visus: (Default)
Fade Rift NPC ([personal profile] visus) wrote in [community profile] faderift2016-07-22 06:05 am

OPEN: Halamshiral

WHO: Everyone
WHAT: The Inquisition Does Orlais, Pt. 1: Masks, Charity, and Tension
WHEN: Solace 15 onward
WHERE: Halamshiral
NOTES: Please note that your character's conduct and actions in this log or in other private logs set in Orlais, if observable by the public, may influence local opinion of the Inquisition and/or the balance of power among Celene, Gaspard, and the elves.

It is a smaller force that the Inquisition sends to Halamshiral than has been sent in the past; not yet able to interfere directly in the civil war, and still attempting to determine what is happening in the Anderfels, the organization is moving in not as a military force but as a stabilizing one, with cautious cooperation from the Chantry and endorsements from several among the nobility who were suitably impressed by Madame de Fer's soiree in Skyhold, to assist with the local unrest while better assessing the political situation. What is known is that a leaderless and unstable Orlais is part of Corypheus' grand scheme. What is not known is… everything else.


Duc Hugues Pelletier is not himself in residence when the Inquisition arrives. He was here only yesterday, they will be told, but left on urgent business, leaving behind his welcome and best wishes for helping restore the Maker's peace to Orlais. (He fled on news of their approach, gossipy staff members will later reveal, overcome with nerves at the notion of residing under the same roof as the incomparable Seeker Pentaghast.)

The Inquisition has free use of the mansion--under the watchful eyes of the duke's house staff, who will step in to politely prevent any destruction of his property or excessive raiding of his wine cellar--with his library available as a work space for those who require desks, books, and quiet, and his study serving as a makeshift office for the Inquisition's highest ranking officers. The cook does his best to feed everyone. That still means porridge and stew for most (something he offers his apologies for, as well as his personal disdain, but with this number of mouths to feed it's a matter of practicality, surely you understand) but those who seem important or are particularly good at sucking up to him might be given something special.

Day use aside, there's not room in the building to house everyone. Only the high-ranking (which the duke's housekeeper interprets to mean leaders of the Inquisition, Orlesian nobles, and non-Fereldan nobles, in that order, and absolutely no non-humans) will be allowed guest rooms in the chateau itself, while the majority will still need to pitch tents on the expansive and well-manicured grounds to sleep in. But all are welcome in the chapel, the largest and most ornate wing of the house.


Dear Inquisition, imagine music--alive and market placey--and violins taking a break up in the air with non-threatening amblings and a wreath of tambourine just lightly jangled… Imagine the shuffle of slippers on well-kept cobblestones and the pleasant murmur of voices as servants negotiate prices for their masters, who stare opulent and bored stares over the wares spread out for their perusal and consideration. Deals are struck, coins exchange hands, wares are wrapped in crisp paper or bleach-white linen for transport, and taken away to their new homes.

Have you the coin to spend in this place? Then by all means: select a souvenir. Make sure you can actually pay, for the shopkeeps and stallhands do not take kindly to a deal broken, once it has been made. And do not even think about stealing. Looking is free, but hang around too long and someone might begin to get suspicious.

The polite thing to do is to wear a mask. A supply of simple ones is made available to the Inquisition, carved over one eye with the symbol--not enough for everyone to have one to keep as a souvenir, but plenty enough for anyone to borrow before venturing into the High Quarter.

It is inadvisable for elves or Qunari to wander the High Quarter alone, period, but particularly inadvisable for them to do so out of Inquisition armor or without human company, and orders to this effect will have been passed through the ranks. The Inquisition is not here to start any riots or revolutions, and prefers its agents intact and un-arrested. Should any venture there alone and in plainclothes despite this warning, they will find themselves at the very best the subject of points and stares and rude remarks, and denied service by any local merchants or taverns.


Orlesian cities do not easily come by their reputation for opulence. At some point, streets must be cleaned, bricks must be brushed, marble must be buffed, and flowers must be tended. In fact, Comte Pierre has hinted that the Inquisition's generous offer of assistance might be of use in the elven district. Unique among major cities in Thedas, Halamshiral doesn't have an alienage--or, rather, most of the city is the alienage, populated by elves and elf-blooded humans who are kept out of the High Quarter rather than kept in their shabbier streets. There are taverns and shops and a market here, too--one with fewer silks and more bruises on the apples, but cheaper and kinder to those without rounded ears--and in many ways, in most places, it looks to provide a better and freer life for its inhabitants, who are not packed in quite so tightly or watched quite so constantly.

During the day, at least. There's still a curfew--one inapplicable to members of the Inquisition, if they're wearing their armor, but at night the streets empty save for the occasional dart of someone trying to make it home undetected by guards or Chevaliers. And at all hours there's an odd tension in the air, a combination of simmering resentment and pervasive defeat, the kind of feeling best encapsulated by quick, sullen glances up from an obediently bowed head.

If one needs evidence of the root of that tension, it isn't difficult to find. A large, unmissable area of the city, once the center of life there, has been burned down.

This is the area where the Inquisition's help is needed, according to Comte Pierre, who loves Halamshiral itself more than he cares for Celene, Gaspard, or the feelings of the local elves. It isn’t anything a lot of elbow grease can’t fix, but the state of these city streets is sorry indeed. Everything is streaked with ash that's been blown about and rained on but never cleaned. The few trees in the streets have been burnt black, and their bare limbs twist up toward the sky like desperate claws. The houses, the little market stall tucked into the corner of the main square--even the grass growing up between the cobblestones--everything has been burned. The bodies were collected, but you may still find a fingerbone or teeth knocked loose in the battle among the cobblestones or old rust-brown blood stains on wood. Gaunt windows stare down at you, watching your every move.

There are supplies waiting. But the work is mostly conducted alone. The elves, what little are still hanging around, keep to themselves as they pass by. Some may even look to resent the progress being made there, though they know better than to say why. The upstanding citizens of Halamshiral don’t seem inclined to come down this way, or even make casual use of the nearby alleyways.

A woman, selling worn steel scrap some streets over, is happy to tell you why, whether or not you ask her. The elves deserve what they got. They should have kept their heads down, just like everyone else. Even before the fire, she says, no one much wanted to hang around down there, on account of the crime. A notorious band of thieves were hidden among the elves of the alienage, a group of rough elves known for stealing anything from anybody. She’ll warn you to keep any valuables close while you’re working down there: “Poor souls need the help, but you can’t let yourself be robbed while you’re fixing their problems.”

It’s hard, perhaps, to imagine what she means. The destroyed blocks, as you work them, will be largely deserted. An eerie calm hangs over the place, almost as if the secluded wreck has become unmoored from the city proper and drifted away across a still and dead river.


All the wealth of Orlais can’t save them from some of the more common problems around these days. Even in the country, the tension of the city is palpable, like a current that runs through the air.

Of these tensions and worries, first and foremost are the rifts, a threat that plagues the outskirts of Hamalamadingdong far worse than the central spaces. Demons of varying strength can be found wandering and unless they are stopped, they will become a worse threat.

Whatever your political leanings, you have been asked to protect the people of Orlais. One small cluster of homes in particular has been complaining most bitterly about this threat. Worried and harried by demons, they have finally made themselves heard enough, and the Inquisition has dispatched aid. But as you arrive, you and your party will find the homes to be quiet. A little… too quiet.

The roar of a demon soon puts an end to that, and a chorus of screams follows.

Elsewhere, you may notice part of Orlais’ defensive problem: there are no brave young men to step in and fight off demons. In the High Quarter, a few callow young noblemen lounge around sipping from goblets of wine and laughing at their own jokes, but every able-bodied soldier who's not found some way out (or publicly refused to care, at their own risk) is presently occupied with the War of the Lions. Of those who remain, the young are very young and the old are very old.

Even among the gentle country gentlemen and their ladies, elves and Qunari will find themselves to be points of interest. No attacks are likely, but expect to weather gossip, whispered comments, and frank open stares. No one is foolish enough to turn down aid, but they can still be wary of these… others among them.
theproperglove: (demure;  breaths of strangers' air)


[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-08-20 10:12 pm (UTC)(link)
It is when they are in the study together that Josephine's curiosity gets the better of her. Glancing aside at the other woman, Josephine's quill stills atop the letter he is drafting. Taking a moment to clear he throat before speaking, drawing attention upon herself, she murmurs, "Cassandra. It is most remiss of me, but I have not yet asked..." She trails off, settling the quill down on her parchment. "What is it like to be in Orlais again?" Embroiled in Orlesian politics she means but does not specify, wanting to see if Cassandra will read between the lines or not. The Seeker has always disliked reminders of her fame, or her family.

It is almost as endearing as it is frustrating. Josephine smiles as though it will excuse her nosiness. Often, it does.
stabsbooks: (pic#9976372)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-08-24 07:57 am (UTC)(link)
Cassandra looks up from her own work when she hears her name, frowning slightly. It is uncharitable, perhaps, to be immediately wary at a question from the Ambassador...but then, it is not as if they are friends, or often chat.

At least she is less likely than Vivienne to be asking for some ulterior motive. Probably.

"It is..." She pauses, brow furrowed in thought. She knows what Josephine is really asking, of course; she is hardly likely to be interested in Cassandra's opinion on the food, or the scenery. "It is...tolerable. Not as terrible as it could be." Mostly because she has done her best to avoid the actual politics as much as possible.

She has not been able to avoid them completely, however. She sighs, glancing back at her work. "It will be a relief to be back in Skyhold again. Or anywhere other than this."
theproperglove: (joyful; medicinal tongue in my ear)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-08-26 12:30 pm (UTC)(link)
The sheer predictability of Cassandra's answer earns her a chuckle from Josephine. "I am sure there are many places in Thedas that are worse than this," she counters, but does she not press upon the point. Pimarily as there is nothing to gain from doing so, apart from Cassandra's ire.

She changes her line of questioning. Just innocent enough to sound suspicious, Josephine remarks, "I hear you've been spending a lot of time with Martel lately."
stabsbooks: (pic#9966174)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-08-28 12:59 am (UTC)(link)
"I suppose there might be," she allows begrudgingly. Val Royeaux comes to mind, for one.

Ah. Of course. She stills, tilting her head to look sidelong at Josephine. "Is there any reason I should not?"

Josephine had not asked a question, and so, Cassandra reasons, there is no need for her to offer any kind of an answer.
theproperglove: (scribe; i could sail along the ceiling)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-08-31 11:53 am (UTC)(link)
Josephine chuckles; it is a deeper sound than her usual airy laughs. "Did I say that? No, I am not suggesting that you spend less time with him. If I were to be suggesting anything, it would in fact be the opposite.

"It gets people talking, you know."
stabsbooks: (pic#10231023)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-08-31 05:32 pm (UTC)(link)
"I know."

Oh, she knows. She is all too aware of just how much people are talking about her, and Martel, and what they may or may not be spending all that time together doing, exactly. She frowns in disapproval.

"I take it you would not be interested in making them stop."
theproperglove: (Default)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-01 01:49 am (UTC)(link)
The corner of Josephine's smile tightens ever so slightly. "It is good for them to have something to talk about."

So, no. She is not.
stabsbooks: (/disgusted noise)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-01 03:20 am (UTC)(link)
Cassandra's eyes narrow, and she turns the full force of her gaze on Josephine.

"And you are willing to let that something be me, and my - my personal affairs."

She almost feels a twinge of guilt at taking this out on Josephine - but then, the Ambassador had brought the subject up herself.

"Has your personal life ever been the subject of gossip, Ambassador? Everything you do or say - the company you keep - even the clothing you wear - scrutinized, and judged, and - more often than not - found wanting?" She has no doubt that Josephine has been scrutinized, even judged, in her time, but after all, that is her job. She is suited to it, while Cassandra is anything but.
theproperglove: (demure;  breaths of strangers' air)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-01 07:24 am (UTC)(link)
Josephine is suddenly reminded of how terrifying Cassandra can be when she is annoyed, and files this knowledge away for future knowledge.

"It it were not you, it would be someone else. And there is no person that quite attracts gossip like a hero." At this, Josephine inclines her head ever so slightly at Cassandra, but then draws it back again, as though fearful of drawing more of the other woman's ire. She isn't, really, but this is perhaps not the best time to test the Seeker's temper.

"In any case, I am not so famous as you, but there is no player in the Game who participates unseen."

There are so many questions Josephine could ask right now, like does Cassandra really think that most people find her wanting, but it is too personal a question to ask for their current level of intimacy (that is, not as high as Josephine would like), so she slips back into her easy-natured diplomacy and makes Cassandra an offer.

"Would you want them to stop? I can make them stop, if you would like."
stabsbooks: (Not all my feelings involve stabbing)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-03 07:44 pm (UTC)(link)
"I - "

Cassandra stops in her tracks, slowly meeting Josephine's gaze. The Ambassador smiles cheerily at her, looking as innocent and harmless as ever.

Looking innocent and harmless. Cassandra frowns.

"...No, Ambassador." She shakes her head, reminded, as she occasionally is, how thankful she is that Josephine is on her side. "That will not be necessary."
theproperglove: (doubt; break me sweetly)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-03 08:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Josephine's mind had already been whirring with plans to be set in motion, but Cassandra's refusal brings her thoughts to an uneasy halt. The corner of her mouth turns ever-so-slightly downward as she makes a quiet, dissatisfied noise.

She had only meant to help, after all. "If you're sure," she starts slowly, "but I would not want you to be uncomfortable if it could be avoided."
stabsbooks: (pic#10355058)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-04 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Cassandra exhales, shaking her head again. "And I thank you," she says. "Truly. But it is not necessary. I do not wish anyone to suffer simply to save me from idle gossip."

She sighs heavily. "I suppose it is inevitable, in any case. We can hardly control what people will speak of, nor should we try."
theproperglove: (smug; all i want is a confidant)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-05 02:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Josephine could counter Cassandra's assertion, but perhaps it is best to let the other woman believe what she will for now. It is a side matter, inconsequential to the true reason Josephine had brought up Martel at all.

She files Cassandra's reactions away for later reflection nonetheless.

"In this instance, I will leave it be," Josephine agrees with an airy wave of the hand, as though to indicate the matter has been dropped. "I have one more question, if I may," she continues, and perhaps she truly should let the matter drop, but she is far too curious for that, "does he make you happy?"
stabsbooks: (Don't pretend to be so innocent)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-05 10:15 pm (UTC)(link)
It's something of a relief, though a part of her wonders if she is a fool to so quickly reject the Ambassador's offer. Doubtless she will regret it in the days and weeks to come, as the citizens both of Orlais and of Skyhold itself continue to exchange rumors and speculation regarding Cassandra and Martel's relationship.

Well, she will deal with that when and if it happens. For the moment, Cassandra merely pauses, narrowing her eyes at Josephine's question.

"That is quite a personal inquiry, Ambassador," she says, her tone sharp and disapproving. "Is there some - "

No. She cuts herself off before she can throw some sarcastic barb, some cruel remark she will regret. Obviously there is not some official reason why Josephine would need to know such a thing; just as obviously, it will do no good to point out the similarities between the ambassador's curiosity and the curiosity of those she had so casually offered to silence. Cassandra frowns, instead.

"Why do you ask?"
theproperglove: (calm; fading in beautiful light)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-06 10:41 am (UTC)(link)
Perhaps it is too much to hope that Cassandra would answer her question openly. Josephine tries her best not to let her disappointment show this time, but is visible all the same, in the slight thinning of her lips and the soft slump of her shoulders. "I was just curious. It is not a matter of great concern." Nonetheless, she hopes Cassandra is happy, hopes that her reluctance to speak is out of a desire to keep that happiness for herself.

They could all use some more happiness these days. "I do not mean to be impolite," she decides to clarify, brushing her hair behind her ears more out of nervous habit than out of necessity. "I just want you to know if you ever need someone to talk to, I will do my best to listen."
stabsbooks: (pic#10185969)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-07 04:08 am (UTC)(link)
"Thank you," Cassandra says, just as politely. "I will keep that in mind."

But she does not think it likely that she will take Josephine up on her offer. She has never been as close to Josephine as she had been to Leliana or Cullen - and now, with disagreements and lapses of judgement (the latter mainly on Cassandra's part) making even those relationships more fragile and uncertain than she would have liked, there are others she would turn to before any of her fellow advisors.

It's a little surprising, and not a little unnerving, to realize that.

There's a moment of silence, as they both turn back to their work, and then Cassandra takes a breath, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

"I am," she says, and hastens to clarify. "I am...happy. More so than I would have thought possible, at this stage in my life."
theproperglove: (demure;  breaths of strangers' air)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-07 05:07 pm (UTC)(link)
Josephine is happy to take it as the attempt at reconciliation that she thinks is, and nods absently in response, her gaze still mostly focused on her work. "I'm glad," she says after a moment's silence, before chancing a look up at Cassandra.

"Maker knows we all need some happiness to get us through these trying times."
stabsbooks: (terrible and magnificent)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-08 01:56 am (UTC)(link)
Cassandra smiles, still a little self-conscious as she glances back down, unseeing, at her own work. "I suppose that is true," she says, and looks back up, curious. "And what of you?" Not that she would pry into Josephine's personal affairs, of course, not after so roundly admonishing her for asking after Cassandra's own. No, a less personal question will do for conversation. "How do you find Halamshiral?"
theproperglove: (demure;  breaths of strangers' air)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-08 01:49 pm (UTC)(link)
Josephine finds herself strangely relieved that Cassandra hadn't asked her something more personal, most likely because she would have felt compelled to tell Cassandra the truth and well, perhaps Josephine was less comfortable with that than she'd care to admit. She ferrets that train of thought away for later, refocusing her attention, both mental and visual, on Cassandra.

"Halamshiral has changed since I was last here," she answers, finding that her suspicions are correct and that she cannot properly lie. "There is a lot of unrest. It is unsettling, but... I believe it is something the Inquisition can overcome." At least she manages to prevent the for now from slipping over her traitorous lips.
stabsbooks: (pic#9997743)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-09 06:31 am (UTC)(link)
She doesn't need to say it.

"For now," Cassandra specifies, frowning. "And what will happen when we leave? I do not plan to stay in Halamshiral and chaperone its people forever." She sighs. "It is good that we have had some positive impact, however short-lived."
theproperglove: (Default)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-09 10:20 am (UTC)(link)
Cassandra's pessimism, however reliable, is enough for Josephine to sigh, although she does her best to stifle it as soon as it's realised. "While we ourselves will have to leave eventually, it is my hope that we will leave enough agents behind to keep the region relatively stable."
stabsbooks: (pic#9976387)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-09 08:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Cassandra only nods. Diplomacy is Josephine's purview, not hers, and she trusts the Ambassador to know what is necessary in order to ensure that their work here will not have been in vain.

"Let us hope, then, that it will last," she says. Her lips thin as she glares at the seemingly never-ending stack of paperwork before her. "And that we will not need to return anytime soon."
theproperglove: (say; feel sparks of the friendly fire)

[personal profile] theproperglove 2016-09-09 10:46 pm (UTC)(link)
Josephine nods in absent-minded agreement. "And here I thought Halamshiral was just beginning to grow on you," she remarks, tone teasing.
stabsbooks: (pic#9997768)

[personal profile] stabsbooks 2016-09-11 06:05 am (UTC)(link)
Cassandra makes a disgusted noise, rolling her eyes hugely. "I assure you that is not the case," she says dryly, still glaring at her desk. "The sooner I can get back to my real work, the better."