“I have lived too long” produces a genuine ache (and I feel Gravedust there, now and again, when I worry about my own ideals going out of style). And his talk about his values meaning nothing to anyone else has been a long time coming, spelled out in the Ask an Adventurer series but hinted elsewhere.

But again, his characterization of Ardaic just kinda bugs me here. It’s true that Ardaic’s service to Gastonia will always come first, and that will always hobble his promises to help anyone else, because Gastonia itself is ultimately wildly selfish. That too will be proven true later.

But it’s not being proven here. This isn’t a case of Ardaic throwing other races over to protect his own nation, this is a case of his refusing to abandon one war to start another against what seems to be a less deadly but more elusive opponent. Like stopping in the middle of World War II to go to Vietnam and just letting the Nazis do whatever on the fronts you’ve left behind. The elder sky elves and gnomes and wood elves would grudgingly thank Ardaic for his refusal, if they had seen this talk.

The best justification I can give for “he will not help anyone” is the way Ardaic snapped at Gravedust at the very end there. “Shut the hell up about your people” is a hell of a thing to say to your last dwarven ally. But so is “Y’all did this to yourselves, really” to a wounded commander who just lost thousands of soldiers. Again, read the room, Gravedust. You’re probably not even aware of it, but those wounds on Syr’Nj that Ardaic’s fretting about? Those were specifically dwarf-inflicted. No, while Gravedust’s intuition about the Cultist threat is correct, he’s letting some long-held issues color his views and perceptions otherwise.

Thankfully, the beating heart of this scene isn’t about the somewhat sketchy argument in those few balloons. It’s about friendship, and how friendship can twist even bureaucracy into something beautiful.