Part 27: Continued
And so, we journeyed on, destroying as we needed until we came to a large open area.
I resented that you had become a knight, while I ten years your senior, was still only a squire.
Ah, 'tis of no matter. [Saerileth smiles brightly at Anomen.] And I doubt not that thou wilt be a fine knight.
I shall strive to, Saerileth. [The burly knight towers over the delicate maid, and he smiles broadly.] Perhaps you could give me some 'instructions'?
[Saerileth takes the light, flirtatious words seriously and responds in kind.] Nay, Sir Anomen. I am a Chosen of Tyr, and 'twould not be fitting that I instruct a Knight of Helm.
Never mind, Saerileth. [Anomen sighs heavily, then glances at you and chuckles.] Such a child.
Anyhow, the large blue thing here causes an assortment of spiders to attack when you first step on it, hence the presence of my large earth elemental.
And another assortment of critters pops up every time you click on this statue. It would be a nice way to grind experience, but they give crappy experience.
As we explored, we encountered a large structure and chasm.
It was time for riddles.
Life is my answer.
Life is the bridge that must end in death, though duty may hold it at bay. You have spake of the bridge but this alone is not enough. You are not alone on the bridge. Call forth the name to summon the path. It travels with you, and through it you travel, and yet it does leave you behind. Who is with you?
Time is my answer.
Time is with you and you travel through it while it moves away. Time goes on with and without you, though duty may make it wait. The bridge is not stable, and the end changes place. Call forth the name to summon the path. Choose the most difficult step on the bridge.
The current one, for it alone is my choice.
The current step may be your first and may also be your last. The other two are abstract; this one is yours to choose and shape, though duty may force the choosing. You have summoned the path, and may join in the guarding. Duty awaits you.
And thus was the bridge formed. Ahead there were some Gauth beholders, so I summoned up some earth elementals. Well, tried to. It didn't quite work out as planned.
Eh, what's this scroll? Oh wow this is AWESOME.
Further on, there were some people.
That's it? I am a stranger in your time-lost buried city and all you say is hello?
It is a wonderfully appropriate response all the same, my raven.
What would you have me say? Shall I proclaim the wonder of your arrival? Shall I bemoan the terrible length of the ages? Should my knees buckle at the very sight of you?
I would appreciate the first and third responses, but I would likely find the second very boring.
I'm sure it would make you feel important, but I've simply no interest in you. I think you'll find we care about very little at all.
It sounds like YOU need come CENTIPEDE BAGELS.
FINE. Then tell me who you are. What is this place?
Ah, you wish the exposition. Typical. I should really write it down so I don't have to keep repeating it. Not that we have had a lot of visitors. We are the guardians. We guard the temple. This is very important because every few hundred years someone almost wanders this way. We have forgotten what it is that we guard, we have forgotten how many generations we have been here, and we have forgotten what it is to have a purpose.
But you must be serving some greater plan. Who is the temple dedicated to?
The temple? It has been so long since we have uttered the god's name it has been forgotten by most. What loyalty do we owe a creature that would condemn us to this?
Then why do you stay?
We cannot leave. We cannot even die. We are born again in an endless recycling of our souls. We learn over and over again that we are condemned to a fate we no longer want.
And what is this disease you are afflicted with?
It is the disease of our minds and souls. We grow to hate the power that sustains us, so it rots us from the inside. There is no cure. There is no escape. There is no end.
Yes, I am sure that you suffer from leprosy and it is very terrifying and you will eventually triumph over Despite through a series of contrived coincidences. I will try to release you somehow.
Do what you will; there is no escape for us. We have accepted this. We teach it to the newly young, who then teach it to the old that die and are reborn. The deal which placed us here has been followed to the letter, and we are never to be released from service no matter how pointless the task. You will fail. You cannot help but fail. We know this. We expect nothing other.
You worship suffering like a martyr of Ilmater, but you lack pride or purpose.
I do not know this name you speak of, but even the name of our own god is lost, so it is not surprising. We direct nothing but loathing to the temple now. Take what you will. We are guardians in name only. We might as well be simple mindless skeletons.
The temple they guarded was marvellous to behold.
Aww, look! It's a demonic emo kid! Who's a cute little rebel? You are! Yes you are, oh yes you are!
Hey, evil over here!
Yes yes, I'm sure you're terrifying and evil, but I'm busy at the moment.
There's really only Imoen left.
Imoen, thy friend from thy youth. Please tell me more of thy childhood with her, mine own.
She is like a sister to me. We grew up together, and I won't rest until she is rescued!
And we shall save her, my heart! Thine honor is bound no less than thy brother's love, and we shall save her. [Saerileth leans her brow to yours and looks into your eyes.] Fear not, my best beloved one. Thine Imoen shall be with us again.
Psst, demon guy! We're on!
What? Oh, crap! Where was I? Oh, yes!
Bhaal power, Cure Light Wounds!
Healing magic, my one weakness! How did you know?!
You kind of run around screaming it.
I could say the same of you. Are you the chief resident of this temple?
I am I. The Temple is I, though it is not safe for even I. The beast does kill my form repeatedly. You have slain it for but a small time. It comes again and again. The beast is a fell deity, for it has more power than I can muster. My legion of followers feed the creature, and I am weakened and fading. Such power the beast has.
You are not worshipped here. Those outside feel nothing but loathing.
But they must serve; it is the letter of the agreement. They were to guard and I would provide for their lives. This was to be for all time.
Until what? They die and are reborn to guard against nothing? No one comes.
Then it is little wonder I cannot defeat the beast. It is their loathing and pathos, and it has become their object of worship, whether they know it or not. The time has passed. I have naught here, and will not again. Even the great device has waned in power, and is not so epic a danger as once I thought. I weep for my children. Their hate sustains this place, though they would intend otherwise. Had they not thought of me at all I would have perished, and soon after so would they.
Is there anything I can do you help you? Hmm. Typos in the world, eh? Annoying.
The letter of the bargain was that I protect the great device until the end of time. The creator races were very specific. I will reinterpret the words, for it is surely the end of MY time. The intent of the bargain was that the great device would not be used again. If it is indeed the 'end of time,' then my last act should be to destroy it. I have not the power to do so.
What would give you the power?
Faith. The belief and conviction of my followers is the lifeblood of power. There must be a way to spur their faith. Open your mind. Perhaps you have knowledge of use. Yes, I see in your mind the way to release this place. You seek the great device for another, though you owe them no allegiance and they intend to kill you. The cause is simple. You will take the great device, the piece that I possess, and you shall combine it with the piece the creature already has. The assembled rod would surely destroy the beast. You must use the item upon the beast, and then return it to me. Use it but once, or you will perish under its power. Tell my people that you carry the piece that I give you that you might deplete it; that you go to restore its components so that it may be disposed of as a whole, not in part. My people must know I intend to destroy it when you return... but more, they must know I intend to end their service. This simple act of bringing the two parts of the rod together will instill a small amount of faith, for an instant. If they are in my presence, such an instant will allow me to destroy the artifact.
I will help you. Give me the device.
Take it, and plant the seed of hope within my followers. They may not believe you now, but when you return they will perhaps have a spark.
You have the great device! What are you doing with that? It cannot be moved! It has not been moved in a millenium!
It is the will of your god that it be taken from this place and weakened!
I do not believe you. Nothing has changed here in ages. If you have the great device it is only because our god is weaker than we imagined.
You will see. It is to be destroyed when I return. You will be free of your duty.
Nothing changes here. You will not return. We will not be freed. There is nothing to lend our faith to but hate and loathing. Go. It is the last we will see of you.
I am very sorry it took me this long to make an update. I was distracted by a lot of things.
Archival Commentary - they were probably all stupid. Just saying.