Previously in Dragon Age: Zoso the Rogue had gathered together an army of Elves, Dwarves and Mages to defeat the Blight, but first there was the small matter of Teryn Loghain to deal with. All was going according to plan as the team headed to Denerhim with Arl Eamon…
(More spoiler-y Dragon Age spoilers follow,)
So as we headed for the capital everything seemed to be proceeding towards the requisite happy ending: overthrow the tyrant, smite some evil, home for tea and scones. Before actually calling the Landsmeet for the tyrant-overthrowing, Arl Eamon thought it would be a good idea to make sure we had the support of more Arls (and possibly Ukes, Aronets and Iscounts, I’m not sure of the exact structure of the Dragon Age nobility), so we sniffed around a bit for more evidence, clearing the Tevinter out of the Alienage and finding evidence linking Loghain with slave-trading.
The first bump in the previously smooth road was Queen Anora. We got word that despite nominally still being in power she was being held prisoner by the rotten bounder who’d done in my parents; a damsel in distress, you say? Sorted! Off to the rescue. I was worried for a moment it might turn out the princess was in another castle, but nope, there she was, and we bundled her back to Eamon’s estate. Only instead of being all “Swoon, I’m so grateful for being rescued, but the excitement has got to me and I must lie down for a while”, she put herself forward in place of Alistair as the prime candidate to be ruler after we deposed Loghain. That set me thinking that I’d just been taking it as read that Loghain was a Bad Man and needed a kicking, but I wasn’t really sure what his motivation was for abandoning the King at Ostegar. Was he in league with the Darkspawn, deliberately allowing them to overrun the kingdom? Did he just spot an opportunity to grab power? Did just think the King was a bit of a dick (he had a point) who was letting the country go to the dogs? Was he really a patriot, determined to protect the Kingdom in the face of a threat he considered to be greater than the Blight? And now his daughter, the Queen, was selling him out, so what was *she* up to? A double agent come to spy on us, who’d cooked up the whole being captured business? A pragmatist who could see the way the wind was blowing and wanted to be on the winning side?
Until then, Alistair had reluctantly accepted prospective Kingship; he didn’t really want to rule (one of the prime qualifications for a position of power, in my book), and I was pretty sure I could trust him after all our adventures. The “optimal” approach looked to be to get Alistair to marry Anora; continue the royal bloodline, put a thoroughly decent chap on the throne, but with the experienced and steely Anora around to actually run things. Trouble was… I’d got quite fond of Alistair. Usually I’ll play characters as… well, as me, so even if playing a female character it feels strange to engage in a romance with a male NPC, but Alistair was pretty engaging in a Hugh-Grant-in-rom-com sort of way, if Hugh Grant spent less time running bookshops and attending weddings and more time stabbing ogres in the face and acquiring useful abilities for smiting enemy magic users. I think the player character being mute in Dragon Age has a slightly odd effect, it almost makes them seem like an external observer, despite being the centre of everything. It could be very immersion breaking if “you” have a voice that doesn’t seem appropriate or match your idea of the character, but the complete voicing of everyone else throws your muteness into sharper relief compared to previous games where conversations were more textual, and just seemed to put a bit of distance there such that getting together with Alistair didn’t seem weird. Or maybe I’m in denial about something. Anyway… I made a sort of half-hearted suggestion to Alistair about marrying Anora, he got a bit cross, and I dropped the subject. I didn’t trust Anora enough to fully support her, so I made some non-committal about being pleased she was on our side, but I wouldn’t be able to back her bid for leadership, and things were all a bit awkward around Eamon’s mansion like Christmas with a couple of sets of in-laws who don’t really get along.
Volunteering to take the dog for a walk to get away from the tense atmosphere, I wandered off and did a bit more evidence gathering, got revenge on the git who’d offed my parents, was banged up but planned an ingenious prison break (it involved a wooden vaulting horse and bag of soil down the trouser legs, only that took a bit too long so I went with the almost-as-ingenious Plan B of picking the door lock and punching all the guards to death), found the son of a noble who’d been imprisoned after he started asking awkward questions about Ostegar, found a spare Gray Warden who’d been lazing around in a dungeon while I was doing all the hard work (honestly, he hadn’t even constructed a wooden horse to vault over) and rescued another noble that Loghain had chucked into prison. I was pretty sure I’d gathered sufficient backing amongst the nobility to stand against the slave-trading king-abandoning noble-imprisoning Loghain, so off we toddled to the Landsmeet and I presented my case (“Loghain: what a bastard, support Alistair instead, he’s a bastard too, but the good kind”).
The nobles seemed to be going with it until Anora turned up and showed her gratitude for the earlier rescue by siding with her father, which I took as reasonable proof she was only in it for a nice tiara. Either that alone was sufficient to turn the tide back for Loghain, or I’d overlooked some other way of getting more support, as the Landsmeet couldn’t reach a decision on a new ruler and decided to settle things the old fashioned way instead, with a full-on ruck. Several stabbings and a couple of fireballs right in the rebuttals convinced the doubters that they hadn’t actually considered our thoroughly convincing arguments carefully enough, though Loghain himself insisted on a one-on-one duel (which seemed to be mandatory; I didn’t notice a “LOL NO WAI!” option to have him riddled with crossbow bolts). Obviously the Teryn hadn’t come across the old country saying “never propose a duel when your opponent has a massive stack of health poultices”, which didn’t give him much of a chance in the resultant fight, and he surrendered.
Mindful of International Humanitarian Law and the treatment of surrendered combatants, I was keen to see he was treated humanely and that no outrages were enacted upon his personal dignity. The others took those concerns on board, but instead proposed two alternative plans: either give him a nice cup of Darkspawn blood and turn him into a Gray Warden, or cut his head off. Flipping through the Geneva Convention I couldn’t find any references to Darkspawn blood, and decided that course of action might be OK if we told him it was Ribena. Loghain could’ve been a useful ally too, especially with Sarevok’s precedent as Ultimate Opponent Turned Handy Party Member, but Alistair, in flagrant breach of Article 3, was quite insistent on killing him to death. I tried to talk him out of it, but he rather hoist me by my own King-selecting petard by deciding he would take the crown after all and pointing out that, as King, he could do what he jolly well liked. There didn’t seem to be much of an alternative, so I let him get on with it. One beheading later, it rather put paid to any lingering ideas about an Anora/Alistair ruling combination, patricide being a notoriously bad choice for a first date (even worse than a romantic dinner for two at the local kebab shop), and we had to lock Anora up.
Still, justice had (more or less) prevailed, and with the nation (pretty much) united it was time to give the Archdemon a good kicking. At least that looked nice and straightforward. Until Alisatir popped his head round the door wanting a bit of a chat…
(To be continued. Again.)