This is a private game based off the Bioware game Dragon Age Origins with several twists. There are set characters that the players will be picking from all of which are the soul property of Bioware and EA games. All posts that are made here by someone not invited into the game will be ignored.
"As so is the Golden City blackened With each step you take in my Hall. Marvel at perfection, for it is fleeting. you have brought Sin to Heaven And doom upon all the world."
~Canticle of Threnodies 8:13
The Chantry teaches us that it is the hubris of men which brought the darkspawn into our world. the mages had sought to usurp Heaven, but instead they destroyed it. They were cast out, twisted and cursed by their own corruption. They returned as monsters, the first of the darkspawn. They became a Blight upon the lands, unstoppable and relentless. The dwarven kingdoms were the first to fall, and from the Deep Roads the darkspawn drove at us again and again until finally we nearred annihilation. Until the Grey Wardens came. Men and women from every race, warriors and mages, barbarians and kings... the Grey Wardens sacrificed everything to stem the tide of darkness... and prevailed. It has been four centuries since that victory and we have kept our vigil. We have watched and waited for the darkspawn to return. But those who once called us heroes... have forgotten. We are few now, and our warnings have been ignored for too long. It may even be too late, for I have seen with my own eyes what lies on the horizon. Maker help us all.
Born in the Terynir of Highever grew up having to be the man of the house since his father died in the war with Orlais freeing Ferelden from slavery. He assisted his older bother with the farm that his father worked that helped supply food to the Terynir. His mother worked in the castle of Highever home of the Cousland family. The Couslands were well loved by all of the common folk for ruling with a fair and just hand. One day Marcus’s mother came home telling him that the castle was asking for volunteers to sign up to be men-at-arms before they start pressing people into service. Knowing that the family needed the extra coin and that he needed to figure out how to make his own way he went and signed up with the guard. Marcus was with the guard through all the training which he excelled at surprisingly to himself and his captain. There was a rumor going around several months later that the Couslands were going to help with the war going on in the south against the darkspawn and only a few token men-at-arms will be staying in the castle to help protect it. Marcus was called into his captain’s office for reasons unknown too all but the Teyrn and the Captain.
Marcus knocks on the closed door. “Enter!” the captain calls while hovering over his desk at several scrolls of papers. The captain looks up, “Ah, Marcus please, come in,” the captain lets one of the scrolls he was looking at roll back up on its own.
“You sent for me?” Marcus asked stepping into the office and closing the door behind himself then saluted the Captain which the Captain returned the gechure.
“Indeed. As you probably already heard one way or another there is a war in the south. The King has requested that the Teyrn bring his men to help. We have assembled our army to leave with Lord Fergus taking them. It will still be a few more days before the Arl gets here with his troops for us to go down together. Ser Gilmore is leaving a few knights here to protect the castle itself, but the Teyrn has concerns about his family with so few soldiers being left in the castle. I put you forward to look after her Ladyship and Lady while the army is away. The Teyrn doesn’t believe that the Teyrna will give you much trouble; however, Lady Orchid can be quite… spirited since coming back from her time with the Dalish. I am almost certain you will have your hands full with her.”
“As you say, Captain,” Marcus saluted his commanding officer.
“You are dismissed. Try not to let the Lady get into too much trouble.”
Noting that it was about midday Marcus ventured into the mess hall to have lunch. He can overhear screaming and barking coming from the kitchen. “Someone fetch Sir Gilmore please.”
Marcus, “There isn’t dog in this is there?”
“Maker no! the Lady’s mabari is loose in the larder.”
Marcus gets up and goes to find Sir Gilmore.
Marcus found Sir Gilmore talking with Lady Orchid who was firing at a target dummy with a longbow her accuracy was something to marvel.
“I don’t need someone following me around like some mabari, Sir Gilmore. No matter what father thinks I might do while he is gone.”
“The soldier was given orders My Lady would you have him disobey orders from the Teyrn himself?”
Orchid fires an arrow into the forehead of the straw dummy that was shaped like a man. “No… I would not have someone punished or reprimanded on my account. Even though I still do not believe that I need a nursemaid.”
“I am not a nursemaid. I am a guard that was giving orders to protect the Cousland family nothing more.”
Orchid turns a lock of hair falling out of place from behind her ear and blew in the wind. Her piercing emerald eyes gleamed with justice and absolution. “I will not ask you to disobey orders for I would not want to see you punished on my account, but I would like some leniency in your guarding of me. I don’t wish to be followed around like a master leading a mabari. I would like to have more of a friend than a guard actually. Ever since I came back from living with the Dalish my perspectives I believe has changed quite a bit. So if you don’t mind…”
“Marcus, my lady,” Marcus offered.
“Marcus. You don’t need to call me that. I’m just as human as you are and bleed just as red. Though, it might be best to keep that more for private conversations than public. My father would obviously disapprove of me allowing myself to be treated below my station,” She smiled her eyes softening. “I’m going to go wash up for supper. I don’t believe there to be any danger while the rest of the army is here in the castle. How about you meet me outside the library after supper? I think I would enjoy a little light reading before bed.”
“As you wish, my lady,” Marcus said as Orchid departed back towards the nobles living quarters.
“Sir Gilmore,” Marcus stopped the knight before walking off.
“The cook has requested that you help with a mabari that is in the larder,” Marcus reported to the knight.
“Oh Maker… not again,” the knight shook his head. “Thank you, I’ll take care of it.” The knight quickly chased down Orchid and they both ran towards the mess hall. Marcus didn’t want to know why the knight needed the Lady’s help with a dog but decided he really didn’t care that much about it either.
It was pretty uneventful over the next couple of days while the rest of the Teyrn’s men were divided into the army that was to go to Ostagar and those that were chosen to stay at the castle. The morning that the army was to leave Marcus accompanied Lady Orchid to the main hall where the Teyrn was talking with another nobleman.
“You summoned me Father?” Orchid asked the Teyrn.
“There you are pup. Yes I wanted to remind you that you are in charge while I am away…” The Teyrn stated.
“Your daughter has grown to be a fine young lady,” said the noble that the Teyrn was talking to. “My son Thomas asked about you,” he continued.
“To what end, Arl Howe?” she asked.
“To what end she says…” the arl laughed.
“What can I say Howe. She has a mind of her own. Are we to be leaving then?” Orchid’s father asked Howe.
“I’m sorry Bryce, but my men won’t be here until morning,” the arl said regretfully.
“Well… Pup you should go tell Fergus to leave without me. Howe and I will leave in the morning with his men,” Orchid’s father said.
“I’m dreadfully sorry Bryce,” the arl said again.
“I only wish I was going with you,” Orchid said to her father.
“Your mother wouldn’t forgive me if I took you with us, pup. She is already having a hard enough time letting your brother go,” her father smiled at her.
Just then a man entered the room that wore a nice set of chain mail with a sword and dagger strapped to his hips.
“Hail there Douglass, I didn’t expect to see you here until tomorrow. Sir Gilmore should be in the mess hall if you are looking for him,” Bryce said to the man.
“Bryce you didn’t say that a Grey Warden was going to be here. There are certain protocols when dealing with a Warden,” stated Howe.
“He is here to pick up a new recruit I think I remembered it right that you were looking at Sir Gilmore,” Bryce said. “Pup, the tutors that you’ve had taught you about the Grey Wardens didn’t they?”
“They said they were warriors of great skill in battle. To be respected,” Orchid said tilting her head to the Grey Warden.
“You are right my lord Teyrn that I am here to recruit I was looking at Sir Gilmore but I must say that your daughter and her guard would also be excellent candidates.”
“I’m sorry Douglass but you are talking of my only daughter. I will not allow this,” the Teryn said obviously objecting the notion of Orchid even being considered.
“Bryce you just said that the Grey Wardens are warriors of great skills it would be silly for her not to even be a little curious about it,” the arl said with a smile.
“I have no interest in becoming a Grey Warden,” Orchid said bluntly.
“You see she doesn’t want to join up. Unless you plan on conscripting her?” Orchid’s father asked through pierced lips.
“I have no intention of forcing her into the order,” Douglass said looking past Bryce to Marcus.
“I will go tell Fergus to leave without you father, and I will try to keep things in order while you are gone,” Orchid said before leaving.
“That’s a good lass,” Bryce smiled as she left with Marcus not far behind her.
“It is getting late Marcus who about you turn in early I’m sure there will be a lot of things to do in the morning with my father leaving with the arl that we both should get a good nights rest,” Orchid said turning to Marcus once they reached the noble’s suite.
“As you say My lady,” Marcus saluted her before she entered the noble’s suite. Marcus then turned and decided to get an evening snack before bed.
Marcus awoke to the loud noise that sounded all too familiar… it was as if someone was fighting right outside his bedroom door. Marcus picked up his sword and approached the door as it swung open a servant was trying to escape a soldier as the soldier thrust his sword into the back of the servant the sword sticking out three inches on the other side. The soldier then retracted the sword as he saw Marcus he raised the sword to defend himself a little too late that Marcus was already upon him severing the man’s head from his body.
“What is going on here…?” Marcus said to himself as he quickly put on his chain mail and dawned his shield before leaving his room to go find Lady Orchid and Lady Eleanor. Marcus fought his way to the noble’s suite only to find Orchid’s room was empty along with the Teryn’s room. When he checked Fergus’s room however there was the young Teyrn’s wife and son murdered on the floor. Marcus knew he had to find where the rest of the family was so he set off to look for them. Marcus then fought his way to the main hall where Sir Gilmore was bracing himself against the main door along with two other knights trying to keep the attacking soldiers from coming in.
“Marcus was it?” Sir Gilmore called to him as he struggled with the door.
“The Lady and Ladyship ran towards the servant’s entrance in the castle kitchens. We think that Arl Howe’s men hadn’t found that entrance as of yet. Go! You must get them out of here!” Sir Gilmore ordered and Marcus nodded as he left to go to the kitchen. There were bodies everywhere several of them more resent kills by a bow. Marcus could only hope that Orchid made it to the servant’s entrance alive with her mother.
Upon entering the larder Marcus barely ducked an attack by Douglass as Eleanor was holding onto her husband as he was bleeding out on the larder floor.
“I’m sorry… I thought you were one of Howe’s men,” Douglass apologized.
“I would have done the same thing if I was in her position. Where is the Lady Orchid?” Marcus asked.
“I ordered her to leave,” Bryce said coughing up blood. “She was to head to the band of Dalish that she spent some time with before heading to Ostagar to tell her brother of this betrayal.”
“Douglass get my wife out of here,” Bryce pleaded.
“I am not leaving,” Eleanor stated bluntly. “I’ll kill every bastard that comes through that door to buy them time. But I won’t abandon you.” Lady Eleanor ran her fingers through her husband’s hair.
“My Lady you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself,” Marcus started but Eleanor gave him the same look that his mother did when she was about to scold him.
“My place is with my husband. At his side, to death and beyond,” she said in a softer tone that Marcus would have thought she was going to use.
“I will need a Grey Warden to assist me in dealing with the evil now loose in this world. I came here seeking a recruit. The darkspawn threat demands that I leave with one,” Douglass stated.
“Then you will take Marcus,” Bryce decried. “He will need to travel to Ostagar anyway to look for my Orchid chances are better if he is a Grey Warden to help protect her and the land.”
“They’ve broken through the gates. You must go!” Eleanor snapped. Douglass grabbed Marcus and pulled him to his feet and they ran out of the castle with screams at their heals as they entered the forest.
Posted on 2011-05-09 at 06:50:47.
Edited on 2011-05-11 at 14:55:15 by Velnia
For as far back as Kael can remember she has always been in the circle; to the point that she doesn’t remember anything prior to living in the circle. She grew up still facing some of the tension between elves and humans even when in the circle they are suppose to be on equal footing sort-of-speak. Always pushing herself to be the best just so the other apprentices would look past her race she proved to be a very skilled mage. Though she continued to study more than most of the other apprentices there she had a natural talent when it came to the healing arts. Able to manipulate her Maker given abilities to mend wounds that would otherwise cripple a person she became well known in the Circle for her healing capabilities. Even the templars came to her on occasion when the Knight-lieutenant wasn’t looking to seek her aid for one reason or another.
Early one morning she was summoned to the Harrowing chamber by First Enchanter Irving. “Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him,” Greagoir spoke to Kael as she entered the Harrowing chamber. “This spoke the prophet Andraste as she cast down the Tevinter Imperium, ruled by mages who had brought the world to the edge of ruin. Your magic is a gift, but it’s also a curse, for demons of the dream realm… the Fade… are drawn to you, and seek to use you as a gateway into this world.”
“This is why the Harrowing exists,” explained First Enchanter Irving. “The ritual sends you into the Fade, and there you will face a demon, armed with only your will.”
“Know this, apprentice: if you fail, we templars will perform our duty. You will die,” Greagoir warned.
The First Enchanter moved over to a pedestal that had a light blue glowing substance in it that looked like it was pure light. “This is lyrium: the very essence of magic and your gateway into the Fade. Every mage must go through this trial by fire. As we succeeded, so shall you. Keep your wits about you and remember the Fade is a realm of dreams. The spirits may rule it, but your own will is real,” Irving advised Kael as she squinted her eyes to shield them from the bright light the lyrium was giving off.
“The apprentice must go through this test alone, First Enchanter,” Greagoir scolded Irving.
“You are ready,” Irving stated motioning Kael to proceed. Kael dipped her hand into the lyrium and before she knew it her surroundings began to melt around her and were replaced by slightly distorted scenery that looked like she was outside. Kael began to walk down a wingding road where she dispatched several wisps along the way before she heard a voice. “Someone else thrown to the wolves. As fresh and unprepared as ever. It isn’t right that they do this, the templars. Not to you, me, anyone,” Kael looked around trying to locate the source of the voice when she finally located a mouse that was talking to her.
“It may not be right but I will succeed like the others did before me,” Kael said with confidence.
“You say that now. So have many others before you. Look at me, look at what can happen,” the mouse sighs. “It’s always the same. But it’s not your fault. You’re in the same boat I was, aren’t you,” the mouse transforms into a man. “Allow me to welcome you to the Fade. You can call me… well, Mouse.”
“Not your real name I take it,” Kael frowns slightly.
“No, I don’t remember anything from… before,” Mouse admits. “The templars kill you if you take too long, you see. They figure you failed, and they don’t want something getting out. That’s what they did to me, I think. I have no body to reclaim. And you don’t have much time before you end up the same,” Mouse’s voice sounded almost earnest.
“I will be fine. It is just a test of will or so I believe,” Kael says.
“That’s been said before. But you don’t know the danger,” Mouse insists. “There’s something here, contained, just for an apprentice like you. You have to face the creature, a demon, and resist it, if you can. That’s your way out. Or your opponent’s, if the templars wouldn’t kill you. A test for you, a tease for the creatures of the Fade.”
“Well then I best get to it then… Wouldn’t want to keep the demon waiting,” Kael began to leave.
“You would be a fool to just attack everything you see,” Mouse caught her by the arm. “What you face is powerful, cunning. There are others here, other spirits. They will tell you more, maybe help. If you can believe anything you see. I’ll follow you, if that’s alright. My chance was long ago, but you… you may have a way out.”
“Follow me if you wish, but you best let go of my arm,” Kael stated bluntly. Mouse transformed back into a mouse and continued to follow Kael about when she ran across another spirit what was surrounded by weapons.
“Another mortal thrown into the flames and left to burn, I see,” said the spirit as Kael approached him.
“I didn’t choose this form of testing,” Kael stated.
“Indeed. The choice, and the fault, lies with the mages who sent you here. That you remain means you have not defeated your hunter. I wish you a glorious battle to come,” the spirit responded.
“These weapons… did you make them?” Kael asked.
“They are brought into being by my will. I understand that in your world, mages are the only ones who can will things into being. Those mortals who cannot must lead such hollow, empty lives,” the spirit replied.
“Will they have any affect on the creators of the Fade?” Kael inquired.
“Do you think these blades be steel? The staves be wood? Do you believe they draw blood? A weapon is a single needed battle, and my will makes that need reality.”
“Would you let me use one of these weapons if they truly do work here in the Fade?” Kael persisted.
“Do you truly desire one of my weapons? I will give one to you… if you agree to duel me, first. Valor shall test your mettle as it should be tested,” the spirit counter offers.
“I’m not a warrior. Fighting hand to hand with you would proof nothing,” Kael said bluntly.
“If you want the weapon to help you with your task then this is my only request to get one,” the spirit held his ground.
“Alright. If it’s a duel you want then a duel you will get spirit.”
“As you wish, mortal. We battle until I am convinced you are strong enough to defeat your demon. If you do not convince me, I will slay you. Are these rules understood?”
“The rules really don’t matter if I still have to duel you to get what I need.”
“Our duel begins now. Fight with Valor!” the spirit commanded.
After several minutes of dueling with Valor he suddenly stopped fighting back and waved his hand at Kael signaling her to stop casting at him.
“Enough. Your strength is sufficient to the task. The staff is yours. May you find glory in all your achievements, mortal.”
“Thank you,” Kael tilted her head at the spirit as it gave her the staff. She continued to follow the path fighting several wisps and now spirit wolves before spotting what looked kind of like a bear except more… demonic.
“Hmm. So you are the mortal being hunted? And the small one… is he to be a snack for me?” the demon bear lifted his head ever so slightly from the laying down position he is in.
Mouse transformed back into a man, “I don’t like this. He’s not going to help us. We should go…” Mouse’s voice quivered not at all pleased to be speaking with the demon let alone being in its presents.
The demon bear sniffs, “No matter. The demon will get you eventually, and perhaps there will even be scraps left.”
“Are you here to help me?” Kael asked the bear.
“Be gone! Surely you have better things to do that bother Sloth, mortal. I tire of you already.” The bear snapped beginning to stand up.
“Answer the question,” commanded Kael.
“You have a very nice staff,” Sloth yawns, “Why would you need me? Go; use your weapon since you have earned it. Be valorous.”
“He looks powerful. It might be possible that he could… teach you to be like him,” Mouse says though mostly hiding behind Kael away from the demonic bear.
“Like me? You mean teach the mortal to take this form? Why?” sloth seemed confused. “Most mortals are too attached to their forms to learn the change. You on the other hand, little one, might be a better student. You let go of your human form years ago.”
“I… don’t think I’d make a very good bear. How would I hide?” Mouse stated.
“You can’t just hide from life. You need to stand up for yourself and make a different or else you will never get out of here,” Kael said stepping away from him so that she was no longer between him and the Sloth demon.
“I have faced more in this place than you can imagine. Fear is… just one more thing,” Mouse puffed.
“Then now would be the time to overcome that fear don’t you think?”
“But… you are right. Hiding doesn’t help. I’m sorry, it’s the Fade. It changes you. I’ll try. I’ll try to be a bear. If you’ll teach me,” Mouse said to the sloth demon.
“That’s nice. But teaching is so exhausting. Away with you now.” Sloth stated shortly.
Mouse sighs, “I told you he wasn’t going to help us.”
“If you wish to learn my form, little one? Then I have a challenge for your friend: answer three riddles correctly, and I will teach you. Fail and I will devour you both. The decision is yours,” Sloth tilted his head to one side.
“Alright,” Kael smiled.
“Truly? This gets more and more promising. My first riddle is this: I have seas with no water coasts without sand, towns without people, mountains without land. What am I?” Sloth asked.
“That would be a map,” Kael said matter of factly.
Sloth huffed, “Correct. Let’s move on. The second riddle: I’m rarely touched, but often help. If you have wit, you’ll use me well. What am I?”
“That would be my tongue,” Kael stated not amused.
“Correct. Let’s try this one more time. The third riddle: I will amuse but only for a while from twilight to dawn is my style but alas as dawn breaks the moonlit sky you would have forgotten no matter how hard I try. What am I?”
“You be but a dream.”
“You are a pest and not worth all this exertion! I will teach the mouse to be a bear, if only to get rid of you!” the Sloth demon snapped utterly furious that Kael was able to answer all of its riddles. After a few moments of attempting Mouse seemed to have got the hang of transforming into a bear.
“Like this? Am I a bear? It feels… heavy,” Mouse complained.
“Go, then, and defeat your demon… or whatever you intent to do. I grow weary of your mortal prattling.”
Kael noted the dead end behind the sloth demon so turned around to find more spirit wolves standing in her way. They were easy enough for her to be rid of as she past the spirit of Valor again he said nothing to her. Kael was starting to wonder where this demon that she was suppose to defeat really was as she continued to double back where she first started in the Fade. But when she past a small clearing a fiery demon appeared. She read of these types of demons before it was a demon of Rage.
“And so it comes to me at last. Soon I shall see the land of the living with your eyes, creature. You shall be mine, body and soul,” the Rage demon promised.
“You want my body and soul you have to come get it first,” Kael snapped holding her staff at the ready.
“Oh, I shall… so this creature is your offering Mouse? Another play thing, as per our arrangement?” the Rage demon surmised.
“I’m not offering you anything! I don’t have to help you anymore!” Mouse shouted at the demon after transforming back into a human.
“Aw. And after all those wonderful meals we have shared? Now suddenly the mouse has changed the rules?” the Rage demon sounded put out.
“I’m not a mouse now! And soon I won’t have to hide! I don’t need to bargain with you!” Mouse continued to shout at the demon.
“We shall see…” said the Rage demon as it attacked Kael and mouse. Mouse quickly transformed into a bear and helped defend Kael as she destroyed the rage demon easier than she expected to. With all the going on about her demon predator she thought that it would have been more of a challenge.
“You did it. You actually did it! When you came, I hoped that maybe you might be able to… but I never really thought any of you were worth,” Mouse transformed back into a human again.
“He wasn’t much of a challenge,” Kael said without thinking.
“That is because you are a true mage, one of the few. The others, they never had a chance. The templars set them up to fail, like they tried with you. I regret my part in it, but you have shown me that there is hope. You can be so much more than you know. You defeated a demon, you completed your test with time, and you will be a master enchanter with no equal. And maybe there’s a hope in that for someone as small as… forgotten as me. If you want to help?” the Mouse stated.
“What do you need help with?” Kael questioned.
“There may be a way for me to leave here, to get a foothold outside. You just need to let me in,” Mouse said.
“I am beginning to think that the Rage demon was not my true test,” Kael glared at Mouse.
“What? What are you… of course it was! What else is there that could harm an apprentice of your potential?” Mouse questioned.
“A demon that sot to gain my trust so that it could… as you put it ‘get a foothold outside’ if only I would just let it in perhaps?” Kael took a defensive stance against Mouse.
“You are a smart one,” Mouse’s voice changed to something darker and more sinister. “Simple killing is a warrior’s job. The real dangers of the Fade are preconceptions, careless trust… pride.” Mouse transforms into his demon self. “Keep your wits about you mage. True tests never end.”
Posted on 2011-05-09 at 07:05:57.
Edited on 2011-05-11 at 22:34:27 by Velnia
Nolan remembers being sent to the Circle by his parents that despised him for having magical powers. He was only six years old but he remembered it well. His mother would beat him as his father simply ignored him the entire time after they discovered that he had powers. They were all too eager to be rid of him to the templars that came to pick him up after he burned down their house after being beaten once too many. He was barely alive when the templars got to him. His mother was put in jail for child-abuse though that didn’t last long as far as Nolan knew.
Nolan finally arrived at the Circle and walked through the large door to enter the tower he finally felt safe. He couldn’t believe there were so many that also possessed the magical talent… that he wasn’t alone in the world as his parents led him to believe. As he got older he noticed that some of the other mages picked on the elven mages though he never partook in such practices he never helped the elven mages out either. He grew to be an exceptionally handsome young man and very talented in the primal magic’s. He was asked to tutor several of the newer apprentices in such talents even before he took his Harrowing. There were two others that were to take their Harrowing the same day that he was. He had several dealings in the Fade before and he knew that the Harrowing would be no different once he found out that was where they were going to be sending him. The demon in the Fade that he was to encounter tried to trick him into becoming an abomination but Nolan new that was what the test was all about and thus refused the demons demands and dispatching it just as quickly. It wasn’t until later that he found out that Kael was one of the other mages that was taking their Harrowing as well Lia the other elf didn’t make it.
Posted on 2011-05-09 at 07:07:22.
Edited on 2011-05-11 at 22:00:53 by Velnia
Grown up with her clan in the forests forever wandering as the Dalish do since they refuse to join the society of humans that subjugated their homeland so long ago. Deirdra was apart of the Mahariel clan of Dalish elves that have been struggling along with the other Dalish clans to maintain their half-forgotten lore in a human world that fears and despises them. She grew up with her cousin Naois and their other clan-mate Tamlen in the forest. The three of them were inseparable since they were little. It was not long after they each completed their first hunt that they were made Hunters; protectors of the clan, and Tamlen fell in love with Deirdra. Deirdra accepted Tamlen’s hand and they were to be a mated pair once the clan moved to the north and the ceremony there was completed for them.
Also grew up in the Mahariel clan of Dalish elves with Deirdra and Tamlen. Though they were his best of friends Deirdra chose Tamlen over Naois to become her mate. Although this was disheartening to him he couldn’t hate them. Tamlen was his best friend and he still loved Deirdra. The three of them were always a group when hunting and were well known in the clan to be a harmonious unit. Naois always wondered the reason that Deirdra chose Tamlen over himself curious if his rage and hunger for battle is what drove her away.
Deep beneath the Frostback Mountains sits Orzammar, the larger of the two known remaining Dwarven cities in the world. The city now stands alone, cut off from the rest of the Dwarven ancestral lands by the darkspawn incursion. Assassination and blackmail are commonplace, but the appearance of honor is paramount. You are the second child of King Endrin of House Aeducan... the ninth Aeducan ruler elected by the Noble Assembly. You grew up in a world rife with political intrigue and have struggled against brothers and cousins for honor and prestige. Today, a feast celebrates your first military commission, the opening move towards real power in the ever-changing game of Dwarven politics.
Gorim leaned up against the archway leading into Keitha’s bed chamber. “Greetings, my lady. You are dressed and ready. Excellent. I couldn’t find the armor’s marching dagger, but I scrounged up a rather fancy long sword. Do you wish to wear your shield to the noble’s feast?
Keitha turned at looked at her second, “Yes. Let them see me as a warrior,” she said with a slight grin.
“As opposed to the Paragon of Beauty?” he questioned crossing his arms now no longer leaning against the archway.
Keitha laughed, “Close the door. I’ll show you a Paragon of Beauty.”
“Ha! Don’t you remember how this game goes? I get undressed, then one of your brothers or cousins appears and thrashes me,” Gorim smiles. “I’ll take my chances somewhere outside the palace if you don’t mind. Perhaps after the feast?” he was still smiling playfully. “Well… thoughts for later, I suppose. Moving on to the business at hand… The king expects you to make an appearance at the feast, but there’s no rush. The noble family heads will spend hours boring your father with petitions and petty grievances.”
“And what do you suggest that we do in the meantime?” Keitha asked picking up her shield.
“As part of the celebrations, permits have been auctioned off to members of the Merchant Caste who wished to sell wares in the Diamond Quarter. Lord Harrowmont has also opened up the Provings for young warriors to test their mettle before tomorrow’s battle. Rumor has it that Harrowmont hopes you’ll be swept off your feet if a well-placed nobleman wins the Provings in your honor,” Gorim explained.
Keitha gave a harsh laugh, “That’s not likely to happen.”
“My lady doesn’t want to marry some trumped-up lord because of his talent with pointy objects? Maybe we should just watch, then,” Gorim suggested.
“Yes. Let’s head over to the Provings,” Keitha suggested though having quiet another thing in mind.
Gorim bowed to Keitha, “With you as always, my lady. The day is ours until the feast.” As they walked through the noble quarters Keitha spotted a red headed Dwarven woman leaving her younger brothers room thinking that Bhelen was walking the halls then ran back into the room at the sight of Keitha instead. Keitha’s curiosity got the better of her as she entered her younger brother’s room and cornered the redhead.
“I… I’m sorry. I thought you were Prince Bhelen coming down the hall. I… forgive me,” the woman said bowing her head to Keitha.
“Gorim, tell her that my brother is at my feast,” Keitha stated to her second.
“Prince Bhelen is attending the feast being held in Lady Aeducan’s honor,” Gorim repeated to the mistress.
“Yes. Of… of course. It was presumptuous of me to think that he would return to—I am sorry,” the mistress didn’t meet Keitha’s gaze. “I will show myself out, with your leave, my lady.”
“Gorim, tell her she may take her leave of me,” Keitha spoke again to her second and not to the woman.
“Go,” Gorim all but ordered.
“Thank you. I will go now,” said the mistress. Keitha and Gorim left the palace and he reminded her that her father allowed the merchants to show their wares in the Diamond Quarter during these celebrations. Keitha was however distracted by an argument between Master Vollney and one of the shapers; those that keep the records of the Dwarven history.
“Please, Master Vollney, my work is accredited by the shaper!” said the historian.
“These books are lies written by the enemies of House Vollney,” stated the nobleman.
The historian pleaded with Master Vollney, “I write only what I find in the ancient records!” That was when the historian noticed Keitha’s approach. “Lady Aeducan! You can vouch for my work, can’t you?” he asked. “You’re father loved my ‘History of Aeducan: Paragon, King, Peacemaker!”
“Gorim, does this scholar truly have my father’s favor?” Keitha asked her second.
Gorim thought for a second, “The king, as well as several other lords, are quite fond of his work. He writes of the ancient Paragons.”
“This… worm has written a book that slanders my house!” Master Vollney accused.
“That’s a serious charge,” Keitha warned Master Vollney.
Master Vollney demands, “He deserves to die for what he has written of Paragon Vollney!”
Keitha turns to the scholar, “Tell me what it says, scholar.”
“My work tells the stories of all of those raised to Paragons in the last five hundred years,” the scholar explained. “When the Assembly names a Paragon, that man or woman is then, by definition, everything one can aspire to be in the world. They form their own noble houses, and are revered as living ancestors. But Paragons start off as men.”
“Vollney was more than a man!” Master Vollney argued.
“Get to the point. Why is Bruntin so angry?” Keitha was quickly loosing her patience.
“Vollney became a Paragon by the narrowest margin in history—one vote. A vote mired in rumors of intimidation, intrigue, and outright bribery,” proclaimed the scholar. “The records of that vote are kept in the Shaperate and are a matter of fact. Not liking history doesn’t make it any less true!” the scholar stated matter of fact at Bruntin.
“True or false, the Paragons’ reputation must be protected,” stated Keitha.
“Exactly! Just because it happened, doesn’t mean it’s the truth, old man,” Bruntin smiled in triumph. “Your Highness, allow me to kill this worm for his disrespect,” Bruntin requested.
“The subject bores me… if you must kill him at least make it interesting,” Keitha stated and Bruntin smiled as he gutted the scholar.
“That man had the patronage of many powerful houses,” warned Gorim.
“House Vollney has some new enemies, then,” Keitha stated coldly.
“Nothing we can’t handle,” promised Bruntin. “Excuse me, your Highness.” Bruntin left without any further incident.
“He’s a fool, and a low-placed one at that. House Meino was that scholar’s patron. They will crush House Vollney like a warrior treading upon a centipede,” Gorim said once Bruntin was out of ear shot.
Keitha smiled, “I do so love the games of the nobles.”
“I don’t think the poor nobles of Orzammar know what they’re in for,” Gorim smiled with her. As they walked together down the Diamond Quarter one of the merchants called to Keitha.
“You honor me by visiting my humble booth. May I show you my wares?” the merchant asked.
Keitha couldn’t believe her ears, “Gorim, why is this man speaking to me?” she asked her second thinking that she misheard.
“Because he has forgotten his place,” Gorim replied which only confirmed to Keitha that she was not just hearing things.
“A thousand pardons. Please forgive me, your Highness,” bowed the merchant.
“This looks to be mostly fabrics from the human lands,” Gorim stated briefly looking over the merchants wares. “These merchants form alliances with those who have abandoned our ways to live on the surface,” Gorim explained.
“We trade our good steel and stone for this,” Keitha stated clearly unimpressed.
“It’s a shame. I agree,” stated Gorim. “Perhaps we should get going?” he then suggested. They continued to walk down the Diamond Quarter when Keitha noticed both of her brothers along the way.
“Atrast vala, big sister!” shouted Bhelen. “How surprising to run into you out among the common folk.”
“Especially since duty requires that you attend our king father at the feast today,” Trian stated trying to be demeaning.
“Lord Harrowmont told me we wouldn’t be needed for hours at least—“Gorim started to explain.
Train however cut him off at the knees, “Silence! If I want the opinion of my sibling’s second, I will ask for it.”
“Yes, your Highness,” Gorim bowed his head to Keitha’s older brother.
“I go where I want, when I want, Trian,” Keitha stated coolly.
“Your lack of sense of duty to your house is obvious. I can’t imagine why you are receiving a commission,” Trian said still in disbelief. “I expect after tomorrow I’ll spend much time apologizing to the head of the noble houses for the deaths of their children under your incompetent command.”
“That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it, Trian?” Bhelen stated trying to defend his sister.
“As heir to the throne, it is my duty to impart wisdom and judgment upon those who need it,” Trian stated as if he was reading from a text book. “Now then, you get to the feast!” he commanded of his sister.
Keitha smiled sweetly and batted her long eyelashes, “It’s cute how you think you can order me around,” her voice was as soft as silk.
“I’d advise you to watch that tongue, dear sibling. Father will not live forever,” Trian stated as he passed by her. “Come, Bhelen,” he called to his brother over his shoulder. The two brothers left to go back to the palace.
“That was fun. Nothing like being talked down to by the next king,” stated Gorim.
Keitha smiled at Gorim, “Ignore him. It’s my day, not his.”
“That it is. Let’s get back to enjoying it, shall we?” Gorim smiled. Keitha was about to start walking again when yet another merchant stopped her.
“My Lady Aeducan!” the merchant called. “Nothing here rivals your amazing Aeducan armor, but if you wish something made…” the merchant began but Gorim stopped him short.
“You know very well House Aeducan has its own royal armorers.”
“Of course. Forgive me,” stated the Merchant. Keitha rolled her eyes and walked away from the merchant. She then spotted two women that she hadn’t seen in the Diamond Quarter before.
“Greetings, my lady. May I saw you look striking today,” stated one of the women.
“Is this your paramour? He wears both of his vambraces… unmarried and eligible!” stated the other.
Gorim couldn’t help but smile, “I’m flattered, ladies, but I’m not a noble. I’m a knight of the Warrior Caste.”
“Warrior Caste isn’t bad…” stated the first woman.
“Teli, we didn’t pay gold for these permits to take Warrior Caste,” said the second woman.
The first looked sad, “I guess you’re right. Sorry, sir.”
“Why does it matter if you’re noble, Gorim?” Keitha questioned her second obviously confused as to what these women were selling exactly.
“They’re noble-hunters, my lady,” Gorim explained. “Because a man takes his caste from his father, they hope to bear a noble lord’s son. If a noble-hunter succeeds, she is raised up to join the house as a concubine to care for her son. It brings new swords to a house; so many nobles look favorably on such women…”
Keitha thought for a moment, “We could certainly use more Aeducan swords,” she reasoned.
“Then perhaps you’d tell your brother to come say hello?” Teli smiled sweetly at Keitha.
“Teli, mind your manners,” said the other woman startled at what she just heard.
Keitha laughed, “No, it’s all right. I will mention you.”
“My lady is kind and generous beyond her duty,” said the second woman bowing to Keitha.
Keitha smiled as she departed to head towards the exit of the Diamond Quarter to enter the common grounds which lead to the Proving area, but there was a guard at the exit. “My lady. Are you heading to the Proving Arena?” the guard asked.
Keitha frowned, “Gorim, I do not remember addressing this man,” she stated to her second.
“You are not to address the Lady Aeducan unless spoken to first,” threatened Gorim.
“Forgive me, Sir Gorim, I meant no offense,” the guard back peddled quickly.
“Back to your duties,” commanded Gorim.
“But sir, this is my duty. I am to escort our new commander to the Proving grounds,” stated the guard looking up briefly at Gorim.
Gorim sighed, “I clean forgot about that. Forgive me, I should have informed you sooner,” Gorim said to Keitha softly. “The king decided you are not to travel through the commons unguarded.”
“Ridiculous. I do not need an armed guard,” Keitha shunned the very notion.
“I did mention the merchants that won permits to show their goods in the Diamond Quarter? There were only so many permits auctioned off, and quite a few were turned away,” Gorim explained. “Your father fears you will be harassed on the way to the Proving.”
Keitha smiled wickedly, “Excellent. I grow weary of these merchants.”
“Will we be leaving then?” the guard asked out loud at no one in particular.
“Yes,” Keitha stated.
The guard smiled, “We are at your command.”
Keitha arrived at the proving ground without incident. The Proving master was about to make another announcement as he turned around and spotted the Lady Aeducan walk into the box.
“Your Highness, it is an honor to have you here,” the Proving master smiled. “Have you come to watch these brave warriors do battle in your honor?”
“No,” Keitha smiled. “I’ve come to fight.”
The Proving master was taken aback by surprise, “Your Highness, this Proving is in your honor…”
“Then honor her by doing as she says,” Gorim scolded the Proving master. “Lady Aeducan will fight in this Proving.”
“I will honor today’s warriors by testing their skills,” Keitha stated at the Proving master.
The Proving master bowed to her, “Of course. It is well within your rights.” The Proving master turned and announced to the crowd, “Men and women of Orzammar, we have a late entry to these Provings, held on the eve of battle for the honor of House Aeducan. I give you… the Lady Aeducan, herself!” the crowd roared with appeasement. “Are you ready for your first match?” the Proving master asked Keitha.
“Ready. Eager. Hungry,” she smiled devilishly.
“Then let us begin,” the Proving master bowed to her as she left to go down into the arena.
“This is a glory Proving, fought under the watchful eyes of the Paragons of Orzammar for the honor of House Aeducan,” the Proving master announced. “Lady Aeducan will fight Aller Bemot, youngest son of Lord Bemot!”
Aller bowed to Keitha down in the arena, “You honor me with this match,” he stated.
“I’ll honor you upside the head,” Keitha stated un-strapping her war hammer from her back.
“First warrior to fall is vanquished. Fight!” shouted the Proving master. Aller charged at Keitha who only smiled as she stepped onto the head of her hammer throwing her body into a spin on it like a top before kicking the head of the hammer into the air catching Aller’s head in swinging motion sending him flying backwards ten feet. He didn’t get back up though she could see that he was still breathing. “The winner is Lady Aeducan!” declared the Proving master and Keitha waved to the crowd as the cheered. Keitha returned back to the announcer’s box. “That was quite a fight. Aller Bemot is no slouch with that hammer,” the Proving master said. “Are you ready for your next opponent?” he asked.
“Yes,” Keitha said returning back to the arena.
“Excellent! Let us go,” the Proving master called after her. As Keitha entered the arena the Proving master began to announce again, “This is a glory Proving, fought under the watchful eyes of the Paragons of Orzammar for the honor of House Aeducan. Lady Aeducan will fight Adal Helmi, eldest daughter of Lady Helmi!”
Adal bowed to Keitha, “You are my inspiration, your Highness, and to all of us who follow your example and live by the sword.”
“Thank you,” Keitha smiled at the fellow woman combatant.
“First warrior to fall is vanquished. Fight!” shouted the Proving master. Keitha swung her war hammer at Adal who jumped into the air in attempt to get behind Keitha to attack with her twin blades. Keitha then planted the head of the hammer once again on the ground swaying the handle to parry Adal’s attacks before kicking the head of the hammer which connected with Adal’s chin sending her up into the air and then back down again with a thud. “The winner is Lady Aeducan!” the Proving master announced. Keitha once again waved to her adoring crowd before returning back to the Proving master’s box. “That was a crowd-pleaser. I can’t remember the last time we had two female warriors of such skill. Ser Blackstone is your next opponent. Are you ready to face him?” the Proving master asked.
“I am,” Keitha replied.
“Then, let us begin!” the Proving master stated and Keitha once again left the box to return to the arena. “This is a glory Proving, fought under the watchful eyes of the Paragons of Orzammar for the honor of House Aeducan. Lady Aeducan will fight Sir Blackstone, Deep Roads squad leader of the Warrior Caste.”
“This is your education, child,” Sir Blackstone didn’t even bow to Keitha. “Try to learn as you bleed.”
Keitha wasn’t impressed, “Old men don’t frighten me,” she stated un-strapping her war hammer.
“First warrior to fall is vanquished. Fight!” shouted the Proving master. Blackstone charged at Keitha who just waited until he was within range of her hammer before thrusting it directly into his shield arm. The mighty blow splintered the shield as she then threw her weight into a whirlwind that Ser Blackstone was too slow to avoid. He was hit several times before he fell. “The winner is Lady Aeducan!” the Proving master announced and Keitha waved at the crowd as she returned to the Proving master’s box. “Well done. You have proven that even the best of the Warrior Caste cannot match a noble Aeducan. Frandlin Ivo is your final opponent. He too has had many victories today. Are you ready to face him, or will you rest first?” the Proving master asked.
“I’m ready to fight,” Keitha said.
“Of course,” stated the Proving master as she left the box and returned to the arena. “This is a glory Proving, fought under the watchful eyes of the Paragons of Orzammar for the honor of House Aeducan. It is down to just two warriors. With backbones of stone and wills of iron, they have defeated all others this day! Lady Aeducan will fight Frandlin Ivo, second son of Lord Ivo!”
“You fight well. I wish you glory today and glory tomorrow,” Frandlin bowed to Keitha.
“Glory is for the one who can take it,” Keitha reminded him.
“First warrior to fall is vanquished; the victor is champion! Fight!” shouted the Proving master. Keitha had to parry an onslaught of attacks by Frandlin before she was able to pick up on his movement pattern to find her opening. She smiled at him as he had forced her to her knees her hammer five paces away from her. He was about to strike her as she slid between his legs and made a break for her hammer using the forward momentum to swing around and slingshot the hammer releasing it and it hitting him square in the chest. He was thrown back into the wall and Keitha casually walked over and picked up her hammer and rested it on her shoulder awkwardly so since it was bigger than she was. “The winner is Lady Aeducan!” Keitha waved at the crowd before returning to the announcer’s box. “Congratulations. Frandlin Ivo is as fierce a competitor as I’ve ever seen. You’ve vanquished every warrior of note in today’s Proving. The ceremonial helm commissioned by your father for today’s winner is yours.”
Keitha waved the helm away, “Send it to Frandlin Ivo. He fought bravely,” she commanded.
“The people will remember your honor and generosity for all time,” the Proving master stated retracting the helm.
“Good showing there, my lady. Your opponents will be licking their wounds all eve,” Gorim smiled at her as they walked back over to her escort.
“My lady?” the guard asked as she approached.
“Tell the guards to be ready, Gorim. I want to leave,” Keitha stated removing a lock of her hair that fell out of place.
“You heard the lady,” stated Gorim.
The guard bowed, “Your wish is our command.”
As they walked back through the commons Keitha turned to speak to Gorim, “My lady?” he responded before she was able to address him first and she just smiled.
“Must you always be so formal?” she asked.
He smiled, “You never know who is listening, my lady. It’s safer this way.”
“Tell me about your family, Gorim,” Keitha giggled to herself.
Gorim smiled at her, “Not much that you don’t already know. My father’s father was a great hero of the Deep Roads excursions and raised the family to the top of the Warrior Caste. He was even nominated to join the Assembly and found a noble house, but the honor was in the nominations; he wasn’t afforded a single vote. My father served your father for many years, and now I serve you.”
“Are you excited about the battle tomorrow?”
Gorim laughed, “Yes. I yearn to face the darkspawn and prove my worth as your second.”
“We’ll be spectacular,” Keitha promised.
“May the Stone support us, and the ancestors look down with pride,” Gorim stated.
“We should get going.” Keitha stated as they entered the palace since the feast was to be head in the royal hall where her father’s chair was.
Upon entering the royal hall Keitha noticed several of the nobles but there was one thing that caught her eye the most. There were humans attending her feast and she just had to know exactly who would be honoring her that would travel from the surface to Orzammar. “Greetings, my Lady Aeducan,” said the human that looked like he was in charge. “It is an honor to meet you at last.”
“At last? Have you been waiting for me?” Keitha asked now noting that he was a Grey Warden by the crest tattooed on his neck.
The Warden crossed his arms, “Not as such, but your father never misses a chance to boast of your skill and bravery. He says you may be the most skilled warrior in all of House Aeducan.”
Keitha blushed, “My father does me great honor.”
“I have no doubt it is deserved,” the Warden continued. “We need more Grey Wardens like you. And quickly. Even as the darkspawn weaken here in Orzammar, they are stirring on the surface. A Blight as begun,” the Warden warned. “Soon the fight must go beyond the Deep Roads, lest the darkspawn threaten all the world. “
Keitha frowned at herself, “I do not know as much as I should about the Grey Wardens,” she stated regrettably.
“You know of our dedication to destroying the darkspawn, our frontlines presence during a Blight. What else would you know?” he asked.
Keitha thought about it for a moment, “Are there many of my people in the Grey Wardens?” she finally asked.
“Over the centuries, many dwarves have made names of themselves in our order,” the Warden stated as he recalled. “These days, however, there are fewer dwarves and thus even fewer Dwarven Grey Wardens. A pity, since Dwarven warriors have the most experience fighting darkspawn.”
Keitha signed, “I am an Aeducan. Orzammar needs me here.”
“Then it is a good thing that you have other paths before you. Some are not so lucky,” the Warden stated and Keitha nodded in agreement. “I wish you luck in the Deep Roads tomorrow. Shoe the darkspawn the might of your people.” Keitha smiled as she turned and spotted Lord Dace was staring at her. She shook her head knowing that he wished to speak with her so she humored him by going over and saying hello.
“Many thanks for your willingness to hear me out, my lady,” started Lord Dace. “I wish to speak to you of a matter most urgent.”
“It looks as if the heads of House Bemot and Meino are keeping your father busy. Which leaves you plenty of time for our dear old friend, Lord Dace,” commented Gorim.
“You’re a credit to your caste, Ser Gorim. I’ve always said so. If I had a daughter, I’d give her to you and make you the noble you deserve to be,” Lord Dace stated to Gorim.
“You honor me, my lord,” Gorim replied.
“First let me congratulate you on your commission,” Lord Dace smiled. “Two of King Endrin’s children now commissioned war-leaders. It does great honor to your house.”
“Thank you, Lord Dace,” Keitha smiled.
“Of course, I didn’t stop you just to express my loyal affections…” he said a little more direct. “There is a vote coming before the Assembly next week, and a word from you could go a long way towards helping our cause.”
“What cause?” Keitha asked her curiously peaked.
“The vote concerns the status of the so-called surface caste. Lost to the Stone, air-touched, and so forth. Centuries ago, narrow-minded men declared that any dwarf who left to live on the surface forfeited his caste, and his house if noble. That he was, in essence, no longer a dwarf. I seek only to remedy an injustice, to retie the bonds of anyone who can trace himself to one of the noble houses, wherever he may live,” proposed Lord Dace. “Please, agree to speak for this noble cause.”
Keitha wasn’t quite convinced, “Why so interested in this particular cause?” she asked.
“Those on the surface are our lifeline. They facilitate trade with the surface. They’re honorable and… um…” Lord Dace dropped the act with a sigh. “Let’s be honest. I don’t care a whit for those who have wandered from the Stone. My wife, however, is a gem of a different color. She has a cousin, a useless sort, but she is quite fond of him. He joined a speculative venture to the surface, hoping to make his fortune, and went bust.” Lord Dace frowned, “Now he wishes to come home, but he cannot, for he has no house and would be casteless. For my wife’s sake, I take up his cause. Will you lend me your voice?”
Keitha asked directly, “What do you need me to do?”
“When your father presents you to the noble houses, I will ask for your opinion on the matter. You have merely to say that you feel our surface brothers should be returned their noble rights. What could be more simple?” Lord Dace smiled as if he won a prize.
When they were no longer in earshot Gorim turned to Keitha. “I don’t know that I trust Lord Dace.”
“I agree. I’ll be careful,” Keitha smiled though she knew that there was something more to what Lord Dace was asking but she couldn’t quite pinpoint what.
“What did you think of the Grey Warden?” Gorim asked.
“He seemed distant,” Keitha stated looking over her shoulder back at the Wardens.
“I suppose the life of a Grey Warden doesn’t offer many opportunities for social graces,” Gorim offered. Keitha was about to go speak with her father when Lady Helmi called her a fool as she approached, and Keitha wasn’t about to have that comment stand.
“You have something to say to me Lady Helmi,” Keitha stated sternly.
“Your mother would melt the Stone if she knew what you just did,” Lady Helmi stated.
“How dare you speak to me that way,” Keitha’s hand began to itch for her hammer.
“Sure you are to be respected, and I will no longer speak to you as a child,” Lady Helmi smiled slightly. “Lord Dace is playing you false. Go ahead, be his puppet. Your first command will be marked by every major house turning their back on you.”
Keitha’s face became like stone, “I’m listening.”
“If you are to play in the games of the Assembly, make sure you know the motivations of the players. Last spring, a guild from the Merchants caste invested heavily in an expedition with a guild from the surface,” Lady Helmi explained. “Lord Dace backed the merchant guild, pouring a great deal of money into the venture. The expedition was a disaster.”
“And I’m suppose to see how this relates to anything,” Keitha asked now bored with the conversation.
“Lord Dace lost a great deal of money and prestige,” Lady Helmi emphasized. “The surface guild has no way to repay the investment. But it does have several leading members who are descended from noble houses. House Helmi, Bemot… Aeducan.”
“Gorim, can you follow all this?” Keitha asked her second.
“She’s saying that if the air-touched dwarves have their connections to their houses restored, you’ll end up footing the bill for Lord Dace’s disaster,” Gorim replied.
“Oh, if I were twenty years younger, I’d bed you just to get some of that quick wit in my house,” Lady Helmi smiled at Gorim. “Your house and mine would be forced to pay the surfacers’ kin debts. It would be a great victory for Lord Dace.”
Keitha turned and quickly glanced at Lord Dace, “Fine. Let Lord Dace think he’s fooled me.”
Lady Helmi’s smile got wider, “Just so, my clever friend. Smile and nod, and when he asks his question, tell him that the so-called surface caste are right where they belong. That should take Lord Dace down a peg or two.”
Keitha grinned, “I’ll think about it.”
“You’re welcome,” Stated Lady Helmi. “Remember this when my house needs your assistance.” Keitha then tired off all the politics going on in the room approached her father’s throne.
“My king, please reconsider. The trade contracts alone would bring great prosperity to our houses…” pleaded the noble. “Will we really turn our back on our brothers and a potential fortune in cheap labor because of a political technicality?”
“Denial of the tradition of our people does not qualify as a political technicality!” Bellowed Keitha’s father and she couldn’t do anything but smile. She so loved hearing him berate people. “There is more to life than monetary gains, my lords Bemot and Meino. The Assembly of Kal Sharok will respect the rules of Orzammar, or they will rot and die alone, surrounded by enemies.”
“Yes, my King…” bowed the noble.
“But look, we have company to spare us further wranglings,” smiled the king. “Atrast vala, my sweet daughter. How fine you look in your grandmother’s armor.” He then chuckled to himself, “I hear you were declared champion of the Provings!” he continued to laugh; “I suppose you were never one to sit by when something exciting was going on. Are you ready to be presented to the heads of the noble houses?” he asked finally.
“Is this all really necessary?” she asked smiling at her father sweetly.
He gave her a stern look, “These rituals have their place. It behooves you to get to know the nobles and let them know you.” Her father stood from his throne, “Lords, ladies. Grant me a moment of your time. We are here today so I may present to you my second eldest child. Blessed by the Stone and born of the blood that ran in the veins of the Paragon Aeducan. Who would pose a question to the prospective commander? Who seeks to know the prospect better?”
Lord Dace stepped forward, “I have a question. I seek to know the prospect better.” Lord Dace turned to face the crowd as well as Keitha, “Lords, ladies, my question concerns the plight of our wayward kin, the so-called surface caste. What does the commander prospect think is the proper place for these lost souls?” Lord Dace smiled at Keitha.
Keitha’s eyes glittered with justice, “The surface dwellers are less than men,” she said smiling at Lord Dace like a lamb for the slaughter.
“Are you satisfied, Lord Dace? Do you feel you have learned something about the prospect?” the king asked.
“Yes, my king,” Lord Dace was still in shock.
“Tomorrow, our newest commander will lead part of a mission to strike a great blow to the darkspawn,” the king continued. “Not only does this recover access to some of our most important mines, but it also allows our honored guest Lamont, assistant head of Ferelden’s Grey Wardens, to strike far into the Deep Roads.”
Lamont bowed to the king, “Thank you, King Endrin. While the darkspawn seem to withdraw, it is only because they are massing on the surface. This could mean a Blight, and my men and I will discover the truth.”
The king declared, “We are honored to have you with us, my friend. As for you, my new commander, find your brother Trian and send him to me. He may be watching the Provings, or getting some rest in his rooms.”
“Of course, Father,” Keitha said bowing to her father.
“Walk well, Commander,” the King returned the gesture of respect.
Keitha and Gorim left the feast a new look of fury on Keitha’s face as neither of her brothers were present at the feast. She found both of her brothers in Trian’s room. “So, you are a commander now. In name at least,” Trian started. “Shouldn’t you be attending our king father?”
“You two were not at the feast,” Keitha pointed at each of them.
“The world does not stop and start with your meager achievements. Not even tonight,” snapped Trian. “Now, do you have some purpose in bothering us?”
“You still should have been there,” stated Keitha.
“You push your luck,” Trian was started to get annoyed.
“Father requests your presents,” Keitha states.
“Bhelen, get to bed. We have a big day tomorrow. I will see what our father wishes from his heir,” Trian commands his younger brother.
“All day I’ve put up with that. He can really grate on the nerves,” Bhelen said shaking his head.
“I agree,” Keitha stated looking briefly at the door that her older brother left open.
“And what I’m going to tell you next won’t make you any more fond of him,” Bhelen said quietly.
“You sound serious, Bhelen,” Keitha stated turning back to her little brother.
“Unfortunately, I am,” he confirmed. “Trian has begun to move against you. I never thought his much-proclaimed honor would allow him to actually act on his jealousy. Big sister, Trian is going to try to kill you.” Gorim ever so slightly moved himself between Keitha and her brother that unless you were really watching him like Keitha does you wouldn’t have noticed.
“How do you know?” Keitha asked still not believing it. I overheard him giving orders to some of his men, and I was shocked. Then it began to make sense. Trian’s decided you’re a treat to his taking the throne. Maybe he’s right.”
“I’m not the heir, he is!” Keitha still wasn’t convinced.
“Trian’s the named prince, but only the Assembly can proclaim a king. It would be unusual for the Assembly to ignore the king’s choice, but it does happen. The founder of House Bemot became a Paragon and king in one move from the Assembly, and he was a commoner. That was an extraordinary case. But at least a half-dozen times, the Assembly named a lesser family member—or even someone from another house—as king. Twice, it was a woman.”
Keitha thought to herself a moment, “So Trian thinks the Assembly would prefer me?” it was a sound argument since the assembly did like her better than her older brother.
“Look at it from his perspective. You’re more personable then he’s even been. If you win glory against the darkspawn tomorrow, it will only strengthen the case for you as the next heir.” Bhelen pointed out. “Trian fears Father will replace him on the spot. If not, the Assembly will surely turn against him when Father dies. You know his pride will never allow him to step aside.”
“What’s your angle in this?” Keitha still having a hard time imagining her younger brother clean of all of this scandal.
“It seems Trian has shown that brothers can’t always be trusted,” Bhelen sounded put out. “I am next in line. If Trian succeeds in his plot against you, how long do you think I’ll live?”
“What do you say, Gorim?” Keitha asked turning to her second.
“Permission to speak freely,” Gorim requested.
“I asked, didn’t I?” Keitha still amazed at how formal Gorim could be.
“Trian would be a terrible king, but no one wants to say it,” Gorim admitted. “He has just enough backing in the Assembly to make it ugly when your father dies, but not enough to become king. Killing him now makes your house stronger now and saves a great deal of bloodshed later.
Keitha nodded slowly, “We’ll wait. See what Trian does,” she decided.
“Very well. I’ll keep my eyes open,” Bhelen stated. “I don’t want to lose my dearest sister.” He said with such sorrow in his eyes.
“I am glad for your concern, Bhelen. Thank you,” Keitha said with a small smile.
“I’m taking your place as Father’s second, so I’ll be at hand tomorrow,” Bhelen informed her. “For now, try to get some sleep.” He suggested. “May the Paragons smile down on you,” he said before leaving Trian’s room.
Keitha woke up early to get ready for battle double-checking all her gear before strapping the hammer to her back and meeting up with Gorim to leave to the entrance to the Deep Roads. “Trian and his men will clear the way for the Grey Wardens to descend into the easternmost cavern. Those caverns are still infested by the worst of darkspawn. We cannot risk our own troops in there,” declared Lord Harrowmont.
“Understood,” said Lamont. “Lord Harrowmont. We should be able to sense the darkspawn and avoid them once they way is open.”
“May the Paragons favor you, and the stone catch you if you fall,” Keitha’s father saluted the Grey Wardens.
Trian assembled his men, “Come men, glory awaits!” he commanded leading his men forward in front of the Grey Wardens.
“Bhelen, you and your men will second the king, clearing the main road,” Lord Harrowmont directed.
“Don’t you think it looks a little… cowardly to allow these humans to take our place where the fighting is thickest?” Bhelen pointed out.
“You question the battle plan?” Lord Harrowmont said raising an eyebrow.
“Of course not. I’m sure your caution is for the glory of us all,” Bhelen said snidely.
“Enough, Bhelen,” the king commanded. “Take your men and make ready. Harrowmont and I need to have words with your sibling.”
“Good luck my sister,” Bhelen said as he got his men together.
“You father has a special mission for you,” Lord Harrowmont began. Keitha looked to her father who just smiled, “In the eastern Deep Roads, there is a secret door carved into the stone. The door leads to a thaig abandoned long ago by your ancestors. The darkspawn have made it impossible to reach,” Lord Harrowmont explained.
“My father believed that the shield of the Paragon Aeducan remains in that thaig, under the stone of the central room. Reclaim the shield, and glory will be yours!” Keitha’s father proclaimed.
“The Shield of Aeducan would be quite the find,” Keitha admitted.
“We’ve sent two scouts ahead to make sure the tunnels are cleared, but be careful. One of the scouts will meet you at the first crossroads you come to; the second will be further in. when you get to the door, use your signet ring to open it. Questions?” asked the Lord.
“No, I’ll be back shortly,” Keitha promised.
“The crossroads where you meet the first scout will be the rendezvous point. There, you can present the shield to the lords and demonstrate the strength of Aeducan!” Lord Harrowmont smiled.
“May the ancestors watch over you, my child,” was the only tender words that her father spoke to her since she was a child. Keitha lead the way through the winding tunnel to the first crossroads where Frandlin Ivo was waiting for them.
“Did you run afoul of any darkspawn?” he asked approaching them.
“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” stated Keitha resting her hammer on her shoulder.
“We didn’t expect any activity in these tunnels at all,” Frandlin Ivo shook his head. Once I finished scouting the tunnels, I hit here to avoid the darkspawn. Most of the tunnels are dead ends. The one we want is swarming with those fiends. It’s going to be a fight,” he warned.
“We are warriors. Nothing stands in our way,” Keitha snapped at him before moving towards the tunnel he indicated earlier.
“As you say. Onward, then,” he bowed to her and then followed behind Gorim. There were several darkspawn blocking the path to the next check point that were easily enough to deal with, but when they reached the second check point the second scout came out of the shadows as Keitha lifted her hammer off of a darkspawn’s crushed head.
“You’re here!” he sounded relieved. “I thought the darkspawn had got you for sure.”
“Is that how you address your commander?” Keitha asked shouldering her hammer.
“There’s not a ton of formality down here in the Deep Roads,” the scout admitted. “We want the tunnel ahead, but there are darkspawn tracks all over it. Be careful,” he pointed at the tunnel.
“have you seen the thaig door yet?” Keitha questioned the scout.
“I haven’t ventured more than a hundred yards ahead for fear of alerting other darkspawn,” the scout shook his head. There was only a few more darkspawn that lead up to the thaig door but the door was already open.
“Looks like someone beat us to the door,” Gorim stated kneeling down at the dead darkspawn that they didn’t kill.
“This darkspawn body is still fresh. Whoever opened the door is most likely still in there,” stated the second scout.
Keitha had a slight confused look on her face, “They had to have an Aeducan signet ring to get in.” she ran her hand along the door arch.
“It could have been stolen, recently or generations back,” Frandlin Ivo stated.
“Or it could be an ambitious cousin out for his own glory,” stated the scout.
“We’ll see soon enough,” stated Keitha as she walked past the scout into the thaig.
“Understood. Lets move, men,” ordered Gorim.
Upon entering the thaig there were more darkspawn corpses but that wasn’t unexpected what was unexpected was the band of would be glory seekers that Keitha didn’t recognize. “So glad you could finally join us. We feared you’d gotten eaten by darkspawn,” said the leader. “Turns out the shield isn’t quite as easy to retrieve as I was led to believe. I wager you know where it is, though,” the leader smiled at Keitha. “So maybe you tell me where it is, and I don’t let my boys have a go at you before I kill you.”
“Who are you? How did you get in here?” Keitha demanded answers with a look as cold as the mountain tops.
“I’m your better, that’s who. And as to how I got in. that’s a question you’ll have to ask the Stone after I butcher you,” stated the leader pacing. “Now, where is the shield?” he asked again.
“Tell me how you got in—I’ll tell you where the shield is,” Keitha smiled batting her eyes at the leader how’s face softened under her gaze.
“Bit for bite, eh? Both of us banking on killing the other and losing nothing by the telling?” asked the leader. “Very well. One of Prince Trian’s men brought me this ring. It opened the door just fine. Now, where is the sodding shield?” he demanded.
“I’ll whisper it to your corpse,” Keitha said as she readied her hammer and charged the leader.
“Just kill them, boys. We’ll find this shield on our own,” shouted the leader preparing himself for the onslaught. The band of thugs was easily discarded. Keitha walked over to the leader’s body and searched his possessions and found the signet ring.
“Is that really Trian’s signet ring?” asked Gorim as Keitha examined the ring.
“This may mean nothing,” Keitha stated her lips pierced together. “Though it is his ring and if this is of his doing it is very sloppy.” Keitha stood up.
“The first way we can hurt him is to find that shield ourselves,” Gorim stated.
“My thoughts exactly,” Keitha smiled at him as they proceed into the connecting chamber. “Spread out and look,” Keitha ordered.
“You have your orders, boys,” repeated Gorim. “This is the room. How do we get the shield?”
“I’ll figure it out,” Keitha stated walking over noticing the floor tiles looked slightly off on three of them. “Everyone quiet!” she snapped at the men as she put her hammer on one of the tiles and waited for a trap to be triggered. But all she heard was toggles falling into place as if turning a key in a locked door. “You two, move and stand on those other tiles that have the Aeducan crest on it. Gorim you stand here,” Keitha said strapping her hammer to her back again as she walked slowly over to the sarcophagus. There was an indentation on it that seemed to match the Aeducan signet ring perfectly. Keitha pressed her signet ring against the indentation. The lid of the sarcophagus slides away, revealing a small hollow that contained the Shield of Aeducan. Keitha lifted the shield from the sarcophagus and looked at it with admiration.
“That’s it. We’ve got it!” Gorim stated walking over to Keitha as he stepped off of the tile the sarcophagus slammed shut.
“It doesn’t look like much,” stated the scout unimpressed.
“The skill of our crafters has come far since then. But still… the Shield of Aeducan,” stated Frandlin Ivo.
“It’s a symbol; that’s all,” stated Keitha tossing the shield to Gorim for safe keeping.
“If it helps rally the troops, it’s a good thing,” admitted the scout.
“We should get moving,” Keitha stated moving past them back into the thaig.
The scout then stated the obvious, “We need to get to the other rendezvous point. Back in the direction we came from, at the crossroads.”
“To the crossroads!” ordered Gorim following his lady out to the thaig.
As they exited the common room there were more darkspawn, “Did you hear that? It could be more of those mercenaries,” stated Frandlin Ivo.
“Or darkspawn reinforcements. Either way, we should be careful,” snapped Gorim as they charged the darkspawn. They carved their way through the thaig and back into the Deep Roads Gorim caught up to Keitha who was taking point and spoke in hushed tones, “If Trian were really scheming against us, this would be the perfect place for an ambush,” he said. “We’ve got the shield, and we’re all alone out here.”
“Trian is my brother. Nothing will happen,” Keitha said though only half convincing herself.
“What’s that you’re muttering about?” asked the scout.
“Family business,” snapped Keitha.
“Uh-huh. All right, then,” the scout backed down. Keitha then heard the screams of dying men and she began to run through the winding tunnels to the rendezvous point. When she arrived there was a group of dead dwarves there awaiting them but she didn’t expect what was to come next.
“By the Stone, it’s Trian!” Gorim said looking up at his lady as a look of horror crossed her face. “It must have been a darkspawn attack.”
“This doesn’t look like darkspawn. No bites, no scratches, no mutilation…” said Frandlin Ivo.
Then it all began to make sense to Keitha. “Bhelen outplayed me,” Keitha couldn’t believe it.
“You’re brother?” Frandlin Ivo questioned.
“Someone’s coming!” Gorim stated.
Just then Bhelen along with Lord Harrowmont and Keitha’s father arrived.
“Hurry, Father! Before it’s too…” Bhelen stopped short as they all saw Trian’s body along with the rest of Trian’s men.
“By the Ancestors, what has happened here?” the king asked kneeling down to his fallen son.
“It seems we weren’t fast enough. Bhelen was right,” said one of the guards that just arrived.
Keitha’s father looked up at her confused and hurt, “My daughter. Tell me this isn’t what it looks like,” he pleaded.
Keitha knew where this was going, “We just got here a moment ago. I’m just as surprised as you are father.”
“Just long enough to slay Trian!” accused Bhelen.
“My lady is innocent!” snapped Gorim.
Lord Harrowmont waved his hand to silence everyone, “Sir Gorim, your loyalty makes you a useless witness. It falls to others to tell the story. You, scout, what happened here?”
“Lady Aeducan came up to them, all friendly-like, but when we got close, she ordered us to attack!” the scout exclaimed.
“You traitor!” Keitha stated as she burred a dagger deep into the scouts chest and watched him bleed out in front of everyone.
“Stop her! Take her weapons!” ordered one of her father’s guards.
Bhelen half smiled, “I think we’ve seen enough.”
“No. if the scout were lying. I might have done much the same,” stated Keitha’s father. “I will not drag my daughter back to Orzammar in chains without hearing from Frandlin Ivo.”
“Frandlin Ivo, you are a good and noble man. Did the scout speak the truth?” asked Lord Harrowmont.
Frandlin Ivo looked at Bhelen who gave the ugliest of faces that Keitha has seen him give, “He… he did, my lord. It was… terrible. Prince Trian didn’t stand a chance. Afterward, my lady stripped his signet ring.”
“You treacherous bastard!” Gorim all but attacked Frandlin Ivo though Keitha knew that if no one else was there that he would have.
“Silence, Gorim,” ordered the king and he stood up. “Do you have anything else to say, my daughter?” the king looked into her eyes.
Keitha maintained a strait face, “I’m innocent,” was all she said.
“I want to believe that. I really do,” the king said regretfully. “Bind her. She will be judged before the Assembly.”
“To Orzammar!” commanded Lord Harrowmont and the guards put Keitha in chains and shoved her along. They put her in the dungeon awaiting the Assemblies verdict on what was going to happen to her. She heard the jailor talking to someone she didn’t know who until she heard his voice.
“You’ve got ten minutes, sir. Orders and all. You understand,” the jailor stated.
“Of course. Leave us alone, will you please?” Gorim asked and the jailor closed the door behind him. Gorim walked over to Keitha’s cell door with three inch thick bars separating them. “I… I would have come sooner had they allowed it. How are you?” he asked woefully.
“I was worried for you,” Keitha stated not sure why the Assembly hasn’t sent for her yet.
“And I for you, my heart. I bring little but bad news, though,” Gorim confessed. “Bhelen has taken Trian’s place in the Assembly. He introduced a motion to condemn you immediately, and it easily passed. He… had fully half the Assembly ready to vote on something completely against tradition and justice! He must have been making deals and alliances for months, if not years.”
Keitha almost laughed, “You have to respect Bhelen’s ability to play the game.”
“He’s more clever than either of us ever thought,” Gorim agreed. “Some of the lords, especially Harrowmont, are suspicious of Bhelen’s instant rise to power. They are rallying, but far too slowly. The Assembly has already sentenced both of us.”
“What’s going to happen to you?” Keitha asked a new concern in her voice now.
Gorim frowned, “My knighthood will be stripped, my name torn from my family records… but I will be allowed to attempt some sort of life on the surface. Lord Harrowmont moved for a similar exile for you, but Bhelen’s supporters overwhelmed him. You’re to be sealed in the Deep Roads to fight darkspawn until you are overwhelmed and killed.” Gorim hit the cell door.
“The cowards weren’t strong enough to kill me themselves,” Keitha huffed.
Gorim gave a weak smile, “That may have been Bhelen’s first mistake. Lord Harrowmont gave me access to see you so I could tell you this: Lamont and the Grey Wardens are still in the Deep Roads, in tunnels connected to those you are to be left in. if you survive long enough to find the Grey Wardens, you may be able to escape with Lamont.”
“The Grey Wardens seemed good men, for humans,” Keitha reasoned.
“There are worse ways for a warrior to live than fighting the darkspawn with such allies,” agreed Gorim. “If you can find them, I’m sure you can join them and escape the Deep Roads.”
Keitha smiled wickedly, “Only darkspawn between me and freedom?”
Gorim smiles at her, “Bhelen underestimated you. Much as we underestimated him.” His smile faded, “I begged to go with you and fight at your side, but Bhelen’s pet nobles wouldn’t hear of it.”
“I wish you were going to be at my side, as well. Darkspawn don’t make good conversation to pass the time,” Gorim laughed weakly.
“I’m going to try to go to Denerim, the human capital. If you make it out, find me,” he requested.
Keitha reached through the bars and grabbed his arm, “Please wait…”
“We have no time, my heart,” Gorim said sadly.
“I just want you to hold me one last time,” Keitha asked dropping her hand.
Gorim looked at the door, “The guards won’t keep quiet about something like that. Your family will know…” he warned.
“I’m about to be exiled. I really don’t care what the people think now,” Keitha stated confidently. They embraced the best that they could through the bars but it was over far too soon for Keitha.
“I must go now. I will always love you, my lady,” he vowed as he left. The jailor came back to inform Keitha that they were ready for her now. He let her out of her cell and led her to one of the entrances to the Deep Roads where Lord Harrowmont awaited to give out her sentence.
“Here is the prisoner, Lord Harrowmont,” said the Jailor as they approached Lord Harrowmont.
Lord Harrowmont’s face was grim, “Having been found guilty of fratricide by the Assembly of Orzammar, you are hereby sentenced to exile and death. Your name is, from this point forward, stripped from the records. You are no longer a person, nor a memory. You are to be cast into the Deep Roads with only sword and shield, there to redeem your life by fighting the enemies of Orzammar until your death. Do you have anything to say before the sentence is carried out?” Lord Harrowmont asked. Keitha remained silent knowing that anything that she said would change nothing. “Soldier, hand the accused your sword and shield.” The guard handed Keitha his sword and shield. “Open the doors and let the condemned walk through. May the Stone accept you when you fall,” Lord Harrowmont prayed for her as the huge doors began to open. She walked through them with her sword and shield and rags for armor. She let out a heavy sigh as she picked her way through the tunnels to hopefully find the Grey Wardens to lead her from this place. She found the remains of several dwarves and darkspawn along the away and found a set of chain mail that was just a little big on her along with a great sword that wasn’t too badly balanced.
“What I wouldn’t give for my hammer,” Keitha said to herself as she looked at the great sword and swung it a few times before continuing on her path to freedom. “By the Maker, it’s a dwarf!” said a surprised human as Keitha found her way into one of the half destroyed underground roads that was still there.
“Lady Aeducan!” Lamont was also surprised to see her. “What are you doing here alone? Where are your troops?” he asked.
“Grey Wardens aren’t the only ones who can survive here,” she said smiling at herself for finding them. “It is good to see you again, Lamont.”
“And you as well, although I am still filled with questions. Such as why are you here in these tunnels alone?” Lamont asked curiously. “May I ask what happened?”
“I was betrayed,” Keitha offered as the short version of what happened.
“Ah. You have been made to walk the Deep Roads, then,” Lamont reasoned.
“You mean you were exiled? What happened?” asked one of the Grey Wardens with Lamont that Keitha remembered seeing at her feast.
Lamont almost reprimanded the man, “I do not think matters of Dwarven honor are any business of ours. You need not answer, friend,” Lamont stated.
“As I said I was betrayed… by my brother,” Keitha restated.
“Lord Trian?” Lamont asked.
Keitha forced her answer out through clinched teeth, “No, Bhelen. Trian is dead.”
“I see. The brutal intrigue of the Dwarven court continues, then. Your father intimated as much. You have already proven yourself both resourceful and skilled, and I would expect nothing less from an Aeducan. I have been searching for those with your level of ability. Your exploits in the Deep Roads set you apart. As an assistant leader of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden, I would like to formally invite you to join our order.”
“If it gets me out of the Deep Roads. I’m yours,” Keitha smiled at Lamont.
“Then welcome,” Lamont said bowing his head to her. “We leave immediately for Ostagar to join with the human forces facing the darkspawn horde, led by King Cailan. There you will meet Duncan the Leader of the Ferelden Grey Wardens and hopefully more recruits from the other Grey Warden assistants set out to gather some. Stay close. There are still darkspawn around every corner…” he advised as they moved on out of the Deep Roads and onto Ostagar.
Grew up in Orzammar with his two sisters had to either work for the Carta which was an underground band of thieves or beg in the dust town with the rest of the casteless dwarves. Being casteless in Orzammar was almost as bad as being air-touched; a dwarf that lived on the surface and had forsaken or forgotten their traditions to the Stone and to the ancestors. Duran always was very over protective of his two younger sisters mostly because he had to be. Though Rica was basically whoring herself out to try to get herself pregnant with some nobleman’s son to raise the family to noble status his youngest sister Saoirse was forced into the same line of work that he was in and he tried ever so hard to keep her out of trouble.
Grew up with her older brother and sister in Orzammar disowning their mother even though still living with her. She stopped listening to the woman since the only mother she knew was always at the bottom end of a good bottle. Working for the Carta having to do all the dirty work that they through her way just to get by while waiting on her sister to make them nobles Saoirse grew up knowing mostly only the hard facts of life. Either you do the killing or be the one on the receiving end. Her brother tried as he might to keep her from realizing these things that she grew to think were the only facts of life. She became really good at what they did. Truly the only thing faster than her quick tongue was her skills with a single handed weapon.
Posted on 2011-05-11 at 15:04:21.
Edited on 2011-05-13 at 08:01:14 by Velnia
Denerim: the largest city and capital of Ferelden. Long ago, the elves lived as slaves to humans, and though they have now been free for many generations now, they are far from equals. Here they live in a walled-off community known as the Alienage, working as servants and laborers when they can. Despite these hardships, Denerim’s elves are a strong people who take pride in their close community. This is the only worlds that Aliandra has ever known… until now.
Aliandra was born and in Denerim. Her mother thought even though it was illegal it was wise for her only daughter to have the skills to defend herself and thus taught Aliandra how to fight with a dagger and a bow. When Aliandra was seven years old her mother was killed by a city guard for fighting back with a dagger… no elf was allowed to have any weapons of any kind while in the city of Denerim. Aliandra mourned her mothers passing but never gave up practicing her fighting skills.
Aliandra still living in Denerim the largest city of Ferelden with her father just woke up as her whole life was about to change.
“Wake up. Cousin! Why are you still in bed? It’s your big day!” Shianni said excitedly. The redness of her cheeks was only surpassed by her short red hair. Surprised Aliandra was to see her cousin as she groggily sat up from her stiff bed in her room.
“What are you doing here Shianni?” Aliandra asks finally.
“Because I begged your father to let me share the good news. You do remember what today is, don’t you?” Shianni asked bubbling with joy.
“Get drunk before noon day?” Aliandra asked half smiling.
“No you idiot. You’re getting married today! And Soris too! That’s what I came to tell you! Your groom Nelaros is here early! And who else are you going to marry? Besides, I already snuck a peek… he’s handsome.”
“Great that’s all I need…” Aliandra cupped her head in her hands.
“Here’s going to be music, decorations, feasting… weddings are so much fun! You’re so lucky!” Shianni continued ignoring Aliandra’s last comment.
“If you like weddings so much why don’t you have one?” Aliandra asked leaning back in her bed.
“All in good time, Cousin. This is your day, not mine! All right, I’ll stop tormenting you. I should go talk to the other bridesmaids and find my dress. Oh, Soris said that he’ll be waiting for you outside. So move it!” Shianni ordered before leaving.
Aliandra slowly got out of bed and put on her wedding dress that was kept in the chest near her bed. As she left her room she spotted her father waiting for her in the sitting area.
“Ah, my little girl it’s… the last day I’ll be able to call you that. Oh, I wish your mother could have been here!” he said.
“Can we talk about today…?” Aliandra asked.
“Still not pleased, I can see. Of course we can talk,” her father replied.
“Can you tell me again why I have to get married?”
“It’s time for you to have your own life. Unmarried, you are a child forever. The dowry has been paid, the Chantry has issued the permit, and everything is ready. All we need is you.”
“But I don’t want to get married,” Aliandra insisted.
Her father laughs, “I understand. Before I met Adaia, I was ready to go hunt for the Dalish. Just be glad I chose the match. Without parents to represent you, children like your cousin Soris end up marrying whoever the elder can find.”
“And I should be grateful I guess…”
“All right, time for you to go find Soris. The sooner this wedding starts, the less chance you two have to escape,” he half smiled.
“Less time is still time,” Aliandra reminded him.
Her father chuckles again, “Still have your mother’s smart mouth, I see. Your martial training… the swordplay, knives, and whatever else your mother trained you in. best not to mention it to your betrothed.”
“So I’m guessing you didn’t tell him,” Aliandra smiled impishly.
“Well, it’s not exactly something that would have made it easy to find a match for you. We don’t want to seem like troublemakers, after all. Adaia made that mistake.”
“Those guards that murdered her made a bigger one,” Aliandra promised.
“Our world is full of so many injustices.”
“And me getting married is just one of them,” Aliandra said and her father frowned.
“Take this. Your mother would have wanted you to have it. It’s the very least I can give you, as you start your new life. Go on, then. I still have some things to do, and Soris is no doubt waiting for you,” Aliandra’s father gave her some boots to wear with her dress. She left the small house and didn’t have to travel far around the Alienage to find Soris leaning up against a small tree at the main entrance to the gate that lead to the marketplace.
“Well, if it isn’t my lucky cousin. Care to celebrate the end of our independence together?” Soris asked no longer leaning against the tree.
“Well we could always leave while there is still time to do so,” Aliandra stated.
“Are you insane? Where would we go? Into the woods to live with the Dalish elves? Live in the forest with the savages, far from humans? Sounds like a dream,” he thought about it for a short moment.
“Doesn’t sound like a half bad idea,” Aliandra agreed.
“Hmm. Not that we’d know where to find them. Besides, why would you run? Apparently, your groom is a dream come true. By bride sounds like a dying mouse.”
“Then perhaps you will get a cage for a wedding present?” Aliandra smiled sweetly at him.
Soris laughed, “That’s terrible. Let’s go introduce you to your dreamy betrothed before you say ‘I do’.” They both walked back into the center of the Alienage and saw a human man in nice noble dress with two other men dressed exactly like him. He was hanging onto one of the young elven women.
“Let go of me! Stop, please!” she shouted.
“It’s a party, isn’t it?” the noble man laughed. “Grab a whore and have a good time.” The three of them laughed to themselves. “Savor the hunt, boys. Take this little elven wench, here… so young and vulnerable…” he said walking over to Shianni.
“Touch me and I’ll gut you, you pig!” she snapped.
“Please, my lord!” a male elf tried to defend Shianni.
“Silence, worm!” the nobleman back handed the elf forcing him to the ground.
“I know what you’re thinking, but maybe we shouldn’t get involved…”
“And what sit around here and let them treat us this way? I think not,” Aliandra stated.
“Fine. But let’s try to be diplomatic, shall we?”
“What’s this? Another lovely one come to keep me company?” the nobleman comes over to Aliandra.
“Don’t count on it,” Aliandra laughs.
The man scoffs, “Do you have any idea who I am?” he asked as Shianni located a wine bottle then smashed it over the back of the man’s head knocking him out.
“Are you insane? This is Vaughan Urien, the arl of Denerim’s son!” said one of the men that were with Vaughan.
“W-what? Oh maker…” Shianni covered her mouth with her hands.
“For being an arl’s son he sure doesn’t have any manners to speak of,” Aliandra says pulling Shianni behind her putting herself between Shianni and the remaining humans there.
“You’ve a lot of nerve, knife-ears. This’ll go badly for you,” swore the nobleman.
“Oh, I really messed up this time,” Shianni admitted as the two noblemen picked up Vaughan and carried him out of the Alienage.
“It’ll be alright. He won’t tell anyone an elven woman took him down,” Soris tried to console Shianni.
“I hope so,” Shianni said. “I should get cleaned up,” she left Aliandra and Soris to go get changed for the wedding right as two more elves came over to talk to them one male one female.
Valora looked at Soris, “Is everyone else alright?” she asked concerned.
Soris began to laugh nervously, “Looks like the arl’s son started drinking too early. Um, well let’s not let this ruin the day. Uh, this is Valora, my betrothed.
“Then this must be…” Aliandra couldn’t finish her sentence for Shianni was right he was quite handsome.
“A pleasure, Soris said much of you… some of it was even positive,” Nelaros said with a childish smile on his face.
“Hey, I just wanted to give you a sporting chance to run,” Soris laughed. “I’m… sure the two of you have a lot to discuss.” Soris pulled Valora off to the side to talk to her more privately.
“Well, here we are… are you nervous?” Nelaros asked.
“Yes, I do believe I am a little nervous,” Aliandra admitted.
“I thought I’d stay calm, but now we’ve met… let’s just say I’m not calm,” Nelaros couldn’t help but grin.
“Well I guess we have our whole lives ahead of us to get over this awkwardness,” Aliandra said halfway not believing it herself.
“I think you’re right. I’m looking forward to seeing how life unfolds,” he said.
“Some on, Cousin. We should let them get ready,” said Soris under his breath nudging Aliandra.
“We’ll see you two in a bit. Don’t disappear on us,” Valora smiled at Soris.
“Or we’ll come find you,” Nelaros said following Valora’s lead.
“Don’t look now, but we have another problem,” Soris said looking at the entrance to the Alienage.
“What now?” Aliandra stated following his gaze.
“Another human just walked in. could be one of Vaughan’s or just a random troublemaker. Either way, we need to move him along before someone does something stupid,” Soris reasoned.
“Well then we best inform him that he isn’t welcome here,” Aliandra said as she marched towards the armed human.
“Let’s do this quickly,” insisted Soris following her lead.
The human smiled at Aliandra though she had never met the man before. He was dressed in what almost looked like mail armor and had a sword and dagger on him. “Good day. I understand congratulations are in order for your impending wedding,” he said smiling.
“You best be leaving. We don’t want to start anything unpleasant here,” Aliandra stated pointing towards the entrance of the Alienage as a suggestion for the human.
“What manner of unpleasantness might you be referring to?” the man asked slightly confused. “I’m sorry but I have no intention on leaving.”
“Are you looking to start trouble here? I asked you kindly to leave don’t make me be more forward with you,” Aliandra wasn’t going to back down now though the elder approached them.
“She keeps her composure, even when facing down an unknown and armed human. A true gift, wouldn’t you say Valendrian?” the human asked the elder.
“I would say the world has far more use of those who know how to stay their blades. It is good to see you again, my old friend. It’s been far too long,” the elder clasped arms with the human.
“I’m afraid I have misjudged you human, and for that I apologize,” Aliandra stated.
“I was hardly forthcoming, and for that I should be the one apologizing,” the man said.
“May I present Torquil, head of the Grey Wardens in Ferelden,” stated Valendrian.
“Well met, Grey Warden,” Aliandra bowed her head slightly at the man.
“And you, dear girl,” he returned the gesture of respect.
“But my question remains unanswered. Why are you here, Torquil?” Valendrian asked.
Torquil’s face became more serious, “The worst has happened: a Blight has begun. King Cailan summoned the Grey Wardens to Ostagar to fight the darkspawn horde alongside his armies.”
Valendrian nodded, “Yes… I had heard the news. Still, this is an awkward time. There is to be a wedding… two in fact.”
“So I see,” Torquil states. “By all means, attend to your ceremonies. My concerns can wait, for now.”
“Very well. Children, treat Torquil as my guest. And for the Maker’s sake, take your places!” Valendrian insisted.
“Please, do not let me interrupt further. We shall speak more later,” Torquil promised. Aliandra and Soris walked over to where the ceremony was being performed. Valora and Nelaros was already there waiting on them.
“Oh! Soris! There you are. I was afraid you’d run off,” Valora sounded relieved.
“No, I’m here, with Nelaros’s blushing bride in tow!” Soris smiled at Aliandra and she wanted to kick him so badly. But she got distracted when Nelaros said that she looked radiant.
Valendrian took center stage and all the crowd got quiet. “It looks like everyone’s ready. Friends and family, today we celebrate not only this joining, but also bond of kin and kind. We are free people, but that was not always so. Andraste, the Maker’s prophet, freed us from the bonds of slavery. As our community grows, remember that our strength lies in commitment to tradition and to each other.”
“Thank you, Valendrian.” Said a Mother of the Chantry, “Now, let us begin. In the name of the Maker, who brought us this world, and in whose name we say the Chant of Light, I…” the Mother stopped as Vaughan along with both of the nobles that were with him earlier arrived with a small group of guards all armed. “Milord? This is… an unexpected surprise,” stated the Mother.
“Sorry to interrupt, Mother, but I’m having a party and we’re dreadfully short of female guests,” Vaughan laughs.
“Milord, this is a wedding!” the Mother hissed.
“Ha! If you want to dress up your pets and have tea parties, that’s your business. But don’t pretend this is a proper wedding. Now, we’re here for a good time, aren’t we boys?” Vaughan said to the rest of his men the nobleman included.
The first noble laughed, “Just a good time with the ladies, that’s all.” The other noble joined into the laugher.
“Let’s take those two,” Vaughan pointed out two elven woman. “The one in the tight dress,” Vaughan pointed out Soris’s bride. “And… Where’s the bitch that bottled me?” Vaughan looked around.
“Over here, Lord Vaughan!” said the first noble grabbing a hold of Shianni.
“Let me go, you stuffed-shirt son of a…” she didn’t finish her sentence.
“Oh, I’ll enjoy taming her,” Vaughan said turning around and looking at Aliandra. “And see the pretty bride…” he bit his lip ever so slightly.
“Don’t worry. I won’t let them take you!” Nelaros said in Aliandra’s ear.
“Ah, yes… such a well-formed little thing,” he said invading Aliandra’s personal space.
“You villains!” Nelaros snapped.
“That’s quite enough,” Vaughan laughed. “I’m sure we all want to avoid further… um, unpleasantness.”
“Why not just take me and let the rest of them go?” Aliandra insisted.
“That wouldn’t be much of a party now, would it? Oh we’re going to have some fun,” Vaughan laughs before backhanding Aliandra rendering her unconscious as she fell to the floor.
Aliandra awoke in a small room with the rest of the elven women. One of them kept saying the same prayer over and over again. “Maker keep us. Maker protect us. Maker keep us. Maker protect us…” she chanted over and over.
“Stop it!” Shianni snapped. “You’re driving me insane!” Shianni turned and say Aliandra was awake. “Oh, thank the Maker you’ve come to. We were so worried…”
“Is everyone alright?” Aliandra asked massaging her jaw where Vaughan hit her.
“We’re scared but unharmed. So far. They locked us in here to wait until that… bastard is ‘ready for us,’” said Valora.
“Don’t you worry we will find a way out of this,” Aliandra promised.
“Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath,” said one of the elven women. “The door is locked and solid, and we’re unarmed!” she pointed out.
“Maker keep us, Maker protect us. Maker keep us, Maker protect us…” the chanting continued.
“Great! Now this, again,” stated Shianni.
“Look, we’ll… do what they want, go home, and try to forget this ever happened!” said the woman that has been so negative the entire time.
“She’s right. It’ll be worse if we resist,” Valora agreed.
“It’ll be worse if we don’t!” snapped Shianni as she helped Aliandra to her feet.
“Someone’s coming!” said the elven woman as she hit behind Aliandra.
“Don’t do anything until I say so,” Aliandra commanded.
The door opened and five guards walked in. “Hello, wenches… we’re your escorts to Lord Vaughan’s little party.”
“Stay away from us!” shouted the elf that was praying as she stood up to confront the guards. The Captain that was talking drew his sword and sliced her up the middle killing her.
“You killed her!” said the elf that was ready to give in.
“I suppose that’s what happens when you try teaching whores some respect. Now, you grab the little flower cowering in the corner, Horace and I’ll take the homely bride and the drunk. You two, bind the last one, she’s the scrapper.” Said the Captain as they left Aliandra alone with the two guards.
“Now, you heard the captain. Be a good little wench or you’ll end up like your friend, there,” said the guard.
“Why don’t you come a little closer, I won’t give you any trouble,” Aliandra smiled sweetly.
“Ha! Horace was right. She’s a scrapper!” said the other guard.
Soris walked into the room carrying a sword, “Uh… hello?” he asked startling the guards as the turned around to see who was at the door.
“Oh, look at this. A little elfling with a stolen sword,” said the guard they began to walk towards Soris, but Soris slide the sword on the ground at Aliandra who picked it up and gave it a twirl skillfully.
“Oh, sod!” said one of the guards as Aliandra attacked and killed both of them. Soris looked down at the dead elven woman.
“I… can’t believe they killed her! Are you all right? They… didn’t hurt you, did they?” He asked looking Aliandra over.
“Where did you get the weapons Soris?” Aliandra asked balancing the sword in her hand before tossing it back to him. He caught it clumsily.
“The Grey Warden, Torquil, gave Nelaros and me his sword and crossbow, but that’s all we have,” Soris admitted.
“Give me the crossbow you wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway,” Aliandra stated before she thought more clearly in what Soris just said. “Nelaros is here?”
“Yes, he’s the reason we’re here. He lost it on those who wanted to ‘hope for the best’ I… didn’t know what to do. Nelaros is guarding the end of the hall. Let’s figure this out with him.” Soris said.
“Well, maybe there is some hope to my marrying him after all,” stated Aliandra as they left the room. Aliandra noted they were locked in a small room attached to the kitchen as the cook turned around.
“What’s this? I don’t recognize you, elf. Wait… is that blood? You’re bandits! Rebels! Outlaws! The guards will make quick work of…” the cook groaned as his elven assistant hit him over the head with a heavy skillet the cook’s skull made an awful cracking noise as the man crumbled to the ground.
“You’ve no idea how long that shem’s had it coming,” the servant said dropping the skillet on the floor.
“Did a group of elven woman come this way?” Aliandra asked no longer thinking about the dead cook on the floor.
“Yes. Dragged them to the Lord Vaughan’s quarters, they did. You should hurry if you want to help them,” replied the servant.
“Thank you,” Aliandra said gratefully.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting out of here before the storm hits,” the servant ran out of the room and Aliandra and Soris went the other way which happened to be a dinning hall where three guards were sitting and eating. Not wearing any armor but in normal cloths Aliandra assumed they were off duty.
“Where did you get that weapon, elf?” said one of the guards standing up from the bench.
“Oh this thing… I found it just to show you how it works,” Aliandra smiled.
“Are you insane?” Soris said.
“You maggots are gonna die slowly,” said another of the off duty guards. Soris guarded Aliandra while she fired upon the guards turning them into pin cushions.
Aliandra and Soris continued to venture down the hall until they came to a room where Aliandra spotted Nelaros surrounded by two guards and the captain that she recognized from earlier. The Captain gutted Nelaros right in front of Aliandra and Soris as they entered the room.
“See? I told you there’d be more. Elves run in packs, like rodents,” said the Captain.
“Should we keep the knife-eared bitch alive?” asked one of the guards.
“They killed our boys. She dies,” said the Captain.
“If you want me come and get me,” Aliandra said through clinched teeth furious at the death of Nelaros knowing that if he didn’t try to save her he would still be alive.
“Stupid wench. We’ll show you how men fight,” the Captain motioned the guards to attack. Aliandra fought with a rage that she never thought she had before killing them with increased ease.
“Nelaros… I’m so sorry,” Soris said kneeling down at the fallen man.
“We need to get the other woman out of here and quickly,” Aliandra said laying a gentle hand on Soris’s shoulder.
“Let’s make sure his death wasn’t in vain,” Soris said standing up again. They continued to search the castle just as they opened the last door in the one hall they were in they saw Lord Vaughan standing over Shianni who was laying on the floor in the fetal position her dress stained in blood as she was shacking. The other two nobles were standing behind Shianni. Laughing at her.
“My, my, what have we here?” asked Vaughan turning to face the door that Soris and Aliandra just came through.
“Don’t worry; we’ll make short work of these two,” said one of the nobles.
“Quiet, you idiot!” Vaughan snapped at the noble. “They’re covered with enough blood to fill a tub. What do you think that means?”
“That no one is left to hear your screams,” Aliandra said taking another step into the room.
“All right, let’s not be too hasty here,” Vaughan put his hands up in defense. “Surely we can talk this over…” he insisted.
Shianni began to sob on the floor. “Please, just… get me out of here! I want to go home!” she cried.
“Think for a minute. Kill me, and you ruin more lives than just your own. By dawn, the city will run red with elven blood,” Vaughan said smoothly.
“Are you thinking that you can talk your way out of this after what you have done?” Aliandra asked slightly amused.
“Last chance. Kill me and destroy everything you care about, or hear me out and change your life for the better,” Vaughan said bluntly.
“Talk quickly,” Aliandra humored him.
Vaughan smiled, “Here’s our situation. You are skilled, obviously. We fight here, perhaps you could even manage to kill us… my father won’t let that go. Your pigsty of an Alienage will be burned to the ground. Or you turn and walk away… with forty sovereigns added to your purses.”
“And you will let me walk out of here with all the elven woman along with forty sovereigns?” Aliandra doubted.
“The women stay. They’ll go home tomorrow, slightly worse for wear, and you’ll be long gone,” Vaughan stated.
“I’m not leaving without the rest of the women,” stated Aliandra.
“That’s the deal. Take it or leave it,” Vaughan’s voice became a little bitterer.
“You can take your forty sovereigns and shove them up your ass I’m not leaving here without the rest of the women,” Aliandra stated.
“Bah!” Vaughan couldn’t believe his ears. “I always regret talking to knife-ears! Now I’ll just gut your ignorant carcasses, instead!” Vaughan said as he and the other nobles draw their blades and attack Aliandra and Soris. Aliandra began to dance around the room firing the crossbow at the nobles killing two of them as Soris cut deeply into Vaughan’s leg forcing him to the ground. Aliandra walked over to Soris taking the sword from him and cut Vaughan’s head clean off of his shoulders.
“He… he’s dead. Tell me we did the right thing, Cousin,” Soris pleaded.
“What’s important is that Shianni and the others are safe,” Aliandra said wiping the sword off of Vaughan’s cloths.
“I… I’ll check the back room for the others. Shianni needs you,” Soris said before leaving the room. Aliandra knelt down at Shianni’s side looking her over knowing full well that Vaughan forced himself upon her.
“D-don’t leave me alone… please… please, take me home,” Shianni sobbed. Aliandra held Shianni and began to rocker her like a child in her lap.
“You’re safe now. They will never touch you ever again, I promise,” Aliandra shushed Shianni.
“So much blood. I… I can’t stand to look at it. It’s… everywhere. You killed them, didn’t you? You killed them all?” Shianni questioned her eyes shut tightly.
“Yes. I killed them all like the dogs they were,” Aliandra said quietly.
“Good. Good…” Shianni slowly stopped shaking.
“Is… she going to be all right?” Valora asked as she and the other elven woman entered the room with Soris.
“She will feel a lot better when we get her out of here,” Aliandra said.
“I’ll take the rear guard. I can’t wait to leave this place,” Soris stated as Aliandra helped Shianni up and her and Valora assisted Shianni as they left the estate and walked back to the Alienage.
When they arrived at the Alienage Valendrian and Torquil were there waiting at the entrance. “You have returned. Has Shianni been hurt? Where is Tormey’s daughter, Nola?” Valendrian asked.
“Nola didn’t make it. She resisted, and…” Valora started to say.
“… They killed her,” Shianni finished.
“Nelaros too. The guards killed him,” Soris stated lowering his head.
“I see. Would the rest of you ladies please take Shianni home? She needs rest,” Valendrian stated.
“Of course,” Valora said everyone help Shianni get home except Aliandra and Soris.
As soon as they were no longer in ear shot Valendrian turned back to Aliandra, “Now tell me what happened?”
“I killed Lord Vaughan…” Aliandra admitted.
“Then the garrison could already be on their way. You have little time,” Valendran said urgently.
“I might be able to help you, if that’s truly your wish,” Torquil offered but was interrupted as an elf ran by them yelling that the guards had arrived.
“Don’t panic. Let’s see what comes of this,” Valendrian said stepping in front of Soris and Aliandra as if to shield them from the arriving guards.
“I seek Valendrian, elder and administrator of the Alienage!” said the Guard Captain.
“Here, Captain. I take it you have come in response to today’s disruption?” Valendrian asked.
“Don’t play ignorant with me, elder. You will not prevent justice from being done. The arl’s son lies dead in a river of blood that runs through the entire palace! I need names, and I need them now!” ordered the Captain.
“I did it,” Aliandra stepped around Valendrian. “I killed Lord Vaughan.”
“You expect me to believe one woman did all of that?” the Captain didn’t sound convinced.
“We are not all so helpless, Captain,” stated Valendrian.
“You save many by coming forward. I don’t envy your fate, but I applaud your courage,” stated the Captain. “This elf will wait in the dungeons until the Arl returns. The rest of you, back to your houses!” the Captain ordered.
“Captain… a word, if you please,” Torquil interjected.
The Captain stopped, “What is it, Grey Warden? The situation is well under control, as you can see,” the captain waved his hand as if showing Torquil something.
“Be that as it may, I hereby invoke the Grey Warden’s right of conscription. I remove this woman into my custody,” Torquil decried.
“Can he do that?” asked Aliandra.
“Son of a tied down… very well, Grey Warden; I cannot challenge your rights, but I’ll ask one thing. Get this elf out of the city. TODAY,” the Captain emphasized the word today.
“Agreed,” Torquil tilted his head at the captain.
“Now, I need to get my men on the streets before this news hits. Move out!” the Captain and group of guards left the Alienage.
Torquil turned to Aliandra, “You’re with me now. Say your goodbyes, and see me when you’re ready. We leave immediately. Do not take long. I agreed to have you out of the city forthwith,” Torquil stated and Aliandra nodded.
“Thank you. You really saved my hide back there…” Soris said gratefully.
“I did what I thought was right,” Aliandra said confidently.
“Still casual, even now. I wish I had your nerves, or skill, or… well, anything. No more daydreaming. I’m settling down. Valora’s a good woman, and she has ideas on making life better for everyone here. Your father had the woman take Shianni back to your place. Will you see her before you go?” Soris asked.
“Of course,” Aliandra said.
“Good luck, Cousin. You’ve been my hero since we were kids. It’s just official, now,” Soris admitted as Aliandra walked back to her house where she found her father waiting outside.
“If… this is what the Maker has planned for you, then I guess it’s for the best. Your mother would have been pleased,” he said solemnly.
“And you are not father…” Aliandra pointed out.
“I just wish there was another way. I dreamed of grandchildren, family gatherings, an…” he sighed. “I’m sorry. This isn’t helping. Take care, my girl. Be safe. And wise. And… well, you know. We’ll miss you,” he said and Aliandra hugged him before going inside the house.
“There you are… thank you. For me, for Soris, for everything,” said Valora.
“You better be good to him,” Aliandra said in a voice almost threatening.
“I will, I swear it. Shianni seems to have regained herself. I’ll leave you two alone. Good luck, and thank you gain,” Valora said before leaving. Aliandra walked into her room where Shianni was sitting on the bed. Aliandra sat down beside her wrapping her arm around her cousin for the last time.
“You took all the responsibility for what happened. You’re amazing, you know that?” Shianni said laying her head on Aliandra’s shoulder.
“How are you doing?” Aliandra asked.
“I’m… all right. As far as the others know. Vaughan just roughed me up a bit. I just don’t want them treating me like some fragile doll,” Shianni sighed. “I love you, Cousin. Make us proud out there.”
“I love you too,” Aliandra said giving Shianni a slight squeeze before standing again getting ready to leave.
“Maker watch over you,” Shianni called after Aliandra as the door closed behind her. Aliandra although glad to be getting out of the Alienage never would have guessed this was to be the circumstances to her escape.
Aliandra walked over to where Torquil was waiting for her, “Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“As ready as one gets on such short notice,” Aliandra stated shouldering the crossbow that she kept from earlier.
“Good. Then we leave for Ostagar immediately,” Torquil said and with that they left Denerim.
A human falls backwards as he runs into Tamlen who has a bow aimed at him two other humans coming to a halt as they see Tamlen. “It’s a Dalish!” exclaims the human as he gets up.
“And you three are somewhere you shouldn’t be!” Tamlen snaps.
“Let us pass, elf. You have no right to stop us!” commands one of the humans with renewed bravery. Just as Deirdra sidesteps to Tamlen’s side with her bow trained on the humans as well and Naois jumps down from out of a tree his two handed sword resting on his shoulder as he holds it in a relaxed defensive stance.
“You’re just in time I found these… humans, lurking in the bushes. Bandits, no doubt,” Tamlen reported to his clan mates.
“We aren’t bandits, I swear! Please don’t hurt us!” begged a different human that the first.
“You shemlen are pathetic. It’s hard to believe you ever drove us from our homeland,” Tamlen said in a doubtful tone.
“W-we’ve never done nothing to you Dalish! We didn’t even know this forest was yours!” said the third human.
“This forest isn’t ours, fool. You’ve stumbled too close to our camp. You shems are like vermin… we can’t trust you not to make mischief. What do you say, lethallin? What should we do with them?” Tamlen asks Deirdra.
“Let’s find out what they’re doing here,” she said without lowering her bow.
“Does it matter? Hunting or banditry, we’ll need to move camp if we let them live,” Tamlen stated.
“Kill them… what do I care? The others will never know,” stated Naois with a wicked grin.
“Now I like the sound of that,” smiled Tamlen.
“L-look… we didn’t come here to be trouble. We just found a cave…” said the third human.
“Yes,” agreed the human that fell earlier. “a cave! With ruins like I’ve never seen! We thought there might be, uh…” he trailed off.
“Treasure. So you’re more akin to thieves than actual bandits,” reasoned Tamlen.
“We know this forest. There are caves, but no ruins. You lie,” snapped Naois.
Deirdra shakes her head, “If you’ve been there, you should have treasure to prove it.”
“I… I have proof! Here… we found this just inside the entrance,” the human hands over a stone with elvish on it to Tamlen.
Tamlen looks at the stone for a moment and then his eyes widened, “This stone has carvings… is this elvish? Written elvish?” Tamlen couldn’t believe his eyes.
“There’s more in the ruins! We didn’t get very far in, though…” said the second human.
“How do you know that’s elvish, Tamlen?” Deirdra asked.
“I’ve seen something similar on the keeper’s scrolls…”
“This sounds like a trap. Don’t believe it,” snapped Naois.
“A trap? We didn’t even know you elves were here! We-we were just trying to find the treasure!” the human said trying to convince Naois.
“And this is all you found? Why didn’t you look for more?” questioned Tamlen slightly annoyed.
“There was a demon! It was huge, with black eyes! Thank the Maker we were able to out-run it!” confessed the human.
Tamlen scoffs, “A demon? Where is this cave?”
The second human looked at the others before saying, “Just off to the west, I think. There’s a cave in the rock face, and a huge hole just inside.”
“Well? Do you trust them? Shall we let them go?” Tamlen asked his clan mates.
“I think you frightened them enough don’t you?” asked Deirdra.
“Let them go? Deirdra… they can bring a mob to drive us out. Kill them all!” Naois said charging at the humans severing one of them in half. Tamlen followed suite shooting the other two down. Deirdra lowered her bow looking at Tamlen sorrow in her eyes.
“One could expect no less from a shem. We had to do it,” Tamlen said to her.
Naois wiped his blade clean on one of the humans, “Well, shall we see if there’s any truth to their story?”
“Those carvings do make me curious,” Tamlen agreed.
“Shouldn’t we inform the keeper?” Deirdra suggested.
Tamlen thought for a second, “She might be interested in these carvings, but let’s see if there’s anything more before we get excited.”
“And perhaps a demon for the slaying… This is going to be a good day,” Naois rested his sword once again on his shoulder smiling with excitement.
Tamlen rested a gentle hand on Deirdra’s shoulder, “Besides, we’re already here. Now, they said it was to the west…” Tamlen followed Naois’s lead and Deirdra followed the two of them. There were several wolves that were along the way to the cave entrance that attacked the party. Naois was more than happy to deal with them alone. As they approached the cave Deirdra started to get a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“This must be the cave. I don’t recall seeing this before, do you?” Tamlen said looking into the cave.
“No, but let’s check it out,” Naois said taking a few steps towards the cave.
“I don’t think we should go in alone,” Deirdra stated.
“There’s nobody else here. And I’m not running back for help unless there’s something worth making a fuss over,” Tamlen said again following Naois blindly into the cave.
“Come on Deirdra. It’s just a cave. What could their possibly be in here that the three of us couldn’t handle,” Naois smiled at her.
“Fine! But don’t come running to me when we meet up with this demon and he rips you in half,” she glared at him.
Naois smiled at his victory over getting her to come with, “It’ll be a nice feature to go on a pike at the entrance to my text,” Naois laughed.
As they enter the came Deirdra looses her footing but Naois was quick enough to turn around and catch her. “Loose your footing?” Naois smiles at her helping her back to her feet.
“This place makes me nervous,” stated Tamlen looking back over his shoulder at them.
Deirdra looks around at all the cobwebs and large cocoon sacks. “What do you think all this is?”
Tamlen looks around, “I’m not sure. This looks like a very old human place. Why did they build this? And why would elven artifacts be here? Maybe some of our ancestors lived here, in caves like the dwarves. I’ll stick to roaming the land, myself.”
“Why did you want to come down here so badly?”
“Deirdra come on you aren’t the least bit curious?” Naois smiles at her.
“We could be discovering our history. Minstrels will write songs about us!” Tamlen stated.
“I’m just worried about the danger here,” Deirdra tried to reason with them.
Tamlen walks over to her and lightly strokes her face, “If I were to bring some valuable ancestral artifact back to the keeper, she might forgive me for… well, you know.”
“Hey we were both brawling, I don’t see why you got punished,” Naois moved to Deirdra’s side.
“At any rate, I wasn’t expecting this place to… feel quite like this. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea…” Tamlen began to regret their entering the cave.
“Too late to go back now,” insisted Naois.
“Hey,” Tamlen looked at Deirdra as if something hit him. “Weren’t you suppose to be assisting Master Varathorn today? How did you end up coming with us?”
“I wanted to be with you, of course,” Deirdra said and Naois winced ever so slightly.
“I… thought that might be the case. I’m glad,” Tamlen smiled.
“Let’s just fine whatever’s here and get out. You too can romance each other later,” Naois said running ahead a little bit. The group of Dalish continued to travel through the cave facing giant spiders along the way.
Towards the back of the cave Tamlen stopped at a statue and looked at it with increased intensity. “I can’t believe this. You recognize this statue, don’t you?”
“It’s warn, but it looks vaguely familiar…” said Deirdra.
“Perhaps. Why should I care?” Naois said not at all interested in a statue since the three of them couldn’t move it to take it back to the clan.
“Back when our people lived in Arlathan, statues like these honored the Creators. When the shems enslaved us, much of that lore was lost,” Tamlen stated. “This looks like human architecture… with a statue of our people. Can these ruins date back to the time of Arlathan?”
“It’s interesting. So much of our past is lost to us,” Deirdra sounded very sad.
“This isn’t the time or place for a history lesson, Tamlen,” Naois interjected.
Tamlen ignored Naois, “I’d never have guessed ancient elves might have lived here! With humans!”
“Come on lets move on already,” pleaded Naois as he opened a door and a giant bear looking thing roared. It had spikes all over it’s body.
“YES, finally some fun,” said Naois charging into the room. Tamlen followed suite cutting at the demon and bashing it with his shield as Deirdra fired upon it from afar.
“By the Creators! What… what was that thing?!” Tamlen sighed in relief as the demon fell.
“I’ll tell you what it is… a trophy that I will be sticking outside my tent,” Naois stated.
“No time!” Deirdra warned and Naois jumped to his feet as walking corpses began to enter the room they were in. The walking dead were easily taken care of. “How could walking corpses be here?”
“Hahren Paivel once said that in places where many people died, it can become setheneran—a land of waking dreams. The Veil becomes weak and spirits slip into our world. Then they possess corpses and walk around.” Tamlen shudders.
“Do you want to turn around?” Deirdra asked hoping.
Tamlen thought to himself for a second, “No. this place must have been important for so many to have died here. I’m curious…”
“Let’s press on… I want to know how our people were involved with this,” stated Naois.
Tamlen walks past the demon towards a giant mirror that was in the center of the room. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I wonder what the writing says.”
“Do not touch the glass?” Naois laughs.
“Stand back. We can’t be sure it’s safe,” Deirdra insists.
“It sat here for who knows how many centuries—what could be so dangerous? Don’t worry; I won’t break it,” Tamlen smiles at her. “I wonder what this writing is for? Maybe this isn’t—hey did you see that?” Tamlen questions looking into the glass that didn’t show his reflection.
“I think something moved inside the mirror,” stated Naois. “But maybe I was imagining it…”
“Get away from it, Tamlen…” Deirdra grabbed Tamlen’s arm.
Tamlen breaks free of her, “Hold on, I just want to know what it is. Don’t you see it? There it is again!” he walked up a few stairs that lead up to the mirror. “Can you feel that? I think it knows we’re here. I just need to take a closer look…” Deirdra wouldn’t go up the stairs to the mirror but Naois was more than happy to humor Tamlen’s curiosity… if not sate his own. “It’s… showing me places. I can see… some kind of city… underground? And… there’s a great blackness… It… it saw! Help! I can’t look away!” Tamlen shouted Naois tried to pull Tamlen away but the mirror exploded with light and then nothing but darkness. Deirdra slowly helped Naois out of the cave he was stricken with fever she could feel beads of sweat dripping from her own forehead as well. Once out of the cave she collapsed on top of Naois. Naois came out of his unconscious state though delirious her heard someone talking to him.
“Can you hear me? I am… very sorry,” said the voice before Naois fell back into unconsciousness.
Naois walked out of his tent to find Deirdra talking with another clan’s man. He walked over to them. “You’re awake! You’ve the gods’ own luck lethallan the both of you in fact. You’re back at camp. Everyone is worried sick about the both of you. How do you feel?”
“How did I get here, Fenarel?” asked Naois.
“I’m worried. Where is Tamlen?” Deirdra asked.
“We don’t know. The shem who brought you both here saw no sign of him,” Fenarel admitted.
“There was a human?” Naois was now confused.
“A shem brought you both back two days ago. You don’t remember him?”
“I remember hearing a voice I didn’t realize it was a shem,” Naois spat out the words.
“We have been here for two days?!” Deirdra voice was becoming more and more frantic.
“He was a Grey Warden and appeared out of nowhere with Deirdra slung over his shoulder and you under his arm,” stated Fenarel. “Deirdra was unconscious and you were delirious with fever. He said that he found you both outside a cave in the forest, unconscious and alone. He left you here and ran off again. The keeper’s been using the old mage to heal you.”
“Is anyone looking for Tamlen?” Deirdra snapped.
“Of course!” Fenarel stated surprised. “Most of the hunters are off looking for him right now. But the keeper wanted to talk to you both as soon as you awoke. Stay here—I’ll get her.” Fenarel stated leaving the both of them.
“We will find him Deirdra,” Naois said to her wrapping an arm around her.
“He has been out there for three days untreated…” Deirdra covered her face in Naois’s shoulder. The keeper walked over to them Deirdra still covering her face in Naois’s shoulder.
“I see you are awake, da’len. It is fortunate Duncan found you when he did,” the keeper said to them. “I know not what dark power held you both, but it nearly bled the life from you. It was difficult even for my magic to keep you both alive.”
“I kept telling Tamlen that we should have come back!” Deirdra cried Naois placed a gentle hand on the back of Deirdra’s head holding her to him.
“Do not worry da’len. Even I might have been intrigued enough by such a cave to explore it further. Duncan thought there may have been darkspawn creatures inside the cave. Is that true?”
“Why listen to anything a shemlen says?” Naois said defensively.
The keeper sighed, “The Grey Wardens are an old and honorable order, da’len, and we Dalish have enough enemies. Was he correct?”
Deirdra turned to face the keeper her cheek still resting against Naois. “There were walking corpses and other strange monsters,” she said softly.
“Walking corpses? Dark magic, but not darkspawn. I know not what the other creatures might have been,” the keeper reasoned. “What else did you find? What is the last thing you remember?”
“There was a mirror. Tamlen touched it,” Naois recalled.
The keeper thought for a moment, “A mirror?” she said in confusion. “And it caused all this? I have never heard of such a thing in all the lore we have collected.” The keeper sighed, “I was hoping for answers when you woke, but there are only more questions. And Tamlen remains missing. He is more important than any lore in these ruins. If he is as sick as you were, his condition is grave.” Deirdra winced and Naois stroked her soft hair. “Duncan returned to the cave to search for darkspawn, but we cannot rely on him to look for Tamlen as well. We must go ourselves, and quickly. Do you feel well enough to show us the way, da’len? Without you we will not find it.” Naois looked down at Deirdra and it was as if her hopes were renewed.
“I am up to it, Keeper. I feel fine,” Deirdra said in a firm voice.
The keeper smiled, “I am relieved to hear it. I am ordering the clan to pack the camp so we can go north. Take Merrill with you to the cave. Find Tamlen if you can, but do it swiftly.”
“Take Merrill to the cave and find Tamlen. I understand,” Naois said.
“Go quickly, for Tamlen’s life hangs in the balance,” the Keeper warned.
“Pray for us, Keeper,” Deirdra said as she and Naois went to go find Merrill. Before Naois and Deirdra could even look for Merrill, Fenarel stopped them. “Is the keeper sending you back to that cave to look for Tamlen?”
“Yes, we’re going with Merrill,” stated Naois.
Fenarel pleaded, “I want to go with you. Keeper Marethari probably won’t approve, but I can help find Tamlen.”
“We don’t have time for this,” Deirdra stated flat out.
Naois was inclined to agree, “If you want to go; ask the keeper yourself we have to get moving before the clan up and leaves Tamlen here.” Fenarel frowned as Deirdra and Naois left him to find Merrill who was waiting for them at the entrance to the camp.
“The Keeper told me I’m to accompany you both back to those caves. As her apprentice, I may see something you missed. But our main objective is to find Tamlen, of course. We must make haste; he may not have much time.”
“Let’s head out now,” Deirdra stated and Naois took point. As they found the path that lead to the cave there were creatures that attacked the party that were not their before.
“What were those things?” Merrill questioned. “Were those darkspawn?” Deirdra swayed feeling slightly faint but Naois steadied her though not feeling too well himself.
“I don’t know!” Naois snapped at Merrill.
“I’ve never seen anything like them! You can smell the evil on them,” said Merrill. “Where did they come from? Were they here before?” she continued to as questions that neither Deirdra nor Naois had the answers to.
“No they weren’t here before,” Deirdra stated bluntly. “I think I would have noticed.”
“Let’s move on and hope we don’t meet any more of these monsters,” Merrill said confidently. “Before we go, are you all right? Were you hurt during the fight?” Merrill looked concerned at Deirdra.
“Stop fussing over us,” Naois stated.
“I’m only saying that you look rather pale, now that I look at you both,” she said still with the concerned look in her eyes.
“What are you implying?” asked Naois.
“Nothing… forget I said anything. Let’s go,” Merrill said and Naois looked at Deirdra who nodded and he once again took point. They continued on the path about half way to the cave they ran across a campfire.
“I wonder whose camp this is. Do you remember it being here?” asked Merrill.
“Maybe it belongs to the shemlen who found us,” Naois said kneeling down at the campfire.
“It’s fresh…” Deirdra began to look around.
Merrill thought about it, “You’re probably right. Didn’t he say he was headed back to the cave? If so, he’s not here now. And we’ve seen no sign of Tamlen. Maybe we should… Wait… do you hear that?”
Deirdra looked around for a moment, “No forest creatures. It’s too quiet… I’ve noticed that a moment ago.”
“Exactly. The forest is too… still. Something’s in the air… something unnatural,” Merrill commented.
Naois got back to his feet, “Tamlen said he felt the same thing in the cave.”
“And now it’s affecting the forest? Maybe that mirror unleashed some kind of sickness. That would not be good,” Merrill thought about it for a moment.
“We need to find Tamlen,” Deirdra repeated.
“That’s an understatement,” Merrill continued ignoring Deirdra’s interruption. “The sooner we find this cave, and Tamlen, the sooner we can leave. Take us there quickly,” Merrill.
“Well if you would quit stopping whenever you find something along the way we would have been there already,” Naois said flatly walking in the direction towards the cave only to encounter more darkspawn along the way.
After they entered the cave Merrill led the way in and Naois held onto Deirdra’s hips as she walked down the rocky path that descended into the cave. “So these are the ruins? Interesting,” Merrill said looking around.
“I will be fine Naois,” Deirdra said softly.
“I just don’t want to have to carry you around is all,” Naois smiled.
“They’re definitely of human origin. Yet elven artifacts are scattered amongst them. Nothing explains the monsters, though,” Merrill continued to look around. “But we must find Tamlen—or what’s left of him. I can’t imagine he’s still alive with those creatures about.”
“Don’t talk like that! You don’t know!” Deirdra spoke so harshly that Merrill was taken aback by it. Naois held Deirdra’s shoulders just in case she decided to take a swing at Merrill.
Merrill’s face softened, “You’re right. We should explore farther before I go on about my fears. I’m sorry.” Merrill walked along side Naois in the front as Deirdra covered their back.
Naois made sure that Deirdra wasn’t listening in on them before turning to Merrill, “What do you think happened to Tamlen?” he asked in almost a whisper.
“I dread to think of it. If he is as sick as you were… even if the worst has happened, we cannot leave his body unburied.” Naois nodded knowing that Merrill didn’t even have hope in finding Tamlen alive. As they entered the hall before the room that had the mirror in it there was more darkspawn to be killed. They opened up the door to the room that had the mirror in it. The demon’s carcass was still there along with some new darkspawn bodies and a Shem.
“So you were the one fighting darkspawn. I thought I heard combat,” the human said turning around to face the party. “You’re the elves I found wandering the forest, aren’t you? I’m surprised that you have recovered,” he said.
“I don’t know you, human. Nor do I owe you anything,” Deirdra stated flatly.
“If you heard the fighting, why didn’t you help?” Naois asked curiously.
“Because as you can see I was dealing with my own darkspawn,” he answered Naois.
“Even if you didn’t owe this human your life, a Grey Warden deserves respect,” Merrill reminded Deirdra.
“She owes me nothing,” the human stated. “It was my duty to return an injured Dalish to their clan; your people have always been allies with the Grey Wardens.”
“Most humans we meet aren’t worth talking to,” stated Naois.
“Then I should be thankful we are having this discussion,” the human said still remaining calm. “My name is Duncan, and it’s a pleasure to finally meet the both of you. The last time we spoke, you were barely conscious.”
“Andaran atish’an, Duncan of the Grey Wardens. I am Merrill, the keeper’s apprentice,” Merrill bowed her head to Duncan.
“Your keeper did not send you after me, did she? I told her I would be in no danger,” Duncan asked concerned.
“We’re looking for our brother Tamlen,” Deirdra stated firmly.
Duncan thought for a moment, “So you both and Tamlen entered this cave? And saw this mirror?”
“You’ve found some trace of Tamlen?” Deirdra’s face seemed to light up.
Duncan sounded regretful, “No, nor do I think I will. The Grey Wardens have seen artifacts like this mirror before; it is Tevinter in origin, used for communication. Over time some of them simply… break. They become filled with the same taint as the darkspawn. Tamlen’s touch must have released it… it’s what made you both sick—and Tamlen, too, I presume.”
Naois looked at the mirror, “Then we should destroy it.”
“I agree. So long as the mirror exists, it is a threat to anyone nearby,” Duncan agreed.
“I do not fear this sickness. The keeper knows how to cure it,” stated Merrill.
Duncan didn’t look convinced, “She may have weakened it, but she cannot cure it. Their recovery is only temporary. I can sense the sickness in them, and it is spreading. Look inside yourselves and you will see.”
“Perhaps there is… something to what you say,” Deirdra stated softly.
“Confirm it with your keeper later, if you like. For now, we must deal with the mirror… it is a danger,” Duncan stated turning towards the mirror and walking up the stairs unsheathing his sword as he did so and slashed the mirror breaking it into thousands of pieces. “It is done. Now, let’s leave this cursed place. I must speak with the keeper immediately regarding your cure.”
“What about Tamlen?” Deirdra couldn’t even begin to believe that he was suggesting leaving Tamlen in this place.
“There is nothing we can do,” Duncan sounded certain.
“Are you sure?” Naois asked though he was thinking the same thing.
“We are not leaving Tamlen here… I won’t Naois, I won’t,” Deirdra shouted.
“Let me be very clear: There is nothing you can do for him. He’s been tainted for three days now, unaided. Trust me when I say that he is gone. Now, we should return.”
“If you think I’m going to leave…” Deirdra began to snap at Duncan but Naois hit her on the back of the head with the pommel of his sword knocking her out.
“She will forgive me later…” Naois stated strapping his sword to his back as then picked up Deirdra and cradled her in his arms. “I’m not saying I believe you she… Duncan. But I’m not going to let her get any worse with this illness trying to search for someone that won’t be found. Not when there is a cure that will save her from his fate.”
Back at the camp Deirdra finally came to as the keeper walked over to the party. “I’m relieved you have returned! And I did not expect to see you again so soon, Duncan.”
“I was not expecting to return so soon either, Keeper,” Duncan admitted.
The keeper looked at the group Naois was trying not to laugh at Deirdra who was punching him. “Dare I ask of Tamlen? What did you find of him?”
“They wouldn’t let me search,” Deirdra said hitting Naois one more time.
“You weren’t going to find him Deirdra,” Naois insisted. “The Grey Warden says we would have found nothing.”
“I see. Merrill, what about the mirror? Did you bring anything back?” the keeper turned to her apprentice.
“I can answer that, Keeper. I destroyed the mirror,” Duncan stated.
“I intended to use it to find a cure for this mysterious illness. I trust you had good reasons for your actions?” the keeper did not look pleased.
“There is much to discuss, Keeper. I have learned a great deal since I was last here,” he admitted.
The keeper nodded, “Let us speak privately within my aravel then, Duncan. Merrill, warn the hunters. If darkspawn are about, I want the clan prepared,” the keeper ordered.
“Ma nuvenin, Keeper. Right away,” Merrill said leaving Deirdra’s side.
“Da’len, allow me some time to speak with Duncan. Seek us out at my aravel later, and we can discuss the cure for you both,” the keeper said calmly.
“Very well, keeper,” said Deirdra.
“Tell Hahren Paivel what has occurred. He now has the sad task of preparing a service for the dead,” the keeper said sadly. “Follow me, Duncan. I am eager to hear what you have to say.”
“I can’t believe you dragged me back here without even looking for Tamlen,” Deirdra said again.
“You would have died looking for him and still found nothing I believe. I hardly believe that Tamlen would approve of that choice either. So on his behalf if not yours I did what I did,” Naois said before walking over to Hahren Paivel to inform him of what was going on leaving Deirdra some time to think alone.
“So you return with the Grey Warden, but without Tamlen. What happened, da’len? Is he truly lost to us?” Hahren Paivel asked.
“The Grey Warden says he is, but I’m not sure,” Naois said solemnly.
Hahren hung his head low, “Even if he’s not, we must leave soon. To think I’d live to see this… it seems the will of the Creators that I sing the dirge for those I held in my arms as babes. I think I know why our immortal ancestors would sleep.” Hahren walked over to the pyre, “Swiftly do stars burn a path across the sky, hastening to place one last kiss upon your eye. Tenderly land enfolds you in slumber, softening the rolling thunder. Dagger now sheathed, bow no longer tense. During this, your last hour, only silence.”
“Will you prepare a service for Tamlen, please?” Naois asked still gazing into the fire.
“Of course. We’ve no body to return to the soil, but we shall still sing for Tamlen. The Creators must come to guide him to the Beyond,” Hahren agreed. “Tell the keeper it shall be done before the clan is ready to move on.”
“Thank you, Hahren,” Naois said.
Hahren thought for a moment, “You know, it’s imperative now more than ever to pass on what we know to the young. Let us tell these children of the fall of the Dales. You can honor me by sharing in the telling.”
“I have important things to do, Hahren,” Naois declined.
“That is too bad. Another time, then,” Hahren stated.
Naois saw that Deirdra had already met up with Duncan and the Keeper outside her aravel. “Your keeper and I have spoken, and we’ve come to an arrangement that concerns the both of you.” Duncan started to explain as Naois approached. “My order is in need of help. You are in need of a cure. When I leave, I hope you will both join me. You both would make excellent Grey Wardens.”
“Are we to become Grey Wardens, Keeper?” Deirdra asked.
“Yes, da’len. Your lives depend on it,” stated the keeper.
“The darkspawn taint courses through your veins. That either of you recovered at all is remarkable. But eventually, the taint will sicken and kill you, or worse. The Grey Wardens can prevent that, but it means joining us,” Duncan explained.
“I will not join out of pity,” stated Naois defensively.
“This is not simply charity on my part. I would not offer this if I did not think you had the makings of a Grey Warden. Let me be clear: You will likely never return here. We go to fight the darkspawn, a battle that will take us far from your clan. But we need you and others like you.”
“Is the clan sending us away?” Deirdra asked the Keeper.
“A great army of darkspawn gathers in the south. A new Blight threatens the land. We cannot outrun this storm. Long ago, the Dalish agreed to aid the Grey Wardens against a Blight, should that day arrive. We must honor that agreement. It breaks my heart to send either of you away. As it would to watch you die slowly from this sickness. This is your duty, and your salvation,” the keeper stated with nothing but sorrow in her voice.
“If this is our duty,” Deirdra looked at Naois and he nodded. “Then we will go.”
“I welcome you to the order. It is rare to have a Dalish amongst us, but they have always served with distinction,” Duncan bowed his head with respect to the two of them.
“I know you’ll do your clan proud, da’len. Take these rings. It is your heritage and will protect you against the darkness to come,” stated the Keeper handing them both rings made of sylvanwood.
Duncan smiled, “A valuable gift. So… are you ready to go?” he asked.
“Can I say goodbye to my clan, at least?” Deirdra asked.
“Of course. Say your farewells, then let us be off. We have much ground to cover,” Duncan stated.
The keeper forced a weak smile, “Come then, da’len. Before the Creators guide you both from us, let your clan embrace you both one last time.” The clan divided into two rows for Deirdra and Naois to walk through all of them sad some of them weeping as they passed. Merrill hugged Deirdra just before they followed Duncan out of the camp.
Posted on 2011-05-11 at 19:44:46.
Edited on 2011-05-13 at 15:29:38 by Velnia
Deep beneath the Frostback Mountains sits Orzammar, largest and proudest of the two remaining Dwarven cities. Once the seat of an underground empire. Orzammar now stands alone, cut off from the world by the darkspawn, still clinging to the memory of its former glory. Below the vast statues and gilded halls where the noble families play at polities, the lower castes live in their shadows, scurrying to serve like their ancestors before them. Below that… were the Brosca’s. They are casteless, the dirty secret staining Orzammar’s perfect society, forced, along with their sister, to sell their services to the crime lord Beraht. To the rest of Orzammar, they are proof that the casteless deserve their fate; but they know they do what they have to—the same as everyone—just to survive. Duran was talking with Rica as Beraht entered their home without even as much as a curtsey knock. Saoirse had been gone all morning and that worried Duran though it wasn’t the first time that Beraht sent his younger sister on a mission alone without telling him about it. ‘She just has a way with people,’ Beraht always told him and that just made him hate the guy even more.
“I can’t keep gambling on your forever, precious,” Beraht said to Rica. “You got a sweet look, something to light a man on fire. But you got to make it count.”
“Please, Beraht. I don’t want to do this in front of my brother—“Rica pleaded with the crime lord.
“Why not? He knows the slope of the land, don’t you, boy?” Beraht said with a sugary voice that would turn away even those with a sweet tooth.
Duran was tired of Beraht treating his family the way that he did, “Didn’t I tell you not to talk that way to my sister?”
Beraht’s grin disappeared, “You’ve told me a lot of things, not one of which meant more than a fart in the middens. Before me, your sister was just another duster. Now check her out! Braids down to here, gold-capped teeth. She can recite elf-poetry and play the string-harp. Every man’s dream!” Beraht rubbed his belly as if he was hungry for something. “All she’s gotta do is find a lord, squeeze out some kid who looks like him, and we’re all living the easy life in the Diamond Quarter.”
Rica begged to her brother, “Please don’t get involved. You know that never goes well.”
Rica stood up but Duran wasn’t backing down, “I don’t like to see him treating you that way.”
Beraht pointed out with pleasure, “I’ll treat her however I like, as long as you three eat off my plate. You keep your head down and say; ‘Aye’ to any job I decide is low enough for scum like you.” Beraht turned to Rica, “In return, I put out coin so you can doll yourself up and get a bellyful of some nobleman’s brat. Then the both of you go free. And I get to join the family and be called, ‘my lord’ for the rest of the little prince’s life.”
“The both of us what about Saoirse?” Duran didn’t miss a beat when it came to his sisters.
“She has a fine look. When she gets a little older she could probably do the same. But I would have to get that look out of her eye…” Beraht thought for a moment.
“My sister will be moving up with us,” Rica stated.
Duran still wasn’t convinced that Beraht knew that Saoirse wasn’t going to be doing the same that Rica has to do to keep food on their table.
The door slammed shut as Saoirse walked into the room, “And her son’ll call you uncle and come visit on name-days?” her short black hair down to her ears was spiked outwards but her black eyes were fixed on Beraht as if she was trying to melt him.
Beraht crossed his arms, “That’s what everyone likes—a casteless with a big mouth. But I didn’t come for the joy of your company,” Beraht smiled at Rica. “I’ve been looking at my investments, and this one hasn’t borne much gold. I’m giving you another week, precious. If you haven’t found a patron, you’re back to sweeping streets.”
Rica walked away from them for a moment, “But… I have. I’ve met someone… that is, I didn’t want to promise, but he seemed interested.”
“Watch yourself, Beraht. We may not need you pretty soon,” Saoirse smiled at her boss.
“Everyone needs me. Because everyone has things they want and my Carta, we’re the ones who provide. Until you can do that, you’re nothing but some whore’s little sister. So shut up and do as you’re told,” he went to slap Saoirse to show her, her place but Duran caught his hand and if looks could kill.
Beraht pulled his hand away, “You want me to beat someone up for you?” Duran asked letting Beraht pull his hand away.
“Good guess,” Beraht said still eyeing Saoirse. “Your buddy Leske’s waiting outside. He knows what I’ll need from you today. Don’t even think about bungling this job. Your whole family’s on loose sand with me right now. And I know you don’t have anywhere else to turn.” He said as he walked out of the house.
Rica hugged her little sister, “I’m sorry you had to see that,” he said stroking Saoirse’s hair.
“I can’t stand the way he treats us!” Duran slams his hand against a table.
“Just be careful about showing him,” Rica warned. “You’ve been lucky so far; he thinks it’s funny when you and Leske get vulgar. Some of the nobles I’ve met, they’d as soon have your head for speaking your mind. That’s why I didn’t tell you. Beraht’s been warning me ever since two of his other girls found patrons at Lord Harrowmont’s reception. They’ve been getting gifts already, Lord Rousten gave Elsya a surface-silk gown and she’s not even pregnant. Beraht’s getting impatient.”
Duran looked at both of his sisters and sighed, “I just wish we didn’t have to kiss up to that cave tick.”
Rica pointed out, “You know the other options. Cleaning middens… begging… going to the surface.” She squeezed Saoirse who forced herself out of her older sister’s arms. “No, unless either of you find a way to save us all from darkspawn and become a Paragon, we’re pretty much on Beraht’s leash for life.”
“I don’t know why I can’t join the army and fight darkspawn,” Saoirse pouted.
Rica looked like she had something bitter in her mouth, “its sheer folly, one more way the nobles protect their status. They say casteless soldiers are more danger to each other than to darkspawn… that it’s an insult to the smith to let us touch a fine-made weapon. Truly, they just don’t wish to insult the Warrior Caste by showing that given the same opportunities, we could lead an army just as well.”
“If not better,” interjected Duran.
“They’d rather we all be killed than admit they’re wrong,” threw her arms up in the air in frustration.
“I have little love for the nobles, but they know—more than we ever will—what the darkspawn have taken from our kind. Every noble I’ve met has had a brother or nephew killed in the Deep Roads. Yet they let their arrogance blind them to the fact that we could help defend the city against the darkspawn,” Rica began to pace.
“We need to get going before Beraht comes back. Goodbye,” Saoirse said to Rica and Duran followed her out the door.
“Stay out of trouble. I’ll see you tonight,” Rica called after them. Saoirse stopped at the table where their mother was finding herself again in another bottle of ale.
“Don’t do it Saoirse,” Duran stated but Saoirse couldn’t help herself as she walked over to her mother.
They mother groaned, “Whozzat? Why are you bothering me? Rica?” she was barely keeping herself in her chair.
“It’s the king of Orzammar,” Saoirse batted her brother away. “I heard you were single.”
Her mother slammed the bottle onto the table, “Don’t you sass me, you ungrateful brat! I made you and I can make another just like you.”
Saoirse’s face was like stone. Duran only saw her use that face when she was about to kill someone, “I’m the only reason you’re here and not dead in a gutter!” Saoirse said calmly.
“Then you should’ve left me there. What’ve I got that’s worth living for?” her mother snorted.
“What about your family? What about Rica?” Saoirse asked spinning her dagger on the table.
Her mother buried her face in her hands, “I know you three hate me. I-I know what I done to you, but… it was for your own good. The world’s a cruel place. You… you had to learn that,” she said it like she truly believed it. “You think you’d be where you are not if I’d let you hide from a few slaps? Everything you are, made you!”
“I stopped listening to you when I was six,” Saoirse stated still not looking at her mother as she played with the dagger.
Their mother frowns, “You think it’s that easy? You think you can just walk out of here? You’ll always end up back in Dust Town.”
Saoirse flipped the dagger and returned it to its sheath, “I’m leaving now. You can drown in that thing for all I care.” Saoirse walked out of the house but Duran caught the door before it slammed in his face.
“Don’t you talk to me that way! You’re still living in my walls! My walls do you hear me!?” their mother yelled after her. “Don’t you walk away from me!”
“Did you have to do that?” he asked his little sister.
“Yes… yes I did. All she does is waste good coin buying bottle after bottle thinking that every one of them has the answer to why things are the way they are in the bottom of them. It makes me sick. If she were…”
“Don’t you even finish that thought or I will bend you over my knee right here,” he said and Saoirse smiled at him.
“About sodding time. I was starting to think I’d have to bust in and get an eyeful of that spicy sister of yours. Ga-row!” Leske said smiling.
Duran glared at him, “Haven’t I told you never to talk about my sister that way?”
“I think I’ve at least said that more than once to him,” Saoirse stated.
“You’re just jealous because you want the majesty of Leske for yourself, you shameless hussy,” he smiled at Saoirse. “What do you say?” Duran began to get hot with rage, “When I saw your ‘majesty,’ the scepter was a little… soft,” Saoirse said smiling.
“I… kinda hoped you’d forgotten that…”
Duran looked at his little sister then back at Leske, “I will feed you your spleen!” Duran wasn’t fast though for Saoirse to grab a hold on him though.
“Hey… settle down there Duran…” Leske backed away slightly. “But much as I’d love to keep chatting, we’d better get down to business.”
Saoirse made a pouting noise, “I was hoping our mission was me making fun of you.”
“No such luck,” Leske frowned. “Boss says we’re out for a search-and-discipline. One of his smugglers is holding out on him. Name’s Oskias. Some surfacer. Beraht got word that he’s been selling shipments topside that never make it to Beraht’s ears down here. He wants us to find the rotter and see what goods he’s holding back.”
“He’s stealing from Beraht? I like him already,” Saoirse smiled letting go of her brother now that he’s calmed down a little.
Leske shook his head, “Well, yours will be a short and tragic relationship. You ready to show him some pain?”
Duran raised an eyebrow, “What do we do with him if he has been holding out on Beraht?”
“Well, if he is skinning, we kill him, of course. I mean, Beraht doesn’t let anyone swindle him and live,” Leske shrugged. “Bringing his head on a plate is completely optional, though.”
Saoirse pulled out one of her daggers and began to flip it from blade to handle in her hand, “Fine. But let’s at least find out what he’s done,” said Duran as they walked out of Dust Town to the commons.
Leske shrugs as he tries to put an arm around Saoirse but she points the dagger at him forcing him back off, “Whatever lets you sleep at night, my friend,” Leske put up his hands backing off from her.
Upon entering the common district there was a man hanging out beside the tavern and he called Saoirse over to him. “Good day there, sweetness. You looking to make a quick bit? You could be just what I’m after…” he said with a smile.
“You looking to step back before I hurt you?” Duran snapped stepping to his sister’s side.
“You haven’t even heard my offer, girl,” he continued to speak to Saoirse. “You look like you still got all your teeth, nice and healthy. I craft replacements for nobles who have lost theirs. I can pay you real handsome for some of those. One silver for two; what do you say?”
“That’s crazy! I’m not going to sell my teeth!” Saoirse snapped at the man.
“You won’t get a better price. I’m in demand, top tooth and wig shop off the Diamond Quarter four years running. There are some who’d just take what they want off someone like you. I’m offering an honest deal. What do you say?”
Saoirse was about to pummel the guy but her brother held her back, “Do you have any idea who I work for?” she snapped at the merchant.
“Beraht wouldn’t like you throwing that around. This guy’s an artisan; that’s practically a smith! We don’t need that high a profile,” Leske tried to calm down the fiery rogue.
“That sounded like a threat, brand,” the merchant wasn’t amused. “You know the sentence for harassing a resident engaged in legitimate trade is public flogging and a hundred silver fine.”
“Do you think you could call a guard before I knock you out?” Saoirse asked but Duran was already throwing her over his shoulder to head into the tavern.
“Gracious apologies. Master. We were just leaving. Right now. Forgive my friend. You know the vent fumes… they mess with the mind. We’re very sorry to bother you,” Leske said before following suite. Inside the Tapsters Tavern they found Oskias easily enough sitting alone at one of the tables. Duran put his sister down after they entered the tavern and Saoirse walked over to the table and sat across from their mark putting her feet up on the table. Leske stood at the head of the table and Duran forced the merchant back into his chair as he was trying to escape.
“Hey, I was saving that sear!” Oskias stated and Saoirse pulled out one of her daggers and began picking the dirt out from under her nails with it.
“That’s real thoughtful, Oskias. It’s tiring work looking for you,” Leske said.
Oskias looked up at Leske half curious half frightened, “H-how do you know my name?”
“Let’s just say we’ve got a mutual friend,” Duran said patting Oskias on the shoulder.
Now the merchant looked terrified, “Oh, no. you’re not from Beraht, are you? Because that would be… too much. I don’t think I could handle—“
“If you did nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear, right,” Saoirse stated not even looked at the merchant but focusing on her nails.
“I just want to make sure nobody, uh, does anything to hasty,” said the merchant under his breath.
“Of course not. This is just a friendly inspection,” Duran smiled down at the man.
Leske smiled at Oskias also, “Making sure you didn’t accidentally pocket: any processed lyrium, you know.”
The merchant began to back peddle, “Look, I-I always been loyal to Beraht. He’s been good to my family; I-I know how much I owe him,” the merchant put his hands on the table palms up.
“Save your excuses. Leske, search his bags,” Saoirse said stabbing the table with her dagger now looking into the merchants eyes as if she could see into his very soul.
Leske knelt down, “My pleasure,” he said as he began to sift through Oskias’s things.
“W-wait!” Oskias got really nervous. “I do have some lyrium. It’s just ore. I-I made a side deal with one of the mining families. If it worked out, I was gonna bring Beraht his cut, I swear. I-I’d be crazy not to.”
Leske huffed, “Suicidal, one might say.”
“Who have you been selling to?” Duran asked squeezing Oskias’s shoulders.
“Surfacers pay good coin for lyrium. Mages up there, they use if for their spells, smiths use it in enchanted weapons… I just took the money and ran. I-I mean, back to Beraht, to share the profits,” Saoirse shook her head.
“How much ore did you take?” Duran asked again squeezing Oskias’s shouldered even harder.
“Just a little. Maybe twenty-five sovereigns worth—“Oskias said tilting his head.
“Twenty-five sovereigns?” Leske repeated.
Oskias looked up at Leske, “Most of that’s with my buyers on the surface. I just picked up a few nuggets down here.” He turned at looked at Saoirse who didn’t seem to be paying attention to him. “If I were to… maybe give you a piece, that’s a lot of coin. Could you, uh, forget to mention this to Beraht?”
“How long have you been cheating Beraht?” Duran asked.
“N-not long! I mean, I-I’m not cheating him… I mean, this is my first time. Oh, please don’t kill me,” he begged.
“We help you, Beraht’s after us next. Hold him still, brother,” Saoirse said taking her feet off the table.
“No! I’ll give it back! I’ll find more. I’ll get Beraht double what he can make in a year, triple. I swear!” he leaned towards Saoirse but Duran pulled him back into his seat. “Just please don’t kill me.”
“Give me one good reason not to kill you,” Saoirse stated still not looking at the man.
The man began to scramble for ideas, “I’ve uh, got a lot of lyrium… maybe we could work something out. Share and share alike? I-I don’t got any coin myself. I make that topside. But you can take the ore, sell it. Maybe get enough to get out of this nest? What do you say?”
Saoirse looked at him her face like stone her eyes glimmering like justice, “Give me all you have, and I’ll pretend you weren’t here.”
“All I have is the two nuggets, but they’re yours if you let me out of here,” Duran still didn’t release the man.
“Are you breathing smoke? Beraht’ll kill you if he catches you with his lyrium!” Leske warned her.
“We can sell it before we go back to him,” Duran offered.
“Not unless you find a merchant who doesn’t work with Beraht, you won’t,” Leske pointed out. He thought for a minute, “Tell you what—cut me in fifty and we’ll go to Olinda. She’s a merchant. She likes me and refuses to work with the old man.”
“Twenty-five, seventy-five, seeing as my brother and I have to share,” Saoirse smiled at Leske.
“Fine. What am I, going to fight you for it?” Leske asked.
“Then what happens to me?” Oskias asked.
Saoirse almost forgot about him in the moment of talking about money, “Witnesses talk, you know… Leske?” She looked at her comrade.
Leske raised his voice announcing, “Could everyone who isn’t about to die please turn around for a moment? This may be unpleasant. Thank you.”
“Y-you can’t do this! Help! Call the guardsmen! This is murder!” Oskias called for assistance from anyone that could hear him.
The bartender called back towards the party, “You three let me know if you need anything. I’ll be in the back,” he said as he ducked behind the ale barrels.
“It’s just a bunch of rocks! You’re going to kill me for that…?” Oskias tried to reason with Saoirse.
“I would kill you for a sandwich,” Saoirse shrugged.
“No!” Oskias screamed as Duran slit his throat.
Leske, “I would kill you for a sandwich…” he began to laugh. “We’ve got to trade this lyrium in quick and get back before Beraht starts wondering what we’ve been doing. Um… unless you think we should give it all to Beraht.”
“We’re keeping it all,” Duran said wiping off his dagger.
Leske shrugs, “Then we’d better go find Olinda. She used to give me crusts off her week’s-end when I was little. She’s got a soft spot for me. And she hates Beraht. Woo, you should hear her go about how it’s blackmail to pay protection money and the casteless deserve better. She’s got a stall in the commons not too far from Tapsters. She’ll give us a fair deal and Beraht won’t hear about it” The three of them left the tavern without cleaning up the body after themselves and sent across the walking area and found Olinda manning her stall.
“Leske! You old scamp, what’re you doing here? Trying to charm me out of another set of ribbons for our girl?” the older woman smiled at Leske.
Leske smiled back at her, “Trying to talk you into being my girl, Olinda. You know my heart’s breaking for you.”
Olinda laughed, “Don’t you go saying that around my husband. Who’re your friends?”
Saoirse tilted her head slightly, “I’m Saoirse and this is my brother Duran. Pleased to meet you.”
Olinda smiled pleasantly, “You’re welcome to look around. I’ll slide on the mark-up since you’re Leske’s friend, but I can’t give anything away for free.”
“Actually, we’re got some lyrium to sell you,” Duran stated in hushed tones.
“Well…” Olinda looked surprised. “That’s not what I was expecting to hear cross those lips. Where exactly would someone like you pick up lyrium?”
“Call it a gift,” Saoirse said slyly.
Olinda wrinkled her nose, “I can guess who you might have got this gift from. Leske, you know I don’t do his business.”
“This is just us, shaper’s honor. You won’t get in with Beraht if you buy it,” Leske said defensively.
With that Olinda’s curiosity was peaked, “How much do you have?”
“Two nuggets,” stated Duran.
“I can give you thirty silvers per nugget,” Olinda said while thinking. “It’s less than its worth. I won’t lie to you, but the market for its topside and that won’t be easy for me to reach. And I’ll have to find a buyer who won’t ask where it came from. For that, I can’t afford more than thirty.”
“We’ll see you two nuggets,” Saoirse said handing over both of the nuggets.
“All right, then. Let me take that off your hands. And you probably shouldn’t come around here for a while… just in case.”
After getting their money Saoirse gave Leske’s his fifteen silvers and then they started off to find Beraht. When they entered Beraht’s shop he was talking with Jarvia.
“The king is old. His rule won’t hold much longer,” Jarvia stated sitting on the countertop. “Prince Bhelen seems far more sympathetic to our interests than Trian.”
“Bhelen has some tastes of his own that he knows I can provide—We’ll finish this later…” Beraht turned towards the three of them. “It’s about time you three showed up. What happened with Oskias?”
“He didn’t have any lyrium or gold on him,” Saoirse lied to him though unless you knew it was a lie you couldn’t tell by the face she made.
“What kind of rot are you trying to feed me?” Beraht snapped.
“He told us he’d been putting together a side deal for lyrium, but he’d already sold it,” Leske explained.
“Jarvia! Send a dig-troop topside. If Oskias had a hiding spot up there, I want us up to our elbows in it,” he ordered the woman and she jumped down from the countertop.
“As you say!” she said before leaving.
Beraht turned back to Duran, “And the matter of… punishment?”
Duran shrugged, “Last I saw, he was coloring the tile on the Tapsters’ floor.”
Beraht laughed, “I’ll have to have a crew go clean that up then. Not you, though. I have another job in mind for you three.”
“Do I get to make some other duster cry?” Saoirse asked.
Beraht frowned, “Not if you know what’s healthy for you. This one I want you invisible. The Warrior Caste is hosting a Proving today—all the best fighters, last man standing—you know the sort of thing. They’re showing off for some Grey Warden who’s looking for candidates to drag off to a life of eternal glory. Now, it’s not often we get every name fighter in Orzammar lined up like that, and I have certain acquaintances who… take an interest in this sort of thing.”
“You’re taking bets on the fighters,” Duran pointed out.
“There’s a lot of coin to be made when people get the fever up. Favored fighter’s an officer named Mainar, veteran of four darkspawn campaigns. Evard’s a long-shot. Just got back from a Deep Roads offensive. Some young buck who has all the ladies drooling,” Beraht began to sound more serious about it now, “I’ve got a lot of money riding on him. Mine and other people’s. I expect to see the eight-to-one pay off. Understand?”
“Aye, I do,” Duran stated.
“The fight only gets announced to contestants themselves… to prevent illegal gambling. So first, you’ll have to find Evard, see who’s he’s fighting, and when… When the name Mainar comes up. I want you to slip this drug into the bastard’s water. It’ll slow his reflexes, just enough to take the edge off, not enough to show. But it wears off quickly, so don’t use it until just before his fight.”
“Does Evard know you’re doing this?” Saoirse asked out of pure curiosity.
Beraht huffed, “He’s the kind of warrior who wants to show off his oiled physique to a cheering crowd. You think he wants scum like us making money on him? Don’t let him know what you’re doing. Just find his chamber, see when he’s fighting, then go to Mainar and dump the drug.”
“All right. We’ll go right now,” stated Duran as he turned to leave.
“You bet you will. Here’s your pass to get on the grounds. The Proving starts as soon as the clock strikes.” Beraht grabbed Saoirse by the hand as he handed the passes. “And when I say I have coin on this, I’m not talking about some pittance, like the value of your lives,” he warned. “If I don’t see Evard’s name on the winner’s sheet, you’d better make sure I never see either of you, or your sister, ever again.” Saoirse pulled her arm away from him taking the passes.
“Did he hurt you?” Duran asked after they left the shop.
“No… but if he touches me again…”
Leske covered Saoirse’s mouth, “Not here.” They walked together to the Proving arena which was a branch off of the commons. There was a guard weeding out people that didn’t have passes at the door.
“Turn around, brand. No casteless on the grounds,” said the guard.
Saoirse waved the pass in the guard’s face, “But I have a pass right here.” She smiled at the guard as he took the pass to look at it.
“Hrmmm. Looks legitimate,” he stated finally. “Go on through, then. But stay to the trenches. Grey Wardens don’t need some eyesore getting between them and the fighters.” Duran opened the door as the three of them walked past the guard.
“Stone’s embrace! That’s one of them. One of the Grey Wardens,” Leske pointed out a man standing in the middle of the Proving grounds. Leske nudged Duran, “I dare you to go over and talk to him. Say, ‘Welcome to Orzammar, Warden Sir. May I drink your bath water?”
“I will do no such thing,” Duran stated but no sooner than he could look around to locate his sister she was already approaching the Grey Warden.
“Stone met, and may the ancestors smile on your house,” the Grey Warden bowed to Saoirse. “That was the proper greeting for an outsider last time I visited Orzammar. Has it changed? Or is there a reason you’re looking at me so strangely?”
“In my part of Orzammar, we just go with, ‘Hello,” Saoirse said still thinking the man was mad.
“We do the same in my part of Ferelden. Hello, then,” he smiled at her. “My name is Quinn. I’d say, ‘of the Grey Wardens,’ but I suspect you already know that. Pleased to meet you.”
“I’m Saoirse. Of… of nobody,” Saoirse couldn’t think of anything else to say the man was actually being nice to her.
Quinn had a sad look cross his face, “Ah… of course. That’s what the face-brand means, then. I remember that now. “
“Yes. And yes, you can have me arrested for harassing you,” Saoirse knew it was too good to be true that he was actually going to be nice to her.
Quinn looked appalled, “For saying hello? My friend, to a Grey Warden nothing short of a slavering darkspawn waking you in your bedroll counts as harassment. Actually, I’m glad I met you. Whenever we come to Orzammar, we always stay in the Diamond Quarter. You forget how much of the city you miss.”
Saoirse just had a thought, “Is it true you’re here looking for recruits?”
“The Wardens are always looking for those who have the courage to spend their lives in battle against the darkspawn,” he explained. “It’s rare we find those with both the skill and the will. The best Wardens are ruthless to their enemies, compassionate to their friends, and inspiring to their troops. It’s a lot to look for, but I hope to find it here. And I hope you also may find what you are looking for.” Quinn said before departing Saoirse guessed to go watch the fights.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Duran stated.
“What he was nice, actually,” Saoirse shrug as the three of them went to go find Evard. When they finally found Evard he was passed out drunk on the floor of his waiting room snorting and grunting.
Leske kneeled down beside Evard, “Sod it! He’s stone drunk! He could draw a dead man for his bout and still lose. Ach. Beraht’s going to kill us if we slip up on this. He’s still mad about the time I accidentally told that barkeep Beraht had demanded free ale delivered to my door—“Leske stood up as someone walked through the door.
“Evard, I was drawn to be your partner in the remaining battles… What is going on here,” the warrior said before Duran hit him on the back of the head with the pommel of his weapon knocking the guy out.
“Paired combat… Sod it,” Leske stammered.
“I could put on Evard’s armor. You know, fight in his name…” Saoirse said opening up a chest that had Evard’s armor in it. “Duran can fight as my second in that guy’s armor.”
“That’s much better than my idea. I was going to say we should go up in the stands and start a rockslide, but you’re brilliant!” Leske praised. “You’ll be Evard. You’ll go out in his armor, keep down the visor and fight in his name. He wins, Beraht wins, everybody wins.” Leske put his hand on Saoirse’s shoulder. “Except all the Warrior Caste braggarts you leave kissing dust,” he laughs. “I sodding love the way you think, my friend. I was afraid Beraht was going to kill us.”
“Good thing you are wearing his armor Saoirse… I don’t think it would fit me,” Duran said as Saoirse lifted up the chest piece. “If we do this we’ll win by skill alone. I won’t be using the drug.”
“Agreed,” said Saoirse slipping the chest piece and pants on over her leathers.
“You’ve got a heart of steel, salroka. Get in the armor,” Leske helped Duran take the other warriors armor off and put it on Duran. Saoirse took Evard’s mace and axe and twirled them both around one in each hand. Though she stopped as Leske put the helmet over her head.
“Bout three is next. Officer Mainar versus the warrior Evard! Fighters along with your seconds, report to the ring,” said the announcer.
“No more time! Make sure you have everything and go tell the Proving guard you’re ready to fight,” Leske advised. “And don’t forget to keep your helmet down!” Duran and Saoirse both walked over to the Proving guard.
“May fortune favor your fight, Evard. Are you and your second ready?” asked the guard and Saoirse nodded without saying a word. “As you say,” the guard opened the door and let the brother and sister into the arena not knowing that it wasn’t the warriors that were suppose to be there.
“This is a Glory Proving, fought under the watchful eyes of the Paragons of Orzammar for our honored guests, the Grey Wardens. The warrior Evard, son of Galten will fight along with his second Officer Mainar, survivor of the battle of Kar Elerin and his second!”
“You honor me with this fight. May the Stone show the boldest heart through the strongest arm,” bowed Mainar.
“Uh, for the honor of the… Grey Wardens,” said Saoirse.
“First warrior to fall is vanquished. Fight!” commanded the Proving master.
Mainar charged after Saoirse who parried his attacks with his sword and Duran finally broke free of Mainar’s second by rendering him vanquished. Duran struck Mainar’s shield with a mighty blow as Saoirse used her axe to knock Mainar’s sword from his hand then swung the mace hitting Mainar square in the chest knocking the wind out of him. He fell to the ground and didn’t get back up.
“The winner is Evard!” announced the Proving master. “A truly memorable fight. The young cadet vanquishes the wily veteran! Healer, see to his injuries.” And with that a hand full of people with two cots came out and picked up Mainar and his second and removed them from the ring.
“The warrior Evard, son of Galten, will fight last year’s Journeyman Division champion Adalbo, proven in glory before the Stone. This is a warrior and second’s fight so each combatant will have their second fighting at their side,” announced the Proving master.
“You honor me with this fight. May we both win glory in the eyes of our lords,” said Adalbo as he bowed to Saoirse.
“Let’s win some glory for the Wardens!” Saoirse said bowing back to Adalbo.
“First warrior to fall is vanquished. Fight!” commanded the Proving master.
Duran put himself between Adalbo’s war axe and Saoirse the both of them in a dead lock not wanting to give an inch. Saoirse saw that Adalbo’s second was going to knock her brother’s feet out from under him when she threw her mace at the guy hitting him in the head without a helmet on. The guy dropped like a ton of bricks. Saoirse then used her brother as a ramp and jumped up on his back to propel herself over Adalbo and kicked him in the head. Duran used the opportunity to pin Adalbo to the ground where he yielded.
“The winner is Evard!” stated the Proving master. “The ancestors have withdrawn their blessings, and embrace a champion on their field.” The healers once again came out and gathered the unconscious fighter and assisted Adalbo out of the ring. “The warrior Evard, son of Galten, will fight Lenka, Silent Sister-in-training. She has made her vows, but not completed her blooding. Will she be accepted into the legendary order? That will depend on her performance today… This is a warrior and second’s fight so each combatant will have their second fighting at their side.”
Lenka bowed but didn’t say a word. “You take all the fun out of this part,” Saoirse groaned.
“First warrior to fall is vanquished. Fight!” commanded the Proving master. Saoirse couldn’t believe it when the fight was over no sooner it had begun. Duran took out Lenka and her second with a mere whirlwind attack with his great sword. Saoirse didn’t get to do anything. She looked at her brother and he just shrugged.
“The winner is Evard!” announced the Proving master. “Lenka went to the stone without a sound, as befits her vows, but it wasn’t hard to see the blood that was spilled. Evard will advance to the final bout, to determine the true champion of the ring, against—“the door to the ring opened and the real Evard stumbled in still drunk off his ass.
“Wha-?” he questioned unable to walk in a strait line. “Is my bout a’ready? Hey! That’s my armor!” he stumbled towards Saoirse.
“Who are you? How dare you disrupt this sacred—“started the Proving master when Mainar interrupted him.
“Wait! I know that man. That’s Evard! Then… what imposter did I fight?” Mainar questioned.
“Remove your helmet, warrior, and let all who watched you see your face,” ordered the Proving master.
“Well… it was fun while it lasted,” said Duran.
“I am of no caste or clan, but I have defeated you all!” shouted Saoirse as she threw the helmet at the guards that were slowing beginning to surround her.
“Casteless! You insult the very nature of this Proving,” the Proving master looked like the was going to have a stroke as Quinn stood up from the chair that he was watching the fights from noticing who was in the ring. Duran removed his helmet as well letting it fall to the ground at his feet as he moved to guard his sister’s back from the guards.
“Guards, take these… filth away!” the Proving master ordered.
“Hold your men, I pray you. These warriors have defeated the best you have to offer. Is that not what this Proving is for?” Quinn asked the Proving master.
“We are honored by your presence, Warden, but this Proving is not solely for you.” The Proving master sighed, “There are laws which have governed this arena for a thousand years. This woman and the man with her are no warriors! They are casteless, rejected by the ancestors. Their very footsteps pollute the Stone. They have no place here.”
“Except as your champions…” Quinn pointed out. The guards tried to take the two siblings without much of a fuss. But they both resisted. And there were several guards that were wounded in the struggle as both brother and sister had to be knocked out to go quietly.
“Are you awake yet?” a familiar voice asked while making soft p.s.t noises to get Duran’s attention. “Can you hear me?” Duran woke up as Leske began to shake him while calling to someone in the other cell that was beginning to stir. It was Saoirse who rubbed her head where someone pummeled her.
“How hard did they sodding hit you, anyway? Did you have to put up such a fight?” Leske asked her as she finally sat up.
“I just hope I took some of them down with me!” she snapped her head throbbing as she forced herself to her feet so that she could see better out of the cell.
“Oh, you both did. And don’t think they didn’t show me their appreciation,” Leske said helping Duran up so that Saoirse could see him. Saoirse let out a heavy sigh of relief. “One of the guards recognized me and figured we must be working together. They burned three candles to the stump interrogating me about who put us up to this. I think they knew, you know, about Beraht.”
“Beraht said he’d go for Rica if we’re caught. We need to go,” snapped Duran as he started to finally think clearly.
“You think I didn’t look for a way out? Rica’s not the only one in danger here. They could kill us!” Leske snapped at Duran only to receive a gut full of fist. Leske coughed, “But these cells,” he coughed again. “These cells are built straight into the wall, and they confiscated all my lock-picks. What’s it look like on your side? You see any way out?”
Jarvia walks into the jail and she didn’t look too pleased, “Good. You’re awake. Beraht will be glad to hear that.”
Duran reached through the bars, “Jarvia? What are you doing here?”
She pointed at him then his sister, “You the both of you caused a lot of trouble today. Beraht lost a hundred sovereigns for Lord Vollney. The entire Proving was declared invalid, and the Assembly already called for an investigation. You can’t imagine the state Beraht was in when he told me to get you.”
“Let me talk to Beraht,” Duran requested. “I can explain what happened.”
“All he needs to know is that you exposed him before the entire Warrior Caste. Now they’re asking questions, and as long as you have tongues to answer them, you’re a threat,” she sneered. “Enjoy your last night together. Sorry we had to separate you from the only woman here Leske, or I’d suggest you have a last tumble. Beraht’ll be by soon to make sure you maintain your silence.” Jarvia laughed as she left the jail. Saoirse looked around her cell and found a rock and began to bag on the bars to annoy the jailor. Duran looked at her confused and she motioned him to stay quiet.
“Hey!” the jailor snapped. “Leave off with the noise. You’re giving me a headache.”
“I don’t suppose you want to let me out, do you?” Saoirse asked batting her eyes at the jailor.
The man frowned, “Oh, I-I couldn’t do that. I’m… I’m not suppose to talk to you. Mistress Jarvia, she said wait here till the boss gets back.” Saoirse began to pout, “Oh, you’re probably just upset. I remember one time when Mistress Jarvia was mad at me. She didn’t lock me up, but she yelled a lot. And she hit me on the head. But it was real nice of her not to kill me.” While he was talking to Saoirse she snuck her hand through the bars and lifted the keys off of the jailor and unlocked the door. “Hey how did you get out?” the Jailor asked unsheathing his sword which Saoirse kicked out of his hand catching it in mid air and twirling around cutting the mans head off.
“If we want to get away with this, we can’t leave one man alive to tell Beraht what we’ve done,” Leske advised as Saoirse let them out of their cell.
Saoirse walked over to the chest that had all their things in it, “So they all die. We need to get out of here before Beraht goes after Rica.”
Saoirse tossed Duran his great sword off of the rack, “Agreed,” Duran stated catching the sword. They fought their way through the Carta underground killing all of the members that were there before Duran opened the door and they saw Beraht.
“I’m cutting the whore free,” Beraht decided. “If that freak of a sister and her muscle bound brother of hers can’t stay in their place, I don’t need precious Rica, either.”
“Rica?” asked the red headed dwarf male, “That the one you got all done up in lace? I been wanting to get my hands on that.”
The other man laughed, “I know what you mean…”
Beraht smiled, “She’s yours if you want her, boys. And let me tell you… it tastes as good as it looks.” The three of them laughed but then Beraht saw something out of the corner of his eye and turned to see Duran fuming with rage and Saoirse palmed her dagger. “What in sod-all is that doing out of their cages,” Beraht exclaimed. “Come on boys, the little whore and her nursemaid needs to learn their place.” Duran charged Beraht and his two bodyguards Saoirse vanished from sight then reappeared beside her brother thrusting her dagger up through the bodyguard’s soft part of his chin then she threw her dagger and nailing the other guard in his eye. Duran didn’t let Beraht get his footing attack after attack he beat Beraht back into a wall before disarming him then cutting the crime boss into three pieces; head, torso and lower half.
Leske cheered, “Did you see him there, all. ‘When we’re done with you?’ and the both of you just charged in and sodding slaughtered him! You have to be the luckiest dusters in Orzammar. Beraht’s dead and we’re standing here! Hail to the sodding king!”
“As long as he never made it to Rica,” stated Duran strapping his great sword to his back.
“Well,” Leske said, “He was sure talking like she’s still alive. But I won’t turn down the chance to go take another peek.” Saoirse slapped the back of Leske’s head and he looked at her like ‘what?’ “Hey, could you tell Rica I killed him,” he asked Saoirse. “I mean, it doesn’t do either of you any good if she thinks you’re most virile warrior in all the Stone…” Saoirse went to hit him again but he backed away from her.
“Are you really asking that when I’m holding a weapon?” Duran asked Leske clearly debating how stupid the guy really was.
Leske thought quickly about it, “An excellent point. Now let’s go find somewhere to hide,” he suggested. They took the secret passage into Beraht’s shop and the keeper was there.
“You’re not suppose to be here! W-wait, is that blood? Ancestors protect me!” the shop keeper hid behind the counter and Saoirse rolled her eyes as the three of them left the shop and walked right into the Orzammar guard.
“Sod it…” Saoirse muttered and Duran shot her an ugly look.
“There they are! Seize the fugitives!” ordered the commander as the rest of the guards began to surround them once again. “Drop your weapons and walk down slowly. We will use force if you resist.”
“I just killed Beraht. You should be thanking me,” snapped Duran.
The Proving master looked shocked, “He’s dead? Beraht had many enemies, but also powerful allies. They—“
“Beraht would have butchered us if he hadn’t killed him first!” Leske pointed out.
“Your friends have once again demonstrated their courage,” said Quinn walking up to the Proving master. “We Grey Wardens travel far and wide in search of those with the potential to join our ranks. It seems I have found two.”
“Are you asking us to become Grey Wardens?” Saoirse asked warmth in her eyes that Duran hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Quinn smiled, “Let me make my offer formal I, Quinn of the Grey Wardens, extend the invitation for you both to join our order.”
The Proving master obviously disagreed with the choice, “These two are wanted for treason. You can’t do this!”
Quinn scowled at the Proving master, “I can and I am. It would mean traveling to the surface lands and thus leaving your people, but it does offer you the chance to strike a blow against the darkspawn and the Blight.”
Saoirse jumped up and down, “Then sodding yes, let’s get out of here now!”
“What about Rica?” Duran asked as his older sister showed up.
“I’ll be fine,” she promised. “You need to get Saoirse out of here anyway. I haven’t seen her excited about anything in far too long.”
“Then before these witnesses, I hereby recruit the both of you into the Grey Wardens. Know that you are most welcome,” stated Quinn.
“This is highly irregular. The warrior families will be… most upset…” stated the Proving master who looked like someone killed his prize nug.
Leske turned to Saoirse, “Look at you, you duster! A Warden! And to think I knew you when you were stealing bread!”
“Before we brave the Deep Roads, I would like to make a gift of this mace, since you have so few possessions of your own,” Quinn handed Duran a two handed mace. “It was once wielded by the Warden Foral Aeducan. I believe he was related to your king. I know you will continue his proud example. Goodbye, my friends, and thank you for your hospitality,” Quinn bowed his head and started off towards the Deep Roads with Saoirse skipping along behind him and Duran looking the hammer over as he walked on.
Posted on 2011-05-12 at 21:33:09.
Edited on 2011-05-13 at 08:05:41 by Velnia
Jowan another mage in the Circle was waiting as Nolan woke up from his Harrowing. “Good you are awake. Now we just need to wait on Kael…” Jowan said as Kael began to stir. “Are you alright? Say something, please…” Jowan insisted.
“I am fine Jowan,” Kael said sitting up.
“I’m glad you’re all right, they carried the both of you in this morning. I didn’t even realize either one of you had been out all night,” Jowan stated.
“It’s morning already. No wonder I’m hungry,” said Kael rubbing her stomach.
“Indeed. The Harrowing takes a lot out of you I must say,” said Nolan frowning at his stomach as it emitted an embarrassing grumble.
“I’ve heard about apprentices who never come back from their Harrowings. Lia… she isn’t going to be coming back infact. Is it really that dangerous? What was it like?” Jowan pleaded to know more about what was in store for him.
“You know better than to ask that Jowan,” Kael frowned at him.
“No one is permitted to talk about their Harrowings… with as long as you’ve been here Jowan hopefully you know this much,” Nolan’s face mirrored Kael’s.
Jowan frowned huffing, “So much for friendship. I’ll leave you both alone then.” Jowan crossed his arms. “Now you get to move to the nice mage’s quarters upstairs. I’m stuck here and I don’t know when they’ll call me for MY Harrowing.”
“I’m sure it won’t be too much longer Jowan,” Nolan tried to console his friend.
“I’ve been here longer than either of you… sometimes I think they just don’t want to test me,” Jowan sounded whiny.
“They will test you when they think you are ready for it Jowan not before,” Kael reasoned standing up finally.
“I’m afraid of what will happen to me. You do the Harrowing, the right of Tranquility… or you die. That’s what happens.”
“You are thinking too much into this Jowan,” Nolan stated.
“Yes they will give you your Harrowing soon enough I’m sure of it,” said Kael really not wanting to talk about it anymore with Jowan. He was always such a downer. “I doubt they would resort to killing you.”
“They might not,” said Jowan. “But the Rite of Tranquility is just as bad… maybe worse. You’ve seen the Tranquil around the tower. Like Owain, who runs the stockroom. He’s so cold. No, not even cold. There’s just… nothing in him. It’s like he’s dead, but still walking. His voice, his eyes are lifeless…” Jowan began to get gloomier the more he talked about it. “I shouldn’t waste your time… either of yours time. I was suppose to tell you both to see Irving as soon as you woke up. You’d better not keep him waiting. We can speak later.” Jowan said leaving the room.
“I wish he just had skipped to that part without going into the whole 'I’m so scared that I won’t get my Harrowing bit',” stated Nolan.
“If he is so worried about it he should be talking to Irving himself not bothering us with his nonsense. But still… I worry for him,” Kael said as they both walked together to the First Enchanters room on the second floor.
As they approached the room they saw that the door was open and Greagoir was talking to Irving about something that he had that mightier than though tone about him. “…Many have already gone to Ostagar… Wynne, Uldred, and most of the senior mages! We’ve committed enough of our own to this war effort…” Greagoir snapped at the third man in the room.
“Your own?” Irving has a curious look on his face. “Since when have you felt such kinship with the mages, Greagoir? Or are you afraid to let the mages out from under Chantry supervision, where they can actually use their Maker-given powers?”
The third man put up his hands trying to calm both the templar and the First Enchanter. “Gentlemen, please. Irving, it looks like you have company,” stated the third man in the room as Kael and Nolan walked in.
“You sent for us?” Nolan asked.
Irving smiled at the two mages, “Ah, if it isn’t our new brother and sister in the Circle. Come, children.”
“These are?” the man asked Irving.
“Yes, these are they.” Irving confirmed.
Greagoir knew at this point he was obviously not going to be heard and thus, “Well, Irving, you’re obviously busy. We will discuss this later,” Greagoir promised.
Irving shook his head, “Of course. Well, then… where was I? Oh yes. This is Gibbs, of the Grey Wardens.”
“Please to meet you,” Nolan saluted Gibbs.
“What is he doing here?” asked Kael never having much love for humans.
Irving sighed, “You’ve heard about the war brewing to the south, I expect? Gibbs is recruiting mages to join the King’s army at Ostagar.”
“Who are we fighting?” Nolan asked intrigued.
“With the darkspawn invading, we need all the help we can get, especially from the Circle,” Gibbs put forward.
“That’s all you wanted to tell us?” asked Kael of the First Enchanter.
“Of course not,” Irving laughed. “The Harrowing is behind you both. Your phylacteries were sent to Denerim. You are both officially mages within the Circle of Magi.”
“Thank you first enchanter,” they both said bowing to Irving.
“I’m sorry… what is this phylactery?” asked Gibbs slightly confused.
Irving explained, “Blood is taken from all apprentices when they first come to the tower and is preserved in special vials.”
Gibbs then reasoned, “So they can be hunted if they turn apostate.”
Irving frowned, “We have few choices. The gift of magic is looked upon with suspicion and fear. We must prove we are strong enough to handle our power responsibly. Which you both have done this. I present you with your robes, your staff, and each of you a ring bearing the Circle’s insignia. Wear them proudly, for you both have earned them. It goes without saying that neither of you should discuss the Harrowing with those who have not undergone the rite. Now then… take your time to rest, or study in the library. The day is yours.”
“I will do that,” Nolan stated looking at Kael and she nodded.
Gibbs looked at Irving, “I think I will return to my quarters.”
“Would you be so kind as to escort Gibbs back to his room, children?” Irving asked.
“It would be my pleasure,” Nolan said Kael rolled her eyes but followed the two humans never the less.
“Thank you for walking with me. I am glad for the company,” Gibbs said to Nolan.
“He’s always done what Irving asks of him,” Kael smiled at him. “Besides he probably wanted to talk to you a little more.”
“Really… what about?” Gibbs looked at Nolan as Kael quickened her pass to catch up.
“I just wanted to say how honored I am to meet you,” Nolan glared at Kael and she smiled back at him impishly.
“I am flattered,” Gibbs said. “I was not expecting quite so warm a reception.”
“The Grey Wardens are great warriors. I am in awe,” Nolan said.
“Being a Grey Warden is a calling. A sacrifice. Our duty is to battle darkspawn wherever they appear. We are elves, humans and dwarves united by this common purpose,” Gibbs explained.
“There are elves in the order?” Kael asked now actually paying attention.
“Some of our most honored Wardens have been elves. The Hero Garahel, the last Warden to slay an archdemon, was one such. The darkspawn threaten everyone. They do not distinguish between the races, and neither should we. Has being an elf in the Circle been difficult?” Gibbs looked at the Kael and she genuinely thought there was concern in his eyes.
“If you must know, yes, it has been difficult being an elf and a mage. They say that we are all on equal ground that there are no separations between the races in the Circle,” Kael stated but Nolan interrupted her.
“It was a lie though,” Kael looked at him curiosity replacing initial annoyance for being interrupted. “They say that. But everyone knows that the elves… pardon Kael. Had to be and have to continue being better than everyone else to even be considered half as good. And anyone that says otherwise is either diluted to the facts or lying.”
“It is hard to change perceptions. I have tried to reason with many, and failed. If one has always seen elves as less than human, it’s hard to imagine them as something else,” Gibbs shook his head.
“Well, here you are,” Kael said pointing at Gibbs’s room. “We should be going anyway.”
“Yes. Thank you for escorting me,” Gibbs bowed his head at the two mages and went into his room closing the door behind him.
“Surprising that you know at all how we are treated,” Kael stated to Nolan turning around to find Jowan almost hovering over them like a vulture.
“One would have to be blind and stupid not to know… Something on your mind Jowan?” Nolan asked a little disturbed to find the man waiting for them.
Jowan smiled, “I’m glad I caught up to you. Are you done talking with Irving?” he asked looking from Kael to Nolan and back again.
“Were you following us?” Kael asked even though she already assumed as much.
Jowan shrugged, “Does it really matter? I need to talk to you both. Do you remember what we discussed this morning,” Jowan began to whisper.
“As if whispering doesn’t make this topic at all suspicious,” Nolan crossed his arms.
Jowan shushed him, “I… I just want to make sure we’re not overheard. We should go somewhere else. I don’t feel safe talking here.”
“You seem a little on edge,” Kael stated.
Jowan sighed, “I’ve been troubled… I’ll explain. Come with me, please.” Jowan lead the both of them into the chapel. “We should be safe here,” he stated as he stopped in the most secluded corning in the chapel where a red headed priestess was waiting.
“You do realize there’s a priest standing right here?” Kael pointed out.
“A few months ago, I told you that I… met a girl. This is Lily,” Jowan introduced the priestess.
Kael’s mouth all but fell open, “An initiate? That’s forbidden,” Nolan stated pressing his lips together.
“I was afraid to tell anyone. Lily is becoming a Chantry priest. She’s taken vows… Lily’s been given to the Chantry. She is not allowed to have… relations with men. If anyone finds out… we’ll both be in trouble.”
“Well thanks for bragging about your love affair,” Kael found her voice again.
“I wish that was the only thing I needed to talk about. Remember I said that I didn’t think they wanted to give me my Harrowing? I know why. They’re… going to make me tranquil. They’ll take everything that I am from me… my dreams, hopes, fears… my love for Lily. All gone… I need to escape. I need to destroy my phylactery. Without it, they can’t track me down. We need your help. Lily and I can’t do this on our own. Give me your word that you will help and we will tell you what we intend.” Kael looked at Nolan not knowing what to think.
“You have my word…” Nolan stated, and Lily looked at Kael.
“Fine. I won’t tell anyone,” Kael said still not liking the way this was going.
Lily smiled, “Thank you both. We will never forget this.
Nolan sighed, “So what do you intend to do?”
“I can get us into the repository. But there is a problem. There are two locks on the phylactery chamber door. The First enchanter and knight-commander each hold one key. But it is just a door. There is power enough in this place to destroy all of Ferelden. What’s a door to a mage?” Lily explained.
“Unless it’s a magical door,” mumbled Kael.
“I once saw a rod of fire melt through a lock. You could get one from the stockroom. But Owain doesn’t release such things to apprentices,” said Jowan.
“So you want us to get a rod of fire from the stockroom so we can melt the locks off the door… which we don’t even know if it will work since the door might be magical to get into the phylactery chamber to break your phylactery,” Nolan thought about the plan out loud.
“Jowan and I should stay here. One or two mages at the stockroom will attract less attention than two mages, an apprentice and an initiate,” Lily stated.
“Alright let’s go then before I change my mind,” Kael says and she and Nolan left the chapel. “I’m informing the First Enchanter,” Kael stated once she knew they were unable to be heard.
“You gave your word,” Nolan said with a mildly amused grin.
“What they are doing is wrong. People could get hurt and needlessly so,” Kael reasoned as she set off to Irving’s room and knocked on the door.
“Enter!” Irving shouted while sitting at his desk reading a book. Kael and Nolan walked into his room and Irving looked up from his book to see who it was before putting it down. “I trust you saw Gibbs back to his quarters?”
“Of course, First Enchanter,” Nolan answered.
“I’m glad you met him,” Irving smiled. “He’s a most honorable man.”
Kael took a deep breath, “I need to talk to you about something,” she stated calmly.
“Certainly, what is on your mind?”
“Jowan fears that he is to be made tranquil. I was wondering if his fears had any merit,” Kael asked.
“And how does he know this? I suppose the young initiate he dallies about with must have revealed it to him,” Irving pondered a moment.
“So you knew of Jowan and Lily,” Nolan asked now very amused.
Irving stood from his desk, “You think I didn’t know? I did not become first enchanter by keeping my eyes and ears shut.”
“Then you must know that Jowan plans on escaping from the Circle,” Kael assumed.
“Oh? Interesting what more do you both know?” Irving asked intrigued.
“That he plans on destroying his phylactery so that he can’t be tracked after escaping the Circle,” Nolan revealed.
“Yes, and she must be helping him. She would know more about the repository than he would. Do you know anything else…? I suspected Lily would tell him of the impending Rite if she found out. But I never expected they would have the gall to break into the repository.”
“What should we do now?” Kael asked.
“If the Circle must punish one of its own, I will see the Chantry does the same courtesy, Lily will not walk free while my apprentice suffers,” Irving stated.
“And do you propose we do that if we were to tell the Chantry she was involved now they would only say she was framed. Which means she would have to be caught,” Nolan stated.
“If you want to survive, you must learn the rules and realize that sometimes, sacrifices are necessary. Jowan will become tranquil, but Lily must also face the consequences of her actions. How did you learn of their plan? Do they trust you both?” Irving asked.
“They asked us to help them break into the repository, if that’s what you are asking,” Kael stated.
“With solid proof of their crime, we can act,” Irving stated.
“I will do as you ask,” Kael promised.
Irving paced the room for a moment, “Go. Convince them you will risk all for their cause. I will be outside the repository with a contingent of templars. Let them see the mischief into which their initiate led our student. Perform well, and your dedication will be rewarded.”
Kael and Nolan went to the stockroom where Owain was keeping record and guard at the entrance. In a very monotone and un-lively voice, “Welcome to the Circle’s stockroom of magical items. My name is Owain. How may I assist you?”
“We need a rod of fire please,” Nolan asked.
“Rods of fire serve many purposes. Why do you to acquire this particular item?” Owain asked.
“We need the rod for our research into… burning things,” Kael responded then shrugged at Nolan.
“Here is the form… ‘Request for Rod of Fire.’ Have it signed and dated by a senior enchanter. I will release the rod to you once I have this signed form,” Owain requested.
“We will be back shortly,” stated Nolan looking at the form Nolan just thought of something and headed to the library. There was a senior enchanter there that Kael never spoke to.
“Nolan… what kind of trouble are you getting into this time?” the Senior enchanter asked.
“Nothing to sick the templars on me however, I do wish to teach Kael some uses of fire but I need someone to sign this form for a Rod of Fire to get one from the stockroom,” Nolan handed the Senior Enchanter the form.
The senior enchanter began to laugh for no reason, “I’ll put my name on this form if you promise to put a hole in the templar’s trousers that watches the library he’s been giving me the evil eye of late,” said the Senior enchanter as he signed the form.
“I’m sure that can be arranged,” Nolan said with a smile as the Senior enchanter handed him the signed form back.
“You aren’t actually going to set a templar’s trousers on fire are you?” Kael asked Nolan.
“A promise is a promise… but you don’t seem to think that much when it comes to duty… so I guess I can let that one slide as well,” Nolan said smiling at Kael as they returned to the stockroom and picked up the rod of fire before going back to the chapel where Jowan and Lily were waiting for them.
“I hate waiting. It makes me nervous,” Jowan was telling Lily right before we walked into the chapel and over to them. “That was quick!” he looked excited.
“To the repository, then. Freedom awaits.” Lily smiled as they went back to the first floor of the tower and into the downstairs. There was a door that blocked their path. “The Chantry calls this entrance ‘the Victims’ door’, it was built of two hundred and seventy-seven planks, one for each original templar. It is a reminder of all the dangers those cursed with magic pose,” Lily explained.
“Magic isn’t a curse… it’s a gift,” Kael grumbled.
“But how do we get past it?” Nolan asked.
“The doors can be open only by a templar and a mage, entering together. The chantry provides the password, which primes the ward and the mage touches it with mana, to release it.”
“And Jowan couldn’t do this for you because?” Kael asked.
“Because it requires someone that has gone through their Harrowing… so apprentices can’t open it,” Jowan explained.
“I trust you have the password?” Nolan asked.
“Yes, I got it from a templar who recently accompanied a mage into the vault,” Lily smiled as she faced the door holding her hand out as if to cast a spell, “Sword of the Maker, Tears of the Fade,” she said and there was a popping noise. Kael walked over to the door and casted a minor burst from her hands and the door opened on its own. They walked over to the next door which leads to the phylactery chamber. Nolan pulled out the rod of fire and used it on the door but nothing happened. He tried again and again nothing happened.
“What’s the matter? Why isn’t it working?” Lily asked trying not to panic.
“I told you magical door…” Kael reasoned.
“Lily… something’s not right, I… can’t cast spells here. Nothing works,” Jowan said.
Lily began to look at the door more closely, “These wards carved into the stone… this must be the templars’ work. They negate any magic cast within this area. I should have guessed! Why would Greagoir and Irving use simple keys for such a door? Because magical keys don’t work! That’s it then! We’re finished! We can’t get in.”
Nolan looked around and there was another door at the end of the hall, “Where does that door lead?”
“I don’t know. Do you think it’s another way in?” asked Jowan.
“Well if we can’t get in this way we would have to find another way in wouldn’t we,” Kael shook her head.
“That door probably leads to another part of the repository. What are the chances of there being another entrance?” Jowan asked.
“Do you have any better ideas?” Nolan questioned.
“No. I’ll take any chance I get,” Jowan reasoned.
“We can’t get into the chamber the way we planned, but we’re not about to give up. We can see where this door leads, but I don’t think it’ll be easy… it looks locked, for one.”
Kael took the rod of Fire from Nolan and walked over to the other door and melted the locks off of it, “Seems like magic works over here just fine,” she tossed the rod back at Nolan as she began to walk further into the repository. They didn’t see any resistance which Kael was relieved that she didn’t have to hurt anyone while breaking into the phylactery room. They followed the winding hallway there were several rooms but it pretty much dead ended at the vault. They walked into the room and Jowan walked over to one of the walls that were lined with bookcases. “I think the phylactery chamber is on the other side of this wall behind this bookcase,” he stated looking at the wall.
“I don’t think that breaking down a wall is such a good idea… let along having the power to do so,” Kael frowned.
“Look carefully. The mortar’s damp and decaying here. We should be able to find something that can knock some of the bricks loose without bringing the whole wall down,” Jowan pointed out as Nolan helped him move the bookcase.
“The rod of fire alone will not do much against this wall,” Nolan said looking at the wall now that the bookcase was moved. “We’ll have to find some way to amplify its power.”
“What about his,” Jowan motioned at a statue that was in the middle of the room.
Nolan stood back from the wall and used the rod of fire on the statue which amplified its power and then transferred it to the decaying wall which crumbled. “I hope no one heard that,” Kael muttered as they all entered the phylactery chamber.
“We must find Jowan’s phylactery quickly,” Lily insisted.
“Let’s look around then,” Nolan agreed.
“It shouldn’t be hard to find. There aren’t many phylacteries here,” Jowan stated as they all searched. Kael then picked up a small vial that had Jowan’s name and the date that he entered the Circle. “That’s my phylactery! You found it! I can’t believe this tiny vial stands between me and freedom. So fragile, so easy just to be rid of it… to end it’s hold over me…” Kael handed him the vial and he simply dropped it on the ground and it broke. “And I am free.” He looked so relieved.
“We should get going. I don’t want to wait around here any longer than I have to,” Kael stated.
“I do not want to stay here a moment longer either,” Lily agreed and they left the chamber together. The door that was locked by the special keys allowed them to pass through it from this side and they ascended up the stairs back to the first floor of the tower.
“We did it! I can’t believe it! Thank you… we could never have…” Jowan was in shock just as Irving and Greagoir along with several templars walked up from around the corner.
“So what you said was true, Irving,” Greagoir stated.
“G-Greagoir…” Lily stuttered.
“An initiate, conspiring with a blood mage. I’m disappointed, Lily. She seems shocked, but fully in control of her own mind. Not a thrall of the blood mage, then. You were right, Irving. The initiate has betrayed us. The Chantry will not let this go unpunished. And these two, newly mages, and already flouting the rules of the Circle.” Greagoir pointed at Kael and Nolan.
“It’s not their fault! This was my idea!” Jowan tried to defend them.
Irving interrupted though, “They are here under my orders, Greagoir, I take full responsibility for their actions.”
“Wait… you… you led us into a trap?” Jowan was floored by the betrayal.
“It was going to fail anyway,” Nolan started to say.
Jowan cut him off, “Don’t you dare speak to me!”
“As knight-commander of the templars here assembled, I sentence this blood mage to death. And this initiate has scorned the Chantry and her vows. Take her to Aeonar,” Greagoir decreed.
“The… the mages’ prison. No… please, no. not there!” Lily backed away from the templars.
“No! I won’t let you touch her!” Jowan bellowed as he pulled out a dagger and sliced his hand using his blood to empower him to knock out everyone else in the room but himself, Lily, Kael, and Nolan.
“By the Maker… blood magic! H-how could you? You said you never…” Lily began to back away from Jowan.
“I admit, I… I dabbled! It thought it would make me a better mage!” he tried to explain to her.
“Blood magic is evil, Jowan. It corrupts people… changes them…” she looked like her heart was shattering.
“I’m going to give it up. All magic. I just want to be with you, Lily. Please, come with me…” he extended his hand for her.
“I trusted you. I was ready to sacrifice everything for you… I… I don’t know who you are, blood mage. Stay away from me…” she cried and he ran off.
Irving began to stir and Kael assisted him to his feet. “Are you alright?” Irving asked her and she nodded. “Where’s Greagoir?” Irving began to look around.
“I knew it…” Greagoir stated as Nolan helped him to his feet. “Blood magic. But to overcome so many… I never thought him capable of such power…” Greagoir steadied himself.
“None of us expected this. Are you all right, Greagoir,” Irving asked the knight-commander.
“As good as can be expected giving the circumstances! If you had let me act sooner, this” Greagoir motioned to all the knights that were wounded in the attack. “would not have happened! Now we have a blood mage on the loose and no way to track him down!”
“Jowan destroyed his phylactery…” Kael reported.
“Jowan did destroy it. Without it, he will be hard to locate,” Irving began to think.
“Don’t you think I know that? Where is Lily?” he shouted and Lily shuddered.
“I… I am here, Sir,” she stepped out of the corner.
“You helped a blood mage! Look at all he’s hurt!” Greagoir snapped at her.
“She was doing it out of love,” Kael pleaded for Lily.
“Save your breath. I can speak for myself. Knight-commander… I… I was wrong. I was an accomplice to a… a blood mage. I will accept whatever punishment you see fit. Even… even Aeonar,’ Lily said lowering her head.
“Get her out of my sight. And you! The both of you were in a repository full of magics that are looked away for a reason,” he turned his finger to Kael and Nolan.
“Hey we aren’t thieves we didn’t take anything,” Nolan snapped at the knight-commander.
“But your antics have made a mockery of this Circle! Ah… what are we to do with you?” Greagoir began to think.
“Nothing,” Kael lifted her head up high. “We did nothing wrong. We were under the orders of the First Enchanter.”
“As I said, they were working under my orders,” Irving told Greagoir.
“And this improves the situation? The phylactery chamber is forbidden to all save you and me!” Greagoir yelled at Irving but Irving remained calm.
“I had my reasons,” Irving crossed his arms.
“You’re not all-knowing, Irving! You don’t know how much influence the blood mage might have had. How are we to deal with this?” Greagoir asked.
Gibbs walked into the room, “Knight-commander, if I may… I am not only looking for mages to join the king’s army. I am also recruiting for the Grey Wardens. Irving spoke highly of both of these mages, and I would like them to join the Warden ranks.”
“What? You’ve promised him two new Grey Wardens?” Greagoir was now in shock.
“They have served the Circle well. The would make excellent Grey Wardens,” Irving stated.
“We look for dedication in our recruits. Fighting the darkspawn requires such dedication, often at the expense of all else,” Gibbs stated.
“I object. You say they operated under your instructions, Irving, but I do not trust them. I must investigate this issue, and I will not release these mages to the Grey Warden,” Greagoir looked like he was changing from one shade of red to another.
“Greagoir, mages are needed. These mages are needed. Worse things plague this world than blood mages… you know that. I take these young mages under my wing and bear all responsibilities for their actions,” Gibbs vowed.
“These mages do not deserve a place in the Order,” Greagoir argued.
“Why?” asked Irving. “Do we not reward service? These mages have served the Circle well.”
Greagoir signed knowing he wasn’t going to win this argument, “You both have an opportunity few ever dream of. Do not squander it,” Greagoir said leaving the room before he lost his temper further.
“Yes. Be proud, children. You are luckier than either of you know,” Irving smiled.
“Come your new lives await,” Gibbs stated and with that the two mages and the Grey Warden left the tower.
Upon arriving at Ostagar Duncan was greeted by his brother Grey Wardens that seemed to be successful in their gathering of recruits. “Douglass, Gibbs, Lamont, Quinn, and Torquil… it seems that we have quite the number of recruits now,” Duncan stated as he looked over the range of the recruits gathered. It was an odd group to look at there was obviously two humans, three dwarves and four elves in the group. Duncan couldn’t believe his eyes as he looked at them. “If the new recruits would please follow me into the camp and the Grey Wardens if you would go back to assisting as you can with the troops here.”
“Not a bad pool if I say so myself,” Douglass stated as he passed Duncan with the rest of the Grey Wardens.
“As you all probably have heard there have been several run ins with the darkspawn here and so far we have been victorious,” Duncan said as he guided the recruits through the gates into Ostagar. No sooner than Duncan got through the gate with his new recruits however was he greeted by a man in gold plate armor that seemed to have two guards with him.
“Ho there, Duncan!” said the man in the gold armor.
“King Cailan? I didn’t expect…” Duncan was surprised.
“A royal welcome? I was beginning to worry you’d miss all the fun!” the king smiled at Duncan as an equal and as a friend.
“Not if I could help it, your Majesty,” Duncan assured the king.
“Then I’ll have the mighty Duncan at my side in battle after all! Glorious! The other Wardens told me you’ve found quite a few promising recruits. I take it these are they?” the king looked over the group of recruits in admiration.
“Allow me to introduce you, your Majesty,” Duncan began.
“No need to be so formal, Duncan. We’ll be shedding blood together, after all. Ho there, friends! Might I know your names?”
“I am Marcus Alexander, your Majesty,” said Marcus bowing his head in respect.
“I am Nolan, your Majesty,” said the human mage.
“Kael, your Majesty,” said the elf mage.
“Keitha, your Majesty,” said the noble dwarf.
“Daren and my sister Saoirse, your Majesty,” said the male casteless dwarf.
“We are you friend of yours, human lord,” stated Naois shielding Deirdra from the king.
Cailan chuckles, “You’ve got yourself a lively one, Duncan. And I was beginning to think the Wardens were all stodgy priests! You are Dalish, are you not? I hear your people possess remarkable skill and honor,” Cailan said with admiration.
“Too bad the same can’t be said of yours,” Naois replied.
“We do sometimes seem experts at fear and treachery. But not always,” Cailan was inclined to agree. “I tell you this: You are all very welcome here. The Grey Wardens will benefit greatly with you all amongst them.”
“In that we shall see,” stated Nolan.
“I’m sorry to cut this short, but I should return to my tent. Loghain waits eagerly to bore me with his strategies.
Duncan interjected, “Your uncle sends his greetings and reminds you that Redcliffe forces could be here in less than a week.”
“Ha! Eamon just wants in on the glory. We’ve won three battles against these monsters and tomorrow should be no different,” Cailan said with confidence.
“I didn’t realize things were going so well,” Keitha stated with some skepticism.
“I’m not even sure this is a true Blight. There are plenty of darkspawn on the field, but alas, we’ve seen no sign of an archdemon,” Cailan sounded disappointed.
“Disappointed, your Majesty?” Duncan asked.
“I’d hoped for a war like in the tales! A king riding with the fabled Grey Wardens against a tainted god! But I suppose this will have to do,” Cailan shrugged. “I must go before Loghain sends out a search party. Farewell, Grey Wardens!” he saluted them and left with his guard not far behind.
“What the kings said is true. They’ve won several battles against the darkspawn here,” Duncan admitted.
“Yet you don’t sound very reassured,” Kael stated watching Duncan’s expression.
“Despite the victories so far, the darkspawn horde grows larger with each passing day. By now, they look to outnumber us. I know there is an archdemon behind this. But I cannot ask the king to act solely on my feeling,” Duncan stated as the group began to walk towards the camp that was set up at Ostagar.
“You could if he were not such a fool,” stated Deirdra.
“You shouldn’t say such things about our king,” Frowned Duncan. “Though he believes our legend alone makes him invulnerable. Our numbers in Ferelden are too few. We must do what we can and look to Teyrn Loghain to make up the difference. To that end, we should proceed with the Joining ritual without delay. Feel free to explore the camp here as you wish. All I ask is that none of you leave for the time being. There is another Grey Warden in the camp by the name of Alistair. When you are ready, seek him out and tell him it’s time to summon the other recruits. The Grey Warden tent is on the other side of this bridge,” Duncan gestured as he walked towards the bridge that connected the two sides of the small valley. “You will find me there, should any of you need to,” Duncan began to walk across the bridge leaving the recruits to their own devices. Marcus looked at the rest of the recruits that had just arrived at Ostagar and there was only one other human. The group looked at each other Naois positioned himself between the group and Deirdra who frayed her brows at Naois but ignored her. Keitha noticing the obvious racial tension between the Dalish and the humans took point and in crossing the bridge to find this Alistair and the rest of the recruits followed suit behind her. Upon reaching the other side of the bridge they were all welcomed to the camp by the guard at the entrance. “You all must be the new Grey Warden recruits that Duncan brought. Welcome. If you are looking for Alistair he is at the north east part of the camp in the old temple,” the guard saluted the recruits as they entered the camp. The group of new recruits walked into the camp seeing the camp pretty much divided into divisions. King Cailan’s tent was on the left next to Teyrn Loghain’s tent. Across the way was where the mages were housed near the war hound camp. The warriors and rogues were in the back with the other officers. In the north part of the camp was the old temple on the east side and then a long meeting table on the west side just north of the infirmary. There were archers practicing on straw dummies and the warriors fighting against one another and against wooden dummies. Keitha proceeded towards the temple momentarily stopping to glace at the want to be smithy. Aliandra walked over to the smithy hoping to pick up some more bolts for her crossbow when the blacksmith looked up at her approach. “You there! Elf! Where is my armor? And why are you dressed so preposterously?” the blacksmith asked palming a hammer.
“Oh… I know you are not addressing me,” Aliandra stated moving her hand up to her crossbow that was shouldered.
“What? Oh… you’re one of those that arrived with the Grey Wardens. I… please forgive my rudeness! There are so many elves running about, and I’ve been waiting for… it’s simply been so hectic. I never thought…” the smith took a step back from Aliandra as Kael walked over to her side.
“It being hectic about doesn’t give you the right to be so rude,” Kael crosses her arms.
“P-please pardon my terrible manners! I… I am just a quartermaster, a simple man, no one special…” the smith pleaded and Deirdra snickered behind her hand.
Kael put an easy hand on Aliandra’s shoulder who slowly pulled her hand away from the crossbow. Looking at Kael, “Perhaps I could forgive you this time,” she finally said.
“Thank you! Did you… come for some supplies, perhaps?” the smith asked sighing in relief.
“What do you have?” asked Aliandra.
“Arms and armor, for the most part. It’s for the king’s men, but you Grey Wardens can buy what you need for a modest price. I also have some goods on the side I can provide. Strictly off the record, of course. To keep morale up, you understand,” smiled the smith still eyeing Aliandra’s crossbow. Aliandra frowned not having very many coins in her purse so she moved on. Deirdra moved over to the kennel area noticing one of the dogs was separated from the rest of the pack. The kennel master was on the other side of the wooden fence with a distressed look on his face.
“Hmm… this isn’t good. I’d hate to waste such a promising member of the breed,” the kennel master turned to see Deirdra looking at the dog as it whined at her.
“What kind of dog is he?” she looked up at the kennel master.
“This is a mabari, smart breed, and strong. His owner died in the last battle, and the poor hound swallowed darkspawn blood. I have medicine that might help, but I need him muzzled first. You’re a Grey Warden, or soon will be. All Wardens are immune to the darkspawn taint. Do you think you could muzzle him for me?” he looked at her with the muzzle in his hands.
“And what makes you think that he’ll let me put that on him?” Deirdra frowned at the muzzle.
“I’m not sure if he will… but it is the only way for me to administer the medicine that he needs. So if you would go in the pen and let him smell you we’ll know right away if he’ll respond,” the kennel master pleaded. Deirdra thought for a moment looking back at the mabari before nodding to the kennel master holding out her hand for the muzzle. “Let’s hope this works I would really hate to have to put him down.” He stated before handing the muzzle over and unlocking the gate for the young Dalish elf to enter. Deirdra entered the pin and approached the dog slowly. The dog looked up at her respectfully, backing down from his aggressive stance. She could see the intelligence in his eyes, as well as the great deal of pain that he was in. Deirdra almost could cry knowing how very ill this animal really was. She slowly put the muzzle on the dog and he whined about it but didn’t put up any fight. As she got back up and exited the pin the kennel master smiled at her. “Well done! Now I can treat the dog properly… poor fellow. There’s a particular herb I could use to improve the dog’s chances. It’s a flower that grows in the swamps here, if I remember. If you happen to across it, I could use it. It’s very distinctive: all right with a blood-red center.”
“If I happen to come across such a flower I will keep the dog in mind,” Deirdra said looking back over her shoulder and the helpless animal her heart breaking for it.
“Good in the meantime. I’ll begin treating our poor friend,” the kennel master promised. Deirdra noticed that everyone was waiting for her before going to talk to Alistair and she hurried up the small hill that led to the old temple and they as a unit walked to the ruin where two humans were arguing. The group not wanting to interrupt waited for the mage to leave.
“What is it now? Haven’t Grey Wardens asked more than enough of the Circle?” asked the male mage that the other man was talking to.
“I simply came to deliver a message from the revered mother, sir mage. She desires your presence,” relayed Alistair.
“What her Reverence ‘desires’ is of no concern to me! I am busy helping the Grey Wardens… by the king’s orders, I might add!” the mage snapped.
“Should I have asked her to write a note?” Alistair jested.
“Tell her I will not be harassed in this manner!” the mage was becoming more heated.
“Yes,” Alistair smiled, “I was harassing you by delivering a message.”
“Your glibness does you no credit,” the mage frowned.
“Here I thought we were getting along so well, I was even going to name one of my children after you… the grumpy one,” Alistair continued to tease the mage.
“Enough!” the mage snapped. “I will speak to the woman if I must.” The mage pushed his way through the group of recruits, “Get out of my way, fools!” Naois quickly grabbed his swords handle from where it was strapped to his back only to have Deirdra’s hand press firmly against his chest as if to hold him back. He looked at her and she shook her head definitively.
Alistair let out a sigh turning to the group of recruits, “You know, one good thing about the Blight is how it brings people together.”
Saoirse smiled, “You can say that again.”
“It’s like a party: we could all stand in a circle and hold hands. That would give the darkspawn something to think about. Wait, we haven’t met have we? I don’t suppose any of you happen to be a mage?” Alistair asked.
“And if one or more of us were mages?” asked Nolan asked simply curious to the answer.
“Really?” Alistair looked surprised. “You don’t look like a mage. Uh… that is… I mean… how interesting. Wait, I do know who you all are. You’re Duncan’s new recruits. I should have recognized right away. I apologize.”
“You have a problem with mages?” Kael asked a slight frown on her face.
“I don’t have any problems with mages…” Alistair began to wave his hands as if trying to defend himself. “It’s just my background makes mages nervous. And nervous mages make me nervous. I don’t want to be a toad; I like the way I am.”
“And we are suppose to believe that you would know who we are let alone know what we look like,” Daren asked.
“Duncan sent word. He spoke quite highly of all of you. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Alistair, the new Grey Warden, though I guess you all knew that. As the junior member of the order, I’ll be accompanying you when you prepare for the Joining,” he admitted.
“And why can’t we prepare for the joining ourselves?” Keitha asked raising an eyebrow with curiosity.
“I know. I felt the same way when I did this. Unfortunately, they don’t give us much choice,” Alistair smiled widely. “Now come to think of it… we haven’t had such a large group joining the Grey Wardens at once. And woman amongst them as well. I wonder why that is?”
Deirdra pierced her lips together as Kael spoke out, “Oh you would like more women in the order, hmm?” Kael smiled coyly.
“It wouldn’t be such a terrible idea? Not that I’m some drooling lecher or anything,” he looked at the group. “Please stop looking at me like that. So, I’m curious: have any of you ever actually encountered darkspawn before?”
Kael looked at Nolan and he shrugged, “We mages never left the tower before…” he stated.
“Casteless weren’t allowed in the Dwarven armies though I have had my fair share,” Keitha stated Saoirse aching to knock her down a few notches though her brother held her arm.
“There were a few in the forest where we came from,” admitted Deirdra looking at Naois who ignored Alistair’s question completely.
Marcus shrugged, “Have you encountered darkspawn?”
“When I fought my first one, I wasn’t prepared for how monstrous it was. I can’t say I’m looking forward to encountering another. Anyhow, whenever you’re all ready let’s head back to Duncan. I imagine he’s eager to get things started. If you have any questions, let me know. Otherwise, lead on!” Alistair stated and the group of them walked back into the center of the encampment locating Duncan by a decent sized bonfire.
“I see you all found Alistair, did you? Good. I’ll assume you are all ready to begin preparations,” Duncan smiled then turned to Alistair. “Assuming, of course that you’re quite finished riling up mages, Alistair.”
Alistair sighed, “What can I say? The revered mother ambushed me. The way she wields guilt they should stick her in the army.”
“She forced you to sass the mage, did she?” Duncan frowned. “We cannot afford to antagonize anyone, Alistair. We don’t need to give anyone more ammunition against us.”
“I apologize, Duncan. I’ll go collect who we’re missing,” Alistair stated as he left for a few minutes and then returned with two more men. “This is Sir Jory, a knight from Redcliff,” Alistair motioned to the man in chain with short brown hair and a big nose to match his oval shaped face.
“How do you do?” Sir Jory asked bowing his head slightly to the new arrivals.
“This here is Daveth, a… fellow from Denerim,” Alistair continued introducing the other human.
Daveth took Deirdra’s hand, “Charmed, milady,” he went to kiss it but looked up at Naois who slowly went for his sword. Daveth decided to release the young Dalish woman’s hand reluctantly though still watching Naois.
“Now then, since you are all here, we can begin,” Duncan stated. “All of you will be headed into the Korcari Wilds to perform two tasks. The first is to obtain a vial of darkspawn blood for each of the recruits.”
“And the second task?” asked Daren,
“There was once a Grey Warden archive in the Wilds, abandoned long ago when we could no longer afford to maintain such a remote outpost. It has recently come to our attention that some scrolls have been left behind, magically sealed to protect them, Alistair, I want you to retrieve these scrolls if you can,” Duncan stated.
“Get some vials of blood and obtain some scrolls, I think that should be easy enough,” Saoirse smiled at her brother.
Duncan then explained, “The scrolls contain treaties promising support. Treaties that may prove valuable in the days to come.”
“We understand,” Aliandra stated.
“Watch over your charges, Alistair. Return quickly, and safely,” Duncan commanded in a sincere tone.
“We will,” Alistair promised.
“Then may the Maker watch over your path. I will see you all when you return,” Duncan said as the rather odd group of recruits and the junior Grey Warden set off to the western entrance to the camp near the war hound encampment.
“Halt!” stated the guard at the entrance. “I’m told you all have business in the Wilds. The gate’s open for you… just be careful out there. Even Grey Wardens won’t be safe in the forest tonight,” the guard warned. Upon entering the Wilds the group of recruits ran into a large pack of wolves. They were out numbered at least three to one Nolan looked at Kael and she just nodded to him as she clasped her hands together and looked like she was praying as Nolan began to call upon the elements. The magic swirled around Nolan so dense that anyone could see the mixture of blues, reds and purples as the sky darkened and a large portion of the pack of wolves was swept up into a tornado. Deirdra and Aliandra took the opportunity to each load up their bow and crossbow respectively and begin firing upon the remaining wolves. Alistair and Marcus both positioned themselves between the wolves and the ranged fighters to make sure they were an impenetrable wall. Naois looked down at Keitha who wasn’t amused by the carnage the rest of the party was causing. Keitha looked up at him with a wicked grin and pointed at a few of the wolves that were lingering in the back. Naois nodded as he clasped onto the noble dwarves forearms and swung her around twice before releasing her like a shot put at the wolves. Keitha unclasped her great sword as she was in the air cutting one of the wolves completely in half as she landed on top of it. Daren decapitated one of the wolves as his sister rolled over his back from his left side to his right to counter attack a wolf in his blind spot. Before anyone knew it the battle was over and everyone was unscathed. Naois frowned that there was no wolves left for him to play around with but the emotion was fleeting when he saw Deirdra crumble to her knees at Aliandra’s side coughing up blood.
“Deirdra!” he ran over to her Aliandra looked down at the elven woman nothing but concern in her eyes.
“What’s wrong with her?” Aliandra asked. “The wolves didn’t even get close to us.”
Naois helped Deirdra to her feet when she finally quit coughing, “We must press on,” she said clearing her throat.
“I could look at you if you like,” Kael said softly wiping the sweat off her brow.
“It won’t help…” Deirdra said softly. “We need to press on.” Alistair nodded and they pressed forward. There wasn’t any opposition for the next ten minutes in the Wilds; however, they did find a dying soldier along the way. He was barely army crawling back to camp surrounded by his dead comrades.
“Why… is that? Grey… Wardens?” the dying soldier barely made out the words as the party hovered over him.
“Well, he’s not half as dead as he looks, is he?” stated Alistair in an almost sarcastic tone.
The soldier rolled over onto his back coughing as he did so, “My scouting band was attacked by darkspawn! They came out of the ground… please, help me!” he pleaded. “I’ve got to… return to camp…”
“We could help him back to the camp…”
Marcus started to say but Naois interrupted him. “Why complete waste of time. He’s probably going to die anyway.”
“We have to do something for him…” Kael almost started to cry at the death that surrounded her and at the pain in the soldier’s eyes.
“I have bandages in my pack,” Alistair stated pulling out what he had and bandaging the soldier up the best that he could with the supplies that he had.
“Thank you!” the soldier groaned, “I… I’ve got to get out of here!” Daren helped the soldier up and the soldier began to hobble very slowly back towards the camp.
“Did you hear? An entire patrol of seasoned men killed by darkspawn!” Sir Jory almost sounded like he was in a state of panic.
“Calm down, Sir Jory. We’ll be fine if we’re careful,” Alistair assured him but Sir Jory didn’t seem convinced.
“Those soldiers were careful, and they were still overwhelmed. How many darkspawn can we take down? A dozen? A hundred? There’s an entire army in these forests!” Sir Jory exclaimed.
“There are darkspawn about, but we’re in no danger of walking into the bulk of the horde,” explained Alistair.
“How do you know? I’m not a coward, but this is foolish and reckless. We should go back,” Sir Jory insisted.
“We can’t go back and you are a coward and a moron SHEM!” Naois snapped through gritted teeth helping Deirdra stand with one of his arms around her.
“I… am simply trying to stay alive. You do not see me feeling, do you?” Sir Jory said in his defense.
“I hear the words coming from your mouth but your eyes speak a different tail,” stated Keitha.
“A bit of fear isn’t unnatural, you know,” reasoned Alistair. “Few relish meeting darkspawn up close. I know I don’t.”
“I’m willing to bet he would flee given the chance,” Saoirse stated with a wicked almost devilish smile. “I must be one of the only MEN here!” she almost laughed at Sir Jory.
“I know I’m relying on you to protect me,” Alistair smiled at the young female dwarf. “Know this: all Grey Wardens can sense darkspawn. Whatever their cunning, I guarantee they won’t take us by surprise. That’s why I’m here,” concluded Alistair.
“You see, sir knight?” Daveth patted Sir Jory on the back rather roughly. “We might die, but we’ll be warned about it first.
“That is… reassuring?” Sir Jory didn’t know what else to say Nolan rolled his eyes at the knight.
“That doesn’t mean I’m here to make this easy, however. So let’s get a move on,” Alistair stated and Keitha took the queue to move out first with Marcus close at her side. Deirdra walked more slowly with Naois’s help but was able to notice the flower that she promised that she would find for the suffering dog back at camp.
“Wait,” she coughed but her words were but a whisper. Naois looked at her with nothing but concern in his eyes. She pointed at a flower that was all white with a blood red center and he reluctantly moved away from her side to go pick the flower upon his return he found Kael helping the Dalish woman stand.
“You would better serve protecting her if you were able to fight. I can help her walk along,” Kael pointed out Deirdra nodded at Naois who was looking for the slightest objection to only be denied. He handed her the flower all the same and Deirdra took it as they continued along the path towards where the Grey Warden outpost was suppose to be. There were several darkspawn along the way which were dispatched quickly and quite easily by the party. Alistair collected blood samples in small vials putting them into his pack until he acquired the amount that was requested by Duncan before they entered the Wilds. When they finally reached the Grey Warden ruin they found it was mostly rubble but there was a red chest or perhaps it was a cache that has been destroyed for a long time by the collection of dust, weeds and other things on it. Saoirse inspected the cache closer pocking her dagger around at it when she heard a noise flipping the dagger getting ready to throw it.
“Well, well, what have we here?” asked a dark haired beauty that was dressed quite bizarrely compared to all but Deirdra. The woman wore a very revealing top and a skirt that looked like was made of strips of leather. “Are you a vulture, I wonder?” she continued to pace towards the group and they all watched her intently for any sign of aggression. “A scavenger poking amidst a corpse whose bones were long since cleaned? Or merely an intruder, come into these darkspawn-filled Wilds of mine in search of easy prey?” her voice although seeming very direct also seemed very coy in tone. “What say you, hmm? Scavenger or intruder?” she asked finally.
“Neither,” Marcus answered.
“This tower is the property of the Grey Wardens,” added Nolan.
“’Tis a tower no longer,” the woman pointed out. “The wilds have obviously claimed this desiccated corpse. I have watched your progress for some time,” she smiled walking around the group. “’Where do they go,’ I wondered, ‘Why are they here?’ and now you disturb ashes none have touched for so long. Why is that?” she asked tilting her head to one side as if to ponder.
“Don’t answer her,” urged Alistair. “She looks Chasind, and that means others may be nearby.”
“You fear barbarians will swoop down upon you?” the woman waved her arms around in a pouncing motion.
“Yes,” admitted Alistair. “Swooping is bad.”
“She’s a witch of the Wilds, she is!” Daveth began to look very scared as he stared at the woman. “She’ll turn us into toads!” he covered his mouth in horror and Kael laughed.
“Witch of the Wilds? Such idle fancies, those legends,” the woman shook her head. “Have you no minds of your own? Does any of you not frighten like the little boy? If so tell me your name and I shall tell you mine,” she promised.
“My name is Aliandra, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” the city elf stated without even thinking about it.
“Now that is a proper civil greeting, even here in the Wilds. You may call me Morrigan,” the woman bowed her head slightly. “Shall I guess your purpose? You sought something in that chest, something that is here no longer?”
“’Here no longer?’” Alistair repeated her. “You stole them, didn’t you?” he accused. “You’re… some kind of… sneaky… witch-thief!”
“How very eloquent,” Morrigan frowned. “How does one steal from dead men?”
“Quite easily, it seems,” Alistair pointed out. “Those documents are Grey Warden property, and I suggest you return them.”
“I will not, for ‘twas not I who removed them,” Morrigan’s voice changed as she was obviously upset at being accused of thievery. “Invoke a name that means nothing here any longer if you wish;” she smiled again saying in a more sly voice, “I am not threatened.”
“Do you know who took them then?” asked Marcus trying to find a way out of this game that the Witch was playing.
“’Twas my mother, in fact,” admitted Morrigan with a slight grin.
“Would you take us to her please?” asked Kael.
“There is a sensible request,” Morrigan smiled at Kael. “I like you.”
“I’d be careful,” Alistair warned. “First it’s, ‘I like you…’ then zap! Frog time.”
“She’ll put us all in the pot, she will,” Daveth looked like he was going to soil himself in fear. “Just you watch.
Sir Jory scoffed, “If the pot’s warmer than this forest, it’d be a nice change.”
“Follow me, then, if it pleases you,” Morrigan motioned to the group as she started off into the tall grass with no visible path. The party continued to follow Morrigan for the better part of a hour before they beheld a large hut with an older woman standing out in front of it looking into a small camp fire with such intent.
“Greetings, Mother,” Morrigan offered her mother as they approached. “I bring before you several Grey Wardens who…”
Morrigan’s mother cut her off, “I see them, girl. Mmm. Much as I expected.” The old woman didn’t seem that impressed.
“Are we suppose to believe you were expecting us?” Alistair wasn’t convinced and almost mocked the woman.
“You are required to do nothing, least of all believe,” stated the old woman with a small smirk, “Shot one’s eyes tight or open one’s arms wide… either way, one’s a fool.”
“She’s a witch, I tell you!” Daveth still was in no shape to find his courage. “We shouldn’t be talking to her!”
“Quiet, Daveth!” Sir Jory commanded. “If she’s really a witch, do you want to make her mad?” Sir Jory slapped the back of Daveth’s head attempting to knock sense into the senseless.
“There is a smart lad,” the old woman sounded amused. “Sadly irrelevant to the larger scheme of things,” she sighed. “But, it is not I who decided. Believe what you will. And what of the rest of you? Does your minds give you a different viewpoint? Or do you believe as these boys do?”
Deirdra coughed, “I do not know what to believe at this point.”
“A statement that possesses more wisdom than it implies,” complemented the old woman. “Be always aware…” she thought a moment, “or is it oblivious?” she laughed. “I can never remember. So much about all of you is uncertain… and yet I believe. Do I? Why, it seems I do!” she smiled.
Alistair laughed to himself for a brief moment though the tone still carried, “So this is a dreaded Witch of the Wilds?”
“Witch of the Wilds, eh?” the old woman laughed again. “Morrigan must have told you that. She fancies such tales, though she would never admit it!” she looked up at the sky as if picturing something, “Oh, how she dances under the moon!” the woman laughs again.
“They did not come to listen to your wild tales, mother,” Morrigan pointed out seeming rather bored of the conversations twist.
“True,” admitted the old woman, “they came for their treaties, yes? And before you begin barking, your precious seal wore off long ago. I have protected these,” the old woman stated in a very serious tone though it was fading.
“You… oh.” Alistair was about to accuse the woman of something until he realized exactly what she said. “You protected them?” now he seemed very confused.
“And why not?” the woman asked defensively. “Take them to your Grey Wardens and tell them this Blight’s threat is greater than they realize!” the woman stated pulling the pieces of parchment from behind her. They seemed to have been tucked away in her waist strap.
“Thank you for returning these to us,” Kael bowed her head to the woman. “It means a great deal.”
“Such manners!” the old woman was surprised. “Always in the last place you look. Like stockings!” the woman began to chuckle. “Oh, do not mind me. You have what you came for!”
“Time for you to go, then,” Morrigan started to rush the group off of their land.
“Do not be ridiculous, girl,” the old woman stated towards her daughter, “These are your guests.”
“Oh, very well,” Morrigan sounded put off. “I will show you out of the woods. Follow me.” Morrigan led the group of recruits out of the Wilds without running into any darkspawn along the way. It was dark by the time that they finally reached camp where Morrigan left them as soon as they were within sight of the wooden barrier around the camp. Deirdra was feeling well enough to walk on her own though she stopped at the kennel master to give him the flower that they found along the way.
“Is this the flower you were telling me about?” she asked holding the flower out to the kennel master.
“Yes that’s it. This will hopefully help the mabari. I will make a salve out of it; it should make enough to allow the mabari a full recovery. I have little to pay you but if you would like you can come back after the battle and we can see if we can imprint him on you. The Mabari are as smart as your average tax collector that he probably knows you are the reason for saving him,” the kennel master smiled as Deirdra joined the rest of the new recruits at the Grey Warden Camp.
“So you have returned from the Wilds. Have you been successful?” Duncan asked looking at each recruit in turn.
“We collected the blood that you requested and the treaties as well,” Marcus reported.
“Good I’ve had the Circle mages preparing. With the blood you’ve retrieved, we can begin the Joining immediately.”
“About time, let’s get this over with,” Naois stated looking at Deirdra.
“Excellent. You will need that courage to face what comes next,” Duncan smiled weakly.
“Courage? How much danger are we in?” asked Daveth as the mystery of the Joining was coming to light.
“I will not lie; we Grey Wardens pay a heavy price to become what we are. Fate may decree that you pay your price now rather than later,” Duncan only confirmed the fact that this ritual could be fatal.
“No turning back now,” Deirdra stated firmly.
“I agree. Let’s have it done,” Sir Jory said with confidence.
Duncan smiled, “Then let us begin. Alistair, take them to the old temple.”
Alistair guided everyone back to the old temple where they waited for Duncan to return. Sir Jory looked nervous as he paced about. “The more I hear about this Joining, the less I like it,” Sir Jory said to no one in particular. Saoirse sighed not believing how this man ever became a knight.
“Are you blubbering again?” Daveth about had enough of Sir Jory’s attitude as well.
“Why all these damned tests? Have I not earned my place?” Sir Jory exasperated.
“Maybe it’s tradition,” Daveth shrugged then smiled, “Maybe they’re just trying to annoy you?”
“Maybe you both need to shut up about it. This whole conversation is pointless at this point. There is no turning back you know that,” Deirdra glared at the both of them her condition not lessening the intensity of the look.
“I only know that my wife is in Highever with a child on the way,” explained Sir Jory. “If they had warned me… it just doesn’t seem fair.”
“HA.” Saoirse snapped. “Life is never fair best get use to it.”
“Would you have come if they’d warned you?” asked Daveth realistically. “Maybe that’s why they don’t. The Wardens do what they must, right?”
“Including, sacrificing us?” Sir Jory pointed out.
“Maybe just you… if it will keep you quite,” Naois muttered.
“I’d sacrifice a lot more if I knew it would end the Blight,” admitted Daveth. “You saw those darkspawn, sir knight. Wouldn’t you die to protect your pretty wife from them?”
“I…” the knight didn’t answer.
“Oh Maker. I swear the newest to arrive must be the least cowardly folk here,” Aliandra snapped.
“See sir knight. Don’t soil your drawers now,” Daveth’s smile widened but then faded as Duncan approached them with a chalice in his hands.
“At last we come to the Joining,” he began. “The Grey Wardens were founded during the first Blight,” Duncan set the chalice on the alter for a moment as he explained. “When humanity stood on the verge of annihilation. So it was that the first Grey Wardens dark of darkspawn blood and mastered their taint.”
“We’re… going to drink the blood of those… those creatures?” Sir Jory couldn’t believe his ears.
“Figures,” Kael said under her breath.
Duncan nodded, “As the first Grey Wardens did before us, as we did before you. This is the source of our power and our victory. Those who survive the joining become immune to the taint,” Duncan looked at Naois and Deirdra in turn and they both nodding understanding that this was the reason they were brought here. “We can sense it in the darkspawn and use it to slay the archdemon. We speak only a few words prior to the Joining, but these words have been said since the first. Alistair, if you would?” Duncan differed to the junior warden.
Alistair bowed his head as he spoke, “Join us, brothers and sisters. Join us in the shadows where we stand, vigilant. Join us as we carry the duty that cannot be forsworn. And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten and that one day we shall join you.” Duncan took the chalice off of the alter behind him and stepped towards Daveth first.
“Daveth, step forward,” Duncan said before handing the man the chalice. Daveth took a sip of the blood from the chalice and Duncan took the chalice back from him. Daveth began to claw at his throat as he was gasping for air. He crumbled to his knees before falling to the floor dead. “I am sorry, Daveth,” Duncan said regretfully before turning to Sir Jory. “Step forward Jory.”
“But…” the knight began to back away from Duncan. “I have a wife. A child!” he finally backed into the wall of the ruins. “Had I known…”
“There is no turning back,” Duncan tried to assure him.
“No! You ask too much! There is no glory in this!” Sir Jory grasped his sword from his back and drew it to defend himself against Duncan as he approached closer. Naois put a hand on his sword as well stepping between Jory and Deirdra in the same instance that Duncan drew his short sword to parry Jory’s attacks before burring the sword deep into Jory’s side and pulling up on the sword before pulling it back out Jory’s blood spilling over the stone floor as his corpse fell to the floor in the growing puddle of blood.
“I’m sorry,” Duncan said regretfully before turning back to the rest of the recruits. Deirdra moved past Naois and took the chalice from Duncan taking a sip from it and handed it back to Duncan before swallowing. She held her head for a moment her eyes turning white as she opened them. She began to fall backwards and Naois caught her before she hit the floor but she was still breathing. “She will live,” confirmed Duncan. The rest of the recruits took their turns with the chalice each of them getting the headache of the taint as it clawed at their throat burning as they swallowed it then visions of something that whispered in their ears in a language they didn’t recognize. The visions were so strong that it made most of their heads hurt.
One by one they began to awake from where they fell in the temple. Deidra awoke first looking at her arm to find a new tattoo of a griffin was on it not remembering being awake for the procedure. She looked over and found Naois was beginning to stir along with the rest of the recruits she signed in relief at the number of them that survived. “It is finished. Welcome,” Duncan said to her as he helped her up and the rest of the new Grey Wardens got to their feet.
“Two more deaths. In my Joining, only one of us died, but it was… horrible. I’m glad that the rest of you made it through,” Alistair said looking to the spots where Daveth and Sir Jory fell the bodies had been removed and the blood cleaned up.
“How do you all feel?” Duncan asked.
“Nothing you could have said would have prepared me for that,” Kael stated bluntly.
“It’s over now. I’m fine,” Keitha said with a smile.
“Did you have dreams?” Alistair asked. “I had terrible dreams after my Joining.”
Duncan sighed, “Such dreams come when you begin to sense the darkspawn, as we all do. That and many other things can be explained in the months to come,” he promised.
Alistair fumbled with several necklaces in his hands, “Before I forget, there is one last part of your Joining. We take some of the blood and put it in a pendant. Something to remind us… of those who didn’t make it this far,” Alistair stated handing each of them a pendant with the griffin symbol on it.
“Take some time. When you are all ready, I’d like you all to accompany me to a meeting with the king. The meeting is to the west, down the stairs. Please attend as soon as you are all able,” Duncan stated to the group as Alistair left and began to walk towards the Grey Warden campsite. The rest of the new wardens just followed Duncan more slowly.
King Cailan slammed his hands on the table as they approached, “Loghain, my decision is final. I will stand by the Grey Wardens in this assault,” the king was yelling at a man that was old enough to be his father in a nice set of plate mail.
Loghain wasn’t convinced, “You risk too much, Cailan the darkspawn horde is too dangerous for you to play hero on the front lines.”
“If that’s the case, perhaps we should wait for the Orlesian forces to join us, after all,” Cailan came back and Loghain gritted his teeth together at the suggestion.
“I must repeat my protest to your fool notion that we need the Orlesians to defend ourselves!” Loghain was furious.
“It’s not a ‘fool notion’” Cailan stated shrugging. “Our arguments with the Orlesians are a thing of the past… as you will remember who is KING.”
“How fortunate Maric did not live to see his son ready to hand Ferelden over to those who enslaved us for a century!” Loghain stated still heated with the subject.
Cailan gave in about the Orlesians, “Then our current forces will have to suffice, won’t they? Duncan, are your men ready for battle?” Cailan asked turning to the Grey Warden.
“They are, your majesty,” Duncan bowed his head.
“And these are the recruits that I met yesterday?” Cailan asked looking over the group. “I understand congratulations are in order.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” offered Marcus as the rest of the new Grey Wardens remained silent.
“Every Grey Warden is needed now,” Cailan said with a smile. “You should be honored to join their ranks.”
“Your fascination with glory and legends will be your undoing Cailan,” Loghain sounded like it was a threat more than a warning. “We must attend to reality.”
“Fine!” Cailan hovered over the table with a map on it again. “Speak your strategy. The Grey Wardens and I draw the darkspawn into charging our lines and then…?”
“You will alert the tower to light the beacon, signaling my men to charge from cover…” Loghain began to explain but was cut off by Cailan.
“To flank the darkspawn, I remember.” Cailan pointed at the map, “This is the Tower of Ishal in the ruins, yes? Who shall light this beacon?”
“I have a few men stationed there. It’s not a dangerous task, but it is vital,” emphasized Loghain enough that Cailan noted it.
Cailan stood up strait finally giving the map one last look, “Then we should send our best. Send Alistair and the new Grey Wardens to make sure it’s done.”
Naois was about to object when Deirdra elbowed him in the gut allowing Keitha to speak out, “We will do our best your majesty.”
“You rely on these Grey Wardens too much,” Loghain waved at the group of wardens. “Is that truly wise?”
“Enough!” Cailan snapped. “I’ve had enough of your conspiracy theories, Loghain. Grey Wardens battle the Blight, no matter where they’re from as you can see by the diversity of this group of wardens.”
Duncan coughed, “Your Majesty, you should consider the possibility of the archdemon appearing.”
“Isn’t that what your men are here for, Duncan?” Cailan pointed out.
“I…” Duncan started to say something but decided against it. “Yes, your majesty.”
A mage from the circle came over and interjected, “Your Majesty, the tower and its beacon are unnecessary. The Circle of Magi…”
The mage was cut off by the Grant Cleric of the Chantry, “We will not trust any lives to your spells, mage! Save them for the darkspawn!”
“Enough!” snapped Loghain. “This plan will suffice. The Grey Wardens will light the beacon.”
“Thank you, Loghain,” Cailan smiled at the older man. “I cannot wait for the glorious moment!” Loghain turned from them as if to think for a moment. “The Grey Wardens battle beside the king of Ferelden to stem the tide of evil!” Cailan clinched his fists as if he won something.
“Yes, Cailan,” Loghain agreed though in a less excited voice. “A glorious moment for us all.” The meeting was over and Duncan and the new Grey wardens returned to their spot in the camp where Alistair was waiting for them.
“You heard the plan,” Duncan started. “All of you will go to the Tower of Ishal and ensure the beacon is lit.”
“What!” Alistair was shocked at the news. “I won’t be in the battle with you?”
“This is by the king’s personal request, Alistair. If the beacon is not lit, Teyrn Loghain’s men won’t know when to charge,” explained Duncan.
“So he needs nearly a dozen Grey Wardens standing up there holding the torch. Just in case, right?” Alistair wasn’t amused.
“What we are doing is just as important as the rest of them,” said Kael.
“I have to agree with Alistair,” Naois couldn’t believe what he was about to say. “We should be in the battle.”
“That is not your choice. If King Cailan wishes Grey Wardens to insure the beacon is lit, then Grey Wardens will be there,” Duncan’s tone made it overly clear that it was not open for debate. “We must do whatever it takes to destroy the darkspawn… exciting or no.”
“I get it. I get it,” Alistair gave in. “Just so you know, if the king ever asks me to put on a dress and dance the Remigold, I’m drawing the line. Darkspawn or no.”
“I don’t know that might be a good distraction,” Kael giggled.
“Me shimmying down the darkspawn line?” Alistair laughed. “Sure, we could kill them, while they roll around laughing.”
“I would pay to see that,” Saoirse smiled impishly.
“I just might for you,” Alistair smiled at the young dwarf. “Only if it’s a pretty dress though.”
Duncan signed shaking his head, “The tower is on the other side of the gorge from the king’s camp, the way we came when we arrived. You’ll need to cross the gorge and head through the gate and up the tower entrance. From the top, you’ll overlook the entire valley. We will signal you when the time is right. Alistair will know what to look for,” Duncan explained.
“Sounds easy enough,” huffed Daren.
“Can we join the battle afterwards?” asked Marcus.
“Stay with the Teyrn’s men and guard the tower. If you are needed, we will send word,” Duncan answered.
“And what if the archdemon appears?” asked Aliandra.
“We soil ourselves,” responded Alistair.
“If it does, leave it to us,” Duncan gave Alistair a look. “I want no heroics from any of you.”
“Understood,” Nolan said not too overly eager to deal with an archdemon.
Duncan looked over the group as if it was going to be his last, “Then I must join the others. From here you all are on your own. Remember, you are Grey Wardens. I expect you to be worthy of that title.”
Alistair stopped Duncan as he left, “Duncan… may the Maker watch over you.”
Duncan smiled weakly, “May He watch over us all.”
“You look much better than you did yesterday,” Kael said to Deidra as they started off towards the bridge.
“I feel better than I did yesterday. And I hope to feel even better tomorrow,” Deidra said drawing her bow to make sure that the tightness of the string just in case. The group approached the bridge archers firing down upon the darkspawn as the ground troops engaged in the battle. The darkspawn seemed to be using catapults to fire at those on the bridge; in fact the group had to dodge a couple of the projectiles as the crossed. As they came to the gate that was in front of the grounds that led to the entrance to the tower there was two guards running down the ramp as if to escape something.
“Run for your lives!” said a guard as he ran past the group.
“Wait what is going on!” demanded Alistair.
“The darkspawn came up through the lower chambers!” explained the guard. “They’re everywhere! Most of our men are dead!”
“Then we have to get to the beacon and light it ourselves!” Alistair snapped but the second guard was already running for his life at this point. Alistair and Marcus went first to form a moving wall with Keitha and Naois following on either side of them. Daren watched Keitha’s back as Saoirse watched Naois’s allowing the archers and mages in the middle of the formation giving them room to work while staying protected. They had to work their way through several darkspawn that were pouring out of the tower before finally reaching the entrance.
After entering the tower Saoirse quickly snuck around the warriors and disarmed a trap that she spotted before they moved into the main room of the tower. Both mages were soon starting to work their magic as the archers fired. Nolan once again summoning lightning to rain down on their enemies as Kael looked like she was praying Aliandra and Deidra each shot the darkspawn one after another Deidra hitting them in the heads as Aliandra hit them in the chest. Saoirse backed into Naois who was fending off a darkspawn with a sword and board soon overpowering it before decapitating it. Keitha and Daren looked like they were dancing together their movements perfectly choreographed even when they looked like they were about to hit one another they missed by mere inches. Marcus shield bashed an emissary interrupting its casting as Deidra fired over his shoulder sending the arrow down the emissary’s throat. Marcus looked over his shoulder to see who nearly missed him when Deidra called out his name to alert him that another darkspawn was coming up upon him. Kael’s hair swiped around her face her eyes finally opened and black as she threw a shield around Marcus that the darkspawn bounced off of when it came in contact with the magical barrier.
The room was clear and they moved on down the hall picking off the darkspawn one at a time in the halls before ascending up the first flight of stairs to the second floor. “Maker’s Breath!” Alistair stated looking around at the soldier and darkspawn bodies that were all over the floor. “What are these darkspawn doing ahead of the rest of the horde? There wasn’t suppose to be any resistance here!”
“And you were saying this was going to be boring,” Naois smiled.
“You could try telling them they’re in the wrong place?” Saoirse smiled at Alistair.
“Right,” Alistair shook his head, “Because clearly this is all just a misunderstanding. We’ll laugh about this later.”
They fought their wait to the third floor much the same as the first floor. As they reached the top of the third floor there were yet more bodies lying about. “Loghain better be ready to charge as soon as we light the signal,” Alistair stated cutting down a darkspawn that was in their way. “The king is depending on us!”
“Let’s just make it to the signal fire first,” Marcus stated blocking a blow from a darkspawn as Naois turned and cut the darkspawn that was smashing down on the warriors shield. Marcus nodded at Naois who in turned nodded back. One of the unfortunate darkspawn actually got close enough that he could have hit Kael only to get a staff shoved down its throat by Nolan his eyes glowing red as the darkspawn’s head exploded from the fireball that erupted in its mouth. Kael’s eyes returned to their deep green hue as she smiled at the mage that protected her sweat beading down the sides of both of their faces as they slowly made their way up the last set of stairs.
As they entered the room at the top of the tower none of them could have expected what would be waiting for them. There were three ogres feasting on the fallen one of them turning as they got closer drool and blood dripping from it’s fangs as it roared at the party which caused the other two ogres to turn from where they were eating.
Alistair squared off with the one of the left and Marcus with the one in the middle. Keitha and Daren both charged the one on the right with Aliandra providing the two dwarves with cover fire. Naois followed behind Marcus waiting for him to draw the ogre’s attention so that he could get behind him to take advantage of not being the center of attention and Deidra fired on Marcus’s target. Saoirse slid under Alistair and the ogre both cutting the ogre at the ankles as she jumped to her feet behind the ogre throwing daggers at its head which Nolan used to conduct the lightning that he was throwing at it. Kael stood in the back using barriers to protect her comrades blue swirls starting to rotate around her as everyone’s weapons began to glow with a blue tint and were slightly chilled to the touch.
Daren knelt down whirling his sword around cutting the legs of the ogre and Keitha jumped up on Daren’s back using him as a stepping stool to propel herself up onto the ogre thrusting her sword around cutting it’s head clean off the head freezing from the enchant that Kael put on it and shattering as it hit the floor. The body crumbled to the floor Keitha landing on it like a pillow bouncing back to her feet to assess the rest of the groups’ successes.
Naois had been picked up by the ogre and Marcus gave out a battle cry. The ogre turned to see the human use his shield to dislodge the elf from the ogre’s grasp. Naois fell to the ground coughing momentarily before jumping up cutting the ogre’s arm clean off. The ogre roared in pain as the blood spilled over the elf as Deirdra ran over and pulled Naois out of the way of the ogre as it fell to the ground and Marcus jumped onto it’s chest bring his sword down on it’s through twisting it to widen the hole.
Saoirse climbed up the ogre’s back using her axes for leverage the ogre turned in circles trying to fling the small dwarf off of him. Nolan stopped casting worried that he would hurt the dwarf as she finally reach the middle of the ogre’s back when it flung itself into a wall that shook the tower. Aliandra screamed thinking that Saoirse was crushed only to smile in relief to find the dwarf saw the attack coming and released her grip on her axes and fell to the floor and the ogre just buried her weapons deeper into it’s back. Nolan took the opportunity dipping his hand in the blood that was on the floor summoning the dark forces as two demonic hands ripped through the vale grabbing a hold of the ogre’s arms ripping them off and dragging them into the void. The ogre cried out as it began to bleed to death. Kael’s knees buckled under her weight as she fell to the floor sweat pouring down her brow as she helped Nolan pull off his last move with her magic and life force. Nolan walked over and helped the elf up who slapped him. “You reckless… no good…”
“Anything it takes to keep…” Nolan stopped short of what he was about to say to her.
“The beacon is over here!” Alistair called out but all the fire in the tower’s top was out. “We surely missed the signal… let’s light it quickly before it’s too late!” Nolan now utterly pissed off threw a fireball at the signal fire logs setting them ablaze. The group waited for what seemed like only minutes before a new wave of darkspawn began to flood the tower and overwhelmed them. It took everything that Kael and Nolan had to maintain a barrier protecting the unconscious wardens before they themselves exhausted the last of their powers falling into unconsciousness.
Kael awoke first in a start she sat up in a bed her surrounding unfamiliar but the woman that was tending to a bandage to Saoirse she recognized from the mission that they were on in the Wilds. The rest of her party minus Alistair were all on mats on the floor several of them bandaged up most of them naked under thin blankets with their armor sitting next to them along with their weapons. Kael looked down at herself noting she was also without her robes and pulled the blanket up around herself. “Ah, your eyes finally open. Mother shall be pleased,” the woman said looking over from Saoirse who was starting to stir.
“What happened to the darkspawn?” Kael asked looking around for her robes and staff.
Morrigan walked over handing the things that she assumed Kael was looking for, “Mother took care of them when she rescued you from the tower.”
Aliandra sat up her chest covered with bandages. She winced as she touched her side, “I remember you: the girl from the Wilds,” she stated.
“I am Morrigan, lest you have forgotten,” Morrigan said over her shoulder.
Daren pulled his pants on while no one was looking, “Err… yes. Where are we?” he said after buckling them in place.
“You are in the Korcari Wilds,” Morrigan answered him as the rest of the recruits winced and grumbled as they put their armor back on. “You are welcome, by the way. How does your memory fare? Do any of you remember Mother’s rescue?” she asked seeming interested.
“I remember being overwhelmed by darkspawn…” Deirdra strained to remember.
Naois wasn’t quite convinced, “She rescued us? You mean from the tower?”
Morrigan smiled, “Yes. Mother swooped out of the sky as a giant bird and plucked you all up from the top of the tower and carried you here.”
“Wait… what happened to the army? To the king?” Marcus asked picking up his sword and slinging it over his shoulder.
Morrigan frowned, “The man who was to respond to your signal quit the field. The darkspawn won your battle. Those he abandoned were massacred. Your friend… he is not taking it well.”
“Our friend? You mean Alistair?” asked Aliandra.
“The suspicious, dim-witted one who was with you before, yes,” confirmed Morrigan.
“Wait… what happened to the Grey Wardens? And the king?” Saoirse asked still thinking she miss heard Morrigan’s previous statement.
Morrigan sighed, “All dead.”
Kael looked horrified, “This is horrible!”
“Nothing you can do about it for the moment,” stated Morrigan.
“We need to get out of here,” Naois stated strapping his sword to his back.
“Mother wishes to speak with all of you when you awoke,” Morrigan informed them. “Your friend is outside by the fire. Mother is with him.”
Kael turned to Morrigan after slipping into her robes, “Thank you Morrigan.”
“I…” she looked confused. “You are welcome, though Mother did most of the work. I am no healer.”
“Why would your mother want to see us?” asked Deirdra’s curiosity peaked.
“That is for Mother to tell you she rarely divulges her plans to me,” Morrigan stated.
“Were Saoirse’s injuries severe?” Daren asked walking over to his sister looking her over.
Morrigan smiled slightly, “Yes, but I expect she shall be fine. The darkspawn did nothing Mother could no heal.”
Kael stood, “What about Alistair? Is he all right?” she asked.
Morrigan raised eyebrow thinking about her answer first briefly, “He is… as you are, I suppose it would be unkind to say he is being childish.”
“We should get going,” Keitha stated opening the door.
“I will put some stew on,” Morrigan stated as they all left the hut.
Morrigan’s mother turned around towards the door as it opened, “See? Here are your fellow Grey Wardens. You worry too much, young man.”
“You…” Alistair looked as if he couldn’t believe his eyes, “You’re all alive! I thought you all were dead for sure.”
“We are not thanks to Morrigan’s mother,” Keitha stated bowing her head slightly to the old woman.
“This doesn’t seem real,” Alistair shook his head. “If it weren’t for Morrigan’s mother, we’d be dead on top of that tower.”
Morrigan’s mother interjected slightly annoyed, “Do not talk about me as if I am not present, lad.”
Alistair waved his hands as if trying to defend his statement, “I didn’t mean… but what do we call you? You never told us your name.”
The woman laughed harshly, “Names are pretty, but useless. The Chasind folk call me Flemeth. I suppose it will do,” she offered.
Alistair looked surprised, “The Flemeth from the legends? Daveth was right—you’re the Witch of the Wilds, aren’t you?”
Flemeth put her hands on her hips, “And what does that mean? I know a bit of magic, and it has served you all well has it not?”
Naois didn’t believe that she didn’t have something that she wasn’t telling them, “So why did you save us?” he asked.
“I didn’t want all the Grey Wardens to die all at once. That would do none of us any good now would it,” answered Flemeth.
“Who cares what she is?” Keitha stated. “We need to do something now.”
Alistair now in a stern voice, “We need to bring Loghain to judgment. Why would he do this?”
Flemeth removed her hands from her hips, “Now that is a good question. Men’s hearts hold shadows darker than any tainted creature. Perhaps he believes the Blight is an army he can outmaneuver. Perhaps he does not see the evil behind it is the true threat.”
Alistair lowered his head, “The archdemon.”
Nolan sighed, “We need to find this archdemon.”
“By ourselves?” Alistair said in shock at the very notion. “No Grey Warden has ever defeated a Blight without the army of a half-dozen nations at his back. Not to mention, I don’t know how.”
Flemeth’s brows frayed, “How to kill the archdemon, or how to raise an army?” she asked. “It seems to me, those are two different questions, hmm? Have the wardens no allies these days?”
Alistair shrugged, “I… I don’t’ know. Duncan said that the Grey Wardens of Orlais had been called. And Arl Eamon would never stand for this, surely.”
“Who is this Arl Eamon? Do you think he will support us?” asked Aliandra.
“I suppose…” answered Alistair. “Arl Eamon wasn’t at Ostagar; he still has all his men. And he was Cailan’s uncle. I know him. He’s a good man, respected in the Landsmeet. Of course!” he sounded almost excited as if a light was lit in his mind. “We could go to Redcliffe and appeal to him for help!”
“Most people wouldn’t take a Blight seriously unless the archdemon has made itself known,” stated Daren.
Flemeth thought for a moment, “You could wait for the archdemon to make its appearance. I imagine that might be convincing.”
“It’s been centuries since the last Blight,” Alistair sighed. “Nobody will take it seriously until it’s too late.”
“You have more at your disposal than you think,” Flemeth assured him.
“The treaties… we can use those right?” asked Deirdra.
“Of course!” Alistair had that excited tone again. “The treaties! Grey Wardens can demand aid from dwarves, elves, mages, and other places! They’re obligated to help us during a Blight!”
Flemeth crossed her arms, “I may be old, but dwarves, elves, mages, this Arl Eamon, and who knows what else… this sounds like an army to me.”
Alistair looked at the new wardens, “So can we do this? Go to Redcliffe and these other places and… build an army?”
“Isn’t that what Grey Wardens do?” pointed out Marcus.
“So you are set then?” Flemeth smiled, “Ready to be Grey Wardens?”
“Yes…” Keitha said. “Thank you for everything Flemeth.”
Flemeth held up her hand as if to tell Keitha to stop, “No thank you. Only the Grey Wardens can stop a Blight.” She thought for a moment, “But there is one more thing I can offer you.
Morrigan came out of the hut with a slight smile on her face as if proud of something she did. “The stew is bubbling, Mother dear. Shall we have these guests for the eve or no?”
Flemeth smiled coyly, “The Grey Wardens are leaving shortly, girl. And you will be joining them.”
“Such a shame,” Morrigan started to say when she realized what Flemeth just stated and looked at her mother with surprise covering ever inch of her face. “What!”
Flemeth laughed, “You heard me, girl. The last time I looked, you had ears!”
“Honored as we would to have her… are you sure Morrigan wants to come with us?” asked Nolan.
“Her magic will be useful. Even better, she knows the Wilds and how to get past the horde,” Flemeth explained.
“Have I no say in this?” Morrigan asked bluntly.
“You have been itching to get out of the Wilds for years. Here is your chance,” Flemeth stated to her daughter before turning to the wardens. “As for you Wardens, consider this repayment for your lives.”
Deidra and Naois looked at each other before shrugging. “Very well, we’ll take her with us,” Deirdra stated and Naois shook his head knowing there had to be a catch.
“Not to…” Alistair started to say, “Look a gift horse in the mouth, but won’t this add to our problems? Out of the Wilds, she’s an apostate,” he pointed out.
Flemeth gave him a stern look that only a mother could give, “If you do not wish help from us illegal mages, young man, perhaps I should have left the lot of you on that tower.”
Alistair backed down, “Point taken.”
Morrigan looked at her mother pleadingly, “Mother… this is not how I wanted this. I am not even ready…”
Flemeth cut Morrigan off, “You must be ready. Alone, these wardens must unite Ferelden against the darkspawn. They need you, Morrigan. Without you, they will surely fail, and all will perish under the Blight. Even I,” Flemeth’s tone softened ever so slightly.
“I…” Morrigan conceded, “I understand.”
Flemeth turned to the wardens once more a new roughness in her voice, “And you, Wardens? Do you understand? I give you that which I value above all in this world. I do this because you must succeed.”
“She won’t come to harm with us,” Marcus promised.
“Allow me to get my things, if you please,” Morrigan stated as she entered the hut once more to grab a small pack and her staff. As she was in the hut barking could be heard as a mabari appeared charging through the tall grass at the hunt. Deidra and Aliandra had their bow and crossbow ready before the mabari finally broke through the tall grass racing to Deirdra who relaxed her stance as it jumped up at her knocking her over barking happily at her. Deidra laughed at the dog as it finally allowed her to get up and she petted him.
“Is that the mabari that you helped at the camp?” Kael asked.
“It must be… how did you find me boy?” she asked the dog who just wagged his tail at her.
“He must have been looking all over for you…” Alistair stated, “Mabari are like that he must have chosen you.”
Morrigan opened the door her eyes drifting to the dog that was barking happily circling around the wardens, “So we are taking the mangy dog with us now?”
Alistair said in a childish… almost baby talk voice, “He’s not mangy…”
Posted on 2011-05-29 at 09:46:44.
Edited on 2011-05-31 at 17:38:07 by Velnia
“A dog in the party and Alistair is still the dumbest one here…” Morrigan grumbled.
“HEY!” he snapped.
Morrigan turned to the new wardens, “I am at your disposal, Grey Wardens. I suggest a village north of the Wilds as our first destination. ‘Tis not far and you will find much you need there. Or, if you prefer, I shall simply be your silent guide. The choice is yours.”
“I don’t have any problems if Alistair doesn’t,” stated Saoirse.
Morrigan scoffed, “From the way he glares, I imagine that answer is clear.”
“I just…” Alistair tried to defend his previous objection. “Do you really want to take her along because her mother says so?”
“We need all the help we can get right now,” stated Daren.
Alistair conceded, “I guess you are right. The Grey Wardens have always taken allies where they could find them.”
Morrigan voice changed to almost playfully cheerful, “I am so pleased to have your approval.”
“I think we should just get underway,” stated Nolan.
Morrigan turned to her mother for the last time, “Farewell… Mother. Do not forget the stew on the fire; I would hate to return to a burned-down hut.”
Flemeth waved her daughter away, “Bah! ‘Tis far more likely you will return to see this entire area, along with my hut, swallowed up by the Blight.”
Morrigan’s face turned sad almost ashamed at what she said, “I… all I meant was…”
Flemeth smiled, “Yes, I know. Do try to have fun, dear.”
Posted on 2011-05-29 at 09:48:17.
Edited on 2011-05-29 at 09:48:37 by Velnia