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Fables from Ferelden

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9:31 Dragon

In the confusion that characterised Denerim in the days after the end of the Blight, King Alistair found it easy enough to slip away from Arl Eamon's watchful gaze. "Leliana," he called out, running down one of the long hallways in the city's palace.

She turned, smiling and resplendent even in her leathers, the armour now freshly cleaned and oiled. She bore an over-stuffed knapsack with easy grace, her bow slung over the other shoulder.

"You're leaving? So soon? But I thought-"

"Alistair. I was just looking for you."

"To say goodbye."

She inclined her head, her eyes drifting to the doors at the far end of the corridor, leading out to the courtyard. "My place is not here. You have many fine advisers, good people who will help you..."

"I - I was going to ask if you wanted to stay in Ferelden," he stammered. "Not here, necessarily - not unless you wanted to, of course, Maker knows I would love to have you stay - I mean, there's the darkspawn, someone ought to launch an investigation, go into the Deep Roads and see what more we can learn of them-"

"Alistair. I am no Grey Warden. Now that the Blight is over, I thought..." she shrugged , her eyes distant. "Since Marjolaine is gone, perhaps it is time I returned to Orlais."

Alistair's heart sank, and he was sure that it must have been obvious in his face, judging by her look of concern.

"But how are you coping?" Leliana asked. "It must be hard for you, yes? A royal wedding to plan, refugees to oversee, the cleanup of the city... I do not envy you at all."

"Don't remind me. Why did I agree to this again? Anora would have been a great ruler on her own, absolutely brilliant at all this - this," he gestured wildly, somehow trying to encompass all of his new duties with the one, sweeping movement.

Leliana sighed, placing a hand on his arm. "It will not be easy, Alistair." Her mouth quirked into a smile. "But I am sure that you will do what needs to be done."

He breathed out. This was not her burden to bear; it was his. "Do you think we will ever see her again?"

Leliana froze for a moment, then smiled. "I hope so. But..."

"You fear the worst."

"Perhaps I will write the coda to her story," she mused, sounding distant, as if she was already thinking of verses and rhymes.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I mean, she's not dead yet. We don't know how it ends."

A cloud must have moved over or something, because in that moment, a stray beam of sunlight shone through the window, illuminating Leliana's hair in a blaze of coppery gold. Alistair wondered why it had taken him this long to realise just how beautiful she was.

"After you and I are long gone, it shall not be the truth that remains in people's hearts and minds. It will be the stories." She shrugged."I will weave her an ending to be proud of. Something that she can be remembered by."

"Does it matter that it isn't, you know, real?" he asked, trying not to stammer. "That you can't be sure if it truly happened that way?"

Leliana smiled, and there was something in her face that seemed so achingly, terribly sad. "I will write to you, when I reach Orlais," she promised. "I will send you what I have composed, and... you can decide for yourself."

Then this was goodbye. Alistair was becoming terribly sick of goodbyes. He pulled her into a crushing hug, heedless of decorum, and felt her relax after a moment. "I'm keeping you to that promise. Even if I have to send an army of diplomats after you. So you'd better stay in touch."

Leliana squeezed his hand, her eyes bright. "Au revoir, my friend."




9:32 Dragon

It was almost a year before Alistair received her letter, travel-stained and worn. He opened it eagerly, recognising Leliana's fine, copperplate writing on the envelope.

He found himself laughing at her wry descriptions of Val Royeaux and her citizens, at the stories she told about those she had met on her journey. It seemed she had not lingered in Orlais, but instead had kept moving, though her next destination was not entirely clear.

Instead of a ballad, he found several pages of narrative, the sheets blotted with corrections. An original, then, perhaps the only copy. Lighting a fresh taper, he took the manuscript in his hands and began to read.




Sylvanna's Final Adventure

At the end of the Fifth Blight, Sylvanna Surana found herself alone.

She was a mage forged from the heat of battle and the unending grind of duty, a soul marked by the long and tortuous path that had led her towards her great triumph over the Archdemon Urthemiel and the darkspawn horde that had threatened Ferelden. She had made sacrifices that would have destroyed lesser men. She had endured evil, conquered avarice and united entire nations against the Blight.

She was the Hero of Ferelden.

This is her final story.

The hero loved a woman, raven-haired and pale of skin. Her name was Morrigan, and she was an apostate, a Witch of the Wilds. The two women could not have been more dissimilar. They were both beautiful, but where the hero was kind and caring, the witch was cold and haughty; where the hero was patient and loving, the witch was fractious and deceptive.

And yet, the two of them loved each other, as much as any two people could in times of uncertainty and war. Their love shone like a beacon of the Maker's own light, a triumph over evil, a force for good.

Until Morrigan betrayed her.

It was on the eve of battle, before the final march to Denerim to quell the darkspawn threat for once and for all. Unbeknownst to our hero, her lover had made a dark and dangerous pact with a demon in a bid for power. Morrigan cornered Sylvanna, offering her a choice: join with her and the demon, and share in their deadly secret, or Morrigan would leave her, forever.

It broke Sylvanna's heart to do so, but she could not possibly assent to such an evil plot. She begged her lover to change her mind, to renounce the demon and to help her defeat it, together, but the witch was resolute.

Morrigan fled that night, despite the hero's pleas, and Sylvanna did not pursue her.

Grieving and deeply hurt by her lover's betrayal, Sylvanna nevertheless ended the fifth Blight by defeating the Archdemon and ushering in a new era of peace.

Before the dust and ash had settled, she fled into the night, searching for her former lover, to right the wrongs the witch had committed. She searched long and hard, with her faithful mabari companion by her side. Over hill and dale, down through the mountains and into the forests, the seasons passed her one by one, autumn turning into winter, winter turning into spring.

At long last, she reached her destination: the house of Morrigan, the Witch of the Wilds. It rose up in the middle of the woods like a strange mushroom sprouting from the depths of the wilderness. As the hero approached it, her mabari's hackles rose and he growled deep in his throat, recognising the evil within.

The hero stood outside the house, and called out, "Morrigan! I demand you reveal yourself to me!" but there was no answer.

Summoning her great magic, the hero whipped up a tempest so fierce, it blew the roof of the house clean off. Aggravated by this disturbance, the witch finally revealed herself and ventured outside.

"Why, 'tis you," the witch said with a mocking laugh, her cruel eyes glinting with a yellowish glow. "Why are you here?"

"I have come to bring you to justice," the hero replied, and her dog barked in perfect agreement. "I have come to slay the demon that you protect."

"That will not be an easy task," the witch sneered. She began to walk towards the hero, but Sylvanna stood her ground and did not back away. "The demon possesses magic that is most formidable indeed, and I myself am a powerful sorceress. How did you intend to defeat our combined might?"

The hero held out her hands to the witch, showing her that she came unarmed. "I come to offer you peace, Morrigan," she said. "I still love you. I do not wish to fight."

The witch laughed haughtily at the hero's words. "Fool," she sneered. "Such things mean nothing to me. I will defeat you, and that will be the end of your folly."

At the witch's pronouncement, a great crack sounded in the air. It was the demon, emerging from the ruins of the house. It was a great, huge thing, taller than an ogre and as hideous as a shriek. Its enormous maw was covered in old blood, and its long, black claws dripped with venomous poison.

"Who dares disturb my slumber?" the demon roared.

"This pitiful elf does, Your Eminence," the witch replied, as she pointed towards the hero.

"Demon," the hero challenged, "I will send you back from whence you came!"

With that, she began to cast a spell. Her faithful mabari ran circles around the demon, nipping at its heels and distracting it as his mistress wove her magic; he knocked the witch down flat on her back, stealing her staff from her and tossing it into the brush so that she could not use it against his mistress.

The hero cast a spell that wreathed the demon in lightning, and the beast roared in anger, furious that such a tiny mortal had hurt it.

The fight was long and bloody. Many times it seemed certain that the hero would fall, riddled by myriad slashes and gaping wounds inflicted by the demon, but every time the hero would heal herself using magic, and the fight would begin anew.

At last, the demon collapsed, bested by a combination of the hero's most powerful spells. The ground shook as it landed heavily, its body turning foul and putrid in its death.

With the demon dead, Morrigan was freed of the evil curse it had placed upon her, that had forced her to betray the hero and all she had once loved.

"I was a fool," Morrigan whispered. She was dying, having suffered a mortal wound at the jaws of the hero's mabari, and her blood stained the ground red. "Can you forgive me?" she asked.

"Gladly," the hero replied. She lay next to the witch, her own body riddled with the demon's deadly poison. She clasped Morrigan's hand with her own, and saw the witch smile, knowing that all was now forgiven.

As the two lovers lay dying together, they could rest easy, knowing that the demon was no more, and that they were not alone.

Sylvanna's mabari grieved over his mistress for a long time. Then one day, he sat up, running deeper and deeper into the Wilds, and was never seen again by man or elf.

Some say that the spirits of the two women continued to wander the Fade, offering aid to valiant mages who sought their wisdom, and freeing lost souls from the depths of their nightmares. Some say that the Maker embraced them to His side. Whatever their fate, this much was true:

They faced it together.