Part 23: The End of the BeginningUpdate 020 The End of the Beginning.
"I don't feel like going through yet."
"It's just a feeling that there's something left undone."
"Oh, what about that Undead ceremony?"
"She does have a point, Sir Ma'am."
"You also have a serious case of wanderlust."
"Oh, shut up."
"Are you not returning to your lands?"
"Just doing some follow up investigations. Oh, and did you guys know about that crazed Lich doing things in that graveyard south east of here?"
"Yes, we have some of our people scrying from afar. We are pondering an appropriate response. Your concern in noted."
"And that's that."
"Sssso, where do we go?"
"And what're those?"
"I get that, but we're pretty far down. Why do they have colour to their skin?"
Did I mention that Serpents and Asps are random encounters in the western edge of the Vahnatai lands? Well, they are.
"Thisss narrow strip could easssily flood."
"Great. I really don't like the walking carnivorous fungus.
Yes, I fought some back in the Test of Strength. Weren't you paying attention?
No, not really.
While that's all fun, let's head south first.
I am beginning to wonder at your choice of direction.
Wanderlust. I've said this.
Can we not try to poke holes in my psyche?
But it's so fun!
HEY! IS THERE A BRIDGE?
STAY AWAY HUMANS!
There's a hole over here...
Feels like a tomb.
I don't feel like grave robbing.
Not seen: Me failing horribly to pick the lock (I broke all of Mariannas) or magically unlocking the door. I think I'll have to come back here later.
The things I do for you people.
Isssn't thisss where the Cryssstal Sssoulsss are kept?
So much for investigating the scene of the crime for evidence.
And why did they let the Hydras across the bridge?
Silly event flags not blocking random encounters on the world map.
I also went back to Mancuso and bought the spells available there.
For those who have forgotten, Charm Foe can temporarily switch an enemy to your side, Manna is a more efficient method of creating infinite food, while Forcefield creates a temporary one-tile barrier.
Huh. Wasn't there a bandit problem mentioned up here?
That confussess me. Banditry has certain sssocio-economic ssourccesss, yet where would they be in thisss culture?
People who don't like to do what society wants of them?
But there are ssso few.... ssurely there iz enough sspacce for othersss to find?
I agree. There are issues here, but we don't have the resources or experience to figure them out.
No way we're getting across here.
If only we had flight.
You would not believe the fight that the Tower had to put up to get the Orb from me. I'm going to have to have a 'talk' with Peregrine, the next time I see him.
What are you expecting to find?
Not sure, really.
Found the path!
And the way forward is...
It seems perhaps they are training to fight us?
This is the best place for griding in Chapter 3, as Vahnatai bands are better XP, and have better loot than anything else.
We've walked back and forth across this cavern many times now!
Oh, this won't be good for my fur.
And no boat. Damn.
Why does this place remind me of a smugglers cove?
Well, where's the worst possible location this could connect to?
The centre of the Empire Army.
What iz a 'moon'?
I don't know how to explain that.
Hey! Watch where you're poking that thing!
Oh good! A friendly face.
Don't push it, Art. Your arrival set a lot of people on edge. Not myself, obviously.
It is good to see a friendly face.
Care to introdusse?
Oh, sure. Everyone, this is Peregrine IV, Archmage in the Tower of the Magi. Peregrine, these are Kailyss, Aaarth-Tsss, Chester, Marianna and Dmurr.
A pleasure, sir.
So, you're the unlucky souls being dragged around by Art?
I wouldn't say unlucky...
Nah, they're recruits who got swept up in this whole thing.
So I've heard. The portal into the Tower was enough to cause the Castle defence garrison to redeploy here, which was lucky because those Barriers went down only a short while before.
Of course you would take responsibility for all that.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I've travelled with Art for longer than you have, hatchling. If she says she has travelled far below the realm of Exile to meet with a previously unknown species, and convinced them to side with us in war against the Empire, I would believe her.
Your support isn't like you.
Oh, please. We make our mark on history in different ways. You will almost be as grand as I am.
He is a mage.
I've earned that! Without me, the First Exile Escape Committee would have been floundering!
We did have Ember.
Who was too busy trying to set fire to everything with her mind to do any real magic. He huffs a little.
Power and Ssskill are two different things.
Change of subject. We've been gone for weeks. What's the current state of the war.
The Barriers were enough to allow limited consolidation. The last of the refugees from the Abyss came into the Great Cave about a week ago, the Empire has it totally under their control. I heard there was a massive attack on Cotra as well, and the Giant Lands are still contested by everyone.
He was at the Castle, last I checked, planning a counter-offensive.
And no, the results of your raid didn't give any more leads concerning Duncan and Rook. The Scimitar you rescued had no information, and the entire organization is about one good shake away from being folded into Unspecified Services.
Um, I know who General Karmas is, but who are the other people?
Others who are leading the fight against the Empire. More covert than I.
Says the woman who specializes in small-unit tactics.
It was enough to get you to fall into line.
Your interests served mine, nothing more.
Something funny, fuzzball?
Ssso what do we do now?
Yes. Peregrine, know why my Security clearance was revoked?
After the raid and your injuries, Karmas and Anaxiamander had to fight to keep you in the Service. Micah was willing to let you go. They settled on a reduction in rank and Clearance until you could prove yourself again.
He still hasn't forgiven you for that one use of the Orb.
Speaking of, where is it?
I know what you're going to ask, but the Orb, along with several Artefacts were removed from the Tower when the Vahnatai portal showed up. For security reasons.
Oh, that reminds me. Did anyone tell you that Motrax was attacked?
I don't know. I only found out about it while securing the region around Formello. The Empire corps that went after him was destroyed, but he's in bad condition.
He starts to look slightly angry. I was not informed of this.
Neither was I. There are mages there interrogating him, thinking he's going to die.
Damn them! I bet Linda is behind that. She'll do anything to get to me.
That psychotic bitch thinks we should be summoning Demons to help us fight the Empire.
She's in the Tower, under seclusion. Her knowledge of Daemonology is being used to devise anti-Demon wards. I don't suppose you happened to grab Demonslayer while visiting Motrax?
No, it was stolen in the raid.
Unfortunate. We could have used that weapon to research its anti-demon properties more.
Um, you two are talking over our heads here.
Sorry. So, any advice, Peregrine?
Yes. Get some rest first. Then visit the Castle to explain the situation and get your clearance improved. Once that's done, you can do your thing.
Thanks. And it was good to talk to you.
I know who you are. And so does she. She's willing to over look it because the situation is just that bad.
I am aware of that. I have to assk. Without the Orb, can I at least be taught the spell that it is enchanted with.
You're not powerful enough.