The early spring air produces a chill and a fog that gives the illusion of utter solitude, the heavy traffic of Orlais long past. The peaks of the Frostbacks loom at their backs to the west, their presence concealing the sun’s light, forcing evening to descend earlier than usual. Tyree and Dog lead the way, knowing their homeland better than the Nevarran, Orlesian, Tevinter, or Duster ever could. A strange smell catches the nose of Marius and Dog, who leave the road to the south to investigate. A little ways into the stubby trees that struggle in the shadows of the mountains, Dog, Marius, and the others who decided to follow, come upon a small clearing. It appears vacant, other than the copious amounts of dried blood covering the ground and rocks.
Tyree puts his tracking skills to use, trying to piece together what happened in the bloody clearing. He discovers signs of a struggle, in which at least two of the combatants were killed. Two trails lead away from the battleground; a group of two, one assisting another who appears to have been badly wounded, heading south and the other a group of four, one of which was either a woman or an elf, heading southwest. Marius also locates several small cloth sacks full of white powder. Tyree warns him not to disturb the remains, explaining that they are at the site of an Avarian air burial. The slain combatants have been given a proper warrior’s rest. Their bodies have been flayed. The flesh, blood, even the bones, ground to a powder, laid in offering to the carrion birds. The servants of the sky goddess consume them, and carry them to her home. Marius shudders at the thought, glad that his people much more sensibly entomb their dead. No one is interested in following the trails of either parties that left the clearing, so they rejoin Felayne and continue down the road, turning south.
Not too far down the road, the horses begin to act skittish, both canines begin baring their teeth and growling, seemingly at nothing. Soon the humans, and dwarf, notice it too. Their less sensitive noses noses now also detecting the unmistakable smell of death in the air. Tyree and Marius spot vultures and other winged scavengers circling the area just ahead. Felayne and the horses are left behind while the brave men venture forth towards the awful stench.
The fog slowly reveals the source of the smell as the men approach. Several bodies have been left to decay in the road. As they venture further, the scope of the devastation becomes more apparent. As far as the eye can see through the dense fog, corpses of Avarian men, women, and children litter the ground, enough to have been the entire population of a small village. Not bearing any visible weapons other than a few farming tools, most are facing northward, appearing to have been cut down from behind, fleeing some unknown threat. Gore oozes from the wicked wounds Corryn declares were made by barbed weapons. Off to the side of the road, Tyree locates a small child whose head has been removed and replaced with a goat’s, eyes and mouth sewn shut, strung up like a grotesque marionette. The disgraceful treatment of the slain, and the fact that it is not winter make it clear to everyone that no Avar were responsible for this heinous act. Corryn postulates that this is the work of Darkspawn, wholly evil creatures who exist only to destroy. It does not take long to confirm his suspicion. Five heavily armored, short and stocky Darkspawn stroll into view, not making any attempt at stealth, seemingly oblivious to the five very much alive, and quite angry, armed men awaiting them.
They are engaged immediately, having drawn the ire of both warriors and mages with their actions. Darkspawn being the mortal enemy of every dwarf, even the rogue joins in with reckless abandon. The Darkspawn return the enthusiasm with a ferocity unmatched by any foe thus far encountered. Though clearly outmatched, they show no hint of fear or any self-preservation instincts. Their hideous grins never leave their faces, even as their comrades are cut down beside them or their own innards are spilled. Tyree fights with a fury to match the Darkspawns’ without regard to his own safety, although trying to avoid desecrating his fellow Avars further. Taking advantage of the combat to try out the magical staff he acquired from the blood mage outside of Verchiel, Corryn is dissapointed when neither his cones of flame nor his life draining utility spell seem particularly more effective than usual. The genlocks take advantage of the morbid terrain, scooping portions of the slain villagers on the backswing of their barbed blades, covering Armon and Corryn in festering remains. During the melee, amongst the volley of spells and gore, Broga catches a glimpse of an owl sitting in a tree nearby. Unbothered by the combat, it watches them closely, as if waiting patiently for them to finish.
When the defeated Darkspawn lay amongst their victims, black blood staining the ground, Broga finally gets the chance to point out their observer. That an owl would be out during the day is unusual, as Tyree notes. Due to it’s diminutive size, Corryn rules out the possibility of it being a shapeshifting mage. As if knowing that they are talking about it, the bird looks at Corryn, who later swears that it winked, leaves his perch, and flies off into the setting sun, presumably towards the nearby Avar fortress Redhold. The blood drenched Corryn declares they should follow it. Tyree cringes, but says nothing.