Part 102: Your Queen Is In This CastlePART 102: YOUR QUEEN IS IN THIS CASTLE
Our heroes have stealthily infiltrated the estate of the Arl of Denerim in order to rescue Queen Anora, who is being held against her will by the dastardly Arl Howe...
[As soon as we enter the mansion in our guard disguises, Erlina shows up again.]
Ah! It took me forever to be rid of those two!
You must be careful now. The servants, they will not look closely at anyone in uniform. All guards are alike to a cook, no? But you should not draw attention to yourself.
Most of the guards are new. They will not know you for a stranger at a glance. It is best you keep your distance from all of them and try to blend in.
Yeah, I'm sure Howe has lots of dwarven lady soldiers on his payroll.
She is in a guest room off the main hall.
Andraste guide us.
[We're now free to wander the mansion. If we can keep up the illusion we work here we'll get a nice XP bonus at the end, more than what we'd earn by killing everyone.
It's straightforward to maintain our cover: like Erlina implied, don't talk to or steal shit around the soldiers.]
I bloody love being evil.
It's bleedin' brilliant, innit mate.
[This is the same mansion that Leliana broke into all those
Just like back then, the place is full of murderous goons and stab-happy torturers. Plus ça change.]
I definitely want to steal this stripy boy.
You can't have him. He's my precious angel.
Is that the main door?
Sure is, rookie. Surprised you didn't know that.
I must have missed that part of the orientation.
How did you even get here?
We climbed in through the window, of course. To fight the criminal mind, you must understand the criminal mind, no?
Warden team, assemble!
The Grey Warden is here, my lady.
Thank the Maker! I would greet you properly, but I'm afraid we've had a setback.
Hurry up, we need to get out of here. Your door appears to be travelling back through time.
Yes, about that...
My "host" was not content with leaving me under heavy guard. He's sealed the door by magic.
Great, now what?
We must get her out of there!
Don't panic, Erlina.
Find the mage who cast the spell. He'll most likely be at Howe's side.
So much for secrecy.
Well, if he didn't know you were here, he soon will.
Fine, I'll be back soon.
Thank you, Warden. My prayers go with you.
Teyrn Howe will probably be in his rooms. They're at the end of the hall, on the left.
[The enemies still aren't on to us. Yet.]
(Giggles) In that case, come here...
[Yes, she is kneeling in front of him. Ooh la la. Anyway, this room is a trap. If you try to interrupt this guard's happy time, everyone in the building turns hostile. As well they should, you monster.]
[At the end of the corridor is this locked door. There's no key, you have to use lockpicking to get in and the skill check is pretty high. But the reward is juuuuust right.]
[There's about ten sovereigns in the cash piles, plus various gems and this impressive shield.]
[Opposite the treasure room is Howe's quarters, but no Howe.]
He just throws all his papers in a pile. This man is clearly evil.
Any clues, Alistair?
It's definitely some variety of gibberish. Perhaps even gobbledygook.
Howe must be hiding in the basement. I wonder if he's got a pool table down there.
I doubt it. The former Arl of Denerim had... unique tastes.
Oh, right. Chains, spikes and hot pokers.
All the ingredients of an excellent weekend.
What? Who goes there?
I thank you for creating such distraction, stranger. I have been waiting days for the opportunity.
Do you think you could--Alistair? Is that you?
Who...? Wait. I do know you. You were at my Joining.
He's one of us. A Warden from Orlais. Jader, I think. Or was it Montsimmard? I'm afraid I don't remember your name.
I'm Riordan, senior Warden of Jader, but born and bred in Highever and glad to be home.
Holy shit, am I glad to see you. Whoever you are. What are you doing here?
For the most part, attempting to hold my tongue.
I was sent when we received no word from King Cailan as to the outcome at Ostagar.
The king had invited all the Wardens of Orlais and their support troops to join him, then... nothing.
How large a force did you bring with you?
We had two hundred Wardens and two dozen divisions of cavalry. The first we heard of Loghains edict was when everyone was turned back at the border.
That was when the rumor reached us that Wardens were being blamed for the massacre.
We finally decided it was safest to send someone alone, to learn how best to fight the Blight and this regime simultaneously.
As a native Fereldan, I volunteered to make the crossing.
But the archdemon's nearly here! Will we have no help?
The other Wardens won't risk their strength fighting Fereldens civil war. If they spend themselves against Loghain, there is truly no hope.
They recall accounts of the first Blight, how many cities fell. If Ferelden is too foolish to save itself, at least we'll be ready when the archdemon leads its forces further.
That's a really good idea. Unfortunately.
Besides, I hear you haven't been doing badly at raising an army yourself.
But perhaps if the edict can be lifted... I will send a message as soon as we are gone from this place.
How did Arl Howe capture you?
With an offer of hospitality and a poisoned chalice. I was fool enough to think Loghain didn't yet know who I was.
Wait. Are these your papers?
Yes. These are my records. The names of the dead I could recognize at Ostagar. What I could find of Duncan's own recruitment records.
Copies of the Joining ritual I rescued from our Denerim vault. Those should never be seen by any outside eyes, but I trust in their encryption.
The Joining ritual? Can you induct other Grey Wardens?
Would that I could, for Ferelden sorely needs them.
But for the Joining to work, the recruit needs not only fresh darkspawn blood, but a drop of blood preserved from an archdemon.
Ferelden's supply should have been in the vault, but it was gone. I can only imagine someone took it out and Loghain either confiscated or destroyed it.
So, when you fight the archdemon make sure you have a syringe handy. We'd all be very grateful.
I'll see what I can to do. Where's Howe?
I saw him go into the dungeons. He may still be there.
I wouldn't be much use to you in my current condition. And, if you'll pardon me, I've a sudden desire to breathe some free air.
I will seek you out later--after I find a good physician.
And good luck... Sister.
I think our odds just went up.
Frankly, I don't think the mangled wreckage of a Warden will be much help.
He snaps necks like a champion though. And don't call me Frankly.
Oh, quit kidding around, you know me.
You think you're clever, do you?
Cleverer than you at least.
Anybody tries to come in here without Howes say so, we get to do what we like with 'em. I think we finally got a bit of entertainment here, lads!
[This fight can be tough! Your characters start piled up in a doorway, there's a surprisingly large number of enemy goons and there's a goo trap right by the door (see the tripwire?) that'll immobilise your party if you're not careful.
Helpfully, everyone instantly changes from their disguises into their regular armor. And no, there's no way past that guard without a fight. The time for diplomacy is over!]
[Fortunately, Zevran's a murder whirlwind.]
Right. Spread out and search the place.
[One room is full of torturers. They are terrible fighters but there sure are a lot of them.]
This guy's not making a great introduction.
You'd be crabby too, if you were in his position.
Fair enough. Up you get, fella.
[This update rated N for Nipples.]
Was this supposed to be a lesson? Did my father think it funny to leave me for so long before sending you?
Who are you?
Then... my father didn't send you?
I am Oswyn, son of Bann Sighard, of the Dragon's Peak Bannorn.
If you aren't one of our soldiers, pray tell me, who should I be thanking for my rescue?
I am Bianca, of the Grey Wardens.
Then I have no question about why you would come, Warden, for it is your men who have suffered the most here.
You have my heartfelt gratitude and, I assume, the gratitude of the entire Dragon's Peak Bannorn.
I love making new friends.
If my father sent no one after me, I can only assume that he does not yet know the true colors of the snakes he has allied with.
That is certainly one explanation.
But if you talk to him, I'm certain he would offer you any reward you might ask.
Why was Arl Howe torturing you?
One soldier returning from Ostagar was my wet nurse's son. We have been friends since birth.
He told me his unit was ordered to tum their backs on Cailan at Ostagar... before the darkspawn overwhelmed him.
The next day, he disappeared. When I went to search for him... I accepted a drink from a stranger and ended up here.
I swear, Loghain will not get away with this.
It is hard to imagine anyone with the power to take Loghain down.
I swear, if there be any forum to speak out against Loghain, my father will be there.
Now, please, I must try to get to him. I... I cannot see the last of this place too soon.
[Oswyn will be useful, eventually]
Why are they so many people down here? I didn't think torture was so labor intensive.
People say a lot of things about torture, but they never mention how good it is for the local economy.
Jailbreak! Jailbreak happening! Everyone pick up your severed limbs and form an orderly queue at the exit.
They said to retreat. The horn sounded and we turned and then the screams... We rode and they screamed and screamed and--
I can't look away.
I have underwear like that. In black. More slimming, I think.
This poor man looks... cold.
The thong was my breaking point. I'm leaving forever now.
Ssh. It's alright.
Mother, can you smell the blood? They said it was only darkspawn, but we ate them too.
They died and we left them. In the swamp. The witch. The witch!
He's obviously mad. I don't think you'll get anything more out of him.
You're free now. Go somewhere safe.
Safe. Is there a safe? Perhaps next door...
[The madman's name is Rexel, and finding him is a quest for the Denerim Chanter's Board. We can't return to this dungeon once we complete it, so if you don't free him now you can never complete that quest.
In the other cell is a distressed elf...]
What month is it? Are you some enemy of Arl Urien's? Please... I feel like I've spent half my life down here.
Arl Urien died months ago.
Dead? Then who's ruling...? His son Vaughan... he struck me down, and I woke up here.
People were so angry. They were thinking of petitioning the king...
The king is dead as well. Loghain rules in his place.
[This is a reference to events in the City Elf origin. This guy is Soris, the City Elf Warden's cousin, and a temporary party member in their origin. We'd get more dialogue with him if we were an elf, but for now all we can do is let him go.]
There have been... many changes since they caught me. I... I need to find out what happened.
I-I need to get home. Or... or ﬂee the city. I...
I thank you for your aid, stranger. I wish I had more than gratitude to offer.
Good luck, kid.
[There's nothing much else to do here apart from the Final Confrontation.]
Well, well. The Grey Warden. I must say I'm surprised Eamon would condone you invading my castle and murdering my men.
Yeah, he's funny like that.
Is he losing faith in the persuasive powers of his Landsmeet?
I'm here for Anora.
(Laughs) The traitorous bitch has you under her thumb? Anora does love games. I'm surprised she'd play with the likes of you.
You should have left when you had the chance, Warden. Slunk off to the Anderfels to hide with the rest of your kind.
This Landsmeet is a farce. Loghain will triumph and you will die.
[Howe is a dual wielding rogue with two mages and two fighters as backup. One of the mages throws out heals, the other debuffs. First order of business in this fight is to take them out, then the fighters, then Howe.]
[It's not actually that difficult. Everyone starts in such close proximity that it's easy to bumrush the mages. Howe's the most dangerous enemy present, but all his abilities are single target, so it's easy to neutralise him with an effective tank.]
[Once the adds are dealt with, it's easy to shred Howe. He doesn't have that much health, so four characters beating on him will end the battle quickly.]
Maker spit on you... I deserved... more...
I can't believe this pathetic toady got to gasp out some last words. Most people we kill have the decency to die quietly.
[Howe's loot is quite interesting. An axe for rogues?]
Howe is the arc villain of the Human Noble's origin. If you're playing as a human, you get more dialogue and the chance to sass him as he dies, which is tremendously satisifying.
Speaking of villains...]
Hmm, who's there? Stay away.
You can't do this to me! I'll have you all flayed! I'm the arl of Denerim!
Arl Urien died at Ostagar. Who are you?
I'm Vaughan Kendells, heir to the arling of Denerim! It's true!
[Vaughan Kendells is the baddie in the City Elf origin. He attempts to rape the City Elf or their wife on their wedding day and instigates a race riot in the process. The City Elf Warden can murder him in retribution, in which case he doesn't show up here, obviously.
But we didn't experience any of that, so let's make a deal with this horrible, horrible man.]
Too many of our troops were lost at Ostagar. When the riots started, Howe came with men to reinforce the garrison here.
Or that's what he claimed. As soon as I let him into the palace, he threw me in here. "One more victim of the elven uprising," he said.
Let me out of here! I'll do anything.
What caused the elves to rebel?
You know how elves are. Every now and then they start to think they' re people, and you have to put them back in their proper place.
I have a suggestion.
No. He could be useful.
A Landsmeet has been called, I need your voice.
Of course! Anything, just let me out!
Very well, you can go. (Release him.)
I swear, you won't regret this!
[There's another prisoner in here, with a delightful continuity callback.]
Andraste, Bride of the Maker, have mercy on me.
Alfstanna... is that you, little sister?
No... I don't know you... do I? Are you real?
Who are you?
I... I'm Irminric, knight-lieutenant of the Denerim chantry. You... aren't one of the teyrn's men?
He sounds like he's in lyrium withdrawal. He's got all the signs: confusion, weepiness... He probably doesn't even know what he's saying.
If the grand cleric knew he were in here, she'd be spitting hot coals. Nobles don't have authority over templars.
I... I failed in my duties. Maker, forgive me. I failed, and there's no telling what he's done...
Who are you talking about?
The maleficar. He had turned blood magic upon templars and Circle mages to escape from his tower. Near Redcliffe, I cornered him...
But the teyrn's men took him from me... and brought me here...
This maleficar, was his name Jowan?
Yes. He... destroyed his phylactery... we were spread out, trying to find him... I was alone.
I... you are real, aren't you? My dreams are... so strange now. Please, if you're not a dream, help me.
You realize the door is open, right? You're free.
No one can free me from failure, save Blessed Andraste.
Give this ring... to my sister, Alfstanna. Tell her... tell her I'm sorry. Please. Ask her... to pray for me.
Okay... Goodbye Irminric.
[We're done down here. Howe's dead and everyone who can has escaped. There's a door back up to the mansion near the room we fought Howe in, but it'll put us back in the centre of a dozen enemies. We're better off returning to the door we entered from.]
'Sup Erlinda. Howe and his mages are dead, and we've freed a half dozen political prisoners. It's been a productive 30 minutes.
Aren't you a little short for a guard?
Is that supposed to be ironic?
We must go quickly and avoid notice.
If Howe's people find me, I'll be killed. And my people will insist on escorting me back to the palace... where my father may also have me killed.
[Almost immediately after leaving you run into these happy campers.]
Warden! In the name of the regent, I am placing you under arrest for the murder of Rendon Howe and his men-at-arms.
Oh come on! His body's not even cold... I mean... I plead the fifth.
Surrender, and you may be shown mercy.
I'm here to free Anora, who was held captive.
Don't be ridiculous. The queen isn't being held prisoner here or anywhere else. Her father would never stand for such a thing.
She's right here. Tell her, Anora.
Ser Cauthrien! Praise the Maker you're here... This brigand tried to kidnap me!
Is there anyone in this outfit who hasn't tried to kill you?
Unbelievable... bring them down! Loghain wants the Warden dead or alive!
[This fight involves Cauthrien, who is the single strongest enemy in the game besides the Archdemon, plus ten archers and a mage. The best strategy is... um...]
NEXT TIME: The Darkspawn Christmas Special
NEW CODEX CONTENT:
The History of Ferelden Part 2
The Free Marches