When Kaylan started playing Dragon Age through from the beginning, her steady stream of updates via text message made me want to replay the whole saga from the beginning, too. So I did! Or I am, rather; I’m still far from finished.
Taking a break from the main quest, I played the Darkspawn Chronicles DLC, which allows you to play as a darkspawn in an alternate timeline in which your Warden didn’t survive the Joining ritual and the darkspawn succeed in overtaking Ferelden. When I first played Dragon Age: Origins, I avoided the Darkspawn Chronicles because I thought it would be too depressing to slaughter my way through my buddies from the main game. But playing it now, I realized that it only takes about five minutes to acclimate to the darkspawn mindset and hugely enjoy razing your way through Denerim, wreaking havoc upon the unprepared populace. “HAHA, take THAT, Bann Teagan! Oghren and Zevran DOWN, YES!! Oh, I need to kill 9 more innocent civilians to get an extra achievement? Don’t mind if I do! Get back over here, frightened elf! Need ta kill ya real fast! DIE WYNNE DIE!!”
Playing as a Shriek is the best. SO much fun.
And then something really interesting happened. Remember Wade and Herren, the old-married vibing armorer and merchant who supply you with the very best armor in the game? These guys:
At one point, gleefully butchering my way through the Marketplace, I got a directive from the Archdemon to go burn down a supply stand a couple of enterprising merchants had set up to provide soldiers with equipment. Like a good obedient Shriek, I loped back across the area to do so. “Oh, Wade and Herren! I like you! Now DIE DIE DIE,” I thought. While I was trying to murder Wade and Herren, they took flight and ran into a corner behind the Chantry. As I swiped at Herren with my Shriek-claws, he vanished. “Oh good, I killed him!” I assumed, but then, alongside Wade, a Desire Demon appeared out of nowhere! “What the eff? Did Wade summon that?!” I kept doggedly trying to kill Wade, Desire Demon be damned, but then both just disappeared. No bodies left to loot. “Wtf?” I wondered, so I took to the Dragon Age Wikia to look it up.
And lo and behold, it turns out that I did not manage to kill Herren after all, and Wade didn’t personally summon a Desire Demon to rescue him. If you let Wade and Herren run into that alley behind the Chantry, apparently, Herren TURNS INTO A DESIRE DEMON AND TRANSPORTS WADE AWAY TO SAFETY.
“Although he is a desire demon in The Darkspawn Chronicles, he is not in the canon universe,” Herren’s Wiki article goes on to say. But how can you know for sure? In the main game you never see Wade and Herren forced into any life-threatening situation that might impel Herren to take action.
I really appreciate how the lore has expanded over the course of the Dragon Age games. Inquisition, in particular, introduces several characters and sequences that emphasize the complexity of the nature of spirits and the Fade, making it clear that “spirits = demons = bad” isn’t necessarily always an accurate assumption. I like thinking that Herren might not be 100% human. The thought of a Fade denizen living in the mortal world, seemingly happily coupled with a mercurial, talented mortal, spending his days fretting about money and fussing fondly at and about his other half? That’s pretty great.
As for the rest of the Darkspawn Chronicles, it was great fun to mercilessly eradicate the rest of the characters…until I got to my mabari, named “Barkspawn” in the DLC’s alternate universe. Killing that dog made me feel terrible, you guys. I fobbed the job off on my underlings and tried to focus on killing my beloved Alistair, instead, to take my mind off of it. Why couldn’t my dog have turned into a Desire Demon and whisked away to safety, too? R.I.P., Barkspawn; your untimely death is deeply regretted.