"Cowards!" She laughed as the crowd broke up. "But hey, you can always try to win it back on the way home!" That has met with a cluster of obscene hand-signs from the sailors; chuckling to herself she collected up her winnings. Her task was interrupted by a figure approaching, and as she looked up to see who it was, she had to do her best not to grimace; she tried to avoid Qunari that'd lived...or were living...under the Qun.
"You aren't of the Qun, nor have you ever been."
No shit buddy. She thought sarcastically. What gave me away?
"But you have purpose, I can see it in how you hold yourself. Mad purpose like all Bas but purpose all the same. I wish to know where your purpose comes from, what keeps you from being a simple beast."
The fuck? She wasn't sure if she was being insulted, but part of her wanted to deck Tenaraad...just to be on the safe side. Fortunately, her common sense won out, and she merely cocked an eyebrow at him.
"I will elaborate. I was of the Qun once, it provided me purpose and without it I struggled to be anything, the small one, he said his people keep records to retain purpose. I have thought to try the same."
"Ohhh..." She said softly. She'd come across this before when she'd worked with Qunari merc companies. "Well that's what you get when you have a culture that actively tries to stamp out free will; when the people get free of that oppression, they don't know how to handle themselves because they've never been taught how to." Kari shook her head, to disrupt that line of thought. Now wasn't really the time for that.
"You asked my purpose?" She replied. "Partially it's simple greed I guess. I want enough coin stashed away that I can retire when I get to old or injured to keep working. The other part of it is to support my father. The old rabbit is too stubborn to admit it, but his farm is barely sufficient to keep him fed and he's not getting any younger." Her eyes grew a soft and faraway look to them. I really should go see him... "You're right, I didn't grow up under that brainwashing. Dad found me in a bandit camp that he and his company were clearing out. His best guess is that the bandits ambushed some Tal-Vashoth, and I was part of the spoils." With a small shrug, she went back to counting her winnings.
"Through the front or the back, we go one way in full we'll have the numbers, but say we take both? Jarrett an' I slip through the narrow, the rest comin' in the front? We'd be divided, but so would their attention. Dunno what sort of forces we'd be dealin' with. Might be they're not expectin' unwelcome guests. Might not. Whichever it is, I think it best we take 'em split."
"I actually agree. Berund and I are fairly self sufficient and the other group would share a fair balance. Things take a turn for the worse, we should be able to retreat easily. Relatively."
"Is that a good idea though? To just approach them from two directions and allow their placement to decide where we end up fighting? They have mages too, right? And rogues... they could easily surprise us if they know the area better than us, they'll be able to easily drive out the ones entering from the main entrance. Besides, by going to their position, we could end up somewhere none of our close range attackers can fight, or where I cannot use magic effectively.
I think we should take the secret entrance as a group, then split up and part into the smaller caves and tunnels, find a place where a fight is better for us, that we can use for our own benefit, and then have someone lure groups into that area.
There's traps as well. We should at least try to take them, given that there could be someone manning them. And I'm better off in a lookout area where I can cast spells over a wide area, and then the wider areas we could...
My point is that by trying to surround them, we're still letting their group decide where a fight happens, and we'll fail to take any traps into account. And we're not gaining that much from having two people surprise them from behind, you only get some hits in before they know you're there. However, by taking the entrance they won't expect, and moving in a group, we have the time and opportunity, as well as numbers, to pick our positions and lure them in a few at a time. There is the downside of us not being able to retreat, of course, or they surprising us while using the hidden entrance.
I don't think I could do anything about the retreat, but if I go first, I'll be able to handle whoever comes our way, we'll see them from a distance and my magic can be very potent indeed, especially against individuals. And don't worry about me and the caverns, I spent a depressing amount of my childhood hidden in cupboards and crates, so I know I'm very flexible."
"Hmm, it sounds a bit risky,Nola "And it sounds like your fellows have some suggestions of their own, but it'll be your call in the end. If I might make one of my own perhaps some method of signalling the Halla would be ideal, that way if you get caught in a bind you can hail my crew and we can try to swing in to pull your arse out of the fire.
The Halla's got a fair bit of firepower with the ballista after all, though I have to say I agree with you in that I'd rather not risk her if possible."
Nola frowned at the map as those who had gathered voiced their suggestions. She knew Jarret and Berund could handle themselves, but Ash had a point, if they got put into a rough situation, the rest of the group would have a difficult time getting to them, if they realized it in the first place. Though Rumsfeld had a decent compromise to Ash's concerns, as long as they could make sure the traps at the main entrance The Halla could provide a significant advantage.
"Here's the thing Ash Going from two angles let's us put the pressure on them from two front's, making it even harder for them to coordinate a proper defense, even with the traps. But I see what you mean, splitting the group like that is still a dangerous option, even taking the considerable skill of Berund and Jarrett into account." She said, slowly looking over the map. "ut....with what Rumsfeld says is true, The Halla is well equipped....." She mumbled. She thumped her fist on the table after a moment of thinking. "I think I got it..." She said with a smirk. She pointed to the secret opening. "Our group will move in through here, Berund and Jarrett moving ahead, taking care of any traps or guards before we get to the main cavern. Once we get there," her finger trailed through the tunnels. "Ash, you, me, and Kari will get their attention, drawing any of the Vints towards a defensible spot, probably back in the tunnels a little ways. Meanwhile, once more Berund and Jarrett will move around the bulk of the fighting, get to the traps at the entrance and make sure they aren't operational. Once that's done, Rumsfeld, They'll signal the Halla with a burning arrow, or a small bomb or something. You'll bring the Halla into port, providing us a way out and, if necessary, decimating whatever they have left with the ballista." She waved a hand over the main cavern. "After that, it's pretty simple to sweep through the rest of the cave and remove any straggler's. And as far as I'm concerned, your welcome to anything that's not the red lyrium, captain. That'll we'll have to take care of." She said looking up from the map.
"Unless someone has been hiding a spell that can move us from one point to another instantly," She said with a chuckle. "This is probably going to be our best bet. Any objections? If not I suggest you all rest a little more while you can."
Leaning back as everyone talked, Jarrett focused on Nola once she took command of the situation. As she did, Jarrett smiled, impressed at she managed to take in everyone's opinions and create a plan to the best of her ability.
"This is a suitable plan. You've impressed me. Unless anyone else can do better I'll go rest and prepare." He said confidently backing Nola. He scanned the group in case anyone else spoke up but quickly interjected. "Oh, and my thanks for considering my and Berund's talents." He saw with an awkward but earnest politeness.
"This is probably going to be our best bet. Any objections? If not I suggest you all rest a little more while you can."
Ash frowned. He didn't like the plan as it was. It was better than the initial idea, but it still put him at a disadvantage given the lack of opportunity for him to gain a vantage point in the caves when they had started walking. Besides, his abilities were best used from a distance, and with the group halved, he might end up having to take a more active role in the close range combat, as opposed to using his spells to damage the enemies from a distance and picking out the best targets, at least if they encountered a large group of people.
Perhaps I'll end up having to use my sword.
He thought, though he didn't enjoy the thought, he was far better used if he could use magic intelligently.
"Got it," he said, hiding the disappointment in his voice. "I'll go rest then."
"Oh, and my thanks for considering my and Berund's talents."
He ignored what seemed to be an rather clear stab, thought whether it was regarding the fact that Ash's abilities were not being taken into consideration or because Ash's plan had been one that didn't include the same degree of sneaking, he didn't know. It just felt like he could do more when they were a larger group. He'd easily admit it was partly because a larger group meant that he would be protected from anyone who might get close.
Doesn't matter now.
He felt the annoyance biting on the back of his mind. Even if he did go back to his book, he'd just end up have the nagging feeling bother him until the mission, and then what?
I wonder if there's anything with alcohol to drink.
Well, he didn't really wonder about it, it was a ship, there would be a bottle of something, somewhere. Well, unless it had already gotten finished by one of the people others.
The crew's quarters is probably the best place to look. If I'm lucky, there's a half-full bottle I can bring to my room. Preferably something sweet...
Well, they were obviously pirates, so there had to be some rum on the ship. He made his way to the quarter, and passed Kari on his way to find booze. He gave her a quick wave, though she seemed occupied with counting money, and that odd Qunari guy was there, so he wasn't sure how to approach them.
Drinks first and then chatting.
He actually did find a half-empty bottle on one of the shelves. Or rather, it was a little more than half-full, but more was better than less. He opened it and smelled it, rum.
He burned the top of it slightly to make it a little cleaner, before putting the cork back in and humming as he brought it with him. He stopped at Kari's table. He looked at the way she moved her hand, watching her count to make sure he didn't interrupt her in the middle of a pile.
"Hi, Kari," he said with a smile, then nervously raised his hand and greeted the strange Qunari male, his expression turning more uncertain. "Uhm, hi Tenaraad." He quickly looked back at Kari, smiling again. He had wanted to ignore the person to his side, but that would've been rude. "That's a lot of money. I assume you won a lot? What did you play?"
"This is probably going to be our best bet. Any objections? If not I suggest you all rest a little more while you can."
Rumsfeld nodded "I'll let you know when we're getting close, with any luck this storm will make it harder for them to spot our approach."
"If any of you need any supplies, even just good clothes to keep the weather off you, you should be able to find them on board," he said as he turned to leave "Just ask any of the crew and they'll point it out to you."
Tenaraad nodded politely at Kari's answer "I will make note of it then, if you do not mind," he said "you are most fortunate to have been kept from a life of banditry, else you would likely have fallen into the Qun's role for Tal-Vashoth without knowing."
Tenaraad seemed contemplating saying more when Ash appeared, he seemed to eye him a bit warily before shaking his head and reaching for a drink of his own. He took a long swig before he returned the greetings.
"Hey Ash," She replied. She'd sorted her winnings into two rough piles; the smaller one was gold and silver, and was going into 'her' purse and would be staying on her at all times. The larger one was full of copper and bronze, and was going into a small sack that'd been generously 'donated' by one of the crew, when he thought he could bluff his way to a win.
"That's a lot of money. I assume you won a lot? What did you play?"
Looking up from what she was doing, she gave the mage a somewhat tipsy smile. "Dunno how much I got yet, but yeah, not a bad take." Depositing the various coins into their respective satchels, she tested the weight of both. "Played some Wicked Grace and Dead Man's Hand. They tried to trip me up with Chanson d'Argent...but I'm better at that then Wicked Grace. Didn't have it all my own way...but I won more than I lost." She smiled at the two bags. This plus whatever the Vints won't be needing more should leave me with enough coin to send the bulk of my pay to dad.
"I will make note of it then, if you do not mind. You are most fortunate to have been kept from a life of banditry, else you would likely have fallen into the Qun's role for Tal-Vashoth without knowing."
Snapping out of it, Kari looked over at Tenraad and shrugged. "Do what you want, doesn't bother me either way; and doubtful I've ended up as a bandit. Dad said there were no women in the group and from the looks of things, they were still trying to sort out what they'd taken. Once they got around to me, they'd've probably just thrown me in the river" She said. She'd lived, they didn't; what's done is done, and she didn't see the point in worrying about what might have been.
Ash noticed it. The hesitation and tenseness from Tenaraad as Ash got closer, the long swig before he had replied to Ash's greeting. Ash couldn't help but grin, there was a certain satisfaction in seeing someone he was worried about being even more uncertain of him.
I wonder if I should give him a bit of a scare. Use some magic or talk about blood magic or something... No, that sounds like a bad idea. Funny, but still pretty bad.
He just gave Tenaraad a friendly nod, knowing the other was scared of him made him feel more confident himself.
"Dunno how much I got yet, but yeah, not a bad take. Played some Wicked Grace and Dead Man's Hand. They tried to trip me up with Chanson d'Argent...but I'm better at that then Wicked Grace. Didn't have it all my own way...but I won more than I lost."
"Nice," Ash replied, and looked at the way she looked at the bags. Either the smile meant she really liked money, or she already had something in mind for them. Ash didn't want to pry, so he didn't address it. He was going to ask about what Chanson d'Argent was, but stopped when Kari addressed Tenaraad.
"Do what you want, doesn't bother me either way; and doubtful I've ended up as a bandit. Dad said there were no women in the group and from the looks of things, they were still trying to sort out what they'd taken. Once they got around to me, they'd've probably just thrown me in the river"
He narrowed his eyes, a bit confused.
What just happened? Did they have a conversation before I came over? Why did she answer now then?
It was either that, or Tenaraad sent Kari messages through some sort of telepathy, which sounded ridiculous, even for a blood mage.
So they were having a conversation.
"Am I... interrupting something?" Ash asked, and looked from one to another. "Do you want to be left alone?"
"Am I... interrupting something? Do you want to be left alone?"
"Na, its fine." Kari replied, tying both sacks off. Reaching across the table, she picked up a half-full bottle, and topped up her cup. "You want some? Don't know what it is, but it's tasty...hits like a pissed off druffalo though." She coughed a couple of times and thumped her chest with a fist.
"I'll let you know when we're getting close, with any luck this storm will make it harder for them to spot our approach. If any of you need any supplies, even just good clothes to keep the weather off you, you should be able to find them on board. Just ask any of the crew and they'll point it out to you."
"I'll go check that out in the moment, but first I think I need to wake my body up properly." He said to Rumsfeld with a thankful wave. Leaving the room Jarrett made his way to the crew's quarters before his senses picked up something odd in the air. Following the trail he found Kari and Ash having a conversation. It was evident that they were talking about gambling, but it wasn't what he was interested in. What Kari said as she picked up a half empty bottle was.
"You want some? Don't know what it is, but it's tasty...hits like a pissed off druffalo though."
"Rude as this request might be may I have a sip?" Strolling into the middle of the conversations from the shadow, Jarrett knew that whatever that foul brew was, it was bound to be good for him for one reason. "It doesn't matter if it's disgusting, so long as it hits hard. To tell the truth, all of it is like sewage water to me but the rush of that cold hiss, never has regret tasted sweeter, am I right?"
"Na, its fine."
Ash glanced over at Tenaraad, as if he was expecting some sort of disagreement, but then looked over at Kari again. If Tenaraad did any gesture to show that Kari wasn't telling the truth, Ash couldn't see it. "Okay then. That's good."
"You want some? Don't know what it is, but it's tasty...hits like a pissed off druffalo though."
Ash smiled, and started to answer in a soft voice. "Ah, no thank you---"
"Rude as this request might be may I have a sip?"
Ash shut his mouth, and looked at Jarrett. How long had the elf been there? He certainly couldn't remember seeing him arriving. Had he followed Ash? Or had he just arrived? Regardless, Ash wasn't particularly happy with Jarrett, given the comment from earlier, and simply ignored him, addressing Kari instead. His annoyance was a bit too obvious on his face, as if he was insulted by Jarrett being there, which was, he supposed, part of it. He'd been the one talking to Kari, after all, and she had offered it to him, not Jarrett. His expression got more disappointed, he'd wanted to talk a little more, after all, and he shook his head. "No thank you, I have a book I need to finish, so I'll see you around, Kari," he said and turned to leave.
"Bye Tenaraad," he gestured towards the male Qunari, before he walked out of the room and into where his bed was.
He opened the bottle of rum and had a good mouthful before settling down with his book, drinking at a quicker pace to forget about his annoyance with Jarrett. It helped, but only because he instead thought of how Tenaraad had been around him.
Who'd have thought someone that made me scared would be scared of me?
Or rather, his magic. Still, it made him feel a little better, because to him, Tenaraad was scary because of the worst case scenario, that he somehow would have a reason or way to hand him over to those who followed the Qun. Ash, however, was scary simply because he was a mage, which partly implied power, but that likely also did not include the worst of what he could do.
I am a blood mage after all. If Tenaraad messes with me, I'll just show him an example of it. Or just mention it.
He felt a little warmer inside, a little safer. Ash was getting stronger, he knew that, and there was safety in that. He wrapped the bedsheet around him, and took another sip of the rum, it had a slightly spice to it, which made the sweetness even better. Yeah, he could ignore that comment from Jarrett, and he could do the mission the way Nola wanted, even if he didn't like the plan. Now, if only he could concentrate on his book, and perhaps learn a little more science, then everything would be dandy.
The rain continued through the night as they made their approach, slowly the coast became clear through it and amid jagged rocks the cave entrance could be spotted. The rain slowed somewhat and while the seas were choppy they didn't pose any issue to the team that departed for the side entrance. Tenaraad guided the small boat to the entrance, a narrow crack amid rocks on the shore, only open due to the tide receding and even then half flooded from the rainwater coming up to the waists of most of the party and to the chin of the the members of somewhat lower standing. Tenaraad waited for them to depart and then began making his way back to the ship, the entryway would not stay open for long so there would be no coming back through the way they came in.
Still it was unguarded and the group proceeded in single file through the dark, stumbling occasionally over unseen footing, before finally a glimmer of light was visible. Slowly a small camp crept into view and the occupants of the cavern became clearly visible.
Venatori, unmistakable in their hooded robes. They seemed on edge and arguing in their strange tongue could be heard. Most had swords belted at the waist but a few were armed with axes or spears, and of course the red robed members of the camp carried staves and spoke with authority when directing the others. A few elves and non-robed humans could be spotted among these, shoddily garbed and acting among the white robed venatori in cooking and repairing gear, though they wore no chains their status was clearly evident. The cavern was large and sprawling with pockets of open space where the venatori were established and winding passages among stalagmites and stalactites leading in between. Torches lit much of the place casting a flickering orange glow, that in turn produced long shadows among the spires of rock.
Further on in the cavern a pair of what appeared to be guard towers could be spotted. A net filled with large rocks hung between them and ballistae were mounted atop them, alongside pots that were undoubtedly filled with firebombs. Further past the towers the Venatori ship could be seen, in a state of disrepair. Something had broken one of the three masts almost clean in two and burn marks scarred the hull. Oddly among the camp no cargo could be seen beyond weapons and supplies, though this was a smugglers cavern and no doubt littered with hiding places for storing treasure.
Kari cursed herself for her clumsiness every time she managed to catch a toe on something. Damn it girl, watch yourself! She thought angrily. Still it could've been worse, it's not like she'd tripped and fallen.
Eventually, they got to a point to where they could see the Venatori camp. Too many spell flingers, and we've only got Ash and no bows. She'd been taking up the back, better those that were better at sneaking and seeing in the dark take the lead; but now that they'd halted, she edged her way forward until she found Nola. "Hey Boss," She whispered. "A thought. If we get somebody over to those ships, and say start a fire on board. The Vint's will most likely split their men; my guess is that the troops will be sent to deal with the fires while the mages stay back. When that happens, we move in and take'em."
Ash hadn't been looking forward to this part, mostly because of the fact that they'd likely bring the red lyrium with them. He hoped someone would just accidentally drop the entire supply of red lyrium into the ocean and let it be swallowed by the waves, never to be seen again. At least he couldn't feel any of it as they got closer, though what he could see that the enemy had several mages.
Of course they do. And that means I'm going to have to deal with them, possibly on my own.
If they had just gone with his idea, then there'd be enough people to keep them occupied for him to replenish his health using a potion as he spent his newly gained ability to force their mana to match his, thus rendering them useless for a certain time, while someone else took care of them.
Ugh. I suppose I'll just have to adapt.
Because it couldn't go as far as to end up killing them, right? They were still stronger?
Ash certainly hoped so. Because this didn't feel right.
Relaxed and ready, Jarrett crept in the shadows just ahead the others as they approached the camp. The defences were impressive but nothing Jarrett believe his group could not crush. They had the advantage of striking first and would only need a decent plan to cut them all down in minutes. Some of his friends had already began that part and Jarrett was keen to offer his skills.
"A thought. If we get somebody over to those ships, and say start a fire on board. The Vint's will most likely split their men; my guess is that the troops will be sent to deal with the fires while the mages stay back. When that happens, we move in and take'em."
"That's good but they won't think a storm alone would cause the large fire we need to split them. It requires silent steps, steady blades and absolute madness which I am fine with providing. They won't think I'm alone so you can either hope they don't find you and wait for the moment to strike or do so at the same time I do." Jarrett said leaning over Kari's shoulder, smiling cheekily. Though his finding at his own creepiness amusing, he dropped in front of her onto the floor beside her and Nola awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck.
"But, I mean, that is a plan that would pose a danger to you guys that wouldn't really be much of a danger. And it's not like I can't survive a suicidal plan." Jarrett mumbled to his friends, confident in them and foolishly uncaring of himself.
The Legionnaire couldn't help but smile a little at the heavy feet that stumbled in the rear. It wasn't malicious, but it was just the littlest bit pleasing to see her taken down a notch by uneven flooring. The dwarf, however, was in his element and proceeded with little difficulty. They'd reached the clearing and he looked on in thought, scratching his beard with a gloved hand. As he scanned the den and listened to the plans of the others he was doing a bit of plotting of his own.
"Those towers, right there," he indicated with a stubby forefinger, moving from the left to the right. "We get to 'em, we won't need to reach the ships. I'll warrant those pots are to the brim wit' enough fire to wreak havoc. Those ballistae'll come in handy for sure. Just need someone on each and we'll be in business."
"That's good but they won't think a storm alone would cause the large fire we need to split them. It requires silent steps, steady blades and absolute madness which I am fine with providing. They won't think I'm alone so you can either hope they don't find you and wait for the moment to strike or do so at the same time I do. But, I mean, that is a plan that would pose a danger to you guys that wouldn't really be much of a danger. And it's not like I can't survive a suicidal plan."
"Those towers, right there, We get to 'em, we won't need to reach the ships. I'll warrant those pots are to the brim wit' enough fire to wreak havoc. Those ballistae'll come in handy for sure. Just need someone on each and we'll be in business."
Ash was more in favour of Berund's suggestion than Jarrett's, but it could be easier still.
I could do it myself.
"You guys do know lightning is like a big spark, right?" he asked, and stretched his hand towards the sky, feeling at the weather. The static in the air made it so that he could feel the magic tingle at his fingertips. "I'm sure I could reach their ships with some lightning-bolts tearing into their sails, which should make them burn. If not... well, their sails will be destroyed. They'll have to try to salvage what they can of the boats. But as I said, it should make it burn. And it'll look like it was because of the storm, because it was. Sort of," he tilted his head slightly, wondering how they'd react.
"It'll take a lot of magic and a lot of concentration, but I could definitely do it," Ash said, confidently. "If I used some of my blood too... yup. There'd be a bit of delay between the two, but that's fine, isn't it? Seems more natural." He looked towards Nola and Kari, since they were the ones he felt was better suited to accept or dismiss his offer.
"Andreaste's tits..." Kari muttered. Jarrett was the closest to getting what she'd suggested, but even he was off the mark. "No..." She said with a sigh. "One of you two, or both of you if you want." She added, waving to Berund and Jarrett. "Sneak over to the ships, start a fire quietly...like it was say an accident...they've got lamps, people get 'clumsy'." She added. In her frustration she was starting to sound like a Chantry sister talking to a none too bright child.
"The goal is to make them think they're not under attack." She added. "While the grunts are busy trying to stop their ships burning, then me and Nola can hit them in the back. That is why I said you should stick to countering the Vint mages." She went on fixing Ash with a stare. "Not wasting your time with the ships. You're our only 'ranged' capability, so you need to keep them busy long enough for us to get close." This is why you're not the leader. She thought to herself, as she fought down the urge to clout the three men upside their heads until they clued it.