They had fought with a savage desperation for nearly a quarter hour. The sounds of armored footsteps echoed through the nearly silent chamber and the smell of residual magic hung in the air. The gathered nobles had pressed themselves against the walls of the Landsmeet chamber in an effort to avoid becoming collateral damage, several of them sporting splashes of blood on their fine clothes. Mage and warrior fought with magic and steel, each trying to assert dominance and victory over the other.
Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir was frozen in place and unable to move, his body being crushed by an invisible vice. Adding insult to injury, the mage threw a column of flame at him with a flick of her hand. She has a weapon drawn…how can she cast? He watched helplessly through the flames as the mage circled around him, her vicious long dagger drawn, waiting for him to move again. She had already landed it in several places, bypassing his heavy armor and sinking it into his flesh. Loghain could feel the blood trickling down his skin from the wounds. It was as if she knew exactly where to land her dagger amongst his heavy armor. He could feel the heat from the flames baking him alive inside his armor even as they began to subside. The vice began to loosen its hold and he lunged at the mage, swinging his shield while roaring in pain and anger. She had not been expecting that and the shield hit her full on, throwing her across the floor of the Landsmeet chamber and onto her back.
"Yield, Warden. You cannot hope to defeat me," he taunted her loudly as he felt the last of her vice fade away.
He heard her curse in pain and as he turned to go in for the kill, she hurriedly breathed another spell and sent it to him with a flick of the wrist. This time it was freezing and though for an instant it felt good against his baked skin, it quickly became painful as the cold settled into his bones and made the oil in his armor freeze. He felt his skin grow impossibly cold and begin to split, warm blood welling up from the wounds.
"But I'm not finished yet," she smiled sweetly at him. The smile, however, never reached her eyes.
The mage was immediately on her feet again, her dagger out and slashing at him as he slowly moved toward her. He was able to connect with his sword and opened a wound on her arm through her chain armor. He brought his sword around again and connected with her leg, watching as bright blood spilled out. She screamed and swore in pain but immediately began to chant again. What I wouldn't give to shut her foul mouth, Loghain thought. He felt the vice close around him again, paralyzing him painfully in place, and knew that the fight was over. She limped up to him and shoved him onto his back, kicking his sword out of his hand. He could do nothing as he heard it skitter across the floor away from him. She calmly walked over to his other side and plucked the shield out of his hand before crouching down and holding her dagger to his throat. He tried to move but the spell held him fast. Her brown eyes glared at him with rage.
"Do you yield?" she snarled at him, breaking the spell and releasing the vice.
"Perhaps there is a bit of warrior in you after all," he sighed, looking warily between the dagger and her eyes. He took a deep breath and raised his voice so that all could hear, never breaking eye contact with her. "I yield."
How the mighty have fallen.
Lhiannon Amell could hardly believe her ears. She had just defeated Teyrn Loghain in an honorable duel to settle the Ferelden civil war. Her breath was coming in great gasps as she looked down upon Loghain laying on the floor in defeat. She looked at the dagger in her hand almost in disbelief. The dagger had been Zevran's; how ironic that it helped defeat his former contract holder. Loghain spotted the assassin out of the corner of his eye; that would most likely be the reason the troublesome mage had wielded a dagger so effectively against him. From what he understood, knife work was not one of the lessons taught to mages in the Circle.
"I accept your surrender," she said, sheathing the dagger and raising her voice so that it carried through the chamber as Loghain's did. There was gasping and murmuring from the assembled crowd, the sounds echoing off the walls of the chamber. Ferelden would now be united to defeat the darkspawn threat, as it should have been before. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Queen Anora, who had been standing on the dais wringing her hands together in worry, visibly relax. Lhiannon had not expressly promised the Queen that she would spare Loghain, but told her that if it were possible, she would try. Hopefully this now meant a stronger ally in the Queen. Lhiannon backed away from Loghain and he slowly stood, waiting for what would happen next.
"You…what?" Alistair had charged up to Lhiannon from his place near the edge of the chamber. His brow was furrowed in anger and his face turning an alarming shade of red as he approached her. The fury radiated off him in palpable waves. She had never seen him this angry before; her friend looked like a complete stranger to her in that moment. He grabbed her arm and twisted her to face him. She gasped at the strength of his grip, feeling his fingers digging into her flesh. "What in the name of the Maker could you possibly be thinking?"
"Alistair, Loghain has surrendered; I will not kill him. The fighting is over and the civil war ended. He will stand trial to answer for his crimes…"
"No!" Alistair shouted, pointing at Loghain. "He doesn't deserve a trial for what he's done! He betrayed the Grey Wardens at Ostagar and left King Cailan and Duncan to be slaughtered by the darkspawn! He named himself regent to usurp the throne from his own daughter! Andraste's blood, Lhiannon, he tried to have an Antivan Crow assassinate you!" Alistair had pointed to Zevran, who stood off to the side with a pained look on his face. Clearly, the elf wanted to be anywhere but here. "What Loghain deserves is justice, not mercy. He deserves to die for his crimes!"
"Wait," a voice came from behind Lhiannon. Riordan, the Orlesian Grey Warden they rescued from the dungeon at Arl Rendon Howe's estate, stepped forward and placed an arm in front of Alistair. He gently pulled Lhiannon back a step and Alistair let her arm go. "Alistair, there is another option here. Make Loghain undergo the Joining."
Lhiannon turned and glared at Loghain, arrogant satisfaction in her eyes. "Yes, I think that's an excellent idea."
Anora had come forward from the dais to stand next to her father, a puzzled look on her face. "The Joining? But is that not dangerous? Could that not kill him?"
Loghain was watching the unfolding events with both fascination and contempt. How in the Black City did these two…lickspittles…get this far? While the mage had at least half a brain in her head, Maric's bastard let his emotions override his judgment; like Maric sometimes did, Maker help us all. That trait obviously carried through the Theirin bloodline. Loghain kept his face passive, but it was extremely difficult. The only thing that could make this whole affair even more ridiculous would be if the archdemon itself appeared in the chamber carrying a tray of pastries.
"Are you serious?" Alistair asked Riordan, ignoring Anora completely. He could not believe what he was hearing. "Becoming a Grey Warden is an honor, not for a traitorous, murdering…bastard…like this! I won't allow it." He stepped toward Riordan and Lhiannon menacingly, fists clenched at his sides in anger.
"Alistair, please," Riordan pleaded, keeping his voice low and even. "There are compelling reasons as to why we need as many Grey Wardens as possible facing the archdemon."
Lhiannon put her hands on Alistair's chest plate to stop his advancement. "Alistair, be reasonable," she said firmly. "It will work. What better way could there be for him to atone for his crimes but to become a Grey Warden? We are too few and could use his skill…"
Alistair slapped her hands away from him, the shock traveling up her arms. "Absolutely not! I will not allow Loghain to live and become a Grey Warden. I will not call him brother. If taking the crown and marrying…her…is what it will take to see justice done, then I'll do it. I'll take the crown and become King." He turned to glare at Anora. "And if you think I'm just going to roll over and let you rule alone, you are sorely mistaken." He pulled his sword and walked toward Loghain threateningly.
"Alistair, wait," Lhiannon barked and stepped in front of him. "Did Duncan ever tell you how he became a Grey Warden? Did you ever ask him during your travels?"
"What could that possibly have to do with this? Get out of my way Lhiannon."
Lhiannon grabbed his arm to stop his advancement. "Duncan did not become a Grey Warden by choice, Alistair. He was to be executed for murder," Alistair flinched at the word but kept his gaze locked on Loghain. "He murdered a Grey Warden in Val Royeaux while robbing him and was going to be executed when the Warden Commander found him. She conscripted him because she thought it was impressive, that he was able to kill a Grey Warden." She paused, watching Alistair's face go from righteous anger to anguish. She felt terrible, saying these things to her friend about the man that they had both admired and respected, but she knew she had to continue. "The Warden Commander had hoped he would die in the Joining—it was her fiancé he murdered. But he did not die. He lived. He did his duty as a Grey Warden and found redemption in that duty. If Duncan could be redeemed, so can Loghain."
Alistair looked like he was going to be sick, his face beginning to crumple and his skin turning ashen. How could she do this after all Loghain had done? How could she argue for his worthless life? After a moment, his features began to harden and the anger flashed in his eyes. He wrenched his arm from her grip and turned on her, pushing her away from him. Riordan had to extend a hand to catch her before she fell.
"How can you say those things about him? Duncan was a good man! Are you so desperate to spare Loghain's life that you would resort to lies? I never expected you to turn on me, Lhiannon."
"Alistair," Riordan said cautiously, keeping is voice calm, even. "Lhiannon speaks the truth. Duncan told me the story years ago, when I was recruited into the Grey Wardens."
Alistair raised his sword and looked at both Lhiannon and Riordan in turn before turning toward Loghain. "None of this matters," he spat. "Justice will be done and I will be the one to deliver it if neither of you are brave enough to do so." He raised his sword toward Loghain. "May the demons take your soul." Loghain stared into Alistair's face; if he was going to die, he was going to do it with his eyes open.
Lhiannon took a deep breath and gathered her composure, readying herself for Alistair's inevitable fury. "Alistair Theirin," she spoke in her most formal voice; the tone of her voice made him pause. It was the voice of command and his pause was instinctual. "As a Grey Warden I do hereby invoke the Right of Conscription. Loghain Mac Tir will submit to the Joining." Loghain's wary eyes moved over to her, but he said nothing. A murmur rippled through the assembly.
Alistair turned away from Loghain, lowering his sword, the hatred evident on his face. Not even he could deny the Right. "What? You…you...invoke the Right of Conscription…for him?" He turned and looked at Lhiannon, pointing accusingly at Loghain. Her face was both full of sorrow and determination, but her shoulders were square, resolute in her decision. He could not believe what she had done. Not only had she shown Loghain the mercy he in no way deserved, but she planned to make him a Grey Warden. It was outrageous. That his friend could betray him like this… "I had rarely doubted the wisdom of your decisions before, but I cannot support this one. Fine then. Take him, Maker damn you. Take him and get out of my sight." He turned to the assembled Landsmeet.
"Everyone, prepare your armies and land holdings. I will pick up my brother Cailan's sword and see this battle with the darkspawn through to the end. May Andraste bless us and guide us to victory in the Maker's name." The nobles began to file out of the hall. Alistair turned and left the Landsmeet chamber, Arl Eamon following him. Lhiannon watched him go, her heart breaking. She whipped her head around toward Loghain and eyed him coldly; his returning stare was just as cold.
"You," she snarled at him, "will join Riordan and I in his quarters this evening for the Joining. I'd get your affairs in order, were I you." Loghain gave Lhiannon a barely perceptible nod before going to Anora's side. She led him out of the Landsmeet chamber.