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It's been a while, but I finally completed the next part of the story.
Mahariel leaned over the ships railing with the air of one whose heart was knelt down to pray. She watched the waters of the ocean gently licking and caressing the sides of the ship. She felt the methodical up and down, rise and fall motion of the ship, much the same as she had felt it the previous eight days. It was dawn, and the red yellow orange glow of the sun sparkled on more distant waves, but her head was inclined at too steep an angle to see them. From her point in space, land was an imaginary concept, as there was no land present to prove it otherwise. The water was too opaque to see fish in it.
Mahariel reached beneath the folds of the cloak and withdrew from it an orb painted into the face of a familiar night sky that she had never seen before. She recalled where she found it as she slowly turned it in her hand. It was near Zathrian's clan in the Brecillian Forest, just lying on the ground... like something carelessly discarded. She couldn't understand why someone would do that. As she studied the dark polychromatic surface she thought of earlier days, before she had been a warden at all. She remembered asking Merrill to perform magic for her, as she had been fascinated by such things. She remembered hunting with Fenarel, beneath the warm and eerie canopy of the Brecillian Forest. Had she not made her first kill while on the hunt with him? She smiled at the thought, remembering the pride she felt in having gutted the bear that aimed to maul him. Varathorn had been pleased, and gave a particularly glorious rendition of the tale of Shartan that night, with the keeper working strange magics to bring the story alive in a way not even the greatest of poets ever could. Mahariel thought warmly of these things. Ah, how young she had been then! How happy...
She remembered lying in a forest clearing one night next to Tamlen, where they did nothing other than watch the stars in silence. She would occasionally pass a sidelong glance at him which he didn't seem to notice. And then, at other times, she thought she felt his eyes on her, but he was always looking somewhere else when she turned her head. She rotated the skyball in her hand and looked at the moon painted on it in shades of blue and silver. She had once made the comment to Tamlen that it looked sad, to which he had replied "Whatever would it be sad about?" She didn't know. There was an awkward moment after that in which red golden brown eyes met with ones that were pure forest green. She had been happy then. Twelve days later they would meet three humans in a forest, who would tell them about a cave. Her eyes closed and she found herself reliving that day scene by scene, moment by moment. She shook her head violently to clear it from her mind and flew her eyes open to look out over the crystalline waves of the restless sea. They looked like flowing shards of glass. She looked to the sky and saw a black cloud on the horizon, then looked back to the somber black orb.
"Had always... loved you, lethallan."
She heard those words in her ears. She did not remember, she heard them. Had anyone else been on deck, they might have seen her fingers grow white around the orb they clutched and they would have seen her hand shaking, subtly though violently. Next they would have seen her shove the sphere into the folds of her cloak as she turned to go below deck. Had anyone been there to see this, they would have surely wondered what could prompt such a display. Surely it was not the act of a happy person.
Below deck Sarah, an apostate mage as of two years prior, leaned casually against a crate in the cargo hold, letting a spark flit between her fingers for amusement. There were other passengers about, but they were elsewhere, so she felt safe in her practice. One might think that a refugee from the Circle of Magi might have been more cautious. But, not unlike some of her other aspects, such recklessness was the byproduct of an inherent defect of reason, a singularity which at that moment was permissible: If for no other reason than that there was no one present to give witness of her display to the Templars that were she knew not where. The casual indifference she felt as to where the two Templars on board the ship were can be viewed as another byproduct of the aforementioned defect of reason.
Back in Denerim she had been admired by another apostate for her ability to evade the Templars. To him, the notion that an Apostate could live in such a city, with templars and guards all around, and not be detected was- in a word, incredulous. Especially when it was considered that she kept in practice with her magical talents. He asked her once how she did it, to which she had replied: I've had a lot of luck, I guess. He had laughed at that and asked her if he could have some. "I can't help you." She had replied. "I don't know the first thing about luck, only that it is certain to change." She had said it in a light and carefree nature that foiled the darker implications that were present. He had raised an eyebrow and asked her what she intended to do when her luck changed. "I'm not worried about that until it changes." She had replied.
And it did. Her luck changed rather quickly quite early one afternoon. She had left the chantry in the market district, and had offered a casual hello to a Templar she had become acquainted with. As she was passing the Gnawed Noble tavern on her way to the wonders of Thedas shop she had heard it: a loud commotion behind her. She had turned around to see her friend running through the street, knocking shoppers out of the way, clearly not caring what commotion was made in his attempt to flee. The Templars were in pursuit, their armour glittering in the sun like the cold steel that it was. Her heart had stopped for a moment as she realized what was happening. One of the Templars stopped and called a fist of fire down from the heavens upon her friends head. She had heard of that power before, but had yet to see it firsthand. He fell with a screech of pain, though there were no burn marks on him. The Templars ran to catch up, an array of steel crusaders.. And when they caught him, they ran him through- in the middle of the street. In front of everybody. Many commended them for their efforts in hunting the rogue mage, Sarah left the district without saying a word. Two days later she left the city. One day after that she caught word that the Templars were following her. Apparently, they had been watching her for some time, and their suspicions had been confirmed when she fled.
At that point, she saw her only option as fleeing the country and, hopefully, getting out of the Templar's reach. So she ran to Gwaren and bought passage on the first ship she encountered. One can imagine her surprise when she learned not only that there were two Templars on board, but the ship was bound for Kirkwall- perhaps the most hostile place in Thedas, if one happens to be a mage. The notion had made her laugh very hard. Then, what should happen but an elf see her playing with magic two days into the voyage! That was the first time she had been genuinely afraid since arriving at Denerim. But fortunately the elf, Laryn- as she preferred to be called, held a less than favorable view of the chantry and had agreed to keep quiet.
Now here she was, an apostate on a boat with two Templars who remained oblivious to her existence at the discretion of a woman she barely knew. The Maker had a twisted sense of humor indeed. She smiled at the notion and wondered how long it would be before her luck changed for the worse, again. She looked at the spark flitting about her fingers and casually changed it blue, then green, then red, then purple. She wondered what the Templars would do if the boat suddenly burst into purple flames, but it was a weak and ephemeral notion. The spark multiplied, and there were then six where there had once been one. She wondered where the other passengers had gotten to. In their rooms, more likely than not. They could stay there as far as she was concerned. She wondered what time of day it was.
She heard footsteps outside and quickly snapped her hand shut to extinguish the sparks. The door opened and Laryn walked in, hooded, with the air of a person who was dwelling somewhere else entirely. She let the door close behind her and sat down next to Sarah. Sarah studied her face and considered again how sad it looked. It was not that the expression was sad, it was more that there was a certain sad undertone that remained present regardless of the way in which the face chose to arrange itself. She had a curious tattoo spanning her forehead that distinguished her as either being a Dalish or as having a tattoo, she couldn't decide which. Her face was not unpleasant, but remained unreadable as she spoke: You're a fool for that.
Sarah cocked her head in confusion. For what?
You're an apostate on a boat in the middle of The Waking Sea with two Templars on board, the better part of five days from land, and here you are, doing magic. The statement was one of certainty without doubt, and there was no denying that it was also a true one. That was not what puzzled Sarah though.
How can you always tell?
Laryn gestured at the floor. There is no ash, no kindling, no remains of a fire. She then looked Sarah in the eye and gestured at her hand. Scorch marks, fresh ones. She said simply.
It doesn't prove anything.
Laryn looked at her. It doesn't have to. Some Templars hesitate if acting on suspicion because they want proof. Other Templars never seem to require it.
How do you even notice things like that?
Laryn smiled faintly I've been practicing a long time. The smile faded, and may well have never been there at all.
Sarah was puzzled. You are a very strange elf.
You're not the first human to tell me that. She studied her fingers carefully, turning her hand over and under for a time. Sarah noticed a plain willow ring, ornamented with images of foxes and hares. Where did one find a ring such as that? Laryn interlaced her fingers and set her hands on her knee. I'm curious, why exactly am I strange? I always thought such things relative.
The perception of normalcy.
Sarah giggled at that, though was unsure if it was intended as humour. If it was, it was a strange kind. I don't know... it's something in your manner, I guess. You always seem sad, but never act like it. You give that half smile to things that aren't funny and keep a straight face when given a joke. You sometimes seem content in one breath and bitter in the next. You put things in a way most people would not. Those sorts of things.
Laryn shrugged. Correct on all counts, though most people do those things at one point.
You do them constantly.
Do I? It was a question in what was said. It had the tone of the question and was even asked like a question. But was it not a statement?
What is it you're sad about?
Laryn looked at her with a strange look on her face, was it surprise? Possibly, though dissimilar enough to be mistaken for something else. Though there isn't really an adjective in existence to describe what it might be mistaken for. Sarah wondered if Laryn understood the question, but came to the conclusion that she did. This made Laryn's long in coming response unexpected. Sorry?
Sarah stretched her legs out and leaned her head back to look at the ceiling. You seem sad all the time, and you just agreed to it. Why so depressed? I just want to know what's wrong.
Laryn looked away. I can't even remember the last time someone asked me that... it's sad now that I think of it. She thought back to leaving the clan thinking Tamlen dead. Then she thought back to Ostagar, to Daveth, to Jory, Lothering, Sten, Leliana, Zathrian, The Circle, Redcliffe, Orzammar, then to having to kill Tamlen with her own hand. Then she thought of the darkspawn and her blood ran hot like fire. She shook her head and looked at the floor. It's probably better that you don't know. . Sarah was surprisingly unsurprised at that answer. No lack of secrets between strangers, right?
Laryn shrugged. No lack of secrets. There was no undertone to that statement. It was repetition, nothing more. There was a brief pause, then Laryn looked at her. The cooks have probably readied the noon meal. It would be a shame to miss it.
I've been down here all morning?!
Laryn again showed that stange half smile.. Yes. I had assumed that you knew that. A couple of people missed you. One person was asking if you had gotten lost.
Sarah stood up and Laryn did the same. Sarah was the taller by more than a head, but there could be no question as to which figure commanded more authority of the two. Sarah looked at the door. How could I have not heard them moving about?
Laryn looked at the door too. Did you here that mouse scratching in that corner just after I walked in?
Sarah looked to the corner Laryn was pointing at. Okay, now that is just scary.
Maybe your ears don't work very well.
Maybe. Sarah opened the doors and waved her hand in a gesture of satirical formality. After you, sharp ears. It was not an insult. Laryn shook her head, but Sarah could have sworn she saw just the faintest hint of a smile pull at her lips for just the briefest of moments. It might have even been real. She followed her out of the room and closed the door behind her. She had not met many elves, and most of them had been at least as inhospitable as one would expect a people in their position to be to one of the people of their oppressors. Coming to think of that, most people in general were cold to each other- Perhaps a form of self immolation caused by lack of trust. That reminded her of what Knight Commander Greagoir had said at her Harrowing:
- "There was a mage like you, about five years ago. He was the best apprentice this Circle had to offer, tutored by Irving himself. Many of the senior enchanters of that year thought he would clear the Harrowing in record time. But he did not pass this test." He had paused to let the words sink in: "Skill with magic is not enough to pass this test. It is just as much about discerning where the real threat lies. A great many abominations are born from mages who cannot tell a demon when it looks them in the eye. Defects of perception are far more deadly than defects of skill. Though you may be tempted to slay your presumed foe and think your task done, remember this: Simple killing is a warrior's job, and you are no warrior- The greatest dangers of the fade are preconceptions, and careless trusts."
Then he had gestured for her to touch the lyrium so as to project her spirit into the fade. In spite of Greagoir's warning, she had nearly fallen victim to a spirit of Desire masquerading as one of hope. Perhaps a little mistrust towards strangers was not such a bad thing, but did it always need to be so cold, so bitter? From the way most people interacted with each other, one would think that the answer must be yes. Sarah often found herself wondering if people were just downright determined to dislike each other. Laryn was different. She was (warm? hospitable? decent?) all right.
Fourteen people sat at the table. Two were Sarah and Mahariel, though the former did not know the latter as such. Another was a dwarf, who was for whatever reason taking cares equal in measure to Mahariel's to conceal his past, but that is for another time. Suffice it to say that he was a stoic fellow, and in no way commonly found in a mood to chat. There were two other elves, both men, rumored to have escaped from an unnamed master in Lothering. Rumor also pegged Mahariel as being connected to them in some way, but all parties concerned denied this. The sixth was a Ferelden noblewoman, who through some fortunate device had no idea that the Hero of Fereleden was on board the ship. She claimed to be en route to Starkhaven, where she intended to marry a powerful nobleman and gain political influence. But it should be kept in mind that politicians say a great many things. There were three mercenaries, two Rivaini men, and a female that spoke with an accent that could only be paired to Orlais. The captain had hired them as guards, though exactly what there was on board that the captain thought needed guarding was unknown. Perhaps there was nothing at all, and the captain merely sought to keep his passengers in line. Three men kept to a corner and remained concerned primarily with their own affairs, and the mercenaries kept an eye on them- no doubt expecting trouble. The most commanding figures though, were the Templars. Having been transferred from Ferelden, they were bound for Kirkwall to help reinforce an as of yet unnamed Knight Commander. One was an incredibly tall and imposing man, almost ridiculously so- with clean dirt brown hair done up in a ponytail that he had rested over one shoulder. He conducted himself with a self righteous air akin to arrogance, almost to the extent that he was a constant nuisance to others. Clearly, Templars sought fighters over rational minds. The woman was a significantly less haughty sort, whose face resembled something like a mature dragon had stomped on and summarily crushed the face of a mabari. This defect was offset by her well tempered and mellow character. Calm and collected, but never cold. She was by far the more approachable of the two, and was the one who initiated the conversation. I hear the good captain won't be joining us.
The Orlesian mercenary looked at her. Eez eet a surprise? Ee 'as much to do.
That may well be Juillet, but I would expect a man of his reputation to be a bit less misanthropic a host.
I would be happy if he showed up and proved to us his existence. Said one of the elves, black haired- Athras by name.
Men are allowed zer singularies. She replied with a look of disgust. And I vuld remind you to keep ton place, couteau-
English, if you please. Said the taller Rivaini (Ernest, by name.)
The arrogant Templar, Smelost (how he came by such an irregular name was a mystery) added his own bit to the conversation. As long as I'm around, I dare say all these fine people have all the company they need. Who needs a captain?
As long as you're around, I daresay we'll have more than we want to of your company. Both Templars and the Orlesian eyed Sarah at her boldness. The Rivaini and the elf returned to conversing with their respective companions. Smelost, seeing the jest, smiled.
And with your tongue we'll have all the jests we need, my pretty blond thing. If you ever fear an apostate is near, just find me and I'll take care of it.
Juillet scoffed. Smelost's colleague looked at him with an eyebrow raised. You know, there were nearly a dozen Templars in Ferelden betting that you wouldn't be able to tell an apostate if it stared you in the face and screamed I'M A MALEFICAR!
You see Elise? His eyes brightened at the thought as he talked with his colleague. I made nearly a dozen Templars lose a bet!
You've caught apostates then. This one came from the dwarf, who spoke in dark cordial tones that structured themselves in such a way so as to make his words both a question and a statement at the same time, whilst lacing his doubts into the fabric of the phrase he had uttered. One had to commend him on his ability to show doubt without direct expression, and to issue challenge without a challenge being issued.
Smelost looked at the dwarf as a flash of anger seared across his face. I will- you can be sure of that.
The dwarf looked at him with the deep blue eyes that dimly shined. It was hard to make out his expression past the mane of bleach blond hair and the beard he wore on his face. You had best do that then.
Smelost might have said something, but Sarah chose that moment to scream I'M A MALEFICAR! at the top of her lungs. An abrupt, forced, and very tense silence followed, the three in the corner turned their heads. Then everyone burst out in a fit of laughter, save for Mahariel, the dwarf, and Elise. Mahariel kicked Sarah under the table, a gesture that was noticed by the dwarf, who began to stare at Mahariel. Elise followed the dwarf's gaze and it was apparent to see the mechanisms of her clockwork Templar mind hard at work, though the conclusion she came to was unclear. She eventually smiled after the laughter died down. An appropriate jest... Sarah, is it?
The last that I knew.
Elise nodded then looked at Mahariel, her face unreadable. And not everyone was moved by it. Conversational, cordial, questioning?
Some people take little pleasure in such humor- I am surprised that a Templar would. She looked straight at Smelost, the power of her stare something that made the Templar decidedly uneasy. It's all in good fun. He said boldly, not betraying his discomfort.
Not to me. Mahariel replied and looked back to her plate. Some people know real evil, Templar. Maybe you should open a book and remind yourself what that insignia on your armor stands for.
Mahariel saw the suspicion fade from Elise's face, but there was still some there, and it would be shared, there could be no mistake about that. Would her fellow Templar listen? Surely not. Said fellow Templar was much more occupied with what he perceived as a scathingly bitter back-handed jest that had been thrown at him. (In actuality it was direct, and it was not a jest.) You take your humor at my expense, then?
Sarah noted that transparent false smile as it pulled at Mahariel's lips briefly. It was not humor.
Then you would make a mockery of me?
She doesn't have to. Cut in the noblewoman. You make a mockery of yourself. One of the two elves snickered at this, but withering glares from both Juillet and the noble shut them up. Mahariel, unlike them, had won herself the capacity to say what she willed without being harassed, to an extent. She had won this through her manner, a certain air about her commanded that one should show her at least a modicum of respect. The same could not be said for the other two elves on board. She looked at the Orlesian and then the noble respectively. The last two blights were defeated by two elves. It was an observation that said all that needed to be said.
Mahariel stood up and walked out of the room. Those assembled at the table watched her leave, two of the characters in the corner paid it unusual and excessive mind, but this went unnoticed. Ernest shrugged and looked at Sarah. So, what exactly is her problem?
You're asking me?
You've been with her the most, so I don't think it's unreasonable. A smile pulled at his lips.
Sarah looked at the door and then back at Ernest. She strikes me as one of those people that the more you know about them, the harder they are to understand.
Ernest nodded in agreement. The dwarf issued a brief and guttural Hmph! and got up and walked out of the room. No one asked what his problem was, because everyone already knew that nobody knew the answer. Instead, Sarah looked at the door again and then at the Templars. At least you have a guarantee he's not a mage. She remarked casually.
Indeed. Said Smelost in a whimsical tone.
Indeed. Remarked Elise in a more reflective manner. She then leaned over and whispered something in Smelost's ear that no one could hear. The two then got up and left the same way Mahariel and the Dwarf had taken. Sarah felt compelled to watch them go. When the door had closed she looked at Juillet. I guess I know how to empty a room.
Eh! Mais we 'ave lost naught but quatre!
English please. Repeated Ernest.
The elf named Athras looked around tentatively and then cleared his throat. The voice he spoke in was weak relative to what had been expected, and what had been expected was precious little. Um... excuse me?
The Orlesian and the noble both looked at him with contempt. What?
Did anyone see those fellows in the corner leave?
Everyone looked and saw that they were indeed gone, and no one there could remember watching them leave. The eventual conclusion was that they had slipped out sometime after Laryn had left but before the Templars had departed. Those assembled were baffled by their apparent disappearance and, as Sarah pointed out- A vanishing act like that takes talent.
Mahariel paced the decks of the ship restlessly with the sun soaring high overhead. She felt the occasional flecks of salted water spray her when the ship was hit by a particularly large wave. She felt the intense rays of the sun keeping her warm. She would be a liar to say she wasn't bothered, but that was nothing new. A few crewmen were on deck, but they paid her no mind. But she did mind them, so she went to the stern of the ship and looked back out to where Ferelden lay somewhere beyond the horizon. She remembered the fierce screams, perhaps even savage, of a circle apprentice as three abominations began to create another of their kind. The sparks had been blinding at first, but then the light was gone, leaving only the piercing shrieks of utter agony as the apprentice writhed on the icy stone floor. She had had to watch as the unnatural purplish flesh began to swell up around the upper body, as the body warped to the demon's will, becoming little more than a sack of sickly purple flesh. And then the screaming stopped, and it was over. Everything had ended for that mage. The thing stood erect, silent, and regarded her with the two other abominations. Then Uldred turned around with a look of perfect contentment. Few things had pleased her more that year than carving that thing apart, saving the few mages that were left.
She had no place for humor that derived itself from the darker aspects of existence. There was no humor to be had in such things. She began to pace back and forth again. That Sarah had had the nerve to say that... and that the templar had had the audacity to laugh, infuriated her beyond measure. She reminded herself that Sarah was not herself, and was of a lighter nature. She shook her head and slammed her fist on the railing at the thought of trying to protect one so recklessly stupid. The resulting pain that shot up her arm was nothing to her, she even took a modicum of pleasure in it. Then came footsteps behind her and she turned around. A few moments later the three men from below deck were standing before her. She said nothing, they said nothing. The first among them looked at her with a strange look on his face. Like a Predator studying prey. Mahariel's face could not be interpreted in any way, save that a deep sadness and blazing fury were both present behind her eyes, dwelling somewhere on the precipice of the deepest depths of her soul.
It's dangerous to wander the decks alone. Remarked the leader. Mahariel continued to look at him without response, though something in her face twisted itself so as to say without words the simple phrase: Get on with it. And he did.
It would be best for such a pretty thing as you to be below deck. In a quiet room with a friend, if you catch my drift.
A sneer pulled at Mahariel's lips and she let darkness fall into her eyes, it was an attempt at intimidation. You would do better to go below deck and leave me be.
Tut tut tut, such hostility. A malignant glint fell into his eye. And it wounds me so! The two men behind him took a step forward each. Mahariel took a step back towards the railing. The leader smiled. Perhaps you will give the correct reply this time, mmm? It is best for such a pretty thing to be below deck, with a friend.
Her face darkened more and the other two shrunk back a little at the sight, slowly becoming aware of a strangely vague feeling in the air, as if it were a series of small knives sliding over them, cutting them constantly, though there was no bleeding. The leader felt it too, but did not shrink back. Mahariel spoke in a quiet voice that carried power. Earn what you take, if you would have it.
The leader snickered, unphased by the threat. With pleasure.
He took two steps towards her and attempted to grab her arm. What followed was so short in execution that the other two men could barely trace it. She grabbed the leader's arm, and unceremoniously jerked it to fling his entire body over the railing, spraining his wrist as she did so. She grabbed him as he was falling and was then holding him at a precarious angle by the ankle, her left hand being the only thing keeping him from falling into the water face first. She pulled him back up a bit and let him drop so that he was merely leaning over the rail with her hand pinioning him against it. The air grew worse, like someone was drawing razor blades continuously across his skin so as to shave it off, whatever the vague feeling was before had become definite and unbearable. As she leaned in close enough to whisper in his ear, he began to contort slightly with the pain of it, as did his fellows. He clung to her every word as she spoke, softly. Do you feel that? I do... it is nothing to me. She let the words sink in before continuing. Unless you would have me hurl you into the waters below, you will leave me be. She neither asked for nor required a reply, she simply jerked him to his feet and sent him sprawling with one smooth motion. He got shakily to his feet, and then the three ran as if death itself were hunting them. She frowned. Other people with a Reaver's talents might have reveled in the altercation. She took absolutely no pleasure in it at all. She resumed pacing briefly, then noted that one of the men had dropped what looked like a small dagger. She picked it up and examined it. A ray of sunlight caught it and blinded her in one eye. She turned abruptly and hurled it out to sea, where it would sink into the depths, never to be seen again.
She turned and began to walk back below deck. Why was it that the world was so determined to plague her with such things? She had grown weary of them long ago, but still they came, and that made her angry. A lot of the time she just wanted to cast her arms aside never to be lifted again, but her knowledge was stronger than her hopes, and told her that that would never be an option. She would be fighting until the day she met her end, and even that day would likely be drenched in blood.
Passing a door below decks she caught whispers of the two Templars and stopped to listen.
I say it again Smelost, there is an apostate on board this ship, and I think that elf Laryn is the one, or at least she knows who is.
Ah, but you are paranoid Elise.
No. There was urgency in her voice that was easy to find. I assure you there is an apostate on board, I did not get my first suspicions today. She spends most of her time alone, and we cannot account for her actions during that time.
The dwarf does the same, it is not so unusual.
Perhaps, but does that explain her conduct today? I can accept her explanations, but that does not alleviate my concerns.
Your concerns are groundless, I can assure you there are no apostates on board. They wouldn't have the gall to stay on a ship with Templars.
You put too much stock in your title, we must be vigilant. If magical harm comes to anyone on this ship, then it is on our hands.
Then I suppose that watching her couldn't hurt.
That is all that I am suggesting at present.
Mahariel cursed silently and strode off to find Sarah. She had been wary of discovery before, but was now doubly so. It would be a cruel twist of fate to come this far in protecting her self appointed charge only to fail less than five days from Kirkwall. She was not prepared to let that happen. She thought then of the ruffians that had accosted her on deck. The talents she had employed in fighting them off could easily be mistaken for magic, as the relation was very close. She cursed again. It should not be this complicated just to take a ship to a city. Then again, she knew that it was the better part her fault for making it so. That was of absolutely no consolation at all.
Either way, something had to be done.