Part 28: Mission: Infiltration
Chapter 22 - Mission: Infiltration
Music - "Relentless Wandering"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
I reached the Dwarven village without further annoyance. There were plenty of armed dwarves about, but with the orcs on the warpath, that wasn't really surprising. The guards didn't pay me much attention.
A Dwarven fighter greeted me at the entrance.
I hear your human farmlands are suffering a lot of troll attacks lately. I've always said that we should go easier on the trolls - integrate them into civilized society and train them to forget their vicious ways.
Right... why don't you ask the refugees I passed on the road how well that worked out for the Orcs.
... They may be smelly, stupid and vicious, but so are you humans...
Thanks. Do you know where the mayor's office or town hall is?
Follow the road, take a right at the next street and the Mayor's house is the first building on the left past the Axe of Stone. It's the building with the guards in front.
Thank you for your time, friend Dwarf.
As I walked through the village, I marveled at how similar it was to a human village. I suppose that's why humans and Dwarves have always gotten along so well. I drew a few brief looks, but not for long. I talked to a few of the townsfolk as I traveled.
Greetings, noble warrior. What news?
Apparently you humans think that a river of molten gold runs through the Dwarf Halls. What rubbish! If that were true, gold would be worth less than tin. No, the truth of the matter is that there is an ordinary river that washes down a lot of gold dust, but that's all.
They do say that a secret cult called the Sack Fling is stalking the land. Apparrently they fling sacks over the heads of young girls out on their own and abduct them to sacrifice to the Lord of Chaos. That's why so many human girls have gone missing in Verdistis of late.
I think he means the Black Ring. Gods... I hope that this rumor is wrong.
I hear that your young Duke Janus has declared himself the Divine One, human. I'm sorry, but I don't believe it myself. For a start, the Divine One is supposed to protect all the sentient people of Rivellon. So why is Janus waging war on the orcs, eh? They might not be too clever, but orcs are still people.
I continued walking and saw an important looking monument, Two soldiers were guarding it.
Hello, what's this then?
This, human, is the Axe of Stone. It's the most holy artifact of the Dwarves.
Apologies, friend dwarf, but I've never heard of it. May I ask why it is so special?
It's special because it was wielded by Duna herself, and it was left in our care when she left Rivellon.
I thought the Dwarf god Duna was male... then again, I suppose that doesn't matter for a god.
I see, thank you for satisfying my curiosity. Farewell.
I read the sign. "Glenborus town hall. May I go in?" I asked the guards.
"Certainly, human," a guard said.
His speech was badly slurred and he was unsteady on his feet. Once again my mouth started to talk before my brain realized what was going on.
Are you sure you're the town mayor and not a drunk with delusions of grandeur?
I'm always saying there's a time for work and a time for relaxing.
He raised his mug. "Cheers, me human friend." *belch*
I was starting to get a buzz just from his breath alone. "Right, but try to keep that smell with you - what's it you're drinking anyway? Alcohol with honey?
It's called mead, friend - the finest a dwarf can get his hands on. *burp*.
My name's Jeremiah. Tell me more about this village, if you don't mind.
This here village is called Glenborus, which means 'fellowship' in the common tongue. Me brother, *hic* Kelp Dunatrim, saw fit to appoint me as the governing power.
Why do I get the feeling he mostly did it to keep you away from him?
Tell me more about your position as mayor of Glenborus, Gregor.
Well, as mayor I've got a lot of responsibilities which I take very *burrrrp* seriously. As mayor *hic * it's my part of my job to promote tourism and trade between the Dwarven and Human peoples.
Can you tell me anything about the Dwarven Halls? I've heard it's a marvellous place. I'd love to see it sometime.
*belch * I don't feel much like talking. Come back tomorrow. There's a spare map in the other room ye can have.
"About the Game" posted:
You lose 10 disposition when calling Gregor a drunk, but it doesn't really matter. Oddly enough, the "Tell me about this village" and the "Tell me about your job as mayor" conversation options don't seem to open up until later, probably because you're not supposed to come here until much later.
That seemed like an invitation, so I entered the room he pointed at. But I wasn't going there for a map, I was going to see if the 'stolen' teleporter scroll had just been misplaced. The room was empty, which made it easier to search.
I grabbed a copy of the Dwarven Halls map while I was at it.
The room was actually quite tidy, I had hoped it had gotten lost in a mess. There was only one possible place I could see for it to have gotten lost, and...
Excellent! What luck! Since this is officially missing, no one will miss it, and since Krasnegar will deliver the new scroll, no harm done.
The teleporter platform was guarded. I readied my pyramid in case the soldiers decided it was suspicious for a human to use the device. I put on my best "I'm supposed to be here" expression, and used the scroll to activate the teleporter platform.
The soldiers looked me over, but shrugged it off.
Looks like they bought it. Good, I don't need trouble. Now I'd better hurry to the market. I need a disguise.
"About the Game" posted:
This is why I didn't take the scroll from Krasnegar, he's a nice guy, and you can get the scroll trouble-free anyway.
According to my magic map, I was just south of the Rivertown market, and the market teleporter was keyed to the scroll of the Mages which I already possessed. I needed to go to the market anyway; the teleporter was just a bonus.
I took the road north to the bustling market district of Rivertown. Asking around for the best merchant in the district led me to Geoff.
What do you have for sale, my good merchant?
"It's in my store, follow me," Geoff said.
I followed him to the store, but after he unlocked it and went inside, I was approached by someone with a distasteful look.
What do you want from me?
Speak softly, I beg you! No need to let every guard in town overhear our business, if you catch my meaning. Heh heh...
Ah, yes. I guess you have something to offer - right?
No, of course I'm not interested in merchandise without a proper pedigree. For all I know, all this stuff was plundered from honest folk by cutthroat bandits! Get out of my sight and be glad I don't tell the duke's guards that you're a black marketer!
The man looked angry for a second, then smiled.
As you wish. But you'll be back. I have the best prices in the market, you'll see.
He resumed walking on past.
"About the Game" posted:
Geoff is the weapons merchant, and business is good. He usually has at least 50,000 gold on him by default. That's not a typo. He's the "dump" merchant for the game. If he still has some money left over, and you don't visit him for three days, it will replenish and he'll have 50,000 plus whatever was left over. We'll be visiting him a lot.
The only minor downside to Geoff is that every single time you want to trade, you need to talk to him and follow him as he goes to open up his store and stand inside before you can do business. But it's worth the hassle.
Tingalf approaches you if you cross a line across the top of the market. Jeremiah's assessment of him is pretty bang-on, too.
I bought some clothes that would draw less attention than armor. A citizen helpfully gave directions to the teleporter platform - behind the magic shop. I decided that my time was better spent elsewhere than shopping, though.
This is already much better than walking.
Wouter, do you mind if I change clothes in your room?
Not at all. I'll give you some privacy.
Then I returned to the castle. Before I did anything else, I had to be sure that Richard had been right, and Jenna really was in trouble.
To my annoyance, all my careful planning seemed to have been for nothing. There had been a shift change in the guards. They wouldn't have recognized me anyway. I assumed the slouched posture of an low-status underling and approached the new Captain of the Guards.
I bring a message for Ambassador Liro of Idfrennia.
Give me the message and I'll have it relayed to her.
I was told to deliver the message in person. May I see the ambassador, or can she be brought to the gate?
Sorry, but our security measures won't permit that. Give us the message and I assure you that we will deliver it.
I bet your pardon, sir, but I am under strict orders from my lord to not return without a response from the Ambassador. The message is urgent and very important. I'll be punished quite severely if I do not follow instructions. Please, sir.
The guard considered it.
Very well, I'll see what I can do.
He signalled to another guard.
Give your message to him, and he'll deliver it.
Thank you. Tell Ambassador Liro that her father is gravely injured, wounded by a mob of trolls, and that her Uncle Edwin requests that she return home immediately, before... before he dies.
I'll deliver the message straight away. Wait here.
I watched the guard walk off and enter the castle. The doors shut behind him.
After several minutes the doors opened and the guard started back, but a woman called him and he turned around.
The woman wasn't Jenna, she was an older woman with white hair. I was too far away to hear what they were saying. The guard gestured in my direction. The woman looked at me intently. I didn't like the look and tried to shrink into my hood. The woman gave the guard some instructions. He saluted and returned to the gate.
"I spoke with the Ambassador personally," the Guard said. He wasn't good at lying. "She sends her deepest regrets, and will try and clear her schedule to return home as soon as her schedule permits."
The bottom fell out of my stomach, but I kept my expression neutral.
"Thank you, sir, I'm grateful," I said and turned to walk away.
"Hold!" said the captain of the guards.
Have I been caught?
For your troubles.
He flipped me a single gold piece.
"Uh, thank you very much, sir!" I said, then quickly walked away.
Father had been dead for seven months, and Jenna knew it. Nor did we have an Uncle named Edwin. Edwin was my middle name; I used it so Jenna would know the message was from me. The response didn't come from her, but someone wanted to think it did.
It was time to see if this Commander Ralph could wrangle an invitation to the castle. It was getting late. I changed back into my armor, had a quick meal at the Dwarven Bread Inn, and went to the Town Watch.
There was a man in a fancy uniform
Are you Commander Ralph?
I am Ralpheus Neodrim, Commander of the Town Watch.
Sir, I was told that you could get me an invitation to Stormfist Castle.
That's a bold request for someone who hasn't even introduced themselves to me.
I do beg your pardon, sir. My name is Jeremiah Liro.
Damn damn tripledamn!! I gave away my last name again!
Liro... Liro...Ah! There's an Ambassador Liro up at Stormfist.
Ralph looked at me expectantly. I sighed. I didn't think I'd be able to evade convincingly.
She's my sister, Jenna.
War with the orcs is upon us. How am I to know you're not a spy? Why can't your sister get you inside the castle?
Despite his words, there was no accusation in his tone. This was a test.
I'm afraid that's impossible, and it is in fact the reason for my visit to Ferol. Ambasador Liro - my sister - is missing. I need to find her.
Missing? I would have heard about something like that. Why have you come to see me?
I carefully weighed my options. I decided to cautiously trust him.
"I understand that your old duke just died in an accident. Fell off his horse and had a heart-attack, I hear." I said evenly. "My condolences."
Ralph stood there for a minute, scrutinizing my face.
Come into my private quarters.
I followed him into a room.
I trust my officers, but in these times, one cannot be too careful. Now, tell me what all this is about.
My sister and I kept in almost constant contact, sending letters back and forth every two weeks. About four weeks ago, I didn't receive a letter from her. A week after that, I got this, sent from Stormfist castle.
I produced the letter Richard had written. Ralph scanned it.
Even if it's true, on its own, it doesn't mean much.
I encountered the person who wrote it, a former knight of the castle. He told me he was investigating the death of the duke on his own, he suspected assassination. Since I was attacked shortly after by an assassin who was hunting this knight, it has a ring of truth to me. As for evidence or a confession, I have none. I had to kill the assassin in self-defence.
Ralph paced on his floor for a minute, then looked back at me, sizing me up, as if he was trying to read my mind.
Stranger, I've suspected for some time that the old duke was murdered. I don't believe he died a natural death, that's for sure. But my superiors refuse to accept my suspicions. I've gone as far as I can in my investigation, unfortunately. I could use your help, if you feel up to it.
What were the circumstances of the Duke's death?
The Duke was hunting when he was hit in the leg with an arrow. It wasn't serious, but mere hours later, after a bout of fever, he lay dead. The official explanation was that a member of the hunting party accidentally let loose an arrow and it hit the duke, and he died as a result. No one dies of such a simple wound. I believe the arrow was poisoned and let loose by an assassin.
What makes you think an assassin is responsible?
It's similar to well known methods of assassination used by the guild.
If you're stuck, then how could I help? You know this area far better than I do.
I'm the Commander of the Watch. My face is too well known, the people who know things won't deal with me. But because you're a stranger, you stand a better chance. I can point you to the right people. Do this - find the assassin who murdered the Duke and you'll get your invitation.
You haven't really left me with much choice now have you. What do I have to do?
Go and speak with Sir Dante. He's a rich merchant living in Verdistis. It's my suspicion that he knows how to contact the assassin's guild. Although there's a slight problem; Sir Dante is away on business and will return sometime this week or next.
If I infiltrate the assassin's guild, I might be able to find some records. ... I might be able to find out the truth... except that I'm not sure I can bear the truth. ... What if I find out she's dead?
I wouldn't count on any help from Commander Kratus of the Verdistis City Watch, either. The man's a drunken fool and a pushover. He's too afraid of making waves to even dream of investigating the well-connected Assassins Guild. In fact, it'd be better to just leave him completely out of the loop. If you find something, take it straight to me.
"About the Game" posted:
This conversation with Ralph contains the main quests for most of "Act 2", so it requires some more elaboration. It was too long to post in the middle of the update, so see "Behind the Scenes".
By the way - do NOT try to enter Ralph's quarters, he doesn't like it.
I left the Town Watch with a lot to think about. Not only did I need to find out what had happened to Jenna, but there was still the worrying prospect of being hunted by dragonriders for some reason, too.
Stormfist Castle was the place to go. But first I had a promise to Lord Seth to keep, and I'd already delayed long enough that the sun had already set.
"About the Game" posted:
ACTUALLY, what I really did at this point was go clear out most of the enemies around the map. Not everywhere, I avoided places where cutscenes get triggered, and some other areas I'm saving for later. The grand tour got me up to level 15.
I also picked up a whole lot of spellbooks while I was wandering, so I can use them at certain points in the story later.
It was dark when I reached the barracks. The soldiers at the gate were talking to each other.
The food rations are down. That's what concerns me most, I tell you. The Captain said it was because of troll attacks and a crop blight in the farmlands, but I recon he and the quartermaster are nicking our food to sell on the black market. Typical, isn't it? We do the fighting while they stay back from the front and get rich!
General Alix sent a commendation and a pay bonus to all the troops who've seen action against the orcs in the last few weeks. She's a good leader, I'll give her that. Better than the Duke, in any case. That spotty brat hasn't so much as thanked us for saving his poxy duchy for him!
Good evening, Trooper.
I need to talk to General Alix. Where can I find her?
She's in her quarters, straight ahead at the far end.
I followed the directions.
Excellent. She's been waiting for word from his command.
"About the Game" posted:
Alix considers it rude if you ask for her name. She's the only female soldier we find, although there should theoretically be others.
The orcs are behind our front lines and are now threatening Aleroth and the surrounding farmlands? And the entire group of soldiers has been annihilated? THIS IS INTOLERABLE! Where is Seth now?
Lord Seth remained at Aleroth to protect the village against orc attacks. It's no small wonder that I'm still alive! Those damned, foul-smelling orcs are everywhere!
Alix sized me up. My strange tattoo tingled, but it didn't seem to be about the general. I stretched out my mind, trying to figure out what was wrong.
What's your name, stranger?
I'm called Jeremiah.
Well, Jeremiah, you seem to be a capable fighter with some wits about you. I sent Seth and his group to the healers to inform them that they are required in Rivertown. It seems a plague has broken out there. Do you know if the healers will come to our aid?
The tingling continued. Something was definitely wrong.
Yes, General. The healers are willing to help, but the threat of orcs in the nearby forests prevents safe passage to Rivertown.
I was starting to sense something, a change in the mood of the soldiers. Shouts could now be heard - a call to arms!
I shall dispatch an armed escort to take care of the healers as soon as possible.
Suddenly the guard from outside burst in.
General... They are coming! The orcs! They are attacking the Barracks!
Seven Gods! The invasion has started already?!
Next Time: Night Attack
Behind the Scenes
One of the alternate titles for the chapter was "The Drunken Dwarf (and other oxymorons)", but I wanted something more significant. Plus I couldn't think of other oxymorons to put in.
EDIT: I meant tautologies, not oxymorons. I am dumb.
I had Jeremiah talk to random unnamed Dwarves to get some background rumors. Does the way I did that work, or should I keep that as an extra in the behind the scenes from now on?
Main Quest Update
Commander Ralph's quests are essentially the main quest for most of "Act 2", so it requires some more elaboration.
How I put it isn't how the conversation really goes. First of all, do NOT go into Ralph's quarters, it annoys him. If you keep trying, it pisses him off and he may lock himself in so you can't complete his two quests. (It won't break the game though, the other quest is from General Alix) The shot of me in the quarters was a photoshop.
Here's the main quest for Act II: We have to get an invitation to Stormfist Castle. There are three different possible multi-step quests to do this, one full of straight-up fighting, most appropriate for a warrior, one suited for a survivor, and one for a clever mage.
We'll be doing two and a half of the three quests, and the only reason why I won't do all three completely is that doing the last part now would end up making little sense in the context of an Act III quest - nothing to do with my writing, it's a minor "Fridge Logic" plot hole from the original game.
The fighter quest is to neutralize the threat of the orc invasion, it's given out by General Alix and Captain Mitox, not Ralph. It's pretty straightforward, short, and completely optional. There isn't any time limit or attack if you wait too long. We'll do the first half of the quest and leave the second half to Act III.
The survivor quest is to find evidence that the old Duke was assassinated. Commander Ralph gives us a place to start, and from there we follow the directions the quest spells out. There's a couple of parts best suited for a survivor's skill-set and sneaking special move. Also, some parts of that quest force you to take a couple of hits to your reputation.
The mage quest is to deal with the plague in the poor quarter. This one is the vaguest of the bunch. You'll have to explore around quite a bit to find clues as to what's going on. There are also some puzzles involved. There's also a situation that is definitely best handled with a ranged character.
I'm doing all of these quests not just for the narrative, but also because it's a really good idea to be at least level 20 before you enter the castle.
Here's what Jeremiah's personal traits look like now that I'm level 15:
You can't go into General Alix's quarters without being explicitly told that these are her quarters, so this exchange naturally comes across as rude. Also, it's strange that she insists on being called General Alix. Her last name is Eastdragon, whc you can discover if she gives you an invitation to Stormfist Castle.
May I know your name?
I know you ignorant back-landers don't give a damn about formalities, but as long as you're staying within these barracks, you will address me as GENERAL Alix. Is that clear? Who knows, you may even learn some discipline while you're here, too.
What's fake in this update?
- You can't normally learn what the Axe of Stone is yet.
- The teleporter scroll in the mayor's office isn't really behind the stone jug, it was on the desk. This wasn't a photoshop job, I moved the objects in-game.
- I altered the map of the Dwarven Halls you find in the mayor's office.
- That isn't Jeremiah in the Survivor Outfit, that's the male survivor character. Also, the guards don't change shifts and there is no black Captain of the guard. None of that conversation was real, including the guard going into the castle (and subsequent screenshot). The captain of the guards also doesn't flip you a coin as a tip.
- You don't get invited to Ralph's chamber, going in there is in fact a way to piss him off. That shot is DOUBLY faked - Ralph and Jeremiah were both photoshopped into there. But it was daytime when I did that, so when I decided to make it around sunset, I had to apply an orange filter to the outdoor parts.
- I've moved part of Alix's conversation to the next update, where it will make better sense for Jeremiah's motivations. In it, she asks if you want to perform more tasks for her. If you decline, the orcs don't show up to attack the barracks.