Some potentially required listening/reading, as to make sense of a reference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq8ZcIfLDUo
The cabinet creaked as she closed the door, the final dish of the evening finding its resting place until the time came for it to be used again. Her eyes scanned the room as she took a moment to admire her work. It had taken plenty of time, the sun was setting by now, but the kitchen was nothing short of spotless. Or rather, as spotless as aging wood could get. The moment she allowed herself some small amount of pride did not get to last for very long, though, as there were still the final chores of the day to be done.
The blaze in the fireplace needed fed once again, as it often did on such cold days, the kind that turned into much colder evenings. There were still windows and a door to bar. It was only after that was done that she could take a moment to relax, prior to turning in. Years ago she would have been able to make it deep into the evening and early morning of the next day, but that time had passed, with a more modest age having taken its place. She was surprised her husband still managed to get around as well as he did, considering his younger years had been spent with more punishing tasks.
His absences, in this case he was away trading and bartering at the town down the hill for the coming days, always seemed to prompt her finding some way to keep herself busy for the day. One time she had managed to straight and dust each and every piece of furniture, while on others she had taken to tending to the hides her forgetful husband had left behind. Anything that could keep her occupied and her thoughts away from just how empty the house was anymore.
Sparks jumped from the fire as she tossed in another log, prodding it with the nearby metal poker. She examined the pile to insure that there was enough to last through the evening, and decided that it would suffice. In the chance that her supply ran low, she was more than certain there were enough blankets around the house to keep herself warm through the early cold hours, rather than having to trek out in the dark in search of soggy, snow covered logs.
The thought made her shudder. She was constantly reminded that in fact, it would not be dark, as there was always the light of whatever unholy hole had been torn in the sky weeks ago. For some it would have been an excellent reason to relocate but, whether from her stubbornness or her husband’s, they had remained firmly in place, without so much as a conversation regarding the topic. That didn’t stop the fact that there was not some terrifying presence in the sky now that had left a constant feeling of discomfort.
Aside from the window she had been tossing a few pieces of rotting fruit out of, the others had remained shut for the day. The front door was a matter of tightening the deadbolt, and putting the wooden plank in its place. A grunt escaped her as she hoisted the heavy plank into position, brushing the dirt off her hands on her apron when the deed was done.
She muttered a mild curse under her breath, bringing her fist up to pound against the door yet again. “For the love of the Maker, open this cursed door!” The temptation of attempt to open it was more than present, though something told her that such a thing would only be met with failure. A shiver ran through her body. She was growing tired of these cursed mountains, and their cursed cold.
Raising her voice, she attempted to imitate something resembling a Ferelden accent, “Please open the door. I mean you know harm, and am simply looking for a warm place to reside for the evening!” Despite having spent years at a time in Denerim, she was far from convincing. An actor she was not. When there was yet again no response, she raised her voice even further, “I know you are in there!”
Behind the wood she heard a quiet grunt, followed by the sound of metal moving against wood. The door opened just wide enough for the person inside to peer out into the night. The shivering woman offered her politest smile, Orlesian accent obvious as she spoke, “Good evening, madam. I am Gillian Simonette, and if you would allow me into your home, I would be most gracious.”
The older woman inside visibly gulped, eyes wide but stance firm as she opened the door further to allow the Orlesian in. She stared as the armored woman entered, immediately going for the fire, rubbing her hands together over it in an attempt to regain feeling in them, the armor she wore clinking as she went. A hood hid much of her head, and a sword was sheathed on her belt, and a shield rested on her back, which bore the mark of the Chantry.
Gillian kneeled, huddling close as she could come to the fire, wincing at the ache in her hands as the feeling returned to them. She looked over her shoulder, offering a polite smile, “I thank you for this.” The older woman nodded, returning to her chair, fingers wrapping around its arms. Once she no longer felt as though pieces of her were at risk of falling off, Gillian stood, taking the second chair near the fire, turning it to where she could look to the woman as she spoke to her, “I did not get your name.”
The woman bit her tongue for a moment, picking her words with care. “Emily Carol,” she said, opting for the truth. She released one of the chair’s arms, pointing towards her guest’s shield, “I do not think that is the average shield for a Templar.”
Gillian chuckled, nodding her head in agreement, “I would assume that it is not the average shield of a Templar, but I am no Templar.” Her host’s brow rose, causing her to laugh yet again, “I’ve heard of the Chantry having more than Templar as their guard, especially those who are settled so firmly in territory where those old protectors have skirmishes now. But I am not among them either. I am of the faithful, but I travel of my own accord.”
Emily frowned, nodding idly as she looked back to the fire, “You don’t say.”
The wanderer tilted her head to the side somewhat. She blinked as she realized she had kept her hood up, taking a moment to bring it down, revealing blonde, crop cut hair. Coughing into her hand, she spoke with more care, “Would it matter if I were among the Templar’s ranks?”
The older woman blinked, looking back to her guest. She slowly eyed her over, “I honestly do not know.”
“I could understand how they could,” Gillian said, frowning, “They have stirred up a fair share of terrible events as of late.” Catching the woman frown, she added, “Not that the mages can be spared such an accusation either.”
“I know,” Emily said, shaking her head.
“Have any of them troubled you? Perhaps there is something to be done about such, before I continue on my way,” Gillian said. “It’s the least I could do for keeping me from becoming a frozen corpse.”
Emily took her turn to laugh, though it was quiet and dark. After a time she nodded, “There are two who trouble me. They trouble me constantly, this mage and this Templar. Any time I so much as think of them I am troubled.”
Gillian nodded in earnest, “And what do they do? Or have they done, I suppose?
“Left home,” Emily said flatly, in something resembling a croak. She pointed towards the mantle above the fireplace, where sat an older painting. Gillian couldn’t help but note that the picture’s creator would have paled at the sight of something from across the mountains, before looking to the painting’s contents.
“Roland was sent off when he was young,” she muttered, “We didn’t want to have hide and worry him. For his safety and ours, perhaps. At some point, and I cannot even begin to dwell on when or why, Lenora decided that she was meant for the Templar Order.”
“Do they still,” Gillian started before pausing, biting her tongue before she continued the question.
“I do not know,” Emily said.They sat in silence for a few minutes, before the home’s owner stood, heading off into another room, which Gillian could only assume was the bedroom.
Gillian awoke to the smell of something cooking. For a moment, she kept her eyes shut, hoping once again that when she opened them she would not be in some strangers home, but instead that lovely Orlesian villa she had known for so long. Such had not been the case for working on a year, and was unlikely to change any time soon.
Upon opening her eyes she was greeted with the same wooden home from the night before, along with its still crackling fireplace. She stood, making her way towards the scent of food, finding the woman from yesterday standing in front of an older stove, the table behind her partially set. Emily glanced over her shoulder at the sound of footsteps, offering her guest a small nod. Turning back to her work, she said “I assumed you would want something to eat before you left.”
Gillian blinked, taking a seat, “I would not have asked, though I certainly will not say no.”
The woman snorted, which was probably the liveliest reaction Gillian had yet gotten out of her, “Oh come now. As though you wouldn’t be starving.” She turned, placing a plate of meat in front of the younger woman, “So long as you like wolf, this should solve that problem.”
Swallowing as her mouth watered, Gillian nodded, fetching a knife and fork from one side of the table, cutting into one piece of meat and taking a bite of it. She and chewed and swallowed the piece so fast that she barely had tasted the flavor before taking in another piece, and another. Her focus was so firm on the food that she neglected to note Emily, watching her ever so closely. When she finally noticed, Gillian swallowed, “Yes?”
“What are you doing out among us mountain folk?” Emily said, whatever disinterest she had carried with her the night before having vanished with the moon.
Gillian blinked, before pointing in the direction she recalled as northwest, “I’m making my way up to Haven.” She continued working at the meat in front of her as it vanished piece by piece, until nothing was left.
Emily shook her head, “And why would you be daft enough to do that.” If it had been meant as a question, Gillian struggled to tell.
Pushing her plate forward and taking up a napkin, Gillian dabbed her lips, “Because that is where I must go. That is where many should go.”
The older woman laughed, slapping a hand against the table, “If you enjoy the thought of a hole in the sky, and who knows how many demons, then yes. As I’ve heard, there is little left near Haven, and I would expect less to be left if you make it.”
Gillian gave a broad smile, shaking her head. She spoke as a child might of one they idolized, “The Inquisition is there. And if I am lucky, and make haste, I shall be able to get there before they have completed their work with the Breach.”
Emily blinked, squinting, “And what in the Maker’s name is this ‘Inquisition’?’
Her guest leaned forward, as though to share gossip, “It is said that they seek to close the Breach, and mend this conflict, and restore the faithful’s trust, and that they are led by one who walked from the Breach itself. One who was saved by Andraste herself, and who heralds her cause now.”
Emily’s face darkened at the words, “Perhaps they also have walked amongst the Maker, and have word from him that no other has heard. Or perhaps they’ve some old scripture with which they seek to enlighten the masses. Anything to put impressionable people on a pilgrimage into the mountains.”
Gillian frowned, standing, “I am afraid that, though such could be the case, I cannot believe it.” She bowed to her host, “I do hope that things become better for you in these darker times, though, and that they may be brightened.”
“Because someone has told you this, or because you honestly believe such?”
The wanderer smiled, “Because I believe such. I am of the faithful, as I have said prior. Though trying times, I cannot let that tear at my faith. We are taught that such will improve.” She pointed towards the ceiling as she backed towards the door, “Look towards the sky, misses Carol. The dawn is coming, and I am of the firm belief that the Inquisition shall be those who bring it.”
With that, she turned and exited the house. As she turned right, continuing up the road, Emily bowed her head, muttering “Maker, keep that girl alive. She’s just the type of person you want talking in your favor.”