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Missives To A Missing Brother

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Dear Fergus,

I am writing this in the firm belief that the Maker has kept you safe and whole. It would simply be too much if you were gone too.

There is no good way to give you this news, so I will just say it plainly. Mother, Father, Oriana and Oren are dead, murdered by that rat-bastard Howe the night you left with our troops for Ostagar. After everyone was abed and asleep, his troops infiltrated the keep and murdered everyone they encountered, including most of our men-at-arms and household staff. I am so sorry to be the one to tell you this.

I woke in the night to the sound of Fidelius growling fearsomely. Thank the Maker for the mabari's warning! I would not be alive to tell you this, but for his sharp senses. I took my dagger with me to check outside my chamber door and was immediately attacked by an armsman in Howe livery. I slashed his sword arm and stabbed him in the neck, sending him to the floor, but still I would have died if not for Mother's skilled archery. A second attacker in the common room fell to her arrows. She helped me armor up and we went to find out what was happening.

Our first stop was your suite, where we found Oriana and Oren. Their throats had been cut. I can only pray that they died quickly. Lady Landra and her son Dairren were also dead in their chambers, though it looked like Dairren at least had a chance to put up some resistance. We thought to find Father in the Hall, and made for it as best we could, gathering our surviving armsmen as we went. There were very few of them, Fergus, showing how successful Howe's treachery had been. Ser Gilmore was in the Hall, attempting to hold off more of Howe's men by denying them access through the Hall doors. He said that Father had been wounded and left the Hall, thinking to meet us by the servant's exit in the pantry. Ser Gilmore stayed to delay the enemy for as long as possible to give us a chance to escape.

We fought our way past the invaders in the passageway to the kitchen, and found Father in the pantry. He had been run through and was dying of his wound, Fergus. He urged Mother and me to leave him behind and make good our escape. Mother refused. The visiting Grey Warden, Duncan, came into the pantry, saying that Howe's men were on their way. He offered to see Mother and me to safety in return for my agreement to join the Grey Wardens. Again, Mother refused to leave Father's side. Both of them ordered me to go with Duncan, to become a Grey Warden, and to get word to you and the King about Howe's treachery. I didn't want to leave them, Fergus. I should have stayed and died defending them. They both sent their love to you as I was leaving. My last sight of them was Mother standing over Father, arrow nocked and pointing at the pantry door.

Duncan led me away from the keep, and once we got far enough away to rest for a space of time, I am ashamed to say that I fell apart. I have sparred and worked the pells, but that was the first time I had ever used a blade in earnest. I don't know how many men I slew, and all the blood and death caught up to me in that moment. I wept and puked and shook like a leaf in a gale. Duncan was very patient with me, only urging me to be as quiet as I could about the whole business. Is it like that for everyone after killing? I no longer envy you the combat you face, big brother. No matter how I scrub my face and hands and armor, I still see the blood on them.

We finally arrived at Ostagar today, only to miss you by a matter of hours. We arrived midmorning to find you and your scouting party left at dawn. They tell me that you won't be back for several days and that there will be a battle with the darkspawn before then. Duncan left me to explore the encampment and find the other two recruits who had come on ahead, along with another Grey Warden named Alistair. To my total surprise, Fidelius went with him willingly while he saw to other matters, and left me free to seek the others. There is to be some sort of Joining ritual (you can hear the capital letter when the ritual is mentioned) before nightfall. One of the other recruits believes it involves going into the Korcari Wilds. I guess we will all know soon enough.

I have seen some interesting sights here at Ostagar. I met a mage, a Tranquil and an Ash Warrior. You may think these to be nothing unusual, but I have never met their like before. The mage seemed serious but kind. The Tranquil was decidedly odd but seemed very content with his lot. The Ash Warrior knew more about mabari than anyone I've ever known - even more than old Rufus who ran the kennels Fidelius came from.

Maker grant this finds you whole and healthy, and keep you safe from harm. I will write again as opportunity permits.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

So many events have passed so quickly that I hope you will forgive me if they get a bit disordered in the telling. I am sitting outside the hut of Flemeth, the Witch of the Wilds as I write this (yes, Fergus, THAT Witch of the Wilds!) and must admit that some of the steps leading me here are quite out of my reach.

Alistair and we three recruits were indeed sent out into the Korcari Wilds. We were to obtain three vials of darkspawn blood, which was easily done, as I am sure you would know. The creatures are thick as fleas everywhere in the Wilds. We were also required to recover some treaties from an abandoned Grey Warden outpost. When we arrived there we found the broken chest that was supposed to have contained the documents, and a woman named Morrigan. She is an apostate - a mage outside the Circle of Magi - according to Alistair. She took us to meet her mother, Flemeth, who she said had taken the treaties from the chest. She and her mother are both notably lacking in social graces, such not being in much demand in the Wilds, I suppose. In any event, Flemeth had the treaties and gave them to Alistair, who stowed them in his pack. Morrigan then escorted us back out of the Wilds.

We returned to Duncan with our vials and the documents, and were told that the Joining would begin right away. The ritual is secret, and now I understand why. Suffice it to say that I would not willingly undergo it again. The other two candidates were .... found unsuitable. I am the only one of the three to become a full-fledged Grey Warden. I have been changed by it in some deep way that defies explanation.

Duncan took me with him to meet King Cailan and Teyrn Loghain, at the king's request, for a final strategy session before the battle that night. Cailan was a very handsome fellow, very outgoing and enthusiastic, and utterly confident that the darkspawn would be defeated again, as they had been for the past several nights. He was so sure, so vibrant, that it made me feel hopeful that a Blight had not come, and that this whole affair would be over soon. I told him of Howe's treachery, and he promised that, once the Blight was dealt with, he would turn his armies north and return Highever to our family.

Teyrn Loghain was far more serious, almost bleak by comparison. He is much older than Cailan, and has little respect and less use for the Grey Wardens. The battle plan he developed seemed sound to me, but then strategy has always been his greatest strength. Cailan requested that Alistair and I be the ones assigned to light a beacon on the Tower of Ishal to signal Loghain's forces to sweep up on the flank of the darkspawn army. It was a small but critical task, he said, that he felt would be best handled by Grey Wardens. When Alistair found out that he was not to take part in the coming battle, he was rather upset. Personally, I was just as glad to be behind the lines. The attack on Highever is only four days behind me, and I had spent the day hunting darkspawn and documents, followed by the Joining. The prospect of a night of battle after all that was rather daunting, so lighting a beacon sounded like a great way to participate in the battle to me.

But things are never that easy. Somehow, the darkspawn came up inside the Tower and overran it, killing all the troops stationed inside. We had to fight our way to the top. You should have seen Fidelius! He was a fierce warrior in his own right. I was very proud of him. We made it to the top of Tower and lit the signal beacon, and watched in shock as Loghain withdrew from the field. Then we were swarmed under by darkspawn. I remember taking an arrow in my right shoulder, and then a blow to the head knocked me out.

My next clear memory is waking up back in Flemeth's hut. Morrigan was there, tending my wounds, which were mostly healed. I was a little confused and woke with a headache, but other than that I felt quite well, all things considered. Then Morrigan told me what happened. Loghain's troops quit the field and left Cailan, Duncan and the army to be slaughtered by the darkspawn. Alistair, Fidelius and I were rescued by Flemeth. I do not know how she did this, and I don't think I want to know. She used her magic to heal us all.

Alistair has taken Duncan's death very hard, alternating between anger and despair, and seemed most relieved to see me when I came out of the hut. Alistair was born fatherless, and his mother died birthing him, so he had no family before Duncan recruited him. Duncan was like a father to him. I really didn't have time to get to know him well, but Duncan struck me as dedicated to the GreyWardens, and a kind man when opportunity permitted. Rather like Father, in many ways. I shall miss his quiet confidence and strength.

It seems that Alistair and I are the only remaining Grey Wardens in Ferelden. It falls to us to try to rally forces to battle the Blight. Two new Grey Wardens against an entire Blight - doesn't sound like a fair fight, does it? We have the treaties that were stowed in Alistair's pack. These compel the Mages of the Circle, the Dalish elves, and the dwarves of Orzammar to provide troops and support to the Grey Wardens in the event of a Blight. Alistair also feels strongly that Arl Eamon of Redcliffe will help us. His troops were not at Ostagar, and so are intact. I remember Father saying that Eamon was a wise and honorable man. Perhaps we should seek him out and hear what advice he has to offer. Alistair is still coming to grips with his grief, so I will make the decision on our immediate course of action. Maker guide me in the path of His choosing!

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

Morrigan has been sent with us by her mother, to be our guide and a companion in arms for the duration. She has resigned herself to this with rather poor grace but admirable obedience to her mother's wishes. Alistair seems to think she is more a liability than a help, because she is apostate. He was training to be a Templar before being recruited into the Grey Wardens, and I think that colors his reaction to Morrigan very strongly. He is not happy about her joining our company. To be honest, I find Morrigan to be rather grating on the nerves at times as well, but she can certainly fight, and she knows her way around in the Wilds. She also has a poison tongue and a biting wit that do not suffer fools gladly, and she considers no one to be more a fool than Alistair. I swear the biggest challenge I face will not be gathering an army and defeating the Blight, but keeping the two of them from killing each other before this is all over and done.

We left Flemeth's hut this morning and went to a town called Lothering. Morrigan said that we could rest and resupply there. Wrong on both counts, I'm afraid. Lothering has refugees from the south, fleeing the darkspawn, on pretty much every inch of open ground. Black marketeers are driving food prices to unimaginable heights, and desperation is a palpable presence in the air. We cleaned out no less than four bandit groups preying on the refugees, and were attacked by some of Loghain's men when we entered the local tavern for news and supplies. It seems Loghain has put a price on our heads, accusing the Grey Wardens of killing King Cailan. A lay sister named Leliana aided us during the attack, and asked if she might join our group. Apparently, she had a vision from the Maker, telling her to go with us. I really felt funny about her request, but she was very capable in the little melee with Loghain's men, so I gave her leave to come with us for now. I will look more deeply into this "vision" when I get the chance, and can still send her away if she is too unstable.

A far more promising addition to our group is a Qunari warrior named Sten. He stands accused of butchering an entire family of farmers with his bare hands. He is a strange man, very quiet, but he is huge and immensely powerful. He has sworn himself into my custody until the Blight is defeated, and says he seeks atonement for his actions in this quest of ours. It's a strange thing, Fergus, but I believe him. He is truly sorry for killing the family, and his honor will make him keep his vow of service. He has combat experience and looks to be a supreme soldier. There is something sad about him that I can't identify, beyond his regret over the crime that saw him imprisoned at Lothering. Perhaps as I come to know him better, it will become clear.

It is hard to imagine a less likely group for raising an army and fighting a Blight, but there it is. Somehow I have been elected leader of this merry band of misfits. Wish me luck, big brother!

We had some disturbing news from Ser Bryant, head of the Lothering Templars. Arl Eamon is seriously ill. We had hoped to obtain his aid against Loghain and the Blight, but if he is as sick as they say, he is in no condition to help us. Alistair grew up in Redcliffe and is very worried about the news. He wants to go there and find out what has happened. I am inclined to agree with him.

Alistair seems to be coming around from his grief, but is quite content to leave the decision making up to me. Even Morrigan noted that, while he is the senior Warden, he defers to my judgement in matters of destination and companions. I am perhaps better trained in handling staff than he is. After all, I was taught how to run a keep. This is different in degree and mobility, but there are points of similarity. Maker willing, I won't make too many costly errors while I put my training into practice. Tomorrow we will set out for Redcliffe.

I miss you, brother mine. I trust the Maker to keep you safe, and to bring us together again in His own good time.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

I am having a great deal of trouble sleeping. Every time I fall asleep I have nightmares about darkspawn, dragons, and the night our home was attacked. Alistair says the ones with the darkspawn and the dragons are something all Grey Wardens are subject to - that in my dreams I am sensing the Archdemon behind the Blight. The other nightmares are uniquely my own. Why did Howe betray us? Our families have been friends since Maric took the throne. What could have caused Rendon Howe to turn on us the way he did?

I find I am travelling in rather august company. It turns out that Alistair is not fatherless after all. As we approached Redcliffe, he rather defensively told me that he is the illegitimate son of no less a personage than King Maric himself! He decided to make me privy to this bit of news because he figured Arl Eamon would let out the secret anyway, given that Cailan is dead and there is no clear heir to the throne. The odd thing about it is that Alistair didn't want me to know because he thought I would treat him differently, either revering or reviling him for it. In answer I told him my lineage and assured him that his parentage changes nothing. It HAS crossed my mind to excuse him from his turns as cook, but that has far more to do with a distinct lack of skill than any accident of birth!

Arl Eamon is indeed incapacitated - he has been poisoned and is in a coma. Or at least he was the last time anyone heard anything from Redcliffe castle. The castle is cut off from the town, and the town is under attack by some manner of undead. No one knows how this came to be, but for the last three nights increasing numbers of these creatures sally forth from the castle, and the townsfolk are terrified that tonight's attack will overrun their defenses. My companions and I will stay to bolster the defenses. There is only a scant handful of knights and the local militia (what's left of it anyway) to stave off what everyone fears will be the strongest attack yet. Perhaps we can make a difference. Maker help us all.

Your sister,
Lee

P.S.

The battle is over and we have won the day, or should I say the night. Bann Teagan, Arl Eamon's brother, has requested our help to infiltrate the castle and end the attacks once and for all. Did I actually envy you going away to face the enemy in glorious combat? What an ignorant, innocent fool I was. I am sick at heart from all the death and destruction, and soon I will go to deal out more of the same. Maker forgive me.

L.

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Dear Fergus,

Much has happened since my last letter. I scarcely know where to begin. Our group met with Bann Teagan at a mill midway between the town and the keep. As we were beginning to plan our next move, up ran Lady Isolde, Eamon's wife. She demanded that Teagan return to the keep with her - alone!! I cannot say whether he was incredibly stupid or amazingly brave, but he acquiesced to her demand. Before he departed he gave me his signet ring, which is the key to an escape tunnel from the castle keep to the mill.

We entered the mill, cleared the passage of undead, and were able to exit to the bailey and open the portcullis so that the remaining Redcliffe knights could join with us to enter the Hall. There we found Isolde, her young son Connor, Teagan, and several men-at-arms. All of the men, including Teagan, seemed to be under some compulsion or mind control. Connor appeared to be possessed by some sort of demon who controlled the others through him. From what I could make of the situation, Eamon has been poisoned by an apostate mage who was brought into the household by Isolde in the hopes of keeping Connor's waking mage talents from manifesting further. The apostate, Jowan by name, told us that the undead were not of his calling but that Connor might have done so by accident. Jowan also told us that he was hired by Loghain to poison Eamon - that Eamon was a traitor to the Crown. Seriously, Fergus, the mages of the Circle need to be kept abreast of affairs outside their Tower! The apostate was a recent escapee, and had he been acquainted with events in the outside world he would never have believed such an outrageous claim. Apparently Loghain sent Jowan to Isolde with his recommendation that she employ his services.

So now things sit thus. Eamon is still in a coma. Connor is possessed by a demon. Teagan recovered his mind, but we were forced to kill the men-at-arms when the demon made them attack us. Isolde is distraught and will permit no one to harm the abomination Connor has become. Jowan says Connor's demon may be defeated in the Fade, leaving the child alive, but there is a catch. To enter the Fade requires a great deal of power. He has offered to perform a blood magic ritual that would require the sacrifice of a life to purchase entry into the Fade. This was not an option I was willing to entertain. Instead, I have elected to travel to the Circle Tower in hopes of finding sufficient magical aid to rescue the boy. The travel time and the time to mount a return party looks to be at least three days. I pray that Isolde and Teagan are able to keep the demon from doing further harm in that time. Any further deaths are on my head for deciding to spare the abomination in hopes of saving the child. Must all decisions have such sharp teeth?

On a more personal note, I spoke with Alistair about my guilt over the killings I have done. He explained that all warriors of conscience have such a reaction and that it is a healthy sign. He also said that sometimes it is necessary to destroy the evil in order to protect what is good in this world. That it is wise to remember that death is not always the answer, but not to shy away from meting out death when it is necessary. That warriors take this responsibility upon themselves and their souls so that the weak are not left to die. That I am not a wanton killer but rather a defender of those unable or unwilling to defend themselves. It has given me something to ponder. I wish the nightmares would leave me be. I am so very tired.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

I laughed for the first time since that horrible night. I wish you could have seen it, brother mine. Big, tough, silent Sten and Fidelius had a growling match. I think Sten won. He and my mabari seem to be developing an understanding if not an outright friendship. But the sight of Sten squatting down eye to eye with Fidelius and making ferocious growls just struck me as hilarious. It felt so good to laugh again, even if both of them did give me dirty looks for it. I guess life goes on after all.

On our way to Lake Calenhad, Sten opened up a bit about his past. I guess Qunari soldiers are expected to die holding their weapons, and Sten lost his during a darkspawn attack while he and his brethren were camped near Lake Calenhad. He was utterly fatalistic about the loss of his blade, stating with complete assurance that he could not return to his homeland without it on pain of death. He regards himself as flawed for having lost it. It is most distressing to see this man think of himself as a failure for something that could happen to anyone, anywhere, during any battle. I decided to look around while we were at the Lake to see if some sign of what happened to it could be found. Qunari blades are big, heavy things. It should be fairly easy to identify. Sure enough, I came upon a scavenger raking over the scene of the battle. He had found nothing but said that the spot had already been combed over by a fellow named Faryn, who was supposed to be headed for Orzammar. Once we get the situation with Connor handled, maybe we can take a trip to Orzammar.

Morrigan asked me to keep an eye out for a grimoire that once belonged to her mother, Flemeth, that she had reason to believe might be somewhere in the mages' tower. She described it in detail and seemed most anxious to obtain it. I will keep an eye open for it, but I would think that the mages would be loathe to part with it.

We have had yet another setback. The ferryman who takes people across to the Circle Tower tells us that there is trouble over the water and that the Templars have commandeered his boat. No one is allowed in the Tower until further notice. I cannot afford to wait for them to resolve whatever difficulties they are having over there. I am about to brace the young Templar they left in charge of the boat.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

I am beginning to think the Maker doesn't like me. I bullied the young Templar into taking us across the Lake and escorting us into the base of the Circle Tower. I approached Greagoir, the Knight-Commander of the Templars, to find out what was amiss. He told me that the Circle was lost to abominations and that he was only waiting for reinforcements and permission from Denerim to "neutralize" the Circle in a Rite of Annulment. Alistair said that this Rite means that they kill everyone and everything in the Tower - alive, dead, undead, whatever.

I could not bring myself to believe that all the mages of the Circle were already dead. Surely there would be a few who were still carrying on the fight. Greagoir had closed and barred the gates into the Tower proper and was not allowing anyone in, or most especially out. I offered to go in with two of my group to search for survivors and eliminate any undesirables. I convinced him that he had nothing to lose by this. He was still waiting for word from Denerim, and perhaps we could do some good in there. He let us in but told us that we would not be allowed back out until he was sure it was safe.

The carnage in the Tower was incredible. Bodies and blood were everywhere. It didn't take long for us to encounter undead and lesser demons, and as we fought our way up, we found more and more of them. Near the entry to the second level, we came across the first of the survivors. The mage I met at Ostagar, Wynne by name, was there with three other full mages and a handful of children. Wynne had erected a barrier of power over the portal that lead further up the Tower so that nothing could come through to harm the children. She explained that there had been an insurrection of sorts. A mage named Uldred had tried to swing the support of the Circle behind Loghain, and when he failed, he tried to summon a demon to support his bid for control. The demon was too strong for him and took him over, making him into an abomination. He then went on a rampage, killing any mages that he couldn't transform into more like himself. Wynne asked us to support her efforts to wipe out the maleficars, abominations and undead that inhabited the upper levels, and we agreed. It was what we had come in for, after all.

I will not go into lurid detail about the trip to the top level of the Tower. Suffice it to say that my nightmares are no longer the most disturbing sights I have experienced. We found only three other survivors, one of them being First Enchanter Irving. We managed to defeat Uldred and his minions, and spent a long time on the trip back down the Tower ensuring that no evil creatures had been missed in our haste to reach the top. It took some time to convince Greagoir that all was well and the Tower once again under control, but finally he let us out.

I actually managed to find Flemeth's grimoire, and when I presented it to Morrigan she nearly snatched it out of my hands, so eager was she to see what secrets it might contain. She reminded me of nothing so much as a squirrel with an especially fat acorn as she held the volume to her chest and raced back to her fire. On the positive side, she is so engrossed in it that she does not have time to irritate others in the group.

I broached the subject of young Connor with Irving, who promised to round up what mages and lyrium he could and make haste to Redcliffe to try to save the boy. He also gave his word that the Circle would honor the Treaty with the Grey Wardens and that when the time comes to take the fight to the darkspawn, the mages will stand with us. I was surprised and gratified when Greagoir also offered the support of the Templars. So I now have the first commitment of troops for the army we must raise. It is a start.

Now we must race back to Redcliffe and pray we are not too late for Connor and the others in the keep. I will write again after events have unfolded there.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

Praise the Maker, we arrived in Redcliffe to find all reasonably peaceful. The mages had gathered and lyrium was brought sufficient to send one mage into the Fade to fight the demon possessing Connor. I was asked to name who should take the battle to the demon, why I do not know. I considered Morrigan, clearly the best at combat magics, but an apostate and susceptible to possession in her own right. Wynne might have gone, but she is old and had suffered some sort of injury in the struggle for the Tower. Irving could not go because he was coordinating the mages creating the entrance to the Fade. Then it struck me that Jowan, the mage who had started the whole unfortunate affair in Redcliffe, had expressed remorse and a wish to atone for his mistakes. I selected him to go. The others looked at me as if I had sprouted horns, but finally submitted to my decision.

I have no wish to know what Jowan faced in the Fade. What matters is that he was successful in driving the demon out of Connor without harming the lad. The boy does not recall any of the events since he was possessed, and that is surely for the best. No one could hope to deal with that sort of burden. I am unsure what will become of Jowan. He is still a blood mage, despite his sincere wish to atone and his rescue of the boy. Teagan has decided that Jowan's fate should rest in Arl Eamon's hands. To that end he has been returned to his cell in the dungeon to await Eamon's recovery.

Eamon himself is still in a coma, no better and no worse than since he first succumbed to the poison. Isolde is convinced that the only thing that can save Eamon is the Urn of Andraste's sacred ashes. She has knights spread out all over Ferelden trying to find some clue to the whereabouts of the Urn. I cannot help thinking it is a slim hope to rest upon. I cannot justify participation in the search at this time. We need to approach the other peoples for whom we have treaties, and time is pressing.

I think our next stop must be the Dalish elves. Their range is threatened as the darkspawn become more numerous, and I hope to have an easy time convincing them that they are better off fighting as our allies than on their own. Wish me luck!

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

We are on our way to the area where the Dalish are known to roam in hopes of locating one of their clans. It has been a luxury to go through a whole day without the need to draw a weapon for any more serious cause than routine care of the blade. I borrowed Alistair's mending kit to perform some much needed repairs on my armor. He also showed me a few tricks of the craft that made the work much easier and yet stronger. I guess the Templars believed it would be valuable for their trainees to know how to care for their armor, and he took the lessons to heart.

Wynne decided to accompany us on our quest to defeat the darkspawn. She has a level head and a soothing presence that is welcome in our group. She can also cook! She has a wide knowledge of herbs, and uses it liberally to enhance the taste of everything she prepares. We all look forward to her turn in the cooking rotation. I suspect if she were the only one cooking it would be almost no time before we would all need larger armor! She seems to have recovered from her efforts in the Circle Tower, although she still tires easily.

Sten and Fidelius continue to develop a fast friendship. I have seen Sten throwing sticks when he thinks no one is looking for Fidelius to retrieve. He talks to the mabari as one would a confidant, knowing that his secrets are safe, but also understood in that uncanny way that mabari have. Sten is still taciturn, but seems a little more at ease as he becomes accustomed to the others in the group. He has expressed some concern that we are not yet actually fighting darkspawn, but is willing to wait while I work to collect more forces.

I finally spoke with Leliana. If you'll recall, she joined us at Lothering, saying that the Maker had instructed her to do so in a vision. She has her own interpretation of what the Maker wants of her in this life, but I judge that she is stable and flexible enough mentally that she is an asset to us. She is a little flighty, concerned with fashion and shopping and feminine fripperies when opportunity presents, but she is very skilled in combat. She fights with intensity and concentration. I take her very seriously when she has her blades in hand. We have sparred a bit, and we have much we can learn from each other.

Morrigan keeps largely to herself, setting up her tent away from the rest of us, and tending a separate fire. She seems very uncomfortable and more than a bit prickly when around people. I think that her years growing up in the Korcari Wilds have left her without the skills to relate to other people. I have approached her, trying to draw her out of her seclusion. One on one she will talk but seems to look for criticism and attack behind every word and action. I have discovered that she is fond of necklaces, lockets and such, and I am determined to present her one as a gift to try to pierce that thorny exterior. I think she has not known much kindness in her growing years. I feel rather sorry for her at times, though I would never admit that to her - she would have my head in a heartbeat should she even suspect such a thing.

We have picked up a couple of very helpful strays in our travels. A merchant dwarf and his son have taken to following our party and setting up camp near us each night. Bohdan has a wide selection of trade goods, which he refreshes at each settlement we come to, and his son, Sandal, is a simple lad with a knack for enchanting runes. In return for the protection our group offers from brigands and darkspawn, they give us a decent discount on trades and (as long as Bohdan sells us the runestone) free enchanting. The arrangement is working out well for all of us, I think.

Alistair is a bit of a character, now that his grief has passed. His smile lights up his face and makes him strikingly handsome. He teases and makes jokes and generally brightens the mood for the rest of us. Of course, Morrigan is convinced he is a fool, and Sten just doesn't have much of an understanding of Ferelden humor, but the rest of us usually get a smile from his antics. I am very glad he is here to offer guidance in Grey Warden affairs. I find him easy to talk with and an understanding listener. He is also a ferocious fighter. I can think of no one I would rather have at my back in battle.

As for me, I am still subject to the nightmares, but they are not as troublesome as they once were. I have actually managed to sleep though them once or twice, and feel much better rested for it. Our success with saving Connor, and the first commitment of troops to our quest has done much to improve my outlook. I now feel some hope that the impossible task is merely difficult, not insurmountable. We should find the Dalish in the next couple of days. Maker willing, they will honor their treaty obligations and we will be able to proceed to Orzammar without delay.

Maker keep you safe and well and in His constant care. So let it be!

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

We found the Dalish, or more accurately, they found us. And once again, the Maker saw fit to test our resolve. The clan we met was being decimated by werewolf attacks that were far more planned out than they had any right to be. Over half of the warriors were injured, some having already succumbed to the bites and becoming werewolf themselves. The clan could not assist us in any way while the attacks continued. It was not even possible to contact the other scattered clans. I simply could not abandon those poor folk to their fate without at least attempting to aid them.

That said, I left Wynne, Leliana and Morrigan at the encampment to help as best they could, and took Alistair and Sten with me to see if we could track down the alpha werewolf. The Dalish keeper, Zathrian, said that the werewolves were cursed and that killing the alpha werewolf, Witherfang, could break the curse and, hopefully, cure the warriors who had been infected. The Brecilian Forest is full of rills and streams, and the land is wrinkled in folds that prevent any long sight lines. Ambushes are child's play in such a place, and we moved forward carefully, hoping to avoid any such traps. We were beset by rabid wolves, bears, and even a few darkspawn, but it wasn't until we were deep in the woods that we found the first werewolf.

I was startled to see one standing on an islet amid the mists of a waterfall, and was very surprised to be addressed by it in clear speech. He told our party to return to the Dalish and say that the attacks would continue until the curse was broken and the werewolves freed of it. Then he and another four or five of his kin ran off into the forest, leaving us to wonder why the Were seemed to think the Dalish could end the curse. We pursued, but soon lost sight of them. Their spoor was light and difficult to follow, but we managed to track them to an ancient Elvish ruin.

After many encounters with darkspawn and undead creatures, we finally came to the heart of the Were stronghold. I was asked to give parole of peaceful intent and agreed to parley with the "Lady of the Forest", to whom the Were look for leadership. The Lady told me that the curse originated with Zathrian several centuries ago. Apparently, his son and daughter were slain by humans, and in his grief, he summoned the spirit of the Forest, binding it to a great white wolf. The wolf, Witherfang, is an aspect of the Forest spirit, as is the Lady. The curse encompassed all of the humans in the forest, whether or not they were part of the group that attacked Zathrian's children, and spread to many of the wolves as well. In an effort to end the business, the Were sent messages to Zathrian with every passing caravan, without any response. Finally, in desperation, they attacked the hunters of Zathrian's clan, infecting them in hopes of forcing him to end the curse.

This changed our path, as you could well suppose. Killing Witherfang no longer seemed the answer to the problem. We agreed to bring Zathrian back to the stronghold to speak to the Lady of the Forest in hopes of resolving the matter peacefully. As it happened, Zathrian had followed us through the forest and was waiting for us near the entrance to the ruin. I convinced him that it was needful for him to meet with the Lady, and gave him promise of protection should the Were attack.

The tale of the curse as told by the Lady turned out to be truth, as Zathrian confirmed when faced with her account. He refused to end it, though. Alistair, Sten and I all insisted that his revenge was complete and that further vengeance was cruel. He did not care. The Lady then told us that Zathrian's long life was tied to the curse through his blood, which he had used to bind the spirit of the Forest to the wolf. For as long as the curse existed, Zathrian could not die. At first, he denied this accusation, then admitted that there could be some truth to it. He refused once again to end the curse, and began to attack everyone in the chamber, both Were and my party. I could not let him do that, and we subdued him. The Were and the Lady again begged for release, for mercy, for compassion. This time Zathrian was touched by their plea. I think he realized that he had gone too far, sacrificing his clan in the present for the sake of those long dead. When he completed the rite that dissolved the curse, he died, and the spirit of the forest, both the Lady and Witherfang, were freed. The werewolves were surrounded by a bright nimbus of light, and when it passed, they were human once again.

We returned to the clan's encampment to find the warriors well on the road to recovery. The new Keeper, Lanaya, had felt Zathrian's passing and had told the clan, so they were aware of it before we arrived with the news. Lanaya promised to send word to the other Dalish clans of the call to combat the Blight and confirmed that the Dalish would honor the ancient treaty promising the Grey Wardens their support.

So now, at long last, we are off to Orzammar. I really hope to pick up the trail of Sten's sword. The more I get to know him, the more I understand how seriously he takes its loss. Frankly, Fergus, I am a little surprised he didn't suicide when he realized it was truly gone. It is that important to his image of himself as a worthwhile being.

Did I tell you that I got a gold chain from a merchant we met on the road? I gave it to Morrigan, and I honestly did not know whether to laugh or cry at her reaction. At first she looked like I had offered her a poisonous snake. I assured her it was my wish to give it to her, she took it rather gingerly, and then asked me what I wanted for it. I told her that it was a gift between friends and that no recompense was required. She gave me an odd look, then thanked me for the necklace and turned away from me. I truly believe that this was the very first time in her life that she was given a gift, no strings attached. I did notice that she was wearing it the next day, mostly hidden under her armor.

Speaking of gifts, Alistair gave me one. I have been borrowing his armor repair kit to maintain my gear right from the outset of our quest. Like you, Fergus, Alistair favors heavy armor, so his tools are rather large and awkward for working on light armor such as I wear. While we were in the Dalish encampment, he must have approached their armorer and commissioned a repair kit for me. He gave it to me yesterday, joking about how he never sees his own kit anymore and thought to get it back by giving me one of my own. It is a thing of beauty, the tools just right for my hand, wonderfully lightweight, and it packs down into such a small bundle as to take almost no room to store in my pack! I was most pleased, and greeted his gift with a kiss on the cheek. He blushed bright red and stumbled over his words when I did, making the moment all the more precious for me. I noticed he was grinning most of the rest of the day, so I suppose the embarrassment was worth the pleasure we both took from the exchange.

Well, tomorrow is another day on the road for us, and I should get some rest so as to keep up the pace. Maker keep you safe.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

Loghain has named himself Regent without benefit of a Landsmeet to confirm him, and is positioning himself to take the throne from his daughter, Anora, according to the rumors we are hearing from refugees on the road. He has put a bounty on the heads of any surviving Grey Wardens, accusing us of killing King Cailan! That monstrous, lying snake! It was he who abandoned Cailan and the Grey Wardens at Ostagar. Our forces were almost completely annihilated in that battle. How can anyone say we left Cailan to die?

I have since found out that there is no vile action to which he will not stoop. He went so far beyond decency as to put a contract out on us with the Antivan Crows! How do I know this, you ask? We were led into an ambush by what appeared to be a refugee lass and captured the Crow who set it up. As soon as he regained consciousness, he told us everything he knew about the contract, including who hired him. Howe is the one who contacted the Crows, and Loghain is the one paying them! I pray that Howe crosses my path one day so that I can send him to the Maker for judgement. I owe him at least that!

The Crow also offered me his services in exchange for his life. Zevran is his name, and he says that he is now every bit as much a target as I am because he failed to fulfill the contract he was sent on. He has pledged his service and (questionable) loyalty to me personally until the Blight is defeated and I see fit to release him from his oath. He believes that the Crows will not be able to honor the contract on my life, and that if he stays by me then by extension he is also safe from them. According to Zevran, he was purchased as a child by the Crows and was raised to be an assassin. He had no choice in the matter, and is happy to have the opportunity to escape from them. I gather very few Crows manage to die of old age, and even fewer manage the transition to ex-Crow. Zevran thinks to beat the odds by casting his lot in with mine. Given the Blight, the bounty hunters, and now the assassins, I have to wonder a little about his sanity.

You may wonder at my sanity, too, accepting into our party a man who was sent to assassinate me, but it seems that he is not the only "professional" we have among us. Sweet little Leliana was a Bard back in Orlais. You and I both think of minstrels and bards as being much the same, but in Orlais, Bards are minstrels, spies and assassins. There are depths to lay-sister Leliana that I had not suspected. I think I shall make more of an effort to get to know her better.

Morrigan is once again her acerbic self. She has finished interpreting her mother's grimoire and is most unsettled by what she found. It seems that when Flemeth grows old, she raises a daughter. When the daughter is trained and coming into her full power, Flemeth takes over the body, moving her own essence in and the daughter's essence out. Morrigan is determined that this will not happen to her. She plans to prevent the takeover by the simple expedient of having Flemeth killed. As she cannot be sure that her mother will be unable to complete the transfer should Morrigan be present at the time of death, she has asked that I be the one to slay Flemeth. No small order, I think, given Flemeth's abilities. I told Morrigan that I would undertake the task when the opportunity arose, but that other matters relating to our quest might delay it. She seemed willing to wait as long as she has assurance that the execution will take place and that she will receive Flemeth's true grimoire as proof the deed is done.

Wynne has been complaining that Fidelius stinks, and to be honest, he is a little ripe. I suspect he has been rolling in something rotten again. She has asked permission to bathe him the next time we camp near a suitable body of water, and I agreed to it. I warned her that she would get at least as good a bath as she gave, and offered to help. She seems to be looking forward to the challenge. Little does she know just how much Fidelius loves a good bath!! Remember the time he got into the bath chamber, knocked over all the soaps and oils and then tracked all through Nan's kitchen? I still wonder who left the bath unattended and the door ajar. Wouldn't be you, would it? You wouldn't set out to play a joke on a poor innocent mabari pup, would you? No, of course not! Although I recall you had a fit of the giggles when I got stuck cleaning it all up under Nan's wrathful eye.

Alistair has asked a favor of me. He found out he has a half-sister living in Denerim, and he wants to meet her if the chance arises. I see no harm in it as long as it doesn't take too long. She's a lucky girl to have such a man for her brother (but not as lucky as me to have you - there, I said something nice about you!). I have come to realize that Alistair longs for the connection that family provides. I hope this Goldanna is willing to accept him. It would mean a great deal to him, I think. The only other person who ever made him feel truly accepted was Duncan, whom he misses terribly. I try to be careful not to bring up reminders of his passing in our conversations, but it happens, and it takes the joy from Alistair when it does. I also feel the pain of loss, but I still have you out there somewhere (Maker let it be so!) and I have known what it is to be loved and accepted for who I am. This is not something Alistair has experienced, and I hurt for him. Taking a few hours out of our quest to find his sister is the least I can do for him.

We should reach Orzammar in another two or three days, and I will write again once we arrive.

With Love,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

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.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

I was not able to meet with either of the candidates. This annoyed me no end. Given the boisterous nature of dwarven politics I can understand their unwillingness to trust anyone not known to be loyal, but the additional delay to our quest makes me irritable. I made an appointment to meet with Dulin Forender, Lord Harrowmont's representative, late yesterday afternoon, and with Vartag Gavorn, Prince Bhelen's man, some three hours later. The meetings both resulted in tasks to be performed in order to prove myself worthy of an audience.

Dulin Forender accused Bhelen's people of blackmailing Harrowmont's fighters to force them out of honor battles, known here as Provings. I am supposed to convince them to reenter the lists by finding out what Bhelen's people used to coerce them and fixing it. Bhelen's man, Vartag Gavorn, claims Harrowmont has promised the same parcel of land to two different clans in return for their support, and that the affected parties will not find out about it before the vote to finalize the succession. He wants me to deliver copies of the promissory notes to both clans so that they have time to switch allegiance. I do not like being used in this way. It makes me feel sullied. However, I need to meet the two candidates in person before I can make any decision about who to support. This is too important to the Grey Wardens to leap into the political waters without checking for rocks first.

We had some time to wander the marketplace yesterday morning while waiting for the meetings. You should see the things they have on offer, Fergus! The variety is amazing, with goods from Antiva, Rivain, Orlais, Nevarra, Qunari lands, and all over Ferelden. I discovered Alistair almost drooling over an ebony statuette from Rivain, and Wynne was totally entranced by a book from Orlais. Zevran was captivated by some bars of pure metals. I found the most incredible dagger, dwarven crafted and sharp enough to cut air. The proprietor of the weapons stall guaranteed the blade will stay sharp through almost any punishment short of carving stone, and I believe him. Best of all, the prices are down due to Orzammar being closed to outside trade during the political commotion. If I can scare up a few extra coins, I know where they will be spent.

I will have to get going now if I am to accomplish the tasks set for me by the two groups. I think I shall deliver notes first. That should take very little time. Then off to the Proving grounds to talk to the fighters. Wish me luck!

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

I was able to deliver one promissory note with no difficulty, but the other needs to be taken to the head of the clan, who is currently scouting out in the Deep Roads. Delivery of this second note looks to take at least two days, possibly more. I am not happy about the additional delay, but must confess to some curiosity about the Deep Roads. I hear they are rife with darkspawn, and that abandoned thaigs contain much treasure for those brave enough to go get it. Given the skeletal nature of our purse at this time, a bit of treasure hunting might be a good idea. We will set out for the Deep Roads in the morning (a very relative term here as the light is constant).

I spoke with the fighters, as required by Harrowmont's party. One of them was told that there was no way Harrowmont could win the throne, so why throw in his reputation with the losing side. The other fighter was having a love affair and Bhelen's people had letters to prove it. I stole the letters back so that they could not be used against him and his paramour. Both fighters competed and won their bouts. I was invited to meet Harrowmont in his residence after the Proving matches.

Pyral Harrowmont is an older man. He struck me as very honest and honorable, but also very much a traditionalist. He feels strongly that affairs outside of Orzammar are none of Orzammar's concern, and that continuing isolation is the best course for dwarven society. He sees no reason to change any aspect of their lives or culture, including a restrictive caste system that represses the poor and disregards ability. From my time here, I think he is wrong. In the not-so-distant future I think there will be a revolt of the lower castes. Their lives are nearly unbearable and their numbers are large enough to make a coup attempt if change is not forthcoming.

I will write again after we return from the Deep Roads. I really hope the Maker sees fit to guide us to the man we must find, and that there is enough treasure along the way to restock our provisions.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

The Maker finally smiled on us! We found Lord Anwer Dace without difficulty. In fact we rescued him from a swarm of deepstalkers (ugly creatures that appear to be a cross between a naked bird and an earthworm, only larger and much more dangerous). He was happy for our assistance with the swarm, and even more grateful when I showed him the promissory note. He thanked me for saving his House from the disgrace of supporting a liar and a cheat. Not only did that part of our expedition go smoothly, but we found plenty of items that we were able to sell in the marketplace. I had the others take foodstuffs and other supplies out to the members of our group camped outside, while I met with Prince Bhelen.

Bhelen is, without a doubt, the smoothest talking snake I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I suspected that the promissory notes were forgeries - now I am certain of it. I believe Bhelen would stoop to any depths to achieve his goals. That said, he has a vision for Orzammar that includes increased trade with the surface, retaking the thaigs lost to the darkspawn, and relaxing caste restrictions to the extent that those who prove meritorious have a chance to move up. He strikes me as strong enough and determined enough to make these things come about. I wouldn't trust him behind me for two seconds, but I believe he is what Orzammar needs for the future. He has also sworn to uphold the treaty to assist the Grey Wardens as soon as he ascends the throne, and I am willing to accept his word because regaining the lost thaigs depends on ending the Blight.

As soon as I made the decision in his favor, I asked how I might assist him in achieving the election to king. He tasked me to end a crime wave going on in the poor part of Orzammar, known as Dust Town, that has been spilling over into the marketplace and the Diamond Quarter where the nobility dwell. There is a gang that has been running a protection racket, requiring merchants and citizens to pay to prevent 'accidents' from happening to them, and they are becoming overbold in their efforts. Bhelen felt that taking credit for stopping the carta's depredations will shift support to his cause. I have agreed to investigate the situation to see what can be done.

I mentioned that we were resupplied thanks to our trip into the Deep Roads. Well, I had enough left over to purchase some gifts for my people. I got the book that had Wynne so engrossed, along with some wine that she mentioned having a taste for. I found a lovely silver locket for Morrigan. I also picked up a small bar of silver for Zevran, a picture for Sten, some shoes for Leliana, and the ebony statuette that Alistair liked so well. I have prevailed upon Bhelen's steward to hold these things for me until I return from Dust Town. I quite look forward to surprising my compatriots with these little tokens once we return to the surface.

I trust that I am doing the right thing here. If I have chosen wrongly, my decision will hurt more people than I can easily bear. Pray for me.

Your sister,
Lee

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Dear Fergus,

The carta was less a problem than I had feared. The ruffians were great bullies but poor fighters. The most difficult part of the exercise was finding them in the first place. Once we gained admittance to their hideout, it was more like simple butchery than fighting. We did manage to pick up a good deal of booty from their lair, and we were given a fair share of the proceeds in recognition of our efforts. With a bit of coin to spare, I scouted out the marketplace for 'new' used armor, but dwarves are very fond of heavy armor and are much too short for the likes of me. I guess armor will have to wait until we are above ground once again. Wynne returned to the above-ground camp, saying her bones have had enough of caves to last for a long time.

Harrowmont's supporters are not taking my actions well. They have attacked my party twice now, once in the marketplace and once in the Diamond Quarter. In both cases, we dispatched our attackers, but I feel guilty for doing so. I would not meddle in dwarven affairs had I any other option.

Bhelen was pleased to take credit for the elimination of the carta, but felt that it was not enough to guarantee his ascension to the throne. He sent us back into the Deep Roads once again in search of a Paragon named Branka. Dwarves venerate their ancestors, and a Paragon is a living person who is regarded as an ancestor, and so is venerated while still alive. At least, that is my sketchy understanding of how it works. Apparently this Branka took her whole clan into the Deep Roads some two years ago in search of an artifact called the Anvil of the Void, and they have not been heard from since. Bhelen wants Branka to support his bid for the throne, or at least requires proof that she is dead. I gather finding such proof would stand him in almost as much favor as having her speak on his behalf. His instructions to me made it clear that if she was not willing to support his claim, he would far rather that she never return from the Deep Roads. I mentioned to you in a previous letter that Bhelen is a snake, didn't I?

Alistair, Zevran, and I were about to venture in to the Deep Roads on this latest assignment when we were approached by a red-headed dwarf by the name of Oghren. He wished to join our party, saying that if we pooled our information we would have a better chance of locating Branka. Naturally, I asked him what sort of information he might be privy to. He said that Branka was his wife, and that he knew what she was looking for and where she intended to look for it. Bhelen's people had scouted as far as a place called Caridin's Cross, and Oghren seemed confident that he would be able to guide us toward Branka from there. Despite the fact that he smelled rather like an unsanitary brewery, he seemed sincere enough, so I elected to take him along.

We made good time on our way to Caridin's Cross, as the path had been largely cleared of darkspawn by previous scouting parties. Oghren was as good as his word, pointing out signs that told him which way Branka and her clan had gone. He was correct that, unless you knew what to look for, the signs of her passage were not noticeable. We proceeded toward a place called Ortan Thaig, a sort of settlement or small town. When I heard the name of the place, I took note. There had been a young dwarven lass named Orta in the Diamond Quarter who was looking for proof of the existence of Ortan Thaig, saying that she was descended from that clan and wanted to re-establish it as a noble house. I felt sure that if we found the place and were able to bring her some evidence of its existence, then she would be most grateful. We came to Ortan Thaig to find it chock-full of darkspawn and ogres and the like. It took a long while to clean them out, and by the time we had done so, we decided to stop there for a rest. I did some looking around, and came upon a bundle of scrolls written (not surprisingly) in dwarven script. I could not read them, but tucked them in my pack to take back to Orta in hopes that they will provide the proof she needs.

After a meal and a rest, Oghren found signs of Branka's passage once again, and we continued on toward a place known as Bownammar. This is an ancient city built to honor the Legion of the Dead. It was lost to the darkspawn generations ago, and we once again had to fight our way in past their defenses. The architecture and the exquisite skill with stone carving evident in Bownammar were amazing. Still no Branka, however. We did find her journal, and Oghren read it to find that she had gone from there to a place called the Dead Trenches.

The Trenches are heavily infested with darkspawn. In fact, I suspect that there is more than one breeding ground to be found among them. We had our first live sighting of the Archdemon, an immense and ancient dragon. I have seen it in my nightmares many times and both Alistair and I recognized it immediately. There is a terrible beauty about it that awes at the same time it repels. I was very afraid that it would sense us there, so close to it, but it was preoccupied marshalling its troops for the march to the surface. It flew off to another part of the Trenches while we watched. I was more relieved to see it go than I care to admit. It is a truly fearsome beast, and I confess that it was a few minutes after it left before I found the courage to move on.

Finally we happened upon the woman who had been Branka's second in command. She retained enough sense of self to tell us what had transpired. Branka had become obsessed with the Anvil of the Void to such a degree that she had been sacrificing her own clan in her efforts to reach it. The creator of the Anvil, Caridin, had protected it behind a labrynth of traps and puzzles, and Branka had been sending her people into the gauntlet one after another in the hope that one would open the way. As her clan's population dwindled and became more resistant to her orders, she discovered that the women could be transformed into brood mothers by feeding them darkspawn flesh and vomit, then giving them the flesh of their own kin to consume. The darkspawn these brood mothers created could then be used to spring the traps and move toward the Anvil. The poor soul who told us all this was well on the way to becoming a brood mother herself.

After much fighting and searching, we finally found Branka, but she was so twisted by her obsession that Oghren was barely able to recognize in her the girl he had married. She trapped us by means of collapsing the passage behind us and so forced us to enter the gauntlet as the only means of escaping the tunnels. We were able to overcome the obstacles and came out into an immense cavern populated by stone and metal golems, one of which was Caridin himself.

Caridin had created the golems to defend dwarven territory from darkspawn and other would-be invaders. Only he had known the secret of the Anvil's creation and the method by which golems were made. In order to make a golem come to life, a living soul had to be entrapped in the stone or metal shell by means of blood magic. He said that at first the souls came from volunteers, but later the hunger for more and more golems resulted in sacrificing prisoners, then low caste captives. Finally he could stand it no longer and refused to make any more. His king ordered Caridin himself turned into a golem, which his master smiths knew enough to do but were not able to control him. He killed them so as to erase the knowledge of golem creation, but proved incapable of destroying the Anvil once and for all.

We had learned this much of his story when Branka appeared, demanding that the Anvil be given over to her. Caridin begged us to destroy it so that its evil would be stopped. Oghren pled with Branka to let go of her obsession, but she would not give up what she had paid such a high price to obtain. She then produced a control rod and ordered the golems to kill us all. We fought, and I now understand why the golems were so much in demand. They are nearly indestructible, they do not experience pain, they do not fatigue as we do. If the Maker is kind, I will never have to contend with another one. Oghren was ultimately forced to slay his wife to stop her from killing us all.

Caridin was grateful for our assistance, and offered to grant us a boon. I explained that we had hoped to settle the succession by obtaining a Paragon's support for our candidate. Caridin, a Paragon in his own right, used the Anvil one last time to create a crown that we could bestow upon our choice for king. At his request, I then took up his hammer and, with a single massive blow, shattered the Anvil. He thanked me, wished us well in our endeavors, and then threw himself into a river of lava that ran through the chamber.

We returned to Orzammar with the crown to find that the Assembly was in session and voting on the succession. We raced to the Assembly Chamber and presented the crown to the Speaker. He verified its authenticity and asked to know who was to be chosen king. I stated that Bhelen was to be king, and for good or ill, the deed was done. His first act as king was to order the execution of his rival, Harrowmont, and his second was to publicly swear to uphold the treaty with the Grey Wardens. I pray that I did not err in choosing him. Time will tell.

Before we left Orzammar, I took the scrolls I had found in Ortan Thaig to the girl I mentioned earlier. They were exactly what she needed to re-establish her house and clan, apparently. She was thrilled and was bubbling over with plans for the future when we left. I hope that I have not made her future darker by setting Bhelen on the throne.

We are going back to Redcliffe to find Sten's sword if at all possible, and to check on Arl Eamon and the others at Redcliffe castle. Oghren has joined us. He says there is nothing left for him in Orzammar but bad memories, and he has a wish to see something of the world. I could not bring myself to refuse him. Besides, he has a ribbald sense of humor, and even drunk, he is a warrior to be reckoned with.

I am looking up at the stars as I write this, and wonder if perhaps you are doing the same. It comforts me that even with so much time and distance between us we can yet have this in common. Maker speed the day we meet again. I miss you, brother mine.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

We are at Redcliffe and so much has happened. Wynne collapsed after a skirmish with some darkspawn. She said she was tired and would explain everything when we were settled in camp. When I approached her later that evening, she told me that a benevolent spirit from the Fade is keeping her alive, and that she actually died during the incident at the Circle Tower. I really don't know what to make of this news, but after some careful consideration, I have decided to leave well enough alone. Wynne seems fine, and is still the same person she was when I first came to know her. If a benevolent spirit resides in her, it has not made her an abomination. She is a powerful healing mage, and I am still very pleased to have her with us.

The same evening that I learned of Wynne's condition, Alistair presented me with a preserved rose. He said it reminded him that beauty can still be found amid all the chaos that surrounds us. Then he likened me to the rose. I am sure I must have blushed as deep a red as the flower itself. No man has ever called me beautiful before, and it caught me offguard. I find Alistair to be a beautiful person both inside and out, and I will treasure his gift.

Speaking of gifts, I gave my tokens purchased in Orzammar to the intended recipients, and was very happy with the results. Wynne immediately opened both the wine and the book and settled in for a pleasant evening of reading. Morrigan was quite taken with the silver locket and thanked me very prettily. Leliana gushed over the blue shoes, though I cannot imagine when she will have an opportunity to wear them. Zevran accepted his silver bar with a surprised expression. Like Morrigan, no one had ever just given him a gift before without expecting payment in return. He thanked me for it, and spent the rest of the evening looking very thoughtful. I know Sten was extraordinarily pleased with the picture - a rebel queen mounted in a silver frame - because I actually saw his lips twitch up at the corners. For him, that was an enormous grin! I felt rather badly about not having something to give Oghren, but it turned out that a bottle of ale I had been carrying around for a special occasion was the perfect gift. Alistair was as excited as a child on his birthing day with his statuette. He thanked me with a kiss on the cheek and ran off to show the others his treasure. Even Fidelius got a gift. I got a beef bone from a farmer who had been culling his herd.

I asked Alistair if he would help me with my search for better armor. I didn't want the others in the group to know just how uneducated I am about such things. It is embarrassing to be among warriors, accepted as one of them, but not really knowing all the things a warrior should. Alistair agreed to keep my guilty secret and promised his assistance when we find an armorer with the right sort of goods. The one here in Redcliffe had nothing on hand that will fit me, so I hope to have better luck in Denerim.

We located the collector who had bought Sten's sword, and convinced him to return it to its rightful owner. Sten declared that I am 'ashkaari', which I understand to be some sort of Qunari magician. He cannot fathom how I managed to "find a single lost blade in a country at war". Come to think of it, I guess that is quite an accomplishment! Having his sword back has made a noticeable difference in Sten. He broods less and carries himself with greater assurance. The pain that marked his face has disappeared, and there is a new lightness to his step. I am glad his blade was here waiting for him.

Things are returning to normal in the town, at least as normal as they can be with the Blight looming on the horizon. Many of the ravages from the undead attacks have been repaired, and folks have once again taken up their livelihoods. In the castle, Connor has recovered completely from his "illness" and behaves like any other boy his age. He is a little more subdued than he once was, so I am told, but seems well enough otherwise. Arl Eamon's condition is unchanged. He remains in a coma that no magic or potion has been able to break. Isolde is still convinced that the only hope for him is to be found in the Urn of Andraste's ashes. Eamon had hired a Brother Genitivi of Denerim to look into the location of the Urn before he fell ill. So now we will head for Denerim in hope of finding the Brother and obtaining the Ashes for the Arl.

I admit to being nervous about going to the capital. Loghain and his troops are there, and from what I have heard, Howe is there as well. There is a chance I could be recognized, but I deem it worthwhile to go there in spite of it. We must try to find Brother Genitivi, Alistair wants to meet his sister, and I desperately need new armor. Mine is well and truly worn out. I will write again from Denerim.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

Denerim is every bit as big as I remember it from visiting here with Father when I was a child. Leliana adores the marketplace and the shops, and has dragged Morrigan into every one of them, determined to dress her up and make her look pretty. Morrigan is taking it with far better grace than I thought she would. I suspect she has set her sights on our Sten, and hopes to catch his attention with a bit of self-improvement! She might do better to bake him some cookies. Sten has confessed to a fondness for them.

We located Brother Genitivi's house. There was a fellow there that claimed to be Genitivi's research assistant, Weylon. He seemed very nervous, and tripped over his own words, contradicting himself so that I became suspicious of just what he might be hiding from us. When I confronted him with his inconsistencies, he attacked us. Among Genitivi's papers we found a journal entry that said he was going to an inn near Lake Calenhad. That means that the Spoiled Princess Inn is our next destination, but not until I get some better armor.

Alistair and I scouted out the local armorers, and have found some suitable pieces, but I need to raise a bit more coin before I enter negotiations. I did not know armor was so costly, but Alistair assures me that it is worth the extra expense to buy the better quality pieces we were looking at. I should be able to pick up some work at the Chantry board, and I might check with the city constable to see if there are any tasks I might perform.

We found the house where Alistair's sister lives, and went to meet her. She was nothing like what he had hoped for. At first she thought we were trying to pull a prank on her with Alistair's claim to be her brother. When she accepted that he was serious, she accused him of killing their mother (who died in childbed) and leaving her to survive alone. She screamed that she wanted nothing to do with the high and mighty royal bastard and his tart (that would be me, by the way). In near hysterics she demanded that he support his relatives financially or stay well out of their lives. Alistair was devastated. We left her house and returned to camp. Alistair was very quiet the whole way back.

A little while later, he came to me and thanked me for going there with him. He was in such pain that I didn't know whether to cry for him or go back and thrash that harridan for hurting him so. I settled for telling him the truth, that all of us in the group are his friends, and that I personally care about him. Oh, Fergus, I think I am falling in love with him. My timing couldn't be much worse. We are preparing for civil war and the Blight, the Grey Wardens have been declared traitors, and I still need to mete justice to that traitor Howe. How can I even think about a future beyond the next day or two with all that facing me? Even so, I feel safe when he is near, and his smile brightens my day. I see his face in my dreams (which I must say is a great improvement over the Archdemon!) and I do not like to think of what my life would be like without him. He has not given me cause to think that he feels more than friendship for me. Am I setting myself up for a heartbreak?

Well, I expect that's enough of my guts spilled out for one letter! I will write again as events progress.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

My team is the greatest! They all knew what rough shape my armor was in, and they volunteered to pitch in to raise the necessary coin to buy me some new things. Sure enough, the Chantry board had a couple of paying jobs on it, and half the group took those on while the rest of us did some tasks for the City Watch. None of it was difficult, and we soon had enough for the armor. Alistair went with me to the armorer's shop to make sure they gave me the right pieces and performed the fittings properly. I had to strip down to my smallclothes for the fittings, and I swear Alistair didn't know where to set his eyes. He finally settled for staring somewhere just above my left shoulder, I think. You should have seen him blushing, Fergus. I didn't know there were that many shades of pink!!

On our way to Lake Calenhad, Oghren confessed that there was a young lady of his acquaintance that he hoped to find there. He seemed a little reluctant to go into details, so I pressed a bit for more information. It seems Oghren had been 'involved' with the lass back in Orzammar, and they had not parted on the best of terms. When we arrived at the Spoiled Princess Inn, she was there working as a barmaid. She and Oghren started calling each other all manner of vile names. I was certain that he was out of luck with his attempt to rekindle the old flame, but he assured me that the meeting went very well indeed, and he looks forward to seeing her again when our quest is done. Who can understand dwarves?

We found the trail of Brother Genitivi. It led to a secluded village called Haven somewhere in the southwestern part of Ferelden. We had a time of prying the information out of the barkeep, though. Some toughs had been through and were threatening to harm him and his establishment if he should tell anyone of Brother Genitivi's stay or of the knights from Redcliffe who had come searching for him. We ambushed the toughs, and if any survived, they must have run away tail tucked because we saw no sign of any others around, search though we did. Our next step will be to try to find this town.

I can't hold this to myself any longer, so you are just going to have to put up with some mush, brother mine. Alistair asked to speak with me privately last evening, and confessed to caring about me. And then he kissed me on the lips! My feet have scarce touched the ground all day. I am so happy, Fergus. Is this what love is like? If so, I am definitely in favor of it.

Your (elated) sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

The new armor has been given a thorough testing in the course of our travels. There are a lot of darkspawn roaming around on the surface, and they seem to be forming up into gangs. Some of these are rather large, numbering up to twenty or so of the creatures. We have encountered several such groups, and while we have prevailed, there have been some injuries. Fortunately, none were beyond Wynne's abilities to heal, but if the groups grow much larger, we may be in trouble.

We finally located the village of Haven, but it was not easy. Our tagalong merchant and his son were the ones to put us on the right path. Bohdan and Sandal asked a passing caravan for information and were told of a place far back in the wilderness in the right approximate area. We still might have missed it if not for Fidelius' sharp nose. He sniffed out the spot where the path to the village branched off the main road. We were a goodly way along the path before we smelled smoke from the houses.

The guard at the entrance to Haven was immediately suspicious of our purposes in visiting. He was almost hostile, in fact. In spite of that, he was a very informative fellow. Haven does not welcome outsiders. They are self-sufficient and follow their own traditions. They have a Revered Father, if you can believe it, who preaches to them of Andraste arisen. We were given leave to purchase supplies at the store and told we must then depart.

We had not gone more than a few steps past the guard when Fidelius ran off to a house and started scratching at the door. The door must not have been latched securely because his efforts pushed it open. I popped in to apologize for my dog's unruly manners, but no one was home. However, the house contained an altar covered in blood. The smell must have been what caused Fidelius to behave so oddly. It disturbed the rest of us as well.

We continued on toward the store. It struck us all as odd that there was not a single soul other than the guard anywhere in sight. The storekeeper told us that the whole town was in the Chantry to worship Andraste arisen with Father Eirik. He then demanded that we make our purchases and leave. Leliana went toward the door to his storage room, and he flew into a panic, screaming at her to get away from there. After the bloody altar in the house, we wondered what he might be hiding in the back room, so all of us moved toward it. The storekeeper produced a club and came at us, and we were forced to knock him unconscious. Upon entering the room we discovered the corpse of a knight in Redcliffe livery. He had nearly been decapitated, and we now knew where the blood on the altar came from. We tied up the merchant and gagged him so that he could not give the alarm, and headed up the steep hill behind the town to the Chantry.

The entire population of Haven probably was in there, and when we entered in the middle of the service, the women and children made short work of getting out. Father Eirik and the men of the village confronted us, demanding to know why we were disrupting their worship. I told him of the things we had found in the house and the store, and asked if they had done the same to Brother Genitivi. A couple of the men glanced over at what looked like a blank wall, making me suspect that it might possess a hidden door. When I started to move in that direction, the priest called upon the townsmen to kill us. We defended ourselves and offered quarter, but they fought like folk possessed and we were forced to butcher the lot of them.

Behind the hidden portal we found Brother Genitivi, injured but alive. He told us that Andraste's ashes were to be found in an ancient temple at the rear of the tall hill, but that a special key was required to enter it. We searched Father Eirik's body and found the amulet that Genitivi said was the key. After binding his wounds, he asked to accompany us to the temple. It was as well that he did, for the amulet needed to be manipulated in some fashion to turn it into the key, and the good Brother knew the way of it.

The building we entered was immense, with buttresses and arches. The windows were gone and the floor was covered in snowdrifts and ice formations. Even so, it was an awesome sight. Brother Genitivi was immediately drawn by the statues and bas-reliefs on and around the walls. He asked if we would go on without him to find the Urn. His injuries would only slow us down and he needed to study the history shown in the carvings. We judged it safe enough to leave him there. All the men of the town were accounted for and there was no reason to believe he would be in any danger.

The temple had long halls driving back into and up the mountain behind it. These led in turn to stone tunnels and caverns where we encountered infant and juvenile drakes. They were quick to attack us and were no easy task to take down. We collected all the drake scales we could find. They make fine fire resistant armor, so I'm told. The tunnels finally ended in a large chamber where yet another Revered Father was waiting. He claimed that we had defiled the temple and slaughtered the young. By this I understood him to mean the immature dragons. He ranted at us, screaming that Andraste arisen would see to it that we were punished for our misdeeds, and became increasingly incoherent until at last he ordered the cult followers attending him to attack us. They may have been good followers, but they were very poor fighters. We exited through a cave mouth at the far side of the cavern from where we had entered.

This was when I beheld an adult high dragon (Andraste arisen, I presume) from far closer up than I ever hope to see one again. It was guarding the open area between the cave mouth and the entrance to yet another ancient structure. When it noticed us crossing the open space, it attacked with claws, teeth, tail, and wings as well as gouts of flame. We spread out in a circle around it and used arrows to slay the beast, as it would have been plain suicide to attack it directly. I again collected what scales I could pry loose. Perhaps they will make good armor as well.

The ancient structure revealed itself to be another temple, and looked to me to be even older than the one we had already passed through. In a chamber there we met a spirit who called himself the Gatekeeper and claimed to have been among the original disciples who returned Andraste's ashes to Ferelden. He told us that he will continue to stand vigil over the Urn until the Tevinter Imperium no longer exists. We were required to prove our worthiness to approach the Ashes by passing through a gauntlet of four tests.

The first test was a series of riddles. It was fairly simple to solve them, having been raised in the faith of the Chantry. The second test was more unsettling. I spoke with Father's spirit, Fergus. He told me to let go of my guilt for leaving Mother and him behind, and to continue on in the path the Maker has set before me. He said that he is proud of us both. Then he disappeared. I wanted nothing more than to sit down and weep, but instead went on to the next test. We entered a large empty room and when we were about halfway across it a spirit version of each member of our party appeared and attacked us. We were forced to defeat them to stop the attacks. It is truly unnerving to fight yourself in spirit form, and even more so to see your spirit self dead on the floor by your own hand!

After that bizarre episode we entered a vast chamber with an altar just inside the door, and beyond the altar was a wall of flames. I do not know how the flames were fed as there was no sign of fuel for them to consume. Nonetheless, they were real as we could feel the searing heat of them on our faces. There was an inscription on the altar that made it clear that one must pass through the purifying flames to approach Andraste's ashes. I cannot say why I felt it would be wrong to approach the fire clad in armor, but I went with my hunch and stripped down to my smallclothes. The most amazing sensation of soul-deep peace settled over me and I walked through the flames as if they did not exist. The Gatekeeper met me on the other side of the barrier fire to say that I had proven myself worthy to approach Andraste's ashes and that I was permitted to take a small pinch of them. I got dressed again and climbed up a long staircase to a high platform where the Urn rested at the foot of a likeness of Andraste. Alistair had also approached the shrine and was standing beside me. That peacefulness was still upon us and it seemed like Andraste was smiling for us. I have no idea how long I stood there transfixed but finally I took the pinch of ashes and placed them in a leather pouch.

We exited the ancient temple that housed the Urn and returned to where we had left Brother Genitivi. He was very excited by our adventure and by the things he had found in the chamber he had examined. He chattered the whole way down the hillside and out to the main road away from Haven. Today we found a merchant bound for Denerim that was willing to take him as a passenger, and sent him on his way.

We encamped last night a little back from the main road. I was still deeply affected by the experience of finding the Urn and I guess Alistair was too. We both sat up by the fire until all but the sentry on watch were sleeping. At last, he moved close beside me and confirmed his love for me. He told me that the trials and combat we had endured on our way to the Ashes had made him see how precious I was to him, and made him realize just how mortal we truly are. He asked me to share his life for as long as we both live, and he offered to seal our bond in the most personal way possible. Lest you think the worst of him, understand that he was raised in the Chantry with a strict moral code. It had been agreed between us that no physical contact would happen outside the bonds of matrimony. For him to offer to share my bed was a sincere pledge not lightly made. I have no regrets about the choices we made. I love him. He makes me whole. For whatever time the Maker sees fit to grant us, I am his.

Be happy for me, Fergus, and pray for me.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

News travels faster than the wind when you live in a very small group. Before breakfast of the day after Alistair and I became a couple, everyone in camp knew of it, and we took a lot of good-natured ribbing about it. Leliana, Zevran and Oghren seemed genuinely pleased for us. Morrigan and Wynne were more restrained but seemed willing to accept the change in our relationship. Sten kept his own counsel, as usual. If it doesn't affect the chances of success for our quest, it doesn't matter to him as far as I can tell.

We arrived in Redcliffe yesterday and went straight to the keep. Bann Teagan was very glad to see us, and even more so when I told him we had the ashes. No time was wasted in going to Eamon's bedchamber and having a priestess and a mage apply the ashes to him. Eamon awoke weak but clearheaded, and after reassuring himself that his family was well, wanted to be brought up to date with events. As you can imagine, that process took some time. When it was done, he started planning our next steps.

Eamon feels that our best option to avert civil war is to call a Landsmeet, there to challenge Loghain for the right to the throne of Ferelden. Anora, Loghain's daughter, was Cailan's queen but has no royal blood, and Loghain himself has even less of a claim. Eamon ruled himself out of the succession because he was Cailan's uncle and so has no better blood claim than Loghain. He means to put Alistair forward as Cailan's successor since he carries the Theirin bloodline even though he is Maric's unacknowledged bastard son.

Alistair is less than pleased at the prospect. He has spent his life hating his royal blood because of the grief it has caused him. He feels totally unprepared to be king, and wants most of all to be what he is, namely a Grey Warden defending the land against darkspawn. I am waiting for him to realize what it means for us as well. If he is to be king, he will be expected to marry and produce an heir. The best choice for engendering peace, stability and offspring is Anora. I will not hold him to our pledge if freeing him can bring peace to the kingdom, but the prospect of letting him go is more painful than I care to think about yet.

We will be returning to Denerim tomorrow morning. I freely admit that I would rather face the darkspawn horde than the political intrigues of the capital. At least when fighting darkspawn, it is easy to identify the enemy. On the bright side, Eamon's keep has private rooms, soft beds, and hot baths! I wonder if Alistair might be willing to scrub my back? I will write again after we reach Denerim.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

Denerim is in turmoil, what with refugees flooding in from all over Ferelden, nobility arriving for the Landsmeet, and Howe's forces everywhere to "maintain order". Did you know that Howe was named Arl of Denerim after Urien's death and his son's disappearance? It seems that playing the traitor pays very well these days.

Loghain himself met us at the gates to Arl Eamon's estate in the city. He had Howe with him. He accused Eamon of dividing the country with the call for the Landsmeet. He seems supremely confident that he will keep control of the throne. He chided Eamon for picking up strays, meaning Alistair and myself as the only remaining Grey Wardens, and threatened to have us arrested as traitors to the Crown. He meant to make us angry and put us ill at ease, but Eamon is an old hand at these tricks and kept the rest of us (read that to mean me) from doing or saying anything too stupid. The jockeying for position has begun, and drawing steel on Howe at that moment would not have helped our cause.

We were sent out to find some of the nobles to get a feel for where their loyalties lie. It seems to favor Loghain at the moment. He is a proven general and his daughter is recognized as a capable administrator for the kingdom, despite her lack of royal blood. Alistair is an unknown quantity to them. He has the right blood but they have no history by which to judge his worthiness to rule. Strangely enough, Loghain has done us one big favor. He admitted that Alistair is, in fact, Maric's son. No one questions Alistair's parentage as a result, and that is the one major factor in his favor.

When we returned to Eamon's estate, we were surprised to find Anora's Orlesian lady in waiting in conference with the Arl. She was apparently sent by her mistress to beg our help. Erlina said that Anora is being held prisoner by Howe, and that she fears for her life. Howe was overheard by one of the servants to say that Anora was a better ally dead than alive, especially if her murder could be pinned on Eamon or Alistair. Erlina returned to Howe's estate to await our arrival. She said she could get us into the keep unnoticed and went to make arrangements to that end. Eamon felt very strongly that we had to try to rescue Anora, and I agreed that it seemed the best course. If nothing else, it is better to have her where we can know what she's up to than to have her actively showing support for her father.

As a result I found myself at the gates of the Arl of Denerim's estate, along with Alistair, Zevran and Leliana. Erlina took us around to a servant's entrance and distracted the guard long enough for us to enter. She had house armor on hand for us to wear so as to reduce suspicions as we passed through the keep. We made it to Anora's quarters with very little trouble, but that was where our good fortune came to an abrupt stop. Howe had had one of his mages seal the door magically, and the only way to break the spell was to either coerce or kill the mage that set it. Erlina stayed by her mistress' door while we went in search of Howe and his mages. You can imagine that I was more than willing to look for Howe!

I know that Highever had a couple of holding cells in the lowest levels of the keep, but you should see what the Arl of Denerim has, Fergus! It is beyond belief. While I would love to ascribe every evil thing there to Howe, there is simply no way he had sufficient time to make extensive modifications to the dungeons. That is not to say that Howe was loath to make use of the facilities provided. There are torture chambers complete with chains, beds of nails, racks, and other such implements. There are cells and cages too small to permit either standing up or lying down. There are rooms that have been dedicated to the skinning of corpses, and other less savory activities. The smell was beyond description.

The first prisoner we came upon was a fellow Grey Warden named Riordan. He told us he saw Howe going past his cell, deeper into the dungeons. He declined to join us due to weakness and injuries resulting from the tender care of Howe's torturers. We sent him back the way we had come and advised him to go directly to Arl Eamon.

Just a few rooms further down we came upon a poor soul stretched out on a rack. His legs had been nearly pulled out of every joint, and his arms as well. He said he was Oswyn, son of Bann Sighard of the Dragon's Peak Bannorn. We got him loose and aided him to stand. I thought he might want to wait while we finished our business with Howe so that we could help him leave, but he was frantic to get out of there. I can't say that I blamed him at all. He managed to move under his own power, if slowly, so we sent him after Riordan.

The next of Howe's "guests" was a chap named Rexel. I recalled that someone had posted a notice on the Chantry board looking for him. He was far gone with darkspawn sickness, but from his babbling I gathered that he had been at Ostagar, had been captured, had been forced to eat darkspawn flesh, and then left to rot in the cell where we found him.

We continued along to the next occupied cell, where we found a Templar by the name of Irminric. Alistair said that the man was suffering from lyrium withdrawal. All I know is that he was barely coherent. He was able to give us his name and tell us that he had been hunting an apostate when Loghain's men took him prisoner and brought him to this place. He pleaded with me to give his sister, Alfstanna, his ring and to ask her to pray for him. We left him in the cell, praying and weeping. He showed no inclination to leave, and we had business with Howe that was becoming more and more urgent with every prisoner we found.

The next poor sot was not actually Howe's doing. We came upon an elf who had been imprisoned by Urien's son, Vaughn. His story was horrific as well. On his wedding day, Vaughn had come in to the Alienage and demanded nuptial rights of the bride. When Soris tried to protect his wife-to-be, he was knocked unconscious and left in the dungeon to rot. He had been there so long, in fact, that he knew nothing of Urien's or Maric's deaths. We set him upon the path that Riordan had taken to leave the keep.

It seemed almost to be justice that in the next level of the dungeon we came upon Vaughn himself. Howe wanted no competition for the title of Arl of Denerim and so had the heir locked up. From what Vaughn said, it was a repeat performance of what happened at Highever. Howe's men came in to fortify the garrison and next thing you know, Howe had taken over the whole place. Given the story the elf prisoner had told us, Zevran wanted to put Vaughn out of the elves' misery. I admit I was very tempted to leave Vaughn in the cell, but releasing him in exchange for his vote in the Landsmeet was more useful than indulging in senseless retribution. He promised his support against Loghain most willingly, and I wrested from him a personal vow to stay out of the Alienage. I can do nothing to protect the elven folk in his service, but perhaps his word of honor will keep him away from their homes and families.

We continued investigating the labrynth of dungeons until at last we came upon Howe and his mages. He bragged about his elevation to Arl of Amaranthine, Highever and Denerim. He gloated over the influence he has with Loghain. He took great satisfaction in the demise of the Grey Wardens. In short, Fergus, he made me sick with his lust for power. I was overjoyed when he ordered his mages and armsmen to attack us, and I made it my personal business to engage Howe in combat. I am pleased to inform you that he is dead by my hand, my brother. Our family is avenged and our honor restored. Highever is once again held by the Cousland family.

Howe's mages died in that fight as well, so we made our way up out of the dungeons to return to Anora's chamber door. It was free of spells and opened readily. Anora had clad herself in house armor by way of a disguise and we made to leave through the servant's exit. To get to it, though, we had to pass through the entry foyer, which was full of Loghain's troops led by his Captain of the Guard, Ser Cauthrian. She ordered us to surrender for the murder of Rendon Howe. I refused. During the melee that ensued, Anora slipped away. We were hard pressed, as we were substantially outnumbered and these were some of Loghain's best troops, but in the end we prevailed. I was extremely proud of my people for how well they performed. Head on combat is not the greatest strength of either Zevran or Leliana, yet they fought well and skillfully, and committed themselves to the fray with no sign of fear. Alistair was amazing, using both shield and sword as weapons and overpowering everyone who dared come into his range.

We returned to Arl Eamon's estate a good bit the worse for wear, though. All of us were sporting injuries and damaged armor. Thank the Maker for Wynne and her healing magics! She assures me that the cut on my cheek will not scar, and Leliana's left arm will be strong again with just a few days rest. Eamon's armory was opened to us to make repairs on our gear, and his smith will take the dents out of Alistair's breastplate in good time for our next adventure into the city.

Alistair and I cleaned ourselves up and reported to Eamon's study. There we found Eamon, Anora and Riordan awaiting us. Anora wants us to support her claim to the throne at the Landsmeet. She believes that she is the best choice and I must admit that she does have some compelling arguments. She has been making the decisions and running the country for the last five years. She is very well educated and she is loved by the general population. There would be no interruption in the flow of government should she stay on as queen. She told Eamon that we would be seen as supporting the daughter of our enemy, proving that we are concerned with doing what is best for Ferelden rather than with fulfilling some private agenda to garner power for ourselves or the Grey Wardens.

In private conference, after Anora returned to her quarters, Alistair made it crystal clear that he thinks Anora has been doing a fine job as queen and he is quite happy to let her continue in that role. He does not want the throne, has never wanted the throne, and feels utterly and completely unprepared to become king. Eamon still insisted that Alistair must take power as the last scion of the Theirin line. The Arl maintained that the nobility have followed Calenhad's descendants for the last 400 years, and to accept one not of the blood to rule the country is to invite anarchy as the Bannorn breaks up into independent city states once more.

It was almost inevitable that the idea of Alistair marrying Anora would come up. After all, it would be the ideal solution to provide both the Theirin bloodline and the stability of known rulership should they wed and rule jointly. I had thought Alistair looked ill at the thought of taking the crown. He looked just about as ghastly as I felt when the possibility of marriage to Anora was raised. What made it even worse was that Eamon endorsed the idea and asked me to broach the subject with Anora. If only he had known what he was asking of me!

Like a felon walking to her own hanging, I went to Anora's chamber and put the suggestion of joint rule before her. She was not pleased at the idea. She had truly loved her husband, Cailan, and Alistair strongly resembles his brother. She said it would be unsettling to see her dead husband's features when she looked at her new husband. She also expressed concern that Alistair might try to rule, taking power into his own hands when he is manifestly unsuited to the task. She finally decided that she could accept a political marriage for the purpose of maintaining peace and uniting the country, so long as Alistair is willing to accept that she will be the one ruling.

So here I am, hiding in my chamber, writing my miseries out to you so that I can delay facing them in real life. I feel hollow and fragile, like the least touch will shatter me. I cannot face Alistair, knowing what I have done will cause him pain. I cannot face myself, knowing how I have betrayed my own heart. Poor Fidelius is distraught. He knows I am upset and tries to comfort me, but there is no comfort to be found while this task hangs over me. I have to go back to Eamon's council in the morning and tell them that Anora has agreed.

Maker help me get through this night.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

The deed is done. Alistair sought me out last night, needing to know Anora's response before he could rest. We spent the balance of the night making our farewells to each other. Once the betrothal to Anora was announced at this morning's council meeting, our feelings no longer mattered. Alistair's conscience will not permit any further intimacies, nor will mine. He is now promised to another and it is not my place to come between them.

Anora offered a suggestion regarding where we might find some evidence against her father. She suspects he has had a hand in stirring up unrest in the Alienage and recommended that we investigate events there. I took Zevran, Sten and Morrigan with me. We arrived there to find most of the residents queued up in front of the infirmary awaiting a chance to have a Tevinter mage cast a protection spell upon them to ward off some sort of plague. I happened upon Soris, the elf we had freed from Howe's dungeons, who introduced us to his cousin, Shianni. She said that the mages were taking healthy people into the infirmary, and almost everyone who went in did not return. The mages told everyone that the missing people were plague victims. Shianni did not believe them, but could not get inside the infirmary to discover the truth.

We bribed the guard on the back door of the building and entered quietly. Other than a few guards, who flew at us as soon as we were noticed, the entire infirmary was empty. There was a desk in the far corner of the room with papers and gold sovereigns scattered over its surface. A brief search turned up a letter requesting that the next 'shipment' consist of six males and eight females. A door on the far side of the infirmary led into what was probably intended as a storeroom originally. When we entered it we found a handful of elves in cages. These we released to return to their kin. We exited out the back of the infirmary and went to the only other door in sight.

This let into the rear of an apartment building. The whole place stank of sickness and desperation. I tried to talk to one of the residents, but he was terrified that he would be the next one taken captive if he said anything. He admitted to seeing people being taken through the halls in chains, but then he refused to say anything more. He just stared at the wall in front of him as if it were his only hope of salvation.

We followed the hallway to yet another door opening onto yet another alley. There were guards in Tevinter style armor who challenged us when we appeared, then realized we were not Tevinter ourselves and attacked us. Their fighting style is somewhat different from any I had seen before, but they were overcome after a brief struggle. At the other end of the alley we entered a warehouse and began exploring it. We encountered more guards, including the one we had bribed at the infirmary. None of them seemed happy to see us and none of them survived the introductions. At last we came to a large chamber where the head slaver (for that is what they were) was supervising the loading of several cages full of elves onto sleds for transfer onto a barge on the River Drakon.

He tried to bribe us with promises of proof that Loghain was neck deep in the slave trade, and when that failed, with an offer to cast on us all a blood magic spell to boost both health and constitution. I countered with an offer to let the elves decide upon a suitable punishment which I would then allow them to administer. The slaver did not care for my offer, so we fought. Tevinter battle magic is nasty stuff, and there were a few tense moments where the outcome of the battle hung in the balance. Morrigan let loose all restraints and fought her foe with all her skill and cunning, and finally found the chink in his magical 'armor'. Once the head slaver was down, the rest of the troops fell to our blades with little more difficulty. We searched their bodies and found contracts, signed in Loghain's own hand, selling elven folk into slavery in return for Tevinter gold, weapons, and magical assistance. Again, we released the elves being held prisoner.

When we returned to the square in front of the infirmary, it was to discover that the Tevinter mages were nowhere to be found. Whether they fled when they realized the deal had fallen apart, or whether the elven folk had set upon them when those we freed made known what had befallen them, I do not know, or particularly care. Shianni was the only one still waiting in the square. She thanked us for our efforts on behalf of their community.

There was a Templar standing off to one side of the square, and this was enough to raise my curiosity. I would have thought that the Tevinter mages casting spells not sanctioned by the Chantry should have brought a whole unit of Templars, not just one. I went over to him to tell him that the mages were gone. When I neared him, however, I noticed that his eyes were covered with a white film that left him blind for all reasonable uses. I asked if he required aid. He replied that he would be most pleased to have some assistance. His task was to investigate complaints of maleficars in the Alienage, and he asked that we look around for anything that seemed out of place or abnormal.

We spread out, not really knowing what we sought, but finding it nonetheless. There was a pool of blood that smelled of rotten eggs, a rabid dog's body putrifying in the street, a poor wench who seemed to have lost her mind, and a feral dog that no one seemed to take much notice of though it barked most viciously. When we told the Templar, Ser Otto, of our findings, he insisted upon going to the building nearest to where the signs were all found. There had been a riot in the Alienage some days before, and the Orphanage had been attacked, with near total fatalities. This was the building Ser Otto proposed to enter in search of the 'sense of wrongness' that pervaded the area.

Our party helped him investigate the place, and we found several demons of various types. These we dispatched back into the Fade. There were also spirits of some of the murdered residents, kept there by the demons, according to Ser Otto. For a man who was all but blind he was a remarkably gifted fighter. He must have been a terror when he had his eyes. We were almost through the building when a very strong rage demon materialized behind Ser Otto and ran him through with a pitchfork. I think I came as close as I ever want to be to going Berserker at that moment. I felt nothing but outrage at the unkindness of fate that allowed that man to survive so much, only to be slaughtered from behind, and I threw myself at the demon in total fury. Time seemed to slow and I could see what moves the demon would make before it could make them. I skewered it on my blade and sent it screaming back into the Fade. My only regret was that I couldn't repeat the process as many times as necessary to feel that Ser Otto had been properly avenged.

After combing the rest of the building to ensure all the demons were gone, we returned to Arl Eamon's estate. He was both disgusted and pleased that we had proof of Loghain's participation in the slave trade, and hoped that it might be enough to turn the tide in our favor. The Landsmeet is set for tomorrow afternoon. It has been decided that Wynne, Sten and I will accompany Alistair. Wynne is able to speak for the Mages' Circle, I can vouch for the findings in the Alienage, and anyone who considers attacking us is likely to think twice with Sten acting as bodyguard.

Wish me luck and the Maker's blessing, big brother. This is the turning point where I find out if all my efforts have been for nothing, or if the Maker smiles on what I have done. If Loghain wins the day I expect it will be my last upon this world.

Always know that I love you, Fergus.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

Maker's breath, where to begin? I am almost afraid I will awaken and find it was all a dream. I can still scarcely believe what happened even though I witnessed it myself. Oh, Fergus, my fondest wish has been granted, and I am ecstatic!

Arl Eamon went ahead to the Council Chamber at the palace in the morning to make sure all was in readiness for the Landsmeet. My people met to break our fasts together, and never had our gathering been quite so quiet. Morrigan was distinctly uncomfortable, being an apostate mage in the middle of a city full of Templars and Chantry priests ranting against magic. Oghren had discovered the ale barrels in Eamon's cellar and spent the previous night trying his best to empty them, so that by morning he was not feeling very well. I suspect Zevran had a busy night entertaining any number of the estate's elven staff. At any rate, he looked satisfied if exhausted. Wynne elected to stay abed late, making the most of the comforts of civilized living before the war against the Blight takes her back into the field. Sten was his usual taciturn self. Alistair and I were both sunk in our own thoughts and could not bear to look at each other, on my part for fear of losing what composure I had managed find.

As the noon hour approached those of us designated to attend the Landsmeet prepared ourselves to face the assembled nobility of Ferelden. I suspect our procession must have looked to observers as though Alistair and I were marching to our own executions. Wynne walked beside me and was, I think, attempting to raise my spirits by reminding me that I come of one of the noblest bloodlines in the land. She said I should hold my head up proudly and face the Landsmeet without fear. Her words stayed in my mind, and were at least partly responsible for some of what followed.

When we entered the Council Chamber, Eamon and Loghain were already fencing with words. Loghain took our entrance as an excuse to accuse the Grey Wardens of selling out Ferelden to the Orlesian branch of the Order. I told him that Orlais was not the issue but the Blight most certainly was. A number of the nobles approved of my words, but that did not slow Loghain. He stated that Eamon and his supporters were dividing the country at a time when unity was most needed. I asked him if he believed that selling Ferelden citizens into slavery was contributing to national unity. I then challenged him to prove that poisoning Eamon was done to advance the cause of unity. Lady Alfstanna was able to provide witness to the truth of the accusation, having taken her brother, the Templar Irminric, out of Howe's dungeons and hearing the story from him first hand. The Revered Mother was not pleased to learn that Loghain had interfered with a Templar in the pursuit of his duties.

Then Loghain tried to accuse the Grey Wardens of kidnapping his daughter, Anora. I will give the lady this much - she knows how to make an entrance. It was as these words came from Loghain's mouth that she appeared and calmly told all assembled there that she could speak for herself, that she would not be alive but for the rescue the Grey Wardens had given her. She stated baldly that the man who stood before the Landsmeet was no longer the hero of River Dane and that her father had gone mad for power. She urged the nobles to stop his attempt to usurp the throne from their rightful queen. Someone, I am unsure who, called for the Landsmeet to vote.

Oh, Fergus, it did my heart good to hear the voices calling out in support of the Grey Wardens! One after another the Arls and Banns pledged their support to us, to Eamon and to Alistair. There was only one or two who stubbornly stayed behind Loghain. When the voting was done, I bade Loghain to accept the decision of the Landsmeet. He refused and challenged me or my champion to a duel. I was only too happy to accept. The terms of the duel were a fight to the yield, and I fought Loghain to a standstill. He is not a young man any more, and my speed and stamina were more than he could match.

I asked the Landsmeet to sentence Loghain for the crimes he had committed. The sentence of death was passed upon him, and I carried out the execution on the spot. Anora witnessed it, and while she seemed shaken, she was not as disturbed as I had thought she would be.

Eamon announced that, in keeping with the decision of the Landsmeet, Alistair was declared king. Alistair, who has never made any secret of not wanting the throne, blurted out an objection, saying that 'no such thing had been decided, had it?' Anora leapt upon his words, insisting that he had refused the throne and that she was queen once again. The whole Landsmeet threatened to degenerate into a shouting match, when Eamon turned to me and requested that I make the final determination between the two. I took a moment to speak privately with Anora. I asked her if she was still willing to take Alistair as her king, and she made it clear that if he was the price tag on the crown, she was willing to accept him. Then I spoke to Alistair. I asked him if he was prepared to take the throne. He looked uncomfortable but agreed that if Ferelden needed him on the throne he was willing to do it. Then I asked him if he wanted to marry Anora. The pain in his eyes gave me all the answer I needed.

That was when Wynne's words came back to me, Fergus. I realized that she was absolutely right. My pedigree was as good as or better than anyone in that chamber, and there could be no doubt that I would be a far better partner for Alistair than Anora could ever be. I might not have her years of experience, but I was trained to run an Arling. A kingdom was not that much bigger a stretch. I declared to the Landsmeet that Alistair would be king and that I would rule by his side as his queen. The whole chamber erupted in cheers. Alistair wore a look of total disbelief followed shortly by a crooked grin. He didn't want the throne, but it seems the side benefits made the job worthwhile after all!

As you can well imagine, Anora was not pleased by this turn of events. Eamon rounded on her, demanding that she renounce her claim to the throne and swear an oath of fealty to the new king. She flatly refused. Alistair ordered her arrested and held in Fort Drakon for safekeeping until we can decide what to do with her.

He then ordered the nobles to prepare for the battle against the Blight. Troops are massing at Redcliffe, as that is where our scouts have reported seeing the largest concentrations of darkspawn. There are some administrative details that we must take care of before we leave Denerim, but then we will be returning to Redcliffe as well. It is such a relief to know that civil war will no longer hamper our efforts to defeat the Blight! Ferelden is truly united once again, and Alistair and I are back together. All we have to do now is survive the coming battles and we can get on with the happily-ever-after part of our story. I half expect to see you in the marketplace crowds here, Fergus. It would not surprise me much because nothing seems impossible for us right now!

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

Affairs in Denerim are taking longer than I had hoped. Thank the Maker for Eamon! He took many of the details of the change in monarchy off our heads, and made sure that the country would continue to run as smoothly as possible while we are away fighting the Blight. Alistair still looks a little overwhelmed by his change in status, but is adjusting rapidly. Zevran accompanies him as a bodyguard when he leaves the estate, but Alistair has never been one to stand on ceremony and is as pleased to speak with housewives and merchants as with nobles and government officials. The populace of the city adore him for it.

Riordan, the Grey Warden we freed from Howe's dungeon, mentioned that there was a cache of supplies hidden in Denerim against need. He told me how to find it and gave me leave to take whatever I could use from it. I explored the contents, and found one item in particular of great interest. There was a shield there with Duncan's crest on the face. You recall that Duncan was the one who recruited both Alistair and me into the Grey Wardens, right? And that he was the closest thing to a father that Alistair had ever known? One of the things that Alistair regretted most was that he had no token to remember Duncan by. When I saw the shield, I knew it was exactly the sort of thing Alistair wanted. When I gave it to him, he nearly wept for joy. Maybe Sten was right. Maybe I do have some kind of talent for finding lost items.

I didn't mention this in any of my earlier letters, but Leliana told me of her past and her reason for coming to Ferelden. It seems her Bard master was involved in treason against Orlais, and when Leliana confronted her, Marjolaine framed Leliana and turned her over to the Guard. She was tortured to make her confess to her crimes, but managed to escape. Leliana fled to Ferelden and took refuge in the Chantry at Lothering. I mention this now because we learned that Marjolaine was in Denerim. It was not her intent to renew old acquaintances however. She had us ambushed, and one of the assassins she sent told us where we might find her.

We went to the house described by the failed assassin, and found Marjolaine and some of her minions. The Bard master tried to convince Leliana that once you have been a bard you can never be anything else. Nonsense! Leliana is not the person she was when she lived in Orlais. She has chosen to change herself for the better. When Leliana refused to become Marjolaine's puppet again, the Orlesian ordered her followers to kill us all. They were unsuccessful, but Marjolaine managed to hurt Leliana anyway. Leliana now doubts herself and her motives. She is afraid that she is becoming the same sort of cold blooded monster her mentor was because she felt glad that Marjolaine was dead. I told her that there is a difference between relief that a threat has been removed and joy over the death of another person. I can only hope that time and meditation will help her deal with this conflict.

In conversation with Wynne about the whole Marjolaine affair, I discovered that our healing mage has harbored one great regret in her long and colorful life. The first apprentice she ever mentored was a young elven lad named Aneirin. As hard as it is for me to believe it now, Wynne insists that she was a harsh and unforgiving taskmistress to this boy - that she failed to have patience with him and did not give him the time he needed to develop trust in her and the Circle. She still holds herself responsible for him running away from the Circle Tower and his subsequent death at the hands of the Templars who hunted him down. She was not even able to find out if his death had been quick and merciful. She mentioned that he had spoken of wanting to join the Dalish. We will be passing by the Brecilian Forest on our way from Denerim to Redcliffe. I think I will make a brief side trip to the clan we helped out before and see if they know anything about this Aneirin. It would be good to put Wynne's mind at ease.

Do you recall me mentioning in an earlier letter that I had collected some drake and dragon scales? I took them to a master armorer here in Denerim to see if anything might be made from them. He had dreamed his whole life of working with such materials, and here I was asking if they were useful! I thought the poor man was going to have a heart attack before my very eyes! He was so thrilled that he offered to make the armor for free if I would just let him do it. I refused - I insisted on paying him something for his efforts. The armor should be ready before we leave for Redcliffe, and I must admit I'm anxious to see what it will be like.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

The new armor is amazing! The armorer had enough materials to make two sets of drakescale armor and one set of dragonbone plate armor. All of the suits are incredibly lightweight and flexible, and offer innate fire resistance unequalled in any other armor any of my group has ever seen. I took one of the drakescale sets for myself and gave the other to Leliana. The heavy armor went to Alistair, as it was too small for Sten and too large for Oghren. I hope that one day soon I will be able to show off this remarkable suit to you in person. Perhaps we will meet during the battle here at Redcliffe.

We had a very eventful trip here. Wynne, Zevran and I visited with the Dalish at the encampment we had helped with the werewolf problem. They were packing up to join the other clans in the battle against the Blight, but took time to make us feel most welcome. I asked if they knew anything of an elf named Aneirin. I was gratified to find that they did, in fact, know him. He is one of their healers. He spends most of his time in the forest as that is where he feels most at home. They told us the part of the forest he was most likely to be found in, and we went off in search of him. We found him without difficulty, and he and Wynne made peace with each other. It has taken a heavy weight off her heart, Wynne says, to know that her mistakes caused him no lasting harm and that he is alive, well, and happy in his life. We rejoined the column that night.

The next day saw us off on another side trip. The trail to Flemeth's hut branches off the road near the ruins of what used to be Lothering. Mindful of my promise to Morrigan to bring Flemeth's unnatural life to an end, I took Leliana, Alistair and Zevran with me. Two factors dictated my choice of companions for this task. First, Leliana and Zevran are by far the best archers in my group, and second, Alistair, Leliana and yours truly have the lovely new fire resistant armor. At any rate, we took a detour to Flemeth's cottage.

She was waiting for us and already knew our purpose in coming. We wasted little time establishing that I was not willing to leave her alive to take over Morrigan's body at her leisure, and the battle was on. Flemeth transformed into a dragon complete with all of a dragon's weapons, including fiery breath. We shot arrows into her from a distance as long as we could, and then braced her with cold steel. It was a long and difficult battle, but at last we defeated her. We took her true grimoire from her hut and gave it to Morrigan as proof of Flemeth's demise. Morrigan believes that her mother may still exist as a disembodied spirit who may yet try to usurp her daughter as a vessel, but is content that it will be many years before Flemeth can recover enough to make the attempt. What a frightening thought!

Again, we caught up with the column after dark, and stayed with it the rest of the way to Redcliffe. We arrived to find that Riordan got there just ahead of us. He has called for a strategy meeting as soon as we have washed off the road dust. I will write again later to say what comes next.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

Riordan's news was not good. The Archdemon has shown itself and is leading the horde toward Denerim. All of our scouting reports had put the bulk of the horde near Redcliffe, so this is where we massed our troop strength. To discover that the reports had mistaken the concentration of darkspawn strength was alarming, and to find that the Archdemon was leading the advance on Denerim means that this is the main push. Denerim is a good two days away at a forced march. I have serious misgivings about the ability of the city's militia to hold the horde off for very long. We cannot leave here before morning and hope to have sufficient strength to affect the outcome, as troops are still arriving from Orzammar, the Mages' Circle and the Dalish. As soon as the army is ready to march we will be leaving for Denerim at our best speed, but I am afraid we will be too late.

Riordan had another piece of information that affected Alistair and me more directly. He asked us to meet with him in his chamber before retiring, where he told us why Grey Wardens are the only ones who can kill the Archdemon. The spirit of the archdemon is able to pass from one tainted vessel to another. Darkspawn have no souls, so the spirit of the archdemon can move freely from one to another of them should its current vessel die. However, if slain by the hand of a Grey Warden, one who by definition bears the taint, the spirit of the archdemon passes into the body of the Warden. The Warden, who possesses a soul of his own, then defeats the spirit of the archdemon, denying it a new vessel, and slaying it permanently. The catch to this is that the death of the archdemon causes the death of the Grey Warden. So whichever one of we three kills the Archdemon will also die. Riordan has asked that he be the one to strike the killing blow if at all possible, but failing that, it falls to Alistair or me to finish it.

With that cheery bit of news to help me drift into slumber, I returned to my chamber. Morrigan was waiting inside for my return. She told me that Flemeth had recorded some very old magic in her grimoire, and if followed, it would result in the death of the archdemon without any Grey Wardens perishing. All it would require was for Alistair to lay with her, begetting a child bearing the taint. At the moment of its death, the archdemon's essence would fly to the child as to a beacon. Because the babe would be so young it could adapt to the spirit entering its body without harm. What would result would be a child bearing the soul of an old god. Her price for this reprieve is to have the child completely to herself. She will leave and no one must follow her or seek her out later on. She asked me to convince Alistair to go along with this.

I struggled with it. How could I ask such a thing of the man I love when I know his morals forbid it? I also know how little he likes Morrigan - they have never done more than tolerate each other. And what of the child? Alistair loves children, and fears that he will be unable to have any of his own because of the taint. To know that he fathered a child that he will never see would be very hard for him. What if we prove unable to have children of our own? Would Morrigan's child then be the heir to the throne? And is bringing an old god's soul back into the world a good thing? So many knotty questions, and I had so little time to decide whether or not to do as Morrigan asked.

At last I grasped the only solid facts I could find. I would not leave Alistair alone to face the throne, and I could not bear the thought of his death. I went to his chamber and put Morrigan's plan before him. He went from disbelieving to revulsion to uncertainty and finally to reluctant agreement. I accompanied him to my room and then left him there. I could not stay a moment longer. I returned to Alistair's chamber and spent the next hour or so thoroughly hating myself for what I had done.

Alistair came back. He stood in the doorway for a very long moment and looked at me with an expression that was very hard to read, including as it did so many mixed emotions. I'm sure my face was no easier to interpret. At last he held his arms out to me, and I moved into his embrace. We both wept for lost innocence and wounded trust. Somehow we ended up on his bed, and slept in each other's arms. We have not spoken of it since then, but it is something we must clear away if we are to regain the closeness we had before.

We are now taking a brief rest for food on the forced march to Denerim. I have not seen Morrigan since that night, nor do I wish to. I do not know how to react to her. She is responsible for giving us both the chance to survive our encounter with the Archdemon, but she is also the one who put this distance between us at a time when we most need to pull together.

I suppose this will all be over soon, one way or another. Where are you, Fergus? What would I not give to see you once again before this final battle? I am so changed from the little sister you left behind that sometimes I wonder if you will still recognize me when we meet again. You must have changed too. So many events have passed, and the worst is yet to come, I think. I will say farewell here, in case I am not able to do so later. Know that I love you, my brother, and I have never faltered in the belief that you are alive. I know you will carry on our family name with honor.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

It is over at last! The archdemon is slain, the Blight is ended, and peace once again rests on Ferelden! I hear that you have been found at last, and I eagerly await your arrival in Denerim. There is to be a celebration a week hence, and I hope you will be able to attend. I know that Highever must be your first concern, but surely a few days away will not cripple recovery efforts too much!

The march to Denerim was brutal. We were trying to trade off speed against the energy to fight after we arrived. Our armies gave good account of themselves both in the travel and at the battle. I am sure you have heard many tales of it already, so I won't bore you with the broad sweep of the conflict. Rather, I wish to give you a recounting of the efforts spent in defeating the Archdemon, and my part in it.

The armies were fully engaged by the time Alistair and I arrived. The Archdemon could be seen flying sweeps along the battle lines, flaming our side and heartening the darkspawn. We had to cut our way through to the gates of the Palace where we met with Riordan. His plan was to get to the top of the tower at Fort Drakon to get the dragon's attention. He left for the tower while we defended the Palace. As soon as the bailey was cleared of darkspawn we made for the fort ourselves. The Archdemon was there, flying around the tower in great swooping rings. I saw someone leap from the tower to the dragon's back and after a short time fall to the ground from a great height. The sacrifice was not entirely in vain as the attacker shredded the dragon's right wing as he fell. I knew it was Riordan who had fallen, and that the responsibility for ending the Blight was now Alistair's and mine.

We made our way to the gates of the fort. I do not know how it came to be but Sten and Zevran were with us as we entered the main gates, and fought beside us the whole way up the tower. It was difficult to be sure during the confusion of battle, but I think I saw occasional bolts of magic hitting the darkspawn from behind us, so I suspect Morrigan was following us as well, though I did not see her at all. We burst out on the roof of the tower to find the Archdemon fighting the troops stationed there. Its wing was damaged so badly that it was no longer able to take to the skies, but it was far from defenseless. Even as we watched it killed the last of the soldiers.

The tower had ballistae emplaced so as to fire over the walls of Denerim into any force attacking from outside. We raced to one of these and turned it to face the Archdemon on the roof. Even with the larger bolts shot by the ballista it was hard to hurt the beast. Darkspawn were also rallying to its defense. Sten and Zevran undertook to keep them at bay. At last, though, the Archdemon took enough damage to weaken it and it stumbled and tripped over its torn wing. I saw the chance to get beneath the beast and attack its underbelly, so I ran in and slit the length of its neck. When its head came down, I drove my blade into its skull with all my might and then I twisted it to maximize the damage. It seemed to take forever, but was only a matter of minutes until the Archdemon lay dead. When the spirit exploded out of it everyone and everything was thrown helter-skelter across the roof of the tower. I fetched up against one of the ballista mounts and was knocked unconscious.

I awoke to find Alistair holding me, begging me to come back to him. I opened my eyes and spoke his name, and was nearly crushed in the ensuing embrace. There is nothing like a near-death experience to put a relationship into perspective. We looked out over the parapet at the city to watch the darkspawn retreat en masse, and we heard the cheer of the armies who had fought them. Then we headed down the tower to rejoin our comrades.

I was mildly concussed and suffered a wrenched shoulder. Alistair had taken a nasty cut on his face just under his left eye. There were plenty of scrapes and bruises to go around. Wynne took time out to fix us up before going to the hospice to help the other healing mages with the wounded. A long hot bath and a heart to heart talk took care of the rest of the damages.

Eamon and the inner council want to set a wedding date for some time after the country has had a chance to recover and rebuild. They are thinking that six months or so into the future would be about right - after harvest and before spring planting. But I am hoping for an earlier date for the nuptials. The council doesn't know it yet, but Wynne tells me that if we wait that long, the babe I bear might be born out of wedlock. As near as I can tell, it was conceived on the day that I touched Andraste's ashes, and will arrive in late winter. Alistair doesn't know yet, either, but I am looking forward to giving him the news. He was convinced that it would be impossible for us to have a child because we both bear the taint. It looks as though Andraste healed more than just Arl Eamon. Wynne says I still bear the taint but my babe is clean of it. Should it chance to be a boy, I want to name him Duncan Bryce. A girl I would have as Eleanor Lee.

Now a whole new set of adventures await. Ruling a kingdom and raising a child will be at least as challenging as anything I have done to date. I can only hope it will be a bit less fraught with danger.

I hope you will find time to read these letters, Fergus. Always, you were with me, keeping me strong. I wanted to share all of this with you, and pray you find the grace to bear my long tales with the same patience you had when we were both little. I love you, dear brother, and I always will.

Your sister,
Lee

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

Alistair is quite capable of making rapid decisions on his own if he feels the situation calls for it. I told him of my concerns over the wedding date, and most especially the reason why an earlier date would be desirable. Right after he recovered from the shock he grabbed me by the hand and dragged me after him to the guest quarters where the rest of our party were housed. This was after most folks had retired for the evening, so we actually caught them in their rooms. Alistair pounded on Zevran’s door and ordered him to dress and follow us. He likewise commandeered Leliana, Wynne and Eamon. We found Oghren in the Hall sharing a few ales with some of the off duty guards.

This whole party was then led to the Chantry where Alistair demanded the Templars wake the Revered Mother, claiming a national emergency. Our whole group had no idea what he was talking about and must have looked very puzzled indeed. The Revered Mother appeared in short order, asking what was going on. Alistair told her that he required her to perform three rites of her office immediately, namely two absolutions and a marriage. She seemed a bit reluctant at first, but when Alistair assured her that waiting until morning was not an option, she got into the spirit of things. We each received absolution for our sins against the Maker.

While that was happening, the rest of the people dragged into this adventure decided who would fulfil what roles. When we rejoined the group, Eamon was designated Father of the Bride, Wynne was Mother of the Groom, Leliana was my attendant and witness, Zevran was Alistair’s attendant and witness, and Oghren took station as Guardian and witness. Wynne conjured up a small bouquet of flowers, and all was in readiness. The Revered Mother performed the marriage rite, and blessed us all, and that was that.

Eamon was not especially pleased with the whole string of events, but did not interfere, he said, because he could tell that something deeper was going on. That was when my husband formally announced to our friends that his wife was with child, and that he had no intention of letting his heir be born a bastard. There were hugs and congratulations all around, and much teasing about how quickly we managed to consummate the marriage – so fast that no one even noticed we left the party!

We will still have a State Wedding a month or two after the babe is born. Word of the “midnight marriage” has been leaked out and enthusiastically embraced by the population of Denerim. I am sure that you will have heard some variant of it by the time this letter reaches you, Fergus. I just wanted you to have the truth of it from me. The pregnancy will not be formally announced until the Coronation a month from now, so I’m asking you to keep that bit of news to yourself for a while longer.

Leliana has been asked by the Chantry to take an expedition to the resting place of Andraste’s ashes for the purpose of cataloguing the find and determining the feasibility of opening the Shrine to the public in the future. She is very excited at the prospect of heading up her own adventure and will be leaving for the Temple just after the Coronation.

Wynne has accepted a post at court as Advisor to the King from the Circle of Magi. She hopes to be able to improve the lot of the mages who have been made to feel like prisoners in their Tower, and to show by example that mages are people too. Many folks assume that mages are abominations waiting to happen, and it’s so unfair. The mages I have met are decent sorts who want nothing so much as to be allowed to live their lives in peace and freedom.

Sten returned to his homeland the day after the celebration you attended. He said that he needed to give his report to the Arishok (some high-ranking Qunari) and admitted that he was homesick. I asked him if Fidelius could accompany him. The two of them have developed a rapport that the mabari and I never had, and Fidelius made it clear who he wished to be with. Sten accepted my hound as his companion, and I saw them both board the ship to Antiva the next morning. I’ll miss Fidelius, but I wish them both well.

Morrigan was true to her word. She disappeared as soon as the Archdemon was dead. No one saw her leave, and no one has any idea where she might have gone. Alistair says good riddance, but in some strange way, I will miss her. Caustic tongue aside, she was a loyal friend. I hope her chosen path leads her to contentment.

Oghren has not yet decided what he will do. He says he cannot return to Orzammar and would not even if it were possible. Too many bad memories live in those halls now. Alistair has offered him a position with the Royal Guard, but Oghren is not ready to settle yet. He thinks he might renew acquaintance with the lady dwarf at Lake Calenhad docks. He seems a little lost to me. I pray he finds a new base upon which to build his life. If he doesn’t, I’m afraid the drink will take him.

Zevran is going to be staying with us. He has accepted a position as Head of Royal Security. He is clearing the palace of traps and spies, and selects our bodyguards. He has already established an information network of sorts and keeps watch for any situations that might have potential to get out of hand. He has also been charged with selecting the staff to care for the babe when it comes. I trust him completely and so does Alistair.

Eamon has elected to stay in Denerim as Chief Advisor to the Crown, and I thank the Maker for him daily. His wise counsel has already helped us through many delicate situations, and he takes on a lot of the routine tasks so we don’t have to fill our days with trivial details. His wife Isolde has flat refused to return to Redcliffe after everything that happened there, so he has turned the Arling over to his brother, Teagan. As far as we have heard, the people of Redcliffe have accepted the change in leadership with joy. Teagan defended them the whole time Eamon was ill and became very popular.

Eamon transferred Jowan, the apostate mage who poisoned him, into the keeping of the Circle of Magi. First Enchanter Irving has detained the fellow in house arrest under constant scrutiny by the Templars until he can decide what to do with him. It seems there is a lot more to Jowan’s story than we heard at Redcliffe, and he had some justification for running away from Circle Tower. I don’t know if it is possible, but I hope Irving is able to find a way to rehabilitate Jowan. He truly struck me as a decent person who had been misled and abused in a terrible way.

Anora is dead. Her body was discovered in one of the tower rooms in Fort Drakon. At least, we think it is her body. It was wearing her clothes but was so badly mauled that it is hard to be sure. We are planning a funeral service for her and hope that no one comes up with the notion that Alistair or I killed her during our fight to reach the Archdemon. We had nothing to do with it but trying to prove that is like trying to prove we didn’t stop the sun from setting. Almost worse than that is the thought that she used the confusion to stage an escape and will come back to haunt us in the future.

I have sent two dwarven stonemasons and a few supplies to aid with the rebuilding of Highever. I’d like to send more, but every Arling in Ferelden has been affected and our resources must be carefully apportioned. If there is something specific that would be of use just let me know and I will do what I can to help.

I look forward to seeing you at the Coronation. I hope to be able to fit in a visit at home in the Procession afterward. Until then, brother mine, know that I love you.

Your sister,
Lee