Part 4: Shipwrecked, Minus the Ship
Chapter 2 - Shipwrecked, Minus the Ship
Music: "A Wind of Aleroth"
Download (thanks to Grawl)
I stepped outside Joram's house, and breathed the fresh air deeply. I read a signpost just outside the house.
I presumed that was tongue-in-cheek or an inside joke.
I spotted a gate to the south, I headed for it, eager to make up lost time. But as I passed the edge of a house, I saw an elf approach an old human.
Video - Lanilor and Mardaneus (Voice Acting)
That's the mad magician? I'd better hang back. I don't know how he'd react to a stranger. It's never good when magicians get... twitchy.
I slowly stepped back a bit, but curiosity forced me to keep watching from the edge of the building.
Mardaneus appeared to be disoriented. His eyes focused on the elf.
What? Who? Oh, it's you, Lanilor, I was... Arrgh!
Mardaneus doubled over, clutching his head. His eyes lost focus again. "HE WILL COME! THE END IS UPON US!" he shouted.
The elf, apparently named Lanilor, looked very worried. He uttered a fairly strong curse in Elvish. "Sheloi! You're raving Mardaneus! You must take more rest. Come: let me take you home."
Mardaneus continued raving as if he hadn't heard Lanilor. "BUT NEMESIS IS NEAR! WE MUST BE VIGILANT! WE MUST BE PURE! WE MUST uh... um BEHAVE!"
Mardaneus's eyes refocused once more on Lanilor and he seemed to be himself. "What did you say, Lanilor? Rest? Yes, I could try to sleep.... If only the voice in my head would be silent..."
Lanilor put a kindly hand on Mardaneus's shoulder and escorted him down the street.
Wizards who lose their minds are incredibly dangerous, to themselves as well as those for many miles around.
At that thought a trickle of ice water ran down my spine.
That vision... how do I know I'm not going mad? ... STOP IT! Thinking that way is pointless. I'm either sane or I'm so insane that I think that I AM sane... and now I've just confused myself.
Locking those thoughts away, I reached Aleroth's gate and hurried out, away from the insane wizard... and plunging right into an ambush...
Video - Orc Ambush
A handful of human soldiers were fighting a losing battle against a dozen orcs. It looked like the orcs had been waiting in ambush.
Those sons of Damned...
As I watched, the human soldiers were slaughtered. I winced in empathy as the curved orc blades and black arrows easily punched through steel plate armor with a horrible crunching sound, a mix of buckling metal and breaking bone.
I suddenly felt very vulnerable, clad only in a thin robe that couldn't even turn aside a chilly breeze.
There was one survivor, a Knight in fancy armor and carrying a shiny sword.
The Knight hurried up to me. "Quick! Get inside the gate! The orcs won't attack the village until their numbers are greater, so you'll be safe in there for now."
As far as Heroic Battlecries are concerned, my response won't go down in history. "I ... er ... well, all right..."
We returned inside the relative 'safety' of Aleroth's flimsy wooden gate. It didn't even have a lock or bar on the inside.
"I'm sorry about your men," I said sincerely.
"Aye, that's a kindness," said the Knight. His shoulders were slumped and he was gazing downwards. "They were some of the best and bravest soldiers that I've ever had the pleasure to serve with." He sighed softly. "But now is not the time for grieving. It clouds the mind and dulls the senses, often when we need them most."
He paused. "Mourning life never returns the dead," he said in a low voice tinged with sadness. "Mourning life never returns the dead," It sounded like a mantra drilled into him through training.
The Knight straightened up, back to being the professional soldier.
I am Lord Seth, and - in case you are the sort who looks for strife and woe - let me introduce you to my noble sword, Brightblade. Now, with these formalities over, is there a reason why you impede my way?
Why did you risk your life to come to this village?
It is no secret: I was sent here by my general. A mysterious plague is haunting the streets of the poor district of Rivertown. I am to request the aid and assistance of the good healers who life here.
A plague. I felt a pang of sadness that I couldn't identify. Maybe I lost someone I knew. I shivered at the thought of Jenna lying alone in a crowded ward filled with the dead and dying.
By the Seven Gods! Tell me more about this plague!
Large parts of the poor district are under quarantine and people are dying everywhere. It is not a pretty sight, I'm afraid...
Seth paused, considering the situation.
"Hmm... this 'gate'," he said with disdain, "...is all that guards Aleroth from the bandits. Friend, I would like to ask you a favour. Could you carry my message to the healers while I guard the gate? I have seen signs that an orc scouting party is nearby. I think I'd better wait here and keep watch.
"How can the healers leave their village if there are orc marauders hunting all around?" I asked.
Seth clearly wasn't having a good day, and his patience was wearing thin. "Well obviously they will be escorted, you dullard!" he snapped.
My day wasn't going much better, and being insulted didn't help my mood. "And where are you going to find an escort for them? You barely escaped the orcs yourself," I snapped right back.
"Your observation is correct. Annoying, but correct. Nevertheless, a way must be found..."
We stood for a moment glaring at each other. I gave in.
I sighed, "Very well, Lord Seth. I'll tell the healers that they're needed in Rivertown."
"Excellent, you have my thanks. In the meantime, Brightblade and I will ruin the day of any minion of evil who tries to get into the settlement.
I nodded and said firmly, "But after I talk to the healers, I'll be going through that gate."
Seth's helmet made his bitter laughter come out with a hollow, echoing tone. "Oh you are, are you? I very much doubt that there's anything worth going outside for."
"You don't understand," I said, "I need to get to Stormfist. Someone I care about is in danger."
Seth saw the determination in my eyes and stopped laughing.
"You saw what happened to my men," Seth said aloofly, "as I told you, they were some of the best. The cowardly, ambushing orcs cut them down like wheat. You look like you can barely stand. You go out there and you will die. You won't be of any help to whoever it is that needs it."
I knew Lord Seth was right. I was walking and talking just fine, but that was a far cry from outrunning a gauntlet of orcs or a hail of arrows. I swallowed the angry riposte I was set to deliver, and nodded to Seth in acknowledgement. I turned and stalked off without a sound.
From my memory of my first encounter with orcs in these woods, I wasn't one to face them in numbers even before my... accident. I either needed to regain my strength back, or wait for someone to clear the way. At the moment, there was nothing I could do but wait.
"About the Game" posted:
Despite Seth's warning, you are not locked into Aleroth, you're free to leave anytime you want. You can run through the woods and survive. But there isn't any point, because you'll be quite under-levelled if you don't do the Aleroth quests first. Enemies outside the gates start at level 8 and go up from there.
You had two other options when meeting Seth outside the gate. In one you could ask about his knights. Seth says essentially "Damn you, they're sacrificing themselves so I can make it, don't just stand here, run"
In the other one, you offer to take a stand. Seth admires your bravery, but points out that they have archers and it's time for a tactical retreat.
If people are interested, I can post the exact dialogue for those bits.
If you're tough enough, you can kill Seth and take his magic sword. The stats are random, though, and if you kill him directly you lose reputation (your global charisma stat which modifies NPC reactions to you).
The taste of failure was bitter in my mouth as I paced the lanes of the tiny village.
I passed by a small pool of water and knelt at the edge, splashing cold water into my face. My reflection didn't look any older, but the silver hair still worried me. Once again, I asked myself questions I didn't have the slightest ability to answer.
What happened to me in the forest? What was that light that struck me?
I got up, feeling frustrated. There were no answers here. There was nothing here. I didn't even tell the healers about the plague.
Why bother telling the healers, when they couldn't even leave if they wanted to?
I wound up in the cemetery.
In a morbid mood, I read the tombstones. Most were uninteresting, - and one was oddly blank - but two of the tombstones caught my interest. I read them aloud.
Video - Zombie Jake (Voice Acting)
Hmm... He must not have been a popular fellow to put such a nasty message on his tombstone.
Those words tugged something in my brain.
23 Apirius 1218
Do you promise me you'll stay out of trouble?
Oh, come on. I vowed, didn't I? You were there. Does "I vow to you that I will dedicate my life to helping whoever is in need in any way I can" ring any bells?
Jenna tried to frown, but couldn't help herself and ended up half-smiling. "I'm glad to see you smile. ... But I really wish you'd take this seriously. You've done a lot of things you need to make up for."
"I know that better than anyone," I said defensively. "I meant what I said."
"You'd better," she said teasingly, giving me a sharp poke in the chest with her finger. "I have ways of finding out what you've been up to, even a whole country away."
"I'm not quite sure how I'll go about following in your footsteps, I uh... I'm not much of a speaker," I said. It sounded lame, even to my ears.
Jenna walked to a cupboard and picked up a wrapped package lying on a shelf.
"This might help", she said. "It's your certificate from Magicum Omnus Liberum. You still are a fully accredited mage."
"Really? I would have figured that "the Mole" would have burned that, after what I did."
Jenna kept her face neutral and said, "It was decided to classify the incident as a training accident."
I don't speak politics well, but even I picked up a few things. "You mean father bribed them," I said. Jenna didn't answer, but the silence told me I was right.
"Anyway, I thought you should have that," Jenna said, changing the subject. "The carriage is packed. I shouldn't keep it waiting."
"Don't worry," I said, "I know you're nervous, but you'll do fine.
"You will... go see mother and father before you leave, won't you?" I asked.
Jenna nodded. "Yes... yes, I will."
There was another moment of silent contemplation, then we walked over to each other and hugged goodbye.
"I love you, Jeremiah. Goodbye, I'll write when I get there."
"So long, and good riddance," I said with a smirk.
Jenna laughed and punched me in the shoulder.
I kissed her on the cheek and escorted her to the waiting carriage. The horses stamped their feet impatiently.
"Good luck, Jenna," I said. "Be safe."
"'Be safe?' Coming from you, that's funny," Jenna laughed. "I'll be fine."
The memory has been happy at the time. Now with her fate a mystery to me, it was just painful. The callous words on the tombstone were salt in the wound.
"Good Riddance." "GOOD RIDDANCE."
The words began bouncing around inside my head faster and faster.
They were among the last words I'd said to Jenna before she left. I meant them in jest, teasing her, but now, with Jenna missing, and me helpless, shipwrecked in this place... Every second I wait here may be costly. Because I was so late, Jenna could already be dead-
The frustration and sense of helplessness that had been building boiled over into anger. I lost control, like a child having a tantrum. I grabbed the vase at my feet and flung it in a random direction. It sunk into the soft earth on Jake's grave.
Almost before I had a chance to wonder why the earth on Jake's grave was soft, I got my answer.
To my surprise and shock, the dirt stirred and a corpse pulled itself partially out of the ground.
Apparently Mean Ol' Jake was now a Mean Ol' Zombie, and worse, he saw me.
Time to run, I think.
"About the Game" posted:
In case you were wondering, and didn't watch the video; yes, Zombie Jake is entirely real. I am not making it up.
In this game, if you're close to a moveable object - which is most of the objects in the game, in fact, you can drag it anywhere on the screen you can see (which doesn't have a red X on your cursor). You can drag and combine objects if the object you're trying to drag onto flashes white. For example, drag an empty mug onto a Keg of Beer to produce a Mug of Beer.
Zombie Jake moved in slow, but deliberate lurching strides. Something about his pace told me that he could keep it up forever. Sooner or - much sooner, actually - I'd get tired. I needed to kill him while I still had some strength left to fight.
"Come on brain," I muttered to myself, "remember something useful. A spell, any spell would be handy."
My brain actually seemed to listen...
8 Febirium 1214
The class was abuzz. My friends Eloric and Tom Genusson were in the midst of a friendly argument when I strolled up.
"...what is it with you humans and your fascination with the undead," Eloric asked?
Tom looked amused. " 'You humans?' " he said, with exaggerated quotes and a friendly smile.
Eloric backtracked, "I didn't mean it like that-"
Tom started, "Listen, my pointy-eared friend," but I interrupted and asked, "What's going on?"
"Hey, Jer," Tom said, " 'The Elf,' " Tom said with air quotes, "thinks that learning how to summon a wolf would be much more fun than learning how to summon a skeleton."
Eloric frowned. "Necromancy is nothing to be taken lightly. Raising the dead is forbidden in our culture," he huffed
I grinned. To outsiders it may have looked like the start of an angry row, but I knew that there was nothing my two friends enjoyed more than pushing each others buttons.
From behind us came a voice, "Actually," said Master Shaluthion (who happened to be an Elf), "only raising dead Elves is forbidden." He raised his eyebrows and looked pointedly at Eloric. "If I recall, Elvish mage-lords had no qualms about raising up the dead of other races in their skirmishes with the Orcs in recent years, yes?"
Eloric looked slightly embarrassed, and said "Err... Yes." Tom put on his best "cat-ate-the-housesparrow" grin.
Shaluthion nodded, and turned to the rest of the class. He said, "I should point out that contrary to rumor, we do not use real corpses in summoning rituals. Let's begin. As you've clearly heard, we will indeed be learning a basic summoning ritual today. "I'll do a demonstration."
He cleared his throat and uttered a string of syllables...
I took a breath and cast the spell. There was a green cloud, and then...
Nothing happened. I tried again, concentrating intensely...
A tiny, ethereal rat appeared. It gave a triumphant "Squeek!" and bravely charged at Zombie Jake.
Jake simply stomped it flat without breaking stride.
Yep, definitely in trouble here.
Next Time: Here and Now
Behind the Scenes:
Here's a map showing the places we've seen in Aleroth this update:
- This summons a rat that runs around. It attracts attention and your enemies will chase after it, but it's got low HP and can't attack. It also can be used to trigger floor-based traps, instead of the usual method of using your foot. It's not worth putting points into - they just increase the number of rats and the rats HP, but unfortunately, there are no spell books for this available. Male Wizards get one free point. I keep forgetting to use it, even though it's an excellent distraction.
Here's a little side conversation I didn't have with Seth. It's one of hundreds that have no relevance whatsoever to a quest, they're just background to help distinguish the many NPC's from each other by giving them unique character. I'll be using as many of these as I feel are appropriate, because it's a cheap way to create memorable characters without me doing any work. I probably won't include every minor character or quest, there's too many.
Your sword is called Brightblade? Why the gaudy name?
The sword Brightblade was given to me by an old wizard when I finished my initiation. He told me to treat it like a living person - like my own best friend. He also said that if I gained the respect of the sword, it would be a formidable ally in the fight against all that is evil. It's name, he said, ' is Brightblade, and when you discover the reason of its naming, you will have reached your life's destiny!' ... So far I have not uncovered the reason for the title - other than the simply descriptive, of course.
Seriously, Lord Seth has no more importance in the game, nor does his sword or wizard mentor show up. That's the kind of character the developers put into the NPC's of the game. However... in Divinity 2, You can meet the still-living Lord Seth, kill him and take Brightblade for yourself.
What's fake in this update?
- Actually, because it's part of the village's main plot, this cutscene takes place the second you step outside Joram's house so you can't miss it, even though there's no way you could have seen it from where you triggered it.
- The orc ambush is real, but the actual battle happens several screens from the village gates, there's no way you should have been able to see it.
- Lord Seth gets down to business right away. I added a brief moment where he grieves for his men.
- I had to make up some excuse for Jeremiah to be a prick and disregard the explicit instructions on the grave.
- You can't actually fail to cast a spell, like I had Jeremiah do, but I figured it'd make sense for him to need a couple of tries to get his magic legs under him again.