Dragon Age II
Rise to Power
"So, is the Keeper... your mother?" Bethany wonders. "I left my clan when I was a child to become Marethari's First. I haven't seen my parents in more than ten years," Merril says. "I'm so sorry! My father died in the Blight. You must really miss them." "I remember my mother singing to me, when I was a little girl and i'd get sick. I think that's what I miss the most. The Keeper had a terrible singing voice."
They find their way to Lirine's Fereldan Imports. "Will everyone please just step back," she says. "My mother's in labor! The baby's come early. Can anyone help her?" a refugee says. "I'll send word to the healer, but --" "My son's hurt bad. Cart overturned on him in the blasted Bone Pit," a male refugee interrupts. "Everyone in your turn. I promise, we have donations coming in. There will be food and medicine for all of you," Lirene says. Garret approaches her. "If you're seeking aid, leave your name with my girl. We serve everyone here -- no one came from Ferelden without trouble. But I can't give priority to anyone who's already found work and lodging." "Is there a way I can assist these people?" Garret wonders. "If you've got coin to spare, we won't turn it down. Donations go in the box up front. Anything else?" "I hear you know where I can find a Fereldan Grey Warden." "Only Fereldan Grey Warden I've heard of is sitting on the throne. We're out of the Blight's path now. Why would you need a Warden?" Lirene says. "The healer was one of them, wasn't he? A Warden?" a female refugee says. "Well, he's not now. And busy enough without answering fool questions about it." "Who are you protectiong?" Garret wonders. "You see what our people face in Kirkwall. They have no jobs, no homes. Most can barely buy bread. This healer, he serves them without thought for coin. He's closed their wounds, delivered their children." "He sounds very busy. We won't be any trouble, we promise," Merril says. "He's a good man. I won't lose him to the blighted templars," Lirene says. "You mean he's a mage?" "Would I stick my neck out for some purveyor of hensbane and leeches?" "We would never turn someone over to the templars, Mistress. Never," Bethany says. "He doesn't want to be locked in the Gallows just for using the gifts the Maker gave him," Lirene says. "Your healer is in no danger from me," Garret says. "No mage should suffer for an accident of birth," Bethany says. "I suppose it isn't my secret to keep. Anders has certainly been free enough with his services. Refugees in Darktown know -- to find the healer, look for the lit lantern. If you have need enough, Anders will be within," Lirene says. "is there any flour? We've been out for a week. The children are eating sawdust," a refugee says.
Garret leave a donation of one sovereign before they leave. Waiting for them outside is a group of armed Fereldan regugees. "Hey! We heard you in there. Asking about the healer. We know what happens to mages in this town. And it ain't gonna happen to him." "I'm as Fereldan as you. I won't harm your healer," Garret says. "Fereldan? But... you, your clothes... I figured you for a Kirkwaller. Sorry. Maker bless the rule of our King Alistair." The refugees disperse. "You remind me of Hahren Paivel, Varric. Only younger. And shorter. And not as serious," Merril says. "So it's a close resemblance, then," he says. "Well, he tells stories. And you tell stories. Although none of them begin 'Not shit, there I was," she says. "I'll have to give him some bette stories, then."
In Lirene's shop
They enter Darktown. "The refugees live here? It's almost enough to make me grateful for uncle Gamlen," Bethany says. Searching for the correct location, the party runs into hostile mercenaries. They make the enemy regret messing with the Hawkes, merril and Varric. Backtracking and trying a new route, Garret thinks he sees a familiar elf. "Tomwise?" "Huh? Oh... Hawke. Haven't seen you since Meeran hired me for that Red Iron job. Been a while. Heard you're going on some expedition into the Deep Roads, and right into darkspawn territory. Sure that's wise?" "We can't all make a living in the Undercity," Garret says. "Just watch your back, that's all I'm saying. Say... you still in the market for some poisons? The Red Iron's been scarce, and business has been a litle slow. You find any reagents and want me to whip you up something, just let me know. In fact, since you're an old friend, here's a recipe. My speciality. Everyone needs an edge sometimes, right?" Tomwise says.
"The Threnhold family assumed its foreboding control of the city at the very onset of the Dragon Age, less then a week after Maric Theirin retook the Ferelden throne from Orlais. Since this was followed by a civil war in Antiva (The much malign 'Three-Queens' era) and a coup in the Tevinter Imperium, many thought the Dragon Age would bring devastating change. Perhaps this was a hasty estimate, but it was true for Kirkwall. Viscount Chivalry Threnhold was a vicious thug who took power through a campaign of intimidation, and his son Perrin who was to succeed him in 9:14 Dragon Age was even worse. ... Taxes was crippling and Perrin Threnhold used the ancient chains extending from 'the Twins' standing at Kirkwall's harbour - Unused since the New Exalted Marches - to block sea traffic and charge exorbitant fees from Orlesian ships. The Empire threatened invasion following the closure of the waking sea passage, and for the first time, the chantry used the templars to pressure the viscount. Until that point, the templars had done nothing to counter the Threnholds even though, as the largest armed force in Kirkwall, they could have. Knight-Commander Guylian's only written comment was in a letter to Divine Beatrix III: 'It is not our place to interfere in political affairs. We are here to safeguard the city against magic, not against itself.' The Divine, as a friend to the emperor clearly had other ideas. ... In response, viscount Perrin hired a mercenary army, forcing a showdown with the templars. They stormed the gallows and hung the Knight-Commander Guylian, igniting a series of battles that ended with Perrin's arrest and the last of his family's rule. The templars were hailed as heroes, even though they wished to remain out of Kirkwall's affairs, it was now forced upon them. Knight-Commander Meredith appointed Lord Marlowe Dumar as the new viscount in 9:21 Dragon and she remains influential in the city. — From Kirkwall: the City of Chains, by Brother Genitivi, 9:24 Dragon"
"I have made this place a sanctum of healing and salvation. Why do you threaten it?" Anders says. "I'm just here to talk," Garret ensures the mage. "We're interested in getting into the Deep Roads. Rumor has it you were a Warden. Do you know a way?" Varric says. "Did the Wardens send you to bring me back? I'm not going. Those bastards made me get rid of my cat. Poor Ser Pounce-a-lot. He hated the Deep Roads." "You had a cat named Ser Pounce-a-lot? In the Deep Roads?" Garret wonders. "He was a gift. A noble beast. Almost got ripped in half by a genlock once. He swatted the bugger on the nose. Drew blood, too. The blighted Wardens said he 'made me too soft.' I had to give him to a friend in Amaranthine." "So you came to Kirkwall to escape the Wardens?" "You say that like it's a small thing. Yes, I'm here because there's no Warden outpost, no darkspawn, and a whole host of refugees to blend in with. And some reasons of my own," Anders says. "I'm part of an expedition into the Deep Roads. Any information you have could save people's lives," Garret says. "I will die a happy man if I never think of the blighted Deep Roads again. You can't imagine what I've come through to get here. I'm not interested. Although... a favor for a favor. Does that sound like a fair deal? You help me, I'll help you?" Anders says. "Help my expedition reach the Deep Roads, and I'll do whatever you need." "You don't ask for my terms? What if I were asking for the knight-commander's head on a spike?" "Is that what you ask?" Garret says. "You decide. I have a Warden map of the depths in this area. But there's a price. I came to Kirkwall to aid a friend. A prisoner in the wretched Gallows. The templars learned of my plans to free him. Help me bring him safely past them, and you shall have your maps," Anders says. "You want to make your friend an apostate?" "That's such a weighted term. Yes, Andraste said magic should serve man, not rule him. But I've yet to find a mage who wants to rule anything. It goes against no will of the Maker for mages to live as free as other men." "Forcing mages into servitude is not the way to prevent the rise of another Imperium," Garret says. "That's usually not the response I get. Perhaps we will work together better than I expected." "What do the templars know of your plans?" "I don't know. I had been exchanging notes with Karl through a maidservant in the Gallows. Then the letters stopped coming," Anders says. "Tell me about your friend." "His name is Karl Thekla. He was sent here from Ferelden when _kirkwall's Circle required new talent. His last letter said the knight-commander was turning the Circle into a prison. Mages are locked in their cells, refused appearances in court, made Tranquil for the slightest crimes. I told him I would come." "Are these accustations true?" Garret wonders. "Ask any mage in Kirkwall. Over a dozen were made Tranquil just this year. The more people you ask, the worse the rumors become," Anders says. "How do you plan to break him out of the Gallows?" "I was hoping it won't come to that. I sent Karl a message to meet me in the chantry tonight. Maker willing, he'll be there, alone. But if there are templars with him, I swear, I'll free him from them. Whatever the cost." "You've convinced me. What's your plan?" Garret says. "I welcome your aid. I have already sent word to karl to meet me in the chantry tonight. Join us there, and we'll ensure that no matter who's with him, we all walk away free," Anders says.
"You're so lucky," Merril says. "How do you figure?" Bethany wonders. "I would have loved to have a brother, and a mother, and an uncle. It must be wonderful. You'd never be alone!" "It is wonderful. Although it might be better without Uncle Gamlen," Bethany says. "So... Milady Sunshine, what's your first act as a noblewoman going to be?" Varric says. "A noblewoman with no fortune and no title? Looking for work, probably." "Practicality is for peasants, my lady. You need to do something fivilous to celebrate your birthright," the dwarf says. "Such as...?" "Come up to Hightown Market and complain bitterly that there no Orlesian silk that matches your eyes." "But what if something does match my eyes? What will I do, then?" Bethany says. "Insist that they're blatantly copying you, and demand royalties. A good noble always has a complaint ready, Sunshine," Varric says. The group splits up to go their different ways for now -- they'll meet up again after nightfall.
"Lowtown is home to a squalid elven alienage. Here, like in most Thedas alienages, elves are packed into tiny rundown apartments and effectively segregated from the human population. ... Kirkwall's alienage is even more dilapidated than the rest of Lowtown, but the elves go to great lengths keeping the place looking bright and festive. The vhenadahl ("Tree of the People") standing in the middle of the alienage is a symbol for elven pride and shared cultural identity, and it is lovingly cared for. ... It's difficult to say if the elves would continue confining themselves to the alienage if they were given the chance to mingle. They may not admit it, but some feel that living among their kind is far better than living with humans, no matter how terrible alienage life may be. — From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar, by Brother Genitivi"
"I didn't think you'd come! I'll find something relatively clean for you to sit on. Can I get you something to eat or drink? I have... water." "I came here to see you, Merril. You don't have to fuss over me," Garret says. "You're so kind. My first guest, and I'm already a terrible host. I wanted to thank you for bringing me gere, but I'm making a mess of it." "You're so sweet, Merril." "I'm not really. If good wishes were enough, everyone in Thedas would be happy. I haven't exactly had many friends. Not even among my own clan. This is... tricky," she says. "What made you unpopular with the Dalish?" he wonders. "Being First to the Keeper. I was always... a bit secluded. I studied magic and history while the others were learning the Vir Tanadal. It's good that I left. I'd have made a terrible Keeper. I was never that good with people." "You seem to be getting the hang of it already," Garret says. "I'm glad you think so. Thank you for coming to visit me, Hawke. It... means a lot to me," Merril says.
"You ask what happened to Arlathan? Sadly, we do not know. Even those of us who keep the ancient lore have no record of what truly happened. What we have are accounts of the days before the fall, and a fable of the whims of the gods. ... The human world was changing even as the elves slept. Clans and tribes gave way to a powerful empire called Tevinter, which -- and for what reason we do not know -- moved to conquer Elvhenan. When they breached the great city of Arlathan, our people, fearful of disease and loss of immortality, chose to flee rather than fight. With magic, demons, and even dragons at their behest, the Tevinter Imperium marched easily through Arlathan, destroying homes and galleries and amphitheaters that had stood for ages. Our people were corralled as slaves, and human contact quickened their veins until every captured elf turned mortal. The elves called to their ancient gods, but there was no answer. ... As to why the gods didn't answer, our people left only a legend. They say that Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf and Lord of Tricksters, approached the ancient gods of good and evil and proposed a truce. The gods of good would remove themselves to heaven, and the lords of evil would exile themselves to the abyss, neither group ever again to enter the other's lands. But the gods did not know that Fen'Harel had planned to betray them, and by the time they realized the Dread Wolf's treachery, they were sealed in their respective realms, never again to interact with the mortal world. It is a fable, to be sure, but those elves who travel the Beyond claim that Fen'Harel still roams the world of dreams, keeping watch over the gods lest they escape from their prisons. ... Whatever the case, Arlathan had fallen to the very humans our people had once considered mere pests. It is said that the Tevinter magisters used their great destructive power to force the very ground to swallow Arlathan whole, destroying eons of collected knowledge, culture, and art. The whole of elven lore left only to memory. --'The Fall of Arlathan,' as told by Gisharel, keeper of the Ralaferin clan of the Dalish elves
That night, the group join up again and go to Hightown. "The streets aren't safe at night. We should do something about that," Bethany says. The young mage is proven right when the party are attacked by a large group of city guard pretenders. With Merril and Bethany calling fire to rain down from the sky upon the heads of the disguised outlaws, Garret, Varric and Rex only have to mop up among the wounded. Their corpses only yield a few measly silvers. The party continues to the chantry.
Making Hightown's streets safe at night
"I saw Karl go inside a few minutes ago. No templars so far. Are you ready?" Anders says. "I didn't see anyone suspicious out there. Let's do this fast," Garret says. "All right. I'll handle the talking. You watch for templars. When we find Karl, just let me talk to him," the Grey Warden says. They find Karl on the upper floor. "Anders. I know you too well. I knew you would never give up." "What's wrong? Why are you talking like --" "I was too rebellious. Like you. The templars knew I had to be... made an example of," Karl says. "No!" "How else will mages ever master themselves? You'll understand, Anders. As soon as the templars teach you to control yourself." A group of templars have quietly snuck up on them, with their weapons drawn. "This is the apostate," Karl tells them. "No!" Anders goes into a fit. "You will never take another mage as you took him!" A fierce fight in closed quarters results. Though the templars outnumber the party and are trained in how to fight mages, they stand no chance against the three mages, backed up by Varric's crossbow and Garret's sharp blades. The chantry floor quickly turns into a scene of carnage -- a bloodbath. "I -- Anders, what did you do? It's like... you brought a piece of the Fade into this world. I had already forgotten what that feels like," Karl says when all the templars are dead. "I thought the Tranquil were cut off from the Fade forever," Garret says. "When you're Tranquil, you never think of your life before. But... it's like the Fade itself is inside Anders. Burning like a sun. Please, kill me before I forget again! I don't know how you brought it back, but it's fading." "Karl, no --" "Maybe we can find a cure," Garret says. "Can you cure a beheading? The dreams of Tranquil mages are severed -- there is nothing left of the to fix," Anders says. "I would rather die a mage than live as a templar puppet," Karl says. "My sister calls being Tranquil a fate worse than death. Give him peace," Garret says. "I got here too late. I'm sorry, Karl. I'm so sorry," Anders says. "Now! It's fading... Why are do you look at me like that?" "Goodbye," Anders says, plunging his dagger into his friend's gut. "We should leave before more templars come," the Grey Warden says.
The meeting with Karl
They return to Anders' hideout. "That wasn't normal magic you just did, was it?" Garret says. "I... this is hard to explain. When I was in Amaranthine, I met a spirit of Justice who was trapped outside the Fade. We became friends. And he recognized the injustice mages in Thedas face every day," Anders says. "And that's... different than a demon?" "Just as demons prey on the deadly sins of mankind, there are good spirits who embody our virtues. Spirits of compassion, fortitude... justice. They are the Maker's first children, and they have all but given up on us." "This spirit sounds like a useful friend to have," Garret says. "He was far better to me than I have been to him. To live outside the Fade, he needed a host. I offered to help him... We were going to work together, bring justice to every child ever ripped away from his mother to be sent to the Circle. But... I guess I had too much anger. Once he was inside me, he... changed," Anders says. "So you have this spirit of justice living in your head?" "It's not like that. He's gone now. He's part of me. It's not like we can... have a conversation. I feel his thoughts as my own. Not even the greatest scholar could tell you where I end and he begins." "This must be difficult for you," Garret says. "I thought I was helping a friend. He would have... died, I guess. If that even means anything. And he wanted to help me. He knew what mages have suffered." "You tried to help a friend. Surely no harm can come of that," Bethany says. "I wish I still had your innosence. There was too much hatred in me. Justice thought he would overcome that. But my anger... when I see templars now, things that have always outraged me, but I could never do anything about... He comes out. And he is no longer my friend Justice. He is a force of vengeance. And he has no grasp of mercy," Anders says. "Can you bring him out at will?" Garret wonders. "No. He comes only when I've lost all power over myself. It's a madness, a frenzy. I only find out after what I might have done." "Is there anything I can do for you?" Garret wonders. "You're the first one I've ever told this. Thank you for not running away. My maps are yours. As am I, if you wish me to join your expedition. I thought I was done with the Grey Wardens, but if you have any need of me... I will be waiting here," Anders says.
"The Maker's first creations were the spirits, glorious beings that populated the many spires of the Golden City, and the Chant of Light says that they revered the Maker with unquestioning devotion. The Maker, however, was dissatisfied. Although the spirits were like Him in that they could manipulate the ether and create from it, they did not do so. They had no urge to create, and even when instructed to do so possessed no imagination to give their creations ingenuity or life. ... The Maker realized His own folly: He had created the spirits to resemble him in all but the one and most important way: they did not have the spark of the divine within them. He expelled all the spirits out of the Golden City and into the Fade and proceeded to His next creation: life. ... The Maker created the world and the living things upon it, separated from the Fade by the Veil. His new children would be unable to shape the world around them and thus they would need to struggle to survive. In return for their struggle, the Maker gave them the spark of the divine, a soul, and He watched with pleasure as His creations flourished and showed all the ingenuity that He had hoped for. ... The spirits grew jealous of the living and coaxed from them into the Fade when they slept. The spirits wished to know more of life, hoping to find a way to regain the Maker's favor. Through the eyes of the living, they experienced new concepts: love, fear, pain, and hope. The spirits re-shaped the Fade to resemble the lives and concepts they saw, each spirit desperately trying to bring the most dreamers to their own realms so they could vicariously posses a spark of the divine through them. ... As the spirits grew in power, however, some of them became contemptuous of the living. These were the spirits that saw the darkest parts of the dreamers. Their lands were places of torment and horror, and they knew that the living were strongly drawn to places that mirrored those dark parts of themselves. These spirits questioned the Maker's wisdom and proclaimed the living inferior. They learned from the darkness they saw and became the first demons. ... Rage, hunger, sloth, desire, pride: These are the dark parts of the soul that give demons their power, the hooks they use to claw their way into the world of the living. It was demons that whispered into the minds of men, convincing them to turn from the Maker and worship false gods. They seek to possess all life as their due, forging kingdoms of nightmare in the Fade in the hopes of one day storming the walls of heaven itself. ... And the Maker despaired once again, for He had given the power of creation to his new children - and in return they had created sin. -- From The Maker's First Children, By Bader, Senior Enchanter of Ostwick, 8:12 Blessed."
"I heard Varric saying you were a Grey Warden," Merril says. "I was," Anders replies. "I met a Warden once. Back in Ferelden. Duncan, I think his name was. Very odd man. He had a marvelous beard, though. I'd never seen one before. I thought a squirrel had brabbed him by the chin." The next day they are headed for the market. "Thank you very much for the help earlier, Varric!" Merril says. "You made it back to the alienage in one piece, then?" he says. "I don't know how I wound up in Darktown. There are just too many corners in Kirkwall." "Still got that ball of twine?" "I left it at my house. Don't worry! I won't get lost while we're following Hawke," Merril says. "Bring it next time, Daisy. Just in case," Varric says.
"Hear you're having problems with the Bone Pit. I can help," Garret says. "Eh, finally someone come to help me. You look a bit unseasoned, but I hope you will do! I had to suspend operations! My workers are lost in the mines or have run off. Serves me right for hiring Fereldan refugees. I sent others before, but no word. Perhaps they are putting me off! I need someone competent to figure out what is going on," Hubert says. "You said some of your workers are Fereldan?" "Yes, all of them. An unruly lot, to be sure." "Mind what you say about my countrymen," Garret says. "I was not referring to you, of course. My workers are a particularly desperate sort. They are lucky to work for me. Few in kirkwall will hire refugees." "Your first mistake was naming your mine the Bone Pit." "The locals named the mine. Those fools say it's cursed. That is why I hire Fereldans. They may be dull-witted, but they are not supersticious," Hubert says. "Surely the miners had good reason to leave." "I am at a loss! No miner has reported in, and no one takes me seriously." "The Bone Pit must be dangerous if people are afraid to venture there," Garret says. "No, nothing like that. Pay no heed to local supersticion. The Bone Pit is mostly harmless." "What's the reward?" "I will pay handsomely. The exact amount depends on what perils you face," Hubert says. "i'll head there soon," Garret promises. "The sooner the better. Each day the mine is not running costs me more than those miners make in a year. The Bone Pit is just outside the city. Any map will show it."
The troubled mine owner
"What?" Anders wonders. "Just wondering if the feathered pauldrons are an essential part of the moody rebel mage persona," Varric says. "What are you talking about?" "I'm working on an epic poem about a hopelessly romantic apostate waging an epic struggle against forces he can't possibly defeat," the dwarf says. "What do you mean, 'can't possibly defeat?'" Anders wonders. "Well, it's not a good story unless the hero dies," Varric says.
Entering the Hanged Man, the party witnesses a scene. "You owe us, Isabela" "Well, Lucky, I'll tell you what... Since the information you gave me was worth nothing... that's what I'll pay you." "Me and my boys will get our money's worth, bitch." "Oh, you poor, sweet thing." Isabela takes Lucky by surprise and slams his head against the bar. One of Lucky's men grab her from behind, while another grabs a bottle. Isabela heads the thug in the face and gets loose. She nimbly ducks as the thug with the bottle tries to hit her, instead causing him to hit his fellow ruffian. With a couple of swift moves the busty woman floors the ruffian who attacked her with the bottle. Lucky draws his sword to strike her down, but Isabela is quicker, putting her dagger to his throat. "Tell me, Lucky, is it worth dying for?" she says. Lucky and his men back off. Isabela downs another drink. She chuckles. "I didn't think so."
Isabela in the Hanged Man
"My, and here I thought the only men in this place were besotted fools who couldn't hoist the mainsail." "You mean like the men you sent scrambling from the tavern?" Garret says. "Exactly like them. Worthless twits. I'm Isabela. Previously 'Captain' Isabela. Sadly, without my ship, the title rings a bit hollow. You're Fereldan, aren't you? You have that look about you. I was in Denerim not too long ago. I even met the Hero of Ferelden, if you know what I mean. You know, you might be just what I'm looking for to solve a little problem I have." "Can't anyone fix their own lives around here?" "Must be something in the water. Someone from my past has been pestering me. I've arranged for a duel -- if I win, he leaves me alone. But I don't trust him to play fair. I need someone to watch my back," Isabela says. "Why a duel?" Garret wonders. Isabela chuckles. "I like duel. It's what I do. And if I win, he'll be dead. Problem solved!" she says. "Who is this person you've arranged to meet?" "His name is Hayder. We worked together in Antiva. He's never liked me. He's been asking about me all around Kirkwall. Thought I'd get it over with and meet him face to face," Isabela says. "You wanted information from Lucky. What was it?" "I asked Lucky and his boys to track down something I lost. They failed to do it. It's nothing to worry about, and this is much more important." "What makes you think I'm right for this?" Garret says. "You saw me talking to Lucky, didn't you? Those boys couldn't manage simple information gathering. I can't trust the riffraff in this place to do anything right. But you... you're different." "I think I could manage to watch your back." Isabela chuckles. "I'll bet. I've arranged to meet Hayder in Hightown after dark. I'll meet you there," she says and leaves the tavern.
"So, I've been dying to know: what was going through your head when you fought that ogre?" Varric says. "For the first few seconds: 'what do they feed those things?'" Garret says. Varric laughs. "I don't know anyone else that's even seen one. You're lucky to be standing here. Somehow, Hawke, I imagine things won't be dull with you around. Not that I expect the Deep Roads to be boring, mind you. Constant threat of doom does tend to keep you awake," the dwarf says. "What are the Deep Roads like?" Garret wonders. "I could tell you the standard tales: legions of darkspawn, ravenous beasts, cave-ins... I've spent my whole life in Kirkwall. Dangerous enough, most days, but it doesn't compare to the Deep Roads. So this will be... let's just call it 'an adventure,' I guess," Varric says. "Great, now we're adventurers..." Garret says. "Ser Pounce-a-lot... who knighted him?" Merril says. "Is that a serious question?" Anders says. "Did he have a little sword, or just his claws? I bet he had a dashing cap with a feather in it!" she says. "Would you stop making fun of my cat?" he says. "Oh... no hat, then?"
Later, at night, they seek out Isabela in Hightown. "There you are. I've been here for hours. Hayder hasn't shown up. No one has. I don't like this," isabela says. "'I don't like this'? That's right up there with, 'What could possibly go wrong?'" Varric says. A group of raiders suddenly appear. "That's the wench we're looking for. Gut her!" their leader oders. A bloody battle takes place. The raiders are too spread out for Anders and Merril to use their area spells. They concentrate on single targets instead, attacking with Spirit Bolts, Winter's Grasp and Crushing Prison spells among others. Garret and Isabela move swiftly around the battlefield, picking off wounded enemies. Varric's Bianca causes the raiders no end of pain, and Rex the mabari -- his bite is definitely worse than his bark. "Hayder sent them. Search the bodies. I need to find out where he is," Isabela says. "These thugs are plaguing the streets. I don't see a problem in giving them the fight they want," Anders says. "Hiding in the Chantry and sending thugs to finish me off? Coward. He'll not get away with this. Come on," Isavela says. In the chantry courtyard, more raiders are waiting. It is another bloody fight to finish them all off.
Fools rush in
"Isabela. Should have known you'd find me here," Hayder says. "Tell your men to burn the letters next time," Isabela says. "Castillion was heartbroken when he heard about the shipwreck. You should've told him you survived." "It must have slipped my mind." Hayder chuckles. "Where's the relic?" he asks. "I lost it. Castillion's just going to have to do without," Isabela says. "Lost it? Just like you 'lost' a ship of valuable cargo." "They weren't cargo, Hayder, they were people!" "Those slaves were worth a hundred sovereigns a head, and you let them scurry off into the wilds. And now the relic's gone, too. Castillion won't be happy to hear that, I promise you," Hayder says. "Castillion isn't a very happy person, is he? Maybe he needs a new hobby," Garret says. "There's only one way to settle this," Isabela says. The swashbuckler flings her dagger and takes down Hayder's liuetennant. Once more, the chantry's floor is going to be painted in blood.
Showdown with Hayder
"I was trying to talk him down," Garret says. "Trust me. It's better this way. Castillion won't hear about me from Hayder, but he'll find me eventually. I just have to get him the relic. It's as simple as that," Isabela says. "What's this about you freeing slaves?" "I was asked to escort Castillion's cargo ship. I got a bad feeling about the job partway through. Boarded the ship to find slaves. Nearly two hundred -- elves, humans... children even. It was sickening. They paid Castillion to take them away from the Blight. He took their money and sold them into slavery. Even I can see that's wrong." "You hired Lucky to track down information on the relic?" Garret says. "That's right. He insisted he knew everything that's going on in Kirkwall. He lied. I bet he doesn't even know everything going on in his pants." "Did you end up in Kirkwall because your ship was destroyed?" "There was a storm. The ship ran aground on the reefs near the city. I managed to make it ashore. Most of my men wrenen't as lucky. Poor sods. I knew some of them almost ten years. Ah... balls," Isabela says. "Who is Castillion?" Garret wonders. "He's a powerful merchant based in Antiva. I believe he has ties to the Felicisima Armada. I used to work for him. The jobs involved smuggling lyrium, jewels, or the occational criminal aquiantance. He paid well." "What's so interesting about the relic?" "I don't really know what it is, except that it's ancient and worth my weight in gold. Castillion has me chasing it down as payback for freeing his slaves." Isabela sighs. "I think he just wants me dead. But that would be getting off easy," she says. "You stood up to Castillion before, you can do it again. Don't give him what he wants," Garret incourages her. "I stood up to him once... look where that got me. You know what they say about good intentions? Don't have them. Anyway, thanks for helping me with Hayder. I think I'll tag along for a while. There might be something I could do for you. And I have a room at the Hanged Man, if you're looking for... company later," Isabela says.
Merril decides to return home. "Daisy, for my sake, please stop cutting through the alley's in Lowtown alone at night." "Nothing ever happens. I'm perfectly safe, Varric," the young elven mage says. "Yes, I know. And that nothing is costing me a fortune," he says.
Anders, Isabela and Varric accompany Garret to the Bone Pit. But before getting to their destination they run into a fight. "Damn you lot -- I thought you were competent!" They rush in to help against the giant spiders. "The danger is passed. Are you all right?" Garret says. "No thanks to this lot. Can't get a decent blade at a bargain anymore. You though, you're what a man needs -- a skilled enthusiast." "Your mess just picked me up on the way." "Still better than what I had. Look, the name's javaris Tintop. I need someone to help pacify the Qunari," the dwarf says. "Why do I get the feeling he's not talking about singing them a lullaby," Varric says. "Those horn-heads in Kirkwall have a powder. Than explodes. And it's just dust, no lyrium, no demons. Anyone can use it." "I heard of this. It's why their ships are so feared," Anders says. "I doubt they're eager to sell," Garret says. "That Arishok said I wasn't worthy, that only their outcasts, the Tal-Vashoth, are that mercenary. I sad, 'Great, I'll go talk to them.' Didn't go over well. But, it made me think -- maybe he'll bargain if I get rid of something that bothers him more than, well me," Javaris says. "The Tal-Vashoth." "The Tal-Vashoth. Are you up to some paid hunting?" the dwarf says. "Your people must have something like that already," Garret says. "Small things, shaped to crack faults, not to shatte the earth. Plus they're mostly lyrium. Expensive, poisonous, the Chantry controls it topside, the glow makes you a target: problem after problem." "What's the point when we already have magic that can do the same thing?" "Maybe you have magic, all tough and human and what not. But what of the common man? How does he remove stumps from his land, or produce them on his enemies? What does he do when he needs a hole far too fast? Magic is hard to market. But this stuff... this stuff you can put in a bag," Javaris says. "I suppose there could be a reward for those Tal-Vashoth," Garret says. "As long as you do it, I'm happy. Now, best I could figure, they're up the Wounded Coast, a whole camp. Take their heads off and meet me at the compound in kirkwall. Get this right, and we'll be richly rewarde. Richly!" The party and Javaris separate ways. Near where they just fought, they find embrium.
"Embriums are flowers from the orchid family. Its therapeutic qualities were actually discovered because of the embrium's exceptional beauty. ... The beloved daughter of Lord Ignace Poulenc of Orlais fell victim to a terrible sickness of the lungs, which her healers were unable to cure. Thinking the girl would soon perish, her parents surrounded her bed with brightly colored flowers, hoping that they would bring some warmth and cheer in her last days. Oddly enough, the girl began to recover from the illness, and grew stronger each day. Her parents were baffled, but overjoyed. The healers eventually learned that the fragrance of one of the flowers eased the child's breathing. The flower was an embrium, and later became known as the Salubrious Embrium. ... The other variant that has certain magical properties is known as Dark Embrium. — An excerpt from The Botanical Compendium, by Ines Arancia, Botanist"
The party continues up the mountain. "Hubert's miners must be a desperate lot to work here. There's work here, but I wouldn't call it paying work," Varric says. Nearing the mine, the party is attacked by looters. The riffraff is quickly defeated and the exploration around the mine continues. Some elfroot is found, and also a curous message. Outside the entrance, Isabela says: "The looters seem to be staying away from this mine entrance. Perhaps they know something we don't."
"It is as we thought. The quarries of Kirkwall were found after the city was sacked by the Imperium and after they started constructing the city. The Imperium found the mineral wealth, not the indigenous people. The histories give conflicting accounts on who lived here before the Imperium. Some say the Alamarri. Some say the Daefads. We do know it was a barbarian people who had little need of the metals in the hills. ... So why did the Imperium come here in such force? It is hard to disprove Brother Mikhel's theory that the natural harbor would be important for their armies, but magisters ruled, not common men. What barrier would a simple sea pose to them? The wars with the Alamarri wouldn't start until centuries later. ... Each clue we find only leads to more questions, but we will not give up. — Underneath a pile of small boulders carved with curious markings and signed, 'The Band of Three'"
"Sire, ... I interviewed the surviving slave this morning. She was horror-struck, but managed to tell me her chilling story. ... The Overseer lined seventeen slaves up, one behind the other, at the lip of the quarry. The second slave in line was ordered to push the man in front over the edge. The third slave pushed the second, the fourth the third, and on it went. ... Workers in the quarry heard the screams, the crack of bone against rock, and then the survivor's anguished cries as the Overseer's dragonlings feasted on the sixteen helpless bodies splayed upon the quarry's basin. The woman who told me this story was the seventeenth in line, spared only because no one stood behind her. ... Sire, I recommend we stop this ugly practice. Effective as it may be in motivating workers, it's also bringing our mine notoriety as a death trap. Stories of the 'bone pit' swirl throughout Kirkwall. The Veil is thin enough here, and above that pit it is practically ready to sunder. We risk more than simple rebellion should the overseer be allowed to continue. — A letter from Prefex Santarius, 35 Ancient ... Prefex Santarius, ... the output of the Maharian Quarry is up almost a third this season, and the Overseer has received a commendation from the archon himself. You will speak of your findings to no one. — A response from Magister Quillan, 35 Ancient"
Outside the mine
Well inside the mine, the party quickly learns what the problem is. "When I tell the tale of slaying these dragons, I'll make them three times taller!" Varric says. The party presses into the mine with great success. But at one point, Garret is injured by a mob of dragonlings. Fortunately, his companions can defeat the beasts and Garret's wounds are no worse than that a injury kit can mend them. They soon press deeper, and run into a frightened miner. "Praise Andraste you came along. Them dragons would have sniffed me out for certain," he says. "Slow down. Tell me what happened here," Garret says. "I'll tell you what I can, but be a friend and keep your voice down. There's another dragon close by." "Did anyone else escape?" "Some of my fellows ran for the surface. I hope they made it," the miner says. "Where'd the dragons come from?" Garret wonders. "We was mining a new tunnel when the wall collapsed, and dragons came through! It was a bloody slaughter! Scared out of my wits, I ran like my ass was on fore -- it probably was. Only I went the wrong way. Ended up trapped here." "You should get out of here." "Don't have to tell me twice. You should leave, too, but don't go that way. There's this huge dragon!" the miner says. "Ah. I'd wondred if the dragons left their nest unguarded," Anders says. The party exit the mine, and as soon as they do, a mature dragon swoops down. It is an intense battle. The dragon is a dangerous beast -- her fangs sharp, her breath fiery hot, and her tail a powerful bludgeoning weapon. Isabela is knocked unconscious during the fight, but she quickly recovers with proper treatment. With the dragons dealth with, the party leaves for the Wounded Coast.
The Bone Pit problem
"Hello? Is Anders there? Can I speak to Anders?" "You can stop yelling. It's always me," the mage says. "Oh, good. I didn't want to talk to the other guy. You know, the stick-in-the-mud," Isabela says. "He can still here you. Justice and I are one. Anyway, you wanted to talk to me?" Anders says. "Not really. I just wanted to make sure it was you," she says. The party is attacked by a small group of Tal-Vashoth down the path, but it's nothing they can't handle. As they proceed, a voice delivers a warning: "You endanger yourself hunan! Do not say you were unwarned!" "Another friend we haven't met," Anders says. A short walk up the path the see who it is. "No further human! Tal-Vashoth control these passages," the qunari says. "I am more than capable of meeting any threat," Garret says. "So I see. I expected to warn a caravan, not a well-equipped tracker. The path ahead is littered with my kind. If you are as skilled as you look, it would please me if you killed them." "You have turned your back on your kin?" "Yes. For a second time. I did not like my role, so I left the Qun. I do not wish to be a murdering thief, so I left these Tal-Vashoth to warn their victims. You are no victim, so now I will leave," the qunari says. "I want a friendly way to get what I need," Garret says. "You will be disappointed. They are reveling in chaos. It is a wretched freedom. I still need order, even if I insult the core of the Qun by selling my honor as a mercenary." "Do I have to convince you to do the right thing?" "I have already done more than was demanded, by my own choice. You have my word of caution, human. Heed it or do not," the qunari says. "Sometimes I think their brains are twisted up in those horns of their," Isabela says. The party continues up the path. "More victims for the slaughter! Get them!" More Tal-Vashoth join the battle as the party gains ground. "A caravan this deep? Attack!" "Who has come this far? Kill them!" The party makes it to the Tal-Vashoth hideout -- a cave entrance.
To Part Four