It’s early afternoon when Valeria, Revas, and Sargis return to the Wanderer. They can immediately tell something is not quite right. The door is hanging ajar, the upper hinge almost ripped off the doorway, forcing the door into a rather odd angle. From inside they can hear whispers and some kind of panting.
Outside, the streets are eerily quiet, and no one seems to be around. In the distance they can hear battle cries and the sounds of combat.
Valeria takes off the shield she is carrying and slams it into Sargis. “Here you go.”
Her forceful movement almost knocks Sargis off his feet, but he follows Valeria inside after simply dropping his old shield onto the ground. “Either there’s an orgy going on, or something bad is happening,” he says.
Inside, it looks like someone or something has been in here, some chairs are pushed over, and several smaller items have fallen from tables.
The elf Valeria clashed with a few days back is lying in the main room of the inn. He’s bleeding profusely from a stab wound to his stomach, and is barely awake.
Pushed into the corner of the room is a body. It’s one of the creatures the three of them just fought earlier.
Bent over the elf is someone they don’t know. It’s a middle-aged woman, who has the looks of a mage. She’s wearing dark red robes and next to her lies a staff. She’s focused on trying to help the heavily panting elf, whispering to him to make him relax.
When she hears the heroes come in, she’s about to go for her staff. But it looks like she changes her mind and simply freezes mid-motion, frightened.
The elf, barely awake, tries to get her attention, saying that she shouldn’t worry, they’re fine.
Valeria immediately asks: “What happened?”
The elf lifts his head slightly, indicating for the mage to reply.
“I saw this inn, I think it is, being attacked by that creature.” She points at the genlock in the corner. “And… what did you say her name was?”
“Arna,” the elf supplies.
“Right. Apparently there was something going on, because this woman—Arna you said she was called—she came in here saying something had happened and some kid got into a situation or something and she asked for help. And well, I was on my way out, so I didn’t… help. I didn’t think it was that serious! But then, well, she went away with two warrior women, and they haven’t returned.” She motions around. "The situation is quite dire, I don’t know where you’ve been, but after they left, some of these creatures have shown up in the streets. I managed to take out the one that came in here, but I’m not really a fighter.
Valeria asks a few more questions, and the group find out that Arna said something happened in the stables.
Sargis suggests that the mage stay inside the building where it’s relatively safe. While speaking to her and asking whether she can spare some healing for him, he goes up to the bar, and stuffs a few bottles of wine into his backpack. He calls out for Bert, but gets no reply.
When he turns back to the mage, she focuses the golden-yellow light of her staff on him, and Sargis can feel a warmth come over him as several of the deep cuts on his body are slowly closing.
The mage, who introduces herself as Gale, then tries another two times to fix Sargis up, and actually manages to patch him up enough so that he looks better and less covered in blood.
The group realize she’s one of the nervous sort, bookish, and would rather prefer to stay inside a library all day.
Valeria, who has already left for the stables, enters the building finds three horses standing in their boxes, all of them on high alert. The area immediately in front of her is filled with hay and riding utensils and other items. Behind it, a hallway leads to the back of the stables, five boxes for mounts on each side. From the back of the stables a weird sound can be heard. The sound is shrill and high, and quite disconcerting. A door to one of the boxes is open in the back, hanging into the hallway of the stables at an odd angle.
Valeria slowly makes her way to the back of the stables and stops at the open door in the back of the stables. There’s a rather large hole in the ground, like the ground simply gave out, or maybe was caused to give in.
When looking down, she finds that whatever had held this part of the stables up has fallen into what looks like a hallway or sewer, and some rubble and dirt from this level has crushed the horse that had been in this box. Its hind legs are firmly stuck under a large boulder, and the beast is crying in panic and pain.
As she’s inspecting this area, she hears Revas and Sargis enter, who immediately close the distance to check out what she’s looking at.
The rubble itself has created a sort of natural stairs, which should make it easy enough to traverse to the lower level.
Sargis immediately stumbles down the hole while muttering “Ugh, they went down this hole, didn’t they.” Once on solid ground, he slits the horse’s throat, and silence falls over the area once again.
Suddenly, Gale bursts into the stables. “Oh good, you’re still here! I thought you might need some heals wherever you go, and… I feel bad for not helping earlier.”
She comes to a halt in front of Revas and looks down. “What is this?”
“It’s a hole,” Revas says deadpan.
“That’s very explanatory. Thank you very much. I would never have figured that out if you hadn’t told me that this is a hole.”
_And I shall never speak again," Revas thinks.
Below them, Sargis is trying to determine where he is and what his surroundings are like. What little light comes in from the stables reveals a structure that seems to lead into the dark, like a tunnel or sewer.
Sargis and Valeria start discussing what to do, and Valeria does not seem pleased with the idea that she has to go underground. Before the discussion can escalate once they get to the issue of light, Gale summons a small wisp. It flies around her head and comes to hover over her shoulder, and it seems bright enough to light several yards, just like a lantern would.
“Can we keep this mage,” Sargis asks. “She’s nice!”
The three of them descend to the lower level, joining Sargis in the damp hallway.
“You killed the horse?!” Gale is shocked. “I could have saved the horse! If only I had been here sooner. We could have rode it into the tunnels…”
The group laughs.
The air down here is stale and tastes of mold and moss. It’s clear that this underground structure hasn’t had fresh air for years, maybe decades. The horse, crushed beneath the rubble, fills the entire area with it’s fearful cries, which echo back from the walls. Every sound that is made seems to echo through this place, and a dripping sound can be heard somewhere in the distance.
A slight howling wind courses through this area, flicking the group’s hair and carrying with it the stench of blood and piss.
“Are we doing this quietly or are we gonna call out,” Sargis asks the others. “I mean they could be waiting for us right around the corner.”
Valeria chooses to go quietly, and so Sargis takes the lead, cautious, and hidden behind his shield.
Gale seems a bit hesitant, and Sargis offers her some of his wine. “Drink some of this. It will make it all better.”
“What is that?” Gale looks at it suspiciously.
Sargis laughs. “Some courage.”
“Liquid courage?” Gale takes the wine and drinks a bit.
They pass through a slightly oval room with two deep holes, but don’t pay much attention to it. But when they get to what looks like an area where a fight has taken place, they look around some more.
Several bodies litter the ground. Plenty of slain spiders lie on the ground, each one of them larger than a big dog. Two of bodies seem human, and upon closer inspection, the group figure out that they are indeed from the Tevinter Battalion, wearing the color of the Archon: Deep, dark red. The Tevinter soldiers have spider bites on them, and some web still coats their bodies.
The third humanoid figure looks familiar. It wears heavy armor put together from different sets and shaped to fit its contorted body. Of the monsters the group has seen, this seems like the larger one that commanded the others. One difference they can spot, however, is what looks like a red gem set into the creature’s forehead.
They find this creature covered in stab wounds, and it seems like a cut to the neck was the cause of death. Gale determines that the humans and creature have been dead for at least a few hours, but not longer than half a day.
Curious about what is nearby, Gale enters a room to the west. The room is empty except for some rubble in the back. It reeks of piss and excrement. She exits and enters the one closer to where they came in.
This small room seems to be a makeshift armory of some sort. Two oddly shaped shelves hold several different weapons of inferior quality. Several of them seem rusty and like they’re about to fall apart. It turns out that the weapons have all been doused in some kind of liquid. It’s red, and so Gale decides to inspect it further. She looks and smells it, and it does smell and look like blood, but there’s a foul smell coming off it as well.
She compares the smell to the blood of the creature that is lying dead on the floor of this room. Seems like the blood is exactly the same.
While she inspects the creature, she also notices that the creature has a dull red gem set into its forehead.
“Why is she smelling the weapons,” Sargis whispers to Revas.
“You wanted a new mage, and this is what we get,” Valeria grumbles.
Gale walks up to the others, standing up straight and resuming a lecturing posture. She starts explaining what these creatures are. She’s heard of them before.
Short monsters with green-grey skin and teeth that seem to grow right out of the skin as they have no gums. They wear armor and walk on two feet, and the armor is horribly mismatched. Their eyes seem empty, and they make weird guttural sounds. They have holes where their noses should be, and bring a foul stench with them.
She admits to never having seen one in person, but from what she’s learned, they are all over Tevinter. Like a plague they infest the land, killing and destroying whatever they come upon. Even going so far as to besiege entire cities.
They come from somewhere underground, and often come in huge hoards. Though small parties are also not uncommon.
“Judging by their size, these ones are called genlocks,” Gale finishes. “Am I useful enough yet?!”
Sargis compliments her and asks whether she knows if abducting people is normal behaviour for these things. And whether they eat children.
Gale tells him and the others that she’s never heard of either of those things happening.
Sargis and Valeria squabble for a moment, because Valeria seems determined to leave this place, unconvinced that Drynne is anywhere down here. Before she leaves, however, she looks around for tracks. She finds footprints, and most interestingly, she finds tiny, child-like ones leading east.
Inspecting the direction the footprints are pointing to, they realize that some kind of collapse has taken place here. The ceiling is sunk in, and a large boulder hangs down from up top, leaving only a small slit open beneath it where a person could crawl through. Ripped out and disturbed moss indicate that someone crawled through already.
It’s approximately two feet high, and rubble and tools indicate that the beasts most likely tried to widen this slit by hacking away at the massive boulder.
Valeria is sure that they can’t crawl through, whereas Sargis immediately drops to the floor to at least check what he can see on the other side. He doesn’t see much, but it seems like there’s a pathway there after about two yards.
In the meantime, Gale goes back to the rooms they didn’t look at, stopping in the one closest to the others, not daring to go further away on her own.
The small room seems fairly empty. Only a bedroll lies in the back, partially hidden by a low platform. Several small items lie on the platform, most of them not very useful. A whetstone and tinderbox lie there, as well as a set of three dice which seem to be made out of bones. The tinderbox looks stolen, a small engraving of a forest covering the lid. Under what is a rather disgusting blanket, a torch sticks out.
Gale takes the tinderbox and gives it to Revas so the group has light, just in case anything happens to her.
Revas puts it away and bends down, crawling through the small opening with ease. On the other side there’s only very little light coming through the slit behind him, but he can spot walls and a path leading south.
He notices a quiet chitter and looks up. Bats line the ceiling, some of them fluttering past his head. In the distance, he can hear slowly running water.
Sargis follows on through, coming to a halt right next to Revas. He looks around, but he can’t spot anything out of the ordinary.
He thinks back on when they first met Gale earlier. “So when you said Arna left with two warrior ladies… did you mean two warriors as in two humans or a human and a qunari?”
“One of them was a qunari, yes.” Gale says, crawling through the slit, confused as to why it matters. I really wish I had learned Shape Earth. This is tedious, she thinks.
Valeria finally crawls through, forcing herself into the small space, thinking of Drynne.
The group looks around. Bodies litter this area. They wear the same armor as the bodies the group came upon further down the hall, making them also soldiers of the Tevinter Battalion. In their middle lies a massive piece of wood, one end covered in blood. None of them seem alive, but a low wheezing can be heard from somewhere nearby. In the distance, the group can hear running water.
Valeria looks at the ground where cobblestone meets earth, and finds plenty of footprints in a confusing pattern. Certainly from the fight that took place here.
The group goes and inspects a room nearby, just east of them. More bedrolls fill this place, and leaning on a platform in the corner are several iron weapons and a shovel.
Gale walks through a small hallway into another rectangular room. Several bedrolls fill this area, and one of them is oddly shaped, bulging upwards like something is hidden underneath.
I’m gonna regret this, she thinks as she rips the blanket away.
Underneath, she finds a genlock, staring up at her with huge eyes. It’s wearing mage robes on top of armor, and it’s an ill fit. The gem in its forehead is of a bright red.
Sargis is the first to react, and he lunges at the creature, his longsword piercing into its skin, ripping it off with a vicious swing of his sword. The creature already doesn’t look too great, as it hunches over in pain.
Just then, Valeria steps over a bedroll and attacks the genlock with her maul, swinging it at the creature’s head. Her massive swing slams the genlock’s skull against the wall, sending pieces of brain and blood flying.
Valeria decides to look around. A broken staff lies nearby, laid out like some kind of trophy. The creature itself wears a heavy golden necklace around its neck, and a healing and lyrium potion poke out from under the blanket.
Valeria hands the healing potion to Sargis, and the lyrium potion to gale, trying to help a mage out.
Gale looks at it, and then says that the behaviour of this creature is pretty odd. She also doesn’t remember anyone telling her about them having gems in their foreheads. She examines the gem from up close, and Sargis hands her his dagger unprompted. Gale thanks him and wedges the tip of the dagger into a small crevice between the blueish-grey skin and the gem. It comes out relatively easy.
Underneath, she finds that the gem penetrated the skull. There’s a small indentation as well as a small hole that leads to the brain.
“I wish I had the time and utensils to research this.” Gale sighs.
Sargis is less concerned with the genlock’s gem, and moves over to take its golden necklace off. Loot!
They exit this set of rooms, and Gale again reminds them that there’s a shovel nearby, so if they need one…
She looks over at the Sargis. “By the way. You’re looking less than ideal. Want me to fix you up?”
“I’m fine for now, save it for later. If we don’t find the boy soon, things could get worse. And they might need it more than I do.”
“I assure you, I’m perfectly capable of healing you and then others.” She gives him a once-over. “You’re not scared of magic, are you?”
“No, just the mages. I’m not scared, but all mages are crazy, you know?” Sargis smiles, like he’s simply stating a fact like “fire is warm”.
Gale squints at him. “Oh, really?” Her voice is dripping with sarcasm.
He laughs. “Yes, Miss-I-sniff-the-weapons.”
“Well. Learning more is always important.” She turns away and leaves the room, entering a smaller one just opposite the hallway. The room is empty bar the two bedrolls flung carelessly into the small space.
Just north of the room, they find a metal door, which doesn’t seem to have a lock or any other way to open it. They puzzle over this for a few moments, and Sargis listens at the door, trying to tell whether something is behind it.
He can’t make anything out, Gale’s breathing down his neck, and Valeria nearby is muttering to herself. Sargis shrugs and gently pushes what he thinks is a door.
Laughter breaks out behind him. “It’s a metal door and you’re gently pushing it?” Gale laughs louder.
Sargis looks her straight in the eye and kicks the door. Hard. He stubs his toe and curses. “Happy now?!”
While the others are still transfixed by the weird metal door, Valeria slowly makes her way south. Sargis looks back and forth for a moment, before he follows. “I guess it’s barred or locked in some kind of weird way. Better to go south.”
Valeria nods, and then says, out of the blue. “Oh, and Sargis, let’s try and not push any buttons, please?”
“If I remember correctly, that worked out really well last time.”
“We thought we were going to be killed, yes.”
“We got some gems,” he laughs.
As the group goes further south, they start to hear something. It sounds like a crunching noise coming from the direction they’re going.
In the distance, lit by what seems to be a torch, is a massive creature. It is easily twice the height of a human, and its bestial, primitive face is crowned with heavy, curving horns. Set into its forehead is a bright red gem. It wears pieces of armor that don’t fit together or even the shape of its huge body. It clearly favors one foot, and one of its arms seems to hang at an odd angle. Blood seeps down from several cuts, and it is chewing on a bone as the heroes walk closer.
A gurgling sound comes from behind the creature, and it immediately shifts its attention from its bone to something nearby. A body is lying at its feet. A familiar figure, covered in blood.
One of her legs has been ripped off, and the group quickly make the connection and realize that’s what the massive monster is chewing on.
“She has the worst luck,” Sargis whispers.
With a weak voice, Sigune rasps: “Run…”
The huge monster whips around surprisingly fast and with a vicious snarl brings its foot crushing down into Sigune. A crunching sound can be heard. Then… silence.
“NOOOO!” Gal shouts.
The ogre attacks.
Sargis immediately goes in for the leg, slashing at the thick, unhealthy looking hide. He sends blood flying into the darkness just beyond.
The massive hunched over ogre slams its massive fist into Sargis, which would have crushed him if not for his shield and speed. He manages to let most of the blow glance off, but even so, the punch almost sends him flying.
Gale, securely behind him, casts Heroic Offense on him, urging him to kill the beast.
Behind her, Revas rushes towards them, sending an arrow flying into the beast’s leg, piercing its armor. Valeria follows it up by smashing her maul into the massive leg in front of her.
The ogre and the group keep trading blows, and early on the monster manages to land a massive blow on Valeria, crushing her body between its hands so hard she barely manages to keep upright.
Staying in the background, Gale keeps supporting the other three with her creation spells. Valeria’s injuries are healed with a Rejuvenate, and soon thereafter she boosts the Avvar’s confidence with a Heroic Offense.
Revas sends an arrow right into the ogre’s forehead. It scrapes over skin and bone, and the deep gash just where human eyebrows would be cause blood to seep into its eyes.
Trying to use the distraction to her advantage, Valeria swings her maul at the beast, but a gigantic grey-green hand slaps her maul aside easily, rendering her attacks useless.
“Hey, ugly, don’t you fight other people while I’m talking to you,” Sargis calls out, swinging at the massive bloody pulp of a leg in front of him. “Eyes front, ugly!”
Valeria now starts getting more and more anxious to find her son. Her thoughts seem to be occupying her mind to an extent that distracts her enough to miss several opportunities to injure the ogre. She becomes increasingly frustrated, even though Gale tries to comfort her.
Sargis’ hacking at the leg finally shows results. The ogre falls to its knees, immediately taking out its anger at Sargis, who is right in front of him. Sargis, despite trying his best, crumbles under the brute force of a lethal blow. He feels weak, and closer to death than he would like.
(2HP will do that to you…)
Gale of course is immediately there, enveloping Sargis in the golden-yellow light of her Heal spell.
He smiles. “She’s much better than the other mage. She seems nice, she heals. She doesn’t make snarky remarks…”
Before Sargis can be crushed again, however, Revas tries to take the ogre out by sending an arrow at the gem. His arrow visibly loosens the gem, scraping over the massive skull of the ogre as it continues its path.
Valeria swings her maul at the ogre, trying to hit the gem now that its head is further down. But the creature is prepared, and her swing goes wide, sending her maul flying off into the darkness. A loud splash can be heard in the distance, where her maul ends up in water.
Winking at Valeria, Sargis whacks at the ogre again, cutting a piece of flesh out of its thigh.
He thinks about pulling back for a moment, to get out of the ogre’s reach, but then decides against it. That would open up the path for the squishies, so… I’m gonna stay and hopefully not die.
The ogre roars loudly, ignoring Sargis, who is hiding behind his massive Shield of the Lion. Helped by the force of its bulging muscles, the ogre slams its flat hand against Valeria’s chest, sending her back several yards.
Valeria does her best to retaliate, but instead sends yet another weapon flying. But at least not far.
Just behind the creature, Sargis is determined to take it down, but miscalculates his swings and ends up stumbling over his own feet, falling to his butt. This frees up the path for the ogre to attack Gale. It grabs for her with its giant paws, crushing her in a deadly embrace.
Despite being a bookworm who prefers to stay out of situations such as this one, she manages to wiggle out of its grasp, whacking it with her staff as she does.
Valeria picks up her weapon and gets ready to kill this thing so she can go and find her son.
Sargis gives Valeria a disappointed look while attacking the beast. “Why are you throwing around weapons like an angry child?” He grins.
“I gave you a shield,” she says warningly. “I think we should bury you with it later.”
Eventually, the group defeats the ogre. Together, they manage to take it down, and Sargis delivers the killing blow, sinking his sword deep into its chest before retreating back behind his shield.
For a moment, nothing happens.
“Is it done? Is it dead?” Sargis asks.
When he looks up, the gem on its forehead finally stops flickering and stays dull. Dead, the ogre goes limp, and its upper body comes falling towards Sargis shockingly fast. He lunges out of the way, escaping the massive head by an inch.
The gem is flung out of its head and bounces a few feet before it comes to a halt. Sargis immediately picks it up and tosses it into the dark. A splash can be heard in the distance.
Gale doesn’t seem amused. “Why did you throw that away? We could have researched it later!”
With the ogre dead, Valeria’s main concern is finding her weapon, and she marches off into the dark, motioning for Gale to follow her.
Sargis plops down on the floor and takes a big swig from one of his bottles. Well deserved.
Gale casts Heal on herself, fixing up those few bumps and bruises she received, and then she follows Valeria. They come to a halt at a broken bridge. It’s not high up, just about two yards. Valeria hops down into the water and finds that it just barely goes above her knees. It is slow-flowing and reeks of mold, moss, and excrement. She finds her weapon and returns to the others by climbing up the side near the bridge.
Once again on solid ground, Valeria stomps over to the ogre’s corpse and starts hacking away at it for the next few minutes.
“Research opportunity ruined,” Gale mutters to herself, looking at that pointless display of rage.
In the meantime, Revas is the only one looking at Sigune. For a moment he’s hopeful. Maybe she’s not dead? But after a quick examination, it’s clear that Sigune won’t come back. One of her legs has been ripped off at the knee, and her entire body is covered in stab wounds. But the most noticeable wound is on her abdomen, where her guts slipped out and now shine bright red in the dull light of the torch.
Revas chews his lip and looks at her more closely, trying to find something—anything—on her body that would make sense taking. He fails miserably, as the loud whacking and muttering behind him is quite distracting. He sighs and gently closes Sigune’s eyes before he steps away.
Behind him, Valeria seems to be done with her anger issues and steps up to examine Sigune herself. In her outstretched hand Valeria finds a small pendant, just about the size of a gold coin. It is made of silver; a square with lines running through it.
Both Valeria and Gale recognize it as a symbol of the Qun. For now, Valeria holds onto it.
In the meantime, Revas collects his arrows, but only finds two of them that are still of any use. And Sargis, still sitting on the floor, takes a bigger swig from his bottle.
After a short discussion, the group decides to push further. Valeria leads the way.
Gale, seeing herself as a human torch, what with her tiny wisp, says: “I’m gonna try to follow you. And not end up on top of you.”
“Yes, I know it’s difficult.”
The group collectively snorts and laughs.
At the edge of the water, they come upon a pool of blood. Someone clearly was bleeding profusely. The blood is seeping down into the slowly moving waters of the stream here in the sewers.
The four of them follow the water, and find a place where footprints and drag marks lead out of the small stream. They climb up onto the rocky elevation and find themselves in front of a doorway.
Quietly walking down a narrow hallway, they come upon a small room with two bedrolls. It seems empty otherwise.
Just when they turn a corner to go further south, they notice a figure moving just at the edge of the light.
A fight breaks out, during which the genlock immediately calls for backup using a hunting horn. It doesn’t take long for more of his kind to arrive, but the heroes make quick work of them. Valeria beheads three of the genlocks, sending their heads flying.
During the battle, familiar voices call out to Valeria and the others. Arna is nearby, sitting in a cell behind the metal door. She holds onto the cold material while watching the group take care of the genlock with utter efficiency.
Drynne also chimes in, but soon finds that Valeria doesn’t reply. “You deserve better than me,” she mutters too quietly for him to hear.
Then the group proceeds to look around, ignoring Drynne and Arna for the time being. Instead, they go to a cell nearby, which is occupied by a slim, middle-aged man. Brown hair just falling to his shoulders, a beard gracing his chin, he gives them a slight and somewhat creepy smile. None of the group have seen him before.
“Shall we leave him, everyone?” Valeria immediately asks.
“Get me out,” he says gruffly. “I can help.”
“Oh really?” Valeria clearly doesn’t believe a word he is saying. “How?”
“I hunt darkspawn.”
Valeria turns to the others. “You wanna confirm that? Figure out whether he’s lying or not?”
“If you hunt darkspawn, then you must know. Tell us a bit,” Gale steps up.
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything you know. It’s the only way to figure out whether you’re saying who you say you are.”
“Well, the ones you just fought are minor inconveniences. Genlocks, the Tevinter call them. Once you get to hurlocks, now those are a bigger problem. And then there’s ogres.” He pauses and looks at them, all bloody and beat up. “Maybe you’ve seen it? It’s a massive creature. Huge horns.”
“Yeah, we killed it,” Gale says.
He crosses his arms. “You did? I’m surprised. Small group of what, four people? Sounds unlikely.”
Gale isn’t amused. “Well, I could tell you to go and see, but seeing as you’re in a cage right now, I doubt you can.”
“Well. I don’t want to shit on your parade, of course. Maybe you were lucky. Maybe you hit a weak spot. I just don’t think it’s likely. I’ve seen what they can do. They can take out entire city walls without breaking into a sweat.”
“Well, that’s the good thing about mages. We know how to kill people,” Gale grins.
The man leans against the gate. “Indeed, I can see that. So how about you let me out now?”
In the background, Valeria mutters: “I see a lot of harm.”
Gale looks around. “What’s he gonna do? Partner with the darkspawn?” She gestures at the dead genlocks.
“He sounds like an asshole. I don’t like assholes,” Sargis pipes in.
Valeria slowly turns towards him, but says nothing.
“Let him out,” a voice rings out. “And let me out!”
Sargis looks around, trying to spot whoever called out. Since he can’t place the voice, he simply stumbles to the closest gate and calls: “Arna!”
“Sargis!” Arna replies, right next to him, but almost invisible in the dark, since Gale and her wisp are too far away.
Sargis steps closer. “Don’t panic, but the city might be under attack by monsters.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
“But we’re here to save you. And the boy. Is the boy still alive or have they eaten him already?”
“I’m heeeeere!” Drynne is nearby, his voice ringing out clearly and incredibly loud in the dark tunnel. “Val didn’t reply to me. I don’t think she loves me anymore.”
Val tries to explain her reasoning, but Drynne simply doesn’t understand.
In the meantime, Gale has decided to look for keys. “They must be on one of the genlocks, I assume?”
From the cell nearby, Blann the darkspawn hunter says: “At least one of you got a brain.”
“Oh, we want to let you out even more now,” Valeria mocks him.
“You don’t like me. I may not like you. But what’s to like? You don’t come across as very friendly. Your first instinct was to let me rot in this cell. Who’s the bad person here?” Blann rubs his hands and tries to get Valeria to look at him without much success.
Sargis, from down the hall, calls over: “You didn’t say please!”
While at the same time, Gale speaks up and says “Well he’s not wrong.”
Gale then walks away and collects the hunting horn from one of the genlocks, figuring that it might be useful in the future. She also searches it for keys, which she promptly finds. She starts looking for the key to open the cell which is occupied by two children. One of them has dark brown skin and is about ten years old. Blonde hair and cut off ears are revealed as the child steps into the light, and the others inform Gale that this is Drynne, the child Valeria adopted.
The other one is significantly older and looks about 15 years of age. She has light brown skin and brown hair, as well as dark, narrow eyes, halfway hidden under their lids. The girl comes across as confident, and doesn’t seem to be worried about her predicament at all.
Valeria is hurt when Drynne steps closer to the door and addresses everyone but her, but the child doesn’t seem to realize that.
Finally Gale find the right key and lets the two of them out. Drynne immediately starts jumping around, chanting “Arna, Arna, Arna, Arna, Arna…”
Trying to get Arna’s attention over all the noise, Sargis asks: “How come the monsters locked you up and didn’t kill you?”
“I don’t know. We were attacked.”
For the first time Sargis notices that all the prisoners are wounded, some more, some less, but no one is unharmed.
“Well, we stopped fighting back. And then they dragged us here,” Arna continues.
Sargis nods and looks around. “Where’s the other one? We found Sigune.”
“You’ve… oh.” Arna’s head drops. “She’s somewhere around here. I saw them drag her right past me.” She points west down the hallway. “There’s a lot more people here. There’s a priest, and this old guy…”
Once Gale opens the door, Arna steps out into the light. She doesn’t look too great.
Gale asks the young girl whether she knows Blann, since the girl earlier called for his release.
The girl narrows her eyes at Gale. “Why do you care?”
“Because…” Gale starts, but then interrupts herself. “No. You answer my question first.”
The young girl looks over at Blann in his cell, and he doesn’t move an inch. Despite that, it seems like the girl has taken this as a sign, and so she replies: “I’m his apprentice. We hunt darkspawn.”
Gale then asks whether either of them have anything to do with the gem she took from the genlock, and she presents it to both of them.
“No,” the girl says. “We’ve already noticed that. That’s not normal.”
When asked whether she or Blann are mages, the girl says that they are not.
Gale then explains to her that she suspected Blann might have had something to do with the gems and the weird behaviour of the darkspawn. She bases this on the fact that he didn’t believe her when she said they killed an ogre.
The girl looks her up and down. “Well. How many ogres have you fought, lady?”
Gale bites her lip. “Just one. But the darkspawn I took this from was hiding from us. It was smart enough to hide. I don’t think it should do that. I think a mage is doing something to them. Using them to fight.”
“We’ve already come to this conclusion.”
Gale throws her hands in the air. “And why didn’t you tell us this before?!”
“I mean I don’t tell anyone my business. And you are a suspicious lot. And that lady over there wouldn’t even want to let us out?!” The girl seems honestly upset.
“I have an idea,” Sargis speaks up. “Let’s all leave this place and go to a safer place to discuss this.”
Sargis and Gale both start talking over each other for a while, until the girl interrupts them.
“Listen, lady. The reason Blann didn’t believe you is because you’ve never fought an ogre. And we have fought several. We’ve traveled all over Tevinter, and seen all kinds of things. You four—” and she looks the group up and down “—defeating a regular, healthy ogre is basically impossible.”
“Well, it took us a while,” Gale admits. “But we did it.”
“And it was hurt before,” Revas quietly says.
Sargis looks at Valeria, and is about to say something, but then he shuts his mouth. She looks like a kicked puppy anyway, he thinks.
She of course glares at him and then holds out a hand. “Drink.”
He passes her a bottle, and is astonished by how fast she starts downing the wine.
After some silence, the young girl explains to Gale that Blann may look like an ass, and smell like an ass, but that he’s in fact a decent human being and she would appreciate if Gale would let him out of his cell.
Gale agrees to do that and lets him out. He thanks her with a bow and then starts looking around for weapons.
Together, the group look around for more people in cells.
They find one of the priests who frequent the Wanderer. The priest is clearly too scared to talk, he simply sits in the middle of the room, praying to Andoral, the God of Unity. He doesn’t pay any attention to the group’s rescue attempts.
Even when Gale opens the door he doesn’t react.
She inspects him real quick and comes to the conclusion that he’ll survive all those shallow cuts.
Back in the hallway with the others, Gale notices that Arna doesn’t look so good. Her skin looks unhealthy and her breathing seems a bit ragged. Small droplets of sweat run down her body, soaking into her dress, despite the relative cold in here.
Wanting to help, Gale casts a Heal spell on her, and Arna does look a little better afterwards. A bit of colour returns to her cheeks.
When Gale asks whether there are more people around, Drynne immediately grabs her by the hand and leads her down the damp hallway.
They come to a halt at a nearby cell. Calm and collected is the woman behind bars. She seems young, barely 20 years old. She quietly rests on a platform in her cell, keeping an eye on what is happening outside of it.
Drynne and Gale let her out, and she thanks them with a nod, staying close to them so as to stay in the light.
Dragging Gale to another cell, Drynne starts greeting the person inside. “Salem! Salem! Salem! Salem!” He only stops when Gale pulls him away.
Salem has seen better days. She’s sitting in the back of her cell, slumped against the wall, her arms resting on her propped up legs. Her entire body is covered in shallow cuts and bruises, and her armor is in pieces, most of them lying uselessly on the floor of her cell. Salem’s eyes are empty, and she doesn’t acknowledge the two of them when they speak to her.
Gale opens the door and addresses Salem. “Hello?”
She gets no reply. Not even a flinch.
Revas pushes Drynne aside and gently moves Gale out of the way as well.
Revas spots a small flicker in her eyes, but apart from that she’s not moving.
Gale decides to cast Heal on the hunched over qunari. Her golden-yellow light envelopes Salem’s muscular body and seeps into her skin, where it disappears after a few moments.
Bruises and cuts on her body disappear, and Salem lifts her head, looking straight ahead. But even though Revas is right in front of her, she seems to be looking through him.
After a moment, she looks down at her hand, and starts playing with something. Revas spots that it is a sharp stone, and watches as Salem brings that hand up to her cheek, where a particularly deep gash is currently closing up thanks to Gale’s Heal.
“What is wrong with her,” Gale asks loudly.
Revas’ eyes go wide and he looks at Gale meaningfully. “Mh-mmmh!” He then steps closer to Salem and puts his hand on her shoulder. “I’m so sorry. We found Sigune.” When she doesn’t shrug his hand away, he takes that as a victory.
Further down the hall, Valeria starts speaking in Alammari. “Are you alright?”
Arna looks up. She’s resting on the floor, leaning against the cold wall. “I’m gonna be fine,” she responds with a weak smile.
“Sorry that I couldn’t protect you,” Valeria says. “Do you think either one of you could forgive me for that?”
“It’s not your fault. It’s…” She sighs. “…coincidence. He was just feeding the horses and I had just gone outside to get water. He was inside, and then I heard a loud rumble. And Drynne was gone. I went to check and found the hole. But then one of these creatures started climbing up and I ran back to get someone. No one wanted to come, but then Salem agreed to help, and Sigune came along.”
Valeria nods. “Did you see what happened? With your father? Do you know where he might be?”
“He was in the kitchen when we left. Why? Did something happen to him? Did he die?”
“I’m not sure,” Valeria admits. “We were rushing after you.”
“Yeah, I rushed after Drynne. There were so many of them. Salem and Sigune held their own, but then this massive thing showed up.”
“It’s an ogre!” Blann supplies from nearby.
Arna continues, ignoring him. “It ripped Sigune’s leg off. And started eating it. And the smaller ones dragged us away.”
“We’ll do our best to get you out of here. Everyone in general, but for me you two in particular,” Valeria admits.
Arna gives her a slight smile. “Yeah… Everything’s going to be fine.”
Nodding, Valeria walks over towards the others, who are still with Salem. She enters the cell and holds up the small pendant. “We are going to make sure that we honour her. And her sacrifice.”
For the first time, Salem looks up at her. Dark circles are under her eyes, and she looks like she’s about to cry. She holds out her hand, still holding onto that sharp stone.
Valeria hands over the pendant and watches as Salem awkwardly swings it over her head and horns with her one hand.
Salem stuffs the necklace into the ripped shirt she is wearing and then, in a quick motion rips that sharp stone over her cheek again. “To honour her,” she mumbles before she tosses the stone away. She sighs heavily and then starts getting up. Barely audible, she whispers: “He reminded her of her son.”
Drynne turns to Sargis. “Where is Sigune?”
“Sigune didn’t make it.”
They have a short conversation about what it means to die, and when they are done, Drynne walks over to a dead genlock and starts inspecting it.
Nearby, Gale feels a tug on her robe and turns to find the priestess next to her. The young woman points further east, at another set of walls.
Sargis narrows his eyes at the priestess, deep in thought. “Why aren’t you speaking?”
She gives him a slightly shy, sad smile.
“Everyone deals with this shit the way they know how. If that is the way she chooses, it’s not up to you to judge her,” Gale reprimands him.
Valeria walks up to them and punches Sargis’ shoulder. “Sargis, no.”
The priestess gives Sargis another smile and an exaggerated shrug, with both her hands up in the air.
“You’re one of the Bann’s orphans, aren’t you,” he concludes.
“Anyone this way?” Gale asks, pointing north.
The woman shrugs, unsure.
“This way then,” Gale says, and stops dead in her tracks. “That guy looks scary.”
An older man well in his late 50s stands behind the bars of this gate, holding onto it with one hand. He’s of a massive build, all bulk and muscle. His face and arms show signs of many battles, and he greets the group with a grunt as they get closer.
Gale addresses him. “You good there?”
“I don’t appreciate humour.”
Irritated, Gale lets him out, and watches as he immediately walks up to the young priestess, conversing with her with his hands.
“Anyone else in a cage?!” Sargis yells.
Only Drynne replies. “That guy still isn’t moving!”
“The priest man!”
Sargis, slighly annoyed, goes into the cell and pulls the priest up by the collar. High-pitched shrieking is the result, and the priest halfheartedly tries to fight back, but gives in the moment he realizes that Sargis is not in fact darkspawn.
(That we know of.)
The large group decides to move and get out of this place, and Valeria holds out her hand to help Arna up, which she graciously accepts.
Just then, footsteps can be heard in the distance.
The group tries to determine where they are coming from, but Valeria is too distracted by Arna’s soft hand in hers, and Gale is still a bit frightened of the old warrior guy.
But Sargis and Revas can tell that the footsteps are coming from the east, and even that there are not just a few of them, but more like 20. Voices seem to be accompanying the footsteps, too.
Sargis of course can’t resist. “Ahoy there!”
Somewhere in the distance, a loud “HALT!” can be heard.
“We’re not moving,” Sargis grins.
Revas chuckles. “I… think that was meant for the other guys, Sargis.”
“Who are you?” Rings out the voice in the distance.
“I am Sargis, and we have saved some people from these monster cages!”
“We saved them!” Sargis’ chest swells in pride.
“That is…” and then the voice trails off, too quiet to be heard over this distance. But all of them can hear that the footsteps are coming closer again…