Decem Reliquias

...with feeling

Cathal lets out a cry of pain as the giant corpse she is gutting doubles over and closes its massive jaws on her leg. She retreats from it and confusion ensues as the massive creature, no longer interested in the horse, advances on the puny humans, and the seemingly endless mass of tangled reptilian corpses surround Broga and Armon. Determined not to be left out of the battle this time, Tyree dives into the water and pushes hard to cross as quickly as possible.

Azur and Felayne scramble to get out of the way, but, belying its size, the giant lizard is too fast. It reaches the two and rips into their flesh, adding their screams to the din of battle and their blood to the red river. Tyree climbs out of the water swinging his Avarian maul, distracting it so Felayne and Azur can escape. Before they do, however, a sickly green mist appears, surrounding the three, obscuring their vision and causing fits of coughing. Marius recognizes it as a magical spell, though not sure which one. He moves back, letting his warriors deal with this immediate threat, wary now of the puppet master he knows is lurking nearby. He suspects the witch, but doesn’t believe that just opening her door would warrant such a violent response.

Though having been deceased only a few minutes, the stench of rotten flesh sicken Armon and Broga as they cut the reptiles down, unsure if they are making any progress or just mutilating the same corpses over again. Hearing her screams, Armon bids Broga break off to help Felayne, sure that he can keep the smaller ones’ attention. He takes the command, but, reluctant to engage the larger creature in melee, draws his bow and heads off.

After it materializes, the green mist seems stationary, so the three move out of its area, Tyree towards the creature, Felayne and Azur away. As Tyree hammers at the giant creature, he is overcome by a terrible feeling of dread. It drains his energy and his will to live, which only makes him more dangerous. Now also aware that a mage is nearby, he redoubles his efforts to destroy the creature as quickly as possible. He splatters the beast’s skull, with a little help from Broga, Berchan and Cathal, then takes off into the trees, sure that his life is forfeit, but intent on taking the mage with him.

Hoping Tyree spotted the mage, Marius follows the swift Avar, at a safe distance of course. Corryn, Broga and Cathal do the same, leaving Armon alone to clean up the few remaining smaller creatures. Running with really no direction in mind, by chance he catches some movement in the trees. He abruptly changes direction and bursts into a small clearing. Before him stands the Revenant, his emaciated form fully reconstituted.

View
Crocodile Tears

In the early morning hours, the adventurers quietly pack up their belongings and slip away from the unfriendly mage-woman and her strange hut. They spend the better part of the day following the stream southeast before finding a place to ford, where Marius tosses in a twig just to be sure it’s safe. When it floats peacefully downstream rather than being eaten, he nods and gives his approval to cross.

Tyree braves the waters first, wading across with one of Felayne’s horses, dragging a rope. At its deepest, the water only reaches up to the tall Avar’s chin, so he is able to trudge along the muddy bottom. After reaching the opposite bank, he secures the rope to the horse. Armon does the same on the far side forming a bridge of sorts. Using the rope as guide and support, the rest of them take it in turn to cross in groups, pairing a stronger swimmer to help a weaker one. Marius with Felayne and Cathal with Azur cross without incident. Corryn has a bit of trouble, almost losing his grip, but Berchan catches him and his horse, helping them across. Armon mutters under his breath how unusual that is, but keeps it to himself.

When the current proves too strong for the dwarf, Broga tries to hold on to his crossing companion, but the donkey panics, kicks him, and both of them are swept away. Tyree dives in to rescue them, donkey first, and is able to retrieve both before they get too far away. With the donkey and dwarf, and most importantly the supplies, safely on the south shore, Tyree moves back across to the north bank to mind the horse while Armon crosses.

As Armon climbs out of the river, something breaks the surface behind him, revealing three five-foot, green reptiles that crawl onto the south bank. The warriors and mages engage, unintimidated by their jaws jagged teeth appearing like cruel smiles. Even though several more join the fight, the reptiles prove little challenge to the now seasoned adventurers. Their corpses soon litter the bank and the water runs red with blood.

Tyree yells out a warning to his friends across the river, but flush from their easy victory over the lizards, they pay him little heed. Another creature climbs out of the river, similar to the other reptiles with the same wicked grin, but much, much larger. The thirty-foot beast goes immediately for the juiciest looking target, Felayne’s horse. More of the small ones accompany it, keeping Armon and Broga’s attention. Leaving the horse unattended, Tyree leaps into the water, but with every agonizingly slow, muddy step it seems he will be too late. Corryn moves to stabilize the horse with his healing magic, while Cathal and Marius stay a safe distance away, stinging the creature with arrows and bolts of energy.

Berchan flits in and out of reach, annoying and distracting the beast, and, to his delight, makes the killing blow, stabbing with his diminutive short sword right in it’s squinty black eye. Tyree makes his way back across the river to retrieve the last horse, while Marius eyes their kill, wondering how it might taste. Cathal volunteers to butcher it and find out, no stranger to dressing big game. Having spent much of their energy in the crossing, and not wanting to transport the meat far, they decide camping nearby would be ideal. Seeing little culinary value in the little ones, and to discourage scavengers from wandering into their camp, Armon decides to dispose of the small corpses. He picks one up and dumps it into the river and turns his back on it to retrieve another. When that ones twitches as he touches it, his first thought is that he didn’t quite finish the job, until he turns and sees the bloody, battered reptile corpse he just threw in swimming towards him.

View
Witch of the West Hills

They hardly notice passing through the empty streets of Halamshiral and make it well past the town before anyone remarks that there is no sign of an army encampment having existed in the field. No evidence of the campfires, no footprints, not even a single blade of grass out of place. Baffled, they spend a few moments concocting theories of an elaborate illusion, but by whom and to what end they cannot decipher. With no clues and little desire to linger, they ultimately abandon the mystery and leave the Dales behind.

When they near the west side of the Frostback Mountains, Cathal makes the suggestion that they approach Banur’s camp from the Orlesian side rather than crossing into Ferelden then doubling back westward. Upon interrogation, she admits that she does not know the way and could really only guess. Not wanting to take the risk, Marius makes the executive decision to continue on their originally planned route. Azur grumbles at the delay, growing more impatient to rescue his wife with every passing day.

After crossing back into barbaric Ferelden, they turn south before the imperial highway does, leaving it in an attempt to cut some time off their journey but are thwarted by a tributary to Lake Calenhad. They decide fording at night would be too perilous, so settle in on the banks for the night. With the death of Ice still on their minds, they quietly eat their trail rations and turn in early.

In the morning, as they prepare to cross the small river, Tyree mentions that he saw a large reptile resting on the banks during his watch, and warns they should probably watch out for it. Marius picks up a twig and tosses it into the swiftly flowing water. It is immediately set upon by a large pair of jaws. Wicked teeth snap the twig into nothingness then disappear back into the water just as quickly. Thanking his good friend Tyree, Marius suggests they move further south and attempt crossing at a less populated section of the waterway.

Near evening, they come to a place where the river empties into a small pond before continuing it’s journey to the massive Lake Calenhad. On the shore, a lone, ramshackle hut stands, seemingly empty. Curiosity, and the desire to secure the camp site, drive Broga, Tyree and Marius to investigate the building. Broga volunteers to go inside first. After carefully checking the door for traps and finding none, he creaks open the wooden door and enters the dusty room. The pungent smell of rotten fruit greets him, and he finds its source, a bowl in the center of a rickety table. That, a single chair and a few spiderwebs are all he discovers in the single room. Disappointed, he takes nothing, leaves the hut, and waves his companions away.

That night, a light suddenly appears, shining through the dirty window of the hut. Having seen no one enter, this piques Broga’s curiosity, and it beckons him back. Wisely, he wakes Tyree and Marius first, who agree to investigate this potential threat once more.

Having checked for traps on his first visit to the hut, Broga does not take the time to do so now. As he approaches the door, a slight tingling sensation tells him he shrugged off the effects of a paralyzing glyph. Counting on his famed dwarven resistance to magic, he ignores this warning and reaches for the door. This time his heritage fails him, and he is suddenly unable to move. The door flies open, and a very tall, slender woman with shocking magenta hair and eyes screams in fury, telling at them to leave her alone. For once, they do what they are told. Marius and Tyree each grab an arm of the paralyzed Broga and flee the scene, leaving the apparently crazy hermit to her rotten fruit.

View
Denizens of the Dales

During his watch, Tyree sees a ripe opportunity for revenge on Berchan, the annoying child who wouldn’t let him sleep. He sneaks up on the snoring boy and reaches out to grab him. Uncannily, Berchan rolls over, slipping through Tyree’s attempt. Undeterred, he tries again, and finally has success. He holds the struggling child and slaps him on the behind several times. The noise wakes up Broga and Armon, who peak at the scene, then roll over and go back to sleep. The slippery boy escapes the Avar’s strong grasp and flees into the darkness of the Dales, followed closely by his faithful dog, Ice. Tyree lets him go. Corryn, the only one that might care to chase him, remains undisturbed and unaware.

During the next watch, Broga notices the slight shimmering in the air collect to a single brighter point, grow more intense, then expand. Out of the light steps a ghostly figure of a child about Berchan’s age. It doesn’t speak, but appears very sad. Broga quickly wakes everyone up as it approaches their camp. Not sure he is a threat, everyone holds their fire. The child reaches Broga and tries to reach out to him. The transparent hand passes through the dwarf, chilling him to the bone and draining his energy. The boy’s nonthreatening demeanor and profound sadness moves the dwarf to not raise arms against it. Not so sympathetic, the arrows Cathal looses pass through the child without effect, as does Tyree’s maul. Frustrated, they fall back, ready to engage any living enemy that shows itself.

Expecting to see the distinctive pointed ears marking the children as elves, for who else would be haunting the Dales, Corryn is surprised to note their plain human features. He recalls that the offspring of a pairing between an elf and a human results in an entirely human child, but he does not spend long contemplating the implications of this. Several more silent, ghostly children appear with the same sad expression and approach.

Deaf to their cries of anguish and pain, Armon stoically slices through the spectral children with abandon, the searing light of the magical blade Aamar Fin burning them out of existence. After feeling the bite of their ghostly touch, Marius adds his magical assistance, and they soon overwhelm the spectres.

The still present shimmers coalesce again, this time revealing a much larger, nonhuman figure. The Nevarran immediately recognizes it as a high dragon and, like his ancestors before him, rushes headlong into battle with the huge beast. Cathal and Broga fire their arrows, but, just like the child, the missiles pass through it harmlessly. The dragon’s raking claws pass through Armon’s armor as if it weren’t there, soon depleting his energy until he can barely stand. At the last possible second, he retreats, tosses Aamar Fin to Tyree and hurries to Corryn for his healing hands.

Finally able to help, Tyree draws the attention of the spectral dragon, but has no more defense against it than did Armon, and is soon barely clinging to life. He does not retreat however, and manages to defeat the dragon before collapsing in exhaustion. Armon approaches and collects his sword back, leaving Corryn to tend to the Avar’s wounds.

After getting Tyree back up, Corryn finally notices that Berchan is missing. Tyree confesses that he ran off in the night, and is berated for letting the boy go off alone in such a dangerous place. Felayne volunteers her hounds’ services to track down their brother, knowing Berchan wouldn’t be far from Ice. Corryn accepts and the two follow the trail west into the morning fog. Marius sighs and follows. Left with only Avar and a thieving dwarf, Armon begrudgingly follows.

The puppy barks happily when he locates the dog, but Corryn and Felayne hesitate to approach the unusual scene. Berchan appears asleep, lying on the ground, curled up next to Ice. Completely surrounding him, ghostly children stand unmoving and stare at him. The puppies, sensing something is not quite right, halt their approach, sit and wait. Corryn bids Felayne stay back and sneaks up to investigate. Seeing Berchan’s breath in the chill spring air gives him some relief. A shout from behind draws his attention, and also that of the children, who in unison turn from watching the sleeping child to look at the noisy Tevinter mage.

The children do not move to engage, but Ice stands up and runs to greet his brothers. Corryn, the only one close enough to see, is confused by Ice still lying on the ground and simultaneously running to meet his brothers. Ice lunges at Marius and passes straight through him, draining some of the mage’s energy and confirming his ghostly status. The other dogs, confused and frightened, snap and bark at their brother, but have no more success than did Cathal or Tyree with their mundane weapons. Marius and Armon step in to destroy the ghostly hound, ignoring the children surrounding Berchan for the moment. In a desperate attempt to save Berchan from the soul draining shades, Corryn runs through them and shakes the boy awake. As soon as he opens his eyes, the spectres surrounding him unexpectedly vanish.

Disoriented, Berchan looks around groggily, trying to determine why all his friends are standing around him holding weapons. Assuming it must be time to leave, he places his hand on his beloved hound to wake him up, but shrinks back from the cold corpse and begins to weep. Cursing Tyree under his breath, Corryn attempts to comfort the crying child, but warns him that it’s not safe here and they need to move on. Between sobs, Berchan insists that he must bury Ice and starts clawing angrily at the earth with his small, bare hands. Late to arrive, Tyree hears Berchan’s desperation and joins his grave digging efforts without comment. With the Avar’s help, the grim process proceeds much faster.

Once the deed is complete, they silently break camp and head back to the road, once again leaving a place they hope never to return to.

View
Halamshiral

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.

View
On the road again

The loss of the wagon and the curing of Blight sickness from Berchan seem to bring the disparate travelers together in a hitherto unexpressed comradery, except, of course for Armon the perpetual pessimist. Marius ventures to ask Cathal if she might lend her hunting skills and bring them something other than trail rations for a meal. She obliges and slips off quietly on her own before Tyree can volunteer to accompany her. Felayne and Berchan gather berries and prepare a sauce to compliment the meat. When the huntress returns, Armon is dismayed to find Cathal’s game is a common sheep, but can hardly make her unslay it and return it to the poor farmer.

Cathal takes Corryn aside, but is easily overheard as she asks to see Corryn’s bracers. She points out a feature Corryn hadn’t notice before, three small letters sewn into the leather on the inside. She gives him a look of disgust as she throws the bracers back at them and accuses him of being unworthy of wearing them. Unfazed by the criticism, Corryn probes the Avar for her reasons and she reveals that they belonged to Rowenna’s husband who perished with the slaughter of the farmers outside Redhold. Corryn takes this news in stride and tells Cathal that Rowenna seemed to think he was worthy and leaves it at that.

After the meal as everyone is relaxing around the campfire for the first night in a long while, Berchan clears his throat and claims he has a serious announcement to make. They listen as the boy solemnly tells them that he has bequeathed his white Mabari hound with the name Ice. Tyree scoffs at that, suggesting that name isn’t nearly fierce enough, but Berchan cannot be swayed from his decision. With their bellies full of mutton and berries, they retire for a peaceful night’s rest, the horror of the past few weeks fading into memory.

An annoying jabbing in his side wakes Tyree from his pleasant dreams. He opens his eyes to find Berchan standing over him, the sky still dark and dotted with stars. He rolls over and closes his eyes once more, but the boy is persistent, adding shouts and jeers to his efforts. Finally having had enough Tyree makes a grab for the boy, but somehow misses. Berchan laughs at the clumsy Avar, enraging him further. Berchan dodges another swipe, then tears off, leading Tyree on a chase around the camp. Armon joins in as well, but neither man comes close to catching what they perceive as an unnaturally fast child. Corryn laughs at their antics, attributing their failure to their own lack of speed. After having a good laugh at the Avar’s expense, they pack up the campsite and return to the busy road.

Marius quickly tires of carrying his own supplies, so he suggests they stop at the next town to replace the donkey Armon lost. Despite a piercing stare from Armon, no one objects. They stop in a tiny town not marked on Marius’ map, where they meander through until they spy a donkey tethered outside a general store. Marius enters to negotiate for the purchase of the animal. He finds a young dwarf manning the store who introduces herself as Ella. She eagerly tries to sell him wheat and other grains, but stubbornly refuses to part with her donkey, claiming she needs it to journey to and from work. Seeing that he doesn’t have the silver to make it an offer she can’t refuse, he turns to his undeniable Tevinter charm. Ella seems appalled by his advances and in no uncertain terms asks him to leave immediately. Marius returns to the others but does not disclose his failure, rather claiming that he’s changed his mind. He loads up their one remaining donkey with his excess possessions and heads out of town. With confused glances at each other, the rest follow.

View
Karma

Felayne wakes up with a splitting headache, glances around the camp and is surprised to find Armon, Tyree and Cathal had returned during the night. She shakes off the hazy memories of events from the prior evening and goes about making breakfast for everyone from the meager trail rations. The crackling of the fire and smell of food soon wake everyone. After the meal, they sit down to discuss how they are going to find Corryn and Berchan. Upset with herself for not noticing sooner, Felayne interjects that one of her puppies is missing. Surmising that it may have imprinted with the boy, Armon suggests they use the other hounds to track it. The brown and spotted puppies happily oblige, and head off west to find their snow white brother. It doesn’t take long to track down the puppy, but he insists on continuing west. Still hopeful it will lead them to Berchan and Corryn, they give him his head and follow.

The puppy leads them off road into the trees and eventually to a pair of guards. Tyree is able to convince one of them to accompany them into the Empress’ camp instead of turning them away by being his intimidating self and also dropping the names of Duncan and Sister Stone. The dog more than the guard leads them through the elaborate camp to a dining area where they find Berchan enjoying an enticing meal of sausages and poached eggs. The puppy barks happily, runs circles and generously shares his slobber with the boy. Wary of Berchan’s seemingly miraculous recovery, Armon inspects him carefully, convinced there is something amiss but is unable to put his finger on it. Marius introduces himself to the stuffy looking red-head seated across from the boy and asks after his fellow mage Corryn. She curtly explains that he is chasing a missing elf, but offers little else, especially after Marius’ derogatory comment about elves. A winded Corryn arrives shortly thereafter, mutters something about bad directions, then reports to Sister Stone that the elf eluded him. After considering for a moment, she nods and assures him Duncan will know what to do.

Not sure what Corryn and Sister Stone are talking about, Marius attempts to piece together what happened and why this elf might be important. Corryn tells him little, only that an elf woman may be possessed by a demon and is loose in the area. Trusting in his friend’s judgement, he concurs with the decision to leave the filthy elf to the capable Grey Wardens and return to the task at hand. As they turn to leave, Sister Stone pulls Corryn aside, presses something into his hand, whispers to him, then walks away. Reunited at last, Marius and his cohorts return to Felayne’s wagon, gather their belongings and turn back east once again towards Fereldan, Izot, and Ventiver.

No longer carrying contraband, they freely enter Verchiel together. While trundling through town, Marius notes the main thoroughfare seems unusually deserted for mid-afternoon, the many stalls where merchants should be hawking their wares shuttered and empty. A hulking figure steps out from the between two stalls, masked and covered in gold chains. Marius recognizes the mortal enemy of Tevinter, a Qunari, but not just a brute warrior. Saarebas, a mage, a rare sight outside of the Qunari homeland. It holds forth its hands and releases a searing cone of flame, enraging the horses and setting the wagon ablaze.

Felayne scrambles out of the wagon and goes around back to help Azur out and unhitch the donkeys while Armon and Tyree charge the Qunari. Sarrebas unleashes another blast of arcane energy, stopping Tyree in his tracks. Armon pushes forward past the only statue Tyree will ever have and engages the mage in melee, hoping to keep it from using any more tricks. Broga stays at range, plunking it with arrows, which it mostly ignores. To Armon’s dismay, Berchan joins him on the front line, stabbing ineffectively with his short sword. He is surprised and suspicious that the boy seems unusually good at dodging the mage’s blows and thinks to himself a phrase that he will utter many times in the days to come, “That boy ain’t right.”

With Felayne, the animals and the loot safely away from the burning wagon, Corryn and Marius join the fight and soon overwhelm Saarebas. Berchan makes the killing blow, and with the death of its caster, Tyree is released from his stony prison. Corryn and Marius quickly examine the body for any magical items, but find only the chains that bind it. Armon stays on the lookout for the guards that surely must be coming, leaving Broga free to rummage through the merchant’s stalls unobserved. The dwarf comes across a stall full of small trinkets and is fascinated by a white cat statue. He is compelled to take it, but does so stealthily, his companions none the wiser.

The mages decide that detaching the chains from the Qunari’s rib cage would be too grisly and opt to leave the corpse intact. Armon is terribly disappointed with Verchiel’s guard when he realizes they are not coming. Marius agrees that the whole situation smells of a setup, especially knowing that Saarebas are almost always slaves. They decide to leave the mystery in unsolved, instead leaving Verchiel as quikly as possible. Azur mounts one of Felayne’s horses so as not to slow them down and they leave the city in a hurry, Broga’s pockets jingling with every step.

View
The Cure

“Corryn, you must…” Suddenly the face and voice of First Enchanter Rhys are replaced by an unfamiliar voice calling his name. Corryn wakes with a start on a simple cot in an unfamiliar place. He closes his eyes a moment to clear his head and remember where he is. He had ridden with Berchan through the night to the Empress’ camp. After a short conversation with a pair of guards, they lead him to Sister Stone, her pink robe and title signifying some Chantry connection, but her young age cast doubt on how high ranking she might be. She had agreed to take the boy into her care and immediately set to work. Empress Celene I of Orlais had deigned to grant the mage an audience as requested, but his warnings of a possible Blight underway in Ferelden were dismissed. An elf, not Dalish it seemed, had stood near and signaled to her that he was either lying or wrong.

Another call from outside the tent snaps him back to the present. A handsome young man, for all the Empress’ guards were handsome young men, informs him that Sister Stone requires his assistance. Without delay he follows the man out into the crisp pre-dawn air.

The guard leads him to a tent on the outskirts of the camp. Unlike the multitude of pure white tents in the area, this one is strikingly bright red. The guard motions for him to enter and takes up a vigilant position outside. Inside, Corryn finds a stone dais where Berchan lies motionless surrounded by lit candles. Sister Stone holds a white feather and slowly draws it back and forth over the boy, not acknowledging Corryne’s entrance. The [[elf-woman:|elf woman]] that denied his claims in front of the Empress steps out of the shadows towards Corryn. She gives him an elaborate bowl and bids him hold it. She produces a wicked looking dagger engraved with many symbols he does not recognize, stares into Corryn’s eyes, raises the dagger and slices her palm, then squeezes several drops of her bright red blood into the bowl. She then passes the dagger to him, takes the bowl, holds it out to him and waits. He mimics the elf, and winces at the sharp pain and burning of the dagger slicing his flesh. The elf then takes the bowl to Sister Stone. She dips the pure white feather into the pool of blood, then returns to the boy. She begins a low chant while again moving the feather, now blood-soaked, above Berchan. Corryn notices a slight shimmer in the air which solidifies into the image of a twisted mockery of the material world. Corryn recalls his recent harrowing and recognizes this as a tear in the Veil, a window into the Fade.

A shadowy figure appears in the distance, humanoid but indistinct. Corryn prepares to defend himself, as all Circle mages are taught to do when confronted by denizens of the Fade. It slowly approaches, and whether through illusion or simply by virtue of being closer, takes the form of a Content Not Found: faith-spirit. It steps through the tear into Thedas and vanishes. Corryn watches close for a change in Berchan’s condition, but does not see any difference. Sister Stone continues her chanting and ritual motions.

Another figure appears across the Veil, but this one Corryn recognizes. A mass of writhing flesh and organs, a Content Not Found: sloth-demon, like the one he fought off during his Harrowing, grotesquely slithers towards them. The elf recognizes it too, and throws the bowl to the ground, smashing it to pieces. The image of the Fade starts to disappear, but the demon does not slow it’s advance. Corryn unleashes a bolt of magical energy, trying to hold it back long enough for the tear to dissipate. It responds in kind, sending a wave of entropic energy through the swiftly closing portal. He and the elf are overwhelmed by the demon’s spell. As he falls to the floor into a fitful sleep, he sees Sister Stone still standing and the demon and the tear vanish.

View
The Legend Begins

The Paper Dragon Inn bristles with nighttime activity as Marius enjoys his evening meal. Feeling in a particularly good mood, he orders a round of wine for his companions. Broga excitedly accepts and Felayne hesitantly does so, while Armon and Azur outright refuse. After a few glasses of the cheapest wine copper can buy, a woman enters that catches Broga’s interest. But for the swollen lip and black eye, she would be quite attractive. He feels a slight twinge of guilt when he recognizes her as the woman from which he stole the very nice Tevinter senator’s robe, but that quickly passes when he sees the gold she flashes to the barkeep. With every passing coin and downed drink, Broga’s becomes more confident that he could seduce her and rob her blind. He excuses himself from the dinner table, leaving the unusually chatty Felayne to entertain Marius.

Enjoying his conversation with the tipsy Felayne learning all about her life on the road with her dog breeder father, Marius dismisses Armon’s nagging reminders that it is time to leave. He huffs impatiently, raps his foot and eventually leaves to rendezvous with Corryn’s group and the Grey Wardens on his own. Glad to be rid of one of the wet blankets, Marius questions the pliable Felayne on her curious intuition about the Grey Wardens at Veta’s. She reveals to him her heritage and the real reason she and her father had such a transient lifestyle. The Grey Wardens don’t let people abandon their duty, nor have families.

Broga approaches the woman at the bar, pretending to care about her well being and asks her to go with him somewhere private. After a disgusted glare, she abruptly changes to a big smile and asks the dwarf if he’s ever heard of Qunari and if he’d like to meet her friend. Seeming uncharacteristicly lucid for someone who had imbibed so much, Broga smells a trap and in the second fit of self-control in one day, wisely leaves her and her gold to their drinks.

Armon finds that Marius is not the only latecomer when he arrives at the appointed location and finds no Grey Wardens, mages, or Avar. Muttering to himself, he roams up and down the road, searching for his companions well into the night. Eventually he gives up, settling near the base of a tree to sleep to try again come morning.

After concluding their meal, the three drunkards and one cripple stumble out of the Paper Dragon Inn and return to Felayne’s wagon. They suddenly realize their fatal error when Felayne, the only trained wagon driver, passes out in the bed. Broga volunteers to drive, and Marius agrees, seeing no better alternative. Although he has a good start, a jerking halt and the sound of splintering wood interrupt the journey out of town. The horses enjoy their luck standing among the remains of a demolished fruit stand consuming the merchandise. Unable to get them to stop, he calls for help from the only sober member of the party, Azur. He crawls his way up to the driver’s seat and takes the reins, but has no better luck than Broga at tearing the horses away from their delicious snacks. Guards approach the scene, sniggering at their ridiculous inability to control their wagon or animals. Broga deftly deflects all blame to Azur for the entire incident. One of them demands a fine of thirty silver for damage to the property and loss of merchandise. For a moment they panic, until realizing that all the group’s jointly earned silver is still in the wagon. They pay the obvious bribe, have the guards help them back up the wagon, then leave town as quickly as possible. Just outside of town on the side of the road, they pull over and , without bothering to set up camp or watches, pass out, trusting in Armon and Corryn to take care of negotiating with the Grey Wardens.

After Corryn’s departure, the Grey Wardens and their Avar shadow begin tracking the beast to its origin, worried that there might be more of them. They trace it’s slimy trail to the remains if a large covered broken wagon, where they also find the corpse of the man very fond of his blue cloak. Tyree silently laments that Broga didn’t look in the wagon at the gates, imagining the trouble he would have gotten in to by releasing that thing on the crowded road. Counting that mystery solved they then go about the business of disposing of the Darkspawn corpses and the tainted wheat field. Tyree learns all he can about the Grey Wardens, especially the exotic and deadly Amanda. While they are polite and answer his many, many questions, they remain aloof and do not engage in any in-depth discussions. Tyree warns them that he has seen signs of a blight, that his village had been destroyed by an army of Darkspawn, and that they surely must need as many new recruits as possible. Ignoring that last part, Duncan assures him that what is happening is most definitely not a blight, but does acknowledge that something dark is afoot. With their duty complete, the Wardens excuse themselves back to their camp with the Empress’ caravan, leaving Tyree to spin his tales about the mother and hundreds of Darkspawn he and the Grey Wardens defeated to an exhausted Cathal, who just rolls her eyes and shakes her head.

At Tyree’s command, Dog easily tracks Armon to his tree. He is uninterested in hearing Tyree’s story about the two mothers and thousands of Darkspawn he defeated with a little help from the Grey Wardens, and just wants to go to bed. Dog happily leads them to the Mabari puppies, fast asleep under Felayne’s wagon. They find Felayne and Marius asleep in the back while Broga and Azur lean against eachother up front, snoring and drooling as only Avar and dwarves can. Not fearing attacks this close to the city, Cathal and Armon take spots on the ground, leaving Tyree with only Dog to tell about his adventure slaying five giant Darkspawn and millions of her crawling brood.

View
The Mother

When the senator’s robe appears to have survived the night undisturbed, everyone is skeptical and wary. Nonetheless, they dig up the now filthy garment, stuff it into the back of the wagon, and trundle their ungainly caravan back to the crowded road. As they near the gates of Verchiel, a mass of stopped wagons, horses and pedestrians block their passage. They join the queue waiting to go through the much tighter security than they witnessed on their previous visit. After slowly but steadily moving forward for a while, the line stalls. The curious and stealthy dwarf Broga sneaks up to the front to see what is causing the delay. He spies a man next to an unusually large covered wagon arguing with a guard, and moves close enough to eavesdrop. It seems the man will not let the guards inspect the contents of his wagon, and so they are refusing him entrance. After narrowly resisting the urge to have a peak for himself, Broga reports his finding back to the rest of the group. Marius looks at the giant insectoid corpses and ashen boy in the wagon, and quickly surmises that taking either to the gate will likely get them turned away, arrested, or killed.

Knowing that Felayne’s wagon could not navigate the rough terrain around Verchiel, Corryn volunteers to take Berchan by horseback around the city and meet up with the wagon on the other side to continue their journey to the empress’ caravan. The city-averse Avar, Tyree, readily agrees to accompany the mage and take the Darkspawn carcasses. Torn between her injured brother and her hatred of cities, Cathal reluctantly chooses to go with the brash young Tyree, leaving Azur in Felayne’s care. They waste no time in splitting supplies and securing the now unconscious boy onto Corryn’s borrowed horse. The small group leaves the queue and heads off to the north of the walled city.

After the man with the large wagon is rebuffed and cleared out of the way, the line moves much faster. Marius and company reach the gates and pass through security without issue. After carefully calculating the difference in time it will take Corryn to go around the city than for him to go through, Marius takes them on a slight detour to Veta’s, being one of the few familiar places in town, to gather some intel. Veta greets Marius warmly and Armon with cold indifference. Armon sulks off, taking a position near the door to observe the crowd. He notes Veta’s new dwarven employees helping the Orlesion fops buy useless filigree swords and weak over-decorated shields. The cheery dwarf confirms Marius’ prediction that the Empress has not yet arrived, but that rumors abound that she is close. She soon realizes he is not there to purchase anything though, and rushes off to help a paying customer. Upon Veta’s departure, Felayne unexpectedly elbows Marius in the ribs, points to a bored-looking blond woman with striking yellow eyes and an intricate tattoo covering her face and whispers in his ear, “I think that’s a Grey Warden.”

Though skeptical of Felayne’s claim, Marius studies the woman discreetly. Another dark-skinned woman approaches her with an ornate broadsword but is dismissed with a disapproving glare. Undeterred, her cheerful companion approaches several more times with various weapons, each time rejected with the same response. Finally a shield embellished with a stylized griffon is met with a resigned shrug, and the bubbly woman bounces off to stand in the lengthy line to purchase it. Marius approaches the suspected Grey Warden and introduces himself. The woman, Kilina, neither confirms nor denies that she and her friend are in fact Grey Wardens. Nonetheless, Marius gives her a brief summary of their current predicament. Though not able to confirm that they can actually help Berchan, she agrees to bring her superior officer Duncan to rendezvous with Corryn and the boy west of the city. With his business concluded, Marius excuses himself, gathers his companions and retires to The Paper Dragon for a relaxing evening meal before again leaving the comforts of civilization.

The newly sprouted wheat fields just outside Verchiel’s north wall rustle in the pleasant breeze as Corryn rides quickly but carefully through the rugged terrain with the listless Berchan restrained in the saddle in front of him. With Tyree scouting ahead and Cathal watching the flank, he seems alone in the world. Without warning, Berchan begins to twitch and convulse, interrupting his peaceful solitude. Corryn is unable to calm him, but his bonds hold for the moment, though his spasms become more violent with each passing second. Noticing the commotion, Tyree doubles back to assist, but is soon distracted by a familiar clicking sound, followed by a large insectoid Darkspawn emerging from the field.

Several more of the grotesque human-faced bugs emerge from the wheat to swarm around Tyree. He is able to crush many of the beasts with his maul while Cathal picks off a few with her bow, but not at a rate exceeding the reinforcements’ arrival. Corryn is caught by surprise when a figure leaps from Verchiel’s fifteen foot stone outer wall, deftly rolls into a run, and charges towards Tyree. He wisely holds his fire and is rewarded for his patience. The striking woman in heavy leather armor unsheathes a long sword as she runs, cuts down several of the bugs surrounding Tyree and stomps a few more. Corryn studies the newcomer closely. Though she appears human, her vallaslin betrays some elven ties or heritage. A bow shot from the wall skewers another one of the creatures and distracts Corryn from dwelling on the warrior. He is unable to make out the details of this new combatant, but Tyree’s keen Avar eyes focus on a beautiful dark-skinned woman standing atop the wall, bow in hand. She lets fly several more arrows, all of which strike true, pinning the insect corpses to the ground all around the star struck Avar. He concludes that these great warriors must be the Grey Wardens and proceeds to attempt to impress them with his battle prowess against the strange Darkspawn.

A blood-curdling screeching from the east attracts the attention of the warrior fighting alongside Tyree, who breaks off her attack to run towards the awful sound. The archer on the wall redirects her fire as well, causing cries of pain from the new threat before anyone else can even see it. A third figure leaps from the wall, a tall Rivaini warrior clad in chainmail, readies his griffon emblazoned shield and gleaming broadsword, then strides calmly and purposefully towards the new threat.

Corryn watches as the man approaches the pale, naked woman rising from the wheat. As more of her is revealed though, she seems less and less human. Her dark, thick lower half reassembles a segmented worm studded with writhing tentacles. The Rivaini man seems unfazed though, approaches the monstrosity and proceeds to engage it in melee. It howls in anger, ignoring the stream of stinging missiles from Cathal and the sharpshooter. Amid it’s screeches and groans, Corryn and Tyree clearly make out it’s raspy voice screaming through her mandibles, “Die Grey Wardens!”

Corryn finally dismounts to join the fight up close and be clear of the flailing child and passes the reins to Cathal to keep the horse with it’s unruly passenger from bolting. More of the bugs swarm around the woman-thing and are mercilessly slaughtered by Tyree and Corryn while the Grey Wardens keep the mother busy. The longsword wielding woman becomes entangled in the tentacles and is tossed away from the fight twice before the Rivaini slices off the offending appendage. The mother fights the wardens to her dying breath, never relenting or considering retreat. Cathal finishes off the beast from horseback behind the flailing child, adding one last arrow to the many already protruding from her many-breasted chest. For good measure, the Rivaini uses his bastard sword to remove her head, then turns to greet Corryn.
p. Corryn immediately retrieves the now still Berchan from Cathal, giving the Grey Warden the same story Marius related to his fellow Warden at Veta’s. He does not bother with introducing himself, but hurries to examine the boy’s condition. With a grim look, he declares that he cannot help. However, he may know someone who can. He gives Corryn very specific directions to reach the Empress’ camp and instructs him to relate that Duncan sent him to see Sister Stone. Without delay, for Duncan fears he might not last the night, Berchan is loaded back on to the horse with Corryn who gallops off into the setting sun and doesn’t look back.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.