Armon can only shake his head and refuse to enjoy the pair of chickens Cathal brings back for dinner the next evening. Tyree, bent on proving he’s a better hunter, brings back a Blight Wolf, but nobody eats it. Checking his tattered old map, Marius suggests they make for the town of Halamshiral to restock on supplies, maybe even replace the lost donkey. Corryn does recognize that they will be near The Dales, the former elven homeland, and recalls some superstitious nonsense about it being haunted, but that does not deter anyone. None of them well versed in elvish or elven lore, they all unknowingly agree to stop at the city with the ominous name, “the end of the journey.”
They reach Halamshiral the next evening and find a quiet, quaint little village. Lodging being their first order of business, they head straight to the first tavern they see. Tyree and Cathal take the animals around back to stable them while Marius and the others enter, hoping for a relaxing meal and comfortable beds. When Marius opens the door and sees the common room crammed with uniformed soldiers, he panics and shuts the door again. When the Avars return, he describes to them the sigil on their uniform, a green and white shield and sword. Cathal recognizes that symbol and spits on the ground in disgust and disrespect of the Avar’s mortal enemy, Arl Wulff’s West Hill soldiers. Felayne confirms Cathals assessment, if not her disgust. Looking at Berchan and wondering how it might look to the Arl’s men to be seen with his missing son and three barbarians, he decides that tonight might be a good night to sleep under the stars.
Corryn and Armon find it very unusual for the Arl’s men to be sitting in a tavern in Orlais and worry that he’s planning some sort of invasion. Duty bound, they decide to canvas the town for clues. Wanting nothing to do with this town or the dynamics of Ferelden-Orlesian politics, the three Avars, Tyree, Cathal and the oft forgotten Azur, retrieve the animals and agree to meet up with their companions on the west side of town after their investigation. Felayne and her puppies stay with Marius to wander the streets of Halamshiral, intent on gathering the commoners’ take on the Arl’s ‘invasion’. Armon heads out in search of other taverns while Corryn dedicates his time to finding shops. Forgotten for the moment, Berchan and Ice slip off quietly to get into untold mischief.
Although the dirt roads of Halamshiral appear well traveled, this evening they also appear eerily quiet and empty to the urban Tevinterite. After walking for many minutes without encountering another soul, Marius and Felayne come across a lone old man seated on the ground leaning on a wooden staff near a ramshackle building. He greets them with a smile, making Marius immediately suspicious. The cryptic beggar gives no help to them with his circular responses to Marius’ carefully worded questions regarding the Arl’s men and their activities in Halamshiral. Getting irritated with the old man’s banter, Marius finally makes the straightforward statement that the West Hill soldiers shouldn’t be here. He receives an unexpected and somewhat sinister response from the old man, who says he shouldn’t be here either. Suddenly worried that things are not what they seem and feeling vulnerable without his bodyguards, Marius and Felayne bid the old man goodnight and hurry off.
Wandering the streets in search of shops proves fruitless for Corryn. He eventually comes across a dwarf and asks for directions. Looking the mage up and down, then rolling his eyes, he directs Corryn to a small building whose sign has no words, only a circle carved into the old wood. When he enters, a young woman greets him, “Welcome, Corryn.” He hides his shock from her strangely vacant stare, and asks how she knew his name. “That’s one of my duties,” she replies. She also apologizes for the lack of merchandise, stating her supply caravans haven’t arrived for quite some time. Not interested in the merchandise anyway, he asks if she has a way to get a message to First Enchanter Rhys. Eager to assist, she disappears behind a shelf and returns carrying a large dusty book, a quill and an inkwell. She opens the book to a blank page, dips the quill into the inkwell, then gives it to Corynn, instructing him to write his message. He scrawls a few words in the blue ink and is surprised when they vanish. The mage realizes this girl is one of the Tranquil, a former mage having had her connection to the fade severed, but he doesn’t know whether to pity her or be disgusted. She confirms that Rhys’ response, if he sends one, will appear in the book, but that it may take several days. He warns the girl that the Empress may be passing through the area, but receives the shocking news that the Empress is dead, murdered only three days ago. Incredulous that this shopkeeper could know that already, she defends her claim by saying she received the news in the book. After calculating that he left her camp exactly three days ago, he decides to keep this vicious and probably untrue rumor to himself. He thanks the girl and asks for directions to the nearest tavern, hoping to meet up with Armon and continue the investigation.
Corryn finds himself in a seedy part of town after following the tranquil girl’s directions. When he enters the building looking most like a tavern, he is greeted by many elves who don’t seem to be very happy to see him. He apologizes in the face of their crossbows and ducks out just in time to hear the bolts thump into the other side of the door. Cursing the awful directions he’s always given, he returns to wandering about Halamshiral on his own.
Stubbornly refusing to ask anyone for directions, Armon wanders the streets until he finds a likely looking building and enters. Just as he gets a look at the room full of elves, a crossbow bolt grazes his cheek and sticks in the doorframe. The patrons do not take kindly to the second intruder of the evening and chase off the Nevarran with another volley of bolts. Dejected and clueless, Armon returns to aimlessly wandering. He locates another building that looks tavernish and enters. A single dwarf stands behind a freestanding polished wooden bar in the middle of an empty room. The dwarf looks up, but does not say anything. Armon takes a seat and proceeds to interrogate the barkeep about the soldiers in town. The dwarf looks around the empty establishment, chuckles a bit, and claims he hasn’t seen any soldiers, Ferelden or otherwise. He kindly offers the depressed warrior a drink, and, against his better judgement, Armon accepts. After the first gulp burns all the way down, he slaps down a few silver, accepting the second drink without question.
Curiosity gets the better of Tyree, bored with waiting and uncomfortable around his own people, so he leaves the rendezvous point to scout the east side of town where they will be headed in the morning. On the outskirts of Halamshiral just north of the road heading out, he sees the twinkling of hundreds of camp fires in the distance. He takes this to mean that the Arl’s entire army is camped on the Orlesian doorstep. He sneaks back to share this information with his companions, but upon his arrival finds they have still not returned from his adventures.
Stumbling upon another large building, Corryn enters, hoping to find Armon. Instead, he finds a lone dwarf in the middle of an empty bar polishing a mug. He asks the barkeep if he’s seen anyone else this evening, to which he replies no. Disappointed, he turns to leave, but the sound of a high sing-song voice gives him pause. Turning back, he begins to pace the perimeter of the empty room, searching for the source of the sound. Stricken by the mage’s odd behavior, the dwarf asks him to kindly leave. Corryn of course ignores the request, so he becomes more insistent by pulling a crossbow. Having protected himself with Rock Armor after his last encounter, Corryn does not fear the mundane weapon and continues his searching. Finally the dwarf loses his patience and foolishly fires. Corryn quickly dispatched the annoying dwarf, but does not kill him, still not sure what he was trying to protect. Behind the bar, he finds Armon stuffed into a corner unconscious and relieved of his purse. After rousing the warrior and retrieving his coin and his softly glowing sword Amar Fin, they leave the tavern. The roaring flames engulf the building behind them as they return together to the west end of Halamshiral.
Running out of options but not quite ready to give up, Marius follows the main road through town to the east edge. There he witnesses a pair of soldiers stumbling and singing drunkedly, heading out of town. He steps out of the shadows and confronts one of them, attempting to glean their purpose here. The soldier seems strangely aloof, answering most of his questions with ambiguous one word answers or just staring off and ignoring the question altogether. Even further convinced that something is very off about the entire situation, Marius and Felayne abandon their search for information. No longer concerned about the appearance of the Ferelden soldiers in Orlais, just with leaving Halamshiral as quickly as possible, they hurry back through town to the west to meet with the Avar.
Corryn, half dragging Armon, crosses paths with Marius and Felayne near the first inn, which is now dark and silent. When asked about their adventures, Armon and Corryn decline to comment. Marius lets the matter drop and makes to leave, but Corryn finally notices that Berchan is not with them. Unconcerned and tired, Marius continues walking. Glad that the abomination is missing and hoping he is never found, Armon stumbles after Marius, leaving Corryn, Felayne and her puppies alone in the quiet darkness.
Not very long after, Berchan’s snow white Mabari hound, Ice, saunters out into the meager light shed by Corryn’s wisp, sits in front of them and waits. Knowing that he wouldn’t be far from his beloved hound, they continue to wait in silence. Tired of his game, Berchan shouts at Corryn from behind him in an attempt to startle him but to no avail. He collects the boy and the dog and wearily heads out of Halamshiral back to the group. Hoping to a avoid contact with the West Hills soldiers if they move through town, they set up their campsite south if the road, further into the Dales. Corryn notices slight shimmers in the air and warns that the Veil seems thin here. Not worried, the weary travelers set a watch, bundle themselves into their blankets and head to sleep just as the sky begins to lighten.