It takes me about five seconds to decide on taking out my considerable frustration on the ass threatening Briall. I don’t know either of them, and this really isn’t my business, but the situation only serves to remind me of where I am, why I’m here, and just how horribly I’m failing to right the injustices in my own life.
Which pisses me off.
Which then makes this my business. I’ve been looking for an excuse to punch someone all day, so this works out nicely.
I don’t bother to hide my approach, but the moron is too busy gloating to notice that someone is intent on wiping that smile off his face. Drawing one of my swords, I have the tip at the younger man’s throat in moments.
He glances at me, cursing under his breath, as he finally takes notice that they’re not alone in the alley. If he’s some sort of mercenary, he’s a very poor one.
Narrowing my eyes, I press the blade into his flesh just enough to make it clear I’m entirely serious. “Now is when you release him, and hand over the money he gave you.”
He’s smart enough to obey my commands, and then slowly back away. “Who the hell are you?”
“Someone who knows where to find you,” I say, following him until his back comes up against the brick wall behind him.
The man glances over my shoulder, and I hear Sylas laugh behind me. “She doesn’t need our help,” he says, but I know he’s ready to take the man’s head off if he makes a wrong move. “We’re just here to bet on whether you’re smart enough to walk away, or if you’ll be leaving with fewer body parts.”
“I call hands,” Caleb says, sounding bored.
“Damn, I was going to say hands,” Sylas says, sighing. “In that case, I’ll go with eyes.”
I see the man swallow nervously, a faint sheen of sweat on his brow, and can’t help but grin darkly. “Feel like trying that with me?” I ask, staring him down. He doesn’t seem nearly so cocky when up against someone who’s more evenly matched to him. “Go ahead. Threaten me.”
He shakes his head mutely.
“And it’s understood that there will be no conversations with any magisters about this?”
He nods. “I don’t want any trouble,” he says, glancing at my sword, still leveled at his throat.
“Good choice,” I say, lowering my weapon. “Now leave.”
I watch him run away until he’s out of sight around the corner at the other end of the alley. Turning, I hold out the heavy pouch of money I collected to Briall.
He takes it back, glancing uneasily between the three of us. “What do you want?” he asks, in lieu of thanking us.
“This is why I hate Tevinter,” I mutter, rolling my eyes as I shove my sword back in its scabbard. “I want nothing-”
“Information,” Sylas interrupts, surprising me. He glances at me, and I shelve my impatience for the moment. “In your dealings with your… associate we were just talking to, did you hear anything about a man named Jeremiah?”
Briall frowns in thought, tucking the money pouch out of sight into a deep pocket in his coat. “The name isn’t familiar,” he says, shaking his head.
Caleb strolls away, grumbling under his breath. “Waste of time.”
“Go home,” I say tiredly. “Making those kinds of deals will only get you killed.”
Thank the Maker Sylas follows me as I walk away. I’ve done my good deed. I saved a fool from himself. Now I want nothing more to do with Briall and whatever political scheme he’s most likely trying to maneuver.
The sleep I manage to get at the inn is fitful, at best. I can’t shut my mind off long enough to relax.
I know the Silent Blades wouldn’t have followed Jeremiah if he’d simply had me killed. He had to frame me, destroying my name first. Had the woman I found been one of his targets for some important client? Or just an acceptable casualty in having me taken out of the picture?
Had he taken that woman’s life himself? How many innocents had he killed to secure his place in the Silent Blades?
All these thoughts are slowly driving me crazy, but what can I do? There’s nothing, but to keep moving forward. So I do my best to push aside the chaos in my heart and mind, and focus on finding him.
I part ways with Sylas and Caleb outside the inn, each of us taking a different path through the city to see what we can turn up. I spend the better part of the day chatting with patrons at taverns, and subtly questioning merchants. Anyone Jeremiah could have come into contact with, or made deals with. I keep my conversations casual, nothing too pushy or specific that could give away my purpose here.
All the while, I’m careful to avoid the one Silent Blade contact I know lives in Minrathous. She could believe us to be traitors as well, depending on whether Jeremiah approached her. I only pray we can escape detection long enough to find the sorry bastard.
I’m not sure how long it takes me to notice. I’m so focused on not slipping up trying to get information, it takes a while before that unsettling feeling of being watched really starts to set in.
At first I dismiss it, but if I’m not mistaken…
I move to another merchant stall, careful to keep the cloaked figure just at the peripheral of my vision. About twenty feet away, obviously trying to stay out of sight behind me, the figure moves as well. It’s troubling how close they’ve managed to get without me noticing.
Whoever it is, they aren’t very stealthy, which makes me all the more annoyed at myself. It’s clear from their stillness they’re not interacting with the merchants at all. They’ve paused just a little beside a table where various fabrics are on display, probably to obscure them more from my view if I happen to turn around.
My eyes roam over different stalls, barely hearing the merchants as they try to peddle me their wares. They think I’m interested as I pause to study some fine silk on one table. Some jewelry on another.
And so does the person following me.
Moving to the next stall, I ask the weapon merchant about the intricate scroll work along the blade of one of the daggers he’s offering, shifting it to catch the light. The blade looks more decorative than practical, and is so highly polished that I manage to catch the blurry reflection of my pursuer for just a moment.
Either careless, or perhaps just too cocky for their own good, they’ve begun to slowly close the distance between us.
Nodding my thanks to the merchant, I hand the dagger back and leisurely head off towards a nearby alley. I duck into the first darkened doorway I see, and wait, barely breathing, silently drawing one of my swords.
I hear quick footsteps approaching, and just as they pass my hiding spot, I dash out behind them. Reaching around them quickly, my blade is at their throat faster than they can react. From their build, I can tell they’re male, and I have to tug him down to my height a little to get a good hold on him, bowing his back and bringing him off balance as I drag him back into the shadows with me.
“Not a sound,” I whisper close to his ear as he clumsily stumbles along with me.
I can feel the way he’s stiffened, but he doesn’t struggle as I drop my blade to spin him around. I shove him away from me, and he stumbles back against the wall behind him. Stepping away quickly, I keep an arm’s length between us, my sword point raised to his chest in case he gets any ideas.
I recognize the cool blue eyes glaring at me from under the cloak’s hood. “Wait!” Briall whispers harshly, holding up a hand beseechingly, apparently not wanting to attract attention either. “Please, I mean you no harm!”
Disgusted, I sneer at him. Wonderful. This is what I get for sticking my nose into matters that aren’t my concern. Now he probably wants to try and hire me for whatever scheme he has in mind.
Or perhaps Jeremiah already knows I’m here?
“Why are you following me?” I narrow my eyes, not trusting him for a moment. “I want no part-”
“We have a common enemy,” Briall hastily says, cutting me off before I can go any further. “Karinn.”
A name I’m not familiar with, but it reminds me of the burned letter in Jeremiah’s office. Coincidence? Or is the Maker merely playing with me again?
“She has my grandson,” Briall says, confusing me all over again. This doesn’t sound as much like a play for power as I thought it would.
I tilt my head, not entirely sure where he’s going with all of this. “Is this the magister you were arguing about last night?”
“Yes,” he says, raising his chin as though he fully expects this to go about as well as that last conversation had. “Karinn is a magister.” His lip curls in disgust as he says this. “One of the nastier ones.”
“The grandson of an Altus mage is a slave?” I raise an eyebrow. It’s not unheard of, but very rare. How could someone fall all the way from the highest class in Tevinter society, to the very lowest?
Briall shakes his head, sighing in a way that makes him look much older and wearier than he had a second before. He glances around uneasily, and when he looks to me again, that cold glint is gone from his expression.
“Can we speak someplace quieter?” he asks, and I know he really means somewhere we won’t be overheard.
Whatever his story is, at the very least he may have information that could lead me to Jeremiah. “There’s a small inn not too far from here-”
“I know it,” he says quickly, obviously in a hurry to be off the streets. His steely resolve is back as he turns to head in the direction of the inn, and I wonder if I imagined how tired he looked a moment ago. “Can your friends be trusted?”
“I would not be with them otherwise,” I say, glancing around as we wind through the crowded streets. His tension is making me jumpy. “It sounds to me like you don’t have the luxury of being too picky anyway, judging by your own recent choice of acquaintances.”
“You’re right,” he says quietly, and although I can’t see his expression clearly, I can hear a little of that weariness in his tone again. “Being who she is, my options are limited. No one wants to help me, even if they do decide to believe me.”
Nearing the inn, I see Caleb and Sylas talking in front of a shop just down the street. Catching Sylas’ eye, I signal him to follow us.
I lead Briall to the second floor, then down a short hallway, and into my room. Knowing the others aren’t far behind, I don’t bother closing the door.
“What is this?” Caleb demands, storming into the room moments after us. “Why did you bring him here?”
“He has information,” Sylas says calmly, closing the door behind him. He raises an eyebrow at me, and I know he’s still waiting for an explanation, even having said this.
“I think we’re looking for the same person,” Briall says, not wasting any time. I think he can tell none of us are in an overly patient mood.
“And who do you think we’re looking for?” Sylas asks, cautious as ever.
“The magister, Karinn.”
“Get out,” Caleb says immediately.
I hold up a hand when he would have jerked the door open again. He grumbles something under his breath, but waits, crossing his arms over his chest.
Briall crosses his own arms, staring Caleb down coolly as he starts speaking again, and I have to admit I admire his bravado. “While I’ve been trying to find out more about her, I heard that she has someone new in her inner circle. The few people who will talk to me believe it’s the man you’ve been asking around town about all day.”
“Fantastic. He knows we’re looking for him.” Caleb throws his hands into the air. “We’re dead.” Scrubbing his hands over his face in frustration, he sighs. “All dead.”
“How do you know it’s him?” I ask, ignoring Caleb’s outburst.
“He leads a band of mercenaries, right?” Briall says confidently. “The Silent Blades?”
I instinctively bristle at the description, but keep my thoughts to myself.
“It could be the same man,” Sylas answers for me. “Why is he helping the magister?”
“I don’t know,” Briall admits, meeting my gaze again. “But I can help you find out. I’ll tell you where she is, and help you get into her estate. The information has to be there, and I’m your best chance of finding that information without attracting your target’s attention.”
“What’s the catch?” Caleb asks, finally listening.
“Find my grandson, and-”
“Get. Out.” This time Caleb nearly wrenches the door off its hinges pulling it open. “We are not a charity organization.”
I step in front of him before he can forcefully drag Briall from the room. “I want to hear what he has to say.”
“His name is Vaellen.” Briall speaks quickly, probably trying to sway me before I change my mind. “He was taken when he was fifteen-”
“How do you even know she took him?” Caleb demands, slamming the door shut.
“Caleb,” Sylas growls, taking a menacing step towards the other man. “You won’t have to worry about him attracting attention to us if you can’t control yourself.”
Caleb makes a rude gesture, but doesn’t make any further comment.
“She killed my daughter, and her husband,” Briall continues, and I hear a sad, broken kind of note in his voice that picks at the crack in my defenses. “I know she did it to get to the boy. He’s… a very powerful mage. Even when he was a child, it was clear.”
I did not miss that hesitation. Turning to him, I raise an eyebrow and silently wait.
Briall takes a breath, raising his chin. “He’s a dreamer.”
“Somniari,” Sylas says quietly, and I feel a chill work its way down my spine.
Not good. I’ve heard horror stories about dreamers, especially the ones from Tevinter. Mages that can control the Fade, and even slip into people’s dreams. They’re rare, and extremely dangerous, if the rumors I’ve heard are true.
“Before she died, my daughter tried to tell me someone was asking questions about Vaellen. That someone wanted to take him…” Briall pauses, swallowing hard and trying to compose himself before he continues. “But I wouldn’t listen. I was too caught up in other matters.” I can hear the shame in his voice, and he doesn’t bother trying to cover the pain he feels admitting this to us. “I let my own desire for power come before my daughter, and she paid the price for it. I will not make that mistake again. It’s taken me years to find out who was responsible. I won’t stop until I find my grandson.”
“And now Karinn may have allied herself with Jeremiah,” I say, trying to piece together what this could all mean, or if any of it is really connected at all.
What if Briall is lying? What if Jeremiah knows we’re here, and he’s trying to lure us out?
“No…” Caleb grabs my arm and pulls me around to face him. “Tell me you aren’t considering this madness.”
“Why shouldn’t she?” Sylas quietly asks, glaring at Caleb. “Even if this has nothing to do with Jeremiah in the end, isn’t this the kind of thing we signed up for when we joined the Silent Blades?”
Caleb snorts. “Playing the hero is all fine and good, as long as I get paid,” he says with a smirk. “But there’s nothing heroic, or profitable, about getting ourselves killed by some crazed magister.”
“If you help me, even if it isn’t the same man you’re looking for, I will use all my connections to help you find him,” Briall adds, desperation clear in his tone has he holds my gaze, ignoring Caleb. “I’ll do anything. All that matters to me is finding Vaellen.”
All three pairs of eyes are on me, and I can’t help a sigh.
(What do you choose?)
~ He could be telling the truth. I can’t just ignore this anyway, even if it means having to wait a little longer to find Jeremiah. (3a: A Favor)
~ He’s probably lying. I want no further involvement, and helping will only complicate matters further. (3b: Finding Another Way)
For easy navigation, and do-overs. ~ DA FF: Blades (Chapter Master Post)
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, lore, etc. are the property of BioWare, and their respective writers. The only things that are mine are the original characters and plot of this story – DA FF: Blades. I am in no way associated with BioWare. No copyright infringement is intended. This is for entertainment purposes only.