Feasting on Dreams, Volume Two: Chapter Seventeen

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Endings are rarely truly endings. Despite the symbolism of the dawn, there was no line drawn under the events of the night, no moment where we knew it was really finished.

In the great hall, the mages were all seated or standing, propped like empty pitchers, looking exhausted and worn through. Connor, wrapped in a blanket, cried for his mother in the small, thin voice of a frightened child, and Isolde sat with him in the centre of the floor, holding her son tightly to her and unable to explain to him why she was sobbing, too.

The fire had burned down low in the hearth. Morrigan stood beside it, tight-lipped and outlined in the shadows of the flames. She looked at us—at me—across the expanse of the room, and I couldn’t make out the meaning in her face.

The boy was taken back to his chamber, weak and afraid, confused by the strange people crowded in around him, and not understanding the pain he found himself in. He remembered nothing, it seemed. Wynne and two of the other mages went with the arlessa and her maid—Valena, the blacksmith’s girl, who’d showed surprising loyalty, I thought, by returning from the village the moment the castle was safe to be with her mistress. I didn’t dare imagine the gossip that must be searing through the place by now.

There was talk of magical healing and protective wards to be placed upon the child, at least until he was well enough to travel. Kinloch Hold might still be in turmoil, but Irving was apparently of a mind to see Connor sent to Cumberland, or some other far-off, safe place, as soon as possible. Bann Teagan looked solemn and reluctant when it was mentioned—discussed in whispers, far from Lady Isolde’s hearing—and muttered that it would probably be for the best.

“Should Eamon recover,” he said, his voice still sounding pale and hollow, “he will scarcely believe this. His son, a mage… and responsible for so much devastation….”

“It wasn’t Connor’s fault,” Alistair pointed out. “He only wanted to help his father. Speaking of which, First Enchanter…?”

Irving nodded wearily, and agreed the arl’s condition should be assessed. The conversation turned to what had already been tried—talk of highly paid healers and exotic potions from foreign merchants—and it was agreed that, once Connor was settled, Wynne and the others best versed in the healing arts would examine Eamon.

I excused myself and slipped down to the chapel, leaving the strangely calm chatter behind me, and grateful for the chance to do so. As the tension splintered away from the hall, stagnant relief pooling in the dry spaces it left, I’d spotted Morrigan deep in discussion with Enchanter Salter, and I didn’t know why I found that so unsettling. I did, though… even more so than watching Alistair slot so easily into place against the fabric of the castle’s life.

Maethor had looked imploringly at me when they carried Connor upstairs, and I’d nodded my permission for him to follow. I hoped having that great hairy brute to keep him company helped the boy feel a little better, and I wondered, as I made my way down the ravaged hallways, how many generations of fine pedigree and faultless breeding had been wiped out in the arl’s kennels.

Elven culture lacked the same deep bond with the mabari that human nobility had forged, but we were still Fereldan, and we knew the value of those dogs, both in coin and in heart. The thought of dead hounds piled on the floors of the kennels chilled and revolted me, and I was still thinking about it when I entered the chapel.

It was a peaceful space, all dark wood and the smell of beeswax polish and dust—though tinged a little with smoke and the heavy overlay of pine incense, presumably burned as part of the reblessing. There were more people here than I’d expected; a few familiar faces from the village, along with Mother Hannah and two of the lay sisters. I supposed the priest who normally had control here was numbered among the dead, like so many others.

At the far end of the chapel stood a marble statue of Andraste. The carving seemed finer than any I’d seen before—of Orlesian make, perhaps. Either way, it looked real enough that the prophet might suddenly turn and blink her eyes, or as if that full-lipped mouth, slightly parted, might suddenly open in song so pure and wonderful as to turn the Maker’s gaze onto this very spot. She was beautiful, of course. Cowled and demure, and perfect in blameless white stone.

The mumble of voices, shapeless strands of prayer and busy organisation, faded a little. I slid into one of the pews at the back, awkwardly bent my head over clasped and folded hands and, closing my eyes, searched in the darkness for the small, shining beacons of hope or understanding. I didn’t know what it was I was praying for—if it was really prayer at all, that stream of silent need, aching to be filled with certainty—but I felt a little stronger afterwards. Strong enough to be thankful, and to give thanks for what had been saved or, at least, was not yet lost.

I half-expected Leliana to be standing behind me when I rose, smiling that inward smile of faithful acknowledgement she had, but instead I found her at the front of the chapel, helping Mother Hannah order a shelf full of books. They were great, illuminated tomes, full of history and the tales of ages, by the look of them. I doubted I’d be any more capable of reading them than I was those damn treaties… not that it mattered.

“Oh!” Leliana’s mouth bowed in concern. “You are— Is it finished?”

I nodded. “Yes. Connor’s all right. They did it.”

“Oh, thank the Maker!”

She clasped her hands in front of her mouth, and I almost thought she’d drop to her knees in prayer right then. Mother Hannah let out a sigh of relief and bowed her head.

“I confess,” she said, looking at me with a slight darkness in her eyes, “I did not think such a plan could succeed. The boy is truly… well?”

“He will be, I think,” I answered, and hoped it was truthful.

I wondered about that, though. Connor would be taken to a tower, and raised a mage, and he would one day face the Harrowing. Could a boy who’d willingly given himself to a demon once before ever be completely safe from their touch? It wasn’t my place to judge, I supposed. For all I knew, Connor’s experiences might make him stronger. He had survived, hadn’t he? And the mages might have learned something from his case, some way of guarding against the dark horrors that could lurk within the mind, tempting and corrupting.

“Then there is cause for celebration,” Mother Hannah said, the edges of her mouth curling slightly. “Maker knows this place has seen enough death and despair. Something good has come at last, and we shall mark that.”

I smiled uneasily, and made noises about needing to get back to Bann Teagan.

Redcliffe could have its celebrations but—as long as Arl Eamon remained ill—we still had no voice, no great benefactor. There were the treaties, and the weight of the Circle behind us, but I wasn’t convinced it counted for much. With no way of knowing how fast the horde was moving, or how rapidly the Blight could engulf the land, our next course of action hardly seemed clear.

Part of me wanted to think no further than a wash, some sleep, and a set of clean smallclothes, but too much hung over us to be forgotten.

~o~O~o~

Gradually, the castle was coming back to life. Those of the servants who’d escaped the carnage—and a few survivors from the village, probably motivated as much by curiosity as any sense of duty—had begun to get to work on the clean up, and the dark atmosphere of the place was beginning to fracture.

Bann Teagan played the hospitable host. While the mages went upstairs to examine the arl, we were offered hot water, relatively fresh clothes, and whatever ends of tough bread and salt pork the kitchen could yield. Alistair vacillated for a few moments, watching the bright flags of silken robes depart for the stairway to the upper floor, but relented. Eamon was, after all, hardly likely to wake just yet.

Alienage life had never equipped me with the expectations of privacy but, even so, it felt odd to strip down to my underthings in a small, dim scullery off the day kitchen and try to wash the dried blood, soot, dirt and Maker knew what else away. Leliana helped me, and it was the most naked I’d ever been in front of a human. Six bowls of water came up grey and scummy before we were done but, eventually, I started to feel clean. She tutted when she saw the scars I carried from Ostagar… though they were really nothing at all, just the occasional small dimples that Flemeth’s magic had left behind. There was one on my side, too—newer and redder, the skin tight and shiny—where Wynne had healed me at the Tower.

“Does it hurt?” Leliana asked, soft fingers squeezing the rough washcloth over my back.

I shook my head, arms crossed defensively over my breasts. “Nn-nn.”

Warm water slipped down my spine, making everything else feel cold in comparison. The shabby, greyed broadcloth of my smallclothes, half-peeled down, seemed baggier on my hips than when I’d left home.

“You know,” Leliana remarked, rinsing the cloth, “you have such a nice figure. I wish my waist was so slim.”

“Er….” I blinked. “Thank you?”

It hadn’t really occurred to me that elven and human women might compare themselves in that way before. My only awareness had been of how much I lacked in comparison to Leliana—and, indeed, Morrigan—and I hadn’t thought for a moment that a human woman could envy my slender frame. I supposed I was too used to the way the city guards had looked at us back home—that lechery born half from distaste—and growled ugly promises of showing us skinny wenches what ‘real men’ were.

She chuckled, a pleasing, musical sound, and rubbed my shoulders dry with a clean cloth.

Funny, I thought. Our races were similar enough, sure, but I’d always known elves characterise the shems by their bodies as if it was a failing. We talked of their slowness, their fat, flabby, lumpy forms—true of most of the merchants in the market square, but not all humans, admittedly—and we made fun of their palpable physicality… all that hair, on their bodies and on their faces, and the sweating, of which they seemed to do so much more than we did. We made them grotesque, parodies of creatures whose disdain could not hurt us… and I hadn’t realised before how wildly uneven those perceptions were. Either that, or I’d been so long amongst shems now that I’d stopped noticing things.

Maybe it was a little bit of both.

~o~O~o~

Food, a wash, and a change of clothes certainly helped, but there was a meeting with Bann Teagan in the arl’s privy chamber standing between us and any possibility of rest.

We reassembled and traipsed in. Sten was already there; he’d been investigating the armoury and, with the combined permission of Bann Teagan and the effusive helpfulness of an ever-grateful Owen—thrilled to the marrow to have his daughter back—had secured new kit for all of us. We’d need to be properly fitted, but after the stained and beaten leathers that had been falling off me since Lothering, not to mention the leaky, blister-chafing boots, nothing was too much trouble if it meant dry feet and something reliably solid between me and the next sword-point coming at my ribs. And there would, I felt sure, be more of those in my future.

Still, I knew something was off when I saw Lady Isolde, Wynne, Irving, and two more enchanters all crammed into the chamber as well. It wasn’t a large room; the grey stone walls were neatly faced and hung with tapestries that depicted hunting scenes, and a large rectangular table dominated the space. The remains of a few broken chairs had been cleared away, and a fire lit in the comparatively small hearth. It threw a warm, deceptively cosy light over the gathering… and I noticed a large map, spread across the table.

“Wardens.” Teagan inclined his head and, though he addressed both of us, he was looking at Alistair. “I’m glad you’re all here.”

The clammy weight of apprehension pulled at me as I glanced at the row of solemn faces.

“Arl Eamon?” Alistair asked hoarsely. “Is he—?”

The First Enchanter cleared his throat. “The poison that was administered was complex. We believe blood magic created it. Had Jowan not… escaped,” he added pointedly, avoiding looking at Morrigan, “we might have been able to learn more, but it is of little matter. The demon—in order to gain control of Connor—did spare the arl’s life, and halt the poison’s corruption.”

“Then he’ll live?”

Irving gave Alistair a guarded, mournful look. “It is not so simple.”

“But—”

Halted the corruption,” the mage repeated, that low, grating voice drawing out around the words. “Not cured. As of now, Eamon’s spirit wanders far from his flesh, held in the Fade.”

I glanced at Alistair, fully expecting the tightening of his jaw, the squaring of his shoulders… the petulance in his tone.

“Then we’ll enter the Fade, or the mages can do it, and we’ll—”

“It’s not possible, Alistair,” Bann Teagan said gently. “Eamon’s body is too weak. First Enchanter Irving believes that magic can sustain him—perhaps heal him, at least a little—but we cannot wake him.”

“Then… he’s going to die?”

The silence that swallowed the room was answer enough for everyone. Against the quiet, the arlessa’s voice came as a soft murmur, a whisper between pale, dry lips.

“There… there may be something that can save him.”

I’d thought of the woman as a faded rose before, and now I did so again, seeing all her doubts and fears furled around the grain of faith to which she so desperately clung. It was there, burning in those dark eyes: she had to believe, because giving up meant losing everything.

She reminded me, for a moment, of the white marble Andraste in the castle’s chapel, and then my stomach lurched with the cold pang of realisation.

“Wait… the Urn of Sacred Ashes? That the knights were sent to find?”

Behind me, Morrigan scoffed disparagingly. “Only a fool would pin their hopes on a legend. Who truly believes that the bones of—”

“Lady Isolde,” Alistair said quickly, and a little too loudly, in his effort to cut across the witch. “Forgive me, but… if you’re suggesting we try to find the Urn… I mean, it may be no more than a legend.”

Not to mention, I thought, we had the darkspawn to contend with. The horde was hardly likely to wait patiently for us to finish chasing stories. I wet my lower lip tentatively, watching the arlessa’s expression harden. She was evidently a woman used to getting her own way… and it surprised me to see Bann Teagan shake his head wearily, fingers swiping across his brow as if he could physically push away his less comfortable thoughts.

“I’ll admit, Alistair, I agree… but Isolde and I have been discussing this, and it is not mere grasping at straws. Eamon had been funding the research of a scholar—this… Brother Genitivi—who was studying the inscriptions on Andraste’s Birth Rock. He claimed to have proof the Ashes were in Ferelden. If that is true—”

If it is true,” Morrigan remarked sharply.

I ignored her, and glanced at the First Enchanter. He returned my gaze levelly, inclining his head a fraction.

“We believe the relic is real enough,” he said, his voice cutting through the thickening atmosphere. “The Tower’s library holds… held many tomes of history and lore, and there is indeed a reputation of great power attached to the Urn.”

I couldn’t help feeling that we’d been ambushed somehow, and I was very aware of the weight of so many gazes upon me as I cleared my throat.

“Yet the knights couldn’t find this scholar,” I said doubtfully. “If he’s missing, then—”

“Then someone as formidable as you and your companions should be able to find him,” the arlessa countered, and the hair on the back of my neck rose up like hackles.

If it hadn’t been for the rough edges gained through her recent ordeal, I swore I’d have been able to taste the sugar in her voice.

She smiled at me then. Actually smiled. It was a dry, rather forced expression, creased and careworn and threaded through with that desperate, hungry hopefulness that made me feel so terribly empty.

“Please… you know the Grey Wardens will need my husband in what is to come. Find Genitivi, and he will lead you to the Urn.”

I shot Alistair a sidelong glance, hoping that he’d have some argument, some reason against abandoning our central purpose to pursue what might be no more than a cloud-chase, but I could see the indecision racking him. He swallowed heavily, frowning. I sighed, and looked to Bann Teagan.

“Can’t you speak for us? In Arl Eamon’s stead, or… or do we even need to—”

Teagan shook his head, and looked slightly chagrined. “I… have already made myself somewhat unpopular with Loghain’s allies. I spoke out after his return from Ostagar, before I knew Eamon was even ill, and I fear I did more harm than good. Besides, my influence is but a fraction of my brother’s.” He smiled grimly. “I fear any attempt at intercession I might make with the Bannorn would do more harm than good.”

I bit my tongue, trying to curb the urge to say something I’d probably regret.

The room turned quiet, the ghosts of sheathed arguments roiling in the spots of silence. The fire crackled to itself, and I stared glumly at the warm light dancing on the flagstones. On the wall opposite, one of the tapestries—which had, for the most part, escaped damage over the past few days—showed a white stag being set upon by two mabaris, while a hunter rained arrows from atop a small hill. The rest of the scene was dark, thick vegetation, the twisted grasp of trees binding the image in intricate weaves of thread, while the stag shone out, bright and pure against the bloodshed. It didn’t seem to be expressing any pain; no open mouth, no rolling eyes. Just rearing up on its hind legs, as if it could stretch away from the attack, and offer itself up to the heavens.

Leliana broke the silence, her voice the quiet, gentle mirror to Isolde’s; a softer bloom, more used to coercing by kindness than coarse flattery and demands.

“If it is possible to save a life by this task, it is worth trying, no? And you do need all the allies you can find… speaking of which, you still have treaties to deliver, I believe. If we are travelling to accomplish that, then perhaps finding this man will not be so far out of our way?”

Morrigan snorted eloquently, but said nothing. Sten’s silence was almost deafening, though he hadn’t moved from his ramrod-straight position by the table, and he was still staring fixedly at the far wall, as if he was nothing more than a sentry on guard.

I took a deep breath, not liking to admit my annoyance at Leliana’s reasoning. One life, yes… against how many that might be lost in the meantime? And yet, I knew I couldn’t argue. My reluctance to take the fastest, bluntest route with Connor had sealed this bargain; if I hadn’t stood for killing the child, and had gambled so much on our journey to the Tower, I could hardly refuse to take the chance at securing Eamon’s recovery—and his support—through this.

“Where would we start looking for the scholar?” I asked, avoiding the arlessa’s eye. “Because our intention was to begin heading to Orzammar, and—”

She leapt on the first hint of my acquiescence like a dog on a fresh pound of offal.

“Then you will seek out the Brother? The Maker will guide you to him—I know it! His home is in Denerim, and all his research was there… you will find some clue, I am certain. I have gone through all of Eamon’s papers, and I have here—”

I heard less than half of what she said, the absolute impossibility of the plan crashing in around me like falling rubble. I opened my mouth, but Alistair got there first.

“What? No, no… we can’t just walk into Denerim!”

“Outlaws,” I added helpfully, amazed at the naivety of the woman’s mind. Had she no notion of what this would entail?

Besides, I couldn’t go back… not there. Could I?

“Right.” Alistair nodded. “Loghain’d love that, I bet. The minute we—”

“If he found you,” Bann Teagan said dryly. He shrugged. “A little subtlety may be necessary… but I do not see how else we can proceed.”

It might have been the fatigue, the frustration—perhaps even the proximity of so many thick-headed shems who I was sure didn’t understand what they were asking—but I wanted to rant and rail then, to swear and scream at them all. I felt betrayed, used… ambushed, indeed.

I just exhaled a long, resigned breath, and nodded.

It was not the end of the discussion, but it was the moment at which I knew I’d lost the battle.

Still, whatever fate held in store for Arl Eamon, Redcliffe was standing solidly behind us. The temporary leadership of Bann Teagan—and everything we’d done for the village—secured that. We were to be fully equipped, given all the supplies we could carry and, while we were attempting to track down this Brother Genitivi, Teagan would be mustering the forces of the entire arling, and those of Rainesfere, under Eamon’s banner.

Politics, it seemed, still needed the brute weight of force behind it.

We talked over every detail of things until my head felt as if it would burst.  The map in the arl’s privy chamber was fully unrolled and used to outline what broad plans we might build upon; I’d never seen a thing like it before. Squinting down at the spidery patchwork of lines and colours on the parchment before me, none of it made sense, or seemed to equate remotely to real things. Mountains were simple, jagged lines, and Redcliffe a stylised turret above a red mound, inked at the centre of a nest of swirling lines.

Jewel-like bursts of blue and green criss-crossed the map—lakes, rivers and plains—with roads and highways marked out in black, and towns and cities daubed like fingerprints upon the land.

I struggled to understand it, to envisage the distances involved or the reality of the terrain. Alistair leaned over my shoulder, forefinger sketching out broad sweeps across the country that, once, I’d thought was big enough to be the whole world. He and Teagan outlined timescales, reasonable schedules for journeys, and possible routes that would keep us both swift and safe. Occasionally, one or the other of them looked at me… as if I might actually offer some kind of confirmation.

I just nodded, let myself be swept along with it, and before I really understood it all, it was settled. We would head north to Denerim, striking northeast, skirting the borders of the Hinterlands and the Southron Hills to avoid the main roads and, if possible, getting word to some of the Dalish clans. I nearly laughed aloud at that. ‘Find the Dalish’, they said, like it wasn’t a total impossibility in its own right.

Back home, it was almost a euphemism. Sometimes, it was. Wives, when their husbands were out late drinking, would say to their friends ‘he’s off to find the Dalish, and no bread left for supper’, or some such bitter thing. When boys really did run away, refusing to believe the alienage was all there was to life, their families spoke of it with mixed embarrassment and anger… and there was always a right leathering in store for the lads who came sloping back days later, hungry, cold, and ashamed.

Here, though, no trace of irony. No permitting ourselves to believe it was impossible, I supposed… because what choice did we have but to try?

So, I kept my mouth shut, stared at the map, and tried to imagine myself walking along all those little lines. A tiny, paper me heading westwards along the coast road, the way Alistair was talking about, and making for some mountainous pass.

It didn’t feel real. None of it did… and that was probably a good thing. A great deal more can be accomplished when it feels as if it’s happening in a dream.

~o~O~o~

And so, it was settled. The remainder of the day was to be given over to resting, get ourselves outfitted and properly supplied for what lay ahead and then, with luck, we would leave in the morning.

There was to be another addition to our number, too: Wynne surprised me by declaring, right there in the privy chamber, that she wished to accompany us. She made a rather grand speech to the First Enchanter—a speech, I suspected, that was designed more for everyone else’s benefit than Irving’s—and spoke about the importance of what the Grey Wardens were tasked to do, and how stopping the Blight must unite us all. There was a certain smugness in her face when Irving gave her official permission to leave the Circle, and she shot me a look that glittered with quiet knowing.

I said we would be honoured to have her, and that the Grey Wardens—all two of us—were pleased to consider her an ally. Morrigan scowled darkly and muttered something about preachy schoolmarms, but didn’t press the issue.

Eventually, the meeting splintered up, and we drifted our separate ways; the mages to rest, before they returned to the Tower and their own rebuilding efforts, Isolde to her son’s bedside, and Teagan to the great hall, where he apologetically declared that business awaited him.

After so long on my feet, lurching from fight to fight and trying to stay constantly alert, winding down to rest felt strange. It wasn’t easy to do—particularly in the castle, where there was still so much evidence of discord, and the uncomfortable reality of watching elven servants scrubbing blood off the floors.

There was more magical healing, too; properly done this time, so it didn’t hurt so much, and designed to take away the lingering stiffness and throbbing, to guard against infection and strengthen bodies already battered. I was nervous, so I watched Alistair go first, wounded shoulder stripped bare and bathed in pulsing white light. The mages’ hands glowed as they moved over him, and the air smelled of hot leather.

It wasn’t as bad as I expected.

Once that was all over, rest was welcome… and by the time the day had worn itself away, with evening drawing in over the lake, even those of us who’d protested we couldn’t possibly sleep had dozed through a good few hours.

I was in the day kitchen when Alistair came down, sprawled on a wooden chair, legs stretched out before me in front of the fire. Warm, sleepy… and enjoying my new boots, which actually fitted. I had new breeches and a clean shirt, too, plus studded leathers—currently sitting with my new pack—that, while still originally made for a human, Owen had cut down and judiciously splinted. Almost as good a fit as custom-made gear, he’d said, before sighing wistfully about the things he could do for us if he only had the time.

He’d done wonders, considering. Sten now had armour that properly covered at least two-thirds of him, instead of ramshackle odds and ends just tied on, and Owen had reworked several pieces of mail for Alistair that blended protection with wearability. As we’d crowded into the hazy heat of the forge, I’d been in a good enough mood to tease him about templar plate and purple tunics, and he’d pulled a face at me and said at least he didn’t have to everything adjusted because he was a shrimp. I kicked him.

Now, though, without all the buckles and the padding, and with that look on his face that told me he’d been upstairs again, sitting beside Arl Eamon’s bed, Alistair didn’t seem quite as well-rested.

He glanced around the kitchen, taking in the couple of remaining servants—Alen and Rhiannon, as they’d reluctantly told me, before going back to their duties and completely shutting me out—and gave me a brief smile.

“Bann Teagan thinks it would be a good idea if we show our faces in the village tonight. They’re… celebrating. Fancy a pint?”

I nodded. “Wouldn’t say no.”

“Come on, then.”

I stretched luxuriously, groaned, and got to my feet. It seemed such a shame to leave the fire, but I snagged my gear and sloped after him.

We met up with the others in the forecourt—Teagan had evidently suggested a show of solidarity—and I surveyed the faces of the people I had come to call companions… people who, a month or so ago, I’d have flung myself in the mud to avoid, had I met them in the market square. Well, that was a little harsh. Maybe not all of them.

Morrigan, certainly, with her strange, feral stare and aura of untamed confidence, would have terrified me. She still unnerved me now; I couldn’t fault what she’d done for us, yet I couldn’t quite trust her, either. Sten, I would probably have hidden at the sight of, because qunari mercenaries in Denerim usually worked for the sort of people no one wanted to be noticed by. I’d never given a moment’s thought to their culture, their individuality… and I wanted to ask him so many things. I should be afraid of him, I supposed, and yet I wasn’t anymore, whatever the truth of the things he’d done. Unsettled, maybe, but not afraid.

Leliana, perhaps, might not have scared me, had I seen her in her gentle, Chantry mode. Of course, that slight hint of otherness trailed beneath even her calmest moments; I knew that now I’d seen her armed and fighting. She was like a flame: bright and pure until the draught caught her, when she burned jagged, quick, and unpredictable.

And as for Alistair… I was a little ashamed to admit it, even to myself, but I doubted I’d have noticed him at all. He’d just have been another shem, wouldn’t he? Whether I’d seen him in civvies or armour, I wouldn’t have looked—eyes down, head bent, keep moving—and he wouldn’t have looked at me. Strange, I thought, how the prejudices were there on both sides, albeit in different ways. I’d never seen that until now… but I was glad of his presence, and even his tuneless whistling as we walked out into the dusk.

Maethor had trotted out to join us as well, which I guessed meant Connor was asleep, still under the aegis of Wynne and the other two mages taking shifts to care for him. I tousled my hound’s ears as we started off down the gritty slope towards the village, Lloyd’s tavern, and the promise of watered-down ale and merriment.

An elf, travelling with three shems and a Northern Giant, adopted by her very own mabari… that, I would never have seen coming.

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Volume 2: Chapter Eighteen
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