Part 134: Rivellon Reader's Digest #1
Rivellon Reader's Digest - The Adventure of the Dreaming Gem
This is a very special book. It comes in ten parts, of which, only seven are scattered about the game world. So it is actually impossible to get the complete set. However, thanks to some people digging in the game files, the missing pieces have been found.
In the northeast part of Aleroth, there's a locked house.
However, the key is in the barrel right outside. Inside there isn't much, just some random loot in the cellar, and this unique book.
This is the first book in a series of 10, detailing Coram Bloodclub's search for the Dreaming Gem. Unfortunately, only 7 of the 10 books have been placed in the world. But someone has helpfully found the text for the missing books in the game files, so I'll post the rest of the story over the course of the LP.
The Adventure of the Dreaming Gem
Reminisced by Coram Bloodclub, orc adventurer and jewel thief
Part the First - Meeting
The dwarf's reputation as a treasure thief was second to none; that's why I travelled all across Rivellon to meet her. Her professional name was Shadow, and that is the only name of hers I ever discovered. We met in the Dwarven Bread Inn on the winter solstice of my twenty-first year.
She was very comely for a dwarf, with a charming greenish tone to her skin and teeth filed to points. (I have always had a weakness for the women of other races, which is partly why I have been a wanderer all my life - always looking for a new exotic love and always hurrying away from the enraged husbands of my previous exotic loves.)
We ate and drank together and, thoughout the meal, Shadow belched and farted like a well-bred orc maiden. However, though I was yet young and callow, I guessed her charming table manners were solely aimed at softening me up before we got down to business, so I bridled my rising passions.
After eating and some casual chat about the recent fad for elfish-style clothing in Rivertown, we took a private room upstairs and settled to discuss the deal I had travelled so far to offer her.
"Have you ever heard of the Dreaming Gem of Hastor the Vain?" I asked her.
"Aye. What jewel thief hasn't? It is said to be a unique stone, and dwarves who have seen it claim it to be worth at least a million gold pieces. But it's kept in Hastor's Tower. The place is impregnable. Trust me, I've studied the layout with a professional eye. Nobody can get through the gardens - they're guarded by a demon. And even if you did, the magic traps inside the tower would do for you. So why do you mention it?"
"Oh," I replied as casually as I could, "I think I have a way to get you past the demon in the garden. If, in turn, you can get me past the magic traps inside, I think we have a good chance to swipe the gem and escape."
Part the Second - Dealing
In the Cursed Abbey (which we won't visit until Act 4), there is a book on a table in the library. In a sign that visiting here early is intended, you can find the second part of the Adventure of the Dreaming Gem.
Shadow and I discussed our plans to steal the fabled Dreaming Gem for several hours and finally settled that, come what may, I would pay her a thousand gold pieces to join my scheme. Proceeds that came from the sale of the gem we would also split fifty/fifty. Some might say I came off the worse from the deal, but what's a thousand gold pieces here or there when one expects to make a million on the success of a plan and expects sure death if it fails? I handed the money over right then and there.
The hour being near dawn when we had finished, I suggested that we forget sleeping that night and settle the deal with a romp on the bed. With a demure flick of her wrist Shadow broke my nose and her booted foot knocked me through the door of our rented chamber. Gods! For a dwarf that woman knew how to tickle the fancy of an orc warrior. I've known orc chieftain's daughters who had less skill at the courtly art of love play.
I was still holding a rag to my streaming nose (which Shadow had re-set skilfully, but with sexy brutality) when we set off together the following noontime. She traveled light, as a professional thief must, but I was a warrior so had to carry my spare weapons, and certain leather-bound packages, on my back.
I have engaged in many such adventures in my long life, but never one that has stuck in my memory with such clarity, despite the passing of over sixty years. Of course, all the scar tissue helps remind me as well.
The third part of the Adventure of the Dreaming Gem doesn't exist anywhere in the game-world, but luckily someone found the text in one of the files.
Part the Third - Journeying
The journey to the Tower of Hastor the Vain was a long one. As befitted a sorcerer who kept a demon in his garden, Hastor chose to live in isolation as well as in splendid luxury. I knew little of the man, except he was said to be a descendant of a survivor of the Army of the Damned, and thus had demon blood in his veins. This, however, did not over trouble me. I'd yet to meet or hear of a magician (half-demon or not) who could survive a foot of cold iron shoved through his guts.
Of course, fighting was my speciality. Thieving was the skill of my charming dwarven companion, who called herself Shadow. Yet she proved no slouch at combat either, when eight foolish human bandits waylaid us on the road. I took down five of them with my faithful old double-handed sword, but it was Shadow who killed two of the others with her short bow and put an arrow into the rump of the eighth as he fled.
Naturally I tried to congratulate Shadow with a comradely hug and kiss, on which she sunk her sharpened teeth into my chin. I still carry the scars of her dainty fangs to this day. I tell my grandkids that it's where a venomous halfling once bit me, for I keep the true memory deep in my heart... along with the pleasant memory of giving her firm little bottom a squeeze as she let go of me.
The Fourth part of the adventure of the Dreaming Gem also can't be found in the world, so here it is.
Part the Fourth - Entry
I and my companion, the shapely dwarven thief who called herself Shadow, arrived at the Tower of Hastor the Vain on a chilly evening with the snow falling lightly through the trees around us. Shadow appraised the walls grimly.
"It's as I remember from a previous scouting trip," she muttered in a morose tone. "The outer wall encircling the garden is as smooth as crystal and the top is grapnel-proof. How do we get over it orc? Fly?"
"We don't have to go that far just yet, my sweet little bruiser," I replied as lightly as I could. "Lets get a few hours sleep and at moonrise I'll show you something that might surprise you."
However it was Shadow who surprised me, slipping under my sleeping blanket five minutes after we had said goodnight. After as fine a tumble as I ever remember having, she grinned at me with those charming filed teeth of hers and said: "Well? It's the best way to keep warm when you don't dare light a campfire. Besides, you may be dead before we get another chance."
At moonrise (an almost full moon, luckily) we arose, equipped ourselves and set out towards the wall surrounding Hastor's Tower. On arriving at the wall without incident, I slung my sword and my two leather-bound bundles on my back. Then I fitted two iron spikes to the toes of my boots and slipped a pair of knuckledusters with similar spikes over my fists.
"You dwarves may know everything about tunnelling under mountains," I said to Shadow as she piggy-backed onto me between my two bundles, "but give it to us orcs - we know how to climb over them!"
With that I started to drive the spikes into the soft stone of the wall, clambering up its sheer face like a wasp. Our assault on the tower and attempted theft of the Dreaming Gem of Hastor the Vain had begun!
The fifth part of the Adventure of the Dreaming Gem can be found in Hugh Dellabaere's house, just northwest of Stormfist Castle.
Part the Fifth - Flight
I'm a mountain-bred orc, so it didn't take over-long for me to spike-climb a wall only twenty orcs in height. The top of the wall was rounded to prevent thieves climbing up with grapnel lines, but that also meant there was little snow up there when I straddled it, which was a minor relief. Shadow let herself down from my back and helped me unpack the hide-bound bundles I'd brought with me all this way.
"These bloody elven inventions better work," she whispered as we unwrapped them and started fitting the components together.
"Well, if they don't you'll have only a short fall in which to curse me, so I suggest you call me some names now, just in case." Shadow complied, using some of the fruitiest language I've heard outside of a human brothel.
The packages contained woodland wings - an elf invention that allowed short flights of about forty orc-lengths or so. Made of elf silk stretched over a frame of very light, but very strong, wolftree wood, the wings were triangular in shape and hooked to the shoulders. A basic lifting spell gave them a little boost on take-off.
In fact the woodland wings worked perfectly - I had feared that they might not fly well at night with no thermals to ride. The tower in the centre of the snowbound garden was a good two orcs shorter then the surrounding wall, and the wings carried us down to it swiftly but safely. As I looked down during the flight, however, I saw the demon Hastor had set to guard his garden, standing black and huge in the moonlight, staring up at us with fiery eyes.
The instant I hit the flat roof of the tower, I removed the wings and drew my sword, expecting the demon to come bounding up the wall after us, but all was quiet. I cautiously looked over the parapet, but the demon was gone: vanished, without leaving so much as a footprint in the snow. Shadow, at my side, grunted, but without surprise. "As I'd hoped," she whispered, "the demon is an illusion - a kind of scarecrow - only visible to those outside the tower. Hastor is an illusionist, not a summoner."
It was then my turn to call her some pungent names for keeping me in the dark.
The sixth part of the Adventure of the Dreaming Gem can be found in the Dwarven village of Glenborous, in Rimmer's house (the northwestern-most house).
Part the Sixth - Unwelcome Guests
Having done my part in getting myself and Shadow past the great garden wall and onto the roof of the Tower of Hastor the Vain, I felt entitled to take a back seat in the proceedings. I'm a warrior, not a locksmith, but the several trapdoors around the edge of the tower's flat roof had BOOBYTRAP written all over them to my eyes. That was my charming lady companion's area of expertise.
Shadow knelt by a trapdoor and sprinkled a fine white powder around its edges. The trapdoor flared blue for a second, but that was all. Grinning, Shadow muttered a short defusing spell and opened the trapdoor. After only a second's pause, she dropped through soundlessly. I followed more cautiously and found myself in a dusty room with sheets over the furniture.
"We're in luck," Shadow whispered. "This is evidently a spare sleeping chamber. No traps."
"How do you know?" I asked, trying not to move or breathe too heavily.
"Nobody puts traps in guest bedrooms," she replied, moving to the door. "If you forget to turn them all off, it can lead to embarrassing scenes next morning.
"My contacts told me that the Dreaming Gem is kept in a chamber in the centre of the tower, about halfway down," Shadow continued as we crept onto a sombrely lit, enclosed spiral staircase outside the bedroom door. She scattered more of her dust, but this time over the stairs leading downward. Several of the first half-dozen glowed blue for a second, as did the handrail over the stairs that did not glow.
"Ha!" grunted Shadow. "Don't step on the stairs I step over and avoid touching the rail at all. I don't like this. It's too easy. This has to be a trap."
With those comforting words, Shadow moved off down the stairs, scattering her magic dust ahead of her as she went.
The seventh part of the tale doesn't exist in the game world.
Part the Seventh - Battle
It's not easy to tiptoe down a booby trapped spiral staircase, avoiding trigger stairs and trying not to touch the walls when you're a fairly hefty orc warrior with a double-handed broadsword clutched before you. On top of that my companion, the slinky dwarf thief who called herself Shadow, was in no hurry as she moved ahead of me, checking for further traps. After twenty minutes and very small progress, I was getting cramped and not a little bored.
"Are we nearly there yet?" I asked for the fourth time in as many minutes.
"How should I know?" Shadow snapped back, but in a whisper. "I'm going on second-hand reports that the gem we seek is in a chamber about halfway down the tower. We're not halfway down yet...""
But maybe it's through one of these doors we keep passing," I suggested. "Shouldn't we take just a peek in each?" With that I pushed open the door next to me that I had noticed was slightly ajar. (Yes I know, but I was young and foolish in those days. Besides, Shadow's trap-finding powder hadn't made the door flash blue, so I guessed that I was on safe ground.)"
Shadow's squeak of alarm and annoyance was drowned out by the angry hiss of the giant snake that had been snoozing in the chamber. It was at least ten orcs in length and seemed almost too big for the chamber. Fortunately, I had fought big snakes the previous summer in the Dark Forest. The serpents there, although not as big as this fellow, had always reared-up before striking, giving me time to decapitate them.
This snake, unfortunately, was not of an orthodox nature. It shot straight at me like a battering ram, its jaws gaping and its great fangs flashing in the lamplight!
The eighth part of the tale is in Theus's house in Stormfist Castle.
Part the Eighth - Regret
I can't remember how many times I've faced apparently certain death in my life. After a while they all seemed to mass into one long, buttock-clenching memory. But every time I have fallen over some great precipice, had a wolf leap at my unprotected throat, or seen an enraged husband swing a weapon at my ducking head, I get the most incongruous thoughts running through my head.
As the giant snake in the Tower of Hastor the Vain leapt to devour me in a single bite, I remember thinking: "Drat! I'm going to die and I've yet to sleep with a lizard woman." It was a bet I'd made with a friend of mine, you see, that I'd bed a member of each of the six races before the year was out.
Fortunately Shadow - the very female dwarven thief who had only that night enabled me to get a step closer to winning the bet - was in a less contemplative state of mind. As I raised my sword to at least skewer the snake as it bit down on me, I felt a sharp pain in my thigh. The snake's head struck me, went clean through my body, and then the whole animal vanished. I looked down to see Shadow cleaning a stiletto she had just pulled back out of my leg.
"Another illusion," she whispered shortly. "If I hadn't caught your attention, you would have died of expecting to be dead. That's how most combat illusions work: by convincing the enemy to die simply through expectation and instinct. Now bandage that leg and do as only what I tell you from now on. Understood, you great green lummox?"
We continued down the tower, with me trying not to limp, until we reached a door that, to me, looked like all the others we had passed so far.
"We're here," Shadow said with certitude.
"How do you know?" I asked in a whisper.
"This door has mechanical traps, not magical ones. Hastor paid good money to keep people out of this chamber. I'd bet my breeches that the Dreaming Gem is just through this doorway!"
The ninth part of the tale is in Dr. Elrath's house in The Riverttown Market. It can only be obtained in a narrow window after Elrath kicks you out of his house, and before you take discover the secret in his cellar.
Part the Ninth - Hastor the Vain
Shadow took her time dismantling the traps on the door to the chamber of the Dreaming Gem. Magical traps are one thing - easily avoided if you know how, and rarely fatal. But mechanical traps are usually much more dangerous. One might deflect a fireball spell, but it's harder to deflect a lethally poisonous hidden needle or a block of falling masonry.
After half-an-hour of careful fiddling, the door suddenly swung open under Shadow's hand. Beyond it was a chamber that was too big for the tower - indeed, it looked bigger that the audience chamber of Stormfist Castle, the largest room I had yet seen in my life. And floating in the air in the centre of the room was the fabled Dreaming Gem of Hastor the Vain: as big as a fist and shining with all the colors of a mountain rainbow! Beautiful as it was, however, the gem's fascination could not conceal the fact that standing next to it was its owner: the human sorcerer, Hastor the Vain.
Suddenly Shadow lost all her thiefly caution and strode into the chamber.
"Hastor!" she bellowed. "Save your spells, trickster! I have been trained by the great magus Zandalor himself! Throw down your illusions! They will mean nothing to me!"
Hastor smiled coldly and replied in a voice as soft as chilled silk, but that seemed to echo in the vast chamber. "Shadow the jewel thief, I presume? And trained by that old fart Zandalor, you say? Very well, let's test the mettle of your mind."
With that, Hastor raised a hand with a blue fireball blazing about it. Shadow laughed and stood her ground and I, ever a practical orc in such matters, hurled my sword over Shadow's head and skewered Hastor through the chest. Needless to say, Shadow was furious with me.
"How DARE you interfere?" she shrieked. "I've been looking forward to dueling that mage for years!"
"You wouldn't have lasted long," I said as I strolled over to the body of Hastor. He was writhing in inhuman death-throws confirming, I suppose, that he was indeed part-demon. In the hand that had lifted the illusory fireball he still clenched the throwing dagger he had sought to hide. "I saw the tip of the dagger sticking out of the illusion," I explained. "Hastor the Vain believed in working on the physical as well as the illusory plane."
With that I turned and took up the Dreaming Gem - a treasure estimated to be worth over a million gold pieces. If only my old Dad could have seen me then!
The tenth and final part of the tale is in the Orc war-camp, appropriately enough. It's on a sleeping mat in the tent nearest the well you poison.
Part the Last - Victory?
The Dreaming Gem - fabled as the most valuable jewel in Rivellon - was in my grasp at last. As Shadow stood raging over the fact that I'd saved her life (there's no pleasing some women), I stooped over the wizard, Hastor the Vain, to withdraw my sword from his chest. It was thus that I heard his final words: "drat you!"
I've heard worse, and it undoubtedly summed-up his feelings at the time.
As I wiped my sword the tower trembled. I turned to ask Shadow what it meant, but she was already on the stairs and clattering downward. Mother Bloodclub didn't raise any stupid kids. I was off after Shadow before the tower trembled a second time.
Fortunately all the traps on the stairs were based on illusion magic, and we were travelling too fast for illusory perils to register on our panicky brains. As we finally burst through the lower door into the snowy garden outside, the tower gave a last great shudder and was fine. No collapse. Nothing. I'm sorry if that's anticlimatic, but that's what happened.
After I got over the surprise of not being covered with falling masonry dust, I noticed Shadow was casually walking away. "Where are you going?" I called after her. "Don't you want to gloat over the Dreaming Gem? I thought that's the sort of thing you dwarves live for."
She turned and smiled at me. "What's the point?" She called. "It's only a rock."
For a terrible moment I feared that our recent adventures had turned her into a philosopher, but as I looked at the stone in my hand I saw that it was indeed just a lump of granite.
"Hastor the Vain was an illusionist, remember?" Shadow said as she returned to my side. "Years ago Zandalor the Wise told me that the Dreaming Gem was simply a projection of Hastor's ego - and very vain he was too, from the glimpse I got before the spell began to fade..."
"But you risked your life!" I cried. "And all for..."
"The thousand gold pieces you paid me to join your scheme back at the beginning," Shadow interrupted calmly. "That and the chance to match skills with Hastor."
"But what do I get out of this whole farce?" I howled.
"A night of love with me, tall-green-and-handsome," she replied with a twinkle in her eye. "Speaking of which," she added, "we've still got a few hours before dawn, and I've never been stingy about paying debts."
After barely a second's hesitation, I dropped the drat rock and followed happily after Shadow, who was heading for the gate in the garden wall and from there, I was certain, to our cosy little camp. As I said before: Mama Bloodclub raised no fools.