Being the approximately true adventures of the Second Inquisition of Thedas,
beginning in the year 9:41 Dragon
Adapted from the historical records by Lady Norbert, Chantry scholar
Edited for fun and profit by Varric Tethras, Viscount of Kirkwall in the Free Marches
Dedicated to our most devoted reader
Relevant note for the sake of legal necessity:
Everything in this story is a work of fiction. The characters, settings, and events are the lawful property of BioWare, and are being borrowed just for fun. This is strictly a labor of love and no copyright infringement is intended. All rights are reserved.
The titles of each chapter are verses taken from the Chant of Light, the teachings of Our Lady, as this was deemed fitting for the recorded history of the Left and Right Hands of Andraste.
Varric is a mostly innocent bystander. Or so he claims.
Prologue: From the Wellspring of Creation
In 9:30 Dragon, there were few who believed that the darkspawn skirmishes in the southern wilds of Ferelden were anything more than the restless stirrings of mindless, murderous outliers. But for Duncan, the grizzled Commander of Ferelden’s Grey Wardens, the signs were all too clear – the Fifth Blight was brewing. The endless tunneling of the darkspawn had uncovered yet another of the sleeping Tevinter gods; Urthemiel, the ancient dragon of beauty, had awakened, and their foul Taint had rendered it as corrupt and as bloodthirsty as themselves. Now they were massing, preparing for another all-out assault on the surface world, with the Archdemon guiding their plans.
Though the Grey Wardens across Thedas numbered in the thousands, Ferelden’s share of the fabled warriors was barely enough to fill a Chantry prayer meeting. Exiled from the country by the treacherous King Arland during the Storm Age, the order had finally been granted permission to return by Maric, the late father of King Cailan, and thirty years hadn’t been nearly enough time to properly rebuild the ranks. Duncan kept trying to persuade Cailan to allow him to send to Orlais for additional Wardens to face the coming threat, and help to stem the tide of destruction. But Cailan, young and golden-haired and filled with reckless optimism, was unwilling to share the glories of victory with anyone; and his father-in-law, the world-weary Teyrn Loghain mac Tir, was too embittered against Orlais to willingly stand on the same side of a battlefield with anyone, even Grey Wardens, who claimed that nation as their home.
Duncan was therefore forced to look elsewhere for aid, and to try to bolster his numbers from within Ferelden itself. Cailan’s forces were gathering alongside the Grey Wardens at Ostagar, the Tevinter ruins which form a crumbling unofficial border between the settled lands and the Korcari wilderness. Leaving his men there, the troubled Commander made his way northwest to Redcliffe, paying a visit to Cailan’s maternal uncle. Arl Eamon Guerrin was one of the most respected of Ferelden’s nobility, and Duncan sought his counsel as to where he might search for Warden recruits. Eamon advised him to journey to the northern shores of the realm and visit Highever, home of Teyrn Bryce Cousland, whom many courtiers had wanted to name king after Maric’s death. Widely admired for his valor in battle, his liberality to the poor, and his unerring kindness to all of high or low estate, Teyrn Cousland was sure to know of at least a few likely prospects.
From Redcliffe, Duncan joined a caravan to Denerim, where he intervened in the hanging of a thief called Daveth; invoking the Right of Conscription, he rescued the young cutpurse from his fate. Together they made their way to Highever, where a great tournament in the outer regions brought a knight named Jory to Duncan’s notice. Jory was perhaps a little too eager to accept the prospect of glories as a Grey Warden, but Duncan was hardly in a position to deny anyone willing to enter the ranks, and he sent the pair back to Ostagar ahead of himself. Alone, he paid his visit to the Teyrn, where he was welcomed with every courtesy. He hadn’t been within the walls of Castle Cousland for very long before he determined that there were some warriors present of considerable mettle, but none more than the Lady Elissa, the younger of the Teyrn’s two children. Her reputation preceded her, being the only daughter of a noble house who excelled in the arts of war, and she was highly regarded by her own people as having much of her father’s wisdom and judicious kindness. His elder child, the heir apparent Fergus, left the castle at the head of his father’s forces, marching to Ostagar to join the king; the Teyrn himself was waiting only for the arrival of forces mustered by his closest friend, Arl Rendon Howe, before he too would make his way there.
But deep in the night, the alarm bells rang. Arl Howe revealed his true colors by having his men invade the castle. They slaughtered everyone they encountered, and the corridors ran red with the blood of innocents; the Teyrn’s own daughter-in-law and young grandson were among the first victims. Duncan managed to rescue the Teyrn from the handful of soldiers who nearly killed him, but his wounds were too severe to promise much hope. Lady Elissa and her faithful mabari warhound, Toby, protected the Teyrna and joined Duncan and the Teyrn in the castle kitchen, where the family’s secret escape route offered safe passage from the siege. The dying Teyrn gave his blessing for his daughter to become a Grey Warden in exchange for Duncan taking her away from the scene of his death, and the Teyrna – unwilling to abandon her husband – insisted on staying behind to buy them time to escape. Heartbroken, Elissa obeyed their final command to flee, with Toby as the only other survivor of the terrible night.
To throw off any of Howe’s men who might have observed their escape, Duncan took Elissa to Denerim, where they could reasonably expect to be concealed among the crowds. As it happened, there was tremendous upheaval in the Alienage of that city, for Bann Vaughan – son of the Arl of Denerim – and some of his friends had interrupted elven wedding preparations, and kidnapped the bridal party. One of the intended grooms, Darrian of the Tabris clan, cut a swath of bloody vengeance through the Arl’s home and rescued the women, and Bann Vaughan was among those he killed. The blood he spilled was all in the name of exacting justice for his wronged people; but humans of the city, failing to grasp the situation as it truly was, were calling for his blood to be spilled in turn. Once again, Duncan invoked the Right of Conscription to rescue a Denerim convict from his fate.
With his two recruits (and the dog) in tow, Duncan returned to Ostagar and was warmly received by his men. His most recent finds were objects of some interest; Elissa was the first female candidate since the Grey Wardens returned to Ferelden, and Darrian the first elf. Together with the most junior Warden, Alistair, the four recruits made their way into the Korcari Wilds on a mission to retrieve some lost Grey Warden treaties. Once they returned to Ostagar, the secret ritual called the Joining was conducted. Sadly, neither Daveth nor Jory survived the mysterious ceremony, though this is not uncommon; Darrian and Elissa, however, emerged as full-fledged Grey Wardens.
The two new Wardens and Alistair were tasked with a special assignment on the morning of the battle – to light the signal fire in the Tower of Ishal, which would alert Teyrn Loghain that he was to bring his personal forces into the fray. History will recall that, though the three young Wardens did their duty, Loghain turned away from his. He abandoned the king to his fate; Duncan and all the other Grey Wardens also perished in the field, along with hundreds of soldiers. Only the intervention of Flemeth, the legendary Witch of the Wilds, saved the three newest Wardens from sharing their comrades’ grisly demise. With the very survival of Ferelden and all the world in their inexperienced hands, they set out to complete a seemingly impossible task – to unite the Dalish elves, the dwarves of Orzammar, and the people of Ferelden into an army that could turn back the Archdemon and its darkspawn minions.
Over the course of a year, the Wardens gathered their forces. Aided by Flemeth’s daughter Morrigan and a small host of other loyal companions, they delivered their treaties and urged their ancient allies to uphold the promises of aid they had once made. It was no easy task. Arl Eamon had been poisoned by order of Loghain, who had seized control of the throne in the name of his daughter, the widowed Queen Anora. Undead monsters stalked the people of Redcliffe, the dwarves of Orzammar were fragmented following the death of their king, and the Dalish were plagued by a werewolf curse. All these things and more had to be set right before any help against the darkspawn could be properly rallied. But the Grey Wardens have never shied away from any task which would lead them to victory over the darkspawn.
Darrian and Elissa worked in tandem, alternating her leadership skills with his raw courage, and together they inspired the multitudes. Among their own companions, they were deeply respected and valued – by some more than others. Working together, spending so much time in close company, it was only natural that strong feelings could be nurtured. No one seemed to find it terribly surprising that Alistair and Elissa were drawn to one another, but that Morrigan should ensnare (or be ensnared by) Darrian was a different story. As for Darrian and Elissa themselves, despite their very different backgrounds and abilities, they forged a deep friendship which continues to this day.
A Landsmeet was convened in Denerim to settle the question of succession, and it was revealed that Alistair, the Grey Warden, was in fact the illegitimate son of Maric and half-brother of Cailan, and thus the rightful heir to the throne. He defeated Loghain in single combat, ending their months of enmity in the midst of the Denerim palace throne room. With the matter settled by Loghain’s death, the nobles of Ferelden pledged their support for Alistair as their new king, as well as for his immediate betrothal to Elissa. Together, the unified army of humans, elves, and dwarves marched into battle, led by the Wardens and their compatriots.
The battle raged through the streets of Denerim, all the way to the top of the highest tower of Fort Drakon. It was there that Elissa, wielding the mighty longsword Starfang, landed the killing blow on the Archdemon – and lived. To this day, no one is certain how, for no other Grey Warden in history has ever struck down an Archdemon and survived to tell the tale. She and Alistair were married in due course, and crowned King and Queen of Ferelden. Ten years later, the Dog-Lords continue to rebuild their ravaged country, though some outside the realm express their doubts as to whether the Fifth Blight ever even really happened.
Queen-Dowager Anora, who had been held as a prisoner for the duration of the battle, was freed from the tower and permitted to inherit her father’s teyrnir in Gwaren, where she reveres his memory to this day; she is one of very few who remember him, rightly or wrongly, as anything other than a traitor. After several years of widowhood, she eventually consented to be wooed by a cousin of the new Queen, whom she married. Their son is, of course, named Loghain. As for Elissa’s brother Fergus, he was discovered to have survived the slaughter of Ostagar, and restored to Highever as its new Teyrn. There was much work to be done to erase the foul stench of Howe’s machinations from the castle and surrounding lands - but much like the Grey Wardens, the Couslands have never shied away from duty.
Alongside her new responsibilities as Queen, Elissa took up Duncan’s post as Warden-Commander; she spent several months in the Arling of Amaranthine, dealing with lingering troubles and adding new members to the old order. Darrian, for his part, left his dear friends to go in search of Morrigan, who had disappeared following the fall of the Archdemon. It’s said that the lovers eventually reunited, at least for a time, though a woman matching her description eventually joined the court of the Empress of Orlais.
In the meantime, a Fereldan refugee by the name of Marianne Hawke rose to prominence. The Hawke family lived in the village of Lothering, in Ferelden; Malcolm Hawke had died a few years before the Blight, leaving his eldest daughter to look after her mother and younger twin siblings. She and her brother Carver left to serve with the King’s army at Ostagar, but they managed to escape the carnage there and return home in time to alert their neighbors to the approach of the darkspawn horde. The Hawke family fled together, meeting and joining forces with a Templar named Wesley Vallen and his wife Aveline. Tragically, both Carver and Wesley were killed by darkspawn, leaving the four women to make their way to Kirkwall in the Free Marches in hopes of finding a fresh start.
Over the next year, Marianne Hawke made something of a name for herself as a defender of the poor and downtrodden. Commonly known as Hawke, she had two primary goals – to protect her apostate sister Bethany from the notice of the Templars, and to earn enough coin to buy back the ancestral Amell mansion which had been the childhood home of their mother Leandra, now in the hands of slavers from Tevinter. It was while she searched for the means to achieve these goals that she made the acquaintance of Varric Tethras, an impossibly handsome and roguish surface dwarf from the Merchants’ Guild. Varric, along with his brother Bartrand, was planning an expedition into the Deep Roads in search of valuable treasure, and he invited Hawke to invest in the scheme with what little money she had managed to save. To persuade Bartrand to agree to the partnership, however, Varric knew they would need a little something extra. He also knew where such a thing could be found.
Varric was aware of a Grey Warden living in Kirkwall, an apostate mage by the name of Anders. After the end of the Fifth Blight, Anders – who at the time was wanted by the Chantry for having repeatedly escaped from the Fereldan Circle of Magi – was recruited to the Wardens by Queen Elissa. He was deeply fond of the Queen, but when she returned to her husband’s court and left high-ranking Orlesian Wardens to look after Amaranthine in her absence, Anders chafed under this new leadership. Compared to her firm but gentle guidance, he found the Orlesian Wardens intolerable, especially when they forced him to give up his beloved cat; Ser Pounce-a-Lot had been a gift from the Queen herself. He entrusted Pounce to his friend and fellow Warden Nathaniel, to be returned to the Queen, but hidden inside the cat’s collar was a letter of farewell. By the time Pounce made his appearance at court, Anders had left Amaranthine and, using Warden maps, traveled to the Free Marches through the Deep Roads. In the seedy underbelly of Kirkwall known as Darktown, he established a free clinic to provide healing magic to the impoverished refugees, and it was there that Varric and Hawke asked for the use of his maps for their expedition.
There are those of their acquaintance who have long suspected that, from the hour of their first meeting, Anders was secretly in love with Marianne Hawke. This can never be proven one way or the other; but, if true, it makes everything which followed all the more tragic.
In exchange for his maps, Anders requested a favor of Hawke. The details of the favor have been obscured by time, and those who do recall would just as soon forget. But he thereafter became one of her circle of companions, a group as diverse and unusual as those who had accompanied the Wardens a few years earlier. The expedition to the Deep Roads was a success by general reckoning, although it had its far-reaching consequences. Most notably, Hawke and Varric discovered an ancient relic, an idol carved from a strange form of lyrium – it was red, rather than the usual blue. Bartrand, covetous of this treasure, attempted to seal his brother and friends in the vault where it was discovered. They escaped, but the day would come when Bartrand’s treachery would lead to disaster.
The Amell family manor was reclaimed and Hawke became a wealthy woman; unfortunately, her money and prestige didn’t come soon enough to keep Bethany from being sent into the fortress known as the Gallows, where Kirkwall’s mages were housed under the close eye of the Templars. She was well respected there, however, with even Knight-Commander Meredith Stannard, the leader of the Templars, conceding that Bethany was an exemplary mage. She was able to maintain close ties with her sister and their friends, as well as with her mother... at least, until Leandra was brutally murdered by an insane apostate.
Following the deaths of Kirkwall’s Viscount and his son, Hawke was declared Champion of Kirkwall in recognition of her victory over the Arishok, the Qunari war leader responsible for the Viscount’s murder. As the Viscount left no other heir to take up his throne, it remained empty after his death, and Knight-Commander Meredith tightened her hold on the city. She grew increasingly agitated about its mage population, and her altercations with First Enchanter Orsino became more frequent and more disturbing. Only the soothing presence of Grand Cleric Elthina was able to bring any ease to the tensions between the mages and Templars. But even while she became more and more restrictive of the mages, Meredith had to acknowledge Hawke’s popularity with the people, and allow her access to her sister in the Gallows rather than risk public disapproval.
The year after Leandra’s death, her daughters ventured off on a strange mission to a Grey Warden stronghold in the Vimmark Mountains. Accompanied by Varric and Fenris, an elf who had escaped slavery in Tevinter and eventually became Hawke’s lover, they encountered and defeated a darkspawn called Corypheus. He claimed to be one of the ancient magisters who long ago stormed the Golden City of the Maker and, in the words of the Chant, brought doom upon all the world. Despite their victory, however, Hawke sensed that things in Kirkwall were reaching a crisis point. She began to prepare for the worst.
Hawke’s dwarven manservant, Bodahn, had accepted a position within the Imperial Court of Orlais. To ensure their safety, Hawke arranged ship’s passage for him and his adopted son Sandal. She also made arrangements for Gamlen, her mother’s younger brother, and his daughter Charade to leave together. Among Hawke’s collection of friends was Sebastian, the last surviving member of Starkhaven’s royal family; with his help, she sent her relations to the safety of that city-state, and thence to Tantervale, along with her own young elven maidservant Orana. With money enough to start a new life, they fled Kirkwall ahead of the coming catastrophe. Having seen her family and household thus tended, Hawke waited, unsure of exactly what was approaching, but knowing that she would rather die than leave Kirkwall to its own devices.
In the end, the danger lay closer than she could have imagined. It was Anders, who was the mortal host of a Fade spirit called Justice; they had become twisted up together in their wrath over the treatment of mages, and the once-gentle Justice had transformed into the merciless Vengeance. Having duped Hawke into helping him locate some necessary components, Anders enacted his final bid for mage freedom. He triggered an explosion in Kirkwall’s Chantry, killing everyone inside it and the nearby buildings.
Feeling that he had triumphed, Anders surrendered his own life as forfeit, asking only that Hawke herself be the one to deliver his death. Despite her doing so, however, the Knight-Commander demanded the Rite of Annulment against every mage in the Gallows. Hawke and her friends rallied to defend the innocent mages, and though they won the day, peace was lost. First Enchanter Orsino, driven to madness and despair, revealed himself as a blood mage and took the form of a terrifying Harvester, forcing Hawke and her friends to kill him. Still reeling from the shock, they then took up arms against the Knight-Commander herself. It shortly became clear that she had gone even more mad than Orsino, for embedded in her sword was a piece of the red lyrium idol which Bartrand had brought back from the Deep Roads. It had gradually overtaken her mind, and even her own Templars saw the need to help Hawke bring her tyranny to an end at last.
Though mages and Templars had been briefly allied in that fight, the destruction of the Kirkwall Chantry could not go unreported, nor could the other Circles of Magi in Thedas fail to follow the Gallows in declaring independence from the Chantry. The Mage-Templar War had begun, and Hawke – wrongly interpreted by common report to be the cause of it all – was forced to leave Kirkwall. For their mutual safety, most of her friends scattered themselves to various points across the Free Marches; only Hawke’s oldest friend Aveline, the captain of Kirkwall’s city guard, remained at her post and largely above suspicion. Hawke’s own current whereabouts are unknown to all except her beloved Fenris and Rikki, her faithful mabari, both of whom went with her into exile.
Several years after the Battle of Denerim, not even two years after the Kirkwall uprising, Queen Elissa received an urgent message from her old friend Darrian. His letter’s contents were revealed to no one except her husband, but she too left Ferelden, just as Darrian had done so long ago. Though King Alistair continues to govern his people, and is dearly loved by them, it’s widely recognized that his heart is heavy with longing for his wife. Like Hawke, the present whereabouts of both Queen Elissa and Darrian are unknown, although it’s understood that a handful of the Queen’s most trusted Grey Warden recruits from her Amaranthine days are accompanying her.
Despite the notable absence of such important persons, the Mage-Templar War has continued, with both sides having declared their independence from Chantry control. The fighting at last has been suspended, however briefly; Divine Justinia, in a final attempt to bring peace to fragmented Thedas, has ordered the convening of a conclave. Representatives of both sides will meet under a cease of hostilities at the Temple of the Sacred Ashes, in the Frostback Mountains. It is Her Perfection’s hope that this summit will finally put an end to the division between the two factions; the history books will ultimately reveal whether she was right.
~ A summation of significant events in the years 9:30-9:41 Dragon,
penned by Varric Tethras while en route to the Divine’s Conclave
The author and editor at work, by Ada Sulewska