The Let's Play Archive


by Seorin

Part 65

Chapter the Sixty Fourth: They Say The Uncomfortable Itching Is A Sure Sign Of Magic About

My skin began to itch long before I could see the sand-colored walls in the distance. This was definitely going to be a most uncomfortable visit. Drawing near the gate to Tulla, I saw two sets of intricately carved statues sitting just outside of the wall. Even from a distance I could tell they were far too detailed to have been crafted by human hands... dwarven, perhaps, but I knew that dwarves had nothing to do with this place. No, these statues and likely the entire city had been carved purely through the force of magick.

I shuddered unconsciously, the very idea of such a heavy concentration of magick deeply disturbing me. When I finally neared the 'gate' itself, if it could even be called such a thing, the itching on my skin became quite intense. Somehow it was even worse than being in the presence of the Silver Lady. She was powerful, that was for certain, but nothing compared to such a large gathering of mages in a city built purely of magick, no matter how much less powerful any individual mage might be.

There was a robed man standing next to one of the finely carved statues, calling out to me as I wandered nearby, "Greetings, traveler." His voice was calm and even, as though he was completely unsurprised to find a wandering band of technologists in the middle of the desert.

Despite his attitude, I didn't expect we were exactly common. Maybe I'm wrong... no, I can't be... the itching, the robes... this has to be Tulla... I looked at the robed man questioningly, "What is this place?"

He looked me over for a moment before responding, "Ah, it is you. Jorian told us to be expecting you. You may enter."

"Thank you." Oh, I'm so glad to have your permission. I nearly rolled my eyes. Wait... expecting me? "But who is Jorian? And what is this place?" It always annoyed me when my questions were ignored, and my annoyance showed through in my voice.

He seemed unperturbed at my attitude. "Jorian the diviner. He is inside, waiting for you... and this place, this place is Tulla, the city of mages. To enter, just walk through the pillars." Why do I not like the sound of that?

I stared down the pillars hatefully, not entirely trusting them to work properly for a woman like me. I supposed it was possible that they could work, but it was also possible that I would violently explode... or they would... or anything in-between. I glanced back at my companions, "Perhaps we should go one at a time. Any volunteers?"

Virgil gave me a shrewd stare, "How uncharacteristically brave of you." Do shut up. He shrugged and walked through the pillars. No sooner had he stepped between them than he was enveloped in a bright violet flash. I'd come to recognize that color as the color of Conveyance magick. Virgil hadn't even taken another step before he disappeared from my sight entirely.

"You know," Sebastian scratched his head, "Just because the most magey person among us can get through doesn't mean a damn thing to the rest of us." He had a point.

Franklin didn't seem to care, "Well, now, it wouldn't be an adventure if everything went our way, would it?! FRANKLIN PAYNE is not afraid of magick, or of danger! Onward and upward and all that business! Ha!" He strolled through the gate enthusiastically before any of the rest of us could even think to stop him. The violet light encompassed him as well, with perhaps a slight crackle, and then he vanished before our eyes.

I stared at Vollinger uncomfortably, "They ARE expecting us. What if this is some kind of trap? How do we know that we'll all wind up in the same place when we're through - and what if that place is a horrible, demon-filled dungeon?"

He merely shrugged. "I do not think Tulla is known for keeping demons as servants. Elementals, perhaps, but not demons." Despite his nonchalance, I noted he wasn't exactly volunteering to go next.

Sebastian spit on the rocky sands next to his feet and made a run for it, straight through the pillars. Once again, a violet light shone forth and enveloped him, then he disappeared. That was awfully hasty, now wasn't it? Terry barked at him fiercely before chasing through the pillars as well. Even he was enveloped by that same light, disappearing like the rest.

Bloody hell. Even if it is a trap, I can't just abandon Virgil or the others. I stepped up to the edge of the pillars nervously, closing my eyes to avoid making myself sick. I could feel a horrible burning on my skin and I grew very suddenly nauseous as the whole of Arcanum seemed to move around me. As quickly as the feeling had overtaken me it had passed, and I opened my eyes to find myself inside of the city proper with the others all staring at me, chuckling. Vollinger blinked into the city with a burst of violet shortly after.

A pair of scaled beasts stood at the end of the entryway to the city, and two more pairs stood at the exits to either side. They seemed a touch scrawny compared to similar beasts I'd felled in the past, but they probably didn't get much in the way of actual food. Bloody magickers probably had them bound into servitude, regardless of how poorly they were treated. I certainly didn't see any restraints holding them in place and they were far more still than even the best trained of animals. The only part of them that moved was their eyes, following every movement I or my companions made.

I wandered off to the side of the city, uncomfortable but wanting to explore it despite my discomfort. The more I knew the easier I would feel about confronting that Jorian fellow, and perhaps getting the answers I came for. Well, I didn't bloody plan on making a trip to this place, but while I'm here I might see if they've got a cure for lycanthropy as well... I'm still trying to help you, David...

The first thing I noticed were a series of strange symbols on the ground. Most of them were familiar in some fashion, though I couldn't quite place them. Once I recognized the symbol of the college of conveyance it all clicked... they were symbols representing all of the magickal colleges. I hadn't spent terribly much time studying them, but I at least had the smallest bit of knowledge pertaining to them. I stepped onto one and thought I could see a light shining out from underneath it, but it was difficult to tell in the early morning light. Even if it had lit up, what purpose that would serve I couldn't tell.

On my way around the city I saw plenty more of the strange symbols, as well as numerous other beastly or otherworldly servants. Naturally, several robed figures wandered about as well. Truly, I was in Hell. I passed around an ornate archway decorated with more ornate statues carved in the form of robed angels, being careful to not actually pass underneath the damned thing lest I find myself somewhere else entirely. Beyond that was a truly massive building, one so large that it dwarfed even Bates' mansion and might have rivaled the castle of Caladon itself. I climbed the short stairway leading inside and gasped at the sheer decadence I found.

Books as far as the eye could see, tapestries hung on the walls, and lavishly woven carpets decorating the floor. The walls were carved out of smooth stone, and rounded pillars decorated each corner. They even had living plants lining a few of the hallways, but considering the lack of light I knew they were kept alive through the power of magick alone. My skin burned just thinking about it and I itched at it unconsciously.

I wandered off down a side hall, instantly lost in the myriad of passages open to me. It always seemed that, when presented with a path leading straight forward and one that would double back twelve times before finally reaching my destination, I would choose the latter near one hundred percent of the time. It wasn't really a conscious thing, but I was sure it annoyed my companions all the same. I wandered around the halls for what seemed like an hour before finally stumbling into a room where a robed man greeted me with annoyance in his voice. "Yes? Can I do something for you?"

The sweat on his brow suggested I didn't make him any more comfortable than he did me. "Who might you be?"

I spoke without thinking, "Hydromancy?" I wasn't accustomed to people using such a fanciful term to describe 'water magic'. That kind of pomposity would be likely to start a fight anywhere else besides Tulla. I supposed it was lucky for the arrogant bastard in front of me that this wasn't anywhere else.

He very nearly rolled his eyes. "The magick pertaining to the purest of the elements, water. You must be the wanderer." I could barely stand his smug, pretentious attitude.

Yes, I wander. How many bloody people in this hellhole are expecting me, anyway? Did Jorian print up bloody flyers and force his students to hand them out? "How did you know that?"

He started pacing back and forth with his arms folded behind him, a concerned look on his face. "Well, we have a situation which has developed since you have been here. We are not equipped... there is a good reason we only accept students who are of a very young age, or those that have not been to the cities. Travelers such as yourself are rare, and your effect on our students is easily controlled..."

'Since I have been here'? I came into the city two hours ago at most! What the bloody hell are you going on about? Whatever it was, I certainly didn't do it. "What is your point?" My dislike for the man in front of me was only growing. I hated how he all but admitted that the only students they could manage to keep were the ones that didn't know any better.

Right, so as long as you keep them in the dark you can expect them to continue naively believing the hogwash you stuff down their throats. I gritted my teeth, trying not to upset the man. I could upset whoever I bloody pleased when I had my answers, but until then I had to be on my best behavior. My invitation to their 'wonderful' city could easily be rescinded. "What does this have to do with me?" Bloody nothing, that's what, you just like pointing your damned fingers at the technologist.

He sighed hesitantly, almost as if he suddenly became bored. "I am... we here at Tulla are not much for open conflict." Way to ascribe your own failings to every other sap in the place... not that it's far from the truth anyway. "This could be a difficult situation to negotiate. I was wondering if you would care to help us out in this matter?"

Absolutely bloody not, I'm not helping you bastards one bit... though it would be nice to have somebody here ingratiated to me, and did you say something about negotiating...? "Possibly. What would I need to do?"

His eyes turned dark as he started explaining exactly what his problem was, "I made the questionable choice of sending out one of our students to retrieve a gem that would be useful to me in my water magicks. That was over one hundred and twenty days ago."

I failed to see how a bumbling student that went missing over three months prior was my fault, but if pointing his finger at me made him feel better than that was his problem and not mine. If he did it again I just might chop that damned finger off. Now, now... I can't be getting riled up so easily... I've got to make a good impression, get what I need, and get the bloody hell out. "Do you want me to try and find him?"

"As I said, we are not much for open conflict. What we need you to do is to meet with him and convince him to give us the gem, and to leave peaceably. This is no longer the place for him. I will give you a Robe of Fire Resistance in consideration of your help in this matter." He nodded satisfactorily as if a bloody robe did me any good.

You've got to be bloody kidding me...! That's horrible! "I don't think it is right for you to do this after what he did for you." 'Philosophical purity' or not, they couldn't just kick the poor sod out after all the trouble he went through to get their precious bloody gem.

He shook his head unsympathetically, not caring one whit what I thought. "The light of reality is a harsh one. The purity of the school here in Tulla must be maintained. Albert knew the risks when he volunteered."

I could spot a liar a mile away, and V'ed Eckes was most certainly a bloody liar. "What if he becomes violent?" Don't you dare...

Ugh... you are a foul bastard, aren't you? Only caring about your bloody gem and that 'philosophical purity' hogwash. I sighed, glaring at the man with hatred in my eyes, "Alright, I will return with the gem." If anybody could get the gem and sent the gent on his way happily it would be me. By doing this favor I could at least defuse a potentially violent situation, and get in the good graces of the locals.

He nodded at me curtly, "I will speak with you when you have the gem." I see how it is... I'm just a bloody tool to be used as you please, and if I'm not being of use to you then I ought to go about fixing that. Damn the whole lot of you arrogant bastards! I left V'ed Eckes' room and continued to wander about the halls of the building, hopelessly lost. I suspected I was getting closer to the exit, but in truth I wasn't rightly sure.

At the very least the chamber seemed to be widening out considerably, so I was either nearing the exit or even more hopelessly lost than I thought possible. The grand room that I found myself in had a full wall dedicated to a rather unusual mural. I stopped in front of it, glancing over it curiously.

Hm. Well, yes, that would be all of the colleges... As much as I could recognize several of the smaller symbols, that didn't hold true for the five larger ones. I wrote it off for the moment, figuring it to be just another fanciful decoration crafted purely through the abuse of magicks. Passing by it, I slipped down a small hallway in hopes that it would lead me to the exit.

Unfortunately it only lead me to another myriad of twisting and turning passageways. The damned labyrinth of a building I found myself in was an atrocity of design, assuredly crafted for the sole purpose of confusion. I wouldn't have been surprised if magick had been leveraged in its creation to make the hallways even more confoundingly confusing, teleporting unsuspecting wanderers between halls that looked exactly like one another. It was just the kind of thing those damned mages would do, too.

After winding around and around for nearly another hour I finally popped into a room to get some bloody directions. The woman inside wore dark green robes and she stared at me, almost amused, as I entered. I glared back at her angrily, "So... what are you the master of, mage?"

She didn't take kindly to my tone, and she responded in kind. Her voice was firm and commanding, as I would expect from any mage of significance. "I am S'Btin'ka, 'Mistress' of Morphing Magick." Well, that's a hell of a name. She stressed the word 'mistress' insultingly, as though referring to her in any other fashion was improper. The arrogance made me sick.

Hmmm. Morphing magick...? Perhaps I ought not be in such a hurry to get on the bad side of every mage I come across. "Do you know anything that will cure a werewolf, Mistress?"

Damned mages and their bloody secrets... don't you care that a poor girl is suffering? "There is a girl in Caladon with the affliction."

She nodded at me smugly, "Ah, certainly, so you wish to acquire the cure on her behalf, then? Considering the difficulty in creating it, I think 1,000 coins would be a generous price."

"My! That is expensive!" Bloody, pompous, arrogant, unsympathetic, bastard mages! I sighed, heavily considering whether or not I ought just steal the damned thing and, in the end, deciding against it. It didn't seem like me to pay for full price, but I wouldn't know one damned potion from the next. I could try bringing Cynthia a stolen cure only to find out it was poison. I couldn't do that to poor David. "Here. I have the coin." I tossed her a sack of coin angrily.

I wanted to knock that smug grin right off her arrogant face. "Thank you. Here you are..." She handed me a rather small vial and I stuffed it into my purse, carefully noting what it looked like so I didn't confuse it with any of the other vials I had with me. If nothing else I could probably tell by which bottle made me itch the worst. "I pray you are in time, and that no one has destroyed the girl you are attempting to help. Good luck."

Hmph. As if you really care. 'Destroyed'? What kind of way is that to talk about Cynthia? I gritted my teeth, trying to be polite to the last. "Thank you, madam. Goodbye." I turned and stormed out of her room angrily. I let my frustration get the better of me, storming down passages seemingly at random. Who the hell do these bastards think they are, anyway? Son of a bitch! I hate this place! I stopped when I reached a rather sizeable staircase leading upwards.

I stared at it curiously. Somehow I don't think that's the way out.... Against my better judgment, I climbed up the staircase. At the top I found myself in a wide hallway with a single door at the far end, guarded by a controlled beast and a man wearing a robe. Always with the bloody robes. I approached him, but he didn't seem to particularly notice or care. He just kept staring off into space as though I didn't even exist. "Uh, excuse me?"

Of all the ways I've ever been greeted, that's a new one. "I am?" I could already tell that I wasn't going to like the bastard in front of me one bit, but I was starting to realize the same could be said of any who lived in Tulla. If I'd found anybody I didn't hate outright I was sure they would be an exception to the rule.

The man in front of me smiled wryly, continuing to speak as though I hadn't just asked him a bloody question. "Before you may see him, you must do something for me."

I am going to chop off your head and stuff it up the backside of your bloody robe. I spoke through gritted teeth, "Please, sir, I am looking for extremely important information."

He shrugged casually, staring at me intently. "That may be."

I sat there, tapping my foot, staring at him back. After several moments passed I finally spoke again, "Listen. Nasrudin sent me! I don't have much time!"

If I let you walk away from this conversation alive I would be doing a disservice to mankind. I idly wondered if the know-it-all bastard in front of me could read my mind to see just how much I hated him. "Then you know what I am doing?"

He didn't move a single muscle, he just continued staring and spoke tersely and cryptically. "Perhaps."

Forget my bloody axe, I AM GOING TO STRANGLE YOU WITH MY BARE HANDS! "Then please let me in, I beg of you. I've no time for this foolishness." I was at least somewhat proud of myself for how well I maintained my composure despite the severe annoyance gnawing at me.

As smugly and calmly as ever he still stood there, completely unmoving, deflecting me with what seemed like utterly childish responses. "That is not how this works."

How this works is that I beat you until you let me enter! "What? How does it work then?! What do you want from me?!" Stupid bloody mages! They think they're just SO damned important...! ARGH!

I gritted my teeth. That's it? The mural? You want me to look at the bloody mural that I ALREADY LOOKED AT?! "I have already looked at the mural. May I pass now?"

He remained standing there as infuriatingly as ever. "But you have not understood. You must look upon it again, and then you may enter."

"AUGH!" I screamed in frustration and stormed down the stairway, going straight back into the hall where I'd found the mural in the first place. If I hadn't been so annoyed I would've been amused that it was practically right next to the stairs, despite the hour long detour I took in going from the one place to the other. I glanced at the mural casually, then turned and shouted at my companions, "There! I've looked at the mural again, have I not? Did you all see me look at the bloody mural?"

Virgil nodded uncomfortably, "Y-yes... perhaps you should rest for a bit, maybe calm down?"

Vollinger shrugged, "Yes, you've looked at the mural twice now, as have all of us. Indeed, it would be difficult to miss."

"Yeah, I see it," Sebastian spat, "and I see that you saw it, too. Doesn't make any more sense this time than it did the last. What the hell is that bastard's problem anyway? Thinking he can just boss you around... heh, if he pushes his luck any further I bet he'll be in for a rude awakening."

"You're damn right he will be!" I agreed. "Franklin?" I looked at him curiously.

He was studying the mural carefully, "I say, this feels like a bloody waste of time if I ever saw one. They call this a mural? I've seen better painted by low-cost orcish laborers! Ha!"

"It's settled, then," I affirmed. Noting that I was far from the only one annoyed at the pointless waste of time, I stormed back up the stairs. I was about to scream at the bastard in rage when he stepped off to the side of the door and spoke again.

All right... it's over now... he moved out of the way. No good can come of throttling him... I'll be good... I have to be good. "But why did you have me look at the mural?"

It had been a severe mistake to ask him a question, especially that question. "Because that is what you needed to do." I want you to die.

"That is not an answer!" My frustration was finally breaking through my calm facade. I couldn't hold it in any longer.

He didn't move a single muscle. "That is the only answer there is."

I stormed past him as rudely as I possibly good, "I can see this will lead nowhere. Good day." Death is too good for you. I'll save killing you for somebody that'll make it painful. I shoved open the door in front of me angrily and stormed into the room. I stopped dead in my tracks when my eyes finally took in exactly what that room contained.

My anger faded near immediately when I saw it. The room contained half a dozen windows that looked to show everywhere from the Ring of Brodgar to Tarant. The room itself was massive, far moreso than I'd expected it to be considering the simple door that lead to it. In the center was an old man with gray hair wearing a deep blue robe. He stood in front of his smooth, lavish desk and studied me carefully. The severe itching that I felt as his gaze passed over me told me he was almost as powerful as the Silver Lady... perhaps moreso, but in a different way entirely. He raised a single finger, beckoning me closer, and my skin itched even worse at that simple movement. "You've come seeking... information?"

His voice was deep and powerful, and he pronounced every one of his words slowly and purposefully. I broke out of my trance as he spoke, realizing that I hadn't come to Tulla just to gander foolishly at all of the magickal wonders one could find there. "Nasrudin has sent me to find the location of the Vendigroth ruins."

Well, he might be half deaf, but at least he knows how to answer my question instead of being an arrogant bastard about it. "Are you not surprised that I've spoken with Nasrudin?" Even as soon as I said it I realized how foolish I must have sounded. If somebody had said something similar to me not two months prior I'd have laughed at them like the fool they were.

Simeon merely shrugged. "Nasrudin speaks to us all, at one time or another."

Well, do I ever have news for you. "You don't understand. I spoke with him, directly. He's alive, on the island of Thanatos!"

He seemed to think it over for several moments before responding. "That is... interesting."

"Interesting? Isn't that a bit of an understatement?" I swear, you bastards are the most boring bunch of bloody old codgers I have ever met... and damned infuriating, too.

I got the feeling that Simeon was just patronizing me by asking me to share, but I obliged nonetheless. It would've been childish not to. I told him of my trip to Thanatos, and Nasrudin's old shack sitting right there where I expected to find a grave. I even related Nasrudin's reasons for remaining hidden, and of the horrible shame he felt regarding Arronax. I finished with Nasrudin's request that I retrieve the Vendigroth device. Simeon barely even twitched the entire time I was talking.

When I was finally finished, he spoke again. "Your story rings true, despite its implausibility. But as I have said, Pelojian is the only one who may be able to help you." Right... he was bloody patronizing me.

I sighed, feeling the fool for having babbled on at such length. "Where can I speak with him?" If it's not one bloody errand it's another. When can I just get a straight bloody answer?

"How," He corrected me, much to my annoyance. "How is the question, not where. Pelojian is dead. Has been for a thousand yeras." You could've told me before. Besides, what does that mean, anyway? Nasrudin's been dead for 2,000.

I tapped my foot on the polished, stone floor irritably. I bloody hated the attitude of most mages. Is it a requirement to be arrogant and self-important? Can you not work the more powerful magicks if you don't act like you're better than everybody else? "Okay, then, HOW do I speak with him?"

Of course! It's never bloody simple, is it?! You could be a bit more helpful, you know. Whatever. If there's a way, I'll find it... no thanks to you. "Alright, who was this Pelojian?"

Simeon turned around quite rudely, glancing through one of the windows behind him and just watching the scene behind it. When he spoke he didn't even have the decency to look me in the face. "Pelojian. Clairvoyant. Artist. Poet. Founder of Tulla."

So that's the bloody bastard I have to thank, is it? Dear Pelojian, I hate your city, Love Samantha. "Can you tell me anything about his art?" If Pelojian's ghost continually reappeared nightly, surely there was a reason... perhaps he'd left a clue.

Simeon continued looking through the windows all around the room, occasionally switching which one he was looking at. "He was an artist of great talent. His paintings are said to help those who meditate on them become closer to achieving oneness. His best work, in my opinion, is the aptly named Mural of Enlightenment."

That would be the bloody mural that bastard made me look at... a second time. "Yes, the bast- man outside your door sent me to look at it before he would let me in here."

Simeon turned back around, glancing at me thoughtfully, "Really? Jorian did that? That's interesting."

Ah, so that's the very bastard that foresaw my coming here in the first place.... hmmm. "Who is that Jorian fellow, anyway?"

Ugh, I can't believe I'm going to subject myself to this. Why?! Is this some cruel joke?! "Well, I'll go speak with him further, then."

Simeon shook his head, and for once I was glad. "It will do you no good. He has revealed everything he is going to. And if I know him, it was not very much."

You know him all right. ...and you don't have to tell me twice, if you say not to talk to him then I bloody won't talk to him. "What is the mural meant to represent?"

He merely shrugged, losing interest in our conversation again and turning back to his windows. Would it kill you to just have a normal conversation? "No one knows, really. The largest symbol is thought to possibly represent a lost college of magick, but no one can say for sure."

I can see this is going nowhere as well. You're all just SO bloody helpful. "Can you tell me anything of Pelojian's poetry, then?"

"So the answer to making him speak could be in his poetry?" ...and you all bloody lost it? Are you TRYING to be useless? It would only make sense that the one thing I needed was the one thing that was missing. Everything always turned out like that. It just wouldn't be an adventure if I ever FOUND what I was looking for.

Simeon shrugged, not even turning. "Perhaps, perhaps." He couldn't have seemed any less detached if he'd put effort into it, though he didn't seem like a man that really put effort into anything.

I grumbled, "I need some sort of clue to go on. Where do I start looking?" I refused to believe that the man in front of me couldn't be of any use besides dropping a single name.

Once again, he didn't even turn to answer me. "That is not the way this works. The path is yours to tread, no one else's."

Bloody bastard mages! So you're going to do whatever you can to be entirely useless just because it's not your place to help me? What the hell kind of logic is that?! "Fine. You mentioned he was clairvoyant?"

Except that the writings are gone now... no thanks to you. It was difficult to ignore the sheer incompetence of the 'master mage' in front of me. If Tulla had leaders like that, no wonder it was so bloody hopeless. "What things has he foretold?" As long as he was speaking, I was going to do whatever I could to keep him at it. He might let something useful slip by accident.

"He saw many things, things that most refused to believe..." Simeon wandered over towards the window leading to Stillwater and seemingly breathed in the air around it. It seemed like a rather odd thing to do.

If you answered my question any more specifically I might die from shock. "Wow, that's impressive. I can't understand their disbelief..." My sarcasm was palpable.

He actually laughed, then, which truly did surprise me. I didn't think the old bastard had a sense of humor. "I appreciate your humor, but all I can tell you is that things are the way they need to be."

It must be so bloody reassuring to put so much stock in vague assurances that everything is fine. As much as I wanted to just abandon my quest, I couldn't let this group of isolated, self-satisfied, smug bastards deter me from doing what I knew was right. I only wished I could be half as lazy and still get anything done. "You said he was the founder of Tulla?" I thought that perhaps he might've buried some secrets in its construction.

Boy, have his students ever fallen far from his example. "What was he looking for?" Certainly not the collection of sorry bastards that can be found here today.

Simeon wandered over to the window showing Caladon and stared through it intently for several moments before answering. "Clarity. A singular consciousness. A place he could start a new philosophy of magick. He gathered young, promising disciples around him and created this marvelous place, a beacon to all those that would pursue the ways of magick with a pure heart."

...and over the years those disciples became smug, arrogant, and self-satisfied, never taking the effort to even lift a finger for the rest of their bloody days... "This is fascinating, but what am I to do now?" You had better answer that.

He shrugged, "Only you can determine that." I think you've been spending far too much time around Jorian.

As much as I sincerely hated his unwillingness to tell me anything that could be of any real use, I asked one last question before leaving. My curiosity was killing me. "What are all these windows? Are they pictures?"

That's actually somewhat of a frightening thought... but leave it to mages to be truly lazy. "Portals? Can they be used to get to those places?"

He nodded at me confidantly, "Of course." I expected as much, really... a mage wouldn't go to all that trouble if it didn't somehow save him some work in the end.

I crossed my arms and grinned at Simeon slyly, "Can I use them?" After the debacle at the gate to Tulla I suspected I would be able to, but that wasn't the question I was asking. I was more curious if he'd let me, considering just how intent he was on being unhelpful.

He shrugged casually, "Of course." Well, color me surprised. "When you have completed the task Nasrudin has sent you on, you may have complete use of them."

Oh, that makes perfect sense... as soon as I accomplish a nigh impossible task without the slightest bit of help, THEN I can use your lazyman's shortcut. That figures. "Thank you, I think. I'll be going, now." I turned and left the room with a sigh.

I glared hatefully at Jorian as I passed him, fingering the handle on my axe unconsciously - I did so desperately hate the bastard. The hallway at the bottom of the stairs lead most directly to the mural, and I figured on trying to find my way out of the massive building from there. Luckily, the largest other exit to the room lead practically straight out. It seemed unusual how the building could have so many halls, twisting and turning around each other, yet still be quite easy to leave as long as you could find your way back to the main path. Bloody mages.

At last, having exited, I set out to accomplish what I wanted to when I first tried to leave. I strolled back to the gate, warping back outside much to my own discomfort. Thankfully, once the burning ceased, my skin itched significantly less outside than it did inside. Almost immediately I found myself standing face to face with a man in a full suit of machined plate. It was quite marvelously constructed, in fact. He spoke up the second he saw me.

"Are you here to let me in? I don't understand why that imbecile of a guard won't let me enter."

Oh boy, this is not going to be fun. "Uh, not exactly." It shamed me that I was starting to sound just as cryptically useless as the bloody mages I'd been dealing with for the past several hours.

The man in front of me was quite rightfully aggravated. "What do you mean? I've been out here for months looking for this damned gem! The monsters I've had to fight and the ludicrous things people had me do for them so that they would tell me the slightest bit of information! You wouldn't believe it!"

"Actually, I would." Oh would I ever... you don't know the half of it, dear boy. "But why do you want to go back in there?" Convincing him could be very easy or very hard, but the machined plate he wore suggested it might lean towards the former. I could only hope he wasn't quite so daft to think he really needed Tulla anymore.

He didn't seem to get the hint. "This is my home, I wish to return to my studies. I've got the gem," he turned to the guard and started shouting at him, "LET ME IN!"

Oh bother... he really is that dense. I can't blame him, I suppose, he DID study in Tulla... once an idiot always an idiot. "But what of your armor? You're turning towards technology."

"Look, I did what I had to do to get by out there! Enough talk, why won't they let me in?"

I sighed, hating that I had to be the one to do this dirty work. "They feel you'd be a corrupting influence on the school." Please don't hate me, I'm really trying to help you...

He didn't really seem to see it that way, and I supposed I couldn't entirely blame him. "Corrupting influence? I risked my life to retrieve this gem for them!"

Poor, poor Albert. Hmm... just how much was that old bastard mage lying to me, anyway...? I decided to put my question to the test. "Master Eckes told me you volunteered."

Albert was furious. "Volunteered?! He asked me to do it for him! How could I refuse, with him being my teacher?" He was focusing less on the guard and more on me, clearly offended at the things I was saying.

That was a good thing, as far as I was concerned. He was right to be angry, I just had to make him realize who it was right to be angry at. "Yet, you still believed in him enough to listen to him..." Even though he's a liar and a bastard... at least I'm only the former.

"What's your point?"

He seemed so terribly unsure at that moment, looking up to me for some kind of answer. I didn't feel quite right abusing that trust, but the way I saw it I wasn't abusing it in the slightest. "He sent you out because he knew you didn't belong there."

A look of understanding washed over him and he shook his head uncomfortably. "I have always felt restless here, like I didn't belong..." Yes, that's right... forget this mage business and go live a happy life, not one of servitude. Fooling Tullans, even former Tullans, was disturbingly easy.

I placed my hand on his shoulder sympathetically, the tone in my voice urging him to come to the correct realization. "Tulla is too limiting for someone of your experience, now." Sadly, although I was lying through my teeth, I actually meant it. While it was horrible what V'ed did to the poor bastard, he really was better off just leaving quietly.

"You're right! Here's the gem. Please deliver it to Master Eckes for me. Thanks for showing me how I had outgrown this place. Good luck to you, friend."

Well, all's well that ends well I suppose. I took the gem from him and smiled, "Good luck to you as well." He turned and stalked back off into the wastes and I stared at the gem for just a moment before wandering back into the city proper. All that for a bloody water gem? Hmph... and what if he succeeded? Would he next be sent out to 'protect' Tulla from the mutant spider clans living out in the wastes? What a bunch of hogwash.

I wandered around Tulla some more, killing some time before nightfall. If Pelojian only appeared at midnight I had quite a bit of time to wait. Luckily I spied what looked to be a library, so I took the opportunity to indulge myself. Unfortunately for me, it was far from empty. There were a couple young mages making quite the ruckus and I couldn't concentrate on reading for the life of me, not to mention most of the books were decidedly slanted in a magickal favor. When I finally had enough of it I stamped up to one of the gentlemen getting on my nerves. "Hello, sir. Might I ask your name?"

He seemed a bit stunned. He glanced at me up and down, then at my axe, and finally at the companions I had following me. I could tell he was curious. "I am Herzod Munk, apprentice-mage in the College of Phantasm! How do you do, madam?"

Sorry, chap, you're a bit young for my tastes... and I dislike mages anyway. "Very well, thank you. What can you tell me of Tulla, Herzod?" Other than that an outsider like me is much more fascinating?

Yes, I can quite see that you're not one for books, and it grates on the nerves of anybody in here who IS. "Do you have much schooling left?" I was having difficulties seeing just how I could get the bastard out of the library, but if I just kept him talking long enough surely he would provide an opening.

He stammered out his answer nervously, "Oh, not really. A few bothersome papers, some illusionary presentations... nothing all that difficult. Of course, there is the final examination..."

The tone in his voice suggested I'd just found exactly the opening I was looking for. "What does that entail?"

He let out a dejected sigh, clearly unhappy with the idea he was about to share with me. "There's a maze underneath Tulla. It was built by an illusionist centuries ago... an old elf by the name of Fa'al Kin. In order to pass the final exam, I need to retrieve a platinum chalice from the middle of Fa'al Kin's Maze, and bring it back to the Master Illusionist. It's not that I don't think I can do it, it's just that there's so much else I'd rather be doing."

Things that take you out of this library, yes...? "Hmmm. Perhaps I might be able to assist you?" I tried to say it as unsuggestively as possible.

His leaving the damned library would be payment enough, surely. "Done..." So sorry, poor boy, but you're being duped by the best.

He seemed awfully happy about my agreement, and it was painfully obvious that he couldn't tell I was lying. "Very good! The scroll is yours, once you return with the chalice. The entrance to the Maze is just out in the courtyard. It's an archway made of stone. You'll need this coin in order to pass through it and into the Maze." He flipped a small, dull coin at me. "I'll be here when you're done!"

Bloody hell, he expects me to go do it right now... I silently cursed myself for several moments, wondering just how in the hell I could be expected to pass a magickal exam. Wait... that's just it! It's perfect! Having a technologist pass the test will prove to all that it's a bloody farce! There's no better way to undermine this place than to have the students talking about the technologist that passed the final magickal exam...

Really, I was just planning on wasting the time anyway. As much as I loved a good book, undermining the morale of the students sounded much more enjoyable to me. I could be quite the horrible person sometimes.

Bonus Content

Requested by Shyrka
Now for bonus stuff! First, I did mention I ran around being snarky to the master mages. I've heard it described as a lot more amazing than it really turned out to be (I've heard the lighter thing before, and also about making the master of conveyance cry or something). Unfortunately, almost none of the master mages even react when they taunt you. At worst they get a little snippy and end the conversation. That's it.

Have you heard of electrical? The technological opposite of force?

That's nothing. I've seen a gun spring to life at "my" bidding.

I have my doubts that "air" is the most awesome force in nature...


Temporal (this is probably my favorite one):

I have no time for ignorant fools. Goodbye!


[looking annoyed] Well! I see some people are without humor. I can certainly do without company like yours! Goodbye!

Ha! I don't need magick to befuddle people. They're already dumb!

Necromantic White:
Ha! I don't need to use magick to heal... Ever heard of medicine?

Necromantic Black:
Ha! I don't need to concentrate to kill people!

So you consider summoning a bunny to be a great magickal feat?

Morph is simply an amazing magick! To see the substance of a creature weaken before your eyes... or become a miniscule representation of what it once was... It is utterly awe inspiring. Only a fool dares anger a mage in possession of such skill.
Yeah... a fool with a gun.

The simplest way to describe the college of Meta is as a set of defensive magickal spells. They are utilized for defending oneself against hostile magick, or for dispersing hostile magick that has been used upon something or someone. I feel it is a must learn college for any "true" mage.
Completely worthless against a hostile technologist!

Ha! I don't need to concentrate to use the train... You should try it.

Any omitted responses are just standard dialogue (such as "Is there anything else?"). All in all it's not that interesting, and looking through the dialogue files suggests there isn't some other dialogue path that I'm not finding... it really is just that mundane

Also, I forgot to post this:

You can actually get that guy in your party... the catch is that you'd never WANT to. He's level 25 going into the Vendigroth Wastes, doesn't even have a single maxed skill or stats high enough TO max a skill, and has no combat skills aside from dodge 3 or backstab 1. Yes, he has dodge and backstab... but not melee, bow, throwing, or firearms "halfling adventurer"

Lastly, I found a library!

The History and Nature of Magick

warned me. But my order is devoted to discovery of the arcane, the hidden treasures of knowledge that contain the basis of Truth.

And here is what I found.

Uncountable millennia ago, there were 8 levels of spells, not the 5 that are available today. Records from those long-ago eras are fragmentary at best, but the authors of some ancient texts mention spells such as Mass Resurrection and Eternal Flame as magick that was used by their forebears but that no longer functions.

Contrary to common opinion, as magick wanes it is the most powerful spells that lose their effectiveness. These spells seem to rely on the malleability of natural law more than their weaker cousins, and as magick wanes, natural law becomes more rigid and these powerful spells begin to fail.

The most important discovery, however, is that

[The rest of the text seems to be missing.]

Looks like Troika enjoys blueballing you even more than I do.