I wish you could have been here two days ago. We set up camp near a stream with a rocky shore and a waterfall. The flow of the water had created a couple of deeper pools, and the waterfall had a rock ledge leading right under the falls. In short, we had the perfect place for bathing Fidelius! Wynne and I gathered up her soaps and headed for the pools, and Leliana and Morrigan decided that a bath was a wonderful idea for the people as well as the dog. We all got totally soaked and had a marvelous time! But wait, it gets better! All the shrieking and thrashing about brought the boys running to find out what had happened. They said they thought we were under attack, but I think they just wanted in on the fun! Next thing you know, Zevran was stripped to his smallclothes and joined us in the water. Then Alistair got into the spirit of it all and jumped in the pool, making a tremendous splash. Sten decided that we children could play in the water if we liked, but someone should be keeping watch over the camp. Even dour Sten came perilously close to smiling, though. And he does have a sense of humor. I know this now because he decided that if we were going to be in the water, we could at least make ourselves useful, so he brought us all the laundry he could find and chucked it into the pool with us! Anyone walking along the streambank would have wondered what on Thedas had happened as they found all the bushes and big rocks covered in wet laundry, wet people, and wet mabari! The day was perfect, and Sten actually even had a Qunari meal waiting for us when we came back to the tents.
We left the laundry spread out to dry overnight, which proved to be just too much temptation for Fidelius to resist. He stole my bra and ran off with it. I know him - it would be just like him to bury it somewhere and laugh at me when I find it missing. That was not his plan though. He played keep-away with me for a few minutes, then ran straight to Alistair and laid it right in his hand. He was blushing and laughing and it cost me another kiss on the cheek to get my undergarment back! Silly mutt!
The spot was so lovely and the break from travel so welcome that we stayed there another whole day. We used the time to rest, to spar and to clean and oil armor and weapons. Everyone got along for a wonder, and we all felt much better for the respite.
After a long trek the next day, we made it to Orzammar. Nothing would do but that we look up this Faryn fellow who was supposed to have scavenged the battlesite where Sten lost his sword. We found the greasy lout and discovered that Faryn had indeed picked up a Qunari blade near Lake Calenhad, but had since sold it to a collector, a dwarf by the name of Dwyn, living in Redcliffe. I believe the man told the truth, because Sten was glowering at him the whole time, and I can truthfully say that I wouldn't want to be the one he was looking at that way. I expect we will be returning to Redcliffe as soon as our business in Orzammar is complete.
Who would have suspected that hard-as-nails Morrigan would be terrified of caves? She flatly refused to entertain the idea of entering Orzammar. She is convinced that the mountain will crush her should she set foot inside the cavern! Nor is she the only one dismayed by the prospect of going underground. Leliana said that caves are intolerably dirty and she would rather wait in an above-ground camp. Sten has volunteered to stay behind as their protector. He said the tunnels and passages are most likely too small for him to travel anyway. I asked Fidelius to stay with Sten and guard the camp. My dog also looked relieved to be staying out in the open air. So it was left to Alistair, Zevran, Wynne and I to brave the domain of the dwarven folk.
Some of Loghain's men were at the gates of Orzammar demanding to be admitted to speak to the Assembly. The dwarven guards would have none of it, as their king, Endrin, had just recently "returned to the Stone". His death has left Orzammar in upheaval as the dwarves try to settle the succession. The gate guard heard my request for access to the Assembly in relation to the treaty between the dwarves and the Grey Wardens, and deemed the cause sufficient to pass us through. Loghain's toadies did not like that one little bit, and their leader demanded that we be arrested, tried and executed as traitors to Ferelden. I answered that Loghain was the traitor, and was promptly challenged to a duel. I suspect the poor sot had never been much more than a ceremonial guard, because he was truly no match for me. The rest of his party opted to call it a fair fight and left, no doubt to take word of my whereabouts to Loghain.
If you have never been here, Fergus, you should make an effort to see Orzammar. It is truly impressive. I did not realize it was even possible for a cavern to be so large, and the river of lava flowing through it provides both light and heat. I do not know how they manage it but the smell of sulphur is almost nonexistent, and I have not noticed any lack of fresh air. The place bustles much like any other major city, only shorter.
The squabble over the succession has narrowed down to two contenders. Bhelen Aeducan is the only surviving son of the previous king, and believes the throne is his by birth. Pyral Harrowmont was Endrin's closest advisor and swears that Endrin made him promise to prevent Bhelen from taking the crown. Dwarves are nothing if not enthusiastic about their politics. I saw at least three 'duels' (what you or I might call public murders) in my first hour in Orzammar. The city's chief historian and magistrate seemed a good man to approach with the treaty. He told me that the treaty binds the king of Orzammar to assist the Grey Wardens, but as there is no king right now, there is no one who can legally enforce compliance. So now I must don a new hat, and choose to support one candidate to become king for this place in order to get the troops needed for the coming Blight. Tomorrow I will try to meet with each of them to make a final decision on the matter.
I think I am fast approaching a time when I must replace my armor. It is more patches than intact pieces and I have changed shape since I took up fighting and travelling as a lifestyle. My greaves are tight and there is no more length to let out on the straps. The same can be said for my bracers. My cuirass chafes across my shoulders and chest, but is loose across my belly. And before you can say it, my head has not swollen with pride at becoming a Grey Warden, because my helmet is the only part of my armor that still fits! I just wish my training had included how to know good used armor from poor stuff. I have very little gold to spend on it, and so must make do with what I can afford. Perhaps one of the others in our group can advise me.
I must get some rest. Tomorrow will be a busy day, and I shall need my wits about me when I meet the contenders. Thankfully, the nightmares that once plagued me are no longer so troublesome. Has it really been a month since my life changed so drastically? Maker keep you in his care.