Bellavalia walked through the fields of golden grain with Thor at her side lost in her thoughts. She’d regained her strength and soon all of her companions were leaving and she would be as well. She planned on telling Fergus that she was riding to Nan’s sister in Rainesfere to inform her of Nan’s death. Which she would be doing and a whole lot more. Fergus wasn’t going to like it one bit. She had no choice; she had to go. Nan’s sister was her contact with the De’ Charney family in Orlais. She had to contact Christian and soon to let him know she had survived and that she was alright. Bellavalia wished she could go herself into Orlais yet she knew this would be foolhardy, not to mention dangerous – drawing that type of attention to herself and her situation.
In the middle of the night she’d sat down at her desk writing the letter that she needed to get through to Christian. Nan’s sister was the only one to see it off, since she was the last person in all of Ferelden who knew her secret and how vitally important it was, now more than ever. Franny’s contacts with the smugglers would get the letter through to Christian and Sir Henry. The network of rogues, smugglers, and merchants our family had cultivated for generations smuggling goods between Orlais and Ferelden.
Kristoff and the rest of the Grey Wardens had left to go to Vigil’s Keep yesterday to get it ready for my arrival, getting everything squared away for my command. Highever was getting back to normal even with all of the hardships. I’d been helping my brother train the new troops and my Wardens had helped me. Alistair had purchased grain from the south of the Free Marches and Nevarra, when it arrived Highever would be receiving those shipments to distribute to the south of Ferelden. Highever and Redcliff knights guarding the shipments around the clock. Changes for everyone was in the works, Thor and I were no exceptions.
Leliana and Zevran had been called back to Denerim at Alistair’s request to start work for him. Fergus had told me there was also a request from his Majesty and one Bellavalia was heart sick over. It involved allowing Thor to be sent to Denerim becoming a stud, breeding new Mabari war hounds since so many had been lost during the war and the blight. I was out here walking with Thor to pose the question to him. Being apart from Thor was going to kill me. Taking command of Vigil’s Keep without my war hound at my side was a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, it was for the good of Ferelden. My war hound would not be the only one, since Thor was a honored war hero – he got first dibs so-to-speak with the female mabari. He’d proven his worth and breeding, he was the top dog in the kingdom. I’ll earn tremendous stud fees from him but I’d rather have him at my side were my thoughts.
Bellavalia sat down on a high cliff with the gold grain swaying around her. She looked out over the cliffs to the roaring Amaranthine sea beyond and wondered where life was going to take her next and what was in store for her. So many changes and a time of reflection. Thor was busy sniffing around. Happy as could be to be home running the fields of Highever and getting back to his stash of ill gotten gains.
“Did you find anything Thor?”
My golden Mabari raised his massive head, barked and ran off in search of items he might bring back to me. Bellavalia watched him and smiled when he dug something out of the ground with his paw. With his mighty jaws he scoped up what he found and came flying back dropping the item in my lap. Barking his excitement in his find. Bellavalia reached into her pocket within her leathers and tossed him a mabari treat. She smiled as her war hound wolfed it down. Wagging his tail a mile a minute. Bell patted the ground next to her. “Come Thor, we need to have a chat.” She pocketed the coopers that her war hound had brought to her. “We can always use the funds that you find. Good boy.” She rubbed his wiggling body all over and scratched him behind his ears. Thor laid down beside her waiting for her to speak. Bellavalia took the time to just pet him and enjoy the moment.
“You know I’m leaving to take my command of Vigil’s Keep in a few more months.” Thor wolfed in reply. “You won’t be going with me.” Thor whined up at her. “You’ll be leaving with Zevran and Leliana to go back to Denerim to be a stud to female mabaris.”
Thor perked-up at this news and he got a very male sheepish expression on his face. He jumped up wiggling and shaking all over. Running around and barking.
“This means you won’t be going to Vigil’s Keep with me anytime soon.”
Thor planted his butt back down and cocked his head to the side. He frowned at his mistress. He got up and came over to my side, laid down next to me and laid his head in my lap nuzzling my belly. “This means that you and I will be separated for a time, can you handle being away from me?”
Thor huffed his discontent.
“I promise I’ll come retrieve you as soon as you do your duty and create your progeny.” Bellavalia stroked his massive silky head. “I’m going to miss you Thor and I’m unsure if I can bare it.” Sadness gripped my heart. With Thor there to protect me, I had no fear or worries for myself or my babies.
“I want you to do your duty, once you do, I’ll be there in a heartbeat to come get you. Ferelden needs you, you have a duty the same as I do. Your majestic pedigree demands it.” Thor’s only response was a huff. “We’ll spend the day together and you’ll leave with Leliana and Zevran tomorrow with them. It will be alright, I promise you.”
Bellavalia smiled, she’d known that Sten was close by. He was leaving today for the Free Marches to meet up with his Arishok and file his report on the blight. She was going to miss him. Bellavalia stood and turned to face her fellow war companion, the massive Quarni giant. The warrior had to stand at least seven feet tall. Sten’s hair flowed in the breeze, he’d taken it down to wash and prepare for his journey home. It was a sight to see all golden and flowing nearly to his waist. I itched to run my fingers through it but knew the stalwart warrior would give his usual response of no!
“Sten, I see your ships are in the harbor to retrieve you. Quarian warships are most impressive.”
“They are called dreadnoughts, not warships.” He staunchly told me.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you, what does Kadan really mean?”
“It means most closely in your tongue my good friend.”
“I will always be that Sten, and if you need my help with anything just look me up.”
“I will Kadan, and I still owe you a debt that I hope one day I can repay.”
“I’m going to miss you Kadan and I find you to be one of the most honorable and noble warriors I’ve the privilege to meet. It’s been an honor to serve you.”
“I feel the same about you and I hope we meet again one day.”
“I look forward to it.”
He bowed to me and I to him.
“Safe journey home my friend.”
Sten and Thor said their goodbyes and I watched the massive warrior follow the trail down to his ships that had come to meet him. His massive sword that I had helped him retrieve strapped to his back, wearing the juggernaut armor I’d found in the Brecilian Forest which he looked stunning in. A great sadness flowed over me and I wondered if I’d ever see the mighty warrior again. Out of all of my companions I felt that Sten was the most philosophical. He was a man of few words yet offered the most wisdom. Thor and I watched as he climbed aboard his ship and soon they cast off the shores of Highever to sail across the sea to the Free Marches. The sun glinting off the golden skin of the mighty warriors who had come to retrieve him. I waved goodbye one last time and I stood on the cliff until the massive ships were no more than a speck on the sea. Thor whined beside me. I rubbed his head. My war hound had said goodbye to as close a friend as I had.
Thor and I spent the day on the cliff with my family’s graves within my sight. We ran and played, something we’d not done for ages. I saw Wynne come up the rise wrapped in a shaw in the colors of Highever. She’d been most appreciative for the warm garment. She was of an age when the cold winds off the cliffs affected her joints. She was still a stunning beautiful woman for her age which she still hadn’t disclosed.
“He’s gone then?”
I nodded to her. “Yes, he is. He took the cloak you made for him too,” I said.
Wynne chuckled. “At least we spent a few days at the temple and I had time to make him one when Alistair got injured. Poor man was freezing. None of us could sleep for his teeth chattering.”
“I’m guessing you’ll be going with Zevran and Leliana tomorrow and my dog.”
“Yes, Shale and I assumed it was safer on the roads that way, even though she huffed at my statement.” I smiled at her. “Oghren plans to come with us to travel to Orzammar, he will be stopping with me in Kinloch Hold for Felsi.”
“I figured he’d go after her. I hope it works out for them.”
“So what are your plans when you get back to Denerim?”
Wynne stared off across the seas before answering me. “I’m not going back to the tower. Alistair has asked that I work at the palace for a while to help the sick and homeless in Denerim and from there I’d like to travel. I’ve never had the chance and I earned my freedom. There is knowledge I’d like to research, along with helping Shale and us leaving for Trevinter.”
“I hope you’ll be able to help her.”
“I hope so too. I wish we’d found more of Caridin’s research on how he fully created them.”
“You know, I wondered if the Shaperete has the knowledge and they have it hidden.” I said.
“I wondered the same thing. Dwarven politics and all. Do you like the plans for Highever the Dwarven engineers are putting forth?”
“For the most part, Fergus will also have Alistair and Eamon’s input in the rebuilding of Highever.”
It’s a grand castle, so much mystery and legend here. You can’t do any better than Dwarven engineers working on it.”
“Dinner is ready; they sent me to fetch you. You’ve spent all day out here by yourself, are you alright?”
“I am; I just needed sometime to myself and to spend the day with Thor before I send him on his way.” Tears came into my eyes.
“I’m going to miss you too, and I’m so proud of you for standing your ground and placing Alistair on the throne, it was the right decision for Ferelden.”
“I hope so Wynne, that isn’t what I was going to say.” She raised her eyebrows.
“Thank you for saving my life since you joined us. Without you I never would have made it.”
She hugged me. “You’re welcome child, I just used the gifts the Maker gave me, you’ll be fine and I’m sure Ferelden hasn’t heard the last of you.” She winked at me, “come on I’m starved.”
We walked and chatted all the way off the cliffs that Highever was known for. I spent the last evening with: my brother, Leliana, Wynne, Oghren, Shale, and Zevran with Thor asleep at my side. We had fun reliving our adventures with our tales around the warm stone fire in the Great Hall. We played Diamond back into the night, drank and laughed telling stories and ribbing each other.
The time had finally arrived when all of us would depart from each other. We’d all agreed to write and keep in touch with each other. All of us would likely be friends for the rest of our lives due to everything we’d been through. Eight people from diverse backgrounds and religions thrown together for the sake of all humanity to fight an evilness bent on its destruction, a fight thousands of years old. I wouldn’t have accomplished what I had without them. Each of them had their own reasons for helping me, their own agendas, yet we’d all come together as a fighting unit and learned a lot from each other. I would keep each and everyone within my heart all of my days. Each a true warrior in their own right.
We finally went to bed for the dawn came early and traveling on the road was hard even with knights as escorts. Darkspawn still roamed the land from what we’d been hearing. I was nervous setting out on my own without Thor or Alistair at my side. I knew if the Grey Wardens had still been here they wouldn’t have allowed me to go on my own.
Molly had righted the kitchens and she sent my companions off with full bellies and foodstuffs for their journey. My brother thanked them and they him for his roof and his hospitality. Fergus also told all of them they had shelter at Highever if they ever needed it and he thanked them for their help and he’d see them in Denerim when he came.
Zevran hugged me. “I’ll always hold you in my heart Mi Bella, and I thank you for my life. If you need me I’ll be there in a heartbeat.” I nodded, too choked up to say much. “Take care of Thor for me and get him safely to Denerim and turn him over to Alistair.”
“You have my word Mi Bella, I promise you. Don’t cry for I can’t bear it. The Maker keep you safe my beauty.”
“May the Maker keep you until we meet again Zev. I love you.” Zevran caressed my cheek one last time.
Leliana was next, we hugged each other. “I’ll miss you and I’ve already started on your legend, songs, and tales, which will do me and Zevran good in the taverns yes?” Leliana had tears in her eyes.
I nodded. “Don’t cry, we’re all on to the next adventure.”
“Oui, so we are. If you need us send word.” We hugged each other tight.
Wynne and I just nodded to each other having said our goodbyes on the cliffs yesterday. “Remember your promise to me Bellavalia.”
“You have my word Wynne.”
“That’s good enough for me. I hope to see you again one day and if not, the Maker go with you Bellavalia as you do your duty.”
“The Maker give you peace Wynne.”
Before Oghren had a chance to say anything I swung my arm and smacked him on his ass! The shock on his face was priceless. “I was planning on doing that to you lass.”
“I know, I just got to you first.” I giggled.
Oghren shook with laughter and a foolish grin on his face. “Don’t ever change Commander.”
“I won’t Oghren, I promise. Good luck with Felsi.” He just nodded.
“Safe journey to you all and don’t forget to write.”
Fergus and I watched as I saw my companions off for the last time and my precious Thor with them. Fergus hugged me. “Don’t worry, when Thor gets done playing stud in Denerim, I’ll bring him home if you are busy.”
“I’ve never been away from him since father gave him to me. I don’t know if I can bear it Fergus.” My tears streamed down my face as I watched my Mabari war hound head off to Denerim without me.
Fergus and I tended to our duties the remainder of the day. Dread filled me. Over supper I told Fergus about my journey and reluctant though he was he seemed to sense my need for solitude and agreed for me going alone. He was going to have to get used to me not being here any longer. I left for Rainesfere the next morning.
Fergus walked with me to the main gates of Highever. Both of us silent in our own thoughts. Both of us thinking this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Fate or destiny had taken our futures out-of-our-hands, each of us would walk a different path. Fergus to run Highever on his own, when he was ready, finding a new wife and producing heirs. Me to fulfill my leadership role as a Grey Warden for the rest of my days. I’ll truly miss my brother after finding him alive after fighting the blight. His own destiny as radically changed as mine is. I would return within ten weeks to prepare for my command at the Vigil.
“I love you Tink, be safe, and hurry home.” He kissed me on the cheek and I kissed him as he hugged me tight. “May the Maker watch over you.”
“May he watch over you and Highever.” I squeezed him one last time and started on my journey headed to Rainesfere, close to Redcliffe Castle.
“My lady,” the groom held the reins for me as I mounted one of the few horses that we’d been able to find in the wilds here in the north. Where my prized stallion ‘Luna’ was or if he’d been eaten for food, well I had no way of knowing or if the darkspawn had gotten to him, praying with all of my being that this wasn’t the case. My horror to even imagine this possibility. I had no idea how the taint would affect an animal such as he. I knew what it did to wolves, and other animals, even humans. Not to a horse. Hopefully, he’ll show up soon, unharmed. If not, ‘Luna’ would be just one more precious being that I’d lost in this war and the blight. I nodded once again to Fergus, then I whistled to my horse, lightly kicking his side, then I flew on the wind, out of the gates starting on my journey. My new Grey Warden cloak with our emblem emblazoned on my back. Letting all know who I was as I passed on the road…that I was the Warden Commander of Ferelden. Attached to my leathers under my cloak, my gold brooches signifying that I’m also the Teyrna of Highever and Gwaren.
It took me two weeks. I’d ran across a few darkspawn here and there and I did well on my own fighting them. Which had totally unnerved my horse to no end. He wasn’t a trained war horse, like Luna. Chasing him down twice on my journey when battling darkspawn, since he had ran in fear of them. Thank goodness I’d stocked up on smoke bombs before I left and other needed supplies that I would need on the road. I knew I was close, the Frostback Mountains with their snow covered caps on the horizon and I knew the gates to Orzammar not to far away. I sat on my horse overlooking the gently rolling hills, some but not all marked with the destruction of the blight. Those areas had already been burned per Alistair’s instructions.
I guided my horse down and continued on the road. After a short while I saw the Village of Rainesfere come into view. Many out working the fall harvest stopped to look at me as I neared the gates to the village so famous for it’s sweet apples. When they finally realized who I was, many came running. Before I could even make it to Franny’s cottage I was surrounded. I saw her come to her door and her face split into a wide grin when she realized what all of the hoopla surrounding me was about. Franny and Nan could have been twins they looked so much alike.
Cheers, smiles, and waves greeted me. “My Lady, we welcome you,” one of the village elders greeted me as he took the bridle holding my horse still. He was tall, gray haired. I remembered him as a child, his hair back then had been black as jet with twinkling light green eyes which were now lined from years working in the sun, tending to the apple trees and fields. Large hands, heavily calloused. He held just enough weight but my trained eyes could see he had lost weight. Many in small villages starving.
“Greetings Farrell, it’s grand to see you again.” I dismounted glad to be standing on terra firma once more. I’d not ridden in a long while and my thigh muscles were slightly strained. Farrell signed to a nearby village boy. “See to it that the Warden Commander’s horse is well tended and watered.”
“Aye sire, with honor,” He said and took the reins leading my horse to the local stable.
“Young man,” I called. He turned to look at me and I tossed him a few silvers for his troubles.” Tend him well and you will have a bonus when I leave.” His eyes lit up and he caught the coins in his palm on the fly. Hmmm, fast reflexes. Someone to keep in mind for rogue training. “I surely will My Lady, and thank you.” I nodded, watching him start to led my roan away, I spoke up, “what is your name?” He looked at me with pride. “My name is Guwayne.” I nodded and he bowed, then taking my horse turned to led him to the stables. The other village children racing off with him to tend my horse.
I turned back to Farrell and the rest of the villagers. “Is Bann Teagan at his manor home?”
“No, Commander, he is at Redcliffe while Arl Eamon is in Denerim. He checks on us at least once a week and if we need him sooner we send one of the lads to fetch him.”
I nodded. “How fairs this part of Ferelden, Farrell?”
“We’ve done well. If not for you and the King defending Redcliffe when it was attacked I’m sure we would have suffered a great deal. As it was, we didn’t take as much damage as some of the other villages. We lost a few lives, farm stock, and a few cottages but nothing major. Dwarves marching to and from Orzammar and Redcliffe Knights have been patrolling the roads My Lady. They helped us when the fighting got close. We’ve seen a few darkspawn hunting parties but not to many. We’ve lost a few good orchards that we will likely never be able to use again for generations to come; but we’ve land aplenty, we’re planning on planting new ones. Bann Teagan has already laid out plans to do this.”
“That’s good news indeed Farrell.”
“Aye My Lady, it truly is, and we’re forever grateful each and everyone of us for what you did for the entire country. You saved us My Lady and we’re very proud of you and for placing King Maric’s son the throne.”
I blushed. “I just did my duty Farrell.”
He nodded to me, slightly choked up that his village had been spared.
I looked at him and nodded. I was tempted to ask Farrell the question I was dying to ask. How many of the villagers actually knew that Alistair was King Maric’s son when Alistair was growing up in this area? Yet I didn’t. I’ll ask Franny later.
“My brother has received word from His Majesty that grain will arrive soon from Nevarra and the Free Marches. Soon, you’ll have grain at least to make bread and ale. On my horse is a few sacks to tide you over until your allotted shipment arrives.”
“We are most thankful My Lady for your brother’s generosity. I’m so terribly sorry on the lose of your parents. Ferelden had no greater Teyrn than your father.”
“Your words mean alot to me, thank you Farrell.”
“Stop hogging all of her time now, the lot of you. Be on your way and let me get her feed.” Franny, fussing to get me alone, we had much to discuss. We hugged each other. “Aww lassie, what a sight you are to my ol’ eyes.” She patted me on the back. “Come child, you must be starving and tired from your journey. I nodded, we walked back to her cottage and she led me inside.
I stepped through the door. We both turn to each other. She knew immediately what I wanted to ask. Before I could…”come let’s get fresh water for you to wash the dust from the road.” I nodded that I understood, we needed noise to drown out our voices incase someone was listening to us speak from outside. Given this small village owed its fealty to Arl Eamon, I was sure the Arl had spies amongst them. Soon, the Arl and His Majesty would know that I’d been here. No matter, they had no right to question me on my travels and if they did, I had a lie set in place, sprinkled with a lot of truth. We walked over to the pump in her small kitchen.
Franny took a large cauldron and placed it under the pump, she pumped the old iron handle vigorously, soon a stream of cold icy mountain water trickled into the cauldron. Where would we be without Dwarven engineering and their plumbing pipes they created as I watched her. The iron pump moaned and groaned as she worked the handle. I lend unto her and whispered into her ear. “Is he safe,” Franny nodded her head in the affirmative. She whispered into my ear. “Taken to Valroyuex by Christian’s family, along with the other women and children to the White Spire there, the Chantry sisters are caring for them. Darkspawn made onto the De’Charney estate. The Grand Duke, his wife and older son and his wife are all dead. Christian tainted, he is now a Grey Warden of Orlais. Sir Henry is now a warden with him.” My eyes widened in shock. Franny nodded. “You’ll be sending him word that you are alive,” she whispered. “Aye.” I whispered back.
“Come lassie this looks like enough. Help me get this to the fire.” I nudged her out of the way and lifted the heavy black cauldron on my own. Her eyes going round in shock at my strength. I walked to the fire and placed the cauldron by it’s hook over the small kitchen fire.
“Maker preserve me lassie, being a Warden has changed you.”
“Aye Franny it has.” She looked me over from head to toe, nodding her head.
“Come child take a seat, let me get you something for your stomach.”
“Thank you Fran.” I took a seat on one of the simple stools around her table. I watched as she gathered my meal: ham, bread, cheese and apples, with a large pint of cold apple cider that Rainesfere was known for to wash it all down. “Eat child, we’ll talk when you break your fast. Fran joined me for lunch. I needed no more encouragement being on the road for most of the night and half of the day to finish my journey here arriving with a monstrous warden’s appetite. I ate my fill and she provided me with more bread, ham, and cheese. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.
“I’ve a hunk of pork for supper and if you don’t mind we’ll share our meal with a few others from the village.” I just nodded. We sat in silence for a few minutes. I didn’t know how to begin. I reached over and took her work worn hand. I held it. Her hand so similar to Nan’s. I looked up at her.
“Aye, child, I know, I’ll miss her the rest of my days. She was the only family I had left after my Henry died and our boy with him.”
“I’m so sorry Franny, I tried to get to her and my parents as fast as I could. She fought for her life; but, I was fighting my own battles and just couldn’t reach her in time. My parents died in the larder behind her kitchen.”
Fran’s mouth quivered. “I know, lassie you did your best, the Maker truly watched over you and we’re all blessed that you and your brother are alive.” Fran wiped tears from her eyes and I did as well. “She loved you child and was so very proud to be your nanny, when you grew up she was afraid your parents would end her employment with them. At least she went down fighting and I’m thankful that Rendon Howe has paid for his crimes. Is it true you are the one who killed him?”
“Yes, Franny, it was I who killed him. I decapitated him.”
“Good, I’m glad, Rendon was never satisfied with his lot.”
“Nan never had a worry on that account. Father and mother both loved her and her feisty ways, her crustinesses. She had a wonderful work and moral ethic and she just wanted those around her to have the same. I was so very proud that she was my nanny. She never allowed me to get away with much. She became one of the best cooks in Highever’s history. We’ll all miss her dearly.”
“Her apprentice Molly took her place?” Franny asked me.
I nodded my head yes. “Nan trained her and she does her proud.” Fran just nodded her head. We sat in silence a few minutes each lost in our memories.
A knock sounded on her door. Fran got up to answer, it was Guwayne with my saddlebags, he brought them into the room. I’d brought the few things of Nan’s that we found that were left at Highever. I tossed Guwayne another few silvers and the two smaller boys who had carried the small bags. Each thanking me for my coin and bowing to me before they left.
Once they were gone. I sat back down and took my bags going through them while Franny cleaned up our lunch items. I took out the scroll I’d written to Christian laying it on the table, sealed with the Grey Warden’s official seal. I also took out two small bags of coins. Fran joined me. I handed her the scroll and laid out 10 gold sovereigns to pay for smuggling the scroll into Orlais. Fran took them and hid them in a brick near her oven. She had to use a towel to pull the brick out. When she was done she sat back down. I then handed her the small bag of Nan’s last remaining possessions.
“Items that were Nan’s, things I’d thought you’d like. There wasn’t much left but I brought you a few things.”
Franny took the small black leather bag and opened it. She reached in, pulled out an old book on the legends and tales of the Frostbacks about the various heroes of the area. One of which was a famous Warden native to this area who had traveled with King Maric long ago. Tears came into her eyes and she gently rubbed the leather volume. She laid it down on the table and reached inside pulling forth a wooden comb and brush set and a small tiny mirror with a wood handle on it adorned with stones native to the Frostbacks. She rubbed her hand over the stones, the handle wrapped with a faded green ribbon of Highever color. Looking up at me she smiled. “Our father helped us gather the stones and he fashioned each of us these smalls mirrors as gifts during winter festivals.” A tear slid down her wrinkled cheek. “I can’t thank you enough for these.”
“I wish there had been more to save than these few items, they were all I found, I’m so sorry.”
“This is more than enough child, at least it is something.” She picked up the book. “This is a small leather book, one of the few that we had as children. I have the other volume. When it was cold in the Frostbacks our mother would read these to us as children. I’m very thankful to have it back.”
I nodded to her; I wasn’t done just yet. I picked up the other black leather pouch and handed this to her. It was full of gold coins. She looked up at me, wondering, I was sure.
I smiled at her. “It’s not fully what you think. It’s Nan’s pension money that she saved for years with us and even more from Fergus and myself. Because of your family’s faithful service we want you to have it for the remainder of your golden years. If you need more just let Fergus know and he will help you if I’m not around.”
“My lady, I can’t accept this.”
“Yes you can and you will. Half of that is from my own money for what you’ve done for me over the years, keeping my secret. Because you’ll have another one to keep for me in the near future. Are you willing?”
She looked at me with shrewd eyes. “In about five or six months time, would that be correct child?”
I nodded. “How did you know?”
She laughed, “all my years of experience being a midwife child, that is how.”
I knew she was dying to ask me who the father was but I was also sure she could guess. Which could be very dangerous for her if she spoke a word of this to anyone. I was also sure of her loyalty.
“You will come here then, for your time?”
I shook my head no. She frowned.
“Why not? Do you think I’m too old?”
“No, I know you’re more than capable and I’d want nobody else, this time it’s too risky. I’ll be with the Wardens this time around and we have our own mages.”
She grabbed my forearm. “Be very careful child, I’ve heard terrible things regarding the Wardens of Orlais all of these years and the few female wardens I’ve heard of. If they find out, they will take your child from you.”
“I know Franny, I’m aware.”
“This is very rare for you to be in this way child.” She spoke.
“I know Franny, since becoming a Warden, I never expected this either.”
“My lady forgive me but how in the world are you going to do this and your command at the Vigil without anyone knowing?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I’ll think of something.”
“If given the chance would you move from here if I asked it.”
She frowned, unsure on how to answer me. Finally she shook her head no. “I don’t think I could my lady, I’m so sorry. This village is the only thing I’ve ever known beside the local countryside and Redcliffe of course. Traveling around delivering the babies. No, I want to spend the end of my days here.”
“Then so you shall, if this is your wish. Fergus and I will see you want for nothing. He will be in contact with you soon.”
“Will he continue his father’s work on behalf of the crown?”
“Aye he will, I’m sure of it.”
“The local lads will be glad to hear it, they are in great need with so many of their kin starving. The extra coin will come in handy.”
“How are things running right now?”
“Aye well, for awhile everything came to a standstill with the dragon flying or’e our heads, not thinkin’ we’d survive another minute when it started it’s flight to the north taking the hoard with it. People were running for their lives. Many unsure if hiding in the local caves would do much good, but we did. We made it through then we got word Redcliffe was under attack and had to run again. It was the most chilling experience of my life and I can’t imagine what it was like for you my lady. We’re all so proud of you.”
“It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for me either Franny.” She nodded. “I bet not, I’m amazed you’re alive, I’ve never heard of such a thing before from the tales of the Wardens.”
“I’m alive by the Maker’s grace Franny.”
“Aye well then, I’m sure he has more for you to do.”
“Looks that way Franny.”
“As per your question, aye it was a rocky go after the blight, people just didn’t know what to do at first, if it was safe to come out and get on with it. When word finally reached us we had a few rocky patches getting new runners but we’ve all worked it out and the supply lines are up and running once again.”
“Are they trustworthy?” I asked her sternly.
“Aye my lady, hand picked them myself, I did.”
“Good enough Franny. I trust your word.”
“Since you’re staying the night, want to help me with the pies and the pressing?”
“I’d love to Franny.”
We spent the remainder of the afternoon peeling apples and adding them to the press. When we were done with this she baked me a pie and we finally settled to supper of roasted pork and sweet potatoes for dinner. Fran shared with what she had with her neighbors and they sent us fresh vegetables with bread and butter. I shared tidbits of my journey and adventures with her and she filled me in on all the local gossip. When morning came she sent me off with my belly full and I also provided Guwayne with a gold sovereign before I headed out the gate. My next stop Ostagar, then Gwaren, then I’d return to Highever and prepare for my command and leave for Amaranthine sooner rather than later and thought of Christian my entire trip south to Ostagar.