Hut of Witch of the Wilds, Flemeth
"Say that again?" Mairon was now next to the old woman who had called herself Flemeth while most except Rabbit and the dwarves remained stunned at this revelation. They had all heard the tales, in one fashion or another, stories that spoke of the Dreaded Witch who caused the fall of Conobar.
But to have her standing here...they had no idea what to make of it.
"Asha'bellanar!" Gilead immediately bowed to the older woman as if to confer respect though he still shook with fear, "Abelas...Andaran atish'an..."
"Get up young Seeker...the people need not bend their knee so quickly."
"The Flemeth of Legend? Daveth was right...you're the Witch of the Wilds, aren't you?"
"And what does that mean?" Flemeth asked the skeptical Alistair, "I know a bit of magic and it has served you all well, has it not?"
"The elder speaks truly." Durin spoke, "I know nothing of this Flemeth, but we owe this woman our lives. To throw aside gratitude in the name of facing off with a superstitious name will only worsen our precarious situation."
"Regardless of you are..." Lily added carefully, "I suppose we should thank you."
"If you know what's good for you I suppose you should!" Flemeth agreed with a smirk and nodded to Shatele, "Like the young miss did when she awoke."
"She did save us brother..." The young woman apologetically told her brother when he looked at her to confirm the truth. Revan merely nodded and walked in front of Flemeth before falling down to a knee and bowing his head,
"Then...I thank you on behalf of the Cousland name..." Revan stated, "I how could I repay you for saving our lives?"
"All I wish for you do is what you are meant to do." Flemeth assured the young noble and bid him to stand back on his feet, "It has always been the Grey Warden's duty to unite the lands against the Blight, or did that change when I wasn't looking?"
"Of course not!" A bitter Lily cried out, "It's just that most of us are dead and the people we're trying to protect have a tendency to backstab us at the worst possible time!"
"What are you talking about?" Cousland accusingly demanded, "The King did everything in his power to protect Ferelden! Don't you dare lay the blame on him!"
"I'm not talking about that..." Lily answered the noble, exhaling before she continued, "What I mean is that the Teryn didn't charge Cousland! He turned tail and ran!"
"You're lying!" Revan accused Tabris with a violent tone, "The Teryn would never abandon the King..."
"It's true brother..." Shatele affirmed to her brother, "We were on the top floor...he never came..."
"We saw the bastards turn tail and run..." Gimli also added before running over to catch Cousland when he shook and fell forward, "Hey! Take it easy!"
"Ferelden...we...failed..." The noble barely muttered as he started coughing up spits of blood, "When I...when I find him...he'll hang...right next to Howe!"
"Oh lovely...another one of us overreacts to bad news." Durin said to himself, not noticing when Lily appeared at his side and slapped the dwarf with armor piercing strength, "Oh come now! Did I really deserve that one?"
"Hah! You got slapped by a woman!" Mairon laughed before a wizened hand whipped across his face and threw him into a daze, "Pain...indescribable...pain..."
"Pain is what comes upon those who mock the pain of others." Flemeth coldly chided the mage before addressing Cousland, "Young man, what your companions speak is the truth."
"From the sound of it, your king was a pitiful one to start with." Morrigan mused from inside the hut, "While most of you stood back and watched."
"But we were fighting the darkspawn!" Alistair yelled in the direction of the hut before turning to Flemeth, "The King had nearly defeated them! Why would Loghain do this?" While it was unclear as to why the battle turned against them, the wardens mostly agreed silently that this action by Loghain had caused the king's death.
"Now that is a good question." Flemeth said while crossing her arms curiously, "Men's hearts hold shadows greater than any tainted creature. Perhaps he feels this is an army which he can outmaneuver. Perhaps he does not see that the evil behind it is the true threat."
"The Archdemon..." Even though none of them saw the demon, they had sensed it like a bad rash. They felt it's will in the darkspawn they faced, the very air of that battle was saturated with it's presence. Perhaps it was merely an aftereffect from their Joining, but it was clear to the Wardens that the Archdemon was present in that battle...how he was present was a different story altogether.
"Perhaps it was for the obvious...He saw little point in fighting a lost battle."
"Were we even in the same fight Aeducan?"
"His action was not one I would be unable to see you attempt." Durin growled at the Castless Warden, "The only reason you failed was because you had no where to run to Brosca."
"Is this the part where I make a counter and we break into a short fight?" Gimli sarcastically inquired, even if he wasn't a straight-up fighter, he was enough of a scrapper to make it through a Proving, "Cause I've got one line for you-"
"Well you two be silent?" Gilead knew nothing of the quarrels of dwarves, but he had little patience for them at the moment, "Or has everything that happened up till know flown out of your stunted heads?"
"Watch it elf!" Durin barked at the Dalish, "I will not be spoken down to by some...poor wanderer who spends his time frolocking in the woods!"
"How dare you!" Gilead snarled, offended by Durin's comment, "We Dalish are far from poor! At least we do not cast our own aside for circumstances they cannot control!"
"Then why are here with us misfits of Grey Wardens?" Gimli demanded as a three way fight seemed ready to break out.
"That...is...enough..." Revan stepped in the middle of the three and gave them enough of a mental que to halt the impending fight, "If we should be taking out anyone...it should be the Archdemon."
"By ourselves?" Alistair asked unbelievably, "No Grey Warden has ever defeated a blight without the army of half-a dozen nations at his back...not to mention...I don't know how."
"How to kill the archdemon? Or how to raise an army?" Flemeth inquired, "Seems to me that those are two different questions."
"That's because they are." Gimli pointed out.
"Arl Eamon would never stand for this!" Alistair yelled out as he walked to the edge of the dirt and looked out into the marsh, "If he knew what had happened, he'd gather the whole bannorn against Loghain!"
"The Arl of Redcliffe?" Lily had heard about this arl of Redcliffe from the shopkeeper in the Alienage, he was one of the older lords in Southern Ferelden close to the south tip of Lake Calenhad but Lily didn't know anything more.
"I suppose..." Alistair replied, "Arl Eamon wasn't at Ostagar, he still has all of his men and he was Cailan's uncle. He's well respected within the bannorn and he is a good man that we can trust, I know him. Of course! We can go to Redcliffe and appeal to him for help!"
"So was Howe." Revan warned, "So was Loghain and look what they've done. We can't just go to Eamon out of desperation..."
"Here's an idea...why not wait for everyone to see what the blight is doing?"
"Yes, perhaps wait until the Archdemon itself makes its appearance at the gates of Denerem!" Flemeth laughed as Lily realized how bad of an idea that would be. "That would be convincing."
"It's been centuries since the last blight...no one will take it seriously until it's too late."
"Then we need the other Grey Wardens." Revan suggested, "Weren't the ones from Orlais supposed to be here soon?"
"I don't...know..." Alistair admitted, "Maybe they are...but I wouldn't know how to contact them or any other warden branches..."
"Brother...maybe Alistair's right about Arl Eamon." Shatele slowly said to her brother as if unsure herself... "Father trusted Eamon...and...There's only the seven of you, how can you fight the Blight on your own?"
"I thought you weren't too privy about the Orleisans anyway, Cousland..."
"I'm not." Revan clarified sternly though his posture had calmed down, "It's just that the Blight is the larger threat...I still can't believe Loghain doesn't see otherwise..."
"Redcliffe's our only option then..." Durin stated while the other wardens agreed, "But it can't be the only one, we can't find ourselves in a situation where we have enemies on all sides."
"Too late for that." Mairon chuckled despaired the glares that his companions gave him, "This time I really am speaking the truth."
"Besides, this Arl Eamon is just another human lord." Lily said, unconvinced that the situation had truly improved, "We'll need more than connections to deal with Loghain, not to mention the Blight that's about to knock down some doors."
"If I know anything about these situations, it's that the bigger guy is always the one people listen to." Gimli added, remembering his own experience with the Carta, "Loghain's a hero on the surface right? That means that even with this Arl Eamon, we'll still have to play politics to get Ferelden on our side and that's too chaotic to manipulate for sure. At least not with the numbers we have."
"In short, we'll need to find a way to burst down the gates and tell everyone to shut up and listen to us." Mairon stated with a finger on his chin, "There's only two ways that I know of."
"Please, enlighten us."
"I shall Mahariel." The Mage continued, "Gather a large group of competent mages and force the bannorn to follow us. Or gather an army of misfit groups to show that we have some sort of backing and support. But the latter is too boring..."
"Then again..." Revan sat against the lying Rabbit for a brief moment as if he had remembered something, "Shatele, do you still have that cask that I gave you?"
"The one you got from the Wilds for Duncan?" Shatele reached into her tunic and briefly searched with her hand until she found something, "Yes I do." She then brought out a small folder-like cask that she handed to Revan.
"Here's our army." Revan remarked with a subtle smile as he opened the cask to inspect it's contents while the others watched on.
"But this cask only has papers, journals and scrolls inside it." As Shatele spoke, the wardens suddenly remembered the importance of the cask, "That's not an army."
"Yet, it's our best method of gathering one." Revan clarified to his sister while the wheels in everyone's mind started moving.
"Wait..." It finally hit Lily, "You're talking about those treaties Flemeth gave us!"
"Ah...now there is a smart lass..."
"Of course, the treaties!" Alistair spoke for the whole group, that earlier trek through the Wilds hadn't been for nothing after all, "Grey Wardens have the oaths of elves, mages and dwarves! We can call upon their aid during blights!"
"I may be old, but elves, mages, dwarves, this arl eamon and who knows what else...this sounds like an army to me."
"So can we do this?" Alistair asked, "Go out, find these people and gather an army?"
"I doubt it'll be that easy." Even as Grey Wardens, Gimli knew that just about all of them, including Alistair, had no experience with actually convincing these different groups to do anything. He and Aeducan were Sun-touched as far as Orzammar was concerned, Gilead wasn't familiar with this part of Ferelden, Cousland had been disinherited by the violence inherent in surface politics while Tabris was technically a criminal who propagated the violence in response to an unfair practice of the system.
Yeah this wasn't going to be easy.
"When is it ever?" Flemeth apparently thought the same thing that Gimli did or was amused by this hopeless task. Either way, she looked like she was having a blast.
"It's always been the Grey Wardens duty to stand against the Blight..." Alistair breathed, the weight of this goal clear in his mind, "And right now...we are the Grey Wardens..."
"Isn't that Grey Wardens do?" Shatele asked confused and almost frightened that they weren't going to fulfill their pledges, "I didn't know there was a choice in the matter..."
"There is Shatele...there's always a choice," Revan told his sister, "The seven of us could actually leave Ferelden and seek out the wardens in the Free Marches or...Orlais..."
"Or we could find the nearest ship and flee for Antiva." Gimli off-handedly suggested, even though the death rate was pretty high there for some reason.
"I vote for Tevinter!" Mairon raised his hand but was disappointed when all others ignored him, "No one else?"
"But I don't know about the rest of you, for me leaving isn't an option." Revan stated as Gimli just chuckled, "Ferelden's my home, if I won't fight for it then who will?"
"You think you're the only one with anything at stake?" Lily asked, "I might not have anything nice to say about most shemlen, but I've got my papa and family to look after in Denerim...and I'll be damned if I get the hair-brained idea of leaving them to face...those creatures..."
"Well said, Mistress Tabris..." Durin complemented before he spoke his peace, "As for myself, I have no obligation to aid this country frankly. But as pointed out before this battle, when the darkspawn overrun you surfacers, then they will return in force onto my people. Father in his old age has enough to worry about between Harrowmont and Bhelen..."
"Faithless is he who turns aside when the road grows dark." Gilead said to himself and the others, "I dedicated my bow to fight this blight and it shall be so."
"Do I really have to?" Gimli looked at each warden and with Flemeth's nod, Gimli rolled his eyes and said, "Honestly, I've got no reason to stick my neck out for anyone on this sun-roasted surface. Same back in Orzammar, the only person who'd miss me when I die is my sister and she'll forget about me as soon as she pops out a mini-noble and gets all the riches."
"You know...I'm in the same shoes." Mairon admitted, "The closest thing I have to care for on this forsaken world are the caged-rats in the Circle Tower or pony who is no longer with us."
"Maybe if you hadn't set him on fire-"
"But there's so much in this world to see and do!" Mairon cut off Gilead with his confession, "So much to learn and so little time as it is...so let's deal with this Blight so I can learn all that there is to learn without interruption."
"Don't worry, I'm not gonna turn tail and run, I wanna see how this turns out." Gimli assured the others, ignoring Durin's suspicious snarl, "Besides, this blight's gonna catch up to us wherever we go anyway, right?"
"Then you are settled?" Flemeth asked the resolute wardens, "Ready to become Grey Wardens?"
"But they already drank a cup of-" Revan motioned to Shatele to not finish before she nodded, "Sorry brother..."
"It's alright," Revan himself barely remembered that the Joining was to be kept secret from non-wardens, "We've already drank the cup of duty that being a Grey Warden entails...we have a choice, but anything aside from the obvious is moot."
"What shall you do now then?" Flemeth inquired further, almost delighted by this whole quest that the wardens were about to set out on, "Not throw yourselves at the darkspawn horde, no?"
"I thought we were going to build an army."
"We are Shatele," Revan clarified to his sister, "Flemeth just wants to know where we'll go from here."
"Basically, she wants us off her lawn." Gimli added casually.
"Surely there must be more you could do to assist us?" Mairon greedily asked, the other wardens had a feeling that he wasn't at all referring to their mission.
"Disregard him, Asha'bellanar..." Gilead said, narrowing his eye when Amell stuck out his tongue, "We are already in your debt..."
"No...no...Thank you..." Flemeth stated, "You are the Grey Wardens here, not I. Now before you depart, there is yet one more thing I can offer."
"The Stew is bubbling mother...shall we have eight guests for the eve?" Morrigan inquired when she emerged from the hut and looked from warden to warden with a dull expression, "Or none?"
"The Grey Wardens are leaving shortly and you will be joining them."
"Such a shame-" The look on Morrigan's face when she realized what Flemeth had said was far too priceless for Gimli to not laugh, "What!"
"You heard me girl, when last I checked, you had ears."
"A witch of the wilds as our ally..." Mairon thought out loud while observing Morrigan's figure, "I think that's an excellent idea, no?" Despite the support that Morrigan would likely bring, the other wardens did not trust Mairon's ulterior motive.
"Have I no say in this?"
"Doesn't look like it." Gimli replied, "On the bright side, you're not most men's type so you shouldn't have anything to worry about."
"You have been iching to get out of the wilds for years, now is your chance." Flemeth told her daughter, "As for you wardens, consider this repayment for your lives."
"Very well, she comes with us."
"Wait a minute, who put in charge in this assembly?" Durin demanded after Revan spoke, "If I recall, the general social law dictates that it is the most senior of a group who suggests and at times designates the group's course of action. Therefore it should be either myself as the oldest or Alistair as the one who has been a Grey Warden the longest who should be in charge!"
"Except that Alistair himself is barely a Junior Warden and doesn't really seem up to it...no offense..."
"None taken..." Alistair brushed off Gimli's apology, "Besides, we shouldn't be hung up on who's in charge. Even if Revan is pretty the only who could...be in charge..."
"What?" They'd already been betrayed by one human lord, Lily saw little reason in having their little group uninamously led by another spoiled noble brat.
"He does have a point." Gimli conceeded, "Revan is the son of a high-ranking lord...and compared to a me...a casteless former carta bouncer...an exiled dishonored prince...a dalish which by itself means living with a target on his head...an ex-templar...and the proven murderer of a noble's son and his guards..."
"He had it coming and I'm not apologizing..." Lily said with a chuckle, Revan gave her a slight glare but shook his head and dropped it.
"It doesn't matter anyway...we need a course of action, not a hierarchy..." Revan stated to the group, "As for Morrigan, I don't see any reason why she shouldn't come with us...if she has no objection of course."
"Not to...look a gift hoarse in the mouth, but won't that add to our problems?" Alistair brought up, "Outside of the Wilds, she's an apostate."
"Yes and we're just the only group capable of defending against the Blight, no?" Mairon knew what Alistair was concerned about and it annoyed him, "I'm sure the Templars won't be that fanatical...now if we were in Kirkwall then it would be a different story..."
"Mother..." Morrigan really didn't want to go apparently, "This isn't exactly how I wanted this...I'm not even ready!"
"You must be ready, child." Flemeth told her daughter, "Alone, these wardens must unite Ferelden, if they fail then all will fall to the Blight...even I."
"And you wardens...I entrust to you that which is most precious to me..." Flemeth brought to their attention tenderly, "I do this of course because you must succeed."
"You have my word...she will not come to harm." Gilead promised the Witch of the Wilds before turning to his companions, "Right?"
"If she doesn't give reason..." Gilead dangerously eyed his fellow archer, "I'm only speaking my mind..."
"At least you are honest..." Morrigan stated, "Allow me to get my things, if you please..."
"What can she do?" Mairon innocently inquired of the Witch of the Wilds.
"You would like to know, wouldn't you Amell?" Flemeth asked as if she were dangling a treat above the mage's nose, "She'll reveal her talents...as you travel alongside her..."
"I do not understand." Cassandra confessed while standing before the Orator, "After all these centuries of keeping herself out of all common knowledge, Flemeth makes herself known to the Wardens?"
"They weren't exactly in a powerful position to argue." The Orator explained, "Nor did they intend to refuse help from a very powerful witch."
"This seems to be a common thread between your stories." Cassandra addressed both the Orator and a grinning Varric, "Flemeth rescues both the Wardens and the Champion to in-debt them into fulfilling a favor for her...Coincidence? I think not!"
"Don't worry, she has a tendency to over think things."
"Did she offer any other aid?"
"Nothing overly helpful..." The Orator related, "Just some leftovers from wandering Chasind folk that she tossed into their waiting hands..."
"Once again, you are too kind Flemeth." Revan said in gratitude as he slung his shield over his back and sheathed the Chasind blade Flemeth gave him. It had been several hours since the wardens had found themselves as the only ones capable of stopping the Blight and were now standing in front of Flemeth's hut, no longer wearied or tired, but now fully active and armed in equipment that the old witch had came across during her stay here in the Wilds.
"Old Flemeth has a thing about gifts young wolf," Flemeth replied, "This blade and a knife to go along with it should replace what you lost during the battle. I would recommend finding a better shield soon, since it will take some skill to repair the one on your back. I also have here a concoction I brewed for your injuries. Do take care and not strain yourself before the climax of your trial."
"Thank you ma'am." Revan raised an eyebrow he saw Alistair shake his head while Lily giggled, "What? Oh...very mature..."
"Seeker Mahariel, you likely knew that your bow was beyond repair." Mahariel nodded sadly as Flemeth spoke, "However, this one should suffice until you find a weapon of greater quality...the Chasind are not known for long-ranged weaponry."
"Ma serannas, Asha'bellanar..." While the Wilds Bow was not of Dalish make nor of Illen's handiwork, the wooden bow did have a graceful curve to its limbs and was adorned markings that seem inspired by nature.
"Despite your words, I intend to repay you for this armor." Durin stated to the witch and then examined his two-handed weapon, a Chasind Crusher, "If I might ask, where did you acquire this Warhammer?"
"Perhaps I killed barbarian and stored his weapon under my bed, Lord Aeducan." Flemeth answered in a manner that made Gimli gulp, "The history of a weapon matters not for it is but a tool. It is it's usage in the present that determines is usefulness.
"Agreed." Durin decided not to argue against the witch's point.
"I hope you enjoy your attire, Lady Tabris." Flemeth watched as Lily flexed and stretched out, "You are very quick, but as you very well know...even the quickest rabbit is all too defenseless when caught by the snake. The tunic should provide more appropriate protection without hampering your...flexibility."
"Thanks..." The city elf flipped backwards while brandishing her new knives before landing, "Doubly for these knives...they don't match, but it's what you do with what you got that counts."
"Yes...you are a smart one." Flemeth chuckled before Mairon slowly walked up to her with his hands together in front of his neck, "Amell, no I will not teach you to turn into a dragon."
"Damn..." The mage snapped his fingers in disappointment while Flemeth handed him a worn out book.
"But I believe this journal I happened upon long ago shall serve you well and how do you like your robes?"
"I'm going to sleep in these!" Mairon squeeled in delight, caressing his fur shoulder pads pleasantly, "I almost feel like falling asleep right here and now!"
"As for you, Brosca of the unwanted." Gimli didn't seem surprised at how he was addressed, "Apart from your garments and the repair to your contrapment, I also have something that would be of great use to you." Gimli took the gift in his hands but...he thought that this was a joke.
"A jar of dirt?" Maybe there something special about this jar, but Gimli couldn't see it. When someone has been compared to dirt all their life, it's usually not safe to give them a jar full of said dirt.
"Obviously." Flemeth didn't seem to catch this notion.
"Is...the jar of dirt going to help?"
"If you don't want it, give it back."
"No!" Despite whatever insult this dirt might represent, Gimli did want to live and if that meant keeping this jar that might hold something special, so be it.
"Then it helps." Flemeth left Gimli alone as Shatele enjoyed her own minor gift, "I see that the Chasind Flatblade has at least one admirer."
"Thank you, Lady Flemeth." Shatele said while sheathing her sword before she hurt someone.
"You are welcome child. Is something the matter?"
"Doesn't Alistair get a gift?"
"But I've already given him one." Shatele followed Flemeth's gaze towards the opening door of the hut, "Here she comes now."
"I am at your disposal Grey Wardens..." Morrigan half-heartedly greeted, "I suggest a village further north of the wilds as our first destination."
"Lothering?" As far as Mairon knew, that was the closest village to these wilds. If anything Lealion told him was true, they'd likely be better off going to West Hill or South Reace. What significance could possibly come from that backwater town?
"Yes...It is not far and you'll find what you need there." Morrigan elaborated, "That or I shall simply be your silent guide."
"I'd honestly wish you speak your opinion." Mairon admitted as Flemeth began to laugh.
"Oh! You're going to regret that."
"Farewell mother...Don't forget the stew on the fire, I'd hate to come home to a burned down hut..."
"Asha'bellanar..." Gilead was concerned about what would happen to Flemeth once they left, "What will you do once we are gone?"
"Have a moment's peace..."
"I hear the peace of the grave is eternal..."
"This is the thanks I get for feeding you and putting up with you for this long?" Morrigan didn't seem affected by her mother's outrage, "Bah! May your child treat you the same way..."
"Feed me, she says..." Morrigan chuckled, "Without me I swear, she should be caked in dirt and eating treebark inside of a month!"
"It is far more likely that you'll return to see this entire area, swallowed by the blight! Along with myself."
"I..." Even if it was warranted, Morrigan remained stunned when her mother hit her with the true implication of events surrounding this marsh, "all I meant was-"
"I know dear...do try to have fun."
"Before we go..." Gilead spoke again, "Do you have advice for us, Asha'bellanar?"
"About the darkspawn? Then hear this..." The Wardens waited as Flemeth spoke, "I laugh at a world full of stupid humans who ignore the Blight's evil and abandon their vigilance to chase mortal goals. Remember...it is up to you to destroy the Blight, pray not for someone else to destroy it. It will always nip at your heels."
"I will consider your words..." Mahariel stated with a respectful nod, "Dareth Shiral, Asha'bellanar..."
"Then we are done...now if you'll excuse me, I have some dinner to eat." Flemeth said before returning the nod to the Dalish elf, "Dareth Shiral...Seeker of the Dales..." With that, she walked past the Wardens and went inside of her little hut.
"Is she like that all the time?"
"Unfortunately..." Morrigan replied to Gimli, "Shall we get underway...Grey Wardens?" Underway...underway into a world now threatened by darkspawn and it's own stupidity. Once they got to Lothering, they would have to decide where to go, who to speak to, what to do in preparation for this Blight and they would be by themselves...
"Yes...let's get out of the cold Wilds...away from the darkspawn horde and back to civilization!"
"I second that motion." As much as Durin hated to agree with the Casteless, these Wilds were a bit more cold than the dwarf could comfortably handle.
"Are you sure your mother-" Morrigan just walked without facing Mairon, the mage knew that the witch knew what he was about to ask and put the topic down for the moment, "Fine...let's get out this place..."
"I'm not looking forward to this..." Lily admitted as the group slowly began their treck out of the Wilds, "At least we had beds in the Alienage..."
"After a couple of nights, the grass beneath the tent fills like a mattress..." Revan assured Tabris, though she hardly agreed.
"Are you coming Lord Gilead?" Shatele asked the Dalish elf, who slowly stalked behind the departing group and gazed back at the hut of the Witch of the Wilds.
"Yes..." He replied to the young girl, "Do not worry for me..." Shatele smiled and ran up ahead to catch up with her brother while Gilead brought up to the group's rear.
"Spooked?" Gilead nodded to Gimli's question, "So was I...Think I'll be keeping an eye out on Morrigan..."
"As shall I..." Even though Flemeth was a woman to be respected, Gilead was no fool...those of greatest respect are often capable of the greatest treachery. Even amongst the Dalish, the tales of Flemeth were far and many...but they all had a common point...a point that made Gilead all the more wary of Flemeth's "daughter".
Royal Palace, Denerem
The palace was now filled with a large audience on this day, the King's funeral was only a day or so away as news poured into the Ferelden capital of the disaster at Ostagar. The nobles were filled with doubt and lingering shock, Maric's loss at sea was still fresh in the minds of many and now his only son had fallen against the darkspawn without an heir to the throne.
It was in this hour that Loghain, liberator of this land, had stepped forth to aid his beloved Ferelden as he addressed this assembly of lords and ladies with his daughter, Queen Anora standing at his side. He had barely stopped since arriving in Denerem barely days ago and immediately sent word to Howe and his own remaining forces in Gwaren.
"And I shall expect each of you to support these men!" Loghain called out to his fellow nobles, "We must rebuild what was lost at Ostagar and quickly! There are those who would take advantage of our weakened state if we let them. We must defeat this darkspawn incursion but we must do so sensibly and without hesistation." He would not make Cailan's mistake, he would not allow his mindset to be poisoned by Orlais, be they Grey Warden or not.
"Teryn Loghain, if I might speak..." Loghain motioned with his hand to allow a usually quiet noble, Bann Teagan Guerrin from Rainsfere to say his piece, "You have declared yourself Queen Anora's regent and claim we must unite under your banner for our own good."
"But what the army we lost at Ostagar?" Loghain didn't like where Teagan was going, he could already see the lines emerging, "Your withdrawal was most fortuitous..." Some within the crowd gasped in shock and disbelief, Loghain had to hand it to the noble this was not a great time to state such words. But as Loghain himself knew, only a fool allows time to dictate true action.
"Everything I have done, it is done to secure Ferelden's independence-"
"Such as granting Howe command over both Denerem and Highever without consideration for any other survivors of the Cousland or Urien lines?" News of the Cousland massacre had already spread amongst the nobility and Loghain expected trouble after appointing Howe as Teryn of Highever. But now Teagan was deliberating stepping on Loghain's toes, "I doubt it-"
"I have not shirked my duty to the throne and neither should any of you!" Duty to the throne? Loghain laughed in his mind when he realized what he had said. Maker's breath, he caught the irony of his own words before they ever left his mouth, but his duty was not to the crown, it was to Ferelden.
And Ferelden was now turning against him.
"The bannorn will not bow to you simply because you demand it!" Teagan cried out as whispers and rising voices spread through the crowd. Not all had heeded Teagan's words, but Loghain knew that enough of them had...dissent was growing.
"Understand this, I will brook no threat to this nation from you or anyone!"
"I never said that I was threatening-"
"You're just like your brother, Teagan." Subconsciously or not, Loghain knew that family resemblances were always easy to catch, "Even now, you try to stir dissention amongst our countrymen!"
"The only one I see stirring dissent is you." Teagan replied without raising his voice, "Actions have a way of speaking louder than words." Seeing that he would gain nothing more from speaking with this upstart, Loghain strolled across the balcony, ready to depart from this meeting.
"Bann Teagan, my father is doing what is best."
"Did he also do what was best for you husband, your majesty?" Loghain stopped when he heard the bann address Anora, "And last I checked, was it not you and nephew who were the rulers of Ferelden? The Bannorn would support you if you placed your father in check."
"I stand my decision, Bann Teagan." Loghain heard her daughter speak, "Need I remind you who is queen?"
"With respect, you don't seem to remember that fact yourself." Loghain mentally kept from reaching for his blade when he turned back to watch Teagan, "Maker watch over you...Queen Anora..." The man dared speak so sarcastically and disrespectfully and then bowed as if he never breached his respect for the Queen of Ferelden. His fatherly instincts wanted to leap over and kill the upstart, but the tactician had already determined what Teagan was doing.
"So that's they call him the Bann-Hammer." Loghain mused before he turned to leave once more and saw a puppy fly out of an open doorway and hit the floor of the palace. The puppy was alive, but wimpered with a broken leg, "Who kicked the puppy?"
"Oh that was me..." Howe confessed while leaning inside the doorway, "Problem?" Loghain now didn't know who he was angrier with more, Teagan, the Bannorn, Orlais, or Howe for kicking that poor mabari puppy.
"Well this about settles any doubts I had..." Teagan cried up as he picked up the crying puppy and carried the poor thing out of the meeting while several ladies either followed him or swooned at his compassion. Those who remained deathly glared at Loghain while Howe chuckled.
"Thank you by the way!" Loghain barked to Howe as he walked past his reluctant ally, "Now they'll never accept me willingly!"
"Whoever said it had to be willingly?" Even as he walked away from that foul monster, Loghain couldn't surpress feelings of regret that he held for so much. What did he regret? Leaving Maric's son to die? Taking command of Ferelden from his own capable daughter? Or placing a known murderer in place of a good man who would have never approved of any of Loghain's actions.
But it didn't matter now, Bryce was dead. So was Maric and Cailan. There was only Ferelden and he was the only one who could protect it...