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.

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.

Daryel Lightward 36
14th of Bloomingtide, Dragon 9:43

When I joined this party, a time that seems forever and a day ago now, I chose to leave the elf village because I felt that my ability to help there was limited. In such a small settlement, there are only so many who need so much healing so often. I’ve wanted to do more: heal the sick and suffering elsewhere, help those of my kind escape enslavement, and try to encourage peaceful and non-violent solutions to discord.

Since Asrael entasked us with gathering the pieces of this seemingly dubious weapon against an archdemon, I’ve held skepticism that this mission allows me to stay on my own course. As well, I’ve also nearly failed to keep my identity secret on two occasions now.

First, encountering a wanted poster with my likeness and former name, and having to tell the rest of the party that it was instead someone who escaped with me so many years ago and died in the process. More recently, happening across a rather significant family friend of my old master, who thankfully did not appear to recognize me.

While traveling, the party recently took an opportunity to assist a couple of merchants transporting Mabari pups. They were being waylaid by bandits, whom we managed to drive off. These merchants seemed friendly and without malice, as did their cargo. I hope our efforts ultimately result in the pups finding good homes for the rest of their lives, for I believe they only wish to live in peace. Helping beings like these to be able to find this peace is my wish.

The party will soon compete in a grand tourney for the sake of winning a hammer that Asrael has sent us to retrieve. Putting ourselves in the view of so many, especially if we somehow manage to win the competition, it’s difficult to imagine that I won’t draw even more unwanted attention to myself. The next time, it may be that of someone with more intimate knowledge of the past I’ve tried to keep hidden. I can only hope my fears are unwarranted.

Sam Holbig 36
Sam's Story

14th of Bloomingtide, Dragon 9:43

The now ex-warleader of the Tal Vashoth village wasted little time gathering his effects and making his way out of town, and we were right behind him, keeping close by as his route took him out of town and, conveniently, in the same direction we were headed. Eventually the tension became too much for him, and he whipped around, demanding to know what it was we wanted. (Or something like that, I think. Still don’t speak Qunlat.) Dro walked up to the grumpy bastard, the two had a heated discussion… and then we went one way while Jerkface went the other, with a distinct and unexpected lack of my-spear-shoved-up-his-arse. Odd, that — wasn’t Dro the one who specifically said he couldn’t be trusted not to bring hell down on the village if he was allowed to live? Did something change his mind?

At any rate, we continued on the road to the Grand Tourney. Of course, because it’s us, we hadn’t gone far before we stumbled over more excitement. In this case, excitement took the form of a gaggle of bandits that had cornered a merchant’s cart against a tree near the road, and were about to do some deeply unpleasant things to the merchant and her traveling companions. (We discovered after the fact that the merchant was carrying mabari pups, and the bandits were a bunch of Ferelden nationalists who didn’t take kindly to a non-Ferelden selling Ferelden dogs to other non-Ferelden. I’m no Ferelden myself, so maybe it’s a cultural thing, but that seems like the sort of thing you address with a strongly-worded letter or an organized boycott, not a sharp piece of steel to the kidneys.) We managed to chase them off, but not before the merchant came uncomfortably close to meeting the Maker, and Daryel demonstrated for the second time that he’s actually kind of a shite healer under pressure.

… I shouldn’t say that, he’s kept us all alive thus far.

Since the merchant’s horses got away during the battle — by which I mean we cut the horses loose during the battle so that the bandits couldn’t use them to steal the cart — we hitched our own mounts up and helped her get to the Tourney, which she seemed to appreciate. Despite all the faffing about we’ve done since leaving Aneth Ara, we still managed to arrive a full day before the events started; the pre-tournament festival was in full swing, and we all split up to take in the entertainments and deal with our respective business. Me, I didn’t come all this way just to miss the entry deadline, so my first stop was the registration booth. The locals were surprisingly unhelpful in directing me where to sign up (although frankly I’d be more surprised if they weren’t at this point), but eventually they pointed me in the right direction. I did encounter a bit of commotion on the way, as apparently Daryel and Sona nearly got run over by some Orlesian knight, and of course HE was the one demanding an apology. Luckily, it seems that one of the merchant’s traveling companions has some noble blood of his own, and his dick-waving contest with the Orlesians proved distracting enough that the two elves were able to slip away. That one seems an interesting fellow; might have to keep an eye on him, as I have a feeling our paths will be crossing again.

Speaking of keeping an eye on someone, I swear there was this ancient-looking Ferelden knight that was watching me as I got into the registration line. Wonder what that’s all about?

Sam Holbig 35
Sam's Story

30th of Cloudreach, Dragon 9:43

We ran into no more excitement on our journey and soon found ourselves on the outskirts of the ruined city, where the elf guides took their leave of us. It was a quick and relatively straightforward stroll to the temple, although we did have to pause briefly to beat nine shades of hell out of a wandering ghoul that came between us and our goal. When we got there, we saw that the entrance to the temple had indeed collapsed, which had presumably stopped the elves from investigating any further; however, a bit of pushing from Dro caused the door to practically fall in on its own, which suggests to me that maybe these elves need to start visiting the gymnasium more often.

Investigating the temple honestly felt like it took longer than it actually did. There was an antechamber with some crowns in it, which are apparently enchanted to speak directly into your mind when you put them on and tell you information about the room you’re in (although they only speak in Elvish, which didn’t do me any good when I tried); a library with some random books in it and a magic booby-trap on the door that Dro found the hard way; and a couple of rooms containing sarcophagi, which are supposed to house the remains of some old elven leaders or some such. I say “supposed to,” because when we actually opened said sarcophagi, who should we find but the elf and Tal-Vashoth leaders! Apparently they’d been trapped by the cave-in and set upon by giant spiders (which matches with the webs we saw in a passage through one of the broken walls), and the elf decided to modify a circle of preservation in one of the crypts to keep the two of them in suspended animation until we got there. Pretty clever idea, I have to say, which almost makes up for the stupidity of holding an important diplomatic meeting in an isolated, collapsing temple in the first place.

Anyway, we headed back to the elf village with the leaders in tow, only to be met there by Legnar and a she-elf I didn’t recognize. Legnar informed us that the Tal-Vashoth were on the warpath (because apparently their acting leader either can’t fucking count or has less patience than most two year-olds) and he’d been running himself ragged trying to slow them down. Pretty much at that moment a bunch of haggard, weaponless, and thoroughly frustrated-looking Tal-Vashoth marched up to the camp and demanded… eh, something or other. It really doesn’t matter, because as soon as they saw their actual leader, they promptly turned around and went home again. Jerkface the war leader was fuming, and his mood only got worse when Dro reminded him of his promise to step down if Dro brought the actual leader back. Jerkface pretended he’d never made such a promise and took a swing at Legnar for good measure, whereupon the actual leader promptly banished him from the village. When Dro pointed out that this was a threat to the village’s security, the leader made it very clear that he didn’t care what happened to Jerkface the moment he set foot outside the village. The implication couldn’t be clearer, and frankly, I think I’m looking forward to what’s coming a bit more than is healthy.

Sam Holbig 34
Sam's Story

16th of Cloudreach, Dragon 9:43

We took our leave of that pleasant farmer couple and made our way towards Dro’s village, where apparently there was some business that needed doing. I reminded everyone that we had somewhere we needed to be soonish, but Dro felt that this wouldn’t be anything that would take too terribly long, so we decided to go and make ourselves useful again.

As we made our way towards the village, we were greeted by the sound of drawing bowstrings. (Yes, we heard them before we saw them; these are Tal-Vashoth bows, which means they were essentially pointing siege equipment at us.) Not the sort of welcome we were hoping for, to be sure, but Dro seemed more annoyed than troubled at the development. There followed a bunch of arguing in Qunlat, a bunch of very burly and behorned fellows taking us to meet the grumpy-looking village head, and more arguing in Qunlat. From what I was told afterwards, it seems this fellow is just the ACTING village head; the actual village head apparently disappeared a little while ago after going to meet with some nearby elves, and Grumpy here is convinced that treachery is afoot and is on the brink of launching a war. (Hence the tension earlier, as a party with three elves in it walking towards their gate made the guards a little nervous.) My understanding is that all this is DESPITE the fact that the elves apparently sent envoys with the message that their leader was missing too. Nice to know that being a warlike arsehole is an affliction that crosses species boundaries, I suppose.

Dro apparently worked things out so that we had 24 hours to get things sorted out before Grumpy went on the warpath, so we decided that the first thing to do was go visit the elves and get their side of the story; luckily, Dro’s friend seemed to know where to find them. (Unfortunately Alalen had to stick around in the Tal-Vashoth village as a hostage, and about half of the party, including Legnar, decided to stay with him to make sure Grumpy didn’t do anything stupid.) Our initial contact with the elves… involved more arrows stuck in the two Tal-Vashoth than either of them would have liked, I think, but we managed to get that sorted out, and afterward the elves were a lot more inclined to work things out peacefully than Grumpy had been. They told us that the two leaders had gone to an old ruined city to talk diplomacy, and were probably in a shrine to an fallen archdemon, whose entrance had conveniently collapsed. Also, darkspawn sightings in the area have been on the rise. There’s no way these two things could possibly be connected, no sir.

The elves gave us a couple of guides to take us to the city, and since we were on a time limit we headed out with a quickness. We hadn’t gotten far, though, when we found our path blocked by a trio of foraging bears. No problem, they’re animals, a party of fully-armed adventurers should scare them off, right? Well, apparently not; even after we’d stuck blades in all three of them, they kept trying to tear us apart until we turned them into steaks and rugs. The guides told me afterward that these bears were starving, probably due to the local game all being gone or tainted. Again, not ominous at all.

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.

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.)

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.

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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