Gale had never been inside a castle before. In Gransys, the only place up until now he could've called "home," Gale's people weren't allowed on castle grounds. And as for Gale's true world of origin, there were no castles to speak of, or at least none that he'd ever seen. But he and Marnie had learned, time and time again, there were still things and worlds beyond they had yet to see or comprehend. That's why they were here in Orlais.

After vanquishing the cult dedicated to the dragon that took Marnie's heart, Marnie and Gale—her constant companion—used their wealth and status to escape their country temporarily in favor of lands abroad. Ferelden and Orlais, specifically. 'Twas trouble brewing, Marnie had said, and she'd grown well into an attitude of seeking out that sort of thing eventually.

Marnie enjoyed the empress' ball in her own way. Socially engaging was only so possible to someone out of the loop of the current affairs of the court, but she had an appetite for fashion and fine foods that made the night bearable. Gale went as her escort, acting as her shadow and support as the metaphorical hornet's nest of nobles exposed them with every gaze. Even as wallflowers, they were out of their element. They were the finest warriors in Gransys, yet here at the ball, they were little more than eyesores.

Aristocrats from all over Orlais gathered and mingled. In truth, even if Marnie hadn't been too simple-minded for political affairs, she probably wouldn't care who these people were. Gransys was isolated from Thedas, politically disengaged save for instating peace treaties, and impossible to conquer due to the monsters there. It was a wonder how the people of Gransys even survived, but the land was undesirable enough that even the Qunari took the excuse to leave them be. Some thought the claims to be no more than campfire stories, but Gale and Marnie would soon be living proof that there was nothing truer than the eternal horror of their ugly, beloved country.

Most people pretended it wasn't even there. Yet despite how the Orlesians sneered, Marnie couldn't have been more proud.

"Those masks the Orlesians wear cover their faces," Gale noted, talkative yet unremarkable in his observations as he usually was.

"Yes," Marnie nodded. "'Tis a custom here."

"I can hardly make out their expression. And you humans make so many of them."

"Yes, I believe that's the point," Marnie said.

The pair were stood against the wall, waiting and watching for what would happen.


Inquisitor Maxwell Trevelyan started the morning by summoning a war council. His three advisers had finished various tasks and now waited to give their reports. Trevelyan decided to hear those reports and set them to work again before heading out for the next Inquisition expedition. Things hadn't been easy since losing Haven, but their new fortress was finally shaping up as a reputable headquarters for their operations against Corypheus.

"Marquis DuRellion was more than pleased with our efforts," Josephine recounted the results of making a memorial for Haven. "And here, it seemed to give our people some closure after the event."

"I'm glad for that much," Trevelyan nodded, then shifted his gaze to Cullen. "And what of the scouting mission in the Western Approach?"

Cullen glanced over Knight-Captain Rylen's report. "Well, it's barely livable, but they've set up a camp and are ready for your expedition, Inquisitor. However, there's one more thing before you head out..."

"Yes?" Trevelyan prompted.

"They met a traveler along the way—a knight from overseas. The traveler claimed to be from Gransys, left here of her own volition after completing a trade route to Val Royeaux. Sounded like she was interested in joining our cause."

"Gransys?" Josephine gave Cullen an incredulous look.

"She had the look," Cullen shrugged. "The armor, the banner, the accent."

"There was a trade vessel docked in Val Royeaux not long ago," Leliana recalled. "I made note of it, but didn't think it would be relevant to us."

"Wait," Trevelyan cautioned. "Where's this, again? I don't remember anywhere called Gransys on any maps of Thedas."

"That's because it's not," Josephine was the first to explain. "Gransys is the closest country in Akadoria, a continent across the sea. One port runs a trade route to Thedas on occasion, but their country and the waters around it are allegedly too dangerous to make regular excursions. People rarely come in or out of the country, so it's all but closed. I'm surprised anyone's made contact after so long. The last successful voyage to the mainland must've been fifteen years ago, at least."

Trevelyan looked down at the map. He did see a straight of water that ran from the sea into Orlais, as well as several ports used by trade vessels. If the traveler had a horse, she could've reached the Western Approach in a week or two.

"About the traveler," Trevelyan looked at Cullen again. "You said she was interested. Is she on her way here?"

"No," Cullen shook his head. "She had business in the Western Approach, but if you find her while you're out there, you might have a word with her."

"Business in the Western Approach?" Trevelyan's eyebrows drew together. He turned to Leliana. "What else did your people see of the Gransian party?"

"The ship stayed for a few days, then left," Leliana replied. "It would take months, if not years, before they returned to the mainland. They wouldn't leave anyone behind unintentionally."

"I hope you're not suggesting what I think you are," Trevelyan said.

"I doubt they're spies," Josephine interjected diplomatically. "The Duke of Gransys has always been politically disengaged with Thedas."

"If they managed to get here this time, amid all the chaos, there's a possibility he's looking to start engaging," Leliana argued gently. "The vessel may've set out before the Breach ever opened. But we can never be too cautious with things as they are. We should connect with the traveler, if we can."

"I'll keep that in mind when I question the traveler," Trevelyan straightened. "Thank you all for your insight."


The Western Approach was miserable in any and every sense of the word. For company, the Inquisitor had brought Varric, the Iron Bull, and Dorian. Trevelyan would've liked to bring Cole or Solas along to get a more familiar feel for the lay of the land, but the two of them were currently away on a mission to the Hinterlands researching some curious artifacts and structures the Inquisition had found there.

This was by far the most barren place Trevelyan had ever trekked. The dunes of sand were high, hot, and they scattered in the wind. Outcroppings of weathered rock and sandstone gave the desert character, and occasional, blessed shade. There were fewer gullies here than in the Forbidden Oasis, and, for a more important matter, much less water. They made sure they were well-stocked at the camp before setting off.

Scout Harding had no positive things to say about this place. Unpleasant weather, bandits on the prowl, a dragon, sand. She called it hell on earth, and right from the start, Trevelyan only agreed with her.

"What of the immigrant?" Trevelyan asked before they set out. "Cullen's men said they encountered someone from Gransys that had business here."

"There is a traveler like that skulking about," Harding said, but she said it so kindly. "I couldn't tell you what she's doing out here, though. She comes by every day or so, always making sure we've got ample supplies and water. The Gransians call their mounts elk, but I've never seen an elk like that before. Its coat is so red it nearly blends in with the sand."

"I see," Trevelyan nodded. "Thank you for your report. Any idea where they might be now?"

"Check the north side?" she suggested. "We'll hold them up here for you if they come back."

"Thanks again."

"Anytime, Inquisitor."

The party traveled north-east of the camp, following paths for the most part and recording landmarks as they went. When Dorian spotted a small creek (thankfully real this time), they followed it upstream. Trails of hart-like hoof prints came and went in the sand along the water, so Trevelyan took that as an indication that they were going in the right direction.

The flat sand around the creek became hard rock that rose above the level of the creek into a steep gully. The occasional brush dried up, and once the Inquisitor's party stood at the peak of the gully's brim, they could look upon a modest but obviously well-kept campsite. A fire pit and cooking spit, one tent, and a couple canvas barrels holding supplies were arranged in a loose circle. Among that, seven people, armed and dressed in random pieces of armor, ransacked the campsite in a rushed and careless manner.

"It doesn't look like they're supposed to be there," Dorian said.

"Bandits, most likely," Varric added. "Looks like they're raiding the camp."

"What gave them away?" Iron Bull asked. "The ransacking or the sneaking?"

"I don't think they'd all sleep in one tent," Dorian replied.

"Well, not with that attitude they won't—"

An arrow suddenly darted through the campsite from the opposite side, knocking off the barrels that one of the bandits was searching. The bandits began to scatter and yell.

"Let's go!" Trevelyan ordered, before they could get away.

Trevelyan and Iron Bull drew their weapons, moving down into the valley, whilst Varric and Dorian stood well out of the way of the battle to cover them.

Amidst the clamor of metal and whistle of arrows, the Inquisitor could feel the thunder of approaching hooves. Glancing away from battle for only a moment allowed him to catch a glimpse of a thin-legged but stocky elk with a coat as red as the sand they were walking on. The elk and its rider circled the site, loosing aimless arrows into the fray but distracting the bandits more than anything. Then the Inquisitor felt the uprising energy of unfamiliar magic surround them before the field was engulfed in flames.

Bright as they were, the fire was no hotter than a lukewarm cup of water, and Trevelyan knew what burning felt like. This was friendly fire, and not intended to harm them. Trevelyan ordered the others to disengage and get away from the assault all the same, and once back a significant distance, Trevelyan saw that whoever cast the spell had conjured a circuit of flame, and the bandits were soon reduced to ash.

"Dorian, did you—"

But Dorian looked just as confused as the rest of them. The four of them braced again when the elk approached them at a much more relaxed pace. Another person had joined the rider, trotting alongside the elk, and now that they were getting close, Trevelyan got a good look at them.

The elk didn't have antlers that spread into a crown with several points; instead, its antlers were more like horns pointed up and back from its skull. The saddle on its back was no more than a woven blanket with a strap under the belly. The elk stuttered to a stop and shook its head as the rider lowered a hand to pull the other person up onto the elk's back.

The first rider was rather androgynous, with short dark hair, olive skin, and short but rather built stature. She was clad in a set of red leather armor of an obviously foreign manufacture under a dark cloak. The other person was taller, but thin as could be, pale, with hair only one shade lighter than the woman's and a severe expression as he appraised the strangers. Judging by his robes and staff, he was a mage. Trevelyan hadn't expected there to be two of them, let alone one mage.

"Is everyone alright?" the woman asked. Her voice was medium with an eloquent Gransian accent.

"Yes," Trevelyan spoke for the group. "And to your credit, you two may have had something to do with that."

The woman, oddly enough, looked sheepish. "I'm sorry. We've tried keeping the area clear, but bandits tend to loot our site when we're away."

"It happens. So, you're the Gransian immigrants, I take it?"

When she replied, her voice was lower, though not unfriendly. Just cautious and assertive.

"'Twould depend on who's asking."

"We're with the Inquisition," Trevelyan introduced. "A group of our forces said you might be interested in joining."

"Oh, for truth?!" she threw her leg over the elk's shoulders and slid down. "Well... Yes. Should you have us."

Trevelyan considered her, and once more the young man on the elk. She looked much shorter on the ground—maybe a head shorter than Trevelyan, at least.

"I wasn't aware there was more than one of you," Trevelyan admitted, glancing at the young man on the elk who diverted his gaze to his companion.

"This is my brother, Gale," the woman introduced, but she stood in front of him as if to shield him. "He's a healer, primarily, and he is well-disciplined. My name is Marnie Courbet. I use daggers, predominantly."

"He can do more than heal, that's for sure," Trevelyan grinned, trying to put her at ease.

"Yes. 'Tis good should he ever need defend himself. But he kept you four intact."

"I'm guessing you're the primary offense of this operation?"

"Yes. I get in the way, and Gale watches my back. We rarely are in larger groups, but I'm sure he'll adapt."

She only ever talked about him. Defensively, Trevelyan noted, and she couldn't be blamed. Were mages treated differently overseas?

"What exactly can you two contribute?"

"Bodies for work and battle both," Marnie replied. "I grew up in a fishing village afore taking up bow and blade. We have experience in scouting missions, collecting resources, culling the unwanted, from bandit to monster. And you've seen a bit of our work in combat yet. As long as it's not rubbing elbows with nobility, we're both apt."

"Not very politically engaged, are you?"


Trevelyan continued. "So either of you can join me in the field?"

"Either of us," Marnie confirmed. "But I prefer we stay together. I'll be fully responsible for him; if you need me and let him tag along, I'll make sure he pulls his own weight, I assure you."

"Two heads are better," Trevelyan agreed. That about settled it for him. There was only one other thing... "What do you have to say about it? Gale, was it?"

Trevelyan gently addressed the mage on the elk, who hadn't so much as audibly breathed during the conversation. Gale blinked and startled a little bit, like he hadn't been fully there until he was spoken to. He looked shyly at Marnie, unsure what to do. She narrowed her eyes momentarily, a subtlety that the others definitely caught.

"I... Yes. Whatever Marnie prefers." His voice was higher, with a more eloquent accent than Marnie. The difference was akin to one with a formal education next to one who never left their hometown. Were they truly related by blood?

"Well, then, that settles it," Trevelyan concluded. "Welcome to the Inquisition."

The anchor in his hand throbbed once, very slowly. He thought nothing of it. Perhaps the Veil was particularly thin here.


Night set quickly after that, and Marnie offered her campsite to the others. Rather than hike back to the Inquisition outpost in the dark, the Inquisitor accepted. The four of them set up their tents beside the one Marnie and Gale shared. The campsite was modest, but serviceable. Aside from the fire pit, they also had a jug of water Gale had filled from the creek.

They decided they'd stay the night and return to Skyhold in the morning. After a light meal around the campfire, Trevelyan turned in, intent on getting at least a little rest before taking first watch when the others went to bed. Iron Bull turned in as well, whilst Dorian went to the creek to clean up before bed. Only Varric, Gale, and Marnie remained by the fire. Gale lied down on his side and put his head in Marnie's lap, and she put up with it. She let her fingers find his hair and pick at the tangles in his locks as she stared at the dirt and listened to the unfamiliar whisper of wind over the dunes around them.

Varric watched the two in the silence for a moment. They seemed pretty comfortable out here all by themselves. They'd be a valuable addition to the Inquisition. On the other hand, their closeness bordered on clinging, Varric could already tell. Maybe they stayed unnaturally close to each other out of a natural trepidation of visiting a new, dangerous country. And if that were the case, the only way around that was trust. And Varric had a knack for maintaining morale.

"That's a nice elk," Varric glanced at the steed tethered by the camp. Marnie raised her head, her expression still vague with a hint of welcoming confusion. "I've never seen one like that around here before. Did you buy him when you landed?"

"We actually brought her from Gransys."

"Seriously?" Varric sounded incredulous.

"Yes. 'Twas hard getting her here in one piece, but I'm glad we did."

"Do they all ride those in Gransys? Or just the Duke's elite?"

"Mounts aren't common in Gransys," Marnie replied. "It took ages before they were able to breed one that could keep itself alive in the wilds. Now that monsters are moving back down from the mountains again, they're all but gone. Same as the people, I suppose. I couldn't let her suffer the same fate, not if we would be gone so long."

"So even Gransys is overrun with shit," Varric noted. "Good to know."

Marnie narrowed her eyes as Varric poked the fire indifferently.

"Coming to Orlais didn't turn out to be the vacation you had in mind, did it?" he guessed. "Not like you'd have the easiest time coming here with a mage in tow, besides."

Marnie didn't say anything, just fixated him with a wry smirk. Varric relented considerably after that. He didn't want to get off on the wrong foot.

"Don't worry, I was just making conversation," he leaned back with a placating grin. "I'm only interested because, well, I'm an author. And it's an interesting story. Mysterious adventurers from an all-but-forgotten land, riding a red elk, bearing fine armor and skills from battles left only to the imagination?"

Marnie grinned and rolled her eyes. "Yes, 'tis nothing more attractive than a man who says he's an author."

Gale spoke up from her lap. "Marnie, we've read some of his books. Swords and Shields, Chapter four—"

Marnie clasped a hand over his mouth, and Gale looked thoroughly annoyed at her. Varric would've laughed, had it not been that book.

"Uh," he managed to chuckle. "Any particular reason for reading that one?"

Marnie shrugged and refused to look at him. Was she blushing? "'Twas lovely. All books are."

A new voice joined them as Dorian stepped back into camp.

"I'll need to get you more refined tastes, then," he sighed, heading to his tent. "I'm turning in for the night, so if you need me, don't."

Varric chuckled. "Don't mind him. He's just moody because we had to camp out."

Marnie gave him a look, but she seemed a lot more relaxed now. Varric decided to quit while he was ahead.

"I think I'll turn in too," he said, standing up from his place by the fire and heading into his tent. "The Inquisitor said he'll take first watch, whenever you're ready."

"Alright," Marnie nodded. "I think I'll sit up for a little while."

Once the flaps of his tent were closed behind him and Marnie and Gale were left alone once more by the fireplace, she visibly relaxed. Gale sat upright and rolled his shoulders, staring at the flames indifferently.

"Ought we both rest a while?" Gale murmured.

Marnie nodded and glanced at the red blotch on his cheek from where he'd been laying against her.

Marnie had to turn in eventually, so she'd sooner get it over with. She timidly woke Trevelyan and turned in with Gale. It was a tight fit with both of them in the one tent; perhaps it was a far stretch on Marnie's part to claim they actually shared it. But they managed. Marnie settled into the single bedroll. Gale, on the other hand, sat in the corner and drew his knees to his chest.

I should be keeping watch.

Marnie heard Gale's voice clear as day, though she knew he hadn't spoken the words out loud. She opened her eyes and as she'd predicted, his lips didn't so much as twitch. They were speaking to each other in their own minds now.

You can keep watch in here, Marnie replied, silent as well. Your people have exceptional hearing, right?

Among other things, Gale nodded. As you wish.


The trip back to Skyhold was a long one, but the journey was made pleasantly bearable with two new recruits to question and pester.

"So, Marnie, was it?" Dorian started.

"Yes?" she looked at him from her place on the elk's back. She and Gale rode double on the elk, and it was an easy feat given how Gale was probably lighter than their luggage soaking wet.

"Courbet's an Orlesian name, isn't it?" Dorian pressed.

"... And?" her tone was less polite this time.

"It's just something I noticed is all," Dorian replied. "With things as they are, I thought you'd have a more Gransian surname like..."


"Seriously?" Dorian raised his eyebrows. He regretted it a moment later as he realized she was entirely sincere.

"Orlais runs a trade route to Gransys," Varric recalled. "Maybe your parents heard a few names they liked."

"My father's Orlesian, actually," Marnie said. "He captained that trade vessel to our port. 'Tis where the rest of my family's from."

"Cassardis," Gale spoke up from behind her, still gazing at the ground in a disinterested fashion. "Where shore and sky and water meet. A keystone of worlds."

Marnie put one hand over his and tilted her head a little. "You alright? You've been quiet today."

Gale inhaled sharply and straightened, surprised he'd caused her worry. "I'm fine."

"Besides," Marnie returned her attention to the others. "The Brine's been more and more lively over the last score years. Now foreign trades are so few and far between that there's no point to them."

"The Brine?" Iron Bull asked.

"Monsters in the water," Marnie explained. "All you see is red in the water, and then it takes you. 'Twill consume vessels and people alike, anywhere the water's too deep to stand."

"That's... creepy," Iron Bull finally found a satisfactory word.

Gale looked at him for the first time, and Iron Bull took him in. The boy was pale and vaguely sullen, but there was a cheerfulness in his expression. Aloofness and... self-assuredness. He couldn't have been much younger than Marnie, but his features told otherwise. And his eyes were a shape and shade of green eerily similar, if not identical, to Marnie's. It gave him a vaguely fox-faced look. Otherwise, they looked little alike.

"'Tis the least of our worries," his voice was impeccably eloquent, words woven like a fine silk. He was obviously well-read for his upbringing. "At least one can avoid the Brine."

Trevelyan sighed. "So Gransys is overrun with monsters too, huh?"

"We're better off than we could be," Marnie replied diplomatically.

"So, Gale, what was your upbringing like, with the magic and everything?" Dorian asked.

"Er..." Gale blinked, then looked at Marnie for help. Dorian chuckled awkwardly, but took it in his stride. Gale pressed his face against Marnie's shoulder.

"Forgive him," Marnie apologized. "He's unused to strangers."

"I didn't mean to frighten him," Dorian said. "I only wished to compliment his work. He's young to be so magically apt."

Gale chuckled exactly as Dorian had. Marnie elbowed him sternly.

Gale straightened and looked at Dorian. "What do you mean? You're a mage, aren't you?"

"Yes," Dorian preened, glad to talk about himself. "Although I grew up in Tevinter. Those with magical talents are bred and groomed into power. Unlike in the lands to the south, where mages are kept in prisons and controlled until they come of age. Even then, they're treated like criminals."

Marnie and Gale didn't say anything. They both looked bewildered at the thought.

"That isn't how things are in Gransys, then?" Dorian prompted gently.

"No..." Gale spoke. "Magical talent is rare, but considering how few people there are in Gransys, it may be proportional. They're trained by members of the Faith, or they're self-taught. Marnie's cousin Quina is currently in training, but she's the only other mage I know of."

"Marnie's cousin?" Iron Bull asked.

"Our cousin?" Gale mimicked his tone. "Maker."

Marnie laughed. "Coming here was a shock in that regard. There's so many people here as well. 'Tis overwhelming."

"You'll be fine," Varric reassured her. "You're with the Inquisition now. Most people won't bother us, and those that do usually have another thing coming to them. If either of you have any problems, just go to the Inquisition's diplomatic adviser."

"I appreciate that, and I'll keep it in mind."

"If you don't mind me asking," Iron Bull interjected. "What brings you two to Thedas? Let alone to the ass-end of nowhere like this?"

"I wanted to see Orlais again," Marnie replied. "And when we heard what happened to the hole in the sky, we figured we'd stick around to see if we could help."

"And you left the luxury of Val Royeaux because...?"

"Oh, we were looking for sand."


"Mm-hmm," Marnie nodded.


The days it took to return to Skyhold carried on like that. Mostly silent with a surprising amount of riveting conversation. The party arrived late in the evening on the third day, and Marnie and Gale weren't seen again after they turned into a room in the residential dormitories of the castle. The Inquisitor assured them the arrangement was temporary until they restored more of the castle, but Marnie assured them they could share one room as long as necessary. Actually, any offers of bringing in another bed, regardless of the trouble or lack thereof, were promptly but politely dismissed.

The castle alone was big enough to leave anyone confused from time to time, and most of it was open for anyone to come and go as they pleased. It was nothing like the strictly-kept Duke's castle in Gransys; there, she was only allowed in the main hall or the chamberlain's office to collect bounties and receive orders. Now, she was glad Gale could follow close behind her to ensure she was never lost.

"Have you explored the hold any?" Marnie asked as she dressed herself that morning. Gale watched her from a chair beside the bed.

"I went for a walk last night," Gale replied. "Parts of the castle are still in disrepair; someone told me the Inquisition arrived with it in shambles only a couple months ago. However, there are serviceable paths to every part of the fort. The stables, the tavern, and armory..."

"Oh," Marnie nodded, lacing up her boots. She felt almost naked without her full set of armor on, so she donned her leather jacket mostly for comfort and straightened. "Ought we get some breakfast?"

"Sure," Gale nodded and stood. "And... I already ate."

"Good," Marnie nodded and lead the way out of the room.

One door of the residential wing opened to the outside, where Marnie found the near-empty tavern. A few people drank or socialized, but most people in Skyhold were too busy to sit and drink. It seemed Marnie was far behind schedule if she wished to rise, dine, and leave the tavern the same time as everyone else.

"'Tis more lively earlier and at night, I suppose," Gale spoke up, taking in the room. He recognized one of the Inquisitor's companions—the Iron Bull—sitting and talking with a man in the corner, but that was all he really noticed. "The bartender would be a source of gossip, if you're interested."

"Maybe you can listen in later?" Marnie suggested, passing through the tavern with no more than a curt nod here or there as people looked at her. Gale didn't follow her example, instead watching only Marnie.

After grabbing a quick bite to eat, Marnie headed out of the tavern again. Just outside the tavern, Marnie was glad to recognize Scout Harding standing by.

"Hey," Harding waved at them. "Glad to see he took you in. The Inquisitor, I mean."

"How are you, Harding?" Marnie smiled amicably. "'Tis good to see a familiar face."

"Of course," Harding couldn't help but grin again at her old-fashioned way of speaking. "We're just taking a break to restock before heading out again. Are you two settling in alright?"

She glanced at Gale, but though he looked at her, he made no move to speak.

"'Tis a little overwhelming," Marnie admitted. "But we'll adapt, in time."

"I'm sure you will. If you can survive three weeks in the Western Approach, Skyhold should prove no challenge. Is there anything I could help you find?"

"The stables?" Marnie asked rather sheepishly. "I was also wondering if there was a merchant in the hold. Also, is there somewhere specific we could go to find work?"

"The stables are just that way against the far wall," Harding pointed. "The merchant is just across from it. As for work, well, you could ask around. There's always something that needs doing, and I know you two like to keep busy. I recommend speaking to our requisitions overseer or the infirmary on the other side of the tavern. They're always in need of extra hands and supplies."

"My thanks," Marnie smiled gratefully.


Marnie and Gale made an anti-clockwise round about the grounds, going from the tavern down to the yard and across to the merchant Harding mentioned. After exchanging a few questions about commissioning materials or supplies, Marnie left it at that. At the stables, Marnie leaned into the stall where her elk was being kept and gave him a cursory look-over. He seemed in good health and completely content with his new surroundings and stablemates. A man sat in the corner, whittling away on a block of wood. He barely so much as glanced at them. Gale leaned down to whisper at Marnie.

"That's another one of the Inquisitor's companions," he whispered. "Blackwall. He's the only Gray Warden they've found here."

"And a Gray Warden? What's that?"

Though her voice was equally low, they drew attention. Blackwall paused and glanced over his shoulder at them. He and Marnie held each other's eyes for a long moment before Blackwall shifted his look to the boy, who was still murmuring to Marnie and acting like he didn't see Blackwall there at all. Odd behavior, from both of them. Maybe they didn't want to be a bother. After Blackwall turned back to his carving, Marnie trotted out of the stable.

Marnie led the way across the yard to the kitchens. Gale faltered behind her to look about.

"Ah, their well," he noted, pausing by said well for only a moment.

The kitchen always seemed busy, but the morning rush had already passed, thankfully. One of the girls saw them standing in the doorway and quit sweeping the floor.

"Did you two miss breakfast?" she asked, obviously a little rushed as it was.

"No, just wondering where everything is," Marnie dismissed. She'd hate to trouble her over nothing. "Is there anything we could do to help?"

The girl set the broom against the table and took a small crate from the counter.

"Take these rations to the infirmary," she said, handing them to Marnie. "They're for patients and healers alike. Some of them rarely get out to make meals, so we just send them over after the rush."

"We'll see it done," Marnie nodded and headed back out the door to the yard.

The crate's weight was nothing to scoff at, but Marnie easily carried it across the yard and up the stairs to the infirmary behind the tavern. The smell of hot herbs and festering wounds greeted Marnie just outside the door. Nothing out of the ordinary, of course; this was a healer's ward, a sanctuary for the injured and sick, but it still surprised Marnie how many people there were.

An elf left his post by a patient's bedside to collect the crate from her.

"Thank you," he whispered, back hunched from the weight of the crate as he shifted it to a nearby table and started laying out the contents for distribution. Marnie couldn't help but stare around the room, evaluating each of the maybe thirty or forty injured.

"This would've been my entire village," she murmured, more to herself. The elf heard her, though, and explained willingly.

"One of our forces came back, nearly all injured. We lost one or two, but at least none were taken prisoner."

"No sickness?" Marnie narrowed her eyes.

"Not more than usual," the young man blinked. He didn't understand what Marnie was asking this for.

"Are your healers mages?"

"We do have mage healers," the elf nodded. "But there's only so much they can do, ma'am..."

Marnie looked back at the ward. Even the healers looked weary. This was no state Marnie could abide.

"My—Gale's a healer," Marnie offered. "Might he heal all your wounded?"

The man blinked at Gale and, upon seeing the staff on his back, nodded.

"We'll accept any help we can get."

Marnie turned to her healer and gestured to the room.

"Do it. As much as you can."

"Leave it to me," Gale drew his staff at once and held it before him. An orb of glowing green light floated before him, and yet another appeared right over one of the bedridden soldiers. The soldier sat up as the orb of light latched onto his chest painlessly. Judging by the expression on his face, he probably thought he was dying. Then Gale spread his arms out on either side of him, and the orb in the soldier's chest blossomed into an expanse of green light that rapidly healed all that touched it.

Bones straightened and mended, wounds closed, skin regenerated, burns soothed and virtually disappeared. Before the healers knew what was happening right before their eyes, the injured began to stand and walk, nearly delirious with the high, excited feeling of their near-constant pain being suddenly eased. Even those that had initially struggled against the spell—fearful of magic, no doubt—now stood in bewildered content as they were miraculously healed.

The green light faded before all were healed, but Gale only began to cast another round. If he'd cast any other spell, the other healers might've had a mind to be afraid or angry. Restrain him and order him to be watched carefully, if not made Tranquil right then and there for his brash nature. However, after a moment of watching Gale, the healers all fell into a new order of cooperation.

What soldiers could walked, and those that couldn't were carried. Each of them reached for the green tendrils of light without fear, for the promise of relief and health after hours of suffering soothed them. No pain, none at all, just a soothing anodyne that was lukewarm in the best way. Gale healed them in whatever clustered formation they came to him in, then the healed patients filed out of the healer's den in a line, being checked over by the healers and sometimes sent back to bed with lingering fevers, infections, or some wounds simply left alone by the curious spell. But most were released with only minor or no injuries at all.

Marnie lingered by the wall, arms folded across her chest with unmistakable adoration and pride as she watched Gale work. Another healer, one in a state of authority here, by the looks of it, marched towards Marnie. Marnie was ready to make any defense for Gale, but she didn't think she'd need to, based on the state of things.

"What tower is he from?" the surgeon asked.

"Tower?" Marnie asked. "We're from Gransys. We don't have towers. Even there, Gale was the most prolific healer."

"How does this work?" the other pointed at the spell. "And we don't want him to tire himself."

"'Tis a healing spell," Marnie explained. "It'll mend most wounds. The sooner they're healed, the better, though. There will still be fevers or infection; 'tis best for use in the battlefield."

The healer turned to her. "How often can he help us?"

Marnie blinked as her lips spread in a grin. It sounded like Gale just got his own job.

"We're the Inquisitor's companions. As long as we're not with him or doing another task, we'll be available to you."

For the first time, they had a place there, even if it was infrequent. It reassured Marnie to no end.