Moment of Recovery
Pain, greater than any torment to ever rend my scarred flesh, tore through my guts, up my throat, and splattered behind my eyes. An eternal throbbing puckered from the base of my brain up into my nose. Death was preferable to waking. A nice long slip into the inky blackness never to awaken. Perhaps that was what kicked off uthemra for my people, I could wake and face an ogre of a hangover or simple not bother. I tried to sink down deeper but a coolness rose against my skin, lapping as if some monstrous creature slapped its gargantuan flippers against the seas.
Gritting my teeth, I managed to crack one eye, light searing through the one part of my brain left out of the festivities. Bubbles of pain burst from the attempt. Trying another go at this, I folded my fist and opened both eyes. A massive sword extended just above me, the tip reaching down to bifurcate my midsection and scatter my vengeful bowels. I scrambled, trying to roll out of the way before the giant could finish its job when my brain helplessly threw out the fact the sword was made out of stone. In fact, so was the hand holding it, her eternal eyes peering down at the pool of water I fell asleep in. Probably her pool of water, come to think of it.
More lapping continued beside me, and I twisted to find a dog's head snout deep in the fountain water. His stub of a tail wiggled with every sloppy slurp. The fountain was maybe a half a foot deep at most, water soaking into the back half of the light shift I remembered stripping down to when the heat grew immeasurable from too many bodies or too much drink. I tried to whip my head around to find the proper clothes I began the night with, but I could barely remember this room, or what building I wound up in, and possibly the country.
Somehow, through the desert winds of my throat, I croaked out, "Falon'din emma ghilana." Each syllable of the curse costing me. The dog paused in his drinking to nudge me in the stomach. He wanted pats, and all I needed was a long drink of water. Well, I'd probably done worse. Cupping my hands, I spooned some of the fountain water into my cracked lips. The water slicked down my ragged throat, enough that I could stop before hitting mabari slobber.
Using the dog as leverage, I struggled out of the fountain, the water trying to haul me back to its shallow bed. I remembered the plaza with the moon shining down through orange rooftiles, marble columns stretching high above my head and mosaics beneath my feet. That was during the sober part of the evening.
Benches festooned the area, most piled with people who thought better than spending the rest of the early morning in the fountain. I wished I'd been as wise, or not as drunk. The crisp winter air found its way to my skin through the wet cloth clinging to my backside. Reaching back, I tried to wad it up and wring some off, but that only drew a greater drumming being my temples.
A familiar accent moaned beside the massive wine cask, now hollow, and I limped towards it. Why was I limping? I couldn't remember any major battles of recent note and...oh, right. Someone convinced the Herald of Andraste to climb to the top of a dais, my heretical fingers blaspheming reliefs of the prophet's life, and jump off. That part went fine, it was playing a game of body knots after that got me. I still defeated those Crow twins though, even if I twisted my knee almost to the point of inversion to do it.
Bodies that had been dressed in Antivan finest and were now down to their own underthings rolled in sleep from my boots clanging against the marble floors. No, wait, these weren't my boots. I stopped wearing shoes months ago. Peering closer I realized the boots were far too large, cracking along the inside heels, and on the wrong feet. Someone also took the time to tie flowers in the laces.
Somehow just knowing I had on the wrong shoes caused my body to stumble more, the over abundance of celebration and alcohol tipping my stomach. But I could overcome this, I was the Herald of Andraste and worships don't vomit on their guests floor - unless that's what they're worshiped for, I suppose. Using a statue of Andraste in far less dress than usual as a guide, I slid around the room towards the source of my poisoning.
Tossed across a rug, her head perched upon her arm as if she only intended to nap, lay the host of the hour. She looked almost at peace, mumbling in her dreams upon her side. A painter could have preserved that image for "Lady at Rest," she bore so little results of her own machinations save for the massive lion's head resting upon her hip. Its marble eyes followed me around the room as I tried to get to her.
"Jo..." I tried, my voice slipping out of my grasp. "Jose...Josephine."
Lady Montilyet snorted, my pathetic cry somehow rousing her. A warm eye opened and rolled up to me. "Oh, Inquisitor," her voice as honeyed as ever. "Forgive me," she said, trying to rise. For a moment she paused at the lion's head, then placed it calmly upon the bench behind her. "I did not hear you rise. Can I get you anything? Eggs? I think there might be some of that roast duck remaining."
Gorge rose at the idea of food, and I twisted away, trying to keep it in check. "No," I stuttered, waving my hand towards her, "No, I'm good."
Josephine smiled, wiping down her dress and tutting at a single stain. She looked like she spent the night curled up in bed with a good book, not chasing after a drunk elf and her mabari through the cobbled streets of Antiva City. It had to be blood magic. Especially after the tanner and fish incident. No one walks away from that unscathed.
"Have you seen my sister?" Josephine suddenly asked, the first trace of discomfort crossing her features.
"Over that way," I grunted, pointing in the direction of the drawing room that quickly became the table dancing room.
"What did you think of the wine? Not too brash I hope. The grapes have been atrocious this year," Josephine tutted.
"Wine was a-okay," I said holding my thumb up and trying to not focus on it.
"Excellent," Josephine beamed.
Something nagged at the back of my mind - something other than the throbbing headache. A piece of me was missing. A rather important piece at that. I glanced down at my red shift, cutting just off at the knees. "Do you know where my clothes went?" I asked.
"I am uncertain, we did lose rather a large section of the party when 'visiting' the mayor's estate, but they are likely to appear before the lunch hour. I could have one of the servants send something down in the meantime."
I waved my hand again, not wanting to be a bother. There were more than a few servants sleeping off a hangover beside the Montilyet's. It wasn't my lack of clothing that chewed on my brain, but something else. I stared down at the wrong boots, tapping the toes together in thought.
"What is it?" Josie asked. Somehow she unearthed a clipboard and whetted her quill. My theories on her being a blood mage added another tick to the list.
"I dunno," I shrugged, "just feel like something's missing."
The dog's barking twisted both of us around to the front door. Someone threw it open to divulge the sounds and smells of Antiva City rising for a new day. It also revealed a man silhouetted in the morning light, leaning into the doorway and clutching his head. He stood only in the barest of clothing, a scarf knotted around his neck, a cap perched upon his head, and a pair of white smallclothes with Mr. Inquisitor embroidered upon them in green.
"Oh right," I smiled wide at Cullen stumbling towards his dog, trying to wipe his face clean of a long bacchanalia. "I forgot my husband."
"Commander," Josephine said, her eyes focused on the ceiling above his head. "You have a small statue in your arms."
"I do?" he muttered, looking to the crook of his elbow and spotting the tiny cherub. "I do. I woke in the chantry like this. The sisters started, uh, screaming." He paused and looked down his chest. Marks dribbled in red wax stretched across the pale skin, at first a few were drawn to highlight his scars, but after awhile the wielder began a game of naughts and crosses. Three in total crossed from his stomach up to his chest. I only lost one that I could remember.
"Oh, Maker," Josephine giggled, trying to hide behind her clipboard.
Patting my ex-ambassador on the back, I smiled, "Josephine, you did not overstate the impressive welcome we'd receive in Antiva. This isn't something I'm about to forget in a long time."
She smiled sweetly, dipping in a curtsy. "Wait until you see what we have planned for tomorrow."
Cullen whipped his head up from his loyal dog carrying a soggy pair of pants. "Tomorrow?"