Standing at their camp in the Emerald Graves was almost unreal. All his life Imalja had heard it simply called Greatwood, as the Orlesian nobles refused to acknowledge that the forest came from a much darker past and their own assault against the Dalish elves. Having spent the majority of his life locked up in a tower for mages meant he'd never really seen it up close, just from afar the few times that visits to Halamshiral had been necessary while he stayed there. Now, being right in the middle of it, amongst all the trees and the actual sense that these were graves in a real sense, gave him shivers. Even the comforting hand on his shoulder did little to eliminate the uneasiness, and Imalja clutched his staff a little tighter as his own way of reminding himself he wasn't helpless out here.
"We should get this over with as quickly as possible. I don't want to stay longer than necessary." He murmured, turning to his companions with a somewhat forced smile. Cassandra and Bull both understood, he could see that they too felt as he did and saw their own emotions reflected in him in turn. Cole wasn't oblivious to it either, but Imalja knew the boy well enough to trust that he was simply reading all their emotions and sensing what they did and was just being quiet for the moment.
They had just cause to be in such a place, or so Imalja hoped. A band of Orlesian refugees was hiding out, having some manner of information that was supposedly useful to the Inquisition and that their leader would only relay to the Herald himself. But in return they wanted help eliminating some Orlesian deserters, now calling themselves the Freeman of the Dales, as they had been harassing the refugees and forced them into hiding in order to stay safe. Killing was not what Imalja wanted, not when it was just people instead of the red templars or demons or other true evils of the world, but he didn't see where he had much of a choice in this matter. Any information they could get that might give them a leg up on the red templars or Corypheus was something they desperately needed and if this Fairbanks would only speak to the Herald then he had to be there.
Travel was difficult at best from their current location, and going on horseback was nearly impossible. Imalja did suppose that some of the Dalish bred hart mounts might have the footing necessary to navigate the thick tree roots without breaking a leg but he didn't know how to ride them, they were spirited beasts that chose their riders and had never seemed fond of him as a human. So it was on foot, carefully picking their way through everything and trying not to trip themselves as they traveled. Except for Cole, who seemed to walk the paths with no effort and the sense that he knew exactly where every step needed to be even if the others couldn't quite follow him.
"Take cover. Now!" Bull's whispered words of warning cut through the silence of the forest, making the others pause to register what he'd said. Cole vanished completely to points unknown, while Bull snagged Cassandra by the arm and dragged her behind a nearby tree with him. Imalja blinked, looking down the path only to see a band of red templars approaching and cursing under his breath. He made sure his staff was secure in its place across his back and jumped up, snagging a branch to haul himself up and then a bit further to avoid being seen entirely.
After a few minutes to make sure it was safe and the templars had passed them by everyone took a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. There weren't supposed to be red templars out there, the scouts hadn't said anything about seeing them, but Imalja also wasn't entirely surprised by it. They seemed to be everywhere as of late, and were getting better about hiding their presence as the Inquisition grew stronger and started to be more of an obstacle by disrupting their operations. Just one more thing they really did not need in this particular location, however.
"You stuck boss?" Bull teased, looking up at Imalja hugging the tree branch for dear life and chuckling.
"No." Imalja frowned pointedly, wiggling around a little bit so he could find his path down and making his way much slower than he had gone up but still managing to land on his feet as he dropped from the last branch. "But thank you." He nodded to Bull as he dusted himself off, taking a deep breath.
"You're welcome." Bull smiled, and the four headed off once again.
Imalja was thankful he had befriended and brought the Qunari along. He did feel a twinge of regret that he was basically using both Bull and Cole as lookouts of a sort, each able to tell things about the world others could not in their own way, but at the same time that was a safety net that he knew he needed. If they had been ambushed by the red templars in already unfamiliar and difficult to fight on ground that might have been the end of things. So he steeled himself against that kind of thought and moved forward, hopeful that there would be no further unpleasant surprises.
Imalja (c) Me
Everything Else (c) Bioware