The Sordid Tale of Meryell Verlen, Chapter 10

“You lookin’ for your pa, girlie?” asked Harvard, one of the company’s oldest veterans, as Meryell strode up into the space around the main campfire. He was probably in his seventies by now with a heavily scarred face and close-cropped white hair that showed off an equally scarred scalp. Harvard was still as smart as a whip, though, and while no longer capable in a full-on fight, he still served the company as the main face of those who whipped new recruits into shape. She recalled her own time under his hand with a certain fondness as he’d had a soft spot for the foul-mouthed brat she’d been a decade ago.

That and he’d gleefully added to her already considerable bank of curse words.

“For once I’m not, Vard,” she replied before dropping into an open camp chair that had been left around the fire. “I’m actually hunting for the Captain. Got a question about another company for him.”

“Another company?” piped up the broadly built blonde Astrid, who was sitting on the ground next to Harvard with her back propped against a cut tree that served as a bench. She paused in the sharpening of the axe head in her hands to look up and arch an eyebrow playfully. “You’re not thinking of getting rid of us already are you?”

Shaking her head at the Anders woman’s question, Meryell replied, “As if you fuckers would go if I did.” As Astrid chuckled, she continued, “There was a member of their company here apparently because his boss wants to work with the Inquisition. I figure if they’re decent we could always use more hands.”

Harvard nodded in response before growling, “What’s the name, girlie? Maybe I remember them.”

“Bull’s Chargers. It sounds familiar but I’ve never heard of them directly that I can recall.”

“Nah, don’t know that one.” Harvard then smiled as he added, “Was a member of a Chargers once. Just The Chargers, nothing else to it. Captain of that bunch was a shit kicker.”

“That the one you knifed in the back before you joined up with us, old man?” asked Astrid with a wry smile and a wink at Meryell. It was no secret in the company that Harvard had been a war dog long before he’d joined the Fangs. If you had trained under him, you had heard at least ten of his tales before the first bout to test your ability was done.

He grinned back at her, saying, “No, no, you’re thinking of the Red Flame. What a fucking tosser he was. Started crying before I even had the knife out of my sheath…”

“And it was my eating knife to boot!” said Meryell and Astrid together with broad smiles on their faces. Harvard scoffed fondly at them then flipped an age-spotted hand in a shooing motion at Meryell before pointing back the way she came.

“Captain’s up with your Commander,” he said, finally answering her initial question. “Talking strategy or whatever shit the in charge lot do to tell us grunts on the field where to go. Now get out of here before you cause more trouble.”

“Trouble? Our Meryell?” repeated Astrid mockingly as Meryell stood up.

“Lass, if I were twenty years younger I’d beat that smart mouth right off yer ass,” growled Harvard.

“Oh please,” Meryell commented over her shoulder as she started to walk away, “you could beat her right now with your eyes closed, Vard.”

“Don’t tempt me to beat your ass, girlie!” Harvard called after her. “Your pa wouldn’t give one lick if I did!”

Laughing, Meryell turned to walk backwards a few steps as she called back, “Of course he wouldn’t! He’d help you do it!

Hearing the two of them laughing knowingly behind her as she spun back around made Meryell smile. She needed to spend more time in the camp than she had been. Just talking to Harvard and Astrid for that short amount of time had soothed the ragged itch inside of her that had formed during that time without the company at her back.

Work came first though.

Sighing and thinking longingly of the day when she was no longer bound to the whim of the Inquisition, Meryell headed back the way she’d come and turned left as soon as she reached the exit of the Fangs’ camp. The line of the Inquisition soldiers tents began only a few steps from there and all she had to do to reach Cullen’s was walk up that line to the end situated right by the training field.

As per usual during the day, the man had one whole flap of his tent tied back despite the chill in the air. She knew why he did it – it made their Commander seem more open in the eyes of those who served – but it was still ridiculous in the mere fact that it was probably only weeks away from starting to snow since they were at the base of the Frostbacks.

She could see Cullen and Arnald inside as she walked up, both men leaning over a map that was laid carefully out over the Commander’s heavily encumbered desk. Ducking her head slightly to enter, Meryell sidled in along the wall and smiled when they both noticed her. “No, no,” she said sternly with a quick wave of her hand, “you two keep on with whatever you’re doing. I’ll wait until you two get done.”

Cullen chuckled before asking, “Which one of us are you waiting for?”

“Need to ask the Captain a question,” replied Meryell with a smile. She then tipped her head across the tent and added, “I am going to claim your cot for my own purposes though. Just until you two are done.”

“Of course, dear thief.” Cullen smiled and inclined his head slightly, saying, “Thank you for at least informing me of your temporary theft.”

“I’m nice like that to people I like.”

Arnald snorted, shaking his head as he commented, “Not if you are playing a joke upon some poor fool.”

Meryell just shrugged, having no reply to that because it was true, and promptly made her way over to Cullen’s cot. Other than the difference between cot and actual bed, it was made up much like her own with thick blankets to protect against the chilly air that seemed a permanent feature of Haven. There was also a heavy pelt draped over the end of the bed, a darkly furred and shapeless thing that had the same red streaks in it as the fur of his coat.

Settling on top of the blankets with her bare and dirty feet hanging off the edge of the cot, Meryell laid down on her side. Propping her head up on one hand, she watched the two men as they discussed something about troop movements and supply lines in low voices that weren’t meant to be carried far for fear of being overheard. It probably didn’t matter so much given their current circumstances but it was a good habit to keep. Falling out of that particular habit could end up meaning the difference between life and death for someone that served under them if the wrong ears heard it.

Laying there listening to them plan reminded her of her earliest days in the company back when she’d still been running mostly on rage and bravado. She’d sneak into the rafters of whatever room in headquarters the meeting was happening in, sprawling out across two or three and just listening to the inner workings. It had started as keeping herself informed of what was going on because she hadn’t been used to being partially in the dark. The gang in South Reach hadn’t really had a clear cut structure, so they’d all pretty much just kept each other informed of what they were all doing and that had left her scrambling when she’d been told there was shit she wasn’t allowed to know as a new recruit. Then, as her relationship with Folke had grown, she’d started sneaking in simply because he was included in most of them and she’d been a greedy little shit when it came to his attention.

She’d fallen asleep in those rafters so many times and had been fucking lucky she’d never fallen out of them and broken anything. Arnald had been angry with her for a while about it, sentencing her to embarrassing punishments like dumping chamber pots for a day or mucking out the stables. They’d kept up that pattern for months until he finally realized it was a lost cause and stopped bothering. That and she wasn’t the sort to blather secrets about everywhere, which was probably his biggest incentive.

“You eavesdropping again, girl?” came Arnald’s voice then, breaking her out of her reverie. Meryell grinned up at him in response as he stood looking down at her and shrugged before sitting up.

“Once a habit, always a habit,” she replied with a smile. The she noticed that Cullen had disappeared and asked, “Did he give us the tent?”

Nodding, the Captain replied, “Said he needed to get back out on the field anyway. Man could give Harvard a run for his coin in hard work.”

Meryell just smiled in response to that because to do otherwise might be revealing too much of the blond man. She’d seen enough of the world in her years to know the difference betweenworking hard and burying oneself in work. Cullen certainly had the passion of the first in regards to his job but he also used it as a sort of self-punishment for the sins of his past. After hearing that he’d been that poor fucking templar from Gil’s story of the Tower and him personally giving her the entire recap of his years in Kirkwall, she could see why he pushed himself.

Didn’t mean she liked it any but she understood it. And she knew the Captain did too because he usually always saw more than he let on, he was just pulling spymaster shit on her.

“Anyway, you had something you needed me for?”

“Got a question,” she replied. “Inquisition related. Sort of.”

Arnald grinned at her as he asked, “Do I need to get down on my knees then, Your Worship?”

“Fuck you, Captain.” Rolling her eyes, Meryell added, “You can’t fucking grovel at my feet anyway. You’re Orlesian and thus born with a stick up your ass.”

That made him laugh and he shook his head before sitting down heavily next to her on the cot, clapping her warmly on the shoulder. “I always forget how I miss your mouth when you’re gone, girl,” he said warmly. “Now, what’s the question?”

Smiling at the comment, she replied, “I met a member of another company this morning. Apparently their captain wants to join the Inquisition, so they’ve invited us to come see them in action. Name sounds fucking familiar but I can’t place exactly where I heard it. Don’t know shit about them either other than what I got out of their man.”

Arnald arched an eyebrow expectantly and she snorted before supplying, “Bull’s Chargers is the name of the company. The man of theirs that came said their boss is a Qunari and that they mostly operate in Orlais and Nevarra.”

Abruptly Arnald’s eyes widened behind his mask and his mouth opened in an ‘o’ of realization. “That company,” he murmured softly after a moment. “I’ve heard of them, though never in much detail. The Iron Bull – apparently it is said with the article – is said to be a good captain but doesn’t hold to the title like most. Just calls himself the leader of his Chargers.”

“What about his men?” asked Meryell. “Would it be worth bringing them in?”

“That you’d have to see with your own eyes, girl. You know that.”

“Well I was hoping you’d help me skip that fucking step.”

“Now now,” mock scolded Arnald, waggling a finger at her. “You know me better than that.”

She promptly blew a raspberry at him and he laughed back at her.

“They’re a small bunch from what I hear,” he then said, getting back onto topic. “Forty or fifty strong at the most. Still impressive for a group that hasn’t been active that long. Fangs are lucky that we have as high as numbers as we do since most companies don’t last as long as we have.”

“Well,” drawled Meryell as she winked at him, “we have had a pretty bitching captain for the last decade or so. He’s done the company right, so I hear.”

“That so?”

“Mmhmm, everyone says so.”

“Everyone now?” repeated Arnald with a wry smile. He then chuckled before clapping her on the shoulder again as he stood up and said, “I’m going to send some of ours with you when you head out to meet the Chargers.”

Frowning up at him, Meryell asked, “You thinking I’m going to see trouble in the Storm Coast, Captain?”

Shrugging slightly, he replied with a grin, “One never knows what one may face. Plus a show of force is always good when meeting up with another company.” His grin grew wider, shifting a step sideways into menacing, as Arnald added, “And it marks you firmly as one of ours. I’d hate for The Bull to get the idea that he can poach you.”

“I don’t think he’s going to try and poach the Herald of Andraste,” she noted, sneering the title venomously.

“He’s Qunari. Even the ones who don’t follow the Qun anymore don’t worship Andraste. Not to mention he’s a captain even if he doesn’t claim the exact title. We’re always on the lookout for new blood.”

Shrugging slightly Meryell said, “Fine, I’ll take a lot with me. Can I have Folke?”

Arnald sighed, acting like he was thinking about it for a moment before saying, “Just don’t get into trouble.”

“Us? Trouble?”

“You, he, and trouble go hand-in-hand, girl. Have since the day he brought you back from Ferelden.”

Meryell grinned as she stood up from the cot. “You wouldn’t have us any other way, Arnald,” she commented warmly.

“Perhaps with a little less trouble,” he replied with a smile as he turned to head for the tent’s open door. “I’m getting too old for some of that shit you know.” As she snorted in response to that, he laughed and ducked out the door.

She stood in Cullen’s tent for another moment, just listening to the familiar sounds of the training ground. Then she squared her shoulders and strode out of the tent, smiling at Cullen as she passed him while pondering how exactly she was going to convince Josephine and the others to possibly hire another mercenary company.

ornament

“It always this damp?” asked Sera as they strode away from the first campsite that Harding and her forward team of scouts and soldiers had set up. “I think there’s mold in my breeches.”

“It’s the sea,” Meryell explained without looking over her shoulder at the other elf. “Makes damp air all over the fucking place. There are a lot of places like this to the south of the Vimmarks.” Pointing towards the mountains in the distance, she added, “It’ll be less icky once we get over that way. We’re fucked right now since we’re right by the water.”

“So you’re saying I just got to put up with it?”

“Pretty much.”

“Grand,’’grumbled Sera and now Meryell did turn her head but only to smile at Folke who was walking next to her at the head of their group. He chuckled in response to her look, shaking his head slightly. Knowing him he was probably thinking the same thing she was: that Sera sounded exactly like she and every non-seaside-living Marcher that had ever joined the company in their first days at headquarters. Headquarters itself was between the base of the Vimmarks and the sea in an old Tevinter keep so it was always damp at best from the water or miserably hot at the worst heights of Marches weather. You either adapted or suffered through silently as complaining made you the target of every prank or tedious outside work someone higher up the chain of command could throw at you.

“So these Chargers are supposed to be where along the coast exactly?” asked Folke, changing the conversation to what they had come to the Storm Coast for in the first place.

“Not far from camp was my understanding,” replied Meryell. “According to their man, they heard something about Tevinter mercenaries operating out here. Hence the invite to see them in action.” She then cocked her head to the side, saying, “Have you heard of their company, baba? Arnald had but Harvard and Astrid hadn’t.”

Snorting, Folke replied, “I have. Though that’s mostly because I have to pay attention to more than magic; ask Gil or Dem or any of the rest and they’d be clueless. Too much reliance on finger waggling.” He wiggled his fingers at her as if in example and when she grinned, continued,”Old Harvard’s good for companies who’ve existed as long as ours but new one’s…well, you learn about those in the field, not training the whelps. And you know as well as I do that Astrid is more interested in cracking skulls with that axe of hers than anything else. Not your best folk to ask for information, asha’lan.”

“And what have you heard of them, Ser Folke?” asked Cassandra from behind them. Meryell turned back towards the Seeker with an arched eyebrow at the addition of the title and found the woman’s gaze pointed downward as she tightened the leather straps securing her shield to her arm. She heard Varric chuckle from his spot further back along their group where he was walking with Sera and the trio of company archers that Arnald had assigned to them.

Ser?” exclaimed Folke with a laugh. “Andraste’s dimpled ass, Seeker, I’m not worthy of a title.”

“You are the Herald’s father.”

Meryell grinned at Folke as he rolled his eyes, saying, “That shouldn’t afford me any different treatment than anyone else. I’m a mercenary, Seeker. Not to mention I’m a mage.”

Cassandra sighed before saying, “I meant it as a term of respect.”

“Now respect I like but I think we can do that without calling me ‘ser’.”

There was a long pause then Cassandra asked, “Then what do you wish to be called?”

“I think my name works well enough,” replied Folke. He then jerked his head around, eyes narrowed, and abruptly extended an arm to stop Meryell’s forward movement. “Someone laid a glyph here.”

“Whot?” asked Sera from somewhere behind Cassandra. “You got some kinda magicky sense or somewhat?”

Smirking, Folke replied, “Something like that, girlie.” He extended a hand then, his eyes fluttering closed, and Meryell shifted her weight back to one leg as she watched him. Folke might have been weak in power but in ability and finesse he was one of the best mages the company had. She’d always loved watching him work, even from their first meeting back in South Reach. He made magic look like art. “Only an alarm. Probably laid them out all over this fucking hill if the location the Chargers gave you is their base camp. Easy to disable thing.”

Meryell started to nod then jerked her own head around, ears twitching as she caught the bare edge of the sound of steel against steel. A dying man’s scream followed and that was perfectly audible to all of them.

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary, Scar,” commented Varric mildly. Folke just grunted in reply before he twisted his hand into a claw in mid-air and tugged backwards, his fingers glowing briefly before it dissipated.

Turning his head, he pointed out, “Best not to let them know we’re coming anyway. Let’s go, girl.”

Meryell grinned and drew her daggers, reveling in the fact that it was now the same motion she’d grown familiar with over many long years. Her weapon harness, which situated one blade diagonally across her back via straps that circled her chest and the second horizontally at the small of her back, was probably in need of repairs but it had done its job so far. Eventually she’d get Harritt to make a new one or see if Conlin had another set in the stores.

“Cassandra,” she called out, loud enough for everyone to hear her but not so loud as to alert those nearby, “you take point. Bernard, Karan, you go with her. Make us a fucking shield wall and plow these bastards over if need be. Sera, Varric, Pod, Tanya, Lortho, stay up the hill at range.” Turning to grin at Folke, she asked, “You with me and Hart, old man? I’ll protect Cassandra’s back and you two handle Bernard and Karan?”

“With your troublesome ass like always, Poppet,” he replied with a smile that was all bared teeth. Then he jabbed his thumb over his shoulder at the two other company mages, saying, “Roddy and Bel can cover all our asses with barriers to make sure we don’t bleed all over the place.”

“I’ll remember to let yours slip for half a second, Folke,” joked Roddy as he cracked his knuckles.

“Oh, darling, don’t tease.”

Shaking her head at their familiar antics, Meryell idly spun her daggers in her hands before hissing, “Let’s move. We’ve got Tevinter assholes to kill.”

“I’m glad you clarified that with assholes, Yeller,” commented Lortho as he unslung his bow from across his back. As Meryell turned her head to look at him (mostly to glare because she hated when anyone used that particular nickname), the Tevinter archer grinned at her. “I’d hate to think you were talking about me.”

“You were born in Nevarra, Lor,” muttered Pod as the elf bumped his shoulder into the taller human’s.

“Still counts!”

“Are they always like this?” asked Cassandra in a low voice as she brushed past Meryell’s shoulder to get ahead of them, bringing her shield up to bear as she drew her sword.

Chuckling, she grinned at the Seeker before replying, “Nope. Sometimes they’re worse.”

“May the Maker preserve us.”

They broke free of the trees then and directly down a casually sloping hill that lead right down to the beach was a fully pitched battle. Judging by the looks of it, the Chargers were handling it alright but it seemed like the battle could shift all too easy. Ahead of her the three warriors had some sort of unspoken communication and set off, Cassandra at the head of of a three person arrow. The green light of barriers flickered over them and, as Meryell felt the warm touch of the magic across her skin, she bounded after them with Folke on her right and Hart, a slim little bare-faced Dalish elf, to his.

She grinned as Cassandra plowed into the back of a Tevinter mercenary, sending the poor fool staggering forward right onto the blade of one of the Chargers. Following close behind the warrior, Meryell mostly kept her blades clean except for the two foes that Cassandra swept off their feet before casually continuing on like the battlefield storm she was. She took out the downed men quick and clean and kept pace with the Seeker as she lead them across the field through the hail of arrows coming from the rest of their group up the hill.

It didn’t take too long for the sound of steel and the smell of magic to start fading away as the battle winded down. Then a deep voice boomed across the field, almost as loud as Cullen’s training field voice that carried over the sound of clashing steel and could be heard all the way up to the Chantry. “Chargers! Stand down!”

She took a step back right then as she pulled her daggers out of the chest of a rogue who’d tried to sneak up on them and collided with heavy steel as she did a quick glance around the battlefield. Cassandra let out a grunt in response but didn’t move as she asked, “Are you well, Herald?”

“Just making sure your backside’s protected, Seeker,” replied Meryell with a grin. She then straightened away from the other woman before bending to wipe the ichor on her blades off on the elaborate bit of cloth the Tevinter rogue had wrapped around his leathers. As she sheathed her blades, she turned to look for the source of that voice.

Obviously it had been the Chargers’ captain and he was quite obvious as he towered shirtless except for a piece of leather shoulder armor over everyone else on the field.

“Folke!” Meryell called out as she eyed the Qunari. As she waited for him to walk over she reached out to touch Cassandra’s shoulder. “Stand by me?” she asked.

The older woman blinked at her before saying, “Of course. I trust your judgement in this, however, if that is why you…”

“No, no,” exclaimed Meryell, waving her hands in front of her. “You’re purely Inquisition and Folke’s company. Since I’m between the two, I’d rather have you both next to me. That and it cements me where I’m at so the Iron Bull doesn’t think about trying to poach me like Arnald kept insisting might happen.”

“You believe he would?”

“Not really but I learned long ago to never doubt the Captain. More than half the time he’s fucking right.”

Cassandra just nodded after that and fell into step at Meryell’s left – where her shield would be most effective if she needed it on the off-chance to provide cover – as Folke stepped up to her right. With them behind her, Meryell strode forward to meet the Iron Bull as he finished ordering the man who’d come to Haven with the work offer to let the throatcutters finish up before breaking open casks.

“So,” said the big Qunari as he sat down rather lightly for a being of his size on one of the large rocks that sat on the beach, “you must be the Inquisition.”

“Damn. Did the great big old badge give it away?” commented Meryell with a grin, referring to the iron and serpentstone pin that was worn by most of the lower members of the Inquisition. She’d ‘confiscated’ one early on from the supplies for Cullen’s soldiers and attached it to the harness she’d pulled off a dead body on that initial run to the Breach. Josephine had wanted her to have something more obviously marking her as the Herald but she’d shot that swiftly down, saying that she wasn’t going to take any special treatment just because of some shit on her hand.

She was a fucking merc and she’d wear the same damned thing the Inquisition soldiers wore to identify themselves. It gave her the occasional opportunity to just blend into the background too and just be another face in the crowd, which was an aspect that she liked.

The Iron Bull responded to her sarcasm with a broad smile and a deep chuckle before saying, “I think I might like you, Herald of Andraste.”

Grimacing, Meryell hurriedly said, “Please fucking don’t.”

“Whatever you say. Come on, then, have a seat. Drinks are coming.”

“Drinks, you say?” commented Folke brightly and she dug her elbow into his ribs as she moved to sit down on the crate that the Iron Bull gestured towards. He grunted in response and flicked his fingers at the tip of her right ear – his oldest gesture for showing when he was annoyed at her – before he claimed the barrel that was also nearby.

“I will stand,” commented Cassandra as she came to settle behind where they sat, her feet braced in the wide, steady stance that Meryell had seen the woman drop into many times when she was bracing for a charge. She caught the Seeker’s eye and when the woman’s mouth twitched just so, she smiled before turning her attention back to the Qunari right as the man who’d brought the offer strode back up so the Iron Bull could introduce him as his lieutenant.

“Good to see you again,” he commented with a nod towards her. He then straightened up and said, “Throatcutters are done, Chief.”

The big Qunari leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, before saying, “Have ‘em check again. I don’t want any of those Tevinter bastard getting away.” Then he smiled, adding, “No offense, Krem. Or to your Tevinter.”

Snorting, Meryell replied, “He’s never even seen Tevinter. We never pay his complaints any mind anyway.”

Her comment made the man Krem snort a laugh before he said, “None taken, Chief. Least a bastard knows who his mother was. Puts him one up on you Qunari, right?” The last was said as he turned to walk away and she heard Folke chuckle from behind her. Already Meryell could tell that the majority of the Chargers would probably get along with the Fangs just fine.

Another Charger abruptly appeared with three mugs in one hand and a larger in his other. He grinned at them, flashing mostly missing teeth, before he handed the largest mug to the Iron Bull with a comment of, “For you, Chief.” Then he turned and offered the other three to them, which Meryell took with a smile as she blatantly ignored Folke immediately tossing his back in almost one gulp. As Cassandra refused and the Charger walked off with the shrug, drinking from the mug himself, she leaned forward towards the Qunari.

“So,” she began, “that was a nicely done attack. Looked like it could have backfired on you from where we were standing though.”

“Could have,” replied the Iron Bull with a smile, “could not have. What matters is that it didn’t.” He shifted then, resting his weight on one elbow so he could gesture towards Cassandra with his other arm. “You have an impressive team yourself. Though a bit larger than what I was suspecting.”

“Oh?” asked Meryell, smiling as she took a sip of what smelled like ale.

“Yeah. Knew you employed another company but I didn’t think you’d be travelling with them.”

Folke let out a bark of laughter as he leaned forward, saying brightly, “Is tel eolas!

Telahna, baba,” she replied, reaching back to swat him across the knee. He continued laughing as she said with a smile, “The Inquisition doesn’t just employ another company. They employ my company.”

Both of the Iron Bull’s eyebrows went up, the left one making his eyepatch move with it, and then from beyond them Krem’s voice rang out, “Told you, Chief!” Snorting at the man’s shout, the Qunari leaned both elbows back onto his knees as he shook his head.

“Krem told me straight up he thought you were a merc. My own sources told me a lot but they didn’t reveal that part. Good on your spymaster for keeping that under wraps,” he commented with a sharp nod. Then he moved his hand enough to gesture towards her, continuing, “You really know what we’re worth then. I assume you’ve already talked with your ambassador – what’s her name – Josephine?”

Smiling, Meryell nodded and took another sip from her mug. “Just waiting on me to get back to our camp so I can send a bird back to Haven with the confirmation.”

The Iron Bull nodded before saying, “Let me sweeten the pot for you. You aren’t just getting the boys…you’re getting me.”

“You?” repeated Folke, surprised.

“You need a frontline bodyguard. I’m your man,” explained the Qunari. He then paused to look at Cassandra, who was standing with an almost bored look on her face, and commented, “Not that your current one isn’t impressive. But, whatever it is – demons, dragons? The bigger the better for me.”

Meryell could certainly agree that having the big Qunari around would be extra helpful for her. Especially since she could probably easily hide behind him without being seen, which wasn’t quite a feat she could pull off with Cassandra.

“And,” continued the Iron Bull as he sat down his mug and stood up abruptly, “there’s one other thing. Might be useful. Might piss you off.”

“Let’s have it,” she said sharply.

“Ever hear of the Ben-Hassrath?”

Frowning because that sounded awfully familiar but she wasn’t anywhere near an expert on things related to the Qunari, Meryell turned to look at Folke. When he shrugged in return, she flicked her eyes towards Cassandra before returning them to the Iron Bull as the other woman shook her head slightly. “Sounds fucking familiar,” she replied, leaning back so she wouldn’t hurt her neck looking up at him, “but can’t say that I recall anything about them except they’re a Qunari organization.”

“Qunari spies,” explained the Iron Bull. “That’s them. Or, well, us.”

Us?” repeated Cassandra, a note of incredulousness in her voice. Meryell held up a hand towards the woman, silently hoping that their still somewhat tentative trust held, and motioned for the Qunari to continue. He nodded gratefully and quickly explained about the Ben-Hassrath being concerned about the uncontrolled nature of the Breach (she ignored Folke’s muttered comment of Them and everyone else on Thedas) before continuing to his being ordered to join the Inquisition. As soon as he made mention of getting reports and sharing them, she frowned but let him finish.

“Alright,” began Meryell slowly, “three questions.”

“Only three?” asked Folke and she reached back to swat him on the knee again.

Turning her attention back fully to the Iron Bull, Meryell began to tick off on her fingers as she spoke. “One, what do you send in these reports back? Two, what’s in the reports you get that’s worth us taking you on? And, three, what the fuck are you doing telling us that you’re a damned spy straight off?”

The big Qunari just laughed in response before replying, “You don’t hide from something called the Inquisition. Best to be up front about it.”

Snorting, Meryell smirked at how long she’d kept secrets, at how she still held secrets (to her knowledge, at least), and how infuriated that had made the spymaster. “You’d be surprised how long you can hold out,” she commented wryly.

He arched a single eyebrow in response before shaking his head.

“To answer the other two, there’d be enough to keep my superiors happy. Nothing that’ll compromise your operation. Or, now that I know they’re yours, your company. The Qunari mostly want to know if they need to launch an invasion to stop the whole damn world from falling apart.”

Folke snorted, interrupting with a muttered, “If this shit keeps flowing downhill, we might welcome a fucking lot of Qunari on our side.”

“Let me send word of what you’re doing,” continued the Iron Bull, “and it’ll put some minds at ease. Good for everyone. As for what I get in reports, there’s enemy movements, suspicious activity, intriguing gossip. Mostly a bit of everything.” He gestured with one hand slightly before he went on. “Alone, they’re not much but if your spymaster is worth a damn, she’ll put ‘em to good use.”

Not surprised at all that he knew the Inquisition spymaster’s gender, Meryell said, “Oh, she’s worth a damn. Not really sure which sort of a damn but whatever. I’d like to point her in another direction than the one she’s got sighted up my asshole right now so your reports might just be my ticket to that. So…”

Trailing off, she leaned forward to sit her mug on the ground before standing up, extending her right hand out towards the big Qunari. As he took it, carefully winding much larger fingers and palm around hers to finish the clasp, she commented with a grin, “The Bull’s Chargers are in.”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the Iron Bull. He then turned and shouted down the beach, “Krem! Tell the men to finish drinking on the road. The Chargers just got hired!”

“What about the casks, Chief?” came back the answering shout as the Tevinter stood up on a rock. “We just opened them. With axes.

The Qunari shook his head before replying, “Find some way to seal them. You’re Tevinter, right? Use blood magic.” The casual use of one of the more (according to Gil and Demut, anyway) forbidden uses of magic made Meryell arch her eyebrows then she focused back on the Iron Bull as he turned back towards her.

“We’ll meet you back at Haven,” he commented before turning to wave an arm sharply towards his men. “Chargers! Let’s move!”

She folded her arms, just watching them for a moment, before she turned to look at Folke and Cassandra. “Well?” she asked.

“It’ll be fucking interesting to say the least,” he commented before draining the mug in his hand. Meryell narrowed her eyes at him because she was pretty sure that was her mug since he’d finished his early but let it lie. “I think the Captain is going to have his work cut out for him with that one.”

“As will Leliana,” noted Cassandra dryly.

Snorting, Meryell said, “Fuck, Folke, Arnald’s going to have a damned ball with this shit. He loves spies. And anything that makes that el’u’verelan’s life harder is something I’m fond of it it’ll keep her off of me.”

“That el’u’verelan,” commented Folke as he stood and draped an arm across her shoulders, “is supposed to be working for you.”

“Leliana and the Herald,” began Cassandra as they started to move towards where the rest of their group had settled, apparently having been supplied with mugs of ale themselves, “do not get along.”

Meryell frowned before saying, “Cassandra, you and I need to have a talk about the definition of things because we do more than not get along. Sometimes I’m half certain she’d knife me in my sleep if it wouldn’t hurt the chances of closing the Breach.”

Shaking her head, the Seeker smiled. “Nonsense,” she said lightly. “For you, she would at least have the courtesy to kill you where you can see her.”

Blinking several times and stuttering in her tracks, she gaped at the back of the older woman’s head for a moment. Only Folke’s arm across her shoulders kept her really moving forward until she regained her momentum.

“You do have a sense of humor, Seeker!” exclaimed Meryell.

“Sense of humor!” repeated Varric, having caught wind of their conversation now that they were close. “The Seeker? You sure about that, Swears?”

Laughing as Cassandra let out her now all-too familiar noise of disgust, Meryell reached out to grab Varric’s shoulder and bring him up against her free side. “Of course,” she commented as she rested her arm lightly across his shoulders. “You trust me, right?”

“Of course. You going to tell us about what happened?”

“On the way back to camp,” she answered with a smile. “We’ve got a bird to send back to Haven that there’s another company in the Inquisition’s employ.”

ornament

Elvhen/Elven Translations:

Is tel eolas – He does not know!
Telahna – Hush
el’u’verelan – secret taker

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