Traveling Warriors

I woke before sunrise and enjoyed the peaceful stillness of the morning. I was achy from riding, my bum and thighs stiff this morning, but not as bad as they could have been. I’d literally doused myself in nature salve before going to bed. I was also starved. I had several fur hides piled on top of me and I was deliciously warm and toasty. Just the thought of throwing the covers back made me want to moan and burrow deeper into the covers and sleep the whole day away. I’d had the aravel to myself and I knew Keeper Lanaya had done this on purpose.

It was the beginning of spring and the mornings still held a touch of frost to them. Ferelden winters are extremely harsh and for some reason we’d gotten lucky with a mild winter just a few months back. The Maker must have been with us for our march to Denerim. The weather had broken and we’d had really good weather for the march and the Battle of Denerim. It had actually been hot. The previous winter we’d been making our way up the Frostback Mountains in Haven and had frozen our bums off. Literally. For Sten, Zevran, and Oghren it had been particularly harsh for them. All three not being used to the harsh cold temperatures.

Before the battles started in Haven with the Dragon Cultist we’d been able to buy supplies at their little shop. The shopkeeper had lied on many things. They’d had a tremendous supply of goods stored below the shop which we’d all found once we’d wiped the lot of them out. Tons of supplies and we looted as much as we could carry and Maker be praised enough bomb making supplies to make myself, Zevran, and Leliana almost giddy. It also made me wonder if the Cultist were involved with the Behlen’s Cartel.

I’d found woolen hosiery for the men which I gave to Zev and Oghren. Sten had been the problem. We’d had to take three cloaks to make him just one. We’d also had to take several pairs of hosiery and make him stockings to help keep his legs warm. Thank the Maker for Wynne’s sewing skills. Sten was against wearing the hosiery until Oghren and Zevran finally convinced him he really did need them. He wasn’t in Par Vollen where it was extremely hot. He was on the other side of the spectrum temperature wise and he needed that woolen hosiery under his armour padding for the extra warmth.

Once Alistair was well enough for us to start our trek back to Redcliffe and when Sten started developing frost on his golden tan legs he finally concurred on our trek coming back down the tremendously ice covered mountain that he did need the warm clothes. We’d had to stop to allow him to put on his woolen hosiery with much ribbing from Zevran and Oghren. Alistair wisely keep his mouth shut for once. The Qunari giant wasn’t in a good mood with the treaty thing and trying to gather all of these allies to our cause. I’d had to convince him the hard way.

I had Oghren as a two-handed warrior with a greatsword; but, Sten was the better two-handed warrior, all due to his height. I’d never tell Oghren such a thing. Sten had longer arms and his reach was most impressive. Oghren was our tank against rogues for Zevran, Leliana, and myself to get behind them and slice them to ribbons. Sten and Alistair took on the big boy warriors and mages.

The memory was a fond one and I wondered where my companions were now. Was Sten arriving on the shores of the Free Marches? The others, had they reached Denerim safe and sound? Was my beloved Thor alright? How was Alistair doing under Eamon’s instruction of governance? Maker only knew where Morrigan was at this point in time. I said a lengthy prayer for the Maker to watch over all of them. I realized I was going through companion withdrawal, if there is such a thing. We weren’t a war band party any longer and strength in numbers was no longer an advantage.

When I’d left Orlais being heartbroken over Christian who was the only one I’d really missed. The other rogues, I’d never really developed the relationships with them as I had my blight companions. Because in Orlais you had to constantly worry about the ‘Grand Game’ and those rogues would put a knife in your back while smiling to your face. I’d had a hard time in Orlais because of being from Ferelden. I realized, it all came down to trust. My life had depended on trusting my blight companions and their lives on me and Alistair.

After a small bit of time I began to hear sounds outside. The Dalish camp coming to life. I heard a group of hunters preparing to leave. I knew hunting just before the break of dawn was the best time to hunt. Those creatures who are nocturnal just returning to their dens and those who weren’t nocturnal would soon step out into the light to forge to find their own meals. Fishing was also the best at this time of the morning just as the sun breaks over the horizon, the fish coming alive with the hope of insects hovering above the water which the sun would draw out; the fish jumping to bite hoping for a meal of their own.

I lay there thinking as a memory came back to me. I’d had to learn the hard way on fishing, nearly starving to death in the wilds of Orlais, which of course had been part of my rogue and survival training. I’d gone a whole week and my task had been to survive off of fish. I wasn’t allowed any berries, nuts, or fruits off the trees or any game. This was one test I almost didn’t pass. I finally got the hang of it. Fishing wasn’t my thing, I could do it to survive but I hated fishing.

Fergus used to shake with laughter over my predicament on fishing. “You’re one of the best skilled rogues I’ve ever seen and you nearly faint putting a squiggly worm on a hook.” He’d laugh so hard his belly would shake. Unfortunately for me I got the same treatment from all the guys in our camp. Zevran was the best fisherman I’d ever seen in my life. Better than my own father. Zevran made us the best fish chowder I’d ever eaten in my life. I’d never seen the like, the fish literally jumped on his hook.  He wouldn’t share his secret or what type of bait he used. He’d smiled that charming smile of his and keep on yanking fish out of the water. “Oui, finally something I can do better than our beautiful Mi Bella.” He’d laugh devilishly.

With regret I throw back the covers. Dawn was just breaking the horizon. A bright ray of light peeking through one of the oil covered hangings of one of the small windows to the aravel. I grabbed my clothes pack off the floor and dug in it to find my brush and got down to business. I unbraided my loop and brushed the tangles out and finally got my hair braided back with the loop of braided hair tied back. The rest of my hair at shoulder length. I pulled a tiny flask out of my pack and opened it. Taking a soft cloth I poured the milky white liquid out on the cloth and cleaned my teeth. I forgot I wasn’t outside so I spit into the cloth. I’d have to wash it out in a stream later and hang it on a bush to dry.

My small clothes and hosiery came on next and then I moved on to my padding and chest leathers, putting my shoulder, arm and elbow guards in place, strapping and buckling them in place. I wiggled into my chausses buckling them around my hips and was thankful for the bands of silverite lining them. Next lacing my boots and leather greaves, and buckling my knee guards into place. The very last thing was my thick leather hand gloves with silverite metal all over the back of my hands to protect my hands in battle.

My leathers were my drake skin armour made from the scales of a drake. They were dark purple and blue in color interspersed with silverite where it was critically needed for my protection from the collar all the way down to the chausses and leg guards. I really wished my boots where thigh high instead of just below my knee. Those were only found in Orlais and very expensive. The chest piece underneath had several bands of silverite plates on the underside of my chest and abdomen area.

My other set which had been totally destroyed battling the Archdemon was completely lined in silverite underneath. This set only the most important areas. I was done at last and the movements did warm me up a bit. I strapped on my belts, hide several daggers on my person in various places within my armor. I checked my equipment and made sure I had a handful of bomb flasks filled with various poisons. I finally strapped on my sheaths with Starfang and Blight Blooded in them on one shoulder and with the other strapped on my bow and quiver of arrows. I wasn’t bad with a bow but daggers and swords were my specialty. I was finally able to duel wield long swords because of my Warden strength which Zevran was pea green with envy over my skill. He could use longswords but the weight of them slowed him down. I picked up my packs and my warden cloak with my brooches attached, stepping out into a brilliant morning, blazing with sunshine which caused the Dalish camp to come alive with magic and color with the sunshine reflecting off the frost. It was like being in a fairy tale within a magical kingdom.

I had to buy more supplies from Master Varathorn: elfroot, deathroot, flasks, salves if he had any. With the blight killing so much vegetation everyone was low on salves and poisons which were sorely needed when traveling through the forest against blight wolves. Denerim would be the last place to shop for such things now. I should have stopped to check with the surface dwarves when I was in Rainesfere for flasks. I was running low. I need to get my horse feed his morning grains, watered and saddled plus some breakfast for myself. Then I had to be on my way. I’d already been gone from Highever for two weeks. I had to make it back to the North Road in a few days time per Flemeth’s warning. I would have to ride hard and fast.

One female elf came running up to me. “The Keeper has your breakfast all prepared my lady, she bids you come to her at the common tables and your horse is being taken care of for you. He is enjoying his oats as we speak.”

“I thank you kindly, that is most appreciated.” I reached in my pocket and pulled out a silver and gave this is her. Her eyes twinkled. “Thank you my lady.” She went skipping along on her next task. I walked on to the common areas and the tables were being set up with one already up with meal settings in place. Lanaya smiled at me as she turned and set jars of honey, jam, and a crock of sweet cream on the table. Another elven lady came with freshly baked loaves of dark brown bread setting down the tray and the bread was still steaming, hot out of the iron kettle where it baked over the fire. My mouth watered at the aroma of the steam coming off the bread. Other elven ladies were putting pitchers and mugs on the table.

I saw Zairian approach and he was dressed and ready for the road. “Good morrow to you Commander, I see you’re ready for travel, the same as me.”

“Good morrow to you Zairian. Yes, I must be on my way to Gwaren. You’re welcome to travel with me until the road branches off.”

“Oui, well now, that is most welcome. You’ll be turning south and I’ll be heading back west to Orlais.”

“I’ll be glad of the company for that short stretch.”

“You’ll have it then.”

“Excellent, shall we break our fast?”

“Oui, we need a hearty meal before we set foot to road.”

We walked on to the tables just up ahead, taking a seat, both of us.

“Good morning Commander, I trust you slept well.” The Keeper asked me.

“I did, Lanaya, thank you.”

Zairian bowed to Lanaya before taking his seat. She kindly acknowledged his show of respect.

“Please don’t wait on the rest of us. Dig in both of you; I know you both have to be on the road.”

Unfortunately for me, they only had dried salted fish on the table. My tummy did a somersault. Then to my surprise a plate of fried eggs were placed in front of me to go along with the fish and a bowl of steaming hot porridge. Thank the Maker! Lanaya handed me the honey and cream. I added in a healthy dollop of both to my hot porridge and grabbing a spoon I dug in. So good, I ate every drop and next dug into the eggs. “Commander would you like some hot tea?”

“Please.” I said to the Elven lady who had come up behind me with a steaming pot of freshly brewed tea.

The Elven lady poured me a mug. I thanked her for her kindness. I sweeten my tea with honey. Hmm. I also ate several slices of the rich brown buttery bread with the creamy butter and honey. I had to eat the fish and not be rude. I had to really eat my fill, because I had a hard day of travel ahead. Zairain was also eating his fill. Lanaya also sat down next to me and started in on her breakfast. More joined in as more tables were set up and loaded with food. Little by little the whole clan was sitting enjoying the morningtide meal. Not much talking because everyone was busy eating to give them strength for the rest of the day and their labors. They would only stop long enough for a small mid-day meal. Usually just dried meat, and bread, with a splash of ale to wash it down then back to the business of the day and I wouldn’t be any exception.

I finally finished and so had Zairian. He was finishing up one last mug of hot tea, draining the mug to its last drop. Even though Lanaya wasn’t finished she stood up as well. I saw Ashnar bringing my horse and Zairian’s halla to us. Both of them saddled.

“Come Commander, I have a few things for you and Zairian for your journey.”

Both of us followed the Keeper to her personal aravel. She went inside for a moment returning with a wrapped bundle for me and Zairian. “Food stuffs to help you on your journey. Bread, nuts, fruits, a small cheese wheel, small tin of tea. Extra grains for your mounts.”

“Thank you Keeper, that is most generous of you.” I took the bundle from her and Ashnar had come alongside of us with our mounts. I added the food bundle to one of my saddle bags and tied them to my horse. Zairian did the same to his own. I reached into my pocket to give her coins for her generosity. She grabbed my hand stopping me. “No need Commander, you’ve given so much more than we ever thought possible. If you have need of me just rub your ring, and I will send you aid. Be well, and may your Andraste and her Maker watch over you Commander. Fear not, the tunnels in these areas will be sealed. I’ll personally see to this.”

“Thank you Keeper, without your help I don’t know what I would have done. If you ever need the Wardens, we’ll be here if you have need of us. I still need a few supplies from Master Varathron.”

She smiled. “I’m sure he’ll be proud to serve you.”

Zairian bowed to Lanaya, “Thank you Keeper, may our Gods watch over you and your clan.”

“May they offer you safe journey back to your own and the Dread Wolf never find you.”

I turned to Ashnar taking my horse’s reins from his hands. “Thank you Ashnar for your safe passage to the camp. May be meet again.”

“It was my pleasure Commander, till we meet again.” He crossed his arms over his chest and bowed to me and I did the same to him. I led my horse through the camp with Zairian and his halla at my heels. We stopped at Master Varathorn’s aravel shop and I purchased elfroot, what little deathroot he had, a few flasks. He didn’t have much. I bid him goodbye and he wished me a safe journey.  I mounted my horse and so did Zairian after making a few purchases of his own. With one last wave to the Keeper and the Dalish clan, Zairian and I set off down the hunter paths heading east which would eventually join with the King’s highway out of the Brecilian Forest. We’d come to a tri-fork in the road. One path to the north, one to the south, and one to the west. I would head south and Zairian would head west.

The forest path was narrow and we had to go single file. The day was bright and sunny, the wildlife all around us coming to life to bring the ancient Brecilian forest to life. I wasn’t to concerned with Zairian at my back even though I really didn’t know him. I was fully confident that Ashnar and his small band of warriors were not far behind. I knew the Keeper well enough to know she’d send her warrior to guard my back and he would stay back far enough to remain out-of-sight. Once I made it to the King’s highway where Zairian and I would part Ashnar would continue to follow me until I made it to Gwaren. He would ride in the forest and I’d ride on the highway parallel to him and his warriors. Once I was close to Gwaren, he would head back to the Dalish camp going through the forest. I would be on my own from that point on. Lanaya would warn me when Ashnar broke off to make his return trip.

We traveled for some time at a steady clip. There was minor devastation as Lanaya had said from the blight. The land was charred black and turned to black ash. Littered with broken and jagged rocks. I keep my eyes peeled on the road and my surroundings in case of bandits and thieves. My warden senses would tingle if darkspawn were nearby. My senses wouldn’t with just bandits. I’d worn my Warden’s cloak and my horse’s blanket which had the Grey Warden’s sigil on it. The Griffon on both sides of the blanket on my horse’s flanks and also on the back of my cloak. It would have been clear to anyone I was a Grey Warden. Bandits might think twice before tackling a Warden and some might not.

The Elves had burned what they could to stop the advance of the darkspawn blight. I noticed this as we rode in silence. It would be years, decades, centuries even before the ground recovered. Some areas according to legend on the blights, out in the western approach west of Orlais, the land had never recovered. Thousands of miles of unusable land, turned into desert. I remember reading that the lands near forest had the chance of recovering. Was it true? Hard to say, myself and others had to rely on what the ancients had written regarding the blights.  I made a mental note to check with the First Warden if the Wardens had any books on this topic. I might need this information at Vigil’s Keep. I had no idea what I’d find there or the surrounding countryside. Soon, once on the King’s highway I’d discover for myself how bad the south of Ferelden was rumored to be in. I figured we had just a few more miles to go. We’d made excellent time.

The closer we got to the King’s highway the path eventually grew wide enough for Zairian to ride beside me. He was slightly shorter on his Halla. My horse and I having the height advantage. We continued on. “Commander, a question if I may?”

I looked over at Zairian “Certainly, ask.”

“You know Briala don’t you?”

It was all I could do to keep my lips from twitching. “Why do you wish to know?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I want to verify if what I was told was true.”

“What were you told exactly about me and by whom?” Of course I already knew his answer.

“That you were educated at Orlais University, and trained by the Grand Dame herself for the Grand Game. You were also betrothed to Christian De’Charney the second son to the Grand Duke of Orlais of the House De’Charney. One of the most prestigious families in Orlais. That your marriage would have helped heal the rift between Orlais and Ferelden with you being a Teyrn’s daughter, which makes you and your brother next-in-line for Ferelden’s Throne after the royal family. You were also the personal bodyguard to King Cailan. Who was also a close personal boyhood friend of your brother.”

“Briala, told you didn’t she?”

“She did.”

“How do you know her?” Before I could reply he continued.

“She has contacted our Keeper to rise up against the Empress in the coming rebellion. I also know her by trading with city elves in Val Royeaux. We’ve shared a meal or two. When she learned I was to escort Marium to Ferelden to Keeper Lanaya she sought me out. She wanted to know if the tales are true that you did survive the blight and you’re King Alistair’s lover.”

“Yes, I’d already figured this out and this is why Lanaya offered your clan a safe haven until it was all over. I take it, your Keeper wants no part of this.”

“Oui, she does not. She doesn’t feel it is our clans fight and if we don’t leave before things get out-of-hand we might find ourselves in the middle of a battle field which is going to sweep the entire country of Orlais.”

“That part I understand,” I said. “What I don’t understand is why Briala needs to know about me personally. I’m no longer able to play the ‘Grand Game’ due to being a Warden now. Is that what she really wants confirmed?”

“I believe that is only part of it. She knows that you are sympathetic to the plight of the Elves and I think she wishes your support and the Warden’s support. Your family has a reputation as having one of the best ‘Alienages’ in Ferelden and you helped the Dalish and City Elves during the civil war and blight of Ferelden.”

By the Maker! Briala must know about the little Theirin. Shit, that means, Celene knows. Which makes me believe the Divine has spies in her belfry.  This is why Briala is being daring. She will try to force my hand and she’ll keep my secret of putting the wrong Theirin on Ferelden’s throne and if I don’t… she’ll sing it to the world which will make Ferelden ripe for plucking once again. Bringing Ferelden back into Orlais fold as a providence again. This would place Alistair and little Bryce in danger on so many levels. Ferelden will be on the center stage once again if I don’t comply. I’ll have to avoid Briala at all cost and hopefully her agents. Andraste’s tits!

What Briala doesn’t know, I have the Divine in my back pocket on behalf of King Cailan’s son. This also made me wonder if this was the real reason she sent Leliana to help me with the blight, her motives could have been two fold. Fighting the blight for one and me being the sworn protector of King Cailan’s son being the second reason. I’m also the child’s legal guardian. The Divine knew with the blight being in Ferelden my family was at risk from that alone. This didn’t include Howe’s machinations which I’m sure the Divine didn’t have any knowledge.

It always bothered me how Leliana just happen to show up in Lothering. I suspected her being the famous Nightingale of Orlais. One of the best rogues to play the game. I had no idea if Leliana or I had crossed blades during my time in Orlais. We had to be evenly matched for it to come to a draw for both of us to walk away or she had been under orders not kill me and very few walked away with their lives from the Nightingale’s blades. I also had Templars and Mages at my disposal if need be. Let’s not forget, I’m a friend of the Mage’s Collective. Plus, I’ll have however many Chevaliers that Christian can muster. Using Wardens would also be tricky. I had numerous trade guilds and rogue contacts from here to the south of Trevinter, and as far east as Rivain, Antiva, Nevarra, and the Free Marches. That doesn’t include my connection with Zevran and Isabella and who they might know. I also had an in with the Qunari with Sten.

An alliance with the Qunari might be difficult to navigate after what Sten had told me, plus I didn’t trust them. War was coming with the Qun. Thus far, I knew of no Qunari Warden. I’m sure the First Warden wouldn’t want the Wardens to get involved. I’m sure various Warden Commanders had alot of leeway since the First Warden was over one thousand miles away. I still had reports to write and a journal to maintain on a daily basis. Which meant I could alter the truth here and there if need be. Trusting Sten was one thing, the rest of the Qunari was a whole other matter.

As far as I know, Briala has no idea I’d been in charge of the smuggling at Highever instead of my father these past few years. I would have the backing of the Wardens in protecting a King’s son and if they denied me the resources of the Wardens the fight would be on. I didn’t know the First Warden well enough to know what the outcome might be.

The leadership in the Anderfels couldn’t tell me not to do this, when they were the power behind the throne of the Anderfels. I was starting to realize officially the Wardens stayed out of politics on the surface being their official policy. Unofficially, they were just as dirty as everyone else. This is Alistair’s nephew and Ferelden would rally around Alistair defending Calian’s son. The Circle of Magi of Ferelden would also help. The Templars? Likely, yet something was going on with them in the Free Marches and I needed information on this as well. Fergus was also hearing the same thing out of the Free Marches and our smuggling contacts there. All we knew for sure was that Kirkwall was a powder keg waiting to go off; but, nobody this far south had any credible intelligence at the moment as to why, all we had were rumors thus far.

The Qunari being in Kirkwall was off and it kept bugging me since Sten told me of his destination. They could use the excuse of the blight and Kirkwall was their staging area to lend assistance.  I had the feeling there was something else going on and I needed to know what. I knew certain cartel members in Dust town in Orzammar, they might know something. Oh yes, I’d been a naughty girl dipping my hand in the lyrium trade. There would have to be something sweet and delicious to get King Behlen to side with me. Ugh, I hate that the blasted dwarf.

“Well, I’m afraid Zairian she can’t have it, you see, Wardens must stay neutral in the political arena.”

Zairian laughed, “Commander, the stories are already out that you personally decided the arrest of Queen Anora and placed King Alistair on the throne.”

“Queen Anora wasn’t just arrested, she has been hanged for treason.” I said.

Zairian shook his head, “I had no idea, the Keeper didn’t say anything.”

“Why would she, Anora, made the lives of the Dalish in Ferelden miserable. She wasn’t Keeper Lanaya’s priority, especially now that she is dead. Her focus now is on what King Alistair will do as the monarch of Ferelden and the affairs of Elves in Ferelden under his rule.”

I looked over at Zairian, “As per the stories, that maybe the case, but there were reasons for it. You see, Loghain placed a bounty on all Wardens here in Ferelden, dead or alive. Wardens are the only ones who can kill an Archdemon. I had to jump into the political arena or Ferelden would be a waste land at the moment with the Archdemon marching on Orlais next. Which means you’re clan wouldn’t have a place to run too. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. The First Warden is very upset with me right now I assure you even though he understood the situation King Alistair and I were in. I’ve been reprimanded so-to-speak and told in no uncertain terms that it won’t be tolerated again. The only thing that really saved me was killing the Archdemon and giving the Divine a sigh of relief.”

“So you have the backing of the Divine?”

“I do indeed have the backing of the Divine and she knows very well why I had Queen Anora hung. I didn’t have to ask the Divine’s permission. I already had it since Ostagar due to King’s Cailan’s wishes for his country. I swore an oath at Ostagar before King Cailan before the main battle of Ostagar to see that His will was fulfilled here in Ferelden. The Divine also has a copy of King Cailan’s will and she knew for a fact Anora was making a power grab and this wasn’t King Cailan’s wishes. Anora was to keep Gwaren and fade into history as his widow only and she could have remarried. Alistair and my family stood in her way and she knew it. She would remain a member of the royal family and all the honor and privileges that entails. She was never to rule and she knew this and so did her father. The Couslands had to die in order for this to happen since we are next in line for the Throne.”

“Thus the massacre of your family.” Zairian said.

“Yes, and Anora almost pulled it off.” I said looking over at Zairian. He nodded.

“All three of us knew King’s Cailan’s wishes for His country – that His bastard brother was to have the Theirin Throne of Ferelden, since Alistair is the only remaining member of that bloodline. King Alistair is a Theirin, a member of the Templar Order and a member of the Grey Wardens. The Wardens also knew he was the bastard son of King Maric, they’d known for years of his existence. The Wardens got King’s Maric’s son out of the Chantry on purpose.”

“They did? Why?”

“Protecting the interest of Wardens in Ferelden is my guess and to block the Templars in controlling him. The Wardens at one time were exiled in Ferelden due to political intrigue which cost them keeps and military strongholds in Ferelden. The Wardens had been exiled for well over a hundred years. This was put in jeopardy again with the civil war by Loghain and then the blight happened. King Maric allowed the Grey Wardens back into Ferelden. King Maric traveled with the Wardens on some type of journey quests in the deep roads and the Wardens proved to King Maric they were needed in Ferelden, so he allowed them back in. The Wardens knew before anyone that civil war was coming to Ferelden. How they knew…is something I’d like to know. I think the Antivan Crows also knew civil war was also brewing before the blight even started.”

“So getting King Maric’s bastard son out of the Chantry was a political move by the Wardens to protect their interest?”

“Yes and I’m sure there was more to this than I know. My Warden Commander mentor who was killed at Ostagar is the only one who knew the real reason. I think I was also recruited into the Wardens for reasons other than the fact I’m a Grand Master Rogue trained in Orlais. I think the Wardens preserved my life to save Ferelden and King Maric’s son. My brother and I are the only ones who could have decided the throne if the Landsmeet was split down the middle. This is why the Mac Tirs and Couslands vote last in the Landsmeet if there is a tie.  Anora couldn’t decide because she was the person besides King Alistair who was being voted on. So the choice would have been up to my father. Since Howe murdered him that left my brother and me.

“What will you tell Briala?” I asked.

“You can’t get involved due to being the Warden Commander of Ferelden now.” Zairian paused a moment in thought. “It’s really none of my affair or that of our clan. Because of what you did for the Dalish and City Elves in Ferelden many Elves believe you are a friend; I’m sure she will try to manipulate you.”

“She can try but she won’t get away with it. I’m aware of her and have been for years. I’ve always known she was Celene’s spymaster and her lover.”

“You’re afraid of her?” I asked.

Zairian snorted. “Hardly Commander, she knows not to tackle the Dalish if she wants us on the her side.”

I laughed, “So the Orleasian Dalish are going to play a game of their own!”

Zairian smirked. “I believe that we will Commander.”

I laughed, nodding. I remain quiet for a short time. We were coming close to the King’s highway. Both of us on alert. After a few more miles the King’s highway came into view. I reined my horse to a stop getting down. I guided him into the woods. Zairian followed me.  “Let’s have a quick lunch before we part.”

“Oui, the sun grows hot and our mounts could use a rest.”

We walked into the woods. I was hoping to find a stream. I didn’t see any or hear any close by. I tied my horse to some branches and got a food bag off my saddle packs. Zairian and I took out some bread and dried meat from our bags and ate in silence for a time. Sitting on the dirt floor of the forest’s edge. I shared my canteen with him. The cool water felt good going down. He’d tied his halla close to my horse and both were chomping up clumps of grass. My horse would need water very soon.

“Zairian, if Briala finds you to see what you learned, tell her the truth.” He stopped eating to look at me. “Tell her, officially I can’t do anything as the Warden Commander of Ferelden. Unofficially, I won’t stand by if King Alistair, my brother or Highever is threatened in anyway. I will bring all of my resources to bare on Celene’s side. I will play the game unofficially, dirty, and underhanded. This is how the ‘Grand Game’ is really played.”

“If she harms Christian or any member of what remains of the De’Charney family and the Wardens in Orlais; I will come for her myself.  She will never see me coming regardless that she was once Celene’s spymaster. I’m a Warden now and have abilities that she has no idea that I have. The Wardens also don’t know I now hold an ancient power at my command that will bring hellfire and destruction the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Trevinter Magisters.”

“I’m the one who killed an Archdemon, and lived. The only ‘Warden’ to ever survive the killing of an Archdemon. I have a power at my command that is as ancient as time itself and all I need do is call it forth, and I will pour my wrath on her if she threatens those I love. I will cut a path of destruction across Orlais and every rebel of hers and any Grand Duke who gets in my path. All of them will die and I’ll leave Orlais a wasteland for generations to come. If I have to remove the First Warden in Weisshaupt to do it I will.”

Zairian swallowed hard. He nodded that he understood. “I understand Commander.”

“Trust me Zairian, your Keeper will also understand, and know this, I’m also a close personal friend of Asha’Bellanar.”

Zairian’s eyes got as wide as dinner plates and he nearly choked. “Truly, he finally got out.”

“Truly. I owe her my life and did a close personal favor for her. You and I both know she is someone Briala doesn’t want to cross.” Zairian nodded clearly shaken.

“I see you know that name.”

Zairian only nodded once again, and nearly choked on this dried beef again. I handed him my canteen. He drank deeply. Clearly lost in thought.

We continued to eat and drink slowly giving our mounts time to refresh themselves. It would be a few hours before we could stop again, going our separate ways.

“Commander, if it won’t offend, why didn’t you marry Christian De’Charney?”

I looked away from him, seeing in my mind’s eye that horrible day that changed the course of my life. I took a long pull on my canteen before answering. I sighed and looked back at him. “I did love him, we’d been childhood friends. We’ve known each other all of our lives. He was my first love. Just days before our betrothal was to be announced I discovered that he also loved someone else. He loved me as well. I never doubted his love for me. The other person he loves is a different kind of love and I wouldn’t enter into a marriage with three in the marriage. It was I who ended our betrothal. I love him still, a part of me always will. I wish now in hindsight that I had married him. I most likely wouldn’t be a Warden now if I had.”

“You didn’t wish to be a Warden?”

“No, I was conscripted by the Warden Commander of Ferelden at the time. He gained my conscription by promising my dying father, that I enter the Grey Wardens as the cost of seeing my mother to safety. My conscription was the only way I was getting out of Highever with Duncan’s aide from my ancestral home when it was attacked by one of my father’s banner-men, Arl Howe. Who it turns out was a crony of Loghain’s and Queen Anora’s. Our home was attacked and all the people at Highever killed. It was a massacre. My parents along with everyone else.

“I’m sorry.” Zairian said.

“So am I.” I said.

“Are the stories also true that you love King Alistair and he you?”

“They are.”

“Yet, you won’t be Ferelden’s Queen.”

“No, we had to let each other go over duty. It’s very complicated Zairian. I also love King Alistair. I guess it wasn’t meant to be for me to have the life I wanted. The man who attacked my home and killed my family changed the course of my life forever, and that also includes me marrying and having a family.”

“That is very sad,” he said.

I just nodded my head. “Yes it is.”

“Do you have someone back home?” I asked.

“Oui, a lovely Elven girl I also grew up with, and have known her all of my life. Senaella is her name. Since I’ve become a warrior and once our Keeper decides what to do, once we are settled, I’ll ask for her hand.”

“Don’t wait too long Zairian if you truly love her.”

“After hearing your tale Commander I might decide to ask for her hand once I return. You’ve given me something to think on during my journey home.”

“Yes, our journey, I guess we’d better get on with it then.”

“Oui.”

Both of us got up and returned our bags to our saddles. We untied our mounts, swung ourselves up into our saddles and pushed onward toward the King’s road just in the distance.

When we came to the fork, both of us stopped. “Well Zairian this is where we part.”

“Oui Commander, it was a pleasure to meet the Hero of Ferelden.”

“It was also my pleasure meeting a Dalish clan member of Orlais.”

“One last piece of advice Zairian.”

“Tell me Commander.”

“My advice to your Keeper is to make haste for Ferelden as soon as she can. Tell her not to wait and tell other smaller clans. This isn’t going to be just a civil war or just a massive grand game played out in the open. This civil war coming to Orlais will be an opportunity for other countries to meddle in the outcome. Trust me, they are going to meddle trying to have their own say in the outcome for the Orleasian Throne. Especially Trevinter, they’ll take any elves they find into slavery be they Dalish or City. They did this in Ferelden and I put a stop to this. I used this information against Loghain in the Landsmeet. It will be best for the Dalish to stay out of it and hide. If you need my assistance, tell Keeper Lanaya and she’ll get in touch with me. I’ll send whatever help I can. It won’t be me personally, but I’ll get you help if you need it. Spread the word if things get really bad, my brother needs all the help he can get at Highever and will gladly find any a place in the Highever Alienage which Howe also slaughtered and just keep a few alive as slaves. Your Keeper will need to send word to Lanaya first in regards to Highever to contact me first. Elves can’t just show up, but we’ll find you a place somewhere for all of you, until you can return to Orlais.”

“As you say Commander, I’ll let her know, and safe journey to you.”

“Safe journey to you Zairian.”

With a nod, Zairian set his heels to his halla and speed off down the road toward the west. I pulled the reins leading my horse to the south road and rode like the wind to Gwaren. I had an appointment with Arl Wulff.

***

Christian De’Charney the new Warden Commander of Orlais rode his horse into the gates of his childhood home Chateau De’Charney on the border with Jada, Ferelden. His second at his side and his lover as well. Christian had a handful of other Wardens at his back.

Christian knew that the blight had been ended in Ferelden by the only two Wardens left alive after the Darkspawn had routed King Cailan and his army at Ostagar. He’d received word from the First Warden and the Empress that the order had finally been rescinded and to only send 15 Orleasian Wardens into Ferelden by Empress Celene; she wouldn’t allow more to be sent after being told no at her border with Ferelden earlier by Loghain. Frankly, Christian couldn’t blame the Empress. Loghain’s actions put all of Thedas at risk.

King Alistair had requested all the Wardens and support troops that Celene felt she could afford to send. The blight had been ended before the final decision had been made. He’d  sent messengers to tell Celene that her Wardens were waiting on the border for her to give the order, everything changed so rapidly before riders could arrive at their destinations. He’d sent the rest of the Wardens back to Montsimmard and kept 30 with him. When his new orders arrived from the First Warden and Celene, he’d sent 15 over the border into Ferelden riding hard for Redcliffe Castle. Just over the Frostback Mountains south by southwest of Orzammar. Christian knew Castle Redcliffe well, an impenetrable castle. He knew castle Highever better, which was an older castle then Redcliffe. Celene had also received word that Orzammar had a new King as well all due to this female warden whom Christian had no idea who she was because no word had come back from Riordan. Christian feared that Riordan was dead.

Orlais was in an uproar, some in shock at King Cailan’s death, the removal of Queen Anora and the possibility of a fraud on the throne of Ferelden. Darkspawn making their way into Orlais. Some with greedy hands, such as many Grand Dukes who wanted their property back in Ferelden, demanded that the Empress attack Ferelden now and bring her back under Orleasian rule. Christian knew for a fact that Celene would never go to war with Ferelden. She was to intelligent for that. If she did anything, it would be marry someone of the highest rank in Ferelden and gain Ferelden back my stealth instead of sword. Celene had planned to do this with King Cailan, since it was rumored that Queen Anora was indeed barren and too many were coming to realize that Celene’s elven handmaiden was her lover with no marriage proposal or heir in sight for Orlais.

The Divine would remove Celene from her throne if the Empress attacked Ferelden. The Divine’s flock had already suffered enough with darkspawn destroying Ferelden and her people. The Seekers would march on Orlais, the Templars with them if the Divine gave the order. If rumor was true, Orlais would still see a civil war. The Grand Dukes of Orlais had been building support for years. Thus far, the De’ Charney family had stayed neutral. Christian found himself in a precarious position, being the Warden Commander of Orlais, yet, needing to protect his ancestral home for his nephew the future Grand Duke of House De’Charney.

The Empress was mad as hell that her Wardens and their support troops of thousands of Chevaliers were denied entrance into Ferelden by the Champion of River Dane, Loghain Mac Tir who had defeated Orlais once before. Rumor had it on the blackmarket that Loghain was dead. At this point Christian had no idea what to believe.

News and rumors were spreading faster than Christian could keep up and he had no idea if Bryce Cousland was still alive or any of his family.

He gave his horse over to his Master of the Yard and his steward was coming down the steps to greet him. “Your Grace.”

“Your not to call me that anymore.” Christian told his man.

“As if you becoming a Grey Warden will change my mind.” His steward lifted his skinny little chin in the air and sniffed at this indignation. Christian smirked and just shook his head. “Any news on the Couslands?”

“Oui, Your Grace, you better come inside. I don’t think you’re going to like what you hear.”

“See to it my Wardens are provided with baths, food, and beds in the barracks. Ser Henri and I will need food, just water to clean our hands for now, I’ll meet you in my study.”

“As you wish Your Grace.” His over dignified steward ran off to do his duty.

Christian turned to his Master of the Yard. “See to those horses well. They’ve been run hard.”

“Oui, Your Grace, have no fear they will be well cared for.” The man lead his war horse off to the stables. Other grooms taking the reins from his wardens for their horses.

Christian and Ser Henri walked into his chateau and made for his study, walking fast. He needed a glass of wine to wash the dust from this throat and to try to calm his fear over the Couslands. If all of them were dead, he’d have to go to the Divine and see what she wanted done. He prayed to the Maker – Bellavalia was still alive. He’d never forgive himself if she was dead. He was confused and worried; he didn’t know which way to turn or what to do. He was having a difficult time just being a new Warden himself. Let alone the new Warden Commander of Orlais. Christian had been shocked he had been appointed and many within the ranks were not pleased with this appointment by the First Warden. He was being bombarded from all sides. Sleep had alluded him to clear his foggy mind. The Archdemon and the horde whispering in his dreams had left him with months without deep restful sleep.

He slammed the door of his study open frightening all of his servants nearby. He keep forgetting he had double the strength now that he was a Warden. He hadn’t meant to bang the door open. My servants didn’t know this of course. They’d gotten out of his way as he marched down the wing toward his father’s old study, which was his now for the time being, until his little nephew was old enough to take the reins of his families estate. The Wardens were not happy with the arrangement and that was just too damn bad for them.

Heading straight for the carafe on the silver tray on the table within. He poured wine the color of a deep burgundy into a crystal goblet to the rim and also one for Ser Henri. He handed Ser Henri’s goblet to him. Christian gulped his down. Henri just sipped his while he walked over to the sofa and sat down. Dust floated up from his armour. The sofa had been damaged so it wasn’t a major problem, when darkspawn made it into the chateau, they’d damaged the sofa which wasn’t a priority for Christian at the moment. Calming his nerves were. He poured more wine into his goblet. With a sigh he headed for his father’s desk. He pulled the chair out and took a seat. Taking another gulp of wine. He sat the goblet on the velvet covering the desk.

Christian ran his hands through his black wavy hair. He’d ridden without his helmet. His hair was full of dirt and grime from the road. He’d ridden hard needing to reach home to find if anyone had news of Bellavalia and her family. Also, needing to check on the servants here and if all was well. With the blight ended and just war bands of darkspawn to maintain, he’d have to send to the White Spires for his nephew and little Bryce and the rest of the other children. His people wanted their children back and before he could do this he had to make sure all of the repairs to the Chateau were finished and his home fully secure before sending for them.

Christian also had hired more Chevalier Knights for added security and he was leaving the 15 Wardens here to help guard his family home. With darkspawn still creeping over the land over the border with Ferelden he felt they were needed here and he wouldn’t allow his nephew nor little Bryce back home unless Wardens were here to guard them.

“I’m sure she is alive Christian. She’d know what to do in that situation. You and the Dame trained her well.”

Christian slammed his hands down on the desk, making the goblet wobble. He grabbed it before all went flying. “If she was at Ostagar the percentage for her being alive are nearly void. She was Calian’s bodyguard in case you’ve forgotten and we’ve had it confirmed he is dead.” His voice giving evidence to his nearly choked out words.

“Are you never going to forgive me? Will you now, hold me responsible for her death, if in fact she is dead?” Henri asked Christian.

Christian sighed and slumped in his chair running his hands over his face in frustration. Looking at Henri he said. “I never blamed you. I was the one at fault not you. I should have told her when I asked her to be my wife. We’ve been over this time and time again. I love her the same as I’ve always loved you. She was to be my wife and the mother of my children Henri. I wanted both of you in my life. She was never meant to see what she did. You always knew I had to marry, it was my duty.”

“Cailan keep me away from her. I never had the chance to explain it to her. Not in the way I wanted. I couldn’t with Calian standing right beside her when she ended our betrothal with his blessing. Calian was furious with me if you recall and Fergus still has no idea what really happened. Except she changed her mind. Her father knew and being the diplomat that he was handled my father beautifully and graciously when my father gave back her dowry.”

Henri pinched the bridge of his nose. Would Bellavalia Cousland ever be out of his life? Would her ghost always come between himself and Christian?

“Father had one hell of time with Celene over that, she almost took our titles and lands away from us over it.”

“Bryce Cousland and Cailan came to our defense, even though Cailan was fighting mad over what I’d done to her. I always felt Cailan loved Bellavalia as well. He was married to Loghain’s daughter and that was that. I hated him for his attention to Bellavalia. I never wished the man dead but there it is.”

“And now he is dead.”

“Oui, he is and he didn’t deserve the type of death fate handed him. He was a good man, a good ruler. I don’t believe Anora fully ran Ferelden as everyone always said. Cailan did alot of things his wife never knew about.”

“You speak of the boy?”

“I can’t tell you Henri at least not yet. Until I know which way the wind blows and if I think you need to know the truth, I’ll tell you then. Even though I’m bound by my word to never breathe a word on who that child’s parents really are. I swore an oath to the Divine herself least you forgot, on my honor as a Knight of the Order of Chevaliers. I’m not even sure if I know the full truth on the child’s parentage.”

“Non, I haven’t forgotten. I wasn’t allowed to see you for a long while after all of these events and was sent away. I know you’ve told me he really isn’t your bastard son and this is all you’ve told me.”

“My honor as a Chevalier will be in jeopardy if the truth comes from my lips.”

“Oui, I will do whatever you need me to do.”

“I know you will.”

A knock sounded on the door. “Entrer,” Christian spoke.

His head steward entered with two men behind him. Gerard bowed to him and so did the men with him. “Your grace, these two men have news. They are part of our guild. They come from Ferelden with messages for you personally. They have written missive for you.”

Christian motioned with his hand for Gerard to approach and hand him the letters. Gerard did so. Christian noticed Fergus’s handwriting on the first missive. Then his heart nearly stopped with Bellavalia’s on the second. He tore open Bellavalia’s first. His heart pounding in his chest. He read quickly, His heart jumped. No. No. It couldn’t be. Maker no. Christian felt the blood drain from is face and he thought for a second he would pass out.

Henri stood up, fear on his face as Christian’s face turned white. Oui, this is bad he thought. They are all dead and Christian will never recover over this lose after the deaths of his own family except for the newborn babe, his nephew born just hours before the darkspawn’s attack on Chateau De’ Charney. If Bellavalia was dead, he would go insane. Henri knew he would.

Christian turned to Henri, tears in his eyes, and held the missive out for Henri to read, unable to speak on what the missive said. Henri walked to the desk and looked at the shock in Christian’s eyes while taking the missive. It was Bellavalia’s own writing, he knew it was her’s. He read and his face also twisted in shock.

Bellavalia Cousland was now a Grey Warden and the one that killed the Archdemon and she was alive. Not possible, thought Henri, this has to be a mistake. There is no way unto the Maker that she could possibly be alive.

Henri spun around. “Who sent you with these missive? Speak man our I’ll rip your throat out where you stand.”

Gerard and the two men were visibly shaken by Christian’s reaction and Henri’s own. One of them stepped forward. “One letter was sent through the guild out of Rainesfere, sent with extra coin for the letter to travel non-stop to your hand Your Grace. The other was also sent through our guild by way of Highever. Both of us meet on the road just at Jada. Each of us knowing the other through the guild and knew the information was important.”

“Tell us what you know of the events in Ferelden man.” Henri demanded.

The man gulped. “The darkspawn after Ostagar have torn Ferelden apart. His Grace, Loghain Mac Tir took hold of the Kingdom after King Cailan’s death and put a bounty out on all Grey Wardens.”

Henri interrupted him.”We know all of that. What happened to the Cousland family?”

“Warden it’s terrible what has happened. So many dead, the Cousland Family were attacked at night within their own castle by Arl Rendon Howe of Amaranthine just before the Teyrn and his men were to leave to meet the King in Ostagar. Howe took Highever over as his own. Killing the Teyrn and his wife and nearly all within the castle. It’s said that the Teyrn sent his son with nearly all the of the knights from Highever ahead that afternoon or late evening because the King needed reinforcement with all due haste. The Teyrn, his wife and daughter remained at Highever, with only a small garrison remaining. All of Highever’s men, battalions of Highever knights died at Ostagar with the King. The rest of them slaughtered by Howe.”

“The daughter man, where is she?” Christian demanded, rising to his feet in a visible rage that Henri knew was being held in check on Christian’s training alone as a Chevalier.

The man telling the tale was shaking in his boots. “She escaped Highever, by way of the Warden Commander of Ferelden who was at Highever to recruit new Grey Wardens. He was there to test Ser Rory, the personal guard of the Teyrna. Howe’s men attacked after the family went to bed. The Warden Commander was able to get the Teyrn to the larder off the kitchen but Howe had already run the Teyrn through giving him a fatal wound. The Warden Commander would only agree to take the Teyrna and the daughter to safety if the Teryn agreed for his daughter to be conscripted into the Grey Wardens.”

“She did escape?” Christian demanded.

“Aye, Your Grace, she did, to fight in the battle at Ostagar, where she was inducted into the order of the Grey Wardens. She has been named the Warden Commander of Ferelden after killing the Archdemon on the roof of Fort Drakon. The skeleton of the great dragon is still on the roof last I heard.”

Henri and Christian both looked at each other. “How did she survive Ostagar?”

The man shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know Your Grace.”

Christian pointed to the other man. “Do you know how she survived Ostagar?”

“No Sire, I don’t know. Few did, the Darkspawn have torn the southern part of Ferelden asunder and the blightlands in Ferelden are a terrible sight to behold it is said. I’ve never seen it and hope I never do. Her Grace also killed Arl Rendon Howe in the dungeons of the Arl of Denerim’s estate. Howe had also taken over the Cousland Estate in Denerim. The Arl of Denerim is said to have been killed at Ostagar, but that is not how he died. His nephew Vaughn actually had him murdered on the road to Ostagar. Whoever killed the Arl took the armor of the dead Arl and led the battalions of Knights of the Arl of Denerim back to Denermin. They never fought in the Battle of Ostagar, nor did they fight in the Battle of Denerim. Arl Eamon of Redcliffe also didn’t fight at Ostagar. Loghain had him poisoned.”

“The Arl of Redcliffe is dead then, who is in charge of Redcliffe?” Christian asked.

“No sire, he is not dead. He raised his banner men, and other smaller Bannorns’ sided with the Arl of Redcliffe against Loghain. The Arl of Redcliffe put forth the bastard son of King Maric for the throne. Ferelden’s’ have been fighting each other and the Darkspawn. Her Grace, Lady Cousland, also killed Loghain at the Landsmeet. There was a battle inside the Landsmeet Hall. The Grand Cleric and Templars finally stopped it. Loghain and Her Grace fought a duel right in the middle of the Landsmeet Hall and Her Grace beheaded Loghain right in the Landsmeet. It’s been a battle between the north and the south, then the darkspawn finished the country off.”

“Sounds like Ferelden is in chaos. What else can you tell us?” Christian asked.

“Oh aye Sire, the battles that have taken place inside Ferelden are like those when Trevinter lost their grip on Ferelden. Her Grace beat Loghain so bad, he yielded. Then she beheaded him right in the Landsmeet hall for his treason of King Calian.”

“Another Warden wanted to make Loghain a Warden, but Maric’s son wouldn’t have it. Her Grace also decided who sat the throne of Ferelden after she killed Loghain. Her being the only member left of the Cousland family or so thought at the time. The Landsmeet was split right down the middle. It came right down to her vote being the Teyrna of Highever. She placed Maric’s bastard son on the throne. Queen Anora was executed a month later after her trial and found guilty of treason against her own husband.”

Christian and Henri gasped. “Queen Anora, basically stopped many battalions reaching her husband, the King. She made sure King Cailan died?” Christian asked.

“Aye Your Grace, Yea have the right of it.”

“Lady Cousland actually beat Loghain in combat, the Champion of River Dane, the great general of Ferelden?” Henri asked with disbelief.  “The other warden must have been Riordan.” Henri said and Christian nodded in agreement.

“Oh aye, Ser Warden. It was some duel the way folks are talking. Loghain knocked her on her arse a few times; but, she stood up and pounded him right back and she didn’t stop until Loghain yielded. She meet him toe-toe, swing-for-swing and pushed him back all the way to the throne itself. The Templars holding everyone back so they wouldn’t interfere by the Grand Cleric’s command.”

“After she killed the Archdemon it’s said, that she actually died and somehow the Maker himself restored her life. Many who fought the battle on top of Fort Drakon and for Denerim have sworn it is the truth. The Templar Commander of the Circle of Magi was a witness, so was Arl Eamon of Redcliffe. The Commander of the Legion of the Dead from Orzammar was also a witness and many other dwarves who were summoned to lend her aid against the Archdemon witnessed her lifeforce returned to her. All are saying it’s a miracle.”

Or some type of blood magic thought Henri.

“Her Grace was fine after she recovered from her injuries and attended the ball of His Majesty’s coronation. She had gotten through all of the parades declaring her the Hero of Ferelden. She developed a fever that placed her in a coma. Her injuries were said to be fatal, yet she pulled through once again.”

“After the Battle of Denerim, her brother finally made it to Denerim. He’d been injured in the Korcari Wilds and Chasind tribes in that area saved his life. He finally meet up with his sister in Denermin after the battle. She was so ill all feared she would die and the new Teyrn of Highever demanded that he be allowed to take his sister home to Highever to die in her family home. The new Teyrn took Highever back with aid from the King and Arl Eamon of Redcliffe and others who supported them against Loghain. The Arl of Dragon’s Peak and the Arlessa of Waking Sea and also smaller Banns came to the the new Teyrn’s aid. The Chantry has also taken up the protection of the King, since there is no current Arl of Denerim.”

“She is at Highever then?” Christian asked.

“Last I heard, she is the one who came to Rainesfere to give Frannie the letter for Your Grace and the gold coin for the missives delivery. The King, has also made her the Teyrna of Gwaren. She could be in the South at Gwaren.”

“Most of the country believes her to be in Highever until she takes her command of Vigil’s Keep.”

“The new warden post in Ferelden.” Henri said.

“Aye, Ser Warden. The King turned over Arl Howe’s home to the Ferelden Grey Wardens. Which ain’t that grand from what I hear. The place is likely to fall down around her ears once she gets there.”

“What do you know of this new King?” Christian demanded.

The other man cleared his throat. “I was there in Denerim, running supplies up, the city is utterly destroyed. Thousands dead in the city. The dead are still burning. The palace took heavy damage, and other areas of the city. His Majesties’ coronation was held in Denerim in the Landsmeet Hall, which took minor damage. I got a good look at him and had seen him on the road with Her Grace, Lady Cousland. I do believe him to be King Cailan’s half brother. Both men favored the other. It’s obvious they’re related. The new King does favor King Maric but not as much as King Calian did. Them that is left in the south are outraged that Queen Anora has been hanged for treason. It was she that gave the order for her father to retreat at Ostagar, making sure her husband didn’t survive the battle.”

“There is more that was said of Queen Anora, more evidence at trial; but, I haven’t heard what other charges of treason were involved. She did hang from the Palace Portico, Sire.”

“Do you know anything else on this new King?”

“Aye, He was raised at Redcliffe then sent to the Chantry to become a Templar as a lad. The main Chantry in Ferelden under the Grand Clerics thumb. He was conscripted into the Grey Wardens, just months before the Archdemon rose and the blight started in the south. Folks are saying the Grand Cleric was furious and she tired to stop his conscription into the Wardens. He also fought in the Battle of Ostagar. Many say, he has grace, charm and a good sense of humor. He is also said to have a soft heart toward the common folks. He was raised poor even though he was a ward of the Arl of Redcliffe. He is said to be a courageous warrior of the finest skill. He is a big brawny lad and the ladies are swooning at his feet.”

Christian nodded. “You men head to the kitchens for food and a bed for the night. Gerard will give you orders for the guild before you leave in the morning.”

The two men bowed to Christian and left the room. “Gerard, are the trades routes running for the guild? What have you heard?”

“They are, but not much is coming out of Ferelden. Plenty is going into Ferelden and we’re not the only ones running routes in and out. The cartel of Orzammar is doing a fair brisk business and prices are outrageous. The trade is slow but moving, more protection has been needed because the people of Ferelden are starving at the moment. Ships aren’t docking at Denerim, Highever, or Gwaren from what we’ve heard through the guild.”

Christian nodded.

“Gerard see to it that my Wardens are resupplied and have wagons ready tomorrow filled with: dried meats, grains, beans, cheese, casts of wine and beer, bolts of cloth and leather. Chests of healing and cooking herbs, olive oil and lamp oil. Whatever we can spare. These are to be prepared by morning. I’ll be traveling to Highever at dawn. I want mine and Sir Henri’s weapons and armor repaired and see to my own personal supplies for my journey.”

“Henri, send word to the barracks I need ten Chevaliers knights and ten rogues to accompany me along with fifteen Wardens as guards for the supplies. Also send word to Montsimmard that I need twenty Wardens to return here while I’m gone and they are too remained to protect the chateau. The Wardens will be in charge, but I will speak to the Chevaliers so their noses won’t be out of joint.”

“Oui Your Grace, I’ll get started at once.”

“Food is laid out for you in your room your Grace for you and Ser Henri. With fresh baths for the both of you.”

Christian nodded. “Leave us, Gerard.”

Gerard bowed and left. Closing the study doors softly behind him.

Henri turned to this lover, they embraced. “Are you calmed down now?”

“No, not really, I don’t know what to make of all of this, she can’t be alive, it’s not possible but only Wardens know this.”

“What are you thinking Christian?”

“The soul inside The Warden Commander of Ferelden could be the Archdemon?”

“She’ll have to be killed if this is so, you know this?” Henri said.

Christian pulled away, running his hands through is hair in frustration. “You think I don’t know this Henri. Yet, the new King of Ferelden is a Warden as well. One who now sits the Throne of Ferelden with Chantry and Templar backing. Oui, Bellavalia should have been killed already if she is possessed. The new King being a Warden and former Templar would have known she was possessed. This new King would know before anyone.”

“What are you going to do?” Asked Henri of him.

“I don’t know, I’ll have to think on this, but I need food and sleep before I tackle this problem.”

“Come, let’s retire, I’m famished. I want to eat, bathe, and sleep, in that order.”

Henri nodded and followed Christian out of the study.

“Gerard, I’m not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency.” Christian informed his head steward passing him in the hall as he went.

“Yes, Your Grace.” Gerard bowed as Christian and Ser Henri walked by on their way to the grand staircase.

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Evening Tide

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.”

“M..my children?”

“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.”

“It did.”

“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 do.”

“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.

“Dinner awaits.”

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.”

He nodded.

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?”

“Yes.”

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dragon Age Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Roads Traveled Once Again

I’d skirted Redcliffe Castle and the Village. I’d need supplies soon and my weapons sharpened and looking forward to seeing the wise cracking drunken smith Owen in Redcliffe Village. Whom had helped me tremendously during the civil war and fighting the blight. His prices had been fair. I hoped his daughter Valena was doing well since I’d rescued her. Most likely she was back being Isolde’s maid, better her than me I thought.

I could still hear ‘TEAGAN’ being screeched into my ears from Lady Isolde’s whiny voice. That woman was something else and I couldn’t help but feel that her and Teagan had been having an affair and I wondered if Connor was actually Teagan’s son not Eamon’s. Recent events made me wonder. Personally, I couldn’t stand the woman and her treatment of Alistair as a little boy. I’d been here less than three months ago and it seemed ages ago. Fighting the war band that had broken from the main horde which had split off to attack Redcliffe.

I was approaching Ostagar coming north by northwest. I could see the Tower of Ishal in the distance. Not a sound, eerily quiet, no wildlife, no Chasind, no Elves had settled here yet but I knew they would soon. Thus my trip, before they arrived. This was my only opportunity without having to answer questions on why I was here. The landscape around the old military fortress still blackened by the blight with black ash, blackened rocks and fires still burned in the area. The acrid smell still in the air from the darkspawn and the battles fought here.

I decided to leave my horse on the outskirts of the old fortress. I tied his reins loosely to some bushes in case he was attacked. He could break free and run if he had too. He didn’t hesitate to chomp on the soft grasses at his hooves. I’d watered him at a small stream not far from here. Actually I was in the same area in which we’d ran into Calian’s bodyguard whom had been taken prisoner by Calian’s enemies. I’d tried to save him and he was the one who gave me the tip to go back to Ostagar and thank the Maker that I did. Or else we might not have won the Landsmeet. A chill went up my spine at that thought. The bridge was still out so I’d gone below and down into the creek bed with the horse to fill my canteens and to allow the horse to drink.

I removed my bedroll, and several leather bags which held my supplies. Taking out a small camp shovel I buried my items in a hole behind a large boulder not far from the horse. Then I spent a few hours placing rocks on the top of the mound to make it look like a cairn. Taking care to be as quiet as possible. I had no idea what I’d find here. I made sure I had plenty of various bombs in my packs. I was on my own here without Thor to alert me, just my warden sense to tingle as a warning in case of danger.

I sat down next to the horse and wiped the sweat from my brow. I held my hair off the back of my neck to cool off.  I took several pieces of jerky out of my pack on my waist and grabbing my canteen – enjoying my small light lunch. If one could call jerky a lunch. As I chewed my meager meal I thought back to the battle fought here and compared them to my return from the bodyguard’s tip.

There had to be tunnels under this mass military fortress.  The horde had surrounded Calian and his men. When my war party had come back the second time, we’d found tunnels in the Tower of Ishal where the darkspawn had broken through. I was of a mind that these tunnels led deep in the Kocari Wilds and possibly even further south than this. Duncan’s journal also made it clear that many more tunnels were also near Gwaren. King Maric and Duncan had come out from the deep roads near Gwaren. I had to find a map of these tunnels as possible and have them resealed it could be disastrous for Ferelden if I didn’t.  The Shaparete in Orzammar surely had this recorded.

As I sat, I also contemplated the words of the powerful mage Gaxkang, whom we’d killed in the back streets of Denerim and his prideful words that eyes from on high were on me and he didn’t intend to be a footnote to my now famous history, then he had attacked me and my party.  That battle was one I wasn’t sure we’d survive without Wynne and Morrigan. I’d never seen anything like Gaxkang’s abilities. A mage who could transform into an Arcane Horror and revert back to a Revenant and he had zeroed in on Wynne and Morrigan. I remembered Morrigan commenting a few slashes were going to leave scars. All of us had been badly injured. I remember thinking we’re all going to die here and what happens to Ferelden if we do? Thank the ‘Maker’ for lyrium potions to keep Wynne and Morrigan on their feet. Alistair had taken a beating trying to hold the powerful mage while I battled him from behind. My sneak hidden abilities really didn’t work on Gaxkang, I wasn’t strong enough and my ability hadn’t developed enough at the time; but, my Warden blood abilities helped me help Alistair to keep him cornered while Wynne and Morrigan battled him with magic.  I had to constantly jump in front of Wynne to protect her. If Wynne went down we all went down. Once we finally killed him all of us slumped to the floor in pain and agony until Wynne healed herself enough to help the rest of us. This was the only time Morrigan didn’t mouth off to Wynne and her Circle taught magic. I chuckled to myself at the memory.

He’d said a signal was generated from this place. This had always puzzled me. What kind of signal? From whom/who and for what purpose? Had he meant the Archdemon or something else? Was this signal magical in nature?  If so, then I had no way to find this unless a mage happened by who might pick up on it. If this is the case then why didn’t Wynne or Morrigan say something? This is what I was here to find out. I desperately wanted a clue, if I could one.

I was also interested in seeing how far Flemeth and the Chasind’s territory went into the unknown forest south of Ferelden; however, that was a trip far into the future. I didn’t have the time to go that far or deep into those dangerous woods. One thing I knew for certain the horde and the Archdemon had risen from that forest. The trick was going to be to find exactly where the great dragon had arisen from. Was this the signal that Gaxkang was referring too?  I was also curious if Lanaya would have any knowledge or insight into this. Her clan had known the darkspawn had reached the surface – they’d lost members of their clan to battling darkspawn and werewolves. Elven lore was more ancient than Trevinter’s. Keepers were very guarded on what information they shared, yet I did intend to ask her the next time I saw her. I figured Lanaya wouldn’t tell me flat-out but I’d beat she would point me in the right direction nonetheless.

I finished my meager meal and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and closed my skin of water attaching my canteen to my waist bag. I rummaged around in one of my bags pulling my journal, thumbing through the pages until I found the chapters I’d written on Ostagar to review them. I had to go to the tower and of course out to where Cailan had been killed on the main battlefield. The entrance to those tunnels had to be here.

I knew from reading Duncan’s journal that King Maric’s party had come out of the Deep Roads through tunnels near Gwaren, very close to where Loghain had defeated Orlais Chevaliers with his charge and his archers, whom my mother was one. Even though I was west of Gwaren I was confident that tunnels or an entrance to the Deep Roads had to be under this old military fortress and I had to find them. Oghren had told me dwarven history confirmed that the dwarves had been the main training partners of Tevinter back before and after the blights had started. The dwarven empire ran for untold miles underground in every possible direction and Oghren had also confirmed there were many places to reach the surface along these trade routes and many had been forgotten. I’ll also have to check the library with the Shaperate on my next trip to Orzammar.

I stood up, patted the horse to reassure him. I hoped I was back by nightfall to untie him and water him again, then make a small camp on the outskirts of Ostagar, then head for Redcliffe Village on the morrow.  I couldn’t build a fire to tip-off anyone I was in the area, so I would also have jerky for my dinner.  I hoped my growling stomach didn’t give me away to less desirable in the area.

I took Starfang and Blight Blooded out of their sheaves on my back and with a flick of my wrists activated the Grandmaster silverite, frost and fire runes to name just a few within my swords. I cast myself in stealth and walked toward the opening in the gate of Ostagar. Silence. I stood quietly as my gazed took in the sights around me. All of the skeletons of friend and foe whose remains had long since been plucked clean littered the ground. What would the blight riddled remains of darkspawn do to birds? I’d never seen blight infected birds before, it had to affect them. I had to be careful of wolves and maybe hidden war bands of darkspawn. I lightly stepped forward being careful of twigs underneath my feet.

It was so eerily silent. Not even crows about. This unnerved me somewhat. No crickets, frogs, bees…nothing.  A shudder ran through me. A shroud of death and mist lingered over the ground even though the sun was high in the sky. I looked over to my right and ahead of me was the entrance to the chamber room where Cailan held his war council and just beyond the exact spot where I’d first meet Alistair and had my joining ceremony into the Grey Wardens within the temple area of this old military fortress. It was all so clear in my mind’s eye. I stood there reliving all of these events. Is this the real reason I was here? I’d been second guessing my decisions during the civil war and the blight, now that everything was over and done with. Wynne had once told me my decisions would cause ripples just as my actions in Orlais had caused ripples and so had Christian’s. All of which still echoed to this day. Loghain’s death bothered me the worst.  Something, something, still plagued me over Loghain’s death.  I should have made him a Warden like Riordan wanted me to do. His death the worst on my soul.

On our return trip we’d battled darkspawn all over this place. Many tables were still overturned. I could clearly see in my mind’s eye Cailan and Loghain arguing over Cailan’s battle plans of Cailan not fighting. Loghain with his limited knowledge had given Cailan sound advice believing that Cailan might die without issue. Franny and I were the only two people left in all of Ferelden who really knew the truth.

Looking back I realized why Father and Mother wanted me to survive not just for them and Fergus but for Cailan and his son, to see justice done. Yet, had I made the right choice in executing Loghain? Loghain had seen his daughter clearly for what she was. Loghain being her father and mentor all of these years dealing with the Theirin bloodline. Loghain had known them better than anyone. Their secrets, their desires, yet Loghain hadn’t known about Maric and Cailan’s private smuggling deal with Celene.  My father wasn’t here any longer to ask questions on the particulars of the matter. Fergus and I were now on our own wading through that murky quagmire. At least with Dwarven politics it was all out in the open for the most part. Totally different rules when dealing with Celene and Ferelden’s courts to my way of thinking. Many decision I had made had been for Alistair -his desires when I went against my first choices, and now here I was second guessing myself and my decisions.

I had walked through the one chamber and now stood at the entrance to the temple where I’d first meet Alistair.  My mind going back to his wise-crack to the mage he’d smarted off too.  Then turning to speak with me. Knowing what I know now, would I have made a different choice in our relationship? Alistair had been the first person to bring a smile to my face after the death of my parents. I’d fallen in love with him on the spot. My eyes traveled to the very location as my memories resurfaced and my mind traveled back in time.

One thing we hadn’t done when here for Cailan’s papers was to destroy the darkspawn relics that were left. We’d carried out many yet more remained for Owen to smelt into scrap metal. I turned around and headed to my left and went down the stone paved ramp where the quartermaster of Cailan’s army had held his store and his forge. The darkspawn once they had taken over Ostagar had redecorated in their macabre style. I looked around for an old torch, spying one on the ground behind the darkspawn forge. I picked it up and was delighted to see it was still soaked in oil. I laid the torch on the old forge and rooted around in my waist packs for flint and steel. I laid out twigs I’d gathered on the forge and stroke flint to steel and with patience got a fire going in the forge and relighted the torch. I was giving my presence away but I didn’t really care. I replaced Blight Blooded back in my sheath on my back and with the torch in my left hand and Starfang in my right I set fire to the forge and all of the darkspawn macabre I could find. The wind wasn’t blowing, so I wasn’t to worried.

BURN. BURN. BURN.

Yes, I wanted it all to burn, just like the destruction of my life that had taken place here. The future I should have had died here in this place. I continued on toward Cailan’s old tent or what was left of it and once again my memories took a trip down memory lane, of Cailan holding me within the confines of his tent. While we’d been alone,  he’d kissed my forehead promising me he’d make Howe pay for killing my parents and restore my home to Fergus and I once he was done here. Reassuring me in private – calming my fears, yet he couldn’t break my father’s oath in making me a Grey Warden. I was Duncan’s to command. If the Arch Demon hadn’t arisen he would have stepped in and tried to stop Duncan from recruiting me or so he’d said.

I had been Cailan’s personal bodyguard and spymaster. Loghain had to have known by what he’d said to me when I’d arrived in Ostagar. Cailan had ordered me to stay home in Highever and help my father and brother prepare the King’s troops. If I hadn’t been needed at Highever I would have already been at Ostagar with Cailan and never been caught in the massacre; but, he had commanded me to remain at Highever to heal over my broken heart regarding Christian.

I’d been totally unprepared for Cailan’s gentleness toward me given our history. Me getting on my knees before him and swearing my duty in regards to his son in Orlais when he had called Ferelden’s Grand Cleric and Duncan to witness my oath. I’d been shaken to my core that he’d learned the truth of his son and that he didn’t hate me for withholding that knowledge from him. He’d gently kissed me instead and told me he’d make it right.

I marched across the massive bridge connecting the rest of Ostagar with the Tower of Ishal and screamed my rage as I held the torch setting fire to all things Darkspawn. I set fires burning everything – everywhere that was Darkspawn craft. Here on this bridge where we’d found Cailan’s body I finally screamed it all out – my rage over all of it.  Which I hadn’t been able to do with my war party before. I screamed my rage and fury out over: Cailan, Loghain, Anora, Howe, and especially Alistair and Christian. Men whose decisions had set my life on this course. I burned everything in my wake. It was a cleansing, not just to wipe out the Darkspawn macabre and remaining bodies. Which I’d known nobody would obey Alistair’s order to burn the remains of darkspawn here; so here I was. This was also a cleansing of my own soul. For my own losses, my anger, my rage which had been held inside me all of these months.

I continued on going over and up the ramp to the Tower of Ishal setting everything on fire that I came too.  I opened the heavy ironbark doors and headed back to the rooms which held the tunnel going down that had been broken open by darkspawn from underneath. Soon, I would climb down that ladder again to see what I could find and burn all things Darkspawn before I left. I was actually headed to the barred door leading up to the tower to see if it would open for me this time. What secrets were left there and why wouldn’t it open before? Had the Archdemon been there all along when we’d been here the second time. “What say you Urthemiel?”  He was unusually quiet within my mind for the time being.

I came to the last chamber, the one with the staircase which led to the final floor and to gain entrance to the Tower of Ishal.  I took a deep breath and turned the knob.  There was no magical glow as before blocking my entrance.  I took the stairs to the next floor.  I burned everything here and took the few supplies from each floor that I found.  I finally came to the last staircase.  I was shocked to discover a lone darkspawn badly wounded.  I grinned at it while it screeched at me. I lit the wall scone behind me dropping the torch in my hand and withdrew Blight Blooded. I walked to the darkspawn, it didn’t stop screeching at me and I looked it right in the eyes as I dual swiped it’s neck and beheaded the creature. I walked back to the wall scone and retrieved the torch and set fire to it’s body. I inhaled deeply of Darkspawn stench with satisfaction in doing my hard-earned job. I sheathed Blight Blooded and took up the torch once more and headed up into the tower burning everything as I went.

Finally I stood on the last step with the final door to the tower before me.  I took a deep breath and started to reach out to open the door…instead it opened of it’s own accord.  I was being invited inside.  A chill went through me.  Someone was here? Who? I throw the torch down and grasped Blight Blooded back into my left hand and with both of my swords held firmly within my palms I stepped through the door and into the chamber.  My eyes opened wide in shock at who I was seeing and a chill of dread swept over me.  Fear flooded my whole body. I shook, I couldn’t help it. I was facing my certain death as the most fearsome well-known apostate mage turned to face me, standing within the massive hole and rubble that had once been one of the walls of this circular tower, and one I didn’t remember seeing as my body was struck with numerous arrows the last time I was in this chamber and I’d passed out from my injuries.

Before me stood Flemeth herself.

I stared at her in shock, this wasn’t the Flemeth I remembered as the old hag at her hut in the Kocari Wilds.  She was still an older woman yet her former beauty and glory was on full display. Her long silver hair done up with horns which sprouted from her head. Flemeth had horns like a Qunari. How? Or was it a battle headdress of some sort or did she actually have horns? Her battle armor was magnificent in black, purples, and deep burgundy. Made of leather I’d never seen before. Her boots…well I was pea green with envy in regards to her boots with heavy metal knee guards going up her long slender thighs. She also wore a deep royal purple mantle. Her battle gloves made of mithra, which was a metal I’d only read about and never thought to see in my lifetime. They shimmered with deadly finger talons covering her knuckles and long slender fingers. She looked as deadly as I knew her to be. I know she was peeved at me for killing her dragon form. OH MAKER!

She stood looking at me then she threw her head back and laughed strong of voice. “So child, you’ve returned. Did you honestly think I’d be dead?”  She turned to me and I stood stock still not knowing if she meant me harm.  I truly didn’t know what to expect.

Flemeth walked toward me with swaying hips. I could see the legends were true of her beauty and her fame.  A battle maiden and siren walked toward me.  I took a battle stance for she had every reason to kill me. I taken Morrigan’s side in their feud. Silly, silly me. I hadn’t wanted to get involved yet I needed Morrigan to battle the blight, I’d had no recourse.

She stopped a few feet from me.

“You have nothing to fear child.  Come let us talk.”

I lowered my swords. Still weary of her.  I stepped forward to meet her and converse with her. Finally I slide my swords back in their sheaths.

I examined the rubble of the wall behind her with my eyes, and I could clearly see the outline of the dragon’s body which had flown into the wall to retrieve Alistair and me. I turned to her speaking.  “Your broke through the wall to rescue us.”

“Yes, I did. Most impressive is it not.”

I nodded yes, still very much afraid for my life.

“Yet, you didn’t return my grimoire or my Morrigan to me.”

“You still got what you wanted in the end, your grandson within Morrigan’s womb, fathered by my beloved.”

Flemeth cocked her head. “Touche. Clever child, I’ve always liked you and your family.  It was I who saw too it they held Highever after my destruction of the place.”

“So the legends are true on that account.”

“I was betrayed by my husband Cormac when he sold be back to Conobar and you’re family was worthy, honest, and noble.  There are a few bad apples in your line but not many. Your ancestor served me well while I lived there.”

I just nodded.

“This is why you won’t take my life now because I did help you succeed in your ultimate desire. Your grandson which Morrigan now carries with the soul of an Old God.”

“How did you figure it out?”

“I didn’t, not fully, until just now and partly when Morrigan came to me that night at Redcliffe with your plan. I did not return your grimoire because I felt you knew those spells by heart and didn’t really care if Morrigan knew them or not.  She’d need them to protect your grandson.”

“Indeed.”

“What else child have you concluded.”  Her eyes watched me closely for any falsehood.

“You made us battle you in your dragon form to prepare me for my battle with Urthemiel which I alone was going to battle in the fade and you knew this.”

“Yes, you needed the experience and my friend of whom you killed was willing to offer herself up in sacrifice to prepare you for battle as long as I rear her offspring and got her offspring to safety.”

“So you’re not really a dragon and you raise dragons, interesting.”

“I’m many things Bellavalia Ella Nora Cousland and just like you I have my own secrets which I’ve kept hidden for centuries. Unfortunately for you, your secrets will not last that long. However, you will try your utmost to keep them hidden.” She throw her head back and laughed heartily.

“Will I’ve keep them hidden for the time being for the sake of Ferelden, and you knew Alistair was going to set me aside before it happened.”

“Not from magic my dear, from experience: all men betray, they always have for glory, power, and fame and especially the love of the wrong woman for them.”

“It was a lesson I needed to learn and one you planned on teaching me and Morrigan.”

“You’d already learned you’re lesson in Orlais or am I mistaken? Apparently once wasn’t enough for you, repeating nearly the same mistakes with Alistair, you find yourself in the same mess as before while in Orlais. Yet, you’ve still learned what to do about your mistakes and to think more clearly on what to do about them.  It was for Morrigan and she isn’t done learning those particular lessons either. It will be a long time until she has her own life to live.”

“Alistair will go back on his word to find her.”

“Yes, he will,” she calmly answered me.

“Will Alistair find her?”

“No he will not, he’ll be busy with other threats for us all.”

My eyes narrowed, “what threats?”

Flemeth chuckled, “you’re destiny isn’t here in Ferelden, Bellavalia Cousland, it’s elsewhere.”

“So you know my future, are you willing to share? You have the gift of foresight, do you not?”

“I have many gifts and talents when it serves my purposes and I can’t share, your destiny is what you will make of it, your choices are yours alone from here on out, choose wisely dear girl.”

“Yet, you saved me when it was my destiny to die in this very room.”

“Ferelden and Urthemiel needed you to live and I gained permission for you to live, so you could fulfill your purpose.”

“Which came with a price?”

“Yes, your price was Alistair’s full devotion.”

“Do I still serve your purposes and whom did you gain permission?”

“My, my, full of questions my dear.”  She laughed wickedly. Yet she did answer me.

“Yes, you still have a purpose which will echo into eternity, as from whom, will I’m afraid that is not for you to know child.”

“Because of your grandson.”

“Urthemiel desires that you not be harmed. He is the other half of your soul and you’re the other half of his. You can be killed, make no mistake, his power will only be affected slightly if you die, his power is drawn from a different fount but you are tied together.”

“So, I’m still a pawn in all of this?”

“All of us are pawns to some degree and we must each choose to fight or die. You my child have always chosen to fight, you always will.”

“Is his destiny and my own intertwined still?”

“I’m truly unsure at this point.”

“You need to make haste child and be sure you are on the North Road between Highever and Amaranthine within two weeks.”

“Why?”

“Because Alistair’s life depends on you being there.”

“Is he still important to you?”

“Isn’t he to you,” she countered. I didn’t respond.

“The Theirin bloodline must be preserved at all cost.”

“Why?”

“Alistair Theirin will soon learn the reason why, and if he desires to tell you, then he will.”

“You won’t tell me?”

“It’s not my story to tell child, it’s the deity that I serve and why the Theirin bloodline had to be saved.”  Flemeth glanced at my belly.  “Which you know something about.”

I didn’t acknowledge her inquiry regarding my children instead saying, “I thought you a deity. I actually thought you Andraste.”

Flemeth cackled with laughter. She slapped her thigh in amusement. “I like that people think that I am, it truly serves my purposes. Make no mistake my powers do come from a deity and I am possessed by her, and she is powerful, these are things Thedas will learn in the future. I fight on her behalf, for she was betrayed just like me and she came to me offering me her power if I would fight for her – to wipe her enemies off the face of Thedas. One battle is over and done with, your fight to save Ferelden, the next one begins, which you won’t have a part of. Your King will, and I promise you he will be safe.”

“Go Bellavalia, your destiny awaits, and don’t worry about the darkspawn I’ll take care of them.” She handed me a scroll.

“What’s this?”

“A map of the tunnels under this fortress and all of the tunnels of the deep roads into the Kocari Wilds.”

“Why are you helping me?”

“You’re correct those tunnels do need to be resealed.  You need to reach Gwaren and set that place to rights before Lanaya’s clan begins their move to Ostagar, clearing the way for them and to seal the darkspawn inside the deep roads. It’s imperative that this gets done and very soon. Ferelden and Orlais can’t be bothered with roaming bands of Darkspawn. Which is your job to clear the remnant out of Ferelden.”

“Thank you for my life and it will be as you say Asha’bellanar.” I sheathed my swords and I bowed to her.

“Thank you Bellavalia Cousland for my grandson’s.”

She watched me leave. When I left the Tower of Ishal I heard a screech and watched as a massive purple dragon flew from the tower burning all that was left of the darkspawn which remained at Ostagar and their filth. Flemeth swept the entire complex in one circular pass burning the remains of the darkspawn and their filth. Then she flew north leaving me standing watching in awe as she swiftly flew out of sight.

I took a deep breath and started the long walk back to my horse.  I finally reached him and he hadn’t left one patch of grass under his hooves. I grabbed my shovel out of my saddle bag and got busy retrieving my supplies. I mounted my horse and headed back for the small clearing, which was only an hour away.

I led the horse down into the creek bed and allowed him to drink his fill.  I secured him, taking his saddle off and brushed him down. Then I gathered wood and built a small fire. Fires were still burning off in the distance where Flemeth and I both had cleaned the remains of the Darkspawn.

Well at least I could fry up some smoked pork that Frannie had given me and a few eggs for dinner, so I wouldn’t starve this night at least.  As I was fixing my dinner and gathering water I heard footsteps approach.

I took the daggers hidden within my leggings into my hands as I filled the water bucket.

“Low in the camp, my lady.”

I knew that voice.  It was one of Lanaya’s hunters. Before turning, I replaced my daggers in their hidden slots within my leathers just at my thighs.

I motioned the elves forward.

“Come, you are welcome to join my fire for the night.”

“Thank you my lady.”

I watched as a small hunting party of elves approached.

“Please make yourselves at home.”

They placed hares down and took off their gear.

“Please, make use of the fire, cook your dinner.” I watched as they gathered more wood and water.  They unrolled their bedrolls and took out their cooking supplies.  They shared their bread and cheese with me and also made a wonderful fragrant tea. It was delicious.

They asked me if I was the one burning the fires and the dead darkspawn at Ostagar.  I told them I was, it had to be done. I asked after their clan and what news they had. We caught each other up to date regarding the local news and to my surprise the elves informed me Lothering was on it’s way to being rebuilt. I was shocked.

Lanaya and her clan would soon arrive at Ostagar which was to be their new home.  She’d seen the fires and sent her hunters to investigate. My ring she had given me glowed on my hand.  The head hunter smiled at me, noticing my ring.

“Keeper Lanaya knew you to be in the area and she sent us to make sure you weren’t in any danger. Sleep commander when you’re ready, we’ll guard you through the night and accompany you to the outskirts of Gwaren.”

“Thank you, I’d appreciate the company.”  I yawned.

“I’m sorry, I’m tired it seems.”

“Sleep commander, rest, all is well.”

I thanked them, wrote in my journal which was now a required duty of me as the Warden Commander of Ferelden. I couldn’t keep my eyes open a minute longer and I soon snuggled down and was lost to my dreams as the elves spun tales around the camp fire.  I dreamed of Alistair, and Christian for some reason. My dreams later became of darkspawn terrorizing villages and I wasn’t there to save the people. I tossed and turned in my sleep being restless.

Urthemiel walked into my dreams.  “My lady, you must rest, you’re exhausted, your children need you too.  Be at peace my lady.”

“It was you at Ostagar when my war party returned for Cailan’s papers?”  I asked him with my mind.

He didn’t answer me for a time. “Yes, in my tainted form. I was watching and studying you, how you fought.  I was directing my various war parties and keeping track of your progress.  I was the signal.”

“I thought so, you’re whom Gaxkang mentioned.”

“Yes, he knew through magic the horde approached.”

With a wave of his hand I was at peace and slept soundly.

When I awake the next morning was to find the elves had already cooked breakfast and were just waiting on me. I was beyond embarrassed. I ate a quick meal of mush, fruit, and toasted bread with cheese and tea.  Very filling actually.  Their cook filled my plate full and they’d also saddled my horse and gotten him ready feeding him his bag of grain.

Ashna winked at me.  “The Keeper told us what to do.  She is still worried over your condition and she was fussing at us to see all of this done.  She also sends her thanks in preparing Ostagar for her.  She will ritually clean the entire fortress, and for you not to worry.  We’ll also seal the tunnels Asha’bellanar told you of. Keeper Lanaya already had plans to do this and we’ll also seal the ones near Gwaren and we’ll send you updated maps to the Vigil of the area.”

“Ah well now, that will be most appreciated.”

The ring on my hand glowed with warmth.

“I’ll see you soon Commander Cousland, I’ve sent my hunters to see you safe.” Lanaya talked with me through my mind.  I heard Urthemiel chuckle.  Powerful magic indeed.

“Thank you, Keeper Lanaya.”

“You carry heirs of the elves within your womb, we’ll see you safe to Gwaren.”

I nodded, mounted my horse and got on with our travels, once we packed up camp.

I talked my Elven companions in allowing me to enter Redcliffe Village on my own.  Being unsure of how the villagers would react to my escort. Owen was happy to see me and informed me his daughter was indeed back in service to Lady Isolde. He was as drunk as ever. Owen sharpened my weapons for me and was most impressed with Starfang and Blight Blooded, wanting to know where I obtained them.  Of course I told him I found them along my journey of fighting the blight which wasn’t exactly the truth nor lie.  He also informed me Bann Teagan was at the castle and the new pub had a new name.  Which was now called “The Grey Warden’s Rest.”  In honesty I thought it a horrible name. Like I’d died or something. I made no comment however except to say it was a nice gesture on the Grey Warden’s behalf. I stocked up on the few supplies that he had that I needed.  And sold him a few things I’d found at Ostagar.

Stopping by for a pint at the pub I very nearly never got away from the crowd.  I knew my Elven escort would get antsy if I didn’t show up soon.

“I was just sending a search party in to rescue you Commander.” Said Ashna.

“It was close Ashna let me tell you.”

His eyes creased with concern.

“I’m joking.”

“Oh,” he said. He smiled shyly at me.  He was handsome in the way of elves.

“They wanted me to stay and drink.”

“I see.” he said.

We continued on our way. Thankfully, taking deer paths known to very few humans and nearly all the Elves.  I knew we’d camp tonight with Lanaya’s clan before I continued on my journey to Gwaren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dragon Age Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Changes

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.”

“Kadan.”

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.

“Farewell Kadan.”

“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.”

Wynne nodded.

“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.”

“I agree.”

“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.

“Wynne.”

“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.

“I will.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dragon Age Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Fergus in the Tower

Highever, after the Death of the Archdemon:

Fergus and Thor continued climbing the stairs that would lead them to the highest tower within Highever Castle – one of eight towers that were left standing.  Wanting a place of solitude for his thoughts and emotions.  Reaching the top of the stairwell Fergus pushed open the heavy ironbark door.  This tower, with the only access point through his parent’s bedchamber. It had been his parent’s private tower and balcony. Complete privacy for the Teyrn and his lady to have their own space when they needed to get away.

Stepping out on the battlement was the first time in two weeks that Fergus had any time to spend alone. The devastation that he had found upon his return to Highever had been overwhelming.  Fergus walked to the wall just ahead of him, leaning on the battlement he looked out over the lands and fields of Highever.  Allowing the breeze and solitude to sooth his soul.  He watched as the sun was ready to set for the evening. The battlement was still covered with debris from the battle; the lovely rooftop garden his mother had created was in tatters.  All destroyed…all gone, broken, lost forever.

Everywhere Fergus’ eyes focused he could see canvas tents with their companion cookfires, which dotted his lands as far as the eye could see. Many of the fires belonged to his villagers, banns, and freeman – several dozen had escaped from the castle and made their way to the Bann of Waking Sea. The entire population of the castle, and the village of Highever had been slaughtered in the original massacre by Howe and his men. Tomorrow the fires will burn to lay my parents, wife and child to rest. Then their bones buried on the family plot high on the cliffs.

With the help of Bell’s companions, the Orleasian Grey Wardens and full-fledged knights from: Redcliffe, Waking Sea, Dragon’s Peak, and the remainder of my own – even small Bannorn Banns sent who they could.  The Legion of the Dead, and Lady Lanaya’s Dalish elves all banded together and fought our way inside Highever. Decimating all of Howe’s sycophants. Highever was once again in the hands of the Cousland Family.

When the survivors of the massacre heard Highever had been restored to the Couslands’ nearly all that had left and survived came running so they could return home.  Elves also came up from the south for the Highever Alienage which was the best in all of Ferelden. Fergus was grateful for all of the loyalty – folks thought enough of the Cousland name to return, battling and beginning the process of rebuilding. He was also grateful that the alienage was still standing and in good shape.  He didn’t have the mess on his hands that King Alistair had in Denerim to deal with.

Dwarven engineers from Orzammar would soon arrive and their objective will be making their recommendations on rebuilding the defense of the new castle. Highever would never be an open courtyard castle as it had once been. Fergus would see that the castle along with the inner and outer baileys would be enclosed as an addition in the defense of the coastline of Ferelden in the future. The crown would help in the reconstruction.

The biggest problem facing those of us at Highever currently is shelter before winter sets in and getting crops back in the ground. At least Howe had the good sense not to burn the barns.  Fergus had no idea where the horses were that had been here. Most likely in the bellies of those starving. The few horses in Ferelden had been here and at Gwaren. Those returning to Highever to resume their lives could take shelter in the barns for the time being, until the village was rebuilt. The docks were open and commerce was starting to flow. Many from the south who had lost it all were seeking shelter, and the chance to start anew and placing their hopes in Fergus’ hands.

Fergus, with Bell’s companions, and the Orlesian Grey Wardens had spent the day walking the fields and trying their best to capture as many of the lost and wandering farm animals that they could.  Fences needed to be repaired for dairy and beef cattle.  Chickens and hogs to pen up, there was so much to do.  He shook his head with weariness.  The armory needed stocked and it seemed his sister would be able to lend a hand with this. A small smile split his face just thinking of all the weapons that Bellavalia had amassed in her journey.

Wade – one of the best smiths in Denerim was traveling north and had offered his own services, for a price of course, to make new weapons for Highever to get the men equipped for defense. Once done here then Wade and Herren would travel to the Vigil’s Keep to become Bell’s armor for the Grey Wardens.  Alistair had paid a hefty sum to get Wade to come up north since the smith’s business had taken a hit when his armory had been destroyed by the darkspawn and Archdemon in Denerim.  Alistair wanted Bell to have the best since she would be securing the North until Highever was back up and running.

A large portion of the armies that Bell had gathered to defend Ferelden were also below, they had seen their hero home safe. Below him in the tent city were people from all walks of life waiting to hear of news about his sister – if she lived or died. Fergus couldn’t believe he might lose her still.  She was so sick and had been since the night she went to visit Anora.

In order to bring Bellavalia home to Highever; Fergus had a few battles of his own to fight. He’d had to convince: King Alistair, Arl Eamon, Bell’s motley crew of companions, and the Grey Wardens from Orlais. In the end he had gotten his way.

If Bell was going to die, then she would die on the land that had birthed her. Her ancestral home that she’d helped defend against the Archdemon and darkspawn. Her battles with Loghain and Howe, plus the civil war – then securing the Throne of Ferelden. The whole country owed her a debt of gratitude in Fergus’ eyes.  Fergus had taken great pleasure in reminding all of them of these facts.

If Bell died, her ashes would burn from the cliffs of Highever and her bones buried with all of her family and if anyone didn’t like it they could just kiss his arse, because he was bringing Bell home. The King had finally agreed.  Fergus wasn’t too worried about Eamon, it was the King that Fergus worried about in excess.

Alistair restored Highever to me and agreed for Bell being moved to Highever as long as I sent him a weekly report on her condition. Alistair had stalled for a time, and Fergus couldn’t understand Alistair’s attitude. Perhaps protocol of the Grey Wardens which I’m not privy too? It wasn’t his or Bell’s fault that their family had been murdered, and the largest portions of their ancestral home destroyed. Half of the castle was gone, burn to the ground or heavily damaged.

At least he’d caught a break with the kitchen and larder untouched.  Molly had taken things in hand and hired new workers, she was working around the clock to get the kitchens up and running, so we aren’t starving at the moment. Wynne, Leliana, and Zevran were also lending a hand in the kitchens.  Fergus had to admit Zevran made a delicious fish stew.  Best I’ve ever had, Fergus thought.

The great hall was intact and their family quarters.  Fergus still couldn’t bring himself to sleep in the bedchamber that he’d shared with Orianna, nor his parent’s room.  Right now he was camping out with Bell’s crew in the great hall and the Orlesian Wardens.  Two wardens guarded Bell’s bedchamber door at all times. Two on, two off, for twelve-hour shifts.  It was unnerving to see guards outside of his sister’s bedchamber.

It is hard to believe my sister is now a Grey Warden; they are warriors of legend and had been for centuries.  Only the best became Grey Wardens, it was extremely difficult to join their secret order of warriors. Female Wardens were rare, but they did exist.  I’ve seen several on my travels with father in: Orlais, Antiva, and the Free Marches.

If Alistair hadn’t restored Highever to me, then I would have been at a loss on what I should have done, fight for Highever…yes, even if Anora was still on the throne. Fergus needed Bell on her feet to help him understand what had taken place while he had been recovering in a Chasind’s hut in the Korcari Wilds.  There was political intrigue going on and it involved Bell, Alistair, Me and Highever.  Fergus was at a disadvantage until he spoke with his sister. Fergus had the impression there was more going on from what he’d been told. Fergus had taken his father’s place as Teyrn of Highever whose castle was steeped in historical legend and lore within Ferelden and was the highest noble house just under the crown within the borders of Ferelden, with Gwaren being second. His proud noble house and legacy now lay in ruins: his villagers, banns, and freeholders many of whom had been slaughtered during Howe’s betrayal of his parents.

The massacre begun in the evening after I and the Knights of Highever, along with most of our garrison of soldiers had ridden off to join King Cailan for the Battle of Ostagar in the south earlier in the day. Father and Howe were to march the next day and combine our troops at Ostagar for the King.  Fergus and his men were only a few hours away when the massacre had taken place.  If I’d known what was happening at home, I would have turned my men around and returned to take the life of Howe with all of his men who had murdered: my parents, my wife, and my beloved child Oren in cold blood.  Bellavalia and I are now the last of the Cousland line.  I had no idea that Bell was even alive until I’d heard she was leading the army to fight the Archdemon and she had become a Grey Warden. Hightailing to Redcliffe to try to catch her.

The rage that Fergus felt would not subside.  Nothing seemed to soothe his tortured soul. The bitterness ate away at his soul over the loss of his son Oren. Fergus and Oriana were hoping for more children and had planned on trying for more upon my returned from the incursion of darkspawn in the south.  Oriana felt that Oren was old enough and it was time for a baby brother or sister.

Fergus would never hold his beloved Oriana in his arms again and give her the next baby that she eagerly anticipated having.  Like all mother’s, she’d been praying for a sweet little girl.  He would never have the chance to give her that child or any others that might have been born to them. I’ll never tease and enjoy the light banter with my lovely wife, a prelude to our lovemaking.  Fergus exhaled and rubbed his face and tired eyes, trying his best to hold back the tears that creep into his eyes over thoughts of his wife.

My sweet Oriana, I burn for you and I’ll never know your sweet kisses again, thought Fergus.  Fergus choked down a sob and shook as the bitterness continued to burn and the storm continued to rage inside him and his thoughts deepened.

Now it was all gone, all of his hopes and dreams.  There would never be time with his father to learn more on how to run a noble house as large as Highever.  His father and mother had taught him well along with his sister on what their responsibilities were to be one day for Highever. I will never see the joy in mother’s face at becoming a grandmother again.

Howe took away my rights of fatherhood.  Never will I know the joys of boyhood with my son in reading and teaching Oren the legends and tales of the land, taking him fishing and hunting.  Teaching Oren the things that a father teaches his son.  Oren would never train as a page, then squire, and train for his knighthood.  He would never know what skills or special warrior talent training his son would have excelled at. How tall he might have grown when reaching his manhood.  Would he continue to have my dark hair or would Oren’s hair have lightened to the color of his mother’s?  I’ll never know, gone, all gone.

Oren would never hear advice from me as his father on kissing a girl for the first time; attend his first ball, go to court which would have been his right being a son of the powerful Cousland Family.  Fergus would never see his oldest son marry and have children of his own to secure the line for their noble name.  It was all gone except for the burned castle, his lands, and his titles.  It would be up to Fergus to rebuild his home and restore what had been destroyed. These are the things that Howe robbed me of when he murdered my family. Bellavalia escaping with her life all due to the Warden Commander of Ferelden, Warden Duncan.

Would his sister – The Hero of Ferelden, Hero of Redcliffe, now Teyrna of Highever and Gwaren, and Grey Warden Commander, survive to help me rebuild our childhood home and legacy?  Maker! she is only twenty-one years old.  Fergus still couldn’t believe all that Bell had done, it made him weak in the knees standing here thinking of it all.  He couldn’t believe he had joked with her on becoming a Grey Warden before he had ridden out.  The memory pained him.

Bell had to survive, his sister was the only thing holding Fergus together and keeping his hope alive.  By the Maker he would do everything in his power to see her restored to herself and have the opportunity to talk with the woman that she had become, hear about this fantastic journey and how she became a Grey Warden and then a Warden Commander. I have part of the story, but not all of it. Fergus still had a difficult time coming to grips with everything his sister had been through and the things his little sister had accomplished in little over a year and a half.  Bell was the silver lining in an otherwise stormy cloud that continued to rage. I can’t lose her too, I just can’t.

Fergus hadn’t been able to talk much with Bell, her injuries were too severe, her traveling companion Enchantress Wynne had advised him it would be better for Bell if she was kept in a deep sleep to make the trip North to Highever.  Fergus had several questions to ask his sister on what had happened at the castle that night and what had happened to her. They’d had little time to talk while in Denerim.

From the little that he had gathered, the Grey Warden Duncan had helped her escape Highever that night; at least she had gotten away with Thor at her side.  Duncan had died with King Cailan at Ostagar.  Bell had been in the battle at Ostagar and she was more of a survivor of that battle than me even. How had she survived the massacre there and gotten away?

Fergus was also floored to discover that another of Bell’s traveling companions had been the bastard son of the late King Maric by the name of Alistair who was a former Templar and a Grey Warden.  Hidden away by Arl Eamon until Alistair was sent to the Chantry at the age of ten.  His parent’s had known about Alistair through Eamon once Maric was declared dead.  Few of the nobles in the land had known of Alistair, my father did know thought Fergus.  How is the Chantry involved in all of this, did the Grand Cleric of Ferelden know that Alistair was King Maric’s son?  She had to have known so why did she throw her lot in with Loghain? Fergus just couldn’t figure all at stake here, being too tired.

King Maric had kept Alistair’s birth a secret.  There was no doubt that Alistair was Maric’s son.  Alistair favored his half-brother King Cailan and his father King Maric.  It was obvious to anyone who had known the late King Maric.  Alistair looked more like Maric than Cailan had.  Who was Alistair’s mother?  He didn’t want to be rude and ask the new king to his face.  Rumors said a serving wench from Redcliffe, yet Fergus had never bought that story.  Maric, just didn’t seem the type to dally around with serving wenches.  What do I know he thought to himself.  I was a teenager back then, had just come into my own manhood when King Maric had been declared dead.  Cailan had been close in age with Fergus and we spent time together as friends. I never heard Cailan speak of any affairs that his father might have had. So, the new King had to have been born just before Queen Rowan died or soon after.  Fergus would place his bet on being after.

Fergus also learned Bell and Alistair had been deeply in love, for some reason their relationship ended.  Maker’s mercy he thought, his sister had a broken body and a broken heart as well.  I better not find out that Alistair slept with her either, if he did, the King had a talking too coming. With luck the new King being raised in the Chantry gave him hope the king had acted as a gentlemen.  Since Bell was a Grey Warden could she even get married now?

Fergus’ thoughts turned to Christian D’Charney.  Bellavalia why did you end your betrothal?  What happened, what changed? Father was going to tell me at Ostagar.  We never got the chance to talk about your upcoming marriage.  Little sister your life would be so different today if you had married Christian.  I hope Christian and his family are well, Fergus thought.  The Grey Wardens had told Fergus, darkspawn had gotten over the border into Orlais.  They had split from their companions to reach Denerim and still didn’t know the outcome of the battle in southeastern Orlais.

Bell along with Arl Eamon removed Anora from the throne and placed Alistair on the throne instead, this was just one of the many questions that Fergus had for his sister? How did all of that come about?  If only he had made it back to Denerim in time for the Landsmeet.  Anora was Cailan’s widow; did she honestly think she would continue to hold the throne without a vote from the Landsmeet?  She’d been a fool if she thought that.  Fergus would never have guessed Anora being such a fool, icy bitch yes, fool no.  Was it any wonder Cailan had cheated on her, or so the rumors went?  All of the higher nobles in the land had always wondered who the woman had been.

Fergus had more questions than he had answers, and his sister was right in the middle of all of the political intrigue that had torn the country apart.  He had uncovered a lot of the tale, and was fairly certain he had the full story; he still wanted to hear what Bell had to tell him.  Especially how Howe had overtaken the Castle.  Had Thomas been involved?  I know that Nathaniel was sent to the Free Marches, was he still there?  Arl Eamon heard that Thomas had died in the battle to save Denerim.  Fergus hadn’t heard where Delilah was or if she had even survived the blight.  If Nathaniel had any part in the massacre – I vow that I’ll hunt him down and kill him.

Then to top all of that off were the members of Bell’s now famous motley crew:  an Antivan Elf who just happened to be a Crow Assassin by the name of Zevran and a Orleasian Bard Spy – her name Leliana, they had pulled him aside and told him to be wary of the former queen and Eamon.

Anora was no longer a threat, having been hanged, the day before I brought my sister home.  I’d stood right in front of the scaffolding and watched her swing. True to form Anora had been a haughty bitch right to the end.  Spouting some nonsense that Calilan had a child and her followers would find him and bring him home to his rightful throne. As far as Fergus knew Cailan had no bastards. No matter, Ferelden had a Theirin heir on the throne.  Cailan having a bastard wouldn’t make any difference as long as the country accepted Alistair’s rule and judgement, giving the new King a fair chance.  Thus far the new King of Ferelden was doing just fine.

Fergus also had a Senior Enchanter of the Circle of Magi – Mistress Wynne, a Qunari called Sten, a drunken dwarven warrior from Orzammar by the name of Oghren, and an honest to goodness stone golem named Shale and twelve Grey Warden guards all keeping residence in what was left of Highever Castle.  Fergus also understood there had been another mage who was an apostate by the name of Morrigan, she had survived the battle but the other companions had no idea where she was or why she had left so soon after the battle.

It was all too much.  Fergus was beside himself with worry; the stress and strain was taking its toll.  Tomorrow, he would bury the remains of his family that had finally been found.  He didn’t know if Bell could make it down the steps and get outside for the memorial or not.

Thinking of his family members that were now lost to him and the possibility of his sister dying finally broke the dam and the tears flowed and the sobs tore from his throat.

Thor whined beside him and muzzled his hand.  Fergus sat down beside Thor and hugged his sister’s war hound to him and cried his heart out over the losses. Thor licked Fergus’ tears away and half lay in Fergus’ lap and did his best to comfort Bell’s brother.

***

Morrigan watched Bell’s brother from her perch high up in a tree.  She’d hung around the castle since Bell had been brought home and followed the progression of the large crowds to the north to take Ferelden’s hero home. One blond-haired mage had caught her eye on the road.  She’d been curious about him.  Handsome fellow with his blond hair.  A Circle mage who had not returned to the Circle after the battle of Denerim.  Morrigan was certain of this and the Templars would be looking for this mage. Her curiosity would have to wait finding out about him later. My current focus is Bellavalia and the coming nightfall.  I’m not going to allow my friend to die.  My son’s soul was demanding that I act to help my only friend and so I will.  Tonight during the dark of the moon. Morrigan settled in her bird form on the branch of a tree hidden in the leaves for nightfall to arrive.

The sun finally fell into slumber and the creatures of the night commenced to come out and play. Beginning their nightly scavenger to find prey and feed.  Morrigan was no different, she was starving, soon she thought,very soon.  Stretching her feathers out she flapped them getting the stiffness out.  Craning her neck she pecked at the centipede inching its way toward the cherry blossom tucked in for the night.  Delicious, an itty-bitty snack.  Well… it will have to do for now. Morrigan swooped down and gobbled the delicious morsel into her beak.

Morrigan spied Bellavalia’s window which she had been observing all night.  Inching along the thin branch she came to the end and lifted up taking flight.  Landing smoothly on the edge of the ledge.  With her beak pecking to knock on the window.  Thor jumped up on the ledge, his tail going a mile a minute. With his mouth he opened the window.  Morrigan flew inside and shifted into her mortal form.  Thor jumping and wiggling around he was so excited to see her.

“Alright settle down now, I’m here to help her.  Calm down you fool dog.”

Morrigan smiled at Bellavalia’s war dog giving him a good scratch behind his ears.  Thor flopped down at her feet and was in heaven from the attention.   Morrigan reached into her backpack hidden in her skirt.

“I see you’ve kept her safe and for that you will be rewarded.” Pulling mabari treats out she tossed them to Thor who gobbled them up and just for good measure Morrigan tossed him some elfroot that the fool dog just seemed to love.  “How elfroot doesn’t make you sick is beyond me, truly.” Patting Thor affectionately once more.

“Alright, that’s enough time on you, let’s see how your master is doing?”

Morrigan scratched Thor behind the ear once more when she got to her feet and came over and sat down on Bellavalia’s bed.  She studied her friend’s face.  Morrigan reached out and touched Bellavalia’s face.  Hmm, she is too hot, way to hot.  Sweat trickled down Bellavalia’s brew and Morrigan gently wiped this away.  She felt her child move in her womb. Moving her hand to Bellavalia’s tummy the connections triggered an electrical current between both mother’s and their children who shared the same father.

You will live my friend, I swear it, for what you gave to me, which broke your heart to do so.  I will always watch over you.  Always, even though you hate me right now.

Morrigan removed a glass phylactery from around her neck.  She held the glass vial up to the light and watched as the magic properties within the blood sparkled and swirled. ‘Dragon’s Blood,’ the most powerful substance known to Witches of the Wilds.  This would cure any ailment.

The Dragon from whom she had retrieved the blood had been honored to assist, since Bellavalia had saved Ferelden and her offspring.  The female had been grateful when Morrigan had explained the situation to her.  The Dragon also knew Bellavalia was the one who had killed her arch rival at the urn of sacred ashes and assuring her eggs would hatch and with the destruction of the darkspawn sending them back to the hell that spawned them. The mighty female had been honored to help such a hero, restore said hero to health and because said hero was carrying the heirs to the Theirin Bloodline, whose blood held magic properties to help save dragons if the need arose. The majestic female had been honored to be asked to help such a person.

Morrigan wiped the sweat off of Bellavalia’s brow once more. She knew she had to hurry before Wynne came to cheek.  Pulling the cork out of the phylactery she raised Bellavalia up and gently pried her mouth open and drizzled the potent liquid down her friend’s throat.  A strong hand grabbed Morrigan’s arm holding it at bay.  Both women with deep dark eyes eyeballed each other.

“Tis I.  You need this my friend, or you will die and your children with you, is this what you want?”

Bellavalia shivered.

“Why?” I croaked, my voice so weak.

“One day I’ll be able to tell you, now is not the time.  One day you will understand, please let me help you.  If you don’t, the fever along with the taint will kill you, is this what you want?”

“What price will I pay this time for your help?” Bellavalia croaked out.

Morrigan didn’t blame her friend for her thoughts or feelings knowing she was the cause of them.

“Nothing, I promise you.  My friend you will die if you don’t drink this.  The blood and the taint in your blood tell you so. Is this what you want?  Do you think he deserves this, your children?”

“He whom?”

“You know very well whom I mean.  Also, I don’t wish for my child to be alone in this world.”

Bellavalia let go of Morrigan’s arm.

“Why should I believe you Morrigan? You lied to me before.”

“I didn’t lie to you.”  Morrigan said.

“Yet you won’t tell me the truth.” I said  Eyeing her.

“You don’t know the full truth do you?” I asked her.

“When I have the full answers then you’ll have the full answers.  I swear it.”  Morrigan said. “Bellavalia, please drink the rest of the blood.  It’s the only thing that will save you.”

“Fine.” Morrigan helped me sit up and I drank the remainder of the blood.  Tangy, and sweet at the same time.  Coolness settled in my belly, then an explosion of warmth. No pain. A huge difference and experience from the cup of blood I was forced to drink which made me a Warden. There were still days that I felt the echo of that pain from the silver chalice required for my joining ceremony.

“My children?”

“They will be fine, I promise you, this blood will strengthen them.”

“If not, I will hunt you down and kill you Morrigan, if I survive this.”

“There is one more thing?”

I raised my eyebrows at her.

“There is pain coming.” She said.

Before I could question her, the pain hit my lower leg and the pain nearly blinded me it was so great.  I gasped.

“Finally,” Morrigan grabbed my leg tearing the bandages off.  My leg was swollen, with red streaks running all the way up to my thigh.  I groaned as Morrigan felt along my leg. Right where the break in my leg occurred.  She took a knife from her belt and sliced my leg open.  She said an incantation and the healing magic that I had seen Urthemiel use on me in the fade burst forth from her hands as she ran them up and down my leg.  She stopped and dug her knife into my leg.  When did Morrigan become a healing mage? Or was this her child…Urthemiel?

“Yes, I think my child has found the problem.”

I felt her hands inside my leg as she worked.  I was gritting my teeth as the nausea and pain rolled through me.  I felt her lift a muscle inside my leg.  She finally pulled out a broken piece of arrow out of my leg from a darkspawn bow.  My relief was instantaneous. I collapsed back on my bed.

“Isn’t that dangerous for you to handle?” I asked her as I panted for breath.

“My child will protect me.” Morrigan confidently replied.

Before I could say another word she passed her hands over me casting a sleep spell and I drifted away.  It seemed I was sleeping my life away.

Morrigan cleaned the wound with elfroot and bandaged her friend’s leg back.

“Be well my friend, live well. I told you true, once my child is born and he is able to direct me, I’ll send you any information that I might find.”

“Guard your master well Thor, by morning she will be feeling more like herself.  Stay with her.” Morrigan spoke to the war dog petting him one last time before she flew out the window as a black raven into the night.

***

I woke before dawn made its glorious appearance across the sky.  I took a deep breath.  My leg still hurt but wasn’t as painful or as swollen.  My fever was gone, finally broken.  I had clarity which I hadn’t had since the battle for Denerim.  I’d been in a foggy haze since I woke up in Fort Drakon.  I never mentioned this to anyone.

Morrigan had left me a present on my nightstand.  The remains of the broken arrow-head from a darkspawn bow.  The metal work was similar to humans.  Crude in it’s making though it was.  I flicked the broken arrow-head in the air, closing my eyes I caught it in mid-air.  I smiled.  I could still do this.  This had taken me years to learn and was a valuable skill as a rogue.  As a rogue one had to catch things on the fly at times such as: knives flying through the air before it punctured an eyeball!

I vaguely remember the journey to Highever.  I’d been in and out.  Wynne would force an elfroot potion down my throat and weave a sleep spell and I’d be out again.  I…I was in my room at Highever.  Little had changed within my room.  I was stunned actually.  Thor nudged my hand.  I patted my bed and my mighty war hound jumped on my bed and laid his gigantic head in my lap.  His tail going a mile a minute.

“I see your one happy camper this morning.  I’ll bet Morrigan gave you more elfroot to eat.  How that stuff doesn’t make you sick is beyond me and you saw your friend and got a scratch on the ears too.”

Thor raised his head and barked at me.  Letting me know I was correct. I laughed and rubbed his head. Thor sighed with pleasure.

“Well whatever Morrigan gave me it worked, I feel great.” Thor wagged his tail in response.

“Well, do you think I should chance it and get up?” I asked my faithful war hound his opinion.

Thor jumped on me knocking me flat, giving my face a wash. I giggled.  “Enough, Thor, enough now.” I was trying my best to shove him away and not being successful in my endeavors. I really didn’t mine though.

My bedroom door opened and it was one of the Wardens I’d never meet before.  Our eyes meet.

“Commander, I see you’re feeling better this morning.  I’ll get your healer and be right back.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’m fine.”

“Forgive me commander, I was told to get her if there was a change.”

“Alright.  I’m not going anywhere.”

“I should hope not,” he said.  Shutting my door and doing his duty.

“Looks like I’m held prisoner once again.  At least I’m out of Denerim.”  Thor growled his displeasure.  “You really don’t like Alistair do you.”  Thor growled again.  “I see you have the same opinion as everyone else.  “Everything will work out, I’m sure.”

I continued to rub Thor all over, he was shimming and wiggling all over my bed.  Looking around I didn’t see one thing in my bedroom that had been changed.  Thor finally settled down and laid his head over my tummy, he sighed as he nuzzled my belly.  Keeping my babies safe.  He was on duty even if he pretended otherwise.

My door flew open and my room filled up rather quickly.  My brother and my companions. Shale being too big to get through the door, so she took up residence on the outside. “I see it is awake.”

“Yes, I am, Shale and I feel just fine.”

“I can’t believe it.  You’re up and glowing with health.   Did the Wardens give you something?” Asked my brother as he came and sat down on my bed.  He had tears in his eyes and looked like he hadn’t slept in days.

“I’m fine Fergus, honestly.”

My brother grabbed me and hugged me to him.  Squeezing the stuffing out of me.  “How are you, you look tired.  Sorry I haven’t been up helping you, like I planned.” I said.

He squeezed me one last time then let go of me. “I’m going to be just fine now that I know you’re going to make it.”

I heard collective sighs.  I looked over at my companions.  All of them had relief on their faces.  I glanced at Wynne.

“I suppose this means you have to check me.”

“Yes, I’d feel better knowing how this all came about.”  Wynne gave me an odd look.

I returned her steady gaze.  Wynne had her suspicions I’m sure.  I couldn’t tell her or anyone else.  The other Wardens would just think it was my healing abilities.  How very wrong they will be.  Yet, I still couldn’t correct them.  Why did you do it Morrigan I wondered?

“Mi Bella you are like yourself once again.  I’m so very happy you are restored.”  Said Zevran.

I placed my hand over my heart.  “I can’t believe all of you are here, with my brother and I. I…I don’t know what to say.  Expect I’m very grateful.”

All of my companions just smiled at me.  Leliana came forward, “Where else would we be except by your side.  You’ve made sacrifices for all of us, and we’re not the only ones.  Your army is here as well.  Those that could come.”

“All of them?” I asked with disbelief in my voice.

Leliana smiled at me.  “Yes, very nearly your entire army, they wanted to see their hero home safe and your home restored to you and your brother.  They all took up arms and helped us fight our way inside this magnificent ancestral home.”

I imagine you’re having a wonderful time hearing all about the legends of Highever and how it used to be the home of ‘Flemeth.’  How her legend originally started here.”

“Yes to be sure, I’m already working on a few new ballads from the tales I’ve been told.”

“I can’t wait to hear them Leliana.”  She smiled me.

“Thank you all.  I feel so blessed that all of you are here.”

“Doesn’t His Majesty need you and Zevran.” I asked her.

“You are our first assignment, making sure you got home, and to help your brother retake Highever.  We’ll be returning to Denerim once we know you’re going to be alright. We’ll stay for however long you need us.”

“If all of you don’t mind, my sister and I have some things to discuss.”  Fergus said to everyone.

All of my companions bowed to him, they smiled and said their goodbyes to us.  “Wynne do you mind waiting outside for a short time.”

“Not at all Your Grace, I’ll just wait outside.”  Wynne closed my bedroom door behind her softly.

I looked at my brother.  He looked at me.  I could tell he was exhausted.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what Tink?” He said.

“I…I meant to be in on the battle to retake our home.”

Fergus laughed, “I think you’ve done enough as it is, and you deserved the rest.”

Fergus spied the darkspawn broken arrow point that had been in my leg.  “What’s this?” He started to grab the arrow-head.  I grabbed his arm stopping him.

“Fergus don’t touch it. It’s from a darkspawn bow, you can get the darkspawn sickness from it.”

“Will it really kill me if I touch it.”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.  Please don’t, I couldn’t bear it, I really couldn’t. There is no cure brother.”

Fergus, nodded.  “I’ve heard the legends and rumors the same as you, all of our lives, so it’s true.”

“Yes, it’s all true.”

“Yet, as a Warden your immune and is this why you’re fully restored to health.”

“Yes, I told you I was going to be fine.”

“I was so scared Tink; I thought I was going to lose you too. How are you immune?”

I looked away from him.  “Brother, there are some things I’ll never be able to tell you and this is one of them.”

“Fergus, I’m going to be fine, you’ll see, I promise you.”

He just nodded.

I took his hand in my own and squeezed his for reassurance.  “Fergus, are you alright? This is so much harder on you right now than me.  You weren’t here that night.  Did you find them and how is the castle, is it badly damaged?”

“Yes…I found all of them.  We are going to have their funerals today, will you be able to get down the stairs, I’ll see you carried down if you’re up to it.”

“Yes, I want to be there. Shale or Sten can carry me. You still didn’t answer my question brother.”

Fergus closed his eyes and I could see the pain.  I was unsure how I could help him.  I’d never really had the time to mourn except for that short time with Duncan on the road as we fled Highever that night.  I was too busy fighting for my life on the road to Ostagar trying to get to Cailan and what it would really mean on becoming a Grey Warden. I’d at least had Alistair when it got bad for me.  Fergus was only going to have me for a short-time.  Not the full six months like he thought he would.  I hated this, but I had no other choice.

“I don’t think you and I will ever be over this.”

“No, I don’t think we will either.  I do know we’ll both do our best, like mother and father taught us.  We’ll give our all, sometimes we’ll both make mistakes being responsible for this many people.  I’m just as scared as you are Fergus.”

Normally, my brother would have offered a wisecrack and when he didn’t I knew deep in my heart he was suffering. I knew being here where all our loved ones deaths occurred weighed heavy on him.  He’d lost his wife and child along with our parents.

“Fergus, there aren’t any words that will make the pain any easier to bare, only time will lessen it.  I think it is going to be worse for you than me in so many ways.  Because you’ll be here and I won’t.”

“You do plan on coming home from time to time won’t you?”

“Yes, of course I will, but it won’t ever be the way it was supposed to be.”

He rubbed his thumb back and forth over my scarred hand.  “You know I’m so very proud of you; but, I’m going to miss you so very much.”

“I’ll miss you too.  Very much.”  Both of us hugged each other.  When we separated, Fergus looked at me.  You look so much better, is this the healing of a Warden you were telling me about.  I nodded yes, “it is,” I said.  “Do you think you’ll feel up to the funeral this evening for everyone, do you feel like you can make it downstairs?”   “If not, then Sten or Shale can carry me, of course I’ll be there.”

“I don’t think I could do this without you Tink.”

“We’ll do this together brother.”

He nodded, “alright then; I still have arrangements to make and I’m sure your friends will like a visit.”

So it was the remainder of the day.  I spent the time with my friends and they told me stories about our travel up north that I had missed.  Wynne of course examined me once again and was completely bamboozled to discover that my leg was weak and other than this I was fully healed. Leliana and Wynne helped me dress when it was time.  Shale carried me downstairs to cheers from everyone.  She even carried me out and up the steep hill where our parents and Fergus’ wife and child would be cremated.  Since Mother Malloy was also gone Highever didn’t have a reverend mother any longer.  Leliana did the honors.

I motioned for Shale to let me down and she did.  Fergus lit the fires to burn our family members.  Highever Knights lit the other fires to the remaining pyres to burn our faithful servants and knights who had defended Highever that night, which was so numerous, fires burned as far as the eyes could see. I knew Cory’s body was among them.  If it hadn’t been for his sacrifice I’d be burning right along with the rest of my family.  My tears fell down my face, Thor nuzzled my hand and whined. Fergus came to stand at my side and he took me into his arms.  The Highever pipes played their mournful tunes and all those who loved the former Teyrn and his lady were present.  The fire was beautiful against the cold chilly clear night sky as we watched our love ones souls be released from this mortal coil to join with the Maker into eternity.  Their bones will be buried before the sun rose the next morning; Fergus would bury our parents, Oriana and Oren which was custom for the son to do.  All I could do was be a comfort to my brother and stroke Thor’s head and remember my family and how very blessed I was to have them in my life.

 

 

 

Posted in Dragon Age Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , , ,

A Dance With The Devil

I stood inside my bedroom. Finally dressed in the first gown I’d been in since living in Orlais.  Molly helped me secure my mother’s jewelry as I sat down in front of my mirror. Sapphires and diamonds shimmering off of my throat encased in sterling silver. More glittering off of my fingers and wrists.  I still had my sash to put on with the brooch, which Molly was reaching for.  She slipped this over my shoulders, pinning the massive Highever Brooch at my right shoulder. Pride and love for me reflected in her eyes.

My face done up with make-up for the first time since I’d been back in Ferelden.  Not since my days in Orlais had I been so made up.  The mask of the Teyrna’s daughter was in place. She had come out to play for one last hurrah.

Molly had one last piece.  The emblem of my station as the highest in the land beneath the King.  My mother’s tiara as the Teyrna of Highever, this would be my first, last and only time wearing these pieces.  One day Fergus’ wife would wear them. Molly sat the tiara on top of my head securing it with pins in my hair. I wished my mother was here wearing them instead.

Molly placed her hands on my shoulders and squeezed.  “We’re all so proud of you my lady.”

“Thank you, Molly.”

“You’ll tell me all about the fancy doings tomorrow like you promised?”

“For you Molly anything.”

“Are you ready lass, you’ve only your cape.”

“I guess it’s now or never Molly.”

“That’s the spunk my girl.  Do us proud now.”

“I will Molly.”

There was a knock on my door.  “Come in,” I said.  To my surprise, it was our butler.

“Apologies, My Lady, this just came for you.  I took the liberty of unwrapping it and getting it pressed for you.”

In his hands was the sash for the Teyrna of Gwaren and Gwaren Brooch.

“His Majesty has requested that you wear these.  Your own knights are also here to escort you.”

My mouth fell open.

“My goodness,” said Molly.

“You mean from Gwaren?”

“Yes, My Lady. Under the Command of Sir Richard, and your knights from Amaranthine under the command of your new Seneschal Sir Varel.”

“Thank you,” I said.  Molly took the sash and brooch from our butler’s hands, he turned and left my room.

“Come My Lady, I’ll get this on you.”

I nodded. Fury in my eyes.

“What vexes you so about this child, tell me the truth,” Molly asked me.

“The truth, because Anora isn’t dead yet.”

“Ahh, but she soon will be for her treason, what she did was evil lassie, she hangs on the gallows tomorrow. Take comfort in that alone.”

I nodded my head.

“Molly, make sure you lay out my armor, I have work to do this night.”

Molly sighed, lass can’t you forgo it, just for one night.”

“No, Molly, I can’t.  See to it that Sten, Wynne, and Zevran’s equipment is ready for them as well.  They will be going with me.”

“Lass what are you up too?”

“I have an appointment this night.”

“With whom?”  I raised my eyebrows at her.

“Anora.”

Molly turned shrewd eyes on me.

“Aye, well then, I’d say you have a few things to say to her.”

“Indeed,” I said.

“Well Lass, you better get going.”

“Yes, I suppose so.” I stood up and Molly draped my dark blue cap with the Warden’s Griffon on the back, about my shoulders and tied it in place.  I took a deep breath and left my room.

I walked to the grand staircase going down.  I could hear hundreds of people downstairs.  I came to the landing, stopping, my hand on the stone balustrade.  The noise going quiet as all stopped their talking to watch me descend. Everyone turned and bowed to me, except Fergus of course. I held my head high and continued down. Fergus meet me at the bottom of the stairs, offering his arm to me, which I took. All of the knights in the room came to attention.

“Ah, here is my lovely sister, been awhile since I’ve seen you in a dress, to bad mother isn’t here to see. You look beautiful Tink.”

“Thank you Fergus, you look extremely handsome.  I love the dress armor of Highever. I think our armor is the most beautiful in all the land.”

Fergus laughed. “Well, we certainly can’t hide from any enemy this night, they’d see us coming for miles.”

“They would indeed.”  I laughed.

Fergus shook his head, come on, let’s get this night over with, the sooner the better, we’re already late and I’m ready to get drunk.”

I smiled.  “Yes, fashionable late.”

“You did this on purpose didn’t you?” Fergus queried.

“Big brother, I have no idea what you mean.”

Fergus chuckled.  “Uh huh. You’re a naughty minx sis.  Ready?”

I nodded.

Fergus looked so handsome in his Highever Silverite Blue Dress Armour, Father’s sword strapped to his side, his signet ring on his hand, sash and brooch in place and his cape. Our Highever ceremonial and honor shield on his back. Only the best of the best of Highever wore this shield. His dark brown hair freshly washed and brushed. The ladies would swoon over him.  Wouldn’t do them any good, I doubted very much if Fergus would remarry anytime soon.  Fergus would be charming and courtly and that would be all.  No lady of the realm had a prayer until he properly grieved for Oriana and Oren, it would hit him when we went home.

My close friends beamed at me in awe.  They’d never seen me dressed this way before.  I felt Thor nudge my hand and I stroked his head.  I bent down. “You stay right beside me tonight.”  I whispered to him. He licked my hand, giving me reassurance.  Thor also dressed up with his Kaddis of the Mountain Father painted on his fur.

Fergus led me out to the courtyard and my carriage door was already opened by a Highever groom waiting in attendance. The Orlesian Grey Wardens were on horseback in the front of my carriage.  All of them trained as Chevaliers before becoming Grey Wardens. My banners and pennants snapping in the cool evening breeze before them, carried by foot soldiers. Along with Highever, Amaranthine, and Gwaren banners. Announcing to all whom was in the carriage. The Highever Crest in brass on my carriage door all shined up. Knights from Highever, Gwaren, and even Amaranthine, all in attendance, would follow behind my carriage on horses. A second carriage was behind mine for my companions. Sten, Shale, and Thor would walk alongside my own.  Zevran, Oghren, Wynne, and Leliana in the second.

Fergus lifted me up into the carriage that had once took my parents, and I arranged my skirts and cape around me.  I took a deep breath and sat down.  Fergus nodded to me, closing and locking my carriage door. Which he alone would open when we got to the palace. I wasn’t to get out of my carriage per protocol until he came to get me.  I rolled my eyes at the thought. Let some groom run his hand up my skirts and he’d no longer have a hand when he withdrew it.  I smirked at the thought.

I listened as horses stamped their feet to get under way, their brass harness jingling, and Fergus issuing orders.  He’d ride on horseback in front of us all.  I knew the streets were going to be lined with people coming to see all the fanfare and the Denerim guards would pave the way for us.

Come on Fergus get on with it. I heard the trumpets blare as the portcullis was opened. Which was actually a sound to tell people to get the hell out of the way or get their asses trampled. Finally I thought and soon we were on our way.  The crowds already cheering us along.  I hated riding in a carriage.  I’d rather be on a bloody horse, dressed in leathers of Highever.

Alistair had already accepted numerous oaths already, and another nobleman was kneeling at his feet. He didn’t even recall who the hell it was.  Where in the hell is she he thought? Eamon was having a heck of a time delaying.  The Landsmeet Hall crammed full of people. Alistair really didn’t give a shit about all of these idiots.  He took the nobleman’s hands into his own and accepted yet another meaningless oath.  As if he believed half of these people. What a farce this all was.  There was only one oath he wanted and desired, the only one that really mattered from the only person he could truly trust besides Eamon.

A page came to give Arl Eamon a message.  Eamon nodded to him ever so slightly.  She’s here. Alistair had been afraid she’d run.  He’d see her for the first time dressed in a gown. He couldn’t wait. Poker face, old man, just like Eamon had taught me. The trumpets blared. Alistair stood watching patiently, as the doors at the other end of the Landsmeet Hall were opened. His majordomo pounded his staff of office into the flagstones.  The Landsmeet Hall went silent as they all waited for the announcement.

“Your Majesty, his voice rang out.  Lords and Ladies of the Realm.  Honored guests, may I present His Grace, Fergus Cousland, Teyrn of Highever.  The true born son of the former Teyrn of Highever Bryce Cousland and His Lady Ella Nora Cousland.”

Fergus started his long walk down the aisle.  As he passed, the other nobles bowed to him. His spurs striking the flagstones with each step. Fergus held his head up high.  When he came to the dais he bowed to Alistair. Then he removed his Sword of Highever and gave it too the guard who walked it up the dais, handing it to Arl Eamon. Then Fergus walked up the steps and went down on his knees before His King.  Alistair extended his hands which Fergus took in his own. Fergus looking up into Alistair’s eyes.

Arl Eamon stepped forward with Fergus’ sword laid in his hands. Ready for Alistair when needed. Arl Eamon spoke the traditions.

“My Lord, do you come willing to give your Oaths of Fealty to His Majesty King Alistair of the Royal Theirin Bloodline of Ferelden, the true born son of His Majesty King Maric and do you acknowledge Him as such?”

Fergus answered.  “Yes, I do so swear on my Honor as a Knight of the Realm, before Our Maker and Creator, and to His Bride our Lady Andraste, and to His Majesty, my true King, that my oaths are freely given of my own accord.”

“My Lord, will you aid His Majesty in upholding the Laws of the Kingdom of Ferelden and will you train His Majesty’s troops to exhibit honor and integrity toward His people on behalf of His Majesty as you and they execute your duties?”

“Yes, answered Fergus, I do so swear.”

“My Lord, do you faithful pledge to serve His Majesty to the best of your ability on behalf of Ferelden and her people, and will you swear to give up your life in His Majesty’s stead?”

“Yes, On My Honor as a Son of the Noble House Of Highever; I do so swear to protect and honor his Majesty’s life with mine, for the good people of Ferelden so that their true King may live.”

“My Lord, do you pledge your life to the good people of Highever as your ancestor’s before you, protecting them always on His Majesty’s behalf?”

“Yes, I do so swear to His Majesty and to the people of Highever in our Lady of Andraste’s name.”

“My Lord, will you accept His Majesties discipline to prove your words ring true this night?”

Alistair looked into Fergus’ eyes.  This is the moment of truth.

“Yes, I will, gladly,” said Fergus.

Alistair nodded to Fergus. Alistair released Fergus’ hands.  Fergus didn’t even flinch when Alistair raised his hand striking Fergus on the cheek with a resounding slap that echoed through the hall.

A murmur of approval sounded through the hall from all present. Later they would all compare who had the most bruised cheek!

Alistair reached for Fergus’ sword.

Alistair spoke. “Fergus Cousland, You are hereby bestowed the Title of your Late Father officially, and will be forevermore known as the Teyrn of Highever, Commander of my Northern Troops. Alistair tapped Fergus on the shoulders with the Sword of Highever. Arise your Grace and take your Father’s sword from mine own hand.”

Fergus did as he was instructed and strapped his sword to his side.  He bowed to Alistair once more then walked back down the dais to await his sister.

A lady in waiting had already taken my cape and helped me smooth out my gown.  This was it. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves.

Alistair took a deep breath.  The last one, the most important one.

The trumpets blared again.  His majordomo stamped his staff on the flagstones once more as the doors opened and Alistair saw her.  His breath stopped…awestruck. His eyes on the most beautiful woman of his realm.  The piper of Highever started to play and she stood there for all to see.  She was a vision dressed in white, dark blue, and silver, the colors of Highever and ironically the Grey Wardens also. When the piper finished the Anthem of Highever, the majordomo announced her.

“Your Majesty, Lords and Ladies of the Realm, Honored Guests.  It is with great pleasure and honor that I present to you: “The Hero of Ferelden, Warden Commander of the Ferelden Grey Wardens, Her Grace Teyrna of Highever and Gwaren, Her Grace The Arlessa of Amaranthine.  Bellavalia Ella Nora Cousland, the daughter to the late Teyrn of Highever Bryce Cousland and His Lady Ella Nora Cousland.  Sister to His Grace, Teyrn of Highever.”

Every noble bowed before I even moved, going down on their knee, everyone of them. I walked to Alistair with my head held high.  Thor at my side.  Not one person raised to their feet as I passed them.  Well this was different I thought.  I looked neither right nor left acknowledging anyone except my King before me.  After the long walk I came to the dais and Fergus stepped to my side and took my hand in his.  I bowed down low.  Fergus helped me up and escorted me up the steps.  A page stepped forward and laid down a purple pillow, I quirked my eyebrow. Alistair smiled at me.  Fergus helped me down on my knees before Alistair.  Well, well, I was the only one who got a purple pillow to kneel on.

Alistair offered me his hands, and I took them in my own. I looked up at him and he down at me a reverent smile on his face.  You’re giving too much away I thought.

“Lords and Ladies of the Realm, Honored Guests, please rise.” Arl Eamon spoke.

I watched as Alistair’s expression changed to one of seriousness.

My mouth twitched.  Alistair had done this on purpose, the sneak, so him and I could have this one – last moment privately.  Since I didn’t carry a sword, a page stepped forward and placed Starfang in Arl Eamon’s hands.  The Arl stepped forward and spoke.

“My Lady, do you come willing to give your Oaths of Fealty to His Majesty King Alistair of the Royal Theirin Bloodline of Ferelden, as the true born son to His Majesty King Maric and do you acknowledge Him as such?”

“Yes, I do so swear, upon my Honor as a Knight of the Realm, and before our Maker and Creator, and His Bride our Lady Andraste, and to His Majesty, my true King, that my oaths are freely given of my own accord.”

“My Lady, do you faithful swear on behalf of the First Warden of the Anderfels in His steed, that you will execute your duty to His Majesty and to the Order of the Grey Wardens with honor and integrity, assisting His Majesty on behalf of the Ferelden Kingdom against the threat of darkspawn unto your own life on their behalf.  Will you accept His Majesties appointment as the Warden Commander of Ferelden?”

“Yes, I do so swear unto my last drop of blood for My King and My Order and the people of Ferelden whom I will serve faithful and gladly.”

“My Lady, will you aid His Majesty in upholding the Laws of the Kingdom of Ferelden, and will you train His Majesty’s troops to exhibit honor and integrity toward His people on His Majesty’s behalf, as you and they execute your duties?”

“Yes, I do so swear.”

“My Lady, do you faithful pledge to serve His Majesty to the best of your ability on behalf of the people of Ferelden, and will you swear to give up your life in His stead for their sake?”

Alistair hands tightened in mine as tears came into my eyes and I started to shake. He was looking into my eyes deeply and I him.

“Yes, on my Honor as a daughter of the Noble House of Highever and as a sworn blooded sister to His Majesty by our Order of the Grey Wardens, I do so swear to protect and honor His Majesty’s life with mine, for the good people of Ferelden so that their King my live.”

“My Lady, do you pledge your life to the good peoples of Highever, Gwaren, and Amaranthine protecting them always on his Majesty’s behalf?”

I didn’t answer and there was gasps throughout the hall.  Alistair raised his eyebrows at me imploring me to answer. He tighten his hands further over mine.

Arl Eamon asked me again after a few minutes passed and I didn’t answer.  I had the insane urge to vomit at this very moment.

“My Lady, do you pledge your life to the best of your abilities to the good peoples of Highever, Gwaren, and Amaranthine protecting them always on His Majesty’s behalf?”

The time had come and I had to answer yes, knowing it for the lie it would be. Because I knew once my duty to the Wardens was done and over in Amaranthine, I would leave Ferelden forsaking my duty, I had no choice. I was going to lie to the whole realm and not just Alistair when I answered. I could be beheaded for my answer if the truth came out, for it constituted more than one treasonous act. I swallowed hard, then I answered. Father, please forgive me.

“Yes, I do so swear to His Majesty, and the good peoples of Highever, Gwaren and Amaranthine to give my life for theirs.”

Alistair’s shoulders and hands relaxed with relief.

“My Lady, since His Majesty doesn’t believe in striking the ladies of His Realm, will you prove your words by kissing your own sword Starfang, while you kneel before Him?”

“I will.”

Releasing my hands, Alistair took my sword from Eamon.  His grip true.  He’d welded it himself a time or two and pointed the end down to me.  I placed my open palm under the underside of my very sharp sword and brought it to my lips and kissed it. I returned my hands to my lap.

Alistair spoke as he looked down at me. “Your Grace, forevermore you shall be known as the “Hero of Ferelden,” saving My People, My Realm, and Me personally from the visages of the Blight. Which you swore to do by giving your oath to my brother King Cailan on the battlefield of Ostagar before His death assuring my brother that you’d keep me safe and deliver me unto his throne and to my Father King Maric for your service to His Realm in Orlais as His personal spymaster and too my Brother King Cailan as His personal spymaster and his private personal guard.”

There were gasps throughout the Hall.  Now, the whole realm knew the truth, I had been in service in secret to King Maric and King Cailan while in Orlais. I knew why Alistair had done this.  As a warning to those in Gwaren and Amaranthine, the real reason my family had been murdered.  The Couslands of Highever were not traitors as Loghain and Howe proclaimed my parents to be. My father had agreed and had given his permission for my private training and personal appointments to both Kings.

My eyes shot to Alistair’s, he knew, how much did he know? Alistair continued.

“You will be known as the Teyrna of Highever until your Brother, the Teyrn of Highever remarries, and as Her Grace forevermore as the Teyrna of Gwaren and Arlessa of Amaranthine on behalf of the Grey Wardens.”  Alistair tapped each of my shoulders with my own sword. “Arise your Grace and take your own sword which you used to kill the Archdemon with from mine own hand.”

I stood with Fergus’ help, and took my sword from Alistair’s hand holding it by the grip and raised it between us and I kissed it again.  The hall went wild with cheers.  Alistair smiled at me like an idiot. A page came forward and I gave my sword up.  I bowed to Alistair again.  Taking Fergus’ arm he escorted me down the dais.  Thor came and sat down beside me and Fergus.

When it was quiet Alistair spoke again. “My friends, now that official business has been concluded.  I welcome you to the dining hall to lift a glass in celebration, listen to wonderful music, and enjoy the good hearty food of Ferelden.  Please come, enjoy yourselves.”

All of us bowed to Him.  Alistair and Arl Eamon left the hall with the honored guests following behind them.

We went across to the massive dining hall and it was lovely on the inside.  Andraste’s Grace,roses, ferns, and garlands were hung and draped. Banners of King, Grey Wardens, and Ferelden Nobility on display throughout the hall. Banners of the honored guests. Candles everywhere, above in chandeliers and a roaring fire behind the King’s table which snapped, and crackled as the logs burned in the massive fireplace. The tables all laid with food grown in Ferelden.  Unlike Orlais, our tables were already set with the food on it. We didn’t parade our food in to be presented.  Thank goodness, nothing like watching your food take a trip around the room while your tummy rumbled.

Alistair, Her Reverence, Arl Eamon, Bann Teagan, Lady Isolde, and Connor would eat on the raised dais of the King’s table being His family. Alistair would sit directly in the middle with Arl Eamon on his right side and Bann Teagan of Rainesfere on his other with Conner and Her Reverence next to Lady Isolde who was next to her husband. Fergus and I would be seated at the first table, and all of my war party with us. Alistair had wanted us seated at his table and I had objected.  It wasn’t proper.  Honored Guests such as King Behlen, Lady Lanaya, and those from other countries in the row of tables across from us.

From there in order of rank the nobility filed in.  Alistair and those at his table stood until the hundreds of people came inside the dining hall.  All of them going to their assigned tables.  There were hams, beef roasts, poultry, lamb, whole fish, shrimp, cheeses, bread, vegetables aplenty. Goblets for wine which would be served by pages. Hearty ale if a person wanted it.

For dessert we’d be served cake, sweetmeats, fruits, and nuts.  Plain honest wholesome fair.  By tradition the tables along with the King’s were set with just wood plates and eating daggers and wooden spoons. Plain goblets and tankards. Reminding Ferelden’s of our ancestors and our hardships.  Orlais had picked Ferelden clean for over eighty years. I knew people from other countries found this odd.

Once everyone had filed in.  Alistair asked her Reverence to bless our meal and she did.

“Please be seated everyone and enjoy your meal.” Alistair instructed. Even in Ferelden at this traditional meal, the King and Queen had to pass the dishes when asked.  It was meant to show their humbleness.

I opted for slices of beef, a few shrimp, cheeses, bread, roasted potatoes, peas, and carrots. Wine to wash it all down. Shale stood behind me and Fergus. She was getting worrisome looks from others. I sneaked Thor bits of food. Alistair was watching and he smirked at me.  As if I’d allow my dog to go hungry.  Fergus rolled his eyes at me.  I filled my plate a second time going with the ham and pork the second time around. I was starving. Fergus shook his head amazed at my appetite.  I shrugged my shoulders and continued to eat.

Everyone was to hungry to talk much, yet there was low murmured conservation and joyous laughter and ribbing for the most part. The other Grey Wardens were sitting with the ambassadors of Empress Celene’s representatives. All of them keeping an eye on me. And I knew why, given Alistair’s announcement on my activities. Which was like painting a big bull’s eye on my back.  Lovely! Celene had known for years who and what I was. Celene had a few secrets of her own that I was privy too!

I noticed Wynne keeping an eye on Connor. She and I looked at each other and laughed.  If only her Reverence knew!

Dessert was finally served.  White cake, with white frosting. I also opted for a few nuts and sugared grapes with more wine.  I looked down the table to see the expression on Sten’s face…because their was finally cake! Sten was in nirvana, his pleasure plain on his face over the cake. Dinner was finally over, the many servants begin to clear the massive hall. They’d work all night cleaning the place to get it ready for the large breakfast that would be the first for the King in his new home.

The ballroom doors had been opened to the cool night air.  Thank goodness, it was stuffy with so many bodies. This enormous room also, decorated with flowers and candles, and more banners. Various chairs and benches for seating for the ladies.  Most of the men would stand.

I went to the loo, with Wynne and Leliana.  Upon my return the musicians in the balcony above were waiting.  Alistair came toward me as everyone watched.

“My Lady, will you do me the honor of this dance.”

Taking his hand I bowed to him.

“Yes Your Majesty, I’d be honored.”

Alistair led me out in the center of the room, then we both bowed to each other, he took me in his arms, the music started with his first step. Leading me in a Waltz as the music played and the people watched as their King danced His first dance.

“Bellavalia, you look beautiful, you took my breath away when the doors opened.”

“Thank you, your crown is well designed and really suits you.”

“I could do without it.”  I giggled at his comment.

He twirled me around the dance floor.

We just smiled each other.

“I think you lied Your Majesty.”

“Oh,” he smirked. “Remember it’s a talent of mine.”  How true that was.

“I thought it was to just look stupid.”

He laughed, “that too,” he snickered.

“You dance very well for a beginner.”

“Well now, dancing was taught at the Chantry as part of our courtly manners you accused them of teaching me.”

“They did very well teaching you.  Who knew the sisters could kick up their heels so.”

“Well, I learned dancing with other Templars.”

“My eyes widen in shock and I laughed.”

“You jest.”

Alistair laughed, “no I’m not.”

“Ewww,” I said.

“Not my favorite activity I assure you.”

“I imagine not.”

“I’m slightly disappointed,” I said.

“Disappointed… how,” he asked Fury etching his face for a second.

“Well you’re not in a dress, and dancing the remigold.”

Alistair shook with laughter.  “We’ll save that for next time.”

“Alistair is so relaxed with her and he only really laughs with her,” Isolde commented to her husband.

“Yes,” said Eamon.

“She’ll become our next queen I’m assuming.”

Eamon discreetly shook his head.

“Husband, why not?” Isolde whispered.

“I’ll explain later my dear when we’re alone.”

“Think he’ll change his mind after tonight?” asked Zevran as their small group watched Alistair and Bellavalia dance.

“I hope so Zev, they were made for each other.” Leliana replied.

The waltz ended and Alistair kissed Bella’s hand and escorted her back to Fergus.

As the night went on, Alistair danced with the ladies of the His realm.  Laughing and putting all of them at ease.  After our dance, he immediately danced with Wynne on the dance floor, then Leliana, then Lady Isolde. He even took her Reverence around for a loop and the old lady seemed thoroughly flustered. Given her and Alistair had been at loggerheads for most of his life at the Chantry.

I danced with my brother, and all of the males in my war party. I refused to dance with anyone else.  I was very surprised with Sten and Oghren, they swung me around the dance floor like they’d been born to it. I was pleasantly surprised. Shocked even.

“Didn’t think I could do it did you lass,” Oghren laughed

“Oghren, you’re full of surprises.  Just don’t try to pinch my bottom while others are looking.

“Ah now lass, did you have to spoil my fun.”

“Oghren! Were you planning on doing that?”

“Hell yes,”

I shook with laughter. “It’s good to hear you laugh Commander.”

“It’s good to laugh Oghren.”

I spoke with several nobles, drinking and chatting in small groups.  I spoke with King Behlen and of course Lady Lanaya.

I discreetly nodded to Zevran and he went to retrieve Starfang for me.  Sten, Zevran, Wynne, Thor, and I slipped out.  Alistair and Eamon were too busy to notice my departure. My brother had watched and nodded to me.  He knew exactly where I was going and why. The grooms were shocked.  I called for my carriage and we hightailed it out before I was stopped once again.  I gave the other Grey Wardens the slip. We got to Cousland Court and changed. We stole out into the night heading to Arl Eamon’s estate.

With a few minor fights in the back alleys we finally made our way to the back of Arl Eamon’s Denerim estate.  Which was located just off the Market District.  The whole of the city was celebrating the crowning of their new king. My hood up over my head so nobody would recognize me.  Master Dolan was waiting for us with the keys to the dungeon.  I nodded to him. Anora had parceled off his land to a Bann she wanted to reward.  I knew Dolan hated Anora’s guts.  His family had owned that small parcel in the Bannorn for generations.  The Orlesian occupation had sent Dolan into the path of Arl Eamon’s family and he’d been with them for decades, which was good since the poor man had nowhere else to go once Anora sold his land out from under him.

“You know the way my lady?”

“I do indeed Master Dolan.”

“This has been along time coming my lady.”

“Indeed,” I answered him in a whisper. “You and I are in accord Master Dolan.”

I led my small party deeper into the bowels of Arl Eamon’s estate.  Dolan would be with us to a point then we’d be on our own.  My orders were to only knock out any guards who didn’t allow us passage and to tie them up.

“We’re here my lady.  Arl Eamon has given strict orders that nobody sees Anora without His Majesty’s permission.  The guards will try to detain you, my lady, please don’t harm them to badly.”

“I promise you I won’t Master Dolan, Zevran will let you know when we leave so you can check on the guards and untie them if need be and return the key to you for her cell.”

“Aye my lady.”  Master Dolan nodded to all of us and took his leave slinking back into the darkness of the hallways of the dungeon. Thus far we hadn’t been seen by too many castle personnel.

All of us continued on within the dark cold damp hallways.  Lights interspersed intermediately.  We went down more steps deeper into the bowels of the castle, passing massive storage rooms filled with barrels of supplies, and crates. Casks of wine and beer, sacks of grain and flour.  A few guards stopped us, Sten and Zevran made fast work of them.  Sten pommeling them then Zevran gagging and tying them up.  Thor getting his hits in by knocking two of them down. Giving Sten a grin as he did so. If I didn’t know better I thought for sure Sten and Thor were in a competition with each other.  Wynne and I looked at each other chuckled.

We finally came to the final stairway down and at the bottom we could clearly see the guards posted.  Eight of them, large burly men, clustered around the massive oaken door which had a few smaller doors to pass food and necessaries through.  I’d prefer to do this the easy way.  Hopefully, they would allow me to pass. The key to Anora’s cell firm in my pocket.  My companions would guard the entrance to the dungeon room.  I wanted complete privacy with Anora for our discussion.

I went down the final passage.  I didn’t guard my footsteps but stepped with purpose. They knew someone was coming.  They readied themselves.  Trained well they waited to see who approached them.

All eight of them bowed to me as if they had been expecting this very thing.

“Your Grace,” their Captain said.

I acknowledged them all with a nod.

“Forgive me, Your Grace, but I really can’t allow you entrance to the prisoner.  The only person to see Lady Anora this eve is Her Reverence to prepare her soul for tomorrow.”

“We can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way.  Who do you really think is the real power behind His Majesty’s Throne?” I spoke very softly, I really didn’t want to cause harm or injury to these men.

Glances between all eight of them.  They already knew what they would do in this instance. That moment was here and now.

“Aye my lady we know you are.  You saved the entire country.  All I ask Your Grace is your word you won’t kill her.”

“You have it. I want total privacy with her.  She ordered the execution of my entire family – I have a reason to be here.  Yet, I am a professional, my word is my duty and honor. I’m bound to my word.”

“Aye Your Grace, we’ve heard that about you. Very well. We’ll be at the top of stairs if you need us.”

“Thank you.” Each of them bowed to me on their way out.

“Do you want me to go in with you?” Wynne asked me.

I shook my head no.  “I want all of you upstairs to help the guards in case anybody comes down.  I’m not sure when watch change happens for Eamon’s garrison. This won’t take long I assure you.  Less than a half hour at the most.

“As you wish Bell.”

“Zevran you remember our signal?”

“Aye, I’ll alert you in case anybody comes.”

I nodded, my companions leaving to guard the guards in a manner of speaking.

I took a deep breath and gripped the key of Anora’s cell within my hand.  My fingers rubbing the warmed metal from my body.  This was going to be one ugly conservation.  I was going to have my say and much of it would be a lie.  My purpose…I had to be convincing so Anora would perform properly on the morrow and not hurtle words that would harm more people.  Christian included.  I closed my eyes thinking about him.  Oh Maker! I missed him so much my soul hurt. I’d done the right thing in the long run for both of us. I knew deep down in my heart this to be so, and the journey which started at that moment which led me to meeting Alistair.

I pulled the hood back over my head. I wanted the privilege of seeing her face when I revealed myself. Taking the heavy metal key I inserted it within the lock and twisted it with a hard yank.  The pins in the lock clanging as they tumbled and unlocked.  I pulled the heavy door open and went inside.  I closed and locked the door behind me encase Anora tried to fight me to escape.  I’d known for years that Anora had been trained by her father to defend herself if she needed too.  She didn’t have field experience or the strength of a Warden to help her.  I’d knock the shit out of her if she tried it, which I’d wanted to do for years.

Anora’s dungeon was one that many nobles were housed in.  I’d done a fair amount of time in this very room, having prisoners tortured on King Maric or Calian’s orders. At least they’d cleaned the blood stains off the walls and floors.

It was warm with a large hearth and a fire was blazing away merrily with extra wood on the hearth in a basket.  A small copper kettle to heat water for washing and for her to make tea.  Anora wasn’t allowed servants any longer.  Her comfort had been seen too.  There was a nice hearty wood bed with a feather stuffed mattress and pillows with heavy furs and quilts. Thick furs on the floor to guard her feet against the cold. Warm bread, soup, cheese, grapes for her supper laid out for her and a skin of wine. Several changes of clothing and books with many candles to read her parchments. Quills, and ink to prepare her last documents for disposal of her person and that of her personal items.  All that was left of the might of the Mac Tirs.  It was so very sad in a way. Anora and I both knew the truth of many things. It could very well be me inside this very room in her place.

She looked up when I entered.  I leaned against the door and crossed my arms and legs getting comfortable. She knew I wasn’t the Grand Cleric.  “So, you’ve finally come,” she said. “I expected you sooner for our tete-a-tete which is very long over due.”

I pulled the hood back off of my face.  My hair still up from the ball.

“Shouldn’t you be enjoying yourself dancing the night away, possibly enjoying our new King in my own bed.  One wasn’t enough for you Bellavalia, you had to have both of them?”

I just looked at her ignoring her jib at me.  Choosing my words carefully before I spoke.

“Still on that old argument Anora.  How many times do I have to tell you I never slept with Calian. If you recall I was betrothed to Christian, someone I was deeply in love with.”

“Look into my eyes Anora and see the truth of what I say.” I looked her directly in the eye.

“So you say, yet you called off your marriage to Christian which would have done much to improve the relationship between Ferelden and Orlais through your marriage.  Cailan never did explain to me why your marriage was called off.”

“Cailan and my parents were the only ones who knew why, not even my own brother knows why Anora.  I never wanted Christian and Fergus to come to blows over what happened and they will if my brother learns the truth. Both of them are still friends to this day and I didn’t want to come between them. It had nothing to do with you or Cailan, nor me sleeping with your husband, which I never did Anora.  I never slept with Cailan.  I was his personal bodyguard when he was on state travel and nothing else besides being a friend. Cailan being friends with Fergus and me… the tag along sister.”

Anora huffed at me.  “You’ve tried to lie for years over that Lady Cousland.  Stop… your lie, it belittles both of us.”

I shook my head at her.  “This was one of the reasons you ordered my family executed and your father believed my family was in cahoots with Orlais.  My father was ordered by King Maric and by your husband King Calian to deal with trade between the two nations in secret, and nothing more. Calian couldn’t tell you or your father because of Loghain’s attitude against Orlais. Calian did a lot more without Loghain or you knowing. The war had been over for years and Ferelden needed the trade of new goods and technology to keep our country afloat. Your father wouldn’t give on the issue. Calian had no choice and neither did Maric.”

“It was more than that and you know it.” She hissed at me.

“You think I don’t know what you hide in Orlais? I know where he is Bellavalia and others do too, my followers and true subjects, the truth will be revealed one day.”

“Really Anora, what exactly am I hiding in Orlais that has you in such a snip?”

Anora, smiled coldly at me.  “Calian’s son and true heir.  The son he had with you.” I keep my eyes on hers and didn’t react to her words, remaining cool and calm.  Her words she had spoken during the Landsmeet rang in my ears. Anora had alluded that she knew of one of Calian’s bastards or she was pregnant.

“You know Anora, everyone keep saying you’ve become delusional and I really didn’t believe them until this moment. Let me explain one more time.”

I just looked at her keeping my face calm, and looked her in the eye. “In order for a child to be born I would have had to sleep with your husband, which I never did. Calian considered me his little sister and nothing more, he was my other big brother, my employer and my King, no more than that.”

“Don’t you realize how much Calian loved you…really loved you Anora? He wouldn’t even agree to set you aside, he loved you so much.  He wouldn’t hear anything against you, his beloved wife. Do you realize how much flack he took for not setting you aside?”

Anora double over with laughter and gave off a cackle.  I just stared at her, still not moving from my spot against the door.  If she only knew how much she had actually rattled me.

“In love with me, maybe he was at first, then you grew up Bellavalia and his eyes never strayed from you when you came into a room. He couldn’t wait for reports from you, and to see you, so eager for you to return home. Do you know what that was like for me, his wife?”

“I’m telling you Anora it was never like that.”

She snorted at me, her eyes full of fire and hatred directed at me.

“Then you became one of the best rogues in all of Ferelden, Orlais, The Free Marches and even Nevarra. There wasn’t nothing that he didn’t love about you. Your fire and spirit, your need to challenge social conviction and live your own life contrary to society. Calian was in love with you Bellavalia for years, especially after that damn tournament in Orlais. You think I didn’t know it was you he always wanted. He loved everything about you.  You think I didn’t know?”

“You think I don’t know about the other women in Orlais.” She added.

I lowered my gaze, “Do you know what one of my duties was in Orlais Anora? Given to me directly by my father on orders of King Maric and King Calian both, and I was horrified by what I was ordered to do.”  Anora shook her head.

I took another deep breath.  “It was my job when Calian had been with ladies who shall we say earn their pay at night, I was to watch them and discern if Calian got them with child. If so, I had to kill them Anora even if I was unsure if their babies where his.  So Calian would only ever have legitimate heirs with you, no bastards.  Especially bastards born in Orlais. Oh the irony Anora.  You couldn’t give him a child and you and I both know it. Yet, I was killing women in Orlais who carried his seed.”

I shook all over. Anora gasped.  I laughed.  “Do you think I enjoyed that or would have done such a thing if I’d been a mother myself?  Unlike you I’m not a cold fish.”

“Calian did many things behind your back and if you hadn’t keep Erlina in your bed he might have been more faithful.  He was a wonderful man and you treated him horribly for years.  Never fully believing he could live you up to your standards…say to be like Loghain which was impossible because he wasn’t your father, he was Calian – himself.”  There I’d said it.

“You killed Erlina.”

I laughed at her. “No, I didn’t, it wasn’t me. I was sick inside Fort Drakon recovering from killing an Archdemon if you recall Anora.”

“Then you had it done.” She sneered at me.

“Please don’t give me credit where it isn’t due, I’ve more than enough accolades to my name. I don’t need the death of your lover and servant added to the list, I do fine all by myself.”

“No Anora, like I said, I’m not like you.  What reason did I have?”

“The papers, they never made it.”

“Ah yes, the papers, the ones that will see you hanged tomorrow. Well it’s obvious others knew about them. My family wasn’t the only ones who knew Anora, others knew, such as Eamon.”

She gasped.  “He was needling Calian to set me aside. So Calian had a chance to produce an heir.”

“Once again there is that irony Anora, don’t you think .” I smirked at her.

“This is the last time I’m telling you, I’ve never birthed any children Anora and like you I’ll never be able too. Becoming a Warden took this type of future away from me all because of you and Howe. I’ll never be able to the live the life I was born to live. All I ever wanted was a love like my parents had in each other and to have children.  This is all I ever wanted, not someone to marry me for my high illustrious title. I wanted true love.”

“True love, there is no such thing,” Anora replied.

I shook my head at her.  “You had it with Calian, yet you could never see it, you were a fool Anora. You never loved Calian did you?”

The ice queen didn’t answer my question instead she asked me one, “what really happened with you and Christian?”

“As if I’d tell you.” I snickered. “I’ve only been with two men in my life – Christian and Alistair. Never Calian. And I’m not into necromancy or necrophilia.”

“You killed my parents thinking I had and he was in love with me, which wasn’t true.  This was your only reason in ordering them killed.  There is as much blood on my hands as yours Anora.  You killed over a lie, which I’ve never done.  I kill doing my duty. This is the difference between you and me. I never used my power and position to manipulate people like you have always done for your own gains and you deserve everything that is going to happen tomorrow, not just what you did to my family over a lie but all of it.”

Her and I just looked at each other.

“I’ve never understood why you’ve always hated me,” she said.

“I never hated you Anora, I felt sorry for you. Huge difference there.”

“Why ever for?”  She asked in astoundment.

“You were raised in an ivory tower, I was raised to work and be around all levels of society, I’ve seen the true harshness of life for the common people. I connect with them in a way you never will because of my training as rogue. People my brother and I would one day rule. Their lives are something you’ll never be able to understand until you see their hardships yourself in real life, in real time.  The plight of the elves, the harshness of the life for castless in Orzammar, these examples are just a drop in the bucket.  You’ve never been out among the common people, I have.  You would have sided with what the nobles wanted each and every time and keep those close to you who do your dirty work, so you wouldn’t get dethroned once Calian was dead.  Guess that didn’t work out for you too well. Alistair gets it, he has lived it.”

“This is why you choose Alistair over me.”

I shrugged.  “Only part of it. The other part was because of Calian, before the battle at Ostagar he made me swear an oath, that I’d get Alistair on the throne.  You see Anora, I have Calian’s will which was filed with the Her Holiness in Val Royeaux signed and witnessed by several Chantry clergy at Ostagar not only the Grand Cleric of Ferelden and several Grey Wardens from Orlais who also witnessed it at Empress Celene’s request, were sent to see it filed. Her Holiness holds a copy, so if the one I carry is stolen or I’m killed several copies do exist in various locations. It clearly states that Alistair is Calian’s heir, not you and Calian confirmed Alistair’s true lineage that he is indeed Calian’s brother told to him by their father before King Maric just before he left on his trip, it’s all in there.”

“Alistair is a Theirin, you’re a Theirin widow, no royal blood runs through your veins, none in your father’s. Calian provided for you very well, he knew he might die, especially when I showed up at Ostagar and Calian learned about the death of my parents.  He hadn’t trusted you or Loghain for a long time. He never said, but it was obvious to many, my father included with the secrecy of the illegal trade.”

“When you ordered your father to turn his back on his duty at Ostagar and our beloved King died defending our country, and then you showed up at Howe’s I put it together then. You ordered your own husband’s death, plus the papers I recovered of Calian’s from Ostagar when I went back.  Our beloved King along with my parents dead at your order. If you had not done this I might have disregarded Calian wishes and allowed you to continue to rule.  You sealed your fate with me on those two scores. My nephew who was only five years old dead by your order, a sweet innocent little boy whom I couldn’t save and countless others. These were my reasons.”

“Alistair is the one I love Anora and always will.  Once again, because of you any happiness that I might have had changed the moment you ordered our deaths at Howe’s hands. Duncan the Grey Warden Commander of Ferelden was there at Highever when we were attacked and he’d come purposely to seek me to join the order, my father declined and Duncan accepted his decision and didn’t conscript me which he could have done. When the attack happened and my father lay dying the only way Duncan would see to my safety – for my very survival was for father to agree to me joining the order and bring those responsible to justice so the truth about the attack on my family was truly known.  I lived to fulfill Calian and my father’s wishes and killed an Archdemon in the process and checked mated you.”

“I think we’ve said all we need to say to each other.  Just know I’ll be watching tomorrow as you pay for your crimes against Calian, my family, and against Alistair, because you would have executed him just the moment I declared you ruler of Ferelden, and you’re a threat to him.”

“Those who are loyal to me know where he is in Orlais Bellavalia, remember that when I hang tomorrow. They will find him and claim him as my own child, he’ll carry my name and sit the throne as a Mac Tir, not a Theirin or a Cousland.”

“One thing I’ll enjoy, even though you condemned me to a death of unimaginable horror by the events which made me a Warden; I’ll go to my death killing darkspawn. I’m allotted at least 30 years as a Warden, because of our abilities and health, you only have tonight. I’ll die a hero.  You’ll die a traitor.”

I walked out and locked the door behind me.  Then I shook all over with fear, then I bent and vomited all over the cold dark stone floor of Eamon’s dungeon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dragon Age Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

My Adoring Public

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Dragon Age Fan Fiction | Tagged , , , , ,