Chapter the Sixty Third: Journey To The WastesThanatos was no easier to leave than it was to get to in the first place, but at the very least I was growing accustomed to the horrible beasts that stood in my way every time I turned another corner. "How do the rest of you feel about going to the wastes of Vendigroth?" I didn't pause for a moment to ask my question, instead continuing northward and hacking apart a vile mutant spider creature on my way.
"I must confess," Franklin began, "I am a bit disappointed that we'll be leaving Thanatos so soon. On the other hand, I'm most excited to follow you along to Vendigroth! ...and then the Void! You'll surely be needing the help of the great FRANKLIN PAYNE when going to such a godawful, horrible place as that! I can't wait!"
I had a feeling you'd say that. Virgil seemed considerably less sure of himself. "Well, I'm certainly not going to abandon you now. I won't lie, I'm not comfortable with either destination, but I'll stick by you no matter where it leads. That's what friends do."
I smiled at him, "Thanks, Virgil... even in the depths of the Void, it will bring me comfort to have you with me... you've been with me since the start of this whole thing. In that brief moment that you left... I felt so empty. Ah, no offense to the great Franklin Payne, of course... having a man of his talents is along bound to benefit all of us."
Franklin started laughing outright, "That's the spirit! Ghastly horrors the likes of which Arcanum has never seen, legendary monsters and criminals banished for the good of all... I wouldn't miss it for the world! Why, I'd bet I can even teach those dwarves a thing or two. With my help they'll have their machine built to help us return in no time flat!"
Of course! I'd almost bloody forgotten about that! When we stop Arronax, surely the dwarves will help us to get home... why, I'm like Stennar... I could probably make it back easily! Sebastian seemed to pick up on that same fact, "It's just like every other place I follow you to, right? Only more dark and more horrible? Well, every new place you drag me off to is more dark and horrible, so I don't see how this is any different... just gotta wait for a bunch of dwarves to build us the way back. I'm alright with that." Terry barked in acceptance and Sebastian looked at me with his eyebrow raised, "Say, why do you have to hog all the jerky any way? Little fella gets hungry more than you know."
I chuckled and tossed the bag of jerky over in Sebastian's direction. I knew he'd spoil Terry fiercely, but if any dog could use a soft spot it was that one. I glanced at Vollinger as we approached Stringy Pete's old boat, curious if he'd really go so far as to follow me into the Void after all. "Well, Vollinger? What'll it be? Is the Hand willing to spare a talented assassin like you to right its wrongs in helping Arronax return?"
Vollinger shot me a rather displeased glance. "If you don't mind my saying so, I would politely ask that you stuff a sock in it." I couldn't help but laugh at how strange it sounded for him to say such a thing. "Yes, I will be accompanying you to the Void with or without your permission, and it has little to do with Arronax. I wish to destroy him as much as any of you, but moreso I wish to accompany you, Samantha, as your friend. I hope you have not forgotten that."
I paused, thinking about it and feeling somewhat bad for how I'd been treating him. Franklin filled the silence with more of his enthusiasm, "By cracky, of course! I was so bloody distracted about all of the suspense, the mystery, the horrible creatures... I nearly forgot about Arronax himself! I'll be a monkey's uncle if that won't be the battle of all battles! Magnificent!"
Well, at least we're all settled about it then... I'm rather glad I won't have to endure this alone. "I apologize for my attitude, Vollinger. If you would, please take us to Caladon... I realize it's taking the long way, but I'd like to be as prepared as possible before we hit Vendigroth and I've got one last pair of altars to hit."
"As you wish," the wheel of the ship turned easily in his hands and he guided us smoothly away from Thanatos, back towards the mainland. I tried to relax, although my anxiety was rather firm. I'd handled Thanatos as gracefully as could be expected, so it was silly to think Vendigroth would be any worse.
We reached Caladon easily, but I no longer felt comfortable within the city walls. I desperately wanted to stay the night, but something about it just didn't feel right. Frederick is no longer here... this isn't my home anymore.... Although my companions grumbled a bit at my insistence, instead of staying we proceeded northward immediately and camped out as usual. After only a few short days of journeying we reached my first goal: Bolo's Altar.
I prayed to the altar for a second time, following the offering of another pilfered ring. I was strongly accustomed to the feeling of receiving blessings, but each time I received another was still a pleasant experience. Bolo's blessing was especially welcome, although I thought bitterly that I hardly needed such a thing any longer. There were few thieves better than I, and I didn't feel overly arrogant in thinking as much.
Following my brief stop there I made for Gorgoth Pass, intending on visiting the altar of Kaitan before making my way over to Black Root to catch the train. Unlike Hardin's Pass the weather there was mild, even pleasant. I didn't know exactly what I had been expecting when I went there, but I was most displeased to find it infested with aggressive creatures of all kinds. They were a sight less intimidating than the ones on Thanatos, that was for sure, but I still wasn't fond of battling my way through the entire bloody mountain pass.
The oversized ape-like creatures that attacked me weren't entirely unlike the ones on Thanatos, but they didn't have a particularly magickal bent to them, and they also weren't nearly as strong. They went down easily underneath the might of my axe, and as long as they didn't swarm, like those bastards on Thanatos did, I would be fine.
Franklin scratched his head rather perplexed at our course of travel. "Excuse me, Samantha, but are we going the wrong way? I must say, the beasties here aren't all that terrifying in the slightest! What kind of an adventure is this?"
I sighed, "Easy, Franklin... we'll be through here soon enough, and well on our way to Vendigroth. You can't defy death every day... save some for the afterlife!"
He seemed to take that bit of advice. "Oh, very well. I suppose-Gods, what is that thing?! I call dibs!"
I found it more than a little strange that the very same kind of golem I'd once found in the Black Mountain Clan mines was just out wandering in the wilderness, but questioning it did little to get rid of it. I didn't relish the idea of fighting it, either... striking those bastards always made my arms hurt something terrible later on. I was all too happy to let Franklin have his wish. "Have at it, old boy. I'll trust you to take care of this threat!" He laughed heartily, firing Old Mary at it repeatedly, and the rest of us scampered off towards the east.
No sooner had I rounded the next shrub than I was set upon by a thick herd of tiny monkeys. It was those damned swarmers again, although they weren't nearly as numerous or vicious as they had been on Thanatos. I grumbled, pulling out my axe and swatting at the bastards clinging to the hem of my dress. "Off! Get the bloody hell off me!"
Vollinger's gun rang out and the first of the swarmers fell. I followed suit, striking down half a dozen more in mere moments. A rage overcame me like the time I had fought against the dozens of bat creatures in the Caladon sewers. I was a blur of motion, tiny little monkeys falling dead wherever my blade passed by. When it was over, my companions applauded me - including Franklin, who had finished with his ore golem and rejoined the rest of us.
The narrow pass through the mountains continued eastward, and the six of us continued to follow it. Battle with the local fauna grew tiresome at best, and already I began to look forward to the nice, quiet train ride I had waiting ahead of me. Going from Black Root to Ashbury is a good, long ride... plenty of time to just relax. From there, it's on to the wastes... ugh. Perhaps I wasn't looking so much forward to the train ride after all.
My train of thought was broken by a rather exceptionally loud growling noise. I looked over towards it just in time to see a giant cat, almost fully my size, leaping off of a nearby rock, aimed straight at my head! I ducked beneath it, catching just a slight scratch along my brow, and it landed softly behind me. Now here's a position I hate to be in.
I turned just in time to see a pocket of blood explode outward from its side and watch it slowly slump over onto its side. "Haha!" Franklin shouted, "If you want to go after her, you'll have to get past FRANKLIN PAYNE!" It seemed awfully silly the way he went on about it, but I appreciated his protection. I didn't have overly much time to think it over, however, as I heard another growl coming from behind me.
I turned again, facing the second cat just as he leapt in front of me. I parried his claw with my axe and he growled and hissed at the searing pain that overcame him. Don't worry, kitty... your suffering will be at an end quite fast. I laid the bastard to the ground in a single strike, much to Franklin's approval.
Much to my dismay, the bastard mountain lions weren't the last threat I faced on my stubborn journey towards the forgotten altar. The things I go through for a simple, bloody pilgrimmage. Bloody indeed... no wonder there are so many Panarii. Not that I envy them for adhering to a false religion... Coming out from a gravelly outcropping of charred rock, I next faced off against an elemental being made of pure fire.
Terry ran up to it, intent on saving me the pain, but he stopped short when he hit the wall of heat the creature emanated. He growled at it heavily, snarling most ferociously even as he slowly backed away. I didn't blame him, and actually rather preferred he keep back. If he got any nearer to the damned thing he'd go up in flames in an instant. I already knew from the blood stains in my dress that Virgil's skills with water magick were most unfortunately lacking.
I crept behind the bastard elemental and laid into it with my axe. The fiery properties of the blade did little against the creature, but what it lacked in damage it made up for with technical prowess. Not only was the blade itself finely crafted, for which I had poor old Liam to thank, but the creature I fought couldn't possibly exist in the same space as the axe. There was little else aside from magick holding a being of living flame together, and with each strike I further severed it from this plane of existence.
At last, when the skin on my hands and forearms was scarred and blackened, the creature finally fell beneath my assault. I stopped to catch my breath, Virgil glancing over at my wounds unappreciatively. "I'm sorry, but... I don't think I can do anything for you," he whined.
"Of course you can," I glanced at him rudely and tossed my purse at his feet. "Fetch me out a salve would you... digging around in there myself would hurt like hell right now." He smiled gently and pulled out no less than three salves for me, which I then applied. I remained quite astonished at just how effective the modern salves were. Not only did they clean my arms, wiping away the black, but they fully restored the newly broken and scarred flesh beneath. It was truly a miracle.
At last, I found the altar I'd been searching for. It was a largely unspectacular little thing, just sitting out in the open. It even had a substantial amount of damage done to it from the local beasts as well as the long-term effects of weather. I only hoped the damned thing would still work. I placed a small geode on the altar, directing my prayers towards Kaitan.
For the third time I received the blessing of a greater god, this time the god of balance. The sickly sweet blessing of Halcyon and the dark and unsettling blessing of Moorindal were finally separated, bringing ease to my soul. There was no better way to explain it other than 'peaceful'. Wherever you are, Velorien... I'm ready for you... I've received the blessings from each and every one of your children. I got up from the altar and made my way east.
The trip to Black Root was nothing new, or difficult. When I wasn't being jumped by assassins every other day it was actually a rather peaceful journey. The wildlife, thankfully, was considerably less dense than it had been in the mountain pass. Upon our arrival in Black Root I immediately purchased a ticket for Ashbury. The train wasn't scheduled to leave for quite a while, so I passed the time by sipping a few shots of whiskey at the Sour Barnacle right alongside Captain Teach. Sebastian joined me, but the others chose instead to wait at the train station.
"...so, there we were, standing in front of the poor girl... Sebastian had this huge treasure chest in his arms and the most sheepish look on his face. She didn't know what to make of it! All she could think to say was 'I suppose old Stringy Pete ain't such a bad bugger after all.' Can you believe it? Stringy Pete! Not so bad! Ha!"
Teach laughed and laughed at the stories I shared, "Aye, that be a good one, lassie! If I don't miss me guess, though, and I often don't... ye're scheduled to be missin' that train o' yers right about now." I glanced out the window to see it had gotten significantly later than I'd planned on and just then heard the sound of the train departing.
"Son of a bitch! It's been a pleasure, cap'n!" I dashed out of the bar and ran for the train at full speed. Virgil was waiting for me on the last car, hanging off of the end and trying to grab my hand. I ran as fast as I possibly could, desperately concentrating on not tripping over my own feet after the amount of whiskey I'd had. Finally, Virgil grabbed ahold of my hand and hauled me up onto the train. Not a moment later he grabbed ahold of Sebastian as well and pulled him up.
"Whew... now that was sure a pain in the ass... remind me to NEVER do that again, eh?" Sebastian may not have been the most eloquent or polite, but he had a damned good point. I shuffled through the Mages' Caboose uncomfortably, seeking out one of the more luxury cars where I could lie down for a spell. Sleeping off my drunkenness as we made our way to Ashbury seemed like a rather fantastic idea. The last thought I had as I drifted off to sleep was how I forgot to tell Captain Teach he could have my boat.
Virgil poked me awake when the train finally arrived. I'd slept like the dead the whole way there thanks to the whiskey, and I owed it a debt of gratitude. I quickly gathered up my things and departed the station, meeting back up with the others. It seemed as though they'd been waiting for me a short while already. "So sorry about that. Let's get headed north right away then, shall we?" And so we did.
Compared to reaching Black Root from Caladon by way of Gorgoth Pass, the trip to the Wastes was a pleasantly short one. Perhaps it was just that Franklin's excitement caused him to be more boisterous than ever, but at the very least he wasn't too deliberately annoying. Traveling with him was oftentimes like traveling with a child with the way he carried on so incessantly. Not to mention he couldn't sit still for a single bloody moment.
We could see the Wastes long before we actually reached them, the sandy dunes poking up above the horizon. It seemed a rather strange contrast to the grassy plains we still walked upon. At last we saw the bridge, a horribly rusted old thing, surprisingly sturdy considering the years of wear upon it. Sitting out in front of the old thing was a rather strange looking halfling fellow, just camped out like there wasn't a care in the world. I strolled up to him curiously, "Well, now... who might you be?"
Renowned... halfling... adventurer...? Those three words do not mix. I gave Franklin a knowing glance and he winked back at me. I suppose if the little man wanted to think of himself as an adventurer, it wasn't any harm to me. "What are you doing out here, Weldo?"
He shrugged, almost offended. "Why, adventuring, of course! What better place to explore than the dreaded wastes of Vendigroth!" Oh, I don't know... perhaps Thanatos, or maybe the Void...
I tried to ignore the halfling's obvious showmanship in favor of perhaps gleaning some useful information from his adventurers. At the very least the Wastes were no playground, so he was better off than a lot of halflings. Though he might not have much on that other fellow... what was his name, the one with Jyheirad... Frondo! "Have you seen any cities out in the wastes, perhaps?"
Come on, Vendigroth... tell me you've seen Vendigroth! Oh, who am I kidding? It's never that easy. "Well, it's pretty empty out there, and I haven't been exploring all that long. But I found this one city, way out in the wastes, surrounded by shifting sands. No roads led into or out of the place. There was no obvious entrance, so I climbed the surrounding wall. From that vantage I could see the whole place."
Well, Vendigroth certainly wouldn't have any roads... "Anyone live there?"
Bah, of course not. Bloody Tulla. Still, it might be a start... if they'd even let me in. "Did you go inside?" If they wouldn't let a little halfling like this in, I stood no chance.
He merely shrugged, "No, I climbed back down and left. Bigger folk have their own ways, and I won't be disturbing them." Bloody useless... what kind of adventurer are you?! Right... a halfling 'adventurer'.
I sighed, trying not to let my annoyance show. "Would you please show me where it is on my map?" I held my map out to him, smiling sweetly.
He looked up at me and grinned in response, pointing a stubby finger towards a spot on the northern end of the wastes. "There, it was right there!" He seemed so absolutely proud of himself. I wanted to pat him on the head, but it would've been more than a little insulting.
I suppose the little fellow's not so bad after all. Perhaps I can get a bit more out of him... "Thank you so much, Weldo. Say, have you found anything else out there in the wastes?"
The object he held out didn't seem particularly impressive, though I could tell just by the feel it gave off that it had once been a part of a much larger piece of machinery. No doubt, that came from the ruins I'm looking for... "Really?" I pressed him for more information.
Naturally, he was happy to share. "Yes. The ruind were made of a metal of a sort I've never encountered before. There was all manner of junk around and inside them. I found this device while rummaging through it! Some nasty lizards must live underneath it, though, because they swarmed out at the noise and I had to retreat a ways."
Well, that'll be a load of fun, I'm sure. "Sounds bad."
I had to try desperately to contain my laughter. He seemed so damned serious about it. Even Franklin wasn't serious about his adventures! Still, it felt wrong to demean the poor bastard just because of his small stature. "One last thing before I go... could you tell me of the kinds of monsters you've seen out there in the desert?"
He nodded excitedly, happy just to have somebody who was interested in chatting with him. "I have seen all kinds of strange critters. I've seen giant spiders with the upper body of a woman! That wasn't the strangest thing, though."
I had seen the type of creature he was mentioning, recently in fact. They'd accosted me on my way off of Thanatos. I hadn't thought much of them at the time considering where I was, and the myriad of other dangers to worry about, but I supposed they were a bit strange. It didn't surprise me that they would exist around Vendigroth as well. "What could be stranger than that?"
His eyes grew wide as he described what he'd seen, "Once I saw the darndest thing. Deep in the desert, I saw a rock stand up and move around. I swear it looked at me, too!"
At last I couldn't help myself and I burst out laughing. I'd killed over a dozen of the damned things in the past. They were unpleasant foes, but I'd learned to deal with them well enough. Weldo didn't look terribly pleased at my laughter. I tried to mask my mirth with a question, "Did you attack it?" He didn't seem to be terribly convinced.
The way he contorted his face and scowled at me as he answered, I could tell our conversation was done. At the very least I'd gotten the location of Tulla, and it seemed I could go there to find more information about Vendigroth or the wastes in general. "Good day to you, Weldo. Thank you for the information."
He called out hesitantly as I departed, "You're welcome, madam. Come back anytime!" I felt bad for laughing at him, it was just so hard to take him seriously.
The bridge had massive gears on its sides, though I couldn't tell what purpose they could possibly have served. It was lengthy, as far as bridges went, but the chasm separating the wastes from the rest of the mainland was quite legendary in its width. I wondered idly if that had been the reason for the bridge's construction from metal, or if that had merely been an artifact of its Vendigrothian construction.
Well, here we are... the wastes of Vendigroth. My limbs nearly tingled with anticipation. I knew not what dangers lay ahead for me, nor what priceless treasures I might uncover in such an ancient and powerful city. In stark contrast, before I could dig right in I would have to put up with the pompous and arrogant mages of Tulla.
Funny how the center of the magickal world and the center of the technological one have coexisted next to each other peacefully for so many years... Hmph. 'Existed'... 'Peaceful'... perhaps it's not so odd after all. Whatever Vendigroth was, I was sure it wasn't going to be peaceful.
Bonus ContentNot much on the bonus front today. Actually, I'm having a really hard time finishing up this thread and I've blown near completely through my pre-prepared updates. I've not been able to write properly since my surgery, and the last update I wrote before going in will be posted tomorrow. I'm hoping to get something written tonight, but I'm just having a really difficult time. I guess I'm posting this in hopes that saying it in the thread will help motivate my lazy ass to get to work. We'll see later on if it was effective.
If you go there you reach a "Dark Elf Camp". There's pretty much nothing there that I could find, though.
That's... it. Looking through the game files there's supposed to be a journal or something there, but it might only show up on the evil playthrough since it seems pretty strongly related to that.