Part Twenty: Valorien’s Plan


 

Okay, a bunch of stuff sorta went missing into the misty moors of memory… or lack thereof. On a side quest to find out about Shale’s past, they discover he is in fact a she. Which was back in Orzammar sometime.

Ah well, dragons, dragon blood, control rods, nugs, Kolgrim’s horn…. and not a single quest/line to talk to the dragon. Oh well.

 

 

Valorien took Alistair aside as the others set up camp on the mountain trail. “Now this is my plan –”

“The plan I really hate?”

“Yes. That plan.” Valorien looked towards the mountain peak. “I will go to the mountain and summon the dragon. I will try to speak to her, to reason with her.”

Alistair folded his arms. “It’s more likely she’ll just eat you.”

“I have a nug to appease her.”

“An appetizer, you mean,” the human grunted.

“We cannot just let her start preying on that village,” Valorien insisted.

“A village full of crazed cultists?”

“It’s not like you to not care about the fate of your people.”

“It’s not like you to care if a bunch of shemlen get eaten by a dragon.”

Valorien turned and stared hard at him. His eyes narrowed calculatingly.

Alistair fidgeted. “All right, I suppose all the crazed cultists are dead already and there are women and children left in the village.”

“They may have been misguided, but they kept peace with the dragon. We shattered that peace, and we left the village without guardians, and the dragon without keepers. We should set things right.”

Alistair sighed. “You know, one day you’re going to have to teach me how to do that.”

“Do what?”

“That steely gaze. You know, the one that gets anyone to start quaking in their boots and agree to anything you say.” Valorien just snorted. Alistair said, “No, I’m serious.”

The elf ignored him. “I will ask Shale to accompany me. Her fire crystals ought to help defend against dragon fire. I will also ask Morrigan.”

“If she can keep her mouth shut. And you’d better take Wynne.” Alistair gave him a concerned look.

“I will ask her.” Valorien handed him a scroll case.

“What’s this?”

“That is the treaty between the dwarven kingdom and the Grey Wardens. Make Harrowmont sign it.”

“But it’s your treaty,” Alistair protested. “Authorized by the Chief Grey Warden — you.”

“If I am eaten by a dragon, you will of course be promoted in my stead.” Valorien clapped him on the shoulder. “Good luck.”

Alistair looked at the scroll case with an expression of sinking dismay. “Couldn’t I just get eaten by the dragon, insetad? Put me out of my misery?”

 

 

“Shale, may I speak with you?”

The stone golem sighed. “It doesn’t have better things to do?”

“I know you find inaction tedious,” the elf said. “Wouldn’t conversation at least be a bit less boring?”

“I amuse myself by trying to think of words of mass destruction that rhyme with what people say.”

“And so, ‘boring’?”

“‘Boring’ itself is an amusing word. In the dwarven mines, boring is how one makes holes in rock. A drill bit would have a much more spectacular effect on a squishy, blood-filled creature.”

Valorien cocked a brow. “Interesting. But I wanted to ask you if you would accompany me to the mountain top on a dangerous mission.”

“I relish the opportunity to squash things.” The golem sounded positively eager.

“This mission is a bit different,” the elf admitted.

“Ugh. It isn’t running off to rescue some baby, is it?” (*)

“No. I am going to try to reason with a dragon.”

“What, just talk to it?” the golem scoffed.

“Yes. However, the chances of that happening are very slim. I would be honored if you would help protect me in the rather likely event the dragon attacks.”

“You would?” Shale was so surprised, she forgot to call him “it.”

The elf nodded solemnly. “You do not have to decide now. Please, think about it.”

 

 

Valorien continued to Morrigan’s corner of the camp. “May I speak with you?” he asked her.

“What were you talking to Shale about?”

“I asked her to accompany me on a mission.”

“Did he agree? Er — she.” Morrigan shook herself. “I really can’t get that straight in my mind.”

“She has not decided yet. I would ask you to accompany me, if you wish to.”

She tilted her head, golden eyes catching the sunlight. “Wait, is this about that dragon? You’re not serious about that.”

“I am.”

“What makes you think you can talk to a dragon?”

“Kolgrim spoke to her,” he said.

“And… she listened.” Morrigan sounded doubtful.

“Yes.”

“Well, I don’t know why you need me, then.”

“As you know, it is quite likely things will go wrong.”

Morrigan nodded and said cheerfully, “And then it will be less talking and more screaming things like ‘No, please don’t eat me.’ Why, pray tell, have you singled me out for this particular honor?”

“Because you are powerful,” Valorien told her levelly. “And because you have a great affinity for animals, beasts, and creatures of the wild. It may be you can reason with her, even if I cannot.”

“So you’re actually asking me on account of my skills in diplomacy?” She laughed. “That’s rich!”

“Actually, we will probably have to goad her into seeing the Archdemon as a threat or a rival. So perhaps it is more your skill in duplicity and manipulation.”

Morrigan laughed again. “What do you think diplomacy is, dear boy?”

Without pause, he answered, “Sycophantic placation of potential opponents by telling them what they wish to hear, and making empty promises to give them what they most desire.”

“Touche’!” She smiled in delight.

“You do not have to decide now,” he told her.

“No, I will go with you. But with one understanding.” She took on a serious mein and fixed him with her catlike eyes. “If we end up in a battle we cannot win, I’m quitting the field.”

Valorien nodded. “I only ask that if you decide so — and if Wynne accompanies us — make sure she goes with you.”

“‘If’ she goes? You can’t go into battle against a dragon without a healer.”

“She is our only healer, and I cannot waste her life on a chancy mission like this.”

“But you’re still going on it?” she asked. “Why waste your own life?”

“I feel it is something I have to do.”

“And if I don’t feel the same?” She narrowed her eyes.

“Then you do not have to come.” Valorien handed her a pendant.

“What’s this for?”

“Protection from fire.”

Morrigan snorted. “I think you need this more than I.”

Valorien tapped his armor. “I have protection. I am not stupid, Morrigan. I am not planning to go forth and slay a dragon in some fool attempt at glory. If discussion does not work, fleeing is our best option. I will do everything I can to ensure our survival.”

“Besides bringing an army?”

Valorien’s brow creased in thought. “The dwarven army is nearby…,” he mused. “But I do not believe they have ballistae. I should tell Alistair to make sure the armies have some, against the Archdemon.”

“You expect Alistair to lead the armies?” Morrigan asked in disbelief.

“That’s the idea.”

“Somehow, that’s harder to picture than Shale being a woman.”

“Think about it, anyway. I must speak to Wynne.”

 

 

The older mage sat on her camp stool, engrossed in a small book. She closed the pages on a silver ribbon and smiled in greetings as Valorien approached and asked to speak with her. She listened thoughtfully as he explained. Then she said, “Are you sure this is the proper thing to do? The war against the Blight is close at hand, and Ferelden needs its Grey Wardens — all two of them,” she added pointedly.

Valorien frowned. “I do not understand your reticence, as well as Alistair’s, towards aiding these people,” he said. “Are humans so numerous that you are able to care nothing at all if a whole village is wiped out?”

Wynne winced. “It isn’t that,” she tried to explain. “But so many have perished — and so many more will. It is a matter of priorities.”

“Then you believe my life is more valuable than that of all these people?”

“I hate to say such a thing,” she replied heavily, “and I wish them all safety and peace. But can any of them defeat an Archdemon? Stop the Blight? Sad to say, they cannot. So, yes. Your life is more important.”

“I see.” He clasped his hands behind his back and looked off into the trees, thinking. Wynne waited quietly, one finger tracing the spine of her book. Finally, he said, “I believe I have done all I can to minimize the risk. I believe it is my responsibility to bring conclusion to this situation. Whether or not it is my duty as a Grey Warden, it is something I must do.”

Wynne let out a pent breath. “Very well, then I shall accompany you.”

“You will not do so unless you agree that you will save yourself, even at the cost of your companions’ lives, if the situation turns dire.”

“I would never abandon anyone,” she exclaimed.

“Then you shall not go,” Valorien stated simply. “This is not negotiable.”

“You need me,” Wynne insisted.

“Alistair needs you, as well. As you have so adroitly pointed out, the mission of the Grey Wardens is of more importance.” Valorien stated the facts coldly. “I will not deprive Alistair of his healer. You will preserve your own life, or you will not endanger it at all. You do not need to decide right now,” he added more gently.

“When are you leaving?” she asked him heavily.

“Tomorrow morning.”

 

 

(to be continued…)

 


(*): For those who aren’t from NWN, this is another swipe at the preponderance of ‘rescue the baby’ quests that came out with one of the expansions. You can award yourself bonus Bloodsong points if you knew that.

 


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