The Let's Play Archive


by Seorin

Part 25

Chapter the Twenty Fourth: The Misguided Birth of the Modern Age

The storm that had been brewing earlier was finally starting, and I wanted to get inside as quickly as possible. I wasn't looking forward to mucking around in a deadly secret passage and even less so while WET. I decided it would be best to at least try and reason with Bates' guard. Magnus could've been right after all. "Hello there, friend. I've got a bit of a tip for you."

"I, uh, I don't know what you are talking about!" ...and just why would I think that Magnus was right? I've gone totally crazy.

The guard took on a very angry, stern tone, "I suggest you be on your way before I have you arrested. I have no patience for Appleby or his ilk."

That does it. Now I'm angry. "Are you mentally deficient? I'm trying to warn you!"

"Please take your insults elsewhere. I have a job to do here." I could tell from his tone that he desperately regretted having no actual proof of my involvement with Appleby. If he could've arrested me he would've, no doubt. Luckily for me I was very good at leaving little to no proof.

An angry rain poured out of the skies with malevolent fury as I ran towards the cemetary. By the time I reached the hidden passageway I was soaked to the bone, my boots covered in mud. Virgil brushed the remaining water off of his plate, having avoided the worst of it sheerly by being so well covered.

The passage itself was comprised of several long and winding passageways each separated by trapped and locked doors. The locks I could bypass easily enough, but I had little experience with or patience for traps. I plodded onward stubbornly, getting zapped, stabbed, and even shot on occasion. If the door traps weren't bad enough the floors along the passageways were absolutely riddled with even more traps.

"Samantha!" Virgil scolded as he mended the worse of my wounds with magick, "Have you gone completely mad! Turn away from this foolishness and let's find another way in! There's got to be some other way... any other way. Please?"

"Absolutely not, Virgil. I've decided this is the best way in and so this is the way we'll go i--erggh." I stepped on another electrical trap and the jolt of current that flowed through my body made speech temporarily difficult. Virgil glared at me and I rubbed a salve over one of my bullet wounds. Jayna, where have you run off to...? It was thanks to her that I had any salves at all, and they were coming quite in handy for times like these.

Magnus followed along with Virgil and I, making damn sure to complain as loudly and belligerently as he could whenever he found himself on the receiving end of another trap. "I'll not continue to stick by your side if you insist on dragging me through places like this," he warned. I didn't even give him the dignity of a response. I'm taking the lead and I've been stabbed at least twice as many times as you have, yet you still complain.

After what seemed to be an interminable march down a path that spelled certain doom, I finally encountered a ladder leading upward. Climbing it took me up into a pleasantly warm and dry building. The fancy decorations and artwork that hung on the walls reassured me that my memory had been correct. I had just broken into the mansion of the esteemed Gilbert Bates.

Better steal what I can while the thieving's good! I opened up various cabinets, closets, and drawers in the room I found myself in but didn't find any actual valuables. I did find sets of dry clothes for me and my companions, however, and they just so happened to be servant's uniforms. Oh Cedric... you had the right idea, but you're too much of a damned fool to actually make anything useful out of it.

The main entry hall was breathtakingly grand. Two staircases with gilded railings and ornate carpeting wound up to the second floor hallway. I followed them upward almost in a trance, merely letting my eyes soak up the grandiose wealth that must have gone into decorating and remodeling the old castle.

An older gentleman on the second floor glared at me suspiciously as I absent-mindedly entered his room. "I do not recognize you, are you new here?"

I nearly gasped. ...but I recognize you... how could I not? "I'm not a servant. I need to speak with you about this ring." I pulled the signet ring out of my pocket and showed it to him in an open palm.

I told you it was bloody important, you lousy gate guard. I ought to tell Bates to fire you. I almost died in that damned passage! "A gnome gave it to me as he lay dying."

Mr. Bates grew almost angry when I said it, shouting at me as if I'd offended him. "A gnome! What manner of tomfoolery is this? Are you certain it was not a dwarf?"

I nodded slowly, as if speaking with an imbecile. I knew that Gilbert Bates was no imbecile, however his present attitude confused me. "Of course. I've never seen a skinny, beardless dwarf."

He seemed to calm down but he was very pensive about what I'd just told him. "Yes. I am... familiar with dwarves and their customs. Tell me, was there anything distinctive about this fellow?"

You mean other than the melodramatic speech, lying in flaming wreckage, or the... oh, that. "He had a scar over his left eye."

Alberich? Why is a human invoking the name of the god of dwarves? "I suppose it could have been a sick dwarf, but his beard..." I could tell Magnus was seething silently behind me, but I didn't know if it was at the mention of a beardless dwarf or a human invoking his god's name.

Mr. Bates pressed on. "Yes, I know. It is madness... but please, tell me, did he say anything to you before he died? Did he say anything about, uh... about me?"

You must find the boy... hmm, come to think of it Bates is hardly a child. "He said he had escaped to warn us about 'the evil'..."

That seemed to confuse Mr. Bates just as much as it had me. "The evil? What evil? And where did he escape from?"

I shrugged hopelessly. "He didn't say. I was hoping you would know what it meant. He said that you would know what needed to be done." At least I think he meant Bates... it is his ring, and he seems to be familiar with the gnom-er, dwarf.

"He referred to you as a boy. Why would he do that?" Gilbert Bates was an old, old man. He was quite a bit older than even myself and I was certainly no spring chicken. I supposed that I wasn't exactly an old woman, either, but nobody would even think to refer to me as a little girl. Referring to Bates as a boy made even less sense.

Betrayal? Now this is getting interesting. Bates' voice sounded so desponded and dejected, yet still I could not bring myself to feel true pity for him. It's difficult to pity a man surrounded by servants and wealth when you've spent most of your life stealing or being abused just so you could survive. "How did you come to betray him?" Aside from that simple matter, he certainly wasn't the only one to have regrets in his past. Oh what I wouldn't give to take it all back....

He hung his head low as he spoke, "That, that is quite the long tale... a tale of my shame, it is."

My utter lack of sympathy actually made me feel guilty. Surely Bates' regrets were no less significant to him than my own were to me. There was just something about him, about how much better of a life he'd had that set off a terrible jealousy inside of me. I supposed that, in a way, my guilt was a poor form of sympathy. At the very least I felt bad, and that was something. "I'm listening."

Ironic indeed. When I made a mistake I got locked up and nearly starved to death. Instead, you strike it rich.

He continued his story, "I was obviously a novelty to them, a ridiculous human who had a natural bent towards technology. I suppose it didn't help that I was a mere 14 years old at the time. I became something they humored to entertain themselves. Stennar was the only one who truly called me friend in all those years, and betrayal is how I repaid his friendship. It was he who first showed me their steam engine, as if he knew I could appreciate the beautiful intricacies of its design."

So Appleby isn't a total loon after all. Perhaps that's not the best way to think of it. Appleby is still a total loon, he just happens to be right about that one tiny little thing.

Magnus nodded affirmatively as Bates continued his story, "I asked him if I could tinker with it, perhaps improve on it, as I knew this was the key to becoming truly a part of the dwarven world. I quickly devised a way to use it to power a pump for draining the mines. When I fell all over myself trying to explain it to them, laughter was, once again, their only response. I knew I had to somehow gain their respect, so I hastily sketched some schematics and set out to prove my theory.

"The struggling human mining company that I brought the plans to offered me a share in their mines for the steam pump! I was ecstatic - I had not a care for their mines or their money, I desired vindication! When I returned to the dwarves to boast of my accomplishments and be welcomed into their clan... they were gone. The inventions came quickly after that, fueled by my anger and confusion."

"They appeared to me late one night and they warned me never to speak of, nor try to find, the dwarves again. Still being a mere lad, you can imagine the terror that put into me. As my wealth and power grew, I shook off some of my youthful fear and hired the first in a long chain of investigators to locate Stennar and his clan."

...and now here I come, uninvited, straight into your home... bringing the strongest link you've got left... and you can't help but treat me like your best friend, tell me everything you've wanted to say for so many years but couldn't... I swallowed hard, wishing that I hadn't somehow become involved in all of this. "But why did he send me here with your ring?"

I felt silly saying it, but I had precious little else to go on. "The Panarii think the 'evil' refers to someone named Arronax."

Mr. Bates frowned and waved his hand dismissively, "I don't put much stock in religious ramblings. I'm more concerned with who killed Stennar, and why, and what all this has to do with my relationship with the Black Mountain Clan."

I shrugged, "So what is to be done, now?"

So now you wish to hire me as your newest investigator? "I'd like to ask you some further questions before I commit myself." Absolutely not... I've no cause to risk my life even further just for financial gains and intellectual curiosities... damnation, I've already decided I'm going to accept, haven't I? One of these days I'm going to get my fool self killed.

He nodded patiently. "Of course. What would you like to know?"

I tried to wrap my head around everything he'd just told me. "So... you didn't actually invent the steam engine?"

He countered as though he'd been waiting for somebody to ask him that question for the last 60 years. "I have never actually claimed that I did! It was just people's assumption. I have invented any number of devices based off its principles, but I did not invent the first one."

"Is that not dishonest? Taking credit for something you didn't do?" I felt hypocritical asking that. I certainly wasn't going to win any awards for honesty.

"I see. That makes sense. ...but why the need to impress the dwarves after they rejected you?" Perhaps that was where Bates and I differed. When I was rejected I sought to harm those that I felt wronged me, whereas Bates instead tried to gain their favor.

I do understand, Mr. Bates. You are not the only one in this world that grew up without parents... and you are not the only one to make terrible mistakes because of it. "You were orphaned? What happened?"

The story he told didn't really seem to make him sad anymore, which made me feel slightly less guilty about having asked. "My mother died bringing me into this world. I believe my father died then as well, even though he continued to exist in the world for some eight more years. When he could stand living no longer, he took his own life.

"He left me decently provided for, and with his grasp on reality becoming more tenuous each day, I believe he felt I would be safer in the care of others. The last thing he did in this life was to give me that ring."

I thumbed the ring unconsciously. "And then you gave it to Stennar?"

I understood Mr. Bates' sentiment all too well. I thought then that we had more in common than he would ever truly realize. I quickly shifted the subject before getting too mired down in my own emotions and memories. "Uh, well... what about the attempt on your life? Nasty business, that."

I nearly fainted from shock and worry. Sweat began dripping from my nervous brow. They're after Bates, too... and they almost succeeded. "The Molochean Hand?" I needed to know anything that Bates could tell me.

I do desperately hope you are right, Mr. Bates. I care not for ancient orders of assassins making attempts on my life. "They seem to be after me as well."

He was unphased. "Let us hope for both our sakes that they are mere pretenders to the name, then. I would be loathe to have the authentic Molocheans out for my blood."

You and I both, good sir. I have a feeling not many would take pleasure in such things, really. "Why do you suppose they tried to kill us?"

I glanced over at the ogre casting threatening glares from the corner of the room. "Some of our lives more than others, eh?" I hoped that Mr. Bates might see fit to provide this potential investigator with a bit of protection.

I supposed that was true enough, I had never really considered what it would be like to be rich and famous. The rich part was always a desire of mine from the first time I had to steal to eat, but the famous part not so much. "Can you tell me anything of your business, Mr. Bates?"

Err... about that prototype, you see... I wanted to mention Cedric in hopes of getting on Mr. Bates' good side. Not to mention I wasn't happy with how that business had went and it would bring me relief to remove the suspicion from my name. "How have you devastated your competition so?"

Mr. Bates shrugged almost sadly. "It is not much of an accomplishment when old Cedric Appleby is your chief competitor. Poor Cedric. Always was a bit of a blundering fool. I really wish I could have convinced him to come work for me..."

That was something I had not expected to hear. "Why? I mean, if he's such an idiot?" There's no 'if', he IS an idiot.

Perhaps now was a bad time to bring it up, but I wanted to mention it before the subject changed again. "Appleby tried to hire me to steal something to expose you with." Well... that cat's out of the bag.

I began to sweat again at just what that implied. It was never my intent to get Mr. Bates to kill or otherwise harm Cedric, but he'd just spoken of doing so as casually as he might've asked a servant to fetch his shoes. I needed to change the subject, and fast. "Do you have any labor difficulties in your factories?" Good god, I hope I never get on your bad side.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire. "I didn't mean to imply anything, sir. Simply curious."

Almost human. You say it as though it should be something to be proud of. 'Why, I hardly abuse my workers!' Regardless of anything else I knew that I had no choice but to explore the mine. If the Molochean Hand that kept trying to kill me was truly the real one then I wouldn't be able to shake them off by running and hiding. It seemed that trying to run away only ever brought me pain anyhow, and I had finally resolved to confront my problems. "I've decided to explore the Black Mountain Clan mines for you."

Our business was finally concluded. It appeared as though I was no longer an enemy of the Bates estate, but instead an employee. I wasn't entirely happy about it, but it sure beat running. "I shall return with the information you have requested."

Greed overcame me. "That is not enough." You're the richest man in Tarant, perhaps in the entire world, and you're giving me a pathetic offer like that after all I've gone through to bring this to you? Do you have any idea how dangerous that secret passage is alone?! ...and you! You're the reason those assassins are trying to kill me! 200 coins is an insult!

The look in Mr. Bates' eyes was a frightening one, and I knew for certain that he had heard me correctly the first time. "What sort would I be to refuse such an offer?" I laughed nervously, tossing the ring to him. He motioned for a servant to pay me. I accepted the coins graciously, lest I offend Bates any further.

If I return, you mean. What makes you think I'll succeed where dozens of others have failed? I had to will my feet to move forward after the monumental task I'd just accepted. Disappearing clans, ancient assassins... oh, Frederick, why did I ever leave you?

Bonus Content

Explanation of Technical Manuals and Other Related Subjects:

Manuals raise your aptitude in the relevant discipline by an amount equal to your intelligence. Thus, if you want to make something that requires 45 explosives and you have 9 int and no ranks in explosives, you need to be carrying 5 explosives manuals to be able to make it

The only exception to this is a learned (not found) schematic since you have no schematic to work from (you only get it for learning that discipline to the appropriate level). This isn't even a bug, it's just a way of helping tech characters to be less gimpy - and it's also why the manuals cost 750 a pop. Also, contrary to my story, they can't actually be stolen (but money is disturbingly easy to come by in large quantities if you're patient - and there's also a dupe trick).

Because of this, int is very questionable as a stat to improve. Skillwise it only affects Gambling (nearly entirely redundant with pick pockets), Heal (waste of points when you can get the same thing for a single point in herbology), and Repair (although I'm taking it on this character for flavor, it's actually a really pointless skill and I have only used it once so far). As a stat it only affects the number of spells you can maintain at one time and the level of learned schematics you can acquire (topping out at 19 int required for the 7th schematic of each discipline). Since maintaining spells requires a constant expenditure of fatigue, being able to maintain 5 spells at once actually does more harm than good (it is unwise to maintain that number of spells). Accordingly, it's my opinion that learned schematics are the single reason you have to ever have a high int.

I did make a character with a high int that went to the top of the firearms and explosives disciplines, but I wouldn't do that again. Honestly, the high end schematics are not as useful as the points you spend to get them (including the points spent to raise int). You won't be gimped or anything (especially with tech fix patches), but you would definitely be more effective if you spent those points in either dex or strength/perception (depending on melee or ranged).

As such, I highly recommend never increasing your intelligence above 13. At that point you can get up to the fourth level of any learned schematics. You could stay at 12 int, which lets you reach expert level in any related skills. You could also sit at 11 int if you can get by only reaching the third level of any learned schematics - and often you can. I wouldn't go lower than 10 (except when playing a dumb character for fun) since at least one conversation in the game - a fairly major one - checks for int of 10 or higher. If you're going to go higher than than 13 you're surely aiming for 15, since 14 gets you quite literally nothing, so you may as well go for 20 (if you're up to the fifth learned schematic you probably want the seventh and at that point you may as well hit int 20 for the 10% skill check bonus).

If you did that I'd save it until you have everything else you plan on getting since you won't be improving much when you're pumping points into int. There are certainly benefits to having int that high, but I think they are outweighed by the benefits of an equal number of points in other locations. I'd love to hear any arguments for a high int, though, especially earlier in the game! It's fair to mention that my high int character got said int very early and had to abuse explosives to survive (no tech fix patches). That could be seriously skewing my perception of its value.

I think I've rambled far enough off the topic of tech manuals now, but hopefully somebody found some amusement in my dissertation on the acquisition of high intelligence.


Since I'm out of books to post, I wasn't really sure what else (if anything) I could add here. My wife suggested that many of you would be pleased to see more about Gar, so I loaded up a backup save and hacked the character's stats to be able to get Gar. This pseudo-update is dedicated entirely to that lovable 'orc' known as Gar.

"Gar not idiot. Gar smart. [He looks around to make certain no one else can hear.] Listen here, madam, have you ever conversed with a pure bred orc? You'll not be in for a scintillating conversation, of that I can assure you."

"But isn't the point of all this that you are smarter than other orcs?"

"Of course, but people will not accept a cultured orc. The very idea is preposterous. They would begin saying I was a half orc, or even deduce my true... I mean, uhm, what I meant to say was, it is more effective showmanship for me to appear every bit the orc and to say brilliant things."

"Deduce your true what? You're not a pure bred orc?"

"You must have seen how orcs are treated in this world. It is not pretty. Though my circumstances may seem demeaning, it is better than being spit on in the streets, or being no more than a slave in a factory."

"Are you owned by this museum, or are you free to leave?"

"I am a bit of an indentured servant of Mr. Parnell's. He paid my parents a good sum of coin to have me come work for him."

"That was a bit cruel of your parents to sell you off."

"I will most likely stay here for the remainder of my existence, I have nothing else to do with my life. It's not so bad, actually. The only dreadful aspect of this existence is the sheer boredom. You can not imagine the idiocy of the common folk I must contend with on a daily basis."

"Why don't you join with me? I can promise it will not be boring."

"While that sounds intriguing, I am indentured to Mr. Parnell for years to come, as I have said. It would cost quite a bit of coin to free me from my obligations."

"If I were to secure your freedom, would you join with me?"

"Of course. I would find it invigorating to travel Arcanum, I believe."

"I will try to negotiate on your behalf, then."

"[He is sweating profusely and spit is flying from his mouth.] You wouldn't dare!"

"You must see how easily someone could ruin your reputation."

"Oh thank you! Thank you!"

"Please, it was nothing. Good bye, sir."

): "I have managed to procure your freedom, Gar."

"Good bye, madam. I thank you for returning my freedom to me."

In loving memory...
Unknown - 1885
Beloved orc... museum exhibit... lover of tea...