Part 116: Howe NowPART 116: HOWE NOW
Vigil's Keep is secure, and Bianca takes the time to examine her new castle. First order of business is a grumpy prisoner with terrible facial hair...
I brought the seneschal for you, Commander.
I see you've spoken to our guest. Quite the handful, isn't he? Have you decided what's to be done with him?
[The moment of truth...]
Did you know this was Nathaniel Howe?
A Howe? It figures that they would turn up again. Howes are implacable enemies, Commander.
The kid's got moxie, Varel. He's full of pep and spunk and other unfortunate words. I wish to invoke the Right of Conscription.
I'm sorry, Commander... the Right of Conscription? On the prisoner?
No! Absolutely not! Hang me, first!
Did I say I was giving you a choice? The people have spoken.
You really want a Howe as a Grey Warden? You are a very strange woman.
I can't decide if this is a vote of confidence or punishment.
Well, that depends on how the next 20 minutes pan out.
An... interesting decision, Commander.
Come with me, ser. We'll see if you survive the Joining...
From this moment forth, Nathaniel Howe, you are a Grey Warden.
(InhaIes) The moment of truth...
The Howe is stronger than expected. For better or for worse, he will live.
Welcome aboard, Soul Patch.
NATHANIEL HOWE JOINED THE PARTY!
[There's no introduction scene for Nathaniel post-Joining. He's just one of us now.]
[Nathaniel's a rogue who starts with an Assassin specialisation. Unfortunately, he also starts with a bunch of Archer skills, and that's Bianca's racket. He gets enough free talent points at the begining that I can turn him into a halfway effective dual-wielder slicin' machine though.
He's using an axe and sword combo, because dual swords are yesterday's news, darling.]
[He also gets a unique set of armor. It's a little weird for a dude to be wearing his great grandma's clothes, but Bianca doesn't judge.]
It normally stops just before the snows come.
To have all this power at my fingertips?
Nah. To always have to wear a skirt? (Laughs)
Oh, you don't know the story behind the robes?
You know how strict things are in the Circle, right? Of course you do.
Well, the robes make quick trysts in the corner easy. No laces or buttons. You're done before the templars catch on.
Just ask anyone.
Is it always like this?
[Outside the entrance to the keep are these two fine and familiar fellows.]
Ah, Warden-Commander! I represent Master Wade, the finest--
And bloody coldest. I can't feel my fingers.
Ahem, finest armorer in Denerim. I thought, well, we thought, that you might have need of an armorer.
Master Wade, I remember you. The drakescale armor, right?
My one glittering moment. The highlight of my career. And now I'm stuck at Turnip Keep.
Oh, that's what that smell is!
Vigils Keep. Vigil! Sorry, Warden-Commander. You know how he gets.
What brings you here?
This is a temporary relocation. The darkspawn are most active around Amaranthine. We thought we could help.
And I suppose the money the crown paid us had nothing to do with it?
Thanks, Alistair. Thalistair.
My men will need armor.
Providing arms and armor for common soldiers. Oh, the indignity!
If we are going be so dreadfully plebian, I don't suppose Amaranthine has any proper metal?
Silverite, veridium? Or are we back to bronze weapons? Stone clubs?
Wade has... a point. He's happiest--and fastest--when presented with a challenge.
If you come across any deposits of ore, let us know.
[A theme running through many sidequests in Awakening is the need to turn Vigil's Keep into a proper fortress, rather than the crumbly ruin it is now. All the quests we do or begin in this update tie into that, one way or another.]
Let me see what you have for sale.
[The armor shop sells armor. Pretty good armor too. There are also manuals unlocking the ultra-tanky Guardian specialisation for warriors, and ones that let us reset our skill points. I could use this to respec Nathaniel, but I'm trying to save my money. For reasons that will rapidly become clear.]
[We used to have to go kill dragons to obtain armor like this, now he's just selling it to anyone. Bah, I wore Dragonskin armor before it was cool.]
[Next to the armor shop is this guy, Dworkin Glavonak, but he's not open for business yet. You might remember him as the random dwarf who blew all those darkspawn to hell back in the first update.]
Oh boy, explosives for sale, right outside where I sleep.
[Opposite Dworkin is his brother, Vodrik. Hey, I didn't invent these names.]
Commander. So this is human construction, is it?
My brother said you'd need a stonemason, but he didn't know the half of it.
If someone built this in Orzammar, they'd be flogged.
Aye, I'm surprised half the "buildings" in Ferelden haven't fallen over from a stiff breeze.
The darkspawn did a number on this heap of yours. But I suspect it was crumbling well before they showed up.
Your seneschal gave me some fancy decree promising men and monies to fix the Vigil, but it's a paltry sum.
I suppose it would be sufficient to reconstruct the walls to human standards. But who'd want that?
I might regret this. What would it take to rebuild it right?
I'm not certain of the character of the stone in these parts, but we'd need more men for certain.
Proper skilled men, not some starving dusters, right? Which all boils down to coin, really.
I can spare eighty sovereigns. This had better be worth it.
It will be, Warden. Good luck to anyone who tries to breach these walls. Hal
[That's us bankrupt, but at least we'll get some nice stone walls to hide behind. There's no way those darkspawn can get us now!]
I don't mean to alarm you, Commander, but it's possible there are still darkspawn in the Vigil.
[Oh no! The darkspawn can get us now!]
The captain didn't mention anything about that.
Let me explain. You know Dworkin? That mad dwarf's bombs shook the whole keep.
Some of the deep cellars caved in. I suspect that there are pockets of darkspawn below, trapped.
In time, they may dig their way out.
I'm good at killing darkspawn, but not at digging.
We have men who can unearth the rubble at your command.
Whenever you're ready. I can take you to the basements.
Let's go then.
Straight away, ser.
The Vigil goes deep. Real deep. The hallways down here have been crumbling for years and decades.
And that blasted Dworkin's explosives didnt do the structure any favors.
How far down do the basement's go?
No one knows. The Vigil's always been here. Since the barbarians, they say.
Who knows what's at the bottom?
I'm beginning to understand why the Crown was happy to hand this place over to the Wardens.
How did the darkspawn get down here?
I don't know, but no one saw the darkspawn approach on the surface, either.
Maybe they found a way to attack from below?
Have the men clear the rubble.
You heard the commander. Put your backs into it.
This is where you come in. Who knows what's up ahead?
We'll be back here.
Here goes nothing.
That's one way of putting it.
They talked about you in the army. Fergus Cousland said you wouldn't have the stones to show your face again.
But you proved him wrong. I respect that.
[Fergus Cousland is the brother of the human player character. The entire Cousland family was killed by the Howes in the Human origin. So there's a little bad blood there.]
Yeah. Throw caution to the wind, run headlong into danger, and sod the consequences--that's the only way to live.
Thanks... I think.
Yep. Don't you give a piss what the others think. Oghren's got your back.
Your father had some strange ideas about interior design.
The statues were here before him. Before the Howes even came here, I think.
Marvellous. Ancient, mysterious statues covered in fresh blood. This is how nine out of ten demon invasions get started.
[There's a sickly dog at the far end of this creepy room.]
(This mabari seems greatly distressed. Her fur is patchy and caked with dirt and blood.)
(Survival) (Try and comfort the dog.)
[You can only calm the dog if you have a party member with level 3 Survival. There's no gameplay benefit to doing so, it's just nice.]
(Success) - You pet the dog gently, calming her. You also find a small scroll bound to her.)
Zevran better be taking good care of Barkley.
(Take the scroll.)
(A woman named Adria writes that she has taken refuge in the lower levels of the keep.)
Adria! She was... she was like a mother to me. We must save her.
Oh hey, the Sergeant was right. Remind to give her an attaboy if we survive this.
Good work with that axe, kid.
I'm a kid now?
You're the newest Grey Warden in Ferelden. You're the kid.
I need a drink.
Little Nathan's growing up so fast.
[Anders picked up a level from that last fight, so here's an opportunity to look at the new Mage talents in Awakening.
Mages get fewer new talents than the other classes (eight compared to twelve for warrior and rogue), but then they didn't really need any more power.
Their first new talent tree is Fade Shield (provides a passive defence bonus and buffs the Arcane Shield spell), Elemental Mastery (increases power of elemental magic, for a relatively low cost), Attunement (passive bonus to magic stats) and Time Spiral (resets all cooldowns- HOLY SHIT).
The second new tree is Repulsion Field (constantly repels nearby enemies unless they make a save), Invigorate (reduces mana/stamina costs for all allies), Arcane Field (constantly damages nearby enemies) and Mystical Negation (constantly dispels nearby magic effects, including lingering AoEs).
They're all useful, but not very exciting- Time Spiral is the most fun, mostly because it lets you cast Storm of the Century two times in rapid succession. ]
I spy a poorly hidden secret door.
[The only time Dragon Age has made me jump was when I walked confidently into this room and was immediately jumped by four stealthed Shrieks. THEY'RE NOT ALLOWED TO BE SMART.]
(A small plaque reads: Andraste was bathed in fire before the Maker's eyes.)
Ah, the old torch lever trick.
[For solving that 'puzzle' we get a chest full of useful potions, plus...]
I don't think you're meant to wear it on your hand.
How long have these poor sods been down here?
[In Dragon Age lore, ghouls aren't undead, they're humans infected with the darkspawn... blood? Goo? Stuff. Like Grey Wardens then, but not as sane. We didn't encounter many in the main campaign, but a few show up in Awakening.]
Oh, thank the Maker! Please let us out!
You are free, run!
You're not going to ask what they were locked up for?
They seemed trustworthy.
[Entering the crypt spawns a lot of skeletons surrounding you. Even though they're only basic enemies, this would have been a death sentence for most of Origins. In Awakening, we're strong enough that their attacks are mostly scratch damage, even for a flimsy rogue.]
This basement has serious problems.
At least there's no damp.
[In the crypt are these statues, which unlock some useful information in the Codex.]
Well, where there's an ancient evil, there's probably some sweet loot.
[There's a door in the crypt that's sealed with four locks. One of the keys is hidden in a sarcophagus in the room, but the other three are nowhere to be found. For now.]
[At least we've got this sack. And in the sack...]
Is this what I think it is?
It is! That's the Howe crest burned into the wood right there. This is my grandfather's bow.
Or, rather, my grandfather was the last to use it. It was originally made for an ancestor during the Exalted Marches.
Why wasn't it used afterwards?
Well, my father... hid it away, I guess. I'm surprised he didnt simply have it destroyed.
I remember finding it before Father sent me to the Free Marches. A shame for it to sit in storage.
Thank you. It's good to have a part of my family's legacy again, something to be proud of.
[From wanting to murder us to becoming our new best friend, it's been an interesting update for ol' Nathaniel Howe. As in Origins, making friends with people boosts their key stats.]
[Giving the bow to Nathaniel lets him use it as a weapon. It is very very good. Shame Nathaniel isn't an archer any more! Only Bianca can arch in this team.]
[Back to the mission...]
No. No, Adria...
We have to help her. There must be some way... Adria?
Negotiations have failed!
[Adria's pretty easy, and only comes with a few ghoul adds.]
Sorry, Adria. Sorry, Nathaniel.
[Adria drops this ring on death. We're getting a lot of good mage equipment right now.]
[There's also a Veridium deposit. Hey, wasn't Wade just asking for this stuff?]
You murdered a slew of darkspawn there. I... well, you hear the stories about you and the Wardens.
But to see it firsthand...
It's what we do.
Well, I'm impressed.
Anyway, it looks like the explosives caved this section in.
I brought along Master Voldrik--
So this is how you humans ply your stonecraft?
Disgraceful, that is. What, this would barely last a few centuries.
l wager these passages may go far enough to connect to the Deep Roads.
So the darkspawn came from below?
Aye. The Orlesian lads wouldve had a terrible surprise--explains how experienced men fell to the darkspawn.
This is a grave matter. If we don't shut these tunnels, the darkspawn can attack from below again.
Andraste's blood, there are basement entrances throughout the keep. There's no way to defend against that.
Then we follow the tunnels and hope to find a single point to block off. Never you fear, lass.
With the Warden's muscle and my stonecraft, we'll find a way.
Let me know as soon as you clear the passage.
We'll need some time. But as soon as we clear it, we'll let you know.
Let's go back to the keep.
[We'll be back in the basement later- that quest will only progress once we've ticked off a main story objective. For now, we have Commander business to attend to up here.]
So, you're a Howe.
Hey, I'm fond of the Homes! I'm also fond of the Whys, the Whos and the Whats.
It's shameful how long it took me to come up with that.
Seneschal Varel is ready for you in the throne room, Commander. Your vassals await.
Oh no, what do I have to fix now?
Commander. The lords of Amaranthine have come to swear fealty to you and the Grey Wardens.
These were Arl Rendon Howe's vassals. Now they will be yours.
What do I need to know about them?
Some of these lords bore Rendon no love, but others had their prospects ruined with his demise.
Tread carefully, Commander.
Lords and ladies, I present the Warden-Commander of Ferelden and Arl of Amaranthine.
(Persuade) Our differences are many, but our cause is one.
Bann Esmerelle of Amaranthine, as is old custom, you have the honor of beginning.
I promise that I, Bann Esmerelle, will be faithful to the arl in matters of life, limb, and earthly honor.
Never will I bear arms against her or her heirs. So I say in the sight of the Maker.
I promise that I, Lord Eddelbrek...
...And so the ceremony is complete.
Long live the Warden-Commander!
[We now have the opportunity to mingle with our new collection of sycophants/backstabbers. Let's get some advice from Varel first.]
Let me know if you want the nobles cleared out. Er, if you want the ceremony to end, I mean.
Who do I need to know here?
There's really only two who can offer real support in the war.
Lord Eddelbrek, master of the Fereavel Plains, controls more farmland than anyone else. Hes powerful and popular.
Bann Esmerelle rules the city. Wealthiest in the room by far. She may not be loved, but she cannot be ignored.
Thanks Varel. I should get back to mingling.
[Bann Esmerelle has nothing interesting to say to us, but the blonde at the back has concerns.]
We've all heard so much about you. So many good things, unbelievable things.
But many of your deeds cost people here a chance at great advancement. So many fortunes were deeply intertwined with the old arl.
[The nobility hates us because we killed Howe. If we were playing as the Orlesian Warden, they would hate us for being a filthy foreigner. The nobility kinda sucks.]
Some nobles here... they seek to end your dominion over them.
This much I've gathered already.
Perhaps you do not know the full extent of their determination.
I've had... occasion to intercept some of their missives. They are cryptic things.
Any individual message is unintelligible. But together they form a pattern.
They mean to end you before you can begin. A deadly coalition.
A conspiracy to murder me? I'm flattered. It's just like being back in Orzammar. Except damper.
I would take this matter seriously, Warden. They know of your capabilities--and they're spending a fortune to see their aims fulfilled.
Given a few days, I can retrieve the messages.
I would've brought them tonight. But... I didn't know if warning you would be wise.
[Tamra only warns you about the conspiracy if you pass the Persuade check in your opening remarks to the nobles. Else, it's Anders who overhears some troubling gossip and reports it to you. But if you don't have Anders, then... well, you remain ignorant until the conspirators make their move.]
I've much to lose and precious little to gain.
Farewell. We will meet again soon.
[The only other person we can speak to here is the wealthy farmer, Bann Eddelbrek.]
Honored to meet you, Warden-Commander. You come to us during desperate times.
Not more about your precious farms, Eddelbrek.
Some in our arling do not have the comfort of city walls. On the plains, the situation is dire!
Isn't the situation dire everywhere?
As we feast, the peasants on our lands are starving or worse.
The city's defenses are more important, Eddelbrek.
There may be wheat in the silos now, but if the farmers die, where will you get your food?
The darkspawn must be the focus of my attention.
I only ask that you consider the people--your people--when making your plans, Commander.
What should we do about Eddelbrek's concerns?
1. He's right! Send our troops to defend the farmland.
2. He's wrong! Keep our troops defending the city.
3. I have a better idea! Send our troops to guard the trade routes.
4. Decisions are hard! Try to defend everything.
This decision will have consequences... eventually. Voting closes next week.
NEXT TIME: We leave Vigil's Keep, finally.
NEW CODEX CONTENT:
The Howes of Amaranthine