Chapter the Thirty Sixth: At Long Last, NothingAs I stuffed the note back down into my purse it occurred to me that this side of the Dredge didn't have any guards preventing me from going inside. It's kind of like I have permission. I don't think Loghaire would deny me if I asked... There was a second exit from Loghaire's room and I decided to explore it.
Loghaire's been busy, I see. There were nearly a dozen corpses littering the ground just outside of the exit. It seemed as though Harrow had served the dwarf well in defending his little hole. I carefully picked my way through them and continued to explore further into the Dredge.
At first I only encountered mere spiders. They were small and numerous, and their bites burned quite badly when they got close enough to strike, but they were truly unimpressive as opponents. I was hoping to discover more interesting and dangerous beasts, the kind I would be proud to tell Frederick about when I finally returned home. After squashing a few more pesky spiders I rounded the next corner.
Unfortunately for me, there were only more and more spiders. They were growing bigger, that much was true, but they still went down easily enough from a good chopping. This is pathetic. Perhaps I can find Vegard's heirloom and get the hell out of here.
As I turned the next corner I was set upon by an overgrown, vicious monkey. It reminded me quite a bit of the sorcerous beast I'd fought on the Isle of Despair and I squared off against it in much the same manner. This beast was no friend to magick, however, and it was quite weak by comparison. I'd even emerged victorious against the sorcerous beast, and accordingly this monkey offered no significant challenge. Virgil seemed quite impressed at my willingness to continue onward, and my ability to take care of myself.
"You're getting quite good at this, madam. I'm almost beginning to wonder why you keep me around at all." He sounded a little down.
"That's nonsense, Virgil, and you know it. I would never get rid of you. We're friends, aren't we? We'll see this thing through to the end, together." I was still exploring further in the Dredge as I chatted with him, not really wanting to stay any longer than I already had.
He sighed, his voice becoming distant, "I suppose that's true. I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to finally meeting back up with Joachim. I truly hope he can give us some guidance."
"I'll meet with him, Virgil. I promise you." I tried to smile at him reassuringly, but he only looked away. Perhaps when this is all done we'll sit down and share our life stories with each other over a warm cup of tea. I'd love to hear what you have to say, and I wouldn't mind telling you my story in return.
As I progressed further and further into the Dredge the beasts at last grew more fearsome. I started to encounter vicious wolves roaming in packs, leaping at me with much fervor as soon as they smelled the unfamiliar scent. As ferocious as they were, they were no match for Terry. That dog was by far the most brutish, vicious beast I ever laid eyes on... yet when it came to me, he was as sweet as ever. It was kind of horrifying, really. I tossed him another piece of jerky in thanks for his tireless defense.
Good god, what the hell are those?! If the wolves hadn't been bad enough I seemed to come face to face with lycanthropes. I didn't even know what the hell to make of them, but I didn't really have much time to consider it. They charged me as a pair, intelligently attacking me on either side. I slipped out from between them and heard them snarling behind me, but I didn't slow down to see how they reacted. Turning around agilely, I sunk my axe into the back of one of them and then ripped it free as I heaved the weight of my body against the wall.
Using the wall as a launching point I kicked away and dove straight at the lycanthropic creature. It had scarcely had time to even notice where I'd gone and I was already upon it once again, the force of my axe literally cleaving its torso in two. It whined and growled for only a second before its life fell abruptly short. The other creature was on me in an instant, seeking revenge for its fallen companion.
I shoved the handle of my axe into its gaping maw, preventing its mouth from shutting. It grabbed ahold of the axe handle and shoved me back against the wall, trying to free its maw from the obstruction. Vollinger's gun rang out and the creature howled in pain, spittle splattering against the side of my face. I could see a trickle of blood start leaking out from its side. Terry leapt at it, clamping onto its right arm and gnawing at it fiercely. It let go of my axe and tried to shake Terry off, but once that bugger had latched onto something there was no getting rid of him. In moments the creature's arm had been gnawed through and it dropped to the ground along with Terry.
It was screeching now, in unbearable pain. Its remaining arm flailed wildly as it stumbled backwards. I pulled my axe free from its maw and swung it in a wide arc, putting the creature out of its misery in one last strike. What remained of the creature fell to the ground alongside its companion, both of them now unmoving. I took only a few moments to regain my composure before continuing onward. Now THAT is a story Frederick will enjoy hearing about.
Bloody hell If the two I'd just fought weren't enough I rather suddenly came face to face with an entire pack of them. Several of them seemed to be more spectral than the others and I wondered if there were a magick user in the bunch. My eyes settled upon a single lycanthrope in the back, its fur such a dark shade of gray that it was almost black. It scratched at the wall and howled deafeningly loud, then the rest of the beasts attacked. That one. I've got to focus my assault on that one.
I dodged underneath a nigh endless procession of claws and teeth, occasionally feeling them rake apart my armor and eventually my flesh. I could hear Virgil screaming at them, slicing away with every last bit of strength he had. Terry was hardly still, either, and it would've been impossible not to hear Vollinger's support in such confined quarters. For the most part the remaining beasts ignored me as I passed, turning instead to focus on the more immediate danger. You're fools to underestimate me.
My axe came in low when I reached the leader of the lycanthropes, catching him sharply in the ankle. His companions turned when he howled out, suddenly realizing their mistake. It was too late for him, however, and also too late for them. The moment their attention was diverted Vollinger took the opening and blasted one of their heads clear off. Terry continued his gruesome work, as well, and Virgil worked on diverting their attention back towards him.
I slipped between the massive lycanthrope's legs and his claws sunk into the ground where I'd just been. I stopped suddenly on the other side of him and swung the axe high overhead. I swung it so high that bits of rock and dust crumbled downwards from where the very tip of my axe had brushed against the cavern ceiling. The axe came down hard upon the lycanthrope's back, immediately severing the creature's spine. It tried desperately to howl, but only a hoarse whine came out. My next strike landed in-between his eyes and there was no chance that he'd survived. I looked up at my companions and noticed that they'd managed to fend off the rest of the pack without me. I could tell that Terry especially had done a considerable amount of damage in a rather short time period.
I wiped the sweat off my brow and leaned against the wall, catching my breath, "I swear, one of these days I'm going to have to learn that when somebody says a place is dangerous and I ought not go there... it's dangerous and I ought not go there."
Virgil chuckled half-heartedly and Vollinger wiped off the muzzle of his gun, "Now where would the fun be in that?"
I laughed along with the other two, "I suppose you may be right. I haven't died yet, even if I'm quite certain that one of these days I'm going to." All of us laughed then, though it was at least partially because we were so relieved at having survived our most recent struggle. Nobody mentioned a damned pack of lycanthropes. "Come on, let's get going and find Vegard's heirloom."
In searching further throughout the caverns I was unfortunate enough to encounter an entire family of those awful golems that I'd fought back in the Black Mountain Clan mines. The smaller ones were mostly harmless, but there was a great big one that was far worse than any I'd encountered previously. What the hell are these things? The deceased spirits of harvested ore?
Luckily the massive stone giant was even slower than the previous ones I'd encountered. I supposed the logic did follow properly. Virgil rightfully kept his distance and I danced circles around the damned thing. It tried desperately to strike at me, its fists crashing into the surrounding walls and metal support structures. I was more afraid that it was going to bring the room down upon my head than I was of it actually striking me. I chipped away at its arms with my axe, eventually severing them so that it stood no further chance of demolishing the room and killing us all. It turned and charged at me angrily, but I dodged out of the way at the last second. It crashed into the wall and shattered into a thousand pieces, unceremoniously collapsing onto the ground.
After that, I seemed to draw closer and closer to the surface of the Dredge. I'd entered it from quite a deep point, so I'd covered quite a bit of ground. The creatures became considerably less threatening and were barely of any consequence at all. They were certainly nothing a little healing salve couldn't patch up in a real hurry.
Cleaving my way through several dozen rats eventually brought me to exactly what I'd been searching for. There was a medium sized room on the other side of tightly locked bars and inside of it I could see a chest made out of blackened metal. I slipped my lockpick into the lock and expertly slid it open with a click. Pushing the gates open I marched into the room and popped open the chest, but after all I'd been through nothing could've prepared me for what I found inside.
A bloody toy train?! He sent me into the depths of the Dredge for a lousy toy train?! Something is wrong with that dwarf! Virgil gazed at it and then at me, finally commenting, "Not, uh... exactly what you were expecting, is it?"
"You're damned right it's not." I fumed. "Pah. Let's get the bloody hell out of here."
He agreed and I marched off towards the entrance. It turned out that the room that he'd claimed was so deep in the Dredge was actually right at the bloody entrance to the place. I couldn't have gone down more than three short passageways before I found myself at the real entrance to the Dredge, emerging from it behind two very confused guards. "Pardon me," I blushed a little as I pushed past them and out into the Wheel Clan caverns.
I marched straight over to Vegard's room and held his toy train out to him. "I found your... uh... 'heirloom'. Here."
I took the helmet from him and shoved it into my purse. "It wasn't particularly deep in. The Dredge goes on much, much farther." I sighed. "No offense, but the whole affair baffles me. Why the toy wagon?"
He actually laughed quite heartily and I felt like I was the butt end of a particularly cruel joke. "Yes, I suppose I could have told you what you were looking for. This wagon has been in my family for 1000 years... legend says it was the first thing ever made by my great-grandfather, when he was but a child."
Although I was starting to see his point, in my anger I could only protest. "Yes, but all the danger... and you've waited so long... for a toy..."
I shook my head, trying to clear the angry fog that clouded my mind. "Goodbye, Vegard. I'm sorry if I've offended you."
Virgil nudged me in the stomach as we left. "Come on, it's not so bad, is it? At least he's happy."
I sighed, "It makes for a pretty poor story, but you're right. I got the helmet, and he got the heirloom he was looking for."
Vollinger scratched his beard thoughtfully, "I don't know if I'd quite say that, Samantha. I think the fact that it was a toy wagon only makes it a better story."
I stopped and looked at him and then, finally, burst out laughing. "You're right, of course. I suppose it is far more interesting that way, isn't it?" Oh, Frederick, the stories I'm going to have to share with you when this is all over... "All right, let's get a move on. I believe we were headed to Stillwater, were we not?"
Virgil smiled, "Yes... I would like that."
I picked up the pace, "Come on, then! No sense wasting time! It's hardly a week's journey away. All right, maybe a week and a half. Let's go!" The others could only sigh and then struggle to catch up. Of course, I didn't keep that pace up for long, but my little stunt did well to get us all moving.
Stillwater itself was a cold and unpleasant town. Where there wasn't dirt there was snow and ice hung from the rooftops of every building in sight. If that weren't enough, the damned place was even more spread out than Shrouded Hills. It had less than a twentieth of the places to visit than Tarant or Caladon had and it was almost half the size. My first order of business was to visit the inn, which I knew Virgil had been waiting for.
I approached the kindly old innkeeper politely, "Excuse me, my friend Virgil and I have just arrived in town and we were told to ask you for anything a man named Joachim might have left behind for somebody that fits our description."
I took the things from him as he handed them to me, "Thank you very much, sir." Not wanting to open them in front of prying eyes I wandered outside where I cracked open the package to find a book.
I handed the book to Virgil since he was awfully curious about it. I'd truly been expecting to meet up with Joachim in Stillwater, and now that he wasn't present I was unsure of exactly what to do. I'll find you? That frightens more than comforts me. What kind of man is he really? I was just heading into the local blacksmith's shop to peruse the Stillwater blades I'd read so much about when Virgil interrupted me.
"Yes. Joachim thinks perhaps they're not all that evil..." Hmph, there's that word again... evil. They're not all bad, right? Just a bunch of assassins for hire... trying to kill me for money. No, not bad at all!
Virgil seemed to agree with me. "Not all that bad! Ha! Obviously Joachim hasn't run into them lately." Virgil and I both started chuckling a bit. "That fellow Trellian did sound like an agreeable sort, though, didn't he? Anyone who chooses to side against something called the Order of the Dead is alright in my book..."
I tilted my head and stared at Virgil curiously, "You mean 'the first ASSASSIN' Trellian?"
I sighed, grasping Virgil's hand. "You and I know a lot about that it seems..."
He pulled away from me, obviously troubled by something. "Yes... I'd never have thought myself worthy of this affair. And I shouldn't be making judgments about anyone's character. I think I'd best just keep my bloody mouth shut."
You're not the only one who's lead a troubled past. "Virgil..."
Oh, Virgil, you can't possibly think you're alone in this. What kind of a friend would I be if I weren't here to help you through it? Instead of actually saying what was on my mind, which might've been comforting, I only pushed Virgil away further. "What are you talking about?" Stupid... that didn't come out right.
Virgil shook his head, "No... I shouldn't have said anything about it. As I've said... the past is in the past."
I sighed. I know you don't really feel that way. Maybe someday you'll trust me enough to tell me, and I won't be so much of an idiot that I'll push you away from it. "Well, what do you think we should do now?" Changing the subject seemed prudent.
I nodded, "We were doing just fine without Joachim before, so that sounds good to me. Let's get moving."
He smiled, but I could see right through him. His voice was as distant as ever and I could tell he was still thinking about the things he was trying to tell me about. "Yes... the day's not getting any younger." Virgil... just who do you think you're trying to fool?
Bonus ContentRequested by Spike McMayhem
Now for more fun with stupidity! I was only able to find this because of the sound files. Since I obviously never killed Bates in the main story, I had to load a save where I hadn't met him yet and then kill him before talking to him. Then I got plastered and asked Virgil about what we should do.