Dragon Age: Dinlaselan
Perfectly legitimate merchant woman... Tel'abelas.
Born to the poorest of the poor, Adassa, knew from a very early age that knowledge was power and knowledge was how she was going to get out of the the circumstances of her birth. It was how she was going to be more than her parents, how she was going to be the ruler of her own destiny. Early on, when it was still a romantic notion, she had thoughts of running away to join the Dalish, as though they would be the solution to anything. Even if it had made sense, it isn’t as though they would have ever accepted her. As she aged, as the shiny romance was washed out of the world, she became to understand that the only person she could rely upon was herself. Her parents meant well but they had no vision and didn’t want to to risk the wrath of the people in power. Everyone else only had their best interests at heart, so why shouldn’t she?
The biggest difference between them was she realized that those in power were people and people have weaknesses and hopes. They have loves and losses and things that are important to them. While the power is where most people focused, from an early age, she focused on the /people/ portion of the equation. As her parents arranged a marriage for her, she learned the patterns of the local guards. She started to learn which ones could be ‘trusted’ to give her errands and which ones saw her as a thing. Along with the small bits of coin she earned, she learned how to listen, to be unobtrusive and to, ever so carefully, manipulate those with power.
She also earned watchers.
While ‘everyone’ knows the Crows and their Talons, they don’t know about the other parts of those organizations. Assassins, for all that they’re secretive, stealthy creatures also tend to be splashy and prone to vanity – who can’t resist talking about their work. (Or at least that’s Adassa’s experience with them.) Even if they don’t talk about it, the results are typically the sort that are impossible to miss. That sort of work, however, doesn’t happen without a significant structure behind it and what powers that infrastructure, how are those targets chosen, is information. The machinery of that information gathering is more impressive and vast than anyone outside of it might ever imagine.
There was a marriage waiting for her, arranged by her parents, with a dowry that had been scraped together. It wasn’t enough for the family she’d been sold to in order to actually treat her as anything other than exactly that – a possession. Technically, she was to be married to what she was told was a ‘decent man’ but it didn’t take long for her to learn otherwise. So, when she left, it was hard to tell if she was kidnapped so much as she ran away. The timing could have been more fortuitous – she had moved to her new ‘home’ and just started officially going through the rites and ceremonies of marriage when she started to run…. and found herself picked up quite quickly by unexpected helpers.
While the assassins of the Crows churn through candidates hoping to find a physically adept slave or orphan, spycraft takes a little more than just physical talent and training. It takes patience, mental training and the ability to go unnoticed in most situations. Or to be very noticed in the right situations. Or make friends, quickly and easily, in others. Candidates are selected and molded more carefully. Even if the organization doesn’t really care about you at all, it certainly cares for results and spies require a little more delicate handling.
There were, of course, other skills she learned once those basics had been established. From the learning of basics, the general physical and mental conditioning, she was handed over to a pair of trainers – Taliesen and Zevran. Taliesen worked with her on her physical skills – training with swords, mostly, though she’s competent with a small knife in case close work was required. She was never going to be able to beat him but she did get to a point where she could hold him off for long enough to try other things. Those lessons left her tired and aching but grateful. The lessons with Zevran, however, were entirely different. The lessons with Zevran taught her how to make a person interested in talking to her. How to keep them interested enough that they’d linger but not so interested that they’d expect rights to her person or her bed. (Though, those presumptions are also what the close knife work was for.) She learned how to cause someone to want her above common sense. It is tricky work and she’d be lying if she said anything other than how she enjoyed those lessons, though it also helped her realize that she would never actually be able to do Zevran’s job. Luckily, her job doesn’t require her to seduce people to kill them, only seduce people to learn things and to gain favors from them and preferably finding other ways to do it first.
There are times she misses her training years. She and Zevran still exchange letters from time to time – especially when times are strained and information is worth more than gold. She should tell the Crows where he is when she knows but that information she keeps to herself.
Once she’d graduated, they placed her in an influential trading company, where she often interacted with and sometimes helped sail ships from place to place. She learned a lot of useful information – especially coming in and out of the Free Marches. Through her work in the trading company, she eventually earned a captaincy of her own ship. With a little help from the Crows, which she paid pack with interest, she was able to purchase her own ship to captain, able to break free of the trading company. Once she’d broken free of the trading company, she started working on braking free of the Crows, too. Being willing to work with them an independent contractor certainly helps with that, though they’re reluctant to let go of her entirely.
And then the sky broke open and everything got really strange….