Chapter Seven: The Sister at the Inn
Their first two days of travel were easy and uneventful, as Morrigan was adept at leading them through the Korcari wilds. The third day however, Morrigan spotted from above the top of a great hill studded with evergreen trees, a horde of darkspawn, about two thousand total, setting up an encampment. Not wanting to be spotted, she led them around, through a series of peat bogs and otherwise marshy sectors. Apparently, Garrus found to his dismay, that the mosquitoes of Ferelden did not care if he was of a different biochemical make-up, his blood still tasted good to him. This made him wonder if he was even in the same universe anymore. Then he hit himself for acting crazy, then considered the notion again. Magic didn't exist where he came from...he decided not to think about it too much, and stay on the task at hand.
On the fourth day, they met up with a dirt road, and saw the remnants of several burned and charred caravans on the side of the road. From the evidence, and according to Alistair, it had been made up of refugees and dwarven merchants trying to make a profit off of the plight of the Fereldans. Garrus had no notion of what a "dwarf" was, but he wondered whether or not he wanted to see one at all. So far, Garrus had not spoken a single word, and nobody had had cause to speak to him in turn. But sooner or later, he would need to, and he also wondered whether or not his accent would give him away as something strange and uniquely foreign. That was another unanswered question...how did these people understand his speech? It was like something out of a bad fantasy novel.
But as they were traveling along this dirt road, the sound of barking could be heard from behind them, and they turned to face it. From down the south, a dog unlike any Garrus had ever seen was running towards them, its slobbering tongue lolling about without a care, letting its spit fly in the easy breeze. The dog came up to Myrcella and started jumping around her, barking happily. For the first time ever, Garrus saw the elf girl laugh and smile, and she took a knee to pet the dog behind the ears.
"Who is this?" asked Morrigan suspiciously.
"This is a dog," explained Myrcella, "We rescued him from darkspawn poison when we were still at Ostagar. I found a rare plant in the wilds, and it created a poultice to bring him back to health."
"Yes," agreed Alistair, "And these Mabari war-hounds are extremely intelligent. He probably remembered Myrcella's...scent, and decided to come chasing after it."
"Yes!" said Myrcella with glee, "Whose a smart, smart boy!"
The dog wagged its tail happily and jumped about.
"A Mabari could be useful," said Alistair, "I say we let him come with us."
"Unfortunately, I can not disagree with that," replied Morrigan with a sigh, "So long as he keeps away from me and my things."
"What's his name?" asked Alistair.
"I don't know," said Myrcella, "I guess we'll just have to call him dog for now."
"Sounds good to me."
And so Dog came with them, and was a good companion. Dog sniffed Garrus several times, but was not repulsed, and so Garrus could not help but like Dog as well. The beast definitely seemed muscular and had large, baring fangs, so it could be good in a fight. Garrus saw no reason to distrust Dog, and was at ease.
The next day, they approached the periphery of a small town, the one Morrigan had mentioned. At its edge there was a stone road with archways and columns made of marble on the sides. It looked old, and had many cracks rife with green grass growing from them as well. As they approached, Alistair stopped them to discuss their next move.
Alistair was in favor of going to see a man by the name of Arl Eamon, who, that to the best of Garrus' deductive abilities, was a powerful man in the governing body of the land of Ferelden. With that being said, Alistair was unwilling to be assertive enough to command Myrcella, who was more in favor of going straight to the circle of Magi, her old home, and where many of her friends still lived. And when asked about her opinion, Morrigan said this, "Go after your enemy directly. Find this Loghain, and kill him. The rest of this business with the treaties can then be done in safety."
Alistair argued against this, "Yes, he certainly wouldn't see that coming, its not like he has the advantage of an army, and experience, and..."
"I was asked my opinion and I gave it! If your wish is to come up with reasons for why something cannot be done, we will stand here until the Darkspawn are upon us."
At that point, Garrus could not hold his tongue, for he felt like he was missing something important. He asked, "Who is this...Loghain?"
Alistair and Myrcella stared at him with surprise, and Morrigan said, "I hardly know myself, some sort of general is what I have deduced, and a traitor and a scoundrel at that."
"He's..." Alistair struggled to explain, "the father of the Queen, and the best friend of the previous king. He helped free this country from the Orelsians some time ago. And for some reason, he decided to let Cailan die on the field of battle."
"What field?" asked Garrus.
"Oh right, I never told you about the battle of Ostagar. I did not think you would speak."
Garrus smiled underneath his helmet, "Just get me up to speed."
"Well, Myrcella and I became Grey Wardens, then the Darkspawn laid siege to Ostagar, a ruined city a little bit to the south of here. Loghain was holding his forces in reserve to help push back the Darkspawn at the battle. The signal was supposed to come from the tower of Ishal, which at the time was taken by Darkspawn. Myrcella and I took it back with the help of some soldiers, but when we lit the signal, Loghain quit the field, according to Flemeth anyway."
"So, where do you think we should go. We are all divided, and wherever we go, you have to come, so I think you should have some say."
"I thought you were the Senior Grey Warden," Garrus had picked that up from a few snippets of conversation between Alistair and the she-elf, "Why are you letting others decide?"
"Err...I prefer to follow," Alistair scratched the back of his neck in embarrassment.
"Fine," said Garrus, "Who has the smallest army out of the forces available to us?"
"Probably the Circle of Magi, but they are mages so what they lack in number, they make up in ability."
"Who is the least powerful then?"
"Probably Arl Eamon's forces. The Dalish elves are smaller as well, but they are extremely skilled. And the dwarves have the largest army in the region now, since King Cailan's was...eaten."
"Then we need to go see Arl Eamon first," explained Garrus, "We need to build up the weaker armies first, so that the stronger will respect us enough to join up with us. If we have no chance of success, I suspect that the Dwarves will have no reason to join us, nor the elves...or are they part of Ferelden too?" Garrus looked in Myrcella's direction.
She replied, "The Dalish are a law unto themselves. Elves in the cities, where I was born, would have a little national pride...at least to defend their people. The Dalish will probably need to be convinced as well."
"Then Arl Eamon we should go to," said Garrus, "Then the Mages, then the elves, and lastly, the Dwarves." Garrus hardly knew what he was saying himself, but he remembered Shepard's example. She had managed to get his own people and the Krogan of all peoples to work together. She had gotten the Geth and Quarians to make peace. She had saved the Elcor and the Hanar from extinction. She had done so much, and he would never know if she was alright.
I'll be looking down...you'll never be alone.
"That sounds like a good enough plan," said Alistair.
"I agree with it," said Morrigan.
"How do we know this Arl Eamon will help us?" asked Myrcella uncertainly.
Garrus could read human movements easily enough, and he could sense that the man was hiding something when he answered, "Arl Eamon was the King's Uncle...and a good man. And I lived in his castle for many years as a boy. He will listen to me."
Garrus soon learned that the small town was called Lothering, and the thing that Garrus would remember most about it was that it stunk. It reeked of human waste flung carelessly into the streets, the smell of rotten flesh mingling in the air as well. There was a sea of grimy tents set up by the banks of a stagnant river, where refugees from the south had poured in in a tide of hopelessness and despair. Garrus had seen that the natives of the area were not too fond of these newcomers. A fight over a couple loaves of bread had broken out as they had passed by, and a citizen of Lothering was hawking basic necessities like clothing and clean water for exalted prices. Those who couldn't pay were divided up between men and women. Women could pay with their bodies, and men could die. Nobody cared. Garrus was sickened by what he saw, and apparently Myrcella and Alistair were too. Morrigan however, was apathetic to the whole situation.
"There," the witch of the wilds said, pointing at a dumpy looking, two-story building over by what looked like a church and another ring of tents, "An Inn. We can get a drink, and some news, from there."
"I agree," said Alistair, "We need to know what Loghain is up to."
They walked in through the front door of the Inn. It was the grimmest bar Garrus had ever been to. It was stacked to the brim with people, but the majority of them were dirty peasants making bed on the floor, or soldiers with stains of blood and dirt on their faces. A couple of robed men were praying in a corner, and a couple other older men and women were huddled in cloaks around a roaring fire. The bartender was busy, doing his best to get trays of food and ale to the people, but he was running low on stock. Garrus could tell this because his cupboards were bare, and a stack of upright casks was standing to the left of the bar.
It was only a few seconds though, before two men in armor, one with dark copper skin and black hair, and the other pale and wearing a conical helmet, came up to them from a table in the back.
"Well," said the darker one in a deep, malicious voice, "I think we've just been blessed."
"Uh-oh," Alistair groaned, "Teryn Loghain's men. This can't be good."
The other soldier added, "Didn't we spend all morning asking for a she-elf of this very description? And everyone said they hadn't seen one?"
"It seems," his companion added, "We were lied to."
Before any of them could think of a quick lie, a smooth, silky voice with a lilt spoke, "Gentlemen, surely there is no need for trouble. These are no doubt more poor souls seeking refuge."
The woman who spoke had bright red hair that was cut at medium length, and was wearing a long pink and orange robe. On her back were slung two medium-sized daggers made of steel and sheathed in leather. Garrus thought she looked like a priest; but what kind of priest carried daggers?
"They're more than that," growled the darker soldier, "Stay out of our way sister. If you protect these traitors, you'll get the same as them."
So she is a priest...or a nun of some sort, thought Garrus to himself, if the same rules apply.
Dog whined with fear. Myrcella said indignantly, "How dare you speak like that to a sister of the Chantry!"
"We will speak to her however we like, elven bitch! Now lets make this quick!"
Before he knew what was happening the guards had pulled out their swords, and were joined all around the bar by three more of them. Quickly, Garrus made for the dagger on his belt, not wanting to harm any of the civilians behind the guards. However, Myrcella did not have quite the same discretion, as she shot a bolt of lightning from the tip of her staff, sending it right through the heart of the dark, threatening guard. The attack had left a dark hole inside the man, charred and smoking.
Garrus had little time to react though, as a soldier attacked him from the side. Garrus managed to deflect it just in time, and tripped the man's leg. He then took advantage of the man's weakness, and crouched down low, to stab him in the neck. A gushing of red, human blood spurted out onto the floor of the inn, creating a sticky puddle. Garrus looked behind, and saw that the rest of them had been dealt with. Even though melee weapons were not what he was used to, enough of his instincts of his soldier had remained. Hopefully, he could deal with more in the future.
"Is everybody okay?" asked Alistair.
Dog barked a few times, but everybody agreed.
The orange haired woman clucked her tongue and said disappointingly, "I had hoped it wouldn't have come to this. I did not want there to be any more death. This town will see enough in the days to come." There was blood on her daggers, both of them, as well. Garrus could see that she could handle herself well.
"Its alright," said Alistair, "Thank you for your assistance."
"I didn't mean to interfere, but I couldn't just sit by and do nothing."
"Who are you sister?" asked Myrcella, "You are not like any others I have met before."
"Let me introduce myself. I am Leliana, one of the lay sisters in the Chantry here at Lothering. Or I was."
"I am Myrcella, of the Circle of Magi."
"And I am Alistair of the happy to be alive club."
"And I..." said Morrigan, "Do not care."
Garrus said nothing. But Leliana noticed him and said, "And you?"
"I heard you were Grey Wardens. I'm surprised that you are an elf, Myrcella, but I suppose that elves want to defeat the blight just as much as humans no? After what happened just there, and what I know is coming, I think you could use all the help you can get. And that is why I am coming with you."
Myrcella and Alistair shared a look. Garrus said nothing, but he did not see any reason why she should not come. It was true, that they could use all the help they could get. And for some reason, he could sense hidden talents underneath the reserved and kind exterior.
But Myrcella said, "What? Why do you want to come with us?"
"Because the Maker told me to."
"Really?" asked Alistair skeptically.
"I know...that sounds completely insane, but its true! I had a dream! A vision."
Now Garrus was starting to doubt his instincts.
"More crazy, I thought we were all full up," commented Alistair.
"Be quiet Alistair," said Myrcella reproachfully, "I may doubt it myself, but I respect the Chantry and so should you."
"You walk in the light, elf friend?"
Morrigan rolled her eyes, though only Garrus saw.
"What you do, what you are meant to do," said Leliana fiercely, "Is the Maker's work. Let me help you."
Alistair looked unsure. Morrigan had her arms folded and looked disdainful, and Myrcella was smiling. Alistair turned to Garrus and said, "What do you think?"
"Let her come," said Garrus, "She looks like she can take care of herself. And we need all the help we can get."
"Exactly," said Myrcella, "I'm honored to have you aboard, Sister Leliana."
"Believe me," Leliana said with a laugh, "The honor is all mine."
Author's Note: Hopefully this won't turn people off, but I've decided to cut out large unnecessary portions of dialogue and combat to streamline the story. For example, here, I did not write about the bandits in Lothering, or any of the refugee sidequests, merely condensing them into what Garrus saw. I will continue to do this so you won't have to read countless conversations with NPC's and the same battles with Darkspawn.