ossobuco: Legion from Mass Effect 2 (lyna sun)
[personal profile] ossobuco

When we last left our heroes, we had returned from mending a tear in the Veil in a former Grey Warden stronghold, Soldier's Peak; Morrigan's mother has been killed (for the time being, perhaps), Alistair and I are a thing, now, I guess?, and we are slowly working our way down the list of possible allies. As such, we are on our way to the Brecilian Forest to seek out whatever Dalish clans we can find.

And we do find a clan—it happens to be one that knew my clan, since we traveled the same areas. Their keeper, Zathrian, is exceptionally old; he's said to be centuries old, in fact. We mention the treaties, and he says that he would gladly send us help, but for a problem—his clan is being attacked by werewolves, and many of them have been injured or killed (or, as some suspect but don't know for certain, lost to the werewolf curse). Even he cannot cure the elves who are afflicted. He's forbidden the rest of the clan to go out into the woods, in hopes of keeping them all safe.

Don't worry, Zathrian, we know this game. :D What do you need us to do? We need your support, and we're capable. Besides, I'm always ready to help another Dalish elf, especially any friend of my clan. Well, Zathrian tells us that it's possible he could fashion a cure if we brought him the heart of a wolf called Witherfang, from whom he says the curse originated. Sounds easy enough, let's go! Ah, well, not before having a little chat. I've missed being among my people so much. I talk to Zathrian's first, who is a bright woman, and not originally Dalish—but who surpassed the others who were vying for the position, and was chosen based on her merits. Hm! I (Lyna) am not sure what to think about this, but I like her. She asks me many questions about life among humans. She also drops an interesting hint about some tragedy in Zathrian's life, but won't explain it any further.

I talk with some poor kid (well, he's not a kid, but he doesn't have the tattoos of a hunter, so as far as I'm concerned, he might as well be) who is having no luck with the woman he loves because, well, he's not a hunter. I go and talk with the lady in question and bring up a few rather philosophical points, and she changes her mind, for some reason. I dunno. I (Tracy) did not get this part. I talk to her for three minutes and suddenly they are gazing lovingly at each other and are so happy to be with each other? Hmmm. (It does make me wonder, maybe Dalish cultural expectations for this sort of thing are very, very different—I mean, what it sounded like to me [and I am deeply jaded] was that she was not really fond of him at all, but maybe this was not so. I still don't get it.)

After more chatting with various people and picking up of various quests, I talk to the clan smith, who tells me that, um, my father was the keeper of my clan before he died? Huh. I guess it's not important in the grand scheme of things, since it's not an inherited position, but it is something that I think I would have known, at least. Apparently it takes a lot of digging at conversations during the origin story to actually find this out. Well, that's fine, no biggie. It just means I get to be even more upset at the fact that humans killed my parents. They didn't just take my father from me—they took my clan's keeper from all of us. No wonder I'm so angry. Anyway, the smith asks us to keep an eye out for ironbark in the woods, and to bring him any that we do find.

So, off we go into the woods, looking for this werewolf. We tangle with some darkspawn, some werewolves... a couple of them actually stop us to talk, but attack when we won't be persuaded to go. They call the clan traitors, though, which... well, no time for that, gotta kick some werewolf butt. They flee before we kill them, though, and we press on. As we go further into the woods, we start being attacked by... trees. Brilliant. Walking trees. They're surprisingly stubborn, but Morrigan's fire spells are unsurprisingly effective against them.

Moving deeper into the woods, we come across another living tree, a giant oak—but this one does not attack us right away. It speaks to us, and in rhymes, no less. Its trunk and branches creak and groan as it moves, and it seems amazingly old. After some strained conversation, it tells us that someone stole its acorn—its only seed. We agree to go and find it for him because I'm an elf, and I'm pretty sure that there is a cosmic law somewhere that requires me to help when an ancient talking tree asks me to do it a favor.

After another skirmish with some werewolves, we find one huddled in a clearing, clearly restraining itself from attacking. As we approach, it—she—asks us to stop. She says she was a Dalish elf, and gives her name, which I recognize as that of the wife of one of the hunters I talked to, who suspected that she had turned rather than died as Zathrian had told him. I explain what my task is, and she says, among other things, that the matter of Witherfang is not as it seems, but before I can ask, she begs that I end her suffering, since the curse is horrible pain, and allow her (and her husband) to be at peace. She gives me her scarf to take to him, and I do as she asks.

As we go east, we find our way blocked by a strange sort of misty barrier. As we walk into it, we find that we have emerged on the same side from which we entered. Well, that's comforting! We take another path, and soon come across what looks to be somebody's camp site, in the shadow of an old, moldy stump. It's not long before the resident comes out to see us—some crazy old hermit, it seems, though Morrigan warns us that he's very powerful. We engage in some sort of bizarre question-and-answer game (he scolds me whenever I disrupt the order), with him asking me a range of questions varying from normal (what is my name?, where am I from?) to apparently arbitrary (have you seen the cathedral at Val Royeaux?) to the real gotcha question, have you ever been in love? (I answer, well, I think I am right now. Apparently nobody in my party is paying attention.) The whole time, he's very concerned about some “them” trying to find him. Alright, then. My questions mostly range towards whether or not he has the oak tree's acorn, which I end up bartering for, and when we've both had our fill of questions, it's back to the oak tree to return his acorn. The tree gives us a branch that will let us pass through that magic barrier, and off we go.

After a little more hiking, we come to what appears to be the ruins of a city—huge columns, marble walls, the crumbling remains of what must have been a grand structure, and as old as the forest around it. In fact, Alistair wonders if the city was built in the forest, or if the forest grew around the city. It's anyone's best guess, but now's not the time for that as we are set upon by a group of darkspawn, including an ogre.

What have we been up to lately? Oh, just being complete and utter badass motherfuckers. You know. The usual.

Once the ogre is done tossing me around like a sack of lean Elvish potatoes, we poke around the ruins for a bit. It's beautiful. Brambles coil protectively around the fallen stones and the tree roots clutch the ancient foundations. Among these old bones is a tombstone, with some sort of runes carved all over it, perhaps for protection. It seems wisest not to disturb it, so we move on.

Further into the forest, we pursue some werewolves until we reach an even greater ruin—a whole fortress, it seems. But before our confrontation with the werewolves comes to anything, an enormous white wolf leaps down from a ledge above, knocks me flat to the ground, and bolts off again. The werewolves follow.

We pursue them into the ruins—down a long staircase and into a huge foyer, tree roots coiling down through the walls to displace the stone tiles and churn up the gravelly earth below. A few werewolf sentries attack, but we dispatch them quickly. The door that seems to lead to their den is barred tightly, so we take the only other door, leading us deeper and deeper into this ancient place.

And naturally, the ruins are full of walking corpses. We smash through them, exploring the hallways and pits and tunnels. There's an odd thing, a gem in a jar or something like that, that gives me visions when I touch it—it seems like it was once an elf! Oh, wow, well, this is interesting. It was an arcane warrior, and it says (well, er, thinks) that if I promise to destroy it and end its centuries of imprisonment, it will give me all of the knowledge it has about being an arcane warrior. Well, not that it helps me, but that's part of our history, right?

Further down into the ruins, we pass through another narrow hallway, hearing odd sounds up ahead. Alistair comments to the effect that it sounds like something big—an observation corroborated by the size of the hall into which we enter.

In we go... and as we start across it, what swoops down from the shadowy corners above us, but a high dragon.


The four of us gang up on her. She leaps on Alistair immediately and pretty much shreds him—meanwhile, Morrigan, Zevran, and I try to take advantage of her being occupied by this, but it's slow going. Not as difficult as killing Flemeth was, surprisingly! Still, it was far from easy.

What else have we been up to? Oh, just getting eaten by dragons. It happens.

There are ghosts, too. Ghosts of elves, long-dead, speaking a language that I can barely understand anymore. They flee before I can speak meaningfully to them. There's also an arcane horror. The mechanic for the fight against him is a total continuity error, by the way. A codex entry definitely told me that magic cannot transport stuff in any way, and yet there is some sort of magic going on here that jumps the arcane horror between four points in the room. I call shenanigans!

Anyway. Finally, after pushing through skeletons and spiders and fucking undead magi and dragons and Creators know what else, we find a passageway to the werewolves' den. Once inside, we're attacked with a fury, but careful tactics give us the advantage, and when we break into the heart of the lair, the werewolves do not attack—they ask us to parley, and if we will speak to their leader, the Lady.

Well, I'd thought that Witherfang was a male wolf, but maybe I'm wrong. Once we're reasonably assured that this isn't all a trap, I allow them to summon their Lady, who is... some sort of a spirit of the forest, shapely, calming, but with dangerous eyes. The werewolves bow to her as she appears. She tells us of the real origin of the werewolf curse—not with her (who is, in fact, a part of the being that is Witherfang), but with Zathrian himself. She says that, centuries ago, he and his children were attacked by humans, who killed his son and raped his daughter. Zathrian himself excaped, and when he was able, he summoned a powerful forest spirit and bound it to a wolf, and from this was born the curse, which he inflicted upon the humans who had taken his children from him.

But now... who knows how many generations have passed since Zathrian laid the curse on them? If the spirit is telling me the truth, it doesn't seem right that the curse should go on so long, assuming Zathrian still has the power to end it, especially considering that now his own people are suffering from it as well. I'm... not sure if I should believe them, to be honest. Zathrian is a keeper, and of course a Dalish elf, and there's no way he would do something like this... right?

The spirit asks that we fetch Zathrian and bring him here, so that they can talk and hopefully convince him to change his mind. Well, what if he won't (or can't) remove the curse? Swiftrunner, one of the werewolves, says that he'll be killed. I... oh, dear. I don't know if I can agree to dragging a Dalish keeper to his death, but I don't see much of a choice in the matter. I can't kill something like Witherfang until I know the truth.

So, it's back to the surface we go, but we don't get far, because... Zathrian seems to have followed us. In fact, he's inspecting the foyer of the ruins, bent studiously over the carvings on the stone floor. We can't help but confront him a little aggressively over this. Did he not trust us? Did he have some other plan in mind for us? Well, it's no matter, Zathrian. They want to speak to you, and frankly, I want you to speak to them. I want to know what's really going on here.

He, of course, denies that it will do any good, and asks that I just bring Witherfang's heart. No, no, no, not with the way this is going now. I say everything I can think of that might persuade him, and at last he agrees to go and talk, although he's convinced that nothing that is said will make a difference. With Zathrian in tow, it's back into the lair we go.

Faced with Witherfang's accusations, he explains that he did in fact create the curse—he bound this spirit to the form of a wolf, and set the curse on the humans, but even knowing that he has the power to end it, he will not, even if it means letting so many members of his own clan perish. And not only that, but the curse is the source of Zathrian's extended lifespan—his life is tied to it, and as long as it persists, so will he.

What is wrong with you? No, seriously, Zathrian, what the fuck is going on in your handsomely bald head? You've lied to us all this time. You are killing members of your own clan. I know you still feel the pain of your lost children. I know that this will never truly abate. But can you not accept the fact that the people whom you are now punishing have nothing to do with what happened to your children? That they only harbor ill will towards you (and your whole clan, and me by extension) because you refuse to lift the curse?

We discuss this for... a long time, but Zathrian refuses to budge, and at last it comes down to a fight. He asks if I will stand with him, or if I will side with the werewolves (or, really, the humans).

… well. That is the question, isn't it.

This requires some consideration on my (Lyna's) part, and it took me (Tracy) a little time to think about Lyna's character growth and how much she has changed since the beginning, and this is how it broke down.

I (Lyna), at the start of this game, would have sided with Zathrian every time. He's a Dalish elf, and we're standing against monsters in many senses—savage werewolves, equally savage humans, whose kind have committed no small number of offenses towards my kinsmen. But I have learned something in the time I've spent running around Ferelden with these people, and that is that humans can be different. Sure, some humans are careless, violent, sociopathic jerks, but others are actually reliable and intelligent sociopathic jerks. Some of them aren't even sociopathic. For that matter, some of them aren't even jerks! What I have learned is that it's unfair to judge all of humanity based on the crimes that one group of them perpetrated long ago. I'm not saying that humans have seen the error of their ways and have repented for what they have done, no, far from that. What I'm saying is... not all humans are guilty of it. Not all humans deserve to be condemned for acts that they did not commit.

And I would say, now, that not all that many humans deserve an eternity of pain and savagery inflicted on them and their ancestors.

That is one reason why I side with the werewolves. The others are wounded Dalish pride and pure vindictive rage. Zathrian, we all believed that you had reclaimed what we had lost all those centuries ago—our longevity, maybe even our immortality. We believed you had endured in spite of your tragedy, not because of it. But, no, you deceived us all this time, and your curse has come full circle, inflicted on your own people, and you won't admit that you are wrong in refusing to lift the curse.

I mean, I know we Dalish are stubborn, but seriously.

The battle begins. He summons trees, shades, a variety of creatures, and paralyzes some of the werewolves—but Alistair's templar abilities come in handy, and soon the whole pack is free to attack Zathrian while my companions and I deal with the summoned creatures. He does not last long, and soon begs for the battle to end. He agrees, after a little more talking, to end the curse... even if it means his life. He and the spirit look into each others' eyes in a strange way before he falls.

With that... the werewolves transform back into humans. They look at themselves and each other with almost disbelieving joy, and they thank me before setting off into the woods... to look for a new home, among other humans, at last.

And we return to camp.

Things are wrapped up—we bring news that the curse is ended, but that Zathrian perished in the effort. I don't explain to the new keeper (formerly the keeper's first—I (Tracy) can't remember her name) how exactly Zathrian died. After so much tragedy, maybe it's best that they don't have to deal with that shame. They don't seem to want to know, either. The new keeper promises whatever aid she can give in our battle against the darkspawn. Overall, reactions range from gratitude towards us (and apparent ambivalence towards the humans) to a desire still to hunt down the humans, but I refuse to tell the more aggressive elves where the humans have gone. They are not what they once were, and they'll be gone from the forest soon, in any case.

As we are leaving, we run into a Dalish messenger, who is preparing to go north to warn the other tribes. He says he will find mine to tell them of the coming battle, and if I wish, he could take a message to them from me.

Oh, Creators, I want more than anything to see them again. I'd give anything for that. I almost want to go with him—to give all this up and go to them, go home, to my family, to leave this awful mess behind.


…no. I can't. I ask him not to find them, not to drag them into this war. No. I left so that they would be safe. I won't have them brought back into this.

I go back to our camp, where Leliana wants to talk about Zathrian's fear of death and, in the end, his acceptance of it. I wish I could remember exactly what she quoted, but it was a very elegant thing about our spirits leaving us and finding freedom in death or somesuch, and... actually, one of the storytellers of my clan used to say the same thing. She says that an elf servant of her mother's had sung her a song to comfort her when her mother died, and supposes I might know the words... and she sings, and the party looks on, with such an array of emotions and personality.

Totally wonderful cutscene.

This game.

This game is great.
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ossobuco: Legion from Mass Effect 2 (Default)

August 2017

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