(I can post directly from my iPad now! Happy dance!)


"Maker spit on you. I deserved... more." Arl Howe's blood poured fast and thick from the gaping wound in his chest, but it was Elspeth who felt drained, empty, almost lifeles. She dropped to one knee, whether to look her foe in the eye or because her legs would no longer support her she was not sure.

"My vengeance ends here," she said softly. "Your wife, Delilah, the boys, I won't come after them... if that even matters to you. They don't deserve to suffer for your crimes."

She wiped her blade clean on the corpse's brocade doublet and got to her feet, a little surprised that her legs did not shake. She noticed gratefully that none of her companions seemed inclined to comment on the death of the Arl. Wynne shot her a brief concerned look, but said nothing, Oghren remained happily caught up in the red fog of his own battle rage, and Zevran, Maker bless him, would rather do just about anything other than discus personal feelings.

They continued through Arl Howe's dungeon. Guards and hirelings died; Arl Urien's son hurled threats and insults; a lyrium-addled templar gabbled nonsense at her and gave her a signet ring for his sister. Elspeth observed all this detatchedly as if from a great distance. She watched herself walk out of the dungeon and back to the queen's door unchallenged. This might have had something to do with the massive broadsword strapped across her back or the blood running in thin, lurid rivulets down the plates of her armor, or perhaps it was the empty, dead look in her eyes that kept the Arl's surviving lackeys at a distance; Elspeth did not care enough to speculate. She barely heard Anora's thanks when she unlocked the queen's door; hardly noticed when Anora and Erlina led them into a room full of armed guards.

"Warden! In the name of the regent, I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Rendon Howe and his men at arms."

Elspeth blinked at the guard captain, then unsheathed Yusaris with a weary sigh.

The other woman set her jaw, but did not flinch. "Surrender, and you may be shown mercy."

The great blade suddenly felt heavier in her hand than it ever had before. She let the point drop to the flagstone floor with a dull clang. "Fine."

"Why surrender? We can easily take these few soldiers," Zevran, who had never once questioned her choices or motives til now, had to be near-frantic with worry to challenge her decision so, but neither his concern nor Oghren's muttered disapproval registered with Elspeth. She was too busy trying to come up with a better explanation than I'm sick and tired of killing people today.

"They don't know what really happened here," she said at last. "They're innocent. Killing them just makes me... " she shrugged, "exactly what Loghain says I am."

The guard captain gave Elspeth a long, thoughtful look, which the Warden ignored. "I'm surprised this ended peacefully," the woman said at last, then gestured to the other guards. "Bring the Warden. Loghain doesn't care about the rest."

Elspeth handed over her blade, then followed unresistingly as the guards led her from the Arl's estate, into and out of the late afternoon sunlight, and through the great stone corridors of Fort Drakon.

Queen Anora swept into Arl Eamon's study like a small and purposeful hurricane. "Eamon! We have a problem," she announced without waiting for greetings or introductions.

"Oh good," Alistair muttered. "I was starting to worry this would be easy."

Caught between the queen's domineering determination and the prince's sullen sarcasm, Arl Eamon raised his hands placatingly. "Calm down. What has happened?"

"The Warden has been captured," Anora replied tersely.

Eamon's eyes widened. "What? How could this happen?"

"Never mind that," Anora brushed him aside. "The question is how to free her. Cauthrien will take her to Fort Drakon. Getting in will be..."

Zevran did not stay to hear what the queen thought their chances of freeing Elspeth might be. As soon as he heard where she would be held he slid, silent and unseen, out the door of the study- where only his trained reflexes and natural agility kept him from bumping into Leliana. He was not surprised; the bard seemed to be compelled to listen at doors just as Elspeth's mabari was compelled to pee on every interesting looking tree, rock, or beached rowboat he encountered.

"We have to get her out of there!" Leliana hissed, grabbing his bicep roughly.

Slightly startled, Zevran gently removed her hand and nodded at the door behind him. "I believe that is what they are all discussing," he replied mildly.

"No! Now!" Leliana's blue eyes were huge in her pale face. She took a deep breath and went on. "I know what men like this Loghain do to women they consider traitors. This cannot wait for discussion!"

Zevran smiled thinly. "It seems we are of the same mind, my dear."