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Lights in the Shadow

Chapter Text

“Blessed are the righteous, the lights in the shadow.

In their blood the Maker’s will is written.”

-Benedictions 4:11

 


 

To Enchanter Regalyan D’Marcall of the Montsimmard Circle of Magi

From Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast, the Right Hand of Divine Beatrix

Val Royeaux, Orlais

 

Greetings, Galyan,

I will get directly to the point. I have reason to believe the Most Holy is not well. Her symptoms are varied and confusing, at least to me. For some time she has been far clumsier than usual, and now she seems… angry over trifles. Most unlike her.

Ugh, I cannot find the words. Needless to say, she is not herself, and I am… alarmed.

You know we cannot trust just any healer with the Divine‘s health. She has finally allowed me to approach you about her issues. (After giving me the third degree about why, exactly, I wanted to contact you, instead of someone more… local. I cannot imagine that she assumes we would start up our former… association again. It has been years since… Besides, we are older now and have no time for such things with our increasing responsibilities.)

I know it has been some time since we have seen each other but… would it be too forward to request that you come and examine her? If you can’t come yourself, perhaps you can suggest someone at the White Spire?

I trust your skills and opinion more than any other healer we might request. Your motives were… almost always pure, instead of bogged down in politics, or self-serving. I beg you, Galyan, will you come?

My thanks, and regards,

Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast

Right Hand of the Divine

 


 

To Cassandra Pentaghast

From Galyan D’Marcall

Montsimmard Circle of Magi

 

My dear Cassandra,

Seeing your handwriting again after, as you said, years - quite took my breath away.

All you had to do was ask, fair lady. Even amongst the new restrictions, I retain some privileges for services rendered. Funny, how saving the Divine’s life can provide such little luxuries like freedom to travel outside the Circle when the Divine‘s Right Hand personally requests your presence.

I wonder that you do not abuse your position more often. But then, you were never one to take advantage of being on the top. I wouldn’t have minded you taking advantage of me in the least, whatever position you found yourself in.

Expect me in a week, shortly after this letter, assuming decent roads. I will have to travel with a Templar, unfortunately, but he’s a decent sort, and probably won’t slow me down too much.

I’m looking forward to seeing you again, despite my advanced age and busy schedule. Perhaps I’m not completely ready for the funeral pyre?

All teasing aside, I have thought of you often, Cassandra. It was good to hear from you.

Your Galyan

 


 

 

To Cassandra Pentaghast

From Galyan D’Marcall

Sent while en route to the Montsimmard Circle of Magi, by messenger bird

 

My Cassandra,

I am sorry that my news was so unwelcome. The Divine’s decline will likely be drawn out over the next several years, and… I must repeat that in the best interest of Thedas, the Chantry Clerics should start seeking her successor.

I know the Most Holy is dear to you, and I regret being the bearer of bad news. Thank you for not killing me outright. That would have been something we both would have regretted, in time. Perhaps me, more than you, but I’d like to think that eventually, you would have missed my face.

I hope I provided you with some comfort at least. You are every bit as lovely as I remembered. More so, even. The short hair suits you. I imagine it gets far less tangled after a good workout, as well. Practical, beautiful, and romantic - that’s you in a nutshell, I suppose. My romantic Cassandra… I’ve never met anyone else who believes so completely in passion and true love, after seeing what you’ve seen.

They say some women grow more lovely with age, and up until now I had never thought that such a thing was possible. Especially not of you. How you could ever be more breathtaking than you were after killing those dragons on that horrible, wonderful day is beyond me.

How pleasant it is to be proven wrong. You’re quite good at putting me in my place. You should do it more often. That said:

With your permission, fair one, I am packing everything I will need to attend the Divine in her final illness. I will be there for as long as she - or you - need me.

I will always remain,

Your Galyan

 


To Galyan D'Marcall

From Cassandra Pentaghast

Val Royeaux, Orlais

 

Galyan,

You, of all people, should not need to seek permission from me, or any one else, to attend the Divine. She appreciates your willingness to serve, and is giving you the privileges you need in order to do so. It’s quite literally a case of ‘ask and you shall receive’. Within reason.

You were - are - a comfort to me. That has not changed, despite the passage of time.

Ugh, do not expect me to flirt back. You probably want me to say something to the effect of how I want you to take further advantage of your privileges. Get used to disappointment.

I have no talent for words, but I confess I am relieved we need look no further for someone her Holiness can trust with what remains of her life.

Come quickly, please? I… need you here. If I were better at writing, I would say more. Perhaps.

Yours,

Cassandra Pentaghast

 


 

 

From the private journal of Divine Beatrix III, in an entry from 9:29 Dragon:

I know that something isn’t right. My mind is weakening, and my hands as well, judging by my shaky writing. The bruises on my hips and arms from bumping into things are beginning to cause my attendants (and Cassandra) concern. I knew I would get old, eventually, but to have this happen now, with a possible Blight on the horizon and such troubling news from the Towers is timing straight from the Void.

I thank the Maker for my Right Hand. Cassandra is such a gift, and I know that she will see that my successor receives the work we have done to prepare for an Inquisition, should it prove necessary. As for my successor herself, may Andraste guide the Grand Clerics to make a wise decision in this turbulent time. Perhaps I should plant a few whispers around the Cathedral to direct the thoughts regarding my inevitable successor in an appropriate direction. I fear we have all lost our path. I fear that in the end, I didn’t shine bright enough to keep the darkness away, that I wasn’t a loud enough voice to make a difference to the silence.

In the meantime, I hear the other whispers around the Cathedral. They are sending for a mage healer, to try to extend my life and improve my clarity. They say I know him, but I admit to some confusion. Perhaps once he is here I will… recover somewhat. I know it is necessary to keep fighting, but after so many years of service, I admit that laying down my burden at last and going to the Maker’s side sounds… tempting. I believe I am no longer the Divine Thedas needs.

But I have done what I can to prepare for my successor, as mine prepared for me. It is all in the Maker’s hands now. I know Cassandra will keep the book safe. I can trust her, as I can trust no one else.

-Divine Beatrix III

 


 

 

To First Enchanter Vivienne, at the Duke de Ghislain’s estate

From Enchanter Regalyan D’Marcall of the Montsimmard Circle

Sent while en route to the Val Royeaux Cathedral, by messenger bird

 

First Enchanter,

As we’ve suspected for some time, the Most Holy’s health is declining. It is dementia, and I suspect some issues with blood flow in the brain. I have examined her myself and there is little I, or my colleague from the White Spire, Enchanter Una, can do except make her comfortable. There are always some things that magic cannot cure, and this sort of decline is sadly, one of them.

I travel into Val Royeaux to the Cathedral, to see to that comfort personally. I trust, given your status, and my own standing as a (seldom remembered) hero, that you will not object, and even encourage my removal from the Montsimmard Circle.

Pray give my regards to the Duke de Ghislain. I’m sure his estate is lovely this time of year.

I remain,

Enchanter Regalyan D’Marcall

 


 

 

To Regalyan D’Marcall, in Val Royeaux

From First Enchanter Vivienne, from the Duke de Ghislain’s estate just outside Val Royeaux

 

My Dear Regalyan,

It was delightful to hear from you at such a troubled time. I believe I will travel into Val Royeaux this winter myself, perhaps make a few appearances at the side of the Empress. It wouldn’t do for any of us to be forgotten, after all.  Montsimmard Circle does have its reputation to uphold.

I’m delighted to see you finally taking an interest in Chantry politics, Galyan. Of course you have my approval for your travel, and I’m sure that your… friend in the Seekers will be more than enough protection for any difficulties you may come across. I’ll send a note to have your Templar escort depart after your arrival at the Cathedral. Do let me know when you’re arrived safely?

I hope to see you at the Wintersend Ball, if your duties allow. The Divine usually attends, does she not? I’m sure she will need someone to attend her, given her illness. Her Right Hand… (that is your… friend, correct?) I’m sure will not want to leave her side. She’s incredibly devoted to the Chantry, much to her credit, by all accounts.

I am excessively diverted by the stories they tell about Seeker Pentaghast. You do aim high, when you bother to aim at all. Well done, Regalyan.

Cordially,

First Enchanter Vivienne

Court Enchanter to Empress Celene

 


 

 

To First Enchanter Vivienne, at the Duke de Ghislain’s estate, just outside Val Royeaux

From Regalyan D’Marcall

Sent while back en route to Val Royeaux, by messenger bird

 

First Enchanter,

Some of us set our sights on what is right, First Enchanter, with little regard for the consequences.

I am glad you think that Seeker Pentaghast will be enough ‘protection’ from the terrors of my own mind. In that, at least, we agree.

I hope it is not presumptuous to ask you exactly how you keep yourself safe, given the inherent danger of our own natures. Last I heard, you had not surrounded yourself with a Templar retinue, despite your considerable talents. And when was the last time you actually darkened the door of Montsimmard? It’s been some time, has it not?

You might consider a trip ‘home’, Madame. Lest you find yourself out of touch with the common folk. Wouldn’t do to become irrelevant, would it?

Then again, I can hardly blame you for making the most of your opportunities.  Not all of us have that option.

I remain,

Enchanter Regalyan

 

Chapter Text

“Maker, my enemies are abundant.
Many are those who rise up against me.
But my faith sustains me; I shall not fear the legion,
Should they set themselves against me.”

Trials 1:1  “Prayers for the despairing”


 

 

From the private journal of Divine Beatrix, at the Grand Cathedral in Val Royeaux

My condition seems to have stabilized, and therefore I’m attempting to move forward with my plans. (Note: look into those clever false teeth that Enchanter Galyan claims dwarves can make. There has to be a better alternative than the constant porridge they seem to want to serve me since I had those teeth pulled. I don‘t care how healthy it is, it‘s disgusting.) I can’t let what control I have over the Circles fall to pieces. The chaos that would result could never be the Maker’s Will.

Seeker Pentaghast seems hesitant, for the first time in my memory, with the mention of my attempt to direct the Grand Clerics - but I cannot let my frail hold fragment in favor of chaos. I may have to reopen the Inquisition myself, in order to maintain the status quo.  It must be the last resort, however, or I risk open revolt.

‘Magic is meant to serve man, not rule over him.’ Some of these mages would make the South into another Imperium, given the opportunity. Montsimmard’s own First Enchanter seems the power-hungry sort - however much this ‘Madame de Fer’ claims to be neutral in matters of the College. I’ve had my Left Hand observe her. She’s a Master of the Game, that is for certain - I cannot help but have a wary admiration for someone who started with so little, and has played the system so well. Those of us who have done the same must respect each other, or fall. I will tread lightly, and make sure I keep this journal hidden. After all, Enchanter Regalyan is from Montsimmard. He could easily be a spy, sent to entrap me with my own words.

I will keep him at arm‘s length as much as possible, unless his skills are necessary. He’s already recommended someone from the White Spire - a woman, but her name escapes me, some Ander, I believe - that can handle my day to day needs. As my strength fails, I will have many such needs, and Thedas needs me to last as long as possible. I may not be the Divine we need, but I’m all they have.

I must show them all that I’m hardly on the pyre or my death bed yet. I have yet to find an appropriate replacement. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised - in all the history of the Chantry, it’s possible that there has never been a Divine like me. Neither party is satisfied with the actions I‘ve taken during my tenure. The Templars resent their implied demotion with the nomination of a Seeker as Right Hand, and protest what small freedoms the mages are allowed. Meanwhile the mages talk treason behind their hands, whip up opposition in their mockery of a College, and lack any sort of proper leadership since their Grand Enchanter Briaus is a fool who never leaves Cumberland unless it‘s to go back to the Anderfels. (What could possibly be in the Anderfels?!) Still, his detachment is in my favor. A body without a head is directionless. I have taken advantage of that, and will continue to do so.

One cannot have everything - but I will find someone who will maintain order on both sides of this insane conflict. My Grand Clerics are all completely inadequate… I will have to look outside their tier, bring another into my inner circle.  They'll argue and fuss amongst each other, and I'll let their petty disagreements distract them from my intentions.

Both mages and Templars forget their place as well. I must remember to send Cassandra out to remind them of it. At least in Orlais and Nevarra, she is the most poignant reminder. She still sees the necessity of what I do - what I must continue to do - for the good of all Thedas.

Divine Beatrix

Early 9:30 Dragon


 

From Enchanter Una

To First Enchanter Edmonde

Sent from the Grand Cathedral

 

Salutations, First Enchanter,

I and Enchanter Regalyan can confirm that Divine Beatrix is suffering from dementia. Her symptoms were clear from the first examination, and from what I can tell, have probably been getting steadily worse for some time while those surrounding her attempted to hide her deterioration from prying eyes in the capital. I hardly blame her or those closest to her - the Orlesians will prey upon her mercilessly once the truth is known. Ghouls, every one, jostling for position whilst her Perfection dies by inches.

So I am taking it upon myself to do what I can to ease her troubles. It isn’t much, and she does have at least a few people around her that she can trust to keep her condition secret - for now. May Andraste help her when it gets out. Just my presence at public functions has made these Orlesian vipers hiss. Enchanter Regalyan seems… unwilling to put himself into the public eye. I’m not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with the Right Hand, or perhaps he is under instructions from his First Enchanter? Surely it wouldn’t be the orders of Divine Beatrix herself? In any case, he is more of a shadow than a presence, and he’s letting it fall to me to accompany her formally.  It is an honor.

In other gossip, there are murmurs of darkspawn being seen in the Korcari Wilds, Edmonde. Saw it in a letter to the Divine from some Revered Mother in a Ferelden township called Lothering. I thought the Blights were supposed to be over? That’s certainly what they told us children in the Chantry. But then, you weren’t a Chantry kid, were you? Shame, the Chant brings me such peace - I’m quite enjoying the times I can pull myself away from the Most Holy in order to listen.

But the very thought of the Blight sends chills through me. Do you think the mages at the White Spire will be asked to serve? I seem to remember something about Grey Warden treaties from those incessant history lessons Enchanter Tomas used to drill into all of us… Aren’t the Circles sworn to ally themselves with the Wardens in such a situation? You might want to look into that. I can’t imagine that getting to Ferelden will be easy given the tensions between the Empress and the dog lords, but if we have to honor a treaty… it's our just punishment for the role mages played in the corruption of the Golden City.  I would be happy to do my part to work towards redemption.

But it’s probably being blown entirely out of proportion. Or some local hunter saw a Chasind warrior and decided it was a darkspawn. No point in borrowing trouble, or seeing a Blight in the face of a few dozen darkspawn. There’s always darkspawn, right?

Andraste‘s Mercy, First Enchanter, because if there‘s a Blight, we’re all going to need it.

Maker be with you,

Enchanter Una


 

To First Enchanter Irving

From First Enchanter Edmonde

Sent from the White Spire to Kinloch Hold, Ferelden

 

Greetings, Irving,

It’s been a long time, I know. I’m sure you’re keeping yourself just as busy as I am, but I hope you don’t mind an old friend from the College sending you a line, and asking you to confirm a few troublesome rumors.

One of our best healers, Una, recently wrote me about a disturbing piece of gossip from the sickbed of Divine Beatrix. She says there are rumors of a Blight on the horizon, darkspawn spotted in the Korcari Wilds. Is it true?

If the Circles could use this to their advantage… well, Irving, I shouldn’t have to tell you that this could be the leverage we need. Say the word and I’ll start pushing our best towards traveling to Ferelden to fight at your side. Regalyan was asked for by name by the Right Hand, according to the bragging of his social climbing First Enchanter, but I suspect that the Seeker is partial to him personally, rather than needing his particular skills. At least not his fighting skills, eh? Probably helps that he’s a Loyalist. If you could meet the Seeker, you’d understand. That one’s all sharp edges and heavy armor. Shocking that he managed to… but that’s Galyan. He could talk a Revered Mother out of her vows, one lonely Seeker probably didn’t have a chance. Even if she is a Pentaghast.

There’s much talk here of revolution. The Libertarians and Loyalists have already come to blows a number of times, and the Templars continue to shove them into the dungeons to cool off. It has the opposite effect from intended on the Libertarians, as you can imagine. The whole situation wearies me - I wonder if I should step down, let younger minds make the decisions and younger bodies carry them out. I find I like my comforts all too well lately. Didn’t I do my part with Avexis? (Though I will regret to my dying day that they made her Tranquil. The child couldn’t stop talking to dragons.)

But what would I do outside a Circle tower? At my age? But as always, the impetuous fail to ask themselves these questions, even while so many have never known anything but the Circle, and those that have, have only child‘s memories.

The Aequitarians are at your side, whatever happens with the Blight. Some days I think that we’re the only side that manages to keep its temper at all. But maybe it’s just because we’re all too tired to keep fighting. The Isolationists might be on to something - at least if they bury themselves at the edges of civilization they don’t have to constantly deal with arguments, and they get some peace and quiet out of the deal.

As for the Most Holy‘s illness, it’s dementia. Alsace won the pot, here. My money was on her heart. May Andraste save us all. She wasn’t kidding when she announced that the Dragon Age was going to be an age of upheaval and change.  I can’t even remember a time when she wasn’t Divine.  Before the Templars brought me to the Circle, for certain. 

I’ll let you know when I have more news. I’m keeping this from the Grand Enchanter for now, and suggest you do the same. Briaus, I suspect, would not approve. You know these Anders… religion and fanaticism tends not to mix well. He would sell us all out to the Templars for one bent copper. Thank the Maker he seems to be happily ensconced in Cumberland, arguing with the rest of the College over trifles like cookie privileges. May he only stay there.

Your friend and colleague,

First Enchanter Edmonde


 

To First Enchanter Edmonde

From First Enchanter Irving

Sent from Kinloch Hold, Ferelden, to the White Spire

 

I see the grapevine is working just as hard as ever, my friend!  What you heard was right, Edmonde, it is a Blight. The Wardens marched through a few weeks ago looking for candidates, and to remind us - subtly, of course - that we are bound by treaty to assist them. I sent a few mages with them - not as Wardens, but to bolster the forces, since the King asked particularly for us. Never hurts to do a favor for a sovereign, does it? The armies are massing at Ostagar, and I admit I’m a little relieved I’m too old to go.

Best leave the adventures to the youthful, though I had to send Wynne, at her own insistence. You do remember Wynne, don‘t you? Age hasn’t withered her, or tempered her impulses. Luckily she's directed them differently since her first misguided affair. (How is her son, anyway? Does his father trouble you much? Foolish, to have them in Circles so close to each other - but I’m sure that no one wants that particular scandal to get out, particularly the father, hmm?)

I’m pretty sure we’ll be all right here otherwise - I sent some of the worst malcontents to Ostagar. That should take the wind out of Uldred’s sails a bit - especially if the campaign doesn‘t go well. Of course, there are always more. You know I’m no Loyalist, but… I agree with you. Rebellion is for the young. I’ve someone reading Uldred’s mail in any case. His correspondence is… interesting and high reaching. I won’t bore you with the details.  It's local politics, mainly.

My understanding was that the Wardens were going to Highever after this. They didn’t find anyone to recruit here. Just as well, if we’re going to war. Though I would have given them Uldred with pleasure, if they only asked (I suppose he‘s too old)… or even Jowan if he hadn’t escaped. Our new Enchanter Solona would have been a great candidate, if she hadn’t been locked up after trying to help her foolish friend. Gregoir and I are currently having discussions about whether she’s a candidate for Tranquility. Why she had to do such a stupid thing… she had so much promise, and now she’s effectively cast a lightening spell while standing in a puddle. She shouldn’t be made Tranquil - not after passing her Harrowing, but… what else can we do with her? She aided and abetted a blood mage!

From what I’ve heard about the Wardens, though, she should count herself lucky to have avoided that fate. Some of the things I’ve read in the diary of the last First Enchanter of Kinloch… you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Maybe he was writing fiction on the side. Or losing his mind. He mentioned the Architect, Edmonde. Yes, that Architect - straight from the Dissonant Verse of Silence.

In any case, perhaps we’ll meet on the field of battle. Blights go on for years, according to our archives. Anything interesting in yours on the subject? Wonder if we should take the lead on this and send what we have to the King? Never hurts to endear yourselves to those higher up - but given Cailan’s… inexperience, perhaps Loghain would be the better bet…

That said, one of the people Uldred has been corresponding with is Loghain. Perhaps he is sympathetic to mages? I wouldn’t have thought it, myself.

I’m too old for plots and schemes. You aren’t the only one considering retirement, especially since Solona... but I can hardly leave my position with a Blight looming on the horizon, can I? The way things are going here, Uldred would end up First Enchanter. I’d love to see Gregoir manage with him in charge.

On a lighter note, Anders escaped again  - through a high window and down the side of the tower.  I think it’s up to six now. He’s so resourceful - I can’t help but be impressed, even while I am forced to discipline him. We all need a little amusement, and Anders is invariably amusing.  There is no point in even sending his phylactery away from the Tower, given his frequent successes.  I do sneak down for visits occasionally. I think he likes the company. I gave him a kitten the last time he managed. He needs something down there to keep his spirits up. Have you ever tried to smuggle a kitten into a Circle Tower on a boat? My arms and legs still have the scars. Vicious things, cats.

At least Anders isn’t partial to Mabari. There would be no explaining how one of those got into the Tower. Cats go everywhere.  Apparently even through a tiny window and down a wall, and across a lake.  I think the Templars regret teaching him to swim.  I know I don't regret teaching him that sleep spell.

Sincerely,

First Enchanter Irving

Chapter Text

From the private journal of Divine Beatrix, Grand Cathedral, Val Royeaux

It is a Blight. And of course that common Fereldan fool, Loghain, has decided to make a play, now, of all times, for the throne his daughter was ruling from in all but name. I’m almost grateful that he has closed the border, and that Celene has broken off her talks with Cailan - as inadvisable as that match would be, it was a chance to break Ferelden away from the Mac Tirs and bring it back under a proper authority.  In my day, rulers conducted themselves with more discretion.  What are the ruling classes coming to these days?

Celene is a foolish child, as if we all didn’t know she was involved ‘romantically’ with her handmaid. We are raised for this Game, trained to notice these things. She plays well, but not well enough. I wonder if I should throw my weight behind Gaspard? But he plays so poorly. The only one that keeps anything close to her chest is the handmaid herself - Brianna? Is that her name? It starts with a B, in any case. Obviously an elf is not an option - even if she is the power behind the throne. No, I can’t do such a thing, but I will suggest subtly that perhaps her husband should be found closer to home than a Fereldan dog lord. I’m sure Gaspard would not mind being cuckolded, once being offered the chance to rule Orlais again, even if he had to share the throne. If he did… well, it’s only an elf. I’m sure he could at least manage an assassination. It doesn’t even have to be subtle.

That said, with a Blight on the horizon, the Chantry’s role is to remind everyone of how it came about. ‘You have brought sin to heaven, and doom upon all the world.’ Never hurts to remind everyone who comes to Chant that it’s the Imperium’s fault - the mages’ fault - that we’re in this mess. Keep up the hostilities, ad nauseum, to borrow the ‘Vint phrase, and watch the faithful flock in, tithing handsomely to keep themselves safe and the statues gleaming, always hoping that the Maker‘s face will shine upon us with favor once more.

My Right Hand chants often lately, and such odd verses. She cannot doubt me - I am her Divine, who rewarded her for her fidelity to the Chantry with a place at my side. But she evidently seeks a truth that she cannot confide in me.

I am considering sending Enchanter Regalyan away - back to Montsimmard. He is a spy, I am almost sure of it. He claims to be a loyalist, but… no matter what past favors he performed for me, I do not trust him. Cassandra continues to argue for his presence, but I believe she is an innocent, and easily led astray.

She does not need the distraction that this relatively young (at least he isn‘t half her age) and definitely handsome mage provides, that is evident. Right now, her only concern should be my welfare, the Maker and his Bride, and the Holy Chantry.

Divine Beatrix

9:30 Dragon

 


 

 

From Enchanter Regalyan, Grand Cathedral

To Seeker Pentaghast,

Received at the Grand Cathedral, after he had already left for Montsimmard.

 

My Cassandra,

I’m so sorry. Divine Beatrix seems convinced of my skill at espionage, and I’m not sure how to counter it. I don’t believe this paranoia is related to her illness - that is still in its early stages - but I suppose anyone in a position of power learns to be cautious early, and I have somehow drawn her suspicion. I know not how. I have been upfront and honest in every meeting she has allowed me.

She is in good hands with Enchanter Una. I chose her carefully - she has no interest in Chantry politics, she is devout and her faith strong, and will care for her in every way.

My only regret is leaving you, and what good I could do at your side. These last few months have been… they have been lovely, haven’t they? Montsimmard seems very far away.

Stay by her, as much as possible. She trusts in your - dare I say it? - infallibility, and logical nature. That you will not be swayed by matters of a personal concern. She trusts your advice. And… she will need such a guide in her last years.

I wish… I wish so much. That things could be different, that I wasn’t being sent back to my Circle, one step away from disgrace and failure. Sent away from you. Again.

I hope you understand that I argued with the Divine to stay. I did that for you, Cassandra, not for her. This woman is not the Divine Beatrix I risked my life to save, all those years ago. We all change, with age, but… perhaps she was always so, and I was too young and idealistic to realize. The fall of the Chantry would be a disaster, no matter what Divine is on the Sunburst Throne. Trust me when I say I remain loyal - more to you than any other.

Au revoir, dear heart. I will think of you, always at the most inappropriate moments and in the most inappropriate ways.

Your Galyan

 


 

 

To Galyan

From Cassandra

Sent from the Grand Cathedral

 

You left without saying goodbye. I should

I understand why you had to leave, you were only here by the Divine’s will, but… you will be missed. Horribly.

I will do as you ask. I would do anything you ask.

Do not dare forget me. Not again. I couldn’t… You’ve been the only one I…

Nevermind. I will do my duty, Galyan. Your trust is not in vain. But I will see you again. I promise you. Somehow.

Yours,

Cassandra Pentaghast

 


 

 

To Cassandra

From Galyan

Sent from Montsimmard, delivered by messenger bird

 

Oh, Cassandra,

You make me ache with missing you. No one else compares.

I will keep you posted from here. I still hear things, from time to time. I have friends everywhere, and they will help me help you. You are not alone in this. Not ever.

Just… don’t let the Divine’s paranoia tear the Chantry or Southern Thedas apart. You may be the only one she trusts. The rumors I hear, filtering down through my friends… I fear for you, for everyone.

I wish I had something to remember you by, other than your letters. Would it be too forward to ask for a lock of your hair, my romantic Cassandra?

Your Galyan

 


 

 

To Galyan

From Cassandra

Sent from the Grand Cathedral to the Monsimmard Circle, by a rather ruffled and exhausted messenger bird.

Galyan,

Our Divine is slowly losing her mind to dementia, you tell me I am the only one she may trust in all of Thedas, a Blight is spreading across Southern Ferelden, and you have the audacity to ask for a lock of my hair? Is it really the time for such things?

It is yours. My hair is quite thick, and I hope this tiny little bird can handle it. You need larger birds, with better stamina. Send me one of yours in return, I suppose. If you have any to spare. As men age, often their hair thins, I’ve noticed.

The Divine has made no discernable change in health that I can see. She is eating and sleeping well, even while she is clumsier than ever, but she is beginning to suspect Enchanter Una, and some of her Grand Clerics of… odd things. Like moving things around her personal chambers. I know the Game is played within the Chantry (how I despise it), but… she wants me present constantly, to guard against such mechanisms. It is maddening, Galyan. I did not become a Seeker to become a babysitter for the Divine.

Is this symptomatic of her illness or something else? There have been many attempts on her life - some more dangerous than others, but never before has she openly worried about security in this way. I… I am not nurturing, Galyan. I’m not sure I can be here for her like this. Especially if she sends Una away.

Una isn’t a risk, is she? I will argue to keep a healer close in any case, but I need to know that I can trust someone.

Cassandra

 


 

 

To Cassandra

From Galyan

Sent from the Montsimmard Circle, by raven.

 

My Cassandra,

Are you trying to tell me I’m going bald? Here, have what little hair I have left. If my hairline is receding, at least the remainder will go to a good cause.

Never change, my dear. I would die if you did - of disappointment and an acute lack of good humors. They’d be all unbalanced, without you to mock me and keep me humble.

As not every letter can be anecdotes and lovebites, (Though for you, I‘m willing to try…), I shall get down to business. A colleague in the Circle at Kinloch Hold claims there is a possible uprising from an Enchanter Uldred. This is backed up by a different letter from a friend at the White Spire.It may be blood magic - there was a recent incident involving an unharrowed apprentice escaping that was hushed up, and the accomplice made Tranquil before it could be determined who, exactly, had taught him. But with the borders closed, and you stuck at the Divine’s side, I’m not sure who could be sent. Perhaps there is a Seeker in Ferelden that could check it out?

Otherwise, my group of friends will attempt to contact one of the Wardens at Ostagar and see if they can assist. It’s a delicate matter, but Circles have always allowed Wardens to enter, almost freely. And they at least would be neutral, and perhaps be able to sway the Templars away from rash actions. (Like making a Harrowed mage, accomplice in an escape or not, Tranquil.)

Horrible time to close a border, but I will try to get one of my birds through, if you just say the word.

I am sorry for the vague nature of my ‘friends’. I trust you, but to spare you any repercussions of what I am attempting, you will know none of their identities. I will not drag you down with me, if it comes to nothing.

Una is not a risk, unless… no. She is not a risk. Trust her. You have to trust someone, dear heart.

I wish I could be there for you. Never had my gifts seemed like a curse, until they separated me from you.

Your Galyan

 


 

 

An incomplete letter, partially charred, from the desk of Aldous, historian and tutor at Castle Cousland

My Lady Cousland,

I regret to inform you that your daughter has skipped her history lesson. Again. She has no interest whatsoever in learning about Bann Elstan’s unfortunate demise at the hand of his wife, Flemeth, or her ancestor Sarim Cousland, or the thirty years war in Amaranthine, or the werewolf plague, or the unification of Ferelden. She actually had the audacity in the last session that she bothered to attend - more than two weeks ago - to express the opinion that the Warden Sophia Dryden couldn’t have been that bad. Two generations ago that would have had her executed by the King. She is lucky in our sovereign, at least, even if the rest of us are not so fortunate.

She disdains all our close ties with the Howe arldom, blaming her own reticence on ’that horrible family nose’. She claims that it is impossible to take them seriously ‘with that nose up front and center, drawing all her attention.’

I'm assuming by her detachment that you haven’t told her that you meant to speak with Arl Howe about her betrothal to his son Thomas? You may want to reconsider such a fate for your only daughter. I’m not sure she would make a satisfactory wife for any noble, or knight, or even an honest man. Perhaps a thug would be a suitable match, given her lack of tact and social graces.

Pray, forgive me for my blunt words. You know your daughter best.

But back to my narrative: she blew me off entirely in favor of fishing her dog out of the larder, following that Warden around for the entire afternoon asking him impertinent questions about griffons, and when I finally gave up and moved on to my next class, she arrived and completely misinformed the youngsters in my charge with her facetious version of Fereldan history. (I assume you were unaware that King Calenhad was a werewolf, who conquered Highever while in animal form, leading his legion of undead, as he threatened the Cousland ancestor with his fangs and claws until she capitulated and surrendered? She was starting to get rather… explicit with what happened afterward until I cut her off. Disgusting, if somewhat creative, and completely inappropriate for the young ears of her audience.)

I beg you, take her in hand and teach her some self control, or I will.

(The letter is unsigned, and apparently undelivered, given its incomplete state and charred appearance.)

 

Chapter Text

To Knight-Commander Gregoir, at Kinloch Hold

From Lady Isolde at Redcliffe Castle

 

Dear Knight-Commander Gregoir,

The healer you sent for my husband has done nothing. He claims he can do nothing, that the poison that was used is unknown to him, and therefore has no antidote. You must have some other idea, an alchemist, perhaps?

Please… I will do anything to preserve his life. Our situation in Redcliffe is rather isolated, and I have no other options. I have the man guilty of the poisoning in custody - and he claims he doesn‘t know how it was made - that an outsider gave it to him to administer.

There is no need to have a Templar come investigate - we have our own knights at arms who have done their best. I am sure that you are stretched thin enough at the Circle, with your mages sent to Ostagar to assist the King. I have tried torture myself, and the man tells only lies! What manner of treachery can this be? My husband sick, my son desperate…

I am sorry. When I think of my son growing up without his father, I am overwhelmed. Please, Ser, I beg of you, I will consider any suggestion, no matter how ridiculous.

Your servant,

Lady Isolde Guerrin

Arlessa of Redcliffe


 

To Lady Isolde, Redcliffe Castle

From Knight Commander Gregoir

Sent from Kinloch Hold, via a knight bearing a Redcliffe coat of arms, oddly phallic in appearance.

 

My Lady Isolde,

I am sorry to hear of your husband’s continued illness. If a spirit healer can do nothing, I fear you must prepare yourself for the worst. Some things are beyond magical healing, whatever we might wish otherwise.

That said, I will give your name and the information both you and our healer have provided to our most talented alchemist, Enchanter Ines Arancia. Perhaps she will have a suggestion.

I will pray for the Arl’s recovery. May the Maker be with you in this troubled time.

Sincerely,

Knight-Commander Gregoire

Kinloch Hold


 

To Lady Isolde, Redcliffe Castle

From Enchanter Ines Arancia

Sent from Kinloch Hold, by messenger bird, arriving almost insultingly soon after the Knight’s message was delivered.

Arlessa Isolde,

I regret to inform you that if you don’t know what ails your husband beyond ‘He‘s been poisoned by a toady,’ I can no more suggest a cure for him than wave my fingers over his body and magically restore him to health. Not all mages shoot fire and lightening and commune with spirits to heal the sick, my lady, whatever you might have read in your fancy Orlesian novels.

You might as well pray for a miracle from Andraste, or stumble upon Havard’s Sacred Ashes in your privy chamber, as expect me to conjure up an antidote with so little information.

Antidotes take research and years of careful trials, milady. I am foremost a scholar, not a miracle worker. I suggest you resign yourself to your fate as a widow.

Somewhat Regretfully,

Enchanter Ines Arancia

Author of Restorative Draughts: Creation and Distillation and The Botanical Compendium


 

To Sister Dorcas Guerrin at the Denerim Chantry

From Lady Isolde Guerrin,

Sent from Redcliffe Castle, by her swiftest messenger

 

My dear Cousin Dorcas,

I know we haven’t been precisely… friendly in the past, but I write to you today about a most urgent issue, praying that you can put your long held grudges aside and help me. I’m telling you the truth in the strictest of confidence. Your cousin, Eamon, has been poisoned by a blood mage in his employ, who claims that he was hired by Teryn Loghain. I scarcely can believe his wild inventions myself. Loghain is not a friend, but that a commoner raised above his station would consider…

I don’t know who else to turn to, in any case. Eamon is desperately ill - he sleeps and will not wake, Dorcas.

I’ve had a healer from the Circle come to see him, and they could do nothing. I’ve had a letter from an alchemist - an Ines something or other - and she was rude and cruel. But she mentioned the Sacred Ashes of Andraste… and I thought of you.

I’ve always thought of myself as educated, but I admit, I do not know where I could find such a relic. Can you help me, Dorcas? It means Eamon’s life! Connor is still so young! I beg you to help me!

I throw myself upon what mercy you may possess,

Lady Isolde Guerrin

Arlessa of Redcliffe


 

To Brother Genitivi, at his home in Denerim

From Sister Dorcas Guerrin,

Sent from the Denerim Chantry, to the Brother’s home in Denerim, delivered by a soon-to-be initiate with intelligent eyes and an obvious crush.

 

Brother Genitivi,

I have something for you. The attached is from my cousin’s Orlesian brat of a wife - we’re hardly friendly, but Eamon isn’t precisely a bad sort, other than his abysmal taste in women. It sounds - even with all Isolde’s usual exaggerations - like he’s in a bad way. The current state of politics in Ferelden being what they are - and you with your lifelong dream of finding the Temple of Sacred Ashes - well, you might want to write to the Arlessa and see if you can help each other out a bit.

The loss of Eamon so soon after Cailan taking the throne… I don’t like to think what sort of strategies Loghain is using to cement his daughter’s hold (And we’re all too aware that she hasn’t conceived, aren’t we? Poor girl. It’s probably not her fault at all. Cailan probably picked up the clap somewhere. He hasn‘t been discreet.) but if this were a game of chess, I’d be on the defensive. Her father is going to strike when none of us expect it, just like he did during the war, with minor ambushes and slight of hand. With rumors of a Blight in the wind… and I’ve been hearing little whispers about Cailan writing to Celene, too, about an alliance… Maker’s Breath, I hope the lad isn’t that stupid.

Never mind. Cailan is the half-spoiled, half-neglected child of a dear woman and a man whose heart was never with the throne, and only occasionally with his wife, if the rumors are right, and I know they are. He didn’t know what he had until it was gone forever. I do wish Isolde hadn’t been so foolish to send Alistair away to the Chantry - her jealousy and shortsightedness has cost us an heir to the throne, however illegitimate. Don‘t let anyone tell you otherwise, either. He’s as much Maric’s as Cailan, whoever his mother was, and what’s more, Cailan and Anora both know it. But he’s irrevocably bound to the Wardens, now, I hear. Poor child. I remember visiting Redcliffe Castle as a child and seeing him talking to the dogs - I think he slept in their kennels sometimes, and no one ever said a word. As a child, I was envious. As an adult, I’m horrified. Isolde and Eamon, perhaps, are only getting what they deserve, with this trouble.

But all politics aside, Eamon’s Connor is a sweet lad, and his father is a decent man, if a bit… rigid and blind to what his wife got up to behind his back. My personal feelings toward the Arlessa should matter not at all in such a situation. Probably.

Beware, though, Ferdie. She’s an Orlesian bitch (and I don‘t mean that as a compliment), and would probably cut you dead as soon as fund your expedition, just because you‘re from Antiva. Though since she has a personal interest… well, you might be safe. Safe-ish, anyway. She always claimed that she married my cousin for love, for what that’s worth. Orlesians. Do they even know the meaning of the word?

I notice that Teagan hasn’t rushed off to marry, despite my cousin‘s incapacitation. Wonder if she’s keeping him on the side? Wonder who Connor’s father actually is… Eamon was never a redhead, even before he went grey. It does run in the family, however… so I suppose we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter. Either way, Connor’s the only heir. What a mess.

I’m sorry to bore you with family gossip. But you should know a little of it, if you intend to work with Isolde. She’ll find out everything possible about you, I promise you that. Don’t let her blackmail you with Weylon. You might want to leave him at home, actually, as miserable as that would be for both of you.

On a lighter note, I understand that congratulations are in order, as I hear that your ‘Pursuit of Knowledge’ is publishing its fifth edition. You two must be so proud.

Tea and chess next week? I’m sure Asta would love to see you again. She insisted on delivering this note personally. You really ought to let her down easy, and soon, Ferdie. She sighs entirely too much about you, staring at that too flattering picture on the back of the first edition you gave her and stroking it with her fingertips. If there’s a Blight, I have no doubt that her family is going to get her back to the Free Marches, one way or the other, and make her take the damned vows, whatever her personal preference, and however unnecessary. No use having her pine away in Ostwick over someone that will never return her affections (and is old enough to be her father). I know you don’t want to hurt her, but a quick cut is more merciful in the long run. Besides, I’m sure Weylon’s amusement is wearing thin. He’s not the most patient man.

Sincerely,

Sister Dorcas Guerrin


 

To Arlessa Isolde of Redcliffe

From Sister Dorcas Guerrin of Denerim

 

Isolde,

You’re right, we’ve never been friendly. And why of all the ridiculous things would Eamon have employed a blood mage? You aren’t telling me the whole story. I’m not one of your flighty friends in Val Royeaux, awed by your husband‘s audacity at flaunting the Chantry for the sake of prestige. If I were slightly more devout, I would turn you all in to the Templars for harboring a malificar. Instead, I’ve given your letter to a friend of mine here in Denerim, a Brother Ferdinand Genitivi. You might have heard of him, assuming you actually read anything other than the Randy Dowager. He’s rather famous. And he knows everything I know, so be nice, for once in your life.

He has a personal project that you might be able to help him with. Namely, finding the Temple of Sacred Ashes, where, presumably, the Urn of Sacred Ashes still resides, with the Ashes both Temple and Urn are named after, intact. The stories say that the Ashes cured Havard of his wounds, and enabled him to return them to his home in the Frostbacks, and that he built the Temple to house them.

Now it might be all fairy stories and legends, but it might have some basis in truth. After all, Havard could hardly have built an entire Temple by himself, yes? The legends insinuate that Justinia herself accompanied him - but still - an entire Temple in the middle of the Frostbacks? It’s a mystery, no question. My studies on the Avvar and the Alamarri have only gone so far.

In the meantime, I will pray for my cousin, and I thank you for letting me know of his illness. Eamon is a voice of reason in these troubled times. Ferelden cannot afford to lose him to assassination.

I’m reluctant to even bring this up, but if you ever loved my cousin at all, don’t trust Loghain further than you can throw him. The people that back him, here in Denerim… well, I don’t like the stories that are coming out of the Alienage, out of the palace, or out of Arl Howe’s estate. There are whispers Howe - awfully friendly with Loghain, lately - is going after the Couslands… but surely even Loghain wouldn’t go that far, and the Howes have always been close with the Couslands , well, at least since Maric took back the throne.

The current rumor is that they’ve just arranged a visit to negotiate an alliance between their daughter and his oldest son (The Howe family nose is horrendous, if you aren't familiar. I pity her. The only one of Howe‘s that didn‘t get it is the youngest - long since banished to the Free Marches rather than have him threaten his brother’s standing.) and I've always thought he looked more like Loghain himself than Howe? I admit I wonder… But surely Lady Howe wouldn‘t have been that foolish? Then again, I probably give her too much credit, and Howe has admitted more than once in public to detesting his wife. If she did seduce Loghain, the woman had cause. Howe is an asshole. (Sometimes I‘m comforted by my vows of celibacy - at least Mother and Father couldn‘t marry me off and send me to the Chantry. I might have ended up with Howe myself. Far better to be celibate.)

In any case, since Loghain has already hit Eamon - we can’t discount the possibility that he will go after the Couslands. We’d be fools to ignore the possibility.  I'll try to figure out who to warn, but in the meantime, watch your back - though yours is probably safe enough, since Eamon is already unconscious.

My thoughts are with you, and say ‘hello’ to Connor for me. Has he grown much? I’m sure he’s worried about his father. I hope Brother Genitivi is a help to you in your troubled hour.

Sincerely, and with my prayers,

Dorcas


 

From Brother Ferdinand Genitivi

To Lady Isolde Guerrin

Sent from his house in Denerim to Redcliffe Castle, by Chantry messenger

 

My Lady Isolde, Arlessa of Redcliffe,

I hope I do not presume by addressing you directly, my lady, given the nature of your troubles. Your husband’s cousin, Sister Dorcas Guerrin, thought I might be able to assist you with my knowledge and research.

What is known about the Temple of Sacred Ashes is limited. We know that they lie approximately in the Frostbacks, and possibly, based on my research, near a village called ‘Haven’. We know from various records that Havard, Maferath’s Aegis from the Chant of Light, carried the Ashes there, and presumably built the Temple itself to house them. We know that Havard himself claimed that the Ashes miraculously healed him from his mortal wounds. Such a healing sounds like what you seek, given the nature of your husband’s illness.

If such is the case, I believe I can assist you.

I will travel from Denerim directly, and attend you at Redcliffe, where we shall speak further.

Sincerely,

Brother Ferdinand Genitivi

Author of ‘In Pursuit of Knowledge’, now in its fifth edition.

Chapter Text

To Brother Genitivi, in Redcliffe

From Ines Arancia,

Sent from Kinloch Hold, by messenger bird.

 

Ferdinand Genitivi,

Seriously? Dorcas suggested you to her? Of course our Knight-Commander asked I write to her, and I told her bluntly that she should get used to disappointment. Yes, I mentioned the Ashes, but I was being sarcastic. Orlesians are supposed to understand sarcasm! They practically invented it! (It certainly wasn‘t the Antivans or Rivaini. They go in for lurid suggestions. Might have been the ‘Vints… you or Petrine ought to look into that and write something on it. Perhaps Petrine. Because her contacts are better in the Imperium.)

And now you tell me that you are headed where? Now? Have you lost the sense the Maker gave you? Patroness or no patroness, what do you expect to find in a secluded village that no one is entirely sure exists, and at the beginning of winter in the Frostbacks?! (They do have winter in Denerim, don’t they? You know, the bit with the snow and ice? I haven‘t been in the Tower so long as to forget the existence of seasons, Ferdie.)

Don’t answer that. Maker’s Breath, you’ve been everywhere looking for those damn (Andraste forgive me) Ashes already. Why not the Frostbacks, too?

Don’t be stupid about this. Your only weapon is your pen, Ferdie. The truth is important, but no truths will be told at all if you die at the hands of darkspawn. The army and the Wardens are massing at Ostagar, my friend, and if the King (long may he reign) has his way, more mages from the Tower will join them. The Knight-Commander and Irving are discussing it daily. ‘Discussing’ being a euphemism for arguing loudly enough for no one to be able to pretend they can’t hear every single word. Sounds like a lover’s quarrel. Not getting involved.

Thankfully, my interests lie elsewhere than in flinging fire and lightening. But my travel request might even have been approved if the darkspawn hadn’t picked just now to pop out. Knight Commander Gregoire questions my ability to protect myself in the Hinterlands, apparently. No worries, I’m patient. I’ll just keep asking until he changes his mind. I can be very, very persistent and incredibly annoying.

That said, darkspawn means taint, and tainted earth means the possibility of Northern Prickleweed. If you happen to run across any during your travels, send them my way, along with some pressed leaves and flowers. Damn (Andraste forgive me) Blight is going to push my research forward, even buy my freedom, like the botanist who discovered Amrita Vein, if I can just get my hands on those seeds.

Sincerely,

Ines Arancia

Botanist, Enchanter, and Author of The Botanical Compendium

 

 


 

To Sister Petrine, in Nevarra, near the Tevinter border

From Brother Genitivi

Sent from Redcliffe, Ferelden

 

My dear Sister Petrine,

I know it’s foolish to take at face value, but the Arlessa of Redcliffe says she’ll send her husband’s knights out to search the Frostbacks in addition to fully covering my expenses! And in return, all she wants is a pinch of the Ashes in a last-ditch attempt to cure her husband from an unknown poison. Something else is definitely fishy (and it’s not the smell from the lake, either - Maker‘s Breath, this place is rustic) but I hardly care. I won’t be around to deal with it after all.

Before you start, don’t suggest that some Orlesian noblewoman is using her wiles on me. You know that Weylon would take that as a personal insult. Use that infamous objectivity of yours.

And what about your research? You’re treading a finer line than I, my friend, between excommunication and ‘objectivity‘. That kind of objectivity gets your books banned, and knowledge in Thedas pushed back to the Exalted Age.

That said, I’ve given one of the copies of your books to Sister Dorcas Guerrin’s apprentice in Denerim. She’s a Marcher, from Ostwick - and people always say that nothing good ever comes of out of Ostwick. You should try to make an opportunity to introduce yourself. If I’m not mistaken, she’s going to be one of the finest scholars of this age. She reminds me of you, a bit, or as you were long ago. Innocent, idealistic, witty… my, haven’t we aged delightfully?

I’m aware you and Dorcas don’t get on, but Evelyn, or, as she insists on being called by her friends, ‘Asta’, is delightful. Trust me. Go out of your way to meet her, Petrine.

In the meantime, my new patroness is funding a trip into the Frostbacks to search for Andraste’s Sacred Ashes. Do swallow your envy and curb that sharp pen of yours before you write something you regret. I know it’s just sour grapes, my friend, but your readers do not. After all, if you had chosen a few of your words a little more carefully, you might have been in my place as the author of the most famous work to come out of the Dragon Age… so far.

“In Pursuit of Knowledge” is now in its fifth edition. Eat your heart out, Petrine.

Yours fondly,

Ferdie


 

To Brother Genitivi

From Sister Petrine, in Northern Nevarra

Sent by Chantry messenger from Northern Nevarra

 

Dear Ferdie,

You are such an arse. I’ll have you know that my Ancient North has been accepted into the collection in Minrathous, sponsored by a close friend of mine. Don’t be quite so cocky, if you please.

That said, you know I can’t tolerate Dorcas for more than a half hour at a time in public. Her ditzy schoolmarm attitude makes me insane, Ferdie. She’s entirely too good at it.

Besides, I’m busy. I’ll have you know I’m traveling to visit my friend in the Imperium. Oh, I’m sorry, you’ve always had trouble finding contacts in Tevinter, haven’t you? Never you mind. I’m planning to summer there with her, in Marnas Pell. She named her youngest son after me, you know. Petrinius. It has a nice ring, doesn’t it? Such a dear boy. So intelligent. He was top of his graduating class in his Circle, despite his young age. I’m quite fond of him. Takes after his mother, thank the Maker. The Cerastes line otherwise is so… well, I should perhaps take your advice and be more selective in my language, given that I‘ll be spending several months with them. ‘Single-minded’ is appropriate, and not precisely an insult. Her father in law wrote an entire work about the metal Silverite, and its healing properties. So dull. And yes, that pun was intentional. I can hear your groans from here.

‘Asta’, hmm? Obviously she is at least a little familiar with the Avvar - surprising for a Marcher, though not perhaps for an apprentice of Dorcas. I will consider my options, but will hardly be in any place to introduce myself anytime soon.

Do you believe the rumors about a Blight? The word here in Nevarra is that the Orlesian Wardens (such a grumpy bunch) are massing en force, waiting for King Cailan to allow them to cross the Frostbacks. Apparently the newly restored Fereldan Wardens are already at Ostagar, or will be soon. I shouldn’t have to tell you to be careful, my friend, but you know I’ve never bought into the Chantry sycophants who claimed the Blights were over, or worse, that they never happened at all, and that all the stories are just a massive allegory about the corruption inherent in all of us. I don’t like what I hear coming out of Southern Ferelden, Ferdie.

So… be careful, you arse. The Frostbacks are far closer to Ostagar than you would like to admit. Look at a map, occasionally, while you travel? I’d miss having you to argue with, however long distance.

Also Fondly,

Sister Petrine

Author of The Ancient North and many, many others (since apparently we are keeping track. Aren‘t we juvenile?).


 

To Sister Petrine in Marnas Pell, Tevinter

From Brother Ferdinand Genitivi, from Redcliffe, Ferelden

 

My dear Petrine,

Oh yes, a child named after you. And how many babes in arms answer to the name of ‘Ferdinand’ lately? Hmm? Just because I don’t know any of them personally doesn’t mean that my namesakes are lesser.

At least they didn’t name the poor boy after Dorcas. What’s the male Tevene version of that? Dorkus? Dorcian? The poor boy should count himself lucky. He got off easy with Petrinius. Don’t tell Dorcas I’m making fun - she’s a dear friend, and you should be more patient with her.

By the time you’ve received this, I’ll already have left Redcliffe. As I was telling my young friend Asta Trevelyan before I left Denerim, there is nothing more important than the truth, and as historians it is our solemn duty to uncover it. She’s such a good audience, loves a good lecture. Unfortunate that you won’t have an opportunity to meet her. Her parents are some minor noble family in Ostwick, and have arranged for her to travel home because of the Blight. She’ll be wasted there. There isn’t anything of interest in Ostwick, historically speaking, aside from that minor skirmish with the Qun that led to the double wall. For a mind like hers to be imprisoned there is a crying shame. That wall keeps more than invaders out.

But it will probably be safer than if she was in Ferelden. Blight or no Blight, Dorcas thinks there’s something rotten in the palace in Denerim, and that Loghain is twisted up in it like sweaty sheets. (Mmm, Loghain twisted up in sweaty sheets. Good thing Weylon isn’t here, he’d hit me.) Of course, that could be her family bias talking, but she’s usually good about such things. Perceptive, and without any particular love for her cousin or his wife.

Don’t worry about me - I’ll be fine. I make friends everywhere I go. And this village of Haven is barely a wide spot in the road. It’s not even on most maps! I’ll be a new face, already popular just with my presence alone. By now, nearly everyone has read my book. I’m just a little famous, Petrine.

Don’t lecture me on my new patroness. Her husband was poisoned, but even Ines couldn’t tell her by what, exactly, given the strange symptoms, and she knows her poisons backwards and forwards. The Lady in question is holding the whole story close to her chest. Her husband is Arl Eamon, Petrine. If he dies - to put it as bluntly as you seem to prefer - we’re all fucked. I snuck into the Alienage, before leaving Denerim. There are elves disappearing there, I’ve seen Loghain personally twist Cailan’s supporters into his own… all in the name of his daughter. Not sure if she’s in on it, but Dorcas says that the King has been writing to the Empress. That Empress.

I fear for the Couslands. They are literally the only ones who can stop the power play that Loghain is preparing. What’s more, Dorcas agrees with me. She’s just noble enough to get invited to all the right parties. Eamon poisoned is Redcliffe out of the way. She assures me Teaghan is weak in comparison. The Couslands are crucial to keeping Maric’s son on the throne. He’s not much, but he’s all we have. If only Rowan had lived… but if wishes were Wardens, Archdemons would die.

We all have to play our roles. Yours is to keep ties with Tevinter, and write objective books that skirt Chantry blasphemy while attempting to tell the whole truth without bias. My role is to rediscover Andraste’s Ashes. I know that’s what I’m meant to do. With luck, not only Eamon will be saved, but Ferelden and even the balance of power in Thedas.

Someone out there should do something about this. Dorcas is only one woman. I don’t suppose you have any friends? Besides me, naturally.

Sincerely,

Ferdie

 

Chapter Text

From Regalyan D’Marcall, Montsimmard Circle, Orlais

To First Enchanter Irving, Kinloch Hold, Ferelden

Sent by raven

 

Irving,

We have a problem. You know that I’m trying desperately to keep information flowing on the other side of the border. But at the moment, I have no one outside the tower to get information from in Ferelden.

I know you must have mages in your Tower that keep in contact with non-mage colleagues. Genitivi lives in Denerim, for the Maker’s sake, and how many books has he written on magical matters? He‘s getting his information from somewhere and I need educated people.

I know as well that it’s a lot to ask your people to give up their anonymity and their few sources of news in the outside world. How many mages do we both know that were unable to be cited as sources in major works in their fields because of the stigma of having such a source? It should be a crime, but all of Thedas need us to be cooperative right now, my friend. Mage and mundane, Orlesian and Fereldan.

Thoughts? Suggestions? The requests needn’t come from me. The operative in question could easily report to someone else, instead, and their correspondence forwarded.

I thank you for your assistance, Irving. My prayers are with you.

 

 

Sincerely,

Regalyan D’Marcall

Senior Enchanter at the Montsimmard Circle of Magi

This letter goes unanswered for over a month.

 


 

 

From Brother Reginald Plinth, Kirkwall Chantry, the Free Marches

To Sister Dorcas Guerrin, Denerim Chantry, Ferelden

Sent by Chantry messenger

 

Dearest Dorcas,

It has been a long time, hasn’t it? The last time I heard from you I was in Val Royeaux, looking for that rare version of Apotheosis, only to discover that you‘d gotten there first.

I’ve changed a bit. My robes don’t fit so well these days. Too much time on my ass. Such is the life of an archivist, I suppose. At least my arms are strong enough to do the heavy lifting.

I don’t suppose I’m actually intriguing you, am I? Ah well, I’m hopelessly out of practice at flirting. Anna would be ashamed of me for even trying. Even for you. She always did like you, despite your illustrious last name.

In any case, I’m happy to help you keep a handle on the state of the Free Marches. I’m low enough on the totem pole (I’m so glad you took the time to explain those to me - no other metaphor has quite the impact.) here that Knight-Commander Meredith won’t turn in my direction when she’s looking for a head to stick on a pike. I hear everything, eventually.

So… a favor for a favor, maybe? My sister has gone missing - she was trying to deal with the Carta black market - a special shipment from Tevinter - and just… disappeared. She knew it was a possibility, she was a grown woman, and decided the risk was worth it. Don’t panic - I’m not asking for someone to look for her. She’s gone. The Carta doesn’t take prisoners. But there’s something odd going on in the Kirkwall Chantry.

I’m talking about one Sister Petrice. She’s just picked up this massive interest in converting Qunari. Not Tal-Vashoth, but Qunari. Followers of the Qun, if that‘s not completely clear. If it stopped there, I’d let it go.  Spread the Chant of Light to all four corners of the world, blah blah blah. Whatever.  But it doesn’t. There’s something else, and I’m swamped, with Anna gone. We were barely staying ahead of things with the two of us. But I need an archivist - someone I can train, preferably - and someone who will have enough free time to keep a close eye on that… woman. I’ll make sure they have enough free time to do just that.

In return, I’ll happily report all the nasty little political details that you desire so that you can pass them on to whoever you think would be most interested. Does that sound like a deal, my lovely Dorcas?

 

Affectionately,

Brother Reginald Plinth, Chantry Archivist


 

 

To Brother Reginald Plinth, in Kirkwall, the Free Marches

From Sister Dorcas, Denerim, Ferelden

 

Dearest Reggie,

You were always hopeless at flirting. Give it up, and talk to me about your work at the archives, anything else but hint at our history.

Reading your words, for a moment, I felt young again. Trust me, you probably look far more attractive than I. I’ve gone pear shaped. All that sitting. My work isn’t even heavy, unless you include the odd work that is carved in stone and isn‘t still in situ. My arms are all stringy.

In any case, I have just the Sister for you. My former apprentice - a newly minted Initiate, a brilliant young thing (too young for you, so don’t you dare scare her with your insidious attempts at flirtation) now in Ostwick - with nothing but time on her hands. She’ll jump at the chance to get away from home, and this is just the sort of thing her Revered Mother (Victoria - you remember her - the shriveled up fig? Yes, she ended up a Revered Mother. Must have known somebody, or maybe slept with them.) can’t think of an excuse not to allow. Ostwick doesn’t even have more than a single room for books and scrolls. Just let me ask Sister Evelyn for her approval, and I have no doubt she’ll be on her way in a month.

Write again, Reggie. With Brother Genitivi gone, and Asta (that’s Evelyn - she hates her name) sent home to avoid the Blight, I’m… rather lonely. I can’t work all the time. I actually found myself standing in front of the Chantry arguing with an older lay sister about whether or not there was bacon or ham mentioned in the chant. So embarrassing, how far I‘ve fallen, in an attempt to get some conversation. (I won, for the record. Aren‘t you proud of me?)

It was good to hear from you. Too good, perhaps. But lets not talk about it again, Reggie. Please.

 

Sincerely,

Dorcas Guerrin


 

 

From Brother Plinth, Kirkwall Chantry

To Sister Dorcas, Denerim Chantry

 

Dear Dorcas,

Of course I won’t mention it again. I’ll just stand here, looking strong and intelligent. And portly.

An initiate trained by you is worth my not insignificant weight in gold. Please, send Evelyn my way. I’ll inform Grand Cleric Elthina I’ve filled the position immediately. Better than advertising on the Chantry board. The thing gets ignored here, for the most part. Even after they made it three times the size of the ones in Ferelden and Orlais. Everyone has better things to do with their time than random fetch and carry quests.

Besides, keeping you updated on Evelyn’s status will be a reason (ahem, excuse…) to keep writing to you about anything but our doomed affair.

Anna always thought we were mad not just to run away together. My sister loved you.

That isn’t actually flirting. It’s nostalgic reminiscing about happier days.

Your letter made my knees go weak. I really ought to get more exercise. Watch me go? (Don't hold your breath.)

I await your apprentice, Dorcas. Warn her that Petrice is the worst sort of evil, would you? She actually tried to ration my ink when she discovered I was writing so many letters. I hate to subject your young friend to her, but she suspects everyone. She’s such a control freak. Unfortunately, I suspect the Grand Cleric is going to make her a Revered Mother. Horrible thought.

Maker, it was good hearing from you. Write me again. Please.  Surely the Blight hasn't reached Denerim already?

 

Yours,

Reggie

 


 

 

To Sister Evelyn (Asta) Trevelyan, in Ostwick, the Free Marches

From Sister Dorcas Guerrin, in Denerim, Ferelden

 

My dear Asta,

I hope you are somehow managing to keep up with your studies. I know being home just now is a misery, but I think I have news that will cheer you up.

There’s a Sister in Kirkwall studying the Qun, my girl, and surely your Revered Mother wouldn’t stop you from making that trip? Her name is Sister Petrice, and she’s… well, by all accounts, she’s a manipulative bitch. And I don’t mean that in a good way. But all my news out of Kirkwall - and Brother Plinth is such a faithful correspondent - indicates that she is pulling strings. Grand Cleric Elthina - such a sweet woman - can’t realize how poisonous she is. She’s either far too trusting or far too idealistic. She claims to have her marching orders from the Divine, but it’s going to get her killed.

Remember that, my dear.  The temptation of doing something for the greater good leads to the justification of great evils.  The reverse is also true - good can be done in the name of evil.  Very few things are as crisp and clear as a black and white chessboard.

But I digress, in favor of lecturing you.  My friend Brother Plinth is eager to have assistance in the archives. Since his sister went missing they’ve been in a sad state, so there is an opening, if you want it. Daily work in the archives with Plinth, an independent eye on Petrice… one she might not expect.  Your first real job. What do you think? It’s a chance to get out of Ostwick, if nothing else.

I know the Qun wouldn’t be your first choice of research projects, but beggars can’t be choosers, dear. And since I’ve heard you’ve taken your vows through the correspondence of our Revered Mothers, (You should really be better about writing, my dear - you‘ve made me a sneak thief who reads other people‘s letters for news of you.) I assume appealing to your father was useless.

I am sorry, for what it’s worth, but your life isn’t over, Asta. It’s just beginning. Have faith, if you can.

Shall I write to your Revered Mother? Or perhaps have Brother Plinth do so, instead? Which is more likely to have the outcome you desire?

 

Your friend,

Dorcas


 

 

From Sister Evelyn Trevelyan, Ostwick Chantry, the Free Marches

To Sister Dorcas Guerrin, Denerim Chantry, Ferelden

 

Sister Dorcas,

I’m so glad you didn’t wait for my answer to your last letter. I’ve been in the doldrums, since I took the vows, and I should have written earlier, as always. I hardly know how to tell you how much I loathe Ostwick! The only thing that double wall does is keep all the interesting things outside of it. Why the Qun wanted to come here, I don’t know. We might as well all be followers of the Path, the number of new thoughts that make it through the gates. Denerim may not have the natural scenery of my home town, but Sister… they want me to sing here. And when I tried - I did try - all it got me was scolded for poking fun of sacred texts.  Mind you, I decided to use an older translation, in an attempt to get the meaning right. The modern attempts at alliteration cheapen the originals.

All I have is the books I brought with me for company. My family is too well-known to let me get close to anyone. I’m related to everyone from the magistrate to half the Templars stationed here. I’ve been miserable. Why did the Maker have to make so many Trevelyans?

Father was harsh when I begged him to send me to University instead. He wouldn’t even look at my translations. I didn’t try to speak to Mother. There was no point - if Father wouldn‘t back me Mother never would.  Running away seemed unrealistic.

Perhaps I could do a truly terrible job, and they would kick me out of the Chantry in disgrace? No? Perhaps I could just seduce someone completely unsuitable instead? But that would be difficult, given my broken heart. I will never recover, I’m sure. Who would ever be as intelligent, as handsome, as amazing, or as brave as Ferdinand Genitivi?

As it is, I leave for Kirkwall in a week. I hope they have a good bookseller. But even if they don’t, the history of the city is fascinating. I’ve borrowed, begged and stolen everything I can find about the City of Chains. So much better than Ostwick. Bloody and barbaric, but thrilling. And Sister Petrice sounds… like a challenge. Are you sure I’m up to this? If I fail… a lot could go wrong. Sister… this is pretty big for someone new, isn’t it? What if it’s too much for even Brother Plinth to handle? What if the Grand Cleric won’t listen?

I miss you horribly. I don’t suppose you could tell Brother Genitivi I miss him as well, in your next letter? He failed to provide me with a forwarding address to use while he was traveling this time.

Better yet, don’t… his inclinations lay elsewhere, and I like Weylon. They are well suited to each other. I should have seen what was between them. Andraste’s Ass, I’m so blind. I should be attempting to move on. That’s what you have told me to do, again and again.

I will try. Thank you for your encouragement and the opportunity. You're too good to me.

 

With appreciation,

Evelyn Trevelyan, or, your Asta


 

 

From Sister Dorcas Guerrin in Denerim

To Arlessa Isolde Guerrin at Redcliffe

 

Dear Isolde,

Loghain has done it. No one is willing to say it aloud, but he’s wiped out the Couslands - the heir was at Ostagar. Loghain manipulated Arl Howe into an ambush the night before Teryn Cousland was supposed to march to join his son. The entire family is presumed dead, from Teryn to grandson, with one possible exception - and it‘s not a great one, as by all accounts Elissa is a flighty, untempered thing who has barely been disciplined in all her pampered 18 years of life.

Tell me, as soon as you can, that you, Connor, and Teagan are all right. Please. I… fear for my family, with this news. Do not be silent, cousin. We have had our differences, but this is no time for spite.

The outcome of Ostagar makes it even worse. Fergus Cousland’s company was lost in the Korcari Wilds, and their daughter to the Wardens on the night of the siege.  I have all this from the few survivors that have made their way from Highever to the Denerim Chantry. There are flyers all over the city calling for her head - and someone else‘s of our acquaintance - published by Loghain, of course. Loghain speaks loudly of the Warden’s treachery at Ostagar, and all too few of us can see through him.

If this reaches you, and all is well, please, cousin, consider traveling to Denerim to appeal to the Queen. My own status is not high enough to try to reach Queen Anora - her father is bound to block any attempt - but Eamon's influence is great.  You could do some good here, if you wield it carefully.  

I know, there is not much hope, but with Cailan gone… with Eamon gone… with the Couslands gone…

Andraste preserve us all, lest Ferelden be lost to the Blight and to Loghain's own desire for power.

 

Dorcas

Chapter Text

To First Enchanter Irving, at Kinloch Hold

From First Enchanter Edmonde, at the White Spire

 

Irving,

The crate accompanying this letter is everything we have on the Second Blight here in Orlais. I imagine that there would be more in the Circle in Hossberg, but given our limitations… well, I did my best. I suggest writing to Starkhaven’s Circle, and perhaps Ansburg, as well. Montsimmard cooperated with us fully - contacted us first, actually. There’s a good friend there, with contacts in the Cathedral. Do you want the risk of knowing his name? It might be better to have a direct link.

It was a very turbulent time in Orlais, you might remember, but I sorted through the histories fairly well. Do keep in mind that I want these books and scrolls back at some point. Don’t you dare just absorb them into that excuse for a library at your Tower. I’m trusting you with several rare originals. Our apprentices don’t always take the care that they should with their copy work.

In the meantime, I was saddened to hear that they are closing the border. Apparently I will not be meeting you on the field of battle anytime soon, but with the defeat at Ostagar… Wardens aren’t always the most moral people, but this… I hope they realize not all of us believe the propaganda. Share what you need to share, if they come back through. I hope these make it through before it happens.

Please take care. Reading between the lines in your last letter about Uldred… I wish there was something I could do besides send books.

I will light a candle for your situation, Irving. Do not lose hope. Write if I can provide anything - though I imagine that mail will be scarce coming the more mundane way. Feel free to reuse the birds I send. I will send as many as I can spare.

Sincerely,

First Enchanter Edmonde

The letter is attached to a single crate piled among several on the back of a wagon, abandoned halfway through the Frostbacks. Bodies lay all around it, some in pieces, the drifting snow coating them slightly, and all of them solidly frozen to the ground. The ragged, make-do armor of darkspawn is noted here and there among the carnage. The letter and packages apparently never arrived at their destination.

 


 

To Sister Dorcas Guerrin at the Denerim Chantry

From Arlessa Isolde Guerrin at Redcliffe Castle

The parchment is streaked with soot, as if someone had crumpled it up, thrown it into a hearth, and then retrieved it and smoothed it back out.

 

Dorcas,

Well, this is just stupendous. Those two Wardens that are all that is left between us and the Blight?! Dorcas, why didn’t you tell me that it was Alistair and the Cousland girl? What was her name? Alys? Elise? Elsbeth? I shouldn’t be expected to remember her name.

When did Alistair even leave the Chantry? He was supposed to be a Templar by now! Why wasn’t I informed?! My donation was generous, surely enough to guarantee…

The Cousland girl was rude. In the midst of all my troubles, she ended up accusing me of ‘abuse’ during Alistair’s childhood. I didn’t abuse anyone. Whomever’s son Eamon claimed him to be, he was still the son of that… woman. A woman who played the King for the fool he was. He was hardly fit to eat with the family. No one could expect me to raise him as my own child. I provided him with an opportunity to rise above his station! Went above and beyond! Why does everyone insist on blaming me for his failures? That he should end up a Grey Warden - that he would prefer it to serving the Maker - proof of his low birth, if you ask me.

That Cousland girl’s no better than she should be, I’m sure of it. All you had to do was look in her eyes and you could see her scheming. Such anger. It made me shudder, Dorcas, that she should look at me that way. I said as much to Teagan at the time. Who does she think she is? She looked quite wild!

That Warden Duncan had something to do with both of them, I gather. I should have known. Common Highever brat, sweeping in here and watching him. Watching us. Whatever Maric claimed about the boy, I doubt it. The boy never looked anything like Cailan.

In any case, they have agreed to search for the Sacred Ashes, as I have not had any luck with my husband’s knights, and I’ve haven’t heard from that Genitivi for weeks. I think your ’friend’ took my money and the first boat out of Jader to Antiva. I don’t think he ever had any intention of searching for the Ashes, however famous you claim he is. Or perhaps the darkspawn got him. I hardly care, except that Eamon…

I’m sorry, I can’t go on.

The last I heard of your precious Wardens they were going to the Circle tower on a… personal favor for me. Alistair at least knows when to show his gratitude. Eamon and Teagan are something like uncles to him, after all. He feels he owes the Guerrins, quite appropriately.

Somehow, that amulet that Eamon always claimed was Alistair’s mother’s (and wouldn’t let me dispose of - such a nasty cheap-looking trinket) disappeared from his desk while they were here. I suspect that chit of a Cousland, of course. Light-fingered. It’s not the only thing that is missing, but I can hardly complain - those Warden Treaties are ancient, but apparently binding. They can take what they please. Even family jewels. They looted the vault and the armory and all I could do was watch. Alistair didn’t even apologize.  I shouldn't have expected better.

They came through Lothering on their way here. Overrun by the Blight, and all the people gone, one way or the other. They picked up some lay sister while they were there - a Leliana? She sounded Orlesian - a cultured accent, not a street rat - but claimed to be in Denerim most recently… do you happen to know her? She was pleasant, at least, unlike that Cousland bitch. I could still smell her dog on her. She probably sleeps with it. Horrible beasts, I will never understand Eamon‘s fascination with them. They’re all dead now, thank the Maker. The Wardens took care of that. When Eamon awakens he will be furious with them.

They had one of those Qunari with them, too. The man couldn’t string two words together, dimwitted, like all their kind. I despair for the future of my country if this the best that it can throw against the Blight. If it weren’t for Eamon’s being ill and Connor…

Well, I can’t leave while Eamon is ill. That would be impossible. He would die, without my care. And Connor would likely throw a fit if I tried. He’s unbalanced enough already with his father indisposed.

This country is going to the dogs. (La! I can make jokes, too!) In Orlais nothing would be so… shoddy. The Empress would have mustered the chevaliers to conquer the darkspawn in a single battle, her cousin leading from the front in a show of solidarity, and the Wardens would have been nothing but an afterthought. It would be a battle that the bards would sing about, unlike Cailan’s weak, hamfisted sham at Ostagar.

Perhaps if the Wardens fail me, I’ll just take Connor and go to Orlais. Let Teagan have the Arldom. Connor would be better off there, I’m nearly certain of it. He can do better than this. We can do better than this.

Sincerely,

Isolde

There is no documented reply. Possibly it was destroyed.


 

 

A ratty, blood stained, torn letter left at a homestead outside of Lothering from a Marian and Carver Hawke and apparently addressed to their mother and sister.

 

Dear Mother and Bethany,

Fuck, I hope this damn bird gets through the darkspawn. I don‘t trust this spell, whatever Da claimed the Circles did.

By the time you get this, we will be only a few days out from Lothering. You do still keep your bags packed, so you and Bethy can run, right? Maker’s Breath, Mother, I hope so, because we‘re leaving. Have Bethany wear Da’s staff and his robes - I have my own, but she can use his (Can you take them in for her? Surely a belt would be enough to gather excess fabric? Use your imagination. As long as she doesn‘t trip, it will do. Fashion isn‘t important, here.), and trust me, we’ll need her help against these monsters. Tell her I’m sorry. I know she doesn’t like to fight, but it’s going to be absolutely necessary if we‘re going to survive.

The army at Ostagar failed, Mother. Blame is flying around as thick as elfroot in the Brecilian Forest, but it doesn’t matter whose fault it is; The King is dead, and Carver and I are heading home to fetch you and head elsewhere. I don’t care where, as long as it is out of Ferelden, and out of the way of the Blight. Rivain might be pleasant this time of year. Bethy would like sandy beaches, wouldn’t she?

Be ready to leave. The entire darkspawn horde is on our heels. We might as well be leading them right to you. Lothering has already fallen, it just doesn‘t know it yet.

Carver wants Bethany to warn Peaches. I don’t want you to waste time warning anyone, all right? This is about survival, not being good neighbors. We won’t be their neighbors for much longer. Just get your things together, as much portable food as we four can carry comfortably (No luxuries. Food, water, necessities, that‘s all.) and we’ll be there as soon as possible. Carver and I still have our armor and weapons, and while hopelessly inadequate against darkspawn, at least that’s something.

I love you both. Be safe. Please.

Hawke

 

Chapter Text

To Enchanter Regalyan D’Marcall, Montsimmard Circle, Orlais

From Sister Dorcas Guerrin, Denerim Chantry, Ferelden

 

Enchanter Regalyan,

I’m so sorry I was unable to write sooner, but I understand a mutual acquaintance is having rather a rough month. As soon as he wrote to me, asking if I could keep you informed, I agreed. I recognized your name, of course. Who wouldn’t know the Hero of Orlais’ brave mage companion? I read the book, naturally.

As far as the state of things in Ferelden - things look rather bleak. To my knowledge, we have two remaining Wardens in the entire country to stop an entire Blight. I don’t suppose you know any smugglers that could get a few more across the border? The ones remaining are… inexperienced and young. Extremely so. As in, the woman, Lady Elissa Cousland, was recruited into the Wardens within the last two months, and the boy… well, he’s rather… valuable to Ferelden for reasons that I shouldn’t go into. Family reasons, of a sort. Well, not really, but…

Damn. I see there’s no skirting it. The other remaining Grey Warden is the only remaining heir to the throne. Cailan is dead, fallen at Ostagar with most of the rest of the army, and Alistair may be a bastard, but he’s a nice boy with his head screwed on straight, and certainly didn’t deserve the way he’s been treated by my cousin and his brat of a wife. Long story. Don’t start me gossiping. I’ll never quit. Let me just say that this is the reason why Kings shouldn’t have love affairs.

Alistair’s not actually related to the Guerrins. Cailan’s mother was my cousin. But I digress.

Alistair is Maric’s only remaining son. Period. Full stop. It would be nice if the Darkspawn didn’t kill him, leaving the power-mad general that was behind the death of the other Warden’s parents the regent to the throne. Because just to make it really confusing, that happened. He happens to be the father of Cailan’s Queen, Anora, you see.

Maker’s Breath, what you must think of Fereldan politics. Apparently we’re known for bashing contenders to the throne over their heads at the slightest provocation. I feel the oddest need to apologize for my country. To an Orlesian, of all people. I’m utterly humiliated.

But then again, your whole country was based from the Betrayer’s son’s wife pulling a fast one on her husband and his brother. So perhaps you could reserve judgment? I would appreciate that.

I’m not sure what help you can offer from Montsimmard, but I suppose it would be good to know for someone to know what happened to Ferelden when we end up like the Anderfels. Chant for us. We’re all but gone, I’m afraid, with our country in the hands of two children who have to kill an archdemon.

I don’t suppose you know a Leliana, do you? I know how ridiculous that sounds, but apparently they are traveling with a Qunari Sten and an Orlesian lay sister named Leliana.

I’m sorry this letter was so… pointless. What little information I have from Irving indicates that they passed through Kinloch Tower, and that he will be writing to you at the same time as he wrote to me. So you possibly know all of this already.

In any case, ask me your questions, and unless they are ‘Tell me how to invade Ferelden and re-conquer your country in the name of the Empress’ I will my best to answer. I’m not as flighty as I sound. Most of the time.

Tell me, do you play chess?

Yours respectfully,

Sister Dorcas Guerrin

 

***

 

To Enchanter Regalyan D’Marcall, Montsimmard Circle of Magi, Orlais

From First Enchanter Irving, Kinloch Hold, Ferelden

 

Enchanter Regalyan,

I’m sorry for the late reply. We’ve had… troubles here, and I have no doubt that by now you’ve already had the first letter from Dorcas. She’s not quite as hopeless as she sounds. In another life, she would have been planning military tactics, instead of singing the Chant and studying the Alamarri. Don’t play chess with her unless you enjoy losing. Our Tower has a game they’ve been playing with her for years by letter, and she is kicking our Collective asses.

The Wardens were here, in any case, on a strange mission of mercy for a child who was showing mage talent and nearly succumbed to possession. They’ve headed back to Redcliffe, to attempt to save the life of the child. Reluctantly, on the female Warden’s part. Apparently she was quite willing to do blood magic in order to just let ‘That bitch of an Arlessa die, if she wants to save her son.’ But she was overruled by her slightly older Warden companion.

They did us quite a favor while they were here. I don’t know if Edmonde told you, but we just escaped being annulled. The Right was sent for, but the female Warden talked the Templars out of following through with it. We’ve… had a lot of deaths here, mage and Templar both.

Of the battle itself, only one Templar survived. He’s traumatized, poor lad, lost it when a couple of apprentices let their fire practice get out of hand, and we sent him to Greenfell Monastery to recover. I’m not sure he can come back from this. His brothers say he is a changed man. But I’m sure that matters to you very little. Still, we’re grieving our losses - all of them.

I did my best to provide the Wardens with information and equipment, and a companion in their midst that will assist them. I sent one of my Senior Enchanters, Wynne, with them at her request. Feel free to communicate with her directly. She is a very brave woman. The remaining children in the tower would be dead without her. I don’t suppose you still have the ear of the Divine? You might recommend her for recognition. She’s earned it, keeping the kids Wardens alive while they fought to reach Uldred before he could torture me into accepting possession.

I’m sorry, I can’t keep writing. I… think I need to lay down. It’s a bit too fresh. Not a lot of us are sleeping well right now. The children… well, the children have it the worst.

I will write more later, if I have news. There’s a lot of work to do cleaning up, as I hope you can’t imagine.

Sincerely,

First Enchanter Irving

 

***

 

To Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast

From Regalyan D’Marcall, Montsimmard Circle

 

Dear Cassandra,

Tell me you have a Seeker in Ferelden, please. They tried to annul the Circle at Kinloch Hold. That they didn’t succeed is the only good news.

There are only two surviving Grey Wardens. Young adults, Cassandra. Now, I know that you as a young woman were formidable, but one of them is the heir to Maric’s throne.

Ostagar has fallen. Cailan is dead. And now his bastard half-brother, ’Alistair’ who just happens to be a Grey Warden, is in line for the throne.

The other Warden is still wet behind the years. Cassandra, it takes years and years to defeat Blights when you have an entire army to throw against them. Ferelden has two Wardens alone, and the self-proclaimed Regent (father of Queen Anora) has closed the border. My best recommendation for the Divine right now is to defend our borders and block any access to the Deep Roads. Because when Ferelden falls, Orlais will be next.

I hope Sophia Dryden is laughing in her grave. Because if having a Grey Warden directly in line for the Fereldan throne isn’t worth rolling over for, I don’t know what is.

I’m sorry I don’t have better news. Tell me you can improve it, slightly?

There’s an Orlesian lay sister named Leliana traveling with them. I don’t suppose you know her, do you? Perhaps someone can do some poking around, and see if they can figure out who she is, and how we can get in touch with her? In the meantime, I have a lead on another of their companions, and I’m hopeful to have some information on their actual location and situation soon, as well as their plan of attack. Assuming they have one. I’m assuming a lot here.

Thinking about you as a young woman brings back happy memories. Tell me, do you still have that armor? The one with the flippy skirt? Not that I’m daring to miss you personally in the light of such miserable news from our neighbors over the Frostbacks. Of course not.

I’ll write again soon. Hopefully not before you.

Love,

Galyan

 

***

To Galyan D’Marcall, Montsimmard Circle, Orlais

From Cassandra Pentaghast, Grand Cathedral, Orlais

 

Dear Galyan,

Don’t be ridiculous. I would hardly fit into the ‘flippy’ skirt. It has been ten years. At least.

There are no Seekers in Ferelden. At all. The Lord Seeker was rather curt with me when I told him the news, and agreed as soon as the border opened we would send someone to investigate. Rather too late to do any good, as apparently, according to the Templar Commander at Kinloch, the instigators have already been killed by the Wardens, and that in cleaning up, he has quite enough to do already other than host an unnecessary Seeker. Of course, that made the Lord Seeker all the more determined to send someone to investigate. I hope it’s not me. I dislike Ferelden’s large population of bears.

The Wardens can’t be that helpless, Galyan, however young. Give them some credit. You aren’t that much older than I, and we managed over considerable odds. They have to fight one blighted dragon, assuming the archdemon actually appears. In some versions of our story, there were five. Or hadn’t you heard? In one, I do a backflip, and land on the dragon, before killing it and vaulting off of it onto the Spire itself, just in time to save the Divine’s life. The stories get more and more incredible every time I hear them. I scarcely recognize myself.

If I could help you as a ‘young woman’ (I’m not that old, Galyan.) then you should give them a little more credit.

But all that is besides the point. They are all we have, so we arm them, with whatever we can manage. Round up that Mage Collective you’re so proud of. I’m sure that I have contacts among some of the people who dropped out of Seeker training - perhaps mercenary groups. I know I can write to individual Chantries as the Right Hand, telling them to assist the Wardens in whatever way necessary. We help how we can, so they succeed at their task.

This ‘Alistair’ is well shut of the throne. Why should he even want it? He’s better off as a Grey Warden. Let the Regent take it, I say. Wasn’t he the general in charge of the successful routing of Orlais? He’s hardly incompetent, if that’s the case. Or perhaps… Anora has been all but ruling for Cailan while he mustered his army, hasn’t she? Perhaps arrange for the general to be killed, then, and let her run things. No reason a man has to be on the throne. Celene is sufficient, after all.

Perhaps women would make less of a mess if they were all ruling the countries. Perhaps that’s everything wrong with Nevarra. I hope King Markus is squirming as I think about it.

I might miss your company. The Divine’s condition worsens, but slowly. Enchanter Una is infinitely more patient than I. The Most Holy grows… querulous. Much like a child, on her worst days. You chose well, since you could not be here yourself.

I miss you for other reasons than my pressing need to complain.

Yours,

Cassandra

 

Chapter Text

To Sister Dorcas Guerrin, Denerim Chantry, Ferelden

From Brother Reginald Plinth, Kirkwall Chantry, Kirkwall

 

Dear Dorcas,

 

Well, your Sister Evelyn is a treasure. Unfortunately, Sister Petrice has just managed to institute a rule that we must all call each other ‘Sister’ and ‘Brother’ or ‘Mother’ when appropriate, and so merely calling her ‘Asta’ cannot be done.  Watching those of us who have been here since childhood struggle to remember the appropriate title is amusing.  I think she knows she’s about to be made Mother, and wants the joy of hearing it from every mouth. 

Whatever I call your young friend, she’s thorough, and precise, and a wonderful conversationalist, other than her nearly constant habit of sighing over the all too flattering picture of Genitivi on the back of our new fifth edition. She knows he’s gay, right?  Definitely barking up the wrong tree, there.  Should I have a word? 

Your accounts of the Wardens in Ferelden amused us thoroughly. Asta was enraptured at the romance of the situation and promptly wrote up a fictional piece on the matter for our Chantry writers group.  The Bastard Prince and the betrayed Cousland, ousted from her home at too young of an age, to revenge her parents’ death against the man that killed them and defeat the Blight at the same time…  Of course, she included a completely hypothetical love story, in which the lone Cousland and the Bastard Prince fell in love and had lots and lots of babies, but… well, she’s young.  She’ll get over it.  I still read it.  Naturally.  I never claimed to have good taste in literature. 

I haven’t failed to notice that you haven’t responded to any of my not-flirting over the last several letters. Your young friend tells me not to give up, however.  She says you blushed when I wrote to you in the past.  Do you blush over my letters, Dorcas?  How fascinating

But to business, as they say. Assuming they say that.  I don’t get out of the Chantry much, but it sounds like something people would say. 

Petrice isn’t converting the Qunari or studying the Qun. She’s holding one captive, or something like that.  Your young apprentice has completed an in-depth study of Koslun’s writings, and she says the Saarebas in question, if they can’t be reunited with their Antaam, would rather die than be Tal-Valshoth.  They see themselves as the property of the Qun, hands, mouth, and magic.  I don’t profess to understand.  At all.  But she was thorough.  She made her way very cautiously down to where the Qunari have set up their camp - rather permanent looking - and had a long, and hopefully hypothetical discussion with one of the guards.  They gave her a nice pamphlet on the Qun and Koslun himself, told her that she would fit well within the Qun, if she could learn to control her filthy mouth (I paraphrase, naturally) and accept her role, and when she returned to where I stood waiting at the gates, she warned me war was inevitable.  Just like that.  Apparently, Kirkwall in its current state, and the Arishok bereft of something he’s searching desperately for, means that they can’t go home.  Without the item (and she couldn’t determine what it was, or where we might find it – there is a stigma associated with losing the damned object) there will be war, as they grow increasingly frustrated over the state of chaos in the city.  The Path apparently stands for nothing less than order in all things, and Kirkwall is… 

Kirkwall embodies chaos, Dorcas. There’s no denying it. It might as well be written on our walls - ‘Come to Kirkwall!  We let you do whatever the Void you want!’  And since Petrice is going out of her way to incite the Qunari into open aggression, so that the Knight-Commander (the real power within Kirkwall, not the Viscount) will kill them all… It’s a disaster in the brewing, I’m afraid. 

Sister Evelyn does not want to go home until she must. She is learning a lot here, so please, she begs me to ask you not to tell her parents or anyone that might tell her parents of the impending danger.  She says she might have several years, this way, to see something outside of Ostwick before she has to go home and mold.  (Her words, not mine.  I hear Ostwick is lovely.  Anywhere is prettier than Kirkwall.)  But for her personal protection, she has submitted to taking some basic self-defense classes from a Brother here at the Cathedral.  Brother Sebastian insists Kirkwall is no place for a person to walk around unarmed.  I quite agree with him.  Luckily, the Chantry is safe enough, so there’s no need to exert myself.  You know how I feel about exertion. 

I think she has settled in quite well. She tells wonderful stories about you, by the way. 

On a sadder note, my sister is dead. A young woman, a Fereldan, by her accent (though that isn’t unusual lately, with the Blight refugees everywhere) brought me her remains.  She had quite a dry sense of humor, “I think you misplaced this,” she said, handing me a box suitable for cremation, if unusually small.  Naturally, I replied, “I wondered where I put that.  Thank you.”  I paid her a few silver - everything I had on me.  I saved my tears for later. 

We understood one another. It was a moment. 

I’ve seen this particular young lady around quite a bit. Either she’s devout, or she’s just another girl mooning over young Brother Sebastian.  Thank the Maker and all his Children that Sister Evelyn insists he isn’t her type.  Because if I have to collar another young lady simpering and asking for Brother Sebastian to hear her ‘confession’ I’m going to gag. 

Sister Evelyn made some inquiries, so that I could thank her more properly, and she’s a young woman living in Lowtown with her mother and uncle, and brother, refugees from the Blight. Rather desperate circumstances, but at least she’s not in the Alienage or Darktown.  Surname of Hawke.  I don’t suppose… but no, she was from a little town called Lothering.  Neither of us could find it on a map.  I don’t suppose you’ve heard of it? 

Her accent made me miss you. But none of that.  I found Petrice snooping around my desk, and can’t guarantee that she won’t find your correspondence, Dorcas, with all its regrettable lack of flirting, so you’d better not start, least we risk embarrassment and scandal. 

But I’m going to use a cipher your young friend has offered me, just in case. She informs me she plays with such things in her spare time. 

I wonder why she doesn’t write to her friends more often, if she has such free time. 

I remain your,

 

Reggie

 

***

 

The following letter is ciphered.

 

To Brother Reginald Plinth, Kirkwall Chantry

From Sister Dorcas Guerrin, Denerim Chantry

 

Dear Reggie,

 

Thank you for warning me that your workspace is not your own. Petrice sounds like a real witch.  Tell Asta again to write more often. 

I love hearing from you, Reggie, but what’s the point of starting a flirtation long distance? My family will never let me leave Ferelden.  And you don’t have any family to recommend you elsewhere.  Surely your services are too valuable to Kirkwall, in any case.  And that leaves aside the whole ‘we took the damned vows’ issue.

I don’t want you to stop writing. Things look terrible and I need the distraction.  The Circle about a day’s ride from Redcliffe was almost annulled.  I have friends there, who occasionally help with my research and… well, they are all right, but most of the Templars are dead, and a great deal of the mages turned out to be maleficarum.  Horrific news.  The Wardens resolved it, since the Templars wouldn’t, or couldn’t.  I’m not sure which. 

First Enchanter Irving told me that the Wardens were heading back to Redcliffe afterwards, to take care of something for my cousin’s bitch of a wife. And that… they were sending Templars to take her son to the Circle. Connor is a mage, Reggie.  Isolde won’t answer my letters now (I might deserve it, actually - I was not kind in my last), and I don’t know how my cousin Eamon fares.  I… appreciate your letters more than you know.  I feel very alone.

Tell Asta to write to me. Please.

 

Dorcas

Chapter Text

A general coded message in a marketing circular addressed to the Mages Collective, written in several languages, but that carries a simple message, delivered to every larger settlement in Ferelden and the Circles at Kinloch and Jainen*. This particular flyer was picked up in South Reach, just outside of the Brecilian Forest.

 

To All Members of the Mage Collective: 

 

All assistance is to be offered to the Ferelden Grey Wardens. They can be trusted with the nature of our Collective. 

Reward them for help offered. All our lives are in their hands. 

If they pass through your location, please forward their next destination to your local representative.

 

The Mage Collective

 

***

 

To the leader of the Blackstone Irregulars

From Cassandra Pentaghast, Right Hand of the Divine

 

Greetings, 

 

Please assist the Fereldan Grey Wardens in any manner you deem necessary. I’m sure you have at least a few minor jobs that need doing - people that haven’t reported in during the emergency, and the like.  Pay them for doing the work for you, if nothing else. 

These two are Thedas’ only hope of defeating a Blight in this age. I shouldn’t have to remind you that Wardens can take whatever they need.  Don’t make them ask.

Send me word as possible about their location, and about their next destination, if known. 

Sincerely

 

Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast

Right Hand of the Divine

 

***

 

To First Enchanter Irving, Kinloch Hold, Ferelden

From Enchanter Wynne, currently camping just outside South Reach, Ferelden

 

Dear Irving,

 

Well, it’s not quite as bad as I feared. Either the Maker and his Bride are with these two or they have the best damn luck I’ve ever seen.  I’ve never seen such a pair of idiots, in many ways. 

Don’t get me wrong, they’re both lovely people. But Maric’s heir is… well, he’s not Cailan.  He’s a rather muscular version of gawky, like many young Templars, really.  But he can fight well enough, with the notable exception of avoiding traps as obvious as the hand in front of your face.  But the Cousland daughter…

Let me pull back and try to give you a better picture, shall I? 

Elissa Cousland is a very immature, pampered, dreamy sort of girl, obsessed with the arcane and the mythological - but not in a scholarly sense. She uses it as a source of cheap entertainment.  If she asks me one more question about griffons, I may explode.  I would say that she fancies herself, not inaccurately, as the hero of her own story.  For example, she picked up at some tavern or other the rumor that there are werewolves in the Brecilian Forest and despite our quest to find the Temple of Sacred Ashes to save Arl Eamon’s life, is insisting on marching us across half the country in the opposite direction of this town called in order to meet them personally. 

She’s on extremely friendly terms with both the Orlesian bard and apostate mage in our midst. I would not have expected a good Fereldan daughter to be quite so friendly with the Orlesian, either.  She’s obviously a bard - but Elissa doesn’t listen to me.  Yet. 

They are scarcely more than children, Irving. Alistair barely has a whole pair of socks.  Elissa is more concerned about her dog eating well than making sure that we are secure in camp at night.  They both have gruesome nightmares.  Something to do with being a Warden, apparently. 

I’m glad to be here. They obviously need a guiding and occasionally healing hand.  But this… this isn’t quite what I was expecting.  The whole situation is very ragtag and nothing like organized.  Elissa just informed Sten (the Qun warrior of our company who is also an admitted murderer, for the Maker’s sake) that she has every intention of asking the werewolves to assist us in our endeavor, along with the Dalish elves that she holds treaties for.  I’m not sure if she’s stupid, or just incredibly optimistic. 

Perhaps it’s merely the pull of the werewolves. She has at least one (wholly fictitious) book on Dane in her pack that looks extremely well-read. 

You should know that I also suspect Alistair of having a particular affection for the lady in question. They have a great deal in common as far as their hobbies.  They’ve both read that damned book.  While they were supposed to be discussing our next move, they started a rather heated discussion about the characters before agreeing to disagree.  It’s problematic, I know, that Maric’s son have an attachment of this sort… he’s unlikely to be in a position of choosing his wife, since he’s in line for the throne. 

I think he would make a good king if he manages to learn not to care what people think of him. He’s very tenderhearted, however. 

I’m not mothering him that much, Irving. Quit making that face.  You used to make that same face when you caught me with the new Templars’ mending.  Sometimes young people need a little care when they first strike out on their own.  These two more than most, I would argue.  Alistair has had practically no mothering whatsoever, and Elissa entirely too much indulgence, and no discipline that isn‘t of a military nature. 

Tomorrow we move into the Forest. I sincerely hope we contact the elves first.  I have no desire to meet werewolves, if they truly exist. 

I hope for Elissa’s sake that she doesn’t have the sort of wake-up call that I suspect they will have upon meeting their first Dalish elves. Elissa doesn’t seem to realize that they aren’t the same people that served in her family’s castle.  She’s terribly sheltered, and coming from a Circle mage, that’s saying something.

May the Maker be with all of us, and his Bride as well. 

Your friend,

 

Wynne

 

***

 

To Teryn Loghain, currently Regent of the throne of Ferelden, sent from South Reach

 

My Lord,

 

I am pleased to inform you that the Wardens did indeed pass through here, but didn’t linger. They spent one night out of town in camp, discussing… various topics, including werewolves, griffons, Orzamaar’s political structure, the Sacred Ashes of our Lady, the nature of possession, and an upcoming visit to Denerim. 

After listening closely, I believe they are heading to Orzamaar. Perhaps.  The dagger that the young lady Warden threw at their map hit the Frostbacks.  Perhaps they know of an entrance to the Deep Roads in that area?  The two Wardens seemed rather divided and… tense about their next destination, quite honestly.

I will continue my post in watching Arl Bryland, but I should inform you that I believe him to oppose your worthy cause. Apparently, he has heard the news about Howe’s treachery, and suspects you of being behind it.  His sister was married to Arl Howe, my lord, if you remember.  They were estranged, and he bears the man no love. 

I await your orders, my Lord.

 

Quinn

 

***

 

To First Enchanter Irving

From Senior Enchanter Wynne

Sent from South Reach as they passed through town

 

Oh, Irving,

 

That was very nearly a disaster. 

Elissa’s preoccupation with werewolves was nearly our undoing. She was completely prepared to let the former beasts wipe out an entire Dalish tribe until she realized that they weren’t ‘real’ werewolves, but humans under a Dalish curse. 

So she killed the Dalish Keeper ‘for being an arse’, in order to release them from the Keeper’s spell of revenge (that also just happened to be keeping him alive. Someone should be studying this curse, Irving.  Could this be the explanation of the Elvhen stories of immortality?  Spells kept going having the side effect of prolonged life, or even immortality?)  Not that the people who committed the crime that led them to be cursed in such a manner are even alive anymore… 

We had a massive argument back at camp afterward, in which I told her she was a spoiled brat, and she cried. I’m not sorry.  But the next day, when she returned to the Dalish camp, she was… a different person.  Quieter, and calm.  She helped figure out what was wrong with a Halla and broke the news of the Keeper’s death gently.  She evidently can be diplomatic, she just doesn’t recognize the need for it. 

Still, I feel terrible for them. She interfered in a young couple’s relationship and they’ve separated forever because of her fumbling.  Why didn’t she just stay out of it? 

I’m beginning to feel like a nanny, Irving. “Don’t touch that!  If you do this, there will be consequences…”  She did several completely random rituals in the elven ruins there that she had no deeper understanding of… I hope she hasn’t attracted the wrong sort of attention from the Fade.  After one of them she randomly announced that she could learn how to be an Arcane Warrior. 

We have yet to meet a set of bandits for her to try to apply her new found ‘talents’. 

Leliana has been talking to her quite earnestly (the bard, you remember?), and I think she might be getting through to her. I can only hope. 

Alistair is smitten, but not so far that he doesn’t protest her worst decisions. So that’s something.  Perhaps it’s a passing fancy? 

She’s not unintelligent, Irving. She can be taught.  But I doubt that she will ever listen to me, unless I can make up an allegory about griffons.  Or werewolves.  The ’real’ kind.  If my hair wasn’t already white… 

But if you can manage it, send a package to Orzamaar with more socks for Alistair. Or yarn so that I can make him new ones.  His are threadbare - absolutely beyond darning, poor lamb, and our Warden leader says there’s not enough money to cover new sets.  Mind you, she just bought him new armor… 

His old armor was just fine. It’s socks he needs.  Ser Wulfred (that’s the dog) chewed his last decent pair to shreds.  I bathed him in retaliation. 

In other news, we’ve picked up another questionable stray – this one an Antivan Crow. Maker’s Breath, this is getting ridiculous.  Loghain sent him to kill the pair of them, and she still let him stay.  On the other hand, though I shouldn’t admit it, he is easy on the eyes and rather courteous, in an Antivan sort of way. 

Light a candle for me and pray to the Maker to send me patience. I need it. 

 

Wynne