Darksoul

Sam Holbig 1
Sam's Story

22nd of Solace, 9:41 Dragon

Ha! Been in Denerim ten minutes and already I have a job! Seems some local vendors craftsmen have had their wares go walkabout — food, lumber, crap weaponry, that sort of thing. The culprits are most likely some trouble-making out-of-town elves, collaborating with local malcontents who think the Fereldan king should sit his arse back down on the throne and do some ruling for a change. (The rest of the Fereldans seem to like him well enough, so whatever it is he’s off doing, he must be doing something right! Ha!) I’ve been hired to try and set all this right, along with a couple of less-trouble-making out-of-town elves, and a wizard we acquired somewhere along the way. I may have given the wizard an “Ostwick kiss,” by the way. Silly bugger tried to set my hand on fire. Anyway, we’re on the road outside town looking for the elves’ camp, and damn if a couple of townsfolk didn’t just try to jump us on the way. Have to say, the ambush wasn’t bad, but the follow-through was awful. One bowman and one knifer against a group with twice the numbers and better gear? Why even bother? (Also, I hear word of another group pursuing this same lead, who are apparently one step ahead of us. I wonder if they caught an ambush, as well?)

P.S. I thought we folk of Ostwick didn’t like outsiders, but Maker alive, I can’t go five minutes without hearing some Fereldan grumbling about “elves” or “northerners.” It reminds me of home, and for all the wrong bloody reasons….

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Daryel Lightward
Daryel's Story

21st of Wintermarch, 9:41 Dragon

After a night of rest in Ostagar, we woke the next morn and struck up a conversation with the innkeeper. In the wake of supply runs being hijacked by the bandit camp we managed to avoid on our way there, many of Ostagar’s citizens had decided to travel further south to the nearby township of Stenhold for a festival.

Sadly, among those who had made that choice was Ostagar’s herbalist, whom we were hoping would have some shadowmoss and save us the trouble of the trip to the Kolkari Wilds by agreeing to part with it for some coin. At that point, our party decided to follow suit and travel to Stenhold, as it wasn’t a far detour from our path to the Kolkari Wilds.

After leaving a description of Tracii with the innkeeper, on the off chance that she managed to overcome her illness and catch up to us, we struck out for Stenhold. The journey was uneventful, but also sadly proved rather unfruitful: we consulted with the town sheriff only to discover that the herbalist had left town, but planned to return by nightfall.

Despite our attempts to search for her outside the town, we were forced to return empty-handed and wait for her there. As fate would have it, Tracii had awoken and followed us, and with a strange new companion by the name of Vetorious in tow to boot. I’m rather curious about this fellow and plan to keep an eye on him.

The reunion was short-lived, however, for we were soon after waylaid, rather randomly, by a couple of barbarians. With the prowess of our warriors and my healing skills, we managed to make short work of them.

We didn’t find the herbalist, but I suspect we’ll stay in Stenhold for the night and continue our search in the morning. I’m not optimistic about our luck; it seems likely that a trip to the Kolkari Wilds remains in our future.

6th of Wintermarch, 9:41 Dragon

The battle with the darkspawn ended, we set about making camp. Sam piled their bodies and set them aflame. Tracii, as best we could discern, had been victim to a spell casting gone awry and had fallen unconscious, so Sam and Alalen fetched her and brought her to the campsite. We got a fire going and moved Tracii and the children round it. Hannah, Mythal bless her, had fallen asleep. Joseph, on the other hand, seemed to suffering from the same post-battle rush as the rest of us.

We had rather stern words for him, as he’d tried to contribute in the battle but really only ended up making things more difficult for the rest of us. His intentions were good, though; I believe he wishes to show himself a capable warrior, more than merely the son of a nobleman, and that is something I can respect. I offered him a ration, which he took. Sam took him to the side for some combat training, which amusingly involved mostly running the boy around and giving him a few friendly blows to tire him sufficiently enough to make him sleep.

We took watch in turn. Conversations were had over the course of the night and the next morning as we began traveling south back to Lothering. Piecing them together, we came to discover that Alenka and Corbin had intended to hold the children ransom to their father, the Arl, and to use the collected monies to start a new life elsewhere. They had no ill intent toward the family, but wanted the means to escape their present lives.

Their goal certainly wasn’t one for which I could fault them: the Arl showed himself to be a less than likable character, particularly in the way he treated his servants. However, none in our group could well abide the thought of crossing a wealthy and powerful nobleman, putting the job we’d agreed to do in jeopardy, or keeping the children from their family — however unloving — for the sake of coin.

Considering the matter further, we came up with an alternative to present to Alenka and Corbin. Legnar elected me to present it to them, saying that he felt I spoke for the group and referring to Sam and I both as “level-headed.” I agreed to his proposal. Sam offered to accompany me in speaking with Alenka, which I certainly appreciated despite not needing to take him up on the offer.

I called Alenka over to speak with me in private, then outlined our alternative for her: we would give to she and Corbin the two sovereigns that we’d managed to find on the battle site — which was coincidentally equal to our shares from returning the children to their father, one sovereign apiece — and, once our other jobs in the area were completed, we would then take them with us on our return trip to Anetha Ara, as she’d expressed the desire to live in a place with a better attitude toward elves.

While Alenka was skeptical, particularly with respect to the possibility of being able to receive more money with the ransom scheme than from our plan, she spoke with Corbin and they agreed to accept our offer. I suspect the prospect of having to wrestle control of the children from the rest of us seemed an unlikely one, as none of our party seemed inclined to go along with the ransom scheme, myself included.

We returned to the Arl’s manor. Conversation with him was rather curt, but he kept his end of the bargain and we each received our sovereign. We gave what we promised to Alenka and Corbin, then left Tracii in their care and traveled south to our next job: dismantling a bandit camp between Lothering and Ostagar.

Unfortunately, upon nearing the area, we found a patch of land four or five miles wide filled with tents and one or perhaps two hundred bandits. After spending some time discussing our options, we resolved to forgo the task of dismantling the bandit camp for now and attempt to travel around it unhindered to our next question: obtaining shadowmoss from the Kolkari Wilds for Tyrael.

Legnar stealthily rode near the camp to gauge its contents while the rest of us maintained a wider berth to avoid detection. In the few instances where we attracted the attention of guards — my own clumsiness is in part to blame, I’m afraid — we managed to misdirect their attention elsewhere, until we eventually met with Legnar again outside the camp. We traveled on to Ostagar and agreed to remain there for the night and strike out for the Kolkari Wilds in the morning. I can only imagine what we will find there.

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Sam Holbig 2
Sam's Story

5th of August, 9:41 Dragon

In exchange for us not introducing their guts to steel and open air, those two ambushers agreed to bring us to their base and their leader. They took us to this great big chasm outside the city, where a dagger-faced elf mage cast some spell that whisked us across to the other side in a puff of smoke. Now, the fact that the only ways back involved another magic trip or a long walk along the chasm edge set my whiskers a-twitching. I expected an ambush or a double-cross, but so far these folk seem to be relatively honest. We were brought to this… well, calling it a “village” is frankly giving too much credit, “pile of tents and huts” is more like it. Anyway, we were taken to the largest and least shitty-looking of the huts, and out comes the leader of this rabble: a blond, baby-faced elf who seems to have come to Denerim from elsewhere, as we suspected. We chatted for a while, and on the face of it his motives seem noble enough: the point of all this was to create a place for city elves to go to get away from the awful conditions in the Denerim alienage. Still, there’s the little detail that elf-boy and his friends stole a whole bunch of stuff to build their little haven, and left a whole bunch of pissed-off merchants back in Denerim as a result. We suggested that perhaps he and his lads might gather the bits they didn’t need together to give back as a peace offering, while we went to go track down our wayward warehouse guard, who was apparently patrolling somewhere outside the camp.

Well, as it turns out, our wayward warehouse guard managed to find that other team that was ahead of us. Seems they were after the bounty on these stolen goods as well. They had a dwarf, an elf, a human mage, and a great big fuck-off Tal-Vashoth — which is a Qunari that’s not a Qunari, if you’re not confused enough already — all armed to the teeth and battle-hardened, by the looks of things. Naturally Mr. Guard, displaying the same amazing lack of tactical sense as the rest of his buddies, decided to pick a fight with this scary lot, and took the Tal-Vashoth’s mace to the melon for his trouble. We managed to chase them off, but the guard was already dead and gone by the time we made it to him. Oof, not looking forward to having that conversation with his wife and kid. Well, obviously we couldn’t just leave him there for the crows, so we cleaned him up, wrapped him in my bedroll, and took him back to the camp.

So, we get back to the camp, and we see that all the elves and elf-friends are running around in a tizzy. Turns out that other group took all their supplies and started heading back to town, and none of baby-face’s boys were able to stop ‘em, because apparently they can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. They had horses for us to borrow, though, so we rode out after the other group, and managed to catch them as they were making their way along the chasm. (Still not sure how they managed to get so far ahead of us, since they only had the Tal-Vashoth dragging that big old wagon all by himself. Magic, I suppose?)

Now, at this point, we could have tried to pick a fight with the other group; they were wounded (or should have been — again, mage), and we could outflank them, but if anyone screwed up the supply cart might have gone over into the chasm, and then nobody would’ve won. And frankly… why bother? After all, this group’s done nothing but try to return stolen goods to their rightful owners. A day ago, we were doing literally the exact same thing. And yes, the situation’s more complicated than that — when isn’t it? — but it would have been hypocritical, petty, and frankly damn stupid to risk losing everything in a fight on that cliff face. So we had a chat, like civilized folk, and decided to split the goods up. They get their share of the bounty, and we get ours. The two Dalish are going to take their share of the goods back to the elf-friends, while me and the mage will ensure everyone gets paid. After that… well, we’ll have to see. Like I said, conditions in the Denerim alienage are nasty, and apparently there’s a sickness in there that they need medicine to treat. And it seems that baby-face and his elf-friends need some serious whipping into shape if they’re actually going to make this plan of theirs work. Looks like we won’t be wanting for things to do if we decide to stick around here for a while.

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Sam Holbig 3
Sam's Story

19th of August, 9:41 Dragon

Returning our share of the stolen goods went better than I expected. No one was thrilled to be getting back so little of what they’d lost, of course, but everyone handled it with a decent amount of grace, and we at least got a little bit of silver for our trouble. That other crew with the dwarf and the Tal-Vashoth invited me to join them; I don’t want to commit to anything just yet, so I left them with a non-answer and the hope that next time we meet, it will be on friendly terms. (Still, I have promised the dead guard’s widow to “take care” of the one that did the deed, so I suspect the Tal-Vashoth and I will be having a reckoning at some point.)

On the way back to the separatist village, we joined up with a Circle-and-Templar caravan that happened to be going to the same place; needless to say, it didn’t take a scholar to figure out they were friends of Babyface’s. When we got back, I found that the two Dalish had been hard at work whipping the volunteer militia into shape. Good for them — this town needs a bit more backbone if it’s going to last more than a fortnight. I was about to start putting the volunteers through the old Wall Guard paces myself when the Circle mage — who, it turns out, is an elf and Babyface’s brother — came out with a proposition for us. Seems he’s got the idea in his head that there’s a way to kill archdemons without sacrificing the life of a Grey Warden to do it. All he needs to do is gather these artifacts that are scattered around Thedas, and do some kind of mystical mumbo-jumbo to them, and he’s oh-so-certain that it will work because he’s done his reading and….

As you can no doubt tell from my tone, I think his plan stinks worse than Orlais cheese and has about as many holes in it. And it’s not just me, either; apparently neither the Circle nor the Grey Wardens themselves (who have the most to gain from such a thing, I might add) are willing to provide Mageyface with any support until he’s got more concrete proof. It doesn’t help that the first part of the puzzle is a chain that’s apparently ALREADY being used to keep a demon tied down. Not the sort of thing you want to go messing with based on some spellslinger’s half-baked theory! The whole thing strikes me as being irresponsibly reckless at best, downright insane at worst — and to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced that Mageyface isn’t some secret cultist with an evil scheme to destroy the world hidden up his sleeve. (That last part’s hopefully just paranoia on my part; it seems the local Grey Wardens have heard of him, and in an “oh, that crazy mage” sort of way, not a “this is a madman who needs to be put down” sort of way.) Still, the mage’s coin is good, and we decided we were willing to play along, if only to bring in the Grey Wardens and do this whole thing properly.

So, the Denerim mage, the Dalish, and I — along with a new face, an elf healer we picked up in the village — made our way south to where the chain was located. Word is that it was being kept in a Warden’s keep, which… may be ruined, now? That part wasn’t quite made clear, which is worry number one. Worry number two is, as we were getting close to the keep, we happened upon a farm that had been infested with blight wolves, whose house had been torn open by some horrible beast with great, nasty claws. I’m thinking a werewolf, myself. Needless to say, none of this is helping to convince me that this new quest of ours is a good idea….

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Sam Holbig 4
Sam's Story

2nd of Kingsway, 9:41 Dragon

Securing our campsite after the blight wolf attack led to us discovering two important bits of information about the wrecked farm. One, someone had scrawled “Mythal” on the wall of the farmhouse in blood. According to my elf companions, Mythal is the elven god of love, motherhood, and — according to some obscure sources — wreaking bloody-minded vengeance against one’s enemies. I suppose I have to hand it to those elves; whatever else you can say about them, their gods can certainly multitask! Two, there was one other person besides us left alive on the farm: a wounded Dalish girl that one of the others found in a pile of hay in the barn. And what should we find in a bag on her hip but a length of chain that matches the one we’ve been sent to find? Not suspicious at all, no sir.

Anyway, the elf-girl was in a pretty bad way, and though our healer was able to stabilize her he couldn’t get her to wake up again. The thought occurred to us that the healer in the nearby town might do a better job, or at least that the two healers could put their heads together and see what they came up with, so we made plans to head back that way. Come the morning, just before we left, we added another traveler to our merry little band: a dwarf rogue who likes to talk a lot, both out loud in the Trade Tongue, and to himself in what I imagine is some form of dwarvish. Not sure how I feel about the fellow yet, but I can deal with his peculiarities if he proves useful enough.

So we made it back to town, and left the wounded elf to the ministrations of the local Chantry healer. (Well, ultimately we did anyway; there was some shuffling back and forth between the farmhouse and the town with the healer’s apprentice in tow, but for all the good it did we may as well have just brought the elf there from the start.) As the day went on, the townsfolk started to get a mite tense, until eventually an honest-to-Maker torches-and-pitchforks mob showed up outside the Chantry demanding that we hand the elf over for some Ferelden countryside justice. Seems the local blacksmith is a hothead named Colon — and with a name like that I’d be pretty angry myself — who is none-too-happy with elves as a whole; he got in a fight with a band that came through town for a festival a few days back, and now he’s got the town convinced that they’re the ones responsible for all the darkspawn running about. To be honest, the thought crossed my mind at the time that he may well have been right — I’ve heard of stranger things happening. Still, the elf was the only witness we had to the farmhouse massacre, so we told the mob that unless they wanted to burn their own damn Chantry down, they could go home and wait until we had a chance to put some questions to her. The mob dispersed, and later the sheriff (who’s a much more reasonable fellow by my reckoning) came by to apologize for the whole affair. I get the sense that everyone except that fool blacksmith had the good sense to be a little embarrassed by it.

It seems that whatever-it-is that healer did worked, because the elf woke up later that night. She told us that her merry band had a hothead of its own, and that he was the one who got in a fight with Arsehole the Blacksmith. After the elves left town, their leader sent Hothead off to scout and cool his temper a little; apparently he never came back, and soon after the elves got taken prisoner by darkspawn and taken to the ruins we were headed towards. Seems there’s a big demon there now that no one seems to have heard of before. Elf-girl managed to escape with that bit of chain we saw, and apparently that annoyed the demon enough to send the darkspawn after her. One thing led to another, and next thing she knew she was back in the Chantry with a farm full of slaughtered innocents in her wake.

Okay, time for old Sam to put his thinking cap on. This chain we’re after was supposed to be binding a rage demon, right? The sort that, I don’t know, might possess a pissed-off elf scout with a bone to pick against human bigots? And then together, the two of them might start slaughtering random farmers and leaving the names of angry elf gods scrawled in blood on the walls, mightn’t they? I realize I’m jumping to conclusions, but it’s not hard for me to figure out a likely chain of events here. Speaking of chains, we’re still getting paid to get our hands on the damn thing, and now we’ve got even more reason to head out to those ruins; elf-girl wants us to save her band, and pretty much everyone agrees that rage-elf-demon-pants and his darkspawn will wipe out the town if we let them be. Looks like our trip is about to get a bit more exciting….

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Sam Holbig 5
Sam's Story

16th of Kingsway, 9:41 Dragon

You know, the thought occurs that, if anyone ever bothers to read this again (myself included), using people’s real names would probably be more useful than nicknaming everyone with snarky placeholders.

Our merry band of adventurers left town before first light, in order to avoid running into Colon the unfortunately-yet-accurately named blacksmith and whatever gaggle of racist halfwits he’d managed to drum up. Elf-girl wolf-bait — whose name is Eshara, apparently — came with us to the edge of the woods, and left us with instructions to find her caravel that I was reasonably certain our two Dalish — that’s Alalen the fighter and Enna the kidney-thief, for those keeping score — would be able to follow. We parted ways, and our group started pushing into the forest while Eshara went back to hide under the Chantry healer’s petticoats. (No, I don’t remember the Chantry healer’s name. Sorry, posterity.)

We had been walking for about five minutes when who should appear from behind the trees but Colon and the aforementioned gaggle of racist halfwits. I vaguely remember something about him saying it would be best if we left town, and us pointing out that we’d already left town, but I may be imagining that. Anyway, the gaggle of halfwits decided to get rowdy, and we had to defend ourselves. Alalen, Legnar (the dwarf who talks too much) and I were prepared to give the lot of them a quick swat on the arse and send them home, but apparently Enna decided she’d had enough of this horseshit and put an arrow through Colon’s brain. The two mages (Emery the human pyromancer and Daryel the elf healer) also defended themselves with lethal force because, as they spent the next hour explaining to Legnar, you can’t pull punches with magic. And in hindsight, I can’t say I blame any of them; Colon and his band of idiots had obviously been waiting for us, which means they had obviously left at least an hour or two before we did, which means he and his motley crew had gathered together and snuck out of town in the middle of the night without our watchmen realizing it. That implies a greater level of malicious forethought (and competence, to be fair) than I’d ascribed to them previously. Still, it’s bad luck that the town’s now without a blacksmith; I may have to see if we can do something about that once all this rage-demon business is concluded.

We walked for a bit longer through the woods, and eventually the Dalish managed to track down what remained of the caravel. It was a right mess, with obvious signs of combat and struggle, but no bodies. Curiously, the only footprints we saw belonged to elves — none to whatever else might have taken them. Sam’s Thinking Cap says there’s three possible reasons for that: one, something came back and painstakingly erased the darkspawns’ footprints while leaving the elves’ intact; two, the elves were taken by something that could float or fly; or three, the elves were taken by other elves. My money’s on the last one, as no creature on Thedas is quite that dumb, and Eshara didn’t say anything about flying darkspawn, but she did mention that the search parties her clan sent out for Grumbleelf McRagepants (whose actual name escapes me — again, sorry, posterity) both disappeared prior to the attack on the caravel.

We spent the rest of the day following the tracks of the elven prisoners, which, surprise surprise, were headed for the ruins. Eventually night fell and we made camp. These cackling jackal-man darkspawn attacked us during the night, but we beat them down without too much trouble. I think Enna climbed a tree to get away from one, and kept shooting it out of the tree as it climbed after her. Clearly these were not the brightest of Thedas’s creatures; who knows, maybe they did think erasing their tracks while leaving the elves’ was a good idea.

Tired. Sleep now. More later.

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Sam Holbig 6
Sam's Story

30th of Kingsway, 9:41 Dragon

Our path to the ruins was taking us deeper into the forest when we damn near fell over the edge of a 100-foot deep crevasse with a raging river at the bottom of it. Do those normally show up in forests? The only way across was by a fallen tree that conveniently served as a bridge. Of course, those of us who weren’t elves weren’t looking forward to making that trip, and as we were weighing our options, somebody did something to startle a whole bunch of crows out of the nearby trees. These crows started circling ominously over the tree-bridge, and most of us, having experienced enough of this kind of horse crap in our lives to tell what was coming next, were seriously considering killing the whole damn flock and getting things over and done with before trying to make the crossing. Only Legnar Talks-Too-Much suggested that perhaps we should just try to cross; he reasoned that, if we didn’t attack the crows, there was a chance they wouldn’t attack us, but if we tried to kill them they’d definitely attack. (For a fellow who seems to have dealt with blighted creatures before, he doesn’t seem to have thought the logic of that through terribly well, in my opinion….)

Well, the rest of us weren’t having that, so the elves and the mages started blasting crows out of the sky. They started swarming, naturally, and Legnar decided to keep the crows distracted by running across the tree-bridge at a dead sprint, making all kinds of noise and ruckus in the process. Talky little man’s got some serious balls, I’ll give him that. Our ranged fighters gave him some cover while the rest of us made our way across, albeit with much more care and much less speed; my bear-hug-and-shimmy method was probably the least dignified way of getting over the bridge, if I’m being honest. Eventually we all made it across without too many of us taking beaks in the back, though I think Daryel might be having nightmares about birds and bridges for a while yet.

More forest, more walking, and eventually we found ourselves in a narrow valley leading straight to the mouth of the ruins. (I’m still not entirely convinced this terrain is natural, and Alalen backs me up on that.) We made our way down the first set of stairs, and found an antechamber with some decidedly half-arsed defenses: a rusty old blade trap with a tripwire so obvious even I managed to see it, and a trio of decrepit old skeletons. I managed to take down one of the bonewalkers, and Emery managed to trigger the trap in such a way that the swinging blade took out the other two. (He claims this was intentional. I’m not so sure, myself.) The antechamber led to a hallway, which led to some dungeon cells, which held about a dozen beaten-up Dalish prisoners — the remnants of Eshara’s caravel. Apparently Mr. Got-Possessed-By-A-Demon — Harralan, that’s the bastard’s name! — had already turned the others into darkspawn and was on his way back to take out his frustrations on the village. Most of the Dalish were in too bad a way to do much, but one of their scouts agreed to take us back by another path, which will hopefully shave enough time off the trip that we’ll make it back before Harralan destroys everything.

… Hmm. If there’s another, quicker path, I wonder if Eshara knew about it? And if she did, I wonder why she didn’t bother to tell us? Might have to be having words with her about that, if we make it through this.

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Sam Holbig 7
Sam's Story

28th of Harvestmere, 9:41 Dragon

With the Dalish scout guiding us, we made good time through the forest heading back to the village. Vintiver, that’s what it’s called! Maker above, not even forty yet and I’m going senile already. Anyway, there was a small encounter with a large spider, but we made short work of it and soon found ourselves back in the village.

Obviously, having had several hours’ head start, Harralan and his elves-turned-darkspawn had managed to beat us to Vintiver, but the townsfolk were doing… not too badly, to be honest. A decent number of them at least knew to stick the bad guy with the sharp bit, which is more than I can say for the folk in the separatist village when they were first starting out. (I learned later that Tyriel decided to call that place something like “Aneth Ara,” which is apparently elvish for “my safe place.” Seems as good a name as any to me.) The town’s sheriff, Tauril Dale, was also holding his own quite well, and who should we see when we arrive but our old friends — the dwarf, the Tal-Vashoth, the tree-shaped elf, the human mage, and their two buddies — squaring off against Demon-Harralan himself. Between them all they were doing a fine job of keeping most of the townfolk alive, though the town itself was in a bad way and getting worse. And then as soon as we run up, Harralan lets out this nasty wave of fire that knocks everyone fighting him on their arses, showing us all that he means business.

Well, that seemed a good a cue as any, so Alalen, Legnar and myself charged into the fray while Enna and Daryel held back and peppered the demon with arrows and magic. (Emery cast his firey weapons spell on us, but I think he must have gotten distracted or something, because I’m fairly certain I didn’t see any flame blasts hit Harralan after that.) The demon put up a decent fight, and let out another one of those fire-waves at one point, but that didn’t stop us from literally beating the hell out of him. Ultimately our attacks must have proven too much for the demon to bear, because it shot out of Harralan’s body like a bolt, leaving nothing but a dead, naked elf on the ground with my spear buried in his junk. (Which can’t have been either of our finest moments, let me tell you.) It must have been the demon’s magic that was keeping the others as darkspawn, because when it fled, they all turned back into confused-looking elves.

So the town was saved… in a manner of speaking. The townsfolk were mostly fine, but Vintiver itself was wrecked beyond saving — and it figures that I’d finally remember the damn place’s name just in time for it to disappear from the map! There was little point in any of them staying, and Alalen managed to convince Tauril that he and his folk could do worse than pulling up roots and starting over at Aneth Ara. We spent the rest of the day salvaging what could be salvaged and honoring the dead, and the rest of the night celebrating being alive. I confess I had a bit too much ale for my own good; I vaguely remember challenging the Tal-Vashoth to a street fight and getting turned down, and I’m pretty sure Enna tried to steal one of my kidneys while we were both too deep in our cups. (I gave her a quick jab in the backside with my spear the next morning, so we’re all squared away.) The Dalish we’d left behind on our dash to Vintiver also arrived in the night to pick up their living and their dead, and we convinced them to travel with us a while until we hit Aneth Ara.

The trip back was mostly uneventful. We swung by Denerim, picked up a Grey Wardens representative so we could be damn sure they knew where this chain was going, and I hear our elven party members took the caravel’s lorekeeper to take a look at the quarantined alienages. We got back to Aneth Ara by means of a summoned rock bridge — a fancy trick that, not going to lie — and left the folk formerly of Vintiver to get settled while we tracked down Azrael. Wouldn’t you know it, the bastard’s not here! We’ll have to wait for him to get back from some manner of Circle business before we can properly get paid and get on with this amulet business. (I chatted a while with the Grey Warden during the trip, and apparently this whole scheme has some basis in actual practice and isn’t as trousers-on-head as I’d originally feared, so that’s a comfort at least.) Still, it feels good to have this trek finished and behind us, and I admit I’m actually looking forward to seeing where that crazy wizard sends us next.

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Sam Holbig 8
Sam's Story

11th of Firstfall, 9:41 Dragon

Well, it took him long enough, but Azrael eventually got his pointy magic backside back to Aneth Ara and gave us some silver for our troubles. He was less than thrilled that the demon was no longer inhabiting its chain — apparently having it around would have made the magic more potent — but considering the non-existent security surrounding the thing it’s a damn miracle it was even still there to begin with. Our next stop is the Korcarri Wilds, where apparently some kind of rare moss is growing this time of year, and then we’ll be heading to Orlais to get… something… or other… Azrael was a bit non-specific on that part, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out when we reach that point.

After a brief stop in Denerim to pick up some supplies (and to acquire a new asset for the town — apparently the Denerim blacksmith’s apprentice has finished his training, and Aneth Ara could certainly use a new one of those!), we made our way southwest to the town of Lothering. We had only intended this to be another rest stop on our way to the Wilds, but wouldn’t you know it, whenever people gather you tend to get folk who need to have jobs done and fools stabbed in exchange for money. Legnar mentioned something about a bandit camp in the vicinity of Ostagar, between us and the wilds, and Daryel said that there’s a Sister at the local Chantry who needs an escort back to Denerim when we head back over that way. As for Alalen and I, we learned that the children of the local Arl, Neruda, are coming into town from the north, and he wants us and his steward Alenka to go and fetch them. The Arl’s a right bastard to his elf house-servants, by the way. Between that and Legnar’s hang-ups about nobles, I suspect there’s going to be some trouble with the man before we make it out of town; I’m just hoping we have coin in our pocket before everything goes to pot. And there’s something queer about that Alenka woman: apparently she “accidentally” dropped a gold coin while she was leading us to the Arl, and I have a feeling she was waiting to see what we did with it. (Alalen gave it back, upstanding sort that he is.)

Well, we’re heading out to meet Alenka again in about an hour so I’d best quit futzing about with this journal and get my crap together. More later.

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Sam Holbig 9
Sam's Story

25th of Firstfall, 9:41 Dragon

Well, this has been an exciting trip so far. We met Alenka and started making our way north, but were barely out of sight of Lothering when we heard an almighty “BANG” come from somewhere up ahead of us. We arrived just in time to see a great big Tal-Vashoth setting fire to some darkspawn with her magic. (She says she’s a “she,” at any rate. Me, I almost have to take her word for it. And yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that’s TWO Tal-Vashoth and no actual bloody Qunari as of yet, not that I’m complaining.) The Tal-Vashoth introduced herself as Tracii, and mentioned something about looking for a library or somesuch out here. Naturally, we offered her a place in the party, since Emery seems to have gotten bored and wandered off more-or-less permanently at this point.

With that bit of excitement out of the way, we started making our way north again, only to get stopped by ANOTHER BLOODY CHASM. For Maker’s sake, where do all these damn things come from? And why don’t they label them on the fucking map, it’s not like they spring up overnight! (Then again, maybe the mapmakers just got sick of drawing holes in the ground all over the damn place!) This particular bloody chasm had a bridge over it once, but that’s gone now for whatever reason, because of course it is. Also, a pack of darkspawn — genlocks, I think they’re called? — tried to ambush us and collectively push us into the chasm while we were trying to figure out how to get across. I think Tracii might have gone over once, and a couple of the others came close, but mostly we just stabbed the annoying bastards until they ran away or stopped twitching.

Eventually we hit upon the brilliant idea of stringing a couple of ropes across the chasm via archery and gymnastics, and using that as a bridge to get across. The others, being some combination of lightly-equipped and nimble, made it across with no trouble. I am… neither of those things, shall we say, so there was a lot of bumping and cursing and a bit of falling down a cliff face on my part before I made it to the other side. Not my finest moment, to be sure, but at least I got there in the end. (In hindsight, I should have tied one of those ropes around myself, both for support and so that we’d have it with us for the next leg of the journey. Oh well, that’ll be a lesson for the next time we inevitably encounter another fucking chasm we have to get across.)

We were all pretty worn out by this point, so Alenka suggested we set up camp. She and I stood guard while Alalen and Legnar went to go find food, and Daryel and Tracii did… magic… things. (I don’t even remember at this point what Enna was up to. Maybe she helped with the hunting? Or went off to find more kidneys?) While we were on watch, Alenka suggested that perhaps the good Arl isn’t being as generous as he could be with his money, and that by setting up a fake “ransom” for his kids we could rack up a bit more coin from this errand he has us running. Well, I’m no fan of the man, but breaking a contract with an employer is a sure-fire way to stop getting contracts in the future, and I told Alenka I was having none of that. I couldn’t tell whether she was unhappy about that or not; maybe this was another of her tests? I hear she made the same offer to everyone else in the group, and from what I can gather no one took her up on it, which I’m perfectly fine with.

Also, Alalen and Legnar mentioned something about finding a one-horned deer in a magic sylvan glen. They may be on drugs. I’ll worry about that later.

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