In our travels we picked up another camp follower by the name of Levi Dryden. He told us of a place called Soldier's Peak, far to the north half way between Highever and Denerim. We were already on the north side of Lake Calenhad so it seemed like a good time to go. It still took us several days to get there. Because the First Enchanter from the Circle of Magi had agreed to go and help Conner, we felt we had no reason to return to Redcliffe immediately and thus could spare the time.
Soldier's Peak is an old Grey Warden fort, built after the second Blight. We were hoping it could be used again to rebuild the Grey Wardens. We were also helping Levi regain his family's honor by investigating the fort for clues about his great-great grandmother, Sophia, a Grey Warden. She was rumored to have been part of the rebellion that fought against the tyrant king Arland.
We were greeted in the courtyard by skeletons. After defeating them with Alistair's shield bash, Sten's powerful swing, Morrigan's spells and my arrows, we entered the building and saw a vision of the past. Ghosts of the Grey Wardens were planning to prepare for the siege of Soldier's Peak.
"Am I the only one who saw that?" asked Levi.
"The veil to the Fade is thin here," remarked Morrigan.
"Then thank Andraste you came with me!"
The Fade. I cringed. We hadn't had a skirmish since the Circle. Now we were looking at the possibility of facing demons again. An involuntary shudder wracked through me.
"Are you all right?" Alistair asked me.
"Yes. Let's go."
We cleared out the lower level of the Peak easily, disposing of walking corpses and skeletons. This didn't bother me as much as I might have thought it would. When we arrived at the second floor, we saw another vision of the past. The Grey Wardens were grouped together. It was obvious from their conversation that morale was low. Their commander gave a rousing speech and the Wardens bonded together in battle.
What we saw next was unthinkable. Some of the Warden mages had turned to blood magic! Sophia had sanctioned the use of blood magic, shouting, "Whatever it takes, Avernus!" Led by Avernus, the mages summoned demons to fight for them and the demons turned on them. The Wardens were torn apart by the very creatures they had called upon. Avernus called the mages to retreat and Sophia and the other fighting Wardens were left alone to fight the demons. Suddenly, the vision was gone and we were faced with a demon of our own to contend with.
I froze, struck dumb by the infernal creature of rage before us. Alistair and Sten charged forward, attacking the demon. Morrigan began casting next to me. I just stood there, rooted to the floor. Nausea overwhelmed me and I began to shake. No, no, I couldn't do it again! Not the Fade! Not the demons! Not again!
"Shoot!" Morrigan hissed beside me. But I couldn't. I just couldn't. I watched helplessly as Alistair and Sten did no apparent damage to the demon. Ghosts of Grey Wardens rose up and began attacking us and still I couldn't move.
Morrigan cast a blizzard spell, freezing the Wardens but no damage was done to the demon. However, I noticed that when one of the Warden ghosts fell to Morrigan's next spell, and the demon appeared to weaken. Suddenly I could move again. I raised my bow and felled another Warden. The demon weakened further and Alistair's and Sten's hits started to do some damage. The demon appeared to be siphoning energy from the Warden ghosts to protect itself.
I still couldn't look at the demon, but the ghosts I could attack. One after the other I shot them down. Finally, there was only the demon left and I lowered my bow. Alistair and Sten finished the creature off quickly.
"What is wrong with you?" Morrigan demanded with her hands on her hips. "You just stood there! We could have been killed by your foolishness."
"I couldn't… the demons… the Fade…" I stammered.
Morrigan's expression softened. "Inside the Fade, with the Sloth demon…" she trailed off.
"Yes. I battled demon after demon, while you only had to put up with a false Flemeth."
"Only! I think you had it easier than I!"
"Who had what easy?" asked Alistair as he and Sten returned to us after the fight.
"You might find it easier to keep your nose out of other people's conversations than to live as a toad," Morrigan replied.
"Eloquent as ever, Alistair."
"Onward," I said, in part to break up a fight before it began.
We soon came across the commander's office and Sophia herself. As we entered the room, it became rapidly apparent that she was possessed by a demon with blackened eyes and sallow skin. I stopped just inside the door and didn't move until I felt Alistair's hand at the small of my back. He wasn't pushing, but neither would he allow me to retreat.
The possessed Sophia watched us with amusement. "Visitors! To whom do I owe this honor?"
"I'm not giving you my name, demon."
Sophia threw back her head and laughed. "Afraid of me, are you?"
"No," I lied. I schooled my face to be impassive.
"This is my great-great grandmother?" asked Levi.
"Hardly," I replied. I softened my voice. "She was your grandmother once but no longer. I'm afraid she's been possessed by a demon."
"Either that or she has really let herself go."
"She's quite right, boy. Sophia's body belongs to me now," said the demon. It rose and stood behind the desk. "Now, what shall I do with your little group? I could kill you outright but I'd rather strike a deal with you."
"I don't make deals with demons."
"But you haven't heard my offer yet."
"I don't need to hear your offer."
"Tsk, tsk. You must want something or else you wouldn't be here. I am going to guess you are a Grey Warden and you want to reclaim this fort. The veil is thin here and you will need it closed if you want to regain Soldier's Peak. I offer to close it for you in exchange for my freedom."
"No deal, demon." I signaled to my group to attack, while I grabbed Levi and ran to the door, pushing him out of it. I turned around and saw Alistair knock Sophia back with a swing of his shield. Sten's sword came down hard, but the demon dodged the attack. Morrigan cast a shock spell but Sophia was unfazed. I raised my bow and took aim. Somehow it was easier for me to attack a demon that wore another's skin than one directly from the Fade.
After our fight, I took the Warden's armor from Sophia's dead body and gave it to Sten. It seemed of much higher quality than what he was currently wearing. Levi crept back into the room and I turned to him.
"I'm sorry, Levi. We had to kill her. She was an abomination."
He looked sad all the same.
"Nothing remained of your grandmother," said Alistair.
Levi nodded. "I was hoping to clear her name, our family's name, but it seems she was guilty of treason after all. And to think she was possessed all these years. Perhaps she was already possessed when she did those things?" he asked hopefully.
I shared a glance with Alistair and he shook his head.
"No, I'm afraid she was guilty, Levi. But I am sure she had a good reason for her actions. Arland was a tyrant after all. Don't think on the past. You have an opportunity to make the Dryden name honorable again. Take that opportunity and make the best of it."
Levi nodded. "I'd like to help you here at Soldier's Peak. We could make it into a fine fort for the Wardens."
"We would appreciate that but first we have to figure out a way to seal the veil. That won't be easy. Morrigan?"
She shook her head. "Not even I can do that. It requires blood magic or that demon's offer."
"Then we'll just have to find a blood mage in our travels. I suppose we should begin by finishing what we started and clear out this fort. Levi, you don't have to come with us."
"No. I'll follow you at a distance. I feel safer with you than without you."
We next turned our attention to the tower.