The Let's Play Archive


by Seorin

Part 51

Chapter the Fiftieth: Tragedy Abounds In Our Cruel World

I wiped the tears from my eyes as I ran back towards the others, trying to conceal the anguish inside of me. It was fully nighttime when I rejoined Vollinger, Sebastian, and Terry. Sebastian was holding Terry back aggressively and it looked like Terry was about to start biting. When that dog started biting, he didn't joke around, and I really didn't want Sebastian getting maimed. "It's all right, Sebastian. Let Terry go. Terry! What's gotten into you?!" The strange events I'd returned to were doing a good job of taking my mind off of Frederick's death, and Virgil's distance. A distraction was truly the best thing I could hope for.

Sebastian shrugged, "I don't know what his problem is! He keeps on running over to that Misk fella's grave and digging at it. He's going to get the whole lot of us in a world of trouble!"

I grabbed a nearby shovel that was leaning up against the cemetary wall. "How about if I get us in trouble, then?" His eyes went wide with shock and if I'd been in a better mood it would've made me laugh. "It's dark anyway, nobody will see us. Aren't you curious what Terry wants?" I surely wasn't acting quite like myself, but at that moment I lacked all manner of self control. If digging up Victor Misk's grave would keep my mind off of Frederick for just a few minutes longer, then I was going to do it. Curiosity and a lack of self control are a dangerous mix.

I ran over to Terry and gently pushed him out of the way of the grave. He moved aside slowly and gave a dissatisfied woof. Digging out the grave was an easy task, considering how fresh it was. It was a moment of emotional and moral weakness, but ripping out shovels full of dirt and tossing them aside haphazardly seemed somehow therapeutic. I put everything I had into digging, losing myself in working the shovel against the dirt. At last my shovel struck Victor's ornately decorated casket and I stood up, morbidly proud of myself.

Terry let out another bark and began scratching at the lid of the casket. "All right, Terry, if that's how you're going to be." Terry whined and moved out of the way as I brought my shovel down onto casket, puncturing a nicely sized hole into the lid and sending splinters of wood flying. Sitting out in the open on Victor's chest was a book. I stared at it for several moments, unsure of exactly how to proceed. How the hell did that get there? Terry couldn't possibly have known, could he? I bent down and picked it up, noting the obviously fake binding.

wrest control away from the virtuous Nasrudin and his holy Elven Council. Nasrudin, in his goodness, and not knowing of Arronax's evilness, had bestowed a seat on the Elven Council to Arronax and, to repay his kindness, Arronax destroyed an entire city!

Nasrudin's heart was crushed. He condemned Arronax to the Void! But Arronax had twisted several of the council to his nefarious ways. And there was War!

This was a bitter war, my children, and if not for Nasrudin, Arronax would have destroyed us all! But, as it always does, goodness won the day, though a sad day it was, as the great Nasrudin lost his own life as he banished Arronax to the dark, eternal Void!

So, without the blessed Nasrudin guiding our way, we would all be enslaved by Evil! Remember this as you go to sleep, and know that Nasrudin watches over us all - but beware! Arronax may still be lying in wait for those who do not mind their elders and keep to their studies!

The book seemed like utter trash, but the place where Victor had purchased it - Roseborough - seemed important. I dug Stennar's old matchbook out of my pocket, noting that it, too, came from Roseborough. It seemed like that would be a good place to continue my search, both for the Dark Elves and for the Black Mountain Clan. Given the late hour, however, and the fact that I'd just desecrated a grave to get the information, I felt it wouldn't quite be the best of times to ask Mrs. Misk what she knew about the place. After what I'd just done, I figured it best to avoid contacting Mrs. Misk at all until I had more information with which to incriminate her butler. That was a much less suspicious reason for a visit than asking about Roseborough would be.

Tarant would probably be the best place to dig up information on Elmer Burbottom, but if I was going to pay for passage on a ship I certainly wanted to continue my investigation for Arthur Tyron as well. There was a ship still in the harbor so I approached the captain who was sitting out on the deck getting some fresh, night air. "Pardon the intrusion at such a late hour, but I was wondering if you would take my companions and I to this island marked on my map here. It's urgent." I pointed him to the island not too far from the coast.

He glanced at it and shrugged, "Sure. It'll be 500 coins." Wordlessly I dumped the coins out into his lap. I spent the rest of the night locked up in a private cabin below the deck of the ship, getting what little sleep I could despite the horrible amount of tears that seemed to never stop flowing. I couldn't keep my grief bottled up forever, I could only hope that the next day's events would serve as a powerful enough distraction to keep me from making a fool of myself in front of my friends. They wouldn't understand what I was going through... how could they? I was a fool to have forced my presence on Virgil so rudely.... By dawn, we had arrived on the island.

The island was rather obviously deserted. The only building on it was a run down old warehouse, not far from where the ship had landed. I poked around outside of it for a bit, but the windows were too high off of the ground and too dirty for me to see through. It looked like I'd have to venture inside to find out any real information. The door didn't even have a proper lock on it, not that it really needed one on such an isolated island. I pushed it open and walked inside.

I felt nauseous at what I saw. There were operating tables spaced evenly throughout the room, each of them bearing thick, rusted straps for detaining their victims. I counted at least a dozen in all. Lying on tables next to them on filthy platters were rusty scalpels, needles, and other implements that I didn't care to think of the uses for. There were cracked bottles long drained of whatever fluids they once contained, and rusted cabinets that had been long emptied of whatever foul medicines were used in such a horrible place. Worst of all there were dark gray, oversized bones cluttering the floor near many of the tables.

There was a single desk sitting in the corner of the room, the wood that it was made of having long begun to rot. I opened one of the drawers, but it broke even as I pulled on it and a small book landed on the ground. It was dusty and worn, and the pages brittle. The cover was barely solid and the book itself was difficult to read. Of all of it there were only two and a half pages towards the middle of the book that had escaped complete ruination.

our new female host. I have no such compunctions. Once they are here, they are a number to me and nothing more. Scientific advancement would never occur if the weak willed were to have their say.

I looked up at my companions with wide eyes. Virgil was standing off in a corner, lost in thought. Vollinger had a rather disgusted look on his face and he had his nose covered over with his small, white handkerchief. Sebastian was staring at one of the tables in horror, and Terry was sniffing at the various piles of bones trying to determine if any of them were safe to gnaw on. "We've got to go back." I announced. "I have to tell Tyron right away."

Vollinger nodded, "I agree, this... place... is most distressing indeed."

Sebastian didn't even say a thing, he just nodded and walked out the door. Virgil followed behind him, also wordlessly. How long are you going to stay silent? How long will you continue to ignore the pain I feel? We all got back onto the ship I'd hired and I informed the captain we were headed back to Caladon. Since he was heading in that direction anyway and our stay had been so short he decided to waive his normal fee.

I locked myself in a private cabin once more, praying that our voyage would take even shorter this time, even though it hadn't been a long one in the first place. We arrived back in Caladon before nightfall, and I headed straight back to Dragon's Turnabout. I barged into Tyron's home, but the man standing there wasn't Tyron. It wasn't even a man at all, it was an unfamiliar gnome dressed in a high-class suit. "Who are you? Where is Tyron?!" The excitement in my voice was unfortunately apparent.

I gritted my teeth, scowling at him, "I don't believe you. What have you done with him?!" First the journal, and now this... dammit, Tyron was on to something after all... I was too slow! Rage welled up inside of me. Rage on behalf of the kidnapped and tortured women used for the sick experiments on that island, and rage against the wealthy that used their power and influence to inflict that abuse. Dammit, Frederick... not like that... you deserved better...

The gnome shrugged, looking almost amused at my anger. "I could be asking you the same thing, barging into his house, uninvited. I have been a colleague of his for quite some time and he never mentioned you... but I do know who you are and what you have recently acquired. Something that could be... damning to certain parties, yes?"

You smug bastard. Fine, I'll play your little game... for now... and if I don't like how it turns out I'm in no bloody mood to have any sympathy for you. "Perhaps." I glared at him with pure hatred in my eyes.

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and I found it impossible to read exactly what was going on in his mind. Whoever he was, he was damn good at lying. "Ah... I see you are wary. That is smart, as the trail we are following is a dangerous one." He stopped momentarily, choosing his words with extreme caution. I didn't like it one bit. "Very well, I will share with you the information I have gathered, and you can decide for yourself whether to believe me or not. I'm not certain how much of it I believe myself, but this is what I've found out."

About fifty, fifty five years ago, a group of gnomes from various parts of Arcanum began to acquire large amounts of money from investments in new technology. As their wealth and perceived influence began to grow, age old prejudices began to surface. Gnomes were thought to be miserly thieves. The other races did not trust them to gain power.

There were thefts, beatings, and threats. Mysterious letters in the night, warning the "little gnomes" to keep to their place. The gnomes tried human bodyguards, to no avail. Any human that would be a bodyguard to a gnome at that time was, by definition, an untrustworthy, shiftless sort. At first they tried, unsuccessfully, to breed elves and orcs into some bestial magic hybrid to do their bidding... that lead to The Siamese twins.

But you know all about what happened with them, now, don't you? It was a foolhardy idea to begin with, at any rate. Orcs have a natural dislike for gnomes, and the gnomes needed something much more docile. The next obvious choice seemed to be the half ogres. Tired of being hunted, and the promise of large amounts of food gained the gnomes extremely loyal bodyguards. But there was a problem. A half ogre was a very rare thing in those days, and with good scientific reasons for being so. And the gnomes without bodyguards were used as leverage against those protected.

The greatest concentration of these gnomes were in Tarant, which was still a monarchy at the time. They pleaded with the king for his help, but the last thing the king wanted was a group of rich banker gnomes with power in his kingdom. The beatings continued, and the king and his court turned a blind eye to their plight. That was when, well, let's call him Mr. X, decided to act.

He hired a prostitute to go home with him one evening, and he locked her in his basement, where he also happened to be keeping a full blooded ogre. You can imagine what happened then. She died giving birth, as was to be expected, but Mr. X now had his future bodyguard. He recruited some other gnomes, and the kidnappings began in earnest.

For safety's sake, they set up a "breeding laboratory" on the island you visited. Their plan wasn't working out as well as they had hoped, as the women all died giving birth. And the more prostitutes that disappeared, the more the authorities were looking into their affairs. They decided to try surgical means of delivery, but the women were too sickly to survive that.

That is when the king's hirelings discovered what was happening. Unfortunately for the king, though, the gnomes had become incredibly rich in this time, rich enough, in fact, to purchase the king's murder, and the kidnapping of the queen and her young son. Rumors began circulating immediately, pointing to the queen as the killer of her husband.

The queen was sent to the island. She was the patient in the first successful operation. She mothered three before she passed, I believe. Soon after the Industrial Council gained power in Tarant, the disappearance of prostitutes began to slow down, but a mysterious rash of disappearances of the wives and daughters of the political enemies of the council began.

I suddenly realized that I was very likely speaking with Tyron's so-called 'ally' on the council, whom had been manipulating Tyron all along. He was, perhaps, 'Mr. X' himself. "So no one believes any of it..." I was utterly stunned. The dozens, perhaps hundreds of women that had been sacrificed... prostitutes, just trying to find a way to live, trying to find any way out of the horrible trap their lives had become. Taken away one night, fearful... abused, chained down and forced to endure a foul rape at the hands of a full ogre. Remaining chained, kept alive against their will for months on end before finally being granted the sweet respite of death. I felt an overwhelming amount of sadness and pity, even though I had been fighting so desperately hard to keep those emotions at bay after my own personal confrontation with them. Above it all remained that persistent rage, building up ever greater inside of me.

The gnome nodded at me smugly, "Exactly. Everyone believes it to be the imaginings of madmen and paranoids."

Willoughsby... all of you bastards on the council... you did this... I knew you were hiding something, but... something like this?! "Is this all true?"

He shrugged, "That's a good question. We must not be too anxious to believe it because we want it to be true, or too anxious to disbelieve it because we want it to be false. We must remain neutral in our decision as to whether it is true or not."

I growled at him angrily, barely able to contain my rage any longer, "That's absurd! It is either true or it isn't!"

"Hmmm," he mocked me, "Then none of it is true. Well, maybe some of it." The tone in his voice was smug and insulting, he was enjoying manipulating my thoughts and emotions callously, and his attitude only enraged me further still.

"I'll bring proof to the press!" I was so angry that I couldn't stop shouting and my hand instinctively reached for the oaken handle on my axe. "I'll expose this whole thing!"

I know damn well what I saw, and you'll not convince me it was anything else. I know books, and this journal was NOT written last week! "Why are you doing this?" Why do you continue to taunt me? Why must you push me after I've lost so much... WHY, GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON WHY I SHOULD NOT KILL YOU WHERE YOU STAND!

He grinned widely, a low chuckle beginning to form in his belly. "We always need more 'converts' to spread the word. You might have had real information, but now you don't know anything. What have I told you that is real? Feel free to tell anyone everything I have told you. I am sure the press would love to hear your story. Perhaps. Good day to you, madam, it has been a pleasure."

That reason is NOT GOOD ENOUGH! "MY PLEASURE HAS NOT YET BEGUN!" I pulled my axe loose from my belt and took a step towards him. He started to sweat and the expression on his face matched that of Tyron's when I'd first met him.

He tried to run, but I was much faster than he'd anticipated. He panicked, turning and running towards the wall. I charged up to him with a primal scream and brought my axe down onto it with all the strength I could muster. I felt a righteous fury like I had never experienced before. That single strike contained all of the abuse I'd ever suffered, all of the anguish and anxiety I'd been harboring in my heart. My axe ripped through the gnome's body effortlessly, hacking apart bone just as easily as muscle. It had entered his body at the neck and swung clear through his shoulder in a grim explosion of flesh. His head literally popped off, bouncing twice against the wooden floor before finally coming to rest next to the pool of blood surrounding his lifeless body.

When the scent of charred bone wafted up from below I gently stowed my axe back on my belt. I turned around, trying to avoid getting blood on my shoes, and I exited the building. My rage had quieted temporarily. I was still silently seething, but I hoped a visit to the local office of the newspaper could help to calm me down. I walked into the door holding the tattered old journal in my hand and I approached the man working there. "Hello, sir, might I ask your name?" I tried desperately to keep my voice level and calm so as not to put the man off too quickly.

He seemed perturbed at my intrusion. "I'm Sam Longwell. What can I do for you?"

In my anger I had very little in the way of sensibilities. "I have evidence of a conspiracy you may be interested in."

He looked at me quite suspiciously, which in retrospect I ought to have expected. "What do you mean, 'conspiracy'? Is this some type of jest?"

I was so angry I was barely even thinking and I just blurted out, "The Industrial Council has been illegally breeding half ogres!"

It looked like he wanted to laugh. If I were more like Tyron I might've looked crazy, or desperate, but I was dead serious. He looked into my eyes and he could tell there was something more. "Let's say I was interested in this story... I would need proof."

I held up the journal, opened to the section that was still readable. "It's all right here."

I couldn't tell if he was actually being serious or not. "What would you pay me for it?" I didn't think he would pay me just to get me out of his shop if he truly thought I was crazy. I had to be sure.

He stammered, surprised, "What, are you jesting? On a journalist's salary? I could give you... one hundred coins. What do you say?"

I nodded, handing him the book. "Okay, here it is." It's a pittance, but I don't want your damn money anyway. I just want this story to get out, as loudly and as quickly as possible. The industrial council deserves to rot in hell for this!

He started reading the pages I'd opened for him and he gasped audibly, "I cannot believe this! This is what I have been waiting for. I'll write this up now to get it in tomorrow's paper."

"I'll leave you to your work then. Good day." I wandered out of the shop and the rage that had been fueling my actions finally began to subside. In its wake I felt completely drained. The despair that I'd been keeping at bay came back at me in full force and the temptation to cry struck me once again. Frederick... by the Gods, what I wouldn't give to just hold you one last time, to cry on your shoulder as I related the story about what just happened.... You would comfort me, as always, petting my hair lightly... I would hear your soothing voice resonate inside of your chest...

Thankfully, Sebastian pulled me out of my reverie. "That son of a bitch," he muttered, "I didn't like Willoughsby much before, but I sure as hell don't like him now. After that little display, Samantha, I'm thinking I ought to keep following you for quite some time. I mean... that was the plan anyway, right? So, where to next?"

He did have a valid question, and I supposed thinking about the answer was a whole lot better than devolving into self pity yet again. "We-" My voice was cracked and uneven. I cleared my throat, sniffling a bit, trying to not show too many signs of weakness. "We need to get to Tarant. There's a demonologist there, and I have to look up information on Elmer Burbottom."

Vollinger patted me on the shoulder gently. It almost seemed, on some level, like he understood... but the most I was going to get out of him would be that single gesture. I didn't quite know what to make of it. "To the docks, then?" He asked.

I shook my head, "No, why don't we take the long way? Do you remember how the prince was pacing back and forth when we were at the castle? I have a feeling that his bride-to-be never showed up. I'd like to search Razor's Cape for her."

Vollinger simply nodded and the group of us wandered off to the edge of town and beyond. Still not a word from Virgil... he probably realized that he's not so fond of me after all. I wouldn't be fond of me, either... I sighed deeply, trying to shake off my depression. I knew that Virgil was loyal to me, and it was rude of me to silently judge him. Truly, however, I didn't want a loyal follower... I wanted a friend, and I had thought Virgil was that friend.

After just over a week we were finally crossing the dreaded and dangerous shallows known as Razor's Cape. I didn't feel any better emotionally, but at the very least I was no longer trying to quietly cry myself to sleep every night. I was starting to wonder if I'd pushed Virgil away by being too forward. I wanted to apologize, but it was so hard... facing him meant remembering everything I felt in that lonely graveyard. I couldn't make the words come out. Instead, the both of us stayed silent.

We scoured the wreckage around the shallows, and there was certainly plenty of it to scour. After searching two other empty boats we finally came across a rather freshly wrecked boat, the wood only having a trace amount of rot and not yet completely falling apart. There were many remains of various crew members on board, but I was drawn to the body of the rather lavishly dressed woman. I plucked off the ornate amulet from around her neck and read the inscription on the back of it, "To my dearest Aria." That's the princess of Cumbria all right. I sighed and pocketed the amulet. "We've found what we came for. Come on, let's deliver the news to Praetor." It was difficult for me to feel much in the way of sadness or pity at the situation, but if anything I felt guilty for my lack of sympathy. I felt like my lingering thoughts of Frederick were turning me into a terribly bitter person.

I returned to Cumbria by land, which was a rather difficult task but it certainly beat finding a ship to take me by the same route and winding up exactly like the princess. Virgil continued his silence, and I wasn't in any mood to break it. Thankfully, Terry spent much of the journey gleefully yipping and running circles around us. Sebastian cursed at him near constantly, and despite my mood it actually made me laugh a little bit. Having the two of them along with me was a constant source of comedy. It took us nearly two weeks to pass through the remainder of the shallows and the rest of the way towards Cumbria, but at last we made it.

Dernholm was as run-down and muck-ridden as ever. I looked around a bit for signs of Maximillian or Lianna, but neither were to be found. At least she's still out there, looking for him. Maybe she's found him by now and convinced him to return. Despite my past transgressions against the local guard, they seemed willing to grant me an audience with the king. He greeted me with what I expected was a fake smile. "Ah! The outsider returns!" I wasn't that fond of him either.

I curtsied politely to him, trying to be on my best behavior despite my personal feelings. "I have unpleasant news... your daughter died on the way to meet the prince. I found her amulet."

Hmph. Heir? Since when has that ever meant anything to Cumbria? "The ship crashed, all hands were lost."

"Here are a few coins." He motioned to a guard to paid me a pathetically small sum of coins. "I'll thank you to leave me with my grief, my good lady." I didn't even have a chance to say farewell before the guards forcefully escorted me out. Hmph. Grief. A man like you will never truly know what that word means. Don't worry, Praetor... the kingdom will be fine, no thanks to you.

I thought once again of possibly paying Jayna a visit, but I couldn't. It was all I could do not to burst out crying whenever I glanced over at Virgil, or a stray thought reminded me of Frederick. Jayna was like a constant, walking reminder of Nathaniel. One day I was sure I would have it all sorted out and I'd make a special trip just to see how she was doing. The five of us left Dernhom and made the journey up to Black Root, taking the train from there to Tarant.

Virgil glanced at me several times during the train ride, and I looked back at him tearfully. I could tell that he had a lot on his mind and he wanted to say something, and I also suspected I had a similar look on my face. We've both been through a lot, haven't we? Why is it we can't just come out and tell each other? What are we afraid of? I didn't really know the answer to my own questions, but I supposed that if I did then I wouldn't so badly want to ask them. I thought on it for the duration of the train ride, thankful when the train finally arrived in Tarant. My eyes were growing quite sore from the frequency with which I rubbed the tears out of them. I wished I'd never gone back to Caladon, never found out the truth.

My first stop off of the train was to head back to the Tarant university. After a bit of searching I did find the professor of demonology that I remembered seeing on my last visit. He was a tall, bookish man with spectacles perched on the top of his head, and he remained completely obvlivious to my presence even as I cleared my throat repeatedly trying to get his attention. He seemed entirely focused on a telegram that he was reading. At last, he turned around and looked at me. "Oh, excuse me, I get so involved in these telegrams people send me. I get questions from everywhere about demons. Amazing, really."

I extended my hand out to him, "I don't believe I've had the pleasure. Who are you?" He shook my hand.

Now that's just asking for trouble. "Scientician and demonologist? You're mixing magick and science?" Well, I suppose phrenology is more of a perversion than a science, so it could all work out.

He seemed to have a prepared response for me, and I imagined I wasn't the first to have asked that question. "I am a scholar, involved in research. Magick and science are the opposite sides of the same coin. To be truly knowledgeable, one must study a tremendous variety of things. Specialization is for insects and orcs."

Whatever you say, pervert. "I need information about L'anamelach."

He dropped his telegram on the ground and took his spectacles off in a rather dramatic motion, staring at me with them off. "Did you say L'anamelach? By the gods, why did you not say so sooner?"

Bloody hell, that kind of recognition can only be bad. Why do I always wind up in these situations? "Uh... can you tell me about him? It's very important."

What? I'm not the one that's mucking about! Well... maybe a little. "I believe he is the Whytechurch murderer."

He nodded understandingly, "I had my suspicions those murders were demonic in nature, but I never suspected L'anamelach. This is bad news, indeed."

You're telling me. "Why is this so bad?"

I was amazed at just how well-versed the man was regarding the subject. He didn't even have to flip open an old tome or look through any of his notes to converse expertly on the subject. He was either very knowledgeable or I was in deep trouble. The answer was probably both. "L'anamelach is one of the few demons that has the ability to possess a living being. As such, he can move among us undetected. In days of old, human sacrifices of thousands of victims were required to satiate him once he was summoned. He will be with us for a long time if we do not act to stop him."

I knew it. This couldn't be much worse, could it? No, wait, it can... and it will be... I'm sure of it. "He was summoned here? To what end?"

It seemed obvious to me that the man had at least a little bit of contempt for elves, likely borne of jealousy. I couldn't say I was fond of most of them either, but that was rooted primarily in the nature of magick and technology, and reinforced by their haughty attitudes. "How did it come to possess this elf?"

He began shuffling through his desk drawers, "As I said, it is a long story, but I think I have... ah yes. Here it is. The Legend of T'erre d' V'nt. You can read the demon's story in here." He handed me the book. I glanced at the front page briefly, then tossed it in my purse.

Well... time to hear what I came for. "I am afraid to ask, but how do I kill it?" It still needed to be stopped, regardless of how ancient and horrible it was. Inspector Henderson certainly wasn't likely to do it, and that meant it fell to me.

His answer was swift and matter-of-fact. "You must stab it through the heart with the Blade of Xerxes."

I nodded slowly, "Let me guess, it's in a godforsaken, horrible dungeon somewhere, guarded by demons."

You can't just say something like that and then stop. "Why?"

At my prodding he continued, "If the Blade is plunged into the heart of the host, the demon will be sent back to the underworld as the unfortunate host dies. If he is killed by any other method, the demon shall be loosed from the confines of his host, and he will be virtually unstoppable."

I was beginning to understand Inspector Henderson's aversion to do any real work, and cursing myself for having such a soft spot for prostitutes. I couldn't really help sympathizing with them, though. I understood what they had to live through all too well. If it weren't for Frederick, I would've probably fallen victim to L'anamelach- I cut off my train of thought before the tears could surface. This is no time to be thinking of Frederick. "So where in the Stonewall mountains is the Pit of Fires?"

He was only too glad to explain, or at least try, "It's simple to find, really. The entrance is a bit southwest of the... no, that's not the best way... it's a bit west of... hmmm." I held my map out to him and he placed a dot on it with his pen. "Ah, yes, much simpler that way. There you go."

I folded the map up and put it back into my purse, bumping into the book as I did so. I took it out, intending on reading it. "Well, this ought to be an interesting adventure. Thank you for your time, Professor Eakins." I walked away into the next room and sat down to give the book a quick read.

hope to contain the beast. He began preparations to bind it to another mortal body, his own. This was not an easy task, as once unleashed L'anamelach would do everything in his power to keep his freedom.

Vincent's gambit was at most a limited success. After he himself had been possessed, he was, amazingly enough, able to have a slight modicum of control over the beast. For a time the evils of the demon seemed to be being wrought on those of an evil heart, but eventually Vincent was to lose control of the demon.

The beast raged across the continent, killing all in his path. His bloody trail finally ended in Caladon, however. It would appear that Vincent was able to gain control over the beast long enough to drag himself underground and use his magicks to collapse the tunnels.

Neither demon nor mage has been seen since. It seems that Vincent sacrificed himself in order to bring the beast back to the underworld. For that, Arcanum owes him a debt of gratitude.

Were the demon to ever return to this world, those who would fight it must remember this - it is not to be killed with anything other than the Blade of Xerxes, which is buried in the Pit of Fires deep within the Stonewall Mountains! If the demon is struck down with anything but this blade, he will be unleashed upon the world, free of his human host!

I placed the book back into my purse, silently cursing my involvement in the whole damn thing. I ventured off next towards the hall of records. The woman there was starting to become quite familiar to me. "Good day, madam. Could you tell me anything about a man named Elmer Burbottom?"

"Thank you, madam." Ashbury? There's something about that I'm not quite noticing... Oh! The author! Kendrick Wales! The bartender there told me about him when I was pressing him for information... if only I'd realized sooner.... I turned to leave and noticed Virgil in the hallway, staring off into space absent-mindedly. A thought occurred to me and I turned back to the woman at the desk. "Could you tell me anything about Lawrence Brummond?"

"Hold on a moment." She flipped through the files quickly, pulling out one of them after a few moments. "Yes, I do have something here on a Lawrence Brummond, although he's not a citizen of Tarant. It's a newspaper article... here's a copy for you."

I took it, somewhat surprised, "Why, thank you, madam. You've been most helpful." She smiled at me appreciatively and I quick scanned over the paper.

His brother...? Oh, Virgil, why haven't you ever told me? I never knew you had a brother... though I suppose I never told you I had a husband, either. I stuffed the paper into my purse before Virgil could notice. I patted him on the shoulder wordlessly as I passed and he gave me an odd look. "All right, everybody, it looks like we're headed to the Pit of Fires. Stock up on whatever potions and other supplies you might need, it's not going to be pretty."

The three of them nodded and Terry gave me a hearty woof for good measure. "We'll meet at the Garrillon Bridge in two hours." I split apart from them and traveled straight to the Bridesdale Inn, not bothering to stock up on any supplies of my own. I paid the woman behind the counter for one night's stay and didn't even bother to steal it back from her. She showed me to my room quickly, where I closed the door and drew up a nice, warm bath.

I sat in the bath for a long time, thinking about Frederick and about Virgil. I'd been trying so hard to keep myself busy that I hadn't spared either of them much thought in the previous weeks. That was really the point of keeping so busy, but every now and then I just needed to sit and have a good cry about it. I certainly hadn't gotten over Frederick's death, and I suspected that I never would. If it weren't for him I would've been abused and then likely killed. He treated me nicely, though, when nobody else ever had. Virgil was that way, too. Despite how badly I treated him, he was always nice to me. I really owed him an apology for how I'd been treating him lately... and possibly for prying into his past, though perhaps it would be best not to reveal that little tidbit just yet.

I got out of the bath a good hour after I was supposed to meet back up with the others. I quickly dried myself off, got dressed, and scurried out to the bridge. They were all there, waiting impatiently. Sebastian was petting Terry and for once Terry looked like he wasn't angry about it. "I'm so sorry," I said it while looking at Virgil, sort of practicing for the apology I wanted to give him another time. "I completely lost track of time."

Vollinger shrugged, "It's no trouble. We're all ready to go."

"Hey!" Sebastian yelled, "Maybe it's no trouble to you, but I was worried! I thought maybe Willoughsby got her. Even Terry didn't know where she went!"

"Pay him no mind," Vollinger insisted, "I told him not to worry, yet he insisted."

I smiled at them. Thanks, all of you. Especially Terry... I know you could've found me if you'd tried. "Let's get going, we've got to make up for lost time."

The journey to the Pit of Fires from Tarant was a long one, taking us the better part of two weeks. I tried many times during it to approach Virgil and let him know that I knew how he felt, and apologize for pushing him while he was visiting the grave of his brother. That I knew more than I was supposed to, however, made me afraid I was going to slip up when I started talking to him. I knew I would be nervous, though I didn't really know why. I'd been traveling with Virgil for over three years, it didn't make any sense to feel so distant from him. It seemed the closer I was to people, the less comfortable I felt approaching them.

At last we approached the Pit of Fires, although it was hardly deserted. There were four people huddled around a campfire near the entrance: a human, two elves, and a halfling. The only woman among them was one of the elves, unfortunately the lesser dressed of the two. Such a lack of shame! The man called out to me as I approached, "Well met, maiden!"

I stared at him, and looked over his strange assortment of companions. I'd finally met a group of travelers who were even more unusual than my own odd little group. "Who are you?"

As if I hadn't been focusing enough on my past, he had to go and ask me my name. "I am known as Samantha Colburn." Sammy, Sammy, son of... Merle was arrested, too, once Frederick exposed her dirty little operation. The orphanage closed down after that, and the girls who remained there were moved into a newer, bigger facility. I'd been sprung from prison, thanks to Frederick, but I heard much later that Merle ended up dying there. She'd been old anyway, and the stresses of prison were harsh to her. For some strange reason I felt a bit of sadness when I heard she was dead, perhaps because she'd been the only mother I'd ever had. She sure didn't act like my mother, though, and I was quite possibly the only person to feel any sympathy for her after what she'd done. It was rather ironic.

Jyheirad spoke again, jolting me from my trip down memory lane, "Pray tell, what is your quest? Are you here to recover the famed Blade of Xerxes?"

I nodded, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I am."

"We too are here for that same purpose!" He seemed rather proud and happy for that fact, whereas I was neither. "We have been sent by Baron Sug himself to retrieve the Blade! A sizeable fortune awaits our successful return!"

I scowled at him, "I am here for a much more noble purpose than coin." I never would've guessed something like that would come out of my mouth. I really have changed, haven't I?

He seemed taken aback suddenly, and his voice sounded rather impressed, "Truthfully? And what might that be?"

"Demonic forces will consume the world lest I have the blade!" It was a bit overdramatic, sure, but it was also somewhat true. It was important to stop L'anamelach.

I'd better make this good if I want to convince him it's more important than his damned coin. "It prowls the night, feeding on the hearts of its victims!"

He dropped his hands down slightly, "It kills its victims one by one? That doesn't sound like a very big threat to the world..."

Oops. Not lying hard enough. "I never said it only killed one person at a time, it kills thousands!"

I nodded solemnly, more than happy to let him go in there instead of me. "May the gods be with you..." He and his three companions ventured into the cave and I heard all manner of horrible shouts and battle cries from within.

"So, uh," Sebastian scratched his head, "Think we ought to go in and save 'em?"

"They'll be fine." I hope.

Vollinger wiped down the barrel of his rifle with his handkerchief. "How long do you suppose we should wait here for them to come back before going in and actually succeeding where they fail?"

I shrugged, "This fire probably won't last much past nightfall. Why don't we use it to keep warm and if they're not back by the time it goes out we'll go in after them?"

Sebastian grinned, "Hey, I like the way you think." I smiled at him and we sat down around the fire, taking a much needed rest.

After several hours the fire began to flicker and the sun fell behind the mountains, casting the entire valley in a slight reddish tone. Suddenly I heard footsteps echoing outward from within the cavern. I rose to my feet and put my hand on my axe, expecting that one of the beastly denizens inside was about to escape. Instead, much to my surprise, the four adventurers emerged.

Good god, they actually did it. I took the blade from him and slipped it into my purse. "Thank you." I was stunned and didn't quite know what else to say.

His companions were as silent as ever, but Jyheirad was his usual, boisterous self, "You are most welcome, madam! If you'll excuse us, we should return to Baron Sug and tell him of what has transpired here!"

Yes, you do that. "Good bye, Jyheirad, and thank you again." He wandered off, and so did I, each of us with our respective groups of companions following. I didn't know exactly where Baron Sug lived, but it obviously wasn't in the same direction as Ashbury. Journeying to Ashbury would take half the time it would take me to travel to Caladon if I took advantage of the train, and I could always catch a ship from Ashbury. Aside from just that, I wanted to have a little chat with Elmer Burbottom before going back to Caladon.

We reached Tarant once again after another two weeks of travel and, luckily for us, there was a train leaving not long after we arrived. I purchased tickets for the five of us, paying a bit extra to persuade the conductor to allow Terry on board. I was tired and felt guilty for being so distant from Virgil for so long, and so I finally confronted him. "Virgil... look, I'm sorry for what I said to you in Caladon, all right? I don't know how else to say it, but I've been trying to think of the words for the past month and they just won't come. Please, won't you forgive me?"

He seemed surprised, "You think I'm mad at you? That's why you've been so silent? Look, if anybody should apologize it's me... my mind has been... elsewhere. I don't mean to upset you, I just have a lot on my mind lately. I really wish Joachim were around to talk to."

Now that's a name I've not heard in a good, long while. "Joachim? Do you think he'll ever show up? It's been almost four years."

Virgil shrugged, "I... I don't know... and, if you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about it. I'm sorry, but... I just can't talk to you about this."

You really have no idea how badly this all makes me feel, do you? You think you're alone, that nobody can help you... and in thinking that, you just keep pushing me further away... Virgil... "If that's how you feel, I'll not bother you any more about it."

He let out a heavy sigh and for the short remainder of the train ride he stayed silent. I looked for Trellis Way upon arriving in Ashbury and found it easily enough. As soon as I stepped onto it, however, I heard a horrible scream from nearby. I ran into the building I heard it come from, shoving the door open without bothering to knock.

There was an obviously elven man inside just as I opened the door, but then there was a flash of violet light and he disappeared. A gnome was laying on the ground, bleeding heavily. "H-help me, please..."

I gasped, bending down to him and trying to rummage through my purse for spare salves. "Sir! What has happened here?"

His voice was trembling and uneven, "I was attacked... I've been wounded... it hurts, oh god, it hurts..."

I placed one hand on his shoulder comfortingly while I continued to try and dig out a salve with my other hand. "Sir! Who are you? How can I help?"

I nodded, cursing at my lack of a salve. It seemed I had lucked out by meeting up with those adventurers. When I'd failed to restock my supplies I hadn't realized I was completely out of salve. "Yes, I've read the book. That's why I'm here..."

He gasped and I winced at the all of the blood that leaked out of him. "W-what do you mean?"

I tore off a piece of my dress and tried to use it as some kind of bandage, but it wasn't large enough and I had very little skill at healing. "Perhaps this isn't the best time, but I'm looking for Elmer Burbottom."

"Elmer Burbottom?" He coughed, more blood coming up and staining the wood floor as he did so. "Why are you looking for him?"

I tried to explain as quickly as I could while still frantically searching for some way to heal the man in front of me. I glanced at Virgil but he sadly shook his head. I guess even Virgil can't heal this. "It seems he's involved in something I'm investigating... Victor Misk is dead, and his widow..." She and I are the same now... I coughed suddenly, "Excuse me. Mrs. Misk would like to know who leaked the information that he still had a copy of the book."

What? But you just said...? "You are? I don't understand..."

His face began to grow pale, "K-Kendrick Wales is merely my pen name... I d-don't think anyone would buy a b-book by s-someone named Elmer B-burbottom..." He started laughing, then cringed as more blood stained his clothing, "It seems so trivial, n-now..."

So... that would make sense, then... "And so you paid Wesley the butler for the information?"

He nodded gravely, "Y-yes. And now it seems that the death of Victor Misk is on my head as well. It seems none of us can escape the C-curse..." I could see the intense fear in his eyes, something he feared even more than the death that surely would come to him any moment, "Perhaps not even you..."

I can't just let you die! "Kendrick, save your strength... I'll get some help..."

"Kendrick! Hold on!" Dammit, no! I sighed as I felt the life leave his body at last, tears in my eyes. Damn those bloody dark elves! I swear, when I find your damned T'sen-Ang I'm going to leave the entire bloody place in ruins!

Bonus Content

And now, here's some random additional stuff. The first is the sound pack (here you go), which contains a few things of note. I put Magnus' "idiot" conversation in there, for starters. I also put in a hidden (at least I think) dialogue with Virgil from today's update. It very obviously is supposed to trigger when you read the paper about Lawrence, but try as I might I just couldn't get any conversation to trigger no matter what I did. Unless there's something I'm missing, I can only conclude it didn't make it for whatever reason. Lastly, I tossed in a couple clips from my favorite voice acted characters, Geoffrey (because he's so damned eccentric), Torian (

Also, have some pictures of graves. I like the Tarant graves better, but it's hard to top "No Les No More". I still giggle at that