Part 49: Not So SimplePART 49: NOT SO SIMPLE
Bianca and her friends made camp and talked about their rich and interesting backstories.
So, tell me, how did you become a Grey Warden?
Well, I won a tournament, made a speech, found a shield, and badly underestimated my brother. Then, I was cast out to die in the Deep Roads, where I met Duncan.
You survived the Deep Roads and the darkspawn that dwell there? Truly, you were meant to be a Grey Warden.
Born the esteemed child of King Endrin, and now, nothing.
No, not nothing. You are a Grey Warden... one of the last of the Ferelden Wardens. We depend on you now.
Take heart, dear friend. You survived, even when you were not expected to. We do not know yet what lies in store for you, or the name you carry.
It is not so bad, is it, being a Grey Warden?
Monsters, demons, ghosts, dragons, the government, my family, probably half our party members, bears, wolves, badgers, and maybe the sodding trees as well are all trying to kill me.
Look on the bright side; most of those would be trying to kill you even if you weren't a Warden.
Being exiled has given me a freedom I never had before.
Sometimes it gives me comfort to think that everything will end up the way it's supposed to, that it will be all right.
You were chosen; you survived the Joining when others did not. Perhaps it was meant to be.
I must ask: What does being a Grey Warden mean to you?
It means I've been chosen to do something important. Been chosen. Not 'chose'.
There's that, of course, but there's more to being a Grey Warden than killing darkspawn and saving the world from the Blight.
No, I think that's it.
Ultimately, being a Grey Warden is about serving others, about serving all people, whether elves or dwarves or men.
You mean to say I serve as a protector?
As a Grey Warden you are a guardian of men. And you guard them because their continued existence is more important than you are.
[Wynne's speech paints the Grey Wardens as being basically medieval Jedi, which disagrees with a lot of other sources in game. Those say the Grey Wardens exist as an amoral force dedicated solely to fighting the darkspawn, and anything else is secondary. I find the second interpretation more interesting.
I'm uncertain whether this speech is just Wynne putting a sunnier spin on the lore, or if it's a sign of confusion in the writing team about what the Grey Wardens actually are.]
Thus it is you who serve, not they.
I will keep that in mind.
A good king--a true king, who cares for his land--uses his power to rule firmly but fairly. He serves his people first and foremost.
The king who does not do this, who believes that he is entitled to his power, who abuses it and uses it for his own means, is a tyrant.
So in a way, having power confines you.
If you live apart from others, and your actions affect only you, then you may do as you wish.
But if you have power, influence and strength, your every action is as a drop of water in a clear still pond.
The drop causes ripples, and ripples spread. Think of how far they will go, how wide they will become. How will they affect the pond?
Thanks, Uncle Ben.
But I've lectured enough for today. I should stop before I wear out my welcome.
[Wynne's trying her darndest to mentor us. You can take the teacher out of the school, but you can't take the school out of the teacher.
I'm not sure if that phrase works. Moving on!]
I... have I ever told you I really like the way you wear your hair?
Really? It's so stubborn sometimes.
It's very nice and it suits you. Simple, not like the elaborate hairstyles we wore in Orlais. They involved flowers, ribbons, jewels...
One year, feathers were all the rage, and Lady Elise decided she needed to outdo everyone else, and actually wore live songbirds in her voluminous hair.
The chirping was quite charming for a while, but you must realize, terrified little birdies often have loose bowels.
Yes, I don't envy them. She never washed her hair.
Poor everyone nearby.
But I was trying to say something nice to you, wasn't I? Oh, forgive me. My mind wanders so.
It's just that I... I feel so comfortable talking to you, like I could say anything and you wouldn't judge me.
Well, we are friends, aren't we?
Yes, very much so.
Is this the point where you confess to mass murder?
Buy me a drink first.
I haven't felt this close to anyone in a long time. I really enjoy your company.
Uh... You are a treasured friend, Leliana.
Thank you. I'm honored that you feel that way.
[The thirst is real.]
I'd like to talk to you about something.
Yes? What is on your mind?
Why did you decide to come to Ferelden?
My mother was from Denerim and I consider myself a Fereldan. Mother served an Orlesian noblewoman who lived here when Orlais ruled.
When Orlais was defeated and the common folk began to resent the presence of any Orlesian, the lady returned to Orlais. She took my mother with her.
I was born in Orlais, and did not set foot in Ferelden till much later. Mother was always telling me stories of her homeland; I think she missed it.
Why did she leave Ferelden then?
She had served Cecilie--the Lady Cecilie--for many years and was loyal to her. Cecilie was a good person; she was always kind to me.
Mother died when I was very young. Lady Cecilie let me stay with her. I had no one else.
She was quite old then, and she had me study music and dance to entertain her. It is unfair, that I have more memories of Cecilie than my mother.
You were young, it's understandable.
Strangely, the only thing I really remember of Mother was her scent. She kept dried flowers in her closet, amongst her clothes.
Small, white Ferelden wildflowers with a sweet fragrance. Mother called them Andraste's Grace. They were very rare in Orlais.
You mean the flowers I just gave you.
I want to ask you another question.
I heard that in Orlais, minstrels are often spies.
Where did you hear this?
Someone told me this a long time ago. It's like the third thing anyone ever tells you about Orlais, after the wine and the silly hats.
And you believe everything you hear? (Laughs)
Not all minstrels are spies, most are just singers and storytellers. But some of them are... are what we call bards.
And the bards are spies?
Bards are minstrels, and more. Spies, as you say. Some say there is a bard order, but I don't think this is true.
Many bards work alone, or in small groups, doing the bidding of a patron who pays for their services. If there is an organization behind it all, no one knows who they are.
What sort of services does a bard offer?
What do you think? They infiltrate, steal... sometimes assassinate. It depends on the bard.
In Orlais there is much rivalry amongst the high-born. They fight over land, influence, hats, and the favor of the empress.
But they cannot do this openly, because it is impolite, and in public they wear smiling faces and pretend to be civil.
In secret they plot and scheme to destroy each other. It is a game completely meaningless to anyone but its players.
You were a bard, weren't you?
I have revealed too much, it seems.
It's literally your character class.
But it doesn't matter what I used to be. It is the past.
But why were you living as a cloistered sister in rural Ferelden?
I... found myself in Ferelden and sheltered from bad weather in the Chantry. And when the storm passed I just... did not want to leave.
I like to say the Maker brought me here.
Mmm. At the point of a crossbow apparently.
[So there was Leliana's wholly unsurprising secret. We'll find out more about her Shadowy Past later.]
[It's been a while since we rapped with Sten. Let's see if we can squeeze more than two words out of him this time.]
You are not quite as callow as I thought.
That is... unexpected.
Callow? You thought I was callow?
You sound surprised. You must have heard this before.
I was a princess, Sten! You don't call princesses callow!
You'll get over it. Eventually.
Why did I let you out of that cage again?
I have wondered that, myself. It is one of the many things I find puzzling about your behavior.
Well, I find plenty of things puzzling about you too.
What is there to be puzzled by? I'm a simple creature. I like swords. I follow orders. There's nothing else to know about me.
I don't think you're that simple.
As I said, you're not as callow as I thought.
In any case, we should go now.
I wanted to discuss something you mentioned.
What were you doing in that cage?
Does it matter? Very well.
I caged myself. A weak mind is a deadly foe, as you are no doubt aware.
What do you mean by, a weak mind? ...Wait, was that an insult?
That is... complicated.
I told you before that I was sent here. I was not sent alone.
I came to your lands with seven of the Beresaad--my brothers--to seek answers about the Blight.
I know, I met two of your brothers in the Fade. They were way more emotive than you.
We made our way across the Ferelden countryside without incident, seeing nothing of the threat we were sent to observe.
Until the night we camped by Lake Calenhad.
They came from everywhere: The earth beneath our feet, the air above us, our own shadows harbored the darkspawn.
I saw the last of the creatures cut down, too late. I fell.
That sounds like what happened to me at Ostagar.
I heard the stories of Ostagar. Your kith stood their ground when others fled. No one can do more than that.
I don't know how long I lay on the battlefield among the dead, nor do I know how the farmers found me.
I only know that when I woke, I was no longer among my brothers. And my sword was gone from my hand.
You probably dropped it on the battlefield.
Perhaps. I searched for it. And when that failed, I asked my rescuers what had become of it.
Did the farmers know where it was?
They said they found me with nothing.
Did you believe them?
I did. I knew they didn't have the blade. They had no reason to lie to me. I panicked. Unthinking, I struck them down.
You panicked over a lost blade?
That sword was made for my hand alone. I have carried it from the day I was set into the Beresaad. I was to die wielding it for my people.
Even if I could cross Ferelden and Tevinter unarmed and alone to bring my report to the arishok, I would be slain on sight by the antaam.
They would know me as soulless, a deserter. No soldier would cast aside his blade while he drew breath.
If you lose your sword, you die? How can your people possibly think that way?
We know who we are, and what we are meant to be.
That's not much of an answer.
It wasn't much of a question.
So that's it? You aren't going to do anything about it?
What would you have me do? It could be anywhere by now.
Where did you fight the darkspawn?
Near Lake Calenhad.
Don't worry, we'll find it. It's only about 500 square miles.
Perhaps those words are empty, but... thank you all the same.
[Another entry for the sidequest list. We'll need to go find Sten's missing sword at some point, else he'll never get his groove back.]
[Let's chat with Morrigan in her mini-camp.]
What do you wish of me?
I'd like to ask you something.
If you must.
Have you ever been hunted by the Chantry? You don't seem very pious.
My mother has been hunted from time to time, yes. By templar fools like Alistair, which should tell you how successful they generally were.
Flemeth made a bit of a game of it, in fact. The templars would come again and she would look at me and smile and say that the fun was to begin once more.
You really had no trouble with them?
I am unsure. I was too young to understand, and perhaps 'twas bravado on Flemeth's part. Or perhaps she was merely amused, I will never know.
Flemeth would warn them once. Twas a warning they inevitably failed to heed.
And then the true game began. Often Flemeth would use me as bait. A little girl to scream and run and lure the templars deeper into the wilds and to their doom.
Flemeth used you as bait? How... heartwarming.
Twas a game and I a young girl. If I didn't get to play, I would have been very upset.
Thankfully, the wilds is a vast place. Once they found us, Flemeth would simply move us elsewhere and we would be lost within the forest once again.
I did not understand the danger we faced until I was much older. I had never heard of "apostates" or "maleficarum."
Do you still think it was fun?
I think that my mother made it fun so that a child did not learn to fear. And I think that it was necessary.
There are no trials for apostates, no prisons, no mercy. There are only absolutes, so only survival matters.
If the wilds have taught me anything, 'tis this: first you must survive. Do you disagree?
You're probably right.
An enlightened view. Or at least an agreeable one.
Agreeable is my middle name.
Best not let the elf hear you say that.
I've got another question.
What do you wish of me?
Is Flemeth really what she seems to be?
(Chuckles) Well that depends, does it not? What does she seem to be?
Oh, she certainly was human. Once.
Tell me: how much do you know of the tale? The one that the Chasind still tell of my mother, to frighten them into obedience?
I didn't even know there was such a thing. I'm a dwarf, remember.
Ah! I see. That does explain much.
I can relay what Flemeth once told me, herself. And you can decide whether or not 'tis the truth. If you desire.
That sounds interesting.
As the tale is sung by the bards, there was a time when Flemeth was young and beautiful. A fair lass in a land of barbarian men, the desire of any who saw her.
Just how long ago is this?
Many centuries, before this land was even named Ferelden.
She's aged well, for a human.
The tales say that Flemeth fell in love with Osen, the bard, and fled the castle of her husband, the dread Lord Conobar, and that he swore vengeance for her infidelity.
In truth, my mother claims that 'twas Osen who was her husband, and Conobar the jealous lord who looked on from afar.
Lord Conobar approached young Osen and offered him wealth and power in exchange for his lovely wife. And Osen agreed.
Flemeth must have been angry.
The life of a bard is a poor one, and love fades in the wake of hunger. 'Twas Flemeth who suggested the arrangement.
All would have been well had Lord Conobar kept his end of the bargain. But he was a foul man who bargained with coin he did not possess.
Osen was led off to a field and slain, left for dead. Flemeth spoke to the spirits and learned of the deed, and swore revenge.
So she truly loved Osen then?
That was not the point. Conobar had no honor, so she would not have him.
Flemeth begged the spirits to aid her and 'twas they who slew Conobar. The demon the legend tells of came later.
Lord Conobars allies chased Flemeth, you see. Chased her to the Wilds and there she hid. There she found the demon and he made her strong.
[Given developments in the sequels, this story is probably really important to the ongoing Dragon Age saga. It'd be good to know if any of it was true.]
The legends all speak of the great hero Cormac, he who defeated Flemeth and her great army when she invaded the lowlands centuries later. All lies.
Which? She never invaded? Or he never defeated her?
The truth of the matter is that there was never an invasion. As Flemeth tells it, the Chasind never raised an army under her banner and she never fought with any warrior named Cormac.
Cormac led a brutal civil war against his own people, and later claimed it was to vanquish evil that had taken root amongst the lords. Thus was he hailed a hero.
Why is the truth always so depressing?
Flemeth was only attached to the legend much later. Perhaps 'twas due to the great war with the Chasind that eventually came, but Mother claims not to know how it began.
Do you believe her version?
I do not believe everything that Flemeth claims. Oft it seems her bitterness has colored her memories.
But on the whole? Yes. I believe this tale, if not all.
How is it that Flemeth has survived for so long?
The demon within her has transformed her into... something else. An abomination, perhaps some would say? I know not.
I only know my mother is clever. And she is part of the Wilds as it is part of her.
But she is no immortal. She bleeds. A blade in her heart would kill her like any other, were it lucky enough to find her.
Aren't abominations usually insane horrors?
How often is this "usually?" Always? If not always, then when is it not true?
It's been true for all the ones we've met.
I wonder. There are more things in this world and the next than you or I could ever hope to understand. What Flemeth became is a mystery... I suspect even to her.
An interesting story. Thank you.
Flemeth tells it with far more embellishment than I. But you are welcome.
Dare I ask of your own mother? Few are abominations of legend, 'tis true, but I find myself curious nevertheless.
My mother died a long time ago.
Ah. Then you have my sympathies, for what it is worth.
Which is very little, I am certain. It matters not.
Mm. Let us move on.
[So, where to now?]
DLC ADVENTURE VOTE!
Hey, we've been on the Main Plot train for a while now. Let's kick back, relax and do some nice, calming DLC. But which one?
1. Return to Ostagar. We head back to the battlefield to
2. The Darkspawn Chronicles. In a parallel universe, where Bianca died during the Joining, things are going badly for the kingdom. Very badly. A non-stop combat adventure, where we get to play as the bad guys.
3. Leliana's Song. A flashback to Leliana's spying days. The longest and plottiest DLC, as Leliana gets embroiled in all sorts of backstabbing, double-dealing hijinks.
Voting closes in 72 hours!
NEXT TIME: We go off the beaten track.