Darksoul

Sam Holbig 30
Sam's Story

22nd of Wintermarch, 9:43 Dragon

For the record, I consider this all to be Legnar’s fault.

We told our hostess, Lady Synova, that we were willing to take her up on her offer of work. Pushy diva that she is, she wanted us to drop everything we were doing and take her lyrium back to the Circle Tower, in the complete opposite direction of where we were going; Legnar, who was doing the talking as always, told her that wouldn’t be practical, but that we’d get the stuff where it needed to go as soon as reasonably possible. That seemed to satisfy the lady, and she motioned for us to go.

Well, apparently I was mistaken about that and we needn’t have wasted our fucking time, because the first thing we saw after stepping out of the wine cellar door is two dozen guards with military forks pointed at us. Lady Synova then proceeded to spend the next several minutes calling us out for crashing our party; not only did she realize something was fishy when these two people she didn’t know came up and started chatting with her, but apparently all those bastards from the past who crawled out of the woodwork to give us trouble earlier decided to get together and make life difficult for us again. (Also, did ALL of them manage to get tickets to this bloody ball? Great Maker above, was there anyone besides us who WASN’T invited to this thing?!) Needless to say, I was not a happy man at this point, and knowing that someone had been killed for crashing one of these shindigs in the past, I was tempted to run Synova through for making us put up with this crap. However, it got pretty well established that said fellow was actually executed for trying to fight his way out, not for crashing the party per se; as such, I figured the revenge killing wasn’t worth the slightly better chance of getting out of this alive, so when the rest of the group collectively decided to surrender, I didn’t raise a fuss. (For a moment, it seemed like the Tal Vashoth — Drow, that’s his name — might try to take the guards on anyway, but cooler heads prevailed there.)

The guards marched us over to their stockade, stripped us of our weapons, and bunged us in a series of cells. To their credit, they were very professional about the whole thing; I’m starting to wish Val Royeaux would die in a fire and sink into the swamp at this point, but I must admit I have nothing negative to say about the guard. Actually, no, that’s a lie — there were definitely some sloppy mistakes the guards made that ended up biting them afterward, even if they did arise from the lads trying to be nice about this whole arrest thing. First, while they took our weapons and other gear, they didn’t take our armor; second, while the cells they stuck us in had manacles on the walls, they didn’t bother to use them; and third, they didn’t search the obvious rogue’s person nearly thoroughly enough. As such, in between the guards coming to keep an eye on us, Legnar was able to retrieve a set of lockpicks from his beard and open all of our cells. From there, it was an easy matter to disable the guards on their next patrol sweep. I managed to get one of the guards in a bear hug and demonstrate that, for a big hefty fighting man, a heavy suit of armor (and particularly a fully enclosed helmet) IS a weapon. The others took down the second guard through a combination of wrestling, pickpocketing weapons, and improvised tactics — I saw Drow actually pick up and start swinging around his cell door at one point, which I thought was hilarious. Once both guards were down, we gagged them and locked them in the cells, securing them with those manacles that they neglected to use on us. (Legnar also relieved them of a grand total of six gold pieces, which I think is dirty pool, myself — that’s probably their full wages for the week! Still, a thief has to be a thief, I suppose.)

We made our way out of the cell block just in time to hear an explosion further down the hall. Is that someone else breaking out, or perhaps Enna and Sona breaking in to come get us? At any rate, it attracted the attention of the guards; we ducked out of sight while they went past, then moved to follow them. Hopefully whatever’s waiting for us in that tunnel is on our side and we can make a pincer out of this! After that, I’ll be ready to show this bloody city my backside, but I want to make sure I get my spear back before we leave for good. That weapon’s one of the few things I want to remember about Ostwick, dammit, and I’m not about to leave it rotting in this place.

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Sam Holbig 29
Sam's Story

8th of Wintermarch, 9:43 Dragon

Despite that close call in the old mine, we made it back to Val Royeaux in plenty of time for the party. However, apparently Enna and Sona were feeling under the weather, or had some other business to deal with, or just couldn’t be arsed to come help us; whatever the reason, they elected not to bother attending the gala. (I’m a mite peeved at that, considering I dropped a fair chunk of silver helping Legnar pay for the supplies to make their invitations. Note to self: demand refund at some point.) We decided to have Legnar and Daryel pretend to be the sort of worthies that would actually have legitimate reason to be at a party like this, while Alalen, the Tal-Vashoth and myself would serve as “hired muscle.” Now, credit where credit is due: apparently Legnar did a damn fine job of forging those invitations. Of the five of us, only Alalen got turned away at the gate, despite an admirable display of bluster and mock outrage on Daryel’s part. Personally I think Alalen should have come back with Sona or Enna’s invitation and tried a different door, but apparently he eventually made it in through an open window, instead. Truly some impregnable security the lady of the house has, here.

Inside, we all kept an eye out for either Blane or the wacky cultists (called the Elevated Brotherhood, apparently) who seemed to have a bone to pick with him. This turned out to be more trouble than one would expect, as there seemed to be no shortage of nosy upper-crust at the place taking every opportunity to distract us. Some uppity lord called me out for looking at his woman — news flash, mate, I’m a bodyguard, I look at everyone, it’s my job — while Legnar got his ear talked off by a particularly chatty noblewoman, and I’m pretty sure I even saw some dumb bastard try and pick a fight with the Tal Vashoth. Both Legnar and Daryel also ended up speaking with the hostess at one point, which I’m pretty sure accomplished little save making her more suspicious (and led to the utterly ridiculous sight of Daryel bitching out THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THE INVITATIONS because Alalen’s fake wasn’t good enough to get him in the door). Nevertheless, we eventually spotted some cultists making their way into a wine cellar through a side door; they left a couple of guards outside, but thanks to some well-timed distractions and doorknobs applied to crotches, we were soon able to follow them down.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, we arrived in the cellar just in time to see a general melee taking place between Blane and his men, the Brotherhood, and a third group that Blane had apparently come to talk business with. Blane snarked at us for taking so long to get down there, but I’ll freely admit that I was long past sick of his shit at this point, and snapped at him to shut up and focus on fighting. We’d left Legnar behind to serve as a rearguard, but between the four of us that were left, we managed to put the Brotherhood members in their place fairly quickly; unfortunately, Daryel apparently suffered from a bout of magical impotence during the fight, and the resulting lack of healing meant that Blane’s two men both went down hard.

Legnar followed us down shortly after, and shortly after THAT, the lady of the house arrived, no doubt wondering what all the fuss was about. I was hoping that Blane might vouch for us, but it seemed that somehow the slimy bastard had vanished, despite there being only one exit from the room that all of us were looking at. Luckily, it seemed that the lady was more interested in discussing business than punishment: it seems that she’s also interested in getting into the lyrium business, and a handful of deniable assets from out of town are just the sort of thing she needs to get a foothold in the market. Of course, we were also free to walk away if we so chose, but in that case we’d be on the hook for a hundred gold to pay for the damage to the cellar. (At the time, I was sure that she was trying to extort us for damage that was already there when we arrived, and grumbled about the fact, but in hindsight it’s possible that it would actually cost a hundred gold just to pay for the mess being cleaned up. Bloody Orlesian prices!) We all put our heads together to discuss our options; ultimately we were largely in agreement to take her up on her offer, though I’ll freely admit that my contribution to the discussion amounted to “do whatever you have to in order to get us out of this increasingly-miserable shithole as fast as possible.” However, I’m in desperate need of ale and sleep at this point, so the rest of the story will have to wait for another time.

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Sam Holbig 28
Sam's Story

11th of Haring, 9:42 Dragon

Silliness with everyone encountering some angry specter of their past aside, ultimately Legnar was able to get his hands on one of those invitations we were looking for. (I may be a bit too deep in my cups at the moment, because for the life of me I can’t recall where it came from right now.) Creating invitations for the rest of us, though, was going to take coin — a whole hell of a lot of coin at first, though our hero the innkeep came to the rescue again and was able to get us the necessary supplies for relatively cheap — and time. While Legnar slaved over his quill and parchment, the rest of us looked for something to occupy our time before the party started. Me, I would have been content to lounge at the inn and keep my eyes open for cultists with a bone to pick, but Alalen and the Tal Vashoth (what’s his bloody name, again?) thought it would be a good idea to pay a visit to a local ruin, apparently located close enough to Val Royeaux that we’d have time to get there and back again in time for the party, even with the inevitable dungeon-delving and darkspawn-slaying taken into account. I admit I wondered how lucrative it could possibly be to explore a ruin that’s apparently within shouting distance of the city, but I didn’t have any better ideas, so off we went.

It can’t have taken us more than an hour to walk out to the ruin, which seems to have once been an old mine or something similar, nestled deep within a narrow crevasse. As we made our way down, we came across an old campsite with the bodies of a couple of unfortunate previous explorers in it, as well as a pack of darkspawn that we quickly dispatched. However, that fight only served to attract MORE darkspawn, and soon we were forced to retreat further into the ruins to get away from them, because apparently we thought THAT was a good idea for some reason. By some miracle, we were able to put some distance between ourselves and our pursuers, and the chamber we found ourselves in was defensible rather than a deathtrap. We set up some crates to use as barricades, and from there, it was just like the old days back on the wall for me — protecting the men next to me, and stabbing until there was nothing left to stab.

Eventually the darkspawn stopped coming, but by that point we decided we’d had quite enough and left to go back to town. At least one of the crates we cracked open had some healing potions and other tinctures in it, so the trip wasn’t a total loss. Given how close those ruins are to Val Royeaux, I suspect the only reason they haven’t been picked completely clean already is because there’s so many bloody darkspawn down there — you’d think the nobs running this town would be more concerned about something like that! Still, once all this party nonsense is said and done and we have our full party back again, it may be worth it to take a bit of a detour and see if we can’t ransack that place properly.

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Sam Holbig 27
Sam's Story

27th of Firstfall, 9:42 Dragon

Okay, so now that I’ve had a chance to get the story at a time when we WEREN’T chasing down a mysterious robed figure, it seems I was a bit mistaken regarding the situation with Kennadrin and the lyrium. Apparently the dwarf and his brothers were all trying to cut Lendrid’s gang out of their deal (since apparently said gang was to serve as some sort of middleman in this transaction) and instead go straight to their main buyer, this underworld bigwig who apparently goes by the name of Blane. Seems Blane didn’t take kindly to this disruption of his operation, however, so he sent his assassin to go steal the lyrium and kill the dwarves — and while he’s no kinslayer, Kennadrin still gets stupid bastard points for leaving them alone while they slept — while also ensuring that Lendrid’s gang got paid. So, Lendrid’s happy, Kennadrin’s pissy, and Blane has got everything running the way he wants. Or something like that. Bunch of underworld political nonsense, from what I can see.

Anyway, apparently those folk in robes are part of some sort of cult in the city that has beef with Blane — probably legitimate, he’s a gangster after all, but whatever — and the man wants to hire us to serve as bodyguards at this fancy party he’s going to. If we do a good job, not only do we get paid, but it seems Blane will also give us an in on his business in the city, which would be useful for Aneth Ara if nothing else. Oddly enough, it seems Blane is more interested in seeing whether we can even make it to the party than in actually having us guard him; he didn’t even tell us where the damn thing is, much less give us any way of getting in, and got downright snippy when I just asked him directly where the venue is. Whatever. Let the others dance on eggshells trying to impress the man. I’m given a job, I do it, and if I need more information I ask for it.

Incidentally, it turns out there’s another familiar face from Ostwick in Blane’s entourage. It seems old Larry Jerkins, another deserter from the Wall Guard, has found his way out here to Orlais and fallen in with this Blane fellow. Apparently he hasn’t forgiven me for ratting him and his band of weasels out, either — he was giving me the stinkeye all during my meeting with Blane, and Blane implied he’d been venting his spleen about it for quite some time. Me, I consider it water under the bridge at this point; Jerkins and his mates may have left the rest of us to die, but at least they didn’t lead their squadmates to the slaughter like Kingsley did.

I digress. Blane finally and reluctantly told us where the damn party was going to be, and I headed over that way, looking to see if I could get guard work either at the party itself or with one of the guests. No dice, as it turns out; seems the Orlesian elite don’t trust outsiders with guard duty. Not sure I can blame ‘em for that, really. Still, I did find out that apparently anyone, no matter how scruffy-looking, can get into the party with no questions asked if they present a proper-looking invitation. Enna and Legnar immediately went about trying to find one for us to copy, each in their own way, while the rest of us kept an eye out for trouble.

As it turns out, trouble decided to come looking for us. Who should show up out of the crowd but Jerkins, still pissy about that whole desertion nonsense and wanting to have it out. So, we told a nearby guard we were going to duel, and then Jerkins proceeded to embarrass himself by bouncing off my shield repeatedly while I poked him with my spear. Eventually he got tired and ran off, and I went to go catch up with the others — only to learn that apparently LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE was accosted by someone from their past with a bone to pick at the same time as I was dealing with Jerkins. The Maker moves in mysterious ways, as they say, and it seems today He got a little impatient.

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Sam Holbig 26
Sam's Story

13th of Firstfall, 9:42 Dragon

Obviously we didn’t want the bartender’s generosity to go to waste, so the rest of the group went to go buy some clothes while I stood around outside and tried to look imposing. (I think Sona may have actually run back to the tavern to change rather than doing so in the shop, for some reason.) On our way out, we heard talk of a commotion at the front gate. Being the nosy sorts we are, we decided to go investigate, and who should we find there but Enna! Apparently she managed to finish whatever errand it was she was running, and displaying her usual lack of impulse control, immediately proceeded to antagonize the door guards and nearly get herself arrested or banned from the city. With her was some Tal Vashoth warrior that she didn’t seem to be terribly fond of for some reason. While the group spent some time trying to sort all that mess out, I eventually got bored and wandered over to go ask the shadiest-looking character I could find if he knew anything about the man Kennadrin was supposed to be meeting. He said the fellow was typically found haunting bars in the fancy part of town, but we’d already managed to figure that out from our previous inquiries, and the man I was talking to either wouldn’t or couldn’t give me any more information than that. I rejoined the group just in time to find that Alalen had apparently hired the Tal Vashoth to accompany us on our quest. Ah well, we’re already turning plenty of heads, so what’s one more oddball?

Once we got to the fancy quarter, we immediately split up to try and cover more ground. I was starting to get impatient at this point, so I walked into the first tavern I saw (called “The Fascinating Gopher,” oddly enough), threw down 30 silver on the fanciest bottle of wine I could find, and asked point-blank which tavern our target could be found in. The barkeep pointed me to one at the end of the lane, and when my group met up with the others we quickly established that they had been told the same thing. Now, this was likely to be a fairly sensitive negotiation, and while the others were dressed for that sort of thing, I wasn’t. Rather than run the risk that my giant armored backside would hurt our negotiation chances before we even got started, I decided to do my usual loom-outside-the-front-door thing. (Then again, they took the Tal Vashoth with them, and I’m pretty sure I heard him casually threaten to murder everyone in the general vicinity on a regular basis, so perhaps I needn’t have worried.)

The negotiations took a fair while, and pretty soon I started getting bored again, though I did my best to stay alert and actually do the guard job I was pretending to do. Kennadrin stormed out of the tavern in a huff at one point, but I figured he had some reason or another for it and didn’t bother to follow; Legnar informed me later that apparently he actually had tried to cut his two brothers out of the lyrium deal, which ultimately led to us being here. (I don’t like him any more for it, but somehow it makes me feel better that the bastard is actually treacherous and not simply blindingly incompetent. Also, apparently the others invited him to move to Aneth Ara, because that’s what we do with kinslayers, apparently?) However, there was another figure that left the tavern in a hurry while the group was talking, someone dressed in the robes of a mage. That seemed like something worth paying attention to, and I elected to follow them, joined fairly swiftly by Legnar. We ultimately followed the figure into an alleyway, where we were ambushed by more people dressed as mages (though truth be told, I don’t recall any of them using any magic.) We dispatched them quickly, but doing so delayed us enough that our original quarry escaped. Still, I did manage to strip the robe off one of our ambushers; I’m hoping that this underworld bigwig our party’s been chatting with will have some idea who they are.

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Sam Holbig 25
Sam's Story

30th of Harvestmere, 9:42 Dragon

We followed the dwarf merchant (named Kenadrin, apparently) back to his caravan, with Enna running off somewhere again along the way. During the trip, we got a bit of his story, and “persuaded” the leader of the kidnappers — bloke named Lendrid — to tell us what he knew. So far as I can piece together, Kenadrin and his brothers were smuggling a shipment of raw lyrium from Orzammar to Val Royeaux, courtesy of some dwarf crime organization called the Carta. The dwarf says they got the stuff legitimately — well, as legitimately as one can acquire something from a cartel, I suppose — while Lendrid says he and his boys were told the stuff was stolen, and they were planning on ransoming Kenadrin for it. It seems the whole thing is kind of moot, though, because when we arrived at the camp, we found the cooking fire doused, the wagon ransacked, the lyrium gone, and Kenadrin’s two brothers lying in their bedrolls with cut throats. The evidence we found indicated that a single person had done all this, that they clearly knew what they were looking, and that they had hopped on a horse for Val Royeaux.

As you can imagine, we found all this to be a mite… curious, and we asked Kenadrin some very pointed questions about what happened here. Apparently, the little shitstain was SUPPOSED to be on guard duty, and decided to douse the fire and leave his two brothers ASLEEP AND UNGUARDED while he nipped off to Halamshiral to have a drink. Personally, I was ready to wash my hands of the whole affair and leave him to his fate right then and there, but Legnar’s dwarven loyalty and the promise of a hefty reward for getting the lyrium back kept us in the game. I also did my fair share of snarking at Lendrid that apparently his gang had sent him and a dozen of his mates to kidnap one dwarf, while also sending a single person to take out two other dwarves and steal their actual objective; he retorted that his gang weren’t the ones that did this (which makes much more sense, if I’m being honest), and by this point he seemed as interested as we were to find out what the hell was going on. Since our mystery man (or woman?) had apparently already left for Val Royeaux, we decided to press on overnight so as not to lose too much time. We also left a big arrow made of Lendrid’s maul and crossbow, along with a bunch of rocks, for when the rest of his gang inevitably came after us. Hopefully, the fact that we’re actively showing them which way we’re going will clue them in that we want to chat, not fight. (That, or they’ll think we’re just being a bunch of arrogant arseholes….)

Val Royeaux is… beautiful, no other word for it. Got to hand it to the Orlesians, they know how to build a damn fine-looking city! Daryel and I went to go ask the guards if they’d seen our mysterious killer, while the others (including Lendrid, who had apparently slipped his bonds at some point) decided to go hit up the bars for information. I had a reasonably friendly chat with the gate guards, who informed me that they couldn’t just let some random outsider know who was on duty that night, and were only a little pompous about it. Legnar apparently wasn’t as lucky, though, and apparently got himself banned from the nicest tavern in the city. Thankfully, there was a slightly-less-upscale tavern (which still puts anything you’d see in Ostwick to shame) where the bartender was kind enough to give us room and board in exchange for a good story, which our talky dwarf was more than happy to provide. I get the feeling the barkeep felt sorry for the poor foreigners that showed up on his doorstep, since he recommended we use the coin we’d saved to pick up some more appropriate clothing. Me, I’ll enjoy looking, but I’m going to avoid buying anything here as long as I can; Orlesian prices being what they are, I’m pretty sure all the gold in my pocket would last me a day, at most.

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Sam Holbig 24
Sam's Story

28th of Kingsway, 9:42 Dragon

Azrael finally managed to get our marching orders sorted out, so after one more day of taking care of business in Aneth Ara (and buying a small wagon’s worth of travel rations from Mr. Fieri in Denerim), we set out on the road again. Our ultimate goal is going to be the Grand Tourney after all, since apparently Azrael would like to get his hands on the fancy hammer that they’re using as first prize. The Tourney’s not for a while yet, though, and since word is that the port in Harper’s Ford is currently closed off for some Maker-forsaken reason, we’re going to take the long way around the Waking Sea instead. Our first major stop is Orlais, where Enna has some sort of errand she needs to run, and then up to the Anderfels for… some reason or another. (To be honest, I really have no idea what it is Azrael’s even got us looking for out there. I’m sure he wrote it down somewhere, so I’ll check when I have a free moment.) Elly and Morgan will both be staying in Aneth Ara, so I left them five gold pieces to try and build a life with while I’m gone. It’ll hurt not seeing them for — well, however long this takes, probably at least a year I’d wager — but Maker knows it’s safer than them trying to come with me.

Our first couple weeks of travel were largely uneventful, and we soon found ourselves in the city of Halamshiral. Alalen tells me it was an old elven city that got conquered back during the war, and now the rich (human) nobility live in the nice part of town while the elves are stuck in squalor. Poor elves, even their own bloody cities have been turned into alienages! And of course the quiet was too good to last, as we’d barely set foot in the damn place when we came across a gang trying to kidnap a dwarf. Well, I say “gang,” but given their level of organization and dedication to the task at hand, they were almost more like a small military unit. They had one group straight up jump the dwarf, while a second group, including the man I presume was their leader, attempted to outflank using a nearby alleyway. I moved to try and hold off the reinforcements while the rest of the group set about protecting the dwarf, and I must say, we did a pretty good job all told. We laid most of the kidnappers out, and put a couple of them in their graves, I’m pretty sure. Eventually the last two had their nerve break and fled the scene — but only the last two. Again, not your typical street rabble.

Naturally, we talked to the dwarf afterward. He says he’s just a merchant whose caravan is parked a little ways out of town; me, I’m not so sure about that, as random merchants don’t usually attract such dedicated kidnappers. Nevertheless, we’ve agreed to escort him back to his wagon, just in case he attracted any more of the wrong sort of attention. We also managed to take down the gang leader in the fight (and some sharp shooting by Enna guaranteed that he STAYED down), so we’ll be bringing him with us to see if we can get any information out of him. With any luck, whatever’s going on here will be simple enough to resolve, and we’ll be able to knock it out like the heroes we are and get on our merry way… but frankly, what are the odds of that?

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Sam Holbig 23
Sam's Story

17th of August, 9:42 Dragon

We had a couple of pleasant surprises waiting for us back in Aneth Ara. First off, Enna’s back! It seems whatever business caused her to run off has been concluded, so she’s ready to rejoin our merry band. We’ve had a few other shakeups in the party roster, as well: Veto is staying at the Denerim chantry in order to become a Templar, and Tracii has apparently decided to become Thedas’s first Tal-Vashoth Circle mage, but we’ve acquired another elf mage named Sona to make up for it. Secondly, in gratitude for what we’ve done for the town, the folk of Aneth Ara have built us all houses surrounding the main square. Even Legnar got a new house, and as he was quick to point out, he’s only been in town for about an hour up ‘til now! Nevertheless, he seemed right tickled to have a proper place to hang his hat up; I get the sense that Legnar hasn’t had anything that could be called a “home” for quite some time. Me, I wasted no time getting myself, Elly, and Morgan set up in one of the houses. Elly immediately set about making the place more homey, while Morgan got back to the important business of practicing hitting things with other things.

The third pleasant surprise was that Azrael is actually in town at the moment, and we all got rewarded pretty handsomely for the godsawful slog we’ve had to deal with over the past several weeks. In addition to the gold, Azrael had picked up some useful trinkets and baubles for all of us. In my case, I received a defensive crossbar to mount on my lance, which will help keep folk that want to stab me a bit further away — always a good thing! (We also got to see the look on Emery’s face when we handed the shadow moss that had been “burned in the fire” to Azrael, which was good for a laugh.) Azrael’s still working out the details of where we’re headed next; the pointy bastard STILL won’t tell us what we’re after in Orlais, but apparently he’s found something else for us to hunt down in the Anderfels, and has a lead on ANOTHER trinket that’s apparently serving as the prize for the Grand Tourney back in the Free Marches. Looks like we have a proper world tour ahead of us in the future! I’ll have to have a good long talk with Elly and Morgan and figure out how that’s going to work.

Speaking of Elly and Morgan, I got back from the team meeting with Azrael to see the former making dinner and the latter practicing sword swings with a stick. As mentioned previously, I think it’s time the boy learned how to swing a sword for real, so I lent him my bastard sword for a bit and showed him how to use it properly. To his credit, he managed to not chop any of his own bits off, which is probably better than I would have done at his age. Our training was soon interrupted by a festival starting in the town square, however, which is apparently a pretty common occurrence these days. It’s been far too long since our lot have had the chance to properly unwind, so we all decided to head out and join in the festivities.

To be honest, a decent chunk of what happened that evening has vanished into an alcoholic haze. I remember Elly and I dancing like fools, and Morgan making an arse of himself with a pretty elf girl, which was hopefully a good learning experience for him at least. I think the rest of my team got even more pickled than I did, and I’m pretty sure folk were doodling obscene cartoons on each other’s faces by the end of the night. Still, it was a great time all told, and a much-needed reprieve from all the horseshit we’ve had shoveled on us these past few weeks.

… Not going to lie, it’s going to be damn hard to pick up and head out again on another of Azrael’s fool quests, especially if this one’s going to be taking us across the whole damn continent and back again. I’ve said it before, yeah? That the point of all this wandering was to find something worth settling down for? In this town, with these people and this family, I think I might have found it.

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Sam Holbig 22
Sam's Story

3rd of August, 9:42 Dragon

We made it to the next town along in Sister Stone’s Maker tour, and most of us decided to hole up in the chantry while Alalen and Legnar went out hunting. This chantry had a couple of Templar in it, which we figured would come in handy if the Arl decided to try any more shenanigans. Turns out they did exactly that, albeit not quite how I was expecting. We woke up the next morning to find the Arl himself pounding on our door, along with a full hundred of his men and fifty townsfolk that he’d rounded up and clapped in irons. Including Alalen and Legnar, as it turned out. Poor bastards just can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to hunting trips!

It seems the cause of all this fuss is that the Arl had gotten the idea in his head that Sister Stone was actually an apostate mage, working all kinds of unlicensed magic in his realm. Now, if you’re wondering why an apostate would choose to become a sister of the chantry and hang around with Templars all day, then congratulations, you have more wit than our dear friend the Arl does. In the typical manner of powerful men who are long on bluster and short on brains, the Arl threatened to kill one of his prisoners every hour unless the sister gave herself up. Obviously the sister wasn’t having this, and after a bit of back and forth (during which time Legnar was nearly the first one executed, thanks to his interminable mouth-flapping), it was decided that, in exchange for the prisoners going free, Sister Stone would accompany the Arl back to his keep where he and the Templars would put her on trial for witchcraft.

Well, no sooner had irons been clapped on the sister that they promptly fell off again, along with the shackles on all fifty prisoners, and no amount of effort would get them to fasten again. The Templars standing next to the sister at the time confirmed that no magic had been worked, suggesting that perhaps the Maker was getting a bit tired of this nonsense and decided to take a more direct hand in things. Not that this mattered to the Arl. Like a child whose favorite toy had been taken away, the Arl threw a full-on temper tantrum, drew his sword, and attempted to cut down the sister right then and there. The sword struck true — and promptly bounced off, leaving not a mark on the sister. Again, no magic was cast, so say the Templars. The Arl wasn’t done with his hissy fit, of course, and readied his sword to try again, but before he could, Sister Stone suddenly dropped dead in front of all of us. Perhaps the Maker was making a point about how the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away? Or maybe the sister had finally gotten as sick of this shit as the rest of us and decided to bugger off before the farce got any worse.

At any rate, the sister was dead and the Arl had hit her with a sword (though those two facts weren’t as closely connected as they usually would be), and I would have been perfectly happy letting the angry mob tear him several new arseholes by way of recompense. But no, the Templars insisted that he be taken back to face a proper trial, which seems awfully generous considering the man’s own clearly low opinion of judicial process. So the Templars went one way and we went the other, delivering the sister back to the Denerim chantry like we promised. Those at the chantry were quite gracious and understanding, all things considered, so at least we were well-rewarded for our efforts. After that, we all spent some time puttering about in Denerim, and we’ll be headed back to Aneth Ara on the morrow.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think my son’s gotten quite enough practice hitting stumps with a hatchet. Time to see how the lad handles a bastard sword.

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Sam Holbig 21
Sam's Story

6th of Solace, 9:42 Dragon

Made it to the next town. The sister went to go take care of her business in the chantry, and about half the group accompanied her while the other half hung around outside to take care of various business. Me, I found a nice tree stump and decided to teach young Morgan some basic strikes. That’s what we were up to when a few of the local Arl’s men rode up, asking us if we were associated with the sister at all, and requesting that we let them know if we see her perform any miracles, and saying that maybe we should consider not leaving town until the Arl himself came to town in a day or so.

Needless to say, this whole thing seemed mighty suspicious, and after we all met back up in town and compared notes, it was decided that perhaps the sister needed to advance her pilgrimage’s timetable, so to speak. (For what it’s worth, the sister does seem to have some kind of power to minister to the sick and that sort of thing — but big deal, I see Daryel doing that sort of thing all the time.) It seems the sister is familiar with the old Arl from previous pilgrimages through this part of the country, but now the old Arl’s dead, and the new one doesn’t seem too fond of her for one reason or another. We decided to leave at first light the next day, and just for extra security, my family, Tracii and I would accompany the sister in disguise out the back end of town, while the rest of the group would disguise Daryel as the sister and take the direct path to the next village.

Of course, things didn’t go as planned. When do they ever? It seems the Arl decided to hide a small battalion’s worth of troops out here in the woods; my group encountered a pair almost immediately after leaving town, and while I fed them a line about boar hunting and led them back into town to “meet the sister,” we swiftly discovered that another half-dozen or so had intercepted the other group and, erm, “exchanged words” with them. Not to mention a few other guards had apparently shot arrows as Tracii and the rest while they were looping around town! Eventually, though, we managed to shake all the guards — blows to the head were involved, I’ll admit — and get on our way again. And then the sister tells us to stop, and rides ahead a little bit. She points her hand, the clouds above part, and a gust of wind blows through the brush… revealing yet another twelve guards, crouched and waiting to ambush us, AGAIN. Luckily, it seems this show of magic or coincidence or whatever was enough to convince the Arl’s men that the sister was in fact some kind of miracle worker, so now they’re riding alongside us rather than trying to bring us in. I think. I hope.

To be honest, this whole misadventure seems a bit silly to me. The guards I spoke to insisted that the Arl just wanted to talk to the sister, but they wouldn’t or couldn’t tell me WHY. And when I asked them why they didn’t just talk to her directly, or why there were so bloody many of them creeping about in the woods, they said that they were waiting for reinforcements. Reinforcements for WHAT? Why are they so scared of one chantry sister, who’s already been through here at least once before? The whole thing reeks of ill intent, or at the very least of some deeply-entrenched stupidity and pigheadedness. It’s already led to some arguably-pointless bloodshed, and we’ll probably see more before the next day is out.

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