Part 57: Discontent
Chapter 42 - Discontent
Music - "On the Brink of Defeat"
Download (Thanks to Grawl)
The context of history hadn't helped fill in the unreadable places in the letter. I carefully re-folded it and tucked it away.
I continued wandering the halls and near the library, I discovered a laboratory which was apparently once used for brewing potions. It was poorly stocked at the moment, but on the bookshelves... oh my...
That's a lot of spellbooks. I'd be thrilled if it wasn't for the bloody anti-magic field. I can't learn these properly under these conditions. Still... that spell written in Dwarvish sounds very interesting. Someone thoughtfully labeled it in common Rivellonian "Dwarvish Cursing", but didn't translate the rest. I need to brush up on my Dwarvish anyway, it's a bit rusty. And... and there's a complete set of something called "Hell Spikes" - from "Hell Spikes For the Non-Wizard" all the way through to "Hell Spikes For the Expert Wizard!" A complete set!
I gave myself a mild slap.
Get a hold of yourse- I mean, snap out of it.
Yes... you're right. ... Moving on.
Giving one last wistful look at the bookshelves, I left the spellbooks behind and continued on.
"About the Game" posted:
I know the number is small and hard to read, but beside the "Hell Spikes" book is the number 5. When I learn that spell, I can learn all 5 ranks at once.
- This spell is pretty useful for Mages, especially in the late-game. At Rank 1, the afflicted enemy loses 5% offense, 5% defense, and all Resistances (Fire, Lightning, Poison, Spiritual) are lowered by 5% for 5 seconds. At Rank 5, the target loses 15% offence and defense and all resistances are lowered by 25% for 15 seconds. The spell can be repeatedly cast on a target, but the 25% lowering applies to current resistances, a target with 100 resistance would have 75% after 1 cast, 56% after a second cast, and 42% after a third cast.
Curse can be found randomly on magical gear, and adds the suffix "of Dwarfish Cursing", which is why I say the scroll is in Dwarfish. Jeremiah reads and speaks a little Dwarfish, but will probably need to brush up a bit to read that spell.
(Translation: I'm not going to use this spell yet because it's not needed.)
Curse versus Withering Curse
There is a Wizard version of the spell, called Withering Curse, but that's limited in application because while it is more powerful in theory, it only works on enemies whose Spiritual Resistance is below 5-25%, while Curse affects everything including Spiritual Resistance. Many enemies have 100 Spiritual Resistance, especially in the late-game, so you'd only be able to cast Withering Curse on them after 5 uses of Curse, so the only reason to do that would be to nuke someone to oblivion. In the late-game, it only takes 3 casts of Curse to achieve a simpler result.
The door opposite the library was locked, so I continued my self-guided tour of the castle. If anyone asked, I was following the Duke's orders to find his cat. From time to time, I would call for "Ernie," and say things like "Here Kitty Kitty Kitty..." From the sympathetic looks I got from some of the guards that I passed by, they were familiar with receiving menial tasks. I asked one of them where Ambassador Liro's room was. They directed me to the upper floors.
There weren't many guests at this time. The room which had been Jenna's had been cleared out completely. There was no sign of anything personal; it was now just another guest room. Having come all this way, I wasn't going to just give up. I looked around, and spotted something beneath the bed. It was a silver earring in the shape of a rose.
I recognized it. Mother had given it to Jenna as a birthday gift... It was the last birthday gift she had given to Jenna before she died. Jenna treasured those earrings. She would never have left one behind carelessly. I clenched the earring my fist and bowed my head for a moment. Then I left the room. It was clear that I would find no more clues to Jenna in this room.
If Janus harmed her, I swear to the Seven Gods that I will kill him.
I returned downstairs and continued exploring.
There was a small private lounge in the northern part of the castle, complete with...
Wow... that's a lot of alcohol...
Judging by the labels, there were several dozen bottles of alcohol coming from many corners of Rivellon. I didn't even recognize some of the writing on some of the labels. The cabinet was unlocked.
This could come in handy... Maybe I'll just take one bottle. ... No, two... okay, three bottles. The little twerp's too young to drink anyway.
I passed Janus's room. The door was closed. Unfortunately, it was not soundproofed.
Come here Lela, my beautiful filthy whore!
Oh, Janus! It excites me when you talk like that!
I got out of earshot as fast as I could, before I could hear anymore.
Twelve years old? That language doesn't sound like a twelve-year-old. Gods, I must be getting old. And the girl... she didn't sound much older than he did.
I continued on. There was an empty bedroom. I peeked in, then closed the door, then I passed by a busy kitchen, an empty dining hall, and an empty guard post. There was one door I had missed earlier - the one opposite the magic laboratory.
What? Damn it, but I'm the Lord Protector. I... err... ...must make sure the cellars are safe.
I'm sorry, sir, but not even you are allowed to enter the cellars. Specific orders from Duke Janus.
What is in the cellars anyway?
It must be important... Jenna! Maybe he's keeping Jenna down there. Or at least Zandalor. I've got to figure out how to get down there.
I've no idea. Now please leave or I'll report you to the Duke!
"And what if I don't?" I threatened, drawing myself up to my full height.
The guards drew themselves up to their full height, which was considerable. They also looked to be far more muscular than I was. "Get you gone!" the guard said dismissively. I realized that I would be well in over my head without my magic.
I closed the door. I'd seen all I could of the interior, perhaps some fresh air would help.
It doesn't sound like this place is particularly happy. I know enough to know that to get a real sense of morale, you go see how the guards are feeling.
Try the barracks, that's the large building to the west of the castle. It might help them open up if you bring some refreshments.
He made a "drinking" gesture.
I headed around the castle and entered the barracks.
HATTENSUN! Guards ready for inspection by the Lord Protector, SAH!
Um... hello friend guard. What's the news around the castle watch?
Couldn't say, SAH!
I see. Is everyone here off-duty?
Good, because I'm not. Also, I hate to drink alone.
I took out the bottles I had filched from the castle's liquor cabinet.
Where'd you get those?
I stole 'em from his Royal Twerpship's liquor cabinet. Anyone thirsty?
There was a loud cheer. After a few rounds, the guards loosened up.
Tell me about the old Duke. What was he like?
Well, all us Royal Guards are still pretty shaken up by the death of the old duke. He was a great friend to us. He'd often come down to the guardroom and play dice with the off-duty watch. If he won, he gave us our money back, but if we won, he'd make us keep his gold. We'd have died for that man, but you can't protect someone from a heart-attack.
Heart attack? You haven't heard that the duke was actually murdered?
Well, the news that the old duke was murdered has worried a lot of us Royal Guards. I mean, what if the rumors are true: that Duke Janus had a hand in it? If they come up with any real proof, we might cut the little rat's throat rather than guard him. With all due respect, of course.
I don't think that there will be any proof. The assassin who did it was killed by the watch as he resisted attest. I do know that the Assassin's Guild was paid 150,000 gold to carry out the contract.
There aren't a lot of people who even have that much, never mind who could spare it... Sir Dante, Sir Patrick, the Merchant's Guild... and of course the treasury of the Dukedom itself, or that of the elven or dwarven kings.
Or the orcs, possibly. The greenskins might have plundered enough gold to hire an assassin as a first strike before their invasion. The old duke was far wiser and more experienced that his son.
General Alix was up here talking to Duke Janus about the war on the orcs. From all the shouting I'd guess they don't see eye-to-eye on matters of strategy. Frankly, I wish I were under the general's direct command, not that brat Janus. She's a military genius and he's just a randy little pipsqueak.
I can't imagine how Lady Anastasia is feeling now. First her husband gets murdered, and then her son Janus has her banished from his presence. No idea why.
What's this one?
I peered at the label. It was both faded and in an unfamiliar language. The liquid inside the clear bottle was blue.
I opened it up and sniffed it, trying to determine what kind of alcohol it was.
I poured a little into a cup and drank it.
I gave up.
It is blue.
Good enough for me!
There were cheers of agreement all around.
You're all right Jeremiah. Say, want to come watch the Flying Man up on the ramparts tonight?
Yeah. It's... Well, you should see it yourself, really.
Uh... not tonight. I think I'll need my sleep. Maybe another time.
There was a training area behind the castle. No soldiers were using it at the moment, but there was some activity at the archery range a bit further down.
Well, Ambassador, that's easier said than done.
Aye, you elves have decades to practice. We poor humans only live a few score years - how're we supposed to compete?
I walked up.
Greetings, Jeremiah Liro. I've heard that Duke Janus has appointed you his new Lord Protector. You must feel honored to serve the royal family.
Heh. Yes, I suppose that's how it looks from the outside. May I know your name?
My name is Bronthion D'Anthalis and I'm the elven ambassador from Teneb Tiriel - also called the Dark Forest in the Common tongue.
Why did you come to Stormfist Castle?
Blasphemous dwarves have defiled the burial grounds of my revered ancestors. They've burned down the shrine and stolen the ceremonial relics. I came to Stormfist Castle to ask for council.
Everywhere you turn... the troubles just keep on coming. Is there no end to them?
Dwarves defiled your burial grounds?
Sheloi! Those long-bearded bastards stole the tome of Thirion Celendil, the first Elven King who came to Rivellon. Such a sacrilege cannot be ignored or forgiven!
You need help from Janus?
My people prepare for war, human. We'll not rest until we've either recovered our sacred relics or laid every dwarf who stands in our way in a shallow grave. Now I go to ask Duke Janus to approve the declaration of war.
Why do you need Janus's permission to march against the dwarves?
There's an old treaty between dwarves and you humans. In times of war, both are sworn to aid the other. I seek to ensure that Duke Janus and the human army will look to their own war with the orcs, and will leave the elves and the dwarves to settle their differences between themselves.
If there's a treaty, why aren't the dwarves helping in the human war against the orcs? Their numbers threaten to overrun the dukedom!
I don't know, Jeremiah Liro, but I would assume it is because Janus has not made an official request to King Dunatrim.
What do you know about Duke Janus?
You humans claim that Janus is the Divine One - the savior of all Seven Races. But my people will judge him by his actions in the future.
That sounds as if you're not convinced that he's the Divine One.
I still ask myself what Janus has done for all of the Seven Races. He has done little to aid the common good, and now he prepares a campaign against the orcs - who, for al their savagery, are still one of our brother races.
Not all humans believe that Janus is the Divine One. But he seems to have had a strong influence on the common people.
Avantaris! Exactly, Jeremiah. Janus hasn't done a thing to decrease the poverty in his towns and cities, yet still the poor are hailing him as a savior.
I think that might just be because their situation is so desperate that they hope someone, anyone will assist them.
Since the young duke allowed himself to be honoured as the Divine One, there has been ever-increasing crime and discord everywhere one looks, yet foolish bards sing of this as the dawn of a "Golden Age."
I wish I had words to comfort you, Ambassador. But I have an unpleasant feeling that things will get worse before they get better.
I left and continued circling the castle. I saw Theus standing outside a house.
He's given me a menial task, Theus, to find his cat, if you can believe it.
Ah, I can indeed. ... Are you going to ask me if I've seen the cat?
I... see, milord protector.
Please, don't call me by that silly title. Just call me Jeremiah, Theus
As you wish, Jeremiah. Oh yes, that reminds me. You'll be staying with me for the time being. I have a spare bed.
He indicated his house.
This house right here? Not in the castle?
You have a problem?
No, no! Not in the slightest. But don't you think it odd that Janus's new bodyguard will be sleeping so far away from him?
I suppose. If you like I could-
No. I actually would rather stay farther from Janus.
I can understand that, mi- Jeremiah.
I continued walking further and saw an older man in the uniform of one of the Captains of the Guard.
Well met indeed, sir. You clearly know me, but I don't know you. Might I ask your name?
I'm Walt. I used to be the head of the old duke's bodyguard, but I've been forcibly retired by Duke Janus. That's why you have to waddle about under that ridiculous title of 'Lord Protector' You're my replacement, Jeremiah.
I never asked to be Janus' protector. I wish he'd given you the post, Walt. I dare say you'd be much better at it than I am.
A courteous answer, youngster. Thankee, but I wouldn't touch that job with the pointy end of a halberd. Life was good under the old Duke, but that boy Janus is pure trouble.
How do you mean?
The old Duke was always getting into fights and visiting young maidens on the eve of their weddings (if you know what I mean), but he was never cruel or sick in the head.
Meaning the new duke is sich in the head and cruel?
That boy is only twelve-years-old, yet he's tortured folk to death for petty crimes and he's bedding a girl only four or five years older than he is. It's not natural.
Walt had a point, but I decided to take a 'devil's advocate' position so I could fully understand where he was going.
"All rulers are cruel, in my experience," I said evenly. "And what young lad past puberty wouldn't have a girlfriend if they could get their hands on one? I'm surprised he hasn't take a dozen."
Walt glowered at me. "You know that's not what I mean," he said gruffly. "You must have seen it! That lad Janus is too old for his years. He talks like a jaded lecher past forty, not a stripling boy of twelve!"
Yes... it is odd. ... Walt, I came here looking for someone called Zandalor. Do you happen to know where he is?
Zandalor! The old wizard! Yes, I know him. He visited the place often, many years ago. He came here... ten days ago? Talked to Lady Elona, and then went to the cellars. I didn't see him later on.
Lady Elona lied, which doesn't surprise me. She said she never met Zandalor. I don't like this... I don't like this at all.
Anyway, I have to leave you now, youngster. You'll probably have many tasks to fulfill for Duke Janus. Good luck!
Many tasks yes, but not the most important one. I shouldn't be here at all, Walt! I'm a wizard by trade, not a sword-swinger. I'm not build for close-quarters combat. I can't protect his dukeship in the castle, I'm even worse at it than your average guard.
Walt looked me over carefully.
You don't appear beyond help to my eyes, and these eyes have seen a lot of raw recruits come and go. If you don't mind listening to some old sword-swinger well past his prime, I might be willing to give you a few pointers.
Without my magic, I'm not much good at anything. Not to mention I'm too vulnerable - I'm a legless chicken for any foul plans Elona might have for me, and I don't wish to get plucked.
I'd be honoured, Walt. When can we start?
Today, if you'd like. I'll meet you at the practice yard behind the castle. Give me a few minutes, though.
Goodbye, I'll see you there. And thanks for the conversation, Walt!
I continued on and saw a sad-faced woman in an expensive dress outside another house.
I'm sorry to intrude, my lady. I am Jeremiah Liro, the new Lord Protector to Duke Janus.
Lord Protector indeed! A ridiculous title that only my ungrateful son could have devised!
Son? Are you Lady Anastasia, mother to Duke Janus and widow of the late duke? Forgive me, my lady, I did not recognize you.
Well, it's hardly surprising. Why should the mother of a duke be wandering the dreadful outer precincts of Stormfist castle? Unless, of course, she had been exiled there by her ungrateful son!
Exiled, my lady?
My so-called son won't allow me anywhere near him! But, at the same time he won't allow me to go to my town house or the country estate. So I must languish here in these dreadful, badly decorated apartments in the outer castle precincts.
I hesitated to ask the next question, but I needed every scrap of information on Janus.
Forgive me if I am asking an impertinent question, my lady, but does Duke Janus seem... well... altogether normal to you?
O, he does not! Power has changed him beyond recognition. I mean, he always was a headstrong boy - his father called him spoilt - but since Janus became duke, it's almost as if he were a different person. He's aged well beyond his years - cold, cynical, even cruel. He's not the baby I once loved!
What do you think has made him change, my lady?
Power, plain and simple. That and the wicked people around him. The priest, Father Theofolus, grovels to him as if he were a yound God! And that bitch, Lady Elona, reinforces the fantasy by calling him the Divine One, after some old prophecy or other.
That's very strong language for someone of her breeding. But Elona doesn't make friends easily, that's for sure.
Where did these courtiers come from, my lady?
Oh, Father Theofolus is just some Gods-bothered from Verdistis, I believe. Lady Elona appeared recently, just after my husband's death in fact. Nobody knows anything about her, but I can see she's up to no good!
You don't believe your son is the Divine One, Lady Anastasia?
Well of course I don't! The Divine One is supposed to be the chosen of the Gods (if they exist). Janus is a cruel, spiteful boy who rejects his own mother's advice, banishes her to this gloomy, rat-infested pit and even steams her Maid-of-Honour!
Really, your ladyship?
My sweet little Leda! Barely sixteen and he has already coaxed her into his bed! And him not thirteen yet! I told him: 'Your father was fourteen before he took a mistress. You should follow his example and exercise a little restraint.' But he just laughed at me and barred me from the inner castle! The humiliation!
Lady Anastasia looked away and tried to keep her composure.
I see my foolish questions have distressed you, your ladyship. Please forgive and excuse me.
I bowed, and then walked off.
"About the Game" posted:
There's a reason why I called this chapter "Discontent". Stormfist is not a happy castle. There's a pretty consistent pattern here - almost everyone here hates Duke Janus. The only ones who seem to like him are Elona and his girlfriend Lela.
I immediately headed to the training area where Walt was waiting for me.
You took your time, I see.
My apologies, I was speaking with Lady Anastasia.
Ah, yes. Would you care to get started?
I see you've got a dagger and a shield. A dagger is more suited for thieves and assassins, untrustworthy folk who prefer to stab their foes in the back. It lacks reach, it lacks power, and it lacks the ability to intimidate. All in all, it is a very poor weapon for a bodyguard.
Well, I'm only using the dagger for the boost is provides to my magical abilites. And you should know that-
Hush. Now show me what you can do. Attack the training dummy, let me see your style.
Well, you know where the right spots to hit a stationary target are, I'll grant you that. But you're moving too slowly!
He spotted a guard watching.
You - Stanley! Care to spar with the Lord Protector?
Alright... wait... wait, with real weapons? Um, shouldn't we be using wooden ones?
Wooden? You'll never get the feel for real combat without understanding the weight, the exertion, the adrenaline, and the fear. That can't be taught, you need the real thing. Begin!
Stan had the advantage of longer reach with his sword. Each time I tried to attack, he sent me sprawling with a solid whack from the flat of his sword. At least he was skilled enough that he could avoid seriously injuring me.
You'll never win if you just sit there taking hits like that! Use your shield! Use your feet! Deflect the blow and use his own momentum to get a shot at his back!
Once again, I moved to attack, but as Stan swung, I quickly moved out of the way... well, not completely, but the blow caught the edge of the shield and skittered off.
Quickly, while Stan was off-balance, I whacked him lightly on the back of his neck with the flat of my dagger.
Well done, Mr. Liro, well done! It's almost dinnertime, so you should probably return to your duties. They'll be expecting you.
Given the atmosphere in the castle, I certainly hope my duties won't include being the Duke's food-taster.
I'd never make it to the end of this year, much less 40 years.
If you'd like, come back tomorrow, and we'll see how you do with a sword, not a dagger.
I'll do that, thank you.
I dumped a bucket of cold water over my head to cool off and wash away most of the sweat and grime from the training. Still, I felt it had been worthwhile.
After cleaning up, I returned to the castle. I went by Janus's room, and from the sounds, I could tell that he was still... occupied with Lela, so I went to the dining room. There was already a delicious-looking feast set out. A few minutes later, Lady Elona came in.
What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be completing tasks for Duke Janus?
I've returned for the purpose of reporting to him, milady.
So why are you just standing there with a vacant expression, dolt?
I beg your pardon, milady, but Janus was busy, and I felt it best to not disturb him.
...Fine, just get out of my sight!
Does the Lord Protector not eat at Janus's side?
Oh, the arrogance! There's a room for the guards down the hall. Go there at once!
On the bright side, no food-tasting. On the downside, that food looked really good.
Still, Stormfist was a castle, and despite not getting the choicest of cuts, the small meal provided to the guards from the kitchen was delicious.
As far as I was concerned, my duties for the day were done, so after stopping over in the library, I headed for Theus's house to retire for the night.
What's that you're reading Lor- Jeremiah?
It's teaching me how to speak and read Dwarvish. I learned a bit of it, but that was several years ago.
Why are you reading that? There isn't a dwarven ambassador in the castle, and you're... not allowed to leave.
Thanks for the reminder. I'm reading it Theus, because I imagine that I will have dealings with dwarves some day, I won't be here forever, and because I have a lot more free time on my hands than I had expected - about forty years more free time!
There was silence. I regretted yelling at Theus.
... Sorry, it's not your fault. Goodnight, Theus.
Next Time: It's Gonna be a LONG Forty Years...
Behind the Scenes
Here's the map of Stormfist Castle:
The reason why Jeremiah is staying in Theus's house is that the two beds in Theus's house are literally the only beds Jeremiah is allowed to sleep in. Trying to sleep in any of the beds in the castle give the "I can't sleep here, I don't want the owner to catch me unawares" message.
Over this and the next (maybe the next two) updates, Jeremiah will be doing some training. This means that I'll be getting my Agility (without bonuses from currently equipped items) up to a base of 30, the minimum required to equip my final weapon, and I'll be getting my base strength up to 55, the minimum required to equip my final shield.
My intelligence will also appear to be raised, but in reality, I didn't do that until later, when I was able to beat the toughest fight in the game without needing more points into Constitution to raise my health.
What's fake in this update?
- Obviously, the bookshelf full of spellbooks wasn't real. But all the books really were there, except for the "Curse" scroll. That was photoshopped from the skill icon because there aren't any Survivor skill Scrolls.
- There is no staircase or way to the upper floor, although from the outside, there clearly is one.
- There is no liquor cabinet, nor can you chare any with the troops.
- There is no scene where you over hear Janus and Lela, thank the gods. But Jeremiah needed to hear that to understand the context of comments Walt and Anastasia make.
- The conversations with Theus were fake.
- Walt doesn't offer to train you, and he never shows up in the yard. I also changed his appearance by giving him a bright blue feather, to distinguish him from the Captain of the Guard at the castle entrance.
- Elona is never in the dining room