Go-Between [Complete]

[12th Guardian, 9.35, Vigil's Keep - with  ; after the events of this thread]

There were many reasons why Delilah preferred not to visit Vigil's Keep. However, the on-going difficulties in securing any meaningful communication from the Arl meant that she had set off early that morning, preferring to walk rather than either ride horseback or in a carriage. It was small decisions like that, ones which were slightly inconvenient, that made all the difference in how the people of the arling responded to her. Whether on the road or in the fields, she made sure to acknowledge those whom she passed by, gaining a little bit more of good will with each interaction.

When she arrived at the Keep itself, the Wardens keeping guard seemed startled and suspicious in equal measure. She almost expected to be barred entry on sight; that would certainly tally with the general apathy which pervaded the scant selection of replies which Warden-Commander Berlra sent to her missives. Yet they merely enquired as to her business - albeit stiffly.

"I wish to speak with Warden Theirin, if you please."

That confused them further. Given the flurry of glances and hastily whispered conversation, Delilah had to wonder if this was the very first time that anyone had called upon a Grey Warden since the inexplicable disappearance of Aedan Cousland. Perhaps that explained their agitation, concerned that she might somehow whisk away the second-most famous of their Order.

Her gaze drifted away from the squabbling Grey Wardens and into the large courtyard which lay behind them. Some hefted sacks of grain from a storehouse towards the kitchens; others practised striking at two straw-stuffed dummies with heavy axes; a handful gathered around the well in idle conversation. It warmed her heart to see how this ancient fortress had found a new purpose just as she had. They were both freed from the oppressive tyranny of the former occupant.

It was then that she glimpsed the unmistakeable profile of a particular Grey Warden. She made to interrupt the on-going discussions but the Wardens were fully engrossed in their argument, seemingly having forgotten the reason why they were debating this matter in the first place.

With a subtle side-step, Delilah manoeuvred around them and strode towards her target, bolstered by purpose. It was imperative that she secure Alistair's agreement to oversee whatever the Chantry requested from the Order lest they risk a further fracturing of the schism which existed between the two. Of course, there was sill the matter of navigating the fact that she and Alistair had rarely, if ever, spoken with one another. Even when she would have much rather dealt with him than Aedan Cousland, but it would not have been received well if the daughter of Rendon Howe appeared to reject the rightful appointed Arl of Amaranthine. If only her instincts that Alistair was far more reliable had not been borne out. Regardless, here they were.

"Warden Theirin," she called to him. He did not seem to hear, turning into a doorway. Was he attempting to evade her? Surely not. But it certainly seemed that way. Well, she had ample practice dealing with this type of behaviour.

Deliah drew to a halt so that she did not spook him further. Really, the man had felled an Archdemon! "It may be prudent to point out that I am familiar with the layout of this stronghold, ser. Including the many secret passages." She huffed a soft snort, amused by his antics. "If you wish to play hide and seek, it is only fair you know the advantage I hold." A thought struck her which, in the interest of fair play, she felt she should also disclose. "I also have a young son who is alarmingly masterful at sneaking. You would not believe how many hours I have spent searching for him." She levelled a pointed look towards this legendary warrior, slayer of 'spawn and saviour of the world. "I have always found him." Sometimes it had taken longer than she would like to admit, but Delilah felt that the point had been sufficiently made.

Her demeanour softened and she appealled to Alistair with open earnestness. "Please, Warden Theirin, I wish only to speak with you. It is about the smuggling you uncovered a few days ago."
Nothing good ever came of someone addressing Alistair by his surname. It hung over his head like a damned sword on a wire, and wore like something he would never escape, no matter how many times he actually escaped the legacy.

So when Bann Terrell came to Vigil’s Keep and immediately asked for him by said surname at the gates, Alistair knew it was time to flee. Or, at least pretend he hadn’t heard her and find some way to busy himself as soon as possible. He had a knack for washing pots and pans in his youth, and he’d rather that than have to do anything that any noble could come to him for.

"Warden Theirin," she called, even though he was out of her direct view. One of the young ladies who worked in the keep looked toward Bann Terrell, then at him, and tried to suppress a smile.

Stop that,” he hissed. “You’ll give me away.

That only succeeded in winning a giggle from the girl as she continued on with her duties, leaving Alistair to his.

Whether it was the girl’s giggle that betrayed him or not, Bann Terrell wasn’t giving up. She would give the Revered Mother in Denerim a run for most tenacious. She called after him. "It may be prudent to point out that I am familiar with the layout of this stronghold, ser. Including the many secret passages." A detail he’d forgotten in his haste, that her previous name had been Howe. "If you wish to play hide and seek, it is only fair you know the advantage I hold." A staggering advantage, really. It had been a good number of years since he’d played hide and seek with anything but a darkspawn. He was the monastery’s most notorious competitor. "I also have a young son who is alarmingly masterful at sneaking. You would not believe how many hours I have spent searching for him." She added, "I have always found him."

Alistair huffed, his posture deflating. There was no use pretending he couldn’t hear her, and he’d already resigned himself to facing whatever brought her here in Commander Berlra’s absence when she said, "Please, Warden Theirin, I wish only to speak with you. It is about the smuggling you uncovered a few days ago."

Even he couldn’t twist that enough to tie it to any nefarious purpose, and he actually felt a bit foolish. He ran a hand over his hair, abashed, and came back out of the keep the way he’d run in.

Bann Terrell,” he said with a quick bow, and a smile that would hopefully keep him on her good side after a stunt like the one he’d pulled, which was no more clever than that of a young child, it seemed. “Most people just call me Alistair, now.” He gave a nervous tug to his ear.

It occurred to him just then that he’d thought the matter of the smuggling had been addressed. He stood tall as if being inspected. Something about her just screamed that she had exacting standards and he hoped his uniform was good enough to measure up. “I’m uncertain that I can give you any more information than Commander Berlra has already.
Be it the softening of her tone or the plain explanation of what Delilah wished from him, the Grey Warden did, finally, re-emerge into the open air of the courtyard. Given the slight ruffling of his hair and the warming of his cheeks, it seemed that she had succeeded in shaming him just a fraction, though that had not been her intention.

Remaining where she stood, Delilah clasped her hands in front of her skirts and offered him a gentle smile, hoping to earn a little more of his trust.

"Bann Terrell," he officially acknowledged her, accompanying the title with a small bow. His smile was artful for all that it was (mostly) ingenuous, and Delilah allowed herself to be charmed by the introduction. "Most people just call me Alistair, now." Despite his show of confidence, his hand sneaked up to his ear, tugging gently against the lobe.

She eyed him for a moment before nodding her understanding. "Then I shall be Delilah to you," she declared, giving a short nod of satisfaction at the decision. Neither of them had escaped the weighty burden of carrying a name for which they had not asked. At least she had been able to marry out of hers, though it did not change how some people saw her.

Abruptly, Alistair straightened, not unlike the City Guards on sight of her when she visited the Guard-Captain. Startled, she blinked, unsure what had unnerved him further. She cast a glimpse over her shoulder to the still-bickering Wardens at the gates, but they were yet to notice that Delilah had found Alistair herself. How curious.

"I’m uncertain that I can give you any more information than Commander Berlra has already."

Delilah lifted a brow, her lips pursing. Was this a ploy? It was not inconceivable that the Warden-Commander might take measures to restrict what knowledge the Bann of Amaranthine had of the situation. Save, of course, that the Chantry was within the city itself. Secrets died where gossip thrived.

Drawing in a steadying breath, Delilah gestured towards the path which would lead around to what had once been the gardens. She doubted that the Grey Wardens had completely dug over the area, particularly given the variety of useful flora which her mother had insisted by planted all those years ago. It would serve as a sufficient middling ground for both of them.

"If I may?" She glanced up, seeking confirmation that Alistair would join her.

Once they were walking in step and had moved beyond the scope of potential eavesdroppers within the Keep, she spoke again. "I will be frank, Alistair. I do not come to you to supplement information; I come to you for information." She walked on sure steps, turning down paths with barely a second thought. For too many years, walking through the grounds of Vigil's Keep was the only escape she had from being within its walls, always somehow colder when her father was in residence.

"The Arl is," she trailed off with a sigh. No, this would not do. If she were to achieve anything with this visit, she must be frank. Without warning, Delilah halted mid-step and turned to face Alistair directly. "Not interested in being Arl," she stated, matter of fact. "Of his capabilities as a Warden-Commander, I cannot and would not comment. But in his duties to the people of this arling? He has precious little care."

She kept her gaze level, meeting his eye whenever he met hers. "I have had no communication with regards what has happened," she revealed. Anticipating a rebuttal, she held up a hand, even if the interruption never came. "Please, if I may explain myself fully to avoid misunderstanding. It's true that I am only a Bann and it is possible that Arl Berlra has deemed my involvement is not necessarily." She exhaled, shaking her head. "Yet what I have heard from the Chantry is that he has barely acknowledged their concerns. He does not seem to appreciate the severity with which the Chantry regard lyrium smuggling.

Stepping away from him, Delilah resumed their walk only to stop only a matter of paces later. She threw up her hands before resting one hand on her hip and massaging her temples with the thumb and forefinger of the other. "I have no wish to use you, Alistair," she spared him a glance through her fingers. "I know how this places you in an awkward position. But I am at my wit's end and I do truly fear that the Chantry will react far more drastically if the Arl continues in this vein. The Chantry only wish a full report of what was witnessed to ascertain the circumstances. That is all."
Bann Terrell—Delilah—made a face that was not the face of a woman who already had information. Somewhere in the back of his mind Alistair was sure he already knew what she was about to say even before they started walking the grounds.

"I will be frank, Alistair,” a joke was born and died on his tongue, “I do not come to you to supplement information; I come to you for information."

Maker, he knew she was going to say that. It was all he could do not to groan, because it wasn’t that she said it, but at the lack of surprise that Commander Berlra might have overlooked it. He muttered, “Maybe he sent it to an archdemon” under his breath and continued listening, grateful for the walk to cover him.

"The Arl is," she started, spinning about and stopping in front of him so that he had to step to one side to avoid marching right into her. Wouldn’t that be a fun sight for everyone? "Not interested in being Arl. Of his capabilities as a Warden-Commander, I cannot and would not comment. But in his duties to the people of this arling? He has precious little care."

As a Warden-Commander, Berlra was competent and efficient, focused on things that Grey Wardens needed to be attentive to when not in a Blight. As an arl? No, Delilah had the right of it.

"I have had no communication with regards what has happened." This prompted Alistair to lift a brow. "Please, if I may explain myself fully to avoid misunderstanding. It's true that I am only a Bann and it is possible that Arl Berlra has deemed my involvement is not necessarily." He had not even considered that it might look that way. "Yet what I have heard from the Chantry is that he has barely acknowledged their concerns. He does not seem to appreciate the severity with which the Chantry regard lyrium smuggling."

Oh, that little matter? I bet they barely gave it a thought,” he drolled. The truth was that he was surprised they were not beating down the gates to investigate.

Delilah continued, throwing her hands in the air before massaging her face. She peeked at him through fingers, addressing exactly where Alistair feared this was going. "I have no wish to use you, Alistair." He still held his breath for the moment it took her to get to the ‘but’. There was always a ‘but’. "I know how this places you in an awkward position. But I am at my wit's end and I do truly fear that the Chantry will react far more drastically if the Arl continues in this vein. The Chantry only wish a full report of what was witnessed to ascertain the circumstances. That is all."

Now it was Alistair’s turn to scrub his face with a hand, letting a groan escape into his palm. “You know, I make it a habit to avoid being involved in politics,” he joked. He dropped his hand to his side and looked up into the sky as if he could pick that particular bone with the Maker himself. King he may not be, but somehow his usefulness in politicking always seemed on his tail.

Choosing to believe that Delilah meant what she said about not using him, he found a smile for her, now that his mini tantrum was over. “You want me to give a report to the Chantry,” he guessed. “After I tell you everything I know.” The latter was a reasonable request, the former… well that was also reasonable given his familiarity with the Chantry and the years he spent living among them and their Order. “This is better than raising a revolt in my name, I’ll grant you that.” No one had actually done as much—that he’d heard of—and it felt like a safe joke in the privacy of their conversation.

I can give you a report, at least a first hand account,” since he was there, and he’d been the one to kick down the wall that conveniently hid the whole operation from notice. “I won’t step over the Commander’s head, but I can give you this much. Whether he wants to admit it or give it attention, if we lose their respect,” as tentative as that might be at the best of times, “they could stop supplying us lyrium altogether.” That was a headache that could have dire consequences.
Delilah's consternation was shared by her companion, it seemed - though likely for different reasons. Very few people in Ferelden did not know of Maric Theirin's illegitimate son. Yet Alistair had side-stepped each and every opportunity to seize the crown, despite the occasional vocal rebel who claimed that some Theirin blood in a monarch was preferable to none at all. Delilah did not hold with that belief, knowing first-hand how it felt to be assigned a purpose that did not feel her own, but turning to Alistair was a sign of her desperation. Not because she thought him incapable, but because she wished to respect the wishes of a living hero.

Rubbing his face with his hand, Alistair let loose a groan. "You know, I make it a habit to avoid being involved in politics," he jested, though it was whole in earnest. Despite the seriousness of the conversation, Delilah felt the corner of her mouth twitch as she witnessed him cast an accusatory glance upwards, as though the Maker himself might be peaking through the Veil.

To try and continue with the tone set by Alistair himself, Delilah indulged her own dry humour. "I had no idea," she remarked wryly. "You've been so diligent in attending any Landsmeet I can recall."

Whether he appreciated the joke or was simply relieved not to be snapped at, Alistair gifted her a smile - which did nothing to reduce his likeness to his father. Best she say nothing; it would be a shame to banish so winsome a smile for all eternity.

"You want me to give a report to the Chantry," he surmised. That was not quite correct but she would not shake his confidence by immediately interrupting with clarification. "After I tell you everything I know." He seemed resigned to the fact already. How often had he been used in his life to so readily believe he had no agency? Anger prickled at her; no one deserved to be only a tool for others to wield. Though she did have to acknowledge the current hypocrisy of her feelings.

"This is better than raising a revolt in my name, I’ll grant you that." He offered another joke but even politeness could not entice a smile from Delilah. Truly, this would have been far more straight-forward if she had been speaking with Aedan Cousland. No one ever felt anything but intense irritation and a vague repulsion when speaking with that man. Or, better yet, that Arl Berlra actually do as his title required. Maker, it was enough to long for the days before Calenhad.

Seemingly coming to his own decisions, Alistair countered her request. Something which was a step in the right direction. "I can give you a report, at least a first hand account. I won’t step over the Commander’s head, but I can give you this much. Whether he wants to admit it or give it attention, if we lose their respect," he paused, appearing to weigh up just how much respect the Arl held for the Chantry, "they could stop supplying us lyrium altogether."

Crossing her arms, Delilah shifted her weight onto her back foot, eyeing the taller man. In truth, all she had wished was a full report, complete with Grey Warden seals, to conveniently find its way to the Chantry. She had not intended that anyone put their name to it. What the Arl did not seem to appreciate was that the Chantry, like any vast network of people, was only interested in what they needed to know, not necessarily all there was to know. If Alistair could, even anonymously, provide an account of what had happened, and which confirmed what details the Chantry already knew, that would likely suffice. And disaster could be averted.

"If you would agree to write the report, I would see to the arrangements of having it delivered." She eyed him shrewdly. "Without your name being involved." Truly, she did not wish to cause an issue between the Arl and his Wardens, so this was an acceptable compromise in her eyes. "It will soothe the Chantry's hurt pride and ensure they do not feel they have not been disregarded."

Giving a small nod of satisfaction, Delilah turned and resumed their walk, not quite ready to make so abrupt a departure. "I wonder, Alistair," she began, casting a sideways glance that was not entirely devoid of twinkling mischief, "if it may be prudent to establish a working partnership between us." In truth, given his far more amenable nature, she would have quite happily dealt with Alistair in an official capacity, perhaps similar to an ambassador. But given their current exchange, she doubted he would welcome it, nor did she believe the Arl would even think of it. "Of course," she continued, lifting and dropping her shoulder in a deliberately contrived sense of despondency, "it would require that you come visit with me in the city. I cannot be expected to travel each time to Vigil's Keep." She tapped a finger against her lips, feigning deep thought. "I don't suppose you would appreciate a ridiculously large portioned homecooked meal and two rambunctious children clamouring for stories of which monsters you've fought?"

Laughing at herself, she turned her head to regard him properly. "All of that is true," she assured him, lest he believe she dangled something only to steal away. "I would like to know you better, if you think you can bring yourself to associate with a Bann." So maybe her teasing was not entirely extinguished. "I would also happily invite you into my home. Be aware, however, that my children do have the tenacity of darkspawn and you will tire of telling stories long before they tire of hearing them. Equally, my husband will likely try to get you to agree to fetch some long lost artefact from the Deep, though he will pay you honestly for the task." A contentment settled over her at mention of her family. It was not perfect, far from it, but Delilah knew how impossible this life had felt to her only five years ago. "Our circumstances are similar, Alistair. We are each thought to be known solely through the actions of our fathers. I, at least, would like to know you for who you are."
Alistair proceeded with caution. It wasn’t that Delilah was a Howe. Sure, some might hold her accountable for things her father had done, but the Bann of Amaranthine went to great lengths to separate herself from that legacy. He knew a little bit about that. He wanted to avoid any appearance of jumping chain with his Commander. Alistair had a pretty good life for a Grey Warden—he maintained a low profile and did as he was told—and he did not want to jeopardize that.

Bann Terrell had already taken this into consideration. "If you would agree to write the report, I would see to the arrangements of having it delivered. Without your name being involved." Try as he might, he couldn’t hide the sigh of relief that escaped him at that reassurance. "It will soothe the Chantry's hurt pride and ensure they do not feel they have not been disregarded."

Oh, no, we wouldn’t want that. Nothing worse than a Knight-Commander with hurt feelings. Well, maybe a slighted archdemon who didn't get a party invite.” He preferred the archdemon.

What she was asking was not so much, and Alistair had been there in person. It was hardly a great chore for someone who had the privilege of an education in reading and writing. This was easy enough to agree to, and he nodded his assent.

It wasn’t until her weight shifted and she eyed him up that he began to worry. "I wonder, Alistair," she started, a bit of exaggerated twinkle in her eye, "if it may be prudent to establish a working partnership between us." He put on his best puzzled face, feigning a lack of understanding. Too many were happy to believe he was uncanny. He needed to hear out what she was about to offer. She continued with a shrug. "Of course, it would require that you come visit with me in the city. I cannot be expected to travel each time to Vigil's Keep." His worry started to ease as she made a show of tapping her finger to her lips in thought. "I don't suppose you would appreciate a ridiculously large portioned homecooked meal and two rambunctious children clamouring for stories of which monsters you've fought?"

I see the legend of the Grey Wardens has not escaped you.” A ridiculously portioned meal sounded fair enough for the price of journeying to the city now and then. Still, she had an angle, and he wasn’t entirely ready to jump in. Though, he did like children, rambunctious or otherwise. Still, he hesitated to agree, keeping his answer as non-committal as possible. “I might have a few stories up my sleeves.

"All of that is true," she promised. He definitely took her at that word. "I would like to know you better, if you think you can bring yourself to associate with a Bann." He inadvertently let a low bark of a chuckle at that. "I would also happily invite you into my home. Be aware, however, that my children do have the tenacity of darkspawn and you will tire of telling stories long before they tire of hearing them. Equally, my husband will likely try to get you to agree to fetch some long lost artefact from the Deep, though he will pay you honestly for the task." His smile warmed, taking on more of that ease those who knew him would recognize. "Our circumstances are similar, Alistair. We are each thought to be known solely through the actions of our fathers. I, at least, would like to know you for who you are."

She had him there. Deep down, or not so deep down, Alistair longed for family. He’d found one during the Blight, but since had watched them be shuffled away by the five years following. Only Leliana stayed in regular contact. The idea of family dinners, complete with children to entertain, well how was he able to resist such an offer?

You’ve found my weaknesses,” he admitted. “Most of which run through my stomach.” His hand found his ear once more, giving the shell a tug. Now it was his turn to play up his thinking. He tapped his chin, making sure to ‘hmm’ and ‘haw’ sufficiently. “I suppose there would be nothing wrong with accepting a bit of hospitality in the name of good will. The Wardens could use it.” As years ticked by following the Blight the celebrity they once enjoyed waned. “There shouldn’t be anything problematic with trying it out.

Remembering his hands and pulling them under control once more, Alistair nodded toward the Keep. “Right. Let’s deal with the Chantry first. We can talk about the rest after.” He waited for her to fall into step beside him, being mindful of her strides to keep his even with them. They traveled through the Keep, Alistair deciding as they went to opt for a small library in lieu of the Commander’s office just yet. It didn’t feel quite right assuming it was his to use. Some Senior Wardens might have felt entitled to use it in the Commander’s absence, but he was not one of them.

I’m not sure how much you already know, apart from it having happened.” That was clear enough, or she wouldn’t be here. “It wasn’t our task when we went into the Deep Roads. We sort of, ah, crashed into it.
"You’ve found my weaknesses." Victory! Alistair finally surrendered to her charm-offensive. "Most of which run through my stomach." In her experience, Grey Warden or no, that was a route through which she had achieved many a success. She did not share that particular detail right now, however.

Pulling more on his ear, Alistair added to the general show of over-thinking with suitable mimes and sound effects. "I suppose there would be nothing wrong with accepting a bit of hospitality in the name of good will. The Wardens could use it." Particularly if Arl Berlra continued to ignore the arling as he had. "There shouldn’t be anything problematic with trying it out."

Her eyes sparkled. "Then we're agreed," she swiftly accepted the agreement, effectively turning it into a contract between them. Should Alistair try to renege, she would swiftly remind him of what they had discussed: a trial, at the very least. She had full confidence that it would prove to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

With a small jerk of his head, Alistair motioned towards the Keep. "Right. Let’s deal with the Chantry first. We can talk about the rest after." Together, they walked towards and through the Keep, their strides matched - though Delilah knew that Alistair was deliberately adjusting his, but appreciated the gesture. So tall a man accustomed to wearing heavy armour and carrying heavy weapons did not possess the same light stride as a former noblewoman, after all. 

He led them into a small library which, given the thick dust lining many of the shelves, Delilah deduced was not used overly much. It mattered little to her so long as the report was sufficiently completed.

"I’m not sure how much you already know, apart from it having happened," Alistair began. Sensing that this might take some time, Delilah settled herself in a plush chair, ignoring the faint musty smell which rose up from the fabric. "It wasn’t our task when we went into the Deep Roads. We sort of, ah, crashed into it."

Drawing in a sharp breath, Delilah took a moment to control her flash of temper, pinching the bridge of her nose while gathering her patience. "I had sent reports of smugglers operating in the arling to the Arl," she stated, her tone a little flat in an effort not to take her irritation out on her new ally. She lifted her head and offered a wan smile to Alistair. "Perhaps it is wise if your report should gloss over why you were there and simply focus on what was discovered.

Together, they pieced together the report, talking through each segment before committing it to vellum. Delilah insisted that all spoken encounters were recorded precisely as Alistair recalled them, especially reference to the Grey Wardens. That should hopefully prove to the Chantry that the Order had not withheld any information and so could be exonerated from any suspicion of involvement in the smuggling. Eventually, Delilah held in her hand a neatly written report, filled with the necessary details.

She let out a relieved exhale. "I cannot thank you enough, Alistair." Carefully, she folded the vellum and secreted it into a pocket hidden amongst the folds of her dress. "I must admit to being alarmed by the extent of the operation. That this could be happening in the arling..." She trailed off, shaking her head. "The City Guard and I have been doing our best to root out the smugglers, but ever since the darkspawn attacked--" She stopped, shaking the thoughts from her mind. There was little to be gained by questioning yet again the decisions of prior Arls. "I need to do more, clearly. At least now I have a better understanding of how much more I do need to do."

Glancing towards the door, Delilah looked back to Alistair. "I will not take more of your time for now, but I do hope to see you for a visit soon. Rest assured I will keep my word about ensuring your anonimity for this," she tapped at her pocket.
Despite his efforts to not give a definitive answer, Alistair wound up giving a good enough one for Bann Terrell to accept it as an agreement. See? This was why he was right to stay out of politics, no matter how high or low the calling. It wasn’t like accepting a generous dinner was going to be a great burden, and he decided that maybe it would be okay after all. Provided he could hold up his end in a manner that was respectful to all parties according to their roles.

To his vague summary of how they’d stumbled into the smuggling ring, Delilah pinched her nose. "I had sent reports of smugglers operating in the arling to the Arl." Alistair recognized the traits of a conflicted statement, and knew he was lucky not to be the Commander or anyone in charge of anything. "Perhaps it is wise if your report should gloss over why you were there and simply focus on what was discovered."

He nodded his agreement and made sure to leave that part out. Along with anything else she carefully nudged him to gloss over. By the end, they had a report that gave Alistair the comfort of accuracy without too much for the Chantry to lose their minds over. Not that it would stop them, should they wish to lash out at the Wardens, but he could honestly say he’d done his best.

"I cannot thank you enough, Alistair," Delilah said as she tucked the report into her pocket. "I must admit to being alarmed by the extent of the operation. That this could be happening in the arling..." She shook her head, not finishing the thought out loud. "The City Guard and I have been doing our best to root out the smugglers, but ever since the darkspawn attacked--" Another thought stopped short, out loud at any rate. "I need to do more, clearly. At least now I have a better understanding of how much more I do need to do.” Alistair could only sigh, thinking back through those who had ruled the arling before Berla’s appointment, such as it was.

The parchment tucked safely away, Delilah prepared her departure. "I will not take more of your time for now, but I do hope to see you for a visit soon. Rest assured I will keep my word about ensuring your anonimity for this," she promised.

Alistair stood up in preparation for her departure, but something niggled at his mind before he could let her go. “Ah,” he started before he could stop himself. Even as his mouth moved he wondered exactly how much he was going to regret it. “It hardly seems fair that you’ll do the heavy lifting in this. I know you have the City Guard to call upon, but Maker knows I don’t always have better things to do.” He caught himself moving to tug his ear again and instead ran his hand through his hair. That he didn’t have better things to do wasn’t strictly true. “When I’m not immediately tasked…

He let out a sigh, then breathed in before continuing. “Knowing what it might look like for the last of our respective fathers’ lines to be working together,” as this was always a worry Alistair had, and one he wondered if he’d ever escape from, "if there’s anything more I can do?” He shook his head and waved a hand as if he could erase the words.

Alistair had a good history of putting one foot in his mouth only to make room for the other. He suspected he could trust Delilah based solely on what he’d only just said. He no more imagined her raising a rebellion than he pictured himself doing the same, knowing his sworn promises to Anora would not stop that thought with the wrong people. “If there’s anything else I can do to help, as a simple warrior, I’m at your service.
Rising to his feet as Delilah made ready to depart, Alistair seemed to take a thought to himself. "Ah," he began, and Delilah paused, raising an eyebrow in silent question. "It hardly seems fair that you’ll do the heavy lifting in this. I know you have the City Guard to call upon, but Maker knows I don’t always have better things to do." His hand ran through his hair, leaving a tousled mess behind. "When I’m not immediately tasked…"

She could not help the soft laugh which spilled from her. "Careful, Alistair. This is how a great many people find themselves with responsibilities they never dreamed of acquiring."

Exhaling a deep breath, Alistair took a moment to gather his thoughts. "Knowing what it might look like for the last of our respective fathers’ lines to be working together," which was an astute point that Delilah had also pondered prior to coming here, "if there’s anything more I can do?" Almost at once, he shook his head and waved a hand, as though he regretted the offer immediately.

Confused, Delilah waited for further clarification, unsure what the young man wanted for himself let alone from her.

"If there’s anything else I can do to help, as a simple warrior," he amended at last, "I’m at your service."

Her mouth rounded in a silent "o". "Ah, I see," she murmured, her smile returning to brighten her expression. "I thank you for your offer. I will think on it, if I may, and have an answer for you when you attend that dinner I mentioned." She eyed him for a moment, making clear that she knew that he knew it was a ploy to ensure he did actually come to dinner. "Thank you for your assistance today, Warden Alistair." And with that, she took her leave, bypassing the still bickering Grey Wardens and heading for the city once more.