Saturday, February 19, 2011

DA:O - Into the Void

“If Branka is anywhere, this will be it.  She will not be unprepared.”

This post contains spoilers.
Continue reading at your own risk.

Excepting the coronation, the Anvil of the Void finally brings Perra's return to Orzammar to a close.  What she had hoped hope for was a return home.  What she received was a rough trip down memory lane.  Perra is not the only one forced to battle her past, however, since Oghren is now her brother-in-arms.  Having spent the past two years missing his wife and buried in his cups, Oghren has had an even harsher reality forced upon him in the past days. his wife cheated on him with another woman, has gone mad, sacrificed her kin for Stone knows what, and transformed her kinswomen into Broodmothers.  That is a lot to swallow.  Because the following story is more Oghren's then Perra's (and we are well aware what Perra's current opinion of Branka is), this post will loosely sketch out events and then focus on Perra's decision making process.  Perra can no more enter Oghren's head then he can enter hers, so pretending to do so would be a false representation of his perspective.

At Her Disposal - The moment Perra & Friends ender the Void, a wall ascends behind them via mechanical(?) means.  Effectively trapped, they have no choice but to turn and face their quarry - Branka.  Having some how missed or willfully ignored all that Hespith shared not long before, Oghren is tickled pink to see his wife.  Considering herself his ex-wife, the paragon is less then thrilled to see him.  Deriding Perra as an "all important errand boy," which ticks our hero off more than a little, Branka rightly supposes that something important must have happened for Perra to come in search of her.  Most likely King Endrin is dead because "he was on the old and wheezy side."  Refusing to let her Grey Warden mission be downgraded to a Fed-Ex mission (go fetch me a paragon and bring her back x amount of XP), Perra latches on to the man standing next to her.  What is to say that she didn't come on behalf of Oghren? (Why is she letting the paragon put her on the defensive?)  Just to show what a lovely lady she really is, Branka replies that Perra's claim to only be helping Oghren is clearly false since no one just helps Oghren.  The only way that anyone would help him out is if their needs coincided with his.   What a charmer.

Lest our Grey Warden forget her objective though, Branka soon pulls out the crazy.  Having trapped our merry men in her lair, the paragon intends to use them to spring the traps that Caridin built to protect the Anvil.  This anvil which forged an army of golems to fend off the first Blight is so close that Branka can almost smell it.  She's not about to let it slip though her fingers.  She'd "given everything  and would sacrifice anything to get the Anvil of the Void."  Apparently "everything" and "anything" means the very members of her own house.  She tainted her own so that they might spring Caridin's trap and lead her to the anvil.  With them having failed, her husband, Perra, Leliana, and Shale are her last resort.  The Ancestors forbid Branka spill her own blood.  

With their only other exit firmly closed, our heroes have no choice but to proceed through traps.  In order to reach the traps though, they must wind their way through a body strewn camp to fight wave after wave of darkspawn.  Perra really hates the Deep Roads.

Filled with indignation at the injustice done her, Branka rages all the while in the background:

... They were of my house they were tied to me and they didn't want to help.  They tried to leave me.  Even my Hespith, but what they couldn't understand that when you reach for greatness there are sacrifices.  As many sacrifices as are needed

She shouldn't have gone.  She was pledged to me.  She swore she would do whatever it took to find the anvil There was no other choice.  Most of them were dying of the taint already, but some of the women were transforming.I knew what they would become.  They would be an endless supply of fresh darkspawn to test the traps. They could still serve me, let me find the anvil, it was destiny.

You have no idea how they carried on, holding my hand and begging to die.  They'd pledged me their loyalty.  They had no right to fight me.they say your oder is renown for its wits as well as its brawn. Perhaps you'll do better then my poor clansmen.There's something about this place that makes people despair.

There's something about this place the makes people despair?  Really?  Oh she's far gone alright.

Trapped - All I'm going to say about the traps is "ZOMG A SPINNING STONE MULTI-HEADED MONUMENT WITH CREEPY GLOWING EYES THAT SPEWS TAINTED BLOOD WHEN YOU START TO KILL IT!"  Oh yeah ... and there were golems and ghosts to fight as well.

Anvil of Suffering - Finally exiting Caridin's traps, our merry men run into none other than Caridin himself.  Wait.  Shouldn't he be dead?   Like a long time ago?  Well, he would have been except some of his apprentices turned him into a golem which means that he's now more or less immortal.  That's right, a real flesh and blood dwarf had been transformed into a metal machine of battle.  "No smith, however skilled, has the power to create life," Caridin says, "To make my golems live I had to take their lives from elsewhere."  This just gets more and more disturbing.  This also raises the question as to who Shale was before becoming a golem his/herself?  That paragon apparently has the answer.  Because Shale is in Perra's party, Caridin recognizes Shale's voice when he/she speaks.  From listening to the two talk of a past that Shale no longer remembers, it becomes clear that the two had once been rather close.  Shale was once the only female dwarf to ever volunteer for golemhood.  Most of the original golems, Caridin says, started out like Shale.  They volunteered.  The king soon became greedy though, and the paragon's invention was soon thereafter used to transform everyone from casteless dwarfs to criminals and political enemies into walking, talking weapons.  

Having been both casteless and a convicted criminal, Perra does not take very kindly to this news.  Her fatigue and disgust over the whole matter begins to leech into the conversation when Caridin asks her to help him.  "It took feeling the hammer's blow myself to realize the height of my crimes," he admits.  "Sounds like you earned it" snaps an indignant Perra. What right did he have to complain about his own situation when it was his arm, his hammer, and his invention that had doomed so many thousands of dwarves before him to similar fates.  Why should he feel reprieve when dwarves that were likely her ancestors are maybe still out there knowing that they shall find no reprieve themselves? It's not just himself that Caridin wasn't to save though.  He wants her to destroy the Anvil so that golems can never be made again.  He'd do it himself says he, but no golem can touch the Anvil of the Void.  No matter what she may think of this paragon, Perra cannot deny that destroying the Anvil would help preserve the lives of countless other dwarves who grew up like her - casteless and unwanted.

Making a Choice -  Perra was just about to impart this information to Caridin, when Branka bursts into the cavern declaring that she will never let the Anvil be destroyed.  Citing the once glorious dwarven empire that no longer exists, Branka seems to believe that an army of golems would set that situation to rights.  "The Anvil enslaves souls" Perra retorts, knowing that Branka doesn't care.  After all, look what the current paragon had done to her family and friends?  

All of a sudden everyone seems to have an opinion.  Caridin cites Shale's past and pleads with her to not let the Anvil survive.  Perra assures Caridin that the Anvil will be destroyed in exchange for his support.  Shale approves of Perra standing with Caridin because "it sounds right."  Oghren wonders aloud if Branka has lost her marbles (is there any doubt at this point?) and pleads with her to not throw her life away.  Perra begs him to recognize how dangerous Branka really is, and Oghren insists that Perra just give Branka "the blasted thing!" for she's confused and "maybe once she calms down we can talk to her."

Mentally Perra steps away from the situation for a moment.  Tension is running high and she's already pledged her word.  She does, however really need to consider the consequences.  No matter what she decides, someone is going to die here.  If she sides with Branka though, it is clear that even more will "die" on the Anvil in the search for glory.  In her heart she knows that Branka needs to be removed from the picture, but it was not too long ago that Perra herself was forced to fight and kill her own best friend.  Can she truly ask Oghren to do the same thing to his wife? ... You know what?  She can.  Yes both Leske and Branka have something in common - they were/are both killers.  Even more so, they were both decent dwarves at one point in their lives.  The difference, however, is that while Perra was willing to accept that Leske had changed, Oghren refuses to see his wife for who she really is.  She's insane, she's dangerous, and even worse ... she's a well respected, all powerful paragon.  If Branka got out of this alive, everyone in Orzammar would be too afraid to contradict her since paragons are worshiped as living ancestors.  How do you deny a god and tell them they are wrong?  You can't.  This has to end  now.

Telling Oghren that Branka is obsessed, Perra makes her final decision and declares his wife to be beyond redemption.  Branka, obviously, takes unkindly to this and produces a mysterious control rod from nowhere to immobilize Caridin.  Intense battle ensues.  To Oghren's credit he does not shy away from engaging in battle or even from fighting his wife.  Perra is not completely heartless though, and lands the final blow herself.  With the memory of Leske's death so fresh in her mind, she refuses to let Oghren have the blood of his beloved staining both his hands and his conscience.  Her companion is not all too happy with her, understandably, but this is the best that she can do for him.

A Paragon's Word - Finally freed from the control of Branka's rod, Caridin profusely thanks our merry men for their assist and asks if there is anything he can do for them in return.  Perra could ask for anything from the paragon's help in the elections to the creation of another golem (which one can assume Caridin would refuse to do.)  Instead though she chooses to acknowledge Oghren's sacrifice.  "You lost Branka in this," she tells him, " What do you want?"  Poor Oghren simply wants his wife back and wonders is Caridin can grant him that boon.  The paragon says that it is not within his power, and even if he could bring Branka back as a golem he would refuse to do so.  Grimly shouldering defeat, Oghren then reminds Perra that they still have a kingly dispute to settle and thus asks Caridin for him to bless one of the candidates.  Agreeing to do so, Caridin uses the Anvil to craft a luminescent crown that might be given to the king of Perra choice.  

His task completed, Caridin begs our hero to follow through with her promise.  She could have changed her mind at this point, but that would have been both dishonest and flat out wrong.  Too many had lost their "lives" via the Anvil and it was time the devilish implement was destroyed.  Picking up the hammer she crashes it down with all her might upon the lyrium filled object one final time and it shatters to pieces.

And in the End - Standing next to our hero, looking out at the lava below, Caridin seems to finally be at peace.  It's a peace he has not felt for centuries.  Thanks to her, his most famous invention is destroyed and the black stain upon his conscience is permanently confined to the past.  With one more word of thanks Caridin plunges into the lava below, thus ending his life.  His mission was finally complete and it was the only way that he would ever find any silence from the voices of the dead.  He had lived far, far too long.  In one way Perra feels that it is a bit of a cop out for the paragon to commit suicide, but she can't hold Caridin's decision against him for too long.  After all, he had spent all these years living with the guilt of what his invention had wrought.  Penance should only last for so long, and he had certainly paid  his dues.  Sending a silent prayer up to the Ancestors, as she watches the paragon returned to the Stone, Perra finally turns around to face her party.  They still had a king to crown. 

Coming Next - Bhelen is king.

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