Darksoul

Sam Holbig 33
Sam's Story

19th of Drakonis, Dragon 9:43

On our way out of the dungeon and the city, I finally managed to get something resembling a straight answer out of that apostate mage (fella named Jeffry, by the by). Seems he used to be the scion of some Val Royeaux noble family that booted him out when they discovered he had the gift for spell-slinging. I guess folk in this town really don’t appreciate that sort of thing! So, he struck out on his own, and the ensuing wacky adventures were what led to him squatting in a cave in Ferelden with a demon wrapped around his brain. Now that he’s loose again, it looks like his plan is to keep biding his time until he can come back to Val Royeaux properly and take what’s rightfully his. Or something like that. Also, apparently he knows Emery, which somehow fails to surprise me.

Anyway, we got the hell out of town right quick, with a tip to the innkeeper and a last flagon of mead for the road. Jeffry came with us, along with the dwarf that was in the cells (who was apparently a servant of Legnar’s brother, and now seems to be serving him instead), the wee apostate lad, and the Tal-Vashoth — apparently not a Qunari after all, making us 0 for 4 — that he’s attached himself to. Since we were moving with a quickness, we made pretty good time across Orlais, and as the sun was setting we found ourselves in the middle of farm country. The smell of fresh-baked pie was coming to us on the wind, which tempted a few of us into trying to find the source, in the hopes that we could get a good meal and a roof over our heads tonight. Me, I was fine with jerky and a bedroll, especially if the alternative was forcing some innocent family to harbor wanted fugitives. The point was shortly rendered moot, though, as we heard a scream coming from the same direction, and heroic types that we are we couldn’t just ignore that.

We arrived at the farmhouse to find it overrun with more darkspawn than I’ve seen above ground since that business with the rage demon and the elf fuck-up. Luckily, they were focused on the house and had their backs to us, so we launched an ambush, punched through their lines, and moved to secure the house. The farmer was holding off the darkspawn on the stairs with a wood-axe, and doing a damn fine job of it, I must say — I’m half-convinced that if his axe had broken he could have bludgeoned the darkspawn to death with his cast-iron balls. Thankfully it didn’t come to that; we were able to take down the spawn in the house and establish enough of a perimeter to hold off the second wave, even when a great big darkspawn spell-slinger arrived to complicate things. Soon the last of the darkspawn were dead and burned, and the farmer and his wife were offering us room and board for the night in gratitude. Well, I wasn’t going to turn my nose up at it if freely offered!

Over dinner, and a fresh pie that they were kind enough to bake for us, we learned that the farmer and his wife had originally planned to raise a great big family to help them tend their farm, but it seems the lady’s lady-parts weren’t holding truck with that idea. I could see her looking at the apostate lad with a mighty longing; me, I can see a hundred different ways that could go wrong, but ultimately we let the boy make that decision. He decided to stick with the Tal-Vashoth, to the woman’s palpable disappointment. Before we leave, I’ll have to talk to her about the orphanage situation in Val Royeaux; if she wants to be a mother that badly, I’m sure there’s no shortage of unclaimed children in the city that would jump at the chance.

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Sam Holbig 32
Sam's Story

5th of Drakonis, Dragon 9:43

Since stealth had failed, we found ourselves drawn into combat with the guards defending the dungeon’s evidence room. Maker above, where did Val Royeaux FIND these people? Each one could dodge like an acrobat, hit like an ogre, and take blows like an Ostwick wall. If this is the caliber of person Orlais uses to babysit confiscated trinkets, what manner of men and women do they have leading their armies?! Regardless, we did eventually manage to make it past them, though it was a close-fought thing. We quickly ransacked the room, each of us grabbing anything that caught our fancy. I, for example, managed to find a finely-wrought spear similar in make and heft to my own. I do feel a bit guilty for taking a weapon that obviously belongs to some other poor bastard who ended up on this city’s bad side; maybe I can get it back to him (or her) someday? There was also enough gold stockpiled in that room that any one of us could comfortably retire on our even share of it — and that I feel less guilty about taking, given how freely the gold flows in this city. (Hmm, retirement. That’s sounding like a better and better idea, especially after the clusterfuck this little Orlesian misadventure has turned into.)

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Sam Holbig 31
Sam's Story

5th of Guardian, 9:43 Dragon

Looking around the doorframe into the cell block where all the commotion was taking place, we saw that Sona had indeed staged a break-in to try and rescue us. Granted, she’d broken into one of the cells and there was still a locked door between her and us, but hey, no one’s perfect. (And her efforts still put her miles above Enna, who at this point I haven’t seen in at least three days. Where did that woman get to?!) Between the lot of us, we made swift work of the guards: I stayed back and jabbed backsides with my fork, Legnar and Alalen made good use of their stolen short swords, Drow introduced a couple of the poor bastards to the cell door he brought with him, and Daryel… well, Daryel needs to get his hands on a proper arcane focus again, to be honest. Clever sorts that we are, we also managed to stage another jailbreak at the same time. There were some pretty interesting characters in that cell block — a dwarf thief, an apostate who couldn’t be more than nine years old, a pacifist Qunari (not a Tal-Vashoth this time, I think!) who took to protecting the lad, and even, my hand to the Maker, that old drunk from the bridge outside Denerim! Most of them flew the coop as soon as the guards were all dealt with, but the last of them… well.

You remember that silly mage from a while back, the one that Harrowed and started screwing with the water supply of that village? Well, it seems that fate has dragged his poor carcass out here to Val Royeaux for some reason. Given what happened last time we met the fellow, we were hesitant to let him out of his cell again this time — I think Legnar in particular was prepared to leave him to rot — but the mage insisted that if we freed him, he could help us get our gear back. Me, I didn’t have a strong opinion either way, but I was curious as to how an apostate from Ferelden finds himself in an Orlesian dungeon, and what was it those villagers did that got his knickers in such a twist in the first place. He never really gave a straight answer to that, to be honest; I think he mentioned something vague about how it was Val Royeaux he had a problem with, not that town back in Ferelden, but frankly that just raises more questions.

Anyway. We left the guards trussed up in the cells like last time, and made our way up the dungeon — the mage giving directions, the lightfoots scouting ahead, and me hanging back with Drow and staying out of the way until things inevitably got loud. To be honest, I kind of stopped paying attention at this point, found myself getting distracted by all manner of little details in the halls around me. Wonder why that was? At any rate, I figure someone must have screwed something up at some point, because I heard the beginnings of a commotion up ahead. Oh well. Time to do what I do best.

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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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