A quick stop back in the dwarven kingdom, to forge new treaties with harrowmont.
King Harrowmont frowned stoically. “And you want to bring this up now? In the middle of a Blight?” He squinted up at the surfacer elf. “Isn’t it a little late for that? What if I tell you to blow it out your arse? Then the dwarves don’t have to come to your aid up top at all now, do they?”
Valorien replied calmly. “I do not wish to supercede the treaties that have already been ratified by you for this Blight. But yes, I wish to seal these new ones, for the terms are most important now at the inception of the new golem troops.”
“No control rods.” Harrowmont blew out a disparaging breath through his moustaches.
“It is important the golems only ever be created from volunteers. The lack of control rods will guarantee this.” Valorien’s steel gaze pierced the dwarf. “Nothing else will.”
“And if I don’t agree, then the Grey Wardens will not, in the future, support Orzammar. Or, basically, you’ll stop shipping us your grizzled old Wardens who come to the Deep Roads to die.” He waved a hand dismissively.
“The old Grey Wardens?” repeated Valorien. He stiffened. “That is an insult.”
The dwarven guards tensed, some muttering underbreath. Harrowmont leaned forward and growled. “You calling our kingdom an insult, surfacer?”
“It is an insult to you and your people,” Valorien replied. “Do you not live with Darkspawn upon your doorstep? The young Grey Wardens should be sent here, trained to fight the very enemy they were created to destroy. There should be an outpost, fully manned by Wardens in their prime. Not old cast-offs.”
The dwarves shuffled themselves a bit. They hadn’t expected that. Harrowmont stroked his beard. “So then you mean to say… you will put all that into the treaties? Give us aid against the Darkspawn all the time, in exchange for us helping in a Blight?”
Harrowmont’s eyes gleamed. “Well, then! You’ve got yourselves a deal! I’ll see what Brankha can do….”
In the meantime, the first cadre of dwarven volunteers was ready to set off for the Anvil of the Void. The Grey Wardens (and their auxilliary) were invited to the creation ceremony. The journey to the Anvil was a bit less fraught with danger, though the procession was attacked twice by stray clusters of Darkspawn. At least the Broodmother had been removed, and Cairden’s traps disabled.
Cairden’s husk, the last mortal remains he had possessed, had been reassembled into a statue honoring his status as dwarven Paragon. Brankha had already achieved Paragon status. Her resurrection of Cairden’s techniques would only earn her a footnote in the dwarven histories. She didn’t seem to care. Her eyes were brighter than they had been when the Wardens had confronted her, her body a little thinner, her face paler. Her demeanor perhaps a bit more mad — some speculated she might have suffered some type of lyrium poisoning from working so hard with the Anvil. Then again, perhaps the work alone was enough.
Six metal shells lay prepared near the Anvil. Six young dwarven warriors stood in line beside them. Stoic dwarven pride held them still as statues — or perhaps just fear they refused to show. No one knew if, after all this time, the creation of the new golems would even work. Brankha muttered and paused as she passed the watching Grey Warden contingent. “No control rods; this is insane.” She glared up at Valorien. “They’re mindless automatons!”
Valorien said nothing. Shale, stone brow furrowed, said, “No. They’re not.” She glared back down at Brankha until the dwarf huffed in annoyance and continued to her precious Anvil.
The lots were drawn and the first volunteer announced: “Kayleen Taerbaun.” Brankha’s aides wrestled the golem husk to the base of the Anvil. The young dwarven warrior saluted her people amid the cheers of her kin. She took her place on the Anvil’s dark surface, secured wrist and ankle like a sacrifice on a Tevinter altar.
Wynne turned away. “I can’t watch this,” she said. She tried to push her way past Morrigan and Leliana, but Valorien moved into her path. She stopped and looked up. She gasped slightly as she met his eyes. She’d never had their steel blue gaze aimed at her and until now had never realized they were as much a weapon as a blade. Her heart thumped involuntarily.
“You watched me slay dwarves for no good reason in the Provings,” he said, his voice like ice. “You can watch this.”
Wynne swallowed once, and turned back.
A rune, crafted of pure blue lyrium, was placed upon the young warrior’s breastbone. Brankha raised the massive hammer to strike. There were no words, no magical chanting. It was swift and practical and brutal, much like life in the caverns under the surface. The hammer reared back, paused at the apex of its arc, then came down, hard. The Anvil rang out with a deep toll as the run crunched through bone and flesh. Spears of blue light flashed outward, turning the blood black. The light writhed over the dead warrior, flickering like marshfire. Suddenly, it darted towards the metal golem. There was a brilliant flash, the smell of ozone, and a wisp of black smoke curled up from the metal hulk.
No one dared stir as they waited to see if Brankha and her mad scheme had been successful — or if she had just murdered someone to no end.
Slowly, the golem’s eyes began to glow. Its metal eyelids rose. Then, carefully, it drew itself up to stand straight. “Kayleen?” Brankha asked in hushed awe.
The golem turned its head, metal grating upon metal. “I am…,” it said in a ponderous voice, trailing off as it looked down at its new, massive hands. “I am here.”
The dwarves erupted into thunderous cheers. They abandoned all decorum; leaping up and pounding each other on the back. Golems had returned to Orzammar! The massive metal guardians of the Deep Roads; indefatigable enemies of the Darkspawn; with these constructs, the dwarves could begin to reclaim their ancestral homes. For the first time in over a century, the kingdom could look forward to expanding, rather than standing fast, clinging to the territory it had and crumbling around the edges.
Wynne remained silent, watching Brankha’s aides as they wrapped the forgotten body in a shroud, and consigned it to the lava far below. “Such a cost,” she lamented quietly.
Valorien watched as well. To her he said, “The few choose to give up all they have, all they are, to stand between their people and the darkness.”
She looked up at him, then bowed her head. “Yes. You are right. The people need their guardians.” She squared her shoulders and raised her head.
Eager to claim the glory of their people, the other volunteers submitted to the hammer.