A/N: This chapter is told mostly from Lhiannon's point of view and serves as a very high level summary of "Rend Asunder". This will get those of you who have read RA ready for "Retribution." If you have not read "Rend Asunder," there is far more in that story that is not referenced here; reading RA will make understanding "Retribution" easier. The story picks up a few weeks after the defeat of the Mother in the Dragonbone Wastes.

As always, Bioware owns all. I'm just a fan with an imagination.

Off we go!

"Commander, here are the latest reports on the repairs to the city of Amaranthine."

"Thank you, Varel. Prompt and efficient, as always. I don't know what I would do without you."

"You would most likely be buried in even more paperwork than you are now. Thankfully, Aura and I have worked hard to stay on top of all the requisitions. Will you be traveling to Amaranthine again soon, Commander?"

"Yes. It's been about a week since I've been there. I will most likely go within the next day or so. I just want to see the last of the walls finished here first. How is Delilah faring since Albert arrived? I haven't had a chance to speak with her for a couple of days."

"She does well, Commander; she is happy that her husband has arrived, but she is also quite anxious to return to Amaranthine. The goods that her husband has will help rejuvenate the business community."

"That's good news, Varel. If these reports contain what I hope they do, she and Albert should be able to return to Amaranthine within days."

"I am sure they will be pleased to hear that, Commander. For now, I shall leave you to your work."

"Thank you again, Varel."

So much has happened in the last two years of my life. Two years ago, I had just gone through my Harrowing. Little did I know that my life would turn upside down from that moment on. That was when I met Duncan and learned about the Grey Wardens. Of course, I didn't think at that time I would actually become a Grey Warden. But, since I had helped Jowan destroy his phylactery, it was either let Duncan take me or spend time in Aeonar. The Grey Wardens appeared to be the better option at the time.

After the disaster at Ostagar, Alistair and I worked nonstop to gather armies to battle the Blight. We had to deal with the civil war in the process too. It was stupid; we Fereldens should never have let ourselves get to that point. Had we been united in the first place, we could have turned the Blight back months before. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. We fought against Teyrn Loghain and his allies, throwing our lot in with Arl Eamon.

Eamon…huh…if I could get my hands on you now…

The Landsmeet changed everything. It changed my life. I dueled Loghain, defeating him and accepting his surrender. To say Alistair wasn't happy with my decision is the understatement of the Dragon Age. He was prepared take the crown and execute Loghain himself when I invoked the Right of Conscription. Alistair was furious. I remember telling Loghain to get his affairs in order. At the time, there was a small part of me that wished he hadn't survived the Joining.

I'm glad that he did.

We left Denerim shortly thereafter. Loghain wasn't real happy with being a Grey Warden; he didn't trust them, especially after the stunt First Enchanter Remille pulled years ago.

We traveled toward Redcliffe, stopping at the ruins of Lothering along the way. It was devastated. When we made camp that night, Morrigan approached me. She told me about what she had read in Flemeth's grimoire, and begged me to kill Flemeth before she could usurp her body and be essentially reborn. I spoke with Loghain about it and learned that he had met Flemeth once before when he and King Maric were running from the Orlesians during the war. When I told him that Morrigan wanted us to kill her, Loghain's eyes lit up. He was in agreement.

While we were on the way to Flemeth's hut, Loghain and Wynne got into a huge argument about Cailan and Ostagar. I actually thought they were going to come to blows. I told them we couldn't afford to dredge up the past. After Wynne left I told Loghain that I didn't agree with many of his decisions, but I understood where his anger with Cailan came from. Loghain sneered at that; I decided to prove it to him by showing him Cailan's personal letters. To say Loghain was furious at what he read was an understatement.

We reached Flemeth's hut a couple of days later, and she asked me what we intended to do, now that we knew the truth about her and Morrigan. I was about to answer, but Loghain did it for me; he had waited a long time for his revenge on Flemeth.

"You die," was what he told her.

Flemeth then shape shifted into a high dragon and attacked. She nearly got the best of us after chewing up Loghain and kicking Sten out of the way. Loghain's injuries were beyond my paltry healing abilities; Maker knows I tried to heal him before I called Wynne over to help. Wynne was healing Loghain, leaving me as the only one able to confront Flemeth. She turned to me and prepared to breathe fire on us. I did the only thing I could.

I used blood magic and before long, Flemeth fell.

When we neared camp later, Loghain asked me to go to Ostagar with him; he wanted to make peace with it, and that meant seeing it for himself. I reluctantly agreed. The trip was...different. Loghain was an enigma and I wished I could just figure him out for my own peace of mind.

I went to sleep that night, having another darkspawn nightmare and nearly rolled myself into the fire. Loghain gently pulled me back, keeping me safe. I told him to try and sleep himself, since I wouldn't be able to from then on. He grumbled about it, saying that if I had trouble, he'd also have trouble. But, he did eventually sleep, and as he slept, I watched him.

Not in "on watch" either, but watched him. As I did, I realized something; his taciturn attitude toward me was changing. He was treating me with respect and courtesy. Perhaps there was a new understanding between us.

After Ostagar, we set off to rendezvous with the others. I remember that day very clearly; that was the day he started to really talk to me. Not all snarls and growls either. What surprised me was his offer to help me learn to use a sword, which I gratefully accepted.

When we returned to camp, he gave me my first lesson in sword fighting. I had this cheap sword that sent annoying prickles up my arm whenever I hit something with it. Loghain looked at it and declared it inadequate. He returned to camp and brought a fine silverite sword for me to use. He began to teach me and as we progressed, something awakened in me, like memories. It was the arcane warrior memories from the phylactery I found. We decided to spar for a bit to test my emerging abilities. During that fight, I cut his arm badly. I ran a finger across the cut to heal it.

I wasn't prepared for the lust that began to build within me. It was like my very being was lit on fire. I think he felt it too.

A couple of nights later, I had a terrifying dream. Demons and darkspawn both tormented me as I slept. I awoke, half mad with terror and clawed my way out of my tent. Loghain and Sten were there and watched me with concern. I came to the fire and sat; Sten moved off to circle the perimeter of the camp. I had a weak moment then, perhaps my weakest moment of fear and doubt since becoming a Grey Warden. I didn't know how much longer I could go on.

I told Loghain I was scared. I was shocked when he told me he knew how I felt. I tried to keep from crying as my fear and doubt poured out of me, unstoppable. That was when he moved to sit near me. As I cried, he reached over and tucked a small lock of hair behind my ear, telling me something I would never forget: "You are stronger than you think."

We made it to Redcliffe shortly thereafter, greeted by the darkspawn. We fought our way to the castle, where Riordan, Eamon, and Teagan waited for us. We learned that not only had the horde been marching toward Denerim and not Redcliffe as Eamon had insisted, but that the archdemon itself led the horde. They were two days from Denerim; too far to reach the city before the horde did. It was decided to leave for Denerim at first light on a forced marched with what army we had.

Damn you Eamon…

I found that my friend, Jowan, was still imprisoned at Redcliffe Castle for his poisoning of Eamon. I asked to see him before we marched and that Eamon let me know when his execution was scheduled. I wanted to be there for Jowan. He was my friend.

Riordan asked Loghain and I to meet him in his chambers before we retired for the evening. As we walked to Riordan's rooms, we both felt a sense of dread. That's when we found out the real reason Grey Wardens existed and what happened when an archdemon dies.

The Warden dies too.

I was devastated. I didn't want to die and I didn't want to see Loghain die, but knew that if we had to as our service to Ferelden, we would do it. It didn't stop the sorrow from nearly crushing me.

After the meeting, Loghain walked me to my room. As I entered, Morrigan was there, waiting. She had an offer…an offer to both destroy the archdemon and save the Wardens. There was a ritual that required her to be impregnated by a Grey Warden…Loghain. She expected me to convince Loghain to sleep with her. Morrigan said she didn't want to see me die, not when she could help me. She implored me to do this, to save both of us.

So I did, Maker forgive me.

I went to Loghain and told him of Morrigan's proposal. He wanted no part of it, saying if dying was part of our duty we should not shirk it. I just about lost it then. I couldn't watch Loghain die. Then he realized that I could have just ordered him to do it, but didn't, and he wanted to know why. What was I to tell him? Something in my face must have changed his mind, because he agreed to speak with Morrigan.

Morrigan was waiting, all smug and satisfied. He looked at me for a few moments, pondering his decision. Something made him reconsider because he turned to Morrigan and told her to get it over with before he changed his mind. As they went to a more private place, there was no way I could lie or deny it to myself any longer: I had developed feelings for Loghain.

I was sitting in the gardens when Loghain's voice startled me out of my skin. The deed was done. I had been worried about him. I felt like I forced him into it and that it was because of my own selfish needs…he had become important to me.

The next morning we made ready to leave for Denerim. I was nervous and feeling guilty about what happened the night before. As I was donning my armor, Loghain came to my room to see us on our way. When we turned to leave, he stopped me with a hand to my shoulder; he told me I had become important to him as well.

We saw the archdemon for the first time as we approached Denerim. It was a terrible sight. Loghain, Wynne, Morrigan, and I fought our way through the city, dispatching the archdemon's generals as we made our way to Fort Drakon. Riordan went off on his own, trying to lure the archdemon to a high point and goad it into a fight. When we next saw him, he was leaping off a tower to land on the archdemon. Riordan had to jump onto the dragon's wing to avoid being crushed into a tower. He tried hold on by stabbing his sword through the membranes of its wing. It didn't work, and all we could do was watch Riordan fall.

We eventually made it to the roof of Fort Drakon and confronted the archdemon. As we fought, I felt my strength wane. Wynne was the only thing keeping me alive as I tore through darkspawn with my sword and with what magic I could muster. I felt Wynne's healing spells, but my injuries were piling up too fast.

Finally, I saw the archdemon stagger. I had to get to it; I had to stop it. Feeling my impending death, I drove my sword through the archdemon's skull. Then, it went dark.

I didn't know where I was. All I knew was that everything hurt. My eyes finally opened and I saw Loghain asleep in a nearby chair. I asked him if we really ended the Blight. He said I did it and that it was both a beautiful and terrible thing to witness. He reached over and took my hand, holding it in his for a long time. He was supposed to fetch Wynne if I woke up, but I didn't want him to leave. He stayed.

I think that was when I fell in love with him.

As soon as I was mobile, Queen Anora insisted I relocate to the palace to finish my recovery. Soon after, she named Alistair crown prince of Ferelden, named me the Commander of the Grey Wardens and Arlessa of Amaranthine, and named Loghain Teyrn of Gwaren. My head spun. Not only did the Grey Wardens get an entire arling for their use, but I was now an Arlessa. Oh, the Maker has a sense of humor indeed.

Loghain caught up with me later as I was in my chambers reading a book on Amaranthine. He was taking a quick trip to Gwaren before the coronation and wedding, and offered to take me with him so I could observe his court. I was excited; I had never been to that part of Ferelden before and Loghain was in high spirits as we traveled toward South Reach. We stayed at an inn there before continuing to the Brecilian Passage. As we finished our dinner, one of Loghain's injuries from the battle of Denerim flared up, causing his arm to go numb. I insisted on examining his injury and healing it. I massaged his hand as I chanted the spell; eventually my voice drifted off as I held his hand. I could feel the need and longing building up in me. He told me what we were doing was foolish, but he didn't sound like he believed it. I called his bluff. I told him that I didn't care, and I suspected he didn't either. I whispered for him to let go.

And he did.

I didn't sleep very well that night. I thought a lot about Loghain. I wanted him, body and soul. I strongly suspected he felt the same way. I wanted to discuss what happened and Loghain said it was, perhaps, a mistake. I was stunned. He was lying to himself, I knew it, but he refused to see. He filled an empty space in my heart; I wanted to take the chance with him. In the end, I told him that I hoped he wanted to take a chance too, but that no matter what happened, I wanted to remain friends; I valued his friendship a great deal. He agreed, saying the bonds of friendship between us could not be broken. It wasn't what I wanted to hear.

We finally reached Gwaren and I met his seneschal, Thorne and was reacquainted with Ser Cauthrien. The day was busy in Gwaren, observing how Loghain and Thorne went about daily business. That night, however, was hard. It seemed all the sadness came back at night.

Loghain held court the next day; Thorne was at my side explaining the intricacies of procedure and governance. His advice was beyond measure. After court, we went to Loghain's office, where he was setting seal to the documents detailing the day's proceedings. That was when he gave me Spellweaver, the sword I carry at my side to this day. I was confused and suspicious; why would he give me such a valuable item? He told me it wasn't a bribe; it was a "thank you" for everything I had done for Ferelden. For him. I kissed his cheek lightly and stepped back, thanking him for the gift.

That was when he reached out for me, placing his hands on my waist and drawing me closer. I almost cried; he was tearing my heart to pieces. I begged him to either pursue what was clearly between us or let me go. I was shocked when he told me that he was a fool; he never wanted to hurt me.

He just wanted me.

I let him take me. It was after that, as we gazed at each other, that he said it at long last: he had fallen in love with me. And I with him.

Needless to say, the trip back to Denerim was far more pleasant than the trip to Gwaren. When we arrived in Denerim, Loghain found out that not only were we expected to be at the wedding, coronation, and victory parade, but that Anora had a ball planned. The wedding and coronation went off without a hitch. We suffered through the parade, Loghain taking great pleasure in my discomfort. Insolent man. The ball came that night and I found myself a nervous wreck, but I survived…barely.

The next morning, we met the Queen in her study, where she told us that the Seneschal of Vigil's Keep in Amaranthine requested that we come right away. The Grey Wardens from Orlais had arrived and were looking forward to helping us rebuild the order. But first, Anora had a matter to discuss with us.

Our secret was out; one of Anora's ladies saw Loghain and I steal away to his chambers the night before. She asked me what was going on between us. I told her I loved Loghain. Anora turned to Loghain and asked if it was true; he simply said yes. Anora accepted our relationship and bid us farewell, as we should make haste for Vigil's Keep. Once the King found out about our relationship, he would likely want our heads on pikes.

We left with a prospective Grey Warden, Mhairi, for Vigil's Keep. As we approached the fortress, Mhairi became nervous and wary. The other Wardens should be welcoming us, yet no one was there. It was clear why moments later: darkspawn.

We found the fortress overrun with darkspawn when we arrived. We also found something I never expected: my close friend, Anders. He joined us in the fight and as we continued on, we found Oghren there as well; he wanted to become a Grey Warden. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

As we fought our way through the fortress, we came upon a soldier that told us of a talking darkspawn. It had gone after the Seneschal. We quickly raced to help the Seneschal, hearing the talking darkspawn say it wanted the Grey Wardens captured. I'm not ashamed to admit that this talking darkspawn made me really nervous.

It was after the ensuing battle that we met Varel for the first time. I knew then that he was something special, a keystone to rebuilding the Grey Wardens in Ferelden. As we talked, he pointed out riders on the road headed directly for Vigil's Keep. We hoped that these visitors were more friendly than the last.

Not exactly.

It was Alistair and his guards that approached, their haste obvious. I wasn't sure if this was a good sign or not at first, but it quickly became clear that the real reason Alistair came to Vigil's Keep was not to just give us our orders to rebuild the Wardens—which he did—but to berate me for my relationship with Loghain.

The conversation ended just as a templar was trying to drag Anders off for being an apostate and murderer. I had to invoke the Right of Conscription, which did not sit well with the templar, a woman named Rylock. She didn't want to allow it, but Alistair said he would just before he took his leave. Varel took us into "The Vigil", as he called it, so we could perform the Joining on our three candidates. While Oghren and Anders survived, Mhairi did not.

It wasn't long before my first fire to put out showed itself in a prisoner named Nathaniel Howe. He said he wanted to kill me as revenge for killing his father, that greasy snake Rendon Howe. So I did what any good Commander does; I invoked the Right. He survived the Joining and has become one of the very best of us.

We soon traveled to Amaranthine. Constable Aidan told us of the smuggling problems within the city and asked us to help. We spoke with the head of the Merchant's Guild, Mervis, regarding the smuggling problems. He told us of the issues in the Wending Wood and we decided to make that our next stop. We also ran into Nathaniel's sister, Delilah Howe. They had a long discussion that left Nathaniel confused and melancholy.

When we arrived back at Vigil's Keep, we discovered that letters arrived from Denerim while we were gone. One had the royal seal and was a summons for court. The other had Anora's personal seal, asking Loghain and me to arrive before the formalities so the King and Queen could speak to us privately.

We began our trip to Denerim: myself, Loghain, Anders, Nathaniel, Captain Garavel, and a number of the Vigil's soldiers. On the way, we would investigate the problems plaguing the caravans traveling through the Wending Wood. It wasn't long before we found smugglers picking over a burning caravan. We had come upon a rickety bridge crossing a chasm when suddenly a panicked man ran across and stopped in front of us. He was a smuggler fleeing from an elf that he said was making the trees come alive. As he ran off we heard a rustling sound from the ledge above and turned to see a Dalish elf glaring down at us. She made Morrigan look perky. The elf snarled at us, telling us to leave before she set upon us like she had the humans that kidnapped her sister and killed her clan. I offered to help find her sister in exchange for safe passage but the elf refused, bringing the trees to life around us.

She raged at us until I showed her an elven trinket we found on a group of darkspawn we had defeated. She recognized the trinket as belonging to her sister. I told her that it was the darkspawn, not the humans, that ambushed and killed her people and as Grey Wardens, we would find out why the darkspawn were here. She introduced herself as Velanna and asked to accompany us. Well, maybe ask isn't the right word; demand seems more appropriate.

There was an abandoned mine nearby; if the darkspawn were anywhere, it would be there. We entered the mine, carefully descending to the bottom of the shaft. A glyph suddenly appeared under us, paralyzing us in place. That's when we heard footsteps approaching and saw two creatures observing us. One had been a dwarf. The other was an emissary of some type. It waved its hand at us, casting a spell. Our eyes grew heavy and before I fell unconscious, I heard it speak one word: "sleep".

When I woke up, I was terrified. I was chained to a table, unable to move. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw a creature standing at a worktable. It called itself the "Architect", and actually apologized for what it had to do.

The next thing I remember was waking up with my head in Loghain's lap. He was looking at me with concern, but it softened when my eyes locked on his. I told them what had happened to me and of the creature that had done it. We were looking for a way to escape when Velanna's sister Seranni entered the room and opened the cell. The Architect had corrupted her. Velanna begged Seranni to leave with us, but she refused, telling us that we could find our equipment with the experimental subjects. We took advantage of Seranni's help, finding our equipment and eventually making our way to a large chamber. The Architect was there with Seranni and the dwarf. He summoned two dragon thralls to distract us as he escaped. That was when Velanna demanded to take the Joining and become a Grey Warden. We were still too few, so I accepted her offer.

We left the mine, continuing our trip to Denerim. When we arrived, Anders and Nathaniel stayed at the Grey Warden compound while Loghain and I went to the palace. We immediately went to see Alistair and Anora. An heir was on the way.

The next morning found Loghain and I preparing for court. We couldn't wait to see Eamon's reaction to recent events. Teyrn Fergus Cousland stopped us in the hall however, launching himself at Loghain and demanding to know why he set Rendon Howe on his family.

When the formalities of court began, Fergus and Loghain gave their oaths as Teyrns and I gave mine as Arlessa. I thought that would be that, but several of the nobles began to protest Loghain being named Teyrn again. They wanted him to hang. The atmosphere quickly deteriorated and I knew I had to do something. I got the shouting blowhards' attention with a small peal of thunder and flash of lightning. I told them that we needed to stand together to rebuild our country and our lives, and that Loghain had my unwavering support. After a few more hours with the necessities of court, Loghain, Teagan, and I gathered up Nathaniel and Anders to head to a tavern in the palace district.

We took our seats, Teagan waving for a round of ale. The server brought it to our table, setting the tankards in front of us. I took a long sip of mine; it tasted like someone hadn't rinsed out the tankard completely after washing it. When my throat started to close and my hands shake, I knew it wasn't soap I had tasted.

The next thing I remember was opening my eyes when I felt the bile rising from my stomach. I lurched out of bed, my hand covering my mouth. I saw that I was in Loghain's chambers and quickly went to the basin near his tub and heaved my guts out. I thought I was alone until someone gently pulled my hair back as I continued throwing up. It was Nathaniel. Anders heard us from the next room and came in. They told me what had happened and where Loghain was. I ordered them to take me to Fort Drakon; I was ready to do everything short of blood magic to get the suspect to tell me why he poisoned me and who ordered him to do it. Afterwards, I was anxious to get back to Amaranthine.

We returned to Vigil's Keep and performed Velanna's Joining, which was a success. Varel told me that his sources discovered that a meeting of the conspirators was to take place in a couple of weeks at an abandoned farm in the arling; we would be paying them a visit, for certain. Varel also said that darkspawn had been spotted in the Knotwood Hills by a couple of hunters.

The hunters told us what they had encountered: a cave and a large number of darkspawn that ignored their shouts for help. We found the cave at the bottom of a chasm and as we entered, we found that it wasn't an ordinary cave, but part of the Deep Roads. As we continued farther in, we heard sounds of a struggle and saw the darkspawn dragging a female behind them as they traveled. We rushed forward, defeating the darkspawn and helping the woman, a dwarf named Sigrun. She believed broodmothers were there, breeding an army. We found the broodmothers' lair and killed them. After that, we made haste out of the Deep Roads.

We headed back to Vigil's Keep and, of course, problems were waiting for us when we arrived. An angry crowd had gathered outside, whipped up by the conspirators. I spoke to the crowd, defusing the situation without need for violence. That's when Varel told me Bann Esmerelle and some of her lackeys were waiting for us inside, apparently spoiling for a fight as they were dressed in their armor. Well, who am I not to give someone a fight if they are asking for one? After dealing with Bann Esmerelle, Varel prepared Sigrun's Joining. I was ecstatic; she made it.

It was almost time for the conspirators to have their little meeting at the Stark farm, and I hoped to break the conspiracy once and for all. The conspirators put up a fight and very nearly killed Loghain in the process. We defeated the group of conspirators, even taking prisoners. We found letters on one of them, giving him his orders to do me harm. Though someone took pains to try and alter it, we could see the seal of Redcliffe on the paper.

A letter from Redcliffe arrived soon after and my heart sank. I knew what it was before I even opened it: Jowan's execution date. I wanted Loghain to go, but Anders said the trip would be too trying. I would miss Loghain terribly while I was gone. He asked me to hurry home and I was going to do my damnedest to do so. Little did we know that things were brewing in Gwaren that would demand Loghain's personal attention.

We made haste for Redcliffe. When we arrived, I asked to see Jowan, but Eamon said no, that I would have to wait until morning. Bastard. Eamon had a banquet for us that evening. While Sigrun and I went to dine with Eamon's people, I set Nathaniel to work, searching the castle for documents similar to the ones we had confiscated from the Stark farm.

Dinner; oh boy, was that ever one to remember. I mentioned Loghain during a conversation and Isolde went nuts. She raged against me sparing Loghain's life and called me a dirty whore before she slapped me. I was finished with the Guereins for the night after that.

Nate and Teagan both found incriminating documents within the castle that pointed to Isolde. We needed her make a move and I knew just the thing: I would invoke the Right of Conscription for Jowan. It set Isolde off into a fit of rage. Eamon was also angry, telling me that I was to perform the Joining and leave. No one was more anxious to put Redcliffe behind than I was.

I was awakened that night by a small sound in my room…soft boots shuffling on the ground. Someone was in the room with me besides Sigrun. A shrouded figure attacked; I saw Sigrun grab them around the waist and fling them to the ground. The commotion brought Garavel and Nate from the next room, along with some of the Redcliffe guards. I demanded that the guards wake the Arl. When Eamon arrived, we pulled the shroud off the intruder's face and found Isolde snarling back at us. I ordered that Isolde be packed up and taken with us to Vigil's Keep. With the dawn, we were on the road for home while Garavel and his men headed for Denerim with the news.

When I saw Vigil's Keep come into view, I thought it never looked better. I was so excited to get home…and to see Loghain again. As the guards took Isolde to the dungeon, I ran up the steps to the Vigil, excited to see everyone again.

I didn't see Loghain. Worse, I didn't feel him. Varel beckoned me to his office, where he told me that Loghain had gone to Gwaren. I was angry; why the hell would Loghain run off to Gwaren? That's when Varel told me the conspirators tried to gain a foothold there.

I set about seeing what fires needed to be put out in our absence. Aura, the wife of an Orlesian Grey warden, came to my office with concerns about her husband, Kristoff. He had gone to investigate reports of darkspawn in the Blackmarsh and had not returned. I agreed to search the area right away and find answers for her.

As Sigrun, Anders, Nate, and I prepared to leave, Garavel and his guards returned, saying the King and Queen would arrive in two weeks for Isolde's trial. Not only were they coming, but Eamon, Teagan, and Teyrn Fergus Cousland were expected to attend. Varel began preparations as we headed for the Blackmarsh.

We found Kristoff's body near the ruins of a small town, along with scores of darkspawn. He had died fighting them. As we prepared to leave with Kristoff's body, a talking darkspawn, the First, appeared. Kristoff's body was a trap. The First told us "the Mother" would not let us further the Architect's plan and as we watched, it sundered the Veil and threw us into the Fade. As we awoke, the First got quite a surprise; his magic brought him into the Fade too. He ran off, vowing vengeance on the Mother. We moved toward the village in the distance, hoping that we could find a way out of the Fade there.

We found a crowd gathered outside a large manor. At the head of the crowd was a figure in resplendent armor. It was a Fade spirit, one of justice, and it was trying to challenge the Baroness that ruled the village. She emerged from her manor with the First, telling him she would send him back to our side of the Fade if he defeated us. He attacked. We defeated him and he begged to be sent through the Veil. The Baroness agreed, but used his life force to power the spell.

Rain was falling on us as we awoke. Something still felt strange, like magic was in the air. Suddenly, Kristoff's body began to move. I'm not ashamed to admit that it both frightened and repulsed me. The Fade spirit had taken over Kristoff's body. It told us that the Baroness was still very much alive, but that in our realm, it would be something far more dangerous that what we encountered in the Fade.

He was right. The Baroness was really a pride demon, the largest one I had ever seen. It took all our abilities to fight the creature, but we survived. After the battle, the spirit, who called itself Justice, wanted to return to the Fade but I didn't know how to do it. That's when Anders told me that he was a Spirit Healer, a special type of healer highly desired by the Circle because they have benevolent Fade spirits that will come to them in times of need.

Anders asked Justice if he wanted to return to the Fade; he did. With the rest of us standing guard against any demons that wanted to crash the party, Anders sundered the Veil, returning Justice to the Fade. After Justice left Kristoff's body, we gathered it up and returned to Vigil's Keep. I gave Aura the sad news and told her we would have a funeral for Kristoff as soon as she liked.

I also found out that while we were gone, Velanna had convinced Jowan to teach her blood magic. I wasn't real happy about that, but there was little I could do.

Loghain wasn't back yet, and that fueled my already melancholy mood. I wanted nothing more than a meal, a bath, and perhaps an entire bottle of West Hill brandy in which to drown myself. I fell asleep at some point to be awakened by knocking on my door. I was ready to lay into whoever it was disturbing my brooding and my sleep. I was ready with an admonishment when I opened the door.

It died on my lips.

It was Loghain. He was back and I felt my anger fade. Oh, how I had missed him. I found myself in his arms, trying to pull his shirt over his head when he stopped and stepped back. I started to worry…I could feel something strange in the taint and I could see his hands trembling. They never trembled and my heart started to sink…until he pulled a ring out of his pocket.

I said yes.

We caught each other up in the morning with our various trips to Redcliffe and Gwaren. Unfortunately, we discovered that we were likely not done with the conspirators yet, as it had been implied to both of us that there were yet others out there.

The King and Queen arrived at Vigil's Keep a couple of days later, preparing for Isolde's trial. As I was presenting the Grey Wardens to them, Alistair told me he brought extra guests. I was elated when I saw Leliana and Zevran. It became clear later that evening why they came; Leliana wished to take the Joining. She survived. Zevran told me he would not take the Joining, but vowed to help me build the order. I gratefully accepted.

Fergus Cousland, Eamon, and Teagan arrived the next day for Isolde's trial. When it was called to order, Isolde and Eamon both protested Alistair and Anora hearing the charges, citing bias. Loghain couldn't hear them, as he was a material witness, so it fell upon Fergus to dispense justice. Isolde, of course, denied everything. But then suddenly, her tune changed. I was stunned. I couldn't believe that she was suddenly telling the truth. Her admissions were so unlike her…

Then I caught it: blood magic. It was coming from where the Wardens stood. It had to be either Velanna or Jowan and I wanted to take them both out behind the Vigil and flog them until they screamed for mercy.

Isolde was found guilty. Fergus sentenced her to death, but said that if she cooperated with us and told us of her coconspirators and their plans within one month, she would be remanded to prison for life. Alistair accepted his judgment and Isolde was whisked away to the dungeon, Eamon hot on her heels. Eamon's culpability and actions before the battle with the archdemon would have to be addressed at the next Landsmeet.

After the trial, a snowstorm fell upon Amaranthine and stranded our guests. Well, except for Eamon. He headed out into the storm, deciding that he'd rather take his chances moving to one of the outlying villages rather than stay at Vigil's Keep one more second. I wasn't sorry to see him go.

All of us were in the dining hall, enjoying each other's company. Next thing I knew, Alistair and I had a duel set and a bet in place. The Queen invited others to join us and before long, an entire tournament was planned for the next day. It lasted most of the day and I think everyone had a really good time.

Dreadful news came not long after the fun of the tournament: the Mother's army had invaded Amaranthine. I took some of the Wardens, Alistair, Garavel, and a few men to Amaranthine to try and reinforce what soldiers were there.

Amaranthine was all but gone already. Oh Maker. The darkspawn had invaded using the old smuggler tunnels, laying waste to the city and the population. As we prepared to enter the city, a sentient darkspawn appeared: the Messenger. He had been sent by the Architect to warn us that the Mother's army was approaching Vigil's Keep. We had to warn them. I wanted Loghain to go, but he and Alistair both protested. I was smaller and lighter than they, even in my heavy armor. I didn't want to go. I didn't want to leave the citizens of Amaranthine to die; they were my people and I had to help them! But damn them both, Alistair and Loghain were right.

I was so afraid. Afraid for the city. Afraid for my friends. Afraid that I would lose Loghain. I didn't want to leave him.

But I did.

It felt like an eternity before the gates of the Vigil came into view. The dread was quickly rising as I could hear the darkspawn approaching. I ran inside, warning the Vigil of the impending attack. We prepared as quickly as we could.

Loghain, Alistair, Nathaniel, and Anders were able to clear the darkspawn out of Amaranthine, but at a terrible price. Most of the city was decimated; they ended up having to burn a great deal of it. To make matters worse, the Revered Mother told Alistair to pray for forgiveness from the Maker; she thought the invasion a 'trial' sent by the Maker because the Crown made me Arlessa of Amaranthine.

While they were fighting in Amaranthine, we had our hands full with the darkspawn at the Vigil. The reinforcements had not arrived when the attack began and I worried that there would be nothing left by the time they got here. As we fought, Varel gathered the soldiers around him, fighting like a man possessed and inspiring the others around him…

Then the ogre came.

I heard it roaring and by the time I turned, I saw that it had picked up Varel and squeezed him until his bones shattered and his body was crushed. I was horrified; I was watching my dear friend die. I screamed, trying to cast any sort of healing spell to help save him. It was a futile effort; my spell wasn't going to be strong enough. That was when I heard someone shout my title. I looked up and couldn't believe my eyes. Loghain was back. He shouted for Anders to hurry over to Varel and the next thing I knew, Anders was gently brushing me aside and chanting his own spell. Anders' Fade spirit helped heal Varel; Anders nearly died in the process.

It seemed to take forever, but we finally pushed the darkspawn back. Those of us in charge of the Vigil met shortly thereafter to make plans for the future. We had to deal with the Architect and the Mother. We learned that in the chaos of the battle, the prison had been damaged and that nasty harpy Isolde escaped. We're still looking for that bitch. The Messenger would lead us to the Mother's lair the next morning. Anders was still too weak to go and I wanted to leave Nathaniel in charge while we were gone. That meant Sigrun and Velanna would accompany Loghain and me to deal with the Mother.

We had little problem following the trail the darkspawn took when they fled Vigil's Keep. It led to a place known as the Dragonbone Wastes. We entered the tower known as Drake's Fall and encountered Velanna's sister, Seranni. She was more darkspawn than elf now. Seranni's words were like a siren song for Velanna; she was torn between what she obviously saw in her corrupted sister and her plea for Velanna's help

We fought our way through the tower, down multiple sets of stairs and fighting teeming masses of darkspawn. Finally, we reached a door at the end of a causeway. The feeling of wrongness beyond the door was almost palpable. I looked through the door and past Loghain, gasping at what I saw: the Architect.

He told us about his experiments to break the call of the Old Gods on his brethren. As he spoke, Loghain suddenly came to a horrifying realization: the Architect was the one who found Urthemiel and tainted it, unleashing the Fifth Blight on Ferelden.

The Architect saw my betrothal band and tried to convince me to allow him to "help" me conceive a child, thinking it would be the key to freeing the darkspawn. As if I would ever willingly help the Architect in such a manner. Loghain was prepared to attack the creature when Velanna stayed his arm, begging us to help the Architect in the hopes he would free Seranni. We refused and fought the Architect. As Loghain and I closed in, it unleashed a spell that threw us away from it, damaging the structure and raining masonry down on us. Utha was able to drag the Architect through a doorway and escape.

Loghain dragged me out of the chamber as the ceiling fell around us. We continued along the causeways, finally coming to a large chamber lit in a sickly green glow. Within the chamber sat the Mother, the largest broodmother we had ever seen. She was insane, telling us about how the Architect freed her from "the beautiful music": the call of the Old Gods. All she wanted was to hear the song and all we wanted was to stop her from breeding. She screamed and unleashed her tentacles and children upon us.

We fought for some time, battling her tentacles and children with magic and steel. It was Loghain that dealt the killing blow, thrusting his sword through the Mother's face and ending her corrupted existence. It wasn't how I would have done it, but it was nonetheless effective.

As we left the Dragonbone Wastes, Velanna demanded that we continue the search for the Architect and Seranni. Loghain and I told her that Amaranthine was the most pressing issue now; the Architect had fled into the Deep Roads and the taint had grown quiet. She wasn't happy with the situation, but acquiesced.

Loghain and I went to Amaranthine soon after the battle with the Mother. The city had been devastated and I knew much work was needed there. I pledged supplies and coin from Vigil's Keep to help. Seeing all that devastation made me feel like a failure.

I should have done more.

Loghain and I returned to Vigil's Keep, where I briefed Varel and he the Wardens on what we observed in Amaranthine. What I didn't know was that Loghain had arranged for the kitchens to make my favorite meal to soothe my weary spirits. I think he just wanted to seduce me to make me forget my troubles; it worked, for a while anyway. I still feel…

The brush of lips on Lhiannon's skin brought her attention back from outside the window; through the reflection on the glass, she saw Loghain's dark head leaning down over her from behind, his lips softly pressing against the skin of her neck. Lhiannon shivered.

Maker's breath, that gets me going every time. I love him so much…

A/N, the sequel: I'm excited to get to play in my own sandbox now, without most of the confines of the games. I'd like you all to pick up your shovels and join me in the sandbox; though I have many ideas of where this story will go, you as readers also help shape the story with your ideas, reviews, and pointing out areas for improvement. If you could review the chapters (or PM me if you feel so inclined), I would greatly appreciate it. Your reviews often trigger new ideas, help me expand the story, or help improve the flow of the story. So, join me in the sandbox, won't you? :)

This chapter was originally over 17K words...yikes! So, out came the "Delete" key, my hockey stick, a chainsaw, and a photon torpedo (for you Star Trek aficionados out there, like me). I'm hoping that this will be the longest chapter in the story, but you never know. :)

Thanks to everyone following along once again. I have high hopes for this story and I hope you will continue to enjoy reading it as much as I do writing it.