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.

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….

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.)


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