Part 53: The New RomanticsPART 53: THE NEW ROMANTICS
Bianca, Sten, Morrigan and Shale head to the Brecilian Forest in search of the isolationist Dalish Elves...
Stop right there, outsider. The Dalish have camped in this spot. I suggest you go elsewhere, and quickly.
This is how you greet travelers?
This is no stop on a traveler's journey. We have neither an inn for you to rest in nor bread to share. I suggest you move on.
That seems like a poor attitude.
Is that so? Yet trusting outsiders always ends up with our people being enslaved or driven from their homes. So I trust you'll forgive our lack of hospitality.
Oh, this place is going to be a barrel of laughs. I can just sense it.
So I will repeat myself one last time. Go back the way you came, and do so quickly.
I have business with your people.
I find that hard to believe. What business could we Dalish possibly have with a group like yours?
(Persuade) I will tell that to your leader and no one else.
Are we not going to shout our purpose from the treetops for once?
I thought subtlety would be a nice change.
Seeing as you are obviously no simple trespasser, I will leave it to the keeper to decide the importance of your business.
In the camp, I suggest you keep your hands to yourself and remember that our arrows are still trained on you. Follow me.
Hmm. I see we have guests.
Lovely. It's a whole colony.
Barkley! Don't be rude!
And Shale! Don't be rude either!
And a hound amongst them. As if we haven't had enough problems with such creatures. (Scoffs)
Who are these strangers, Mithra? I have precious little patience and less time to spend on outsiders today.
I understand, but this one claims to have important business with our people.
I see. Tell me, stranger, what business could you possibly have with us? We have our own issues we must deal with, as you can see.
I come representing the Grey Wardens.
You might have simply said so to begin with.
People usually try to kill us when they find out.
Or they try to enlist our aid in futile endeavours.
Ma serannas, Mithra, you may return to your post.
Ma nuvenin, Keeper.
Now, allow me to introduce myself. I am Zathrian, the keeper of this clan, its guide and preserver of our ancient lore. And you are?
Call me Bianca.
[Zathrian is played by Tim Russ, making him the second Star Trek Voyager alumni in the cast, after Kate Mulgrew's turn as Flemeth. Spoilers: Garret Wang plays the archdemon. ]
If you came to bring news of the Blight in the south, it is not needed. I had already sensed its corruption.
I would have taken the clan north by now, had we the ability to move. Sadly, as you can see, we do not.
So their first reaction to trouble is to flee from it? Curious.
I imagine you are here regarding the treaty we signed centuries ago. Unfortunately, we may not be able to live up to the promise we made.
This will require some... explanation. Please follow me.
The clan came to the Brecilian Forest one month ago. as is our custom when we enter this part of Ferelden.
We are always wary of the dangers in the forest, but we did not expect the werewolves would be lying in wait for us.
And are they the ones who spilled jam everywhere?
They... ambushed us, and though we drove the beasts back, much damage was done. Many of our warriors lie dying as we speak.
Even with all our magic and healing skill, we will eventually be forced to slay our brethren to prevent them from becoming beasts.
The Blight's evil must be stopped, but we are in no position to uphold our obligations. I am truly sorry.
There are actual werewolves in the forest?
There was a time in Ferelden's history when werebeasts roamed the lands in great numbers. Spirits possessed animals and turned them into horrific monsters.
The humans warred against and destroyed these creatures. No doubt their tales of those days grow ever more inaccurate.
Flemeth tells tales of such a time. Packs of possessed wolves, akin to abominations, roaming the land. It was a terrible age, now long past.
The werebeasts are not all gone from this land, and the ones that stalk the Brecilian Forest are proof of this.
Why did these beasts attack you?
They are savage and unrelenting; they need no reason to attack anyone. What is curious, however, is the ambush.
We expect werewolves to be no more cunning than a rabid wolf. The ambush suggests a level of intelligence we've never seen before.
Maybe they aren't as unintelligent as you think.
I doubt that. The very curse that is in their blood fills them with an unreasoning rage that precludes any true thought.
Is there no way to help your men?
The only thing that could help them must come from the source of the curse itself, and that... that would be no trivial task to retrieve.
But you're going to ask me to get it anyhow, right?
I would not ask such a thing of anyone. You asked, did you not?
Damned elven logic!
Within the Brecilian Forest dwells a great wolf--we call him Witherfang. It was within him that the curse originated, and through his blood that it has been spread.
If he is killed and his heart brought to me, perhaps I could destroy the curse, but this task has proven too dangerous for us.
I sent some hunters into the forest a week ago, but they have not returned. I cannot risk any more of my clan.
You said you could 'perhaps' destroy the curse? I'm not going werewolf hunting on a perhaps.
There is no guarantee that this will work as I suspect, but it's the only hope we have left.
That's the best kind of hope. I'll find this Witherfang for you.
I must warn you that more than werewolves lurk in the Brecilian Forest. It has a history full of carnage and murder, you see.
Where there is so much death, the Veil separating the spirit realm from our own becomes thin, allowing spirits to possess things living or dead.
Is there anywhere in Ferelden where the Veil isn't thin? I think this entire country is one demon sneeze away from dropping into the Fade altogether.
But if you can indeed help... then I wish you luck.
I have some questions for you.
Make them quick, if you please. I have much to do, here. My apprentice, Lanaya, or Sarel, the clan's storyteller, could provide you with answers just as easily.
How do I find Witherfang? Do you have any advice?
Watch for the white wolves. They are his eyes and ears in the forest.
So did all werewolves everywhere stem from Witherfang?
No. The ones from this forest, however, do.
Tell me more about the curse the hunters suffer from.
There is not much to say. It stemmed originally from Witherfang, but now any werewolf may infect someone with it.
So if a werewolf bites me then I will become infected?
It is possible, but not guaranteed. The only way to protect against the curse is not to be bitten.
[This is not a mechanic. You can't get infected and become a werewolf, despite how totally badass it would be to have a werewolf Warden. A Wardenwolf. A Weredenwolf?]
How do you know if you have been infected by the curse?
You will know within a matter of days. You will begin to sweat and vomit and, most tellingly, your temper will become wild and uncontrollable.
If that happens to you. you should seek out Witherfang even more swiftly. Your mission at that point will be rather... personal.
Have I ever told you how nice it is to made of stone? It is rather splendid.
I should go.
I must return to caring for my people. Creators' speed on your way.
[This is the Dalish camp, the 'town' area for the Brecilian Forest. There's a shop here, a bunch of sidequests to start, and a load of lore entries to examine. Let's look around!
Oh, and I've put Sten in the Cailan armour we picked up from Ostagar 2 updates ago. He's pretty much unstoppable now.]
[This guy is Sarel, the storyteller Zathrian mentioned. I'm sure he's a friendly fellow.]
We greet you, child of the stone. I understand you are to venture into the haunted forest to save our brethren.
I suspect your efforts may be in vain. An entire group of our hunters went into the forest to do as you intend, and they have not returned.
If I'm lucky, maybe I can find them.
An outsider to the rescue, but of course! What were we doing trying to solve our own problems?
You think sarcasm is going to help, do you?
Nothing will help us now, least of all the meddling of an outsider.
Stop this, Sarel. This outsider has done us little good, but would you turn away help for our people simply because of the hand that offered it?
(Sigh) You shame me, lethallan. I have allowed my bitterness to cloud my better judgment.
Forgive me, Grey Warden. It is most difficult to forget the lessons these shemlen have taught us.
Perhaps I can yet make amends. Stay while I spin a tale for our children and then I will tell you of the forest, if you desire.
Yes, I'd like that.
Come and join us, then, all of you.
Bah. The elf wants to tell stories? Do we truly have time for such drivel?
I imagine an ancient being such as yourself would have many stories to tell, hmrn?
Indeed. I have thirty years worth of tales involving pastoral village life and being defecated on by pigeons. Riveting stuff.
(Laughs) And far more than that, I suspect.
Now, what say we tell the story of the fall of the Dales? Which of you children knows that best?
I... I think I do.
Yes? Then come, child. Don't be frightened of the outsiders. Now... where do you suppose such a tale should begin?
When we were slaves?
Yes. Long ago, our people were slaves to an empire the shemlen had built on the darkest magic. They took away our history and our language and left us nothing.
[Shemlen is the old elven word for human. It means 'quick children'. This says a lot about the ancient elves.]
And then that empire fell and we were freed.
Because Andraste came with her army and Shartan joined her!
Yes. Andraste, the shemlen prophet, came out of the south and challenged the Tevinter Imperium. Our ancestor, Shartan, fought at her side.
And when the rebellion came to an end, we were given a new homeland in the west: the Dales.
We began to rebuild the culture and history we had lost in our years of slavery. We worshipped the Creators and made the Dales our home.
Perhaps you know what happened next, stranger? Do you know what happened to the Dales?
Something you think we should care about, probably.
You were invaded by the humans.
Indeed. They resented that we would not worship their Maker, and they resented our ways because they were so different from their own.
The shemlen nations grew cold towards the Dales. They called us blasphemers and tyrants and declared war upon us--a great crusade.
[The massacre of the human village of Red Crossing by the elves is what sparked the war. At least, that's what the humans say. The truth is... in Dragon Age: Inquisition, actually.]
It's a war you started, I'm told.
Told by whom? A history that has been dictated by the victors, no doubt.
Whereas a history told by the losers is always accurate, I'm sure.
Oh, I am certain we played a part in our downfall. We believed that the shemlen would not revoke their prophet's gift so lightly.
We were wrong. They took our lands, forcing us to abandon our gods and live as beggars in shemlen cities.
You should have fought. You should have fought to the last of you. Better that than to submit.
Oh? Is it not the qunari way to force others to submit? Surely that would not be your advice to my people were they attacked by the mighty qunari.
That would be different. The qunari would improve your people. The humans have improved nothing.
Perhaps. Even so, many of us did fight. We fought and we lost.
[Sarel's kind of an asshole, but I do like him for calling Sten on his bullshit. Of course, Sten's kind of an asshole too, so he ignores it.]
But there were those of us who refused to abandon our ways.They emblazoned the symbols of the Creators upon their flesh and vowed to keep their ancient lore alive.
That's us! That's the Dalish!
Indeed, child. We chose to wander, homeless, rather than be ruled by the shemlen. And all our clans wander alone until the day we have a homeland once more.
Then we bring the old ways back to our people because they have forgotten it all.
For we are the Dalish: the Keepers of the Lost Lore...
The Walkers of the Lonely Path...
We are the Elvhenan, and never again shall we submit.
And that is the tale of the Dales, stranger. Thank you for allowing us to tell it to you.
Thank you. I enjoyed it very much. Humans, eh?
Indeed. Perhaps, one day, you will tell us a tale of your people. A day when you are not guest and stranger but savior.
[So that's who the Dalish are. I'm never sure if they're supposed to admirable or pitiable. Keeping the ancient ways alive is all very well, but the Dalish are powerless vagabonds who arrogantly lay claim to being the One True Elves, as opposed to all those
And yet, as we will see, the elves who live in the cities are treated like garbage, so beaten down that many seem permanently broken. Preserving your culture in amber and nursing grudges forever may not be very healthy, but at least it instils a sense of pride and unity.]
Now, as I said I would, I can tell you what I know of the Brecilian Forest. Do you wish to hear it?
Yes, tell me of the forest.
Our legends say that before the shemlen came the Brecilian forest was a place of our ancestors that predated even our oldest homeland.
The people of the Imperium came here and gave the forest its name. If they found traces of our ancestors, we cannot say.
If they did, those elves were slain or enslaved. We know only that a great many battles were fought here; these trees grow upon the armies of those who fell--shemlen and elves both.
So much death in one place tore the Veil into the Beyond.
Why do you keep coming here then?
Nice views, fresh air, interesting... herbs. You get used to the occasional screaming apparition.
The shemlen know the Beyond as "the Fade," the place of dreams and spirits. When the Veil is torn, spirits pass into our world freely.
The legends say that one great spirit possessed the wolf that became Witherfang, who passed its curse of rage onto men and created werewolves.
This Witherfang still exists today.
So Zathrian insists. He says that Witherfang does not age as the werewolves do.
Witherfang is as much spirit as it is beast, and thus it is immortal.
This will be an interesting fight then.
Perhaps it cannot even be slain. At the very least it is old and powerful, much as Zathrian himself.
How many werewolves are there?
No one knows. When the shemlen lived in these parts, the curse would spread anew to a few of them with each passing year.
They would run off into the forest, never to be seen again. Eventually, all the shemlen left.
One assumes the werewolves survive by passing their curse to their offspring. They have had no new blood... until now. that is.
Have the hunters become werewolves?
It is said that one or two have turned already, though the keeper denies it. As for the rest, they will either die or turn. unless...
...they are killed out of mercy. I would rather die than become a ravening, soulless beast. Wouldn't you?
Pass. That's all I need to know.
One last warning: the forest is like a thing alive. It changes as it wills, closing paths behind you and opening up new ones.
Too many have become lost within, unable to find their way out. Were I you I would endeavor not to make the forest my enemy.
Lost Woods scenario. Gotcha.
[After all that passive aggressive ominousness, let's chat to a plump-cheeked sadsack sitting nearby.]
There's no need to be afraid of me.
Of course. I'm-l'm very sorry. It's just that... we don't get many visitors. Like you, l mean. Of your kind.
You've never seen a dwarf before?
Never. You're so much... bigger than I--oh, er, I didn't mean... Oh, dear. I should start over.
I am Cammen, a hunter apprentice. Though I wish I could become a real hunter.
Why can't you?
I... shouldn't be talking about this to an outsider. You wouldn't understand.
(Persuade) Try me. I might surprise you.
I... suppose there's no harm in it. It's not like you can help me.
Are all these bas such cringing, ineffectual creatures?
I've been an apprentice for too long. To become a true hunter, I must bring back the pelt of a beast I killed myself. A boar or a wolf or... something.
I wanted to hunt in the forest, but we're forbidden to enter because of the attack. But... the real problem is Gheyna.
Girl problems, I see.
She's my heart's desire. I have asked for her hand, but she cruelly refuses it. She will not bond with an apprentice, she says, and calls me a child.
I am no child! If I was a hunter, I could prove it, but l cannot hunt and... and Gheyna will never bond with me!
That's a... euphemism, right?
I feel so helpless! (Sigh) I shouldn't have brought it up. Just leave me to my misery.
Kid, you're in luck.
If you're having love trouble, we can help.
Because we are the greatest romance experts in all of Ferelden...
...and we're gonna teach you how to talk to girls.
NEXT TIME, ON A VERY SPECIAL DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS: Can Cammen work up the courage to ask Eleyna out to big dance? Will Bianca be crowned prom queen? Can Barkley win the big game, and send the Dalish through to the nationals? Oh, and werewolves too, I guess.
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