Part 46: Seorin's Guide to the Basics of Arcanum
Chapter the Forty Fifth: Betrayal, Part 2: CleansingPollock was on me the moment I stepped out of the doorway. He swung a clumsy ham-fist in my direction and I leapt forward, rolling to safety. Behind me I could hear the splintering of wood as his fist contacted the door that I'd just escaped from. I didn't pause for even a moment, attacking him from behind while he still struggled to recover from his failed attack. My axe tore into him relentlessly, burning through the thick leather covering his body and ripping apart the flesh, leaving behind only charred, bloody remains.
He roared out loud in pain, his voice carrying clear throughout the shack and no doubt to the slums beyond. I heard a banging at the door suddenly: his underlings, trying to force their way in. At first I heard the wood begin to splinter, and finally it burst. The sound of footsteps and shouting grew suddenly louder, but I didn't even turn around to look. Scowling, I swung my axe once more.
With a phenomenal burst of strength I cut clear through nearly half of Pollock's body, severing far more than just his arm. His primal bellow grew strangled, then abruptly cut off as his oversized body tumbled to the ground with a wet thud. I turned to face the thugs that had burst in behind me with a hateful glare in my eyes. One of them dropped dead before I could even take a step, a trickle of blood running down his forehead and the sound of a gunshot erupting throughout the shack. Terry darted past my legs and leapt at another thug, strangled screams mixing with his bestial growls. I advanced on the remaining thugs, the blade of my axe smoking where the blood rapidly burnt off.
The thugs were too shocked, too horrified to even move. They merely stared on, slack-jawed, as each of them dropped one by one. When the last of them fell I carefully stepped over the door they'd burst in through and I looked out at the thugs outside. You all had to know this was coming from the day you signed on with Pollock. Did you really think it would end any other way? I mercilessly tore through anything my axe blade could touch, and any thugs that dared get within my reach paid the price dearly.
At long last, after what seemed like hours of fighting, all of the thugs lay dead around me. I could still hear their cries in the back of my head, the horrible sound of tearing and burning flesh. Could this really be considered justice? Revenge, perhaps retribution if I'd wanted to make myself feel good about it. There was no justice in cruelly tearing apart defenseless thugs, no matter their past sins. That I would likely have to do it again only sickened me further. Where did I go wrong? When did this become acceptable?
I placed my head over an empty oil drum and I retched into it. The smell of blood and burning flesh was nauseating enough, and the thought that I was the cause pushed me over the edge. "Samantha?" Virgil placed a hand comfortingly on my shoulder. I could hear the sadness in his voice, but I couldn't tell if he was sad at what I'd done or what it had done to me. "As soon as you're feeling better, we should move quickly. It's only a matter of time before one of Maug's gang tries to take credit for this, and that'll make what we have to do next even tougher."
I sighed. He was right. I couldn't waste time feeling sorry for myself, sorry for the mess I'd gotten myself into. If I backed out now it would only be a matter of time before Maug took over the city, now that Pollock was dead. Perhaps it was for the best anyway. It wasn't as though hacking apart thugs would damn me any further. One was either damned or not, and I was most certainly the former. I might as well take as many violent thugs, criminals, and selfish low lives with me as I could. Regardless, I still hated it.
The gnome at the door to the Bentley sneered at me as I walked past, but his eyes grew wide when he spotted my axe and the blood covering my armor. Even if he'd known for sure I was up to no good, he sure as hell didn't want to stand in my way. I walked all the way up to Maug completely unopposed. "Pollock will bother you no more." He only had to look into my eyes and at the state of my clothing to know beyond a doubt it was true.
Don't think you'll brush me off that easily. I stepped forward and placed the coins he offered into my purse. Without skipping a beat, I drew my axe back off of my belt and swung it at him. He barely had time to gasp in horror before the axe severed his neck clear through. The orcish guard on the side of the room cried out a foul, grunting scream for several seconds before he, too, was permanently silenced. Damnation! I wasn't fast enough... the whole damn place is aware of what I've done now.
Terry rushed out of the door to the room we were in and I could hear the strangled grunts of the orcs outside as he tore into them as mercilessly as I'd torn into Pollock's gang. I'm not getting out without a fight now. At least I've succeeded, even if I should die here. I stalked back out the way I came in, passing by Terry's gruesome work and continuing on into the next room.
Virgil walked alongside me, chopping into the first orc that approached us with his own axe. I easily dispatched the next one while Virgil was still pulling his axe out of the previous one. I heard the sound of an unfamiliar yip as three war dogs burst into the room through the open doorway left by the orcs. Vollinger's gun rang out, then rang out again, and two of the dogs fell to the floor, motionless. The last dog stopped and merely growled at me. I approached, ready to defend myself if I had to, and it tucked its tail between its legs and ran away. That's right. You're the smartest one in this bloody hotel.
The gnome was still waiting by the door when I exited, with a look of absolute horror on his face. He had to have heard the screams and the gunshots, he had to know I was coming out. If he didn't want to move out of the way that was his own damn fault. He nervously grabbed his dagger and held it out towards me, trembling. I looked down at him, axe in hand, "Move." He shook even harder when he heard the sound of my voice.
"N-no way," he shouted, "You think you can take me, whore?! I've killed men twice as good as you!"
The next thing he knew, his dagger arm was lying on the ground next to him, and he was passing out from the loss of blood. He wouldn't live for even 5 minutes. The orc next to him turned, grunted, and charged at me. He, too, met with the blade of my axe in a most painful fashion. As he was the last, I finally hung my axe back on my belt. The bloodbath that had raged for half the night was over, and I stood at its center. Unable to hold it in any longer, I hung my head low and began to cry. I must have been quite the odd sight, sobbing in the midst of a pile of corpses that I'd been the cause of.
Vollinger was the first to notice. "Perk up, Samantha. You've done a good thing this day. It might be gruesome, but killing... well, it's a part of this world. Their deaths do more good than their continued living would have."
Surprised, Virgil looked over at me suddenly realizing just how poorly I was taking my newfound quest for 'justice'. "Hey... hey, Samantha..." he pleaded. He slowly walked over to me and put his arms around me comfortingly. "Samantha, snap out of it... you're not alone in this... nobody is going to miss these thugs. Thanks to you, the people that can't afford to live anywhere else are going to be able to live without fear, without extortion... doesn't that mean more to you than these scum, who would've only continued harming people if you'd let them?"
I pushed against him weakly, almost trying to push him away but without any real effort behind it. I felt comfortable in his arms and, despite my frustration, I didn't honestly want him to let me go. "How can you say that...? How can either of you say for sure that we've done such a good thing when we're standing in the middle of a bloody pile of corpses?!"
He sighed, but he was so close to me that I could feel his chest expanding as he inhaled and I could hear his breath through his chest. "Samantha, I know it's hard to accept when you're right in the middle of all of it, but some people... the pain they have caused has a price that must one day be paid. If you weren't here, their sins would only grow worse... and when somebody finally came to put a stop to them, they might not make it so fast and painless as you have. Really, this is the best way."
I wrapped my arms around Virgil and hugged him back. Taking a deep sigh, I stepped out of his embrace and looked once more at the carnage that I'd caused. Terry barked reassuringly and licked at my hand. "All right... you do have a point... I'll just... I'll get over it." Vollinger patted me on the back and Virgil smiled at me reassuringly. "I'm sorry for going a little crazy on you." I sniffled gently. I still felt awful inside, but I held it back... I tried to look strong for the sake of my companions. Showing such strong signs of weakness felt like a betrayal of their faith, at least if I kept my feelings to myself I was only guilty of betraying my sense of human decency.
Vollinger reloaded his gun and stowed it away for future use. "No harm done, no harm at all. Come on, let's tell that Sebastian fellow of the good news. There's plenty to be done and the sooner that's out of the way the sooner we can get some much-needed rest, then set about taking care of other things." I wondered if he could tell that I still felt terribly distressed, and that's why he was suddenly taking charge. I didn't really care what the reason was, I was grateful.
Malloy's wasn't far from the Bentley and, like I would expect of any business in the Boil, it was still open despite the considerably late hour. Sebastian was still inside, too, sitting at the same table and having a drink. "I've taken care of that 'problem', Sebastian. Now you said you'd be interested in helping me?"
I suppose that I might as well find out right off the bat if I can't trust him. I looked around the bar at the remaining lackeys from both gangs, wondering what they would do when dawn hit and the morning sun revealed the night's festival of carnage. They were the only ones left of their gangs. I spoke quietly, not caring for any of them to overhear my story.
"Have you ever heard of the Molochean Hand, Sebastian?" He shook his head 'no'. "How about the I.F.S. Zephyr?"
He started to shake his head yes when realization dawned in his eyes. "The woman from the newspaper...?"
"Shh!" I cut him off, nodding affirmatively. "There was a dwarf on that zeppelin who escaped from something horrible... I still don't know exactly what. The zeppelin was attacked to get rid of him, and just in case he talked to anybody there were to be no survivors. Well, he hadn't talked to anybody... until it went down in flames, and I was the only one left standing. He gave me a ring and told me to find its owner.
That owner was Gilbert Bates. He'd given the ring to the dwarf on the zeppelin years prior, as a sign of trust. The old man nearly had a heart attack when I showed up in his mansion with that ring in my hand. He hired me on the spot to track down the missing Black Mountain Clan dwarves, and I've been chasing after them ever since. Oh, you have no idea where my travels have taken me... and now I go to Caladon to find the last remaining copy of a book that might reveal the hidden location of the village of Dark Elves. Nasty fellows, those are. You sure you still want to come with me, knowing where I'm going?"
What, did you think it was all a huge joke? Do I look like I'm joking? "Yes."
He set down his ale and shook his head, confused. "Well, I'm no hero, but I do like a good fight. You seem the trustworthy sort, and I might be willing to lend a hand..."
"So, you'll join me then? Even knowing the risks?" If he wanted a 'good fight' as he put it, he was sure to find one if he stuck by me long enough. Everybody has their reasons, I suppose... who am I to suggest his is a shallow one?
He stood up from the table, securing the gun on his belt. "Surely, friend. Why don't we be on our way?"
I clapped him on the shoulder with a smile, "Welcome aboard, Sebastian. We'll head out in the morning, but there are more than enough beds in the inn for all of us. As long as you're fighting by my side, I'll even foot the bill."
He smiled back at me, almost embarrassed, "I haven't slept in a warm bed for a good, long while. I'd quite like that."
In the morning Sebastian thanked me once again for the room. I checked over his supplies and frowned at the state of his gun. It wouldn't do to have any members of my group using outdated devices. I rummaged through my belongings until I found the old gun I'd made using that strange chassis I found on the Isle of Despair. It was an unknown, but I was confident it would be better than what Sebastian was using. He looked it over approvingly, nodding at it with admiration, then tossed his old gun in a rubbish bin. He didn't exactly seem like the sentimental sort.
Ultimately, we were headed to Stillwater, but I wanted to minimize the amount of travelling I had to do before finally making way for Caladon. I aimed to visit a few shrines to the older gods before leaving, having become somewhat more religious in recent months, and that added a number of interesting twists. I needed to pay Alberich a visit before Geshtianna, and while the latter coincided with my final destination the former was all the way over in the Wheel Clan caverns. If I were visiting the Wheel Clan anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to bring along the Durin Stone for Erick. Besides which, I was just damned curious about that whole thing. My first destination was the Place of Lost Voices I'd seen on the map I found in the ancient, iron chest.
Inside, I found a rather short cavern at the end of which was one of the strangest machines I'd ever seen. "Good god," Sebastian exclaimed as we got closer to it. "What IS that thing?"
I winked at him, "Ah, I forgot to mention this part. I've been tracking down some ancient dwarven history. You know that unopenable chest in the zoological society? It had a map to this place, and these three- oh! Look! There's spots on the machine for me to put these small drums!"
He shook his head in amazement, "Didn't you say unopen- aw, hell, nevermind. You're damned resourceful, you know that?"
I chuckled at him as I jammed one of the drums into its place on the machine, "Yes. I do."
The machine started to whir slightly as I placed the drum in it, then it clicked and spat the drum out. Hm. Must've been the wrong drum for that spot. I heard the faint sound of dragging metal from all around me, followed by a rather distinct 'click, clack'. Mechanical spiders started to surround the five of us from every corner of the room.
I pulled out my axe unhesitantly, only too happy to defend myself against the malevolent constructs. One of them jabbed me with a mechanical mouth on its frontside and the burning in the wound suggested I'd been poisoned yet again. Nasty little bastards... They were constructed like nothing I'd ever encountered before, incredibly sturdy and powerful. It took several well-aimed strikes to the weak parts on their joints to finally dismantle each one, and meanwhile there were several more swarming in.
Sebastian and Vollinger held off the distant ones to the best of their ability, slowing them with fast and repeated shots. Terry took to a nearby spider, ripping it apart but at a great cost. I winced, watching the poor boy break nearly every tooth in his mouth. He was a vicious bastard, that was for sure, never even hesitating no matter what it cost him. Luckily for him he had no technological aptitude whatsoever, so Virgil had him fixed up in no time. Although our wounds were great, the last of the spiders did eventually fall beneath our combined efforts.
I brushed myself off and continued playing with the machine while Sebastian looked over at Vollinger. "This kind of thing happen around her often?"
"Absolutely!" Vollinger announced cheerfully.
"Heh." Sebastian sounded half afraid and half amused. "Well, then I guess I can't regret signing up, now, can I? I wanted a fight and I sure as hell got one. Ain't had a fight like that in years." At least he was enjoying himself. I wouldn't have been happy if he suddenly changed his mind, although that was part of the point to dragging him around elsewhere before heading to Caladon. I needed companions I could trust, if he was going to turn tail and run it was better sooner than later. I slid a drum into place and it 'clicked', then the machine started whirring.
What the machine sputtered out was horribly faint and I couldn't really tell exactly what it was trying to say. Dreadfully curious I jammed another of the drums into the second slot. The machine whirred to life again and the voice came through, somewhat clearer, "Listen well... the words... passed... Iron Clan... find the book... Durin's Truth... within its pages... lies the key"
This is definitely going somewhere. I jammed the third drum in-place and listened excitedly as the machine whirred to life yet again. Sebastian wasn't the only one with a pleasantly shocked expression on his face.
"Well now," I sang, "Not what I was hoping for, but interesting nonetheless, eh?"
After several moments of silence, Virgil finally spoke uneasily, "Uh... do you have any idea where we might find that book, though?"
I shrugged, "I'm fairly certain it's not in Frederick's study, but he might've acquired it while I've been away. We'll be in Caladon anyway, we can always check."
He nodded understandingly, remembering the last time I spoke of Frederick's study. "That sounds like a good idea. I look forward to meeting this Frederick of yours."
I smiled at him, "Oh, I'm sure you'll get along just fine. He'll appreciate that you've been keeping me safe."
We left the place of lost voices empty-handed, but with at least an idea of where to go to follow up on that lead. Although the Wheel Clan was in the opposite direction, I elected to head towards Tarant instead. It was only a few days out of my way and my equipment had gotten dinged up rather severely in the battle against the spiders. I didn't feel that my own skills were up to the task of repairing such severe damage.
When I arrived back in town the criers were yelling something about a story involving Franklin Payne in the paper. He was quite the legendary adventurer, a title which I loathed but was rapidly beginning to realize fit me well, so I decided to purchase a paper and take a look.
Hmph. So I'm tracking down ancient dwarven history and he gets all the adventuring credit, eh? I didn't really hold Franklin any ill will. I actually somewhat admired him for his lifetime pursuit of adventure, and the charisma with which he talked about it. I could've had that kind of attention for myself if I desired it, but I learned my lesson already, long ago. No, there would be no more stories about me in the paper if I could help it.
I continued past the crier and to the junk man I'd slowly befriended since the first time I entered Tarant. I always sold him quality junk, and he always performed the repairs I couldn't for an honest fee. "Well, now what the hell have ya done? You've really got to learn how to take better care of yer stuff, girl."
I shrugged at him, "But YOU take such good care of it! How about showing me a thing or two? I think the going rate is 500 coins."
He looked shocked, "500 coins?! You'll give me 500 coins just to tell you what I know about repairin' junk?!" I counted out the coins and plunked them down onto the desk in front of him.
Maxim again, eh? I really will have to pay that gentleman a visit. I hope my reputation doesn't precede me. "Thank you." I called out, leaving the junk man behind. My next stop was at the Wheel Clan, barely a week's journey to the North from Tarant. I didn't have terrifically much to do there, but it was nice to visit it again and see what the dwarves had been up to since Loghaire's return. They looked somehow happier than they were when I last visited. Of course, while I was there I also offered a lava rock to Alberich.
I could feel his blessing take hold over me as the rock vanished before my very eyes. I never got tired of that feeling. Excited, I at last made for Stillwater. I severely disliked how cold it got as I approached that corner of the world, but keeping a good pace did wonders for keeping warm despite not having warmer clothing. When I arrived in Stillwater I elected to temporarily pass by the church of Geshtianna in favor of something quite a bit more important.
Adkin Chambers hollered at me again when I entered his shack, not recognizing my scent. I sighed patiently, trying to correct his mistake. "Your student has returned, Mr. Chambers, and I've brought a gift from Lady Druella."
He gasped suddenly, "Lady Druella! You have seen her! What has she sent?"
"A potion. I have been told it will restore your sight!" It warmed my heart to be able to tell that old man what I'd brought for him. He may have been crazed, paranoid, and vengeful... but I could tell from Lady Druella's devotion that he had been a different man before then. I only hoped that the potion I brought and news of his love would return him to the former man he once was.
You know, if I were in his shoes, I wouldn't believe it either. "Garrick attempted to blackmail her into marriage with it." I winced, expecting the outburst that was about to come.
"That evil, cunning beast! Was there no end to the atrocities to which he was capable? You have done well to rid the world of his presence. What are you waiting for? Give me the potion!" As rude as he was being, I truly couldn't blame his impatience. I handed him the potion and guided his hands to it. He drank it down hurriedly and the transformation I witnessed was nothing short of amazing.
It was truly a horrifically potent magick; my skin began to itch and eventually burn as he drank deeply from the tiny vial. He looked at me with wide eyes, he truly LOOKED at me for the first time.
"She is in Dernholm - she was unsure if you still loved her." Please understand... you've not been yourself these past months, or perhaps even years.
He shook his head, "My love for her has never faltered. I leave at once! Thank you for all you have done for us. You are an honorable warrior. May the gods bless you on your journey! Goodbye!"
He made as if to walk out the door, but I pulled Garrick's eyes out of my purse. "Thank you for the compliments, Mr. Chambers, but there is one more thing... I hate to hold you up, but I did as you asked of me... here are Sir Garrick's eyes."
He looked at the eyes with absolute hatred, "I knew I would have retribution! Now you have paid for your crimes! Vengeance is MINE!" He crushed the eyes in his fist, tossing them aside.
I winced, looking at it. "Um, yes, now that that's finished... might I have my training?"
"Thank you. I will continue my adventures..." I still had business to attend to in town and there was no reason for me to detain Mr. Chambers from his love any further. I'd gotten everything out of the deal that I'd wanted: training, a happy ending, and even some semblance of justice. Hmph. Of all people, I have no right even thinking of such a virtue. I left Mr. Chambers' shack and waved goodbye to him as he stalked off towards the south, then I headed directly to the church of Geshtianna.
It was a massive building, much moreso than any other building in Stillwater save for perhaps the inn. I was surprised that a church dedicated to an old religion still commanded so much respect. When I set my eyes on the priestess, however, my surprise waned.
I chuckled, "You're in quite the good mood, aren't you?" Oh yes, I can now very much see why Geshtianna still has a strong following, especially out here where it's cold and lonely... There was something inherently likable about the woman. I found her to be utterly gorgeous, and I really wasn't normally one to notice such things of another woman. In fact, I hated most other women, and the prettier they were the more I hated them. Perhaps that was because beauty and snobbery often went hand-in-hand.
The priestess smiled at me widely, "It is so kind of you to say so, but I know I am not being as loving as our goddess wishes. I must apologize for being so down today, someone has gone and stolen the idol of our beloved goddess, Geshtianna, the lady of the vine. And with the festival so close..."
Stolen?! Well that won't do. I need to make an offering. "I could try to find it for you. What would the reward be?" The last part was a reflex.
The priestess didn't seem to notice, or rather she didn't seem to be bothered by my reflexive greed. I supposed that was the way a true priestess of Geshtianna ought to act. "If you were to return our idol, our goddess would bestow her blessing upon you."
"Is that so?" I inquired, "What would such a blessing do for me?"
Why does that sound so very, very familiar? "I see. You have yourself a deal." My mind worked quickly, and as I traced where exactly I'd heard of such a blessing before I began to form a much more clear idea of where I could look for the idol.
"Bless you, sister." The priestess looked at me longingly and actually reached up, caressing my face for the briefest of moments. It put me off just a little bit how much she appeared to love me, a genuine stranger. Just what kind of a goddess am I making an offering to here? I shuddered uncomfortably and left the church. My memory worked quickly and I began my search for the fellow the bartender mentioned my first time in Stillwater: Marley.
It was a distant memory, but I was pretty sure the bartender told me about some kind of outcast that suddenly became popular overnight. One day he was hated, and the next he had women flocking to him. It certainly sounded like a promising lead, at any rate. Stillwater was not a large town and so Marley was rather easy to find, especially considering his growing popularity.
I sighed, tapping my foot impatiently. Really, now, how could nobody have noticed this in the last few months? "It is obvious to any who look at you that you have the stolen idol."
He started to sweat and looked around the room suspiciously, possibly searching for escape routes. He was an atrocious liar. "What... ah, could you possibly mean?"
Although I tried to avoid it, my voice took on the tone of a chiding mother. "Why did you steal the idol?"
He practically fell all over himself trying to explain it to me, knowing he couldn't get away with lying, "It has... powers, somehow. It's not magickal, yet it transforms whoever owns it. I was an ugly, hated person. In a town where everyone is loved and welcomed, I was rejected! But now that I own the idol, people treat me with love and respect."
This one's a modern day Kraka-tur, he is. I actually felt sorry for the poor sod. I knew all too well what it was like to be hated and rejected. "Perhaps I could persuade you to part with the statue." I didn't want to hurt him if I could avoid it, nor did I want to just take it from him if I could come to some other resolution.
He looked at me defiantly, "I do not see what you could offer me to convince me to change my mind."
I've seen altars. They're huge. Do you really want to hide out in this house the rest of your days just so people like you for all the wrong reasons? "I will get the priestess to bless you."
"Thank you. I knew we could come to an agreement." I took the key from him and, for once, actually used it. I so rarely used keys. There was a massive crate in the room and inside it, clear as day, was the massive golden idol. It was bigger than even the biggest great sword I had ever laid eyes on. I could scarcely believe he'd somehow managed to hide it and not have anybody the wiser. Stillwater must truly be a town of idiots.
Although bulky, the idol itself was surprisingly lightweight. I lifted it up over my shoulders and carried it back towards the church. I heard Sebastian whistle crudely, "Looking fine, Samantha."
"Excuse me?" I almost couldn't believe what he'd just said. "Are you trying to say the idol works, then? I knew that much." I've got to get rid of this bloody thing.
He turned several shades of red and went silent, but Virgil took his place. "He's right, though. You look... stunning."
Damnation! Not you, too! I scurried back to the priestess as quickly as I could manage.
Gah! NO! DEFINITELY NOT YOU! Take the damned idol! Take it! "No thank you. I've brought you the idol." I set it down on the ground in front of her and took several steps backwards.
She picked up the idol and placed it on the altar behind her, turning around and bowing to me. "Thank you so much! I bless you in the name of the goddess." Thank the gods I'm rid of that damned altar.
I supposed that I ought to live up to my word, "Actually, Marley found it. I think you should bless him as well."
She smiled and clapped her hands. "Oh, what an excellent idea! I wish I had thought of that sooner. It shall be done." I turned to leave, wanting to get the hell away from the damned idol as quickly as possible, but the priestess stopped me. "Wait! Please, join our festival celebration tonight. Have some spiced wine to celebrate."
Now that had been an unexpected offer. Wine, eh? I'm more of a whiskey kind of woman, but wine's not all bad and I could use a drink. "Don't mind if I do." I was never one to pass up free alcohol.
The next thing I knew I was waking up on the church floor, bare naked, with no idea of how many hours had passed in the interim. There were at least two dozen other naked men and women all passed out on the floor around me. Son of a bitch!
Terry was sleeping on my chest, keeping me at least partially decent, although I was still extremely embarrassed. Virgil, Vollinger, and Sebastian all stared at me disapprovingly.
I turned bright red and jumped up to look for my clothes. Thankfully they were right next to me and I put them on with considerable haste. "How long have I been... er... out? What happened? Good heavens, that must have been some wine! I don't remember a thing!" I chuckled nervously, but I could tell from the way the others struggled to hold back their grins that I wasn't very convincing.
Virgil started chuckling lightly, which got Vollinger and Sebastian started. Soon all three of them were laughing heartily and my face was as red as ever. Virgil held back his laughter just long enough to choke out, "Perhaps it's best that way." Ha ha, laugh it up then. I can't help it that priestess was... ugh, by the gods you're right... I don't want to remember. I need more wi... NO! Whiskey! I'm NOT having any more wine!
The worst of it over, I decided I might as well make an offering before leaving, lest I cut my pilgrimmage unfortunately short. I walked back out into the courtyard and placed a passion root onto the altar, closing my eyes and saying a brief prayer. Like many times before I felt the warmth of the blessing wash over me and my skin tingled for several moments. That's the last of the first circle... I'm ready to make my offering to Halcyon now. I wonder what it will feel like to receive a blessing from a greater god?
Bonus ContentRequested by Master Ninja
seorin's Guide to the Basics of Arcanum
Ok, I'm going to take some time out to describe some of the game's mechanics, mostly due to the request over in the Video LP Thread. I also like doing this kind of stuff and it doesn't take much time, so if anybody has any questions after this or if there's something else you'd like me to do a write-up of, just ask
Most of these screenshots are going to be thumbnailed for the sake of the people who already know the game mechanics, and also because there are a damn lot of them.
So here you see Sebastian's character sheet, and I'm going to use it to explain what these stats mean. Stats start at 8, then get modified by race and background. You gain 1 point every level to spend on whatever you want, and every 5 levels you get an extra point (so 2 points at levels 5, 10, 15, etc). Everything costs a single point to raise. You start with 5 points and the (default) level cap is 50, so from creation to end a normal character will acquire a max of 64 spendable points (5 to start, 49 levels to gain, 10 levels with bonus points). This only applies to the main character, however; followers use auto-leveling schemes that you can't turn off (this is why some - read: most - followers spend points really stupidly). You can use an auto-leveling scheme on your main character if you want, but you'll be just as useless as the meatbags you convince to join with you
Stats cap at 20, but racial modifiers alter this cap as well. If your race (say, half ogre) has an increased strength modifier then your cap is increased as well - this is good for some stats, but useless for others. When you reach 20 in any stat (regardless of cap) you get a special bonus for it (the bonus differs for each stat). Other than that, stats give a purely linear benefit when you raise them. They tend to be fairly strong, inherent bonuses, however.
Furthermore, every skill has a stat that it's based off of. In order to raise a skill beyond a certain point, you must meet a certain level in its appropriate stat. As an example, the repair skill is based off of intelligence. Skills cap out at 5, and to reach the maximum of 5 in the repair skill will require an 18 in intelligence. Reaching 4 requires a 15, 3 a 12, and so on. You can see that if you're planning on taking a skill to 5 (a wise idea for anything your character is specializing in), you should strongly consider taking its corresponding stat to 20 for its special bonus. You should also consider selecting a race or background that helps diffray the rather extreme 12 (out of 64 total, remember) point cost for raising the stat alone (each skill costing 5 more points).
The system basically forces you to build at least somewhat intelligently, instead of deciding you'd like to be a master at firearms, dodge, persuasion, and repair then getting lots of tech schematics. That combination would require you to spend a minimum of 10 (advised 12) points in perception, dexterity, charisma, and intelligence, plus 5 points per skill, and 7 points per tech discipline (and the 7th tech level requires 19 int instead of 18). That's a minimum of 68 points without hitting 20 in any stat and only reaching the top of a single tech discipline, so you see it's not even a realistic goal without the level cap remover (and even then it would require a lot of patience). Instead, such a character might want to just skip out on dodge entirely (since a firearms specialist is obviously a ranged fighter), reducing the point cost to a minimum of 53. With the remaining 11 points you could cap out a second tech discipline (say gunsmithy and mechanics, since they synergize well with firearms and repair respectively) and have 4 points left over. From there it would be trivial to cap out any two of the selected stats. Further, if the character's background or race provided any useful bonuses, that's even more points left over.
Here's a brief, faq-like overview of all the stats:
- Strength: Primarily affects your melee damage bonus and carry weight. Also affects how far you can throw things, and some (many) weapons have a Minimum Strength Requirement. Weapons can be wielded if the requirement is not met, but the miss rate is significantly higher. A high strength is good for any melee character, as it directly adds on to how much damage your attacks do. Bonus: Damage bonus is doubled! Arguably the best stat bonus ever. Your melee damage bonus is 1 for every point of strength above 10, meaning a 19 strength gives you a damage bonus of 9 where a strength of 20 grants you a damage bonus of 20 (with a bonus of 22 for 21 strength, 24 for 22 strength, and so on). When the best weapons in the game do around 50 damage a strike, an additional 20 is nothing to ignore.
- Constitution: Affects hit points, fatigue, and poison resistance. Raising this makes you harder to kill in many ways, and as it's not tied to any skills it tends to be one of the more ignored stats. It's good for mages and fighters alike since fighters will get hit a lot and mages could use the extra fatigue. You can spend points to up fatigue directly (4 points fatigue per point, instead of 1 fatigue and hp per con), but it's a personal choice. Since Constitution also affects Heal Rate (covered later), I find Con to be a better choice than straight fatigue or hp. Also, I just don't like spending points directly on sub-stats (especially since you can end the game with near 300 in both without spending points in either). Bonus: Immune to poison. Poison is easily curable and not all that damaging, so this is kinda crap.
- Dexterity: This is pretty much the mother of all stats, and it's the great weakness of the example character I outlined above. It affects the number of action points you have (how many actions you take per turn in turn-based) as well as a bunch of skills. Bonus: 25 base speed, +1 for each point over 20. This is essentially more action points, which means you kill lots more every round. A good bonus to have, but in my opinion it's not as significant as the strength bonus. They each shine in different areas, though, and a melee character ought to shoot for both.
- Beauty: Affects how much people like you by default. It's not terrifically important in the grand scheme of things. People have a certain numerical disposition towards your character based on your beauty and any other modifiers (nice clothing ups this number, and being nice to people in conversation can make them like you better). This number ranges from 0 to 200. Anything below 20 (I think... maybe 10 or 15) is enough to make a character attack you. An exceptionally low beauty will result in some characters attacking you on sight when they otherwise wouldn't (an amusing thought, if you think about it), and an exceptionally high beauty can very rarely avoid a fight. Bonus: A bonus 100% to reaction modifiers, plus an additional 10% for each point over 20. This makes people like you a lot even if you've never met them. It can maybe avoid the occasional fight, and that's about it. I remember reading somewhere that reactions above 200 wrap around back to low numbers, however I don't know if that's true. Regardless, a high beauty just isn't worth the points.
- Intelligence: Intelligence affects a small number of skills, and it's also tied to tech disciplines... any technologist character will need to raise int. It also affects the number of spell slots you have (meaning the number of non-instant buff or curse style spells that can be maintained at once). These slots can hold anything from a simple dex buff to a fully summoned follower. Maintained spells sap your fatigue at regular intervals, however, so you don't want to maintain too many at once (hence, a high int is of limited importance to mages). An exceptionally low int will give you dumb dialogue options. Bonus: +10% to the success rate of every skill. Not too bad, not too great. More helpful for skills you're only average at than for skills you've mastered. Mastered skills are fairly reliable.
- Willpower: Willpower is the primary stat for mages, as it is required to learn spells just like a high int is required to learn schematics. It also contributes to hp and fatigue much like con does. Bonus: Immunity to any resistable spell. There are precious few enemy mages in the game, so this is very questionably useful.
- Perception: Perception is primarily a stat you would raise because you use a skill that needs it. It also affects how far you can scroll the screen away from the character. A high perception character can scroll (and hence look) much farther away. I can't think of anywhere this is exceptionally useful, so I ignore perception unless I need it for a skill. Bonus: Sense invisible. I... don't think there are any invisible enemies, or even ones that prowl... ever. The assassins in the BMC mine might prowl... maybe.
- Charisma: This is a fairly important stat. Skill-wise it only affects persuasion, but it also has the side benefit of increasing the number of followers you can have. If you want to play a loner it's probably not important, but followers are interesting despite their general uselessness. Bonus: 100% loyalty, one of the most fun to abuse bonuses ever. Followers will never leave you for any reason except if you ask them to, and if you ask them to wait they'll wait forever (instead of eventually resetting to a default location, like the nearest bar or where you found them in the first place). If I had 20 charisma and I asked Magnus to "wait just a moment", I could come back 27 years later and he'd be like "OH GOD CAN I JOIN YOU AGAIN PLEASE?" It's awesome.
- Hit Points: When this hits 0, you die. Affected by strength, constitution, and willpower. You can actually raise this directly.
- Fatigue: Used to cast spells, and also many weapons deal fatigue damage in addition to normal damage. When your fatigue hits 0 you fall unconscious, and that's bad. Affected by constitution and willpower. Like hit points, you can also raise this directly.
- Carry Weight: How much crap you can pile on your character before becoming encumbered. Affected by strength and only strength. Encumbrance has many levels and the higher you go the more penalized you get. It starts by only reducing your speed a bit, but at higher levels will affect how fast you can move and also makes you lose fatigue as you walk (which is bad).
- Damage Bonus: Added to any melee damage you deal out, very useful. Affected by strength and only strength. As you're starting to see, strength is a pretty damn important stat. Who ever said the game was balanced, anyway?
- AC Adjustment: Bonus armor, in addition to any armor you're wearing. Based solely on dexterity. Makes it harder to get hit, which is good if you plan on diving into the middle of hordes of enemies.
- Speed: Basically, this is the amount of action points you get per turn. It mirrors your dex until 20, at which point you get bonuses (as above). The more of this you have the more stuff you can do in one turn, like throwing grenades, healing yourself, and killing your enemies. Good to have. In addition to dexterity, it can also be affected by your encumbrance level and the speed factor of your weapon.
- Heal Rate: This affects how much rest it takes to heal to full (unimportant), but also the rate at which your fatigue regenerates (important). This is crucial for mages who plan on maintaining a lot of spells, and also just plain useful for reducing potion consumption. Heal rate is affected by strength and constitution. A swordsman with high levels in both and a bit of willpower will easily be able to maintain buffs on himself (like haste ) and tear things up. Nice to have as a magic user, passable otherwise.
- Poison Recovery: Poison works in 'ticks'. Each tick you take 2 damage and your poison counter reduces by your poison recovery rate (which is affected by con, and mirrors it). Poison damage simply raises your poison counter (which you can keep track of on your life bar), and a high recovery rate means fewer ticks before that counter hits 0. Poison is easy to cure through magic, potions, or a low level tech item, and generally not that harmful in the first place. I don't see any reason to really care about this stat.
- Reaction Modifier: This plus the base reaction of whatever NPC you're dealing with determines their opinion of you. Used mostly to determine whether they're going to attack you or not. This is solely affected by beauty, and is beauty's primary (only?) purpose.
- Max Followers: Affected by charisma, fairly self explanatory. Nice to have if you like to have party members.
- Resistance: A percentage reduction of certain damage types, broken down between physical, magickal, fire, poison, and electrical. Affected a lot by worn items, but poison resistance is also affected by con. Magickal resistance is added to technological aptitude when determining whether a spell is resisted, so technologist characters are very magick-resistant.
- Bow: Based off of dexterity. Pretty obvious, like most combat skills. If you want to shoot arrows out of a bow, this is the skill for you. Apprentice: Your speed is increased by 5 if you're wielding a bow. Expert: You can fire two arrows at once. Master: Your hit chance is unaffected by range penalties.
- Dodge: Based off of dexterity. This is a chance to dodge a successful attack. It's more important for a low AC character to have, but if you're raising your dex anyway (hint: you probably are), it's a cheap investment for added protection. Apprentice: On a critical success, there is a 10% chance the attacker will critically fail. Expert: That raises to a 50% chance. Master: That raises to a 100% chance (overrides Melee mastery benefit).
- Melee: Based off of dexterity. If you want to hit stuff with your hands, or stuff you hold in your hands, this is probably wise. Loved by ogres everywhere. Apprentice: Your speed is increased by 5 if you're wielding a Melee weapon. Expert: You are unaffected by lighting penalties when striking in melee combat. Master: You cannot critically fail with a melee weapon.
- Throwing: Based off of dexterity. This is useful for tossing throwing weapons (boomerangs and chakrams, they return to you) as well as grenades (luckily, they do not return to you). Great for any explosives expert. Apprentice: Your speed is increased by 5 if you're wielding a throwing weapon. Expert: Your throwing range increases to 50% farther. Master: Your chance of success is unaffected by range penalties.
- Backstab: Based off of dexterity (are you seeing a pattern yet?). Deals additional damage (and lots of it) when striking with a dagger from behind. Deals even more damage if the opponent is unaware, and damage increases with higher skill levels. A successful backstab will bypass armor. Expert: You can backstab with swords or axes. Master: Your chance of getting a critical hit is significantly increased when backstabbing.
- Pick Pocket: Based off of dexterity. Used to steal from people, or plant live dynamite on them without them realizing it. Stealing equipped items is significantly harder, but possible. Works better from behind than from the front. Apprentice: You will only be caught on a critical failure. Expert: The item size penalty is halved. Master: You cannot be caught when planting an item (live dynamite )
- Prowling: Based off of perception. Combos well with backstab, except it's based off of perception Your chance of success is unaffected by lighting, and armor penalties are halved. Expert: Your chance of success is unaffected by surrounding objects, and you can walk at the normal speed while prowling. Master: You can conceal yourself mid-combat (backstab damage bonus!) and you can prowl at a full run.
- Spot Trap: Based off of perception. Made near completely useless through scrolls and the third tier electrical schematic. Not that thrillingly important anyway, as few areas in the game are severely trapped (and they're not really trapped too lethally as long as you're careful). Apprentice: Your chance of success is unaffected by lighting. Expert: You can sense magickal traps as well as mechanical ones. Master: If you fail to spot a trap (but not critically) you get a second chance to spot it.
- Gambling: Based off of intelligence. A decent buy for a character without pick pocket, as it's the only other way to get equipped items (though it only works on shopkeepers). You can also choose to play dice for money or other things via dialogue options. Apprentice: Raises the value of items your mark is willing to gamble away. Expert: Makes your mark willing to gamble away wielded items. Master: Your mark will gamble away things he wouldn't even normally sell.
- Haggle: Based off of willpower. Money is cheap, this skill is useless unless you want it for role-playing reasons. You can use it to squeeze out extra money from quests, and generally buy lower and sell higher. There's a money dupe trick, and even if there weren't it's trivial to make money in this game after a certain point. Apprentice: You can see the merchant's mark-up. Expert: Merchants will buy anything from you. Master: Merchants will sell things they normally wouldn't (the same as gambling master, but for haggle).
- Heal: Based off of intelligence. You need bandages to use this skill. Bandages are lightweight and stack in 10s, potions and salves do not stack. A good inventory space saver, but that's about it. Apprentice: You can heal an extra 50%. Expert: Critical failures are reduced to normal failures. Master: All successes are critical successes (and heal the side effects of crippling injuries). To go into more detail on that, crippling injuries are added penalties you can get from having a serious wound like a broken arm (these are rare).
- Persuasion: Based off of charisma. One of the most useful skills in the game. Significantly affects the outcome of several dialogues, often providing alternative resolutions to many, many quests. The designers did a great job making this useful almost everywhere, and in fact there are some quests that require it outright (which is annoying when you don't have it). Apprentice: Followers will wait longer than they normally would. Expert: Gain a permanent +1 bonus to your max followers. Master: Any follower will join you regardless of alignment. Evil characters don't care if you're too good, and Magnus doesn't care if you're the antichrist (but he reserves the right to bitch about it anyway).
- Repair: Based off of intelligence. This allows you to fix your own stuff for free. Since you probably suck at it, this will damage the max durability of the item, eventually reducing any item you've used a lot into a worthless piece of trash. NPC repairers cost money and are only found in towns, but they have a much smaller chance of permanently damaging the item. Apprentice: When you repair items their max HP reduces by "only" 5%. Expert: That reduction becomes a much more sane 1%. Master: You finally stop reducing max HP (except when you critically fail), and you can fix broken items (but at a cost of 5% of their max HP). The skill basically goes from near worthless to "better than the NPC repairer by a mile". Good to max this skill and master it if you plan on using it at all.
- Firearms: Based off of perception. So... you wanna shoot stuff? Apprentice: Your speed is increased by 5 when you're wielding a gun. Expert: Called shots (which are kinda useless) are made with 2/3 the normal penalty. Master: Your chance of success is unaffected by range penalties.
- Pick Locks: Based off of dexterity. Almost completely nullified by a level 2 spell for any non-tech character. Useless unless you're going tech, very fucking useful if you are going tech. Lockpicks add a small bonus to this skill's success rate, which is nice since you have to have this skill at an absurdly high level before it's even remotely useful. Even low level locks can damn near require a 3-5 skill level. Apprentice: The pick lock action takes half the time (not really ever important). Expert: You're unaffected by lighting penalties (nice, considering you usually want to be prowling, and that means you like the dark). Master: The penalty based on the lock's difficulty is halved (finally you can pick locks on the first try! At long last!).
- Disarm Traps: Based off of perception. If you thought spot traps was useless.... Seriously, you can't use this unless you're aware of the trap in the first place, and VERY few traps are unavoidable. Mostly trapped doors and chests and the like, of which the game has maybe a couple dozen... total. And they're never lethal. Apprentice: You're unaffected by lighting penalties. Expert: If you critically succeed, you get a part of the trap (arrows, dynamite, whatever). Master: If you fail (not critically) you get a second chance.
Alright, let's talk a bit about tech. There are both 'found' and 'learned' schematics. You get the latter for spending your points in a particular discipline, the former are found or bought.
Side note: merchants have a list of items they're willing to buy. Eyes are not on this list.
So, schematics allow you to build stuff. Each schematic shows two items in the lower right corner (you can over over them for more details) as well as some other information. The box is colored either green (all clear), red (you lack the item, but have the skill), or clear (you lack the skill to make the item). On the right side of the schematics are tabs you can use to change between disciplines, and on the top are arrows you can use to page between schematics within a discipline. On the left side are buttons: the top one shows only learned schematics, the middle one shows only found schematics, and the bottom one combines the item if you have everything you need to make it.
You can always make a learned schematic if you have the items used to make it, as that's kind of the whole point. When you learn that schematic you always get bumped up to the level needed to make it. Found schematics are more demanding, they require higher levels of skill and often in multiple different areas of expertise. The symbol in the upper left shows what discipline is needed and the number in the bottom right shows what skill you need in it. The Tesla Gun, for example, requires 55 electrical skill.
Most item requirements for schematics are pretty easy to fill. The harder items require either other tech items (that you build using their own schematics) or hard to find items, usually used for rarer and more powerful creations. The easy, more common components can often be bought in a variety of shops or found in rubbish bins (like a rag for a molotov cocktail). Speaking of a molotov cocktail, that's a good example for creating stuff. Its two items are a rag and fuel. Fuel can be bought, but it can also be made (via a found schematic in the explosives category that requires chemistry). Fuel is made using brewer's yeast and wine, both of which are cheaply buyable.
You can see in the pictures that I lack the 25 chemistry needed to produce fuel, but that can be fixed with technical manuals. Tech manuals are heavy (200 stones each), but raise your aptitude in their relevant area by an amount equal to your intelligence as long as you hold them. It's good for a tech character to just buy a ton of manuals and toss them into a storage bin somewhere. So, in the example screenshots I pulled 3 chemistry manuals out of storage to meet the 25 skill requirement, and then I'm able to make fuel. I click the create button, and that consumes my components (which is why they turn red afterwards, because I still have the skill as long as I possess the manuals, but I now lack the components since I bought only one of each).
Most schematics that produce consumables produce it in multiples. In the case of fuel, I received a stack of 50. I give that fuel over to Sebastian since his gun consumes 2 fuel per shot (instead of bullets like normal guns).
Lastly, here's a little combat primer. Fights happen in a lot of places, though if you want to seek one out you'll have to run around the world map looking for random encounters. You move on the world map by placing a network of nodes and your character proceeds from node to node in the order you placed them.
Once combat starts, you either blink and it's over (real-time) or you see this little meter on the bottom that has one green dot for each of your action points. If you have more than 20 you don't get to see the extras, but they are accounted for. You can see in the below screenshot that I can move a good distance without even seeing an impact on my action points, but when I move just a little farther it starts taking out from my points a lot more... that's just because I have that many action points above 20. I also decided to show what happens if you throw a grenade without having any throwing skill.
So, once I moved in place to backstab the fuck out of the poor assassin, my action bar started showing that it'll take me 5 action points to attack. Axes are slow as hell, they take a huge investment to swing. I kill the poor bastard in a single shot and move on to the next. He's a higher level and thus has a higher AC. I miss once, then hit for a rather sizable chunk of damage (backstab, woo!). Now, even though I don't have another full 5 points to swing I can still attack. I don't know if they take it out of my next turn or if it's just free points, but
He dies, then Virgil runs off and finishes the last assassin. That's basically combat.
Oh god, please tell me somebody read that.
As promised earlier, here's that sound pack I mentioned (it's only a meg and a half this time). I made sure to include all the sound files for what characters say when they're dead since it doesn't seem like they're used in the actual game. I also included some Torian Kel clips, because he's bad ass, and some Geoffrey clips, because he's an eccentric bastard and it's great. Naturally, you can also hear Virgil's opinion of Geshtianna
Completely Random Sewer Adventure Pseudo-Update!
I avoided taking a trip through the sewers earlier because it didn't make much plot sense, but it's never really going to make plot sense... so I ran around in there for awhile with Sebastian and took a bunch of pictures to show you. I seem to be in a very emoticon mood today, I hope that doesn't put anybody off.
They start out with a bunch of weak crap like stupid little snake men. It's a trap, to lure you in and make you think the sewers are meant for low level characters, and then when you least expect it
:krakken: I don't think these are even the hardest creatures in the sewers, but they might be the highest level. When you've been killing level 5s and you're barely level 9, these things are pretty bad ass.
Here's a good shot of what Sebastian's gun looks like. It fires little green orbs out and those explode in a cloud of awesome.
These things are probably the worst of the enemies you fight in here. They do pretty damn good damage in addition to poison damage, and they're VERY brutal for a low level. Compared to this thing, the snakes are good levelin'.
I still don't know why they call that a "fleshy mound". Certainly that's not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the term
This thing is so low level that even I could sneak up behind it without pissing it off. I can't believe it actually has dialogue if you try talking to it
All that for a barrel. Thankfully, treasure seems to (on some level) scale to level, because on my other playthroughs I sure as hell don't remember walking out of the sewers with bags full of gems and magickal equipment and magickal equipment adorned with gems. I think I made at least 5k just selling off all the crap I found. It was insane, every other barrel, crate, or chest would have seven suits of magick leather and an axe.
For some reason, those things have always creeped me the fuck out. I think it's their animation.
There's also a rather distinct corner of the sewers with a few bandits and a ton of ill-gotten gains. Amusingly enough, I think the treasure I found off the bandits was considerably worse than the loot in the rest of the sewers... even the stuff guarded by rats
You can see the kind-of layered, semi-maze that leads to that room.
I wasn't kidding about the loot. You can probably tell from the eyes in my inventory that I actually did all this before leaving for Stillwater. Anyhow, that's basically the sewers. You can get a lot of exp there, even this late in the game. If you're not afraid to use consumables you can even take down the really high level stuff early on for a rather significant exp boost. It's not as good for leveling as the portal in the woods, but then again nothing really is. It's pretty up there for early game leveling spots, though.