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Dispatches From the Queen

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Dear Fergus,

It was so good to see you again! I thought the Coronation went rather well, didn’t you? For all the damage Denerim took during the Blight, I am amazed at what a brave show we gave. The visiting dignitaries commented on how rapidly the recovery is progressing. They don’t need to know how much of that was bandaging over the raw wounds. There is still much to do, but rebuilding has begun.

I was pleased to hear that Highever is also on the road to recovery. I am glad the stonemasons were of help, and I am sending the wheat seed and the bullock that you requested. I have also included some tapestries for your bedchamber walls and a small chest of gems from my personal account to help cover some of the costs. Highever is my home as well and it is only fitting that I contribute to the repairs.

Alistair and I will be making a tour of Ferelden to let the people see their new royal couple and to assess damages and apportion relief to the Arlings and the Bannorn. We will be starting with the south, as that was hardest hit by the Blight, and then going west to Redcliffe. From there we’ll travel north to Lake Calenhad and the Circle Tower. We are planning to make a State visit at Orzammar to discuss the possibility of a joint effort to clear some of the old thaigs and Deep Roads. We hope that King Bhelen will be interested in reopening trade with Ferelden and that he will be willing to establish an Embassy in Denerim for that purpose. After Orzammar, we will go east to Highever, and after a visit with you we set out for Amaranthine. The Orlesian branch of the Grey Wardens is sending out some members to take the Keep in hand under authority of the Crown, and we need to check on how that works out. Then we return to Denerim.

Alistair treats me like I’m made of spun glass and I might break in the least breeze. I am going to have to get him over it before it becomes too annoying. The only one who will spar with me is Zevran (oh so very carefully, too!) and Alistair frowns if I practice archery or knife-throwing. I am permitted to walk at a sedate pace, but running earns me another frown and a caution to be careful. I refuse to be wrapped in soft padding and kept away from life for the duration of the pregnancy. Could you please talk some sense into him before I have to do something drastic?

Speaking of which, my pregnancy is going well, so Wynne tells me. The babe grows and I am healthy. I find I am hungry almost all the time, and that I tire easily. No more late nights for me until the little one is delivered. I have had no trouble such as morning sickness, nor have I experienced any strange cravings so far. Wynne says that the morning sickness is unlikely to trouble me now that the first trimester is past, and that the cravings usually appear a little later on if they appear at all. She also mentioned that she knows the gender of the babe, but I asked her not to tell of it. I don’t want to know ahead of time.

Sometimes I think it must be wonderful to have such abilities as hers. Other times, I think it must be frightening. She can read auras, which she describes as colored light that surrounds all living things. She can judge much from an aura, such as state of health, and if the living thing has a gender, she can tell whether it be male or female. She says that the taint shows as a dark place in my aura, and that my babe is free of it. That gives my heart more ease than I care to admit to any but you, Alistair and Wynne. I was very afraid that the killing of the Archdemon might have harmed my unborn babe in some way. The child is untainted so my fear was baseless, thank the Maker.

I will be out of touch during the trip, but we’ll have a chance to catch up on the news when I reach Highever. I’m really looking forward to seeing you again. Until then.

Your sister,

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Dear Fergus,

The Procession is moving along at its own (grindingly slow) pace. I am not allowed to sit astride a horse, but neither is Alistair. Zevran insists that it makes him much too tempting a target, so he has to ride in the carriage with me. I know it is petty of me to feel so pleased by that, but I can’t help it. I swear, if I get just one more of THOSE frowns, I’m going to punch him right in the gut. I have tried to explain that I am expecting, not sick or wounded. Alistair just smiles at me and agrees and goes right on behaving the same way. I admit that at times it is nice to be coddled, but I am not a shivering flower and if he doesn’t stop treating me like one I am going to deck him. Write to him, Fergus, I’m begging you!

The southern Arlings have been very hard hit. Arl Wulff of West Hills gave us a tour of what was left of his holding. The people have nothing better than tents and lean-tos, and there are no supplies to build better shelters. With winter coming on, getting these people into warm lodgings with food and fresh water is urgent. The Darkspawn fouled the wells and waterways, and the survivors have been too busy trying to stay alive to clear them. We left enough soldiers and supplies to help them get a running start on rebuilding.

The town of Lothering was completely destroyed by the Darkspawn. The residents fled when the horde arrived and are now starting to return. The stone walls of the Chantry were the only part of a building still intact, we were told. Since the first folk returned, they have put up sod houses, cleared the water supply and harvested what was left of the crops. They have plans for making the town bigger and better than it was before. There is a real sense of optimism and resolve in the townsfolk that was noticeably lacking in West Hills. Again, we left some supplies to help them through the days to come, and continued on to Redcliffe.

Arl Teagan has worked miracles in the time since he returned from fighting the Blight. The damage in the town has been almost completely repaired, and the people are developing plans for a secure water supply and an emergency supply cache for the Keep so that the entire town can take refuge should the need arise. They are a little short on foodstuffs for getting over the winter, but aside from that, Redcliffe is in better shape than Denerim. They even offered to send a work crew and some building supplies back to West Hills. Teagan has proven himself a resourceful and inspiring Arl. No wonder his people are so proud of him.

The Circle Tower is in pretty good shape as well. Some of the surviving mages have been putting their magical skills to good use, clearing out debris and repairing damages. It is interesting to see mages and Templars working together to put their house back in order. Greagoir and Irving seem to be developing a wary friendship, and all of the Tower residents are easier with one another than I ever thought to see them. We invited the entire population of the Tower to join us for a dinner in honor of their efforts during the Blight. Not only did they all come, but I actually witnessed Templars and mages sharing ale together and trading tales of battles fought and skirts chased. I can only hope that the cooperation will last after the repair effort is finished.

We are now at Orzammar and have been well received by King Bhelen and his court. Not only is Bhelen willing to open trade with Ferelden, but he has offered the assistance of his skilled people to help with rebuilding efforts. He will be opening an Embassy in Denerim in the spring. There have been great changes in Orzammar since he came to the throne. Not everyone is pleased by them. I gather there have been several attempts on his life. I am happy about how he has given the lower caste people a chance to better their lot but the dwarven nobility see it as too much change too fast. There are some who would rather keep to Orzammar’s past policy of isolation, and many are unwilling to grant surface dwarves any status let alone citizenship in dwarven society. Still, Bhelen has taken a strong seat on the throne and is determined to make Orzammar change to meet the times. I believe I chose well when I gave him the crown.

Highever is our next stop, and I am really looking forward to seeing you again. I must admit that it will seem strange at first, without Mother and Father there. It must have been difficult for you to go back, too. I want to show Alistair where I grew up, and share some of the happy memories of childhood. See you soon.

Your sister,

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Dear Fergus,

Thank you again for talking with Alistair. I don’t know what you told him, but whatever it was, it worked. He is acting more like the man I fell in love with and a lot less like the overprotective pest he was becoming. You are the best brother a girl could ask for!

You have done amazing things with the rebuilding of Highever. I expected to find the Keep damaged and the town in ruins. Instead, you have organized the repairs and the people and everything is as good as new, or even better than new. Your arling is in good order and I am very proud of you.

Alistair enjoyed our trip down memory lane. He has a better understanding of who I am and how I came to be this way. And I’m sure he doesn’t believe half of the things you told him I did in my younger days – at least, I hope he doesn’t, even if they are true! Especially that story you told about Nan and the frog, or the one about salting Father’s ale. Who told me to do that anyway? You said it would make the ale taste better – or was that supposed to be BITTER?

I hope it wasn’t too hard for you, bringing up the ‘good old days’. I needed to see the resting places of our family, to mourn those we lost. I am glad I had the chance to do that with you and Alistair by my side. It gave me a feeling of closure and peace to know that they are at rest and that they would approve of what we have done since their passing into the Fade.

We went through a number of the banns on our way to Amaranthine. On the whole the northern part of Ferelden took little damage and was able to harvest most of the crops. It’s a good thing, too, because that food will be needed to get through the coming winter. We purchased most of the available excess for the Crown and arranged for shipping to Redcliffe. We are going to put Teagan in charge of storage and distribution for the southern region. I trust him to handle the supplies fairly and to get them where they are most needed.

Our final planned stopover was Amaranthine. We arrived to find the place in an uproar bordering on open revolt. The Orlesian Grey Wardens arrived along with support troops and took up residence in Vigil’s Keep. The people of the city regarded it as an invasion by Orlais and blockaded the Keep. It needed all of Alistair’s charm to convince the townsfolk that the Grey Wardens were here at our request to help rebuild the Order in Ferelden. What finally tipped the balance was assignment of a local man, Varel, as Seneschal of the Keep. Varel is very well respected by the people of Amaranthine, and they know that he will not permit any harm to come to the city.

For their part, the Wardens were pleased to accept Varel and to normalize relations with the city. There have been many reports of darkspawn activity around Amaranthine, and the number of sightings keeps growing. The Wardens are puzzled by this. It should be dropping off now that the Blight is over. The Wardens say they have encountered some groups of darkspawn that appear to be well organized and purposeful, as though they have a goal in mind and are striving to achieve it. This is a disturbing idea. Always before this, darkspawn have been relatively mindless. They are hard enough to kill without a mastermind to give them direction and leadership. We will keep a close watch on the situation, and hope things can hold together until spring. After spring planting we can afford to send troops to clear out the leftover pockets of darkspawn and hopefully end the problem.

I am happy to be back in Denerim. The Procession was good for Ferelden, but as my pregnancy progresses, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to spend the days on the move and every night in a different bed. And I was heartily sick of living out of a single clothes chest. Funny how the whole time we were gathering forces and fighting the Blight, I lived out of a backpack and didn’t mind it. Now, though, I find I like having clean clothes to wear and warm baths to soak in, and most of all, my own bed to rest in. I guess I’m getting soft. Oh well, another couple of months and the babe will be born and then my body will be my own again.

Again, thank you for everything, Fergus. You are the best, and I am grateful the Maker gave me you for a brother.

Your sister,

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Dear Fergus,

This is Alistair, taking dictation for your sister. I can only write so fast though, and she talks much faster, so expect a few scribbles and side notes.

Congratulations, you are newly made uncle to Duncan Bryce Cousland Theirin, Crown Prince of Ferelden! He was born this morning after a short labor. (Maker, if that was short, I do NOT want to witness a long one!) He is a fine healthy lad (She’s far too modest – he’s amazing, so tiny but so perfect!) with a good appetite (I’ll say!) and a strong set of lungs and the will to use them! (Farewell peaceful sleep, at least for a few weeks!) I am feeling tired but very happy to have him in my arms at last. (Yeah, I got to hold him for about two minutes while she got cleaned up after the birth. She’s held him ever since. Oh, well, I’m sure I’ll get another turn some time before he starts schooling!) I hope to be back on my feet in a day or so. (Good luck, dear! Wynne says at least three days, and she has more clout with your sister than anyone I know with the possible exception of you, Fergus!) I hope you can find some time to come to Denerim and meet your nephew. (Yes! We’d love to see you, and you and I can lift a pint in honor of the little guy!) Alistair and I would be pleased if you would consent to becoming little Duncan’s sponsor to the Chant at his Purification in six weeks. (I’m pretty sure that’s more of an order than a request, my friend!)

So much has happened since my last letter to you, but I think the rest of the news will have to wait for another time. I am going to rest now. Maker keep you until we meet again.

Your sister,

Good, now I can talk without the constant interruptions. Lee is fine, glowing actually! She has done an outstanding job of making the most beautiful baby in Ferelden, and now she is getting some much deserved rest. Wynne assures me that the birth was normal and that mother and babe are both doing well. She figures I’ll probably survive the experience, too!

Zevran has set up security for the baby and has cleared all of the palace staff who will get anywhere near him. He seems almost as relieved as I am to have the waiting over with. You’d think he was the proud father, he struts around so. He can hardly wait to start the boy on knife handling.

Eamon is also walking around with a big relieved grin on his face. Lee is the one he does most of the work of running the kingdom with. I get a headache just thinking about some of the stuff they deal with every day.

We are getting reports from the southern holdings saying that things are getting steadily better, partly thanks to a mild winter and partly due to assistance from areas that were not as hard hit. The main exception to that is the reports from Amaranthine. They are still sighting a lot of darkspawn around the arling and a few farms have been burned out. The Grey Wardens say that the attacks are widely separated and seem almost planned out to keep them running from one end of the arling to the other. I don’t know why the darkspawn haven’t withdrawn to the Deep Roads, but come spring I’m going to have to do something about them.

Lee mentioned that she sent you some seed stock for spring planting. If there’s anything else you need, send word, or better yet, bring word yourself. Then you can meet your nephew and keep Lee happy. Did I mention that you and I might lift a pint or two together as well?

Maker Bless!

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Dear Fergus,

Little Duncan is growing so fast! Already he bounces up and down if his feet touch anything solid when I’m holding him. He smiles a lot and is a very happy fellow, much like Alistair. Wynne says he is doing fine and coming along as he should. He has his father’s red hair and fair complexion, but he’s got the Cousland jaw and nose, and I think his eyes will be hazel like mine.

We have been getting disturbing reports from Amaranthine about darkspawn attacks. The Blight is over – they should have withdrawn to the Deep Roads. Worse yet, the attacks are well organized and are clearly carried out according to a plan. There have been reports from the few survivors that some of the darkspawn can talk. The road between Denerim and Amaranthine has become dangerous and trade between the two has dwindled to almost nothing. This is NOT good. As soon as the Formal Wedding and Duncan’s Purification are over, I will head out there to take stock of the situation first hand. Alistair is not happy about it, but agreed when I promised to take Zevran with me as my bodyguard and escort.

Plans for the Purification, the Formal Wedding and the Installation (I have taken to referring to it as the Show) are coming along without any real input from me or Alistair. It is to be a major State event and has taken on a life of its own. I have forbidden a number of the more elaborate ideas the Planning Committee has come up with. For instance, they wanted to release a hundred doves as the Blessing for the Couple is being read. Can you picture what a mess one hundred frightened doves could make as they fly over a crowd of foreign dignitaries dressed in their best? I shudder to think of it!

The Purification is being kept very small and private. Thank you for agreeing to be Duncan’s sponsor to the Chant. Wynne has agreed to be his other Sponsor. I know we should be using things like this to tie other nobles to us, but I refuse to play politics with my son’s life this early on. Alistair and I both want his sponsors to be people that we love and trust to do what is best for him. We can think of no one more suited to the task than you and Wynne, and those who say otherwise can just go cry in a corner somewhere well away from me! Do I sound a little defensive? Sorry, it’s just that there has been a lot of pressure to name people like the Empress of Orlais, the King of Antiva, or even King Bhelen of Orzammar. I don’t know the first two, and I don’t trust the last one as far as I could throw him, quite aside from the fact that dwarves don’t follow the Chant!

The Planning Committee did come up with one idea that I endorse wholeheartedly. They have decided to include Duncan’s installation as Crown Prince as part of the Formal Wedding rites. That way, the foreign element need only come to Ferelden once for both events. It will stretch things out by one extra day, but I deem it worthwhile for the sake of getting it over with that much sooner. It looks as though all of the nations we have invited are planning to send at least a representative. Some are sending entire delegations. I think there will be a lot of backroom negotiations going on. I’d be wise to get what sleep I can in the week before the Show, because the week of it I suspect rest will be a luxury neither Eamon nor I will be able to indulge in.

I have yet another meeting to attend, and Eamon is waiting impatiently for me to finish this letter. I will see you at the Show!

Your sister,

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Dear Fergus,

Maker, but it’s good to have that nonsense out of the way. It was wonderful to see you again. I just wish we could have spent a bit more time together. Thank you again for the Purification gown. I didn’t know you still had it. I know Mother said that you and I both wore it for the ritual, and I remember Oren wearing it. It added a lovely touch of family history to the whole affair.

I was altogether too right about all the backroom meetings that would go on with so many nations present in one place. On the whole, they went well and we came away with some very favourable trade agreements and some commitments to future peaceful overtures. Rivain, Nevarra and Antiva will all be exchanging Embassies with Denerim in the next year, and Orzammar has signed a mutual tariff-free trade pact with Ferelden that promises to open up thriving markets for both our nations. Orlais has remained distant – no real surprise given we booted their butts out of Ferelden a mere thirty-odd years ago – but I harbor some hopes that we can hammer out a peace treaty that will replace the truce between our two countries. It would be nice to have the war officially ended.

One of the biggest surprises to come out of the Show was a visit from our Qunari companion, Sten. He brought us a wedding gift from the Qun, a pledge to leave Ferelden in peace during our reign. Sten assured us that this is no idle gift. The last of the Tevinter Imperium is weakening steadily and he believes the Qun will be coming southward in the next decade or so. Fidelius is still with him and greeted me like a long lost friend. I didn’t realize just how much I missed them both until I saw them again. They only stayed for the one day, and then started back home again. Sten took a mabari bitch pup with him. I think he hopes to start a line of mabari back in Seheron.

With winter and the Show now over, I will be leaving for Amaranthine very soon. Zevran has been driving me relentlessly to get back into shape and blow the rust off my blade skills. I’ve taken to having meetings while I soak aching muscles in the tub just to try to fit a few extra minutes of work time into my days. I barely remember what it is to eat a meal in peace, and I have to sneak into the nursery just to find a couple of private minutes with the baby. Not that I get very long with him – everyone knows if I disappear that they will find me there. Eamon is setting up a courier relay system so that we can stay in touch as rapidly, reliably and securely as possible while I am at Vigil’s Keep. He will be handling most affairs of state while I am away.

For now it will be just Zevran and I who make the trip. Zevran feels that travelling alone will speed the journey. If we do that, dressed as mercenaries, we should pass through the countryside unhindered and unmolested. Strange as it might sound, I am looking forward to the trip. It should take about three days – three glorious days where I don’t have to make any decisions more difficult than where to camp and what to eat. Sounds like Paradise!

Alistair will be making visits to the southern arlings to give assistance where needed and to show that We (the royal We) care about the people. Then he will return to Denerim. By that time I will have had a chance to assess the situation in Amaranthine and will have sent a list of what is needed to Eamon. Eamon will get the requirements together and Alistair will lead the supply train to Amaranthine as a gesture of support for the arling and the Grey Wardens stationed there. At that time I should be able to give him a private report of what is happening with the darkspawn, and we can decide what more needs to be done.

I am praying that the whole affair can be dealt with in two or three months. I am going to miss Alistair and Duncan so much. But my husband and I are still the only two Grey Wardens native to Ferelden, and one of us has to take over the Arling. It can’t very well be King Alistair, so I am elected, like it or not. It is vital to start rebuilding the Order as soon as possible, and these reports of darkspawn gangs must be dealt with before I can pass the administration of the Keep to a new Commander. Wish me luck, brother mine!

Your sister,

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Dear Fergus,

I feel like I have walked into an unending nightmare. About halfway to Amaranthine Zevran and I met an old acquaintance of his, a chap named Ignacio. The two of them moved off a bit to talk privately, and when they returned to where I sat waiting, I could tell it had not been a happy conversation. Ignacio said his farewells and left me with a very distracted Zevran. When we set up camp that evening, Zevran asked if he could take some time away to look after some personal affairs. I asked how long he needed and he said at least three months and maybe as long as a year. What sort of affairs, I wanted to know. Crow business, he told me. I reminded him that he wasn’t part of the Antivan Crows any more. He smiled a little but would not meet my eyes. I asked him when he wanted to leave, and he said he needed to set out for Antiva right away. He asked me to forgive him for abandoning his post, and then he left. Just got up and slipped off into the night.

The next afternoon I was met by a knight who introduced herself as Mhairi. She said she was assigned to escort me the rest of the way to Vigil’s Keep. I wanted to know how she knew who I was and where I was bound. She replied that she had seen me when we toured the country after the coronation, and that she had been ordered to look for a female mercenary who looked like the Queen and was travelling north. The orders were given by the Seneschal of the Keep. It sounded to me like the security surrounding the trip was less effective than I could have wished.

Ser Mhairi and I travelled together to the city of Amaranthine. On the way, she briefed me on the darkspawn attacks and the uneasy mood of the Arling’s population. We passed the city and started up the slope to Vigil’s Keep. Just outside the walls of the Keep we were attacked by a group of genlocks, and we ran into more darkspawn as we entered the gates. There were bodies everywhere, mostly human, and small pockets of defenders under heavy assault by units of organized darkspawn. As near as I could judge in the midst of the melee, each dozen or so genlocks were commanded by a Hurlock or a genlock alpha. They chose targets and concentrated their efforts in a way that I had never before seen among the Horde. It was frightening, Fergus! Not even with the Archdemon driving them had the darkspawn been so coordinated.

We managed to defeat the attack, but the price in lives was incredibly high. Over half the garrison was dead, and most of the survivors were wounded. All of the Grey Wardens stationed at the Keep were killed. From the reports of the few survivors, there was no warning of the attack. The Wardens did not sense the darkspawn approaching, and had scant seconds to defend themselves when they appeared. This is most disquieting. How is it that the taint did not provide warning?

It gets worse, though. We rescued the Seneschal from the commander in chief of this darkspawn brigade, but not before we heard it talk. It spoke clearly and intelligently, and its troops followed orders. I am afraid, Fergus. The Horde is to be feared simply because it has the numbers to overrun Ferelden as a mindless, disorganized mob. But give that mob intelligent leadership, and we are faced with an army large enough to wipe us out like swatting a fly. And if we can no longer sense their presence, the darkspawn can all too easily use surprise attacks and ambushes.

There were a couple of bright spots since I arrived. A fleeing servant told us that there were some Templars and a mage in the Keep dungeons. We fought our way over there and went in the building. To my everlasting amazement, there stood the mage, the sole surviving occupant, shaking his hands out from casting fire at the darkspawn that had entered earlier. He took one look at Mhairi and me and blurted out, “I didn’t do it! But Biff there did make the most amazing gurgle when he went down!” He shrugged a shoulder at a pile of bodies so intermixed between darkspawn and Templars as to make it impossible to determine exactly who Biff might have been. It was actually very funny, looking back at it, and I can’t help but chuckle at the sheer audacity of the mage. At the time all I did was ask him to help us fight the remaining darkspawn. He introduced himself as Anders the Apostate and agreed to lend his aid. Apostate or not, he is an awesome battle mage.

A little further along, as we traversed an upper balcony, we witnessed an insane dwarf taunting the darkspawn to enter the bailey. They took up his challenge with a will, only to trigger a massive explosion and blow themselves to bits. The dwarf (I have since learned his name is Dworkin Glavonak) laughed himself silly and ran off.

Speaking of dwarves, who should we meet a little farther along our way but Oghren. He was busy killing a half dozen or so genlocks but took a second or two to wave at us cheerily when we arrived. Apparently he wants to become a Grey Warden. I will have to find out what happened to his plans to get together with Felsi, his lady friend at Lake Calenhad.

After the furor died down, I was informed of a prisoner awaiting sentencing for theft and resisting arrest. It took four Grey Wardens to capture him, and he nearly escaped even so, I was told. I went to the holding cells to see this man, thinking that anyone that skilled at fighting might make a good recruit. Apparently the chap had refused to speak since he was captured, and I soon found out why. Rendon Howe was not beloved of the people in his arling, and this man was no less than his youngest son, Nathaniel. He declared that he had originally come to Vigil’s Keep to kill me, but decided he just wanted to take a few family keepsakes and leave. When I asked what he would do if I set him free, he said he would most likely come back and try to kill me at a later date.

I could see that he was angry, hurting, and hating but I could also see something in him that promised a valuable ally and possibly even a friend, if I could just break through to the man under the seething emotions. So when Varel asked what I wanted done with him, I conscripted Nathaniel into the Grey Wardens. At first, Nathaniel refused. When he asked if I were afraid he would carry out his threat, I told him if he tried I would kill him myself. I guess audacity has its uses because this set him back on his heels. He agreed to go through the Joining, and I have included him in my expeditions ever since. To you alone, Fergus, will I admit that the space between my shoulderblades itches when he walks behind me, but I will never let him know it. I will feel a bit more confident once he survives the Joining, but for now, I keep wishing Zevran was here to keep an eye on Nathaniel.

The Seneschal, Varel, cleared up the mystery of the security breach. It seems Zevran took ship from Amaranthine for Antiva, but sent word to the Keep that I was coming. When Varel received the note he dispatched Mhairi to meet me. Thank the Maker it was nothing more sinister than that!

So here I am. There are very few troops and the nobles are all screaming for them to be assigned to protect their personal interests, be they the cities and towns, the farmlands or the trade routes. There are not enough men to go around to all of the needed functions, so I will have to decide where best to place scarce resources. The city of Amaranthine is bulging with refugees from the countryside and more seek admittance every day. Farms are being burnt out and caravans sacked, leaving no survivors and horribly mutilated corpses as reminders of the darkspawn attacks. What a mess!

Hopefully when Alistair arrives in a week or so, he will bring sufficient men and supplies to give me a fighting chance of bringing this arling back to viability. Wish me luck and pray for me, Fergus. I’m going to need all the help I can get!

Your sister,

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Dear Fergus,

Alistair arrived as planned and brought most of what I requested. The shortfall was (can you guess?) the troops. He said that all of Ferelden is short on bodies right now with the harvest approaching. Most of the men will be back in a month or so, but for now getting the harvest in is more important than fighting. He left me with all he could spare from the Denerim guard. Understand, Fergus, it’s not that I’m ungrateful. It’s just that the need for troops in this Arling is dire, and we will not be able to protect everything that should be protected.

Alistair was not pleased to learn that Zevran left me on the trip here. After he stopped swearing we speculated for a while about what might give Zev sufficient cause to do a thing like that. Ultimately we decided it would have been something truly significant and we both hope it goes well and he returns safely. And THEN we’ll rip strips off him!

My (idiot) mate brought our child here with him to visit me. Duncan has changed so much in just three weeks! I gave Alistair a sharp lecture on the folly of dragging our son on such a long and dangerous journey at such a young age. He looked properly chastened until he put Duncan in my arms and I simply melted. How could I stay angry with him when I miss both of them so much? And how am I going to survive the months ahead knowing that I’m missing all the changes as Duncan grows? It was terribly hard to watch them setting out on the return trip to Denerim. Already homesickness has its claws in me.

There have been some improvements since I arrived. We stopped a gang of enterprising kidnappers who thought the strife in the Arling meant no one would pursue them. We also took care of a smuggling ring that was setting up its own little black market in Amaranthine. I learned of a conspiracy to undermine and ultimately assassinate me, and we put a stop to that, too. The trade route through the Wending Wood has been reopened and is now patrolled to keep it safe. We have established a distribution system for food and medical supplies. There are work programs in place for the refugees so that they are no longer idle and we are getting some winter accommodations set up for them.

Do you remember me mentioning a master armorer in Denerim who made us some gear from drake and dragon scales? Well, he has set up shop here at the Vigil. He has been given ores and the freedom to make what he will with them, and he has started rearming the garrison. You should see the weapons Wade makes! They are outstanding. His business partner, Herren, let slip something about having been handsomely reimbursed for the cost of the move to Amaranthine. Normally that is the kind of thing I would suspect Alistair of doing, but he swore on the Maker that he didn’t do it (only because he didn’t think of it first, though!). So now suspicion must fall on someone else. Thank you, Fergus! It was very good of you to do it, and I appreciate it more than I can say!

King Bhelen of Orzammar sent us our crazy dwarf explosives specialist, Dworkin Glavonak, who has proved very useful in exterminating darkspawn pockets holed up in caves. Even more helpful, though, is his brother Voldrik, a highly skilled stonemason. He examined the foundations of the Keep and has found critical weaknesses that must be repaired if the Keep is to withstand an attack. I have provided him with money, men and a free hand to do what is necessary. We have also discovered that the attack on the Keep proper probably came from cellars that go Maker-alone-knows how deep underground. When I have a spare day or so, I plan to explore down there and try to cut off access from that direction. Right now we have men clearing the rubble so that I can get in safely. (That’s a laugh! Get in safely so that I can take on the darkspawn on their own turf. Yeah, that sounds safe, doesn’t it?)

Ferelden’s Grey Wardens now number six. Beside Alistair and myself, there is now Oghren, Anders, Nathaniel and an elf mage named Velanna. Mhairi did not survive the Joining. I spoke to Oghren before accepting him as a Warden recruit. It seems he and Felsi were together for long enough to have a child, but domestic bliss was not his chosen path to contentment. Felsi wanted him to be a provider and a father to their child, and Oghren said he was not prepared to accept such changes in his life. He has always been one for the booze, and he seems to be hitting it harder than ever. I have some misgivings about taking him into the Wardens, but I hope that giving his life direction and purpose will help him find his way back out of his alecup.

The Templars attending Alistair’s tour tried to arrest Anders. He has led them a merry chase during seven separate escapes from the Circle Tower. (I give him very high marks for determination!) They have never been able to prove any charges that would get Anders executed, but they regard him as dangerous and were set on taking him into custody. I could not stand by and let them do it, so I did the only thing I could think of. I conscripted him. The Templars were not pleased, but Alistair upheld the conscription, so there was nothing they could do about it. Anders is a mage of awesome power and ability when he chooses to show it, but all he wants is the chance to live his life in peace outside the Mages’ Tower. In chatting with him it is clear that he would only run again should he be returned. He has embraced the Grey Wardens as a way to have at least a small measure of the freedom he so desires.

Nathaniel Howe is still something of a mystery to me, but I no longer worry about his intentions. He has begun to open up a bit. He spent the last eight years away from Ferelden and knew nothing of what his father had done here. He was very bitter about the fall in his family’s fortunes. Having heard him recount some of the past honors of his ancestors, I can understand why he would feel that way. We discovered through one of the original family retainers that his sister, Delilah, is still alive and is married to a merchant in Amaranthine. He has asked that we try to find her the next time we are in the city. It goes without saying that I agreed to his request.

Our elven mage, Velanna, reminds me of Morrigan. She has a tongue you could shave with and uses it to cut at every opportunity. She blames all humans everywhere for the plight of the Dalish elves and does not want to consider that some humans have no wish to see the Dalish oppressed. Alistair and I gave them land to call their own around Ostagar, for Andraste’s sake! Anyway, she was causing a lot of the trouble in the Wending Wood. She was the victim of a clever deception carried out by the darkspawn. Her sister Seranni was kidnapped by the darkspawn, who then set up a party of human mercenaries to take the blame for it. Velanna vowed that she would keep killing caravans until her sister was returned to her. I finally managed to make her see that the mercenaries could not have taken her sister because the darkspawn killed all of them. Velanna agreed to leave the caravans alone in exchange for our aid in rescuing her sister.

We went into an abandoned silverite mine to try to catch the darkspawn responsible. We killed many and at last we found her sister. Seranni was on a high ledge in the company of a type of darkspawn that was new to me. She told Velanna that she was there of her own free will and not to try to make her leave. Velanna objected to her sister staying among darkspawn, and would have gone after her, but the darkspawn escorting her collapsed the passage behind them before we could take more than a couple of steps in their direction.

Velanna was understandably upset by this whole thing. She requested the Joining to be able to sense darkspawn so that she could continue the search for Seranni. We will be fighting a lot of darkspawn over the next few months and Velanna has agreed to help so long as she is permitted to keep looking. I am not sure her motives are the best, but the Joining decided that she is fit to be a Grey Warden.

There was one Grey Warden, a fellow named Kristoff, who was not killed in the attack on Vigil’s Keep. He was out scouting a group of darkspawn who were acting strangely (Given what we’ve been finding lately, are there any ‘normal’ darkspawn left?). The last information we were able to find on his whereabouts put him in a place called Blackmarsh. I am leading an expedition out there tomorrow to see if he can be located. I’ll write again after I get back.

Your sister,

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

Blackmarsh was an interesting experience. Somewhere back in time, there had been a Baroness who ruled the area. She was a maleficar who used the blood of her people’s children to keep herself young and powerful. When they rose in revolt and were about to defeat her, she cast one last spell that dragged all of their souls into the Fade with her. There, she continued to dominate and terrorize them.

Now jump ahead in time to my visit to Blackmarsh. The place is a ruin these days, with a sign warning all comers that it is haunted. I don’t know about ghosts, but it sure was full of swamp wolves. We started searching for indications that Kristoff had been there. We found his deserted camp, his body and a number of rips in the Fade. We also encountered a talking Darkspawn who called himself The First. He had a message for me from someone called The Mother. She would not permit me to help The Father whether or not I was aware of doing so. And then The First cast a spell that pulled us all through one of the tears into the Fade.

Inside the Fade, we saw Blackmarsh as it used to be. It was actually a picturesque little town at one time. A benevolent spirit of justice from the Fade had been drawn to the Baroness’ evil, and was leading a revolt of the souls populating the place. We found them in the town just outside the gates of the Estate Manor. The spirit of justice asked us to assist them. Lacking any way out of the Fade, it seemed like a good idea.

The Baroness confronted us when we burst her gates. She was attended by Pride Demons and The First. We fought. Her demons were taken down fairly quickly. She told The First if he killed us that she would send him back out of the Fade, and he attacked us with a will. We were on the brink of defeating him when she turned on him and told him his life energy would be used to remove the living from the Fade. This she did, but her spell was wider than she intended it to be. Not only did she throw us back into the real world, but she sent the spirit of justice with us. Lacking any body of its own, the spirit occupied Kristoff’s corpse.

We returned to the Manor and discovered that the Baroness had also crossed into the real world. She transformed into her true shape, an abomination, and after a long battle we finally killed her. Suddenly the whole of Blackmarsh just felt cleaner, as if her evil had tainted it and was now gone. I suspect that the area will be resettled as people discover that it is wholesome once again.

The Baroness’ death did not free the spirit of justice, though. It remained within Kristoff’s body. It had no experience with the real world and was at a loss for what to do. I suggested that it take on Krsitoff’s mission, fighting the darkspawn. It agreed that was a task worthy of it. I asked it how we should call it, and it asked to be called by the virtue to which it aspires. So now Justice has joined us. Anders has no idea how to send him back into the Fade, so Justice will fight with us until we can petition the Circle of Magi for assistance or Kristoff’s body decays past the point where it can be occupied.

When we returned to Vigil’s Keep we found a mob of civilians from Amaranthine confronting the garrison, demanding increased protection for the city. Varel was trying to keep them calm, but they wanted none of it. I told them that the guard would be increased as soon as possible and ordered them to return to their homes. They were not happy about it, but were willing to give me a chance to prove that my word is good. I really don’t know how I can add to the forces in the city without shorting some other place that desperately needs the troops as well. Perhaps I can take a few out of the Wending Woods, and if I clean up the cellars, perhaps a few more can be reassigned from the Keep.

Garavel, Captain of the Keep Guard, says that the darkspawn are massing for a major attack on Amaranthine and the Keep. If they are successful in taking either, the Arling will fall. There has been a report of some hunters who found a chasm that may lead into the Deep Roads. I will have to look into that as well. Perhaps if I can cut down their access to the Arling the darkspawn will reconsider, or at least delay, their assault. I have sent word back to Denerim of our situation, but I do not think there will be any help available from that quarter. Alistair already gave us every soldier he could spare. I don’t mind saying that I’m worried, Fergus.

I will write again when opportunity permits.

Your sister,

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

The cellars under Vigil’s Keep run deep indeed. I took a party down to explore and we ended up in a stretch of the Deep Roads. The further down we went the thicker the darkspawn got. Finally, we came to a place where the dwarves of old had installed a set of barrier doors. Voldrik was brought down to examine it and he said it was functional. He said that if the original folks who put it in place had been able to spend just another couple of hours they would have had it working and all of dwarven history might have been different. He finished the work necessary to activate the barrier doors, and when they were closed, declared himself satisfied that it would take at least a decade for the darkspawn to breach them.

Voldrik also gave me the first bit of truly good news I’ve had in far too long. The Keep walls have been repaired and improved to where even Voldrik says they will withstand anything but treachery from within. Now I can actually send a few extra men to the city.

There have been some developments with my Grey Wardens as well. Oghren’s lady, Felsi, came looking for him. Their meeting was not a happy one, and when it was over Oghren dived into a bottle and has been looking for the bottom of it ever since. He drinks himself into insensibility every night, and when he wakes he starts over. I can not trust him to be of any use in a fight and have been forced to leave him behind for the clearing of the cellars.

Nathaniel met his sister in Amaranthine and they had a long visit. He came back from it a changed man. She told him about their father and all the things he had done, and laid the blame for all of the Howe family’s fall from grace on Rendon’s head. She also told him that she married her merchant because she loves him, and that their first child is due in the spring. Nathaniel has some thinking to do, but made a point of telling me that he no longer holds me responsible for his father’s death. I count that as a major step forward. I believe that with time, we will become friends.

Anders has taken another step toward his dream of a normal life. He has found himself a lady in the city and seems quite taken with her. She is a herbalist and healer of sorts, treating livestock and other animals. She caught his attention by asking him for help with a box magically spelled to keep things stored in it cold. Apparently, the spell needed refreshing, and the challenge of such a unique use for magic was more than Anders could resist. Things have progressed from there. I think it quite likely that my mage has made his last great escape. He seems well and truly smitten.

Velanna is finally starting to see that not all humans can be painted with the same brush. No one here treats her any differently than any other Grey Warden. I heard her diatribe about how humans had stolen their heroic tales from the Dalish, and I gave her a blank journal. I told her that if the Dalish have lost their old tales, then perhaps it was time to write some new ones. She was very thoughtful, and then adopted the idea with great enthusiasm. Even if she is still a bit intolerant, she is too busy writing to bother baiting most of the humans at the Keep.

My heart goes out to Justice. Shortly after we brought him to the Keep, Kristoff’s wife Aura showed up seeking news of her husband. She had an awful shock seeing his body occupied by someone else, and Justice was left confused and concerned by her reaction. She accused him of desecrating Kristoff’s body and demanded in tears that he stop it at once. Justice tried to explain to her that the choice was not his, either to enter or leave the body he was in, but Aura wasn’t listening and ran away from him. He wants to do something to ease her pain, but doesn’t know what. He has asked that I let him go to her to try again to explain. I have agreed, but I have some serious misgivings about it. I think I will try to speak to her first to get a feel for how she will react before Justice meets with her. He is an innocent in the mortal world and doesn’t understand how seeing a dead loved one walking around with another spirit inside would be distressing.

Well, tomorrow I will be taking a task force out to the chasm in the Knotwood Hills to see if it is the entry point of the darkspawn who have been giving Amaranthine such grief. If all else fails, maybe we can whittle down their numbers a little.

Your sister,

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

The chasm reported by the hunters is, in fact, an entrance into the Deep Roads, and there is no possibility of closing it off like we did the cellars. It leads into the dwarven city of Kal’Hirol. We arrived to find a member of the Legion of the Dead being dragged off by darkspawn. We were able to rescue Sigrun from them and get her story. She was part of a Legion of the Dead unit dispatched to exterminate a nest of brood mothers located in the ruins. They made a frontal assault on the gates of the city and were wiped out by the defenses meant to keep the darkspawn out. Sigrun became scared when their assault failed, and ran. The darkspawn gave chase and that was when we arrived.

She told us that there should be a concealed side entrance into the city. After some searching we located it and entered the city proper. The whole place is haunted, Fergus. I mean actual spirits we could see and hear but not touch. They seemed to be caught in a loop of the last day of their lives, reliving the same moments over and over again. I can’t begin to describe how strange it all was. The memories were so compelling, so real, that it was easy to become ensnared in their lure. Of all the places I have been and things I have seen, this was by far the most eerie.

The place was also seething with darkspawn. We fought our way through the Great Hall into the Trade Quarter, where we came upon a tablet that told how the casteless dwarves, known as dusters, were given weapons and defended the city in its extremity. The recorder of the event listed the names of those who volunteered, and charged Dwarven kind to recognize these brave souls as members of the Warrior caste. Sigrun was nearly in tears as she read this inscription to us, and requested that we get this news to Orzammar if it could be done. I took a rubbing of the tablet to bring out with us.

The place was far too large to clear in a single day, so when we found a door leading back into the original chasm from the market hall, we took it. We set up a camp well back from the lip of the rift and kept a double watch through the night. The next day we went back in and continued deep underground. We found a heavily defended chamber, and when we finally broke through we discovered four grotesque brood mothers. It was not easy but we managed to kill them all by dropping an immense lyrium chandelier down on them. When it shattered the explosion and the flying shards cut them to bloody shreds.

There is simply no way by which we can prevent the darkspawn from using Kal’Hirol to access the surface. I will send word to Bhelen and hope that something may be done from his side of the entrance. I fear that such assistance, if possible at all, will come far too late to help us in our current difficulties.

Sigrun was going to leave us to seek her destiny in the Deep Roads as required by her oath to the Legion of the Dead. I invited her to join the Grey Wardens instead. I told her she would still be fighting darkspawn and would still die young, but she could make her death count for more. It was actually rather selfish of me to do that. I told her nothing that was not true, but I took advantage of the fact that she is young enough to prefer living over dying. Anyway, she agreed and survived the Joining.

I gave the rubbing of the tablet to the Glavonak brothers as soon as we got back to the Keep. They were as moved by it as Sigrun had been and promised to see that it was sent safely to Orzammar. I expect Bhelen will be pleased with it as it supports his policy that the casteless are worthy of a chance at improving their lot. By the way, did you know that Bhelen married his casteless mistress, a girl named Rica? It put a number of Dwarven nobles in danger of apoplectic seizures, so I heard.

Things have not improved while I was in Kal’Hirol. The darkspawn are massing on the plains west of the city and Varel has recalled the troops from the countryside patrols and trade routes to help defend the city and the Keep when the inevitable assault comes. I took Anders, Nathaniel and Justice with me to Amaranthine to oversee the preparations in the city. I also wanted to give each of them a chance to say farewell to the people they care about before they put themselves at risk once again.

Justice was able to reach an understanding with Kristoff’s wife, who charged him to avenge her husband’s death. I think it gave him a measure of peace to accept Aura’s task as an atonement for using Kristoff’s body. Perhaps, a sense of justice being served?

Nathaniel spent his brief leave with his sister and her husband. He has changed so much since he was reunited with her. He has been far happier and is determined to cleanse his family name from the blot his father put on it.

Anders went straight to his lady’s home, where he tells me he renewed the spell on her cold box, and gave her a gift he had been working on for a while. He took the idea from the cold box and adapted it to a quartz crystal to provide a steady, bright and heatless light source so that when she is working with her animal patients she will not have to risk setting straw ablaze to see what she is doing. I see great potential for marketing such a thing, if we all survive the next few days.

I want to ask a big favor of you, Fergus. I have a sense that this coming battle may not go well for me. No, I am not being defeatist, but I cannot get rid of the feeling that something terrible is about to happen. Please, Fergus, if the worst should happen, promise me that you will help raise Duncan so that he knows the love of a family. Help Alistair keep it together for the sake of our son and Ferelden. He is a good man but he sometimes lacks confidence in his own ability to rule. He will need all the support you can give him.

I have done everything I can think of to prepare for the coming battle. The city rests in the Maker’s hands now. Always know that I love you, brother mine.

Your sister,

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

The Battle of Amaranthine is over, but the war is far from finished. There was a new type of darkspawn (we call them childer grubs) that came up into the city (possibly by the water system?) and spread a sickness through the population. By the end of the first day a good quarter of the people had been infected. Then the lookouts reported that the Darkspawn army was on the move. I took my unit with me to defend the front line established on the rise before the city outskirts. While we were waiting for the Horde to arrive, a lone talking darkspawn approached with its hands held out empty.

It told us that the attack was to be concentrated on Vigil’s Keep because the Mother wanted all the Grey Wardens dead. I asked it why it brought me this message and it replied that the Architect hoped to prove his goodwill by giving warning. I wanted to know who the Architect might be to which the darkspawn said, “He who freed me.” A quick conference with my commanders led to a decision that the Keep must stand or fall on its own. Amaranthine could not be left to the Horde. I sent the darkspawn on its way as a gesture of peace with whoever this Architect might be.

Once the Horde arrived it was pure butchery, as is so often the case in war. They sent in wave after endless wave of darkspawn in an effort to overwhelm us. They came close to succeeding, too. We had retreated inside the city proper, barricading the upper levels against their advance, and collecting the civilians inside the Chantry. That was when we discovered that they were coming into the upper city through a smugglers’ tunnel into the inn.

The fight in the tunnel was short but very ugly. It brought us out behind darkspawn lines where we were able to attack the ones in command. Once they were eliminated, the whole attack faltered and turned into a rout. With no one to give them orders the darkspawn lost their taste for battle and fled.

Amaranthine has taken heavy damage and will be a long time recovering from this day. From my Grey Wardens the only death, if it can truly be called such, was Justice. He went to the city gates where the fighting was hottest and was wreaking havoc among the darkspawn when he was beheaded from behind by one of their generals. Kristoff’s ashes will be given to his widow, Aura. I do not know if Justice was able to cross back into the Fade, but I prefer to believe that he did, and that he is keeping watch over us.

Word from Vigil’s Keep is that Voldrik did his work well. The walls withstood repeated assaults by darkspawn and ogres. There were some casualties among the defenders, but most were only wounded.

The darkspawn sent to us by the Architect gave us a map detailing where the lair of the Mother is located. She must be eliminated if there is not to be a repeat of this day’s battle. I could wish to know more about this Architect fellow as well. What is his motive for helping us? Can he be trusted? Is he sending us into a trap? So many questions, so little time to decide. I will be leading an expedition out first thing tomorrow morning. Perhaps by killing the Mother I can buy us some time to get reinforcements up from Denerim.

I grow weary of this continual combat, and wish for nothing more than to hold my son and be held by my husband. Sometimes the longing is so keen it is physically painful. Then I remind myself that someone must keep the darkspawn at bay so that my loved ones are safe. I miss them, and you Fergus, so very much! Homesickness is no fun at all.

Your sister,

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

The entrance to the Mother’s lair was located in the Dragonbone Plain. It was defended by darkspawn loyal to the Mother, and by a high dragon that did not approve of us disturbing the resting place of its kin. After slaying my third high dragon, I can say with great assurance that I never want to have to fight another. They are nasty creatures when angry.

We were aided by some of the talking darkspawn, who I assumed were associated with this Architect fellow. They ran interference for us, clearing childer grubs and genlocks out of our path until they themselves were slain. Their sacrifice more than anything else gave me hope that the expedition could end in success.

Two levels down into the Mother’s stronghold, we were met by the Architect. He was familiar to me. Do you recall my mention of a new type of darkspawn that accompanied Velanna’s sister in the silverite mine? This was him, or one very like him. He asked for a chance to explain what he hoped to achieve. All darkspawn are driven to find the Old Gods, and when they do, a Blight begins. Remove the compulsion, and the Blights would cease. To that end he has devoted himself to developing a reverse Joining for darkspawn, so to speak. But instead of letting them hear the call of the Old Gods, it would silence their song. He viewed this as freeing his people from slavery to the call.

The disciples are those sentient talking darkspawn who have been freed. They are sane, intelligent and willing to live in peace. Those for whom the transformation did not work are utterly insane. This included the Mother. The Architect had hoped that curing a brood mother would result in her offspring being free of the call from birth. Such did not turn out to be the case. The Mother went stark staring mad, and has gathered to her all the darkspawn who are untreated or who were driven insane by its application. She has conceived a hatred for the Architect and is determined to stop him. In order to proceed with his work, the Architect stated that the Mother must be destroyed. He said that we had a common goal, and proposed that we work together to achieve it. In return for our aid, he promised to take the darkspawn far away underground to continue researching the cure he seeks.

Well, the old saying has it that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I agreed to help eliminate the Mother, and we proceeded on deeper into the lair. At last we came to the nest where the Mother lived. She was well guarded by her childer grubs and genlocks, and she had her tentacles spread in a huge network all around her. Nathaniel, Anders and Velanna attacked her with arrows and bolts of magic while the rest of us tried our best to keep the darkspawn and the tentacles off of them.

It was a very long process, and Maker only knows how close we came to defeat. When the Mother finally breathed her last, Nathaniel had four arrows left from a quiver of a hundred, and Anders’ staff was actually smoking from all the flame bolts he had thrown with it. Velanna used up so much of her magic that she lost consciousness when the battle was over. Sigrun was covered head to toe in darkspawn blood, and she simply sat down on the floor and wept with exhaustion. For myself, I could no longer lift my weapons. I thought my arms might fall off at the shoulder, they were so tired. Oghren’s drinking came in handy just this once. He had a flask of some decent (for Oghren, anyway) whiskey that he passed around to the rest of us.

We rested for a time, then made our way out of the lair and headed back to Amaranthine. There I beheld one of the most beautiful sights I think I shall ever see – Alistair standing at the head of a relief column come to help the city. I’m not ashamed to say that I broke down and cried when he hugged me in greeting.

It has been two weeks since then. Alistair stayed with me for a week and then returned to Denerim to take up his royal duties once again. There has been no sign of darkspawn in the Arling, so perhaps the Architect lived up to his promise. I certainly pray it is so, but I am keeping patrols out scouting just to be sure. The city is starting to rebuild, but it is going to take years to replace what was lost. King Bhelen has offered to send us some skilled labor to assist. I suspect that there may be a sizable dwarven population in Amaranthine in future years. That rubbing of the tablet we found in Kal’Hirol stirred up quite a reaction in Orzammar. I gather that most of the dwarves Bhelen is sending to us are from among the casteless, who have no reason to return and every reason to want to start a new life where they are welcomed and allowed to contribute to the community.

Varel tells me that we are getting at least a half dozen would-be recruits reporting to the Keep gates almost daily. He weeds out the ones that look unlikely, and sends the rest to me for approval. Out of the twenty-three who have taken the Joining, only two did not survive. That is actually quite remarkable, when you consider that I was the only one of three to survive my Joining. At this rate the Order will be up to strength within a few months.

If things continue going smoothly, I may be able to take a short leave and go to Denerim to see my family. As soon as I have some firm dates I will write to let you know. I really want to see you again, and if I have to get a royal order to bring you to Denerim, well, I have the ear of the King, you know!

Your sister,

Chapter Text

Dear Fergus,

I just got your letter and I am so happy for you! You must bring Katrina to Denerim with you next month to meet the rest of the family. I was afraid that you might be alone for the rest of your days, and you are far too good a man for that. From your description she must be seven feet tall with the face of Andraste and the wisdom of the Maker. Sounds like love, brother mine!

Just a bit of gossip I picked up – did you know that Arl Teagan of Redcliffe is a newlywed? He met and married a lady by the name of Kaitlin who grew up in Redcliffe but made her fortune by founding a brewery in Denerim. I hear they are quite devoted to each other. No rumors of offspring yet, but give them a little time and I’m sure nature will take its course!

Things have remained peaceful here. Not quiet, what with all the building projects going on, but peaceful. None of the scouting parties have seen any sign of darkspawn for the last month, and I am cautiously optimistic that the Architect dealt honourably with me. I need to give some thought to what I should do with a Keep full of darkspawn fighters whose natural prey has disappeared.

Oghren finally sobered up and confessed that he just doesn’t have what it takes to be a family man. I convinced him to go make peace with Felsi and to stay in touch with their child. He needs to be part of their lives, and they need to be part of his. Felsi is one tough lady, and she is willing to accept as much of him as Oghren is able to give her without insisting on more. I think they will be all right.

Nathaniel has started accompanying Aura. Their friendship is clearly just that, a friendship. Aura has no desire to tie herself to another Grey Warden, yet she understands what it means to Nathaniel to be accepted for who and what he is. As for Nathaniel, he is content to have her companionship and does not seem to need more than that from Aura. They are very comfortable together, and whatever they have between them satisfies them both. I know of married couples who could not say the same.

Velanna requested permission to go in search of her sister Seranni. I gave it because I’m quite sure that she would have deserted had I refused. I asked only that she limit her search to Ferelden. I don’t know if she will ever come back this way, but I wish her the best. Maybe she will rejoin a Dalish clan some day and find her own kind of peace.

Sigrun has left us to return to the Deep Roads. We haven’t seen any darkspawn for a month now, and she felt she was failing her vow to the Legion of the Dead. She was very quiet when we came out of the Mother’s lair, and I think she decided it was time for her to rejoin her Legion brethren. They consider themselves as already dead, and I suspect that Sigrun is seeking that fate for herself.

Anders has moved in with his lady Elise and routinely helps her on her calls to care for the beasts of the Arling. She is a lovely person with a compassionate heart. She says that Anders has a way with calming creatures in the grip of pain or fear and that he makes her job much easier. Elise is also teaching him how to make salves, poultices and medications, and Anders is taking to it like a duck to water. I have rarely seen a happier pair.

As for me, I have been told that if no more darkspawn are encountered, I can hand the Keep over to a new Warden-Commander in four months time. Varel will continue as Seneschal of the Keep, with Nathaniel as his aide and second in command. Between them, they will run the Arling for the Crown in absentia, giving me the chance to return to my family. I pray for it daily.

See you soon!

Your sister,