After rescuing the the last few people in the tower cornered by the Darkspawn attack, the battle between the Elves and Darkspawn rages on nearby. Gale triages survivors in the ruined tower before taking them back to camp. Elia urges the rest of the heros to stick to the plan and escort the civilians back to camp while she opens fire on the Hurlock General.
Seeing that, Borin decides the fastest way into the fray is to jump directly off the cliff and into battle. Spotting the leader of the horde, Borin not so gracefully soars off the cliff and straight into the bloody bodies. He takes some damage and wounds his legs in the process. The surprise of a flying Dwarf into battle gives the elves a chance for a few surprise attacks on the enemy.
Up on the cliff, Revas joins in with his bow. Aly tries to use her magic the horde, but is subject to Sargis’ “constructive criticism” when she initially fails. Valeria urges Gale to take the wounded back to camp, and Gale complies.
Pushing and shoving his way through the battle with little concern for the measly attacks the Genlocks land against him, Borin makes his way to the Hurlock Alpha. Borin easily stands toe to toe with the Alpha and is clearly about to land the final blow and win the battle when Elia and her cowardly fighting style creep in at the last second to claim victory for herself. Or so says Borin. According to Elia, she landed at least four arrows to the Hurlock General’s head before Borin even reached him.
Shortly after the Alpha’s death, Borin liberates him of his head and holds it up for all to see, shouting in Dwarven. Despite not knowing a word of Dwarven, Elia answers his words with an Antivan curse.
Soon after the General’s death, the Darkspawn army breaks and the field is looted and injured recovered.
Borin, his legs injured, gets to share a halla with one of the young warriors, after he and Jundor, the Warleader, have had a short talk about the battle. After this, the party make their way back to camp to finally enjoy some down time around the fire and tell of their great victory over the Darkspawn horde.
Valeria immediately checks up on Bert and Drynne. The cart moved away during the battle and returned when things settled down. Drynne is sleeping in the cart, tired from all the excitement. Both Valeria and Elia talk to Bert for a moment, and Sargis asks for Melor’s location, while Valeria soon walks off to find Cole.
Sargis speaks to Melor, learns that the priestess is his daughter and invites them to journey to Highever with the them.
It takes a while before Valeria finds Cole, who is clinging to Gale’s robes while Gale again helps the wounded. The circle mage doesn’t seem bothered by the small girl, and gently pats her head from time to time. When Cole spots Valeria, she asks whether she has seen her mother, and when Valeria says that she hasn’t, Cole again hides behind Gale’s skirts. It seems she asks that of everyone.
When Valeria offers her help, Gale asks her to please get Cole some food, and Valeria decides that the best way of doing that is by waking Drynne to spend time with the little girl and have a late dinner together.
Elia, in the meantime, has spotted Salem, and drags her towards the campfire. Salem, completely startled, doesn’t even know what to do about that, so all she manages is to wave another elf over and motion for her abandoned guard post.
Slowly the party gather around a fire for tales from their past. Except Revas, who is to cool to hang with the party and goes off to search for his missing stepmother.
Of course Arianna finds the party first and Sargis tells her of Revas’ deeds and multiple wives. Embarrassed Revas denies it all but the truth is out, as Sargis would say.
Elia (heart, a love story) decides to bring up a card game, and, according to the card she daws, talks about a man she was with once. He was apparently planning on killing the arl with poison. He was an assassin, as Elia soon found out.
Valeria (club, money/possessions) tells a story of how she got her armor: She traveled to Jader and got taken in by a group of mercenaries. Her teacher put her through a lot, making it seem like she couldn’t get anything right, until one day he gave Valeria her first set of armor. She wore it proudly, feeling like she could finally do something rather than just run away.
Revas (diamond, story of a fight) tells his story about the man that told him to leave the clan after he and Camren went out to hunt a bear. Revas was scarred and Camren lost his arm.
Valeria (spade, a sad story) is handed another card. She talks about an elven woman and her child, and how she got beat up and woke to find people dead. She felt very much alone.
Sargis (diamond, story of a fight) tells a story about fighting a bear on a ship.
Borin (spade, a sad story) tells a story about going with initiates to help them train in the tribes, and yet another bear is brought up.
Salem (heart, a love story) tells the story about when she got stuck up in a tree during a wyvern hunt. After the tree fell, the three of them enjoyed some fun times while waiting for the group to show up to help them out.
Elia (club, money) tells a story about her jobs over the years. Elia got caught cheating for profit at a gambling house because her spotter, Little Johnny, wasn’t watching carefully. She ended up breaking out of jail and beating her spotter up afterwards.
Drynne (heart, a love story) tells a story about him working and getting money. He stole a chicken and was chased and met up with his friends. Drynne and his companions met a dog (Bunion) and gave it the chicken and though it died years later he was pretty happy about feeding the dog and having made a new friend.
The game seems to be over, and the group is preparing to go to rest in their tents, but then Borin tells them about notes he found on Donna Alicia’s body… and none of that sounds good for the future of Tevinter or them.
With this code, Borin managed to crack the other messages, which look similar to this one:
Found one in Vol Dorma.
The Appraiser has been slain.
The Darkspawn are weakened.
Moving in to attack.
Minrathous has fallen.
Tevinter is lost.
Magister in Kal’Hirol.
Need more resources.
While the others are enjoying ale and some elven food that Orellis brings by, Valeria and Elia wander off a bit to have a few moments to themselves.
Valeria glances back at the others, watching them quietly as she and Elia walk before she speaks
“We’ve gone from handling cultists and looters to aiding in battles against darkspawn. And all of this in such a short amount of time…it’s hard to know what’s happening lately.”
Elia shrugs her shoulders in an almost helpless manner, looking into the mug of ale she had carted off with her, then drinking deeply of it before she replied.
“You’re not wrong. We’ve gone from mercenaries to… kind of heros.” Elia looks more than a little unsettled by the revelation, and takes another long drink. “If you’d asked me where I saw myself now even a week ago… it wouldn’t have been this. These are strange times we’re living in.”
A deep sigh, then Elia lowers her drink a bit. “I think a part of me always knew that it wouldn’t be as easy as simply running away from the darkspawn, even when I heard whispers of them in Antiva, then took myself and my mother across the sea. I tried to ignore the horribleness of it all, but nevertheless, it persisted. Now… I really don’t know what to do. We fought it back. We’ll fight it back in Highever. But, then what? Will the darkspawn just keep coming?”
“Hard to know. They sort of just…pop up all of a sudden sometimes. A few here, a few there and then you’re drowning in them by the time you think to do anything about it.
All I can say is that pretending they aren’t there, or that they won’t show up at all like the people of Jader tried to do, will only get more people killed."
Valeria glances over at Elia. “It’s why I wanted to talk to you actually. We don’t get many opportunities to breathe and just talk lately, so…I wanted to ask a few questions. If you don’t mind, of course.”
Elia nods her permission, absently glancing at the last bits of foam clinging to the inside of the bottom of her mug before she gingerly sets it on the ground beside her feet. “I don’t know how many answers I have for you. The things I heard about the darkspawn in Antiva were mostly fabricated, I am sure. People said the creatures spawned in sewers and the bottoms of quarries… dark, dirty places, and were drawn to cities for the same reason; that they were attracted to the filth there.”
She grimaces and shakes her head, then smooths her expression again. “But, you should ask your questions regardless. We should always be free with one another.”
Valeria smiles, looking over at Elia with a warm expression. “My questions aren’t really for or about the darkspawn. It’s about you. That’s another change that’s happened for me within this strange week. I met you and now we’re preparing for a wedding one day.
I want to know about you. What you like, what you don’t like. Stories of your past, feelings about the future. Even how you’d like this relationship to be when it comes to others. I want to know everything I can.”
Elia tilts her head, considering Valeria’s words as she slips into the Antivan tongue, “Well, I think the biggest cat is already out of the bag, what with our little storytime session back there. The assassin… his name was Deagan. He was the only other person I’ve ever loved; but I don’t know if it was him I ever really loved, or if he ever showed me his true self.
“When I found him out, he didn’t even seem fazed. Looking back, it was like he wanted me to overhear, to find out who he was. Some days, I wonder if he ever really cared for me, or if he just saw our relationship as a way of recruiting me.”
Elia puffs out a sigh, “so, I suppose that’s what I don’t want. I want to know your true self as well, I want us to be free to be ourselves with each other.”
“As for what I do want…? For now: an adventure. We’re both young. We should be young. We fight who we want to fight, we take to bed who we want to take to bed… as long as we do it together, I would be contented with that. And, when our bones grow stiff and our muscles tired: a ship, to take us and whatever gaggle of children you have collected back to Antiva, to use whatever fortune we have to retire in comfort there.”
Elia turns to look into Valeria’s eyes, trying her best to read them, “but, you need only breathe a word, and it could all change. The most important part of my future that I see is that we would spend it together.”
Valeria tilts her head, listening to Elia intently and looking her in the eyes before the two of them do their usual ritual of pass the coin so Valeria can speak in alamarri, “and if you were to meet him again? Anything you’d want me to do? To help? Or would you rather handle that on your own?”
At the mention of children, Valeria smirks and raises an eyebrow. “A gaggle of children? I know this past week I’ve picked up too, but Drynne alone is eating through what little I have. Cole is…a different story.”
Valeria tilts her head the other way as a thought comes to her, “so you’re fine with us having…other partners as long as we’re together? Or do you mean those times when you and someone else just click and sex happens, like at the bathhouse…as long as that happens while we’re both there.”
“I’m not even truly certain of what I would do if I saw Deagan again. Honestly, I always assumed he’d try to kill me after I ran off like that. So, if you could help stop him from doing that, that would be great. Otherwise… I’d rather live and let live. Even if it was all a lie, I think I would find it… difficult to be rid of him.”
Elia shrugs a little, a soft smile decorating her face, “truly, I never thought I would have children before I met you; I’m not very motherly. But, you are. Drynne, Cole, and whoever else you have room for in your heart… we’d find a way to feed them. People like you and I, we always find a way to get by.”
Nodding affirmatively at Valeria’s final words. “Yes, exactly that. I mean… in Antiva affairs aren’t uncommon, in fact, I was a lovechild myself.
“So long as our hearts remain true to one another, you’re always free to do as you wish with your person, but I’d prefer it if we took our affairs together,” Elia smirks in remembrance, “it was quite fun the first time, wasn’t it?”
Valeria shrugs, grinning at Elia as she looks at her. “It was definitely…unexpected. a good surprise that went well for all involved. Though there’s always room for improvement, right? All I’m saying is…getting to know you over time is going to be something I’ll enjoy until the day I die, but I just wanted to make sure I knew some of these things ahead of time. Something to consider for our future and our love.”
“If you ever have any questions, you know you need ever only ask,” Elia plays a bit with the enchanted coin in hand, contemplating passing it right pack, but then continuing to speak a bit more first, “and if there is anything you ever need to tell me, especially in the ‘room for improvement’ department, you always have my ear.”
Elia passes the coin back yet again, easy as breathing. Valeria blinks and takes the coin, grinning at Elia after recovering a few moments after.
“Based on when we were together, you were the one who could handle herself well, given the situation and another person being involved at the same time. I’d really be asking you for pointers rather than the other way around.”
. . .