“We will discover what she did!”
“Cassandra,” Leliana intoned sternly, frowning at the other woman. When the Nevarran warrior turned towards her, her face was tense and the scars made her look all the fiercer. She had a deep respect of the other woman for her skill in battle but she had always been more prone to the theory of charging right into something without first thinking it through. “We don’t know yet if we need her.”
“You think her innocent?” snapped Cassandra, scowling.
Holding up a hand, Leliana replied, “I think that we do not yet have all of the pieces.”
The Seeker scoffed at that and shook her head almost dismissively, though Leliana knew she wasn’t dismissing the idea outright. Cassandra could lay down a intricate battle plan if she could avoid charging in headfirst. It just sometimes took a moment for her to remember that bashing her shield through everything wasn’t perhaps the best method of solving problems.
“What more is there to gather, Leliana?” asked the other woman. She gestured vaguely towards the direction that they both knew the ruins of the Temple lay in, though neither could see it since they were inside the Chantry. “What more can be gathered in the little time that we have? We cannot linger in making a decision about her, not with the few men we have dying in droves up the mountain.”
“I am not necessarily talking about gathering pieces from elsewhere,” intoned Leliana matter-of-factly. “You already know that I have gotten what little I could that we knew from the Conclave.”
Cassandra sighed and nodded. “The group from Clan Lavellan. I am still not certain why Most Holy allowed them entry into the Conclave.”
“I believe it was more that they were seen early and their intent to merely spy upon things was ruined. I’m not certain as to what their leader said to Most Holy to have her make that decision but I can guess as to their reasons.”
That made the other woman’s face darken as she growled, “So she is a spy ?”
Sighing, Leliana said, “Again, that is a thing we do not know.”
“Damnit, Leliana!” shouted Cassandra, slamming her fist against the closest wall. It looked like it hurt her but the Seeker plowed onward, “I need more than maybes and unknowns! Surely there is something more!”
“There is not.”
When Cassandra made like she was going to pull back to strike the wall again, Leliana stepped forward into her space and firmly pressed her fist against the wall. Anger flared through the other woman’s dark eyes as she looked up to meet her own blue in a hard stare but Leliana was not cowed by Cassandra Pentaghast.
She had stared once into the eye of Urthemiel, there on top of Fort Drakon at the Battle of Denerim, and had been seen in turn. No one and nothing she had faced in the ten years since had come anywhere close to matching the rage that had consumed the Archdemon.
“You forget, Cassandra,” she said in a low voice, “that our new elven ‘friend’ has theorized that the mark on her hand could have a connection with the Breach. No matter what she may be, if she has the capability to do something to combat it, we cannot do anything but use her.”
“Use her,” repeated Cassandra, her eyes narrowing as her ire obviously lessened a little.
“If she will not cooperate.”
Scoffing, the other woman loosened her tense stance and Leliana let her hand drop away. As Cassandra straightened back up and crossed her arms across her chest, she grunted, “You speak of blackmail.”
Leliana merely smiled serenely in reply before saying, “If that is what is needed.”
“You know I do not like those methods.”
Shrugging, she replied, “Then see that I do not need to use them. Convince her.”
Cassandra made that disgusted noise that Leliana had long ago come to connect to her and her alone before she shook her head, scoffing a laugh. “Easier said than done, Leliana. But we shall try.”
Leliana just nodded at that. Now the warrior was perhaps level-headed enough to actually face their prisoner.
“Yes,” she said as she gestured towards the open archway that would lead them down into the lower parts of the Chantry, “and I will be ready if we need to do otherwise.”
For all that she had been mostly unconscious moments ago and surrounded by four soldiers who had – up until their entrance – had their swords pointed at her, the elf looked surprisingly calm. Confused and concerned with a touch of what was perhaps pain judging by the tenseness of her jaw and the way her eyebrows dipped but calm.
This was automatically more interesting.
Leliana held back to observe as Cassandra moved forward to confront, stalking around their only suspect. She worked better from the back anyway. Not to mention that she could take notice of far more from observing that actually participating fully in the interrogation.
Such as noticing that while she leaned away from Cassandra as the warrior leaned down to sternly demand why they shouldn’t kill her, the elf didn’t flinch. She has been threatened before. Perhaps held out. Or escaped.
“The Conclave is destroyed…”
The elven woman interrupted Cassandra in a soft voice, her eyebrows now high in surprise and honest shock on her face. Leliana noted that her accent sounded Ferelden, perhaps with a touch of something else, but with only one word having been spoken she couldn’t be sure. Her accent certainly wasn’t Dalish, at least not of any clan that she had ever come into contact with.
Obviously she needed to branch out into the Ferelden alienages. She was perhaps, what….mid twenties? Earlier? It was harder to tell with elves.
“Destroyed,” repeated Cassandra coldly, her tone turning to accusation quickly. “Everyone who attended is dead. Except for you .”
The woman blinked several times, her mouth slightly open, then she closed her eyes and cursed under her breath, “Maker’s soggy asshole, I should’ve stayed home.” Then she shook herself, sitting up straighter despite the manacles connecting her to the floor, and there was fire in her eyes. “You think I’m responsible? Lady, I sure as shit didn’t have anything to do with destroying anything .”
Cassandra sneered and reached down, grabbing their prisoner’s arm and lifting it up as she growled, “Then explain this .” The mark sparked as if agitated by the motion, spilling vicious sparks and green light out, and Leliana watched the woman’s face contort. It was real pain, the sort that one could not hide.
That, of course, did not necessarily make her innocent.
The elf drew her arm slightly towards her as Cassandra let it fall, cradling her marked hand as she turned it over to press a thumb against her palm. Specifically at a pressure point that Leliana knew was to ease pain, if only temporarily. “I can’t,” she growled through bared teeth.
“What do you mean you can’t ?” snapped Cassandra back and Leliana moved forward, flashing her a warning glance over their prisoner’s head as she made a slow walk around them.
“I mean I can’t shitting explain it, plain as that!” snapped the woman right back, glaring at the dark-haired woman stalking around her. She then turned her gaze towards Leliana, who noted her eyes were green, and snarled, “I don’t know what it fucking is or how it got there. And I don’t know what happened to the Conclave! You’re asking the wrong damned person!”
Leliana saw the move before Cassandra did it, already stepping forward to grab her when she hissed, “You’re lying!” and lunged towards the prisoner. She noticed out of the corner of her eye that the elf both lifted her hands to defend herself – high and in firm fists, made in the proper style of someone who had fought bare-handed before – as well as leaning back out of the possible range of Cassandra’s hands. A fighter, that much was obvious. Perhaps a rogue given her small stature?
“We need her, Cassandra,” Leliana reminded firmly as she pushed the Seeker back across the room. The other woman glared at her, her jaw tense again but nodded to show she understood, and Leliana turned away to see the prisoner still with her hands held defensively. Perhaps this situation need a different touch.
“Do you remember what happened?”
The elf frowned and lowered her hands slightly, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. She then turned her face slightly away, her brow creased in obvious thought, before she blinked in almost shock. “Green,” she replied softly. “I remember green and running from…something. And there was…a woman?”
“A woman?” pressed Leliana, though she glanced towards Cassandra as she did so. The reports of the soldiers who had seen her tumble out of a rift had reported a figure of a woman being behind her.
Cassandra let out an impatient sound as she stalked around them before she approached Leliana. Stepping back as the Seeker kept walking forward, she kept her eye on the elf as she listened to the other woman say, “Go to the forward camp, Leliana. I’ll take her to the rift.”
Stepping sideways so Cassandra would be blocking the movement of her mouth – best to be careful if their prisoner was a rogue, since many were trained to read lips – Leliana asked in an undertone, “You’re certain?”
“Do you doubt me?” replied Cassandra, one eyebrow arched.
Flicking her eyes back towards their prisoner before returning them to her fellow Hand, she replied, “Only in perhaps your zeal to discover what happened and not merely someone to blame.” A hardness took over Cassandra’s face as she said that and Leliana frowned. “Cassandra…”
“Go to the forward camp,” gritted the woman out between bared teeth. She then started to turn away but paused, her eyes seeming darker, as she hissed under her breath, “She will make it to the rift.”
There was a distinct feeling of fact to that statement, like it was a thing to surely be, so Leliana bowed her head slightly in return. She looked at the prisoner again, the elf watching them with narrowed eyes while she quietly shifted her hand around – searching for weaknesses in the shackles binding her she realized. Then she nodded to cassandra and turned on a heel, striding up and out of the dungeon and into the main hall of the Chantry.
The cold air was harsh as she stepped out into it but her armor was warm and she was about to be moving. Leliana turned her eyes towards the Breach in the distance for a moment before she took her bow and quiver from her scout that had been waiting outside the Chantry door. “We go to the forward camp,” she told him. “Spread the word.”
“Yes, Nightingale,” he replied in a murmur, one hand thumping over his heart before he dashed away to spread the word to what few of her scouts were still in Haven and not up the mountain.
Leliana didn’t watch him go. Instead she slung her bow over her shoulder, secured her quiver at her hip, and started moving.
Before she reached the stairs that would lead her out of the sight of the Chantry, she turned back in time to see the prisoner step out with Cassandra.
No matter what else the woman might be, her look of shock and awe at the full sight of the Breach was real.
She was innocent of that crime. Others that she had found reports of…well, that perhaps remained to be seen.
Nodding to herself, Leliana turned away and started moving swiftly. Three more of her scouts joined her by the time she was at the main gate and as one they silently turned towards the forward camp and ran.
They had already delayed long enough with having to wait until their prisoner had woken up. There was no time to waste now.