Dragon Age: Faith Misplaced

A Fragile Web
The Wolves turn slueths, and uncover plots where trust had been

Denerim1.jpg

The heroes’ return to Denerim was at once joyous, dark, and bothersome. The people of Denerim cheered the return of their heroes, having heard the tales of uniting a Ferelden family and an Avvar family after holding off a horde of darkspawn. The comparisons with the Hero of Ferelden only increased, and the Wolves of Baranti found they had many admirers.

Before reporting back to Baranti, the heroes took a few moments in a tavern to collect themselves and eat real food after being on the road for several days. They were approached by the most noticeable patron: a tal-vashoth qunari woman named Vonak Hol. Towering over the crowd, she inquired if the heroes were the Baranti Wolves. Upon an affirmation, she claimed that she was looking for good action and work and sought only the toughest group she could find. While the Blackstone Irregulars would have been the obvious choice the day before, they had none in their ranks who had done quite as much as the Wolves of Baranti.

Finding it difficult to refuse the towering woman, they told her they’d bring her to Baranti for confirmation.

The report to Baranti seemed sour somehow. While she appreciated the glory that was being brought to her house and her patrons, she seemed bothered by something. After approving Vonak’s “application,” she assured the Wolves and their new Warden guests that nothing was wrong; it would be a few days before any new assignments would show up. She insisted that the heroes take a week off from being heroes and told them that they were welcome to attend her grandson’s engagement party in a week’s time.

The triumphant return took a darker turn when the eccentric Jack received a lyrium pouch and quietly died of an overdose of lyrium. Kallian discovered her body but saw little reason to report her death. Her body was eventually dragged from the ally to no fanfare, and her friends never quite knew where she went. Given the troubling history they all shared, little effort was made to find her…

Captain Braedon treated Asha to a dinner in one of Denerim’s higher-end restaurants. The meeting seemed to go well, but Asha did not seem to get the message Braedon was sending to her. Alora and Eshara set to work improving the lot of the alienage elves. They were joined by Asha and Thelriel, who provided healing and other magical services for the elves of Denerim. Vonak quickly became popular among the children of the alienage, who began calling her the “dragon woman”. Vonak never contradicted it, but she never confirmed it. Kallian discovered renewed passions in Adric Baranti, but rather than discourage them, Kallian made use of the attention. Adric’s advances went unanswered, but his quest for her love was prolonged, perhaps out of spite for his engagement within the week.

Desmond was none-too-silent about the accommodations of Ferelden’s largest city. Growing up in the gold-filigreed Starkhaven, the young noble made note of the dirt and cobblestone streets, packed housing, and volume of grime on Denerim’s citizenry. Content to follow Thelriel’s orders, Desmond made himself comfortable at the Baranti manor until Thelriel needed his assistance. After the experience with darkspawn Desmond had the week before, he was welcoming of the break.

Eshara, at one moment, approached Alora with an offer that was given to her by a wealthy patron: a home in the country for her and Alora. Alora was not as ecstatic about the offer, however. Eshara argued that they were a couple and deserved to live together in peace, especially after all the trouble Alora found herself getting into. Alora reminded Eshara that the elves of the alienage still needed them, but Eshara never truly put the deal down.

When it was clear that magical abilities had manifested in Tom, Asha took several steps to take him in, and she decided to adopt him herself. Looking into the legal requirements to adopt the boy that would take months with her being an elf (if they were possible to begin with), she began the process of the adoption in Linnea’s name instead.

One day, the heroes were approached by an old servant woman named Andiel. Andiel explained that she was the servant of Ser Greta, whom the heroes had met before. Ser Greta had recently been blackmailed to halt her investigations into some kind of “Orlesian society”. Ser Greta had told no one, but she suspected that Andiel had told someone about an affair Greta had with someone who turned out to be an Orlesian assassin. They were planning on exposing her liaison to the Ferelden government, which would be ruinous to her career as a blackhaller.

Andiel admitted that she had told one person about the embarrassing event. She had told it to a mute Chantry brother in a Chantry called Andraste’s Ear. She was resolute that the brother would not share the secret, and that they even wrote the secrets to place them in a box, and all of the sins confessed to Andraste’s Ear were burned weekly to signify that their secrets were only for Andraste to hear.

The heroes saw little other course than to investigate Andraste’s Ear. The small chantry building was the largest in the Dregs district of Denerim and a kind of spiritual center. It was clear from the visitors of the small church that Nicola Baranti herself had ordered the construction of the chantry to help the commoners find the Maker’s light. The brothers and sisters of the chantry indeed were mutes, all with their tongues cut out, and they stood In confession booths with worshippers who confessed their sins. More thorough investigating led the heroes to the office of the local Revered Mother, Mother Gabriella.

The Revered Mother was cagey and reluctant to answer questions until the heroes agreed to help her. She was bound to a service that she found foul but could not back out of. She, like Ser Greta, had been blackmailed by an unknown party, but Mother Gabriella had been pressed into a purpose. She gathered the confessions from the previous week and placed them in a barrel behind the chantry. The confessions that she burned every week were blank replacements to keep up the charade. She had no idea who was threatening to expose her past as a reluctant spy for the Orlesians occupying Ferelden in the previous age. She asked the heroes to follow the trail and uncover this treachery, so that she may burn the real confessions once again.

The heroes returned the day of the pickup to watch a drunkard grab the box of confessions and leave with it. The heroes followed him in turn to a familiar apple cart being run by Shayda. He dropped the bag of confessions into the apples and swiped one apple on his way out.

Before the heroes could ask Shayda anything, a group of humans surrounded her and dragged her into an ally, assuring that they would “not take no for an answer today.” This altercation was quick and decisive.

With the human ruffians unconscious, the heroes confronted Shayda about the bag. She saw little harm in it; she merely collected them from the same drunk man to deliver to another Fereldan man for ten silvers a week, which was more than she’d ever make with an apple cart.

Denerim_concept_art_2.jpg

The heroes allowed Shayda to continue her usual drop off to the human later that day and followed him to a small house tucked in Denerim’s back streets. No other entrances seemed to exist, so the heroes approached. A large mabari named Ripper began barking as the heroes approached, and the human they had followed, an older man named Roger, stepped out of the house several moments later, armed with a loaded crossbow. He announced that the heroes had reached a dead-end and should move along. When the heroes seemed reluctant, he asked again, and again, until it was clear he was stalling. The heroes caught on and attacked, bringing the man and his dog down softly without killing them. The house was small and seemed to keep only two humans and a mabari. That third occupant was nowhere to be found, but upon discovery of a trap door into underground tunnels, the heroes knew they should run faster.

The tunnels held traps of both magical and mundane nature, and a mousy girl with magical talents hurled fire behind her as she made her escape from the heroes. Several of her paralyzing glyphs slowed the heroes’ progress, but she was eventually pinned down just before she could disappear into a crowd.

The girl was named Marissa, and she understood quickly that not talking would be a mistake. She revealed that she was a junior spymaster in service to none other than Bann Nicola Baranti. She and her senior spymaster CrannochCrannoch collected the secrets whispered to the Chantry brothers and sisters and used them as further fuel for blackmail campaigns in Baranti’s stead.

The amount of information that Baranti had on the banns, arls, and nobles of Ferelden was staggering. Nearly by herself, she kept the machinations of her fellow Fereldens in check, ensuring that not only did her businesses go smoothly, but also several of her more secret machinations went well. Marissa revealed that Baranti didn’t simply have secrets; she had favors as well. She used Marissa and Crannoch to orchestrate countless incidents of fire, sunken ships, kidnappings, plagues, assassinations, monsters, bandits, noble house in-fighting, and even external military threats that would be considered treason, after which she always had herself and her garrison in place to save the day. The grateful became the controlled, and the difficult not only had their assets removed or hidden but had themselves removed quickly and quietly.

In the tunnels beneath the streets, the heroes discovered one last shocking revelation. A single room in the spy tunnels housed a bloody summoning circle written in the stones. On a table in the room was a map of Denerim, with several circled locations; one of them was the former hideout of the Chantry of the Stilled Tongue. She had been summoning Mother Brianna to recreate the Chantry of the Stilled Tongue and wreak havoc. When enough children had lost their families, Baranti’s guards would swoop in and destroy the cult once again, even taking the now mute children into her orphanages or constructed Chantries to serve her beyond their horrific ordeals.

Marissa pleaded that Baranti did good in building chantries and orphanages, and taking her down would be disastrous for Denerim. Baranti held too many secrets and favors, and if they disappeared, the nobles and banns who would have their way would plunge Denerim into chaos with the in-fighting.

Seeing that the heroes couldn’t be swayed from dealing with Nicola, she told them of her most recent plan. She would be hosting a party for Adric’s engagement to Tanith Curwen. During the event, Baranti planned some kind of plot that would implicate an underground group called the “Society for the Restoration of Imperial Rule” in a treasonous plot against the king and Ferelden. These people would be taken out of the market, granting Baranti near-complete control over the Merchant’s Guild and grant the impression that elves were involved, giving the righteous in Denerim a chance to purge the alienage and grant her even greater favor with the agitated Templars.

Marissa made only one request of the Wolves. There was someone involved in the plot who Marissa had developed feelings for: a squire under a knight named Ser Basil, Lorraine. She would be a relatively small part of the scheme, but Marissa was certain that Baranti would feel no remorse killing her if she thought it might help her goals.

Finally, Marissa shared that Baranti had a vault of secrets beneath her office at her manor that could make good evidence to expose her to the law.

A clear goal ahead of them, the heroes began a slow and careful preparation for the party.

Kallian scouted the manor discreetly and pinpointed the trap door’s location.

Worried for Tom’s safety and his use as a shield against the heroes, Asha decided to get Tom out of Denerim. Accompanied by Pryft, Asha took Tom to her Dalish clan, the Brightmores. Met with suspicion and discomfort, Asha promised that this boy would be a step towards elves and humans understanding each other. A human raised among Dalish would understand their struggle and be able to speak to humans in more safety than any elf. Grudgingly, her clan took Tom in. Before she left, Asha gave Tom one final gift. Asking her spirit for help, she called upon the greatest creation magic she could muster and returned Tom his tongue. He spoke his goodbye.

Asha took Pryft aside on their way back from her clan’s camp, and told him everything about Baranti. She made him promise to stay away from Baranti for the party. She didn’t want to risk his safety, and Pryft was grateful for that.

However, a member of the Emerald Brotherhood revealed himself in that moment, claiming that Asha shouldn’t have to place herself in danger, either. He named himself as Veral Baern, Asha’s appointed guardian and shadow from the Brotherhood. The handsome elf received glares from Pryft, who was still getting over the date that Braedon had set up days before. Asha thanked him for his protection and asked him to see her through the night. Veral readily agreed, calling Asha the change that the elves wish to see in the world. Pryft was not excited about this new man.

When the night finally came, it was a whirlwind. Baranti’s parlor was humming with activity as banns and arls from across Ferelden joined her in celebration of Adric’s engagement. Arl Gallagher Wulff, Izot Wulff, and Izot’s new husband Azur Ar Brosna were in attendance and elated to see the heroes there as well. Old allies were also invited to the party, including Trumhall and Bann Vauldur Krole from Logerswold, Sheriff Milo Kovic and Ser Vilem Richta from Linnea’s new home Sothmere, and Tarl Dale from Vintiver.

The party itself was grand, but the machinations behind the scenes moved quickly. Kallian snuck into Baranti’s office and through the trap door, but what she found in this secret vault were empty books and a pair of enchanted suits of armor that attacked her. The noisy party upstairs kept most of the encounter under wraps until her friends could pull her out.

Despite his dour mood coming into the party, Adric suddenly burst to life upon seeing Tanith. So smitten was he that he beat his grandmother to her and her father to greet them into the home. Not long after some dancing, Bann Curwen was approached by Ser Basil for Tanith’s hand in marriage to make up for past mistakes. The air became tense when the bann refused and the knight stalked away.

The heroes managed to find Lorraine in the chaos and send her out of the house to find Marissa. They would leave Denerim at least for the night while the events at the manor played out. As the party continued, Bando was cornered by the heroes. Not a fighter, Bando offered information for safety, but not quickly, stalling for time to get Baranti’s attention. He did reveal that there would be an assassination at this party, using Ser Basil’s outburst as fuel for speculation that would leave him guilty of the murder of not only bann Curwen, but Tanith and Adric as well, creating a firestorm of controversy that would secure her control of the Merchant’s guild and use the elven assassin Rivka as a scapegoat to pin guilt on the alienage elves as well.

Keeping themselves on their feet, the heroes noticed Baranti call her grandson, his betrothed, and her father to the parlor upstairs. An elven woman followed them with a tray of drinks, but the heroes apprehended her before she could use the poison.

Noticing an opportunity, Baranti called out the heroes, hoping to publicly shame them for stepping on her metaphorical feet. The heroes countered with their accusations of her fragile web of intrigue. While the claims seemed outlandish, the impassioned fire in the heroes’ hearts stood against the word of Bann Nicola Baranti. A debate began, and the heroes slowly swayed the crowd filled with friends and allies to their side.

When Baranti couldn’t take any more stains on her reputation, she smiled wickedly. A song rang out in the room, a song of unimaginable beauty and tone. The heroes saw that everyone around them was stunned where they stood, and a familiar voice called out, taunting the heroes, claiming that their game was too much fun. Nicola ran from the house and into her gardens. The heroes gave chase to find Baranti young and dexterous, beautiful and with a voice like a silver bell. The alluring voice of Mother Brianna mingled with the cold determination of Baranti’s, and she drew a magical bow that she said had been gifted to her to slay the Wolves. Spirits of the dead she had left in her silent fame campaign began to rise from the ground at her behest, and she fell upon the heroes like a storm. Arrows flew, spells were cast, shades were slain, and the words of Mother Baranti echoed in the heroes’ heads. More than once her voice stunned the Wolves, but more than enough the Wolves broke free.

Eventually, Mother Baranti was overcome, and she died in her gardens.

Returning to their allies who were freed of the magics of the demon Brianna, they were greeted with cheers and thanks. Not long after, they were greeted by the king himself, who had come at the behest of a young woman who spoke of treachery against the kingdom of Ferelden.

While the party was secured, Baranti’s body disappeared.

The heroes found themselves being called the Wolves of Ferelden, and Adric became the new head of House Baranti. He happily married Tanith, and the Restorationists were quietly left alone after the party. Mother Gabrielle began burning the real confessions soon after, and Andiel happily returned to service for Ser Greta.

A happy ending came that day…

Dirthamen_EG.PNG

View
Wolves O Redhold
Darkspawn are slain and mysteries begin to pile up.

Where-Eagles-Lair.jpg

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.

Darkspawn.jpg

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.

tumblr_lkdrh5GkYI1qcuun0o1_500.jpg

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.

View
Frostback Heroes
Another job for the Wolves leads to the home of the Avvar.

Concept-Denerim.jpgIf the Wolves were not a house name before they left for Sothmere, they certainly were when they returned to Denerim.

While people knew better than to stop the mighty Baranti Wolves in the streets, second glances and starry eyes followed the heroes wherever they went. Survivors of the attack on Sothmere had beaten the heroes back to Denerim, and the stories had aleady begun to circulate that not only had the Wolves defended a Ferelden village from Chasind barbarians, but they had cured an ancient and forgotten disease only days later. People were beginning to make comparisons with the Hero of Ferelden.

The heroes returned to Baranti Manor to report their adventure, but heard the sounds of combat and saw that not only did the door hang open, but a battered and bloodied Eshara lay beside it. Injured from battle, Eshara pointed to the sounds of a magical conflict came from inside the manor, and the Wolves leaped to action.

At the top of the stairs, they found Pryft engaged in combat with a familiar woman with an unfamiliar form. The old and angry sister who ran the orphanage Tom lived at had come to the manor, but her figure was no longer wide and off-putting. Instead she was slimmer and curvy, her face was a picture of an otherworldly beauty, and she spoke with an unnerving but alluring voice. The voice was too similar to those who had faced the Chantry of the Stilled Tongue before, and the demon possessing the woman quickly took notice of the heroes who had faced her before.

Pryft, clearly at the end of his rope and mana supply, held a dagger in his hands, ready to use his own blood to vanquish the demon, but it was fortunate that Asha made it in time to stop him. A grave mistake was avoided.

The demon’s voice was just as alluring as before, and her host’s body just as beautiful and dangerous. Her voice commanded the heroes’ attentions and stayed their hands many times, but they fought the demon to the last.

Captain Braedon turned the corner around the gate of the manor’s grounds and rushed in to help the heroes. Their relief was short-lived, for Braedon had brought help-a group of Templars stormed into the manor, blades and bows drawn.

In a terrifying twist, Alora had fallen under the spell of Mother Briana, and an arrow of hers landed in the armor of one of the Templars. Quick words from Asha and the other Wolves assured the Templars that the woman above was controlled by a demon and forced her to do it. Most of their pleas fell on deaf ears.

The Templar commander filled the room with a strange white light and a buzzing in the heads of the mages. The effect controlling Alora was removed and the other Templars shot down the sister’s body, from which the demon retreated with a fading cackle.

The Templars, suffice to say, were quite perturbed by the events here. The commander of the unit demanded an explanation. The Wolves explained that a demon had possessed the old woman who had broken into the house and attacked them. The Templar commander, luckily, seemed somewhat agreeable, and did not take them all back to the Chantry for further questioning, leaving them and Baranti’s servants to clean up the mess.

An impressed Braedon commended the Wolves for talking down the Templars. He had not seen a feat quite like that yet, and a winded Baranti congratulated them as well, stepping out of hiding.

Baranti was naturally very pleased to hear the stories of their exploits from the locals, but was shocked and astonished by the details the heroes brought to her. She congratulated them on a job well done and encouraged them to take another day or so to rest before their next heroic assignment.

The Baranti Wolves took a deep breath and settled for just a moment.

Asha hurried to the orphanage to check on Tom, who thankfully was unharmed. One of the three sisters had been slain by large gashes in her sides, and claw marks ran up and down the floors of the orphanage’s walls. The possession had begun in the orphanage. Tom mimed Asha a story, telling her that he had had a dream that a demon would come to the orphanage. So he found the key to the play room and locked the door that day, just in time to hear screaming, tittering, and slashing on the other side.

Eshara reported that the alienage was in worse shape than she could have imagined. Poverty was the norm, and oppression from outside was a daily occurrence, be it physical, emotional, or financial. She told Alora that she planned to make some changes if she had the power. Asha and Alora approved, as did Kallian, secretly.

The break for the heroes didn’t last long, as an out-of-breath retainer of the Wulff family rushed from his horse to Baranti Manor to call the Wolves. Between breaths, he reported that Izot Wulff, Arl Gallagher Wulff’s daughter, had been kidnapped.

The next morning was a whirlwind of preparations, the charge being lead by Kallain, determined to deliver Izot’s gift and apologize for siding with her father against her for that one painful moment.

NPC-Wulff.jpg

They rushed to arling of West Hills to meet with a battle-ready Gallagher. He was taking a small army in his arling to deal with a sudden influx of darkspawn on the surface, so he couldn’t search for his daughter himself. He grimly offered them payment for discovering his daughter’s fate, and a greater reward for bringing her back alive. He suspected that she had been taken by Avvars in the Frostback Mountains, and told them that his servants could point to the scene where they believed she had been taken.

The arl’s eyes met Kallian’s many times in quiet worry and fear.

The Wolves decided to investigate the townhouse where she had been staying first, and found that there was no sign of struggle in the house, and Kallian pointed out that her favorite cloak was missing.

Jack suddenly suffered a severe withdrawal of her usual lyrium doses, and blindly attacked Kallain, who quickly tossed her from the third story window. The incident was over as quick as it started, and left the heroes in uncomfortable silence.

The scene of the kidnapping held many more clues. While they was evidence of a large scuffle with many people, the canny heroes found that only three people, including Izot, had made the prints in the mud. Not a drop of blood was found, and carvings of Avvar symbols were discovered in a nearby tree, as well as Avvar techniques of covering their tracks up the mountains pushed the heroes into the Frostbacks.

Frostback_mountains.jpg

The trek up the mountains was cold, harsh, and dangerous. An attack by a red lion broke the monotony, as did the site of a bloody battle between what the heroes guessed must have been two groups of people; one a group of three (the one Izot had been traveling with), and a larger group of people who had come across the smaller group. Several sacks of bone meal were found around the battlefield, and a number of worn and bloody rocks and boulders were found. It was the site of an ancient Avvar burial ritual, often called “air-burials”. Birds occasional came to pick at the bone meal, and it was likely that any other remains of the bodies had already been devoured by the birds before the heroes got there.

The smaller group now consisted of two sets of footprints, one dragging the other, and the larger group made a point of stepping in each others’ tracks to conceal the number of people. The heroes devised that Izot had likely been taken by the second group, so they followed the tracks of the larger group further up the mountain.

The sameness of the travels would halt suddenly when a painful stench of rot found the Wolves’ noses.

They stumbled onto a field of dead bodies. The bodies belonged to Avvar farmers and traders. Men, women, and children alike, had been brutally slaughtered and, in some cases, their bodies defiled and mounted in grand displays of disrespect. This was the site of a darkspawn attack, and the sounds of the darkspawn patrol soon returned to appreciate their work. A horde of genlocks found themselves face to face with the Baranti Wolves, and with a sick glee they jumped at the chance to heighten the piles of gore.

The clash was brutal, but the heroes defeated the group and began a more thorough investigation. None of the bodies were Izot, thankfully, and the tracks of both the small and large groups came across the site as well, then branching to the east and west, respectively.

Alora also happened to notice a small owl watching them. It was a bit early for owls to be hunting yet, and stranger still, it winked at her before taking flight in the direction of the smaller group.

Wishing to gather more intelligence before going after Izot, they followed the smaller group. The tracks led them to an Avvar hold called Redhold, where they were greeted with kindness and suspicion. The thane of the hold, Thane Owyne Ar Rainne O Redhold, greeted them personally, asking them of their reasons for coming to Redhold.

He did not seem difficult to convince to allow the heroes entrance to the hold, and they were given a three-day stay as guests of the hold. The thane claimed he had a request of them if they stayed, and wished only that they would hear him out.

The hold was empty, save for children and elderly. Those that did exist in the hold stared long and hard at the elven and human heroes for long moments until the heroes passed them by. Few strong bodies seemed present, and only a few key figures were in the hold. The liaison for the heroes’ stay in Redhold was a falconer named Lowenna An Aenor. She seemed very interested in comparing the faiths of the elves and the Avvar.

A more eccentric personality, Elorn, was introduced soon after a few drinks in a local longhouse. Commending them on their prowess and respect for burying the red lion they had defeated further down the mountain, he unceremoniously fed a young goat to Redhold’s spirit animal, a red lion in a large pit. He introduced his sleepy owl companion, Sisila, and asked simple question about the heroes and their exploits. He seemed impressed, and foreshadowed that the thane would need heroes like the Wolves.

A second group of visitors came to the hold not long after the Wovles. A familiar face, Kilina of the Grey Wardens, came with a few new recruits of hers. One was an Dalish mage named Thelriel, and a young Free Marcher warrior named Desmond. They had also been invited by the thane, and had also been asked of a favor for a three-day stay in Redhold.

Night fell, and the heroes were also approached by a young Avvar male. He was clearly wounded, and claimed to know that the heroes were after Izot Wulff. He introduced himself as Azur Ar Brosna, and he offered to go collect Izot now for a share of the whatever the heroes were getting from her father. He was cagey and evasive about his real reasons for going to get her, but the Wolves could tell a thing or two. Unwilling to leave just yet, the heroes turned him down for now, and Azur left in a huff, grumbling about “ungrateful lowlanders”.

The thane finally sat down with the heroes and made an offer: his hold needed saving. Scouts and travelers reported that the darkspawn the heroes had faced were part of a much larger horde, hundreds strong, and they were on route to Redhold. The holds soldiers and warriors were out hunting to prepare for the coming winter, and they had few warriors left behind to defend themselves. He pleaded that the heroes would stand with them to fend off the darkspawn. Elorn spoke up that he believed that they had been sent by their gods, most likely his favorite Imhar the Clever, who granted boons in unexpected ways. In this case, an Avvar hold would be saved by their least likely allies; lowlanders.

In exchange for their help, he offered a sword. The sword was made of a strange green steel and glowed with sharp white flames. The sword filled the room with a song when unsheathed, and then grew quite. He called it Aamore Fin, and claimed that the sword was perhaps as old as the mountains themselves. For their help against the darkspawn, this was all he could offer.

Tired of waiting to save Izot, Kallian rejected the offer, and left the meeting, marching out of Redhold on her own. The Wolves and Kilina decided that they would stay and fight the darkspawn.

View
Cost of the Cure
With the cure in hand, the Wolves take a perilous trek back to Sothmere.

The Wolves followed the pyresprites through their tunnels, following the sounds of their songs. The tunnels led the Wolves to an unexpected cache of treasure, where the Wolves claimed a magicked blade, appropriately depicting a wolf in the old Tevinter style.

The deepest chamber, where the pyresprites resided, glowed in a strange green tint. Their songs echoed and their own lights danced, as the Wolves beheld an unpleasant sight: a slightly glowing green moss that encrusted a large pile of smelly excrement. The Wolves deduced that this belonged to the Serpent, and that the fungus was the Shadowmoss they needed.

The songs of the pyresprites told them that the pyrespritepeople had once been great and many. They danced and sung the songs of the forest in grand and wondrous numbers, but now they were few. Each colony had its own guardian serpent that not only kept them safe, but provided their food, the Shadowmoss.

The Wolves breathed a collective sigh that they had spared these people as well by sparing the life of the serpent.

To the pyresprites angry protest, they gathered as much Shadowmoss as they could carry and left the caves. Once outside, the Wolves faced a new problem: escaping the Korcari Wilds. While they had a magical raven to guide them the first time, they had to navigate of their own powers to leave the Wilds. The navigation was somewhat slow, only further slowed by attacks from marsh wolves and blight owls, but they escaped with a little time to spare.

Rushing across the river they found the town of Wichford was populated once more. Strom Kasrgard awaited them by one of the taverns, a worried look on his face. He told the Wolves that Ser Vilem Richta had called for a blackhaller to judge the infected before the Wolves could return to Sothmere in time with the cure. His fear of this disease would cost many their lives.

With no time to spare, the Wovles purchased horses and raced to Sothmere.

A little farther north, the Wovles were stopped by a small group from a nearby town called Wulverton, who had also been struck by the chasind ragers. The knight leading the group, Ser Vilja Wulverton, had lost a wife and son to the ragers, and his last remaining sonw as infected by the Amber Rage. Their own wise-man had told them of the cure, but they caught wind that a group from Sothmere was already on the way to claim it. So here he stood, waiting for the Wolves to return with the cure that he would use to save his own villagers and his son.

Though the Wolves engaged him, unwilling to give up the moss, they offered him to send his infected villagers to Sothmere as quickly as possible. If their happened to be enough cure for them too, he would still save his people.

Further still up the road, the Wolves passed by a group of Ser Richta’s men, who told the Wolves to hurry, only to fire their crossbows at their turned backs. They intended to destroy the Shadowmoss, under Ser Richta’s orders, but they were routed by the Wolves.

The entire village of Sothmere was gathered around several pyres with the currently infected tied to poles around timber. Ser Richta and his soldiers held back any angry townsfolk crying for the release of their loved ones. Wanda Kovic stood at the front of the condemned infected, her father begging for her release.

The Wolves stepped up, and found that the blackhaller was none other than Ser Greta, a friend of Kallian’s. She was willing to take their judgement into consideration, given their past in stamping out the cult back in Denerim. Ser Richta stepped forward, and demanded that Ser Greta see reason, and was finally challenged by Linnea to a duel for the fate of the infected. If Linnea lost, they would defer to Richta’s judgement. If Richta lost, then the villagers would be given the cure.

Asha, meanwhile, discreetly sneaked the Shadowmoss to a relieved Old Stoyanka, who immediately began brewing the a cure.

With her comrades, friends, neighbors, and family cheering her on, Linnea fought fiercely against the experienced and practiced Ser Vilem Richta. While the duel continued, Bogdan, determiend to see the sheriff suffer for long past offenses, attempted to take Wanda’s life of his own power, but he was quickly restrained by an observant Alora.

The duel was grand and close, but Linnea was found victorious. She demanded that the soldiers release the villagers. Ser Richta, humbled by his defeat, was surprisingly brought to see reason. He would have done the same if this was his home. He respectfully submitted to whatever fate she saw fit for him.

Sheathing her new sword, Linnea told him that this village still needed guarding, and he would make it up to these people by defending them. Ser Richta could see no better option and agreed.

As if the Maker were on their side, the cure was a success, and they had just enough to cure the villagers of both Sothmere and Wulverton. The Wolves were finally free from the disease.

With a contract finally written for the ryott bread in Baranti’s orphanage kitchens, the Wolves had completed their original objective, and prepared to leave. Linnea, however, saw her wounded home and elected to stay. She would become the new sheriff in Milo’s place and help with the construction of their walls and new trade routes. She would see Sothmere move beyond simple bread farms and become a place worth visiting in southern Ferelden. Though she would stay behind, the heroes knew she was a Wolf of Baranti, and they bid her a solemn farewell.

With one member moved on, the Wolves returned to Denerim.

View
Rage in Amber
The Amber Rage does its damage, and the Wolves must make a salve.

A half-dozen more wild Chasind, and few friends of Sothmere turned rager were intercepted and put down in time to save Fiala, Strom Kasrgard, and Ser Vilem Richta from infection, but not quick enough to help Lazlo, Ser Richta’s lieutenant.

When the village finally grew quiet, Sheriff Milo Kovic called for a town meeting for everyone. While some visitors picked up their things and left Sothmere as quickly as they could, the people of the town were quick to gather at the town hall that doubled as Milo’s home. Baranti’s Wolves attended the meeting as well.

Milo was able to convince Ser Richta that it would be safe to move the uninfected to the new stone Fort Sothmere. They could wait out what needed to happen next. Old Stoyanka had Ashalla help her treat the wounded and infected. After examining the poison on the rager’s weapons and the yellow blood and bile from the infected, she concluded with horror that what afflicted these people was something called the Amber Rage, an ancient and powerful poison of Chasind origin, thought to be lost to time. She immediately ordered that the bodies of the dead infected be burnt, along with their weapons and gear. She even got the Wolves to heat their gear over a fire, leaving their armor and weapons with a harsh black burn.

The bodies of the infected were burned in a pyre, along with anything they brought with them, and any yellow blood found on the ground was also carefully burned away, leaving Sothmere appearing as if an explosive war took place. Old Stoyanka then had Asha help her feed the infected with a foul brew that would stave off any further affects of the Amber Rage.

When the conversation topic of the town hall meeting moved to the infected villagers, the mood took a dark turn. Ser Vilem Richta demanded that the infected be put to death, fearing what would happen should they be allowed to live and carry this strange and virulent disease. Milo, shocked by the knight’s sudden cruelty, objected. His daughter was among the infected, and she would have to be put to death along with many whom he had come to know as family, like Linnea. This would also mean that Baranti’s Wolves would be killed, so objections to this idea were many and loud. Bogdan, the blacksmith in town, argued that they had no recourse to cure this disease, and they would eventually become one of them in time, so it would be for the good of all.

Stoyanka said it may not be so, for she knew of a cure for the Amber Rage. She admitted she had most of the ingredients, but required one last vital compnent to a brew she could create that would erase the disease: shadowmoss. Bogdan asked her if it would really work, and Stoyanka solemnly admitted that it was a legend, and she could not know until they tried. Stoyanka and the Wolves argued that it was the only option and chance they had to save the people of Sothmere and others from this disease, while Bogdan and Ser Richta asked what they would do if the brew didn’t work. They claimed that by the time the heroes got back, even with the shadowmoss, how did they know that the brew they just gave out would even hold the infected?

As if on cue, Lazlo began to foam at the mouth and scream a bloody war cry. He threw himself at the Wolves, who quickly put him down to the screams and the hushed whispers and curses from the crowded town hall.

While Vilem stood in horror, Bogdan turned to the townsfolk, shouting that it could happen at any moment, and that we weren’t safe until they were all put down. The Wolves finally had enough, and gave Bogdan his ultimatum: he would oppose them from saving people’s lives, they would stand against him and anyone else.

The Wolves cowed both Vilem and Bogdan. Both fled the scene in fear and anger, respectively, but not before Linnea caught Bogdan’s treacherous grin.

Milo and the Wolves secured the aid of the farmers Alora had wrestled with earlier in the evening, and they loaned their barn as a place for the infected to stay. Linnea promised Wanda she would be back with a cure, and warned Milo about Bogdan’s possible reaction to these events. Milo held his daughter tighter than ever before that night.

The next morning, as the precipitation went from a drizzle to a hard rain,. Old Stoyanka gathered the heroes together to tell them of their journey. They would follow the path of her enchanted raven, into the heart of the Korcari Wilds, feeding it carrion beetles once per hour, directly to the shadowmoss’s domain. When the raven stopped, they would boil a pot with a foul-smelling powder added to the mix to call beings known as firesprites, ancient and nearly extinct forest-dwelling creatures. They would guide the heroes to the grotto where shadowmoss grows. Then they must fill an empty sack of Stoyanka’s choice to the brim with shadowmoss, otherwise the brew may not work. Stoyanka also made sure to warn the heroes of the guardian serpent that watched over the grotto and the firesprites, warning them that they must take the utmost precaution.

She provided the heroes with several curatives for the journey, with several homemade healing salves and vials of her brew that would stave off the infection’s affects for another day. They had until three sunsets passed to bring the shadowmoss back to Sothmere.

The townspeople came to the Wolves with sandwiches, wine, and vegetables for their travels, and Strom gave them a flameless lantern for their journey. The sky seemed to get grayer to the south, but the WOlves pressed out into the hills on horseback.

The hills came to a sharp decline that the horses refused to go down, but the raven was intent to cross the wide and raging river, circling above as it waited for the heroes. The river had grown in size because of the rain, and looked a bit deep to swim. Alora indicated that their map of the hills showed a small village nearby that could have a way of crossing the river, so the heroes took their horses to Wichford.

The rain fell in sheets as the heroes looked upon the quiet and village, as if it was trying to bury the corpses beneath the mud. The village had been slaughtered down to one man, and a flock of bloodcrows dove at the heroes expecting fresh meat.

When the crows bled into the mud along with the townspeople, the Wolves found a man named Josef calling from his second story window. They found he was infected with the Amber Rage, his kneecap shattered and his arm marred by a bite wound that was jaundiced and bloody. Asha quickly fed him her brew vial and gave him another day.

Josef shared with the horrid news: ragers had attacked Wichford that morning while most of the townsfolk were still in Sothmere for the festival, leaving the few remaining villagers easy pickings for the ragers. He managed to escape into his second story and pull up the retracting stairs to escape the attack. Normally the retracting stairs and second stories kept Wichford folks safe from beast and Chasind from the Wids, but they saved him from a Chasind beast this time. The ragers who attacked and turned several Wichford folks then turned north, in the direction of Sothmere.

After healing his arm and leg with magic, the Wolves lent him their horses to get back to Sothmere where Old Stoyanka could brew more soup to keep him sane for another day, and he could hopefully beat the ragers back and warn those in Sothmere that another attack was coming. He took the horses and rode as fast as he could, thanking the Wolves once again.

As the rain pelted the heroes, they muscled their way across the ford, as the rope between the two banks had been cut. They tied themselves together and swam across, swallowing water at times but making it across. Cold, wet, and tired, they pressed on into the Wilds.

Not too far into the Wilds they found a local trapper from Wichford named Branik, accompanied by his two hunting dogs, Bog and Ipa.

He invited the Wolves under his tent to eat at his fire, as his trapping was going well, too well he thought. He knew something was going on in the woods, with Chasind and animals alike being pushed out of the forest by something. The Wolves told him of the Amber Rage, and the fate of Wichford, to Branik’s horror. He offered them to take as much meat as they wanted, and told them that a Chasind village called Dosov would be on their way, and would make an excellent place for resting on their journey. He knew nothing of Shadowmoss, but wished the Wolves luck all the same.

Bog and Ipa, a pair of great wofun hounds, warmed up to the party quickly with a healthy dose of scritches while the rain died down. Bog nearly showed the group Jack’s lyrium pouch, but Jack quickly deflected the attention.

Chasind_Village.png

The heroes continued on into the Korcari Wilds, happening eventually upon the village of Dosov, and it’s witch doctor Baba Zorya, who welcomed them into her home. She offered them shelter for the night, but her negotiation-through-drink worried Linnea, who wished to keep moving unhindered if they were to save her hometown. Jack remained behind with Zorya, drinking until the stars came out, and then spending a magical evening with the shaman.

As morning broke, Alora, Linnea, Kallian, and Asha woke from a soggy tent they pitched for the night, while Jack woke up next to Zorya. Before Jack left to find her comrades, she was given a package of salted leaves that Zorya promised could help with addictions. With a knowing wink, she seemed sad as Jack left her home.

Jack rejoined with the rest of the Wolves, and they continued to follow the raven into the dark woods. The raven finally landed on a small stump on a tiny hillock in the middle of the swamp. It looked at them one last time before falling over dead. They decided to call the firesprites here.

Gathering firewood and a pot, they boiled water and added the foul concoction to the pot. Holding in their breakfasts, they were then turned about by a pair of giant swamp crabs who seemed eager to eat the contents of the pot. Quickly thinking, they sliced off the claws of both crabs, sending them retreating into the swamp water.

Firesprite.png

Sighing with relief, the morning daylight was joined by dozens of tiny yellow lights from the forest, each coming from a tiny flying humanoid figure with insect eyes and antenna. The creatures danced through the air with grace and seemed to speak in song, their melodies touching the hearts of a few of the Wolves, and granting them fleeting and strange visions and feelings. They could feel that they should turn back, for the price of the shadowmoss would be too great. They did not know why they felt this, but only that this was true.

Eventually tiring of the Wolves, the firesprites retreated into the forest, and the Wolves followed them through the deep waters and thick foliage of the swamps until they finally came to a grotto. A small pool of water was fed from a sporadic and weak waterfall that ran over a large wall. The wall was clearly constructed by a truly ancient civilization, one that perhaps even predated the Tevinter Imperium in Ferelden. It was mostly grown over by moss, but not any special moss.

The firesprites sang their huanting song as they plunged into the pool and disappeared through carved tunnels. Swimming after the firesprites, the heroes broke the surface of the water in a large cavern, and were set upon by an enormous green snake-like serpent with wicked horn, tiny arms for movement, and thick emerald scales. The serpent hissed loudly and drooled slightly at the new prey in its den, and the firesprites became worried an agitated, but floated nearby to watch what would happen.

The serpent was fast for its impressive size, and it’s horns and teeth seemed to shear stone in half. It scooped up the Wolves as it attacked, choking them and continuing onto the next prey. The serpent would have been a bloody opponent, but Jack and Asha thought quickly and offered the crab claws to the serpent, having kept them for food or using the shells for armor. The serpent, who happened to favor eating the swamp crabs, swooped across the room simply to scarf down the shells. The four shells they fed the serpent distracted the creature long enough for the persistent Linnea, Alora, and Kallian to injure it.

While the serpent bled, and after Jack had run out of claws to offer it, she offered the dead raven they had followed for several days, but the serpent had had enough and elected to eat her along with the raven. Before the serpent could take her in its powerful jaws, a surprise strike from Ashalla on the temple sent the beast into unconsciousness.

The firesprites cried out in anger and pain and retreated back into the tunnels of the caverns, leaving the Wolves worried and confused, hoping to explain themselves to the creatures. They began to climb to the tunnels.

View
A Pack of Wolves
The fame of the heroes begins to take root.

Area-Denerim_Market_District.jpg

The journey back to Denerim seemed shorter than the journey to Logerswold. While all had ended well, Pryft’s use of blood magic the day before weighed heaviliy on Ashalla’s mind. When she inquired about it, Pryft admitted that while he knew that it was wrong- that the Templars would be stroking their swords at the thought of him being a maleficarum- he couldn’t deny the power he felt. He reminded her that it had saved her clan and possibly an entire valley of people, most of them innocent. Asha reminded him that the path to Hell is paved with good intentions. They both knew the risks, and while she was grateful that he had done it when he did, she made him promise not to do it again. Pryft agreed with a smile and laugh, and Asha found herself blushing.

After a long journey, the heroes were happy to return to Denerim. They had a rude welcome as they came across an assault on an elven woman in an ally by three human men. The men’s expecting smiles upon finally restraining the surprisingly combat-trained elf turned to to shock when the heroes demanded her release. Muttering something about “the wolves are here,” the thugs almost immediately gave up the fight and ran away.

The elf in question was a denizen of the Denerim alienage named Shayda. She was known to Kallian, and seemed to have a common ally in Izot Wulff. Izot had combat trained Shayda like she had trained Kallian; however, Shayda, while thankful for the expertise, seemed disillusioned with Izot’s personal campaign for the alienage elves. Izot seemed to hope to make the elves combat-ready to defend themselves, but Shayda and Kallian agreed that this could end up making skirmishes with humans more frequent and give humans greater excuses for violence against the elves.

Shayda was grateful for her rescue, but she became humbled beyond measure when it became clear that she was saved by Baranti’s Wolves.

The incredulous looks on the heroes’ faces were likely missed in Shayda’s excitement.

She thanked them profusely, explaining that Baranti’s Wolves were known to have not only saved the village of Vintiver from destruction by an abomination and a horde of darkspawn, but they also saved Logerswold from a bandit camp AND a sizable force of Tevinter slavers in same day. This news of their triumph came from a few traveling minstrels who had apparently hit the local taverns before the heroes got home to Denerim.

Kallian, while examining Shayda’s apple cart, found a small and light pouch in it. When asked about it, Shayda became defensive and asked that they leave it alone. Shayda thanked the Wolves, as she called them, and left for home after a generous donation from the heroes. The Wolves then decided that returning to their patron would be wise.

Naturally, Nicola Baranti was impressed by their work. They had gone above and beyond, and it seemed that they had become heroes overnight. Nicola certainly enjoyed the rush of thank yous and gifts to Baranti Manor, along with the influx of business and job offers that appeared at her doorstep.

Baranti heard the story from the heroes themselves, and was bemused by the title the people had given the heroes: Baranti’s Wolves. While she found the name a bit strange, she liked the reputation they had built for themselves, and for her house by proxy. She wished them even more luck in their adventures and told them that she had another job for them when they wished to continue their adventuring careers.

While conversation over baked meats, breads, and fine cheeses carried on, another visitor came to Baranti Manor. Jack, a human woman with bags under her eyes and an incredible appetite, nonchalantly walked into the building and immediately tore into the food on the table. While the other heroes looked on in worry and nausea, Alora challenged the woman to a drinking contest. Jack heartily accepted, but she lost the battle on account of her drinking earlier in the day.

Nicola Baranti told the heroes that she wanted them, including Jack (who, she assured the others, was a valuable ally), to go to a small town called Sothmere. There, they would secure a contract with the locals to supply Nicola Baranti with a steady stream of ryott bread, the town’s signature wheat bread.

The heroes were under no time constraints, so Nicola was happy to let them take a day or two off. Jack picked herself off the manor floor to return to personal business while the rest of the Wolves also went their separate ways for a day.

Asha spoke with Braedon on her way out of the district, while Pryft accompanied her. Pryft was not happy about his first impression of the situation, witnessing Braedon flirt with Asha. Braedon claimed that time apart from her was difficult, and he hoped she remained safe. She returned the sentiment, beginning to pick up on the fact that infatuation was in the air. Luckily, Braedon and Asha remained oblivious to Pryft’s distaste for the knight.

Kallian decided that she might take up Shayda’s advice and speak to Izot about her motives with the elves. Approaching her home under cover of darkness, she was discovered by Izot’s father, Arl Gallagher Wulff. The mountainous man forgave her trespass, but demanded that if she planned to speak to his daughter, that she convince Izot to abandon her crusade for the elves. Gallagher insisted her plans would only cause more unrest, and Kallian would be someone Izot might listen to.

Nervous and worried, Kallian nevertheless approached Izot in her room, only to find her further training Shayda in combat. Shayda gave her a knowing look as she left, leaving Izot with Kallian. Kallian took a deep breath and explained as delicately as she could the situation.

Izot caught on quick, asking if her father sent Kallian to say that. Kallian admitted that she agreed with her father a bit. Izot responded with a dagger digging into the wall behind Kallian and a simple “get out.” Izot began to cry, sobbing that her father didn’t think she could make the lives of her friends better, and neither did Kallian, someone who she had helped. She spoke no further, only fought to hold back her tears.

Kallian passed by an passive Gallagher who assured her that it was the right thing to do. Kallian wasn’t so sure.

At the inn the Wolves were staying at the for the night, Eshara and Alora retired to the same room. Alora, drunk from her and Jack’s contest (and further drinking at the tavern) seemed to bother Eshara. Alora failed to notice, and Eshara didn’t speak up. The next morning, Eshara treated Alora to heavy foods to lessen her drink haze. Alora harmlessly inquired about Eshara’s helpfulness as of late, but provoked a bashful response from Eshara.

Eshara asked Alora to be her mate.

Alora, slightly off-guard, shifted to a warm comfort, and agreed. She and Eshara would be mates. Alora wished that they could take things slow- but not too slow. The morning proved to be very exciting.

That morning, Kallian wished to make amends to Izot, going so far as to purchase a book of war history and dress it in wrapping and a bow that she actually paid for. Refraining from the urges to steal bows from a little girl’s hair or to swipe the book from the struggling bookstore, Kallian rushed to the Wulff’s townhouse. Her efforts proved to be in vain, as the Wulffs had vacated the house, save for a few servants who remained to clean and maintain the house. They informed Kallian that the arl and his daughter had left hours before Kallain arrived.

Although Kallain’s feet were swift to scale the buildings and scour the streets, she could not find the Wulff’s coach. They had left, and were likely long gone. Kallian sighed and looked down at her prepared present. She would deliver it another day.

Ashalla took Pryft towards the orphanage in the Dregs, but they were intercepted by the orphans themselves, accompanied by their caretakers. They were on their way to the local Chantry, and the boy Asha had rescued from the cultists before, Tom, was among them. His face lit up to see Asha approach. The stern sister who ran the orphanage was in her usual surly mood, making comments about Asha’s heritage and even going so far as to insult Nicola Baranti’s judgment of character (in hiring Asha as an agent), to her three sisters’ horror. Nevertheless, Asha was able to speak to Tom.

Tom was learning to pantomime his words, and expressed to Asha, with some difficulty, the difficulties of living with the sisters at the orphanage. He expressed, with profound and worrying belief, that the incident that caused him to lose his tongue was because he was a naughty child, and that he should repent through work in the name of the Maker. He was to keep frivolous pursuits, like his art and talent for drawing, from the eyes of the Maker, as it would not please him like hard work in his name.

Asha, needless to say, was disgusted. Pryft was similarly horrified, remarking that it was beginning to sound a lot like the Circle.

She promised him that she would find him a home, and encouraged him to continue his art. He was worthy in anyone’s eyes, and he should not listen to the sister’s lies. Asha and Pryft left quickly, so as to not strike at the sister.

Linnea took time to find a new weapon, discovering a dwarf from Orzammar. He sold her a fine sword of strong steel and a heavier shield. Her day remained quite uncomplicated.

Eshara and Alora found the same dwarven merchant, from whom Alora purchased a fine dagger for Eshara.

A hapless Kallian was approached during the day, in the midst of a large market crowd, by a painfully familiar voice. The voice, calling out to Kallian as his “hidden flower” and “beauty made more beautiful by her vanishing nature”, belonged to Nicola’s grandson, Adric Baranti. The crowd began to gather and ask questions, none of which suited Kallian well. Trying to salvage her situation as best she could, she slipped away at the first opportunity while the people around her muttered about her relationship with Adric. Kallain quickly left to find and craft a mask to hide her identity.

Eventually, the time came for the heroes to depart for Sothmere. As they gathered their things, Eshara offered to stay behind and scope out the elven alienage, which she hadn’t seen since their arrival in Denerim. Meanwhile, Pryft seemed eager to spy on the Templars, learn who was in charge, and discover where their patrols would take them through the city.

The journey to Sothmere was, thankfully, uneventful, but the village was not. As the sky grew gray and overcast, and a light drizzle softened the dirt for the village, the villagers were toughing it out, and for good reason. Normally a small hamlet of a farming village, the whole town was out in celebration. Games were being played, food was being offered at stalls, villagers were carousing, and any other manner of merriment was being had. As the heroes drank in the scene, they were hailed by a hunter with a heavy Orlesian accent. She called herself [[:fiala | Fiala], and she knew Linnea well. Exchanging hugs and warm greetings, she welcomed Linnea and her friends to Sothmere.

Fiala explained that the festival was being held in honor of a new stone fort under construction. With attacks from the Chasind in the Korcari Wilds becoming more common, the local arl saw fit to give the tiny town a new fort to replace the wooden one. Thus, a new Fort Sothmere was planned, and the people could already see the traffic that true security might bring to their village. New traffic meant more money for the village, meaning the small village might become a respectable frontier town. This was plenty of cause for celebration, and Fiala wasted no time in bringing archer-heroes with her to the archery contest.

Many of the games intrigued the heroes. Fiala and Alora matched their skills with a bow in the archery contest, with Fiala taking the blue ribbon in the end. Alora then tossed a jeering farmboy into the mud, taking the blue ribbon for the wrestling games. Linnea, with her talent with axes, handily won the darkspawn smite game, taking the blue ribbon as her prize. Linnea also managed to best her long-missed friend, Wanda, in a game of dueling. The energetic and spunky Wanda was eventually clotheslined by Linnea’s practice and patience. Recognizing the duo, most of the old-hands around Sothmere cheered them on and gladly handed Linnea the blue ribbon for her victory.

Watching Linnea from a distance, a handsome knight named Ser Vilem Richta seemed to take a liking to her. Her skills in martial matters appealed to his background, and he approached her with an invitation to sit near him at the feast in the evening. With a smile, Linnea accepted.

Kallian and Jack took their time scoping out the area, tasting the food and wines, and casing interesting stories and leads. Jack had to slip away for personal business, but was back before anyone noticed her being gone.

Uniterested in games or food, Asha simply observed the town, but was surprised to find a pair of Dalish elves performing for a small crowd. A beautiful elf woman, Dielza, danced traditional and exotic dances in an ancient elven style that Asha did not recognize, while her brother, Olek, charmed the crowds with his odd looks and swift hands.

Upon closer inspection, Asha found that the tattoos they bore were odd and seemed unlike anything she had found in her clan. She eventually surmised that they were not real tattoos, suggesting that these elves may be charlatans. She waited until their performance ended before confronting them about it. They seemed overjoyed to meet Asha, and confessed that they were not originally Dalish, but they looked up to the Dalish as “real” elves who were in touch with their heritage. To be like them was all Dielza and Olek really wanted. It took no time for them to be invited to Asha’s clan, and they were overjoyed and tearful at the news.

Dielza couldn’t help but notice Kallian, whom she seemed to recognize.

As Asha moved on, she eventually stumbled across a short, old chasind woman, Old Stoyanka. While strange and somewhat out of place, she seemed to have no fear in admitting her ability with magic, but seemed more concerned that Asha was not eating enough. She claimed she was a mystic of the village, and thanked their remoteness for keeping the Templars away from her. Offering simple yet accurate obervations and advice, Stoyanka urged Asha to enjoy the festivities, and hoarsely cackled as she moved to join the fun.

Eventually, the feast began. The village was gathered into a large tent with two rows of long tables covered with hearty food and drink. Linnea, Alora, and Fiala took places near the front with their blue ribbons affording them the luxury. The knight, Ser Vilem, sat the table opposite, but could still engage Linnea in conversation. Asha, Jack, and Kallian found seats near the back.

Sherrif Milo stood to toast the feast, but was interrupted by dogs barking. After clearing his throat to try again, he was interrupted by more dogs barking.

Then, everything was interrupted by screaming.

The tent was sliced through by an axe, and a chasind stalker stepped through, followed by more at the tent’s entrance. Something, however, was obviously not quite right. The man’s skin was jaundiced and yellowish, he exuded a potent stench, his eyes seemed to bulge from his skull, his mouth frothed with yellow spit, and his veins and muscles bulged as if they would burst. Wanda managed to move Milo, but not protect herself from a dagger wound that seemed to slowly turn yellow. The chasind howled and screamed as they cut down fleeing villagers and moved to harass the Wolves.

Linnea, Alora, Asha, and Kallian all received wounds from weapons coated in yellow blood and began to give off a stench while their skin turned a sickly, yellow tint. Jack avoided infection, but only barely, while she and the heroes defended themselves and several villagers from the attack within and without the feast tent.

The chasind threw themselves at their victims, weapons swinging wildly, like killers possessed by a cruel demon. Not only that, but even fatal wounds only slowed them down. Broken ribs, jaws, and arms only served to fuel their rage, and they required great force to bring down.

Even as the heroes killed half a dozen of the ragers, they could still hear screaming outside.

View
Saving the Ruswold
A simple raid on a bandit camp turns complicated.

The heroes finally reach the bandit’s camp, secreted away in the depths of the Brecilian. A single sentry slumbers on the route the heroes take to enter the camp, and they praised their good luck.

Scouting the camp, they found about nine bandits in all, playing dice games and spewing their drink onto the ground. They were distracted enough that Kallian could have sung while she sneaked. They were all armed and armored, trading their plundered treasures as they won and lost, and seemed itching for more action than the dice games offered.

The leader, Waldric Gore-Hand was present, writing on a desk. Scars covered his face and his eyes darted back and forth between his papers, his men playing games and betting their riches, and the sentry guarding the other entrance to the camp, who kept falling asleep. Sitting near Waldric was a small elven boy. He squirmed on top of a small wooden stool, looking back and forth between the rowdy bandits and the irate Waldric.

Of particular interest to Kallian was a pen full to bursting with riding horses. They weren’t calm, but also weren’t scared. The heroes plotted to spook the horses after opening the gate, releasing them into the gambling bandits.

Killing the sleeping sentry nice and quiet, Kallian opened the gate for the horses. Linnea fired a few shots from her arrows into the posts surrounding the horses and even scraping the flanks of a few horses. The horses flew into a panic, and dashed directly into the bandits, knocking them aside and trampling them just before the heroes fell upon them. The clever sneak attack put the fight on the heroes’ side and the rank-and-file bandit fell to the heroes quickly.

Waldric the Gore-Hand was a different kind of challenge. Shouting threats and promises, his frustrations grew as the heroes circumvented him to slay the remainder of his men. Demanding satisfaction for their deaths and his loss of resources, he took the heroes on all at once. The dual-wielding bandit was able to handle many heroes at once, fighting hard even when surrounded. Severely wounding the heroes, but being wounded himself, it seemed the battle could go either way. Then Blacktail entered the scene.

The mighty mabari tackled and mauled the bandit to death, and heroes caught their breath while thanking the powerful mastiff. The mabari pulled out a potion and drank it, but as the heroes marveled over its intelligence, the source of this cunning became obvious. The mabari began to grow tall and stand like a man, until a robed human stood where the mabari stood, the ornate copper collar still around his neck. He knowingly smirked as the elven boy exited the tent he hid inside. The boy seemed to know him.

In that moment, a number of dalish elven hunters rounded a corner to find the boy. Calling him by name, they were interrupted as the winding sound of loading crossbows surrounded the elven hunters, and several members of the clan found themselves beset on all sides by silent men in foreign armor. The faces of the armor conjured images of scowling creatures, and the elves froze.

The men held their loaded crossbows at the group of dalish elves and marched them into the open. Asha watched with growing anxiety as she recognized members of her own clan, the Brightmores. Her own Keeper walked into the clearing to meet Asha’s eyes with what seemed to be shame.

The little elven boy demanded to know what was happening. This was not what the man promised him. The boy revealed that he did know this man, and claimed that the man promised that his clan could cease the meaningless wandering that his people seemed cursed to do. They would have jobs and integrate with the rest of the world, and see what lies beyond the trees for once in their lives. As Blacktail chuckled to himself, the boy could see he had made a mistake.

Blacktail planned on making good on the promise, as him and his clan would have new lives in Tevinter as hard-working slaves. They would see the world outside the trees and would never wander again, if they knew what was good for them.

Shadow, Hocke, and an oblivious Pryft entered the camp. Pryft seemed to be left in the dark as to what was going on, while Shadow held out an expecting hand to the magister, Blacktail. Blacktail produced a coin purse and Shadow pocketed it before calmly exiting the scene with Hocke. Pryft was furious, but was met with cold smiles and reminders that it was “just good business”. Hocke and Shadow left Pryft in the clearing. Pryft begged the heroes to believe that he wasn’t aware of this.

Blacktail also announced his plans to take the town of Logerswold, now defenseless, filled with quarreling soldiers, populated by hungry and jobless villagers, and far enough outside of Ferelden that few would notice an entire town being taken to Tevinter. Blacktail marveled at the reputation he would have back home with the other magisters.

Asha steeled her nerves and offered herself as a tribute if she would let her people go. Blacktail refused, claiming that he would make much more money with this many slaves as opposed to one. Asha claimed that he would have to feed fewer people, but Blacktail countered that he wouldnt’ be feeding them anyway. The ones who survived the starvation would be sold as hardier elves and better products. Asha then told him about her proficiency as a healer, and her services would be seen as more valuable.

Negotiations dragged into more and more dangerous territory. The heroes would be “conditioned” into personal bodyguards for him, while the elves would be sold, along with the Fereldans from Logerswold. He would have fame like few others in Tevinter, and the heroes would sing his praises by the time it was all over. Kallian snapped, vowing not to be taken in by this plot, and drew a dagger before throwing herself at the magister. Thinking quickly, Asha fired an arcane lance at Kallian, who was knocked unconscious. Blacktail was pleased by the sudden burst of servitude and protection, but knowing that he couldn’t simply let the heroes walk about with their weapons and everything, he decided he would condition them here and now. A soldier brought him a large sack of lyrium dust. The magister lit his staff to a red hot heat, and dipped the staff into the dust. He demanded that the heroes undress and ready themselves to be conditioned if they wished to save the elves.

Pryft could take no more, and produced a dagger. To the astonishment of those around him, he swiped the dagger across his own hand, and drew the blood from himself before slamming the Tevinter soldiers to the ground. Moments later, Vauldur Krole, tied down to the back of a horse, followed by several of his trained retainers, charged onto the scene, having followed the trail of the heroes. The Brightmore clan saw their chance to retaliate, and the elves and Fereldens turned to the Tevinter soldiers with bloody intent. As the elves and Fereldens fought their own battle, the heroes charged at Blacktail, slaying the magister once and for all.

As the battle went on, the Tevinter soldiers were finally driven off by a third group of elves, who rained a volley of arrows down onto the soldiers. The Tevinter soldiers retreated, and the Fereldens and elves stood victorious with minimal casualties.

This third group of elves called themselves the Emerald Brotherhood. They were a group of elves who saw the plight of the elves and desired to change it for the better, by making peace with the other races of Thedas. They had seen Asha’s commitment to her people was great, and they offered her to join their ranks. Knowing that she couldn’t simply walk from her current path, Asha joined them as a free agent who walked among the humans, with the goal of fostering peace with the humans towards the elves in and out of their cities.

As a sort of initiation, they asked what Asha might do with the elven boy. He had sold out his people to slavers and might have cost them many lives. Asha was resolute that the boy must be educated more thoroughly on his people’s history and who they could be. The Brightmore Keeper, smiled and promised that he would be receiving his education right away. She asked Asha one last time to return to the Brightmore clan. They both knew her answer.

As the heroes looted the bandit camp, they found many treasures. Linnea reminded the greedy Kallian that they likely belonged to people nearby, and they agreed to return as many items as they could to the villagers of Logerswold. Among the treasures, the heroes found evidence of Bann Trumhall’s involvement with the bandits. They had been so successful because they had been directed by Trumhall. His treachery exposed, they returned to Logerswold with a newly restored Vaulder Krole.

Trumhall seemed hazy, as if he had woken from a long sleep, and it seemed he couldn’t easily remember what had taken place over the past month or so. He had no recollection of working with the bandits, but seeing as he couldn’t remember clearly, he submitted to justice the heroes found suitable. Sensing his honesty, and told by many working under him that he was a good man and would never do such a thing, the heroes petitioned the freeholders of Logerswold to reinstate Vaulder Krole as the bann of the Ruswold Valley, and make Trumhall his adivsor.

It was a vote of great debate between the freeholders, but seeing as they simply wished to get back to work and live their lives, the vote went through smoothly, and Vaulder Krole was made bann of the Ruswold once again.

The heroes departed for Denerim with countless thanks, coin, and smiles, even one from Krole, if only for a moment.

View
A Bann Too Many
The heroes arrive in Logerswold, and recieve their original mission.

The village of Vintiver was left in a better state than it was found. While the humans and the elves worked together to help each other rebuild what they had both lost, the heroes responsible made their way south to Logerswold, their final destination.

Glad that their perilous detour was behind them, the y finally made it to the Ruswold Valley, a valley between hilly plains that touched and crossed the border of the Brecilian Forest. Night had fallen before the heroes could reach the village, so they pitched camp and foraged for food.

While the night was still young, they were approached by three disgruntled soldiers, looking for a fight. The soldiers rudely confronted the heroes, taking nearly every response as an offense. Linnea noticed that the soldiers wore the heraldry of the Krole family, a local family who had been leaders in the Ruswold for generations.

The soldiers were talked down and they left as grumpy as they arrived. They did not bother the heroes for the rest of the night.

The next day, as they heroes continued their journey, they were approached by armed men on horses patrolling the roads who inquired their destination. Upon hearing that they would hear the words of Trumhall, the new bann of the Ruswold, the horsemen were more than happy to escort the heroes to the bann’s camp.

The camp was a vibrant collection of working men and women, farm animals, and soldiers marching and drilling. A keep was under construction and a wooden soldier’s barracks had been erected recently. The soldiers guided the heroes to a large tent where they found Bann Trumhall and Blacktail, his mabari companion. The new, young bann explained that he and his town Logerswold had developed a large problem with local bandits, and while he does have forces who could do a search, they do not know where the bandits are camped. Sending his own forces on a search for a bandit camp in the Brecilian would not only be meaningless, it would leave Logerswold and the surrounding Ruswold Valley unprotected from any attack. Therefore, he saw fit to put out a call for adventurers to help. Adventurers could travel light, be more difficult to notice, and would be more than happy to help themselves to the spoils that the bandits have stolen.

The bann shared with the heroes a harsh story of the working men and women of the town had finally had enough of waiting around for the bann to handle the bandits. They wished to return to work, and as much as Trumhall reminded them that they would receive no protection, they saw their only options before them: starve, or go to work and risk violent death. The freeholders chose to take their chances to feed themselves and their families. Trumhall had not heard from them freeholders in days, and feared the worst.

While the heroes listened to the bann’s plea for help, they were joined by a group of three more adventurers who had answered the call. A lumbering fool named Hocke, a detached sneak named Shadow, and a familiar face, Pryft. Evidently, Pryft had found himself some company since the last time him and Asha had met. He and his allies planned on beating the heroes to the bandit camp to help themselves to the riches the bandits had stolen. Pryft left a rushed goodbye as Hocke and Shadow left ahead of the heroes.

As the heroes concluded the deal with bann Trumhall, they were addressed by a pair of men dressed in the regalia of house Krole. Shunned by the men of Trumhall’s camp, and wanting to do little with them in the first place, they found it easy to approach the heroes with a request from Vauldur Krole to meet with them. Unsure, but not threatened, the heroes agreed to the meeting.

Vauldur Krole’s manor was large, defended, and strong, but empty and quiet at the same time. While soldiers may have been their once, they all seemed to have moved on, and only a handful of servants and militiamen remained behind.

The heroes were taken directly to Krole’s quiet study at the top of his manor. The former bann succinctly and simply asked if they were the ones who his former soldiers had accosted the night before. The heroes recalled the encounter with little worry, but all the same, Krole offered a short apology for their actions. While this was the end of Krole’s business with the heroes, they couldn’t help but ask a few questions.

Krole had been ousted as the bann because of several factors. First, while it may not have been the most outspoken reason, Krole was a gruff man with little like. He was old, tired, angry, and not pleasant to look at. He had lost a leg while defending his home, and this only hurt his image as an inspiring leader. Second, Krole had been making only slow progress with the bandit problem when it first appeared, and the freeholders of the Ruswold were dissatisfied. Third, a landless lord named Trumhall, a charismatic and inspiring young man, appeared and managed to fend off two attacks from the bandits with his own retainers. Thus, the freeholders saw fit to vote and replace the old with the new. Trumhall became bann, and Krole was left with nothing but his family’s estate.

The estate, Asha argued, could still help the families who needed shelter, and the soldiers who needed a place to rest and train. The Krole family had owned the land for three ages, and Vauldur saw no reason to hand it over to the new bann. The bann dismissed their reasoning, but was left in thought as the open-hearted heroes were kindly led from the premises.

Just outside the Krole manor, a plume of smoke rose from the north, and frantic soldiers tried to strap on their armor in response while servants ran for the wells shouting that bandits had attacked the wagon.

The heroes did not reach the wagon in time to save anyone. The driver was butchered and burned as a sick message. As the heroes looked upon his corpse, a hail of arrows assaulted them from two sides. The bandits had not left, and were waiting in ambush for the response from Krole’s men. The heroes rushed to the bow-wielding bandits, but they had horses nearby, and were able to escape into the thick and winding Brecilian.

Wasting no time, the heroes remembered that Trumhall suggested that they investigate the logger’s camp in the forest for clues as to where the bandits went. With the trail in front of them, they enter the Brecilian Forest once again.

The trail was rugged, and bandits waited around every corner and tree, but they were hunted down by the heroes before they could report to their camp, but not before they managed to capture and interrogate one for the directions to the camp itself.

Following the landmarks left by the captured bandit, the heroes drew close to the logger’s camp, and it was as the bann feared. The villagers who had come to work were ambushed from all sides and killed where they stood, tools in hand. Some were hung by their necks as a warning to others, and the rest were left on the ground to rot.

Quickening their pace, the heroes followed the last few landmarks to their quarry: the bandit’s camp lay ahead.

View
Mythallen's Wrath
It's a race against time to stop Mythallen.

The heroes rush through the Brecillian Forest after the escaped revenger to find Mythallen and the kidnapped Goldenhawk clan. Eshara leads the group through the woods, and across a gorge guarded by corrupted, darkspawn crows, toward an old keep, hidden in a low valley. The keep was old and crumbled, having not seen use until only very recently. Quietly, the heroes approached.

The fallen masonry and crumbled pavement were cleared before the heroes’ arrival to make room for a staircase leading down into the keep’s basement. The keep was dusty with broken and rusted weapons strewn about the basement’s floor. The heroes were not alone however, for the guardians of the tower still stood, their flesh rotted from their bones but their empty sockets filled with hate for the living. Human skeletons wielding old Tevinter garments, spears, and bows threw themselves with enraged howls towards the living heroes.

The skeletons were broken down, and the room was searched. A tripwire connected to a dead fall filled with rusted blades was disabled before continuing on. Alora knew this was the place she was ambushed by the darkspawn before. She was overwhelmed in the hallway they stood in, yet the rooms seemed quiet.

Checking the same doors that once held a dozen darkspawn, the heroes found, instead, several dozen trapped elves behind bars. The Goldenhawk clan’s women, clederly, and children were being kept in cramped dirty cells. Several men and women hunters were in the cells, their flesh burned with magic, lying unconscious.

Orellis, the Goldenhawk clan’s keeper, thanked the heroes and explained what parts of this puzzle they did not understand. First, the abomination was once an elven hunter of the Goldenhawk clan: Harralan. He was instructed to hunt two days after the clan had left on harsh terms with the humans of Vintiver. Orellis had hoped that he would simply cool down and come to his senses, but instead he did not return for one night. A hunting party was sent to find him, including Alora, but they found nothing the first day. The second day, they did not return, and the clan thought Alora dead. Another party was sent, but they also disappeared. Before a third party could be sent, the clan was besieged by darkspawn and dragged to this keep, where the transformed Harralan imprisoned them. He began to take the stronger members of the clan and turn them into these strange darkspawn, the once lying in the cells with the rest of the clan were the ones who resisted the transformation, and were discarded. Mythallen, as he called himself now, seemed to crave revenge against the humans, and indeed, all of humankind. Orellis feared what he would be capable of, being able to craft darkspawn from living people with time. If he remained unchallenged, he could take the villagers of Vintiver and expand his army into other human settlements and spread his hate with bloody war.

Mythallen had only left hours before the heroes arrived at the keep, Orellis explained. He planned on marching to Vintiver tonight.

Eshara offered to escort the clan back to their camp and wagons. A hunter from the clan gave the heroes directions to a more direct route through the forest towards Vintiver. He warned them it may be dangerous, but it would be faster.

As the clan departed, the heroes decided to investigate the room where much of this started. A circular room contained a crushed statue, several large chain’s hanging from the ceiling, and a weathered altar standing in the middle of a large circle of magic runes. The chain link that Asha carried sparked and hummed when she carried it into the room. She removed it from her bag and placed it alone in the room where it resonated with the magics still present in the room. Asha could tell that the spell placed in this room had stood for centuries, was not of elven origin, and was a powerful binding spell. The chains had been severed in one place.

Unable to do much with the room or find anything else of use, the heroes made a beeline for Vintiver. The woods around them seemed to be corrupted with Mythallen’s influence. A large corrupted spider halted their progress, as did wicked barbed plants, hidden holes, and low-hanging branches.

When they cleared the forest and found Vintiver, they found it in chaos. The darkspawn and Mythallen had beaten them here. The villagers were locked in a struggle for survival against bloodcrows, revengers, and even Coalan was in combat with Mythallen himself. Mythallen brushed him aside before addressing the heroes.

He invited Alora, Kallian, and Ashalla to take part in what would become history: the fall of humanity. They refused to become like those that Mythallen remembered: scared and angry humans who drove the elves from their homes twice. Myhallen laughed and called them weak, having no love for their kind if they saw no justice to be done after the humans had torn down the elves twice, leaving them to live in poverty in human cities or hide in the forests.

Mythallen claimed he took this name because Mythal was not here to do what must be done, so justice must be done by someone else. He was that someone, who would bring the death, fear, and carnage that the humans so willingly gave to the elves everyday.

The heroes refused to be part of this. Mythallen no longer considered them elves; not even Alora.

He lunged at the heroes, swinging mighty claws and bursting with flames of rage. Several of his revenger minions came to aid his battle, and the heroes were tested. His claws were sharp, his abomination form gave him thick skin, and his flames were tall and hot. Asha also made sure to cure Coalan of many of his injuries, urging him to help the village as best he could. Coalan, confused and angry, became oddly serene, and nodded to Asha. He grasped his blacksmith’s maul and set himself on the revengers.

The battle was bloody, and all around them they could see that the village of Vintiver had struggles of its own. But the people still fought back. Rocks and tools were tossed from windows at passing bloodcrows, farm implements and clubs bludgeoned the revengers, and fires were extinguished by frantic buckets of river water. Likewise, the revengers took lives on the ends of their claws and teeth, eyes were plucked by the bloodcrows, and many families were trapped in their homes by hot flames. Thankfully, the ruffians that the heroes had pacified days before were part of the fight, which softened the blow to the village.

Mythallen nearly brought the heroes down, but as he gasped and grasped his own wounds, he drew a dagger to slay an injured Alora. He drove his dagger into the ground beside her and looked into her eyes.

“I have made my choice. I am sorry”

In the moment of pain and indecision over killing Alora, Mythallen stopped. His revengers and bloodcrows began to cry out in pain, clutching their heads as if they were assaulted in their minds by demons. The battle halted around the village for just a moment.

Alora knew what needed to be done. In one mighty thrust, her sword pierced Mythallen’s body, and the strange powers from his rage began to subside. Magics of strange origin erupted into the sky from the dozens of revengers around the town, bloodcrows fell from the sky, and Mythallen exploded into a light that lanced into the swirling magics in the sky. This storm of strange power blasted skyward, and then all was quiet.

Lying on the ground was an elven hunter, with Alora’s sword still piercing his body, his blood creeping across the soil.

The villagers cheered and thanked the Maker for the strength to carry the night. The heroes rolled their eyes and turned to Alora. She sat on the ground, quietly looking on her former husband-to-be.

Tarl Dale offered what little he could to thank the heroes for their help, offering equipment, food, lodging, and a strange proposal: Coalan had suggested that the village offer aid to the Goldenhawk clan, claiming “it was only fair.” Sister Arda aided Asha in tending the wounded, keeping the elf from collapsing from exhaustion and stabilizing villagers alongside her. Coalan even offered the heroes repairs to their gear or commissions for new weapons or armor.

Several villagers accompanied the heroes back to the Dalish camp with Harralan’s body. The humans brought food, water, wine, and tools to help the elves rebuild. The elves were grateful, and offered to teach the humans hunting techniques and grant them some of their woodworked tools. In this one instance, elves and humans could be seen working together.

The clan gave him a proper burial, allowing Alora one final goodbye. Orellis offered for Alora to come back to the clan, but could tell in her eyes that she was destined for greater things than the clan could give her. He gave her the choice and wished her the best of luck, and for the Dread Wolf to never catch her scent. Eshara asked if she would be leaving the clan, hinting that Eshara would enjoy Alora’s continued company. Alora responded by offering Eshra a chance to leave with her and the rest of her group.

Eshara agreed to speak to Orellis first, but accepted the offer with a knowing smile.

View
Terror in Vintiver
Humans and elves suffer at the hands of hate.

Gathering their thoughts, the group took a look about the farm. The animals stood quietly in their barn and the fields where they grazed about as if nothing had happened. The body they found in the fields of the Fuldor farm was joined by bodies of men in other fields, women and girls in the farmhouse, and even the corpse of a murdered newborn still laid in the crib.

The carnage was punctuated by a single word on the wall inside the farmhouse, written in blood: “Mythallen”, the elven word for justice.

While searching the barn, a small moan of pain could be heard in the hay. The heroes hurried to the injured voice and found none other than Eshara, from Alora’s Goldenhawk clan. She was weak and injured; her wounds were old and she ran a fever. Collapsing as soon as she was found, Asha quickly healed her festering wound, stabilizing her. She needed sleep before she could truly recover.

In Eshara’s pocket was a strange item: a large chain link, about the size of a man’s hand, made of silver and etched with magical runes. Asha could feel magic about it, but its purpose was unclear.

Investigating a noise outside the barn, Kallian locked eyes with a young human boy. The boy had clearly seen things he was not meant to see. He shivered in fear and slowly backed away from Kallian. His slow steps soon turned to sprinting towards the village of Vintiver.

Kallian’s quick feet stopped the boy from running to tell the humans, and his fear was soothed by Asha’s words and Linnea’s earnest assurances. He was simply looking for one of the girls who lived here. The heroes shared uneasy glances.

Linnea offered to escort the boy home in case more wolves lurked about. She left the elven members of the party at the farm, knowing quite well what most Fereldens might do with groups of elves, Dalish or not. Meanwhile, Alora, Asha, and Kallian began to clean the farm of the carnage. Fearing what the possible repercussions of being discovered among what small-minded people would call evidence of them perpetrating the crime, the heroes took steps to clean the farmhouse and move bodies closer together for burial.

Before Linnea entered the town proper, she spotted a pair of humans who appeared to be heading in the direction of the Fuldor Farm. She made a point to caution them about what they would see. Confused and worried, the two men split up: one headed to the farm while the other returned to town for a larger search party.

The boy was returned home to his lovable family at the local inn, and Linnea sat down to explain the situation.

While cleaning the blood with water from a nearby well, Kallian is the first to notice a frantic human man running down the dirt road to the farm grounds. Alora only noticed him as she took Eshara’s sleeping body to a hiding place outside the property of the Fuldors. The human noticed Alora too.

He confronted Alora, demanding the situation. Alora was joined by a cautious Asha, who attempted to salvage the situation, while Kallian looked on from hiding. It became apparent many times that this human was not listening. He insisted that their appearance at the sight of carnage just so soon after bad blood had been boiled between a Dalish clan and the townsfolk of Vintiver. He was adamant that the Dlaish had come back to take revenge. He deflected Asha’s words as Dalish games of the mind and stomped back to Vintiver to tell his people of the “Dalish plot”.

Linnea could see the search party gathering through the inn window and decided that she should return to her allies. She was correct in assuming they would benefit from her presence.

Three stressful hours passed, and an angry mob marched to the place the human last saw Asha and Alora. A mob of thirty or more angry men and women shouted accusations of witchery, tricking the farmers into the open to be picked apart by the wolves, or moving a Dalish “plot” to destroy the town. They demanded she “answer for the crimes of the treacherous elves and face justice”. It was clear from the farm implements, torches, and wild looks in the humans’ eyes that “justice” meant torture if the heroes were lucky.

Leading the mob was the human blacksmith of Vintiver, Coalan. He found it unsurprising to see Alora among the group. He demanded that they surrender easily. The heroes stood tall and defended themselves. They cited their recent arrival, human and city elf allies, and their certain lack of magic. The mob cried for blood, while the heroes cried for reason.

When Linnea mentioned their patronage to Bann Nicola Baranti, gasps and awe washed over the crowd. While some of the mob called their words “mind games”, the heroes got through to many of the villagers with reasoning and the integrity of the Bann. One by one the farm tools were dropped, torches were put out, and feet began to shuffle away towards the village. Disgusted by the weakness of his brethren, Coalan stomped back to Vintiver without a final word.

Stepping down from a horse as the mob marched to town, Tarl Dale, the local lawman, and a sister of the Chantry, Sister Arda approached the group. The Tarl thanked them profusely for halting the falling of blood in Vintiver if only for a little while. Dale was reasonable and Arda was a surprisingly lenient sister. They inquired the heroes’ business in town and offered them to stay the night. The heroes respectfully declined.

As if on queue, Eshara finally awoke from her slumber. She thanked the newcomers and turned to Alora with worried eyes. She explained that the Goldenhawk clan had been taken hostage. After several days of Alora and her hunters going missing, and the hunters sent after them going missing as well, strange darkspawn began to appear from the forest. They surrounded the camp and quickly quelled any resistance. With so many of the hunters missing the clan couldn’t put up much of a fight. Eshara was caught along with the rest, but managed to escape with a strange link of chain. She thought that it may have some significance.

Eshara’s explanation soon became a plea: she pleaded Alora and the others to save the Goldenhawk clan from these jackal-like darkspawn and their leader, a horrid creature of madness and anger: Mythallen.

Alora needed no persuasion, and the rest saw that their journey to Logerswold should be postponed. Eshara guided the heroes towards the Brecillian Forest to their clan’s camp.

Ambushing the heroes was a discontent Coalan and several strong-arms from the village. Not sharing any words beyond racial slurs and curses, they threw fists and clubs at the heroes. Coalan eagerly swung about his smithing hammer as a makeshift maul. After a small struggle, the heroes managed to knock the humans unconscious, and dragged them back to the village before continuing on.

They found the camp after two days of walking, and it was in no good shape. The halla had thankfully run off during the scuffle, but not a soul could be found. There weren’t even bodies to find, they appeared to have been all carried off elsewhere, deeper into the forest.

As the heroes searched the campsite, strange laughter echoed from the trees. Glowing red eyes emerged from the underbrush, and the revenger darkspawn revealed themselves. Their tight grey and sickly skin drew back across mockeries of smiles lined with sharp and misaligned teeth. They licked their claws and giggled at the idea of slicking them with the blood of the heroes. They threw themselves at the heroes, eager to cut them down, but were pushed back and slain.

To the heroes’ horror, when they cut down the revengers, they shifted to the form of an elven hunter in death. Something truly horrid was happening here. As the last revenger retreated into the wood, Eshara demanded that it be followed to the center of the madness.

Looking back on the elves they had slain unwittingly, the heroes knew this must be stopped before more victims began to pile up. A slain farm was enough.

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.