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The Denerim Literary Society [Complete]

Conrad Krause

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#1
((25 Kingsway, 35 Dragon; mid-morning; @Nathaniel Howe ))

Conrad entered the bookstore cautiously, very nearly as hesitant as when he had stepped across the threshold of the Chantry, nearly a week earlier. The bookshops in Hossberg had been as off limits as the houses of worship, but his continued acceptance in the Denerim Chantry had emboldened him sufficiently to try his luck at The Omnibus, as it was known.

The clerk glanced at him with a bit more than casual curiosity, but made no protest. Conrad was certain that he looked nothing like the average customer of the establishment, and the fact that he couldn't help but stare was probably not helping. His father had owned a dozen tomes on various aspects of healing, most of them passed down by his own great-grandfather, plus a few more on other subjects collected over the years. Never had he seen so many books in one place, though.

“May I help you?” The clerk's words were polite, but his expression was frankly dubious.

“No, thank you,” Conrad replied, his eyes scanning the titles written on binding of leather, cloth or paper. He could not afford to spend much, but he hoped to find a history of Ferelden, perhaps one that included the fifth Blight.

One caught his eye: Fifty Shades of Grey Warden. A history of the Fereldan order, perhaps? Intrigued, he picked it up and opened it -

What in the Fade …?

His eye widened as he scanned the purple prose, unable to credit what his vision was showing him. The ones who had saved Ferelden: the Hero, Aedan Cousland; the sodding King, other names that he did not know, all made sport of in the most vulgar manner. Nor was the writing the worst of it: the illustrations were grossly exaggerated: the genitals of the men looking better suited to horses, the breasts of the women impossibly large, the anatomy completely inaccurate.

Appalled, he flipped back to the cover to find the author. Tethras? He let out a sound of disgust. One of the magistrates, knowing his fondness for books, had once gifted him with a copy of the first installment of 'Swords and Shields'. He had managed to read ten pages before setting it aside. It had been left to gather dust, and had been the only one of the books that he had set ablaze in the house that had truly deserved to be burned.

It wasn't the smut. He had heard far worse, in far more coarse language, but these were Wardens that were being mocked for the sake of titillation! He lifted his head, his glare falling on the clerk, who suddenly looked much more apprehensive.

“You peddle this filth?” he rumbled, anger making his accent more pronounced. “Do you not know that it is because of the courage of the Grey Wardens that your kingdom is not awash in darkspawn?”
 
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Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
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#2
Bookstores were a particular weakness for Nathaniel. Books were one of the few pleasures he had as a youth. In a book, a person could escape, could become someone else. Though books, a person could learn to better themselves. It was a love his father actually encouraged. Each year upon his nameday, Nathaniel was gifted a new book from his father. Those books even found him on his nameday when he was in living in the Free Marches.

The Omnibus was a newer bookstore in Denerim and one Nathaniel and not visited before. Rare free time afforded him the opportunity to visit the shop and Nathaniel took full advantage. Hundreds of books lined shelves that went floor to ceiling in the shop. The selection, at least a cursory glance, appeared far better than the last bookshop Nathaniel visited in Denerim, The Write Thing.

Before Nathaniel could truly enjoy his visit, though, there was one book in particular he needed to search out. The habit was a self-defeating one, he knew. But each time he visited a bookstore, he bought every copy available of 50 Shades of Grey Warden. The more he bought, the more copies were published. Logically, he acknowledged this. Still, he felt the need to purchase the books all the same to keep the book off the shelf.

He rounded a corner in the shop, walking intently about a large bookcase to the section he suspected such a book might be stored. The book was no longer on the shelf though and instead was in the possession of a man that could dwarf even Carver.

“You peddle this filth?” The man asked, his voice thick with anger. “Do you not know that it is because of the courage of the Grey Wardens that your kingdom is not awash in darkspawn?”

The accent was one Nathaniel would not have recognized until recently. An Anders. The thought immediate drew a stark frown upon his lips. Anders. Any thought or mention of the Anders people would always bring up memories of Anders. Nathaniel tamped down the impending malaise that set in at thoughts of his dead friend with a steeling breath and walked toward the large sized man.

“The man that wrote it believes himself a literary genius,” Nathaniel noted, head flicking toward the book.
 

Conrad Krause

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#3
The clerk's demeanor shifted from apprehensive to guilty to defensive at Conrad's words. “It's one of our bestsellers,” he protested, adding spitefully, “I doubt you can read one word out of three, anyway.”

With a withering look, Conrad flipped the book open to a random page, picking an early paragraph that was less lurid. “Nathaniel Howe. Hair as dark as a raven's feather. Blue eyes that smoldered with icy heat. A physique further chiseled with each pierce of his arrow. He was not only a Grey Warden, but also a man with a past he could not escape. He was a man that wished to show the world, his nose had other uses than to mark him as a Howe. And he would prove it to her, Bryce Cousland's long lost daughter, Persephone. Theirs was a forbidden love that would no longer be denied.” He read with deliberate precision, his voice heavy with scorn, then flipped the book closed once more. “That is, I believe, more than three words.”

“The man that wrote it believes himself a literary genius.”

Conrad glanced briefly toward the man who had offered the sardonic comment. “Having read another work of his, I would consider that the grossest of misstatements.” Another glance, his gaze taking in the gryphons on the front of the man's blue and grey uniform, and Conrad's eye widened. “I apologize that you heard that, ser,” he sighed. “Your order deserves far more respect.” He dumped the book back onto the shelf. “Would you know of another bookstore in the city?” This place would not get a copper of his money.

“They sell it, too,” the clerk spoke up, now looking nervously at the Warden.

“But perhaps they will know how to treat a customer,” Conrad shot back, striding out of the shop.
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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#4
“It's one of our bestsellers,” the shopkeep proclaimed, then added rudely, “I doubt you can read one word out of three, anyway.”

Apparently not one to be proven wrong, the large man flipped open the book and picked the only page Nathaniel did not want ever read aloud, to read… aloud. “Nathaniel Howe. Hair as dark as a raven's feather. Blue eyes that smoldered with icy heat. A physique further chiseled with each pierce of his arrow. He was not only a Grey Warden, but also a man with a past he could not escape. He was a man that wished to show the world, his nose had other uses than to mark him as a Howe. And he would prove it to her, Bryce Cousland's long lost daughter, Persephone. Theirs was a forbidden love that would no longer be denied.” He capped off his read with a snide retort, “That is, I believe, more than three words.”

Not matter the eloquence of the read, each word grated upon Nathaniel’s mood. As if his nose had such a use. The idea was, frankly, preposterous as was much of the content of the book. Cauthrien and her vibrating Summer Sword. Alistair and his cheese.

The only comment Nathaniel could make was Varric Tethras thinking himself a master of prose.

The narrator of the hour looked to Nathaniel, “Having read another work of his, I would consider that the grossest of misstatements.” His eyes widened as he made note of Nathaniel’s uniform. “I apologize that you heard that, ser,” he sighed. “Your order deserves far more respect.” Unceremoniously, Conrad shoved the book back upon the shelf. “Would you know of another bookstore in the city?”

“They sell it, too,” the clerk offered before casting a wary glance to Nathaniel.

“But perhaps they will know how to treat a customer,” Conrad quipped without hesitation and started to make his way out of the shop.

Nathaniel claimed the book from the shelf and quickly offered some coin to the clerk. “Don’t order any more of these,” he near barked for all the good he thought it would do. The tactic had not worked at the Write Thing.

Book in hand, he also left the store, close on the heels of the rather disgusted Anders man. He cleared his throat, trying to get the man’s attention. “If you wish to find the other book shop, I can show you where it is located." A bit awkwardly, book tucked under his arm, Nathaniel offered his hand toward the man. "You actually just read some of my passage. Nathaniel Howe," he introduced himself.
 

Conrad Krause

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#5
Conrad strode away from the shop, baffled indignation warring with embarrassment. Were memories here truly so short that Grey Wardens had become fair game for such mockery? And he had inadvertently contributed to it, letting that fool of a clerk goad his pride. What did it matter if the oaf believed him illiterate?

A discreet clearing of a throat called his attention to the fact that the Warden had also left the store and caught up with him. “If you wish to find the other book shop, I can show you where it is located,” he offered.

“I would be most grateful,” Conrad replied.

Tucking the book that he carried tightly beneath his arm, the Warden offered his hand. “You actually just read some of my passage,” he informed Conrad dryly. “Nathaniel Howe.”

Conrad gaped at him, taking in the black hair and prominent nose, then groaned, clapping one hand to his head. Dummkopf, he muttered to himself before shaking the proffered hand. “Then I am doubly sorry that you were present for that, Warden Howe. I should not have allowed the man to goad me. Perhaps you will allow me to buy you a late breakfast as an apology?”

Glancing down, he realized just what book the Warden carried and blinked. "You bought that swill?" he asked in disbelief.
 

Nathaniel Howe

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#6
The man accepted Nathaniel offer to accompany him to the other bookstore. When Nathaniel introduced himself, the man stare for a pause before letting out a frustrated sound with the slap of his hand against his head.Dummkopf,” he murmured seconds before shaking Nathaniel’s hand in return. “Then I am doubly sorry that you were present for that, Warden Howe. I should not have allowed the man to goad me. Perhaps you will allow me to buy you a late breakfast as an apology?”

Nathaniel’s brief time in at Weisshaupt afforded him the opportunity to learn some Anders. He shook his head. “There is no reason to apologize. You had no way of knowing who I am.” A Fereldan Nathaniel might expect to recognize him. Someone from the Anderfels, though? No. That hardly made the man an idiot.

"You bought that swill?”
Conrad asked, surprised.

With the sweep of his hand, Nathaniel motioned for them to begin moving in a particular direction. The store was not too far away. “I make it a habit to buy all copies of the book I find to keep them off the shelves.” A corner of his mouth quirked dryly. “They make good kindling for the fires at the compound.” He was not a believer in burning books. For this particular tome, however, he made an exception.

His head tilted to get a better view of the man walking in step with him. Nathaniel was not a small man but he was easily dwarfed by Conrad. “I’m sorry. I did not catch your name."
 

Conrad Krause

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#7
“There is no reason to apologize,” Warden Howe told him graciously. “You had no way of knowing who I am.”

“No,” Conrad agreed, sighing heavily, “but to read that rubbish aloud, just to prove that I could … it was prideful.” And nothing that his father would have approved of. He could see Johann's expression in his mind; the man who punished so many had never raised a hand to his children, but his look of disappointment had been more than enough chastisement for his son.

That the man had bought the book surprised Conrad, but his reasoning proved sound. “I make it a habit to buy all copies of the book I find to keep them off the shelves,” he said with a wry smile, gesturing in a direction that Conrad obligingly followed. “They make good kindling for the fires at the compound.”

Conrad snorted. “Aye, I put his other work to similar purpose. Swords and Shields, I believe the name was.” Along with numerous other tomes that had not been deserving of such a fate. So much knowledge lost …

He was drawn out of his regretful musing by the Warden's voice. “I’m sorry. I did not catch your name."

“That would be because I have evidently left my manners in the same place as my brain, and did not offer it,” he replied ruefully, shaking his head at his forgetfulness. “Conrad Krause.”
 

Nathaniel Howe

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#8
“That would be because I have evidently left my manners in the same place as my brain, and did not offer it,” Conrad offered with a shake of the head. “Conrad Krause.”

The name was not on Nathaniel knew, but why would he? His time in the Anderfels was brief and what time he did spend there certainly was not spent getting to know the people of the country outside of the Grey Wardens that resided there.

The smell of cooking meat wafted in the air as they strode by Wagner’s Meats. The scent was enough to make Nathaniel’s stomach rumble. Most anything could given the taint in his blood. This particular meat-on-a-stick was especially at effective, though. Wagner, the proprietor, tipped his chin toward Nathaniel in a polite greeting.

Nathaniel returned the gesture in kind before looking back or more precisely up at Conrad. “You are from the Anderfels,” he noted, no real question there. The accent made that much evident as did the reverence for the Grey Wardens. Those few Anders Nathaniel did meet while in the Anderfels, held a great deal of respect for the Grey Wardens. No other people understood the duty and purpose of the Grey Wardens better than the Anders.

“Are you new to Denerim?” Small-talk was not something Nathaniel particularly enjoyed, preferring silence rather than filling empty air with unnecessary words. That did not mean him incapable, however.
 

Conrad Krause

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#9
Though the Warden had declined his offer of a meal, Conrad's ears picked up a faint gurgling from the general vicinity of the man's midsection as they passed by a shop of the name of Wagner's Meats, from which emanated a particularly savory scent.

Warden Howe exchanged nods with the proprietor, then looked up at Conrad. “You are from the Anderfels,” he observed.

“I am,” Conrad confirmed. “You are one of few to recognize that; most seem content that I am not Orlesian.” The Orlesian occupation and the rebellion that had ended it were still frequent topics of conversation among the older patrons of the Red Kettle.

“Are you new to Denerim?”
he wanted to know.

“Aye. Earlier this month, in fact.” Conrad turned to study the shop, and the stall outside that offered skewered meats cooked over glowing coals contained in a broad and low iron pan with a grillwork on top to hold the meat close to the coals. Fat sizzled as it dripped from the skewers onto the coals, and it did smell good.

“I have not sampled this place's wares yet,” he went on. “Would you care for something?” Stepping up to the stall, he addressed the vendor. “One please, and whatever Warden Howe would like, as well.”

“Warden-Commander Howe,” the man corrected him.

Conrad gave Nathaniel a startled look, but recovered. “Whatever Warden-Commander Howe would like, then,” he amended calmly. Clearly, the Warden-Commander was not a man puffed up with his own importance, but to Conrad, that made him even more worthy of respect.
 

Nathaniel Howe

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Grey Warden
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#10
“Aye. Earlier this month, in fact.” Conrad stalled their advance, his eyes and nose drawn towards the majesty that was Wagner’s meats. “I have not sampled this place's wares yet,” he noted. “Would you care for something?” Meat apparently was on the menu after all. Conrad requested of Wagner, “One please, and whatever Warden Howe would like, as well.”

“Warden-Commander Howe,” Wagner corrected Conrad. Title was not important to Nathaniel, not in a setting like this. He had been willing to let the slip go when Conrad addressed him merely as Warden earlier. Wagner, apparently, was not.

The correction was enough to bring a shocked look to Conrad’s expression, something Nathaniel had hoped to avoid truthfully. With his titles often came a change in attitude. False deference. Unearned awe. None of which Nathaniel cared for. “Whatever Warden-Commander Howe would like, then,” Conrad said, altering his previous request.

“Two, Wagner,” Nathaniel ordered, holding up two fingers. The man knew what Nathaniel preferred. Wagner nodded and went about preparing their orders returning a short moment later with three skewers of meat.

Nathaniel took his two, nodding in thanks to the merchant. “Thank you,” he said, eyes darting between the two men to focus upon Conrad. “I visit this cart often. The meat is quite good.” Or so the anticipatory rumble of his stomach implied.

“I have just returned from the Anderfels myself,” Nathaniel informed just before taking a bite of the lamb. Salty and so tender, he let out a gratified sound as he bit down and swallowed. “What is it you to do, Conrad?” The man was obviously not a Grey Warden.
 

Conrad Krause

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#11
“Two, Wagner,” the Warden-Commander instructed the vendor, showing neither gratification nor annoyance at having his proper rank used. Wagner complied, handing two skewers to Nathaniel and one to Conrad, who thanked and paid him, accepting his own.

“Thank you,” Warden-Commander Howe told him. “I visit this cart often. The meat is quite good.”

Conrad tore off a bite, chewing slowly, savoring the juices and the delicate seasonings that perfectly enhanced the flavor of the meat. “It is,” he agreed after swallowing.

“I have just returned from the Anderfels myself,” he told him just before taking a bite of his own snack, a contented noise escaping him.

“Wiesshaupt?”
Conrad guessed. Surely that would be the destination for any Grey Warden in the Anderfels, but he could not but ask the question that rose in him. “Did you spend any time in Hossberg, by chance? It has been many months since I had news.” Not since he had left, in fact. Did the apostate-hunting hysteria still rage through the city like wildfire, or had it finally spilled sufficient blood – innocent and guilty alike – to quench it?

“What is you to do, Conrad?” the Warden-Commander asked him.

Conrad chewed, swallowed – it really was quite good. “I am a healer,” he said simply. The longer story he would tell another time, if another time presented itself, but having resolved to admit the truth of his past to the Teyrn, he did not want rumors to reach his ears before he had the chance to do so; for now, he would tell no one else. Even the promise of an end to the half-truths had been a weight off his heart, and he went on now without hesitation. “I hope to make a place for myself here, in Denerim. The Blight seems to have cost the city many healers.”
 

Nathaniel Howe

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#12
“Wiesshaupt?” Conrad asked. “Did you spend any time in Hossberg, by chance? It has been many months since I had news.”

Hossberg had been a place Nathaniel avoided during his travels in the Anderfels. The chances of him being drawn into the war against apostates within the city was slim; he was not an Anders, after all. But he preferred not to take the risk. If he would not conscript apostates in Ferelden, he most certainly would not in another country.

Nathaniel shook his head, “No, I did not go to Hossberg. I am sorry. Unfortunately, I spent little time in the country outside of my visit to Weisshaupt.” The visit had not been a social one, after all. Further details of his journey, he did not share with Conrad, though, and instead steered the conversation toward Conrad’s profession.

Conrad swallowed down a bit more of his mid-morning meal. “I am a healer,” he replied. “I hope to make a place for myself here, in Denerim. The Blight seems to have cost the city many healers.”

A healer? The response drew the arch of Nathaniel’s brow. Of the many different answers Conrad could have given, healer was one Nathaniel never considered. A mercenary, a guard, a blacksmith, or even a farmer. All were professions someone of Conrad’s size would excel at. Healers tended to be built more like…Anders. Most healers Nathaniel knew shared more than just their physically slight build with Anders; they were also mages. Was that why Conrad asked of Hossberg? Was he an apostate on the run? If he was, Nathaniel did not want to know. Better to remain clueless about such things then be faced with a decision he would prefer not to make.

“The Blight cost the city a great many things,” he said, slightly amending Conrad’s statement. There was hardly a family in Ferelden that had not been touched with loss in some way thanks to the Blight or Nathaniel's father. “What type of healing to you practice?”
 

Conrad Krause

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#13
“No, I did not go to Hossberg,” Warden-Commander Howe said, shaking his head. “I am sorry. Unfortunately, I spent little time in the country outside of my visit to Weisshaupt.”

“Understandable,” Conrad replied, a bit disappointed, but only a bit. There was no one left in Hossberg for him to worry about, after all. “The Anderfels are hardly the place one goes for sightseeing, unless you seek dust or darkspawn, and you have likely seen your fill of the latter. The Maker knows I have.” His first encounter had been more than enough, but it had unfortunately been far from his last. “Do they still trouble this land?”

The man reacted with mild but visible surprise on learning that Conrad was a healer, far from the first time that he had garnered such a response. From his size, most folk assumed that he must be a warrior, and a brute, at that. Ironic that the eyepatch and scar that added substantially to this misconception had resulted from his ineptness in battle.

“The Blight cost the city a great many things,” the Warden-Commander corrected his observation as to the lack of healers in Denerim. There was no censure in his tone, but Conrad nodded his acknowledgment. “What type of healing to you practice?” he asked.

The question was an odd one, and Conrad took a moment to ponder his answer. “The type that works,” he answered simply, though not without a touch of pride. “My father, and his fathers before him, gathered knowledge from across Thedas: surgical techniques from old Tevinter, the herbcraft of the Dalish. They learned what worked the best, improved upon it when they could, and passed their knowledge to their sons. To me.” He would need a son of his own someday, or a daughter, to pass his own knowledge to, but all things in the Maker's time. He had always been content with the marriage that had been arranged for him, trusting that he and Hannah would grow to love each other as his parents had. The notion of wooing a woman in this new land was a daunting one, but he should not even consider it until he had established himself to the point that he could support a family, so he did not worry overmuch on it as yet.
 

Nathaniel Howe

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#14
“Understandable,” Conrad answered regarding Hossberg. “The Anderfels are hardly the place one goes for sightseeing, unless you seek dust or darkspawn, and you have likely seen your fill of the latter. The Maker knows I have. Do they still trouble this land?”

Nathaniel had quite seen his fill of the dust of the Anderfels for some time as well, but he kept such thoughts to himself. Insulting a person’s native home was not always a good way to facilitate conversation. “They do from time to time,” Nathaniel replied.“Nothing such as the Blight or what is seen in the Anderfels, but we still see activity."

The conversation drifted toward Conrad and the type of healing he engaged in.

A pensive quiet fell as Conrad considered his answer. Nathaniel filled the gap in their talking with a few more bites of the meat, finishing off his first stick. When Conrad finally did he speak, he said simply, “The type that works. My father, and his fathers before him, gathered knowledge from across Thedas: surgical techniques from old Tevinter, the herbcraft of the Dalish. They learned what worked the best, improved upon it when they could, and passed their knowledge to their sons. To me.”

A practical type of healing then and nothing that implied magic. Nathaniel nodded at the response. “There are many that could use such skills.” A good healer was worth their weight in gold. For someone like Conrad, that potentially meant a good amount of coin at that. “Have you made any inroads in finding a place to practice your arts?” Even with the loss of Anders, the Grey Wardens were not in need of such a healer, having an abundance of mages with healing magic.

Most in Ferelden were not gifted with such a surplus of healing talent, however, and Nathaniel had doubt the Chantry would be as generous as she had been in the past lending out her healing mages. Only the richest and most influential in Ferelden would benefit from such a privilege. This made it all the more important for Nathaniel’s plans to be put into place.

But those were his problems and not at all Conrad’s. He looked to the man and patiently awaited his response.
 

Conrad Krause

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#15
“They do from time to time,” the Warden-Commander answered his question regarding lingering darkspawn incursions. “Nothing such as the Blight or what is seen in the Anderfels, but we still see activity."

Conrad nodded, taking another bite of the lamb. It was to be expected, so soon after the end of a Blight, even one as short as this one had been. “How many Grey Wardens are in Ferelden now?” he asked, “And why were there so few when the Blight began?” The notion that two Wardens had killed the Archdemon was only slightly more incredible to him than the idea that there had only been two to see to the task in the first place.

Talk turned to his healing, and Howe listened patiently as he spoke of his family's history. “There are many that could use such skills,” he observed. “Have you made any inroads in finding a place to practice your arts?”

“A bit,” Conrad replied. The Teyrn's offer to him would not be discussed until the man had been given the opportunity to reconsider it in light of the truth. “It will take time. I must demonstrate my skill and earn trust. Some folk seem cautious because I am a foreigner, but to most, it seems enough that I am not Orlesian. For now, I carry a pack with my supplies and offer my assistance when I see the need. Eventually, I hope to open a small clinic, but that will wait for now.” He shrugged, unconcerned. "I have nothing but time." No place else to be, no one to answer to. It felt odd at times, but he could not say that he minded.
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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#16
Conrad nodded and asked, “How many Grey Wardens are in Ferelden now? And why were there so few when the Blight began?”

The questions were innocent enough even if one was a bit loaded. The exact number of wardens in Ferelden was no guarded secret and easy enough to suss out were a person so inspired. He answered, “Twenty or so.” No a big number but certainly more than during the Blight.

Nathaniel continued, “There was,” he smiled tightly, “disbelief as to the urgency of the situation by those ruling Ferelden and other wardens were not allowed entry into the country.” A diplomatic response that only brushed the edge of the full truth.

No wishing to delve into subject matter that might lead to talk of his father, Nathaniel steered to conversation back to Conrad and his healing skills. He asked the man of his success in finding a place to practice his healing.

“A bit,” Conrad answered. “It will take time. I must demonstrate my skill and earn trust. Some folk seem cautious because I am a foreigner, but to most, it seems enough that I am not Orlesian. For now, I carry a pack with my supplies and offer my assistance when I see the need. Eventually, I hope to open a small clinic, but that will wait for now.” He rolled a shrug, seemingly unconcerned. "I have nothing but time.”

Nathaniel had to appreciate Conrad’s calmness of mind. To take things so casually was something Nathaniel had never been able to do. His father’s influence, he supposed. A plan was always required. A path clearly seen ahead.

He nodded. “The people of Ferelden have had a rather storied history with foreigners.” A smirk cornered his mouth, “But yes, not being Orlesian is a definite advantage you possess.” His size might scare away some, but Nathaniel left that unsaid.

The last bits of meat upon Nathaniel’s second serving finished, he discarded the wooden skewers. “Shall we to the book shop now?”
 

Conrad Krause

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#17
“Twenty or so,” was the Warden-Commander's laconic response when asked of current numbers, and Conrad nearly choked on the bite of meat that he was swallowing.

“So few?”
he exclaimed when he could speak again, staring at the man in awe. He did not know the exact number at Wiesshaupt, but there were hundreds. Hundreds. “Surely the Thaw is not yet ended. Has Wiesshaupt not offered to send reinforcements?”

Nathaniel's smile was devoid of humor. “There was disbelief as to the urgency of the situation by those ruling Ferelden and other wardens were not allowed entry into the country.”

Conrad could only shake his head in disbelief. “Not even the King would challenge the Grey Wardens in the Anderfels if they said a Blight was imminent,” he growled, wondering what sort of fool had ruled here before. “Your Warden-King … he was not the ruler when the Blight began.” It was not a question; no Grey Warden would have kept the order from responding to a Blight with their full might. “Did your Landsmeet … vote on him?” The entire concept still baffled him, though in this case, they had likely made a wise choice.

His comment about not being Orlesian drew a quirk of a smile from the Warden-Commander. “The people of Ferelden have had a rather storied history with foreigners,” he observed dryly. “But yes, not being Orlesian is a definite advantage you possess.”

Both of his sticks were bare, and he tossed them away. “Shall we to the book shop now?”

“Of course.” Conrad hurriedly finished his own snack, making a note of the vendor's location in his mind. “I would like to learn of Ferelden's history; would you be able to recommend a book?” If this was to be his home, he should know more of it.
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
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Grey Warden
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#18
“Not even the King would challenge the Grey Wardens in the Anderfels if they said a Blight was imminent,” Conrad protested. “Your Warden-King … he was not the ruler when the Blight began. Did your Landsmeet … vote on him?”

“Ferelden is very much not the Anderfels,” Nathaniel offered with a rueful twist of the lips. “I would also ask you do not refer to the king as Warden-King. Many would find offense in the term and prefer to forget his Majesty’s warden past. To be reminded of it…” His smile faded, “would cause complications.”

Warden-King had other implications that Nathaniel did not wish to get into with Conrad. Alistair was a member of the order no longer, but if he was seen as Warden-King, that separation that Nathaniel pressed upon the King might become increasingly difficult to maintain.

Nathaniel shifted the subject toward Conrad’s not being Orlesian as a boon and then asked if Conrad was ready to visit the book shop.

“Of course.” Conrad finished off the last of his meat. “I would like to learn of Ferelden's history; would you be able to recommend a book?”

Nathaniel’s head dipped into a nod. “I would be happy to.” Non-fiction tomes were his favorite.

The book shop not far away, the pair made it there rather quickly. A small bell over the door rang as Nathaniel and Conrad entered the shop. The owner, Milton Rosh, stood behind the counter and greeted Nathaniel with a respectful nod before dipping beneath the counter. When he re-emerged, he held two copies of 50 Shades of Grey Warden and set them atop the counter.

To the side and to Conrad, Nathaniel said, “He is always sure to have copies ready for me.” Sarcasm edged his tone, “I am his best customer or so he tells me."
 

Conrad Krause

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#19
“Ferelden is very much not the Anderfels,” the Warden-Commander informed him tersely. “I would also ask you do not refer to the king as Warden-King. Many would find offense in the term and prefer to forget his Majesty’s warden past. To be reminded of it…” His mien grew pensive, “would cause complications.”

“As you wish,” Conrad agreed readily, “and I apologize if I spoke inappropriately.” He considered the other man, weighing his next words cautiously. “Many folk here are grateful for what the Grey Wardens have done for them, but others seem eager to forget the Blight and everything to do with it. They do not realize that the courage of the Grey Wardens is the reason they have the luxury to do so. You have been to the Anderfels; you know how it is there. If not for the Wardens, the darkspawn would reign unchallenged. Fereldans do not realize how fortunate they are that the Blight was ended so swiftly.”

Howe readily agreed to assist him in finding a book on Fereldan history, and they entered the shop, where the proprietor immediately presented the Warden-Commander with two copies of the wretched tome.

“He is always sure to have copies ready for me,” he told Conrad, his tone heavy with irony. “I am his best customer or so he tells me."

“As opposed to simply not bringing in more copies of this rubbish?” Conrad inquired, glowering at the clerk, who at least had the decency to look ashamed. Shaking his head in disgust, Conrad turned his back on the man and studied the contents of the shelves.
 

Nathaniel Howe

Warden Commander of Ferelden
Canon Character
Noble
Grey Warden
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#20
“As you wish,” Conrad agreed, “and I apologize if I spoke inappropriately.” He paused briefly, regarding Nathaniel before speaking once more. “Many folk here are grateful for what the Grey Wardens have done for them, but others seem eager to forget the Blight and everything to do with it. They do not realize that the courage of the Grey Wardens is the reason they have the luxury to do so. You have been to the Anderfels; you know how it is there. If not for the Wardens, the darkspawn would reign unchallenged. Fereldans do not realize how fortunate they are that the Blight was ended so swiftly.”

The courage of Grey Wardens and the Blight. Bitterness threatened to creep into Nathaniel’s manner and he bit it back. Better people like Conrad believed such falsehoods. That was a way of thinking Nathaniel needed to encourage not discourage no matter what he deemed the truth. If the world knew just what courage Aedan showed atop Fort Drakon, Nathaniel doubted the Grey Wardens would continue to be quite so revered. How could they?

Nathaniel changed the subject back to book finding and the pair entered the new shop.

“As opposed to simply not bringing in more copies of this rubbish?” Conrad asked of the copies the shop owner had ready for Nathaniel. A disapproving stare was thrown in the owner’s direction causing Milton to shrink back.

“He has a family to feed,” he replied simply, no judgment in his tone. Nathaniel knew the truth in the statement. Milton did have a family and the book was a bestseller regardless of Nathaniel's personal feelings on the tome. Milton also lost a son during the Blight, killed by Nathaniel’s father’s men; something Milton never seemed to hold against Nathaniel. He would not take money from the man by asking him to not to sell a book. Instead, he purchased all copies himself. A compromise of sorts, or so he reasoned.

Nathaniel set his already purchased copy of the book atop the 2 Milton set upon the counter then went to assist Conrad at the shelves. “The books you want are over here,” he noted, motioning to a series of books regarding the history of Ferelden starting with Calenhad.
 
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