There are many excellent missions and quests in Dragon Age: Origins. When I was writing my review of Dragon Age: Origins I realized that there is a lot I didn’t mentioned in my original article and in my own words: “I only scratched the surface”. Well, today I decided to fix it and just focus on one mission called A Paragon of Her Kind.
In Dragon Age: Origins, there are four main quests in order to built an army to defeat the Blight, Broken Circle (Mages), Nature of the Beast (Dalish Elves), The Arl of Redcliffe (Redcliffe army) and A Paragon of Her Kind (Dwarves of Orzammar). In the three main quests the choices are rather black and white, that depends on the role you are playing, there are multiple choices you can make while playing. These choices culminate with negative or positive results and there is a perfect decision to approach the quests. But there is one exception to this, a quest where I still do not know if I made the right decision, when I play as a good character. A Paragon of Her Kind is a quest where your heroism is tested and it’s not pretty.
Set a scene
Similar to Ferelden, Orzammar is on break of civil war, king Endrin Aeducan recently died and the city is divided between his only remaining son Bhelen and Lord Pyral Harrowmont. Let’s start with Bhelen. He looks like a positive choice for Orzammar, he proposes reforms of the strict casts systems and if you don’t know him he looks like a very nice and genuine man, but if you played as dwarf noble, you are well aware that he murdered his brother Train and framed you as his murderer. Also, if you go into Harrowmont estate you find a letter from his father where he writes that Bhelen, shouldn’t become a king. Lord Pyral Harrowmont also looks like a fine choice for a king, he is an experienced general and served long time as an adviser of King Endrin, but he is rather traditionalist. The results of your decisions in the epilogue aren’t perfect, otherwise there are going to be problems in Orzammar.
Two previous quests
Both Bhelen and Harrowmont ask you to do some tasks to increase their influence, Harrowmont ask you to enter Provings (his associate Dulin asks you), where you fight Bhelen warriors. Bhelen’s first quest is different, you are given documents, which proves that Harrowmont is bribing two noble houses and promising them the same land. But if you take the documents to the Shaperate, you will learn that the documents are forged. Second task is the same for both eliminate criminal syndicate called Carta.
Find a Paragon
Third and final quest for both Bhelen and Harrowmont is the same find Paragon Branka, who went into Deep Roads to find a mysterious artifact. The support of the Paragon is what future king needs, before your journey to the danger of Deep Roads Oghren, Branka’s husband, joins you. Oghren himself is a rather tragic character, he was one of the best warriors in Orzammar, but Branka leaved him in the city and he is now sad drunkard, who desperately tries to arrange a rescue party to find her. Branka took entire house with her (100 to 300 dwarves), except him. So, you go with Oghren through Caradin’s Cross, Ortan Thaig and finally Dead Trenches (Bownammar).
Descent into madness
In Dead Trenches the story takes an insanely dark turn, this part unpleasantly surprised me when I played it for the first time back in 2009. Somewhere in the middle of the Dead Trenches you start to hear an ominous poem by an unseen character, which tells that something horrible happened here. After hearing the entire poem, you encounter Hespith. She seems to be infected by the taint, but something isn’t right. She speaks about something more hideous and reveals that she is a part of Branka expedition and Branka left them behind to the Darkspawns. The reveal how Darkspawns reproduce is that they capture females of other intelligent species (dwarves, men, elves and qunari) and turn them into hideous Broodmothers and Branka deliberately left some part of her own expedition to be turned in order to test Caradin’s traps by newly bred Darkspawns. Branka is after Anvil of the Void and nothing matters to her even her own family. Hespith tells the story of capture and unsuccessful attempt at escape, how Darkspawns killed the males and what they did to Laryn and she cannibalized her own family and friends, so you encounter Laryn now fully transformed into Broodmother, so you kill her. After that, Hespith commits suicide, because the same fate waits for her.
Final location is Anvil of the Void and you find Branka, everyone else is dead, killed by traps or Darkspawns. Branka is after Anvil of the Void, Caradin’s devise to create golems, but not everything is as it seems. Caradin needed living souls to give his golems life, because no smith can create life. After getting trough his traps, you find out that Caradin himself was turned into a golem and he seeks to destroy the Anvil. A difficult decision lies in front of you: Will you save the Anvil or destroy it? Preserving the Anvil will give Orzammar an edge fighting against Darkspawns and dwarves desperately need it, on the other hand Anvil is evil and Branka is clearly insane. If you side with Branka you can convince her, that Anvil is evil and destroy it, but unable to move on and realization of she done, Branka commits suicide or you can leave her with the Anvil to create more golems. Siding with Caradin is also an option, but no golems will be created probably ever again and they are very helpful in the final battle. After destroying the Anvil, Caradin also commits suicide. Branka or Caradin will give Paragon Crown and you can give it to whoever you want. No matter what you do, only your party and Oghren return from the Deep Roads.
Future of Orzammar
When you return into the city, you immediately choose the king. If you choose Harrowmont, Bhelen will attack the Assembly and you will have to kill him, if you choose Bhelen he’ll execute Harrowmont and in Dragon Age II it is revealed that he kills every member of House Harrowmont except one. In the epilogue the decisions of your action, aren’t perfect, Harrowmont is more a traditionalist and his policy lead to isolation of Orzammar and rebellion of the castless, but the Assembly and noble cast stands behind him. Bhelen on the other hand, gives some rights to the castless and they can join the army and dwarves finally win some of their old territories, however Bhelen dissolves the Assembly and rules like a tyrant. And there is also a problem of existing Anvil, if you preserve it, Branka will eventually starts to kidnap elves and humans from the surface, which can even lead to a war with Ferelden.
I almost wish there was some middle ground decision, like in all other main quests or a 100% positive outcome. But more I think about it, I am glad that this quest exists, because sometimes you can not make perfect decisions. A Paragon of Her Kind is one the finest quests Bioware ever created and I don’t think anything comes close to it. It is dark, horrifying and it will not leave your mind even after you finish the game. This one quest is one of many reasons why I love Dragon Age: Origins so much and the only thing I wish is that Bioware takes the inspiration from it and create something similar in their new games, a quest where your choice does make you feel more like a villain than a hero…
Picture: Electronic Arts