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?”
“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?”
“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.”
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.”
“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.