Part 60: Battling with the pen!
Chapter 46 - Battling with the pen!
Oh conveniently-placed exit portal, how I love you.
Uhhhh. Hi. Haven't seen you in a while. It was pretty nice actually.
Oh-ho! So you do know who I am, now? I must admit, you've changed more than a little since the last time we met, before you were straddling the world with your power... so to speak.
Why are you here, now? You've been 'watching my progress', I suppose?
Watching your progress? Hm, not as much as I likely should have. I wish I had known long ago that Gorion would be right. I would have done more than just warn you about your destiny, I think. Have you any idea of the havoc the Bhaalspawn have caused up and down the Coast? The havoc you've caused personally? No, I don't suppose you have. Not that it's entirely your fault. We Harpers have been working tirelessly for weeks now to prevent the panic from reaching a boiling point. Not a simple task. As I understand it, though, your quest is nearly at an end, correct?
I think so.
I have to leave again, soon, so I can't help you much. But I can help you a little, whether you like it or not. It's important that this all ends, soon, but that doesn't mean I won't lift a finger over it.
So how can you help me, then?
Balthazar is known to me. His monastery is sealed up tight with powerful magic... where he gets it from, I don't know. But you're going to have to get inside, obviously, or he'll ambush you eventually. I know it may not be pleasant to contemplate, but the rogue Saemon Havarian holds the key to entering the monastery. He is once again with the Amkethran smugglers, at the moment. As I understand it, Havarian has been into the monastery several times up until now. He may be able to help you once again, if you're willing to look for his aid. There may be another way in, but you'll have to find it on your own. Now I must go. From this point on, attaining your destiny is completely your own affair. I wish you well.
Of course, there was far, far more important business than fulfilling my destiny. There are greater things in this world than the intrigue of gods. Far, far greater things. A wise man once said "always keep the pantaloons," and there is truth to this, but there is one grand exception to the rule.
You mentioned materials you need to work... do I have what you need, now?
Well, let me see your belongings. It'll just be a quick look... Ooo! What's this? Golden pantaloons! My, my! And... and silver pantaloons, too! (gasp!) A... a complete set! Bronze pantalettes! Gold, silver *and* bronze! Merciful heavens!! My lord! It is so rare to find three such extraordinary specimens! If... if you would allow me to work, I could put them through the Pantaloon Ergo-Magical Transmogrifier right now!
The... um... ergo what?
Oh, never mind, never mind... just allow me to demonstrate!
Enjoy your outfit, my good man. Me, I've got to bring my notes to the university! Those gnomes will have to stop laughing at me now! Ha hahahaha!!
And what was created?
Nothing less than the almighty Big Metal Unit.
It is very, very powerful armor. Note Jan's AC before
However, it's not without its downsides - as you can see from the paperdoll, it makes you into an iron/adamantite golem, whichever you prefer to think of it as. The problem with this is that, well, a good quantity of the doors are now too small for you to fit through.
Also created was the Big Metal Rod and various ammunition packs for it.
It is 5 attacks/round regardless of anything except Improved Haste in which case it is 10.
And, of course, a trial was to be undergone.
But first... let's make sure we're not bothered by any of your so-called friends. This is a private matter.
No. Not a clue.
Tsk. You'd think Bhaal would have spread his seed out a little more intelligently. No matter. I am Cyric. The reigning God of murder... not to mention of strife, lies and illusion. Most recently I've recovered from a little bout of madness... not that it's important to you... only to find the seedlings of the former holder of my office everywhere, like weeds. There's only a bare few of the spawn left, now, of course. Like you. I'm not convinced you've the temperament or desire for the office of murder... but one can never be too sure. You can imagine my concern, hm?
How do I know you're Cyric? You sure don't look like a god.
As opposed to what? Some grisly avatar like the Slayer? A cloud of smoke? A massive face in the sky with a booming voice? I am only here to talk, to gauge your threat to me... if any.
If I was a threat to you, why wouldn't you just kill me?
Ahhhh, if only things were so easy as that. But if I get involved in the whole Bhaalspawn mess, then my own opponents amongst the gods would intervene. Mystra... or Kelemvor, perhaps. And it seems that Ao, the Overfather, has an interest in this as well... which is very odd. He wishes this little climactic end for the Bhaalspawn to play itself out without interference from the rest of us. And so I, the great Cyric, am restricted to watching and observing. And yet if there is anyone who should feel threatened by a child of the former Lord of Murder, it is *me*. There is just no justice anymore. I've been watching your progress for a while. Very impressive. I've formed a few conclusions, but let's hear it from the horse's mouth. How much should I fear you?
I'm not going to answer that. No matter what I say, you'll make up your own mind.
I see. I would have expected you to say as much, Asim. (sigh) Who could have expected that this level of the Abyss, this 'throne of Bhaal' would give me such problems? Hmmm. If only I could have destroyed it, to begin with.
Why didn't you just take it over, then, when you became Lord of Murder?
I didn't need it. I didn't want it. I have my own plane in Pandemonium, thank you very much... much better than anywhere in the Abyss. But obviously I should have paid more attention to this dismal place. But it's no matter. Can't undo what's already been done... and if you try, well, that leads to all sorts of different problems. And I'd rather not open *that* bag of worms once again. As for you... I doubt you will seek my realm of influence. If you even get that far, that is. I have little desire to see yet another godling who might be a possible opponent... if you even have any power worth noting. I think you need to be tested. That *is* what you created these little rooms for, isn't it? To test yourself? Mystra and Ao couldn't fault me for aiding you towards that end, now, could they? Perhaps we will meet again. For now, let us see how you do against *my* favored. I suggest you prepare yourself.
Three guesses how that went. Got a nice power out of it, though.
And so, off to meet with [groan] Saemon Havarian.
What's this, an ambush?
Does it look like an ambush? Do you suppose my slaughtered comrades, here, will attack you? I wouldn't blame you for the thought, but I'm hardly in the mood for frivolities. I figured you'd be coming back to Amkethran soon enough... and so I waited for you. I have a proposition, if you're interested.
You've betrayed me constantly, even with those guards! Why should I trust you?!
I've done only what I've had to, in the past. I may owe you for my unfortunate rudeness, perhaps, but overall you and I are pretty even, Asim.
You don't think I had much of a choice with all that business in Spellhold, did you? And for all my troubles, for bringing you to the island, I ended up losing my best ship. And then there's the business of my poor men, here. If it wasn't for you and all those other Bhaalspawn, my little smuggling business here could have continued quietly as it was. As it is, I've lost nearly all my investment. And I'm not very happy about it.
You're not laying all your misfortunes at *my* feet, are you?
Did I say that? But you are involved at least indirectly, whether you had any malicious intent or no. I certainly don't harbor any ill-will towards you, after all. We could argue about who's done what to whom all day. Or maybe less, as I imagine my being chopped to bits might make your argument a little more effective than mine. Regardless, hear me out first. I blame Balthazar, if anything. He's made my life nothing short of difficult and now he's gone and curtailed me completely. And harmed some perfectly innocent people. He's got to pay for that. As I understand it, you've got to get inside the monastery. And I've got a couple of ideas which might enable you to do that. Interested?
I'll listen to what you have to say. I promise nothing more than that.
Now I knew you were more reasonable than you seemed. Alright, then. The best way I can think of to get inside the monastery is through disguise. My men, ah, scavenged a few uniforms. It's enough for you and me to bluff our way past the gate guards. I'd need to go with you, naturally... I've done this before and I know the proper codes to tell them.
And what do you get out of this?
I get to exact revenge on Balthazar. I'm a man with a reputation to uphold, after all. I can't allow slights like this to pass, you know. And besides... I suppose I owe you one.
Fine. We'll do that. Double-cross me again, Saemon, and it'll be the *last* time. Got it?
Alright, then. Give me a few moments to prepare. Come and talk to me again once you're ready to go, alright?
One brief nap later...
Fine, let's go. But you'd better be on the level.
Would I steer you wrong, Asim?
With the mercy of the gods, it shall be so, brother.
Be righteous, brother.
Be righteous, brother.
I brought him. But he may be more than you can handle. I drugged this one once before... I owe him one.
I knew Balthazar was a fool to trust you, Saemon!
And I thought I was a fool to trust him, but here we are. My world, she has just been turned upside-down. I wonder if it's the way it started? Doubtful, but it has turned so much I suppose it's possible. Anyway, time to kill you guys.
I demand to know where Melissan is!
I assure you, the Lady Melissan is not here. We had a... disagreement from which she hastily departed. I shall deal with her once my business with you is finished.
Save your lies! I know you were working with Abazigal and Sendai.
I suppose it may have appeared as such, though in truth I have plotted their destruction ever since Melissan recruited me into the Five.
Are you saying Melissan is the leader of the Five?
Melissan recognized the taint of Bhaal within me, just as she recognized it in Sendai, Abazigal and the others. Just as she recognized it in you. She lured me with promises of power and glory, but I followed her for a different reason. Only by joining the Five could I discover who the others were - and plot their demise.
I guess by killing your "allies" I have done your dirty work for you.
I wish I could take the credit for this ruse, Asim. But it seems I was not the only member of the Five who plotted the downfall of the others. Melissan is the puppet master pulling your strings in this staged production. I have merely tried to stay out of your path for as long as possible, anxious to see if you would prevail.
Why would Melissan have gathered the Five only to plot their destruction?
It matters not, Asim. In the end both Melissan and I have what we want: the other members of the Five are dead, though she and I remain at odds.
And now I suppose you plan to kill me so you can resurrect Bhaal all by yourself?
Oh no, Asim. I have no such designs. Bhaal's taint is an evil blight upon the world. I have no intention of bringing the Lord of Murder back into existence. My plan is much more altruistic. I have vowed to exterminate all of Bhaal's children, forever wiping the Realms clean of his tainted existence. You have merely helped me in my goal.
But you are a Child of Bhaal as well - what happens to you?
Once I am certain I am the last, once I know there are no others, I will perform a ritual suicide. Bhaal's evil will die with me. But first, I must end your evil existence.
But I am not evil! I am a force of good and justice!
It is true. You are a good man, Asim, and your stance against evil is without question. Your fight against the taint of our evil father is worthy of praise. But regardless of our wishes on the matter, our destiny has been written for us, Asim. Some may run from it or deny it, while others embrace it...but each and every Bhaalspawn has a seed within them that has sprung forth a fruit laden with blood and murder. Do you deny this?
Are you implying that you are somehow different, Balthazar?
No. I have brought my share of death and destruction to this land. But I see a larger purpose behind it...I seek to end the possibility of Bhaal's return forever, and to wipe his taint from the land. I have mastered the power within me and held the evil in check, but I know as well...if not better...then most of my brethren the threat that it holds for all of Faerun. I will not allow this. I have dedicated my life to preventing it. If only we had met under other circumstances, Asim...I would have liked to sit and compare the paths that have brought us to this point. If we had not been forced by destiny to bear this taint upon our souls, what would have become of us? I regret what I must do, yet I know it must be done.
And what becomes of Melissan, then? Is she free to raise Bhaal and complete her plans?
Of course not. It is she that holds the key to Bhaal's resurrection. After you are dead, she too must be destroyed.
Then we should fight her together! How do you know she still can't summon Bhaal...everything you've fought for will be for nothing!
Fight her together? Perhaps what you are saying holds merit. But what if I died during the battle? What if I was weakened, in the end...you might find yourself...tempted. How could I trust you? ... I... I had thought when this moment arrived, I would hold clearly to my purpose. We must...end this, Asim. I wish this to be over with, one way or the other.
You don't have to do this, Balthazar. We don't have to fight each other.
But I do. It is my destiny. What other choice have I?
Alaundo's prophecy does not mean the Bhaalspawn must be destroyers, Balthazar! It also means we can stop the prophecy from becoming true, I know this!
What do you mean? How do you know this?
It was told to me by a Solar, an agent of prophecy! It...oh, I know how it sounds, but it's true!
I have no agent of the heavens to interpret my destiny for me, Asim. And my path remains clear. ... I... I am at a loss, Asim. You question me, and I have no good answers for you. My heart tells me that you must be killed, but I am not sure if I should listen to it. What...what would you have me do?
Join me, Balthazar. Let us fight Melissan together, instead of doing what she wants us to.
I cannot, Asim. You must take the battle to Melissan. It is your destiny to see that Bhaal's legacy ends here and now. But you must promise me, Asim...you must promise me that you will not give into the temptation. Should you defeat Melissan and the power become available to you, you must turn away from it...you have seen your struggle as it is now, with only a sliver of that taint. Do not take it, Asim...even a god can be tempted, you must realize that. Promise me you will turn it away.
If I am given the option, Balthazar...I will refuse the taint. I swear it.
Then I am satisfied. The essence of our sire ends with me...and with you. May the gods forgive me. May you...may you forgive me, brother...
That is one of the biggest changes of Ascension - you can actually talk Balthazar down. If Asim's wisdom were higher (19+ if I'm not misunderstanding Infinity Explorer, 18+ if I am) I could have convinced him to join me as an ally at the final battle, which in retrospect would have been really goddamn helpful for reasons that I will relate when we get there.
But the Five aren't destroyed! Melissan remains!
The one you know as Melissan was never a true member of the Five, godchild. She is no child of Bhaal. The dead god, Bhaal, has not been resurrected and, indeed, may never be. You must understand what awaits you now at the end of your journey, godchild... and for this, the one you know as Melissan will explain for herself.
You are here at my sufferance, spirit. You will answer our questions.
I am no dead thing. You have called a piece of a living goddess to you... however you have done it. Should I become aware of what you have done, you will pay dearly.
You are no goddess yet, mortal. The prophecy has not come to fruition.
It will soon enough. Everything has happened as I wished it... and this will be no different. All of Bhaal's essence will be mine!
Then explain yourself. If you are correct, it shall make no difference in the end.
True enough! So be it. My name is Amelyssan the Blackhearted, High Matriarch and greatest Deathstalker of my Lord Murder's Bhaalist temple. 'Twas I who led all the chants in His holy name! 'Twas I who harbored his avatar when the Lord of Murder was cast down to walk amongst us in the Time of Troubles. To his greatest priestess did he come for succor!
One of His priesthood needed to have access to the essence that would be collected from the Bhaalspawn... one of His priesthood would have to perform the necessary rites to give the dead Lord of Murder back that essence. And so great Lord Bhaal entrusted that duty to me. After His death, I alone retained access to His essence. And my power grew as each one of His mortal children died, their divinity returning to the source.
And so you have betrayed me, Amelyssan the Blackhearted. The time draws nigh and yet you perform no rites!
That is correct. Remain dust, my foolish god.
It was I who masqueraded as the protector of Bhaalspawn, herding the ones that the Five could not find to their doom. I led the last Bhaalspawns to Saradush and had them slaughtered!
But you couldn't have known that I would be there.
No, that's true. I knew that Illasera would perish against your might... but I did not expect you to show up quite so soon. Still, you proved a fortunate arrival. Getting rid of one of the Five without it looking like my doing was one thing... but with you already in Saradush, I could turn you on Yaga-Shura as well. After I let him into Saradush to kill the other Bhaalspawn, of course. And then you turned on the rest of those paranoid fools while I distracted them. The Five were the last thing I had to deal with before I could become the Lady of Murder, myself... and you've dealt with them nicely.
I'll stop you, Melissan. You won't get away with this.
I have most of the essence of Bhaal under my control, fool. I am nearly a goddess... I control the entire Abyssal realm that was once Bhaal's, all of the Throne of Blood. Do you dare come and face me there? Or shall I have to hunt you down like the sorry dog that you are? Because make no mistake...one way or another, every last drop of that divine essence will be *mine*.
I'd confront your kind of evil wherever I had to go... and I will win.
And what manner of evil is that?
In- incompetent?! I, who manipulated events thus far? I, who guided the Bhaalspawn to each other's throats?! INCOMPETENT?!
Oh, like it's so hard to set power-hungry morons at each other's throats. You are incompetent, and I will defeat you.
Then why wait?! Let's see how the prophecy ends right here and now!!
As you wish!!
Enough! A battle here will solve nothing. Your course is set, god-child. Return to your pocket plane... and when you are ready, you will need to end its existence. Then you will be within the Throne of Blood... and Melissan will be at hand. She is not yet done taking the essence of Bhaal's children. I suggest that you move quickly, god-child. The final act of the prophecy awaits.
And what was the final trial?
I am the ultimate expression of your power, godling. I am the last of the barricades you have erected between yourself and destiny. Defeat me and this plane is no more... there will only be the Throne of Bhaal. But you will not defeat me. For I am the Ravager.
The Ravager is a jerk. He summons these little fuckers endlessly
is immune to Time Stop
and can take one hell of a beating, in addition to his Blade Barrier spam.
After a VERY long time, he went down.
However... This was not the time.
Once again, no updates till next page, but we seem to be pretty close so just carry on arguing over classes or something I don't know.
Archival Note - why did I have Asim repeating a line of Balthazar's? Fixed.