One autumn night, Rilian's tent was pitched out of the wind against a cliff-face, above the Hafter River winding its way east, towards Denerim. On the slopes between, the soldiers of Redcliffe had felled trees for cook-fires. Dusk was falling, eddies of pure mountain air pierced through the heavy mingled smells of wood-smoke, broth, horses, leather, and sweat. On wooden boxes, Rilian and her companions sat warming their wet boots at the blaze of their fire. The steamy reek of Oghren's feet blended for her with the other homely and familiar scents of war: as familiar by now as the smells of sewage, rats, and gruel she had grown up with.

"Well," said Arl Eamon, who still looked pale and drawn after Teyrn Loghain's poison, "I told you the Teyrn's patience would wear out before mine. He's sent for us."

Rilian sat, bolt upright, intense gaze fixed on the Arl. "All of us?" She darted a look at Alistair, beside her, thinking it would not be wise to bring the would-be King to Denerim.

"Not even Loghain would dare arrest the last living descendent of Theirin blood," the Arl said.

"If you take Alistair, how about the rest of us?" Oghren asked. Felsi had just moved to Denerim - he would have liked to be seeing more of her.

"We will need to leave the army here, or give the darkspawn free rein to move north," Rilian told him firmly.

"They say a watched pot never boils," Oghren muttered irritably.

Alistair, as usual, stuck up for Rilian. "They say too that when you take your eyes off it, it boils over."

The red-bearded dwarf looked at him with irritation - it was alright for him; he was getting enough of what he wanted.

He was getting, at least, a love he would not have changed for any other. The rest was his secret - he had come to what terms he could with it. Chastity, restraint, devotion to higher things - with these words he tried to explain to himself his meetings with a soul-rooted reluctance, too deep to suffer questioning. Perhaps life in the Alienage had scarred Rilian; perhaps the sacrifices necessary to become a Warden. Most of the time, however, she was trusting, affectionate, supportive; she simply did not think romance very important.

She shared everything with him. She talked of men and elves, of the conflict between Zathrien and the Lady - of his wild and doomed attempt to avenge his children and regain the Elven immortality. She quoted Wynne on what it meant to be a Grey Warden - she retold the gossip of Arl Eamon's servants and of the soldiers. She plotted their horrific defeat at Ostagar, stage by stage, and confided that she believed King Cailan already doomed when Loghain gave the order to retreat. He had been angry at that, and had told her that even if it were true, it didn't change anything. Loghain had still covered his guilt by trying to blame the Wardens, had still sent assassins to kill them, had still poisoned the man who had raised him until the age of ten. Rilian had understood that his loyalty to the Arl and to Duncan would admit no argument.

She talked of the dog she had had back home (a scrawny little mutt she and Shianni had nicknamed Helm-Piddle, because of his habit of getting his own back on the human soldiers who abused him) and the mabari who was more friend than animal; she spoke of words heard in dreams from that great corrupted dragon. At any moment Alistair would be asked what he thought - he was valued as more than a listener. Knowing this, he would pay attention - and be caught up even against his will. Rilian could transmit imagination the way other women could transmit desire. When she sang, with her head tilted up and a little leftward, her eyes seeing what her mind conceived, he would catch an inner glow like a secret lamp, or a dazzling glint through a chink. Sometimes, when she was lit up and full of gratitude for being understood, his love would prompt the right word or touch, and she would soften in his arms, and murmur something in the human-Elvish lingo of her girlhood, and all would be well between them; or as well as it was ever going to be.

"The darkspawn are a threat, yes - but it worries me to think of you going to Denerim alone," came the soft, accented voice one of the three other women in camp - Rilian's fellow red head, the bard Leliana. Her beautiful face - softer and rounder than Rilian's sharp angularity - was drawn into a frown; her clear blue eyes intense. "Teyrn Loghain will have his fingers in many plots, and you will not know whom to trust. Let me go in ahead - someone not known to the Teyrn - someone who can keep an ear to the ground. A bard is welcome anywhere - and if you need my other know it would be a privilege."

Rilian knew her well enough by now to understand the skills she was referring to. The great re-curved bow slung over one shoulder was not Leliana's only weapon. The others, unseen, were far more lethal. She met the human woman's remarkable gaze.

"Thank you, my friend," she said softly, "There is no-one I would sooner trust. But I must do this myself."

Leliana swallowed a sigh, torn somewhere between exasperation and affection. There was no subtlety in Rilian. She remembered a conversation they had had, months back during the safer times - the getting-to-know-each-other times - when Ostagar had fallen but the Blight still seemed some distance off, when they had adventured together in their quest for allies; before Rilian had been named Champion of Redcliffe. She had told Rilian something of what it meant to be a bard - of the deceit and seduction and manipulation that had been Leliana's life's-blood - and Rilian had teased her by asking how this would help them defeat the darkspawn. It would certainly have helped now, she thought sourly - but, no, Rilian was either unwilling to risk a friend or simply preferred the idea of murder by sword to murder by poison. As if one was any less dead than the other.

Leliana often asked herself why she stayed - here, in this smelly camp, in a country better known for its dogs than its culture. Why did she spend whatever time they had together coaching Rilian in singing and storytelling. Rilian's voice - low, raw, untrained - possessed a sweetness and clarity that struck through to the soul; but she was far too much a warrior to make a bard. Rilian's favourites were the songs of heroism, adventure and comradeship - she sang these not with art, as did the minstrels of Orlais, but as someone who had been there and understood everything. Nothing about the young elf was for show, and her versions of Leliana's songs were marked not by ignorance - between them Leliana and Wynne had seen to that - but by a perfect innocence. Leliana felt bewildered by the misuse to which, with open eyes, she was dedicating her own talents. She would never forget the woman who had made her a bard - yet the lessons she had shared with Marjolaine engaged her heart less than these, when all the arts she had to teach were flung like wasteful incense on the altar of war.

"Well - it's settled then," Rilian said cheerfully, "Arl Eamon, myself and Alistair will go; I shall leave Ser Perth in command of the army here." And, so saying, she left the tent to relay her orders.

Outside, the elderly Bann Temlen sat with his officers and Ser Perth of Redcliffe, on a rocky outcropping patched with moss, watching the Warden approach. Dressed himself with the rough practicality of the northern Bannorn, he could not take his eyes off the slight elf in glittering scale armour, burnished like a dragonfly in the flickering firelight, who greeted them with charming courtesy. (They could not know of the hours of coaching by Leliana and Wynne that had shown Rilian the outward forms of her own ideals; or the way these would slip in the heat of combat into a gutter fighter's repertoire). The months of travel had sunburned her; the clear colour glowed in her face; her hair and eyes reflected the flames like kindling caught with the spark. When fighting she wore a helm with a red plume, to be seen by her men in battle - they must be ready for change of plan whenever the action called for it. When his sergeant had reported the Warden's help during the civil war, when Teyrn Loghain had attempted to seize his lands by force, he had not believed the stories of her deeds - when he had seen her, he had believed still less. But when he watched Arl Eamon's grizzled face, compelled against his own instincts to give the upstart elf respect, and saw the adoration on the faces of Ser Perth and his knights, intent on her every word, he believed at last. He had overheard a conversation between two refugees from Lothering, part of a group that had volunteered to stay with the army as cooks and servants: "A man only lives once; we'd not have done it with the horde so near, only that we heard the Warden was commanding. Is it true that she slew the High Dragon outside of Haven? That she's invulnerable? That Andraste herself deemed her worthy to take the Ashes?" Those who had met the Warden reported it false that she was invulnerable - young as she was, she was already battle-scarred - but swore blind that the rest of it was true.

The tales had run before her. Leading her group away from Lake Calenhad, she had walked round a crag straight into two of Loghain's assassins, and dispatched them both while the men behind were still catching their breath; neither had had time to shout a warning. She had run between two Chasind and a Templar arguing with their swords already drawn, and shoved them apart. During last week's storm, so fierce it had seemed the Maker meant to destroy them all, she had read luck into it; kept them moving, made them laugh. Someone had had his wound staunched with her own cloak; someone else had died in her arms. They called her the Warden, as a title, even though there were two of them - the other warden, the young would-be King, seemed not to mind it, content to follow her without question. None of the soldiers were very great respecters of women's virtue - especially Elven women - yet she seemed to hardly need the great mabari or her companions to keep her safe. It was as though they scarcely thought her a flesh-and-blood woman at all.

"Warden - is it truly wise to go with such a small party to Denerim? I would not wish to risk the Hero of Redcliffe in this way."

A small frown line appeared between the feathery red brows. "There are two heroes of Redcliffe - and two Wardens. Shouldn't you be worrying more about the safety of the future King?"

The handsome, chestnut-haired knight frowned too, not wanting to say what he truly thought. He didn't see a future King - he saw the unwanted by-blow his Arl had thrown out to sleep in the stables when he misbehaved - before finally packing him off to the Chantry at age ten. Now that Eamon's nephew, Cailan, was dead, he suddenly wanted to know the boy again - wanted to push him forward as the King he had never been raised to be. A King who listened to his adopted father's advice - and who might do what Cailan had not and put the barren queen aside in favour of a marriage with Empress Celene and alliance with Orlais. It wasn't hard to guess which member of Eamon's family had given him that idea. But he didn't say any of that, of course.

"Warden," he said carefully, "I would protect the Prince with my life, of course - but it is you the men follow. The Ashes - the Dragon - that's why we won't fail. The knights know you're under special protection. That last battle, against the darkspawn attacking those refugees - by rights, you should have been killed. If your dog hadn't killed that emissary, they wouldn't have scattered. We wouldn't have had time to re-group. No dog behaves like that - singles out the one target that can save us. Those are signs, Warden - omens. We know it. The most important thing we draw from you is faith."

The Warden looked troubled for a moment - looked like she was about to protest. Ser Perth went on: "At Redcliffe Castle, facing those - monsters; we all feared for our lives. But thanks to the amulets you asked the Revered Mother for, none of us was killed."

The Warden looked slightly uncomfortable - almost guilty, Bann Temlen thought. Why? All good commanders know that morale is more important than scrupulous honesty. Rilian closed her mouth on what she had been about to say.

"Warden - if we lose you..."

"You're not going to lose her. I'm going with her to see to it," came a velvety-soft voice from right behind Rilian. Rilian jumped, whirled about - then burst out in startled laughter. All at once, the Warden vanished like a soap-bubble, to be replaced by a delighted Elven girl. "How do you do that, Zevran - just jump out from the shadows like that?"

"I stand in the shadows. Then I step out of them."

"Oh. Well that clears everything right up."

"Just one of my many talents, my dear lady. Do you wish a demonstration of my other Perhaps later. For now, I'll content myself with going to Denerim palace - I made a detailed study of the layout while I was there, you know - and watching our friend Loghain. He won't be able to spring any surprises."

"Take him with you," Ser Perth said firmly.

"Don't I get any say in this?"

"Ah- ah," Zevran wagged an admonitory finger, "No time for sweet-talk." He narrowly dodged Rilian's kick, then half-turned; winked at the knight. "She'll always love me best."

Later, Rilian walked through the now-quiet camp, listening to its muted sounds: the soft wailing of a refugee baby, held in its mother's arms - the laughter and curses of a group of soldiers playing cards - the happy barking of Ravenous as he chased shadows. She grinned as she saw what the mabari held in his mouth - Morrigan would not be pleased... Soldiers and civilians called out to her - she felt like the favourite child at a family gathering. Once, I was... A wistful smile touched her face. She could still hear, as though it had happened yesterday, the songs they had sung in the Alienage; replay the steps of the wedding dance on the day that should have changed her from girl to woman. She could feel Nelaros' hand on her arm - see the shy smile and the promise in those green eyes as they began the dance of life that had ended with his death. She could almost feel the flutter of the life she had never actually borne: her child, and his. The faces of the men around the campfires blurred in her vision - became a play of light and shadows - insubstantial as ghosts. For a moment, she had the irrational sense that Nelaros and the child were both out there, waiting for her.

If Vaughan Urien had never come to the Alienage - if she had never had to take the Joining - she would not be a warrior. The half-serious training and childhood dreams of adventure would have dissolved into deeper joys: she would have centred a family as her mother had - she would have enjoyed the close friendship of the other Elven women - she would have liked growing into the gentle authority the Elders had. But she could never return to the past. To be one of the Elders, you had to be a wife and mother first; she was barren now, and tainted. Startled, she realised her eyes were wet, and blinked quickly, hoping no-one had noticed. Her past was gone; no use crying over it. And hers was not the only such loss; the only thing to do was go on. Bitterness could not swamp the better memories: her mother's laugh, the feel of her arms, her father's gentleness. They had been - within the limitations of hunger and cold and fear - a family drenched in love. From that love she had found the strength to come back from an easy death at Ostagar, lead others in battle, and care for them after. How had that happened? How had she come to see the human soldiers - perhaps the very ones who might have served a man like Vaughan, and laughed at her resistance - as "her" men? Had it been at Ostagar, before the main battle, when she had helped Mother Boann in the makeshift hospital, though all they could do was ease the passing of those stricken with the taint? They were so small, broken like that - they had called the names of mothers, wives or children... Had it been afterward, when clumsy, loyal, good-hearted Alistair had shown her new perspectives? Or maybe it was just that the campaign conditions - the cold, hunger and fear, the challenge of sticking together to defeat a common enemy - being surrounded by people - was the closest she could get to home. Rilian had never been alone in her life, or safe; wouldn't know what to do with peace, or solitude. Here was the family she had lost, and the love she had lost, and here she would serve.

The army had been camped outside Denerim for two weeks. The advantage, as Ser Cauthrien well knew, was that the Warden's men were at least keeping the darkspawn at bay. The problem was that the long days of inactivity were adding to the city's already impressive list of problems. Denerim was overcrowded - badly so, with the number of refugees pouring in from the south. And of course the civil war had led to shortages of supply, so that everything from food to water to medicine was strictly rationed. By Teyrn Loghain, naturally. Merchants and farmers had time to become bitter about his confiscation of their goods. Mothers with sick children had cause to complain about the rationing of medicines.

Cauthrien wished some of these whimpering shitholes had the burden of keeping the city in order.

The problem was that the citizens of Denerim simply had nothing to do. As long as the army just sat there with all their heads crammed up the Warden's ass, nobody had any outlet for the long days of pent-up frustration and fear. Tempers grew frayed; grievances multiplied in all directions. Denerim's sewers kept backing up, because the drain-fields weren't adequate to the extra population. The misery in the Alienage had led to violence - Cauthrien had hoped Loghain would let her deal with it, as she had done before - but no, he had given the task to Rendon Howe, which was like setting the cat to guard the mice. Even the city's more comfortable inhabitants - unaware that their misery could be so much worse - were in an ugly mood, and the ugliness was spreading.

Denerim's soldiers, however, were loyal to their General. Many of them had had years to become familiar with his loyalties - to them as well as to King Maric. And most were alive now only because he had taken it on himself to order their retreat from a hopeless position at Ostagar. Such burdens fall only on leaders, Cauthrien thought; that legacy would haunt him the rest of his life and, through history, he would bear it dead. Since she too was alive only because of that order, she supposed she was not impartial - but she would never see what else he could have done.

One way or another, she and the men of Maric's Shield worked to control the pressure building around the Teyrn. As such there was no riot in the city proper - no outbreak of resentment - until someone threw a spark into the tinder of Denerim's mood.

That someone was Arl Eamon.

Cauthrien gave a short, sharp sigh of frustration and anger as she buckled on armour and sword and went to meet her commander and his ever-present shadow. Arl Eamon's political ambition needed to be dealt with – he was exploiting King Cailan's death in the most cynical way possible – but why could Loghain not see that it was his treatment of men such as Bann Temlen that played right into his hands? Proud Ferelden nobles who had willingly fought for Maric's rebellion would not stand for being treated like conscripts – the lands and men they might have volunteered taken by force. In Ferelden plain-speaking was every subject's right and even Kings were proven by deeds; the Banns had followed Maric because he had been their pride and because he had been the kind of man who could make farmers and outlaws and lords fight for him just by smiling at them. The Landsmeet – symbol of Fereldan independence – proved that its leaders were not tyrants but first-among-equals. It astonished her that Loghain – a man more responsible than any other for bringing the Landsmeet back– could not see that. She recalled a favourite story of his – retold during evenings when the two relaxed after drill – about the very first Landsmeet he had attended – and how he had put a damper on things by putting his sword through the chest of one of the pompous stuffed-shirts. She had laughed at the time and said she was sure Bann Donall had deserved it. She wasn't laughing now. Maybe in the midst of saving Ferelden he had lost sight of what it meant to be Fereldan – or was holding on too tight. Or maybe he had never seen it – maybe he had always fought for Maric; the vision he followed Maric's and not his own.

No matter. Cauthrien knew very well why she fought – and it was not in the memory of King Maric but for the man in front of her now, sitting in the dour throne room with Rendon Howe and an abandoned game of chess. He looked like he had aged ten years since Ostagar, and that throne seemed more like a prison.

"Ser," she said bluntly, "Are we really going to let Arl Eamon and his puppets through the gate? Once word gets out that we've got the so-called Hero of Redcliffe and Maric's bastard here, the curfew won't hold. No curfew will hold."

Loghain fixed her with that steel-blue stare that could still frighten her a little and said: "Eamon sniffs a political opportunity. He reminds me of my daughter's little dog - who starts the mabaris fighting, and does nothing himself but yap. Where was he when we broke the back of the Orlesian invasion? Once I make him understand the threat we face, he'll not be so quick to throw his forces behind two children. I'll be able to talk him down."

Cauthrien bit off any further argument. What was holding him together was being the only one who could save Ferelden. With their plans to recruit the Circle mages in ruins - reports had Uldred unleashing abominations on his own Tower - and their emissaries murdered outside Orzammer; with their forces fatally compromised by the Civil War, he just didn't have the hope left to survive doubting himself.

"Indeed," murmured the shadow to Loghain's left, a flame of low cunning burning in the rat's eyes that flickered above cheekbones so sharp they seemed about to burst the skin of the drawn, aristocratic face. Arl Howe was always quick to tell Loghain what he wanted to hear. Loghain rose, and Howe and Cauthrien followed them out the door and through the gates, the guards falling in beside them.

Arl Eamon nodded to his honour guard. His standard bearer raised the red-and-green pennant of Castle Redcliffe, then affixed a flag of truce below it. Their ten guards took up positions around them. As they neared Denerim palace, they heard the great winches squeal against the strain of raising the gates. Rilian could see men on the walls, crossbows trained on them. Would the man who had ordered the execution of the Wardens respect the white flag? It seemed to make no sense – but Rilian reminded herself this was a Denerim she didn't know – the side half-dreamed of behind the high stone walls of the Alienage – and that she just had to trust Arl Eamon would not have wasted their lives, and his own.

Teyrn Loghain and two people she did not recognize came out to meet them.

Cauthrien's dark eyes narrowed as she sized up the motley crew. Arl Eamon, all stern pomposity, looking remarkably well-fed for someone just recovered from illness, his beard bristling in all directions in his prematurely aged face. The would-be King, who resembled Cailan - but whereas Cailan had had a sort of golden glow of privilege and idealism, this young man looked rather like the farmhand she had been promised to, before the Teyrn had given her the chance to make herself more than she ever dreamed she could be. And the Warden, her slenderness all grace as she dismounted. Even in armour, she managed to convey a lithe lightness, a supple strength. She looked like the stories they told in Orlais: of girls dressing as boys to win tournaments... Aveline, or some such silly name. It set Cauthrien's teeth on edge. Here was Arl Eamon's poster girl...and to be fair, if even half the tales were true she was a talented young person - but a six-month blaze of glory and charm did not add up to twenty years of soldiering: of knowledge of supply, fortification, how to withstand a to defend a nation. And this was who Arl Eamon was proposing to save Ferelden! Well, he would have to do it in that case - and so far his only noteworthy achievement had been to stand up to the Bannorn in marrying Isolde.

"...I am pleased to see you have recovered from your illness..." Loghain was saying.

"Why not call your poison by its true name," Eamon retorted, "The Blood Mage Jowan confessed everything."

"Arl Eamon, I assure you, if I had wanted you dead I would not have put my trust in some fool mage. And you, Grey Wardens - my condolences on the treachery of your Order at Ostagar."

At that, the boy Alistair started forward; the elf touched his arm almost imperceptibly, and he stopped. She was aware of Loghain taking this in...filing the knowledge away as a possible weak point - or leverage.

"Ser," said the elf, in a hard clear voice - she had stepped forward, and somehow both she and Loghain were drawn into looking at her. She had strange eyes, for an elf - eyes of a brown so light and translucent as to be almost amber; they glowed like twin stars in a face all spirit. Strange, that, because the Alienage the girl had come from was the arsehole of Denerim, and most of the elves within had the look of cornered rats. But Cauthrien had seen people before who built inner lives against sordid realities... Visionaries and dreamers, she thought wearily, always a dangerous thing. "You know that Alistair and I cannot be traitors. It was King Cailan who chose us to light the beacon, not the Wardens - and between that order and the attack we had no time to plan anything. We were late lighting the beacon because the Tower of Ishal had already fallen to darkspawn - we had to fight for every inch of ground."

"And none of that explains how you survived Ostagar. The darkspawn left no living thing up there." Loghain's face was hard as stone.

"No, they didn't - but Alistair and I" And when Loghain prompted her to go on Cauthrien almost laughed out loud at the childish ludicrousness of the tale the girl concocted. She darted a glance at Arl Eamon, to see what he thought of his ambitions coming apart in the tale of a witch in dragon form who spirited the two lovers away from the Tower. Loghain smirked.

The elf actually took a step forward, towards the Teyrn. Unable to rely on size or physical presence, she ground her furious stare into his. There were few among the Bannorn who could hold his gaze like that; he had faced such eyes through helmet-slits, seen that look on the faces of men prepared to die before they would yield the gate or the pass. Her face was younger, softer, more expressive than the faces of the few women who had served with his Night Elves - stone-cold killers with faces sharp and worn as knives after years of Orlesian abuse - but it held the same fierce resolution.

"The witch's name is Flemeth," she said coldly, "She told us that the hearts of men hold more darkness than any tainted creature. She told me that she had met you - that she had warned King Maric about you: "Keep him close, and he will betray you - each time worse than the last."

Cauthrien was aware of Loghain's intake of breath like a breeze of shock...she saw his face slowly whiten, and wanted her hands around that Elven neck.

"Silence, churl," she hissed, "How dare you interrupt the negotiations of your betters with your fantasies and your ignorant childish spite! I know who you are: the scum Captain Arvall arrested; Vaughan Urien's murderer! Nothing but a common criminal."

The girl's face remained unmoved; only the eyes changed, becoming bright and flat as golden discs, the pupils contacted to pinpricks. Her voice was light and hard, like a finely-made dagger flexing: "I don't deny it: it's true. I did my duty to the Alienage - it's how it survives. Nothing's changed - except I fight to protect humans now as well as elves. If you argue that, then we can settle it - but preferably outside. Even as a common criminal I disliked common brawls."

Much as Cauthrien would have liked to hand the Elven chit her backside, she knew Loghain would never allow such a scene. If the opportunity came up later... In any case, she had accomplished what she meant to: given Loghain time to collect himself. To Cauthrien's surprise, he addressed the elf, and something in his voice had changed:

"At the battle of West Hill, I rode to save the King and left the army to its fate; I could not do that again. King Maric asked for my loyalty to his vision, not his bloodline. He asked me to put Ferelden first. I am loyal to my King." He looked, for a moment, like a man lost in memories, in old instances of violence, in regret. But a moment later all that was banished. In the thirty years of battles, leadership, and hard choices, Loghain had made himself more a sword than a man - and a sword knew nothing about surrender. Something in the elf's face had changed too - a subtle tension drained out of the confrontation - her face, which expressed her thoughts as clearly as clouds foretold the weather, was thoughtful, considering. Loghain turned to Arl Eamon:

"Eamon - your own sister worked tirelessly to restore unity to Ferelden. Would you undo all her work just to put a puppet on the throne? You cared about this land once..."

"If you truly want to save this land, stand with us." That was the elf, again - Cauthrien wondered what the old Arl would think of that.

Loghain snorted. "I am to put my faith in untried foreign hands?"

"Well, not untried - and not foreign either. I'm not talking about the Orlesian Wardens but about the mages of the Tower - the soldiers of Redcliffe - the dwarves of Orzammer and the Dalish Elves. I'm talking about Alistair - a Therrin; and me: as Ser Cauthrien points out, a citizen of the Denerim Alienage. My family is here; my father. You have no-one here with more reason to fight. Or win."

And, suddenly, like throwing a torch into an unlit cave, releasing a swarm of bats, Cauthrien remembered the tattooed mage who had been to see Loghain - the documents sighed - the money in the coffers...It's necessary, she told herself harshly: we need those extra troops; these so-called allies of the Wardens might never materialise. What was there to do but sacrifice the few to save the many...even if that weren't true, she knew where her loyalties lay. Honour and loyalty - for her they were the same thing.

Loghain called the elf's bluff: "If that is so, then you are an excellent recruiter - and will not mind putting your troops at my disposal."

"That is not for you to decide, Warden..."

"I thought the whole idea was to get justice for Duncan..."

The objections of Arl Eamon and Alistair were only too predictable. Cauthrien watched the Elven girl hesitate, her fists ball up in frustration - but she, too, was loyal to her King:

"I can't do that, Ser. Even if it were up to me...I think you may be trying, the best way you know how, to do what's best for Ferelden - but I can't trust the man who poisoned the Arl. What would you do to Alistair? Or to any you decide are a threat? What if we need those Orlesian troops? The Landsmeet will decide who rules Ferelden."

"Then there is nothing to discuss."

It was left to Arl Eamon to have the last word: "I can never forgive what you have done, Loghain. Perhaps the Maker can, but not I."

It couldn't have gone any other way, Cauthrien knew: once Arl Eamon had put the boy forward as a rival for the throne, he had to win or die. The elf was loyal to Alistair - she was loyal to Loghain - neither could step down...and meanwhile the Blight continued to rage. What sorry fools we are, she thought wearily. If it weren't for love there'd be nothing good in us at all...