Chapter 7 – Enemies from the Deep

If one were foolish enough to venture into the Deep Roads connected to Orzammar, and lucky enough to survive long enough, they might run into a certain group of Dwarves known as the Legion of the Dead. The Legion was the Dwarven answer to the Darkspawn problem. They were generally criminals, casteless, or those otherwise deemed non-essential or even harmful to regular Dwarven society. Joining the Legion was their chance to be of service Orzammar in the most honourable of ways: giving their lives fighting Darkspawn. The humans and elves who live on the surface only care about Darkspawn when there is a Blight. But to the Dwarves who live underground, the Darkspawn are a constant. Their glorious empire once spanned the underground all across the continent of Thedas. The Deep Roads connected all of their Thaigs. But that once great empire has been reduced to just a handful of Thaigs, thanks to the Darkspawn. The Legion of the Dead is a suicide squad. Literally. All of their members are considered figuratively dead the moment they join. They have a funeral and everything. And once they join the Legion, they live the rest of their “lives” fighting the Darkspawn that have taken over the Deep Roads. Occasionally, the Legion will run into a few Grey Wardens who have come for their Calling, one last fight to take down as many Darkspawn as possible before succumbing to the corruption of the Blight. The Wardens play a key role in defeating Archdemons and ending Blights while the Legion culls the Darkspawn in the Deep Roads, ensuring they do not have the numbers to overrun Orzammar, let alone resurface, during peace time. Due to this overlap in interests, there is a mutual respect between the Legion and the Wardens.

The caste system was perhaps the greatest bane on Orzammar’s society. The Dwarves lived and died by their caste. The Warrior Caste were warriors. The Smith Caste were blacksmiths. The Mining Caste specialized in mining the Deep Roads for Lyrium. I could spend pages listing out all the different atrocities India’s caste system has caused in real life. It would fill an entire library. For now, let us consider one particular Dwarf. His mother was of the Mining Caste. However, dwarves inherit the caste of their fathers. The boy’s father was casteless, which meant the boy was also casteless. When his mother’s family found out their daughter was going to have a casteless child, they had abandoned her. They had told her to leave the baby to die in the Deep Roads. Only then was she to return to them. However, one person had changed that baby’s fate. During her brief visit to Orzammar, Athewen had come across Zerlinda in Dust Town, the designated area for casteless. Athewen had persuaded Zerlinda’s father give up his foolish path and take in his daughter. The baby that should have died, instead grew up to be a young Dwarven lad, hearing tales of the Hero of Ferelden; how the Grey Warden had supported his mother in her time of greatest need and how he would be dead were it not for her actions. Indeed, all of Orzammar had reason to be grateful to Athewen. She was instrumental in putting an end to the chaos of succession after King Enderin’s death. She had helped crown the then prince Bhelen.

King Bhelen was as ruthless as he was progressive. He often butted heads with the bureaucratic Assembly that always opposed any move that challenged their status quo. One of their greatest complaints against him was that he intended to lighten caste restrictions. Defying ages of Dwarven tradition, he had married the casteless woman he loved. Under him, the casteless actually had a place in Dwarven society. He had no qualms recruiting them into his army. Furthermore, Athewen had also found evidence at the then lost Thaig of Kal’Hirol of how their casteless had taken up arms against the Darkspawn in their final moments in a bid to go down fighting while others escaped rather than let the Darkspawn run free. King Bhelen had held a ceremony, with Athewen as the chief guest, reading out the names of all the casteless who were to be remembered as warriors. Slowly but surely, the social winds of Orzammar were changing direction. The casteless would no longer be labelled an existence not worth acknowledging. Of course, these were only baby steps. The differences between the social classes still remained strong. But there was hope. It was under these circumstances that the young Dwarven lad, whose life was owed to the Warden Commander, decided to join the Legion. His life was a gift from Athewen. He would repay it by continuing her fight. He would spend every moment of his life in a fight to the death against the Darkspawn. And when he finally died to a Darkspawn blade, he would go down knowing that the life saved by the Commander of the Grey had struck at least a tiny blow to the Darkspawn. As though to further cement this resolve, he now went by the name of Grey. That wasn’t his actual name, of course. But that is what he wished to be called after his funeral.

That very dwarf was currently standing with his battle axe in hand. He was confused by what he was seeing. A strange mass of light had appeared out of nowhere. “That’s what the surfacers call a Rift, boy.” Kardol said, “That thing leads directly into the Fade. Demons lurk on the other side. No place for a dwarf to be. Best stay away from it.” Grey turned around and nodded. Kardol was his commander, who led the Legion of the Dead. When the Fifth Blight was still ongoing, upon Athewen’s urging, Kardol had actually led the Legion topside to take the fight to the Archdemon. Although he had only spent a short amount of time with the Warden Commander, Kardol’s respect for her was great. On some nights, he would regale young recruits with the tale of how he first met the Warden Commander as she dug a line through the Darkspawn, in search of the Anvil of the Void. Her search was not in vain. She had found the long lost invention, as a result of which Orzammar had been temporarily capable of mass-producing golems. For the first time in centuries, this army of stone giants had enabled Orzammar to actually push back the Darkspawn and retake long lost territory. Grey was about to walk away from the Rift when it began expanding. He gripped his axe tighter and eyed it with caution. “Sod!” Kardol said, “Looks like it’s going to spit out some demons! Weapons at the ready, lads!” the squad of Dwarves behind him all readied their heavy two-handed axes.

No demons came out. Instead, the Rift spat out what looked like an illusion. An elf with red hair and green eyes, wearing massive armour with the insignia of the Grey Wardens. “Well I’ll be a nug’s uncle!” Kardol exclaimed, “That’s… that’s the Commander of the Grey!” Suddenly, there was screaming from behind them. Kardol whipped around to see the Darkspawn attacking them. “By all the sodding ancestors!” he roared as he rushed towards them. Grey stared at the images in the Rift. She fit the stories his mother had told him. This was the woman he owed his life to. “Grey! What the sod are you doing, boy?!” one of his comrades called out, “There’s Darkspawn here that need a good axe to their skull! Stop staring at that thing and get over here!” Grey turned around and ran towards the fighting. There were so many of them. Too many. Had the Rift drawn them? Whatever the case, they had been kind enough to show up. Grey decided to make the best of the opportunity to cut, cleave, decapitate, eviscerate, and otherwise brutally kill as many of them as he could. Kardol took out a rod and held it up. Almost immediately, there was a loud thumping sound as a nearby dormant Golem activated and began squashing the Darkspawn in its vicinity. The shrill screams of the Darkspawn as they were smashed to a pulp was music to everyone’s ears. “Come, you wretched scum!” Grey thought, “The Stone is alive! And She is with us this day!”

The Legion was in a disadvantageous position. They were fighting with their backs to the Rift. They had to move to a better position. Slowly but surely, they began moving away from the Rift, circling around the Darkspawn. Eventually, they had reversed their positions. The Darkspawn were now pinned between the Rift and the Legion. And then, the ground underneath their feet began rumbling. Grey was not overly fond of what was coming next. “KEEP YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU!” Kardol roared, “OGRES!” Darkspawn ogres were giant monstrosities. It took several fighters to bring down even one. If one ever caught you in its hand, your next course of action would be to pray that your comrades could kill it before it crushed you to a pulp. Five ogres were charging towards them. “Sod!” Kardol cursed, “THERE’S TOO MANY! SCATTER! DON’T GET CAUGHT IN THAT CHARGE!” The Legion split apart and allowed the ogres to charge right past them… into the Darkspawn. They ogres had apparently built up a lot of momentum during their charge. They smashed right into the Darkspawn near the Rift, sending many of them flying into the Rift. The Rift reacted by growing larger. It began dragging nearby Darkspawn into itself. With each one it swallowed, it seemed to wake up a bit more. Grey watched in astonishment as even the five ogres were swallowed up. “Well…” Kardol said as the last of the Darkspawn were swallowed by the Rift, “That was- Hey! What do you think you’re doing, boy!” Grey ran towards the Rift and stopped a little distance away from it. “The Warden Commander is on the other side! We’ve just thrown a small squad of Darkspawn and five ogres at her!” Grey shouted. Kardol shook his head. “Listen, boy. The Legion’s job is to keep the Deep Roads clear of Darkspawn. We don’t go charging into Rifts.” Grey looked at him with determination in his eyes. “Commander Kardol. I owe her my life. You know this. I cannot throw away a chance to repay that.” Kardol sighed and nodded. “Fine. You’re already dead anyway. And I understand repaying your debts. I won’t stop you. But you’re on your own.” Grey smiled and thanked him.

“….na! Kana! Stay with me! Stay awake!”

Pain in chest.

“uh…”

Someone holding her head.

“Don’t close your eyes! You’re not dying here!”

It’s Athewen.

“Your… worship… was I a good… body… gua-”

Coughing.

“Yes! Just hold on! The others will be here soon!”

Pain. Vision failing. Darkness. Screams that sound like a whisper. No more pain. No more feeling. Sleepy.

Athewen’s tears fell onto the unconscious Kana’s face. She held her limp body, kneeling next to the bloody corpse of a Darkspawn ogre. In the distance, a horn sounded.

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