Part 21: Hopper Rouley and the Inexplicable Praise of Thorn BreninHopper Rouley and the Inexplicable Praise of Thorn Brenin
Last time, we faced the fretful decision of whether or not to recruit Ruor, and I'm going to be honest - I hadn't originally planned on having a vote until I discovered his bio while making his portrait for the LP.
The thread seemed to be pretty adamant that Ruor should not be in our party because he is a sex criminal who escaped from jail in a party made of abused women, and I literally cannot tell if that is poor translation (using the archaic form of "molested" which didn't have sexual connotations) or if this is supposed to be a dark and edgy mature thing that's actually pretty stupid. I can tell you on both playthroughs dude was kinda just there and got benched for all the Lo Pheng solo fights.
Anyway, as Ruor's last "fuck you" to the thread the game's autosaves made me redo the Reaper battle, so only Lo Pheng and Ruor went down. The LP battle has the far funnier everyone explodes.
: I have no use for you.
And that's the end of that! Will we ever see him again?
I honestly don't know!
After that we click the move on button and that...ends the chapter.
For a supposedly dispassionate warrior of peace he's kinda obsessed with Reet.
I don't know what this means. I'll be honest. Do people curse themselves and heal it with potions?
Back to Hopper. We have the one route right now, and I'm taking it.
This is where things get interesting in Hopper's route. You all voted to always resist the curse, so let's talk game mechanics.
I am going to explain it, but I want to point out that this particular bit of cheesing the game is actually encouraged by the game itself.
See that? The choice is between "weakening Hopper" and "raising the game difficulty for all parties". The game itself points out that you can lower the difficulty from the game menu, turning this into a choice between "weaken Hopper" and "absofuckinglutely nothing, because you don't feel bad about cheesing the horror that is Ash of Gods combat".
Now, you might be asking, does this choice have anything to do with the ending and themes of the game? Oh yes it does! I won't be getting into it until much later in the game when we figure out the point of all this silliness, but it's kind of important and I may have a second vote. In the meantime, I will be leaving the difficulty in place because I have infinite retries on any battle, and because the game starts hilariously cheating on higher difficulties and I want to show that off.
: The Reaping grows stronger. Terminum plunges into chaos. The plague rages, pitting folk against each other. Yet you gather the strength to end this once and for all. That is your hope.
: On the road or taking a rest, you can't shake the words in the town hall from your mind. "Follow the guiding one. Collect the seven parts of wisdom. Read them and be saved." You sit by the fire, pondering the words' true meaning. Are they meant to guide... or to ensnare?
: You close your eyes, trying to remember everything you know about previous Reapings. Nothing makes any sense. It's as though different scent is in the air[sic]. Something mysterious is coming. There's also the hand...
So I am replaying this game AFTER they patched it again to make it easier to read, and I swear there were not this many typos. Ash of Gods developers, if you are reading this, please get your English editor to give you your money back.
: Will Treeg calm down if we find his son?
: I'd love to know that, myself. I'm guilty of the same thing that made His Highness want to capture Captain Brenin. Had to kill a toll collector near a watchtower in self-defense. Well, at least I didn't borrow a prince.
I didn't realize Mushom was a Batman fan.
: Is Thorn really that good?
Ha ha fuck no.
: Captain Brenin is the legend of Odalah. Who hasn't heard of Mad Thorn? A hero of the Gebonan War, a hero of the northern expedition and the battle of the Southern Isles. Though he's grown much older since his last escapade, battle experience is not easily forgotten.
: (Taken aback) Wait a minute! Are you saying Mad Thorn and Thorn Brenin are the same person? And he's got a whole squad, while we've got nothing? Quite a task His Highness has given us...
"All we have is a wizard baron who blew up a building. That will be no use whatsoever if Thorn jumps up and down like a doofus!"
: I don't think he'll be fighting back, sword or not. That's if Prince Ho is still alive, of course. I hope that's the case.
: Not only is Thorn an exceptional swordsman, he's taught his daughter the same skills. I've seen her with her sword a couple of times-girl's swift as the wind. So, better to talk with Thorn than cross swords.
"She had to stop fighting after 12 seconds because she was bleeding from using her good techniques. It was very strange."
I know I keep ranting about this, but if you are trying to tell a story with a game the game mechanics are actually important. If Gleda was known for recklessness her running off of health so heavily would make perfect sense - as is, she's vaguely magical and doesn't have much of a personality beyond that. And Thorn? He's supposed to be the greatest swordsman and leader ever but has no abilities that reflect this. Again, his major attack is jumping up and down like a doofus. Lo Pheng or Hopper would tear him a new one if they ever fought. Yet the narrative falls all over itself to explain that Thorn is actually really dangerous and you should care about him.
: Well, we've still got to catch up to Thorn...
: You're right about that. The road's dangerous. I saw some footprints near the spring. A couple dozen cavalry went by there just two days ago. The boots are definitely not from Berkana-they've got a strange heelprint.
: I've seen it, too. Those are footprints of the Enses. The flowing Mannaz took their corpses to the Albius watchtower, right? Should've looked at the boots sooner...
: (Shaking his head)It won't be a pleasant stroll, then? I guess I'll have a look around, too. My feet are already numb.
: You think hard about what you've learned. Thorn piques your curiosity by the minute. Now there's just finding him... and learning how he managed to withstand that Reaper...
: I capture princes, Stein. When someone disappears-I'm the one to turn to. I may have no regular allowance, but should I find a prince-I'll have enough money to gorge myself. Should I fail, however, I'd best avoid said kingdom for the next decade or so, if I want to keep my head attached. Still, I've been lucky so far. Want me to cut you in?
: (Squinting) No siree. Berkana's a bit short on princes. Besides, it's quite a long way between kingdoms, and my boots are worn through. I'd rather stay by the Albius gate. If I ever return, that is.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: Yo, scribe dude, what are we doing when we catch Thorn? He could kick all our asses.
: I intended to discuss things like a reasonable adult. Will Treeg calm down if we find his son?
: Hell if I know, I did the same thing Thorn did.
: Nah Treeg opened his mouth and if he doesn't do the stupid shit he promised that somehow makes him look dumber.
: They were crazy people mutated by a disease. You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
: Oh come on, he can't be that go-
: He's like a war hero three times over and a legendary swordsman! I wish I had lost my virginity to him!
: OH SHIT IT'S MOTHERFUCKING MAD THORN WE'RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIIIIIIE!!!!!!!!
: Calm down please.
: THORN IS A BEAST BUT GLEDA IS ALSO A BEAST AND THEY WOULD FUCK US UP HARD!!!!!!!
: Let's cross that bridge when we get to it, but I am finding myself agreeing that Thorn is a cool dude.
: Who the fuck are you anyway?
: I hunt princes lol.
We keep trekking and get another random event.
: Kill the Enses.
: Moving away from the trees and unsheathing your sword, you notice the Enses' victim-a boy. His basket of mushrooms lies nearby. Few things get to you, but children being murdered always fills you with boiling hatred.
I could pull out that quote about "mothers and children" and how this is supposed to be morally ambiguous, but why bother? The enemies are literally building a blade pyramid and coating it in child's blood. This is the kind of shit that is so evil it's usually used to slander minority groups, because it's usually both pointless and stupid.
I have some spare points that go into Hopper's circular hit,
We then get a battle. It's not very interesting. Hopper has all of 3 skills and a huge spammable fuckoff AoE, he's at full strength because we've been both resisting the curse and doing events to get rid of it, and the end result is that I click buttons and Enses die.
Look at this shit, I'm doing 76 damage in an area and these child killing asshats have like 30 HP. They can't effectively rush me because Hopper gets 1 turn every time one of them moves, and they have to activate the entire roster before one of them can move again.
Massacring all these guys lowers our curse power and weakens the Reaping.
Going down the road, dum dum de dum...
: Find out if James really knows Thorn.
Fuck it, I'm sick and tired of having everyone praise Thorn. Have some money, my obviously untrustworthy dude. Also, this party doesn't track gold so why not?
: You and James agree on a price. He tells you that Captain Brenin isn't as good as everyone thinks. He shirks the law and acts like he's better and smarter than everyone else. He even said things about the gods and royalty that would get most people thrown in jail-or put to death.
NONE OF THIS IS WRONG!
I...what? There's so much wrong here that I have to break it down.
"Thorn didn't beat up the thief" is immediately followed by "He just kicked his ass".
(Taken from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/kicked+your+ass)
So not only do we blatantly contradict ourselves on whether or not Thorn violently handled the situation (after having Ake use violence on our behalf, no less) but the one dude in the game who actually points out Thorn's faults is a crook trying to scam us. I don't think I need to go through the points, but just in case:
-Thorn isn't as good as everyone says he is, because he is absolutely balls as a combat unit.
-Thorn has the option to rob and murder merchants, and is constantly making fun of Flitt for being a book-loving nerd. Any interaction with a new party member opens with him demanding absolute obediance.
-Go back to the first update and you'll see Thorn blaspheming away and hating on the king.
Now, the last point is not going to matter to modern audiences, but all the criticisms of Thorn are just brushed away by putting them in the mouth of James and rather than engaging with these points (or just accepting Thorn has flaws) Hopper and co get so upset that anyone would criticize "Mad Thorn".
You know what would have fixed all this? Good writing. Ake makes mention of a rod, have Hopper mention that Thorn just used his fists instead of a whip or something. If Thorn was presented as a character worthy of respect instead of an uninteresting asshole I could see people having these reactions, but this is all offscreen bullshit. We don't get flashbacks, we get people expounding on Thorn's offscreen heroics.
I'm sorry, I know I rant about this a lot but it's really irking me as it gets thrust in my face.
Resist again! Same text, but the number in the upper right goes up. 2-3 are just "signs of trouble", but 10 is "triumph of evil" which sounds actually interesting.
: The Isanan bowmen happen to have a minstrel from the capital traveling with them. After dinner, the fellow removes the cover from his lute-which turns out to be completely out of tune-and hollers the Ballad of the Twelve Heroes. He slaughters the words and melody in equal measure. He sings some nonsense about a lovely lass and a mighty warrior who met by the triple menhir, fell in love, and defeated no less than two dozen Reapers.
: Berate the ministrel.
Hexing raises curse power, unfortunately.
: As the minstrel draws a deep breath to bleat out another verse of the hero's feats, you interrupt him with a hearty curse. The irritated singer asks you what's wrong. Everything, you tell him-his voice, his instrument, and most importantly, his butchering of a beautiful song composed by a decent fellow.
: You accept the instrument and tune the strings, though it's been thirty years since you last played. When you strum the lute, the tune rolls and trills like a stream. The minstrel grows pale. You erupt into song-one you composed after you'd cured your wounds and discovered that Amma was gone.
As an amateur violinist, I am calling bullshit here. I sound like shit when I don't practice for months, and you expect me to believe that he can pick up a lute after 30 years?
Fuck. This. Shit.
Again, the reason Lo Pheng is the best of these protagonists is that he has flaws and a fleshed out character, while Hopper is supposedly motivated by guilt we haven't seen since the prologue. It would be interesting if Hopper also fucked up because he was out of practice but still pissed about the song he wrote, but no he can play - not just well enough, but so well that everyone randomly starts crying. This is some Patrick Rothfuss garbage here.
May as well just get to the arch before we get another rant explaining how Thorn Brenin blesses the crops and it increases crop yield by three hundred percent, solving famine for the entire planet.
: The gate is opened by a stocky, gloomy soldier. He scans your group with suspicion, finally resting his gaze on Ake. The giant warrior dismounts, handing the guard the papers. You do likewise and approach the guard.
: "Oh"? That's no help. This probably ain't the first time you've seen Prince Treeg's seal. Are you gonna pretend you don't know who I am? I've got several questions for you, Vegen. Answer me, and it'll be like I was never here. For starters, tell me-do you know Captain Thorn Brenin?
What is an Ash of Gods update? A miserable pile of
: Did Thorn have a blonde, green-eyed lad with him?
: Aye, I saw someone like that. Looked a lot like Prince Ho. Mind you, I've not seen him in a long while, but the two lads have a lot in common, I swear.
: What is Thorn's party like? Are they all warriors?
: Who knows? Not like my sore ass rode alongside 'em. They fight well-the rest remains to be seen.
: Did Thorn lose any men fighting the Enses?
: Speaking truthfully, I don't know. I was too busy tending to my men. I highly doubt it though. Thorn's a commander like no other. Someone could have been wounded, yes. There was so much blood, you couldn't tell whose it was.
Now Vegen is an old war buddy who served with Thorn, so I don't mind this.
: Do you know where Thorn was headed?
: He asked the way to Ursus, so I gather that's where he's headed. From here, it's either go to Ursus or go home. If memory serves, he wanted to visit the menhir there.
: Whom did he ask? Did he talk to anyone else in the stockade?
: Interesting... It'd be worthwhile to check the tent. It's not every day you hear stories of vanishing seers.
: I have no further questions.
TheGreatEvilKing summary posted:
: What are you doing here?
: This is Prince Treeg's seal. Don't get in our way.
: A foreign prince I owe no allegiance to...I better do as you say then. Thorn fought some Enses, asked about Ursus, and talked to the creepy seer lady.
: Were her hands black, by any chance?
: No, I saw no signs of such an illness. She was wearing a dress with long sleeves cuffed at the wrist and had stone bracelets on each arm-but her hands looked clean.
: She made predictions, you say. What did it look like? How did she prophecy? Did she rant or chant?
: Did she do any sorcery? Mix potions, perhaps?
: No. She brought a salve to help with the neck aches, but she claimed it came from the Ursus Temple. It's already running out. What struck me was that she kept chuckling under her breath-had a fearsome look in her eyes too. She also touched the menhir, but warned us not to. And that warning wasn't groundless, I tell you!
: What did she say to Thorn? Can you recall anything?
: You don't seem to enjoy talking about Chila.
: (Lowering his voice) She's no old crone, Hopper. Half the village is old women. I know all about them. Chila doesn't walk, talk...or even smell like one. The way she moves... it'd be the envy of any young lass. That is why I do not think she's human.
"She doesn't smell like ass! A WITCH! A WITCH!"
Somehow no one notices the fucking golden eyes all the Umbra have.
: Well, Vegen, what if I'm not human either? My back doesn't ache and I don't reek of old age.
: I need to go. If you see Chila, tell her that Blance is looking for her.
: Hold a moment, friend. There's something else I need to tell you, but I... I can't quite remember what it is. Oh, it's on the tip of my tongue!
: Is it about the Double Menhir? Wait...have you ever heard the expression "one on the two"?
: "The two" is a nickname we gave our menhir. When people say "I'll meet you at the two," they mean the two menhir stones. Funny in a way, given how you can walk the whole stockade from end to end in five minutes.
: What could "one on the two" refer to? A sign? A ribbon? A mark?
: Too late to steer clear of curses... I need to think it over.
: You brush Vegen off, make a mental note of Unda's dungeon wall scribblings, and examine the sacred stone. There's an inscription indeed, but it's... hazy-same as the one in the Albius bell tower you recall so vividly.
Decisions lie before us!
Do we make like Ariana Grande and touch the menhir, or is listening to all these witches a really bad idea?