Part 52: Sten Has A Conversation With A DogPART 52: STEN HAS A CONVERSATION WITH A DOG
After burying King Cailan, our heroes make camp for the evening...
I lied to you, you know? About why I left Orlais.
What? Leliana, we just got back from Ostagar. I still smell like burnt king. What are you talking about?
You know... All those enigmatic allusions about me being a bard, and how Orlesian bards are often spies. And about how I mysteriously fled the capital of art, wine, and fine shoes to live in a town where the hoedown was the pinnacle of culture.
Oh, that. I knew you weren't telling me something.
I didn't feel like talking about it then. What happened to me... maybe it will affect us, maybe not, but you should know.
I came to Ferelden and the Chantry because I was being hunted, in Orlais.
Fascinating! Tell me more. Were you playing the most dangerous game?
I was framed, betrayed by someone I thought I knew and could trust. Marjolaine--she was my mentor... and friend.
She taught me the bardic arts--how to enchant with words and music, to carry myself like a high-born lady, to blend in as a servant, the complete lyrics of the Hedgehog Song...
The skills I learned I used to serve her, my bard-master, because I loved her, and because I enjoyed what I did.
You loved her?
She was a remarkable woman. I cannot fully express the admiration I had for her, or the depth of my affection.
I thought I knew her. My devotion to her blinded me to her... less than noble attributes.
A mercenary spymaster with less than noble attributes? Surely not.
You can say it was my fault. There was a man I was sent to kill. I was to bring Marjolaine everything he carried.
I don't know who this man was. She gave me a name and a description, and I hunted him down. I found documents on his body--sealed documents.
You opened them, didn't you? Wouldn't be much of a story if you didn't.
My curiosity got the better of me. Something told me that I needed to know what was in those letters.
Marjolaine... had been selling all kinds of information about Orlais to other countries--Nevarra and Antiva, among others. It was treason.
Isn't that what bards do?
Some. But I had always assumed Marjolaine only operated within Orlais. This was an unhappy surprise for me.
My life as bard taught me that my loyalties should be kept fluid. My concern was not that she was a traitor, but that her life would be in danger if she was caught.
Orlais has been at war with so many countries. It takes a harsh view of such things... as I later discovered.
Most countries don't appreciate treason.
I should have left well alone, but I didn't. I had to tell Marjolaine I feared for her life.
She brushed aside my concern. She admitted her guilt, but said it was in the past. That is why the documents had to be destroyed, she said.
I believed her. I kept believing, up till the moment they showed me the documents, altered by her hand to make me look the traitor.
She betrayed you?
The Orlesian guards. They captured me... did terrible things to make me confess and reveal my conspirators.
It was a traitor's punishment I endured, and at the end of it, all that awaited me was eternity in an unmarked grave.
How did you get out?
The skills Marjolaine taught me were good for something, at least. I broke free when I saw the opportunity.
I did not seek Marjolaine out. If she thought I was coming for her, she would have me caught again.
And so you came to Ferelden, to Lothering.
I was tempted to confront her; I was furious, betrayed, but what could I do against her?
Kill her? I know it's cliché but...
She would have seen me coming from the other side of the continent. I would have had to fight through an army of guards to get near her.
And so I ﬂed, to Ferelden, to the Chantry and the Maker. Ferelden protected my person, and the Maker saved my soul.
And that is the reason I am here. The real reason. No more lies between us, at least in this.
Thank you for trusting me with this.
It feels good to have this off my chest. Thank you for listening, and understanding.
Do you miss anything about Orlais?
[spot the change to a different recording session]
I miss Val Royeaux. Unlike other cities, where the people are the life-blood and the character, Val Royeaux was her own person, and her people little more than decorations.
There was always music in Val Royeaux, streaming from the many windows--quiet refrains and triumphant choruses...
And always, ﬂoating above that all, the Chant, coming from the Grand Cathedral. It was magnificent.
How did anyone get any sleep?
Copious amounts of cheap wine. That is another thing I miss.
It sounds wonderful.
Oh, it would take me a day or two to talk about the many splendors of Orlais--her golden fields, her lush meadows...
Of course, there are good things and bad things about Orlais, like anywhere else. Sometimes I miss it dearly, and sometimes I am glad I am rid of it.
And you will laugh at this, but I miss the fine things I had in Orlais.
It must have been a big change, moving to Lothering.
I left behind much, leaving Orlais. But there is more to life than dresses and furs. It is sad that many have lost sight of this.
Orlais is very fashionable. Almost ridiculously so. Ahh... but the shoes. Living with those ridiculous trends was worth it for the shoes.
Were they ridiculous shoes?
Sometimes. About ten years ago all the ladies went mad for shoes with soles as large--and heavy--as bricks. But it isn't always that silly.
Silly? That type of shoe has been fashionable in Orzammar for the last... 3000 years.
When I left Orlais, the fashion was shoes with delicate, tapered heels and embellishments in the front--a ribbon perhaps, or embroidery. In soft colors of course; it was spring.
Oh, that sounds so lovely.
I had my eye on a pair my shoemaker was working on. It was covered in pale blue silk, with amber beads on the toe.
The shoes made in Orlais were exquisite. Not at all like these clunky fur-lined leather boots you have in Ferelden. Ugh... just look at them.
I know right? So ugly and shapeless.
They're sturdy shoes, but sometimes, a girl just wants to have pretty feet.
Oh, I could talk about shoes all day, but we have things to do, don't we?
[And that was Shoe Chat with Leliana. Coming up next, Wynne!]
I think I owe you an explanation for what happened earlier.
Yes, you had me quite worried.
You should know that... something happened to me at the tower, before you came along.
You spoke to Petra, did you not? She told you I saved her from a demon. I... did, but I did not survive that encounter.
Uh. This case of death is taking a while to kick in then.
Let me explain fully.
I engaged a very powerful demon to rescue Petra. It sapped me of all my energy and will, and left me drained.
It took everything I had to defeat it, and when I was done I no longer had the strength to keep my heart beating.
I remember my life ebbing away; everything receded from me... sound, light... I remember being enveloped in complete, impenetrable darkness.
And then I sensed a presence, enfolding me and cradling rne, whispering quietly to me. The sensation is impossible to describe.
I was being... held back, firmly, but gently, as a mother would a child eager to slip from her grasp.
Not that impossible to describe then.
I felt life and warmth ﬂowing through my veins again. I began to be aware of small sounds, and the discomfort of my hip pressing into the cold stone of the tower floor.
So you were never really completely dead then. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
The Fade contains spirits both benevolent and malicious. The benevolent spirits seldom make themselves known, because they want nothing from mortals, unlike the demons.
It was one of these spirits that saved me. Without it, I would be dead. And it has not left me. It is with me, even now, bonded to me.
You see, I am supposed to be dead. It is the spirit that is keeping me in this world, and this is not the way of things.
Perhaps the spirit did not expect this but it is weakening, gradually. I am living on borrowed time.
How long will the spirit last?
I do not know. I can feel when the spirit weakens, so I should have fair warning. But come, let us not talk about this. There is time yet.
But you're... dying.
We're all dying, child. At least I get an early warning about it.
[So that's Wynne's deal. It's kind of like demonic possession except benign. Probably.]
I need cheering up, Zevran.
Ah. I've a question, if I may.
Well here is the thing: I swore an oath to serve you, yes? And I understand the quest you're on and this is all very fine and well.
My question pertains to what you intend to do with me once this business is over with. As a point of curiosity.
Is this after I ravish you in celebration?
Of course it is afterwards. The ravishing part is a given.
One simply assumes that, once your Grey Warden business is finished, you would have no need of an assassin to follow you about. Am I wrong?
Not at all. You could go, if you wanted.
Could I? And what if I didn't wish to leave?
Don't get needy, Zevran. I get enough of that from everyone else in this outfit.
But you like being needed, no?
Well... I suppose there's always a use or two for a handsome elf.
(Chuckles) I'm sure that I could come up with a few more, if pressed.
It is good to know what my options might be. But that is for another time. For now, we have much to do, yes?
Can I ask some questions?
All right, but I get to stare at you luridly while you do so.
Do you actually enjoy being an assassin?
And why not? There are many things to enjoy about being a Crow in Antiua.
You are respected. You are feared. The authorities go out of their way to overlook your trespasses. Even the rewards are nothing to turn your nose up at.
As for the killing part, well... some people simply need assassinating. Or do you disagree?
You've never killed an innocent?
Now there's an interesting word, "innocent." How many men do you know who can claim to be truly innocent?
Do you know how many psychopaths have used that line, Zevran?
If you're talking generalities, such as children and relatives and bystanders and such... never on purpose, but it happens.
It's unfortunate, but death comes to us all. If not me, then some wasting disease. Or a fall down the stairs. Or at the hands of a darkspawn. It's all relative in the end.
That sounds like an excuse.
"Death happens," as we like to say. And when I get paid for it, death happens more often.
As far as enjoying the act of killing itself, why not? There is a certain artistry to the deed, the pleasure of sinking your blade into their ﬂesh and knowing that their life is in your hands.
I know what you mean.
There are many things I did not enjoy about being a Crow, of course. Having no choice, being treated as an expendable commodity, the rules... oh so many rules!
But simply being an assassin? I like it just fine. I will continue to do it, if I can, even if I am not a Crow. Honestly, could you picture me doing something else?
Why not? You can do whatever you like.
Whereas I am content merely doing what I happen to be good at. It's a talent that not many come by honestly. I don't see why I need not pursue it.
Of course all these thoughts are moot. Chances are still good that you and I will perish, eaten by darkspawn or slain by the Crows at some point. Very gruesomely, I imagine.
But it is pleasant enough to chat about. Come, let's move on while our boots still have some wear in them.
You're right. The road beckons.
Well, it's time to decide where to go ne--
(Low, menacing growl)
(Loud, terrifying roar)
(Watch Sten and Barkley)
(He barks fiercely and lunges at Sten)
You are a true warrior, and worthy of respect.
I'll just be... ah... over here.
Well, now it's time to decide where to go next. We need to crack on with gaining support for the Wardens. But where has priority?
1. Denerim. The quest for the Urn of Sacred Ashes leads here, the great capital of Ferelden. We'll need the Urn to cure Arl Eamon and gain the support of his army. Assuming that it works, of course.
2. The Brecilian Forest. If we want the backing of those pansy forest elves, we'll need to search the woods for them. And probably help them out with some manner of bullshit.
3. Orzammar. Is it time for Bianca to go home? If we go underground to gain the help of the dwarves, we might not be coming back for some time. Or at all.
We'll also need a party. Pick 3 out of Alistair, Morrigan, Leliana, Sten, Wynne, Zevran and Shale.
Voting closes in 3 days! Vote! Vote! Vote!
NEXT TIME: Maybe someone else will talk to Barkley.