I smirked at Zevran. That is another hand that I’ve won Zev. The gold will make a fine addition to my purse.”
“I swear you cheat yet I can’t figure out how you are doing it.”
“Me cheat, I’d never consider such a thing.” I flashed him a big bright smile.
“You’ve not only stolen my heart my beauty but my coin as well.”
I laughed. “I seriously doubt you’re broke or Leliana for that matter.”
“It does pay off being a rogue.”
“You’ll get no argument from me.”
“If you give her half a chance Zev, she will steal your pants with you in them.” Spoke Fergus as he walked in with the others. “I’ve seen her do that to a poor fellow who wouldn’t leave her alone in one of the taverns at Highever.” “She made the poor fellow a butt of jokes for weeks.”
“Don’t be telling all my secrets big brother and I only did it once.”
“I’m not sure about that, but I do remember mother punishing you for it.” “You weren’t supposed to be in the tavern to begin with.”
“You were just annoyed because I was trying to tag along.”
“I sure was – how I was supposed to pick up a saucy tavern wench trying to keep you out of trouble.”
“I thought I handled the situation well, I even got a free round of drinks for everyone for being daring.”
“Yes I remember; I didn’t get to drink mine or get to spend the rest of the evening chatting tavern wenches up since I dragged the bum outside and beat the snot of him then I took you home.”
“Come tell us, what was her punishment,” asked Leliana?
“Father was too busy laughing at her exploits but mother decided since she was so curious over men’s pants she had to spend two months in the weaver’s hall making them and she had to apologize to the man she stripped naked in the bar.” “Father sent for him so she could apologize to him and a few silvers for his trouble.”
Zevran was dying to make a wise crack about men’s pants; but, with her brother here it might not be a good idea.
“Yes, well t’was the most boring summer I ever spent.”
“Didn’t you get another month tacked on to your sentence?”
“I sighed, yes I did.”
“What did you do asked Wynne?”
“I tried to pay the weavers to make my pants with my allowance, the head mistress of the weaver hall told on me.” “I had to hand over my allowance for my three-month sentence.”
“Ouch” said Zevran.
“I know no mischief money to bribe my way out of trouble.”
“I made sure I picked her pocket the next day and every day after that.” “Thor didn’t like the old biddy either and he picked her pocket a few times too.” “She wouldn’t allow Thor inside the craft hall.”
Thor barked at the mention of his name and he trotted over to me and laid his head in my lap. I stroked his head.
Fergus came over and kissed the top of my head.
“You were a pistol when you were little.”
“Me a pistol, no big brother, I was just naturally curious about things.”
“You always were in some kind of mischief at Highever.” “I think I spent half of my life finding you in the middle of the night and getting you home and back to your room before mother and father found out.”
“What are you doing out of bed anyway?”
“I’m fine Fergus, really.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“It’s a thing with Grey Wardens Fergus, we heal quickly.”
“How is that possible?”
“It just is Fergus; I really don’t want to talk about it right now.”
“You are not healed up all the way Bellavalia and you know it,’ offered Wynne.
I frowned at her.
“Fergus laughed, see you didn’t fool any of us.”
“So why did you send for me?”
“You’re taking me away from duties of getting our home here back together.”
“Yes, that is what I wanted to talk with you about.”
“I want to go home Fergus.”
“No Tink, you can’t come home just yet.”
“NO, why not I huffed out.”
“The estate is not in any shape, most especially for you and we’ve not much of a garrison left to keep you safe.”
“I don’t need any protection Fergus; I can take care of myself.”
“Any other time I would agree with you.”
“Wynne just said you aren’t fully healed, even being a Warden, and I have no reason to doubt the woman.”
“Is this your idea or His Highness?”
“Mutual agreement from both of us, Alistair has walked though the estate and he also agreed you can’t come home just yet, maybe in a week the servants will have everything to rights.”
I gently removed Thor’s head from my lap and tickled him behind his ear so he wouldn’t get stressed.
I smacked the deck of cards I was holding in my hands on the table. I pushed my chair back causing Fergus to step away.
I stood up and turned to look at him.
“His Highness has been to our home; yet, I’m being told that I can’t go home.”
“Tink, you can come home in about a week.”
“I want to go home now Fergus – today.” “I want to go home to our estate here.”
“Tink, I’m telling you for the last time, that you can’t and that is final.”
“We’ll both go home to Highever after Alistair’s coronation we’ll face it together when you’re stronger.”
The tears starting pouring down my face, I couldn’t believe I was crying.
“I don’t want to go to Highever I hissed.”
I slapped my hand over my mouth. I couldn’t believe I just said that.
Fergus stepped away from me with a hurt look in his face, like I had slapped him.
“Tink, what is wrong with you, we have a duty to go home and start helping our people.”
“We have to find our family’s remains and see them off to the Maker properly done.”
It hit me the smells of that night from memory. The fires mixed with the burning rotting flesh of the people who I had loved and those that had served me all of my life. The heavy metallic smell of my father’s blood pooling around him flashed in my memory going straight up my nose. Like I was still in the larder and could smell it. My mother and I kneeling in his blood trying to help him, trying to move him closer to the larder door, trying to save him. All of their bodies flashed through my mind. So many faces burning of the people I knew, their skin turning to charred leather, lifeless eyes staring me in the eye as I had fought past them, asking me why I hadn’t saved them. I started gagging.
My hand on my mouth gripped tighter. I was going to throw up.
Fergus started to reach for me. A wave of dizziness assaulted me.
I pushed him back with my other hand out of my way. I could hear the rest of my companions coming to their feet trying to reach me to help me as I started to sway on my feet. I heard Thor whine.
I ran to my room.
Running to the bathing pool inside – I fell to my knees and vomited, I felt a snap in my right leg. Sweat and tears mixed over my face. I heaved and I heaved.
I felt Wynne hands holding me. My brother’s hand on the back of my neck offering me support as I threw up. Leliana trying to press a cold cloth to my forehead trying to help me, never in my life had I thrown up like this. I thought it was over and then I heaved some more and threw up everything I had eaten for breakfast and lunch.
“Wynne, look, blood,” it was Leliana who had spoken.
Blood from my right leg was starting to drip on the floor. One of the compound fractures in my right leg and broken through my skin again. Another wave of dry heaves hit me. All of them were holding me up over the pool. I was too weak to hold myself up. When it was over I sagged back against my brother. He wrapped his arms around me and rocked me gently in his arms. He finally lifted me in his arms and carried me over to my bed and gently placed me in it. He sat down beside me and took my hand and with the other laid the cool cloth across my head Leliana handed him.
“What is going on here?”
It was Alistair. No I thought, not now. I turned my face to the wall.
I heard him walk further in my room.
“What the hell are you doing in armor?”
“Answer me Commander, you were instructed to stay in bed and get well.”
“Alistair I don’t think this is the time to yell at her.” “Allow me to reset her leg and get her bandaged back up.” “Out all of you, Leliana, I’ll need your help.”
I heard their entire feet shuffle out my door and the door close.
“Not now Wynne, I can’t take it.”
I placed my hands over my abdomen. My children were stressed and I was dizzy because of it even lying down. The room was whirling by in my vision.
“Bell I can’t wait too long, I have to set it while it is a fresh break. It will be easier to set, for you and for me.”
I was begging my eyeballs to make the room stand still. “Wynne, Leliana, a few moments alone, please.”
“I’ll only allow you to sleep for less than a half hour.” “Leliana, come let her rest for a short time before we set her leg again.”
I heard them leave my room. I closed my eyes and was just as still as I could possibly be. I was so tired, so very, very tired and dizzy. Who knew vomiting could take so much out of a person. I felt like a wet noodle.
Outside in the hall Alistair was pacing about.
He stopped his pacing and crossed his arms over chest. “Would all of you like to explain to me why she is dressed in armor and why she wanted to leave this fort and how in the hell did she break her leg again and why in the hell is she vomiting?”
“Her leg isn’t all the way broken Alistair; it’s just that really bad fracture in her right leg, that won’t heal.” “Wynne is very concerned about it; she thinks there is a deep infection in the bone.” “In that one spot in her leg, it’s very weak.” “Wynne told her she couldn’t be up on it for long.”
“Then all of you should have stopped her from being up?”
“Well good luck with that,” chimed in Oghren, “she is more stubborn than her damn dog.”
Alistair pointed at Thor and scolded, “and you more so than anybody.”
Thor hung his head and whined. “Your job is to protect her Thor even if you have to sit on her to do it, even from herself.”
Thor hung his head lower.
“Alistair, stop yelling at Thor, it’s not his fault.” “Come here Thor, you poor baby.” Thor walked over to stand behind Leliana. Thor was peeking from behind her legs at Alistair. Alistair stared right back.
“Pouting may work on your Mistress Thor, it won’t work on me.”
“Not one more word Alistair, Thor wasn’t even here expect for just a few minutes ago.”
“Where in the hell was he then?” “He is to be guarding her.”
“The dog has to take a shit somewhere Alistair and all of us would prefer that he do it outside if you don’t mind,” Zevran with his cheeky reply.
“Enough, Kadan, sent me, Thor, Oghren and Wynne to find her brother.”
“This is why you are here,” Alistair raising his eyebrows, inquiring of Fergus?
“She asked to see me.” “She wants to go home Alistair, we both knew she would want too.”
Alistair nodded, “I know Fergus, you and I both agreed we can’t allow her to do that until the workers and dwarves get the walls redone, we don’t want her to see what Howe’s men did in her room.” “Maker only knows what you are going to find at Highever.”
“Alistair they are working on it as fast as they can.”
“I know Fergus we’ll just have to hold her off until they do.”
“Wynne tell me about her leg.”
“The one part of the bone in her shin was totally shattered Alistair, Irving and I tried to find as much of the smaller pieces as we could and knit it back together.” “We knew her leg was going to be very weak and take the longest to heal.” “Her leg is very hot to the touch, I fear there is an infection starting in her leg and I’m unable to find it or the source.”
“Why did she get sick?”
“I’m not completely certain, but at times people with a bone injury that deep will get sick to their stomach if they put weight or pressure on it too soon.” “Yet, I think it was something else, more of an emotional reaction to what she and Fergus were discussing?”
Alistair looked back over at Fergus.
“I mentioned going home to Highever and she yelled no, she didn’t want to go, which shocked me.”
Alistair pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “I was afraid this was going to happen I expected it long before now.”
“She has never mourned your parents or what happened at Highever.” “What little we did get out of her over it we had to drag it out of her.” “She flat out refused to talk about it.”
“When Ostagar happened I totally fell apart.” “She didn’t, and she is the one who talked me through my grief time and time again.” “My reaction to what we witnessed on the battlefield was instant.” “I couldn’t stop the waves of grief.”
“She didn’t do that, thinking on it now it had to be due to what she lived through at Highever, it hardened her.”
“You think her mourning is now just catching up with her?”
“Yes, I do.” “She isn’t fighting for her life or in a struggle to keep it, and now it’s all going to come to the surface – pouring out, just like mine did right after Ostagar.”
“I think she has held that pain and grief so deep inside…it fueled her energy in our battles.” “She used that rage.”
“When she had watch at night she didn’t just sit out by the fire, she would go stand facing north.”
“You mean facing north where Highever would be in the north.”
“Yes, wherever we camped and I thought when we killed Howe she would finally cry it all out and she never did, I felt she buried it further.”
“I think flashes of memory are coming back to her and I think we’ll all need to be very supportive, that does not mean we can allow her to do herself harm.” “She doesn’t have battles to fight for an emotional release.”
“I still have to return to Highever.”
“I know Fergus, she is strong and I’m sure she will come to terms with it before you leave and I’m sure she won’t allow you to face that alone.” “You’re her brother.”
“You know her better than any of us.”
“She has never been the type of girl who cried Alistair, even when something hurt her deeply; it is rare for her to cry.”
“I agree with you, Duncan and I were expecting it any moment and she never broke down when she arrived at Ostagar with Duncan.” “We thought at first it was all the strange people around her and she didn’t want to break down in front of strangers.” “She set her mouth in that stubborn way and that was all the reaction we got out of her.”
“Fergus, your father died just as she stepped through the door to run with Duncan.” “Duncan told me he had to just grab her arm and make her run, dragging her behind him.” “Thor was barking at her trying to get her to follow him away from danger.” “Duncan told me he knew if she stopped running she’d go into shock.” “I guess they ran for hours, several hours even after dawn broke, until he felt they were far even away to stop and rest for a while.” “He expected her to start wailing and she didn’t.” “He really didn’t know what to make of it.”
Wynne held her tongue. Pregnant women also cried for no reason and also threw up. She didn’t dare say anything. Not that Alistair was wrong either.
Zevran, Oghren, and Leliana both had visions of the events and people who were now gone from their lives so they knew what Alistair was saying.
“Leliana come, we must wake her so I can wash and heal her leg once more.”
“I’ll come right out Alistair to let you and Fergus know how she is.”
I heard Leliana and Wynne return. I had finally gotten myself settled down. I had no idea why the mention of Highever would affect me so. I started unbuckling the buckles of my arm guards. Wynne and Leliana helped me get out of my armor down to my small-clothes into my sleeping shift. Wynne washed the blood from my leg.
“Are you ready Bell?”
I nodded; I had a piece of wood in my mouth to bite down on.
“Leliana you’ll have to hold her down, this is going to hurt her.”
“Leliana put her hands on my shoulders.” “Look in my eyes concentrate on me, not Wynne.” Leliana started to sing softly. I held my eyes on hers.
I felt the magic from Wynne’s hands hover over my leg for several minutes. Then I felt her dip her hand down inside my leg and twist the piece of bone back into place. I moaned as I bit down on the wood. Red hot fire was burning in my lower leg causing my leg to shake, tremors of pain. It could have been worse though. I was getting sick to my stomach again. Cool healing magic was flowing back over my leg as she closed my wound. I felt Wynne wipe my leg off once more and apply a salve to it then the bandage. She put socks over my feet and propped my leg up with pillows. She covered me up with a couple of blankets.
“A minor set-back, it will get worse if you don’t stay off of it.” “I knew you got up on it too soon.”
She took a health potion out of her robe and handed it to me.
I uncorked it and drank it without being told to do so.
“How do you feel?”
“I’m sick to my stomach again.” I reworked the cork of the flask and handed it back to her.
“It’ll pass, that happens sometimes with broken bones that are healing.”
“Want me to stay with you?”
“No Leliana, I’ll probably fall asleep for a while.” “You and Wynne get started on getting supper for everyone.”
“Yes, it is nearing the dinner hour.”
Wynne and Leliana went out and Alistair and Fergus came in.
Great I thought.
Fergus came and sat down on my bed.
“See that will teach you to argue with your big brother.”
I smiled at him, “I guess so.”
“I promise you’ll be able to go home to the estate in about a week.” “A lot of damage happened to our private rooms and you have to give the staff time to get it back to rights.” “Little sister they have masonry to repair it just takes time to set.”
“Yes, I do promise you’ll be home before next week.”
“I’ll see to it Bell that Fergus has enough guards to help him with security when your living quarters are fit enough and you can go home then.”
“I swear to you Eamon and I will see that Fergus has all the help he needs.”
I looked up at Alistair.
“I promise Bellavalia.”
I just nodded my head.
Fergus leaned over and kissed my forehead.
“I have to get back, I’ll return in a couple of days to see how you are.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too Fergus and I’m sorry, I’d never let you face whatever we find at Highever alone.”
“I know we’ll face it together.”
“Your Highness, I’ll see you later.”
Alistair sat down on my bed where Fergus had just got up. He moved a strain of hair out of my eyes.
“You want to tell me why you wanted to leave the fort today?”
“There was no other reason except to do some shopping, and get some fresh air.” “Spend the day with our friends just relaxing and having a bit of fun.” “We were planning to have a large supper and drink and play cards.” “Since the incident occurred with the poison I gave orders that we’d only cook and eat our own food here.” “I was going to send a message to Eamon’s butler telling him we were doing fine here and we’d manage our own food from now on.” “We decided to go to the market and shop for dinner.” “I thought we’d make a day of it and I’d have the chance to look for fabric. I do have to have a gown made and matching heels.”
“No why would there be?”
“Because of you being you?”
“Bell, let me explain something to you, the city is full of all manner of people.” “Many of which we don’t know who they are.” “Eamon and I are hoping it’s because so many people are homeless right now.” “The market district is especially packed with crowds, even at night; Eamon said this is unusual.” “Anyone and I mean anyone could walk right up and attack you and make their get-away, they will disappear in the crowd with no hope of finding them.” “You are too valuable to Ferelden being the Warden Commander; I can’t allow you to get hurt any further.”
I started to object.
“Let me finish.”
“If you weren’t still healing, I know you can handle yourself and I’d pity anyone who even thought to attack you.” “I know you can take down several men on your own.”
“You aren’t fully healed to defend yourself.” “I can walk through the market because people make way for me now as the king.” “I have trained senior Templars with me at all times now.” “You don’t have the luxury.” “If anyone recognizes you the crowds are going to go wild and press in against you.” “They already want a glimpse of you.” “Nobles are asking for the chance to come visit, Fergus and I both are telling them no.”
He pointed to my leg.
“You see my point.”
“That is just from you walking around in the fort today.”
“No this is from me getting sick to my stomach falling down on my legs to puke.”
“You got sick at your stomach because Wynne told me that will happen to some people when they have a bone healing and they try to use it before it is healed.”
“Your whole right leg below your knee was shattered or did you forget.”
“I can assure you I’m more aware of it than you are.”
“You can’t stop being a miss smart ass for one second can you?”
“It’s not in my nature.”
Alistair laughed. “I know it’s one of things I love about you.”
“And will you please stop giving poor Commander Rader heart attacks?”
“Eamon and I are running out of men to appoint to positions.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“Now will you please give me your word, you’ll stay in bed and get all healed up so you’ll be fit to take your Command at the Vigil.” “I’d like to get back to my duties as the King if you don’t mind.”
“It doesn’t look like I have much choice.” Alistair could make me swear but it wasn’t going to happen.
“Give it time Bell; it’s only been a few weeks.”
I didn’t say anything more. It was something I couldn’t promise, and I didn’t want to lie to him.
“I have a request.”
“I’ll consider it if it is reasonable.”
“Keeper Lanaya is here isn’t she?”
“Yes she is the Dalish are camped outside of the city.”
“Would you mind if she visits me?”
“Bell I really don’t want a lot of people in and out of here.” “It places a hardship on Commander Rader and his men and all the check points within the fort itself.”
“Why do you want to see her?”
“It was something Morrigan said to me and as Warden Commander I want to find out more about it?” “This may be my only chance, the Dalish are nomads they don’t stay in one place very long, and I might not see her again or have this opportunity.” “This is Warden Business and I shouldn’t interview her out in public with so many people milling about that might listen to our conversation.”
“What is it?”
“Morrigan told me once in camp the darkspawn came out of the ground deep within the forest.”
“If you remember Zatharian said the same thing?” “He knew they were already in the forest, yet he didn’t move his people?” “Why?”
“How did the elves, Morrigan, and her mother know this?”
“I have a feeling the Chasind did too.”
“Yes, yet the Chasind weren’t afraid to go back to the area near the Kocari Wilds.” “Remember when we arrived at Lothering, the bandits that tried to stop us from entering?”
“Yes, I remember we killed all of them.”
“He said the Chasind had come by too and they didn’t stop them, the Ash Warriors.” “Shouldn’t they have been fleeing north inside of south?”
“I never thought about it actually, yes they should have been fleeing north.”
“Yes, exactly, the Chasind who saved Fergus they nursed him back to health.” “Why did the Chasind stay in the area, why didn’t they flee?”
“I don’t know that is good question.” “Some of them did flee.”
“As the Warden Commander I need to know what area they were in when they realized the darkspawn were near, I need to ask her if Zatharian moved their clan before we found them.” “I should investigate those areas.”
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking there has to be entrances to the deep roads in that area.” “I have to find them and have them sealed off or the tunnels they burrowed through to get to the surface, if not even though there is no Arch Demon driving them to the surface, they will still come up from time to time.” “They can cause all manner of havoc before I’d make it from the north to stop them.” “I’m thinking while I recover, Kristoff and the other wardens can go have a look at those areas and see what they find.” “If they find them we have to get those sealed and as quickly as possible.”
“Alright, I see your point.”
“I’ll allow her visit.”
“When do you want her to visit?”
“Why do you want to see her so soon, are you having nightmares about darkspawn?”
“I’m not having them; said Alistair, “I’m actually getting the best sleep I’ve had in ages.”
“No, I’m not; the subject won’t leave my mind, and until I discover what happened in that area it won’t leave my mind until I do.”
“She asked to see you and I said no because of security here at the fort.”
“Don’t forget she is a Dalish Elf and they won’t like it.”
“She will be my guest and I’ll send Kristoff to make Commander Rader aware of that fact.”
“She’ll have your permission too, so they shouldn’t get all bent out of shape over it.”
“I’ll send a message she is to come see you this evening.” “I’m sure she will come straight away.”
“I have to go, more meetings with Eamon and other nobles.
“There is one more thing, if you don’t mind.”
“All of our friends need their personal belongings and they can’t get to them locked up at Eamon’s.” “Would you allow Sten, Shale, Oghren, and Zevran to move the wagons to my home, so they can go through our equipment and get their belongings? “You need to get your things from the wagons too.” “I think you had some equipment left with our camp stuff.”
“Yes, I’ll make arrangements with Eamon’s staff and let Fergus know.” “I should have thought of it before now.” “They can come tomorrow and get the wagons.”
“I wish I could stay and spend time with all of you, I miss all of you.”
“I want you to get well so I don’t have to worry.”
I just nodded.
“I’ll see you soon, and I’ll be here to help Fergus take you home and get you settled in.”
Alistair left and I sat in bed twiddling my thumbs.