The jolt of the aravel as it landed startles me awake. I wake with a jerk, daggers posed to strike. Then feeling like a fool realized what has happened as Zev and Leliana laugh at me.
“Calm down my sweet, we are just making a scheduled stop so the Halla can rest, graze, and get water,” spoke Zevran.
Placing my dagger back underneath my cloak, I rub my hands over my face and smooth my hair back off of my face. A few strands have escaped my braid and is pestering the life out of me. I also had the sudden urge to relieve myself and couldn’t wait to get outside to some bushes. The rest I’d gained had recovered my fatigue generated from my daring escape and defying my king, the love of my life, who had ungraciously dumped me for all the world to see once I’d place that crown on his head. Bastard he was and then some. Stop, I scold myself. Time to get on with it and take stock in my current surroundings, namely getting to some bushes, plus I was starved. My stomach grumbled loud enough for Leliana to raise her eyebrows.
“I see your appetite has returned.”
“Indeed, I’m starving, what have we to break our fast with this morning?”
“The standard fare of: bread, cheese, wine, and apples”, was her cheeky reply.
“Of course how foolish of me to think we’d have other exotic fare.”
Leliana giggled. “At least it’s not Alistair’s lamb and pea stew.
“Thank the Maker for that” Zevran said enthusiastically.
“There is the added benefit of jerky if that suites you’re taste?”
“I guess a bite of meat would be welcome.” I almost wanted to gag; I was tired of jerky, since this dried meat was nearly all we’d had to eat while fighting the blight. We hunted, but food was precious, so we’d dried what we didn’t eat which wasn’t a lot, with big men like Alistair, Sten, and Oghren along. I guess luck had been on our side since Shale didn’t eat. I’d contemplated how much more food we’d have needed if she did. That would have been problematic for our small camp. I still couldn’t get over the fact the golem had once been a female dwarf, which we had discovered in the Cadish Thaig – who she had really been hundreds of years ago.
I didn’t dare tell them I was craving milk, which was totally benign for me. I hated milk, since Nan forced me to drink so much when I was a small toddler. I knew I needed it for my babies to fully grew and develop.
The keeper finally opened the door of the aravel. Leliana and Zevran were fully dressed and already had gathered their equipment and they were waiting on me since they’d let me sleep. I gently placed my feet on the small crammed space on the floors, which were slightly asleep from the small space of the Elvin bed and the slightly cramped position I’d slept in. I grabbed my boots, which I didn’t recall taking off so Leliana or Zevran had to do that for me. I laced them up and placed my shin guards over them and buckled them up. I grabbed all of my daggers and slide them up my sleeves and my main dagger and the sword ‘Blight Blooded’ which I found the day before under the carcass of the dragon on the roof. There was power in this sword; I could feel the runes flare just slightly with the movement of me placing them within my scabbard that I attached to my back. I was ready for some fresh air.
All of us stepped outside and the Keeper greeted all of us warmly. I looked around; we were in a small clearing which looked like it ran off of a deer path. We weren’t on the main road.
“How far are we from the King’s Highway?”
“Not too far; yet far enough to not attract attention,” was Lanaya’s reply.
I was satisfied with this answer.
“Where are we exactly?”
“We’re on the south side of Dragon’s Peak, not far from the Dragon’s Peak Bannorn.
“You’re aware of this Castle?”
“Of course, we Dalish must always be aware of where the humans reside and we take as many steps as possible to avoid them.”
I just nodded what else could I say to this. This was just the way that the Dalish had to live. They had decided centuries ago since the last exalted march on them, being nomadic tribes was better than being slaves in an alienage, since they no longer had a homeland to call their own. I wondered what Alistair would do to help them? Would he even consider this, he’d seen the devastation first hand and feuds that erupted between Dalish and Humans, curses notwithstanding had caused each other, and the worst possible conditions within the Alienage in Denerim. The Dalish were also his subjects. I was happy to consider that our Alienage in Highever had been one of the best. Elves begged to get in and find a place within our Alienage. I had no idea what condition it might be in now; I’m sure Fergus and I would discover this soon enough.
Just one more added weight to my heart, I dreaded returning to Highever once Alistair was crowned King. I truly didn’t wish to go back. I was so afraid and I had enough to worry over; but, there would be no recourse for me, I had to go and help my brother. He’d lost more than me… he’d lost his wife and son. I’d only lost my parents, the love of my life, and my title as Teyrna of Highever in becoming a Warden. I was not happy losing my title, this rubbed a raw nerve within me. Being Teyrna is who I am, where I came from, my only link to my parents and the legacy they had left Fergus and me. This is one of the things I hated about being a Grey Warden. Yet, Riordan, had stated those Wardens in the Anderfels ruled, thus they had to retain their titles to do this. This chaffed me greatly, why is this alright for them, and not me?
I pondered these riotous thoughts as I found a safe place to relieve myself in the bushes. I looked around to find safe leaves to clean myself, and my stomach rumbled again. I replaced all of my armor back in the proper places and stepped out of the bushes to find the Dalish had unharnessed the Halla and they were grazing nearby. The rest had formed a circle on logs and just sitting on the grass, and were partaking of the offerings of food to break our fast this beautiful day. I accepted the bread and other items for my meal and sat down beside Leliana. Zevran came out of the bushes and followed suit. We all sat for a time in silence and ate our morning meal.
I simply enjoyed my food and the beginnings of the beautiful day. The sun was peeking through the trees and a breeze gently tickled us. Birds were chirping and small creatures within the woods scurried to and fro in their search for their morning meal. It was peaceful. Blessed relief from the past year and a half with the blight in full swing, civil war, werewolves to contend with, more-so-much more, and relief washed over me. I wondered what everyone else felt on this day? Were they too relieved? Were they like me – wondering what the new future held for them? I’m sure they had lost loved ones, lost children, parents, homes, and now all of us would have to decide how we dealt with all of the after effects. All within Ferelden had to consider their future paths. So much had changed… changes in leadership with a new King soon to be crowned. A pain sliced my heart thinking of Cailan. He was so young, so full of promise for the country and his death changed the course of my life and Alistair’s forever. It was sad to think of him and what could have been.
I finished eating and gathered our small bowls and cups to wash them in the nearby stream. I offered since Zevran and Leliana had stayed awake all night; I’m sure making sure I was guarded while I slept. It also offered me a moment of alone time, which I also craved to consider my objective and the best course of action. Would there be full rebellion at Gwaren? Had Sir Perth and Anora’s servant already made it there? How did Loghain’s troops really feel in withdrawal from Ostagar? Many like Oswain’s servant didn’t think much of it or I hoped this was the case. Am I any better in defying Alistair?
I also needed to be on the lookout for two elves I had great interest in; Iona being one of them. She had to have been involved in what happened at Highever, Darrin and her both. I had not seen their bodies when fighting for my life, nor seen them during the battle. Even though I had found Darrin’s dead mother, who had been a guest of my mother’s when our castle had been attacked by Howe’s men. They had a reckoning coming and I would see that they were questioned or killed if it suited me. Maybe they had just gotten away; this is one of the things that I needed to tidy up before heading to the Vigil. A trip to Rainesfere would also have to happen, for now I had a mission.
I thought of the area Lanaya would drop us off, this would be in the region on the northeastern slopes of the Breciallian Forest. Deer paths would run along the shores of Ferelden on the southeastern side of the country. We would have to take one of these and head south by southwest to come upon the backside of Gwaren. It will be no small feat getting into the castle. I’m sure Loghain’s men would have extra reinforcements upon the walls until they heard from the otherwise disposed Queen Anora. I had to find the best possible way of getting into Gwaren without my presence being known. Find Loghain’s study and the fake wall niche where the papers that I needed were hidden in. Thanks to a spy my father had employed in Loghain’s household years ago after we had rescued Anora’s healer from certain death for her knowledge.
Unlike my father’s and Eamon’s studies which had been on the first floor, Loghain’s study was on the second floor connected to his private bedchamber which he did not share with his wife. Anora seemed to have a different opinion of her parent’s marriage from those in the know. I’m fairly certain Loghain would have respected his wife in a fashion due to her station. His true love had been King Maric’s wife – Queen Rowan. The more I thought about it, the best way to sneak in was as an elf servant. I hoped Zevran still had fake elf ears with him. Leliana would have to keep to the shadows while Zevran and I walked the halls as servants to reach my destination, least amount of bloodshed this way. We needed to be prepared; I really didn’t want to storm the castle with Sir Perth nearby to see me. Yes, this would work. We might need a way to disguise the tattoos on Zevran’s face, maybe the Keeper has something. It would also be best to observe the castle for a few hours to see what was actually going on.
The dishes I had washed were dried from the sun. I got up and walked back to the others. Zevran was sharpening his daggers and Leliana was attaching a new bow string to her bow. They looked up as I sat back down beside them.
“How long until we get underway again?”
“When the Halla decide they are ready,” replied Zevran.
Leliana and I looked at him astoundingly.
“Such is the way of these creatures. They will decide when they are ready, they will return to the aravels when they are ready to go.”
“So we wait until then?”
“Si we wait, unless you plan on walking the rest of the way.”
“I won’t pass up an offer of a ride after all the walking we’ve done in fighting the blight.”
“I’m relieved to hear that, said Leliana. It was a joyous ride during the night, watching the sky up high and the stars. I don’t believe I’ve ever felt so close to the Maker before, seeing his creation from a different perspective, it is truly beautiful in all of its glory, even high up in the sky drifting along, more so perhaps,” she said with a sigh.
I settled down and pulled my whet stone out of my pack and proceeded to sharpen my own blades just like Zevran and Leliana were seeing to their own equipment. “Zevran do you still have fake elf ears with you?” He looked up and a sly smile spread across his face. “So you plan on sneaking in do you?”
“I told you this was a full-blown rogue mission if I remember correctly.”
“So you did my beauty.”
“How do you plan on sneaking in as an elf servant?” “We’d have to know if they are allowing new servants to be hired and I doubt that very much.”
I thought for a moment and realized with Alistair’s troops on the way, they wouldn’t just let anyone into the castle. I might have to engage Sir Perth after all or it this will be a full on stealth mission which was tricky. Stealth only lasted for so long until you had to refresh stamina to reuse the skill, you’d have to find a place to hide until your stamina restored the skill set. Maker’s Breath. Well I had time to think of a possible solution while waiting on the Halla.