Part 9: The Lair of Motrax and FormelloUpdate 006 The Lair of Motrax and Formello
This update caused some concern for me. As you'll see at the end of the update, I triggered an event that is effectively an open invitation to leave Chapter 1 behind and move on to Chapter 2. I did it by accident, and I asked the thread to give their input as to whether or not to show it off, or keep it for later.
The votes in that regard were roughly split along the lines of people who have played the game before and knew what was coming they said for me to make the reveal when it made better sense from a narrative standpoint. The other side was people who haven't played the game, and voted that I show it off.
In the end, I decided to side with the latter group, though the former certainly held its appeal. I realized that it would be a disservice to those who haven't played the game if I teased around it. So, it's coming.
"Sir Ma'am, please admit it."
"Even I know this isn't the right way."
"I mussst admit sssome trepedition about thisss."
A single Fire Lizard isn't a threat, nor does it drop any loot.
"Yessss. Where are we?"
Sharp eyed people will have already noticed the subtitle for the region. I'm also nowhere near as it covers an entire map section.
"We should just stick to the roads."
"I have to agree with her."
"And thank you for getting my gender right!"
"I ssstill don't ssse the differense."
You can't get back there. Oh well.
I do not have a bad sense of direction!
I believe you do.
I'm pretty sure we're close to the Nephar Castle now....
And then they run away.
You see, the Exile trilogy discourages grinding for levels by programming low-level random encounters to flee, rather than engage in combat. At this point, Slimes and Lizards no longer attack me. Which means that my one encounter with the former earlier may be the only time I get them in a random encounter.
And we're right back to the road.
And sometimes, the random encounters aren't hostile at all, but friendly! It's a neat way of showing that there is more going on that just the PCs doing things. Too bad they don't fight other random encounters.
FINALLY! I could have sworn you were farther north.
Thissss sssemss oddly... human for the home of a dragon.
<No. Smell that?>
They weren't trying to hide anything, Dmurr. Somethings just can't be expressed in this language that can be in their native language, or yours for that matter.
You speak Slithzerikaiis?
You got the ranking wrong.
Slithzerikaiis has various pronouns for the relative ranks of the speakers. Art, being both a Priest and the group leader, would have used the word-form for addressing a social inferior.
Correct. Although given her posssition in the hierarchy of Exile, ssshee would hold the ranksss of High Priestess or even Chieftan.
Anyways, we're here to see a Dragon, right?
Right! But first, we've got to check in.
A captain of the Exile army reclines in the corner. He looks barely conscious. When he sees you, however, he seems to inflate, almost leaping out of his chair. "Greetings!" he says.
KO! Hey, introduce yourselves to my team here.
He leaps over to you, twitching with energy. "I'm Ko! It's good to have visitors again!"
You'd think you'd get more people around here, what with the Dragon and all that. What do you do around here anyways, Sir?
"I'm the captain of this garrison. I don't have soldiers anymore though." He grimaces. "It's golems, now. I just spend my time chasing lizards."
What happened? Where are all the soldiers?
Used to have half a dozen soldiers here! Most of them died in an Empire ambush, which crippled Motrax. Then the government moved a bunch of mages in here, and they brought golems in to guard everything. I'm only here to greet people."
"It's sad. The dragon only wants to meet people in his old age. Now the mages don't let anyone near him."
WHAT? Motrax got attacked? When?!?!?!? Why wasn't I TOLD?
I couldn't tell you! Hell, I'd think they would, but I thought you were too busy with other things. Besides, this only happened a couple months ago.
What of these mages? Perhaps they were the onesss who insstituted secrecy?
Oh gods above, them. He buries his head in his hands. The crown put some mages here to find out everything they can from poor, old, crippled Motrax. They brought golems with them, to replace the human guards. The dragon never sees anyone but them and me, and they tire him out with constant questions. He shakes his head. "It's a sad tale. For sad times."
Who issss Motrax? I have heard the name, but there isss no meaning to it.
"The oldest of the dragons in Exile. He's kind and wise. I don't know why the Empire sent a bunch of assassins to kill him. He was doing no harm."
You are aware that the Empire has a general Standing Order to kill dragons, right? That aside from Motrax, they have all be proven to be hostile is some form or another?
Not all of them...
Wait, talking about the dragon is all well and good, but what's up with the lizards? Surely they're pets of some sort for the Dragon?
Nah, he's got cats for that.
"We got a bunch of giant lizards skulking around in the cracks behind these buildings. They're like rats, but deadly, and, of course, the golems aren't any help."
Look, why don't you go talk to him? I think a friendly face will do wonders to cheer him up.
You're right. Let's do that.
What was her name again?
Why are we back here, Sir Ma'am?
There used to be a ghost back here, of a man who tried to rob Motrax years ago.
That doesn't answer the question, Art, dahling!
Maybe they're friends?
Or there could be lizardsss.
Have you been watching my food supply? I wasn't.
There sure are a lot of them here. A nest like this could be a problem if it gets out of hand.
Which is weird, because the first time I was here, there was a colony of Fire Lizards over here, and they... one moment.
As I was saying, Motrax didn't have an issue with them. I wonder what drove them toward the cavern entrance though?
I like explanations for things, that's all.
Odd, I haven't seen that design since the surface.
These are Golems. They are mighty foes, and you shouldn't really mess with them. And they are the first NPCs I've encountered in this LP that have no dialogue. Even animals have them!
I think we should take a break and make ourselves presentable before we see Motrax.
It's not that big a deal actually... Hey! Don't I know you?
A young, round-faced woman with long brown hair sits at the table. She's writing notes and figures on a scroll already densely covered with writing. She looks up at you. "Welcome! I'm Marion. I hope you aren't here to see the dragon."
Marion is a returning NPC from Exile 1. However, back then, her named was spelled Marian. I don't know why the change happened.
Nope, name doesn't ring a bell. What do you do around here?
"Well, I was studying Motrax, and being his friend as well. Now I just wait."
Wait? For what?
She sighs despondently. "I don't know what for. For Ko to be relieved of his post so we can go somewhere better. For Motrax to be able to see his friends again. For things to get better."
Tell me more of Motrax, that I may better greet him.
"Poor old Motrax. First, he was carved up by surface worlders. Now he can only be seen by people with clearance." She spits out the last word. "He needs friends. Instead, he gets interrogated for hours on end by a bunch of magi. I haven't seen him in months. I'm just waiting here."
I'll see what I can do.
Humph. A tall, aged man with wrinkles and a few wisps of gray hair paces about slowly. He seems shrunken in his mage's robes. He nods at you, not seeming terribly impressed. "I am Platte."
Art. What brings you here?
He responds, more out of politeness than desire to speak with you. "I am here to visit the laboratory."
A laboratory? Really? What do you research there?
I would like to point something out. When you input keywords into the text box, it only looks at the first four letters. So words like Dynasty and Dynamite result in the same string. However, on the flip-side, the search strings don't recognize anything that's under four letters either, unless it's 'job', 'buy' or 'bye', which are hard-coded. I remembered this after I typed in 'lab' as the next keyword, and got nothing in response. So labo it was.
"We of Exile have a magical laboratory set up here. You can't enter it, I'm sure. The three mages here question the lizard for information that can help us save our nation."
Isss that a sslight againsssst the Slithzerikai? You are aware that we are clossser to Motrax by lineage than you yourssself?
He dismisses Kailyss' retort. "Motrax, is it? It's hard to get knowledge out of it, but we're trying. Nothing I can tell you about, of course. Now, if you'll excuse me?"
He did not just call Motrax an 'it'!
Are all these really necessary?
Let's so see what possible explanation they have for this.
Anyone else get the feeling we're just along for the ride?
HEY! Who's in charge around here?
No problem. I have Royal class.
We only have Ssssoldier Classs.
What is the differense?
Oh, that's simple dear. In order to keep secrets, well, secret, there are several layers of security, and the clearance to view them. There are three of them. Soldier, which we get by default for being in the Army or rather, Unspecified Services. Magi is the next tier, given to mages performing specialist tasks, while Royal is for the top leadership of Exile and their most trusted agents.
Exactly. Now, I'm supposed to have Royal clearance, so I should be able to get in.
Perhaps you couldn't get in because of us, Sir Ma'am?
No. Asss sssuch thingsss go, Art'sss statusss should have allowed all of uss to passs.
You know what? Let's drop this and go talk to Motrax directly.
A black cat runs up and rubs against your leg. You check its nametag. It says "Epsilon."
Motrax had four cats in Exile 1 - Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma. Now they start with Epsilon, so it seems that in the past few years, he's gotten new cats.
Who is there? Sitting in the depression before you is an enormous reddish-green lizard, fifty feet from head to tail. Time, however, has not been kind to it. It's scales are fading and wrinkled, and scars line its body. It looks like it can barely walk.
Motrax? It's me, Art...
It looks at you, straining to see. "Ah, humans! Welcome! I am Motrax. The dragon." It is strangely happy to see you. It's voice has an empty, rasping quality.
<What happened to you?>
I'm pretty sure half of us aren't human.
"My apologies. I ... I ..." He is at a loss for words. His head is bowed low, and the words struggle to emerge. "I ... I help the humans as best I can. For protection."
<Surely a mighty force as yourself has no need for protection!>
"The Empire sent a force in to kill me. Me! Who only wanted to learn, who was always a friend to humans! I never lost a battle in my life and didn't lose that one! Blood of their soldiers ran thick through these caves. But I was wounded, so wounded. "
"I cannot fight a battle like that again. Now here I am, near-crippled and alone. And my siblings fare no better."
Oh Motrax, did something happen to them too?
"I like humans. They are strong and good. But they have not been good for dragonkind. Foolish Pyrog was slain by adventurers years back. Athron hides in her lair, growing in bitterness and hatred. Khoth is the same."
"And Sulfras, mightiest of us all, serves the Empire to protect herself. Ours is a sad lot now."
You look almost guilty there, Sir Ma'am.
I met Pyrog... It wasn't a pleasant thing.
But still, protection??
"I provide information. I know a lot. It is fuzzy, at times, it gets that way. But the wizards come and ask me questions." He sighs, a long, ragged, sulphurous sigh. "They're all I get to help now. They're the only people I ever see. I miss my friends."
"I had many friends here once. They came to talk to me from all over. Guards to talk to, and sages and just the curious. Now I only see the wizards and the golems."
Surely none of the wizards would be so heartless as to deny you such pleasures! I can see the golems may not be good conversationalists though.
It's head lowers in shame. "They were put here for my protection after the attack. I help them. They ask me questions for hours in return for the protection. I have to take it. What can I do?"
Motrax, what happened to Demonslayer?
Taken! Taken when I was attacked! I was too busy killing the Empire soldiers and mages that I did not notice the theft until much later. Oh, the harm it could do!
Oh, that doesn't sound good.
No, not at all. Come on, we can't do much else here.
Thank you for your time, Motrax. We will return as soon as we can.
<Is that what rage looks like in a human?>
Art, dahling, there is no need to be that upset.
I AM NOT UPSET!
Are you sure, Sir Ma'am?
AND STOP CALLING ME THAT!
Alright then! What now?
We go to Formello, I get checked out, then we head south, where I THROTTLE MICAH for the stupid decisions of the people under him!
Maybe you'll feel better with some food in you?
Guess what! I'm starving now! This is what happens when you run out of food for too long. You take damage, and you can't rest to heal up. Go get food quickly!
Did you really just threaten to harm the King, Ma'am?
Oh no! Never! I would never threaten that bastard!
I make promises.
If a Slithzerikai ssspake like that, ssshe would be ssslain for it...
And this is when I discovered I was out of food. Cue panic as I try to remember where the food shop was.
Hello! Food please!
You meet a tired-looking woman in her thirties. Her pale face shows more age than it should for her years - her years in Exile have not been easy on her. "My name's Jen. Welcome to our shop."
As you may have guessed, she sells food. Oddly, this store is in the same general location as it was in E1. In many ways, Formello has a similar layout, just bigger to account for the new map sizes. It actually looks and feels like a city now.
Alright, now that Chester has that squared away, everyone do your own thing. I'm going to head to the Church now.
Very well. We shall meet up with you at your discretion.
Interesting, an apothecary.
A tall gangly man grinds up fungus behind the counter. He is surrounded by bundles and bunches of mold and mushrooms. "Welcome to my shop. My name is Stoppard. I have a wide variety of potions which you can purchase. I also carry a few missiles on the side. Also, you can sell me anything. I've had to be versatile lately."
Weak Energy Potion? Magic Darts? Wow, this guy is awesome. I restock Dmurr on arrows, but don't buy any Energy potions yet.
Considering the unpleasantness of the food down here, it's amazing that this man managed to get so corpulent. He stares at you greasily from across the counter. "I am Townsend. Townsend the sage. How may I help you?" He studies your possessions with a practiced eye. "I see you've been doing some looting. I can identify your items for a small fee. I am also an alchemist of some skill. I'm out of potions, but I have recipes for sale."
I buy neither. Envenom and Major Blessing do a far better job for a fraction of the total cost in resources.
I also take a moment to properly identify everything in my inventory. Notable items include:
No idea where this came from.
Stolen from the Lizard Lair.
Earned from beating the Salamanders back at Tor's place.
Oh holy hell, these guys cast Fireball when they hit a foe. You bet your arse I'm saving these for a rainy day.
<Always good to know everything.>
A young girl in the robes of a mage's apprentice, at least two sizes too big for her, wanders around keeping things clean and organized.
She curtsies to you in a very perfunctory manner. "I'm Alice. The apprentice mage!" She's quite proud of that last part.
YOU are a maage?
"I'm an apprentice mage. I haven't been one for very long, so I can't blow anything up yet. I mostly have to run errands. And sometimes it's really difficult!"
"Right now, I'm supposed to be finding this book on holy rituals, stinktification, or something like that. But I can't find it anywhere! These shelves aren't very well organized."
The Ritual of Sanctification. It was a bitch to find in the days before Gamefaqs, let me tell you. I'm going to get it.
On your way then.
<So many scrolls. Just available for anyone? Why?>
A very tall man with raven black hair and short beard reclines behind his desk, humming something that sounds like a sea chanty. "Hmm? Oh! Welcome, to the library, travellers!" He stands to greet you. "I'm Miles. I run the Library of Formello, one of the three centers of magical learning in Exile. Feel free to browse the scrolls. Also, for a small fee you can purchase the magical knowledge of the ages. This is a school as well as a library."
Tier 4 spells. I don't purchase any because Kai-Lyss can't cast them yet. Also, you have no idea how close I was to naming this character sprite Gandalf, rather than greyrobes
<I suspect a hidden vault here, though I do not have the experience to say how to get in, or if I should.>
<Is that the Slayer I hear?>
Ahhh... blessed ambrosia!
A woman in leather armor with a rapier at her side sits at the table, swilling down ale. She doesn't look happy.
My kind of human! I'm Dmurr! Can I join you?
"I'm Rose." She belches, grimacing as the taste of the ale returns to her mouth. "You look like you work for a living. Have a seat."
I try not to. But still. I'm an adventurer. What do you so?
"Achhh." She spits on the floor. "Adventuring. But that damned Townsend rooked me."
"Fat bastard!" Customers turn to look at her. She quiets down. "He had me find some toadstools for him. I did, but he don't pay me because they aren't 'magical enough' whatever the hell that means! Then he offers me half price! I stomped on 'em and left." She takes a swig, and leans close to you. "Want to hear a secret?"
Let me refill that drink for you, friend!
She laughs, takes another swig, and says "I found out where he gets his fungus usually. Go to the tunnels northwest of town, where nobody lives? Yeah? Go there. Look for a rock outcropping by a little lake. Go just west of that." She leans back. "That'll show that turd!" She orders three more beers. None of them are for you.
She tells you where to find alchemy ingredients for the recipes Townsend sells you.
Oh, hello sir.
A heavily armed and armored man sits behind a desk, shuffling papers. He looks like nothing would make him happier than going out and killing something. "I'm Captain Graham. State your business."
Chester, sir! Attached to Unspecified Services under the immediate command of Art!
The U.S., huh? Well... He shakes his head. "Not much action in this area. Nothing for my boys. Yet. Though I occasionally get missions. If you help me out, I can help you get a higher clearance."
A Mission, sir? I don't know. I would need to clear it with Art.
He thinks. "Well, there is someone that needs killing. To the west, there's this cult in the ruins of an old Nephilim fort. All we know about them is - they make undead. We don't know how. Destroy whatever they use to make the undead."
Tell your boss, see if he'll
She will go for it. I can't give orders to US, but we survive by cooperation.
Might as well get this over with.
Hello, Caius. I was expecting Mother Claudia.
A greying man in spotless robes joins Art. It's been many years.
Has life been treating you well?
It's had its ups and downs.
I see Mother Claudette finally stepped down.
Yes, she did. May the Sun welcome her.
You have my condolences.
Thank you. She was at peace, in the end.
You know why I'm here.
Yes. Anaxiamander sent me a letter. I do not know what I can do.
Well, you can try. You're the closest real professional, so really, what harm can there be?
The Mind Duel spell is still not fully understood, Art. And it is a Mage spell, so I have no knowledge of it directly. I can attempt to assess the damage, but more than that, I cannot say.
It is a horrible thing. The spell attacks ones mind, ones experiences. I can only say that a strong mind and a strong spirit can resist. You wish to know how?
Train yourself as a Priestess first and foremost. Your body is already powerful, so now your mind must match it.
I refuse to wear the white hood!
HA! No, such a thing is not required. It is your heart and soul that must improve. Here, I will write some instructions for the town Trainer. Bring them to her.
May the Sun always watch over you.
And the Mother-of-us-All.
Caius was met in Exile 1 down south, in Fort Duvno, saying he was headed north to this shrine. Mentioning his name to Claudette at the time allowed for extra dialogue. Anyways, the only thing he really does is sell Tier 4 Priest Spells, and heals characters for a fee.
A woman, flushed with exertion, walks up to greet you. As she approaches, she sheathes a broadsword. She must have just been practicing with it.
Hey, I'm Art. Caius sent me. She hands over the letter.
"I'm Amber. Welcome to Formello's training center. It's where all the soldiers and mages and such come to learn new skills to use against the enemy. You can get training too, if you want."
Not much of a choice.
What are you doing here?
I came from the Library.
Not an explanation.
Truuthsss. What skillssss are you learning?
Nothing, really. I'm supposed to train my 'spirit'.
Ah. I know of what you ssspeak. I can help.
Ain't gonna make me any cheaper, you know!
Fine! Whatever! Let's just get this over with!
And so, Art has levelled up enough to go from this:
Why yes, I just dumped 6 levels worth of Skill Points into SP. Why? Well, I could give you long-winded explanations, but the answer is simple. Ritual of Sanctification costs 50. I will need to cast it before the end of the Chapter. And Art can afford to dump points there far more than Kai-Lyss.
Now that isss done, I mussst ssshow you sssomething.
A sstorage for the Library. At the back...
I thought you mayss want to sssee this.
You know, you're right. I think this will help.
Come, let usss return to the center of town. I ssthink Aaarth-Tss awaitsss there.