Introduction To The Renegade Warden, 1st ed.
Five years ago, this book could not have been written.
While there are, of course, volumes that have been written on the Fifth Blight, the Restoration, and the Reformation that began a decade later in Kirkwall, the Grey Warden who ended the Blight remained more or less a mystery. We have Genitivi’s brief description of her in 9:30 Dragon: Blight and Restoration (though Genitivi, for all of his sterling qualities, was not known to be a sharp observer of people). We have letters between various nobles, notably Arl Eamon, who referred to her as “that tiny harridan” and “inveterate troublemaker” in his letters to the Arl of Amaranthine. We have a thoughtful portrait of her in one of Arl Varel’s letters to Sister Berthild, describing her as a troubled and troubling woman, who “nonetheless has a keen intelligence and a strength of will I have seen in few others”.
And, of course, we have King Alistair and King Maric II’s occasional references to her. Alistair seemed to have had a turbulent relationship with his fellow Warden, and Maric II knew her only as a very small child. Unfortunately, during the Reformation many critical records at Kinloch Hold were lost, and the Grey Wardens, if they know anything about Kathil Amell, aren’t talking.
In her own time, the Hero of Ferelden was not a popular figure. The astute reader will understand that pre-Reformation, mages were regarded in Ferelden far more negatively than they are today, an attitude encouraged by the Orlesian Chantry. She was, to all accounts, utterly unconcerned with her popularity, and seems to have come across in most contemporary accounts as cold and unpleasant. There was never even an official portrait painted of her. When she vanished after the Fifth Blight, the citizenry of Ferelden seems to have taken a collective sigh of relief. And when she resurfaced briefly five years into the Restoration, she seems only to have done so in order to confront the Grand Cleric of Ferelden and vanish once more.
Five years ago, all we truly knew about Kathil Amell was this: that she was born in Seahold, in Waking Sea, the daughter of the Bann of Waking Sea and his brief first marriage to a scion of the Marcher noble house Amell. She was taken to Kinloch Hold when she was young and subjected to the abuses that have since come to light of First Enchanter Irving’s tenure (though those abuses hold no candle to those of the Kirkwall Gallows in that same time period). After her Harrowing, she was conscripted out of the Tower by Warden-Commander Duncan, was one of two Grey Warden survivors of Ostagar, and a year and a half later put a sword through the head of the Archdemon Urthemiel, thus ending the shortest Blight Thedas has ever seen.
Afterwards, she largely vanished; there is a recorded marriage to an Antivan elf named Zevran Arainai and what seems to have been a simultaneous common-law marriage to a Grey Warden named Cullen, formerly a Tower Templar. In direct defiance of the Chantry, she had children—two girls and a boy, at least one of which appears to have been adopted. She had a brief stint as Warden-Commander, just long enough to see command of the Fereldan Grey Wardens pass back into native hands.
Then she left Ferelden and, other than a few hints that she visited once or twice, never returned. The date and location of her death was unknown until recently, and the Hero of Ferelden lapsed into obscurity, her fame far eclipsed by that of her daughters Cerys and Wynne and her cousin Etain Amell Hawke.
Recently, nearly two centuries after the end of the Fifth Blight, there has been an increased interest in understanding the struggles of pre-Reformation mages—how they lived, their philosophies, their strategies. Part of this interest is directly attributable to the recent republication of the definitive edition ofMages, Freedom, and Suffering by the mage still known to us only as Anders, a figure we know even less about personally than Kathil Amell. Part of it also has to do with the wildly popular historical romances that have recently been published that are set pre-Reformation—The Stone Temptress and all of its sequels, In the Tower Bound, new editions of the Kirkwall epic Hard in Hightown and all of the other fruit of the collaboration between Varric Tethras and the mysterious woman known only as Isabela. The Mages’ College at Cumberland commissioned a series of biographies meant for popular reading, sensing that the time was now ripe for a popular reframing of the eternal arguments of the Reformation.
One of these biographies was commissioned of the Hero of Ferelden. The man commissioned with this biography is a dear colleague of mine, and I know he despaired of the assignment. Quintius is a hardy soul, though, and decided to travel the known routes of the Hero, to stand in the places where she did.
And it was in Seahold, in northwestern Ferelden, that he made an astounding discovery.
The family of the Arl of Waking Sea is not particularly proud of the offshoot of its family tree that includes Kathil Amell. Quintius had to speak with them at length to convince them to let him take a look at their archives. In those archives, he came across a crate “buried beneath moldering furs, in the farthest corner of the last storeroom”. I imagine it must have been at the end of a long and trying day, this discovery of yet another crate that probably contained nothing more than old receipts and inventory lists.
Yet when he opened it, he found a treasure trove within.
Unlike his sisters, Kathil Amell’s oldest son Rhys had never risen to any sort of fame. While his sister Cerys was instrumental in the armed conflicts that preceded the Reformation and his sister Wynne was bringing innovations from the dwarves to the surface world, Rhys lived a quiet life and died in obscurity, only the most diligent scholars of the time period being aware that he even existed.
So we thought, at least.
It turns out that Rhys was the sort of chronicler who is vastly underappreciated in his own time and highly valued by historians: a man with an incisive eye for everyday life, who wrote down details that must have seemed excessively commonplace. Inside that crate were ten volumes, written over his lifetime, of the daily observations of his family and his world. As well, the crate contained what appear to be original copies of The Canticle of Demons and The Arcane Warrior, both books which had no known extant copies outside of one or two possibly residing with the Dalish. These two books by Kathil Amell we knew of only as rumors, and to have them in our hands is extraordinary.
As well, there were sketches by Cerys Amell, who was a passing fair artist, so we have a much better idea of what Warden Amell looked like, as well as her family. Reading Rhys Amell’s writings, a portrait of his mother emerges that is extraordinary in both its love for her and willingness to speak the uncomfortable truth about her. Rhys’s writings fill important gaps in the history of the world just after the Fifth Blight, including gaps that we had no idea existed.
The crate also contained a few artifacts of her life—the fragments of a shattered sword, a vial on a jeweled chain, pen nibs, a pair of carved horn hairsticks accented with what is apparently lyrium, small glass balls that still have magic contained within them, a ragged bit of embroidered blanket, other trinkets. There are also notes in Warden Amell’s own hand, many of which have not been deciphered yet and will likely be the object of study for decades to come.
We of the modern world owe a great debt to Rhys Amell for allowing us a far greater understanding of the world he lived in and the turbulent times he lived through. This book, the fruit of four years of work on the part of my colleague Quintius Mallora, I think will be remembered as his greatest work, and I am grateful to have played even a small role in its publication. The release of this book also commemorates the two hundredth anniversary of the ending of the Fifth Blight, and I hope you agree that this is a fitting tribute to a day that shaped the century that followed.
And now, dear readers, I give you The Renegade Warden: The Life and Times of the Hero of Ferelden!
Hugh Surana, Senior Magistrate of Letters , Juris College, University of Cumberland