They met Oghren at Caridin's Cross. The dwarf stood, leaning on his battleaxe, broken stone and the remains of butchered darkspawn at his feet. He grinned when he saw them, seeming perfectly at home with the caked blood splattered across his armor, and the taint-stained corpses at his feet.
"Took you long enough," he said when they approached, "you almost missed all the fun."
"It's good to see you in one piece, my friend," Alistair said, clasping Oghren's hand in greeting, and saluting the crown soldiers who stood by him, before kneeling to sort through the mangled pile at their feet.
Shann stood beside him, picking through the wreckage with her own silver hooves, nudging at the debris. Alistair could not withhold a grimace as he remembered what Bhelen had told him.
"Is this?" He looked up at Oghren, pointing to the bloody rock and shattered stone at his feet.
"Yep. Whole squadron of golems passed through here an hour ago. We buried most of them in one of the smaller tunnels, but a few stragglers made it through."
"Golems?" Neria asked, her voice sharp with alarm. "Why on earth would golems attack us?"
"Use your senses," Oghren said, and Alistair knew he was referring to their Warden senses, not sight or smell.
Neria closed her eyes, and Alistair cast out his own senses as she did so. Grimly, the familiar throbbing in his head corroborated Bhelen's warning.
"It's tainted," Oghren said for the benefit of the crown soldiers near them.
"How is that possible?" Neria whispered, grimacing against the writhing nausea the tainted corpses around them induced.
Alistair held back a wince, knowing what he must say next.
"The Anvil of the Void has been rebuilt."
The shock on the faces around him was plainly written. Neria shook her head, her face contorting with anger, an anger he knew she felt towards Bhelen, and towards themselves.
"But we destroyed it."
"We destroyed it using the magic and steel of humans and elves, and, meaning no disrespect," he nodded at Oghren, "a dwarven outcast. We were hardly engineers about it, and whatever we did was apparently less than permanent."
He held up his hand to allay further questions. Without thinking, he rested his other hand on Shann's shoulder, feeling the halla's gentle presence in his mind, giving him strength.
I've got to come to terms with this. We all do. And this was not the place or the time to pick apart Bhelen's motives. He sighed, and continued.
"Regardless of how it happened, the Anvil has been overrun by darkspawn. Now the horde use it to craft golems of their own. Whether they do this from dwarves they find in the Deep Roads, or whether they've used their own kind, we don't know. But the golems have gone mad with the taint. They must be destroyed, with the rest of the darkspawn."
He turned to the Wardens and crown soldiers, grimacing as he remembered what Bhelen had told him at the palace.
"Be wary. The Deep Roads have changed. Bhelen also has news of a new force of darkspawn, cunning and intelligent. Darkspawn that talk."
"Talking darkspawn?" Lieutenant Basil repeated, sounding shocked. "I didn't think that was possible."
"It gets still worse. Bhelen believes that a new Broodmother has arisen near the Dead Trenches."
He turned to Neria.
"One more powerful than the one we encountered."
Whispers and murmurs followed this announcement, and the entire party was at grave risk of being overrun in confusion. Alistair shook his head. He felt no better prepared for having known what was coming than any of the soldiers now clustered before him. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, fighting back the headache that threatened there, trying for just a moment to drown out the ceaseless questions he could not answer.
In the end it was Shann who broke the mayhem, raising her head and trumpeting shrilly, her voice echoing off the stones in a beautiful but eerie call. One by one, the soldiers fell silent.
"Are we done chit-chatting?" Oghren grumbled, nodding in approval at the halla. "Let's get going, before they invent even more ways to stick a thorn in our sides."
Shann whuffed in apparent agreement, and led the way forward, stepping nimbly over the darkspawn corpses and down the road.
It was when they turned towards Bownammar that it happened. The dull air of the Deep Roads suddenly lit up with a wild reverberation. Directionless noise swirled around them, until it seemed the very stones at their feet were shaking from some great power. And over the top of the current a voice sang.
First day we come, and catch everyone.