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Chapter the Fifty Fourth: Reunion

My anguished screams echoed off of the basement walls for what seemed like an eternity. This isn't happening. You can't be dead... why? Why wouldn't it work? Dammit, I've been good! If there is a god in this world that will show me mercy in light of my actions, then I pray to you now... please, save Virgil.... Whether it's Nasrudin, the Living One, or even bloody Arronax I don't even care, but somebody... anybody... please, bring Virgil back to me... I sobbed and I sobbed, and not one of my companions had the heart to pull me away.

Suddenly, I felt something strange. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my skin began to itch. I opened my eyes and I saw the fragments of the scroll around my feet begin to glow bright blue. They lifted up off of the ground and began swirling about me. I became surrounded by a ribbon of magickal energy as the pieces of the scroll encircled me and whirled around and around. For once, I welcomed the discomfort and the itching, if only it would bring Virgil back to me.

The ribbon flowed into his lifeless body, dissipating as it did so. My breath caught in my throat as I worried what would come next, and wondered what could even cause an expended scroll to reactivate itself so. Through the ceiling above me I saw a figure outlined in blue, upside down, falling. It was almost skeletal, but it came through the ceiling as if it had no substance. Then, I saw his face... Virgil's face, staring down at me as his spirit descended. He had a look of extreme peace and happiness... and I saw him smiling at me.

His spirit continued to fall, straight into his lifeless body. A blue and white light shone starting from his chest, and from there spreading throughout the rest of his body, enveloping it. The few wounds that I could see externally began to close up and his skin flushed with color. His legs began to move ever so slightly, and then more. I saw the pool of blood on the ground slowly begin to shrink. The light shone so brightly at that moment I could scarcely see, but I refused to close my eyes. Virgil... Virgil is coming back to me...!

When at last the light dimmed down, Virgil was standing in front of me looking like he didn't have a single scratch on him. The look on his face was unchanged from the look his spirit gave me. He was calm, peaceful, and smiling straight at me. There wasn't even a drop of blood on the ground any longer.

I ran up to him and hugged him tightly, "Virgil! By the gods, you're all right!"

He placed his arm around me and patted me on the shoulder. "Greetings, my friend... it seems... well, it seems we both have come a long way." The tone of Virgil's voice was somehow different, softer in a way, calm. I looked up at him and his eyes seemed so peaceful in that moment, but also empty. I started to hear gentle footsteps in the background... I turned, but all I saw was a strange looking old man wearing a dirty robe. He stopped when I saw him and simply stood there, looking on patiently.

The look in his eyes was gentle and I didn't think he meant any harm, so I was of a mind to ignore him entirely. Whatever he wanted could wait, my attention at that moment was solely Virgil's. You've come back to me... I'm so glad you came back... I looked up at him with tears in my eyes, feeling strangely distant when I saw that calm look in his eyes, but not distant in the same way that I felt before he had left in the first place. "Virgil, what happened here?"

I could have helped you... you knew... you knew and yet you still left... Tears came to my eyes again, tears of shame, regret, guilt, and loneliness. I would've scolded him, but I couldn't... I cared for him too much, and I was just glad to have him back. "Can you tell me the story, Virgil?"

He nodded calmly, "Yes... it no longer holds any power over me." I felt his chest expand as he inhaled deeply, preparing to tell me the tale that he'd been hiding from me for so long.

Before I met you, before I met Joachim, I was very different. I was a criminal, really, an evil man... there's no other way to say it, and I don't mind admitting it to you now. I lived my life like a dead man... well, at least in the sense that I used to view such things. I cared very little for anything at all, I only lived from moment to moment, no sense of right or wrong... I stole, or lied, or even killed with no thought for morality or consequence. And the men I associated with were the same way... such lives feed upon themselves.

My family moved to Caladon when I was younger. Lawrence and I were close in our early years, but the life I chose to lead as I grew older was repulsive to him, and we finally had a falling out. At the time, I didn't care... the dead have no family, and remember not their pasts. This basement... is a place for the walking dead... a place where men gather to feed their darker sides. I knew it well... too well. I spent a lot of time here... time and money. I also gambled with men who make a living doing so, and one night I lost more money than I had.

I was threatened physically when I couldn't pay... but what is pain to dead men? I laughed and bled and spat on them. It was only then that they threatened to kill my brother if I didn't pay. Of course, I thought it only a threat, and, really, in the end I didn't feel anything about the matter. I'd left all of that behind me... or at least that's what I thought.

I can't tell you the pain which tore open my very soul when I found Lawrence, bleeding and broken, the life gone out of him. I cursed myself, and the gods, and everything else I had forsaken, and I ran. I ran so far and so fast that I don't remember anything until I woke up on the doorstep of the Panarii temple where Joachim took me in.

The old man who had quietly walked in shortly after Virgil came back finally spoke, his voice deep and strangely accented. "Yesss," he intoned softly, "And doesn't that seem like so very long ago, Virgil...?"

My mouth dropped open, "Joachim!" We looked for you for so long...

"How did you know where to find us?" Gods, so much has happened since I first started searching for you... I finally know where to find the Black Mountain Clan, I've turned the Molochean Hand against the Dark Elves... it seems like I've been busy, too, since that zeppelin crash... that zeppelin that I never even should have been on...

Joachim shrugged innocently, as though finding us was no big deal. "I'd heard that Virgil was back in Caladon, alone." Now how did you hear a thing like that? You are one mysterious, old man, Joachim. "I feared the worst, as I knew a little more about his past than you did. I've been searching for him for the past week, and only now did I find him. You've changed much, young Virgil..."

Virgil nodded, smiling at his old mentor. Seeing the two of them reunited at long last warmed my heart. When Virgil spoke again his voice still had that strange tone to it and I wondered if he would remain quite so calm for the rest of the time that I knew him. "Yes, Joachim. And I have seen much. But I still remember the lessons you taught me. They have brought me through all of this. Even through death itself..."

I listened quietly as Joachim and Virgil continued chatting, not wanting to interrupt them after they'd spent so long apart.

Ugh. You had to go and remind me... if it's all the same to you, I really don't want to think about Arronax right now. "What have YOU been doing, Joachim?" I said it almost as if it were an accusation, hammering home the point that there were probably more important things to help out with besides the Molochean Hand. True, the book Joachim found helped me, but it had been quite a long time since he'd found that book and it was all I needed to put an end to the assassination attempts.

He seemed embarrassed suddenly, "Well, since I left Stillwater, I've been trying to find out if the prophecies say anymore about what it is you're supposed to be doing. Unless I've missed something, Arronax hasn't yet returned. What have YOU found out?" He said it in the same accusatory tone that I had, almost insinuating that chasing after Virgil was unnecessary.

I resent that implication, old man. I just... oh hell, I'm just happy Virgil is alive... I suppose I can put up with your questioning. "I followed the trail of the Black Mountain Clan all the way from Bates' betrayal to their banishment. The Dark Elves banished them to the Void so they could build a machine to help Arronax return. I've already informed the Silver Lady of Qintarra, and am now seeking to speak with the priests at the First Panarii Temple here in Caladon."

He nodded slowly, soaking in what I'd just told him. "Ah. That's quite a tale. You've done very well, and I think your journey is approaching the end."

If that's the case I really hope Arronax dislikes axes in his kidneys. "I hope so. Are you coming with us, Joachim?"

After so much anticipation of the time when Joachim would finally arrive to answer all of our questions, it seemed strange to just let him go... but, when I thought about it, we did just fine without him. Perhaps he was best left to do whatever it is he does behind the scenes, finding tidbits of information we didn't even know would be important until years later. "Farewell to you, Joachim." He took a few steps back, nodding peacefully, but still staying around. I supposed I didn't mind him listening in on my conversation with Virgil, and that way I could ask him right away if any new questions came up. I turned back to Virgil, the tears still not quite ready to stop. "Virgil... you were saying...?" I'm still just... I'm so glad you're all right.

Virgil shrugged, and it was obvious that he felt what he was telling me held no further importance to him. It was important to me, however, I wanted to understand Virgil... and, in turn, I wanted him to understand me. "I was just saying that I came here tonight to face my past, and to avenge my brother whom I betrayed. These men were the men who killed him. I knew that I wouldn't survive, but the weight of his death, and my cowardice, were too much to bear any longer. And here you found me..."

...and I tried so hard to save you, but I wasn't fast enough... gods, I don't know what the hell happened with that scroll but I'm so happy that it did... "Can I ask you a few questions about it, Virgil?"

He nodded, "Yes, of course..."

I still couldn't help but notice the incredible peace in his voice, the calm and distant look in his eyes. I looked deep down, still feeling pain and torment when I thought of the past. I envied Virgil, I wanted to find that same peace that he had, but it didn't seem even remotely possible. I could never get over the deaths of Frederick and Nathaniel. "Tell me, Virgil... was it worth it? Do you feel that weight any less?"

I swallowed hard, suddenly uncomfortable. Is it all right to think that way? To just pretend that who you are now has nothing to do with who you were? I don't know if I'm strong enough to do that... "The other side... tell me about death, Virgil. What was it like?" Frederick... Nathaniel... what has become of you?

"It was..." he seemed to have difficulties putting his experience into words. I placed my hand on his, reassuring him. "...well, peaceful, I suppose. I remember very little... I have memories of a gray place, warm, silent... there was no pain there, no suffering... and I remember feeling that it was boundless, a place that was no place... not a prison nor a punishment, but freedom without end."

"You sound as if you enjoyed it, somehow..." Although I miss the both of you dearly, it would bring joy to my heart to think that you are somehow happy... even if I am not a part of that happiness any longer...

Virgil gave it thought, and he seemed to mostly agree in the end. "I did, in a strange way. You've no idea what it's like to let go of everything that constitutes our struggles in this life... pain, greed, envy, guilt. It's liberating, even in its emptiness." He thought about it for a moment, realizing that what he was saying left only further questions. "I can honestly say that I wanted to come back, to finish what I'd began with you, but that a small part of me wanted very badly to stay. And I think that I carry that gray place with me always... a small piece of death..."

I hit him lightly on the shoulder, cracking a slight smile from behind my tears. "Oh, stop. If you keep going on like this I'm going to have to ask you to kill me, as a friend." At this point... I welcome it. To see Nathaniel again, and apologize for what I caused... to be with Frederick again, and feel no guilt... no pain... how could I not want that?

Virgil frowned, "Don't even joke about that, Samantha. One day, when our journey is done, and after you've lead a long and fulfilling life... that peace will always be waiting for you. Don't be so eager to go before your time."

You have no idea, Virgil... My tears started flowing again, stronger. I couldn't push away the pain that I felt any longer. I tried to change the subject, but I could tell Virgil saw right through me. "You should have told me. I would have helped you..." It was true, at least.

Hmph, thank me...? Thank me for what? For failing to protect you, letting you run off to get yourself killed? Those deeds don't deserve thanks. He looked in my eyes, seeing my sadness and overwhelming guilt, the tears that continued to flow. "Samantha... what is it you want to say? What's bothering you?" The look in his eyes was so sympathetic... so kind...

I can't be like you, Virgil... I can't just let it go. This pain... this guilt... it will be with me as long as I live... It hurt so terribly to put my anguish into words, but I just couldn't hold it in any longer. Tears flowed down my cheeks in a steady stream as I tried to explain what I'd gone through, "I... failed you, Virgil. I know you're still grateful to me, but if I hadn't been so slow... so stupid... you wouldn't even have died. More than that... it's not the first time. Everybody close to me... you're not the only one with blood on your hands...."

He seemed almost sad, but in that calm way that he had about him since he'd been resurrected. "I wish you no ill will, if that eases your guilt any. It is not your fault I ran off without you and came to this place... you need not feel responsible. I cannot speak to anything else that has happened to you, but... I am sorry. I know well what it is like to carry such a heavy burden. It may seems hypocritical of me to offer, but if you want any help facing up to it-"

"I can't, Virgil!" I screamed at him, though I wasn't angry with him at all... I was only angry with myself. I rested my head against his chest and continued to cry, "believe me, I would happily take you up on that offer if I could... but I can't... it's not possible..." He looked at me, confused. "I'm the one to blame, Virgil... there's nobody else left. I have no basement I can run to where I can confront my past once and for all. I just... I have to live with it. That's it."

"Please," he begged me softly, "Won't you at least unload your burden? Won't you share it with me? I know something of death, however little, and I might be able to bring you some small measure of comfort. I... I would like to help you, in any way I can... as a friend." I nodded tearfully, steadying myself against the nearby table.

"Before I met you, I had a husband, Frederick... and a son, Nathaniel. I've spoken of my husband to you once before, briefly. We enjoyed so many things together, especially books and history. I... Frederick is dead now, because of me... because I ran... no, I suppose I ought to tell you everything. I've wanted to tell somebody, to tell you, specifically... it's just so hard. It really all began with the death of my son.

Nathaniel... he was so fascinated by technology, all kinds of it really. Most of all he seemed interested in herbology. It was rare enough for a child to take a genuine interest in technology, but even rarer to be attracted to one of the less flashy disciplines instead of one like explosives. Boys will be boys, you know how it goes.

Well, Frederick thought it was wonderful and he planted an entire herb garden for Nathaniel to play around with. He did so love to play around in that garden, and experiment with all of the different kinds of herbs... he was convinced he wanted to be an herbalist when he grew up. I... I just... sometimes I miss him so much. I tried so hard to encourage him, and I suppose that's when I first became truly interested in technology. It's strange, isn't it? Learning from one's child instead of the other way around?

One day Nathaniel came into the study where I was reading a book and he asked to see the gun that Frederick kept in there for protection. He was getting older, he was thirteen... I just figured that it was about time for his interest in herbalism to wane in favor of something more like a proper young boy. He was curious about so many things that I really didn't think anything of it, so I just let him borrow it for awhile... I didn't even watch him, I just kept reading my damned book. Gods, I was a horrible mother... a horrible person.

Not ten minutes later I saw a sudden movement in the next room over, and then I heard the bang. I threw my book down and ran into the living room... there was so much blood, by the gods there was so much blood. I panicked. I just sat there staring in horror... and he looked up at me with tears in his eyes. I'll never forget the way he said, 'I'm sorry, Mother.' I screamed, and finally Frederick showed up... he must've been nearby and heard... when he saw what had happened he ran off to get the doctor.

But it was too late. The bullet had pierced Nathaniel's lung, and the doctor couldn't save him. He was buried in the Caladon cemetary two days later. Frederick returned to work the next day... and that's when I ran. I lost my son to my own negligence, then I robbed my husband and ran away from him. I've felt terrible about that for a long time, it was so selfish of me.... I could only focus on my own pain, I never thought of what it would do to Frederick to lose his wife and his son in the same week.

After my memories and my guilt began to fade I began looking forward to returning home, coming back to Frederick and telling him of all my adventures. I wanted to apologize for what I'd done. In my adventures I've earned enough money to buy back everything I stole and more... but by the time I returned to Caladon, he was already dead. He couldn't handle losing us both. Because I left him, he... I will never get to look into his eyes again.

I killed them both, Virgil... the two people that meant the most to me. It's nobody's fault but my own, there's nobody else to blame, nobody for me to confront so I can bring resolution to my past. This is a pain I caused, and I have to live with it. ...and I keep doing it, too... I've failed you as well. I don't know what brought you back, but it wasn't me. I couldn't save you in the end."

Exhausted from having forced my tale out at last, I rested my head against Virgil's chest and I just cried. "That doesn't matter," He shook his head, "I did what I had to do, you're not responsible. It may not be my place to say it, but... I don't think you should blame yourself for what happened in your past either. We all make mistakes... let the past be the past, Samantha... let it go."

Don't you understand how badly I wish I could? How I've tried to run away? Running away only made it worse... and now I've nothing left to even run from. My eyes felt puffy, and they ached horribly. I'd been crying nonstop since arriving in the basement, and for as long as my thoughts remained on my past I knew the tears would continue to flow. I had hoped telling Virgil about it would make me feel better, but it didn't. I still missed Frederick horribly, and Nathaniel too. I changed the subject suddenly, hoping to put an end to my blubbering. "Even knowing my past, will you still accompany me?" For what it's worth, Virgil, thanks for listening... and at least trying to make me feel better.

I hugged him again, the last of my tears streaming down his armor. "I'm glad, Virgil. Shall we...?"

He nodded and smiled, "Yes... let us continue on."

As we turned to depart, Joachim gave us one final goodbye. "Good luck to you, Living One."

"Thank you, Joachim. We'll need it." Now is no time to be crying about my past. I've got demons to slay, and a divine corpse to track down.

On our way out I noticed the crumbled remains of the scroll still lying on the ground, scattered. Now that's strange... I could've swore I saw that scroll stir back to life...

Bonus Content

Finally, here are some random, fun, bonus things. I'll try to post more when I can, too... there's a lot of stuff I have to share now. I also don't want to fall behind on my updates, though, so I have to spend some time catching up.

First, on my way back to Caladon I ran into some random guy at the bar for some reason (I think I accidentally clicked? I don't even know why I was in the bar.) Anyway, I found this little gem:

Also, there's a recruitable character in T'sen-Ang, a Dark Elf mage by the name of Z'an A'lurin.

Pitiful creature! Why are you wasting my time with your drivel! You're obviously not fit to speak with me... Begone!
I think, perhaps, that you've made a hasty assessment, madam...
[The Dark Elf woman seems a little surprised at her own words.] Uh... perhaps you're right. I may have been a bit hasty with my first impressions of you. Perhaps we might speak for a few moments....
I'm so very glad. Might I ask your name?

[She gives you an appraising nod.] Hmmm. Honesty. You surprise me. You take a large risk in exposing yourself to me... especially considering what you are...
And what exactly do you mean by that?
I don't know exactly who you are, Samantha Colburn, but I do know that you don't belong here. Sometimes I... I see things that others cannot. I know that your road has been long, and that you're in grave danger by being here. [She gives you a hooded glance.] I suppose you could say that meeting me has increased that danger...
Really? For some reason I don't feel you pose a threat...

I... I see things. When you walked into T'sen-Ang, I saw something around you... a great latticework of wood and iron, and it carried a great weight which weighed nothing at all. These are the visions I see, Samantha Colburn. What they mean, I don't always know, but I do know that YOU are somehow important to me.
Why? What answers are YOU seeking, Z'an Al'urin?
[She is silent for a while, considering you with her dark eyes. Then...] What do you know of the Dark Elves, Samantha Colburn? Do you know the differences between us and our cousins in Qintarra?
Yes, I know of the philosophical differences...

Yes... yes I am. [She looks down.] I am a Dark Elf. Sometimes that is a burden, Samantha Colburn. I... I don't know exactly what I believe anymore. I see visions, and these visions tell me that there is something very wrong with what the Dark Elves are working for, something very wrong with all that they have done...
Why? What have they done?

If you pick the top option, she joins you. She's also got some interesting conversations with characters we haven't met yet, assuming the sound files don't lie to me (again).

Lastly, when I found this conversational path with M'in Gorad I actually burst out laughing. This was too hilarious not to share. It happens if I don't say "Using Bates in your scheme was a stroke of genius." and instead choose "Why were the dwarves banished to the Void?"

She attacks you at that point

God I love this game.

Requested by Shyrka
Regarding Virgil...

By popular demand, there you have it: A necromized Virgil

Requested by Vallhallan

I actually had to reload over 20 times for a few reasons. The first time I played that scene through, and took my screenshots of the conversation, Virgil didn't actually die! I was easily able to run in and save him. He still pretends he died, though It's kind of silly.

So I had to reload solely for the sake of letting Virgil die... and then I had to reload again... and again... and again. He lived well over half the time (Video), which might not be too surprising considering that he has the most protective armor in the game and a pyro axe. I did this part in 2 stages, which helped to make it a thorough pain in the ass. In the first I recorded his death, then autosaved... then promptly went and did something else, and autosaved that, breaking my autosave. So all of my screenshots of his death (which I liked because I got such a good shot of him falling down with the guy behind him stabbing him) didn't match the corpses on the ground.

That's where the majority of the reloading came in. In the event that he even died in the first place, I had to make the corpses on the ground look close to the way they fell for the screenshots where he died. The corpses during the FIRST time through, when he didn't die, don't even look even remotely close. If you look at the conversation screenshots, you can tell pretty clearly.

Of course, when I went back to get a video of Virgil surviving he died about 15 times in a row. Figures.

As for the resurrection... that was actually a complete hack in so many ways. First, as Vallhallan already pointed out ( ), Samantha can easily use that scroll. It pretty much never fails. I had to hack a special autosave just to get the screenshots of it fizzling (I made her tech aptitude 99 to get those shots).

I was planning on having her get very flustered and forget she had a tech revive until Terry nudged it out of her purse, but when I finally put it all together it was... lacking.

That just wouldn't do at all.

So I spent a long time thinking of other ways to do it, and recorded the image I eventually ended up using. It just looked so much more spectacular and suited to the moment that I had to think of a way to make it work. In the end I went with the dialogue choice. Did the scroll end up working after all, were her prayers answered?

...all right, so I justified it by assuming Joachim would rez him. Seriously he doesn't even show up if you don't rez Virgil. So my version of the story is that the scroll bits were either reacting to the magic or Samantha just imagined them moving, and Virgil was actually brought back by Joachim as soon as he arrived.

Speaking of Joachim, you can see him walk up in the video right as I'm talking to Virgil. You can also see Sebastian and Vollinger noisily walking over to some weapons or whatever that the thugs dropped

I hope that adequately explains just how much I fucked with this particular scene in the game

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