Chapter the Fifty First: A Prelude to Foul DarknessAfter the horror of Kendrick's final moment had passed I was left with only stunned silence. The whole thing seemed so meaningless, so pointlessly violent and cruel. I walked through the streets of Ashbury, lost in thought. Who next? They have to know I'm looking for them... I know that elf saw me...
"Excuse me, madam!" I heard a man shouting after me. "Pardon me, you look familiar to me... would you happen to be Samantha Colburn?"
My hand unconsciously reached for my axe as I responded, "That depends on who's asking."
I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was rather flustered and embarrassed. "Forgive me. My name is Chester Miller, and I am the mayor of Ashbury. I read about your marvelous negotiations with Caladon in the paper, and I'm really in a spot here. I could use your help for just a moment, if it wouldn't be too much trouble."
Flattery will get you everywhere. I relaxed the grip on my axe a bit. "What can I do for you, Chester Miller?"
I already regretted even hearing him out. Get to the point already. "Please, tell me more." I cringed at the idea that I'd just asked him to waste even more of my time.
His threw up his hands in disgust, "The problem is that everyone is arguing with each other about what to do. As Mayor, I have to find a solution that pleases everybody. It is impossible! Some people want the monument in the center of town, others want it near the entrance, and nobody knows how we will pay for it! Furthermore, there aren't any local craftsmen up to the task of building the darn thing if we could pay!"
I sighed. "I understand your problem, Chester, but where do I come in? I can't give you a solution that will please all of them."
He shook his head nervously, "N-no, well... I mean, if you could just talk to the crowd, maybe suggest a few things and get them to agree on something. That's the important part, that all of them agree..."
I suppose I was just moping about anyhow... taking ten minutes to help this bumbling fool won't harm anything. "Very well, I will help you with your problem."
I walked into the building after the mayor, glancing over at the crowd assembled inside. There were folk of all different kinds, not the easiest of crowds to please. Some were rich and some were poor, and there were all variety of races from halflings to half ogres. I stepped up to the podium and cleared my throat, ready to begin. Perhaps it's arrogant to think so, but if anybody can handle this it's probably me.
A sharply dressed gentlemen at the front of the crowd hollered at me nearly immediately, his rage apparent, "Why should we build a monument in the first place? That's what I want to know! Can you give us one good reason why we should build this thing?!"
Why? Why paint a picture, or play an instrument, or write a book? Are you daft? "A nice statue is an object of art and virtue for all to appreciate."
The crowd murmered amidst themselves, pleasantly surprised at my response. One man shouted, "By golly, she's got a point!" The vague whispers and bits of conversation that I could hear seemed generally positive. Chester looked at me from off to the side and gave me a thumbs up. So far so good.
An elegantly dressed woman wearing a dress not unlike my own was the next to speak up from amongst the crowd. "There have been a lot of suggestions about where to put the monument. An improvement might be tastefully accomplished, but we are evenly split between two groups. The first group says that it should go in the town square. The other says it should go near the town entrance. What is your comment?"
Those are just opinions. Opinions are useless. What you really need is somebody who knows what the hell they're doing. "Conduct a design contest and vote for the best design."
The crowd seemed quite receptive to my ideas. A gnomish gentleman in the front row of the crowd spoke out next, excited to see what my answer would be to the question he proposed. "And where do you propose that we get the money? How can the people of Ashbury afford such a luxury? I ask you for your proposal."
You're joking, right? You don't know where to get money? In Ashbury? I may be a thief, but you're still daft. "Certainly, in Ashbury, a wealthy benefactor could be found."
"Capital!" a woman shouted from the crowd. Everybody seemed to be rather supportive of the idea. I was most certainly in favor of any plan that involved getting the wealthy to share a bit, willingly or not. I glanced over at the mayor and he had a huge grin on his face. Obviously I was exceeding his wildest expectations. The gnomish gentleman spoke up again, pleased at the answer he'd received to his previous question.
You want to hire a craftsman to build something and you don't know the answer? Who the hell else is best at shaping and defining raw materials? "Dwarven craftsmen will give us the highest quality."
The crowd was really getting into the speech. They started cheering wildly, "Hip Hip Hurray!", "Bravo!", "Astounding!" I was impressed just how happy they were for me to point out the obvious, but I supposed it was all in the way things were said.
The woman wearing the dress much like my own spoke up again curiously, "Since the monument is going to be displayed outside, what materials do you suggest using? What kind of statue should we build?"
Well if it's too cheap it'll give in to the elements. Why would you use anything but the highest quality technology allows for? Some rich bastard will pay for it, so why not? "A weather resistant steel alloy statue on a granite base."
The crowd cheered again, stronger and wilder. I could've told them anything at that point and they would've given in. Compared to the Caladonian advisors, pleasing this crowd was a joke. The woman up front asked yet another question.
I wasn't overly familiar with Bettington quotes, despite my talents at public speaking. I tried to go with the quote I knew that sounded the least ridiculous, "Take an inch and you have a mile."
The crowd erupted yet again in thunderous applause and cheering. They shouted praises at me, at Ashbury, and even at the mayor. Eventually the applause died down and the crowd filed out of the building. Chester approached me as they left and I looked up at him smugly. I suppose you asked the right person, eh? I could only master so many things before at least one of them started going to my head a little. I tried to keep a lid on it.
"It was but a trifle, sir. I am pleased to have been of service." I tried to remain polite, but inwardly I was scowling at the lack of any kind of payment. I suppose his gratitude will have to be enough... if I'd wanted payment that badly, I should've asked. It won't kill me to do a good deed for once.
As I wandered back away from the building my mind began to wander again as well. You'd be proud of me, Frederick... I've helped Caladon enter into the Unified Kingdoms, and I'm helping people... not all the time, but I'm really helping and not just for what they can give me... I sighed, my thoughts turning back to Kendrick and the Dark Elves. Damnation! I'm a fool... a bloody fool, wrapped up in my own selfish concerns. There are even more tragedies that will occur if I continue mourning over Frederick. There will be time for mourning later, after I've burned T'sen-Ang to the bloody ground. With a renewed sense of purpose I began charging towards the docks.
Now that Caladon was on friendly terms with the Unified Kingdoms it was a simple task to charter a ship to take me there, and not even all that expensive compared to the funds I habitually seemed to acquire. The ship took nearly two weeks to arrive back in Caladon, but at the very least I had obtained information to give to Mrs. Misk in exchange for what she knew about Roseborough. Virgil was still unpleasantly distant for the length of the trip, but he did make small talk instead of simply staring out at the waves the whole time. I didn't know what I could say to make him snap out of it.
We arrived back in Caladon around the early morning, so my first stop was at the Misk residence. I knocked on the door as usual and, much to my surprise, Mrs. Misk answered the door personally. Looks like Wesley is off today. That's probably for the best. "Good morning, Mrs. Misk. I've found the information you requested about who leaked the information about Victor."
She stared at me expectantly, no longer showing any signs of remorse over her 'dear' Victor. "You have? Who was it?"
I was almost jealous of her complete lack of devotion to her husband. At least she didn't have to live with the pain of losing somebody so dear to her. I just wish it didn't hurt so badly... "Who else? The butler did it. He sold the information to Elmber Burbottom - Kendrick Wales is his pen name. I found the receipt, then tracked down Elmer in Ashbury and he comfirmed it."
You can't be serious... "What do you mean, his 'untimely death'?"
She shrugged it off as though it was old news. I could tell she cared deeply for her lost butler. "Haven't you heard? He was found in his home a few days ago, a knife buried in his heart. Perhaps there was something to that curse after all. Well, I thank you for your help in the matter, madam."
Yes... 'perhaps' indeed. Aren't you just pleasantly distant from this whole thing? I hope you rot in hell. "Before I go, could I ask you what you know about Roseborough, or its Gift Shop?"
I see... it's all beginning to make sense now. The book on his person, and hiding the book in a place where only he and his 'dear old dad' would know where to find it. Looks like I'm not the only one with no compunctions about grave digging. "I see. Thank you for your help, madam." I departed the Misk residence, hoping to never have reason to visit it again. Not only did I find the lady of the house distasteful, but it also brought back so many memories that I was fighting so hard to hold back.
I stuck to my purpose with a rather uncommonly strong resolution. The world had to be rid of the Dark Elves, and the sooner the better. Since the way to T'sen-Ang seemed to lay through Roseborough, that was exactly where I went. I made a quick stop at Bolo's altar, just outside of Caladon, for a quick offering.
I said a rather uncharacteristically sincere prayer to the halfling god and offered a small ring of decent quality that I'd pilfered from some place or another. I didn't suspect Bolo would care so much about what it was made of as he would where I got it, and I most assuredly hadn't paid for it. I found it at least a little odd that he was considered the god of halflings when there were plenty of talented thieves amongst all of the races, but theology was never my strong suit.
I felt the familiar warmth of a blessing wash over me as the ring vanished off of the altar. Any blessing that such a god would bestow upon me was bound to be a helpful one for a woman of my particular proclivities. I silently thanked him, promising to continue my noble quest to pilfer the valuables of the arrogant and the wealthy. With that small stop taken care of, I continued on the rest of the way towards Roseborough.
"If you don't mind me asking," Sebastian seemed confused, "What's all that altar business about anyway?"
I tried to think of a succinct way to explain it to him. "Well... I've never been the most religious sort, but let's say I'm starting to have a bit of faith in the old gods at the behest of a fine professor at the university of Tarant. Consider it a pilgrimmage."
He scratched his head, "You don't really seem like the pilgrimmage kinda sort to me."
"You're quite correct," I nodded affirmatively, "I'm really not." The blank stare he gave me suggested that wasn't quite the answer he'd been looking for.
Roseborough was a bizzarre combination between a small town and a massive, grand luxury inn. There was an ornate fountain out front that would put even a few waterfalls to shame. I made to go inside, noticing a plaque sitting next to a weathered stone. The stone itself was carved with old runes, numbers, and symbols that didn't seem to hold any particular meaning to me. It didn't seem likely that SW30 was supposed to have some kind of profound significance. According to the plaque, the stone had been moved to its current location from the center of the Ring of Brodgar.
I briefly remembered having read a book at one point on that subject, and I felt like a fool for not having thought of it earlier. The Ring of Brodgar had fascinated me for a time shortly after I'd first began spending most of my time in Frederick's study. It was nothing more than a collection of very large, very thick stones laid out in a perfect circle in the most odd shapes. Arcane runes were carved upon them, the meanings of which were completely unknown. It was said to be one of the most ancient magickal sites still left in Arcanum, and was largely shrouded in mystery. I'd finally lost interest in it when I moved on to the hundreds of other books in Frederick's study. It wasn't supposed to be this way, Frederick... I've so many books and stories to share with you...
I pushed my memories aside and entered the inn through the lavish set double-doors at its front. I approached the woman tending the counter and handed her the matchbook I'd received from Stennar so long ago. "Pardon me, madam, but could you answer some questions for me about this matchbook?"
I know it's one of your bloody matchbooks. I'm not that much of an idiot. "I found it on a dead man at the IFS Zephyr crash. Did you know him?"
An extremely perplexed look spread across her face as she began shaking her head. "No... I did not know anyone..." Suddenly she gasped as she came to a realization, "Wait! Yes... Yes. There was one person who it could have been..."
She paused, lost in thought for several moments. I finally prodded her for more information, "Yes? Who?"
With a sigh she started to explain, "Well... It is the strangest tale really. Late one night, I noticed all manner of strange light and sound emanating from the Ring. Not long after the ruckus had ceased, a haggard and disheveled man arrived here, inquiring about a room for the night. The poor fellow looked quite a fright."
How fascinating. What in the hell happened that night? "Really? What was so strange about him?"
I coughed uncomfortably, "Hmmm... yes... how very odd, indeed..."
She continued her story without really noticing, or at least not particularly caring, that I had some familiarity with the subject. "He had no coin about him. I was about to turn him away when he offered me an exceptionally fine dwarven blade as compensation. A beautiful piece it was, inscribed with the initials B.M.C. It fetched quite a price when I sold it..."
I couldn't hold what I knew in any longer. "He must surely have been a dwarf! Was there anything more?"
She shrugged helplessly, unsure of exactly what it was I wanted to know. To be honest, even I wasn't sure, I just had to know everything I could about what happened to Stennar.
I shook my head sadly, saying out loud what was on my mind at the time. "It was not luck that brought people aboard that doomed ship..." That's when it all began... that's when I ran away from Frederick... dammit no! Now is not the time to dwell on that! That's in the past. Bloody hell, now I sound like Virgil... Virgil...
The woman nodded, oblivious to my internal monologue. "Yes... the Zephyr was such an incredible tragedy. Oh yes... I let him know that he would need proper identification to board. He looked like the type to be lacking such, so I referred him to a man I had heard of in Caladon, Mr. Razzia, rather a shady character, but helpful when it comes to passports..."
I'd heard the name before. The shady junk dealers I'd often dealt with in selling off my ill-gotten gains had dropped the name a few times, either intentionally or in conversation with another customer that happened to be present. It seemed as though I wasn't having very good luck with keeping my thoughts in the present. I tried to focus yet again on Stennar and what exactly happened to him. "So he said he was going to get on the Zephyr? Are you positive?"
I sighed heavily, "Thank you for the information." Stennar... so that's why your passport said Radcliffe. I'll have to continue this line of investigation with Mr. Razzia if I can track him down. The thieves underground was never terribly fond of me, but I'm not afraid of them any more. I was slowly walking away from the counter, lost yet again in my thoughts, when a man rather unceremoniously slammed into me. I nearly lost my balance, and he went toppling backwards after the impact. The camera he'd been holding fell out of his hands and I reached out and grabbed it just in time to save it from being smashed on the floor.
He slowly climbed to his feet, brushing himself off, "So sorry about that, madam, I should pay more attention to where I'm going! Thank you so much for saving my camera."
I handed it back to him, "It's no trouble. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?"
"The name's Trevor. Trevor Lynwood. I'm a journalist for the Tarantian." He looked over the camera carefully, inspecting it for cracks or other damage. He seemed to be satisfied with its condition.
I was a little surprised to encounter anybody from Tarant so close to Caladon, but it struck me even more oddly that he was a journalist. Caladon had its own paper, and now that Caladon was a member of the Unified Kingdoms I imagined information would pass freely. "The Tarantian! What are you doing here?"
Will you just answer the question? I sighed. "What's the problem?"
He lifted the camera up, gesturing to it as he spoke, "Well... It was supposed to be simple. Take a picture, get back to Tarant as quick as I could. Nothing to it, right?"
I shrugged, "Sounds simple enough... what are you supposed to take a picture of?"
"The elusive Lethe Wyvern." The Lethe what? "Ever heard of it?" In fact, it seemed like it was one of the few things I hadn't heard of, though I supposed it was either a silly legend of some kind or else the lack of information on it was his very reason to photograph it. Hmm. The Stillwater Giant was just a silly legend, too.
"A dragon? Around here?" It occurred to me that I ought not be so skeptical after everything I'd been through. A beardless dwarf was on the more believable end of the things I'd seen. If it really did exist, however, then I was naturally curious about it. "What is different about its attack?"
He explained further, but I could see that he was quite uncomfortable regarding the details. "Apparently, every time it strikes, it destroys a bit of its victim's memory... Some sort of venom or something. After enough attacks, the victim can't even remember how to flee and the Lethe's got itself an easy meal."
I was torn between thinking I could really use a few hits from that thing and being horribly afraid of losing what little I had left of Frederick: my memories of him. "That sounds like a pretty dangerous creature."
He nodded, shuddering, "Yeah. From my research I've surmised that very few creatures ever survive an encounter with the Lethe. And those few that do usually don't remember exactly what or who they escaped from."
...and this was supposed to be a stroll in the park? "I certainly don't see anything 'simple' about that assignment."
The one time I'm willing to believe the damned thing actually exists... "Turned out to be a hoax, huh?"
His face went instantly white. "No... that's just it. I've seen it! A truly horrible beast! I caught the merest glimpse... But that was all it took! It was gigantic! My heart froze... my skin began to crawl... I'd swear I even forgot which way I should run..."
This adventure of mine is leaving me with precious little doubt remaining for any future legends and hoaxes I come across. Lucky for me, I have enough skepticism to last me seven lifetimes. "It sounds horrible. So you didn't get the photograph?"
"I couldn't even snap one shot off! I was that terrified!" His whining was more than a little pathetic, but I supposed there was a time when I, too, was that scared of anything I thought threatened me. "And I'm not going back... There's no way I'm going back! What am I to do? Mr. Wright will fire me for certain!"
The opportunity for profit was obvious. "You just need a photograph? You don't need to confront it?"
I winked at him mysteriously, "What if I took the photograph?"
The look on his face alone was worth my asking. "You? You would want to risk yourself to photograph this beast? Why would you do that?"
Why else? You don't think I'm just that good-natured, do you? "I'd get paid, wouldn't I?"
He seemed rather unsure of himself suddenly, although it wasn't like he'd been exactly bristling with confidence moments earlier. "Uh... but of course. I'm being paid 500 coin for the shot. But, I've spent part of that in supplies so far. I wouldn't be able to pay you any more than 300..."
"Supplies"... you certainly can't expect me to foot the expense for your little luxury inn-stay. "300 coin? For risking my mind? I think it's worth more than that."
I could get that for answering a single question, but this just seems more honest... and interesting. "It's a deal. What do I need to do?" Let fate decide whether I ought remember the pain in my past...
He handed his camera back off to me and I stuffed it in my purse. "Here. Take my camera. All you need to do is get within visual range of the Lethe, then use the camera on it. After that, I'd run like the wind! Here, I'll mark your map with the location. Ah, also... I have heard rumors that an old bridge exists somewhere near that location. I did not have a chance to look for it, but it may be of interest to you, an adventurer like myself."
I still don't feel quite right about that term. What's it going to take before people stop referring to me as an adventurer? "Thanks, Trevor. I'll get that photograph for you in no time!" From the way my map looked, I would easily be able to visit the home of the Iron Clan while I was in the area for the picture, and if such a land bridge did exist I would be able to easily travel up to Qintarra to report on the location of the Dark Elves. It was reason enough for me to head up that way, but I first needed to get my hands even dirtier.
There were a surprising amount of freshly filled (or perhaps re-filled) graves over in the back of the inn. To make matters worse, the graves had either blank tombstones or tombstones that were so worn and faded with age that they might as well have been blank. It was still barely past noon, but the area was so isolated and there were so few people present that I didn't think there would be too much harm in getting what I came for and then going.
Whoops... no, that's not the one... so sorry, old chap. It was actually kind of embarrassing to just randomly dig up people's graves while my friends just sat there and watched the desecration in action, but I wasn't the bastard that buried the old book here in the first place.
I dug up yet another wrong grave, although I was interested to note that there were coins and a ring inside of the casket with the skeleton. I don't think he'll really be using those. Sebastian started laughing when I pulled the coins out of the casket and stuffed them in my purse. "Hey, can Terry take a bone out, too?" Oh, quiet, you. Terry yipped and Sebastian pet him on the head gently.
Luckily for me, the third time seemed to be the charm. My breath caught in my chest when I pulled the book out of the casket. I read the title of it out loud, "T'sen-Ang - Horror Among the Dark Elves. I've found it at last." I cracked open the front cover, reading excitedly.
Dearest reader, it is only with the greatest fear and trepidation that I share this harrowing tale with you today. Even here, safe within the confines of my own home, I am still overcome with dread at the thought of what am I about tell you, and what it might mean for me or those close to me. And yet I feel compelled to do so, and the great Muse guides my pen to this paper, and the words flow forth from the darkest regions of my heart and mind where they have stayed well-hidden until this very evening. I beg of you, give ear to my confession, and, if it please you, take this tale from me and return only your belief and trust that what you are about to hear is only and nothing but the truth.
My name is Renford A. Terwilliger, born of the outlying regions of Ashbury, not far from the lair of Bellerogrim, where they found the bones of the great dragon. My childhood was a bright one, full of happiness and light, and my parents gave to me all that a child might need. I was schooled both practically and excellently, and when my 18th year came round I was accepted into Tarant University, and ultimately found my way into the Tarantian Zoological Society. Archaeology was first love, but my first assignment with the Society was with the Cultural Anthropology department. It was somewhat of a farce, actually, but the Society had been given an enormous grant by one of Tarant's leading philanthropists for a very specific purpose. That purpose was to confirm the existence of the Dark Elves.
Every man, woman and child in Arcanum has been raised on ghost stories and bedtime tales of these strange people known only as the Dark Elves. To the anthropologist, they are the proverbial oasis in the desert; proof of their existence has always literally disappeared into the air. No man had ever set eyes upon them, and not one shred of physical evidence had ever been found to establish that they were real. Myths and legends were plentiful, but, for the itinerant scientist, these mean less than nothing. What was needed was undeniable evidence, and I set out on this adventure with determination and confidence in my ability to bring forth just that. Had I known what lay ahead, I would have forsworn both anthropology and philanthropy, and returned to work as a day laborer in the Ashbury shipyards. Better the back-breaking work than the nightmares I face every night.
Before leaving Tarant, I employed the services of a certain
vision given to the eyes of mortal man.
Qintarra, the great elven tree-city, lay within the towering trees at the end of the clearing, hanging like a cut jewel in the crown of a king. The Mother Tree, almost 400 feet tall, housed the intricately carved Hall of Truth, which shone white and smooth in the noonday sun. Impossibly thin walkways wove in and out of the boughs of the great tree, not taking away from its natural beauty, but adding to it, as if the city were merely a convenient and beautiful tangle of leaves and branches, tattooed with the flowing runes and symbols in the ancient elven tongue. And among these, the graceful and lithe forms of the elves, singing their beautiful songs and looking down upon the rag-tag group of men with curiosity and amusement.
Of Qintarra I can say only this; the month I spent there was the best of my entire life. I learned much less about the Dark Elves than I would have liked, almost nothing at all, really, but the moments I spent there were strange and wonderful and breathtaking, and I will not do them a disservice by attempting to put them into words. Suffice it to say that I learned there as a young man what often takes others a lifetime, and to my teacher I give heartfelt thanks and the warmest greetings. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of you...
We left the trees of Qintarra with little more than faint whispers about the Dark Elves and where they might be found. The elves of Qintarra were very reluctant to speak of them, and they begged us to forget such foolishness and to go home to Tarant. I, of course, would hear no such talk and we traveled on, north this time, as Mr. Ben'al believed he had uncovered a clue as to their whereabouts during his investigations while in Qintarra.
And he had discovered a name. T'sen-Ang. The home of the Dark Elves.
We traveled for 17 more days, exhausting our supplies and sending most of the party back to Tarant. The forest had become thicker and more brambly, and it seemed that many of the trees were adorned with thorns, some more than a foot long. Another week and it was only Mr. Ben'al and myself, and we had agreed to return before the first of the month if we failed to find any further evidence of the Dark Elves existence. That gave us 6 days to find T'sen-Ang, and we pressed on despite our anxiety and fatigue.
On the day before we had
I ran headlong past the elves in front of me, swinging blindly to clear a path. I was mad with fear, and my feet carried me deeper into the forest. I thought I heard dark and twisted laughter above and behind me, and shadowy figures darted among the trees to my left and right. Thorns tore at my arms and legs, and I stumbled among stones and the underbrush, screaming incoherently. More than once, great elven arrows sunk into the trees around me, grazing my skin as they flew by. They were playing with me, enjoying the hunt, waiting for just the right moment. My head was light from exhaustion and blood loss, and I fell to my knees, gasping for air.
When I looked up, I saw it.
There, in the trees above me, was T'sen-Ang, the home of the Dark Elves. Unlike Qintarra, T'sen-Ang was an abomination, slouched in the branches like a great beast waiting for its prey. There were sputtering fires all along its battlements, and great spikes protruding from every surface like dragon spines. And I saw robed figures, gaunt and terrible, lined along its walkways and looking down upon me, beckoning, it seemed, for me to join them. I screamed again, and the figures seemed to raise their voices in unison, a terrible call without sound or meaning, but I heard them nonetheless. They were cursing me. They were welcoming me.
In moments I was surrounded again by my pursuers. Through the downpour I saw them unsheath daggers, their ghostish smiles floating towards me as the thunder roared above. I closed my eyes, praying to whatever god would hear me. There was nothing else I could do.
And then, from nowhere, arrows were flying from behind me and above me. In moments I was encircled completely with the half-buried shafts of the thickest hunting arrows, and the Dark Elves around me whirled to and fro in confusion. One pulled his bow from his back and notched an arrow in one flowing movement, but was shot through the heart before he'd raised it past his shoulder. He fell silently, unbelieving. The others, looked at me for a moment, the purest hatred harbored in their eyes, and then disappeared into the night, hands conspicuously at their sides.
Amazed and spent, I fainted.
I awoke some days later, many miles from northern reaches of the Glimmering. I was alone, but my wounds had been treated and my supplies had been replenished. I was back in Tarant not two weeks later. I never met my rescuers, but I can guess who they were and where they were from, and I thank them if they are reading this. Without their aid, I surely would have died there in the shadow of T'sen-Ang.
And so, dear friend, again I beg of you to believe these words and the man who has told them to you. I do so only to share this burden with others, to gain comfort among those of my kind. At the very least, let these words stand as a warning to you. Often, evil is a tangible thing, and sometimes it is a people and a place. Such are the Dark Elves, and such is the hell that is called their home.
I have never returned to the Glimmering Forest, and I pray that I never do. Some things are better left alone.
Bonus ContentNow for some bonus stuff. I was finally able to pick up Master backstab training in Roseborough. I'm including it as a bonus because I haven't included any previous backstab training (since it's retarded). I got apprentice from a magick shop clerk and expert from a member of the thieves' underground that I couldn't join, but he was happy to train a random woman that barged in off the street anyway The conversation with Dr. Craig implies too much knowledge about him for me to just toss this in the main story now.
I guess he's flagged as a Tarantian even though he's at Roseborough
[He seems very agitated by your presence.] What do you want, stranger?
I would like you to train me as a Master at Backstab, Dr. Craig...
[Surprise appears upon his face, then suspicion returns.] Who told you where I was?
No one. You have been most difficult to locate.
What are you going to do, now that you have found me?
I merely want training. What "you" do, is your business.
I suspect there is a large reward for information leading to my whereabouts.
I am not interested in that. I merely wish to be trained.
If I agree to train you... you will promise to leave here, and forget you ever saw me?
I promise. I have no clue as to your whereabouts.
You are not to speak of my whereabouts. Do you understand that, lady?! [His agitation seems to be increasing.]
I have no intention of betraying you, Doctor Craig.
How can I be sure? [He seems to be struggling with some inner turmoil, then becomes resolute.] Very well. I will trust you. I think it is time you leave. Goodbye, Samantha Colburn.
I will go. You can trust me... Goodbye Doctor Craig.
My wife's name is Carrie
*groan* Also, this:
Requested by Selane
I'll do the brothel pictures first, since that's a lot shorter. There's really only one back room of interest (the others are empty or have a maid who is not for 'sale').
Requested by Mizar
...and now for the king bit. I've never actually done this quest before, so it should be fun to watch me bumble through it horribly I had to load a pre-Sebastian save since I had Jenks killed in the same save where I talk to Willoughsby about Sebastian and then go get him. So, instead, I've enlisted the help of Perriman Smythe on this one! He doesn't know what we're about to do, but he's a bright lad and I'm sure he'll figure it out eventually. Let's get started.
We've accepted the job from Jenks and we make our way to Caladon. Renard gives us the whole speech bit and I walk into the palace hall where a ton of people want to talk to me. I ignore them utterly and make for the kitchen.
Here, take this. [He hands you a key.] You will need it to open the door at the rear of the kitchens...
Where does the door lead?
It leads to a hallway. From that hallway you will need to find a way deeper into the castle...
Alright. Any final advice?
Just be careful. If you arouse the suspicions of the guards, they will kill you on sight. Once you find the King's Chambers, you know what to do. After the deed is done, you're on your own until you get back to Tarant.
Fine. Good day to you, sir...
We slip into the back hallway (actually, that's how we got into the kitchens in the first place, I fate picked the lock since all the doors are unpickable anyway and I had to pick one to open ), then pass by a few guards that don't give a shit and go up some stairs. Here's where the guards start giving a shit.
It was him or me, man. That was by far the easiest fight during the whole quest, the rest of them kicked my ass pretty handily and I'm not exactly a weak character. Sure, I probably should've put armor on or maybe brought more useful followers... and I'd bet prowling would've helped, but seriously this really is a difficult quest. I had to load a few times to get through the next fight, because shit like getting knocked unconscious would happen:
They really didn't like it when Smythe hurled a fireball at the door. Destruction of property makes NPCs mad
After that fight was over I decided I might need to use more than just brute force to survive.
Our new friend doesn't really like attacking his still-living buddies, but he does it anyway
The same goes for our other new friend. Well, he's just going to have to learn to like it.
There's a whole roomful of guards in front of the treasury. In the end, going through the treasury (if you don't mind killing the guards) is probably one of the shortest ways to the king's room. I didn't know that, though, so I tore up the guards in front, realized the treasury was trapped to shit, then said "ah, fuck that." There was also a shortcut grate that I could've taken, but it was behind a locked door I would've had to waste a fate point on. Instead I kill everyone and pick it on the way out
So there's all those badass guards I mentioned. They hurt, a lot. I kill the one leading the charge, then stay back and let the rest come to me.
Terry dives in, gnawing at their ankles ferociously. They retaliate.
You've been avenged, old boy... I sure am gonna miss you.
I accidentally talked to the zombie. He still isn't fond of me, go figure.
The treasury that Terry died for
You can romp around in the vents, but they don't go much of anywhere since I was an idiot and waited until the last possible vent to find them and all the guards were already dead between the first and last vent
I go way back to the first difficult fight and decide to fate pick another lock after realizing none of the damned locks in this place are pickable even with 5 in pick locks. It's the only way to go that doesn't lead to a dead end (except for the horribly difficult to get to and trapped to hell treasury that I had enough healing items to survive, but conveniently ignored because I'm an idiot).
I never get tired of watching hack up his friends.
But if I want to get anything done, I have to do it myself.
Oh fine, have it your way. If you don't want to needlessly slaughter innocents, I don't need you anyway.
I don't really know why there's a naked guy down there. I swear I didn't do it )
Two ogres and a dwarf Holy hell was this fight hard. Those ogres hit like a goddamn truck, and not only are they wielding fast swords but I'd bet they've got 20 dex, too. I had to reload several times and use almost everything I had.
Like him. I've been carrying a miniature, naked halfling in my pocket for like half the game.
That's one down!
Vollinger, not you too...
It's too late to scream for help!
Victory, but at a price... only Virgil and Samantha live. The halfling, too, but that fucker's level 50.
The dwarf has a rather important key.
Why hello, there, King Farad. Don't mind me, I'm just casually strolling through your bedroom for no reason at all...
Looks like Willoughsby isn't going to like me anymore.
This is all the king had on him. Not even a royal robe
The escape grate leads to that door I didn't bother to pick earlier
The entrance door locked itself so I had to re-pick it with my last fate point. Thankfully, that cleared the way out.
Well, that really kind of depends on your definition of 'cleared'.
Oh, my, why are all these people so mad at me...?
Ohhh, right... that whole 'assassinate the King' business. Hmm. Fancy that.
Renard whines pathetically while I kill the gate guards.
More guards molest me as I try to make my escape to the docks!
This smarmy elf decides he wants to have a go at it.
I'm really not popular in this city anymore.
Even low level noblemen are attacking me now. It's probably my low beauty and the -100 or so alignment modifier. If I had a 20 beauty I could actually just walk out fine
Some of the guards are pretty brutal.
Another random townsperson.
Haha, good luck retreating with one leg, buddy.
The bow guards get in on the action.
It's a fight all the way to the end.
Let's get the hell out of here!
It's nighttime by the time we arrive back in Tarant.
I'm only including screenshots of this conversation because I think the flip-flopping between madam and sir has to be seen to be believed.
...but at a hefty price