Chapter the Forty Sixth: The Long Awaited Homecoming At LastWhile I wasn't overly fond of the Eastern grasslands, my dislike of the place certainly wasn't going to stand in the way of my trip to Vooriden. Thankfully, the location Mr. Buxington pointed out on my map was not that terribly far from Tarant. I stopped in Tarant for a quick night's rest in a comfortable bed and then, as quickly as I'd arrived, I departed once again.
The grasslands were as unremarkable as ever, but that was to be expected. At the very least they were an improvement over Tarant, which managed to be uncomfortable despite all of the comforts of the modern age. I was growing quite accustomed to travel, and sleeping out in the wilds. The fresh air almost seemed to do more for my comfort at night than a warm bed.
Vooriden was a particularly small place, just a collection of not even half a dozen small buildings. I actually quite liked the place. The easternmost building seemed to be the main shrine, and the doors were open and welcoming. A small, gnomish priest stood inside, which I found at least a little bit odd. I might've expected a gnome at the altar to Kerlin, but Halcyon was fairly far removed. I supposed greater gods drew all sorts of worshippers, however, and technically I could count myself among them. "Greetings, sir gnome. Might I ask your name?"
"A pleasure, Edwin." My, but this place is rather impressive in its humility. "Do you have a moment to speak?"
He nodded at me courteously, "Of course."
I idly wondered if the gnome's attitude and the design of the temple itself had more to do with Halcyon or his status as a greater god. I somewhat feared my inevitable visit to Moorindal, the god of shadows. "What can you tell me about this temple?"
He took a deep, calm breath, addressing me in a fashion almost completely detached from reality. It was almost as though he had no emotion whatsoever. "The Halcyon Order is an ancient one, my friend. Long ago there were many gods, and each god represented a particular virtue. A man chose his gods carefully... religion was a very serious thing...
"All of the gods were created by the All-Father, who ruled over them and saw that none were more important, or more powerful, than the others. The balance between gods was well-maintained, and no one religion was more powerful than another..."
I was mildly irritated that he seemed to think I didn't know the first thing about where I was, but I supposed that was the fault of the question I'd asked. His story was at least interesting, however. "What happened?"
Pah. No offense, Virgil, but I'm still not overly fond of the whole Living One business. I don't think you'd feel any different in my shoes. "Can you tell me about your god, Halcyon?"
He smiled, hearing the genuine interest in my voice, "The god Halcyon is the god of Truth. We worship him by looking at ourselves and discovering the truth within. We remove anything that is in conflict with that inner truth. Truth is different for every man... Halcyon only asks that every man be honest with himself when seeking it. Then, and only then, can a man's inner Halcyon emerge." As he finished, Edwin bowed his head towards nobody in particular, likely out of reverence for his god.
At the very least it sounded like an interesting philosophy. I certainly couldn't argue with it, as I'd spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out just what kind of person I really was and trying to come to terms with it. In the end, I'd obviously decided to keep on stealing, so perhaps there was a bit of Halcyon in me after all. "Can I make an offering to Halcyon?"
Edwin frowned, "No... I'm sorry, but no one has made a true offering to Halcyon here in almost 200 years..."
Not even you, or the other residents here? What kind of priest are you? "Why not?"
"He and his men destroyed everything in town, pillaging what they wanted and burning the rest. When they found the temple... well, let's just say that the old pirate did things to our altar that need never be spoken of again. There hasn't been an offering made on that altar since." Edwin frowned and looked at the altar with sad eyes.
Well... I can understand that, I suppose. "Why don't you get a new altar?"
He struggled trying to explain it to me, "That's not quite as easy as you'd think. You see, there are rules pertaining to the making of altars..."
Can the materials be stolen if the stealer is all right with that? "What are they?"
Yet, for me, it would be trivial... and I was so hoping to make an offering. "I see. Perhaps I could be of assistance?"
He seemed taken aback at my offer for a brief moment, but then grew to appreciate the idea. "Hmmm. Perhaps you might be able to do so. The stone you will need to retrieve will be large and heavy. Unless you are very strong, I recommend you to try and find Murgo... he's a half-ogre who works around here, and he might be able to help you..."
I've always wanted to try one of those things out... this way I can have him tag along with no obligation to keep him. "Where is the Torin Quarry?"
He pointed a small, gnomish finger back towards the way I came, "The Torin Quarry is west of here... near the base of the Stonewall Mountains." I pulled out my map and showed it to him and he pointed to a specific spot on it, not terribly far from Shrouded Hills of all places. "You should be able to find a suitable stone lying around. We are poor folk here... I can't offer you anything but our thanks..."
I waved a hand at him dismissively, "I'd ask nothing more. I'll fetch Murgo and then fetch this stone."
I didn't feel any particular blessings washing over me, which I attributed to the lack of a proper altar. I'll fix that soon enough. "Thank you, Edwin. I'll return with the stone!"
I stepped outside of the shrine and looked about the small collection of buildings for only a moment before my eyes settled on a rather large and ugly gentleman wearing a loose, red shirt. He was unmistakably of ogreish descent, so I walked up to him with a smile. His eyes lit up as I approached and a dumb grin formed across his face, "Uh... hi! I Murgo!"
Oh boy. "Uh, yes... hello, Murgo. Could I speak with you a moment?"
He nodded happily, with seemingly less intelligence than Terry. Actually, Terry was pretty smart for a dog. I tossed him a piece of jerky while I was thinking of it and he devoured it hungrily. Murgo was practically shouting his response at me, "Sure! Murgo likes to talk!"
Great. This is going to be one hell of a journey. I looked at my map, noting unpleasantly that I would probably be spending nearly a month with the ogre, perhaps longer. I cleared my throat, "I spoke with Mr. Wallows... he said you might be available to help me?"
LIFT ROCK. BIG ROCK. MURGO STRONG. "I need you to carry something for me... a replacement stone for the altar. It's a long journey to get the stone, but I'll need your help carrying it back. Can you carry a large rock, Murgo?"
He stared at me blankly. "Uh... okay. I think I unnerstand..."
I waited there for several moments and Murgo didn't move a muscle. "So... you'll join me?"
His eyes lit up again as he made his decision, "Okay! I help you! But we need go there right away! I have to come back here and help priests again!"
Yes, believe me, I wouldn't dream of bringing you elsewhere. "All right. We'll go directly to the quarry..."
My fears as to the length of the journey and the annoyances of Murgo's company were both rather unfortunately well founded. Murgo chattered nearly non-stop about the same things over and over again, seemingly forgetting that he'd already told us about the time he hit his head on the door frame when he tried to enter the shrine.... seven times. It was a wonder he could even still speak at all. Just when I was starting to wonder if he had any stories that didn't involve hurting himself and then laughing about it we finally started to approach the quarry site.
There were wild bears and even aggressive monkeys all over the quarry, but nothing that actually threatened me. With so many people following me and fighting by my side I felt like a division of the army sent out to quell a wildlife rebellion. I barely even got scratched in putting the beasts down. Avoiding the remaining beasts that hadn't noticed our presence yet, I directed Murgo to a particularly large stone that looked like it had been loosened from the quarry but never properly removed. Murgo lumbered over to it happily and picked the whole damn thing up, carrying it above his head. "It heavy," he whined.
That's all any of us heard about on the entire trip back. "This heavy," yes, Murgo, we know. "It still heavy," yes, Murgo, objects don't get lighter the longer you carry them. "This rock real big," yes, Murgo, that's why we're bringing it back to Vooriden. After only the first day I'd already learned to just ignore him, hoping that the lack of encouragement would cause him to shut up. It didn't. Thankfully, for all his complaining, he didn't really seem to mind.
Murgo carried the stone inside of the shrine when we returned and I approached Edwin to inform him of the good news. "Nice to see you again, Edwin! I've returned with the altar stone."
Even though I was still irritated from putting up with Murgo I was at least happy to have done a good deed, and it looked like I would be able to make that offering after all. Ugh. I'm never travelling with an ogre again. "I'd still like to make that offering, Edwin. I'll return when you've carved that stone into a proper altar."
"Certainly," he smiled, "I'll fetch our craftsman right away!"
Murgo wandered off the moment I stepped outdoors, which suited me just fine. I explored the tiny collection of buildings for an hour or so, simply admiring the simplicity of it all. Afterwards, the five of us travelled about an hour into the grasslands, intent on resting there for the night and paying the altar a visit in the morning.
"Don't worry, any of you," I pleaded, "I'll not be taking a half-ogre with us ever again." They all laughed. We took the night to rest up instead of being constantly on the move as usual. It was nice to simply spend the time chatting, resting our overworked legs and feet. There was still pressing business for us to attend to, but I was quite glad I'd decided to embark upon the detours I had. The only other stop I had planned before Black Root was on the way, so I would be arriving in Caladon soon enough. I fell asleep, thinking uneasy thoughts about my inevitable return. By the time I awoke and returned to Vooriden in the morning, the altar was already finished and it looked quite splendid.
I felt Halcyon's blessing wash over me as I made him an offering of an olive tree branch I'd found in the greenhouse at the caverns of the Wheel Clan. At last, I departed for Black Root, intent on making use of the ship Willoughsby was providing for me. Torg's altar was nearly directly on the path to Black Root, hardly a half a day's journey out of my way. It was a dirty and unkempt old thing, in stark contrast to the brand new altar of Halcyon. I offered a ruby at it, receiving a minor blessing in return. I could somehow tell it was different than Halcyon's blessing, lesser in scope... dirtier. I didn't really like the way it felt, and I had a feeling further blessings in this circle would only make that feeling stronger. I couldn't entirely place how or why, however I knew I didn't like it.
At last I made straight for Black Root. Even though Caladon was still almost a week's journey away by sea, my palms grew sweaty and my heart raced as we approached the docks. There was only a single ship in port and I just knew that it was waiting for me, Willoughsby wouldn't have it any other way. I stepped on board nervously and addressed the captain, "Is this ship bound for Caladon?"
He stared at me with a scrutinizing glare, "Aye, it is if yer name be Samantha Colburn. Otherwise it ain't goin' anywhere." What is with that manner of speech? Do all ex-pirates get jobs working for the wealthy?
As off-put as I was, I honestly preferred to be in the hands of a pirate when going past Razor's Cape. They would have considerably more experience navigating such treacherous waters should the worst happen, and it wasn't as though I had any right to consider myself high class anyway. "Yes, I am she. Let's be off, then."
The captain turned and began barking orders loudly at his crewmen, and before I knew it the ship was off. I spent nearly the whole time cooped up in my cabin, refusing to see or talk to anybody... even Virgil. Towards the end of the journey he started to sound quite desperately worried, but I couldn't bring myself to face him. Now you're all going to see... you're going to see what kind of life I used to lead, you're going to learn about the horrible things I did before I left...
I weakly composed myself when the ship arrived in Caladon and I strode out onto the docks with false confidence. I took a deep breath, taking in the familiar scent of my homeland that I hadn't realized just how badly I missed until that very moment. It nearly brought tears to my eyes, and would have had I allowed all of the memories that came with it to surface. Oh, Caladon... I'm home at last.
I nervously walked to the end of the docks, staring about at each and every worker I passed to see if I recognized them - or, more importantly, if they recognized me. I wanted to bury my face in my dress, and I might've if it wouldn't have impaired my ability to walk properly. After passing the first dozen workers I nearly broke out into a run, trying to just get past all of them without the horror of having any of them shout, "Hey you! Aren't you Samantha Colburn?! I remember you!"
Luckily for me, my favorite bar was merely a stone's throw away from the docks. I ran up the street in a hurry, ducking into The Toadstool while carefully avoiding looking anybody in the eye on the way. Virgil had a sad look in his eyes, but neither he nor the others said anything. This was my problem to deal with and if I didn't figure out a way to get a handle on it then they certainly couldn't help me. My handle was whiskey.
Please don't recognize me, please don't recognize me. "Say, bartender, could I get a shot of whiskey?"
He looked up at me and I nearly flinched. His gaze passed over me, looking at the group I traveled with, and he looked at me yet again. "Sure thing, madam. That'll be 2 coins." Recognition never flared in his eyes, even though I slightly recognized him. I slapped the 2 coins on the table and flipped through my diary nervously. I suppose it has been three years, and I've been traveling an awful lot... maybe I'm not as instantly recognizable as I'd feared.
I still needed the whiskey to calm myself down, as much because I craved it as because of the effect it would have on me. I at least took the effort to enjoy the drink instead of simply tossing it down. "What's new around here, bartender? Caladon's a busy place."
Maxim's factory? I was planning on stopping there... "Recently?" I arched an eyebrow, the whiskey starting to take effect and relaxing me noticeably.
He shook his head, "No, quite a while ago... but it hasn't been the same since. They never caught whoever did it, and the rumors say the royal family lost faith in Maxim after that. He's lost his funding."
Poor old Maxim... he didn't have that coming to him... "I see... that's too bad. Kind of frightening, isn't it? Whoever did it is still out there."
He chuckled a bit, refilling my whiskey. I flipped him the coin for it and eyed the drink thirstily. "You think that's frightening? Drink up, there are rumors of a werewolf about town lately. A werewolf! Some say they have actually seen the beast prowling the outskirts of town late at night!"
I pushed the drink away, not wanting to get too tipsy at just that moment. Sebastian eyed it up curiously, then shrugged and tossed it down his throat. I didn't really mind... it would've been a shame to waste good, Caladonian whiskey. "I don't believe in any of that nonsense. Really, a werewolf? That's just a fairy tale told to children to scare them into being good. 'Be good, or the werewolf will get you!' Didn't your parents ever tell you that one?"
He smiled at me, seeming to enjoy our little conversation. "Well, maybe the werewolf is just superstition, but that's not all there is to be frightened of."
I started to regret passing up that second drink. "Murderer? ...and he hasn't been caught yet? Are the guards slacking off?"
He shrugged, "I couldn't say, but there have been murders around town every night for the past week! Perhaps the guards are just lazy because the only ones that have been murdered so far have been prostitutes." You've got to be kidding me. That hits too close to home... I can't just let that stand. Damned lazy guards.
I shuddered uncomfortably, "Well, thank you for the information friend... and the drinks. I'd best be off."
He nodded, "It's no problem, madam. Say, you've got the look of an adventurer about you if I don't miss my guess..."
I paused briefly, preferring even that unfortunate title to actual recognition. "I suppose you could say that. Have a job for me?"
He shook his head, "No, no, nothing like that... just a bit of advice, a freebie in return for such an enjoyable conversation."
That must be Kaitan... I never knew there was a full mountain pass there. I'll have to remember it. "Many thanks, friend." I tossed another 2 coin on the table for no particular reason and strode out of the bar.
Virgil looked over at me sadly, "Feeling better?"
I'd only had one drink, and truthfully it wasn't nearly enough but I didn't dare get completely blasted. "Not particularly."
He sighed heavily and I could tell something weighed on his mind as well, perhaps not just worrying about me. I felt careless and insensitive all of the sudden, but he continued talking before I could ask him about it, "Do you know where we can find this Victor Misk fellow?"
I nodded satisfactorily, "Of course I do, I could recite his address in my sleep. 9 Gray Wolf Terrace. There are other things of more import to take care of first, however."
He almost seemed to grow angry, "More important...? Just how long do you plan on ignoring our search for the Dark Elves?"
I simply cannot abide by a murderer running rampant in town, targeting the local prostitutes... theirs is a hard lot as it is, and damn it! I can do something about this! I didn't think Virgil would necessarily agree with me. "Well, that isn't the only thing I've put off. Have you so soon forgotten who it was that made it possible for us to arrive here in the first place?"
Sebastian clapped me on the shoulder, "That's right! I may not like Willoughsby, but he's not the kinda man you wanna keep waiting. Best take care of his business before we get to doing anything else, eh?" I didn't particularly like the idea, but he had an excellent point and I was the one who'd brought the subject up in the first place. It wouldn't be wise to get on Willoughsby's bad side... if only I could figure out how to keep him happy while not signing Caladon's soul and future over to Tarant in the process.
Bonus ContentThere's a quest I found in the bar that I'm not going to do in the main plot because it's kind of stupid. Actually, I just loaded after grabbing these screenshots. I guess this is one of those quests that's there for evil characters.
Well, what do you want, Samantha Colburn?
I am looking for work... Have you any problems that need solving?
Problem? Ha! The only "problem" I have is my father! I doubt there's much you can do about that!
Your father? Why is he a problem?
It didn't used to be. He was always a strong, ruthless business man. People feared him. His power and influence were a force to be reckoned with...
He had an accident about a year ago. It almost killed him. [under his breath] Too bad it didn't... [Brings his attention back to you] Ever since then, he's become a "changed" man.
I couldn't resist. If you want it to go anywhere, though, you have to choose the other option.
That is quite a change. He must have been very traumatized.
He is squandering a fortune that is rightfully mine! He has no right to give away what should be mine! None!
If it were me, I would put a stop to his actions...
Hmmm... [looks at you thoughtfully, as if assessing your abilities] Perhaps I do have a job for you...
Are you implying what I think you are?
If you have surmised that I would like you to arrange a little something for my father... you are correct.
Hmmm... This would benefit you greatly...
And what would one consider "appropriate" for such arrangements?
I believe 1,000 would cover it.
[looking shocked] 1,000! That is a little expensive, don't you think?
You are asking a great deal... and have much to gain...
So we take a stroll over to Mr. Sanders' house.
Yes? What can I do for you?
I'm afraid I have some rather disturbing news about your son...
Then what is it? Has Ryan done something wrong? That boy! I don't know what I'm going to do with him... Always getting himself into some fix. I just wish he could see how much better things could be if we would just spend more time together... [sigh]
I'm sorry to inform you, but he's put a contract on your life.
[looking shocked... then outraged] That's preposterous! He and I may have our differences... but we love each other. We're family dammit! How dare you come in here telling me such lies!
But it's true! I am supposed to kill you... by his orders!
If you go back to Ryan after that he won't pay you, he's just pissed off at you. It seems like a pretty bad oversight that you can go so far as to get Ryan to hire you, inform his father... and then it all deadends into a whole lot of nothing, and you end up killing him anyway for no reward. Naturally, if you want you can kill him for the money, but if you try to say anything remotely 'good' during the whole time it'll just end in nothing.
Here's a couple other random shots, too:
Requested by Velius
Here are a few neat magic-oriented character ideas to try that might sound interesting to you:
- A 100% pugilist that fights unarmed (hardened hands in the Morph college would be fun to use) and uses the disarm spell to make sure his opponents do the same.
- An earth caster, using the second tier 'Stone Throw' spell as a basic attack.
- A mental mage, charming enemies into killing each other.
- A nature archer, charming beasts and entangling foes while pinging away with arrows (this is probably the next character I'm going to play).
- A pure summoner challenge, using nothing but summoned creatures and buffing them. When in doubt, experiment! If you'd rather not go with a quirky build like the above, but you'd like something effective that doesn't use a bow, I'd recommend a combination of force, fire, and earth. I still really don't like force and think you could do without it, but stone throw and fireflash would make a decent basic arsenal. If you add the mental college to it you could fireflash any groups, charm one of a pair, and stone throw on singles. Certainly more interesting than 'spam harm until dead', which bored me to tears.