Shhh, she is asleep, let’s go.
I stretched. “No I’m not.”
Leliana laughed, “you could have fooled me.”
She came over and hugged me. “Feeling better.”
“Yes, actually.” I pulled myself up in bed and sat up.
Zevran was standing right beside her with a big grin on his face. He slipped his hand into his armor chest piece and pulled out the sealed parchment I had given to him in the Brecillian Forest.
“Here I think you’d like this back.”
“Thank you Zevran,” as I took the sealed parchment from him. The seal was still intact.
“I’m surprised at you Zev!”
He smirked. “Truly, Mi Bella how so?”
I tapped my finger on the seal.
“Ah yes, well darkspawn blood is the only thing that stopped me.”
I laughed. “I guess it is paying off being a Warden after all.”
“Will you tell me what that parchment says.”
“It will be your life if I do Zev.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Time for a bit of fun?! I’m game if you are?”
I rolled my eyes at him.
How are the Dalish and Lanaya?”
“They are all well and they send their best wishes. Lanaya says, she knows you’re doing better and soon her people will be rid of Anora and the blight over. She is beside herself with joy and excited to be in a big city once again. She will be glad the coronation is soon to be over then she and her people can return to the forest or on to their next hunting grounds.”
I looked down at the ring still on my finger that she had given me.
“She did say to listen to Wynne and do what she tells you. She is worried about your leg and she will see you at the ball.”
“It will heal, I’m a Warden, remember.”
“Ah Mi Bella, what are we going to do with you?”
“I’ll be fine, I promise, then we can dance, drink, laugh and be merry in our victory. Do I get to add you to my dance card?”
“Only if you add me as well,” piped Leliana.
“I think I can manage that.”
“Try to stop me from dancing with you at the ball.”
“So my beauty, how bad did Wynne lecture you?”
“She was in her element.”
Zevran laughed. “I’m sure she was.”
“How is the leg?”
“Good as long as I stay in bed for a few days.”
“Well if I had my way you’d be staying in bed for a year.”
I looked up and saw my brother in the doorway and trying to wiggle past him was Thor.
“Fergus, will you please allow Thor by before he hurts himself.”
“I doubt anything could hurt that flea bag.”
“Hey that is my dog you’re talking about.”
“I’ll let him pass as long as he doesn’t jump up on that bed. I don’t want him messing up that new duvet I bought for you.”
“You hear me boy?” Thor huffed under his breath and Fergus smiled as he reached down and scratched Thor behind the ears. “Go on, greet your mistress boy.”
“It’s lovely and my favorite color. Thank you brother.”
“Anything for my little Tink.”
“He only jumps in the beds when nobody is looking.”
“Oh yes, I forgot he is good at sneaking, just like you.”
Fergus and Thor came into the room.
Thor was jumping and barking and wiggling all over.
“Here boy, let me take a look at you.”
Thor trotted over to the side of my bed, I leaned down grabbing his thick ruff and checked the cut above his eye. “Well this is healing nicely. I see everyone has been taking good care of you. ”
Thor barked his happy reply that they had been. His tail was going a mile a minute. That stubby little tail of his. I was so happy to see him. He reciprocated with a lick to my face.
“I missed you too, so very much. I told you I’d be back.”
“Am I in trouble with you too?”
Thor barked to say that I was.
“I have a beef bone for you, will this make it better?”
Thor wagged his tail and barked. He started to sniff the bed looking for the bone.
“I’ll give it to you tomorrow once I go through my packs. Deal?”
Thor licked me again.
“You need to thank Fergus for the new fur to sleep on.”
Thor turned his head and barked at Fergus his thanks. He trotted over to the new fur to have a sniff. He turned in three circles and lay down on the new fur settling in for a nap. He was snoring within seconds.
“Notice she greets the dog before her own brother,” Fergus said to Zevran and Leliana.
“Good to see both of you again, both of you and the rest of your companions have rooms here. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to share. Our city residence isn’t as big as Highever.”
Zevran offered his hand to my brother, a warriors handshake, and Fergus gave Leliana the traditional Orlesian greeting of kissing both of her cheeks.
“We’re thankful for the hospitality of your home.”
“All of you will be welcome here or at Highever anytime you have the need for shelter. I’ll let the staff know and the head guard captain here and at Highever. It’s the least I can do for all of you in helping my sister survive.”
“It was our pleasure,” Leliana purred.
Fergus smiled warmly at her.
“I’m sure you’d like to freshen up, your rooms are just down the hall, all the men in one room and Leliana you’ll be sharing a room with Enchantress Wynne. Dinner is being served in the dining hall downstairs and no you don’t have to dress up for the occasion, whatever you feel comfortable in. Can you find your way?”
“We remember the way being here before to route Howe’s men.” Leliana smiled to my brother.
Fergus bowed to them.
“Which I humbly thank you for. Once I speak to my sister, I’ll be down in a short while to join all of you. I’m starved myself and it’s been a long day.”
“I’ll stop back in to check on you before I turn in, Leliana leaned down and hugged me.”
Zevran waved goodbye and both of them went out to freshen up and to seek their dinner.
Fergus followed them, then he shut my door and locked it. He walked back and sat down on my bed. It was time for a heart to heart chat and decide what we needed to do as Couslands.
“How are you really feeling.”
“I’m exhausted Fergus.”
“I don’t doubt it, from all the tales I’ve been hearing. You’d been on some adventure little sister.”
“A dragon, drops you out of the sky like it was nothing and you’ve set this whole city on it’s ear. You never do anything normally.”
“If I did things like everyone else I wouldn’t be who or what I am.”
“I know, you’ve been trained by the best bards, spies, rogues and assassins known. I guess you’re right. Don’t do it again Tink, you scared the piss out me. I thought I was going to watch the only family I have left eaten by a dragon before my very eyes.”
“I’m sorry Fergus, I had no idea Morrigan could do that, none of us did.”
“What type of magic was that sis?”
“It’s really old magic not practiced by the Circle or the Chantry. None of us knew she could turn herself into a dragon. While fighting the blight we’ve seen her change into: a wolf, bird, cat, mouse, bear, and I think the worst was her turning into a giant spider. It would have been helpful if she had been able to turn into a dragon while fighting the blight with us. It’s called ‘Shapeshifting’ Fergus. She must have learned this new trick from her mother’s grimoire, which I stole for her.”
“Who is her mother?”
“Did I just hear you right?”
“So this was the apostate mage who also was a part of your war party? The one I haven’t yet met, a witch-of-the-wilds no less?”
“Yes, it was Morrigan, you should know I told Alistair it was Flemeth.”
“Flemeth as in the Flemeth of the legends about our home, you’ve met her?”
“Yes, the very same, or this is who she claimed to be. She is the one who rescued Alistair and I from the Tower of Ishal and she is the only reason we survived the Battle of Ostagar. She is Morrigan’s mother.
Fergus just shook his head in awe.
“I’m so thankful you are alive too.” We hugged each other.
We pulled apart. “It’s convenient she came to your aid in the forest.”
“Her home isn’t far from the Brecilian Forest. Since Morrigan has shapeshifting ability and can turn herself into a dragon, the trip wouldn’t take very long and dragons have a keen sense of smell and hearing.”
“Is it true, all of you killed a High Dragon in this little town called Haven, which I’ve never heard of or seen on a map.”
“Well all of us have killed more than just the High Dragon at the Urn and of course the Arch Demon.”
“How many of them Tink?”
“I’ve lost count brother.”
I looked up at Fergus and smiled then I looked over at Thor sleeping peacefully, having his little doggie dreams of chasing rabbits in his sleep.
“You know how he worries when I’m gone Fergus.”
“I know, he has been itching to take off to find you. I’m surprised he stayed with me.”
“That is because I told him to stay. ”
“Why Tink? He is a protector for you and you might not be lying in bed again with your leg broken if you had taken him with you.”
“Because dear brother I wanted you guarded while I was away and Thor does exactly what I tell him. His mission was to guard you while I was gone.”
“It was a rogue mission Fergus. You think getting into Gwaren was easy? Well technically, we didn’t get into Gwaren. Erlina had already gotten into the castle. We were just waiting for nightfall to sneak in ourselves. When she popped out of a hidden postern door in the north wall. We followed her back into the forest. Zevran tackled her and we checked her for the papers and sure enough she had them. Have you read them yet?”
“I have, and Anora will hang for treason, she was barren all along which Eamon and Father always suspected.”
“Did you bring Erlina back?”
“Uh no, I’m afraid Erlina has gone to meet her Maker she kept calling on. It was her life or our’s Fergus. Alistair’s troops were coming upon us and I didn’t want to get caught and explain why I was there to Ser Perth. She would have called out to them. I had no choice. Zevran killed her. I was to busy puking in the bushes. She would have lied to protect Anora you know this the same as me.”
Fergus sighed. “Deep down I know this; but….”
I took his hand, “I know, there has been so much death.”
“More to come, when Alistair gets through with the Bannorn.”
“What is going on?”
“The old enemies of the Theirins, we’ve learned they sided with Loghain and Howe. Bann Loren and Bann Cerolic, they sent none of their garrisons to fight the blight or defend Denerim when the call went out from the city. Vaughn is gone from Denerim too. Alistair wants him removed as Arl of Denerim. I’m afraid Alistair will have to wipe out their entire families this time and not allow any of them to live, he can’t show them any mercy this time like his father did. This is the third time they have tried to end the Theirins.”
“Eamon has already ordered and sent messengers to our allies within the rest of the Bannorn that the entire borders and known smuggler routes are to be watched for them to escape. I think they are waiting to see what our new monarch will do before they act again.”
“Now that you mention it, I don’t recall seeing their heraldry at Ostagar.”
“With good reason, they weren’t there.”
“So they bulked on their fealty oath with Cailan also?”
“Yes, and Cailan kept asking if their garrisons had arrived at Ostagar. He was furious as you can imagine. Due to their actions, there will be more bloodshed once Alistair is crowned.”
“I know sister, you’d think the silly Banns would have had enough after the civil war and the blight, they are never happy with their lot, it’s never good enough. I don’t envy our new monarch His task. Alistair has no choice, he will have to kill all of them or there won’t be any peace in Ferelden and his rule will be in jeopardy if he doesn’t. He isn’t happy about this.”
“You’ll help him won’t you?”
“Of course sister. We Couslands always do our duty even if Loghain thought we didn’t.”
“So what else did all those parchments say?”
“I told father this would come back to haunt us and it did. Maric nor Cailan ever told Loghain we were secretly involved with trade with Orlais. Loghain thought by false or inaccurate information we were going to take the crown ourselves. He should have known better when Maric died and father turned down the throne then. What was the man thinking?”
I did know, but I couldn’t tell my brother, the parchment lying by my side told why. Time was of the essence. I had to get a letter into Orlais; I had to get to Rainesfere as soon as possible.
“I don’t know Fergus, I’ll never understand Loghain’s actions. Fergus, blood mages were working with Howe.”
“I know. I’ve been wondering if Howe had the blood mages controlling Loghain?”
“Well with blood mages being in Howe’s employ I don’t doubt it.”
“When and how should we get the information in these parchments to Alistair and make no mistake they need to be delivered directly into Alistair’s hands, not Eamon.”
“You don’t trust Eamon after all of this?”
“It’s Teagan I don’t trust.”
“Why Bell, what do you know?”
“It’s Isolde. She still has connections in Orlais and I have reason to believe she and Teagan have been having an affair for years. Things I’d heard in Orlais when I was in school there. Eamon is a laughing-stock in Orlais, Fergus.
“When we went to Redcliffe and found the trouble there it was just her actions toward Teagan, they were to chummy for any sister-in-law to have toward her husband’s brother. It was things she also said that made me concerned and something Teagan said and I’m not sure if he was joking. He said, he was glad I hadn’t figured out his secrets. We have to walk a fine line here because of Eamon.”
“Alright sister I’ll take note of this information and kept my eyes and ears to the ground. You’re right, that is odd that Teagan said that.”
“See that you do brother I really don’t trust them.”
“Have you been to Rainesfere?”
“Yes, I’ve been to the outer orchards and retrieved our gold from there. I’ve not been to the others sites yet. If I got killed on the road, I didn’t want all of the gold on me, incase you needed some of it. I was trying to find you when I heard you were still alive, and fighting darkspawn myself along the way and keeping the last of our men alive and out of sight of Loghain and Howe’s men. It’s a good thing father and mother taught us survival skills in the forest and how to hide.”
“So what happened to you at Ostagar and in the wilds?”
“We were ambushed by darkspawn and totally outnumbered. A darkspawn crushed my leg, I played dead and he got distracted by the fight with the others. I crawled into some bushes and hid. The Chasind found me and the few of our men who survived with me. They took us in and nursed us back to health. They told us the darkspawn had routed Cailan and all of the troops at Ostagar and it had been a massacre, few escaped or survived the slaughter.
“I came upon a dwarf merchant traveling the roads and he told me Howe had taken over Highever and the fate of the our parents was unknown, and that you had escaped. He didn’t know where you where. We kept running into people and I finally found out you’d been at Ostagar and that you’d become a Grey Warden. We stayed hidden in the forest. I didn’t know who I could trust. So we hid out until I got more information, when I heard you were marching on Denermin. I headed north to get here. Sorry I missed the battle with you sister.
“I seemed to have managed.”
Fergus laughed. “So you did, you didn’t do bad for yourself, Hero of Ferelden and now a Grey Warden Commander.”
“Which I could do without I assure you.”
“You’ve earned it Tink.”
“I didn’t do this on my own Fergus. Our little war party…well we all kept each other alive. If it wasn’t for all of them, I don’t think Alistair or I would have survived. They are an amazing group of people.”
“Even a golem to boot, I’m impressed!”
I bumped his shoulder.
“Where in world did you find Shale, she also introduced me to her pet rock his name is Herbert.”
I laughed, “Did she now.”
“I was at a loss for words. ”
“I bet, she is something and her boulder throwing skills are impressive.”
“Ah yes, that, she damaged the south wall of the estate when we took it back from Howe’s men. So that has to be repaired which the work is being done now. She was enjoying herself throwing boulders. Alistair has also offered up any gold that we need to restore Highever.”
“Well of course he would, you are now the commander of his northern army.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Brother, father trained you well. I have full faith in you.”
“You won’t be there to help me, that was the way it was supposed to be.”
“I know, I’m a Grey Warden now and I have to go where I’m commanded.”
“Which is to the Vigil it seems.”
“I’ve always hated that place.”
“I know, it always had a spooky feel to the place…Booooooooo”
“So, how do you like being a Warden? Is it all they said it would be.”
I looked away with a fawn on my face.
“That good, huh!”
“Fergus, there are things about being a Warden I can never tell you.”
“I understand, it’s a secret order, I know this.”
“I’m changed physically as a woman and as a person.”
“Well, we heal really fast, our strength and stamina is increased a hundred fold and we have a never-ending hunger for food. There is one more thing.”
“What?” Fergus asked me gently as my tears started to fall.
“I can’t ever have children now.”
“Oh Tink.” He pulled me into his embrace.
“I’m so sorry, how can this be?”
“The joining to become a Warden. I shouldn’t have told you this, I wasn’t suppose too.”
“You’re secret is safe with me, you know this.”
“Can you ever marry at least.”
“What’s the point of marriage now?”
He just held me while I cried.
“This has happened for a reason, Tink.”
“Fergus, you sound just like Mother Malloy, she said that very thing to me before I went to bed that night. Loghain and Howe brought her and Rory to Denerim to Fort Drakon, they were tortured Fergus.”
“I know, Alistair and Eamon told me.”
“Because of my work in Orlais for Cailan and Maric, all because of that, they were tortured Fergus.”
“I know, it’s not your fault, Tink. You were doing your duty, and fulfilling the obligations of your free training from the crown; nobody but myself and our parents and the monarch ever knew what you were really doing in Orlais.”
“Have you heard from De’Charny?”
“I’m sure with Howe in possession of Highever any messages from him would have only enforced Loghain’s and Howe’s thoughts that we were traitors. No, I haven’t gotten any word. I was hoping to find out some information when I was in Rainesfere. It also shows me that Cailan didn’t fully trust his wife or his father-in-law. I guess we know now he had reason not too. Cailan loved Anora and I never understood why. She was so cold to him and he never seemed to notice, he was that much in love with her.”
Cailan knew Loghain would never go for trade being opened up with Orlais. Our country couldn’t move forward without that trade. Maric, Cailan, and Celene knew Ferelden would never progress as a nation if we didn’t have trade with Orlais and the exchange of information and new craftmanship. Loghain could never get past his hatred of Orlais for that to happen. We Couslands did the Theirin’s dirty work for them and it cost us our parents and nearly cost us our ancestral home.”
I pulled out of Fergus’ arms.
“Don’t hate Alistair for it.”
“I don’t, he is much a victim of this whole mess as we are.”
“He didn’t want the throne Fergus and he has been told all of his life he would never rule. It won’t be easy for him.”
“I’ll help him sister because he kept you alive.”
“He did and I’ll always be grateful.”
“He is a good man Fergus, he really is. Alistair has not had an easy time being Maric’s bastard son. It was really hard for him growing up and Isolde was so mean to him as a child. She made him sleep in the stables Fergus. ”
“She did that to Alistair as a boy, didn’t she know he was Maric’s son?”
“No, she thought he was Eamon’s bastard.”
“Still to do a child that way, I’ve never liked her myself. Oh her voice, makes me cringe every time she speaks with her Orlesian accent.”
“I’ll have our out of uniform men keep an eye on her. You’ll have to pick and hire me some new rogues sis, since you won’t be hiding in the shadows for Highever to do this anymore.”
“Seems I have a lot of hiring and recruitment to do. The best are Leliana and Zevran. They are the ones you should hire and to trust.”
“Ah yes, the Grey Wardens. At least you’ll be coming home for a much deserved rest. Soon we’ll return home together.”
I just nodded.
“Alright, now that all of that is settled. How do you want me to send this information to Alistair. I just can’t give it him without there being questions. Should we send this now?”
“Yes, the sooner the better. I want to watch her hang before we leave for Highever. This should also be done before Alistair’s coronation. Hire one of the child messengers. Captain Kylon might do me a favor. Send for him and I’ll make the offer. We had some dealings while fighting the Blight and Loghain. He knew I was in Denerim and he turned a blind eye to the fact. Have him escort the child messenger into Alistair’s presence. Better yet, make it a little lass that you hire. Less suspicious. I’ll also have Leliana and Zevran follow behind them to make sure our interest are protected. There is a man in the market district called Slim. Zevran and Leliana know who he is. He will help hire the child for us for a bit of coin of course.”
“I’ll have this done tonight and will speak to Zevran and Leliana after our meal. I want to see her hang for what she did to our parents, my wife and child and all of our servants. I’ll be right there standing with you when she hangs. You’re sure Alistair will hang her?”
“He won’t have a choice. She knew she was unable to bear Cailan an heir and she married him knowing this. I guess the question is did Cailan know? I mean they were man and wife?”
“It won’t matter; Ferelden law is clear, this was treason from the start and Loghain knew it.”
“According to these papers, he did, you need to send for the mage Fergus.”
“I have, I did this first thing, for her to tell her tale to Eamon, once I got back to Denerim.”
“It’s just a matter of time now.”
“Yes, it is.”
“The cook was preparing your tray and it should be here soon. I’m sure your hungry.”
“Yes, I’m starved. I wish I could join all of you downstairs.”
“I can have a tray sent here and join you?”
“No, don’t, go enjoy our houseguests. They are a fun lot. I’d like for you to get to know them like I do, it will be relaxing for you.”
“Alright Tink, I want you to eat, then get some more sleep. You look feverish, are you sure you’re feeling alright? You’re a might warm.”
“It’s the thick duvet brother, holding in body heat. Wardens get hot Fergus, nothing to be alarmed about.”
A knocked sounded on my door.
“Bet that is your dinner.”
“I hope so.”
Fergus got up, unlocked and open the door. Sure enough there stood our head cook with the tray herself. Molly was beaming with pleasure.
“Ah Molly, you didn’t have to bring this yourself.”
“Oh your Grace, I know I didn’t need too. I wanted to see our girl, now that she is home.”
“Well let’s get her feed then Molly. What’s on our menu for tonight?”
“I’m sure you’ll be pleased. We’ve had three full sides of beef delivered this morn by Arl Eamon. We’ve had the beef simmering in the pot all day your Graces. You’ve not been here for us to let you know of our good bounty. The other supplies that you have purchased have also arrived and we’re well stocked now.”
“We’ve beef chunks in burgundy with hearty vegetables in a rich gravy. Warm bread rolls just out of the oven, and sweet butter, mashed potatoes and greens. And I’ve prepared a real treat for you and our guests. We’ve warm chocolate pudding for dessert. Will this do your Graces?”
Fergus looked at me.
“Oh yes, it will do nicely. Thank you Molly.”
Molly came forward and placed my tray on the side table next to my bed. She went to the cupboard and got a bed tray and fixed me a plate. My mouth was watering. I was so hungry. She placed the bed tray over my legs.
“Sit Molly and keep me company while I eat. You’re not needed in the kitchens just now are you?”
“I’m sure they can do without me for a time.”
“I’m off ladies to enjoy this wonderful dinner. You have my graditude Molly.”
“You’re such a charmer Your Grace.”
Fergus smiled. “I do my best Molly.”
“I’ll see you later Tink.”
I waved with my fork. Fergus laughed and left.
“Molly this looks delicious and I don’t know where to dig in first.”
“If I remember correctly it was always dessert with you.”
I laughed. “I used to sneak it and have all of my dessert ate before the rest of my meal. Mother and father always knew of course and I always got scolded by Nan.”
“I’m so sorry on your parents child. They were regarded highly among the hiring staffs in all of Ferelden. They were good honest people to work for. I’ll also miss Nan, she taught me well in the kitchens and if not for her I’d never been promoted to head cook here in the city.”
“Thank you Molly on my parents and Nan thought highly of you. She admired your skills in the kitchen. I know she never told you, but she was impressed with your dishes and I seem to think at times jealous of you.”
I put down my fork and grabbed my spoon instead and took a hugh bit of chocolate pudding. Molly laughed and clapped her hands in delight at my enjoyment.
“HMMMM.” I was rolling the pudding around on my tongue enjoying the taste and warmth in my mouth.
“Did she, you never could tell with her harping all the time.”
“If she harped Molly, then she truly liked you, that was Nan’s way.”
“She was your nanny for years, and she taught you well. Her and those awful stories she used to tell.”
“I know, they were awful to listen too but they always had a lesson in them.”
I had devoured my pudding and was now plowing through the beef.
“Goodness child, I’ve never seen you eat like this. You used to eat just enough to keep a bird alive.”
“Well I’ve changed Molly, being a Warden does this to a person.”
“We’re all so proud of you lass, what you done for us, restoring the honor of the Couslands, defeating Loghain, becoming a Warden and saving all of Ferelden. I know your parents would be proud of you if they were here.”
“My parents told me to live and see justice done when I left them. I never wanted to leave them Molly.”
“I know lass, they told you right, you had to survive so others would know the truth. I know it had to be hard, lass.”
“It was Molly.”
I was mopping up the gravy with the last of my bread. I started to reach for my goblet and found none.
“Oh goodness child, in my haste to get your dinner I forgot your wine.”
“I’d prefer milk truth be told Molly.”
“Milk?” “You hate milk.”
“I’ve seemed to have acquired a taste for it out on the road. I didn’t always have coin to buy wine or ale, so milking a cow in the middle of the night gave us something to drink with our meals besides water.”
“Well at least you knew how to milk a cow, I bet the ice queen never had to milk one.”
I laughed after swallowing down a mouthful of mashed potatoes swimming in butter. Oh Maker, this was delicious.
“If it’s milk you want then milk you shall have.”
She got up and pulled the servant bell cord in my room.
Shortly an elf servant knocked on the door. Molly handed her my empty tray and dishes.
“Her Grace, wishes milk to drink.”
I spoke up. “Oh and more of everything please.”
“Well you heard her Grace, what are you still doing standing here with you mouth agape, getting moving lass,” and Molly slammed the door in her face.
“Really Molly was that necessary? Seems a bit of Nan rubbed off on you after all.”
Molly threw her head back and laughed with merriment.
“I think many are in awe of you My Lady.”
“I’m just an ordinary person Molly, who did her best to survive and see justice done.”
Molly came and sat back down on my bed.
“Your more than that child, you’re a unique and rare type of person.”
My stomach rumbled.
Her eyebrows shot up.
“How in the Maker’s name can you still be hungry. Is there something you want to tell me?”
I turned my hand in supplication. “What should I be telling you?”
“Well you did travel for more than a year with that handsome prince lass.”
“Oh I see where this conversation is going.”
“He is nearly as handsome as his brother.”
“He has shorter hair.”
She laughed, “aye he does, but it suites him.”
“So you meet him yourself.”
“Served him myself I did, and he ate just as hearty as you.”
“It’s just a Warden thing Molly.”
“So no poking going on?”
I doubled over with laughter. I had tears running down my face, and she had a twinkle in her eyes from making me laugh. When I caught my breath…
“Is that what they are calling it now days.”
“Well it’s what I’m calling it, so did you?”
“NO, by Andraste’s knickers. Lass are you blind, and he is a prince no less.”
“He is also a complete gentlemen and a trained Templar, and our soon-to-be king, and the answer is still no.”
“Didn’t the lad even try?”
“Of course he did, I said no.”
“I think I’m going to swoon. Child why not?”
“He is my truest and best friend Molly and he is a fine gentlemen.”
“Your a teynir lass and you rank enough to marry him.”
“Well he didn’t ask me Molly, we didn’t have that type of relationship. He is a very good and dear friend and we’ve been through a lot together and we survived. There is nothing more to our relationship and you tell Fergus I said so.”
“Ah, lass you caught on.”
“Of course Molly, I knew Fergus would want to know and you have never brought me my dinner trays before, you didn’t fool me in the lest.”
“You always were clever child.”
“Don’t be mad lass, he just has your best interest at heart like any big brother should.”
“People are talking and your brother is concerned.”
“I’m still a maid Molly, and soon I’ll be to busy ruling Amaranthine, being Warden Commander to even worry about a husband.”
“Grey Wardens do marry.”
“I know they do, and when the right person comes along and Maker willing, and if the time is right then I’ll marry.”
“Your mother wanted you married lass.”
“I know Molly, I think the Maker has other plans for me.”
“Perhaps He does.”
Another knock sounded and the elf servant came in with my new tray of warm hearty stew, butter, bread, vegetables, pudding and a whole silver pitcher of milk. She sat the tray down and Molly excused her and she bowed when she left my room.
Molly plated up another meal for me and filled my goblet to the brim with ice cold milk. I took the goblet from her hands and chugged the milk down. Wiping my sleeve across my mouth as I finished. I was soon spooning mouthfuls of more stew, vegetables, and pudding into my mouth.
Molly removed my tray when I was done eating.
“Molly I don’t think I have eaten that good since that last night at Highever.”
“Well lass, you’ve shown me the rumors are true, that when a Warden comes recruiting they wont’ just take your people, but empty your larder as well.”
I giggled and a burp escaped.
“Oh excuse me.”
Molly laughed. “Shows you enjoyed your meal lass.”
“Oh I did Molly, it was delicious.”
“Was the food on the road that bad.”
“Hit or miss I’d say, sometimes we’d have time for the meat to cook all the way through and other times we’d go for days without any if we couldn’t find any to steal. The game might be all gone due to darkspawn, or I didn’t have enough coin to buy any.”
“Lass you’ve been through some ordeal.”
“Molly how bad was it here when Howe took over?”
“It was bad child, as worse as you can imagine.”
“I thought as much.”
“So what happened in my room Molly?”
“I think you can guess the answer child.”
“They brought the women in here to have their way with them. I hide and helped as many as I could in the hidden room behind the shelves in the kitchens my lady when they would start. I told your brother the same. At the end some of those men were so far enthralled in what they were doing, they never heard your brother and all of those men start the attack to take back your home.
“That golem who travels with you smashed your bedroom door to splinters and when she saw what was happening it was a blood bath. That golem grabbed those men and squeezed the stuffing out of them. Their blood sprayed all over these walls. The reason for your walls being plastered is they painted over the blood and it just seeped back through so His Highness and your brother decided to plaster over it. They knew you wanted out of Fort Drakon and they were trying to get your room done to move you here. I’m sorry Your Grace, but some of the women died, their was nothing we could do and that small room only holds so many, I didn’t have a mage here to help them.”
“I know Molly, thank you for telling me.”
“It won’t bother you will it lass?”
“No, I’ve seen too much death this past year for it bother me. I just wish I had been here or been able to help my brother take our home back.”
“You know we might face the same at Highever.”
“I’m aware lass and I’ll be going with you too cook until your brother and I decide who to hire at Highever as a new cook. Your brother might move me there and hire the new cook for here or promote, he hasn’t decided yet.”
“Fergus and I will discuss it Molly. I think you’d do well at Highever if you’re not afraid to be there.”
“Why should I be afraid, when the Hero of Ferelden is my mistress?”
“I won’t always be there, Molly.”
“No one would dare attack Highever now with you as it’s Teyrna, they’d be fools to try it.”
“Molly do you think the other ladies would mind learning sword play?”
“I think that is a fine idea Your Grace and I’ll ask them and let you know.”
“Alright Molly, see what they say and I’ll talk with Fergus about it. I think its time our female staff know how to protect themselves.”
“Your mother wasn’t a wall flower, she was a shield maiden herself. She defended her man and we women of Highever are proud to have served her.”
“Thank you Molly,”
“If you need anything at all lass you let me know and I’ll see it done for you.”
“Just stop by for a chat Molly, I’m getting lonely in this room.”
“I will child, you rest now, so you’ll look fresh as a daisy for your victory party.”
“I will Molly, good night.”
“Good night My Lady.”
I drifted off again. I was so full I could hardly move.
“Bell you awake?”
It was Leliana.
“I should have let you sleep?”
“No, it’s alright, I’m glad you’re here. I miss talking with all of you and soon I won’t get to see any of you.”
“I’ll miss you also. It will be hard to part company.” We hugged each other.
“Come on snuggle under the covers and let’s talk.”
“Alright, but first, I have something for you. Tomorrow you’re gown is going to be made and I wanted to show you the fabric. The Orlesian Merchant in the market had the fabric and I knew it was perfect for you.”
She reached down and pulled material out of a linen bag on the floor.
“Oh Lei, this is beautiful.”
“I thought you’d like it, it matches your eyes perfectly. You’ll wear the Highever sash with your gown being a Teyrna which is a blue/green/silver strip pattern, yes?”
“Yes, it tradition, I have to wear it, like my mother before me. I’m not sure what to do about the Arlessa part?”
“I don’t think it really matters at this point; you’re recognized by your highest title anyways.”
The fabric Leliana had chosen for me was a royal blue damask, heavy enough for the cool evenings here, yet glorious rich in pattern and texture. There were delicate silver threads in a floral pattern that closely looked like laurels, worked within the material. Next she pulled out brand new white lace small clothes also with silver thread embroidery and white silk hose to match with silver lace garters to hold them up. She reached down again and pulled out a pair of small tapered letter heel pumps, and the shoes had been covered with matching silver material and royal blue bead work on the toes and lined on the edges with more of the blue. The shoes would match the fabric of my gown to perfection. I had to admit Leliana knew her fashion and her shoes.
“You realize you not only matched the Highever colors but the Grey Wardens nearly as well.”
“Yes, I spent some time in the Chantry looking up the heraldry of both, to get an idea of your family colors. Zevran and I saw this material in the market and couldn’t believe our luck.”
“We had to decide between the blue or the green. We went with blue because of the Grey Wardens with blue being the color of the Griffon on your shields.”
“I know that ladies here in Ferelden don’t wear a corset, instead they seem to prefer the old style of girdles; but, would you be willing to wear a silver one with this dress pattern?”
“Leliana, this dress is beautiful. I love it actually, and it is similar to the dresses worn in Orlais and I’d gladly have worn that before…..
“Oh, oh, …..I’m so sorry, I forgot.”
“I took her hands, don’t be Leliana. I won’t be able to wear a gown like that anymore, with my bosom exposed. My scars, Leliana.”
“I’m so sorry, how could I have forgotten?”
“This is something you enjoy, the same with your ballads. It’s ok, really.”
“A more traditional Ferelden gown then.”
“We can style it up with an oval cut out just below my throat within the high neck. The shoulders can also be cut out, will that do you think?”
“Yes, I know exactly what style you are talking about.”
“Do you want a cape to match the gown and lined with silver?”
“Well I’m a Warden now and I do get hot.”
“If you want me to have it, then yes, have it made.”
She giggle with delight and landed in my arms. I laughed and hugged her.
There was a knock.
It was my brother.
“Leliana, I’m glad you’re here.”
“Little sister, I have something for you and I think Leliana would love to see them.”
I looked at my brother puzzled.
“What have you Fergus?”
He handed me a box wrapped in silver paper with a purple ribbon.
I slowly unwrapped the package being careful to not tear the ribbon. I gave the ribbon to Leliana. Finally I lifted the lid and moved the tissue paper aside. I gasped.
“Oh Fergus, how is this possible?”
“Molly saved and hide them from Howe’s men.”
“Oh, oh, they are lovely, cooed Leliana.”
I slowly lifted out the mystic blue jeweled necklace and fine silver filigree metal work that had been my mother’s. Her long silver filigree hair piece also embedded with the same jewels, with the matching ear bobs and her ring to match the set. I was astounded.
“I thought these were gone for good Fergus.”
“I thought the same sis.”
“Did you give Molly a raise?”
“I will tomorrow.”
“See that you do.”
“She saved other pieces as well.”
“Father’s signet ring?”
“No, I’m afraid not. I’m having a new one made and hopefully it will be done in time for the ball. I needed a new jeweled badge for my sash as well. I didn’t want to spend the gold, but I have no choice. I also had to change the design of our signet sis. With father and mother’s rings probably lost to us forever…well they had to be changed.”
“I know Fergus, I’m sorry. What change did you make?”
“Just a simple one, within the laurels on the blue stone, a mabari has been added.”
“I thought you’d like that. And I’m having a new one made for you as well and of course a new jeweled badge.”
“Fergus, I’m not allowed, as a Grey Warden.”
“You will wear this ring sis until I remarry when you are home. I don’t give a fig what the Wardens think. You and I will not walk into the Landsmeet Hall looking like paupers. It is bad enough that I’ve had to accept beef to feed our men and Redcliffe soldiers to guard my own property given by Eamon. You are my sister and until you take the command of the Vigil you will act and conduct yourself as my Teyrna. Understood.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell.”
“Maybe I should go.”
“No Leliana, you wouldn’t be here if my sister didn’t trust you. You know our circumstances, it’s alright. It’s not like it’s a secret or anything.”
“We’ll get through this Fergus.”
“I know we will, right now you are all that I have sis, my wife and son will not be there when I accept our father’s title and swear featly like they should have been. I will show the fools in Amaranthine, we are still the powerful Couslands and we are still their overlords, you will play along sister.”
“With bells on brother and you forget I have to swear fealty to you as well.”
“Right, I forgot about that, better you than Howe any day of the week, at least I don’t have to worry about you murdering me in my bed.”
“No, you don’t. I have to worry about it now.”
“Bring them to heel sister, I know you can do it.”
“I will Fergus, I promise you I will, Warden or no.”