Step Up [Complete]

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
Posts
35
Featured Thread #1
[[OOC: 5th Firstfall, morning, Nathaniel’s office]] @Nathaniel Howe
Siali still slightly associated being summoned anywhere with trouble. Being low in the pecking order of the Adders and then the Dragon’s Claws, being called to see the leader meant in some way, something had gone wrong. Even if it wasn’t her fault and she was being called in to fix it. The Wardens, while a far more formal arrangement generally, generally discussed anything non-confidential if they got an opportunity. And even if it wasn’t trouble exactly, it was usually unwelcome news. The last time she’d been called to Nathaniel’s office at the Keep, it had been to inform her she was being sent to Lothering for several months to train the militia. While she’d been fine to do it, she’d missed being around other Wardens and had been relieved when she was called back.

Although she felt she’d done a pretty good job of it, all told, given that by the time she left most of the local nests had been completely cleared out. And of the darkspawn beneath Denerim, even if she was still sporting a few stitches along the gouge marks on her back.

She had no idea why she’d been called for a formal meeting with Nathaniel, but she chose to respond to it as appropriately as she knew how. She wore her blues (freshly cleaned and mended and no longer smelling of tree sap, demon ichor or her own blood – she had a lot of respect for the washerwomen at the Keep), and turned up a minute before the appointed time, knocking on the door and waiting for Nathaniel to admit her before walking in.

She gave him a crossed-arm salute, not bothering to hide the curiosity on her face. She thought it was unlikely she was being sent out for another mission, given she was still just healing. “You wanted to see me, Commander?”
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
Noble
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172
#2
Being back at Vigil’s Keep after so long an absence took more adjustment than Nathaniel expected. The fortress was the home of both his families over the years - the Howes and the Grey Wardens - after all. Many new faces filled the halls, Varel having gone on a hiring spree in while Nathaniel was gone. The boy that took his horse was not one he recognized. The women that worked within the kitchens outside of Mrs. Humphrey were all new, much to the head’s cook displeasure. She was sure to give Nathaniel an earful about Varel and his decisions. Even the servants that brought him his bath water appeared new.

New names to learn. New faces to recognize. And, no one knew how to do anything, not to his preference. His bath water had been too tepid. Rex had not been fed the right mixture of grains and carrots. Even the girls in the kitchen sent up the wrong pies - tarts rather than meat pies supplied to Nathaniel on his first night back.

A frustrated sigh brushed against his lips as he peered down at the latest infraction, a venison stew filled with more mushrooms than meat. Mushrooms were something Nathaniel could tolerate but he did not prefer. He pushed the disappointing bowl aside at a knock upon his door.

Nathaniel had almost forgotten in all his irritation at his afternoon meal that he had sent for Siali. He had news to share with her he hoped she would find good news.

“Come in,” he called out before licking away the last of the stew of sadness from his lips.

Siali entered, wearing her Warden blues, quite the counter to Nathaniel who wore the clothing he customarily wore while at Vigil’s Keep, a simple black linen shirt and leather pants. He looked more nobleman than Warden-Commander but never felt it practical to sit about in his armor all day. That was of Philippe's many pieces of unsolicited advice he chose to ignore.

Siali crossed her arms and saluted Nathaniel, curiosity evident in her expression. “You wanted to see me, Commander?”

“I did,” Nathaniel confirmed, rising from his seat just long enough to motion to the other side of his desk and the seat opposite his. “I trust you are healing well?” Siali was one of two Grey Wardens injured during a mission in Denerim while Nathaniel was off causing trouble at the Circle Tower.

Her health was not why he called her here, though. Once she was settled in her seat, he got to the meat of the matter (a lesson he would need Mrs. Humphrey to teach her new girls). “You have been a Grey Warden for quite some time now, Siali. How do you feel you have performed as a warden?"
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
Posts
35
#3
Things had seemed a little…off, since the return to the Keep. While the previous day’s battle against the sylvans had kept her out of it long enough to be distracted from the changes, it had become apparent that there were a lot of new faces since she’d set out for Lothering. A number of the new staff pulled nervous faces when she addressed them directly, and one young maid had muffled a shriek when Siali had rounded a corner unexpectedly. Siali had accepted it all with a weary resignation, focusing on filling her belly, making sure she’d got all of the dead demon out from behind her ears and getting a proper rest. She’d even taken a nap earlier in the afternoon, something she hadn’t tried before. It had been pretty nice.

So while she was expecting trouble, she at least felt ready for it.

Nathaniel greeted her civilly by standing up when she entered, and gestured for her to sit. “I trust you are healing well?”

“Quickly enough.” Siali took a seat. “Yesterday added some more bruises, but none of those’re serious. Just got a bit mucky.” And treated as the plaything of a giant demon tree. No big deal.

Once she’d settled, Nathaniel sat as well. “You have been a Grey Warden for quite some time. How do you feel you have performed as a Warden?”

An evaluation? This was new. Siali just managed to resist the urge to shrug. “Well enough, I guess. I’ve killed darkspawn when they’ve popped up and I taught the militia in Lothering how to engage with them safely. And I’ve kept the secrets as I’m supposed to.” She’d never told anybody about the Joining, Aedan’s demon-god-baby thing, or any of the other parts of being a Warden that might turn people against them. “I like doing it, so I try hard. Why are you asking?”
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
Noble
Posts
172
#4
“Well enough, I guess,” Siali started in reply. "I’ve killed darkspawn when they’ve popped up and I taught the militia in Lothering how to engage with them safely. And I’ve kept the secrets as I’m supposed to.”

Siali was someone Nathaniel never worried about revealing secrets. There were others he had doubts about over the years, but Siali was never one. She threw herself into the life of a Grey Warden and had not looked back since her Joining.

She added, “I like doing it, so I try hard. Why are you asking?”

Nathaniel pushed his palms against his desk to edge his chair backward just enough for him to rise from his seat. With a long stride, he walked toward a small cart decorated with glass decanters. He reached for one of those decanters and poured a small measure of whiskey into two glasses.

She asked a legitimate question. “I wished to know if your assessment was the same as mine,” Nathaniel replied plainly. “It is.”

One drink for him and one for Siali, offering her the alcohol on the way back to the desk. Rather than take a seat behind his desk, though, Nathaniel propped himself against the edge and held his glass up in toast. “Congratulations. I am making you my second here at Vigil’s Keep. When I am away from Vigil’s Keep, you will be in charge of all Grey Warden business that comes here. Varel will see to the Arling, but you will see to Grey Warden matters."
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
Posts
35
#5
Nathaniel didn't answer her right away. Instead he stepped away from the desk and over to small cart she'd registered in the corner which held a number of decanters. Fancy alcohol, probably. The Commander started pouring out a golden-coloured one which she assumed was whisky into two decanters.

His standing up had also revealed the leather trousers he wore, and Siali felt a twinge of discomfort. Between the unusual (at least, as far as she was aware) clothing, and the alcohol, not to mention the unexpected nature of the meeting, she was not sure what Nathaniel was up to, and she refused to entertain the idea that this might be a seduction. For a start, neither of them had expressed any interest in the other, and for a second she didn't think Nathaniel would be quite so daft.

Then again, he'd been involved with Velanna, who could match Siali for a mood any day.

She should be able to pitch herself backwards in the chair, roll over her shoulders and be out of the door in seconds. Then they could avoid ever discussing it again. With that plan in place, she watched Nathaniel bring the drinks over with no attempt to hide her confusion.

"I wished to know if your assessment was the same as mine. It is." Nathaniel handed off a glass to her and then leaned against his desk, holding up his glass. "Congratulations. I am making you my second here at Vigil's Keep."

Siali nearly dropped the glass.

"When I am away from Vigil's Keep, you will be in charge of all Grey Warden business that comes here. Varel will see to the Arling, but you will see to Grey Warden matters."

"Uh." Probably not what Nathaniel wanted to hear from his new second. Siali was still processing. Sure, she'd been in charge of people - organising groups both within and outside of the Wardens, but never as anything more than a Warden herself. To buy herself a moment, she downed the drink, realising a fraction of a second too late that it was of a quality she wasn’t used to and was probably intended for sedate sipping rather than throwing back. With a huge effort she managed to limit her reaction to slightly watering eyes and a small cough as she got her breath back.

“Well. Good…thanks?” She turned the glass in her hands. “Sorry, I just – wasn’t expecting that. I’ll try not to let you down. But why me?”
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
Noble
Posts
172
#6
“Uh,” was all Siali managed for a moment. What had she expected he called her here for today? She swallowed down the entire contents of her glass following with a small cough.

All that Nathaniel watched with an impassive expression save the slight raise of his brows. His own glass tapped against his thigh; the urge to down his in a fashion similar to Siali’s resisted. He had no misgivings about the other wardens awareness of his over indulgence in whiskey. Knowing and seeing were two different things, however. He offered the drinks as the news he had to share was good and the type that merited a toast, nothing more.

“Well. Good…thanks?”
Siali played with the glass in her grasp, rolling it about her palms. “Sorry, I just – wasn’t expecting that. I’ll try not to let you down. But why me?”

Nathaniel leaned forward just enough to slide a single finger into Siali’s empty glass and tug it free from her hold. He offered his full glass as a replacement. She looked as if she needed it far more than he did at the moment.

“By your own admission, you’ve earned it,” he replied as he crossed his arms about his chest. “You’ve also shown a pragmatism that is not only important in Grey Warden leaders but required.” Some might deem the decisions made by the Grey Wardens required a certain moral flexibility, but Nathaniel did not see it that way. Theirs was a duty that could not be forsaken and that meant walking their own path, not one necessarily paved within white and black stone.

“You will also have the right of conscription,”
he added. Only those he trusted received such permission and he did trust Siali.
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
Posts
35
#7
Nathaniel was kind enough not to comment either on her less-than-stellar oratory skills or her spontaneously acquired drinking problem. He simply took her empty glass and traded it for his own, leaving Siali with a full drink that she knew to tackle at a more relaxed pace. She didn’t go straight into it, though, asking him why her. Without blowing her own horn, she could sort of see why? But she’d never really thought of herself as commanding material. For a lot of her life she’d lone-wolfed it.

Which had been pretty sodding miserable, now she came to think on it.

“By your own admission, you’ve earned it. You’ve also shown a pragmatism that is not only important in Grey Warden leaders but required.”

Siali accepted this with a nod. She’d thrown away any right to see the world in black and white the moment she first killed a person for money, with no regard as to whether they deserved it or not. While she’d admit her own biases – of which there were many mostly of the male persuasion – she knew that she’d not let it get in the way of doing what was best for the Wardens. They’d offered a better life and a chance to absolve herself, in a way. Even if there hadn’t been the taint in her blood, she’d have been with them to the end.

“You will also have the right of conscription.”

Siali reflected on this. Being able to conscript recruits was a big deal. It meant occasionally overlooking their pasts to see how they might be beneficial in future. Occasionally. No matter how good a fighter or tactical thinker a person might be, if they had ever forced themselves on anyone, she would put them down like an animal. Just…reasonably discreetly. “I’ll use it to the benefit of the Wardens.”

She took another sip of the whiskey, just as the effects of the first glass took its hold. She relaxed a little in her seat, and held the glass up, admiring the amber depths for a moment. It was far better than any whiskey she’d drunk before, and a pleasantly warm feeling sat in her belly. “Rules?” It was a question she’d asked when Nathaniel had first put her in charge of training the recruits, and with elevated powers it seemed like a good idea to establish if there was anything new. “I mean, I’m assuming don’t wage war on anybody who looked at a Warden sideways while you’re gone. But I’d want to run things so everything went smoothly for you to take back the reins when you came back.”

This was accompanied by a very faint smile. There was another warm feeling in her chest, that she didn’t think was caused by the liquor. She suspected it was pride.
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
Canon Character
Grey Warden
Noble
Posts
172
#8
“I’ll use it to the benefit of the Wardens.” Nathaniel had no doubt that Siali would use conscription in such a manner. She may have come to the wardens an assassin but that did not mean her without a code of honor.

Siali indulged in her second cup of whiskey and made herself more comfortable in her seat. The initial shock worn off, she swirled the whiskey about in her glass and watched the motion of the liquid for a pause before asking, “Rules? I mean, I’m assuming don’t wage war on anybody who looked at a Warden sideways while you’re gone. But I’d want to run things so everything went smoothly for you to take back the reins when you came back.”

Nathaniel’s fingers raked against the top of his head, lightly scratching at his scalp. “Yes, let us not wage more wars than we are already engaged in.” The tensions between the Chantry and the Grey Wardens certainly qualified as a war of sorts. Both sides engaged their battles against the other. Both sides had their wins and defeats; the Grey Wardens had with more wins in their column in Nathaniel’s opinion. He would not be so cocky as to openly state as much. Such invited a turn in fates and he recognized how easily the tides could turn.

He pushed away from his desk to retrieve the tumbler of whiskey from its table. “Use the good sense I know you equipped with you and you will do fine,” he replied with his return to the desk. The empty glass upon his desk refilled, he traded tumbler for glass and took a sip. “Varel will be sure to let you know he believes you’ve broken a rule. He is sure to tell me when he perceives such infractions.” Wryly, his mouth tugged only to be obscured seconds later behind the brim of his glass.

Nathaniel resumed his position against his desk, the glass set at his side, longer fingers casually curled about its width. “There are things you will need to be made aware of now. Things I expect you to keep between us.” Siali had kept those secrets asked of her thus far and given Nathaniel no reason to think she could not keep quiet what he was about to share. “As you know, we engage in trade with the dwarves of Orzammar through the tunnels reconstructed beneath Vigil’s Keep and Kal’Hirol. What you do not know is what that trade consists of.”

A finger tapped against his glass, his tongue thirsting for another taste of the whiskey that he resisted for now. “Lyrium that we supply to the Collective. It will be your responsibility to deal with agents when I am not here to do so myself."
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
Posts
35
#9
Nathaniel agreed that it was best not to drag the Wardens into further conflicts, outside of that required of them. Tensions between the Wardens and the Chantry were already high enough without being made worse because Siali happened to dislike templars.

He pushed away from the desk to retrieve his glass while Siali got a good way into her second serving, offering reassurance, of a sort. “Varel will be sure to let you know he believes you’ve broken a rule. He is sure to tell me when he perceives such infractions.”

There was a ghost of a smile, one Siali returned. She wasn’t sure what the seneschal was going to make of her appointment. She knew for a fact that she gave him the creeps, but somehow she didn’t think that would stop him from giving his opinion on her methods.

“There are things you will need to be made aware of now. Things I expect you to keep between us.”

More Warden secrets? Well, Siali wasn’t sure if anything could be more potentially explosive than Aedan’s literal god-child, and she’d kept that unspoken since she’d learned of it. She leaned forward, attentive.

“As you know, we engage in trade with the dwarves of Orzammar through the tunnels reconstructed beneath Vigil’s Keep and Kal’Hirol. What you do not know is what the trade consists of.”

Siali had assumed materials for explosives, masonry and metalworking. Nathaniel wouldn’t say that needed to stay secret, though, and intuition give her an inkling a second or so before the Commander confirmed it.
“Lyrium that we supply to the Collective. It will be your responsibility to deal with agents when I am not here to do so myself.”

Siali’s grip hardened on the glass. She chased away a drop of whiskey clinging to her lips, and then set the glass on the floor before straightening up, rigid. “With all due respect-” this was delivered without the usual sarcasm that accompanied those words – “I don’t see how helping the Collective, particularly with lyrium, aids the Wardens. In fact it seems a Maker-damn big risk to take when the Chantry already doesn’t like us and persecutes even our mages whenever they get a chance. Unless – is that why the Order got involved in the first place? As a slap in the face to the templars?”

It was considerably better worded than the what the fuck? that pushed to be said, but she might have just cost herself a promotion. Still, if this was an expected job for the Warden-Lieutenant now, she wanted to know the whys of their involvement. She wasn’t risking the entire Fereldan chapter with lyrium smuggling unless given a bloody good reason.
 

Nathaniel Howe

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Noble
Posts
172
#10
Nathaniel was not entirely sure how Siali was going to take the news that the Grey Wardens were engaged in the very dangerous lyrium trade.

Siali set her drink down and tightened her posture. “With all due respect I don’t see how helping the Collective, particularly withlyrium, aids the Wardens. In fact it seems a Maker-damn big risk to take when the Chantry already doesn’t like us and persecutes even our mages whenever they get a chance. Unless – is that why the Order got involved in the first place? As a slap in the face to the templars?”

Nathaniel scrubbed his hand against his chin. There was no denying the risk. Nathaniel kept those that knew of the endeavor to a minimum for a reason. He would not have even told Siali were it not for her promotion.

“Grey Wardens are supposed to be neutral. Unfortunately, the Chantry has made their position regarding the Fereldan Grey Wardens quite clear,” he began, scooping his glass off the desk filling his pause with a sip of a whiskey. “They wish us under their boot and I do not.” Nor did he believe that was the wish of any warden.

His shoulders rolled in a whisper of a shrug. “We must undermine them before they see us evicted from Ferelden once more.” Sardonic, his mouth twitched sidelong. “So yes, in a way, it is a slap in the face of the templars.”

The sarcasm seeped from his expression, something more serious taking hold, "But it is also for us, to strengthen our hold here in Ferelden. The coin will enable us to help those communities still ravaged by the Blight. The coin will help us build more compounds throughout Ferelden so that we remain a visible presence. We must remain in Ferelden and be more vigilant than ever. We do not know what the future may yet bring.” He stopped short of mentioning Aedan and his offspring. Nothing might come of Aedan and Morrigan’s child. Nathaniel would not find them unprepared, however, if something should happen.
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
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35
#11
Nathaniel conceded that the Grey Wardens were meant to be neutral on anything not related to darkspawn, but also pointed out that the Chantry had sort of forced their hand on that one. He didn’t need to explain further on that point. Siali’s dislike of the templars had been steadily growing the longer she was acquainted with mages, and the idea of being forced to have an escort everywhere made her chafe.

“They wish us under their boot and I do not. We must undermine them before they see us evicted from Ferelden once more.” Nathaniel’s mouth twitched. It sort of looked like a smile, although the expression didn’t get anywhere near his eyes. “So yes, in a way, it is a slap in the face of the templars.”

"But it is also for us, to strengthen our hold here in Ferelden. The coin will enable us to help those communities still ravaged by the Blight. The coin will help us build more compounds throughout Ferelden so that we remain a visible presence. We must remain in Ferelden and be more vigilant than ever. We do not know what the future may yet bring.”

Siali nodded, turning the potential of the plan over in her head. More Wardens sounded good. So did ensuring the Chantry couldn’t ever force them out of the country and potentially put hundreds of people in danger if there was ever a resurgence of darkspawn. The idea of actively smuggling lyrium, though…if they were caught, the Chantry would definitely get the Order expelled from the country. Or at least try. The king might resist the order, and then his refusal would be interpreted as an act against the Chantry and everything could go to shit fast.

Which meant if they were involved in this, they’d have to make sure there was no trace back to the Wardens. Coin would have to go through multiple parties before it found its way into their coffers. Hence the agents.

“Hrm. Well, there’s still multiple ways that could go wrong, but I’m in. I’ll handle agents as needed. And any complications that might pop up.”

She hadn’t been put to the test yet, but she knew that if she had to ensure somebody’s silence in order to protect the Wardens, she would. Murder was always going to be one card in her deck, it seemed.
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
Noble
Posts
172
#12
Siali nodded, accepting of what Nathaniel explained. “Hrm. Well, there’s still multiple ways that could go wrong, but I’m in. I’ll handle agents as needed. And any complications that might pop up.”

“There are many ways things could go wrong if we are not careful.” There was no point in denying that. All it would take was one person to unravel the tapestry of their dealings if they did not take the appropriate pre-cautions. Layers upon layers of separation would be needed. The right hand not knowing what the left might be engaged in. The risk was worth the gain, though.

“One agent you may deal with is a named named Ferdinand Winters.” Nathaniel could not remember if their paths crossed before and added, “You may or may not remember him. He served as a tutor to my daughter for a short time when she was in residence. Ferdinand’s reason for coming to Vigil’s Keep will be to tutor Grey Wardens.” Before he sent her to foster with Fergus. “I met him through his brother, Dristan. I know Dristan from my time in Kirkwall during the Blight. Dristan is currently a resident of Amaranthine.”

None of what he said needed to be shared but he gave Siali the information all the same.

“Ferdinand is someone that can be trusted in so much as we can trust anyone in these type of,” his hand lifted to aimlessly gesture, “things."
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
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#13
Nathaniel didn’t need to spell out the ways that this could spiral if just one thing went wrong. Siali didn’t use her imagination for much beyond strategizing, but it wouldn’t take much for this operation to give the Chantry the justification it wanted to curb the Warden’s influence and freedom even further. If not get rid of the order altogether. With a Blight newly passed, the next one predicted some hundreds of years from now, and with them having no knowledge of Aedan’s child or the use of the Joining, they could conceivably make the argument that there was no use for Wardens until the next Blight occurred. Let the people in two generations deal with it.

It was a gamble. But for an opportunity to poke the Chantry in the eye, Siali would play.

“One agent you may deal with is a named named Ferdinand Winters.” Siali didn’t recall him. He turned out to be an ex-tutor of Nathaniel’s daughter. “I met him through his brother, Dristran. I know Dristan from my time in Kirkwall during the Blight. Dristan is currently a resident of Amaranthine.”

Siali took notes in her head. If Nathaniel trusted them, she didn’t need to vet them herself, but she wanted to know everything about them regardless.

“Ferdinand is someone that can be trusted in so much as we can trust anyone in these type of things.”

“Hrm.” Siali thought for a moment, studying the contents of her whisky glass. “I’d like to meet Dristan as well as Ferdinand, if I can. I’d rather know their faces as well as their names.” It was far easier to work out if you’d been compromised if somebody other than the expected showed up, although most people involved in the clandestine preferred not to make themselves visible if they could avoid it.

She took another sip of her whisky. “So is there a long-term aim here? Or is it simply to shore up enough money that we can keep the Chantry off our backs for the foreseeable future?”
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
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Posts
172
#14
“Hrm.” Siali searched her thoughts, eyes focused upon her whiskey glass. “I’d like to meet Dristan as well as Ferdinand, if I can. I’d rather know their faces as well as their names.”

Nathaniel nodded. Nothing she asked was out of line and he appreciated the caution. “I’m sure something could be arranged. Though,” a brow ticked upward, “Dristan has nothing to do with all…” He let out a wry huff of air before continuing, “this.”

Siali indulged in another sip of the whiskey. “So is there a long-term aim here? Or is it simply to shore up enough money that we can keep the Chantry off our backs for the foreseeable future?”

He followed suit, allowing himself another small taste of his drink. “I would say creating a lasting foothold in Ferelden is a pretty long term reason.”

The dance would be a careful one, always needing to shadow the line of neutrality. The rewards were worth the effort in Nathaniel’s mind. Aedan never considered the long-term. He was too busy grousing about what he deserved and no longer had because of the Grey Wardens.

The First Warden would see to what Aedan deserved now.

His expression darkened slightly. The truth about Aedan was something he shared with only three others; one of which was dead. “There is something else.” A rise in rank meant this was a secret he would need to share with Siali as well. “Aedan is in the custody of the First Warden. When I traveled to Weisshaupt, it was to see him."
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
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35
#15
Nathaniel didn’t debate her need for caution. Siali liked to know the faces of the people she was working with. In the event of treachery, they could change their names, but faces were a lot more difficult, short of disfiguration, which most people preferred to avoid if they could. It made tracking them down easier. Rather than go into details about wanting to know them, she asked for the long-term aim.

“I would say creating a lasting foothold in Ferelden is a pretty long term reason.”

Siali nodded. With a Blight recently defeated, a lot of countries might feel like relaxing a bit about darkspawn. The Grey Wardens would eventually be considered almost obsolete. Which was pretty much what had happened last time, which made it all the more amazing that it had ended up being one of the shortest-lived Blights so far. With only two Wardens in the entire country, there was no way the archdemon should have been defeated so early on. It might have happened even earlier if there had been a proper contingent rather than the few that the Commander at the time had managed to scrape together.

“Works for me.”

Her whisky was drained, and she thought their conversation might be coming to a close – instead, Nathaniel’s gaze darkened again. “There is something else. Aedan is in the custody of the First Warden. When I travelled to Weisshaupt, it was to see him.”

Siali set down her glass on her knee, her expression mirroring Nathaniel’s. She had met Aedan a couple of times; once at her Joining, and once he had sparred with her at her request. He had been friendly, even despite her customary sharpness, and it had been a good bout. She’d come away with a decent opinion of the man, and given that was difficult enough to do in the first place, it had been utterly wrecked by the knowledge of what he’d done to avoid death.

“I take it he did not accept his reasons for imprisonment. Does the First Warden know everything, now?”
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
Noble
Posts
172
#16
Siali’s expression mimicked Nathaniel’s. The subject of Aedan was no happy topic. “I take it he did not accept his reasons for imprisonment. Does the First Warden know everything, now?”

Unbidden, a wry snort creased Nathaniel’s lips. When had Aedan accepted anything? “No, he did not. And seeing as I am the one that told the First Warden where to find him—“ He allowed Siali to piece the rest together herself as he let his words trail off with a shrug.

“She is aware of the magnitude of Aedan’s transgressions. Yes,” he replied. “She has known for some time. Only my intervention has kept him from answering her questions. Though the cell does little to make him speak now. He is as insufferable as ever. Speaking of what he is owed rather than what he has done.” Contempt barbed Nathaniel’s tone. He had viewed Aedan as his friend once; no longer did Nathaniel believe such falsehoods.

Aedan had been no one’s friend. Not truly. He had not been there for the Grey Wardens when they needed him. He had not been there for Nathaniel. He had not been there for Fergus. Aedan was only there for Aedan. That would never change.

The remains of his glass tossed back, Nathaniel set the empty glass upon the desk at his side. “I doubt we will see him ever again.” And for that, he would not be sad.

Enough of Aedan, though. He cleared his throat as if the gesture was enough to clear away the unpleasantness of the Hero. “Do you have any other questions for me?"
 

Siali Arnith

Grey Warden
Grey Warden
Posts
35
#17
Aedan was a spoiled noble’s brat until the end, it seemed. Not that it was his end right now, necessarily, but Siali didn’t doubt that would come eventually. Hero of Ferelden he might have been, once, but he’d traded with literal demons to secure his own life, and with no sign of repenting there was probably little reason to keep him around. Except as an example, maybe.

The First Warden was aware of everything. That was something, at least. Siali had felt uncomfortable about the idea of their brothers and sisters in other countries being unaware of the existence of the god-baby – would it even be a baby by now? Probably a toddler, still utterly innocent, trapping the soul of something unspeakably ancient and probably likely to suffer for serving as its prison at some point. Not something a child should have to bear.

Nathaniel tossed the remainder of his glass back. Siali followed suit, her throat now suitably numb to the burn that she didn’t choke again. “I doubt we will ever see him again.”

Siali was vaguely aware of the fact that Nathaniel and Aedan had been compatriots once – maybe not so strong as friends, but allies with each other. She saw no acknowledgement of that in him now, and she nodded, once, in response. “And good riddance to that.”

That was the end of their conversation involving Aedan Cousland. Siali knew that others would probably ask her questions about him, in the weeks and months to come, and she would give the same answer she’d given this last year or more. No idea. But best to leave the subject of him alone.

“Do you have any other questions for me?”

“Likely a hundred or more in the days coming up, while I’m learning my way around this Lieutenant stuff. But for the moment, no.” She set the glass on the arm of her chair, fingertips resting on the edge. She didn’t take the raise of rank as her due; she was a Warden through and through, and it didn’t matter in what capacity she served them, so long as she did. The rest, she would figure out as she would go. “Thank you, Nathaniel. I won’t disappoint you.”

A promise she had every intention of keeping.
 
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