Part 23: Completing Trademeet, Anomen's trial, Jan's quest begins, and I finally decend to the utmost depths of disturbing madness
Chapter 16 - Completing Trademeet, Anomen's trial, Jan's quest begins, and I finally decend to the utmost depths of disturbing madness
My name is Jenia, and I have come to you on behalf of my son, Tiris. He... he is very frightened, my Lord. Too frightened to even leave our home! Please! You... you are such a hero of this town, I beg of you to come and speak to him! To see what has frightened him so and perhaps help him!
I will help him if I can. Where is he?
Oh, thank the gods that you are so merciful! Tiris is at our home, the one just north of the Alibakkar Estate. Please come as soon as you are able to! I so despair seeing him like this!
Well, their home was also near the fountain, so I took a look at the statues.
Aha, you're all just on here as "Follower of Asim". It seems that I am the only one who counts!
It... it's all so terrible, I hardly know where to begin. My... my love, Raissa, and I... we were coming home two days ago, not far from here. It was late... and I heard a strange noise come out of the shadows. I thought perhaps it was another attack by the animals, but a large man leapt out of the darkness at me and knocked me out. I... I remember nothing until I woke up... When I did, I saw a man tying Raissa to a chair.
That... is more than I ever wanted to know about you, Jan. Thanks for that mental image.
He was the one who had leapt at me. I... I stirred, as my head ached, and I was not immediately aware that someone else was in the room... I suppose the other must have heard me, because he approached. I... I saw him, my Lord, I turned and I saw him! He was a... a man, or a creature that looked like a man... but he had no skin! All I saw was his... his muscles and sinew! He hissed, a dreadful sound, and tried to grab me. I was frightened and I leapt back, barely out of his reach. The man by Raissa yelled at him to grab me, and the skinless creature shouted back at him, angry... and I fled as quickly as I could. I heard someone running behind me, but I didn't dare look! I heard it shout behind me, once... it said that it would get me, that it would find me. And... and when I stopped running, eventually, I didn't hear it anymore. I came here to hide, my Lord. I am frightened to go out... what manner of creature could this be? What kind of magic would create a horror such as this? I don't know who to turn to. The militia... they can do nothing against such a creature, I am sure. And... and I feel so ashamed... I left my Raissa behind, left her to die! Please, my Lord... will you help me? Will you find my Raissa and bring her back to me?
I will try, but I need more information.
Th-thank you, my Lord, I am very grateful... if you could do whatever you can... As for more information, well, let me think. The... the skinless creature did say the name of the man with the knife. He shouted it when the man told the creature to grab me... he called the man "Rejiek".
Rejiek? Are you sure?
Yes, sir. Very sure. Why? Do... do you know that name?
Rejiek? This is the killer from the Bridge District, no? So he fled us only to come to Trademeet, my raven. Perhaps we shall have a second chance at a reckoning.
Oh... oh, no! Then you must find Raissa soon! If... if he has not already killed her! Oooh, I should have saved her when I had the chance! I should have tried! Please! The creature brought me to the woods near the Southwest Gate. Go there, I beg you, and find out what has become of her! Perhaps... perhaps this man and his creature yet remain there!
I am a simple human, nothing more.
Hmmmn. You did not attack me on sight, so you are not the creature I seek. Its base cunning would not allow it to go without attacking a lone victim. That said, it is quite fair to say you do not know who I am and may attack me regardless... especially if you are at all aware of the capabilities of my prey. I am Darsidian Moor, and I hunt a creature known as a Skin Dancer, a man-like beast without true flesh of its own. Now, will you reveal your name?
I am Asim, and I seek a victim who may be held by the creature you seek... and a murderer named Rejiek.
I see. The murderer I do not know... but if he is aiding the Skin Dancer, then he is as much my target as the creature, itself. He would only capture a victim if he meant to use his dark magic to create another like himself. Otherwise he would have consumed her flesh on the spot. No, I must follow the leads I have found here and confront this creature once and for all. Tell me, then, will you aid me in killing this creature of evil?
Yes, I will go with you... the murderer who is with this Skin Dancer must be stopped as surely as the creature, itself.
Excellent. I know, now, who you are... you are the recently-anointed saviors of this town, yes? Obviously you have earned your reputation through good deeds. I have found several clues. I suspect the creature's lair is just north of the East Gate, in a walled off section of the town with an orange pavilion. I intend to travel ahead and scout out the area. Meet me there as soon as possible... I could certainly use your aid.
I... I knocked him out! H-he... he was going to kill me!
Quickly, Asim! I have been badly hurt, and I do not know if this human accomplice will rise soon or not... kill him now while we have the chance!
Yes! Kill him, please!!
Now, I'm a suspicious man. Something like having your foster father murdered in front of you and having a massive bounty placed on your head will do that. Not to mention the whole bit where a lot of people want you dead just because your father happens to be the dead God of Murder. Plus, Saerileth's paladin-like powers, better known as Detect Evil, showed these two as evil and the guy on the ground as not evil. Pretty big giveaway, really. So I decided to have a little chat with the "murderer".
What are you doing, Asim?! Kill him now!
Enough, Darsidian! The hero will not slay her now! I knew your plan was doomed to failure! I should never have gone along with it!
Hsss! Rejiek, you fool! This was your only chance to fake your death and escape once and for all!
I have no patience for it! Let us kill them and take their skins... and we can announce my death anyway! Come, it ends here!
Damn right it does. Six versus two. A godchild and his companions versus two idiots. Yeah, this'll end well for you...
Indeed, this is the end... for thee! Tyr's judgement upon thy foul deeds!
Your skin will be the *first* I take, little girl!
God DAMN, what is it with evil NPCs threatening to do things to Saerileth all the time? I mean seriously. Just more evidence for the "the creators are people with horrible, horrible fetishes" case, I guess.
At which point, they both erupted out of their skins.
Well, that's rather disgusting isn't it, my raven?
Less talking, more heroing!
Hey, leader guy! You forgot me in your count! Seven versus two, ahahaha!
At that point, "Rejiek" got up, stripped off "his" skin, and put on Raissa's skin. It's a very horrifying thing to watch someone do, incidentally. If you are nursing or pregnant, or may become pregnant, do not observe someone changing skins. There exists a high probability that this will cause you to eat your baby's brain with a spork. And we don't want that now, do we?
Y-you... you killed those monsters? It was so... horrible! They turned me into one of them. Peeled off my skin from m-my bones and... and now I've put it back! He... he took my skin like it was some kind of coat, and put it on. He told me that now I was Skin Dancer, too.
Horrible! That such a man didst walk the earth! Evil cannot be content with its own form but must ever find new depths of depravity.
I... I can feel the dark magic coursing through me, changing me. He laughed at me, said I had been given a gift, if only for a short time... He told me it was an honor when a Skin Dancer assumed a new form. He said he needed to change his identity, but that he didn't want heroes chasing after him. He meant you, didn't he? He knew you were here. He meant to use both me and... and Tiris, but Tiris got away, so their plan had to change. Thank the Gods you found out, but I... I cannot go anywhere like this! I can feel that magic, that evil, growing inside of me! Please, my Lord... help me!
What can I do?
Wh-when he was... taking my skin, Rejiek said that the only way to stop the process was a spell of restoration. B-but he laughed, saying I would never receive it. If... if you could find that spell, could you not cast it upon me? Maybe... maybe the temple superior at the Waukeenar temple would have something! Only... I have no coin. I know such magic is very expensive... but if you could find it in your heart to save me, I would be eternally grateful!
Anomen, make with the casting. I know you have it memorized.
I've got to get home! I've got to see Tiris! Thank you again, you wonderful, wonderful man!
We followed her back to Tiris' house, but she ran actually rather fast and they were both gone by the time we got there. I mean, damn that's fast.
And now they are to be married... what wonderful news. Thank you again, my Lord. I cannot express my gratitude enough for everything you have done here.
Our two houses have been feuding for generations. The Lurraxols seem to be possessed of the notion that their family founded this town... what an absurd thought! Why they would even presume to suppose such a thing, I have no idea. It is sad, however, that the Alibakkars have never had the evidence to prove our claim to them... though it galls me that we would need it. All that has recently changed. An old tome belonging to my family states that there is proof; that proof can be found right here in Trademeet. In the graveyard is a tomb that has been long abandoned... but which also houses the founder of the town. My ancestor. With him lies a large circlet called the Mantle of Waukeen. Possessing that circlet would be all the proof I need, so I wish to acquire it. I would do so myself, but there happens to be a good reason the tomb is abandoned. It is... haunted, so they say. The exact nature of its danger I do not know... but you are a hero who surely could face its perils and return safely with the mantle, yes? In return, I shall pay you a thousand gold.
Very well... I will try my best.
Very good. I shall give you the key, then, which will allow you into the tomb... the key, itself, having been in my family for some time as well. More proof, yes? Go, then, and return with the mantle.
I have no objection. The tomb has been a sore point for far too long, and if anyone can do something about that, I am sure you are the one. But I am concerned about what you may retrieve. The mantle... it belongs to an ancestor of two families, although each is sure to claim it as theirs alone. This can end only in bloodshed. I cannot offer the gold that the nobles have, but in the name of peace I ask that you bring the mantle to me once it is found. I will not force you to, however... perhaps things are not as bad as I fear. But I shall leave your actions to your conscience.
Well, the tomb had some undead in it, but we cleared them out and retrieved the Mantle of Waukeen. We all had a brief discussion, in which it was decided by a unanimous vote that the nobles were morons and that we would give it to Lord Coprith. Well, Anomen objected, but he annoys so he didn't actually get a vote.
Yes, I have the mantle... take it so that my involvement with these families is done.
Thank you. Here is some coin... I know it is not as much as you might have received from those families. Still... it is the right thing to do. Thank you.
Hey, everyone remember Noober from Baldur's Gate? Well, meet Neeber! If you somehow don't know what I mean, he follows you around and says these things. Most people either Ctrl+Y him, cast Polymorph Other on him, or just rapidly click on him and press enter until he's out of lines.
You're adventurers, aren't you? I want to be an adventurer! I like that sword! Do you have to sharpen it? Can you sign my shirt? Are you gonna kill the druids? Can I watch? I killed a rabid rabbit! I'm experienced, now! Have you been many places? Mind if I tag along? People say I ask too many questions. Do you think so, too? What's a cleric? Do you have to study spells? Can I see one? We should go find Waukeen! That'd be a great adventure! Have you ever seen a dragon? WOW!! I want to see Athkatla! I hear the streets are made of gold! I wanna go to the Underdark! I've heard there's cool stuff there! Have you killed the genies? I can go tell them that you're gonna! You aren't going to throw rocks at me now, are you? You've been really nice to me. I'll give you some rocks that other people threw at me. You just gotta promise not to throw 'em. Here.
Overall, it's a little easier to do this with him than Noober, mostly because he doesn't say "How about now?" a very large number of times before giving up. The experience reward still sucks, and you get 5 +2 bullets from it, which still isn't exactly useful.
Anyway, once the annoying guy left us alone (THANK YOU GODS) Jan's cousin came up with news.
Who dar... Beeloo?
Who else, dear cousin? I see that you've gathered some formidable friends since I've last seen you.
Well they're not gnomes but they're not a total loss either. Some of them can get through an entire battle without my needing to baby-sit them. Quite remarkable for the non-gnomish. Where's your elephant?
Back in the circus. Judge didn't think elephants had a right to choose in a custody battle. Poor Jeffery. Nailed me with a theft charge, too. Just got out of prison.
No. They should hire a better locksmith. Listen, Jan, you haven't come by the house for a long time. We've been looking for you.
Have you? Is something wrong?
It's Lissa. She's staying with us now.
Did he hurt her?
You should talk to her yourself. I promised to give you the message but I have to go. Been dodging bounty hunters for days. Farewell, cousin. See you soon.
Is it something that I could help with?
You are welcome to come with me. I know not what the story will be so I'm not sure if you'll actually need to do something.
Perhaps you should tell us who Lissa is and why you're so worried about her.
It is not an easy tale for me to tell. This girl, Lissa, that my cousin mentioned is an old friend of mine. More than a friend I should say. She grew up poor, like me. It was a hard life but there was happiness to be found. I loved Lissa like I've never loved another. She was the most beautiful girl in Athkatla. I was not the only one to think so, however; she had several suitors when she came of marrying age. I worried little about it. I was her closest friend and she claimed she loved me. There are many gnomish families in Athkatla. Life is very different for gnomes so used to woods and caves of the country. Many of the families struggle with poverty in exchange for the safety of the city walls and Amnish law. Some families do very well. He came from one such family. Vaelag is the gnome who runs all "business" in the gnomish areas of Athkatla.
By "business" I assume you mean criminal activities.
Yes. He is a thief who pretends to be an honest merchant. Rumor has it that he reports directly to the Shadow Thieves. Regardless, he was not a pleasant person. He was a bully and a cruel man. He enjoyed exercising power. He was also suave, sophisticated, and very, very rich. I had asked Lissa to marry me and she had agreed. We were to be married at the midsummer's festival the following year. That was before she'd met Vaelag. Like most men, he took a liking to her immediately. He swept her off her feet. He showered her with gifts and city cultural events. At the time, my bitterness had me believe that he cast some sort of spell on her. In retrospect, knowing what I do about magic, she chose him of her own volition. She was pregnant shortly afterwards and they were married. I would have given her that world, had I been able. I don't really believe it matters anymore. I just want her to be happy. Vaelag is a petty and cruel man but she loved him more than she loved me. There's nothing else to tell. If you're ready, I'd like to get to my home in Athkatla now.
We shall get there as soon as possible.
Oh, and we finally took a look at one of the items that the druids had. I recognized it; I had liberated it from Durlag's Tower previously. It was Flame Tongue.
Personally, I find this one of the game's cooler items. It's not very useful, but I just love the description. That said, it's actually sticking around for a bit just because it's one of the first things available to me that hits as +4, even though it's really quite stupid with the whole variable damage bonus and crap THAC0 bonus.
As we left for Athkatla, we observed a debate between two philosophers.
Don't be moronic. You must struggle! Through struggle we grow stronger! Only the strong survive! And I am not your brother.
Strength comes through wisdom and pliancy... one must be flexible to accept the things that come. Struggle only brings futility, my son.
Struggle and adversity bring strength, not futility! War and violence weed out the weak and unhealthy, strengthening all! And I am not your son.
War and violence are the recourse of the weak-minded, my friend. When they occur, it is a result of failure rather than success.
Bah! Let me show you what comes out of that philosophy, "friend"! Huntley?
Show him what becomes of his philosophy.
I hope you know I'm only being proven correct, here.
A good argument, I see. In the end, however, death and decay pay a visit to all beings. You may kill the man, 'tis true, but this sparrow believes he has the better of you, still.
At this point, the minion did kill the philosopher preaching acceptance.
Well, now, I suppose you were right after all. Dead right. Hah ha! But I get the last word. Come, Huntley... let's go.
It is in war and struggle that a culture defines itself, true. But how can you define yourself when you do not fight, philosopher?
Hmm? I clearly just fought with that man, and won.
No. You forfeit the mental combat, and the physical combat was between him and your servant. The victor of the mental was the slain man, and your servant is the victor of the physical. You, yourself, shall never claim a victory, unless you learn the nature of battle.
Oh? Would you fancy a go with Huntley, hmm?
I am a highly skilled mage... Huntley would not find my defeat, or likely even my injury, within the realm of his abilities. In addition, by so readily moving to violence, you have forfeit the battle of words to me. You lose. Good day, sir.
Oh, and we also purchased Tansheron's Bow.
Lastly, we encountered a small child before we left Trademeet.
That is tragic, child. Here... take these coins. Perhaps it will help.
Th-thank you, sir. B-but... I'm not here to beg. I'm... I'm just waiting for the priest t'come an' take me to the orphanage. But... thank you, anyway.
And thus, we made our way to Athkatla. Right as we walked into the Slums district...
How may I be of assistance?
I am Sir Ryan Trawl, a Paladin of the Most Noble Order of the Radiant Heart. In Torm's name I greet thee.
I greet thee also. The time has come?
Indeed it has. In the name of the Prelate, the council requests your return to the High Hall.
I shall return and stand in Helm's light to be judged for my deeds and strength of arms.
So shall it be. In Torm's name I bless thee, Anomen.
And also thee.
I shall see you at the High Hall, Anomen. Good luck!
My thanks, Sir Trawl. I look forward to our next meeting.
Hmm, we'll go immediately.
Hey, I've got something urgent!
Jan, as with absolutely everything involving Anomen, this won't be very long.
Excellent, Squire Anomen. The Prelate waits within. May Torm be with you on this day.
And also with you.
Step inside the hall. I shall speak with you when you are finished. Your party may accompany you if you wish.
I do wish it. Asim, follow me and observe the Judgement.
Prelate of the Order, I so stand. I pledge my life to the service of justice and righteousness.
Anomen Delryn, do you stand before me seeking a knighthood of the Order?
I do so stand.
Do you stand before me prepared to accept the Judgement of Torm? Are your actions and those you travel with laid bare? Shall I judge you as I have been judged?
My past and my actions I lay bare before you. I ask that you judge me as you have been judged.
May the spirit of Torm enter this chamb-
Okay okay okay. This actually took quite a while and is a bunch of boring CRAP wherein people are all and Anomen passes his test, so let's skip to the test passing bit which is more than Anomen deserves because he's BORING and STUPID.
Go, then, Sir Anomen, and serve the cause. You shall serve beneath the Paladin Ryan Trawl, a righteous man. May Torm bless thee.
Actually, partway through the ceremony it randomly cut to this next screenshot, which I found hilarious.
I love glitches.
Blah blah more boring crap, he said that Anomen was allowed to journey with us because we're not douchebags, and thus we move on to things that aren't boring and involving Anomen!
Well, there was this but it's mercifully brief.
I am glad for thee.
Well, here's the real reason I did all that work with the final Edorem confrontation - so you all could have a point of reference to see just how big of a derail I'm about to do with it.
Anyway, as we set down to camp that night, probably the single most terrifying moment of my life occurred.
[Before any words pass her lips, however, you hear the by-now-familiar sound of a planar conduit opening.]
[Saerileth rises, her innate courtesy still evident despite the crimson of her cheeks.] Nay, my good lord, I am not.
Is it this Bhaalspawn then who has taken your heart, Saerileth? If it be so, then he has deceived you! Look well upon him, this churl who would lie to a lady! [Edorem then reaches out and snatches from you the charisma-enhancing magic his Planar eyes have seen.]
[Without attracting Edorem's notice, the gnome sneaks up and steals the knight's pack and casts a spell of invisibility, vanishing. He can be heard quietly muttering as he goes through the contents.]
Lord Edorem! What is it that thou dost? Where is thy courtesy? How dost thou *dare* to lay a hand upon Asim? What is it to thee if Asim be my love? Thou dost tarnish thine honor and thine office! Wherefore? Thou, who wast my leader in the service of Blind Tyr, thou who didst teach me--
A-HA! Here it is! [And he throws something to Haer'Dalis before vanishing again.]
...Why... Why am I holding a sock crudely painted to look like...
Hey, where'd you get that?!
Wait, you ADMIT that it's yours?
I... [Saerileth's face holds an expression of bafflement.] What doth this mean?
Why hello, here's something else! Catch, Asim! [And he vanishes again.]
It's... a scroll. And on it is... "Lord Edorem: Thank you for your purchase of a fine home, blah blah blah, here is the original copy of the blueprints for the extra room you had built in, we have our own copy..." Wow, it goes on. More importantly, why the HELL do I seem to be looking at blueprints for what appears to be a secret love shrine dedicated to Saerileth?
[Edorem snatches the scroll back.] Do not dare to judge me!
You know, you have a sock puppet made to look like Saerileth and a secret love shrine dedicated to her. I'm pretty sure that yes, I'm allowed to judge you. I might even be EXPECTED to judge you.
The sock appears to be made of silk.
Oh, there's more! Ooh, I recognize this! Made by an invention of a follower of Gond some time ago, he called it a "camera"! Here, catch, Saerileth! [He throws something to her and vanishes once more.]
[She looks at what Jan threw to her and immediately flushes with embarrassment.]
Wait, what is it? ...Oh. Oh, wow. That... uhm... Haer'Dalis, I, ah, recommend that you drop that sock.
[Drops the sock.] Hmm, but why, my raven?
[Dives to catch the sock.]
Well... Silk sock that looks like Saerileth, creepy love shrine dedicated to Saerileth, and this picture seems to have been made in an instant when she was changing. [Magically incinerates the picture.]
What... what doth the purpose of this sock be?
...I... don't know how to explain this.
What's that, Boo? Boo says that it is a masturbatory aid used by creepy jerks who are destined to never attain the person they desire and as such they make such disturbing items in a vain effort to simulate their futile hope. He also says that he is ready to go for the eyes if necessary.
Hmm? Boo says that he does not wish to explain this and as such he will not.
[sigh] Edorem likely spent quite some time wearing yon sock upon his hand and touching his sexual organs while gazing at the picture that Asim just burned, most likely hile in the shrine that we found the blueprints for.
Thou, thou whited sepulchre! I didst ever love thee as I did mine own brothers, and thou hast dishonored my trust!
Your brother, hm?
Just how deep of a grave do you intend to dig for yourself, man?
I believe "man-child" is far more appropriate than "man", Anomen.
You're probably right.
Forgive me, Asim, I beg of you! I can say nothing to defend my actions. I do not dare to address Saerileth, but, good sir, I love her. It was not the will of Tyr that she love me, and you have won her. From you I can dare to hope for pardon. This pardon is not my desert, but my punishment is already greater than my fault.
Greater than thy fault? GREATER THAN THY FAULT? Thou hast forsaken mine trust in thee. Ne'er shalt thou see Saerileth again!
This insult can only be wiped out by your blood!
Nay, my love. Sully not thy blade with his blood. Though he is a churl, still he is a champion of Tyr. My love for thee wouldst be forbidden by mine Order didst thou slay him.
Fine. Stay alive, Edorem. It is by Saerileth's mercy that you live.
Fare you well, Asim. Be good to her, I beseech you. Never shall you be troubled by Edorem more. [And he departs for Sigil.]
[sub]Better than you could ever be.[sub] Wait, Jan.
...You still have his pack, don't you...
Eh, just leave it. ...But how did you know to look?
Haerry, the costume.
[Puts on Sherlock Holmes costume and smokes pipe.] Elementary, my dear Asim! The way he shows up randomly, the thing with those flowers, the fact that every time he showed up he wouldn't stop staring at her, and not her face mind you, it all implied that he was a stalker. Plus, at my height, you tend to notice certain... reactions to what he was looking at.
Meanwhile, in Sigil...
M-my shrine! It's ruined! What happened to cause this?
I happened, motherfucker!
M-my lord, why would you do this?
Why would I do this? WHY WOULD I DO THIS?! Why do you THINK I would do this? You are one creepy bastard!
I beg your forgiveness, Lord...
HELL no! You're going to have to work for that!
Oh, I'm a horrible, horrible person. I had fun writing that, though.
After the single most awkward experience of our collective lives, we went to bed. I'm pretty sure we all had nightmares, too. The next morning...
And how the hell are you forgetting last night?
Well, that's over, and it's not like things can get any w-
DO NOT SAY SUCH THINGS ANOMEN IT IS A REALLY REALLY BAD IDEA!
Gah! Get your hands off of me!
Archival Commentary - I should just kill myself for that. I really should.