Victory at Ostagar
Chapter 82: Pawn to Queen
Uninvited, unwelcome, and unintimidated, the Orlesians stalked slowly through the crowds of Ferelden nobles.
"Your Majesty!" the seneschal called out. "Your Graces! My lords, ladies, and gentlemen of the Landsmeet. I present to you Duke Prosper de Montfort, Ambassador of Empress Celene of Orlais, and the Knight-Divine, Ser Chrysagon de la Crue."
Fergus scowled, and moved closer to the throne, unconsciously protective of Anora. For her part, Anora was enraged at the seneschal. How could the man be so weak-kneed as to admit these intruders? But of course, it was the presence of the Knight-Divine. Cleverly, the Orlesians had sent a figure whose religious prestige gave him entrée everywhere.
Bronwyn was not the only noble present whose first impulse was to reach for her sword, but she was one of the angriest. "How did they come here?" she whispered urgently to Loghain. "The Frostback passes are reportedly closed."
Loghain's eyes blazed the eerie hot blue of burning metal.
"What I want to know is why should we allow any Orlesian intriguer to address the Landsmeet!"
Bryland burst out in anger. "How dare they come here to interfere?"
Wulffe did not like it either, but said, "All the same, we'd better hear what they have to say and get it over with. Otherwise, they'll go behind our backs. And we've got to let the Knight-Divine in."
"Yes," Nathaniel agreed, his voice soft. The Orlesians were almost upon them. "We must hear them. Then we'll understand what we're dealing with."
Teagan was as nervous as the rest. He was a faithful son of the Chantry, but did not want to be put in the position of seeming some sort of Orlesian sympathizer. This embassy was clearly playing on people's devotion to make palatable a presence that otherwise would be unacceptable to the Crown and unlikely to be received until the Landsmeet was over.
To Muirin, the coming of the Knight-Divine was as the footsteps of doom. The Divine must have heard of the troubles in Denerim; must have heard of the sacking of the Cathedral by the angry nobles and soldiers. Who knows what else she had been told? She did not know Ser Chrysagon, not even by reputation, which made him an unknown quality. There was so going on that she was shut out from. The Queen had mentioned Rendon Howe being enthralled by Blood Magic. Why had nobody informed her of this? Loghain would very likely not listen to her. Perhaps Bronwyn could be persuaded that the Chantry had experience with such things...that they could help? Her fingers sought her pocket and the tiny packet of now-familiar warmth. Reassured, she made an effort to slow her breathing.
Duke Prosper de Montfort, the ambassador, was something quite exotic indeed: the sort of sight not much seen in these parts for the last thirty years. He was a true grand seigneur of Orlais, magnificent as a bird of paradise—or more likely, a fighting cock. The fashionable among the Fereldan nobleman sighed enviously at the sight of the splendid wolf-skin cloak, lined with azure satin and the subtle, many-colored doublet, puffed and slashed and gussetted; cut unlike any doublet in the room. The exquisite white linen of his shirt emerged at color and cuffs like a swan in foam.
He was older than the Templar: perhaps in his fifties. He was very Orlesian in appearance, with his oiled, forked beard and his thick, sensuous, startling pink lips. An air of conscious superiority armored him like the finest dragonbone, for a faint smile curved up irrepressibly as he surveyed the Fereldan great. He leered discreetly at the Queen in what was apparently courtly admiration.
His eyes fixed next on Loghain, and a light appeared in his pale eyes that would have been excitement in a less supercilious man: perhaps it was the joy of the hunter at the sight of his prey. He looked further and saw Bronwyn. He eyed her up and down and smiled faintly. Bronwyn could not tell if he was expressing compassion, condescension, or contempt. Perhaps a combination. When his smirk broadened at the sight of Scout at her side she wanted to cut him down where he stood.
The Knight-Divine was not so alien. Bronwyn studied the man: tall, dark, not unattractive, perhaps about forty. He was in the impressive armor of a Templar, made more impressive by decoration never seen on that of a mere Knight-Commander. Chrysagon de la Crue, for his part, looked about him with some interest, his eyes seeking the faces about him, searching for and then finding the Grand Cleric, who would have been carefully described to him.
The two men reached the throne and bowed elaborately, with foreign grace.
Anora, drawn up so straight and unyielding that she appeared taller than usual, was absolutely expressionless.
"Greetings, Duke Prosper, and to you, Knight-Divine. Your arrival is an unexpected…pleasure."
It was Duke Prosper who first replied, bowing yet again.
"It is my honor," he said, "to see with my own eyes the renowned Queen Anora, the one that my own Empress has described as a "rose amongst the brambles."
Some uncertain looks amongst the Landsmeet, as the nobles realized that they had just been described as 'brambles.'
Anora's expression did not alter. "I thank you and your empress for such compliments. However, we are engaged in settling the internal affairs of Ferelden. Perhaps in a day or two, when we are at leisure, the Crown will have time to entertain you appropriately."
Ser Chrysagon spoke up. His Orlesian accent was thick, but not impossible to understand.
"Our business here permits of no delay."
"That is true, alas," said Duke Prosper, with a careless shrug. "Our ship labored through foul winds and hard weather, and we were almost too late to prevent our Fereldan neighbors from committing a most tragic mistake."
Loghain scowled, thinking it over. A ship. He could see how they had arrived now, with no warning at all. They had put far out to sea, away from the usual trade routes, and had come into Denerim Harbor without alerting any of the agents he had stationed along the coast. When the ship arrived, the Knight-Divine had taken the lead, and no one had had the nerve to oppose him. With a gesture, Loghain summoned a captain, and gave quick, whispered orders to find that ship and take the its company into custody, with no exceptions—not even for Templars.
Anora's blue eyes searched the Landsmeet, silencing the gossipers, seeking out those who seemed pleased at the unexpected presence. There were not many, but there were some. More appeared intimidated and anxious. Slowly, her eyes returned to Duke Prosper, and rested there, contemplating the man.
She had heard of him as a great noble of immense wealth, close to the Empress. However, this would be viewed as a hazardous mission, since he was clearly here to threaten and insult a nation that had no reason to love Orlais. Had he fallen from favor? Or was he trusting to the ancient traditions that protected the person of an ambassador? Was this a mere adventure for him… a mission that would make amusing dinner-time small talk once safe at home? For all she knew, this Duke Prosper was a great gambler.
She let him wait for some time before she spoke. He was a good player and did not shrink or flinch. The same calm smirk was on his lips throughout. Done with him, she let her eyes rest on the Knight-Divine. He also seemed unperturbed, armored in righteousness as well as in silverite.
"You will hardly be surprised," said Anora in a cool, distant voice, "if we are wary of the intentions of Orlesians. Our most recent experiences have been… how shall I put it?... disagreeable. Assassination attempts, however clumsy and incompetent," she sneered slightly, "are hardly the way to win trust from your neighbors. Having failed in numerous schemes, it is clear that you have decided that it is time to try something different. Speak your words, and then you shall be escorted from the Landsmeet Chamber, and your comfort seen to."
"You dare to accuse us of collusion with assassins?" The Knight-Divine scoffed. "We left Orlais unsure if a brutal attack might not had slain the Grand Cleric herself! We have rushed to her assistance, determined to protect her from heretics and maleficar!"
"Grand Cleric," Anora said crisply, addressing the older woman. "Have you been in danger from the Crown of Ferelden?"
"On the contrary, Your Majesty," said Muirin. "I was in danger, as you were, from the plotting of renegade priests. Both of us were drugged, and then rescued by the same good people."
Duke Prosper was soothing and sympathetic. "We quite understand your situation, Your Grace, surrounded as you are by so many swords."
"And where are these 'renegade priests?'" demanded Ser Chrysagon. "I wish to question them."
"In due time, that may be possible," said Muirin, putting a brave face on her defiance.
"Perhaps," Anora said. "However, their crimes were not only against the Grand Cleric, but against the Crown of Ferelden. No doubt something of the disturbance was related by those murderers and bandits who were not killed on the spot during their cowardly attack on the Arl of Denerim's wedding. No doubt they had colorful tales to tell when they returned to those who had sent them. Incomplete tales, but colorful. At least they had more to tell you than those we captured, and those who were sent to murder the Teyrn and Teyrna of Gwaren. Their tales, alas, were shared only with us... before their executions." She smiled at the two visitors with poisonous sweetness.
"Your Majesty," Loghain growled. "We are wasting time on these… gentlemen. They know what happened, and we know that they know. If they have something to say, let them say it, and then get out." He murmured to Bronwyn, "I've sent an officer to see that the ship is impounded and the crew locked up."
"Sensibly spoken, my lord Teyrn," Anora agreed. She wished it were possible to dismiss the rest of the Landsmeet, and hear the embassy out with only the Council to witness. That could not be done. It would infuriate the Bannorn. She could well guess the Empress' game here. These men had come to threaten them. If the Fereldans were cowed, the Empress won. If the Fereldans defied her, or harmed her embassadors, she might well still win, and have a suitable reason for war as well.
She addressed the Orlesians, not mincing words. "We expect that the two of you have had considerable time to rehearse your message. Speak then, but speak prudently…and to the point. We are not well-disposed to Orlais at the moment, and are uninterested in delaying tactics."
"Fereldans," sighed Duke Prosper to his companion. "So very blunt. So lacking in subtlety."
"Watch your tongue, my lord Duke," Anora said coldly. "You are here on sufferance. We have more important matters at hand today that playing games with you. Speak, and we shall judge your words."
"Then I shall begin," said Ser Chrysagon, "for the needs and duties of the Chantries far outweigh those of mere mortal kings and queens. I came here as soon as I heard that the Grand Cleric was in danger. threatened by maleficar running rampant in the streets. Is it not true that a known blood mage was seen leading the rioters in the Grand Cathedral? An apostate by the name of Jowan, a dangerous creature capable of any evil?"
At the rising murmurs from the Landsmeet, Anora flicked a quelling glance about her, and replied to the Templar.
"I know nothing of a maleficar named Jowan. A Grey Warden of that name saved my life after I was poisoned by an Orlesian bard who had infiltrated amongst my servants. Yes, my servant Erlina—sent to me by the Empress when I was first married—was poisoning me. If the Warden-Commander had not sent Warden Jowan to me, I would have died. Warden Jowan is a gentle and scholarly man, devoted to his duty and courageous in his service. He is indeed a mage, fortunately for me. Calling a mage a maleficar is, of course, a cheap and easy accusation. Do not waste my time. I'm sure you have had plenty of opportunities to fabricate all sorts of "proof" against him."
Offended, the Knight-Divine said, "Do you deny that this Jowan is an apostate?"
"Of course I do," Anora replied calmly. "He is a Grey Warden. Thus, he cannot be an apostate."
"But he is not the only mage openly defying the Chantry, I believe. There are dozens of mages among the soldiers in the army, insufficiently guarded and supervised, wandering at will through the country. The Divine is deeply alarmed at this situation."
"Teyrna Bronwyn," said Anora, "as Warden-Commander, perhaps you could best speak to this matter."
"Gladly, Your Majesty," said Bronwyn, stepping closer to the Templar.
His brows knit in surprise as he saw her eyes. The unnatural color was obviously a sign of some malevolent influence.
Bronwyn saw the expression. While it was unclear to her exactly what the man was thinking, it was certainly not approving. Was it the scar? Was she not dainty enough or painted enough to suit an Orlesian? Well, sod that.
She said, "The mages are bound by ancient treaty with the Grey Wardens to serve against the Blight. It is their duty to fight the darkspawn and heal the wounded, not to sit at their ease in a Circle Tower while good men and women perish. The mages have saved hundreds of lives. Every soldier who has served at Ostagar knows this. Those here present who have so served—" she flung a gesture out to encompass Loghain, Bryland, Wulffe, and banns like Stronar and Hawke "—know this. While it might suit Orlais for our soldiers to die in anguish or live crippled, it does not contribute to the security of Ferelden. However, practical concerns aside, the mages are obligated. I presented the treaty, which both the First Enchanter and the Knight-Commander accepted as valid. The mages, with their Templars, then traveled to Ostagar to fulfill their obligations. Some of them have subsequently become Wardens, and all have served with honor."
"And by what authority," snarled the Knight-Divine, "did you present those treaties? The Warden-Commander of Orlais has no record of the First Warden appointing you Commander. You appointed yourself."
"I am not answerable to the Warden-Commander of Orlais," Bronwyn shot back. "And I do not intend to bandy words with you about a subject of which you are completely ignorant. We Wardens have secrets, Knight-Divine, and I am not sharing them with you."
"Fair enough," grunted Wulffe, loud enough for the Chamber to hear him. There were answering mutters of assent. Not everyone liked the Grey Wardens, but everyone knew that Chantry had no authority over them.
The Knight-Divine, understanding that this argument carried no weight with the Fereldans, changed his attack.
"This is all a questionable matter, and must be threshed out at the highest level," he granted. "Higher than you, my lady; higher than me. What is not open to question is the outrageous conduct of another Fereldan noble, who declared an apostate free of Chantry supervision. This apostate was no Grey Warden; no Circle mage serving on even the thin pretext of an antiquated, badly-translated treaty. I call this Arl Bryland of Southridge to account for his criminal protection of a female mage, purported to be his mistress! We demand that she be turned over to the Chantry for examination and disposition!"
The Chamber erupted like a volcano. Most of the nobles were outraged. A few were delighted at the scandalous nature of the accusation, especially as the mother of the mage had married the Arl only a few days before. Habren was pink with glee, until she understood clearly that it was her father who was implicated. That made the matter... awkward.
Muirin tried not to drop her head into her hands in despair. Whatever rubbish the escaped assassins had told their employers, it was inevitable that the intelligence would be either outdated or wrong. Bryland would never forgive this insult, and his fellow high nobles were likely to support him.
Bethany's face crumpled. Her mother took her in her arms. Charade put her arm around her shoulders and glared at the Knight-Divine. Hers was not the only angry face.
Leonas Bryland stepped forward, but not alone. His stepsons were on either side, as the arl stood toe to the toe with the Templar.
"I'm Bryland. Of South Reach. In Ferelden, a man is held accountable for his words. Sometimes one can make allowances for someone who is drunk or a child, or too half-witted to understand that's he's given insult. Since you're none of those things, I'll have to assume you meant to be insulting. You've defamed an honorable young girl, who happens to be my stepdaughter, I hope out of ignorance rather than malice. Bethany Hawke saved my son's life, the day a sneering, masked Orlesian shot him for a bit of sport. She could have stayed safe and hidden, but she came forward, asking for no reward, and used her gifts freely and without stint."
"That she did!" Lady Seria MacCoo declared, her old voice high and fluting. "Saved my life, too!"
"And mine," said Bann Alfstanna, studying the Knight-Divine with a look of grave disappointment.
"Knight-Divine," Anora said, her clear tones cutting over the rest of the noise, "I have confirmed Bethany Hawke's freedom due to her services to the kingdom. There is a precedent, established in King Maric's reign. A mage named Wilhelm was given his freedom for his services in the war against Orlais." The slight emphasis on the last word was subtle, but the implication was clear. "And as to your insulting words... they are unworthy of your office. If you cannot speak civilly, then you will be ejected from the Landsmeet."
Ser Chrysagon glared at her, eyes narrowed. "The Divine will not endure such defiance!"
Murin had had enough. "Your Majesty, may I speak?"
"Of course, Your Grace." Anora was gracious but watchful as the older women turned to the Templar.
"Knight-Divine, it is apparent that in your zeal to protect the Chantry you have come hastily, with faulty information as to what has been transpiring here in Ferelden. Perhaps it would be best if you and I were to meet privately. I can give you a true account of events since the beginning of the Blight, and a factual account of the poisoning of Queen Anora and her subsequent cure. I shall also tell you of how the priests drugged me during their foolish attempt to imprison Queen Anora. Before you offend the nobles of this kingdom beyond hope, I beg you to listen to me."
"An excellent suggestion," Anora said. "Perhaps, Knight-Divine, you should heed Her Grace."
"And then," Bryland said ominously, "My family will expect an apology."
Ser Chrysagon drew himself up, nostrils flared in contempt, but he gave the Grand Cleric a curt nod, and a slight bow to Anora.
The faintest of smiles appeared on Loghain's lips. He caught Duke Prosper's eye, all but saying, "Check."
But Duke Prosper was not about to surrender.
"Of course we wish to hear from the Grand Cleric herself of her sufferings and difficulties. As dutiful sons of the Chantry, we will do everything possible for its greater glory. That, however, is only a part of our mission. While the Knight-Divine occupies himself with the great affairs of the spirit, I am left with mere worldly cares. The Empress, alarmed for her good friends and neighbors in Ferelden, has sent me to offer advice and support in this crucial hour. Ferelden has choices to make, and perhaps some choices are available that you have not considered."
He turned slowly to the nobles, gesturing grandly in what Loghain thought an insufferably Orlesian way.
"The Empress wishes only the best for Ferelden. Is it not a land that would have been part of her Empire, had not the valor and spirit of King Maric taken it on another path? She has heard much of the beauty of Ferelden: of its wild landscapes, of its fertile soil, of its sturdy, independent folk. It is a land of unceasing interest to her. She has met many Fereldans, and respected them for their keen minds and courageous hearts. Only a year ago, the noble Teyrn Cousland visited us, and was much admired by all at Court... even by the Empress herself! It is a particular pleasure to see his son among you today, and judge how well he measures up to his father's example."
That could mean anything—and nothing—but there were fools in the Landsmeet who were pleased by it. Fergus was not one of them. Bryce Cousland's mission to Orlais had ultimately cost him his life. Bronwyn, reminded of Marjolaine's patronizing words, tasted bile in her mouth.
"Your father was a charming man, and not unskilled; but he played the Game, and lost."
"The Empress," said Duke Prosper, "has heard disturbing rumors. By the will of your brave, martyred young King, you must meet to choose a new ruler today. Queen Anora... so excellent, so wise... alas! ...is now only the Queen Dowager, and power must be vested in new hands. These rumors speak also of how the wind blows from Ferelden, of a new name on the throne— the name of one without royal blood. This name would prove a disaster and a disgrace to the name of Ferelden amongst the family of nations."
"And what name would the Empress prefer?" Fergus growled. "We're all eager to know to know her favorites."
Teagan experienced a brief thrill of horror. If Duke Prosper named him as a favorite of the Empress, he would never live down the shame; not until the day he died. Even if all the world forgot, he would still remember.
"Your unfortunate country,"' Duke Prosper said, voice oily with sympathy, "is poor in all but honor. It is under attack by a monstrous enemy. How can it hope to survive, with the darkspawn lurking under our very feet?"
There was a murmur of concern. Bronwyn's tale of darkspawn in Amaranthine had frightened a great many people.
The Duke spread his hands in a gesture of open-hearted sincerity. "The Empress is merciful and compassionate. Legions of chevaliers stand ready to protect Ferelden from this ancient evil. The power and wealth of Orlais will render unnecessary your burdensome levies of men and supplies. Come, my friends, shelter yourself under the banner of the Lion of Orlais, and fear no more. Choose who you will as king... or queen," he added carelessly, "but let that choice then pay homage to the Empress as her viceroy in Ferelden! Gold will pour into this country like a river; trained warriors will take the place of hungry, frightened peasants. Retain your domains, retain your fortunes, retain your loyalty to Ferelden! Recognize the sovereignty of the Empress and free yourselves from the wearisome tasks of government. You will find that the yoke of Orlais, after all, is sweet."
Ruffled, furious, bewildered, frightened, contemptuous: there were as many responses as there were people attending the Landsmeet. The noise swirled up in a cacophony of indignation and anxiety. Duke Prosper's smirk widened at the chaos he had unleashed.
Loghain snarled at Duke Prosper, "You've delivered your message. Now get out of my country."
The Orlesian shrugged, "Ah, but it is not 'your' country yet, is it, my friend?"
Noisy as it was, Fergus made himself heard throughout the room.
"I will kill anyone who moves that we offer homage to the Empress! Anyone!"
Anora had had enough of the disturbance. She beckoned an officer of her personal guard to her and gave orders. Then she gestured at her seneschal to call the Chamber to order.
"Peace for the Queen's word!" bellowed that leather-lunged functionary.
Other nobles added their shouts of "Peace!" to his. Reluctantly, the Landsmeet subsided into attention.
Anora said, "Duke Prosper, you are a brave man to suggest such things to our face. Our thanks for your trouble. Now, take your rest after your strenuous journey. My guards will see you—and you, Knight-Divine—to your quarters. After the business of the kingdom is settled, the Grand Cleric will have time for a meeting, and we will, in good time, compose a suitable answer for you to present to the Empress."
Enraged, the Knight-Divine's hands moved to his greatsword. "You dare to make us your prisoners?"
Bronwyn, who was closest to him, spoke softly. "Don't touch your sword. Just don't. You do not seem to understand with whom you are dealing. We are not unarmed children; neither are we terrified, starving apostates on the run. If you draw your sword here in the Queen's presence, you will die." She gave him a quick, humorless smile. "And I may be the one to kill you. The Queen is offering you hospitality. Take it."
Duke Prosper shrugged elaborately. "As for me, I am all gratitude for the Queen's gracious care. Allons-y, de la Crue." He put his hand on the other Orlesian's shoulder, reminding him to bow, and the men left the Chamber, under heavy guard.
A voice from the crowd jeered at them. "And you can kiss my noble, hairy Fereldan arse!"
Laughter: some genuine, some a bit forced. Anora, wisely, chose to hear neither the gibe nor the response.
Once the doors closed behind them, Fergus turned to Anora.
"Your Majesty, I think everyone could use a drink."
She smiled at him, and ordered the seneschal to have wine served all around.
It was a welcome break, and the wine was of the best quality. Bronwyn moved to Loghain's side, wanting to vent a little at the unwelcome interruption.
"This is maddening," she hissed. "Just as our chess game is set up, these Orlesians come and knock the pieces helter-skelter!"
Loghain shrugged. "In real life, the pieces are always knocked helter-skelter. I'm a fairly good chess player myself, but I've never been taken in by the metaphor. A good chessplayer is neither automatically a good politician nor a good general."
"Really? Father made me play chess with him all the time. He thought it essential in teaching one to think ahead."
Loghain drank his wine slowly, considering. "I suppose it's good for that, but only just. Life is too complicated to emulate chess." He chuckled, and then explained himself more fully.
"Imagine what a game of chess would be if all the chessmen had their own agendas! If you were not only uncertain about your adversary's men, but also a little uncertain about your own; if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square on the sly; if your cleric could wheedle your pawns out of their places; and if your pawns, hating you because they are pawns, could make away from their appointed squares in order to see you checkmated. You might be the most foresighted of players, and still you might be beaten by your own pawns. You'd be especially likely to be beaten, if you regarded your pieces with contempt. Does that sound hard? It would be. And yet, this imaginary chess I've described is easy compared with the game a man has to play against his fellow men with other fellow men for his instruments. Of course, I've never claimed to be any sort of politician," he admitted, "and sometimes I despair even of being a passable general."
Bronwyn drank her wine, glumly agreeing with him about the impossibility of getting people to do exactly what she wanted. She certainly had not wanted Anora to mention the Tevinter blood mages in front the Landsmeet in the Queen's Speech, but she had. The Grand Cleric could not possibly have missed that.
Another round of wine was served, and then the nobles were called on to begin deliberations for the Crown. By this time they were feeling rather mellow, and much recovered from the Orlesians' threats.
Once again, Fergus Cousland had precedence, and ascended into the Speaker's Gallery. This presentation and those that followed had been carefully planned out in the preceding days.
"My friends, many here can boast of their share of the blood of Calenhad the Great. The Couslands are the closest kin to the Theirins, through Princess Deirdre Theirin, daughter of King Darlan, sister of King Brandel, and wife of Teyrn Aonghas Cousland. The Rebel Queen, Moira Therin and my grandfather Sarim Cousland were first cousins; King Maric and my father were second cousins. My sister Bronwyn and I are third cousins of the late King Cailan, and thus our claim to the throne is the strongest through the Theirin bloodline."
Calm, confident, he smiled, taking in the room. Everyone seemed to be following, nodding in agreement.
"I was trained from youth to be Teyrn of Highever, and Highever needs its teyrn, ravaged and wounded as it is. I cannot leave it. Instead, I propose for the Crown she whose claim is equal to my own, and who has served her country throughout its present crisis with undaunted courage and resource. Let Bronwyn Cousland the Dragonslayer rule as Queen in Ferelden, and let her husband, the Hero of River Dane, Loghain Mac Tir, rule beside her!"
A roar of approval and relief. The lords of Highever, Amaranthine, South Reach, and West Hills were all united, which made it largely a settled matter. No one was squawking with outrage, though Teagan Guerrin was torn with guilt and uncertainty. There was his wife, Kaitlyn, dutifully applauding with the rest, and then hesitating when she saw his face. He took her hand and tried to smile reassuringly.
Kane wondered what this would mean for him. His father-in-law had spoken to him of this as something the country needed, and Kane was not secure enough in his holding to openly defy him. And why should he? Who else was claiming the throne? He would cast his two votes—one for Denerim, one of the bannorn of South Docks— for Bronwyn and Loghain. Loghain was a forbidding old wardog, but seemed to know what he was doing. His own father had always thought a lot of Loghain. Bronwyn was a good-looking girl, and had been nothing but civil to him and nice to Faline and Jancey. Habren hated her with a passion. There his wife was, mouth wrinkled like a prune at the idea of Bronwyn as Queen. He smirked. Yes. He would definitely be voting for Bronwyn. He would tell Habren it was out of respect for her father, Arl Bryland. That would drive her absolutely mad.
No one was declaring himself or herself in opposition. Some calls of "Question!" were heard, but that was only to be expected.
"Can Grey Wardens hold titles?"
Three different banns piled on with that one. Bryland was ready with the answer.
"While Grey Wardens are generally expected to surrender titles after offering themselves as recruits, there is no law in the entire Fereldan Codex that demands it. No law declares a Grey Warden ineligible to hold any lordship. In this special case, the need for an heir of royal blood trumps the usual traditions."
"Anybody else checked the law?" demanded Bann Fredegunda. "We don't want any mistakes."
Anora immediately called a law clerk forward, bearing a massive tome. The clerk then swore formally before the Grand Cleric that he had also searched through all the edicts, proclamations, rulings, decrees, laws, and statutes of Ferelden, and had found nothing that excluded Grey Wardens from inheriting lands or titles that were theirs by blood right.
"And what are the Grey Wardens going to say about it?" wondered old Bann Pimkin.
"Lord and Ladies of Ferelden," Bronwyn said, prepared for this, too, "the Grey Wardens beyond our borders have not come forward to fight beside us. I am in communication with some of the Grey Warden posts. Only the Warden-Commander of Nevarra has offered me any real assistance whatever, and that was limited to advice and information. His advice was to expect no help from my brother and sister Wardens, for the First Warden has forbidden it."
A great deal of indignation was expressed. Bronwyn spoke louder.
"It is largely believed that the attack on Ferelden is a mere feint and that the real attack will be directed at someplace they regard as more important: namely, their own lands. The First Warden has written to me, but seems unaware that Ferelden is not a province of Orlais. I am given to understand by the Nevarran Warden-Commander that the First Warden is surrounded by Orlesian advisers and secretaries. Therefore, whatever the Grey Wardens in the rest of Ferelden may think, I feel no need to heed it. We must fight the Blight in our lands in our own way, with our own soldiers and our own allies. We can fight it more effectively if Loghain and I have clear authority to do so."
Most people thought her reasoning sound, for who indeed cared what some folk in the Anderfels thought or did? Teagan, however, thought his head would explode if he said nothing.
"And what of Alistair?" he burst out. "You do not hold yourself bound to renounce a title. Why then should Alistair be bound? Should he not also have his rights?"
"Alistair?" was the next question from the nearest banns. "Who's he?"
"Yes," echoed Bann Oswald. "Who is this 'Alistair' fellow?"
Before Teagan could answer, Bronwyn spoke first. "Alistair was told by his guardian Arl Eamon that he was King Maric's bastard. He is a fellow Grey Warden and a very fine warrior."
Loghain fumed in silence, hating that this had been brought up. It would only shame the memory of Maric and worse, of Rowan.
"Really?" Bann Stronar said, feigning surprise. He had been told all about it by Bryland one night when they were in their cups. "Maric had a bastard? It's news to me. Not that it matters. We're hardly going to put a bastard on the throne."
Adam Hawke turned to Carver, and whispered, "Alistair is King Maric's son?"
Carver, who had heard bits of gossip, shrugged and smirked, It was rare that he was one-up on Adam. The rest of the Landsmeet was transfixed with delight at the most thrilling piece of gossip to come out of the Landsmeet so far: even better than the bit about Bryland sleeping with his mage stepdaughter, since this appeared to be true.
"Maric didn't acknowledge him?" asked Bann Frandarel. "Why not? Loghain, did Maric tell you about this?"
"No," Loghain forced himself to say. "He never did. The boy resembles Maric. He's a fine lad—saved me from an assassin's blade. I don't believe he made up the story."
"Of course he didn't!" Teagan exploded. "Eamon told me the same thing. The boy's mother was a Redcliffe servant who died in the birthing. King Maric entrusted the boy to Eamon, who raised him."
"But he never told anyone else?" pressed Bann Frandarel.
The Grand Cleric spoke up. "Arl Eamon told me."
A silence fell. Muirin said, "Arl Eamon decided to give Alistair to the Chantry when the boy turned ten. He told me of Alistair's birth, and felt this would be the best thing for him. He did not want me to query the King about the matter, and said that he had consulted with him. Last year, Warden-Commander Duncan conscripted Alistair into the Grey Wardens, shortly before Alistair was due to take his vows as a Templar."
"This all sounds pretty dodgy, " Bann Sighard remarked. "Keeping everything such a secret…hiding the boy away…not providing for him… It's not like Maric. How old is the lad?"
"Twenty, my lord," Bronwyn said.
"Born years after the Queen died," mused Bann Alfstanna. "The King could have married again... or recognized a mistress. Why not acknowledge his son?"
"Something wrong with the mother, I expect," sniped Bann Fredegunda. "An elf, most likely. Maric fancied them. Is that it?"
Teagan could answer that honestly. "I know nothing about the mother, other than that she was a servant. Not even her name."
Nathaniel spoke up, his voice cool and rational. "What difference does it make? Warden Alistair, however satisfactory as a Grey Warden, is hardly a contender for the Crown. Or is he?" He frowned at Teagan. "Is he trying to stand on his rights? He'll need proof of a secret marriage, or a written acknowledgement at the very least."
"No, he doesn't want to be king," Teagan admitted, feeling miserable and out-maneuvered. "He wrote and told me so."
"Well," Wulffe jumped in. "There you are. I've met the lad myself, and he's a fine young fellow, just as Bronwyn says. Very handy with a sword. I think we should set the matter aside for now. Once the succession is settled, the new King and Queen can decide what to do for Alistair. Grant him the name Fitzmaric or Fitzroy—give him a manor—set up a new bannorn for him somewhere—or whatever. But later."
And that was that. To Teagan's painful disappointment, the issue became a non-issue with a few words and a reference to the future. What had he done? What had Eamon done? His brother had wanted so much to protect Cailan—to protect the Theirin line. He had protected it so thoroughly that it had now ceased to be.
But the Landsmeet was far from over. Teagan was relieved that Bann Babcock had not lost his head, as Teagan had. The old man called for the question that deeply concerned the Arl of Redcliffe.
"So what about the succession? What if the Girl Warden gets herself killed chasing after dragons and darkspawn?"
"Fergus is my heir-presumptive," Bronwyn said tightly.
"That's all fine and proper," Babcock replied, "But does Fergus become King at that point? Does Loghain goes back to being Teyrn of Gwaren? Don't know that there's anything like 'Queen Dowager' for men," he chuckled. "Of course, Bronwyn's just a mite younger than Loghain. Reckon it's more likely she'd be the one left."
Loghain was quite unamused.
Bryland said, "We believe that granting Loghain the Crown Matrimonial is the best solution. If either of them— Maker forbid! — should be lost, the other will continue to rule."
Teagan fell all the blood rush to his head at the words "Crown Matrimonial."
"Absolutely not!" he shouted. "The throne belongs to the blood of Calenhad! If Bronwyn died, Loghain could marry…anybody… and their children could inherit the throne." Desperately, he turned to Fergus, "Are you certain you don't want to press your claim?"
"Yes," Fergus shot back. "I am absolutely certain. Here is my plan, and it can be made part of the succession agreement. Bronwyn and Loghain rule jointly, which can only be lawful if Loghain is granted the Crown Matrimonial. If Bronwyn and Loghain have issue, that child would be the heir-apparent. Their joint issue takes precedence. If Loghain predeceases Bronwyn, any child she bore to a subsequent husband would have be in the line of succession after a child of both her and Loghain. If there is no child, I—with whatever heirs I ultimately may have by the time both of them are deceased—am declared the heir-presumptive of them both. If my line fails, the succession falls to Queen Anora and hers. After Queen Anora and her heirs, any child of Loghain from a subsequent marriage succeeds. If all that fails, the next closest relations are the Howes, then the Brylands. Bronwyn and Loghain can sign the pact as part of the coronation rite. Does this compromise satisfy you, my lords and ladies?"
This was complicated, and needed repetition and explication.
"Let's see," Wulffe considered. "Bronwyn and Loghain's children, followed by the children Bronwyn might have from another marriage. Then Fergus and his heirs, Then Anora and hers. Then Loghain's children from a later marriage. Then the Howes, followed by the Brylands. I think the Kendalls would be next—"
Kane Kendall perked up at these words. He was in the line of succession. That was nice to know, though putting all those people aside the way he did Aron would be biting off more than he could chew. Still, it was nice to be in the line of succession. Distinguished.
"It doesn't sound bad, Fergus," Wulffe allowed. "Not bad at all. Gives you your due. I don't think any reasonable person could object."
"I object," Teagan declared. "I don't see that Queen Anora and her heirs," he bowed in respectful apology to the dowager on the throne, "have any place in the succession at all. The point is to preserve the blood of Calenhad. I absolutely cannot accept that proposal as it stands."
To Anora's chagrin, she found herself knocked out of the succession with casual dispatch after an infuriatingly short debate. On the other hand, most people felt that Loghain's children from a subsequent marriage should be treated as heirs, because once he was legally and officially King, how could princes and princesses not have the right of inheritance?
Loghain rolled his eyes. Marrying Bronwyn was one thing: he could not imagine marrying anyone else, ever. He was irritated for Anora's sake, too. Still, all was not lost. It looked like she and Cousland were a certain thing. Cousland's rights would be hers. The sooner they married, the better; and the sooner they produced a child, the happier he would be. Removing Anora from the succession today eventually would be a moot point. Let Teagan think he had had his way in something.
The wrangling went on for some time. Loghain watched it with a jaundiced eye. Banns stood up and spoke their minds, merely to hear themselves talk, or to boast at home later of having taken part in the debate. The light in the Landsmeet Chamber dimmed, and was supplemented with torches and candles. People grew restless, ready for the feast.
"But what about the Orlesians?" Lady Rosalyn fretted, whispering anxiously to her son, the new Bann Ceorlic. "They don't want Loghain on the throne! Will they declare war? Maybe you should abstain, darling!"
"Can't," Ceorlic the Third whispered back. "Loghain would never forgive it, and he's a lot closer and more dangerous than the Orlesians at the moment. We can send a letter later through Uncle Bresson in the Free Marches, assuring the Empress of our respect."
They were not the only people concerned about Orlais. though no one wanted to be the one to come right out and talk about it. Loghain was concerned about Orlais himself, and decided to lance that boil of anxiety by bringing up improvements to coastal defenses tomorrow.
"Hear me!" cried Anora, fighting to conceal her wounded pride. Fereldans were ungrateful creatures, but perhaps that was simply human nature. "I call for a vote! Does the Landsmeet recognize Loghain Mac Tir and Bronwyn Cousland as King and Queen of Ferelden, ruling jointly?"
"Wait!" shouted Bann Frandarel. "I'm willing to vote aye, but before they're crowned I want their signatures on the succession agreement."
A rumble of assent to that.
Loghain had had enough. "Some clerk can prepare the document and have it ready by tomorrow for the first order of business. Since people will be up late tonight, let's start proceedings at noon. We'll sign the agreement and be crowned on the spot! If you have a candidate you prefer for King, speak up! If you don't... then it's time to vote. We have work to do."
"I agree," Bronwyn declared, making herself heard. "If you're not ready to vote on the main issue now, you never will be. Will you have me? Will you have Loghain? Speak now."
"Yes!" Anora said, determined to maintain control of her last Landsmeet. "Lords and ladies of Ferelden, do you accept the Teyrn and Teyrna of Gwaren as your lawful King and Queen?"
"Aye!" shouted Fergus. Bryland, Howe, and Wulffe joined in, and a rolling thunder of acclamation range from the floor of the Landsmeet, boiling in a crescendo to the very ceiling. The dogs stood up and barked, rather startled at the noise, though Scout and Amber thought nothing could be more natural than for the other humans to grant dominance to their people.
Carver punched his brother's shoulder. "Adam! Yell louder!" Hawke punched Carver back, grinning, but indulged him with an enthusiastic bellow. Carver still thought Adam's confirmation as bann pretty ghastly, but at least today Adam could do something useful, and vote for Bronwyn.
Reluctantly, haltingly, Teagan added his 'Aye!" to the rest, keeping his grave reservations to himself.
The voting over, the seneschal shouted, "Long life to their Majesties: King Loghain and Queen Bronwyn! Maker guide and preserve them!"
More shouts, more acclaim, plenty of happy backslapping and half-drunken cheers. Bronwyn and Loghain, hand in hand, in armor, stood before the Landsmeet and faced their subjects for the first time. Bronwyn could not decide if she had won a victory over tremendous odd by heroic ability... or simply done something extremely underhanded.
Anora forced a brilliant smile and descended from the dais to make way for her father and stepmother. She had not expected to be swept aside with such brisk dispatch. Of course she was glad for Father, and this was what the country needed, since Cailan had removed Anora herself from contention. It was hurtful, though, and awkward. Theoretically, Bronwyn had the right to toss Anora out of the Queen's apartments immediately, though Anora knew that Bronwyn would do nothing so rude and inconsiderate. Still, Anora must move out, and quickly, in order to avoid talk that she was sulky and repining. There were always the rooms she had had before she married Cailan. She had been happy there, and perhaps might be so again. And then, in two months, there was Highever House...
Loghain took in the Landsmeet with careful scrutiny, assessing who was pleased, who was not so pleased, who was biding his time, who was too dim to do anything but follow along, who would be useful, and who would not. What would Maric think of this? A betrayal? Or a grand, uproarious joke? Only a fool could imagine the glory of kingship as anything but a burden: the heaviest, the hardest, the most challenging of all.
Within an hour, people were crowding into the Great Hall of the Palace, fighting for their places at the Opening Feast. It was beginning later than the cooks had planned, and those worthies were tearing their hair over their struggles not to burn the dinner. In the end they had waited, and waited, and still had to rush at the last minute.
The guests were a bit frantic, too, for the late session had left little time for dressing and primping. Those who had left early felt vindicated. If they had no vote to cast, why stay? Lady Myrella, Bann Stronar's wife, secure in her embroidered gown and braided hair, felt she had missed little. Loghain and Bronwyn were King and Queen, which is what everyone knew was going to happen; so Myrella felt she had missed only a lot of silly speechifying. Some lords and ladies were delayed by the children left at home who were to come to the party tonight. Some of those had not been given their dinners, their parents expecting them to be fed at the Palace; and the little ones were cranky and fussing.
Not so were the young Brylands and Kendalls, happily reunited with their friend Bevin. Corbus could always talk a servant round into allowing the two boys have a snack, but things had turned out even better than that. The Kendalls girls' governess understood their brother well enough to guess that he would not be pleased if they were made to go hungry. She had arranged a cheerful tea party late in the afternoon to give the children enough to tide them over until the feast. The last few hours had been long, while the girls waited, dressed in their pretty new gowns, anxiously trying not to crease them. The boys, in their best doublets, had been hideously bored. At least they were not hungry.
Bevin, however, was starving. The cook at the Redcliffe estate was queen of her domain, and allowed no one to sneak in and take food without proper authorization. Nor did she hold with coddling the young—especially mere in-laws who were not even proper Guerrins. Master Bevin had been given his midday meal right enough, served in the dining parlor with the Arl and Arlessa. The cook had been informed by the seneschal that the family was dining out at the Palace, and that only a meal for the servants was needed that night. Bevin, hoping for a piece of bread and butter, was sent away smartly with choice words from the cook ringing in his ears about "greedy boys!" He was quite well-dressed, however, for Arlessa Kaitlyn had given orders to a footman to see to that, at least.
Thinking back to some dull Landsmeets in her own youth, Queen Anora had the servants arrange a special childrens' table for the nobles' sons and daughters under the age of fourteen. There were over twenty of them who were old enough to attend and who were still young enough for the childrens' table: grandly dressed young lords and ladies, some of them aping the manners of their elders with hysterical results.
Faline and Jancey were now officially Lady Faline and Lady Jancey, they discovered. Kane had come quickly to tell them the happy news that he was an arl, and that tomorrow they were all moving into the Arl of Denerim's estate. Because of that, none of them would be staying very late tonight at the feast.
"The Landsmeet starts just after noon tomorrow, with the coronation and all. I have to be there, but if we get up early in the morning, we can be moved over the estate quick as quick."
"We liked it here," Faline said, a bit sadly.
"I know you did, puss," Kane said, kissing the top of her head. "Good people, the arl and his wife. Hospitable. You'll be seeing the boys now and then. But we've got to lay hold of what's ours. You'll like your rooms. I had them fixed them up special for you."
Anora had spared the children the foolishness of the seating based on precedence that was the rule for the adults. Theirs was a low table with cheerful ribbons on the chairs. Bevin took the chair next to Corbus and snatched up a breadroll from the silver basket in front of them, wolfing it down instantly.
The plump little girl in the chair next to him stared at him in astonished disapproval.
"You're supposed to wait for the Grand Cleric's blessing!" she told him.
"I was hungry!"
"It's very wrong," she insisted. She had huge blue eyes and exceptionally white skin. Her red hair was a mass of curls, held in place by a silver circlet around her brow. "Who are you?" she asked. "I don't recollect having seen you before. Is this your first Landsmeet?"
"Yes. Never even been to Denerim before." He popped the last bit of the roll into his mouth, and remembered his manners. "I'm Bevin Merton."
The carroty brows furrowed. "Merton? I don't know that name. I," she told him grandly, "am the Lady Ethelswyth Croombley, sister of Bann Ceorlic of Lothering. My father was the bann there, too. He died. Who's your father? Which bannorn does he rule?"
"My father's dead, too. My sister married Arl Teagan of Redcliffe, so we live with him, now."
"So…" she thought about it. "You're not a real lord. Are you sure you're supposed to sit here? This table is for lords and ladies."
"Arl Teagan told me to sit here," he said, feeling uneasy and poor-relationish.
Corbus had been talking to the son of Bann Carlin, whom he hadn't seen in over a year. He overheard enough of what the girl had said to interrupt.
"Don't talk rot," he said. "Bevin's our friend, and he's an arl's brother now."
"But he's not Lord Bevin," Ethelswyth insisted. "If he's not a lord, he's a commoner."
"Unless he's a knight," another boy pointed out. "Knights and their families aren't commoners."
"They're not lords and ladies," Ethelswyth countered. "And he's too young to be a knight."
Annoyed, Lothar grabbed a breadroll himself and threw it at Ethelswyth. "You talk too much!"
"Don't throw food!" Faline cried, scandalized. "It's wasteful!"
Ethelswyth dodged the breadroll—she had older brothers, after all—and fixed on Faline's lovely new lavender gown. "You're the sister of the Arl of Denerim, aren't you? What accomplishments are you learning? I'm learning crewelwork and dancing and the lap harp and Orlesian."
Faline and Jancey knew this kind of talk from their days at the hated school. "I'm learning the lute and dancing and Orlesian, and I know how to do whitework and silk embroidery and… and bargello."
"But she hates it," Jancey said bluntly. "Canvas is rough and heavy. I don't know any accomplishments yet." She shrugged. "We were learning about herbs and flowers, and that wasn't so bad, but I hate all sewing. You don't see the Girl Warden messing about with needles. I'd rather learn to ride. Kane said he'd get ponies for us."
"You'll love it!" Ethelswyth enthused. "Riding is the best thing in the world. I have a pony, but I haven't seen him in ages, poor darling. He's in Lothering, and Mother says it's not safe there."
"It'll be safe soon," Corbus said, full of assurance. "The Girl Warden's Queen now. She's our cousin, so Lothar and I know her. We get invited to the Wardens' Compound all the time. She has a suit of red armor that's made from the skin of a dragon she killed."
"I'm glad she wore a pretty dress instead of a dragon skin tonight," Faline said, looking approvingly at Bronwyn in her vivid crimson gown. "I like red. I like her headband, too. Do you think those are real rubies?"
"Of course they are," Lothar said, imagination aflame. "She found them in the dragon's hoard after she killed it. Everybody knows that rubies are drops of dragon's blood turned hard and sparkly."
"Well, I like Queen Anora," said Ethelswyth. "She's so pretty, with her golden hair. And Mother doesn't like Lady Bronwyn because she took our horses. But she left my pony Misty, so she's not all bad—Stop that!" She flailed at Bevin, who was sneaking another breadroll. "Look! There's the Grand Cleric! Once she's says the blessing, we'll get a proper dinner!"
"Yes, thank you, Fionn, put the jewelry away. I'll wear my armor tomorrow. Goodnight. " The servant departed, and Bronwyn turned back to Loghain, who was lounging in his dressing gown in the chair by the fire.
The Landsmeet Opening Feast that saw her acclaimed as Queen seemed just another noisy social event to Bronwyn, blending in with all the others she had attended since she arrived in Denerim. She was glad that it was over, and she could get some rest before the strenuous day before them. Then, too, there had been a nervous undercurrent in the celebration, something like what a band of naughty children might feel after stealing sweets, wondering when their mother would notice and punish them.
Bronwyn enjoyed herself for the most part—and was very happy to see her Wardens enjoying themselves—but she was very conscious of the eyes on her and was careful to make the rounds, making clear her gratitude to her supporters, and smoothing ruffled feathers where it seemed advisable. Loghain danced no more than usual, but at least exerted himself to show decent attention to their allies and to the great nobles. It was just as well that he danced only with Bronwyn, for Arlessa Kaitlyn's terror of him was manifest, and if he had danced with any of the nobles' wives, he would have had to dance with her.
"Poor Kaitlyn! If you had claimed her for a dance, she would have fainted dead away, and then Teagan would have rushed forward demanding to know what you did to his wife," Bronwyn said, picturing the scene.
Loghain only grunted, rubbing his puppy's ears. Amber was growing rapidly into a fine creature, whom Loghain thought worth more than all the nobles put together. He set her on the floor, and she shook herself, trotting over to the luxurious dog bed. Scout, replete with smoked boar and roast pheasant, was dozing already.
"We won't get much work done tomorrow—" Bronwyn predicted. "We'll mostly be riding around the city, back and forth."
"It was your idea to have the coronation in the Cathedral after all," he reminded her. "Mind you, it's not a bad idea. With that Orlesian jack-in-office making trouble, it's best not to change things too much all at once. And it's true that the people of Denerim expect their puppet show."
"They do. Besides, the Grand Cleric used her little talk with me tonight as an excuse not to have a little talk with the Knight-Divine. I know she's not looking forward to that. She wants to know about our adventure with the Tevinter blood mages. Maybe it might not hurt to tell her something about it. It's possible that she can be made to see the difference between a decent young girl like Bethany Hawke and a gang of Tevinter slavers. That would be a gain, certainly. But I'm more concerned about the Orlesians at the moment. Where did Anora have our foreign dignitaries bestowed, anyway?"
"In the North Tower, on different floors. There's a sheer drop from the windows and a sound guard on the doors. They won't be sneaking about. They'll have a sound guard on them tomorrow at the coronation, too. Anora thought it a good idea to let them witness it. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but I don't object to rubbing the Orlesians' faces in a bit of Fereldan independence." He rose, and prowled restless about the room. "We'll want to keep a sharp watch tomorrow, ourselves. The guardsmen managed to round up the Orlesians on board the ship, but from all accounts some who came in on the ship slipped away into the city before they could be caught. Maker knows what they're up to."
Bronwyn clicked her tongue in vexation, but decided to put Orlais and its obnoxious people aside for the night. Between the Blight and the Orlesians, how was she to know if she would even be in the world this time next year? So she let fall her robe, and let it pool, crimson, at her feet. That was enough to catch Loghain's notice.
"I suppose I am."
All the same, he did not resist as she took his hand and led him to her large and comfortable bed. He was King of Ferelden, whatever that meant or would mean, and perhaps a celebration was in order.
Thanks to my reviewers: Gene Dark, Juliafied, Robbie the Phoenix, reality deviant, Doom-N-GloomGal, anon, Oleander's One, RakeeshJ4, Jyggilag, EmbertoInferno, darksky01, KnightOfHolyLight, Nemrut, rowanlobos, sizuka2, Guest, JOdel, Kyren, Mike3207, Anime-StarWars-fan-zach, Zute, Trishata96, Psyche Sinclair, Yamilian, mille libri, Opethia, truthrowan, JackOfBladesX, Rexiselic, vertigomunchkin, Silverscale, Koden21, Jenna53, Tsu Doh Nimh, Phygmalion, Halm Vendrella, Just Me, Ie-maru, Tirion, Herebedragons66, Shakespira, almostinsane, Girl-chama, Lucien Grey, Chandagnac, and Ms Barrows.
Loghain's speech on chess is paraphrased — stolen, really—from George Eliot's novel Felix Holt, Radical.
In the rules of chess, if a pawn has the luck and perseverance to reach the far side of the board, she may become a Queen.
"Fitz" is a Norman patronymic used in early medieval times to indicate the father's name. Later on it was specifically used for acknowledged bastards. Fitzgerald, Fitzwilliam, Fitzpatrick, etc. Or Fitzroy ("son of the king"). In rare cases, the term indicated a more noteworthy mother: for example. Henry Ii of England was known as Henry Fitz Empress, since his mother Matilda had once been married to a Holy Roman Emperor; and even after marrying Geoffrey of Anjou she was always referred to as Empress Matilda.
Bargello is a type of needlepoint consisting of upright flat stitches laid in a mathematical pattern to create motifs. Traditionally, bargello was stitched in wool on canvas. Embroidery done this way is remarkably durable. It is well suited for use on pillows, bedspreads, and upholstery, but not for clothing. The patterns are geometric and can be intricately shaded. All stitches are vertical with stitches going over two or more threads.