Kallain, disgusted with the sluggish rescue of Izot, pushed through the snow and biting wind into the inhospitable Frostback Mountains. Her search lasted a long and grueling day, but she found nothing and was forced to take shelter in a cave with an old fire pit.
Unexpectedly, Kallian heard voices and footsteps, and hid in the shadows of the cavern’s stalagmites. Entering the cave were a vocally bothered Hocke and Shadow. They claimed that they were searching for some kind of sword that Avvars may be in possession of, but neither of them were accustomed to trekking the mountains.
Their argument was cut short by a sudden burning green light. The air itself seemed to tear like a sheet, and an elven man stepped from the cave wall, accompanied by strange sounds and stranger magics. He calmly requested the status of their current duty, and the pair had only worried glances and poor excuses to share.
This bothered the elf.
With streams of green lightning and crackles like thunder, magics flew from the elf’s hand and into Hocke. Hocke screamed and writhed for what seemed like an hour but only lasted several seconds. When the lights and sounds faded, Hocke stood, not as a man, but as an elf. A simple grin graced his face, and the former braggart humbly requested his master to continue his quest. Shadow cowered, promising that they would find the sword soon.
The elven mage hoped they would, and stepped back into the wall as if it weren’t there.
The quiet and eerily cooperative Hocke urged his companion to follow him, as their quest was not over. Shadow had no courage to offer an argument.
When she was sure they were gone, Kallian inspected the back wall of the cave and, sure enough, the cavern wall was an illusion, concealing a deeper cavern tunnel. The tunnel ended in a large and ornate mirror. The mirror was dull, but it gave Kallian a strange feeling. Curling up to finally sleep, she knew she had some intel for her friends when she next saw them.
In Redhold, Asha, Alora, Jack, and their new Grey Warden allies planned with the Avvars of the hold to prepare for battle. Weapons were sharpened and magical wards were placed by the Wolves around the walls.
Elorn spoke to Asha about her magical talents. He noticed that something had been following her steps and watching her actions with great joy. He promised it was not a dangerous presence, and told her to listen for it next time she drew her magical powers to her side. Asha had long suspected something, and could hear the slightest whisper following her, singing when she healed the injured and smiling when she fed and clothed the poor. She asked this benevolent entity to keep Kallian safe in her journey. The spirit seemingly left Asha that night, and a blanket drew further across Kallian’s sleeping body, and the snow seemed to pile higher to block the wind.
Desmond, a high born boy from the Free Marches city of Starkhaven, complained nigh-constantly of the current quest. In between scoffing at the Avvar way of life, he could see no reason that they would dig their heels in and wait for darkspawn when they should be like the Wardens of ages past: rushing out to slay the beasts. Thelriel, the senior Warden of the two, seemed to serve as a buffer between Desmond and others. He assured him that heroism would come the following night.
The sword, Amore Fin, was given to the Grey Warden Thelriel. The sword seemed to sing in his hands, and indeed, the song began to spread to the Wolves as well. They could hear promises of greatness, a hot forge that would make them into grand heroes, and they all woke with a start. They felt changed and yet the same. The sword awoke them to their destinies, if only drawing the curtain back an inch.
When the darkspawn chanting began, the Wolves and the Wardens stood inside the walls of the hold, waiting as the chanting grew louder and more frenzied. Kilina turned to Thelriel in that moment, and apologized. She told him that her time had come, her Calling had begun, and this seemed like a good time to heed the call. The circumstances were unusual, but she could see no better way to go out than protecting her fellow Wardens and the people of Ferelden. She gave Thelriel one last goodbye, and entrusted Desmond’s care to him. Thelriel accepted.
Kilina leapt from the wall and bounded into the forest, and never returned.
The darkspawn did not seem too slowed, for mere minutes after Kilinia’s forward assault, the darkspawn charged the wall of Redhold. Slamming large ladders against the walls and climbing over to engage the heroes and the Avvar directly, the darkspawn brought the fight to their enemies. The magical traps and perseverance of the heroes cut down endless waves of genlocks and the berserker hurlocks smashed into the heroes and the Avvar like a battering ram. Despite the carnage and the ferocity of the battle, the darkspawn were pushed back twice. On the third assault, the darkspawn dragged out a living war machine, a bereskarn they called Maargach.
Maargach was enormous and powerful, slamming the heroes into the dirt, razor sharp claws shearing their armor, and had a roar that could send a chevalier running for the hills. Despite its great power, a greater power from Amore Fin called lightning from the sky into the beast, and it was felled.
The Avvar cheered as the darkspawn ranks retreated, their ferocious morale broken. The Wolves and the remaining Wardens caught their breath, and a confused Desmond asked where Kilina had gone. Desmond seemed shaken by the news. He did not complain as much the rest of their stay in the hold.
The Avvars thanked the Wolves and the Wardens, and celebrated as their family members returned alive the next day. The people would not soon forget the aid of Baranti’s Wolves and the Grey Wardens.
With no immediate leadership, Thelriel asked the Wolves if Desmond and himself could travel with them at least back to civilization. The Wolves saw no problem with this. As they all began to pack up and leave the hold, they were all approached, once again, by Azur Ar Brosna. He thanked them again for saving his home from the darkspawn, but urged them to pack up quickly, as Izot may not have much time left before she was taken back to the hold of the Avvar who took her.
Azur shared the identity of the man who kidnapped Izot: an honorless man named Balan. He had renounced his hold and was building a new hold for himself. He took what he wanted and killed those who stepped in his way. He took Izot as a prize when he tore her from Azur’s hands, killed his friend Sollus, and left them for dead only after Balan’s second-in-command informed Balan that Azur was the son of the thane of Redhold. He left his last remaining friend, Martain, to drag an unconscious Azur to Redhold, and Azur had been dreaming up plans to get Izot back ever since.
Azur confessed that he and Izot wished to be wed, and that they had planned for him to kidnap her as Avvar tradition dictated he must, and tell the arl of their marriage a month after the fact. He still wished to marry her, but could tell he was out of his depth. He implored the Wolves to help him find her and take her from Balan. The Wolves agreed, and rushed to find Izot and Kallian both.
Meanwhile Kallian had found the trail of the party that took Izot, and tracked them to a small camp they had set up on a scenic route overlooking an ice-bridge. Ice-bridges occasionally formed between two mountain peaks in the Frostbacks, and were usually very solid mid-winter. However, the sun broke through the clouds and droplets of water fell from the ice-bridge to the valley floor half a mile below. The camp stood on the opposite side of the ice-bridge, and Kallian could see that she would be too exposed approaching across the bridge.
She would climb alongside it.
With a rope, two daggers, and a staggering amount of determination, Kallain began a treacherous sideways climb alongside the bridge. With a half-mile of open air beneath her, she dug in deep and climbed quickly. A few moments later, she found herself on the other mountain top.
It was at this moment, as Kallian distracted the Avvars under Balan’s command with rocks and trickery, she grabbed Izot and ran for the bridge, just in time to see her friends had caught up with her and were moving towards the bridge as well. The Avvars took notice of her and Izot before they could rush the bridge, catching them both and demanding names and purpose. Balan could see that Asha, Alora, Thelriel, and Jack (mostly) wished to see their captives returned, and demanded that they send their champion forward to claim her as honorable men and women. Kallian offered herself.
Balan, wishing to worry the city elf, had the duel take place on the ice-bridge, where one would walk away with whatever spoils they asked for. Hefting his battle axe and shield, Balan sneered at the slight elven Kallian and her two short blades. Her moves were too quick for the Avvar brute, however, as Kallian weaved her way past his shield and found purchase in his gut.
The remaining members of Balan’s party offered no resistance, and Izot was returned to the heroes. Izot could barely contain her joy that not only had Azur come to rescue her, but Kallian had as well in the fashion of a hero.
She informed the heroes that she still wished to marry Azur, and now that they were together and the threats were past, that they could inform the arl a bit sooner than they planned that not only was she okay, but she would be wed before the week was out.
Before the heroes returned to West Arling, Kallian directed the group to the cave she had found. The cave seemed undisturbed from her last visit, and her mage friends were astonished to find the mirror behind the false wall. What no one expected was that the mirror sprung to life as they approached it.
From the other side, a woman stepped from the mirror. A queen-like presence, the old woman looked upon the heroes like they were amusing children. She remarked that the eluvian had been reactivated by someone, and apparently had suspicions as to who it might have been. She urged them to continue on the course they had set for themselves, and that if Kotin was indeed awakened, that all of Thedas would likely need them very soon.
Offering no less cryptic encouragement and observations about the heroes themselves, the woman then stepped back through the eluvian, and the room was quiet. As quickly as she had appeared, the heroes could not shake that she hadn’t truly left.
Descending the mountain, the Wolves and Wardens finally reached the West Arling and gave their report to Arl Gallagher Wulff. Though understandably perturbed that his daughter had run off to marry an Avvar in the mountains, the heroes opened the idea of trade between the lowlanders and the mountains. With the family getting larger, there could have been new opportunities. Still bothered but happy to know his daughter was safe, alive, and most of all happy, the arl paid the heroes for their help and the Wolves and Wardens set out for Denerim once again.