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Just a few quick notes before we get started. This is probably one of the shorter quests that we'll do. I did this as my last blight quest, so I was able to buzz through most of the enemies. My characters were around level seventeen and eighteen. The only special thing to mention is that my warden was wearing the full set of Blood Dragon armor. I used Sten, Wynne, and Leliana for this one. I suggest you bring Wynne along, since having a good healer along for the fight will make things much easier. You might also be able to do her companion quest and upgrade her Spirit of Vessel ability, if you've made it far enough to talk about Wynne's Regret.
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The Dalish Camp
Our journey for allies will now take us to the Dalish Elves in the Brecilian Forest. Once you enter, you'll be taken to the camp and you can talk to their keeper, Zathrian.
It seems that they are suffering from a bit of a werewolf plague and you need to help them out. There isn't much else to do. Talk to the people in the camp to get some side quests and get some more loot. I'll cover the side quests in a separate article. Varathorn will also have a backpack that I suggest you buy.
When you're ready to go, head on out into the forest.
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West Brecilian Forest
The problem here is that it seems like the forest is a little random. There also isn't much special for fighting the enemies in here. Werewolves and bears are just standard enemies. Just slash your way through them. If you've got a healer, then it's pretty easy for the most part. The ogres and wild sylvan can be hard since they can incapacitate members of your party, but as long as they don't stun your healers you will be fine.
Look around the starting area for the wounded elf. We might as well get that side quest out of the way.
Move along the rough path to the left. You should run into some wolves and werewolves. Just cut right through them. When you make it to the waterfall, you'll run into Swiftrunner. Some persuasion will let you avoid a fight here. If it does come to blows, then just wound Swiftrunner until he retreats.
There's a bear you can kill nearby to get some loot from a dead templar. After that, just keep moving along the trail further east into the forest. There should be some darkspawn and an ogre by the tombstone up ahead. If you're doing the Places of Power quest, then touch it to place the marker. This tombstone is also part of the Mage's Treasure quest that will net us some juggernaught armor. We need to start that in the East Brecilian Forest though.
I suggest that you go a bit further and down the path. Go ahead and talk to the Grand Oak now. You'll need to kill some Wild sylvans along the way. Just take it slow and steady and you'll be fine. Remember that you can apparently backstab a tree, so put your rogue to good use.
While you're here, you should also save and then go a little past the Grand Oak to the camp. This is a big trap and you might get killed if you're not careful. It's all an illusion from a greater shade. Don't examine too much in the camp, or it will lull you into a deep sleep. Trying to leave and demanding to turn around and look at the camp seems to work well. Mages will also usually be able to resist the temptation to fall asleep and be attacked. It appears that there is a willpower or magic check. It was easy for me, since I just had Wynne cast revival and it brought everyone back to life.
The greater shade itself isn't that dangerous, especially if your party is still alive. Just surround him and attack. He'll die pretty quickly.
Make sure you grab the dusk ring off of his body and loot the chest and bones around the area. We can trade the ring later and the general loot is pretty good. There's also some Dalish Gloves that you can give to Zevran as a gift.
Check the area a little more and when you're ready to go, take either exit to the East Brecilian Forest.
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East Brecilian Forest
Go down or up into the first path. There are several werewolves along with one named one just waiting there. Kill the rabid werewolves and talk to Danyla. She's Athras' wife from the Lost to the Curse quest. Just talk to her and get the scarf. You can use persuasion to get a little more information out of her, but go ahead and put her out of her misery when she asks. You can't save her.
Follow the winding paths further into the forest. There isn't too much to be careful of in here. There are more werewolves in the area and a few darkspawn. There's a temple in the back corner with two ogres. Go ahead and kill them and inspect the ancient gravestones. Disturb the wards to start the Mages' Treasure Quest. We will need to kill a revenant here, but for the sake of organization that will stay in the side quest guide.
The mad hermit is just a little further, near the back of the forest. When you enter his camp, he'll appear. He's a little crazy and you'll need to start discussions by asking if he has a question. An important note is that you can't just inspect his stump. He will attack you if you do that. If you want to fight him, then it's a decent way to start the fight though.
If you really want to kill the hermit, then the proper way to do this is to trade something with him for the acorn. The stump will then have a new gold ring in it for you. Regardless, there are three ways to use the hermit or the grand oak to get into the ruins.
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Reaching the Ruins
There isn't much of a difference. The only real change is that you have to give a werewolf pelt to the hermit each time you want to go. The Grand Oak just gives you a branch that lets you cross the barrier.
If you want to do this peacefully, just trade with the hermit. He'll take just about anything you receive as a reward for the Dalish side quests. This includes the scarf, the pendant, the dusk ring from the shade, the book you can take from the chest by Zathrian, and the book you'll receive for helping Cammen.
You should also trade with him for his book and the helmet. The helmet is the ancient elven helm that will complete the armor set. The book is just worth a new codex. Once you have the acorn, you can give it to the grand oak to get the branch.
You can also kill the hermit for it. The acorn is in his stump, if you haven't traded with him already. He can call up two rage demons that can dish out a lot of damage. You'll probably need to use area of effect spells frequently to disable the group and then focus on killing his helpers. You should be able to manage the fight if you kill the helpers. Report back to the Grand Oak with the acorn.
If you want to side with the hermit, then you have to kill the Grand Oak. He's just a big sylvan, so it shouldn't be too complicated. I personally don't know why you'd pick the hermit over him though. The hermit drops better stuff and the grand oak's help is a little better.
You might want to go run back to the tombstone in the West Brecilian Forest, but you can always catch that later if you want. When you're ready, head over to the forest barrier and go through to the ruins.