UNBOUNDHere on Unbound, our plot follows four different timelines, set throughout the canonical history of the Dragon Age. The events following Trespasser, the time of the Inquisition, the rise of the Champion of Kirkwall and the quest of the Warden against the Fifth Blight.
And So is the Golden City blackened
With each step you take in my Hall.
Marvel at perfection, for it is fleeting.
You have brought Sin to Heaven
And doom upon all the world.
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You knew this might happen one day.
I didn’t expect it to be him!
Does it matter? They came, they left, you’re still safe.
They won’t have given up. And the Warden Commander has made it clear that this is my problem, not his. Arsehole.
Cassie smacked a small rock out of the way with the butt of her staff, sending it skittering a way up the hill before rolling back down again. It didn’t do much to alleviate her irritation, and her staff sparked with fire in response. Here she was, just days after her past came calling, off on recruitment with no back up because she was a mage and the Warden Commander was, again, an arsehole. Apparently magic counted as at least two other people, according to him.
The Wardens didn’t strenuously recruit, outside of a Blight, but they would send out Wardens to the local towns and villages to see if anyone there wanted to spend the rest of their lives killing darkspawn. Usually their only volunteers were from the dungeons, men spared the gallows if they were willing to undergo the Joining. Conscriptions weren’t unheard of, but they were rare.
Usually Senior Wardens did recruit alone, but she would have thought the Commander would have sent someone else, or sent someone with her, considering the Imperium had just been banging on the door looking for her. But no, that would make sense.
There was a tree at the top of the ridge. The town was on the other side, about two miles away. She’d already walked four to get this far and wasn’t expected back for a few days. Sod it. I’m taking a break.
She trudged up to the tree and set her pack down with a groan as her back complained. She’d taken to training a bit too aggressively in the past couple of days, and everything ached as a result. The lack of sleep wasn’t helping – the dreams were getting worse. Waking up in a cold sweat each night, sure you were on the verge of comprehending the alien whispers wending their way through each dream. Terrified that it meant your end was approaching. Once you understood the whispers, the singing, it was time to go to the Deep Roads.
Not yet. Can’t be yet. Yes, she’d joined during a Blight, but it had been countries away, the dreams disturbingly vivid, but at the same time distant. She was too young; it had barely been ten years since the Fifth Blight ended, not quite eleven since she joined. She had longer than that, she had to.
Stretching her back, she looked south. Somewhere out there, across the Waking Sea, there was a gaping hole in the Fade. And the Orlesian Wardens had fallen silent. The world was falling apart, maybe the Wardens were too. We can’t. We’re needed. There’s still two more Blights to survive.
It all had her on edge. She didn’t even want to sit down, instead pacing in front of the tree as she tried to make herself relax. It didn’t help. Not when she was like this. Not when she’d seen her brother again for the first time in sixteen years, and he was here to drag her back to the Imperium for what was bound to be a rigged trial.
He looked tired.
Good. Means you’ve been keeping them busy. Means they’re more likely to slip up.
It wasn’t Capaneus she was worried about, not really. Her brother was all talk and no action. He was probably only out here to please Father. No, the real concern was the Altus, the cousin. Caius. He was the real danger. She’d have to be wary of him, when they next met. There was no doubt they would, she couldn’t see them just giving up because the Wardens had invoked their political amnesty and closed ranks on her. She’d just have to stay alert.
She glanced around, glad now for her vantage point. Her only blind spot was the tree, and she could move around that to look. At least up here, she’d get some warning if someone approached.
And someone was.
Groaning, the mage kept walking along the non-existent path to nowhere, having left the ridiculous entourage back in the nearby little town. He needed space to think where Cernuus servants weren't running behind him ready to lick his arse if he so wished. Caius himself was sending word back to the Imperium and had travelled to Nevarra City to do that and await word back, and of course deserting Capaneus here to keep an eye out. Babysit his sister, or at least the location where she served.
So she was a Grey Warden. Stupid wench.
Then again, he felt a little sparkle of pride. She had... come so much further than he had wanted to admit her capable of even on a good day back then. He had always disliked her, little Cassie, perfect Cassie, talented Cassie, precious fucking Cassie who was going to be married off to an Altus family until she pushed the man off the balcony. The more time he had spent with Caius he had started to feel reluctant pride though. Perhaps he was seeing the cage he was trapped in, even if he wasn't ready to admitted. A cage of Tevene social expectations. But now he had spent enough years on the road that the cage didn't feel like home anymore, it felt like it was instead - a cage that slowly choked him.
Capaneus did not have the self-awareness, however, to identify all of these signs for what they were. He saw them as unrelated frustrations of life, much like the frustration currently occupying his mind. He had long since abandoned most traditional Tevinter-looking garments he had owned and looked suitably non-descript, not even that much like a make. Well he was a battlemage and sometimes considered that he may have had a great career as a soldier. Punching people in the face was more effective than hexing them, at least he felt that way about his own hexing.
The silence was broken by quiet steps and whilst he normally wouldn't be observant enough to catch onto something like that, this time he was alone with his brooding and would have to be truly thick not to notice. Capaneus paused and concluded there was someone around and found his steps bringing him closer, calmly patiently.
Said calm and patience was increasingly challenged by the discovery that the noise he had heard was generated by his sister. It was not something he had expected to deal with now, which was negative in the sense that Capaneus was abysmal at dealing with surprises. His steps remained taken at the same pace as before as he approached, but in his head he heard the rush of blood as anger tickled adrenaline into his bloodstream. Fingers flexed absently, itching to do something about his agitated state.
"Cassie," he said, a little surprised over how calm his voice sounded. There was no etiquette book or social expectation dictating precisely what to do now, as various thoughts collided violently in his mind. Yet, Capaneus kept calm for now, dull-coloured eyes fixed on his sister whom he had barely seen up close for more than a decade. Here they were at last.
As he approached, Cassie took the chance to scan around him. No one. Alone then, and there was no where around that could be an ambush point – not that they could have known she’d be coming out here on her own anyway. Just bad luck that they were both out here at the same time... unless Capaneus had been returning to the Keep for a solo attempt.
Just another waste of his time, if so.
‘If this is an ill-advised attempt to talk me into coming quietly Capaneus, you may as well turn around right now.’ And if he thought he’d be able to single-handedly drag her back, he’d soon find out exactly why the Wardens had recruited her. They’d never really tested who was the better mage before she’d left – too indifferent and reluctant to spend time with each other – but it had always been clear she’d been the more dedicated to improvement, the one with a natural skill for it. The only thing she’d seen her brother dedicate himself to was shirking his studies in favour of his own amusement. Maybe he had changed. Cassie was positive he wouldn’t have changed enough.
To make it clear she turned and faced him head-on, shrugging her cloak back over her shoulders so her arms were free and the Grey Warden armour exposed to the weak sunlight. She held her staff at her side in a seemingly lax grip, but she could whip it up and cast in a second; even faster if she forewent her staff in favour of her free hand. She had once held an ogre in place with her Force magic. If she could do that, she could lift Capaneus bodily and throw him around until his organs detached from each other. Not a pleasant way to go, nor a method she had used often before – there often wasn’t time for anything other than quick, efficient kills when fighting darkspawn – but it was possible. That it was her brother she was facing would only matter until he made the first move. If he attacked, after that he was an enemy. She could feel guilty about it later. She hadn’t spent sixteen years looking over her shoulder only to cave and go back like a good girl just because it was her big brother trying to bully her into it.
Even with all this running through her head, her heart beat steadily, her mind was clear. The anger was old and distant, the fear of discovery shrivelled. It had happened, and her world hadn’t collapsed. Now it was a matter of convincing the Cernuus family that the Grey Warden diplomatic immunity had priority over a years-old grievance.
Besides, it’s not like she was worth anything to them now. The only thing the Cernuus had stood to gain from her match with Aulus was her natural skill with magic to add to their bloodline and what would be a modest dowry by Altus standards. The money they didn’t need, and she was barren now, thanks to the Taint. The only purpose her return to Tevinter would serve now was to soothe their wounded pride and settle a budding blood feud. But legally, she was now exempt from their revenge, and there was no reason to demand a further settlement from her family. Discovering she’d joined the Wardens should have ended the matter.
Then again, since when had the Imperium obeyed its own laws, or those of the Southern lands? They still thought they were the empire of old, above everything and capable of anything. It gave her a small surge of satisfaction to prove them wrong.
Of course she would be here, of course he would run into her like this. Stupid Cassie, silly little girl still on the run. But that was not the woman who stood before him. Had she not been who he recognised as his own bloody sister maybe he had found her beautiful with the blonde hair a bit of a mess, the slender frame that told of the prowess of a soldier and the keen look in her eyes. This was not silly little Cassie, his stupid wench of a sister who had run off like a little girl, run from her responsibilities and ruined the honour of the family. No... this... this was a Grey Warden, a mage seasoned in battle-
Capaneus sullen stare was broken as he glanced away from a moment, and then changed his stance slightly, feeling the ground under his feet. So was this that? An ill-advised attempt to drag her back? He regarded this woman who was his sister. By the Maker she still had the look in her eyes that made him annoyed from just seeing her face. This farce she had orchestrated, a farce that had all but ruined his life, broken the reputation of his family.
There she stood now, light reflected off her armour, not as much challenging as she was showing that should he present a threat she would not run from it. She wasn't afraid of him. This was no surprise to him, yet it formed an additional load of frustration. Perhaps after so long, such a long build-up he had fallen into some illusion that she would run as she saw him, that she would be afraid. But no, here she stood, and he was angry. Never had he seriously thought her to be a Grey Warden. What did this mean? That he had thrown his life away on this bitch of a sister who wasn't worth their family's formerly good name?
He had never quite thought this far, and he realised this now. He had no idea what to do, he had thought himself prepared to kill her but here he stood, made complacent by time and he did not find that in him. He found anger, disgust, but also quiet awe. She was a Grey Warden, his sister Cassie... Years ago he would not have considered it even the slightest of honours, but his travels had corrupted his Tevene disposition. He understood now, he knew, but had always dismissed the thought because he never wanted to think that Cassiopeia would be that special. Jealousy.
"I don't know, Cassiopeia," he said, and her name sounded strange to say, her full name. It annoyed him further, hands curled tightly into fists until the veins of his arms pressed protrusions into his skin under his sleeves. "Foolish as ever. Arrogant." A little thick coming from him, but hey who was keeping score?
"Went and made yourself a Grey Warden, did you now?" he mused, stating the obvious as he took a few steps more towards her before halting. "You know, it makes so much sense you would do something like that. Always have to be special, so extraordinary."
He snorted. "It may come as a surprise to you but I'm not entirely ignorant to what is required to become a Grey Warden."
She snorted as he continued; a noise that her mother would have reprimanded her for as ‘unladylike’. Much as she respected and missed her mother, that wasn’t enough to stamp out the bad habits impressed upon her by years of service in the Wardens. She leant on her staff, smirking as he spoke. ‘Foolish’. ‘Arrogant’. A bit rich, coming from him. He was the foolish one for abandoning his tutors and skipping his lessons. And he was arrogant enough to think he would be smart and powerful enough without them. She was tempted to say so, but she could hear he was leading to something else, and the desire to hear it – to get any piece of information she could use to protect herself or give herself an advantage over the Cernuus – overrode her desire to mock him.
Ah, so this was where he was going with things. The Wardens. This should be interesting – or at the very least, entertaining.
She tilted her staff – just slightly, barely a fraction – towards him as he stepped forward. Just a tiny warning that she was still watching, still alert. She wouldn’t let him sidle up to her without her notice so he could spring a surprise attack.
She chuckled as he continued, moving towards his actual point instead of statements of fact. ‘I’m flattered you think so, Capaneus. I never realised you thought so highly of me,’ she said, sarcasm bright in her voice. That she had set herself apart yet again would be eating away at him. He’d been so bitter when her engagement was finalised – because she was being elevated above him. She would be an Altus, something he could only dream of attaining.
‘Oh?’ This was news. Warden secrets were generally well-guarded, but the Imperium had ancient records. Even Capaneus was capable of looking up some old texts, particularly if he had clearance from the Cernuus family. Cassie opened her arms wide in invitation, smiling. ‘Enlighten me then. What deep, dark secrets have you learned?’ That you drank darkspawn blood? That there was Archdemon blood in there as well? Shocking upon finding it out, but not that much. Grey Wardens were special, so clearly the Joining was more than just a formality. And that the Joining was essentially blood magic wouldn’t faze an Imperial citizen.
Or maybe he’d heard some outlandish tale told to entertain the drunkards in taverns and had believed it. It would be just like him to parade this supposed knowledge with all his smugness – not knowing that what he had heard was complete and utter bullshit.
It was almost like being back home, she thought in amusement.
Capaneus was not amused by her status above him, and had been secretly pleased as she ran and was all but banished from the family. Long had he pretended to care for the elevation of the family to become an Altus family, but slowly but surely the realisation came that he was mostly simply bitter now. These aforementioned impressions of foreign lands had rendered him somewhat less receptive to Tevene apparencies and his bitter mind was pleased to question them.
It was equally happy to direct a good portion of anger towards Cassiopeia, eager to believe her the little sister he had so cruelly pushed around until she obtained her magical abitilies and slowly but surely was shown to be more formidable than he could dream of being. Blighted little bitch.
“I have heard you’re all very loyal,” explained Capaneus. “That particular aspect I don’t see in you, seeing how you turned your back on your family. Then, I suppose I should have seen it coming, you were always so exceptional and needing attention. What would you know of loyalty though? Nothing.”
It seemed rather obvious his mind was rather far away from the dark secrets of the Grey Wardens as a whole. Indeed it was within in abilities to open a book and should they meet again he may know much more, but in the moment his knowledge was limited to stories and a scarce supply of experiences. Until he had run into Cassie with the Cernuus son he had not seriously considered she may be a Grey Warden... quite frankly he had started to enthusiastically look into proof of her death until the Cernuus brat had decided to sacrifice a household’s worth of slaves to attempt to track her. To Capaneus’ great disappointment said grievous spellwork had set them on the right track.
“Grey Wardens are supposed to be some of the best warriors around, yet they recruit fugitives and criminals like yourself... although I supposed it is the most useful sort of death sentence, dying early fighting darkspawn. Important, maybe they’ll sing songs of you?” he mused, voice equally laced in viciousness and sarcasm. “It is somewhat of a fact you can’t be taken back to save some of your family’s honour, but perhaps rotting away in the mud of some ditch is as pleasant to you as going back and being married to some new Cernuus brat.”
Ohso blissfully ignorant of the pressing fact she would likely have been executed instead.
She raised her eyebrows, lifting her free hand to trace an arc in the air. ‘Ever wonder why I shoved Aulus off that balcony at the party? That’s why. I didn’t mean to – but you know what magic is like when you’re angry, or scared. Gets away from you sometimes. So I accidentally punched him a few feet up and over – ripped some of my hair out, you know, grabbing at that ridiculous hair piece Mother made me wear, trying to stop himself falling. He was too far out, though. And even the Archon himself wouldn’t have been able to survive a three-floor drop.’ She straightened, idly swinging her staff in one hand, starting to pace slowly back and forth in front of him. It wasn’t the most pleasant memory to revisit, but... it could have been worse. That had always been in the back of her mind, every time doubt or guilt showed up to plague her.
It could have been worse.
The chuckles returned – she got the feeling she’d be half-laughing, half-despairing all the way back to the Keep. Always, she’d felt she was the mature one of the two. But before, she’d just assumed it was simple ignorance and disinterest on Capaneus’ part. Now she knew it was more than that – it was sheer naiveté. ‘Oh, Capaneus. Oh, you poor, naive...’ She trailed off, the laughter getting the better of her, one hand raised to her temple in disbelief as she spun back towards him. ‘Does everything you know about the Wardens come from the old legends and bedtime stories? We are not an order of noble knights, off to vanquish the darkness. We are the only thing standing between Thedas and the Blight, and we need everyone we can get. Funnily enough, there aren’t many knights and war generals willing to sign up outside of a Blight, and we don’t conscript unless absolutely necessary outside one either. That leaves us to pick the best from the dead, the desperate – and the idealistic fools who believe as you do.’ She gave him a sarcastic nod. ‘Songs don’t matter when the world would be barren, dead, and overrun with the spawn without us.’
She stared. He hadn’t... he didn’t actually believe...
She groaned, the laughter evaporating, dropping her head to her free hand. ‘I give up,’ she muttered. She dropped her hand to her side with a soft slap, her chain mail rattling as she looked up at the sky in disbelief. ‘I just...’ She stared at him again, shaking her head. ‘Congratulations, Capaneus, you’ve finally rendered me speechless.’ She took a few steps towards him, her light, blasé air gone, replaced by something like urgency. ‘You honestly believe they would just marry me off if I could go back? Capaneus, that’s not how a blood feud works. And I can guarantee you that’s not what Father agreed to when he said he’d work with the Cernuus. If you took me back right now and I’d never become a Warden, they wouldn’t pair me off to another cousin – or, Maker forbid, Caius – and hope I had enough fertile years left in me to produce an heir. They’d stick me in a trial, they wouldn’t even have to rig it, and execute me. Blood for blood.’
In the immediate silence, Cassie slowly leaned back, shaking her head. ‘Ever since I found out you were part of the hunting party, I just assumed you hated me that much, to want to drag me back in chains and watch me die,’ she said quietly. ‘But no. You’ve just jumped in blindly, without checking what it actually is you’re doing, as per fucking usual.’ She shook her head, helpless. ‘Never mind me, Cap. One day, that’s going to get you killed.’
“We all do our part, I’ve married someone. Do you think I chose her? No, but you have to be so damn special don’t you, fucking Free March romance novels get to you? Skip off to the sunset?” he interrupted her, but quieted for her to tell the true reason why she had left and that made him visibly pause.
In the silence left as her hand moved through the air he followed her hand with his gaze, stunned by what he had just learnt. It did not... take a great leap in logic to figure it out, yet he had... never thought of it. There she was right. Her story continued, and he struggled with his feelings on the subject. That was his sister, and that Cernuus bastard had tried to... But would he had done the same, ever? No, he had fought with his wife and earned many a slap but he would never do that.
“Bastard had it coming then,” growled Capaneus, to his own surprise. But as he said it, he knew he meant it. Perhaps not then, but now, now if he had found out he would have thrown the Cernuus brat off the balcony himself.
Irked again, he started pacing as she preached about the Wardens and finally came to the conclusion. Standing - well, pacing - there and then it was obvious he had been a naive fool and an idiot. He had long since stopped questioning why he was looking for Cassie... perhaps the thought of going back to Tevinter was the worst he could imagine these days, and perhaps he had wanted to find her for himself, to know she was still alive, maybe ask why. His sigh was frustrated.
“Yes yes, I am a fool and an idiot, how could I ever compare to your precious intellect and talent!” he muttered, suddenly stopping and motioning towards her with his hand as he spoke.
“I wish Cassiopeia, I wish I had been the talented one, then none of this would have happened. But no, you had to be born a fucking prodigy and this is where we are, in this damn shithole of a forest, instead of where we should be, in the damn Magisterium!”
His outburst surprised even him, but now that the rage had surfaced it wasa so easily accessed. “This search has ruined our family and there is no recompense, no revenge to be had against the Cernuus’ because of father’s foolishness. And mother’s... I knew that damn woman knew more than she was telling me. Blight take you all! We could have been a dynasty, our children could have been Magisters, and their children after them! And you, sororis, you threw it all away, all of it!”
Breathing heavily he sighed, combing a hand through his hair. “No... no,” Capaneus corrected himself, as the rage ebbed out. “I will not hold that against you anymore. I wish... I wish I had been the powerful and talented one, but I should have been more, different... somehow. Perhaps this forest is precisely what we deserve.”
It gave her a stab of twisted satisfaction to see the truth stop him dead. She smiled again, but this was all teeth and no humour. ‘So no, Cap, I wasn’t some starry-eyed young girl hoping to run into the man of my dreams and swoon my life away like some dim-witted book character. I was scared, I was sick to my stomach, and every day for months I thought someone would find me and drag me back, or kill me on the spot. And at least you can get away from your wife for months at a time, if not more. Can she say the same? I wouldn’t have been able to. If I’d have stayed, most likely I’d have been pregnant within the year and actively thinking of ways to kill him long before that.’ A soft sound rippled out of her; half giggle, half gasp. ‘Finding out Grey Wardens can’t have children was the biggest relief of my life, do you know that? Because still, years later, in the back of my mind I was thinking that even if they did find me, they wouldn’t marry me off again. They’d just kill me instead, because I’d be worthless to them. And that was a relief.’ She went from near-breathless helplessness, to snarling through her teeth, to swallowing past the building lump in her throat in just those four sentences. She hadn’t even realised some of this until now, not consciously anyway. Yet having her brother here was dragging up all those buried thoughts and fears, and airing them out.
His response – so simple, for everything she’d said – stopped her where his bitterness hadn’t. She drew back, eyes narrowed, watching him for any signs of lying or insincerity. There were none. And, turning inward, she examined herself for why it had stopped her so easily.
Because she hadn’t expected it. For years, ever since Neassa had told her about that close call in the Circle and she found out Capaneus himself was part of the hunting team, she’d convinced herself he’d done so out of hate, out of anger, that he knew what he was bringing her back to and thought she deserved it. That he wanted to see her dead; or some Altus mage’s slave in all but name.
But no. He was just... ignorant, again. Didn’t know the facts. Acting too quickly on impulse, before finding out the truth. Typical Capaneus all over, really. Oddly, there was no anger in the thought now. Just quiet resignation. He’d jumped into this, thinking only of himself and restoring the family honour, never thinking why she’d done it, or what the consequences were. Now he was being made to face them, and it wasn’t as simple a picture as he’d painted for himself. As Father had likely painted for him.
Of course, the hurt understanding couldn’t last for long. They were too opposed, too bitter for that.
‘Blight take the Magisterium!’ she snapped, but he was in full ranting mode, and raged on. She knew better than to try and get a word in edgeways when he was like this – but this talk of a dynasty, of power, of children – something twisted and snapped in her, and she rounded on him, only aware she was screaming when the pain dug into her throat. ‘I never wanted any of it!’
In the quiet, she gulped in deep breaths of air, fighting to compose herself. She dragged her hand through her hair, just like he did, only her hand was shaking. She sank her fingers into her braids, squeezed a handful, closing her eyes on the pain to help steady herself. She took a breath as he spoke, blinking hard and staring out at the familiar landscape rather than him. She allowed him his correction, his slip. She knew how hard it was to change preconceptions; she couldn’t expect him to alter what he had thought for years in a single moment. She gave a bitter smile and shook her head. ‘I’d pick this blighted forest over the Magisterium any day.’ She sighed, taking a moment just to feel all the air leave her, and slowly fill back in. Then she turned back to him, the fight and anger draining out of her. ‘Even if you had been different, Cap... it wouldn’t have made any difference. Father would have still pushed for that match. If this is anyone’s fault, it’s his. Him and the damn Altus.’ She shrugged, feeling the weariness and the strain on her body for the first time. ‘I won’t blame you for something you couldn’t control. But now...’ She nodded to herself, thinking.
‘I think it’s time I did something about this. Father can go to the Void, but you’re right about one thing – you, and mother, and your wife don’t deserve to be dragged into this pointless blood feud. Now that the Cernuus know where I am, and I know how they’re handling this, I’ll write to them. I’ll inform them of my status, and I’ll tell them that if they want their family to remain intact, they will end this feud based on my being a Warden, and they will order this heir-apparent of theirs to withdraw. If he intends to attack again, to try and kill me or forcefully bring me back to the Imperium, I will kill him. I’m a Warden now; legally there is nothing they can do if I choose to do so. And if they refuse, I will remind them that there are Wardens in Tevinter, and that the Order does not look kindly on attacks on its own and will treat any threats accordingly.’ She gave a sad smile. ‘I don’t want to, but if they force the issue, I may have to. It may be worth looking into ways of getting Mother – and your wife, I suppose – out of the Imperium as well, in case of an emergency. If you figured out she helped me escape, then the Cernuus might as well. I don’t want her to get hurt because of this.’ She sighed again, leaning on her staff for support. She gave her brother a tired nod. ‘And you? What are you going to do now? You don’t have to go back, you know. It’s not so hard to make a life down south, providing you can swallow your pride.’ Maybe Capaneus would want to go back to Tevinter, find another way to salvage the family honour if she could stop the Cernuus from breathing down his neck. Maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe, like her, he’d find Tevene life distasteful if he went back now.
And here they were, in this forest. Capaneus felt a little pain in his throat, but otherwise he felt better. Perhaps they had shouted it all out now, let it go, and a weight had lifted. It was still a fact that they were here and the hunt was still on. Wherever Cernuus had gone, he was unlikely to give up since he had only recently started, a personal vendetta was as good a fuel as any. Everything was unwinding before his eyes weighing on him in the form of hopelessness. What was the point? There was no point to any of this. Having lost any chance of rising in the Tevene society, all these friends he had thought he cared about, his family, none of it would be around.
Cassiopeia spoke again, and he looked over sharply as she said she would write to Father. He was of half a mind to interrupt her, but no matter how he tried to plot out other roads there were none, none that would lead anywhere at any rate. He started pacing again, rubbing his temple as he though. "I doubt my wife would agree to be anywhere else and... I equally doubt Mother is going to leave Father behind. Unless he sees reason, nothing can be done."
As for Capaneus' wife, he could hardly careless but since Cassie was starting to have a shred of a better opinion about him he declined to divulge those thoughts in particular. The Wardens held no immense power in Tevinter, but stirring something with them would likely go down well with most of the Magisterium, nor the Archon. Capaneus was very out of the loop, but he could see as much. There were more pressing issues at hand, though, such as their safety. He was convinced, however, that Cassiopeia would be safe.
"Your being a Warden will no doubt change the playing field, what they might do I don't know, but I fear it'll be something stupid. They will lose a lot of face over this," mused Capaneus darkly. He could take some pleasure out of that, even knowing it would come back to bite him in the backside one day. "As for myself... I don't know. There is little back home for me now, perhaps I will go further South or to the Marches. Set up shop in Antiva. I have no fucking clue."
Cassie planted her staff a little more firmly, free hand on her hip as she considered. ‘How to make them back down peacefully is the question. I did have an idea, after that scene in the Keep,’ she said, looking up at her brother as she thought it through. ‘Not only contacting the Cernuus to make sure Caius doesn’t “forget” to mention I’m a Warden, but sending a letter directly to the Magisterium as well, explaining my position and that the blood feud should have ended as soon as the Cernuus realised what I was. I would also subtly imply that... tensions might arise between Nevarra and the Imperium if the Cernuus bounty hunters didn’t withdraw immediately. It would be all too easy for their actions to be mistaken for a hostile attack on Nevarran soil, after all. And despite all the propaganda at home, I think we both know that Tevinter couldn’t cope with a war on two fronts with the Qunari to the north and Nevarra to the south. Hopefully the Magisterium would reign the Cernuus in if the family wasn’t prepared to do so of their own accord.’
‘Of course,’ she said, throwing her hand out almost impatiently, ‘That might not stop Caius and his little group going against orders, or doing something before word gets back. I saw his face in the Keep when I threw him out. I don’t think he’ll let this rest so easily.’ It did make her wonder why he seemed so obsessed with it – Capaneus she could understand. Starting off with good intentions of restoring family honour, losing interest the longer it went on. But Caius? After so many years? He seemed as determined as ever. ‘He has a personal stake in this, I take it? Some reward or promotion for bringing me back?’
Cassie gave him the first small, genuine smile he had seen from her in years. One without bitterness or a grimace lingering in the corners. ‘Antiva’s a lovely place, so long as you don’t piss off the Crows. I spent some time there after I left. Started training to be a seamstress... and a bar maid,’ she added as an afterthought, though ‘training’ wasn’t really the right word. Cleaning up and serving drinks really weren’t that difficult to figure out, she had discovered. ‘If you like, can give you the addresses of some people who could help you, and who don’t mind mages so long as you don’t burn the house down.’ It was a peace offering, sort of. Even if he didn’t want to go to Antiva, or need the information, she wouldn’t mind. It was a big step up from them trying to magically trip each other down the stairs or shove each other into puddles at least. She gave him another smile, more jovial this time, less awkward. 'I take it staying in Nevarra doesn't take your fancy?' If he'd spent a considerable amount of time here, slowly becoming more frustrated and miserable with this pointless search, she wouldn't be surprised if he wanted to leave the place behind.
Maybe that was what he ought to do with his time now?
“Meliana,” Capaneus informed his sister absent-mindedly, more occupied with thinking of himself as one might expect. “Meliana Calistus.” Her cousin had married an Altus, succeeded with what the Sophroniuses hadn’t. In a way it was a match up entirely suitable for an upwards aspiring Laetan but then everything was gone with his father’s obsession to find Cassie to prevent a blood feud. “It was fine at the start, then father wanted me to find you and I was away too much... Mother kept an eye on her and told me when she started sleeping around.”
Capaneus sighed and combed a hand through his hair. She was the only person, Cassie was, who could fully understand what mess it had all become, all because father had only seen one way out. Fuck did Capaneus know, there could have been others once upon a time. Nonetheless he had not discovered it even now - Cassie had. His entire life seemed to be running intently in one direction until Cassie changed the direction for him.
“Try capital letters,” he advised sarcastically as she wondered how she would communicate her shouting. And he shifted weight from foot to foot as she continued to lay out a plan - apparently she had thought about this. “Nevarra and the Imperium already have tensions, I doubt the Magisterium wants a war... yet.” He somewhat doubted the Magisterium would much care unless it was escalated on national scale. An ally within the Altus caste would be more effective. Perhaps he ought to write to someone.
“Write to the Solonius family. Lassius still no doubt has a soft spot for you as he did when we were young. He would also find it worrisome that another Altus family is overstepping and he has a bigger voice than you do. His grandmother was in a similar position if I don’t remember wrong. Old hag has the family connections dancing to her tune.”
He looked up as Caius was mentioned, “He’s a jumped up little shit who thinks everyone bows to him because he’s entitled to do that. His family don’t want a great embarrassment though, no scandal.”
“I might stay for a while in Nevarra,” Capaneus moved onto her points on locations. Then again somewhere warmer sounded good, perhaps a holiday in Antiva wouldn’t be entirely terrible. With some wits about him his coin would last some time, and he could always help the family merchant network and earn that way. A few options there. It was oddly exciting, being able to take a new direction. He found the bitterness quickly though even if he tried to hide it. His jealousy was too deeply rooted, annoyance she could not simply have been in her station and not run off- No point going into it all again. It was difficult to accept, and part of him didn’t want to.
So he stood up and moved a few steps. “You have your plan and Warden business. Perhaps I ought to leave you to it, put some distance between us before the cavalry arrives,” Capaneus sighed, an eyebrow quirk indicating he wasn’t entirely serious perhaps.
Cassie snorted. It was a simple solution, at least. ‘I might at that,’ she said with a grin. It would certainly be therapeutic, though she could have done with a sending crystal so she could shout at him in person. She sobered quickly, nodding. ‘The only time they would risk war would be if they defeated the Qunari, which is never going to happen, not even with these Venatori I’ve heard about. The Imperium just isn’t strong enough alone, and what nation would aid them unless it was a threat to all of Thedas? None.’
Lassius. Now there was someone she hadn’t thought of in years. Cassie wrinkled her nose at playing on the man’s fondness for her, but he could hardly act on it when she was in Nevarra. And Capaneus was right, the Solonius family could shout a lot louder than she could, and what she needed now were allies. She could put personal feelings aside for that, if it prevented another attack on herself or the Wardens. ‘Good idea. I had no idea his grandmother was still alive, the holy terror. She’s exactly what we need,’ she said with a smile. Maker knows, the matriarch of the Solonius family could probably cow the Archon and True Divine singlehandedly if she had a mind to.
Caius may pose a problem in the future, though Cap’s summary of him seemed to fit what Cassie had seen of him and what little she remembered from her brief engagement. ‘Even more reason to put his nose out of joint then. And being caught ignoring a Warden’s diplomatic immunity over a sixteen-year-old incident would definitely be embarrassing, particularly if the Magisterium had to intervene and tell them to stop like an ill-behaved child. The more we play on their pride and reputation, the better I think,’ Cassie said, already thinking of the best way to word her threats. She couldn’t actively cause a war between Nevarra and Tevinter – the Warden rule of not meddling in politics forbade it – but there was so much superstition surrounding the Wardens and their capabilities that a threat of such would give the Cernuus pause. The Wardens had the power to overrule kings and emperors in times of Blight after all, so who’s to say that they couldn’t cause a war if they were pushed far enough?
Besides, if the Cernuus didn’t desist, and more and more Tevinter mages were seen in Nevarra, King Markus might take that as a hostile invasion of his own accord. No need for Cassie to get involved further. The possibility was there, and the Magisterium would know it.
Cassie smiled. ‘I spent a couple of years roaming Nevarra before the Templars caught up with me. Cumberland’s nice, if a little cold and you can take a ship to just about anywhere if you’ve got the coin. Plenty of work to be found and it’s so big it’s easy to get lost in, if need be. It’s a good hiding place for a mage.’
Things were drawing to a close. There wasn’t really much more to say, she knew as Cap shifted and prepared to depart. Still, Cassie gave him a smile and nodded. ‘That might be a good idea. At least you know where I am this time,’ she said, her own attempt at a joke. She hesitated, wondering how best to say goodbye. She hadn’t hugged her brother since they were children, before they became more and more antagonistic to each other. Maybe too much had happened between them for that to ever be natural for them. In the end she smiled again and tilted her head back, towards the Keep. ‘Do me a favour and send a letter every now and then. So I know you’re alive somewhere.’ She took a step back, about to turn around.
Wait. She wasn’t just out here on a whim. She still had that damn recruitment drive to do. Right in the town Cap had come from.
Well, this was awkward. She turned back, a sheepish smile on her face. ‘And, er...’ she pointed past him, towards the little town she’d all but forgotten about until then. ‘I forgot, I’m heading that way myself – solo recruiting mission, my Commander’s an arsehole – so if you’re going back that way, fancy walking back and dodging the Cernuus together?’ Not the best recovery, but it’d do. And sneaking in shouldn’t be too hard; the town didn’t even have a proper wall. Plenty of ways in without the other bounty hunters seeing them. She'd just have to find out what inn they were staying at so she could avoid it.
[OOC: You can finish the thread up if you like, unless you want to RP them getting into town. I'm happy either way, I just realised that Cassie couldn't go back to the Keep, she still had a job to do XD]
She mentioned the Venatori. The loonies had made something of a comeback in the Imperium, gathering a lot of support. There were rumours going around that the leader had been a slave, which made the entire matter somewhat laughable, and yet many seemed involved in that all. Noble fools who didn’t know privilege despite being born out of a womb of it and then having their little cocks stroked with it every day.
He chuckled darkly, “Grandmother Solonius would no doubt have seen you as the mother of her grandchildren. Apparently she scolded both her son and Father for being blind morons at some event of some sort.”
Inside was an oncoming storm of anger on account of this bewildering conversation. Of course this had built for a while, this realisation on his part. Perhaps he had always known and just ignored, played the noble bachelor he had always envied Allectius for in their youth. Rich brats who had nothing to worry about, talent for miles... He had worked for this, perhaps at some point Capaneus would work for something else, but this was a complicated thing.
And Cassie stood there like the most natural thing in the world, saying he should write to cover up the awkwardness left by a realisation on both of their parts that they had most always disliked each other. He wasn’t sure that would change, but maybe writing wouldn’t hurt some day.
“Yeah sure. Take care,” he started, groaning quietly to himself before adding, “or whatever.”
Before he knew it, however, she had turned and started heading back towards him, saying something about her commander being an asshole. It was a weird thing of refreshing the impression, suddenly different and still the same. Capaneus made an awkward sound, looking between the direction he was heading only to realise she was going the same way. Fucking brilliant, eh? Seemed the Maker above was intending their reacquaintance to last a bit longer.
“Well uh,” he stuttered out, starting to head down the path she was pointing towards. It took him only a couple of seconds to latch onto something to snark about however, and so the conversation started rolling again with a: “You know, if you keep encountering assholes Cassie it’s usually because you are the asshole...”
[opted to wrap it up, i’ll write a letter to Cassie soon though from dear old nerd brother]