Part 30: Episode 29: Big Names and a Bigger Body Count
Episode 29: Big Names and a Bigger Body Count
So now two of my questions had been somewhat answered. The portal that we passed on the way in was the "Eye of Suffering" and the ships were enemy probes sent to scout out the planet's defenses. While we weren't quite sure who they were, we were pretty sure we were the bad guys. Oh, and the six creatures that we killed on the way in? They were good guys.
Speaking of enemy probes, it couldn't be a good idea to leave it around here. I had seen enough movies to know that we're supposed to stick it on someone else's truck or let some animal eat it to throw them off the trail. Hell, it's not too late to strap the sucker to one of the giant snails.
So while the dude with the really long unpronounceable name hadn't told us where the three points of interest are, this other dude with an equally incomprehensible name was going to fill us in.
He said, "The first point of interest in the city of Sesostris is the Lance of the Vigil. It is the very reason we are being invaded. You will find the Lance on the Pillars of Sesostris. The second point of interest is the Bridge of Betrayal. You already know it intimately… it is where you fought and destroyed the Sagen-Kra. The third and final point of interest is the Cliff of Casting, which you will find within the city. I cannot stress enough the importance of this battle. Fight to your last, and do not fail. The fate of existence rests in your hands."
I congratulated him on the alliteration with the bridge and the cliff, but wondered why they dropped the ball with the lance. Lance of Light? Lance of Lament? Come on, generic fantasy names aren't that hard.
The same scene was playing out throughout the city, families and lovers saying what might be their last goodbyes. The warrior said, "You must hurry inside, my wife. The battle draws near."
Turning toward me with a scowl, she said, "Look there. It is the stranger who felled the Sagen-Kra."
"This? Why do we allow him to breathe another minute? All we have fought for is now in jeopardy."
"The Lost Brother would not have sent him without reason."
"But what chance does such a spindly creature stand against a Dark Servant," the man asked skeptically.
"But a mere three of them defeated the Sagen-Kra. If the High Prelate has confidence in them, they must be heroes of merit and worth."
Yeah, we also have a superhero, a planet, and …oh yeah, guns.
"Very well, wife. Let them help if they are able."
"Do not worry. The story of the Vigil will not end here today."
"It is the last chapter of your own story that I fear will be writ. Please be safe."
I mean I was sorry that we killed their big defense system. I really was. Too bad it was hardly more difficult than the critters we killed on the way over. If that junk could keep these "Dark Servants" out, then I figured we should be more than a match for them.
One soldier chose to pray before a large black stone before the battle. I didn't pay attention to the words that he spoke so much as the object behind him. It was a monument to the dead that had fallen to the Dark Servants. The hexagonal tower was almost filled. Of course, the number of dead seemed larger than it really was due to the length of the average Limbusonian name, but it was still striking.
We walked through the city looking for the points of interest when we saw a man standing guard by a heavy black object. It seemed to be of the same material as the enemy probe.
"This is a shoulder stanchion of a Dark Servant," he explained. "Do not stare into its reflection too deeply. Many claim to see the dead who have been killed at the hands of the Dark Servants. We keep it here as a reminder. Underneath their armor, they are only men… not gods."
Nearby, we found a number of soldier's huddled in the armorer's chambers.
"The strap on my anklet is frayed loose!" one complained.
"My breastplate has a hair fracture!" said another.
"There's a dent in my siege helm and a tear in my breechcloth!" the third cried.
"Next time, do not wait mere moments before battle to replace equipment," the armorer chided them.
The city was actually pretty nice in a primitive tribal sort of way.
The inn was in the same general area as the fountain. Obviously, there was no time for sleeping. The beds were made of stone anyway.
On the other hand there was plenty of time to raid the hotel rooms for every item that wasn't bolted down. Most notably, we found another fragment of Kraptonite. After this little battle for existence or whatever was over, we could head back to Hephaestus to irradiate it.
Almost all of the inhabitants of Sesostris were uneasy about our presence. Most of them were, understandably, outright angry at us for killing the Sagen-Kra. Still, a small minority were understanding of our situation. This guy told us an uplifting anecdote. "In our ancient story of the King of Worriement," he said, "a prince, unaware of his royal lineage, defeats the Wall Ghost and opens up his city to attack. But he makes up for it in the end, and saves the kingdom. So do not worry yourself too much over the mishap with the Sagen-Kra. Such mistakes happen to everyone from time to time. Fight to your last. Redemption will follow."
Although not one of the points of interest, we did find the throne room and meeting hall. The sight of fathers saying farewells to their families was continued in here.
The guards in the throne room were strangely serene. "I knew this time would come," one said.
"As did I."
"It's really happening."
"I never got to say goodbye to your sister."
These scenes and conversations were being replayed all over the city. Every place we went, we were yelled at for bringing certain doom upon the city by some while the rest wished their loved ones fortune on the battle field.
No longer stopping to talk to the natives, I went through this tunnel that went upward toward the surface. It was supposed to lead to the Lance of the Vigil. Along the way, I found a Three Function Elementor Host to add to the collection.
And indeed it did lead to the giant cannon. It was already aimed squarely at the center of the eye. The guard on duty explained the situation to me. "Look up in the sky," he said. "That is the EYE OF SUFFERING…It is a one-way tunnel into our universe from a distant region of space. It is closed at the moment, but when the Dark Servants arrive, it will open and their invasion force will emerge from it."
"Five times theDark Servance have tried to invade us. Five times we have repelled them… with the LANCE OF THE VIGIL…a high range cannon that will automatically target and destroy anything that comes out of the Eye. It has been quite effective over the last fifty years. Our only concern is that the enemy has discovered the cannon's weakness. Sheer numbers in a concentrated attack can overwhelm the gun's slow rate of recharge. We believe the probes were testing its rate of fire. Now we're considering taking it off automatic. The cannon might be more effective if we man it ourselves. Unfortunately, our targeting skills are woefully weak. Is there anyone in your party with the proper skills for this task?"
"Paco's hands are too large for the controls and Cueball's got no hands, so I guess I'm the man for the job. I've also got a bit of experience with it comes to firing large cannons if you get my drift." I do carry a handcannon around after all. What did you think I meant?
"Very well. When the Eye of Suffering opens, dozens of Dark Servant troop transports will pour into our universe. Shoot down as many of them as you can. The more transports you fail to shoot down, the more Dark Servants our ground troops will be forced to fight. Their goal is the cannon itself. If they commandeer it, they can send as many troop transports into our universe as they wish. That cannot be allowed to happen. Good luck."
Nearby, Paco and Democratus found the next point of interest.
The guard told them, "Don't mind the stench. This is the entrance to the CLIFF OF CASTING. Follow me. I'll show it to you."
"This mile-deep chasm is where we dump the city's waste. While we do not usually consider this opening a vulnerability due to its inaccessibility, the enemy's flying skills make it a potential threat. Note that the tunnel behind us leads directly into Sesostris. If the Dark Servants discover this entrance, it is the quickest way into the city. Come. Let us return. This stench is overpowering. " They walked back into the city where the guard continued to brief them. "Now then. This is the most direct route into the city, and therefore the most prone to attack. Will you protect our backdoor?"
"You can trust Paco 'El Puno' Estrella to save the day," Democratus bravely offered.
"I am here," Paco grunted.
"Excellent. We shall put two of our bravest warriors under your command. Use them well. This position is critical. If you fail to defend it, the Dark Servants will devastate the city and commandeer the Lance of the Vigil. That cannot be allowed to happen. Good luck."
Alone, Democratus backtracked to the bridge where we slew the Sagen-Kra. He overheard a general giving a motivational speech to his troops.
"Roles," he said dramatically and paused for effect. "To play them is to participate in the story woven into the fabric of life. Whether we play the fool or the lover, hero or villain, we paint broad strokes of purpose with every word we utter, every action we take, across the face of reality in a sweeping gesture of drama. We live, love, breathe and die for one person: to play our roles in the service of story. Your role today is that of her. You will not break character. You will not show fear on your face. Every death, if it is meant for you, will be a wonderful moment of drama. Make it real. Live your death."
Death is not nearly as glamorous as they Limbusonians would have you believe.
He was given a similar briefing by the guard on duty. He said, "This is the BRIDGE OF BETRAYAL. Our greatest craftsmen and artisans labored decades to craft this monument to Limbusonian ingenuity and perseverance. It is also a key location in the upcoming battle. Any enemies that the Lance of the Vigil fails to shoot down will make their way to this bridge. The good news is that this bottleneck is the only way to breach the city gates. The bad news is that you destroyed our only means of defending it… the Sagen-Kra."
With all of us in position, it was time to wait for the inevitable Battle (video). / Backup
My impressive shooting meant that Paco and Democratus only had to deal with minimal forces. If only the shuttles hadn't been so easy to shoot down, maybe I wouldn't have yawned and let that one in. In time the sounds of the battle died out. We had won, but at what cost? Democratus told us how the Limbusonian fighters had hurled themselves at the enemy with little regard for their own lives and had died in droves. A deathly silence filled the city as the dead were numbered and damages assessed. The three of us went to take a quick look around for any remaining hostiles and then check in with the leader.
The armorer's house was empty now. He had an odd job that he wanted us to do for him. He began the story by saying, "While I was issuing equipment a few hours ago, the saddest excuse for a soldier stumbled in here to be outfitted. Every piece of equipment was too large for him. I had to poke additional holes in the armor belts in order to tighten the buckles around his skinny arms. It became obvious he wouldn't stand much of a chance against the Dark Servants without extra help, so I gave him a special twin-scaled underplate. It was a gift from my father before I became ill and unfit for duty. I don't know if he survived the battle, but I would love to get that underplate back either way.
We would have to go back onto the battlefield to find the kid.
The dead littered the ground, but none of them had the special underplate.
We searched around in some of the side paths of the crevice and eventually found the kid. Immediately he started trying to excuse what would be perceived as his cowardice. "They tell me lies," he said. "They tell me I'll be part of a grand story. They tell me I'll serve a greater good by sacrificing my life. But what greater good is there than living life, breathing the air, and experiencing love and hearth? You think it was easy watching my brothers-in-arms slaughter themselves for nothing? What good did it serve? What grand story was writing here today? What momumental - Wait, you just want my underplate? Sure. As long as you report me dead…Hey, can I hitch a ride with you guys?"
The kid was right to some degree. So many of them didn't have to die.
We returned the underplate to the armorer, and he was ecstatic. Excitedly, he asked us, "You found it? Was the kid alive or dead? Forget it. I would rather not know. Thank you for retrieving the underplate. I was afraid I would never lay eyes on it again. My friend, I'm willing to sell you a most rare item. It is, in fact, the most splendid shield cell that has ever been my honor to look on, much less possess. Our bards write glorious and miraculous stories about it. Many constellations are named after it. It figures prominently in the legend of King Sarlamoo. I will sell it to you for 8000 coinds of your beautiful currency."
It didn't even put a dent in our funds, so naturally I agreed.
"You will not be disappointed," he assured me, "Stories will be written of this changing of hands."
The cell was special for two reasons. First, it was specially crafted to resist the energy blasts used by the Dark Servants. Second, there was no limit to the power of the MysTech that it could fuel. Most cells have a very limited rate of NRG consumption, meaning that they simply aren't powerful enough to support some host configurations. The Vigil cell had seemingly unlimited throughput.
The soldiers were all somewhat surprised that we had won. Had we not shown up, they would have surely died. Their primitive spears were woefully ineffective against the enemy armor, and the Sagen-Kra would have been worthless against the forces that came from the Cliff of Casting.
Along with the soldiers quietly celebrating in the field, the women were gathered around the black stone pillar, seeing if their husband's or son's name had been added. One cried aloud, "Please let this be a dream. Tell me you are hidden away in the valley. Give me strength to close this book."
The number of dead due to improper planning made me furious. Why did the army march ahead to their death in the crevice instead of waiting at the bridge with Democratus? The soldiers were all too anxious to "play the hero." The kid was right.
The elderly man, too old to fight in this battle, spoke of death on the battlefield as "the ultimate honor". No wonder these guys were in such a hurry to get blown up.
Obviously he was talking about Sera. We'd have to come back here sometime, but for now I had had enough of the Limbusonian smug indifference to death. It was time to talk to the boss and get outta here.
He was reading some dumb book when we went to talk to him. Maybe Rho would be interested; books are her thing, not mine.
Santa, as I have since decided to call him, began to sing our praises as soon as we got near. He said, "You have participated in the greatest chapter of our story. You have pushed back the death of our universe. In helping us, you have become part of the Vigil, and are entitled to our knowledge. If your leader would follow me, it is time for you to hear the sacred story."
So, of course, I followed him up (video). / Backup
Roweidekhalicon? Drinking establishment in South Anachronox? I wonder who that could be.
End: Next time, we'll meet the elusive Roweidekhalicon, and do some more item/skill collection. We're in the home stretch now, folks. Honestly, I can't see this taking more than 5 more updates to finish. It'll likely just be 3 more. Of course, after the game is done, there will be some little things like the other character side quests on Democratus to show.