Part 8: An Unsubtle PlotPart 008: An Unsubtle Plot
Remind me again why we don't just kick down Kontos' door and cut his brain open?
The law! We need solid evidence or otherwise we'd just be murderers, right, Tom?
Drirr's right, we need to stay on the good side of the law-
That's uncommonly well-adjusted of you, Tom.
-because the cops around here might be as tough as Nodd, he almost killed us all and he was just one guy. We're not killing Kontos until we have iron-clad evidence, at which point he'll probably flip out and attack us first anyway, thus making it self-defense.
Huh, that makes sense. I guess that'll just make it all the more satisfying when we finally get to do it.
So what's your plan for getting this evidence?
I figure we'll go visit Srimalinar and the shrine, if Kontos is as unsubtle as he looks so far, those demons will probably have Made In Kounos stamped on the back.
And you even found the road there on the first try.
He doesn't seem overly concerned about the huge aggressive wildlife right behind us.
Now that you mention it, we seem to be the only one having any trouble with the local wildlife, any theories about that?
Well, I figure there are two options that make any kind of sense.
Either the locals are all incredibly tough and even a random farmer can tie these animals into a knot.
Seems implausible, the alternative?
Supposedly animals can smell evil and if we just stopped hanging out with you, they'd leave us alone.
Ha ha, he got you good.
Or maybe the animals themselves are evil and trying to stop Tom's righteous quest!
Why can't you all be like Drirr and have faith in my infallible heroics?
Srimalinar always bugged me, because there's a road running almost to it, but not actually to the bridge across a river you have to cross to get there, and then the city's in the middle of a swamp, and you have to circle all the way around the walls to get to the main gate and get in. It just always bugged my sense of disbelief that the place would be built like that.
Alright, new town, let's spread out and go search for evidence.
Srimalinar appears to consist of two stores and a bar.
Alright, new town, let's focus on the bar and get drunk.
Even this random guy agrees with me.
Is this the bar?
You there, random guy, get us a drink!
Man Kontos really isn't good at keeping a lid on any of his plans. Go on, tell us the rumours about Kontos.
None of us here really knows what to make of it. Kontos tells his villagers that we are responsible for the horrible creatures that are found near the holy place. We can no longer deny that we have this problem. But it is an outrage to say that this was our doing! If you believe Kontos, we are evil. Ask Edjirr, the tavern keeper. He thinks the same as I do.
It's like everyone is trying to unsubtly make us go to the bar.
Later, guy, it's apparently our fate to go get drunk.
Alright, this is clearly a bar.
Let's hassle some of the patrons. You there, random Iskai, get us some exposition!
Lesson learned, we're never going to do that again.
Random plot dump NPC aside, I rather like the design of the Srimalinar bar. It's full of little private nooks, which even with the relatively primitive presentation serves to give it a sense of atmosphere. Everyone else in there is just drunk or the barkeeper, who's the important one here.
Also this guy lies, the local wizard guild can't teach you anything useful unless you're criminally incompetent at playing the game and it's much too late to learn what she has to sell you anyway. Likewise if you engaged in a bit of
Eventually we make the full circuit of the room and reach Edjirr.
Sure, I'll pay 80 gold to advance the plot.
It should interest you. It concerns the council in Beloveno. I have heard from a reliable source that a plot is being forged in the Council of the Just in Beloveno. The plan is to murder the president. There is someone of great influence on the council. I don't know who that is, but his influence will be stronger without Herras. Naturally I cannot guarantee that this is true.
Ha ha holy shit.
I don't get what's so funny about someone trying to assassinate Herras.
Think about it, Kontos is so incompetent at keeping a secret that even his enemies, at the far end of the local landmass, have heard about it.
Be reasonable now, all we know about Kontos is that he's setting up a transparent excuse for ethnic cleansing, why would he want to kill Herras?
He's an evil wizard, he does evil things.
You should also speak with Arrim who lives in the harvest workers' house. You can learn very important things from him.
This is also a very mean thing the game does to you as you exit the conversation, because this is absolutely what you shouldn't do right away. Visiting Darios sets the next trigger for advancing the local plot, and you absolutely want to avoid doing that until you've run a few errands. More precisely, talking to Darios will advance the assassination plot against Herras(because there's rarely such a thing as a false rumour in a videogame), and we want to do some things before someone gets stabby out of order.
Alright, let's go hassle Arrim again.
What sort of completely unforeseen conflict could this be?
Right now, there is no positive information. But if it comes out that Kontos has convinced his followers that the shrine is dangerous, then they are sure to try and do something against it. And that means that they either violate our taboo or they go even further and attack us directly. This is all speculation, but who knows? Our shrine is not dangerous. Unfortunately, I cannot prove that to you because of our taboo, but these funny creatures are coming from somewhere else. Of course, I must admit that I don't know where they're coming from either.
If we let you idiots kill each other then we're never getting a ride to the next island so yes, of course, we're going to stop this.
That would help all of us, I am very sure of that. It is always good to have a couple of diplomatic friends who are in a neutral position.
This section of the game is also strangely full of these NPC's who will regurgitate the full plot at you whenever you talk to them, like you're an idiot who's going to forget what happened half an hour ago just because you mulched a small zoo worth of aggressive wildlife between two dialogue points.
Just in case someone does anything stupid, we need to buy some time. Let's go down to the shrine and clear out the demons. What do you say, Mellthas? Want to ion cannon some supernatural scum?
Well, this is pretty peaceful so far.
You want to swap places, Mr. Back Lines? My boots are squelching from Krondiir blood.
I confess I hadn't even noticed, the sound of dying wildlife is kind of a soothing white noise to me at this point.
I'll admit, I had even money on the "demons" just being some of Kontos' cronies in cardboard suits.
...are those flying hands with eyes in their palms?
I forget you haven't had to deal with these before.
I'm game, so what do we need to do to kill these things? Mystic words? Precisely targeted weak points?
What do you mean "possibly"?
I mean "possibly," we've never had to find out.
Okay, I'll give you, that was cooler than hitting it with a sword.
But, uh, can you do it to the rest of them, too?
Look! The same kind of vermin that Kontos had in his cellar!
I can't believe we're actually going to need more evidence than this.
About half an hour of vigorous exercise and we've purged the shrine of all the evil demons. Shame we still can't go in and check it out.
I hadn't figured you'd be respectful of the Iskai and their religion.
...what the hell was that?
I don't respect the taboo but I respect the screaming text box that tells me I respect the taboo. Now let's go tell Herras someone wants to kill him. Eventually.
What did you mean "eventually"? This could be a matter of life or death!
Just because you doubted me, we're going to go shopping first, and then I'm going to find a prostitute.
I swear you're actually getting worse the longer this adventure goes on.
The prostitute visit isn't strictly necessary, except to show off some dialogue, some of which is in the dialogue files but which I'm not sure how to trigger.
If you weren't planning to recruit Khunag, visiting this prostitute is entirely optional.
Maybe for you.
...what kind of prostitute has children running around her place of employment? Please tell me this isn't about to take a very dark turn.
In a moment, first we need to get some cheerful flavour text out of you that we forgot to get on our last visit. JOB, NAME and so forth.
Well, sweeties, I'm sure you can tell by my clothing where I work. Come visit me there sometime! Of course, most males aren't willing to admit that they go to a brothel now and then. I see some well-built guys here. Hey, don't worry, you're safe; I get all the satisfaction I need at work. But why don't you visit me sometime in the 'House of the Red Curtains'? Don't be scared of the sticky carpets and the panting, most of our customers feel really comfortable. Oh by the way, my name is Kariah, glad to meet you. We'll talk some more when you come visit me, huh?
Kariah is... I'm not sure what to think of her writing. I guess she kind of fits into the archetype of a hooker with a heart of gold, except she comes across more as a jovial matron who just happens to be employed in the sex work industry and is in no way traumatized or changed by it. I guess it's probably one of the more positive portrayals of sex workers I've ever seen in a game, and she does have a few dialogue gems. I don't believe the House of Red Curtains actually exists in the game, though, it feels like a reference to some cut content, and some of Kariah's un-used dialogue asks whether you've visited the brothel yet, and then ribs you and calls you prudes if you tell her you're either not interested or have an important quest to undertake.
Alright, now what's so important?
Well, where will I begin? I work in a brothel and, from time to time, I get customers who er... play an important role in our society. Many entrust me with information I really don't want to know and is not intended for public ears. Naturally I would put myself in danger if I pass on that kind of information. But this is so important that I'm willing to take the risk. Specifically, it concerns Gard and Riko. They are members of the Council of the Just and they do not act for, but against, our community. Their own prosperity is more important to them. They are greedy, and strive for power and wealth! You are experienced in battle! You can overthrow and kill them! The city is sure to thank you for it, believe me!
Hold your horses, lady, we can't just go murder them!
My superior officer always told me it was better to phrase it as "an unfortunate lethal accident while resisting arrest."
Sadly the goon squad is right, we're trying not to get arrested here.
Albion's Phrasing posted:
You put that a little too simply, dear Kariah. We don't have proof that any of this is true and, besides, this was all told to you in the throes of passion. I'm sure you won't reveal your source and that's understandable. If you did, you would put yourself in great danger, especially if everything that you have told us is true. We simply cannot act against Gard and Riko. Using which law? For what reason? We cannot simply get rid of them, and killing them is completely out of the question. We're sorry we can't do anything more for you, but we will try to find out more about Gard and Riko. We will try to keep you up to date.
Maybe I am too panicky, but believe me, the secrets my customers tell me at night are almost always true. And I believe we all have reason for concern. Please don't forget about all this. And visit me again!
Oh no the obviously villainous politicians are clearly working with the obviously villainous wizard and the plot is absolutely going to happen, you're not too panicky. Good thing we're going to stop it.
Don't wait too long! As time passes, Gard and Riko will certainly carry out their deed!
Trust me when I say I don't believe stopping it will be a great challenge, when literally both ends of the island, including random unconnected Iskai and a prostitute, have heard of it, you know you're not dealing with world-class conspirators.
I'm not sure if it's possible to be told by Kariah before you're told by Edjirr and Arrim, because once you've hit Kounos you've got very little motivation to double back and visit Beloveno before you've been to Srimalinar first. So maybe?
Let's go tell Herras someone wants to stab him in the brain.
Considering the lax security, probably no one's been stabbed here.
Don't get my hopes up.
Man I wonder what could possibly need clearing up or who it could possibly involve.
How can I explain it to you. One of our council members, Perron, believes that Gard and Riko are not making decisions for the good of the people. Now, Gard and Riko are somewhat inflexible sometimes. But still, that is a strong reproach by Perron, who sometimes acts too hastily. However, since Perron won't leave it alone, we've all gotten together and discussed the matter. That didn't make the mood around here any better. Gard and Riko are stubborn and maintain that they cannot and do not want to cooperate with Perron any longer. They don't respect him, but he really is an honest man and I'm not too sure about Gard and Riko. In any case, I'd rather be on Perron's side. If Gard and Riko stay obstinate, we can no longer work together reasonably in the council. Well, we have to deal with the problem somehow.
Oh my God I can't stand us wasting time any longer. Look, Herras, someone wants you dead.
Your super-obviously evil council colleagues are buddying up to Kontos and planning to plant a knife in your brain. Literally everyone has heard about it, you could probably stab a random animal in the woods and it'd gasp out that there's a plot against you.
According to Albion posted:
Good, let me tell you. Where should I begin? We've talked with a lot of people in the city. Of course, we can't confirm the reliability of the information we have, but nevertheless, you must know that there are plans to murder you. We first learned of this from Perron. Since then, we have confirmed the information. Even if it should turn out to be a bad joke, then it is still probably better to have warned you once too often than once too few.
I cannot believe it. Naturally, I would like to thank you for giving me this information. I've already heard about it from Perron, but since I know Perron, I didn't take him too seriously, which might have been a mistake. In any case, I will be careful now and I'll also find somewhere else to stay. I am thankful for your information and, if it turns out that there actually was something planned, I will reward you!
Now, while the game tracks in-game days no events in the game(aside from being called to meet the council leader in Jirinaar) is actually timed. Instead, what advances the "time" and gets Herras attempted assassinated is talking to Mellthas' friend again when he asks you to, so in an incredibly dick move by the game, doing what it suggests gets Herras killed without you having an option to intervene(and thus no chance to get rewarded for having warned him). I remember the timing on this always confused me as a kid as I was sure I made the straightest path to Herras each time, and instead the trigger turned out to have nothing to do with actual time.
Talking to Perron at this point gets him asking you to keep him informed if you bump into Riko and Gard anywhere, since they've mysteriously vanished, and I feel like there was a cut subplot about finding them and bringing them to justice or wringing the truth out of them otherwise, and that this scenario would originally have multiple solutions and branching paths. As it is, instead, half the NPC's involved in the mystery just end up feeling kind of superfluous as they more or less just repeat what other NPC's are already telling you.
Good thing he didn't talk to his dog first, then it'd have gotten the reward for warning him.
I mean, we only get the reward if he finds out something was planned. Odds are Riko and Gard will trip over their own dicks and stab themselves to death before getting anywhere near Herras.
Alright, now lets go see Mellthas' friend, then he can tell us about how he just learned someone is trying to kill Herras.
Maini mostly consists of going back and forth between the two ends of the island to advance triggers, with a side trip to burgle Kontos' basement, and one optional dungeon I'll be saving for later. Considering that the game engine obviously can track events by time passed, it's odd that they didn't do that, since it might have applied a sense of urgency to what was going on and a bit of time pressure to, for instance, finish up Kontos' basement for evidence and find the right persons to talk to.
Alright, I guess we better head over to the shrine and prevent anyone from doing anything stupid we'll regret.
Don't you mean something stupid they'll regret?
I don't trust anyone on this island to be smart enough to understand when they fucked up.
...how is no one here yet?
Either we're faster than everyone in Kounos or they all stopped at the bar to get drunk first, or maybe they went to harass the Iskai directly, let's go check Srimalinar.
No sign of any sieging army.
No rampaging mobs on the street.
But something's clearly up, I haven't even tried to rob this place yet.
Nothing of value?
Nothing within reach of the counter and since Rainer still has the gun he could shoot me if I tried to punch the shopkeep. Let's go see Edjirr, he was relatively on the ball last time.
Whoah, what's with the sass?
Everyone's talking about it. The humans are planning to take over our holy shrine, because they are convinced it is dangerous. THEY HAVE NO IDEA! But there are a couple of incidents for which we don't have any explanation either. Like the creatures everyone is seeing near the shrine: I don't know where they come from, but they are not coming from our cellar. There is almost always one of us there and I'm sure they would notice it. But that fact doesn't seem to interest the humans at all. I guess they don't want to listen to us. If they break our taboo, there will be trouble. Speak to Kontos yourself. He's probably already thought of something new!
I'm starting to believe you about Kontos' incompetence, how do the Iskai already know?
Sufficiently advanced idiocy can be indistinguishable from magic.
Let's go harass Kontos again, maybe this time he'll snap and attack us so we can call it self defense.
Let me just ask you outright because you might be arrogant enough to admit it: did you pay someone to stab Herras?
Beloveno's 'Council of the Just' is a farce. They talk, but do nothing. We, on the other hand, act.
Now, there's a branching dialogue tree here, but as far as I can tell it just changes Kontos' responses and nothing about what actually happens. You can either agree with him, call him an idiot moronperson or reply neutrally.
Come off it, we know you have friends on the council.
Allies? That is nonsense. I would be glad if Beloveno and its council would be more cooperative, but that is just not the case. You shouldn't believe everything you hear. I have enemies, that's for sure. There are many jealous people who don't like my success and reputation - they just want to ruin it. But you are intelligent and certainly can distinguish between rumors and the truth.
Nice try, no one calls me nice things unless they want something.
Ah, you are nothing but a bunch of pig-headed numskulls who don't know your place in the world.
Alright, I'm getting tired of this. One more insult and it's bone-snapping time.
Then get out of here. I told you at the beginning that I am busy and have no time for you.
There's a cut section of dialogue where you can piss him off enough that he calls the guards, alternately it may only trigger if you talked your way past Nodd rather than murdering him, and then you get a second chance to take a swing at him.
I still don't understand why we just left.
Well, considering how he seems to have fooled the entire village, can you imagine if we took a swing at him and they all came pouring in?
Good point, no way we'd be able to haul that amount of loot.
Okay, you two are getting unsettling. It'd be wrong to kill them just for getting fooled by Kontos' populist rhetoric.
Also they might kill us, and then we'd get no loot at all.
So what now?
We go check on Herras, if he's alive then he'll probably pay us.
You might not think to go check on Herras, but as far as I can tell doing so, whether he's survived or died, that's the next trigger that will advance the plot.
No increased security, hopefully that's a good sign.
Now tell us how they fucked it up.
It happened in the middle of the night. I heard the guards posted in front of my doors cry out. Had I not placed the heavy saber under my pillow, I wouldn't have been able to defend myself. My attackers were so surprised at my strong defense, that they just fled. They were disguised and I didn't recognize them, but I think it might have been Gard and Riko. Besides, they have recently disappeared. I don't have any proof yet, but I think there's a connection. If I had not been so well prepared, I would no longer be here. I hope you accept this reward as thanks.
Ha ha, what a pair of losers. Now pay up.
You have really earned it! Take this key and go into the council house treasury of Beloveno. Take anything you want.
Now what if we told you Kontos was behind this?
I'd consider believing you... but now would be a poor time to respond. Kontos has converted his plans into action and is occupying the shrine and the surrounding area with his warriors. It's surprising how the inhabitants of Kounos stand behind their leader. He has a considerable amount of influence on them. I really wonder if it is actually the Iskais' fault that these horrible creatures appear. In any case, Kontos maintains that this is what's happening and his followers believe it. In any case, you can't really blame the Iskai for the way they are reacting. They, too, are sending warriors to the shrine and you can certainly imagine what is going on there. But it is clear that their taboo, pride, and religion are being disrespected and violated. Since you are a very mixed group, you may not be able to be served in some shops. The relation between Iskai and humans is very tense right now!
Herras is pretty efficient about managing the council, too, Riko and Gard are already replaced by two new generic NPC's without much dialogue.
Now let's crack open that treasury, it's been taunting me ever since we landed on Maini.
The haul is honestly a bit disappointing at this point, or can be. If you've been playing intelligently and have some degree of knowledge of the game, by this point you'll already have exhausted a lot of what's worth buying in stores and money will really only be relevant in terms of topping up on mana and healing potions.Those two are, admittedly, extremely vital, but the good equipment henceforth will all be loot from chests and the bodies of boss enemies.
Let's celebrate this with a drink.
While there's a war brewing? We should hurry to intervene!
When's the last time our speed has mattered? Hell, Mellthas' dad survived like a week stuck in a basement while we took our sweet time getting there. The assassin on Nakiridaani wasn't going anywhere either.
I hate to say it, but Tom has a point.
I don't know anything about any amount of missing healing potions from the Dji Cantos guild in Jirinaar and I wasn't even anywhere near it when they all got converted to cash and spent on Drirr's gear.
Tom was busy teaching me how to kill and butcher Krondiir at the time, that's what he told me his alibi was going to be.
If there's a bounty on him, I'll turn him in.
Clearly I've been too good a teacher.
Settle down, I'm not here on behalf of law enforcement.
Well, we'd love to come with you, but I keep hearing a chorus of voices that would be very angry with me if I didn't resolve the war here first.
That's what we call a conscience.
Ha ha, no, I wouldn't listen to a conscience. I mean Sira and Rainer, one of them has a gun and the other could freeze me solid.
Very well, Tom, I'll wait here until you resolve matters on Maini.
Funny how Frill seemed to know where to find us.
Yeah, I haven't experienced anything like that since I got rid of the tracking anklet.
You were saying about time not mattering?
Oh for God's sake. I guess we have to go talk them down.
Alright, gang, we already got evidence from Kontos' lab. Now the funny thing to do would be to find Riko and Gard and punch them until they snitch on Kontos, but they've apparently vanished into the aether.
About the only place we haven't found solid evidence yet has been Srimalinar, you think maybe the missing piece is there?
Worth a try, these meatheads are gonna stand around all day measuring dicks until we get back anyway.
I feel like I'm getting the hang of this "adventurer" business, you just go talk to everyone in a vaguely threatening way until someone cracks and gives you enough circumstantial evidence to proceed to violence.
I was going to say you were describing police work, but honestly not far off. Alright Edjirr, hand over the evidence.
You can have them, just so you can see who you are dealing with. I have copies of it, too. It's only part of a document which Kontos wanted to destroy. It tells a lot, though.
Oh my God it's the other half of the document we found in Kontos' basement. How the hell did it even end up here? Anyway, let's glue this back together and see what it says...
The document always felt like the weakest part of this plot to me. Why would Kontos tear up his own important documents and hide them in his basement, and how would the other half end up with the Iskai? Again it feels like there's a missing part for Riko and Gard here, where they would've ended up with part of it.
Let's get back to the siege at the shrine and wave this around until it resolves the plot.
Hold on, we haven't killed Kontos yet!
Oh, trust me, that part is coming now. He's managed to literally back himself into a corner. Let's get him, gang.
...this just looks like an Iskai basement.
I kind of expected him to rush at us with a knife or something and we'd all laugh and stab him repeatedly.
Have to admit, that's what I would've bet on, too. Oh well let's loot some spare change out of the place and head out again.
What, like a soul?
So the reason this place was taboo was that it's like an apartment, but for ghosts.
Kontos is similar to a weaker Nodd fight. More HP, still immune to freezing, casts spells that hit more targets but do less damage than Nodd's sword swings. The parties trade blows and, looking for something for Sira to do, I have her cast Sleep Spores on him which bugs out the game.
Rather than disappearing, the spell effect stays on screen, and every spell cast after has no effect but its animation keeps staying on-screen.
Even if you kill me, my curse will remain!
I hope this isn't punishment for pinching stuff from the shrine.
...maybe if we make camp, it'll pass in the morning.
Yes, we didn't break reality at all, now let's get the hell off this island.
Also I'd like a day where I'm not washing blood out of my fur for once.
It's good to be at sea again.
Also this way the heat will die down before anyone starts wondering where all the gold went.
Maybe for once we'll go somewhere peaceful where no one needs killing.
Next: The party achieves enlightenment.