Reviews for The Arrangement
Vanessa Masters chapter 34 . 5/20/2021
Does she intend to unseat Queen Anora? Did she call you to treason?" Loghain's mind clenched in fear at the answer, but he had to hear it. A vision of having to watch a headman's sword fall on Ellie's neck weakened his knees under him. He pushed the image away and insisted, "Tell me now, man. I will honor the promises made to you. You'll have your quarter, but tell me now if this 'fox' is a traitor."

The man scowled. "I took my oath to the Fox and to the Queen. I don't know if you call that treason, m'lord. The high lords decide what's treason and what's not, and they've been known to change their minds."

Loghain liked this answer. The terror that had held him rigid eased a little, and he realized that his heart was beating faster. Something like hope touched his mind. It was foreign and tantalizing. Right now, it was also dangerous to dwell upon. He had to act quickly.

Turning to the guard captain, he waved at the line of cells and said, "Take all these men out of here and move them to quarters in the regular dungeon until I can decide what to do with them. See that they're treated like Fereldans. Does anyone still remember what that means?"

Loghain feared the man might refuse, but the guard captain nodded and began flipping through keys. Returning to the main hall, Loghain looked around until he saw a young page, and grabbed the boy by the arm. Leaning over to whisper, he said, "Boy, I want you to run to the Black Garrison and find Ser Cauthrien. You know who that is, don't you? Good. Find her and tell her to bring men to Fort Drakon. Gwaren men. She'll know what I mean. Give her this." Loghain pulled off his signet ring and handed it to the boy, then fished in his purse and followed it by a gold sovereign. "That's for you. There's another if you're quick."

_

Well, at least Howr is dead the miserable scum.
Vanessa Masters chapter 33 . 5/20/2021
Well, Ellie is doing well, as the fox
Vanessa Masters chapter 32 . 5/20/2021
"Fergus, tell no one what I am about to tell you, not even your friends. Gareth is alive. I sent him out of Ferelden with Anya and Alun Marwell. They were making for Kirkwall. Anya has family there, it seems. I am telling people he's dead so that Howe will not look for him."

"What?" His eyes lit up and he laughed in relief. "That's wonderful. I mean, poor sprout. He can't have taken that well."

"He didn't." Ellie smiled wryly, but the hurt stung her, as it always did when she remembered the look of accusation in Gareth's eyes. She pushed the thought away and grasped Fergus' hand. "Listen. I'm going to Denerim, and I'm going to kill Howe and make Loghain... " Make him what? She had intended to persuade him to step down from the regency and make peace with the Bannorn, but that was before she knew he had sent assassins after her brother. There would be no way to both preserve Loghain's standing and protect Fergus at the same time. The thought of having to choose between them opened up a pit of despair in her gut, but Ellie moved back from its edge. Loghain acted coldly if there was something that needed to be done. She would have to learn to do the same. Returning her eyes to Fergus, she said, "I'm going to sort this out, somehow. If I die, though, when this is all done, you have to find Gareth."

"Of course I will, but Ellie, it's like I told you in my letter. Howe is not even the real danger here. There's a blight coming. The blight is real."

Ellie thought back to her encounter with the darkspawn. That had been only a small band, a scout party, and yet they were terrifying, spreading disease with every step even apart from their blades. "I know," she answered, nodding. "We have to fight soon or who holds what teyrnir won't matter at all."

_

Oh this is going to be a nasty mess yo clean up
Vanessa Masters chapter 31 . 5/20/2021
Ellie had been pacing, but finally dropped down onto the damp rock. "You fought your own men to free me? Your own sons?" she asked incredulously. "Why?"

"We don't see eye to eye." She glanced up and caught Ellie's skeptical look. "And I'm hoping you can help me."

"Help you how?"

"You've been in Gwaren, Lady Mac Tir, and after that in the hospitality of my sons, so I think you do not know what has been happening in this part of the country. People are dying, and more will. Loghain can stop it, but he has only made it worse. I am hoping you can do better."

"Loghain is alive?" Regan nodded at that, and hesitantly Ellie asked, "Is there news of my son?"

Lady ap Feil raised her eyes. "We had heard he died in the attack on Gwaren."

"Yes," Ellie agreed quickly, remembering her ruse. "Yes, Gareth is dead."

Regan sighed heavily. "I'm so sorry. I'm truly sorry, my lady Elissa. I should have acted sooner. You might understand, then, why I came to believe my husband was going too far. It's all getting out of hand."

Ellie sat back and, since the bann's wife was still watching her, fought to keep from smiling. Relief flooded her. Her ruse had worked. People believed Gareth dead. It occurred to her suddenly that Loghain would also think that, and may believe her dead, as well. She lifted her head. "Does Loghain know that all this was Howe's doing?"

Regan shook her head. "I should say not." There was a pause. "In the morning, if you are well enough and the way seems clear, we will move again. There is something you should see."

_

Ugh I hope Dinner get his hand chopped off.
Vanessa Masters chapter 30 . 5/20/2021
Did you do this? Did you kill them?" Loghain asked the question matter-of-factly, so much so that he himself was surprised.

Rendon gaped. "Me? Do you mean to suggest...?" He hesitated, then laughed. "I should be flattered, I suppose. I've spent the past several weeks subduing our enemies in the Bannorn and making haste back to Denerim. That you think in the meantime I had time to organize an attack on Gwaren is quite a credit."

"Who else wants my wife dead more than you?"

Howe's face changed several colors, white to red to purple. His voice was taut. "I realize you are grieving, sire, and your faculties must have abandoned you. I have worked tirelessly for you, put all my men at your disposal, risked my life next to you at Iachus Valley. I am still hoping you can convince the queen to accept my proposal to take my son Nathaniel as consort. Why would I do anything to jeopardize that arrangement?"

Loghain said nothing in reply, weighing. The reassurance was convincing. He shrank gladly back from the doubt that still lingered. Tossing his towel aside, he went on as though they had merely been discussing the price of wheat and not murder and betrayal. "Did Anora tell you about the Blight sickness in the alienage?"

Rendon expelled a breath, obviously relieved for the subject change. After a pause he shook his head, his tone disgusted.

_

So you say Howr, but your not trusted.

And oh boy, they sent a glove, faking they have Elissa.
Vanessa Masters chapter 29 . 5/20/2021
Ellie turned and knelt before Gareth again. He was whimpering, his lower lip quivering as he tried to fight the tears. "No, mamma. No. I don't want to go. I'm going to stay with you. I'm not afraid."

"It will be alright, Gareth. Your father can ransom me back from the bad men, but it's too dangerous for you to stay here now. I'll be alright." That was a lie, but she had to tell it. Gareth needed something to hope for. Howe wanted her dead and there was obviously no coin, not gold or political, that could win him. If her life could buy her son a chance at safety, however, then she would pay the full sum gladly. "Remember what I told you. You're a Cousland and a Mac Tir. We always do our duty. This is my duty now, and yours is to be strong and to stay alive. Your father and I will find you, no matter where you are."

Gareth's tears fell more furiously. He fell around her neck, clutching at her. "I love you, mamma. Don't forget about me."

"I love you, Gareth, my own heart. My good boy. I could never forget about you. I'm not afraid, either." She kissed his hair and then leaned back, kissing his sooty cheeks and eyes, and finally forced herself to stand and to pull back from him. Gareth turned and buried his face in Alun's knee, not watching as Ellie replaced her gloves and stepped over to the rock tunnel.

She cast one glance back at them, back at her whole life, then turned and slipped through the rock.

_

Oh I'm sobbing the feels!
Vanessa Masters chapter 28 . 5/19/2021
Oh, Loghain denies Howr hard from using Zebran ln his brother in law.
Vanessa Masters chapter 27 . 5/19/2021
Ellie was at a loss. It was another lifetime, another Elissa Cousland who had plotted and jousted over a union with Loghain like one of Gareth's beloved chess games. In that life, her greatest fear had been Cailan's goodwill toward her family. It seemed a quaint priority now that she no longer had a family. Shaking her head, Ellie answered, "I came to say our farewells. This is a dangerous game you and Loghain are playing. I understand why you feel you have to do it, but this time you will not be able to have it all, Anora. Political coyness can only get you so far."

The queen had obviously been expecting Ellie to accept her offer of annulment. She expelled a breath. "But you are reconciled to it, for now. You know that Father is only doing what is best. He is doing this for you."

"So he tells me. And are you content to let him speak for you?"

Anora paled a little and twisted her hands, stepping away. "It is only for a time. Father was also Maric's regent when the king was away from court, and Cailan's too."

"You are right here."

"Until the Landsmeet can convene to affirm that I rule alone, it is better this way." She did not sound convinced.

Ellie stepped closer. "I'm sorry about Cailan. Truly I am."

"Ah, well." Anora looked over at her and smiled. It was not a friendly smile. "He always did love you best, Elissa. Now I can say it, at least: You won, fair and square."

It was Ellie's third turn to be shocked that day. Her face flushed, mostly with anger, though there was a pinprick of shame. "That was a long time ago, Anora. We were foolish girls. It is better not to speak of it."

"I was certainly foolish," the queen nodded. Bitterness that she had apparently held in check for years laced her tone. "My father's experience should have taught me that even a long betrothal and a good friendship does not mean love will follow. Maybe it cannot follow. I saw how he looked at you, but Cailan was my friend, my only friend. I dared you to seduce him because I thought it was a wager I could not lose. I have since learned to place my bets more carefully."

Ellie wanted nothing more than to be gone, and never to speak of Cailan again. In a dull voice she replied, "Gareth and I leave for Gwaren this morning. I don't know when I'll return to Denerim. Take care of yourself, Anora." She turned on her heel to leave, but the queen called her back.

"I'm sorry," Anora began, fumbling. "I'm sorry. This has been a stressful time for all of us. You and Gareth are my family now. I wish to say..." She looked at Ellie, appearing to weigh her mood, then went on with a nervous gesture. "I wish to say, Elissa, that we are also your family. What was done to you is unforgivable. I have not forgotten that, nor will I."

Their eyes met. Ellie did not know how much the promise meant, but when she had so little to cling to, the word of Loghain's daughter and of her queen was no small thing. Voice catching, she replied sincerely, "Thank you."

_

Oh my heart, such sadness and feels.
Vanessa Masters chapter 26 . 5/19/2021
Oh wow, things getting intense. But Elissa and Loghain are reunited.
Vanessa Masters chapter 25 . 5/19/2021
Oh Cailan, you just doomed cousland parents, maybe her brother.

Oh,.I hope she escapes!
Vanessa Masters chapter 24 . 5/19/2021
Loghain found her in the breakfast room nursing a cup of tea, unable to sleep after putting Gareth to bed and washing off the smell of horse. Anya had also stumbled int her bed, unused to such a long ride. The sky was just gaining the pink of dawn.

"I heard the men come in to the guardhouse," he said, keeping his voice low since most of the house was still asleep. "So, you came back."

"I came back." Ellie steeled herself for either rebuke or for indifference, which would be worse.

Loghain regarded her silently a few moments, then some tension went out of his limbs, as though a weight had been taken off. "You needn't have, but I am glad."

Ellie expelled a breath, relieved. She rose and they stepped together, kissing awkwardly. When he released her, she remained close.

_

Awww

Uh oh, Calhain, what are you otting!?
Vanessa Masters chapter 23 . 5/19/2021
Ellie had moved back to her desk, and sank into the chair. "My family is broke," she repeated, voice numb with disbelief.

Loghain moved a step closer. "The sums he borrowed from the crown were apparently not enough to cover his losses, so he had to turn to the Orlesians. When I saw the loans in the royal account books I wrote to Rendon asking for confirmation, but I had no idea Bryce was in hock to the Orlesians, too." He paused, weighing, before asking, "You knew nothing of this? He did not bring you to his meetings with the bankers in Val Royeux?"

"No."

Loghain paced away again. His wife would not want to hear this, but she had to. "Your father is an amiable man, Elissa, but therein lies the problem. He cannot say no, not to you any more than to a man with his hand out. His books have always been thin."

"That's not true," she answered hotly.

"It is. This will be good for you, Ellie, if you can take it in. You're just like your father and if you don't learn the lesson now, you never will. Then someday when I'm gone, Gareth will be sitting where you are." He stopped, watching her. Ellie sat with fingers working on the fabric of her shift, but she was listening, so he pressed on. "Bryce tries to be the great man, the bonny teyrn loved by one and all. He won't raise taxes because that would make him unpopular. The Bannorn pressed him for bigger, riskier trade ventures to sell their grain, and he caved. But the merchants needed new ships, so he financed them, too, at whatever rate they named. Prices fell and ships sank, and there is the end of it. He wasn't half as pigheaded with his own liegemen as he was with me, haggling out your bride price to the last copper."

That drew a baleful glare. "Get out."

Shaking his head, Loghain moved toward the door. He looked back, gesturing toward her. "Write to your father, Ellie. Ask him if it isn't true. While you're at it, ask him what favors he supposes the Orlesians will want from him when he falls behind on his payments."

An inkwell came hurtling towards his head. Loghain sidestepped it, cursing, and slammed the door behind him as he left. That had gone about as well as he had expected.

_

Oh great, and here comes news about the blight!
Vanessa Masters chapter 22 . 5/19/2021
Loghain was studying Rivain when his family returned. He heard what sounded like a small argument between Ellie and Gareth, then Ellie ordering the boy into his room. Bachelor reprieves were always short, Loghain thought with a sigh as he looked up to the sight of his wife, cheeks red and eyes blazing.

"Your son," she began as she paced, finger pointed accusingly at Loghain. "Your son thought it would be a fine idea to slip away from the party when no one was looking, and then Cailan... Cailan took him to the top of the watchtower without telling anyone where he was. I searched and searched..." Ellie put a hand to her forehead, and Loghain thought he might have seen actual steam coming from her. He stood and stepped over to her just as the imaginary steam turned to actual tears.

Grasping her arms, Loghain felt that she was trembling. "Calm yourself, Ellie. Tell me what happened."

Ellie pressed her eyes closed, biting the tears back. It took her a moment before she opened her eyes and continued, "I searched everywhere. You can't imagine what I thought when I couldn't find him in all the usual places. None of the guard had seen him. None. Then I went out into the courtyard and happened to hear him laughing, and when I looked up and saw that Cailan had him up on that tower... I can't tell you..."

"He's fine, no? Nothing happened." Loghain guided her to a chair, taking a seat next to her. "Cailan knows how to evade the guard. He probably figured he was teaching the boy something useful. He used to do things like that himself when he was a boy." And he would no doubt be pleased with himself to have hurt Ellie in the bargain, Loghain thought, controlling his own anger lest it upset his wife further.

"Nothing did happen," Ellie repeated, nodding her head and sounding unconvinced. She sat quietly a few moments before she laughed, shrugging in embarrassment. "It was just this crazy thought I had when I saw them. I was so frantic and then... It's just that Cailan has been so angry with me since the incident in Orlais. You're right, it was nothing. But Loghain, you have to talk to Gareth. Somehow you have to make him never, ever do anything like that again."

Loghain leaned forward and kissed her forehead, squeezing her hand. With a half-smile he replied, "Elissa, Gareth is a young boy, and he is your son and mine. He's just getting started."

_

Oh boy, abd now the poor boy is to be named Heir!?
Vanessa Masters chapter 21 . 5/19/2021
When Ellie first caught sight of them from the deck of the ship, Gareth was perched on Loghain's shoulders. He spotted her, as well, and began to kick so hard that Ellie thought Loghain would surely have bruises on his cheeks and shoulders. It was Gareth, too, who broke through the crowds on the quay and met her first, Cutha right behind him. Catching Gareth up in her arms, Ellie held the three year-old fast and rocked him, then turned to shower his cheeks with kisses until he laughed and pushed at her face to defend himself.

"You came back, mamma," he said, grinning from ear to ear.

Ellie laughed, though tears also sprung to her eyes. "So it seems. Did you miss me?"

Gareth nodded, though just as she had predicted, he then gave her a fierce Loghain scowl. "Don't do it again, mamma, okay? You went away too long. I didn't like it. Don't do it again, okay?"

"I know, pet. I know. I won't do that again, not for a long time." Her eyes met Loghain's across the top of Gareth's head.

Stepping forward, Loghain leaned in sideways, slipping an arm around her waist and giving her a kiss that was longer and more intense than he usually allowed in public. Releasing her, he said, "We'll hold you to that promise."

Ellie smiled and shook her head. "You won't have to. I wanted nothing more than to come back."

_

Awwww
Vanessa Masters chapter 20 . 5/19/2021
Lol aww Little lieutenant making a fortress.

_

He turned his head. "Leave it. I think you should go now, Ellie. I have work to do."

There was a pause, and Loghain assumed that she was withdrawing quietly. However, he then felt and heard the thwack of her fist against his shoulder. After another moment she did it again. Turning, he grabbed her arm just as she was raising it to strike his back again. "What do you think you are doing?"

"I told you that you aren't going to just dismiss me any longer. Apparently I have to beat the lesson into you." She jerked at her arm, trying to free it, face red with anger and exertion. "Let me go. We're going to have this out right now, Mac Tir. With swords, if you prefer."

"Ellie, for the love of the Maker, this isn't a game."

"No, it isn't!" She relented, but stared up at him with challenge. "You hate the idea of my traveling to Orlais, I know, but we are a pair, not lord and servant. Are you ashamed that the Orlesians would see that I am your wife?"

"If you intend to act like such a child, then maybe I am."

She glared at him, and Loghain thought she might slap him. There was a pause where both of them sized the other up as though they were indeed facing each other with swords. With little cognition of what he was doing, Loghain found kissing her, and a few moments later they slumped against the wall, his body pinning hers as he began to grope at leather. He was no less angry or desperate to dissuade her than he had been moments before, in fact he felt even angrier at her obstinacy. Likewise Ellie looked every bit put out by the turn of events. Nonetheless when he failed to get her breeches unlaced quickly enough, she pushed his hand away and loosed them herself, hauling them down moments before he lifted her hips and entered her.

It was difficult to penetrate her fully at first, and in frustration he stabbed, kissing at Ellie's neck, until she was finally able to shift and take him in. They both murmured and fought, the awkward stance making the motion less satisfying than usual at the same time that both of them were urged on by illicit charge. Loghain did not require long to feel his end coming, but he held himself, leaning back to let Ellie rock against him as her own need dictated. Only when he felt the telltale shudder in her thighs and heard her gasp did he press her against the wall again and thrust quickly to finish with her.

Their mouths met for a few awkward kisses before they released each other, feverish and looking somewhat sheepish as they re-arranged their clothing. Loghain glanced toward the door. His guard stood without and might have overheard, but at least Alun Marwell was on duty and he not likely to gossip.

Allowing a hand to linger on Ellie's waist, Loghain met her gaze then looked away again. "Well. We should talk more about all this later."

Ellie nodded demurely, hovering close to him before she finally broke away. "You're coming home soon?"

"Soon," Loghain confirmed, nodding. He made to look at his papers, but when Ellie turned to leave his eyes followed her, trailing down the slender backside once again covered by her close-fitting leathers. That she might be subject to the gaze of Orlesian degenerates soon was a thought he was trying to keep at bay, but there was also some satisfaction in the idea. If they had any manhood at all, they would envy the Hero of River Dane more than his armor. In spite of himself, Loghain's lip was curled in a small grin as he sat down to his desk.

_

Well, nothing like a romp to end a argument, or put it on hold.
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