sloth…is an oppressive sorrow, which, to wit, so weighs upon man’s mind, that he wants to do nothing; thus acid things are also cold.
Magdalene | sloth
Nicolas Régnier - Penitent Mary Magdalene - 17th century
oil on canvas, 104 × 77 cm (40.9 × 30.3 in)
Palace on the Water, Warsaw, Poland
Ariel looked at her friend, the cold returning to her fingertips as she had nearly finished all her tea. The memories of the stench of rotting bodies in the humidity lingered, but it was the kind of civilian casualties she and her team saw that stayed. Ariel was a cold woman, a ruthless woman, but even she stomach what she saw. It took a toll on her. It took a lot of prayer and reflection for her to swallow the memories and hide them in a place where they could never, ever find their way back into her brain.
“I wish I could tell you about what we saw,” the Commander said, “But I’m afraid it would break your heart… Among other things.” The way her bony fingers gripped the cup looked like two spiders were trying to claim the bone china for themselves. She respected the woman who at next to her, but she knew that the brutality that happened on New Saigon would make her ill. “War is hell.”
Magdalene only nodded, endlessly understanding. “Of course, Commander. I thank you for your thoughtfulness.”
Magda was a genteel woman, not prone to outbursts of any kind. She flowed like cool water through her days, choosing not to think of the perpetual violence and bloodshed around her. In this way she remained sequestered in her own mind, her own fantasy that the galaxy was indeed at peace and that her God would see them through this hardship.
“I have been praying frequently for your safety, Commander, if you don’t mind my saying.” The madam knew she and Shepard differed in chosen religion as well. Magdalene’s God was a benevolent one and her Christ was pure and forgiving. Ariel worshipped an ancient and wrathful maker and practiced rituals older than the Christ himself.
“There is a small chapel in one of the wards. I like it. The scent of incense and the light filtering through the stained glass brings me closer to God.”
“You never have to apologize, I value your opinion.” Ariel’s inner circle was comprised of very few people, but they were her support. Next to her father, the Magdalene is probably the second most valuable member. “I am inclined to agree, but the Observation Deck will have to suffice. I have spent many nights looking out the window to observe the great void. It’s peaceful.”
She took a sip of the tea. The warmth the drink provided wasn’t scalding hot, it was pleasant. It warmed her hands without taking away her nature. “Our last mission was…” She paused to find the right words. New Saigon was one of the bloodiest mission in the war. It took a toll on her handpicked team and all her crew. “Taxing.”
“Would you like to talk about it?” Magdalene asked, setting her cup on her thigh. She knew the Commander was not a woman to bare her soul. She imagined Shepard’s weaknesses were cemented away long ago. “I am willing to listen.”
♓ — Magdalene has an otherworldly quality. In mystical terms, she is described as being half-body and half-spirit, pulled between material existence and spiritual concerns, possessed of the knowledge that she will never be entirely at home in the real world.
It smelled calming, the natural herbs that were able to sooth ancient raging dragons and brought peace to old philosophers. It certainly soothed whatever anxieties riddled the Commander, though what few she had were strange. She graciously took the cup letting the warmth spread like radiation bleed throughout her fingers. She took a sip.
“It’s very good. I wish we could have something similar to a garden on the Normandy, but I remember that it’s a warship, not a liveship,” she said, some light humor in her voice.
Magdalene smiled, lowering her gaze. “I’m terribly sorry, Commander, if I seem out of line; but I believe a garden aboard the Normandy would be a vast improvement. Perhaps some of your men and women could find peace there, when the rest of the galaxy is so chaotic.” She sipped silently at her own cup, savoring the heat and familiarity of the brew.