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The Unexpected

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1 The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:59 am

It isn't until I've been on the hunt for a couple of days that I begin to realize that I've been sent on a wild goose chase. Sadly, it isn't the first since acquiring my new partner. I don't give Solas the satisfaction of my frustration when I return to the city with little more than a few fox skins and a coyote to show for my work. Instead, I ignore him entirely and focus on my own pursuits. Let him think me busy stewing in anger.

In reality, I spend my time the way I prefer: on my own. Every day is cast in a new light with a new name, a new face, new (or rather old) clothes, a new voice, and a new reason for being in the vicinity of the witches' home that Solas has taken such a care in defending. For all the lack of faith Solas has in my intellect and patience, I am nothing if not skilled in my work. I spend weeks watching the family, never drawing their suspicion - always careful to abandon my post if I do draw their gaze. The one called Yvla and her daughter - Raefiya? - even drop a coin my way a couple of times, unaware that the person under the ratty hood is not there for their coppers or even to serenade the street with my instrument on those particular days when I have it with me.

At first, I care only about whether or not they're people I need to be concerned with. But as it becomes more and more apparent that they're just people, I find myself watching them with less and less apprehension and more curiosity. Solas is right about one thing: I've never really given enough pause to their kind to really learn about them as anything more than - well, witches.

After my mother's death and growing up in the temple, I had all but forgotten that people like Yvla or Nell or the children are just ordinary, boring people with a trade like any other. Albeit, a trade that is highly dangerous and corrupts the hearts of nearly all who use it... but for some, it's as boring as baking or farming.

Truthfully, after watching the family for some time, it's the Desiccant brother/ex-lover that draws more concern from me than the rest of them. I've lived around his kind much of my life. I've seen what can befall them, and all the signs are there as I watch the man with increasing concern. Before long, I've abandoned my post watching the house to follow him instead.

When he isn't busy schmoozing the children, he spends his time at a tavern by the docks known for its shady clientele. Even I feel out of place limping in with my weight on an knotted cane, a ratty cloak around my hunched shoulders. Apparently I'm filthy enough to fit right in as nobody offers to bother me as I take my post in a corner table where I'm left to nurse an ale out of a dirty glass.

My ale remains untouched as I feign a nap in my corner, my ears trained to the Desiccant man bitching and raving about his heinous witch of an ex. His distaste for the woman leaves me caught off-guard as I listen to his tall tales - stories which, had I not just spent nearly a month watching her, I would have quickly believed and dealt with. His talk grows more and more vulgar as his pitcher of ale grows more and more empty.

Finally, I can't bring myself to listen any longer. The boisterous and callous laughter of him and his friends leaves a knot of disgust in the pit of my stomach as I hobble out the door, scarcely remembering to keep up my appearance as a homeless old man. An appearance I quickly abandon once I've put a few blocks between me and the tavern as I whip the cloak off of my shoulders and toss it in an empty grain barrel along with the cane.

I need time to process this.

***

Four more days pass, each one ending with Yvla's jilted lover indulging in more and more serious talk about finding a way to get his kids out of her magical clutches. By the fourth day, half of his pals have forgotten how their talk first started and they've all but convinced themselves that the woman has enchanted them to stay with her instead of going where they really want to go: with him to whatever hole he crawled out of.

I can't be passive any longer. If I don't step in, someone is going to wind up hurt. It isn't a feeling that sits well in my gut, for many reasons. Most of which I can't quite identify, if I'm being perfectly honest. But regardless, I find myself watching and waiting for Yvla to separate herself from the rest of her pack. And since we're being honest, I'll admit that I find myself more nervous now than I have ever been - even when facing down beasts that could swallow me whole in one bite if they were feeling kind.

Eventually, I get my chance. Yvla leaves the house, for once, by herself. I keep a careful distance at first as I allow her to go on her way, leaving her to finish a couple of errands before I finally find the nerve to approach her when there are relatively few people around and she's somewhat distracted with checking her bag for something.

"Excuse me," I say carefully as I approach hesitantly, my voice as nonthreatening as possible. "Yvla?"

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2 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:21 pm

The world had involved little more than my bag as I linger under one of the oil lamps fastened to the wall of the alley, so wrapped up in looking for the slip of parchment I’d jotted my tasks down on I never hear someone approach from behind. The first Excuse me? hardly draws me from looking for the paper until I hear the voice say my name, my shoulders tensing visibly as I freeze.

Hesitantly, I reach into a side pocket on my leather bag, fingers wrapping around one of the worn protection charms as I finally turn to face the man behind me. I recognize the hunter almost immediately, a sick feeling resting in my gut as I raise the charm in my hand, showing it to the man.

“I won’t let you hurt me,” I say unevenly, trying to steel myself as I watch him uncertainly. He’s unarmed, and his posture is much softer than the prior times we’ve crossed paths, but he still brings a sense of dread with him.

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3 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:29 pm

"I'm not here to bring you trouble," I say as I hold a calming hand up before hesitating. "Well... rather, I am, but not of my doing."

I shift uncomfortably as I clear my throat, avoiding her gaze like a scolded child.

"I've been keeping my eyes on you and your family," I admit reluctantly. "More recently, on your friend. Raefiya's father? I've followed him to a tavern on the docks, and after listening to him over this past week, I fear he means to bring you harm."

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4 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:44 pm

My face pinches as I look at him in confusion, my hand dropping to my side as the bag I’d had hugged it my front falls to hang heavily from my shoulder.

“I’m sorry,” I shake my head, taking a slow step forward, “You followed my family... Followed Wolter? Why?

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5 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:54 pm

"It's my job," I respond a little more hotly than I'd meant to, my defenses springing up in an instant at the question. "If I just left you alone without making sure and any of you did something, hurt someone, lost control of your magic, anything, then it would be my fault. I had to be certain.

"As for Wolter," I frown, shaking my head as I look at her seriously. "I followed him because-" I stop, uncertain of how to explain the why of it. "I don't know, I just had a feeling. Something didn't sit right; his behavior, the way he spoke to the children when you weren't around, his - intent when he left... it was wrong. And from what I heard him saying to his mates, it's a good thing I did. He has half of the tavern convinced you've enchanted his children and stole them from him; he talks about hiring a hunter to kill you or abduct you so the Temple can re-educate you.

"And I can tell you right now," I scowl. "We aren't looking for new people to re-educate."

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6 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:59 pm

“Wolter said what..?” I breathe, looking at Emhyr with a lack of understanding as a sense of panic squeezes in my chest, “Is that why you’re here..?

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7 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:10 pm

"I- what?" I ask in shock, my eyes widening. "No! Don't be ridiculous, I wouldn't have said something when I snuck up on you if that were the case! No, I wanted to-" But what the fuck do I want here? I ask myself as I stare at her blankly, a momentary internal crisis crashing over me.

"I, um... wanted to warn you?" I ask, more uncertain of my motives than ever as I shift uneasily on the spot. "Violence from the Desiccant is a serious problem," I say a little more certainly, my confidence slowly building as I pull an excuse directly out of my ass. "They aren't meant to feel anything, so envy and vengeance are overwhelming and dangerous emotions for them. Drawing the magic out of them is supposed to free them from corruption, but sometimes the idea of it... it gets in too deep before we can get to it. It leaves a hole behind, and left untended, it festers.

"If I didn't say something, then I would be responsible if he succeeded in harming you or your friend," I frown. "And he may not mean it directly, but eventually the children would be harmed, too. The Desiccant aren't fit to care for themselves much less children. And it wouldn't be right... I mean, you haven't done anything... the magic is a problem, yes, but you're more or less innocent. You shouldn't have to die for it..."

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8 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:22 pm

“He was-“ I snap, tensing before I straighten my shoulders and inhale evenly. “He means to put a bounty on my head? To take my kids..?” I can’t stop the sting of tears as I try to process the betrayal from Wolter, my cheeks already stinging in the cold air.

“Has he done it yet?” I ask thickly.

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9 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:25 pm

"Not yet, but I'm not the only hunter who stops by that tavern," I frown, a sense of relief flooding over me as she seems to believe me.

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10 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:31 pm

I nod slowly, wiping at my face as I compose myself before I tuck the protection charm back into my bag.

“I don’t even know where to start,” I say softly, letting my bag settle back at my side as I look up at Emhyr at a loss. “Are you sure it was Wolter..?” I ask with a hint of hope, “He’s not himself since it happened, he imbibes far too often! He doesn’t always make sense, but he usually comes ‘round.”

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11 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:36 pm

"I literally followed him from your kitchen door to the tavern," I scowl in disapproval at her moment of denial. "It was Wolter."

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12 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:41 pm

Swallowing the knot in my throat, I nod simply.

“Where’s this place?” I ask a bit more seriously, though my voice is still trembling. “Where’s Wolter?”

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13 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:45 pm

"Why?" I ask, my eyes widening a bit as I look her over hesitantly. "I mean, are you sure now is a good time to confront him? Especially there?"

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14 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:48 pm

“What else can I do?!” I ask harshly, “His sister will put him down as soon as she hears of this! If he puts that bounty out, my children are at risk- What else can I do?

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15 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:52 pm

"Well," I frown as I look her over thoughtfully for a moment. "As it happens, I may have an idea about that."

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16 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 1:59 pm

What..?” I ask slowly, bracing myself against the cold wind that whips down the alley as night settles in.

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17 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 2:02 pm

"Solas," I say simply as I look at her seriously. "You'll take the kids, and I'll take you to him. Then Nell and I will deal with Wolter. She's his blood, if anyone can get through to him, it'll be her. And for him to see a witch and hunter trying to intervene, he'll have to realize how far he's gone. If he doesn't respond to his sister, then surely he'll respect that a member of the Temple is trying to reel him in."

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18 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 2:17 pm

“Not Nell,” I shake my head, “Nell doesn’t harbor much warmth for her brother, not anymore.” I frown, glancing around uncertainly.

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19 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 2:21 pm

"You're the target of his delusions," I frown. "And, truthfully? I don't believe for a moment that Nell will trust me enough to go to Solas' - she'll suspect a trap."

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20 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 2:44 pm

“She wouldn’t believe a word you offered,” I nod weakly, “Or stay...”

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21 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:12 pm

"Do you believe me?" I can't help but ask as I stare at her solemnly.

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22 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:33 pm

“As harsh as you are,” I start, frowning sharply as I nod, “Wolter brought up re-educating the children the last night he was there... I thought Nell was going to come unglued, but I thought we’d reached an understanding. I thought he’d worked past those awful thoughts...”

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23 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:40 pm

I try to suppress my scowl at her negative connotations with re-educating, opting instead for a short nod as I step back to look behind me down the alley.

"We should be going," I say flatly. "Solas will be able to keep everyone safe until the situation is dealt with. He's obscenely opposed to re-educating as well, for some reason."

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24 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 3:59 pm

I frown slightly at his sharpness, pulling my cloak tighter around my shoulders as I turn to follow him.

“Wait,” I start, hurrying to keep his pace, the suddenness not quite registering, “Now?

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25 Re: The Unexpected on Thu Jan 25, 2018 4:08 pm

"Would you prefer to wait until Wolter has a chance to make his vendetta official?" I ask as I glance back at her impatiently. "Any hunter that works for the Temple will pick up a posting like that in an instant, and protocol dictates that we inform the Temple immediately when we take a job like that just in case something happens to us. Someone will always be there to pick up the sword if we fail in our duties."

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