Oh Maker! It can’t be. Private Jamison was standing on guard duty on the first floor of Fort Drakon when he spied the woman coming through the door at the other end of the large hall. Walking with her were her famous companions; all of them from the way it looked, as each of them came into the large hall behind her from the door which lead to the stairwell for the second floor of the fort. The Stone Golem as it walked was causing the floor to shake. He was mystified that the Warden Commander would be up off of her sick bed so soon. From what he’d heard she’d been injured severely. He had been too far from her during the battle for the city gates to get a good look at her.
She was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. The descriptions of her had not done her justice. As much as he wanted to enjoy watching her walk toward him, he knew he had to warn Commander Rader of Fort Drakon that the Warden Commander looked as if she was getting ready to leave the fort and he had no time to waste.
The King had given strict orders that the Warden Commander was to be guarded by every living soul in the fort or it would be all of their lives if anything happened to her inside this fort. He sure didn’t want to stand before the new King and be the one to tell him, he let her just walk outside. He knew she was not allowed to leave the fort without the King’s permission. Bloody hell! He took off at a run to get to the Commander’s office. He turned to his left and took off like a bolt of lightning from a mage’s staff down the short hall to Rader’s office.
Skidding to a stop before the Commander’s door he didn’t even knock, he just wrenched the door open and ran inside. Where he ran head long into stacks and stacks of papers on the floor scattering them all around.
“Ah Balls!” “Look at what ye’ve done.” “All of my hard work for hours getting all that paperwork back in order and now I’ll have to do it all again.” “Private Jameson you better have a damn good reason for invading my office first without knocking and doing all of this damage for seconds.” “I’ll see ye have latrine duty for weeks.” “Now what is so damn important?” “Is the fort on fire or something?”
“Uh, no sir, but I’m sure it is about to get real hot in here.”
“What in blue blazes are ye talking about man?”
“Well spit it out man, out with it, are ye goin’ to be keepin’ me from my duties with your stuttering?”
“Uh, no sir, it’s just that.”
“Um, it’s the Warden Commander, Sir?”
“Well, what about her?”
“She is on her way to your office; she just came down from the second floor and is crossing the great hall as we speak.”
The Commander’s face turned to ash. “Her Ladyship, Warden Commander Cousland?”
Jamison nodded his head yes.
“Are ye shitting me?” The Commander asked the private standing before him.
Both men could feel the floor shake under their feet and they knew it was the stone golem that had traveled with the Warden Commander. Both men looked at each other astounded.
“No, he isn’t shitting you.”
Both men jumped and turned to look upon the savior of Ferelden and Denerim. It was her – The Hero of Ferelden. The Warden Commander herself. She was standing in the doorway of my office with her entourage behind her. She was a looker for sure, thought the Commander. No wonder the King had fallen head-over-heels in love with her if the rumors were true.
She was dressed in beautiful hunter green leather armor with beautiful designs all over it; the armor matched her skin tone perfectly. If he wasn’t mistaken it was Dalish made armor, and she had some mean looking equipment on her back. Where in bloody hell had she gotten that sword? He’d never seen anything like it; he wondered what type of metal the sword was made from. He thought some would call the sword a teal color and it glowed a light blue and white. He could feel the magic of its runes from way over here. The sword hummed – he could hear it. I bet that sword sings when she wields it he thought.
She had to be around 5’8”, tall for a woman and she had an hour-glass figure. He guessed with her height, her head would reach the King’s shoulder. She was heavy in her bosom. She had the blackest hair he’d ever seen which had a blue tint, and the most unusual eyes he’d ever looked into. Her eyes were a blue/green color and she had a rosy complexion. Her lips were a deep burgundy. She was sporting a split lip too.
The chest piece of her armor didn’t hide the fact she was heavily bandaged under her armor. The armor was cut low on her chest and it didn’t hide her charms at all. If not for the bandages, most men would have a hard time concentrating on her face and be gawking at her bosom. A great cause for concern the heavy bandages underneath. What was this lady on about he wondered? She was dressed in her full armor and she was weapon heavy, a beautiful dagger was in her belt, which she had her hand resting on its hilt. She was still covered with bruises from the battle. The ones that were visible – some were still shades of blue and purple. Under her white tights he could see her legs had thick heavy bandages on them. This woman had nearly died saving the entire city. It was hard to imagine this lovely creature standing before him was a Grey Warden. She was also a Teyrn’s daughter. He had known of her father, Teyrn Cousland. He guessed her brother would hold that title now. Why in bloody hell was she even out of bed?
The Commander and private both bowed to her.
“My Lady, it is an honor and a privilege to finally meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” Just as with all the nobility, she spoke with authority.
She walked into the Commander’s suite of rooms and looked around. She walked forward and extended her hand. Her companions lounged in the doorway looking relaxed, yet watchful. These would be her now famous crew of companions. He could see the red head, the old lady, and if his eyes were working right, a blond-haired Dalish Elf who had tattoos on his face. All of them heavy with weapons. They all had the finest of equipment. The others were standing outside in the hall.
Commander Rader took her hand and bowed over it. Odd that she didn’t offer a warriors handshake of forearm to forearm. Hmmm, she wants something. Women! I must be on my guard here he thought.
Commander Rader stood back up straight and tall before her. He had a sinking feeling what she would wanted would put him in conflict with the King’s orders. Blasted nobles!
“I’m so sorry; it seems that I’ve interrupted your work.”
She turned a dazzling smile on him. He was blinded by her pearly white teeth. He’d never seen anyone with teeth that white. Maker! She had dimples when she smiled. Her smile caused her eyes to sparkle. Even though she had two black eyes as well, the shine of her eyes still came through. Her eyes twinkled. Aye, they actually twinkle. He’d never seen the like. Aye Ferelden had bonny lasses but she took the cake.
She smelled so good when he had bowed over her hand. She smelled of fresh dew roses and something that reminded him of home. What was it….that smell that perfumed her skin? Vanilla? That was it. She smelled of roses and vanilla. Toss in the smell of fresh apple blossoms and the Commander truly smelled of home. He thought he might pass out from the joy of just smelling her.
It was all everyone in the city could keep from doing – gagging – every minute of the day when a person walked outside. With dead soldiers and dead darkspawn burning, a cloud of thick vile smoke filled the air at all times. It was getting better as the days went on though. He had gagged a few times and he had been a soldier all of his life; he’d seen and smelled such things as rotting flesh and flies buzzing.
It was heady to be sure and the nearness of her was going to his head. He’d never had a reaction to a female like her before. Well one back home in Rainesfere.
He hoped Bonnie had faired well, he most likely wouldn’t get any leave until next year, so their letters to each other would just have to do. He was hoping one would arrive soon to let him know she was alright. The darkspawn had been thick in that area. He was worried that he had not heard from her.
“It wasn’t necessary private to announce me to your Commander; I would have been happy to do that myself.” “Wardens are used to introducing themselves.”
She had spoken to Private Jamison.
Rader turned to see if Jamison was as bedazzled as he was. Yup, the lad looked like he had been stuck by lighting.
“It wasn’t like that my lady.”
Bellavalia quirked her eyebrows at Private Jamison, who was standing before her, and his answer to her, “would you care to explain then private.”
“We are under orders Commander to guard you.” “I wasn’t sure what you‘re up to and I didn’t have the rank to question you.”
“So you ran for someone who did?”
“Yes, my lady.”
“You did the right thing private, when in doubt always defer to a higher ranking officer, who I’m sure you’re superior here, would agree with.” Bellavalia waved her hand nonchalantly in the direction of Commander Rader.
“Back to your post Jamison, I’ll deal with you later.”
“Madame,” Jamison nodded to her. Bellavalia smiled at the young private.
Jamison made his way to the doorway and the companions of the Warden Commander smiled at him as they let him pass.
“Don’t be too hard on the lad Commander or are you ticked that he scattered your paperwork that I see lying all around the floor?”
“Aye, my lady, I’m more upset over the paper work than anything else.”
“I completely understand.”
He noticed she made eye contact with her companions and two of them came forward into the room where they started to gather up the scattered paperwork. She’d done that without one word being uttered.
“My lady, I must object.”
“It’s no trouble Commander since I am the cause of the scattered papers.”
She bent down to help her companions. Rader also got busy gathering what was near him so he didn’t look like a fool. After a short time the paperwork was all gathered back up. The little red-head and the blonde elf bowed to him as they held out their stacks of paperwork to him. “Sir,” they both said to him as he took the paperwork from their hands. Then they both made their way back to the doorway and joined the rest of their companions where they all waited for their friend just outside his office door. They all seemed to be having a lively conversation with each other and they all seemed to get on well. He could see the stone golem and that thing frighten the piss out of him. How would one kill one of those things he wondered and where in the bloody hell had she come across that thing? The blasted thing even talked. He could also see the giant Qunari warrior, that man was hugh, it would be hard to bring him down in a fight too, he was guessing. He’d seen some tall men in his life but not one that tall.
“Warden Commander would you like to take a seat?”
Rader looked around and saw no other chair in his office except for his own. He laid the large amount of paperwork in his hands, on the only clear spot on his desk. He grabbed his own chair setting it in front of his desk. The Warden Commander smiled her thanks to him and took the seat. He really didn’t know what to do with himself. He went and stood behind his desk. He made a mental note to get another chair in his office. Usually it was just him and his own soldiers and they usually stood while he sat behind his desk issuing the day’s orders to his captains.
He didn’t see as he was moving behind his desk the little smirk that crossed her face.
“What can I do for you Commander?” “Is there something wrong with your accommodations on the second floor?”
“No Commander Rader, everything is fine upstairs and I’m most pleased with the understanding of your staff with what is going on upstairs with the total takeover of your second floor of my companions and my Wardens.”
He sighed softly to himself with relief. That was good news.
“I was curious with the reaction of your soldier when I started to cross the grand hall – his reaction to my being on this floor, since I was on my way outside to go to the market district; I thought I’d stop in your office and find out why?”
He knew his eyeballs must have popped right out of his head at her words.
“I’m sorry Commander but I’m afraid I can’t allow that.”
“Excuse me,” she said.
“I’m sorry Commander; but, you can’t leave this fort.”
“May I ask why Commander Rader.”
“His Highness has ordered that you remain within these walls until you are well and I’m assuming after his coronation.”
“When exactly did His Highness issue these orders?”
“His Highness issued these orders the day you regained consciousness Commander.”
“Do these same restrictions also apply to the other Wardens or just me?”
“I’m afraid, Commander, just you.”
“So everyone else is free to come and go as they wish all except me?”
He wished he wasn’t the person telling her all of this.
“Yes, my lady.”
She sat very still for several minutes.
“Am I under arrest for some reason Commander?”
“No, my lady, not at all, I assure you.”
She just nodded her head and the frown on her face disappeared.
“I promise I won’t tell ‘His Highness’ I’m gone and I’m hoping you won’t tell him either.”
Did he just hear her right?
“I beg your pardon,” he knew is eyebrows just shot up into his fading hairline! His poor eyebrows had a long way to travel to reach his hairline much to his dismay.
“I’m sorry Commander, I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to be making an enemy of the new King and challenging His authority.” “It also wouldn’t be a good idea for me to challenge the authority of Arl Eamon since he appointed me to this post.”
“It was a promotion for you?”
“Yes, my lady it was.”
“I see.” “Well I certainly don’t wish to cause you any trouble for your office.”
“Thank you, my lady.”
He didn’t believe a word she just said. She wanted out of this fort for some reason. The previous Commander had been killed when the darkspawn had attacked the city and Fort Drakon. The Commander before the one he replaced had been killed by the very woman sitting before him. She had escaped this very fort when Loghain had been Regent. If anyone knew how to escape Fort Drakon the woman before him did. This time she wasn’t even in a proper cell.
“My lady I can send out for anything that you need.”
“I thank you for the offer Commander; I just wanted to do a bit of shopping in the market to exercise my legs and spend the day with my friends. I was only going to be gone for a short while.” “You know shopping that women enjoy doing, it’s been so long since I’ve done something like that and I still need to find material, shoes, and jewelry for my gown for the Coronation Ball.” “Well, I’d have to be fitted for the shoes to be made as well.”
“I’m sure the two other ladies of your party will be happy to acquire those items for you.”
“Yes, Commander they both would enjoy such a task.” “It’s just that I wanted to get out for some air and see what is happening in the city and also enjoy time with my friends.”
“If it pleases you Commander I can see that the clobbers and dressmakers from the merchant’s guild would be given appointments and be allowed in to see you.” “They’d all have to be from the merchant’s guild though.”
Bellavalia just realized that Commander Rader knew of her contacts with the other rogues within the city and this is why he would only allow members of the merchant’s guild in to see her. Blast it. I’m going to have to sneak out of this damn fort!
“That is most kind of you to offer Commander, but I was also on my way to search for my brother about having all of the Wardens, and my friends moved over to our family estate here in the city.”
“I really don’t see how the King could object and you’d have the entire fort back.”
“Your stay here Commander is an honor for us here at Fort Drakon and it’s no trouble at all seeing to the needs of your group.”
“If you have the King’s permission to allow me to come and go you’ll abide by it?”
“Indeed I would My Lady.”
“Alright then I’ll see about gaining his permission.”
“My Lady for exercise you will be allowed access to the all the floors except the kitchen’s below.”
“I thank you, for the gesture Commander.”
He watched her stand and she held out her hand to him again. He bowed over her hand once more. “It was a pleasure meeting you Commander Rader.”
“The pleasure was all mine my lady.”
She smiled and left my office. He knew by the surprised looks of her companions they were as shocked as she was.
He knew this would not be the end of this encounter with her. There was calculation behind her eyes. I’ve a lifetime dealing with rogues and she will not let this go. He was sure of it. When she was gone back upstairs he’d have to issue new orders for more guards. He didn’t know why the King had issued orders that she couldn’t leave, all he knew was that those were his orders. He knew she would sneak out of this fort and if anything happened to her, he’d be the one to pay the price. Commander Rader sighed out his frustration. Damn the nobility.
Bellavalia looked at her expectant companions. “Something has happened, what did the fine Commander of Fort Drakon say to you?” It was Zevran asking.
“Well everyone, it seems I’m not allowed to leave the Fort per Alistair’s orders.”
Leliana was as stunned as I was. “Why would he issue such an order?”
“I don’t believe it was Alistair who issued that order, I replied.”
“Someone doesn’t want you out and about taking the praise and glory away from the new King.” “Out-of-sight….out-of-mind as the saying goes.”
“Hmmm,” was my response.
“So what now,” asked Oghren?
“Leliana and Zevran I’d like you two to return upstairs with me.”
“The rest of you go shopping for whatever you’d like for supper this evening.”
With her small group of friends out shopping for dinner items and the other wardens she’d also sent out they’d have food supplies for a few days at least while she was gone to Gwaren.
“Is there anything special you’d like us to purchase for dinner tonight?”
“I seem to have lost my appetite so whatever you all want will be fine with me.”
“I’m sorry everyone, I was looking forward to spending the afternoon with all of you for some fun.”
“Seems like we’re all back to business as usual of having to watch our backs, aye.”
“Seems that way,” Oghren. “Ha, bring it on I say.”
I laughed, “always up for a fight, right Oghren?”
“Aye, the only two things I’m good at in this life, fighting and drinking.”
“Oghren, there is one more thing.”
“Eh, what is that?”
“You’re a good friend, Oghren.”
“Don’t go getting all soft on me now Commander.”
I laughed again.
“Oghren just one more little errand if you don’t mind.”
“Aye what now,” Oghren asked with impatience?
I handed Oghren a note with my family estate address on it.
“Find this brew master and ask him for some really strong drink, I’m sure he’d be interested in a discussion of your own home brew recipe and make sure you bring some back for supper.”
“A man, who enjoys my taste and interest, be nice to share a pint with this evening.”
“I’m sure he’ll see it that way too.”
“Kadan, I’ll stay if you wish it.”
“No Sten, go with the rest of them and enjoy the day and find something sweet for dessert this evening.” “You won’t mind Thor coming along?”
“No, he is good company.”
“Thank you Sten.”
Thor looked up at me and whined.
I knelt down, rubbing him behind his ears. “Change of plans Thor, you go with Sten and find Fergus will you?”
“Good boy, I’ll be right here waiting.”
Wynne really wanted to stay with me, I could tell.
“I’ll be alright Wynne, go outside and enjoy the day and the market.”
“Please find a couple of nice big roasts for the cooking pot will you, and fresh baked bread to sup up the gravy.”
“As you say,” said Wynne.
“Don’t forget the herbs too Wynne.”
She nodded as she followed the rest of my friends to the main entrance to leave.
I was left standing in the massive hall watching my companions leave without me and I was mad as hell inside. If anyone was watching they would not get the idea that was I mad at being kept inside Fort Drakon.
“Come on you two; let’s head back to my room for a game of cards shall we.” “I’ve done enough walking for now.”
“Oh time to divest you of some gold, well I’m up for that.”
“You can try Zevran,” and I laughed as Zevran, Leliana, and I made our way back to my room and prison as it seemed here inside Fort Drakon.
It was now time for plan b. Whatever plan b was, I was going to have to come up with that plan quickly.
My temper was also simmering just under the surface at our new King or was it Arl Eamon I should be mad at. He had no right to keep me here inside Fort Drakon; I wasn’t under arrest or not yet anyway.
The rest of the companions had just stepped outside into the courtyard of Fort Drakon. “Well what the hell just happened in there?” Oghren asked, to nobody in particular.
“Well if Alistair wishes to keep her as his friend, he is doing a piss poor job of it.”
“He only wishes to keep Kadan safe until she is fully healed.”
“He could have at least told her, and not had some flunking telling her.”
“I’m sure it just slipped his mind with everything that is going on.”
“Did you see the look on her face, her eyes, she is mad I tell you.”
“Well he is only doing what he thinks is best for her.”
“Do you think he will try to stop her from going home to her estate here in the city?” “I’d sure hate to miss out on that bet.”
“He might, but I don’t see him doing that with her brother here.”
“She has to have permission from both of them it seems.”
“If Kadan wishes to go to her home then she will.” Sten once he gained confidence in the Warden, he was on her side no matter what.
“She might just walk right out of Fort Drakon and go home anyway.”
“No, she might sneak out.” “I’m sure she is cooking up some way to do that as we even speak, if Alistair won’t allow her to go home.”
“What did the note say Oghren.”
“It’s just the address of her family estate and name of her brother.”
“I think she wants us to find her brother and as fast as we can.”
“She wants out of this fort and I can’t say I blame her, if her home is nearby.”
“Don’t any of you find it odd that she never mentioned – when all of us were in Denerim before – her home here?”
“She couldn’t if you stop and think about it, not until she found Howe and killed him, then the Landsmeet, and the darkspawn to deal with, when did she really have time to check on her home and their staff?” “Plus, Loghain would have been watching her home.”
“Aye, he would have your right Wynne.”
“What is the address Oghren?”
“The note said Cousland Courtyard.”
“By my ancestors!” “Her family even has a street named after them!”
Sten snorted at this piece of news.
“Well, her family is one of the oldest families in all of Ferelden Oghren, and one of the most powerful too.”
“I take it they are bloody rich to boot.”
“Yes, from my understanding they are.” “Who knows if Howe ran through with what he stole of their money and property.” “If I know anything of the Couslands – I’m sure they have back-up reserves somewhere.” “They were responsible for the training and housing of the King’s troops.”
“Aye, good plan to have in case of emergencies, gold tucked away somewhere.”
“How many of the King’s troops are we talking about here?”
“Well, they were responsible for half of the Ferelden’s troops.”
“Let me guess, Loghain was responsible for the other half?”
“Yes he was.”
Oghren whistled low under his breath.
“So her family is really that powerful?”
“Yes, and with power comes enemies.”
“Aye, same goes on in Orzammar all the time.”
Sten grunted is disapproval; apparently relaying his opinion of Orzammar politics.
Wynne had stopped to look behind her to see what Thor was barking at. Shale was trying her best to stomp some pigeons to death and Thor must have thought it was a game.
“Shale, would you please stop that.”
“The fussy mage has decided to tell me my business.”
“We don’t want any more attention drawn to us than is necessary.”
“Right,” said Oghren. “As if traveling with a golem won’t draw attention.”
Oghren rolled his eyes at Wynne. She in turn gave him a mean look.
“Well since it asked nicely I guess these pigeons can live for the time being.”
Thor was skipping alongside the giant golem wanting to play.
“I don’t have your stupid stick, you mangy mutt.” “Go back and ask your mistress where it is.”
“His stick is packed away with all of our supplies at Arl Eamon’s, Shale.”
“To bad for the mangy mutt then!”
Thor was busying himself by trying to tease Shale with snapping at her feet and dancing away.
“You know Shale you should try making friends with Thor instead of yelling at him all the time.”
“Like it tried to do by giving him a bath at camp?” “How did that work out for the fussy mage?”
“Fine, once she bribed him with Mabari treats, laughed Oghren.”
“Enough let’s move on.” “The day is wasting.”
“You always say stuff like that when you get bested you old hag.”
“Who are you calling an old hag?”
“You, since you go on about your blasted age all the time.”
A sour expression crossed Wynne’s face. “Keep it up you old drunk.”
“Aww, whatcha’ goin’ do, turn me into a toad?” “I don’t think Morrigan taught you that spell.”
“I don’t believe I’d wish to learn any spells Morrigan would have known.” “I’m a Circle Mage after all.”
“Right,” said Oghren. Not believing Wynne in the slightest.
“Maybe we should find Captain Kylon so he can point us in the right direction to Bell’s home; he has to know where it is.”
“No need replied Sten.”
“What do you mean no, we don’t need to ask him?” “I’m not from Denerim and neither are you?”
Sten pointed at Thor.
Thor was playing and bouncing around happy to be outside it seemed.
Sten snapped his fingers and Thor came running up to him. Thor was wagging his stubby little tail a mile-a-minute. He barked at Sten and looked up at the giant warrior waiting for his instructions.
Sten pointed and said to Thor, “Home and Fergus now.”
Thor barked that he understood and took off in the crowd since they had all made it to the gates to the market.
Sten turned to his other companions, “come, follow.”
“He still doesn’t talk much does he?”
“I agree Oghren, Sten is a man of few words.”
“We better get a move on they are leaving us in the dust.”
“Well it’s a good thing, you’re taller than I am, so you can see Sten in the crowd or we’d be lost for sure.”
Before Oghren finished his sentence Wynne was also leaving him in the dusk. “Dang short legs,” Oghren muttered to himself as he double timed to catch up with his friends.