Val Royeaux, the capital of Orlais: Rumored to be the grandest place in all of Thedas. No matter how ostentatious or prosperous the province, they all had their rathole shacks which the common folk willingly found their shelter in.
Ren was undecided if the dwellers of Val Royeaux’s slums preferred their indigent, but simple lifestyle versus the haughty, egotistical way of the well-born, aristocratic families.
He trudged warily down a narrow cobbled road that Ren felt that he had seen a hundred times, he continued until he made out a figure: a doddery man, though the elderly man wasn’t asking for any “spare coin” his thoughtful gaze followed Ren with such an intensity that made Ren stop dead in his tracks and ungrudgingly hand the man a cooper.
After the grateful beggar finished his thanks, Ren inquired about directions, the beggar wearily gestured that Ren should continue a couple blocks then head through an alleyway between a bakery - which must’ve been appetizing, because the beggar’s mouth watered as he explained the food they sold - and a butchery.
Ren handed the old beggar another cooper for his assistance, then followed the old man’s directions: he headed deeper in the heart of the so-called “grandeur” place, there was nothing grand about it: filled with beggars and starved little ones.
The sight of children brought the memory of his own youngster to the fore-front of his mind, he smiled kindly at the children. He was searching their faces for any returned emotion and he got no expression a child would wear, no cheerful smiles, or bright eyes, just fierce looks aimed in the general direction of his coin purse.
He ignored them for his own good. He had enough problems as it was: the client, Hadriana, did after all, request he travel to this forsaken place, for what reason, he did not know. The amount of sovereigns they was promising was enough to keep his family fed for a year. There for he was (so to say) their slave.
Ren eventually found the little hovel known as: The Tired Templar Inn - A carving on the door bearing the inn’s title assured Ren he was in the right place.
Upon entrance it was soundless, he heard nothing but the loud creak of the door as he shut it with the back of his boot.
Straight ahead was a wide counter with stools brimming the entire length, an unstable looking wall covered his entire left view of the place.
It seemed deserted, apart from the tall bartender that had a rather intimidating appearance. The bartender glanced up from his work to see who opened the door, a ridiculous grin spread across the strange man’s face.
He beckoned for Ren to walk towards him, Ren took his steps warily until nothing but the waist-high counter was between the two men. The bartender nodded to his right, - Ren’s left - the side of the inn that was secluded by the wall; it was a simple room, same as any inn, apart from the ridiculous amount of guards surrounding a single human woman, whom he believed to be Hadrianna, his client.
He immediately walked towards the woman that had been barking orders to her protectors - aside from the robes and menacing looking staff on her back, she could’ve been one of the guards herself with the severe look on her face.
It was obvious she was their employer or leader, they circled her like hawks.
“Hadriana?” Ren asked, wary not to get too close - the guards were on edge, burning flinty glares into him. Ren almost swore he could turn to a pile of mush at their stares.
“Renford?” She asked in an icy tone, glaring at him with pale blue eyes.
“Yes ma’am.” He nodded, then laughed out loud - “Your guards can back off, I’m not blighted darkspawn. Is there really a need for that much protection?”
Her paranoia was not written across her inexpressive features, her eyes were the betrayers. Paranoia could be effortlessly found, you could pass an unsavory person on the street and it wouldn’t be surprising - her guilt could be found within her protection. No innocent person would have fifteen guards surrounding them constantly. This woman was either of great significance to somebody, has committed a severe felony, or out to kill somebody with an implacable force. Ren wouldn't have doubted any of the numerous options.
“People like me, -” Reference to herself was spoken with such self-regard Ren almost laughed aloud. “- we must maintain peace of mind, we have various enemies. You wouldn’t comprehend.”
“Right, ma’am.” He wasn’t inclined to deny a meal seeing that the individual whom was serving is a spoiled brat that wouldn’t ‘comprehend’ what real danger was if it hit her square in the jaw.
She grinned crookedly, pleased with his undeserved respect - It was a foul grin: filled with ill-judged pride. Her assessment of him was rather easy to tell; she thought him inferior to herself. This small feat slightly gratified her power hungry disposition. She ordered every guard to leave, except for the two on either side of her.
“Let us get to business.” Her serious tone laced with boredom. The guard to her right - Ren noticed the guardsman had a black eye. He handed her a maroon satchel, the material so fine it was probably worth more than the whole inn.
She reached in the satchel and presented Ren with three items laid on the table in front of her: a rather large pouch - Ren bet gold coins along with a few precious gems were within, a map of the Orlais: Val Royeaux general reign, plain colors marking where roads, cities, hills, forests, rivers and the sea were - then a remarkable portrait of a fair young girl, sharp features, her dark hair let loose in beautiful waves, her pale, pointed ears slightly shown behind the dark curtain of hair, a complete contrast color-wise - her black eyes seemed dead in the paper. :Hadrianna placed the items on the calf-level table in front of her. “Your job will be to find her, and bring her to Minrathous. She was last sighted headed towards this city.” Her eyes grew weary, and her stance switched to put more weight on her right foot, giving the left leave to ease. “I’ve business more important to attend to. I’d advise asking around town, we’ve only been here a few hours, I had no time to do it myself.”
“What is she worth to you?” No missing slave or servant would be able to afford, - let alone be prestigious enough to get a portrait made. She was most likely of high rank, or a noblewoman’s handmaid whom ran off with stolen goods.
“She is a servant girl whom ran off.” Her dark eyebrows drew together at his inquiry. “I’m paying you to obtain to the girl, not to ask questions. You’ll be remunerated very well for both getting her and keeping your trap shut. Are you in, or shall I send for another, more capable sell-sword that doesn’t ask questions?”
“No ma’am, I will have the girl.” His answer drew a wide smile from the woman, it was predatory.
"Good, you’ll also be returning her back to the homeland, as I claimed previously, I have other more important business to attend to.” The pleased tone in her feline-like voice was hard to miss.
“Where exactly is she from, ma’am?” Ren asked as he picked up the items from the table and putting them in his own pack, he weighed the pouched of money in his hand - it was heavy and that brought a smirk to Ren’s unshaven face.
“Minrathous, Tevinter, ask around the town for Magister Danarius’s castle. In that pouch is half of your payment, you will receive the second half when you return her. Good luck.” She then called for the rest of her men, they all strode out the door in such a formation you’d think they was preparing for a blight. Hadrianna’s miniature army tailing her protectively.
Ren laughed aloud when they left, the bar-keep joined in too. After he caught his breath Ren ordered a tankard of ale, and downed it while he counted his coin.
He made his way to find Zander whom claimed he would be trading the goods they acquired from their last job. Ren knew better, Zander would be ogling at girls or seeing the views, Ren sent a silent prayer to the boy, hoping he hadn’t gotten into too much trouble in the stuck-up city.
Zander had taken care of business, traded what needed to be traded, and bought what needed to be bought before making eyes at any of the very lovely women - Ren would be pleased.
Even though three-quarters of the women had their faces covered by ridiculous masks, he still had never seen so many fair women before in his life, most ignored him as they walked by with their handmaids tailing behind. That’s why Zander preferred the part of Val Royeaux that inhibited the average folk.
Today he wanted to visit the Chantry of Andraste, or at least see it. Sebastian had always mentioned it’s grandeur exterior, and that Zander should go there one day.
Zander missed his old friend. Sebastian had always been the life of the party, living for enjoyment, a strange aura of happiness seemed to circle the kind boy, engulfing any whom entered.
Being a prince of Starkhaven he could afford the finest everything, luxury rooms at the amazing houses owned by his family, lovely women flocked to their sides once the word “prince” was out Sebastian’s mouth, and the best liquor - the last got them in a ridiculous amount of trouble. Zander being his best friend meant that he was included in everything. Finally after many drunken rampages, Sebastian’s parents (and their royal egos) could take no more, he was “spoiling their good name”, so they sent him away to the Chantry’s many different locations, to repent his wicked ways and become a brother of the chant.
Zander imagined it was probably pure torture for his friend.
One day he came back to visit with a righteous new moral, then Zander was still struck from the contrast between the shameless person he knew before and the new controlled person sat in front of him. He thought Sebastian was a completely different person, the kind, fun friend lost, left only with a fake man with a stick up his arse.
Only now did Zander now realize that the way the pair had acted was outrageous, he regretted casting Sebastian off. His friend attempted to redirect him from the horrible, drunken life he headed in. Zander was too blind to see it. Ever since then he studied the Maker’s word, realizing his wrong.
His career - if you could even call it that, was to kill people - right or wrong, for money. Being an orphan, he never got taught much about the Maker, at the time he considered himself lucky enough to get a full belly and a warm bed.
Sebastian did not lie; The Chantry of Andraste was a grand sight. A monumental staircase leading up to the equally massive balusters which lined the circular temple were astoundingly brilliant. Above the towering doors, hung a gold sculpture of Andraste’s motherly face, which resembled the belt buckle Sebastian began to wear when he returned. Zander would provoke Sebastian over his little belt buckle, just for the sake of being cruel. Sebastian would respond with a cheerful smile, and remark that he was not ashamed of letting everybody know his respect for the Maker, and his bride.
Zander was so lost in thought he didn’t even perceive the young woman next to him had spoken to him until he lowered his thoughtful eyes from the sculpture that hung above the door and caught two clear aquamarine eyes prying at him in a bemused fashion. She stood waiting for a reply, she gathered that he didn’t hear the first time, so she repeated, her Orlaisian accent thick with her native tongue.
“Forgive me miss, I don’t speak Orlaisian.” He said, feeling his ears heating up. Real smart, she’ll definitely understand you.
“Oh, pardun, I asked if you were interested in learning about our savior, Andraste...?” He noticed the Chantry robes secondly, then thirdly, her smile. She smiled so sweetly - it made her heart shaped face gleam with a sort of innocence that was distracting. Most people wouldn’t have noticed the belt equipped at her waist with a dagger at each side of her hip. His ears continued to heat up. A deadly chantry woman, Maker really? Your sense of humor is odd.
“It is not a subject I’m very knowledgable about, I suppose I can spare some time.”
She gave him another smile then began doing her duty as a faithful Andrastian, educating others on tales she had memorized was simple, seeing everybody perspective or the message they gathered from the verses was her favorite part. She began telling a story he had read over many times, but it didn’t matter, her accented voice made it sound so much better.
To the Void with it all, where else could he have been in this blighted city?” Ren asked himself aloud, gaining him a couple odd looks from passerby’s.
He had asked around all the local inns and popular markets, showing the portrait of the girl, only the inn-keep had recognized her saying she was very secretive and only asked the shortest route to Kirkwall. Ren paid well for the exact route he had given her. “You’ll come across her soon, I don’t think she had a horse.”
Ren spotted Zander from across the street, - Ren had recalled Zander saying something about the Chantry of Andraste, and here he was, at a church, doubled over from laughter, most likely flirting with a fair redheaded Chantry Sister. The red-head noticed Ren staring, - sharp one - and slyly gestured to Zander to turn around, Zander waved him over when he turned.
“Ren! Come here!” He shouted across the courtyard.
Ren advanced and eyed the redhead enough for her to introduce herself after he sized her up. Only Zander would find the only Sister that seemed more a assassin than saint.
“Welcome to Orlais, my name is Leliana.” She stuck out a hand, he shook it.
“Hello, nice to meet you.” He said as he narrowed his eyes at Zander, the boy caught his gaze and his own widened as if to say: “Wait, what’d I do?
“I got everything traded, no worries, got a pretty penny of tha’ set of armor too.” Ren relaxed at hearing the boy had finished his end of business in the city, Ren was itching to get back on the road.
“I apologize for having to leave so soon miss, but we must get on the road. No time to waste in this business.” He noticed her expression didn’t change, a average chantry Sister would’ve inquired about their hurry, but she had a calm understanding look in her eyes.
“Good day to you both, I sincerely hope you enjoyed Orlais. It might seem a little uptight in the cities, but class and vanity is their politics, I suppose.”
They came back to their horses fed and prepared for departure, Ren payed the stable-hand for the care then hopped on his horse and headed in the direction the inn-keep directed him.
“Come, we have a long night ahead of us.” Ren said Zander, whom had been mumbling something about how uncomfortable horseback riding at such lengths were.