clarification.
"Well, yeah I guess. Just join, whatever. Join you, in helpin' the Shadow, right? I want to help you get the cat back from the Templars. I saw the whole thing an-"
"You were there? In the market today?"
"Yeah, I was there. Saw what happened. Scary cat, but he's not a bad one, yeah? A good one. I think. Anyway, I saw the Templars were up to somethin' when they set up those nets, so I hid, and snuck around. Pulled some of their firing pins." She pulled out some strips of metal she hid away on her person and held them out. "Couldn't get all of them, though. One of them found me out, an' his eyes were all glowy. Freaked me out, so I ran."
"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute," Varric interjected, holding up a hand. "You saw a Templar's eyes glowing?"
"Yeah. Freaky, right? They were all red, and-"
"You saw his eyes glowing red?" Varric hung his head. "Well, shit."
"What are you going on about, Varric?" Cassandra turned to ask him and he sighed.
"You remember what I told you about Meredith, Seeker?" he asked, and she thought about it.
About how when she interrogated him he described the Knight-Commander in Kirkwall being influenced by the Red Lyrium idol made into a sword. It affected her mind, affected her judgement. Corrupted her, and Cassandra could hardly believe such a thing could exist until he pointed out the Red Lyrium at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Meredith's eyes had been glowing red, as the Red Lyrium consumed her.
"Maker, the Templars are corrupted," she said.
"By what?" Vivienne asked, but Cassandra hardly wanted to entertain the idea by speaking it aloud. But was it possible that the Templars had something to do with the Conclave? Was that why they took Ravine? And meanwhile, Sera the elf was glancing back and forth between all of them.
"So the Templars really are bad guys then?" she asked. "Better get the Shadow back from them, like, now. Right, so, I want to help. Put some arrows in faces."
She gestured to her bow and quiver and Cassandra regarded her for a minute. Then she glanced at the firing pins belonging to the artillary the Templars used to capture Ravine. Had she not been frightened by glowing eyes, Cassandra wondered if this Sera might've prevented Ravine from being taken. She might be useful. She looked like a vagabond, screamed criminal with her appearance, but she was good with a bow.
"We need to get word to Leliana about this, and head back to Haven, start working on a plan. And you're coming with us," she added to Sera who pumped her fist in victory.
"Yes!" she happily exclaimed. Cassandra waved them onward and back through the gate.
"Are we really going to allow this insipid girl to join us, Seeker?" Vivienne asked as they walked, sighing dejectedly at the thought.
"Yes, we really are," Cassandra answered, and behind her Sera snickered again.
"Somebody's breeches are too tight, yeah?" she mumbled. Then she spoke up louder. "So the Shadow's got a tail, right? So, how does he keep people from steppin' on it an' all that?"
"You can ask him when you meet him," Solas told her, and she giggled.
"Does he like belly rubs, or his ears scratched?" she then asked, and Cassandra rolled her eyes. She could just imagine the look on Ravine's face if and when he met this peculiar little elf. "Ooh, I bet he likes yarn too. Does he catch his own mice?"
"Wait til the Fuzzball hears this," she heard Varric mumble. And for the first time in hours, Cassandra actually laughed. It was brief, but it was laughter, and she needed it right now.
Josephine paced in the war room at Haven while Cullen and Leliana stood nearby, the both of them helpless to console her. She, more than they, was distraught at learning Ravine had been taken captive. And in the privacy of the war room she didn't bother to hide her anxiety. Especially after Cassandra returned, and explained in more detail what she learned in Val Royeaux.
"All we have to go on is the word of some strange little elf," Cullen sighed. "But if it's true that some of them are corrupt somehow, we need to put a stop to it."
He had been there in Kirkwall, saw Meredith's corruption with his own eyes, and knew better than to dismiss the idea completely, but still, it was unbelievable. And it called to question how the Templars obtained more Red Lyrium, as well as what they intended to do with it. Beyond that, none of them knew what to think, or where to turn. The Imperial Enchanter had some ideas, but Josephine questioned her methods.
She'd been trying for months to gain the support of the Orlesian nobility, to no avail, no matter what she said or did. And that this Vivienne might somehow be able to sway them? It seemed unlikely, but Josephine was willing to try anything if it might save Ravine. That was all that mattered right now. To the Void with the war, with the Templars and the mages, if they didn't liberate Ravine, everything was lost.
And Maker only knew what terrible things he might be suffering.
"We need to get him out of there," the diplomat stressed, wringing her hands. "We have no idea what they're doing to him right now. It could be anything."
"We also don't know why they apprehended him the first place," said Leliana. "All we know is that they took him alive. There is too much left to question. We cannot simply launch an attack on the Lord Seeker, but he may leave us with no choice."
"Assaulting the keep is act of war on the Templars," Cullen reminded. "We will forever condemn the Order as enemies of the Inquisition."
"They did that to themselves the minute they took Ravine hostage, Commander," Leliana pointed out. Cullen sighed.
"I won't lie, if it weren't for the magic on his hand I'd be happy to be rid of him," he admitted. "But we're helpless without him. If the Templars aren't going to use him in some glorified attempt at sealing the Breach themselves, and mean to leave it open, we have no choice but to get involved. But we haven't the means to openly attack them. Our forces would break. The fortress is too strong and we're outnumbered."
Leliana leaned against the table, examining the map. "That could change if Cassandra's claim that Fiona offered her mages to the Inquisition holds true. With her followers we might have the numbers to take them head on."
"No one's ever succeeded in breaching Therinfal's defenses," said Cullen.
"But could we?" Josephine stopped pacing to ask. "With their numbers, is it possible?"
"You won't have the time to find out," said a voice from the doorway. Someone had burst into the room, interrupting their meeting, and Cullen's hand fell to his blade in alarm.
They turned to see a mage, with cropped black hair, mustache and goatee, and very flustered looking guards who'd been unable to stop him from barging in.
"Sorry about this, sir," said one of them. "This man claims to have information about the mages. We didn't mean to-"
"Leave us," Cullen said to the guards. They closed the door, leaving the three of them in the company of this dashing stranger. "Who are you?" The Commander then demanded of the man.
"Dorian Pavus," he bowed. "Most recently, from Minrathous. And if anyone finds out I'm here, we're all dead."
I had hoped this would turn out better than it did. I also hope it wasn't too terrible. But I really wanted to squeeze in an update before people brought out the torches and pitchforks lolz