Back to Feasting on Dreams: Contents
Brother Genitivi’s house was reasonably easy to spot, set back in one of the dim, old-fashioned little mews that lay off the western end of the market, and marked out by a bushy collection of plants that rambled, unkempt, around its frontage. The area was quiet, relatively genteel—at least compared to most of the district—and it seemed pleasant enough. Just the sort of place a man of letters might choose to make his home, I supposed, and I thought with a certain unease of the good brother’s dog-eared book, and its gaudy hyperbole and bright, impossible tales.
I hung back as Alistair knocked on the door. It was hard to shake the notion we were being watched, though I couldn’t make out a single soul among the dimming shapes of the houses. The cathedral bells tolled the hour, and I wondered whether we might make it out of town before the gates were shut for the night. I wanted to leave, I realised… more than I’d ever thought possible.
I blinked as the little house’s door creaked open, the thin, vulpine face of a young man appearing in the shadowed couple of inches’ gap.
“Yes? What are you doing here? What d’you want?”
Well, this was a promising start. I glanced at Leliana, and found her face a careful study in blankness, all porcelain and sapphire. Her gaze slipped quickly to me, and I could see from the tiny frown that flittered almost imperceptibly across her brow that she was uneasy. ‘Be alert’, she seemed to say, though I wasn’t sure what she might mean by that.
“Er,” Alistair began doubtfully, “we’re looking for Brother Genitivi.”
“He’s not here,” the man said flatly, and began to close the door.
Alistair stuck his foot into the gap, and winced as the stout wood connected with his boot.
“Ow. Yes, but if we could just—”
“If we could just take a moment of your time,” Leliana put in, stepping gracefully forwards, her head tilted elegantly to the side. “We really won’t be more than a moment. It’s on behalf of the Chantry’s authentication committee, regarding some of Brother Genitivi’s work on the Birth Rock of the Blessed Andraste.”
She could lie with the ease of an evening shadow falling across a sundial, that woman. I tried to hide my smile as the figure behind the door reluctantly opened it another couple of inches, revealing a little more of himself. He seemed very young; no more than a boy, with a mop of curly black hair and tight-drawn, worried eyebrows. His thin hand, the fingers almost like spider’s legs, picked nervously at the wood of the door as he surveyed us.
“W-well, all right. If it’s important, I-I suppose….”
“Good man,” Alistair said briskly, and pushed the door fully open, propelling the lad gently backwards.
Leliana and I followed him in, past the cowed… well, apprentice, I supposed. He gave off that air, the sense of mild indecision and the absence of responsibility. I couldn’t help a twinge of unease as the door closed, and the latch clicked behind us. The whole place seemed to smell of musty paper, dirty floors, and a chimney that badly needed a clean.
“You’re the brother’s assistant, I take it?” Leliana smiled kindly at the boy.
“Y-yes, that’s right. W-Weylon. I’ve been with Brother Genitivi for nearly five years. But—”
Something was off. That much was obvious as we entered the cottage’s main room. A fire burned in the hearth, and the table was set with glasses and decanters, but there were no boots by the door, and the curtains hadn’t been drawn. A layer of dust edged the chair nearest the fire, I noticed.
“—why are you looking for him? I-If you have papers, you can leave them here, and—”
“So, he’s still off searching for the Urn of Sacred Ashes, is he?” Alistair smiled jovially. “That’s what we’d heard.”
“What?” Weylon blinked rapidly, fingers worrying at the cuff of his shirt, and shrugged. “Well, yes… he was on the trail of the Urn of Sacred Ashes, yes. Whether he found it, the Maker only knows. He hasn’t sent word for some time.”
The room wasn’t large, and it was edged with bookcases and shelves, each one of them crammed with curios as well as books. Bits of rock, crystals, clay tablets, statues… even the mantelpiece was loaded with obscure-looking odds and ends. I hardly dared move for fear of knocking something flying.
“We’d heard he may be missing,” Leliana said, as she crossed nonchalantly to the fireplace.
I saw what she was doing. It was the simple and innocent gesture of a guileless woman inspecting someone else’s knick-knacks… but she’d distanced herself from Alistair and me, and forced Weylon to divide his attention between us.
“I-I haven’t seen Brother Genitivi in weeks,” the boy said, shaking his head. “He’s sent no word; it’s so unlike him.”
“That must be a terrible worry for you,” Leliana said smoothly, picking up a small clay vase painted with a bright, strange, geometric pattern. Her gaze flicked back to him, sharp and quick as a blade. “Do you think something might have happened to him?”
I followed her lead, my calm, unhurried steps taking me to the bookshelves that filled the opposite wall. So many books… and all so well-used. The titles were rubbed off many of the spines, and some were parting company entirely from their bindings. A shelf in the middle held a roll of fine brushes, a block of wood, and a jar of fish glue.
“It is possible Genitivi’s research into the Urn may have led him into danger,” Weylon conceded, glancing at me in unconcealed alarm, and apparently growing more uncomfortable by the second.
“Really?” Alistair sounded almost companionable. “Now, why would you think that?”
“Well, I-I… I don’t know. He was very excited when he left, and said he would be back with all the answers.” Weylon twisted the hem of his shirt in those thin, spidery hands, and bit his lip. “Perhaps something has happened. Perhaps the Urn has been lost all these years for a reason.”
“You do believe it’s real, then?” I put in, causing the boy to gawp hopelessly at me.
“I-I didn’t say that!”
Part of me felt a little cruel for the way we were treating him, but he was so clearly hiding something… and part of me, on that day, might even have relished making a human squirm.
“I don’t know,” he protested. “That is, Genitivi thought so. Thinks so, I mean…. Please, ser,” he added, looking imploringly at Alistair. “You see how it is, surely? I pray for my master’s safety, but hope dwindles with each passing day. What am I supposed to think?”
Leliana tutted. “Oh, you poor thing. It must be such a worry.”
As Weylon glanced at her, distracted, Alistair shot me a brief glance, then nodded to a door at the far end of the room. I followed his gaze and saw what had attracted his attention: the door was tight shut, a heavy iron key in its lock.
“Have you reported him missing, then?” Alistair asked. “There must be some clue as to where he was headed, some way of finding him.”
Weylon licked his lips and swallowed heavily. “W-well, I…. There were some knights who came from Redcliffe not long ago. They were looking for Genitivi too, and I-I told them everything I knew. But there’s been no word since, so I assume they’ve disappeared as well. Wouldn’t you think the worst, ser?”
The faint tang of human sweat marked the air, a sharp note against the must of paper and the soot-choked fire. The boy wasn’t as distraught over his master’s disappearance as much as he was desperate to see the back of us. That much was clear, and it worried me.
Alistair, however, was playing things nonchalantly. He sucked his teeth and looked over at Leliana, while I began to edge my way towards the locked door.
“We-ell, I don’t know. Maybe they took Genitivi back to Redcliffe with them.”
Weylon frowned. “I… I suppose that’s possible. I-I don’t know.”
“Oh, I think it is,” Leliana said encouragingly. “Perhaps if you tell us exactly what route the brother took when he left, then—”
“No, don’t ask me that! You mustn’t ask me that!” Weylon’s sweaty nervousness gave way suddenly to a high-pitched desperation, and he turned sharply to the fire, wringing his thin little hands. “Please… I can’t tell you. You’ll go after them, and what if ill-luck should befall you, too?”
He seemed genuinely afraid. I stepped a little closer to the door. It was probably Genitivi’s private study, I thought. The only place we might find some kind of organised clue in all this paper chaos.
“Oh,” Leliana said sweetly, “come now. You can tell us, I promise.”
The boy’s frown deepened and he stared wretchedly at her.
“Please… I don’t know. All Brother Genitivi said before he left was that he would be staying at an inn near Lake Calenhad, investigating something in that area.”
“Lake Calenhad?” Alistair echoed.
I was surprised, too. That should have put the brother within a couple of days of Redcliffe, if he’d ever even arrived at his destination. It seemed odd Ser Perth’s knights hadn’t managed to make that connection… or perhaps we were being fed an entirely different story to the one they’d been told. Either way, something felt very wrong indeed.
Alistair seemed to think the same. He frowned.
“Hmm. And I don’t suppose you know anything else?”
Weylon shook his head. “No, I’m sorry. I’m just Brother Genitivi’s assistant. I… I just follow instructions.”
There was an odd, plaintive note clinging to those words. I didn’t like it one little bit.
“You won’t mind if we take a look around, then?” I asked, reaching my hand to the locked door, and its heavy iron key.
At once, Weylon whirled around, his pallid face suddenly flushed with panicked anger.
“No! I-I mean, you mustn’t go in there!”
“Oh?” I arched my brows. “Why not?”
He wet his lips, his gaze darting nervously around the room as he struggled to keep all three of us in his sight. The firelight caught at a thin sheen of sweat beading on his forehead.
“That room isn’t for guests. It’s full of Genitivi’s private papers, and they mustn’t be disturbed.”
“Oh, we’ll be careful,” Alistair said cheerfully. “We won’t mess anything up.”
My fingers closed on the cool metal of the door handle.
“I said no,” Weylon snapped. “Don’t touch that door!”
He flung his hands out, and the air seemed to split around them. The smell of dry books and the open fire was lost beneath a great, violent wave of magical energy, roaring in a peal of white flame. I threw myself to the ground, rolled, and cursed the way my brown dress tangled itself around my legs. Leliana ducked and wove, her Chantry robe a flare of red and gold as she rounded behind Weylon—or whoever he really was—and pulled a dagger from her boot.
He spun, sending a bolt of fire towards her, his face contorted by a wordless scream of terrified rage. Flamelight danced over his narrow features, making him seem so young and fragile, yet there was some inner core driving the boy—some anger, some kind of desperate passion—that frightened me. I got to my feet as Alistair charged into him, body slamming body with a dull thud. He landed one good punch to the mage’s jaw, but it didn’t keep him down for long… he was far more powerful than he looked. As Alistair pulled back, wincing and shaking out his bloodied hand, magic burned the air. White light seared my eyes, and I heard Leliana cry out.
My fingers closed on the wooden chair that stood by the fireplace and, as Weylon turned, an orb of crackling energy already swelling between his palms, I swung the thing round, straight into the backs of his knees.
He swore, sagged, and lost his spell, that momentary lapse of concentration was enough. Leliana lunged forwards, and all I saw was the brief flash of steel, then a cravat of red that gulped erratically down the front of the young mage’s shirt. His spider-like hands flexed on empty air, his mouth slackening, and his eyes bulged a little as he blinked. He seemed to murmur something, then folded slowly to the floor. Blood pooled on the bare boards as his body stilled, and after that terrible roar of magic and anger, the room seemed horribly quiet.
I looked down at the vacantly staring eyes, and the blood-wet curls, then glanced up at my companions.
“Everyone all right?”
Alistair nodded. Between us, a few split knuckles and some bumps and bruises were barely worth noticing.
Leliana had pulled a square of cloth from a pouch at her belt, and was carefully wiping her dagger upon it. She pursed her lips as she slipped the blade back into her boot.
“It is a shame that poor boy had to be so difficult. I do not like all this death.”
“Well, he did start it,” Alistair pointed out, crossing to the locked door that had caused all the trouble. “Wonder what he was so keen to protect?”
I rubbed my palm absently against the rough broadcloth of my dress, unnerved by those blank, dead eyes, and the dancing reflections of firelight in the pooling blood. That all-too-familiar smell, like old copper, lodged itself at the back of my throat, and it seemed strange not to find it laced with rotted flesh or sweat and hot steel. Simple death, untouched by anything demonic or foul, still had power over me then.
“Don’t know,” I managed, as Alistair jiggled the key and gave the door a hearty shove. “But I get the feeling things just got more complicated.”
Alistair snorted. “Huh. You can say that again.”
The door finally gave way, and he stepped into Brother Genitivi’s study, raising his voice for us as he started to ferret through in search of clues.
“Hey, there’s a lot of stuff back here. I don’t think Genitivi ever threw anything away. It looks like there might be something in… oh, Maker’s breath, what is that smell? It— oh. Eww.”
Leliana and I exchanged looks, and then Alistair re-emerged, nose wrinkled and eyes narrowed.
“I, er, I don’t think our surly friend there was the real Weylon,” he said, nodding to the corpse on the floor. “I think he’s in here. Or… most of him, anyway.”
I swore under my breath. Wonderful. And, with our luck, there’d be a Watch patrol on the doorstep any second, enquiring about the strange noises in a usually peaceful sidestreet. How observant were the neighbours, anyway? I supposed it was just a blessing the mage’s fire spells hadn’t managed to send this entire place up like a tinderbox.
“Then, for all we know, Brother Genitivi could be dead too,” Leliana said doubtfully. “But who would do something like this? Kill his assistant and try to take his place? That’s just—”
“We’ll have time to work out why later,” I said, glancing at the unshuttered windows. Anyone could have glimpsed in by now. “But, if the brother was dead, why stay here anyway? And why feed us that Lake Calenhad story?”
Alistair grimaced. “Good point. There’s something fishy about this whole thing.”
“Mm.” I bit my lip. “There is. We should get out of here… but not without seeing if there’s anything we can use. I’ll check the back of the house.”
“I’ll take in here,” Leliana volunteered, eyeing the shelves as if she thought some clue might be hidden among the tomes.
“Oh, good,” Alistair said darkly. “I’ll just go and… see if there’s anything under the decomposing body, then.”
We split up and searched the house with an efficiency of purpose that was almost cold. I’d like to say it was something I didn’t recognise in myself; that I was at odds with the girl who stepped calmly over the corpse of the mage and headed into the kitchen… but it was simply necessity that drove me.
There are things that can compel all of us, perhaps, to do the grimmest deeds.
Nausea lurched in me when I saw the congealed blood, half-scrubbed from the dirty flagstones. It was, I assumed, where Brother Genitivi’s assistant had been killed, and possibly dismembered. I tried not to dwell on it, and not to think at all as I stole two loaves of stale bread, several bags of dried peas and beans, some salt fish, and a dried blood sausage from the pantry.
After a moment’s consideration, I put the blood sausage back.
Alistair had turned up little of value, except an old notebook that seemed to be in Genitivi’s hand. Mostly illegible, it contained vast tracts of excited scrawl, maps, diagrams and what, to me, looked like nothing more than the ramblings of a madman. He also had a stack of books, their bindings ragged and one half-burnt, and I raised my eyebrow suspiciously.
“A little light reading?”
He curled his lip. “Well, you know how easily I get bored in the evenings. No… these were hidden, along with the notebook. Like someone didn’t want them found. See this one?” Alistair held up a squat volume with a grubby, singed cover of dark blue leather. “A history of dragon cults. What does anyone need a book on Tevinter dragon cults for?”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure it’s got anything to do with Brother Genitivi going missing, but if you want to take them….”
Alistair didn’t appear to be listening. He was looking over my shoulder at Leliana, and he widened his eyes incredulously.
“Oh, no. We’re not—”
“I think our current need is greater than his, Alistair,” she said gently, glancing at the mage’s cooling body.
Two fat coin purses clinked in her hands. Behind her, at the far end of the room, a compartment hidden behind a dummy back to one of the bookshelves hung open. Clever, I thought, realising it hadn’t been clues to the brother’s whereabouts that Leliana had recognised in the room, but telltale hints of a far more material nature.
“It’s stealing,” Alistair protested. “Actual stealing. Of money. Which is wrong. That’s probably the poor man’s life savings, or—”
“Which he won’t need if he does turn out to be dead,” I said crisply. “Come on. We need to go. Now.”
He sighed, and nodded miserably. “Yes, yes. All right. Fine.”
His misgivings aside, we bundled our loot up in a tablecloth, which I carried, and made for the city gates. Outside, the sky was bathed in red, afire with burnished coils of cloud. The air had grown cool and thick, laced with dew, and rarely had I been so pleased to leave anywhere.
I don’t think I looked back as we put the city behind us, and that almost shocked me. I still knew Denerim as my home, the core of everything, and whatever had been burned out of my heart it should still have held something. And yet, I didn’t even spare a silent prayer for Father as my feet ate away at the cobbles. My family, my home, my old life… all gone, doused in yet more bloodshed. I should not have been so eager to cast away the memories and the echoes of the past, or to bury the whispers of my dead.
We pulled away from the massed knots of traders, pilgrims, and travellers, and headed back onto the West Road, with the intention of cutting south to the pass—and the rendezvous point—by moonlight if we had to. I drove the pace hard, stomping my way along the road without thought or consideration for the others… not that they struggled to keep up. Things were very quiet, though. Subdued to the point of discomfort.
“What d’you think it means?” Alistair ventured, after a while, as the sky deepened out above us, and midges began to fly in the dusk. “Those books of Genitivi’s… dragons and everything.”
“Dunno.” I shrugged, and didn’t break stride. At least he was taking a turn carrying the bundle of things we’d thieved.
“Well, this is the Dragon Age,” Leliana put in. “Perhaps he is interested in the symbolism. You know, I heard there was a high dragon in the Frostback Mountains. Razed a whole village, they say. They are apparently very majestic creatures.”
“Hm.” Alistair sounded doubtful. “Not when you’re getting toasted by one, I imagine. Or stomped on. Or chomped in half. Or—”
Leliana pulled a face. “Oh, stop it! That sounds awful.”
“Well, it’s probably not fun,” he admitted. “I don’t think it’s meant to be. Death by dragon.”
“We’re not going to fight dragons,” I called over my shoulder, realising even as I said it that I was missing a particularly salient point. “Except the… you know.”
Something flittered overhead—an early bat, maybe, or an owl waking for the night—and I nearly flinched, the echoes of nightmares past stretching their black wings above me.
“Yes.” Alistair nodded sagely. “Of course, the you know might not even be a real dragon. Have you thought of that? I mean, it looks like it, in the… you-know-whats. But it might not be. It could be a thingummy.”
I laughed at his daft wordplay, despite myself, and despite every dream or vision I’d had of a huge, dark beast made completely of horns and claws and teeth, railing against its imprisonment and screaming its rage deep in the heart of the earth.
Leliana looked confused. “What in the Maker’s name are you two talking about?”
“The archdemon,” Alistair said helpfully. “You know. The you-know-what. Big dragony thing, huge teeth, talons the size of a man’s arm, innumerable hordes of darkspawn in thrall to its evil will? Pesky thing.”
My grin widened, and Leliana shook her head in quiet disbelief.
We got the rendezvous point well before the others. I wasn’t sure whether that was a good sign or not. It seemed eminently possible Morrigan and Sten would have torn each other apart somewhere deep in the forest, while Zevran absconded into the night with the rest of the money and any saleable goods he could lift.
Still, there wasn’t much point fretting. Alistair set to building a fire, whistling tunelessly as he worked, and I sat down to rest at the edge of the clearing, realising for the first time that day how sore my feet were.
I barely heard Leliana draw up behind me, only the soft rustle of her robes giving her away.
“Are you all right?” she asked, lowering herself to the ground beside me.
I blinked, aware of how impossibly graceful she managed to be, even when she was hunkering down in the mud. “Hmm?”
“It’s true, isn’t it?” Those glass-hard eyes softened as she gazed at me, filling with a compassion that was frightening in its sheer depth. “About the alienage… the purge. I heard people saying Loghain had—”
“I don’t know exactly what’s happened,” I said, perhaps a little too shortly.
“But, your family…?”
I looked away, unable to withstand Leliana’s welling fount of pity.
“They could well be dead, yes.” I shrugged. “Probably are. I don’t know. The guard wouldn’t let me in. They… they’ve closed it all off. Walled everyone up.”
I swallowed heavily, wishing I could wall up the surreal melding of memories and imaginings that tainted my mind. I kept picturing dead bodies with familiar faces, burned ruins and the shouts of guardsmen, and there was nothing I could do about any of it.
“I’m sorry,” Leliana said softly.
She touched my shoulder, and squeezed very gently. I looked up, a little startled, and I could have drowned in the sadness of her smile. It was cloying, suffocating… and so painfully genuine. I didn’t quite know how to respond.
“If they are dead, then I am sure they will have gone to the Maker’s side,” she said, with calm certainty. “If not, you will see them again. I feel sure of that. And, whatever the pain you feel now, both of those things are cause to be glad, no?”
I struggled to see how there was any jollity whatsoever in meeting your end on the point of a pikestaff, or in the months of sickness and deprivation that would follow the purge for survivors. I’d heard enough of Father’s stories to know why the wrath of the city was something we feared—why we were prepared to walk the lines the humans gave us—and I wasn’t about to bloody smile over it.
But, Leliana was trying to help. So, I smothered my anger, and nodded.
She inclined her head, that soft smile widening. “I will pray for them, if I may.”
I managed to choke out a smile in return, and a strangled ‘thank you’, and that seemed to be enough.
Alistair had finally finished with the fire, and was breaking out stolen bread and a few rations of mousetrap cheese. Glad of the distraction, I moved over to join him, and the three of us settled around the flames. The brooding silhouette of the forest seemed to creep closer, this whole area folding around us like some insidious grasp. The point where the pass carved through the hills, fringed with trees and brush, seemed to be an afterthought, an intrusion in a landscape that felt wild… wilder still for how comparatively close it was to the city. Denerim wouldn’t be half so well protected without Dragon’s Peak, I thought to myself, and fell to thinking idly about how defensible it would be if the horde made it this far.
Or when, perhaps.
Of course, there wasn’t much to stop the darkspawn, was there? Only us… which wasn’t saying a lot. My stomach tightened at the mere thought, and the hunk of bread I was chewing on suddenly seemed leaden and bitter.
“I hope they’re all right,” Leliana remarked, casting a nervous glance up at the sky. “The others, I mean. I thought they’d be here by now.”
“Yes… unless Morrigan’s killed and eaten them all.”
“Alistair!” she chided, though she couldn’t hide her smile.
“Or left them for dead in the middle of the forest,” he added thoughtfully, and glanced enquiringly at me. “Which d’you think’s more likely?”
I shrugged. “Hard to say. You really think she could take Sten down? He’s pretty fast for a big guy.”
Leliana tutted and shook her head. Alistair just grinned at me.
“Yes, but she’s sneaky. And evil.”
“I don’t know… it’d still be three on one,” I said doubtfully. “Four, if you count the dog. I know she’s impressive, but—”
Alistair nodded sagely. “Never underestimate an apostate. First thing they tell you in templar training, that is… apart from where the lavatories are, and the rules for Confession Day pillow fights.”
I sniggered, and Leliana gave a small sigh. For just a second, I was reminded of Duncan, just before the smoke and chaos of battle broke out, as Alistair made a joke about shimmying down the darkspawn line in a frock, and I’d been unable to control my giggles. At the time, I’d taken his sigh for weary resignation, and yet now I couldn’t help thinking of the affection underscored in it… or all the kindnesses he’d shown me on our long ride from Denerim.
It seemed so unfair that he was gone.
I shook the thoughts abruptly, unwilling to allow myself the indulgence of that parade of broken memories. So many people, all lost, and I was still here.
“So,” Alistair said, breaking the silence that had begun to fall, “assuming they do turn up, what do we do? Go to Lake Calenhad? I’m not sure I believe that story about Brother Genitivi being there.”
“I don’t,” Leliana said, with uncharacteristic bluntness. “Whatever was going on in that house, and whoever that boy was, you can wager there’s someone behind it who doesn’t want the brother found. I think that can only mean one thing.”
I glanced up at her, my heart sinking a little at the look of righteous determination that sharpened her features. The firelight played off the red of her hair, and brought roses to her pale cheeks. I knew exactly what she was going to say.
“Well?” Leliana looked impatiently between us. “Isn’t it obvious? The Urn of Sacred Ashes has been discovered. That is powerful knowledge. Whoever knows the location has taken steps to ensure it remains protected.”
“Or,” Alistair said thoughtfully, poking a stick into the depths of the fire, “Brother Genitivi was heavily in debt and staged his own disappearance to avoid his creditors. What?”
“Including murdering his own assistant and placing an impostor in his house?” She scowled. “I hardly think a religious scholar—”
“We don’t know what sort of man he is!” Alistair protested. “I’m just saying, it all seems a bit convenient that—”
“Of course it’s convenient! It’s probably a trap.”
“Oh, so we should just blunder cheerfully into it, then? What if—”
“Look,” I cut in, wondering at his propensity for picking fights with women, and still not entirely sure whether it was some peculiar way humans had of flirting with each other, “I don’t see what else we can do, except go back to Redcliffe and tell Bann Teagan and Lady Isolde what we’ve learned.”
An uncomfortable moment of silence settled between the three of us, and I knew it was up to me to voice the unspoken words. I sighed.
“And, if we do that, the arlessa is only going to want to know what’s at Lake Calenhad. If… if Arl Eamon is still alive by the time we return, that is.”
I didn’t like saying it. I didn’t like the sober flinch that passed over Alistair’s face, either. He frowned.
“Yes. You’re right. We can’t not investigate it, can we? Even if it is all a bit….”
“Exactly.” I stared gloomily into the fire, and watched the sparks leap at its heart. “It’s either that, or tell them we can’t waste any more time, and head west for Orzammar, and the other treaties. I’m not even sure it’s worth pursuing the Dalish.”
Alistair shook his head. “We need them. We need Redcliffe’s forces, too. You know that. The numbers are bad enough anyway, and if we’re to have any hope of—”
We lapsed into uneasy quiet. No one liked facing the impossibilities in our futures. Leliana shivered.
“It’s getting cold. I hope they’re not long.” She glanced down towards the road, and narrowed her eyes. “What’s that? Is that…? Is that a wagon?”
She was right. Beyond the crackle of the fire and the rustling of things in the bushes, the distant creak of an axle touched the air, and a dark shape was rumbling towards the mouth of the pass.
I rose to my feet, craning to get a better look. It seemed to be laden down with goods, which was strange. What merchant would be travelling at this time of night? Stranger still was the shadow loping along beside the wagon… a very familiar shadow that, as the cart neared the curve in the road, picked up its speed and gave a joyful bark.
A grin split my face. I’d have known that hound anywhere.