Chapter 13

Uninvited Guests

They had been treated like royalty, or close enough, since returning from the tower. August considered the wording of his companions as he spooned another mouthful of porridge into his mouth, once again understanding the voracious appetite of the Grey Wardens.

It had been Varis who had said that, on the second day of their return. Comfortable beds, three meals a day at the castle, continuously thanked by the locals, offered free drinks and meals at the local tavern. He supposed this would constitute as royalty to an Alienage raised pickpocket, and he didn't have the heart to tell him otherwise.

For two days the Mages had locked themselves in the private apartments, performing their cleansing ritual on Connor under the supervision of a handful of Templars. Apparently it required a few skilled Mages to enter the Fade, kill the demon and by doing so releasing Connor. Morrigan, Gwyneth and Mera had volunteered to do the deed, and he guessed the former volunteered so she could steer clear of the Templar's and their mutterings about a Maleficar in their midst.

The rest of them had little else to do but wait. They cleaned their weapons and serviced their armour, checked the village and patrolled the surrounding countryside for Darkspawn. They trained both together and with the newly recruited crop of Redcliffe guards. Sten seemed to have found a new hobby in that regard, ruthlessly drilling and training the young men and women until they collapsed from exhaustion or he was satisfied. August didn't mind. It gave the big guy something to do.

August finally conceded that he would need to write some correspondence to the Teyrn in the south, to inform him of his progress. He spent most of the first day doing just that, deciding to leave out the parts about Jowan and his accusations against the man. Instead he focused on the battles of Lothering and Redcliffe, as well as the successful negotiations with both the Mages and the Templars.

As for Jowan, well he was still lounging around in the Redcliffe dungeon. The demonic infestation took precedence to both the Mages and the Templars. The general consensus was that the Blood Magician wasn't going anywhere so he could wait on his arrest, trial and ultimate fate.

Once the letter was completed and checked over he went straight to the stables and convinced one of the scouts to take his letter to Ostagar for a small amount of coin. The Arlessa may not like it, but to be honest he didn't care what she liked at this point. His letter was as damning of her as it was of the Demons.

"Hey, August!"

He turned and smiled as Alistair approached, offering a wave in return before looking at the saddle perched on his muscular shoulder. "Alistair, busy I see."

His fellow Grey Warden shrugged. "I was raised in these stables you know. So I've been visiting old haunts and taking care of the horses. Do you want to help, it's actually quite relaxing."

"Maybe later." August waved off. "I need to check up on what's happening with Connor, then track down Leliana and Varis before they get up to any more mischief."

"Who's getting up to mischief?" Both men turned to see Leliana approach, an impish smile in place. "I hope you don't mean me, no?"

"Not at all." August replied, chuckling. "It was more Varis than you."

Alistair laughed, patting August on the back. "Looks like you're busted, but don't worry our little Chantry sister has been doing something worthy of her time."

He only just then noticed the bow in her hands and the quiver of arrows on her back. "Teaching the new guards how to shoot?"

"Mm." She nodded, raising her bow for them to see. "Yes, but it's more for myself. I feel I am getting, how do you say? Rough around the edges?"

August had seen her use a bow, both during Lothering and when the undead assailed the village, and he thought she didn't need any practise at all. The Chantry sister rarely missed her targets, and when she hit it was usually for the kill. He would be very worried if her ire was ever levelled against him.

"If you are looking for Varis he left a few hours ago." Leliana continued. "He went to have a look around the village, probably to see if he can get a few more free drinks at the tavern."

"I'm pretty sure that's exactly where he is." Alistair chuckled. "I think I'll go down there myself."

"I may join you." the redhead asked, looking at August with a cheery smile. "And I believe our fearless leader would appreciate a little Ale and company as well, no?"

That didn't sound like a bad idea, actually. He had been so busy dealing with letters and training soldiers that he realised he hadn't had a moment to himself since leaving Ostagar, a little Ale and pleasant company would not go amiss. "I think that is a good idea. I will need to check on the ritual first."

"How wonderful." The woman exclaimed, eyes closed in a brilliant smile. Both men would admit it was a brilliant smile. "Maybe you two can coax me to sing, yes?"

"We need to coax you to sing?" Alistair asked in jest.

August smiled, about to laugh but stopped himself when he saw a figure on the rooftop of the stable. He couldn't make out the features from the glare of the midday sun, but what was held in his hands was easy enough to guess at. It was aimed for Leliana.

He dived forward, crashing into the sister just as the archer loosed his arrow, both fell to the ground in a tangle of limps, Lelianna's cry of indignation silenced when the arrow imbedded itself in the ground right where she would have stood. A second arrow was loosed by a second figure, but Alistair was there, the saddle taking the arrow with a dull thud.

"Thank you, Merci." Leliana managed.

He caught her slip of Orlessian easily enough, but choose to ignore it and nodded instead. They were now surrounded by a half dozen individuals, all armed with swords and knives. Some were dressed in guard armour, others as servants and a few more as stable hands.

"Grey Wardens," one of the men, the leader he guessed, spoke. "This is none of your concern. Our target is the woman! Let us kill her and we will leave you in peace!"

"She's a member of my company!" August growled at him, getting off of Leliana and rising to a knee, his sword already drawn and held right at the speaker even as the sister wearily rose. Alistair had drawn his sword as well as the shield by this point, and was eyeing the assembled men with a steady gaze.

The leader chuckled. "I'm guessing you know her as a meek little Chantry sister. What if I told you she is an Orlessian bard instead, sent to assassinate you on the orders of the Empress."

"That is not true!" Leliana shouted back. "I was a bard once but that is not who I am anymore!"

"I would tell you you're an idiot!" August replied, getting a shocked look from the woman. "I had suspicions she was a former Bard, but I'm pretty sure she wasn't sent to kill me!"

The look of relief which crossed her features at his words. It had crossed his mind a few times, he would admit, but if Leliana was a bard sent to kill him she had ample opportunity to do it and vanish into the night. Yet she didn't take the opportunity during the nights they camped or any battle to date.

He was less sure than he let on. August had been in Orlais a few times with his father and had gained a rudimentary understanding of the Great Game of politics that the courts there played. Bards were one of the favoured agents of an Orlessian noble looking to take a disagreement to a whole new level, assassins and spies under the guise of musicians, artists and courtesans. But he would trust her word over a stranger with a sword drawn, conversations could wait.

"I had thought a Cousland would be smarter than this!" The leader admonished. "Surrender her or die!"

A single word left August's lips, "No."

Leliana was quick as lightning. She plucked an arrow from her quiver, drew her bow back and loosed. Her aim was straight and true, the shaft imbedding itself in the neck of one of the archers on the stables thatched roof who fell out of sight with a strangled scream.

the other archer fired another arrow, but Alistair once again proved his worth, using his shield to protect the Bard from the otherwise deadly blow. It deflected off of the ex-Templar's shield even as August rose to his full height and drew his family dagger with his free hand.

"Merde!" the leader cursed before raising his sword. "Kill them all!"

August responded by throwing his dagger, whose aim was true as it imbedded itself into the leaders throat. The man gagged, dropping his weapons and reaching up for the family blade before his strength left him and he fell to his knees. August was already moving even as Leliana loosed another arrow at the remaining archer.

He slammed the pommel of his sword into the first assassins chin with a satisfactory crunch before bringing the sword around to block a strike aimed for his head. August parried and went low, burying his blade to the guard into the second man's gut before using his foot to kick his limp form away. He spun, his sword cutting a long bloody line as the tip went through the first man's throat.

He bent down, grabbing the hilt of his dagger from the corpse, pulling it free before throwing it once again. It struck and dug halfway into the forehead of the stable hand aiming to stab Alistair in the back as he continued to protect their archer from another arrow.

Leliana had already loosed a third, imbedding it into the last archers chest. She then dropped the weapon, rose to her feet with speed and drew two wickedly curved knives which she then used to defend herself. Without the need to protect the Bard Alistair roared and smashed his shield into another assassins face, teeth flying before a stab of his sword finished the job.

August breathed out a sigh of relief, sheathing his sword when he was sure there was no other ill-intentioned characters around before reaching down to extract his dagger from the assassins skull. Alistair was a little winded, but there were no noticeable wounds on him while Leliana watched him with nervous eyes.

"Now then," August began, cleaning his dagger on the stable hands clothes before rising and walking over to her. "I think you owe us an explanation, no?"

Leliana bit her lip before her words came out in a jumble. "I was a bard yes, but I am not that person anymore. I left that life behind me when I came here andowe!"

To be fair it wasn't that hard of a hit, more of a tap really as he flipped the dagger in his hand and used the pommel to land a soft blow on her forehead. "Stop talking out here, we'll deal with this privately."

She reached up to rub her forehead, grimacing, and nodded. "Oui."

"Good." August nodded before turning around. "Come on Alistair, both of you!"

"Me!?" his fellow Warden asked, blinking. "Why me!"

"Because you're a Grey Warden." August replied, giving him a sideways glare. "Now shut up and act like it!"

"Alright, no need to shout!"

"I'm not shouting!"

"What in Andraste's name is going on here!?"

"That's shouting!" August finished as he turned to see Isolde, accompanied by a half dozen of her guards, looking at the aftermath of the battle in horror.

"Assassins targeting my company," August explained, sheathing his dagger as he approached. Alistair took the hint and shepherded a slightly shell shocked Leliana across the courtyard and back into the castle. The Cousland suspected he wanted to speak with the woman as much as he would with an Ogre. "I would advise to take greater care with who you employ within these walls, Arlessa."

Isolde glared at him, even as the Captain of the Guard looked over the bodies of those wearing his people's armour with a frown. "I do not recognise any of these men."

"Search the castle Captain, and find out who these people are and how they got in here." August ordered. The guardsman looked to his Arlessa for confirmation, who sighed and nodded her head in agreement.

"Do your job, Guard Captain." She ordered.

"Yes, milady!"

It looked like the woman could see sense after all.

"How is she?"

Alistair shrugged as he closed the heavy oak door behind him. "Quiet as a field mouse, which isn't normal for her."

"No, it certainly isn't." August agreed, frowning.

"What's the plan?"

"Get Varis back here before he drowns in liquor." August supplied helpfully. "Send Sten to fetch him. I want to make sure there aren't any more assassins lurking about."

"Sure thing." Alistair allowed, but hesitated for a long moment. "What are you going to do with her?"

"Get some answers." August replied, leaning against the stone wall thoughtfully. "And I doubt she would want to expose her deepest, darkest secrets in the presence of half the company."

"A Chantry Sister has deep, dark secrets?" Alistair allowed a nervous smile.

"A Chantry Sister who just openly admitted to once being a Bard?"

"She didn't strike me as anything but a devout Chantry sister."

"And the undeniable skill with a bow and a blade?" August countered mildly. "Not exactly your usual skills associated with a woman of the cloth, eh?"

"Yes... well." Alistair was stuck, and he knew it. He sighed heavily. "Okay, you got me there."

"Go and relay those orders, check up on the rest of the company and make sure the security to this castle is tight." August ordered lightly, slapping his shoulder. "I'll check in with our devout sister and find out what's going on."

Alistair looked at him with a surly expression. "You already know what's going on. You just want to confirm it. Most of us already know that you're smarter than you let on, that you can see things most of us can't see."

"Then trust me on this one. Whatever secrets she's hiding Leliana won't divulge them with an audience watching." August sighed, scratching the back of his head. "I know your fond of her. Maker help me I'm fond of her too, but we can't just blindly walk into this, and I need answers. It'll gnaw at me until I get them."

Alistair tapped him mildly on his shoulder, breaking him out of his reverie with a boyish grin. "Hey, I trust you man. We all know that out of the two of us you're the leader of this band. I've trusted you throughout this and I trust you now. I may have been a Grey Warden the longest but you're the leader. I think we silently agreed on that a long time ago, yeah?"

August sighed, allowing a tired grin as he repeated Alistair's tap with one of his own. "Then let me get on with it, Stable-boy."

"No problem."

August groaned, but waved Alistair away as the elder Warden chuckled. The moment he turned the corner August turned, cracked his neck and opened the door. Leliana was sitting by a desk to the side of the now empty servants chamber. She looked dejected and tired, something he had never seen before in the bright and glowing young woman who, despite wearing the robes of the Chantry, could drink and celebrate with the best of them.

He sat on the desk, and waited for her to look up at him. Yes, she looked pale, and she looked scared. "I have an idea of who you are. Would you like me to start?"

She didn't respond, so he decided to start anyway.

"You're Orlesian."

The wry look she gave him was definitely one which questioned his intelligence as to ask a question where the answer was so obvious. August raised his hands placating. "I'm getting somewhere with this, I promise. You're Orlesian, yes?"

She bowed her head, "Yes."

"I'm guessing you spent a great deal of your time in the capital, Val Royeaux?"

She nodded. "Yes."

the next words he spoke in Orlesian, a little rusty with time but hopefully still fluent. "You were a Bard there, yes?"

Leliana looked up at him, eyes wide and shimmering before looking down at the table again. "Yes, how did you know I was originally from Val Royeaux?"

"I always thought I recognised your accent as being from the capital." August replied, reverting back to the King's tongue. "I had suspicions since our little sojourn outside of Lothering. A Chantry Sister well schooled in weapons, that came across as more than a little suspicious. You're accent has been muddied somewhat from being in Ferelden for a few years but such things never truly disappear, plus you're beauty is a regal and elegant sort I associate with Orlais. Ferelden girls tend to be considerably more down to earth, never afraid to get their hands dirty."

Leliana smiled sadly. "As expected. I always knew deep down you were a smarter sort than most."

"Not sure if that's a compliment or not." August allowed, inclining his head. "So why are you here, Lady Bard?"

"Not to kill you, if that's what you think."

"That part I got." August replied, shaking his head. "You've had ample opportunity to kill both me and Alistair then disappear into the night. You strike me as a talented assassin when you were still in the business of the Great Game. My guess is that you became a Sister and ran to Ferelden because something happened in Orlais, something which was so serious that you needed to flee from everything you knew and those assassins we faced in the courtyard was your past catching up with you. Stop me if I'm wrong?"

"You are correct, yes." Leiana allowed, unwilling to look him in the eye.

"So, onto my next question." August asked, sitting on the table and making her look up at him. "Who is hunting you?"

For a long moment Leliana was silent, but then she sighed and the words spilled out. The one hunting her was a wealthy aristocratic widow named Marjolaine, a noble in the Orlesian court, but also a bard and mercenary spy-master, who had also been her mentor and lover. A mission had gone south, Leliana had been betrayed, imprisoned and tortured before finally freeing herself and escaping to Lothering to both hide from her mentor and atone for her sins.

"She will come after you again?" August asked, arms folded.

Leliana nodded. "I know things she would rather see buried. To tell you the truth I was surprised it took her so long to send assassins after me."

"I understand."

"Do you want me to leave?" She asked tentatively.

August's brow rose. "Why?"

"I have a target on my back."

The Warden snorted. "Join the club."

The bard watched him, eyes widening ever so slightly. "But this isn't some scorned backwater noble or a bunch of bandits. This is a noblewoman of the Orlesian court, who has influence in the Orlesian court and an army of spies and assassins under her command."

"Leliana," August raised his hand to stop her. "Look at this company. I have three Mages who any other time would be labelled Apostates, a thief who is probably being hunted by one of the most powerful Arl's in Ferelden, a murderous Qunari and two Grey Wardens trying to do the impossible in record time."

She continued to stare.

"I'm not going to ask you to leave because of your past, if anything I need a Bard right now more than ever. You trained under a spy-master and I need someone capable of setting up spy networks and tell me things about the nobility which I will probably miss." August offered a lopsided grin. "And if this Marjolaine tries again then we'll respond in kind and take the fight right to her doorstep."

There was a rap at the door, catching their attention and silencing Leliana's response. August scowled at the entrance, distinctly remembering that he had asked not to be disturbed. "Enter."

A guard opened the door, standing smartly at attention. "Begging your pardon Ser Warden, but there is news from the hall."

August and Leliana exchanged glances, then rose to their feet. "Go ahead."

"The ritual has been successful."

A smile spread across August's features. "Excellent. We will be there immediately."

The man nodded, snapping a salute before taking his leave. August waited for the door to close before turning back to Leliana. "You know how I feel about this, but the choice is yours. Will you stay with us?"

"I think I will." She replied, smiling bashfully.

The two of them ended their conversation there, leaving the small room and making their way to the grand hall. Connor sat on a chair, dazed and confused but looking well. Petra was kneeling beside him, hands alight with the soft glow of magic as the boy watched with rapt attention. Isolde hovered over the duo, fidgety and worried. Scattered across the hall were small groups of Mages, Templars and Castle Guardsmen. The Mages all looked tired and worn, sagging into chairs or leaning against walls with eyes closed.

He found his trio quickly enough. Morrigan was sitting against a wall, staff leaning against her shoulder as she watched the congregation of people with an impassive gaze. There was no physical sign that she had just been in the fade for two days fighting Demons. The same could not be said for Gwyneth and Mera, the two were sitting against the wall a little ways away from the Wilds Witch. The Elven Mage was lying against the taller Humans side, fast asleep with Gwyn's arm around her. The white haired Mage also seemed close to sleep, eyes drooping.

"No you don't," He chided softly, kneeling before them and nudging them both awake. "You'll both catch your death of cold here."

Gwyneth's head shot up, surprised and embarrassed to see him while Mera awoke slowly, yawning and rubbing at her eyes before seeing him and going into an adorable flush. Leliana knelt beside him, smiling fondly at the two of them. "Seems you all did well, yes?"

"Indeed they did, would expect no less from two of my most promising apprentices." Irving boasted, smiling proudly as he came to stand beside August. He also looked exhausted, and when you were the central lynchpin in a ritual to remove an evil spirit from a young boy there was no doubt at how taxing it could be. Both young women flushed further at his praise.

"Thank you." Gwyneth just managed a tired squeak, while Mera simply bobbed her head.

August chuckled. "Leliana, could you see to it our Mages are put to bed?"

"Of course, Ser Warden." The Bard turned Sister nodded, already hauling them to their feet despite their tired protests.

August walked over to Morrigan, watching as the raven haired Witch leaned back against the cold stone to look up at him. "How was it?"

"Twas not but a trifle." She answered flippantly. "The reason why it took us so long was because the Demon kept running away."

"How did my recruits do?" He asked.

She crinkled her nose, as if what she was about to say displeased her. "They were... adequate."

August snorted, "Coming form you that's the highest form of praise."

"You wanted my opinion, I gave it to you." She replied defensively.

"I know." August allowed. "And I owe you, thank you for doing this for me, Morrigan."

She was silent for a moment, eyeing his suspiciously before raising her head high and puffing out her chest. "Tis about time you admitted to my value."

"I never questioned your value," August sighed as he sat down beside her. "Only your attitude."

The woman huffed, but was obviously pleased with the praise.

"You should get some rest too." He allowed.

The woman scoffed. "Does thou take me for some Mage in a cage that needs coddling."

August gave her a shrewd look to which she ignored. "Alright. Rest, or don't rest its entirely up to you. Just seek me out when your rested and fed."

"And why is that?" She snipped.

"Varis found something during our travels to Kinloch Hold. Something I think you'd find very interesting." The Warden rose to his feet, dusting off his clothes. "Come, or don't come. Just like with my prognosis that you need sleep it's up to you, Lady of the Wilds."

he left her then, seemingly unaware that the Witch's keen eyes were watching his retreating back intently, with the curiosity of a cat and the sharpness of a fox. August did indeed get a visit from her later that evening, and he gave her the Grimoire of Flemith Varis had found in the First Enchanters office. She took it with hesitant fingers, looking at the black leather covered tome with flashing eyes, before thanking him tartly and leaving.

"So, Orzammar?" Alistair asked sheepishly.

August nodded, the candlelight setting his eyes ablaze as he glared at the map. "Yes, and now with all of this craziness out of the way we can get there unmolested."

It had been three days since the success of the cleansing ritual, and things were slowly returning to normalcy in Redcliffe. The Templars and the Mages had been housed within the castle alongside his people, pampered by the servants and praised continuously by the Arlessa. The visitors had seemed to enjoy it immensely, but time was wearing on and they were due back at Kinloch Hold, to prepare for the march south.

There were a few hiccups during those last few days, nothing of a serious note mind. His own Mages were all officially Warden recruits and outside of the reach of the Chantry, so the Templars left them alone for the most part. Morrigan was still bearing the brunt of the glares and whispers of Apostate but it was all water over rock by the way she ignored them. Isolde had put up a stiff resistance to Irving and Cullen when they explained that, no matter Connor's status, they could not ignore him. The rules of the Chantry were strict and no one was exempt.

Connor seemed to take this all pretty well for a scared child. He had listened to Irving when the First Enchanter explained the situation to him, and agreed to go with them without fuss. He was scared, terrified even, with the prospect of leaving all he knew, but the ordeal with the Demon had brought him to reality. He would go back with them to the tower.

It was agreed that a few Mages and Templars would remain behind. The Mages to watch over the ailing Arl and the Templars to watch over the Mages. Isolde had explained to them all that there were rumours of Andraste's final resting place high in the Frostback mountains and that her ashes could cure him. Nobody took her seriously, some listening kindly while others muttered about heresies when they thought no one was looking.

All in all just a typical day at Redcliffe Castle.

"Well it hasn't been a complete waste of time." Alistair pointed out. "We did just save a whole village, managed to enforce the Mages treaty and even recruited the Templars to our side. All in all for a disaster I'd say this was a pretty good one."

August couldn't argue with that. Even if his first plan was to recruit the Dwarves first he would admit that this setback hadn't been as bad as he had originally feared when he first came across the smoking remains of Redcliffe. By now his own message was probably halfway to the army at Ostagar, informing the Teyrn that a column of Mages and Templars were ready to move. It would probably be the best news Loghain would have heard since he left nearly three weeks ago.

Three weeks. Had it really been three weeks? And what had they done during that time? Battles in Lothering against the Darkspawn and again at Redcliffe against a demonically resurrected undead army, the recruitment of the Mages and the support of the Templars gained.

It had been a wild and chaotic three weeks.

"The Arlessa has been good enough to give us whatever provisions we need. I say we move out tomorrow, around noon. Maker willing with the horses we'll make it to the gates of Orzammar in another two days, present the treaties of the Dwarves then turn east past Denerim towards the Brecilian Forest. Hopefully Morrigan's boasting about finding the Dalish isn't all show." August massaged his temple, scowling before turning back to his fellow Warden. "Sound good?"

Alistair nodded. "Yeah, sounds good."

"Great," August began wrapping up the map, looking around for his backpack while he did so. "Inform the rest of them to get a good night's sleep and not skip on the breakfast tomorrow, because this'll probably be their last night in a bed for a while."

"Awe, and here was me getting used to those feathery mattresses again." Alistair quipped, about to leave before turning back around. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The Templars were picking my brain asking when we'll be handing over that blood mage fellow."

"They came to you?" August asked with a tired chuckle. "You poor man."

"What can I say, word spread fast I was once a Templar trainee and since then they've been pestering me like crazy." Alistair grumbled. "Do this Alistair, do that Alistair, remember your oaths to the Maker Alistair. I swear the lot of them know how to guilt someone into sending messages for them."

Maker help him, August had completely forgotten about the whole business with Jowan. "We'll hand him over before we leave."

"Got it."

"And Alistair."


"The next time someone tries to guilt-trip you send them to me."

August's grin was mirrored by his fellow Wardens. "You sure, they're masters of the art?"

"I was trained in the art of politics by Bryce Cousland of Highever. They won't stand a chance after five minutes with me." He was surprised that he mentioned his father. The sorrow and anger was still there but it had lessened somewhat, not as raw as it had been during Highever or even during Ostagar. "I think I can deal with some overly pompous men in skirts."

"Can I have a front row seat to that?"

The next day came, and it turned out that the Templars and Mages had decided to leave on the same day as his group. They were all milling about in the main hallway, checking their packs and chatting amiably with each other.

August yawned, adjusting his backpack as he checked over his company. Everyone was present and accounted for, looking considerably better with the several days of rest that he had decided to give them. Everyone looked refreshed, fed, watered and ready to go. The Templars were once again in their armour, the Mages in their travelling robes. More than a few including Petra and a youngish man named Niall had bid them farewell and wished them the best.

All that was left was the handover. Jowan was brought up from the dungeons, flanked by two Templars in full plate who in turn were flanked by half a dozen guardsmen. Jowan himself was in chains, thick bracers on his wrists and ankles which clinked loudly as he walked, making his movements difficult and impossible for him to cut himself and use his blood magic.

he passed by everyone, eyes on the stone floor, avoiding eye contact until he saw Mera. The little Elf watched him intently, eyes of fire and August didn't blame her. Thanks to Jowan's lies and deceit she had been locked in the deepest, darkest depths of the Circle Tower with little but her own thoughts and the determination of a Templar for company. She had been used and abandoned by a man whom she had once called friend, brother even. She should hate him with every fibre of her being and be completely justified in it.


He looked up, meeting her eyes with his and whispered two words, so simple and yet so heartfelt.

"I'm sorry."

It wasn't until he had left, that the Templars and Mages had left to return to the tower of Kinloch Hold, did Mera break down and cry. She had been inconsolable for hours, and both Gwyneth and Varis had not left her side throughout. Her best friend and cousin offering her the support they had been unable to give her until now.

Even August felt some sympathy for Jowan. He had been scared when he made his decisions, but that did not absolve him. He had willingly made a deal with a demon and embraced blood magic. He had fled and left those closest to him to take the blame. He had poisoned the Arl of Redcliffe and helped start the chain of events which led to monumental loss of life. A village and Castle in ruins, hundreds dead, communities destroyed and in the end more questions than answers with his confession, more hostility than closure.

He had not forgotten the information the blood mage had given him, try as he might to forget. Was Loghain responsible for this? Or was this part of something else, something bigger? He needed more information, and he was sure he would find it in Denerim, capital city of Ferelden and seat of power for the nobility. He felt in his gut that he would find answers there.

Until then there was more pressing issues to resolve. There was still Dwarves and Elves to recruit, a Civil War to fight and a Blight in the south to overcome. Until these threats were removed he would continue to be what he always was, a loyal son of Ferelden.

Then there was the here and now.

August had decided to hold back on the journey for another few hours, just a few more hours to allow her to grieve. He understood, he supposed, for even though Jowan had been the unwilling architect of so much of her grief, that he had lied to her and manipulated her, she still considered him her brother. She knew what awaited him when he reached Kinloch Hold, and grieved for him. He would give her the time she needed.

They left Redliffe and began their journey to Orzammar two hours later than planned.

It turned out Mera was as good with horses as a fish out of water, as in no good at all. For nearly five minutes she and her horse, a striking chestnut mare, had a starring contest before they tried to get her onto the saddle, and then it was a miracle she didn't fall off and smash her head against the cobblestones. It was decided immediately after that she would ride with someone else, that someone else being Varis.

Other than that little slipup their farewell to Redcliffe went by without incident. They made a striking image, eight heavily armed and armoured individuals on horseback riding through the dirt roads of the village. People lined the street, cheering and throwing flowers as they rode past them. It felt nice to get some acclaim, thought August was adamant it not get to his head.

They were an hour out when a rider caught up to them, a soldier wearing the armour and colours of Gwaren, Loghain's own Teyrnir. He rode up to them on a magnificent black charger, who kicked up dust in his wake as he dashed and skidded to a halt right beside August. The man's armour was covered in dirt and his exposed skin in sweat. He looked like he had been riding nonstop for days.

"Hail, Grey Warden!" He yelled a greeting.

August raised his hand in acknowledgment. "Hail, good messenger. What seems to be the rush."

"A message from the Teyrn, Ser." The soldier replied, reaching out an envelope.

He took the envelope, turning it over to see the seal of Gwaren before using his family dagger to cut it open. He took out the letter, opened it and read. The more he read the more a relieved smile spread across his face. August folded the letter, placed it back into the envelope and stuffed it into one of his saddles satchels before turning back to the rider.

"You have my thanks good man. Go to Redcliffe, tell the innkeeper there that August Cousland sent you. They will put you up for the night."

"My thanks, Ser." The soldier saluted before turning his charger around and going in the opposite direction at a more civilised trot.

Alistair pulled his horse forward and by his side, brow raised questioningly. "What was that all about."

"I got some news from Ostagar." August replied, holding back a grin. "Personal news."

Fergus was awake.

That was the best news he had heard in weeks.

Still alive!

Special thanks to lupusadaquilonem, Leaf Ranger, Jarjaxle, Judy, Uraharaisgod, BusyMonkey and goddragonking for the reviews. They mean a lot, thanks again.

The Redcliffe and Circle Tower arcs are over, the possession has been sorted, Jowan has been handed over to the Templars and the company is now on their way to Orzammar. The original destination at last. What will they find when they get there? I think we all know the answer to that. Prepare for August finally losing his temper.