We had been on the road for just over a month when we finally made our way into The Brecilian Forest; a forest rumored to be haunted and worse. With the Grey Warden treaties in hand, we had decided it would be best to start in the forest located in the south east of Ferelden before heading west towards Castle Redcliffe to meet with the Arl, who we learned had fallen ill. We would then head north to Orzammar to meet with the dwarves, then southeast around the northern edge of Lake Calenhad to gain the assistance of the mages in the Circle Tower, my home.
The forest was beautiful and vast and I could feel the magic of it coursing through every branch and stone. The first couple of nights were fairly sleepless as the sounds of the various occupants made their presence known. Although somewhat unsettling, I still found some solace in its majesty, maybe in part because I felt a freedom I was unaccustomed to, and maybe because of the magic here. It was primal and natural, untouched and limitless.
On the third day, we found the nomadic Dalish elves who were currently encamped within its borders. We needed the Dalish to honor their treaty with the Wardens, but they, themselves, had fallen on hard times. A werewolf plague was ravaging their clan. Their Keeper, or leader, Zathrian, asked for our assistance, and who were we to deny them aid? If the clan were extinguished, there would be no one to honor the pact.
The Dalish were at first timid of our presence, but soon warmed when they learned we were there, in part, to help. The first night around the campfire was unlike anything I had experienced before. There was a feeling of family and of unity, they shared stories and what little food they had. Their hunters had been limited in their excursions into the forest while under threat of the werewolves, so their food supplies were running low.
I can't imagine what they thought upon seeing Sten, our hulking Qunari companion, in regards to what and how much he might eat. Sten was thankful for whatever they were willing to share, making a side comment to Alistair that they might need to kill one of the halla, the Dalish's stag like creatures used for pulling their landships. Alistair shook his head vehemently, explaining in hushed tones that the halla were not just beasts to the Dalish but their companions. Sten half shrugged, but I could tell he was still hungry from his internment in Lothering.
Hunger was a pressing issue, especially with Sten, and would take immediate precedence upon our journey into the forest. I would take care of all my companions while they were in my care. It was strange to feel so protective of virtual strangers, but our journey was such that trust was given quickly, even if not completely earned as yet. It had to be, as most situations we encountered were life or death. We had already endured blighted creatures, Loghain's men, thieves, and angry mobs, and so far we had each other's backs.
As I sat around that fire the first night, more at peace than I had felt since before leaving the tower, I was inclined to wish that the circumstances were different. As if the impending Blight was not enough of a threat, there was also Loghain's treachery inciting civil war, in addition to this current small matter of the werewolves. It was surprising how far away all those things seemed while snuggled around a fire in a forest surrounded by newfound friends and the lilting songs of the Dalish. I looked up to the night sky, so dark and clear, speckled with the sparkling dust of starlight, and found myself thinking that if the situation hadn't been so dire, I could almost revel in the moment.
The Dalish retreated to their landships for rest and cover, while my companions and I remained around the fire. Keiko, my faithful mabari, had found a young elven girl to draw his attention and he padded after her as she entered her home. His absence left me chilled as the fire died, since he had been my constant bedfellow since leaving Ostagar. I'm not sure when it happened, but I remember shivering in the night, and soon thereafter finding that Alistair had drawn near. His back was to mine, and his added body heat helped relieve the chill. I had been so tired, felt so comfortable, and the fire had been so warm, that I had quickly fallen into a heavy sleep. Something I could not afford to do.