Darksoul

Ser Jerrod of the Grey 51

1st day of Eluviesta, 44th year of the Dragon Age

Ciel, regrettably, was in no shape for either shopping or dinner, so we left him to his rest and set about acquiring proper attire for our engagement that evening and supplies for the journey ahead. Afterwards, we spent a pleasant evening with our host — a woman slightly older than myself, who is a bann of great local import — as well as her nephew and his betrothed. The bann was greatful for our efforts in ending the kidnappings, and was interested in striking up a further partnership with our party. When we mentioned our imminent voyage to the Anderfels, the bann offered to procure us a vessel essentially free of charge, in exchange for an agreement to perform various tasks for her when we were in the area. (I must confess that — combined with how the lady avoided the question when I asked the reason for her interest in the kidnappings — made me a bit wary of accepting her offer. Nevertheless, she can help us to achieve our immediate goals, and if she has an ulterior motive for doing so, that frankly is not our concern at the moment.)

We set sail early the next day, making our way along the coast of Thedas towards the Anderfels. The trip passed uneventfully for several weeks, during which time we tried to make ourselves useful in whatever ways we could, and otherwise did our best to stay out of the crew’s way. Such peace couldn’t last, of course, and one morning we were suddenly alerted by the lookout to something approaching from the starboard side. My comrades and I armed ourselves and rushed to the deck, expecting to face pirates or hostile boarders. What we found instead, however, was a pair of giant sea worms charging our ship, intent on smashing it to splinters! We soon overcame our initial shock, however, and set about defending the vessel. The worms were massive, with bodies hardened by the rigors of the ocean depths, but each of us has faced worse, and eventually we butchered the creatures with few injuries sustained. There was a tense moment when Daryel fell overboard and needed to be recovered before sharks got to him, but the matter was soon dealt with.

Such misadventures aside, we continue to make good time towards the Anderfels, and I expect we will arrive soon — at which point the real challenge will begin.

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Ser Jerrod of the Grey 49-50

18th day of Nubulis, 44th year of the Dragon Age

At first light the next day, Daryel, Sebastian, Thomas and myself left Aneth’Ara for Denerim. Marcellus did not accompany us; apparently she (and not he, as I had previously assumed) has no stomach for demons, or mages, or fire, and being forced to deal with all those things in rapid succession has convinced her that it would be best for us to part ways. I certainly cannot hold this decision against her, and I wish her the best in the future.

My companions and I had intended to purchase whatever supplies we required in Denerim and then charter a ship for the Anderfels with all haste. Fate, of course, had other plans. Within minutes of our arrival in the city, we were accosted by a dwarf — who was clearly more than he let on, and doing a particularly poor job of hiding the fact — seeking help with tracking down a cult that had been abducting local children. It was a curiously trivial matter to locate some of the cultists, who were indeed in the midst of another kidnapping, babbling all the while about “stilling the tongues of heresy” or some such nonsense. The cultists were easy enough to subdue, but tragically, the child they were carrying had already been injured, and during the skirmish they succumbed to their injuries. Investigating the defeated cultists’ possessions revealed a scrap of paper with an address, so we left it to the arriving town guards to mete out proper justice and made our way there swiftly.

The given address was a moderately-sized manse that abutted the city wall and a token guard on the ground floor. We quickly dispatched the cultist sentries and made our way upwards. A truly bizarre sight awaited us on the second floor: the interior walls had been removed, turning the entire floor into a single large chamber, and hung upon the walls were dozens of mirrors. A woman dressed in the robes of a Chantry sister stood in the center of the room, the bodies of two unconscious guards crumpled at her feet, rotating slowly to gaze upon her reflection in each mirror in turn. As we entered, she turned to us with a beatific expression on her face, asking if we had come to offer tribute — but the fragile mask of serenity quickly cracked when she realized we had come with hostile intent.

As is my custom, I offered the woman the opportunity to surrender and come quietly. While she was willing to leave the city without conflict, she refused to answer to the Chantry or the town guard for her actions, and we were obviously loathe to simply allow her to start this madness again in another city. Before we could leap to the attack, however, the woman wove some kind of spell with her voice that drained our hostile intent. Luckily, we kept our wits about us enough to maintain a sense of purpose even through the haze of enchantment. Even as my mind and body turned against me, I kept trying to stoke my rage, like applying a flint and steel to a wet torch; eventually, the spark flared, and wielding my greatsword like a spear I pierced the witch’s throat and, heh, stilled her heretical tongue.

Shocked into unconsciousness from my blow, the witch offered no further resistance, and indeed it seemed that some possessing spirit had fled her when I struck. It was a trivial matter to rouse the fallen guards and deliver our captive into the hands of the Chantry. I was sure to leave a very specific and detailed report regarding the abilities of their captive and how we had subdued her; while the woman may have been an innocent victim of some demon from beyond the Fade, she might still have some lingering witchcraft about her, and it would be foolish to underestimate her. Our task complete, we retired to a local tavern, where some liberally-applied alcohol convinced the dwarf to reveal his nature as a low-ranking Antivan Crow, tasked with observing our group and turning our quest to his masters’ advantage. For now, our goals seem to align, and so we will allow him to accompany us on our way to the Anderfels.

Speaking of which, it would appear that a local worthy was sponsoring the effort to apprehend the cultists, and now wishes to meet with us and commend us for our efforts. Perhaps we can convince her to finance our voyage to the North — if we can make ourselves presentable in time for dinner this evening.

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Entry 2
Ciel's Personal JOournal

So I had made it to Denerim, and I was trying to both find out stuff about the Dariel person and the Grey Warden, when I ran into some people kidnapping a kid! I was curious so I started following them, but some guards distracted me and made me lose track of them! It was very irritating. They asked me to help with dealing with the cultists and rescuing the kids, and well. I am not good at operating under pressure. I panic. And I am NOT good at saying no to people.
I agreed to help.
I shouldn’t have! I needed to kill the guy and find the Grey Warden! But, lucky as I am, I actually managed to run into the Grey Warden and his people! The Tevinter I had heard about apparently left, but everyone else in the dossier was there! I’ve been making plans to kill them, and I already have two for all of them, and 3 for picking them off one by one!
I thought I got better at not blurting out secrets, but no. I think maybe it was the fact that no one has talked directly to me in about three months than me being better about it.
Right anyways, I get to hang out with people! And kill stuff! I know that I’m not technically allowed to use it, but I gabbed some doses of the Crow’s poison and wow is it useful!
We killed some cultists, rescued a kid, talked to people in the Chantry, and now we are investigating! Just call me Sherlock Holmes! The elven mage guy seemed to know people in the Chantry so that was useful.

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Ciel's Personal Journal
Entry 1

Journal Entry 1:
I’ve decided to keep a record of my actions so that I may reflect upon them and understand what I did wrong in my exploits. Or at least, that is what Master Alonzo said I needed to do since I was ‘such a failure of an assassin, we might as well use you as a warning to future Crows’. Master Alonzo is not very nice. Well, none of the actual Crows are nice. Or the other initiates.

ANYWAYS. They actually gave me an assignment! After last year with the bartender and the demon I never thought they would let me try to finish the initiation process! They said I was to join up with some Grey Warden and his companions because they’re trying to stop the Blights, and of course the Crows need to know all about that. They also gave me a contract for an assassination for some old elven guy named Daryel. I’m supposed to track him down and kill him in an incident related to freeing an elven slave. I did overhear Masters Rydel and Carina saying that ‘I can’t believe he’s still alive- we keep sending him on suicide missions! "I know, the only thing he is good at is surviving!’ I wonder who they were talking about?

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Ser Jerrod of the Grey 46-48

18th day of Pluitanis, 44th year of the Dragon Age

The days stretched into weeks, and still Azriel did not show. His brother Tyriel, master of Aneth’Ara, was growing ever more anxious at his absence, and it seemed that any day he might leave himself in search of his missing kin. Of course, had he tried, I planned to petition him to let us go in his stead; however, such plans were rendered moot when a messenger arrived from the Circle Tower, bringing an urgent appeal for aid from Azriel himself. It had come to pass that a Circle pyromancer named Emery — a former associate of Daryel’s, one of Azriel’s original group of agents — had gone rogue, leading a group of wild and apostate mages to attack the tower in hopes of reclaiming his phylactery. Azriel thought that, given their common history, Emery’s former companions would be best suited to deal with him;. Little did he know, of course, that in the intervening months all but two of those companions had gone their separate ways, and of those two, one had no intention of leaving his family again. Still, this was our best opportunity to get Azriel’s project moving forward once more, and so at first light we rode for the Circle Tower to lend what aid we could.

The tower was in a sorry state when we arrived. Much of the building was on fire, despite the Circle mages’ best efforts to contain the blaze, and sounds of magical combat could be heard echoing from the upper floors. It seemed that Emery, having failed to breach the phylactery vaults in the basements of the tower, had instead chosen to ascend, entrenching his forces on the uppermost floors. For anyone else this would seem madness, but perhaps Emery, like the fires he commanded, drew power from climbing ever higher. Of course, whatever his ultimate plan now was, we had no intention of letting him complete it, and so with the aid of one of the tower’s Templar contingent, we began the grueling task of climbing the burning tower to confront him. For the first several floors, our main foe was the tower itself — the threat of collapsing floors and falling masonry was ever-present — with the occasional skirmish against whatever of Emery’s forces remained on the lower levels. With the Templar’s assistance, our group made short work of these initial defenders, and progress was, if not easy, at least steady.

Eventually, of course, we made it to Emery’s fastness proper, and resistance stiffened. It was here that we also began to observe a disturbing sight: Circle mages mingling with Emery’s forces, seemingly of their own volition and under no duress. At first these anomalous Circle mages did not actively stand against us, and so we made an effort to avoid harming them. When one was left behind in the aftermath of a battle, however, I had the Templar escort him down — with instructions to subdue him at the first sign of treachery. My suspicions were roused, and if this handful of Circle mages had indeed turned traitor, I wanted none of them to escape justice. As it happened, of course, I would soon come to regret sending the Templar away.

Emery had made his way to the highest floor of the tower, and was standing atop some manner of altar, giving an impassioned speech to stoke the fires of rebellion in his men’s hearts. Ensuring that my companions were in position to respond when the proper moment came, I stepped out of hiding and challenged the pyromancer, giving him an ultimatum: surrender and submit to the Circle’s justice, or perish on my blade. Emery, of course, had no intention of coming quietly, and ordered his forces to attack. Trusting in my compatriots to hold off the other mages, I charged directly for Emery himself, hoping to break the rebels’ will with a decapitating strike. My blade struck true and wounded Emery grievously, but it was here that the Circle mages present revealed their treachery. While they still did not raise a hand directly against me or my comrades, they did cast healing and support magics on Emery, mending his flesh and leaving him stronger than ever. Realizing that we could not prevail against such odds, I turned my attentions to the Circle turncoats, aiming low with my blade to sever legs and break knees. (I had no intention of killing them — the Circle could deliver justice to its own — but I needed them out of the fight, and I admit to taking a savage joy in making them pay the price of their betrayal in blood.) Unfortunately, Emery’s apostates and wild mages had not been idle while my attentions were focused on their leader and his healers, and despite the best efforts of my comrades, they were finding themselves hard pressed.

Eventually, all but one of Emery’s healers was left broken and mewling on the floor, but just when it seemed that the tide was starting to turn in our favor, fate conspired to throw the battle into chaos once more. First one apostate, then another lost himself to demonic possession, mutating into hideous abominations. Then Emery too, surrendering completely to his hatred and fury, gave himself over to a dark spirit from beyond the Veil and transformed into a demonic monster. However, upon seeing his leader’s transformation, the final Circle turncoat realized his folly and changed sides once more, aiding us in our fight against the abominations. Fate smiled on us further when another Circle mage, apparently having made his way up from below, lent us his power to defeat the monsters. My comrades took down the first abomination, while the thing-that-was-Emery slew the second with a careless blast of magic. Finally, after much struggle, I drove my blade deep into the thing’s black heart, and it screamed as it shrank back into Emery’s body and then breathed its last.

With Emery dead, and his head in our possession as proof, we swiftly returned to the base of the tower. The Circle mages were finally able to make headway in dousing the flames now that the fighting was done, and Azriel himself, who had been safeguarding the phylactery vault in the basement, was finally able to emerge. I met with the man, informing him of the Wardens’ rekindled interest in his project and their desire to see it to completion, and officially offered my services towards that end. Azriel told me that his work will keep him in the Circle Tower for some time, but that our group can assist him next by traveling to the Anderfels to recover an artifact of the First Blight. I fully intend to let the local Wardens know of this, as well as my own fellows in Denerim, for it behooves us to be ready to lend aid if Azriel requires it — and to keep watch over him, for his work is fraught with peril, and may lead to ruin if it goes astray.

We leave for Denerim on the morrow, there to charter a ship that will take us to the Anderfels along the eastern coast of Thedas. It will be a long journey, but the trek overland would be longer. The mage who fought alongside us in the final battle against Emery, a lad by the name of Thomas, will be joining the group; the reasons for that are somewhat complicated, and I shan’t tarry over them here. (Suffice to say that Thomas and the lad Marcellus are not fond of each other.) I pray to the Maker that our journey will be quiet and uneventful — but I am a knight, and I am a Grey Warden, and I have seen enough to know that such hopes are folly.

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Ser Jerrod of the Grey 45

29th day of Frumentum, 43rd year of the Dragon Age

Upon our arrival in Denerim, Lord Rickon and I returned to the Wardens’ headquarters, and I received my next assignment. My new task is twofold: first, I am to investigate the elven alienage of this city, as the Wardens have grown suspicious of the lack of progress being made by the healers within. Second, I am to once more seek out those who serve the mage Azriel, and accompany them so as to seek audience with their master. The Wardens have taken an interest in the mage’s grand design, and would have me see it carried successfully to its conclusion.

At first, I feared that these two tasks were to prove mutually exclusive. Yet fortune smiled upon me, for when I arrived at the alienage I was greeted by the servants of Azriel, who sought to investigate that stricken place for reasons of their own. By invoking the authority of the Wardens I was able to secure our access to the quarantined alienage, and we made haste towards the sanatorium where the healers were — allegedly — treating those who were suffering from the plague.

From the outset it was clear that all was not well in that place. The healing staff were not pleased at our arrival, and became even less so when we demanded a review of their documents and facilities. An investigation of their kitchen revealed the food they were serving their patients to be tainted with some foulness, while the records they kept of treatments raised the question of what happened to those few who seemed to actually recover their vigor within these walls. Finally, in the depths of that profaned house of healing, we discovered the truth: those who had claimed to be soothing the elves’ affliction were in fact slavers of the most base sort, who broke the minds of those who survived their ministrations and carted them off to a dismal fate. Their ruse uncovered, they sought to bury evidence of their crimes by setting their brainwashed victims upon us — including one who had previously served Azriel.

Fortunately, like many of those who would prey upon the weak, these slavers were no great tacticians. The arena they chose for their ambush allowed us to both minimize the threat posed to us by the brainwashed elves, and to unleash arrows upon them with near impunity. Finally, having grown impatient with the failure of his subordinates, the leader of the slavers — the erstwhile warden of this gaol — descended into battle himself. In keeping with the code of my order, I offered him a chance to surrender peacefully and submit to the realm’s justice. The man forsook that chance, and so with a mighty roar I charged into battle….

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Sam Holbig 44
Sam's Story

15th of Harvestmere, Dragon 9:43

Okay, let’s try that again. We were about two weeks into our trip back to Ferelden when our ship came across another vessel out on the water. No lights, no crew, no signs of life… eerie as all get-out. Our captain identified the ship as one of five that had gone looking for some kind of elven artifact worth, quote, “hundreds of gold” — the only one that hadn’t come back empty-handed, by virtue of not coming back at all. Naturally, we all immediately put our trousers on our heads and decided to board the obviously-cursed ghost ship in search of a treasure that, if it existed, was probably the reason the ship was cursed in the first place. Obviously there was no way that could possibly end poorly.

Things didn’t go too badly at first. We boarded the ship without too much trouble and proceeded to go our separate ways, with Sebastian the archer and I heading below-decks via one of the hatches; we figured that, if this treasure was actually aboard, it was probably somewhere down there. After finding nothing much of note in the crew’s footlockers besides a bunch of dust and rot, we started to make our way towards a door at the back that we figured had to lead to a cargo hold. As we went that way, though, Sebastian started to get this shuffling gait that made me a little wary, and he didn’t respond when I called out to him. Suspecting that some form of brain-fuckery was afoot, I addressed the problem with my usual degree of delicacy and tact — by stabbing Sebastian in the back of the knee with my spear. Sebastian was none too pleased with that, but it broke whatever mind-whammy was on him sure enough.

It was about this time we decided that the stupidity of this whole plan outweighed whatever benefit we could possibly hope to glean from it, and started back towards the gangplanks. Of course, whatever was cursing the ship wasn’t having any of that. Using a series of illusions — the deck is covered in black fog! our comrades have vanished! our ship is sailing away, and the crew are all dead! the ship’s original crew are all having dinner in the stateroom on the top deck, and absolutely aren’t a bunch of mummified corpses! — and in a few cases actually swatting at us with these magical black tentacles, it did its damnedest to make sure we weren’t going anywhere. Realizing the only way we were going to rid of this tomfoolery was to cut it off at the source, we all collectively sighed and started scouring the ship for the artifact that was doubtless calling all the trouble.

To no one’s great surprise, said artifact — some kind of idol — was ultimately sitting in that one room Sebastian nearly got sleepwalked into. Our first thought was to destroy it, but the lad Marcellus had been seeing visions that implied doing so would release a particularly nasty demon, so we decided against that. With no other course of action immediately apparent, we picked the thing up and brought it back to the main deck. (Not before it swatted at Dro with another one of those shadow tentacles, though. Make up your mind, you tiny stone bastard! Do you want us to take you with us or not?!) Naturally, as soon as we got back up top, the illusions were all gone and there was our ship waiting for us. We expressed our… concerns about the idol to the captain, and while he reiterated that it was a historical treasure worth hundreds of gold pieces, he ultimately left it up to us what to do with it.

So we chucked the fucking thing in the ocean and never looked back. Actually, that’s a lie. We did look back, once, when we heard the sounds of the gangplanks dropping into the water, and saw that the ghost ship had vanished as mysteriously as it disappeared. Of course.

The rest of the trip back to Denerim was mercifully quiet. We made port, picked up some more supplies (which led to another favorable bill posted about Guy Fieri’s smoked jerky from yours truly), and took care of other personal business in the city. I myself finally picked up that suit of full plate I commissioned a while back, and then showed some of the new party members the city’s alienage, per their request. Apparently whatever plague is ravaging the place has gotten that much worse, because now it’s under full quarantine. We were about to head back to Aneth Ara when we heard a scream come from inside, and Sana insisted that we find out what was going on in there right now. Of course. Because it’s not enough that we’ve spent the last several months wandering halfway across Thedas and back again, now we’ve got to go inside a festering plague pit and go be heroes and Maker knows how long it will take or what we’ll find in there and DAMMIT ALL I WANT TO GO HOME.

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Sam Holbig 43
Sam's Story

1st of Harvestmere, Dragon 9:43

We were about two weeks into our trip back to Ferelden when…

Actually, you know what? Fuck this. I’m not telling this story, not right now. I’m going to get another drink, and you can come back in a couple of weeks and maybe I’ll be in more of a mood to talk about it. Until then, kindly fuck off.

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Sam Holbig 42
Sam's Story

17th of Kingsway, Dragon 9:43

The chevalier and I continued to ring each other like bells for the next few minutes, and given our rate of progress, we’d probably have been at it ‘til the Maker comes down to get us if we’d been left uninterrupted. As it happened, though, there was suddenly an almighty bang, followed by a roar as the stadium started coming down. The chevalier took off like a shot, and I went after him, figuring he was going to try and assist. Seems I gave him too much credit, though, because the tin-plated nancy-boy ran off through a gap in the wall, and Maker only knows where he went after that. We haven’t seen him since.

Well, being slightly less of an arsehole, I elected to stick around and help wherever I could. There were a fair few people buried under the rubble, though thankfully not nearly as many as there could have been; apparently my fight with the chevalier was so incredibly boring that my party members were able to evacuate the vast majority of the people in the stands before the bombs went off. Little blessings, I suppose. One of the people we found buried in the rubble was Dro, who seemed like he had maybe half a dozen breaths left in his body when we dug him out, but thankfully Daryel was able to do what he does best before Dro shuffled off this mortal coil. In fact, when all was said and done, everyone I know was safe and accounted for — including that archer, who seems to have picked us up another hanger-on in the form of some roguish-looking lad that he’s constantly bickering with.

We all met up with Lord Raynor, the head of the tourney, and frankly I was half expecting him to have us nailed to a tree for this debacle. Instead, since our failure only resulted in the destruction of a major civic center and the deaths of three thousand people (as opposed to ten thousand), he apparently decided that was good enough for government work and rewarded us with silver, jewels, and finely-crafted arms and armor. On top of that, since I technically won the tournament on account of the chevalier running off with his tail between his legs, we also got to claim the hammer that was the point of this whole exercise. Apparently if you’re holding the thing and you… think… at it… hard enough?… it immediately heats up to smithing temperature. I couldn’t make it work, but Dro could, and I swear he was giggling like a schoolboy as he ran off to start forging any piece of metal he could get his hands on. One of his first projects was a new head for my spear, which seems sharp enough that it’ll make a right mess of any more tin-plated nancy boys I might have the misfortune to encounter in the future. I definitely owe him for this. With our business out here concluded, we hopped aboard a ship that Raynor was kind enough to provide to take us back to Ferelden. Since a couple of those Grey Wardens are stationed in Denerim — Rickon Gervais and that one-eyed fellow who apparently goes by Jerrod — they’ll be riding along with us.

Dro bought a portable forge and a bunch of metal so he could continue to make things on the voyage. I mean it when I say the man’s passionate about his hobbies.

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Sam Holbig 41
Sam's Story

3rd of Kingsway, Dragon 9:43

Daryel, Legnar, Dro, and Daryel’s new friend — a human archer whose name I haven’t caught yet — ran off to go sort out this cultist business, while Sana and I stuck around for the next tournament round. That fancy-pants chevalier went up against the last of the remaining dwarves, and promptly stomped him a new mudhole. Unsurprising, really, but that did mean that Sana and I were stuck fighting each other in the semifinals. I was looking forward to a decent match, but Sana just laid down her sword, told me to kick the chevalier’s tin-plated arse for her, and ran off to go help the others. Well, all right then.

This was easier said than done, of course. The chevalier wasn’t the favorite to win for nothing; he uses a sword-and-board fighting style, meaning he’s about as hard to land a solid blow on as I am, and he’s a better fighter to boot. Not going to lie, I’m probably going down at the end of this — but I can at least make Fancypants fight for it. We’re currently deep into what must be the longest and most boring title match the Grand Tourney has ever seen, as two of the most heavily-armored fighters in the match slowly chip away at each others’ defenses. The chevalier actually suggested we discard our shields at one point to speed this up, but that would only put me at even more of a disadvantage, and I’ll be buggered if I’ll give him the satisfaction of a quick win. He’s getting tired, I’m getting tired, and frankly I think the crowd is getting tired too. Maybe if they’re all bored out of their skulls it’ll make it easier to evacuate them when the cultists inevitably make their move? Whatever, that’s for the others to deal with. I’ve got a fight to… well, probably not win, but at least take my sweet time losing.

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