The Kingdom Of Orzammar
Aedan effortlessly led the way up the Frostback's bitter, snowy paths, barely noticing the deep snow and biting cold, while some of his companions were completely demoralized by the unforgiving frost of these mountains. Especially Sten and Zevran, the two of them were raised in very warm climates, so this much snow was actually a foreign, even alien concept to them. Leliana had lived in Ferelden for a few years now and she was used to winter in Orlais, but even she was unused to this turbulent Ferelden snow. Several times Zevran swore to the Maker that he was going to die in these frigid conditions, and how only a people as barbaric as the Fereldans could survive such extremes. It was true; Aedan, Alistair, Morrigan and even Wynne didn't seem to be very bothered by, in fact they seemed inured to it.
Aedan remembered coming by this path when he first left his homeland for Orlais and when he came back this way with the Avvar. It was in these very mountains Aedan learned what true strength was. He felt a wave of nostalgia wash over him and wished he could use this time to visit the Avvar of Bear-Hold while he was here, but that was not his purpose. He was here to get to the gates of Orzammar and enlist the aid of the dwarves, and hopefully this little bit of diplomacy wouldn't be such a pain. How hard could it be to get the deshyrs and king to combat the Blight?
As they continued up Gherlen's Pass they came across the mighty Paragons of Orzammar that marked their approach to the gates of Orzammar. The powerful stone gates were visible from leagues away, as were the merchants and surface dwarves showing off their wares. As they approached Aedan noticed a well-armed group waiting at the feet of the Paragon Bemot. They looked like they were waiting for them. It was not uncommon for the merchants and businessmen here to hire mercenaries to protect their goods from bandits, Avvar and competitors, but somehow Aedan doubted these guys were on a merchants payroll.
"You waiting for something?" Aedan demanded.
One of them, a heavily armored man carrying a greatsword and closed helm tossed a crumpled piece of paper to Aedan. Aedan unfolded the paper and recognized the only thing that mattered "1000 Sovereign Reward for the capture of any Grey Wardens." Well, shit.
"About time a Warden showed up." The bounty hunter called. "Loghain sends his regards."
Before the mercenary could pull unsheathe his greatsword Zevran threw one of his daggers through the slit of his helm and into his brain. Morrigan and Leliana shot down two more with arrows and lightening, while Shale crushed the mage's head by throwing a giant boulder at her. The last one, a rogue with daggers, lunged at Aedan like a maniac intending to pounce on him. Aedan just reached out with one hand and caught the man in his grip, then crushed his larynx with a flick of his wrist, all the while not taking his eyes of the picture on the poster.
Aedan couldn't believe his eyes, even with the picture in his hands. It was terrible, how could anyone think of doing something like this? "This…is a shitty picture."
The illustration of Aedan on the wanted poster was completely inaccurate and downright insulting. His face was squat, the ears too big, his nose was bulbous and his eyes looked like ones you'd find on an owl. The only thing they got right was the fact Aedan's face was tattooed, but the even got the design wrong. Aedan felt insulted as a person and as an artist. How did those bounty hunters even know who he was? Aedan looked at the bottom of the poster and it read "travels with an entourage of freaks and apostates". Well, that actually narrowed it down. "Would you look at this picture!?" Aedan showed. "How the hell is this supposed to be me!?"
Everyone took a close look and started laughing. "Oh, I don't know. I think it's close match!" Alistair chortled.
"Indeed!" Zavran laughed. "Who else could have a face that could slaughter an ogre!? Ha-haha!"
Aedan shot a mocking scowl at them both.
"Oh, don't worry, my dear Warden." Morrigan soothed sarcastically. "You'll always be handsome to me."
The group walked to the merchant stalls littered around the gates, all the while laughing behind Aedan's back. While here they decided to restock on some of their supplies. Morrigan and Wynne bought more lyrium vials, Sten bought a new whet stone for his sword and immediately set it to work. Alistair, for some odd reason, looked around for miniature golem dolls. Zevran surprised Aedan when came up to him with a small bag of scorpions! "These scorpions are a rare find indeed!" Zevran blustered. "Red-Heart Scorpions, so named for the red heart shape on their backs. In Antiva these scorpions can go for a sovereign per pound!"
"Why the hell would anyone pay so much for a damned insect?"
"Well, for their poison, of course! Antivan wives use the venom for both a cooking flavor and to keep faithless husbands in line. The Crows also have methods to make the poison more potent and use it as a powerful neurotoxin. And scorpions aren't insects, they're arachnids, like spiders."
Aedan backed away from Zevran and his little bag of…arachnids and was drawn to a stall being run by a rather weasel-faced looking merchant. His wares were total crap. Some arms and armor, and trinkets, all under quality and overpriced. How the hell did this guy turn a profit?
The one thing this merchant had that caught Aedan's attention was a strange amulet. It was a round disc with a diamond shaped square in it, with a design of waves crashing against one another. Aedan knew this symbol; it was the House of Tides, the symbol of the Qunari people and their qun.
How could this symbol be here? Aedan looked at the merchants other pieces and recognized bits of armor and a few weapons of obvious qunari design. There was no in hell such things could exist in Ferelden, even by Tal-Vashoth mercenaries. The only way they could was…when Sten and his brethren came to this land. That's when it dawned on Aedan. This merchant was also a grave robber. "Merchant…"
"Please, call me Faryn, ser."
"Whatever. Where did you get this medallion?" Aedan inquired.
"Oh, that? I don't really know where I got, it truth be told. I think my mother-in-law gave it to me."
Aedan wasn't buying it. "This is a sacred qunari amulet. Even if your mother-in-law was a convert, there's no way in hell she'd just give it to you."
"Kyun-what? Look, as I said, I don't know where I got it. If you really want to buy it I'll give you a good deal." Faryn said rather nervously.
This was really pissing Aedan off. He hated being lied to, especially unscrupulous merchants. The look on Aedan's face screamed his displeasure. "I'll ask again: where…did you get this fucking amulet?" Aedan demanded.
"Look, stranger, I told you already, I don't know. Now, are you gonna buy something or…"
Aedan grabbed the lying merchant by his hair and smashed his head in to the stall. Hard. "Not only are you a grave robber, you're a fucking liar!" Aedan growled into his ear. "And I hate fucking lying grave robbers!"
"Please, ser!" Faryn cried. "I swear to the Maker and Andraste, I don't…!"
Aedan smashed Faryn's head in to table, once, twice then three times. "Do you see the Maker here!?"
The Warden smashed the merchant's head again. "Do. You. See. The Maker. Here!?"
"No!" Faryn sobbed.
"Then you better swear to me!" Aedan looked over to Zevran who was watching with an amused look on his face. "Zevran! Bring your damned bag over here."
Zevran trotted on over and opened his bag wide enough for Faryn to see all the little scorpion jittering around inside it. Aedan reached inside the bag and grabbed the biggest one he could get by its tail and dangled it over Faryn's teary face. "Now, are you going to answer me honestly, or do you wanna have a little chat with my arachnid friend here?"
"Oh, sweet mother! No-oo!" Faryn sobbed. "Please, I'll tell you! I found the amulet and half my stock on the bodies of some grey-skinned giants I found near Lake Calenhad!"
Aedan was right. "There was a sword. It would have been long and unwieldy."
"I-I s-sold it on the way here." Faryn confessed. "In Redcliffe."
"A dwarf named Dwyn!"
Aedan remembered Dwyn. Why would he want a sword like that? "Are you telling me the truth now, Faryn?"
"Yes! Yes, I swear!"
"You swear to me?"
"Yes! I swear to you! I sold the sword in Redcliffe to Dwyn. He's got it!"
Aedan supposed he got all he could out of him. "If I go all the way back to Redcliffe and don't find that sword, I'm gonna come back here and you're going to have a lengthy conversation with my little friend here and all his little buddies."
Aedan dangled the scorpion closer to Faryn's face and it took a few swings at him with its pincers. Zevran shook the bag a little, riling up the scorpions inside and chuckled deviously. When Aedan was certain he'd gotten the truth out of Faryn he tossed the scorpion back in the bag and walked away, leaving the grave-robbing merchant crying under his stall.
"I have to admit Aedan, I didn't expect you to be the extortionist type." Zevran chuckled
"I'm not. I'm just the type you don't want to lie to."
"A fact that I won't soon forget. And I'm certain that charlatan won't either."
The two rejoined the others and judging from the looks on their, and all the other merchants, it was obvious they saw what transpired. It wasn't like Aedan was being very discreet. "What was that all about?" Sten inquired.
"That merchant tried to sell me bullshit, and I wasn't buying it."
Seeing as that was the only answer he was probably going to get Sten inquired no further. They all decided to wrap up their business and make their way through the gates. As they approached they noticed the gate guard arguing with some human. The only thing that was said between the two that Aedan caught was the mention of "King" Loghain. And instantly felt his anger peak.
"You insult all of Ferelden with your actions, dwarf!" The man barked. "King Loghain demands the allegiance of your lords, or deshyrs, or whatever it is you call them in your assembly. I am his appointed messenger!"
"I don't care if you're the king's wiper!" The guard rebutted. "Orzammar will have none but its own until our throne is settled."
The two stopped arguing when the…diverse group of people approached the gate. Alistair could practically feel the murder radiating off of Aedan and felt it was best maybe he do the talking for once.
"Uh, good day!" Alistair sputtered. "We, er, we have *ahem*. We have important business in Orzammar, ser."
"None more important than mine." The messenger glowered.
"As I said to this fool…" The guard explained. "The gates have been sealed shut. King Endrin returned to the stone not a month ago. The assembly is deadlocked in choosing a successor and the gates shall remain closed until they make a sodding decision."
"Ah, I understand. But you see the Wardens were hoping to call upon our traditional dwarven allies." Alistair presented the dwarven treaties. "These treaties obligate you to help us."
"The Wardens killed King Cailan and nearly doomed Ferelden! They're sworn enemies to King Loghain!" Imrek argued.
"Well, that is the royal seal of King Bemot and the deshyrs of the Assembly. And only the Assembly can address it at this time. You may pass these gates, Grey Warden."
Imrek became excited. "You're letting in a traitor and a foreigner!? In the name of King Loghain I demand that you execute this…stain on the honor of Ferelden!"
That was the breaking point for Aedan. He backhanded the mouthy messenger so hard he was sent flying off the gates doorstep! Aedan quickly dispatched his two guards by snapping the soldier's neck and punching the mage so hard in the throat his windpipe was smashed. Aedan strode menacingly toward Imrek with murder in his eyes.
Completely dazed by Aedan's fist, Imrek tried to stumble to his feet and drew his sword. "I-I will not go down easy! I serve King Loghain!" he declared.
Aedan quickly silenced the messenger by shattering his jaw with a devastating right hook! Imrek fell like a shattered statue. Aedan grabbed the man's head in both hands and proceeded to crush it like a melon! "Loghain…is not…king!" Aedan screamed into his victims dying eyes. The mouthy messenger gurgled and his teeth fell out of his face as Aedan applied so much pressure blood was trickling out of Imrek's nose, ears and eyes. And he kept squeezing until he felt the man's skull crack in his hands and his eyes popped out of their sockets!
Content with his little bit of murder, Aedan tossed Imrek's body aside like it was a ragdoll and went back to the gate.
"You did me a service, Warden." The guard thanked. "That fool Imrek has been bothering me for a week. Are all humans so touched? Uh, no offense."
"You are free to enter Orzammar, Grey Warden, though I doubt you will find much help."
Aedan and company entered through the gates and were amazed at the massive hall behind it. This was the famous Hall of Heroes. Every Paragon that had ever existed had their statue gazing over this expansive hall. Fountains of lava and columns of mighty stone that held up the weight of the mountain. And in front of the fountains stood the intricately carved statues of the dwarven Paragons, which every dwarf in the hall looked upon with reverence.
"If there's one thing about that can be said about these people it's that they have a remarkable aptitude for carving stone." Morrigan commented.
"Is it just me or do all these statues look all alike?" Sten asked
While the entrance hall was truly impressive, they were all astonished by the breathtaking majesty and foreign beauty of the mighty city of Orzammar. An entire darkly illuminated city carved out of the very stone and foundation of the Frostback Mountains and extended through massive tunnels into very deep of the earth. It was a world within the world.
"It's..big…" Leliana gasped.
"For such a small people they certainly like their ceilings high…." Wynne observed.
"Why would such a small people have such large buildings?" Sten asked. "They must have an impressive array of ladders."
As they entered they were witness to a brutal argument over the succession of throne by none other than they two contenders for it, Prince Bhelen Aeducan and Lord Pyral Harrowmont. The argument became so heated that a murder broke out between their men and both politicians ran back to the safety of the Diamond Quarter.
Aedan couldn't help but wonder what wonderful future this city would have with either candidate ruling over them. After all, both men seemed like such reasonable, upright and ethical men. First things first, he'd go to the Chamber of Assembly and see who had the authority to send him the troops he needed against the darkspawn.
As Aedan made his way up the Diamond Quarter to the Chamber of Assembly he could see why the dwarven nobles were so high and mighty: they lived in obscenely large manors that could house their whole freaking family tree, and they were so high up in the city all they did was look down on everything and everyone, which fit perfectly with their rank and caste system. Anyone who isn't as high as they, are looked down upon as something lesser to them and if you had no caste you were literally nothing to them. While Aedan knew his culture was far from perfect, he knew that in his society anyone of any class could make something of themselves by sheer force of will, not by relying on one's clan, class or who their dead ancestors were.
The Chamber of Assembly was higher than even the royal palace, marking its importance in dwarven society, even the doors were vastly larger than palace's. The hallway leading into the chamber was dimly lit by strange glowing crystals and it doors were guarded by grizzled, fearsome looking warriors.
"The Assembly is in session, Warden. Enter quietly if you wish to observe." The guard informed.
Aedan entered into the room and was surprised at how many representatives were housed in this room and the fact that Orzammar had so many noble houses. He was also surprised and somewhat disturbed to see how many guards were posted in this chamber. Apparently the Steward had doubled the guard to prevent blood from being spilt by the deshyrs. And right now it seemed they were all about to come to blows over trade contracts. Trade contracts?! This city is on the brink of civil war and the world is about to fall victim to the Blight and these morons were about to kill each other over fucking trade agreements! When their heated argument turned into outright death threats Steward Bandelor aggravatingly called for recess.
The assembly reminded Aedan somewhat of his people's Landsmeet. Various clan leaders with a bone to pick with one another meeting once a year to settle disputes over land, justice and vengeance. The difference being every freeholder, not just nobles, had a voice in the Landsmeet, and while all representatives who attended were armed and bought their own guards, and it wasn't uncommon for brawls and duels to erupt in the Landsmeet.
"Stone forsaken fools and dusters!" The steward cursed as left the chamber. He was so preoccupied with his anger he almost didn't notice Aedan. "I'm sorry this the Assembly of the clans. Only deshyrs and occasional guests are allowed in."
"Do Grey Wardens count as special guests?"
"Oh, I clean forgot about the gate guard's message. I'm sorry, Warden, had we known of your arrival we'd have arranged a proper greeting. Welcome to Orzammar, Warden. I hope you can forgive our unrest. The loss of our king has hit us hard."
"Unfortunately, I'm not here for a visit, I'm here on official business. As you can see, these treaties…"
"I'm sorry, Warden." The steward politely interrupted. "But these cannot help you. Respect for your role is great, but you will not receive a proper hearing from the Assembly until our throne is settled."
"A Blight is coming, steward. Your people should know best of all that the darkspawn aren't going to wait on politics."
"And we do. But to us the darkspawn are a constant threat and none of the noble houses are going to let our warriors leave this city without proper leadership for fear that their political rivals attacking them."
"Then who the hell does have the authority to send the troops I need?" Aedan grunted angrily
I am at a loss myself, Warden." The steward sighed exhaustedly. "It lies with Prince Bhelen of House Aeducan or Lord Pyral of House Harrowmont, and they are slow to trust anyone in these uncertain times. I would suggest talking with Dulin Forendar, Harrowmont's man, can be found at the Harrowmont estate. Vartag Gavorn, secong to Prince Bhelen, is often seen here at the assembly. Either one of these men could help arrange an audience with the man you seek. I wish there was more I could do for you."
This recurring joke of fates was really becoming a pain in the ass for Aedan and he really wished he had something to hit right now. "I thought I heard something about a Proving when I came into the city."
"Yes. Prince Bhelen arranged for a Proving to honor his father."
"Good. Watching other people die in agonizing pain for the pleasure of the blood thirsty mob should make me feel better."
Aedan stormed out of the Assembly Chamber less than satisfied and marched over to the ledge of the walkway overseeing the lakes of lava. He was getting very tired of playing errand boy to everyone in this goddamned country when their supposed to be lending him aid against the Blight! In a fit of anger Aedan kicked the railing and watched the shattered pieces fall into the lava below.
"Hey!" Shouted some bearded dwarf noble full if indignation. "This railing was carved in the days of King Garen! Show some respect, topsider!"
Aedan looked down at the miserable, grub of a man with fire in his eyes. "If this rail is so important, maybe I should just kick you into the lava instead?"
Fear instantly sprouted in the nobles eyes. "N-now you listen here…"
"No you listen, you putrid, fucking maggot!" Aedan cursed, scaring every dwarf in the next three stories. "I don't give two nug-shits about your goddamned traditions and history! Get away from me before I punch a hole in your chest, rip out your heart! And eat it!"
The noble quickly scurried off and suddenly everyone in the immediate vicinity gave the angry, barbaric human a wide berth. Even everyone in his company thought it best to give him some space. Finally Wynne and Leliana, cautiously, approached him.
"Aedan." Wynne called gently. "Aedan, what is wrong?"
"What's wrong? The better question is 'what's right'" Aedan answered angrily. "It seems everywhere I go everyone has some kind of problem they want me to fix. Everyone has some kind of excuse or peril that prevents them from honoring their word and aiding me against the Blight. I'm supposed to be a Warden, not a goddamned errand boy!"
"I know it's hard right now." Said Leliana. "But you can't lose faith."
"Faith? Faith in what, Leliana?! Where, oh where, is the fucking Maker, Ancestors, Creators, or Korth when you need them. The only gods that seem to be doing anything is the fucking Old Gods! They may be trying to destroy the world, but dammit, at least they make their actions known!"
"Faith is not always with a person's gods, Aedan." Leliana reasoned. "Faith should also always be in one's self, and in the people around you. You haven't failed the world yet, and we haven't failed you. Take strength in that."
For once, just once, the naïve nonsense from Leliana's mouth actually made sense to Aedan. He had to carry on, had to keep moving and save this world, because apparently no one else was in a hurry to do so. Aedan tried to breathe the anger out of his lungs and focus. "So what's the plan, Aedan?" asked Alistair.
Aedan thought for a moment. Who was the better candidate for him to get support from? He barely knew this city or of its people and politics. Aedan was trained for war and governance, not for information gathering, but he had several people who were. "Zevran, Wynne, Leliana." Aedan called. "I want you two to go around the city, talk to people. Try the tavern, the shaperate and the arena and find out everything there is to know about the candidates for the throne. If anyone asks tell them you're asking on behalf of the Warden. Alistair and Shale, you'll go with Wynne. Morrigan and Sten, you're with me."
"And where are you going, Warden?" Sten asked.
"I'm going to the Proving Arena. And I'm going to show these dwarven fuckwits how to really fight the darkspawn."
All of them left their separate ways to perform their given tasks while Aedan made his way to the arena. At this point beating people up for the amusement of the massed sounded like a well-desereved vacation. Wynne, Alistair and Shale went to the Shaperate of Memories. Leliana to Tapster's Tavern and Zevran scoured the rest of the city, questioning and charming people into giving them the answers Aedan needed.
In the Shaperate of Memories….
Being raised in the Circle of Magi Wynne had been surrounded by books all her life, in fact reading was one of her favorite past times, but the Shaperate was something else entirely. Entire volumes and series of books based on just a single life time of a dwarven knight, entire genealogies of whole family trees and the complete history of the whole dwarven race. She could spend a year in this place and not even scratch the surface of all the information recorded here. Alas, she was not here to browse their impressive array of books and history. She saw some of the clerics and record keepers reporting to an elderly dwarf with tired eyes and long, intricately knotted beard which had bleached with age. Despite his advanced age and hunching stature, he nonetheless carried himself with quiet dignity and was given the reverent respect of his peers. She could only conclude that this man was the Lord Shaper.
"When last I walked these hall, Endrin was king and Orzammar was at peace. The Memories often speak of the swiftness in which change overtakes us, but it is different to see it firsthand."
"I doubt any of us are ever truly ready for the abruptness of any change, Lord Shaper." Wynne responded.
"Forgive me, my lady, I should not bore a stranger with such thoughts. I am Czibor, Lord Shaperate of Memories." The dwarf introduced.
Wynne curtsied politely. "I am Wynne of the Circle of Magi, Lord Shaper. I come on behalf of the Grey Wardens."
"It is a pleasure to meet you. The Grey Warden's visit has been recorded in the memories, along with all who accompany them. Holy Ancestors!" Suddenly the shaper's attention turned solely to Shale. He approached the becrystaled golem and stared with awe and wonder.
"Where did you find this golem? I don't recognize its design. We have but a few dozen left here in Orzammar and we'd pay a good sum for a new one."
"I'd sooner jump into a pit of lava." Shale responded grimly.
"Unfortunate." Said the shaper who seemed rather unfazed the golem just spoke to him.
"Now, how may I help you, Wynne of the Circle of Magi?"
"I am curious to know about the two candidates vying for the throne."
"Ah, yes the defining matter of this generation. Lord Pyral Harrowmont has been Lord-General of Orzammar for as long as the younger generation can remember and served as King Endrin's second for almost his whole reign. He is a pious man, and a firm believer in our traditions, and he has authored many compromises in the ever shifting winds of Orzammar politics. In Endrin's final hours it is said he appointed his second as the heir to the throne."
"Hmm, it sounds to me like he'd be the ideal king for your people."
"Perhaps, and perhaps not. While he is a firm administrator and has a mind for politics, times such as these call for men of action."
"And is Bhelen a man of action?"
"Most certainly. Although not all his actions can be considered good. Prince Bhelen's candidacy rose in the wake of the death of his siblings and father. Prince Trian, who was the appointed heir, was supposedly slain by King Endrin's favored child and was sent into the Deep Roads to die, King Endrin died of heartache not long ago."
"It seems the sudden deaths in the family worked quiet well in Bhelen's favor."
"Yes, that is why so many oppose him right now. The case against his sibling was too quick and one sided to be considered a fair trial, and many now believe that Bhelen set the whole thing up, some even believe he was responsible for his father's death."
"Sweet Maker. He sounds like a thoroughly devious man."
"Perhaps, and perhaps not." Shaper Czibor's calm demeanor and neutrality were a surprise to Wynne. "As I said it has not been proven that he had anything to do with his sibling's death and his older sibling's guilt was recorded in the Memories. Lately he's has been spending much of his time here reading the histories and policies of past kings. Especially that of King Eithnar Bemot who dissolved the Assembly and decreed that the Warrior Caste must answer directly to the king in times of war."
"So he is willing to take action against the darkspawn?"
"So it would seem. But at what cost?"
"What do you mean?"
"The policies he wishes to make may seem too drastic to some. He wishes to allow the Casteless to have the right to bear arms, which is considered an insult to the Warrior and Smith Caste. And his impending marriage to a Casteless woman is also the center of great scandal."
"I see. Such a…scandal indeed. Thank you for answering my questions, Lord Shaper."
"You're welcome. Your visit has been recorded in the memories. I just wish I knew what importance it has."
Down at Tapsters….
Wynne and her company walked back down to the Commons and waited at Tapster's Tavern for the rest of their number. By the time they arrived Zevran and Leliana were already waiting for them. Leliana was singing an Orlesian ballad to the many patrons in the bar, all of them listened intently and stared at the foreign, red-headed beauty with wide eyes. Zevran was making bets and having a knife throwing contest with the drunken patrons.
Leliana and Aedan overheard an argument over someone named Branka go on between two warriors. The one, who reeked of putrid alcohol and puke, was making demands about going after her. Apparently the only Paragon elected in four generations was that soiled, sword-hands wife and he was left behind when she took their entire house into the Deep Roads in search of some ancient technology. She also learned as much as she could abour Branka herself.
Zevran walked around the city and learned all he could about the two contenders. Bhelen was losing support of certain members of the Warrior and Noble Caste because of how much freedom and privilege he wanted to provide to the Casteless. Apparently, trying to improve the lot of the destitute Casteless by allowing them the right to fight for their city was considered a profane insult to the warriors and nobles of this city. However, Harrowmont was losing support because of his lack of action against the lawlessness in the city and because of how he let his adherence to tradition decide his action.
A small ginger haired dwarf approached Wynne. "Ah, it seems we got a full house of topsiders today. I'm Corra your hostess. Just let me know if there's anything I can get you."
"Hmm, actually I've always wanted to try some of that famous dwarven ale."
"You're in luck. We just got done brewing a fresh batch. I'll bring you a bottle"
"Thank you. And please bring something for my young friend."
"I'll have some Fereldan whiskey and some stew if you've got any." Alistair asked.
"Got a few bottles of Coastland whiskey left, and we just got done cooking some more nug roast if you're hungry. And anything for your walking statue?"
"If what you serve here makes these dwarves act the way they do, I'd sooner be chipped into pebbles with a chisel." Shale grumbled.
"Your loss, creepy." Corra answered as she left to get her orders.
Wynne sat down on a relatively clean stool with a tall mug of lichen ale. The liquor was brewed from a fungus and was black as jet stone. The old woman took a long whiff of the sickly sweet smelling drink and drank it down in one long quaff. When she had swallowed the last drop she exhaled out the ale's scent. That was a very satisfying drink for the expierienced liquor connoisseur.
A surly, heavily muscled dwarf, obviously warrior caste, sat himself across from Wynne and downed his whole mug in a single swig, then slammed his mug to the table, shooting a challenging look at Wynne. The old mage smiled at him and raised her hand for another drink, as did the warrior and they both tried to down their ale as quickly as they could in one drink. Pretty soon they had themselves a drinking contest that got the attention of the whole bar!
Zevran saw how everyone circle of people around the two drinkers. "DRINK! DRINK! DRINK DRINK!" The patrons all chanted.
Sensing an opportunity here, Zevran decided to make some money off of this. "I'll bet three to one on the old lady!"
"I'll take that bet!" One patron called.
"I'll bet a week's salary that the warrior beats the topsider!" called another.
"How is it she's still alive?"
"She must have Valos Atredum!"
"Chug it! Chug it! Chug it!"
The warrior guzzled down every glass he could get his hands on like his life depended on it, while Wynne maintained a dignified posture and even as she drank down mug after mug she did not lose her poise. Alistair was amazed that she was still alive, let alone be able to keep drinking. The Joining would be like sipping tea to this woman!
There was sudden dead silence.
It was down to the last mug and both contestants were showing signs of fatigue, but had fierce determination in their eyes. Who would win this battle of wills, the hardy veteran or the experienced mage? This warrior was not going to be showed up by some topsider in his own house. But the mage didn't make it this far just to lose now. Both drinkers grab their mug and ready themselves, this would be the moment of truth. And now dead silence from the audience. Both drinkers raise bottoms up and pour their ale down their throats. They were both cutting close, drinking at the same pace, neither one exceeding nor defeating their opponent. Finally they both down the last drop of ale fell from their glass, and both contestants slam their mugs to the table. It was a draw.
No. No, no, wait. The warrior is losing posture, it doesn't seem like he can stay up! The warrior falls to the ground with a resounding thud and thunderous belch. Wynne was the victor.
Everyone in the tavern cheered rousingly for the topsider.
All the dwarves who lost their bet grudgingly gave their payment to Zevran. "Oh, beautiful profit, how I cherish thee. Wynne I don't think I've ever loved a woman as much as I do you right now."
"Be careful, Zevran." A very tipsy Wynne warned. "I may be drunk, but I can still liquefy your brains if you try anything."
"You wound me, madam! I would never take advantage of a woman while she was intoxicated!"
"Yes. When I bed you, I want us both to remember it!"
Wynne groans in disgust. Suddenly the cheering in the room was disrupted when a young dwarf burst in through the doors.
"Everyone! Everyone, listen! Important news!" he cried out of breath.
"What is it, boy? This a man's tavern." A miner called.
"There's a topsider, one angry human at the Proving Grounds! He's declared he's going to take the championship from Piotin Aeducan and he's destroying the competition! He's fighting all the warriors bare handed! And he's naked!"
Now this was news! Suddenly every person not unconscious from the alcohol or puking their innards out, cleared out of the tavern and rushed to the Proving Grounds.
Alistair only had one guess who this angry, naked human destroying all his opponents could be. "Excuse me, does this angry, naked human have a lot of tattoos?"
"A lot of tattoos? He's practically covered in them!"
Alistair face-palmed himself. "That's what I thought. Shale pick up Wynne and let's get to the Proving Grounds and see what Aedan's done this time."
"How will we know where to find it?" Leliana asked.
"Just follow the cheering crowd, I imagine."
Ten Minutes Later at the Proving Arena….
Alistair and the others could barely hear their own thoughts over the roaring of the crowds that filled the whole building. The place was so overflowing with dwarves that they could barely move, but thanks to the massive golem wading through the enormous crowd, they made their way to the front row where the crowds actually had a sheet to cover them when torrents of blood came their way. They looked down into the glorified fighting pit and they were all thankful that he wasn't actually naked, just half-naked with his shirt off and no armor. He was, however, covered in blood and giving one poor dwarf the beatdown of his life. Alistair could see that Aedan was pissed, more pissed than usual, if that's even possible. He was taking on all the veterans and elite of the warrior Caste in this Proving bare-handed, yet the way he was moving, the way he fought was like a rabid dog that just got kicked in the ass with a lead boot. Aedan had gone completely berserk and the look in his eyes was that over pure, unadulterated anger. Something, or someone really set Aedan off. Wonder who that poor bastard was?
About half an hour ago in the Proving Arena….
Aedan read books and seen illustrations that described Orzammar's Proving grounds, but just like any other experience, seeing it was a totally different matter altogether. Massive stone halls leading to the arena, statues of great champions and warriors who had made a name for themselves here were littered all across the inside of the arena. Aedan looked out into the stands and saw the massive, stone-carved arena. It was dug into the ground so that the crowd could look down and see the combatants fight one another, the very floor of the ring was scarred by the constant battles that took place in it. And above the arena were the carved faces of their Paragons that, supposedly, watched and guided the hands of the warriors below.
"Ah, bloodsport." Morrigan remarked. "Watching people kill each other for entertainment. The highlight of an underground society no doubt."
"But of course, Morrigan." Aedan responded. "This is where a warrior's character is laid bare before his people and his ancestors. It's here, in this arena, honor is lost and won. A man's fate is decided by the strength of his arm and the courage of his spirit. All disputes are decided with honor and are left in this arena. To act dishonorably here, is to forfeit honor for all time."
"Judging someone's crimes or character for their ability to fight, rather than the evidence or how they act in the world. Yes, truly an enlightened form of conduct."
"That's a fair piece of judgment. Too bad you don't follow it yourself." Aedan commented flippantly.
Morrigan stood there stunned, and lost for words. Aedan called her out on hypocrisy and she knew he was right.
Aedan started talking with one of the local fans, a miner named Varik, about some of the best fighters in this proving. Aedan was impressed with the diverse training the dwarven warriors receive. With the darkspawn constantly pressing in on them, they've had to develop more training methods and fighting tactics. The twins, Myaja and Lucjan, used divide and conquer tactics. Myaja would attack from the front with a massive hammer and her brother would attack from behind with a set of dirks. Then there was Hanashan, a member of the deadly Silent Sister. Just being a member of this legendary sorority spoke of her combat prowess, but Hanashan was in a league of her own. Lord Darvianak Vollney was a four time Grand Proving champion with a highly disciplined unit at his back, and was made more famous when he fought in a duel to clear his name about killing his brother, but refused to admit whether or not he did it. The real talk of the town was Piotin Aeducan, a close cousin of Prince Bhelen. His skill and tenacity was ao great that the late Prince Trian declared him "the horns of the Aeducan army."
"You call yourself a warrior?" Came a loud and domineering voice.
Aedan turned around and saw a shaved dwarf clad in heavy, white, dwarven plate-mail. Unlike most dwarven men he had no beard, just a scruffy stubble and stamped on his chest-piece was the heraldry of House Aeducan.
"Sweet, sodding Ancestors!" Varik yelled. "Piotin Aeducan!"
Apparently this bald thug was the toast of the Proving. He was surrounded by his men and an entourage of swooning Noble Hunters.
"Look at the way you stand. Your stance is sloppy, your moves are predictable! There's no way you'll make to the finals, let alone survive your first match!" The Dwarven royal said with a mix of aggression and sheer arrogance.
Aedan tried to ignore the little prick's comments. What the hell did he know? Aedan turned his back and attempted to make his way over to Morrigan.
"And now you're just going to walk away?" Piotin sneered. "To have such weak warriors…No wonder Ferelden was conquered by Orlais."
Aedan felt his heart burst with rage. Having to play errand boy to get his troops was one thing, but he would be damned before he would let some dwarven noble-rat insult his country to his face. "YOU MISERABLE, SOD OFF, LITTLE RUNT!" Aedan exploded, getting the attention of the whole arena. "YOU JUST FUCKED WITH THE WRONG ALAMARII! I AM GOING TO MAKE IT MY MISSION IN LIFE TO SLAUGHTER YOU INFRONT OF YOUR WHOLE GODDAMNED RACE! I AM GOING TO SHOVE MY BOOT SO FAR UP YOUR ASS, THE NEXT TIME YOU KISS A GIRL SHE'S GONNA TASTE THE SHIT ON MY HEEL!" Aedan looked over to the proving master with murder painted on his face. "YOU, PROVING MASTER! SIGN MY NAME INTO THE DAMNED LISTS, AND YOU'RE ALL GONNA WANNA WATCH THIS PROVING. YOUR PARAGONS ARE GOING TO…WEEP…BLOOD! WHEN THEY SEE WHAT I'M GOING TO DO TO YOUR FIGHTERS!
Five minutes later…
"This is Glory Proving, fought under the watchful eyes of the Paragons of Orzammar to honor the memory of King Endrin." The Proving Master announced from his podium. "Up first we have the warrior, Seweryn! Many of you remember when Seweryn made Proving history when, as a lad of twelve, beat his own father in this very arena! Becoming the youngest Proving Champion in Orzammar history!"
Seweryn puffs out his chest and raises his sword for the crowd, yelling in confidence and adoration.
"Today we have a late entry, a member of the famed Order of the Grey, who has sworn to take the championship! Please welcome the Grey Warden!"
Aedan marches into the arena carrying no weapon and wearing no armor, his tattoos laid bare for everyone to see. At first Seweryn scoffed at his unarmed opponent, but Aedan shot a glare at him that made the warrior reconsider his actions.
"It-it seems that the Warden will be fighting this Proving unarmed and without protection. Just as Doarnik of the Servant Caste did when he fought to defend his family's honor against Lord Dace!" The announcer called. "Fighters meet each other."
The two warriors meet in the middle of the arena.
"You honor me with this fight." Seweryn called.
"GRRRR!" was the only response Aedan gave.
Before Seweryn could assume a stance Aedan charged him like his feet were made of lightning! He kicked the dwarf square in the jaw, sending flying a yard away and landing on his back, knocking him silly. Not giving his opponent any quarter, Aedan grabbed his opponent by the ankles and raised him the air like a ragdoll and slammed him back into the ground again, and again, and again. When Aedan was sure his opponent was done for, he spun his opponent around in the air and threw him across the arena and into a wall with a loud smash.
The crowd was dumbstruck. Even the Proving Master was at a loss for words. To the mob it became apparent that this human was going to be a crowd pleaser. To the other fighters it became apparent that Aedan was a berserker, his intense anger made him stronger than anyone else in the arena. But was not apparent was that Aedan was also a Reaver, so any damage he sustained would only increase his already herculean might.
"The winner is the Grey Warden! A stunning victory! Perhaps we have a new champion in the midst here! But first he must face the twin terrors of the Warrior Caste, Myaja and Lucjan!"
The twin warriors strode in from their corner, Myaja with her hammer and Lucjan with his dirks.
"May the Stone honor you…" Myaja started.
"When you fall." Lucjan finished.
Aedan stared down the both of them. "I'm gonna shove your sibling's head up your ass and turn you into a dwarven centipede."
The two warriors assumed their stance but Aedan just stood their menacingly.
The twins attempted to circle around the human, Myaja to the front and Lucjan to the rear. But instead of focusing on Myaja and her hammer, Aedan charged towards Lucjan grabbing him by the hair and proceeded to punch the living shit out of his face. Lucjan managed to stab Aedan a few times, but his blades didn't even tickle the human and he soon lost consciousness as Aedan pounded his nose and face into a pulp. Myaja tried to save her brother by charging at his human assailant from behind with her hammer, but Aedan heard her approach and used her brother as a living shield against her powerful swing; she was able to stop her attack just inches in front of Lucjan's bloody face. Aedan dropped his out cold opponent, wrenched Myaja's hammer from her while she was distracted and then smashed her across the face with her own cudgel. Aedan was satisfied with making their faces look as similar as possible, as it should be with twins.
"This is unprecedented. The three of the best felled by a barehanded topsider! What kind of training do these Wardens get? Will his winning streak continue? Let's find out! Next fight!"
By the time Alistair and the rest of his companions came into the arena, Aedan was already pounding Captain Roshen into a stain on the arena floor. Roshen was too used to finishing his opponents in a single swing he had no follow up attacks. Aedan quickly showed him the error of his style as he beat the living daylights out of him! When he was finished the guards had to drag Roshen's unconscious body out and get him to healer for the massive concussion he most definetly had.
Aedan was still so overcome with rage that he couldn't he Alistair calling his name or Zevran and Leliana cheering for him.
Morrigan looked down on Aedan with lust hidden behind her eyes. His muscles rippled beneath a sheen of sweat and the blood of his opponents. Somehow the blood accentuated his tattoos, and seeing him destroy everything that stood in his way with no fear or obstacle excited her. If she could get him this riled up in bed that would be a good night. Those skilled hands of his were capable of just as much pleasure as pain.
"This is astounding! Not only has the Grey Warden fought barehanded, he has taken down every challenger he's come across. But how will he fare in against another proven warrior from another legendary order? Lords and ladies I give you one of the best from the Silent Sisters, Hanashan!"
The crowed cheers and chants Hanashan's name as she silently but proudly enters the ring, but Aedan can't hear them. He could only hear the pounding of his own heart pumping his anger through his veins, fueling his bloodlust. He knew of the Silent Sisters and their practice of cutting out their tongues to honor their founder. How everyone of their order had to win a proving bare handed just to become a member. This would be fun.
Hanashan stood with a two-handed greatsword in her grip, but she quickly discarded it and assumed a barehanded stance to match her unarmed opponent. She would face him honorably. It wasn't going to save her.
"What? Nug got your tongue?" Aedan tauntingly asked the Silent Sister.
Hanashan continued to stare back at him, her stance unchanged.
"What's the matter? Got nothing to say?"
Still she remains unflinching.
"I will break your silence." Aedan promised as he charged his silent opponent.
Aedan swung fast, powerful and precise strikes at Hanashan, the smaller warrior was barely able to keep up and dodge him. One hit was all it would take. She ducked beneath one of his punches and jumped into the air and tried to land a powerful spin kick to Aedan's face, but Aedan quickly grabbed her ankle and slammed her back into the ground. With the Silent Sister dazed, Aedan grabbed her by the neck with both hands, lifted her in the air and proceeded to strangle the warrior woman. Hanashan's flight or fight instincts kicked in and she desperately landed several powerful Aedan's face, but he was unfazed, like he was immune to pain and injury.
"Scream for me!"
Hanashan glared in silence and defiance as she continued to hit him in the face, trying to escape his clutches. Aedan tightened his grip around dwarf's neck, until her hits became nothing but weak flails of the arms and her eyes rolled to the back of her head. When he was sure there was no more fight left in her, Aedan dropped the Silent Sister to the ground, still alive and in better condition than his other victims. Aedan was impressed and disappointed that she made no sound, but that's to be expected of warrior from her order.
"And there you have it lords and ladies! Even the deadly Silent Sister couldn't match the Grey Warden's might! This is truly an historic day for this arena!"
The crowed cheers for the Warden in roaring applause.
"Now only two warriors remain. Fighting for honor of House Aeducan is Prince Bhelen's royal cousin Piotin! Piotin has led his unit to victory both in the Provings and in many thaig recovery expeditions. And challenging him for the honor of his country is Aedan of the Grey Wardens. Both men have fought and left a trail of broken dreams and bodies behind them to reach this moment. But who will claim Valos Atradem? Warden choose your battle unit."
Aedan looked into his corner and saw that his companions had already made it there. "I call on my fellow Warden Alistair, Sten of the Beresaad and Zevran of the Antivan Crows!"
"Fighters meet in the center of the ring."
All combatants approached one another in the ring. Aedan stared down the little bastard who dared insult his homeland and his countrymen and felt his anger reach its climax upon seeing the smug look on Piotin's face. If looks were capable of executions, then the look on Aedan's face would have crucified, disemboweled and emasculated the dwarven warrior. Aedan had the look of a rabid dog, foam frothing from his mouth and all, he was so angry.
"You've done well to make it this far, Warden." Piotin admitted. "But you and yours are still not Warrior enough to match me and my unit."
"This one…is mine to slaughter." Aedan instructed to his companions. They weren't going to argue.
Alistair and the others quickly pressed the attack on Piotin's unit, while Piotin charged Aedan. Piotin made precise and accurate strikes at Aedan's head and vital points, but the human easily evaded until….
Piotin thrusted his sword right into Aedan's abdomen and Aedan didn't bother to evade. Shocked to see his opponent take such a blow without flinching, Piotin let go of his sword. The blade was just sticking out of Aedan like a tree branch, then Aedan slowly pulled the blade out and snapped it in twain.
Piotin backed away. What was this man? No human should have survived that!
Aedan marched to his opponent with death in his eyes. Piotin reached for his dagger and tried another stab at him, but Aedan caught his arm and crushed his arm guard in his hand, braking Piotin's arm. The dwarf screamed in agony, Aedan jammed his fingers into his enemy's mouth like a fish hook and ripped his right cheek off!
"AAAOOGH!" Piotin howled in horrible pain.
The pissed off Warden then picked up the screaming dwarf and raised his body over his head and smashed the dwarf's back on his knee! The dwarf's armor shattered, if Piotin hadn't worn it he'd be paraplegic now, but Aedan wasn't done yet. He raised the noble over his head once more and threw his enemy right out of the arena and into the crowd! The Proving watchers screamed as Piotin's body landed in the stands.
Sten and Alistair finished off their opponents while Zevran t-bagged his.
"And so the Ancestors have spoken!" The Proving Master declared. "Do you deny that this warrior, this Warden, has Valos Atradem?"
The crowd roared their approval.
"So be it! Grey Warden, you came before our people and tested your mettle against our best and before our Paragons! We are honored to reaffirm our friendship with your Order and declare you champion of this Proving."
Aedan looked upon the cheering crowd, and after seeing them carry Piotin off in a gurney, felt his anger subside and addressed the dwarves of Orzammar. "It was an honor to take part in this Proving, Orzammar!" Aedan called. "I am honored to continue our friendship. For a Blight is coming!" Suddenly the crowed was dead silent. "It is my hope that the warriors of Orzammar and the Grey Wardens will continue our joined fight together against the darkspawn. No other people are more suited to such a task."
Aedan leaves the arena, his entourage in tow, the crowd cheering him. He enters the fighter waiting area with rest of his fellows waiting for him. Wynne tosses him a towel, which Aedan graciously used to wipe the blood, sweat and tears from his skin. When he was done he walked over to Morrigan and kissed her passionately, much to the distress of everyone else, and she gladly reciprocated. Aedan separated his lips from Morrigan's and sat down, putting his clothes and armor back on. "What did you learn about the two contenders for the throne?"
The others told Aedan what they discovered about Prince Bhelen and Lord Harrowmont. Telling him about their policies, their strengths and their flaws. Aedan sat there for a moment and contemplated who he should see about getting his troops
"Well fought, Warden." Aedan looked over to see a dwarf wearing traditional silverite mail and carrying an axe. What did this guy want? "It is not often an outsider participates in a Glory Proving, let alone become its champion. Piotin is one of the best warriors in Orzammar and you thrashed him like a novice."
"I know. I was there. And you are….?"
"Oh, forgive me. My name is Vartag Gavorn, I act as second to our esteemed Prince Bhelen. He heard of your victory and of your need to combat the Blight."
"Are you saying your prince is willing to honor these treatise?"
"Combating the darkspawn is one of my prince's top priorities. Sadly, with this conflict over the throne, he is unable to honor the word of our kingdom."
"Then let me meet with him, and we can discuss how to break this stalemate."
"My prince wants nothing more, however, he cannot see someone who has not proven his undoubted loyalty."
Aedan didn't have time for anymore of this shit. "Well, if your prince doesn't want the support of the topsider who has just claimed Valos Atradem in the eyes of the Paragons, then perhaps Harrowmont will grant me the audience I seek. And now that I have put the fear of the Blight into your people, there's going to be an even greater call for action."
Aedan saw the look in Vartag's eyes and knew he had him. There's just no way he could let such a valuable supporter slip through his fingers. "Very well, Warden. I shall take you to see his Majesty now, if that's what you wish."
"That is what I wish."
"I warn you, be on your best behavior and keep your weapons sheathed."
In the Royal Palace….
Prince Bhelen stood in his quarters, overlooking some maps of the Deep Roads and a few treaties. When Aedan and his entourage entered he quickly turned his attention to them. "Welcome, Warden." The prince greet graciously. "I am glad to have you here. It is not often topsider wins a proving so epically or gorily. I didn't realize that the Wardens could be so ruthless until after I saw what you did to my cousin, Piotin."
"I'm ruthless? That's a bit insulting coming from a man ruthless enough to kill his own brothers." Aedan could see that stung the prince, and he could feel his bodyguards reaching for their weapons.
"If you believe that than why are you here?" Bhelen inquired.
"Let's get something straight here. I wouldn't take the time to piss on your head if your beard was on fire. But right now, I got darkspawn tearing up my homeland and need someone who's got the balls to get the wheels turning and get me the soldiers I need."
"Then we have a common goal." The prince confirmed. "We may not like each other, but we do need each other. Harrowmont would hide behind protocol and tradition rather than take the action that is necessary to combat the Blight."
"Then you'll honor the treaty."
"Yes. And sworn on the mail of my Ancestors, as soon as I am king, I will send all available troops to the surface to fight the darkspawn. But unfortunately there is another faction in play here."
"And who might that be?"
"I'm glad you asked. Have you heard about a woman called Jarvia and the Carta of criminals she runs?"
"Only that she's been mopping the floor with your guardsman and pretty making you and Harrowmont look like total idiots."
"Heh, just so. They know Orzammar is divided now and has no time for them. It's made them bold. If I can show that I can eliminate such a threat my position will be made stronger for it."
"And you'd like me to eliminate them for you."
"If you can get rid of them, I promise I will send as many troops as you need when I am king."
"Alright. When I come back here I will have Jarvia's head and you better have my troops ready."
The Warden turned about face and marched out of the room with his people following after him. Perhaps having this human's support and having him eliminate the Carta would finally show this city of incompetent Harrowmont really was. Bhelen looked back to the map on his desk and traced the routes going from Orzammar to Caridin's Cross.
An Hour and Half later….
Bhelen heard a huge commotion running through the palace, he saw a serving girl running away as if she just saw an ogre. Judging from the looks on his guards' face it was coming his way and it was frightening enough to make the stand still. Vartag suddenly started vomiting in disgust. The Warden waltzed right into Bhelen's room, covered in blood and slammed Jarvia's head right on to his desk. Her spine was still attached to her skull and clenched in the Warden's fist, as if he had pulled it out of her body with his bare hand.
Bhelen tried to maintain his composure. "Well, Warden. You've certainly…outdone yourself. I was just hearing about a commotion in Dust Town, that someone waltzed straight into the Carta's lair and slew them like genlocks."
"I did what needed to be done."
"And you did well. And as promised I will send the troops you need when I am king."
"When will that be? I cannot wait on you and your fucking politics while the darkspawn destroy my homeland."
"There may be a way to break the stalemate. How much do you know of the Paragon Branka?"
Bhelen told Aedan how Branka went into the Deep Roads, with her entire House, searching for an ancient treasure called the Anvil of the Void. Recently there has been discovery in the tunnels of activity reaching further into the Deep Roads than anyone has ever gotten before, and proof the Branka and her house still live. If Aedan could get the city's only living Paragon to support Bhelen it would instantly break the stalemate and nobody would dare challenge him further. Aedan hated the idea of traveling further from his homeland, but he knew he had no choice. In order to get the dwarven soldiers he needed he had to get to Branka. And as a Warden, whether he liked it or not, the Deep Roads was a part of his reality.
Aedan and the other's left the Diamond Quarter for the Commons to supply and ready themselves for the venture ahead. When Leliana left his sight Aedan arranged for a local nug wrangler to find him a big, but domesticated to give her a surprise present. She had told him earlier about how she would love one as a pet, but Aedan didn't see the point. May as well put a leash on a sewer rat. But perhaps the bard would appreciate the gesture enough to found over her new pet instead of annoying him.
As Aedan perused the stalls he found something that instantly caught his attention. A mirror. A golden hand-mirror encrusted with precious stones that glittered like stars in the dim light of the city. He was instantly reminded of the story Morrigan told her of when she was a child, how she stole a beautiful hand mirror, her only heart's desire. And Flemeth smashed it to the ground, breaking her childhood heart. Aedan tried to convince her that she no longer needed to live as Flemeth would, but he knew she would need some guidance to get away from Flemeth's influence. Perhaps a sign of his genuine affection for her would help.
"Um, excuse me do you…have minute?" Chirped an unknown, young voice.
Aedan looked around for the owner of the voice but saw no one. Was he hearing things again?
Aedan looked down and was shocked to see a young dwarf girl, the smallest he'd ever seen. She looked like she was barely out of her adolescence. She had a sweet face and bright red hair.
"You look like you're not from around here." The young adolescent obsereved
"Did my unusual stature or charming accent give me away?"
"Oh, wonderful! I've been hoping to meet with an outsider for some time now. I don't suppose you've heard of something called the Circle of Magi?"
"Heard of it? Little one, I just got done with some business with the Circle not too long ago and my companion here is a Senior Enchanter of the Circle." Aedan answered pointing at Wynne.
The bright-eyed m young dwarf curtsied in excitement. "Oh, my lady, it is truly an honor! Is it true you can wield magic as if you had lyrium in your veins?"
"Don't let the glamour fool you, child." Wynne answered warmly. "Magic is a large burden and dangerous responsibility."
"My name is Dagna of the Smith Caste. I wanted to know if the Circle would accept me for study."
Aedan quirked an eyebrow. "It's common knowledge that dwarves cannot do magic."
"I don't want to use magic, I want to study the theory of magic. It would be an invaluable exchange of knowledge. Orzammar would learn about one of the greatest natural forces on the surface. And the Circle would gains direct access to our knowledge of lyrium smithing."
"You're not worried about losing your Caste and clan for this?"
"Orzammar doesn't need another smith making weapons and armor. That isn't going bring us any new knowledge or help us beat back the darkspawn. But magic is one of the greatest forces in the world. If we can learn its secrets, maybe we can regain our greatness."
This young woman had an idealistic and almost revolutionary mind. The fact that she was passionate enough to discard what would make her a dwarf to her own kind was admirable. And she was so cute, it was almost heinous. How could Aedan say no? "I can bring your request to the Circle if you truly wish it."
"That would be wonderful! Tell them my name is Dagna, daughter of Janar of the Smith Caste. Tell them I've already begun reading the Tevinter Imperium's 'Fortikum Kadab' and it's just fascinanting!"
The young girl bolted past Aedan and the others to ready herself for her travel the Circle when her request was brought to them.
"She's so enthusiastic and adorable." Leliana cooed. "I am glad we are helping her."
With their preparations complete, Aedan and the other's walked towards the guarded tunnel that led from Orzammar to the Deep Roads. That is until some foul, ungodly stench assaulted their noses and left a disgusting taste in their mouths.
"Stranger! Stranger!" called a grubby looking dwarf running their way. He had a messy braided beard with four locks hanging from his cheeks a shaved chin and short red hair. It was Oghren, the dwarven warrior he saw arguing earlier about the Paragon Branka, who saw fit to leave him behind when she took their whole House into the Deep Roads. After getting a whiff of him Aedan couldn't blame her! The rancid and almost unholy stench just radiated from his very being! It was…vile! Like week-old vomit on top of flat malt liquor, held together by wet farts and shaken all together with nug piss!
"Stranger, ya seen Grey Warden here abouts?" The stinking mass of dwarf asked.
Aedan gagged on the very air with this dwarf standing around. "You STINK!"
"You're not telling anything half the city hasn't already told me. Anyway, ya seen a Grey Warden around here?"
"I'm the Grey Warden, you moron!"
"Really? If you're the best they've got then their standards have lowered in the recent years."
"That coming from a stench-ridden, drunk, sword-caste wannabe means less than what my dog shits every morning! What do you want?"
"I hear that Bhelen's sending you into the Deep Roads to go after Branka, if that's true you're going to need me."
"Right, you're her ex-husband."
"I'm still her husband, dammit!" Oghran growled. "More than that, I'm the only one that cares about her as person. This whole, stinkin' city thinks of her and thinks only of a symbol to be left in the Deep Roads where she can't defend anyone, I knew her before she was just that! I know what she wanted and how she was going to get there and you know everything Bhelen's scouts have discovered that lead to her trail. If we pool our knowledge we're sure to find her in no time. Otherwise, good sodding luck."
"Oh, for the love of….Don't I have enough armed lunatics following me around!?"
"Perfect! What's one more?"
"This seems to be my punishment for some horrid sin I committed in a past life."
"If we're going, let's get moving. Branka's not going to sodding find herself."
With this newest freak in Aedan's ever growing, walking sideshow, they marched forth into the Deep Roads. Many souls of all races had been lost inthe shadows of this godless void in the earth. And not just to the darkspawn who made this place their home, their are older and more deviant things than darkspawn that had been lost to memory here, and they laid dormant, waiting to be discovered. These infinite tunnels and infested caverns were said to be the end of the world, and the closest thing to hell a man could get to while he was still breathing.