To My Superiors
Yes, I failed to hit my mark. But before you send your men to my door, know that the Orlesian only lives for an unanticipated turn of events caused it to be so. For a proper explanation, please allow me in the retelling of my experience with the noble from the moment I received your missive only two nights ago.
It began when the carrier you sent me arrived at its usual perch in my home, just as I was preparing for bed. The poor thing looked an absolute mess, as if it had spent all day eluding capture. Upon closer inspection, clumps of gravel could be seen in between its ruffled feathers. Perhaps someone had been throwing rocks? Whether its sorry state had any bearing as to what would happen the next day I cannot say, but I found it very odd.
I tipped the bird with meal as is standard and perused the letter, the details of my mark and the directions to his estate within. I must admit that an Orlesian noble is hardly what I expected; I don’t ever recall their type being made a target of the Coterie, and they do seem to enjoy killing each other enough that one wonders how there are any left to assassinate. It scarcely mattered. I took the job as a vote of confidence and so vowed to attend this noble’s ‘bal masqué’ (typical Orlesian toss) the following evening. Exhausted, I set the missive atop my fireplace to dispose of at sunrise.
I awoke to yet another bleak morning in Lowtown. As I gazed into the small fire I had set, my mind was swimming with thoughts on the mission, and I found myself at a loss on how to best breach the party. I briefly considered persuading some lonely noblewoman to grant me passage underneath her ball gown until I remembered Leland, the contact from Hightown who sells forged documents. Though I’d lose a few sovereigns out of it I reasoned it really was the smartest approach, if only slightly less fun than going the noblewoman route. When I went to burn the letter I was startled by a loud knocking at the door. I panicked and slipped the parchment into my night trousers, then left to see just who exactly had come to visit.
“Good morning, messere,” a young elven woman stood at the doorway, her hair stark yellow, skin fair, and emerald eyes bright. I cocked a brow in suspicion. “Oh, I was ordered here from the Coterie,” she said in reply. “I’ve been assigned to—“. In something close to instinct, I placed my palm over her mouth and pulled her inside.
I wrestled with her for a second before letting her free. She stomped a bare foot against the stone floor with a resounding thwack. “Just what in the Maker’s name are you doing? We're going to be working together!” She glared at me and adjusted her robes without looking away. I told her that she risked exposing us to the guard the way she spoke so openly about the Coterie. When I called it a rookie mistake, her glare faded and her small face went red. She apologized and went on to explain that she was a new recruit to the Coterie; an apostate mage sent to help me sneak a bow and a handful of arrows in through the nobleman’s door. So much for that vote of confidence, but I was grateful to have one less problem to deal with. Well, sort of.
She stood at the entrance shielding her eyes with her hands as I got to dressing. “Let’s hurry and talk to this Leland then, we shouldn’t waste any more time. We need to find your man before the day is up.” As I wiggled my way into a suit of leather armor, I looked over at the elf who introduced herself as Dylena. She struck me an odd one to have been accepted into the Coterie; her dagger hung so obviously from her hip, and she was evidently not used to the weight of the staff slung at her back. When I finished strapping on my boots I told her we could make for Hightown soon.
“Before we go I need to get rid of this,” I produced the missive and pointed it at the flames. “I got lazy last night and didn’t… get to… what are you doing?” I watched on silently as she rifled through her pockets. She eventually pulled out a similar slip of paper with the Coterie’s wax symbol pressed on it and walked to the fireplace. Without stopping to look at me, she threw it in. “Ah, um… oops. Haha,” she laughed nervously, shooting me a sideways glance. I frowned, tossed my letter onto the flames, and made for the door. Dylena joined me soon after and we made for Leland’s usual spot in Hightown.
On our way up to Leland, Dylena seemed very curious about Kirkwall. She would often stop, gawk at buildings she considered, “completely different from where I’m from”, and would continue with a bemused look on her face. When I questioned her about this she said, very distantly, “I mean the way everything is so… simple. All the buildings here are very box-like and similar. Those large rusty chains you see every now and again can only do so much for this place,” Annoyed, I pressed her about where she came from exactly. She certainly wasn’t Dalish. This seemed to bring her mind back from wherever it had wandered however, and she simply said, “It doesn’t matter. I know Kirkwall’s my home now.”
We purchased the forged invitations from Leland at his stall outside The Blooming Rose. On the surface, he sells expensive ‘calendars’ of the various men and women workers of the brothel; a lucrative business that only the most shameless of nobles dare partake in. Dylena was at first suspicious of what my intentions were there, but seemed satisfied when I paid for an invitation under her name as well. Our next stop was to meet outside the estate once we had been properly attired. With the sun quickly setting I hurried and bought an inexpensive set of finery and a silver mask from a Hightown tailor. After suiting up at home, I made the relatively short trip to the manor with great haste.
“Hey, looking dapper. Much better than those rags I saw you in this morning,” Dylena had been waiting for me just outside the nobleman’s residence. She wore a fine pinstripe dress, though it had clearly been made with a human in mind. The jagged ends towards the bottom made it apparent that she modified it to fit her frame better, and while it wasn’t perfect it was certainly more than enough to get into an Orlesian party. She looked at me through the simple feathered mask with her big green eyes and gestured towards the door. “Shall we?”
As we waited in line to be allowed inside I whispered, “Where’s my bow? And how are we going to sneak it past the guard?” Dylena grinned and made a motion with her right hand, then outstretched an empty fist before her. “Relax, it’s all right here.” She smiled wryly.
“It’s a pretty simple charm,” she said matter-of-factly. “I just say the magic words and BAM. Everyone in the area grows a blind spot to wherever the bow and its quiver are. For a time at least, you’ve got yourself an invisible weapon.” I grabbed hold of where the bow should have been and sure enough gripped on to something solid. I confess, it was impressive. I had never heard of such magic. If the rumors of that smuggler Athenril hiring on a powerful apostate are true then it certainly explains how her smuggling ring has risen to where it is today. But forgive me, I digress.
We made it into the estate without any trouble; the forged invitations and Dylena’s spell actually worked. Together we found our way through the congregation of nobles in search of my mark. The ‘invisible’ bow and quiver went unnoticed at my back. As the ball went on (boisterous bards and all), Dylena and I decided it would be better to split up and look for the Orlesian. “Okay. We’ll find him. We have to. You just be sure not to miss when we do.” She turned, and in what seemed to be an instant, disappeared into the crowds.
My search proved difficult. With everyone hiding behind a mask of some sort finding anybody was a challenge. I chatted with the guests hoping to ascertain an acquaintance of this Orlesian but it seemed impossible. No one who knew the man had seen him, and of those I spoke with only a handful had ever said more than a few words to the man. Dylena had completely dissolved into the sea of masks and snobby attitudes by now. I hoped that she had had better luck finding him than I did.
Finally, late into the festivities, I spoke with a rather dashing Antivan man who claimed to be a good friend of this Orlesian. The lingering smell of wine on his breath made it clear he’d been drinking, so I knew he’d be much more willing to spill the whereabouts of my noble. “Aye, he should be around the gardens at this time of night, friend. Says he loves the stars as much as he loves those Mabari treats. Oh! Now I’ve said too much. Excuse me, I’m off to have a nice lay down now. Maybe with that elven lass I saw earlier, heh.” He left me to finish my job.
I made for the grounds, with my good thumb hooked to the strap that held my bow. Once outside, I climbed a flight of stairs to a section of some small upper garden overlooking the grounds. Aside from some poor dwarf who’d quite literally drunk himself under the table, I went alone and unnoticed. If there was supposed to be a guard there then he had long left to join the rest of the partygoers. Deciding this was as good a spot as any, I claimed it as my vantage point.
I sat in wait for what seemed to be an hour, looking down at the odd few guests who would step outside for air or be sick into the petunias. Finally, a rather large group of elaborately overdressed nobles stepped into view from somewhere further in the gardens. I focused on the one who garnered the attention of the rest, and I knew this was the man. I hid behind a support column and readied my bow, holding my breath and waiting for the opportunity to strike.
One… two… three…
I side-stepped and aimed an arrow on the Orlesian. Just as I had my shot, a small woman in his entourage darted forward and positioned herself before the man; so swiftly did she do this that I could not react to the change, and I let the arrow fly forth.
When the Orlesian martyr was struck down, the nobles gasped in horror. By some massive stroke of luck, I had not been spotted by any of them. I took the chance to hide and try for one more shot, but when I pulled out the second arrow I noticed that not only was it visible again, but there was a lightly burnt bit of parchment stuck to the arrowhead. I recognized it at once as the missive I threw into the fire that morning.
I had no time to dwell on its implications. When Dylena’s spell wore off, the arrow I shot also returned to normal. Someone cried “She’s been murdered!” Another, “It came from there! Someone on the mezzanine!” With the missive in my possession, I knew I could only run; if I had been caught I’d link the assassination attempt to the Coterie, and I knew I would be punished severely were this to happen.
So run I did. I leapt from the ledge and broke through the crowd that had gathered at the door leading to the gardens. “Stop him!” I heard the Orlesian shout. When some obliging fool attempted to do this I struck the man with my fist. A sickening crack rang out through the sounds of chaos and hysteria. When he fell, I moved fast and I kept my pace. The party guests scrambled out my way, while those who were oblivious to what was happening were thrown to the ground.
It was an unmitigated disaster.
By the time the guards had been roused from all sections of the estate, I had already slipped into the Sundermount forestry and abandoned my costume in a nearby copse. I was safe, and although I did not complete my objective, I knew that I also had not exposed the Coterie to the Orlesian (and whatever that might have entailed). When I returned to Kirkwall the taverns were ablaze with talk of how somebody had tried to assassinate an Orlesian noble but struck an elven girl instead.
I couldn’t believe it. I had been lied to. Dylena must’ve joined us under false pretenses, and she was to have me be the one to suffer under her plan to expose the Coterie. While I am under no illusions to the fact that I did not complete the task requested of me, I implore you to recognize that I simply could not have finished it in a way that wouldn’t risk connecting the Coterie to the kill. Dylena’s act of hiding the objective letter in my quiver ensured that this quest would not see a conclusion. I just thank Andraste that I had grabbed the arrow impaling the missive. Otherwise, I dare not think of where I would be now.
And so, there you have it. This is what transpired the night of the assassination effort, and despite what tavern rumors you may hear, now you know the truth. I will be waiting for your reply on the matter. I pray you understand my plight.