Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dragon Age Diaries: The Hero

Day 30, Month of the Kingsway

I had put this off as long as possible.  I didn't wish to return to Orzammar at all, but the Gray Warden treaties I hold in trust require that we ask for aid from all peoples.  Alistair has said that all must honor their place in these treaties, and I've taken him at his word.

But what good have any of the dwarves dwelling in Orzammar ever done me?

However, my business with the Dalish elves concluded far sooner than I had liked--at least they were polite to outsiders, if initially mistrustful.  And given the choice between paying Flemeth a visit at Morrigan's behest or going back to the mountains, too much needed to be done in Orzammar for me to keep ignoring it.

Even the bounty hunter and his hired band were a welcome distraction from the gate that loomed in the distance, but that fight was not lengthy.

If Wynne or Alistair noticed a change in my behavior, neither said anything.  Charl gave my face an extra lick, his short tail wagging as we searched the bodies of the bandits.  I found no bones for him this time, but it didn't deter him from sniffing around.

With my mabari at my side, and my two human companions trailing behind, we approached the gates.  It took all of three seconds for the gatekeeper to say the words.

"Filthy brand."

I'm sure I winced; my face tightened like I did, but I had the Gray Warden treaties, and I had eyes on me.  I didn't rise to the bait.  The human there on behalf of Loghain took issue with me, regardless.  But even if the gatekeeper had no respect for my person, he did have respect for the seal on those aged documents.

I kept my anger sheathed.  I have my own thoughts about Loghain, but in front of a dwarf was no place to voice them.  Especially a dwarf mired in politics of his own.

You would have thought that the blood still drying on my armor would have warned Imrek not to trifle with me or my party.  I was wrong.  He died quickly.

Entering the Commons was familiar, yet still strange.  The weight of the earth so close over my head should have comforted me, for I had missed it.  And yet...

I felt a burning sensation on my face--I had all but forgotten about my brand.  Maybe I'd had a false sense of security all along, but now I felt it was a blazing beacon, standing out to all my kind.  A heavy, unpleasant feeling seemed to creep beneath my armor, clinging to me.  There were going to be looks.  Challenges.  Slurs and curses.

The friends with me would see them and hear them.  Nothing I could do would stop that, but oh, I wanted to stop it.  I should have stayed at the camp, polishing armor, or practicing with my blades.  Part of me knew that this task would have been easier if I had made Alistair the warden in charge, but traditional dwarves are naturally suspicious of outsiders.

They fear the outside influence upon their precious caste system.  Because everybody knows that the fortune or misfortune of your birth holds value.  And because I am a female born of another casteless female, I was never allowed to choose a different fate for myself.  Work on my back, work for Beraht, or starve.  I had thought those were my choices.

But Duncan gave me a different choice.

I was handed a chalice with a delayed death sentence inside.  And still I drank deep.

The wardens don't tell you much about the Joining.  I know why, now.

Death tastes bitter, for those who might read this.  And the aftertaste is terrifying--the nightmares are frequent, despite Alistair's words.

More than once, I have desired to dig my fingers into my flesh and simply rend it from me.  The itchy, uncomfortable feeling of frustration kindles rage, and the pain feels good.  The pain reminds me that I am strong.  Only the strong survive, and here I am.

I dread it.

I dread the warm, suffocating air, the burning tang of the lava flows...the dark, warm colors that always seem to have some derivative of brown tinting them.  There is no welcome in Orzammar.  There's the in-fighting, the politics, and the castes.

I know better than to have any expectations of my fellow kind.  The instant the gates of Orzammar closed behind me, it was as if the last three months spent on the surface had been a dream, and I had awakened to find that I was as insignificant and powerless as I had been raised to be.

And then, to be immediately found by Rica, my sister...I wasn't sure if I should be happy, or wary.  Pleased to see her, certainly.  Wary of what she thought of me now.

Her first words were reassuring, and true.  Of course I am happy for her--she has been able to provide for herself, and for Mother.  And now my new nephew.  But in the back of my mind the suspicion lurks--did Bhelen choose my sister as his concubine because he knew I might be back?  Did he suspect that the increase of darkspawn meant there was a new Blight?

The machinations reported to be behind his hopeful ascent to the throne seem too well-timed.  But I can't breathe a word of that to Rica; she seems so sure of her and her son's destiny.  And I won't put her in danger.  This is all a game of shifting balances and loyalties, and I don't know how to play it.  But there's Wynne.  And Alistair.  Waiting for me to lead them to victory.  And I can't explain this to them.

For the first time...I am alone.

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