Part 17: Ruined Water Fort, Ruined Villa, Coffin CaveUpdate 014 Ruined River Fort, Ruined Villa, Coffin Caves
"You know, I'm thinking this place is more like one of those places where you can adjust the water level and all that."
"I know what you're talking about, but what are they called again?"
"Locks, dahling. Water locks."
"Though thisss plase is ruined.
If you know what you're doing (like me), this place is easy. If you don't... well, I'll show off the clues as well.
What are Locksss?
Places built on the surface of a river or other waterway to control the height of the water in order to aid shipping.
They're often installed in canals artificial rivers.
You make riversss?
I hate to be a bother, but Undead?
And more over here.
Thessee were not Vahnatai, nor Slith.
Does it matter?
Well, it could have been something left by the Bentis-Kor on her way up here.
But this does mean that there are Vahnatai nearby.
And probably hostile too.
What creature izz thiss?
Didn't that Naga summon one of those?
Mid-weight Undead, also casts some spells, like Summon Monsters, and Curse All.
I'll keep this for now.
Not locks, but gates. We'll need to raise the one over the river before we can advance.
Hello! You had a slight undead problem..!
Oh great, they're the source of the undead.
So yes, hostile Vahnatai are a thing. These are Vahnavoi, mid-weight mages. Possibly undead themselves, they are also very fragile, and can go down to Dmurr's melee, to say nothing of Art, Aarth-Tsss' or Chester's.
Great Mother! Proof that there are Vahnatai that don't want us to get to Avit.
Thisss surpizess you?
Probably that it only took this long to encounter them.
Why not here? It seems we have to pass by to advance.
It seems like those bars we found earlier can fit in here.
This is the thing that gets a lot of people. And think, we need a large Allen Key to pass by!
We ssshould advance the boat.
Careful! I don't want to bail out too much water.
Not too far down either; there iss a gate underneath az well.
More Vahnatai? Friend or foe?
Why do they fight?
Vahnatai are generic enemies. Decent melee that can also poison. Warriors thow Razordisks around for archery-level damage, and have a non-poisoning melee that deals more damage than the regulars. Shapers are slightly tougher Vahnovoi.
For a set-piece battle, it's a fairly good introduction to improved enemies. Of course, I pulverize them all thanks to abuse of Slow and Curse all. Not even worth making a recording of.
Here you go, Kai.
I think a flag got messed up here; this is supposed to be another trap, and not a message from a different location.
Behold, a retcon! Here, the text is in English, but in later games, and Avernum, it's established that humans speak Imperial Common, not that fantasy language known as 'English'. Also, it doesn't give any bonuses.
This doesn't look safe, Sir Ma'am.
I think you're right.
Iz there another way?
Preferably one that doesn't get more dust in my hair.
WHAT'S SO FUNNY?
Hey! How about we talk about these sections of ruins here?!
Agesss upon agesss of rock and dust.
Which leads us to another hexagonal hole.
I really hope you're the last!
Hey, we can take their boat!
And leave oursz behind?
No, we'll take our own. I don't want to split us between boats, and I honestly don't feel like sinking one of them.
I yield to your wizdom. But firsst, there are other passages to ssecure.
Back here is technically the second, but you can find this as well:
You can't use this to activate the Allen Key'd doors, but it does tell you that you need a (second) non-bent bar.
It's like they deliberately sabotaged the location to make it hard for us to pass through.
Not hard, impossible.
They failed to impede Art.
Over here is the other Bent Bar.
Well, that was an interesting diversion.
At the worst, you'll come here, find out you need a bar, explore to find the first in the other location, come back, and find you need a second one, go back again, and come back for a third run, with respawning enemies. Or at best, you do what I did, find the bars first, then come and go through here.
As the water sloshed along the sides of the boat, the two current rowers conserved their strength as they controlled their ride in the current. Art, the young Slithzerikai spoke quietly so as to not disturb the sleeping others in the boar, may I asssk you sssomething?
Art rolled her shoulders, working on the muscles that ached after long periods of exertion. To be truthful, she was glad for the possible distraction. Of course, she replied, looking ahead for hidden rocks or reefs. Her attention was divided, but that shouldn't affect either task. What did you want to know?
Aarth-Tss worked her mouth as she matched Art's movement, row for row, pace for pace. I am not sssure I know all the wordzzs.
<Use Slithzerikai tongue then>, Art's horrible accent wasn't enough to make herself misunderstood. And if I don't know those words, I can ask and you can try to explain.
<Thank you. If I may ask, who do you pray to?>
Art snapped around to stare at her rowing mate, a confused expression on her face. What do you mean, 'Pray to'?
<You speak of a Great Mother, and I wanted to know what that meant.
<Mother>? Art wanted some clarification as she tried to roll what was asked of her around in her head. Of all the things she had been expecting, Religion wasn't at the top of the list.
Ahh.... progenitor. Egg-layer? Aarth-Tsss hesitated as she tried to expand the concept she was trying to get across.
Mother. Mother... OH! Realization dawned on the small leader, and she relaxed a little bit. Now that is a story. You want the long version or the short one?
<Long>. Storiesss for the Slith are tales. I wissh to know yourz.
Art pondered this. Oh, she knew her own history, but there were things that even she didn't want to talk about. Things that even for all her actions, she agreed with the Empire that should never be spoken of. She had to make that clear. I'll try. But there are things that I have promised not to reveal. I have no intention of betraying my oaths.
Alright, where to begin? Art evaluated several starting places, and decided that earlier was better, though it would involve a lot of talking around actual events. I suppose I have to admit something first. I used to be in the Imperial Army as a healer. A good position for someone who wasn't born noble or into a rich family. My corps was assigned to deal with a certain event, a Wizard had screwed up and we were sent in to clean up the mess. She had long since come to grips with that factor of her past, so the memories were not as awful as they could have been.
Things went wrong, as they were wont to do, and I would up in charge. We, the survivors finally completed the mission, and returned to base where we were hailed as heroes. I got a promotion, and was introduced to higher society as... well... an example, and not always the good kind. Here, the memories started getting rough. I came to the attention of a person who was very highly placed in Imperial society, who felt that I would make an excellent mother for his line.
<I do not understand. You are a hero; why would that be an issue?>
Art sighed. It's the difference between states of being and states of doing. Anyways, I still haven't finished! So things happen and I become pregnant. The father decides that it wouldn't be safe for me to be in his place for a variety of reasons, and sends me off to a convent for protection and for the child.
<You make it sound bad.>
Oh, it was, at first. But the covenant was for a religious group known for their skills at aiding maternity. You see, they believe that all life comes from the nature of the world not underground as many thing, but rather that the world is a living thing, the 'Mother-of-Us-All'. This particular sect showed their devotion to this concept by being the best midwives you could possibly get, and I spent over a year with them, before and after my child was born. Some of their faith and attitude wore off. Including the language they use.
Aarth-Tss shook her head in an all too human motion. You anssswer nothing.
Fine, you caught me, Art admitted flippantly. I've been to burned out to believe in some higher power. I simply don't care!
Silence reigned, save for the motion of the boat.
Why did you ask? Art finally asked her own question, quiet and low.
<Do you know what we Slith believe in?> The Slith's tone seemed morose in the face of the confession, though it could have just been the difference in languages.
<Slith revere their ancestors. We craft stone monuments in their image to remember their attributes, both physical and mental.> She shook her head. <We saw one of Sss-Thss, as crude as it was.>
<I've seen those. I thought they were grave markers, or something like that.>
<In a way, yes. But not placed where they lay. We revere our ancestors for their deeds, that we may emulate them should the situation arise. They are the examples we choose to live up to because they have proven that they can be done.> Aarth-Tsss didn't raise her voice, but her intensity grew with each passing word. <Do you know who you are?>
Art knew. She had very carefully avoided the comment, the question, the entire line of reasoning even since first meeting Aarth-Tsss. And yet it was equally unavoidable. She refused to rise to the moment.
<You are the only living hero to the Slithzerikai,> Aarth-Tsss spoke firmly. <You did the impossible, you saved us from our selves. And not only for us, for you> humans <as well. I live in the time of a truly great person, one whose actions are worthy of remembering. Why do you belittle yourself?>
YOU NAMED YOURSELF AFTER ME! Art hissed back. What am I supposed to say? I didn't succeed! Sss-Thsss was in the way of what I wanted, so I killed him!
<And the Human Sss-Thss?> Garzzahad? Wasss he in your way too? Grah-Hoth?
Uhgk**... Art's retort caught on her throat. What do you want from me?
<For you to be you, so that others can become you.>
Shut up. Just, shut up.
Huh, what's this?
Are you alright, Art, dahling? You look flustered.
Nothing. Just a bad day.
Itsss about to get worssse.
You weren't kidding.
I think it's over...
I have water in my everywhere, Sir Ma'am. Can we find a place to rest?
Um... we'll see.
In my head, that's not land with marsh. That's a floating island of algae and moss so big you can stand on them with no issues.
More Vahnatai ruins. What happened to them I wonder?
We can ask, you know.
Sure, when we find the next group that isn't out to kill us.
That ruin looksss intact!
Of course it's dark.
I didn't remember this dungeon. It's here for flavour for the most part. Yet this and the next one had me worried would have an enemy type and encounter I was dreading. That won't come until the next update!
The wallsss ssseem intact. Perhapsss there iz someone here?
The enemy of the day, there's a dozen or so of these guys here. And because I'm worried about an enemy that's not even here, I keep my lights off, so these guys come at me with their radius damage that hits everyone at once because I'm not in combat mode...
I'm beginning to think this class of enemy was designed explicitly to counter the 'lights out rumble' style of combat.
Well, there were inhabitants here.
The craftsmanship alone...
... You really didn't just say that, did you?
Yes. Yes I did.
You cheeky child!
We could sssit and have a meal.
Sounds like a good idea.
And the dead body doesn't disturb you?
We keep the doors closed, the slimes can't get in. Besides, food not on a boat will be a nice change of pace.
When you put it that way..., why not?
Perhapsss the wallz were kept up by the cold?
What about melt?
Explains the cracks.
We need to come up with a name for these things.
Six span tall, insect,
They look like giant mantises, so that's what they are.
What they are? That's a horrible way to describe something!
Of course there's more green-bugs here.
The name of the Chitrach is the first Vahnatai word we're properly given in the course of the entire Trilogy. Extended materials suggest that it translates to 'Ensnaring Insect', a reference to the fact they can throw webs.
The entrance to that back room issz back here.
Ah, magic barriers. You can thankfully walk through these, as they are merely Shock barriers, not proper deterrents.
And this surprises me not at all.
And old too.
Or not. CHARGE!
Hraithe are another level of undead, closer to Spirits than actual physical presences.
Long they have been here.
Let's see what else is here?
Ugh... I really hope those weren't the ashes of people.
Not pictured, me being poisoned, and dealing with it with so little SP.
Oh hey, a sign on the front door.
Such a wonderful help that was.
And another failure.
We can try thisss?
I have a bad feeling about this...
Remember this encounter in Exile 1? Well, here's round two!
50% of your food for a bottle of Gremlin Wine.
And this is why I don't like Gremlins.
They are pessstsss.
At least we can get out by going south, then rowing against the current.
Ssshall we enter?
There's something over here...
Well, that's never a good sign.
Does this mean we're going in?
And learning more about the Vahanatai in the process? You're right!
You should really stop asking those sorts of questions, Marianna.
I agree. Ssshe is being natural.
<Shut up, you!>
<Is this something I should know about?>
And the sign means nothing.
This place was built to last.
Isss thiss... a grave?
No. They live. But they ssleeep.
What does that mean?
Some animals hibernate. Maybe this is a place for that?
Those in the thread who know what this is, please wait until explanations are official in the narrative before discussing all the details. Those reading in the Archives, well, read on!
Hello? My name is Art! I'm an official representative of the government of Exile as embodied by His Royal Highness, King Micah!
When you approach the crystal, a voice echoes softly in your head. "Visitors? At last?"
Who are you? What are you?
The voice returns. "I am Roda-Bok. Long have I waited."
Waited for what?
"I wait the end of the resting. I have contemplated much, and am ready to share again."
Hey, how come this Rhonda-Block speaks Common? Is it not Vahnatai?
I speak, to share, and in doing so, am understood.
Well, that clears things up.
Oh shut up, all of you! What is this Resting of which you speak? Does it have anything to do with those bodies in the crystals around us?
You sense a feeling of concern coming from the crystal. "You don't know of these things." There is a pause. "You are not of the people. Like, but not." Another pause. "I will solve this puzzle."
No, we are not Vahnatai. We are Human, and Slithzerikai and Nephilim. There is no puzzle as we have been summoned to Avit.
No, this is a puzzle. The voice returns, filled with energy. "These centuries of peace have been a wondrous chance of meditation. For me, but not for Korhis."
"I have sensed great agitation from Korhis-Bok. Nearby. I fear he will need much healing."
Marianna, there's another one over here.
You approach the crystal, and a light within flickers. A voice echoes inside your head, load and stern: "Approach, so I may be answered."
I DO NOT CARE. I am Liedra-Bok, Vahnatai elder, and I will be answered."
What answers do you seek?
"I wait here. I need answers now, for things are not right."
"I sensed my people here. Not now, not recently, but before. Then I sensed them not, and sensed not the openings."
We are not Vahnatai we know nothing of the Openings.
"The Resting time should end soon, but these Vahnatai have not been awakened." You feel a sharp, brief jolt of mental pain. There is a pause. "You did not interfere. Leave me. This must be thought upon."
As its voice fades, you hear ... "These Vahnatai should be awakened."
What that a request for help, to awaken these Vahnatai?
You voice regretfully returns to your mind, it's commanding voice now tinged with notes of sorrow and worry. "The time when these Vahnatai should be awakened is now. But I sense no longer those who came to do the task. Hopefully, it will be done soon. Until then, I wait."
And a third?
You approach the crystal, and begin to feel disoriented. It takes an effort to remain standing in the face of the confusion radiation coming from the stone.
ARE YOU KOHRIS-BOK?
"Bok." There is a long pause. "BokBokBokBokBOKBOKBOK!!!" The mental noise is deafening.
"I. I I I I I ...." It repeats I for some time, then stops. You sense from it a momentary burst of frustration at its inability to communicate.
There iss nothing we can do!
Wazss there one here too?
If so, it's long gone now.
What did it mean, when it called itself Vahnatai?
Maybe that word is not used for a species, but for a political group, like the difference between Exile and Human?
More collapssesss. Very dangerousss.
Let's go around the other way.
Why do they sslleep?
Why don't you ask them when they wake up from their naps?
More importantly, what could break out?
You enjoyed that, didn't you?
Of courssse not.
Hold up, this one has something!
No clue what it is though.
And maybe those insects will stay away.
Come on, there's a platform on the east side.
One of these days, we'll read a sign and it will be understood.
Controlsss? To Awaken?
Don't touch if you don't know what you're doing.
There may be ssssome inssstructionsz around.
I hope so.
Rest in peace. Your job is almost done.
Wheel? Lever? Button?
We won't know until we find the rest of it.
Search the main chamber.
Button, Lever, Wheel, Lever, Button.
Easy to remember, I think.
This removal was very precise.
Let's get out of here.
We should tell those crystal things.
We know, and thank you for your services. We can watch over them for now.
I don't think we have a choice.
Update is very long as it is. Maps next time!