Part 40: Reports Of My Death Have Been Greatly ExaggeratedPART 40: REPORTS OF MY DEATH HAVE BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED
Centuries ago, the Grey Warden fortress of Soldier's Peak was the site of a doomed rebellion against a mad king. Now the fortress lies abandoned and haunted by demons and monsters. Bianca and Levi Dryden investigate, searching for clues about the fate of Warden Commander Sophia Dryden...
By the Maker, what is that?
It is a portal to the Fade. Magic goes in and demons come out.
I've got that flashback feeling again.
Make them pay for every inch, men!
Hold the flank!
Nelatep obresooth sythan net bekon!
Andraste's blood! Wh-what?
More, Avernus--whatever it takes!
Kaelee ai benfotus victus!
Press them, press them now!
No! I command you, fight the king's men!
Fool. So much death, suffering, and, oh yes... blood.
The Veil is torn now. Your soul is mine, Avernus.
Acolytes... Retreat now. The battle is lost.
What just happen-- Oh no, more ﬁghting!
[Oh no is right. This battle can be a bit of a bastard.]
[A strong Rage Demon (who uses the model for an Abomination for some reason) spawns in with four undead Wardens. The gimmick is the Wardens will continually heal the Demon as long as they're alive. The demon puts out a lot of damage, but his minions are weak, so they go down quickly, so no big deal, right?]
[However, once you get the demon's health low enough, he'll heal to full, spawn in another four Wardens and two Greater Rage Demons. Who can fling around fireballs and other such bullshit.]
[The battle can go south very quickly. I found it pretty tough, even though I'm technically cheating by having Barkley along as well.
You can cheese it by luring the demon away from the Wardens to the far side of the map. Once there he's out of range of their healing spells, and can thus be killed easily. I didn't do that, because
The Wardens summoned demons.
I can't believe it. And my grandmother...
She was fighting for her life.
I believed that my family was better than that.
But answers may lay up ahead.
[The game gets a little confused about how closely related Levi is to Sophia. She's from centuries before his time, but he refers to her here and elsewhere as his grandmother. Could just be a figure of speech, but it's still odd.]
Can you shut these portals, Morrigan?
I do not know. Shale, can you collapse the ceiling?
Yes. But I'd prefer to not be trapped in this dreary room forever.
Then no, Leliana. I can not shut the portals. Maybe you should try asking the Maker.
[Your reward for beating that tough fight is an awesome frosty magic staff. Morrigan doesn't have the stats for it yet, but one day...]
Ah! It's stuck to my hand. Anyone have any warm water?
This raises several disturbing questions.
[Interacting with the Jam unlocks an... interesting codex entry. See the bottom of the post for further details.]
We're not getting through that way.
Step no further--
Get this annoyance away from me. This one would speak with you.
Who or what are you?
This one is the Dryden. Commander. Sophia. All these things.
You have slain many of the demon ilk to get here.
This one would propose a deal.
Is anything of the real Sophia left inside you?
This one has tasted her memories, seen her thoughts and hidden places.
But she is food for this one, no more, no less.
Levi, I'm afraid your great-great-grandmother is possessed.
That, or she's really let herself go.
My great-great grandmother is dead. I don't know what that is.
A demon. And why should I trust a demon?
What is one woman-child compared to your might? Strike me down if my terms offend.
Why do they always flatter you before trying to kill you?
A fool this one would be to betray the Warden.
Tell me about this deal.
You can't be serious. There's nothing left of Commander Dryden. She's possessed.
Your fledgling should mind its place. Meek, subservient, quiet.
Oh, I like her.
This one will answer your question.
The Soldier's Peak traps me. This one sees so many tantalizing places in the Dryden's memories--this one would see the world herself.
For me to be free, into the old mage tower you go and destroy. In return, this one seals the Veil.
No more demons, no more enemies. Your Peak would be safe. Just let this one go into the world.
And what exactly will you do if I free you?
This one will roam, this one will see, this one will feed.
Great. You're not exactly selling me on this deal.
But without me the Veil will grow weaker--more demons, more misery.
You choose just one of my kind or many.
All right. What am I destroying?
The magics, all moving things, the very stone if you have the power.
Something inside keeps my kind locked away.
Before I make a deal...
If I do this... You tell Levi anything he wants to know about Sophia.
Warden, my family has been looking for answers for over a century.
But not like this.
I'll support your decision either way.
Agreed. Any questions Levi has of the Dryden will be answered.
Can you tell me anything about the tower?
You only must destroy. For your purpose, there is nothing more you need.
Right. I'm off to break the tower, then.
Good. Good. Nothing must live. Gnash stone with teeth, if you can.
...You are weird, Demon Sophia. Even by demon standards.
[Before we leave, we can check out real, living Sophia's old diary.]
Anything interesting, Warden?
...No. Just old inventory reports.
Sophia switched off the magic for us. How convenient.
[Better hope you've got a decent rogue in your party... or two. This bridge is covered with mantraps, and a brace of undead archers at the far end.]
Yonder lies.... the tower!
[The zombies in the tower can cast magic, irritatingly. They don't have any real hardhitting spells, just debuffs that mean it takes longer than usual to beat 'em down.]
Hey, a creepy flask.
(An old vial contains a noxious potion. No one can say how long it has sat on this table.)
Cheers! (Drink the vial's contents.)
(Pain wracks your body. But there is power in this pain... and a hint of understanding.)
Wh-why did you do that?
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
(You have access to new abilities.)
[We gain two new abilities free of charge, which is always nice. Dark Passage is a passive talent that increases our movement speed during stealth and increases our chances of dodging enemy attacks. The Tainted Blade is a sustained talent that boosts our damage in proportion to our cunning stat, but depletes our health in the process. As Bianca is a dexterity build it isn't that useful for us.
Warriors and Mages get different abilities, but all share an emphasis on sacrificing health to trigger some sort of special attack. This is very much the stuff of the Dark Side in Dragon Age's cosmology, but it doesn't cost us anything to gain these powers.]
So, what was that all about?
(This appears to be old research of the mage Avernus. They detail a series of experiments in terse, clinical handwriting.)
Oh, not aga--
Day 32. The subject is not responding to the stimuli. Testing the pain threshold has uncovered nothing. Only three subjects are left.
Day 82. If only I could reproduce last night's extraordinary success. Electricity is only a catalyst. The blood is the key.
Day 97. Energy and blood. Repeated applications have duplicated the results. I conjecture that success can be induced alchemically.
But there are no more subjects left. If only I had one more, or a dozen. The things I could do.
I feel sick.
At least you did your part for magical research.
I hear you... Don't disrupt my concentration.
Even now the demons seek to replenish their numbers. Are you to thank for this welcome but temporary imbalance?
The old Warden mage? You're still alive?
Only just. I have only a short time left.
Careful. This... man has dabbled in matters forbidden by the Maker. He may look frail, but don't trust him.
So the Maker told you that, did he? Short-sighted men have forbidden my research, not any god.
Gosh, I wonder why.
Why are you here? What is your intent?
I want some answers.
To what questions, I wonder? Ask.
How have you survived these many years?
The Chantry foolishly forbids blood magic--but there are so many secrets to uncover.
As my body decayed, I found ways to extend it. But that can only go so far.
Tell me about what happened here.
What use would storytelling serve? The tyrant Arland is long dead. As are all our noble co-conspirators and the grand rebellion.
Sophia's corpse may walk and talk. But she, too, is no more.
How was Arland a tyrant?
He ruled with fear and poison. His treachery pit noble against noble in terrible battle.
We thought him a monster. We gathered allies to rebel.
But the toll of years have erased our failure, hasn't it? It seemed so pressing then, but the kingdom lives on.
As do your demons. Funny that.
What happened to the rebellion?
Isn't that obvious?
Too many mouths to quiet. Even sorcery can only go so far.
So we met with Teyrn Cousland. With him on our side, we had a chance of victory.
Instead, the king's guard ambushed us. Commander Dryden and I barely escaped.
You practiced blood magic on the nobles?
Of course. To nudge people, to keep our secret safe.
Sophia should've let me nudge harder. Her scruples were her undoing.
Or perhaps it was being hollowed out and worn like a glove by one of your demons that turned out to be bad for her health.
You had to know that summoning so many demons was foolhardy.
Perhaps. But it was survival.
For months, I prepared the summoning circles, researched the darkest depths of the Fade.
Been there. Done that. Bought the tunic.
That moment was a triumph of demonic lore. Dozens of demons called by my hand.
But with so many variables, I suppose calculation errors were inevitable. I was so close.
Commander Dryden knew of the demons?
She gave the order. I would have summoned the demons, anyway.
Your Order is not exactly covering itself in glory here, is it?
Only under Wardens can true magical research continue.
A chance to rediscover the secrets of ancient Tevinter.
You do remember how that ended? The Black City? Darkspawn?
Chantry lies told to subjugate the mages. To keep them docile.
How do you know the Chantry is wrong?
And how do you know they are right? Their faith would have you swallow a great deal for small comfort.
[Avernus is a crazy old sociopath living in a tower surrounded by monsters, but he is very good at foreshadowing the recurring plot themes of the Dragon Age series.]
OK then. Not that I care that much about your gods.
What was the purpose of your experiments?
To stop the demonic tide. To correct the miscalculations of the past.
Blood magic comes from demons. They could counter every bit of lore I knew.
But the darkspawn taint. That is alien to them. And it has power.
The Wardens use it merely to sense darkspawn. A triviality.
My research has discovered so much more--hinted at even greater heights.
This knowledge could not only save Soldier's Peak--with it, the Wardens could grow even more powerful!
Only a monster would sacrifice his fellow Wardens.
It was necessary. It was vital. The few meager years of life they would have spent trapped in this tower were nothing compared to the greater goal.
I gave their death meaning.
(Persuade) This is wrong. You're no better than the demons.
[This persuade option apparently does nothing at first, but will pay off later.)
I have done what I must. But...
Let me undo my greatest of mistakes. Let me cleanse this place. Then...
Then, I will accept whatever justice you feel I merit.
Hmm. Sophia's great-grandson brought me here. Levi, go ahead.
Master mage, uh, ser. My family name has been worth less than dirt for over a century.
Do you have any proof that Sophia was a hero?
The boy who braved the mists. So you heeded my call.
(Laughs) And you are a Dryden? The cosmos has a sense of humor.
He was but a boy when he entered the tunnels below the Peak. His heart pure. His character certain.
In dreams I gave him the keys he would need. He would be my deliverance.
Just answer Levi's question.
Your great-great-grandmother was the best of us.
Brave, charismatic, fiery. Utterly devoted to the fight. But still we lost.
We fought against a tyrant, you know? So full of vigor, then. So blind to consequence.
But proof? There's none to be had.
I'm sorry, Levi.
I... I had hoped. But thank you, Warden.
And as for you, Avernus. The time for questions is over.
So be it.
And what now? How do we end the sad story of Soldier's Peak?
1. Kill Avernus. Do what the nice demon lady said. He was a bad, bad man, and Sophia can seal the portals for us.
2. Kill Sophia. She's a demon. Enough said. Avernus should be able to seal the portals as well, if we can buy him time.
3. Kill both of them. Fuck this place and fuck these people.
Voting closes in 72 hours.
NEXT TIME: Bianca closes a door and Levi embraces his destiny.
NEW CODEX CONTENT:
The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 3 (Raspberry jam!)