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A Crack in the Wall [Complete]

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
139
#1
(( 7 Firstfall, Late Afternoon, Teyrn Cousland's Office - @Fergus Cousland ))

The South Wall problem was getting worse.

Not counting the weeks they'd spent in Denerim when he'd been tasked with staffing the estate's security, Ferren had devoted most of his time to making things better beyond the wall. Those people hadn't asked to be in that situation, and he'd done everything in his power to find places for them. Jobs. Homes. New lives where they could start over.

But for every person who just needed a little help getting back onto their feet, it seemed like there were three more trying to take advantage. Not of him or Fergus. Not yet, anyway. Right now it was people doing every damn thing they could to stir up trouble. There'd been a noticeable increase in crime. Robberies mostly, but a few physical altercations here and there. At first the disputes were just a matter of people who had so little taking on those they saw as having more--even when that wasn't the case. Food, clothing, and whatever valuables people had managed to hold onto.

Over the past week, though, it started to turn into specific things. Building materials and tools stolen from the people living inside the temporary walls, and from the masons who'd been contracted to put up and repair those walls. Weapons went missing after that. Smiths' hammers and skinners' knives, farmers' pitchforks and builders' shovels. After those dried up, they started getting bolder, trying to take weapons from Guard caches Ferren ended up having to completely do away with, despite how much time it saved.

All of it made him think there was something going on. Something more than restlessness at how long it the whole thing was taking. Unhappy people were vulnerable people, and criminals knew just how to exploit vulnerable people. He should know--he'd been raised to do it, too. He'd never been any good at it, but he knew the basics. Get somebody so worked up about some "other" who had more than them despite working less for it, and they could be directed to do just about anything to tear that person down, even if they destroyed themselves in the process.

Speaking of in-fighting, Ferren and Cavagh were at odds again. Cavagh wanted a stronger guard presence--more than Ferren had already allowed. He wanted more patrols, more people hired and trained specifically to keep the peace, and Ferren just wasn't comfortable with that. There was a real thin line between keeping crime down and being this constant force that darkened everybody's doorstep, and he didn't want to cross it. Not unless he absolutely had to.

And even then, there were other ways.

He was prepared to talk to Fergus about that if it came up, though he wasn't surprised to see Cavagh traveling the same hall he made his way down. The two men passed each other with a nod. Cavagh wouldn't call him out when he was due to report, so Ferren counted his blessings and continued to the teyrn's office. He was expected, so he rapped on the door before letting himself in.

"Your Grace," he greeted, offering a formal bow. His demeanor relaxed somewhat after that, but there was still something strained about it. "Bet you're already tired o' hearing about the South Wall, but I'm not gonna be breaking the trend anytime soon."
 
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Fergus Cousland

Teyrn of Highever
Staff member
Canon Character
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#2
It was good to be home.

At least insofar as being surrounded by the comforts he was completely used to, familiar faces, and his office. What wasn’t great was the fact that the people living just outside the South Wall were beginning to deal with a rash of crime.

Sure there were some slum-like locations within the city of Highever, and there were likely some abandoned buildings they could reconstruct to house a portion of the people that came seeking a new life. But to contain the burgeoning population they would need to expand the city walls.

A temporary plan had been put into place, but that came with its own issues. Tom had just finished running down that list of issues. Building materials destroyed or stolen, people living in the camp were being targeted for robberies, muggings, and general agitation. He wanted more guards, and wanted them now.

The very by the book knight was having issues with his Guard-Captain’s response to the situation, and by the time he was done giving his report, Fergus wanted nothing else to close his door for the rest of the day to get over the headache he was developing.

Not everything could be solved with strength of arms. He had tried to argue that, but it only seemed to make Tom more fervent in his own argument.

So once Cavagh had made his exit, he indulged in pouring himself a glass of brandy, his first for the day, and lighting up his pipe in hopes of relaxing just a little before Ferren showed up with his own report. At least with him he wouldn’t feel like he was being beaten down by a hammer.

It wasn’t long before he heard a knock at the door, which followed by it being open. He sat back in his seat, resting the new pipe on his desk.

"Your Grace," It was always interesting to see Ferren be formal with him, but today there was a tension that was obvious in him. He wondered if Cavagh had given him an earful today as well. "Bet you're already tired o' hearing about the South Wall, but I'm not gonna be breaking the trend anytime soon."

Fergus gestured to the seat across from him, and sighed, though his lips curved into a small smile, “That trend won’t be broken until those people have real homes and some safety.

He rested both his hands on the arms of his chair, regarding Ferren, “Hopefully your report won’t be as abrasive as the Knight-Captain’s?
 

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
139
#3
“That trend won’t be broken until those people have real homes and some safety," Fergus agreed.

The man looked tired. Even the sweep of his hand as he gestured to a chair seemed like it took a larger effort than normal. This whole situation was taking its toll on everybody involved, and Ferren wished he could deliver good news for once. Or at least better news. But he wasn't going to lie.

“Hopefully your report won’t be as abrasive as the Knight-Captain’s?”

Ferren let out a single, soft laugh under his breath. "Maybe. Not gonna be any less exhausting, though," he admitted. Except for the fact that he had a leg up on Cavagh in the personality department, but that wasn't a joke he was going to make right now. "Suppose Cavagh already made a case for more guards, so I'll jus' start by saying I think it's a bad call. Not opposed t' making it safer for people down there, but having that heavy of a Guard presence sends the wrong message. People down on their luck aren't gonna see us as being there t'help. We're jus' gonna be looked at as peacekeepers; like we can't trust people to sort out their own shit." He felt strongly about that, and his jaw was set in a hard line as he paused. "I'll bring them down there t'deal with crime, and I'll handle the rest m'self if I need to, but the last thing I want is for the people there t'feel even less safe than they already do."

It was a weird thing, and one he'd learned the hard way. The more guards just milling about, the more people worried about their own safety.

Guard presence wasn't the only thing he needed to talk about, though, and he launched right into the meat of why he'd been on edge the past week. "Outside o' that, y'probably know about the fact that people seem t'be sabotaging rebuilding efforts, and doing everythin' in their power to take away what little the people living out there have t'begin with." His gaze cast up to Fergus, his expression missing his usual humor. "I'm past believing it's a coincidence. Somebody--or a group of somebodies--are trying to make the situation as desperate as possible, and they're using peoples' fears and doubts t'do it." Ferren's lips pressed into a grim line. "It's working, too, far as I can tell. Same old shit's being stirred up between those who've only got a little and those who've got even less. Divide between the elves and humans is getting to be a problem, too. One o' my guards stopped an elven woman from visiting her family because a group of people figured she was just a thief or something, with no evidence she'd ever done anythin' illegal."

Ferren hadn't been happy about that. At all. And as much as he didn't believe in dressing down his guards in public, he'd come close to it then. He'd managed to rein it in--mostly--and had a long talk with the man after. But by that point, the damage was already done. The more people thought they could get away with blaming somebody else for their problems, the more they were going to do it.
 
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Fergus Cousland

Teyrn of Highever
Staff member
Canon Character
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#4
"Maybe. Not gonna be any less exhausting, though," came Ferren’s response, and Fergus nodded. He appreciated Tom’s candor but it was very aggressive at times. He hoped that Ferren’s take on the situation was at least a little more nuanced, even if it was just as exhausting as he said.

"Suppose Cavagh already made a case for more guards, so I'll jus' start by saying I think it's a bad call. Not opposed t' making it safer for people down there, but having that heavy of a Guard presence sends the wrong message. People down on their luck aren't gonna see us as being there t'help. We're jus' gonna be looked at as peacekeepers; like we can't trust people to sort out their own shit." Fergus nodded as he listened, trying to suss out the pros and cons of it all, "I'll bring them down there t'deal with crime, and I'll handle the rest m'self if I need to, but the last thing I want is for the people there t'feel even less safe than they already do."

We certainly don’t want that,” Fergus commented, straightening in his chair some. He had been able to redirect some of the flow of people at first. Some of the villages and bannorns had lost man power from the army raising during the Blight, but their lands hadn’t been affected. Soon those vacancies had been filled. People came and went, but it always seemed more people stayed than left. He’d not done enough, quick enough.

"Outside o' that, y'probably know about the fact that people seem t'be sabotaging rebuilding efforts, and doing everythin' in their power to take away what little the people living out there have t'begin with." Fergus nodded, frowning. Why people would do things to make things worse for the people living there, well he had a few theories and some of them involved discrediting his capabilities as a leader. "I'm past believing it's a coincidence. Somebody--or a group of somebodies--are trying to make the situation as desperate as possible, and they're using peoples' fears and doubts t'do it."

Ferren’s normal laid back attitude and expression were gone today, "It's working, too, far as I can tell. Same old shit's being stirred up between those who've only got a little and those who've got even less. Divide between the elves and humans is getting to be a problem, too. One o' my guards stopped an elven woman from visiting her family because a group of people figured she was just a thief or something, with no evidence she'd ever done anythin' illegal."

Maker,” Fergus breathed, leaning forward and placing his forearms on the desk and shaking his head. “This has to be instigated by someone outside of the community there. And there’s a laundry list of people who don’t like my policies both in and outside of Highever to choose from. We need to find out who is doing this, whether it be a single employer of a group of them. But that’s going to be hard to do if the people living there don’t trust us due to too much oversight from guardsman and knights.

Fergus reached for the glass he had barely touched, taking a sip, “I have some ideas, but I want to hear what you’ve considered as possible solutions.
 

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
139
#5
If Ferren could've somehow found a way to not tell Fergus all of this--to just deal with it himself--he would have. The teyrn had enough to worry about. He didn't need to stay awake at night wondering who was trying to get to him through his people.

It wasn't an option here, though. He needed to know, and Ferren needed to be the one to say it.

“Maker,” he breathed. “This has to be instigated by someone outside of the community there. And there’s a laundry list of people who don’t like my policies both in and outside of Highever to choose from." Ferren nodded at that, his jaw tightening. "We need to find out who is doing this, whether it be a single employer of a group of them. But that’s going to be hard to do if the people living there don’t trust us due to too much oversight from guardsman and knights.”

"Aye," he agreed, absently ruffling a hand through his hair.

“I have some ideas," Fergus said after taking a sip of his drink, "but I want to hear what you’ve considered as possible solutions.”

Ferren sat up a little straighter in his chair, as if it would help him get rid of those feelings he was having. Feelings that told him he didn't have a place here; that Cavagh was right. He should leave the job to someone who would take it more seriously. But he did take it seriously, especially since it was obvious somebody was trying to send a message to the teyrn.

That thought chased away his doubts, and resolve squared up his features as he said, "I'd like t'recruit some people, to start with. Aren't going t'be any guards who understand the place better. I figure if I can give them something that's there's t'fight for... some way t'make a difference..." Well, it'd worked for him, hadn't it? "I'd like t'get more supplies down there, too. I know there's not a whole lot we can spare, but maybe it's time t' ask some o' your bannermen if they can lend us anythin'."

That was probably well past the line he was supposed to respect as Guard Captain. But it just seemed like there were a lot of people who gave Fergus they're loyalty in word, not in deed.

"And..." here was the part Cavagh hated most, "I think we need eyes down there that aren't officially part o' Highever. People who aren't wearing uniforms and announcing t' everybody where their loyalty lies. I want t' hire some mercenaries, and I've got a decent idea of where t'start."
 

Fergus Cousland

Teyrn of Highever
Staff member
Canon Character
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#6
When he asked for Ferren’s solutions to the problem, he noticed the man sat up, stiffening a bit and took on a more serious expression. Fergus could appreciate the fact that he knew when things needed to be serious, but it was always an odd thing to see on Ferren. He was more at home in a smile than he was in the expression he wore at the moment.

"I'd like t'recruit some people, to start with. Aren't going t'be any guards who understand the place better. I figure if I can give them something that's there's t'fight for... some way t'make a difference..." That was a good idea. Recruit from the people that lived there, that could see what was happening. "I'd like t'get more supplies down there, too. I know there's not a whole lot we can spare, but maybe it's time t' ask some o' your bannermen if they can lend us anythin'."

It was a thought, but it was also a risk, especially since the supplies they did provide got stolen or vandalized. They’d need a way to protect things that weren’t one time use, but perhaps that’s where the new recruits would come in.

If you can get me a list of what is most needed, I’ll have Almaric start the proper contacts. Any supplies we purchase -- or call in from those sworn to me -- will need to be protected,” he didn’t need to say why. Ferren had a first hand view of what was going on down there.

"And..." there was a pause, as if Ferren was debating offering up the idea, "I think we need eyes down there that aren't officially part o' Highever. People who aren't wearing uniforms and announcing t' everybody where their loyalty lies. I want t' hire some mercenaries, and I've got a decent idea of where t'start."

Mercenaries were risky, but it was a good idea. Get people milling about, able to see what’s happening without being singled out as working for him or the city. Fergus rubbed his jaw, nodding a little. “It’s a dangerous idea, but I think one that will work. I’m curious if you had specific mercenaries in mind? Didn’t you do mercenary work before coming back to Highever?

With that in mind, he had something else to suggest, “I had also considered asking Nathaniel if he had a few wardens he could spare that weren’t well known here, especially those with the ability to move around mostly unseen. Were mercs of that type on your list as well?
 

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
139
#7
“If you can get me a list of what is most needed," Fergus began, "I’ll have Almaric start the proper contacts. Any supplies we purchase -- or call in from those sworn to me -- will need to be protected."

He nodded, already working on a list in his head. He'd have to go back to the barracks after this and make sure he wrote it all down before he went home, otherwise he wouldn't remember something and there wasn't a single supply those people could go without, as far as he was concerned. Especially the building materials. The more time they spent without them, the more time they were living under those tents with no protection whatsoever.

There was another thing, though, and after a second of hesitating, Ferren voiced his plan to contract mercenaries.

“It’s a dangerous idea, but I think one that will work. I’m curious if you had specific mercenaries in mind? Didn’t you do mercenary work before coming back to Highever?”

"I did," Ferren answered with a nod. "Lot of it out of Orzammar, which'd be where my contacts are. Got a couple other people in mind who're here now, but dunno if they'll bite. Also hard t' tell with mercenaries how trustworthy they are, but I figure if I pay them enough, make it a bad idea for them to try and pull one over on us, it'll work out."

He was a little relieved, and it showed in his demeanor. His posture loosened up just a little, and his fingers stopped fussing with the loose seam in the chair. He hadn't really expected Fergus to reject the idea outright, but Cavagh would, so there'd been concern over whether or not he could actually get anything to stick.

“I had also considered asking Nathaniel if he had a few wardens he could spare that weren’t well known here, especially those with the ability to move around mostly unseen. Were mercs of that type on your list as well?”

Ferren had a hard time covering up his emotions under the best circumstances. Right now while he was stressed and stretched thin definitely couldn't be considered the best, and so there was nothing to stop the frown that etched itself into his features.

"Uh, yeah. Always good t'have those. Not something I can cover myself, same with most o' the guards." Two fingers rubbed over the overgrowth of scruff at his cheek. "Y'have any idea of who he might send? I mean, doesn't much matter. We can use the help. Just curious, I guess."
 

Fergus Cousland

Teyrn of Highever
Staff member
Canon Character
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#8
"I did," Ferren said when he asked about his mercenary work. "Lot of it out of Orzammar, which'd be where my contacts are. Got a couple other people in mind who're here now, but dunno if they'll bite. Also hard t' tell with mercenaries how trustworthy they are, but I figure if I pay them enough, make it a bad idea for them to try and pull one over on us, it'll work out."

Fergus nodded in return. Good mercs were well worth their price, though the bad ones often made it difficult to know who to trust. He would trust Ferren's instincts on the matter, and he grabbed a sheet of paper and began to write out what Ferren would need to get compensation for any hirelings outside of his normal purview. He mentioned bringing some wardens in too, and he glanced up in time to see Ferren's mood drop. He hated that he had such woeful experiences with wardens, specifically a couple of them, but it couldn't be helped.

"Uh, yeah. Always good t'have those. Not something I can cover myself, same with most o' the guards." The nervousness was obvious in Ferren's mannerisms. "Y'have any idea of who he might send? I mean, doesn't much matter. We can use the help. Just curious, I guess."

Fergus stopped writing, resting the pen on the blotting paper. He considered his words carefully then, "I trust Nathaniel's judgment on who would be best suited for such work, but if you'd like me to request certain individuals not come for your comfort, I will."

He didn't need Ferren distracted during this particular objective either, so it would be for more than just his comfort. He would let his Guard-Captain make that call for himself though. If he thought he could handle being around a certain someone, then Fergus wouldn't make any special requests when he solicited aid.
 

Ferren Bairston

Guard-Captain of Highever
Staff member
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
139
#9
Ferren was never going to win any awards for being subtle. Unless there was a prize for "least subtle person to ever exist," maybe. Even if he'd managed to keep his discomfort from a stranger, Fergus of course picked up on it. And unlike a stranger, Fergus knew the reason.

"I trust Nathaniel's judgment on who would be best suited for such work," he began, "but if you'd like me to request certain individuals not come for your comfort, I will."

"No." His answer came a little too quickly, and Ferren winced. "I mean... that'd be dumb. And childish and unprofessional. No, we need the best people for the job. Doesn't matter how I feel about them."

The chances of Nathaniel sending Mara specifically were small, right? The Wardens had other people who could sneak around, and Mara hadn't been a Warden all that long. Though maybe that was a good reason to send her someplace where the problem was a lot more... normal. Just some opportunistic assholes trying to make waves. No darkspawn here. None that Ferren knew about, anyway.

It didn't matter. He was the Captain of the Guard, and he'd damn well act like it. He could deal with the rest on his own time.

"It won't be a problem," he assured the teyrn. "We need the extra eyes on this, and I'm not going t' turn anybody down for personal reasons."

By this point, Ferren had grown into the role enough that he knew Fergus trusted him to do what he said he was going to do. There was still that nagging itch in the back of his mind making him wonder if he'd handle it so well outside of a professional role, but he could maybe talk to Fergus about that some other time. If it even became an issue.

"Was there anything else y'wanted me to take care of as far as the south wall's concerned? I can give the rest o' my report if not, though nothing's much changed since last week."
 

Fergus Cousland

Teyrn of Highever
Staff member
Canon Character
Noble
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Posts
186
#10
"No." he said almost immediately, and Fergus watched him as he tried to recover from how quickly he uttered it. "I mean... that'd be dumb. And childish and unprofessional. No, we need the best people for the job. Doesn't matter how I feel about them."

Fergus smiled at him, but he was still concerned about it. However, despite being concerned, he wasn't going to push, so he only offered, "Alright. No special consideration then."

"It won't be a problem," he reiterated in a more confident tone. "We need the extra eyes on this, and I'm not going t' turn anybody down for personal reasons."

"I'm glad to hear it. I know you'll be a professional no matter who is sent," Fergus offered is own assurance in Ferren's ability. He'd been doing a good job, despite Cavagh's near constant ribbing. He'd need Tom to cool his heels soon, or he would have to step in to stop it. He thought Ferren could handle it, but he was getting tired of the irritated tone his Knight-Captain had at every meeting.

"Was there anything else y'wanted me to take care of as far as the south wall's concerned? I can give the rest o' my report if not, though nothing's much changed since last week." Ferren said after a moment, and Fergus shook his head.

"No, I think you've given me the pertinent information. We have a plan, we just need to get it implemented. Hire who you need, and let me know if you need more resources," Fergus straightened in his seat, but gave him a grin at the same time. "You're free to go, Ferren. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon for drinks."
 
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