It was late evening and my small party and I were deep within the Brecilian Forest. I knew we were coming upon the elven encampment and I was excited to see Lanaya once again. She’d been raised around humans and had a different outlook on humans than most of the Elves which I found rather astounding considering her history with humans. How she could have this attitude after what she had been through spoke to me of her character and forgiveness as a living being.
“We’re almost there my lady,” Ashnar had turned in his saddle to reassure me we were close. My horse new it too. He could smell the halla. The elves moved their encampment a couple times a year, soon they wouldn’t need too. I was sure they would still be prepared in case humans decided to attack them. I was still puzzled how they’d make a life at Ostagar. Would they raise crops; where would they hunt? There was plenty of forest and the Kocari Wilds were not far off. Still a different landscape than the ancient Brecilian Forest. I was intrigued with what their plans were for the old military fortress. Hopefully Lanaya would fill me in. I was also curious if other clans would join them.
“Will it be a problem with my horse being in camp or will he need to be taken and sheltered outside of the encampment?”
“The halla will be skittish at first but the keeper will reassure them. I’m sure they will remember you. No Commander, the horse will be tended inside the camp. We’ve pens set up for this when visitors stop for supplies.”
I just nodded. I was getting really tired and my thighs were very sore. I needed a hot bath to loosen the muscles and a good heaping of nature salve. My horse had done well, better than I imagined. He was well trained for the most part. I’d give anything to have my Luna with me. I prayed he had survived Howe and the Blight. I had no idea where my beloved horse might be. One thing I did know, he wasn’t at Highever.
I climbed down from my horse and patted him on the neck, he shook his head in acknowledgment. I saw the young Elf whose quest I had completed in saving the large halla come for my horse, she smiled and bowed to me and I greeted her in kind. I couldn’t recall her name at the moment. I stood quietly to the side as she talked and gentled my steed for a few minutes to reassure him. Finally satisfied, she took his bridle and led him off to be unsaddled, brushed, and fed. He was in high spirits as I watched him happily walk with her. I’d say almost giddy. I frowned, was it possible the steward of the Halla was a shapeshifter? My thought surprised me.
“Commander, it is good to have you with us once more.” It was Keeper Lanaya.
I smiled, bowing to her and she to me when she came abreast of me. There were a few others with her. I wondered if the young woman standing at her side might be her new First. I don’t recall her being here before. The Elf was a female and was very pretty with dark brown hair and beautiful green eyes, long thin face, with a rounded chin. Her eyes neither to light nor to dark, a medium. Her height and stature was petite with a slim build. She wasn’t as tall as Lanaya. The female wore mage robes of the Elven. She didn’t carry a staff with her. For all I knew perhaps Elven mages had a way of hiding their staffs. Morrigan and Wynne’s had been fully attached to their backs and in plain view. I also knew mages didn’t necessarily need a staff – they had use of their hands to defend themselves.
The young Elf’s tattoos were a slightly golden color, light on her tanned face with curly cues, leaves, and spirals across her forehead, down her nose, over her lips, down her chin, then flowing down her neck. The artwork contrasted wonderfully with her dark hair and green eyes. I got the impression she would be slightly less attractive without her ink for some reason. I had to admit not everyone looks good with tattoo markings, yet her’s did.
The other Elf with her was clearly a warrior, his sword – etched with elven symbols within the leather wrap of the hilt from what little I could see of the sword. I couldn’t make out the metal it was made from. He was fairly tall for an Elf. Thick blond hair braided around his head to gather at the back in a knot. He had stunning piercing dark blue eyes. He was wearing a greenish gold armor, which looked to me, made of veridium. The medium armor standard not the heavy armor. His metal shield clearly showed the sigil of the Dalish elves. The male’s tattoo, thick of line and darker than any I’d seen before ran up his neck to his temple just off of his left eye, the coloring was a deep dark blue. I’d never seen the like of one before for a Dalish Elf.
Many are foolish or ignorant when confronted with such a warrior. Male elves are powerful warriors of that class, yet looking at them you’d never guess. They’re sleeker in muscle mass, and smaller to their human counterparts and slightly taller than their dwarven counterparts. Yet they could fight and fight well, just as good as their human and dwaren counterparts. A male elven warrior could easily knock one on their ass if a person wasn’t careful, slice you to ribbons with speed and supreme agility. I felt the elves had an advantage, they seemed swifter with sword and I’d always assumed it was their size or the metals their swords were made of, and of course, few humans really knew which metals they used in their metallurgy. The Dalish Elves didn’t share their known knowledge of such crafts with anyone and really who could blame them. Being held in slavery did that to people.
Elven warriors made a deadly unseen threat if a person was foolish enough to challenge them. I’d battled many in Orlais as part of my training with my rogue masters. I’d been knocked on my ass more than once. My entire body battered to hell and back sparing with them.
I noticed he was eyeing my swords with interest. I saw a small smile curved his lips, he knew I had hidden daggers on my person. Cheeky devil indeed. I’m positive Zevran would have found him most intriguing and set out to get to know him and make this warrior in front of me give up his secrets. If anyone could do it… well that was Zevran. He would have considered the warrior a challenge and one Zevran would have relished achieving, for a variety of reasons.
Keeper Lanaya noticed. “Commander, let me introduce you to Zairian, he comes as a messenger and escort to us from a fellow clan who has made their way far to the west. Zairian, allow me to introduce you to the Hero of Ferelden, Warden Commander Cousland.”
“It is an honor to meet you Commander. I heard it said, the Hero of Ferelden is a woman; yet, I didn’t believe it until Keeper Lanaya informed me she knew you. I was excited to be given the chance to meet you.”
I extended my hand to him in a warrior’s handshake. At first he hesitated, then he accepted offering me his. I knew he was taking my measure as surely as I’d taken his.
“This is Marium, my new First, she has just recently arrived with Zairian. I’m to train her.”
I nodded my head to her in greeting. “A pleasure Marium, I hope you find Ferelden to your liking and you’ll be in the best of hands with Keeper Lanaya.”
“I am, Commander Cousland, being in this marvelous ancient well known forest is a joy for me. I look forward to my training.”
Ah confirmed, she was not from Ferelden, I’m guessing by her accent from Rivain.
“I imagine you are tired, come I’ve a surprise for you. Lanaya informed me. “You won’t mind a bit of a walk will you?”
I shook my head, “no of course not. Lead on.” I told her. She took me down the embankment toward the small lake near the Halla enclosure. I could see in the distance that my horse had been set out to pasture and was enjoying himself munching on the soft sweet grasses. I saw a very large Halla raise his head, to my amazement he was a six-starred antler, big of bone and muscle, his white hide beautiful without mark or blemish. His female came to him and rubbed her nose against his. I noticed that he watched me with interest. He turned and rubbed his nose with his female then lifted his head to continue watching me come closer. He started walking to the fence rail with surefooted elegance, the Halla came right up to the fence and to my surprise he bowed his head to me slightly. His female had followed him and she offered the same gesture.
Their keeper came to us, nodding to Lanaya. “The female remembers you Commander.”
“Does she indeed?”
“Yes, she is the one you helped me with, this is her mate, the one that was very sick. I was finally able to nurse him back to health. Both of them being lost would have been devastating to our clan if you hadn’t taken the time to even offer your assistance.”
I heard Zairian’s soft gasp behind me. Lanaya and I both turned to him.
“Forgive me, I never expected help from a human.” He blushed slightly to my pleasure.
Lanaya chuckled, “yes, the Warden Commander is one of kind I can assure you. She helped us with many things including lifting our curse and also giving us the opportunity to fight the Blight with the Dalish Elven Clans at her side.”
“So t’is true, the stories I’ve been hearing.”
“Yes, I’ll be happy to share around the fire this eve.” Lanaya informed the young warrior.
I wanted to hear as well and put to rest any nonsense I heard; the stories starting to be told far and wide about me where growing in stature everyday and frankly rather embarrassing, the tallest tales being bandied about. I turned my attention back to the Halla.
“I nodded to the Halla keeper, forgive me I don’t remember your name,” I said.
“My name is Ellora and no apology necessary Commander.”
“Oh yes, now I remember, how are they doing?” I motioned to the two Halla.
“The are both well and thriving.” I nodded and to my surprise the male took his nose and was trying to nudge me. I laughed softly. I looked to Ellora, “is it possible for me to touch them?”
She nodded with a smile on her face. I reached out gently rubbing his head with my fingertips and to my delight his female wanted the same attention. I offered her a scratch between the ear. This was a ripple in one of my choices I was happy to see was for the good. They are so beautiful I thought, how could someone kill such beauty. The male turned his head slightly up at me giving me a knowing look. He knows I thought. I marveled at his secret knowledge. He bowed his head to me once more and turned leading his female back to the herd. I turned to see Lanaya’s eyes twinkling, she knew that I knew that the Halla knew.
“Come,” she said.
“Keeper, I’ll return to the warriors and their task for the day with your permission.”
“Please Zairian and I’ll see you at the evening meal.”
“Commander, I’ll see you this evening and look forward to sharing a meal with you.”
“I look forward to it Zairian, until then.”
He nodded, bowed, and took his leave.
I followed the Keeper and Marium as they led me down another small hidden embankment, one I’d never seen before which led to a small cave opening. I followed both of them inside. The cave passage was lighted with torches and to my surprise was warm and I could hear water ahead. From the narrow cave passage to my surprise it was a natural lagoon of warm steaming water. I was stunned. The rocks, providing natural seating and steps down into the water. The rock walls sparkled, laden with quartz of a very deep dark blue reflecting elven lighting from elven lanterns. It was enchanting. I noticed various other rock formations which nature had deemed to decorate this little underground lagoon. There were other varieties of quartz in the purest of whites and a very light green which I would have called a jade color. The beauty of this warm lagoon took my breath away, and I knew it was warm because of the steam and humidity in the air.
Lanaya laughed softly and smiled. “A warm soak is just what you need.”
“Yes, yes, I do.” Both women helped me undress, folding my armor and small clothes and stacking my equipment neatly nearby. Marium came to me with a medium sized jar. “This Commander is a fine special sand and mixed with water will sooth your skin before you enter the pool. With your permission may I?”
I nodded. She gently scrubbed me down with the sand and offered her surprisingly strong hand for me to step down into the naturally formed underground lagoon. I’d never seen the like. She also smiled knowingly at my slightly rounded belly. “There is a small ledge you can sit on, just ahead of you.” I drifted through the warm water which was up over my waist floating then waded to the nearest ledge. The water was so clear and I found the ledge with little effort. I turned around and sat down which brought the water up to my neck. I was in heaven it felt so good. I felt the stiffness drain from my muscles. Realizing I could easily fall asleep. Too bad this experience hadn’t been available to my war party when we’d been here before. We’d washed in icy cold streams in the forest.
Lanaya joined me. We didn’t speak, just relaxed in the water. After a short time we got out, dried on the cloth Marium handed us. “May I?” Asked Lanaya.
I knew what she wanted. I nodded. Her hands glowed with a cool flowing blue of magic and she weaved them around my body. Her eyes closed as she concentrated. The magic disappeared after a minute or too leaving me cool, comfortable, and relaxed. All of my aches and pains gone from riding.
“You’re babies are well and thriving; but, you must take care Commander. You realize what you face and if your enemies find out, it will not go well for you.”
“I know,” I calmly agreed with her.
“Come, I’m sure you’re starving.”
I laughed, “Yes, I’m surprised you didn’t hear my stomach growling.”
Lanaya raised her eyebrows in that all knowing way she had. I blushed to the roots of my hair. She smiled.
“You’re children told me they are.”
“Oh yes,” I have been taught the telepathic arts by Zarathian.
“I know its a form of magic taught by the Circle of Magi. I had no idea Dalish Keepers would know of it.”
Lanaya crossed her arms and that smug smile she could get appeared across her lips, “Many Dalish Keepers are well informed what the Chantry teaches their mages, we’ve different schools of magic that they still are unaware that we teach our Firsts. Mages out of Rivain know even more.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that.”
“I’m sure you’re time in Orlais playing the ‘grand game’ gave you a unique education.”
“I’ll assume Zairian recognized me.”
“He did, I told him to give you a chance and talk with you and he’d see what I see.”
“And what is that?”
“That you are a true friend of the Dalish, if not, you wouldn’t have allowed us the chance to prove what our capabilities are in battle. Also, not helped with the werewolf curse. Which has proved to our city cousins to find their way to various clans to learn of their heritage and learn new skills for their own survival. Your name is being spread far and wide among the Dalish Commander, and that you can be trusted.”
I looked at her with hard eyes. “Does His Majesty need be concerned with a Elven uprising in his own country.”
“Not from my clan.”
“You’d warn him at least.”
Lanaya shrugged her shoulders. “I’m a leader the same as you. If the security of my people is at risk and I don’t think he’d help, no I won’t, and you must understand why?”
“I assure you, I’d hate for these things to come about; but, what Zairian has informed me on what is happening in Orlais, I must be cautious.”
“Do you realize that you can have a private meeting with King Alistair and can get word to him outside of his advisors. Through the Elven servants who work in the palace and he will meet with you secretly.”
“He would do that?”
“Yes, he learned at my hip.”
Lanaya, laughed, “Indeed, he had an excellent teacher.”
I just nodded. I’d inform Arl Eamon as soon as I could in case he didn’t know what was happening in Orlais currently.
I nodded and followed her and Marium out of the beautiful chamber back to the surface once my fanny was properly clothed in leather armor once more.
I knew it was time for the eventide meal. I followed Lanaya out to the tables that had been set up. Many greeted me. We sat down to a fine feast and Zairian sat beside me and Lanaya on my other. We laughed and talked eating our fill of venison stew chock full of meat and vegetables. There was fresh kettle baked bread along with Dalish ale and deep red wine. Later a spicy pudding was served and fresh fruit. I helped with cleanup to Lanaya’s protest, yet it was the least I could do after such a fine and filling meal.
We gathered around the campfire and many asked me about my travels and news of the King’s court. I provided them with as much information as I could.
“His Majesty is doing all he can, it will take months, years to ever fully restore the Capital of Denerim and hopefully with more modern improvements. There is great opportunity to be had for those of the craft guilds and even those Elves who wish to open shops of their own. The Alienage in Denerim is nearly fully destroyed and will have to be newly rebuilt, he has great plans for it, if the Elven leader will agree.”
“Valendrian was his name, and he is a wise Hahren. Him and I spent many hours together and in deep discussion. Without his help and encouragement his people wouldn’t have allowed me to heal many of them. What a dreadful experience they’d had with those Trevinter liars. I enjoyed his company very much and he remembered me as a little girl.”
I gasped, shocked by this discovery. “You grew up in the Denerim Alienage?”
Lanaya laughed. “No, but, my parents traded their often and many times we stayed the night to rest.”
“Is it true that King Alistair is going to include a City Elf to sit on his council?”
“Yes,” I informed Zairian who asked the question.
Lanaya laughed. She stood, “I have an announcement to make.” All eyes turned on her. “I’ve received a message from King Alistair. Shianni of the City Elves of Denerim and I have been offered a seat on the King’s council.” Everyone gasped.
“I’m glad, it’s the right thing to do.” I said.
“This is unheard of,” said Zairian, completely shocked, “can you trust this shemlen, Keeper?”
Lanaya looked to me. I lightly touched Zairian’s arm, gaining his and everyone’s attention.
“His Majesty is a fine man and Keeper Lanaya has also meet him and many of the clansmen here, he helped me fight the Blight and is not ignorant to the suffering of Elves within his Kingdom. He was born a noble royal bastard. King Alistair didn’t start his life as most nobles, he began as a commoner and understands the plight of lowest born.”
“The nobles will never allow this.” One clansmen suggested.
I looked down the table at him. “His Majesty will take care of the nobles. I agree, they won’t like it; yet, if they don’t meet him halfway, he can rule unfavorably against any who oppose him if they have need of a ruling come up before him in the future. He knows this and they know it.”
“Will you accept Keeper?” Another clansmen asked.
“Yes, I will, we’ll need the support of his Majesty when we take over the land given to us near Ostagar.”
Zairian was once again shocked.
“The elves have been given land here?”
“Yes, they have, by his Majesty’s proclamation when he took the throne. I was there that day. The old Trevinter fortress where King Cailan lost his life battling the darkspawn west of here called Ostagar which is a massive fortress and compound. There is much land, ruins and several buildings. I think a good size land tract for the Dalish has be set aside close to this fortress. Lanaya will not be given the fortress itself, the nobles will never go for that, land yes.”
Zairian was stunned.
“Do you wish me to take word of this to my clan Keeper?”
“Yes,” Lanaya nodded. “I’d planned for you to do this.”
Zairian nodded. He drank some of his ale and I could see his mind working.
“Tell me, from where do you journey?” I asked him.
“My clan, they are trying to make a decision to move to Ferelden.”
“Why would they do this, you are from Orlais aren’t you?” I’d already concluded this by his speech.
“Yes, Commander, in case you haven’t heard, there are rumors, there will be an uprising in Orlais.”
“I’ve heard of such rumors for a very long time, tell me, why now?”
“A Grand Duke of Orlais will challenge Empress Celene and this isn’t all; the Elves are in rebellion in Orlais as well. There is a rebel amongst those within Val Royeaux causing trouble. It is said, one of the Elven servants close to the Empress has left her service and is the one causing trouble.”
“Do you know the name of this rebel?” I asked innocently. I already knew if my suspicions were correct.
“Yes, Commander, her name is Briala.” He said it boldly, confidently. Watching my face intently.
I frowned. Just as I thought; but, which Grand Duke has the goods on Celene? They had to have evidence that Briala wasn’t just Celene’s handmaid, she was Celene’s spymaster and also Celene’s lover and had been for years. I’ve played the ‘Grand Game’ with Briala upon occasions, she and I had played it very well, both of us being evenly matched. Neither of us giving an inch. For us it was always a draw and left Orlais and Ferelden ever locked in battle. Briala fought for Celene and I’d fought for Cailan. So what has happened? Well this was titillating news to be sure. I’d have to find out if Fannie and Fergus know about this bit of juicy gossip. This would affect the black market and goods coming out of Orlais. I wonder if Alistair and Eamon know about this?
“What will you tell your clan?”
“Keeper Lanaya and I will tell them what is happening here in Ferelden and they might consider traveling here, harsh times are coming for all in Orlais.”
This would also include my secret. Damn it, what should I do? I hope word reaches me from Christian or Fannie’s contact. Fear struck me. I coolly reserved my expressions. Nobody must realize how alarmed I am at this moment. Up until this moment it had been safer for the precious life I guard to remain in Orlais, until I heard I had no ideal where to send him for his safety. The Vigil would be out until I knew first hand that it was safe. I dare not send my charge to Orianna’s parents in Antiva. Antiva was just too risky.
“Do you mean just the Dalish or all Elves in Orlais?”
“It’s the City Elves who are in rebellion at the winter palace, so far it hasn’t escalated to the point of out right rebellion but many feel it will soon turn into a full rebellion. Make no mistake civil war is coming to Orlais, my Keeper is concerned it could spill over into Dalish clans that are camped nearby.”
“Yes, I agree, and this is why I will accept any Dalish or City Elves who wish to flee, they will find as safe a haven as we can make at Ostagar.” Lanaya said.
I nodded to Lanaya taking note of what she said.
“Ferelden is going to need all the help it can get in rebuilding Ferelden.” I said. “When I take my command at Vigil’s Keep – my soldiers and staff will have need of goods and I hope the clan can send merchants to me there.”
“You wish Dalish goods?” Zairian asked me in shock once again.
“Yes.” I replied to him with a smile.
“Is it true Commander, that you will recruit Elves into your army at Vigil’s Keep?” Zairian asked me.
“Absolutely, fighting the Blight here in Ferelden we learned we had to band together as a collective people or die trying. I proved it is possible for all to work together.” I said.
“In answer to your question, I will, Dalish and City Elves if they are looking for a job and I also plan on recruiting casteless from Orzammar. If they are extremely skilled and if they won’t have a problem with humans as their commanding officers, then they will be free to join. It won’t be easy.”
Ziarian nodded he was listening intently to me.
“Hopefully, people’s memories won’t be shorten by our shared experiences. Without the help of the Dalish and City Elves, Orzammar troops, the Templars and Mages – I never would have defeated the Blight here in Ferelden. Each faction of troops brought their races special talents and skills which were greatly needed. If I’m to rebuild the Wardens and our support troops – I’ll do this the same as building the army for the Blight. All will be welcome to apply, yet I will only recruit those of the highest skills.”
All of the Dalish seemed pleased with my answers. I was happy to take note of their attitude. Yet, I knew the goodwill wouldn’t last. I would make the best of this, while the goodwill hung in the air over the nation and using these emotions to do what I’d need to do. Use my influence and my name and now my popularity to do my duty. As the new Warden Commander I was going to have to use any edge to my advantage.
“Make no mistake, prejudices of people aren’t going to go away overnight. A new recruit will have to put aside their prejudices in order to succeed. They’ll be room for: advancement, good pay, housing, and healers available.” I weaved my hand in the air to emphasize my words.
“I’ll expect new recruits service to last at least four years. After that time you’ll be free to go and return to your homes or remain. You will be given a choice at that time to continue your service. If chosen to join the ranks of the Wardens, you’re service will be for a lifetime.”
“And if a new recruit leaves before their service is completed?”
“Make no mistake, that is a punishable offense and soldiers will be sent to track and return the missing soldier, they could possibly be hanged or imprisoned.” There were murmurs all around at this bit of news.
“Humans kill or punish their soldiers who leave? I’ve never heard of such a thing?”
“As long as a soldier asks for permission to leave, most often permission is granted for a certain period of time. It’s respect for your Commander and a army can’t fight if there is a lack of discipline.”
Ziarian nodded, “I see the need for discipline, yet to kill your soldiers?”
“It’s necessary, an army must do as commanded even if they don’t like their orders, if soldiers do as they please a fighting force falls apart.”
Zairian along with many other warriors and rogues nodded in agreement. “I see, I believe I understand.”
“What of our beliefs Commander, if Elven join your support troops or the Wardens?” Zairian asked me shrewdly. All Dalish eyes settled on me. Zairian was clever and positioned me masterfully. I noticed all of the Dalish were listening to our conversation. I turned to look at him.
“The Wardens have always been supported by the Chantry; make no mistake, that will not change, or at least none that I can foresee at this time. Unless something dire happens to tarnish that relationship. The Chantry makes monetary donations to the Wardens and offer us support with Templars and Mages when Wardens have the need. However, that does not mean a new recruit will be expected to attend Chantry services. That will be for each individual to decide. A recruit will not be expected to become an Andrastian.”
“I would hope not and fellow soldiers would respect our pantheon of Gods and Goddess?” Asked Zairian, I knew what he was trying to do, find a chink in my armor being human.
“All I can do as a Commander is asked that all be respected, and make sure no fights break out and when they do, hand out punishment accordingly.”
I nodded, well pleased with his understanding. I wondered if Zairian would be recruitable, I wish I could see him in action. Perhaps I could persuade him to travel with me.
“Lanaya, how fares the forest, is their much damage from the Darkspawn?”
“Not as much as you think Commander, it seems most of the horde pushed closer to Redcliffe, we did encounter several warbands. I think you routed a good portion of them when you were here fighting the Blight and when you brought your request to Zatharian. My clan had several encounters after you left but they were small bands. It wasn’t easy but we did put them down.”
“So you’re not encountering as many of them?”
“No, we’re not, yet Gwaren seems to be having a difficult time, they are running into more warbands than we’ve encountered.”
“I know there are tunnels that open to the surface near Gwaren, those tunnels need to be sealed off. I’m going to make this a priority and this is one reason I need to travel to Gwaren, not just set it to rights but also pick my Seneschal for the running of the keep while I’m at Vigil’s Keep to the north.”
“What will happened to Sir Perth? He is in command there currently.
“He’ll go back to Denerim with a well earned rest at Redcliffe.”
“Do you have someone in mind for Gwaren?”
“I do, I’m thinking of Bann Wolfe.”
“I’ve heard of him, some say amongst the humans he is a fair man.”
“Oh aye, he is. He also sided with His Majesty and myself during the Landsmeet. He spoke right up at Loghain and told him the south was lost.”
“It’s true then, The Champion of River Dane is gone?”
“Yes, I killed him myself.”
Zairian’s eyes widen slightly. “That was you?”
“I had heard yet didn’t believe it.”
“Shianni, told me all of the Elven in Denerim were talking about it. The Commander and King Alistair fought a battle with Loghain and his men inside the Landsmeet Hall and killed Loghain. Witnesses said, Loghain aimed right for you Commander. Is this true?” Lanaya asked me.
“Yes, what had been done to Loghain’s mother during his youth by Orlais warped his mind. He never got over it. Cailan was trying to officially open trade with the Empress and come to a permanent peace treaty. Loghain and King Cailan fought over it constantly.” I said.
“Then King Cailan dies at Ostagar and no more treaty. Is this why Loghain rebelled.” Lanaya asked.
“Yes, I believe so, Loghain was never going to allow a treaty with Orlais. King Cailan keep making the argument the past was in the past. Both countries needed the trade and Ferelden needed the ability to learn technologies to bring our country into more modern times. Give us a chance to rebuild Ferelden as never before. Loghain wouldn’t hear of it.”
“He was hated with a passion in Orlais.” Spoke Zairian.
“Yes, he was, Loghain had a mind for strategy. I didn’t want to kill him, he gave me no choice. I couldn’t allow him to live incase he interfered with us fighting the Blight. If the Archdemon had already been killed I was going to opt for him to become a member of the Wardens. I did what King Alistair wanted. Loghain executed for his crimes at Ostagar and the death of his King.”
“Many within Orlais want Ferelden back as a province.”
“I’m aware and have been for years, if a civil war comes to Orlais and Celene doesn’t come out on top, at least it will give Ferelden time to prepare.”
Zairian continued to eye me shrewdly. I was nearly certain he was associated with Briala. He knew that I was no longer able to fight in the shadows on Ferelden’s behalf being a Warden. Didn’t mean I didn’t have others at my disposal to lend a hand. A red-haired Bard came to mind and a devilishly handsome Antivan Crow. Who knows what I could get out of Sten if the need arose. Behlen would dirty his hands only to do what was best for Behlen and the Cartel if it came down to war. Behlen’s pockets would once more overflow with gold and not the accountable variety to the treasury. I knew Oghren hated Behlen with a passion. Oghren I could depend on. Orta from the noble house of Ortan. House Dace as well from the shadows. Perhaps a few others in Orzammar as well. Plus, Frannie and Fergus’ connections, which would be used in full force. Fergus’ former-in-laws who are a rich Antivan Prince and Princess came to mind as well. I wasn’t without resources to help Alistair if Orlais rose against him. Ferelden would need to back Celene at all cost. I was fairly certain at this point one of the Grand Dukes who would challenge Celene was of the mind he wanted Ferelden back. There were a few off the top of my head I could think of, and they wouldn’t stop until they achieved their goals. With Loghain gone they thought they now had an edge. What they didn’t know or count on would be Leliana. I had the impression for some time there was more to Leliana. She would most likely be the go between between Alistair and Celene. If my intuition was correct she’d also have the Chantry behind her back. Leliana was one to watch in the future. I had a feeling the Divine didn’t want Ferelden to fall to the darkspawn and Leliana made her move when she realized Alistair and I were Wardens. She’d know who we were the minute we stepped into the pub in Lothering. Why didn’t I put this together beforehand and how had Marjolene figured into all of this?
“Come let us enjoy the rest of the evening around the fire with stories and songs.” Lanaya ended the meal. I followed Lanaya over to the large communal fire sitting down next to her, listening to Sarel spin a tale of Andruil, their Goddess of the Hunt. Several Dalish women passed around baskets containing popcorn, candy, and nuts. Many still had tankards of ale. I opted for a sweet wine that Lanaya offered. “Better for your stomach than the ale my lady.”
I nodded my thanks, taking a handful of popcorn and hard candy from one of the Dalish ladies. All of it was delicious. The Dalish children oohed and ahhed with delight. Many soon fell asleep against their parents after listening to Sarel’s sing song voice. I was becoming drowsy myself. Before I knew it, the evening was nearly done. It was time to turn in. I’d need to start my journey to Gwaren in the morning.
Layna directed me to an aravel and I settled down to sleep, praying my sleep wouldn’t be interrupted by horrific nightmares of darkspawn. They interrupted my sleep all the time, especially fighting the blight. Wardens are plagued by such things. I was sure Uthermiel had curbed mine since the blight. Morrigan was far off by now I was sure. Gone to have Alistair’s child deep in the wilds. I laid and wondered where she was and what she was doing. She was alone as far as I knew and herself with child. I finally settled and drifted onto the fade to dream of small babes with darkspawn curious about my babes.