Orlesian Murder Mystery
One instruction was clearer than any other: “Do not take a boat.” You told me that, Aethella. You knew - and I knew it too - that Pierre DeNoirre was watching the ports, all along the Waking Sea from here to Orlais. He knew about the Kirkwall contract taken out against him. DeNoirre had eyes down at the Docks here in Kirkwall, and at Val Royeaux too, all of them watching for the Coterie. For me.
They were watching for me to come by sea. So what choice did I have? I had to travel overland.
I disguised myself as a Chantry sister. Yes, it stung. But my face is too recognisable without a disguise. After what Marian and Anders did to the Templars last year, I had to hide myself. Too many questions otherwise – gawping villagers, the hushed whisper – “You’re her sister. Where... is... she? Where’s the Champion?” And I can only ever answer the same burning truth. That I don’t know. That she’d abandoned me, left me penniless, left me to join the Coterie.
But anyway, back to why DeNoirre lives still. Leaving Kirkwall, I met up with a caravan of elven merchants heading out through the Planasene Forest towards Nevarra. That forest, Aethella! So many wild sylvans, so vicious. One of the elves – an old man named Vere’hell - thought himself a warrior, and found himself crushed to death in a prison of wood the first sylvan he tried to attack. His son, though, had more of an affinity for nature. He could sense them before they sensed us, and guided us through that forest.
We parted a day outside Cumberland. I was alone, the blanket of night was drawing close, and I felt a powerful need to rest after the horrors in the forest. A little further down the road, I found an inn for the night. Soaking up the warmth of the inn’s fireplace. I arranged a room for the night with the innkeeper. And then I felt a tapping on my lower back. I turned around. I looked down.
“’Fine evening in Nevarra, if a little nippy, hey! Ho there, Serrah Bethany! Have you tried the cook’s pot-roasted purpletoad? Very rejuvenating, if I do say so m’self. Must be the elfroot sauce. But where are our manners? Say hello to Serrah Bethany, m’boy.”
I couldn’t help myself but greet them. “Bodahn! And Sandal! How did you make it through the forest? The sylvans?” I asked. A cheeky grin on Sandal’s face: “ENCHANTMENT!”
Bodahn picked up the story: “Yes, he’s a remarkable fellow, my Sandal. We’ve been invited to Orlais by the Empress! She’d like to have a little chat with us. To see if we can... help. And it’s very kind of your sister to agree to accompany us. These paths are...”
I interrupted, spluttering, “My sister? You’re travelling with Marian?”
“Oh yes,” Bodahn said, “Marian Hawke has always been a very good friend to Bodahn Feddic!”
“But where is she, Bodahn? Why is she with you?”
And then, Aethella, that familiar sarcastic voice behind me. “Surely, Bethany, you know that chaperoning helpless dwarves is always number one on my to-do list?” It’s been a year, but she looked just the same. Raven hair swept across her face, blood-red scar on her nose, two daggers slung across her back.
She fixed me with her steely glare. “Bethany, I wish I could explain. But I’m caught up in – events - that I don’t want you to have to know about.”
“Let me help, I could...”, I started to say, but Marian interrupted me.
“Bethany, it’s too dangerous for us to be here together. You have to understand how sorry I am. But I have one instruction for you. DeNoirre must live. The contract on his life? It’s a sham. It’s a trap, designed to lure you. Pierre DeNoirre is a pawn, and he's connected to all of this. Whoever took it out – and I’m still trying to track them down and deal with them – knows you’re in the Coterie, and knows that you’d get this contract. But I know one thing, and that is that you must not go to Val Royeaux. You must ignore DeNoirre. Please.”
I nodded, yes, and she pulled up her cloak, threw one of her damn smoke devices, and vanished. By the time the smoke cleared, she was gone.
So, Aethella, why is DeNoirre not dead? Because when Marian Hawke tells me to let someone live, I let them live.