We found the Dalish, or more accurately, they found us. And once again, the Maker saw fit to test our resolve. The clan we met was being decimated by werewolf attacks that were far more planned out than they had any right to be. Over half of the warriors were injured, some having already succumbed to the bites and becoming werewolf themselves. The clan could not assist us in any way while the attacks continued. It was not even possible to contact the other scattered clans. I simply could not abandon those poor folk to their fate without at least attempting to aid them.
That said, I left Wynne, Leliana and Morrigan at the encampment to help as best they could, and took Alistair and Sten with me to see if we could track down the alpha werewolf. The Dalish keeper, Zathrian, said that the werewolves were cursed and that killing the alpha werewolf, Witherfang, could break the curse and, hopefully, cure the warriors who had been infected. The Brecilian Forest is full of rills and streams, and the land is wrinkled in folds that prevent any long sight lines. Ambushes are child's play in such a place, and we moved forward carefully, hoping to avoid any such traps. We were beset by rabid wolves, bears, and even a few darkspawn, but it wasn't until we were deep in the woods that we found the first werewolf.
I was startled to see one standing on an islet amid the mists of a waterfall, and was very surprised to be addressed by it in clear speech. He told our party to return to the Dalish and say that the attacks would continue until the curse was broken and the werewolves freed of it. Then he and another four or five of his kin ran off into the forest, leaving us to wonder why the Were seemed to think the Dalish could end the curse. We pursued, but soon lost sight of them. Their spoor was light and difficult to follow, but we managed to track them to an ancient Elvish ruin.
After many encounters with darkspawn and undead creatures, we finally came to the heart of the Were stronghold. I was asked to give parole of peaceful intent and agreed to parley with the "Lady of the Forest", to whom the Were look for leadership. The Lady told me that the curse originated with Zathrian several centuries ago. Apparently, his son and daughter were slain by humans, and in his grief, he summoned the spirit of the Forest, binding it to a great white wolf. The wolf, Witherfang, is an aspect of the Forest spirit, as is the Lady. The curse encompassed all of the humans in the forest, whether or not they were part of the group that attacked Zathrian's children, and spread to many of the wolves as well. In an effort to end the business, the Were sent messages to Zathrian with every passing caravan, without any response. Finally, in desperation, they attacked the hunters of Zathrian's clan, infecting them in hopes of forcing him to end the curse.
This changed our path, as you could well suppose. Killing Witherfang no longer seemed the answer to the problem. We agreed to bring Zathrian back to the stronghold to speak to the Lady of the Forest in hopes of resolving the matter peacefully. As it happened, Zathrian had followed us through the forest and was waiting for us near the entrance to the ruin. I convinced him that it was needful for him to meet with the Lady, and gave him promise of protection should the Were attack.
The tale of the curse as told by the Lady turned out to be truth, as Zathrian confirmed when faced with her account. He refused to end it, though. Alistair, Sten and I all insisted that his revenge was complete and that further vengeance was cruel. He did not care. The Lady then told us that Zathrian's long life was tied to the curse through his blood, which he had used to bind the spirit of the Forest to the wolf. For as long as the curse existed, Zathrian could not die. At first, he denied this accusation, then admitted that there could be some truth to it. He refused once again to end the curse, and began to attack everyone in the chamber, both Were and my party. I could not let him do that, and we subdued him. The Were and the Lady again begged for release, for mercy, for compassion. This time Zathrian was touched by their plea. I think he realized that he had gone too far, sacrificing his clan in the present for the sake of those long dead. When he completed the rite that dissolved the curse, he died, and the spirit of the forest, both the Lady and Witherfang, were freed. The werewolves were surrounded by a bright nimbus of light, and when it passed, they were human once again.
We returned to the clan's encampment to find the warriors well on the road to recovery. The new Keeper, Lanaya, had felt Zathrian's passing and had told the clan, so they were aware of it before we arrived with the news. Lanaya promised to send word to the other Dalish clans of the call to combat the Blight and confirmed that the Dalish would honor the ancient treaty promising the Grey Wardens their support.
So now, at long last, we are off to Orzammar. I really hope to pick up the trail of Sten's sword. The more I get to know him, the more I understand how seriously he takes its loss. Frankly, Fergus, I am a little surprised he didn't suicide when he realized it was truly gone. It is that important to his image of himself as a worthwhile being.
Did I tell you that I got a gold chain from a merchant we met on the road? I gave it to Morrigan, and I honestly did not know whether to laugh or cry at her reaction. At first she looked like I had offered her a poisonous snake. I assured her it was my wish to give it to her, she took it rather gingerly, and then asked me what I wanted for it. I told her that it was a gift between friends and that no recompense was required. She gave me an odd look, then thanked me for the necklace and turned away from me. I truly believe that this was the very first time in her life that she was given a gift, no strings attached. I did notice that she was wearing it the next day, mostly hidden under her armor.
Speaking of gifts, Alistair gave me one. I have been borrowing his armor repair kit to maintain my gear right from the outset of our quest. Like you, Fergus, Alistair favors heavy armor, so his tools are rather large and awkward for working on light armor such as I wear. While we were in the Dalish encampment, he must have approached their armorer and commissioned a repair kit for me. He gave it to me yesterday, joking about how he never sees his own kit anymore and thought to get it back by giving me one of my own. It is a thing of beauty, the tools just right for my hand, wonderfully lightweight, and it packs down into such a small bundle as to take almost no room to store in my pack! I was most pleased, and greeted his gift with a kiss on the cheek. He blushed bright red and stumbled over his words when I did, making the moment all the more precious for me. I noticed he was grinning most of the rest of the day, so I suppose the embarrassment was worth the pleasure we both took from the exchange.
Well, tomorrow is another day on the road for us, and I should get some rest so as to keep up the pace. Maker keep you safe.