The Let's Play Archive


by Seorin

Part 34

Chapter the Thirty Third: Everybody Has Something to Flee From

I arrived at the women's camp quite suddenly, not having been able to see it from particularly far away. If it hadn't been marked so clearly on my map I very likely never would've been able to find it, though surely that was the point. Although the several women gathered around the campfire glared hatefully at my companions, they didn't seem overly aggressive towards me.

I shook my head, "I'm here to help a poor woman who wishes to join with you." Good god, they're practically naked. I really should've told Virgil and Vollinger to wait back at the encampment.

The woman looked at me sternly and crossed her arms. When she spoke her voice was firm, but I sensed a hint of uncertainty behind it. "Why has she sent you? Why is she not here herself?"

I pleaded with the woman, the pity evident in my voice. "She is not able to escape from the southern encampment. They treat her like property, and... they abuse her." I looked down at the ground, remembering the expression on Cynthia's face as she begged me to help her.

I didn't really 'escape'.... Do you honestly believe that fighting against armed guards is the same as surviving in the wild? "What message would you have me bring to her, then?"

The woman sighed, her eyes closed as she obviously recalled a distant memory. I could see her hands clenching reflexively into fists before loosening again. She opened her eyes and stared at me, "Tell her it is better to die fighting than to live in captivity."

Damn you! She doesn't stand a chance! I stared back at her angrily, our disagreement evident in our eyes. I never would've guessed that I would be the one championing some unrealistic, righteous ideal... but somehow, that day had come. "I don't believe that is the answer she was looking for."

The woman looked away, unable to face the accusation in my eyes. "I feel for her, but out here feelings mean nothing. I can give you this old pistol to bring to her." She placed a disgusting, horribly rusted old pistol into my hands. I would be surprised if it could even fire a single shot without blowing up in the user's face. "Tell her to use it to escape, if she means to join up with us."

I gently tossed the pistol back at the woman and she caught it without breaking eye contact. "Charging the gates with that pistol would be suicide and you know it."

Any shred of sympathy that she'd had in that moment was lost. She would not back down, not even in the slightest. "Such is life. Is there anything else?"

"I suppose not," I growled, "Good day."

I didn't entirely know what to do then. I'd made an honest effort to help the woman and I was coming away from it empty handed. I felt like I'd failed her, and I didn't want to face her so soon. How could I tell her that she'd be better off just killing herself? Nobody deserved to be told that, no matter how true it was. Checking over my map, I decided to take a slight detour over to Shades Beach. I felt guilty for prolonging her suffering, but at the same time I couldn't bear to shatter the one remaining hope she had.

The journey to the beach was only a day and a half away, perhaps two days at the longest. I arrived just before sundown, but I started feeling a bit unusual as early as noon. The feeling only grew the closer I drew to the beach. It wasn't a bad feeling, not by any means. It almost felt as though the air grew thinner, cleaner, and more breathable. I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

At last I came upon a massive wreckage. I simply stood there in awe for several moments, staring at the mechanical monstrosity. It had wires and gauges the likes of which I'd never seen before. The metal was a bit rusty but in otherwise spectacular shape considering just how atrociously wrecked the whole thing was. There were so many parts and pieces, many of them no longer attached, that I couldn't even identify half of them.

I was brought out of my stunned reverie when a disgustingly monstrous spider crept around the corner of the wreckage and charged at me. I dodged around it with the kind of agility possessed only by one accustomed to fighting. In a single, fluid motion I closed the distance between it and myself, positioned myself behind it, and cleaved it clear in two with a lone strike from my axe.

Killing it seemed to awaken many of its nearby friends and I was nearly swarmed by massive spiders. Vollinger's gun rang out and a nearby spider literally exploded, spindly little legs flying off in every direction. Virgil charged forth to help defend me and Terry darted past, mercilessly tearing a spider into pieces with his jaws. Together the four of us held fast against the wave of horrible creatures. I took special care in cleaning my axe off when the danger had passed.

Vollinger wandered around the wreckage of his own accord, picking up any little parts or objects that interested him. Virgil didn't seem entirely comfortable so I simply let him be. As for myself I scavenged absolutely everything that wasn't nailed down. I even managed to pick up a couple of schematics, but they were very worn and old. I couldn't make out all of the writing on them but I understood them for the most part and I knew I could follow them.

Of most interest was a schematic that I shared with Vollinger. It was obviously for a gun, though the description on the schematic itself was very unusual, "Bronwyck's........ powerful chassis...... Unparalleled design........... chemical properties of mithril........ violent reactions......... controlled destruction....... gunsmiths of Vendigroth....." Vendigroth? VENDIGROTH? Legendary birthplace of technology? That's supposed to be just a fairy tale, like the Living One nonsense. Is this some kind of joke?

I shrugged off the cryptic commentary on the schematic and simply noted the design for further development. It certainly looked like it would work if I could get my hands on all the parts. I'd already wasted too much time pondering it, however. I needed to get back to the encampment and rescue Cynthia. There was no way I could leave her there to suffer or die, it was too heartless. If I couldn't leave her, then my only other option was to save her myself. I had a feeling my decision would get me into loads of trouble, but if I played my cards right I would have a few allies in case things got rough. First I needed to deliver Norian his receipt.

The journey back to the encampment was a relatively long one, but I was growing quite accustomed to near endless travel. I passed not too far from Maximillian's shack, but I decided against visiting in on him. Best to leave him alone with his thoughts. I swear, I will get him off this island. It took me 5 straight days to reach the encampment and it was once again late when I arrived. I stopped by Norian's first thing and handed him the receipt.

I still felt that Norian's trust was awfully poorly placed, but I took the bottle of moonshine anyway. I had a plan. Next, I wandered back across the encampment over to Jones' place. He made an odd jingle as he rose up out of his chair to greet me. "Hey, Jones," I said casually, dropping what looked like some bizzarre kind of pocket watch onto the table. "Think this'll do?"

I looked at the strange part he'd given me and suddenly it clicked. This was the same piece I'd seen on the schematic I picked up earlier. As it was it was no better than junk, but I made a habit out of turning junk into useful tools and gadgets. "It's been a pleasure working with you as well, Jones. Good day to you." I turned and was about to head out the door when I realized I was forgetting a vital part of my plan. I turned back around, "Say, Jones, how would you like a bottle of of Norian's moonshine?" I held up the bottle to show him.

"How would I like it? Why I'd like it every bit as much as I'd like a fine young..." His voice began to trail off and he looked off to the side of the room, unsure and embarrassed, making a light cough to cover up the silence. "I'd like it very much, madam."

Unperturbed, I set the jug on the table and slid it over to him. "Tell me where around here I can find Thorvald." I grinned at him knowingly.

He merely looked up, shocked. "Thorvald? That's it? You wanna know where Thorvald is? You just make a right when you head outta here and you can't miss it. Just look for the half ogre fella out front."

"Thanks again, old man." I snapped on my way out.

"Hey!" he called after me, "I ain't old yet!" His hoarse laugh chased me the rest of the way out of his shack and I could still hear the jingling of his trinkets all the way over by Cynthia. We'll make our escape now, while it's still dark. Even in case of the worst I now know where Thorvald is and I can pay him a little visit. "Good evening, Cynthia," I leaned in closely, "I've returned to help you escape."

She looked confused all of the sudden, glancing up at me hopefully.

I shook my head sadly, trying to explain their reasoning as best I could, "They want nothing to do with those who cannot help themselves." I suppose that's about as kindly as I could've put it.

She looked utterly crestfallen. With a deep sigh she steeled herself for what had to be done, "I suppose they are right. I should be able to extricate myself from my bonds if I'm to be welcomed amongst them."

I held out a hand to her, "No. Please, let me help you. It is a dangerous trek to their camp. You and I both know that you'll never make it out of here alive without my help, it's not right for them to expect you to fight against armed human guards just to prove you can survive in the wilderness. Please."

She still seemed unsure, glancing at me curiously. I surmised that she was trying to gauge whether I was really trustworthy or if I'd somehow been bribed by her captors. At last she deflated, "You would do that for me? I thank you, and humbly accept your offer of help."

I nodded affirmatively, "Follow me. I'll find some way to get you out of here." Without skipping a beat I marched off towards the gate. I tried to stroll through casually, hoping the darkness would conceal the additional member of my entourage.

Just my bloody luck. His words utterly enraged me, being so presumptuous as to dictate who Cynthia was even allowed to talk to. Despite that, I wanted to avoid killing the man if I could, but I was all too willing to do so if I had to. I tried reasoning with him. "Why is she not allowed to leave? I am a woman, and I can leave..."

The guard actually began to chuckle as though I'd just asked a horrendously stupid question. "She is the property of the camp. If you choose to stay here, you will become our property as well." He winked at me and grinned lecherously.

Like bloody hell I will! If you lay one finger on me I'll chop the damn thing off, and that's a promise! If reasoning wouldn't work, then deception was the next best thing. I spit on the guard's boot and growled at him angrily, "She is my property now, haven't you heard? I bought her from Thorvald. Stop detaining us, dog!" Although my anger was genuine, I was only showing it to throw him off balance and better conceal my lie. It seemed to be working, as his face flushed bright red and he looked very suddenly worried.

"Hmph. Good day." I motioned for my companions to exit first and I kept my gaze fixed on the guard until all of them were through. I was the last to exit, the guard still sheepishly mumbling apologies as I left. Haha! That worked even better than I ever could've dreamed! ...and I got to spit at him, too!

After we were out of sight of the encampment we sat down to rest for the evening. Cynthia finally spoke to me, the first thing she said since we'd left. "Thank you very much, madam... I... I don't even know what to say. That was quite impressive."

I was still a bit angry at the whole situation, and my anger showed through in my words. "Think nothing of it, dear girl. You heard the man, they'd have tried to treat me like property as well if I'd given the opportunity. Hmph. That'll be the day."

Virgil chuckled, "I'd almost like to see them try." I glared at him but he knew I didn't mean it.

Vollinger, for once, smiled. It was slight, but it was definitely a smile, "I must agree with Virgil here, I would love to see how you'd treat a man that would try and hold you in captivity."

I sighed, remembering my complicated history with Frederick. With a weak and sad voice I managed to say, "Perhaps... not as poorly as the two of you might think. Good night." I turned to lay down on the ground, letting my mind wander until at last I was granted the brief respite of sleep. In response there was only stunned silence, which I, at least, appreciated.

We set off again early in the morning and continued on that schedule for as long as Cynthia was with us. Despite my selfish attitude of the prior night we all got along well on that short leg of our journey, laughing and joking like best friends or perhaps even family. Family? Would I really consider these people my family now? In time we did eventually reach the women's camp.

The leader of the women, Lorria, glared at me as I neared her camp shortly after nightfall. I curtsied lightly, which was entirely a mocking gesture, "This is the woman I told you about. She wishes to join you." Lorria sighed and kicked at the ground lightly before looking up at me again, her eyes softened somehow.

"Is it not better to die fighting than to live in captivity?" I winked slyly. "So... will you let her join you, then?"

Lorria nodded towards me respectfully, "She may stay with us, yes."

She'll be one of you in no time... anything is better than being held captive in that awful place. "Thanks. Let me know if I can ever be of help." Lorria nodded again and turned back to the campfire, tending it thoughtfully.

Cynthia ran up behind me and hugged me quite genuinely. Tears were rolling down her cheeks, "Thank you! Thank you so much for bringing me here! I'll never forget your help, I promise!"

I pushed her away gently, embarrassed. "You're welcome. Just do what Lorria says. It'll be a harsh life out here, but... at the very least nobody will abuse you. Good luck."

She nodded happily, "I will! I promise, I will! I'll work hard!" Even in the case of the worst it's better this way. It has to be. Nothing could be worse than the life you had before. Goodbye, Cynthia, and good luck. I turned and walked away from camp, journeying a good hour back towards the main encampment before resting for the evening.

Even as I lay down for more sleep my thoughts still played out over my past and exactly what it meant to me. I've tried so hard to run away, to become a different person... and yet, now I can only think that I've made a terrible mistake... one I never would've realized had I never run away to begin with. I began to form a goal in my mind, a dream to work towards. I hoped that one day, perhaps when I'd finally managed to get the Molocheans off of my trail, I would return home. I wanted to share the details of my adventure with Frederick, and make amends for the pain that I caused. I didn't sleep hardly at all that night.

Over the next few days of our journey Virgil and Vollinger tried their best to cheer me up. Although I insisted nothing was wrong, they both knew better. It was embarrassing to have them so concerned about me, but deep down it made me feel welcome in their company. It was thanks to them that I realized I really did have two lives now. I had abandoned my past life, and that was a grave sin for which I hoped to someday atone. To abandon my friends now, however, would be an equally atrocious act. We really were a family, and our home traveled with us wherever we went.

The sun was just setting again as we returned to the encampment. I was hoping to take care of the last bit of business I had remaining and get off of the damned island once and for all. By my best estimates I'd already been there for two weeks and that was two weeks too long. I headed straight for the building I now recognized as Thorvald's shack. Approaching the half ogre guard I asked, "Pardon, may I please speak with Thorvald?"

Much to my surprise I could actually hold a conversation with the man. I'd always thought of half ogres as little more than beasts and their 'me like nice lady' did little to improve upon that perception. "No offense, but you seem very articulate for an ogre."

He dismissed my statement with a rather slightly smug smile, "No offense perceived. In actuality, I am but a half ogre. Never having had contact with either of my parents, I do not have any information as to the specific nature of my lineage."

Although I did want to get off of the island, a unique half ogre like this one was too interesting to pass up. "You never knew your parents?" It felt rude to ask him personal questions so blatantly, but my curiosity had always overridden my tact.

He furrowed his brow slightly as he tried to explain it to me, "No. I have a vague recollection of the orphanage though, but something about the memory seems a bit peculiar. It is a most strange thing. As I remember it, all the other children were half ogres like myself."

Now that he mentioned it there was something that seemed awfully unusual about the number of half ogres I'd been running into. "I have noticed that many city gnomes use half ogre servants." Even if most of them are bloody useless decorations, it's still odd.

The half ogre sighed. "Yes, that is very strange. I even worked for a gnome for a number of years."

He didn't seem to be nearly as bothered by that as I figured he should be. "Did you work for gnomes your whole life, before coming here?"

He explained the answers to all of my questions with a patience that even most humans could never muster. "No. From a very early age I remember working in a printers shop, from the early morning hours to well into the evening. I would then retire to the storage room where I was allowed to rest for a few hours. The next day I would be up before day break to start again. I've no way to gauge how long I spent in that miserable shop. Eventually I was 'rescued' by a well to do gnome who made a big show about paying the print master a sum of money for the 'inconvenience'. I now recognize this as the accepted way to buy and sell individuals. I worked for Mr. Chaplaine until I was sent here."

I frowned and reached up to pat the large man on the shoulder understandingly. He seemed rather embarrassed at the gesture. "Why was it that you were sent here, then? You don't seem a bad sort."

Although I could tell that his story made him slightly uncomfortable, he seemed to have come to terms with it well enough that it didn't really bother him. He even managed a warm smile for me as he continued to appease my endless curiosity. "Mr. Chaplaine did not wish to have a 'savage' serving his guests, so he hired a tutor for me. Miriam was her name. I never knew that humans could be kind, or even what kindness was until I met her. She taught me for three years, until I began to ask too many questions.

"The more I questioned, the more agitated Mr. Chaplaine became. Early one morning the constable came to the house and escorted me away. I didn't even see Mr. Chaplaine. My fate did not become evident until I was on the ship coming here. People don't like their property to ask too many difficult questions. Being an influential gnome, it was a simple matter for him to have me shipped here. I believe I was perceived as a potential 'agitator of the workers'."

"That is a very sad story, but I thank you very much for sharing it with me." Something struck me as inherently wrong about that whole arrangement. It seemed to me that if a half ogre could be taught as well as this one then it wasn't right to treat the whole lot of them like Orcish slaves. Nevertheless, thinking about that wouldn't get me off of the island. "Would it be possible for me to see Thorvald now?" It was somewhat rude for me to so abruptly shift topics, and I hoped I didn't leave the half ogre with the wrong impression.

But I already killed the sorcerous beast. "The 'field of battle'?"

He sighed again, "The field of battle in this instance would be 'The Pit'. Barbaric, but effective in detouring the undesirable element." I glanced at him uncertainly and he explained further, "The island is sorely lacking in any kind of entertainment, so the men invented their own barbaric form, pit fighting."

I could hear the disdain in his voice as he explained it. For a half ogre he was really turning out to be quite the agreeable fellow. "It sounds as if you don't necessarily approve of the pit fights."

He shrugged as though he couldn't help any of it, "I don't mind them, they make my job easier. They're just not my particular brand of entertainment. I would rather pass the time with a good book."

I grinned at him, "You appreciate a good book, do you? I feel the same way, dear fellow."

He stared at the ground longingly, "Sadly, yes."

"Sadly?" I was perplexed. "What is sad about appreciating a good book?"

I pulled a book out of my purse, the very same one I'd found and then subsequently pilfered from the ridiculously locked barrel. "I found this book, 'The Hand', would you like it? I can get plenty of books back in Tarant." He accepted it somewhat hesitantly, stammering out his thanks. "Could you do me a favor in return?" I asked.

He cracked open the front cover of the book and glanced at it before looking back up at me. "Name it and it will be yours."

I smiled sweetly, "Could you let me in to speak with Thorvald?"

For once I felt as though my presence somewhere was actually doing some overall good. Of course I was on an island prison, so it would've been hard to make things worse. "You are most kind. Do you have a name for me to remember you by?"

He smiled at me again and nodded sheepishly, "So sorry... you may call me Ogdin."

Ah. I should've guessed. I did guess... sort of. "Well, you have a good day, Ogdin." I excused myself and hastily unlocked the door to the shack, wandering on inside. The dwarf I saw gave me a contemptuous look but I didn't let that put me off. "Good evening, Thorvald. The locals tell me you're the only dwarf on this island."

I scoffed at him, "Unjustly? Is that not what everyone here says?"

He puffed his chest out and stared up at me with a defiant, uncaring look. "I was just in the eyes of Alberich. That is all that matters to me."

Perhaps when I get out of here I'll start writing a book of my own. 'Tales from the Isle of Despair', I think I'll call it. It'll be a collection of short stories about how people got on this godforsaken island. "What happened?"

He leaned against a nearby bed as he retold the tale. "I was defending the honor of my clan. The bloated, thick-headed gnomes and their laws had me shipped off to this rock. I was in a pub minding my own affairs when I overheard a gnomish merchant mouthing off about how the Wheel Clan was just a bunch of cheap, worthless ditch diggers. I confronted him and told him to apologize. He would not. Instead he let his liquor do his talkin' for him, so I let my fist do mine. It only took one solid hit and he was gone. Gone! Weak necked bastards. The next day I was shipped off to this rock."

Well, that's bloody wonderful. "Wheel Clan? So you're not of the Black Mountain Clan?"

Do you really think I don't know that? I nodded at him, explaining it slowly. "I have been there. Their mines are deserted."

He looked positively puzzled. "But... why is it you believe that they are here?"

I grinned at him smugly, knowing that he wasn't going to like what I said next. "They were to be banished here. By order of the Wheel Clan."

His face turned red and I could see the anger boiling beneath the surface. "Who told you this?!"

Easy, killer. I'm not insulting your clan's honor. "A feeble minded dwarf hidden deep in their mines. He said his name was Gudmund." As I said it the color drained from Thorvald's face.

"The story he told was very disturbing..." I told Thorvald of what I read on Gudmund's stone and of Gudmund's paranoid obsession with traps. I especially focused on the part about the banishment passed down by Loghaire of the Wheel Clan, in league with elves. He listened patiently and intently.

When I was finished he shook his head in disbelief. He didn't exactly think I was lying, but he didn't want to believe I wasn't. "The whole clan gone, my clan involving themselves with magicks? None of this makes sense! Have you spoken to the Wheel Clan about this?"

Oh of course, I consulted my handy map of Dwarven society and off I went. I sighed, "I would if I knew where I could find them. Do you?"

It was his turn to scoff at me. "Of course I do. Here, I'll mark it on your map." He did so. "But knowing its location will not be enough. To keep out outworlders, we created an optical illusion of the grandest scale using glass and mirrors. It makes the entrance of our mine look as if it never existed. Getting in requires a pair of specially made spectacles which use thin slices of Kathorn Crystal as lenses. Every member of the Wheel Clan has a pair. I still have mine."

"Then do I have a bargain for you," I winked. Thorvald looked awfully confused. "I'll get you off this island if you get me into the Wheel Clan."

He actually laughed at me then. "No... I don't believe you'll ever be leaving this island. Alive, anyways."

Is that a threat, dwarf? I thought we were being civil. "What makes you say that?"

I pressed on. "Then come with me. With you by my side they will let us pass." If they really did get old Teach then you're absolutely right and I won't be getting off this island unless I take you with me.

He pondered it a bit and then began to protest, "It sounds tempting, but it is too risky. I am in a good position here and I don't want to jeopardize it. If the men discovered I had joined up with you and was planning on leaving them here to rot, it would mean both of our heads."

I mocked him, knowing the effect it would have, "Are you a Dwarf or a Gnome? Do you want off this rock or not?" You heard me, Thorvald, and I know you heard me. Are you really going to back down from that?

He gritted his teeth, then sighed. "Ok, let's go. I've been here too long already." Smiling, I turned and headed straight out the door. Many heads turned as they saw me walking out with Thorvald following along, but they turned away again as soon as he looked at them. The guards at the gate very briefly made as if to stop us before hastily changing their minds and opening the gates for us.

I walked down the beach the short ways towards the ship, hoping it would be all right. Although I really only cared about making it off the island at this point, it would be a shame if anything had happened to captain Teach. I caught the scent of blood in the air when I drew near to the ship and I grew worried.

Laying on the ground all around the base of the ship were the corpses of several convicts. At the top of the ramp I saw captain Teach staring down at the sand with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. I am definitely glad I didn't take a fancy passenger ship. Teach greeted me as I crested the top of the ramp, "Ahoy, lassie! What've ye found about the Black Mountain Clan?"

"Plenty..." I stammered, still a bit unnerved. "But what's happened here, captain? Who are these men?"

I clapped him on the shoulder with a grin, "Nicely done, Cap'n. Let's get out of here." Not a moment too soon. I owe you one, Teach.

He laughed heartily, "I won't be sad to leave this place behind! Looks like we'll be heading back to Ashbury, then. Weigh anchor!"

Thorvald made idle chatter with me on the ship, "I still don't know if I believe your story, but at the very least... thanks to you I'll be able to find out the truth for myself. If you hadn't snapped me out of my rut I'd still be rotting there on that island."

Perhaps literally, depending on how badly you wanted to keep those spectacles of yours. "No thanks is needed. I needed your spectacles, that's all there is to it. If I could meet up with the Wheel Clan without you I would've done so." I really only told him that because his gratitude made me feel guilty. I certainly wasn't helping him out of the goodness of my heart.

He only laughed, "I like you, miss. At least you're bloody honest." The two of us got along just fine.

It was still early in the day when we made port in Ashbury so we set out towards the Wheel Clan immediately. The journey overland alone would take at least two weeks and my curiosity was nearly killing me. Just what really happened to the Black Mountain Clan? Even Thorvald admits this makes no sense.

Only a few short days into our journey my skin very suddenly began to itch painfully, even moreso than when I had encountered the sorcerous beast on the island. Terry began barking fiercely at something and I looked up to see a translucent figure wearing a deep red, hooded robe. His voice had a strange echo to it despite being in the middle of vast plains. "Greetings, traveler. It seems to me that you're looking for answers. Perhaps it is time that I gave them to you..."

I nearly shouted at him, partially because of the pain I felt merely being in his presence. "What? Who are you? Answer me!"

It can't be... that's just a legend, it's not real... I can't possibly be the reincarnation of a dead god, can I? "You must be Arronax..."

He laughed lightly, mocking me, "So... you remember me, do you Nasrudin? Do you remember what I did to your pathetic Elven Council? Do you remember when all of Arcanum shook before my power? Be warned... they will do so again. I have come to bring you a message.... Whether you are the Living One or not, whether the coward Nasrudin hides in your bones or still rots in his grave, the inevitable will still come to pass. I am returning. It has already been set in motion, and there's nothing you can do about it. I am returning, and all will fall before me. Everyone you know... everyone you love..."

I shouted, partially out of fear and partially out of the pain his very presence was causing me. Powerful magicks were really starting to have quite the ill effect on me. "You utter bastard! I didn't ask for this! I didn't ask for any of it! I have nothing to do with this! Leave us alone!" Arronax chuckled evilly and, without him even making a single motion, my companions fell to the ground. I could feel a surge of power flare outward from him.

It felt like my skin had been lit on fire. "Arronax...!" was all I could utter through the intense, burning pain. At last, I gave in and I, too, collapsed.

I was still conscious. I could hear him taunting me as he slowly faded away into nothingness. Slowly the pain I was feeling faded away as well and I managed to scrape together enough energy to stand up. I gave some packages of fatigue restorer to my companions and applied a bit to a piece of jerky for Terry before taking a dose for myself.

Thorvald looked utterly baffled, "By Alberich's beard, what the hell was that all about?!"

I muttered at him unhappily. "You needn't concern yourself, Thorvald. When we get to the Wheel Clan you can just walk away from it. You don't need to be involved. None of you do."

Virgil stood up and stared at me. "I don't care how many times you try to convince me otherwise, but I'm with you in this. When I first met you it was because of what Joachim told me, and because of my belief in the Panarii. That hasn't changed, but more than that I'm your friend. I wouldn't just desert you even if Joachim abandoned me and the whole Panarii religion turned out to be a hoax. Please, let me help you."

I sighed and placed my hand on Virgil's. "Thank you. It goes both ways, you know. You're my friend, too. That's why I don't want to involve you if I don't have to." I turned, facing Vollinger who was just sitting up. "What about you, Vollinger?"

He shrugged, "No matter how many times you say it, I too am here for my own reasons. Aside from that, traveling with you has been a pleasure. I wouldn't let a little thing like this stop me."

Terry let forth an ear-piercing bark and licked at my hand gently. "All right, all right... you're all welcome to stay with me, then."

Thorvald looked perturbed, "If it's all the same to you, miss, I'd like to take you up on that offer of dropping me off at the Wheel Clan. I don't need to be involved in this nonsense. Let's get moving, shall we?"

I nodded, "Yes, let's."

The rest of the journey to the Wheel Clan was comparatively uneventful. The whole lot of us were silent for a full two days, thinking about that horrible encounter. Even Terry didn't break the silence. When we arrived at the mountainside, Thorvald pointed out a circle made of stone in the ground and handed me the spectacles. I stood in the center of the stone and put the spectacles on, then gasped. "That's amazing! I see an entrance, but I swear it wasn't there a moment ago!"

He grinned, "Didn't I tell you, woman? I'm going in... I'm home!"

I ran inside hurriedly, more excited than I'd been ever since I was a young child. The Black Mountain Clan mines had been dirty and abandoned, but the Wheel Clan yet remained and their mountain home was quite possibly the most grand structure I ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes on.

As I reached the end of the entryway which opened up into a grand chamber beyond I was stopped by a dwarven guard. "Hold! What business have you in the caverns of the Wheel Clan? Speak!"

I did my best to make my presence sound urgent in the face of my childlike entrance, "I come with grave news, I'm afraid. I've been to the Black Mountain Clan mines, but as you may know the Black Mountain Clan was banished to the Isle of Despair by order of Loghaire of the Wheel Clan. I traveled to the Isle of Despair to look for them, and I met up with Thorvald Two-Stones who had been there for 200 years. Even he hadn't seen nor heard from the Black Mountain Clan. I come here now to speak with Loghaire directly about this matter."

"Thank you... I'll do that." I made as if to rush forward, but Thorvald stopped me.

I shook his hand and gave him a warm smile, which wasn't entirely false, "The pleasure was mine, Thorvald. I bear you no ill will for deciding not to continue on with me... good day to you."

To be honest, I envy you. If I had the option I would abandon this silly quest as well. Whether I do or not, though, that isn't going to stop Arronax from hunting me down. At the very least I get to spend my time on the road with excellent friends. Goodbye, Thorvald.

Bonus Content

Requested by Canuck-Errant

That is awesome. I'm disappointed how poorly it actually works when you try it, but the idea of agreeing to do his speech and then getting totally blitzed before going in is hilarious.

I took a gander at my journal after that failed, since it was highlighted and it was kind of a habit. I was pleased to note that the entries only check your current int, and not your int when you wrote them.

I wasn't satisfied with just a single journal entry so I paged back quick (this save is my backup save from just after I landed on the Isle of Despair). I've got the text form of all of these entries in the game files, so I'll probably just post those after I've done more quests. Some of the spoilery ones are really funny and I'd hate to leave them out.

All right, on with the random extra screenshots I took that didn't fit in the regular update:

If you get enough town rumors in Ashbury, one of them will mention a wreckage along the coast to the North. This is the location that it's referring to. It's not particularly special or anything, and there's actually even nothing there at all during the day. At night, however, a bunch of skeletons pop out and attack you. They don't really have anything of note on them. I seem to remember there being more to it than that, but I poked around the ship and the beach quite a bit without finding anything.

You may have noticed in the last map shot of the update that I have a dungeon I never said a damn thing about on my map (Dungeon of the Dragon Pool). That's because I took a nice little detour to the Ancient Temple. I don't know if you can ever get it marked on your map explicitly, but it's in a place that's not too hard to find if you wander around other places that do get marked on your map. The Ancient Temple is not only where you can get one of the cooler characters in the game (also voice acted, I forgot about him), but also where the temple to Moorindal is located. I'll be visiting it in the main plot later, but at that point it'll be quite the detour so I'll toss all of the dungeon stuff here and not save the screenshots, then pretend that I did it later.

It's a pretty cool little dungeon, although there are a lot of random piles of bone that only become enemies when you get close. Since Samantha is fast as hell (yay charged rings! yay dex!) I always go first and kill anything like that before anybody gets to move.

In stark contrast, there's also a ton of undead that don't spawn only when you get near. There's even a little spider in this screenshot, as well as one of the dungeon's many treasure chests. Not pictured: a shitload of undead I already killed. There were probably a dozen in this fight alone, and it wasn't the biggest in the place.

This shot is of a cool little library room with a hideous looking torture device off to one side of it. There were a bunch of mummies and a couple lichs in here. I managed to clear out the left side without pissing off the right side, then Vollinger decided he wanted to pick up a scroll on the right side of the room Oh well, who needs more than 8 hit points, right?

Ahh... the... voice... of... the... living... [It sighs, a sound like the crumbling pages of an old tome.] So... long... its... beeeeennnn...
Again... what are you?
Warrior... in... the... army... of... the... dead. Curssseeeddd... death... with... no... releeeaaassseee... [Rusted blades being pulled across taut wire.] Life... beyond... this... wasted... flesh...
What happened to you? What curse do you speak of?
This... temple... a... home... to... the... Order. Speakers... commune... dancing... with... the... dead. They... brought... us... back... to... sever... the... Hand... [Muffled cries like an army buried alive. A pike drawn across a pane of broken glass.] So... very... long... ago...
I don't understand...

[You hear the slightest whisper, but you cannot make out the words...]

So, you go to the dungeon he points out and get some dragon blood, then come back and use it on him. He becomes Torian Kel Definitely one of the cooler characters in the game, and a pretty good fighter, too. He's also evil as all hell, so you can't get him if you're good (unless you have a high enough charisma or persuasion, I forget which). I'll do all of this later, although I don't think he really fits in well with the story so I'm not going to take him with me on this run through. He's a GREAT asset to a mage character, though, since I believe he is magically inclined.

Also, an amusing side note regarding the "Mysterious Apparition". If you have items on your hotkey bar (as I have for quite some time) you can break out of conversation with him by using one. He's a rather high level and doesn't fight back when you go all on him, so it's great for cheesing out some extra exp. You encounter him multiple times no matter what you do and it gets really annoying after awhile. This way you break him once and he stays broken so you just randomly encounter exp bags every now and then, it's great!