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Co-Author and Beta: Etheral-23

Test of Morality at Edgehall: Act III

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Marcus's face was stern as he crossed his arms. "You could have informed us before approaching Marcel."

"It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thought that came to me," Neria countered with a shrug.

Leliana, Zevran, and Gin, alongside Neria and Marcus, stood outside the Arl's home and at a reasonable distance from the standing guards. Waiting for Miara to finish her work, they quickly found their former Circle mage was late joining them as she explained the deal she had made with the disgraced chevalier Marcel Corbin.

"What the hell were you thinking?!" Gin's usual calm was replaced with a seething fury.

Yet Neria did not wince or shrink under the gaze of her fellow elf, "I'll apologize for not telling you first. But I won't apologize for doing it. We gained more troops. Something we needed in facing down the Darkspawn.

Zevran rubbed his chin, leaning against a post, "While true, trusting a bunch of orlesian mercs is dubious at best, particularly when led by a disgraced noble."

"I don't trust him," Neria omitted, "What I trust is his self-interests in surviving and getting out of Ferelden while the Blight is going on."

"Marcel is still a chevalier," Leliana spoke up, "The oaths they take are not something they break easily. He will honor the deal he made for Neria. But also it is best to keep one eye on him at all times."

"Gell Lendon's soul now walks in the depths of the Carin," the Thedosians slightly jump as Miara phases out from the shadows close to them.

"Maker, could you not do that!" Tabris abolished trying to control his breathing.

The Dragonborn chuckled, "Sorry, forget you guys aren't used to all this yet." As she spoke, she turned her attention to Marcel Corbin, who came out of the Keep. "I'll take care of him next."

"Wait!" Neria quickly hissed out, raising her hands and stopping the dunmer. "He's on our side now!"

"He is?" They could see her eyes frown in confusion beneath the shadow of her hood. "Since when?"

"Since... a few minutes ago?" The Circle elf explained a bit sheepishly.

"I see," Miara muttered. "Was there a change of plans?"

"Yes," Marcus groaned, running a palm over his face, "A very impromptu and unexpected one," He said, shifting his gaze to Neria.

The dunmer hummed in reply, looking at the shorter elf. "Well now, you convinced him?"

"He knew staying with Lendon was a lost cause," The elven Warden replied, "I convinced him there were greater odds of him and his soldiers surviving if they joined forces with us."

"You may have convinced him, but our other allies are another matter."

"Oh, I am very aware of that," Marcel's accented voice cut in as he approached the group. He walked with a regal pose and a steady step, looking like the very image of orlesian nobility. And to elves like Neria and Gin, it made him look obnoxious. "Why it's in everyone's interests to summon a meeting with your compatriots. I would like them to stop killing my men."

Marcus took a step to face the man directly. "I think they might oblige if you'd stop raiding Fereldan towns,"

"Garder ses compétences pointues n'est pas une mauvaise chose." Marcel muttered with a shrug.

Leliana's reproach boiled with anger, "Alors entraînez-vous à lames ceux qui ne sont pas sans défense." Her natural accent came out as if she did not need to hide it. "Si vous êtes un vrai chevalier. Agissez comme tel!"

The chevalier glared at the redhead before peering at Marcus, "Your woman has a sharp tongue."

"Not her tongue you should worry about," Zevran idly commented, his gaze even and cold.

Seeing all the glares directed at him, Marcel raised his hand, placating, "I will stop my men. After all, it would not be proper to attack allies now, would it?"

"That would be best," Miara garnered the man's attention, who blinked in surprise.

"...Why did I forget you were there?" Wary confusion dripped on Marcel's tone.

The masked Dunmer pointed to her Nightengale attire, "Strong enchantments."

"Will you leave Ferelden once this is done?" Gin questioned, getting back on the topic of the situation.

"I want nothing more than to return to blessed Orlais and leave this hobble of a nation, elf."

Miara and Zevran looked behind the former Chevalier, their experienced and honed ears catching the sound of footsteps on the snow, the near-frozen water moving slightly, almost unnoticed unless someone were to be paying close attention, like them.

Marcus bit back a growl. "First, spread the word to your men. They are to stand down and cooperate. Then we'll take you to meet the banns."

"You will bring your people to join us, no?" Zevran casually asked, keeping a hand on the belt near his dagger.

"Of course, I'd be a fool not to bring protection," The orlessian replied.

Miara cut in, "He meant the ones hiding behind you."

For a moment, Marcel froze, sighed, and waved his hand, seemingly signaling someone.

Behind him, there was a shimmer, and the air rippled like water, revealing two individuals. One was a woman of average height with straight black hair completely swept back, very narrow features, and a perpetual frown on her brow. She wore heavy orlesian armor with a large zweihander strapped to her back. The other was a taller man of wavy auburn, a well-trimmed goatee, wearing a loose jacket with leather boots and gloves, a fur cloak wrapped around his shoulders, and a staff held firmly in his hands.

Their appearance caused the group to be on alert.

Marcus glared, "It doesn't reflect well on you that you were hiding your soldiers,"

"I'd be a fool if I approached you alone, don't you think?" Marcel bit back. "These are my top lieutenants, Brigitte of House de Carmotz and Julien of the Ghislain Circle of Magi."

"Battlemage of the Ghislain Circle" The mage took offense to that, "Now a moderately happy employee of this distinguished fighting force."

"Is it common for Orlais' Circles to just give their battlemages to mercenaries?" Props to Neria; she did not sound nearly as snarky as Miara would have, but the girl was making progress.

"Why do you think so many bands have their mages, child" The dashing-looking mage looked down at her. "Coin holds a lot of sway for Templars and priests."

"They are my right and left hand; if you want me to meet with your banns, they come with me," Marcel said in a way that left no room for debate. "Along with a detachment of my soldiers, for our safety, of course."

Tapping her foot with impatience, Brigitte crossed her arms, "Can't we kill these fools? Force those stupid Banns to follow us and deal with the Blighters ourselves."

Julien rubbed his eyes, exasperated, "Always thinking with your sword instead of your brain, woman."

"Soit silencieux." Marcel angrily chided back at both, "I made a deal with la dame Surana. I will honor it." His words back off both, who dutifully bowed their heads. "Provided my terms are acceptable?"

A low groan came from Marcus, who glanced at Neria. "As long as their swords are not drawn upon just meeting us lowly dog lords." Ooooh, the former circle mage was a quick learner.

"Did they at least bathe today?" Julien gripped lowly, "upwind of Fereldens is rather unpleasant to my sense of smell."

As the groups continued to glare at each other, ranging from annoyance to disdain, Miara could only think that there had been more uneasy alliances in the past...

It was of little comfort, but any outcome without killing each other would be positive.


For someone who grew up confined in a Circle, snow was fascinating to Brianna. It was not often that Amell truly pondered about it; their return to Ostagar was filled with the memory of the dead for her to enjoy it truly. Such a fascinating phenomenon, rain combined with the season's cold temperatures, resulting in this frosty yet soft substance.

Many years ago, a paper published by an antivan university, where they employed lenses that magnified images down to the smallest detail, mentioned the natural effect of every snowflake to be different; more than that, they took the most unique and geographically distinctive shapes. Frozen water fell from the skies shaped like perfect breathtaking gems, defying all sense and logic.

Was it not proof that this world was filled with magic?

Brianna idly toyed with it, making the snow swirl at the top of her hand with carefully controlled movements, channeling frost magic to craft her rendition of snowflakes, much larger so they could be seen by the eye, and made them twirl around like a lovely candelabra.

Her walking companion merely looked at the phenomenon happening in her hand with an attentive gaze.

Brianna's blue eyes stared at Ban Bryton's chestnut ones. "I hope my display of magic does not disturb you."

The bearded noble shook his head, "Oh no! Forgive me; I did not mean to stare. I just... never actually seen magic before," He muses, walking softly at her side with his hands clasped behind his back. "My experience with it goes as far as what the Chantry preaches."

"Mm-hmm," Brianna muttered, staring at the crystal water in her hand. "I've gone to the same sermons myself; I know what you heard,"

He shuffled awkwardly. "It can be... frightening."

"I am not going to be summoning demons or manipulating your mind, dear bann," The Amell said neutrally; she wasn't offended, more annoyed at this point.

"I know you would not, Lady Amell," The man said. "The measure of a person is what they do with their power. The fact you choose to use yours to be a Warden is commendable."

She didn't exactly 'choose' it, but she wouldn't nitpick. "Does it not bother you? Knowing I can freeze your blood? Set you aflame? Crush you with a wave of my hand?"

"No more than I worry an assassin will one day stab me in the back," He casually replied.

Brianna chuckled, "So why choose my company?"

"Perhaps I am just intrigued," He smiled. And Brianna couldn't deny she found the gesture charming. "A mage and a Gray Warden? I cannot think of a more fascinating company right now."

Amell felt her lips upturn, "You certainly are an interesting noble, Ban Bryton."

"Please, you can just call Bryton, Lady Amell."

"Then I simply request you call Brianna," The two lightly chuckled as they continued to make light conversation with the occasional amorousness in their words and expressions.

The display did not go unnoticed by those around them. Namely, Wynne gazed at the two with amusement. Oh, to be young; on the one hand, she remembers those days fondly. But, on the others, Wynne recalled her countless mistakes as the pride of her youth often caused many to do. While she was aware Amell would only partially listen to advice, she would still give it.

The Ban and Warden stopped as the Senior Enchanter approached, much to Bri's annoyance. "Senior Enchanter Lady Wynne."

"It is refreshing meeting someone with polite manners," A smile graced the older woman's lips.

"My late father ensured I was raised to take nobility as a responsibility and not as a privilege."

Wynne nodded, "I had heard good things of Lord Abberton. He was a man of honor and dignity."

"He truly was," emotion bore in the young bann's voice.

A long sigh escaped Brianna with a hand firmly on her hip, "Need something, Wynne?"

"I was hoping to speak with you privately."

Brianna was not happy with the request; she almost complained but kept her tongue, given the man she was trying to charm was right next to her.

Bryton inclined his head. "Of course, I should see if I have any new reports from my men" He smiled at Brianna, "We'll continue later, Brianna," That said, he departed but not before giving a slight nod to the senior enchanter.

Brianna watched him go for a moment before leveling an annoyed glare at Wynne, "This has better be important."

"No need to be so irate, Brianna," The elder mage replied. "You can flirt with him at your own time."

"This was my own time..." The Amell mage deadpanned.

"And knowing you, you would not have given me a single time to talk."

The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes and sighed softly, "Fine. What is it now, Wynne?"

Wynne was not a fool; she knew how Brianna felt about her. The younger mage disliked her at best and hated her at worst. Brianna had always been the opposite of Wynne; where Wynne had felt relief and in control of her power once she was given to the Circle, Brianna had felt nothing but oppression and disdain. It was one thing to feel that way for the Templars, but Brianna's aggression constantly lashed out at people who saw the necessity of the Circles. Wynne included.

It was no secret that Brianna did not care to be amicable with those who did not share her views. The girl was close-minded like that. She had grown so close to Neria because the elven mage shared some of the girl's opinions, even if she lacked the same enthusiasm. But now that Tamriel, their magics, and their ideologies had entered the picture...

The wedge that was carved between the two was unmistakable, and Wynne feared it could become worse to the point their relationship would be beyond repair.

"You have seldom spoken to Neria in a week," Wynne pointed out.

Brianna crossed her arms. "I've talked to her."

"Yes, 'good morning' and 'good night' are thrilling conversation pieces..." The enchanter deadpanned.

"What do you want me to say to her, Wynne?" The Amell said, exasperated. "I cannot go a single moment without her lecturing me about how I'm one hex away from becoming a maleficar."

There was hurt in her voice. Wynne could hear no matter how much the young woman tried to hide it. Neria was more than just Amell's friend; they were sisters and loved each other as such. And Wynne wasn't so petty to blame Miara and her family for wanting to help them however they could. But that wasn't the issue between Neria and Brianna.

It was their ideologies. Where Neria is reserved in studying the arcane, which she considers safe. Brianna is not so restrained and willing to practice any form.

And while Amell was undoubtedly confident in herself, it still worried her friend.

"Surprised you're not chiding me about my supposed 'fall' to evil."

"Well, I've seen you are too headstrong to listen to my advice." Wynne omitted, "I just hope you understand the powers you are learning."

Bri leaned into the older woman, "I do." Her tone was serious and steely. "I have never once gone against what Master Anya had taught me. 'Always test your limits but never overestimate your limits.' I have followed her words to the letter."

Wynne crossed her arms, "Anya always did have a unique approach to magic." Among other things. Regardless, Brianna seemed determined to follow a path that pushed everyone who disagreed with her away. "But I am worried about you and Neria," The older mage continued. "Can you not try to be more patient with her? You know how she is"

At that, Amell scoffed. "Why do I have to be the one to 'mend' bridges with her? I have done absolutely nothing wrong. And yet she already believes I am being 'corrupted,' the hypocrite."

Wynne's expression softened, "You don't believe that"

"Yes, I do. I actually do," Brianna said without any reservation. "I'm not the only one learning from Miara and the others; she has also been training in battle magics and the Arcane Warrior abilities. Oh, it's fine if she finds new ways to kill people, but when I learn magic, the Circles will disapprove of, then suddenly I'm a risk."

"You know that's not why she's training," Wynne reprimanded. "She wants to be better prepared to do her duty as a Warden. Something you could learn from her."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Every time I talk to you, you seem more interested in learning more magic to one day go on your way. You are a Warden now, Brianna. A Warden is a promise to protect the people of-"

"Spare me your naivete, Wynne," Brianna waved her off. "Wardens have done all manner of sordid things, or in your history studies, did you skip all the villages afflicted with Blight they burnt or abandoned to their fate because there was nothing else to be done? We're helping everyone on our path because our group is numerous and strong enough to afford to. If you haven't noticed, we would not have made half the progress otherwise."

Wynne wanted to change the direction this conversation was going. Still, she had to remain firm; she was once her teacher. She needed to guide her. "That does not justify your attitude."

"And what attitude should I have, Wynne?" Brianna asked, spreading her arms. "Should I forever dedicate myself to a cause I did not choose? Perhaps to you, that makes sense, but I didn't choose the Circle. I didn't choose to be separated from my family. And yet I bore the consequences for every single choice taken for me. Call me power hungry, call me a dark mage, apostate. But I am done being fate's plaything. I stand up against the Blight. My friends and comrades are dedicated to fighting it because I've seen what will happen if the Darkspawn win... But after that, nobody gets to decide for me, no more."

"Cousland and his company are back!" A scout shouted up in a tree.

Brianna let out a long sigh, "About damn time." She soon departed Wynne's side ending the conversation. Much to the older woman's disapproval but kept quiet.

"Hold up, Cousland brought company!"

A very unexpected and undoubtedly unwelcome company as Marcel followed behind Marcus with his seconds and some of his men. "What is the meaning of this?" Kail spoke up with outrage at seeing the Orlesian Chevalier.

"Oh, this better is good," Lanya growled.

Parth kept his focus on Marcus, "Care to explain?"

"Gell Lendon is dead," The exiled noble expressed, garnering everyone's attention, "And through some unexpected diplomacy by our friend Surana here," he waved a hand to Neria, "we have extra allies for the coming Darkspawn."

There was a long pause amongst the people. Most simply glaring at Marcel, who was unbothered by the looks. Brigitte and Julien were the same, with the woman looking bored with her hand tapping her hips. Faren turned his eyes to Sereda, "Well, this feels like home."

"Nobody has killed someone yet." The former princess leaned against a tree.

Mild curiosity glowed in Morrigan's orbs, likely interested in a possible fight between everyone.

Oryrn and Sofie stood ready in case violence broke out. At the same time, Sarya took on an off-hand approach showing more curiosity at the fact that Neria specifically managed to broker a truce.

Now it was only a matter of waiting to see how the other nobles reacted.

So far, poorly.

"As if I'd ever accept the help of some perfume-snorting orlesians!" Long years of hatred and memories of fighting their old foes to free their land were clearly at the forefront of Bann Parth's mind. "Much less those who have been raiding our lands!"

Marcel turned his nose at the man as though he barely considered his nobility. "My men are already standing down. I could have taken them and left for Orlais, but I know we would not evade the Darkspawn warband in time. It'll take too long for my men to regroup and prepare for the journey."

"So instead, he's agreed to gather his closest forces available to join up with ours," Neria said. "To ensure we all have more odds in our favor."

"And what does he gain from it, hmm?" Bann Kail questioned. "What did you promise him in return?"

"Not dying is a good incentive," Marcel replied evenly. "And not many could say they fought a sizeable Blighter warband. Such a deed carries standing in Orlais."

"Of course," Lanya scoffed. "You're in this for the glory. Was raiding our hamlets and plundering our coffers not enough?"

A low groan came from Serana, running her hand down her face, "This could escalate quickly." Miara nodded beside her.

"Please, everyone," Neria spoke up loudly as she got in the center of the groups amassed, "There is a time and place for old grudges. But this is not it, not when there is a horde of darkspawn coming to kill every man, woman, and child in Edgehall."

"A grudge," Parth spoke slowly before coming right up to the elven mage, who did not shrink under his cold, rage-filled gaze, "Reville Valmont held our nation by the throat for decades before you were born. We endured beatings, rapes, and more horrors than you ever want to know." He leaned forward, "What we have is no simple grudge."

"I'm not asking you to forgive them, Bann Parth," Neria responded calmly.

Lanya cocked a brow, "What do you ask Warden?"

"For the people of this land, you all have sworn an oath to protect. To set aside hatred and fight." She turned her gaze to everyone, "To let none of the sons and daughters of Thedas be butchered by monsters whose only goal is death and destruction."

The faintest of smirks grew on Sarya's lips.

Parth's hardened gaze did not waver, "You make it sound easy to set aside such things."

Neria shook her head, "I know your tale, Bann Parth. And I ask of you one thing." she gazed at him with a look of understanding, "Will let the pain of your past claim you like it has done to Loghain?"

Like the foolish man who did nothing as the Darkspawn were razing their fields and devastating their villages. Who ignored what was going on on the other side of their nation. It was the orlesians raiding their territory; he should have been the first to do something about it. Instead, he was too worried about looking for enemies where there were none. How painfully ironic that the only people who might offer their help right now, regardless of motive, were the very orlesians who had been raiding them.

Parth hated this with every fiber of his being, but he couldn't waste men with the Darkspawn drawing closer.

"Do as you'd like," The older banns scoffed. "But they step out of line, and I'll put their heads on a spike."

Neria supposed that was the best they could get out of him.

"Charming," Julien commented with a droning voice.

"What forces can you provide... Ser Marcel," Lanya said, clearly having no respect for the man.

"Around twelve hundred soldiers, many of them former orlesian military," The mercenary commander said proudly.

"Combined with our forces, that should double our numbers," Bryton added thoughtfully. "Has your comrade reported with an estimate of the Darkspawn numbers?" He asked the Wardens among them.

...Who was oddly distracted. Their gazes were lost as they stared into the distance.

That alone was cause for alarm.

"Wardens?" Bryton tried again.

Alistair drew his sword and shield, "Darkspawn is approaching!"

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Alora and her Revas'Assan grew cautious at the sight of Theron growing still with his eyes shifting away from the others, "Sabrae?" The redhead questioned slowly.

"Fenedhis lasa," the Dalish warrior cursed, glancing at Aora, "The Blighters are approaching."

At those words, the redhead quickly issued orders to her people, who swiftly gathered as much as possible. "You need to get back to your people Theron," Alora remarked before getting ready to leave.

"There won't be time to run," The woman sharply peered at the Dalish, "But there is something you can do. Help us against them."

Several Revas'Assan looked at Theron with bewilderment, "Were you struck on the head on the way back here?" Someone questioned.

"I'm being serious; the Darkspawn threatens all of us."

"And why should we stick our necks out for Shems and flat ears." Someone shouted back.

"Dirthara-ma!" Theron snarled back, "We are all Elvhen. Something I've come to learn on my travels."

"Be that as it may, Sabrae," Alora walked up to him, "What makes you think those shem want our help? Considering we stole from them."

"My clan and the Orava accepted the help of humans because we were desperate and lacked the means and numbers to handle our issues at the time," Theron replied, "Granted, it helped Wardens led them, but if there is something I've come to learn about humans, is that when their back is against the wall, they won't look at the gifted halla's horns."

Alora's gaze shifted to the side for a moment. "And why exactly should we help them?"

"Because if you keep badgering them, once the danger is over, you can bet they will take issue with any elf stealing from them. Fereldens are like any other shem, but at least some value more martial prowess and action during times of trouble. It means something to those people, something the banns of this land have in common.

"And if they don't?" Alora asked. "Can you promise my people would be left alone if we help them?"

"I cannot," The dalish Warden replied honestly. "But it's either that or continue making an enemy of them. And you know they will reply in kind."

Silent for a full minute, Alora glanced over to the Bald elven male that was her second, "Halam'shivanas." He gave a weary grin. "Whatever you decide, we will follow. But our Sabrae brother makes sense."

Her typical hardened gaze softened for a moment before peering back to Theron, "Very well. I guess it is worth a try. I have a hundred and fifty people, and our primary skill is archery."

"Then use the trees and be like the Banal'ras. Be quick and fierce, and may the dread wolf take every last blighter."

"Din'anshiral for every Darkspawn!" Alora roared out as her people roared back.

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A Hurlock roared as its sizeable large jagged battleaxe was countered by Oryrn's shield, with sparks flying. The corrupted monster left itself open enough for the Tamriel Templar to kick it in the stomach to stagger it. That was enough time to engulf his ebony sword with divine light and run it through the Hurlock's chest.

Alistair's shout only gave them moments as a large Darkspawn advanced party came out of the forest around them and charged.

"The Maker blesses me! I was getting so damn bored!" Brigitte declared, cutting down a Genlock's shield and head in one strike. "Now we're having fun!" She laughed, running towards more enemies to kill.

An emissary shrieked in pain from Starfang and Dawnbreaker piercing its flesh. Its body was soon engulfed by holy flame and ice while Miara overheard the bloodthirsty Orlesian woman, "And here I found someone as battle-hungry as that idiot Nord." She voiced her opinion to Serana fighting beside her.

"Imagine he'd be pissed seeing this in Sovengarde and not being in the middle of it," Her father's katana deflected the spear of a Hurlock. "And will you ever use his name for once!"

"I won't!" That man had been so droll it was barely worth remembering his name.

Brianna's hand hovered over her new Mithril Breton-styled blade as she coated it in lightning, followed by a snap of her fingers as she covered her frame with a strong barrier. Stepping into the fray, the mage carved through Darkspawn after Darkspawn with graceful movements. Arcane power filling her sword made the jagged weapons of the Blighters bounce off with arcs of electricity the moment their armaments clashed. Switching from martial combat to casting spells swiftly from one moment to the next. Cutting the gnarly flesh off a Darkspawn's leg, she made the monster fall only to cast a powerful hex upon it, throwing the creature with a burst of telekinetic magic at its kin where they were consumed by the blast of arcane energy bursting from the inside of the Darkspawn's body.

Sereda howled a warcry in dwarven, her shield barreling down through every Darkspawn on her path, from genlock to hurlock; despite her more diminutive stature, there was no denying the strength of her stout frame. For every one of the Blighters she downed, Faren was swiftly behind her to cut their throats and stab their brains before they could recover. He spotted a large genlock, the larger and walking on all fours variety, charging towards the dwarven woman. He swiftly pulled out one of the bottles from his belt and hurled it at the Blighter with precision; it shattered the moment it rose its oversized arms to strike at Sereda, hitting the monster and spraying corrosive acid. The creature shrieked in pain, its tainted skin burning as it trashed in panic before quickly being put down by Sereda's sword.

Mithril Arrows flew from Leliana's bow alongside other archers hitting in precise killing shots as Blighters charged at them. Sofie's greatsword met those that did get too close, showing off her deceptive quickness despite her large frame.

With their respective backs to one another, Gin and Zevran's daggers, matched by their agility and speed, tore into several oncoming hurlocks and genlocks that came their way. "I must say you almost as fast as me now, my friend," the former Crow complimented.

"Been having a lot of practice lately!" Tabris quipped, parrying a hurklock's jagged mace with one of his daggers, slicing the monster's throat. Both glanced at the sight of Loke and Bran taking down one of the larger genlocks with their sharpened claws and teeth.

Wynne's and Morrigan's staffs glowed with lightning and fire that struck several blighters before they could strike down several of the Bann's men. Nearby, Neria's arcane blade severed the arm of one blighter before Marcus's Engeram cleaved the beast's neck from his head. Bann roared, bashing his shield on the head of a hurlock, with Lanya bringing down her greatsword to finish it off. Sten charged with his ebony greatsword into the chests of several monsters while others were crushed by the sheer strength of Shale's hands.

Sarya's magic flowed from her fingertips, sending ice shards like ballista arrows impaling the foes charging for her. "Zu'u drun hin dinok!" Dragon fire rained down from the skies torching darkspawn furthest away from the groups. Odahviing swooped down before returning to the skies.

"Par le Créateur!" Marcel cried out while others shared his sense of shock. "D'où vient ce dragon!?"

"He's my ally!" Miara called out, flipping over an alpha genlock and cutting off its head, "Which makes him yours!"

Bryton stared in awe at the ruby-scaled dragon before glancing back to Miara, "This normal in your country!?"

Fallon kicks aside a fallen enemy; she whistles, "liking you, Tamriel folks, more now!"

As the last of their enemies fell, all that was left was the battle rush, the blood pumping in their ears as ragged breaths escaped the combatant's lips.

Lanya spat upon the corpse of one of the Blighters before thoroughly cleaning her greatsword. Kail was the most inexperienced in fighting among them all if the look of horror and disgust lingering on his face was anything to go by, letting out shuddering pants as he still held his sword firmly in his hand. Bryton went around making sure their soldiers were alright, assisting in any way he could.

For his part, bann Parth looked upon one of the dead monsters with disgust, 'Blight' indeed described their existence nicely. Nothing but an endless appetite for carnage. He did not want to imagine the sheer size of an entire horde of these monsters.

He sharply turned to look at the former Chevalier, looking no worse for wear than the others. His mage was already making sure his lord and fellow lieutenant were alright, but Marcel remained calm in focused even as the danger seemed to pass.

Parth grunted, walking towards him with his sword in hand. The mage and the orlesian woman stood tense as though they expected him to attack their leader immediately. But Marcel merely kept a steady glare upon the Ferelden noble.

"You and your men can join us," Parth said, bitter as though the words pained him. "But the moment this is over, you and your folk will leave Ferelden,"

Marcel replied without missing a beat. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Though a few, mainly Neria, gave a relieved sigh, all outside the Warden party grew tense as the ruby dragon returned and landed on the ground shaking the earth beside Miara. "I smelled and seen more of these wretched abominations approaching quickly, briinah." His blue orbs soon directed to the others outside her thur's group, who bore shocked expressions, "These mortals seem adequate for the coming battle."

"Maker me preserve," Julien stood stock still. The beastly dragon could speak!?

"Everybody," Sarya called out as she came up beside the giant dragon, "This is Odahviing. Odahviing, this is everybody." The ruby dovah snorted, rolling his eyes.

"Think we might going to need Durnehviir for this one too," Serana remarked beside her beloved.

"Bah, that wuth pile do qeth likely needs to stretch his wings being in the Cairn."

Marcus drew close to the dragon, ignoring that conversation, "How much time do we have before they get here?"

"An hour, joor, or maybe less." Odahviing quipped dryly.

The Cousland sharply turned to Parth, "We need to get every single civilian into Edgehall and get ready to fight now."

No one needed to be told twice as the Banns and Marcel ordered all their troops back to the hold. As they began to leave the area entirely, Miara took a long breath, "Oh, he is going to be upset I took this long. Dur Neh Viir!"

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Vaea stared up at the skies above in awe. However, her childlike curiosity and the few other children around her were not shared amongst the adults who glowed with fear and worry, which would be a natural reaction at the sight of two giant dragons circling high above them. "Everyone," it took immense will for all the alienage elves to look at Miara, who stood before them. "The dragons will not harm you, I promise. I need all of you to get to shelter within Edgehall immediately."

"These lands are quite strange, Qahnaarin!"

The Dunmeri woman looked up, "I'll fill you in after this is all over!"

A grunt came from the ancient undead dovah, "Maybe this time a little quicker!"

A deadpan came from Miara from Durnehviir's barb before sighing and looking back down, "As I said, they won't harm you."

Elder Laranni stood close to Vaea, who looked at the older elven woman, "Dragons can talk?"

"First for me as well, dearly." The older woman stated warily before turning her gaze to the Dragonborn, "Elves are not allowed into Edgehall."

Gin ran up to the grey elf's side as he was helping others out of the alienage, "You don't have to worry. We got this covered." He soon ran over to Zevran, aiding him with an immobile elven man out of his hut.

Serana was soon beside her lover after helping some of the elves into Edgehall, looking at the keep in question, "Let's just hope nobody kills each other before the Darkspawn gets close." Miara made an agreeing wince looking behind her.

To call ambient within Edgehall 'tense' did not cover it. Though the arl's mysterious death brought relief to those who were subjugated under his unfair rule brought relief, it also came with it the fact they were leaderless in a difficult time. The word Darkspawn sent shivers and dread down the civilians' spines; the only thing they could do was to be guided towards the more fortified areas of the city behind their walls, hoping to take refuge. The banns of the other towns in their territory were stepping up to help, but it did not help; they were not collaborating with the orlesian mercenaries that had tried to occupy their land.

'Cooperating' was a generous term, for the local Fereldan soldiers looked like they wanted nothing more than to run them through with their swords. And the orlesians turned up their noses to anything they did with outright disgust, as though standing next to the 'dog lords' offended their senses. All while both were organizing the defense and escorting the civilians.

"You there!" One of the orlesians, helmet in the shape of a lion's maw with a masked plate over his face, called out to a family carrying bags. "What do you have there?"

The father of the group mustered up to respond. "Just some of our belongings, we don't know how long-"

"Nothing other than food and water," The orlesian reproached. "Leave your belongings here and get going."

The family looked troubled, "R-Right here? But we can't just-"

"It's your own nobles' orders," The mercenary replied. "Now, do it."

"Why so eager to have them leave their belongings, orlesian?" The accented voice of a ferelden woman approached; clad in chainmail and leather, she held the sword on her hip tightly as though she was about to draw it any second. "Was your previous plundering not enough? Now you want to steal from peasants taking refuge?"

"I'm doing what YOUR leaders told us to do, dog lord," The orlesian replied with conceited annoyance.

Some civilians hurried along, not wanting to be caught in the middle, but it was too late for the family in question. Meanwhile, other soldiers and mercenaries stopped what they were doing to watch the brewing situation.

The fereldan woman bared her teeth. "Had my lord come to his senses, we would have driven you out already."

"Good luck fighting all those Blighters on your own then," The mercenary said with arrogance. "Without our help, they'd outnumber you two to one. Be grateful; commander Marcel decided to help you."

"Grateful?!" The woman shouted, this time she did draw her sword. "After what your people did here?!"

Shouts of alarm and worry rang out, with some of the orlesians and fereldens looking like they were about to do the same. The situation escalated by the second, and it looked like violence was all but inevitable.

The orlesian drew his sword, and two were ready to lock blades.

If not for the commanding voice that suddenly shouted, "Enough! I said enough!"

The fereldan woman faltered while the orlesian lowered his blade. "Lord Bryton,"

The bearded bann looked sternly at them both, "We do not have time to be at each other's throats right now. Your commander ordered you to avoid confrontation,"

"But it was her who started it!"

"And you decided to provocate her," The noble admonished, and the orlesian was smart enough not to press on. He then directed his glare at the ferelden woman. "And you should know better than to start a fight with Darkspawn at our door."

"I... yes, milord," The woman apologized as she lowered her face.

The man sighed before turning to the peasant family. "We made it clear, only food or water. You," He instructed the female soldier. "Escort the man to his house, have him deposit their belongings there, then help him reunite with his family. The rest of you," He said to the mother and children, "go to the safe house; your husband will catch up with you later."

"Yes, bann Bryton," the woman nodded before the Ferelden soldier walked with her and her children. Glancing at the Orlesian, the man gave a light bow to his head before attending to pressing matters.

Bryton rubbed his eyes before a voice caught his attention. "It is like wrangling in wild Druffalo, isn't it?" His coal orbs took in Warden Alistair, helping an older woman to the safe house before one of the Bann's men took over.

"Not sure which is more stressful, honestly." The young noble omitted before his gaze turned serious, "but as a lord of these lands, it is my responsibility to do what is right for the people of Ferelden. As you are no doubt growing accustomed to when you become king."

At that, Alistair's shoulders slumped ever slightly. "Still a work in progress."

"As my father said, everything is a work in progress. It is when people stop wanting to learn when things stagnate."

"...I like that," the former Templar quipped.

"So do I, but we have pressing matters than idle chatting, my prince."

Alistair repressed a shudder upon hearing, "That is still going to take getting used to." He muttered before following the noble to help him.

"Sir!" A soldier quickly approached the bann, halting and saluting in respect. "One of the Wardens has returned!"

"That must be Theron," Alistair pointed out. "We should meet with him; hopefully, he got the dalish to stand down."

"It's more than that, sir," The soldier said, much to their confusion. "Your Warden compatriot is not alone; there are dalish with him."

The prince and bann exchanged a look and quickly marched towards the city's entrance. Most of the areas near the city walls were quickly becoming deserted, but they could still see some civilians marching towards the various safe zones in the middle of the city, particularly the elves from the alienage.

The first thing to catch their eyes outside the city walls were Miara's dragons, and Alistair couldn't blame the bann for focusing on them more. Standing near were Miara and Neria speaking with Theron. Close by was a group of dalish elves, all standing reasonably far from the dragons.

"Theron!" Alistair called, interrupting their conversation. "You brought guests, I see."

"Alistair," The dalish replied in greeting with a simple nod. "I convinced them to join the fight."

Alora stared up at the massive, scaled flying beasts, "I can have my people take a position on the walls; the higher vantage point, the better," her voice was wary before giving her dunmeri-elven distant cousin a long look, "You're certain they are on our side?"

"Absolutely," Neria was the first to speak, though she did give an uneasy glance up to the undead Durnehviir. Despite being told some stories about him by Sarya and Miara, seeing the cursed dragon was something else.

Coming up the bunch with Vaea in his arms was a Dalish short brunette elven man adorned in rugged leathers and furs for the winter cold. His dark skin matched that of his little niece, "I'm sorry, it is only just me and not the rest of the Boranehn Clan. But when I heard of the Darkspawn approaching Edgehall, I thought only of Vaea's safety." His green eyes took a cautious look up at the flying dragons. He had been a rather unexpected addition that tagged along with Theron and the Revas'Assan returning the keep.

And while Coran brought no warriors or mages, coming to protect his niece was enough for Miara to garner respect for the man, "Stay with Vaea in one of the safe houses with the others." The man nodded and soon followed the rest of the elves into Edgehall.

"Would have been nice if he brought some others of Boranehn to help out," Alora remarked.

"We will make do with what we have," Alistair stated, getting a shrug back from the redheaded elf.

Bryton looked back to the keep and the others, "We need to start building a perimeter in front of Edgehall once all the civilians are secured and safe."

"Marcus and the others are working on that. But we all better take our positions where we are needed best for what's coming." Neria addressed, feeling her heart race with the gnawing anticipation of what was to come. She still held no love from fighting, but she set that aside to protect the innocent and those she has come to value and cherish as friends.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

Only in times of strife and desperation like this would you find unlikely allies standing side by side. Fereldens, orlesians, and dalish, these people did not trust each other in the best of times, circumstances only igniting more hostilities between them. But the Blight didn't care whom it slaughtered; all was meat to be consumed and defiled. So even if for one particularly dangerous occasion, these men and women put aside their grudges for the sake of survival.

The highly trained and armed orlesian mercenaries stood at the front of the battlelines; their quality gear and battle-tempered experience made them ideal to act as the tip of their combined forces. Followed by line after line of proud Ferelden natives, their skills and gears varied greatly compared to their orlesian allies, but more than they made it up for in spirit, they dared to defend their home. While at the city walls stood over a hundred dalish archers ready to rain down their arrows upon the Blighters.

And, of course, heading their forces were the Grey Wardens, the warriors clad in silver and blue who had brought them all together. It was thanks to them this was possible in the first place.

Alistair shared a look with his comrades, his fellow Greys feeling the hushed whispers of the Darkspawn ringing in their heads as the giant mass of accumulated Taint drew close. There, emerging from the winter-clad tree line, hundreds and hundreds of Darkspawn marched, their grotesque form radiating with bloodlust; they hungered for the flesh, for life to consume.

Alistair did not need to look back to know many of the warriors behind them were frightened; not many could say they had fought Darkspawn before. The monsters had always been a horror story, but the bleak realities of the Blight dispelled all notion of fantasy, leaving only the frightening reality that was the existence of beings who existed solely to destroy.

He gripped Maric's blade and Duncan's shield tightly, raising the latter and banging the sword loudly. The war drum of metal against metal was slowly joined by more and more weapons clashing against shields and armor, a rallying cry of steel. The dalish in the back cried out words in their tongue, meaning lost to human ears, but the intent was clear. A call to battle, warcries of courage.

The Darkspawn charged, howling and hungry for blood. Yet their forces still needed to move; they formed a defensive line.

Two roars that would strike fear into any mortals' hearts emerged from behind the city walls, and two great dragons flew. One ruby and the other grey and rotting. They soared above the Darkspawn warband and breathed fire upon them right in the middle of their advance. Their march was severed, a portion of the creatures caught in the dragon fires as their corrupted flesh burned and the metal of their gear melted into their skin, many dying within seconds. The dragons flew away, yet their fires kept raging, oddly cut off from their march; the Darkspawn were quickly disorganized and forced to go around the flames, their numbers already taking a hit as they found themselves vulnerable.

Now was their time to strike.

With a war cry, the humans charged at their Blighted enemies, all while dalish arrows soared above them and struck the first lines of the warband before metal clashed against metal.

XxX ~ xx ~ XxX ~ xx ~ XxX ~ xx ~ XxX ~ xx ~ XxX

We have fanart! We have wonderful fanart!

Here's Miara, her dragonic form, and the twins, all thanks for the wonderfully talented UNIGORE. To watch them, make sure to copy the link and fill it accordingly. (It sucks how FF doesn't let you use links...) Another tip. Watch the page on the mobile format so you can actually select the links for easier copying

cdn . discordapp (dotcom)/attachments/939606937601994853/1071550982040854650/miara_full_res_by_UNIGORE . png

cdn . discordapp (dotcom)/attachments/1058739381004939264/1070418808537350174/dragon_miara . png

cdn. discordapp (dotcom)/attachments/1058739381004939264/1065741421837033584/saryaoryrn . png

Along with an amazing pic of Sofie courtesy of an anonymous artist

cdn. discordapp (dotcom)/attachments/939606937601994853/1071550982321868891/Sofie_v3_final . jpg