What was left when that fire was gone
I thought it felt right but that right was wrong
All caught up in the eye of the storm
And trying to figure out what it's like moving on
And I don't even know what kind of things I said
My mouth kept moving and my mind went dead
So I'm picking up the pieces, now where to begin
The hardest part of ending is starting again

If that blasted maid said one more word about hurrying, he was going to gut her, Cogburn thought to himself. Sneaking around Howe's estate was probably one of the more suicidal things he'd done since joining the Grey Wardens. To make matters worse Maddie, Alistair, Morrigan and Zevran were with him. So if Howe caught them they'd be served up to Loghain on a silver platter with apples in their mouths, heads removed from their necks. "Hurrying is counterproductive," He hissed. "Slowly and quietly gets the job done. You just provide the distraction."

Maddie nodded her agreement, "Urging us to make haste will just get us caught." She pulled the uniform over her armor and handed Alistair his. Zevran had already managed to don the tunic and Morrigan looked at hers with ill-concealed distaste before pulling it over her head.

Cogburn watched as the maid drew off the guards and led them to the rear door of the estate. "Lets go, quickly quietly and most of all, without notice." He muttered as they walked in the house.

"From your lips to the Maker's ears," Alistair murmured in agreement.

They managed to get to Anora's room without incident, but the door was magically sealed. Apparently Howe was both paranoid and practical. Cogburn frowned as Anora instructed them to find the mage Howe employed. There was no way to avoid notice. They'd have to kill everything in their path in order to get to Howe and the mage and back to Anora again. He looked at his twin and took a deep breath. "What do you think?"

Maddie looked around the hall, and then at Alistair, "If we're going to do it..." She pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. Cogburn noted absently that it had grown out some more, it seemed like a very long time since they'd been at Highever. A long time since they'd spoken to Howe in the great hall, their father's gaze on them.

"Yeah let's get it done," Her twin agreed. "So dungeons, we deal with whoever's in the cells on a case by case basis and if we run into guards we kill them, no questions no arguing. Anyone here belongs to Howe and you remember what Sargeant Kylon said, Howe's men are usually the one's he'd be locking up."

"Hadn't forgotten that little tidbit," Alistair nodded exchanging a glance with Zevran. "Just out of curiosity, do we have a backup plan if we're cornered, outnumbered and have no way to win?"

"That happens," Cogburn looked at the Antivan elf, "I'm counting on you to slip away, get back to Eamon's estate and get the others to come and get us. Chances are we'll end up locked in the dungeons of Fort Drakon."

"Towards that end, might I suggest that the ladies accompany me," Zevran said quietly, "I do not wish either of them subjected to the torture a dungeon provides."

"You must take Maddie with you," Morrigan agreed. "I shall simply turn into a bird or spider or something else and become inconspicuous."

"You could never be inconspicuous my dear," Zevran bowed to the witch flirtatiously.

"I really don't care for the idea that I have to be smuggled away like a little girl," Maddie argued in a whisper. Cogburn looked at her and began to speak, hoping to make his point when Alistair shook his head.

"Maddie, they'll rape you. They'll torture you. And they'll be able to make Cogburn and I do anything they want, including let them kill us, in order to keep you safe," Alistair told her bluntly. "Getting you out, getting Morrigan out...well that'll keep us all alive because they won't be able to use you against us."

Cogburn watched in amazement as his twin subsided without even a glare. "All right," Maddie agreed a pained sigh escaping her lips, "But its a last resort, we fight until its absolutely clear we can't win, right?"

"We're Grey Wardens, we aren't made for anything else," Alistair joked, a smile touching his lips. "Now let's go and get this done. I really would like to get some rest before the Landsmeet."

The man who emerged from the cell had obviously been tortured, but he was resourceful enough that he'd used the half second of the guards distraction to break his neck. Cogburn nodded to the fellow politely and blinked in surprise as Alistair greeted the man. He heard Maddie murmuring to Zevran, her low voice speaking of likely injuries and the elf replying. Cogburn pulled his attention back to the conversation and pulled out the sheaf of parchment he'd found in Howe's quarters. "Are these yours then?"

"Our records, including Duncan's recruitment records. I trust to their encryptions but I am glad to have them back. These should be in the hands of none but Grey Wardens," Riordan took the parchment gratefully, hiding them beneath his breastplate. "I would join you but I fear I would be more hinderance than help."

"If you can make your way to Arl Eamon's estate off of the Market district, I'm sure he'd give you shelter," Alistair told the older warden quietly. "We're staying with him while we prepare for the Landsmeet."

"You move in august comapny these days Alistair," Riordan commented moving slowly out of the dungeons. "I will take your advice."

Cogburn watched the man go and took a deep breath. "All right, one guard down, most of the dungeon to go. Let's move along."

"Think we'll find Maric down here next?" Maddie wondered, her voice quiet despite the humor in her words.

"Nothing will surprise me at this point," Alistair chuckled. Cogburn could hear the knight adjust his shield on his arm and ready his blade as they neared a corner. The knight's instincts were right on target as they ran into a group of guards.

Cogburn ground his teeth, first they'd found a soldier escaped from Ostagar. The man was out of his mind with fear and sickness. He hadn't needed a prison cell he'd needed a healers attention and reassurance. Then they'd found an elf, a boy who couldn't have been more than sixteen, thrown into the dungeon by the previous arl of Denerim. They'd had to explain exactly what had happened in the last year before they let the boy go. He'd been planning to head back to the alienage to see if anyone he cared for was still alive.

"I wondered what had begun the riot in the alienage," Maddie murmured to her twin as she watched the elf go. "The arl's son attacking a wedding party and raping the bride would certainly do it." She shook her head, "That poor boy. The poor girl."

Cogburn took a deep breath and gave himself a moment to be grateful that his and Maddie's parents hadn't ever let him become that much of an ass. "Some people really don't need to..." He blinked as they came upon the next cell.

A blonde man with a van dyke beard stood inside the cell, "You there, I demand you release me!" He threw the words at the Grey Wardens. "I am the Arl of Denerim."

"Vaughan Kendells," Maddie murmured for her twin's benefit, "He's the one attacked the elven wedding." She folded her arms and regarded the nobleman in the dungeon cell. "I really don't advise letting him go."

"How did you end up here?" Cogburn asked the would be arl.

"After my father was killed at Ostagar, Howe sent men to reinforce the garrison here," Vaughan sneered. "Once the gates were open he had me thrown in here. Let me out and you'll be well rewarded."

"How so?" Cogburn smirked, "Not much you can offer from in there, and it isn't as if you have control of the estate otherwise."

"There's chest in my room, it has gold in it," Vaughan told him. "Howe hasn't been able to open it because I have the key with me here." He patted his shirt where presumably the key was hidden. "You let me out and I'll give it to you."

Cogburn folded his arms and regarded the nobleman with narrowed eyes. They could use the gold, but there was no way he was letting this peice of crap excuse for a noble out of that cell. Vaughan wouldn't give them the gold once he was out, he'd just pull a doublecross. "Give me the key and I'll let you out." He said finally, backing his words up with a hard glare.

"All right," Vaughan was more stupid than he looked because he handed Cogburn the key.

The next moment the Grey Warden's sword was piercing the imprisoned nobleman's heart. "The world is better off without you," Cogburn scowled as he pulled his sword out of the dead man's body, watching it fall limply to the floor. He turned and regarded his twin who simply shrugged.

Alistair tilted his head to look at the dead body and then regarded Cogburn, "Don't expect me to yell, the bastard incited a riot. Who knows how many elves are dead or what kind of damage was done because of him."

"Well as long as that's settled." Cogburn rolled his eyes, "Shall we?" Alistair mockingly bowed before him and waved him onward. "Everyone's a jester," The male Cousland muttered.

Cogburn fought to keep from losing his dinner as he untied the man from the rack. Bad enough to know people had been tortured in Howe's dungeons, but to be confronted with the victims... Bodies of men and women were hung from hooks in the ceiling like sides of beef in a butcher's shop. The man they'd freed was the son of Bann Sighard, his name was Oswyn.

Alistair helped the younger man down from the rack and gave him a few healing potions and some bandages. But from the look on the Knight's face, Oswyn's hands might never recover. The ex-Templar's face was grim as he watched the nobleman leave the dungeon's torture chambers as quickly as he could.

Cogburn took a good look around the chamber, and forced himself to look at the bodies that hung around them. If any were still breathing... He heard Maddie's voice, the tiny stifled cry she made when she was horribly shocked and trying to hide it. Jerking around he saw her backing away from a row of bodies, backing right up against Alistair and Zevran, only stopping her retreat when she couldn't move anymore. "What is it?" Zevran asked in concern. Alistair looked at Cogburn helplessly and shook his head.

This was going to be bad, he knew it, knew it before he turned around and fixed his gaze on what was in Maddie's line of sight. "Alistair... do you..." He heard his voice break and took a deep breath. "Do you know any blessings? Something that will bring comfort to the dead?"

"I know a prayer or two but I-" Alistair didn't get a chance to voice his disclaimer.

"Then say them, for the Maker's sake," Cogburn looked at his twin and nearly wretched when he saw the pile of bodies she stood near. She was white as death and shaking, staring down at men and women in pieces, their faces still recognizable. "Zevran, get my sister out of here please."

"No," Maddie took a deep breath, sniffed hard as if to get herself under control, and shook her head. "No, I'm staying." She looked at Morrigan. "Once Alistair has said his prayers for the dead...I'd take it as a great kindness if you would burn everything in this room to ash."

Alistair finished his prayers. He was the best kind of templar Cogburn often found himself thinking, devout but not preachy, interested in justice and kindness. And when it came to prayers he wasn't especially long winded. Cogburn steered everyone out of the torture chamber and nodded to Morrigan. Firestorm after firestorm filled the room until the only thing left inside it was ashes. "Thank you," Cogburn kissed his witch's cheek. "It's greatly appreciated."


Author's note: So a little shorter than usual. Sorry for that. I've been working like crazy on finding my notes for some of the future chapters and they've gone missing. All my transcribed conversations and choices from the game have been lost so I'm trying to recreate them. This has not been easy or fun. Just be patient with me folks, I'm working as fast as I can.

In the meantime your support is greatly appreciated, all the favorites, followers and reviews are really awesome. Thank you so much.