Warning: This article contains spoilers. I would, however, appreciate if you did not spoil anything beyond the point of the game that I discuss.

Areas spoiled: Arl of Denerim’s Estate, Denerim Alienage, Leliana’s personal quest, various side quests

Previous articles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

The end, I am told, is near. Fiona, now level 19 and fifty-seven hours into her quest, has secured the aid of all four Grey Warden allies and is prepared to challenge Teyrn Loghain Mac Tir for supremacy of Ferelden. My last few play sessions have been extremely plot heavy (a nice break from the combat-heavy Ozrammar) and I was forced to make many uncomfortable decisions. I’m sure they only get tougher from here.

My party composition (as it frequently is) was Fiona, Morrigan, Leliana, and Alistair for the duration. My thoughts on progress, as always:

Cleaning up some side quests

- One of the interesting things about not following a guide or using FAQs is that I’m never quite sure how things should be done, or in what order. Thus, I decided that before triggering the Landsmeet I had to clean up all of my open side quests in case the game cut off access to them.

- My first stop was the mountaintop above the village of Haven for a rematch with the High Dragon. Although I had to micromanage my potions and party positioning, I dispatched of the beast on my first attempt with very little trouble.

Alistair tanking the High Dragon

- The dragon dropped a pile of loot, most of which was trash, as well as a dragon scale. The dragon scale (as well as some drake scales I acquired in Haven) were tradeable in Denerim at Wade’s Emporium. When asked what I wanted made from the scale I chose heavy armor – Alistair appreciated the gesture.

- When I first visited Denerim I was experimenting with my party composition and didn’t have Leliana with me for the back alleys. Remembering this, I cruised through the old areas and picked the locks on some chests.

- Aside from the chests in the alleys I also stumbled across Gax’kang the Unbound, who apparently is the culmination of a quest that I didn’t realize I was on. The resulting fight took place in a cramped hovel, and was nasty. My mages kept stealing aggro from Alistair, and had to be manually microed into the back room to keep them alive. The fight lasted quite a while, but at the end everyone was alive and I received a really sweet sword (The Keening Blade) as a reward.

I heart Leliana

- From almost the beginning of the game Leliana has been my favorite computer-controlled ally, and I’ve spent a lot of time listening to her stories about places, people, and her past wherever I go. As a bard she has a lot of stories to tell, and I’ve devoured each of them. Leliana is also the only party member that I’ve managed to raise to 100 approval.

- I decided that I needed to complete Leliana’s personal quest, which involves a quick trip to Denerim to deal with Marjolaine, her former employer, friend, and – perhaps – lover. The quest itself is not combat oriented, and simply involves backing up Leliana as she confronts the woman. The reward, Marjolaine’s Recurve, was a nice touch to an otherwise very well done personal back story.

- Back at camp I immediately went to talk to Leliana, and convinced her that she’s not as awful and manipulative as Marjolaine, and that she could be an effective bard (part minstrel, part assassin) without also being evil.

- The quest and conversations seemed to open up new romance dialog options, and given the relationship that Leliana hinted existed between her and Marjolaine in the past, I decided to see if she would fall for Fiona as well. Over the course of a few conversations a relationship was teased out, and then a kiss, and finally something more.

An Orlesian romance

- The decision for the sexual cut scenes to take place around the party’s camp fire is more than a little odd, and I can’t help but think that Oghren, that dirty dwarf, got quite the show that night.

The morning after

- I really do enjoy how characters react differently to you depending on their approval, and especially once a romance has been established. It breathes life into the game where it would otherwise be stagnant.

To Denerim with the Arl of Redcliffe

- Diversions out of the way, I traveled to Redcliffe Castle and told the Arl that I was ready to call the Landsmeet.

- The first major event to occur in Denerim is a confrontation with Teyrn Loghain in the castle. The dialog option presented stumped me for a few minutes. All I had to do was fill in the blank: “I am….” (a) Witness to your crimes at Ostagar, (b) Fiona, a Grey Warden, or (c) a friend of Alistair, your rightful king. It was not an easy choice, because each answer had such a different tone, and so many possible outcomes in my mind. After humming and hawing I chose (b), and then spent the remainder of the conversation biting my tongue, trying not to antagonize the man that I was ready to kill.

- Hot on the heels of the meeting with Teyrn Loghain you are visited by Erlina, the servant to Queen Anora who claims that her mistress is in trouble, and may be killed by Logain (her father). I couldn’t figure out who to believe, and tried to postpone any decision until later.

The Arl of Denerim’s Estate

- Despite not trusting Erlina’s story (and the Queen by proxy), I agreed to sneak into the Arl of Denerim’s Estate to speak with Anora.

- I couldn’t help poking around the castle, and when I stumbled into a room where a guard was romancing a servant I set off the alarms. Whoops. Frustratingly, the woman who ran to sound the alarm was not attackable – I would have liked the option to stop her from doing so.

- After defending myself on the main floor I ventured into the dungeons. The first room along the way had a great scene with an Orlesian Grey Warden who had been captured.

- The major fight in the dungeons was with Arl Howe, and it took a bit of strategy to get by. Like I often do I immediately dropped a sleep bomb in the room, and scampered into the hallway. I then dispatched the soldiers while paralyzing the mages, all while having Alistair tank Howe. Once I killed the mages off things got easier, and thankfully I kept them crowd controlled most of the time, and thus unable to do anything too nasty. Howe died shortly after his last mage hit the ground.

- Further into the dungeon, as I was releasing prisoners, I came across Vaughn, the Arl of Denerim’s son. He had the gall to insult elves, and so I left him locked up to rot. Bastard.

- After (finally) rescuing Queen Anora I was about to head outside when Ser Cauthrien and her compliment of twenty knights stopped me. I sleep-bombed the lot of them, retreated to Anora’s room, and dropped an Earthquake and a Blizzard into the main room as I went to slow everyone down. Unfortunately Ser Cauthrien shrugged off the crowd control quickly, and proceeded to solo my entire party.

A prisoner in Fort Drakon

- Interestingly, being defeated by Ser Cauthrien did not give me a game over screen, but instead deposited Alistair and Fiona in Fort Drakon, Denerim’s prison.

Alone in a cell with Alistair

- When prompted, I chose to try to escape, and specifically to try to get a guard’s attention.

- After hailing a guard I could either feign sickness, or try to seduce him. Deciding that Fiona’s feminine wiles couldn’t be wasted, I chose the latter. Creepily, the guard seemed more than happy to come do the nasty in front of Alistair, and when I asked him to get out of his armor he happily obliged…. well, sort of (see below).

Safe sex? Head protection of a different sort

- After beating the crap out of the naked guardsman, Alistair and Fiona broke out of the cell, found their gear conveniently stashed in a crate, and put it all on with a single click.

- Exploring around I found soldier disguises, and, deciding that subtlety would be better than brute force, put them on. What followed was a simple little puzzle quest to get out of the Fort by deceiving a number of soldiers and commanders into thinking that we were new recruits, and getting sent on patrol.

Back at the ranch

- Escape completed, I arrived back at the Arl of Denerim’s estate to find that my companions and Queen Anora had escaped successfully (despite being defeated…. strange).

- A discussion with the Arl revealed the next big decision: who should sit on the throne? The initial plan had been the reluctant Alistair, however Anora wanted to continue being Queen as well.

- After some (fairly simple) brinkmanship I had convinced Anora and Alistair to have a marriage of convenience and rule together. The theory is that Alistair’s presence will hopefully mitigate the innate distrust that I feel for Anora. Time will tell how the compromise works out.

- Returning to Denerim, Alistair wanted to visit his half sister whom he had never met. The resulting reunion was equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating; Goldanna ended up being a bitter gold digger. I allowed Alistair to give her 15 sovereigns, but when that didn’t whet her appetite we walked out.

The Denerim Alienage

- As the underclass sin Dragon Age, the city elves live in a slum within Denerim. When you arrive they are suffering from a plague.

- I gave gold to the first beggar I saw, and then a little while later he was back with a friend asking for more. I gave them less, and then shortly after an entire herd showed up looking for money. That lot got nothing. Just like in real life, donating to beggars on the street only encourages them to keep at it…. I know better. (In real life my rule is to donate to a charity that helps feed street people. Warm beds and clean clothes is better than giving them cash straight up in my opinion.)

- The orphange was extremely creepy, even more so due to the presence of the blind Ser Otto, who meets a grisly end.

Ser Otto’s death

- The true cause of the Alienage’s problems turn out to be Tevinter slavers that Teyrn Loghain has sold the elven population of Denerim to. Interestingly, despite being slavers the Tevinters at least treat the elven members of their own society with respect.

- When I confronted Caladrius I almost bought the letter implicating Logain for 100g, however I decided against it and instead beat the hell out of him.

- The fight against Caladrius and his soldiers was amusing. For the most part I stood in the room behind him and cast Earthquakes and Blizzards on his troops until they were all dead. In turn, he sent Blizzards down on my head, forcing me to retreat into the hallway. When he was finally alone I rushed him and dispatched him with no hassle. I’d imagine not using long range warfare would have made the fight much more difficult.

- As always, when Caladrius begged for mercy I let him go free – but not before he gave me that letter to use against Teyrn Loghain.

Next steps
When I next play I will finally be calling the Landsmeet, and I’m sure life will get messy in a hurry. I have no idea how much of the game is left, however at fifty-seven hours in I have to assume that I’m getting close.

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