Chapter the Fifty Sixth: Lessons of a Religious NatureI strolled confidantly into the hallway that Alexander had opened the way to. All right... time to turn on the charm. They're going to have to like me an awful lot before they say, 'Sure! Go right ahead, defile the remains of our dead god!' I wandered down the first hallway until it lead to a second, and then I was faced with two rooms, one on my left and one on my right. For the time being I chose the room on the right.
Inside there was a thin man, properly dressed in a finely-made suit. He stared at me over a pair of thin, gold-rimmed spectacles lying across his nose. He rose from his desk to speak with me, but his voice was soft and gentle, barely above a whisper, "Yes? What is it, daughter?"
Now that's not something I've really ever heard anybody call me. For some reason, the man's greeting made me warm up to him instantly. "Greetings. And who are you, sir?"
He walked around his desk to approach me more properly. His features and mannerisms were very delicate, but his eyes belied a strength of body and character, as well as harboring a fierce intelligence. He regarded me intensely, but when he reached out to shake my hand he was nothing but gentle. "I am Willhelm. Gunther Willhelm."
I smiled at him sweetly, trying to make a good impression. "A pleasure, sir. What exactly do you do here?"
"Yes, and very well." Pretending to like this man was going to be a great deal easier than I'd expected. I had been fearing a religious nut, and instead I found a kind-hearted man of intellect and education. My opinion of the Panarii was rapidly improving. Why can't all of them be like this? "Would you mind telling me of some of your work?"
He relaxed visibly as he stood there, warming to my presence as I expressed more interest in his vocation. I felt bad since I was really just intending on buttering him up, but I was also genuinely curious. He positively fascinated me. "What about my work are you interested in?"
Might as well start at the top, I suppose. At least I won't be bored. "What are you currently working on?"
He motioned to some books on his desk, quickly and precisely. I was enthralled by the man's sheer presence. "Currently, I am doing some research on older translations of the Archaeon... I have found some interesting discrepancies that I am looking into..."
I could tell something was bothering him about that thought, and he certainly wasn't a man who was easily bothered. "Discrepancies? What do you mean?" I felt as though I might be overstepping my bounds, but I just wouldn't be myself if I didn't toe the line between curiosity and decency.
I was more intrigued that he would be so incredibly hung up over such a seemingly trivial difference, but also I felt that if it was important to him perhaps there really was something worth being troubled over. "Interesting. Was there anything else?" I practically hung on his every word.
Unfortunately for me, he seemed uninterested in continuing that line of thought. At the very least he was direct and honest about it. "A few minor things... I'm still working on the translation. Perhaps it's something we can speak of later..."
"Of course." I smiled politely, trying desperately not to offend him. "Could I ask you about the statue in the courtyard... who is that?"
The sudden shift in topic didn't even slow him down. "That statue is of Saint Mannox... one of the early Elders of the church."
"Why was he made a saint?" I was glad that Gunther didn't seem to be terribly bothered by my incessant questioning. It certainly beat talking about myself... that was one subject that was off limits, no matter how intrigued I was by the man in front of me.
There was a strong emphasis in his voice, so incredibly obvious that I knew something not only bothered him about what he'd said, but it was something he'd wanted me to pick up on. "You say 'reputedly', Gunther. Do you not believe?"
He smiled at me, obviously pleased that I did pick up on his hinting. I'd have had to be a simpleton not to. At any rate, I certainly wasn't one to stop him from saying his mind. "There is no doubt in my mind that Mannox was a very holy man. My belief in an inconclusive set of circumstances does not invalidate that fact, regardless of how that might reflect on my own faith..."
Hmm... as interesting as this religion business is turning out to be, I can't say I disagree with Gunther here. "Were there any eye witnesses to the event?"
As always, he was exceptionally forthcoming with information. "There were two eye-withesses to the ascension of Mannox - two elves. One was named R'aan-Dar, and the other... what was his name... K'an Hua, I believe. Their accounts of the incident were almost exactly the same, and both were beautifully written." That he maintained such doubt in the face of everything he knew only impressed me further. I could always appreciate a good skeptic. Frederick had been that way, too... Gods, will I never stop being reminded of him...?
Although I was on a subject far from the one I eventually wanted to broach, talking about Mannox seemed like a valuable way to build up some small amount of trust with Gunther. It was difficult for me to determine exactly what he thought of me, and I couldn't be too careful. "What else do you know about Mannox?" Nevermind that the subject simply interested me from a purely educational point of view.
Alexander? Now that's new, is there something that excited fellow failed to mention to me? "What do you mean? What does Alexander have to do with him?"
For once, Gunther almost seemed surprised. Not quite, but at the very least it was close. "You haven't heard? He almost never speaks of it... the man has enough humility for all of us." Gunther shook his head with a stunned respect before continuing, "Alexander is a direct descendant of Mannox... his family has held the position of First Acolyte for the last 1500 years..."
It seemed like Virgil's impression of the man wasn't entirely undeserved after all. If the two men I'd met so far were such amazing people, I wondered what that Hadrian fellow would be like. I suspected he would, at the very least, be likeable. "No... I didn't know that. That's quite a legacy."
"Yes, it is." Gunther nodded satisfactorily. "And there's no better man to bear it - Alexander is a saint in his own right. There are few men I respect, my friend. Alexander is a noble soul... do you know anything of him?"
I can see that your respect would be a rather difficult thing to gain. "No. Tell me of him..." I was really growing to like these Panarii fellows. First Virgil, then Joachim, and now the prominent members of the church itself... what kind of a religion could possibly have so many interesting, noble, and mostly rational people? Perhaps being the Living One wasn't such a curse after all. Hah, surely... that'll be the day. I can only tolerate so much worship. I used to be a whore for heaven's sake.
"What did he do?" It was an awful lot easier to respect a man who knew how to defend himself when things got rough. I found my respect growing for Alexander as well, the more that I heard about him.
Gunther's tone was deadly serious. "Alexander left us for 10 years, and studied with some of the most feared and respected masters in several combat disciplines. For his pilgrimage, he traveled to the Vendigroth wastes, and lived there, alone, until he thought himself ready to assume his post. If you know nothing of the Wastes, know this. There's no more terrible place in all of Arcanum..."
I did know of the wastes, actually, and Gunther wasn't far off in his impression of them. They were a very harsh place to be, indeed, and I respected Alexander for his bravery and commitment. He was likely at least my equal in combat, and I was certainly no slouch. I'd killed the master of melee in close combat, and he with a poisoned blade. "So he is a skilled warrior?"
Gunther grinned at me assuredly. I could hear the sheer respect in his voice. It wasn't reverence or adulation, but simple, honest respect, from a man who was rather deserving of such a thing in his own right. "There's not a more dangerous man in all of Caladon. And he's very well-versed in two or three of the magick colleges as well, as are all of us who are Panarii elders. The Temple hasn't been in safer hands since it was in those of the Great Saint himself..."
Oddly enough, that's somewhat less comforting considering that I need to desecrate the grave it's built on. It did strike me as odd that I felt some degree of comfort in the temple despite my technological inclination, but I wrote it off as my demeanor simply being more potent now than it ever had been. I pushed those thoughts away, trying to remain focused... it was time to ask the truly important question. "Say, Gunther, you're a historian... what do you know about the remains of Nasrudin?"
I'm not so ready to throw this entire conversation out the window just yet... you've got to have something useful to say. Perhaps if I could convince you that they're fake... "Do you think that they are authentic?" The more I thought about it, the better I felt about that plan. It seemed like a rather insidious way of getting in to see them.
He suddenly got a very serious look on his face and lowered his voice noticeably. "To tell you the truth, I really don't know. I've done a lot of research into the engravings on the sarcophagus... everything seems to be in order... it just seems to me that it's all very convenient. I mean, who buried him? We have no records of that. There's no doubt that an elf of his stature would have been given an elaborate burial, but who did it? We don't know..."
I knew I was on to something. If I could get Gunther's support I would suddenly be much closer to discovering whatever it was I needed to discover. Damn you, Silver Lady... why must you always be so damned cryptic? "Do the church records say who discovered them?"
After only a moment's thought he nodded, "Yes... let me see." He turned and walked over to a bookshelf, pulling a weathered old tome from off of it without even hesitating to look for where it was. He was obviously a very meticulously organized man. "Ah... here we are. The elf's name was K'an Hua."
"Wasn't the person who witnessed the ascension named K'an Hua?" Come now... that's enough to doubt, isn't it? You'll let me in to see the remains now? I knew it wouldn't quite be that easy, but my apprehension made me a bit eager.
I became a bit overzealous then, pushing him a bit harder than I ought to have. "Don't you find that strange? Perhaps a little convenient?"
He sat down on the edge of his desk and gave me a rather stern look. I swallowed uncomfortably, knowing I'd messed up. "You're very curious about this whole affair, my friend. What is your real interest in this?"
Bloody hell! I grew nervous, but I tried to calm myself down. Alexander had said Gunther would accept me if I told him I was the Living One, and I could get into an awful lot of trouble if I wasn't willing to go down that path. I sighed and stared at him levelly, "It's a long tale..."
Gunther listened patiently, and intently, curious about exactly where I was going with it. I didn't outright mention that I was the Living One, but I did make sure to mention the zeppelin crash. I tried to mention it offhand, pretending that it wasn't the entire reason for me to tell the story in the first place. If it didn't seem like I was trying to force a reaction out of him I suspected he would be a lot more receptive to the idea.
When I was finally finished he nodded emphatically and spoke. "I see," his gaze was harsh and calculating, and he studied me thoroughly. "You're telling me that YOU are the sole survivor of the I.F.S. Zephyr blimp crash?"
I sighed, nodding. "Yes." If you believe anything that I say, please at least believe the things that are true...
I sighed again, but this time in relief. I smiled at him and even blushed slightly. Being worshipped still didn't feel right, especially not coming from him. "Thank you, Gunther." Well, I suppose nothing is stopping me from being direct about it now. "I really need to see those remains..."
He thought about what I said for a moment, carefully wording his response. "Listen, my friend, not everyone here is sympathetic to your cause. Hadrian the archaeologist is the one who you need to speak with, but be very careful... he's an old and loyal friend, but belief in you will come slowly for him. He will be the best source of information regarding the remains and how you might see them, but tread lightly... subterfuge might be necessary."
First Alexander says not to tell him, and now Gunther suggests subterfuge... if there's one thing I can do, it's lie through my bloody teeth. Hadrian won't know what hit him. "I'll remember that, Gunther. Thank you for your help."
He shook his head, and my hand. "No... thank you, my friend. Return here when you've seen the remains and tell me what you find... I may be able to help you once you know what it is you're looking for."
I smiled, pleased at how my conversation with Gunther had gone. He was a good man, and now one that I could seemingly call friend. "I will, Gunther. Good bye."
I left Gunther's office, walking across the narrow hallway to the room on the other side. The first thing I noticed when I entered were several glass display cases containing various oddities. I didn't recognize two of them, but the one on the far left certainly got my attention. It looked like it was made out of a strange purple and blue hued glass, and the shape was unmistakable. It had to be the key to the Iron Clan.
"Yes? What is it?" The wizened old gnome in the room addressed me. He had wildish gray hair and a scraggly beard that looked more like he'd forgotten to shave than any kind of intentional growth.
I certainly didn't want to just barge in and ask him for one of the obviously valuable artifacts behind him, and it seemed like he was probably the man I was looking for anyway. "Hello. And who might you be?"
He looked up at me with a toothless grin. "Call me Hadrian! Acolyte of the Panarii, and the local expert on church archaeology. How might I help you today?"
"Greetings." I smiled and reached down to shake his hand. "I'm Samantha Colburn." I waited for the memories of being teased to come, but for some reason they didn't. Perhaps I was finally starting to leave behind that unfortunate bit of my past, or perhaps the troubles in my present bothered me now far more than my past ever did. Frederick... I shook off my train of thought and focused further on what was immediately in front of me. "Can I ask you about the objects you have here, Hadrian?"
I was already being quite direct enough, I didn't want to go straight for the goal. Either of them, really. "What is that? A skeleton's finger?"
Hadrian nodded proudly, "Yes... that is the Finger of Saint Mannox."
Somehow that hadn't really been the answer I was expecting. "His finger? Why is that here?" Storing the lopped off finger of a revered religious figure seemed like a rather twisted way to worship him. Maybe I stood a good chance at getting a look at old Nasrudin's bones after all.
My confusion didn't put Hadrian off in the slightest, however. He seemed all too happy just to have somebody to chat with. I had to imagine it probably got quite lonely. "Legend tells of a time when Saint Mannox had been captured by barbarians... they were plundering the surrounding countryside, and were holding Mannox for ransom. He told his people to refuse, so the barbarians threatened to cut off one of his fingers if he didn't comply. Mannox calmly picked up a knife, told them there would be no ransom, and cut it off himself."
I shuddered uncontrollably at that thought. I could never imagine doing such a thing, or even bearing witness to it. "He sounds like a hard man..."
Hadrian shrugged, considerably less interested in the man than he was interested in the man's remains. "Yes, he was when he needed to be. Is there anything else you'd like to know?"
Well, I already know much of Mannox anyhow. "Could you tell me about that black gem you have over there?"
His voice was almost distant, and it seemed like for all his initial excitement to speak with me I was now dreadfully boring him by dwelling on his artifacts. It seemed like he'd mostly lost interest in them after having initially studied them. I supposed that would be the way of a true archaeologist, though... always looking for new things to study while losing interest in the old. It wasn't any fun anymore when you already knew about it. "That is the eye of Kraka-tur," he said disinterestedly.
Funny name for a rock. "Really? It's a beautiful stone..."
I think I already need to know everything I ever wanted to know on that subject. I patted the journal in my purse lightly, still proud at having acquired it, yet sad at the same time for no longer having anybody to share it with. Hadrian didn't really count, as much as I was inclined to like the small fellow. "Can you tell me about that strange, glass device?"
He actually laughed a bit, a good-natured laugh. "We don't have any idea what that is... it sure is pretty, though, eh?"
But I know...! I know what it is, dammit! "Is it for sale?"
A look of sudden horror crossed his eyes. Oops. "No... no... these are priceless church artifacts. I couldn't part with them for worldly riches."
I felt bad about it, but a plan was already forming in my mind for how to go about stealing that device behind Hadrian's back. He wasn't a bad little gnome, but I wasn't going to take no for an answer. It would certainly require a great deal of thought before I went about actually putting any plan into action, however. I had other business to attend to first at any rate. "You said you were an archaeologist... have you seen the remains of Nasrudin?"
It seemed like old Hadrian wasn't going to need much coaxing after all. I supposed asking the right questions went a long way towards finding the right answers. I tried pushing him a little further, letting him continue on his tirade and hoping it lead somewhere lucrative for me. "Why, Hadrian? You're the church archaeologist, Surely you-"
Hadrian rather suddenly cut me off, his anger apparent, though not directed at me. "Yes, you'd think so, wouldn't you, young lady!" He got up off of his tiny chair and started wildly gesticulating to and fro. "I mean, when the Elders need someone digging in the dank caverns of the Bangellian Deeps, who do they call upon? Or if some poor fool comes across a tomb sealed with a Gorgothian blood-curse? Ring the bell for Old Hadrian!"
Yes, that's right... get as worked up about it as you like. "But why won't they let you see the remains, Hadrian?" For the life of me I couldn't help continuing to push him, but at least there was a purpose behind it.
It seemed like the moment was at hand to tip the scales in my favor. If Hadrian was ever going to be receptive to my needs now would be the time, and I wasn't going to squander the opportunity. "I see your point. I, myself, would love to take a look at them..."
"Really?" His face lit up happily and I knew I was on the right track. "Are you a fellow archaeologist, my friend?" Splendid! My timing couldn't have been more perfect... I've just got to keep this going.
"Uh... yes. Yes I am." The lie formed slowly at first, then grew into something I could be more confidant in. "Strictly freelance, of course..." I didn't want him asking any questions about organizations I didn't know the first thing about. Technically, I could consider myself a freelance archaeologist of sorts... I did tend to acquire a great number of curiosities and oddities while digging through ancient tombs and dungeons. It wasn't entirely a lie.
I could see the idea forming in his head, and I liked very much where it was leading. "Y-y-e-s-s..." He looked me over a bit, considering me and measuring my words. "You do seem to have that particular look about you. Probably a little dirt under those fingernails, eh? Well met! And what interest do you have in the remains of Nasrudin...?"
"Well," I paid careful attention to the tone of my voice, speaking quietly to impart the sense of secrecy that would lend appropriate veracity to my tale, "I'm thinking of converting, but I need a little proof..." All right... NOW I'm lying.
Oh, yes... do tell, do tell indeed... "What do you know, Hadrian?"
He shuffled through the papers, reading off bits and supplementing them with his own thoughts. "Let's see... standard information. The stone is of the local area, there are elven characters naming it as the final resting place of Nasrudin... the design is Old Elven, consistent with the latter end of the Age of Legends... rune work is exquisite, although perhaps a bit overdone, in my opinion. Of course, I'm more of a conservative..."
"But you've never seen the inside." I cut to the heart of the matter. "Has anyone?" Come on, Hadrian... you know you want to...
He shrugged suggestively, "As far as I know, no one has ever broken the seal on the sarcophagus..." His tone was high and curious, pleading me to continue. It seemed like my goal was all but accomplished.
Of course, I was only too happy to oblige. "Interesting. I'd REALLY like to see what's in there, Hadrian..."
He leaned in closer and I did the same. His voice was barely a whisper then, almost impossible to hear even with my ear less than a foot from his mouth. "Just how much do you want to see them, my friend?"
I winked at him, nodding emphatically, "VERY much." Guilt struck out at me yet again, but I pushed it down. I didn't really have any other choice, and if abusing the good nature of a kind old gnome was the only way to put a stop to Arronax's return then I would just have to do that. Sorry, old chap... it's nothing personal, I assure you.
Oh yes, I hoped that was where you were going with this... I like where this is going quite a bit... "I'm listening..."
He continued whispering his plan to me, "The tomb lies within the old catacombs, and the entrance to the burial room is well guarded. BUT! About a year ago I was perusing the pages of one of our ancient texts, and within its pages I found an old illustration of the catacombs, drawn by the first keeper of the crypt, apparently for his own use in navigating them...
All of the connecting passages into the burial room were walled off soon after the discovery. All except for one! There is a passageway which comes up through the floor, and it's so well hidden in the stonework that its been missed all of these years! I've shared this information with no one... you and I are the only living souls who know of its existence..."
I nodded along with him as he spoke, encouraging him to trust me further. "That's fascinating, and I think I see where your plan is going..."
He paused, listening carefully to the footsteps of the guard passing just outside of his room. I waited for them to pass and then encouraged him to continue, "And then?"
Once he was satisfied that the guard was far enough away he continued whispering at me furiously. "You will find yourself in a passageway... when it comes to an end, you will see a door in the wall. Speak the word 'Crimstone' to it, and it will open for you. Through that door is a passage which leads to a staircase. That staircase leads to the tomb of Nasrudin."
It seemed like my deception had been a rather successful one. I knew Hadrian would keep quiet about what he'd just told me, and nobody else could really stop me anymore. It looked as though I would be able to poke at the remains of Nasrudin after all. Where the Silver Lady expected that to lead me I had no idea. "Is there anything else I need to know?"
He nodded, continuing his whispers, "Once you've entered the catacombs, you will see adjoining passages as well. DON'T enter them. They are full of dark spirits and other creatures... if you wish to avoid them, go straight through the door and up into the burial room..."
Yes, I think I'd rather like to avoid tangling with the undead even more than I already have. They're not exactly friendly, on average. "I'll remember that. Thank you, Hadrian."
That certainly sounded like as good of an idea as any. I failed to see how else I could get any information out of a 2,000 year old skeleton buried in a sealed coffin. I was no necromancer, and I found associating with them... distasteful. My thoughts returned to that pompous windbag Geoffrey whom I'd helped out way back in Ashbury. Ugh... once a bastard always a bastard. "I'll return when I've accomplished this..."
Hadrian winked at me and smiled broadly, "You do that, my friend."
I turned and left Hadrian's room, making my way from there out to the front of the temple. Well, I certainly got the information I came for... I wish I could say I was looking forward to actually using it. What exactly is it you've got to tell me, Nasrudin old boy? I shuddered, wondering if the latent magickal energy from such a powerful elf would be enough to rouse his bones into a state of undeath. I did not relish the idea of fighting an undead Nasrudin, that was for sure. There was also the small matter of potentially being caught, as the majority of the Panarii would most certainly frown on my behavior... not the least of which would be the High Priest, who felt me an impostor as it was.
I'd simply have to not get caught, then.
Bonus ContentHere's some more random places I've visited that don't fit well into the main plot. Specifically, I hit up a bunch of places on the West side of the Stonewall Mountains. There are all sorts of random, hidden places you can uncover if you just wander around (or use a FAQ). You can also consider this post as an experiment in just how many times I can use the emote without it getting old.
First is the Ancient Ruins. You can find it if you just wander to the location in the screenshot above.
It had a few of my favorites
Aside from a treasure chest with some random magickal loot, that's all there was there. Next is "The Cold Place". How creative.
I found it here, for those that want to go take a look at it themselves.
Freaky little ice things called "Demon Shards." (also treasure)
Next is "The Old Lagoon", once again at the location above.
Some watery thingies, those same ones I fought in the Tarant sewers. (Also, treasure.)
Ah, there's what I'm looking for.
This place is called "The Broken Cathedral." Of all of the places, I think this one was the best.
Here's the entrance... already it's marginally more interesting.
It's hard to top ghost demons... not to mention I just like the design of the place. For a random overworld thing, anyway.
Looks like I'm going to be busy.
The orb in my inventory is the Vol'ar's Wisp Essence. I think this place had the worst treasure, but it had more of it. It's all random anyway, though. All of the chests I open now look like this.
That takes us right up to where Friday's double update began. So, is old yet? Was it before I even posted this? I bet it was.
You guys seemed to like yesterday's focus on Bates, so I quick created a dwarf, hacked the save, and blitzed up to that point of the plot as quickly as possible. All just to show you this. Do you see what I do for you?
My wife said I had to post this screenshot. You can see it's a rather hacked save.
Here I am chatting up the guard most persuasively.
And this matter would be pertaining to?
I have a ring that used to belong to Mr. Bates.
You and every other assassin or lunatic who comes around here. Move along.
Mr. Bates will be extremely upset when he hears of this.
(You can see how they try to fool you with persuasion... if you know about bates, you know he didn't attend a university, and the guard knows that, too... of course, if it's your first time through, you don't know a damn thing.)
What do you mean, "old friend"?
I've known him forever. I wouldn't keep me out, if I were you. (alternates that will cause you to fail: "Our mothers have been close friends since we were children." - Bates mother died giving birth to him. "I loaned him a large sum of money twenty five years ago." - Bates was already rich 25 years ago.)
Uh... if you are a friend... ummm... you should have telegraphed ahead to Mr. Bates so he could have notified us to expect you.
I'll telegraph him about your rudeness to one of his oldest friends. (alternate: "I did telegraph ahead. It hasn't been delivered?" - This is a hard one. Bates has his own, private telegraph... speaking of a 'delivery' tips off the guard.)
(You can probably guess why the second two options fail. Most successful persuasion, especially in the early game, requires you to be bold and threatening... so we pick the top.)
Pardon my detaining you sir, it is obvious from your attitude that you are telling me the truth. You can understand how we need to be sure about these things. Please, go on in.
You are most gracious.
(Now we get to the meat of why I did this)
(I seriously love how being a different race at certain points can significantly change dialogue.)
Of course he's not a gnome. But if you don't know him, where did you come by that ring? Dwarves generally have more dignity than to turn to thievery.
A strange looking gnome gave it to me as he lay dying.
Yes. I am... familiar with dwarves and their customs. Tell me, was there anything distinctive about this fellow?
He had a scar over his left eye.
The conversation goes normally from there, but it's still a pretty awesome difference just because of being a dwarf. Magnus treats you differently, too.
You will have to excuse an old man whose hearing is drifting away. I know that I could not have heard you refusing my generous offer.
Do not trifle with me old man. Your offer was insulting.
Bates is such a tremendous asshole... I love it.