"It's over… that's the last of them." Hawke panted in-between rugged deep breaths.
"By the stars, are things always this intense around you?" Kara was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the skirmish, when she had seen the oncoming horde she had not expected the entire party to survive. Fortunately the motley crew was almost unscathed sans a few cuts and bruises. Perhaps she had underestimated her new friends.
"You're a mage!" Fenris rounded on the newcomer. "Why lie to us?!"
"That does seem a little suspicious." Varric backed him up.
Hawke too gave her input. "You know me and Merrill are mages, why try and hide it from us. It's not like we would sell you out to the Templars or anything."
"What? What are you talking about?" Kara asked, caught off guard by the sudden barrage of accusations.
"You shot fire at those bandits with that staff of yours! Don't think you can pull the wool over our eyes so easily!" Fenris snapped.
Shit, how am I supposed to explain technology to these primitive screwheads?
"Oh that, no, no it's not magic!"
"Of course it is, what else could it be?" Fenris continued his verbal offensive before Kara could construct a proper defence. "Your voice when you speak while wearing that helmet, explain that. Is it some kind of deamon speaking through you?"
Kara was silent for a moment in the midst of their storm of accusations and questions. She attempted to speak at several intervals but stopped short of the first few words each time until she finally came up with the only suitable defence.
"Let's just say things are… different where I come from."
"Yes things are quite different here than they are in the Tevinter imperium." Fenris deadpanned.
Kara was growing increasingly tired of this performance. "By the stars, do you ever stop with these accusations?"
Hawke also seemed weary of the interaction. "Look, just be honest with us from now on alright? Most of us are fairly tolerant of character quirks like magic. We'll try not to be too judgmental."
"And you are sure it was one of them?"
"Yes, lady Aveline."
"And he… it… whatever, was with Hawke?"
"Yes captian, it was one of white armoured ones we saw on the night of the massacre. I saw it heading to Darktown with Hawke and three of her regular companions."
"Alright, thank you guardsman. You may take the rest of your shift off."
"Thank you Capitan."
Aveline slowly sat down in her chair as the guardsman left. The sad truth was that she didn't have the evidence to present a viable case against this aggressor. She had only the eye witness accounts of Lowtown peasants who claimed to see the strangers present near the area of the killings. As much as she wanted justice for her guards, she did not have a strong enough case to take action.
"What are you getting yourself into this time, Hawke?" The guard-captain whispered to herself.
You'd think that after growing up an orphan and spending a few years with smugglers I'd be good at a game like this. Kara pondered to herself as she drew a losing hand once again. The winning hand had gone to another member of Hawke's group of close friends, a sultry pirate woman by the name of Isabella. She had made explicitly suggestive comments to Kara and the others throughout the afternoon.
The game they were playing, Wicked Grace was of a similar concept to Sabacc, another card game which was an old favourite of the smuggler crew Kara had once worked for. She didn't have much success with it either. Be it through genuine skill or cheating as some of the crew suspected, the winning hand had almost exclusively gone to Goram, a sleazy middle aged Corelian man who specialized in negotiation.
"So Kara, can you tell us about how mages like yourself are treated where you come from?" A blonde man questioned from across the table. His name was Anders, a disgruntled mage and a victim of a local organisation called "The Templar Order". A faction the group had stressed that Kara be weary of lest she find herself incarcerated in a tower.
"Well first off, I'm not a mage-"
Fenris made a noise somewhere between a cough and a laugh. Kara ignored him and continued.
"-and secondly I'm not even sure if we have mages. We have people who are force sensitive which I guess is a similar concept to magic."
"And how are these force sensitive people treated?"
"It's complicated, and I'm not really an expert on the subject, but I'll do my best to explain." Kara granted. "Before the declaration of a new order about twenty years ago, there was an organisation, more of a cult really, called the Jedi Order."
"Where they something like the Templar Order?" Ander's inquired. "A group that captures and imprisons force sensitive people?"
"Not quite… well maybe from a certain perspective." Kara answered him. "The Jedi Order was itself an organisation of force sensitive beings. They kidnapped force sensitive children to indoctrinate into their ways, and that was the fate of most force sensitive people in those dark days."
"What exactly did the Jedi do?" Hawke questioned this time.
"The children raised by the order were trained up as warriors and keen manipulators." Kara explained. "The Jedi claimed to have the best interests of the average person at heart and they had a very powerful political positon within our government, this allowed them to manipulate the policies and decisions that our flawed government made." The stormtrooper paused and sighed heavily. "I could go on for hours about the atrocities they committed, the shear hypocrisy and lack of care for life was just… astounding."
"So what exactly happened to these Jedi?" Anders asked.
"On the last day of the republic, they staged a coup, attempted to assassinate our democratically elected chancellor and seize power." Kara paused as though she were anxious to continue.
"Well, what happened next?" Varric prompted, eager for the story to continue.
"We slaughtered them all." Kara spoke softly. "The adults, the indoctrinated kids, everyone."
The mood at the table changed tangibly. As though a dark cloud loomed over it and the people seated at it. Some looked down at their hands, as if inspecting them for dirt. Fenris was the only one to maintain eye contact with the storytelling Stormtrooper, his demeanour suggesting reappraisal.
Hawke was the one to break the silence. "But… surely… even the children?"
"You have to understand, the scale of the indoctrination forced on these kids was just…" Kara too was at a loss for words.
"That's horrible." Merrill spoke up.
Kara sighed wearily. This was a touchy subject even in Imperial space. She opted to tell another story to provide her new friends some insight.
"Toward the end of the republic, we were at war with an alliance of separatist powers. The old government had no standing military and it looked as though they would be completely overrun. A plan was devised by the Jedi to create a force that could rival that of the separatist alliance, they were able to raise an army of clones, exact copies of a proven warrior. These clone troopers were forced to fight for the republic under the leadership of Jedi Knights and masters. The Jedi were careless commanders, they used these clones as cannon fodder, so many of them died fighting for a society that they would not even be permitted to take part in. When clones decided they did not want to fight and attempted desertion, the Jedi generals would order their own brothers to execute them."
Kara paused to make sure what she said had sunk in. "That… is only a minor example of the evil that the Jedi were capable of." She decided to omit the part about the Jedi who was the reason for her being here in the first place, perhaps when she had a bit more to drink. For all she knew the man was still skulking about somewhere, but she doubted it. Had the inquisitor failed or been killed the naval brass was liable to glass the entire world to make sure the jedi was well and truly dead.
An uneasy silence yet again descended on the assembled group. This time Fenris was the one to break it.
"In the unlikely event that this story you are telling us is true… then I can see why your people did what they did. These Jedi sound a lot like the magisters of Tevinter."
Kara allowed the ghost of a smile to touch her lips. She was relieved at this sign of the resentful elf warming up to her.
"How are ma- sorry, force sensitive people treated nowadays in your Empire then?" Hawke asked.
"I never really looked into the topic really, I don't think they were treated that different from the rest of society. From what I know they are given special education to teach them how to control their gift without hurting anyone. The ones who excel tend to find themselves working for some kind of government agency." Kara answered her.
"That sounds surprisingly reasonable." Anders chimed in again.
"After what they did it's damn near benevolent." Fenris grumbled distastefully.
"What about home then, Kara? Tell us a bit about where you grew up." Varric queried.
Kara by this point was getting tired of the probing, she was not a fan of the latest question in particular. "Why not ask me that again after I've had something to drink."