Darksoul

Ser Jerrod of the Grey 45

29th day of Harvestmere, 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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Sam Holbig 40
Sam's Story

20th of August, Dragon 9:43

Dro and I woke up Daryel and Legnar (we decided none of us wanted to deal with a grumpy Sana) and informed them of the situation. Daryel, Legnar, and Dro decided to go investigate on the docks; I was ready to come too, but Daryel figured there were enough warm bodies on the job and told me to rest up for the tourney tomorrow. Well, I wasn’t about to argue that point, so I promptly returned to my room to get some shut-eye.

The next morning, Sana kicked the shit out of an elf, I kicked the shit out of a dwarf, and Dro (who was clearly feeling the effects of being out all night) ended up losing to Ser Corben. That fancy-pants chevalier from Orlais also did something to piss Sana off again; I don’t remember what, exactly, but I’m pretty sure she wants to rip the man a new arsehole large enough to fit his horse into. More importantly, Daryel swung by to inform me that he’d encountered those cultists last night, and had barely made it out with his life. Apparently he’d spent the rest of the night poking around and learned little of import, but was going to head out to try again. At this point I’m almost certain there’s going to be a bombing at the tournament; there’s not much Sana or I can do about that, so hopefully Daryel and the rest can stop these cultists from blowing anything up, or at least ensure that the damage will be minimal.

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Sam Holbig 39
Sam's Story

9th of Solace, Dragon 9:43

It turns out that blast we heard was one of the local inns exploding and catching fire, which as far as I know is not something they’re generally supposed to do. Again, being the heroic types we are, all of us present moved to assist: I jumped into the bucket line to put out the fire, Daryel started tending to the wounded, and Dro headed in to look for injured survivors. (Sana did… something? I think? She came with me from the dwarven quarter, so she must have been there, and she doesn’t seem the sort to sit around when there’s folk who need helping, but I’ll be buggered if I can tell you what she was actually up to.) A few of the local town watch were there as well, though they seemed to be more interested in figuring out what the hell happened than in letting the injured rest; can’t say I blame them, exactly, but their bedside manner could definitely use some work. I also saw what looked like a small group of Qunari — actual Qunari this time, I think, not Tal Vashoth — walk up and have some words with Dro while he was between trips into the building. Dro told us later that apparently the Qunari have “misplaced” some blasting powder, and that roughly one-twelfth of what they lost could account for an explosion of the size that destroyed the inn. I suddenly have a powerful need to know what happened to the other eleven twelfths.

The next day, the tournament progressed more or less as normal, despite the previous night’s excitement. We saw a lot of familiar faces from our travels beating the ever-loving shit out of each other, reminding us that pretty much anyone who’s anyone has come to this tournament. (I’m pretty sure I even saw that drunk from the bridge outside Denerim and the Val Royeaux dungeon in one of the matches. He was… surprisingly competent.) Dro beat down… erm… some poor bastard, they’re all kind of bleeding together at this point… while I managed to defeat one of the warriors from that village that we saved from the Amber Rage a while back. Glad to see they seem to be doing all right! But Daryel… poor, poor Daryel. Somehow, our healer ended up in the last match of the day, with none other than that Orlesian knight that tried to run him over when we first showed up. You know, the one that’s a favorite to win the whole tournament? Daryel held his own for a surprising amount of time — I swear, it’s like the Maker himself wanted him to win this thing — but in the end, the barely-trained stick fighter just wasn’t a match for the experienced chevalier in full plate. Bad luck, friend. After the tournament, Daryel and Sana wandered off to get some sleep, and I can’t say I blame them. Meanwhile, I went to go find the fellow I fought earlier and his party, buy them a round of drinks, and ask about how their village is doing. It took me a couple of tries to find the right group, but eventually I managed it, and we spent some time drinking and chatting away. He said their medicine woman has been able to… “contain” the Amber Rage, but she doesn’t seem to have a proper cure sorted out yet. Not precisely what I was hoping to hear, but not the worst news ever.

After all this, I was ready to turn in and get some rest for the next day’s event, so naturally my head had barely hit the pillow when there was a frantic knocking at the door. I opened it to find a couple of fellows in robes who wanted Dro and me to follow them across town. When we arrived, we were met by the mayor-cum-tourney-organizer, along with a trio of Grey Wardens: the head Warden from Denerim, a woman I didn’t recognize… and that old one-eyed fellow with the big sword that I’d noticed watching us. Seems that hadn’t been my imagination, and that he’d recommended me and Dro based on our performance in the tourney. Well, that explains that, at least.

The mayor informed us that apparently something is rotten in this town — the past several days have seen a number of murders on the river docks, and he’s pretty well convinced that the inn blast yesterday also had something to do with it. Since Dro and I seem to be such tough contenders, he wanted us to go see if we could go scare up the perpetrators. Which is all well and good, I suppose, except that neither Dro nor I are exactly the intellectual type, and it seems the mayor has bugger-all in terms of actual clues or leads to offer us; it seems he wants us to do the actual investigation as well as the inevitable subsequent arse-kicking. Again, heroic types, so we can’t exactly say “no,” can we? We are going to have to wake up Sana and Daryel, though; they’re both properly rested and cleverer than either of us, so hopefully they can point us in the right direction to go crack some heads.

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Sam Holbig 38
Sam's Story

25th of Justinian, Dragon 9:43

We were on our way back to get some rest (or maybe catch some traveling fire-eaters that I hear put on a good show) when we heard a commotion back at the arena. It seems some dwarves arrived too late to qualify, but wanted to fight in the tournament anyway because of how important this hammer is to them. After some lively debate (which some of my party-mates participated in, and I did not, because it’s not really any of my business), it was decided that the dwarves could fight amongst themselves to pick a representative to advance to the brackets. Folk seemed to be happy with that and no heads needed cracking to restore order, so I left the lot of them to it and went to bed.

Next day was the first wave of one-on-one direct elimination bouts, and the rules let me equip my usual kit again, so I was feeling right as rain. Daryel, Dro, and I all managed to make it through the first round, with Daryel’s fight in particular further convincing me that the Maker himself is trying to get that man into the finals. My fight was against a knife-wielding elf that managed to get a pretty good hit on me; I still gave him a thorough arse-kicking, but he handled himself well. (Also, that one hit apparently lost Dro a bet he’d made with another elf on the sidelines — sorry, mate!) Everything had gone off mostly without a hitch so far, and after the first round ended we all planned to head back to do some more shopping and get some rest — so naturally, as soon as we moved to do so, there was the sound of an explosion back at the arena. Never a dull moment….

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Daryel Lightward 37

To better the party’s chances of winning the hammer that Asrael has sent us to obtain, and in spite of my dislike of violence, I registered to compete in the qualifying round of the tournament. It took some time to become accustomed to physical combat and forgoing the use of my magic. To better my chances, I purchased a suit of leather armor, which I found uncomfortable and chafing compared to my normal cloth robes. Thankfully, I was able to talk the vendor who provided me with the armor into lowering the price.

Nevertheless, despite my lack of prowess in melee and with a great deal of luck and some strategic choice of opponents and timing, I managed to win my qualifying round. Even assuming I am eliminated in the next, which I suspect will be the case, at least I will have eliminated that many prospective opponents of my comrades.

All that said, the victory was not without its drawbacks. It drew a fair amount of attention to me that I’d hoped to avoid. I can only hope that the Chevalier encountered by the party as we entered the city took no notice of it, or at least has no familiarity with my current name and appearance. I look forward to our departure from Cumberland, as I take no pleasure in the increased apprehension of capture that our presence in this city gives me.

On a more positive note, I placed second in the mages’ contest and was able to add a bit of gold to my pursue to cover the cost of the leather armor and then some. As well, my companions won their own qualifying rounds. While I hope that we are able to quickly and uneventfully complete the competition and take our leave with the hammer, I find it hard to believe the matter will be so simple as that. I hope our efforts prove to be worth the trouble and look forward to the relief that our departure will bring me.

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Sam Holbig 37
Sam's Story

11th of Justinian, Dragon 9:43

Registration for the tourney went pretty smoothly. First, there’s to be a series of four-man elimination matches to whittle the contestant pool down to sixty-four fighters, after which a single-elimination bracket will be used to determine the winner of the whole event — and the dwarven smithing hammer that is both the tournament prize and the doodad we’ve been sent here to acquire. Fighters can bring anything they can carry into the arena, enchanted or not, but no spellslinging (bad luck for Daryel and Sana) and no armor heavier than leather (which will make things a bit troublesome for me). After registration, we all went our separate ways to pick up some appropriate gear for the task ahead. I think some of the others went faffing about for magical equipment of some form or another, but me, I settled for a good, well-crafted buff jerkin. I also had a nice chat with the leatherworker, who informed me that apparently the chevalier that Daryel and Sana ran into (or vice-versa, rather) is the favorite to win the event. Meanwhile, Legnar was able to secure us lodgings in the dwarf quarter — where not many others were seeking lodgings, because inevitable racism — so after securing our belongings, we went out to get some practice on the training field. I did a pretty good job of getting used to being out of armor again, and I’m pretty sure Dro scared some of our erstwhile opponents out of trying to compete in the tourney. Daryel… managed to not make a COMPLETE arse of himself, at least, which I’ll grant is reasonably impressive since he usually stands at the back in a robe and blasts folk with magic.

I’m pretty sure I saw that old one-eyed Ferelden knight watching us again. I wager we’re going to have to deal with that at some point.

The next morning we enjoyed a good breakfast while Legnar chatted with some fellow dwarves about the hammer. I wasn’t able to follow much of the conversation, but I get the sense that there’s at least two rival camps of dwarves in town for the tourney, both of whom want that hammer back in dwarf hands, either by winning the tournament or by… other methods. I don’t think the two groups are at loggerheads yet, and I believe the current consensus is to try and win the hammer by following the rules, with the alternative method being saved for plan “B.” As we were walking to the tourney proper, I asked Legnar how this was going to affect OUR plans for getting the hammer back to Azrael, but he waved me off.

We made it to the tourney in plenty of time, and Dro, Daryel and I soon found ourselves sorted into our elimination pools. (Legnar and Sana elected not to participate in the tourney fights, because… reasons…. and Alalen had to take his leave to tend to the omnipresent specter of “Dalish business.”) Daryel went first. Not to mince words, his bout was something of a farce; Daryel won, by sheer virtue of being too poor of a fighter to warrant much attention, being too cussedly stubborn to go down when attention was put on him, and getting a single lucky blow that put his only remaining opponent down for the count. Dro’s fight was a much more satisfying affair that eventually boiled down to him and his opponent disarming each other and kicking nine shades of crap out of each other until the opponent eventually yielded. Finally, I was up, along with two other big fighting men and a wiry fellow that I swear to the Maker is a Crow. The fellow moved like quicksilver and nearly put one of the other fighters down with the first flash of his daggers; unfortunately for him, that basically proved to all of us that we needed to take him out quickly, and even being a Crow can only take you so far when there’s three (eventually two) trained fighters waling on you. With the crow dispatched, it was just me and one other opponent, and from there I simply did what I do best: hide behind my shield and jab with my spear. I think the Maker must have been guiding my hand today, because pretty much every strike landed true and dealt a solid blow to my opponent’s vitals, and soon it was just me left standing. With all three of us advancing to the brackets, we left the field in high spirits and went to go avail ourselves of other amusements at the tourney. I myself made a show of strength on some contraption that involved a hammer and a bell, and managed to acquire a nice little bag of gold from it. I’ll add it to the pile for myself, Elly, and Morgan to live on when this task is finished.

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