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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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 whinned 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 whinned 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 sakes 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 , , , , ,

The Crowning of a King

The dawn of the new day began over Denerim with streaks of purple and pink as fireball orange chased the remnants of the night away. The top of the sun peeked over the line of the horizon. Alistair had prayed the night through, he was tired and thirsty and above all else, he really needed to relieve the pressure on his knees. No revelations had come to him during his prayers to Andraste nor from the Maker. Not that he expected any.  He shifted on his knees once again, the heavy plate digging into his flesh. The Grand Cleric was at the other end of the altar, also kneeling in prayer.  She’d remained with me during the whole night offering up her own prayers to the Maker. The Chantry walls were lined with Templars and my royal guards, that also had kept vigil with us over the night. They also shifted with the soft clank of metal as armor moved, trying to relieve stiff sore muscles from standing so long. Alistair grinned, he wondered how many of them had fallen asleep on their feet. I’ve done that a time or time myself while on duty. A Templar wasn’t move a muscle on duty.

Alistair’s eyes stared up at the colored glass windows behind the stature of Andraste. The sun’s rays heightened the color of the glass and made the images shine with vibrant colors. He could hear the birds outside and the murmur of people as the crowds were still outside the Chantry. He knew most of them had remained, waiting to see if he keep his vigil all night long. Which he had. My father and brother had done the same thing before receiving their crowns.

The Grand Cleric came to stand before me. “Prince Theirin, do you need more time?” Alistair shook his head no, he was still kneeling on his knees before Andraste.

“Have you gained any insight into your role as the future King of Ferelden, and what have you learned or what do you wish to say to me?”

“I will always strive to rule my people with justice, Your Grace, being honest and fair. I also know I must not make rash decisions but only come to decisions with knowledge I must gather myself. Many will try to trick or take advantage of me because I’m King; I never grew up in the palace nor was I raised since my birth to be schooled to rule. They will try to use me for their own gain. I do know that my education at the Chantry will help me and I will always listen to my advisers but all decisions are mine in the end.”

“Even your decision regarding Bellavalia Cousland?”

“Yes, your Grace, even that decision. I agreed with the Wardens because she is too valuable to them and their centuries old traditions and the reason for our order. Until the last Arch Demon rises, and all the blights done and over with – The Wardens need people like Bellavalia Cousland. Therefore I had to let her go, even though my heart said something totally different.”

“This is your first sacrifice in your personal life for your people Prince Theirin, there will be many more during your life. The weight will be a heavy burden, are you willing to make these sacrifices on behalf of the people of Ferelden?”

“I’m aware Your Grace, and gladly accept on behalf of my royal line, the duty of my ancestors.”

The Grand Cleric stood for several moments in silence thinking on what he had said and looking down at him. “So be it my son.” Then the Grand Cleric blessed me and said a prayer over me for Andraste and the Maker to watch over me and guide me during my reign and bless me with issue.

“Arise Prince Theirin, go to receive your crown and may the Maker watch over you.”

Alistair rose on his shaking legs, his aching knees, the pain shot down through his legs as the blood flowed back into them. He was sure his knees were bruised with small cuts from the heavy plate.

He bowed to the Grand Cleric and she to him. It was over, I’ve received her blessing.

“You can refresh yourself in the Templar quarters Your Highness, food and wine have been brought to the Knight Commander’s quarters and the other armor you requested is there for you to change into along with your personal manservant Roland. He waits for you there to assist you. I’ll freshen up and meet you at the entrance for our departure to the Landsmeet Hall, you have one hour Prince Theirin.”

Alistair bowed to the Grand Cleric once more than followed the Knight Commander of Denerim’s Chantry to his private quarters. The man didn’t speak and the rest of his royal guard was behind him. They had also remained inside the Chantry during his long night. All of them where Templars after all. There were the best and most highly trained of Ferelden’s Templars.

Alistair hadn’t corrected the Grand Cleric, Roland was Eamon’s manservant. Eamon was in the process of hiring all new staff for the palace which would also include a new manservant for me. Eamon had felt too many of them still remained loyal to Loghain and Anora for them to remain employed. Many from Redcliffe and people from their other allies would soon be employed at the Palace on his behalf. They would be weeded out little by little with Zevran and Leliana making sure they didn’t pose a threat to my safety. They would return to their towns and villages with new people arriving to take their place.

They walked along the massive halls in the Denerim Chantry complex until they came to the Knight Commander’s private rooms and quarters. Alistair knew exactly where it was, he had been in here numerous times to get chewed out for one reason or another during his training as a Templar Hunter. The Commander opened the door bowing as Alistair passed him. The man had his helmet on so Alistair didn’t know if it was the same man who had been Commander during his time as a novice in training, not likely he thought.

Roland grinned at him as he came inside with the others following him. It was a fairly large room, they wouldn’t be cramped for space to badly. Roland pointed to the privacy screen and Alistair made a beeline to relieve himself. Maker that felt much better.  The other Templars all took their turns behind the privacy screen and they too were much relieved. They didn’t remove any of their armor except for their helms and gauntlets. All of them were sweaty even though the inside of the Chantry was fairly cool, this still hadn’t prevented them working up a sweat with all the underpadding under the heavy plate.

All of the men gathered around the massive table at one end of the room, enjoying a hearty breakfast together swapping stories of their own time while training and living here.  Alistair mused as he took a spoonful of the warm oatmeal seasoned with honey and butter that some things at the Chantry never changed.  I’ve eaten this same breakfast for years while training here, day in and day out.  He finished his meal with toasted bread with honey and mead to wash it all down.  After today I’ll never have to eat oatmeal again.  He hated oatmeal.

When it was time Roland helped him swapping out his good swords and shield.  He’d still hung onto his old armor from Ostagar and his simple Warden issue sword. Bell had wanted to sell them for supplies but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to part with the bloody battered equipment.  It seemed fitting to carry a simple sword and shield into the Landsmeet hall.  Since his life changed course at Ostagar. He’d wear this to be crowned in a simple wooden kite shield with a new designed painted on it. The new shield representing that he was a survivor of Ostagar. Only those who had survived that battle would ever have the honor of wearing it.

His new staff at the palace would have their work cut out for them trying to get the records straight on any survivors so they could be entered into the archives of the palace and also at the Chantry. The records of the Wardens would be dealt with by Bell and her seneschal at the Vigil and a copy of those records sent to the archives at Weisshaupt. He wondered if his own name would be included within their records?

He was finally ready to meet up with the Grand Cleric and begin the march to the Landsmeet hall. I wonder where Bell is he thought.

********

Bell was standing on her balcony once more already dressed and ready.  Watching the sun rise over the city and the chantry especially. Knowing Alistair and her brother were still at the Chantry.  She was sure the rest of her companions would have splitting headaches this morning with Wynne right along with them.  They’d all had a good time at the Pearl last night.  No sooner had the thoughts entered her head when Leliana staggered through her door, shielding her eyes against the bright sun.

“Wynne sent me to see if you need healing magic this morning.  She has a concoction all prepared for hangovers this morning.  Oghren told her he’d not be drinking the vile stuff.”

I walked back into my room, “not for a hangover no, but my leg, yes.”

“Are you alright?”

“Yes, for the most part, it’s only slightly red this morning.  Scabbed over, I think some elfroot will do and Wynne’s cool healing touch should put me to rights.  I put on fresh salve this morning to the wounds on my chest and legs rubbing it all the way in.  I didn’t want to wear bandages on it today. The salve will help against chafing.”

“You didn’t drink very much last night.”

“I still had a good time Lei.”

“I’m glad.”

“Zevran is an excellent dancer, so light on his feet.”

“Sten also, which really surprised me.”

I laughed, “you’d never know he was drunk and walked back here in a straight line. Nor, have I ever seen anyone drink that much ale and still be able to walk.  I think it was the first time I’ve ever seen anybody out drink Oghren.”

“I’m really surprised we even made it back here in one piece and all of us are not waking up in a gutter somewhere.”

“Thor really raked in the goods.”

“Aye he did, everyone giving him bits of meat for the Hero of Ferelden’s war dog.”

“I also think he pick-pocketed many, he was already burying his stash in his favorite hiding places this morning.  That dog, I shook my head and laughed.”

“Are you going to be alright today?”

I nodded, “I’ll be fine Leliana.”

“Come on, let’s get everyone together we’ve got to leave, I want to be at the Landsmeet Hall and be able to see Alistair come in.  He should be on his way there now.”

“Oui, the crowds are already gathering from what I could see out my window.  Wynne and I watched them for a time this morning while she brewed up her hangover remedy.”

Leliana and I left my room and went downstairs.  Everyone was already sitting at the dining room table in my family’s private dining room.  Sten, Oghren, Zevran, and Shale who was standing telling Thor dirty jokes. It was impossible for Shale to sit at the table. Cousland Court didn’t have a stone chair big enough for her to sit in, actually I don’t think we had any.  All of them were having their breakfast and had served themselves.  Molly had provided us with a nice breakfast.  Oatmeal, sausages, pancakes, eggs, toasted bread.  I filled my plate with eggs, sausages, toasted bread dripping with butter.  Molly served me with milk and hot tea with a jar of rich golden honey on the table.  None of my companions seemed in shabby shape all sporting hangovers this morning.

Kristoff and the Wardens came inside and joined all of us.  They reported no trouble during the night while all of us had been at the Pearl arriving back for a few hours sleep. They filled their plates and joined all of us.

“Oghren, really,” fussed Wynne.

“I told you I won’t drink that vile stuff.”

With that said, Oghren took a long pull from his homebrew and belched.  “This is all I need, so stopped trying to order me about.”

Wynne just huffed.

“Do all of you have everything you need for the ball tonight?”

“Sten still refuses to wear court attire.”

Sten glanced up shook his head with an emphatic “NO.”

I smirked.  “Go easy on him Leliana, he isn’t used to Orlesian nor Ferelden customs.”

“Aye, well if I had my way, I’d do the same said Oghren with a forkfuls of eggs on the way to his mouth.”

“Damn me, these are good.”

“Molly is a good cook, Oghren. “

“She makes a mean homebrew, not as dark as my family recipe but good enough.”

“After all the work I put into your attire you better Oghren.”

“Alright lass, just this once, I didn’t even do this in Orzammar,” he groused.

“Zevran?”

“I’m all set Mi Bella.”

I nodded. I guess everything was all set.

Wynne was wearing new mage robes, Leliana in her armor of carta blue. Zevran in the ancient armor of the Dalish that I’d found in the Brecilian Forest and a few pieces just outside of Lothering. Oghren in red armor from Orzammar, and Sten in the Juggernaut armor set I’d given to him.  All of us were ready to go and once we finished eating we made our way to the Landsmeet Hall.

The market district was so crowded, with barely enough room to walk through.  We took the alleys where we could to avoid the mass of people.  Finally crossing over into the other side of the city from the docks, the walk had taken us around a half hour.

Banners snapped in the wind with their Mabari war hounds flying high on a yellow field with two dark red Mabari war dogs back to back in the centers at intervals outside the Landsmeet hall and just as many within it.  Alistair’s throne sat on the dais with a Chantry altar in the front of it draped with a pristine white cloth which looked like damask and bordered with gold.  A very large embossed copy of the “Chant of Light” was on a gold stand in the center with a purple pillow in front of the book which held Alistair’s crown. Numerous sized candles and a small clear crystal vial of oil was also placed next to the crown. The Grand Cleric would bless Alistair with the oil after accepting his oath to the people of Ferelden, then she would crown him.

I walked over to the altar and looked at his crown.  Yes, it would do, the design perfect for him.  A gold circlet, two inches in width, with one major point in the very front with the emblem within an oval of metalwork of the eternal flame of Andraste.  It wouldn’t tower over Alistair’s forehead and would most likely sit just at his forehead and right above his ears on the sides.  It was a plain design with the royal crest of the Theirin’s in the other points guarded by mabari war dogs on each side of each point. The mabari being made out of black onyx and I also realized toward the curves at the back of the crown two Grey Warden griffons one on each side. There were small marquise cut rubies within the crown nicely spaced along the base and these would go well with his amber-colored eyes. I smiled, so like him I thought.  It represents everything that makes him who he is.  I had also noticed that Anora’s throne had been removed from the dais.

“It’s so simple, yet beautiful,” said Leliana.

“Yes, it will look good on him.”

“This way Commander.”

It was a Denerim guard waiting to show us to the room where we were to wait.  Which was through the double doors just to the right of the dais across the hall.  All of us took a seat in the chairs in the room or on the sofas.  Each of us leaving our weapons in the room. I could hear the crowds cheering.  I knew the nobles were making their way into the Landsmeet Hall. The noise outside our door grew louder as the people gathered inside.  After a time I got to my feet.

“Come on, I’m not going to sit in here and not see him.”

“Aye, I was wondering what you were waiting on.”

“Arl Eamon, can just go spit.”

“That’s the spirit lass. About time you got your backbone back.”

I led the way up to the balcony, when people saw us they made room and greeted us cheerful giving us room at the balcony.  We were positioned just above the entrance of the Landsmeet hall.  We’d all be above Alistair as he came in having a grand view of his long walk down the hall to the Grand Cleric.  Many nobles giving a wide berth to Shale, the balcony had shaken when she walked onto it.  Hopefully, it would hold her and all the rest of us.

The hall was full.  It seemed to take forever for all of the nobles to enter.  Finally, the trumpets sounded and the massive crowd grew quiet as the Grand Cleric led by Templars led her to the dais with nobels bowing as she passed.  She came to the dais bowed to the book and turned to wait for Prince Theirin to enter.  Arl Eamon was next with the honor guard from Redcliffe.  He made his way to the dais and bowed to the Grand Cleric taking his place off to the side in one of the alcoves.  My brother came next with his honor guard of Highever Knights.  Once Fergus reached the dais he also bowed and took the opposite side against the wall in the alcove on the right.   The only person viewable on the dais was the Grand Cleric as she stood waiting for Alistair.

The trumpets sounded again and the doors opened.  There he was.  The look on his face was humble.  I was taken back in time – finding him arguing with a Circle Mage and his wise crack after the mage had walked away.  I’d laughed, my first since the massacre at Highever.  I hadn’t been able to help myself.  He was so handsome.  I’d loved his voice the first time I’d heard him speak, honest and open.  His eyes and his red twinned cheeks from being sun and wind burned. Then his comment that he wasn’t a leech or anything when he mentioned I was a woman and soon-to-be a Grey Warden.  He’d fumbled all over his words and was embarrassed by them.  I’d found him charming right from the beginning.

I watched as Alistair made the long walk down the aisle.  Everyone watching him as he passed.  Not a sound could be heard.  He finally came to the dais with Denermin guards bowing to him as he climbed the steps to face the Grand Cleric. He knelt on one knee before her and bowed his head. I was too far away at the other end of the hall to hear their words.  The Grand Cleric accepted Alistair’s oath.  She anointed him with oil, then placed his crown on his head.  He rose, the Grand Clerk bowed to him and he bowed to her.  Then he turned to face his subjects and guests.  The crowd roared their approval greeting their new king, as he greeted them.  I had a lump in my throat.  Its done Cailan, I got him here.

“Come on, we have to get back the room.”

We’d all just made it back in time when the guard opened our door telling us it was time.  We all stood up and walked out into the Landsmeet Hall with Alistair and Arl Eamon on the dais.  There were only a handful of nobles left in the great hall.  We filled in and stood before the new King of Ferelden with Arl Eamon at his side.  He looked down at me smiling.  He’d removed his crown.

Fergus had moved and was standing behind me to my left as I stood in front of Alistair in front of the steps leading up to the dais with our companions to my right. Alistair began his speech.

“My friends we are  gathered to celebrate those responsible for our victory.  For those who stood against the darkspawn siege of Denerim. There is one in particular who deserves accommodation.  The one who led the final charge against the Arch Demon remains with us still, an inspiration to all she saved that day.”  That was my cue.  I walked up the steps of the dais and bowed to Alistair.  He smiled and continued his speech. “Ladies and gentlemen may I formally present Grey Warden Commander of Ferelden, Bellavalia Cousland.  The small crowd cheered us. Alistair waited for their cheers to die down.

“My friend. It is hard to imagine how you could have aided Ferelden more.  I think it only appropriate that I return the favor, as a reward, I offer you a boon of your choice.”  I was struck speechless.  I had no idea he was going to do this.  What do I ask for?  What does he wish me to ask for?

I finally find my voice and went with the response I knew he’d prefer above all else.  “I wish for the sacrifice of the Wardens to not be forgotten again.”

“Now that’s a very good point.  I think we can begin with a monument here in Denerim dedicated to the Grey Wardens who have fallen.  Duncan, Riordan…all of them, and it is high time some scholars were collected to learn more about the darkspawn.  We’ll face them again with the dwarves as well as here.”  Alistair turned to face those left in the hall.

“Let it also be known that the Arling of Amaranthine once the land of Arl Howe is now granted to the Grey Wardens where they can rebuild following the example of those who went before them.  It is also hereby declared that Highever is fully restored to the Cousland Family and Fergus Cousland will accept his father’s title as Teyrn of Highever.”  Alistair turned back to face me and with his new commanding voice he said.  “Let it also be known Commander Cousland that you will also become the Teyrna of Gwaren as my personal gift to you.”

No, no, no, I thought.  I don’t want this.  He knew I didn’t want Loghain’s home.  It was a command.  I had no choice, I had to accept it.  Damn you Alistair, damn you. All I really wanted was Highever returned to my brother which had been granted.  I bowed to him to accept.  “Your Majesty is most gracious.”  His eyes twinkled.  He knew I was mad.  Alistair asked me “what are your plans?”

What I was planning was how to kick him in the shins and get away with doing it.

“I plan to go with my brother to Highever and help him until taking my command at Vigil’s Keep.”

“I’m relieved, you’ll be nearby.”

“Uh, there is a group of Ferelden citizens waiting outside to get a look at their hero.  I suggest you make at least a brief appearance before they storm the gates,” he said with a chuckle, “just tell the guards when you are ready.”  Alistair’s public speech came to an end and it was now just him and me on the dais.  Those left in the hall making their way outside.  My brother and companions stood around waiting for me.

We walked back toward his throne so we wouldn’t be overhead for our private conversation.

“So we made it. I’m impressed aren’t you?  I was so scared I might lose you, but here you are, and here I am.  Not bad, right?  I bet this has something to do with that night, with Morrigan.  Why you’re still here I mean  I’m not that dumb.”  Alistair what in the world? He doesn’t remember that night, how can that be? Why is he saying these things? I’d told him everything he needed to know that night.

“The rest of the Grey Wardens have sent questions, what should I tell them?”

Why is he asking me this?  He knows we can’t tell them anything? What is going on here?

“You need to lie to them.”

“Right,” he said.  “Yes, all you need is a maleficarum willing to have your demon baby.  Who knew? No, I suppose I’ll just keep that to myself.  I can shrug and look stupid – it’s a talent.”  He’ll never get over what happened or what I asked him to do.  He is never going to forgive me.

“Speaking of Morrigan do you know where she went?  I’m told she vanished right after the battle no goodbyes or anything.”

“I don’t care where she went?”

“I don’t believe you Bellavalia.  Morrigan is carrying my child and I don’t think you’ll let that slide; I don’t want to let it slide, she left with my child in her belly which might possibly be a demon.  There it is was, how he really felt, his child that he would never see and he would not stop until he tracked her down. Morrigan might kill him if he tried it. He was a Templar and he had ways of tracking her that I didn’t have. I’m also carrying your child I wanted to shout; but, I couldn’t do it. Tell him my concise urged me.

“Why would I do that when I gave her my word not to follow her, she doesn’t want to be found, and you gave her your word, you also agreed.”

He sidestepped my question.

“Well I guess I’ll let you get to your adoring public, I’ll see you this evening.”

My adoring public?  Not bloody likely.  Once I left Denerim I’d become a speck in the annals of history and nothing more to these people.  Doesn’t he understand this?  I can’t go back to being who I’d been born to be – Teyrna of Highever.  I was angry, instead becoming Teyrna of Gwaren replacing Loghain. Alistair got a whole new life out of the deal and I’d lost the most important aspects out of mine.  I couldn’t go back.

I was dismissed. I couldn’t stand there any longer trying to force his answer, like in the past.  I’d be dragged off the dais and put in chains if I tried it. He was the ‘King’ now.  It was his say, not mine any longer.  I bowed and left the dais walking straight toward my brother.  If I had my way I wouldn’t be at the ball.  This was so hard, his tone in front of the others was one of a dear and honored friend, and in private, his anger directed toward me.  How could he not remember that night with Morrigan and the purpose of it all?  It has to be a spell and one of Morrigan’s making, but Alistair’s Templar abilities wouldn’t let it fully succeed. Some of the things that he’d said didn’t make sense.  Unless there had been Templars or Wardens outside Kristoff’s group listening that might be standing behind the banners that I’d not noticed.  If so, Alistair and I just discussed what really happened on why I was still alive.  Maker, please don’t let it be true.  I couldn’t go behind those banners to check behind his throne.

Fergus smiled as I approached.  “Well little sister, the King rewarded you very nicely.”

“I don’t want it Fergus.”

“It makes sense Tink.”

“How so?”

“I’ll rule in the north and you in the south.  Allies of the King firmly in place of any rebellions.”

“That won’t stop them and the bannorn smack in the middle of us.”

“It will make them pause with you as their overlord, you’ll hold their lives in your hands.”

“Just my name Fergus, I won’t be there, I’ll be at Vigil Keep.”

“I think you’re name and reputation will be enough.”

“Thank you for your confidence but I doubt it will be enough.  I’ll have my hands full rebuilding the Wardens and bringing Amaranthine to heel.”

“Those in Gwaren will also watch and keep track of what you do in Amaranthine then decide yay or nay for rebellion.  The majority of them did love Cailan and Alistair is his brother.”

“Anora was their Queen, and rightful ruler of Gwaren, they aren’t going to like what will happen.”

“They will give Alistair time to see if he is like Cailan, and if he is, then it won’t matter.”

“I hope you’re right Fergus.”

“I am, you’ll see.”

“We’ll I’m off for Cousland Estate and a good nap before tonight.  You coming?”

“I wish I could Fergus, I’ve been ordered to appear before my adoring public out on the balcony.”

Fergus laughed, “better you than me.”

I rolled my eyes at him.

“Want me to leave some Highever Knights with you?”

“No, I’ll be alright, our other war heroes will see me home safe and sound.”

“Alright Tink, I’ll see you later than.”

I’ll talk with my companions tonight at the ball, this would help me avoid as many nobles as possible.  I’d give my fealty to King Alistair, dance one with dance with him at the ball and with luck slip away back to Cousland Court and the safety of my room.

I walked to the balcony entrance of the Landsmeet Hall.  The one Alistair had come in. “My lady are you ready?  The crowds outside are getting restless.”

“Restless? What am I supposed to do?”

Nobody had warned me I had to do this.  This had been another reason to keep me hidden out of the public’s view these last few weeks.

“Just put in an appearance, so I understand it. The people just want to see their hero in person.  I’m supposed to take you to your escort…full brigade, their armor all shined up and everything. They’re really honored let me tell you.

“Let’s go then.”

Alistair watched her leave the Landsmeet Hall.  Walking out of his life just like she had walked into it turning his world upside down.

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A Prince’s Penance

I opened my summons from our Prince, already knowing what the vellum said. I read, then folded the vellum closed.

“How do you feel about this Fergus?”

I watched as my brother rubbed his hands over his face mussing his hair in the process. “I think what we’ve done is the right thing.”

“Others won’t see it that way.”

Fergus shrugged his shoulders in an uncaring manner.

“Alistair had her examined by Wynne and Irving, with the Grand Cleric in attendance.”

“We really didn’t give him much choice, he would’ve sent her to the Chantry in Amaranthine. She has to die Fergus for our own safety.”

“Its hard Tink, Anora is my best friend’s wife.”

“I know Fergus, but she allowed your best friend’s massacre on the field at Ostagar. You weren’t there Fergus, it was awful seeing Cailan die the way he did. Alistair and I watched from the tower, it was horrible.”

“Alistair lit the signal for Loghain’s troops to charge onto the field, it was unbelievable when they marched away, we watched in stunned horrified silence. I still have nightmares about it and I’m sure Alistair will never get over what happened, he’ll never forget. Anora changed the course of all our lives Fergus. Yours, Alistair’s and mine. Oriana and Oren would still be alive today, so would our parents, if not for her.”

Fergus squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, shaking his head. “I still can’t believe she did this to us – to our country.”

“I know Fergus, it’s hard to accept.”

“Tell me Tink, why did she grow to hate you so much?”

I shrugged my shoulders

“She resented the fact I was Cailan’s spy master when he traveled on state business; I think more than anything she was jealous I spent so much time with him, especially when he was in Orlais. She hated this while she was stuck at home ruling the country when he was gone. I think Anora knew about his infidelities, and of course I knew about them, and this injured her pride more than anything.”

“You’re sure there isn’t more to it?”

“What are you suggesting brother?” The tone of my voice sounding with a clash of steel.

“You and Cailan were just friends, like he was with me?”

I looked my brother right in the eye. “Cailan regarded me as a little sister Fergus, nothing more. Why do you ask?”

“Because he changed his mind on your marriage to Christian and I still don’t know why Tink. I’d like to know what happened in Orlais and why Cailan denied permission.”

“He didn’t deny permission, it’s what I wanted.”

“Why? You and Christian have known each other since you both were in nappies. You’ve loved him your whole life Tink.”

Turning my gaze back to the view off of the balustrade I was sitting on, I thought, big brother you have no idea how dangerous this topic is.

“He was unfaithful to me after he asked me to marry him Fergus.”

Fergus laughed. “Is that all?”

I turned a look of scorn on my big brother. “Go ahead, make light of my hurt Fergus.”

“I’m sorry, sis. Tink, you weren’t married yet?”

“That makes what he did alright?”

“Err, No, but…”

Right answer big brother. I crossed my arms over my chest looking at my brother with scorn. “How would you have felt if Oriana did that to you before you married?” Fergus’ expression gave me my answer. “Why should I have settled for anything less?”

“You shouldn’t but how do you know this is true?”

“I walked in on them.”

“That will do it.”

“Yes, well…”

“I’m sorry Tink. “Did you know her?”

“Yes, I knew the person, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore Fergus. Is everything ready for this evening?” I was hoping to distract my brother and get off this dangerous topic.

“For the most part, just a matter of time ticking down. Do you have everything you need?”

“Just waiting on the weaver’s circle to deliver my gown for the ball tomorrow.”

“What time do you have to leave to escort Alistair?”

“Two hours before sunset.  I’ll have to get our men ready and inspect them before we march out of the gate for Redcliffe Estate with less men than I would like.”

“It will take time Fergus to rebuild the troops, be patient.”

“Aye.”

“I know, not exactly the way you envisioned being the Commander of Highever troops.”

“Aye.”

“They would have been a sight, escorting Alistair to the Chantry.”

“Aye, they would have with Alistair staying here with them.”

I just nodded.

“Is the Landsmeet Hall and the Palace ready?”

“Most of the rubble has been cleared and the halls set to rights, banners flying. Alistair will be able to move into the palace tomorrow afternoon before the ceremonies and ball. He’ll greet his guest later that evening. His private suites didn’t take too much damage. The palace staff has been boxing up Anora and Cailan’s things. He’ll be comfortable enough.”

“The palace ballroom is being decorated at this moment with Andraste’s grace flowers, roses, lilies, and ferns all over the place with juniper garlands hung anywhere there is empty space.”

I really didn’t give a damn about the floral decor. On other hand Alistair might, he seemed to have a thing for floral arrangements. I snorted, thinking of his joke to me once.

“Alistair’s security?”

“All in place, why are you so worried about this?”

“I worked hard getting him on the throne; I don’t want this to be for nothing.”

“He’ll be fine Tink.”

“I know he will, you know me.” I turned my head back to viewing the distant clouds.

“You plan for everything and you feel out of the loop with Eamon in charge.”

“Yes and no, Alistair put me in charge on the road, and it’s hard not making decisions for his safety. Hard to let go and see him move on, not being a Warden with me anymore. It’ll be strange, him not being with me.” I was still sitting on the balcony swinging my left leg back and forth in agitation.

“You’ll still see him Tink.”

“It won’t be the same.”

“Things change.”

“I know.”

“Come on, we’ve got to get ready, the time will be here before you know it.”

“Aye, I’m starved, you coming down to the dining room?”

“No, I’ve got things to do with the Wardens. Kristoff and I need to go over the plans for the Vigil. I’ll come down when you get ready to leave with the men.”

“How is your leg?”

“Better, I’ll be fine.”

“Alright sis, I’ll see you later.”

Fergus dropped a brotherly kiss on my forehead, waving goodbye as he left my chambers. I continued to sit, enjoying this beautiful day and made my plans, not for the Vigil like I’d told my brother. I was planning for another trip. After a short time, I walked back into my room sitting down at my desk. I opened the center drawer and placed the summons inside. I took out Duncan’s journal continuing to read. Arial brought me some lunch and told me my gown would arrive in two hours, and the weavers would be here tomorrow when Leliana and I got dressed for the ball.

I asked Arial to send a message down to our armory to see if my equipment was ready that I’d sent down to be repaired. Arial informed me I needed to go through the carts with all of our equipment that had arrived from Eamon’s. I’d told her to just leave all of it for now until after the ball. We’d get started the day after tomorrow. Until Kristoff got the carts or wagons that we needed, this could wait.

I closed Duncan’s journal and placed it back inside my desk. I wasn’t in the mood to read anymore. I’d just finished the part where King Maric, Duncan, and the other Wardens had fought a battle in the deep roads, and they’d found a lake underground and washed up. One of the Wardens had a Mabari war hound with him. I was missing mine at the moment. Duncan’s journal had already mentioned this Fiona elven Grey Warden, and Maric were getting close. Kings and Elves, go figure. What was I thinking reading about kings today? Everyone else was busy getting ready for this evening. I realized this was why I felt out of sorts. I’d received a message from Arl Eamon asking me not to be in the Highever escort. I was…hurt and wished to lick my wounds in private.

I’d given the household staff permission to go. It would just be me and the Wardens here and of course a small amount of our estate soldiers, few that they were. Maybe it was for the best. I’d see Alistair tomorrow. Eamon had sent me instructions that all of us were to be at the Landsmeet Hall early in the morning and to wait in a private room off the hall until called.

I really needed something to do, even Thor wasn’t here keeping me company. My companions had taken him with them, they were out and about in the city seeing to their own affairs enjoying themselves. I’d wanted to give Thor a bath. I walked back outside settling back on the balcony and continued to watch the masons rebuild our walls. The thought came to me that I could go to the Pearl and work out arrangements with Sanga. No, that would just cause crowds in the city to gather around me. Looks like I was just stuck here with nothing to do. It felt odd. I spent the rest of the afternoon on my balcony cooling my heels. Out of sight, out of mind. When it was time, I went back inside and changed into my armor. I wouldn’t send my brother and our troops off in a bloody dress.

********

Alistair was soaking in a tub with sandalwood scented bubbles up to his chin, finishing the last few drops of the wine he was enjoying. He took his fingers and popped bubbles. Wish I could get drunk he thought as he drained the last and set the glass down on the window ledge next to the tub. The time was fast approaching, faster than he wanted.

Dinner had been one of the best I’ve had in a long time, the beef had been excellent. Eamon’s head cook was a marvel. She’d made me a berry tarts for dessert topped with clotted cream. They’d been so good I ate two of them. I won’t get to eat until after I’m crowned in the morning. Better fill up now, thus my snack, sent up by Eamon’s head cook. Alistair picked up a slice of white sharp cheddar and popped it into his mouth, enjoying the flavor, he next tried a sample of the special baked crackers. Yummy, they had a buttery taste. Popping a few grapes in his mouth he continued to indulge himself trying to relax. It wasn’t really working. Hell with this, I’m not a rich bastard that wastes his day in a tub of water, this isn’t me.

I grabbed the soap in the dish, then dunked my head below the water wetting my hair, taking the soap and rubbing it in, forming a lather. I replaced the slippery bar back into the dish then washed my hair. I was reaching for the pitcher of fresh water to rinse when Roland saw me and came rushing over.

“I’ll do that Your Highness.”

As if I couldn’t do it myself.

Roland took the pitcher pouring the warm water over my head rinsing the suds out. Wiping the water out of my face I stood up and Roland handed me a large towel, stepping out of the wooden tub onto a towel. I dried myself off. Giving my hair a vigorous rubbing with the towel. Roland handed me new small clothes, I put them on. Sitting down on the stool I put on my knee socks, paper thin linen trousers and a linen shirt. Alistair walked over to his bureau, picking up his brush working it through his hair styling the way he liked it. He’d had it trimmed last night.

Roland was working in the background getting my armor pieces ready, removing them from the stand. I cleaned my teeth with pumice dust, rinsing my mouth and spitting in the dirty bath water, then I walked over to the bed sitting down reaching for my new highly polished, knee-hi black leather boots, wiggling them on. Roland handed me a piece of mint to chew on and my newly crafted golden hued greaves to put on over them, helping me screw them into place.

I stood up and walked to the windows looking out. The crowds were already gathering, filling the market district. This time tomorrow I’ll be King and living at the Palace. I shook my head, this is surreal. I’m going to have my own home, a palace no less, with servants. My thoughts triggered a conversation I’d had with Bellavalia. We’d talked about the blight being over and what to do next. We’d go home or find a new one or go on being Wardens. I figured her and I would have gone to Highever. I never thought I’d have a home without her. She’d said, ‘as long as it’s with you’ had made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. That was the first time she’d given me any indication how she really felt about me.

“Your Highness, we need to finish.”

I just nodded and continued getting dressed. I’m not in the mood to talk and Roland seems to have noticed. The elf-servant continued to work, remaining quiet. We’d spent a good deal of time together, laughing and joking. I just didn’t feel much like joking at the moment. Thinking about her caused a pain to form in my chest.

Next came all of the under padding before the major armor pieces. “Maker, we forgot the under padding.

“I guess we did.”

I sat back down and Roland helped me unscrew the greaves. We found the special under padding for my legs. They came up to my thighs all brand new. How could I have forgotten? A few scratches to my new boots – not to noticeable as I ran my finger over them. I stood up, Roland tying the padding into place. The extra thick under padding for my chest, back, and arms came next. I was already sweating and the actual armor wasn’t even on yet. I pulled my hauberk over my head, if I was going into battle or out on the road I’d add the matching neck piece. Roland pined me back into the greaves, adding the poleyns and fan plates at the knees. Next the cuisse covering my thighs decorated in the front with the royal crown, followed by the tasset and the fauld, my lower half was nearly done. My arm pieces were added next, my vambraces, and rerebrace with the couter cover over my elbows were finally pined and screwed closed. The heroic cuirass plate – chest piece came next; I held the front while Roland added the back screwing and pinning them together. My chest piece was decorated with the face of a dragon on the front. The eyes of the dragon over my chest muscles. Next Roland added the pauldrons over the cuirass over my shoulders with the special rondels to cover my armpits. I had to sit down on the bed for him to fit and pin to my shoulders.

I wasn’t using my shield, so both pieces were needed today. If I was going into battle the second wouldn’t be needed so I could use my shield for protection. A lot of warriors didn’t add the rondels on the shield arm, because of the added weight, some favored the addition, and others didn’t. I was a warrior who didn’t favor the added piece. Sten, nor Oghren favored them. Which was unusual given they were trained as great sword warriors. Eamon also a great sword wielder wore his.

Teagan had helped me dress before we stormed the gates. Memories swarmed in my mind, deep in thought I realized that Bell had helped me for the Landsmeet, giving me Duncan’s shield before we left. That seemed so long ago when it had been just over a month.
Two more pieces, the sollerets which covered the tops of my feet joined the rest. Hiding my boots underneath. I stood patiently as Roland screwed them into the greaves with two tiny screws and pins.

I walked back to my dresser with my looking glass, and checked my hair, giving it one last brush. I was ready and by the sounds outside the crowd had grown even larger. I walked out on the small balcony trying to cool off. I was so hot. The sun was going down on the horizon and the lamp lighters in the city were busy. One by one small dots of light appeared in the market district.

“Thank you Roland.”

“Arl Eamon will be pleased, Wade did a wonderful job on your new armor.”

I just nodded, it was the finest suite of armor I’d ever owned. The suite was very similar to Cailan’s armor and had been the whole point of its design. Roland handed me a damp cloth to wipe the sweat off of my face which had been scented in sandalwood. I nodded thanking him.

I walked back to the bed, looking down at Duncan’s shield with the Grey Warden Griffon emblazoned on it that Bell had found and given to me, along with father’s sword. The shield more valuable to me. I reached for the sword inside a scabbard and attached them to my back with Roland’s help. Besides my shield, gauntlets, and great helm I was ready. Damn, better relieve myself it’s going to be a long night.

I walked behind the privacy screen adjusted the various layers of armor and their slits and pulled my member out. “I know exactly how you feel” I told my most precious part all flaccid and just hanging there.

“Did you say something Your Highness?”

“Uh, no!”

I heard Roland laugh. He didn’t believe me.

Embarrassed, I grabbed the chamber pot waiting patiently for my water to pass. I really didn’t have to go, this was the last chance I’d get until my Vigil was done. I thought of the water flowing over the falls at Redcliffe to help. Finally, a steady stream started to flow. I shook off the excess when I finished tucking myself back inside then readjusted my armor. I walked out from behind the privacy screen and Roland was tiding up my room. I walked to the wash stand and washed my hands with Roland anticipating my need and handing me a towel.When I turned around he had a fresh soft white cloth and started wiping off our fingerprints on the glossy metal.

“Is there anything more I can do for you Your Highness? Good luck tonight.”

“Thanks Roland, I guess this is it.”

“As you say Your Highness,”and I watched him gather up my clothes, then he bowed leaving me alone, taking my dirty clothes with him. Which really weren’t that dirty, I could have gotten at least another weeks wear out of them. I walked back to my bed and looked at Duncan’s shield once more, then I picked it up. Continuing to stare at it. “I hope you don’t think less of me today. I’m not going to be a Grey Warden anymore and I hope if you can see me from the fade you understand. I’m sorry Duncan.” I wanted to wear the shield as a reminder to everyone and for Bell. I placed the shield on my back, picking up my gauntlets, I put them on. This is it. I left my room going to meet Eamon, and Teagan downstairs.

********

Fergus was putting the finishing touches on his heavy plate silverite armor, the chest piece emblazoned with the Highever blue insignia. Highever had two, the blue or the green. Father always wore the blue for ceremonies.  I’d decided to continue the tradition. Our officers below me wear the green. Doing a last minute polish to remove his fingerprints when a light knock sounded on his door. “Come in.”

My sister walked into my room all decked out in Dalish green armor. Not the color she usually wore, but it looked great on her. He noticed it brought the green of her eyes out. Normally she wore a blue dyed leather and if she was working for Cailan she always wore black with the Theirin royal crest on the front.

“Well look at you, all spit shined up.” She walked all around me nodding in approval. “Very nice.”

“You don’t look bad yourself, where did you get Dalish armor?  That stuff is hard to come by.”

She grinned at me. “I’ve friends in high places.”

“So I hear, think they can get me a suit. That would be great to wear in Highever?”

“I’ll make inquiries.”

“See that you do.”

She laughed.

“Here I have some things for you.” I reach over on my bureau and took a square dark blue velvet case and handed it to her. Fergus watched as she opened it. She looked up at me. “They are lovely Fergus.” She ran her finger over the Cousland signet ring and her brooch for the ball nestled inside a field of white velvet.

“Try the ring on, I want to make sure it fits.” I took the case from her hand and lifted out the ring handing it to her. She slide it on her ring finger on her right hand.

“How does it feel?”

It was snug, since my hands had gotten bigger from the joining. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t want to ruin this for Fergus.

“Just fine, perfect,” I said. I held out my hand for him to see.

“Like the Mabari in the center?”

“I do,” she said.

I handed her the case back.

“Wait turn around, you’ve a screw and pin lose.” I turned my back to her.
She tighten the screw, closing the section with the pin. “There all done.”

She took the case from my hand. “Father would be so proud of you today Fergus, you look like our grandfather.”

“Father always said I looked like him.”

“Well are you ready?”

“Just need my helmet.”

“Nice plume.” She gave me a cheeky grin. I rolled my eyes at her. She knew I hated plumes, they were so Orlesian.

“I’ll meet you downstairs. I need to put this case in my room. I’ll be right behind you.”

Fergus gave me a kiss on the cheek, “hurry, we’re running late.”

I walked back to my room in double-time dropping off the case and picking up my daggers. The Orlesian Wardens following behind me. I walked down the stairs of Cousland Court for the first time in nearly two years. I came down the stairs and walked down the corridor to the Great Hall. Everyone was inside. The best people I’ve ever known. I saw Thor and he ran over to me his tail going a mile a minute. I squatted down to pet him.

“Wow, you look nice and shiny too, who in the world cleaned you up?”

Thor’s coat was clean and had been brushed, with a new Kaddis applied. The white with the Highever Laurels on his sides and designs around his eyes and his hind legs. This Kaddis was used for cold spells.

Sten walked over. “Kadan.”

“You did this?” The massive Qunari warrior just nodded.

“Thank you Sten.”

He just nodded. Sten a man of few words. The rest of them gathered around us. Everyone looked great. “It’s time everyone,” called Fergus.

We followed him through the estate laughing and talking with each other, exchanging barbs here and there all in good fun. Finally we stepped outside and there before us were our troops, all in their finest, all five hundred of them. A far cry of the thousands we’d once commanded before Ostagar. The Knight Lieutenant called them to attention. Fergus and I walked out to face them with Molly and her large staff following. My friends and the Wardens went to stand off to the side of the training field. Molly waited with Fergus and me while her large staff went through the crowd passing out very tiny glasses of wine. The servants when they finished joined my friends. Molly served me and Fergus filling our silver goblets then she joined the others placing her tray on a nearby table that had been brought out for the occasion. Facing our troops, Fergus raised his goblet, saying. “Prince Alistair, may the Maker bless his knees,” and everyone laughed. Fergus finished the Cousland motto. “Honor, Justice, Duty” this was our family motto, Fergus then drained his goblet. The rest of us repeated the oath and cheered when we finished our wine.

While Molly and her servants collected the tiny small glasses, Fergus introduced me. I’d only spotted eight men that I recognized. The rest of them were new. “Knights of Highever, I have the pleasure of introducing my sister. Teyrna Bellavalia Cousland, Grey Warden, and defender of the fifth blight and Denerim. Maker Bless her.”

They all bowed to me in unison and I returned the warrior’s acknowledgement with my arms crossed over my chest and bowed to them. Then they cheered. Shouts of ‘thank you my lady’ echoed in the training field. I held my hands up for them to quiet down.

“I wish to thank all of you in agreeing to enter into service with the Cousland family and helping my brother rebuild the King’s troops of Highever. Maker watch over all of you in your duty.”

“Maker watch over you as well, was their reply.” I bowed to them once more and they did the same to me. I hurried over to my companions while Fergus gave them their last minute instructions.

“This is so exciting,” giggled Leliana. We’re all going to the Pearl once Alistair enters the Chantry, you’re coming with us.”

“I’m sorry Leliana, I can’t.”

“Bah, why not?” demanded Oghren. “You look fit as a fiddle to me.”

“Eamon asked me not to attend.”

“Did he now,” said Zevran, crossing his arms over his chest.

“What did he ask exactly?” demanded Oghren again.

“I wasn’t to join our troops to escort Alistair to the Chantry.”

“We’ll just see about that,” said Wynne.

“Please everyone, its fine and probably a good thing, this is for Alistair not me. It’s fine.”

Before any of them could reply. Fergus gave the order and I turned in time to see him do his about- face. Calling for our troops to march. The gates opened and they all marched through. All of us cheered them as they marched out of the gates of Cousland Court.

“Come on we’ve got to get to Redcliffe before Fergus does,” called Leliana. Before I knew it, Oghren grabbed me by the hand nearly jerking me off my feet trying to drag me behind him.

“Ye’re coming with us. We’re all getting drunk tonight.” I tried to pull away but his grip was to strong. “Eamon said you couldn’t be in the escort, he didn’t say you couldn’t join us.” I thought for a split-second. Oghren was right.

“You’re right he didn’t.”

“Ha, that’s the spirit.  Come on commander, let’s all get drunk.”

I saw Kristoff and the Wardens running to follow us. We traveled the hidden alleys and tunnels we all knew about avoiding as much of the crowds as we possibly could, and just made it to the backside of Redcliffe where we saw Master Dolan waving us into the back of the Estate. “This way Commander, I’ve got a special viewing room all set up for you and your friends. Hurry. We didn’t know if you’d be here or not.” Running up the stairs we made it the room in the front, as Fergus and our troops marched in from the North gate. Marching to the entrance to Redcliffe where they finally halted at Parade rest.  Our viewing window was just about them.

Eamon’s estate faced the Chantry, it wasn’t a very long walk. The route had been roped off and people were everywhere trying to get a look at their Prince. The Chantry bells range and the doors opened. The Grand Clerk came outside flanked by Templars. She was singing from the ‘Chant of Light,’ calling the Prince to his vigil. The crowds grew quiet so they could hear. The massive doors of Redcliffe opened and the crowd started cheering again. I noticed bowman step up on the roofs in Denerim livery.

“Maker please,” I prayed under my breath.

We couldn’t see Alistair or Fergus just yet. Highever troops split their columns into two rows, with the stamp of feet back to attention. Alistair, Fergus, and Arl Eamon came into view with about fifty Highever knights marching behind them.

“There they are,” giggled Leliana.

“Nice armor.” grunted Oghren.

Sten grunted that he agreed with Oghren.

“Nice gold color,” said Zevran.

I chuckled, “you thinking of stealing that armor Zev?”

Zevran shrugged his shoulders at me with a grin on his face, “I might,” he replied to me.

“Look he is carrying a Warden shield,” said Leliana.

Duncan’s shield I thought. Wynne and I looked at each other. He did this for you Bellavalia she seemed to say with her eyes. Thor barked his approval and we all laughed.  All of us watched as Fergus escorted Alistair before the Grand Cleric. They came to the bottom of the Chantry steps. Alistair removed his helm and the crowds went wild and he turned raising his hand acknowledging the crowds. Alistair’s helm had a purple plume because he was royalty. He handed his helm to Arl Eamon, then he took his sword out and laid it across Fergus’ outstretched arms. Eamon and Fergus both bowed to him and stepped back. The Grand Cleric walked forward. She bowed to Alistair and him to her.

“Alistair Theirin, second son of King Maric, are you willing to do your penance and vigil to the Maker, before accepting the crown to lead Ferelden’s people? What say you Sire?”

Alistair knelt before the Grand Cleric.

“I come willingly to the house of the Maker to offer my confession, so that I may prepare to accept the crown, beginning my rule as Ferelden’s King with a clean conscious and a pure heart seeking The Maker’s guidance for myself and my people.” Alistair’s words had rung out loud and clear.

“Let it be, my son. Come enter the house of The Maker so you may prepare.”

Alistair came to his feet and followed the Grand Cleric inside. A hush had fallen over the crowds to hear them. The Templars parted allowing the Grand Cleric and Alistair to pass by, then they closed ranks and stood guard at the entrance of the Chantry with the doors remaining open. After a moment, the crowds cheered. It was done till the morning. Fergus and our troops would stand guard along with the Templars until Alistair left the Chantry in the morning and then march to the Landsmeet Hall for his crowning. All of us stood for a few moments in silence.

“Off to the Pearl, I’m for a drink and a pretty wench,” spoke Oghren.

“I think we’ve all earned a drink,” said Leliana.

“Yes we have, come on, last one there has to pay for the first round.”

“Hey, no fair now, I’ve shorter legs than the rest of you.”

“Not true Oghren, Thor has shorter legs than you do?”

“Does he have the coin if I beat him there?”

“I’m sure he does and if he doesn’t, I’m also sure he’ll pickpocket folks along the way until he does.” My companions laughed and Thor barked his reply that he would do just that.

We made a beeline for the Pearl thanking Master Dolan for the best view in Denerim. The streets were packed and the Pearl also. When we arrived Sanga saw us as we came inside, showing us to our private room, the biggest one in the Pearl. A few nobles were coming in behind us. The place was packed. My companions and I got started on drinking and we all settled to play cards with each other. We ate, and drank enjoying our last few nights with each other. Leliana and Zevran both vowing to learn how I always won at Wicked Grace. The rest of the wardens returned to Cousland Court.

********

Alistair knelt before the altar in front of the statue of Andraste within the Chantry. I’ve done this many times as a novice Templar, except back in those days I’d been in the pews, the back pew where he liked it best. His knees connected with the cold stone floors and he waited for the Grand Cleric to finish her traditional chant before the altar and offering up incense on my behalf. When she was finally done she came to stand before me. She looked down on me with genuine affection in her old eyes. She’s been here in this Chantry for as long as I can remember, she’d been the one that Eamon had left me with all those years ago. She’d been hard on me during my time here. Yet, without her, I wouldn’t be a good Templar and have the education that I have now. She’d seen I’d done my best. Placed me with the hardest training masters of the Templars and I’d been knocked on my ass during my training more times than I could count.

“I have a few confessions of my own Prince Theirin before we get started.”

“You’re Grace?” I asked her unsure where this was leading.

“There are a few things I need you to know Prince Theirin that I was never allowed to tell you before and I never expected to get this chance.”

I just nod at her and waited politely.

“Before you ever arrived with Arl Eamon back when you were 10 years old I had a special visitor and he would often come to the Chantry in the dead of night, he was a sad lonely man because his duties as a ruler were heavy on his heart at times. I also knew he wasn’t a very religious man, but he did his duty to the Chantry and to the Maker. I’m sure you can guess who this person was?”

“My father.”

“Yes, Prince Theirin, you’re father. He came here often to check on your progress and to get a look at you from time to time, in secret of course. I’ve often thought he had you sent here so he could see for himself and keep track of your progress. He would watch you during your training sessions with your instructors.”

“Yet he never acknowledged me as his son.”

“He had his reasons, even though I don’t know what they were, he never discussed this with me; but, I’ve always felt it was because of Orlais or who your mother was. I think you should know he was proud of you and checked on you more than you ever realized. I was never allowed to acknowledge you as his son, he told me never to do this. He also informed me you were to never take Holy Vows to become a full-fledged Holy Templar. I think he had other plans for you and your life.”

“Yes, I’m sure he was proud, since I was the best pot-scrubber in Denerim’s Chantry.”

The Grand Cleric chuckled, one of the few times Alistair had ever heard her do so.

“Is this why you fought Duncan over my conscription?”

“Yes, this was the reason, I knew you were King Maric’s son, and I don’t think he meant for you to become a Grey Warden either.”

“Yes, well to late now.”

She just nodded, “so it would seem. Yet, here we both are again, me preparing a Theirin for kingship before the Maker and you about to become that said king.”

A twinkled appeared in her reamy eyes.

“The reason I was so hard on you and disciplined you as often as I did was to make you into one of the best critical thinkers our Chantry has ever educated, and into a good Templar warrior – to prepare you for kingship encase your brother died. We both know this has now happened. I did all of this and was so hard on you because you’re father told me to be.”

“I see.”

“I’m not so sure Prince Theirin, you weren’t just the best pot scrubber – you were also the best student this Chantry has ever produced and I think with your Chantry education you’ll be one of the best Kings Ferelden has ever had. I lied to you on many occasions making you retake your tests, doing them over and over so you wouldn’t pass your finals – making you eligible for Holy Vows. I’m sorry and I hope one day you can forgive me, because you passed them on the first pass every time and without error.”

A small smile split Alistair lips. “I did that well?”

She nodded, “yes you did and I was so proud of you.”

“When Duncan conscripted you and your father was already declared dead I didn’t know what to do. I asked your brother, and he said, if you wanted to become a Grey Warden to allow this.”

“My brother came here?”

“Yes, after your father was declared dead, he also came here to check on your progress.”

“You may not have been acknowledged Prince Theirin; but, you were not forgotten by your family and I wish I had an answer for you on the reasons for your father’s actions. I knew this bothered you when grew up here and the ribbing you took from the other nobles in training here.”

“It hurt me my whole life and I’ve hated being King Maric’s bastard son all of these years, it was a hardship?”

“I’m sure it was Your Highness, and I hope you find it within your heart and during your confession to the Maker, you’ll forgive your father and your brother.”

“I forgave them, when I became a Grey Warden.”

She nodded and smiled at me. “Is there anything else you’d like to confess?”

“A few things…”

“Go on then.”

“Right after I saw my brother and Duncan die on the field at Ostagar, I wanted to die too.”

“Why, Prince Theirin? The Maker spared you for a reason and as you see now it was to become Ferelden’s King.”

“Guilt mainly, because they died, and I didn’t. Not being acknowledged and wanted all of these years….and in part because Cailan and Duncan were needed where I wasn’t. All I’ve ever yearned for Your Grace was to be an ordinary man.”

“Do you still feel this way?”

“Sometimes.”

“I hope you don’t feel this way any longer, the Maker has chosen you’re role for the future.”

“Bellavalia Cousland made me king, not the Maker.”

“Yet, the Maker set her in your path Prince Theirin to get you here. I’m sure of it, and without her you’d likely not be alive today.”

“In moments of catastrophic upheaval we don’t always see or chose our rightful paths or understand the reasons for them. Many times they are not revealed to us until much later, why things are the way they are or why they turn out the way they do. All we can do is trust in the Maker.”

I just nod, not wishing to say more.

“What other confessions do you wish to make Prince Theirin?”

“Just one?”

She waited for me to think and reply. “I lied to someone I love and hurt them.”

The Grand Cleric nodded. “Do you plan to make this right?”

“I can’t make it right and I’ve hurt someone I love.”

“Why not Prince Theirin.”

“Becoming king prevents this?”

“Why should becoming the monarch make it so?”

“Her duty is as important as mine is to Ferelden?”

“So this is a woman you have wronged?”

“Yes, you’re Grace, Bellavalia Cousland.”

The Grand Cleric knew, he was sure.

“You slept with the lady didn’t you Prince Theirin?”

“I….yes, yes I did.”

“She isn’t with child is she? If she is, you need to marry her with all due haste. This is not what the Chantry taught you young man,” she said sternly.

“No, it’s not that, well it is….partly.”

“She is with child then?”

“No, no she isn’t, she can’t have children not as a Grey Warden.”

“I don’t understand Prince Theirin.”

“I told her for the sake of the Wardens, they told me to lie to her and I did.”

“You still love her?”

“I do, the Wardens asked me to do this and I’m not sure I made the right decision.”

“You realize Prince Theirin you do have a duty to marry and produce heirs.”

“Yes, I realize this, I told her my duty as king must come first and her duty as a Warden.”

“Can you live with this Prince Theirin, marrying someone else, knowing you love another?”

“I must.”

“This is what you’ll pray about before the Maker?”

“Yes, I’m unsure if I’ve made the right decision.”

She nodded. “Hopefully, the Maker will reveal to you His desire, if not, then perhaps in time a way will open. Is there anything else Prince Theirin.”

“One other thing you’re Grace, I’m afraid to become King.”

She nodded in understanding. “I think most monarch’s feel this way, at least the ones who really feel and wish to do well for their people. You didn’t grow up as your father did during the time of the Orlesian occupation. It was a horrible time while Orlais ruled Ferelden. The Maker heard the pleas of the people and finally your father won our independence, it was the Maker’s will. Your father was afraid and really didn’t want to rule either, yet he did his duty and was a good King. Becoming the best that Ferelden has ever known, and at great loss and hardship to His personal life.”

“He didn’t want to rule?”

“No, he didn’t, yet he did his duty, he was an only child and our only true Prince of the Blood. He felt exactly as you do now.”

“I see, I’ll do my best Your Grace.”

“I know you will Prince Theirin. I think you’re more like your father than you really know.”

“Are you ready Prince Theirin for your prayers to begin?”

“Yes, you’re Reverence.”

“Very well, my son.”

“Once your vigil is over and when the dawn lights the sky, we’ll discuss any revelations you might have received and then I’ll give you my blessing or withhold my blessing for your crown. May the Maker guide you in your prayers and offer you wisdom.”

The Grand Cleric blessed me at the altar of Andraste. Alistair bowed his head and began with his own chants out of the “Chant of Light” as he’d been taught since he was a child. The long night had begun.

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