I followed the guard out of the Landsmeet Hall to my left. My companions had run to catch up me, “hey where are you going?” Leliana asked.
“Apparently, I’m to give an appearance to the crowds outside, uh commanded to appear.” I scrunched my nose up for her to see I didn’t like this idea one bit. She giggled.
“We’re coming with you.”
“Good, I really didn’t want to do this by myself and I didn’t win this battle all on my own.”
The guard led us through the palace. I hadn’t been in here for ages. The place still looked the same. The old place really did need a makeover. Unfortunately, Ferelden didn’t have the money to waste on the building of a new palace. It was no wonder other countries considered Ferelden a backwater country, a bunch of country pumpkins. Somehow they kept forgetting that Orlais had picked Ferelden clean for years.
I used to have a hidden office in here but I never had told anyone about it. One of the perks of being Cailan’s spymaster. I knew my way around the palace. I followed the guard as if I didn’t know where we were going. He was leading me to the training fields and their gates opened up on street level for the King and his guards to pass through. The fields on the other side of the Palace and we’d come out right at the entrance to Fort Drakon and I’d bet the balcony on its grounds. Damn it.
It took us forever to walk it. The guard opened a heavy ironbark door and we followed into another storage room and the other door would open to the training fields. Stepping outside we finally arrived on the training fields of the palace. The battalion came to attention when they saw me. Their commander coming to meet me.
“Commander Cousland, it is an honor to finally meet you? I’m the new Knight Commander of His Majesty’s Denerim Battalion. We’ve been instructed by His Majesty to escort you to the front of the palace for our people to see their hero.” Since when did Denerim have a standing battalion? Hmmm, probably since Vaughn skipped out on his duty. Eamon must have decided to combine all of them.
“Just one minute, how do we know she will be safe?” asked Zevran shoving his way forward to face the man. “That is one big uncontrollable mob if they get out of hand.”
I put my hand on Zevran’s arm.
Before I could speak Shale responded. “I believe the painted little elf just insulted me.”
Sten grunted in agreement.
I heard the battalion commander step back when Shale came into view.
“Maker’s breath,” he said, eyeballing Shale.
“She won’t hurt you.”
“I might,” said Shale.
“Shale you’re not helping matters at all.”
“Who said I was willing to help in whatever this is that we are doing.”
“Commander, the same defense is in place that was here this morning that guarded his Majesty through the crowds this morning.”
“And you’d like to get on with this farce and get off duty?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it a farce my lady.”
“I would,” I said.
I could hear Oghren laughing behind me.
“Very well, what must I do?”
“I’d like to place you in back of an escort with the rest following behind and beside.”
“Alright, I can do that, but my other fellow heroes are coming with me.”
“Uh, His Majesty didn’t say anything about the rest of them.”
“They come with me or I don’t go.”
The battalion commander cleared his throat, “of course Commander Cousland, this way please.”
The poor man finally got all of us organized. Half of the battalion of one thousand men were split even with five hundred of them in front of us and five hundred of them in the back. The other eight that were displaced by our positions were in the front with a row of eight instead of ten. I was dead center with Thor at my side. Behind us in the next row came Wynne and Leliana. Behind them Zevran and Oghren, and last was Sten and Shale who towered over the men in their row. The battalion commander went to the front and the men next to him raised their banners. He gave the signal and gates opened and trumpets blared. At first I didn’t see the sigil on the banners, then I saw them. Alistair’s own royal crest of the Theirin Family. Not of Denermin. Men at the end of my row were holding the banners and sigils of the Grey Wardens.
We marched out with just enough room to get by and the crowds went wild. The roar was deafening. I just marched and kept in time with the men in front of me, waving to people as I passed by. I heard Leliana laughing, “Eamon sure likes to put on a show.” I so wanted to turn around and offer a wise crack, but didn’t think it would be fair to the men around me. I was sure many of them had helped me storm the gates of Denerim and these were some of the survivors. I just had to go along with it. This is why the Landsmeet was so empty when Alistair made his announcements inside. Everybody was out here. We finally marched up the stairs to the main plaza palace stairs. Which had three tiers of steps with landings of plaza stone work in between and fountains. The battalion commander led me to the highest balcony reachable before the palace entrance. Just as we stepped up onto the raised platform the crowds roared again with shouts for King Alistair. We turned around and looked up and there he was on the highest private balcony at the front of the palace. Waving to the crowds. They cheered and cheered him. I could hardly hear a thing except for the roar of the crowd before me. When I turned back around my brother and our Highever knights were down in front of me with my brother smiling like an idiot.
Alistair held up his hands signaling to the crowd to quiet them. The noise finally died down. “My friends. I’d like to introduce to you my good friend the Hero of Ferelden. Warden Commander of Ferelden, Bellavalia Cousland.”
The crowds roared their approval again as I stepped forward on the platform waving to them. The Grey Warden sigil snapping behind me.
“Speech lady, speech, they started to chant.”
I nodded that I’d speak to them. They finally got quiet enough to hear me.
“I’d like to thank all of whom took up arms to help me defend Ferelden. Without all of you leaving your homes and families this would never have been possible, our victory was in doubt in the beginning, and I couldn’t have done it without any of you.”
The crowd went wild again and I had to wait for them to quiet down.
“I’d like to give special thanks to King Behlen of Orzammar and the Legions of the Dead and the other Orzammar troops. Lanya – Keeper of the Dalish Elves of the Brecilian Forest and her marvelous archers and the City Elves of Denerim’s Alienage. First Enchanter Irving and Knight Commander Greagoir of the Circle of Magi. The Grand Cleric and all of the Chantry personnel especially the Templars under her command who helped us within Ferelden in many areas. Knights of Redcliffe and the Legion of the Dead who guarded my back helping me get to the Archdemon to defeat it. I give you my thanks. Without all of you I don’t think we would have made it.”
“I’d also like to personally thank His Majesty for his strong shield arm protecting me as I weaved in and out of darkspawn killing them as he held them at bay.”
“Don’t let her kid you she was protecting my back also, I’d not be alive today without her.”
“Nor I without you Your Majesty. Your new king is a mighty warrior and an honorable and just man, all I ask is that you follow and trust in his wisdom. He will do what is right for all of you. I have no doubt of it or in his ability to rule.”
“My lady,” Alistair bowed to me.
“My King”, I bowed back to him and the crowd went wild all over again.
“His Majesty and I also found these people standing beside me who fought beside us and without them, I don’t know what would have happened to us after Ostagar. They also helped save the last two Grey Wardens in Ferelden. His Majesty and myself. We owe them special gratitude. I’d like to introduce you to them. They will forever remain our closest and dearest friends and we’ll never forget them, they are my heroes as well.”
“I’d like to begin first by introducing you to someone who is very special and was a gift from my father Teyrn Bryce Cousland when I was a little girl. My own Ferelden born and breed Mabari War Hound – Thor.” The crowd cheered again as Thor bowed to them on his left front fore leg. Then he stood on four legs, then he posed for them like he’d been taught since he was a pup. He raised his head high along with left fore leg off the ground and the crowd started to chant his name. I patted his head and scratch him behind his ears then he sat down beside me.
“Next I’d like to introduce you to Senior Enchantress Wynne of Ferelden’s Circle of Magi. She is also a survivor of Ostagar and without her healing magic, His Majesty nor myself would have survived.” Wynne came forward as the crowd cheered for her also. She waved to them and smiled graciously.
“Next, a Chantry Sister from Lothering and she is also a bard and sings the sweetest songs you’ve ever head. She is Sister Leliana of the Lothering Chantry. She was originally born in Ferelden but was raised in Orlais. She felt the need to return to the country of her birth – Ferelden. She presented herself to me in Lothering and she helped us get as many people out of Lothering as we could before the darkspawn attacked. Without her help I couldn’t have saved the hundreds that we did.” Leliana came forward and also waved at the crowd and they cheered her.
“I’d like to introduce you to a decorated and honored warrior of the Warrior Caste of Orzammar. His name is Oghren and he brews one of the smoothest and most potent brews of ale I’ve had the pleasure to sample and he swings a mean great-sword against darkspawn.”
“It was my pleasure-giving the darkspawn a swift kick in the arse!” The crowd laughed and cheered Oghren.
“Please give a warm welcome to Zevran Ariani of Antiva. A traveling merchant and fighting rogue, whom we came across on the road whose wagon and followers were under attack. After the battle with himself the lone survivor, he asked to join our cause since he didn’t have anything better to do. Of course I welcomed him, since we needed all the help we could get. He is a great card player if you’d like to play a hand with him, be careful he is a dual wielding rogue and a real charmer ladies. “Ah Mi Bella, you gave away my secret.” The crowd laughed as Zevran came forward waving to them. They cheered him also and I was positive that a few ladies swooned. I was sure Zevran wouldn’t lack companionship being in service to the king.
I motioned for Shale and Sten to step forward. The crowd gasped.
“Please allow me to introduce the muscle of our little war party. Please give your appreciation for Shale of House Cadash of Orzammar. Created by the Paragon Caridin of the Smith Caste of Orzammar. The people of Orzammar have lost nearly all of their golems in fighting darkspawn. Golems like Shale are now extremely rare. I meet a merchant on the road and he sold me the control rod to activate Shale. We found her in Honnleath. She is truly a sight in battle and she helped King Alistair defend the gates of Denerim.”
“What do I do she asked me?”
“Just wave at them.”
“Very well, as it wishes.” Shale stepped forward and waved to the crowd.
“That golem saved my life at the gates. Thank you.” I heard a man yell, the crowd cheered her.
“She whispered to me, this is boring.”
I giggled, “I know, we’re almost done.”
She stomped back to stand beside Sten. Whom I think she had a secret crush on.
“Last but not least, we were given aide by Sten, a field commander, a Qunari warrior, under the command of his Arioshock, here to investigate the Blight, we found him near Lothering. Even the Qunari want to know how to defeat the darkspawn and Sten will return to his people informing them about what he learned about them here in Ferelden. Without his strong wielding great sword killing several darkspawn in one sweep, he helped save my life and that of our King time and time again. He stood fearless against the darkspawn’s mighty Orge never flinching as he took them on. He has been a warrior and a member of their warrior society of Par Vollen all of his life. He also helped King Alistair defend the gates of Denerim. Please show your gratitude to this noble warrior.” Sten stepped forward and formally bowed to the crowd, he didn’t wave. Not his style. The crowd ooh and ahhed over him.
“There is one last person who traveled with His Majesty and myself, another mage who died during the battle of Fort Drakon and she was simply known as Morrigan. May the Maker Bless and keep her.”
Funny, but there was that same grey dog that was in the Landsmeet Hall standing next to my brother and if I didn’t know better it was smirking at me. Thor had noticed it and was wagging his tail. I heard Zevran snort behind me about Morrigan.
“The last thing I’d like to say is never forgot the sacrifice of the Ferelden Grey Wardens who did die honorable trying to save King Cailan at Ostagar. They did try save him. All of the lost souls at Ostagar fought bravely and honorably, they all died on their feet fighting. Never forget this.” With those words I stepped back and waved as the crowds chanted Cailan’s name. I waved one last time and disappeared into the soldiers behind me. My companions at my back. The noise of the crowd roaring in my ears.
“I think I could use a drink,” said Oghren.
“I second that. Come my friends, let’s go home.” We finally weaved our way through the crowd making it to the docks. I’d pulled a fast one on my honor guard and got the heck out of dodge.
I was hot and thirsty. My leg was on fire. The pain shooting up and down my leg. My other injuries were healing just fine, my leg was taking forever to heal. What I wanted now was a nap before the ball tonight.
Teyrna of Gwaren, blast and damnation. How in the Maker’s name does Alistair think I’ll have time to keep a watch on Gwaren and rebuild the Ferelden Grey Wardens, plus rule Amaranthine to boot? Please tell me Your Majesty how I’m suppose to do all of this? I sighed deeply.
“Bell, are you alright?”
“I’m fine Lei. Just really ticked on being named Teyrna of Gwaren. Hell Lei, how am I to juggle all of this?” I was waving my hands in the air and folks around us thought I was waving at them. I waved and smiled back then put my hands back at my side.
“We’ll all help you, you know that.”
“How? Zevran and you both will be working for Alistair.”
“We can also work for you, our positions with Alistair aren’t exclusive.”
“Damn it, Lei, I have no idea what is even going on there. I’ll have to interview Sir Perth on what the conditions are and how to help the people there. I’m sure they won’t be good, being in the center of the bloody blight, and how in the hell am I going to feed all of these people and we don’t even know what the conditions are like at my family home?” I was practically stomping my way back home I was so mad. I just wanted to lay down and cry my heart out. I knew what I needed right now was a long hot bath, a good stiff drink, and lots of food. But NO! I have a bloody ball to attend all dressed up. I might go like Sten in just my armor. I snorted. Right, like Leliana was going to allow me to get away with that. A red-hot streak of rebellion was running through my veins at the moment. If I bulked would it be considered treason? What is one more bad mark I thought. I’ve already committed treason by not telling Alistair he was to be a father. I guess I’m all in then.
Finally the entrance to our estate came into view. We’d all made it back before my brother. I’m sure he was exhausted being awake all night and standing at attention holding the King’s sword. He thought he had it bad. The trumpets blew and the I could hear the sounds of the portcullis whine was the men raised it to let us in. I just shook my head. What was wrong with the bloody small door entrance within the gate. Oh yes, more fanfare announcing the Hero of Ferelden was now at home. Blast it. I’d have to inform Molly that we weren’t receiving visitors until next week and with luck we’d be on the road to Highever by then. I stomped into the courtyard of my home where Molly opened the door for us saying there was refreshments in the dining room.
Before I had the chance to tell Molly what I wanted…”my lady, your bath is being prepared for you now and will be ready once you’ve eaten.”
I smiled at her. The ever efficient Molly. Fergus and I were truly blessed to still have her in our service. Poor lady had worked her fingers to the bone and was still going. Her work just beginning. I was very glad she was coming with us to right the damage to the Highever kitchens, we wouldn’t starve at least with Molly around.
“Thank you Molly, we’ll see ourselves to the dining room once we’ve all changed.”
“I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m going to change into something more comfortable. I’ll see all of you this evening.” I hurried before any of them had a chance to say anything, making my way to my room. The fact of the matter was I wanted to stew in private and I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I hope they all understood.