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Return From Darkness

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Elisabeta approached Redcliffe Village.  She’d been in the village before, but it seemed to be in a new location.   The entrance had definitely moved.  As she approached the gates, she thought back to the last time she’d been in the seemingly cursed village.  That time, she’d found the people cowering in the cellars of their home and the chantry building from the walking dead.  It was also when Alistair had told her the truth of who he was, that he was King Maric’s bastard son and the last of the Theirin line.  They’d had that in common, or so she’d thought at the time.  Now she knew the Couslands would go on.  Would the Theirins, though?  They’d once dreamed of combining their bloodlines, of creating life together; a son and daughter.  They would have his sense of humor and her determination.  Now, because of twists of fate and a broken promise, those children would never come to be.

            She unsheathed her swords and unleashed her anger on the demons spilling from the rift.  Her handsome prince was married to someone else.  The children and life they’d dreamed of together were obliterated from existence and she’d do the same to the demons.  She noticed that they were spawning and moving strangely, they’d slow down and then speed up as if time itself was slowing down and then speeding up.  She cut a swath through the demonic creatures and lifted her left hand.  The light shot out and tore into the rift.  She then pulled back, stitching the hole into the Fade closed.

            “Are you all right, Tempest?” Varric frowned at her.

            “Just some bad memories,” she assured him.

            “Thank you!”  The guard gushed.  “You have saved the city!”

            “For the third time,” Elisabeta muttered.  “One would think this city could figure out how to defend itself.”  As she entered the gate she looked back and then back at the town.  “They rebuilt in a different spot.  That explains the more defensible position… from walking dead.”

            “This town is full of mages now, though,” Bull pointed out.

            “They needed defense, too,” Elisabeta shrugged.  “Those Rogue Templars were rather bloodthirsty.”

            “The bandits running around seem to be just as bad,” Blackwall pointed out.

            “Seeker Pentaghast!”  A scout ran to her.  “I told the others you were coming, but no one was expecting you.”

            “They weren’t expecting the Inquisition?”  Elisabeta’s leather, musketeer style hat covered most of her hair and shadowed her face, but her raised eyebrow was evident.

            “Not even Grand Enchanter Fiona?”  Cassandra was shocked. 

            “No, my lady,” the scout trembled before her.

            “Go to Haven and report to Leliana,” Cassandra was visibly trying to hold her tongue.  The sound of disgust didn’t come out until after the scout had left.

            “So Fiona just forgot chatting with us?”  Elisabeta rolled her eyes.  “This town is cursed, I’m telling you.”

            They continued into the city, the crowds were made mostly of mages, but there were a few locals walking around.   They walked past an older woman who was telling stories to those gathered around her.  “King Alistair is from here.  He and the Hero of Ferelden…”  She stopped speaking.  “The Warden!”  She gasped and rushed to Elisabeta’s group.

            “Yes, I am Warden Blackwall,” Blackwall smiled at her, benignly.  “How might I be of service, my lady?”

            “Not you,” she waved him away and beamed at Elisabeta.  “It is you, isn’t it?  I remember you.  First you saved us from the walking dead.  Then you returned when the horde came and saved us again.  Now, in our time of need, you’re back.”  The woman embraced her.  “But you died at the Battle of Denerim, didn’t you?”

            “I did,” Elisabeta confirmed.  “Andraste brought me back.

            “Praise be to the Maker,” the storyteller continued to hold onto her.  “Our hero has returned to us.  It is the Warden!”  She announced to everyone.

            “Warden?”  Blackwall studied her, Elisabeta thought he looked nervous.

            “I was a Green Warden,” she still didn’t want him to know her own connection to the Grey Wardens yet.  “We were a group of young nobles who went around helping the people of Ferelden.  It isn’t like I have the taint or anything.”

            “Taint?”  Blackwall repeated.  Elisabeta narrowed her eyes at him.  “Um… of course, you don’t have the taint.  Why would you?”

            “I just thought that you had thought she’d meant Grey Warden,” Elisabeta still eyed him suspiciously.  It was the first time she wished she did have her old Grey Warden abilities, just so she could detect whether or not Blackwall had the taint.

            “A Tevinter Mage had taken over and thrown Arl Teagan out of the castle, he is trying to force all of the Children of Redcliffe out of our home,” the story teller continued.  “We need your help once again.”

            “Because no one else can seem to deliver you from invaders and marauders,” Elisabeta murmured.  “Teagan certainly seems incapable.  This may take a bit of finessing, but I shall save you… again.”

            “I’m glad you’re helping the town’s folk,” Blackwall complimented her.

            “I’m surprised they managed to rebuild without me,” Elisabeta muttered.  “Do you know that they were suffering from an outbreak of wyvern fever the first time I ever visited Redcliffe?  When I returned after the Battle of Ostagar, they were under attack by the walking dead.”

            “Which I unleashed on them,” a sandy haired young man spoke from nearby.  He had been on the docks with some of his friends.

            “Connor?”  Elisabeta supposed she shouldn’t be surprised to see him.  She knew he’d been sent to Kinloch Hold after Morrigan had chased the demon out of him.  “What happened wasn’t your fault.”  It was his mother’s.

            Cassandra scowled.  “His case is a shining example of why we need Circles.”

            “It’s true,” Connor sighed, melancholically.  “I caused so much death and destruction.”

            “It was his mother’s attempts to hide the truth that led to the disaster,” Elisabeta countered.  “She wanted to keep his magic a secret and hired an apostate to teach him.  Only the apostate happened to be working for Loghain at the time, because it was better than going with the Templars who were hunting him.  He poisoned Connor’s father.  Connor had no one to guide him, except his crazy Orlesian mother who had to ask who I was.  It wasn’t as if we’d seen each other less than a year before at Arlessa Wulff’s banquet.”

            “You’re being more forgiving than I deserve,” Connor protested.

            “I was there, Connor,” she reminded him.  “I know what happened.  I have been returned to Thedas by Andraste herself.  She forgives you, you were a frightened child.”

            “But…”  Connor began.

            “Are you questioning Andraste’s Herald?”  Elisabeta put her hands on her hips.  “You are forgiven, live with it.”

 

 

            “The tavern is nicer since they rebuilt,” Elisabeta observed as she walked in. 

            Fiona rushed to her.  “We’re waiting for the magister, he should be here soon.”

            “Magister?”   Elisabeta repeated.  “And how exactly did a magister come to be calling any shots in Redcliffe?”

            “Sit down, I’ll explain,” Fiona led her to a table.

            “This had better be the most compelling explanation I’ve ever heard,” Elisabeta muttered.

            A barmaid ran to the table and placed a flute of red wine in front of her.  “It’s the Dragon 9:30,” she smiled.  “In your honor.  It’s compliments of Madame Bella,” She leaned closer.  “She and I beg you to help us again!”

            “I’m working on it,” Elisabeta whispered back.  She turned her attention back to Fiona.  “You approached me in Val Royeaux about a possible alliance.  Now I come to Redcliffe to talk to you and I hear you’ve made an alliance with a Tevinter Magister.  This is not a good thing; it’s a very dumb move.  I’m also very unhappy to hear we have a large Tevinter presence in the city known as Ferelden’s First defense.  So what’s the deal, Fiona?”

            “It was shortly after the Breach appeared,” Fiona explained.  “The Templars were bearing down on us when Magister Alexius and his fellow Tevinters appeared.  They repelled our assailants and saved several mages.  Since then I have… turned over the Southern Mages to him.”

            “Turned over?”  Elisabeta took a sip of her wine.  “I didn’t realize they were your property and part of your domain to give over to anyone.  This is Ferelden, not Tevinter.  The last person who tried to condone slavery in this nation lost a duel to me and I let my boyfriend behead him.  His head rolled across the bannorn and landed at his daughter’s feet.  It was a thing of beauty.  Where is Arl Eamon?  He was there and could tell you all about it.”

            “He’s in Denerim,” Fiona explained.  “He moved there to be King Alistair’s head advisor.  He made his brother, Teagan, arl as his son, Connor, could not inherit… due to his being a mage.”

            “Ah, the Herald of Andraste,” a Tevene accent interrupted her.  “I’m sorry to keep you waiting.  I am Magister Alexius.  The Southern Mages are mine, so you will be dealing with me.”

            “Oh, they’re yours?”  Elisabeta leaned back and glanced at her friends.

            “They have entered into indentured servitude to Tevinter,” Alexius explained.

            “Oh, really?”  Elisabeta glanced at her friends.  “The last time I dealt with Tevinter Slavers, they were more forward about what they were doing.”  She leaned across the table towards Alexius.  “Those slavers are all dead now, by the way.”

            “Are you threatening me?” Alexius’ eyes widened.

            Elisabeta raised her eyebrows.  “I’m just giving you the history of Ferelden.  After all, you are a long way from home.”

            “I am,” he acknowledged.  “But you are no Ferelden, either.”

            “Yes, I am,” she corrected him.  “Does the accent not give me away?  I’m from Highever.”

            “You’re… not from Ostwick?”  His brows creased in confusion.

            “No, I’m definitely from Highever,” she assured him.  “I have an annoying little title that even has ‘of Ferelden’ in it, but that is neither here nor there.  We were talking about the mages.”

            “Yes, you will need to deal with me if…”  Alexius stopped talking as a man in a garish yellow outfit approached.  “Ah here he is…”  The magister began.

“I…”  The man stumbled.  Elisabeta rogue reflexes allowed her to easily leap from her chair and catch them man.

            “Felix,” Alexius immediately began fussing over the man like an overprotective, obsessive mother hen with her favorite chick.  “You aren’t well come with me.”

            When he was one, Elisabeta looked down at the note the man in garish yellow that Alexius had called Felix pressed into her hand.  Meet me in the chantry; your life is in danger.  She showed the note to her companions. 

            “He could be a potential ally,” Blackwall decided.

            “It’s probably a trap,” Varric signaled the barmaid.  “We should go and trigger it.”

            “That sounds like a plan,” Elisabeta smiled when the barmaid set another wine in front of her without her even having to ask.

            The tavern owner, Bella, came up to them.  “Can you do something about the Vints?”

            “I’m working on it,” Elisabeta assured her.  “It may take some doing, though.  They seem to be well entrenched in here.”

            “A little too well,” Bella sat across from her.  “A few of the ‘Circle Mages’ seem a little too fond of Tevinter and just happen to not be able to recite the Canticles of Light, or any other canticles, correctly.  They are like the children of nobles who skip the Chant on Sunday morning to go sailing.  Who grows up under the stern eye of the Chantry, with Templars guarding them, and can’t do their canticles?”

            “They probably have had spies in here since the rebellion,” Varric spoke up.  “They’d have been foolish not to, but if they are still undercover then something bigger is going on here.  It sounds like they had a bigger plan all along.”

            When they’d finished drinking, Elisabeta began striking up conversations with the mages who patronized the tavern.

            “Tevinter is our salvation,” a gaunt blonde mage declared to her not ten minutes later. 

            “Really?”  Elisabeta raised an eyebrow.  “And where are you from?”

            “I was in the Ostwick Circle,” she declared.  “They always overlooked my talents, though.”

            “Oh?  Perhaps you’d like to recite the Canticles for me.  I always liked the part about the magisters invading the Golden City or Andraste becoming the Maker’s Bride,” Elisabeta requested.  “Any Circle Mage can do it.”

            “You’re just trying to trick me,” the mage flounced away.

            “Spy,” Varric concluded.

            “Spy,” Elisabeta agreed.

            They met up with a tranquil on their way to the stairs and recruited him.  He’d be a great aid to Minaeve and claimed he was great with healing potions.  When he made the pronunciation, Elisabeta had hugged him.  He was now on his way to Haven.

            In the tavern’s rooms, they found references to the atrocities committed by the Templars.  Entire Circles were annulled for giving their mages too many freedoms.

            Elisabeta glared at Cassandra.  “So this is what the Seekers and Chantry were up to while I was gone.  They were slaughtering innocents.”

            “I had nothing to do with that… and neither did the Divine,” Cassandra insisted.

            “If the Divine isn’t responsible for the actions of the Seekers and Templars, then who is?”  Elisabeta challenged.  “She oversaw the Chantry and claimed to have been anointed by the Maker.  Are you telling me the Maker is all right with what happened or with the head of Andraste’s Chantry being so busy attending parties in Orlais that she ignores what is happening to His children?  “Do the Templars and Seekers not answer to her? If she isn’t responsible, then who is?”

            “Those balls and parties are an important part of politics,” Cassandra declared.  “Her Most Holy endured them for the sake of the Chantry.”

            “Her focus should have been on her sheep, not keeping the Cheese Eating Mask Monkeys happy,” Elisabeta stuffed the account in her pack and stormed off.

            “I thought Ferelden’s king was obsessed with cheese,” Bull followed her.  “Owe, Varric, why’d you kick me?”

            Elisabeta stopped for a moment.  “Yes, he is very fond of cheese.  I’m impressed by the Qunari spy system.  Did you also know that he tells bad jokes and his favorite color is blue?  Oh, yeah, Ferelden needs to fear you guys.”  She rolled her eyes and kept walking down the stairs.

            “You know the…”  The Iron Bull stopped and glared at Varric.  “Why do you keep kicking me?”

            “I want you to be quiet until we can have a private little conversation,” Varric hissed.  “It appears there are some things the Ben Hassrath have not uncovered.”

            Neither of them noticed Blackwall glaring stonily behind them.  They did notice that Cassandra was fuming.