Jan 17, 2019 6:06 PM
Three grey wardens are off to kill Malak's mom
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It isn't that much farther; they pass a few more trees and go over a hill and then it's there in front of them, a three-story wooden hut improbably propped up by old, worn timbers. More dead darkspawn are strewn about the clearing.

"Well. Here we are. No smoke from the chimney, so she's probably out."

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"All righty, then."

It's easier to talk your way out of things if you try the front door first like a civilized person, so that's what she does.

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The first room is nearly empty - bookshelves along the walls have been cleared off, their contents moved into a couple of open chests in the middle of the room. An old cauldron, a couple of cots, but no signs of anyone (or anything) there right now.

Up the rickety ladder to the second floor is another story. The various shelves around this room have been emptied too, but there is little to indicate where the contents may have gone. Three humans - all still wearing the leather armor common among Ferelden's soldiers - lie dead on the ground, their faces wracked with agony; broken glass and empty flasks lie next to them. Framed by their remains is a corroded metal lockbox, unremarkable apart from its placement.

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"Homey. Tempted to try the box immediately, but the decor suggests that might not be the smartest plan ever."

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"Yeah. That's...not usually here. I don't recognize it."

She kneels down and inspects one of the bodies, stripping off the armor where it's in the way.

"Poison, I think."

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She looks at the lockbox, chews her lip, and then glances at the soldiers again to double-check whether they were still wearing gauntlets when they died.

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No gauntlets! One has a bloody hand full of broken glass.

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"Contact poison, you think? Maybe if we could get the box open without touching it?"

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"Maybe. We've got gloves. From the flasks I'd almost guess they drank it but that doesn't make much sense. But I guess if we get that thing open and it's full of vials we should not assume they're elfroot potions."

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"Noted. Here goes nothing, then."

She tries opening the box, gauntlets on.

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The box opens without a hitch. Within is a neat stack of parchment.

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"That was way too easy."

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"Yup. First guess is that she wants us to have them."

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"Or she thought we all died at Ostagar and wouldn't come looking... no, you're right, she wants us - you - to have them. Uhm."

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"Yeah." She bites her lip again. "But if she's behind the blight, why offer us a tool to defeat it? You don't need to lure people into a trap if you have a blight on your side. What's she gain, playing both sides?"

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"My best guess is that the Blight is the world's biggest distraction, but that sounds really reckless even for her. Um - unless you have some compelling reason not to we should probably grab the scrolls and run before she or the darkspawn get back, try to puzzle out what she could be up to somewhere safer?"

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"Agreed." 

She takes the scrolls and leaves.

When their party is out of sight of the hut, it occurs to her to ask where exactly they're going.

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"Uh, west. We should probably swing north at some point but the horde's northeast of us now and I think we should put some more distance between us and them first. Then cut through the hinterlands and head to the highway?"

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"Makes sense. If we can get ahead of the horde I guess we can make it to Lothering and regroup. You know the area better than us; lead the way."

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The going gets faster once they exit the wilds. The hinterlands are hilly but not marshy, and Malak seems to know the way. It's three days travel at a grueling pace before they reach the highway.

"West to redcliffe, east to Lothering. I don't know what pace the horde's making but they might have beat us there, they've had the highway this whole time."

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"We'll feel them before they see us if they are. Perks of the trade. Lothering should be closer from here, best to warn them of what's coming if nobody else has. Even if we lose a couple days. Especially since we're not doing great in the equipment department."

They run into a Mabari dog on the way. Aria recognizes it and it seems to recognize her, and the animal follows them the rest of the way to town, apparently content to consider itself a member of the party.

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Going towards the darkspawn horde does not seem like the best choice ever, but she's not the grey warden here and doesn't want to go running off on her own again with Felandris up to something. And they do need supplies and equipment.

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