Part 115: Vigil Dungeon BluesPART 115: VIGIL DUNGEON BLUES
The Blight was stopped, but the darkspawn remain. Bianca has been sent to the troubled region of Amaranthine to take control of the Grey Warden's stylish new digs, Vigil Keep. After thwarting a sneak darkspawn attack, Bianca has to decide whether or not to conscript her temporary allies...
It seems there isn't much to say. Unless... you have something to add, Commander?
[Y'all voted for mass conscription, so let's get on with it!]
I do. I hereby conscript this mage into the Grey Wardens.
I believe the Grey Wardens still retain the Right of Conscription, no? I will allow it.
[Alistair- still a bro.]
If... if your Majesty feels it is best...
Ha! Way to go, kid! Welcome aboard! We're all gonna die together!
Me? A Grey Warden? I guess that will work...
Congratulations, ser mage. I look forward to fighting at your side.
Then if you have everything under control, I will need to take my leave.
I believe the estate has been secured, yes. We have suffered great losses, but the darkspawn are gone and there are survivors.
Oh... excuse my manners. I am Varel, seneschal of Vigil's Keep. And I am most grateful for your timely rescue, Commander.
I will aid you in ruling the lands of Amaranthine.
How does that work?
People bring me their problems, then I tell you about them.
What about tax collection?
You're quite welcome.
Come and speak to me soon. There are many matters to attend to, not the least of which is the Joining. You will need to replenish your numbers.
The security of Ferelden relies on the Grey Wardens now, even weakened as the order is.
It will be up to you to deal with the vestiges of the Blight before the situation grows out of control. No easy task, but I'm confident you are up to it.
Good luck, Commander. May the Maker watch over you. And may the Force be with you.
Before we do anything else, Commander, there' an urgent matter we must take care of.
Right now, I know of only one living Warden assigned to all of Ferelden. That should be rectified.
The others could aid you considerably.
Maker help them.
Maker help us all.
Are you two naturally this morbid, or were you trained?
The time has come for us to begin the Joining. I shall speak the words that have been said since the first.
Join us, brothers and sisters. Join us in the shadows where we stand, vigilant. Join us as we carry the duty that cannot be forsworn.
And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten and that one day we shall join you.
From this moment forth, Oghren, you are a Grey Warden.
What's this? The sampler size? Are you trying to say something about my height, eh?
Er... this is the goblet we've always used.
(Belches] Not bad.
(Sigh) Maker help us all.
We need a new ritual now. This one's ruined.
From this moment forth, Anders, you are a Grey Warden.
So we need to drink darkspawn blood? That's it?
That is it, yes.
Plus the secret blend of herbs and spices.
Well all right, but if I wake up two weeks from now on a ship bound for Rivain in nothing but my smallclothes and a tattoo on my forehead, I'm blaming you.
He lives, Commander, and will awaken in time.
From this moment forth, Mhairi, you are a Grey Warden.
I have awaited this moment.
I am sorry, Mhairi. May the Maker watch over you now.
[Well, two out of three ain't bad. If you had all opted to ditch Oghren and Anders I would have been in trouble now.
Bioware hid that Mhairi was the Disposable Tutorial Character very well- she featured in the trailers for Awakening, she has a codex entry, and she gains/loses approval points throughout the opening section. I liked her and was sad when she died, it was nice to have an uncomplicatedly heroic character briefly show up in the gloomy old Dragon Age world. ]
Poor Mhairi... Open the doors!
The Commander must be informed about the Deep Roads entrance. It could be their base of operation.
You'd have the Wardens chase a rumor, then, Captain?
And even if it proves true, unless the Pilgrim's Path is cleared by the time your army assembles, they'll have nothing to eat but shoe leather.
Garevel. Woolsey. The Commander has had a long day.
Woolsey says some merchants escaped the darkspawn; they can reprovision you for a reasonable fee.
And the Vigil is yours; take whatever weapons and armor you need. We'll be waiting when you're ready.
[This is the throne room, where the party hangs out and you occasionally make life-or-death decisions about the local populace. A lot of the mechanics around Vigil's Keep would be revisited in more depth in Dragon Age: Inquistion. ]
[In one corner is Yuriah, a merchant. He's the Bodahn of this game.]
Mistress Woolsey says I can set up shop here.
The merchant you saved was grateful to be alive-restocked me for a bargain! The savings are yours, of course.
[Our actions paid off! We have three opportunites throughout Awakening to upgrade Yuriah's stock, although to get the real good stuff you only need to upgrade him twice. Saving the merchant from the darkspawn is the only 'free' opportunity though, other upgrades require us to make... difficult decisions.]
You need anything, Commander?
[Yuriah sells a few cool magical knick-knacks, including the second part of the Stormchaser set.]
[There's also this nifty magical ring. It'd be great for Anders, if we could only find the Silver Cog...]
[There's also this weird new mechanic, whereby we can buy heraldy to repaint shields with different patterns. Someone out there complained about their character carrying a shield with the Howe emblem despite being a Cousland, and this was the solution.
As a dwarf, Bianca cares not for this human pageantry.]
[You get a storage chest to empty out your inventory, which was something Origins was seriously lacking at the Camp.]
Wait, has someone used this?
[Nice! Free ring!
Awakening gives you some powerful magic swag right out of the gate. The Throne Room also has these other treasures scattered around.]
[On the other side of the room is Ambassador Cera, who handles rune business for us. She's the Sandal of this game.]
The Tower of Magi has sent me as an ambassador, Commander.
In addition to my diplomatic function, I'm a competent enchanter and runesmith. Is there anything you need?
Do you have any runes for sale?
[Besides runes, Cera also sells the Battlemage manual. Battlemage is a new Specialisation for Awakening, giving mages more melee options. It synergises very well with Arcane Warrior. There are no Specialisation quests in Awakening, all the new ones are unlocked by buying manuals.
You can also see that almost all the runes Cera sells are 'Novice' type, the weakest. The same is true of most shops that sell them, to encourage the players to use the new runecrafting skill to build their own overpowered runes. I'm going to have to put Anders on smelting duty if I want to break the game.]
[Cera also lets you enchant items, including armor. You can build some seriously tanky gear through this screen, but we're a ways away from that.]
[We can't have direct conversations with our friends, like in Origins, but interacting with the environment, such as that cask behind Oghren, can provoke new chats.]
(Screeches) W-who's there?
Did I startle you?
I was... er, I was just keeping my nose to the dust, watching out for... the schleets.
One of the lads here told me about the schleets... said they're common in Ferelden.
They... they lie on the ground, looking like ordinary pairs of pants, until you turn around. That's when they... strike.
Oh, those schleets.
Right! Right, you've heard of them!
Pants that eat your eyeballs!
After they're done with you, they just... wander off on their unnatural pant-legs.
Oh, you weren't told the best part?
They're not real.
Er... sod. Come on, I've been on the surface less than two years. I don't know whats up here!
(Grumbles) That Jacob's gonna get it when I get my hands on him.
Well, at least the troops are in good humor.
[Enough ribaldry. On to adventure! Awakening has three main quests we need to complete to trigger the endgame. Coincidentally, we have three advisors here with exclamation marks over their heads.]
To business, then.
Orlais sent a dozen Wardens to the Vigil to await your arrival.
Nearly all died in the attack, but Kristoff is still in the field.
They sent a dozen Wardens to fight an army?
Oh, it only took three Wardens to end a civil war and kill an archdemon. A dozen is extravagant.
Curse my incredible heroism!
The Warden-Commander of Orlais wanted to send more, but there are political considerations.
No, the Empress of Orlais was not pleased her Wardens were turned away during the Blight.
They're not her Wardens though. They're Thedas' Wardens.
That she pays for.
Ugh. Where is this Kristoff?
The Orlesian Wardens were uneasy that the darkspawn weren't going to ground, with the Blight ended.
Kristoff was sent to track down some leads.
A fortnight ago, he left in a bustle. As best as we figure, he went to the city, Amaranthine.
Why aren't the darkspawn returning to the Deep Roads?
Wiser men than I have worried over that.
One of the Wardens said the archdemon's strength gave the horde some semblance of purpose.
If they've found some other purpose... (Shudders).
Did Kristoff reveal anything of what he found?
He did, but not to me. The Wardens keep their own counsel.
Amaranthine isn't small. How will I find him?
Only so many places travellers visit. I'd check the inns and taverns.
I'm on it!
Is there anything else? Or can we talk of other matters?
That's the only thing that needs immediate attention. Do you want something else, Commander?
Can you tell me about Vigil's Keep?
We call her the Vigil. She's been around for a long spell.
They say the Alamarri barbarians first built a fort here to stop Tevinter incursions from the lowlands of the Waking Sea.
They say that the castle is built on a mountain of bones. Much death here.
So, the fortress is built on top of an ancient Alamarri graveyard. Brilliant. What time does the blood start seeping out of the walls?
Usually about 11pm, but it's hardly noticeable.
What does a seneschal do?
As much as you like, ser.
Generally, the keep's seneschal takes care of day-to-day matters. Mops up the blood, etc.
If anything important arises, I'll alert you.
[Translation: whenever we return to the Keep, Varel will have more bullshit for us to tackle.]
This is Ser Garavel, the new captain of the guard.
I have a matter to bring to your attention.
Potentially urgent. The Orlesians--Wardens, I mean--began gathering information while they were here.
The most promising lead they found was a wild tale a couple of hunters told.
What did the hunters claim?
These hunters, Colbert and... well, the other one; claim to have stumbled across an entrance to the Deep Roads.
I'm sure it's pronounced Colbear.
Darkspawn all over the place, they said. And this was before the fiends appeared throughout the whole arling.
The Wardens were just about to send someone to track down Colbert.
Those hunters may have found the darkspawn breeding ground.
One breeding ground, at least.
Colbert and his friend are in the city of Amaranthine. Probably amongst the refugees outside the city gates.
Thank you, Garavel.
Warden-Commander, a pleasure to meet you. I am Mistress Woolsey, sent by order of the First Warden at Weisshaupt.
I am to act as treasurer of the arling of Amaranthine. He believed local men could not be trusted for this post.
One of those "local men" is right here, Mistress Woolsey.
I have every confidence in the Vigils loyalty in matter of arms. But gold corrupts even the most resolute soul.
You're from Weisshaupt?
Not Weisshaupt itself. I am from many places. I go where the Wardens command.
I didn't even know the Order had bureaucrats.
It's a steady job. The pension's not great though.
Ser, the arling is on the brink of economic collapse. Trade must flow.
Merchant caravans are being systematically attacked somewhere along the Pilgrim's Path.
It is the only route that can reliably provision an army, feed a city, and maintain civilization.
I'm new to the arling. Which road is the Pilgrim's Path?
It is the road here from Denerim. You can see why it would be important.
In the city of Amaranthine, there is a trader, Mervis, whose caravans have been hit particularly hard.
It is an old, respected name.
My brother is named Mervis.
If I had a son, I would name him Mervis.
Mervis may know where along the road the darkspawn--or whatever they are--are striking.
Hm. So, why does the First Warden care about Amaranthine?
About the arling? He does not. But about the implications--a great deal.
When Warden-Commander Dryden was cast out of Ferelden generations ago, it created a dangerous precedent.
Her true story and that of the Wardens' exile is one you yourself uncovered at Soldier's Peak. At great personal risk.
Ah, the good old days.
We are now presented with another precedent--Wardens owning lands and commanding fealty from lesser nobles.
If your arling succeeds, it will be an example to other kingdoms--that Wardens are important, Blight or no.
The eyes of the world are on us, huh? But the First Warden sent only a treasurer? I need more Wardens.
The Fereldans are a proud people. They are proud of you, especially.
Had the First Warden sent foreign fighters, it would have caused great distrust amongst the locals.
Varel was specifically chosen as seneschal because he commands great respect here.
The First Warden is very up to date with local politics, apparently. Have you ever been to Weisshaupt?
No. It is far to the north.
The fortress is said to be impregnable. It still has the aeries where the griffons of old would breed.
But their like will never be seen again.
Is this a metaphor, Woolsey? I dislike metaphors.
Not at all, Commander.
That will be all, Mistress Woolsey.
Very well, Commander.
[That's enough politics for now. Let's hit the road.]
[I miss having options.]
[As soon as you leave the throne room, you're accosted by this soldier.]
Blimey, Commander of the Grey. Right.
A while back, they caught a thief in the Vigil. Took four Wardens to capture him.
Gave one of the Wardens a black eye, he did. Half-joking, they said he might make a good recruit.
Where is this thief now?
He's in the dungeon, ser.
I also have some letters. Arrived just before you did.
Show them to me.
Just give me a moment.
It's another sidequest post!]
[This is the other quest on the board. We'll get around to these soon enough.]
Does it ever stop raining in this blighted province?
[Examining the nearby statue triggers a conversation with Anders.]
(Whistles) Look at that.
Was Andraste really that much of a locker? Don't you think she would have been, I don't know, a barbarian?
Aren't all humans?
Got me there.
What would she have thought of the Circle of Magi-forcing mages to fight demons or be made Tranquil?
She'd probably be confused by it. Didn't seem like one for bureaucracy.
No doubt you're right.
Seems to me that Andraste counseled men to seek their own path to the Maker.
But the Chantry uses her words as a reason to collar us just for being who we are.
I agree. The Chantry is the organ of bourgeois reaction, used for the protection of the exploitation and the stupefaction of the magical class. But under no circumstances ought we to fall into the error of posing the religious question in an abstract, idealistic fashion, as an intellectual question unconnected with the class struggle, as is not infrequently done by the radical-democrats from among the bourgeoisie. It would be stupid to think that, in a society based on the endless oppression and coarsening of the magical masses, religious prejudices could be dispelled by purely propaganda methods. It would be bourgeois narrow-mindedness to forget that the yoke of religion that weighs upon magekind is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke within society. No number of pamphlets and no amount of preaching can enlighten the magitariat, if it is not enlightened by its own struggle against the dark forces of Chantryism.
That's so sweet of you. I'm all a-tingle.
Oh well. She's still quite a looker, for a prophet. I'm just saying.
Do you want some time alone with statue?
Knew a guy who fell in love with a statue once. He died of chafing.
Thank you, Oghren.
We couldn't get the coffin lid shut. It's the hardest I've ever laughed at a funeral.
THANK YOU, OGHREN.
[Vigil Keep's dungeons are in this outhouse for some reason.]
Ah, Commander! Good thing you're here.
This one's been locked up three nights, now. Good men died while this one was protected in his cell.
Who is he?
He won't give his name. All I know is he was caught poking around the estate in the middle of the night.
I'd say he was just a thief, but it took four Grey Wardens to capture him.
The clothes say 'farmer', the soul patch says 'necromancer'.
You best be careful. Whoever he is, he's no ordinary burglar, that's for sure.
Leave me to talk with him.
As you wish, Commander.
Ill tell the seneschal you came. He'll want to know what you decide to do with this man.
If it isn't the great hero, conqueror of the Blight and vanquisher of all evil.
Aren't you supposed to be ten feet tall? With lightning bolts shooting out of your eyes?
I see my reputation precedes me.
It does. I know you best as the one who murdered my father.
Oh no! That means you're... probably one of a thousand orphans I've left in my wake.
I am Nathaniel Howe. My family owned these lands until you showed up. Do you even remember my father?
Yes, actually. He was in a class of his own. Your father brought his end on himself.
My father served the Hero of River Dane and fought against the Orlesians! Yet our family lost everything!
I came here... I thought I was going to try to kill you. To lay a trap for you.
But then I realized I just wanted to reclaim some of my family's things. It's all I have left.
Just how much do you know about your father?
If you're asking whether I knew what he was up to, the answer is no. I was squired in the Free Marches.
Look, I know you're a hero. You fought a war and you won, and to the victor go the spoils, right?
If by 'spoils', you mean 'more problems' then yeah, sure.
Whatever my father did, however, shouldn't harm my whole family. The Howes are pariahs now, those of us left.
It's all thanks to you. And now you get to decide my fate. Ironic, isn't it?
Do you really hate me so much?
The darkspawn are a menace. If it weren't for the Blight, maybe my father would never have... done what he did.
But I cant do anything about them, can I? There's just you and the Grey Wardens, here in my home.
Your family only has itself to blame for its troubles.
The Howes served Ferelden for twelve generations. My ancestors served under King Calenhad!
And now it's all lost. So go ahead and do what you're going to do.
I understand we had trouble capturing you.
I am not without skills. My time abroad wasn't spent chasing skirts and drinking wine.
Perhaps you should work to redeem your name.
You're right. I'll go join King Alistairs service immediately. He'd be certain to give a Howe another chance!
With a sense of humor like that, he'd probably knight you.
I've decided what to do with you.
What will we do with young Nathaniel Howe?
a. Hang him - NO MERCY FOR HOWES
b. Release him - Get outta here, ya bum
c. Conscript him - Community Service Extreme
Voting closes in a few days.
NEXT TIME: Bianca Aeducan and the Mystery of the Spooky Basement
NEW CODEX CONTENT:
Vassels and Their Liege
The First Warden