Forsaking Grief

Narrate: Kasvarina seems disheartened by the utter lack of landmarks in her hometown—nothing seems to remain from the days she once lived here. Even so, she follows the Arc’s pull and leads you to the edge of town, into an orchard of stunted mango trees. Her steps falter for a moment as the circlet glows, but then her gait changes into a light, dancing ring as the memory-event subsumes the area, revealing a massed crowd of weary and bitter eladrin men. Judging from their clothing and their patched wounds, this must be an army, though they bear no weapons at the moment. Instead, they somberly listen as an elder druid leads a funeral service for their fallen.

Your eyes sweep over the hundreds of faces in the crowd; in fact, there may be more beyond the Arc’s radius of effect, as it seems to be having trouble displaying the size of the service itself. Not a single female is among the masses, save for just over a half-dozen standing in the midst of you and Kasvarina now. They talk amongst themselves, too overcome by emotion to simply listen to the speaker. With them is Sor Daeron, Latika, and Athrylla, as well as a younger woman who bears a familial resemblance to Kasvarina herself; in human terms, she looks just out of her teens.

Kasvarina: Just yesterday, I thought I was the only woman left of my entire race… Launga, I never dreamed I’d see this many again!

Narrator: Launga hugs her mother, tears in her eyes.

Latika: You have a strange definition of ‘many,’ Kasvarina. There is no miracle in this. (she shakes her head) We are cursed.

Athrylla: Cursed? Are we not Srasama’s chosen? Why else would we be spared?

Latika: Better women than we died screaming on the battlefield. If Srasama chose this, then she chose poorly.

Launga: Say what you will, but my mother is home and safe. (she grasps Kasvarina’s hand) I have to believe there is a reason for that…

Kasvarina: (sadly) Perhaps it was only luck. When Srasama fell… I felt it. Like someone was trying to tear my heart out of my chest. Did any of you feel it, too?

Narrate: Everyone nods, looking to Kasvarina for answers.

Kasvarina: Where were you when you felt it? What were you doing?

Athrylla: Attacking Sid Minos.

Launga: Overseeing a supplier of ours from the Dreaming.

Kasvarina: (interrupting) Were you there, though? In the Dreaming?

Launga: Yes.

Kasvarina: That must be it… whatever backlash her death caused, it couldn’t reach you across the planar boundary.

Narrate: Conversing together, the majority of the group claimed to have been in the Dreaming at that exact time. Kasvarina herself admits that she had stepped through a linked portal, and Latika concludes with no small amount of surprise that she must have been in the middle of a fey step when the Malice struck. Athrllya’s case is the most curious; during her attack on the Clergy, she had used a spell to polymorph into draconic form, and evidently that was enough to make her exempt from the curse’s effect.

Sor Daeron: [dejected beyond hope] No miracles, indeed. Eight of you compared with all these men present… Even if there were a hundred more women to be found, Elfaivar is finished. There is simply no way for us to survive as a nation with so few women left. I never should’ve called off the attack. We should’ve died fighting, at least.

Launga: Sor… don’t say that. What’s happened here… it’s awful. I don’t know that I can even process all of it at once without—[she trails off]. We all need time to grieve. But we don’t know for certain that we can’t survive this.

Latika: There is no use for grief! Grief is what survivors do to cope with loss, to keep living after the dead have departed. There is nothing left for us!

Athrylla: Maybe you should’ve stayed and thrown your life away then, but I choose to live!

Launga: Everyone, please—!

Narrate: The argument grows louder by the moment, threatening to disrupt the ceremony, but Kasvarina makes no move to interject; she buries her face in her hands. Just then, the druid finishes his rites and introduces a poet by the name of Vekesh, who will deliver the eulogy for the fallen women in song. Beside him, a musician strums a simple guitar, and a hush falls over the crowd as Vekesh begins what will come to be known as the most stirring performance in the history of the world.

(play “In Uthenera” from Dragon Age: Origins)

Narrate: Kida goes quiet as the song washes over her, leaving Templeton to translate on his own. The first verse describes the joy and wonder of the Maiden—Srasama’s first aspect. In the second, he sings of her second aspect, of the Mother’s comfort and strife. But the third verse is silent; Vekesh bows his head while the guitarist continues to play. Then the first two verses are repeated again; even without being steeped in eladrin culture, Templeton can tell the poet is trying to show that he is mourning Srasama’s death, but not the death of his nation.

In the final verse, he comes to his point: that his sad song is only a song of mourning if it ends in death. The eladrin people are not defeated, so long as they do not simply give up and go with the Crone into the afterlife. He pleads for his listeners to seek retribution, yes—but not to throw their lives away to do so. Grieve, he urges. Endure. Grow strong, and rebuild from weakness into strength once more.

Even to those of you that can’t speak a word of Elven, it is difficult to keep a dry eye. Vekesh’s sorrowful song is memorable and resonating, but it finishes on a life-affirming note; by the end of it, the whole crowd of broken, stone-faced soldiers have joined their arms and voices, and many openly weep.

(wait for music to end)

Narrate: Kasvarina never sheds a tear. After the music has ended, she tells the other women to follow her, and walks to the center of the ring that the Vekesh stands in. She thanks him, then turns to the crowd.

Kasvarina: Many of my sisters are being remembered today—more than I can count, or even imagine—and among them is one of my own daughters. But I’m still here. I’m alive. We all are, and I know there are others like us yet to be found. And while we live, there is hope! Vekesh is right. No man here is to throw his life away for petty revenge, not while I still have sisters left to find and return to their homes.

Many of us have lived our whole lives by Srasama’s teachings, but I urge you, forsake the way of the Crone! The Crone would only have you grow old with grief until you have joined those who died before you. Give your lives meaning. Join me and my sisters, and do not give in to grief, so that our people may never die.

Narrate: She turns and asks Vekesh to play once more; this time, the women add a traditional mourning dance to his music, though they stand still during the verse of silence. Kasvarina stands at the front of the group, with Launga behind her, and Latika and Athrylla to either side. This time the music is hazy and indistinct; the memory-event is drawing to a close and the faces of the crowd begin to disappear as the Arc can be seen on her brow. One by one, the other dancers vanish as well, and Kasvarina finishes her dance alone, and in silence.

Forsaking Grief

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